Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Orange and Black Cupcakes

It has been a big week of Halloween Festivities! It all began with "Gouls Night Out" at a house of a coworker. We got our palms read (very cool) and I made my favourite spooky martini, the Dark Night (see recipe below). The next day, I joined some friends and their families for some pumpkin carving fun. I brought my Orange and Black cupcakes. They have a brownie bottom and are toped with orange flavoured (and coloured) buttercream. Yum! And finally, we dressed up at work on Wednesday for a costume competition between teams. My team got together to make our own fascinator hats and we went as "mad hatters". We didn't win, but I loved our team craftiness!

Dark Night Martinis

- Shake just over 1 oz Black Sambuca
- With just under 1 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
- And 4-6 ice cubes
- Pur into a martini glass and add two maraschino cherries

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles

I do not care for the texture of squash, but I love the flavour of pumpkin and mix it in to anything from muffins and cupcakes to pancakes and oatmeal. A few weeks ago, I made my first attempt at pumpkin waffles. I would have liked a stronger pumpkin flavour, but they are definitely worth a repeat! Any type of squash or sweet potato could be used in place of the pumpkin.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I (heart) Leftovers!

What more could you ask for than creamed onions, turkey, stuffing, pickles and orange cranberry sauce all piled on freshly baked buns?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving: One week later

My Thanksgiving dinner went off without a hitch. After spending most of last Saturday and Sunday cooking, I had almost everything prepared before my brother and his girlfriend arrived. I even pulled out my turkey napkins!

The brined turkey was lovely, I will certainly try that again, despite the fact that hauling around an 18 pound turkey and several litters of brine is no easy task!

Items slowly piled up on the counter as my brother carved the turkey - stuffing, mashed potatoes (with and without dairy), gravy, cranberry sauce, rosemary carrots . . .

. . . buns, creamed onions and sweet potato casserole.

Finally, it was all laid out on my counter and stove for serving (my table is too small for more than two people, never mind all the food). We heaped our plates and even went back for seconds. It was all delicious! I have now eaten turkey soup for a week and have my freezer stocked to the brim with leftovers. Plenty for a Thanksgiving redux in November :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

I can't remember the last time I made cupcakes, it seems that I have been on some sort of unintentional cupcake hiatus. But, that has ended and cupcake season has arrived! One potluck down, one potluck and two halloween parties to go! I don't think I will make cupcakes for each gathering, but you never know.

In any case, I started off cupcake season with these delicious beauties, Brown Butter and Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing. The brown butter added a lovely fall toastyness and cream cheese icing is always a winner in my book. They were a hit!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The 0.001 Mile Diet

I grew this lettuce right on my very own balcony!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Weekend Homemaker

This weekend, I am dedicating all of my cooking to preparing for Thanksgiving dinner! I am only cooking for three, but I love holiday cooking and am making a huge meal to ensure that I will have leftovers to last me for weeks!

Holidays are also one of the few times of year when I eat meat so I really look forward to the turkey (and turkey sandwiches and turkey soup). While 90% of my meals are vegetation or vegan, I am not against eating meat per se; I am disturbed and disgusted by current commercial farming techniques. The inhuman treatment of animals, artificial manipulation of the food supply and environmental degradation of lands used for farming have led me to reduce my meat consumption significantly over the past 20 years. At the same time, I feel comfortable occasionally eating meat that has been ethically raised. And so, I went out this morning and picked up my very expensive, local, free range (hopefully happy) turkey. And then, I prepared all of the "day before" dishes that I could.

I boiled the brine for the turkey (I haven't done a brine before, but it smells so good). The turkey will sit in the brine over night.

I made the dough for the dinner rolls and put it in the fridge for a slow rise. I will bake the rolls after the turkey comes out of the oven.

The cranberry sauce is ready to go and chilling in the fridge.

And the creamed onions just need to be baked before eating (hopefully they last that long, I could hardly stop myself from eating these as they cooked - yum!).

So far, so good!

To Market, To Market

Between the Thanksgiving holiday and the dreary weather, pickings at the market were pretty slim this weekend. But, I did purchase a brining package for my Thanksgiving turkey, soup mix to make after-Thanksgiving turkey soup and cheese and pickles to have with turkey sandwiches. Hmmmm . . . can you sense a theme here?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

From Market to Table

Now that the weather is cooler (and wetter), I am back in soup mode. I don't remember seasonal eating as a child, or at least my mother never mentioned a desire to match meals to the season, but now I rarely eat soup between May and October.

I also rarely eat tomatoes outside of the late summer or fall unless they are canned. I bought this pile of beautiful a couple of weekends ago at the farmer's market.

I oven rosted them to make the base for one of my favourite soups, Caramelized Red Onion Soup, from the ever-popular Rebar Cookbook.

This soup reminds me very much of French Onion soup, but without a beef stock base. Instead, rosemary roasted tomatoes give depth to the flavour.

I top each bowl of soup with parmesan toasts. And, despite the fact that this soup makes my apartment smell like onions for days, it is worth all of the effort.

I thought that this batch would last a couple of months once frozen (it makes about 10 servings), but I went through it in two weeks. It is delicious!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Weekend Homemaker

I often think I should have been born a hundred years earlier. I'd love to be a farmer's wife - spending my days cleaning, cooking, baking and sewing. I don't know if this type of lifestyle is possible anymore and, if I was forced into it, I am quite sure I'd be rather irritated (*the grass is always greener . . . *). But, I as much as I love my job in theory, in reality it is just draining. As a full fledged introvert, having to immerse myself in the politics, policies, personalities, emotions and conflicts of the many people I must interact with on any given work day zaps me of any sort of balance. I am always amazed by people who leave work to spend their evenings with more people and more tasks - clubs, classes, exercise. I just need to decompress.

I also spend my weekends decompressing. I love nothing more than a weekend free of commitments that allows me to cook, clean, read, watch TV and recalibrate. Over the past two months, I have switched from trying to do a bit of everything each weekend to alternating between a cooking (and grocery) focused weekend and a cleaning focused weekend. Of course, a bit of each must be done every weekend, but I am trying very hard not to obsess too much about keeping my place super tidy (yes, I am a neat freak) and to also do some focused meal preparation. So far things are going pretty well. It is a relief to get away from the weekly cleaning grind and I love having lots of food stored away in the freezer for weekday lunches and evening meals.

On that note, here is the food I prepared on my first "homemaker" weekend. Everything was made from my favourite cookbook: Rebar Modern Food Cookbook (I can't say enough good things about this vegetarian cookbook or it's namesake, a yummy and kitschy restaurant).

Greek Red Lentil Soup (served with crumbled feta)

A whole wheat pie crust (my technique needs some work) . . .

for an Apple and Spinach Tart

For breakfasts and snacks, I made Vegan Energy Bars. Yum.

At least half of each dish was placed in the freezer and has been slowly gobbled up over the past few weeks. After a month or so using this strategy, I have a nice variety of food in the freezer and have really cut down on last minute food purchases and badly planned dinners. Let's see if I can keep it up!

(Not Quite) Vegan Energy Bars
(adapted from Rebar Modern Food Cookbook, by A. Alsterberg and W. Urbanowicz)

Combine Dry Mix:

2 cups 12 grain cereal (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup carob chips
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

With Wet Mix:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs (the vegan recipe called for 1/3 cup flax eggs)
1 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla

Spread combined mixture onto cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper and oiled). Bake for 18 minutes at 350 F. Cool and divide into bars.