Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quinoa Salad

 
I was surprised that I liked Quinoa. It looks like it would be squishy or chewy or just weird in some way. It’s not. Well, it is a little bit but not enough to put me off.
What is Quinoa, you ask?
It is a tasty little seed that can be cooked like a grain. It is exceptionally healthy (a “super food”, apparently). Go ahead, Google it. It is very informative.
The fun part about Quinoa is that you sound really cool when you pronounce it.
It’s pronounced keen-wah.
I like to use my best “extremely snobby wealthy woman” voice to say it. You know, “Of course Daaaaahling, we’re taking the yacht out for a spin tonight. Would you like to tag along for dinner? The chef is preparing Keen- waaaaah.”
.
I know, I know...I’m weird.
.
Anyway, Quinoa is very simple to prepare. The ratio, according to most sites, is 1 cup of quinoa to 1 ½ cups liquid. I had read on one site that you can use a little less water if you want fluffier quinoa. I ended up using just less than the 1:1.5 ratio and it was perfect.

Quinoa Salad

 Ingredients
1 cup quinoa (dry)
1 ½ cup water (I didn’t use a full ½ cup)
¼ cup finely chopped carrot
¼ cup finely chopped cucumber
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
¼ cup finely chopped orange pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped radish
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
½ cup Italian Salad Dressing (I used Calorie-Wise from Kraft)
Directions
Cook quinoa in water (as you would rice) for about 20 minutes. (My method – place quinoa in water over medium high heat. Bring to barely a simmer. Cover and simmer over LOW heat for 15 – 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes to see how close it is to being done. )
When quinoa is cooked, place in bowl and let cool. (I placed mine in the fridge for 15 minutes, stirring often, to speed this process.)


Ooooh, pretty colors!

Add chopped vegetables to cooled quinoa and gently stir in salad dressing. Refrigerate at least an hour to let flavour soak in. (I made mine for dinner and then brought the remainder to work the next day and it was still good. The dressing had soaked in almost completely but I did not need to add more.)

 It is surprisingly simple to prepare. And, of course, you can add whichever vegetables to this salad that you like. I am excited to try it served as a hot side dish with my meal. I think curried or with beans would be pretty darn tasty. There is a heap of recipes on the internet for quinoa that sound sooooo good. I can’t wait to give them a try.
Oh, and while I think of it, it seems that quinoa can be a little expensive to purchase in some grocery stores. I found a great deal at our local health food store (KC Health & Gifts) where you can buy it bulk for fairly cheap and you can get as much or as little as you need. Just a thought...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Benjamin Franklin Was A Genius

No photo to go with this blog.
Nope.
No recipe either.
Why? Well, have you ever had one of those moments when you know you shouldn’t try something but you do it anyway? I have had those moments many times and you would think by now I would learn to go with my instinct.
It started out innocently enough. It was Saturday. I had successfully made a rhubarb pie and a rhubarb tart and had started dinner in the crock pot. I was watching television feeling a bit bored and thought, “I know, I will try that Salted Caramel Ice Cream I have been dying to try.”
Turns out I didn’t have all the ingredients necessary so a trip to the store would be in order. Okay, so it is 5:00 pm and maybe a little late to start experimenting with a new recipe...but I was determined to attempt it. I made a run to the store to buy cream and milk, even though it was 36 degrees out and hot enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk. (That is what air conditioning in vehicles is for, right?)
Okay, so far so good. Made it home and now I can start.
Nope, not yet.
Turns out I also needed cream cheese.
The cream cheese I had left in the fridge for exactly this purpose had been used by someone else in the house. OKAY. Another trip to the store in the bazillion degree heat. It’s okay, the ice cream is going to be worth it, right?
(This is where the “maybe you should stop and do this another night” started to come in)
So now, I made it back home. I have all of my ingredients. I have read the recipe 60 times to ensure I know the steps in order and have placed everything out in order that I will need it. I am good to go.
Maybe...
First I need to wash the dishes because I am going to need space by the sink for the ice bath that I need to cool the recipe before placing it in the ice cream machine.
OKAY. Dishes are now done. Now I’m hot and getting a little cranky that this is taking so long. Dinner is cooked and sitting in the crock pot waiting to be eaten.
(It’s okay though...this is going to be the best ice cream ever....)
I start the sugar to caramelizing. I have my heat proof spatula ready. Cream, ready. Cream cheese, ready. Ice bath, ready. I’m thinking, “Uh oh, that caramel looks a little dark. But, it’s okay...it’ll still work.”
Nope.
The second I poured some cream in, it seized. Hard as a rock. Stuck to the bottom of the pan.
You are thinking – Good time to give up, right?
Nope.
I am making this ice cream if it kills me now.
Second batch of sugar on the stove. Heat is lowered. Pan of burnt caramel soaking with hot water beside the sink. Ready for attempt number two.
Okay, sugar is starting to turn golden brown. It looks perfect. Slowly add in the cream while stirring. SEIZED. AGAIN. This time at least it didn’t completely glue to the bottom of the pan. I can chip it off with a knife.
Kind of.
Seriously, what the heck.
Okay, one last try. This time it will work. Mom and dad have eaten dinner. Mine is now getting overcooked in the crock pot – that’s okay, at this point I am no longer that hungry. I’m hot, frustrated, and seriously thinking that making this Salted Caramel Ice Cream is going to be the death of me.
I have made caramel before. I know I can do it.
Third pan of sugar on the stove. Heat is lowered, again. Two pans of seized caramel soaking by the sink.
Okay, the sugar is just starting to turn brown. I take it off the heat and make sure all the white sugar has dissolved and there is only a beautiful golden syrup in the pot. Slowly add the cream.
Oh my gosh...it’s bubbling just like the recipe said it should. Okay, slowly add a little more cream, keep stirring.
No, no, no, no, no! SEIZED.
Now I’m looking at these lovely caramel chunks floating in a sea of lukewarm cream. A sink full of pots with caramel cemented to them. Dishes lining the cupboard with ingredients that are about to be wasted.
Well, I know when I am beat. I knew when I had to make a second trip to the store for more ingredients that I should’ve listened to my gut.
*Siiiiigh*
I really, really wanted some Salted Caramel Ice Cream.
It’s okay. I’m going to Google it and find a recipe that will work for me. I WILL have Salted Caramel Ice Cream.  (I may be a little obsessed now)


Why did I title this blog "Benjamin Franklin was a genius"?
He once said "I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong."
I like that.
3 ways down for me, 97 more to go :)


P.S. – I did manage to get the caramel cement off of 2 pans. My secret weapon got the third one clean. My secret weapon you ask?
“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, fiiiiiiiiiiiiiix this pleeeeeeeeeeeeease!” 
Works every time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Plum Ice Cream


This is another recipe created due to overabundance of certain ingredients.
Plums, plums, and more plums.
I am really happy I made this recipe though. It turned out great. It has a very interesting flavour. The only people who did not like it were the people who didn’t like plums to begin with.
The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe was having to remove the pits from the plums. That is the messiest job. Plus, as the plums were kept in the fridge prior to using them, they were freezing cold and my hands went numb de-pitting them. (Okay, I’m done whining now..... for a while....)

 Plum Ice Cream

 Ingredients
12 red plums, pits removed
4 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2 cups whipping cream

Directions
In a blender or food processor: mix ½ of plums, 2 eggs, ¾ cup sugar. Process until well combined. Place mixture in bowl of stand mixer. Repeat procedure with other half of plums, eggs, and sugar. With stand mixer running on low, add lemon juice. Slowly add in whipping cream. Beat until smooth.
I removed about 1/2 of the plum skins using a strainer but you don't have to.
Freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions.
.
 This really was a unique tasting ice cream. I hope you give it a try.
I was trying to imagine what you could serve it with. You know, apple pie goes with vanilla ice cream so (blank) goes with plum ice cream. Hmmm..... maybe a gingerbread cake or upside down plum cake.
Looks like some experimentation is in order.

Be sure to visit Carole's Chatter for some fun and tasty links!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Potato Tart with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Roasted Red Peppers


I bought some new pans a while ago and have been dying to try them. Big surprise. Jo bought MORE new baking pans.
I know... I know... it’s an addiction.
Anyway, they are really super cool tart pans. A long rectangular one, a big square one, and 3 stacking circle ones. And Sue bought me the new Martha Stewart Pies book. This was not a coincidence. Once Sue gave me the book I knew I had to go get some tart pans to try the recipes.
The crust recipe is from Martha’s book. The filling is my invention. It turned out great.
I didn’t know how many potatoes I would need to fill 2 pans so I half-cooked about 10 potatoes. Turns out about 2 thinly sliced were lots.
Now I have to come up with a recipe to use up 8, half baked potatoes.
*Sigh*
I’m thinking Shepherd’s Pie.

Potato Tart with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Roasted Red Peppers
Crust Ingredients
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup butter, chilled
¼ - ½ cup ice water
Crust Directions
Mix together flour, salt, and sugar in food processor. Cut in chilled butter. Process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add enough water to pull dough together. Start with ¼ cup and add more, 1 Tbsp at a time, until right consistency.
Pat into flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in fridge for at least an hour.
Roll out and lay in pan. Press up sides of pans.
.
 Filling Ingredients
2 large potatoes, skins left on, cooked in microwave for 2 – 3 minutes to soften a bit
1 lb bacon, diced, fried
1 large onion, caramelized using 2 Tbsp of leftover bacon grease.
1 roasted red pepper, diced

3 egg yolks + 1 egg
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup milk
¼ cup cream cheese, softened
½ cup crumbled cheese of your choice(We used Swiss)
 Filling Directions
Preheat oven to 400.
Slice potatos into VERY thin slices. If you have a mandolin slicer then that would be the best way. (I don’t have one. I had to use a very sharp knife and use as much patience as I have and slice them super-de-duper thin.)
Layer ingredients into pie shell in following order:
Onions
Bacon
Roasted red pepper
Potatoes
Layers of onion, bacon, and red pepper


Layer of potatoes. Don't they look pretty?

 Beat cream cheese until it is smooth, add in eggs one at a time. Slowly beat in cream and milk. Slowly pour over layers in crust. Make sure it fills all the nooks and crannies but does NOT go higher than the dough on the sides.
Bake in preheated oven until golden brown. About 30 minutes. Center should be set. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese and let sit in oven until cheese melts.
 Depending on what pan you use this makes between 1 large tart or 2 medium sized tarts. Cooking time will vary depending on pan size as well.
. This was a ”what do I have available” invention. It turned out to be a lovely blending of flavours.
.
A couple of things of note – (1) I did not need to prebake the crust as a lot of tarts call for. (2) I let the cooked tart cool to room temp, covered it with plastic wrap, and set it in the fridge and we had it at work the next morning for breakfast, just heated in the microwave and it was just as delicious.
I really like the fact that I did not have to prebake the crust. The whole”lining the crust with parchment paper and filling it with beans or pie weights” is a pain. I will do it if I have to but I prefer not to. I hate prebaking because of the shrinking of the dough. It makes me sad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spa Mask Cheese Ball

.
I have been wanting to blog about this recipe for a while now. I first saw it on the Hungry Happenings website and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Not necessarily the recipe itself – it’s a simple yet flavourful cheese ball – but because of the ingenious way Beth Jackson (creator of the blog and all around super genius when it comes to crafting really, really clever food thingies) presents it.
.
Sue and I encourage you to check out her website. (Click here) It’s awesome. We have found so many ideas to steal....We mean.....borrow....*cough cough* we totally don’t claim they are our ideas at all.....
Anyway.... if you want the full tutorial and instructions then go to her site HERE. She has wonderful photos and easy to follow step-by-step instructions.
.
Taco Flavoured Spa Mask Cheese Ball
Ingredients
2 X 8 oz blocks cream cheese, softened
1 generous cup of aged cheddar cheese, shredded
1 generous cup of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1 – 2 Tbsp of Taco seasoning (to your own taste, we used 1 Tbsp)
2 large slices of white cheese – we used Swiss
½ cup sour cream, tinted green with food coloring
1 roasted red pepper
2 slices of cucumber
Dark tortilla chips
 Directions
Mix cream cheese, cheddar cheese, Monterrey Jack cheese, and Taco seasons together until well blended.
Press into mask lined with plastic wrap. Chill until firm.
Unmold onto serving plate.

Before the sour cream "mask" is applied

Carefully cover face shape with the tinted sour cream, leaving some of the color of the cheese ball showing around the edges of the face, eyes, and mouth (so it looks like a bit of skin showing through)
Carefully lay long cheese slices on top of the mask so they look like a towel wrapped around the head. Gently hold the cheese to the face while you use a sharp knife to trim around the bottom.
Cut red pepper into lip shape and lay on top. Place cucumber slices over eyes.
Chill until ready to serve. It is a good idea to let it sit at room temp for at least a little while so the cheese ball has time to soften a little.
.
(Again, if you want step-by-step instructions with photos then please click HERE)
.
 We had to improvise on a couple of things as some of the ingredients listed in the Hungry Happening’s recipe are unavailable in Lillooet. (Oh the joys of living in a small town!) We also changed the guacamole “mask” to a green sour cream “mask” as we had to prepare the mask ahead of time for a friend who was not going to serve it until later that evening. We didn’t want the avocado / guacamole going a funky color. I would like to make it again with the guacamole as I think it might enhance the flavour of the cheese ball.
.
You can serve it with whatever your favourite cracker or chip is..... Our friend, Angel, served it with black tortilla chips because she thought it looked like the “spa lady” was laying in a mud bath.
 I think she is right. Good call Angel.

(Update - click HERE to see how we turned this into a Medusa cheeseball for Halloween!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chinese Plum Sauce

It is the time of year again when our plum tree is giving us an overabundance of plums. This recipe always uses a good amount of plums up so it has become one of my favourites. Not to mention it is delicious, especially with egg rolls, AND it makes a great gift for the gift baskets at Christmas time.
Another great recipe to use up excess plums is Plum Jam. Unfortunately we now have so much plum jam that we don’t have to make any for the next two years or so.
This year I also made Plum Ice Cream (Click HERE for that blog). It turned out delectable as well. Something really different that everyone raved about. Yay! A success!
On Sue and I’s last trip to Prince George we bought some new tart pans. (Square ones, seeing as how Sue wouldn’t let me get the square muffin pans. Jerk.) And I would really like to try a plum tart in one of them. If we haven’t used up all the plums by the end of the week I may have to try that this weekend.
.
 Chinese Plum Sauce
 Ingredients
8 cups of halved / pitted plums
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup water
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of cinnamon
 Directions
In a large pot bring first 5 ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmer until plums are tender. (About 30 minutes)

Before being pressed through sieve

Remove from heat. Press through a sieve and return to clean pan. Add remaining ingredients. Bring back to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat, simmer until consistency of apple sauce. (About 45 minutes)
Fill and seal jars. Process in boiling water bath for 30 minutes.
 I’m not going to lie: I don’t process it in a boiling water bath. I heat my jars and lids in simmering water and can them that way. If you want to be uber safe then by all means use the boiling water process.
.
 I love that we are coming into the fall season. Soon we will have pears and apples and all sorts of vegetables in the garden to choose from. Sue and I used to enter the Fall Fair every year but they cancelled the Fair a few years ago. (Booooo!) It was always fun trying to come up with new entries in the baking categories and trying to beat each other (not to mention the other fantastic competitors). Oh well, we may not be able to compete but we can still have fun trying lots of new recipes!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blackberry Ice Cream

Our dad is the supreme being of ice cream makers. He started out without an ice cream machine – just using the stir and freeze method. Then he moved up to the kind you pour ice around and salt and have to keep checking every 10 minutes. Now, thanks to a dear friend, he has the fancy schmancy kind that you just plug in and leave. It has a timer and everything. It’s pretty awe inspiring.
Even better.....sometimes he lets us use it!
This week I have been experimenting with different flavours. I figured I better get the ice cream making out of my system before autumn and it is too chilly for ice cream.
(Wait, did I just say it got too chilly for ice cream? What am I saying! It is NEVER too chilly for ice cream. )
This one is a twist on a classic dad flavour – Raspberry Ice Cream. Sue brought us some blackberries from her in-laws so I thought they would be tasty instead of the usual raspberries. Don’t get me wrong, dad’s raspberry ice cream is phenomenal. Just thought I would give it my own twist.
Blackberry Ice Cream
Ingredients
4 cups blackberry puree
2 cups whipping cream
¼ cup corn syrup
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
 Directions
In large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until sugar is dissolved and eggs are very light in color. Add corn syrup and beat until well combined. Add in blackberry puree and whipping cream. Beat about 5 minutes, until very smooth.
Process according to manufactures instructions for your ice cream maker.

The blackberry puree! Lovely color, yes?

Before the freezing

It’s just that simple. If you aren’t lucky enough to have an ice cream maker then you can use the stir and freeze method. Basically this involves freezing it and taking it out and stirring it every couple of hours. If you want it really smooth you can take it out every couple of hours and whip it with beaters. This, of course, is far messier.
I have a couple of other flavours I want to try. In the past I made a Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream that was okay....needs some improvements before I make it again, and a French Vanilla Ice Cream that was very good.....very custardy. This week I am thinking about Plum Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Ice Cream (thanks to the Busty Baker’s Blog for getting that flavour stuck in my head)
 What are your favourite ice cream flavours?
What’s the weirdest ice cream flavour you’ve tried?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Okay, part two of our first recipes with the new torch. (See here for part one)
We made S’more Cupcakes and also decided to try the delicious Lemon Meringue Cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s website. They are very lemony! The recipe listed here has only 2 lemons but the original Martha recipe has 3 lemons. This is a great cupcake if you want a fancy looking dessert that isn’t too sweet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a cupcake with icing so it is sweet BUT it’s not as sweet as regular iced cupcakes.
.

Lemon Meringue Cupcake
Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (about 2 Tbsp), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Lemon Curd (we used store bought)
Marshmallow Frosting
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
Directions
Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 standard muffin tins with paper liners.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

Put lemon curd on top of or fill the center, up to you!

To finish, spread 1 tablespoon lemon curd onto middle of each cupcake. (Or, core centre of cupcake using an apple corer and fill with lemon curd.
Marshmallow Frosting Directions:
Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.

Using our new kitchen torch
.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip with frosting. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip slightly and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Hold a small kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches from surface of frosting, and wave it back and forth until frosting is lightly browned all over. Serve immediately. (We set some in the fridge overnight in a covered container and they were fine the next day. The icing did shrink a bit but not too badly)
The mini Lemon Meringue Cupcakes were so cute

Our first two try-outs with the kitchen torch went very well. I am excited to find other things I can use it on. What do you use your kitchen torch for?

S'More Cupcakes


After reading our blog about making Crème Brulee one of our readers very generously gave us a kitchen torch. Apparently our exciting adventure with the huge welding torch was enough to inspire her to donate her torch to us. She said she wanted to see it go to a good home but, I think she envisioned us setting the house on fire and wanted to help us NOT to do that. So, THANK YOU KELLY. Your gift is very much appreciated.

Of course Sue and I could hardly wait to try it out. I spent most of one day Googling things we could torch. I know…I know…. It’s like I’m a kid with a new toy. Who knew there were so many things you could torch? Anyway, we decided to start out easy. Kind of…. I can make cupcakes in my sleep so I knew that part wasn’t hard. It’s the piping and the torching I have not had much practice at.
We found these Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow on the Martha Stewart website. (Otherwise known as S’More Cupcakes - Martha does like to be fancy schmancy) and adapted them a bit as we often do.We also found Lemon Meringue Cupcakes (Thanks again Martha) and will do a separate blog for them.
S’More Cupcakes
Ingredients
2 + 1/4 cups sugar (separated)
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate,finely chopped
Marshmallow Frosting Ingredients
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 standard muffin cups with cupcake liners; set aside.
Sift 2 cups sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix ingredients together on low speed.
In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.
Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined. Place 1 Tbsp graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping.
Place 2 tsps chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.
Marshmallow Frosting Directions:
Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.
Pre-Torch

Mid-Torch

Apres Torch


Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or French tip. Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.
Before

After

There you have it. Our first trial with the new kitchen torch. It was really easy. I was a little nervous at first - the hissing of the torch before you click the button to spark the flame always makes me think *BOOM* big explosion. Fortunately everything went well. We didn’t even catch anything on fire! I know… not too shabby for first timers. (Okay, there was one little incident with a paper cupcake liner but…it was teeny tiny and only happened once so we are pretending it didn’t happen. *cough cough* Sue‘s fault *cough cough*)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf


So here is the last of the recipes for the loaves I made for my friend Marina a while back. (See that blog here) This one it dense and chocolaty, almost like a cake instead of a quick bread. If you are looking for a way to sneak some vegetables into your kid’s diet then this might work. I admit, not the
healthiest way to get vegetables into a child but...hey... it works.
.
Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
 Ingredients
¾ cup flour
¼ cup wheat germ
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
½ cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups shredded, raw zucchini
¾ cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 9 X 5 loaf pan with cooking spray. (I actually used a 9 X 5 and a mini loaf pan as I do not like to fill a loaf pan more than about ½ full of batter)
Grate the zucchini using a medium sized grater. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together: flour, wheat germ, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a medium bowl, beat oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. About 2 minutes. Fold in grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Do not overmix! Fold in chocolate chips.
Scrape batter into prepared pan (or pans – if you use a teeny one like me so as not to overfill the batter and have the loaf not cook properly. It would probably work in one large pan, I am just paranoid.)
Bake at 350 until bread has risen and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 50 – 70 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then remove bread from the pan and cool completely.

If you have trouble with baking loaves then here are a few tips that might help you out:
• When making quick breads, mix the ingredients only until combined and the flour is just incorporated. Over mixing your batter will cause a tough batter and an equally tough finished product. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE!!! There will be some lumps – DO NOT OVERMIX!!
  • Once baking powder (or cream of tartar) is moistened in a batter it begins to react and create bubbles. When you bake with either, you must get whatever you're making into a preheated oven as quickly as possible before the bubbles begin to disappear.
 • To lower the fat you can substitute some of the oil with an equalamount of almost any fruit puree (applesauce, plum baby food, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas). Do not completely replace the oil though.
 • If you find the outside is done but the inside is still raw - Try lowering the oven temperature and/or putting a loose tent of foil over the top of the bread so it won't burn before the middle has time to catch up. Another cause of "raw center" syndrome could be using a different pan than the recipe calls for. One of the nice things about quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make muffins, mini loaves, jumbo loaves, or rounds. But each size requires different baking times--and some require different baking temperatures. The larger and thicker the loaf, the longer it's going to take to bake. If you're using a different size pan than your recipe calls for, adjust the baking time accordingly and check the bread often.
 • Don’t let the loaf completely cool in the pan. It will stick. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge to loosen it, and then invert it out of the pan. Turn it back upright and let it cool completely on a wire rack. If you have problems with the bottom sticking even though you have sprayed it with cooking spray – try placing a sheet of parchment paper in your pan before scraping the batter in. Leave an an inch or two hanging over the edge so you can remove the loaf after it is done. It will pop right out and all you have to do is gently peel off the paper. You have to be careful though – removing the loaf before it is set will cause it crumble and break apart if you remove it too soon. Just be very gentle. If you see signs of it breaking then leave it in the pan another 5 – 10 minutes and then try again.
* Don’t try to slice a warm/hot loaf. It is best to leave it overnight and slice it the next day. If you can’t wait that long then chill it in the fridge until it is completely cool and then let it come back up to room temperature before slicing. A serrated or very sharp knife works best to cut it. (I have tried with a dull knife and it just smooshes it and the slices break apart.)
.
Quick bread loaves have been the one thing I constantly have issues with. With the new stove my issues are fewer and further between but, nonetheless, are still there. I hope these tips help you if you also have trouble achieving baking perfection with your quick breads.
I think my biggest issue is impatience. I want it to be baked faster, I want to remove it from the pan sooner, I want to cut it NOW. I am learning that when baking loaves, patience is a virtue. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deep Fried Pickles with Ranch-Style Dipping Sauce


So, I decided it was my turn to write a blog again. (It’s me, Sue) Why let Jo have all the fun, right?
Anyway, my daughter, Kenzie, nephew, Nick, and I were up in Prince George recently for a holiday. Our gracious relatives fed us, housed us, and entertained us. One night my cousin, Karen, fed us these addicting little morsels for a snack. The kids absolutely loved them! (Okay, okay, I was fond of them too. I may have eaten one or two...or 6,000)
If you have never tried a deep fried pickle then I would recommend you do so. Even Jo, who traveled up with my husband, Rob, the next day, got to try one.
AND SHE LIKED THEM.
I only mention this because Jo doesn't usually like pickles at all.
Personally, I love pickles. When we were little and went on family trips in the car we were allowed to choose a treat for on the road.
Orra would choose chips or pop,
Jo would choose chocolate,
and I would always choose a jar of pickles.
Yes. I really, really like pickles.
That being said, Karen has graciously agreed to share her recipe. Let us know what you think if you give it a try! Definitely make the dip – it is so good with the pickles.


Deep Fried Pickles with Ranch-style Dipping Sauce

Ingredients
24 dill pickle spears, chilled
Egg wash, recipe follows
Breading, recipe follows
Canola oil, for frying
Ranch dressing, recipe follows

 Directions
Using only very cold dill pickle spears, dip pickle into egg wash and then coat with breading. Repeat until no pickles remain, and arrange dipped pickles on a sheet pan lined with waxed paper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
In a deep fryer, heat oil to 375 degrees . Alternatively, heat oil in a large, heavy pot suitable for deep frying. Carefully add chilled pickle spears, in batches, to the hot oil and fry for about 3 1/2 minutes or until golden. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve with Ranch Dressing.

Egg Wash

Ingredients
2 cups milk
2 eggs
Pinch lemon pepper
Pinch dill weed
Pickle juice

For egg wash: In a baking dish, whisk all ingredients together, except pickle juice. Add pickle juice, to taste, and whisk to combine.


Breading

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup lemon pepper
1/2 cup dill weed
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic salt
Pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste

For breading: Combine all ingredients in a shallow baking dish.

Ranch Dressing
Ingredients
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp minced parsley leaves
2 Tbsp chopped green onion
1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 garlic clove, minced
Mayonnaise

 Directions
For dressing: In a large mixing bowl, stir all ingredients together, except mayonnaise. Add mayonnaise, as needed, to thicken. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
.
Here is the link to the Food Network website where Karen found this deep fried pickle recipe. You know you want to make it – then you can tell everyone you had deep fried pickles.
It’s okay... you can brag about it.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spice Cake with Caramelized Apples and Scotch Whiskey Buttercream


I decided to make this cake for one of the ladies at work for her birthday. It sounded so tasty when I read the recipe in Paula Dean's Holiday baking magazine. It's a bit of a Frankenstein of her recipes. I think there is 3 different bits of cakes involved.
When I started I was thinking, "Oh, I can whip this up in a couple of minutes and it will be great." Okay, it was great...but....it was not whipped up in minutes. I believe it ended up being about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.
I finished it thinking, "This had better be a darn good cake for the amount of effort involved!" Turns out it was! The icing is amazing. It is the smoothest icing I have ever made. EVER. I don't even really like whiskey but I could eat this with a spoon.
I won't.....maybe.....okay.....just once...

Spice Cake

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
6 large eggs, separated
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
pinch ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk

Directions
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 3 (9 inch) cake pans with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and spices. Add to butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition.
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into batter. Spoon batter into prepared pans.
Bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
(If you are like I was and need to make this in a bit of hurry then once the cake is out of the pans just pop the wire rack with the cakes on it into the freezer to cool quicker)

Caramelized Apples

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
7 tart apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon

Directions
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples and sugar and cinnamon, cook for 20 - 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples are very tender.
Let cool before using in cake. (Place in fridge to speed process)


And last but certainly not least:

Scotch Whiskey Buttercream

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 egg whites
2 cups butter
1/4 cup Scotch whiskey

Directions
In the top of a double boiler, whisk together sugar and egg whites until combined. Cook over simmering water until mixture reaches 140 degrees on a candy thermometer. DO NOT STIR. Immediately pour into the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer (ie: Kitchenaid!). Beat at high speed for 10 minutes. (Really - 10 minutes - I washed the dishes while I waited)
Reduce speed to medium-low. With mixer running, add butter 2 Tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition. Add Scotch whiskey, beating until combined. Keep buttercream at room temp until ready to frost cake.

Okay, now you have all three components to assemble your delicious cake. Trust me, it is worth the effort.


Place one of the cake layers on the plate you will be serving it on.


Frost with layer of the whisky buttercream.



Layer half of the apples on top of icing. Press them down firmly so the next layer won't slide around.


Repeat layers one more time. Place third cake layer on top.


Frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. (I had about a cup left over) Decorate however you would like or leave plain.
I drizzled with a bit of caramel ice cream topping and rolled Tootsie rolls into balls to decorate the bottom.


See how pretty the layers look. And they taste even better. I made all of the girls in the office come and smell the cake as well. The combination of those wonderful, fragrant spices and the Scotch whiskey is addicting.
You could, of course, use the entire batch of icing on the cake. I thought it might overwhelm the delicate flavors of the cake. I saved a bit to try on something else. I am thinking on a dark chocolate cake it might be just as addicting.
Any other suggestions as to what I could use Scotch Whisky Buttercream for?

Be sure to visit Hammocktracks for tons of apple recipes in her Apples Galore recipe series.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Apple Fritter Rings


So what do you do when you have a few apples lying around? Deep fry them, of course!
If there is a way to take something healthy and nutritious and turn it into a calorie laden treat – then I will find it. I think it is some kind of subconscious thing with me. Well, some kind of subconscious thing with US to be precise. I deep fry things....Sue adds bacon...
We are talking about Apple Fritters today. To be fair the word “apple” is still in the title so there must be some nutritional benefit. Shhhh...let me have this one!
.
 Apple Fritter Rings
Ingredients
3 large apples, peeled, cored, sliced medium thick
1 egg
1/3 cup milk (Plus a few Tbsp more, if needed)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Oil for deep frying
 Topping
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Directions
Whisk together first 5 ingredients (wet ingredients).
In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining 5 ingredients (dry ingredients).
Whisk dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.
In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Heat oil to about 370 degrees.
Dip apple slices, one at a time, into batter. (Thin with a bit more milk if necessary) Using a slotted spoon, gently slide battered slices into oil. Only do 2 or 3 at a time. Cook for about 1 minute on each side – or until golden brown. Remove from oil using slotted spoon and place on wire rack for a minute to dry. Before they have cooled too much, place in bowl of cinnamon sugar and turn several times to coat.
BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN COOKING WITH HOT OIL!
Don't give up if your rings break. Make "regular" fritters!
 
If you have a problem with your apple slices breaking apart. Not to worry! Simply throw all broken pieces into the batter left over when your rings have been done. Use a spoon to scoop up a dollop of batter/apple bits and gently slide into hot oil. Cook and coat with sugar the same way you did the rings.
These are definitely best eaten warm :)
.
Healthy snack? Maybe not so much. Delicious snack? Definitely.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee


So, as I posted a while back (see here for that blog), I am in love with creme brulee. Of course, I would have to be - it's probably the most calorie laden things on the planet.
My friend, Drew, got me addicted. Thanks Drew.
No, really.
I mean that.
Anyway, I finally got his recipe from him this weekend and decided to give it a try. In my head I had it worked out that it was going to be much more difficult to make. Nope, turns out it's pretty easy. Of course it is. If it were hard to make I wouldn't make it that often and, in turn, wouldn't eat it that often.
 Nope, it's pretty easy.
Fantastic.
Thanks again Drew.

In true Jo and Sue fashion though I did make a few changes to his recipe. I know, I know, why mess with perfection? Well, two reasons. (1.) I needed to make more than the recipe called for but didn't need to double it. I kind of 1 1/2'd it. (2.) My niece bought me Vanilla Beans as a gift and I have been dying to try them in something.
Here is our altered version:

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Ingredients
4 cups whipping cream (heavy cream)
1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks

Directions
Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease 6 - 8 ramekins (4 or 6 oz).
Pour the cream into a saucepan and add vanilla bean. Over medium heat, slowly bring to almost boiling (the first sign of bubbles breaking the surface). Remove from heat, cover pan, and let sit for 15 minutes to let flavors infuse.
In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Whip until color changes to light yellow.
Remove bean from cream. Scrape seeds out. Place seeds in yolk mixture. Set bean pod aside.
Slowly incorporate cream mixture into yolks, whisking constantly as you go. (You need to do this slowly or the eggs will curdle.)
Fill ramekins 3/4 full with mixture.


Prepare a bain marie (fancy schmancy term for water bath) by adding about 8 cups of hot water to a roasting pan. Immerse ramekins so that the water level is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful to avoid getting any water into your creme brulee.


Bake at 325 from 45 - 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Chill for at least 4 hours. (I made mine the afternoon before and they turned out great.)

Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar

Sue's hubby, Rob, torching the sugar

Just before serving - place about 1 Tbsp of sugar evenly on top of each custard. Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a sugar crust on top. (If you don't have a torch, place under broiler. Place about 1 - 2 inches under broiler for about 20 - 30 seconds)

It took a couple of tries to get the whole torching thing down pat. You can see we went a little crazy with the 2 on top.

So, a couple of things I learned from making my first creme brulee:

(1) It's easy to make. Maybe too easy....
(2) Don't panic when you take them out of the oven after 50 minutes and they are still quite jiggly. They set up in the fridge.
(3) If you are using a HUGE propane torch then let your sister's husband do the dirty work.
(4) You can save the vanilla bean pod, let it dry a bit, then place it in a container of sugar. Let it sit in the sugar a week or two and you will have Vanilla Sugar. Great to use in baking!

I have discovered online that there is a bazillion different creme brulees out there. Ginger infused, lavender infused (eeew....), etc, etc.... My favorite sounding one was a Bailey's Creme Brulee. I think I may have to try that....