Sunday, May 20, 2018

Garlic Green Beans

Looking for a flavorful, inexpensive, easy peasy dish to serve with your next Chinese inspired meal? 
Look no further!
These green beans only take about 20 minutes from start to finish and taste soooooo good. 
They also make a great addition to a Chinese food dinner...

This recipe is also very easy to double, or even triple, if you have company or need something unusual to bring to a potluck. Increasing the recipe would mean an increase in cooking time, but not too much - maybe another 10 minutes or so. 

Garlic Green Beans

1 Tbsp sesame oil
4 shallots, diced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 lbs green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 cup rice wine
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp ginger, minced (or ginger paste)

toasted sesame seeds

Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Cook shallots and garlic for 3 minutes, stirring often.

 Add in green beans and cook for about 8 - 10 minutes, stirring often, until beans start to soften.

Make sure your rice wine is measured and ready to pour, and your oyster sauce, soy sauce, and ginger are mixed and ready to go.

Deglaze the frying pan with the rice wine. 
Add in the sauce/ginger mixture. Stir well into the beans.
Continue to cook until beans are as done as you would like - mine only took another 5 minutes. 
Remove from pan and serve hot. If desired, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. 

See what I mean about easy peasy?
Hardly any prep and only a few dishes. What's not to love? 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Paneer Pepper Masala

Until very recently I had never tried paneer. It looked like tofu so I always thought it would have the same texture and I reeeeeeally, really don't like the texture of tofu. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out I should probably not make judgments about foods without first doing a little research and, you know.... trying them first. 
The texture of paneer is not like tofu. It is more like a cheese curd like the squeaky ones they use on poutine. Which makes sense. I mean... it is a cheese. 
One of my coworkers said that he would whip me up some paneer if I would in turn make a dish to bring to the office using the paneer. Challenge accepted. 

Paneer Pepper Masala

1 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 canned chopped green chilies
1 tsp ginger paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, cut into slices
1 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garam masala
2 (to 3) cups paneer, cubed

In a large frying pan/skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add in onions and fry, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add in green chilies, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno pepper. Saute for 3 - 4 minutes.

Turn heat down to low. Add in ketchup, tumeric, black pepper, and garam masala. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. 

Above is the paneer still in cheesecloth. 

Flip it onto a cutting board and remove the cheesecloth. 

Cut into cubes. 
Add your cubed paneer into the frying pan. Cook and stir very gently until the paneer is coated and heated through - about 5 or so minutes. Serve hot. 

In case you needed more convincing to give this a try - it only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and, it reheats very well the next day in the microwave as well!
Like things hotter? Add more black pepper and jalapenos. As written, I found this just the right amount of spice. I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat though, so....... 
Apparently making the paneer is quite simple so I definitely want to give it a go. On it's own it is quite flavorless - it takes on the flavor of whatever you are cooking it in, not unlike tofu - BUT, it definitely has a more squishy, cheese-curd like texture than tofu. Thank goodness for that, I say. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Lavender Scones

Our local U-pick farm, Old Airport Gardens, in Lillooet has some of the best produce ever. 
True story. 
Something else they grow that is amazing? 
Until I saw it at the farm I had never considered cooking with lavender. Once I saw the rows and rows of beautiful purple flowers however, I knew I had to give it a try. I previously made Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies (link HERE), which I adored, so I decided to give some scones a go.
Scones, as we all know, are one of the most perfect foods on the planet. Add in some vanilla bean and lavender and *voila* they move to the top of the list. 

Lavender Scones

3/4 cup cream
2 Tbsp honey
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 Tbsp lavender
1 vanilla bean, scraped and pod discarded
6 Tbsp butter, cold

1/2  to 1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp to 1 Tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 400. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper, set aside. 
In a small bowl, whisk together cream, honey, and egg. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, lavender, and vanilla bean seed.  Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed. 

Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it. Roll out to about 1 inch thickness. Cut out scones using a biscuit cutter (or sharp edges cookie cutter). Place on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 for about 15 - 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Prepare glaze - whisk together icing sugar and milk until it is the consistency of white glue. While scones are still warm, brush the glaze on top using a pastry/basting brush and then sprinkle with a little more lavender. 

FYI - I doubled the recipe to get all the scones pictured above. 
Serve warm or room temp. These also freeze very well.

Light and airy and a perfect snack. 
The lavender lends just enough of a flavor to balance the vanilla bean. 
Like I said - one of the most perfect foods on the planet. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Sheep Cake (Coconut Cake with Marshmallow Fondant)

I have been wanting to make a sheep cake for some time now. I keep seeing these ridiculously adorable stuffed sheep on Pinterest and have been dying to try to make one into a cake. 
When I was put in charge of Easter dessert I knew my opportunity had come. This cake is a super cute idea for Easter but also works if you are having a farm themed party. 
The coconut cake is fabulous on it's own too - in case you aren't into the whole decorating thing. But, I mean, come oooooon..... it's just so cute. 

Sheep Cake 
(Coconut Cake with Marshmallow Fondant)

3/4 cup butter, room temp
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 tsp coconut extract
1 cup finely shredded coconut
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of 3 round 8 inch pans with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until fluffy, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the sugar until well combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then beat in the coconut extract. Stir in the 1 cup of shredded coconut.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
Beat in the buttermilk, alternating with the dry ingredients, into the butter mixture. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter. Then fold the remaining egg whites in - be careful not to over mix and deflate the egg whites too much. 
Spread evenly into the 3 prepared pans.

Bake at 350 until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean and tops are golden brown, about 30 - 40 minutes. 
Remove to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire rack to cool completely.

You can freeze the cakes until ready to use. They are a bit easier to decorate if they are chilled, so if you are continuing on with the decorating now, cover and place the room temp cakes in the fridge while you prepare the frosting and marshmallow fondant.

Easy Buttercream

1/2 cup butter, room temp
2 tsp coconut extract
3 cups of icing sugar
1 - 2 Tbsp of milk

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the coconut extract. Slowly beat in the icing sugar. Beat in 1 - 2 Tbsp of milk to reach a spreading consistency. 
Set aside.
NOTE - you can also used canned, store bought frosting if you prefer. 

Easy Marshmallow Fondant (small batch)

4 oz mini marshmallows
2 1/4 tsp water
1/2 tsp black food gel
8 oz icing sugar

butter, for your hands
extra icing sugar for kneading

In a microwave safe bowl, place marshmallows and water. Heat approx 40 seconds and then stir. If marshmallows are not completely melted, heat another 20 seconds. Stir until smooth.
Stir in the black food gel and icing sugar. You may need to add a little bit more icing sugar if it is still very sticky. 
Place some icing sugar on a flat work surface and scrape the fondant onto it. Cover your hands in a bit of butter to prevent sticking and then knead the fondant until it is not sticky and is fairly firm. 
The black fondant is for the sheep's face, ears, and legs. 

Easy Marshmallow Fondant (large batch)

1 lb bag of mini marshmallows (16 oz)
3 Tbsp water
2 lbs icing sugar

butter for your hands,
extra icing sugar for kneading

In a microwave safe bowl, place marshmallows and water. Heat approx 40 seconds and then stir. If marshmallows are not completely melted, heat another 20 seconds, stir, repeat if needed. Stir until smooth.
Add in the icing sugar - about 1/3 at a time. You may need to add a little bit more icing sugar if it is still very sticky. 
Place some icing sugar on a flat work surface and scrape the fondant onto it. Cover your hands in a bit of butter to prevent sticking and then knead the fondant until it is not sticky and is fairly firm. You may need to add icing sugar as you knead. 
The white fondant is for the sheep's wool.

To decorate cake:
Place one layer of cake on a serving platter and top with a little of the buttercream. Repeat with next two layers. Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining buttercream. It does not need to be a thick coat as you will be covering it with fondant curls.
Using the black fondant - pinch off 4 small pieces about the size of your baby finger and roll into "sausage" shapes for the legs. Set aside. Using the photos as a guide, shape the remaining black fondant into a head shape and 2 ears. SAVE A PINCH of the black to form pupils and nostrils. Chill the fondant in the fridge to firm up - at least 30 minutes.
Press the head and ears onto the cake - you may need to use a bit of frosting on the back to get it to stick. 
Using the white fondant - pinch off pieces of fondant about the size of your baby finger and roll into a snake about the length from your wrist to the tip of your middle finger. Cut the snake in 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece up into a curl. See photo below for guidance.

NOTE - pieces do NOT have to be equal. Some can be small, some can be big. This is for the sheep's wool so all sizes are good.
Gently press the curls onto the frosting on the cake. Continue making more curls until you have enough to cover the cake. Place them all over the sides and top of the cake.
You will need to make just a few really tiny curls to go on the top of the sheep's head. A teeny tiny dab of water also works to help get things to stick. 

I used the round ends of my frosting decorating tips to cut out 2 different sized circles for the eyes. Then I used a teeny dab of water to get the black pupils to stick.

Cutest sheep ever. 
Oh, yeah....

And most delicious coconut cake ever. 
I happened to have some colored buttercream to use up, that is why there is pink and purple in there. You can color your buttercream for the filling layers if you like but it is not necessary. 
Forming all those curls out of fondant can take a little time. I recruited my nephew's lovely wife so it went a bit faster. If you have never worked with marshmallow fondant before then this is a good introduction. You don't have to roll it out or anything scary like that plus imperfections just make this cake cuter. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jackfruit Cowboy Casserole

I love experimenting with jackfruit. I think it's because of the texture. It's very meat-like. It pretty  much takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with, much like tofu, but it doesn't have that weird squishy texture that tofu has. 
This casserole is usually made with ground beef - and is equally as tasty when made as such - but this way is a bit healthier and lighter. In fact, it's gluten free and vegan as well. Give it a try for your next Meatless Monday, I'm betting even the biggest meat eaters in your house will enjoy it. 
A hearty, home cooked casserole that takes almost zero effort as you just throw everything in the slow cooker / crock pot. My favorite kind of meal!

Jackfruit Cowboy Casserole

1 large onion, cut in 1 inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, cut in half
2 cups baby carrots
2 pkgs (2 X 200 gr) plain jackfruit 
5 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (284 ml) condensed tomato soup
salt & pepper
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 cup water

In the bottom of your crock pot/slow cooker place the onion, garlic, and carrots.

Layer the jackfruit on top and then the potatoes. Top with the kidney beans and then the tomato soup, salt & pepper, garlic granules, and then gently pour the water over the top. 

Cover and cook on high for 4 - 5 hours. You can also cook on low for about 7 - 8 hours. Potatoes should be fork tender. 

Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in the fridge and simply reheat when ready to eat. 

I believe I got 6 or 7 good sized servings. 
When I made this I actually forgot to put the potatoes in after I had finished layering everything. I simply scraped the soup and beans off the top and then layered the potatoes in, then spread the soup and beans back on top of the potatoes. It worked just fine. 
Basically the only prep involved is peeling and slicing the potatoes. Gotta love that, am I right?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Vanilla Bean and Cinnamon Meringues

It has been such a long time since I made meringues that I can't even remember the last time I made them. Normally I'm not a huge fan of meringues because I find them kind of bland. This time I decided to spice things up a bit with cinnamon and vanilla. Turns out this was a good idea. The cookies are speckled with the cinnamon and vanilla beans so not only do they taste great, they look pretty too! I used a piping bag to make little swirls but you can also drop them on a sheet using a spoon if you don't need them to be all fancy schmancy. 
Meringues are an easy, inexpensive cookie to make for just about every occasion. I made them up for a bake sale and packaged them in pretty pink boxes. 

Vanilla Bean and Cinnamon Meringues

3 egg whites
1 vanilla bean, scraped and pod discarded
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200 F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place egg whites, vanilla bean, and sugar. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk gently and constantly until sugar is dissolved - about 3 minutes. (Mixture will be warm but not hot.)
When sugar is dissolved, place bowl in stand mixer and beat until eggs are foamy. Beat in salt, cream of tartar, and cinnamon. Continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Place in a piping bag and pipe onto prepared cookie sheet. 

Bake approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes at 200 degrees. Cookies should be crispy outside and slightly soft inside. If they still seem a little sticky on the outside, shut off the oven and let them sit in the oven another half hour or so. 
When they are done, let cool 5 minutes on cookie tray before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

They are a fairly fragile cookie but are a wonderful combination of crunchy and chewy textures without being too sweet.

I made them a little fancier because I was making them for a bake sale, but they taste just as wonderful if you drop them by the spoonful on the cookie sheet. FYI - I got 36 medium sized cookies out of this recipe.