The Sweetest Crumb

Kitchen Skills 1 – Day 2

The second day of Kitchen Skills 1 proved to be great just like the first!

The class focused on making fancy sandwiches. If you’ve been to high tea, you know exactly what I mean – those cute little sandwiches, cut into appetizing, geometric shapes. We used our newly acquired mayo-making skills to whip up a few varieties of mayo for our sandwiches (dill-lemon and garlic-dijon) and after some demonstrations were let loose to create our own fancy sandwiches.

Next we used our handmade Caesar dressing from last class to make the most delicious chicken Cajun wraps. We pan fried the chicken to let it brown nicely on the outside and let it finish in the oven. A great tip we got on determining the doneness of meat without having to probe with a meat thermometer is to use the finger test.

Last thing we did was make a tasty olive tapenade. Let me just say that I almost never bring sandwiches to work – they are like a boring, last resort lunch for me. But, thanks to this delicious olive tapenade I’m looking forward to my sandwich lunch tomorrow!

Yup it was a great second class of Kitchen Skills and I can’t wait for the third (and sadly last) class on Tuesday.

Kitchen Skills 1 – First Day

Since I love taking cooking and baking classes, I registered a while back to take Kitchen Skills 1 at NAIT. The Kitchen Skills series is a set of 5 courses which takes you through from basic knife skills to sauces to meats (with a bunch of stuff in between). To be honest, the first course did not sound very appealing to me. It covers knife skills, dressings and cold appetizers – how hard can it be to chop some stuff and make a sandwich? Well… yesterday was the first class and I completely loved it!

Here is an overview of some things that were covered:

We quickly covered some basic knife skills and standard cuts (a lot of carrots, celery and leeks were hurt in the process).

We used a chiffonade cut on some lettuce and tried our hand at fluting mushrooms…

I cannot emphasize enough the difference a good quality knife makes and can’t wait to go buy a new high quality chef’s knife and sharpening stone after this class. Tip for anyone looking for a new knife: a sign of a good quality knife is that the blade runs through the entire length of the knife (ie. through the handle).

We learned a handy trick to use a spoon to remove the skin off ginger – so much easier than using a paring knife!

And my absolutely favourite part of yesterday’s class…. was making mayo from scratch! It was so easy and surprisingly satisfying. Why would anyone buy mayo when you could just whip it up so quickly. I love knowing what’s in the food I’m eating and knowing it is completely free from those gross preservatives. And even though I am not generally a huge fan of mayo in general, my mind couldn’t help racing through different variations I could make at home (chipotle mayo mmmm).

Then, with a few simple additions, we turned our mayo into delicious Caesar dressing. Ok, I know it looks completely boring in these photos, but I promise it was great – filled with capers, anchovies and parmesan!

Overall, day 1 was a success. I am loving the course and the instructor is awesome. I definitely recommend it to any foodies out there. Are these any cooking classes that you guys have taken and loved?

 

Tea Obsession

I have a confession to make…

 …I’m obsessed with tea!

I have more than 40 kinds (neatly organized by level of caffeine) and love them all. I am not a coffee drinker, but instead could easily drink 3 or 4 cups of tea daily. I love the health benefits of tea and the variety of flavours. There’s nothing like finding the perfect cup of tea for your mood, whether its a hot steeped cup of cream of earl grey with milk and vanilla or a refreshing iced lemongrass tea with honey. Today, since I’ve been feeling a bit off, I brewed a perfect cup of genmaicha green tea. Hopefully all those antioxidants kick in to make me feel better!

Genmaicha (Green Tea)

This is by far my favourite green tea (and the one I use to make seabuckthorn tea). It’s a Japanese tea which is often served at sushi restaurants. The tea is a mixture of green tea leaves and toasted brown rice. Some of the rice kernels are popped which makes them look like tiny pieces of popcorn. I usually get this tea from Davids Tea but it’s very popular and you can find it at many places, including Asian grocery stores.

It brews a nice yellow or light green colour and tastes smooth with a mild nutty flavour from the toasted rice. I had my cup plain today but it is also good with honey or lemon. It should steep for about 2 -3 minutes and like all green tea, should be made with water that is about 80°C. Boiling water is too hot for green teas.

Red Wine Poached Pears

I had an interesting day today…

Last night I had a meeting for a green initiative volunteer group I am part of and somewhere midst leaving work, going to the meeting and getting home I realized I lost my keys. To make things worse, amongst those keys was one for my locker at work which is where I left my work laptop safely locked up last night. And to top it all off, my locker happened to be the only one out of about 70 that the office just didn’t have a spare key for. Of course this happens during our busy season and not on a day when I can afford to take the morning off from work. So embarrassingly enough, we had to have a locksmith come in and rescue my laptop so I could keep working. Great morning…

However, by evening things had improved. I went absolutely EVERYWHERE I could have possibly left my keys and ended up finding them – in a snowbank outside the house we had our meeting at last night (they must have fallen out as I got out of the car). After being reunited with my keys, I still had time to squeeze in a Moksha yoga class and then got home to a delicious meal of Slow Cooker Pork and Apples from Eat Live Run. So the day really turned around in the end.

Now that I am very content after dinner and yoga, with my keys in sight, I want to share these delicious red wine poached pears I made over the Christmas holidays. I got the recipe from my Home Made cookbook by Yvette van Boven. This book is one of my favourites right now and has recipes for everything from preserving vegetables to making your own ketchup!

But back to the pears….They are made by cooking ripe pears in red wine and delicious spices over low heat.

(more…)

Rum and Coke Cupcakes

How’s everyone’s weekend so far? Even though I only had a 3 day week at work, I was so exhausted by Friday. My biggest wish was just to get an early bedtime after watching an episode of Dr. Who (which has become my guilty pleasure lately). But now that I’m rejuvenated after sufficient sleep… I’m ready to share the rum and coke cupcake recipe I made for New Years!

Cupcakes! Yum!

I used a recipe I found for Jack and Coke cupcakes and altered it a bit, using rum instead (since I’m not a huge fan of Jack nor did I have any on hand). I also used a different icing recipe since I have a buttercream frosting recipe I have made dozens of times and know it makes perfect frosting.

The cupcakes were absolutely delicious! They are chocolatey cake (with the cola in it), filled with ganache (which is a creamy, smooth mixture of chocolate and cream, but this ganache also had rum in it) and topped with buttercream frosting (with more rum). However, despite being possibly the most delicious cupcakes I have made to date, I found they didn’t taste like cola and even the rum flavour wasn’t that strong. I think next time I would try using a rum extract as well as actual rum to increase the flavour. Either way these were decadent cupcakes which I will be making again. My favourite part was filling them with ganache inside which made me question why I don’t fill cupcakes with delicious fillings more often?! I will definitely need to start doing that more!

(more…)

Yoga and Cake

I just got back from a Moksha yoga class and it felt so good to be able to sweat and de-stress after work. I don’t really make New Years resolutions but I figured the new year would be a good time to think about my priorities. While I really love exercising, especially yoga and boxing, too often other responsibilities and commitments get in the way. I’ve caught myself cancelling plans to work out because I’m working late and exhausted. So it’s my goal to make fitness a higher priority this winter. Hopefully I can stick with it!

I could definitely use some more fitness time after eating a bunch of the rum and coke cupcakes I made for New Years. While they didn’t taste at all like coke, and barely tasted like rum, they were super delicious. And really I don’t know how the rum and coke flavour didn’t come out since I am convinced I used lots of both… Anyways, I have left the recipe at my place and am at the boyfriend’s tonight but I will share it soon since the cupcakes really were fantastic (I ate half of one before yoga in my car tonight, hoping that no one would see me). But since the cupcake recipe and photos aren’t with me right now, I figured I would talk about something else we enjoyed over the holidays – the signature Duchess cake from Duchess Bakeshop in Edmonton… amazing!

Ok, perhaps I am slightly biased since I absolutely love everything that comes out of their oven, but, honestly, who wouldn’t? The Duchess is their signature cake and comes in a unique domed shape. It is a chiffon cake with pastry cream, raspberry and vanilla whip cream (where you can clearly see the specks of real vanilla bean) layers. The flavours compliment each other perfectly. The cake isn’t too sweet or heavy which makes it the kind of cake where it’s hard to stop eating… The whole cake is also covered in a layer of green marzipan which makes it look flawless.

So seriously if you guys haven’t tried this awesome cake and are craving something sweet and amazing, give it a try. If you don’t want a whole cake to yourself, there is also a smaller 4″ size. And if you decide to eat it in your car right before yoga, I won’t tell.

Decorating with Royal Icing

Today I wanted to share my love of royal icing! It can be used to transform otherwise plain-looking cookies into those that are personalized, intricate and impressive.

Royal icing is so easy to make and can be tinted using food colouring. Decorating cookies with icing is a great activity for kids too – just put the icing in squeeze bottles (available at baking supply stores) instead of a standard piping bag to make it easier to handle and less messy for kids. Most often, I bake up a batch of sugar cookies for decorating, but you can use other recipes too.

Here are some step-by-step views of the Christmas cookies we decorated this year and the recipe is below:

Snow Globes

Cover the base of the snow globe with red royal icing, sprinkle with red sanding sugar and tap off the excess.
Cover about 1/3 of the bottom of the globe with white royal icing and sprinkle with white nonpareils to look like snow. Shake off any excess.
Flood the remaining top section of the cookie with blue royal icing.
Carefully attach edible decorations of your choice to the icing while still not dry. We used gingerbread men as well as snowflake and heart-shaped sprinkles.

(more…)

Gifts and Guilt

I just got back from a quick trip to Whyte Avenue and have to say that today’s -9°C felt like the warmest day after the cold spell we’ve been having in Edmonton. Now that Christmas is over, and the weather is apparently warming up, I wanted to share some of the great things I got during the holidays from friends, family and my wonderful boyfriend, Sean… So, in no particular order, here they are:

White Jacket Required book – by Jenna Weber

I opened up this book on the 26th and am already done! I am actually a pretty slow reader and this may be the fastest book I’ve ever gotten through (other than perhaps the Harry Potter books which I love) so that must be saying something! I’ve been following Jenna’s blog – Eat Live Run for quite some time and really enjoyed reading about her journey through culinary school as well as the personal struggles she overcame. Since I would love to attend a patisserie program one day, the book definitely appealed to me. I recommend it for anyone interested in pursuing a culinary career, but am also pretty sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed the read nearly as much if I wasn’t already a constant follower of the blog and a big fan of Jenna Weber.

Duchess Supplies – lavender compound, violet/lavender extract, pistachio extract and powdered food colourings

(more…)

Christmas Morning Beet Disaster

Today I had the brilliant idea of making red velvet waffles for Christmas morning breakfast – sounds good, right? Well you should know that the recipe involved pureed beets and quinoa flour. Also, you should know that I hate beets (I know, I’m probably the only Ukrainian out there who doesn’t love beets). But, since I love trying healthy meals and this recipe claimed that you wouldn’t even taste the beets, I thought I would give it a try – it looked great in the photo!

Step 1 was pureeing the beets – this is probably were things started to go wrong…

One more thing… quinoa flour has a bitter, earthy taste to it (which I did not know).

Step 2 was measuring the quinoa flour… that did not improve things

Needless to say, the waffles were largely a flop – you could taste the beets a little but mostly the bitterness of the quinoa flour is what ruined them. It gave the waffles an aftertaste which I just could not get past – the lemon cream cheese icing and the berries we topped them with is really what saved them.

Don’t be fooled – they look much better than they tasted

Afterwards, I read online that the bitterness of quinoa flour can be reduced if you bake your flour in the oven before using it. I also read that the bitterness increases the more fine your flour is – if you grind your own flour, the grain will remain more coarse and should have less bitterness.

Overall… not making this recipe again. However, the beets did give the waffles a great red colour so I still feel there is some hidden potential in the recipe. Does anyone have a red velvet waffle recipe they love? Or had success using beets in unlikely recipes?

Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope you didn’t spend it eating sub-par beet waffles!

 

Christmas is Almost Here

Merry Almost Christmas!

My family has Christmas dinner on the 24th every year so it’s almost time for the festivities to start at my place. Things have been very hectic with shopping and prepping for dinner and guests the last couple days. Also, if you’re from Edmonton, you know that we have been hit with a ton of snow (again) so the roads have been awful. Regardless, while I was out running errands the last few days, I couldn’t help but notice how nice people have been – cars letting each other in, people offering for you to go in front of them in lineups, etc. It definitely put a smile on my face since that’s what Christmas should really be about. Also, we have raised over $2,500 for Mark in Ukraine! I have been very impressed with how kind and generous everyone has been this holiday season.

In the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to share another cookie recipe for the holidays. Sugar cookies are a staple for me. I think they’re great for this time of year (and any time of year) since they make excellent gifts if packaged up in a nice tin. Decorating them can also be really fun with a group of friends or even kids (just put icing in squeeze bottles which makes it easier to handle for kids). For now, I am posting a basic sugar cookie recipe that you can either cut out using the cookie cutter of your choice and bake or you can sandwich the cookies with good quality preserves. I will post a royal icing recipe and some tips on decorating soon, so stay tuned.

Enjoy the cookies and have a wonderful Christmas!

Finished sugar cookie hearts with strawberry jam

(more…)