Platz

There are many wonderful things about living in Mexico: white beaches, cheap tacos, swaying palm trees, and the ease of socializing with friends.  One of the downsides is when those friends move to another place or go back home.

The couple that moved here at the same time we did over 9 years ago has since moved on to Guatemala.  I probably would have never gone to Guatemala except for the fact that two sets of our dearest friends moved there.  Only after we visited for the first time did we realize how beautiful the country is.  We visited Lake Atitlan, which is unparalleled in its beauty.  The city of Antigua, nestled below a few volcanoes, including Fuego which is still active, is beautiful in its colonial buildings, heritage, and great food.  From Cancun, the flights can be less than $100 each way.

Despite all of that, we’ve only been there twice.  Life is busy and we just never get to visit with the people we love as often as we want.  That’s why, when I do visit, I kind of want to do, see, and eat the same things I did last time.  Except for hiking up the volcano Pacaya.

I like to go along with the gang, but this time, I may have been in over my head.  Did anybody tell me that it’s 2 miles straight up?  We decided to do it only with our trusty legs and to forgo the horses that are literally nudging your butt three quarters of the way up.  Not making it any easier were their owners behind them, who would call out ‘taxi, taxi’, just waiting for the first sign of weakness.  We refused to give in. Instead, we used our sturdy walking sticks.  We had to rest often, between altitude that us coastal people can’t handle and the hike itself.  Of course, the effort was worth it.  The views were spectacular.  Roasting marshmallows on hot lava rocks was an experience itself.  We drank in the beauty around us.

Then came the walk down.

I can’t tell you how many times I fell.  You would think I’d had a bit too much to drink.  Instead, my calves had had enough.  Because I was the oldest of the bunch, nobody was really laughing, I got more words of concern every time I slipped.

And I thought climbing up was the hard part.  My calves hurt for daaaaaaaaayyyysssss.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did it, but I now consider it checked off my Bucket List, not to be re-visited.

When we do visit our friends in Antigua, there are three things that I expect to be fed: the husband’s Peasant bread, the wife’s Tortilla soup, which recipe I forced her to give to me and is on the blog, and this dessert.

It’s simple, fast, and you’ll always have the ingredients on hand.  While I almost never buy fresh berries here because they’re quite pricey, I always have a bag of frozen mixed berries in the freezer.

Just the smell of this baking today reminded me of dear friends, adventures together, and the food we eat that binds us all together.
INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups mixed berries

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Add butter and cut into flour mixture until it looks like small crumbs.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs; add milk and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Add wet mixture to dry and combine well.

Spread evenly into a cookie sheet.  Top with berries.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then broil for 2 minutes.

Let cool slightly.  Serve warm with whipped cream and/or dust with icing sugar.

 

 

 

Dairy Free Creamy Leek & Potato Soup

One of the bonuses of making soups is you can make them at any time, refrigerate, freeze, photograph, eat ….. whenever.  Some food doesn’t freeze well, or even refrigerate well (Pasta a la Carbonara for example), but a soup?  Often better even after it’s sat in the fridge until the next day.

One things that often frustrates me as a mother is that my desire to cook up a storm doesn’t always match the cravings of the people in my house.  My daughter usually asks me for soup on a brutally hot day, when the last thing I want to do is cook.  Or I’m happily making recipe after recipe and, well, my son is playing basketball, my husband “isn’t hungry” and my daughter is over at her friend’s house.  In the past, I have given many a food item away, only to be told the next day by a family member “why did you give that away? I would have eaten it today!”

Ug.  Mom’s can’t win.

Yesterday was one of those days.  Husband is napping.  Teenagers are running around the neighborhood.  And yet, I’m in the mood for soup.  So I took a few of my favorite things and played around and came up with this.  It’s not shockingly inventive, but it’s solidly good, and tastes even better today.

How convenient, considering it’s meatless Monday.

Ever make your own croutons?  Instead of ditching that old loaf of bread, pita, whatever, freeze it and the next time you’ve made soup, make your own croutons too.  Years ago, one of Martha Stewart’s recipes called for pita croutons, and to this day, they’re my favorite.  Just cut slices of the pita, toss some salt (and rosemary if you desire, like I do) on them, and fry them in a little olive oil until crunchy.  Yum.

You can feel good about this because it’s dairy free too.  I put a butter option in there instead of the olive oil in case somebody doesn’t care and has to have a little butter in their soup (because sometimes you just need the butter).

Hope this warms you up today.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or 1/4 cup butter)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 leeks, sliced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TAB thyme
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot, heat oil or butter over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add garlic, leeks, and jalapeno, and saute for another ten minutes or so.  Add potatoes, spices, and broth.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and let cool about 15 minutes before transferring to a blender.  (Don’t fill the blender up more than 3/4 of the way or have the soup too hot, or it’ll blow the top off).   Repeat until all liquid is creamy.  Return to pot and rewarm.

Serve with grated cheese, croutons, or refrigerate or freeze.

 

 

Spaghetti with Cauliflower

If you are looking for a low-fat recipe, perhaps this isn’t the recipe for you.  If you’re looking for some meatless comfort food, this is your stop.

This recipe comes from a classic cookbook that is still in my mother’s drawer, weathered, stained and torn, and with good reason.  Some of my favorite childhood food comes from this classic cookbook called Moosewood.  It also may have been the reason I began to like cauliflower.  Because how can you not like it when it’s covered in cheese and tomato sauce?

For a few years after the internet exploded, I wondered why anybody would keep cookbooks.  I mean, there are endless recipes online for free, why would somebody pay?

Considering I still love books, magazines, stationary, and agendas often more than technology, it’s surprising that I even thought that way.  And now, a few years later, I understand why people pay and why I am one of them.  As much as the internet is the source for so many things, nothing says comfort to me like sitting down with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and leafing through the latest food magazine that was brought down from Canada, or one of my old cookbooks in hope of finding something new I’ve never seen before.  The pictures are bright, shiny, and it’s almost like I can touch the food.  When you like a certain chef, you rely on their recipes, their methods, and so an entire book of their thoughts is a comfort in itself.

There’s something to be said for the printed page.

I used white cheddar and parmesan cheeses for this picture, although I grew up with my mom using the orange cheddar cheese.  I also used some canned tomatoes with the puree that I had in the fridge, just gave a little more substance to the sauce.

Happy Meatless Monday to you.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cauliflower, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 2 TAB butter
  • 2 cups mixed cheddar and parmesan cheese, grated
  • 500 grams spaghetti noodles
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Heat 2 TABS of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add garlic, bay leaf, and basil.  Saute about one minute and then add cauliflower and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Saute until cauliflower is tender.  (You might want to add 1/2 cup water or so to steam it along).  When cauliflower is fork tender, add tomato puree and lower to a simmer.  Simmer for 15 or so minutes.

Cook spaghetti to al dente.  Drain and toss with remaining olive oil, butter, and half the cheese.  Spread onto a platter and pour the cauliflower sauce over top with freshly ground pepper and remaining cheese.  Serve immediately.

 

Adapted from: Moosewood Cookbook

 

 

 

 

Marion’s Dinner Rolls

My husband is from Nova Scotia, I am from Toronto.  He was raised by a single mother and is the youngest of five.  As any single mom would know, raising and feeding five children is no easy task on any budget, never mind a modest one.

The first few years I knew my mother-in-law before she passed away, she would often say she didn’t want cook for us when we visited because her cooking wasn’t “fancy” enough.  What she failed to realize is that cooking doesn’t need to be “fancy” to be good.  My husband often told stories of his life growing up, with descriptions of food that his mom made interwoven.  He has often related stories of his mother taking all five of her children camping, and of the sandwiches that she would make at home, wrap in foil, and then toss in the fire to warm when they arrived at their campsite.  Every time he tried to copy this during our camping years he said it just wasn’t the same.

He wouldn’t have told these stories if her food wasn’t comforting and memorable.

One thing he always spoke of was his mom’s dinner rolls, or as many call them out in the eastern part of Canada, scalded milk rolls.  I have always been afraid of making bread, it can be a lot like baking, very precise.  A few years back when I watched my husband make these for the first time, he made it look so easy, and my oh my, did they look beautiful coming out of the oven, all golden and puffed up. I knew one day I would have to conquer my fear and this was going to be one of the recipes that helped.

Rolls are an essential part of meals in eastern Canada and many other places where people still farm and work the land and need true sustenance to proceed through their daily tasks, so they are a staple at many dinner tables.

I recently asked if I could share his mom’s roll recipe.  I found it upstairs in a box that we have of her recipes, hand-written on index cards.  It’s an old and weathered card, and was missing a few measurements, but he figured it out.  And it didn’t disappoint.

These rolls are beautiful to look at and not hard to learn.

My husband likes to mold them by hand.  But you may get more uneven rolls.  Instead, try this: divide dough in half and with your hands, roll half of the dough into a thick log.  Then cut off in sections. Half the dough should be ten rolls.

dinnerrolls1

Form into balls, while pinching dough underneath so that you get a smooth and pretty top.  Place in your pan and repeat until all dough is finished.

dinnerrolls2

Cover again and let rise until doubled in size, about another hour.  Remove towel and brush buns with melted butter and top with some beautiful coarse sea salt.

dinnerrolls3

Then pop these beauties into the oven and try and wait until golden brown.

If you can’t use regular milk, try other kinds.  I know soy works well, but I haven’t tried other kinds, it might change up the flavor a bit.  Try it and let me know how it works.

And don’t blame me when everybody in the neighborhood comes knocking on the door asking what that glorious smell is.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening, melted, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 1/2 cups (or more) flour
  • about 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

Add yeast to warm water.  Wait for at least five minutes or until frothy.  (If needed, add a pinch of sugar to help the process).  Pour yeast mixture into the warm milk, stir until combined.

Add sugar, shortening, egg, and salt and mix with a fork.  Add flour one cup at a time so it does not become too hard to combine.   If dough is too wet, add more flour and use hands to combine until dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl.  Grease the sides of a clean bowl and place the dough inside.  Cover with a warm, damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place, about one hour, or until doubled in size.

With more shortening, grease a large cast-iron skillet or baking pan.  Gently punch down the dough.  With floured hands, form into equal-sized balls, about half the size that you want them to be.  Pinch rolls underneath so the tops are smooth.  Place into the greased pan of your choice.  Cover again with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for another hour or until doubled in size.

Melt butter.  Brush generously over rolls and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Let rest ten minutes in pan before removing.

 

Depending on size, makes about 20 dinner rolls.

Nanaimo Bars

When somebody asks me what the food of Canada is, I never know what to answer.  Living in Toronto, one has access to food from a variety of cultures found around the world.  Chinatown, the Danforth for Greek food, Little Italy for phenomenal gelato, Vietnamese Pho …. and the list goes on.  But something specifically Canadian? A little harder.

I would say there’s more provincial food, like Poutine from Quebec, beef from Alberta, lobster from Nova Scotia; and we can’t forget one of the most famous,  the ever popular Nanaimo bar from, you guessed it, a little town called Nanaimo, British Columbia.  Every Canadian baker should know of this no-bake bar.  It’s easy, unique, and a crowd pleaser.

I wish I could make it more often here in Mexico because sometimes a no bake treat when it’s 35 degrees is the only option.  Unfortunately, there is limited access to graham cracker crumbs.  So I get my trusty friends to pop a few bags into their suitcases every once in awhile.  There is a brand of cookies here that many people have told me they grind up and use in replacement, but to be honest, I’ve never tried.  Maybe one day in desperation I will and let you know how they compare.  Or if you are an expat somewhere, you can tell me what worked for you.

The next time you want a fast, no-bake treat that’s guaranteed to please, try these Nanaimo bars.  And then when somebody asks you if there’s any authentic Canadian food, you can say you’ve had at least one.

INGREDIENTS:

BOTTOM LAYER:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 TAB cocoa
  • 1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped

MIDDLE LAYER:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 TAB whipping cream
  • 2 TAB vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted

TOP LAYER:

  • 1 1/3 cup dark, milk, or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 TAB butter

DIRECTIONS:

Bottom Layer: Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa in a medium sized saucepan over low heat.  Add egg and stir one minute to thicken.  Remove from heat.  Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts.  Press firmly into an ungreased 8×8 pan.

Middle Layer:  Cream all ingredients together until smooth and light.  Spread over bottom layer.  Refrigerate until solid, about an hour.

Top Layer:  Melt chocolate and butter over low heat, double boiler makes sure the chocolate won’t seize.  Cool slightly.  Pour chocolate over the top and spread evenly.  Refrigerate until cold and easy to cut.

Buffalo Blasts

Ever been to the popular American restaurant The Cheesecake Factory? Where they not only serve a staggering array of cheesecake that will thrill any sweet tooth (and I don’t even like cheesecake), they have fantastic main course food to boot?  With portions so large anyone is guaranteed a take-home bag?  If not, make it on your to go list.  And no, sadly, I’m not getting any money for saying that.

Being Canadian, we only got to visit this restaurant a few times a year when we crossed the border into Buffalo (although I am told there is one in the GTA-Greater Toronto Area- now).  On one of our visits, I just couldn’t decide what to get……until I noticed that they had an appetizer sampler, where they took five of their most popular appetizers and gave you four pieces each.  I begged my husband to share with me and he obliged.  We weren’t disappointed.  Two of my favorite appetizers from that restaurant were on the platter, including this one.

It truly is amazing, isn’t it, when something with so few ingredients can taste so good?  I made these a few times before I discovered how we like it best.  The recipe below is one of those that has very loose measurements.  The first time I made them I only put a drizzle of sauce inside that that was just not enough for us wing sauce lovers.  So now I chop up the chicken, stir in the sauce and cheese, and fill the wonton wrappers.  You can use more or less sauce as you prefer, just be careful it’s not too wet or else it will leak out of the wrappers and break apart frying.  And use whatever cheese you like, I usually use cheddar, but I’ve thrown in Monterey Jack and even Mozzarella when that’s all that was in the fridge.

wontonfill (2)

Lay the filling diagonally across the wonton wrapper.  Brush edges lightly with egg white, and fold over diagonally to seal.  I use a fork to help seal the edges.

If you’ve never deep fried before, here’s a few tips.  In order to save oil, I usually use a medium size pot.  I pour vegetable oil about 3/4 up the sides and heat.  How do you know when it’s ready?  Insert your wooden spoon into the oil.  If it bubbles around the stick then it is ready to go.  If it is smoking, it’s too hot, which can be dangerous and ruin your food.

I only fry two or three at a time, flipping them over after about a minute, then draining them on a rack or some paper towel.  These are best served soon after frying.  You can serve with blue cheese dip, ranch dip, or more wing sauce if you prefer.

Here’s to restaurants giving us great ideas that we can copy and edit to our tastes at home.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese (Monterey Jack is good too, or a combination)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups panko crumbs
  • About 25 wonton wrappers
  • vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:

Put chicken breasts in a large skillet of water.  Cook on medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain and cool.

Chop chicken and put into medium sized bowl.  Add wing sauce and cheddar.  If you want more sauce, add it now, just be careful to not make it too ‘soupy’ or it will leak.

Lay out wonton wrappers.  Put about 1/2 TAB in center of wonton.  Fold over diagonally.  Seal with a fork.  Repeat until all wrappers and chicken are used.

Heat oil in a medium sized bowl.  While waiting for the oil to heat, brush all wontons with egg white. Pour panko onto a plate and coat both sides with crumbs.

Put wontons carefully in oil with a slotted spoon.  Let fry about 1 minute each side, until golden brown, but not dark brown.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels or a rack. Repeat until finished.

Serve immediately with blue cheese dip, ranch dip, or more wing sauce, as well as some carrots or celery.

Makes about 25 wontons.

Mezzi Carbonara

When I was a single gal in my 20’s, I did a five-week trip to Israel, Italy, and Greece.  It was a life-changing trip and I longed to bring my husband to Europe at some point in our lives.  Then a house got in there, a couple of kids, and a dog, and Europe was a far off reality.

We started talking about a European trip for our 15th wedding anniversary. My husband even surprised me with a life size replica of a boarding pass to Rome.  Finally!!  I started to dream again.

Unfortunately, not a week after receiving this boarding pass, my husband’s employment crumbled to pieces and a large trip was the last thing on our minds.  We had to be responsible adults and downsize and reduce all our bills, not go off on the adventure of a lifetime.  I kept that boarding pass in my closet for a few years though …. until finally one day I let reality set in and off it went into the trash.

Finally, for our 20th wedding anniversary, we made it happen.  We planned and planned and off we went for 3 weeks.  The first part we traveled with good friends through Switzerland and Italy.  We parted in Rome, they went home to their four children, and we continued through Italy and Greece for another week and a half.

Being the foodies we are, food was just as an exciting part of the trip as seeing the Colosseum and the Acropolis.  We had never had pizza in Napoli, and when we did, we understood what all the fuss was about.  How do they get such flavor in the crust?  How do they make it so thin and yet sturdy?  This is my newest obsession that should be saved for my 72-hour pizza dough crust recipe that I am working on.  Sorry, I get distracted easily.

Back to pasta.  When we arrived in Rome, my husband asked our Air-BNB host where the best places to eat locally were.  She wrote down a few places within walking distance of our condo.  Off we went to the closest one.  There were some tourists there, but mostly locals, which means you know it’s good.  I almost always order pizza when I go out because I can make pretty good pasta.  So that’s what I did.  My husband ordered Carbonara.  When it was brought to the table, he offered me a try.

It. was. perfect.

How can something so simple be so delicious?  Eggs?  Cheese? Noodles?  Each noodle was coated with the sauce, perfectly seasoned.  I became obsessed.

For the 4 days we were in Rome, we ate there 3 times.  The last night we actually went and ate in sadness, savoring every bite, wondering if we would ever eat this food again.

I still dream of that Carbonara.

When we returned home, I went into a post-European-vacation depression.  I bought Italian wine only and made pizza and pasta and gained more weight after my vacation than on my vacation.  And nobody feels sorry for your post-vacation-depression, which makes things even more depressing.

I came home and tried to re-create some of the foods that we had eaten in Greece and Italy, and let me tell you, it wasn’t too easy.  We just don’t have access to the same ingredients so copying is almost impossible.  Caper leaves that they only grow on Santorini? Nope.  I hadn’t even heard of caper leaves before, never mind actually having access to them.

But the Carbonara, I had to try.  So here’s where my food obsession sets in.  I watched perhaps a few too many hours of Italian chefs on YouTube in Italy making Carbonara their way.  The answer?

Everybody does it their own way.  Some use whole eggs, some use only yolks, some separate the fat from the meat and combine with the egg, and so on and so on.  So I just decided to try Carbonara all the different ways and see what I like best.  The answer is in the recipe below.

I found using the yolks only coat the noodle better.  Just make sure they are at room temperature, otherwise the difference in temperature so quickly could scramble the eggs.  I went and bought Pecorino Romano, which is the cheese they use in Italy for Carbonara, without exception.  It’s made with sheep’s milk instead of cow, and is sharp, salty, and perfect for a recipe with such few ingredients.  The Italians swear by “Guanciale”, which, of course, I cannot buy here.  If you can buy it, please make this recipe and send me a picture or tag me on social media.  Most videos I watched said Pancetta is a good substitute, but some true Italians yelled in the video and said SOLO GUANCIALE.  I bought a chunk of pancetta and diced it, and I liked that better than the sliced pancetta that my son mistakenly bought when he went back to the store for me.  It is so beautifully salty that you don’t need to add much more salt yourself.

Carbonara is also, I have learned, not a sauce that sits well, it must be consumed immediately.  Otherwise that silky sauce seems to soak into the noodles and it’s just dry coated noodles.  Make sure to FINELY grate your cheese; otherwise it looks like you’ve scrambled your eggs even when you’ve haven’t.   Do the opposite of what you usually do when cooking meat and put the meat in a cold skillet, then turn on the heat.  This makes more fat render and make the sauce more flavorful.  I tested this with chunks of pancetta and slices, and the chunks rendered off way more fat and flavor, but maybe that’s just the kind I had.  You let me know what worked for you.

Spaghetti is the preferred noodle, but the pasta that we had was these half size Rigatoni noodles, which I prefer a hundred times over, so that’s what I found and used for this recipe.

Finally, Carbonara is about timing.  It doesn’t take long, but, if you leave stuff on the stove, it’ll be cold and unable to reheat unless you scramble the eggs and that’s not what you want.  So try and give it the 15 minutes of pure attention that it deserves.

So, call everybody to the table, forks in hand, napkins tucked in shirt, wine on table, and serve them some of the best Carbonara they’ve ever had.

INGREDIENTS:

*If you’ve never made Carbonara before, read some of the tips above; it will help plenty.

  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  • 3 oz. diced guanciale or pancetta
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti or rigatoni noodles
  • Freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Whisk egg yolks and cheese together in a little bowl.

Finely dice guanciale or pancetta and put into a medium size skillet.  Put skillet on heat and let fat render and cook until crispy, about 5-7 minutes.  Turn off heat.

Boil pasta, save 1 cup cooking water, and drain.

Reheat the guanciale or pancetta with about 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Toss pasta in the skillet to warm.  Then toss the egg/cheese mixture.  Shake pan to toss everything together, adding more cooking water if you like.

Serve immediately, with more Pecorino grated on top.

Makes 2 servings.

Chocolate Ganache Ice-Cream

When I used to live in the land of cable television, I used to try and avoid those late night infomercials.  You know, the kind that when you can’t sleep at 2:30 a.m., make you believe that you need everything they are selling?  How did I live without that snuggie fleece blanket for so long? Or that thigh reduction product?  Dangerous financial times.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop, but I’m also very practical at times and wary of things that are an impulse buy.  My husband, not so much.  So when he brought an ice-cream maker home from Canada here to Mexico, I thought, oh boy, what a waste of suitcase space for something I’ll probably use twice a year.

I was wrong.  (What else is new?)  The first batch I made was met with oohs and aahs and two litres were devoured quickly. This machine would serve us well, it seems.

When we had our cafe, ice-cream was a popular seller.  We used to sell them in individual size portions, which was actually more popular than the litres.  Ice-cream in this part of Mexico isn’t the greatest unless you’re buying the big expensive name brands.  So our individually sized ice-cream at half the price sold well.

Something else I learned was that home-made ice cream is it may be possible to consume for people who are allergic to dairy.  I found this out when I forced ice-cream on my foodie friend from Montreal.  She accepted it graciously, but warned me that dairy makes her sick to her stomach.  A day later, she messaged me to inform that it didn’t make her sick and she regretted sharing it with her room-mates.  Who knew?  Maybe it’s all the preservatives in the store-bought kind that hurt her belly?  We were hence-forth both happy that we could consume ice-cream together.

Buy an ice-cream maker.  You won’t regret it.  The recipes will keep coming.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  Heat the whipping cream until simmering.  Pour cream over chocolate, let it sit for a few minutes, and then stir until smooth.  Set ganache aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs for one minute or until light and frothy.  Add sugar and cocoa and combine well until smooth.

Bring milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Slowly pour milk into chocolate mixture while whisking constantly.  Pour the bowl back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly.  Leave on heat, stirring constantly for about 5-7 minutes, or until a wooden spoon is thick and coated when you run your finger through it.  Pour liquid through a strainer into the chocolate ganache and stir together.

Leave in refrigerator at least 8 hours or over-night.  Run through your ice-cream maker according to directions.  Move to container and freeze.

Makes about 2 litres.

 

 

 

 

Lemon Glazed Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

I love that someone ‘invented’ a cake to go with coffee.  The internet tells me it started in Germany.  Not only do they give us beer and bratwurst, they gave us the sweetness to start the day right.  Or end it right.  Or have it for tea right.  When can’t you eat a coffee cake? There is no wrong time.  That’s why it’s so popular.  “Mom, can I have cake for breakfast?”.  “No! That’s a bad choice?”.  “But it’s coffee cake!”.  “Oh well, okay then, if it’s coffee cake it’s fine”.

I don’t make coffee cakes a lot and I’m not sure why.  Since I seem to like sweet things less and less as I get older, I find coffee cakes quite appealing.  They are not overly sweet, and can be made in a variety of ways with a few hundred different additions; nuts and fruit being just a few.

This recipe is an old one in the archives of my books from the same girlfriend who brought us Oma’s German Potato Salad.  Neither of us can remember where it came from, and my typed version was terrible, so when I made this again recently, I had to tweek a lot of it.  Seems my copyist skills need some work.

The cream cheese swirl in it makes for a super moist cake and a lovely surprise.  In case you didn’t already know, I love lemon, so when I can insert it in a cake, it’s there.  This has zest in the batter and a lemon icing on the top.  Delicious and beautiful, what else do you need?  Just a good cup of coffee.

Have a wonderful day off everybody.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 TAB unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 7 TAB sugar
  • 1 TAB lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

GLAZE:

  • 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a bunt pan with nonstick spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter, 1 cup plus 2 TAB sugar, and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down sides if needed.  Add eggs one at a time, letting combine after each addition.  Add 2 teaspoons vanilla.  Reduce speed and add 1/3 of flour mixture, then half of sour cream, and repeat, ending with flour mixture.  Reserve  1/4 cup batter and set aside.  Spoon remaining batter into prepared pan.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese, remaining 5 TAB sugar, 4 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until slightly thickened, about one minute.  Add 1/4 cup reserved batter and combine.  Spoon cheese filling over batter, then gently swirl filling into batter.  Tap on counter to remove any air pockets.

Bake in oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and a long skewer comes out clean (the skewer will be wet if inserted into the cheese filling).  Remove pan and let cool on cooling rack. While cooling, make lemon icing.

In a small bowl, sift icing sugar.  Add lemon juice and whisk.  Add more juice or sugar to reach desired glazing consistency.

When pan is cooled, carefully remove from pan.  Drizzle glaze and top with sliced almonds.

 

Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

Today is our annual Euchre tournament!  I had a hard time learning to play about 25 years ago or so.  My poor husband had to play two-handed Euchre over and over one year.  We were camping in Algonquin Park and it poured rain for four days so if there’s any time to learn a card game, that was it.  A few months later, I went to my first Euchre tournament.  It was a bigger one, over 20 people for sure.  I was petrified.  I mean, I liked the game and felt I could play, but all day long? With seasoned players?  Some of them a bit competitive?

I was at my first table and watched as they were dealing cards face up.  I had no idea what was happening so I asked.   “First black jack determines the dealer”, was the answer.  Oh, I didn’t know that.  My partner looked worried.  I couldn’t comfort him.

We won that first round.  And I won a few more.  And before I knew it, I had won the whole tournament.  (Yes I tell this story as much as possible).  Maybe that’s why ever since then Euchre has been my favorite card game?

I haven’t won a tournament since, but that’s okay, I just love the game.  We started hosting Euchre tournaments six years ago.  When we play cards all day, we don’t want fussy foods; after all, we play 30 minute games and only have a ten minute break.  That’s only time for bathroom break, drink and plate refill, and back to play.  So these bars are a great game day food.

Call me weird, but I love desserts that cut well, nice and even. It seems like there’s less waste, less crumbles.

This is one of those.  It does have a few steps and an extra bowl, but it’s worth it.  It’ll make all the people at your dessert table happy.  Chocolate? Check.  Cheesecake? Check.  Cookie Dough? Check check.

cheesecakebites2

I can’t make this a lot because sadly, we can’t buy graham cracker crumbs down here unless we sell some diamonds.  I’ve only found them in one store in town and they charge an arm and a leg for the Costco size bag.  So it’s become one of the treats that I get brought down by friends, and inevitably, these friends get searched and questioned as to why they are carrying 5 bags of graham cracker crumbs when going on a beach vacation.  I’m grateful for these gifts.  Who would have thought bags of graham crumbs could make a girl so happy?

Make sure you use all the cookie dough.  It does seem like a lot, but it doesn’t spread when you crumble it on top, so you can cover the entire top of the pan.  You are guaranteed to have a nice chunk of dough in every bite.

Enjoy.

INGREDIENTS:

CRUST:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 TAB unsalted butter, melted

COOKIE DOUGH:

  • 5 TAB unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 TAB sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

CHEESECAKE FILLING:

  • 10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with foil and grease.

Crust: Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs until combined.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake in oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove pan to a cooling rack.

Cheesecake Filling:  In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Mix in egg and vanilla just until incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared crust.

Dough: In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla about 2 minutes.  Add the flour in on low speed just until incorporated.  Mix in chocolate chips.  Using your hands to form clumps, distribute cookie dough onto the top of the cheesecake batter in small clumps.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until top is dry to the touch and the pan looks set if given a gentle shake.  Remove from oven and cool.  Chill for a few hours or overnight.

 

Adapted from: The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook