Friday, December 13, 2013

Candied Orange Shortbread

The advantage of working in a grocery store, especially one like Farm Boy, is immediate access to awesomely fresh produce.  I couldn't resist buying some lovely clementines as I left work yesterday.  I mean, they had the leaves still attached!  How could I resist?

It's Christmas time, so shortbread is on my brain.  There is already whipped shortbread, ready to be baked, but as I have a platter of sweets to make for a friend, more variety the better.  I decided to candy the rind and use half for the shortbread, and cover the rest in dark chocolate.  With 22 pounds of dark Callebaut to work my way through, everything is getting a coating of chocolate!

Shortbread is ridiculously easy to make and can be modified by flavour in a huge number of ways.  Like toasted almonds?  add some.  Like chocolate chips?  have atter.
These have the candied clementine rind chopped and added to the dough.  I also added a teaspoon of grated fresh rind to give a serious orange flavour.  Make sure the white pith is removed from your peel before adding it to the sugar mixture, as it is bitter.  Here is a link to making candied citrus peel - a great label is included!

Basic Shortbread

1       cup butter
1/2    cup sugar
2     cups flour
1/2   tsp salt

    Cream butter, then add sugar.  Beat until pale and fluffy.  Add flour and salt, mix on low until just mixed together.  Roll and cut with cookie cutters or roll into a log and cut into slices 1/4" thick.  Bake at 325* for 12-15 minutes.  Will keep in an airtight container for a week.

You can add a tsp of flavouring if you choose and/or 1/4 - 1/2 cup of chopped nuts, chocolate chips, toasted coconut....the options are really endless!  I added about 1/4 cup of the candied rind and then a tsp of freshly grated rind to this batch and was happy with the flavour.  The chocolate dipped peel is pretty tasty.  The advantage of putting some candied peel in the cookies?  Not all of the peel is perfectly straight, ready for chocolate any piece not up to dipping standard, chop up and put in the cookie dough!

Happy Baking and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spiced Lentil Soup

With our first winter storm en route to Ottawa and the first signs of a sinus cold creeping in, I decided a warming soup was just what I needed.  I went back to an older recipe - I have no idea where it came from - that I used to make more often than I do now.  I think maybe the Mister didn't love it back then, so I stopped making it.  His taste buds have changed so dramatically since moving here, that I'm thinking it's time to reintroduce it.  He is away for the time being, so I made a half batch for myself and my developing cold.
This soup introduced me to lentils, wee tiny du Puy Lentils that I could get at Pete's Frootique in Halifax.  I found these at the Bulk Barn (non GMO yay!) just labelled as 'Organic French Lentils'

The ingredients are aromatic and I hope they give my cold a good solid punch

I love that soup tastes bright and flavourful right away.  Our general rule here, is that soup tastes better the next day, but here you don't have to wait!

You could add more veggies to this to bulk it up - if I had baby spinach right now, I'd throw a handful of that in.   I have no excuse for not having a better selection of veggies, working at a grocery store that has the freshest of the fresh!  However, I do like that there is fairly minimal chopping for a soup so loaded with flavour.

Spiced Lentil Soup

2 Large tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili, deseeded and minced *
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
1 whole star anise
1 cup du Puy lentils, rinsed
4 1/2 cups stock
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice of a lemon
100grams creamed coconut
salt and pepper to taste

     Peel and seed the tomatoes, then chop to a small dice.  Heat oil in large saucepan or stock pot over medium heat.  Saute onion, garlic, chili, cardamom, turmeric and star anise.  Add tomatoes and cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in lentils and stock; simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are soft, about 25 minutes.  Add the fish sauce, lemon juice and coconut cream, stirring until the coconut has melted.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

* remember to wear gloves when chopping chilis!!!!!

garnished with finely chopped green onions
I hope you give this lovely soup a try on a cold blustery day- xoxox

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Starting early for Christmas

I don't think it's too early for this - after all Remembrance Day has past.  I think limiting Christmas stuff until after that important day is respectful.

Poinsettias!  I had Pinned a link to Sweetsugarbelle's tutorial on some adorable little poinsettias, some time ago.  I thought they seemed a little easier than the Wilton ones I used to make.  I had some leftover royal icing from another project, so these were the first thing to come to mind.

I used the handy template that came with the tutorial, but I did find that the tip #66 tricky to use - I've never had much success making leaves with a #66 or #67.  I switched to a #352 and had a much better go of it.  Once you get piping, they really go quite quickly.  It will be great when it comes time to bake for Christmas and these will be ready to pop on cookies or cupcakes.

I also didn't have the gold sugar sprinkles, so I shook my plain clear sprinkles with some gold lustre.  Worked like a charm!

These aren't quite finished yet - I have to get ready for work, so they will have to wait for another day.  I will add a little leaf to the side for a splash of complementary colour.
When finished I shall post more pictures.

Give these sweet little flowers a try and if you don't always have all the items you need - look around, sometimes you can substitute with great results!

Here is a direct link to the tutorial - it's beautifully done!   Tutorial - Sweetsugarbelle

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nova Scotia Oatcakes -Part 1

      Moving to Halifax in 1996, I knew nothing about the city.  I didn't know anyone from there, had heard very little about it, other than it's potential as 'Seattle of the North' in the heyday of Grunge.  Now, I research the heck out of anything I attempt to do or places I am going, but at that time, email was a Free-Net account and my second hand monochrome IBM laptop was best for writing papers and playing Wolfenstein.
     That first semester was equal parts misery and wonder.  I was partly miserable because I couldn't find anything I was used to eating - Toronto was paradise, especially living near Kensington Market - the Halifax grocery stores were woefully lacking and Holy Expensive Batman!
      I did discover things that I loved and couldn't get in T.O. however.  Peninsula Farms yogurt and OATCAKES!  Both I could find at the saturday Farmers Market and coffee shops across the city.  I quickly discovered that there were many variations on the oatcake theme - my daily breakfast one came from a coffee shop on Hollis St. called Sweet Lou's.  It was a large square, thick, chewy and full of brown sugar.  Nowhere else in the city seemed to have one similar.  Luckily in my last year at NSCAD, my closest friend Marie got a part-time job at Sweet Lou's and lo and behold......she got me the recipe!!!!  That I haven't lost it is a miracle.  Obviously they were meant to be made, however long it took me to do it.
the original recipe starting with 16cups of oats and no temperature for baking!!!

This weekend past, I severely reduced the ingredient amounts and made a batch of these.  I baked them at 350* for 30 minutes and.....oh my word they tasted JUST like I remember.  And Darling husband, who mostly remembers the other style of oatcake better, has decided these are too good to share!

Here is the modified recipe;
Nova Scotia Oatcakes - Sweet Lou's Style

4 cups rolled oats
2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups melted butter
1/3 cup ice water

     Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixer bowl.  Add the butter and mix.  Add water and mix until combined.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper that and press or roll oat mixture into cookie sheet until flat.   Bake in an oven preheated to 350* for 25-30 minutes.  Will still be soft but should have golden brown edges.  Cut into squares when cool.

To Come- The OTHER type of oatcake!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Pinning my New Years Resolutions

     It is high time I was putting all those great ideas and yummy looking recipes into practice.  I'm sure most of us fall into the same trap: pinning, pinning, pinning.  It's so addictive and these days most bloggers are able to photograph their handiwork so beautifully that it's like reading a high end magazine.  On my Food board, I've got 109 different pins and that doesn't include anything sweet!  That might not be a large number to some folks, but to me it's more that I can reasonably plan to use in the next month or so.
     Time to make a project of this.  I am determined to try out these various recipes or tips for myself and  document the results.

I started with Dragon Noodles.  The name evokes spice and serious flavour.  Sounds perfect for me.  The recipe comes from a fantastic blog entitled: Budget Bytes.  The link to the original recipe HERE.  I love the dollar and cents breakdown of a meal, something I am hopeless at doing.  The author has a huge variety of recipes to choose from and her explanations are so logical.

The sauce is super simple.  Soy sauce (I prefer dark), Sriracha sauce and brown sugar.  I doubled the amounts as I planned on making a large pot and adding veggies that would need coating.

Green beans are hard to julienne, is there a trick or tool?  I have a julienne peeler, but it's better for bigger veggies.  It's particularly awesome for doing carrots.

The finished dish made with fettuccine noodles, carrots, green beans and cabbage.  It was perhaps a bit sweet for my taste so I would halve the amount of brown sugar next time, although I will say it was fantastic microwaved the next day and not as sweet seeming.  I am super happy I found this recipe because anything this simple and tasty is a keeper.  Thanks muchly Beth M at Budget Bytes!  Be sure to check it out.