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So…Mother’s day. I know it just passed but this is the first chance I’ve had to post! Back to the day. My mom to me is the most amazing person I know. She is the rock in my family and I don’t know what we would do without her. Honestly, she keeps the peace between everyone. I knew that for Mother’s day I wanted to do something special, because she needs a break.

With so many recipes on the internet and in my cookbooks, you can imagine what a hard time I had choosing one! I am as always a huge overachiever so I wanted to make a million things, unfortunately most things I wanted to make required the oven and the poor oven can’t make more than one item at a time. Oh the choices. So I looked around my kitchen and what do I find but my heart shaped cookie cutter. MUST use it. I also know that my mom doesn’t want anything tooooooo sweet.

So. I decided on French Toast eggs in a basket, or as I call them, “Eggs in a French Basket” *hehe*. These were so fun to make! I had to make some part of it sweet so while I didn’t put any sugar in the soak for the large toast, when I dipped the cut out hearts I added maple syrup and cinnamon to the eggs and milk. YUM!

I couldn’t just leave it with that. So I cut up some mango slices from these wonderful mangos we had just bought and I melted some dark chocolate in a double boiler. I mixed the dark chocolate with some homemade granola that I had made the week before. It was like a little mango parfait with chocolate granola.

Finally, I made my mom her favourite cappuccino. Luckily our espresso machine had been fixed by then (it was torture when it was gone). I also have a little french press style foamer that I use for the cappucino and it’s my mom’s favourite part.

She was so happy when my dad and I came to her with breakfast in bed. The meal was great and my dad and I brought our plates up too so we had a little family gathering in the morning on their bed. It was really sweet, peaceful, and restful. It was the perfect start to the day.

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Eggs in a French Basket

6 slices bread, artisan bread is best! (day old)

10 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F, line a deep dish pan with a piece of parchment, use two pans if all slices won’t fit on one
  2. Using a cookie cutter (I used a heart) cut out the centre of each slice of bread and don’t throw out the centres.
  3. Whisk together 4 eggs and 1/2 cup milk (you may need to add eggs and milk, depending on how much the bread absorbs). Dip each slice of bread into the egg/milk mixture and place into the pans (not the centres). Crack an egg into the centre of each piece of bread. Put in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and the eggs are set.
  4. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat. To the rest of the egg/milk mixture, add the maple syrup and cinnamon. Dip the centres into this mixture and fry on the pan until golden brown on both sides.
  5. Serve together with fruit or any side!
  6. Enjoy!

So I am very excited to take part in the BBA Challenge hosted by Pinch My Salt. The idea is that we are going to bake every bread from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. One bread a week. I’m so excited! It’s going to be rough sometimes as I am still in school but I hope I can keep up. The deadline is May 10th (tomorrow) to join so hop on over to Pinch My Salt to sign up. There’s over 100 bakers already of all different experience levels. What’s great about it is how helpful everyone is… I love being in a community like that because you always have that support.

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The first bread on the list is Anadama, a traditional New England bread. Though apparently it’s not complicated, I have never done a sponge before so it was very new for me (I’m always so paranoid about these things, I stayed close to it all times and willed it to bubble I swear!). But everything ended up working out great. The bread is interesting because it has a cornmeal base with molasses as a sweetener so it produced a very unique taste.

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It basically consisted of soaking the cornmeal overnight, making a sponge, making the dough and letting it rise, then shaping it, putting it into pans and letting it rise again. What came out was pretty much an amazing sandwich bread. It had a thin but crunch crust thanks to the cornmeal and the inside was so soft and fluffy. Since I don’t bake bread a lot (at all!) I was fascinated by how delicate and soft the risen dough was.

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My family loved the bread, it made two loaves so we gave one to my aunt. The bread was slightly sweet due to the molasses and was excellent toasted with butter. Everyone said it was so different from what they had before (white bread, whole wheat bread, grandma’s amaazing whole wheat bread!). I would love to make it again if I didn’t have a year of different breads ahead. After though!

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Next is Artos, Greek Celebration Bread.

So the other cookie that I made for my sister’s coworkers were Apricot Oatmeal Cookies. I thought it would be fun to use some of the dried fruit we had other than raisins (which most of my family doesn’t like anyways). One of the things that has happened since I started cooking so much is that I’m suddenly a huge klutz. I swear I have dropped almost everything in the kitchen at least once. I’ll drop the spatual 5 times while cooking one meal and I have to wash it between each drop!

My family isn’t even surprised anymore when they hear a huge crash while I’m cooking. Today I dropped a cup of tea which luckily didn’t break. Seriously. I don’t understand what’s happened!

Anyways. These cookies were my second attempt at making my own recipe. I looked at a bunch of cookie recipes again to get basic proportions down. These ones were very different from the chocolate chip cookies, there was baking powder so they rose and were more cakey than chewy. I also wanted to make them whole wheat but not too tough so I sifted the whole wheat flour. This pretty much meant there was no oat bran and I think it turned out almost like whole wheat pastry flour. However there was a really good crumb and the cinnamon really came through. Overall I considered them a success (though I could have added eve more apricots. Next time I’ll try and make a flatter more chewy cookie.

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One interesting thing with these cookies is that I’m testing out different, more natural sweeteners. Here I tried out agave nectar while cutting down the white sugar (not cutting it out completely). I think it turned out pretty well and if you don’t have agave nectar, honey works as well. More oats could be added as well!

Yesterday was a success:D

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Whole Wheat Apricot Oatmeal Cookies

 

3 cups whole wheat flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup oats

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/8 cup vegetable oil

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tbsp agave nectar or honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp milk

1 egg

1 egg white

1 cup dried apricots, diced

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, combine sifted whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and oats. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter, vegetable oil, brown sugar, white sugar, and agave nectar. Whisk in vanilla, eggs, and milk incorporating each addition completely before adding the next one.
  4. Mix flour mixture into butter mixture. In the middle of mixing add in apricots and finish combining.
  5. Roll dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and press down into a disc.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges.

 

p1090550p1090539So my sister asked me to bake her something to take to work as she feeds her coworkers so much I don’t think they bring a lunch anymore. I was of course happy to help. One of the things I made were raspberry chocolate chip cookies.

I can proudly say that I pretty much thought of the whole recipe on my own. I looked at a variety of cookie recipes just to get the basic flour proportions down and then at some tips I got from Cook’s Illustrated on how to make cookies.

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Some of the things  I did, like using one stick of softened butter and one stick of melted butter were done with a particular goal in mind. I was trying to make them chewy. How much of an effect this method actually had I have no idea. But I suppose I’ll find out eventually as I bake more cookies!

One of the nice things about my home is that we have at least 4 bags of a different frozen berries on hand at all times. This is for my grandmother (who is on a special diet) and my dad (who has them for breakfast). Therefore I like to use them in the things I make. I have also been making a lot of things with raspberries recently (like scones!) and realized how much I love them in baked goods. Then it came to me…raspberry and chocolate…a well known match made in heaven!

So the idea came to be. This recipe was easy to make and I had fun adding my own little flair of the raspberries and other things (like one egg and one egg white…any effect?…no idea!). It was also a new experience to be watching the time so carefully since I had no previous instructions and determining oven temperature. I honestly would never have done this if I didn’t have a blog!

 

 

Here’s my personal raspberry chocolate chip cookie recipe:

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 egg

1 egg white

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup frozen raspberries, crushed

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
  3. In a large bowl or mixer cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla extract, egg, and egg white combining completely between additions.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until almost combined, then add the chocolate chips and raspberries and finish mixing.
  5. Scoop the dough onto the parchment paper by mounding a tablespoon of the dough and then pressing it down into a disk on the sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and slightly firm to the tough (the brown sugar gives it a bit of a darker colour)
  7. Makes about 30 medium sized cookies
  8. Enjoy!

Aah. My first cooking ‘disaster’. Now, I have to say that these muffins still tasted great. My only issue was that they were too sweet for my tastes. But everyone else in the house adored them!

This recipe was taken from Sass & Veracity who had beautiful big top muffins that I had to try! What was fascinating for me were her pictures where the batter was mounded. It always says fill 2/3 of the way and I always fill more because I’m not that picky about those measurements and I just bake it a bit longer if necessary. So a recipe where I could fill it over the top excited me a lot.

I made the batter and it was nice and thick. I had added my plums and my almonds in the middle of combining the batter so that I didn’t overmix. All the rules were followed. And then came the problem.

Of course I didn’t realize it was a problem until much later but the issue was where to put the batter. I have these really great silicone muffin cups that don’t need to be buttered or oiled. The muffins always come right out. I never had much luck with muffin tins, no matter how much I tried I always broke the muffins on the way out (I really need to practice that some more, I have to get over these sticking fears!). So the silicone cups were where I mounded my batter.

Interesting Fact: for muffins to have a big top, there must be area for them to spread horizontally. Only when I took the muffins out of the oven did I realize this. Since my wonderful silicone cups had no horizontal surface as opposed to a regular muffin tin, instead of spreading out, the muffins spread down. According to my cousin, these tasty treats looked more like old fashioned scones than muffins.

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Oops

Another interesting little part was that they were so moist that I had to cool them much longer than normal to get them out of the cups safely (normal? bedause of the moisture from the plums?). So I don’t know if I will do this recipe again. I want to try it in a regular muffin tin and with some adjustments, like less butter, part brown sugar, part whole wheat flour, and maybe something else. Actually, that post may come sooner rather than later since my sister would like me to make some morning treats for her coworkers. 😀

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Almond Big Top Muffins

(From Sass & Veracity)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cup sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

10 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

1 cup milk at room temp

1 cup sour cream at room temp

2 eggs room temp

1 egg yolk room temp

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 plums, chopped

3/4 cup blanched almond slivers

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate bowl combine sugar, butter, eggs, sour cream, and milk.
  3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Halfway through mixing add in plums, almond slivers, and almond extract.
  4. Line or spray a 12-cup muffin tin and fill will batter mounding it on top.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean and tops are golden brown.
  6. Cool in pan placed on baking rack for about 20 minutes before removing muffins (I may have missed this step!)
  7. Enjoy!

So this is a two part post. Back to the 50th anniversary…there had to be a dessert! This was the hardest part for me to choose. What happened in the end was actually quite funny.

Two weeks before this party, I had made the dinner for my cousin’s 19th birthday. . So for the dessert there I made a Pear Frangipane Galette from the Williams-Sonoma New Healthy Kitchen: Desserts Cookbook. Turned out delicious, everyone loved it, and I had never made a pate brisee before so it was a new thing I tried.

So now I had to decide what to make for this dinner. Thought about it, thought about it, and decided to make another galette but with another filling. I would choose the filling at the store so that I got something less expensive (I’m known to rack up the grocery store bill pretty quickly). I’m in the grocery store and guess what is cheapest…pears! So I buy pears and to ‘change it up’ get some apples too so that this dessert doesn’t end up being exactly the same. After all that indecision I end up making almost the same thing.

So the only part I really took from the book this time was the cooking of the pears and I actually took the pate brisee and frangipane recipe from Joy of Baking. I tripled the recipe so that there was enough for everyone at the table.

The tarts were a success again. Except for the fact that I messed up on the pastry. I had made up the dough in the food processor and then just stuck all the crumbs together before putting them in the fridge. Obviously when I took the dough out it was still crumbly. My sister saved the day by softening it up into actual dough for me. Now I’m not sure if I should have kneaded it before putting it in the fridge or if it was supposed to be done after…suggestions?

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Now. The following week. Half of the frangipane is still left over. Nobody wanted to throw it out (huge waste!) so I am told to make something with it. I ended up deciding to try my hand at a crumble, another thing I’d never made. Using the Williams-Sonoma book again I got a crumble recipe. I used apples with a mix of frozen blueberries and raspberries for the filling. I coated the filling in the frangipane before putting the crumble on top. It ended up so good that I didn’t even have a chance to find the camera it was all gone.

Great Week.

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Apple-Pear Frangipane Galette

(serves 12)

Filling –

5-6 medium-sized pears

3 apples (I used Granny Smith)

3 tbsp butter

2 tbsp sugar

Frangipane –

3/4 cup sugar

9 tbsp butter, softened

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups ground almonds (almond flour if you have)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

Pate Brisee –

3 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 cups butter, cut into small pieces, chilled or frozen

1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. For the filling: core and chop the pears and apples into a 1/4-1/2 inch dice. Put the apples aside. Heat a large saute pan with the butter over medium heat and put in the pears and the sugar. Cook until softened and put aside.
  3. For the frangipane: Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, then add the ground almonds and flour. Mix until it forms a paste. Cover and refrigerate until assembly.
  4. For the pate brisee: Process flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter, and process until has the texture of coarse sand. Add 1/8 cup of ice water and process quickly. Only add more as needed. If it holds together when you pinch it then it is fine.
  5. – gather dough into a ball and refrigerate for one hour. After chilling, roll the pastry out and cut into circles about 6 in in diameter.
  6. Assembly: put about 2 tbsp of frangipane in the middle of each circle and spread out so that there is still a 1 1/2 to 2 inch border. Spread apples on top of frangipane and then the pear filling. Fold up the border.
  7. Bake for around 30 minutes or until golden

Apple-Berry Crumble

Frangipane (recipe above)

6 apples, cored and chopped to 1 inch dice (I used Granny Smith)

2 cups frozen berries of choice

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped almonds

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup butter melted (I used half butter, half honey)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F
  2. Spread apples and berries in a baking dish and cover in frangipane (recipe above).
  3. Stir flour, brown sugar, oats, almonds, cinnamon, and ginger together in a bowl. drizzle with melted butter and stir to combine. Sprinkle evenly over fruit.
  4. bake for 45-50 minutes.

– Natasha

 

 

 

 

 

Green salad, green salad, green salad. Not lettuce! So like I said before, this dinner involved some recipes and some inventions. This one was my invention. I got the idea from a few things but because of various ingredients that I did and didn’t have I couldn’t follow the particular recipe.

This was also a chance for me to try out a new technique, I tried out blanching for the first time which I am now obsessed with and do all the time. I know, I know, blanching is probably one of the simplest and most basic techniques there is. But I have just started going beyond sauteeing chicken and this was big for me.

For this recipe I had basically taken out all the things in our crisper, put them out on the counter and thought what I could make. This was made with beans and broccoli with an indian-spiced yogurt. The idea stemmed from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver, but after looking over the recipe I did the proportions on my own and used the ingredients I had.

This was a huge success and the whole thing disappeared before the main course got to the table. This whole dinner really gave me a lot more confidence as a cook. It was great.

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Warm Green Salad

2 cups broccoli

1 cup green beans, ends trimmed

1 cup plain yogurt

2 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

Black pepper

1 tbsp lemon juice

Mortar and pestle

  1. Boil enough water to submerge the  broccoli and beans. Put the broccoli and beans in for 3-4 minutes and then put them into cold water.
  2. Heat up a nonstick pan with olive oil or vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Saute the broccoli and beans for 4-5 minutes until slightly browned.
  3. Meanwhile crush the fennel and cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle. Combine fennel, cumin, lemon juice, and yogurt and season with a little pepper to taste.
  4. Plate the broccoli and  beans and drizzle with yogurt sauce.