Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Childhood Faves

I promised awhile back to start a series of 'faves' posts.  And then I got so caught up posting all sorts of new recipes that I didn't even get past my first one, breakfast faves.  So here we go with the second installment. 

This is probably the favourite of all faves.  My favourite recipes by my mom... all the ones she used to make us as kids.  What could be better than that? 

My mom was a great cook.  Well, she probably still is, but my dad now does the cooking at home.  She somehow managed to feed a table of 6 every night with home cooked meals.  Perhaps it is part of what started my passion for food and cooking.

These are pure comfort foods.  For me at least.  I've lightened a few of them up, since there wasn't as much of a focus on healthy eating when I was a kid.  But they're still just as delicious.

I can't even really begin to recommend one over the other, as they are all great, great recipes.  I always have at least one or two of these on hand in our freezer for busy nights (aka every night...).  If these don't make you want to start cooking and baking, you may as well just stop reading my blog, because nothing will. Ok wait.  No... please keep reading it ;)

mom's microwave mac and cheese:  Perfect for kiddos.  Quick and easy and made in the microwave.  A much, much healthier version to Kraft Dinner (never mind much, much better tasting too!).  I like the lightened up version, though my sister Ashley swears by the original recipe.

mom's spaghetti sauce: This was once upon a time dumped into the trunk of my mom's car.  By yours truly.  Entire batch (and this makes a BIG batch!).  True story.  Worst part?  It was supposed to be our dinner at Girl Guide camp that night.  I have no recollection of what we had instead.  Actually, worst part was probably cleaning it out of the trunk, though I have no recollection of that either - I'll bet I probably didn't even help... oops... 

In my opinion, this is the best homemade spaghetti sauce known to man.  But I'm a bit partial.

mom's French onion soup (dad's ceasar salad, also on the same link, is also out of this world):  Again, in my humble opinion, the best darned French onion soup and ceasar salad out there.  In fact, I never order French onion soup in restaurants, because it's never as good as my mom's.  We have this every year for dinner on Christmas Eve.  A tradition I intend to continue with my family.

mom's shepherd's pie: A true classic :)

mom's chili:  This is almost always typically on hand in my freezer for quick defrosting in the winter.  I usually serve it with a biscuit, such as whole-wheat yogurt biscuits or spelt biscuits and a salad.  On occasion, we make some healthy home fries (which I've never blogged) and serve it over those for a homestyle version of chili fries. 

mom's chicken and rice: I don't make this one super often, but this is one of Jérôme's favourites (along with the mac and cheese, above).

Little story to share though.  Though he has no recollection of it, my dad made this for our wedding rehearsal dinner, which they hosted at their house, as I didn't want it to be in a restaurant.  He insisted on making just the rice, even though my mom and I explained many times that the recipe would not work that way.  And... the rice came out uncooked.  And... he served it anyways... I still remember Maria, our Brazilian friend, chowing down on the uncooked rice anyhow, since she had been in rice withdrawal since arriving in Canada for our wedding. lol 

mom's spinach salad: Super fantastic.  I am drooling as I type this.  Love the vinegary dressing.  And the delicious almonds.  And the whole darned thing.  I get asked for the recipe for this every single time I take it somewhere.  It's that darned good.  I'm so glad summer is around the corner as we make it way more often in the summer.

mom's trifle:  Fantastic for a crowd because it's HUGE and really quick to make.  And looks beautiful to boot.

mom's apple crisp:  LOVE this with peanut butter mixed in instead of butter.  Perfect fall dessert for when we've just come home from apple picking.

mom's cheesecake:  My sister Kristy's all-time favourite and my mom's go-to recipe when we have company.  An absolutely delicious, out of this world creamy cheesecake.

mom's cinnamon bread:  Such good university memories :)  And now, memories of Logan and Ella, chowing down on this together at the farm, 15 years later (ouch!).  

I also have fond memories of tearing apart my mom's kitchen as a child to make this with friends in elementary school.  Without her permission.  We'd just sneak into her kitchen before she was home from work and whip up a batch.  And, of course, leave all of the mess behind.  No wonder she didn't like me to bake!

mom's lemon bread: One of my all-time favourites, though I rarely make it since Jérôme hates lemon.

mom's shortbread cookies: Featured at every single Baynton family Christmas gathering.

mom's muffins that taste like donuts: omg I haven't made these in so long that looking at this picture is making me crave them.  Pure heaven.  We always take these camping with us as a treat.  Though we haven't camped at all since the monkeys came along.  But we plan to try our first camping excursion with them sometime this summer.

mom's bran muffins: love, love, love these.  They make a whopping huge batch which means they don't all disappear within a few days.  At least, unless you invite over the whole neighbourhood.  I remember always getting in trouble as a kid for sneaking one of these out of the freezer (where my mom had hidden them so that they wouldn't all disappear - 60 muffins still disappear relatively quickly with 6 to eat them!).

Enjoy!!  I hope this is making you run to your kitchen!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

These are amongst my other latest and greatest addictions (alongside brown rice bowls, cake decorating and knitting).  Katie made these for us for lunch one day while we stayed with them in Vancouver.  And for whatever reason, the small changes she made to a regular old grilled cheese sandwich made these delicious.  So delicious that I've been eating them maybe 4 or so days a week for lunch lately.  Until this obsession passes, at least.

A tip to all of my readers out there: I recommend that you not breastfeed your baby while making these sandwiches.  You might just slam her foot into the drawer as you shut it, leading to many tears.  Or perhaps touch her foot to the hot Griddler.  Good thing she was wearing socks! And that I noticed it right away!! Didn't even shed a tear for that one.  Here's hoping no one calls child protective services after reading this post...

I also recommend that you unplug your Griddler once you are done with it.  And before leaving the house.  For three hours. 

As with any grilled cheese sandwich, these are super easy to make.  Perfect for those baby busy days.

The trick to making these more delicious is the following:

butter or margarine
whole-wheat sourdough bread, or any other good quality bread
extra-old cheddar

No complicated tricks here.  Obviously, you butter the bread a bit, put in the cheddar and then add one basil leaf.  And grill.  Easy as that.


My mouth is watering as I type this. I did not make one for lunch today....

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lemon Curd Filled Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

If the title of this post isn't enough to make you pucker, I'm not sure what will.

But before I get started on today's post, I just wanted to mention how excited I am these days.  Jérôme has been hard at work on the new website we're developing for my blog.  Well, let's be honest.  He's developing it.  I'm just telling him what to do ;)  

The new website will make it much easier to sort through my recipes by type, ingredient, meal, season, etc.  It will also make it easier to print the recipes without having to print all of my constant babbling and photos.  So excited!!!!  But since we're leaving shortly for France, we're thinking that we will probably launch it in early May.  So stay tuned!! 

You may have surmised from my recent posts that I have become addicted to cake decorating.  Or perhaps, more to the idea of cake decorating than cake decorating itself, since I have yet to truly decorate a cake.  Well, for real, that is.  I did do Logan's first birthday cake last year.  But that probably doesn't count in the world of real cake decorating.

In true Lindsay style, I'm super impatient for my cake decorating class to start at the West Island Women's Centre.  However, since we will be in France for the first two classes (ugh!), I still have to wait a whole 5 weeks before I can begin to learn the inner workings of fondant...

So in the meantime, I decided to do a little cupcake decorating of my own.  Simple cake decorating.  Since I don't know how to do anything more complicated than this just yet.  But it settled my cake decorating hunger.  For the moment, at least.  Never mind my "I love everything lemon" hunger (which, as a side note, was soooo bad when I was pregnant with Chloé!).

The only thing is that I don't know what to do with all of these cupcakes now.  I've stuffed as many as I can into the freezer, but still have more than I'll be able to eat myself.  And Jérôme hates lemon. A true sign that something is full of super duper lemony deliciousness is if Jérôme hates it.  And this passed the test.  So if you live anywhere near me and love lemon, just leave a comment below and I'd be happy to oblige (first come, first serve) ;)

I got this recipe from My Baking Addiction.  I made it as is, but added some lemon curd in the centre of each cupcake to make them extra lemony.

For the cake:

2 1/4 C cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 C buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 C sugar
lemon zest from two lemons
1 stick (1/2 C) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure lemon extract 

1.  Centre a rack in the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Prepare cupcake tins by using liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  

3.  Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

4.  Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.

5.  Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very  light. 

6.   Beat in the extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.  Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.  Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.  Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.  Place the batter into the cupcake tins.  

6.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch - a thin knife inserted into the centres should come out clean.  Cool on wire rack.

Once the cupcakes were cooled, I scooped out a bit of the cake centre to be able to add in the lemon curd.  Here's a tip on how to fill your cupcakes.  

When I decided to make these, I thought that I had some leftover lemon curd in the basement that I had canned awhile back.  Turns out it was all gone.  So I quickly whipped up a batch, all the while breastfeeding a screaming Chloé.  Which led to me not cooking the lemon curd enough, since I wasn't really paying enough attention to it.  So mine was a bit runnier than it should be.  But delicious all the same.

For the cream cheese frosting:

2 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 C) butter, softened
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar 
2 tsp. vanilla extract
juice of one lemon

1.  Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined.  Gradually add in the confectioners' sugar until fully incorporated.  Finally mix in vanilla and lemon juice.

I learned how to make the swirl design on the cupcakes by watching a video here.  I used a number 96 decorating tip.  If you need tips on using an icing bag, click here.

These would be great decorated with a few fresh blueberries on top.  But I didn't have any...

Makes 24 cupcakes.

These freeze well, even with the icing.
Difficulty level: moderate (though a bit time consuming)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

(No) Cream of Mushroom Soup

My dad suggested making a cream of mushroom soup with all of the leftover mushrooms from our meat fondue last weekend.  Great idea.  Particularly since, the day prior, Logan had actually eaten some of the (no) cream of vegetable soup we had all been eating for lunch.  And actually kept begging for more soup when there was no more to give, despite there being a tiny, tiny slice of sour cherry cheesecake in front of him at that point.  Go figure.  If anyone has these kids figured out, please, please, let me in on the secret...

Logan really enjoyed this one too, and asked for both a second and a third helping. Yay!!!  I also found it to be quite nice.

a little grumpy, but he liked the soup

In fact, we all liked it so much that I whipped up a huge second batch of this today, with 6 packs of mushrooms (well, they were on sale for 99 cents each). 

I got my recipe off of All Recipes, but made a few modifications to make it that much more delicious.

5 C sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tbsp. butter 
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1/2 C chopped onion
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. sherry (I omitted this, because I didn't have any, but I'm sure it'd be delicious)
béchamel sauce (follow the instructions in this link, but using 3 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp. of flour and 1 C of milk)

1.  In a large saucepan, cook onion and mushrooms in 2 tbsp. of butter until tender.  

2.  Pour in the chicken broth and add spices and sherry.  

3.  Make the béchamel sauce and add to the mushroom/broth mixture.  

4.  In blender or food processor, or using an immersion blender, purée the mixture, leaving some chunks of vegetable in it, if you would like. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Difficulty level: moderate to difficult, due to the béchamel.  But once you know how to make one, this recipe is super quick and easy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Satin-Stitch Embroidery Cake Design

So... I couldn't restrain myself.  At all.  Big surprise there.  I ended up staying up until midnight, ignoring the cramping in my hand, just so that I could finish last night's cake decorating project.  

And I am DYING to make cupcakes right now, just so I can try some other techniques that I googled last night.  I blame it on this website here, which gave me an overdose of inspiration!!  But, we still have lots of the really dense version of the chocolate sour cream bundt cake (the baking soda-less one) left over from my parents' visit.  And my freezer just can't handle any more food right now.  

Heather suggested I bring them for after my zumba class, but I'm afraid it could lead to me being banned from zumba for life.  So I'm just going to have to restrain myself for the time being...

However, I did finish decorating the little circle they gave us last night.  This was done with what they call satin-stitch embroidery.  Not that I really have a clue what that means.  But anyways...

You basically use a tip 1 or smaller (0 or 0.5 work well too).  Once you've outlined the mark left by the cookie cutter, you then zigzag the icing back and forth, really close together until you've filled the entire surface. 

Clearly, mine does not look professional.  Gotta work a bit on getting the icing right to the edges so you can't see the outline.  But you've gotta start somewhere.

I can't see myself using this to decorate a whole cake, as I think it'd kill my hand (the notes we got said you have to rest a lot between stitches).  But I guess it's always nice to have different techniques you can play with.  Or maybe once my hand muscles get into better shape from all this cake decorating I could whip this out in an instant????

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Word Obsession Takes on a Whole New Meaning: Intro to the World of Cake Decorating

I have literally just stepped in the door from my first meeting at the West Island Cake Club.  And I am in love.  Pure and utter love.  I loved this evening so much that I felt a compulsion to blog about it.  Immediately.  

I can already sense that I am going to become completely obsessed with cake decorating.  So much so that I really wish we could re-schedule our upcoming trip to France so that I wouldn't miss next month's meeting...

Just to figure out what to do with the cakes...???  Any takers??

The women in the club are all super friendly and everyone was more than welcoming.  There are members from beginners (like myself), right up to professionals, who run their own businesses and shops.  My aspiration??  To be able to make my kids super beautiful birthday cakes over the years.  While at the same time, spending some time with a group of lovely ladies one evening a month - although I really wish it was twice a week instead!!

Each meeting has a little hands-on practice of a technique that they introduce.  This week we used a cookie cutter or embosser to put a design onto fondant and then used royal icing to ice it.  I also learned to roll and cut fondant, as I've never worked with it at all before.  

I've only managed to get the outline of the project done so far.  But here's a sneak peak of what it looks like:

So... I apparently need to work on keeping my hand a bit more steady.  But I figure that this isn't too bad for a first shot, especially since it was done while breastfeeding Chloé, who was kicking in the direction of the icing (though she slept right up until we started the hands-on).

I'll get a pic up once I've got a finished version.  Though it may well be a few days before I find the time to finish this off. 

Can't wait for my fondant decorating class to start at the West Island Women's Centre!!!!  And to learn all sorts of other techniques at these meetings.  One woman was telling me about all sorts of tricks like rolling out gummy candies or marshmallows and using cookie cutters on them to make decorations for cakes.  Or using a cookie cutter on fondant and letting it dry inside a paper towel roll, to make it a bit rounded to sit on a cake. Can't wait until I can make beautiful cakes like the pictures I saw tonight!!! Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!! (can you tell I'm excited???).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Addictive Brown Rice Bowls

Yet another obsession has emerged.  This is further to my recent (no) cream of vegetable soup obsession (which still lives on) and my brownie obsession (which has thankfully creeped into the shadows).  My newest obsession is rice bowls.  Until my parents got here, I'd been eating them every day for lunch.  And still want more. 

Love these!  I can whip up a really big batch, which is essential in my choice of recipes these days.  I can also freeze them (super handy) and they don't take super long to make.  Well, they do with kids underfoot, but I kinda think that in my old life these wouldn't have been terribly time-consuming.  And they're crazy healthy, simple and delicious.  And a great way to get loads of veggies.

You can basically make any combination you want, but I'll share what I've been doing lately.

2 C uncooked short-grain brown rice
1/2 bunch of asparagus
3 portabello mushrooms
1 pkg. of snow peas
3 bell peppers, any colours
2 baby bok choy
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets


I had also wanted to put a sweet onion in this as well, but I apparently forgot to take it out of my cart at the grocery store, as it didn't come home with me. 

I cooked the rice in my rice cooker, with 4 C of water for the 2 C of rice. I typically don't soak rice prior to cooking it, but this is really essential for short-grain rice, as it's part of what makes them sticky.  It is best if you can soak it overnight, though I sometimes cheat and soak for less time when I'm in a rush.

I cooked the mushrooms and peppers in a little bit of olive oil and then steamed the other veggies in my veggie steamer.  Except the asparagus, which I boiled for 7 minutes.  I made sure that all of the vegetables were still a bit crunchy, as I wanted to be able to reheat this in the microwave without them all becoming soggy.  


So I made a huge batch of this and then made one of the two following options:

Hummus Chickpea Rice Bowl 

Throw a good handful of chickpeas into the rice/veggie mixture, heat it all up and serve with a spoonful of hummus on top.  Mix this in as a dressing.

Salsa Black Bean Rice Bowl

Throw a good handful of black beans into the rice/veggie mixture, heat it all up and serve with a spoonful of salsa on top.  Mix this in as a dressing.

Though I haven't tried it, I'm pretty sure that these would also be delicious cold. 

Difficulty level: easy

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Summertime Tart: Goat Cheese, Puff Pastry and Delicious Veggies

So it's not quite summer yet, though it's starting to feel like it more and more every day.  Or at least like spring.  It was 13 degrees here today and going to be in the 20s for the next four days.  What better than to get you pulling out summer recipes than such beautiful weather??

Jérôme and my parents entertained the kids all day, which left me free to cook up a storm.  So much so that when I asked my mom to hold Chloé at 5:00 this evening, she sighed.  Could I love my life any more????

I did, however, hit a new low today.  By serving Logan pasta mixed with ketchup in it for lunch.  This, coming from the woman who said she would never let her kid douse anything with ketchup.  I am now of the opinion that it is better that he eat ketchup if it makes him eat other foods, than for him to eat no variety of food at all.  Hence, my new low.  And he liked it.  Bleck.  How am I ever going to get him eating things like chickpeas in curried coconut broth??

Today was a busy day in the kitchen.  I made healthy(er) breakfast sandwiches, this summertime tart (which I served with (no) cream of vegetable soup), another brioche (there goes my promise to never make it again... one.week.later.).  This time, we made the brioche in a bundt pan instead, putting all 6 balls of dough into the same pan.  And it was bee-ooo-ti-ful!!  Though it turns out that it needed to be cooked a few minutes less than when in the loaf pans.  Oops.

And for dessert, I accidentally made a whole new and more delicious than ever recipe.  Remember the chocolate sour cream bundt cake that Katie made during our visit to their place?  Well, I tried to make that, except I accidentally left out the baking soda.  This happens to me all the time as I attempt to 'whip up' several recipes at once - usually while on the phone (n'est-ce pas Heidi??).  

And the result was an absolutely delicious, super dense chocolate cake, a bit like a fondant au chocolat or a flourless chocolate cake.  Too good for words.  I think this is my absolutely new favourite dessert.  Gotta love chocolate to like this new twist on the cake.  My dad found it too rich.  But had two slices nonetheless ;)

We also cooked the cake a bit less (until a toothpick came out with just a bit of cake still on it) and I reduced the sugar to 2 cups.

My mom and I also prepared a bunch of dipping sauces for the meat fondue we enjoyed tonight.  I'll blog those one day too... 

AND... she cleaned my oven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sweet!!  Thanks mom :)

I perhaps should not mention that it is because she couldn't stand quite how filthy it had gotten.  I'm too busy cooking and blogging to clean my oven!

As I said, I made this summertime tart for us for lunch today.  When we were leaving Vancouver, Katie mentioned that she was disappointed that she would no longer be featured in my blog.  So here ya go Kate :)  

She made this for us for lunch one day while we were staying with them and it was excellent.  As my dad described it, sophisticated.  All while being relatively simple to whip up.  Yup, simple and impressive.  The perfect combination :)  

Though I recall it taking much less time when she made it.  Maybe because I was sitting on my butt while she cooked?  Or because we talked the whole time, which makes time seem 10 times shorter?  Or because I had Chloé sleeping on me while making this, making the task a slight bit more complicated?

I actually hate goat cheese, as does Jérôme.  Sorry Katie, didn't want to mention that while at your place.  Gotta be polite and all ;)  And it turns out that you can't even tell there's goat cheese in this.  Maybe it'll get me liking goat cheese?  So even if you don't like goat cheese, you can still make this.  I just asked the lady at the grocery store to recommend a mild, spreadable variety.  And this is what she recommended:

And it did the trick, since I couldn't taste it AT ALL ;) Probably all of the fresh herbs that mask the flavour.

1 10 x 10-inch sheet butter puff pastry, thawed
2 cloves garlic
1 C each fresh basil, parsley, mint
1/4 C pine nuts (she usually uses toasted walnuts, but I omitted both, since I'm not eating nuts these days)
1/2 C goat cheese
1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp.
12 asparagus, trimmed to 4 inches
5 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise, trimmed to 4 inches (I used one large one and that seemed to be plenty)
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a bit more)
2 portabello mushrooms, sliced

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.  Unroll puff pastry, remove paper, cut in half and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking pan.  Set aside.

Chef Jérôme, rolling the pastry for me

Note:  The puff pastry I bought came in two blocks.  So we rolled it with a rolling pin into two 5 x 10-inch sheets. 

2.  In a food processor, chop garlic, scraping down sides of bowl.  Add fresh herbs, pine nuts, goat cheese and 1/3 C oil and process until combined.  Spread mixture evenly oven pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.

Started this in my mini food processor, but had to
transfer it to my bigger one, as it just didn't all fit

3.  In a bowl, combine vegetables with remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.  Arrange vegetables like this on pastry: 4 asparagus pieces, 3 zucchini quarters and a row of cherry tomatoes.  Repeat three times for each tart.

4.  Bakes 20 minutes or until golden.  Remove from oven and cut each tart into three servings (in between zucchini and asparagus).  Serve with green salad.

Difficulty level: easy to moderate