December 31, 2008

Sugar and Spice...

...and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of. 

And so are these great cookies I whipped up!  My friend and her little girl came over, and I swear neither of them could keep their hands off, or their mouths empty.  They're that good!  

These sugar cookies are beyond simple to make.  I believe they are going to become my go to cookie whenever I need something and I don't have the spare time to make up a batch of my beloved Basler Brunsli, after all, these take a fraction of the time!  

These have a wonderful mouth feel.  They are like little sweet clouds that just melt in your mouth.  They give easily, but they don't crumble.  And right in the centre, there is this wonderful chewy surprise.  What a joy to eat, and I can't wait until next cookie season when I can offer these up to everyone and watch people smile as they eat them.

Spiced Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 cups arrowroot starch

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cream together butter, sugar, spices and salt until smooth.  Add egg and vanilla, and beat/cream until fully incorporated.

Mix in xanthan gum.  Finally add arrowroot starch, in 1/2 cup increments.  Beat until a smooth dough forms.

Using a teaspoon place heaps of dough on cookie sheet.  Bake 10-13 minutes, remove from oven and cool.  

Makes 32 good sized cookies.

December 28, 2008

Leeks and Potatoes

After a long week, I am finally beating that cold that hit me Monday.  Why I tend to get sick at the Holiday's is a complete mystery, but with very few exceptions, every time I get really sick, it's Christmas.  Needless to say, I was not doing quite as much in the kitchen as I would have liked.  Thank goodness I wasn't hosting a Dinner!

Finally, yesterday afternoon, I finally felt well enough to make something, to stand in my tiny little kitchen and create something.  Nothing to crazy mind you.  

Just before the darn cold arrived, I had found several yummy looking items in the produce section of our local Planet Organic, and decided that it was time to put it to good use.  Originally I was crazy enough to pull out leeks, potatoes, cabbage, kale, carrots, onions, mushrooms, garlic and green peppers to throw together a simple meal with few flavors.  Yes, I quickly saw the problem with the few flavors versus my multitude of goodies.  Therefore I decided to pick on item, and then choose a few things to go with it.  The Leeks were calling my name, and from there the potatoes and garlic were a given.  I dug around in my fridge for a moment to locate my homemade chicken stock, and a little bit of heavy cream.  As I was putting everything else way, I was hit by a last minute need to keep out an onion.  From this my new favorite soup (yes, a soup that I actually adore!) was born.

Potato and Leek Soup

If you want more servings, just increase this recipe as need be.  I think it would double, triple, or even sextuple (X6) very well!

1/2 small onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup chicken stock, or other mild flavored stock
3 medium potatoes, diced small *I used Yukon Gold
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

In large sauce pot, heat butter and olive oil.  Saute onion, garlic and leeks until fragrant, and golden.  

Add chicken stock, and potatoes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simmer until potatoes are soft.  Mash lightly, leaving most, and stir in cream.  Heat through, and serve.

Simple, yet amazingly delicious, and all that garlic actually isn't over powering!  Of course, if you don't like garlic, leave it out!

December 22, 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

The world must be coming to an end, I'm putting up more than one post in a day.  Heck, that's more than I manage to put up most weeks!  What is the reason for this madness?  A good chunk of Nova Scotia is currently powerless, including my place of work.  Earliest ETA for power restoration, 11:30 tonight, and where I work is one of the lucky places.  Other area's are looking at an ETA of 11:30 TOMORROW night.  Yep, that's right, they're going powerless for two days.  This is what happens when Winter decides to rear her very ugly head, and blow in with hurricane strength winds, snow, and freezing rain.  Tree's have been downed, the landscape is white, and most of all, it's still way to windy out there for much to be happening at the airport.  I'm glad I'm not trying to travel today.  

The good thing here is, I have the day to myself.  The last time this happened, feels like a lifetime ago.  Really, it was just over a week ago, but today it's literally just me and my cats.  My roommate is at his parents, or fiance's, or somewhere.  Not too sure where, and me, I'm all alone in my apartment :)  It's a nice change.  The downside, apparently my body chose today to come down with a bit of a cold.  Here's to hoping that having a restful day will mean that when I get up to head in for an absolutely crazy day at work tomorrow, I'm all better.  Wishful thinking?  Perhaps, but it won't stop me.

So while I wish I was baking and concocting some elaborate meal, I've been vegetating on the couch watching Martha Stewart and snuggling with my kitties.  Though I did stand in the kitchen long enough to whip up a delicious and simple chicken noodle soup.  Within half an hour I had a big bowl of steaming, nutrient stuffed soup sitting in front of me, making my nose run from the warmth.  Now if that doesn't conjure images of sexiness, I don't know what does!  As long as you have stock, pasta and greens (which you could leave out very easily if you either don't have or really don't like), and enough energy to stand for 30 minutes, you too can enjoy some soup.  And on a day like today, even if I wasn't sick, I think I'd have been enjoying a big bowl anyway.

Express Chicken Noodle Soup

3/4 cup rice macaroni, uncooked
2 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
2-3 cups sliced greens of your choice

Cook macaroni in salted-like-the-sea water until nearly al dente.  Drain.

Return to pot with stock and greens.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until pasta are cooked to desired tenderness.

Spoon into a big bowl, and and enjoy the healing properties that can only come from chicken noodle soup.

Basler Brunsli

If there is one thing I love it is a recipe that is naturally gluten-free.  The next best thing?  One that is so easy to convert and make work that even the most novice of us can do it.  These Basler Brunsli would fall into the second category.  In case you are wondering what in Heaven's name is or are Basler Brunsli, allow me to enlighten you.  They are, simply put, a chocolate almond cookie.  But they are better than just something simple, they are delicious.  I find that the thick, rustic texture of them instantly makes me think of my Oma, and her wonderful meals she used to make for us.  You know, those ones that seem too simple and plain to be good, but really are the ones you remember forever.  While Oma never made us any Basler Brunsli, at least not that I can remember, I can easily picture her plunking a plate in front of us and telling us to eat.

I have my new favorite treat, and it is quickly becoming my perfect Christmas cookie.  At least until I manage to find myself a Lebkucken recipe that I can easily convert and will taste exactly like the ones I adore (which may well never happen).  These little gems are chewy and thick with a heavy bite.  I find that your tooth sinks in, and then for a moment it almost feels as though you'll get stuck, reminiscent of toffee!  Right after it gives the rest of the way and you have this wonderful pure chocolate taste.  

I found the recipe I worked from at Nicky's site delicious:days and all I have to say is even though I have never met her, nor her friend (Maike), and most particularly not Maike's Oma, I love them all. [see here for the post]  I have not placed a link back to her friend's post as it is in German and I do not know how many of you read German, though I'm sure it could be great fun to try for those of you unfamiliar with the language :)  Due to the fact that I obtained the recipe in weights, and my tendency to cook/bake in both North American and European measurements, I never converted it to cups.  Hopefully one day I will, and if not, perhaps someone else will and would be so kind as to share it with us all!

Unlike the Nicky's and Maike's recipes I did not use Kirsch.  I have only started building up a mini bar (read I think I have two or three items), and therefore do not have any.  To add to the richness of the chocolate I added some vanilla, which highlighted and warmed the chocolate tones - trust me, I made it both with and without, with is better!  This way, these cookies are also suitable for those of you who do not consume alcohol, gluten, or grains of any form.  Thus they make a great addition to your cookie tray for special diets.  I hope they are as well received by you and yours as they were by me and my co-workers!

Basler Brunsli

150 g dark chocolate
300 g almond meal
75 g unsweetened cocoa powder
200 g sugar
pinch of salt
50 g sorghum flour, extra for dusting
4 egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla

Slowly melt chocolate in a double boiler, taking care not to burn.  When melted remove from heat, and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl combine almond meal, cocoa powder, cocoa powder, sugar and sorghum flour.  

Whisk/beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold egg whites, melted chocolate and vanilla into almond mixture.  The dough is stiff, it might take a little bit of elbow grease.

Divide into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for one or more hours in fridge.  If making dough in advance, you can freeze, and remove to fridge the day before you wish to bake them.

Preheat the oven to 425 F, roll dough out, sprinkling generously and often with sorghum, until between 0.5 and 1 cm thick.  I like mine a little thicker and therefore chewier.  Cut out with a rounded cookie cutter, or in pieces with a knife.  They are a slightly more rustic cookie, so they don't have to look perfect.

Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake 5-7 minutes, until crisp on the outside, and chewy in the middle.  Of course if you are aiming for a crisper cookie, cook longer if needed.

Cool and store in an air tight container.  Watch them disappear.

December 17, 2008

Rice Pudding

In spite of our spectacular snow storm in November, here in Nova Scotia we've been flirting with the continued presence of Fall trying to hold onto every last minute of warmth. I for one have been hoping that for some reason Winter will choose to play shy and not make an appearance this year. Every year I have this same hope, the same dream. I imagine Winter turning into a lovely Summer. I picutre myself able to wander the city, wearing tanktops and my Birks. And just when I let myself truly think that maybe this Winter will be a good one, it goes and rears it's ugly head. For example, at 7 this morning it was -1 C, and we were dropping to our high of the day at -7 C. Our high was lower than our early morning temperature. Am I the only other person who sees a problem with this? In case I haven't already mentioned this, please allow me to do so again - I hate Winter!

What is a girl to do? I can't hide away in a nice warm bed for about 5 months (and that's not really much of an exaggeration, maybe an extra week or two has been added). Nor can I afford to become a snow bird, at least not until I hit retirement age. I'm trying to make the best of things, I have managed to make myself a lovely Advent wreath, and I've been baking up a storm (more of those to come). But none of that warms my soul. But there is one thing, one dish that can do that. It's creamy, and sweet with lovely hints of vanilla. Why, I'm talking about rice pudding of course! Such a simple treat, yet so satisfying. It's one of those great treats you can enjoy hot or cold, for breakfast or dessert. And best of all, it involves next to no work! Mix it all in a pot, let it simmer, and eat. What more could I ask for?

There are surely a million different rice pudding recipes out there. I honeslty don't know if there is another one like mine, the recipe I orginally used was from Martha Stewart, but I left out large parts, and change several quantities. All it contains is rice, milk, sugar and vanilla. Beyond that, it's all mine. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, and that it brings a little bit of warmth to your Winter.

Rice Pudding

4 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup short grain rice

1 vanilla bean

pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot. Over low heat bring to a simmer and let gently bubble away until most of the liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Since I never set the burner to more than low, it took about an hour in total. But if you want to use a slightly higher heat (no more than medium-low) cooking time will be decreased some.

Serve hot or cold and enjoy.

December 16, 2008

I'm not dead, I promise...

...but my camera is currently MIA.  Here's to hoping I locate it quickly and then can start posting again.  Keep yours eye's peeled for rice pudding, macaroni and cheese, two more cookie recipes, and hopefully many more!

Catch you all again soon.

December 10, 2008

Creamy Cashew Rice with Vegetables

I have no story to go with this dish.  You see, there was no inspiration, in reality this was a dish of desperation.  I failed to do a proper grocery run this past weekend, and therefore the pickings are going to get very slim before Sunday rolls around.  Frankly I have images of me eating nothing but plain rice for a day or two...and I have to say, I really hope that does not come to pass.

In my cupboard, when I went looking today, I found rice and cashews, in the fridge onions, carrots and a pint of grape tomatoes, and finally in the freezer I found the ends of a bag of frozen peas.  This is pretty much what I have to work with for the remainder of the week - do not expect any great recipes after today until I've been shopping!  But for something that was hobbled together, I have to say, it might just be a new favorite budget friendly meal. To make it even better, it took me no more than 30 minutes to prepare, cook, and serve.  Who can complain about that?

Creamy Cashew Rice with Vegetables

1 cup arborio rice
3 cups stock
1/2 cup plain cashews
1 carrot
1 onion
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in quarters
coconut oil, or oil of your choice
sprinkle of cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan bring the stock to a boil.  Add rice and cashews, reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice onion and carrot.  Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  When hot add onion and carrot and cook until starting to soften.  Add the peas, and cook stirring until everything is cooked through.  Finally add the tomatoes, reduce heat to low, and leave until rice is ready - giving the occasional stir.

When rice has absorbed the stock, remove from heat and give it a good stir to make sure the cashews are well mixed in.

Serve rice with vegetables over top.  Make 3-4 servings, depending on size.

December 8, 2008

Veggie Quinoa

One of my favorite discoveries from just before going gluten free is quinoa - as an example of it's versatility, don't forget about my Quinoa Muffins. Let me tell you, I'm thrilled that it's one of those foods I didn't have to say good bye to. A little nutty, and with a wonderful bite, it makes a brilliant rice alternative. High in protein and fibre, I just feel healthy and well cared for when I eat it.

When I have a long day, I know I'm going to want something filling, hearty and healthy to eat. And if I'm needing to bring both lunch and supper with me, I really don't want to spend too much extra time preparing it all. Quinoa is the perfect food for this reason. And really, through in some great flavors, a few veggies, and you've got a great meal with very little effort.

Veggie Quinoa

In your rice cooker place 1 scoop of quinoa, and add recommend amount of water. If you don't have a rice cooker, use approx 3/4 cup to a cup of quinoa with an equivalent volume of water.

To quinoa add:
1 diced carrot
1 scoop frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
basil to taste
pinch of salt and pepper

Turn on rice cooker and let it work it's magic. Alternatively, bring to boil on stove, reduce to a simmer and cook until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked.

If desired, drizzle a little olive oil when done, and serve or package for lunch.

December 7, 2008

Veggie Stock

I promised a stock recipe, and I have finally delivered.  Sorry for the absence, however I have been rather busy with three jobs.  Here's to hoping things start to settle back down soon!


Considering that the colder months of the year have arrived, soups and stews are going to be making appearances on many a supper table.  The foundation for many a good warm up supper is a hearty stock.  Chicken stock, beef stock, seafood stock (don't expect to find that one on this blog) and of course veggie stock.  And really, what could be easier, healthy, or cheaper than to make your own veggie stock.  Well, if you eat veggies on a semi regular basis, and you can bring a pot of water to a boil, you can make veggie stock.  

The best thing about the recipe that I use, is that it's not much of a recipe, and you're using things you would normally just throw into your kitchen garbage or compost bin.  And all you need is a big pot, some water, and a large Ziploc bag. 

So, lets get started.

Vegetable Stock

The very first thing you need to do, is start keeping a large re-sealable bag in the freezer.  From now on, every time you prepare some veggies for your meals and snacks, place all the trimmings, peels, and guts into this bag.  When it's full, you're ready to make stock.

Empty frozen veggie bits into a stock pot.  Add: 1-2 bay leaves, 2-3 cloves of garlic (don't bother peeling), a pinch of salt, and around 10 whole pepper kernels. 

Next add 8 cups of water, and make note of where the water level is.  You'll need to know this for later.  I usually just stick a plastic spoon in, and note where it is on there.  Add another 4 cups of water.  Bring the whole mess to a simmer and leave uncovered.

When about 4 cups of water has evaporated - this is why you took note of the water level before - add another 4 cups in, and again simmer down to 8 cups in the pot.  Do this whole thing one more time.  It seems tedious, but it improves the flavour, which is all that one really wants.  Besides, it's not much work, and it makes the house smell like yummy stock.

After the final reduction, allow stock to cool, strain out solids, and pour into containers.  The used veggie trimmings can now be tossed in your compost or garbage, and the stock can be refrigerated and enjoyed.