Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Strawberry, Red Currant & Vanilla Cream Parfait

Want to know how to stress me out?  Invite me for dinner, ask me to bring a dessert and then say something like, "I like how you always put effort into your desserts and try new recipes!"

That's what my friend said to me when she invited me over for a Canada Day barbecue.  Sure -- it's a compliment.  But, it also clearly sets up an expectation that I need to maintain a reputation by making something impressive. 

The other part of my (first world) stress was that I had gone strawberry and red currant picking the day before and was busy trying to preserve 20 litres of fresh fruit.  

I have had the idea of making a layered dish in individual mason jars in mind lately.  Since I already had jars out for preserving, I thought this would be a good opportunity.  Plus, it's easily transportable, which works well when you're bringing dessert to a friend's. 

Strawberry, Red Currant & Vanilla Cream Parfait

I started by making the vanilla cream and refrigerating it.

Vanilla Cream

2 large eggs yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 cup of whole milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract


Whisk yolks until smooth.  Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add milk in a slow, steady stream.  Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.

Pour 1/3 of milk mixture into yolks, whisking constantly.  Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over
medium heat, stirring often, until thick, 2-4 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.

Pass vanilla cream through a fine sieve into a bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on surface.  

Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

The rest was really simple.  I used some of the fruit I had picked in layers between vanilla cream, Nutriwhip and ladyfingers that had been soaked in milk.

Prior to layering the dessert, I debated between 250 ml and 500 ml jars.  In the end, I went with the 500 ml.  They are a generous size, but the whipped cream takes up so much space, 250 ml wouldn't go very far.

Verdict: Everybody liked the dessert.  I think the kid inside of all of us likes the idea of having your very own jar of goodness.  The red currants made for a nice punch of tartness.  The only issue I had was that the layers were kind of all mushed together. It didn't matter taste-wise.  But it didn't quite have the visual effect I was going for. StumbleUpon

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Kale Salad & Kale and Mushroom Quiche

With all of the cake, pie and muffins we've posted about lately, it's probably time to throw a healthy meal into the mix.  Don't worry -- there are more of them than what we post about.

I was very excited to see The Leafy Greens Cookbook sitting in my mailbox when we returned from visiting Giz in Toronto.  Our friends at Ulysses Press offered to send us a review copy of the book.  I couldn't resist checking it out, since we're always trying to find new, healthy recipes.  I'm looking forward to trying out many of the recipes.

To start, I was instantly drawn to the simplicity of the Kale Salad with Avocados.  I liked that the recipe included almonds and avocados, both ingredients known for being good fats (monounsaturated) to include in your diet.  Plus, I've been determined to incorporate more kale into our meal planning.

I have had some challenges with raw kale since I've only recently learned that it requires more time to absorb dressings.  I had to laugh when a friend talked about massaging the kale.  I envisioned pieces of kale laid out while I worked out the tension.  In reality, it just means mixing the kale with the dressing for a couple of minutes.  It makes a difference!

First, I started by cutting out the stalk from the kale.

Kale Salad with Avocado

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups packed de-stemmed chopped kale
1/2 cup slivered almonds (I just did a rough chop of whole almonds)
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Massage the dressing on the kale, and top with the almonds, avocado, and cherry tomatoes. Serve within 1 hour of cutting the avocado and adding the dressing.

I paired the salad with a Mushroom and Kale Quiche.  It was my second time making this quiche.

Mushroom and Kale Quiche

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
8 cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups packed de-stemmed chopped kale
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
6 eggs (I used a 500g pkg of liquid egg whites)
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup grated cheese (we used marble...gouda would be good too)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Fry shallots in olive oil until translucent.  Add sliced mushrooms.  After mushrooms begin to soften, add kale.  The kale will shrivel when it is added to the frying pan.  Once these ingredients have cooked (about 10 minutes from start to finish in the frying pan), set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk eggs and milk together.  Add chopped roasted red pepper and the slightly cooled mushroom and kale mixture to the eggs.  Stir in about 1/2 of the cheese.  Salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour egg mixture into a circular pie plate that has been sprayed Pam (or something like Pam).  Spread remaining cheese on top of quiche.

Cook until quiche is cooked through and browned, as desired.

There's just something so refreshing about a meal like this.  It's simple, but good for you.  Plus, both components can easily be modified to include your favourite ingredients.  


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Last week we took a trip to visit Giz in Toronto.  I spent a couple of days cooking and baking to fill up her freezer.  I made a vegetarian version of taco soup, chicken soup, a ground chicken bolognese and banana oatmeal muffins.  I also wanted to use up some of the rhubarb I had pulled from my garden and transported with me.  R found this delicious recipe!

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 cup chopped fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Make crumb topping by combining all topping ingredients and stirring with a fork. Set aside.
3. Whisk together buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and applesauce in a large bowl. Set aside.
4. Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
5. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
6. Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.

7. Put into muffin tin.

8. Top with a light layer of crumb topping.

9. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned on the top

Verdict - These muffins were a hit!  I'd make them again without a doubt.  In fact, I'm hoping to get enough rhubarb out of my garden to make them for my freezer back at home.  I was quite generous with the fruit quantities.  Next time, I'll be more conservative since it made the middle of the muffin slightly mushier than I'd like.  I'd also definitely recommend halving the streusel quantities.  I put a generous amount on top of the muffins and was still left with a lot left over (see picture, below). 

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