Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Funday = Spring Cleaning

This Sunday was all hands on deck,  as I (finally) caught the spring cleaning bug!  We moved into our new house about a year ago, and this home was a fixer upper.  We still have lots to do, but need to acquire the funds for most projects before tackling them!

With so much construction during the renovations, I think we just became burnt out about 6 months ago, and anything we didn't want to deal with went into the storage room, and we kept adding to it, and adding to it...getting to the point, that there was no more adding to the storage, and was nearly impossible to get to the items in storage!  Please tell me that you have a room in your home in a similar state!

        Before & After !

Cory helped me with the really heavy stuff, and hung a rod for winter clothing storage (yay!).  The kids were responsible for removing recycling, garbage, and getting along!  Now we have organization and function!  You can see the floor, and you don't have to climb over anything, or squish in between boxes to get into the space!   My OCD can chill until next weekend... I'm hoping to get the garage, which is an extremely daunting job, but we would love to be able to park in there hahaha!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter & Browned Butter Cookies

Tonight I get to share some cookies with some special ladies...the members of the Tween Bookclub that I host at my library!  We ran the program for our winter programming session, with one meeting per month to get together and chat about our book selections, and create some fun art (we were making bookmarks in the picture!).  Tonight is the last of those meetings, a perfect opportunity to bring a treat for the girls and say farewell until the fall.

These girls were voracious readers, and hard for me to keep up with because of my hectic schedule.  I tend to mostly read tween/teen books already, as it's my key audience for readers' advisory at my library location, so I really enjoyed the books they had selelcted:
Keeper - by Kathi Appelt
Blood Red Road - by Moira Young
Rebel Heart (sequel to Blood Red Road) by Moira Young
If I Stay (Book 1) By Gayle Forman
Where She Went (Book 2) by Gayle Forman
...Check 'em out!

Do you ever brown your butter for cookie recipes?  Browning the butter takes just an additional moment, but envelopes the butter with the most delicious, deep and nutty flavour.   Cook the butter past the melting point, stiring occastionaly keeping a close eye on it, as it can go from brown to burnt very easily.  It will kind of froth up, and then you will see the brown, and smell the nutty aroma!  Done!  You could even brown the butter ahead of time, and keep it in the fridge...then it would be just like creaming butter in a regular cookie recipe. 

This particular recipe hides the additional flavour with the peanut butter, but the butter needed to be melted what the heck!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter & Browned Butter Cookies 
Recipe adapted from: Averie Cooks 

1/2 cup browned butter
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1 cup old fashioned whole oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, walnuts, pecans, etc would all be yum too!)

Preheat oven to 350F
In a medium sized deep pan, brown your butter, remove from heat and add peanut butter, and stir until melted and incorporated with the browned butter.  Add the sugars to the butter(s) mixture, stir, and then set aside (outside if it's cold, or fridge, or freezer!) to cool while assembling additional ingredients. 
In a medium bowl add together flour, flax, oats, and baking soda.
Ensure that your melted butter mixture is now at room temperature (you don't want to cook your eggs!) then add the egg, vanilla, and stir.  Now add flour mixture to butter mixture and give it a good stir until flour is well combined.  Finally, add the chocolate and peanut butter chips to the dough and mix into the dough.
Scoop with a spoon or roll into balls onto cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.  The cookies will be underdone, but that's fine!  They will stay soft and chewy longer with less cooking time. Remove from oven, and place on wire rack to cool. 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Funday - Biodegradable Bird Feeders

Apparently my kids enjoy building bird feeders!  I leave our Sunday Funday activity for them to choose, and Sloane said she recently saw an orange being used as a bird feeder, and would like to try to make one as well!  I think the orange bird feeder is beautiful looking, as well as why not make another?  Our old bird feeders are long gone, the seeds picked away at by the birds, and then the toilet paper rolls turned to mush by all the heavy spring snow we've received this year.


You don't need many materials to make this bird feeder.  We used a long neglected grapefruit in lieu of an could also use an orange, or another thick-skinned fruit.  Also, jute, twine, or any heavy duty string to hang the bird feeder.

Using two sections of twine, in even lengths, create a criss-cross pattern, so the fruit will hang level.  We used a small screwdriver to push the twine through the skin of the grapefruit, but you could also thread a large needle, or use a chop stick or even a pen or pencil!  You will also require scissors to cut the twine. so supervision may be required for younger children.

The grapefruit is naturally waterproof so it will hold up well to the weather, you can refill with seeds when needed.

Eventually the fruit will breakdown, but the rind is biodegradable, and safe to leave to decompose in your garden bed, and the birds could even use the remaining twine to line their nests!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Weekend feast = Chicken in Milk!

Perhaps you may have a little more time on your hands this weekend?  And perhaps you are feeling in the mood for something unique and different?  But perhaps you have many discernible critics in your household who many turn up their noses at the thought of a chicken cooked in milk.  Yes, milk.

This chicken though, should not intimidate or gross-out!  The milk is infused with the bright and fresh zest of the lemons; as well as the earthy sage, and the deeper spice of cinnamon playing in the background.  This technique has become one of my new favourite ways to roast a chicken, especially when you want the warmth of the oven on a cooler spring evening, and are in the mood to experiment with your traditional Sunday dinner.

Chicken in Milk
Recipe adapted from: Jamie Oliver 

1-2 kg whole chicken
course salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
small stick of cinnamon or large one broken in half
1 handful fresh sage, leaves only
zest of 2 lemons I used a vegetable peeler, but you could also zest with a grater.
10 cloves garlic, skin left on
2 cups milk  - I used 2%
Optional  - to make the pan sauce into a gravy, add about 2 Tablespoons flour to 1/2 cup water, and stir with fork ,  or shake in tight lidded tupperware container, until there are no lumps, and add to sauce, whisking as you go, until the desire thickness of gravy is reached.  Add more water or flour according to your preference.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and find a pot for the chicken suitable for stove top and oven use, and that fits the chicken tightly. Season the chicken all over with the salt and pepper, and fry it enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot.  Keep turning the chicken to get an even golden colour all over. Remove from the heat, place the chicken on a plate, and throw away the leftover oil.
(Jaimie says: "This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan which will give you a lovely caramel flavour later on.")
Put your chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the preheated oven for about an hour and a half.  Baste with the cooking juices every 20 minutes or so. The lemon zest will sort of curdle the milk, but the sauce is still delicious despite its appearance.
I added a mix of flour and water to turn the sauce into gravy, but the sauce on its own would be yummy as well to pour on top of your chicken or use a dipping sauce.
I served this delish dish with oven roasted vegetables and baby potatoes.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beefy Bean Bake

Not too sure what you see when you look out the window in your neck of the woods, but over the weekend -  here in Calgary, we received more snow.  This certainly isn't anything new for Calgary at this time of the year, but you can see it on every one's faces, and in their moods; we are ready for some sunshine, and warmer temperatures!  My ten year-old daughter even commented, that "it feels like the beginning of winter, not the end."  And I could not agree with her more!  I felt like crawling back under the covers, having a long, deep sleep, and waking up when spring is here to stay!

This Beefy Bean Bake is the perfect hibernation feast, and perfectly suited my mood and cravings as demanded by the weather.  I had all the ingredients in my pantry, which is perfect when you don't want to leave the house!  Ultimately, this recipe is low in cost, easy in effort, as well as hearty and filling!  I served it with a big ol' loaf of rustic sourdough, with loads of butter, and ate on the couch, under a blanket, in my jammies, in front of the TV.  Best.


Sunday morning I was on my way to a ViPR class, so I wasn't into eating anything too heavy before my workout.  But before I left I made breakfast for Cory.  I re-heated the Beefy Beans, and served them on buttery toast, with two fried eggs on top, and said it was "AH-Mazing!" ...he didn't save me a bite, but I'll take his word on it!

Today the sun is shining, and the snow is melting, Spring is on the horizon...and maybe some lighter recipes too!

Beefy Beans
Recipe Adapted From: The English Kitchen

1 Tablespoon Olive/Canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 cans (15 ounceish) baked beans, undrained (I used Bush's Baked Honey Beans)
2 tomatoes, peeled & chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Molasses (optional)
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
5 slices of bacon,
or as much as it takes to cover your casserole dish!

Preheat oven to 350 F
Using a large and deep pan, heat the oil, add the onion, stirring often, until it begins to soften.   Then add the garlic and cook for a few minutes longer. Meanwhile, In a separate pan cook the ground beef, stirring frequently and breaking it up as you go, until there is no pink remaining.  Drain if necessary. Add the beef to the onion and garlic pan.  Season with the salt and pepper, and add in the brown sugar, mustard, molasses, beans and tomatoes.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning as required. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish.   Arrange bacon over the top.  Cover tightly with lid or aluminum foil.  Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.  Take off tinfoil/lid and Broil for a few minutes to crisp up the bacon.  
Serve with your favourite bread, and coleslaw!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Funday - Little artists!

I saw this recipe for home made finger paints on Pinterest not too long ago, and thought we should give it a whirl! 

The original recipe was for finger paints, and meant to be fairly thick, so I added more water to thin it out as the kids wanted to paint their canvases using brushes.  Overall, the recipe is really simple, and made completely out of pantry staples, so pretty economical as well!

I picked up the canvases and brushes at the dollar store, so they could be professional artists, but any recycled paper, or even old newspapers or flyer's would be a great medium as well!

                                                                      "Buzz Zurg Razor" By Presley 

                                                                     "Untitled" By Sloane

Home Made Paints

3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups water

Combine ingredients in saucepan stirring until mixture thickens.   Speaking from personal experience...don't leave this unattended on the stove (!), keep stirring for a smooth consistency!  Let mixture cool slightly.  Pour mixture into small baby food jars, or what ever you old jars you may have on hand to repurpose...I used old spice containers.  Add the food colouring to your selected jars, and making sure they are well sealed (personal experience, again!) give them a good shake.  If the jars are too warm, and/or if you lids don't fit well, use a cloth over the lid to protect from your hands from heat and spills.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Popcorn. It's what's for dinner!

I make a nice dinner mostly every night of the week.  But on Fridays, we eat popcorn for dinner.  If you know me, you know I LOVE popcorn.
Always have. Always will.
I'll bake a yummy breakfast treat on Saturday, and cook up a veritable breakfast buffet on Sunday, and I almost always make a traditional Sunday dinner.  But on Friday, I don't cook.  nope.  I don't know when this tradition started for my own family, but my kids don't even question it.
Popcorn.  It's what's for dinner.

As a teenager my girlfriends and I would make the hugest bowls, and devour it all!  But being form the Kootenays, we do it a little bit differently.  No boring Butter and salt.  Our popcorn staple is Nutritional Yeast!  
Also know as Engevita Yeast and available powdered or in flakes, Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast, and has kind of a nutty-cheesy flavour.  It is a complete protein and a good source of vitamins, and complex B-proteins, specifically B12. It is also naturally low in fat and is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten.

My husband refers to it as "Hippie Popcorn"...I just call it delish!

Kootenay Corn
1 Cup Popcorn Kernels
3 - 4 teaspoons Olive Oil/Flax Seed Oil/Butter
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1-2 teaspoons dill (optional)
salt and pepper to taste.

All these measurements are approximate, because popcorn is totally adjustable to individual tastes!  I use an air popper for my popcorn, and add about a teaspoon of Olive oil,Flax seed oil, or Butter, then shake salt & pepper, and dill all over and toss the popcorn in the bowl.  Repeat addition of oil, salt and pepper, dill, and toss again.  I usually do that twice and then add nutritional yeast at the end and give the bowl a small shake, rather than tossing, so the nutritional yeast doesn't fly into the air and make a mess.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Raw Coconut - Almond Cacao Nib Bites


Confession.  As good as I try to be, I cannot deny myself a sweet treat after a meal.  I gravitate toward wholesome foods allot more than the rest of my family, but I still buy them what they want, in moderation. but my husband is the worst for needing a million different treats to choose from.  So our pantry is full of horrible temptations; leftover Halloween candies, bags of chips, baking staples and everything that I bake with them for my family.   If I don't have a healthyish option on hand, I will grab bad stuff like a whole handful of chocolate chips or Nutella by the spoonful!

These raw treats are super fast and easy to throw together, and they are full of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and the antioxidant properties of the crunchy cacao nibs, and their natural sweetness from the dates satiates my cravings perfectly!

Raw Almond Coconut Cacao Nib Bites
Recipe Adapted From: oh lady cakes

1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup raw almonds, divided
Pinch of salt
8 pitted dates

3 Tbsp almond milk (or water)
1/4 cup cacao nibs

In a food processor, blend the coconut, half of the almonds, and salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse, then add the nut milk and pulse again, until combined.
Transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl. Coarsely chop the remaining almonds then stir into the mixture, along with the cacao nibs.
These are bites not balls, so make them smallish, using a tsp as a guide, roll into balls, and place in seal-able container, destination fridge or freezer...they don't go rock hard in the freezer, and they'll last longer than in the fridge, but are delish either way!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sunday Funday & Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Another crazy busy weekend, and another Birthday Cake to share with you!

We recently had a wee glimpse of spring in Calgary, and then were sent back into cold temperatures and snow this weekend. 
Cruel, cruel, mother nature.  We spent allot of this weekend inside when we weren't running here there and everywhere.  And the kids found a fun indoor activity to amuse themselves while I was in the kitchen.   They've both been enrolled in a gymnastics program for the winter at a local community center, and together (no fighting!!) they created a gymnastics routine/competition, and even made little score cards for me and Cory to grade them with!  Adorable

I discovered that I can still do a handstand!... aaaand then Presley killed my back when getting a cowboy ride that included wrestling moves.  ow.

But let me tell you about this cake.  It is not very often that I make the same cake, using the same recipe more than once.  If you are a person who loves to bake, and experiment with new recipes,  you'll understand this.   You ask someone what kind of cake they would like for their birthday (already knowing what you want to bake) know that one you made last year...and then you have to try and sell the idea of this latest cake that you've been waiting for the opportunity to bake!

But this cake. Oh this cake.  Comprised of 3 cake rounds, I cut each layer into two, so it is an impressive 6 layers.  It is a show stopper! A crowd pleaser!  And it is so, so intense. I've probably made this cake about 5 or 6 times, which is saying allot.  It never fails to impress, and is best made for a potluck, or a dinner with a lot of people, so it can get eaten all up.  Cut in the thinnest possible of slices, to share with many and leave with your hostess, or make take home slices. You don't want to be left alone with this cake it is so dangerous.  If it is your home it will call to you from the depths of the fridge, and you will be tempted to go into the kitchen at 3 in the morning, or 2 in the afternoon, and eat more!  'Cuz it will call to you. true story.

I wish I got more pictures of the cake, but we had to leave about 5 minutes after I finished it, and all my pics turned out blurry because I was in such a rush.  Aaaand then I didn't manage to get any pictures of the cake at the birthday party once it was cut. Sorry!  But believe me this is a cake you need to try, and make sure you have vanilla ice cream or a big 'ol glass of milk to serve with it!

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Recipe adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, and then shake cocoa powder around the pan for good measure.  Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water, vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended.  Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, I use a toothpick inserted in the center, and make sure it comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. After they've cooled place in the fridge to firm up, they are extremely soft cakes, and will be impossible to frost if you do not do this!

I make this cake even bigger than the original, I cut each round in two very carefully, and frost between each layer, so I have a six-layer cake.  You can opt not to cut the rounds so you have an 8-inch triple-layer cake! 
To frost the cake, place one round on a cake stand or large serving plate. Carefully spread the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top, repeat with the next layer, etc. For the last layer, frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer to act as a "crumb coat", then return cake to fridge and let it chill for another 15 to 30 minutes until firm.  Use the remainder of the frosting to create the smooth, hopefully crumb-free final coating. Return again to the fridge to chill, which helps you get the best result  in your drip of the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1 brick cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
5 cups icing sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar, mixing thoroughly after each addition, add peanut butter and vanilla, and continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

I don't have a double boiler, I just use a stainless steel bowl over a pot of boiling water. I use a mix of dark and semi-sweet chocolate, but you can use all 8 ounces of either type according to your preference. Add the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
Make sure you are using a large plate, or baking sheet, to catch any drips. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using a spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips.
Refrigerate, uncovered, for at about 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Biscuits

I've been wanting to make these biscuits forever...but I was scared.  'Cuz I knew I'd eat them all, that's why!  Thank god they came out of the oven just in time for me to leave the house.  I had to leave to take my daughter to soccer, so my husband had a chance to put a good dent in the batch before I got back.  But I was drooling with anticipation to get home and try them, and they were worth the wait!   

 So flaky and delish, I meant to eat only one.  Just one as a wheaty treat.  I only ate three, and that required allot of restraint, the sea salt on top is so super genius, I blame it on that. 

I served the biscuits with a yummy soup, and found that they didn't even need butter...but they were good with butter too, I tried just to make sure.   I think these biscuits would be fantastical made into a breakfast biscuit with bacon and eggs as well, droooool.   I didn't really change the original recipe at all, accept that I didn't have any fresh thyme on hand, so I used dried.  By mistake I added the thyme to the flour mixture, instead of the mushroom and onion, oops, they still turned out fine!    I foresee myself making these many more times!

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Biscuits
Recipe adapted from: Joy the Baker

2-3 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and coarse ground black pepper
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium pan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and allow to cook until golden brown.  The olive oil prevents the butter from burning, but still make sure to stir!  Add a dash of salt and pepper.  Remove mushrooms from the pan, set aside in a bowl for later.  Using the same pan, add the remaining olive oil and butter, and add onions and cook down until tender and browned, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the pan from heat, add the mushrooms back to the pan as well as the thyme, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in shortening and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  In another bowl, combine egg and milk and beat lightly with a fork.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough.  Add the cooled mushroom and onion mixture and mix together using your hands.
Move dough to a floured surface and knead for a minute or two. Roll or pat out into approximately a 1-inch thickness.  Cut into 2-inch rounds or cut into 2×2-inch squares.  Rework excess dough to cut more biscuits as needed.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.  
Bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Slowcooker Pancetta, Kale and Black-eyed Pea Soup

We are entering the season of outdoor sports, for my kids that means soccer season, aka craziness! Previous years only my daughter Sloane has played, and for her it's two practices per week, and one game on weekends.  This year my 4 year old, Presley, is also playing.  I have no idea what his schedule will be like, but it is sure to be hectic!  A soccer schedule is NOT ideal for parents who work full time, and parents who also refuse to buy their children fast food meals two or more times per week.  I need to be uber-organized, with the meal ready to go pretty much as soon as we walk in the that we can leave the house another 20 minutes later.  I wish I was joking.  I'm kinda dreading it, but it's only for a few months, and it gets us all out of the house, and enjoying fresh air and exercise!  All good things, right?!

I had a package of Pancetta that needed to be used up stat, so that was my inspiration for trying out this recipe, which originally used bacon.  This recipe will be delish either way!  One step that you need to think ahead on is the black-eyed peas.  You can buy a bag of dried black-eyed peas that will last an eternity, or spend your money the canned variety.  Although cans are convenient, I am the cheap resourceful type, so I have a big jars of beans and legumes of all types in the pantry at the ready. 

If you're using the dried black-eyed peas you have two options:
Put the black-eyed peas in a big pot with lots of water. Soak them for at least 8 hours.
Put the black-eyed peas in a big pot with lots of water. Bring them to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover and wait 1 hour.  If you're using the canned peas, drain the can and make sure to rinse them well.

I chose to soak my black-eyed peas overnight.  In the morning I drained the peas, chopped up all the vegetables - while I cooked the pancetta, and then cooked the veg using the pancetta drippings.  I then threw it all into the slow cooker before going to work, and then just add back in the pancetta and kale about 5 minutes before serving.   I served this soup with delish mushroom and onion biscuits...stay tuned for the recipe for those yummers!

Pancetta, Kale and Black-eyed Pea Soup - In the Slow cooker!
Recipe adapted from: Dollop of Cream

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
1 package Pancetta, or 5  7 slices bacon, chopped (easiest to do frozen)
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz. can whole tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon cumin
pinch of crushed red pepper (or Korean red pepper)
3-4 cups chicken broth
 3 cups kale, ribs removed, and roughly chopped

In a medium pan, cook the pancetta until it's just cooked and a bit crispy.  When the pancetta's done, use a slotted spoon to take it out and put it on a paper towel to soak up the grease, and then refrigerate for addition at the end.
Add the onion, carrot and celery to the drippings left in the pan, saute for about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Transfer to slow cooker.  Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your spoon, or crushing in your hand.  Also add salt, pepper, cumin and crushed red pepper.
Pour in the chicken broth and prepared black-eyed peas. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or so, or high  for 3-4 hours depending on your slow cooker.  Before you serve taste test, and add more salt and/or pepper according to your preference, then stir in the kale and pancetta and simmer for about 5 more minutes. 


Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Sunday Funday & Grandma's Black and White Chocolate Birthday Cake

 This weekend was packed, and we've all been in a bit of a food coma/sugar rush the whole time!  Unfortunately we only have one computer in our home, and my husband was occupying it with video editing, so I haven't had a chance to share our Sunday Funday activities!

My daughter participated in an all girls rock camp this past week during her spring break, and they had their showcase on Saturday evening.  The Kool Magic Chicks, as they called themselves, played an original song they all wrote collaboratively, and a cover of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock n' Roll".  Not bad for a bunch of ten year olds, eh?!  It's not cool to cry at rock shows, but I was SO proud; I really had to control myself!

Saturday also, happened to be my Mother-in-Laws Birthday, so after my daughter's concert we took her to an Asian buffet, one of her favorites.  I managed to eat my weight in Sushi; and then back to Grandma's place for cake (my poor belly!)...which is the recipe I have to share with you!

Of course the Easter Bunny made the trek to our home this Sunday, but I really wasn't with it that early in the morning, and I didn't manage to get any pics of the little's hunting around the yard for eggs.  They would've been the best pics too; crazy bed-head hair, in their pj's, with winter boots on, hilarious!  The littles coloured a mile long sheet together, while I made a delish spinach and feta omelet.  Didn't get any pics of that either.  Jeez.

Black and White Chocolate Cake 
Recipe adapted from: bon appetit

Coffee Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder, or instant coffee granules dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water.

White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
1 bag White chocolate chips, melted  
1 cup chilled whipping cream
3-4 cups icing sugar
1Tablespoon vanilla
1 475g container chilled mascarpone cheese

For the cake, position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
Sift 2 cups flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl and set aside. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture alternating with buttermilk, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually add hot espresso water mixture, beating just until smooth.
Divide batter between pans. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40- 50 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks and  cool completely.
I always make cake one day ahead, then I can stick it in the fridge to firm up, which allows for easier frosting application.

For the frosting, melt the white chocolate chips in a medium bowl.  Using a mixer slowly add icing sugar, alternating with the cream until you get a smooth consistency.  Then add the mascarpone cheese, and mix again until smooth, and add more icing sugar, and/or whipping cream until you get a firm, but smooth frosting.  You can place in the fridge to use for later, but I would recommend bringing to room temperature before frosting your cake.  To assemble the cake slice each round through the middle carefully, so you have four rounds.  Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting over one round to the edges, top with another round etc and spread a thin layer of frosting on the whole cake as a crumb coat, putting in the fridge to firm up for at least 15 minutes.  Spread another layer of frosting over top and sides to desired effect, and pipe decorative frosting also, if you wish!