Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sauce day again

Oh yeah, today I made my first Comox Sauce!  Smells so good and can hardly wait to have some for supper and freeze the rest.  I see chili and lasagna in our future.

Pancake muffins, the night before

My day doesn't feel officially over until I've started getting ready for tomorrow and my sink shines.  Call it OCD, a neat freak, perfectionism or just plain ol' crazy, but it's true.  I like to know what is for breakfast and have it started if possible, coffee maker ready to go, lunch bags set out with stuff in them and the stuff from the fridge for lunches is just waiting.

Last night, I prepped some pancake muffins.  Here is where I got my inspiration, though I did not follow the recipe.

It worked beautifully.  They were even better cold at snack time.

Last night, I measured the dry ingredients and covered the bowl with a plate and left it on the counter.  I measured the wet ingredients into a big mason jar (gosh, I do so love my mason jars - so much so that my next fun thing to do for myself is to build a terrarium in one) and popped it into the fridge.  In the morning, I turned on the oven, shook up the wet ingredients (remember this jingle?), added them to the bowl of dry ingredients, mixed lightly and away we go!  Breakfast for a crowd in 15 minutes!  HA!


I also sprinkled half of what I made with cinnamon sugar and dropped sliced bananas on a quarter and left a quarter plain for experimentation purposes.  The cinnamon sugar was a big hit!  Next time I'll do the whole thing.

I made 12 muffins and poured the remaining batter into two 9" square pans.  One of those pans was silicone and I highly recommend this.  I haven't used this pan yet, but now I have a regular use for it!

So, here is a recipe for pancakes that I did not follow either, even though they are great I just didn't think of this recipe.  I used my Mum's Best Pancake recipe which is lower in fat than that other recipe.

It is important when making pancakes, as well as muffins or quick breads, to not overmix your wet and dry ingredients together.  Just really wet the dry ingredients and stop.  There will be little lumps of dry ingredients but that is okay, do not panic.  Step away from the bowl and leave it rest for a few minutes.  Then approach when ready to dish it out onto your hot pan or griddle.  No more sneaky stirring.  None.  If you must add in stuff, like blueberries or chocolate chips, add them to the pancake immediately after it has been poured onto the hot pan, not to the bowl.  I don't know why, that's just how my Mum did it.  So you will too.

Dry and wet

Mum's Best Pancake
2 c flour (I use 1 c whole wheat and 1 c all-purpose)
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder (or 5 tsp = same thing)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 c milk
2 Tbsp oil (or melted butter, or coconut oil)
2 eggs
- mix dry
- mix wet
- combine very little, leave lumps

- pour 1/4 cup batter into greased muffin tin
- sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, a few berries, banana slices or chocolate chips
- bake in oven at 350 for about 14 minutes
- let cool several minutes until you can handle them, then serve with a smile
* they're pretty plain so have syrup or jam or PB & brown sugar at the ready
- pour this batter into one or two greased 9" square pans - only enough to barely cover the bottom of the pan
- bake in oven at 350 for about 25 minutes
- serve in wedges or cut out with cookie cutters depending on the season or holiday

This was a great way to get pancakes on the table for my whole family and not stand over the stove for half an hour cooking up one pancake at a time.  I will DO IT AGAIN! 

As previously stated, it was great for snack too!  Breakfast and snack with one set of dishes to clean!  BONUS!


Beautiful mason jar with wet ingredients ready for the morning.
How do you plan breakfast?  What are your mornings like?  How do you manage them?  Are you the manager?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Picnic meals and breakfast CAKE

We get out a lot here as a family.  It's been one week and we haven't missed a day yet.  They're usually late afternoon or evening walks with a stroller or two or a kid in a backpack.  Often, they kids get out and walk a kilometre or two, depends on where we are.  There are so many parks with short trails (1-3 km) that we stop and do them and see something pretty, turn around and come home. 

This afternoon I was enjoying the wee ones taking a nap and got ahead of the gang and made a casserole for supper and a cake for dessert.  When The Man came home and we all wanted to get out for another walk, I threw the casserole in the van with plastic cutlery and plates and a jug of water and away we went!  Love impromptu outings when I'm ready for them!

The casserole was "meh", everyone ate it and enjoyed it and even asked for seconds.  I think I'll make it again or at least use this recipe as a template for various meats and add some frozen veggies and mix up the spices.

The breakfast cake was not served for breakfast, we ate it as soon as we got back from the park and before the bath.  The family loved it!  It's so funny feeding a big family of good eaters - when you take something out of the oven like this you have to remove the portions you plan to put in lunches for the "away" people and then serve the dessert until there is none left!  One meal!  HA!  Seconds all around.  The only thing missing was some cream to pour on top or ice cream.

I love my microplane.  It makes zesting so much easier and quick.

This is my first recipe using this year's blackberries that my neighbour gave to me already frozen a few days ago.  We have only been here one week and I have lots of berries and apples in the freezer.  Today's find, by the way, was chestnuts.  We will roast them tomorrow morning.  We took nine home tonight.

Here is the recipe for the CAKE!  YUMMY!  I feel certain any berry can be used, be sure to fold in the frozen berries while frozen, do not thaw them.  I baked it in a glass 9" casserole dish and it took a full 55 minutes.  Next time, I'll use a 9" square and it may take less time.  I loved the crust that was formed from the glass pan and the sprinkle of sugar on top before you bake it.

Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

from Alexandra's Kitchen
Serves 6-8
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the berries)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups fresh berries (whatever is in the freezer)
½ cup buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and of the sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with 1 Tbsp of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness.  (Note: Baking for as long as 25 minutes more might be necessary, in 10 minute increments.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, 1 October 2012

I'm ba-ack (and a recipe for applesauce cake)

I'm back - hopefully on a more consistent basis as I have missed cooking and blogging.

We have trekked across Canada, keeping it as far South as possible.  The kids were great, the terrain was breathtaking, the food was lacking in excitement.  We've been in the house for one week now and have had two good, homemade suppers to satisfy.  Oh yum.

My kitchen was set up almost right away and even though I have not done one big grocery run yet to stock it up like it usually is, I am finding it exciting to find recipes to use what I have on-hand first and foremost, then get the condiment or little thing I need to complete that recipe. 

Living in a province with such bountiful lands is comforting somehow.  We've been foraging on the most obvious crop available to us - blackberries.  They grow EVERYWHERE!  We can be at the park (any ol' park and there are many to choose from) and everyone can get their full of blackberries.  The wee-est one sees a branch with berries on it and walks towards it with her mouth wide open!  She stuffs her face and gets all messy from ear to ear and grins so happily.  We have picked some to freeze and enjoy with later.  There just are so many!  Back home (NS), we had a small patch near our house that we thought was fantastic so we harvested from it each year, but it doesn't come close to the amount of berries near us here!

We've been getting out as a family every afternoon or evening since we arrived and that's been wonderful. I'm enjoying walking and marvel at how close we are to everything we need.  We have moved into a town, pretty much the heart of a small town with a small city right nearby for all the other services we may need.  There is a farm nearby and we can smell the "pooping cows" several times a day, it brings a smile to our faces.  There are orchards all around and my neighbour has taken to picking enough apples and pears for our family too.  I've bottled and frozen so much applesauce and have made an apple crisp (will have to post that recipe soon, it's almost as famous as my brownies) and an applesauce cake (recipe below).

The Big Kid gets to come home for lunch.  It's such a treat for me to not have to make his lunch on days there is little in the house to get creative with.  He enjoys the break from school too.  He'll stay now and then when he wants to.

When I left NS I was concerned about what I'd find for coffee, I had loved Just Us! but have no fear, these Islanders love them some coffee!  There are coffee shops everywhere!  There's even a tiny shed (like a Steve-O-Reno's in Halifax) on a walking path.  Anyhow, I have tried a few and have come to enjoy Karma Coffee.  It's what I'm perking now, Lefty's.  Ho yeah, I got a houswarming gift from my realtor of a Keurig!  So for a few days, I had my espresso machine, Keurig and circa 1984 coffee percolator all lined up on my counter!  I thought that was pretty crazy!  Where is that Bodum so I can add it to my display...  Keurig is not for me, if anyone wants one they can have mine.  I've brewed 12 cups in it and will not be buying more pods for it.  Works great, like new.

So, life is good here.  Falling back into the cooking routine feels good; actually having a routine at all feels great after a summer of being transient and living out of a duffle bag for the kids and I.  Enjoying stir-fry's and meat 'n potatoes meals - things we didn't eat much of on the road.

Here's a recipe for a great lunchbox filler and late night munching.  Also refined enough to share with a new friend and a cup of tea or coffee, of course!  I did not frost mine but have included a recipe that I think would be divine with it. 

I baked mine in two 9" square pans for 45 minutes.  I replaced the shortening with butter and decreased it to 1/3 cup and I think you can get down to 1/4 cup no problem.  I creamed the butter and sugar, added the remaining wet ingredients and then the dry.  It freezes well, so bake two, share one right away and as soon as the second one is cool, cut it into single servings, wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze.

(From the 1971 Betty Crocker cookbook)
2 ½ cups flour 
2 cups sugar
1 ½ tsp soda
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp allspice
1 ½ cups canned applesauce (I used my homemade applesauce, it was slightly chunky)
½ cup water
½ cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup raisins
½ cup finely chopped walnuts-
 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13x9x2 inches, or 2 round layer pans, 8 or 9x1 ½ inches. Measure all ingredients into large mixer bow. Blend ½ minute on low speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).
- Bake oblong or bundt pan 60 - 65 minutes, layers 45 - 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Put topping on warm cake:

1/4 cup soft butter 
2/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup finely chopped nuts
2 Tbsp milk
- Mix thoroughly butter, brown sugar and nuts. Stir in milk. Spread mixture evenly over warm 13x9-inch cake. Set oven control at broil and/or 550 degrees. Place cake 5 inches from heat and broil about 3 minutes or until topping bubbles and browns slightly. (Watch carefully--mixture burns easily.) Note: it only took a minute and a half in my stove.
What did you do this summer?