Saturday, September 13, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

Homemade breads are one my favourite things to bake and eat. When my friend mentioned the stew and soda bread she was making for her British husband on St. Patrick's Day, I just had to try. (I've had this entry ready for so long!) It turned out to be simple and delicious. Here's how make this hearty and versatile bread.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread (From Let's Dish Recipes)

You Need: (yield: 1 loaf)
4 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

To Do:
1) Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease and flour a round cake pan.
2) In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually stir in the buttermilk until the dough comes together in a slightly sticky ball.
2) Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 45 seconds. Form into a ball and press into the pan. The dough should reach the edges of the pan, but spring back slightly.
3) Cut an X into the dough with a sharp knife, about 1/4 of an inch deep. Cover the pan of dough with another round cake pan turned upside down.
4) Bake for 30 minutes, covered, then remove the top pan and bake for about 10 minutes or until the crust is a dark golden brown.

Serve this soda bread on it's own with butter and jam or as a side to stew or chili. It'll keep for about two days before hardening. As a bonus, the jelly pictured is made with grapes from my boyfriend's father's house. Delicious and low cost!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Simple Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce

We received a slow cooker as a gift this Christmas and I really wanted to try some unconventional recipes. Stews and chili are okay but how about thinking outside the box? As a first experiment, here is a simple tomato sauce. Looking forward to trying desserts in the slow cooker as well!

Unblended, on pasta - blended and ready to go
Celery - garlic - mixture in slow cooker

Pasta Sauce - Adapted with permission from The Humbled Homemaker
You Need:
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 28 oz. cans whole or diced peeled tomatoes
1/4 c. chopped celery (about 1 large stalk)
3 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper

To Do:
1) Saute garlic in a small saucepan with olive oil until the garlic turns golden.
2) Turn slow cooker onto high. Pour in garlic and oil mixture, add tomatoes and celery, then add spices and stir. Let sauce cook for 6 hours.
3) Pulse sauce in food processor until desired consistency. A hand blender would also work well!

Since I discovered this sauce I've used it on spaghetti, chicken parmesan and as a dipping sauce for jalapeno poppers. Tastier (even without sugar), cheaper and less preservatives than a store bought sauce. What more could you ask for? What are your favourite slow cooker recipes?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pumpkin Beet Dog Treats

It's dog biscuit time again! These 'beet treats' as we've taken to calling them are an absolute must try. They've been so popular with every canine tester, even my picky eater. The beet in the recipe adds a natural bright red color which was really cute for Christmas. As a bonus, beet is good for liver health while pumpkin adds fiber to your pets diet!

Puppy Feast

Pumpkin Beet Dog Biscuits
Adapted from Pumpkin Apple Dog Treats from

You Need: (yield 60-70 biscuits)
6 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. canned pumpkin
2 large roasted beets, pureed (easy guide to roasting and pureeing)
2 eggs
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. cold water

Three stages of beet biscuit

To Do:
1) Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
2) In a large bowl, combine flour and cornmeal. Using a wooden spoon to mix, add pumpkin, beet, egg, brown sugar and water. The mixture can be stiff, combine well.
3) Sprinkle your work surface with some extra flour and roll out dough with a rolling pin, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters (or use a glass to make circles) and place cookies on prepared baking sheet.
4) Bake for 35 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cookies to rest for an additional 35-45 minutes. This will allow them to harden and dry a little more which gives the cookies a nice texture.
5) Store cookies in airtight container or ziploc bag. 

This recipe was adapted from a pumpkin apple biscuit, so you can try to swap out the wet ingredients with other flavours like zucchini, sweet potato or banana. It's a low cost and pretty easy way to bake something you know is healthy for your dog.
If you find yourself with too many treats to bake in one night, you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and save for 2-3 days in the fridge. And believe me, you'll be even more popular with your pooch than you already are!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake Scones

Is summer really turning into fall already? I can hardly believe it, but with that thought in mind, I needed to feature some nice fresh fruit. These scones were nice and light and the strawberries stayed juicy. Try these out while it's still berry season!

Strawberry Shortcake Scones
Adapted from 'Fresh Fruit Scones' by Tim Porter and Farina Wong Kingsley 
You Need: (yield: 12 scones)
3 1/4 c. flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2-3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups diced fresh strawberries
large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Whipped Cream
1 c. whipping cream
1. tbsp icing sugar
1. tsp vanilla

To Do:
1) Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and stir with a whisk. Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter. Add the buttermilk to the dough, mixing with your hands until the dough comes together. You can also use the Kitchenaid spatula attachment. 
2) In a separate bowl, tossed diced strawberries in about 2 tbsp. of the flour. Add the strawberries to the flour mixture, mixing with your hand or wooden spoon. Do not overmix.
3) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a circle about 2 in thick. Use a knife or pizza cutter to slice each circle into 6 even triangles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the scones on the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4) Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and whipping cream together. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of each scone with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 22 to 26 minutes, until a light golden brown. Don't be afraid to leave the scones in a minute or two longer, the juiciness of the fruit can add to baking time. Remove from the oven and transfer the scones to wire racks. 
5) Optional  - In a large bowl, beat cream until fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar and beat for 1 minute or until peaks form. Add whipped cream to cooled scones and enjoy!

I brought a half dozen of these to my grandma who loved them because they weren't overly sweet. These are great with tea, coffee or lemonade and enjoyed in the sunshine. You can try this recipe with other berries or juicy fruits, comment if you were inspired to do so!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Cinnamon Buns

To make up for another long blog absence I have a great recipe to share.These delicious cinnamon buns can be made easily in a stand mixer (The recipe is adapted from The Mixer Bible by Meredith Deeds and Carla Snyder) or lovingly kneaded the old fashioned way.  They made my house smell like a bakery and tasted like they were from one too! And even better than a bakery, no pesky raisins to pick out. Read on and enjoy!

Step by Step Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon Buns
You Need: (yield: 9-12 servings) Adapted from Cinnamon Rolls from The Mixer Bible
3 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsbp yeast
1/4 c. homogenized (whole) milk
3 eggs
3/4 c. unsalted butter (cubed)
1 c. lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. pecans
1 c. icing sugar
3-4 tbsp. whipping cream

Rolled, Risen, Baked

To Do:
1) In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. In a large bowl, stir together yeast an warmed milk. (If the milk is too hot (115 F and up) it can prevent the yeast from working correctly. I used a candy thermometer to check my milk, it was 105 F after 18 seconds in the microwave.)  Let sit for about 5 minutes to allow yeast to react, then beat in eggs. Begin adding dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well until fully combined, scraping sides as you go. 
2) a) If you have a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and set to speed 2. Add butter, one cube at a time, incorporating each piece before adding the next. Let knead for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic and no chunks of butter remain. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise for about 90 minutes.
b) If you don't have a mixer, roll out dough on a flat, floured surface. Fold in cubes of butter one at a time, kneading well. The goal is to have layered, flaky pastry. Continue kneading for 10-12 minutes, until dough and smooth and elastic and no chunks of butter remain. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise for about 90 minutes.
3) About 20 minutes before your dough is due to be risen, toast the pecans on a baking pan at 350 F. Bake for 8 minutes, turning pecans halfway through. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a food processor, grind pecans coarsely. In absence of one (I didn't think mine was worth dirtying), use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to coarsely grind.
4) Place brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, softened butter and pecans in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon or electric mixer (flat beater is best with Kitchenaid). When done, it will form a soft paste.
5) Uncover dough and punch down to work out air bubbles. On a floured surface, roll dough out to a large rectangle, approximately 18x11 inches. Spread generously with cinnamon paste, leaving a small border around the edges of the dough. Roll dough up jellyroll style and pinch ends together. Using a sharp knife, slice into pieces (9 for large cinnamon buns, 12 for medium size. Buns pictured are large.) Place cut side up onto greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 60 minutes.
6) Preheat oven to 350 F (again!) and bake rolls until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. While buns are cooling, whisk together icing sugar and whipping cream. The consistency should be like a glaze and able to be easily drizzled from a spoon. Add more whipping cream or a tsp of water until desired consistency is reached.
7) Drizzle glaze liberally over cinnamon buns and serve warm. They're also great the next day but after smelling them baking, you're going to want a warm one.

Unlike my last entry, making these was very time consuming! The end result was well worth it though. The dough was so flaky and delicious, and the buns looked and tasted fantastic.You can also pre-make the rolls and pop them in the oven in morning to save time in the morning. The scent of them baking will wake everyone up and bring them into your kitchen! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Turkey Sliders

Looking for a family friendly dinner? I found this recipe while looking for low cost family meals. It's adapted from Italian Turkey Sliders with Honey Dijon Mayo. These are tagged as quick, and I mean they're quick! They actually baked for less time than the fries I cooked with them with.
These were a big hit at my house and healthier than ground beef, so I think they'll surface again. I think next time I'll bake my own slider buns as well.

Dinner Time! Sliders and Fries.

Turkey Sliders
You Need: (yield: 8-10 mini burgers)
10 ounces (250-300g) lean ground turkey
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
dinner or slider rolls (I bought mine from Cobb's Bread)

Slider Patties

To Do:
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Combine ground turkey, cheese and all seasonings. Mix together well.
2) Shape turkey mixture into small (8-10) patties and place on baking sheet. 
3) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through. Do not overcook.Cool for one minute and serve on bun.

I served my sliders with stone ground mustard, fresh avocado slices, arugula and a pickle. They were totally tasty and a nice lean alternative. We also recently tried ground turkey with spaghetti which was new to me. Any lean substitution reader recommendations? Next time I plan on using cajun style seasoning instead of basil and oregano, so a nice pepper jack cheese or chipotle mayo may work as well. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Potatoes Au Gratin

I've been reading The Pioneer Woman blog for years, and it's one of the greatest out there. I've finally gotten around to trying one of the recipes. It did not disappoint! Read on for a warm, hearty side dish. This bubbly beauty may become a favourite around your house, I know it quickly did in mine!

Hot and Melty Potatoes Au Gratin

Chopped and ready for sauce
You Need: (Yield: 8 servings) Adapted from Ree Drummond's Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin

7-8 clean red potatoes, skins on
2 tbsp. butter
1.5 c. whipping cream
1/2 c. 2% milk
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
1 c. grated cheddar cheese

Pre Cheese

To Do:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a medium sized baking dish or 6-8 individual ramekins.
2) Wash potatoes well and slice about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Leave the skin on, it's tasty and that's where all the potassium is! Quarter the slices.
3) In a small bowl, whisk together cream, milk, flour, garlic, salt and black pepper.
4) Place 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish or ramekins. Pour 1/3 of your prepared liquid over the potatoes.Repeat twice, ending with the cream mixture.
4) Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20-25 more minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and bubbly. Add grated cheese to the top of the potatoes and bake for 3 to 5 more minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Let stand 3 minutes and serve!

This recipe made a LOT of potatoes. However, you might be tempted to eat all 8 servings! They really are that good. If you're not cooking for such a large crowd, this recipe is easy to modify to 4 portions. You may want to try using individual ramekins if making a smaller portion, they add so much to presentation. I'd also suggest adding a foil baking tray to your oven (if you don't already have one) before you begin. I had a decent amount of bubble over in the bottom of my oven the next day! These potatoes heated up well as leftovers in the microwave (about 1 minute per serving) as well as in the oven (15 minutes at 400 C). I served them with a chipotle flavoured pork tenderloin and a spinach salad, and then ate them alone for lunch the next day! If cheesy doesn't fit your fancy, check out the rest of The Pioneer Woman - she has tons of amazing creative recipes just for potatoes. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Broccoli and Feta Pasta

And another month has gone by without blogging! I can't believe it. I still haven't had my computer fixed so that's my excuse (but not a very good one!). Now on with the recipe.
I was a vegetarian for several years, and have decided to do at least one meatless day a week and possibly eventually make the transition back. For this Meatless Monday, I tried a veggie pasta recipe I found on Women's Health Mag. The following recipe is adapted from that source. The broccoli was cooked perfectly and I would really recommend this method, it was quick and painless!

Perfect Broccoli

Broccoli and Feta Pasta (yield: 4 servings)
You Need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
12 oz eliche or other spiral pasta
1 lb broccoli
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese (to taste)

To Do:

Simmering Sauce

1.Start boiling a large pot of lightly salted water. Chop broccoli into florets and discard stems.

2.Heat the oil in a medium sized pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook gently for 1-2 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes (unstrained), balsamic, basil, parsley and red pepper flakes. Increase the heat, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. I consistently used my wooden spoon to mash the diced tomatoes, making for a more uniform sauce. (I would loved to have had a hand held blender on hand, the tomatoes were still a touch chunky for my preference.)
3.While the sauce is simmering, add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook pasta as directed, adding the broccoli to the pot 2 minutes before the pasta is set to finish. Boil the pasta and broccoli together for 2-3 minutes. This should really bring out the color on your broccoli.
4.Drain the pasta and broccoli and return to pasta pot. Add sauce, and toss well. To finish, sprinkle with feta!

As I mentioned earlier, the hit of this recipe for me was really the broccoli. It was such a simple way to add fresh veggies to pasta and the broccoli actually seemed to belong there.The recipe also worked well for leftovers, but portion size could easily be reduced to 2 (just buy a smaller can of tomatoes) if you're not a fan of leftovers. It also was my first time using eliche pasta which I enjoyed. I think the small noodles would lend themselves well to a pasta salad, so maybe that will come up sometime soon.

If you're looking for a healthier take on pasta dishes, check out this blog dedicated to whole wheat pasta recipes!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oven Baked Salt, Pepper and Vinegar Potato Chips

My poor abandoned blog! Unfortunately my laptop is not working right now and the blog is paying the price. It's definitely in need of more attention so I'll be making a big effort to write more. I do have a birthday cake to make this week so that should be up soon.
I made these potato chips on a whim Saturday night. Salt and vinegar chips are my all time favourite, and I wanted to add the goodness of pepper. The bake time on these chips gives them a crispness and a slight chewiness that's just delicious. The base recipe was inspired by The Talking Kitchen. Follow the link for a crispier chip!
Served in a paper cone just like the waterfront!
You Need:
4-6 medium potatoes (I used russet, but any white/gold potato should work)
2-4 c. white vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

To Do:
1) Peel and slice potatoes. I used a mandoline but a food processor or chefs knife would also do the trick. Just remember they should be thin, like potato chips.
2) Place in a large bowl and add just enough vinegar to cover the potatoes and set aside for at least 2 hours. Extra soaking time = extra flavour.
3) After soaking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drain potatoes and toss with oil, salt and pepper.
Use excess oil from the potatoes to grease 2 cookie sheets (just dip a pastry brush in the bottom of the bowl). Place slices in a single layer on the cookie sheet. My five potatoes took about 3 1/2 sheets, so I baked in two batches.
3) Bake for 10-12 minutes and flip. Let cook for an additional 6-10 minutes, until desired crispness is reached. You can try different levels of crispness on different batches! Once crispy enough (feel free to snack on one as a tester!)  remove from oven and agitate chips so they don't stick. Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!
Soaking up that vinegar flavour
This was an easy and fun late night snack. I'd like to use the base recipe to make a rosemary chip in the future. What kind of flavours would you like to try?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Biscuits

Well, the dogs in my life sure are getting spoiled these days. A coworker was looking for items for a silent auction with a dog theme, so I thought it would be a great excuse to try a new recipe while helping out. Cubby and Sputnik didn't mind either! While searching for a popular flavour combo, I found this recipe from Whole Foods, adapted below.

Ready to be auctioned off!
You Need: (yield: about 3 dozen)
1 banana, peeled
1 & 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (can use oat flour for a gluten-free biscuit)
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup dried parsley
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 egg, beaten
To Do:
The extra 1/4 cup of flour makes these biscuits easy to roll 
1) Preheat oven to 300°F. In a large bowl, mash banana thoroughly (use a potato masher or a fork). Add flour, oats, parsley, peanut butter and egg and stir well to combine. (I started my mix with a wooden spoon but finished with my hands to really work the flour in.)
2) Roll out mixture with a rolling pin to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thickness and use cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake until firm and golden brown on the bottom. 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside to let cool completely. 

Parsley, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies
Peanut Butter and Banana - this could be a treat for Elvis's Pooch!
These treats are vegetarian, low sodium and dairy free, if your pet has special dietary needs. Also, as noted above, it's very simple to make this recipe gluten free. I'm fortunate that I'm just dealing with a chubby dog - and one picky one! If you have a picky dog as well, you can experiment a lot with this base recipe. Mint (helps with breath) and oregano can be swapped for the parsley, or you can try applesauce, pureed pumpkin or even peach instead of mashed banana.
This combination was another hit with my dogs though, and hopefully your furry friend as well!