Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gingerbread Oatmeal

Ah, breakfast.  I <3 breakfast.  It's the start to my day, and can really set the mood -- why start off badly?

I'm always in search of new breakfast ideas, because unlike some people out there (not naming names but you know who you are) I like variety.  I vary my lunches and suppers, so why not vary breakfast too?  The other day, on a sweet, bakery-spice kick, I started looking for alternatives to my stand-by porridge.  Don't get me wrong, it's still a regular, but I needed a little variety.  So, I came across this little clean eating gem.  I modified the recipe to use the slow cooker because this worked better with my schedule, but the other way is good too.

Depending on your preferences, this can be dressed up or down with sweeteners -- maple syrup is good, but molasses, honey, or agave would work too, just as would a bunch of fresh raspberries if sweeteners aren't your thing.  I absolutely love the smell of this stuff! What a great way to wake up the morning after it's been sitting in the slow cooker all night.

Slow Cooker Gingerbread Oatmeal
Makes: 4 1-cup servings

4 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
optional: real maple syrup, to taste

Mix everything together in a slow cooker as the last thing you do at night before bed.  Leave it on the lowest setting of your slow cooker (the 'keep warm' setting on mine).  Check on it as the first thing you do in the morning, and voila!  Breakfast is ready in a wonderful smelling kitchen!

Source: The Gracious Pantry.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

If you were to spend any time watching what I bring to work for lunches, you'd notice this time of year I eat a lot of stews.  They're easy (especially slow-cooker ones), they're affordable, and they're very filling in a winter-comfort-food way.  I've been trying a few different recipes, some worth sharing, others not so much.  This one I've already shared with my family and everybody loves it.  The best part of a slow cooker recipe is the way the house smells when you come home after the work day - it's a preview to the yummy supper you don't have to cook!

Another bonus is that a lot of these items are weekly staples, so they're always on hand, saving you a trip to the grocery store.

Slow-Cooker Beef Stew
Makes: 6 servings

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups beef broth
3 potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped

Place meat in slow cooker. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and pepper; pour over meat, and stir to coat meat with flour mixture. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery. 

Cover, and cook on Low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on High setting for 4 to 6 hours.

Source: allrecipes. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Black Bean and Tomato Soup

After a weekend of eating out, (a lot!) I was in the mood for something healthy.  So, I got my things together and came up with a bookmarked recipe for healthy soup.  It's win-win -- it's healthy, it's filling, it's easy, and it's just flexible enough that you can't really screw it up.

Black Bean and Tomato Soup
Makes: 6, 1 1/2 cup servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 15 oz cans of black beans
1 28 oz can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp salt

I went off script on this one -- I tossed everything into a 5-quart slow cooker and let it go for two hours on high, then another four on low.  It made my kitchen smell wonderful!

Once it was all cooked, I used an immersion blender to smoothen it out a bit.  Use your judgement -- it's personal preference since it doesn't change the taste at all.


(In case you were curious, one of the really good meals I had out this weekend was at Big Rig Brewery.  It's new in Ottawa, and has a to-die-for Salted Caramel Vanilla Crunch Cake!) 

Source: Skinny Bitch via Save the Kales.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Baked Mac & Cheese

Call it a very late effort to organize myself for the new year, but I've been going through my stacks and stacks of bookmarked and Post-It marked recipes.  I'm clearing out the ones I've already blogged, the ones I don't intend to make anymore, and the ones that juts don't interest me anymore to make room for the new ones that do tempt me.  Since I've dropped the gluten-free / grain-free / sugar-free restrictions from my diet (long story) and am back to 'normal' food, I can get rid of some of the overly-complex recipes that work around things like putting milk, eggs, or sugar into recipes.  The weirdest thing about dropping the sugar-free/grain-free requirement from my diet is that my mood has improved.  Dramatically.  No wonder dieters always look so miserable, it's hard work living within tight constraints like that!

One of the recipes I dug out was one I'd completely forgotten I had saved.  I <3 mac & cheese.  Maybe it reminds me of the one Mom used to make when I was little? I don't quite know.  There's just something comforting about ooey-gooey cheese and pasta.  So I figured, since today is weird -- it's raining and snowing and sunny and cloudy, depending on when you look outside, I would make this treat for myself as a distraction from the yuck outside.  Now I've got a warm, yummy-smelling kitchen to sit in as I sort through the rest of my recipes and plan out what I'm going to make for the next little while.  What could be better?  Oh yeah, knowing I'll get to enjoy my mac & cheese all next week, that's what!

Baked Mac & Cheese
Makes: 6 large servings

4 cups uncooked macaroni
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter*
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour*
2 1/2 cups milk*
2 tsp dry mustard
16 oz cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
sprinkle thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook macaroni according to package directions until slightly firm.  Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook the mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly and being careful not to burn.  Add the milk to the pot, stir in the dry mustard, and whisk until smooth.  Cook the mixture for five minutes until very thick.  Reduce the heat to low.

Add the beaten egg to a small bowl.  Take 1/4 cup of the warm sauce and slowly pour it into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling the egg.  Whisk until smooth.  Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the sauce, whisking constantly.  Stir until smooth.  Mix in the cheese, reserving a handful for topping, and stir until completely melted.  Add in salt and other seasonings.  Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.  Add the drained cooked macaroni to the pot and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish, top with reserved cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and bubbly on top.

* I used unsalted butter, 1% milk, and whole wheat flour because that's what I had on hand.  The original recipe calls for salted butter, whole milk, and plain white flour.  I added in some penne I had left from another box in order to make it to 4 cups of pasta.

So fresh out of the oven it was still bubbling.
Source: Annie's Eats & The Pioneer Woman .

Red Velvet Ice Cream

In my typical routine, I find a recipe, bookmark it or Post-It mark it for later use, and go about my business until it's time to plan my meals for the week.  At that point, I pull out my bookmarks and Post-Its and look for something that tempts me.  This recipe broke the pattern completely.  It was posted Friday, and was in my freezer by Saturday night!  The only reason it took even that long was because I had an appointment for a hair cut Friday and went to skate the Rideau Canal for Winterlude on Saturday.

This recipe had only one disappointment, and it was my own darn fault.  I take it for granted that my pantry holds certain supplies, food colouring being one of them.  I didn't double-check that I had red, and when I went to grab it for the recipe, there wasn't any left.  What would red velvet be if not red? Blue velvet just isn't the same... I did my best using my gel colours, but unfortunately the end result just wasn't red-red-red.  You can bet that today there is red food colouring in my pantry!

Red Velvet Ice Cream
Makes: about 1 litre


Ice cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp liquid red food coloring
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cream cheese swirl ingredients:
4 oz cold cream cheese
2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp heavy cream


In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream with 3/4 cup of the sugar and the cocoa powder.  Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until warmed through and the sugar and cocoa have dissolved into the cream.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, combine the egg yolks and the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar.  Whisk until smooth.  Once the cream mixture is warm, slowly pour the mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Return the egg-cream mixture to the saucepan over medium high heat.

Cook the mixture, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula or spoon (about 170-175° F.)  Pour the custard through the strainer into a bowl or storage container.  Stir in the buttermilk, red food coloring, and vanilla.  Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Just before you are ready to freeze the ice cream, make the cream cheese frosting.  Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla and heavy cream.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat 2-3 minutes more.

Freeze the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer to a storage container, alternating layers of ice cream with layers of frosting.  Transfer to the freezer and freeze until firm.

Annie recommends not omitting the red because it contributes to the flavour.  Her recommendation is that you can tone it down, but don't leave it out.


Source: Annie's Eats. 

Marshmallow Fondant

Soo.... 's been a while.  What's that thing that people say when they run into somebody they haven't seen in ages?  I meant to call but got busy then couldn't because it'd been so long?  Something like that. Lots of things changed in the past few months, and I kind of lost the taste for blogging.  Then I made a bunch of recipes that just fell flat -- they disappointed me, or failed completely, and really, who wants to post a failure?  So I waited until I had some good stuff to show, and here I am, back posting for you again.

In the beginning of this brand new year, I was asked to make a wedding cake for friends who will be married next January.  I'm excited, and nervous, and honored, and thrilled, all at once!  I get to be part of a very important day and help them make memories to last forever.  How amazing is that?!  I can't wait!

In the mean time, I'm taking a new cake decorating class (to help prepare me for their "big day").  I wanted to learn the proper way to stack a tiered cake, make homemade fondant, and try out some new recipes so I can provide the bride with her one huge caveat: the bride's cake has to be lactose-free.  What better excuse is there to try out new chocolate cake recipes than that?  I have a few recipes I love, but they won't work with regular milk so I've got all year to find another one for her.

The first recipe I'm posting in my getting-back-into-it mode, is homemade fondant.  I used this great recipe from Annie's Eats to try my hand at it.  Annie never lets me down!

Marshmallow Fondant
Makes: About 3 pounds

Shortening to greasing dishes, workspace, and utensils
15 oz mini marshmallows
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp salt
7-8 cups icing sugar

Grease the inside of a microwave-safe bowl and stand mixer bowl with a thin but thorough layer of shortening.  Also grease a silicone spatula or two, as well as the hook attachment for the mixer.

In the microwave safe bowl, combine the marshmallows and water.  Microwave the mixture in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the mixture is melted and somewhat soupy.  When the mixture is melted, remove from the microwave and stir in the lemon juice, corn syrup, extracts, and salt.

Place about 6 cups of icing sugar in the stand mixer bowl and form a well in the center.  Pour the marshmallow mixture into the well and knead on low speed with the dough hook until the sugar is mostly incorporated.  When the mixture begins to stick to the bowl, add an additional 1 cup icing sugar and continue kneading.

At this point additional sugar may or may not be needed.  (Consistency will vary due to environmental humidity and how light or heavy you scoop your sugar.)  The final consistency of the fondant should be totally smooth, but quite thick, similar to modeling clay.  If the mixture becomes too much for the stand mixer, transfer the fondant to a greased work surface and continue to knead with greased hands until the desired consistency is achieved.

Form the fondant into a smooth ball, coat lightly with shortening, and wrap tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap.  Place in an airtight bag, press out all excess air, and seal.  Let rest at least 3-4 hours or overnight before using.

Annie suggests the fondant is still good for use when used 4-7 days after being prepared.  I know based on my experience I would want to take her advice and make the fondant on a different day from making the cake to break up the steps so I can approach each step fresh.  That way I'm not tempted to cut corners because I am tired out from the last step.

SourceAnnie's Eats.