April 28, 2009

ham and cheddar muffins

ham cheddar muffins

Though I'd say I've grown to love sweets more and more, I find that I'm still a savoury type... especially for breakfast.  (I may prefer savoury, but I love chocolate, and really, it's in a category of it's own, in my opinion.)

I often feel that if I start my day with something sweet, then I'll be looking for more sugar all day long.  That's why I like savoury foods for breakfast, it helps me stave off the sugar tooth a little bit.  Or so I delusionally like to think.  

I've posted before how I like my crepes savoury and I love bacon and eggs for breakfast too.  So, when I stumbled upon a recipe to make savoury muffins, well, seemed right up my alley.  I adapted the recipe because I had a lot of ham left over from the night before.  They turned out really well but next time I'll have to try bacon.  drool.  

...

ham and cheddar muffins
makes 12 muffins

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp chopped green onions
1.5 cups extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cooked ham, diced into small pieces

Stir together all-purpose and whole wheat flour, baking powder, soda, salt, onions and 1-1/4 cups cheese. Set aside.

Beat eggs until blended. Stir in buttermilk, honey and oil and ham. Add dry ingredients until moistened.

Spoon batter, three-fourths full, into prepared or paper lined muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese over the tops. Bake at 400F for 15-18 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean). Let cool on wire rack for 2 minutes and then turn out onto rack.

Recipe adapted from Cheddar-herb muffins, Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking.

April 24, 2009

carrot salad with raisins and sunflower seeds

carrot salad with raisins and sunflower seeds

Sometimes, it's hard to get the kids to eat healthy things. Other times it's not.

Sometimes, it's all in the presentation and other times they don't care if it's in a pleasing Mickey Mouse plate, all they want is treats.

"Mom, can I have a cookie?"

"Is there any candy?"

"I want chocolate!"


I'm ok with giving them small treats everyday, as long as they eat the healthy stuff first. And this carrots salad I came up with is pretty kid-friendly. Carrots, raisins and sunflower seeds... simple yet healthy.

...

carrot salad with raisins and sunflower seeds

1 cups of mini carrots, peeled length-wise with a carrot peeler
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cups sunflower seeds


I make a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar, diluted down with a bit of water and add sugar, to taste. You may stir in oil but I usually don't.

April 23, 2009

stop and taste the cupcakes

pretty cupcakes

I'm saddened this week by the passing of my friend's mother. It sure makes you stop and think about your life and all the people in it. Gives you perspective and appreciation of all the things you have. During the funeral service, I was reaffirmed with how important it is to get together regularly with people.

One thing that definitely brings people together is food. Whether you go out to eat or make food at home, it is a way to celebrate life and create memories. The time spent around the table, telling stories and tidbits about your day, bringing everyone closer.

It's wonderful how food conjures up feelings too. How good you feel with a big bowl of your favorite comfort food or how something like these cupcakes can put a smile in my eyes.

Make sure you take the time to "stop and taste the cupcakes", preferably with friends.  Make those plans to finally "go out for coffee, sometime" with someone, visit a new place or taste something different.  Life's too short. Don't waste it.

April 21, 2009

chocolate lollipops

chocolate lollipops

When I was planning my daughter's birthday, I was really not in the mood for making numerous loot bags. I've grown disdain for loot bags the last year and I have decided to forever nix them. I still wanted to offer a little something for each child as a thank you but I really didn't want more dollar store crap littering my home.  I like to make things instead because I find it more special and personal.

So, I came up with making chocolate lollipops. I have never tried them before but I came across  Wilton's princess candy molds at my local craft store and I thought it was an interesting idea. They had bags of chocolate melts in all shades of colors and I figured I would try it out.

I decided on solid pink chocolate, goes great with the princess theme! (I only have the castle and carriage shown above - the princess chocolates were all eaten up!)  You can make the extra effort to color each chocolate with different colors as shown in the above link, painting the different colored chocolates with a brush into the mold, but that was more work than I was interested in doing.

These were very easy but a little time consuming as I only bought one mold and had many lollipops to make.  All you have to do is melt the chocolate in a double boiler, pour it into the molds, swirl in a lollipop stick and place it in the fridge to cool.  They then pop out easily.  I wrapped each lollipop and added a ribbon.  Easy peasy and the kids all loved them.  AND I saved myself from the anger of stepping on loot bag junk littered all over my house.  Double bonus.

April 19, 2009

Happy Easter!

wheat grass with chocolate eggs

To those of you of Orthodox faith, Happy Easter!

I often have people ask me why Orthodox Easter is a week "late" and my usual funny reply is that we're not late, the Catholics are just a week "early"! tee hee.

My parents are of Orthodox faith but when they emigrated to Canada some 30+ years ago, they also observed the Catholic holidays, such as Easter and Christmas, so that us children never felt left out. Best of both worlds!  I think my parents did this because secretly, they loved having parties and celebratory dinners. It's all about the food at my parent's home. And heck, who doesn't like a good get-together around food!

Thus, I'm off tonight to dinner at my parent's home and much more cracking of Easter eggs. It's thought you will have good fortune or a lucky year if your egg is the last one standing. Though, I don't really believe that because I want everyone in my family to have good fortune. But it sure is a fun game.

Happy, Happy Easter to all who celebrate it "earlier" or "later".

April 16, 2009

deviled eggs

Deviled Eggs

Continuing on with my after-Easter egg consumption. (The food prep and styling for the above photo was done by my hubby. I think he was bit over excited with the paprika shaker, no? hehehe)

As a child, I remember eating hard boiled eggs after every Easter. It seemed like my mom always boiled and colored at least 10 dozen eggs. I'm sure it wasn't that many but it always felt like we were eating a lot of eggs. It could be also be that we observed both catholic and orthodox Easters. Thus, TWICE the amount of eggs. The egg farmers really loved us, I'm sure.

If you like hardboiled eggs, this isn't a problem. However, I only liked the egg yolks back then. I have grown to like the whole egg but I still much more prefer the yolks. Being the smart cookie that I was (and still am... ahem), I noticed that my sister liked the egg whites more than the yolks. So we struck up a egg eating team. She ate my egg whites and I ate her egg yolks. How perfect was that. AND to top it off, my brother, he liked BOTH so it's like us kids were 3 peas in a pod. No squabbling but working together to get the job done! Suh-weet.

...

deviled eggs

Gently scoop out the egg yolks and mash them in a bowl.  Add mayonaisse (and some dijon mustard if you like) and mix.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Scoop or pipe the yolk/mayo mixture back into egg white shells.

Top with a touch of paprika and green onions.  Serve.

April 14, 2009

curried egg salad sandwiches

curried egg salad sandwich

(To those of you who live in Edmonton, Merry Christmas.  Seriously, the birds are chirping outside and I saw the geese migrate yesterday but today... we get the white stuff.  I hope you haven't put away your winter jackets just yet. boo hoo.)

...

You've got all those colorful hardboiled easter eggs left over and you are thinking to yourself, what do I do with all these now...

well, don't throw them out.

That's right.

Make an egg salad sandwich. I know, some of you are thinking that the egg whites have some of the food dye on it but who cares, a little food dye never hurt anyone. (Unless you are of course allergic to certain food dyes, then I would say, forgo using the eggs. ) *smiling, with 2 thumbs up* 

But this sandwich is very simple. I love curry. And, the little hits of green onion kick it up a notch for me too.  It's highly addicting.  I may just make another sandwich tomorrow.  

...

curried egg salad sandwiches

serves 2

4 hardboiled eggs, chopped up
3 tbsp mayonaisse
1 tsp curry powder
2 green onions, minced up
salt & pepper to taste

4 slices of bread of your choice

Mix the above 5 ingredients in a bowl. Spread between 2 slices of bread.

April 12, 2009

April 9, 2009

The Italian Store - Edmonton Downtown location

espresso & pastries at the Italian store

I grew up going with my mom, on weekly visits, to the Italian Store downtown. It's looked the same for as long as I can remember. The vast array of deli meats, cheeses and olives in the back, refrigerated/frozen goods on the right, produce on the way left and don't forget all the pasta, right in the middle of the store. However, things have changed as of late. Next time you head there to do some shopping, you will see the new extension. Like the southside location, a spot to sit and enjoy a coffee and pastry is now available. The Edmonton Journal featured an article on the cafe on Sunday.

The new extension is modern and airy, with it's high ceiling and slick, clean decor. I have a chair fetish, so I instantly recognized the Toledo and Eames molded plywood inspired chairs. Love it. They have gelato in a cooler on the left side of the room and way on the other end they have coolers that house pastries, muffins and cakes with a massive counter separating the two. I would really love to see them to start selling paninis and other italian foods to eat. I wonder if that is a direction they would go or if they are strictly sticking to coffees and sweets?

Nonetheless, it's a nice little pitstop while doing some grocery shopping. Pick up my usual yummy olives, freshly cut deli meat, some colorful produce and then stop and enjoy an espresso and yummy pastry. I can get used to that.

---

Italian Center Shop
10878 - 95 St location
Edmonton, Alberta

April 7, 2009

stuffed potatoes

stuffed potatoes

Is everyone enjoying the weather??? I think that Spring is FINALLY here! I'm crossing my fingers and knocking on wood because I just don't want to jinx it. Yesterday, we ate our lunch outside. I cleaned up the outdoor table and chairs and cranked open the umbrella. Oh gosh.... please oh please let it stick around.  **knock, knock, knock**.

I picked up the Kitchenaid Best-Loved Recipes book last month at the bookstore and what's the first recipe I try out of it? Stuffed potatoes. All the yummy desserts, muffins and cookies and I pick stuffed potatoes. Funny. But I needed a side dish for dinner and I have a big bag of red potatoes asking to be used before it grows eyes.

Potatoes and cheese.  yum.

...

stuffed potatoes
makes 8 servings (2 potato halves per serving)

8 red potatoes, boiled in their skins
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

paprika

Cut potatoes in half & scoop out the insides, leaving 1/8 inch shells. Using a mixer, mix the potato insides in a bowl for 1 minute on low. Add sour cream, butter and garlic salt. Turn to medium low and mix for 30 seconds more.

Spoon or pipe the potato mixture back into the potato shells. Bake the shells for 20-25 minutes at 375F. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika and bake a few more minutes to melt the cheese. Serve warm.

Recipe adapted from: Stuffed new potatoes, Kitchenaid Best-Loved Recipes.

April 5, 2009

It's starting to look green around here...

well, not outside it isn't. But in my basement it is!

seedlings

The hubby has started his seedlings a couple of weeks back. He has a "grow-op" downstairs, as I call it. It involves 2 tubes of fluorescent lighting and a heating cord to help with germination. Last year, he started his seeds way too early and we had massive green plants everywhere. This year, as you can see, they are very reasonable.

My windowsill has sage and oregano growing. Truthfully, I barely use the sage. I'm looking forward to my basil and mint again this year. We usually have chives and parsley growing outside. That's about the only herbs I grow. Are there any herbs you grow and look forward to every year? I know many people like rosemary, but I really dislike it. If I want the taste of pine needles on my chicken or potatoes, I'd just use the branch off my 50+ year old pine tree in my yard. Blech. No thanks.

Countdown to may long weekend of planting!

April 3, 2009

disney princess chocolate cake with flowers

Disney Princess' Chocolate Birthday Cake

I promised cake number 2 and here it is!  Part two involves more princesses, lots of flowers and pink. You know, sugar and spice and everything nice, just exactly what little girls are made of :)

Back when I was in university, some *cough* ten or so *cough* years ago, I worked part time at a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop.  There I learned some of the basics in cake decorating... how to pipe a border, make flowers and write Hallmark-like greetings on cakes.  A nice, creative departure from trying not to blow up things in the laboratory, solving calculus problems and cutting a rug every friday night at the local night club. And saturday night and maybe the occasional thursday night.  Oh the memories......

Where was I?  Oh, yes, cake decorating.  Back on task.  

One thing I can't get down is smooth icing.  Smoothing ice cream icing is a lot easier than buttercream icing.  This explains, if you ever see an actual cake of mine in person, why the icing sides have a textured pattern to it.  I think it's partly due to the fact that I don't cut the cake beforehand to give perfect straight sides.  And I'm also not a fan of 1 inch thick icing on my cake, in order to achieve the straight smooth side.  And really, who says that the icing has to be smooth?  Definitely not me,  I think the texture is nice so I'll stick with it.

birthday cake slice

I mentioned this in the last post but I have to mention it again, this cake was really moist.  I also put a layer of raspberries and buttercream in the middle, though it's not very apparant in the above cake slice. 

Happy, happy birthday to my little princess.

...
chocolate cake
makes one 9-inch layer cake

4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
2.5 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Pour boiling water over the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Stir to melt. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar and mix on medium high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla and melted chocolate.

Fold in one third of the dry sifted ingredients (flour, soda and salt) with a spatula. Fold in one-half of the buttermilk. Alternate folding in another one-third of the dry ingredients, buttermilk and final dry ingredients.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Prepare two 9-inch round pans with parchment paper . Butter the paper and dust with flour. Pour the batter into both pans. Bake cake layers in a 350F oven, until toothpick comes out clean, approximately 30-35 minutes.

Recipe from: Classic Chocolate Cake, Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking.

buttercream
yields 1.5 cups

1/2 cup margarine or butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tbsp milk

Cream margarine. Add sugar gradually beating on medium speed. Icing should appear dry. Add milk and beat until fluffy. Color your icing by mixing in food coloring of your choice.

Buttercream adapted from Wilton's Decorating Guide Yearbook

April 1, 2009

little mermaid chocolate birthday cake

The Little Mermaid cake

It's that time of the year again, Birthday time!

This time around I tried a different chocolate cake recipe than the one from last year. I received a new cookbook from a friend for my birthday and I've been eager to try out some of the recipes.  This cake came out very moist.  I added a thin layer of raspberries and buttercream in the middle to give it extra shot of flavor.

I doubled the below recipe to give two 9x13 sheet cakes and one loaf cake pan, which I cut into the castle part on top.  I used buttercream to make the "waves" (used wilton tip 32) and a mixture of brown sugar & graham crumbs for the beach.  The castle tops are inverted mini ice cream cones that were iced with icing, sprinkles put on the outside to glitter it up and held up with lollipop sticks.   

She's totally into anything princess, especially the Little Mermaid.  The Disney store is fantastic for reasonable price figurines.  It really makes the cake look wonderfully decorated.


I had two parties for her.  This is cake one.  The other cake (I used the same recipe), will be up on friday.

...

chocolate cake
makes one 9-inch layer cake

4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
2.5 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature


Pour boiling water over the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Stir to melt. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar and mix on medium high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla and melted chocolate.

Fold in one third of the dry sifted ingredients (flour, soda and salt) with a spatula. Fold in one-half of the buttermilk. Alternate folding in another one-third of the dry ingredients, buttermilk and final dry ingredients.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Prepare two 9-inch round pans with parchment paper . Butter the paper and dust with flour. Pour the batter into both pans. Bake cake layers in a 350F oven, until toothpick comes out clean, approximately 30-35 minutes.

Recipe from: Classic Chocolate Cake, Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking.

buttercream
yields 1.5 cups

1/2 cup margarine or butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tbsp milk

Cream margarine. Add sugar gradually beating on medium speed. Icing should appear dry. Add milk and beat until fluffy. Color your icing by mixing in food coloring of your choice.

Buttercream adapted from Wilton's Decorating Guide Yearbook


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