November 27, 2012

getting back into the swing of things



Have you ever thought "I should really take up {insert a long-lost favourite hobby here} again"?  Well, now's your chance.  Right now, especially if now is a Saturday or Sunday and you're sitting on the couch reading this blog post. 


This painting was one of the first I did after many years of neglecting my paint set.  It's not amazing, but it's a start.  I'll hopefully be at it again this weekend. :)

November 24, 2012

peppermint hot chocolate



Now that the cold weather has arrived, I find myself craving a peppermint hot chocolate from time to time.  Well, I discovered a really quick and easy way of making it at home, and I'm glad of it.

Here's what you'll need:
milk
hot chocolate mix
peppermint tea

Heat the milk over the stove on medium heat and add the hot chocolate mix.  Heat the chocolate milk until it is hot while stirring with a whisk, don't let it boil though.

Turn off the heat and add the peppermint tea back to the hot chocolate and let it sit for about 2 minutes.

Remove the tea bag. You're ready to enjoy your homemade peppermint hot chocolate!

November 20, 2012

vegan pumpkin loaf



There's nothing like a crisp, sunny fall day.  I love fall in our city.  I raked the leaves this weekend and got the garden ready for winter, and it just made me so happy.

When I think of fall I think of the leaves turning, of Thanksgiving and of pumpkin-related desserts.  Like pumpkin bread.  Here's my favourite pumpkin bread recipe.


mixing the flour, sugar and pumpkin pie spices
ready to be popped into the oven!



Vegan Pumpkin Loaf
adapted from Joy The Baker

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 small handful of any kind of nuts you have on hand (I had slivered almonds)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease and flour two loaf pans (mine are 8x4x2) and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, applesauce, maple syrup and water.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, finding any stray flour bits to mix in.  
Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with some nuts.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven.  Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.
Serve warm, perhaps with some Earl Grey tea with milk. Enjoy!
(I usually wrap one loaf up in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for later.  To unfreeze, simple remove the loaf from the freezer and place it in the fridge until it thaws.  Then remove it from the fridge and place it on the counter until it comes to room temperature.)

November 16, 2012

cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread


This bread is so delicious!  Just look at it!


Yes, it's alot of work, but trust me, it's so worth the effort.

rolling out the dough

spreading the cinnamon-sugar love

stacking the pieces

cutting them again

stacking the pieces in the pan - inverting the pan makes the process a little easier

ready to be popped into the oven!

One of my favourite parts about making this bread is that one of the pieces actually puffed up so much that it literally popped straight out of the pan when it was baking in the oven!  

the final result - mm, mm, good
my piece :)

The pull apart pieces are so fluffy it's like biting into a cloud of sweet, cinnamon-y bread.  Make it.  You'll thank me later.

Here's the recipe!

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
adapted from Joy The Baker


For the Dough:
3  cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

Directions:

1) Mix dry yeast, pinch of sugar and 3 tbsp warm water in a small dish and let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is nice and frothy.

2) Combine 2 cups of flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, set aside.  In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and set aside.  Melt together milk and butter until all the butter has just melted, then remove from heat and add water and vanilla. Set aside.

3) Add the milk and yeast mixtures to the flour mixture and stir with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir to combine.  This step (incorporating the eggs into the dough mixture) takes a while.  I stirred for about 5 minutes.  Add 3/4 cup flour and combine.  The dough mixture will be sticky, and that's ok.

4) Transfer dough to a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Place in a warm location and let it rise (double in size) for 1 hour.

5) While you're waiting for the dough to rise, melt down butter until it has browned and set aside.  In a separate bowl combine sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.

6) Punch the risen dough down and kneed it with an additional 2 tbsp flour.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a clean work surface that you lightly dusted with flour.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to 20" x 12" rectangle.  This also takes awhile because the dough wants to stay small.

7) Using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter onto the dough, then sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly on the dough.  Reserve a little bit of the sugar to sprinkle on the top of the bread right before baking.

8) Slice the dough into 6 strips vertically, and then stack the  6 strips on top of each other.  Slice that stack into 6, so that now you have 6 little stacks of dough.  Grease and flour your pan and place the 6 little stacks into it.  I placed the pan on its side which made this step a little easier.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes or until almost doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 350F.

9) Sprinkle with remaining sugar and place in oven on the middle rack.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the top is very golden brown (to ensure the middle of the bread is cooked).

10) Remove from the oven and let stand for about 20 minutes.  Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto  a clean board.  Place a cake plate on top of the  upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm and enjoy!

November 11, 2012

how to make the best homemade fries


My husband made these homemade fries for us last week.  They were AMAZING!  Crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft on the inside.  The secret: the directions.  The ingredients are pretty standard, white-skinned potatoes, canola oil and salt.  Here shared his method here:

Best Homemade Fries
by Mr. A

Cut up your potatoes into wedges (half inch thick), then boil them until they are almost fully cooked (fork tender but not too soft).  Then you have to fry them.  I used canola oil.  You need quite a bit in the pan, about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Fry the potatoes for about 3 or 4 minutes per side.  You have to watch them closely because it seems like they brown up suddenly, at which time you need to flip them.  Don't put too many in the pan because it will make it harder to access them.  When they are done, put them aside and sprinkle with sea salt (or regular table salt) to taste.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

November 05, 2012

trail mix cookies


I didn't really use trail mix in these cookies, but I might as well have.  They've got oatmeal, coconut, almonds, white chocolate chips and dried berries.  How did I come about them?  I free-styled a recipe I found for oatmeal cookies and added a whole bunch of different things to it.  You can feel free to free-style this recipe yourself using any nuts, dried fruit and other small sweet things you have on hand in your kitchen.


They go perfectly with a glass of cold milk too.  Stacking not necessary.

Here's the recipe!

Trail Mix Cookies

makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries and blueberries
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and egg until well combined. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture at low speed, beating just until incorporated.
Gently fold in chocolate chips and dried berries.
Drop tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheet and press down lightly to flatten.
Place into oven and bake until edges are golden brown but center is still moist, about 7-8 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

November 01, 2012

chickpea and quinoa soup



We got these two giant coffee mugs at a thrift store this summer.  I just wanted to show them off.  And... they're perfect for soup!

This soup uses all your pantry staples.  All you need from the fridge is some fresh cilantro to garnish.  So you should hopefully have all these ingredients on hand and whip this soup up any old time you like.

Here's the recipe!

Chickpea and Quinoa Soup

Ingredients:
2 tbsp canola oil
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp herbes de provence or dried thyme
1 can diced tomatoes
900 mL chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 cup dry quinoa

1 can chickpeas, drained
salt & pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large pot.  Cook the onions for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic.  Add the chilli flakes, cumin, herbes de provence and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes, stock and quinoa.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until the quinoa is cooked.  Add chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes.  Serve in your favourite soup bowl and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.  Enjoy!