Tuesday, 3 December 2013

ginger snaps

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Yesterday Edmonton got another big dump of snow, so Hannah & I had a 'snow day' and stayed at home in our jammies all day and did a bit of baking.  With the frosty, winter weather and Christmas just around the corner and I've been starting to think about holiday goodies.  Ginger snaps are a favourite at our house all year long, but I think the ginger & deep molasses taste go especially well with winter (and a big mug of hot chocolate).  I'm sure your friends and family wouldn't complain if these cookies found their way onto your cookie plate during the holidays!  This is my go-to recipe for ginger snaps: I like the balance of flavours and they bake up nice & chewy in the middle.  Yum!

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Ginger Snaps
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
sugar to roll the dough in before baking

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until well incorporated.  Mix in the molasses.  (Tip: coat your measuring cup with a bit of oil before measuring out the molasses, this makes it way easier to get it out of the measuring cup.)  In another large bowl stir the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt and baking soda together.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.

Shape the dough into 1" balls (use a cookie scoop, like I did, to make things easy), then roll the dough in sugar.  Leave about 2" between dough balls - no need to flatten them on the tray, they will spread out.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until the cookies look puffed but set around the edges.

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Hannah & I on our 'snow day'
Recipe adapted from: Company's Coming: Cookies

Sunday, 20 October 2013

roasted tomatoes over polenta

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My little garden was overflowing with tomatoes this fall, particularly cherry tomatoes and mini romas.  As many as we ate, there always seemed to be a big bowl still sitting on the counter.  This recipe was my own invention as a way to use up a bunch of tomatoes before they went bad.  The warm, roasted tomatoes combined with the pesto make a delicious sauce.  Polenta is a relative new-comer to our kitchen.  I've tried making it in the past, but Trevor didn't like it.  This method was a winner though.  The texture is really good and I think cooking it for longer helps to enhance the corn flavour.  Mmmm, I'm definitely looking forward to more polenta comfort-food dishes this fall & winter!


Friday, 6 September 2013

the beautiful balkans: mostar

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This post is much delayed, but I absolutely had to share our little adventure into Bosnia-Herzegovina that was part of our trip to the Croatian coast last September.  We hadn't planned on venturing into Bosnia at the time we were planning our trip, but we ended up with a few extra days in Dubrovnik (and although it's beautiful, you can only stroll the streets of the old town for so long), so we caught a local bus headed to Mostar.
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The bus ride takes a few hours, and involves several passport checks, but was fairly easy.  One note for those who think they may ride the bus in the Balkans: you have to pay to put your luggage under the bus, it's a separate ticket (we eventually got it figured out).
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As soon as we arrived we found our hostel (it cost 20 Euro/night) then immediately joined in the war-tour led by our hostel owner, Miran.  He was a teenager during the war and did an excellent job of explaining the history as well as telling about his experiences.  This was the second time we visited a country that has recently experienced war (the first was Cambodia) and it's a very moving experience.  The evidence of war is still everywhere in Mostar: buildings riddled with bullet holes, vandalism and bombed out buildings.  But as much as you can see the sad past, you can also see the rich history and culture.
This building was the museum, but it was looted and bombed

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Seeing Old Bridge (Stari Most) was amazing.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage site that was destroyed during the war and was rebuilt using the traditional methods and reopened in 2004.  The Bosnians we met spoke of Old Bridge with pride, as if it was an old friend.
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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

zucchini loaf

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It's that time of year again - zucchini is everywere in abundance!  We were given a few large zucchini by my mother-in-law, so I knew I would be making at least one zucchini loaf.  Something about zucchini loaf reminds me of school lunches...I can remember enjoying a slice of with a little bit of butter as a treat in my lunch box when I was in elementary school.  Back in those days, if it had chocolate chips it was pretty much the best ever :)  I guess I must be more of a grown-up these days, because I decided to add walnuts to this one.

This loaf has really nice flavour and good texture, but I think the next time I make it I'll try to increase the zucchini and maybe experiment with using some whole wheat flour.  I really liked the background flavour from the cinnamon and toasting the walnuts definitely brings out their nutty flavour.  I think this is a treat worth enjoying whether it's in your school lunch box or as an afternoon snack at work.

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Zucchini Loaf
1 cup grated zucchini (with peel)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 9X5" loaf pan.  Toast the chopped walnuts for about 5 minutes in the preheated oven - until they become fragrant.

Stir zucchini, eggs, cooking oil, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl.  Combine the dry ingredients and walnuts together in a medium-sized bowl, then add to the zucchini mixture.  Stir just to combine then pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only moist crumbs on it.

Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before trying to remove it.

Recipe adapted from: Biscuits, Muffins & Loaves by Company's Coming

Friday, 30 August 2013

plow & harvest

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Recently I attended the preview for Plow & Harvest; a new eatery that strives to utilize local ingredients to serve up comfort-food favourites.  The atmosphere is fresh & lively and I think it will work well with their concept of ordering at the counter, then seating yourself.  From what we tasted, the food had a home-cooked taste and comfort-food appeal - exactly what they were going for.  I also think that the location is good - there isn't really anything else like it around the area (Mayfield Common/170 St.).  Overall I think the restaurant was okay based on the bits of food we tasted, I would definitely be willing to go back and give them a try once they're running at full swing.
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At the restaurant preview we had the opportunity to sample a few of the dishes.  The first thing we tried was the Baked Potato Soup.  Trevor and I both enjoyed it; it had a great homemade taste and I loved how thick it was with little chunks of potato in it.  The only thing it wanted for was a tiny sprinkle of pepper, but I'm sure that could be easily remedied if you ordered a bowl for lunch or dinner.
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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

birthday cupcakes

These aren't just any old birthday cupcakes...

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These cupcakes are to celebrate the birth of our little Jellybean!  Hannah was born on July 20th and I can't believe she's one month old already.  I love her so much and my heart absolutely melts every time she gives me a big toothless grin, snuggles her head into my chest or wraps her tiny fingers around my finger.  I find myself staring into her beautiful blue eyes and wondering who she will be as she continues to grow.  What will her personality be like?  What will she be interested in?  What sorts of adventures will we have together?  I'm looking forward to all the things that come along with little girls, like playing dollies, dress-up & tea parties.  In fact, these pink cupcakes would be perfect for a tea party!  I'm sure Hannah and I will enjoy spending time together in the kitchen making all sorts of yummy treats :)

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What better way to celebrate my baby girl then with pretty cupcakes?  I chose to make vanilla cupcakes with strawberry buttercream.  The cake recipe makes tasty cupcakes with excellent vanilla flavour.  The cake is a bit dense, but in my opinion that gives them a lovely homemade feeling.  I used fresh strawberries to make the puree for the buttercream, and they gave it a really wonderful flavour.  It was seriously hard to resist eating the frosting by the spoonful!  I made a small mistake with my buttercream, and didn't let the egg/sugar mixture cool enough before I started adding butter - this, combined with the warmer temperatures outside, resulted in runny buttercream because too much of the butter had melted.  Lesson learned!  (The cupcakes still tasted great though)

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Friday, 5 July 2013

smashburger

DSC_6041First of all, a big thank-you to Smashburger for inviting me out to their opening party on Tuesday night.  I haven't been into cooking these days, so it's especially nice when someone else buys you dinner!

Smashburger is an up & coming chain from the good ol' USA.  They started up in 2007 and have been rapidly spreading throughout the States and have recently launched into the international market with locations in the Middle East and Canada.  Calgary has their first two locations and the new one in Sherwood Park is the third.

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The Smashburger concept is simple: serve up satisfying, fresh, delicious burgers.  They've carved out their niche by offering up fresh, never-frozen burgers cooked to order.  They start off with a ball of hamburger (no fillers or binders) then smash it onto a hot, buttered grill where it develops a great crust that seals in the juices.  They use 100% Angus beef that they import from the States along with a variety of fresh toppings and sauces.  Their menu also has a selection of "Smashchicken" sandwiches, dinner-sized salads and sides.  They've got shakes, malts, pop and beer available to wash it all down with.  One of the things Smashburger is trying to do is 'regionalize' their menus with special recipes chosen to reflect local tastes.  When I was checking out their website I decided to see what that meant for the Calgary locations versus the new one in Sherwood Park.  I thought it was interesting that there were different offerings, even between the two Calgary stores (for example, one restaurant had deep-fried pickles and the other had mushroom poutine) - I guess you have to visit each location to try it all out! (here's a link to the Edmonton menu)

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