Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cooking with Betty Crackpot: Apple Crisp

This is one of the easiest, satisfying desserts you can make and the versatility with it is huge.  I chose to make this particular recipe because my young, almost eight year old roommate, R, had claimed that she'd never had apple crisp before.  If she had, she said it wasn't that memorable.  Well, I wanted to change her life with a memorable apple crisp and I thought Betty would for sure come through for me, since this is a basic, but delicious recipe.  NOTE: I don't normally make my crisp this way, but whatever.  I stayed true to the recipe for the sake of the series!

Apple Crisp, from page 177 of Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 1969 version

4 cups sliced pared tart apples (about 4 medium)
2/3 - 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

Heat oven to 375F.  Grease square pan, 8x8x2".  Place apple slices in pan.  Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly.  Sprinkle over apples.  Bake 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown.  Serve warm and, if desired, with light cream or ice cream.

I thought this was pretty good.  It was definitely crispy and crunchy.  The flavour and texture was great.  I served it with a bit of whipping cream.

R's verdict: it was "OK."  Well, I guess I didn't change her life after all. 

R's mom, T, loved it though.  We almost ate the whole pan that night.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lunch at Characters Taverna

Last weekend here on the Wet Coast was gorgeous weather-wise, and perfect for patio eating.  I went into the city to hang with my SIL for an afternoon, and she really fancied Greek food.  There is a string of Greek places on Davie St. in the Thurlow area.  I'd eaten at one and had a bad experience, but I couldn't remember which place it was (there are two within a couple of doors of each other), so we thought we'd try out a place I knew I hadn't eaten at yet, Characters Taverna, right on the corner of Davie & Thurlow - 1103 Davie St. to be specific.  It had lots of patio space and seemed to have a good menu, so Shan and I found a shady spot and were attended by an older gentleman who was very kind and who, whenever he came to serve us, called us his "beautiful ladies."  We were amused and thought this was rather charming.

Starting off by quenching our thirst with nice iced tea, Shan decided to order a calamari starter.  And it was great!  We really liked the extra thick, extra yogurty tzadziki sauce the dish was accompanied by.  It was a very good starter.

We both decided to order the chicken souvlaki lunch, which, for $10 came with Greek rice, lemony roast potato, Greek salad, and pita bread.  OMG, the souvlaki was one of the best I've ever had!  It made me miss chicken, which I haven't been buying much of lately because it's so expensive.  This souvlaki was grilled to juicy perfection, and seasoned with lemon, garlic, and oregano in just the right amounts.  It was amazing!

Although I was full, I did get pulled into desert.  The server recommended Ekmek, which was described as a Greek tiramisu.  The description said it was "vanilla custard over orange soaked wheat biscuits, topped with freshly whipped cream and roasted almonds."  So I caved.  And man was it ever good!  It was light and not too sweet, and yes, did remind me of a tiramisu in a way.  I am definitely going to have to find a way to make this at home!

So, the food at Characters was fantastic, and so was the service.  The prices were very reasonable for lunch and the setting was very lovely.  I would definitely go back again.  Besides, I didn't mind being called "my beautiful ladies" at all! :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cooking with Betty Crackpot: Ranger Cookies

This is another childhood recipe we made when we needed a change from chocolate chip cookies - or wanted cookies in addition to chocolate chip cookies.  Ranger Cookies (I have no idea where the name came from) have a great texture since they have a bunch of textured ingredients in them, like the corn flakes (which we used instead of Wheaties) and coconut.  As the recipe says in its intro, these cookies are chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  Until the other day, I hadn't had these in years, and again, tasting them gave me a feeling of nostalgia.

Ranger Cookies, from page 135 of Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 1969 version

1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup Wheaties or Total (like I said, I used corn flakes)
1/2 cup shredded coconut

375F oven.  Cream, combine, scoop.  Bake about 10 minutes or until golden.  Yield is about 3 dozen.  I got about 2 dozen since I wanted a bit larger a cookie.

Awesome!  Good old corn flakes!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Latest Bagels

Last weekend I made another batch of bagels and I have to say this was the best batch yet.  Previously, I amended the recipe to make 12 bagels instead of 10.  I said in that post that the next time I make bagels, I'll weigh the dough out and divide it by 12, and that's what I did.

The dough weighed 1.29kg and for 12 bagels, it came out to 108g per bagel.  Doing it this way made a huge difference.  The bagels were way more uniform in size, which made them much easier to shape.  And instead of shaping by poking a hole and then rubbing the hole between my palms, I focused more on stretching the dough instead.  As you can see, I got smaller holes in the middle, but I'm not overly concerned about that.  They're easier to make sandwiches out of if they don't have a huge hole in the middle.  The last change I made to this recipe was to skip the pepper altogether, and I have found that I prefer the pepper-less ones.

This has definitely been a learning process and finally I am getting these puppies to the place I want them to be!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Cream of Tomato & Dill Soup

This is the soup I made the other night that I made the cornbread to go with.  I've made this before and it's so easy and delicious...And I really don't even like tomato soup that much.  The aroma from this was so tantalizing that my roommate was drawn from a rather important phone conversation to come into the kitchen demanding to know what I was making that was torturing her so!

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo - my bad.  I don't know where my brain was because I did take photos of the cornbread.  Oh well!  Here is the recipe.

Cream of Tomato & Dill Soup

2 lbs tomatoes, peeled, then roughly chopped (de-seed if you feel like it; I didn't)
4 cups water, with an adequate amount chicken boullion dissolved in it (use veggie stock if you don't want to use chicken stock)
1 carrot, 1 onion, and 1 stalk celery, chopped
dill, to taste
1 cup half & half cream (10%)
2 - 3 cloves garlic, or to taste, grated

Saute the carrot, onion, and celery until soft.  Add tomatoes and water/chicken and bring to the boil. Add dill.  Simmer until all the veggies are soft. Add more dill as you feel necessary.  With an immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor or blender, whiz until smooth but still has texture; don't puree.  Add garlic.  Finish with cream and serve.

Sooooooooo good, let me tell you!

And I did a food pricing breakdown, too.  This soup cost me about $0.85/serving.  Way better than canned!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Cooking with Betty Crackpot: Corn Bread

I needed something to go with a killer soup I made the other night (recipe upcoming) and decided to make cornbread.  I love things made with cornmeal.  My mom had a great recipe, but I doubt it came from Betty because this was underwhelming.  I even have a way better recipe. 

In typical Betty Crocker cake-ish fashion, you just dump everything into a bowl and beat the crap out of it.  But that wasn't the problem; it was just not very interesting.  I will admit to over-baking it slightly, which might have accounted for the dryness, too.  But, still, I don't think I'll be making this again.

Corn Bread (page 49 of Betty Crocker's Cookbook)

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/4 shortening or butter (I used butter)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F.  Grease or line with parchment paper an 8x8" square baking pan.  Throw all ingredients in a bowl and beat the crap of out them ("blend for 20 seconds.  Beat vigourously for 1 minute").  Pour into pan and bake 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown.

There are two variations.  The first is to make this into 12 muffins.  The second is "Double Corn Bread" which directs the baker to prepare a 9x9" pan, use 2 eggs, and stir in 1 can (7 - 8 oz) whole kernel corn, well-drained, into the batter.  This actually appeals to me more than the regular recipe.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Grapefruit Scones

I have a confession: I love Cobs - love it.  And I live within walking distance of one, which is both a blessing and a curse!  They have great baking and great breads.  I love their cinnamon buns and I really love their scones.  I was walking by there the other day while running errands at the mall and of course I had to go and stare longingly at their products...but on a budget, I couldn't justify purchasing any scones, but I knew I had scone ingredients at home, so when I got home I got busy.

I have a great recipe for scones that has garnered me a lot of compliments over the years.  It's a lemon scone recipe that I've changed up to become orange scones, orange & blueberry scones, and probably some others.  Since I love baking with citrus, I decided to go with that theme again and make...grapefruit scones.  I did, after all, have a bunch of very nice, large ruby reds on hand.

Here is the scone recipe.  I have no idea where it originated, but I've had it for ages.

Lemon/Orange/Grapefruit/Citrus Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup cold butter, cubed
2 eggs
1/3 cup 10% cream
1 tbsp finely grated citrus zest
1/4 cup citrus juice

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in butter and sablé with fingers until mixture is crumbly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, zest, and citrus juice.  Pour over dry ingredients and gently incorporate until you get a sticky dough.

Turn out onto a well-floured surface.  With floured hands, form into a ball and knead gently 8 times.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Pat into a circle 3/4" circle, then cut into 8 wedges.  Do not separate.

Glaze options: brush with citrus juice & sprinkle with sugar, or as I did, brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with citrus-flavoured sugar.

Bake at 350F until golden.

For the citrus sugar, I had 2 grapefruits zested.  I used half of the zest in the scones and shook the other half in a container with about 1/2 - 3/4 cups of sugar until well-combined (I credit my friend Jodi for giving me this idea).

These turned out great, though the scone itself could have used more grapefruit zest.  But they were a hit with my roommates!  The grapefruit sugar topping was awesome.  These scones are not the texture of Cobs' scones, which are more doughy.  I'm not sure which I prefer, but you can never beat homemade scones right out of the oven, that's for sure.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Cabbage Rolls

I had a hankering for these last week, and having some energy, I decided to get the ingredients and make them.  I also had a desire to start stocking my freezer with pre-portioned meals because lately my appetite has been up and down and sometimes I really don't feel like cooking.

Remember my epic cabbage roll day?  This is what I was kind of going for, only the cabbages at my local Wally World (where cabbage prices were the least expensive in my neighbourhood) were huge, so I only got one.  Turns out I could have used a second cabbage because I had enough ingredients to double the recipe.  Oh well.

This meal was interesting because I actually found a decent real butcher at Guildford Meats in the Guildford Mall.  Great find!  The butcher ground me up some fresh ground pork and even had something on hand called "bacon #2" which appeared to be the ends and scraps from bacon.  It was a great price so I got half a pound.

Again, I kept track of pricing.

3/4 lb ground pork = $2.67
3/4 of 1/2 lb of bacon #2 = $1.82
1 large cabbage (the sucker weighed over 4.5lbs!) $2.17
green pepper = $0.49
1 large can Heinz tomato juice $2.87
3/4 lb ground beef (1 lb = $3 at Wally World) = $2/25
rice, salt & pepper, and onions = I have no idea
total price excluding rice, salt & pepper, and onions = $12.27

I got 16 cabbage rolls, so that equals $0.76/roll or 8 servings at $1.53/serving.

I basically followed the method I got from Mr. Anchovy, which is outlined in the epic cabbage roll post.  Turns out I should have re-read that post before starting out because I had the same issue with mushy rice that I did that last time, and that really disappointed me.  Next time, par-cooked or raw rice!  Also, I found the tomato juice too thin as a sauce...Next time I might do a tomato juice-tomato sauce combination for a slightly thicker, richer sauce. 

All in all, not bad, but definitely needs improvement.  I was actually going to skip the bacon, but I'm glad I didn't because it adds such great flavour to the rolls.

My freezer is looking a little more full these days, which is a good thing!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin