Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cinnamon Buns, Toute de Suite

I remember very little French vocabulary from my school days. I suspect that like most anglo-Canadians my French is strongest when it comes to relaying information about food (thanks to bilingual food labels) or talking about hockey. Actually the hockey thing might not be typical. My husband is a Habs fan so we watch the French CBC on Saturday nights from time to time. You watch long enough, you pick up some terms....C'est le but! (It's a goal!)

Sadly, the only phrase that really sticks in my head from years of French instruction is 'toute de suite', which, if I recall correctly means 'at once'. When Mademoiselle Baker flung a 'toute suite' in my direction its meaning was more likely along the lines of 'Move it into the classroom and enough with the giggling'. Ah, high school.

This morning I felt like a Cinnamon Bun, toute suite. I should qualify that. I wanted a homemade cinnamon bun. Sorry Cinnabon lovers - they smell like the real deal but if I'm going to spend that many calories, you've got to taste the part as well.

Cook's Illustrated has a great recipe for cinnamon buns that is quick and easy. I've made it a half dozen times now and each time I get a bit faster putting it together and my buns get a bit better looking. (Okay, just read that know what I mean). This site provides the recipe. I'll provide some visuals. Discuss.

My one modification to the CI recipe is for the glaze. I wanted something super simple, so combined 1 cup icing sugar, 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 tbsp of vanilla. Stir together, drizzle over warm bun. Tell yourself not to have a second one. Lace up your sneakers and head to the treadmill. Repeat.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Three Bean Chili

Chili is one of those foods that I know better than to make as a Sunday dinner dish. As much as I want my family to try new foods there are limits; even my husband, who never declines anything I put in front of him at dinner, draws the line at chili. Particularly vegetarian chili. So I rarely make it. Apparently none of them appreciate beans like I do. This week I had a real craving for chili so decided I'd make a batch knowing that I'll have to freeze half of it and spend the next couple of months eating it for lunch every day. Not the worst lunch fate I can imagine.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oatmeal Date Muffins

Operation 'use up ingredients purchased for holiday cooking and baking' is going pretty well. On the weekend I made Oatmeal Date muffins thanks to a recipe I found on the blog Sugarcrafter. The combination of oatmeal and dates appealed to me and I'm happy to report these muffins have been much appreciated in school lunches all this week. Here is how they looked while cooling:

I'm not sure what funky setting I had my camera on when I took this shot. I've been trying to learn how to use the more advanced settings on my camera but fear I am not destined to become one of the great photographers of our time. These are good muffins (I've had my fair share at breakfast this week) and whenever I eat or make them I will be reminded of the NorthWest Passage. "Of course!" you're thinking. "The NorthWest Passage and oatmeal date muffins are like peanut butter and jelly." Allow me to explain.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sugar Pie

As much as I know I should be easing into the New Year with lighter fare after eating my way through the holidays that doesn't seem to be happening. As I've mentioned, it's very, very cold in our neck of the woods right now. As a natural defence mechanism my body seems to be craving foods designed to help me keep warm with good old fashioned body fat. Last week it demanded macaroni and cheese. This week, Sugar Pie.

Sugar Pie isn't very complicated. It's basically what happens when you take some brown sugar, mix it with a bit of flour, egg and milk and bake it in a pie shell. In other words, it's a great idea. There are many recipes out there for sugar pie. Wikipedia even has an entry for sugar pie, although no specific recipe.

I took my recipe for Sugar Pie from Rose Murray's hungry for comfort, which is a great title for a cookbook. I refer to hfc often through the Winter months which seems to be when I most need comfort from my food. (Did I mention it's very cold?) Sugar pie is kind of like eating a really big butter tart without being slowed down by those pesky raisins or currants or nuts people often like to add to butter tarts. Serve yourself a slice with some whipped cream.

Sugar Pie

pastry for 1-9 inch single crust pie (I used a pre-made Pillsbury, from the dairy case)

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 tbsp flour

pinch salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

Fit pastry to pie plate.
In a bowl, blend sugar, flour and salt. In separate bowl, beat eggs and yolk until frothy; beat in milk and vanilla. Stir into sugar mixture until smooth. Pour into pie shell and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is set.

So what does good sugar pie look like? Here's what it looks like at our house:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Soup with Apple

It's been a cold weekend (-15) so a pot of soup seemed an appropriate addition to Sunday lunch today. After throwing together Sweet Potato soup based on ingredients I had at hand, I thought it would be nice to make a more thoughtful soup. Thoughtful as in: "I thought ahead of time so have everything I need to make this soup rather than just picking stuff out of my crisper and hoping for the best.". Although that kind of soup can be good too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How you feelin?

If you finished that thought with 'hot hot hot' then you too have been over-exposed to the tune "Hot Hot Hot" written by one Buster Poindexter. D. and I heard this song every day multiple times a day for a whole week the first time we went to the Caribbean Beach Resort at Disney. The themed food court didn't exactly feature Caribbean fare, but the music more than made up for it, and definitely lent our trip that island vibe we were going for when we visited in October.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not a Recipe

Just a quick post because I want to document that I did keep one of my (silent) New Year's Resolutions regarding food. 'Silent' because I didn't post it as part of my official list. I have really been trying not to waste food this year. I'm not generally a wasteful person, but because I try so many different recipes I often end up with ingredients that I don't know what to do with once I've used them for my original purpose. These ingredients tend to get chucked after weeks of me dodging them in the fridge, freezer or pantry. Well, tonight I pulled together dinner using (mostly) 'leftover' ingredients. And it wasn't too bad. My goal was to use up some frozen meatballs, a half jar of spaghetti sauce and a nearly full jar of chili sauce. I cooked the meatballs, boiled up some pasta (because we always have pasta in the house), heated the sauce(s), threw in the (cooked) meatballs, poured it all in a casserole dish, covered the whole shebang in the dregs of shredded mozzarella cheese kicking around my freezer and baked it for about a half hour. It wasn't the best baked pasta I've ever had, but for a Wednesday it was a perfectly respectable family dinner. And I made One-Bite Brownies while I was baking the pasta. At the same time, my friends. Because I have a double oven, oh yes I do.

Tomato Soup

Growing up, I can't think of a time when I didn't like tomato soup. One of the first soups I tried to give D. when he was a toddler was Alphabet Tomato Soup. I'm still bummed that he won't eat it anymore and keep thinking I'll try to reintroduce it. The recipe uses pureed alphabet pasta to thicken the soup, which, come to think of it was what got D. eating pasta. One of his favourite meals to this day is a bowl of alphabet pasta drowned in V8. I'm sure that when he is grown up and living on his own, one of his comfort foods will be alphabet pasta with V8.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Smackdown

We eat a lot of cookies around here. Never has that been more apparent than today. I made a ridiculous amount of chocolate chip cookies on Sunday. For some crazy reason that seemed rational at the time but in retrospect does not, I thought I would make two different chocolate chip cookie recipes while baking Sunday afternoon then compare the results. You know, just for kicks. And here it is, Monday night, and there aren't all that many cookies left. A successful experiment? I guess you could say that. Here's how it went down.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tacos? Really?

I've noted before that my kids aren't very adventurous eaters. A trait I expect they inherited from my husband, who only really got adventurous after he married me. Take that however you like.

So I was very surprised the other evening when D. brought home the hot lunch order form from his school and we sat down to make our selections. In the past we have ordered from the hot lunch menu sparingly. Chicken nuggets, check. All other offerings? No thanks. I was all ready to check off our one meal when D. said "You know what mum? I think I'd also like to sign up for taco day.". Rea-a-ally? Our first foray into unknown food territory and we're going Mexican? Al-righty. He continued to scan the form and said "And hot dog day too. I mean, a hot dog is just a bun, some meat and some mustard. I like all those things, right?". Um, yes, yes you do. And I've said that to him, oh, a billion times since he's been old enough to consider hot dogs as a possible food choice.

Monday, January 3, 2011

(Un)Birthday Cake

We celebrate a lot of birthdays in December. A lot as in every week it seems there is a birthday (or two) requiring some attention. And by attention of course I mean cake, because I can't let a birthday go by without their being cake. I love making birthday cake. But in December, especially at the end of December, birthday cake can be complicated. Because December birthday cake isn't like regular month birthday cake; in December birthday cake takes a back seat to Gingerbread. Hot chocolate. Fudge. Fruit Cake. (Which I didn't personally make but I ate a lot of, thanks to my Aunt who makes a mean fruit cake.) So when I offered to bring a birthday cake to my FILs birthday dinner on New Year's Day, I had a cake in mind: Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake. I think of this cake as a kind of 'un'-birthday cake. Suitable for a birthday, but not all in your face yelling "Hey! I'm a birthday cake!".

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's (Food) Resolutions

I tend to get a lot of new cookbooks for Christmas, and the period spent between Christmas Day and New Year's Day I spend many happy hours pouring over the new possibilities that lie within their fresh, unblemished pages. (I am a messy cook so have learned to accept the stained pages of my frequently used cookbooks, even though the spills and pencil markings conflict with my professional responsibilities.) Because this year I want to remember all of the things I am longing to make at some point in 2011, I record here my list of New Year's Food Resolutions: recipes or ingredients or tools or techniques I want to make use of at some point during the year. In no particular order.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Eats - already!

Most normal people wake up on January 1st and declare that they are going on a fat-free, sugar-free, food-free diet, owing to the gajillion calories consumed over the holidays. At our house, we do things a little differently. At our house we made this for breakfast this morning:

This plate of breakfast overkill started out with the kids asking me to make pancakes. While I was in the pantry getting flour to make pancakes, I bumped my toe against a bag of potatoes. Which activated the little voice inside my head, which said: 'Potatoes! I'd sure like some more of those yummy diner style potatoes I made a couple of weeks ago'. So I grabbed the flour and the potatoes. When I finished making the pancakes and started dicing the potatoes, the little voice inside my head had more to say; something along the lines of: 'Some bacon would go really nicely with these potatoes'. So D. went out to get some bacon, which led to the need for scrambled eggs, then I remembered the lovely sourdough bread lingering in the bread drawer, and, well, one thing led to another and before I knew it...we had Breakfast, with a capital B. Ever read If You Give a Pig a Pancake? That was the kind of breakfast we had.

This breakfast was an unnecessary extravagance after a holiday of food abundunce but it was oh so good and I don't regret a bite. And what I loved most about this breakfast? The boys ate their pancakes then ran off to play, so D. and I lingered over our breakfast bounty with the paper (for him) and crossword (for me). It was the perfect way to start the New Year, with the sound of the kids playing happily in the background, a full (but not overfull) tummy, a latte made with authentic Kona coffee and my favourite person in the world sitting across from me listening to me puzzle out the crossword, sharing highlights from all the news fit to print on this first day of 2011. A 'happy new year' indeed.