Tag Archives: holiday

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019

I decided to splurge on a pretty pink St. Valentine’s Day cake to brighten up an otherwise ho-hum occasion.

As you can tell, my cake decorating skills are at the novice level. (Is there something below that?) The cake was tasty though … I ate a third of it to confirm that fact.

Profile of the Pink Cherry Cake

Pink Cherry Cake – makes 2 mini cakes baked in 1 cup ramekins

Basic Vanilla Cake for Two recipe
pink gel food colouring
1 tsp Kirsch, substituted for the vanilla extract
2 tbsp finely minced red glace cherries, stirred into batter just before pouring into ramekins

Glace Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to frost 2 mini cakes including filling

2 oz/57 gm gm cream cheese, room temperature
1 oz/28 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp Kirsch

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until smooth. Add the Kirsch and beat in briefly. Beat in the powdered sugar.

Spread/pipe the frosting over the cake.

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German Themed Christmas Menu – Sauerbraten and Gravy, Rotkohl and Gingerbread Cookies

I had planned on a traditional Christmas meal featuring a roast turkey and its accompaniments, but, less than a week before the event, I changed my mind, and decided on a German themed menu. Perhaps because I made gingerbread cookies. Or perhaps because I ran across an eye of round roast while rooting around in the freezer, which had been labelled ‘for sauebraten’. In any case, this is what I ended up with.

For the vegetable side dish, I went outside my comfort zone and chose to try ‘rotkohl’ or braised German red cabbage. I started with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe but added some more vinegar (cider), because the flavour seemed flat after tasting. I also added a heaping tablespoon of home made cranberry sauce. I cooked the cabbage for about thirty minutes until it was limp but still had some chew to it. If you want it more tender, cook it longer.

Braised Red Cabbage (Rotkohl) – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil*
1/2 onion, finely diced*
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp caraway seed
1/4 tsp salt, add more to taste
dash of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded red cabbage
3/4 cup coarsely chopped peeled apple
1-2 tbsp cranberry sauce, to taste

* Substitute with 2 tbsp sauted onion.

In a large skillet, saute the onion in vegetable oil over medium/medium-low heat until soft and just beginning to get golden brown.

Add the brown sugar, vinegar, caraway seed, water, salt and pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until everything is hot, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the shredded cabbage and diced apple. Cook, covered, over medium/medium-low heat 20 to 30 minutes or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.

After 20 minutes or so, taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. If you want a tangier cabbage, stir in some more vinegar. For a sweeter cabbage, add a bit more sugar. For a seasonal touch, stir in some cranberry sauce (home made or bought) and let it melt into the cabbage.

Sauerbraten Dinner  – Yes, I forgot to plate the braised red cabbage until after I took the pictures. I may post the sauerbraten recipe I used in the New Year just for my own records. Until then, enjoy the pictures.

For the starch, I stuck with mashed potatoes, but topped them with ‘sauerbraten gravy’ … crushed gingersnaps/gingerbread cookies stirred into the strained braising liquid from the sauerbraten. To be honest, I couldn’t picture this actually turning into a gravy, so I prepared a ‘beurre manie’, a paste consisting of equal parts of soft butter and flour which can be whisked into a hot liquid until it thickens to the degree desired. It turned out that the crushed cookies were more efficient at thickening the liquid than I expected and, in future I would use half the amount that I used because I had to thin my gravy down a LOT to get it to be pouring consistency.

Cooking the meal was a true learning experience, and, on the whole, a successful one. I don’t know that I’d repeat the menu in the future but, for this Christmas, it was a delicious meal.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving (2018)

Happy Thanksgiving

 

I went a little overboard this year and bought a pre-cooked 5 kg honey-glazed spiral cut ham for my Thanksgiving meal. It cost me $22 CDN and I figure I’ll get at least ten meals out of it so it was definitely a good purchase, price wise.

I had a wonderful lie in this morning, and hadn’t done the math needed to figure out how long it would take to re-heat this monster, ahead of time. It turned out to be almost THREE HOURS, with the enclosed glaze being brushed on for the last half hour. Next time I’d up the temperature to AT LEAST 300 deg or even 325 deg, from the 275 deg F written on the wrappings, because, even after the maximum roasting time recommended, it was still only lukewarm inside. So I sliced off and reheated the portion I ate in the microwave. By this point, it was 6 pm. And I was VERY hungry.

The ham was tasty and moist, but the potato and onion gratin was the star of the show, in my opinion. I started out with this recipe, and then made some changes. Because I was starved, I served myself about one quarter of the dish and by the time I was finished, I was so full, that I almost didn’t have room for dessert.

ALMOST

Cause this was a great looking dessert.

I wanted to make some sort of seasonal fruit dessert for Thanksgiving, but all I had in the house were three apples (Red Delicious) in the crisper drawer, and some blueberries in the freezer. I decided on an apple crumble (with sliced almonds in the crust because I didn’t have any rolled oats in the pantry) with a couple of tablespoons of the blueberries added for a bit of colour. I’ll post my recipe for an individual apple crumble in a future post. As well as for an individual blueberry pudding cake I made.

Potato and Onion Gratin

Potato and Onion Gratin – serves 6-8

1 medium (~300 gm) sweet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick *
1 medium white/yellow (~100 gm) Russet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick*
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced (1/8-1/4 inch thick)
~4 oz (125 gm) cream cheese, cubed
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
4 strips of cooked bacon, thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch thick)

* Use all sweet potatoes or white potatoes, if preferred, or if that’s all that you have available.

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup fried onions

Combine topping ingredients in a shallow dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized baking dish with a neutral oil like canola. (Spray with a cooking spray if you prefer.)

Cover the base of the baking dish evenly with about 1/3 of your sliced potatoes. Scatter about half of the sliced onions over the potatoes. Make another layer of potatoes, and then scatter the remaining onions over the top. Finish with the last of the potatoes.

Place the cubed cream cheese in a medium sized, microwave safe bowl, and warm just long enough to soften the cheese. Whisk/stir in the flour and the dried thyme. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, a bit at a time, until it’s smoothly combined with the cheese and flour mixture. Whisk in the milk.

Pour the cream cheese/broth/milk mixture over the layered potatoes and onions. Scatter the bacon over the top. Put the lid on the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes.

Take the lid off the casserole dish, scatter the topping evenly over the casserole and return to the oven. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then serve.

Picspam: Frozen Perogies and Fresh Strawberry Margarita

Making perogies from scratch isn’t as challenging as you’d think.

I’ve made them … once.

And they were delicious.

But sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to make them so you buy a bag of the frozen ones, especially when they’re on sale.

The default way to serve perogies is boiled, sauteed in butter/olive oil until golden brown

… and then topped with sauteed onions, crispy bacon and sour cream. A sprinkling of thinly sliced green onion for colour (and so you can pretend there’s something fresh and healthy on your plate).

But, you may want to switch things up every once in a while.

Home made or canned chili is a great topping.

Or bolognese. Or a duck ragu. How do you serve YOUR perogies?

And, because my strawberries were getting past the peak of their freshness … I pureed the remainder and made a fresh strawberry margarita. (If my blender was able to grind up ice, I’d have the slushy version of this delicious drink which I first had at the Regal Constellation in Toronto at a Toronto Trek convention.)

Coincidentally, it’s a nice Cinco de Mayo drink if you want something sweet.

Fresh Strawberry Margarita – serves 1

125-150 gm fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup tequila
2 tbsp Cointreau, Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Garnish
fresh strawberry and/or lime wedge
coarse salt for rimming glass
coarse sugar for rimming glass

Run a lime wedge around the rim of a tall glass, or a champagne coupe glass. Dip the glass into a shallow bowl with coarse salt (or sugar), to create a decorative rim. Set aside the glass.

Add all of the above ingredients, excepting the garnishes, to a blender and puree. Taste and add more lime juice or honey, to taste. Strain through a coarse strainer to make sure any chunks are gone.

Add a few ice cubes to a shaker, pour the margarita over the top, shake for a minute or two and then strain into the salt rimmed glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry that you’ve cut a slit into from the base, and/or a lime wedge.

Cinco de Mayo 2018 – Bloody Maria ver 2

I haven’t made this drink in ages but, with a week to go until Cinco de Mayo, it seems appropriate to repost this Mexican version of the vodka based Bloody Mary. Besides, I needed to crack open the can of tomato juice I had in the basement, to make gravy with. I didn’t have any horseradish but seafood sauce is a great substitute. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol so you can double the amount of tequila.

 

Bloody Maria – serves 1

1 oz tequila
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes hot sauce ie. Cholula, Tapatio or Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/2 tbsp seafood sauce (or 1/2 tsp horseradish)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
6 oz tomato juice

Garnish options
Lime wedge or wheel
Celery stalk
Coarse salt for rimming the glass

Decorate the rim of a tall glass with salt by rubbing the edge with a lime wedge and then dip into salt.

In a shaker filled with ice, combine all the ingredients except the garnishes, and shake until well chilled.

Strain into a tall glass filled with ice.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

Italian Easter Ham Pie

This Italian Easter ‘pie’ has many names and several variations as to crust and fillings. This is the version that I decided to make, but if you want to look for others, here are some names to look for:  Italian Easter Ham pie, pizzagaina (or chiena,chena,cena), pizza rustica, pizza ripiena, pizza piena.

Italian Easter Ham Pie for Two – makes 2 4-inch diameter mini deep dish pies

pastry for a pie crust bottom only

140 gm dry curd cheese or cottage cheese or ricotta**
40-50 gm grated Mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten, 1 tbsp removed for egg wash
1/2 tsp dry parsley
1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6-8 slices diced deli meat (pepperoni, Genoa salami, capocollo or smoked ham)

Egg wash – 1 tbsp beaten egg and a splash of cream or milk

** Home made paneer cheese (an Indian dry curd cheese) was used. I got 290 gm (10.44 oz) of drained cheese from 2 liters (8 cups) of milk and 1/4 cups of white vinegar.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out two bases (8 inches in diameter) and two tops (5 inches in diameter) and line two deep dish disposable aluminum pie tins with the bases. Set aside the tops.

Mix together the filling ingredients and fill the pie tins. Press down a bit on the filling to compact it.

Moisten the edges of the bases, put on the tops, seal and, with the tines of a fork, seal again. Place the pie tins on a baking sheet for convenient transfer to the oven.

Brush the top of the pies with the egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the two pie tins to a cooling rack. Cool for 30 minutes to set the filling.

The pies may be eaten warm, room temperature or cold with a salad for a complete meal or on their own for a snack.

Happy Easter! (2018)

Happy Easter!!

Dinner

Cheddar cheese sourdough loaf

Creamy broccoli and potato soup

Lamb shoulder chops, potato wedges and carrots drizzled with duck fat and sprinkled with dry rosemary before being roasted

Creamed spinach served with above

Dessert

Cream puff filled with sweetened vanilla bean whipped cream and trimmings from an Easter fudge

Easter Fudge –  1 pound of chocolate fudge topped by half a pound of pink vanilla fudge, with jelly beans and sprinkles over the top

Pie Crust – Blind Baking Techniques

Lots of pictures but I think the results are worth it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

First, I want to say that I HATE blind baking.

I know how to do it. I HAVE done it. I have a jar of chickpeas set aside for the purpose. A single layer of the chickpeas over a round of parchment paper works pretty well.

But I don’t LIKE the concept.

I’ve attempted the alternative … DOCKING.

Here’s what I started with. Now, using the tines of a fork, prick the pie crust all over. The base AND the sides. (Sorry, I didn’t take a picture.)  And then bake as long as your recipe calls for. Then cool and fill.

And here’s the result … shrinking and bubbling up of the pie crust resulting in a shriveled up pie shell. NOT pretty.

But there’s a THIRD option. I found the technique on the King Arthur Flour website.

Blind baking using  a second pie pan of the same size and laying it over the pie crust.

Then you FLIP THE TWO PANS OVER and bake.

Here’s a picture of a mini aluminum pie plate and a regular sized metal pie plate ready to go into the oven.

After your chosen bake time, flip the two pans back over, remove the pie plate on top and THEN dock. (I forgot to do this in this case.) And complete baking. I covered the full sized pie crust with a round of parchment paper to prevent sticking to the pie plate on top

I probably baked this a bit too long but I forgot that it continues cooking when you take it out of the oven.

Flip/dock or just docking … which would YOU use?