Sunday, October 28, 2012

Petite Treats - Vanilla-Cranberry Coffee Cake



My friends at Beth Cook Publicity sent me a complimentary copy of Petite Treats by MORGAN GREENSETH and CHRISTY BEAVER.  The whole idea of "guilt free" mini treats (they're guilt free right?) really peaked my interest.  I was particularly curious about making individual serving coffee cakes.  My introduction was with a recipe of Vanilla Cranberry Coffee Cake and I'm thinking of  the Hazelnut Fig Coffee Cake.  Maybe I'll just get fancier and bake the Strawberry Cream Eclairs.  The point is that the recipes are easy to follow and quick to put together.  If you have a large group for dinner, creating several choices is not a lot of work.

Pot lucks coming up for the holiday season?  Kids lunches with a special mini treat?  Hostess gifts?  There are so many possibilities.




CRANBERRY-VANILLA COFFEE CAKE

Get your morning off to a delicious start. MAKES 12

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon allpurpose
flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted
butter, at room temperature, divided
2 large eggs
½ cup heavy whipping cream
powdered sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a standard 12-well muffin pan with paper
liners.
** I cheated a little here and used the larger muffin tins.  Baking time was 25 minutes.
2. Scrape the vanilla bean into a food processor fitted with a blade. Discard the
pod.
3. Add the sugar and pulse until combined. Transfer all but ¼ cup to a
medium bowl.
4. Add the cranberries to the food processor. Pulse briefly until the cranberries
are coarsely chopped but not pureed.
5. In a medium bowl, sift together 2 cups of the flour and the baking powder
and salt.


6. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle
attachment, combine ¼ cup of the butter and ½ cup
of the vanilla-sugar mixture. Beat on medium until
pale and fluffy.
7. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing fully after
each one and scraping down the bowl as needed.
8. Reduce the speed to low. Add half the flour mixture, then half the whipping
cream, then the remaining flour, then the remaining whipping cream, scraping
down the bowl as needed.
9. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, fill each muffin liner halfway full. Place a
dollop of cranberry sugar on top of the batter, avoiding the edges. Top with the
remaining batter, filling each liner three-quarters full.
10. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon flour to the
remaining vanilla sugar. Blend with your hands until combined. Sprinkle over
the top of each cake.
11. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center returns with no crumbs. The
toothpick may return with cranberries on it, and that’s OK.
12. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack
to cool completely. Use a fine-mesh sieve to dust with powdered sugar before
serving.
13. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Verdict:  What a delicious mini cake this was and just enough to make me happy.  The crumb of the cake is light and the topping divine.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup


I have such mixed feelings about the fall.  The colour of the leaves is so beautiful.  You get the days that are great for sweater weather (my favourite).  But, the days start getting shorter and then the time change hits and it eventually becomes dark by around 5pm here.  Don't even get me started on the cold weather, snow, freezing rain, etc*.  So, for now, I'm trying to squeeze in as much tree-gazing time as possible.  

Last week we got together with friends at the Arboretum. It's an area in Ottawa, on the Experimental Farm (land that is used for agricultural research) with a variety of trees.





In addition to some cute knitted sock and preserves, our friends gave us a bag of jerusalem artichokes that they were given from a neighbouring plot at their community garden.  


After looking around at various recipes that included jerusalem artichokes, I decided to make this soup recipe from Simply Recipes.  The only adaption we made is that we didn't have as many artichokes and we added two carrots.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 quart chicken stock (we used vegetable stock)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

METHOD

1 Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat and cook the onions and celery until soft, about 5 minutes. Do not brown them. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt.


2 Add the jerusalem artichokes and the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the jerusalem artichokes begin to break down, 45 minutes to an hour.


3 Using an immersion blender or upright blender, purée the soup. If using an upright blender, fill the blender bowl up only to a third of capacity at a time, if the soup is hot, and hold down the lid while blending. Alternately, you can push the soup through the finest grate on a food mill, or push it through a sturdy sieve. Add salt to taste.

Sprinkle with freshly grated black pepper to serve.



Verdict: The soup made for a nice warm lunch.  With the addition of the carrots, I found the soup to be a bit sweeter than I expected.  But, everyone enjoyed it.  For me, the most enjoyable part was being able to discover a bit about this jerusalem artichokes.

R's mom made these biscuits to go with the soup.  I asked her for the recipe and she said, "oh fit" and walked away.  I took this to mean that she doesn't have a recipe.  But I know she used flour, cream of tartar and baking soda.  Not sure what else.  


* I know I should talk about many of the great winter activities in Ottawa (canal, cross-country skiing, Winterlude, etc.), but for now I'm just going to wallow in a bit of post-summer pity.
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tomato Sauce


I am so glad I had stocked my freezer before E arrived (with Giz's help and the help of a friend).  I try to be productive during the day, but between our outings (necessary for maintaining my sanity), nursing and E's strong preference for being held (read: tendency to cry her head off when she isn't being held), it can be challenging to get much done.  Particularly chores that can't be dropped part way through.

(I can never get enough of these "ugly cry" pictures)

Thankfully, my cousin has been in town for the past week and a half.  I told her that, aside from the whole "husband-sharing" thing, I thinking having a sister-wife would be great.  With her love of babies, she happily entertained E while I made tomato sauce using up the tomatoes from our garden.




I blanched the plum tomatoes to get skin off.   



Then I diced the tomatoes, along with garlic and shallots.  I brought the tomatoes to a boil and let it boil down for about 45 minutes.


Since I didn't have enough tomatoes to make it worth canning, I went ahead and prepared sauce with other ingredients like roasted red pepper (finally finishing off the 1.5L jar that Giz felt we needed in our fridge), artichokes, herbs and chilli peppers.  This is the base of many of our pasta sauces.  


I then froze the sauce ( I just need to remember to add a bit of sugar when I warm up the sauce because it's a bit on the acidic side).

There's something so satisfying about growing the food yourself and making it from scratch.  Here's what we started with:



Part way through the season:

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting Food to the People Who Need It


I wanted to take a second to tell you about a couple of upcoming Ottawa-based charities that focus on getting food to the people who need it.

The Ottawa Food Bank is hosting Capital Dishes – Dine Out for Hunger.

This is a fundraising campaign to raise awareness and money in an effort to fight community hunger in the Ottawa Region.  On Wednesday, October 24th, some of Ottawa's local restaurants will be donating 10% of their sales to the Ottawa Food Bank.  Here's the full list of participating restaurants.  You can participate by passing on the information about the event and/or by visiting one of the participating restaurants on Wednesday.

      _______________________________________________________________

I just received my annual letter from the Shepherds of Good Hope letting me know that it's time to start thinking about the Christmas Hamper Program.  This program entails purchasing a meal for a local family and bringing it to the family near Christmas time.



This will be our fifth year donating a hamper of food to a family in need. Even though this charity is connected to the Christian faith and the Christmas season (religious affiliations to which I am not connected), I am happy to participate. In fact, it's one of my favourite charities because you get to have direct contact with the person who is benefiting from your donation. 

Another great way to participate in the program is to get a group of people together to create a hamper.  For example, you can encourage your colleagues at work to donate money or non-perishable food items to include in a basket for a family.  

Here is some more information on what should be included in the hamper.  I wrote about one of my experiences participating here.  If you're interested in registering or getting more information, call the Christmas Hamper Program at 613-233-7007 from Monday to Friday between 9:30 am and 1:00 pm.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Cookies


You can always tell when Giz is visiting by looking in my fridge.  Not only will it contain items that I rarely (if ever) purchase -- like cilantro or huge jars of roasted red pepper -- it will be so full that you can hardly find anything.  As you can imagine, Giz and I have had a few conversations about this.  It hasn't quite stuck yet.


Seeing as I'm not housing a barrel of monkeys, we ended up with an overabundance of bananas.  Lucky for Giz, I didn't complain about this because bananas are one ingredient of which I don't mind having extras.  They're easy to freeze and go great in baking when they're overripe.

In fact, I was so excited to bake these (my first baking since E was born), I even offered to be Giz's "kitchen bitch," the name we give to the person who gets the ingredients out and keeps things clean while the other person actually prepares the recipe.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup of mashed bananas
1 3/4 quick cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  3. Cream together the shortening and sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, banana, oatmeal and nuts. Mix well.
  4. Add dry ingredients, mix well and drop by the teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 15 minutes or until edges turn lightly brown. Cool on wire rack. Store in a closed container.





Verdict: delicious!  We actually added raisins to one batch and chocolate chips to another.  Both tasted really good.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

World Food Day October 16, 2012




Another year passes and I ask myself if anything has really changed.  Have we made a difference in world hunger?  Are more people moving out of poverty?  Is there enough food to feed all those that need to be fed both at home and abroad?  What have we done as a civilized world to actually improve the conditions of our planet?

World Food Day is an awareness campaign that selects a relevant theme annually to highlight the severity of world hunger.  Agriculture is central to feeding the world and sustaining a vital agricultural supply is critical for long term relief.  This year's theme is "Greening the Blue".  The call to action is coordinate resources for the most efficient expedition of food with the least negative impact on our environment.  Not a small task.

I can't solve world hunger and poverty but I can do my part either by sharing the awareness, making a food or money donation or volunteering my time in whatever way I can.   1 in 7 people in the world live in desperate conditions.  Doing your part in whatever way you can may feel small but collectively it does make a difference.





Brown and Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

This is so simple, inexpensive and nutritious.  For under $5, I can feed a family of 4

3 bell peppers, halved, seeds removed
1 cup brown rice
1 cup wild rice
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced finely
1 rib celery, diced
8 oz mushrooms, diced
Herbs/spices as you like.  I used Trader Joe's 21 Salute, Oregano and Cumin
salt and pepper to taste
3 oz. parmesan cheese or tomato sauce (or both)

Heat oven to 350 F

1.  In a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water, bring brown and wild rice to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes/

2.  Saute vegetables until soft.  Salt and pepper.

3.  Add cooked rice and mix together.  Spoon into the halved peppers and top with a sprinkle of cheese or tomato sauce.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Honey Apple Noodle Kugel






I love Kugel .  I don't really care if it's savory or sweet but I must admit that sweet kugels are my favourite. Sweet kugels are generally made with a base of cooked wide noodles and whatever you chose to add to them as a fruit or cheese. I always make kugel around Jewish holiday time and this one was for the Jewish New Year where apples and honey are symbolic of sweet things and the sharing of them are shared wishes for a sweet year ahead. Tradition is a wonderful thing.

You seriously can't  mess this up and with minimal effort you're rewarded with something so comforting and tasty that all you can say is Life is Good.


Ingredients


    • 12 ounces wide egg noodles, cooked
    • 6 eggs
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 cup raisins
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1 (20 ounce) cans apple pie filling
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions


  1. Preheat oven to 350F and lightly spray your 13 x 9 baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Mix everything together.
  3. Bake for 1 hour.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Bierocks


Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

My old friend and realtor extraordinaire in Winnipeg  Chris Krawchenko was showing off his home made Bierocks one day.  I was uber impressed and told him I wanted the recipe.  I didn't even know what a bierock was but they looked rather cool.  I'm always looking to try recipes, especially European recipes in my own small effort to keep some of the simplicity of the "old country" alive and in the kitchen.

My research tells me that bierocks (pronounced beerocks), also known as runza and very similar to the Ukrainian pyrizhky, originate from Germany and Russia and are well known (obviously not to me) as a comfort food of the harvest.  They're savory little pockets of meat, onion and cabbage and apparently the forerunner of the Reuben Sandwich.  Who knew?





1 lb ground beef
1 c. onion, chopped
1/2 green cabbage, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

In a large skillet on medium heat, cook the ground beef and onion until the beef is browned.  Add salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce.  
Add the chopped cabbage and continue to cook until the cabbage is soft.  

.
You can make your own dough if you like or use a premade pizza dough or do it the easy way.  I opted for the easy way.


The premade dough, although it's probably not the most cost effective way of making large batches, was an excellent choice for me.  I was able to find the dough on sale (my favourite 4 letter word) and it's perferated to a great size and easy to handle.
On approximately 5x5 squares, put a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center.  Bring the corners to the center and pinch all the sides closed.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and line up your bierocks leaving enough space in between for oven expansion.  They'll expand 50% in the oven.
Beat one egg and wash your bierocks before you put them in the oven at 350 F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.




Beautiful no?  

The most important thing is that these filled pillows are incredibly delicious.  The combination of the filling with the soft texture of the dough are a totally winning combination.  

The volume of filling in this recipe is enough to make 36-40 bierocks.  You may want to even double the recipe.

Reminder:  Don't forget to enter the Mymemories.com giveaway before October 12th.  Just go to the post before this one to get the details.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking Giveaway


Part of me wants time to stop so that I can cuddle a two month old forever.  The other part of me can't wait to get to know E as a 6 month old, a one year old, a toddler, during her school years, etc.  

Watching her clothes get snug is a definite reality check that she's growing.  I'm trying to capture photos and video of it all, but there's always an angle or an expression that is fleeting but unique.  So, as much as I try to keep a camera at arm's length, some moments will just be forgotten.  

When I got contacted by mymemories.com to try out their digital scrapbook software, I thought it would be a great way to organize and capture these early days.  Plus, they're offering a free copy for one of our readers (keep reading for more details on how to enter into the giveaway).  


Here is a quick tutorial on how the program works.  In addition to this, there are a lot of videos online that show you other tips and tricks.



Knowing myself, I could definitely spend hours and hours making scrapbooks.  I decided to start off with one of the scrapbooking templates that come with the software to get to know the program and for the immediate gratification. 

Here are some of the scrapbook pages I put together to capture E wearing some of the knits that I made while pregnant.  

The two professional shots of E were taken by a local newborn photographer, Sara McConnell (click on link for more shots of E at around 2.5 weeks).

I can't wait to keep playing with the program.  It includes music and video options, which I'm really excited about.  

So - now the cool part:  A GIVEAWAY!  Mymemories.com is giving away a free copy of the digital scrapbooking software for one of our readers.  

Here's how to enter:

Leave a comment below telling us, "What photos you'd use in your first digital scrapbook." We'd love to know!

Extra Entries:

Become friends with Equal Opportunity Kitchen on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did so.

Follow Equal Opportunity Kitchen on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did so.

Follow Equal Opportunity Kitchen on Pinterest and leave a separate comment telling me you did so.  

Tweet this statement to your followers and leave a separate comment telling me you did so: 
Enter to win a @MyMemoriesSuite digital scrapbooking software hosted by @equaloppkitchen http://tinyurl.com/9e97tlc

Deadline to enter is Friday,October 12, 2012. Contest is open to everyone. Winner will be chosen at random.
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Foraging with Mushroom with the October Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club





October already!!!  I'm conflicted because I adore this time of year; the weather, the leaves changing colour, the plentiful harvest and yes, even the shift towards winter.  The cooler weather is a welcome change and honestly, I'm getting a little "over" everyday salads.  I'm ready for more comfort food, the smell of spices and pumpkin, Thanksgiving and the festive holidays.


This month we're virtually out in the forest foraging for mushrooms.  I'm putting big emphasis on the virtual since I'm pretty certain you won't get too far with me in the forest looking for mushrooms.    This month I've chosen a Wild Mushroom Omelette recipe.  This is probably the best time of year to load up on mushrooms since they have a plentiful supply of vitamin D.


  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ounces wild mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 4 large eggs, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, divided


















Combine first 3 ingredients in a small skillet over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes or until water evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in chopped parsley, lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Melt 1 1/2 teaspoons butter in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Place 2 eggs in a small bowl. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper, stirring with a whisk until eggs are frothy.

Pour egg mixture into pan, and stir briskly with a heatproof spatula for about 10 seconds or until egg starts to thicken. Quickly pull the egg that sets at sides of the pan to the center with the spatula, tipping the pan to pour uncooked egg to the sides. Continue this procedure for 10 to 15 seconds or until almost no runny egg remains.

Remove pan from heat; arrange half of mushroom mixture (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) over omelet in pan. Run spatula around the edges and under omelet to loosen it from the pan. To fold the omelet, hold the pan handle with one hand and tip the pan away from you. Give the handle a sharp tap with your other hand so the top edge of the omelet flips over, or fold the edge over with a fork. Slide the omelet from the pan onto a plate, rolling it as it slides, so it lands folded in three with the seam underneath. Tuck in the sides of the omelet to neaten it.

Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, 2 eggs, 1/8 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper, and 1 1/2 tablespoons mushroom mixture.

Take a trip and see what the others in the club are doing for October:

Val from More Than Burnt Toast Cabernet Balsamic Burgers with Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions

Jerry from Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants prepared a Mushroom Salad with Truffle Oil
Sandi of The Whistlestop Cafe Cooking prepared Creamy Corn Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms 

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Longo's - A Family Tradition of Fresh Food



There are grocery stores available wherever you turn.  Where do you shop and why?  Are grocery stores delivering the hype they talk about and are they doing it consistently or do you hear "flavour of the month" type commitments that disappear when they don't meet profit margins?  I'm a consumer and make a point of paying attention to what my community stores say and whether or not they're living what they say.  It's important to me to see a clean, well stocked store that carries fresh product on a consistent basis and makes the effort to buy as much locally as is possible.

This week I attended a media event in celebration of Longo's 25th store opening in the Toronto Leaside area.  For most readers outside of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the name Longo's may not resonate for you.  Longo's is a family owned grocery chain that evolved from modest beginnings in 1956 as a fruit and vegetable market and has grown to stand out with an identity of its own.  It's still run by the Longo family and to have a large family presence at a media event was so refreshing.



I have to laugh at myself and share a story with you.  The man in the picture approached me and introduced himself as Anthony.  I responded by introducing myself and we had a short conversation that was quite pleasant.  He was wearing a Longo's tag so I asked "and what do you do with Longo's?"  "Oh", he said, "I'm Anthony Longo and I'm the President."  OK ... good to know.  Was I expecting to see the president of the company at a media event?  He went on to introduce all the members of the Longo family including the originals who started the company.  I was both impressed and honoured to see the humility of this family that worked very hard and earned their measure of success.

The new store is built on the historical site of an original railway structure and the restoration of the original building is gorgeous.  The original railway ties and much of the original wood has been incorporated in the building that sports 40 foot ceilings.



There were areas of the store that really caught my attention.  I was in a group that toured with Joe Longo as we learned about what sets Longo's apart.  The fish and seafood department is a dream with varieties that I haven't really seen everywhere.




It's already prepared for you - just take it home and cook it.




The kitchen offers an expansive array of premade meals.  The Longo concept of $6, $8, $10 makes short work of lunch or dinner.  You chose a protein available in the price point you want to spend and then add from a large selection of sides.


The meat department is second to none.  Joe informed us that 80% of the meat in the Longo stores is Canadian grown.  I love that.  And look at the selection.




There are two types of salad areas.  This one is the premade health conscious salads for a grab and go. There is also an extensive salad bar for you to chose your own combination of fresh salads, pastas and toppers


Olive oil selection is always a challenge, isn't it?  Sorry, this isn't going to make your life easier but it certainly is going to broaden your spectrum of choices.



The upper level of the store has been turned into a restaurant/lounge called Corks.  Decorated in reclaimed wood and  integrating antiqued copper, tin ceilings that are inspired from the era, it's a beautiful space to just relax and enjoy a refreshment and something off the menu.   








I can't remember ever tasting raw oysters before and was so pleasantly surprised to find out that I love them.  I'm reminded to not discount something just because you think it "might" be gross.
You may even want to learn how to shuck these delicacies;



This one, of course needed absolutely no coaxing for me.  Longo's signature cake ,,, to die for.

Finally, learning to cook is a fun and social activity that you can attend on your own or with the kids.





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