Author Archives: Margaret

About Margaret

A self-trained cook, cooking for herself and her husband in their condo. Cue the cozy domesticity! So, yes, this blog is about the creative satisfaction of cooking, about making meals that real people eat, in real people time (I also work outside the home), about trying to find the best recipes out there and about trying to stretch my cooking skills while I’m at it. Join me? I’ll link the recipes to the blog posts, so that you can try them too (I’m interested in feedback), and put in pictures so that you can see how they turned out.

Best Ever Macaroni Salad, and…Eating for Two

Best ever macaroni salad!

I hosted a family BBQ this weekend, as it was a long weekend here in Canada (Victoria Day weekend, also known as May 2-4 weekend). One of my contributions was my Best Ever Macaroni Salad! It was a hit! This macaroni salad isn’t your sad buffet macaroni salad, but is a fresh version with no preservatives but a whole lotta flavour! A variety of spices give it flavour, and the secret ingredient, balsamic vinegar, gives it that umami taste that makes your mouth water in anticipation.

This is a very easy macaroni salad to throw together, and it gets better the longer it sits in the fridge. I have used fresh red and green peppers in the salad (for colour and crunch) and other times I’ve used dehydrated red and green peppers. The seasonings can of course be adjusted to your own taste. Make it your own!

Want to make some? Let’s get started!

BEST EVER MACARONI SALAD

This easy pasta salad is great to bring to BBQs or family dinners. Easily thrown together from mostly pantry ingredients, you'll knock of everyone's socks with the great taste of this salad! 

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 3 c. cooked macaroni
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dried onion
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c. chopped red & green peppers (or substitute 2 tbsp. chopped dried peppers)
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp. chopped green onion (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together, and let sit in fridge for at least two hours. Serve chilled! 

 

Oh, and guess what? The title to this post referenced it, but…I’m pregnant! Did you figure it out from my gender reveal cake post a few weeks ago? I wasn’t announcing it then, so I tried to imply that it was for someone else, but it was really about ma bebe. Because I’m having a little girl! Am so excited. My husband and I call bebe-to-be by a nickname, Baby Pina (baby pineapple), so I think that shall be her blog name. Baby Pina is expected in about 5 months, and let me tell you, I can really notice an increase in appetite (at least now that the all-day and all-night morning sickness has eased off a bit). I need to eat every few hours or else I get all vomity. Fun times. So, lots of protein-rich food it is! I made Easy Enchiladas yesterday, but used a heavy hand with the beans to up the protein, and plan to make yoghurt tomorrow to add into my favourite smoothies during the week. In other words, lots of healthy food!

Next Post: Something healthy but delicious, I think! Heavy on the delicious. I haven’t decided what to make yet, but am craving something creamy. And sweet. Maybe a custard cream cake? Not so healthy, but oh so delicious! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, and at Happiness is Homemade!

Super-Easy & Pectin-Free Bumbleberry Jam!

Bumbleberry jam goes great on toast!

Ever since I figured out how to make jam, I’ve been making batch after batch of fruit jam. Why? Because homemade jam tastes WORLDS different from any store-bought jam! It’s just packed so full of flavour, that you don’t feel like you’re eating jellified sugar as with some packaged jam — homemade jam is worth the VERY small amount of time it takes to make. And you don’t even have to decide on one fruit; you can mix up a number of berries and make Bumbleberry Jam!

I’m mixing up blueberries and blackberries today, to make my own version of bumbleberry jam. And, to make it even easier, I’m leaving out the pectin too. All you really need to make this jam is berries, sugar, and a dash of lemon juice! (Not even water.) I like to make pectin-free jam as it’s one less packaged thing I need to add to my food (I told you I was a hippie-in-the-making!). It does result in a slightly looser-set jam, but I’m quite ok with that. You could also add fruit pectin via apple cores (I use this when making apple jelly) or lemon seeds (I have still to use this tip) but it’s also quite ok to leave out the pectin entirely; you just have to the berry and sugar mixture to a jammy stage (I’ll explain more on this later).

Let’s get to making us some homemade jam!

 

BUMBLEBERRY JAM

This berry jam contains only a few ingredients, and is easy to spread on toast or to mix in with yoghurt. 

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 c. mixed berries (I used blueberries & blackberries. You could also add in raspberries if you wanted to.)
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and place over medium heat. 

  2. As the sugar melts and the juices of the berries are drawn out, mash the berries so that only some whole berries are left. 

  3. As the mixture becomes more liquid, bring to a boil, and keep at a boil. 

  4. When the mixture reaches the "set" or "sheeting" stage (see below for more info), remove from heat and pour into a sterilized glass jar. 

  5. Let cool, and store in fridge. Will keep for a few weeks. Enjoy it spread on toast! 

Recipe Notes

If the jam starts to smell caramelized, you've overcooked it. But not to worry -- add a dash of water to thin it out and call it 'caramelized bumbleberry jam'. Whose to know that you didn't do it deliberately? 🙂

I mentioned about how you need to boil the mixture until it reaches a jammy state. When that happens, you can safely say that your jam will have ‘a good set’; in other words, it will be jam-like, instead of a runny sauce. How to know when it has reached this stage? Place a small dish in the freezer. Pour a small spoon of the hot jam mixture onto the plate. Swipe your finger through the mixture. Does the jam run together to become one blob again, or does it stay separated into two blobs? If it doesn’t run together again, then it’s a good set! Another way to measure if a jam will have a good set, is to take a wooden spoon and let the jam mixture run off the side. Does it run off in several rivulets? Not done. Does it run off in one thick drip? Then it’s “sheeting”, and it’s going to have a good set! One warning: better to undercook than overcook. This particular jam (with blackberries) tends to be prone to caramelizing, so again, better to undercook than overcook. A slightly saucy jam is better than a solid lump of candied berries! FYI, you can always save an overcooked jam — just heat it in the microwave, add a bit of water, stir, and you’ll have a looser jam (perhaps not properly set, but good enough to spread on toast!).

You might look at this recipe and think, wow, that’s a lot of sugar! Don’t worry, it won’t over-power the flavour of the jam at all. I usually use the 1-1 rule (1 c. berries to 1 c. sugar) when making berry jams (especially strawberry jam), mostly because I use them to stir into my morning yoghurt to make homemade fruit yoghurt (topped with homemade granola, of course!). You can use less…but it won’t taste as good and it won’t set as much (lots of sugar in integral to get jam to thicken. Not enough sugar and you’ll end up with berry sauce). While normally, I’m all for making a recipe healthier, I suggest trying this one as is before trying to reduce the sugar. Even if (and I don’t think this will happen!) you didn’t like it, ANYONE you know will be happy to eat your homemade jam!

As I said, I like to use this jam to stir into my morning yoghurt, but it’s equally delicious on toast, or between cake layers, or to top a jammy cookie (make a pie crust, cut into cookie-sized circles, top with jam, and then top with crumble topping. Bake, and enjoy!). Let me know how you end up using this delicious jam!

Next Post: I’m working on fine-tuning my Best Ever Macaroni Salad. I thought I had gotten the details right, but then it mysteriously disappeared from the fridge when I got up to snack on it at midnight. The DH had a slightly guilty but satisfied look on his face, so I take it that the recipe is a hit! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!

Greek-Style Lemony Potatoes: Who Needs Take-Out?

Deliciously fragrant and herbed!

I’ve been craving those amazing lemony potatoes that one can buy at Greek fast-food takeout shops recently, and finally decided to come up with my own recipe. The secret to making these taste amazing? Aside from fresh potatoes? Chicken-flavoured bouillon! And yes, there is a vegetarian version of chicken bouillon — who knew? So, that’s this week’s recipe: Greek-Style Lemony Potatoes! Fluffy potato wedges, redolent of lemon and olive oil, with chicken and garlic undertones…so, so yum!

I read through several recipes to get the gist of how they are usually made, and then came up with my own short-cut version. By partially boiling the potatoes (in a garlic & bouillon stock) prior to baking them in the lemon, oil, and herb mixture, you cut the cooking time significantly. And who wants to spend extra time cooking if you don’t need to?

These delicious potatoes are soooooo good that they can be eaten all by themselves, but they would also be fabulous served with a Greek salad (such as my The Only Greek Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need). For meat-a-tarians like my husband, a skewer of meat would probably complement the meal nicely, but really, the potatoes are so flavourful that I think a side salad is all you need.

Let’s get to making some!

GREEK-STYLE LEMONY POTATOES

This herbed and lemon-flavoured potato dish is a homestyle version of the takeout classic. A stock make of chicken-flavoured bouillon and garlic gives it the classic flavour! 

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 6 potatoes
  • 1 tsp. oregano, thyme, and rosemary, each
  • 2 cubes chicken-flavoured bouillon (enough to make 8 cups of stock)
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 8 c. water
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice (fresh is best, but bottled is ok too)

Instructions

  1. Add bouillon and garlic to water, and bring to a boil. 

  2. Cut potatoes into wedges (6 to a potato) and add to garlic & bouillon stock. Boil until firm but can be pierced by a fork. (Be careful not to cook potatoes fully, or else they'll turn into mashed potatoes in the oven. Delicious, but not the aim of the recipe.)

  3. In an oven-proof container, mix olive oil, herbs, 1 c. of the bouillon and garlic stock (along with all of the garlic from the stock), and the potatoes. 

  4. Bake in a 400 degree oven, until potatoes reach their desired level of doneness. (Some people prefer softer potatoes than others.). I baked for about 30 minutes, until most but not all of the liquid had been absorbed/evaporated; I suggest checking every 15 minutes to make sure they reach your particular taste for doneness.  

  5. Served with a Greek Salad, and enjoy! 

Recipe Notes

I used McCormick vegetarian chicken bouillon because I'm vegetarian, but if you just have regular chicken bouillon, that's fine too. And if you find another vegetarian chicken bouillon, let me know! So far the only one I've ever come across is McCormick's.  

 

I made these last weekend, thinking that there would be enough for several meals worth, but…apparently they are too delicious to sit in the fridge for long. The next day there were all gone. The culprit? My beloved DH who enjoyed them for snacks and for dinner the next day. I came home after work to find him serving himself the last of the potatoes for dinner, topped with some cheese. He did look slightly guilty that he hadn’t left any for me, but…not guilty enough to have left any. In other words, Greek-Style Lemony potatoes are dee-licious!

Next Post: Either Blue & Blackberry Jam, or The Ultimate Macaroni Salad. I have amazing (and EASY) recipes for both! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!

How to Make a Candy-Filled Gender Reveal Cake!

It’s a baby…girl!

Yesterday I got together with my parents and siblings to celebrate one of my sister’s birthdays, and also to find out the gender of a new baby who will be joining us in 6 or so months! I had to find out the gender ahead of time of course, so that I could make the gender reveal cake. It was a hit! Everyone but the expectant mother and father-to-be were surprised. Also surprisingly easy to make this cake once you understand how to fill a cake with candy. Want to learn how to make one too? Let’s get to it!

Firstly, I recommend reading my post on Cake Decorating 101 — you’ll learn some of my best tips about cake decorating, including the fact that it is much easier to ice a slightly frozen cake than a crumbly, wobbly, non-frozen one. I also suggest that you read my post on how to make the best buttercream ever — it really is the only buttercream recipe that you’ll ever need!

I decided to make the gender reveal cake a ‘naked cake’, so that it only has a light crumb coat of icing on it (just enough to keep the crumbs iced down, but still thin enough that you can see the layers of the cake through the icing on the sides). Considering that the cake is filled with candy, I thought we didn’t need to have a thick layer of icing on top of it too!

 

Candy-Filled Gender Reveal Cake

Fill this naked-cake with the expectant mother's favourite candies, and have everyone guess the sex of the baby before the cake is cut! Fun and tasty for everyone! 
Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 3 cake layers (use your favourite recipe)
  • 1 batch buttercream icing
  • 1-1 1/2 cup assorted candies in pink or blue
  • 3 tbsp. multi-coloured sprinkles
  • 1 tbsp. silver dragees

Instructions

  1. Place first layer of cake on cake tray. Spread a layer of icing on the top. 

  2. Place second layer of cake on a separate plate or tray. Using an upside-down martini glass (or small bowl) cut out a circle of cake from the centre. Eat the centre of the cake, for quality control purposes. (Yum!)

  3. Place second layer of cake on top of the first layer. Ice the top of the second layer of cake (i.e. the ring of cake that is all that is left of the second layer).

  4. Fill the centre of the second cake layer with candies. Pack them in firmly. You want there to be lots of candy to spill out when you remove the first slice of cake. 

  5. Place the third layer of cake on top of the second layer. 

  6. Ice the top of the cake. Thinly ice the sides of the cake, using an offset spatula (or the edge of a very straight knife, or just a ruler) to scrape off the excess. To get the look of a naked cake, you want to be able to see the layers of the cake. 

  7. Using a pinch of sprinkles at a time, throw sprinkles at the bottom edge of the cake (I usually do this over a sink, while firmly holding the iced cake on a slight slant to give the best access. Note that the cake has to be pretty chilled to be able to do this without the layers slipping off. Another reason why chilling the cake layers helps keep the cake together!)

  8. Using the silver dragees, make a question mark on top of the cake. 

  9. Using the leftover sprinkles, sprinkle them over the top of the cake. 

  10. Chill the cake thoroughly before serving. Then, cut a slice, plate it, and listen to the cheers of the onlookers as they find out the sex of the new baby! (You'll also hear appreciates mmm's as they eat that delicious buttercream-covered cake!)

I know that pink and blue are extremely stereotypical ways to signify the sex of a baby (I mean, I’m female and my favourite colour is and always has been blue), but they’re also currently the most universally recognized (at least in the Western world) gender signifiers, which is why I used them. In other words, you do you, boo!

Oh, and while I call it a gender-reveal cake, I also recognize that gender and sex are not necessarily interchangeable terms. I like to be precise with my words. I’m a bit of a logophile. But enough of that. Back to fun with food!

While I termed this recipe a candy-filled gender reveal cake, you really could make it a baby announcement cake as well! Fill it with baby-themed candies (think candy pacifiers and candy lego building blocks) and it’s a fun way to surprise a gathering of people! If no one knows that it is a surprise cake, everyone will be surprised when they find out there’s themed candy in the centre!

Or make it a themed cake for a child’s birthday party! You could fill it with candy lego blocks (lego-themed party), candy dinosaurs (dinosaur-themed party)…the possibilities are only as limited as your access to candy is!

Next Post: Hmm. Good question. Maybe some super-easy blueberry jam? I did just buy a blueberry bush, so I’ve got blueberries on the brain! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!

Copycat Peach Yoplait: A Super-Quick & Calcium-Rich Yoghurt Drink!

Yummy, yummy in my tummy!

As I’ve written previously, I’ve taken to making my own yoghurt these days. And in line with my granola-making hippy-esque kitchen plans, I’ve also taken to canning my own fruit (at least peaches and pears). But what to do with the last of the canning syrup? And what to do with a single cup of yoghurt left? Not enough for a full meal, but a bit too much to bake with. Well…why not mix up some Copycat Peach Yoplait?

Have you ever drunk a bottle of that fruit-flavoured yoghurt drink, Yoplait? I haven’t had one in years, and I also don’t want to look at the ingredient list — I’m sure it has more ingredients than I care to know about. But they are delicious little bottles of drinkable yoghurt yumminess, and I thought I’d try making my own.

It’s surprisingly easy to make this Copycat Peach Yoplait! I suggest using peaches that have been canned in juice, or at the very least, light syrup. If you use peaches canned in heavy syrup, the drink will definitely be delicious, but won’t be as healthy.  And food that is healthy(ish, at least), full of nutrients from fruit, chock-full of calcium, and verrrrry importantly, super-duper delicious…well, I’m all about that!

So let’s get to making some!

 

5 from 2 votes
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Copycat Peach Yoplait

This calcium-rich and peach-flavoured yoghurt drink is suprisingly easy to whip up! Great served over ice for a refreshing drink. 

Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup juice or light syrup from a can of peaches
  • 1 tbsp canned peach, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix yoghurt, juice/light syrup, and finely chopped peach together in a glass. 

  2. Serve over ice and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

If you want a sweeter drink, you can increase the juice/light syrup amount to 3/4 cup. I recommend using home-canned peaches for this -- the flavour is so much better than store-bought!

 

That’s right, this drink is basically yoghurt thinned with the juice/light syrup from canned peaches, plus a few chunks of peaches. As the juice/light syrup sits with the fruit in the jar, it gains a delicious peach flavour, so when we use the juice/light syrup in the drink, it imparts all that lovely peachiness to the drink. And then adding in a few peach chunks only makes it better!

You can see why I don’t recommend using peaches canned in heavy syrup in this drink! I mean you could, but I would use it as a dessert then, not so much a healthy breakfast! Mmm…dessert yoghurt. I totally want that now!

I wonder what other canned fruits I could turn into fruity yoghurt drinks? Mandarins? Pears? Apricots? Oooh, I think the apricot one would be great! If you make this, let me know what fruit you used!

Next Post: Not sure yet, to be honest. I’m still recovering from a few weeks of illness and my stomach is wibbly-wobbly so I haven’t been dreaming of new recipes like I usually do. So, we’ll see what the week brings!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And Full Plate Thursday!