Monday, 29 December 2014

Homemade Hot Sauce

I've been in Toronto for 4 months now and have become slightly fixated on the Fresh restaurants and their dishes. So extremely simple and healthy in their ingredients with an amazing taste. My favourite I order every time now is the powerhouse bowl. Recently, I've discovered that Fresh has cookbooks you can buy-- and I recently got my hands on one for just enough time to copy a few recipes down.

In my obsession with powerhouse, comes a curiosity-- with tahini. I actually have never cooked with it before, but  ever since it was brought to my attention I notice it in every magazine, blog and book I come across. It's like a magical, mysterious, intriguing ingredient that has been following me around begging me to make something with it. Turns out the powerhouse's sauce (which is what makes it so amazing in my opinion) is a mixture of tahini + their house hot sauce, and a few other additions. So, in my attempt at powerhouse, the first step was the hot sauce.

Because I skim details occasionally and fail to take them into account, this recipe is not the exact same as Fresh's-- I omitted a couple things, added in others and substituted for things I didn't have at the time. But it tastes extraordinarily similar, and while it looks a little different from your typical hot sauces, it is guaranteed to please.

+ 4 habanero peppers
+ 1/2 red onion, chopped
+ 2 cloves of garlic
1 inch fresh ginger
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup soya sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp crushed chillies
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin

+ Puree peppers, onion, garlic, ginger, thyme and rosemary in a food processor or blender (add a bit of water if not blending well)
+ Pour puree into a saucepan and add the soya sauce. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.
+ Add balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and all spices-- simmer for 30 minutes.
+ Remove from heat and cool.

TIP: mix a few tablespoons of this sauce with tahini, lemon juice and chopped parsley to create the best, make-shift version of Fresh's spicy tahini sauce-- add to rice or noodles with various beans/tofu/chickpeas/lentils and fresh vegetables.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

No-Fail Fluffy Buttercream

**Image: Birthday cake that I made for my good friend two years ago (ombre petal cake)

For those of you who ask, 'how did you make this frosting?' this post is for you.
It's extremely easy and no different from any other buttercream recipe, however it is a lot easier if you have a stand mixer (KitchenAid)

+ 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
+ 2 cups of icing sugar
+ 1 tsp vanilla extract OR any other flavour you would like to add
  (I like to use vanilla beans-- and I swear by this website for ordering beans/extracts) 
+ 2 tsp milk/cream 

+ Place the butter in a stand mixer fitted with an paddle attachment and beat at medium-high speed for about 8 minutes-- yes! 8 minutes. The butter will get very fluffy and lighten over this time. If you are doing with with a hand-held mixer, your arm might hurt a bit after, but it's still totally sufficient.

+ Add the icing sugar. If there are a lot of clumps in it, sift it first with either a sifter or by tapping it through a mesh strainer into the bowl. Beat for another 2-3 minutes.

+ Add your flavour of choice + milk + any colouring you want the icing to have. Beat for another minute or so (or until colour is uniform throughout)

Tip: If you need more icing, use about 2 cups of butter and 4 cups of icing sugar. This recipe is enough to frost just over a dozen sugar cookies. You would need to double it for a cake or cupcakes. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Cauliflower "Hot Wings"

I've been meaning to try out this recipe for a while. So, when I found myself with a head of cauliflower in the fridge and not knowing what to do with it, this was the first thought that came to mind. I've got hot sauce (sriracha), and I've got flour-- that's about all you need!

I found this recipe on pinterest, but made some modifications. These babies could easily be made vegan (sub in a butter replacement) and would be an awesome party dish.

+ 1 head of cauliflower
+ 1 cup of flour (I used whole wheat! …trying to be healthy)
+ 1 cup of water
+ Seasonings of your choice (mine= salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder)
+ ~1/4 cup hot sauce (Frank's or sriracha work well)
+ ~2 tbsp butter
Optional: Ranch for dipping

+ Preheat oven to 450F & line a baking sheet with tinfoil.
+ Cut the head of cauliflower into individual florets, set aside.
+ In in a small bowl (I actually used a large mug to be able to dip the florets in deeper), mix together flour and water. Add in your seasonings of choice, and perhaps a splash of hot sauce.
+ Dip each floret into the batter, shake it off, and place on the baking sheet.
+ Bake for about 15 minutes. While it's in the oven, melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in the 1/4 cup of hot sauce.
+ After the 15 minutes in the oven, remove cauliflower & brush on hot sauce mixture. Return to oven for an additional 10 min.
+ Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, and serve with ranch :)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Peanut sriracha tofu

So I found this tofu recipe on pinterest this week that looked amazing. And I had about 1/3 of the ingredients necessary… so I completely winged it. And ...! Amazing meal !… (I'm fairly impressed with myself). Honestly you are going to laugh because it is the most compromised recipe, salvaging random things in my cupboard and ignoring many of the important ones the recipe instructed to use. But I thought hey, sriracha will probably mask the taste of most of these things anyways, or at least subdue them enough to make it seem as if I used the proper substances. And it worked. It's actually so damn good.

**(i.e. things I used-not things the recipe instructed me to use-- feel free to substitute my somewhat questionable items with fresher or more appropriate ones)

For the TOFU:
+ oil for frying the tofu (I used grapeseed)
+ extra firm tofu
+ 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
+ IF you have fresh ginger- use some of that. I did not, and substituted a sprinkling of ginger powder…
+ lime juice from that random wedge in the fridge you've been meaning to use in something for a week

For the SAUCE:
+ 2-3 tbsp of peanut butter- the recipe called for plain all natural… All I had was honey flavoured peanut butter, so yes, I used that-- it still tasted A-OK.
+ 2-3 tbsp of sriracha
+ 2-3 tbsp of water

Optional additions:
+ More lime
+ Chopped green onion

Things I did not use that the recipe called for:
- soy sauce, rice vinegar, fresh ginger, agave nectar, vegetable stock

+ PRESS the tofu! This is an important step! One of the most important steps! If you do not press your tofu, it will taste like bean mush. I just wrap it in paper towel, set it on a plate and pile cookbooks on top. Leave it for about 10 minutes. Then cut it into thick strips.

+ Heat the oil, garlic, ginger and lime juice over medium heat and add the tofu. Fry the tofu until it is well browned on all sides and slightly crispy.

+ While the tofu is cooking, combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

+ When the tofu has browned and is a good, appetizing texture-- add the sauce. Mix it around and let it cook for a minute or two more, before removing from heat.

+ Serve with lime and green onions. Cilantro would probably be good too.

Holy easy dinner.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Plum poppyseed muffins

Happy warm September Saturday. Today is a chill day dedicated to baking things to store in my freezer for on-the-go breakfasts for the next couple weeks. I started with these plum poppyseed muffins.

To be honest, plum & poppyseed wasn't the most enticing of choices to begin with, but it's by smitten kitchen, and I trust her more than you know. She has my food heart. Plus, they're more complex than just muffins filled with plums and poppy seeds; they also contain nutty browned butter, sour cream, cinnamon and nutmeg. These flavours unite to form something pretty spectacular. I'm impressed, as always.

Swoon over more of smitten kitchen at her blog.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, browned & cooled
2 large eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sour cream OR greek yogurt (preferably full fat)
1 1/2 cups AP flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp poppyseeds
2 cups of pitted & diced plums - any variety, but I used 'italian prune plums'

Browned Butter- Directions
+ Add butter to a saucepan on low-medium heat and stir to melt
+ Butter will melt, then foam, then turn a brown colour- this may take a bit, be patient
+ Be careful to continue to stir and do not walk away from it- it can burn fast
+ Take off the heat and allow to cool

+ Preheat oven to 375*F and either line muffin tins with papers or butter them
+ Whisk together eggs and both sugars
+ Add in the browned butter and sour cream and mix well
+ In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & poppyseeds
+ Stir mixture well and stir it into the wet mixture
+ Fold in the diced plums
+ Bake for 15-18 min, or until slightly browned on top

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Quinoa "Meat" Balls

Six months and no post. It's a record, but now that I am finally settled in my new apartment in Toronto, I thought I might utilize some of the natural light here and begin posting again! Here's to not living in a basement anymore!

This Spring/Summer have been packed with studying, travelling, packing, moving and lots of good-bye's. I'm settling into my new home, program, and campus quite well… and eating and drinking almost everything new and exciting within my reach. Slowly but surely I will discover the countless neighbourhoods Toronto offers, and every foodie-spot within (unlikely actually but I'm going to try).

This recipe is awesome and completely adaptable to exactly what you need. Here, it's paired with pasta and tomato sauce, but I've also eaten them on their own, or as a meatless meatball sandwich. You could easily alter the veggies and herbs to suit another dish as well (apple sage?… jalapeño cilantro?)

To be honest, I don't measure anything in this recipe. I eyeball everything and it always works out. If it's too wet, add breadcrumbs, if it's too dry, add more egg/some oil. The quantities below are approximate.

~2 cups cooked quinoa
~1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind works)
1/2 cup diced onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp tomato paste/marinara sauce (whatever is on hand)
A sprinkling of basil and/or thyme and/or chill flakes
1 egg
~3/4 cup breadcrumbs

+ more tomato/marinara sauce to coat them in after
Optional: parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

Preheat oven to 350*F

First, sauté the garlic and onions and mushrooms in a frying pan with the olive oil. Add in the tomato paste/marinara sauce. Add the herbs.

When the onions and mushrooms have softened considerably, take it off the heat and scrape the contents into your bowl of prepared quinoa. Mix well.

Add in the egg and breadcrumbs and mix-- adjust quantities so that you have a texture that is easy to work with-- you need to be able to roll them into balls and have them stick together.

Using your hands, roll mixture into balls (about 1-2 inches across) and place them into a muffin tin-- this keeps them from rolling around in the oven. Once the muffin-tin is full, bake them for about 15-20 minutes. They should be a bit browned when you remove them.

Proceed to put them back in your frying pan, add the tomato or marinara sauce and cook on medium heat until the "meat" balls are well coated and the sauce has had a chance to heat up and soak in a bit (about 5-10 min).

Serve over pasta! Or in a sub! Or by themselves!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Grapefruit Curd & Blackberry Filled Eclairs

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Good morning, Saturday!

In my recent days (read: weeks) procrastinating, I have been doing so by baking more. I fell off the horse for a while but I've managed to pull myself back on, if only temporarily. The stress that comes with having two online courses you're falling behind in + waiting for responses from five grad schools would drive any normal, functioning person to some sort of madness. For Emily, that's usually baking madness.

I've had a recent fixation with pink grapefruits. They've become one of my favourite things these past couple months as I wait out this long, long winter of ours. They're perfect, because although they're a winter fruit, they're bright, and vibrant and sassy and PINK. You just can't beat that when everything else is so grey.

So I got to thinking. I've seen lemon curd; that's a classic. And I've seen lime curd. and cranberry curd. Why not grapefruit curd? ... So I made some. I have to say, the sugar to juice ratio might be a bit off, considering the sweetness is almost overpowering of any grapefruit. But, it's still there. Next time, I'd just take the sugar down a notch or two.

What better way to use grapefruit curd than to stuff some eclairs and lighten them up a bit from the traditional heavy cream and chocolate. This is my first attempt at eclairs and they turned out lovely. It's really much easier than it looks, and doesn't take very long. I suggest giving it a shot.

The recipes I used were both from SprinkleBakes (I have her book- you should too.)

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Strawberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

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I know I always mention how it's been so so long since my last blog post but this time really takes the cake (heh). It's been two months! I have my reasons. While I have been cooking and baking just as often as usual, I am rarely documenting it, because of how busy my life has become. Let me explain:

I am currently working full time, dog-sitting, taking two university courses online, just finished applying to five grad schools, have taken up hot yoga twice a week, and am also trying to maintain some resemblance of a social life. I think so far I am succeeding admirably, and to be honest- I do enjoy my life this way. I like filling every minute with being productive, whether that means memorizing all the bones of the human body for a test or baking a cake. I strive to be productive every day, and I feel like I need to be to feel accomplished after a day, or a week. So cheers to a busy schedule.

Today, however productive, has not been filled with the usual school work. In fact, my coffee shop friends are probably confused as to why they don't see me hunkered over my laptop for eight hours today. But sometimes your brain just needs these breaks. So cheers to breaks as well, and cheers to cake breaks specifically.

I took this recipe from Averie Cooks, and made a couple slight adaptations. Overall, it is very simple and very adaptable to suit your needs & cravings. I used strawberries, as did the original recipe, but I suggest (and so does she) that you could also use any other type of fruit you'd like, or a mixture. Blueberries, raspberries, peaches, etc. would taste great in this. I also recommend sprucing it up a bit with some vanilla bean if you have any kicking around. I'm all out, but otherwise I would have.

For the Cake
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream** 
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups frozen or fresh strawberries, halved and loosely packed
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling

*Modification: The original recipe only called for one cup of flour, but the batter seemed too soupy to me, so I added 1/3 cup more.
**Modification: I used full-fat vanilla greek yogurt.

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Glaze
about 3 ounces (about 1/3 cup) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar OR about 1 cup confectioners' sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl and hand mixer), combine dry ingredients until well mixed, add all wet ingredients except fruit. Mix on medium speed for 1-2 min. Scrape down sides of the bowl and continue to mix until well incorporated. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
  3. Arrange strawberry slices uniformly over the top of batter (looks like a lot but they sink down and shrivel while baking).
  4. Evenly sprinkle with 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar.
  5. Bake at 400F for 30 minutes.
  6. Lower the temp to 375F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake is golden and is set in the centre (use a toothpick or knife to ensure the batter is not wet still)
  7. Allow cake to cool in pan for about 10 minutes before removing from pan and turning out onto a rack to cool completely. While the cake cools, make the glaze.
  8. For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Glaze - Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth, either with a whisk or a mixer. 
  9. Drizzle glaze over cake in big ribbons, going up and back, over the surface. I did this, and then ate what remained with a spoon- trust me, you will too.