Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lunch in Wolfville, NS

I am on holiday in the Maritimes! So, just a quick post today, and I wanted to share the great lunch I had at a diner here in Wolfville called Front Street Cafe, at 112 Front St. I want to eat as much east coast seafood as possible on this trip, and the feasting started today with this huge plate of Digby scallops and chips. EXCELLENT! It was perfect! Check it:

Fries were homemade and fresh and the scallops were luscious and lightly breaded.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Halifax for the day. Not sure what I'm going to do there because there are tons of options. But there will be lunch!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Shindig Rundown

Yesterday I had a small gathering at my place as a kind of going-away party, with the ulterior motive of using up as many of my leftover baking ingredients as possible before I move - all part of OPC (Operation Pantry Clear-out). It was lovely to just bake and bake for a couple of days. I realize I've been missing that in my life. However, the weather here was so hot, and continues to be, so it was a tad uncomfy to be in my kitchen for the amount of time I was. But it's OK.

Here is a shot of my spread:

So, on the white platter, top left, we have these rum & chocolate chip blondies, only without pecans because I'd already used them all up. Also on that plate are sour cherry & chocolate chip brownies. That recipe is basically my usual blondie recipe, only I replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/2 cup of sifted cocoa powder. They are amazing!

In the pottery bowl next to that platter (the pottery was made by my super-talented potter friend, S) are these cookies. They were great.

Bottom row, left, we have a rhubarb tart. I made the pâte brisée recipe from Earth to Table, which you can see here. Incidentally, that's the same pumpkin pie recipe I used for the pumpkin pie you see in the bottom row, right, in the photo. It's sooooooooo gooooooood! I love that pumpkin pie recipe! It was a big hit at the shindig yesterday. For the rhubarb tart, I used frozen rhubarb, that, as it thawed, shrunk into probably just less than 4 cups of rhubarb; very annoying. But it was perfect for a tart, and I decided to do a lattice top. The rhubarb tart was a hit, too. The filling also contained 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, and about 1 tbsp of cornstarch.

Finally, between the two fruit pies/tarts, we have a basic banana bread. Very basic. I got this recipe from my friend Anita, who made this regularly when we were in university together. It's been my go-to recipe ever since because it's super simple and super moist.

Anita's Banana Bread

2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1/2 cup walnut pieces, optional

Beat the eggs with a whisk and add butter, brown sugar, and bananas until well-combined. Sift in the flour, soda, and salt until the batter comes together. Add nuts, if using. Pour into a greased or lined loaf pan and bake at 350F for about an hour.

Everyone went home with a baking doggy bag. I'm leaving soon after all - I didn't want to keep any of it.

Up next, my trip to the Maritimes, Wolfville, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, PEI, to visit family, I just know there is going to be absolutely TONS to food blog about! I can't wait!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chocolate Chip & Sour Cherry Cookies

I'm moving to the coast at the end of September, which has prompted me to start Operation Pantry Clear-out (OPC). I'm trying to use up as much as I can so I have less to move. Makes sense, right? Next Saturday, I'm throwing myself a little going away shindig and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bake like a madwoman in order to use up all kinds of stuff. Today I started, and this cookie recipe was the first thing on my list. Originally, this came from Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie, but I adapted it slightly since I don't have any white chocolate on hand (and why would I go and buy it, since OPC is in full swing) and I didn't use slivered almonds (again, not on hand so tough luck). My version is hugely delicious, however!

Chocolate Chip & Sour Cherry Cookies (adapted from Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie, page 59)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup dried sour cherries
1 cup chocolate chips

You know the drill (don't you?). 350F for 15 or so minutes. I got about 3 dozen.

Incidentally, as part of OPC, I also made the blondie recipe right below this post - and used up the rest of my rum! They are very rummy indeed!

EDIT: the cherries are Chukar cherries, and my friend Jodi - giver of great foodie gifts - got them from here.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pecan Blondies...With Booze!

The Good Cookie is a book I bought a few years ago and have not used enough. It's not that it doesn't have good recipes in it - it does - but I seem to always go back to my tried & true recipes and I seem to overlook it. But, in an attempt to reassess what cookbooks belong on my dedicated bookshelf and which ones I can do without - because I'm moving - I revisited the book to look for inspiration. And I found this recipe, which turned out to be just killer. The rum is essential, let me tell you! In fact, I doubled the amount to make these extra boozy! Yeah, I'm keeping this book. I gave the blondies, again, to family members because, again, what is a single gal trying to watch her waistline going to do with a big pan of blondies?

Chocolate Chip Pecan Blondies, adapted from The Good Cookie, page 119, by Tish Boyle

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup amber rum
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9x13" baking dish with parchment paper, or grease & flour it very well.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

3. In a mixer, beat butter & brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla and rum. At low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the pecans & chocolate chips.

4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until just golden brown and the centre is set. A toothpick should come out clean but not dry. DO NOT OVERBAKE THESE!

5. Cool completely, portion, and serve!

Magazine Monday #82: Pumpkin Coconut Pound Cake

In addition to having a lot of frozen rhubarb on hand to use up before I move at the end of September when I move to the coast, I also have a ton of pumpkin in the freezer I really don't want to go to waste, either. I have a lot of pumkin recipes kicking around, and this one I have had in my binder for a few years; it's from Cooking Pleasures Magazine, which I used to get with my membership in the Cooking Club of America. I let my membership to this lapse a few years ago because it was getting too expensive with all my other various subscriptions (which have also gone by the wayside by now, too) but I still have quite a few recipes I've saved I want to try.

I made this last week and gave it to some family members to eat; I certainly didn't need an entire cake hanging around my house, especially as it was my birthday and I knew I was going to have lots of leftovers from my celebration (more about that later). I did take one slice, however, just to taste. I'll give you my critique after the recipe! Originally, this recipe is accompanied by a creamy vanilla sauce, but I didn't do that. I also didn't add the pecans as I had just used mine up in another project.

Pumpkin-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake, from Cooking Pleasures Magazine

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree (I used 2 cups of my own pumpkin puree)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease & flour a 12-cup bundt pan. In a large bowl, beat the butter until light & fluffy. Beat in the sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in pumpkin & vanilla until well combined. Mixture will look curdled.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. At low speed, slowly add them to the wet ingredients. Fold in coconut & pecans.

3. Spoon into prepared pan & bake...about an hour or so, or until done.

4. Cool & serve!

Now I really liked the combination of pumpkin & coconut. I love both flavours and they work well together. But this cake wasn't super pumpkin-y, which was disappointing. The colour was a bit pale. I also over-baked this slightly, so it was a bit dry. My bad for sure. The taste was good and I would try this again, just perhaps with a bit more pumpkin in it and I'd be a little more careful with the baking time.

If you make it, let me know how it goes!

Cookbook Review: Best Recipes Ever

My regular readers should probably know right now that I am a huge fan of Canadian Living, as evidenced by the sheer number of Magazine Monday recipes I post here that come from their magazine. They publish a lot of cookbooks, and I was lucky to receive a review copy of one of their recent releases, Best Recipes Ever. It's a co-release between Canadian Living and CBC, which airs the show Best Recipes Ever, hosted by Kary Osmond. I have seen the show, and it's fairly basic and a tad boring, but they do have great ideas. In fact, it was after seeing an episode on cabbage rolls that I was inspired to email my friend Mr. Anchovy and ask for his mom's cabbage roll recipe, which resulted in my epic cabbage roll day.

The book is very much what fans of Canadian Living have come to expect over the years: reliable, easy, consistent recipes that have mass appeal. I found it refreshing that the book didn't get divided into the predictable chapters of "appetizers", "mains", "desserts" etc., but rather it was organized into categories like "Party Fare", "Meat-lover Mains", "Eggs and Brunch" and "Beat the Clock." It's different, and it's more specific, and it makes sense.

I recognized many of these recipes from the magazine and some of them I'd even made and showcased here as part of Magazine Mondays. For instance, the Curried Pork Burgers on page 105 - which has become a favourite among my extended family - is something I've made and posted here, as is the Blueberry Oatmeals Squares recipe on page 167. There are others I recognize, too.

There are plenty of recipes I am dying to try, as well. The Halibut & Spinach Curry on page 165 look amazing and is right up my alley - halibut is my fave fish! - and the Sublime Mac & Cheese on page 303 looks like it lives up to its name. And it probably will; the beauty of these recipes is that they are Canadian Living tried & tested, and I know from years of making them that they're going to turn out.

One new recipe I tried out was the Rhubarb Coffee Cake on page 281. I have a bunch of rhubarb I need to use up before I move and this was a good opportunity to bake with some. The cake was excellent, and everyone I shared it with loved it. Perfect texture, great flavour - just another tried and true Canadian Living Recipe.

This is definitely a keeper cookbook for me, and if your a Canadian Living fan, or want to be converted into one, this is a great investment and worth some space on your bookshelves.


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