Saturday, December 10, 2011

Homemade soup

Soup is so easy to make.  Dare I say "trust me"? or will that send you running?  Not only is it simple to do... it can be very nutritious.  You get to control the ingredients.  No sodium preservatives ..  and you only add what you like or want to use.

There are as many and varied recipes as you care to invent. Or, find a recipe and tweak it as you like.

The other day I wanted to make some Caldo Verde (Kale Potato) soup...our new favourite...but, can you believe there was no kale to be had at Safeway that day?  Darn it.  I wanted soup by went home and checked the 'fridge.  There were some leftover sweet potatoes.... so... .. came up with a carrot and potato soup.  I've seen various recipes with these ingredients...but, who needs a recipe?  Once you have made a few is simple.

Just get a tasty base going... toss in your choice of ingredients...simmer and voila.  Lovely soup.  And, in this case..I also used my hand held blender on it near the end...and stirred in some milk just before serving.

I  never use actual measurements any more... but, if you want to search for a recipe to try it with measurements the first few times, just Google soups...or Carrot  or Sweet Potato or Squash soup and you will be inundated with similar recipes to try.   I'm sure they will all taste wonderful.  Here are some approximate measurements from my own soup.

Carrot Sweet Potato Soup

half a medium onion (diced)
stick or two of celery (diced)
carrot (diced)
sweet potato (cooked or uncooked and diced)
white potato (two; small; diced)
chicken broth (homemade or purchased..I buy low sodium broth)
1 tbsp. flour
spices (I used a bay leaf, oregano, sweet basil, Italian Seasoning, pepper flakes;black pepper)
butter (1 - 2 tbsp)
olive oil (about 1 - 2 tbsp)

In large pot, heat oil and butter... add onion, carrot, celery, and soften... don't let it brown... add uncooked potato ..continue to cook gently and sprinkle on flour after about 5 to 8 minutes... let cook slowly for a few more minutes stirring every so often.  Add about 2 cups or so of water and a few cups of broth (or  more) ... ( or you could use some tomato juice if you like)....stir well to mix in the flour if it is not already.  Add some pepper and the bay leaf.  Bring to boil and then lower heat to let it simmer gently.  Add the rest of the spices.  Stir every so often.
We like it a bit spicy sometimes.. so I usually re-pepper it after simmering for about an hour and tasting.

Let simmer for about an hour and a half to two hours or til spuds are tender.  As the spuds cook down they help to thicken this type of soup.  Serve as is, or, if you prefer, you can puree your soups with a hand held blender.  You could do small batches in a regular blender...but, it is not nearly as easy or as safe, especially when dealing with boiling liquids.  I love my hand held blender and use it a lot.

You could make soup every single day and never do the same one twice.  There are sooo many options.  I hope you try some soup of your own one day soon.  I love making it.... I could eat soup every day. With fresh homemade bread.....sigh.....oooooh..... heavenly....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Barm Brack

I don't have a clue what happens...but, it does.  Time just flies .... and no blogging happens.  Not to say no cooking and baking happens.... because it definitely does.  Even on the hottest days of summer it happens around here.  My neighbours think I'm nuts.... probably because I am. season is over and none too soon.  My elbow is totally wrecked.  I can hardly lift a glass to my lips... it's very difficult to floss and brush and ...well, it just hurts all the time.  X-rays yesterday to make sure there is no bony involvement...and a week.... begin some physio.  If that doesn't show immediate results..I have other treatments in mind.... we'll see how it goes in the next few weeks.
Won't be seeing this beautiful water treatment behind the 17th hole for a loooong time now.  Our next golf season won't open til April... and usually we don't get to play til closer to May..... sigh...

Meantime... seeing as I can't dig in the garden, or lift very much...I've been catching up on housework that got neglected over the summer...and doing some baking.  I love baking and it's so much fun to do.  I prefer it to housework of I do it instead... oooooh.... bad me....bad me.  Although, I can dust while muffins are baking or toss in some loads of laundry before I even start to gather ingredients for biscotti or soups, etc....I could vacuum while a loaf bakes........ I could..........

The other day I made Barm Brack and have decided to share that loaf today... you'll have to hurry if you actually want to share a real's almost gone!  I've already gained back two of the eleven pounds I lost over the summer... marching around that golf course.  No time to eat while I'm out there.

Barm Brack is an Irish loaf... and you need to begin the night before to make it.  Raisins need to be soaked in tea overnight.  As usual, I make my own changes to the loaf, but initially, here is the recipe directly from the Company's Coming cookbook.

Barm Brack

1  cup cold leftover tea
1  cup raisins
1/2  cup peel
1/2  cup currants
1  cup granulated sugar
1  egg
1/4  cup melted butter
2  cups all purpose flour
1  tsp.  baking powder
1/4  tsp  baking soda
1/4  tsp salt (I never use it because I use salted butter)

Put tea in a large bowl along with raisins, peel, currants and sugar.  Let stand covered overnight.

Next morning, beat egg until frothy.  Stir into fruit mixture.  Stir melted butter into fruit.

Combine and stir the four remaining dry ingredients.  Add to fruit batter.  Stir until blended.  Spoon into greased loaf pan 9 X 5 X 3 inches (23 X 12 X7cm).

Bake in 350F (180C) oven for 60-70 minutes.  (Mine usually take a bit less... keep an eye on things) Cool 10 minutes. Turn out on rack to cool completely.

Options::::  I don't usually have peel or currants hanging use two types of raisins and some dried cranberries. I don't bother with the exact measurements they give for the fruit ... it is too much for me .. I like less in my loaf...and also like to add some toasted chopped walnuts.  Into the tea and raisins I also grate some orange zest and a squeeze or two of the juice and add a tsp of vanilla.  This batter is very soft...almost pourable, but not quite..and makes a nice moist loaf.
Oh, ...and...almost forgot!  spices.  Stir a sprinkle, or a tiny dash into the flour.  I like some cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and ginger.... but, do be careful with the amounts if you are not used to using spices.... a little can go a long way... it's nice to have a hint of flavour rather than have it overpowering.  In my's almost difficult to make out what the spices actually are ...but, you know it's that certain 'something' that gives it more appeal if you know what I mean.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Caldo Verde...or..... Green Soup

Portuguese Caldo Verde....yummmm ...  it means Green Soup...which it is.  Basic ingredients are potatoes, onion and kale ....the kale makes it green.  Wiki says """ In Portugal, caldo verde is typically consumed during Portuguese celebrations, such as weddings. It is sometimes consumed before a main course meal and as well for a late supper.  Caldo verde originated from the Minho Province in northern Portugal. Today, it is a traditional national favorite that has spread across the nation and abroad.""

I think my friend Maria (who is Portuguese) was surprised that we liked it...same as she got surprised by our liking for Migas.  In reality...I guess we are just simple folk that enjoy simple good food.  Don't get me wrong.. if, on occasion, we find some exotic thing that is prepared wonderfully... we may give that a chance as well...but, mostly, just great tasting simple fare is our choice.

I found a simple recipe for kale and potato soup in my Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking.. so that is the one I am printing here.  It is the basic idea and from there, just like every cook in Portugal... you can tweak things any way you like to make it your own.   And, don't forget to try some Broa ..or Portuguese cornbread too, for dipping as they do in Portugal.  Make it a complete Portuguese supper night.... you won't be sorry.....

Caldo Verde (or kale and potato soup)

4 medium potatoes
2  TBSP vegetable oil (always Olive Oil in Portugal!)
8 cups water
1  tsp. salt
1/2  tsp. pepper
2  pounds fresh kale
1/2  pound cooked, sliced smoked garlic sausage (optional)

Peel and chop potatoes; combine with oil and water.  Cook 20 to 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender.  Remove potatoes; reserve liquid.  Mash potatoes trough sieve; return to potato liquid.  Add salt and pepper; simmer 20 minutes.
Wash kale; discard all tough leaves; cut into thin shreds.  Add to potatoes; cook 25 minutes.  Add sausage; simmer gently 5 minutes.
Yield 6 to 8 servings.

::::: MY Version:::  I kick it up a notch or two (as silly old Emeril says) ....  Now that I've made this soup a few times...  I like to add a few extra ingredients to develop a more full bodied flavour.

I saute onion, a stick of celery and this day I even added a chunk of orange pepper, in olive oil with a dollop of salted butter.  Soup is always a good way to tidy up my fridge.  Oh, ...  and I see a sprig of Rosemary in there too... then, sprinkle on a tablespoon of flour after about a minute or so and continue cooking a bit more ... then I lower the heat and toss in a crushed clove of garlic.  Let cook (carefully) a minute longer.  Be sure not to overheat and burn your garlic!
Pour in a few cups of chicken broth and some water and I add another TBSP olive oil.  If I'm using store bought broth, I like to use the low sodium.
Meanwhile, ready the potatoes.  When diced, pop them right into the pot with the other ingredients.  I don't bother to cook them separately.  No need to use a separate pot or to mash til later as far as I can see.
Sprinkle in some herbs of choice...including oregano.... I wish I could get fresh Portuguese oregano like Maria used to use on our salads!  MMM...... ... Oh, well...just use dried or whatever you can get.  I also like to toss in a bay leaf and a sprinkle of dried basil.. and this is when I use a good scraping of freshly ground black pepper.  Use salt if you like...I never do, but that's just me.
Wash and cut kale... I just use about 4 or 5 leaves... 2 pounds seems a huge amount to me.  Add kale. I bring to boil, reduce heat and let simmer for an hour or so with lid on.  The potatoes should be tender by then and I like to cook the kale so that I can use my stick blender to puree the whole thing.  The first few times I made it...I just didn't really like the stringy shreds of kale in the soup. is a lot of work to cut it into strips and then chop it all the other way as well to get it small enough. (.. which in Portugal is no problem because there you can buy chopped kale! ..or..they have special kale cutters that I see on some videos of kale soup making!)  Haven't found any chopped kale here.  So..instead...I just cut it into thin strips.. cook well...and then... stick blender works wonders.  I like to leave a few chunks of potatoes in it... so I just plop the blender around here and there and most of the kale disappears.  We like a few chunks of potatoes left in our soup....  little surprises to be found.  We're just kids at heart I guess.

If I am using sausage... I use local spicy Italian... easier to find than Portuguese chorizo .... and I brown it while the soup is simmering.  Slice it into rounds and add it after I puree the soup.  Let simmer for about another 15 minutes or so.  Serve with fresh Portuguese Broa..or cornbread.  MMMMMMMM  ...oh, it is making me drool.  We love it...and if you like simple but great tasting foods... I'm sure you will as well.  Hope you try it some day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Broa..... or Portuguese Corn Bread ....

...or, at the very least...a super close second!! That's what I'm calling my third recipe of this yeasted corn bread I've tried since coming back from our Portugal holiday.  How do you like my cute little handpainted souvenir serving plate?
Probably won't taste that wonderful bread again 'til I go back, and even then...'til I find that very same market in the very same town and hopefully the very same person will have baked it!  As if, hey?  A girl can dream........

Meantime.......... I'll definitely continue to slightly tweak this particular far, it is the best one I've tried ( the easiest too for that matter) and I'm convinced it would just need a few tiny changes to be right there!  You know how your taste buds remember things.... mine do anyway.... and I'd really like to replicate that wonderful flavour if possible.
I loved the colour of this loaf.... as yellow as bananas.....whereas some are greyish yellow.... or dull colours....

Maybe for you this could be a great cornbread for a first time effort ....and maybe it will be your new favourite ...

The Portuguese like to eat this bread with their favourite soup,  Caldo Verde, or, green soup.

Check out what Wiki has to say about the soup.  It's basic ingredients:  kale and potatoes.... but, as with all recipes... now has dozens of variations. Lots with their favourite sausage in it too ... Chorico..or Chorizo.  Google it for lots of info and recipes .... it's always amazing to me how many recipes there are for things I've previously never heard of. I've already made several very tasty soups in the Caldo Verde style.

I'll post my own variation of Caldo Verde soon too..... but, for now.... Broa.  Funny how I remember the food words I learned in Portuguese isn't it?  ....  hahhaha.... now how to ask for the bathroom..... oh, yes..just a minute....actually... that seems universal in European countries...just ask for the WC and you will be fine...even if you can't speak a word of the language.

This recipe is from a wonderful breads book given to me by a blogger named a very amazing pay-it-forward that I offered to do on his blog a few years back.  I credit him with getting me started with bread baking.  Thanks so much again Lewis.  I wish you were still blogging.  Miss you and your great recipes and tips.


2   tsp. dry yeast
1/2  plus 2 TBSP lukewarm milk
3/4  cup lukewarm water
1 1/4  cup yellow cornmeal
2 1/4  cup bread flour, sifted  (I just used regular flour, unbleached... )
1 1/2  tsp. salt  (I only used 1 tsp.)
1  TBSP olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast into the milk in a bowl.  Let stand for 5 minutes; stir with a wooden spoon.  Add the water to the milk.  Mix the cornmeal, flour and salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast and olive oil.

Mix in the flour to form a firm and moist, but not sticky dough that leaves the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a dish towel.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down, then let rest for 10 minutes.

Shape into a round loaf.  (If you have trouble doing this...just Google how to do it...there are several videos to see)   Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal (just a very light sprinkling is fine) and cover with a dish towel.  Proof until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Dust the loaf with cornmeal. (I omit this step just falls off later with I am cutting and it is messy).... Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath.  Cool on a wire rack.

::: I just used regular flour because I didn't have any bread flour on hand.  Also...I added 3 TBSP of sugar as I was trying to get a slightly sweet taste that I remember a certain loaf having...... still not enough really...but, almost....
Also....I mixed my ingredients in my stand mixer because I am suffering with a rib problem... can't do anything like mixing or kneading at the moment. more thing...I left it a few extra minutes...because I definitely wanted my crust to be darker than golden.  This was perfect for me.

We had it with a great Caldo Verde....I like my dipping breads is YUM toasted.....I sure hope you give it a try.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Portuguese Migas

My new favourite side dish.  Apparently the word 'migas' (pronounced with a bit of an 'sh' sound at the end) means crumbs, and, the dish is comprised of mainly that...crumbs.  Crumbs of Broa, a bread made with cornmeal.  Crumbs and kale.  They grow lots of kale in Portugal... it's so plentiful... and ...totally different from the stuff we get here.  Some of the gypsy ladies at the markets there were trying to give it away.... along with lovely broccolini, for which I pay $4.99 a tiny tray.  Oh, man.... I want fresh stuff for cheap!!!  But...I did use a leaf or two of the kale I bought...which wasn't cheap.  I think next time I must make some soup too... another favourite of the Portuguese.  Caldo Verde, or green soup.  I only learned food words while there.  At least I wouldn't starve if I got dropped into Portugal at some later time.....

Onward with the "migas" .... Supposedly meant to use up leftover bread .... but,'s home made bread; how could there ever be much in the way of leftovers?  Of course, first I had to make cornbread... which took a bit of surfing around to find some decent sounding recipes to try.  Not easy to know where to begin after being in Portugal..and tasting the real and 'bestest' breads I've ever had in my life (other than some of the ones I've been making around here the past few years).

It seems there are at least 1001 (or thereabouts) ways to make migas.  And, it's not only popular in Portugal..but, many other countries as well.  Who knew?  Boy, have I lived a sheltered life.

It's one of those like Ratatouille from the look of things.  Began as a peasant dish...and now, all of a sudden has become popular in restaurants and homes all over...even some of the high class restaurants  ..and, in all sorts of variations.  Apparently, it used to be that you even knew which area of the country you were in just by tasting the migas recipe common to the region ... but, things have changed a lot since then.

As I mentioned, we just returned from holidaying in Portugal ...  where several restaurants served migas with our meal.  My friend Maria seemed surprised that I enjoyed it.... and I really did.  One restaurant in particular... just along the road and across from the Almourol castle, the last great restaurant at which we ate at before leaving for home, served the most delicious Migas (see, I even capitalized theirs!) with my equally amazing skewer of buttery soft Veal.  (every single restaurant we chose was amazing!! and I'm pretty darn picky. )  Actually Joe and Maria chose them...and they did a great job!

I absolutely have to make some migas now.  Not so often that it becomes old hat or anything...but definitely often enough that I can enjoy a flash back to our wonderful holiday every so often.  It'll be instead of spuds or some other starch for us..... or a simple side dish..or ... well, I'd be happy with it for my little meal.  You can add sausage as some recipes call for... chorizo if in Portugal.   I could use some spicy Italian from a local shop called Spolombo.

So..... .. first ...make some Broa .. or cornbread.  Maybe you can find some in a shop near far no luck with that here. It's a yeasted version with cornmeal... typical to Portugal...
This second attempt of mine was not as dark, nor as sweet as the best one we found in Portugal at one of the markets.  Theirs was, and probably always will be, the best.. mmmmmyum....... but, I shall soldier on in hopes of making one that comes a close second.

here is mine... looks great.  Wonderful crumb...but... nyeh....just not as tasty as I wanted it to be.

Always on the lookout for less salty stuff, me....and I found some half salt bacon.  woohooo... it's still pretty salty for us because we prefer to eat less salt.  But... much better than the regular stuff.  This brand claimed to be smoked in a traditional way, but, it seemed to have a bit of a sweet sort of Maple smoked-ness to it.  Pretty tasty.

I used the browned bacon to set us up with some tasty little appetizers in the Portuguese manner, which seemed to appear at the table as if by magic within some 30 seconds or so of us being seated.  Wonderful to snack on while making our choices from the menu.  It sometimes took a while...what with translating and such.  Even the appetizers can transport me right back to any of the wonderful restaurants we tried.  Some olives, some cheeses... salads with olive oil and newly dried Portuguese oregano....Ahhhh...I guess I could just holiday the rest of my life if I had the money.... come on lucky Lotto!!!

Here is my version.  Yes, I looks like scrambled eggs..but it isn't.  Check out several sites if you decide to make it.  There are so many to choose from and all would probably be pretty tasty.

Sorry, I don't have any particular measurements.... just crumble up some day old cornbread... fry a couple strips of bacon..... take out bacon and add the crumbs to the pan. Stir around till all bacon fat is absorbed ... add a bit of pepper and a few spices if you like.... stir and cook slowly on low heat for a bit.  Add some finely chopped kale.  I used a julienne method of rolling the leaves and slicing and then.. finely chopping it some more.  I didn't want it long and stringy.  Stir in the kale and let simmer slowly for a bit longer.  Several of the recipes called for soaking the bread in milk or water and most of the ones I had in Portugal were soft (some even had mashed potatoes in them).... so I decided to add a bit of whole milk to give it some softness and a bit more body..not to mention more calcium.  We can always use more of that.  I then let things simmer with a lid on for a bit longer... tasted, ... added a bit more milk and.... .... wayhey!...pretty darn good.

Hope you look at some of the migas recipes online and give this a try.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Easy Salmon Pie

...that's what Sunny Anderson calls it.  If you want to search for similar recipes... just type in Salmon En Croute and you will find several...with various fillings...and each seems just as yummy.

Perfect with a big side salad and the 'ubiquitous pea', as we always refer to them at our house.  Hey! they do just nicely in a pinch.  And, usually if I do something a bit fiddly for the main?.... it'll be peas for veg.  Not always...but most times.  Good thing we love them.

This is for you Jason... and, no laughing at my little hover crafts.  That's what they look like to me anyway... honestly... if they had wheels..?  little toy cars...  hahahah..... but... and a BIG but here...they were very tasty, so just shape them a bit differently (or don't, cuz who cares really?).... and enjoy.   It was my first experience with puff pastry... so who knew what it would do?.. not me.

Hmmm..... did somebody even lick the plate? 

Easy Salmon Pie

4 (6 ounce) center cut salmon fillets, skin removed
1  lemon, zested and juiced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4  TBSP canola oil, divided
1  medium onion, chopped (she used Vidalia, I used regular onion)
2  cloves garlic, minced
1  cup chopped shitake mushrooms, stems discarded..(I just used button mushrooms,stems and all)
2  tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves (I just sprinkled on some dried thyme and a few other spices)
4  cups washed, dried, and loosely packed fresh baby spinach (or regular spinach)
1/4  cup sour cream
2  frozen puff pastry sheets, defrosted
    chopped fresh parsley leaves..for garnish

Brush both sides of the salmon with 1 teaspoon lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in 2 separate skillets over medium-high heat.  Add half of the onion and half the garlic to each pan.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir the mushrooms and thyme into 1 pan and the spinach, lemon zest and remaining lemon juice into the other pan.  Stir the spinach until it wilts, then transfer it to a bowl and set aside.  Saute the mushrooms until they are reduced and tender, about 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in the sour cream. Set aside.

Trim the thinner ends of the salmon fillet so you have 4 pieces of even thickness.  (I just tucked under the thin end).   Unroll a pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Pass a rolling pin lightly over 2 or 3 times to seal the seams and lengthen slightly.   Cut the pastry sheet into 3 equal strips, using the natural seams as a guide.  Roll out the second puff pastry sheet to get 1 more strip.  Save remaining puff pastry for another use.   (My puff pastry didn't look anything like hers sounded.... guess we just have to go with what we can find at the store and make it happen so we get 4 sheets long enough and wide enough to enclose our salmon)....

Lightly prick the 4 strips with a fork on the part that will be the bottom.  Put 1 heaping spoonful of mushroom mixture on 1 half of each pastry, top with salmon piece, then layer with a heaping spoonful of spinach mixture.  Wet the edges of the pastry with water on a finger and fold over the other half, pressing lightly and folding to seal the edges.  Repeat with remaining pastry and filling.  Cut 2 vents on the top of each pastry packet and arrange them on a parchment lined baking sheet.

You could begin preheating the oven when you have a couple of packets done.  Bake at 375 F until the pastry is golden and fish is just opaque in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes.... (I'm not sure how you are supposed to be able to actually see the fish inside the pastry... I just went with "golden" and it was perfect).

Transfer pies from oven to serving dishes and garnish with chopped parsley....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

It's not really strawberry's cupcakes.... sliced and filled with cream and berries if you follow the recipe.  I didn't.  I just used the cupcake recipe and tried to ice a few.  I wanted to try out my decorating kit I bought eons ago.

I made some icing and from the descriptions tried to wield the specific tips and bag to practice a few things on a piece of plastic first..... hahahhahah.........what a laugh. wasn't all that amusing...but, I did have to laugh at my own efforts after awhile.  I don't think my icing was nearly stiff enough to do the job.  But...I think I sort of got the hang of leaves.... but, only sort of...

 It's a good thing our Mom used to say.."if you're not worth a laugh you're not worth very much."   I'm not sure she meant it quite like this..but.. eh.... what the heck.  It's worth a giggle.
Even just putting on a plain swirl was tricky... one needs a steady hand to get this looking right.  Man...those guys on Cupcake Wars are a whiz in comparison!  they ice hundreds in the time it took me to do 4... well, actually after 3 I gave up.

And, now for my question ... why would anybody want a cupcake with this much sickly sweet icing on it in the fist place?  yecchhh!

I scraped off the huge amount of icing on the rest of them....and just spread a bit on instead... with a knife.  However, if you like lots of sweet icing... please don't let me spoil your fun...feel free to ice them any way you like.

Interesting thing about this eggs.  I couldn't for the life of me believe they would rise and be fluffy enough.... but, they rose nicely, are moist and a pretty darn great tasting little cupcake.  This from somebody who doesn't usually make cupcakes.. because I prefer muffins.  I used to think of cupcakes as ....well,...  as cake.  And I find store bought muffins are usually just cake being passed off as muffins.  Dry, tasteless and crumbly. So, I never buy but always bake my own.  To me muffins are more dense, less cake-like...more moist and sort of rustic.

However,  I wanted to try cupcakes for Valentine's, without further ado, here is a recipe I found on the food network...

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

1  1/2 cups all purpose flour
1  cup sugar
1/3  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1  tsp. baking soda
1/2  tsp. salt
1 cup coconut milk  (I used regular milk)
1/2  cup vegetable oil
2  tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1  tsp. vanilla extract
1   tsp. instant espresso powder

Line 40 cups from mini cupcake pans or 16 cups from regular size muffin pans with paper cupcake liners.
Sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.  In separate bowl, mix the coconut milk, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and espresso powder until smooth.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix with a fork or small whisk.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners.  The cups should be filled about 2/3 full, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 22 minutes for the mini cupcakes and about 25 minutes for the regular size cupcakes.
Cool the cupcakes in the pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Slice off the top 1/3 of each cupcake and slather with your favourite frosting and sliced strawberries.  Place the top of the cupcake back on top and add an additional bit of frosting and sliced strawberries.  Dust with confectioners sugar.  Eat three immediately.

NB:::  instead of the coconut milk.... use regular milk or buttermilk or add some lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk to make your own buttermilk.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I have a book titled simply,"Bread".  Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno.  They come from France and Italy... they know bread! I love this book.  All sorts of information about bread baking at the front...and then... a great series of recipes with pictures.  Perfect for knowing exactly what things should look like and how to do it.

This one is called Focaccia Farcita and it says it is a "filled Italian hearth bread".  It says focaccia comes from the Latin word focus which means "hearth" and traditionally, the embers of the hearth are where focaccia was baked.  They refer to it as a moveable feast because of the fillings and toppings which can be used.  You can use anything you like long as it cooks in the same amount of time the bread takes to bake..or... partially cook veggies before adding them if you like.

Focaccia Farcita
2  tsp. dry yeast
1  1/4  cups water
3  1/4 cups bread flour (I used all purpose)
3  tbsp olive oil

for filling and topping
1/2  cup crumbled Gorgonzola  ( use what you like )
7   oz. mozzarella, sliced
1  handful of basil leaves  (I just used some dried basil and oregano)
1/2  tsp coarse salt
2  tbsp fresh rosemary leaves... (I only had dried and just used a sprinkle)
4  tbsp olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast into 1 cup of the water in a bowl. (I always use 100F water so it doesn't kill my yeast) Let stand for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve.  Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the dissolved yeast and the oil.

Mix in the flour.  Stir in the remaining water to form a soft, sticky dough.  Add more water 1 tbsp. at a time if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead until smooth, silky, and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Punch down and divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Chafe for 5 minutes... then let rest for 10 minutes. (it just means forming dough into balls by cupping your hands gently around the piece and applying light downward pressure while rotating the dough in a steady clockwise motion til a nice even round shape is formed).

To make the filling.
Roll out each piece of dough into a 9 1/2 inch round.  Place one round on an oiled baking sheet.  Arrange the two cheeses and basil (or whatever else you decide to use) over the top, then seal in the filling using the second round. Leave a little space around edge for sealing. Gently pinch the edges of the dough together with your fingers.

Cover the dough loosely with a dish towel.  Proof until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Use your fingertips to gently press into the surface of the dough to form dimples about 1/2 inch deep.  Sprinkle with the coarse salt, rosemary leaves and 1 tbsp of the olive oil. (I found this coarse salt just wayyyy too salty for us... so won't bother with this step next time... your call.)

(looks like a moonscape)...

Bake in preheated oven for 30 -  45 minutes, until golden.  Drizzle immediately with remaining olive oil, and serve warm.

optional..... I used some black olives and sun dried tomatoes in mine.... mmmmm...   it also talks about roasting cherry tomatoes and using those.... sky is the limit with our "moveable feasts" and focaccia ..

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Forest Cake

... but, this we all know.  Chocolate...and more chocolate... oh, and cherries.  A take on Black Forest cake.

This one is from my Company's Coming Chocolate Everything book.   Oh, and...I want a lovely glass cake plate.  A pedestal plate ... preferably with a dome.

It's simple enough ... even calls for a cake mix if you want to go that way ...which I thought about for only a nano second.  I'm sure they are much better now than they used to be...but, I still like to bake my own... plus it was for my sweetie...and he deserves my best effort.   Always.

I wish I could get smaller tins.  My oven is European size and the 9 inch tins are too large to put two on the same shelf... luckily if I diagonally place them on different shelves... they almost bake the you see the size of this four layer cake!!  Aacckk!  We had to call in neighbours to help us get through it.

Forget super-sizing everything.. give me some cute little tins so that I can bake a treat for two ... like they do on the cooking channel... well, the European gals do anyway... not Paula or Ina or the others.  No wonder we all have to do more jumping jacks... unlike the French or the Italians... who are lovely and slim and eat so daintily... and look like models... oh,...and ... look at the small portions and lovely cute little cakes they make!  It's a no brainer why they look so good... lovely food ... dainty portions.

okay... 'nuff complaining... onward with the recipe.  I'm giving it exactly as it is in the book... but, make any cake you like instead of the mix.

Black Forest Decadence

1   Dark chocolate cake mix ( 2 layer size)
2  cups whipping cream ( or 4 cups/  1 Litre, whipped topping)
1 TBSP  icing sugar
19 oz ( 40 ml )  cherry pie filling

6  semisweet chocolate baking squares (1 oz or 28 grams, each) cut up
1/2  cup light cream (half and half)  I used a bit of left over whipping cream and some milk)

Prepare cake according to package directions.  Bake in 2 greased 9 inch (22cm) round layer pans.  Cool. Turn out onto rack.  Split each to make 4 layers.

Beat whipping cream and icing sugar in large bowl until stiff.  Reserve 1 cup (250 ml) for garnish.

Fold pie filling into remaining whipped cream.  Spread 1/3 cherry-cream mixture over 3 layers, stack as each is spread.  Add fourth layer to top.

Glaze:  Melt chocolate with light cream in medium saucepan on low, stirring constantly, until smooth.  Set pan in cold water.  Whisk until cooled enough to be slightly pourable.  Drizzle over top of cake. allowing some to run down sides  Chill.  Garnish with reserved whipped cream.  Cuts into 16 wedges.

Their photo looks like they managed to get a tidier slicing method than we did.  Or.. perhaps it was frozen...or...okay... I'm sure I don't know... all I know is... ours was not quite this tidy.

However, I do have a great tip for slicing the not too thick layers neatly in half.  My bread knife is not long enough to be seen on the opposite side of the was doing a hack job getting through the first cake I tried.  However, on the second cake...

Begin the slice with your bread knife... but... then..... get a long piece of unflavoured, unwaxed dental floss.  Hold each end and place the middle inside the cut.... pull the ends towards each other...overlap them...and voila!... sliced cleanly straight through the center!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Aperitif Cake??

I've never heard of an Aperitif Cake, have you?  I half expected it to be alcoholic.  But...there it was at the end of the recipe..."slice and serve with drinks" ... with the aperitifs then....  alright.  Got it.  And... it isn't really a's actually a loaf.

When I was watching Laura Calder make it (on the food channel) ..I thought it might taste like bacon and cheese scones...and it does..sort of... but, not just any old scones.  More like the ones you make home.... with a lot of thought.. and extra ingredients.  Yummy.
Next time... this same recipe will be scones.  Well, maybe not exact, because it seems I never have all the same ingredients on hand and I don't run out to buy things if I have something that can be substituted.... besides...  those of you who know me.. know how I do love to experiment with my food.

Bacon and Olive Aperitif Cake

1 1/2  cups flour
1 1/2  tsps baking powder
1/2  tsp ground pepper
3  eggs, lightly beaten
1/2  cup plus 1 TBSP butter, melted
2/3  cup olives, pitted and sliced
4 ounces bacon, about 4 slices into small chunks and fried
1  cup grated Gruyere cheese or grated Parmesan
pinch of salt, or to taste
1  TBSP chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

Heat oven to 350F/180C.
Butter and flour a loaf pan.  Sift flour and baking powder into mixing bowl, and stir the pepper through.
Beat eggs into the flour.
Beat in the melted butter.
Stir through the remaining ingredients to distribute evenly.
Spoon batter into the pan and bake 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool slightly.  Slice, and serve with drinks.

I tweaked things a bit::::

I had no bacon so used a couple slices of ham diced and cooked.  Added half an onion diced and sauteed.
Only used 2 eggs and a few tablespoons of egg white.  I used less than 1/2 cup of butter and added a few dollops of plain yogourt to keep the moisture ratio to flour about the same.
We had no Gruyere..and I always try to use less cheese.. so used up a bit of Parmesan and tiny chunk of Gouda still in the fridge from Christmas.  Also a bit of grated cheddar.
I used a bit of chili powder as well as the pepper,...  and some Italian Seasoning... and some sweet basil careful if you do use is a very strong herb and too much will overpower any dish.  A tiny bit goes a long, long way.

We had ours for supper because it came out of the oven at 6:00 .... with a lovely mixed green salad and Orange Vinaigrette...

Wonder what it would taste like toasted lightly ... with a mug of steaming coffee... for breakfast?