Monday, April 28, 2008

Farmers Market and Cheese! Glorious Cheese! And other stuff too.

So week 2 of the farmers market was slightly better than week 1. There were more vendors, but most of them were selling flowers and plants. We came away only with potatos and onions.

After the market we left town and drove to Salmon Arm, an hour East of Kamloops. When we lived in Calgary and drove out here for visits, we'd always stop at Gort's Gouda Cheese in Salmon Arm and load up on cheese. When we drove here in September we arrived in Salmon Arm after the store was closed, and we haven't been out that way since, so I was happy to visit again. We bought:
Smoked Habernero and Jalapeno Gouda, Smoked Gouda, Gouda with Cumin, Spiced Gouda, and Aged Gouda. We've never tried the Habernero and Jalapeno cheese before, and the sample we got was hotter than hell. I think it will be excellent in a tomato and cheese sandwich. Gort's is now certified organic now too.

I'd been searching for soba noodles the past week but had no luck. When I saw a natural foods store in SA, I ran in and sure enough, they had a few varieties. I got spelt soba, because I don't think we've had spelt before. I also bought some Himalayan salt, Rogan Josh sauce, and lentils in a sauce.

After we ate lunch we went for a walk and found a little bakery and bought a loaf of French sourdough bread. We also bought a nanaimo bar (only so-so) and a gingersnap cookie, which was fabulous. Neither made it back to the car. The cookie was just like the gingersnap cookies my mom made when I was little. Scott is planning on asking her for the recipe. Maybe she'll share it with you too!

Then we stopped at 2 outdoor markets - Pedro Gonzales Fruit Stand, where we bought some Chicks and Hens and Strawberry plants, and my second favorite place in SA after Gort's, De Milles Farm Market. After we bought our food,
big bag of peppers ($2.50!), corn, asparagus (loose, which I've never seen before), and and two "meal in a bag" things, one lentil and one bean, we visited the animals at the farm. I spent most of our time there chastising myself for not bringing our camera. We saw HUGE hogs, little pigs, ducks, all different sorts of chickens, peacocks, ponys, goats, llamas, turkeys, cows, rabbits.....I'm sure I'm forgetting some. On our way out we found the little table to buy animal feed from, so we went back in and fed the ponys, goats and llamas. Well, Scott fed the llamas, I though they looked mean. We had to team up to feed the goats, there was one mean goat, the biggest of course, who would head butt all the little goats out of the way to get the food. So I stood at one end of the pen and fed the meanie, who also tried to eat the strap on my bag, while Scott fed the little ones. After we washed all the animal slobber off our hands we headed home so we could put some of our groceries to good use for dinner.
But that's another post.
Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's Hip To Be Square - Cheesecake Pops

This month's Daring Baker challenge was all about being creative and turning a cheesecake into adorable and fun cheesecake pops.

This is only the second baked cheesecake I've ever made, and the first time I've ever cooked anything in a water bath. The original recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Conner as provided to us by Deborah (Taste and Tell) and Elle (Feeding My Enthusiasmn) made 30 to 40 pops. That's too many for us so I cut the recipe in half and baked the cheesecake in an 8X8X2 glass dish. It turned out well, although I think I could have taken it out a couple of minutes early.

The cheesecake was cooled to room temperature and then chilled overnight.

The next morning I was ready to shape the pops, add the lollypop sticks and then chill again before dipping in chocolatey goodness.

I liked the square shape better than balls - they were easier to make and I just thought they looked nicer.

We got 23 pops out of the batch; balls, squares and even a couple of rectangles.

When we were at Michaels picking up the lollypop sticks Scott found the candy melts. He picked up a bag of chocolate and a bag of peanut butter flavored. Mmmmmm, peanut butter cheesecake lollys!

We also used sprinkles and got as creative as we could.

While the pops were chilling before decorating, Scott thought up this little cheesecake pop holder. Hee!

These were pretty tasty, although the coating was a little heavy on some of them, and I could have done without the sprinkles. But the cheesecake itself was fabulous, and the pops were so cute and easy to make.

Thanks Deborah and Elle!


Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bread Baking Babes - Sullivan Street Potato PIzza (Two Days Late and a Pizza Short)

I'm late on posting this months Bread Baking Babes story - the other babes all posted on Friday. This was a recipe that called for a weekend day to bake, and mine just seem to fly by, with nothing accomplished in the end. I insisted that this would be the weekend to bake, and today was appointed the day.

Today I made my first Potato Pizza, two of my loves together in my kitchen at last - homemade pizza and potatos!

This is another wet dough, a dough that while it is mixing you cannot imagine it could become anything other than a big gloopy mess. But it did, sort of.

You must have a mixer for this, mixing time total is almost 30 minutes.

When the dough was finished it fell in sheets back into the bowl. It was quite beautiful; shiny and smooth looking. Silky.

Mine proofed a little longer than the 4 hours instructed. I had such hopes, it had risen and was full of bubbles.

This was where our problems started - we just could not get the dough to spread in the pan. We'd push it out, it would snap back. We let it sit and try again, nothing changed. We finally resigned ourselves that we wouldn't get the dough to fit the pan, let it sit for its final rising (during which I ran into the kitchen and tried to smoosh it out a couple more times), topped it with the thinly sliced onions, potatos and finely chopped fresh rosemary, and tossed it in the oven for cooking.

After 40 minutes, it looked pretty good. I wouldn't have minded a bit more color on the potatos, but the crust was getting pretty brown, so I thought its time should be up.

Ha ha, guess what happened next? That damn pizza was stuck solid to the pan! No amount of prying with spatulas, knives or fingers could loosen more than the barest edges of the crust. After working on it for ages we finally admitted defeat. That dough was not coming off anytime soon. I don't know why, it's a well used and well-taken-care-of pan. We oiled the bejeesus out of it.

So we nibbled on the couple of little pieces we were able to liberate. It was ok, although a little more bland that I had imagined. I pulled off as many of the potato and onion slices as I could (like I'd waste them!), and the pan is currently sitting on the kitchen counter as we figure out how to get the cement dough off the pan. I'll be dammed if we don't get it off; I bought that pan with a gift card at Williams Sonoma.

Go visit this months hostess Tanna's post for recipe links should you want to try this yourself.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

First farmers market of the year...

Today was the opening day for the downtown market. It......wasn't good. Yes, we've had a sudden (and shitty) turn in the weather. It was utter crap at our house when we woke up this morning to temperatures below zero, and snow everywhere. It was slightly better downtown, but the market was a bust. Did the weather keep the shoppers away? Maybe, although the opening was hardly advertised. But where were all the vendors?

We picked up a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread, some raisin-oatmeal-coconut cookies, and some eggs. The vendor we bought the bread from was handing out reusable bags with all purchases today, which was awesome. But over all, as much as I hate, hate, HATE to say it, it was a waste of time to drive all the way downtown.

Note to organizers: get your vendors lined up and ADVERTISE the damn thing. And pray for somewhat ok weather.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cook Most of the Book - Vegan with a Vengeance

Ugh, I'm already week behind with my next Vegan with a Vengeance post, and it's only the second post! For someone with a boring life, I sure seem to be busy lately. Can't imagine why.

I've been trying to plan meals in advance, hoping that it will help me stay organized, make more new recipes and stay away from last minute bad choice dinners. So far so good.

Last week I made 3 dishes from Vegan with a Vengeance, but only two of them were new.

We liked the Brooklyn Pad Thai so much from the first week that I made it again, for my Mom's birthday dinner. Both she and my Dad really really liked it a lot.

Man, that recipe makes a lot of Pad Thai. The four of us barely ate half of it. This is still my new favorite dish.


Fresh Corn Fritters (little meals, sammiches and finger foods, pg.74

Isa says: "These are really fast and yummy. ..... Serve with salsa or as a breakfast side in place of potatoes. "

Sara says: "Nothing can replace potatoes in my life, but these are pretty damn good."

I love corn, and I love corn fritters. This recipe had two ingredients I'd never had in a corn fritter before: tofu and maple syrup. They were both fast and yummy, although a little more delicate than my usual fritters; I managed to destroy quite a few of them during the flipping. We ate them as is, with a salad on the side.

What I did differently: Nothing. I followed the recipe to a "T", using the food processor (for whizzing the tofu) and all.

What I'll do differently next time: I might add a bit more jalapeƱo. Other than that, nothing.

Baked Cajun French Fries (sides, pg 115)

Isa says: "Nice spicy fries that are baked, not fried"

Sara says: "If it's potato, it's for me!"

Potatoes are my most favorite food, so I was pretty sure I'd like these. I didn't like them. I loved 'em. The wedges of potatoes are tossed with oil and a nice homemade cajun spice. In 30 minutes, you've got fries with a (big) kick.

What I did differently: Nothing. Well, I left them in the oven on low while I finished up a phone call. The call went on longer than I expected, so they were a little more crispy than I would have liked.

What I'll do differently next time: Is there a substitute for thyme? God I hate that herb. Other than that, I'd do the same thing, but not talk on the phone while cooking.

Next week: We try tempeh for the first time!

Asparagus Popover

I'm not a fan of any of Rachel Ray's TV shows, but I do like her magazine. My Dad and I take turns buying it every month, and after both households have read the magazine, it goes into "the library" (a wicker basket next to my bookcase) for future reference.

I always forget about the magazines as soon as they hit the basket, and as far as I can recall, I've never made a recipe out of one of her magazines.

Until now!

When I picked up the May Rachel Ray magazine at Costco on Saturday we also bought 2 pounds of asparagus. So when I found the recipe for the Asparagus Popover in the magazine Saturday night, all I had to do was add gruyere to the shopping list for Sunday.

And I did!

And we made it tonight for dinner and it was really really good. And easy to make. And we`ll have it a couple more times this Spring I bet. I've got my eye on a couple more recipes from this month. The asparagus tempura is calling to me, as are the turkey meatballs.

I know everyone has strong feelings about Rachel Ray, but what about her magazine - anyone read it? What do you think?

Asparagus Popovers
adapted from Everyday with Rachel Ray

serves 4

1 lb asparagus
2 tb butter
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
3 oz gruyere, shredded or finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425'.
Bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in a large pan. Add asparagus and cook 3-5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain, rinse with cold water, then cut the asparagus spears into thirds. Set aside.
Put milk in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Whisk in the eggs, then whisk in the flour, salt, pepper and sugar.
Place the butter in your oven safe skillet or baking dish and place in the oven. When the buttter has melted, remove from the oven and add the asparagus pieces in one layer (if possible). Pour the batter over top, and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and set.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Um, sorry.

I like to look at the referrals to my blog every once in a while. Mostly the searches from yahoo and google and the like are food related. I get lot of people directed to this broccoli and cauliflower cannelloni, and this rapini pasta. Occasionally I get people visiting after searching for information on how to cook a penis (go here for my penis post).

But yesterday I got what I think is my most strangest, non food related search.

Via a Comcast search, someone visited my blog while searching for Babes Towels Falling Off.

And I was the number one result.

That poor, poor person who eagerly clicked on to my blog expecting to see......well, you know, and ended up with me instead, yammering about bread. Poor guy.

PS - so funny - Mary is number 4 on the list! Think he clicked there after being disappointed by me?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Smackdown - The Frugal Gourmet vs Galloping Gourmet - Simple Potatoes

Okeydokey, I'm moving on to two new chefs for Smackdown. I've gone back a few years for this one. Graham Kerr, aka The Galloping Gourmet started his TV show back in the 70's. Jeff Smith, aka The Frugal Gourmet began his PBC show in the 80's.

I was never a huge fan of Graham Kerr, but I bought a couple of small cookbooks of his second hand a couple of years ago. I've always liked the Frugal Gourmet; my parents and I would watch him on PBC when I was young. I've got a few of his books and all the recipes I've tried from them have been fantastic.

So here's a Gourmet challenge - Galloping vs Frugal. And the recipes? Simple potatoes.

Up first is the Galloping Gourmet. From his book The Galloping Gourmet Cookbook - Favorite Dishes: Italy, Australia, New Zealand, here's Ngaruahoe Potatoes, which are basically potato skins.

And from the Frugal Gourmet and his book The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook we have Italian Fried Potatoes.

Let's start with the
Ngaoo - Ngaee - Nypoopotato skins from Graham Kerr. First off, this may be the most awful cookbook I own. Who edited this thing???? Almost every recipe has something missing, whether it's an ingredient amount, cooking temperature or time, something. Some of them have "handwritten notes" from Kerr, which after seeing all the omissions makes me think they typed this book up, fixed what they saw after the first read through, and then called it a day. This recipe calls for _ cup cream and tells you to bake the potatoes for 1 to 1 hours. Another recipe calls for cup butter, cups clarified butter, tsp fennel, tsp something else. I hope the editor of this book got smacked after publication. They deserve it.

But the dish. It was boring as hell. After your spuds have cooked you slice them in half, scoop out the innards and mix them with cream, tomato and green onion. Stuff it back in and serve. They needed something - more veggies, spices, cheese - to make them more interesting.

The potatos from Jeff Smith on the other hand were fantastic! Thinly sliced and pan fried twice (to make them crispy) with olive oil and garlic. A little more fussy and time consuming, but well worth it.

Well we've obviously got a clear winner here! To be honest I thought this one might be a tie. I love potatoes so much that it's rare they're not my favorite part of a meal. The Frugal Gourmet's potatoes will grace our table again soon. The Galloping Gourmet's book will soon grace the donation pile.

Italian Fried Potatoes
from The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook
serves 4 to 6

2 lb russet potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
salt to taste

Slice the potatoes thinly. Heat a large non stick frying pan and add half the oil. Add the garlic and the sliced potatoes. Pan fry on one side until lightly brown. Turn and brown the other side. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Heat the pan again with the remaining oil and cook again on both sides until nicely brown and tender.
Salt to taste and serve.


Up next on Smackdown, dishes from two of Scott's least favorite Food Network male hosts!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Weekend Cookbook Challenge - Vintage Cookbooks - Fried Apples and Bacon

Last month the most wonderful event was held in Kamloops. The Kamloops Symphony held their Spring Book Sale. Imagine a big room full of books, all for $2 each! I visited them about 400000 times, and in total bought 10 cookbooks. A couple of them are pretty new - the copy of Cook Smart for a Healthy Heart looks like it was never even opened and Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking (2 bucks! how could i resist????) also looks unused, and I know some of you out there would say that's a good thing. :)

Anyway, the other 8 are older books and that fits perfectly into the theme that Carla of Chocolate Moosey has picked for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge - Vintage Cookbooks. Any book published before 1980 is fair game.

Cooking in Color - 700 Recipes For Every Occasion was first published in 1976. It's full of tons of veggie and fruit recipes, although most of them contain obscene amounts of butter/eggs/cheese/mayo. I'm not sure how often I'll pull this off the shelf to cook with, but it's pretty fun to read. For WCC I chose a healthy breakfast - Bacon and Apple Rings. Not an overly diet friendly dish, but I had more apples than bacon on my plate, so I'm counting that for something. I did make a couple of changes - I omitted the butter you were supposed to fry the bacon in (!), and I removed most of the bacon fat before I cooked the apple slices. This was fairly quick and quite yummy for a slow Sunday breakfast eaten at the table with the weekend papers and lots of coffee (for Scott) and milk (for me). Should I make this again? Probably not. Will I make this again? Hell yes.

Please visit Carla and read her WCC post for all the detail for this month.

Bacon and Apple Rings
adapted from Cooking in Color - 700 Recipes For Every Occasion

Serves 4 (haaaaaaaa!)

8 oz bacon
2 golden delicious apples cored and thinly sliced
1 tbsp sugar

Cook the bacon in a large pan over medium high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Keep warm. Remove at least half the bacon fat from the pan. Add the apple slices and fry until tender and golden on both sides. Arrange bacon and apple slices on a serving plate and sprinkle with sugar. Serve immediately with hot toast.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Cook Most of the Book - Vegan With a Vengeance

In January I said that I wanted to do more experimenting in the kitchen, trying new recipes and ingredients. How's it going? Eh.

I've been feeling like I'm in a food rut the past couple of months and I only make new things for challenges and the rest of the time it's the same old, same old. Not what I vowed at the beginning of the year!

For some reason I seem to do better at experimenting if I've got some kind of theme. So last week as I was flipping through a cookbook I decided to challenge myself to cook more from my cookbooks and try recipes I've been meaning to for a long time. I'm starting by cooking my way through most of Vegan with a Vengeance.

Yes, it's been done before. And yes, it's currently being done better. But this is my blog and if I want to have a go, if it will get me out of my rut and back to having fun in the kitchen then so be it.

Here are my rules (to be edited as I go along if necessary):
1. To post a Cook Most of the Book - Vegan with a Vengeance post once a week about the recipes I've cooked the week before. Unless I don't.
2. Ingredient substitutions or omissions as needed (unable to find, Scott won't eat, etc). However, all recipes will stay vegan.
3. Most of the Book - I am currently dieting and trying to lose weight, not gain it. Therefore as much as it pains me, I will not be making all the desserts in the book. I will make some though.

Yay! I'm strangely excited right now, even though I started this last week. OK, so I've got 3 dishes to share with you. Here we go:


Brooklyn Pad Thai (entrees, pg 180)

Isa says: "Is this authentic? Most assuredly not, but it does taste a lot like the Pad Thai served every two feet here in Brooklyn"

Sara says: "Holy crap. Get me a ticket to Brooklyn."

I could not have picked a better recipe to start with, I'm sure. I've had Pad Thai a couple of times before, but this blew them all out of the water. What I don't like about Pad Thai (scrambled egg, shrimp) is not here obviously, so all you are left with is amazing, amazing goodness.

What I did differently: Instead of cutting the tofu into cubes, I crumbled it (Scott likes his tofu in little pieces). I also omitted the peanuts, because I forgot to buy them.

What I'll do differently next time: Cut back on the chile sauce. It was too spicy. I was originally going to use half the amount listed, figuring that we could always add more to our plates if we wanted. Scott insisted on using the full amount but it was too much for us.

This is my new most favorite dish ever.

Homemade Gnocchi (pizzas and pastas, pg 138)

Isa says: "There is no substitute, well, I should say, no good substitute for good homemade pastas."

Sara says: "Hmmmmm."

I'd only had gnocchi once before in my life, and I hated it. Then last month we went out for dinner at a really nice restaurant and Scott's meal came with a few sauteed gnocci. I tried one and it was really good. So when I saw this recipe I thought I should give them another chance.

They were so easy to make, it took no time at all. And it was pretty fun.

What I did differently: Nothing. We made the herbed variation. We didn't have any fresh herbs as this was a spur of the moment meal. We used dried and Scott for some reason pulverized them so they weren't visible in the dough.

What I'll do differently next time: Nothing. They were good, but I don't think I'm a gnocchi person. I was done after about 4 of them and this recipe made a huge amount. I'd play around with them as an appetizer, but I couldn't eat them as a meal. These were better than the ones I hated from 10 years ago, but not as good as the fried ones from last month.

Roasted Applesauce (sides, pg 122)

Isa says: "Serve it alongside potato pancakes .....or any time you think "This is good, but it could use some applesauce"."

Sara says: "Yum."

As I threw the apples in the oven to roast, I realized I've made this recipe before. But that's fine, it's damn good applesauce. I don't really care for applesauce as a condiment to savory dishes; I like it for dessert, or for breakfast. We ate the whole batch in 3 days.

What I did differently: Nothing.

What I'll do differently next time: Make more and not share with Scott.