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Wedding Vows, Exotic Spices and Slow Cookers

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Wow, what a crazy month! April was a complete whirlwind with the end of school, finals and our crazy two month planned wedding! Everything worked out amazing and the ceremony and the dinner after were wonderful. I got to hang out with the fam and my new in-laws who are also amazing. Now things are getting back to normal post-honeymoon and I’m still on vacation! No school until next week! Woo! Well, school has started but I haven’t found the time to blog until now. So,here I go!

Flowers at Granville Island

Flowers at Granville Island

 

I have some food related plans for the summer including perfecting pizza dough (wedding gift pizza stone!), making doughnuts, fondue experiments (wedding gift fondue set!) and getting into my cookbooks! I just reorganized all the books in the house which took all day with bookshelves in three rooms and they are in some semblance of order now; fiction, mystery, science fiction and crime fiction alphabetized. I still have to work on the non-fiction though, at hour five of the organizationathon they just got shoved in.

But as far as the cookbooks are concerned, the top of my list is my bread one (Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads) and like every other food blogger on the planet, Jerusalem! I have already made a few items but have barely cracked this beautiful ode to Middle Eastern cooking! I have been interested in that region’s cooking for a long time so I am loving the book so far.

Sunset on Harrison Lake during the honeymoon

Sunset on Harrison Lake during the honeymoon

My new obsession is za’atar, the spice mix used throughout the book. I got it for a specific recipe and have been putting it on everything! After searching for it at a few grocery stores, I found it a great middle eastern store on Main st called Yek O Yek (to the Vancouverites out there, if you haven’t been there, go now!). I should have just gone there in the first place. They had several sizes of containers of the spice which is mix of several dried herbs including varieties of thyme, oregano and sumac. I got a big container for five bucks and I’m so glad I went for the big size because it’s almost gone! It is great on rice, tossed on salad, mixed with breadcrumbs and crusted on tofu, stirfries and my most recent indulgence on hot buttered popcorn! It would also be yum mixed with plain yogurt for a dip or in a hearty stew or soup! I love it! So when, I started this post a few weeks ago, I was going to post a za’atar inspired recipe but unfortunately I’ve used up almost all of it so that recipe will have to wait.

The view from our room!

The view from the beach!

 

But I do have a couple of other ideas up my sleeve. The other day me and the man were window shopping and I saw a very cheap cookbook, Now, I have a fair amount of cookbooks but I don’t buy them very often (before Jerusalem it had been a long while). I prefer to get them out of the library and use them more for inspiration than for actual recipes. But when I saw this book, I knew I would be able to get some real use out of it. It’s called “Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker” by Robin Robertson and it has a million (well, 200) ideas!

My husband bought a slow cooker a couple of years ago and I can think of tons of meat based recipes to make in it, but when I though about veggie stuff, I was like, chili….Then I was out of ideas! This cookbook has essentially blown my mind with recipes for things I never would have associated with slow cookers. How about cake? Dips? Bread? There’s recipes for all this stuff and it’s all vegan! I dove in and have a couple recipes inspired by some in the book.

They’re not all winners and some have a bit of a 70’s vibe but hey, I like the 70’s, I like the nightlife, I like to boogie, on the disco rooooound! Anyway, I used some recipes from the book as the inspiration for these but tweaked them a bit. Now, bear in mind, your slow cooker may be a bit different than mine so you might need to keep an eye on things (for the cake anyway).

Vegan (fat-free) Apple Spice Cake (adapted from “Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker”)

Apple Spice Cake (sorry about the lighting)

Apple Spice Cake (sorry about the lighting)

1 3.4 c. all purpose flour

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground ginger

1/4 t ground cardamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t ground allspice

3/4 c. brown sugar

1/3 c. soy milk

3/4 c. applesauce (I used unsweetened but it’s up to you)

1 t vanilla

2 apples, peeled and diced

2 T marmalade (I used ginger but again any type will work)

confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

-Line your slow cooker with a double layer of parchment paper

-combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and the wet (except the diced apples) in another

-mix together (the batter will be pretty thick)

-press into cooker, spreading evenly and top with diced apples. Place a tea towel over the cooker (with the lid on) and cook on high for two hours, check for doneness after an hour and a half. Lift out the cake when down and sprinkle with sugar! It’s nice and spicy (with flavour not heat) and would be good with coffee or for breakfast or just for snacking!

This is going to be a two recipe post! Making up for lost time. So, I am an oatmeal lover and love steel cut oats. The only thing is,they take about half an hour so sometime I don’t have time in the morning. Enter the slow cooker, you just have to get it together the night before and you will wak up to a hot breakfast and a delicious smelling kitchen. So, this was also inspired by the slow cooker cookbook and by finding a can of cranberry sauce left over from Christmas! You may be in the same boat so use up your leftover canned fruit, I think any type would work, maybe peaches or pears too!

Apple-Cranberry Slow Cooked Steel Cut Oats

1 3/4 c. steel cut oats

1 can cranberry sauce

5 c. water

2 peeled, diced apples

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t ground cardamon

1 t vanilla

1/3 c, brown sugar

-spray the inside of the cooker (this was a sticky one because I didn’t spray mine!)

-combine everything in the cooker, give a little stir and set it for low for eight hours. That’s it! So easy.

It’s not super sweet so you can add more sugar when it’s done if you want. Hopefully these recipes will get you dragging out those slow cookers from the cupboard and looking at them in a different light. So, more on za’atar next time!

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Triumph of the Bun

Hallowe’en Mask

I am very excited right now! The dream of many years has come true. I have made steamed buns! Hurrah! Chinese cooking is something that has always fascinated me and there’s nothing I like better than heading down to T & T (a large chinese supermarket) or any little Chinese grocery or vegetable market and just browsing and trying new things. Somethings are successful (rich sheet rolls) and some are not (weird yam noodles that taste like solid water). When I was cooking professionally I wanted to work at a Chinese place, preferably a Buddhist one but there was always a language barrier that prevented me from doing so. I’ve wanted to learn about Chinese baking and dim sum but wasn’t sure how as the cooking classes I have been able to locate were taught in Cantonese. There’s always cookbooks but I was a bit intimidated to take on yeasted items  without actually seeing someone do it. (I guess I could look on the internet! Oh well) The point is, I made steamed buns.

Pre-Steamed Buns

What I really wanted twas to have a BBQ bun that was vegetarian. Store bought veggie steamed buns are great but the fillings can be a bit bland and even though I haven’t eaten them in years I remember the great flavour of the BBQ pork buns. So I used the steamed bun recipe from Saveur but did my own filling with the aim of recreating BBQ pork without the meat. I think I succeeded and I hope everyone agrees!

It’s Hallowe’en today so I figured I’d put up a photo of my pumpkin! Have a spooky day!

Haunted Graveyard Pumpkin

 

 

 

BBQ “Pork” Steamed Buns or Char Siu Bao

Equipment:

stand up mixer

bamboo steam baskets with lids (you could jerry rig something with a regular steamer but it’s easier with the bamboo ones)

parchment paper

The Bun (adapted from Saveur magazine)

3 1/2 C flour

1 t baking powder

1 t instant yeast

1 T sugar

2 T veg shortening, diced

-combine yeast with 1 1/4 C water (115  degrees) until foamy about 10 minutes

-make sure the water isn’t too hot (unlike what I did the first few times! Oops, I killed the yeast.)

-combine the dry ingredients in a standup mixer with a paddle attachment

-add the yeast and combine at low speed

-add the shortening one piece at a time

-i kept the speed at low-med for about five minutes until it forms a ball

-cover the bowl with saran wrap and let rise for two hours

Green Onions

The Filling

you can do this while the dough is rising

1/2 t Chinese 5 spice powder

1.5 T molasses

3 T brown sugar

20 oz canned tomato

1 T minced garlic

1 T minced ginger

2 green onions, diced

1 lb firm or extra firm tofu

4 king oyster mushrooms, small diced

2 t minced garlic

-combine the  first seven ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer on low heat for 45 min-1 hour

-puree in blender (be careful) add salt and pepper to taste

-saute the mushrooms and 2 t garlic for 3-4 min

-drain liquid from pan, add crumbled tofu

-saute 2-3 minutes

-add sauce and combine to throughly coat

-let the filling cool to room temp (I didn’t do this and it would have been a lot easier if I had)

Once the Dough Has Risen!

-turn out the dough and knead for 5 minutes

-divide the dough into 8 or 16 depending on how big you want your buns!

-shape into a ball and flatten a bit, place 1 1/5 T or 3-4 T depending on how big they are in the middle and pinch closed

-cut the parchment into little circles or squares and place bun seam side down on the paper, cut in a cross to let steam escape

-place in steamer, cover with lid

-put some water in a wok and get it steaming, put in steamer and cook 12-15 minutes until the buns are cooked and puffed

-enjoy!

Buns

 

Celebration Cake

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Oranges!

It’s the day after my last final exam and I decided I was going to make a cake to celebrate. I don’t bake that much as it takes skill and attention to detail, not to mention having all the right ingredients. I’m more of fly by the seat of my pants type of baker which usually gets mixed results (i.e. not that great results). Savory cooking lends itself much more to experimentation and substitution; although experienced bakers can also do this. I am not an experienced baker. One of my goals this year is to make more bread and get better at it. Cakes are also on my list, I would love to make a Black Forest one day! This particular recipe is one I have been meaning to make for a couple of years, actually now that I have looked at the magazine’s date (May 2010), almost exactly two years. It’s from Saveur magazine, which I may have mentioned is my favourite food mag. It’s from an article they did on olive oil, and the name Orange Scented Olive Oil Cake sounded strange and interesting.

Boiling Away

I love citrus flavours, especially in desserts. I usually tend to favour lemon flavours but why not oranges? Oranges are probably my second favourite fruit, after cherries (which are strictly for the summer, boo hoo). Oranges are available all year long of course. I think because they are a bit pedestrian and common their deliciousness can get overlooked but I love them. I crave oranges and probably eat at least one a day. Not only am I protecetd from scurvy but I love the juicy pull of biting into a cold orange. They must be cold! Christmas mandarins can be room temperature but they must be eaten only in the last three weeks of December, (possibly first two weeks of January) that is my law!

I am hoping to do a lot of cooking and baking and pickling and jamming (the food kind not the acoustic guitar garage kind) this summer as I am taking a break from school and will be just working. I have been working and going to school year round for the last two years so I am excited for the break!

Anyway, I keep all of my food mags and love to reread them and there was the orange cake recipe again so I deceided to give it a try. The ingredients are very basic and it’s pretty uncomplicated. The triple boiling and syrup making of the oranges sounds labour intensive but it’s really not. I don’t have a food processor so I used my blender which worked but was a bit annoying, if you have a food processor you should use it. Here is the recipe. It’s baking right now and it smells amazing! I didn’t make the glaze but I might heat up some apricot jelly and pour it over top or I might make whipping cream, I’m undecided.

The Mess

The Finished Product

Cake on a Ledge (After Tasting)

It just came out! It’s a lot puffier than the picture in the magazine but I figure that’s better than it being flatter! It tastes delicious! Not too sweet and very orangey, I think a chocolate glaze would be awesome with it actually. I put the original picture that inspired me up on my Pinterest account and I think I’ll keep doing that for future recipes. Check out my boards and follow me. I’m keeping the orange syrup that was left from the recipe, I think I’ll try and incorporate it into a cocktail!

I will get going on my Middle Eastern food goals soon. Now that school is done I can spend more time blogging! Yay!

Thunderball and Flatbread

We recently got a blu-ray player so we’ve been building our library of discs and just discovered they’re releasing cheap James Bond collections. I am a huge Bond fan and have always wanted to own all of the movies so we’re buying them whenever we see them. I think the best way to watch Bond is to watch a bunch in a row, you must saturate yourself in suave. There have been a few different Bonds and here’s how I order them in terms of awesomeness: 1. Sean Connery (except for Never Say Never Again because he’s too old) 2. Roger Moore 3. Pierce Brosnan 4. Daniel Craig 5. Timothy Dalton 6. George Lazenby (extra minus points for the waste of the best Bond girl ever, Diana Rigg with the lamest Bond ever). But I digress; I also like to cook while watching a movie, especially when I’m making bread or pot stickers or anything that has a few steps and waiting time.

I’ve been going through my Gourmet mag collection, rereading the wonderful articles, drooling over the amazing photos and grieving it’s demise. Come back Gourmet!!!! Come back!!! Anyway, I’ve been getting re-inspired and an article about middle eastern cuisine that included a fun recipe for Algerian Flatbread caught my eye. I had almost all of the ingredients and decided to give it a go. We threw on Thunderball and I got doughy! I’m not going to post the recipe but you can get it here. The only thing I would change is to increase the spices a bit as the flavour didn’t really come through that much. It was tasty though and great for dipping, we used guacamole but hummus would be good too.

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We had a bunch of vegetables in the house and one of the blogs I like to follow, Lark & Linen had a post a few weeks ago about cream of broccoli soup and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I grabbed some half and half and made some up. It was super easy so I’ll just describe what I did rather than make a formal recipe.

Chop up 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, half an onion, 3-4 garlic cloves and 3 broccoli crowns. Saute in a large pot, cover with water and a pinch of veg boullion. Simmer until the veg are soft, ladle into a blender in batches and puree (be careful with the hot liquids). Whisk in 1/2 – 2/3 cup of half and half, salt pepper to taste and voila! Soup! Easy and yummy, I’m going to make more today with zucchini instead of broccoli. You could also add some parmesan. There’s no pics because I forgot and we ate it all! I did manage to get a couple of shots of the broccoli pre-soup however.Give it a try and you won’t regret it!

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