New Start?

I love to eat!  Who doesn’t love to eat right?  Food is such a large part of lives, we talk about it, we socialize around it, we also of course need it to live.  I have been thinking and reading about that last part for a few weeks which has inspired me to take this barely used blog in a different direction.  I am hoping I will give the blog more attention under a new theme.  It seems that while I love to eat I am not very good at or motivated to write about what I am eating.  I would rather spend the time cooking and eating.  The problem with eating is that not every thing that I love to eat loves me back, I mean to say it is bad for my health (such as my dear love the cookie.) I will delve more into my bitter sweet relationship with cookies on another post, for now I want to leave you with some never posted pics from the last couple months.  Even though I have not been posting that does not mean I have not been cooking. Before I turn this into one off those boring health food blogs and start posting pictures of sprouts (I really do have pics of sprouts to post, gah!) I thought I would purge my photo album of all the good stuff. : )

Let’s start with the cookies and sweets (of course)

Attempts at bread

Some appetizers (just cause I like mini-food)

One entree to share in preparation for my trip to Spain later this month, Migas!

Advertisements

Grilled Cheese

I would live a very happy life if all I ate was cheese and cookies. It might be a very short life, but definitly happy. I put cheese on practically everything I eat (except cookies, but always potatoes!) One the best forms of cheese consumption has to be the grilled cheese sandwich. Gooey cheese, butter and carbs = a happy tummy!

Vancouver has some fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches to offer, here are a few of my favourite:

Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck

At Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck you pick your favourite cheese and bread to create your sandwich. Additions of tomato, red onion, dill pickle, double smoked bacon, chilli or doubling your cheese can also be made to your sandwich. I have tried several combinations and they are all delicious. For my taste I like the addition of red onion, the gooey cheese and velvety buttered bread can become very soft, I enjoy the texture and crunch the onion brings to the sandwich.

The truck has two speciality sandwiches:

Mom’s meatloaf Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which is next on my list to try. I have heard it is very hearty, might be a good idea to split it with a friend.

The Jackson 3 is my absolute favourite. This one is a mouthful: a triple decker sourdough sandwich filled with Brie, Boursin and Gruyere. It is so creamy and delicious! I of course add red onion.

Karen’s killer chilli is so comforting on a cold winter day however when eaten with a sandwich I was in a over-full food coma for hours!

The truck also offers up some yummy sounding desserts but I am always so full from the sandwiches to try anything more, I will have to visit this truck more often to try out all of the offerings.

Acme Cafe

Acme has two grilled cheese sandwiches on their menu. First is classic grilled cheese: grilled with aged white cheddar on your choice of bread.

Acme’s second offering is their highfalutin’ grilled cheese. I call this one the suped up grilled cheese, I have actually mistakenly ordered it with that name, but they knew what I meant. This gorgeous sandwich is served on a Ciabatta and includes cheddar, swiss, brie, and cranberry-Grand Marnier relish.

The cranberry relish on this sandwich reminds me of thanksgiving. As much as I enjoy the relish I found it made the sandwich overly sweet. I add dijon mustard to mine, I find the tanginess of the mustard off sets the sweet cranberry flavour.

Meat & Bread

The grilled cheese sandwich at Meat & Bread is simple and perfect: aged white cheddar and shaved onion. The texture balance of the cheese and onion is perfect. I love aged white cheddar so I appreciate their choice to keep it simple with this single classic cheese.

It is served with Meat & Bread’s tangy mustard. I love mustard especially with cheese, dipping this sandwich in their mustard is like the icing on the cake of this classic cheesy lunch treat!

Holiday Sweets

This is coming a bit late but “Happy 2012!”  Above is a Vasilopita cake I made for New Year’s eve.  It is a traditional greek cake served to celebrate the new year.  The cake is baked with a coin in the batter.  The coin is meant to bring good luck to the person who finds it in their slice of cake.  I had lots of fun eating this cake at 1am on January 1, 2012 with a group of good friends.

I added some coconut to the batter and sprinkled on top of the cake to add some crunch.  The cake.  The cake turned out quite dense and heavy, but I love the tradition behind it.  It definitely needed the chocolate writing on top…at least for my sweet tooth, everything is better with chocolate!

Vasilopita Recipe

To continue with some Greek holiday traditions I tried making Melomakarona cookies to snack on over the holidays.

One important lesson that I learned from this baking experiment is that these cookies do not rise.  I ended up with twice the amount of cookies because I assumed rolled the cookies on the smaller side assuming they would expand in the oven.

After baking these cookies take a honey syrup bath to make them moist and sweet. The recipe called for soaking the cookies for 3 minutes.  I found after 3 minutes they had only moistened around the surface so I let the cookies soak in a shallow syrup bath for a couple hours while I went out for dinner, it did the trick.

Melomakarona recipe

Lastly for a bit of fun we baked and decorated some Ninjabread men with a classic gingerbread recipe.

I think next time I will try to add little shells on their backs to make Ninja turtle bread men.

Butternut Squash Soup

I was recently stuck on a liquid diet for a week after having my wisdom teeth removed. How did I get away with waiting so long to get them out! I feel too old for this!

The steady bowls of mashed potatoes and glasses of chocolate milkshakes got old quick (well less so for the milkshakes.) Healing up on the couch when it is so cold outside required a comforting soup. Martha always knows best so I headed to her website to find a recipe for some liquid comfort. I love butternut squash at this time of year so when I saw this recipe I knew it would be perfect.

I recommend topping the soup with crumbled blue cheese or sour creme. It also pairs well with an afternoon on the couch watching a Cary Grant movie, my favourite is Talk of the Town.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 3/4 pounds small butternut squash, prepared and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and squash; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until squash is tender, 20 minutes.
  2. Puree soup in two batches. When blending hot foods, allow the heat to escape to prevent splattering. Remove the cap from the hole of the blender’s lid, and cover with a dish towel. Stir in juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Serve hot, with sour cream, pepper, and pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Baklava

I recently went on a fabulous trip to Greece.  The air was warm and the ocean was so clear.  It was a wonderful escape and I hope to go back again many more times.  Whenever I travel I try to bring some special local ingredient home with me to continue the culinary journey.  Usually I pick up the spices used in the local cuisine but this time I weighed down my bag with 5 jars of honey.  The Greeks know what they are doing when it comes it honey, it must be the happy bees.

With the honey I purchased I decided to make my favourite Greek dessert: Baklava.  I love the nutty sweetness of baklava.  It always ends up becoming a mess on my plate and I feel akin to winnie the pooh licking my honey syrup drenched fingers after gobbling up a big piece.

I made mine per the recipe below with 4 thicker layers of nuts, I have since been advised that the true Greek method is to have multiple thin layers of nuts.  I will try that next time and let you know how they different methods compared.

Recipe:

  • 1 pound chopped mixed nuts (used almonds, walnuts and pistachios)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  2. Toss together cinnamon and nuts. Unroll phyllo and cut whole stack in half to fit the dish. Cover phyllo with a damp cloth while assembling the baklava, to keep it from drying out.
  3. Place two sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the prepared dish. Brush generously with butter. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the nut mixture on top. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, ending with about 6 sheets of phyllo. Using a sharp knife, cut baklava (all the way through to the bottom of the dish) into four long rows, then (nine times) diagonally to make 36 diamond shapes.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes, until golden and crisp.
  5. While baklava is baking, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir in honey, vanilla and lemon zest, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately spoon the syrup over it. Let cool completely before serving. Store uncovered.
  7. Eat a large piece (maybe 2) then plan a pilgrimage to try some authentic Baklava in Greece….really they do it best. 😉

Apple Crumble

I love easy sweet comfort food that can warm you up on a cold day.  I woke up on saturday to a chilly apartment and a city drenched by rain.  I decided it was a day to curl up on the couch under a blanket but I needed the right snack to keep me company.  A big bowl of apples in my kitchen made my decision easy.  Warm apple crumble is a cozy blanket in itself, it can warm you through your tummy and your heart.  The apples, spices and oats are so comforting, I could not stop eating.  It turned into the perfect winter saturday.

Recipe:

6 apples
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons butter

Crumble:
4 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats

Peel and slice apples into greased baking dish, add lemon juice to sliced apples to avoid browning. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples. Dot with two teaspoons of the butter. Blend the remaining four teaspoons of butter into brown sugar. Mix and add flour and rolled oats. Spoon mixture over apples. Bake at 350F for 15mins. Uncover and bake until crust is golden and apples are tender (approx. 35 minutes.)

Dutch Boy Pancakes

I remember making dutch boy pancakes with my father on sunday mornings when I was still in single digits. I loved the bubbly crust on these pancakes.  They tasted so good drenched in the melted butter from the pan and then smothered in maple syrup.  My adult self is apprehensive about the effects of consuming that much butter and syrup.  Which is a reason to not make this mega pancake every weekend, but once and while can’t cause too much harm right?

I used whole wheat flour to try to make this recipe a bit more healthy….some things are not meant to be healthy.  The whole wheat flour made the pancake a bit dense.  It was not as fluffy or bubbly as I remember it being in my childhood memories maybe I just didn’t inherit my fathers talent for pancake baking.

Ingredients:

1/3 c. butter
4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 c. milk

Directions:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put butter in 8 inch round cake pan and place in oven while oven is heating.

In blender, put 4 eggs. Turn on and blend for 1 1/2 minutes. While still whirling, pour in flour and milk. Blend another 30 seconds to 1 minute longer.

Pour batter into pan in oven, pouring slowly so melted butter is not on top of batter. Bake 20 minutes. Serve hot with powdered sugar and lemon juice or maple syrup.