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Happy Mother’s Day (2017) … Fudgy Chocolate Cake

In many households, dads barbecue to save mom from having to cook on this, their special day. Which you might think is a very considerate thing to do.

My question is … who does the dishes and cleanup, let alone did the shopping, for what gets bbq’d?

Dad?

I DON’T think so. 🙂

For all the mothers (step-mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers etc) out there, I hope you had a great day surrounded by your loved ones. Who show their appreciation to you for all you do, year round.

I made a fudgy chocolate cake yesterday which many mothers would appreciate. Instead of a cake however, I made a dozen cupcakes and two mini cakes that would serve two people. They were frosted very simply with a ganache (whipping cream and chocolate) and there’s a pretty strawberry sauce to go with it.

Strawberry Sauce – makes about a cup of sauce

3 tbsp water
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice (it’ll liven up the flavour of the sauce)

Stir together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the cornstarch mixture, sliced strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.

Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently and cook for a minute or two. Cool for 5 minutes.

Puree in a food processor.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.

I bbq’d a sirloin steak, a large pork chop, several pork souvlaki skewers for the rest of the week and some pineapple rings. The steak was served with a baked potato (cooked in the microwave and finished on the bbq), sauteed white mushrooms and a simple salad.

 

Cupcakes and frosting

 

Meal Planning on a LJ/Blog Post

Sometimes, my cooking plans for the weekend get tossed out the window after going grocery shopping.

I was only going to pick up a few things … chocolate chips for a fudgy chocolate cake recipe I was going to try, butter milk for something. I can’t remember what it was right now. And tahini, black bean sauce and hoisin sauce. I didn’t end up with any of those, other than the tahini. I DID pick up a bunch of things to restock my pantry … cans of baked beans, chickpeas, black beans, refried beans and pasta sauce. A sleeve of jalapeno flavoured tostadas. Ground beef (and a hard taco kit) as well as a tray of pork chops and a package of Canadian bacon. And a couple of packages of potato gnocchi.

So, now I’ve got to rethink my plans for Sunday.

One thing is sure though. There’s a lot of good eating ahead.

PS: I also bought a treat. Strawberry Twizzlers.

PPS: The buttermilk was for whoopie pies which I was going to make before I decided on the fudgy chocolate cake.

Depressing Saturday and a Fun Kitchen Toy

I had Friday off because of a PD day so I went out and ran a bunch of errands. I’m SO glad I did so cause it was nice and sunny and not very cold at all. I had lots of energy. I even made a batch of sourdough English muffins using a new recipe when I got home. The results were ok but too fiddly to repeat so I’d stick with my previous version.

Today is a gray and miserable day and I’m not in the mood to go out.

So, I boiled up a smoked picnic shoulder ham. Which I sliced and made a sandwich with on a toasted English muffin, from yesterday’s bake, slathered with smooth peanut butter. That should tide me over for a while.

And I’m baking a quinoa honey whole wheat sourdough loaf.

I may even post some pictures.

Speaking of pictures … one of the errands yesterday was to Canadian Tire to price their digital scales. I bought a very very cheap one. It does just what I need it to and not much more. The brand isn’t one I consider even middle end, but the price was right. And it was red. (WIN WIN)

Right now, I’m doing a load of laundry while my bread final proofs. I hope tomorrow is a much nicer day.

Easter Sunday (and Easter Monday) Dining

Sorry for the delay in posting … no real reason.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend with friends and family. Four days off seems like a lot but, amazingly, it’s Monday already and they flew by. It was a mild weekend so I went outside and bbq’d a tray of lamb shoulder chops, a package of asparagus and a package of jumbo hot dogs for my Easter dinner. It was all delicious.

Supper – Chickpea soup with a crispy kale garnish and the lamb chops, kale salad, sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Instead of buns or rolls, I used part of the dough from the traditional Romanian Easter bread, pasca, which I posted already, to make a pull-apart braided cross.

And here’s the star of the meal. The cheese filling is an accent not the main feature.

I cut some of the flowers from the front ‘garden’ for my Easter table and though the daffodils are all faded (they were gorgeous last weekend) the narcissus are beautiful, as always. My dad’s plantings are doing him proud yet again.

And speaking of plants, I planted a small egg tray (2 seeds in each of 6 cups) of lavender seeds a couple of weeks ago but there’s no sign of any seedlings yet. I’m not quite sure why I decided to plan them, but I have had this package of seeds for a while so I thought I’d give it another try in the face of previous fails.  UPDATE (04/22) : only 1 seedling germinated. It was never a very successful package of seeds so I suspect there was something wrong from the source.

I’m debating on what else I should plant this year from my collection of seed packets. Mostly herbs since that’s mostly what I have. Basil (Italian and Thai), some shiso since none of the four or so lovely plants I had in the house over-wintered successfully indoors, from the fall planting. One leaf after another dropped off until all I was left with was a bare stalk with faded blossoms on it. I suppose I could have gathered the seeds but I didn’t plan ahead. As to the mitsuba, I have one very leafy plant sitting on the window sill in the entry way. I pinched off the older faded leaves as a new furl appeared in the center and now I have huge leaves on it. The pot isn’t very large or deep but I’m wary of transplanting in case the shock causes them all to drop off.

It seems like the sage plant I bought from the city market has overwintered successfully outside without any type of covering but the rosemary … I’m pretty sure it’s dead. Thyme, oregano and mint plants were also in the pots but it’s too soon to tell if they’re going to come back.

Weekend Cooking Plans …

… I actually have NO cooking plans for this weekend.

I slept in (it was wonderful) and woke to a gray, damp, miserable morning. The sun decided not to show up and after some more rain, I decided not to go grocery shopping after all. Tomorrow, I’ll have to go, but NOT today. I even passed up an anticipated trip to the city market cause I lost my enthusiasm for the outing.

With Easter three short weeks away, I’ve been thinking of making a batch of hot cross buns for Good Friday. Last year was my first attempt at a recipe which turned out just ok. I had higher expectations than something that was no better tasting than I’ve brought home from the local bakery. (Some things they make, just don’t impress me much like their overpriced and underwhelming fruit cakes. And who buys pound cakes at a bakery?)

I’ve asked for recommendations on FB for a good hot cross bun recipe, hoping for examples that people have made themselves and were proud of but, unfortunately, links to google recipes with no personal anecdotes is what was shared. It was disappointing.

For a foodie with a LJ/blog, seasonal/holiday inspiration is welcome especially when falling into the rut of trying to post something new on a regular basis. Depending on how I feel, I may or may not end up making the hot cross buns after all.

My sole cooking (not that I actually cooked anything) in the last few days was putting together a “shrub”. It has nothing to do with shrubbery but I’ll share the results after I go grocery shopping so I can do a proper presentation.

And so you’re not left without something pretty to look at, here’s a picture of a home made cream puff from the freezer, filled with ice cream and topped with some home made salted caramel sauce.

Quick Update

Wow, it’s been more than three weeks since I last posted. I haven’t been busy in RL, it’s just that there’s nothing post-worthy going on in my kitchen as I’m mostly eating out of the freezer. And how many bread recipes does anyone need to see? I bought a package of razor blades and made my own lame cause you need those nice slashes on French baguettes, whether you make them with yeast or sourdough (SD). Took lots of pictures but don’t have a lot of inspiration to post them.

Today, I made SD naan.

A couple of weeks ago I boiled up a smoked picnic shoulder ham, cooked up some navy beans and made a big pot of ham and bean soup. And fried up some of the ham, and eggs, for some pretty tasty brunches and brinners.

PS: Forgot that I also made creamy chicken, broccoli and mushroom pasta and chicken fajitas with home made SD flour tortillas. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale.

I really can’t think of anything else … later.

Some Things I Inherited From My Father

As the years flash by since I lost both my parents, I remember all the things that they contributed to making me the person that I am. I hope that I’ve done them proud.

While my mom was the practical one, who made sure we had clean clothes, were warmly dressed and fed, and bills were paid on time, my father was the dreamer, the romantic, the poet in our household. Not that he didn’t work hard, both at his job as a house painter for a national company which no longer exists, but when he came home he would spend hours tending to his vegetable garden. He always dreamed of having his own farm with horses, pigs, chickens, fruits and vegetables to feed his family. And a vineyard. He wanted to make wine out of his own grapes. Although it was late in life, and on a small scale, he was finally able to have a hobby farm where he and my mom raised chickens and the fruits and vegetables.

And he made a start at the grapes. Unfortunately, by that point he no longer had the energy nor the money to spend on his dream. The vines are still there … The dream is just a bitter sweet memory.

Books

My mother never really saw the attraction of books. When I would close myself in my room reading, she’d try to shoo me outside to play, to walk around, to do SOMETHING. My dad would tell her, “leave the girl alone, books are important too.” I escaped into my books. Into the worlds between those colourful covers. Into the romances, mysteries, science fiction and fantasy stories.

Plants – Flowers and Vegetables

My dad’s favourite flowers were tulips. When we lived in the suburbs, he turned the back yard into a mini-Holland with raised beds of tulips (peonies also made an appearance in season).

Supported by huge rocks he brought into the yard, he covered them with self sowing sweet alyssum. Rhododendrons and azaleas with their showy colourful blooms also made an an appearance.

My own gardening efforts are restricted to herbs I can use in my cooking and grow in outdoor pots.

Music

Over the years, my dad was able to collect a handful of tapes of Romanian folk music that he’d listen to on the boom box I bought for him. But his favourite was opera, in particular performances by Luciano Pavarotti. I managed to record all the specials Pavarotti appeared in on PBS, especially “The Three Tenors”, for my dad. Personally, I’m more fond of light opera in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, but I can enjoy classic opera as well.

Cultural Heritage

My dad was proud of his Romanian heritage, and though he didn’t belong to the local church and community center, where one would normally congregate with fellow Romanians, he wanted us to retain our language and be aware of its history. Regrettably, my brother and I embraced our new country wholeheartedly and all that remains are a few Romanian newspapers and this book kept for its illustrations. I just wish it actually contained the fairy tales it refers to.

Somehow I ended up with all 3 copies of the book. I’m sure one was supposed to be for my brother, one for me and the last for my parents, and eventually for any grandchildren.

Traditional Crafts – Embroidery and Weaving Patterns

Each country has its own costume, usually with a linen shirt or blouse which had been hand embroidered painstakingly and a woven skirt for the women and vests for the men. I’ve never had a loom but the patterns in this book would look wonderful.

Beef Duo – Curry and Individual Pot Pies

NOTE: I made the curry and the duck fat pastry as directed by the recipes in the links … ok, I used water instead of vodka in the pastry cause I didn’t want to waste the vodka. The filling for the pot pies started with the recipe on Allrecipes but I made some changes as briefly noted below.

I made the mistake of freezing an entire tray (2.6 lbs) of stewing beef when I brought it home so I wanted to get creative when I cooked it.

I recently saw an intriguing recipe for Punjabi Beef and Spinach curry which I wanted to make. It’s not a pretty dish when done, but the combination of herbs and spices sounded like they’d make a flavourful dish. I browned all the beef and set aside 1 pound for the second dish, a pot pie.

Beef pot pies are a great way of stretching your meat to serve more people and getting some veggies into your diet at the same time. I chose to do individual pies so I could freeze away the extras for future meals without worrying about the filling oozing out and making a mess or drying out.

Inside the pot pie … I think I need to make a bit more gravy but just adding some more broth which would make the gravy thinner should solve the issue.

I used a recipe I found on Allrecipes though I made some adjustments to the technique including making a roux based gravy, with the liquid used to simmer the beef (~1/2 cup), to which I added a rounded tablespoon of dried French onion soup mix and about a cup of chicken stock.

And, instead of a frozen pie crust, I made a flavourful pastry with some duck fat instead of using all butter.