Friday, April 29, 2011

baked apples with cinnamon, hazelnuts and oats

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Along with the other night's strata dinner I made Joseph and I each a baked apple for dessert. I almost never make dessert — I mean I often bake sweet things, but it's usually in the afternoon and has nothing to do with my dinner plans. The nice thing about baked apples? They take absolutely no thought or effort, just put them in the oven while you enjoy your dinner and then get ready for warm cinnamon-y dessert when you're done. Core an apple, add some cinnamon and sugar, maybe chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts), maybe some quick oats. A little juice in the pan doesn't hurt, neither does a dollop of butter on top of the apples. Bake at 350°F for at 30-45 minutes, depending how soft you like it. Done. Ice cream time.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

swiss chard, tomato, & asiago strata

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To say my day off yesterday was boring would be an understatement. I finally filed my taxes (from two years ago as well as last year) then braved the windy rain home, only briefly stopping in front of the home hardware store to see if they had any new bedding plants I absolutely needed — but they didn't, so I picked up eggs instead. I love strata on special occasions for brunch, but it only just dawned on me to make it for dinner. After a boring, windy, rainy, waste of a day, it was a really nice dinner to sit down to.

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Swiss Chard Strata with Roasted Tomatoes, Spinach, Asiago, & Mustard

4-5 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped into 1" pieces — or 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 bunch swiss chard
1 package, approximately 300g frozen spinach
1 medium shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil

1 day old whole wheat baguette or loaf of bread
8 large eggs
3 cups skim milk
1 cup grated cheese (I used a mix of gruyere and asiago)
1 tablespoon dijon style mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8-1/4 cayenne powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Roast your tomatoes on a baking sheet with a splash of olive oil and a little salt at 350°F for about 30 minutes. Begin to saute your your shallots on low-medium heat until translucent. Wash your chard and remove stems (can be used in a different dish) slice the chard into thin strips, approximately 1cm. Add garlic to your shallot pan and stir. Add in chard and frozen spinach and cover for five minutes. Remove lid and cook until most of the moisture had evaporated.

Beat eggs with milk. In a separate container whisk mustard, spices, salt, and pepper with a splash of milk. Add the mustard mixture to the eggs and whisk together. Rub down a baking dish (about 8x10" is good) with a little olive oil. Slice your bread into 1-2cm cubes and scatter into the baking dish. Top this with the roasted tomatoes and chard and spinach mixture and half your cheese. Stir together a little and then coat everything evenly with your egg mixture. Top with the remaining cheese and chill for at least two hours, or overnight. Bake at 350°F for 45-60 minutes, or until firm in the middle.

{Because I only starting making my strata at 3:30 in the afternoon, I soaked the bread with the egg mixture and allowed it to sit as I prepared the other elements}

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Monday, April 25, 2011

easter carrot cupcakes with ginger simple syrup & cream cheese frosting

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So what did the Easter Bunny bring you? There was no chocolate or egg hunts in our house (does crawling around on my hands and knees looking for the kitty's bouncy ball count?) but we do have a basket full of delicious carrot cupcakes. I'm a big fan or carrot cake, I love the high moisture level and I like mine with lots of nutty crunch. The problem with most carrot cake, in my opinion, is way too much sugar in the cake batter and way too much sugar in the cream cheese frosting, which is always piled far too high.

The recipe I used this time around was a Martha website recipe, that I doubled (to make 24 cupcakes) and adjusted a little here and there (for example cutting the sugar in half and adding some whole wheat flour for good measure).

Carrot Cupcakes

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup apple sauce
4 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 24 baking tin cups, or line with paper liners. Beat together sugar, oil, apple sauce, orange juice, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together baking soda, baking powder, spices, salt, and flours. Add this flour mixture to the egg mixture, and stir together. Add in carrots and walnuts, stir until combined. Divide among muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool.

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I wanted these cupcakes to have a little something extra, so I decided to top them all with a ginger infused simple syrup. I wasn't worried about the extra sugar because I used a very tart cream cheese frosting on top. The only complaint was that my syrup wasn't as full of ginger flavour as I would have liked — next time: use more ginger.

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I don't have a recipe for the cream cheese frosting, I just mixed room temperature cream cheese with a bit of soft butter and confectioners' sugar. To add a bit of springy, Easter flair, I topped all the cupcakes with gently ground coconut and pistachios.

These would be good after Easter too you know, I mean you don't even really need an excuse to make them — something to use up all these old flavourless carrots that still fill the shelves of the grocery store perhaps? (I am so excited for the summer farmer's markets to start in a week!)

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

happy easter! peach narcissus & sleeping kittens

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Have a great day with your friends and family, or enjoying mother nature, or decadent food, or whatever you're doing — enjoy!  I'll have some cupcakes to share with you tomorrow.

easter mingus cat

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Friday, April 22, 2011

ursa minor april love

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Just a friendly pre-Easter reminder that everything in the Ursa Minor etsy shop is still at a discount for all my lovely readers that use the special code "anemonefriends" at the etsy checkout. The deal expires at the end of the month, so hurry to get 15% off any purchase.

And in case you were wondering, in preparation for your upcoming egg hunts this weekend: the leather pouch easily holds one dozen eggs, I wouldn't be surprised, with proper technique, if you could nestle two dozen inside.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

cotton candy cherry blossoms

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What does one say about cherry blossoms? I've had my computer open for the last hour "working" on this post. In reality I have been looking at every food blog I can think of.

They're kinda pretty, don't you think? I guess I have become Vancouver-horticulture-spoiled.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

chicken & hearty vegetable soup

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What do you do when the boyfriend is fighting off a cold during the work-week? Well if you are me, you make a chicken soup with kale, carrots, celery, red peppers, snow peas, brown rice, and lots of onion and garlic and a bit of a kick. He feels better now.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

the bloedel floral conservatory

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While taking myself on a walking tour of Queen Elizabeth Park last week, I stopped in at the Bloedel Conservatory just to sneak in a little more springy green before heading home. It's hard to resist the Bloedel when it's only $5.60 to wander around for as long as you like. They change the flowering plants around every season, so there's always something new to look at, but mostly I love their tropicals, with the dramatic foliage and shadows, and the cacti and staghorn ferns and all things lovely, not to mention their resident birds.

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