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Chocolate Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookie Bars



Christmas season is upon us and, as always, I have a couple of cookie exchanges coming up and  have been combing the internet for inspiration so I can make something shiny and new. I also wanted to enter the cookie contest over at Manitoba Canola Growers but the deadline is today at 4pm so that put me on a bit of a deadline. I tend to procrastinate until it's almost too late and then I fly into action - I enjoy working under pressure. I have been told that all that stress will burn away the pounds but I have yet to find this to be true. It probably doesn't help that my stressful energy is spent baking things that must be tasted I suppose.

It's Friday So It Must Be Soup! Roasted Cauliflower Jalapeño Soup



It's finally time to throw in the towel and admit that it is now winter. Despite the fact that nature has been teasing us with sunny, springlike weather for the last week, the end is nigh and that means we are going to need some soup so It's Friday It Must Be Soup is resurrected.

I am not sure how I came to make this soup because I went to the store with a different intention altogether. It started out as an idea to make a kind of mexican potato leek soup using some roasted jalapeño peppers and cilantro but then I saw the lovely cauliflower calling to me. "Hey lady! Don't I look delicious? Why are you ignoring me over here? I am just as boring looking as a potato. Have you no heart?"

You know, it certainly did look delicious so I grabbed it up, still thinking I would stick to the plan but then I didn't like the look of the leeks and they were way too expensive. I thought about how delicious roasted cauliflower is with some cumin and then I could roast the jalapeño and garlic right along with the cauliflower and that would be nice. I was planning to roast the peppers anyway and it seemed like a waste to turn on the oven for nothing but a couple of measly peppers.

Shrimp and Arugula Risotto




I am kind of in super mom mode right now after a week of big wins in the dinner department so I decided to cap my week off with something that was sure to make me look like a total superstar. This kid would be happy if I made him a risotto of dog poop and toe nail clippings so I have to be honest about that right upfront. That said, this risotto is waaaay better than rice with dog poop.

There was a big container of baby arugula in the fridge and I was going to buy scallops when I realized that we haven't used shrimp in anything for ages so shrimp, arugula risotto was born. It was delicious, everyone was very happy and I pretended that it was sooooo much work and owww my arm is killing me from the nonstop 20 minutes of stirring and all that cheese grating but they are worth it, yadda yadda yadda.
 Oh, one note here - if you can get a decent quality parmigiano reggiano over just any old parmesan, please use that. Risotto is a dish that really benefits from nice cheese and I think it's worth the extra expense to buy a little chunk of the good stuff for it.


Some nights dinner just kind of makes itself.

Grace's Sweet Life






Grace Massa Langlois might have been born in Belgium but she grew up in London, Ontario where she remains with her family. I was born and raised in London, Ontario so we have a connection in that regard but when it comes to baking, our paths diverge. I am a decent, simple baker and dessert maker and I make a few things quite well but Grace is a real dessert master. I was already familiar with her food blog, Grace's Sweet Life , and loved to peruse all of the delicious looking desserts while daydreaming that someone else would make these things for me.

When I was offered a copy of her new cookbook, I jumped at the chance.  I read the entire thing, cover to cover and was incredibly impressed with the huge array of Italian sweets. Cannoli, Tiramisu and Panna Cotta are all fairly familiar but there were other things like Italian Peach Cookies, Boccanotti  and Celletti which were all new to me. I have to admit, that as a lazy baker, many of these recipes are far too complicated for me to tackle but for those of you who are real bakers, this book is chock full of show stoppers. I have a couple of friends who are hard core and I am going to bribe them so that they will make some of this stuff for me.

Cannoli Siciliani

I really liked the section with all the basics that are used in Italian dessert making like the various pastry creams used, ricotta cream, italian meringue and sweet pastry doughs and can see incorporating those elements in other desserts as well.  Most importantly, this is a book is clearly a labour of love and her dedication to replicating the sweets of her childhood, preserving her family's traditions and her Italian heritage really shines through on every page.

When I was a kid, I went to school with mostly Italian children, with a handful of Portuguese and Polish kids thrown in - I was almost always the only girl in my class who had a name that didn't end in A. I loved to go home with my classmates and help their mothers and their nonnas cook, bake and jar tomatoes and I often fantasized about living in a big, boisterous Italian family who would eat desserts like these instead of Jello 1-2-3 and pudding cups. This is a book full of the desserts that I dreamed about when I was that kid with the name that didn't end in A and a perfectly lovely, but not very exotic (in my young eyes),  mother. It was so weird to me when I realized that my Italian friends were eager to trade their delectable meatball or nutella sandwiches on crusty, fresh bread for my boring balogna on WonderBread - the grass is always greener, right?

Mille-Feuille

I haven't actually made anything yet mostly because there are only three of us and so I don't make big desserts often - everyone gets a fancy pants dessert for their birthday (none of us like cake all that much) and when we have a big holiday dinner and none of those opportunities have come up but I do plan to make the Crostata al Cioccolato con Glassa al Cioccolato (Chocolate Truffle Tart with Chocolate Glaze) and Panna Cotta al Cocco e Vaniglia con Gelatina de Melagrana (Vanilla Coconut Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Jelly) over the Christmas Holidays when we entertain so that I can justify making big, elaborate desserts.

Sorbet

This recipe for Dark Chocolate Donuts with Salted Caramel Glaze on her blog is enough to make me go out and find myself a donut pan but that would mean I would start making donuts all the time and then I would have to stress over not eating all those donuts and then I would end up hating the donut pan when I really don't need another kitchen gadget. What I really want, is for a friend to buy a donut pan and make these for me and then just bring me one and then she can deal with not eating the rest of them her damn self.

The book is available on Amazon.ca , Amazon.com , Chapters/Indigo and Barnes and Noble

Fig Chili Glazed Pork Tenderloin and Colcannon My Way




I love fig jam so much. I love it with cheese and I love it straight off the spoon but I really love to cook with it. The high sugar content means lots of yummy caramelization and that makes it a wonderful thing to baste roasted meats with. I kept seeing this recipe everywhere. I sweat to god, if you google pork tenderloin fig jam, this comes up on a bazillion web sites so I figured it must be pretty good. Since it was also Halloween, I made colcannon to go with it and although it might not be the first side dish that comes to mind when making a spicy figgy bit of pork, it was actually quite delicious together and was happily gobbled up and gave some nice, starchy substance to line the tummy in preparation for a candy assault after dinner. Just because I can, this was what left my house after polishing off a big plate of pork and colcannon. I don't know you, but I like to keep my evil demon necromancers happy. He looks pretty cheery, no?




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