Monthly Archives: January 2016

Lemon Squares, French-Style & How Spring Has Sprung a Tad Early

Stack 'em up -- then eat 'em up!

Stack ’em up — then eat ’em up!

As the east coast (particularly New York and the Maritimes) recover from the Blizzard of ’16, Toronto is experiencing what feels like an early spring. I’ve swapped out my insulated mitts for thin fleece gloves and am *gasp* walking around without a scarf. A friend reported that her seasonal Canadian geese stopped by, a season early. And one of my clients told me today that she saw someone walking around in shorts. Long shorts, mind you, but shorts all the same!

Keeping the spring theme going, my bake-a-long group is baking Dorie Greenspan’s Lemon Squares, French Style, from her Baking Chez Moi cookbook. I tried to bake and post this yesterday, but by the time I had picked up some sliced almonds from the local Bulk Barn, I was too tired. Today after work I came home, and after a nice chat on the phone with a friend, I was re-invigorated and whipped up this lemony treat!

Let me tell you, anything this full of butter, sugar, and eggs has got to be good! There are over two cups of butter in this recipe, and at least as much sugar. There’s almond flour (I used ground almonds. What’s the dif, ‘yo?) and slivered almonds (I used sliced almonds. Again, meh.) in this recipe, and those ingredients up the elegance of this dish just that little bit more.

Layer me up!

Layer me up!

The base is a buttery shortbread, with almond flour mixed in, and baked until golden and fragrant.  Over this, a fresh lemon curd is poured, and then over all that, some more of the crumbled shortbread base with slivered almonds sprinkled all over the top. Baked until puffy and golden, this dish makes me feel very French! (read as Phrench! *using a over-the-top French voice*)

I plan on sending it in to work with the DH. As much as I love lemon squares (and lemon curd! So easy to make and so delicious! I so licked that bowl and whisk), it’s probably better for my waistline not to have a whole tray of them lying around. So…adieu, sweet lemon squares! Parting is such sweet sorrow!

(No one will notice if I eat another one right? Just one more! Maaaaybe two.)

Next Post: Channa Masala-Stuffed Samosas! A punch of protein in a crispy casing.

Adventures in Indian Food, Part II: Channa Masala & Making the Best of Things

What not to do: use ALL the garam masala spice at once! Just no.

What not to do: use ALL the garam masala spice at once! Just no.

I wrote in an earlier post about some friendships I made while working in the non-profit sector, and how one of those friends (Miss O!) gave me her recipe for Garam Masala. That same friend also gave me her recipe for Channa Masala, and that’s what today’s post is about! Channa Masala is an East Indian dish made with chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and spices — even if you’re not really a legume sort of person (*cough*me*cough*), this is a delicious dish.

I’d never made Channa Masala before trying this recipe, and I have to say, it’s surprisingly easy! Want to make some too? It’s great to serve over rice, or as a side dish, or even all by its delicious lonesome! This particular version of the recipe is my take on my friend’s recipe. In other words, I didn’t have enough fresh tomatoes, so I combined fresh baby tomatoes (that I usually eat on my salad for my lunches) with some tomato sauce that I had in the fridge. I don’t call myself the Queen of Substitutions for nothing, you know!

Channa Masala

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped tomato
  • 2 heaping tbsp. tomato sauce
  • pinch of curry powder
  • pinch of garam masala
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • lemon juice to taste
  • chopped cilantro

Fry onion and chopped tomato until onion is golden and translucent, and tomato is all caramelized. Rinse chickpeas and add to pot. Add in tomato sauce. Add in spices, and a little bit of water (it depends how saucy you want the dish to be). Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Just before serving, stir in lemon juice, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro!

Caramelized onions and tomatoes...so delicious!

Caramelized onions and tomatoes…so delicious!

My friend says that if you’re partial to heat in your food, you can add some chopped green chili before you add in the chickpeas. I deliberately left them out because the DH is NOT a fan of heat in his food (he finds black pepper spicy *puzzled face*), so being the sweet, loving wife that I am, I considered his preferences when making this dish. Does that get me wifely brownie points? Yes, right?

Speaking of the DH, I was standing at the stove mixing up this dish, and he came up behind me and *gasp* pinched my butt at the exact moment that I was adding the spice. I was so discombobulated that I ended up tipping my entire container of garam masala into the dish, as opposed to a pinch. Which would have bumped up the heat in the dish by about a 100 units! I do NOT recommend using all your garam masala in this dish, btw. Just saying.

But I didn’t want to toss the whole thing, because I hate wasting food, and also because I hate wasting my time, so I did the next best thing and…rinsed my chickpeas. That’s right, I rinsed off the chickpeas and started again. Although I reserved a bit of the garam masala-coated chickpeas to act as the spice in the second round, as I had no more of the spice. Hey, I like to make the best of things!

Between subbing in tomato paste for part of the fresh chopped tomatoes, and using too much garam masala, this dish didn’t turn out exactly as my friend had written, but it still turned out deliciously, and that’s all that matters to me! If you make this dish, let me know if you make any substitutions or additions — I’m always open to new ideas!

Next Post: Lemon Squares. So pucker-licious!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Baking at Midnight, Insomnia Edition: Fluted Carrot Tangerine Cake

Ignore the lumps in the glaze. Was too tired to whisk them out.

Ignore the lumps in the glaze. Was too tired to whisk them out.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I have insomnia, and that you can often find me baking at midnight when I can’t sleep. Today is a bit of a variation on the theme, as last night I couldn’t sleep (as in only caught a couple of hours of it before I had to drag myself out of bed), so today I’ve been in exhausted zombie mode. (I have no idea how I managed to pull all-nighters when I was younger. Sleep is now something that I clutch to my chest while muttering ‘my precious!’)

For whatever reason, the lack of sleep has hit me particularly hard today, and I’m pulling a blank on trying to remember things. Probably not the wisest time to bake something, but hey, it’s bake-a-long time and I’m a-gonna bake!

This week my bake-a-long group is baking Dorie Greenspan’s Fluted Carrot Tangerine Cake, from her Baking Chez Moi cookbook. It’s supposed to be a French version of carrot cake, with a citrus and ginger kick. And the way I’m weaving from exhaustion, I could use the kick!

After you mix the egg/butter/sugar mixture with the carrot/ginger/orange mixture and add in the orange juice, Dorie says that the resultant mixture will look curdled and that that’s ok. It definitely looks curdled.

She also says that once you add in the dry ingredients, that the mixture will ‘look pretty’ again. So not the case with my batter. Still looks curdled. Just…smaller curd. Appetizing, yes?

Curdled'R'Us

Curdled’R’Us

Eh. When I’m this tired, almost perfect is good enough. So curdled or not, I’m putting this batter in the pan and baking it. I still wonder why it’s so curdled; I measured everything carefully. With the exception of the butter. I don’t have a food scale in my kitchen, so I kind of just eyeballed the butter. That’s the only possible variable, and yes, I recognize that it’s a big one!

Update to look in the oven: It’s rising! Not sure why Dorie says the cake will only be an inch high; it’s at least two inches high and going for broke. I’m sure I used the correct amount of baking powder. Pretty sure, at least. I’m too tired to think straight, frankly.

Update after looking in the oven again: Melted butter everywhere! Instead of mini bundt cakes, they look like muffins with huge, buttery muffin tops! And even more butter running down the sides of the pan in rivulets! My personal motto is that butter makes everything better, so I’m not sure if this is a bad thing or a good thing. Eh. I’m going to go with it’s A Good Thing! (Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, peeps!)

Final Update: They turned out! The fluted carrot cakes taste rather yummy, or as the DH said after the first bite: “Oh my god, these are sooo goood!” The little cakes have the texture that I imagine Baba au Rum cakes to have, all dense and moist and heavy, especially after the addition of a orange-juice-and-icing-sugar glaze. These cakes are a mini meal in themselves, and I can totally see serving them with a good, strong cup of coffee. Diet-friendly, no, but taste-bud-friendly? Yuppers!

Final final update: Butter makes everything better. And apparently I can bake in my sleep. Or rather, in the absence of it! Going to bed now. (My preciouZzzzzzz…)

Next Post: Adventures in Indian Food, Part II. In which I take chana masala and up the spice factor  by 100. On purpose, really! Mostly. Ok, so…accidentally. But it still turned out! Stay tuned….

Indian Food Adventures, Part I: Grind-Your-Own Garam Masala (And Authenticity in Friendships)

Like a painter's palette, except in spice.

Like a painter’s palette, except in spice.

I’ve been promising you all the recipe for a grind-your-own garam masala for a while now, and today is the day in which I reveal all! Or at least reveal the recipe. Is surprisingly easy!

I think I’ve said before that I used to work in the non-profit sector, and over the years and through different jobs, I’ve made some solid friendships with some really amazing people. You know when you have friends who are smart and funny and thoughtful and passionate and just plain fun? And when you get together with them, no matter how much time has gone by, it feels like you’ve just picked up where you left off? And spending time with them leaves you energized? I’ve been lucky enough to meet a solid handful of friends like this though my work, and my friend Olethea (and her husband Martin!) are two of these people.

I had dinner with them a few months ago, and one of the dishes that they made for me was soooo good, that I asked for the recipe, and Miss O kindly obliged. I’m going to split the dish into two different posts, one for the garam masala spice, and one for the chana masala (a chickpea dish which uses the garam masala spice). And then I’m going to do a third post, which uses the chana masala as the stuffing in a samosa. (Miss O, you inspired me!)

Shall we make some garam masala? Let’s!

Grind-Your-Own Garam Masala

  • 1/8 c. cumin powder (or slightly less than 1/4 c. cumin seeds)
  • 1/4 c. coriander seeds (or 1/8 c. ground coriander)
  • 1/2 stick small cinnamon (or 1 tbsp. cinnamon)
  • 1 tbsp. ground cloves (or slightly more whole cloves)
  • 1 tbsp. ground cardamom (or a heaping tbsp. unground)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3/4 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. ground nutmeg

I’ve listed some of the ingredients in the amounts that they would be if they were ground as well as in the amounts to use if they weren’t ground. You can use what you’d like. If they’re not ground, they’ll give a better flavour, but hey, you do you! (I did whatever I had in my kitchen, which was ground everything. Except bay leaves.)  Mix all the ground ingredients together. Toast any un-ground ingredients, including the bay leaves, in a frying pan until fragrant. Then grind the toasted ingredients in a spice grinder and combine with the rest of the ingredients. And…done! You go, you kitchen whiz, you!

Grinding up spice is so satisfying! (This spice grinder was last year's Christmas gift to me from the DH.)

Grinding up spice is so satisfying! (This spice grinder was last year’s Christmas gift to me from the DH. It’s great for grinding toasted flax seeds.)

This spice will stay good for years if kept in a sealed container in a cool dry place. If you don’t think you would use it all, why not share the Indian spice love and give little packets of it as gifts? I came across the most clever packaging idea the other day — I think it’d be perfect for this!

Oh, and speaking of friendships, I was talking with my mom on the phone just now, telling her that I had just made some garam masala, and she shared a reminiscence. Years ago, my mom had run out of garam masala at the last minute of dinner preparations, and as opposed to running out to the store, had asked a neighbour if she could borrow a bit. The neighbour said sure and then took a long time to actually come up with the ingredient. Why? Apparently she was making it from scratch! Now THAT’S authentic Indian food!

Next Post: Probably a mandarin-flavoured dessert! Because I love sweets. And then back to adventures in Indian food!