Friday, April 29, 2011

yellow sauce

Last week, after a busy day of work and then a swimming lesson for the boy, I drove home half thinking I would swing by a local restaurant for supper for the two of us but even that sounded tiring. And I didn’t really feel up to anything more than breakfast for supper. This got me thinking about eggs Benedict. (It’s my go to thing to order on the rare occasions when we go out for breakfast).

So I thought I would make some at home. Now I have something to admit here. I only recently learned how to poach eggs. Or rather, only recently started poaching eggs. I mean it isn’t like it is rocket science – egg, boiling water, etc. And I had in my kitchen a couple of egg poachers things which were giveaways on something. So after seeing image after image of delicious things with poached eggs perched on top of them, I decided to start poaching my own. And in the month or so since I’ve been poaching eggs, I’ve eaten a lot of them. Poached eggs on toast has replaced my egg salad on lazy supper nights.

So I made poached eggs. And hollandaise sauce. The hollandaise sauce is a cut down version of one I found in a brunch cookbook I’ve had for years. And it’s probably been years since I made hollandaise. My mum made it regularly, whipping it up effortlessly in the blender so unlike some things (ie pastry and poached eggs) I wasn’t trepidacious in trying it. And it was delicious. And yellower than I remembered. A function of the eggs I use now, free range ones that have a dark yellow, almost orange, yolk compared to the battery eggs we used to use. This version is tangy and lemony and lovely. It made lovely eggs Benedict and was delicious warmed up the next night and poured over roasted asparagus.

Blender Hollandaise

3 large egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ c melted butter

In a blender, whiz the egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice for a minute. Meanwhile, melt the butter. Drizzle the butter in a continuous slow stream into the blender while blending until the butter is all incorporated.

Season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if needed. The sauce will keep, covered, in the fridge for a day or two. Reheat it gently over a water bath to keep it from separating.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

baked endive

I've not eaten a lot of endive in my life. But this recipe may change that. We've had this 3 times since Luisa posted the recipe. You can change up the type of ham, how many endive to cook, or the cheese for the top and it is delicious.

baked endive with cheddar cheese

Baked Endive with Ham (from Luisa at the Wednesday Chef)

4 endive, halved vertically
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 c milk
4 slices of ham, halved (black forest for example) or 8 smaller slices of ham (serrano for example)
2 oz of grated cheese (gruyere or cheddar)

Remove the tough outer leaves on the endive, half vertically and cut out the core. Place cut side down in a large saute pan. Once all the endive are prepared, pour the lemon juice over the endive. Season with salt and pepper and cover with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes until the endive are tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, make the bechamel sauce by combining the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk well until combined and heat for 5 minutes, until thick and bubbly. Season with salt and pepper and a touch of nutmeg if desired.

Wrap each endive with a piece of ham, and place into a greased baking dish large enough to hold all the endive in a single layer. Cover the endive with the sauce and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.

Bake at 400 deg F for 15-20 minutes until slightly brown and bubbly.

baked endive with gruyere cheese

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

mmmm- cake

I knew I had to make this cake as soon as I read Dana's description of it here - especially the part about having a bit of batter to go with your apples. I love apple desserts. Maybe because I'm a winter baby.

The hardest part of the cake is peeling and coring and dicing the apples. Seriously. And if you are lucky like me and have a stand mixer, the only workout you'll get is folding the apples into the batter.

If you love easy and delicious, make this. Really.

Apple Spice Cake (adapted, barely from Dana Treat, from Flour)

1 3/4 c flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs
4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples (I used 5 Gala apples)
½ cup raisins

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Grease a 10-inch round springform pan.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Add the sugar and butter to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute using a paddle attachment. Stop the mixer several times to scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the butter is mixed in. Add the eggs and mix on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until fully incorporated. Then turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for about 1 minute, or until the batter is light and fluffy.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the apples, and raisins. The batter will be very stiff and thick. Scrape all of the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly to fill the pan.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until the cake feels firm when you press it in the middle and the top is dark golden brown.
Dust the top with sifted confectioner's sugar.

The cake keeps well for a few days tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

chocolate meringue cookies

I had a couple of egg whites left over the other day, from making a batch of almond cookies

and some leftover chocolate frosting (apparently I don't use as much frosting on things as I should?). So I did what most people would do - made chocolate meringue cookies. I googled chocolate meringue cookies but the recipes all seemed super complicated (or maybe it was just me). In the end I went back to basics - Delia Smith's meringue recipe with some added cocoa powder.

2 large egg whites
4 oz (110 g) white sugar
2 tbsp sifted cocoa powder

Using a mixer and a very clean bowl, beat the egg whites on low until foamy, then speed up the mixing until the peaks are stiff. Slowly add the sugar while beating until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Then add the cocoa powder and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy again. (You may want to slowly incorporate the cocoa powder into the mixture otherwise you may end up with a cocoa cloud in your kitchen - just saying!).

Drop the mixture by teaspoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 deg F.

After 10 minutes turn the oven off and leave the merigues to dry out for at least an hour and a half or overnight.

Match the cookies up by size and frost the underside of one cookie and attach the underside of a similar size cookie to from a biggish kiss cookie.

Eat. Thank me for suggesting this.

PS. The Easter bunny ate the cookies we left after supper.

Monday, April 25, 2011

accidents happen

This particular phrase has a soundtrack in my head. It's a song on one of the Thomas the Tank Engine DVD's and features the trains in a variety of "oops" situations. It seemed apt to describe this situation in my kitchen the other morning.

Our boy decided to change up the location of his train crashes and had me video him driving the trains over the "broken" track into the sink. So for posterity, now we have 4 videos of trains crashing into the sink. I had a couple of stipulations - no water and no turning on the garbage disposal.

I was facing down this accident.

Last week, when making my bread, I couldn't find my regular bread tin and used another one instead. Even though I greased it well, the bread still tore apart when it came out of the pan. So while I was able to use half the loaf for toast and sandwiches, the other half didn't seem to want to meld itself back together. I thought of using it for breadcrumbs but my breadcrumb stash is still quite high. So I decided to make bread pudding, a savory version for supper.

Savory Bread Pudding

~ 6 slices of bread, cubed
4 eggs
2 1/2 c milk
salt, pepper, oregano and thyme
2 c grated cheddar cheese
~ 6 large button mushrooms
1 bunch chard, slices into ribbons
1 red pepper sliced
1 tbsp butter

Beat together the eggs and milk and pour over the bread cubes in a bowl. Let sit for about an hour. Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms, pepper and chard in the butter until the vegetables are slightly soft.

Pour the bread cube mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish, spread the vegetables over the top, somewhat evenly and scatter all the cheese over the top. Bake at 350 deg F for about an hour or until the egg sets and the top is golden brown.

You can use any cheese or any vegetables you have lying around for this.

Monday, April 18, 2011

muffins for preschool

When our boy is eating them, I make muffins for his snack at preschool. And my husband loves them as well, so if I bake them right before I leave for Pilates, chances are the dozen I baked will be significantly reduced by the time I get home. A friend asked for the recipe last week and doesn’t have a kitchen scale so when I made them the other night I weighed the ingredients into the measuring cup before putting them into the bowl.

Apple Banana Muffins (based on Nigella’s recipe from Nigella Express)
½ c plus 1 tsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 c applesauce, unsweetened (or pear sauce)
1 banana
1 ¾ c flour (250 g)
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar (80 g)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ c chocolate chips – optional (80g)

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Mix the oil and eggs together and set aside. Mash the banana in a small bowl and mix in the applesauce. In a mixing bowl add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix. Add the oil/egg mixture and the fruit and stir until just combined. Add in the chocolate chips, if using. Spoon the batter into 12 regular sized greased (or lined with muffin papers) muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes until the tops spring back when pressed.

There are numerous variations for this recipe. The original recipe calls for 3 bananas instead of the 1c applesauce and 1 banana. Any pureed fruit can substitute for the applesauce but if it is sweetened you may want to cut back on the sugar a bit. I have used 1 c of pumpkin (or roasted squash or grated zucchini) for the applesauce and ½ c of applesauce for the fruit and added in ½ tsp of cinnamon and ¼ tsp of nutmeg and used raisins instead of chocolate chips. And toffee or white chocolate chips can be used instead of chocolate chips.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

product testing

Last week I got to do something a bit out of my comfort zone. It all started on Tuesday when I got an email from my beloved saying that the breakfast TV show was looking for women to test skin cream for a couple of days and then appear on the show and talk about the product. They were looking for someone from each decade from 20’s to 50’s and were having trouble finding a 40’s and a 50’s someone. So I volunteered. Testing the face cream was the easy part. Appearing on TV was something I have never done.

I was quite nervous driving to the studio. I arrived earlier than scheduled and was let into the building by the security guard and shown to the green room. Immediately the make up woman popped in and asked me to sit in her chair where she proceeded to make me feel at ease and pampered by doing my makeup. And then she sat me in the hair chair and calmed my hair down. The producer came by and told me how the segment would go and what questions I would be asked. The sound guy came by and hooked me up with a mike pack and then I was taken into the studio. The rest of the testers were various producers, directors and on-air people from the station and they were all really nice. Our segment got pushed back until after the news so we stood around and waited. The camera people chatted to us and set up the testing products so they looked good on camera. And then it was time for our segment. There was a skin care expert off site talking about how best to treat skin for each decade but we couldn’t hear her and then each of us was asked in turn about the product we tested. Soon enough it was my turn to speak, so I looked at the on-air host as she asked me questions and I tried to answer and be me.

My review was “The product is nice. The cream is thick so a bit goes a long way. It smells a bit mediciny so it may be a bit off putting at night. The cream has a shimmer to it, so it makes you appear dewy and radiant. I like it and I’ll keep on using it but at $155 for the jar, I don’t think I’ll buy it myself”. And then it was over. The producer told me I did a good job and I was free to go. I kept the make up on as it made me feel special and pampered and I went on with my day.

My husband got our boy up in time to watch the segment on TV and our boy found it funny that mummy was “in” the TV. Then he got worried about whether I could get out of the TV and pick him up in the afternoon. After being reassured that yes, I would pick him up as usual he went on with his day as well. My husband reported that I was very “me” on my bit. Later in the day, I went online and found the clip on the TV show website so I could see for myself. Note to self, wear coloured lipstick or gloss next time.

So that was my TV adventure. And my oh so brief career as a product tester! I’m still using the cream and am waiting for all my lines to disappear but so far it hasn’t happened. I’m still hopeful though.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ottolenghi’s stuffed peppers

There are lots of recipes that catch my eye. I have a whole file folder full of printed out or cut out recipes that I’ve never made. Periodically I pull out the file and take out those I think I will never make and reviewing others makes me think – hmmm I wonder why I never made this. I printed this recipe in February and I found it a last week tucked into one of my recipe books and it intrigued me. An unusual mix of vegetables but it all sounded delicious. So I picked up a rutabaga (I still call it turnip in my head), peppers and gruyere cheese and away I went. Reading the instructions (for once) I realized that it would probably take a bit longer than my usual dinner prep time so I made it over two nights. The first night, I prepped and prebaked the peppers (I used medium sized ones so I baked them for 10 minutes at 400 deg F)

 and cooked the swede (rutabaga) as directed. As that process took longer than written (50 minutes), I think my diced pieces were bigger than directed. My excuse is that I’ve never been all that good at math. The second night, I toasted the bread, diced the cheese, made the stuffing mixture and stuffed and cooked the peppers. I was fairly convinced at this point that the effort was not going to be worth it. But these peppers are definitely worth the effort and are even worthy of guests or a party. And while I read the instructions and the ingredient list, I didn’t actually read the amounts or at least the amount of butter didn’t sink in until I was making the dish – it is a lot of butter. And most of it is left in the pan at the end of cooking the swede (rutabaga). So I’ll be using it in my curried lentil dish next week. I think next time I’ll try slow roasting the rutabaga in the oven first rather than braising it in the butter just to see if it makes a difference in the flavour.


Yotam Ottolenghi’s stuffed peppers (adapted from Ottolenghi from the

2 medium orange peppers
2 medium yellow peppers
1 swede (rutabaga) ~ 600g, peeled, diced into ½” pieces
1 ½ sticks of butter ( ~150g )
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper
200g oatmeal bread, diced into ½” pieces, toasted
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp capers
250g gruyère, cut into 1cm cubes

Cut the peppers in half lengthways, leaving the stalks on. Remove the seeds and white membrane, and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Heat the oven to 425F. Bake the peppers for 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the rutabaga, thyme and some salt and pepper. Cook over very gentle heat, regularly spooning butter over the rutabaga so it cooks evenly, for about 30 minutes or so, until soft.

Once the rutabaga is cooked, remove from the pan, leaving behind any excess butter. Mix the rutabaga with the toasted breadcrumbs, garlic, capers and cheese, season with a little salt and pepper,

and stuff inside the peppers, piling it up well.

Roast for 10 minutes, until the peppers are charred at the edges, then turn down the oven to 350F, cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes more. The peppers need to be soft.

And if you have any left over, they make a delicious lunch the next day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

weekend baking

When Sunday night rolled around this week, I didn’t feel like I’d done all my baking. Mainly because I hadn’t made my usual loaf of bread and that means I’ll have to make one sometime this week before we run out. But in all fairness, I did bake some. I made a dozen pear banana muffins on Saturday morning before I left for my Pilates class. By the time I got home after class, running errands and grocery shopping, only a few were left. Late in the afternoon, my guys went on a hike up the mountain so I made this apple cake for when they got home. They got back faster than I anticipated so it was still in the oven when they arrived home but it was lovely for dessert after turkey chili. On Sunday, after we did our gardening, I came inside and made strawberry almond crumble, in addition to the potato, leek and ham gratin that was supper, so we have a few treats to get us through the week.

Last weekend, on Saturday morning I made a loaf of bread, a dozen apple banana muffins and strawberry almond crumble. Maybe because I made it all at once it seemed like more.

While I was baking and cooking, I had to keep checking on the derailments occurring on our boy’s railway line. It seems that cars and trucks keep stalling on the crossings with disastrous results. And the results aren’t really disastrous until checked out by mummy. The soundtrack to the derailments has been either the boy’s version of “American Woman” – which in 5 year old language is “American wonton” (as in soup) or a somewhat garbled rendition of “my heart will go on” (from Titanic). Apparently they are learning “my heart will go on” in preschool music class.

Has anyone else seen this book, Knit your own Royal Wedding by Fiona Goble? I think I should knit my man these for Christmas…he’d especially love the corgi.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

digging at last

The rain has started again. As it grows dark here, the raindrops are plinking against the window and I'm grateful, that although the raindrops threatened more than a few times in the last 2 days, the rain (showers?) held off until now. Today, after a run to the garden store for bags of soil and amender, I pulled out the potato grow bags and some cedar planters and we started digging. We filled the bags and planters with some composted soil from last fall and topped them up with the new amender and soil and I planted potatoes, spinach, chard and radishes. In the next couple of days, I hope to get the peas and sweet peas seeded as well. Also time to start the arugula and basil (indoors).

here are my helpers filling the bottom of a pot with styrofoam
Out in the front, the star magnolia is about to burst into bloom and the camelia has a few flowers peeking out and one lonely daffodil has poked up. Ah spring!