Archive for the ‘Baked Goods’ Category

This here is a summer meal.

“But wait!” you say, “it’s only May!”.  Well obviously you didn’t spend last weekend in Toronto/Ontario/my sweltering apartment. So if May seems a little too early to be laying in front of a fan and spritzing water on yourself from the spray bottle normally reserved for punishing the cat, forgive me.  We’re waiting for the screens for our windows to arrive, and since my cat would likely launch herself out of our apartment in chase of birds if I opened the un-screened windows all the way, for now we sweat.

So yes, you may have heard that I moved again. Spare me the “you move a lot!” remarks if you please, because my past bunch of moves have been necessary and had you lived in two back-to-back (TWO!!!) cockroach-infested apartments with a host of other problems to boot, you’d move too. This is the first time in over a year that I’ve felt like I have a home I want to go home to, and it is an immense relief and such a burden lifted off of my emotional and mental health! I am also now embarking on the adventure that is cohabitation, so things are all new up in here.

The new kitchen.

But this is a food blog, not a blog about my life (or is it? are those things not kind of the same anyways?) I owe you a summery meal, and a summery meal you’ll get.

Well hello there, magnetic knife rack…

Last Friday I finally received my copy of Alana Chernila’s cookbook, entitled The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.  Very honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a beautiful cookbook. I sat down and basically read it cover to cover when I got home on Friday evening, and I rarely do that with cookbooks. I’m usually a page-flipper with new cookbooks. But time and time again, Alana’s blog has had these beautifully written pieces that say so much about food, so much that I wholeheartedly agree with.  I would be lying if I said that my eyes didn’t get a little welly-with-tears when I read certain pages of her book.  It’s wonderful, and on Friday night, I was inspired to start making more than just dinner. Saturday morning I bought rhubarb at the market, and will be making some more Rosemary-Rhubarb jam soon. But on Saturday, though none of the recipes came from her book, I made a summery feast.

Homemade veggie burgers, with homemade whole-wheat buns, maple-lemon fiddleheads (by Paul!) and homemade lemon ice cream. Nom.

Now, I won’t tell you about the burgers, because I’ve already written about them here. I’ll tell you about the ice cream and about the buns.

First, the buns. A confession: I’m a bread cheater, because I use a bread machine. I know that I could do it all without the machine, but the machine makes it SO EASY, and I have it, so I’ll continue to use it until I decide it is no longer fit for me. I adapted the bun recipe from here, primarily changing it to include more whole wheat flour and I used butter and some sunflower oil rather than shortening, because shortening is gross.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns for the Bread Machine

1 cup water

1 egg

1.5 cups all-purpose flour

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup softened butter (supplemented with a little bit of sunflower oil, because I didn’t have quite enough butter already softened, and I am now without a microwave and didn’t want to wait)

1/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons yeast

1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional)

I used the dough setting on my bread machine, and when it was done I punched it down on a floured cutting board and rolled into a kind of log. I cut it into 8 equal pieces, rolled those into balls, and flattened them slightly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. I covered them with a towel and let them rise a bit more, then brushed them with some egg white, popped them in the oven at 400, and baked them for less than 10 minutes. They were DELICIOUS. I wanted to eat a million of them, but we only had 8 and they were gone so quickly. Thank goodness I’m not gluten-intolerant.

Insert “nice buns” joke here.

Now, the ice cream. The lemon ice cream. If you didn’t already know, lemon desserts are my favourite. For awhile, an old roommate of mine was calling me Liz Lemoncake, after I expressed concern that people would start complaining behind my back that I always make lemon cake. Obviously, my roommate told me I was crazy, and that people would be happy that I was bringing cake at all.  This lemon ice cream is my mom’s recipe. I grew up having it very rarely (because we didn’t use the ice cream maker that much) but remember it fondly. I have often tried to find an ice cream elsewhere that lives up to it, but have never found one – it is truly a rarety to find a lemon ice cream – not lemon sorbet, not lemon frozen yogurt, lemon ICE CREAM. It is tart and yet oh-so-creamy at the same time, and it is divine. Here it is, verbatim from my mom’s recipe (hope this one wasn’t a secret, mom!)

I think this recipe came with my mom’s ice cream maker?

makes 1 1/2 quarts
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla
heat the milk to simmering point.  In the meantime, stir together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt.  Stir the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and return to the saucepan.  Place over low heat and stir constantly until thickened into a light custard. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Cool the mixture before pouring into the ice cream freezer can.
Churn for approximately 20 minutes or until the consistency of whipped cream.  Transfer to containers and freeze until firm.
If you don’t have an ice cream machine, I can’t help you. Except that I can, if you are my friend and live in Toronto and want to come over for ice cream.

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I know what you’re thinking – “That Liz, any excuse to say the word ‘nips’!” but it isn’t like that, I swear. A little while back, I started buying goldfish crackers. This increased when the President’s Choice version came out not too long ago, which are shaped like penguins and just a little bit cheaper than the original.  I started buying these partly to try and break my Crispers habit, because while Crispers are certainly delicious, they are also full of all kinds of crap.  Surprisingly, goldfish/penguin crackers mostly are not.  I mean, they have some things in them that I wouldn’t use in my food at home, but not nearly as bad as the barrage of un-pronounceable things that many other crackers have in them.  And so a cheese-y cracker addiction began.  Sometimes I would opt for Cheese Nips (I swear, I’m not trying to advertise for any of these brands) if they were on sale.  But always, as I bought these, there was a voice in my head nagging me. It was saying “Stop buying these – save your money.  You know you can make these at home”.  This voice usually comes up in the cookie aisle, when I’m tempted to buy some crappy grocery store cookies and I talk myself out of it with images of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Not too long ago, I never would have dreamed of making crackers.  Even though I’ve seen roommates make them before with ease.  But those are usually healthy crackers, and I just want a salty snack.  All the homemade crackers I pictured in my head were covered in seeds and made with spelt and all that – completely delicious for many purposes, but generally not the kind of crackers I buy anyways.   But then, almost a year ago now, there was THIS.  I remember reading that post and having my mind blown.  It looked so easy.  So few ingredients! And yet, I didn’t have a goldfish-shaped cookie cutter.  So I put off making them.  And oh yeah, I didn’t really have a good food processor either.  Always excuses, and I kept buying the cheesey store crackers.

Today, I came home from the grocery store to do my homework.  And I did homework, for a little while.  And then I remembered that every day last week I brought penguin-cheese crackers with me to school in my lunch, and I didn’t have any more for this week.  I remembered that I just bought 2 blocks of cheese on sale (300g block for 2 bucks! Pretty good deal!).  Without hesitation, I got up, and started grating cheese.  I knew if I started, it would come together in no time, and it did.  The only part of this recipe that takes any time is the actual baking, and that’s not really active time.  So make these for yourself, because holy crap, they are sooo easy and more delicious than any store version, and cheaper, and they only have SIX ingredients. Two of them are flour, and none of them are weird.  And really, truly, you don’t need a goldfish cookie cutter to make them.

Cheese Crackers a la Goldfish (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from The Lee Bros.)

– 1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (really pack it in those cups, the more cheese the better. If you want to weigh it, its supposed to be 6 ounces of grated cheese)

-4 TBSP of butter (I cut mine into little cubes, and softened a bit in the microwave)

-1/2 cup whole wheat flour

-1/4 cup regular flour

-1/4 tsp. onion powder (optional – you can barely taste it, but I think it adds character)

-1/4 tsp. salt (you can put less – these are not as salty as the store-bought kind, but they are still salty.  I’m a salt fiend, so if you want less, go for it)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and let blend until it forms a ball of dough. This should take about 2 minutes.  THIS was the craziest thing ever! When I turned on my food processor, it just looked like bread crumbs, and I thought there was no way it would come together into a ball of dough.  Did I miss something? Am I supposed to add some water? I checked the recipe again and read through the comments.  Nope, no water. I resisted the urge to add some right away and decided to (gasp!) follow the directions. It was nuts, I’ve never seen this before.  A mix of totally dry and crumbly bits started to get more clumpy, and more clumpy, until suddenly it was one big ball of dough and my food processor was working hard to push it around in circles.  Crazy! So, have faith in this dough.

Roll it out (on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin) until it is 1/8 inch thick.  I never know how thick my dough is, so just try and get it fairly thin, yet thick enough that you are still actually able to pick it up off your rolling surface. Since I don’t have any cookie cutters, I just cut my crackers into squares, placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, pricked them a few times with a fork (to let the steam escape) and misted them with water.  In my insanely-fast-super-hot oven, these only took about 5-6 minutes per batch, but the recipe said 12-15.  So keep an eye on them.  Take them out when they are starting to be golden at the edges, but before they burn (duh).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.  Sometimes things like this go soggy when they are in containers, I will let you know if that happens.

I ate about a million of them while I baked, and still ended up with about 80 1-inch square crackers, so pretty good.  They cost me about $1 worth of cheese to make, and the rest of the ingredients I always have and so I count that cost as pretty much negligible. So all in all, a great deal. Even if “I love homemade-cheesey-square-crackers cuz they’re so delicious!” doesn’t quite flow off the tongue in the same way. Enjoy!

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PEACHES. Holy moly, do I ever love them. I feel like this year I’ve missed a lot of the summer seasonal fruit, both because I was out of town so much during the month of July when things like raspberries and blueberries were in their heyday, but also because this year was actually not very fruitful for some of our more beloved summer fruits – mostly the stone fruits.  Why? Well, we had a wet spring, and our already-waning pollinators can’t go out in the rain to pollinate those beautiful cherry and apricot blossoms.  Not Far From the Tree has a great blog post explaining this, check it out here.  What this all means is that now that I’m finally moved and settled, I’m also ready to start cooking, baking, and preserving like a madwoman, and peaches are right on time.

I bought myself a basket of Ontario peaches, and since our dear friend Emily was coming over the next day to see our new apartment in the morning, I wanted to make some kind of breakfast cake to be enjoyed with coffee or tea.  In the recent tradition of my freestyle banana bread, I decided to essentially make the recipe up as I went along.  The problem? Well, it seems that when I cook I can remember EITHER to take photos, OR to write down the recipe I’m making up as I go.  I have yet to master the taking of pictures AND the recipe recording AND the cooking altogether.  The result this time is that I have a great new recipe for you, with no photos of the work in progress. D’oh!

The good news? I couldn’t have been happier with how this little coffee cake thing turned out.  It was just the right sweetness, a great texture, and the peaches weren’t overpowered by the other ingredients.  Without further ado, here’s my recipe – finally, an original of mine!

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used bread flour because it’s what I had on hand)

1/4 cup or so of regular large flake oats (this was an afterthought so I just dumped some in)

3/4 tsp of both baking soda and baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

some freshly grated nutmeg, and a generous pinch of cinnamon

Stir together those dry ingredients!

3/4 stick of butter, softened (a stick is one quarter of a 1lb block of butter, or 6/8 of a cup)

1/4 cup of white sugar

1/4 cup plus another small glug of maple syrup

1 egg

a splash of vanilla and a splash of dark rum

3/4 cup of plain yogurt

1 cup of chopped peaches

Cream together the butter, sugar and syrup, and then beat in the egg, vanilla, and rum.  Stir in the yogurt and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir until combined and then add in the peaches.  Bake in a VERY well-greased or parchment-lined loaf pan for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  You’ll have to keep an eye on it and just keep inserting a toothpick or fork to test for the cake’s doneness – for a long time it seemed like the top of mine was going to burn long before the cake was cooked, but it worked out fine.  I also sprinkled the top with some turbinado sugar before baking for that crunchy sugar topping!  A great finishing touch! Here’s what the cake looked like when it was done:

Now, since I did such a poor job of photo-documenting this tasty little creation, I’ll end with a smattering of photos of recent edible delights.  Next time I’ll do better, I promise!

Pizza with golden zucchini, caramelized onions, and fresh basil and kale from the garden!

Bread and Butter Pickles with Fresh Ginger!

Strawberry summer cake back from Canada Day weekend! Kat didn't get any and she was sad...

See you next time! I’ll keep you posted about my preserving exploits and the vegetarian creations I cook up on my brand new (drumroll!) BBQ!

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Let it be known that I carried a food-grade large white bucket and lid home from work on the TTC on Monday so that Kat Burns and I could use it to make sauerkraut.  Before I left work I kept wearing it like a purse and saying things like “It’s the new Dolce & Gabbana”.  Do D&G even make purses? I’m not the type of person who would know.  Anyway, sauerkraut has been postponed until next week.  The real story is that on Sunday night Kat sent me the following email:

“Can we make Hors d’Oeuvre pie? I found the recipe in a 1978 National
Geographic advert and it sounds both gross and awesome. Behold:

1 x frozen pie shell (blasphemy!) flattened to a big circle
340g of Cream Cheese
60 g of Blue cheese (optional)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp onion or garlic salt

Garnish: cherry tomato halves, sliced mushrooms, parsley sprigs,
chopped hard boiled egg and sliced ripe olives (in a circular pattern,
looks pretty nice). Bake pastry, cool. Places on serving platter. Blend first 4
ingredients until fluffy, spread on pastry. Garnish as shown. Makes 12


Now I myself (unlike many reasonable and unreasonable people of this world) am a big mayo lover, but even this I thought was a little much.  Still, I’m always up for a food adventure.  I had a frozen pie crust that I’d made awhile back so I took it out to thaw.  Later on, though, Kat and I decided that eating a mayonnaise pie between just the two of us was not such a good idea afterall.  So instead! We made a sort of quiche/tart thing.  I (as usual) took inspiration from Smitten Kitchen, but mostly because I thought to myself “does cauliflower even go with eggs?” because I had eggs, and I had cauliflower.  I trusted that based on that recipe, the two would combine well.


For Christmas I got a set of pie weight chains in my stocking, and decided to give them a whirl, since quiche is the type of thing you’re supposed to blind bake pastry for.  Let me just say, I don’t think I can be bothered so much with the blind baking.  I have always found that if you chill your crust in the pie plate for awhile before filling it, it may get a bit soggy on the bottom but not unreasonably so.  This blind baking business is a lot of hassle, and even with my new pie weights, the thing shrunk so much!

Giant hand pinches the butts of unsuspecting onions.


So anyway, I rolled out my crust and I weighted it in the pie plate and I baked it empty for about 20 minutes and then quickly put a baking sheet of cauliflower in to roast as soon as the pie crust came out and all the while I was caramelizing some onions in my trusty cast iron pan.  I whisked together some milk, ricotta cheese, a tiny dollop of mustard, grated gruyere and a mere 2 eggs in a bowl and ground in some salt and pepper.  When the onions and the cauliflower were done, I put the onions in the pie crust, then the cauliflower, and then poured the egg-milk-cheese mixture over it all.  Then we baked some more.  I always have a hard time telling when eggs are done if they’re being baked and there’s cheese or other dairy in them – they always seem undercooked but it’s so hard to tell if they’re just deliciously silky from the cheese and whatnot.  Better safe than sorry though I guess.  I turned the oven to broil for the last few minutes to get a nice browned crunchy top.

Meanwhile, Kat made a salad with romaine, raw collard greens, and some of my rainbow carrots.  She told me I had to eat all my salad so I ate it first because I hate raw vegetables for the most part, and salad especially.

The quiche/tart/whatever it was was delicious, and as per usual, Kat and I washed it all down with many hours of 90210.  Later we made a giant chocolate chip cookie.  Mondays are awesome.

I dog-eared the corner so I wouldn't forget which cookie I was eating.


P.S. If you happened to NOT click on the link on Kat’s name above, please do, and here it is again.  She’s undertaking a really awesome project for the month of February, and you can snag some awesome original art for a great deal!

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Last Monday Kat and I were unable to cook-n-blog together because I had to work in the evening, so I thought I’d delay the previous week’s post so as to space out the food porn until our next food adventure.  That sounds better than saying “I was too lazy to post something this week”, right? Anyway, the last time that Kat and I met I made the food that I had intended to make on our first Monday – a black bean soup using the crockpot that Kat has indefinitely lent me while she lives on the island.  Crockpots are so cool.  I’ve never owned one myself, and I don’t use Kat’s as much as I should, but I love the idea of being able to leave something simmering while you’re out all day without worrying about burning your whole house down.  I may have mentioned this in my last post, but I’m trying really hard to live more like a poor person these days, which mostly just means cooking more in the ways that I’d like to be anyways.  Meaning, less prepared foods – but to the max; i.e. I’ve been buying dried beans rather than canned ones, making my own bread in my awesome breadmachine that I got for Christmas, etc.  It requires a bit more planning, but you have so much more control over your food AND it saves money.

So I wanted to make a black bean soup, and I started out by wanting to make this one, because as you all know by now, I love the SmitKit.  Also, the cumin seed crema sounded amazing, and her soup just looks so…smooth. I wanted that smoothness.  But then, when I actually made the soup, I didn’t follow that recipe at all, but still complained when my soup didn’t look smooth at all.  Hey, I never said I was rational.  I think the biggest reason why my soup didn’t look like that is that Deb over at Smitten Kitchen COOKED her beans in the crockpot all together with the soup ingredients, so all that beany cooking liquid would be in there making it darker and more voluptuous.  But I cooked the beans beforehand, for reasons I just don’t know.  When I went to make the soup I looked at that Smitten Kitchen recipe, and the black bean soup recipe in my copy of Veganomicon, and then kind of made up my own that was inspired by each of those recipes.  Basically, I sauteed onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and some green and orange peppers and added spices and one of my reconstituted chipotle peppers from my summer CSA (the first time I actually used one of these peppers – so good!) and then dumped all that into the crockpot with some water and the beans and turned it on.  Later I pureed part of the soup in my teeny tiny food processor, which reminded me how much I miss having an immersion blender. Pureeing soup in any kind of blender or food processor is just the worst. THE WORST.

Portrait of the Cornbread as a Young Man

I did, however, follow Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for the cumin seed crema, and I used creme fraiche and OMG why don’t I buy/make creme fraiche all the time? I want to eat this cumin creme fraiche on everything! I will be honest – while Kat and I watched 90210 I ate several spoonfuls (or actually, finger-dipfuls) of that creme fraiche all on its own, and also drizzled mass quantities of it over the cornbread I made to go with the soup.  Everything and anything is a vehicle for this creme fraiche to get into my belly.

Anyways, though the soup didn’t look nearly as pretty as I may have wanted, it tasted quite good and it packed quite a spicy punch from that one tiny chipotle pepper.  I had tons of leftovers and it reheated very well.

P.S. You may be thinking “That’s an awfully full glass of wine” but while I would not be opposed to drinking such a glass of wine you should know that it is actually a portion of the very delicious (though sadly not Ontario-made) Creme Brulee Stout that we drank that night, and which I have enjoyed on other occasions as well.  Beer + Beans + Cornbread.  Not a bad Monday.  See you next week, when Kat and I put a bunch of cabbage in a bucket and see what happens.

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Yes, this blog post is entitled “Pastry taste explosion”.  Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything else to title it.  I wanted to say something like “The most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten for realz and it tastes like autumn inside a crust” but I figured that would be a little too long.  But honestly, I took one bite of this and was like “I think this is the single most delicious thing I’ve ever made and eaten”.  Which is surely an exaggeration but be that as it may, you should make this.

This recipe is another one that I’ve adapted from Smitten Kitchen, and you can see her recipe for Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette here.  I’m sure that if you followed her recipe exactly it would yield something equally as amazing, if not better.  She loves galettes over there at SK, and I was mostly intimidated by them until Emily made the cabbage mushroom one for a dinner party I attended in the summer.  I was inspired to try it on my own shortly after, and made the same one. And it was definitely really good.  But THIS one. Holy smokes, it was amazing.

While this recipe is definitely time-consuming, it’s mostly waiting around time, so it is not too hard.  I changed the recipe slightly by using a different squash that I had on hand – I think it was a little acorn squash, but those green smallish round ones with the ruffles all look the same to me – and I changed the cheese as well.  Rather than use fontina I used a cheese that was called “Gruyere de Grotte” and it was strong and delicious.  You can check out her recipe, but basically you cut up your squash and roast it in cubes until it is tender, and meanwhile you get your onions going.  I used about one and a half of some sizable onions – don’t skimp on them.  Just slice them in thin half moons and get them slowly slowly cooking in butter.  It’ll take awhile, but you don’t want them on heat that’s too high or you’ll just char them. You should’ve already made your dough by now and have it in the fridge – and I know that most people are not really into slapping together some dough for your average dinner, but I’m telling you it’s SO EASY and SO SATISFYING and everything tastes better in a crust.  Also, this.  But I digress.

The major key to this recipe is FRESH SAGE.  You gotta use fresh sage.  Once your onions and your squash are cooked you mix all the stuff together that is going to go inside your crust.  I didn’t grate my cheese because I secretly HATE grating cheese and instead just cut it up into tiny cubes.  Toss your sage and cheese and onions and squash together and that’s your filling!  Now you just roll out your crust, put it on a baking sheet, glop everything in the middle, and fold up your edges.  The best part about galettes is that they are meant to look “rustic” so you just fold up your uneven edges as they are.  Then you bake it.

It’ll come out looking something like that, and you’ll barely be able to let it cook for a few minutes without slicing into it immediately.  I practically melted when I took my first bite because it tasted exactly like this:

So yeah, it tasted like Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s Glen Major Forest site on a foggy October afternoon. Sounds delicious, am I right?

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So, I love thanksgiving.  I suppose I don’t get quite as giddy about it as I do about the Christmas season, but Christmas gets extended over many more days usually (food-wise, drink-wise, and fun-wise) and thanksgiving is just a concentrated, one shot deal.  I love thanksgiving because for the most part (and in Canada, at least) the holiday doesn’t have any real religious basis, and is mostly about giving THANKS for the harvest.  I love the harvest!  I also love autumn, and thanksgiving falls during the perfect part of autumn where it’s not so cold yet (how do Americans do it?!) and there’s often still these warm sunny days, but with the crisp breezes and leaves that fall brings.  I have spent many a thanksgiving in Bright’s Grove going for a bike ride along the lake while the turkey is in the oven.

But I digress, the point is, that I love thanksgiving because it seems to exist for no other purpose than to bring family and friends together for good hearty food and drink.  Which is basically what I want to do, like, every day. This year my parents went away (wah!) and to Savannah, Georgia no less (double wah! i wanna go!) and so I stayed in Toronto and made a mini vegetarian thanksgiving on Monday.  I will post part two of this meal tomorrow, but today I want to tell you about The Pie.

See that? That’s the pumpkin that made it into my pie.  “Huh?!” you say? It doesn’t look like a pumpkin? Well, I know.  But it is. I went to pick up my CSA on Friday and intended to get a pie pumpkin when I was there.  But when I got there, I couldn’t see any of the lil’ cuties there.  So I asked if they had any, and Shannon (one of my trusty CSA peeps) told me to look in the bushel at my feet and pull out the long green squashy thing.  She told me it was a pumpkin, and that it actually makes the best pumpkin pie.  It’s an heirloom variety called the “long pie pumpkin” and she’d only had pie made with a long pie for the first time last year, but said that she can never go back now.  The internet also told me that puree made from a long pie has a tendency to be much less watery, which is great because I was not really in the mood to have to go buy cheesecloth and strain my pumpkin glop overnight in the sink, you know?

I already sort of talked about how to cook a pumpkin when I talked about the curry I made a couple weeks ago, but basically chop it up, steam it, slip the skin off, and then in this case, puree it in a food processor.  I did the pumpkin cooking and pureeing on Saturday evening, and kept the puree in the fridge overnight, tightly covered.

On Sunday morning, before work, I actually made the pie itself.  I took the pumpkin puree out of the fridge in the morning to warm up a bit, because it seemed like it should be more like room temperature than ice cold.  I basically followed the recipe for pumpkin pie from my Joy of Cooking book, though I didn’t pre-bake the pie shell at all, because it seemed like a lot of trouble and we never did that growing up.  I did put the pie shell (once rolled out and in the pie plate) in the fridge for a good half hour before adding the filling to bake it.  If you don’t pre-bake or chill it then I suspect you’ll end up with a bottom crust that is total mush.

The filling is basically 2-3 eggs, beaten, 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (or cream), 2 cups of pumpkin puree, some white sugar and some more brown sugar (i used about 1/3 cup of each I think) and your spices.  Generous amounts of ground ginger and ground cinnamon, and then smaller amounts of nutmeg, allspice and cloves.  I used the smallest spec of ground cloves because I share my mother’s aversion to clove-flavour, but wanted to make sure I got the all-round pumpkin pie flavour.  Create your tinfoil crust protection space pie thing (see above – this is how you avoid burning the edge of your crust – you can take it off for the last little bit of the bake time) and put that baby in the oven.  Carefully, because it’s gonna slosh.  Probably best to put the pie on a baking sheet before pouring the filling it so that it’s easier to carry over to the oven, but I didn’t do this and I survived.  Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes. Basically until firm, which means that if you give it a jiggle it doesn’t look really sloshy.  It’s still going to be moist, and it will definitely continue to cook a bit more in the pie plate once it’s out of the oven.  So PLEASE, don’t make the same mistake I made last year and let your mom and aunt watch the pie for the last little bit, after they’ve insisted it’s still undercooked, only to come back downstairs and have them tell you that they wrecked your pie and that they saw the pie filling literally BOILING in and bubbling in the dish in the oven.  Blackened pumpkin pie is NOT Southern delicacy, nor a Northern one.  (Sorry Mom and Glenda – how could I talk about this year’s pie without mentioning last year’s?)

Isn’t she cute? On Monday we had this for dessert (alongside hot toddys for Carly and I, and tea for the teatotalling Kat and Mara) and it was totally good.  We’d been reading and laughing and making fun of this cookbook of mine that has awful non-puns and anecdotes, and someone starting calling the author a “chocolate slut” and then Mara bit into her piece of pie and said “This is really good! You’re no chocolate slut!”.

An unorthodox compliment, but a good one, and I’ll take it.  I wish I had 3 more of these pies.  More Thanksgiving stuff to come tomorrow…

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Yesterday was a really awesome day.  It was really lovely weather, and Paul and I got up early and went to the St. Lawrence Market for the Sunday antique market. I’d never been before, and there was some really cool stuff there.  AND! I got a quilt stand! I know, I know, you’re thinking “how old is this lady?! Ninety-five?!” because really, who buys quilt stands? Well, I do.  I have this beautiful quilt I got last year in Montreal that’s more than a hundred years old and I love it and the backing is silk and I always want to look at it but I simply cannot sleep with it on my bed – I’ve done so on a few different occasions, and I’ve made existing tears bigger, and felt the backing rip over my feet.  My mom has an antique quilt stand and I thought it was exactly what I need and then I stumbled right upon one yesterday! Mega score. Paul and I also bought a Super Nintendo with a whole bunch of games.  After the market we were really hungry.  Like low-blood-sugar-cranky-pants-hungry.  I was too hungry to even think about what I wanted to eat, but Paul wanted savoury french toast.

So savoury french toast we had.  When I later explained the concept of savoury (rather than sweet) french toast to my dear friend Mara, she cringed and pretended to vomit.  To each their own, I suppose!  Really it’s just adding a bit of salt to your egg/milk mixture (and herbs, if you want to ) and then varying your toppings. Instead of maple syrup, I had mine with this delicious fresh yellow tomato and sour cream.  Paul had something strange like sour cream with ketchup and hot sauce. Either way, a delicious brunch.

Speaking of tomatoes, that yellow tomato came from Paul’s mom’s garden in Kitchener.  He went home for a quick visit and came back with 3 litres of tomatoes for me.  About half were red and half were low-acid yellow, so I decided it was definitely a bad idea to try and can the low acid ones.  I had been intrigued earlier this summer by a recipe for a yellow tomato sauce on 101 Cookbooks and decided to try it out.  The recipe was really very simple – as tomato sauces likely should always be – and it was more that I had never thought of making a sauce with yellow tomatoes before.  But how pretty!  I invited Mara over for dinner to see my new place and Paul and I made this yellow tomato sauce, also stealing the onion technique from this tomato sauce recipe from over at my other go-to food blog, Smitten Kitchen.  I think I’ve now decided that cutting an onion in half and letting it simmer in with sauce is basically the most ingenious way to get onion flavour into sauces.  Or soups for that matter, or who knows what else!  I love it.  I love this onion technique the way I love cobbler.

This sauce smelled so good while it was cooking.  Paul and I both had our concerns that it wouldn’t taste nearly as good as it smelled, but it was actually really delicious. We sauteed and threw in some of my many CSA veggies at the end (namely a funny shaped yellow zucchini, spinach, and a store-bought portobello mushroom) in an attempt to use up the many veggies I’m having a hard time consuming now that I live alone (I’ve been giving away cobs of corn and bunches of beets!)

We had the sauce over pan-friend mini gnocchi, topped with parmesan, and served it alongside a simple salad of lettuce, grated carrot and pea shoots (also all CSA items) with delicious ACE bakery baguette.

And then we ate it on my back patio.  It was awesome.  And we had cobbler for dessert (again).  This time it was peach rhubarb cobbler, and Paul thought it was better than the peach blueberry one, but I didn’t think so.

Then I left my camera sitting on the patio overnight and I’m pretty sure it rained and I KNEW when I was coming inside last night that there was something I meant to remember but couldn’t actually remember what that thing was and when I remembered this morning it was out there on the ground all soaked with beads of water but miraculously it seems fine.  The reason that I went looking for it this morning was because I was making another something delicious for breakfast in honour of Paul’s first day back to school, and first day going to school full-time in a very long time.  Again, in an effort to eat up some of my veggies I made corn pancakes!  I used a Smitten Kitchen recipe again, which you can review here – though mine seemed to turn out quite differently – the batter was pretty runny, even though I added a generous extra sprinkling of flour at the end – and they turned out more like crepes than like puffy pancakes.  But I didn’t mind, they were delicate and delicious and not too sweet so they were so good with maple syrup and coffee.  And man, they fried up really nice and golden, which I must say is the most satisfying pancake-cooking experience.

So there you have it.  A lot of really good foods in a short period of time.  And well-balanced meals! And local fruits and veggies! A pretty great day off in every way possible.

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A new house…

I realize that once again I have left you, dear (and few) readers, without a post for quite awhile.  But this time I have a really good explanation! You see, I moved!  I moved over August 27th and 28th, and then promptly went out of town until the early days of September.  So since I last posted my time has been filled with a lot of packing, moving, and unpacking (and re-acquiring of kitchen staples like bay leaves and baking soda).  Needless to say, I haven’t done a lot of cooking, let alone cooking that deserves a blog post.  So today, I’m going to tell you about a few things.  The first being that – I have a new kitchen!!! I suppose that was fairly obvious given the fact that I have a new apartment.  My new apartment is all my own though – this is the very first time I’ve ever lived alone, and so far, I love it.  One of the perks of this is that the entire fridge and freezer are mine!  My new kitchen is significantly smaller than my old kitchen, and I now have an electric stove rather than gas (whimper) and it’s one of those tiny stoves, on top of everything else.  It has virtually no counter space, but I got lucky and scored a prep table type thing from my landlord.  I was worried about this kitchen, but now that it’s all set up, I totally love it.  It’s very bright, and it has a brand new le creuset kettle on the stove (who put that there?!)

After much bulk store shopping I have built myself up a little pantry on these life-saving open shelves I got at Ikea – without which I would have virtually no room to store dry good foods.

And, last but not least, I actually have a magnetic knife rack thing now! I installed it myself, and shhh you can only tell that it’s crooked if you stand far back and look very closely!

So that’s my new kitchen! I mean sure, I don’t have a giant gas stove anymore.  And no, I don’t have anywhere (in the whole apartment) to sit and eat my food at a table; and yes, all my jams and preserves have to live wayyy on top of my cupboards.  But in the end, I think it’s a pretty good little kitchen.  And yesterday I got a pie pumpkin in my CSA (didja see it there on my pantry shelves?) and so I think that there’s some pumpkin foods in store for the near future of this blog.  Now that I’m settled you can expect some regular posts from me again!

In the meantime, I won’t leave you totally without a food post – a week or two before I left my old apartment, Paul and I made a feast of foods in order to try and use up some of the many fruits and veggies from my CSA and from assorted other food projects.  We’d bought these BEAUTIFUL wild blueberries when we went up to my uncle’s cottage, and we still had a lot of them left, and I had a few rogue peaches that were very quickly going bad.  And so, a cobbler!  I had never actually eaten or made a cobbler before, though it is apparently the easiest and most delicious dessert creation in the world.  Seriously.  Why hadn’t I had cobbler before? It is so good! All those years I spent making apple crisp in university, and never a cobbler! I am in love with cobbler.  I am tempted to throw cornmeal biscuits on top of everything I make forevermore.  Not surprisingly, I took the recipe from the beloved Smitten Kitchen, and you should take a look at her recipe.   I did, as usual, make some changes.  The big difference with what I did was that I didn’t have as much fruit as she had.  So instead of making a big casserole, I just made this cobbler in a 9-inch pie plate, with the fruit I had, and cut down on the sugar accordingly.

HOWEVER, I opted to make the same amount of biscuit topping, because I figured who doesn’t want full biscuit coverage?!  It turned out wonderfully, and like I said, you may catch me dropping cornmeal biscuits on top of nearly everything from now on.

Well friends, stay tuned! I’ll be cooking lots again, especially now that the fall crispness has set in and it’s actually tolerable to stand in a kitchen with appliances that emit heat.  I expect that these cooler months will bring a lot more soups and stews to this blog, and also a lot more recipes that aren’t from actual recipes – I tend to cook lots of meals where I indiscriminately throw things in a pot and see what happens.  And I’m looking forward to it!

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"I can haz piece of pie?"

Nobody ever really called my mom’s mom “grandma” or any of the other variations of this term.  She never wanted to be called such a thing, and so opted to have us all call her Marnie instead – a nickname for her real name, Marion.  Marnie was a master pastry chef.  I mean, she was never a pastry chef by trade, but she definitely made the best pie crust ever. EVER. Other grandmothers, back off, because Marnie had it down.  And she always said that if you want to make good pastry, that you need to make a pie a week for a year.  That’s a lot of pie, but when she had five kids plus two parents whipping together a pie for Sunday night dinner wouldn’t be too outrageous really.  For the last number of years that she was alive, making pies on holidays became too much work for her, and so holiday pies became the task of my mom and I.  And frankly, it was a harrowing experience.  We always set out with a positive attitude and relatively high hopes – at least the first few times we had a positive attitude, but I think it dwindled over time, after many overworked, broken, dry, burnt-edged pie crusts we came to dread trying it again.  Every time someone else would say “Here! I have the EASIEST pastry recipe.  It’s fool-proof”.  You know, calling something fool-proof really does a good job of making you feel like a failure when it doesn’t work out for you.

Anyways, last year I decided I wanted to make a peach pie.  Peach was always my mom’s favourite of Marnie’s pies, and I wanted to try it out and take another crack at pastry.  I used my then-roommate’s Cook’s Illustrated America’s Test Kitchens recipe to make a pretty decent peach pie, though when I took that pastry recipe home for Thanksgiving it did not work out so well.  That was the biggest pie disaster of all time, and I don’t even know if I want to talk about it.  I came back to pie again this summer, and really wanted to make a cherry pie, having never had one made with real cherries and not canned filling.  I used (as always?) a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and also used her pastry recipe and that cherry pie was PERFECT.  I mean it, it was perfect.  So today, I try peach pie again, armed with a new pastry recipe and some tips that made all the difference.  On Smitten Kitchen she explains her pastry recipe, and I had never fully understood the mechanics of pastry before reading it, and it has made all the difference, because ladies and gents, pie crust is SCIENCE.

The most crucial bit of information is this: People like flaky pie crust, that is what makes a perfect pie crust.  The way that you get flakiness is with butter.  But here’s the trick – butter melts when it’s hot, right? So when you blend your flour, etc. with your butter you want your butter to be REALLY REALLY COLD and you want to leave pretty sizeable butter chunks in your dough because then those butter pieces will be whole when you put the pie in the oven but when it’s in the oven THE BUTTER WILL MELT AWAY and THEN you will have little empty pockets where the butter once was. AND THAT IS FLAKINESS!

I honestly did not understand this before, and understanding this has made a big difference for me.  So now, I cut up my butter into the little cubes and then stick them in the freezer for a few minutes before mixing them with the flour and I really like to leave big chunks, more than pea-sized, to get a good pastry.

One other trick that is particular to peach pie is one that I learned from that Cook’s Illustrated recipe.  You see, peaches are very juicy.  They are juicier than most other fruits that go in pies, and they tend to get a bit soupy.  So you need to add a thickening agent, and people generally use flour or cornstarch for such a thing and MAYBE tapioca.  But Cook’s Illustrated tested all those out and said that what actually works the best to cut down on soupiness while not leaving a gross floury taste is to use potato starch.  Potato starch, what even is that? Who cares, because it works better than the others.  I found a bag at the grocery store and I keep it around now for peach pies.

I also recommend getting an awesome vegetable peeler like the one I got for Christmas in my stocking – the peeler blade is serrated, which means that things that would normally be impossible to peel – like tomatoes and peaches – are totally peelable, which means I skip the blanching step that most people use to loosen the skins on peaches, because then you’ve got whole peaches without their skins and my god, have you ever really tried to pit those things? They are unbelievably slippery! Instead I get the pits out and then peel the peaches in halves or quarters with my awesome peeler.   I also recently bought a pastry blender/cutter thing at an antique shop and was excited to use it, but abandoned it pretty quickly for my hands anyways.  I prefer to use my hands to work the dough because I can feel how big my butter pieces are.

So what has all this pie ranting been about? Oh yeah.

Peach Pie

Pastry recipe, from Smitten Kitchen.  Rather than me repeat all the instructions, I suggest you just go to that link and read all about how to do it.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

Filling recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated

5-6 cups of peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced (I used 8 peaches)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup granulated sugar (I used a touch less)

3-5 tablespoons potato starch

Cinnamon, nutmeg, and whatever else you want to season it with

Oh yeah, and last but not least – if you don’t want burnt pie edges, you want to cover the edges with some tin foil.  Put the tin foil on when you put the pie in the oven, and then you can take it off for the last little bit so that they brown up but don’t burn.  Cook’s Illustrated also taught me the easiest way to do this, which is to fold a piece of tin foil in half and then cut a half-circle shape out of it that is about the size of your pie – then you’ll have a piece of tin foil with a circle in the middle, and thus the perfect piece of edge-covering tin foil.  After years of cutting little pieces and trying to fold them around a hot pie plate with edges that had already started to burn, this made my mom and I feel pretty silly (again) for our old ways of doing things.  See awesome looking space pie below.

Here’s the finished product.  It has to cool for a LONG time before it’s ready to eat, and since I’m taking it to a friend’s house for dinner tonight I haven’t actually tasted it yet.  But just LOOK at it.  It’ll be good, I just know it.

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