October 30, 2016

pear upside-down cake

I love apples, but replacing the common fruit with pears (which I also love) can somehow make a  cake or pie into something even more special.  If you're feeling super fancy you can try this recipe from Martha Stewart.  It's not too tough overall, except for the batter for the cake which was a bit fussy, but worth it if you want to make a special dessert with a bit of a wow factor.

Here's the recipe!

Pear Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 ripe pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou, peeled and cored

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk

1. Make the topping: Melt butter in the bottom of a 10 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar, stirring until dissolved. Swirl to coat the bottom; remove from heat, and cool. Cut pears into 1/4-inch-thick wedges, and arrange them in a circular pattern over the brown-sugar mixture to cover completely; set aside.

2. Make the batter: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract; beat to combine. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating to combine.

4. Alternating with the milk, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix, on low speed, just until the flour is incorporated.

5. In a large bowl, beat reserved egg whites with a whisk until it forms stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg whites into the batter. Transfer to skillet. Using an offset spatula, spread the batter evenly, being careful not to disturb the pears.

6. Bake until well browned on top and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Run a knife around inside of pan, and immediately invert the cake onto a serving dish. Serve warm or at room temperature.



July 17, 2016

vanilla birthday cake with vanilla buttercream frosting

My daughter turned one six months ago.  That's how long it's taken for me to get this post up.  In my defence, it's been a busy six months.  I went back to work after a year on mat leave, my daughter started daycare and it's just be go, go, go.  And it's been wonderful.  I'm just amazed at how she's growing up and becoming a little person.  I haven't wanted to miss a moment of it.  But I also want to keep blogging, so here's my attempt to get back on the blog wagon.

We had a little one-year old birthday party for her at home and I decided to make the cake.  It was fun as baking always is.  I did have alot of help from my husband and mother in law who took care of baby while I baked.  The inspiration came from a Pinterest photo with the decoration you see in my photo above, but the recipe was from Martha Stewart and another blog. It was a really great cake, so I wanted to share it with you. :)

Here's the recipe!

Vanilla Birthday Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

for the cake:
adapted from Martha Stewart

I doubled Martha's recipe to have a larger cake in order to have enough for the number of guests we had (25).

2 stick2 unsalted butter, softened, plus more for cake pans and parchment
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
3 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment; butter parchment as well. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs and beat well, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture, beating until combined. Add milk and vanilla and beat until just combined.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, 33 to 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely.

Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate and spread 1 cup frosting on top. Place remaining cake layer on top. Spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, swirling to coat in a decorative fashion. (If frosting becomes too soft, refrigerate to firm up.) Cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated overnight. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

for the frosting:
adapted from Add a Pinch

2 cup butter (4 sticks), softened
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons vanilla
pinch salt
4-6 tablespoons milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half

Place softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on a medium setting and cream the butter until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
Add confectioner's sugar, ½ a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
Add milk, heavy cream or half-and-half until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner's sugar, a ¼ cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time.



January 21, 2016

slow cooker butter chicken

More slow-cooker creations!  This time it's Mr. A's delicious butter chicken.  In my opinion, this butter chicken beats the restaurant version.  I'm usually not a big fan of restaurant butter chicken because I find it a bit bland, but not this slow-cooker version - it's really flavourful!

Here's the recipe:

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
adapted CBC's Best Recipes Ever

2 onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp (45 mL) butter
2 tbsp (30 mL) grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp (30 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) chili powder
3/4 tsp (4 mL) ground coriander
3/4 tsp (4 mL) ground turmeric
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cumin
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1 28 oz can (796 mL can) diced tomatoes
1 cup (250 mL) sodium-reduced chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 cup (60 mL) cashew butter
3 lb (1.4 kg) boneless skinless chicken thighs or breast
1 cup (250 mL) Balkan yoghurt
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:In slow cooker, combine everything except the chicken, sour cream and cilantro.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  At the 4 hour mark, using an immersion blender, purée the sauce until smooth then add chicken; cook, covered, for the rest of the time (4 more hours).
At this point, after 8 hours, the chicken will be quite soft, so you can pull it apart into smaller pieces with a fork very easily.Stir in sour cream. Serve sprinkled with cilantro, on rice or with naan.


December 02, 2015

slow cooker beef stroganoff

Another from the slow-cooker series!  Heads up, there will be many of these slow cooker posts coming up.  It's is what lets us put dinner on the table now that we have a baby.  This beef stroganoff recipe is great because it's just toss-the-ingredients-in-and-presto! dinner's ready in 8 hours.  You do need to cook the noodles separately, but hopefully that can be managed. ;)


Here's the recipe:

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
adapted from Campbell's Kitchen

2 cans Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup 
1/4 cup beef broth or beef stock or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
4 cups white mushrooms, sliced
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 pounds boneless beef round steak, cut into thin strips 
1/2 cup sour cream 
4 cups medium egg noodles, cooked and drained 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley  (optional) 


1. Stir the soup, broth, Worcestershire, garlic and black pepper in a medium bowl.
2. Place the mushrooms and onions into a 6-quart slow cooker.  Top with the beef.  Pour the soup mixture over the beef.
3. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours or until the beef is fork-tender.  Stir the sour cream in the cooker.  Serve the beef mixture with the noodles.  Sprinkle with the parsley, if you have time. :)


October 25, 2015

slow cooker eggplant patiala (curry)

One of the best purchases we made when we had a baby was an item you won't find in the baby aisle: a slow cooker.  This little appliance was what saved dinner many an evening.  Besides when my mom would cook, the slow cooker was the reason we ate in those first couple of months after the baby was born, 'cause let's face it, neither of us had the energy or the wherewithal to stand and cook in the kitchen in those early days when just brushing my hair was a massive accomplishment.

As such, I'm dedicating an entire series on Tarts and Crafts to slow cooker meals: the Slow Cooker Series if you will.

Something important to note to, is that I'm only going to feature dishes that you can truly just throw into the slow cooker and forget it til it's done.  There are lots of slow cooker recipes I found that require a bunch of pre-cooking like frying or sautéing or roasting.  That didn't work for us because we really needed good food that would take little to no time to make. So that's what I'm sharing in the series.

The first recipe featured with be a vegetarian number that I just cooked up a couple of days ago.  This dish is usually done as a stir fry, but that obviously isn't the case with the slow cook-erized version.  You just toss it into the slow cooker and forget about it til it's ready pretty much.  So it's not going to be the same Eggplant Patiala as you'd get at an Indian restaurant but it's pretty delicious nonetheless.  This dish took me a grand total of 10 minutes to throw together.

Here's the recipe!

Slow Cooker Eggplant Patiala
adapted from Canadian Living
serves 8

1 can diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, julienned
1 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
12 indian eggplants or 6-7 italian eggplants, cubed
fresh cilantro (to garnish)

In slow cooker, mix together the tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, onions, and garlic.  Add the eggplant on top.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hrs.  Uncover and combine the eggplant with the tomato mixture. Cover and cook for one more hour on low.

Serve with rice and garnish with fresh coriander.