delicious meals and mexico

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a whirlwind month that flew by with the help of many a cake, dinner, and of course a fantastic trip to the baja in mexico.  It was a really rejuvenating trip, thanks to good friends and April & Alec Tidey at the Baja Bean. I must post on the food there- fish tacos, cervezas, and the best chocolate cake you’ve ever tasted (April’s family recipe) are a dangerous combination.

I have some lovely dishes to share: maybe the best quick pasta dish you’ve ever tasted, two of my favorite quick weeknight meals (hint: one involves tofu! meatless monday!), an appetizer that will end your boredom of appetizers (anyone else feel this way?!) and of course a few treats. It’s really important to me that everything I share is really a favorite of mine- something I’ve made more than a few times that I love and I crave. That means I won’t be updating here every day- but when I do, I hope you know it’s good!

I’ve applied for a UBC CSA basket for the summer- a basket of produce grown on the UBC farm that I pick up once a week (via bicycle, this could be interesting). Fingers crossed that it comes though- I’m looking forward to experimenting with some greens and new vegetables!

Expect some new food updates soon- for now, hold tight, and make these scones for your momma on Mother’s Day. They really are delicious. http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2011/03/grapefruit-honey-yogurt-scones/

Buttermilk Oat Scones

April 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

With a little planning ahead, fresh scones in the morning are as easy as this:

1. Get your ingredients together the night before.

2. In the morning, cut in the butter.

3. Mix in the oats, buttermilk, and fruit of choice (raisins, frozen berries). Drizzle the buttermilk over, and gather into a ball. Place the ball of dough on the counter, roll it out, and cut it into scone-size pieces.

4. Bake, cover with icing sugar, and enjoy!

Buttermilk Oat Scones

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter, cold (cut into small chunks)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup currants, raisins, other dried fruit, or frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda

Cut in the butter (a pastry cutter works well but a fork will do)

Stir in the oats and fruit. Drizzle buttermilk over and gather into a ball. (It’ll have some loose oats pieces- try your best to keep them in and use a bit of extra buttermilk if necessary.)

Put the dough on a floured surface and pat into about 2.5cm thickness. Cut out with cookie cutters or just a glass.

Bake on parchment paper in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Sift icing sugar over the scones and enjoy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

April 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

It used to be just 400 meters, or google searches (MBC) or subway staircases in China (Luke), but I really enjoy trying to do everything faster. Cakes are not exempt.  Last Friday, I had to make a cake in a pinch and figured it would be the perfect opportunity to prove that making things from scratch really doesn’t take that long. Cake race, it’s on.

This cake may be the best thing that has ever happened to you. If given the chance, it will make everything in your world right again, as long as you have some appreciation of the beauty that is chocolate and peanut butter and more chocolate.

The challenge?  One hour.

Start time: 4:55pm

5:11: Cakes in the oven

5:32: Icing done!

5:51: Cakes out of the oven!

Less than an hour. Would ya look at that.

I don’t advocate for rushing to make cakes- sometimes it’s necessary, but preferably (and especially with this cake recipe, which is a little soft) I bake the cake in advance, wrap each layer twice in saran wrap, and freeze until I need it. It’s easier to level, ice and put together when the layers are cold.

From scratch to fully iced, it’s best to leave at least two hours to put this cake together (not all hands-on time).

If you are looking to get things done quickly, I have a few pieces of advice. Clear your counters (doesn’t have to be perfect), prep your pans, and get your ingredients out first. Double check every quantity before you put in- don’t let speed compromise a cake with two tablespoons rather than teaspoons of baking soda. Finally, turn on some music with a decent pace to it (you should probably also sing along. Baking cakes is fun.)

Here’s how to do it.

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
From my favorite, most used cookbook, Sky High Cakes.

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16. If you’re making it for a smaller gathering, buy yourself two 6-inch cake pans, and make the rest of the batter into cupcakes. You can freeze the cupcakes for any emergency cake situations, and reduce the icing recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate (leave time for this step!), uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. If you’re short on fridge time and having trouble keeping the layers together, stick a few straws through the cake layers and trim at the top. They’ll keep the layers together and no one will ever know! How sneaky are you!

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups.

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Double boiler note- make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Claudia’s Banana Bread

April 6, 2011 § 3 Comments

I think everyone has their favorite banana bread and likely will promise you it’s the best you’ve ever tasted.

I’m not that competitive (ha! who am I kidding)- but this is my personal favorite recipe. Simple, moist, banana-ey, and studded with chocolate. It’s is a super-easy classic that’ll take care of business.

Claudia’s Banana Bread

I always make banana bread in batches of two- easier to share it when you know you have extra hidden away at home!

Mix together: (do this separately or else you’ll get baking soda lumps, and those are the worst. bleh!)

2 ½ c flour (up to ½ whole wheat)

2 tsp. Baking soda

Mix together in a large bowl:

4 eggs

¾ c vegetable (canola) oil

2 c sugar

5 ripe bananas, well mashed (we keep quantities of over ripe bananas in the freezer andthaw them out in the microwave, peel and mash to make this recipe)

1 c pure chocolate chips (or more…)

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until combined.

Pour into 2 greased, floured* loaf pans and bake in the oven at 350o F for about 1 hour. If you use a few cute little baby loaf pans like the one pictured, start checking at about 35 minutes.

Rest the loaves in the pans on a rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before you try to remove the whole loaf. If you want to cut right in, all the power to ya, but it may crumble.

*grease the loaf pan with a block of butter or the butter wrapper. Put about a tablespoon of flour in the pan, and ‘pat’ it around so it coats the butter. Tap out the excess into the sink.

Cinnamon Buns

April 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

“How do you cure a food addiction? For that matter, how do you define it?

Those who feel they are addicted to food… tend to share a number of common experiences, such as out of control eating, frequent high calorie food choices or even binges, secrecy and a sense of intesne, overwhelming craving for certain foods.”

While I do not intend to trivialize mental disorders, this article in the National Post expresses how I feel about these cinnamon buns.

No, they aren’t quick or healthy. But they are damn good and hey, everyone deserves that once in a while. Cinnamon buns can seem a little daunting- but I’ve put together a little executive summary of cinnamon bun making and it’s really not that bad:

  1. Mix up dough. Knead. Let rise for a few hours. (20 mins hands-on time)
  2. Roll out dough. Rub with butter and cover with filling. Roll, cut, and place in buttered pan. Let rise for another hour or overnight in the fridge. (20 mins hands-on time)
  3. Bake (if left in fridge, bring it to room temperature, then bake). While baking, mix up icing. (10 mins hands-on time)
  4. Remove from oven, slather in icing, and do what you must to refrain from eating the whole batch. Or, eat the whole batch.

I very slightly adapted the recipe from Molly Wizenberg- the original is on Epicurious here.

Dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup raisins, or to taste, if you want. (I soaked mine in a mixture of hot water and bourbon first. Highly recommended).

Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Small squeeze of lemon juice, if you want

For dough:

Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky (or just stir at this point), scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with butter, vegetable oil, or non-stick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling:
Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Wash and dry an area of your counter carefully, and flour it.

(Softly!) Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch (ish) rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Add raisins, if using. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Prepare two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray or butter. (Optional: I add a mix of corn syrup, maple syrup, and softened butter to the bottom of the pan. It makes them gooey and wonderful). Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes. (Or, put them in the fridge over night).

one of the few things that look better in the morning...

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. (If you kept the buns in the fridge, let them warm to room temperature first).  While you are baking, make the icing (instructions below). Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For cream cheese icing:
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Apple Cookies

March 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

“These are really good, even for your standards!” -my brother

Sometimes it feels like it’s a struggle of good claudia on one shoulder and bad claudia on the other in the kitchen at around 8pm most nights. I know I should be eating mostly vegetables and lean protein (eat food, not much, mostly plants- thank you, Michael Pollan), but all I really want to do is bake something delicious, eat and share.

These cookies are nice medium ground. And this cookbook helps- Perfect Light Desserts by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim. Delicious desserts made from real ingredients that are under 300 calories- totally doable. Just don’t tell anyone they are healthy-  I swear it makes you eat twice as much.

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce*

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups rolled oats (aka oatmeal- I use a mix of whatever I’ve got to keep things interesting)

1/2 cup dark raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt

Beat the softened butter and white sugar together. Beat in brown sugar, and then the egg. Beat in applesauce and vanilla.

Stir in the flour, then oats, then raisins, one at a time (everyone gets a turn!)

Drop the dough onto a baking sheet with parchment

Bake for 10-12 minutes, so they are no longer shiny on the top but still moist and soft. If you’re baking two pans at a time, rotate them halfway way through to keep em guessing. They may look a little underdone- take them out anyway. It’ll keep them chewy in the middle.

Transfer to a baking sheet to cool (you can do this on the parchment and save the energy).  Store for a few days on the counter or put them in the freezer.

*I have used store-bought applesauce in these cookies a few times, but when I went to make them last night, I couldn’t find any. Not to be deterred, I peeled and cut up an apple then microwaved it for a few minutes. I mashed it up with a fork and threw it in the batter. So much tastier and really, who buys applesauce in the first place?

Lamb Shanks

March 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

This is a really easy, hands off recipe with outstanding results. The lamb was falling off the bone after two and a half hours, and the flavour of the swiss chard/sauce mixture was fantastic.  It’s a great dish to throw together if you have people coming over for dinner on the weekend- most of the prep and cooking happens a few hours before it’s served, and it made my apartment smell delicious!

I cooked it with three lamb shanks and kept the same amount of sauce- if you are doing six shanks, I recommended doubling the sauce (keep the swiss chard to two bunches though).

Directions slightly modified from the original recipe from Bon Appétit here

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided
  • 6 1- to 1 1/4-pound lamb shanks
  • Generous amount of olive oil for the pan
  • 12 green onions, chopped, divided
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) beef broth
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled in your hand
  • Large pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds Swiss chard (about 2 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 5.25-ounce packages bulgur (about 2 cups), prepared according to package directions (you could also use mashed potatoes, couscous, or quinoa)

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.

    Mix flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cardamom, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in pie dish to blend. Coat lamb shanks in seasoned flour. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the lamb shanks until brown (in batches if necessary) about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a roasting pan – keep using the skillet.

    Add half of your green onions to same skillet. Reduce the heat to low and stir for two minutes. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juice, broth, raisins, tomato paste, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon cardamom, saffron, and cloves (it makes sense to mix these all together beforehand). Increase heat and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the mixture over lamb, or add the lamb to the skillet if it’s oven proof and large enough.

    Cover roasting pan/skillet with foil and place in oven. Braise lamb until tender, turning every 30 minutes, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lamb and set it aside aside.

    Meanwhile, cut center rib (including stem portion) from each chard leaf. Cut chard ribs crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Stack several leaf halves at a time and cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips.

    Tilt roasting pan/skillet and spoon off all fat from top of sauce that pools at lower end. Set roasting pan/skillet over 2 burners. Add chard ribs and remaining green onions and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Return lamb to roasting pan. Cover and return to oven. Braise until chard ribs are tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover; mix chard leaves into pan juices. Return pan to oven and roast uncovered until chard softens, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

    Transfer lamb to rimmed platter. Season chard mixture in pan to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon chard mixture over lamb. Sprinkle with parsley; serve with bulgur, mashed potatoes,  couscous, or quinoa.