Wednesday, February 29, 2012

apple rhubarb crumble with raspberry frozen yogurt

Meet my favourite dessert of all time - the simple crumble. Can you tell? There's already two recipes on here: a strawberry rhubarb, and a raspberry pear. If I had to pick my last meal on earth, it would be a huge bowl of apple crumble with a big scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream and a large mug of hot chocolate. So, why the crumble?

1. It takes less than 10 minutes of prep time.
2. Baking fruit makes the house smell lovely.
3. You can make it with or without butter - both versions are delicious.
4. Any kind of fruit works, whatever's in season or in the fridge.
5. The topping is forgiving and versatile.
6. It's impossible to make screw up.
7. It's DELICIOUS - nutty, sweet, warm!

Have I convinced you yet? Make this tasty version with winter storage apples and greenhouse rhubarb, and serve with vanilla ice cream for a treat. Or, feeling virtuous? Try a lighter accompaniment - a fast raspberry frozen yogurt.

apple rhubarb crumble
(adapted from Moosewood Kitchen's Cooking for Health. Makes 6 servings.)

2 cups chopped rhubarb
4 apples, cored and chopped
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. Put all ingredients in a shallow baking dish, and toss to combine. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, assemble the crumble:

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup grape seed oil
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to combine, until nuts are chopped into a coarse grind. When fruit is done, remove from oven and spread crumble evenly over top. Return to oven for another 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

raspberry frozen yogurt
(adapted from Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes. Makes two servings - double or triple recipe for more.)

1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tbsp liquid honey

Combine ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until the berries are pureed, and the mixture is a smooth consistency. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 24, 2012

sugar plums

Sugar plums (of Tchaikovsky fame) are not some sort of sugared plum dessert, but just an old fashioned name for dried fruit, chopped up, mixed with spices, and rolled in a ball. Here, I combine dates, nuts and cinnamon for a sweet dessert or snack.

almond, walnut and date bites
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dates (seeded, of course)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
pinch of salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder, for rolling

Combine nuts, dates, cinnamon, honey and salt in a food processor. Pulse until a thick, chunky puree forms. With wet hands, scoop out 1 inch pieces, roll in a ball, and roll in cocoa powder to coat. Refrigerate until firm.

Try changing up the dried fruit, nuts or spices. The combinations are endless. Think of your favourite lara bar, and create your own for a fraction of the price!

gingered sugar cookies with apple butter

Why stop at the oreo? I have nothing against the oreo, a staple of crisp chocolate cookie and sickly sweet icing. However, why is this chocolate/vanilla combination the only famous sandwich cookie? Other cookies (the oatmeal chip, the classic sugar, the gingersnap) are calling out to be made into cookie sandwiches! Fill me with cream cheese, with flavoured icing, with jam, with nut butters, they cry! Here's the flavour combination I've been dreaming of for a few weeks: a ginger cookie, loaded with crystallized ginger, with a apple butter filling.
gingered sugar cookies with apple butter
(cookie recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated. makes about 20 sandwich cookies.)

1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 tsp vanilla paste
apple butter for spreading (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 375. Pulse white sugar and fresh ginger in food processor. Set aside for rolling later. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and ginger in a bowl. In another bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Add ginger and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, stirring until combined.

Using a bowl of water to wet your hands, roll 1 inch balls of dough. Roll in gingered sugar. Flatten with your fingers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cookies will spread a bit, so leave room between each. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. Let cook for a few minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling rack. Spread a tbsp of apple butter on the bottom of one cookie. Press two cookies together.

Voila, the new, sophisticated sandwich cookie. If you eat them right away, the cookies will still be crispy. If you leave them a day, they apple butter will soften the cookie. Both are equally delicious. Enjoy!

(mmmm, apple butter)

carrot thyme soup with parmesan croutons

I wanted to make soup. But I had no stock! So I made a onion broth, flavoured with a whole head of garlic and thyme. I wanted to eat the soup. But I had no crackers! Soup without something crispy and crunchy? Sacrilege! I made croutons.

carrot thyme soup
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 head of garlic
a handful of thyme sprigs
6 carrots, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions, and cook until softened. Slice off the top of the head of garlic (just exposing the cloves, leaving it intact). Tie up the garlic and thyme in a piece of cheesecloth. Add to the pot, along with 4 or 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. (Voila, tasty stock!) Remove the cheesecloth bundle and discard. Add the carrots, and simmer until carrots are tender. Puree with an immersion blender, and season to taste.

parmesan croutons
4 slices of stale whole grain bread
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme, minced
fresh (or dried) sage, minced
1/2 cup parmesan, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Cut bread into small cubes. Toss in a bowl with all other ingredients. Stir to coat bread with seasonings. Spread on a baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until dry and crispy. Serve on top of soup.

banana walnut pancakes

This is me playing around with photoshop. I'll be honest, I don't really know what I'm doing, beyond looking up tutorials, and following them step-by-step. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually. And now the recipe! A little late for Pancake Tuesday, but where pancakes are concerned, better late than never. This recipe is adapted from Joy of Cooking's cornmeal pancakes. Seen here with applesauce - serving extra fruit with pancakes makes them a bit healthier, and helps you cut back on the maple syrup by adding some natural sweetness.

banana walnut pancakes
(makes about 15 medium sized pancakes)

1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter (or vegetable oil)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 or 3 bananas, sliced

Combine the cornmeal, honey and salt in a bowl. Slowly stir in the boiling water, whisking out lumps, and cover for 10 minutes. Stir in egg, milk and butter. Combine flour and baking powder, and stir into wet ingredients. Finally, fold in walnuts and bananas. Heat a pan or griddle on med-high heat. Flip away!

(For a vegan version, use sugar instead of honey, and 1/2 mashed banana to replace the egg.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

mushroom, kale and thyme quiche

Here's a rustic tart-like quiche for winter. Quiches are a great recipe to make ahead for breakfast or lunch. This one is gluten-free, and would go beautifully with a winter slaw or some greenhouse greens. The crust was inspired by this posting on the Wednesday Chef. 

mushroom, kale and thyme quiche with a cornmeal crust
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
A handful of mushrooms, sliced
Splash of white wine
A handful of kale, stemmed and cut in ribbons
A few springs of thyme
Salt and pepper
3 cups boiling water
1 tsp salt
1 cup cornmeal
A few springs of thyme
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 egg
1 cup yogurt
2 eggs
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup cheddar, cut in small cubes

Preheat the oven to 350. Start heating the olive oil in a pan. Add the onions, and sauté for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the 3 cups of water and salt on to boil. Back to the onions - add the mushrooms, and sauté on low heat for another 10 minutes. When the water boils, add the cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking to prevent lumps. Cook for a few minutes, until thick. Strip thyme leaves from springs and stir in. Beat in egg and parmesan. Set aside to cool.

Back to the onions again. Turn the heat up to medium, and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add in kale, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Cook until kale is wilted. Set aside.

Stir together the yogurt, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside. Now, press the cornmeal into a greased pie plate, shaping into a crust. Scatter the cheddar across the bottom, then spread the onion/mushroom mixture on top. Finally, pour over the yogurt and egg mix. Grate 1/2 cup parmesan over the whole quiche. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for at least a 1/2 hour before slicing. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

an update: orange-coffee liquor

It worked! Vodka plus sugar, plus clementines, plus coffee beans equals one delicious liquor. Also known as 44, this liquor is common in Europe. This was so easy, that you might see me at the LCBO buying the largest, cheapest bottle of vodka possible, and creating all sorts of flavoured liquors. Next up? Meyer lemons turning into a sweet-sour limoncello, and greenhouse rhubarb for a gorgeous, pink cordial.

Here's the original posting, with the recipe for orange-coffe liquor. 

Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes

This was my christmas present to myself this year: a sparkling new copy of Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook, Meals in Minutes. The whole concept of the book is that you can create balanced, restaurant quality meals in under 30 minutes in your own kitchen. He uses a lot of shortcuts, like blenders, food processors, store-bought pastry and (gasp) the microwave. 
I've been flipping though the book for ideas the past few weeks, drooling over the beautiful pictures. I finally set out to make and entire menu last night for, of course, that commercialized holiday that you either love or love to hate. 

My boyfriend and I set a timer, and I have to say we came in just over 30 minutes. Verdict: delicious! Well, I wasn't expecting any less of that adorable naked chef. In honour of the fanciness and the unmentionable holiday, I have to admit we did set the table with a tablecloth and flowers. There might have been a candle. Here's the menu: Piri piri chicken (I tried a fish version for myself) - piri piri is a chili found in Africa, and this sauce is a puree of hot peppers, basil and onion. Lemony arugula salad - a simple, fresh side. Potatoes with cilantro and feta - holy! So good. The star of the meal. And finally, Portuguese tarts. 

The whole meal was fantastic, but I'll share my two favourite recipes with you. 

potatoes with cilantro and feta
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped in large chunks
2 smaller while potatoes, peeled and chopped in large chunks
1/2 lemon
4 oz. feta
1 dried chili pepper (I used a whole, dry cayenne from my garden)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped roughly
freshly ground pepper
Combine potatoes and lemon in a steamer basket, and steam for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Put potatoes on a cutting board, and squeeze lemons over the potatoes with tongs. Add cilantro, feta and pepper, and chop everything up roughly to combine. Make sure chop up the dried pepper well. Season with pepper. You probably won't need salt, because of the salty feta. Scrape into a pile, and serve 'rustic style' on the cutting board, or scrape into a bowl to serve. 

(This recipe is awesome - I was skeptical - the idea of cilantro and two types of potatoes, hmmm. But it was so good! The feta adds a rich, saltiness that offsets the sweet potatoes, and the chili gives it an extra kick. Hands down the most interesting potatoes I've had in a long time.)

quick Portuguese tarts
My boyfriend described these as the love child of a cinnabon and the classic portuguese tarts from St. Lawrence Market. And then he promptly went back for seconds.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup whipping cream (try to use a unprocessed variety, like Hewitts)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 egg
1 tbsp sugar
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
1/4 cup sugar
Grease a six-muffin pan with the vegetable oil. Preheat the oven to 400. On a floured surface, spread out the sheet of puff pastry. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the pastry. Roll it up, starting on the long side (like you're making cinnamon buns), then cut the log into 6 rounds. Press the rounds into the muffin pan, pressing the pastry into the shape of the tin to make a crust for each tart. Put in the oven, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tart shells are golden. 

Meanwhile, beat together whip cream, vanilla paste, egg, sugar and orange zest. When the tart shells are golden brown, remove from oven, and pour the cream mixture into each shell. Put back in the oven for 8 minutes. While the tarts are cooking, make a caramel. Combine orange juice and 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Stir constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the caramel darkens. When the tarts are done, pour a little bit of caramel over each. Let cool, and eat!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

crunchy granola

A long time ago, I posted this basic granola recipe. This one follows the same basic recipe of equal amounts of sweetener, juice and nut/seed butter. It's something I haven't made for ages, so I decided to bring it back. Perfect for the cold winter months, try pouring some warm milk over granola for breakfast. 

granola with apples, pecans and raisins
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla paste
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apples

Preheat oven to 325. Combine juice, almond butter, honey and vanilla in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth. In two 9x13 pans, combine oats and nuts. Pour liquid over, and stir to coat oats and nuts. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 or 10 minutes. Keep a close watch, because it can burn easily. When mixture is golden and feels dry, remove from oven and let cool. Stir in raisins and apples. Keeps for a month or 2 in a sealed jar. Try with yogurt or milk, or by itself as a snack. 

Here, it made a great parfait with the rhubarb applesauce I made a few days ago. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

the return of rhubarb

You know those sad looking trays of produce, sitting forlornly on the reduce sale rack? This is the best place to start a recipe. Often fruit and vegetables that are almost overripe are the perfect, most flavorful start to a meal.

For example, the other day, I bought a tray of apples: a few Galas, a handful of Macintosh and a Honey Crisp: for 79 cents! This was the makings of a delicious applesauce, which, by the way, is always tastiest when you use a combination of apple varieties. And a few bruises don't really matter.

My second find at Fiesta Farms: rhubarb. It may seem strange in the middle of February, but the are a number of farms around Toronto that grow greenhouse rhubarb.

The bruised apples and the winter rhubarb ran into some honey, cinnamon and vanilla, and turned into this pink, sweet-sour applesauce. Here it is.

rhubarb applesauce with vanilla and honey
8 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 large rhubarb stalks, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey (depending on how much you love sour rhubarb flavour)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla paste

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for an hour. If you like your applesauce very smooth, you can puree it at this point.

Breakfast time! Here's the applesauce with some granola and yogurt in a delicious parfait.

Friday, February 3, 2012

homemade ketchup

why bother? because it's sooooo delicious. Since there's so much acidity- tomatoes, vinegar - it will keep for around a month in your fridge. But trust me, you'll use it up long before then.

(As a side note - if you love homemade ketchup, with St. John's bread and Monteforte cheese in gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, along with many other delicious foods, you should come to Wychwood barns on Saturday mornings! There's a year-round farmer's market, and The Stop runs a Market Cafe, from 9AM to noon, where all sorts of brunch/lunch foods are served. I volunteer there, along with some other very talented cooks, so I can vouch for how tasty and mouthwatering the food is - and all the profits go back into The Stop's amazing food and gardening programs.)

homemade ketchup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans of whole tomatoes, including juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp dry mustard powder
pinch of cayenne

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil, until onion is translucent. Add all other ingredients, and simmer on medium-low heat for 45 minutes. Stir every once in a while, to make sure there's no sticking in the bottom of the pan. You might want to keep it partially covered, because there will be spattering. After 45 minutes, taste it! Add more sugar, vinegar or salt to you liking. Finally, puree with an immersion blender, or with a blender. If you like really thick, glossy ketchup, you can return it to low heat, and cook for another 10-20 minutes, but you have to watch it closely and stir often to keep it from burning. Really, this step is only if you want to go the extra mile.

Store in a container in the fridge for up to a month. Eat with grilled cheese, eggs, oven fries, where ever you'd eat that bland, sugary heinz ketchup (which will never look the same, after you taste this upgrade!).