December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Cookie Cutters as Ornaments.

I had grand plans to showcase some yummy Christmas cookies all December long but I received so much baking from a cookie exchange, that there was no need to bake.

I meant to post some yummy looking pictures of homemade comfort foods but there wasn't much time for cooking.

I hoped to snap some photos of all the appetizers I made for my Christmas Open House but I was running so behind with getting everything together that I didn't get one photo.

I was going to show you some homemade food gifts that I made to give to some of my neighbors but I went straight to making it and then to sending it out. No time for photos.

That's the funny thing about Christmas, it makes you super busy. But it's a good busy. I hope to get back to the ole blog after the holidays.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Maki :)

December 16, 2009

gingerbread geek & his sesame cracker cabin

gingerbread geek & his sesame cracker cabin

Yesterday, I did my post on gingerbread schoolhouses. I got a message from my hubby and my sister asking "where's the other house!"

Well, yes indeed. Where is the "other" house. I must give credit where credit is due.

From the extra gingerbread dough, I made gingerbread men, which my hubby iced to resemble his likeness. My clever husband also made the above sesame cracker cabin.

Crafty huh?

You'll notice that the it's sitting on some fluffy batting with colored christmas lights, with both gingerbread schoolhouses on each side. Yes. We have a little village shrine in our front room.

Oh the Christmas spirit is strong in our house :)

December 15, 2009

gingerbread schoolhouses

gingerbread schoolhouses

Last year, we bought a gingerbread house. The one that come in a kit, with all the candies and icing. Nice and easy. Except, the kids were much more interested in the candy than the actual gingerbread house.

This year, there was a bit of squabbling between my two kids. They both wanted their own gingerbread houses to decorate. My husband got a bit excited with the whole idea and decided he would make the gingerbread houses instead of buying the kits. He always wanted to make an entire village of gingerbread, with the houses laying on fake snow and have it all lit up.

He was excited for us to go buy the candies and make it a whole fun family event. Rolling out dough, flour on our noses, sitting around with hot cocoa, as we laugh about how each of us will make a better looking gingerbread house.

Picture perfect huh?

Well, sorry to burst your bubble but that stuff only happens in the movies.

I found this recipe for my husband to make since I couldn't persuade him to buy the kits this year. It yields about 4 homes of your choice (an entire village - as the magazine touted.)

Except, my 4 and 5 year old were getting impatient with having to wait for the gingerbread houses to be made.

"Why you have to make the houses?"

They thought that "making the gingerbread house" meant decorating it with candies.

Once the hubby rolled out and baked enough sides for two gingerbread schoolhouses, he then had to wait for them to cool so to ice the walls and roof together. Then, trying to ice the pieces together wasn't as easy as since he free-handed making the wall and roofs. The gingerbread homes were a bit slanted and needed to dry overnight, which caused more frustration with the kids.

"Tomorrow, tomorrow, you will be able to decorate the houses. You have to wait for it to dry completely so it doesn't fall over and break".

Disgruntled kids went to bed that evening. And a husband who spent a good chunk of time rolling out and precision-cutting the dough while trying to distract kids from touching it, was tired.

"I don't feel like making the other two gingerbread houses" he says, looking down at the ball of dough needing to be formed. The countertops were filled with flour and the cookies sheets, placed next to the sink, were needing to be washed.

I smirked, telling him I'd use the leftover dough to make gingerbread men for the kids to decorate with some friends from school.

"Next year, we'll just buy the kits" he says.

Sounds picture perfect to me.

hahaha.

...


gingerbread houses
makes about 4 gingerbread homes (house, schoolhouse, church, your choice) in roughly 5-6 inch size

1.5 cups butter, soft
1.5 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fancy molasses
3/4 cooking molasses
8.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp ground cloves
1.5 tsp cinnamon

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in the molasses.

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Stir into the molasses bowl slowly in a couple of additions.

Remove the dough and separate into 4 pieces. Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Roll out onto floured surface and cut shapes to make a gingerbread home. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes for large pieces. Let cool on wire rack.

Use icing of your choice to glue together your home. Add candies and decorations.

Recipe from: Winter Gingerbread Village, Canadian Living Holiday Baking Fall 2006 Magazine

December 11, 2009

relaxing evening in

relaxing evening in

This is what I'm doing right now.

We are having a relaxing evening in. No stress, no plans and no running around.

Just a couple glasses of wine and a box of chocolates with the warm glow of the Christmas tree in the background.

It's the calm before the Christmas storm.

Happy Weekend!

PS: Hi to all the newbies who found me through Liane's blogpost. Welcome!

December 10, 2009

chicken and sweet potato stir-fry

stirfry

When life gets busy, a stir fry is a nice way to still eat healthy but doesn't take up a lot of time in the kitchen.

bon appetit!


...

chicken and sweet potato stir-fry
serves 4

2 chicken breasts, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small sweet potato, chopped
one bunch (~500 g) swiss chard, tops and stalk
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 cup chicken broth


Stir fry chicken in a hot oiled pan or wok, until cooked. Set aside.

Add garlic, onion, sweet potato, chard stalks and stir fry until the sweet potato is tender.

Return chicken back to the pan, add swish chard tops, sesame oil and the blended cornstarch and broth. Cook until mixture thickens, several minutes.

Serve.

adapted from: Chicken Kumara Stir-fry, The Australian Women's Weekly-Chicken Healthy Eating Magazine.

December 8, 2009

pretty kitchen tools

whisk

I bought myself an early Christmas present. A new flash for my camera! Which I'm excited about because now I can experiment with taking my flash off-camera, which I was never able to do before. However, with all the busy-ness of pre-Christmas, Christmas parties, my children's schools needing extra help and having yearend bookkeeping to do, there hasn't been much experimenting at all.

Except for my kitchen gadgets I photographed. I love the simplicity and beauty of these kitchen tools shots.

powdered sugar duster

Maybe more time to play with my camera in the new year!

December 3, 2009

something new: fuyu persimmons

fuyu persimmons

I was pushing the grocery cart and stopped in front of the big sign: "Persimmons: 3 for $0.99"

There was a gentleman, who was filling the two plastic bags full of these fruit.

"Excuse me. I've never tried these before. Can you tell me what they taste like or how to tell which ones to pick?" I asked.

He looked at me sheepishly, responding that he's never tried them and that he was buying bags of them for his mother. I figured I'd just buy a bunch. For the price of $0.33 each, I could afford to chuck them if they weren't any good.

And I am really glad I did buy them!

fuyu persimmons

The variety I bought are called fuyu persimmons. They look like an orange tomato with a hard flower-shaped leaf on top. Pick ones that are firm and blemish free. They taste sweet and it's hard to describe the taste. The closest I can describe is it's like a mild apricot? Tasty nonetheless. You can eat them like an apple or slice them up and put them in salads (as I did often) or use them in baking or atop of your ice cream.

So now, go out and try it yourself if you haven't before. Something new.

December 1, 2009

saskatoon & raspberry galette with almond buttermilk crust

saskatoon & raspberry galette

It was near the end of august and we were visiting my in-laws at their home on their acreage. "Next week, the saskatoons will be ready, bring your pail and we'll pick them" my father in law said to us.

The next week, we were out among the trees with pails. The saskatoon berry trees are small but yielded a lot of berries. Apparantly, the berries become ripe roughly all at the same time, unlike raspberries, which you must pick every couple of days.

I had never had saskatoons before. They are similar in appearance and taste to blueberries, though I find saskatoons to have more crunch. Some people say it has a slight nutty flavor to it. I ate them by handful after I cleaned them. I really enjoyed them.

I have made this galette recipe often throughout the summer and fall season. I love it because it's easier than a pie to make and I'm all about shortcuts. Free-forming the dough is a lot easier than rolling out into a pie pan, if you ask me.

You can use frozen berries, I have tried it once or twice, though you may have to add more flour to the the filling to absorb the extra moisture.

A nice reminder of the taste of summer, starting this december month.

...

saskatoon & raspberry galette with almond buttermilk crust

crust:
1-3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup ground almonds
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup buttermilk

filling:
7 cups berries of your choice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp flour

I make my crust in a food processor but you may do it in a bowl and use a knives or a pastry blender to cut butter.

In a food processor, mix together flour, ground almonds, sugar and salt and butter. Pulse until you get large crumbs forming. Slowly add buttermilk and pulse until all blended. Do not overmix.

Remove from processor and shape into a ball. Place it in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic film, for about 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine filling ingredients and set aside.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out onto floured surface to about a 15 inch diameter. Transfer to parchment paper and baking sheet. Spoon the filling onto the pastry, leaving about a 4 inch border on the ends. Fold over ends atop of filling.

(Optional: I have sometimes sprinkled brown sugar atop the edges to give a nice sweetness and look to the crust)

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then reduce to 350F for about 45 minutes. The crust will be golden. Let cool on wire rack for about 20 minutes. Serve.

Recipe adapted from: Almond Buttermilk Crust: Canadian Living Market Fresh Special Issue Magazine, Summer 2008.
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