Yesterday, I was reading a blog post that offered advice on how to improve your life. The first step involved a little bit of introspection. One of the things you were supposed to determine was what single biggest thing would bring you joy, professionally or personally. I imagine that the author intended the reader to consider a longer timeframe than I did, but when I read that, I decided that the single biggest thing that would bring me joy at that moment was to make a cake, right then and there. So I made this.
And bring joy it did. It combines two of my favourite things–cardamom and cake.
This is a lovely, simple cake. It calls for a whole tablespoon of ground cardamom and melted butter. I baked mine in an 8-inch pan to help give it more height, so it took a little longer to bake. I chose not to put any sugar on top at all, leaving it naked. If you too are a cardamom fan, you should give it a try. This is an excellent breakfast cake (and an excellent end of the day cake, too).
Look at the colours in this cake! Red and white, perfect for Canada Day.
This cake is Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Brita Cake. It is a lemon-flavoured cake, made with only egg yolks, and topped with a meringue made from the egg whites. The lasagne-pan sized cake is cut lengthwise, and slathered in whipped cream and cut-up fresh strawberries.
My sister and niece made it for me recently, using a gluten-free flour blend. It was lovely and light. The strawberry flavour came through beautifully and the lemon in the cake was fantastic. I highly recommend it. Five out of five. Would eat again!
Of course, I was forced to take the leftovers home (tant pis pour moi…) and so I managed to have it for breakfast for a few days after. Living the dream.
I have mentioned before that I believe in eating Christmas treats out of season. One benefit of this, when it is a dessert that you like but is not popular with others, is that you don’t have to share it with people who are unworthy of it. Another is that you don’t have it in a season when most of us really don’t need more dessert options. You can eat it when you are able to truly appreciate it.
Recently, I decided to make this favourite of mine, fruit stollen. This recipe is a quick bread, rather than a yeast bread, which means it is fast to put together. The dough includes cream cheese, which makes it easy to work with. It comes from Anna Thomas’s lovely cookbook The Vegetarian Epicure.
I mostly follow the original recipe. I use orange juice, not brandy, to soak the dried fruit, and I double it. I also double the cardamom, using 1 teaspoon. I follow the original recipe for the fruit ingredients. It uses sultanas, currants and candied peel (1/2 cup, 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup for one loaf). The dough gets some of its richness from ground almonds. And I use a gluten-free flour blend.
The dough requires a bit of patience, but eventually the flour gets absorbed, and you are left with a pliable dough. You can then pat this out by hand, on parchment paper, to the size of your choice. The original recipe calls for an oval 8 x 10 inches, which you then fold over just off centre. This time, I made my oval slightly bigger. If you adjust the size, keep this in mind when baking it, as making it thinner or thicker will affect the baking time.
One other change I make is to add about a cup of marzipan to the centre. This bread is lovely as is and the marzipan is not needed, but it is does make it quite special. When it is finished, you dust the whole thing generously with icing sugar after it has cooled a little.
The flavours improve over time, making it better a day or two after baking. I enjoyed the piece above at my desk the day after it was made. The rest I have portioned out and frozen, ready for me to enjoy later this summer.
It occurred to me recently that the Distracted Boyfriend meme perfectly captures my approach to recipes. I find a new recipe that excites me, I obsess about it for days or weeks, I go out and buy all the ingredients and then, I see a brand NEW recipe that looks intriguing and delicious. And suddenly the recipe that I had been obsessing about loses some of its sparkle. So I just made this meme to capture this feeling.
I made tacos last weekend, using a boxed kit. It was all very tasty, but those taco shells are so tiny. So confining. I kept breaking them with my overly ambitious and optimistic attempts to fill them. I eventually gave up and just made piles of the filling.
Today, I used up the leftovers in this delicious salad. I had about a cup each of spiced refried beans and cumin spiced beef. I heated them in the microwave, and then dressed the plate, first with beans and then with the meat. I topped all of that with cheese (a mozzarella-cheddar blend). I microwaved that gently to melt the cheese. Then, I placed freshly chopped romaine lettuce around the edge of the plate. I topped the cheese with a generous helping of pickled jalapeno slices and dollops of sour cream. I slathered everything with green tomatillo salsa and then sprinkled chopped green onions over it all. Finally, I sprinkled two broken up taco shells across the top.
This was so delicious. There was lots of crunch from the lettuce and the taco bits. And the temperature contrast between the hot beans, beef and cheese and the cold lettuce and sour cream was great, too.
I think next time, I won’t bother buying taco shells. I’ll just use nacho chips. I used the packaged spice mix, but I can replicate that quite easily too. I also think chopped cilantro would be a fantastic addition on top.
I highly recommend this approach to tacos if you too are finding yourself hemmed in by very tiny hard shells.
I was on vacation in the Caribbean recently and had a ton of delicious food while I was there. One of my fondest memories is of dinner at a rib shack that included your choice of any three sides with an order of ribs. I chose coleslaw, beans and rice, and plantains. Ever since, I have been thinking about eating plantains again.
I bought a couple of green plantains about two weeks ago and have been patiently waiting until the skins turned black enough for me to fry them.
I made these today, as a side for spicy shrimp and rice. I used this recipe as a guide. I fried them in a stovetop wok in a mix of butter and oil. As they turned brown, I removed them to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. I generously salted them, and then I got to try them.
They were fantastic hot. I am taking some for lunch tomorrow, and will eat those ones cold. They were so tasty and so easy to make. I will definitely be making these again soon.
I have a weakness for the cheese sections of food stores. I find myself gravitating towards them, whether I need cheese or not. I’m currently not allowing myself to buy any more cheese until I work through some of what I have in my fridge.
With that goal in mind, I made a batch of this fondue recipe. Of course, I didn’t use beer because most beer contains gluten. I had some leftover prosecco in the freezer, so I used that instead. I have also made it using dry apple cider, which gives it a fantastic flavour.
When I make this recipe, I like to double the quantity of caraway seeds and leave them whole. I am also more generous with the onions and garlic but tend to skip the sherry completely. For this batch, I used Etorki and Gruyère, plus some mozzarella for meltability. A blend of old Cheddar and Emmental is also fantastic.
I like to pour my finished fondue into a pan and then let it solidify in the fridge. Then, I freeze it in small ziploc bags so that I can easily thaw some out whenever I want to. I took some for lunch one day last week, along with some bread cubes I’d made by cutting up a store bought gluten-free bread roll. At the office, all I had to do was to remelt the fondue in the microwave and voilà, I had an instant gourmet meal.
Reheated fondue can be used anywhere a cheese sauce is called for. I had some over reheated roasted potatoes and it was fantastic. I am thinking of having some more with roasted potatoes and dill pickles, and later using it as a topping for eggs on English muffins instead of Hollandaise sauce. Another option, of course, is simply eating it straight from a bowl with a spoon.
I have been rereading Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels. I recently started Murder in the Dark, which is set in the Christmas season, and got to a chapter which starts with an epigraph about figgy pudding from “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The obsessive part of my brain kicked in, and I started researching figgy pudding recipes.
I like desserts with dark flavours. I love all things featuring mincemeat, love dark fruitcake, and am passionate about sticky toffee pudding (note to self: blog about STP sometime soon…). So, as I read the recipes, I felt that figgy pudding was right up my street. The recipes featured dates, raisins and figs. As I read on I realized that I actually had copious amounts of all of these dried fruits in my pantry. I also had a large amount of orange juice that needed to be used up, and I had been looking for a way to use it in baking.
This happy confluence led to me trying this recipe. Well, using it as a starting point. I love how she bakes it in individual ramekins. My batter ended up being quite large, so I baked it in a loaf pan. Other changes I made: I added more raisins, so some were in the pureed date and fig mixture and some were left whole; I used orange juice instead of water; I soaked the dried fruits in the orange juice for half an hour before I started cooking (and soaked the raisins that remained whole in more orange juice); I used white sugar instead of honey; and when I took it out of the oven, I spooned more orange juice over the warm cake.
It is delicious and fruity. There is a subtle cinnamon flavour that comes through as well. I had some heavy cream that needed using too, so I just poured some of that over the warm pudding.
The texture is lovely. It is tender and moist. It is a fantastic use of coconut flour, which is such a good binder.
I would happily serve this as a dessert. It is very comforting and perfect for when the weather is frigid. I plan to freeze some portions so I can enjoy it later. Maybe for breakfast. Maybe with custard. Or maybe with whipped cream… So I have lots to look forward to.
As part of my Christmas baking this year, I made these pecan shortbread. They go by many names–Mexican Mice, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Teacakes, Snow Balls.
I made them with pecans (some ground, some chopped) and a gluten-free flour blend. When they are hot, you carefully coat them with icing sugar. The steam from the cookies helps it stick. The last time I made them, over 15 years ago (!), my niece dubbed them Dusty Thingies, which fits.
This time, I used a different recipe–a version that increases the amount of nuts in the batter. I did like the increase in nuts. However, I also like the richness of my tried-and-true recipe (from Edna Staebler’s Food That Really Schmecks). I guess that means that I will be forced to make these again, after Christmas, to get the perfect butter:nut:flour ratio… Such is life.
When I was a kid, I loved a sandwich spread my mom used to make: grated radishes and cheddar cheese, with a bit of mayo to hold it together. I ate it as a sandwich filling, on toast and on crackers.
Now that I avoid bread products, I had been trying to come up with new ways to eat it. I think it would be lovely on a bed of lightly dressed greens. And it might be quite good blended with grated cabbage.
But, as I am always working on my quest to find new french fry toppings, it occurred to me that this spread might be fantastic on fries. The scientist in me demanded that I try it, and I can report that it was in fact fantastic. The radish and cheese mixture was nicely chilled, and it made a great contrast with the hot fries. I did four layers: fries, radish spread, fries, radish spread. It was really good and I highly recommend it.
How to make the spread: Grate equal parts of red radishes and old cheddar. Moisten as much as you like with mayonnaise or miracle whip. Add salt and pepper to taste. And that’s it. Enjoy it with the substrate of your choice.