May the 4th Have Food

Finally back in the kitchen after a hiatus due to work schedules.

I gotta admit…it feels pretty good.

I’m known as a Star Wars Geek. I cut my teeth in a darkened movie theater at the age of 6 watching A New Hope and decided two things:

1) I totally wanted to be Princess Leia
2) I wanted to marry Luke Skywalker

Now I ended up married to a rogue (who is also a bit of a farm boy) and together we have 3 little Jedis, or he’d tell you Siths in Training. I decided this this year I wanted to introduce them to the fun that can be Star Wars Day aka May the 4th.

Now I went to Google to mine for ideas so I want to be sure to credit justJENN with the idea of one of my mains The Double Sided Lightsaber Dogs.

Pinterest was also a treasure trove of ideas.

One of the best finds we have had at a Target in Fargo was a set of Solo cups that were solid plastic in the Dollar bin. Originally purchased for our deck last year it was mentioned by a friend yesterday that you could use Solo cups and have it fit the theme. So this morning I asked the kids…Light side or dark side. Sadly they all went red “dark side”.

Starting with breakfast this morning I went with Bantha Blue Milk and Leia Waffle Buns.

Bantha Blue Milk

Bantha Blue Milk – A simple combination that got a huge respsonse.

The Bantha Blue Milk is a simple creation of some 1% milk with two drops of blue liquid food colouring.

Leia Bun Waffles.

Leia Bun Waffles – A trick I learned from my roguish farm boy

A common theme I saw on many Pinterest boards was to do a Leia Bun but there is a recent trick learned from Kevin using my Belgian Waffle Iron. You take a refrigerator cinnamon bun and put one piece in each section of the waffle iron and press the iron together. I’ve got a Proctor Silex Waffle Iron and I set it to 3 and let it go for a couple of cycles before taking it off to serve.

I also highly recommend making sure you have some non-stick cooking spray on hand when you do this.

Leia Bun Waffles - I really like the shape.

Leia Bun Waffles – I really like the shape.

I had to work so a lunch menu was not in my hands today but maybe next year.

On to the dinner menu:

As previously mentioned I went with a Double Sided Lightsaber Dog.

Prepped Lightsaber Dogs - An homage to my husband's Dark Side Leanings.

Prepped Lightsaber Dogs – An homage to my husband’s Dark Side Leanings.

A really simple but fun entree. Simply take a weiner and then wrap a refrigerator crescent roll around the centre to make the handle so that you have a “blade” on either side of it. This was an homage to my husband’s love of the Dark Side and frankly I really think Darth Maul’s saber is pretty bad ass.

Finished Lightsaber Dogs - I made extras for the kids to take to school for lunch tomorrow.

Finished Lightsaber Dogs – I made extras for the kids to take to school for lunch tomorrow.

Now I wanted to provide a bit of variety in my menu today so I inspired by the Han Burgers I’d seen on Pinterest and decided to go with a Han slider which my kids are a huge fan of. While measuring out my 1lb of ground beef for my sliders I remembered that I had a spice from Epicure called Dukkah.

Epicure's Dukkah Spice - I thought it was a fun play on Count Dooku.

Epicure’s Dukkah Spice – I thought it was a fun play on Count Dooku.

This spice blend is one that I have come to love with ground beef. I’ve used it in past to add some spice to a meat loaf and the fact that it was a perfect play on a Star Wars character’s name really tickled my fancy. I added 1.5 teaspoons of it to the ground beef along with my salt and pepper and then went to mix my meat together.

Dukkah spiced sliders in the pan.

Dukkah spiced sliders in the pan.

Now for what to serve my sliders on. Princess Leia was known for her epic hair styles and I often wished my hair had been long enough to braid like hers. I was thrilled when I found these Braided Egg Buns from Kub Bakery.

Braided Egg Buns - An Homage to Leia's many braided hair styles.

Braided Egg Buns – An Homage to Leia’s many braided hair styles.

Finally for a side I felt giddy at the play on Yavin 4 with my Yam-in 4 Fries.

Yam-in 4 Fries in the oven and cooking on my Epicure chip pan.

Yam-in 4 Fries in the oven and cooking on my Epicure chip pan.

The two meals were a total win with my kids so I’ll take it as a sign that the Force, or maybe just the 4th, was with me.

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Into Darkness Brownies

My dad celebrated his birthday this past weekend and like any great dad he celebrated by helping my husband Kevin build a deck.

So like a good daughter I decided that alone was worth a pan of brownies just for him. Now my dad is a fan of very dark chocolate, in fact the darker the better in his opinion, so I wanted to make a dark chocolate brownie for him to enjoy.

Now I’m familiar with the concept of using stout beers to enhance the overall flavour of chocolate baking and I decided that this would be the time to experiment as my mission was to produce the darkest brownies I’d ever made before. Bolstered with my recent success using Rickard’s White in my Chicken Fajitas I decided to go with the Rickard’s Dark as my beer and began to assemble my experiment.

I dusted the recipe my mother calls “Worth the migraine” (chocolate gives her migraines) and decided to play with it.

Our collection of flavour. One bottle of Rickard's Dark, 6 ounces 70% Cacao chocolate squares, 50% cacao chocolate chips, and semi sweet chips.

Our collection of flavour. One bottle of Rickard’s Dark, 6 ounces 70% Cacao chocolate squares, 50% cacao chocolate chips, and semi sweet chips.

I started with assembling my flavour quartet which ended up being Rickard’s Dark, 6 ounces of 70% cacao in 1 ounce chocolate squares, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and dark chocolate chips made from 50% cacao.

Combination of flour and cocoa.

Combination of flour and cocoa.

I started with combining my flour and cocoa. You could add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt at this point but I held it back as I was using salted butter in the recipe. My dad suffers from high blood pressure so I knew that leaving the salt out would be a good idea and I was counting on the beer to enhance what I was trying to accomplish.

Butter, chopped chocolate, and chocolate chips.

Butter, chopped chocolate, and chocolate chips.

While preparing my chocolate and butter for melting I realized I needed 8 ounces of the chocolate squares and I only had 6. So I brought out my kitchen scale and used some semi sweet chips to make up the short fall of 2 ounces. Also used the semi sweet chocolate here because I felt the 50% cacao would be perfect sprinkled on top to add a melted chocolate component to every bite.

Successful melting!

Successful melting!

Now I found I had two road blocks to my melting chocolate.

1) I have failed more than once in my attempts to make melted chocolate without having the chocolate seize on me so I was concerned I couldn’t get the chocolate the way I needed it.

2) I lack a proper double boiler.

For #1 all I could do was take it slow as I attempt to melt and be sure to whisk continuously.

For #2 I took one of my metal mixing bowls and kept placing them on the bottom pot of my steamer set until I found one that fit nicely and then set the water to boil. Once it was boiling I placed the bowl on the top of the pot and started furiously whisking my chocolate and butter while they melted. Once I have it completely melted I pulled the bowl off and it kept the chocolate warm until I wanted to add it to my egg and sugar mixture.

Eggs and sugar

Eggs and sugar

Another lesson learned from this recipe was how to bring eggs to room temperature  Usually you would bring them out overnight but trust Kevin to tell me that if I placed my eggs in lukewarm water for 30 mins or so they would be room temperature.

The reasons that the eggs should be at least room temp becomes clear with this next step…

Melted chocolate meet eggs and sugar.

Melted chocolate meet eggs and sugar.

With the warm chocolate being combined with the eggs and sugar you definitely didn’t want your eggs to start cooking.

Finished batter with beer and flour/cocoa mixture added.

Finished batter with beer and flour/cocoa mixture added.

After adding the chocolate to the eggs/sugar and combining them I added the flour and cocoa mixture.

Finally I poured in my beer…

And it foamed up like crazy at me as I turned on the mixer and there was a small wave of beer over the edge of the bowl but in the end I had this lovely batter shown above.

Parchment lined 9 x 13 pan with batter and sprinkled with the 50% cacao chips.

Parchment lined 9 x 13 pan with batter and sprinkled with the 50% cacao chips.

I am still loving the parchment paper trick of lining my baking pan with at least 2 inches of  parchment up over the sides of the pan for easy removal from the baking pan and a clean pan when you are done.

I didn’t get to taste this creation as my dad got to take the whole pan home. It was his birthday after all.  But he did share with me that they were cake like in texture, which is the perfect brownie texture in his opinion, and very rich and moist.

I named these brownies after the new Star Trek movie coming out this week in honour of my dad being a long time Trekkie fan.

Into Darkness Brownies

In honour of my Dad! A good guy who loves Star Trek and helps to build decks on his birthday.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room tempurature, cubed (I only had salted in the house so used that and omitted extra salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounce 70% cacao baking squares, chopped
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 large eggs, room tempurature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup Rickard’s Dark beer
  • 1 cup 50% cacao chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa and salt (if using) until well combined.
  3. Melt butter, chopped very dark chocolate, and semi sweet chips in a double boiler (or fashion one from a metal bowl and a pot of boiling water) and stir until it is thoroughly melted, over low heat.
  4. Remove from heat. In a seperate bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until well combined.
  5. Add melted chocolate mixture to the eggs and sugar and beat until combined. Beat flour mixture in and then add beer.
  6. Pour batter into a 9 x 13 prepared pan. Prepare pan by lining it with parchment with 2 inches up on the side making handles.
  7. Sprinkle the 50% cacao chips over top of the batter.
  8. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

Tequila Sunrise Grilled Chicken Fajitas with Rickard’s White Finish

With Spring attempting to break through I’ve made the decision to not let the weather curb my grilling and with warm weather and grilling comes cravings for fresh produce and cold beer in my fridge.

I was successful in making my first fresh salsa as well as guacamole this week and I wanted to try my hand at grilled chicken fajitas despite a rainy day in Winnipeg.

A recent line of marinades I’ve discovered at my local Sobeys is from Sauza Tequila. We’d tried one with beef before but I was intrigued to give their Tequila Sunrise a try on chicken breast.  I put about 3/4 of the bottle in a freezer bag with 5 chicken breasts and placed them in the fridge. I left the chicken in the marinade for 2.5 hours taking it out every 30 minutes or so to mix the contents up and try to get great coverage on my chicken.

When it comes to beer I enjoy many different ones. I’m a mood beer drinker and as such I am a huge fan of the Rickard’s Taster Pack because each beer is truly distinctive in their flavour. This fact was key in my decision to pull out a bottle of Rickard’s White to warm on the counter for use in my meal that evening.

I went with Rickard’s White because I felt the orange and coriander notes would enhance and pair well with the orange, lemon and lime citrus flavours of the Sauza marinade,as well as the cilantro in both the salsa and guacamole I’d made, and Kevin was positive about the pairing when I ran it by him.

He’s my experimentation touch stone. If he thinks the flavour profile doesn’t blend he’s pretty upfront before I begin.

The Daring Duo - Sauza Tequlia Sunrise Marinade and Rickard's White.

The Daring Duo – Sauza Tequlia Sunrise Marinade and Rickard’s White.

Kevin also taught me that it is ideal to use room temperature beer when you cook with it so I had the bottle warming up on the counter top for 2 hours before I used it.

To go with my grilled chicken breast I cut up one purple onion and two bell peppers.

One purple onion, one yellow pepper and one red pepper. Chopped and ready to go.

One purple onion, one yellow pepper and one red pepper. Chopped and ready to go.

I tossed them in the remaining 1/4 bottle of the Sauza Marinade before placing them in warmed frying pan with 2 tablespoons of heated grape seed oil on medium low (between 3 and 4) heat and left them to soften. When the onions began to become translucent I turned the heat down to low and let them continue to caramelize.

Onions and peppers - caramelized and ready for their Rickard's finish.

Onions and peppers – caramelized and ready for their Rickard’s finish.

The marinade coated the onions and peppers nicely and as they caramelized in the frying pan the sauce nicely thickened so they were coated in a flavourful sauce, similar in thickness to the packaged sauces you can pick up at a grocery store. When the onions reached the glassy state I took the bottle of Rickard’s White and did a turn and a half around the pan and stirred my veggies around so they got covered in the beer and then let it continue to simmer over low heat.

With my onions and peppers taking care of themselves I turn my attention to the chicken.

Marinated chicken breasts.

Marinated chicken breasts.

I heated my grill up for 20 minutes as it was raining and this can affect the overall temperature. I place my chicken on the grill and set the timer for 20 minutes and when the timer went off I flipped the chicken and was delighted at the nice grill marks. Another 20 minutes and I put the chicken on a plate to rest for 5 minutes.

While the chicken rested I removed my onions and peppers from the frying pan and kept it on the heat to keep warm.

After the 5 minute rest I sliced the chicken into strips and placed them into the pan my onions and peppers had just been removed from. I poured approx 1/4 cup of the Rickard’s into the pan and let it fry off while tossing the chicken strips.

Finished meal ready for the table.

Finished meal ready for the table.

After the Rickard’s had cooked off I combined the chicken strips with my onions and peppers and served with fresh guacamole and salsa on tortillas.

My dad, who had dropped in, was invited for dinner and he had high praise for how great the chicken turned out. I have to agree that it was juicy and flavourful. The Rickard’s added a nice depth to the marinade from Sauza.

Not bad for a moment of I think this will work….

Chocolate + Irish Cream = Yummy Cake

I want to start this blog saying that I am thrilled to be featured for this recipe at The Chocoholics’ Buffet  today. This amazing event takes place on April 20th, 2013 at The Gates on Roblin and proceeds raised will benefit The United Way of Winnipeg.

I, personally, can’t think of a better way to help out a great cause. Be sure to wear your loose pants and pick up your tickets here.

Chocolate. They say that just eating is enough to stroke the pleasure sensors in your brain and create good feelings.

Irish Cream. Something I enjoy in my coffee or on ice but not something I’ve ever worked with beyond a nip in my evening cappuccino every so often.

I’m not so completely out of the loop that I don’t know that the makers of Bailey’s Irish Cream have recipes featured on their website but while I’ve browsed I’ve never made any of them.

However, into my hot little hands this week came a bottle of White Chocolate Irish Cream from Shannon’s and I was reflecting on my Triple Chocolate Bribe brownies about getting more than one version of chocolate into a recipe and decided that I would do the liqueur proud and use it in a chocolate cake.

When I was younger I had managed to bake the perfect (in my dad’s opinion) chocolate cake. It was so moist and I’ve never been able to attain it with any cake I had tried since then.

Until yesterday.

I went back to that old recipe, from Home Ec in the late 1980’s, and made a couple of changes based on the kitchen knowledge I have learned over the years:

1) I decided to use buttermilk. I’ve been using it in items such as muffins, quick breads, pancakes and french toast for a while.

2) I put in a cup of coffee. I like how coffee can add to the overall flavour of chocolate as evidenced by the mochachino.

Cake ingredients left to right: Bowl of dry ingredients for sifting including: 2 cups flour, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon baking soda.

Cake ingredients (from left): Bowl of dry ingredients for sifting including: flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Then Shannon’s White Chocolate Irish Cream, coffee, oil, egg and buttermilk.

Now on reflection of my ingredients I’m thinking about the next time I make this cake using Half Pints Brewing Stir Stick Stout in lieu of the cup of coffee I put in. Stout is known for adding very deep flavour to chocolate desserts and I think would play well with the Irish Cream. I can’t wait to experiment with this idea in future.

Dry ingredients. Sifted and ready to go.

Dry ingredients. Sifted and ready to go.

Sifting is one of my favourite parts of baking. It is simple, effective and doesn’t require a lot to get good results from it. All you need is a metal sieve and to shake the ingredients through until finished. Here you are wanting to sift through all your dry ingredients.

Wet ingredients whisked together and ready to go.

Wet ingredients whisked together and ready to go.

Getting the wet ingredients ready provided a good learning moment for my 9 year old son. Earlier yesterday he made eggs for the first time and while I was instructing him I discussed with him the value of cracking an egg into a cup so you can check it for blood spots. He managed to make 6 eggs with no issue (for himself, his brother, his sister and for me) but when I cracked the egg for this cake there was a good example to teach him what he was looking for and a talk about how if I had just cracked it into the bowl of wet ingredients that I would have had to start over again because my whole wet component would have been tainted.

Batter finished and ready to be baked.

Batter finished and ready to be baked.

Adding wet to dry I whisked the batter together. I like to use my whisk when my hands are up for the task because I feel like I can get at the sides of the bowl a bit easier. I used my spring form pan for this cake because once you take the collar off it can be ready to be iced almost as is. I will confess that idea I got from reading online.

Finished cake.

Finished cake.

Into the oven and after about 40 minutes I’ve gotten a cake that comes out clean when I check it. However, as you can see I’ve lived up to my name as something is not completely right with my centre. As I was going through my ingredient list for the photo I noticed that I failed to use 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Instead I only used 1 teaspoon.

In the end it didn’t cause any issues with the overall end product but I can’t help but wonder if it would have at least been more esthetically pleasing.

So let me take a moment to say…it pays to not rush and to really read before measuring out those dry ingredients. Luckily despite this mishap the flavour held up well and once iced the cake looked great.

Ingredients for the icing (from left): Heavy whipping cream, Shannon's White Chocolate Irish Cream and powdered (icing) sugar.

Ingredients for the icing (from left): Heavy whipping cream, Shannon’s White Chocolate Irish Cream and powdered (icing) sugar.

I got the idea for this frosting from my aunt. She tops a gingerbread cake she makes with a nice dollop of whipped cream and I decided to go with that inspiration.

A very simple combination of ingredients make up this frosting. The cake itself is very rich and a heavy frosting would make it too much. In my opinion, sometimes with frosting less is more.

This ended up being almost like the whipped cream on top of your hot chocolate.

Finished frosting.

Finished frosting.

I also love the simplicity of this frosting. You put all your ingredients together in the bowl and use your electric mixer until you have stiff peaks. It works well in a piping bag or in the decorator from Tupperware that I have mentioned before.

Finished cake!

Finished cake!

As you can see….dimple in the middle is wonderfully hidden by my frosting. I also decided to play a bit with the frosting and use a star tip.

I have come to the realization that I do need to work on frosting skills in the future :D.

Double Chocolate Irish Cream Cake with White Chocolate Irish Cream Frosting

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Irish Cream (I used Shannon’s White Chocolate)
  • 1 cup strong black coffee (of you could use a stout I recommend Half Pints Stir Stick)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Irish Cream (I used Shannon’s White Chocolate)

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda.
  3. Whisk together egg, oil, buttermilk, 1/4 cup Irish Cream and coffee.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk until everything is combined. Be sure to scrape the side of the bowl as you are whisking.
  5. Pour into greased 10 inch spring form pan
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean in the centre
  7. Set aside to cool.
  8. While cake cools combine 2 cups whipping cream, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and 1/4 Irish Cream in a bowl. Use your hand mixer to beat them until it forms stiff peaks.
  9. Once the cake is cool, remove the collar from the cake pan.
  10. Frost with the whipped cream frosting.

Again if you are in Winnipeg on April 20th be sure to get your tickets for The Chocoholics’ Buffet.

Thank you Anna Coleshaw-Echols of Lunchfor1.com for the opportunity to be featured today.

Potato Salad…Hold the Mayo

I must confess that I’ve fallen a bit behind this week but I’ve been taking my phone with me so I have a few different items I’ve made recently. I just need to get them documented here.

My mom’s birthday was this week and we offered to host my parents for dinner where we went with Pulled Pork on a Bun and German Potato Salad.

Neither of my parents are big fans of mayo but they are huge fans of vinegar which makes this salad ideal for serving when they come over. It is also a great choice for summer picnic fare as it is a version of potato salad that is meant to be served at room temperature or warm so you can put it out at your BBQs and not worry about making anyone ill from mayo sitting in the sun.

This recipe is from the folks over at Epicurious.com.

Potatoes - 2 quarts = 8 cups. Boiled, cubed and set aside.

Potatoes – 2 quarts = 8 cups. Boiled, cubed and set aside.

First step as with most potato salads is the get your potatoes ready. I estimated one potato per person plus on extra to attempt to get the right amount I would need to make this salad, which worked out to 8 potatoes total. I boiled the potatoes whole so as to get them fork tender. As with the scalloped sweet potatoes earlier this week I just kept my eye on them while they boiled and pulled them from the water when I could get a steak knife in with little resistance.

It is important to give these guys plenty of time to cool so I would recommend getting your potatoes done well ahead of time. You could cube them first before boiling but the time I did that I had really soft potatoes and it almost became German Mashed Potatoes. The cooling, in my experience, makes it easier to cube the cooked potato as well.

I also left the skins on. I’ve never actually peeled potatoes when making this but I’m pretty sure you could if you wanted to.

Thick sliced bacon.

Thick sliced bacon.

This is a vinaigrette dressing but the heart and flavour of your roux will come from the bacon drippings as your oil component so good quality bacon is a must. I also cooked this on a lower heat to make sure I got crisp bacon and a good amount of drippings. Even the bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan will get used in the end.

Ingredients -

Ingredients  (Starting left ) – Chopped onion, cider vinegar, water, flour, sugar, mustard, salt, black pepper and rosemary.

The recipe calls for vinegar and I had some cider vinegar in the fridge so I went with that. Most folks I know that make this recipe tend to make that substitution as well.

I also realized a bit too late that I had no dried mustard in the house. While I was ripping the spice cabinet apart Kevin went online and with a quick search he assures me that you can use yellow mustard in a ration of 3:1. So in this case 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard for my 1 missing teaspoon of powdered dry mustard.

Dressing in the frying pan.

Dressing in the frying pan.

Using the same frying pan as I made the bacon in I make the dressing pretty much as described in the recipe but I give it a bit of time to come together in between steps. For example I put the onions in and let them fry in the bacon drippings for a few seconds before adding the flour to make the roux.

With the vinegar and water I took the time to let them de-glaze the pan so I could take up the bits of bacon stuck to the bottom of the pan before adding the sugar, spices and mustard. I also gave the sugar time to melt into the dressing before added the spices and mustard and letting is cook down.

After I have added everything in I let it go and took it off the heat when the dressing could coat the back of a spoon nicely.

One of my best chopping jobs to date.

One of my best chopping jobs to date.

While I was giving time to my dressing ingredients to come together I turned my attention the parsley. I often find chopping to be the more difficult part of cooking mostly because I’m not sure when I have a chop or a mince going. I was very proud of this chopping job though. Probably one of my best to date.

Close up of the finished salad

Close up of the finished salad.

Now when combining everything together in the bowl I really recommend a large rubber spatula or spoonula so that you don’t run the risk of having your potatoes getting mashed while you are working the dressing through out the potatoes, bacon and parsley.

There are never any leftovers of this salad ever.

German Potato Salad

Recipe from Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 teaspoons chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup vinegar (I substituted with cider vinegar)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered  dry mustard (I was out so used 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard at a ratio of 3:1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled rosemary leaves
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) cooked diced potatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

  1. Boil potatoes and set aside to cool. When you can handle them easily cut into cubes.
  2. Fry bacon until crisp.
  3. Remove from pan, drain and crumble.
  4. Add flour and onion into the bacon fat left in the pan.
  5. Stir in vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices. Cook only until mixture is of medium thickness.
  6. Add to potatoes, parsley and crumble bacon. Mix carefully (I suggest using a large spoonula) to prevent mashing the potatoes.

Playing with Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a veggie that isn’t too hard to get into my kids. They love to eat them and when they are made there usually isn’t a bite left.

We usually have them one of two ways, however, either as store bought fries or baked and served with honey butter and cinnamon. So when the opportunity for me to play in the kitchen on a cold day presented itself today I decided to see if you could make a scalloped sweet potato.

Quick search and I get this recipe from Allrecipes.com and I figured this could be a good way to start playing with this method of cooking sweet potatoes as there are several different recipes and styles that can be found when you do an internet search.

Ingredients from left: 6 sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and sliced, 2 granny smith apples, grated and brown sugar combined with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

Ingredients from left: 6 sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and sliced, 2 granny smith apples, grated and brown sugar combined with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

Whenever I used a recipe from Allrecipes.com I take the time to read through the comments from previous users and see what suggestions I can glean esp when I find I haven’t got an ingredient on hand. In this case I took a suggestion from a poster to grate the apples instead of slicing them and substituted the mace with a combination of half cinnamon and half nutmeg. I think next time I make I will give using apple slices a try.

Getting ready to soften my sweet potatoes.

Getting ready to soften my sweet potatoes.

Now this is the first time I’ve ever done a partial boil on a potato, sweet or otherwise. So I will admit to feeling just a bit overwhelmed by the thought because letting it go too far will, of course, make these potatoes far to soft to be peeled and sliced. When the water came to a boil I checked it every few minutes and once I could feel the potatoes getting soft, but not squishy, I took the pot off the heat and then pulled my potatoes out of the water and put them on a plate to cool.

After peeling.

After peeling.

I let the potatoes cool so that I could easily handle them and then went to peel the skins off. I used a small paring knife and for the most part the skins came off with little effort. There were some parts where the skins didn’t want to come easily but a small wiggle of the knife worked through them and there wasn’t many of them.

Sliced and ready to go. Amazing how much these look like carrots.

Sliced and ready to go. Amazing how much these look like carrots.

One of the things I am having to learn as I work on my culinary skills is how to estimate and visualize the amount you get when you break ingredients down. For example, when I had boiled and peeled the sweet potatoes but before I sliced them I was unsure that I would have enough for a 13 x9 pan. So I was really surprised as I was slicing the sweet potatoes to find I had really did a good amount to make this dish with.

First layer in the pan.

First layer in the pan.

The layering process went quickly. One quick layer of sweet potatoes and then I used the grated apple almost as you would use parmesan in a traditional style scalloped potato. With the sugar and spice sprinkled on top and the first butter layer you can a great idea how these flavours are going to come together.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

The house smelled warm and welcoming as these cooked up and when I put the pan on the table the kids were very excited to try and my eldest called dibs on seconds after taking the first bite.

I am looking forward to making these again.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples (I used two Granny Smith apples and grated them)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace (I used the suggestion of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)
  • 1/4 cup butter

Preparation:

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, then cool, peel, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  3. Arrange half the sweet potatoes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer half of the apples over the sweet potatoes. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, and mace, then sprinkle half of the mixture over the apple layer. Dot with half the butter. Repeat layers of sweet potato and apple, and top with remaining brown sugar mixture and butter.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, until apples are tender and top is golden brown.

Using Leftovers – Strawberry Mousse

Earlier this week, also the subject of my previous blog post, I made an easy Strawberry Mousse that I was directed to via Pinterest. I had quite a bit left and started turning my thoughts to ways I could use the remainder and wondered if there was a way I could use it for my contribution to a housewarming we were invited to yesterday.

The first thought of using this mousse as our contribution came when I was talking about the school bake sale and one of the hosts for last night’s event said I should bring the mousse because it sounded great.

However, I didn’t want to make something for an adult evening that I would make for a kids’ bake sale so I decided to figure out a way to make it more suited for a celebration.

Thus yesterday in my kitchen Strawberry Mousse Dessert Shots with Drunken Strawberry Puree was created. The really great thing about this recipe is that you can hold back the alcohol when making the puree and this instantly becomes a family friendly item.

Ingredients: Double batch prepared strawberry mousse, Bailey's Irish Cream, and 2 cups pureed fresh strawberries.

Ingredients: Double batch prepared strawberry mousse, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and 2 cups pureed fresh strawberries.

When I originally conceived of the idea for this dessert shot I was going to use coconut rum and put the alcohol in the mousse itself. While discussing the logistics with Kevin he pointed out that the addition of the alcohol could thin the mousse out and cause it to loose the texture that would be expected with the term mousse.

So I turned my attention to my strawberry puree and Kevin told me to feel free to use a bit of his Bailey’s Irish Cream. So to my two cups of pureed fresh strawberries I added 2 teaspoons of white sugar to enhance their sweetness and 10 tablespoons of Irish Cream to achieve my drunken status.

Puree and Bailey's

Puree and Bailey’s

Kevin suggested that we run the puree through the blender after adding the Bailey’s to ensure that the mixture was smooth and he wasn’t wrong. After being run through the blender it was a great consistency.

Using the same 2 ounce plastic shot glasses from my Jell-O Magic Mousse I put 1 tablespoon of the puree into the bottom of each cup. Then taking my Tupperware decorator and filling it with my strawberry mousse I put enough mousse on top of the puree  to cover it completely and when I looked from the side I had good visible layers.

Finished Shot

Finished Shot

I got 30 of these in total. If I had gone with 1 ounce shot glasses I may have been able to double them but in the end I had enough.

After piping I took advantage of Kevin’s suggestion to put them in the deep freeze for the hour before we had to leave so that they would stay firm and cold even though we had other things to do prior to getting to the party and another fridge to keep them in. This was a great idea and my dessert shots set up every well and transported even better. One got knocked in transit and it didn’t run out from the cup as it was nice and firm.

I got many compliments on the shots. I was mostly proud of the fact that I managed to jazz up some leftovers in a way folks completely enjoyed.

Strawberry Mousse Dessert Shots with Drunken Strawberry Puree

Concept and presentation were mine.

Mousse recipe from Cookies and Cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temp (half a brick of cream cheese)
  • 1 cup Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup chopped strawberries, plus more for garnish *optional
  • 2 cups pureed fresh strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 150 mls (10 tablespoons) of Bailey’s Irish Cream

Preparation:

  1. With your electric mixer beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth, about 30 seconds. Carefully stir in your Cool Whip. When combined fold in your chopped strawberries.
  2. Place bowl in refrigerator to chill for 2 hours.
  3. Clean and hull 1.5lbs of fresh strawberries. I put them through the mini chopper to get them nice and small. In the end I had 2 – ish cups of puree.
  4. Add two teaspoons of sugar to the strawberries and stir until well combined. You can adjust this to your preference and to the sweetness of the berries you started with.
  5. Add 10 tablespoons of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Stir to combine.
  6. Take the puree mixture and run it through the blender until smooth. This is will thicken the puree up a bit as well.
  7. Using 2 ounce plastic shot glasses, place 1 tablespoon of puree in the bottom of the glass.
  8. Pipe strawberry mousse until you have a nice layer on top of the puree.
  9. Refrigerate until ready to serve.