Sunday, May 30, 2010

Help! What do you Think???

Yes I know......a few weeks ago I started cutting squares from 20 or more vintage sheets to put together for a little vintage quilt project......and shortly after that I did sew them up for the quilt top.  But not much has happened with it since then so this is where it's at.  After much deliberation........I decided to not make it any larger as I am going to be sending it off for a baby gift.  (Right now it is 40X50 inches or 100X128cm)  Now my problem is to decide which colour would be best to use for a binding around the edge....any ideas???  I was thinking green.....but quite honestly, I could change my mind....hhhhmmm.
 And it's hard to accomplish much inside when there's so much going on outside:)  The  pale pink peonies are getting ready to blossom....I'm so excited.....they are one of my favourites.  And the black currants are making berries too:)
I am hoping that they will make a delicious syrup for waffles and pancakes later this summer:)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lovely Cream Puffs

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.
Cream Puffs are something my mom finds a bit of nostalgia with.  Gramma had made lots of them when mom was growing up.  In fact when I was little....cream puffs were what my mom sent me to school with when we had class parties.  Always light and delicious and filled with yummy whipped cream.  It was on my mother's last visit out about a year ago that she made some for me to take to school for a PAC meeting at the school.  Well here we are again....more cream puffs....and I'm not complaining.  The recipe provided is very similar to the one used on mom's last visit and turned out quite nicely.  Just to try something different....this time I filled them with one of the filling recipes provided.....a vanilla pastry cream and drizzled the lot with a chocolate glaze recipe for glazing chocolate dipped donuts.   They were just as delicious as we had all expected, and I look forward to making them for Ike to bring to school some time:)  If you have a hankering to try are the recipes. I made only a 1/2 batch of cream puffs and made them quite small...they baked up about 38 puffs about 1 1/2 inches across.  You will need a full batch (double what is written) of the filling to fill a half recipe of cream puffs, and I found a half recipe of the chocolate glaze was more than enough to drizzle over a half batch of puffs.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Chocolate Glaze
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, then add vanilla.
  2. Spread warm glaze over top of cake, letting it drizzle down the sides.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just an Ordinary Day

It's no surprise....I suppose, that as usual things are piling up here.  There never seems to be enough hours in a day and the list of "I'd like to"......continues to grow.  It's seems that I have big plans and poor follow through, which quickly spirals into a sense of drowning in day to day life.  I am trying to finish up little projects and keep up with the my seemingly self messing house.....and making a bit of progress.  
So here's what I've been up to....
I did manage to finish the knit along that I took part in......and actually finished it on time too....although I had not until now posted the photo.  While I don't, myself, use these knitted dish clothes......I do unload them onto people who do (and some who might??)  Let me know if you'd like one, and I'll set one aside.  They are nice and quick, and the whole idea of the knit along was quite fun:)
I've also been thinking about (and actually started to do) something with this little broken sugar bowl and today I finally started.......any ideas what it might be???  The yellow fabric below it is also in the works for another little project.........that will hopefully be completed soon.
Since the warmer weather arrived.....I've been toodling about in the yard trying to clean up the back corner of the yard.  Last year it was filled with tall grasses....which I've been slowly removing and planting some perennials back there that will hopefully tolerate the shady location.  The Maltese Cross, Ladies Mantle, Golden Globe, Ferns, and Monkshood seems to have survived the winter well enough.  Now, I'm off to try a recipe for Chocolate Frozen Yogurt........have to keep on top of all the Milk Kefir:)  So what have you been up to??

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Retro Refrigerator Bran Muffins with Kefir

Summer seems to be here to stay now.  We've had some gorgeous weather and already had the camper van out for our first overnight camping adventure.  Poor planning led to us spending the night, not at our original choice of campground but instead we drove a little farther down the highway and ended up in the same campground as one of our neighbours.  Ike was tickled pink as he totally monopolized their children for hours or play.  I had brought along some crochet and a cookbook that I'd left in the van last summer and had forgotten all about.  I get more reading out of cookbooks than I do magazines..... and this one seemed to contain some recipes worthy of trying.  One the recipes was for refrigerator bran muffins (some times called 6 week bran muffins).  I remember  this recipe was all the rage back in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  You would make up a batch of batter and keep it in a 3 litre ice cream pail in your refrigerator and bake them up as needed.  I remembered them as being good, but had not had them for years, and quite honestly, the idea of a muffin batter ready to go in the fridge was a bit appealing.  There are many recipes for this muffin out there....some calling for butter....others for oil.....some with molasses and yet others without. Not knowing which recipe my mom used when I was little....I pulled open my old copy of Company's Coming (Muffins & More).  For those of you not familiar with Canadian cook books.....this series of cookbooks by Jean Pare called 'Company's Coming' is an extremely well know set here.  The Muffins & More book is filled with some extremely good favourites that turn out perfect every time for I do love this book in her series.  Her recipe called for buttermilk, and in the interest of trying out more ways to use up kefired milk....I made a straight substitution....other than that....I followed the recipe (only I made a half batch which filled the bowl of my Kitchen Aid).......We'll be good for a few weeks of muffins. To change it up I'll add some frozen blueberries, huckleberries, or raspberries to the next few dozen I bake up.  To start out with....I did it the original way with the sultanas.  And in case you are wondering..........They were delicious:)  With hot weather coming up and more time outside and less time in the kitchen......this recipe is really going to work for me.....maybe it will work for you too.

Refrigerator (6 week) Bran Muffins

4 cups Bran flakes cereal
2 cups All Bran cereal (they look like little twigs)
2 cups boiling water
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
4 eggs
4 cups milk kefir
1/4 cup Molasses
5 cups flour, all purpose
2 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups sultanas

Place both cereals and boiling water in a large bowl to soften, and leave to stand.  Cream together the sugars and the butter, then beat in the eggs beating after each egg.  Add in the kefired milk, molasses, and cereal mixture.  Stir to combine.
In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sultanas.  Mix flour mixture into the  batter.  Stir to combine.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use ( up to 6 weeks)  When ready to bake....preheat oven to 400F.  Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full of batter.  Bake 20-25 minutes until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean and tops spring back when pressed. Let muffins cool in pans for 5 minutes before tipping out.  You can (after the 5 minutes) slide a butter knife around the edges before turning the muffins out. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Kefir Dip or Spread Would be Good?

As my Kefir grains multiply, I am able to make more kefir than can be consumed by smoothies alone.  Plus.....I don't want to make everyone bored with the Kefir and fruit do I.  From the heaping tablespoon of Kefir grains I started with.......I now have a good 1/3 cup.  I still use a 1 L (1 quart) canning jar to make the Kefir, but now instead of making 1/2 a jar each day I can make a full jar. With left over Kefir sitting in the fridge, and the next batch already ready to strain.....I decided to try and  see if I could make a Kefir product that would be about the  same consistency as spreadable cream cheese.  I took my strained Kefir milk from the fridge and poured it into a strainer lined with a large paper coffee filter and left it to sit over a deep bowl to drain (with a cloth cover so nothing would settle into it).  After only about two hours, it was a similar thickness to sour cream.  I left it even longer ...............and after about 8-10 hours, it was about the consistency of spreadable cream cheese.  (I say 8-10 hours as I left that batch over night and I'm not sure of the timing)  The roughly 2 1/2 cups of thin Kefir milk had been separated into almost 1 cup of "cream cheese" and about 1 1/2 cups of whey.  You can play with the times to get the consistency you'd like, and keep in mind that refrigeration will thicken it up a bit too.  Also the type of milk you Kefir will have some affect of the thickeness of your product.  Skim milk Kefir will be thinner than whole milk Kefir, so it will produce more whey and less 'cheese' when filtered.  (We drink skim milk here, so I always keep a small container of full cream in the fridge to 'make my own whole milk' for Kefiring.  You could easily thicken the Kefir to sour cream thickness and use it as a sour cream substitute.  The flavour is tart and bright some where between that of sour cream and plain yogurt.  I chose to add 2 rounded teaspoons off dill dip mix to my 1 cup of cream cheese to make a flavoured cream cheese spread.  My son has been tearing through herb and garlic spreadable Philadelphia cream cheese at an alarming and expensive rate, so if this product passes the Ike could be a nice alternative. Again you can vary the amount of dip mix to flavour your dip or spread.  When I added 1 rounded teaspoon the tart yogurt flavour still shines though....but with 2 teaspoons added, it pretty much tastes like a store bought flavoured cream cheese as the spices over power the bite of the yogurt.  And of course you will want to let your  dip or spread sit for at least 30 minutes to develop the flavours. There are also some interesting uses for the Kefir whey so it need not be wasted...more on that later:)
My parting thoughts of this.......This is really another great way to use up Kefired milk.  I found the flavour of the dip and spread produced to be delicious.  (The neighbours liked it it's not just me) If you'd like to see some dip mix recipes, look through this post....if you don't happen to have any dip mix on hand.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Green Chile Enchilada Stack

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh. 
We've had such good picks for recipes these last several months on both Daring Cook's and Daring Baker's and this month was no exception.  With the weather turning warmer, a little bit of Mexican inspired cooking was a much anticipated meal.  We have never made green chile and tomatillo sauce before and it was very delicious.  Everyone here liked it and I even brought a piece over for the neighbour to try as my version contained no corn products which she has issue with and avoids Mexican foods because of it.  I had a little left over grilled chicken from souvlaki the night before and I also made a batch of ground beef taco filling which we really liked as well.  When it came to making the sauce, I roasted the tomatillos and the onions and used my trusty Bamix to puree them before assembling the sauce ingredients.  I had a bit of time finding Anaheim peppers, but did find them eventually......although I ended up using a combination of 1/2 Anaheim and 1/2 Poblano peppers.  I added no hot sauce to the recipe as it ended up being just spicy enough as it was for my 8 year old.  I also just happened to have a small amount of Monteray Jack in the fridge and made up the balance with cheddar....very nice!  What a great recipe and something fun to serve for guests as well, especially if you had enough individual sized serving dishes.

1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams - roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)
7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams - peel, remove stems
4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams)
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
2 Boneless chicken breasts (you can also use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs)
3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
Kosher salt and pepper
12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)
Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional
Roasting Fresh Chiles
1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.
2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.
4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.
Green Chile Sauce
1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.
2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
6. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.
Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas
1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.
3. Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.
4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
6. Drain on paper towels.
7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
10. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

 Beef Filling
1 lb ground beef (extra lean)
2 T flour
1 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp beef soup base powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
dash onion powder

Mix all of the above in frying pan with 3/4 cup water. Stir to mix water and spices into beef and continue to stir while cooking at a simmer for 10 minutes until all pink is gone.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blog Love

I got a nice surprise the other day.  Don't you just loved surprises??  I do!  Well I got a lovely surprise the other day in the form of a Sunshine Award:)  How Sweet is that.  Thank so very much Felicity, that is very sweet of you!
I started stalking blogs a few years ago, as I found that you could find the coolest crafting ideas that way.  I found the projects of artsy crafty blogs to be of a much high caliber than those at a number of full blown crafting sites.  I have also found a wealth of information regarding cooking and other areas of my personal interest as well.  A good blog is certainly a treasure to find, and I now have a huge list of those I follow and even more that I've bookmarked for  the future.  Never enough hours in a day for it all:(

The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity & creativity inspires others in the blog world.
The rules for accepting this award:-
Put the logo on your blog or within your post.-
Pass the award onto 7 bloggers.-
Link the nominees within your post.-
Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.
Here are just 7 of the many blogs I often look to for inspiration.
  1. Lazy Kate Creates
  2. Sew Me Something Good
  3. Coyote Craft
  4. Bee & Buzz
  5. Madness & Mess
  6. Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness
  7. Merry With Children

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Experimenting With Milk Kefir

After the first batch of ginger beer (second batch is now bottled) and a lot of internet searching I accidentally came across some information on Kefir.  Kefir grains (as they are called) will turn your milk into a yogurt like product which is much higher in probiotics that normal yogurt.  The process is exceptionally easy and the little Kefir grains are self propagating so in no time at all you will have enough to pawn off on your neighbours and friends.  Kefer grains look like little bits of cauliflower and the heaping tablespoon I started with is enough to produce about 1 1/2 cups of milk Kefir each day.  To start the process all you do is rinse the Kefir grains in cool water and drop them into a clean glass or plastic container filled with milk, (2% or whole milk seems to give the nicest texture) cover with something breathable like a cheese cloth secured with an elastic band.  You let this sit over night away from direct sunlight (in a corner or up in a cupboard) and the next day........your milk will be Kefired.  It will be thickened and very much in flavour like plain yogurt, but it also has a slightly fizzy taste as well.  You now stir the jar to distribute any cream that has risen to the top and strain out your Kefir grains and rinse them with cool water to start the process again with a fresh jar of milk.  The strained milk Kefir can be consumed straight away, or it can be ripened by leaving to sit a little longer.  It will thicken more as it ripens.  I have been using the milk Kefir to make fruit smoothies with, which I think is probably quite common.  Others drink the milk Kefir as is, right away or sweetened with a spoon of molasses or sugar.  If having to deal with fresh milk Kefir each day is a little more that you'd can slow the process by keeping the container in the fridge instead of at room temperature.  The process in the fridge will take about 5 days rather than over night.  I have been using the milk Kefir in recipes calling for buttermilk and find it to be a handy substitution especially in my butter milk pancakes.  Ripened (thickened Kefir) can be used to substitute for sour cream.  When you are too busy to deal with the Kefir or are going to be away on can just let the Kefir grains sit in a small amount of milk and leave it the fridge for quite a few weeks.  If you'd like to find some Kefir grains to play with there are free sources available....maybe even in your neighbourhood.