March 31, 2012

best popcorn ever

Mr. A makes this popcorn and it's the best I've ever had.

It's fresh and he uses coconut oil and sea salt.

The house smells like coconut when he's making it, which I love.  But fear not, the popcorn doesn't taste like coconut.  Strange but true.

Here's the recipe!

Coconut & Sea Salt Homemade Popcorn
by tartsandcrafts

1 tbsp of coconut oil
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 tsp sea salt

Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat.  Carefully add the corn kernels.  Put the lid on the pot immediately, but leave it open a crack so that the steam can escape.  Every 30 seconds or so, shake the pot on top of the stove to make sure the kernels cook evenly.  Continue shaking even after the corns start to pop. Stop cooking once you can count 3 seconds between each corn popping.  Remove from heat and place popcorn in a bowl, season with sea salt and serve.

March 24, 2012


Today, we finally got around to sifting through Mr. A's change box and we took all the pennies, nickles and dimes to the Coinstar machine.  So. Much. Fun!  It's totally already your money, but it feels like you're hitting the jackpot.

Ok, on to food.  So, I went vegetarian about 2 months ago, and I'm really conscientious about getting enough protein and B vitamin in my diet.  A great way of getting these nutrient is through beans, and I have a great recipe for spinach artichoke dip that uses white kidney beans.  It's awesome.  We had it for dinner this evening.

Here's the recipe!

Bean' There Spinach Artichoke Dip
by tartsandcrafts

1 can white kidney beans
1/2 cup cream cheese
250g grated mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp mayonaise
1 can quarter artichokes
250g frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 tbsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili flakes

1. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.  Oil an oven-proof dish.

2. Puree the white kidney beans in the food processor until it's totally smooth and creamy.  Roughly chop the artichokes in the food processor.  In a large bowl mix the artichokes and kidney beans with the rest of the ingredients.

3.  Transfer your mixture to the oven-proof dish.  Bake in the oven for 35 mins until bubbling and golden on top.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 mins before serving.


March 20, 2012

happy new year!

Persians celebrate New Year on the first day of Spring, which I think makes a whole lotta sense.  It's when everything in nature is renewed and comes back to life after some winter hibernation.

So to celebrate Norooz (literally, New-Day in Farsi), we made a delicious and fun Persian dessert called Rollette.  It's a basic log cake that's flavoured with rose water.  Rose water is commonly used in Persian baked goods.

The batter is a sponge cake, so you'll need lots of eggs.  Six to be exact.

The most complicated thing about the cake is the rolling of it.  The trick is to pre-roll it when it's warm, and let it cool like that.  Then un-roll the log, spread the cream filling, and finally re-roll it.  Here's a great video on how to roll your log.

cake spa!

Here's the recipe!

Persian Rollette
adapted from Culture Connoisseur

Cake Ingredients: 
6 eggs (whites and yolks seperated)
6 heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour
6 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
1 and 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon rosewaterButter (to grease pan)

Creme Ingredients: 
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon rosewater
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1/4 cup pistachios, medium-fine ground (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crack 6 egg whites into a large bowl and place the yolks in a bowl. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add egg yolks one at a time, keeping the mixer on high speed until all the yolks have been incorporated.

2. Mix in flour one tablespoon at a time until smooth and fluffy. Mix in powdered sugar one spoonful at a time. Add baking powder, rosewater and vanilla and mix well.

3. Spray a 9x13 cookie sheet with a bit of Pam and place parchment paper on top.  It helps to have the parchment slightly sticking out above the tray.  Spray the parchment paper with Pam and pour in batter. Make sure it sits evenly. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Once cooked, place the pan on a rack and let stand for 5-10 mins.  Sift some powdered sugar over the cake and place a clean dish towel over it.  Flip the cake out of the tray and sift powdered sugar over this side of the cake too.  Roll the cake in the dish towel and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Whip cream with a mixer until frothy. Add powdered sugar and continue mixing until stiff. Carefully unroll the cake once cooled. Fill with half the cream, then re-roll the cake as tightly as you can.

5. Once the cake it filled, cover the rolette with the rest of the cream, and fill in the end holes with cream.  Sift cocoa powder (or sprinkle the ground pistachios) on top for garnish.  Refrigerate for at least 30 mins and serve cold.


March 18, 2012

guest post: who needs pasta?

Hello blogging world, this is Mr. A., coming from the the tarts & crafts Research and Development Headquarters - also known as our house.

Mrs. A. is not the only one who cooks around here.  While she takes care of all the baking duties, we share in the cooking pretty equally.  We both like to cook, and we also both like to experiment and alter recipes to fit our tastes.

A few nights ago, I was volun-told for the cooking of dinner and was tasked with making the eggplant dish below.  It ended up being a pretty easy recipe to make and we both agreed it came out well.  I changed up a few things with the recipe though.

After roasting the eggplant, you were supposed to roll them and stuff them with the ricotta mixture.  I thought that was going to be kind of too much work, so instead I made more of a lasagna out of it.  I started with a layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish, then put a layer of eggplant.  That was followed with the ricotta mixture (in that mixture I also added some chopped garlic).  I then added another layer of eggplant, some more ricotta and then the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan.

It ended up being a great meal.  I think if we did it again, I would use more eggplant and make it another layer or two thick.

Here's the recipe!

Eggplant Parmesan
adapted from Real Simple

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-7 chinese eggplants (about 3 pounds total ), sliced lengthwise (about 16 slices total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • large eggs
  • 15-ounce container ricotta
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (1 1/2 ounces)

  1. Heat oven to 450° F. Divide the oil between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Dividing evenly, arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheets and turn to coat in the oil; season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  2. Bake the eggplant, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until soft and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool. Reduce heat to 400° F.
  3. Meanwhile, in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch or some other 3-quart baking dish, spread ½ cup of the marinara sauce. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta, oregano, 1 cup of the mozzarella, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  4. Place about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on one end of a slice of eggplant, roll it up, and transfer it to the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices and ricotta mixture. [See my changes above]
  5. Top the eggplant rolls with the remaining cup of marinara sauce and the remaining cup of mozzarella. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
  6. Bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

March 14, 2012

winter blues?

Our little tulip heads in the garden are sneaking up from the ground.  I guess spring is here!  It's funny, I'm kind of missing winter.  Probably 'cause we didn't have much of a winter this year.  Everyone's happy about the weather turning warm, but I'm missing winter.

So, maybe that's why I baked up a warm apple crisp.  One last wave goodbye to ol' man winter.

I'm also continuing to "healthify" my recipes:  I substituted most of the flour with almonds, flax seed and walnuts.

Here's the recipe!

Nutty Apple Crisp
adapted from Joy the Baker

Filling:5 to 6 medium-size apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 tbsp granulated sugar

1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup whole wheat all-purpose flour
2/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped 
1/3 cup flax seed, ground up coarsely
1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, well-softened
1/3 cup quick oats
Preheat the oven to 350. Generously grease an 8×8 baking pan with butter.
Dust the apples with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Toss the apple mixture until evenly coated in cinnamon sugar. 
For the topping, place the almonds, flax seed and walnuts into the food processor and chop up roughly.  Then, place the flour, brown sugar, walnuts, almonds and flax seeds, cinnamon and oats in a large bowl and stir well with a wooden spoon. Work the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until evenly distributed. Spread the topping evenly over the apples. 
Bake the crisp in the dish on a baking sheet on the center oven rack until the topping is crunchy and the apples are bubbling, 55-60 minutes.
Serve hot; it’s excellent with vanilla ice cream or a tall glass of cold milk.

warning: this can be a sticky situation :)

March 12, 2012

it's easy being green

I love avocados.  I love eating them in salads or just on their own.  It's rare for an avocado to almost go bad at our place, because we eat it up before you can say George Washington.

But last week that very thing happened.   It was my fault, because I kind of forgot we had them.

Luckily, I found a great recipe for avocado bread, that I adapted to make avocado cornbread muffins.

The batter is pretty and green, and when it bakes up, it keeps the colour of avocados.

Here's the recipe!

Avocado Cornbread Muffins
adapted from Joy the Baker and Bouffe Delicieuse


3/4 cups all-purpose flour3/4 cups cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup mashed ripe avocado
1/2 cup milk and or buttermilk

12 walnut halves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a muffin pan and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.  Set the egg out on the counter to come to room temperature while you beat the butter and sugar.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until softened and pliable.  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add the avocado and beat another minute to incorporate.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is thoroughly mixed.
Add the egg, beating 1 minute.  Beat in vanilla extract.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the flour mixture, all of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour mixture.  Beat just until combined.
Divide the dough between the muffin molds, place a walnut on top of each for garnish, and place in the oven.  Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F.   Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.   Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.