Thursday, 31 January 2013

Double-Decker Carrot Cake

Even though yesterday was only January 30th, and even though my mom's birthday is February 9th, we celebrated yesterday. My [lucky] parents left for Mexico this morning, but before they left they took me out to dinner last night (well, I picked the restaurant. Oz Kafe... great pick.)

After, I invited them over for dessert & coffee and presented my mom with the first birthday cake I've ever made her- carrot cake with cream cheese. The cake was dense, but super moist and sweet. NO RAISINS! As me, and my mom, and dad prefer...

Her age won't be revealed (although you're welcome to guess)...
Not quite a teenager anymore, although her texting habits would beg to differ...

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Saturday night was date night with girlfriend. This night was the night we had designated to discussing and planning our potential plans to take a trip to New York, and it was quite successful- we booked the tickets! In the midst of all this excitement was a dinner I very much enjoyed preparing. Saturdays, as my only days off, are my days. I do what I want. This usually means I'm baking something new. As you know, last weekend, it was les macarons. This weekend, I'm sick of all the sugar I've been consuming lately. I need to back off on this baking crap for a week or two and pull my nutritious-self together again. I have vowed (very casually) to designate my Mondays-Tuesdays-Wednesdays to be my vegan days. Ever heard of meat-free Mondays? This is meat-dairy-eggs-free M-T-W. Aside from my addiction to cheese, I don't think it will be very hard, as long as I can keep my baked-goods fixation to the weekend.

So what did I make tonight? I tried two new things. I have never cooked beets before. I have also never been a huge fan of mushrooms, but I'm warming up to them, and trying new recipes with them. This one was a good one. I made a cream of mushroom soup with sage and tarragon, as well as a mixed greens salad with roasted beets and warm herbed goats cheese. Want the recipes? Check it.

Mushroom Soup

2 tbsp butter (easily replaceable with oil)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 package of pre-sliced mushrooms
3 cups vegetable broth
~2tbsp chopped tarragon (fresh)
~2tbsp chopped sage (fresh)
1/3 cup heavy cream (easily replaced with an alternative non-dairy milk)

1. Heat butter in saucepan until completely melted. Add garlic and onion and sauté for a few minutes.
2. Add in all the mushrooms and stir well to ensure they are also coated in the butter/oil. Cook for about five minutes, until the mushrooms soften and brown a bit
3. Add the vegetable stock and herbs. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
4. Add cream, and any additional spices you'd like (salt & pepper for me)
5. Using a blender or food processor, puree the mixture and serve :)

Roasted Beet Salad

2 beets
1 tsp olive oil
Salad mix of your choice- arugula/spinach/baby romaine/etc.
1/3 cup diced red onion
Nuts of your choice- I chose walnuts, but almonds, pecans, or pine nuts would all be good.
Firm goats cheese, cut into 4 medallions

To roast beets, gently wash them, rub them in olive oil and wrap tightly in tin foil. Place them in a baking sheet and into the oven preheated to 400*F. Take them out after 45-60 min. You should be able to pierce them easily with a fork.

To remove skins, you can peel them off (they come off easily when beets are soft enough) or slice them off with a paring knife. Note: they will stain your hands. Use gloves or be careful.

For the goats cheese, place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and broil for 3-4 minutes until it starts to melt a bit. Remove from oven, and cut up the medallions (or leave them whole if preferred)

Mix all together and your salad has been assembled. We ate it with a pear-cinnamon flavoured balsamic that I received as a secret santa gift this year. It was a great match.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Des Macarons

Happy Saturday,

I've been meaning to try these out for quite a while now. And I definitely have not perfected them in any way on my first try, but I would not say these were a failure! Although they did have some flaws, they look decent for the first try and taste spectacular. They even developed feet! (Something that can be screwed up easily)

French macarons. Not to be confused with macaroons. Delicate, beautiful cookies that melt in your mouth. While they may seem fairly simple with only five standard ingredients, they are hell for an amateur like moi. In my recipe books, and in the blogs I follow, the macrons recipes have troubleshooting guides with lists upon lists of things that could go wrong in the process. This includes tedious things like;

- The oven temperature was slightly too low
- You did not fold the batter enough
- The batter was over-mixed


Crazy intimidating, in my opinion. But it was time to at least try. After all, there is a first for everything. I am not going to post the recipe, as I am no expert on these at all, however I will direct you to my primary source of information at Sprinkle Bakes Macaron Mania.

So improvements for next time? Reduce my oven temperature; the insides of the macarons were browned, and this does not usually happen.

Use a superfine sugar, as opposed to standard white sugar (which I was warned NOT to do, but they were still edible in my opinion, I'd like to compare though.)

Add more food colouring; though i'm a fan of the pale pastels, I think a bold colour would have been prettier.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year, New Recipes

Happy New Year!
I hope 2012 was good to you.
Mine had its up's and down's, but mostly up's. Highlights of my year included:

  • Being hired at Bridgehead, my favourite 'caffee shaap'. Without Bridgehead, I wouldn't have met some of my very best friends today. You guys are some of my favourites (I came for the lattes, I stayed for the people).
  • A couple particular cottage visits, which involved a tonne of guacamole, drinks, marshmallows, the 'ladder of death,' falling out of kayaks into knee deep mud, a few chocolate desserts, and a bit of skinny dipping.
  • Working up the motivation and commitment to apply to five graduate schools, four of which are not in Canada. 
  • Visiting Xcalak, and meeting more people who have become my favourites! In Xcalak (Mexico), I completed my open water diver cert. with a great dive instructor and the help of a few awesome dive masters. I miss you all and promise I'll see you again within six months! :)
  • Being hired at Keller Williams Ottawa. I really enjoy going to work and working alongside you girls! It is an absolute pleasure.
I think my parents should get an honourable mention for purchasing the best gift I could have asked for. I was lucky enough to receive my very own KitchenAid stand mixer this Christmas. My future baking endeavours will definitely not be any simpler, but this might help.

I think the best part about 2013 is it is so uncertain for me. It could go anywhere at this point, and that is so overwhelmingly exciting. Change is good, I really embrace it, and its time for change. A big one. I just don't know what that entails yet. 

I have definitely enjoyed creating new and fun delicacies this past year, and sharing them with you. I hope I've inspired some of you to try making some new things yourself, to "bake outside the box," and to eat that last cupcake.

Here's to 2013.