Monday, January 29, 2007

Two Scoops

You know how sometimes you could kill for a little bit of sweet but there's nothing in the house? Yeah, me too. So this next recipe is kinda like cinnamon raisin toast, except it's a homemade muffin that freezes great and takes no time to defrost in the microwave! Think this is the last recipe from my big cooking day last weekend. Later this week I'll get to what I made yesterday.

Two Scoops Raisin Bran Apple Muffins
(this link takes you to ALL-BRAN* Bran Flakes Apple-Raisin Bran Muffins, but it's pretty much the same recipe)

A dusting of cinnamon sugar adds an extra-sweet touch to these large, fruit-filled muffins.

Makes 12 large muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 1/2 cups Raisin Bran cereal
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp molasses or liquid honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup finely-chopped unpeeled red apple

1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon for topping; set aside.

In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg; set aside.

In medium bowl combine cereal, milk, oil, molasses and egg; beat well. Stir in apple. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Portion batter evenly into 12 large lightly-greased muffin-pan cups. Sprinkle with reserved cinnamon sugar.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and top of muffin springs back when lightly touched.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Say it with me "Rutabaga"

Or just say turnip. Because it's the same thing. For some reason, I love turnip. Now I know lots of people don't but I do so you're going to get two recipes today! I made both of these last weekend.

This did come from a Canadian Living magazine but it must've been quite a while ago because I can't find it on their web site. This is delicious and the colour is fab! Thanks to my Momma for passing it on to me.

Rutabaga Sweet Potato Puree

Serves 8

1 rutabaga (about 2 lb/ 1 kg)
3 sweet potatoes (about 2 lb/ 1 kg), peeled and cubed
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup butter, melted or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt (I only use about half this because I find the mustard has enough salt)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 green onion, minced

Peel rutabaga; cut into 1-inch cubes. In pot of boiling salted water, cover and cook rutabaga for 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and garlic; cook until rutabaga is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

In food processor, puree about one-third of rutabaga mixture with butter, mustard, salt, pepper and reserved cooking water until smooth; scrape back into pot. Puree remaining vegetables; add to pot, mixing to combine. (Make ahead: refrigerate, uncovered, in airtight container until cool; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 dyas. Or freeze for up to 1 week; thaw in refrigerator. Reheat to serve.) Stir in parsley and green onion.

Per serving: about 165 calories; 3g pro; 6g total fat (4g sat. fat); 26g carb; 4g fibre; 15mg chol; 696mg sod.

This next one isn't exactly the way my mom does it, but it's close enough (the only difference is the flour). I always make sure to come home from Christmas dinner with some of this in my "leftover-goodies" plate.

Rutabaga and Apple Combo

Serves 6

1 large Rutabaga; peeled and diced
3 tbsp Margarine; divided
1 1/2 c Peeled; sliced apples
1/4 c Brown sugar
1/8 tsp Cinnamon
1/3 c Flour
1/3 c Brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook, drain and mash rutabaga. Add 1 tablespoon margarine. Toss sliced apples with 1/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon. Arrange alternate layers of mashed rutabaga and sliced apples in greased 2 quart casserole, beginning and ending with rutabaga. Mix together flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons margarine until crumbly. Sprinkle over top of casserole; bake for 1 hour.

Note from me: I just used the remaining turnips that I had and enough apples to cover the layers I needed. Oh, I didn't use cinnamon because I don't like it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I should totally be making this dish more often. I've had it in my collection for ages and have made it a couple of times before. Each time I say the same thing - I should make it more often! I cut this out of The Gazette, credit to Jennifer Warren.

Indian-Spiced Lentil Stew (aka Dal)

Serves 4

Serve with warm nan bread, or apparently bananas, if you have them (I have never tried this though). Have a big bowl for lunch, or a smaller bowl for supper before your main. Easy, fast and tasty!

1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt (I actually skip the salt because I find the lentils pretty salty)1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup soy or regular milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 cans diced tomatoes, not drained
1 can lentils, drained

In a small bowl, combine curry powder, cumin, turmeric and salt (if you're gonna use it). Add garlic and milk, stirring to ccombine well; set aside. In a large saucepan over low-medium heat, heat oil and sate onions, stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes, or until soft and just beginning to brown. Stir in milk mixture and cook until it thickens and bubbles, about three minutes. Stir in tomatoes, using a potato masher to mash tomatoes into smaller pieces. Stir in lentils and heat gently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Approx. nutritional content per serving: 290 calories; 15g protein; 5g fat; 15g carbohydrates; 13g dietary fibre; 990mg sodium.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A couple of good 'uns

Yesterday I did my fair share of complaining about various recipes that I tried out this past weekend. Today I will not complain. Today I will praise (mostly).

Both recipes are brought to you by the good folks at Everyday Food

First up: Mushroom Ragout

Serves 4

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 small minced shallot; cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Raise heat to medium. Add 1 1/2 pounds small white mushrooms, halved; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Cook, covered, until mushrooms release their liquid, 5 to 6 minutes.

Uncover; raise heat to high. Cook, tossing, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme and 1/4 cup dry red or white wine, or water. Cook until skillet is almost dry, 1 minute. Serve hot.

I could've eaten the whole bowl of this in one sitting. Yes, it was that good. But I do so love a good mushroom dish ...

Next up: French-cut green beans with dill butter

Serves 4; Prep time: 15 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons butter
1 pound French-cut green beans
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
Coarse salt and ground pepper

To prepare beans, trim both ends with a paring knife, or snap off. Cut beans in half into approximately equal-size pieces, then carefully split each bean in half lengthwise with a paring knife.

Bring 1 tablespoon butter and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a large skillet. Add beans. Cover; cook over medium-low heat until tender, 16 to 20 minutes.

Toss with remaining tablespoon butter and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Per serving: 86 calories; 5.9 grams fat; 2.1 grams protein; 8.1 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber

Note: You can substitute a 10-ounce package of frozen beans for fresh beans; cook according to package instructions. (which is exactly what I did)

Personally, this wasn't a great dish. It is just green beans. With some butter. And some dill. Big woop. I skipped the whole butter and water deal, just steamed the beans and tossed them with a teaspoon (maybe two) of butter and the dill. That's it, that's all.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why is it so difficult?

While I like to call myself a vegetarian, I suppose I'm not really a true vegetarian. I still eat fish (lots of it) and eggs (the occasional one). I am constantly on the lookout for interesting new vegetarian dishes that are easy to make, can be frozen and reheated without losing any goodness. This is harder than it sounds. And my Sunday cooking extravaganza brought this home to me yet again (*sigh*).

Here are two recipes for veggie burgers. The first comes to you from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

Lentil-Walnut Burgers - Here's what's wrong with this recipe (you can click on the link because I can't be bothered to type out two crap recipes): while the ingredients sound good on paper, once they are mixed together, fried in 3 Tablespoons of oil (why this is necessary in this day and age, I don't know. Well, actually I'd say it's to give some taste to these dry, dry, dry burgers), you then basically have to slather them in the yogurt-cilantro dip just to give the burgers enough juice to swallow. I swear, without the dip they'd just get stuck in your throat. Talk about D-R-Y.

I'm not a chef by any means, but listen up food editors, test kitchen chefs, etc. it is possible to make vegetarian burgers that taste like food, not like fried cardboard. Any questions? See me.

Recipe #2 I pulled from The Gazette ages ago. It's been sitting in my recipe binder since then and after I type it out here I will be binning it.

Veggie Burgers (from John Ash's From the Earth to the Table)

Serves 4

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced carrots
1/2 teaspoon minced seeded serrano chili (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chopped roasted eggplant, including skin
1 cup chopped firm cooked red potatoes
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini, squeezed dry in a clean tea towel
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup soft whole-wheat bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Saute onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to colour. Add carrots, chilies, ginger and cumin and continue to cook until carrots just begin to soften. Stir in the eggplant, potatoes, zucchini and cilantro and cook for two to three minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, cool and then gently mix in flour, egg and bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and shape into patties. Saute patties in remaining olive oil until golden brown on both sides, or grill on a well-oiled barbeque.

Approx. nutritional content per serving: 260 Calories, 6g protein, 15g fat, 29g carbohydrates, 5g dietary fibre, 350mg sodium.

Problems with this recipe (for me, anyway): if I have to roast an eggplant, peel and boil potatoes and let all that cool down before I even get to assembling these patties, already this is taking too long. Now I understand that I could've substituted any of the vegetables or even added nuts, but I like to do things the way they're written the first time around, you know. So I did. And I hated this. Honestly, by the time I got around to smushing the mass of mush into patties (it says it serves 4, but is that for 4 HUGE patties or for 8 miniscule patties? I don't know. I made 6 medium sized patties), I was kinda grossed out by the look of them. The chunks of potato and the eggplant skin were turning me off big time. I tried this without any kind of dressing. Then nearly spat it out. Luckily I had some salsa and sour cream on hand and this made the whole thing edible.

My major issues here are why make something that really needs a dip or dressing on it before it becomes palatable? Why not make a great tasting burger that can stand alone, without having to rely on additional dips, salsa, etc.? For the record, I have a great recipe for mushroom burgers that - oh my gosh - are great by themselves! They are great hot. They are great cold, out of the fridge at 2 in the morning. Would you believe it's a Weight Watchers recipe? Yeah, it's true. I've been making this recipe for years and still love it, love it, love it. Here it is:

Vegetarian Mushroom Burgers

Makes 6 servings

2 ½ cups chopped mushrooms
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons seasoned dried breadcrumbs
2/3 cup low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
½ cup chopped onion
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ¼ ounces shredded mozzarella
2 ounces chopped walnuts or almonds
1 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Dash salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

In large bowl, combine all ingredients except oil until thoroughly blended. Shape mixture into 6 patties.

Spray large non-stick skillet with non-stick cooking spray; add oil and heat 1 minute. Add patties and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn patties over; cook until other side is slightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. (Patties can be prepared to this point and frozen for later use.)

Place patties in a non-stick baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Per serving: 242 calories, 13g protein, 13g fat, 21g carbohydrates, 112mg calcium, 783mg sodium, 81mg cholesterol, 1g dietary fibre.

Notes from Stef: instead of seasoned breadcrumbs, you can use plain ones (homemade) and add your own spices. I find I can skip the addition of salt altogether here. If you find the mixture too dry and the patties don’t stick together, add a tablespoon or two of water to the mixture until the consistency is thick enough so that the patties don’t fall apart. It says to make 6 patties, but I prefer to make them a tiny bit smaller and get 8 patties out of the mixture. I usually cook the burgers a little longer in the pan and then skip baking them in the oven. If you’re going to freeze them after frying them, let them cool slightly and remember to separate the layers with a piece of wax paper or parchment paper.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Where did the weekend go?

Apparently all the cooking I haven't been doing over the last little while caught up with me. I spent the better part Sunday morning, afternoon and early evening cooking up all kinds of meals, soups and veggies for the coming weeks. So much in fact, that I have run out of plastic containers to store them all.

Before I get to the stuff I cooked yesterday, I still need tell you about one of my favourite curry dishes. Why sent me this recipe in 2000 (oh my god - I cannot believe it was that long ago!). Meant to post this last week after making a batch, but kept forgetting the recipe at home. I love this dish. It's so easy, it smells wonderful, it's filling and tastes better every day. Haven't been able to find the equivalent online. (Maybe Why can help out ...)

Chick Pea Curry

2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 x 439g cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
440g diced tomatoes
1 tsp garam masala

Heat oil in a medium pan. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook over medium heat, stirring, until soft. Add chili powder, salt, turmeric, paprika, cumin and coriander. Stir over heat 7 minutes. Add the chick peas and undrained tomatoes; stir until combined. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garam masala. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Delicious wrapped inside a warm flour tortilla (or also a pita).

Note from me: I also like to add mushrooms to this. And by the way, the quantities for the tomatoes and chick peas don't have to be exactly those indicated. I usually use one can of chickpeas and 1 big can of the tomatoes and it all works out fine.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Have I told you yet that I love you?

Cashmere, that is. I recently purchased my first cashmere sweater (yes, first, and I still can't believe it's taken me 37 years to start wearing cashmere). I feel like I've been wearing 100% polyester all my life and suddenly nothing else will do but cashmere.

Here's why:
it's soft (it feels "like butter")
it's warm (especially in horribly cold places like Montreal)
it's light weight (doesn't add 10lbs to me when I wear it)
it's dressy (can wear it to work)
it's casual (can wear it with jeans)

So, I think I need more cashmere in my wardrobe. Like, underwear too maybe, if that were possible (is it?). Or how about sheets? Definitely a shawl, a blanket, more turtleneck sweaters, mittens, gloves ... I could go on.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Where Am I?

Snow + Extreme cold = Nefertitia hibernates

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who Farted?

I don't know which one of the five guys immediately surrounding me it was, but one of them might be interested to know that the other people at the gym may not appreciate his stench making abilities. Some people (i.e. me) have a pretty weak stomach first thing in the morning and find the hideous odour of farts quite nauseating. Honestly, try working out another muscle - like the ones in your butt and hold in those foul farts.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Spa Therapy

Last Friday I was lucky enough to take the afternoon off work and indulge in a little spa therapy (even better, it was at someone else's expense!). The people at Spa Diva treated me f-i-n-e.

And how did I indulge myself you may ask? By having a 50-minute facial, followed by a Chocolate Body Wrap.

Can you hear me laughing??? I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to get this kind of treatment!

When I first found out that the facial was 50-minutes, I thought for sure I’d be bored after about 10. I can now safely tell you that this was not the case. Quite the opposite in fact. I wish it could have been longer, I wish the facial-lady could have done more wonderful things to my face. Who knew?! Looks like there’s a new area of the touchy-feely business for me to get hooked on.

Following the heavenly facial, I was bundled off for my chocolate body wrap. I’ve had a body wrap before (seaweed) and found that to be pretty decadent (if a little fishy/sushi smelling). I loved the way my skin felt after the wrap. This chocolate wrap was great too. Imagine having somebody exfoliate your body from shoulders to ankles with sea salt, then slather you in melted chocolate, wrap you up in plastic, cover you with a heavy heated blanket and let you simmer for 15 minutes. I kid you not – if I could have licked the stuff off me, I think I would’ve. It smelled that good. After 15 minutes you rinse it all off and then go home smelling like chocolate! All I did for the rest of the day was sniff myself. And soft skin? My, oh my, oh my! My skin has never felt so smooth, so soft, so ... so ... I don’t even know how to explain it other than "soft" but that just doesn’t come close to how soft my skin was. Do you get the idea?

Suffice it to say it was a great afternoon. I need more afternoons/days/weekends like that.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Julie/Julia Project

You may have noticed from the links to the right here that I have recently read Julie & Julia. It was light and entertaining. It was also quite an ambitious project for anyone to take on, let alone an amateur cook. Well done, Julie. You rock!

My mother’s own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking has been in her kitchen as long as I can remember. I have picked it up to skim through a couple of times over the years. But I have never, ever been remotely inspired to take on the entire book. Not in a lifetime, let alone a year! You’ve inspired me to maybe, perhaps “borrow” my mom’s copy for an extended period of time to see what’s in there that does interest me and advancing my own skills in the kitchen ...

Dinner party anyone?!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Yes, they really are that good

Here we are. Last cookie for this year. Or is that last year? Whatever – it’s the sixth and last type of cookie/bar/candy/thing that I made for Christmas 2006.

Don’t really remember if I saw this being made on a cooking show or just read about it. Whichever it is – I like to say that these are now my signature Christmas cookies. (Chocolate chip being my rest-of-the-year signature cookie). They do take a little bit of time to make. But other than that they are surprisingly easy and un-fussy to make. Really – they are to die for. My brothers have been known to steal them right before my eyes, while I’m preparing their own individual bag-o’-cookies (you know who you are, Muddler). Married men have proposed to me after tasting these cookies (well, they’ve proposed to me at other times too, but maybe those are stories for another post).

May I introduce you to ...

Brutti ma Buoni (translation – Ugly but Gooooood)

4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar (250 mL)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (50 mL)
1 teaspoon vanilla (5 mL)
2 cups coarsely chopped Toblerone chocolate (500 mL)
2 tablespoons icing sugar (25 mL)

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper or foil; grease foil. Set aside.

In large heatproof bowl over pot of gently simmering water, cook egg whites with sugar, whisking occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until opaque. Remove from heat. With electric mixer, beat for about 7 minutes or until cool, thick and glossy. Fold in flour and vanilla; fold in chocolate.

Drop by heaping tablespoons (15 mL) onto prepared pans. Bake in top and bottom thirds of oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown, rotating and switching pans halfway through. Let cool on racks. Sprinkle with icing sugar. (Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.)

Yield: 24 cookies

There you have it. Hopefully next year I will not wait until 2 days before Christmas to start my baking.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Molasses Spice Crisps

These cookies are a little fiddly to make, but absolutely worth it! They taste great and I will even drink a whole glass of milk just to dunk them. Thanks to Martha.

Molasses Spice Crisps

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup solid vegetable shortening (this makes my heart jump every year)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup unsulfured molasses (what is this unsulfured business? I just use whatever molasses I can find at the grocery store. Seems to work fine.)

Pre-heat oven to 375º. Line baking sheets with Silpats (I just use parchment); set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine shortening and 1 cup sugar (Careful here! This is the first year I’ve ever actually remembered to only pour in 1 cup of sugar. In the past I usually dump the whole 1 ½ cups in and then have to get more sugar out later …). Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and molasses, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat on low to combine.

Place the remaining ½ cup sugar in a small bowl. Using a 1 ½ inch ice-cream scoop (any old teaspoon or tablespoon does fine too – don’t bother going to some fancy-shmancy cooking shop to spend $20 on a teeny-tiny ice cream scoop), form balls of dough. Roll dough balls between the palms of your hands until smooth. (Do all the cookie rolling first, then all the cookie in sugar rolling.) Roll in sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in the center and begin to crack, about 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once after 5 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack to cook, 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack until completely cool. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Makes approx. 50 cookies (using a small spoon)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chocolate Bark

In the past I’ve usually made 2 or 3 kinds of chocolate bark. Thanks to my lazy ass this year, I only made one type. This was it. Thanks to Canadian Living.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Bark

1 pound (500g) white chocolate
1 cup (250ml) each dried cranberries and pistachios, shelled

In bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate, stirring occasionally. Stir in cranberries and pistachios. Pour onto foil-lined baking sheet; using palette knife or rubber spatula spread into 12- x 9-inch (30 x 23cm) rectangle.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until hardened. Break into pieces.

Makes about 32 pieces.

Note from me: this year my budget advised me to just use the chocolate I had at home (semi-sweet). This worked fine too.

P.S. This is also good for breakfast – it has fruit, nuts and milk product!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Better than I thought, I guess

Have been making this cookie for about 5 years or so and while I think it’s an OK cookie, I always get lots of compliments on it, which is probably why I keep making it. Anyway, thanks to Martha for this.

Cranberry Noëls

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cup flour, sifted
¾ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
½ cup pecans, toasted
1 ½ cup coconut, finely chopped (Note from Stef – I omit this because it doesn’t friggin’ stick!)

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla and mix until combined. In separate bowl, mix salt and flour together. Gradually add flour and salt mixture to butter mixture. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Divide dough into two balls. Form each ball into a log. Roll logs in coconut. Roll logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Chill several hours. Slice and bake in pre-heated 375ºF oven for 10-12 minutes. Cookies will not spread or turn brown.

Off for an afternoon of Spa Therapy at Spa Diva. Will let you know how the facial and chocolate body wrap (!) feel next week.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Icebox Orange Pistachio Cookies

This is a new recipe I tried this year. I like it. Like the citrus flavour and like the pistachios round the edge. Turned out better than I thought (i.e. the nuts stayed on the cookie). A keeper. After tasting one of these, Grandma said to me "Oh, Stephanie! What would I do if you were a bad cook?!" Well, Grandma, I don't know - what would you do? Probably tell me that I was a bad cook.

Icebox Orange Pistachio Cookies

¾ cup regular Becel margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup corn starch
1 tsp salt
⅓ cup finely chopped toasted pistachios

2 ¼ cups icing sugar
¼ cup orange juice
1 tsp melted regular Becel margarine
Orange rind (optional)

Beat the margarine with the sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, orange rind and vanilla. Stir together flour, cornstarch and salt. Add tot eh margarine mixture and blend on low speed until just combined. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a log, about 1-inch (2.5cm) in diameter. Roll the logs in the pistachios to coat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap; freeze for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.

Preheat over to 350°F (180°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice each log into 30 rounds. Place cookies about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake, in batches, for about 10 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Cool completely.

Blend the sugar with the juice and margarine until smooth. Use a knife to spread a thin layer over each cookie. Garnish with orange rind (if desired).

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Note from me: I just bunged the orange rind straight into the frosting and swished it over the cookies with a pastry brush. Turned out fine.

I did try to find this online but so far no luck.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year and all that jazz

I made it through, so I guess that’s a good thing.

Thanks to my brother, The Muddler, for providing me with a great little book at Christmas. Mighty Girl (aka Margaret Mason) published a book recently called No One Cares What You Had for Lunch. Basically, it’s 100 ideas for your blog. How cool is that? So, in an attempt to focus myself, in the coming weeks I’ll be providing you with the cookie recipes I did manage to bake this year. The list is a little shorter (by about half) than what I have made over the last few years. I’m starting off with the last batch of cookies I made. It’s also the batch of cookies that I screwed up by forgetting to add the flour. And then I overcooked them. Talk about a double-whammy. They tasted like cardboard and I dumped them in the bin. Ah well, guess there’s always next year. Thanks to Canadian Living for the recipe.

Italian Amaretti

2 cups (500 mL) unblanched almonds
2 egg whites
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (25 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 mL) almond extract
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder

Line rimless baking sheets with parchment paper or grease; set aside.

In food processor, chop almonds until in small pieces with some powdery granules. Set aside.

In large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar, 2 tbsp (25 mL) at a time, until ribbons fall from beaters when lifted. Stir in almonds, flour, almond extract and baking powder.

Drop batter by level tablespoonfuls (15 mL), about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto prepared baking sheets. Using fingertips, shape each into neat circle.

Bake in centre of 350°F (180°C) oven for about 20 minutes or until cookies are light brown and crisp on top. Let cool on pans on racks for 2 minutes. Transfer to racks; let cool completely. (Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.)

More Information
Tips: Because batter is sticky, dust hands with icing sugar when shaping into circles.

Dark baking sheets are not recommended for these delicate cookies as they cause overbrowning.

Nutritional information
Per Cookie: about 54 cal, 1 g pro, 3 g total fat (trace sat. fat), 6 g carb, trace fibre, 0 mg chol, 8 mg sodium. % RDI: 2% calcium, 1% iron, 2% folate.

Starting off the year on the right foot

Not that I have anything against left feet but I wanted to start off 2007 with some good karma on my side. Over the past couple of years my family has either ended the year or started the year by serving dinner to women at an emergency shelter. This year, due to some unavoidable circumstances, I ended up serving brunch on New Year's Day with a work colleague. It was a different kind of experience in several ways, primarily because my family was not with me. But it was still a good experience and it was certainly interesting to see my colleague’s reaction to this type of environment.

Two women in particular were a sight to see. One must surely have been in her 50’s but was made up and dressed like an 18-year old punk rocker, complete with shaved and dyed hot pink hair, piercings in her ears, eyebrows, cheek, lips, nose. The other was perhaps the same age, but more "normally" dressed. She was however covered in bruises, had two black eyes and huge bruise marks on her arms. There were two, if not three other women who seemed to be going through some withdrawal symptoms and from my limited knowledge of addicts, looked very much as I would expect an addict to look.

But what I take away from these couple of hours is more than just some random anecdotal quips. We served approximately 30 women on Jan. 1. These are women, all of them, had no other place to go on New Year’s Day. I was there by choice. Each of these women was pleased to be served, smiled – despite their less than fortunate circumstances, wished me a happy new year and said thank you. This alone makes my measly 2 hours of service worth more than anything. Some of the women even came back up to the counter to wish us a happy new year before leaving the cafeteria. I don’t know on what other occasion people have been so thankful for so little.

I feel privileged to be able to give back a little something in my own community.