Thursday, February 21, 2008

lemon drop cupcakes

It was one of my student's birthday this week, and since we were out volunteering in a school I thought a little treat might be in order for our volunteers. It has been beautifully sunny and spring like here, so I thought something light and fresh, and I stumbled on these. I found this recipe online and changed nothing about it except a little less time in the oven as I think mine may be a little wonky, and they turned out phenomenally. I almost skimped out on the lemon syrup step and if you are tempted, don't, it adds a fabulous moisture and even more lemon flavour. YUM!

*the picture does not do these little morsels of lemony goodness justice*

Lemon Cupcakes Ingredients

32-36 cupcake papers
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons melted honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (approximately one lemon), strained zest of two lemons (additional zest optional for garnish)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Lemon drop syrup (recipe follows)

Lemon Drop Syrup

¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
Juice of one lemon, strained

Combine sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until sugar dissolves. Transfer to small bowl and let cool before stirring in fresh lemon juice.

Adapted from Holly over at

Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange paper liners in muffin tins. Sift together flours, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

In electric mixer, beat together eggs and sugar at a medium-high speed until mixture thickens and color pales, about three minutes. Lower speed and add oil, honey, extracts, lemon juice and lemon zest, stirring until just combined. Mix in buttermilk. Slowly, begin to add flours, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat on low just until smooth.

Fill cupcake tins ¾ full. Bake 16-20 minutes (my oven 12-14), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and brush tops with lemon syrup. Cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Cream Icing

1 cup butter , softened
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 lemon, juice of or if you have it 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat till well combined.
Add lemon juice and vanilla and continue to beat for another 5 minutes or until creamy.

I also think that a lemon cream cheese icing (icing from carrot cake with lemon juice/extract would be delish on these!)

pseudo taiwanese beef noodle soup

Comfort foods are always very individual to a person's taste and memories associated. Pete is sick right now and wanted spicy Taiwanese beef noodle soup from a little hole in the wall shop about 20 minutes away. I am sure there is somewhere closer in our neighbourhood, but we haven't found it yet. So instead of heading out I thought I would try to create my own version of one of his comfort foods - it turned out pretty well! It is by no means authentic; nor is it right from scratch! Comfort can't take all day long after all.

Ingredients for Beef:
2-3 lb top sirloin roast
2 garlic cloves
olive oil

Ingredients for Thick Noodles:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup water (approximate)

Ingredients for Soup:
3 crushed garlic cloves
2 peeled shallots
8 cups water
1 cube beef bouillon
1 cube veggie bouillon
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
couple dashes fish sauce
2-3 heaped teaspoons spicy sambal/chili sauce*
*add as little or as much as you like

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To prepare the roast pat it dry. Make some slits in the meat, and insert sliced garlic in for flavour. Seasoned it with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in fry pan. Sear each side of roast; once all sides are seared, place in caserole dish, that has about 1/2 water in it and cover with aluminum foil. We like our meat rare/medium-rare - I cooked for about 50 minutes and overcooked - at that point it was well done - I would suggest about 35-40 minutes for it to not be too over done, OR, if you have time, slow roast it until it is soft and able to fall apart. Once meat is cooked to where you want it, remove from heat, cover and let the juices re-distribute.

Once meat is in the oven, start making the noodles. On a clean counter top, mound the flour, make a well, and crack the eggs into the centre of the well. With your fingers incorporate the eggs into the dough, if needed to help bond it all together, add small amounts of water at a time. Kneed the dough until smooth (about 5 minutes). I don't have a pasta maker, if I did this next part would have been a lot easier! I rolled the pasta out with a rolling pin (divide ball into quarters to make this a lot faster). With a pasta machine you would want to run it through twice at each thickness interval. I thought I had it thin enough when I had it down to about 3 mm, but I would suggest going a little thinner than that. Once rolled out to the thickness you want - roll the dough into a long tube (like a rolled up newspaper), taking your knife cut the pasta into about 5-7mm widths. You have created what looks like a coin of pasta, but once you unroll each coin is a long string of thick noodle pasta. Drape pasta over a clean dish rack, a big bowl, or (gasp!) a pasta drying rack.

To make the soup base I started tossing things in that we had around the house, basically bring the water to a boil and through everything else in, let it simmer away as the flavours infuse.

Boil water for the pasta while it is hanging and drying out. Add pasta a few handfuls at a time, don't overcrowd the pot. Once noodles float to the top (3-4 minutes) add noodles to simmering pot of soup base.

Ladle the noodles and soup into a bowl. You can take the meat, shred it if possible and serve on top of soup. Or you can do what I did. Slice up the roast, into bite size pieces and toss in the soup, that way it infuses with all the flavours of the soup base - either way - enjoy! Great for colds, or just cold rainy weather.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

tortilla soup

I take no credit whatsoever for this recipe. My sister-in-law made this for us once and I loved it. Subsequently I soon learned that the recipe was from one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in Victoria, Rebar. A warning for the those who are weary of is hot! I would suggest starting with half the recommended chipotle and jalapeño pepper, and work up from there.


8 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
10 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons oregano
4 jalapeño peppers seeded and minced
3 cups corn kernels
2 large red peppers seeded and finally diced
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoons chipotle puree
2 avocados diced
asiago cheese shaved/grated
1 lime


Heat stock and keep warm.

In heavy duty bottomed soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until translucent. Stir in garlic, oregano, half the minced jalapeño and another 1 teaspoon salt. Saute 5 minutes.

Pour hot stock into pot and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer 20 minutes.

Final 5 minutes - stir in corn, red peppers, remaining jalapeños, remaining salt, liquid smoke and chipotle puree. Simmer until corn is tender. Meanwhile prepare garnishes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into bowls. Divide avocados, cilantro, asiago into the bowls. Serve with lime wedges.

** As a fun garnish for the wow factor**

>>Tortilla Strips<<
2 Corn Tortilla

Slice into 1/4" thick strips. Toss gently with oil, a pinch of salt and chili powder. Spread and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Once they have firmed up, add as garnish on top of soup.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

coconut + prawn red thai curry sauce + barley risotto

Over the last few weeks of January, when the restaurants are quiet after the holiday rush, to get everyone back out spending money and hitting the town over 180 restaurants participate in Dine Out Vancouver. A three week smorgasboard of choice in restaurants ranging from the pizza joint down the road to high end restaurants like Lumiere (formerly owned and operated by Chef Rob Feenie) or Raincity Grill. Menus all include a 3 course dinner, and come at three level of prices $15, $25 and $35. This year we hit up four restaurants as part of the promotion. Every year we go to the Cannery (yum!) and then add a few restaurants that would not be part of our usual dining experiences.

At the Cannery this year we had a delicious dinner of
sautéed Black Tiger Prawns, served over coconut barley risotto, with sweet basil and red Thai curry sauce. I love risotto on any day, so this was fun and unique twist. I tried to reproduce it to the best of my abilities at home, it turned out pretty well. Just be aware that barely has a totally different texture than regular arborio rice.

** picture to come (we ate it before we could take the picture!)

Barely Risotto Ingredients
* serves 2 or 3
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 minced shallots
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 handfuls of pearl barely*
1/3 cup cooking sherry
4-6 cups low sodium chicken stalk

Coconut + Prawn Red Thai Curry Sauce Ingredients
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 minced shallots
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper julienned
1 handful of snap or snow peas cut in half lengthwise
2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste **
6 oz coconut milk
12-15 prawns
juice from one lime

*sorry I never measure risotto, my rule of thumb is one handful per person when used as the main course)
** this may be too spicy for you, start with one and add more if you want more heat.


Bring stock to low simmer. Heat up oil in fry pan. Sweat the onions and garlic on medium heat, carefully so as not to burn the garlic. Add the barely, essentially you are toasting the grains and opening it up to absorb the liquid. Once the barely has toasted for about one minute, add sherry. Once liquid has absorbed/evaporated, slowly add hot stock to pan half a ladle at a time. Stir the barely often (I didn't find it as finicky as
arborio rice).

Once barely gets close to being done it will be soft, shouldn't be crunchy! (about 15-17 minutes of adding stock/stirring and repeat), in a second
sauté pan, heat oil, add garlic and shallots, sweat for about 2 minutes, add the red peppers and sugar/snap peas. Just as peppers begin to soften, add the curry paste, coconut milk and stir to combine. Add prawns, cook until they turn pink (not too long or you over cook them and they get rubbery!) as you finish squeeze the juice of one lime into the pan to freshen up the flavours.

Serve by scooping barely risotto onto a plate and then a scoop of the coconut curry, veggies and prawns on top. Enjoy!