Sunday, March 30, 2008

spicy szcheuan green beans

I love anything spicy. And these are one of my favourites! I also love green beans (especially in a caesar!). Anyhow, these are an easy side for chicken and rice, or aside steak and garlic mashed potatoes. The only thing that takes any time is boiling the water to blanch the beans.

This recipe is all about "dashes" because I
never seem to actually measure anything, most of it is to you can personalize all you want, but all the ingredients go so well together, that I imagine you couldn't go wrong.

If you aren't a green bean fan, but love edamame, it makes a great snack! (I will post a pic of those one night when we have a late night craving).

2 handfuls of tipped green beans
pinch of salt
6 cups boiling water

2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1-2 Tbsp hot sambal sauce (hot chili Asian sauce)
2 Tbsp hoision sauce
3-4 dashes soy sauce
2 dashes terriyaki sauce
1-2 tsp honey
2 tsp sesame seeds

  1. Boil water in pot over high heat
  2. Add pinch of salt and beans - remove after 3 minutes
  3. At this point you should add the strained green beans to an ice bath to stop the cooking, however I never am that organized and just plop them in a strainer and run the cold water through them, turning them over with my hands for a few minutes until cool.
  4. In a large frying pan, or a wok, heat sesame oil
  5. Add garlic, alow to soften, do not brown it!
  6. Add strained green beans - allow to "fry" for about 20 seconds, stirring once or twice.
  7. Add sambal, hoision, terryaki and soy sauces. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes, the sauces will thicken and coat the beans
  8. Remove from heat and sprinkle [toasted] sesame seeds over top.

daring baker's challenge: dorie's perfect party cake

My first daring baker's challenge completed! Since this is my first challenge, I should explain the process. This is a group of bloggers, and non bloggers who "knead to bake!". At the beginning of each month the host selects a recipe, posts it and sets out the guidelines for what can and what cannot be changed/personalized and also indicated what day everyone will post their final results.

Thank you Morven for hosting this month's challenge. I was excited to make this cake because I love anything lemon. I made it a few weeks ago for a friend's engagement party. For the most part it turned out well. Throughout the month on the Daring Baker's blog some folks were noting that the cake did not rise properly. Morven noted a few changes in the recipe before I baked my cake, but alas mine still did not rise the way I would have liked! I did use cake flour, a different brand than she had suggested, but it was what they had at our local store. As a result I ended up making a second batch of batter after the first had been baked. In the end I had 4 cakes, used 3, and didn't end up slicing them in half as per the recipe.

A few other things. I left out the raspberry preserves, but used both a lemon and lime curd (recipe's below - love these!) And I also made a quick lemon syrup that i brushed on each cake before layering the curd.

One final note about the cake - I loved the marshmallowy icing (Swiss Meringue Buttercream)! I think it was beautiful to make and it was much simpler than I thought it would if I walk away with one thing, it would definately be that!

**I wish I had taken a picture of the slices, the alternate between the yellow and the green lime curd was actually very lovely against the white of the cake and the crisp white of the buttercream**

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk (the recipe suggested whole milk as an alternate)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Lemon & Lime Curd
*I made one batch of Lemon & one of Lime*

3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon citrus zest
¾ cup granulates sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Move oven rack to centre, heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

To Make the Cake

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. (I loved this part!)
  4. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
  5. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
  6. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
  7. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
  8. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
  9. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
  11. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
  12. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream

  1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
  2. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
  5. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
  6. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
  7. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
  8. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
  9. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Make the Lemon or Lime Curd

  1. In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until blended.
  2. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or hollandaise sauce). This will take approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and immediately pour though a fine strainer to remove any lumps.
  4. Cut the butter into cubes and whisk into the mixture until completely melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool.
  5. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools.
  6. Cover immediately (so skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Makes 1 ½ cups.

To Assemble the Cake

  1. Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. (I didn't do this part as my cake didn't rise enough)
  2. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
  3. Spread it with one third of the preserves.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
  4. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
  5. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides.

Monday, March 24, 2008

easter cake

** So I didn't make this cake as part of a challenge, but I recently stumbled across an Easter Cake Competition over at A Slice of Cherry Pie - it looked fun, so I thought I would submit my cake, though when looking at the posts from last years, it is all in fun (I am not nearly as talented as the others bakers!)**

At family gatherings, I am the one who prefers to bring the dessert. Pies are my preference - but it was time for a cake...this one, Martha inspired *gasp* - to check out the original, it is in the March 08 Martha Stewart Living.

Ingredients for Cake Layers
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (I used Swiss Chocolate coffee - even more chocolate flavour!)
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients for Peanut Butter Icing
1 cup good quality creamy/smooth peanut butter
1 stick butter (half a cup)
2 cups icing sugar
2-3 Tbsp milk or cream

Ingredients for Chocolate Icing

1oz cocoa
5 Tbs boiling water
6oz butter or soft margarine
9-12oz icing sugar, sifted

For the Cake Layers: *or cupcakes - those turned out great as well*

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.
  2. Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer).
  5. Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well.
  6. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
  7. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Adjust time accordingly for cupcakes - mini's took about 15 minutes.
  8. Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks.
  9. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely.
  10. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

For the Peanut Butter Icing:

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly beat in 1/2 of the confectioner's sugar.
  3. Mix in 1/2 of the milk/cream.
  4. Beat in the remaining confectioners' sugar.
  5. If necessary, add a little more cream or milk until the frosting reaches a good spreading consistency.
  6. I used this for in between the layers of chocolate cake
For the Chocolate Icing:
  1. Dissolve the cocoa in the boiling water, making a paste.
  2. Cream the fat to soften it, then add the icing sugar and beat really well until the mixture becomes pale in colour and light in texture. (An electric mixer is helpful).
  3. Mix in the cooled cocoa.
  4. Additional flavouring of vanilla or peppermint essence, dissolved instant coffee or the finely grated rind of half an orange may be added.
  5. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Cake Assembly:

  1. Cut off the "humps" of the cakes - put excess cake aside
  2. Spread peanut butter frosting between cake layers
  3. Spread the chocolate frosting over the sides and top of cake.
  4. Take remainder of cake humps and crumble with your hands to make "dirt"
  5. Curl chocolate with a veggie peeler and carefully place on sides of cakes
  6. If you want to make the nest, this was out of regular filo pastry, shredded with a tablepsoon of butter mixed in and then nestled in a muffin tin - bake at 350 until golden
  7. Mushrooms are made from fondant and then dusted with cocoa
  8. Flowers are made with tissue paper, floral wire and floral tape - you could buy something similar at Michael's
  9. Place Cadbury mini eggs in nest
  10. Once everything is in place, dust cake carefully with icing sugar.

**WARNING** this cake is incredibly rich, especially with the peanut butter icing- but good!

sushi salad

I have a handful of recipes that I have planned to blog about for a while...but the month got away on me, there should be a few more coming after this one!

We love sushi! But sometimes we don't feel like going out, let alone taking the time to make it (even if everyone makes their own). This is all the goodness of sushi, with way less time. The best thing is that you can add whatever you like to it. If you LOVE spicy tuna, you could top the salad with spicy tuna sashimi - yum.

1 cup uncooked sushi rice
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
1 portobello mushroom
1 tsp sesame oil
1 handful snap peas chopped
1 carrot julienned
1 avocado diced
1 red pepper julienned
1/3 of an English cucumber julienned
1/2 cup edamame beans (about 2 cups pods, boiled in water for 6 minutes - cool and seperate beans and pods)
1 cup crab
1 sheet of nori crumbled to top
sesame seeds to top

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp wasabi (or to taste)

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Combine first amount of rice wine vinegar and sugar in a microwaveable bowl and heat for about 20 seconds, enough to dissolve sugar.
  3. Once rice is cooked, mix the sugar/vinegar in, and allow rice to come to room temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, slice up portabello mushroom, fry up in first amount of sesame oil.
  5. Once rice is cooled, add all the veggies and crab or any other protein you want to add.
  6. Top with sesame seeds and crumbled nori.
  7. Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients.
I personally thought this recipe was best when fresh - day of, I didn't love it the next day as a left over. We had it with chicken terriyaki and miso soup, an easy homemade sushi dinner.

Monday, March 3, 2008

cajun chicken

As I took the photo for this recipe I realized I seem to have only posted dishes that are orange/red or brown!! We do eat lots of veggies and greens, I just don't seem to ever post about them! This dish is very spicy, but served with a fresh and crisp green salad and some rice or angel hair pasta, this is a nice and easy to make meal.

2 chicken breasts or the equivalent in chicken tenders
1 cup flour
canola oil
cracked pepper

8 button mushrooms, sliced
10 cherry tomatoes, halfed
4 tablespoons cajun spice
1/2 tablespoon crushed chilies
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
5 oz spicy tomato sauce
8 oz chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon butter/margarine

1. Tenderize chicken to a 1/4 inch thickness
2. Substantially sprinkle chicken with cracked black pepper
3. Season flour with a pinch of salt and about 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
4. Coat chicken in flour -- can be done in a plastic bag, ala shake and bake, or it could be done in a bowl and just dredged.
5. Heat about 5 tablespoons oil in fry pan over medium high heat (I know this is a lot of oil, but you will drain whatever doesn't get absorbed in the chicken)
6. Once oil is hot, add chicken and cook until about 90% cooked.
7. Drain excess oil.
8. Add mushroom slices, and cherry tomato halves, cajun spice, chilies, black pepper, tomato sauce and chicken stock.
9. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
10. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to thicken.

Serves 4.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

homemade cream of mushroom soup

Being a child of the 80's - I was a big fan of Campbell's soup. My all-time favourite was cream of mushroom with Premium Plus crackers crumbled in it. In an effort to make meals, instead of just opening up a can, I whipped up some cream of mushroom soup that was tasty and brought back the memories of childhood, while using fresh and healthy(minus the cream I suppose!) ingredients. I also really like cooking with mushrooms, any variety, because of the hearty meatiness to them. I live with a bona fide carnivore, who prefers meat at most meals...even as vegetarian meal, this satisfied and fulfilled him!

3 shallots finely diced
3 garlic cloves finely diced
1 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
4 cups button mushrooms
1 cup oyster mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 cups veggie broth
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
salt + ground pepper to taste

Finely dice all mushrooms. I started with my chef's knife, and quickly dropped the whole lot in my food processor, much faster!

In a large saucepan melt butter. Gently sweat the onions and garlic, do not brown or burn! Add mushrooms and pinch of salt. Stir in bay leaves and thyme. Allow mushrooms to sweat and release all their moisture - about 10 minutes.

Add veggie broth, and cream. Bring to gentle boil. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Whisk together cornstarch and water. Slowly add and stir into simmering soup. Allow to thicken for about 10 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, garnish with parsley or chives. Serve with warm bread or crackers.

Serves 4.

simple crêpes

We just got home from a week away...the fridge and cupboards, while not bare, were not exactly bursting with items to inspire much for breakfast. When we were kids, my mom always made a special Sunday morning breakfast: bacon + eggs, omelette's, or German pancakes (aka crêpes with brown sugar and lemon juice). Looking in through what we had, and not really wanting to either go out for a bite to eat, or to the store to grocery shop, crêpes it was... after all, you almost always have flour, eggs, milk and a pinch of salt around.

crêpes can be rolled with fruit, topped with whipped cream, or they can be filled with cheese and other veggies/meat. We went with the most basic of basic... brown sugar and lemon juice.

2 cups sifted flour
pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2-2 cups milk
butter or oil for pan

Sift flour into a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Crack eggs and add milk. Whisk together. Be sure to whisk out lumps of flour. The consistency of the batter should be like melted ice cream: thick but smooth.

While whisking the batter, heat up a fry pan over medium high heat. Add a very small amount of oil or butter to pan, once fully coated, and heated up add a ladle of the batter to the pan, swirl around to ensure it evenly spread in the pan. Once the
crêpe loosens up in the pan, it is time to flip, about 40 - 6o seconds. Another 30 seconds or so on the second side, and the crêpe is ready.

I take the finished
crêpe, place on a warmed plate, I place a sauce pan lid on top to keep warm, cook all and serve.

If you go with the sugar and lemon juice, you need about 3/4 tablespoon sugar and the juice from half a lemon per
crêpe. You can serve folded in quarters (as per the picture) or rolled.

These keep really well, cover with plastic wrap and you could easily heat up for the next day.

Makes about 8.