The Sweetest Crumb

Archive of ‘Recipes and Food Adventures’ category

Fig Compote and Goat Cheese Crostinis

Hi, friends!

As many of you know, I work in public accounting. By default, that means April is busy. To make things even busier, I am part of our personal tax pool at work – essentially preparing personal taxes for the whole month. This translates to 11 or 12 hour work days all month. I actually really enjoy personal taxes, love the change for a month and interacting closely with clients. However the hours are tiring, especially with 3 months of our busiest season already behind me… So I apologize if my blog posts have not been as frequent lately.

If you’re as stretched for time as me, you are probably always on the hunt for quick (but delicious) recipes. This fig compote is amazing. Our fantastic instructor, Erin Howe, shared it with us at the NAIT Valentine’s Day cooking class and I have made it for so many people since.

The compote is so simple to make – you take dried figs, brown sugar, red wine and thyme and reduce the mixture until the majority of the wine has been simmered off and the mixture thickens.

Once the mixture cools, add a bit of good quality balsamic vinegar. During the class, we used Dark Chocolate balsamic vinegar from Evoolution in Edmonton and it definitely made a strong impression on me. The rich, sweet cocoa flavour pairs perfectly with the figs and goat cheese! When I was re-creating the appetizer on my own, I decided not to skimp out on the balsamic and stopped by Evoolution to pick up a bottle of the chocolate goodness. That was my first time in Evoolution and I was in heaven! This cute boutique store specializes in olive oil, vinegars and salts and carries everything from traditional flavours to exotic ones like coconut, truffle and blackberry ginger. Oh yea, and did I mention they’re a tasting bar? Yup, you can just go in, try a dozen flavours and get inspired for your next food adventure – truly a foodie’s heaven! ;)

Ok, back to the fig compote… after you add the balsamic, your compote is ready to serve on baguette bread with goat cheese and fresh thyme. It’s so easy and a great appetizer for entertaining or having friends over for a movie night.

Fig Compote and Goat Cheese Crostinis

IMG_2069

By Genia Rodnyansky Published: April 6, 2013

    Hi, friends! As many of you know, I work in public accounting. By default, that means April is busy. To make things even busier, I …

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup dried figs chopped
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup red wine
    • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme plus more for garnish
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
    • goat cheese
    • baguette
    • olive oil

    Instructions

    1. Combine figs, brown sugar, wine and thyme in a small saucepot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens. The mixture will continue to thicken once it cools.
    2. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature. Add in the balsamic vinegar.
    3. Drizzle your baguette with olive oil and bake until light golden. Spread goat cheese on each baguette slice, top with compote and garnish with lots of fresh thyme.

      Butternut Squash Gnocchi and Lots of Other Things

      Happy Sunday, friends!

      I’ve been wanting to give homemade gnocchi a try for quite a while now. However, the process of making any sort of dumpling is time consuming and not just something you quickly throw together for a fast weeknight dinner. So… a couple of weekends ago, me and Sean decided to have my best friend, Tasha, over for a nice homemade butternut squash gnocchi dinner. We decided to pair the gnocchi with pork meatballs and kale and serve a green salad to start. Tasha was bringing the wine :)

      gnoc·chi - thick, soft dumplings made traditionally with flour and potato but can also be made with squash, cheese, spinach, etc.

      We also decided to go all out and purchase the best ingredients we could find – buying local, organic pork and organic, tasty squash from Blush Lane Organic Market and our cheese from the Italian Centre Shop. We even bough this fancy butter to use in our sauce – apparently it was listed in Saveur Magazine’s “World’s 30 Great Butters” list (who knew there were best butter lists?!). I felt like I had spent my whole paycheque on organic, quality ingredients and Tasha joked that she would have to bring a $2,000 bottle of wine to pair with this dinner :)

      We may have been a little over-ambitious in our undertakings (between getting groceries and cooking everything, it took us from about 4pm until almost 9pm). However, everything turned out delicious in the end (although there were a few points in the night where we really questioned how things were going).

      So here is a recap of our dinner adventures that night.

      To start I quickly assembled a green salad with oranges (blood and tangelo), walnuts and basil. I drizzled the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Considering the gnocchi is very filling, the salad was light and refreshing.

      We used this recipe from T’s Tasty Bits for the pork meatballs, kale and sauce. The sauce was a bit too runny for our liking so we added only 1/2 of the required chicken stock. The meatballs were fantastic – adding parmesan and nutmeg really made them flavourful and perfect to pair with gnocchi.

      For the kale, remember to sprinkle copious amounts of table salt on the leaves and let sit for at least 15 minutes before rinsing – this will get rid of the bitterness which is characteristic of kale. Make sure to rinse off all the salt carefully before cooking as it easily gets in between the curved leaves.

      Now for the gnocchi… First we roasted our delicious squash – sprinkled with sea salt, pepper and drizzled with olive oil before baking.

      Then we mashed the squash using a potato masher (we also used a hand held blender to speed up the process). The recipe I had suggested using only 1 cup of flour for a 2lb squash. Thinking that this didn’t sound like it would make enough gnocchi (and I love having leftovers!), we doubled the recipe. After actually adding the recommended amount of flour, I realized the dough was still much too runny – so runny that there was no hope of possibly rolling the dough into ropes and forming gnocchi with it. After some troubleshooting and frazzled online research, I realized that other recipes suggested using much more flour to make a workable dough. After adjusting the dough by adding more and more flour, I had a workable dough (and probably enough of it to feed the whole block… I was regretting doubling the recipe now…). I have posted the approximate ingredient amounts we ended up using below. However, these are just approximations and will vary depending on the size and moisture of your squash. The finished dough will still be quite sticky, will pull away from the bowl when mixing and can be shaped into ropes with generously floured hands and floured surface. The seasonings should also be adjusted to suit your taste.

      The dough was then divided into smaller sections are rolled into ropes about 2cm thick. Each was cut into small section and pressed down with the tines of a floured fork.

      We cooked the gnocchi in salted, boiling water. Once the dumplings float to the top in just a few minutes, they are done!

      We combined the gnocchi with the sauce, meatballs and kale as per this recipe. We garnished the gnocchi with spiced pumpkin seeds (from Blush Lane Organic Market of course) and freshly grated parmesan cheese. In the end, it was well worth the effort!

      Has anyone else tried making butternut squash gnocchi? What about tradiitonal potatoe gnocchi? Any tips you’d like to share?

      Butternut squash gnocchi dough

      By Genia Rodnyansky Published: March 24, 2013

        Happy Sunday, friends! I've been wanting to give homemade gnocchi a try for quite a while now. However, the process of making any …

        Ingredients

        • 1 butternut squash about 2 lb
        • 2 egg yolks
        • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese
        • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
        • 1/2 tsp salt
        • 1/4 tsp pepper
        • 2 1/4 + cups all-purpose flour

        Instructions

        1. Slice your squash lengthwise, seed, and cut into smaller sections. Roast at 400F until the squash is soft, about 20 - 30 minutes. Remove the squash from the skin, mash until smooth and let cool.
        2. Add egg yolks, cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the squash and mix until combined.
        3. Next gradually add the flour to the squash - you may need either more or less flour to form a dough of the right consistency. Begin by adding 1 1/2 cups of flour and add about 1/2 cup at a time thereafter. Mix after each addition until combined. The dough is ready when it begins pulling away from the bowl. Butternut squash dough will still be quite sticky when ready - you will need to roll it on a floured surface with floured hands.
        4. Divide dough into smaller sections. Use floured hands and a floured surface to roll into ropes, about 2cm thick. Cut each rope into small cushions and use a floured fork to press down each cushion slightly.
        5. Cook immediately in boiling water - when the cushions float to the top, they are done. The formed gnocchi can also be easily frozen.

          Butternut Squash Gnocchi and Lots of Other Things

          Happy Sunday, friends!

          I’ve been wanting to give homemade gnocchi a try for quite a while now. However, the process of making any sort of dumpling is time consuming and not just something you quickly throw together for a fast weeknight dinner. So… a couple of weekends ago, me and Sean decided to have my best friend, Tasha, over for a nice homemade butternut squash gnocchi dinner. We decided to pair the gnocchi with pork meatballs and kale and serve a green salad to start. Tasha was bringing the wine :)

          gnoc·chi - thick, soft dumplings made traditionally with flour and potato but can also be made with squash, cheese, spinach, etc.

          We also decided to go all out and purchase the best ingredients we could find – buying local, organic pork and organic, tasty squash from Blush Lane Organic Market and our cheese from the Italian Centre Shop. We even bough this fancy butter to use in our sauce – apparently it was listed in Saveur Magazine’s “World’s 30 Great Butters” list (who knew there were best butter lists?!). I felt like I had spent my whole paycheque on organic, quality ingredients and Tasha joked that she would have to bring a $2,000 bottle of wine to pair with this dinner :)

          We may have been a little over-ambitious in our undertakings (between getting groceries and cooking everything, it took us from about 4pm until almost 9pm). However, everything turned out delicious in the end (although there were a few points in the night where we really questioned how things were going).

          So here is a recap of our dinner adventures that night.

          To start I quickly assembled a green salad with oranges (blood and tangelo), walnuts and basil. I drizzled the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Considering the gnocchi is very filling, the salad was light and refreshing.

          We used this recipe from T’s Tasty Bits for the pork meatballs, kale and sauce. The sauce was a bit too runny for our liking so we added only 1/2 of the required chicken stock. The meatballs were fantastic – adding parmesan and nutmeg really made them flavourful and perfect to pair with gnocchi.

          For the kale, remember to sprinkle copious amounts of table salt on the leaves and let sit for at least 15 minutes before rinsing – this will get rid of the bitterness which is characteristic of kale. Make sure to rinse off all the salt carefully before cooking as it easily gets in between the curved leaves.

          Now for the gnocchi… First we roasted our delicious squash – sprinkled with sea salt, pepper and drizzled with olive oil before baking.

          Then we mashed the squash using a potato masher (we also used a hand held blender to speed up the process). The recipe I had suggested using only 1 cup of flour for a 2lb squash. Thinking that this didn’t sound like it would make enough gnocchi (and I love having leftovers!), we doubled the recipe. After actually adding the recommended amount of flour, I realized the dough was still much too runny – so runny that there was no hope of possibly rolling the dough into ropes and forming gnocchi with it. After some troubleshooting and frazzled online research, I realized that other recipes suggested using much more flour to make a workable dough. After adjusting the dough by adding more and more flour, I had a workable dough (and probably enough of it to feed the whole block… I was regretting doubling the recipe now…). I have posted the approximate ingredient amounts we ended up using below. However, these are just approximations and will vary depending on the size and moisture of your squash. The finished dough will still be quite sticky, will pull away from the bowl when mixing and can be shaped into ropes with generously floured hands and floured surface. The seasonings should also be adjusted to suit your taste.

          The dough was then divided into smaller sections are rolled into ropes about 2cm thick. Each was cut into small section and pressed down with the tines of a floured fork.

          We cooked the gnocchi in salted, boiling water. Once the dumplings float to the top in just a few minutes, they are done!

          We combined the gnocchi with the sauce, meatballs and kale as per this recipe. We garnished the gnocchi with spiced pumpkin seeds (from Blush Lane Organic Market of course) and freshly grated parmesan cheese. In the end, it was well worth the effort!

          Has anyone else tried making butternut squash gnocchi? What about tradiitonal potatoe gnocchi? Any tips you’d like to share?

          Butternut squash gnocchi dough

          By Genia Rodnyansky Published: March 24, 2013

            Happy Sunday, friends! I've been wanting to give homemade gnocchi a try for quite a while now. However, the process of making any …

            Ingredients

            • 1 butternut squash about 2 lb
            • 2 egg yolks
            • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese
            • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
            • 1/2 tsp salt
            • 1/4 tsp pepper
            • 2 1/4 + cups all-purpose flour

            Instructions

            1. Slice your squash lengthwise, seed, and cut into smaller sections. Roast at 400F until the squash is soft, about 20 - 30 minutes. Remove the squash from the skin, mash until smooth and let cool.
            2. Add egg yolks, cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the squash and mix until combined.
            3. Next gradually add the flour to the squash - you may need either more or less flour to form a dough of the right consistency. Begin by adding 1 1/2 cups of flour and add about 1/2 cup at a time thereafter. Mix after each addition until combined. The dough is ready when it begins pulling away from the bowl. Butternut squash dough will still be quite sticky when ready - you will need to roll it on a floured surface with floured hands.
            4. Divide dough into smaller sections. Use floured hands and a floured surface to roll into ropes, about 2cm thick. Cut each rope into small cushions and use a floured fork to press down each cushion slightly.
            5. Cook immediately in boiling water - when the cushions float to the top, they are done. The formed gnocchi can also be easily frozen.

              Mountains and Granola

              Happy Tuesday, everyone!

              I spent the weekend in the mountains (which is why there was no usual weekend post). Sean took me to Jasper National Park as a congratulations gift for passing the UFE (giant, horrible accounting exam) in December (we couldn’t get away until now).

              We stayed at the Overlander Mountain Lodge. It was our second time staying at this hotel and we absolutely love it. The view from our hotel room was gorgeous!

              We spent the weekend snow-shoeing, building snowmen and just relaxing.

              Ok now let’s talk food. First of all we had several great dinners (which I will probably blog about later). Second of all… what goes better with snow shoeing and hiking in the mountains than granola!

              This is another recipe from Oh She Glows. I feel like I’ve been obsessed with her blog lately. Everything is easy to make, healthy and delicious… just like this buckwheat granola.

              The granola is made without oats and with buckwheat instead. Ok, right off the bat I have to tell you guys that I used to hate buckwheat as a kid, so I was skeptical. However, I only recently found out that raw buckwheat groats are different from buckwheat kasha (which is toasted and has a strong, nutty taste). I realized that buckwheat kasha is what I really don’t like. The raw groats are actually quite pleasant and made a delicious granola.

              I love that this granola uses almond pulp, leftover from making almond milk. I used home-made applesauce in mine as well as honey to sweeten (instead of coconut nectar). I also used coconut sugar. This was my first time using it and I loved it. It had a great, caramel-like flavour to it and was less sweet than granulated sugar.

              Overall the granola was great and delicious with almond milk or yogurt. Give it a try :)

               

              Home Made Oreo Cookies

              Happy middle of the week!

              I feel like I burnt myself out a little this past weekend. Having been out of town for a while, I felt deprived of home cooked meals and may have overcompensated for it by cooking up a storm this weekend. All in all, I was still trying to finish up in the kitchen at 10:30pm on Sunday night. Some of the things I made: home made butternut squash gnocchi with pork meatballs and kale, 3 batches of almond milk, buckwheat granola (so good!) and these cute little home made Oreo cookies!

              The cookie recipe came from my recently acquired Bouchon Bakery book.

              The cookies are essentially chocolate shortbread with a white chocolate ganache filling. They are a bazillion times better than store bought Oreos (but I may be biased since I don’t like store bought ones to begin with). I think the success of these cookies comes from using really good quality cocoa. I used Valrhona cocoa which I purchased from Provisions by Duchess in Edmonton. The result was a very rich chocolate taste – definitely worth using a fancier cocoa. The recipe talks about using Guittard Cocoa Noir which makes a really dark, almost black cookie. Since I didn’t have this cocoa and wasn’t overly concerned with the colour of my Oreos, I opted out of searching for the Cocoa Noir. Either way, I think my batch turned out dark and pretty.

              Before you guys jump right into making these cookies… a word of warning. This isn’t a recipe where you just combine everything in a bowl and throw it in the oven. I found the dough was very sensitive to temperature changes and I was constantly chilling the dough, having it warm up too much and become too soft, chilling again, etc. etc. So be prepared to spend some time running back and forth from the fridge or freezer. Same thing goes for the ganache filling – I found that it was a bit difficult to work with, would warm up in the piping bag in my hands and become too runny very quickly. I tried to work in small batches and keep the filling from overheating.

              Also, I know that salt brings out the other flavours in baking, but I found the salt content a bit too high for my taste in these cookies so the recipe I’ve posted has been adjusted a bit.

              The ingredients in the recipe are listed in very specific gram amounts… like 161 grams. I really believe that using your kitchen scale to accurately measure ingredients makes a huge difference in your final product. And the Bouchon Bakery book has a whole section on the merits of measuring ingredients – if the professionals say its worthwhile… it must be true :) However, since some kitchen scales (such as my own) can’t accurately measure very small weights, I have provided the approximate volumes for a few of the really small weights below.

              Home Made Oreo Cookies

              IMG_2023

              By Genia Rodnyansky Published: March 12, 2013

                Happy middle of the week! I feel like I burnt myself out a little this past weekend. Having been out of town for a while, I felt …

                Ingredients

                • 125 grams white chocolate 35% cocoa, chopped
                • 15 grams butter unsalted
                • 125 grams whipping cream
                • 259 grams flour
                • 87 grams cocoa good quality ie. Valrhona
                • 1.6 grams baking soda (3/8 tsp)
                • 227 grams butter unsalted
                • 1.5 grams salt (1/2 tsp)
                • 161 grams granulated sugar

                Instructions

                1. Begin by making the ganache filling. Melt the white chocolate and 15 grams of butter together over low heat. Meanwhile bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and add the whipping cream. Mix until smooth. If there are any lumps, return to very low heat and mix until smooth. Cover and chill the ganache for a minimum of 4 hours.
                2. Next, start the shortbread. Measure out the flour into a bowl. Sift in the cocoa and baking soda.
                3. Place the 227 grams butter into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add in the salt and mix for a few seconds. Add in granulated sugar and beat until fluffy.
                4. Add the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture in two additions. Mix on low speed after each addition until fully combined.
                5. Once the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer and shape the dough into two square discs. Chill until firm - about 1 hours.
                6. Once the dough is chilled, preheat oven to 325F. Doll out the disc of dough between two sheets of parchment until it is about 1/8" thick. At this point, the dough will likely have softened. Return the rolled dough to fridge.
                7. Once chilled, use a round or fluted cutter of your choice to cut out cookies. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined tray, leaving about 3/4" between cookies. Chill the tray once again before baking for 15 minutes or until cookies are firm. Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the trays midway. The cookies will be done when they are fragrant and small cracks appear on the surface.
                8. Once the cookies are fully cooled, transfer ganache to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix with a paddle attachment until the mixture is smooth and thickens. Transfer ganache to a pastry bag. Pipe filling onto the half the cookies. Use another cookie to place on top of the filling. Press down slightly to create a sandwich.
                9. Enjoy your cookies! They can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge and are delicious dipped in (almond) milk.

                  Home Made Oreo Cookies

                  Happy middle of the week!

                  I feel like I burnt myself out a little this past weekend. Having been out of town for a while, I felt deprived of home cooked meals and may have overcompensated for it by cooking up a storm this weekend. All in all, I was still trying to finish up in the kitchen at 10:30pm on Sunday night. Some of the things I made: home made butternut squash gnocchi with pork meatballs and kale, 3 batches of almond milk, buckwheat granola (so good!) and these cute little home made Oreo cookies!

                  The cookie recipe came from my recently acquired Bouchon Bakery book.

                  The cookies are essentially chocolate shortbread with a white chocolate ganache filling. They are a bazillion times better than store bought Oreos (but I may be biased since I don’t like store bought ones to begin with). I think the success of these cookies comes from using really good quality cocoa. I used Valrhona cocoa which I purchased from Provisions by Duchess in Edmonton. The result was a very rich chocolate taste – definitely worth using a fancier cocoa. The recipe talks about using Guittard Cocoa Noir which makes a really dark, almost black cookie. Since I didn’t have this cocoa and wasn’t overly concerned with the colour of my Oreos, I opted out of searching for the Cocoa Noir. Either way, I think my batch turned out dark and pretty.

                  Before you guys jump right into making these cookies… a word of warning. This isn’t a recipe where you just combine everything in a bowl and throw it in the oven. I found the dough was very sensitive to temperature changes and I was constantly chilling the dough, having it warm up too much and become too soft, chilling again, etc. etc. So be prepared to spend some time running back and forth from the fridge or freezer. Same thing goes for the ganache filling – I found that it was a bit difficult to work with, would warm up in the piping bag in my hands and become too runny very quickly. I tried to work in small batches and keep the filling from overheating.

                  Also, I know that salt brings out the other flavours in baking, but I found the salt content a bit too high for my taste in these cookies so the recipe I’ve posted has been adjusted a bit.

                  The ingredients in the recipe are listed in very specific gram amounts… like 161 grams. I really believe that using your kitchen scale to accurately measure ingredients makes a huge difference in your final product. And the Bouchon Bakery book has a whole section on the merits of measuring ingredients – if the professionals say its worthwhile… it must be true :) However, since some kitchen scales (such as my own) can’t accurately measure very small weights, I have provided the approximate volumes for a few of the really small weights below.

                  Home Made Oreo Cookies

                  IMG_2023

                  By Genia Rodnyansky Published: March 12, 2013

                    Happy middle of the week! I feel like I burnt myself out a little this past weekend. Having been out of town for a while, I felt …

                    Ingredients

                    • 125 grams white chocolate 35% cocoa, chopped
                    • 15 grams butter unsalted
                    • 125 grams whipping cream
                    • 259 grams flour
                    • 87 grams cocoa good quality ie. Valrhona
                    • 1.6 grams baking soda (3/8 tsp)
                    • 227 grams butter unsalted
                    • 1.5 grams salt (1/2 tsp)
                    • 161 grams granulated sugar

                    Instructions

                    1. Begin by making the ganache filling. Melt the white chocolate and 15 grams of butter together over low heat. Meanwhile bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and add the whipping cream. Mix until smooth. If there are any lumps, return to very low heat and mix until smooth. Cover and chill the ganache for a minimum of 4 hours.
                    2. Next, start the shortbread. Measure out the flour into a bowl. Sift in the cocoa and baking soda.
                    3. Place the 227 grams butter into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add in the salt and mix for a few seconds. Add in granulated sugar and beat until fluffy.
                    4. Add the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture in two additions. Mix on low speed after each addition until fully combined.
                    5. Once the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer and shape the dough into two square discs. Chill until firm - about 1 hours.
                    6. Once the dough is chilled, preheat oven to 325F. Doll out the disc of dough between two sheets of parchment until it is about 1/8" thick. At this point, the dough will likely have softened. Return the rolled dough to fridge.
                    7. Once chilled, use a round or fluted cutter of your choice to cut out cookies. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined tray, leaving about 3/4" between cookies. Chill the tray once again before baking for 15 minutes or until cookies are firm. Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the trays midway. The cookies will be done when they are fragrant and small cracks appear on the surface.
                    8. Once the cookies are fully cooled, transfer ganache to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix with a paddle attachment until the mixture is smooth and thickens. Transfer ganache to a pastry bag. Pipe filling onto the half the cookies. Use another cookie to place on top of the filling. Press down slightly to create a sandwich.
                    9. Enjoy your cookies! They can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge and are delicious dipped in (almond) milk.

                      Almond Milk

                      Have you guys tried making home-made almond milk? It is absolutely delicious!

                      I use this recipe from Oh She Glows. Angela does such a good job explaining the method and taking great step-by-step photos that there’s really no need for me to re-create them here.

                      I only made a few modifications to the method on Oh She Glows. I used a cheesecloth instead of using a nut milk bag (partly because a “nut bag” just sounds ridiculous and partly because I had no idea where to find one). The cheesecloth worked flawlessly – I doubled it to make sure the milk was extra smooth. I also did not add a whole vanilla bean but instead used just the seeds of the bean. I ended up soaking my almonds for closer to 18 hours – I’ve read that you should soak them for 12 – 24 hours for best results, so don’t worry about over-soaking.

                      The end result was perfect, creamy milk. It was so frothy and filled with goodness.

                      I’ve never been a huge fan of dairy products. I don’t drink milk and have yet to find a store-bought milk substitute I enjoy. But this stuff is amazing! I would gladly drink it on a regular basis and am actually going to make another batch tomorrow. It is so easy to make and surprisingly creamy and satisfying. Plus its a natural source of so many nutrients and a dairy-free source of calcium.

                      Enjoy your almond milk!

                      Almond Milk

                      Have you guys tried making home-made almond milk? It is absolutely delicious!

                      I use this recipe from Oh She Glows. Angela does such a good job explaining the method and taking great step-by-step photos that there’s really no need for me to re-create them here.

                      I only made a few modifications to the method on Oh She Glows. I used a cheesecloth instead of using a nut milk bag (partly because a “nut bag” just sounds ridiculous and partly because I had no idea where to find one). The cheesecloth worked flawlessly – I doubled it to make sure the milk was extra smooth. I also did not add a whole vanilla bean but instead used just the seeds of the bean. I ended up soaking my almonds for closer to 18 hours – I’ve read that you should soak them for 12 – 24 hours for best results, so don’t worry about over-soaking.

                      The end result was perfect, creamy milk. It was so frothy and filled with goodness.

                      I’ve never been a huge fan of dairy products. I don’t drink milk and have yet to find a store-bought milk substitute I enjoy. But this stuff is amazing! I would gladly drink it on a regular basis and am actually going to make another batch tomorrow. It is so easy to make and surprisingly creamy and satisfying. Plus its a natural source of so many nutrients and a dairy-free source of calcium.

                      Enjoy your almond milk!

                      Kitchen Tips… from Small Town Alberta

                      Hello friends!

                      How is everyone’s week so far? I am currently in my hotel room, in a small Albertan town, taking a break from work… Sadly, the closest thing to an oven in my hotel is the low-quality coffee maker, so there will be no baking here. However, I have a few baking tips to share with you guys today:

                      1. Become besties with your kitchen scale 

                      I’ve had several people ask if using a scale really makes a difference. Well, that depends on what you do in your kitchen. If you mainly make recipes where you eyeball how much of each ingredient to add, then having a scale will probably not change your life. However, if you’re planning on pursuing baking further, maybe trying some more complicated recipes, then yes, a kitchen scale is totally worth it! Even for relatively simple recipes, scaling your ingredients will make a huge difference. The same ingredient ie. flour can weigh a significantly different amount depending on the type and how its packed or scooped. Having the wrong amount can really impact how your final product will turn out and the only way to ensure you have a precise amount in your recipe is to use a kitchen scale. This becomes infinitely more important when making delicate sweets like macarons, eclairs, etc. Plus, using a scale makes clean up in the kitchen way easier since you can measure everything into one bowl and just tare the scale in between.

                      If you’re in the market for a good scale, there are plenty available. I love my Cuisinart one but I’m sure other similar brands are just as good. You can get them at Kitchen stores or department stores and won’t need to spend more than about $40-$50 for a reliable scale – money well spent if you ask me!

                      2. Calibrate your oven

                      I’m sure you have heard this a million times, but each oven is different (just like snowflakes)! And nothing is more frustrating than working really hard to make the perfect batter or dough, only to have your product end up burnt. So to avoid all that frustration, I recommend calibrating your oven. A great tip I read on oven calibration was from the Bouchon Bakery book, which recommended buying some ready to bake biscuits, cookies etc. and baking them in your oven exactly as per the package instructions. Those doughs are extensively tested so the baking times should be very precise.

                      I’ve actually been having problems with my oven lately… sometimes it heats up too much and other times it seems like it’s not even on so I decided to do a calibration last weekend. I got some ready to bake croissants, which before I go on, I need to say that they were awful! Who would buy these? They were salty and bitter and whatever fat was used to make them just tasted terrible – avoid buying them other than for calibration purposes. The instructions indicated that they should be ready in 17 minutes. After baking for 17 minutes they were overdone – the picture might not show it that well but the bottoms and corners were borderline burnt. So I know that in general I should set my oven to a bit of a lower temperature or reduce the baking time.

                      Another oven tip from Bouchon was to ensure your oven was fully and evenly heated before baking. This is complete when the oven has cycled on and off three times. If you don’t want to stand by your oven and watch the temperature increasing and decreasing, then turn on the oven and set a timer for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, the oven will be fully and evenly heated and will have cycled 3 times. Make sure to do this before calibrating your oven.

                      3. Measure temperatures

                       

                      Just like scaling, measuring temperatures becomes increasingly more important when you start working with more complicated recipes. A professional food thermometer is super handy when making macarons, caramel, meringues, etc. I would say that at about $50 this is another great investment you won’t regret making. Plus, you can use food thermometers to ensure your meat is perfectly cooked so I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use out of it.

                      4. Practice “Mise en Place”  

                      I have heard this term used so much lately – in cooking classes, books, TV, etc. Its a French term which means “everything in place.” When you guys cook or bake does the kitchen ever end up looking like a disaster zone? I have to admit, this happens to me a lot! Well, “mise en place” is supposed to prevent that. It involves being organized before you begin. Read through the recipes carefully before starting off to make sure you are familiar with all the steps and have everything you need. Arrange all your ingredients so they are ready, washed, chopped, etc. When you are done with something, put it away to avoid unnecessary clutter. I definitely need to keep working at this, but its a good goal to strive for. Having an organized kitchen keeps you from making mistakes during baking or making a mess and having to deal with the aftermath.

                      Weekend and Salad Rolls

                      Happy Sunday!

                      How is everyone’s weekend? I’m trying to make the most of mine since I will be off to small town Alberta starting tomorrow for 2 weeks of work. Last night, some friends had us over for a fantastic beer tasting! They prepared 10 beers for us to taste and each was of a different style: lager, india pale ale, porter, stout, etc. Each beer was selected because it provides a good representation of that style of beer. I am no beer connoisseur by any means, but had a great time tasting the beer and deciding which styles I liked and which I wanted to avoid. My favourites of the night included:

                      • Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen (German wheat beer)
                      • Wild Rose Hoptimal (Double India Pale Ale from Calgary, Alberta)
                      • Het Anker Gouden Carolus Tripel (Belgian Tripel)

                      If anyone needs some beer recommendations, check out our friends’ blog!

                      After that we headed over to the Parka Party at Latitude 53 to meet up with some friends and hang out on the outdoor winter patio. It was a great time and I love seeing events in Edmonton which celebrate our winters.

                      Now for something a bit more healthy, and that won’t leave you with a hangover headache like the one I am currently dealing with ;)

                      I LOVE salad rolls! What can be better than all those fresh ingredients, wrapped in soft rice paper and served with peanut sauce? They are so easy to make – the most time consuming part is just cutting up all the fillings. And let me tell you, the homemade ones are just as good, if not better, than restaurant rolls.

                      I made two varieties of rolls.
                      The first was a traditional roll made with: shrimp (cooked by simmering at about 165ºF with lemon, peppercorn, parsley and a bit of salt and sugar), vermicelli noodles, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, basil, cilantro and mint.

                      The second roll was filled with: chicken (pan-fried with Asian Five Spice sauce), mango, avacado, vermicelli noodles, lettuce, crushed cashews, basil, mint and cilantro.

                      I took the rice paper sheets, one at a time, and submerged them into warm water for a few seconds until they turned malleable. I took them out of the water, carefully wiped them off of excess water and laid them on a flat surface to fill, roll and seal.

                      The end result was a bunch of delicious, perfect salad rolls.

                      I served them with peanut sauce we purchased from the Asian supermarket but next time I will try this recipe from Oh She Glows. I’m sure it will be fantastic since it comes highly recommended by my friend, Sarah, who has a great blog on leading a healthy lifestyle.

                      Have a good week, guys!