Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to my husband!

Holy sweet mother of all things good. I have two magical, amazing words for you:



Let them roll off your tongue and then send your imagination off to soaring heights as you ponder this retro dessert.

It's frozen on the inside.

It's crispy meringue on the outside.

Basically, it's heaven on a plate.

Why have I never tried this before?

When Phil saw me looking through the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living, he caught me on a page with this picture:
He got all puppy-dog eyed and pleaded for me to make it for his birthday. Since he'd done such an amazing job with those molten chocolate cakes for me, it was only fair that I did the cake he wanted in return.

I won't lie to you. I had doubts. A 500º oven and ice cream? No way was the meringue that insulating. I was going to end up with a melted disaster all over the kitchen.

I was wrong. It was easy. It was delicious. We have tons of leftovers. Wanna come 'round and try?

For the record, I divided this recipe in 3, in hopes of making a 2-3 person serving, and made it in my 3 cup pudding bowl.

It still made 6 servings. Go figure.

So, I'm posting the original recipe here.

Baked Alaska with Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Ice Cream

(from Martha Stewart Living)


For the cakes:
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, room temperature, separated
For assembling:
Vegetable oil cooking spray
6 cups chocolate ice cream (3 pints)
For the meringue:
12 large egg whites, room temperature
3 cups sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cakes: Sift 1 1/3 cups sugar, the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Combine oil, water, and vanilla.

Whisk egg yolks with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. With machine running, slowly pour oil mixture into yolks, and then add sugar mixture.
In a clean mixer bowl, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed, gradually adding remaining 2/3 cup sugar, until medium stiff peaks form. Mix one-third of the whites into cake batter, then gently fold in remaining whites.
Divide batter between two 12-by-17-inch parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Bake until cakes are set and spring back when touched, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool.
Assemble the baked Alaska: Coat six 11-ounce bowls or ramekins with cooking spray; line with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang. Cut out 6 cake circles to fit in bottoms of bowls (we used a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter), and place one in each bowl. Top each with 1/3 cup chocolate ice cream, smoothing surface. Cut out 6 cake circles to fit on top of ice cream (we used a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter), and place on ice cream. 
Freeze until set, about 30 minutes.
Top each cake with 1/3 cup ice cream, smoothing surface. Cut out 6 cake circles to fit on top of ice cream (we used a 4-inch round cookie cutter), and place on ice cream. (This should fit just at the top of the bowl.) Cover assembled cakes with plastic wrap overhang, and freeze for at least 4 hours.
To remove from bowls, open plastic wrap, flip cakes onto a baking sheet, and remove plastic wrap. Freeze cakes while making meringue.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Make the meringue: Heat egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl of a mixer set over a pan of simmering water, whisking often, until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm to the touch, about 2 minutes. Transfer bowl to mixer, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 10 minutes. 
Cover each assembled cake with 1 cup meringue. This is the fun part, if you ask me. Get your fingers in there and make some peaks!

Bake until meringue is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Alternatively, hold a small handheld kitchen torch at a 90-degree angle 3 to 4 inches from surface of meringue. Move flame back and forth until browned and caramelized.
This is a rich dessert, so cut it into appropriate serving sizes!

Try to restrain yourself from eating the leftovers.

Happy birthday babe!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A post about a cat.

My husband has a new best friend.

I think he's pretty awesome too.

This is Sherlock. We wish he was ours, but he belongs to a friend. We've been cat sitting him this week while said friend and her husband sold their condo. We looked after him this summer too... and... well... as excited as I was for his return, I think Phil was even more pumped.

How could you not love this face?

And he was always on guard against those dastardly squirrels!

But most of all, he loves to snuggle! Which is awesome, because my cats would never have done this with people they'd known for a day.

In fact, here he is curled up with Phil this morning:

We're saying good-bye to Sherlock today, as the condo has sold and it's time for his vacation to end... but I'd like to think that he remembers his time with us fondly.

I have a feeling I'm going to have a sad husband tomorrow!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quince & Kiwi Jelly

Usually when I talk jelly, I'm talking the stuff you make in a jar and use for a glaze or on toast.

This time, I'm talking that wobbly childhood delight.

Except, you know, because this is Kat's recipe, it's gelatin-free and way more healthy than your average box of jello.

To replace the gelatin, we used one stick of agar-agar. If you don't know what agar-agar is, it's a clear seaweed derivative used in Japanese (and other Asian, I imagine) cooking. Please don't be freaked out by the name or the word seaweed. It's just like gelatin, in that it's totally tasteless.

Two sticks of agar-agar
 It sets the jelly a bit more firmly, I find. And, as I used to love the mandarin jellies I'd buy from conbinis in Japan, I was really excited to use this ingredient.

Even more exciting though was Kat's find of a pile of unloved quinces at the St. Lawrence market. She peeled and poached them, which meant they didn't turn pink (as quinces tend to do), but that's okay! I really enjoyed playing around with this recipe... and I think there's a TON of room for taking this to a whole new level of awesome.

poached quinces
 I loved taking photos of the jellies - they were just so luminous!

Quince & Kiwi Jelly


2½ cups fruit juice of your choice (think pure, and think pulpless - pomegranate, cranberry-kiwi, guava)
1 tsp Agar Agar powder (or one stick of agar-agar, ground up)
1-2 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
2 cups chopped poached quinces
5 kiwis, peeled and finely chopped.


1. Divide fruit between 6 mini bundt pans or dessert dishes. If you're planning to unmould the jellies, I recommend spraying the pans with cooking spray.

2. Place 1 cup of juice in a pot with agar powder and stir. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes to dissolve. Turn the heat on and bring the mixture to a boil. for 1 minute

3. Remove the pan from heat and pour the mixture into a bowl or large measuring cup. Add the remaining 1½ cups juice and stir. If your juice is a bit tart, add the maple syrup here.

4. Pour into pan/dishes and allow to cool for 10 minutes at room temperature before moving contents to the fridge to set for another 30-40 minutes.

5. Unmould by flipping pan onto a large cutting board. Serve with a side of whimsy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mushroom & Bacon Risotto with Spinach

Risotto was not something I got enthusiastic about until shortly after my wedding. Phil and I had a dinner out at Roy's in Kahana. I believe I had some kind of fish... but whatever it was, it was totally overshadowed by the lobster and Kula corn risotto. About 6 months later, I tried making it for the first time.

Let me tell you this: if you haven't tried it, making risotto is easy. EASY.

The only challenging part is standing over the pot stirring for the better part of 25-30 minutes. But, I figure, if you have a glass of wine or two to keep you company, that time just flies by!

Bacon and Mushroom Risotto with Spinach

(from Cooking Light)


4  cups chicken stock (homemade if possible)
6  bacon slices, chopped
1  cup  chopped shallots
1  tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
1  teaspoon  chopped fresh thyme
4  garlic cloves, minced
4  ounces  cremini mushrooms, sliced*
4  ounces  shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced*
4  ounces  oyster mushrooms, sliced*
1  cup  uncooked Carnaroli or Arborio rice or other medium-grain rice
1/3  cup  Madeira wine or dry sherry
4  cups  baby spinach
1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Asiago cheese
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

*For the record, I just used cremini. It was all I had on hand.


1. Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil); keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 8 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally.

Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon. Add shallots, oil, thyme, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in mushrooms; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mind the dark bits
3. Add rice, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in Madeira; cook 1 minute or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup stock; cook 4 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.

Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Stir in spinach; cook 1 minute.

Remove from heat; stir in cheese, salt, and pepper.

Sprinkle with bacon.

Serve with a side of AWESOME.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back to Work

January has been a rough month for me - two terrible colds and now I'm working my way through a sinus infection.

It's been frustrating, to say the least. On top of that, work has been insane lately. I've taken on a new class (of my own volition), and probably bitten off more than I can chew.

So, instead of posting something for today, I'm going to hit the hay instead.

I will give you a preview of two recipes coming up later this week:

Mushroom & Bacon Risotto with Spinach

And (and I'm insanely excited about this recipe) Quince & Kiwi Jelly! That's right, my first time ever working with quinces! Huzzah!

Complete with jelly mold. Aw yeah.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leftovers for Lunch

I had half a sweet potato sitting forlornly on the second shelf of my fridge. I don't remember using the other half, but judging from the state of affairs, I probably used it about week or so ago.

As I look out the window, I can see the wind outside is whipping the snow off the roof of the house next door. It's been doing that all morning, which makes me very happy that I have a PA day today and I get to hang out with my massive pile of marking inside.

Of course, I spent all morning not marking but thinking about lunch.

I knew I wanted to do something with that sweet potato and the organic brown rice I'd just picked up from the new health food store on Bloor.

And something to do with the bag of mushrooms I'd bought on Monday but hadn't touched at all since.

I knew I wanted a bit of heat. Something Thai-inspired felt like the way to go.

It didn't have to be pretty. It just had to taste awesome.

Sweet Potato Mushroom Thai Stir-Fry


1 tbsp canola oil
½ sweet potato, peeled and cut into matchsticks (the thinner you cut them, the faster they'll cook)
1 shallot, peeled, halved and sliced
4 large button mushrooms, sliced*
one handful baby spinach, trimmed
one palmful cilantro, chopped
cooked brown rice


2 tbsp fish sauce
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
¼ - 1 tsp sriracha

*For the record, I quartered half of mine and sliced and marinated the other half. Next time, I'd slice and marinate all of them.


1. Mix all marinade ingredients together and add sliced mushrooms to it. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.

2. Heat oil in wok over high heat. When shimmering, add sweet potatoes and shallots. Stir fry for 5 minutes or until sweet potatoes begin to colour and soften.

3. Add in mushrooms and marinade. You may wish to throw in 2 tbsp of water as well, to help the sweet potatoes cook. Stir fry until sweet potatoes are desired tenderness.

4. Add in spinach and stir fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until spinach is wilted.

6. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and serve over hot rice. Makes enough for 2.

Add a lime slice for bonus flavour!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Best Roast Chicken I've Had in a Year (at least)

One of the things I love most about winter cooking is roasting a gorgeous bird. As part of our New Year's resolution, Phil and I are trying to buy locally produced meat as often as possible. And if it's free range and antibiotic free to boot, even better!

So when he picked up a gorgeous Rowe Farms chicken last weekend, I knew we were in for a treat... I just didn't realize how amazing this bird was going to be.

I'd like to think it's a combination of this recipe and the bird's providence.

And don't get me started on the sandwiches we made throughout the week with the leftovers. The chicken was moist, perfectly salty and blow-your-mind-tasty. I swear to you, I've never cooked a bird like this before. It puts all those tiny little things you can buy at Loblaws to shame.

So, though this bird cost us 12$ as opposed to 8$, I think those extra 4$ were well worth it.

Two days after roasting it, I made chicken stock with the leftover carcass, some shallots, carrots celery and a bay leaf. After simmering away on the stove for 2 hours, we were left with an intensely chickeny stock. Gorgeous. We got a lot of meals out of that bird - not to mention two litres of stock sitting in my freezer right now!

Glorious Chicken
As a side note, this really is a great way to do potatoes. Cooking them first and throwing them in around the bird lets them soak up all those delicious juices (and fats) and get extra crispy in the oven. They're everything a roast potato should be!

Crisp Skinned Chicken with Rosemary Potatoes

(from Martha Stewart Living January 2011)


6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise, 3/4 inch thick
Coarse salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 whole chicken (about 4 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 small bunch fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh sage (my addition) 


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender, 11 to 13 minutes. Drain. Return potatoes to pot, and shake over low heat to dry and fluff. Coat with oil, and season with salt. 

Mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the cornstarch. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub skin with butter, and season with salt mixture.
Close up of the butter and salt mixture.
Stuff some rosemary into cavity. Pile remaining rosemary on a rimmed baking sheet.

Place chicken, breast side up, on rosemary, and tuck wings under. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Scatter potatoes around chicken. Roast for 30 minutes. 
Oven ready
Remove from oven, and flip potatoes. Return to oven, rotating sheet. Roast until chicken juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches 165 degrees, about 30 minutes more. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. If potatoes aren't golden, toss with rosemary, and return to oven.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Double Smoked Bacon

About this time last year, I was walking through the aisles of our local grocery store, Fiesta Farms. Without wanting to wander off too far on a tangent, I just want to take a moment to emphasize how much I love this place. It's an independent store; it doesn't belong to a big chain. There's only one of it in the city. But, more to the point, it has the most interesting selection of foods on the planet.

I swear by their Gourmet Mediterranean Pizza Sauce. Other people must as well, because the stuff regularly sells out. If I'm there, and the sauce is there, then I'm probably buying multiples of it.

My list of favourites could go on and on (frozen parathas, liberté yogurt in a million flavours, gorgeous organic swiss chard, Rowe farms pork, beef and chicken), but what I really want to talk to you about is a little find I discovered last year in the deli section:

Brandt's Double Smoked Side Bacon.

I wish I'd taken a picture of it, but I was too engrossed in the intense, smoky smell while I was cooking and got carried away in a haze.

That seems to be what happens to most people when they open up a package of the stuff, because I can't find a picture of it anywhere on the internet. Not even off Brandt's website. Brandt is a Mississauga (just outside of Toronto) butcher that does their business in the traditional German style.

I have long loved their liverwurst as it tastes nothing like liver and lots like herbs and spices.

So, when I brought this bacon home last year, I had no idea what to do with it. It was a block, dark and firm with judicious amounts of fat, just slightly larger than the size of my palm. Luckily I found a recipe for Habitant Split Pea Soup that called for both salt pork and a ham hock and decided the hunk of bacon had enough manpower to stand in for the other two pieces of pork.

It was magical.

Weeks later, tragedy struck. Fiesta Farms stopped carrying the bacon. We were heading into March, the weather was strangely balmy and people just had no interest in buying such a dark, wintry ingredient.

I was heartbroken. Since then, I've looked for the bacon every time I've been at the store, with no success.

Until this week. There was one piece.

The soup was coming back to the table.

I picked up some organic yellow split peas from my local bulk store and  fired up the stove. Two hours later, the most deliciously flavoured soup appeared on our table.

Nothing beats a bowl of soup, especially a bowl of legumes and pork, on a icy January night.

Split Pea Soup with Double Smoked Bacon

(adapted from Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2010)


1½ tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
one hunk double smoked bacon (I think I had about 250g)
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups onion, carrot, and celery to pan; sauté for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in peas; sauté for 1 minute. Add broth and the next 4 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until peas are tender, skimming surface occasionally, as necessary.

2. Remove bacon and bay leaves. Set aside the bacon and discard the bay leaves

3. Dice bacon. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cover and cook 5 minutes. Drain off fat, and return to heat, cooking an additional 5 minutes or until crisp and browned, stirring frequently.

4. Return bacon to soup, and if you're feeling particularly decadent, pour in any remaining bacon drippings along with it. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Savour every mouthful.

Pork Fest Continues

It's safe to say that I come from a family of sausage lovers. Herb flecked and balanced with fat and meat, the fresh butcher's sausage is one of my favourite things.

I do not have the equipment to make my own sausages. No casings, no meat grinder, no stuffer. But, I can, (and you can too) make my own sausage patties.

They're super easy and a great way to impress yourself on a Saturday morning. I actually made these on my birthday as my perfect way to start being 31.

I won't reprint the recipe here, because I think you should go over and check out this blog anyway:

Herbed Sausage Patties Recipe

The general gist: ground pork (I buy an organic heritage one), salt, brown sugar, fresh sage, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, ancho chili powder, pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Mix those in a bowl.

Divide the mixture in half, and shape each half into five palm sized patties.

You're not going for perfection here.

Fry the first five up in a cast iron skillet. I promise you'll get a better crust on them if you go the cast iron route!

It takes about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from heat when juices run clear and enjoy!

We froze our leftovers for breakfasts throughout the week.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...