Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

Brussel sprouts are one of my very favorite veggies, although I am always boring and only have them steamed and eaten with lots of butter. With the first sprouts of the season I wanted to do something different.

Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

4 slices bacon, chopped
olive oil, if necessary
4 cups trimmed brussel sprouts, quartered or halved, depending on size
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup chicken broth

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove from pan. If there is not enough drippings in the pan, add some oil. Add the sprouts and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sprouts start to brown in places. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover and let cook until the sprouts are tender-crisp. Remove lid and turn heat back up to medium high. Cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the bacon and season with pepper. Serve straightaway.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Chinese Flower Steam Buns

This month the lovely Karen of Baking Soda chose our bread for the Bread Baking Babes. She threw at us a really interesting pick - Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao (Chinese Flower Steam Buns) from the book Global Baker by Dean Brettschneider.

This recipe differs in a couple of ways from "traditional" dough. First, the dough is not kneaded, but is rolled out thin, folded, rolled again, repeat repeat until your arms want to fall off. I was surprised that quite soon the dough lost its roughness and turned soft and silky. The other major way it is different from any other recipe the Babes have tried so far is that in the end the buns are steamed, not baked. How cool.

Here's the dough being rolled (and rolled and roooooooolled):

And justlikethat here's the finished buns ready to be cooked! So easy! Actually we took some video of filling and cutting and rolling the buns but as I write this I haven't looked at it yet. But you sprinkle the dough with chopped green onions and red chile, fold and cut into slices, then twist the slices, and knot.

The buns are steamed for 20 minutes.

And then ready to eat. I was going to make some sort of fancy dipping sauce, but no. We just used a wee bit of soy.

These buns were easier than I thought they would be, and pretty fun. These would be great to make as part of a larger dim sum meal. My original plan was to also make some sushi and dumplings to go along side, which then turned into buying some sushi and dumplings, but in the end I did neither. We just ate the buns on their own.

Many thanks Karen, for a great choice this month! Please visit the other Babe's sites (listed over on the right) for more steamy goodness.

Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao
(Chinese flower steam buns)
makes 10 buns
"Everywhere you go in China you see people eating steam buns, also known as mantong. Typically Chinese, a sweet bread is combined with a savoury filling, such as red bean paste and barbecued pork, but take care and avoid using too much filling or the bun will fall apart during the rising and steaming stage. The baking powder helps to open up the texture and gives a little tenderness to the eating quality of the buns. If you can, use imported Chinese flour from a specialist Asian food market or store".

300 g Chinese flour (plain flour will do)
15 g sugar
15 g butter
good pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
150 ml chilled water, placed in the refrigerator overnight

rice bran oil, for brushing on dough
40 g finely chopped spring onions or chives
25 g finely chopped red chillies
salt to taste

To make the dough, place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, combine to form a very, very firm dough mass. Don't be tempted to add any water or the steam buns will be flat after steaming.
Place the dough on a work surface and, using your rolling pin, roll out to a thin strip, fold this in half and roll again. Repeat this 10-15 times with a 30 second rest in between each time. This is a way of mixing a very firm dough, the dough will start to become smooth and elastic as a result of the rolling process.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warmish place (23-25C) for 15 minutes. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to a 25cm square. Brush the dough surface lightly with oil and sprinkle the chopped chives and chillies evenly over the dough. Season with salt.
Fold the dough in half and then cut into 2.5cm strips so that you end up with 10 folded strips. Stretch each strip and, starting at the folding edge, twist the two pieces of each strip over each other to form a rope.
Take the twisted rope and tie into a double knot, tucking the loose ends underneath. Place each bun with ends facing down on a 5cm square of non-stick baking paper** and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Prove for approximately 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Bring a wok or saucepan of water to the boil with a bamboo steamer sitting on top. Remove the bamboo steamer lid and place the buns on the paper in the steamer 3-4 cm apart to allow for expansion during steaming. Replace the steamer lid and steam for 20 minutes. Repeat until all the buns have been steamed and are firm to the touch.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beans R Good

Things are going pretty well over here. I recently had a doctor's appointment and all was proclaimed good, including that I don't have gestational diabetes (YAY), and my blood work was all good, except that my iron levels are "acceptable but low". I did a search on the internet yesterday before work for some iron rich foods but was coming up with only creepy lists that included whale and seal meat. I twittered (of course I did) what I was looking for, and when I got home that night I saw I had some responses from some very helpful people, suggesting leafy greens, red meat, beans and beets. So we had a big salad for dinner and after dinner I checked out the cupboards for what would be for dinner the next night and we had about 10 cans of beans, and I knew right away what to make -
Mexican Black Bean and Roasted Pineapple Bowl from Everybody Like Sandwiches.

Now who wouldn't like rice and beans and pineapple and salsa all layered together? Only a fool, I tell you.

We made the salsa with tomatos from the garden.

How good does this look?

The iron rich beans were sauteed with onion and bell pepper and spices. The pineapple, which should have been fresh and roasted, was canned and warmed in a pan. But still good. We topped the beans rice and pineapple with the fresh salsa and sour cream. I skipped the cheese on mine.

So delicious and good for you! Give Jeanette's recipe a try, you'll love it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall is coming

Ferocious spiny sea monster?
Nope, just a chestnut from the park.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Freezer Pickles Part Two

Back a few posts I shared with you that we'd made some freezer pickles that would be ready after chilling out for 3 weeks.

Time's up and I've pulled a bag out of the freezer.

These are really nice, turned out better than I expected. The texture is good, and the taste is a combo of sweet and salty. Interesting and delicious. This recipe is a keeper!

Freezer Pickles

8 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 tb salt
1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar

Toss the cucumbers onions and salt together in a large bowl. Cover and let sit for 2 to 3 hours.
Rinse the cucumbers very well. Squeeze handfuls of cucumber to remove excess water.
Put the cucumber/onions into freezer bags or freezer containers. Stir the vinegar and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved, and pour over the cucumber/onions.
Freeze at least 3 weeks before eating. The longer the pickles sit, the sweeter they will be. Thaw in the refrigerator before eating.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What's in a name?

My lack of interest in food and food related anything continues. It upsets me - I love my blog and I love all of you - but I just can't gather up enthusiasm for anything food. We are eating incredibly boring, completely not worth writing about food 99% of the time. But occasionally I come across a recipe that I just HAVE to try. Like this one from Ina.

We were watching a Barefoot Contessa episode I'd recorded and Ina was testing, among other things, 2 chocolate cupcake recipes, one with coffee in the batter and icing, and one without coffee. I'm not a fan of chocolate cake, but something snapped in my head and I googled the recipe so I could add the ingredients needed to my shopping list.

First off, Sara is once again reminded that sizes differ from place to place. This recipe calls for chocolate syrup and I just assumed that the can I found at the grocery store would be the same size used in the recipe. It wasn't until I had the butter and sugar creaming that I discovered via a ml to oz converter online that I only had half the amount of syrup needed. So after placing my hands on my belly to cover the baby's ears (to muffle the curse words I uttered), we halved the butter/sugar mixture and made a half batch of cupcakes instead.

Second, I learned that not all muffin cups are created equal. We were now making 6 cupcakes, but had way too much batter. Is there no consistency in the world????? We ended up with 10 cupcakes, tossed them in the oven and went to clean the chocolate batter off the living room furniture (I blame the baby).
After letting the cupcakes cool completely I made the icing - cream, chocolate and more instant coffee. I threw in a pinch of salt too. The icing is insanely fabulous - I didn't measure the coffee, just tossed some in, so it was more coffee-heavy than it should have been. I could have eaten it with a spoon. I still might - there's some left over.

These cupcakes - well, they're not cupcakes. For me, a cupcake is light and airy. These are dense and fudge-y - a fudgecake! Very nice, but mis-named, in my opinion.

Ina Garten's Chocolate Ganache Cupcake

1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 (16-ounce) can Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz chocolate chips
1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and coffee granules and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the muffin pan.
For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.
Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. Do not refrigerate.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

oh what a world

We came back from Calgary on Monday. A sad trip - the funeral of Scott's beloved Nana. The trip was hard, made even more difficult for me (and poor Scott) by my new pregnancy induced level of emotion. But there were some happy moments - seeing family and friends after nearly 2 years, introducing my baby bump to Scott's Mom for the first time. Spending lots of time with our wonderful and weird little nephew, who will turn 3 around the time his cousin is born.

As we drove home on Monday the skies were blue and cloudless, we were surrounded by beautiful green forests and the air (until we hit smoky skies from the forest fires) smelled heavenly. And Rufus Wainwright's Oh, What A World came on the ipod.

Oh what a world my parents gave me
Still I think I'm doin' fine
Wouldn't it be a lovely headline
Life is
Beautiful on a New York Times
Oh what a world
We live in