Sunday, December 30, 2012

christmas crumble

The boy patiently (sort of) counted down the days until Christmas. We made cookies and decorated a gingerbread house.

The boy tried to convince us to open presents before Christmas.

And finally it was Christmas Eve. We put out hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer and waited for Christmas Day. While we wouldn't have known by the weather that it was Christmas, ie wet and grey, we had a lovely day.

The boy loved his new bike

and the rest of his presents. He assembled his many new Lego kits all by himself and played his new Angry Birds game for hours.

For Christmas dinner, I wanted a lighter version of our usual mincemeat pie. Lately I've made a lot of crisps based on Deb's recipe for Apricot Breakfast Crisp and my husband gobbles them up. So for Christmas, I made a Christmas crumble with mincemeat and apple. Lovely.

Christmas Crumble (Mincemeat and Apple Crumble) - inspired by Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

2 Gala apples, peeled, cored, finely diced
1/2 jar of mincemeat
grated fresh nutmeg
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c flour
2 tbsp sliced almonds

In a medium casserole, mix the apple and mincemeat. Add a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.

In a bowl, mix together the sugar, oats, flour and sliced almonds. Add the melted butter and mix well until blended. Pour over the mincemeat mixture in an even layer.

Bake at 400 deg F for 30 minutes until browned and bubbly.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

almond butterscotch shortbread

T'is the last weekend before Christmas and apart from a massive grocery shop, I've been avoiding the malls. So after stuffing my fridge full of goodies this morning, I decided to bake some cookies. My husband's stomach has been giving him gyp lately, so he's avoiding chocolate as much as he can. I had a recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine for chocolate and almond shortbread, and was inspired by that and a recipe idea from Farmgirl Fare for chocolate and toffee shortbread. I pulled out butterscotch chips when looking for toffee bits in my baking drawer and went with that.

Almond and Butterscotch Shortbread (inspired by Martha Stewart Living and Farmgirl Fare)
1 c butter
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2 c flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 c coarsely ground almonds
1 c butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 300 deg F.

Cream the butter for 3-5 minutes until fluffy and light. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the flour and salt combined and mix until blended. Add the almonds and mix until blended. Fold in the butterscotch chips. Press the dough into a parchment lined, 9x13 baking sheet and then place into the fridge for 20 minutes or more to set. Cut into 8 strips lengthwise and 4 strips widthwise, making 32 rectangles. Prick each rectangle several times with a skewer.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until set and just beginning to brown. Let cool on a rack and keep in an airtight tin.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

boy makes treats

I haven't done too much baking so far for Christmas except to fill up goodie bags. I have managed to fill up a couple of small cookie tins for my guys but I haven't managed to make my family fruitcake or pfeffernuse yet. But the boy and I have made a few things together.

A couple of weekends ago we made Tortoises from this month's Martha Stewart Everyday Food Magazine. The hardest part of these treats was opening the caramels and smooshing them a bit over the nuts. We also managed to sneak in some math and counting for the boy - we need piles of 4 cashews plus one hazelnut for each turtle. One caramel per turtle and there are 15 turtles so how many caramels do we need plus more for each one that you eat. The boy lost interest by the time the chocolate was spooned over the nuts but no matter. He was helpful in packing them up and giving them away to his teachers, along with hugs.

Yesterday, it was the children's class party at school and one of the treats was candy sushi. I loved this idea and the boy loved the treat, so on the way home we bought marshmallows, swedish fish and fruit roll ups and made a couple of rolls. They are so easy and fun and the boy loved saying to his dad that we were having sushi for dinner!

Candy Sushi
large marshmallows
swedish fish
multicoloured fruit roll ups

For each "roll", insert a knife into the middle of a marshmallow. Into the slit, wiggle one fish so it sticks out a bit on each side. Wrap a length of fruit roll up around the outside of the marshmallow and dampen to stick.

You need to make these shortly before serving, otherwise they will go a bit mushy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

snow, a tree and cookies

Saturday was a wierd day. I woke with a hurting heart, aching for those families in CT and those lost children. I hugged my 1st grader tight, grateful that my own was safe, wishing that everyone's little ones could be safe as well. We went on with our day - first up was soccer. In the cold and wet and wind, the numbers were down but the boys were as enthusiastic as ever. Luckily for them (and for us) this week's snack parents appeared with hot chocolate and donuts for everyone - a wonderful treat for frozen and damp boys and parents.

When we got home I got to work making Almond Cookies and the boy (with a bit of help from his dad) got down to the serious work of decorating our tree. A couple of hours later the house was filled with the aroma of baked cookies, butter and almonds and the twinkling lights of a decorated tree. It didn't cure my aching heart or stay my tears (as my cousin wrote - do they know we are crying with them?) it did feel a tiny bit better in our house.

Almond Cookies
1 c soft butter
1 c sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp almond extract
2 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 c ground almonds (do this in your food processor)

Preheat the oven to 300 deg F.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and almond extract and beat until incorporated.
Add the flour, salt and ground almonds and mix until all is blended in. Scoop dough in approximately 1 teaspoon scoops of batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet, flattening the dough with the bottom of a drinking glass.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the bottoms are very lightly browned. Lift the cookies off the sheets and let cool on a rack. The cookies will keep in an airtight tin for a couple of weeks. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: ground almonds with the skins on with give the cookies brown flecks as pictured above. Ground almonds without skins will give a more uniformly coloured cookie. Both ways taste delicious.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

blame facebook

It all started innocently enough, with a post on FB. About cauliflower cheese of all things. Which prompted a string of responses about what friends added to their cauliflower cheese (bacon, leeks, stilton, walnuts were some of the suggestions) and the whole debate over whether it was acceptable to add broccoli into the mix. Which all reminded me of a Felicity Cloake article I read after perusing Luisa’s post on fried eggs. (Brilliant, by the way, and has totally transformed my fried eggs from dark brown leathery egg pucks into melty, runny but fully cooked eggs. The only downside is the massive increase in the consumption of said eggs.) But I digress. Cauliflower cheese. So there I was, doing my usual ponder over what to do for dinner and the cauliflower cheese comments would not leave my brain. I have cauliflower and cheese and bacon in my fridge I thought. We’ll have that for supper. So we did and it was good.

I oven roast my cauliflower to avoid adding extra water to the sauce if you boil it and it doesn’t drain completely. Also the oven roasting imparts a lovely sweetness to the cauliflower that makes it better than boiled or steamed.

Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Onions
1 head cauliflower, stalks removed, cut into florets
2 rashers bacon, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 ¾ c milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 c grated sharp cheddar and gruyere cheese, mixed
Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 375 deg F. Place the cauliflower florets in a single layer on a baking sheet and place into the oven.

In a sauté pan, over medium high heat, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and some browning is occurring in the bacon. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the butter, flour and milk and whisk together to form a sauce. Turn the heat down to medium and let cook for at least 5 minutes until thick and bubbly. Stir in the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Add in the grated cheese and stir until melted. Lower the heat to medium low and keep warm until the cauliflower is done.

Once the cauliflower is browned in spots, remove from the oven and add to the sauce. Stir around in the sauce for a couple of minutes to coat the cauliflower with sauce really well. Serve hot.

I served mine with mashed potatoes that were mashed with a biggish knob of butter and some greek yogurt, seasoned with salt and pepper.

The following night, I did a variation of this with broccoli and sausage and served it over baked potatoes. Also delicious. Perfect after a rainy day on the soccer field and running errands.
broccoli cheese with sausage and gnocchi

Saturday, December 1, 2012

french onion tart

My sister-in-law gifted me a magazine subscription a couple of months ago and in this month's issue, this recipe caught my eye. Last Sunday, while I was making something else, I made my version of this tart for one of our weeknight suppers. I made my trusty tart shell and filled it with the sauteed onions, cheese and eggy milk and cream mixture. It smelt divine while baking and when we ate it, it did taste divine.

French Onion Tart (adapted from Chatelaine)
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, cold, diced
1 egg
4 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 red onion, sliced
4 shallots, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup 35% cream
1/4 cup milk
2 cups grated gruyère
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Preheat oven to 400F.

Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Whiz briefly to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is distributed through the flour. Whisk the egg and 2 tbsp of cold water together and add into the flour. Add more water by tablespoonful until the mixture forms into a ball of dough. Dump onto a floured counter and roll into a circle big enough to fit into your tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan, rolling off the excess. Dimple the dough with your fingertips and brush about 2 tbsp of dijon mustard over the bottom.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium. Add oil, then onions and shallots. Cook, without stirring, for 5 min. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add salt and sugar. Season with pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions turn deep brown, 6 to 12 more min. Set aside.

Whisk eggs with cream and milk in a medium bowl until smooth. Set aside.

Sprinkle half of cheese, then onion mixture over warm crust. Add egg mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, then thyme.

Bake in centre of oven until top is firm, about 35-40 mins. Transfer to a rack. Let tart rest 10 min before serving.