Monday, July 30, 2007

Why So Blue? Strawberry (actually blueberry) Mirror Cake

The hostess for this months Daring Bakers challenge is the wonderful Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. A pretty impressive baker, Peabody challenged us with a Strawberry Mirror Cake.

I spent some time yesterday on Google looking for information on Mirror Cakes and came up with nothing, so what I can tell you is the dessert consists of white cake layered with Bavarian cream (eggs and sugar cooked until thick, then mixed with fruit puree,liqueur and gelatin) and topped with a "mirror" of fruit juice and gelatin.

I was torn all month long between not wanting to make the cake and wanting to add another notch to my Daring Baker "bedpost". It looked like a nice fruity dessert. On the other hand, so much egg, cream and sugar! Did my chubby little body need to make and eat such a dessert? Ultimately, unfortunately, the answer was yes.

I am glad I did. The cake, while not the nicest looking dessert (compared to some of the other DB's amazing efforts) , tastes wonderful. I even managed to forget about all the calories and fat long enough to eat a piece.

I did run into some small problems, but none that truly impacted the cake in a large way. My biggest roadblock was not being able to find strawberries for the Strawberry Mirror Cake.(!) I had put off making the cake all month, hoping for a break in the heat wave we've been having so I could spend some time in the hot kitchen without passing out. It never came, so this weekend was do or die. I made the actual cake part on Friday afternoon. Saturday was too full a day to do anything, and I had plans for Sunday afternoon. So there I was at the grocery store at 8:00 Sunday morning to buy milk, cream and strawberries.

But they didn't have any! Apparently they had run a big sale the previous few days and had sold out. The other grocery stores in our area don't open until 10 on Sundays. It was either choose another fruit or scrap the cake. I chose blueberries. (Obviously.)

Let's go back to Friday for a moment. The sponge cake is baked on a sheet pan, and then two circles are cut out for the two cake layers. Take a look at the job I did on the poor cake.

Not pretty. Thank heavens they weren't going to be visible once the cake was together. My other concern- the cake didn't rise very high.

I started off Sunday morning by making the fruit juice for the mirror and the fruit puree for the cream. Straightforward enough, although the blueberry skins and seeds were hell on my mesh strainers. I ended up having to spray down the strainers with the garden hose in the backyard to get them clean.

The Bavarian cream was the most work. It kicked my butt. I stood over that stove for 40 sweaty minutes, frantically stirring and adjusting the burner to try to thicken the damn stuff without letting it curdle. I think I pulled it off a bit too soon, but I just couldn't bear having the stove burner on for another second.

The fruit puree and gelatin were mixed in (I omitted the alcohol as some of my co-workers do not drink) and the filling was cooled and folded into whipped cream. It was heavenly; a light blueberry fruit mousse. If you could fool yourself into forgetting it is full of egg yolks, cream and sugar you'd think it was good for you. The Bavarian cream is layered with the cake and chilled to set.

When the cake is set, the mirror is made with blueberry juice, sugar and gelatin. You cool it in a ice water bath and pour it on the cake. Smooth off any bubbles (I forgot to do that) and back in the fridge until firm.

I was very pleased with how this turned out. It's quite pretty, and tastes wonderfully light. I didn't think much of the sponge cake, but that's ok as the Blue Devil (aka Bavarian cream) is the real star of the dish.

Thanks for coming by! If you want to make your own mirror cake here's the recipe over at Peabody's. If you'd like to read about the other Daring Bakers experiences with the cake please check out the blog roll.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Update 1 2 3 4.

1. I know it's only 2 weeks since our last garden update, but wait until you see what's been going on! We have progress, people! Behold...the RED TOMATOS!!!!!!

Take a gander at these TWO PEPPERS!!!!

Marvel at these other tomatos too!

Hot zucchini action!

Can anyone help me? What is going on with my spinach? It's not getting any bigger and seems to be flowering. Was I supposed to pick it already? Do I pinch off the stemmy flowering bits? Is it doomed? There's some beets in the corner too, by the way.

Potatos. How do I know when they are ready? Is it too early?

The onions are looking rough. Hopefully the actual onion part will be OK.

The radishes got all crazy looking, so we pulled them up and planted more onions. Two are already poking thru.

The basil is lovely! I can't believe this came from seed. I've been picking it by the handfuls.

Full shot.

2. In other super fantastic news......OK, so I've been wanting a Le Creuset pot for about 100 years. They are expensive, so I don't have one. A few months ago at Williams Sonoma I saw a similar pot made by Emil Henry but it was still pretty pricey. So yesterday at lunch I was at the mall doing some banking and I decide to check out Williams Sonoma before I go back to work. I head directly to the sale tables at the back and there I see.....the Emil Henry pot I wanted. I pick it up and look at the tag. Regular price $140.00, marked down to........$29.99. I nearly had an accident in the store. Behold, my beautiful new 2 Quart pot:

Isn't it beautiful? I'm getting teary just looking at that picture.

3. You're dying to read all about another farmers market, aren't you. I knew it! Ok, go here and read my latest post at Foodtv.

4. I had a busy weekend last weekend and wasn't able to make it to Millarville and I've just learned that my favorite farm there has shut down. I am beyond sad. Whiskey Creek had the most amazing produce, were the nicest people and they were my first stop at the market every week. Please go and read their home page. This is why we all need to support our local growers as much as we can.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 recipe of the week times two - chicken enchiladas and pupusas.

I am crazy about Mexican food. Calgary is not over-run with Mexican restaurants, and while I do have a couple of Mexican cookbooks I usually get put off by the long lists of ingredients and make something else instead. Most of the time I sate my Mexican craving with tacos or burritos. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but sometimes, sometimes you just want more.

When I came across this first recipe I was so excited. Enchiladas! Easy ones at that!

I bookmarked this recipe on November 16, 2006. From a site that I am sure you all know and love, Elise at Simply Recipes, here is her Mom's Chicken Enchiladas.

These were absolutely wonderful! I couldn't believe how simple they were to put together. I have no experience with corn tortillas; the only other time I've ever used them at home was for this chilaquiles dish, and those ones were cut into pieces. I ignored Elise's instructions on cooking the tortillas before filling them and the first one cracked in half. So we went back and heated the tortillas using the traditional method. And of course that was much better.

The sauce is so fast to make and incredibly yummy. We used the full amount of chile powder. Both Scott and I kept sneaking tastes of the sauce so by the time we got to pouring the remaining sauce over the tops of the enchiladas we were a little short. But that's our own fault. Either add a bit of extra water or just don't sample so much.

This recipe will being going into heavy rotation at our house and we'll be trying out some different fillings too - Scott is thinking steak, I'm thinking veggies and beans.

Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas


Pupusas, from El Salvador, are thick, tortilla-like patties made from Masa Harina. The patties are filled with cheese, beans, or meat. They are sort of like a quesadilla, but instead of layering the filling between tortillas, the filling of the pupusa is folded and rolled into the dough, totally enclosed.

I added this recipe to on February 8, 2007. The second recipe for the week comes via a link from Gluten-Free By The Bay, for Pupusas.

These were a bit time consuming to make, but once you get the hang of it, it's not bad at all. I found that slapping the dough flat between my palms worked the best. We ate these with salsa, and the leftovers (there was lots) were great heated up for breakfast or lunch all week.

Recipe: Pupusas recipe count as of today - 151. Up 19 recipes since June 24. Oops, still going the wrong way!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Presto Pasta Nights - Orzo and Ham Salad

Ever since I took part in The Deep Freeze Summer Challenge last month I've been working hard on using more ingredients from the pantry and freezer and doing less grocery shopping. So far it's been going very well. We've had some delicious crock pot ribs, veggie pizza, grilled sausage from Millarville, and last weeks Presto Pasta dish, Soba Noodle Salad. I found a jar of orzo pasta the other day, and since the last orzo pasta salad I made turned out so well, I gave it another go. I found some diced ham in the freezer and chives and fresh peas in the fridge. Wayyyy at the back of the refrigerator I found a red pepper starting to shrivel. I saved what I could and diced it up. The chives were chopped, the peas got shelled. After the orzo was cooked, rinsed in cold water and drained, it was time to think about a dressing.

Personally, I think if you are using ham in a pasta salad, you have to go with a mayonnaise based dressing. I don't know why, it just works better in my opinion. We had some light mayo hanging around. I added some red hamburger relish and some spicy deli mustard. It was sweet and spicy, just what I was looking for. Mix it all together, throw it in the fridge and lunch or dinner is ready.

Is there anything better on a hot day than a cold meal that is just waiting to be pulled out of the fridge? I'm not sure.

This post is heading over to join Ruth for Presto Pasta Night. Check out Once Upon a Feast on Friday for the roundup.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hungry Planet - What The World Eats

Frustratingly, I have lost the link to the blog where I first read about this book. I do remember the second place I saw it was here at the blog. (Here's the link to the photo essay)Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio shows us what 30 families in 24 countries eat over the course of one week. I borrowed this book from the library and I don't want to give it back! It's a wonderful book - funny, sad, touching, and especially thought provoking.

The differences between the amount of food a family of 9 in Ecuador eats in a week versus a family of 4 in Great Britain is shocking, not only in amount but in natural versus processed. Also eye raising are the facts provided on each country - Ecuador has 10 McDonald's Restaurants, Great Britain has 1,110. The obese population in Ecuador, male/female: 6/15%. Great Britain 19/21%. And don't get me started on the amount of Coke the family from Mexico drinks on average per week! (12 bottles!!!!)

This is a completely fascinating book, very well written and with gorgeous photos. If you have a chance to read this book, take a look at the photo of the fish stand on page 190. Possibly one of the most stunningly beautiful pictures I've ever seen.

What I liked most about this book was the stories on the families and learning more about countries and cultures different than my own. It made me realize, not for the first time, how fortunate I am to live where I live, and how relatively easy we've got it. Can you imagine having to rely on the refugee camp you live in to provide your family with food? If you could not afford to buy fruit? Or if you could not catch a fish there would be no dinner that night? And for me personally, how much would I still want to eat a pork chop or a piece of chicken if instead of purchasing it all sterile and wrapped in plastic from my big-box super grocery store I had to walk into a hot building full of unrefrigerated dead animals hanging from hooks in the middle of the room? Um, I wouldn't.

I was amazed at some of the animals that are eaten in different countries around the world. Things I never would have thought someone would eat are common dinners elsewhere. My parents happened to be in town while I was reading this book. My Dad will eat almost anything, and my parents have been to some interesting places around the world. Scott is a pretty adventurous eater too, whereas compared to the three of them I am a total wuss. So for fun I made a list of some of the animals consumed elsewhere in the world, then polled the 3 members of my family and myself (a) if they had ever tried any of these animals before and (b) would they eat it.

Here's our results.

Remember, the first answer is if we've had it before. The second answer is would we eat it.
As you can see, I really am the least adventurous eater ever. (Even though my Mom said no to all everything too, she did say yes to some stuff that didn't make the list.) I am still coming to terms with the fact Scott would eat Guinea Pig given the chance, but at least he wouldn't eat a seahorse like my father would.

I have to take the book back to the library tomorrow unfortunately, but I'll be adding it to my book wish list so I might have my very own copy one day. If you see this at the store or at the library, or at a friends house, grab it! You'll love it.

Pop quiz - are there any foods on that list that you've eaten, or would eat?


In other news, my next piece is up at Food for Thought, the blog. Would you like to read it? You would? Well then, click here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #18 - Red and White

Happy Friday! The WCC round up is done for Challenge 18 - Red and White.

just four of the scrupmtious participants.

Please go here to read all about it.

Paige from Chef Girl is hosting WCC 19. The theme is Dinner and a DVD. Send your entries to Paige by August 19 at paige_eliz AT yahoo DOT ca.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blog Party 24 - Bloggers Choice

This month the hostess with mostess Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness is celebrating the 24th edition of Blog Party! She's made the theme of 24 "Bloggers Choice". I've chosen to throw a mini barbecue party.

We'll start with the main course. This is a dish I've wanted to make for ages and thanks to Stephanie now I have. Here's a plate of mini burgers.

Originally I wanted to make my own mini buns, but as you may have read in my previous posts, it's hot here right now, so I am not using the oven. Instead we cut the mini buns out of regular buns, and saved the bun scraps to serve with spinach dip the next day. I had some frozen burger patties in the freezer, so I thawed them out and made 3 mini burgers out of each patty. We grilled them up and served them with ketchup and relish.

Next up are bean bites. Brown beans are one of my most favorite foods. I added some onion, a chopped chipolte pepper and some bbq sauce to the beans and microwaved them. They were served on spoons for easy eating. (Those big Chinese soup spoons would have been perfect here, but I don't have any.)

Our beverage for the party is not that new; I made a similar drink for Blog Party 19. This time around it's Pineapple juice and 7-Up. Deee-licious.

Stephanie, congrats on 2 years of Blog Party! It's been fun, and I look forward to many more.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Presto Pasta Night - Soba Noodle Salad

It's been quite hot here lately, and I've been trying to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible. We get the afternoon and evening sun in our kitchen and living room, and as we don't have air conditioning, even turning on a burner on the stove is too much to bear.

I was rummaging thru the pantry, looking for something for dinner that required little or no cooking. At the back I found a package of Soba noodles that I vaguely remembered buying earlier this year. I've never had Soba noodles before, and after I bought them I wasn't really sure what to do with them. I thought I'd look them up on the Internet and then I forgot all about them.

Soba noodles are Japanese and made with Buckwheat flour. Because of the flour they have a sort of brown-grey color to them. My package contained 5 bundles of Soba.

Aren't they pretty? I looked online and saw a lot of recipes for cold noodle salads. I had also just rediscovered a bottle of sweet and spicy peanut sauce in the pantry as well, so I got cooking.

I used 3 bundles of noodles and cooked them in boiling water for 5 minutes. The noodles were drained and rinsed with cold water. I let them sit to drain again while I sliced a red pepper into thin strips and chopped up 4 green onions. I tossed the noodles and veggies in a bowl and added about 1/4 of a cup of sauce. The bowl went into the fridge for an hour or so until dinner. Then I re-tossed the noodles and added a couple more spoons of sauce.

This salad was wonderful. The only way I can think to describe these noodles is silky. The short amount of cooking time kept the kitchen somewhat cooler and the cold noodles were a very refreshing dinner. We'll be using these noodles again soon I am sure.

Ruth, I am sending this cold salad your way for Presto Pasta Nights. Hope you guys out East are staying cool. If not, go get some Soba!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Garden Update - Week 7

It's that time catching up time!

We're about seven weeks in, and I'll tell you, it takes all the strength I have not to go to the garden and start pulling up the potatos and onions and beets to see how they are coming along. Then I would re-plant them, you understand, so they will keep growing. I have been advised that this would not work. Drat.

Let's start with some lettuce. It's coming along very well. We made BLT sandwiches with some last week.

Here are the radishes. They are HUGE. I pulled one last night, and when I cut it open it was all brown and obviously rotten on the inside. I was upset. But just now I ran back out there and pulled another. They are white, and long like carrots. This was one good - I just had a bite, and it's mildly peppery. My camera batteries are on the charger right now so you will have to take my word for it.

Carrots, slowly coming along. They're certainly no radishes.

Spinach! I'm pretty excited about when these will be bigger, although I've already sneaked some tastes.

Beets. I think the heat is getting to them, the poor tops aren't looking good.

The zucchini's have really really grown this week.

And, oh, what's that?? Could it be......a zucchini!?!?!

This is one of the heirloom tomato plants my Mom and Dad brought us last month. This one's called Stupice. I just Googled that, and they are a small red tomato from Czechoslovakia. There's 6 tomatos on this one.

Blurry possible beginnings of peppers.

This is another Heirloom tomato - this one is Early Red. My Google search turned up nothing, but let's assume these tomatos will be red and will mature early in the season, shall we?

My potatos. I can't WAIT until these are ready, I'm a real potato fiend.

The heat and sun aren't being kind to the poor onions either.

My basil from seed is actually growing, which shocked me. Here's the biggest plant so far.

Here's some more basil.

A full view of the garden.

So update me! How are your gardens coming? What did you plant that's doing really well? Are you harvesting stuff yet?

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Presto Pasta Night - Pasta and Tomato Sauce

I have been bad again and missed out on weeks and weeks worth of Presto Pasta Nights! Things are so busy right now that we have been eating the most boring meals, almost nothing worth telling you about.

Except this!

One day earlier this week I came home early from work as we were having some work done on the house. I played around in the kitchen for a while and decided to make some pasta sauce for later in the week. I stayed very simple with it, and in less than an hour I had the most delicious sauce I've made in a while. It was so good that I didn't want to wait to have some. Since I was on my own for dinner that night but the kitchen was getting too warm for any more cooking I skipped the pasta, toasted a bagel and topped it with some tomato sauce. Delicious! It wasn't until the last bite I thought to take a picture. And I call myself a blogger! I packed up the rest of the sauce before I ate it all, and we finished it off for dinner tonight.

Tomato Sauce

3 tb olive oil
5 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
28 oz can good quality canned tomatos, skinned if possible
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
small handful fresh basil, or 1/2 to 1 tsp dried

Heat a medium sized pot over medium high heat and add the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the onion and garlic have softened and is very lightly brown. Add the tomatos and their juices, and the salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Chop or shred the fresh basil and add to the sauce 1-2 minutes before removing from heat.


I used basil from my garden for this sauce! I'll be posting some new garden pictures soon, it's looking amazing.

Monday, July 09, 2007 recipe of the week - blt salad

A few years back I did accounting work for a restaurant downtown. It was pretty fancy; fancier a place than Scott and I would ever go to. One perk (well, the only perk) was the cooks would make me lunch every day, whatever I wanted off the menu. I ate some pretty great meals, but my favorite was always the BLT Salad.

I'd never even heard of such a salad before I started working there. Lola Rossa lettuce (also new to me), thickly cut fried bacon, heirloom tomatos, cheesy garlicky croutons, and an amazing herby dressing. It was to die for.

Sadly the restaurant was abruptly closed and I never had a chance to ask the cooks if they would share the recipe with me. I also missed out on the free dinner for Scott and I that the Chef promised me before she was fired, but that's another story.

I had totally forgotten about this salad until I saw a version at Sweetnicks. Not the same, but hey, it's still a BLT!

This is a great salad and we'll be having this lots over the summer, I think. I bought a package of that pre-cooked bacon (gasp!) and that worked beautifully - a few seconds in the microwave and they were done. No greasy bacon smell in the house, and since I didn't need any bacon fat for the dressing, nothing to clean up but one plate!

I substituted spinach for the lettuce when I made this because I had bought some beautiful stuff at the farmers market that week. I am thinking that because spinach is so good for you - lots of Iron, Calcium, Vitamins A and C - that that might negate some of the calories and fat from the bacon and mayo. That'd work, right?

Recipe: Chopped Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Salad

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge 18 - Red and White

This month is the 18th month of Weekend Cookbook Challenge, if you can believe it. I'm the host this time around and I thought it might be fun to have another color theme - Orange was the theme for #3 - so I picked Red and White. (The fact that Canada Day and Independence Day are in July may have factored in too.)

I thought I'd start by picking a cookbook that had one of the colors on the cover. I picked that old favorite, Betty Crocker.

Since I fulfilled my theme requirement, I flipped through the book to just choose what ever recipe tickled my fancy. And my fancy was tickled by a fool. A strawberry and rhubarb fool! Last month Shaun at Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow wrote about Blackberry Fool and it looked delicious. A fool is a British dessert and is fruit that is mashed up and mixed with whipped cream, but not mixed so thoroughly to completely combine the two - you want the dessert to be streaky with the fruit and cream. I've been wanting to make a fool for a long time, mostly because of the name. We aren't big dessert eaters, so this was the perfect opportunity.

I loved this dessert! It was delicious and quite beautiful. Looky!

The dessert was very light and refreshing, and the two main ingredients, rhubarb and strawberries are in abundance right now. Once the strawberries and rhubarb have been cooked and cooled, this is very quick to make too. If you like tasty desserts, (um, who doesn't??) give this a try. You won't be sorry.

Rhubarb Strawberry Fool
adapted from Betty Crocker's 40th Anniversary Edition Cookbook

make the rhubarb strawberry sauce:

mix together in a pot over medium high heat
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water and bring to a boil.

4 cups chopped rhubarb
and simmer for 10 minutes until tender. stir in
1 cup sliced strawberries
return to the boil, then remove from heat and refrigerate until cold, 2-3 hours.

mix the sauce into
1 cup non fat sour cream

1 cup whipping cream until stiff. stir into the sauce/sour cream mixture. do not incorporate completely; make sure the dessert is streaky with white cream and red fruit sauce.

pour into one large bowl or 6 individual bowls.

sprinkle with brown sugar before serving.

There's still tons of time to join in Weekend Cookbook Challenge 18. So cook up a dish having something to do with Red or White, and send it to me by July 15. My email is iliketocook at shaw dot ca.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'm baaaack!

Hello! I neglected to tell you I was going to BC on Thursday. I went to BC on Thursday! And now I'm home.

Good times were had. We made Chicken Tikka (delicious). We went for sushi and tapas. We made yogurt cheese. We went to the Farmers Market:

Sunday was Canada Day. We went to the park:

There was more than food there, but my battery was dying, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Last night Scott and I had our Canada Day bbq. We had steak, potatos and grilled veggies. I was in the mood for something a little different, but Scott wanted steak. Well, if we were going to have steak, it would be special and fancy! I found a great recipe for a marinade and sauce in Nigella Lawson's Feast.

I can't wait to make this again. I lucked out and got a terrific piece of meat (I usually have terrible luck picking out steak) and the marinade was gorgeous.

Vodka Marinated Steak
adapted from Nigella Lawson.

500 g steak (I used a prime rib grilling steak)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 tb parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (next time I want to try rosemary)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
100 ml vodka
50 ml olive oil

150 ml beef broth
1 shot vodka
2 tb butter

Place the steak in a plastic bag and add the salt thru olive oil. Squish everything all around. Let sit at least 3 hours (NL says it's best if left 2-3 days in the fridge). Let the steak sit on the counter for an hour before cooking.

Remove the steak from the bag, reserving the marinade. Heat your grill, then grill the steak to your liking. Remove from the heat and let the steak rest.

Just before the steak has finished cooking start your sauce. Strain all the solids out of the marinade. Pour the marinade into a measuring cup and add water to make 150 ml (about 2/3 cup). Pour into a small pan over high heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the vodka and beef broth and boil until reduced by about half. Break the butter up into pieces and stir into the sauce until melted. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Slice the steak, place on a platter and drizzle with some of the sauce. Pass the remaining sauce separately at the table.

I bought this when I was in Kamloops. Any guesses on what it's for?