December 30, 2010

2010 in Review

I used to be the person who made new year resolutions. Then, for some reason, I stopped. I think I felt that it was silly to make resolutions one time a year and work toward them. You can do it anytime, set goals on any day, and work toward fulfilling them, why wait until the start of a new year?

However, I noticed that I didn't make any goals and resolutions at other times. I guess there is something to be said about having a set date. Much like people complain about Valentine's Day but we get caught up in busy hussle-bussle of everyday life, sometimes we need a day to make us stop and smell the roses.

I'm still thinking about my resolutions and haven't got a clear view of what I want to accomplish next year. But I still have some time to work them out.

2010 was good for my little blog and me. I'm embracing more technology. Joined twitter and this week I created an In My Element fan page on Facebook!

2010 Year in Review 1

This year I had the opportunity to go to Dinner and Q&A with David Adjey at NAIT. Went to Edmonton's 3rd Foodie Meetup and met some more great Edmonton food bloggers. Had not just one giveaway but two giveaways on my blog. I was invited but was too ill to attend Edmonton Journal's Taste Alberta event but you can read about the experience written by one of my fellow blogger's, Chris.

Hubby started his "grow-op" with seeds in our basement with heat cords and lights and moved onto a fancy-shmancy hydroponic set up (I'll post more about it in the new year). Our garden gave us a lot of produce, like this giant home grown tomato and many pumpkins and squash this year. AND I discovered I love arugula (rocket) salad greens. I can't believe I never tried it before!

2010 Year in Review 2

Our yard received a nomination for Front yards in Bloom and though we didn't make the final list, our community league awarded us with an award for Top 2 in our neighborhood. We went camping at pembina river and did a holiday trip to Penticton and Vancouver.

I want to send a big thank you to all the folks that drop by here. I appreciate your comments and emails. If I have missed in adding you to my Food Blog links, shoot me an email because I haven't been diligent enough in upkeeping it.

See you all in 2011!!!

December 28, 2010

Weekly Photos: Christmas Happenings

Christmas Happenings 1

Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas!

Thought I'd share some pictures from happenings around here. Lots eating, get-togethers, hosting parties, going to parties, eating, gift giving, gift opening, eating, screams of joy, staying up, sleeping in, eating.

Did I mention EATING? Seriously, I should have busted out my turkey pants!

Taking a little break before we head out for 4-5 more get togethers this week. Oh my tubby tummy hurts but I love the holidays.

Christmas Happenings 2

On another note, how many of you actually take down your Christmas tree right away? I noticed a bunch of folks on facebook doing it already. I usually keep mine up for New Year and sometimes right through to Orthodox Christmas. Depends on how much Christmas I have experienced :)

Have a fantastic New Year! We'll be counting down the clock.

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from In My Element

Christmas Centerpiece with Floating Cranberries and Candle

Don't forget, you can use food for displaying too! Floating cranberries always look festive this time of year.

I'm not sure if I'll be posting next week or not. Most likely not as I will be doing lots of eating and socializing.

I want to say thanks to all of you who come by to my little corner piece of the internet here on In My Element. I really do enjoy cooking, baking, photo taking, recipe sharing, food writing and sharing my adventures with you.

I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I know I'll be looking forward to a year of healthiness :)

Back in the new year!

Happy Eating and Photo Snappin' !!!
Maki

December 23, 2010

German Christmas Stollen

German Christmas Stollen


My hubby had an aversion to Stollen for the same reason, those vile candied fruit bits. But it wasn't until my brother-in-law came back from a trip to Austria several years ago, with a stollen in hand that things changed. My hubby's friend, Christian, is a pastry chef and owner of Kaplan am Kurpark in Austria and he sent home a "ChristStollen" for my hubby as a gift.

Wrapped in a beautiful box, little did we know that we were embarking on a moment that would change our lives forever. We cut two slices of the stollen and noticed right away, it was free of candied fruit bits. It was a hallelujah moment! Astonished and surprised that it was possible.

Then, we took a bite.

The outside was mouth-watering. It was a crystallized melange of candied icing sugar and rich buttery goodness. And the inside, moist and chockfull of ambrosial-tasting fruits. Words do not even come close to describing the moment of eating it.

The hubby and I savored every bite of that stollen and paced ourselves as long as we possibly could. If we heard the other rustling in the kitchen, there was always 100 questions. "What are you doing?" "What are you eating?" "Why are you handling the stollen?" We knew there would be no trips back to Christian's bakery to get more, so we were guarding it, not trusting each others will power.

Mini Stollen Loaves

And since this monumental moment, my hubby has experimented and tried and tested many versions to come up with a recipe that will compare. We have been fortunate in our household that my hubby has been making stollen every year. Is it as good as Christian's stollen? Of course not, he's an amazing pastry chef who has been at it for more than two decades. But, my hubby makes a mean stollen and it knocks people's socks off.

I have friends and family always asking questions on how he makes it and what the recipe is. This is the latest and greatest version. Good luck!

*Pictured above are fresh out of the oven stollen. They have yet to be buttered and coated with icing sugar.

...

German Christmas Stollen
makes 2 loaves

Fruit:
1-2 cups dried fruit (raisins, dried apricots, dates, etc)
3 tbsp dark rum

Sponge:
1 tbsp or 1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup warm milk
1 tsp honey
1 cup all-purpose flour

Dough:
1/3 cup honey (my hubby puts in an additional 1/3 cup of sugar or splenda)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each: cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup almonds flour
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
Oil, for coating bowl

Filling:
1/2 cup chopped marzipan

Topping:
melted butter for brushing loaves
icing sugar for dusting



Fruit Prep: Combine the mixed fruit and rum and set aside while prepping the rest of the recipe.

Sponge Prep: In a large bowl, add the yeast to the warm water. Add warm milk, honey and 1 cup of flour. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free area for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Dough Prep: In a large mixer bowl, place the sponge and fruit/rum mixture. Add honey, egg, butter, salt, spices, extract, almond flour, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat, using a paddle, on medium-low for about 5 minutes, gradually adding the enough of the remaining flour so that dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. Changing to a dough hook, knead the dough for another 5 minutes, adding any additional flour if needed.

Form into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free area for a minimum of 60 minutes.

Punch down dough and divide into two. Roll each dough ball onto lightly-floured, forming 3/4" rectangles. Sprinkle the marzipan on top and roll into a log shape. Push in any fruits bits on the exterior of the dough, to prevent from burning during baking. Place loaves, seam-side down, onto parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free area for 45 minutes.

Bake the loaves at 375F for 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190F. Remove from baking sheet and let cool down slightly.

Brush melted butter all over the loaves and dust icing sugar to coat. Allow to cool completely. Serve.

Store, covered in plastic wrap, in a cool place.

December 21, 2010

Marzipan

Marzipan

"What's marzipan?" is what I asked my hubby, then boyfriend, the first Christmas we were dating. My hubby is part German and Austrian and marzipan is very much part of their culture, especially during the Christmas holidays.

I was given a chocolate-covered marzipan treat to try. It is soft in texture with a sweet, aromatic almond taste. Very delectable.

Marzipan is also very common in the decorating world. It can be used to cover cakes when rolled out as a thin sheet, much like fondant. Have you seen those cute little animals or other cake decorations? They are made out of marzipan! And in my hubby's case, marzipan is used in baking, found in traditional German Christmas Stollen.

Last year, my hubby made all sorts of little animals for the kids to eat. This year, marzipan was made specifically for his stollen making, which I will post about next time.

Mini Stollen Loaves

...

Marzipan

4 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp almond extract

Add almond flour, sugar and water into a pot. Bring to a boil until it gets soft.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add almond extract.

Knead lightly onto a powdered sugar surface. Use in a recipe or roll into a ball, cover in airtight container and store in refrigerator.

December 14, 2010

Eggnog Panettone French Toast

Eggnog Panettone French Toast

Apparently, fruit cake, stollen and panettone are the ugly stepsisters of Christmas cakes and breads. I personally have never been a fan of them. I used to always turned my nose up to them.

But I love dried fruits and nuts. It has always been those candied bits of radioactive-colored red and green icky "fruit" bits I detest which prevented me from enjoying these festive bread and cakes.

Fortunately, we are in luck! Many of these traditional breads and cakes have grown out of their squeeky-pubescent voices modernized and bakeries and food companies leave the candied fruits out and fill them with all sorts of delicious alternatives. My friend brought over a panettone from the Italian Centre which had a creamy hazelnut filling and was coated with a thin-layer of milk chocolate. I know, I know! Cut me another slice will you? Quick!

Panettone Recently though, I mistakenly picked up a panettone with those gag-causing candied fruits. Now I was in a bind since none of us wanted to slice it up and eat it. I had to come up with something since I don't like to waste food and I wasn't going to even contemplate picking out each one of those lil' suckers.

And this is where I save Christmas Panettone from a life as a dumpster diver. Eggnog French Toast using Panettone!

The eggnog is a sweet infusion to the panettone french toast and it really masks those vile candied fruits. Now, I don't want to lie, you can faintly taste them but as a sweet complement to the overall dish. They don't stand out like Susan Boyle at my kid's screeching Christmas concerts.

Add some delicious cinnamon-spiced maple syrup or rum-flavored whipping cream and it's almost non-existent. It's even better than a partridge in a pear tree, though personally, I would trade it in for the 5 golden rings.

...

Eggnog Panettone French Toast
serves 4

4 large eggs
1/2 - 3/4 cup eggnog, your preference on how thinned out you want the mixture.
4 - 1 inch thick slices panettone, cut crosswise
Butter or vegetable oil for pan-frying.

Whisk together the eggs in a large shallow dish. Add the eggnog and mix thoroughly.

Heat up a pan with either butter or oil over medium-low heat. Dip each side of the bread into the egg-eggnog mixture to coat. Fry each side for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Repeat with the remainder of panettone slices.

Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or your choice of toppings or accompaniments.

December 13, 2010

Cheesy Squash Scones

Double Cheese and Squash Scones

In the last two weeks I have learned that there are a few things that I know for sure.

One: Working tastebuds are crucial, especially for a person who has a food blog and likes to eat. Apparently, I developed scarlet fever along with my strep throat. My tongue is still not back to normal. I will tell you, life is miserable with delinquent tastebuds. I keep trying to taste everything, hoping that it will eventually start working, but I'm fooling myself. I've been like a eager puppy dog, licking and chewing everything in sight. My salt and sour buds seem to be on high alert while my sugar buds have gone MIA. Everything tastes off. It is cruel and unusual punishment.

Two: I need to get dressed up more and get out and have a good time. Hubby had his work Christmas party this weekend and I tell you, it was so very good. I am loving getting all gussied up! I've never been a girlie-girl (I was a tomboy when I was younger) but I think my time has arrived. I need to get more skirts and dresses!

Three: I can't make scones. Yes, the picture looks pretty but they turned into dense pucks. I just don't understand. I've made scones twice and both times, I've hosted Hockey Night in Canada. My hubby has stated that I leave the scone making to him. They were tasty, just really "hearty" in texture :)

Can anyone help a girl out? Do you have some tips or tricks to making scones fluffy and flaky?

...

Cheesy Squash Scones
makes 8 scones

3-1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup squash puree
3/4 cup milk

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, parmeson and cheddar. Mix until blended and make well in the center.

In a separate bowl, mix together the puree and milk. Pour into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead only until all incorporated together.

Divide the dough into two. Pat into 2 flat circles, approximately 6 inches wide and at least 1/2 inch tall onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut each flat circle of dough into 4 segments. Brush the tops with some extra milk.

Bake at 400F for 30 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from oven, allow to cool on the pan over a wire rack. Serve warm.

December 10, 2010

Tetley Tea Color Therapy Gift Basket Giveaway Winner

Well, I thought about making you all wait to find out who won the Tetley Tea Colour Therapy Gift Basket Giveaway but I just couldn't do that to you. It would be cruel to make you wait until after the weekend.

Thank you for the well wishes. My lymph nodes are still swollen, the back of my throat is looking less like a science fiction novel and I'm definitely feeling better. I have been eating solid food since Tuesday but everything tastes off. Must be all the meds. Weird.

Big thanks to Tetley for providing the gift basket! I love their products and have been drinking it all week myself.

Thanks to all that entered! And, don't worry, just because you came out and commented, I won't hold you to commenting on further blogposts :) I know folks like their anonymity. Plus, I know you are reading, no need to comment if you don't want. But, on the flipside, I always love hearing from all of you!

Without further ado....


************************ DRUM ROLL ****************************





Commenter #2 - Lequan on December 6, 2010 3:06 PM

Congrats Lequan! Please forward your full name and address to me at oomelement @ gmail . com so that the basket can be shipped out to you!!!

Have a super weekend Peeps!

December 6, 2010

Giveaway: Tetley Colour Therapy Gift Basket

basket

It's been a rough week for me. I got hit with strep throat. Very badly. I spent 4-5 days in bed and the couch. I'm walking around today but I'm nowhere near 100%. The back of my throat, wow, you can probably write a science fiction novel about it. It's that scary.

There hasn't been much eating or doing of anything around here. So the ole blog is looking dusty from not being used but I think it will be that way for the rest of the week too. Sorry. Life trumps. I'm taking care of myself, resting on my couch, watching tv and sipping on tea.

Did I just mention tea?

Uh huh. The marketing peeps for Tetley Tea asked if I would be interested in giving away a basket of their teas!

How about winning yourself a basket of Tetley Teas? So perfect for our Canadian winters.

What do you have to do? Leave me a comment and you'll be entered to win this fantastic gift! (Sorry, open to Canadians -excluding Quebec- only). Good luck!

Here's the details and photos provided:

...

Tetley Tea is on a mission to help Canadians get more "colourful" with their new line of herbal teas. As you know, colour influences our lives every day. In the home, a bedroom that's painted paled blue an have a calming affect. Wearing red can illicit a sense of energy and excitement. Our colour choices can have dramatic effects on our mood and well being. Now you can match or even influence your mood using colour with this new line of herbal teas for a little Tetley Colour Therapy.

Discover which tea will suit your mood by visiting TetleyColourTherapy.com

open basket

The Giveaway is ONE Tetley Tea Colour Therapy Gift Basket (worth approx. $70) with 2 containers each of tea, a canister/tea pot and 50 mood influencing greeting cards for you to offer up as a prize.

This giveaway is limited to within Canada only (excluding Quebec). Leaving a comment on my blog enters you a chance to win. One randomly-picked winner will be chosen. Contest closes Friday, December 10th, 2010, 12:00pm Mountain Time.


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