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It's Friday So It Must Be Soup! Dec31/10



It's New Year's Eve and so this is the last soup of the year! I make turkey scotch broth after every christmas turkey and I might change a small thing or two but this is my family's favourite turkey soup so I don't like to mess with it too much. Some years I will keep a bit of broth and set it aside for a nice little pot of sopa de lima later on but it has become custom to make this every year. Scotch broth is a traditional Scottish soup that is typically made with lamb or even beef but we like it with turkey because it's a much milder flavoured soup and we all really love turkey. Well, I like lamb but Shack doesn't because he is a bad, bad scottishish person.


New Orleans Christmas Trip - Day 1

photo by Shack


We like to take a family trip somewhere at Christmas instead of buying each other tons of gifts. We have done the Mayan Riviera of Mexico the last two years (I HATE that term but it seems to be what it is called now so that is what I will call it) and, although we love it there, we wanted to go somewhere else. We had San Francisco, Austin Texas and New Orleans on the short list but we had spent Xmas in New Orleans pre kid and our good friends, The Neighbours, had never been and were dying to go. Even the kid is okay with this set up and was given a choice between an iPad and a trip to New Orleans and he chose New Orleans, which made us all very happy because I would have been a bit sad leaving him home alone with his new iPad while his parents galavanted around New Orleans without him.


Unfortunately, Little Shack came down with a fever on Thursday, Dec. 16 and we were leaving on Dec. 19 but this did not have us worried since he had never ran a fever for longer than 24 hours in his entire 11 years. This was going to blow over and he would be right as rain by the 19th. Friday, he was actually worse than he was on Thursday but I was still not worried, since he would HAVE to feel better by Saturday, right???

He was still a bit under the weather by Sunday, let me tell you. We gave him a B12 and a tylenol for colds and kept him away from people, didn't let him touch anything and by the time we actually got on the plane, he said he felt better than he had in days. Worst case scenario, he would spend a day resting in a super cosy hotel bed with a parent and then feel better for a couple days of touring around New Orleans. Best case scenario, he would feel better by the time we get there with the help of tylenol and the excitement of being somewhere new. Thankfully, it was the latter and so it was time to Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!



Smart Cookie




Yesterday, my son told me that he had eaten a meringue from the bakery near his school and that he had really enjoyed it. I asked him if he would like to make some the next day, seeing that the next day was a Sunday and I needed to get started on my christmas baking. There was no reason not to add some nice little meringues to my baking repertoire, I actually have cream of tartar in the cupboard and he seemed exited about the prospect of making them. I read about a hundred recipes for meringues and finally settled on the recipe we will use and while I am searching, I get the brilliant idea to make a pavlova for my christmas dinner dessert. I love pavlova and it's one of those things that most people have never had and assume that it is some sort of rare, exotic dish that takes days of preparation and hours of sweat and tears. They never need to know that making a pavlova is basically dessert making for dummies.
It's all good in the shack household and we go to bed, exited about our anticipated baking adventure.


It's Friday and It Should Be Soup!

But it's also christmas eve and I have a houseful of people coming over in a couple of hours AND we just got back from a nice little trip to New Orleans so that means there is a boat load of cheese and pate and olives and delicious apps and copious amounts of wine but there is no soup today. I have some puff pastry pinwheels with caramelized onions, sundried tomato pesto and gryure resting in the freezer, some pesto chicken and bocaccini waiting to be scooped into warm little toasty cups and polenta that will be baked and topped with a spicy black pepper jelly, blue cheese and a bit of arugula waiting to be assembled. I will share my recipes and pictures in a couple of days after I finish eating and making merry.

 I can't wait to sit down and dish about my New Orleans trip and all of the stuff we did and the food we ate but first, we must do this thing!

Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, happy whatever religious holiday might happen to fall at this time of year and  happy secular holiday if you don't celebrate anything other than the fact that you get some time off work!

It's Friday So It Must Be Soup! Dec17/10


Tom Kha Gai  For a Sick Young Guy

Today's post will be short and sweet. Yesterday I was called to school to pick up Little Shack, who was not feeling well but had insisted on going to school. He didn't want to miss the christmas party but by the time I got there he was lying on the couch with a blanket over him while his classmates made merry all around him. Poor bugger was burning up and is even worse today so it's actually a perfect day for some nourishing, delicious soup. I was planning to make something else but I changed my mind. Today's soup is only about comfort food. Something that will tempt him to eat, something nutritious and filling enough but light at the same time.
 Tom Kha Gai Soup is so simple to make. It doesn't really require a recipe, per say, just a list of ingredients:

about 5 cups of chicken stock
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
lemon grass
garlic
kaffir lime leaves
your choice of vegetables
a can of coconut milk
fish sauce
a lime
cilantro


I brought about 5 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a pot and added about 4 tlbl of minced lemon grass. I threw in two skinless, boneless chicken breast and let it simmer for about 6 or 7 minutes and removed the chicken and set it  aside to cool down a bit. While the chicken cooled down, I added a clove of minced garlic (this is also where I would normally add some finely chopped thai chili but a sick kid with a sore throat is NOT going to appreciate the slow burn of the tiny birdseye chili so I left it out completely. If you don't have a sick 11 year old at home, add some chili to taste).
If you have them, add 2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves and simmer for a few minutes. This is when you get two forks and shred your chicken breasts into nice long threads of chicken like you would for tacos. You can chop it if you like but I really don't like the look or the feel of chopped chicken in soup, especially this soup. You could also add a handful of shelled, deveined shrimp as well.
I added the shredded chicken back in to the simmering stock along with some broccoli and sliced baby bok choy. Again, these are vegetables that he likes so you do not have use them. You can use mushrooms or a bit of carrot or whatever you like.
Right at the end, pour in 1/2 to 1 full can of coconut milk (again, to taste), about 2 or 3 tbls of fish sauce and the juice of one large lime and let simmer one final minute or so to  make sure it comes back to a simmer and then take off the heat, add a big handful of chopped cilantro and serve.

Use the soup to wash down an extra strength tylenol for colds night time, go to bed and call me in the morning.

The Baking Continues - Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cookies and Fancy Pants Jello



It's christmas and that means baking your fool head off, no? And everybody expects something a little different from those of us who talk of nothing but food day in and day out. They want chocolate chip cookies from their grandmother but they want matcha shortbread made with North western Tibetan goat butter and a dusting of freeze dried truffle pig snouts from their foodie friends. I have been wracking my brain to come up with one last sweet thing to put in my christmas goodie boxes. I have a cakey, ginger molasses cookie, meringues, chocolate pecan toffee and lime meltaways. I felt like I needed something really chocolately and really chewy. Brownies were a consideration for a while but that wasn't quite what I was looking for so I kept searching through cooking blogs, knowing that when I saw the perfect recipe, I would know it just like a bride at Kleinfeld's just knows that they just slipped into THE dress. You know what? That is exactly what happened. This is my Say Yes to the Dress cookie moment, thanks to Dine and Dish!

It was exactly what I was looking for - chewy, chocolately and simple. I made two small changes - I used 2/3 of a cup of dark cocoa powder and 1/3 cup of regular cocoa and I also chopped up 100g of 70% dark chocolate and threw that in with the dry ingredients. Other than that, I followed the recipe to the letter and the resulting cookie is really, really delicious. It's just soft and chewy enough so it's sort of like a brownie, if a brownie were a cookie and it is the perfect final addiction to my baking collection.
Say Yes to this cookie, you won't be sorry one bit.



Just for fun, I am going to show off my stained glass jello squares that I made for Little Shack's christmas party at school. The Food Librarian has the most amazing jello creations and I totally stole this one!
Again, I just followed the instructions to a T and they came out really nice. I think I might have waited a little longer before pouring the condensed milk/gelatin over the coloured cubes because the colour ran a tiny bit in spots. It was probably just a tiny bit too warm but the kids loved them and they really are very, very pretty. I am always shocked and amazed at how much kids love jello and will often pass over really delicious desserts in favour of a few jiggly, cubes of brightly coloured goodness.

And in other weather news - MERINGUES



My son came home from school last Friday and said that his classmate had bought a meringue from the bakery and let him taste it. He could not stop talking about how delicious it was soI asked him if he would like to make some and he was thrilled. Like his mother, he is so easily thrilled.

 I have never made meringue cookies but I do make pavlova, in fact I am planning to make a pavlova for christmas dinner, so this would be a nice little dry run. Honestly, I have always assumed that I would hate meringues on their own and have thought that it's all that whipped cream soaking into a pavlova that makes the meringue all marshmallowy and chewy inside. They just look so dry and cardboard like and the odd meringue I have tasted over the years have not thrilled me at all. Nonetheless, I promised him that we could make some on Sunday. I did my usual due diligence and read 500 recipes. I searched tastespotting, Cook's Illustrated, flipped through some cookbooks and decided to make This recipe from Laura Calder from French Food at Home on Food Network Canada. I gathered all of our supplies on Saturday, looking forward to an afternoon of christmas tree hunting, gift shopping and coming home to make some lovely meringues.

We woke up Sunday morning and it was mild and pouring rain. It is mid December in Toronto, for god's sake, not Vancouver and the last thing I expected to wake up to was rain. I know little about meringue making but after reading about them for an entire evening, I knew one thing. YOU CAN'T MAKE MERINGUES WHEN IT IS RAINING OR DAMP OR YOU HAVE JUST RUN THE DISHWASHER OR IF YOUR STOVE IS IN YOUR BATHROOM AND YOU JUST HAD A LONG, HOT SHOWER!!!

It would seem that humidity is the nemesis of the meringue and if we go ahead and make them when it is humid and mild and raining cats and dogs, we do so at our own risk. Since this was my first attempt, I was not about to let my first attempt fail miserably so we chose to wait.
The next day I decided to run the dishwasher, move the stove into the bathroom and take a long, hot shower and run the humidifier so we waited until last night.

Oh my, they were totally worth the wait. I can't wait for the kid to wake up so he can have one with his breakfast. They are crispy on the outside and all soft and spongy on the inside. They are not, unfortunately, pretty. I didn't have a piping bag and just glopped them on the parchment with two spoons  but they really are a dry run batch so I will get a piping bag today and make a pretty batch tonight. The deliciousness makes up for the homeliness, in my opinion. Little Shack would like them to be just a bit crispier on the outside so I will cook them for an extra 15 or 20 minutes. I cooked this batch for 1 hr and then turned off the oven and let them sit in the oven for another hour.



So far I have made lime meltaways, chewy ginger molasses cookies, chocolate pecan toffee and my homely, little meringues but I bought a piping bag and an assortment of tips so things might get complicated very quickly around here. I think I am developing a problem. A meringueaholic is born.




Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or orange flower water, or maple extract)
  •  1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  •  2/3 cup sugar
  •  2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

  1. Whip the whites and salt into peaks, add the vanilla, and continue beating to stiff peaks. Stir the cream of tartar into the regular sugar and whisk into the whites very gradually, a spoonful at a time, until the meringue is stiff and the sugar has dissolved. Sift together the icing sugar and cornstarch. Sift over the meringue and gently fold until fully incorporated.
  2. Pipe or spoon the meringues onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 225ºF/110ºC until cream-coloured and crisp on top when tapped, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Remove from the oven. Cool on the trays. Store in an air-tight container.
© 2010 CW Media., Inc., All Rights Reserved.


If It's Friday It Must Be Soup Dec 10/10 French Onion Soup

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I have to be honest. I really, really wanted to make sopa de lima today. Jen, from Piccante Dolce, was kind enough to bring me along with her this week to a dinner put on by the Mexican Tourism Board at Frida, a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Toronto. UNESCO has recognized Mexican cuisine's cultural heritage and added it to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. How cool is that? We got to dine on multiple courses, all representing different UNESCO recognized sites throughout Mexico. It was a very special experience for me because Mexico is a country of my heart - sorry, I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but it's true. I have travelled quite a bit there over the last 20 years or so and have an incredible affinity for it's culture and it's food.
I am going to wait for Jen to write about it and then I will link you to her post and I will chime in with my thoughts at that time. 

Okay, back to soup. Shack loves French Onion Soup and I am kind of enjoying my run of good luck making new things (new for me anyway) that he has been loving so I am going to push the sopa de lima back a bit and continue on with my winning streak. I did a ton of reading and found a million recipes but I chose to follow this recipe from Cook's Illustrated. Instead of just caramelizing the onions in a skillet on the stovetop for 45 minutes, this method required almost 3 hrs of time but the first 2 3/4 hrs they were left, pretty much unattended, in the oven. So, longer time commitment but less work sounded reasonable to me since I was planning to spend the day at home anyway, catching up on Dexter, I mean HOUSEWORK.   Instead, after the first hour in the 400F oven a friend called and asked me to go see a movie with her, so I turned the oven down to 225F and left the onions in there for another 3 hrs. When I came home, I half expected to open the oven to find a little lump of coal under the loosely tented foil but instead, I found silky, melty caramelized onions!!
Since I don't have a LeCreuset enamelled cast iron dutch oven, I did the onions in my super, duper heavy cast iron skillet and after the final de glazing with sherry, I put it in a soup pot and carried on from there and it worked out beautifully.


After that, I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter and we both really liked the soup. I forgot to add some parmesan to the cheese and Shack said his only change would be to add that - he thinks the parmesan will add a bit of needed saltiness as well. I think it really is a great recipe and did not require any tweaking apart from the addition of freshly grated parmesan to the cheesy crust. Doing the onions for hours in the oven really is a time commitment but in the end, a zillion times easier than doing them stovetop and the flavour is so much richer and deeper this way. My aunt told me that she has also done them in her slow cooker for a few hours and that is an intriguing idea. The only down side to this dish was the fact that after chopping all of the onions and caramelizing them for the first hour, I hopped into my friend's car smelling like a giant, walking, buttery, caramelized onion. Attractive in a soup, not so much in a car mate.
On the bright side, if I keep this up, I will have my Kitchen Aid pasta attachment in no time.







BEST FRENCH ONION SOUP



Serves 6.   Published January 1, 2008.   From Cook's Illustrated.
Sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, will make this recipe overly sweet. Be patient when caramelizing the onions in step 2; the entire process takes 45 to 60 minutes. Use broiler-safe crocks and keep the rim of the bowls 4 to 5 inches from the heating element to obtain a proper gratinée of melted, bubbly cheese. If using ordinary soup bowls, sprinkle the toasted bread slices with Gruyère and return them to the broiler until the cheese melts, then float them on top of the soup. We prefer Swanson Certified Organic Free Range Chicken Broth and Pacific Beef Broth. For the best flavor, make the soup a day or 2 in advance. Alternatively, the onions can be prepared through step 1, cooled in the pot, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before proceeding with the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

Soup
3tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
6large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices (see illustration below)
Table salt
2cups water , plus extra for deglazing
1/2cup dry sherry
4cups low-sodium chicken broth (see note)
2cups beef broth (see note)
6sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine
1bay leaf
Ground black pepper
Cheese Croutons
1small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
8ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. For the soup: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
  2. 2. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  3. 3. Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
  4. 4. For the croutons: While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  5. 5. To serve: Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.





The Way To A Girl's Heart and Some Swedish Meatballs




Yesterday was a very, very exciting day in my life. Yesterday, Shack came home with the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid!! Oh happy day! I have been starting to really get skeeved out by the thought of buying pre ground meats from the grocery store and realistically, I can't always get out to the actual butcher to buy a pound of ground beef or pork or chicken for a quick weeknight dinner. I have been coveting this forever and Christmas is still weeks away!

What to make? Well, considering that he also brought home a pound of beef to grind up last night and that would have to used up, I decided to  make swedish meatballs. I have never made them and have only eaten proper swedish meatballs a time or two but Little Shack eats them at school and says that he loves them. I went out this morning and bought about 1/2 lb. of stew pork and literally ran home and threw it in this bad boy!



How awesome is that? I could weep with joy. I am so easy to please you know. Diamonds? Tiffany's tennis bracelet? No way, just get me a meat grinder attachment so I can make my own ground pork and my heart is in your pocket.

So, back to the meatballs. I decided to use Alton Brown's recipe because I just didn't like the idea of using a can of cream of cack soup that I was finding in so many recipes and he is usually reliable. I also really dislike dill so even if dill is what makes a swedish meatball a swedish meatball, I am going to have to  be happy with Swedishish meatballs. Since I have never actually made these things and I don't even have a strong frame of reference for them, I thought I had better go safe and his recipe didn't call for caraway, which Shack hates, or dill, which i dislike - i don't like to use such a strong word but I really, really dislike it. Really.

Swedish Meatballs

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005

Prep Time:
30 min
Inactive Prep Time:
--
Cook Time:
25 min
Level:
Easy
Serves:
approximately 30 meatballs, 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices fresh white bread
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons clarified butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound ground chuck
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small mixing bowl along with the milk. Set aside.
In a 12-inch straight sided sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and onions. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes.
Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds.
Heat the remaining butter in the saute pan over medium-low heat, or in an electric skillet set to 250 degrees F. Add the meatballs and saute until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.
Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet.Whisk until lightly browned, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.







I made a couple of small changes. I used 1 lb. of ground beef and 1/2 lb. of ground pork instead of half and half. I didn't have beef stock so I used chicken stock. I am not sure if it's a huge difference or not since I almost never cook with beef stock but they taste good to me. I added a handful of chopped parsley to the meatballs and to the finished sauce as well.





I also added about a tbls of grainy mustard to the sauce so that is why there are little dots in the sauce just in case you thought that my roux was all lumpy and terrible.

I am serving these over basmati rice because basmati rice was requested but I am pretty sure that the more traditional starch would be egg noodles. After I took them out of the oven, I added them to the sauce in the pan and let them cook in there for another ten minutes so they could absorb some of the sauce and impart more of their meatbally flavour. This recipe was pretty tasty but I think I am going to continue to poke around for more recipes for this dish. If anyone has a tried and true, super duper delicious recipe for swedish meatballs for me, please share!

Now, if I could only have the pasta attachment. Christmas IS still a couple of weeks away.

An Apple Muffin A Day






Tomorrow is my son's turn to provide snack, which we all know means that it is MY turn to provide snack. Last month I made tatziki and brought that in with pita so this month I wanted to bake something. I like to keep them guessing and messing with their little heads by switching it up drastically. I don't want to be that mom who "always brings in cheese and crackers". I knew that I wanted to make something apple. Apple oatmeal was my original thought but then I stumbled upon this recipe for whole wheat apple muffins at smitten kitchen and decided on making these instead:


Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
These dark, crazy moist muffins will keep well for several days, and the brown sugar on top, should you not skimp on it like I did, adds a crunchy touch, perfect for those of you who know that the lid is the best part.
Yield: They said 12, I got 18
1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk or yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.



I added about 1 tsp of vanilla to the batter, I used 1 large apple, chopped pretty finely and instead of using a second apple, I used a handful of chopped up dried apple (Little Shack did his science fair project on dehydration last spring and I am still trying to use up the last of his experiments). I think that I chopped the apple up much smaller than the original recipe called for and I might even grate the apple the next time. I don't think kids love big chunks of fruit in their food. Also, I didn't have buttermilk and the only yogurt I have is strawberry flavoured, so I just whole milk. Next time I will use buttermilk to see if there is a huge difference.








I also added all the sugar right into the batter (this also forced me to splash a bit more milk in and even so the batter was much thicker than I am used to). They baked for 10 minutes at 450F and then I turned the oven down to 400F and baked them for 7 minutes more and they were perfect.







 I didn't want to add the brown sugar topping because, frankly, they are for the kid's class for snack tomorrow and they are supposed to be reasonably healthy so I like to keep that illusion alive. A delicious, crispy brown sugar crunch topping doesn't really scream "healthy, wholesome mid morning snack" so even though they would be much more delicious with the brown sugar on top, the kids will have to suffer without.





I made the second batch WITH the brown sugar crust and seeing that I had also added the full amount of sugar into the muffins, I was afraid that it was going to make them way too sweet but they were delectable and not overly sweet at all.
The final test doesn't come until he comes home from school tomorrow and I will either get the big thumbs up or not but to be honest, I am not anticipating any complaints.

It's Friday So It Must Be Soup!Dec 3/10






This week I had a hankering for white bean, kale and sausage soup. I had two sausages in the freezer that I wanted to use up and since I THOUGHT that they were pork and fennel, it would be so perfect for that kind of a soup and all I needed to do was pick up some kale. Since I was making a pretty hearty soup, it would be heavy enough to serve for supper with a fresh loaf of bread so I also made an pesto bread using my olive oil bread dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking.


I came home with my kale, I prepped all of my ingredients, i put the two, defrosted sausages in a cast iron pan and put them in the oven to roast and made my soup. The last ingredient to go in would be the cooked sausages that I would slice into discs. I don't like crumbled up sausage meat in my soup, I like disks of cooked sausage. If you like crumbled up sausage meat in your soup, knock yourself out and just remove the casings and fry them in the pan along with the onion and garlic but I don't roll that way myself.

The sausages smelled great but not fennelish at all, which was weird. I went to slice the sausage and it all fell apart. You know how I feel about crumbled sausage meat in my soup!
I tasted a bit and they are so not fennel and pork. They are pork and something but they are kind of sweet and not what I wanted at all but it was too late to turn back so I added the crumbled up wrong flavour of pork sausage into my soup and crossed my fingers.

The soup is actually still very good but it's not exactly what I was craving so I am going to have to make this one again. I also would usually add about 3/4 lb of quartered little new potatoes but I had a bowl of leftover roasted veggies (potato, cauliflower and carrot) and knew that if I didn't add them to this soup, they would end up in the garbage because we just don't really love leftovers.


You know, two very weird things happened yesterday. First, the subway stopped and told everyone to just get out at 8:30am in the middle of rush hour. No talk of shuttle busses or anything, just "beat it". I, along with thousands of other Torontonians, found themselves with somewhere to be but no way to get there. I walked for about a mile along with a growing throng of people in smart black overcoats and briefcases without a free taxi to be had. I was about to have a panic attack when a nice man pulled up beside me, dropped a lady off and she asked me if I wanted a ride because this nice man was going as far as St George Station. Now, normally I would not hop into a strange man's work van but I had to get to my appointment, so I did. I did ask him if he was an axe murderer and he assured me that he was not. It's not like an axe murderer is going to say "why yes I am fine lady, and I am going to chop you into pieces and make kale, white bean and human lady soup out of you!". Luckily, he was NOT an axe murderer and just a really nice, young Hungarian man who really just wanted to help.

Then, a man was murdered with a crossbow yesterday at our local library at 4pm, one block up from our house. We live in the Beaches, in Toronto, which is like happy flower kitty golden retriever and a live in nanny to walk him land. I don't know what that has to do with White Bean, Kale and Sausage soup, but it sure is shocking. Not the same kind of shocking as realizing that my savoury fennel sausage was, in fact , some sort of sweet tasting sausage and not fennel at all, but shocking none the less. What a strange, strange day.

Okay, back to the food. I just used some President's Choice pesto for the bread because their pesto is actually fine and I only needed a couple of tbls. If you happen to have some fresh pesto on hand or cubes of frozen, home made pesto in your freezer, even better but sometimes you have to do what you have to do and it's still really tasty bread. At least when I opened up the jar expecting a basil pesto, it was basil pesto and not pesto with honey and raisins and cheddar cheese instead. Can you tell I am still a bit bitter about my sausage mix up?

The easiest way to add the pesto is to pinch off  your grapefruit sized ball of dough and then pat it down into a wide rectangle on a floured surface. This is where you add whatever you are adding. Some days it might be walnuts and cranberries, today it's pesto





The next step is to fold each side in to the centre, like a 3 fold paper fold and then roll it up into a ball. After you get it to this stage, you gently pull the edges into themselves on the bottom just like you would for a regular boule - don't worry if the bottom is all messy because that cleans itself up when it bakes. Just leave it to rest on your pizza peel or if you are like me, your overturned cookie sheet on some cornmeal so that it won't stick when you slide it off onto your pre heated pizza stone.
your finished boule ready to rest for 40 minutes

Just before it is ready to go into the oven, you dust the top with some flour and slash the top with a serrated bread knife so the bread won't just bust open on it's own. You want to try to make sure it's going to come out looking pretty.


Just bake it for 30 minutes at 450F and when it comes out, it should look something like this!


So, the recipe for Kale, White Bean and Sausage Soup:
1 glug of olive oil
1/2 of a sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of kale or to taste - it depends on how much kale you like in your soup
1 540 ml can of white kidney beans or cannellini beans
1 900 ml box of chicken stop plus up to 250 ml more if needed
1 litre of water (4 cups)
I usually add about 3/4 lb of new potatoes but today I added about 1.5 cups of leftover roasted veggies
2 lrg cooked sausages, sliced into discs - don't get me started
1 chunk of parmesan rind if you have it

Sauté the onion and garlic in a good glug of olive oil until softened and just starting to get a bit of colour. Add the leftover roasted veggies if you are adding. Add the 900 mil of chicken stock and the 4 cups of water and the quartered new potatoes if you are using instead of roasted veggies. Add the kidney beans and the parmesan rind and let it simmer while you wash and chop the kale. Add the kale and let it simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes before adding your cooked, slice sausages. Let it simmer for at least another 15 minutes but it can simmer for longer if you have the time. Again, it depends on how cooked you like your kale to be. Some people like it really, really soft but I like it to retain a tiny bit of bite.

Olive Oil Dough
From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes 4-1lb loaves.

2-3/4 cups lukewarm water
1-1/2 tablespoon granulated yeast
1-1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the flour without kneading. I like to use my kitchen aid with the dough hook.

Cover lightly and allow to rest at room temperature about 2 hrs. The bread will rise quite a bit in that time.

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 12 days. When you use it, pinch off a grapefruit sized ball to work with. Follow my previous instructions for the pesto bread or you can just form it into a boule shape and bake it plain.
Here is one of the videos the authors have posted that shows them making the bread


So, that's my Friday Soup for the first Friday in December!





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