Wednesday, December 21, 2011

homemade orange liquor

In Europe, there's a common aperitif called '44.' It contains one orange, 44 coffee beans, 44 sugar cubes, and enough vodka to cover the whole thing for 44 days, while it infuses.

I reduced the sugar, and used clementines, purely because I didn't have a sealed container that an orange would fit in. The hardest part? Waiting over a month!

There's something delightful about stabbing an orange and tucking little coffee beans in the pockets, as well as the delicious smell of coffee and oranges while you're preparing it.

44 (orange coffee liquor)
1 orange, or 3 clementines 
(I suggest using unwaxed, organic ones - you don't want waxes and pesticides seeping into your liquor)
44 coffee beans
1/2 cup sugar
enough vodka to cover everything (about a mickey)

Scrub orange or clementines. Stab all over with a knife. Push coffee beans into the holes. Put orange, sugar and vodka in a sealed jar. Shake every day, for 44 days. Enjoy by itself, over ice, or invent some delicious cocktails - anything where an orange/coffee flavour would be tasty.

arts and crafts

Homemade gift wrap is kitschy, elegant and thoughtful all at once. This craft brought me back to kindergarten - potatoes make great stamps for little hands! Can you tell I want to be an elementary school teacher? You can buy rolls of craft paper at any art store, and I even found mine at shoppers drug mart. Try all sorts of shapes - potatoes are actually very easy and forgiving when carving. I used purple, not just because it's my favourite colour, but if I have any left over, it's acceptable for birthday present wrapping.

Stamped wrapping paper
kraft paper
sharp knife
acrylic paint
glitter (optional but so necessary)

Cut a third of the potato off. Either press the potato into a cookie cutter and carve out around the edges, or carve your own design free-form. Spread some paint on recycled cardboard (your own little paint tray), and stamp away! Shake on glitter while the paint is wet.

Origami ornaments
Another christmas craft - I don't have a substantial collection of christmas ornaments yet, so I found my tree looking kind of bare this year. Instead of buying cheap christmas balls, I bought a package of silver origami paper at a craft store, and found this design for an 8-sided star. To make them last, you can shellack origami figures.

Finally, popcorn garlands are a festive, cheap decoration, especially if you alternate with cranberries. Just keep them away from curious kitties, or else you'll have a mangled garland and a pile of kitty popcorn puke. It could happen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

braised parsnip and apple soup

Braising: a happy place between sautéing and boiling. The speed of steam and liquid, and the rich flavour of browning and condensing. Amazing!

Sometimes it's nice to have a simple soup, with only one or two main flavours. This one is earthy and sweet, with a lovely pairing of apples and parsnips. If you don't have apple cider, just add an extra 1/2 cup of broth. Also, use oil instead of butter for a vegan soup.

I got the idea for this from Mark Bittman's cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. This is a take on his braised carrot soup. (such a good cookbook- very accessible, very comprehensive).

braised parsnip and apple soup

3 or 4 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper, to taste
1 apple
3 or 4 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 cup apple cider

Put parsnips, water, butter, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to medium, and cook, covered for 5 minutes. Uncover, add apples, turn heat to high, and cook until almost all the liquid is gone. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Add vegetable broth and cider, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until parsnips are very soft. Use an immersion blender (or food processor/blender) to puree.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

butternut squash hummus and homemade crackers

Last week I headed up North to visit my friend, who is working as a dog sled guide for the winter. Not only did I get to spend some quality time with my friend, I got to hang out with 400 gorgeous sled dogs for a few days. 

For the train ride home, Vanessa packed me some hummus that she made the night before. Some of it made back to my house, and onto these crackers (another recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). Leave out the parmesan cheese for a vegan cracker.

Traditionally, hummus has tahini and lemon juice in it, but peanut butter and cider vinegar take their place in this version that Vanessa invented. 

butternut squash hummus

1 cup roasted butternut squash
1 can cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Puree everything in a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of water if you want a thinner consistency. Adjust the vinegar and peanut butter to taste. 

parmesan and sesame crackers

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp salt + more for sprinkling
2 or 3 tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400. Combine flours, oil, parmesan and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup water slowly, while pulsing, until the dough holds together. Roll the dough out on a floured surface, to 1/8 inch thickness, or even thinner. Basically, as thin as you can get it. 

Score wedges or a grid with a knife, so the crackers will break apart nicely later. Transfer onto a parchment lined cookie sheet by gently rolling the dough around your rolling pin, then unrolling it on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with more salt and sesame seeds. Gently press the sesame seeds onto the dough with your palms, to help them adhere to the crackers. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Cool, break apart, and serve with dips and cheeses! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

warm brussels sprouts and apple salad

Brussels Sprout and Apple salad

1 pint brussels sprouts, shredded
1 apple, in 1 inch pieces
olive oil
salt and pepper
maple syrup
(possible additions- roasted garlic, caramelized onions)

In a dry pan with no oil, toast walnuts, stirring so all sides of the nuts get toasted. Set aside and wipe pan clean. Heat some olive oil. Add apple, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a few tsps of maple syrup. Serve immediately, since Brussels sprouts don't like to wait around (they get bitter).