Auntie Stacey’s Chickpea Salad

chickpeasalad1 1/2 – 2 C Chickpeas, brine drained and rinsed
1 Shallot, halved and thinly chopped
1/8 C Roasted Red Peppers, brine sopped off with paper towels
1/4 C Cilantro, leaves washed and dried
Salt & Black Pepper, freshly cracked
1/8 C Oil
White Vinegar, generous splash

Assembled the ingredients in a medium bowl and lightly toss. Top with the seasonings, and mix well. Store in the fridge for at least an hour so the flavours have time to marry.

Coffee Chatter – Sunday Edition

[ After I cleaned out the fridge, I realized I had many mason jars that I really should sterilize instead of simply hand washing them, so I pulled out my big stock pot and did just that because we don't have a dishwasher ]

    [ After I cleaned out the fridge, I realized I had many mason jars that I really should sterilize instead of simply hand washing them, so I pulled out my big stock pot and did just that because we don't have a dishwasher ]

[ After I cleaned out the fridge, I realized I had many mason jars that I really should sterilize instead of simply hand washing, so I pulled out my big stock pot and channelled my grandmother. ]

[ Korean Beef ]

[ Korean Beef ]

[ Mongolian Beef I made a few weeks back that was too salty for human consumption, but was lovely otherwise. Will have to make this again revising the salt and soy sauce. ]

[ Mongolian Beef I made a few weeks back that was too salty for human consumption, but was lovely otherwise. Will have to make this again revising the salt and soy sauce. ]

Yesterday I spent the day puttering around in the kitchen, cleaning mostly (the oven, the stove top, mason jars, dishes, the floor, etc.) but also making a big portion of dinner (Korean Beef) and setting up lunches for the husband since he’s working a lot this week to cover a co-worker who went home to visit her family for the first time in at least 5 years. And luckily since I tired myself out yesterday in the kitchen and at work, we were finally able to go to bed early for the first time in a long time. In fact, I was so tired, I tried to start this post in bed but I fell asleep shortly after logging into the website. (snort)

[ Sushi / maki roll mold ]

[ Sushi / maki roll mold ]

2014-03-22 22.11.36I also found sometime to play a bit with food, and a new gimmicky tool I bought on clearance. I was drawn to this trough looking toy that purports to help make the best rolled rice and filling for maki versus hand rolling, so I figured it was worth $3 to find out. All in the name of science. Tasty, delicious science. ‘Mmm… Ahem.

[ Typical maki roll hand rolling produced by moi. ]

[ Typical hand rolled maki produced by moi. ]

Well, they aren’t lying. Check out this tight maki roll I made using jasmine rice (rinsed two times to keep some of the starch needed to stick the filling together) and carrot sticks. All I did was wet the nori sheet at the ends and a bit in the middle as I went along, and it pulled it tight with the bamboo mat as I rolled it over. And I didn’t have get my hands dirty and tacky at all?? I’m impressed.

In other news, we’re on the hunt for a new oven. I dislike this old cheap version that came with the house, and it now only cooks and bakes on the left side of the oven. I mean… I just can’t even begin to figure that one out other than it’s the broiler or the main element going and simply needs to be replaced, but no matter because we’re taking the opportunity to get something different.

By the way, this same model of old school stove is still sold in stores for less than $400. Good dogs!

All I know is, this stove is making baking quick and yeast breads a nightmare. I have to practically sit beside the oven and watch the action like a hawk as they bake lest they burn or take an extra half hour to cook all the way through. Who has time for that crap? Not me!

[ A Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe idea I'm experimenting with for the husband ]

[ A Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe idea I’m experimenting with for the husband ]

What type and brand this new stove will be, I don’t know. We don’t have gas lines on our street, and the kitchen is located too far inside the house to even consider a propane hookup for a gas stove, so I have been researching and reading up on new electric range models. I’m sufficiently frightened by how shoddy new appliances seem to be these days. Worse than when I first starting hearing horror stories 17 years ago from an old boss, if you can believe that.

I get that major appliances will never be built to last ever again, but this seems ridiculous. I don’t have a job where I can take X number of random days off to wait for repair people to come fix or replace parts in a NEW stove just because something like the self cleaning feature runs at a high temperature and burns out the convection electronics, or the dashboard circuit blows on its own a month into owning the damn thing.

Honestly, I should just keep the old stove, but I am loathe to do so. Did I mention the wonky, uneven burner elements on top? No? Well imagine trying to pan fry something and the liquid rolls off to one side of the pan instead of staying in the middle where it’s supposed to be. (It’s my personal nightmare holding the handle as I tilt the pan so food cooks properly because that further compresses the nerves in my neck, which makes the hand I’m using go all pins and needles numb.) At first I thought the floor was uneven and that made the whole stove uneven, but my husband proved it wasn’t using a level. Oy ve. So after bending down and looking at the elements, and pulling each one out and putting them back in, I have concluded these burners have been through hell and back. Enough!

Anyway, back to shopping. I hate Samsung anything (they make good appliances on the whole, but they keep repeating known design flaws for YEARS, over many of their models, so forget that nonsense. I’ve already broken the middle freezer drawer because they use the same weight distribution design flaw that causes the drawer to stick and stall as you pull it in and out of the unit.), and I’m leery of the now crap reputation Bosch has. Moving on, the next three players are: Maytag, Whirlpool and Kitchenaid (all owned by Maytag) who also have their own design flaw — the self cleaning feature that never seems to work. At this point, I’m not even looking for a stove with that feature. I’m happy to hand clean my oven every so often as required.

So that leaves me with a small brand name pool of: Frigidaire, LG and two others I can’t recall right now. All have their detractors online and known past issues with certain models. So far I can’t find one stove, or even one brand of stoves, that stands above the pack. It’s like we’re left to decide between poop and diarrhea. Greaaaat…

And then there is the issue of range surfaces. There are great reasons to go with induction, but my understanding is it requires new pans that work with the magnet attracted elements. I don’t want to replace my pots and pans if I can help it, and I’d really love to continue using my big ole cast iron Dutch pot up top if I can, so that leaves us with an enamel tops but good luck finding one. I’ve looked around and so far came up empty. I suppose I could go back to coil burners but they’d have to be in a certain arrangement that I like (two big elements up front, two small ones in the back) that won’t lead to more neck compression leading to more nerve compression leading to more pain in the ulnar nerves causing me loss of hand use – all because stoves tops are set at 36″ tall and I’m barely 5′ 2″. I just need some KISS platform boots to work at my stove, right? ­čśë

(sigh)

I’m starting to give myself a headache just typing this all out. Hahaha. Ok, that’s enough for now.

[ My knock-off Tim Horton's tangerine-yogurt smoothie. ]

[ My knock-off Tim Horton’s tangerine-yogurt smoothie. ]

Moving along, I have been testing a few new drinks to add to my Summer Drinks category. The first up was a promising banana latte, but it turned into something that my taste buds rejected outright, and the next one was my attempt at coming up with a Tim Horton’s tangerine-yogurt smoothie knock-off, and this one proved easy to do, and it was tasty! I’ll post that one soon.

Until next weekend, ttyl.

Erin Go Braugh!

2014-03-16 18.44.58I made us a dinner of typical Irish fare on Sunday. It was the only time we’ll have dinner together for at least four nights, so I bumped it up one day. I couldn’t get my hands on a brisket or even a basic beef roast (all sold out), so I used a pork roast instead. If I wanted to do it up right, I would have made a bi-fold cut in it so I could stuff and roll it up, but I bought it already trussed. I’m also lazy at times. Hee.

2014-03-16 13.07.33So, from around the plate above in a clockwise direction: pork roast slices that were cut thinly but still held onto a bit of the meat rubbed crust I created, and they’re sitting beside heaps of Carrie’s mom’s fantastic colcannon I made with Nappa cabbage instead of standard green variety. Finally, there is some green beans I boiled then pan fried with shallots, a splash of white vinegar, salt and a few dribbles of hoisen sauce to give it a deep earthy, umami flavour to complete the whole meal.

This meal was amazing. Oh, I almost forgot! I made up the shamrock shake knock-offs to wash it all down with. The boy didn’t like it but I thought it was fairly close to what I remember McDonald’s version tasting like.

2014-03-16 18.52.50After all of the dishes, I sat down and immediately food coma crashed for a quick 25 minute nap on the couch. Whoops. ­čÖé

Anyway, here is the recipe for the colcannon. I subbed out the mace for cardamom because I never stock mace. I haven’t found a use for it the 45 yrs I have been alive outside of this one recipe, so forget that. My spice stash is already out of control. ­čśÇ

2014-03-16 19.22.08Carrie’s Mum’s Colcannon:
1 1/4 lbs Russet or Yellow Potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 C Leeks (the whites only) or Yellow Onions, thinly sliced
1 C Whole Milk
1/2 C Butter, unsalted
1/2 Tea Ground Mace (or any other suitable substitute)
1 1/4 lbs Cabbage
1 Tbsp Oil
Sea Salt & Freshly Cracked Pepper
1 Tbsp Fresh Herb (parsley, basil or cilantro – whichever you prefer)

Cook cabbage in water and oil until tender, drain, chop fine, set aside and keep warm.

Cook potatoes until tender, drain and mash by hand.

Simmer the leeks in milk for 10 minutes, keep warm and do not drain.

Add the leeks and milk and the cooked cabbage to the mashed potatoes. Season with mace and salt and pepper to taste and beat by hand until well mixed yet still fluffy.

Plop into a bowl or on a platter, top with butter and parsley and serve immediately.

2014-03-16 09.48.17AND! As a bonus, here are two shots of the Apple Strudel I created on Saturday night out of boredom when the husband was busy at work. It’s lovely looking, and tasty. The cinnamon flavoured Kahlua really pops in this dish. This is definitely an adults’ version you’d serve with strong coffee or a dessert wine.

2014-03-16 09.52.00It made a tasty and somewhat unusual breakfast choice for us today, I’ll tell you that. But, we both liked it. We even cracked open the French Vanilla ice cream to enjoy it with. What? Like none of you would have done the same thing? Please! Don’t lie. ­čśë

Saturday Coffee Chatter – March 15

ShamrockIt’s St. Paddy’s day soon. This is the one day of the year for me to acknowledge and quasi-celebrate the 1/8th of Irish blood that courses through my veins. I don’t have much Irish pride since our family is basically 80% English, a bit Scottish, and a smidgen French Canadian, but I do like to jump on opportunities to try out food fare from different corners of the world whenever a ‘holiday’ comes round.

Green mashed potatoes, anyone? A-yup. My mother made the effort for us each year. Bless her Protestant heart. And I swear, they were this colour every time, too. LOL

Green Mash[ Kinda looks like pistachio or spumone ice cream, non? ]

So basically, I state I’m 100% Canadian and leave it at that all year long. I don’t feel the need to proclaim any heritage to one nation or another beyond this country’s borders. It seems… fake to me since I’ve always lived here, and rarely travelled outside of her four corners.

In recent years I have made traditional Irish stews, but they were too bland for my liking; I was thrilled when Carrie gave me her late mum’s recipes where she took the old, made it bold, and let it soar. Her colcannon is particularly fantastic, so of course I’ll be making that. Of course! No question there. None!

I am also thinking of making a roast of some sort but I haven’t yet rooted through my freezer chest to see what’s in stock. ­čśë I have green beans and shallots I want to use up, and I’ll serve dinner with a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake knock-off. I just happen to have all of the ingredients in the house for that to happen. Hee.

For dessert, I think I’ll keep it simple and just make a small batch of Bailey’s Shamrock Macaroons for the husband and me.

Basic Sugar Cookies

2014-03-12 20.32.26[ Giraffe sugar cookies created using a cookie cutter made in a 3D printer. ]

I brought a bunch of biscotti and sugar cookies to work for the ladies and the gent on Thursday. They were a big hit. One asked for my Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti recipe I have already posted while another asked for the sugar cookie recipe I haven’t blogged yet, so here it is. Again, another recipe I have adapted from many online over the years and, well, there wasn’t much to teak beyond the variations I have come up with in terms of flavouring the sugar cookies. The base remains the same, year after year. It if ain’t broke, y’know?

Basic Sugar Cookies:
1 C Unsalted Butter, room temp
1/2 C Powder Sugar
1 Large Egg, room temp
1 Tea Vanilla Extract
1/2 Tea Baking Powder
1/2 Tea Salt, fine grind
2 C All Purpose Flour

In a medium to large bowl, dump in the flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk to blend these ingredients well. Set aside.

Cream the butter in a mixer for 2-3 minutes till it turns pale, then slowly drizzle in scoopfuls of the powder sugar on a low speed, and let the mixer run another 2 minutes on a high speed to incorporate as much air as it can to make a fluffy butter mixture.

Drop the speed back down to low and start adding the egg and vanilla. Let that fully mix into the butter before adding the dry ingredients by the spoonfuls, allowing each drop the be mixed into the butter fully before adding the next.

By the last of the dry ingredients, the dough should be balled up and rolling around in the mixing bowl cleanly from the sides and bottom. If it’s not, run the mixer a bit longer till it comes together. It will. Just wait for it. When that happens, stop the mixer and turn the dough out onto a floured work surface to knead gently for a minute or two to form a smooth circular disk you can place in plastic wrap.

Chill the dough for one hour minimum. When ready to get started cutting the cookies, take the dough out and let it sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to warm up a bit. While waiting, dust your work space again with flour, assemble any cookie cutters and bench scraper needed, as well as preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Tips & Tricks: Some find rolling the dough out between two sheets of wax paper helpful, but I found I didn’t need it since the dough didn’t stick to my rolling pin. I tend to flour the work surface and rolling pin well.

2014-03-12 20.14.32A little trick I use when working with dough that needs to be a consistent thickness across all the cookies in the same batch is to use my chopsticks that are 3/4 square from the top downward to where it starts to round out and taper. I ignore that part of the sticks, and keep the rolling up in the squared off area.

If you don’t have access to similar chopsticks, you can also use to wooden planks (think old wooden rulers we used in grade school). There are commercial versions, but they’re a waste of money if you ask me. One can easily look around their home and make do with two flat objects that have matching thicknesses to roll a rolling pin over to flatten out the dough evenly while cutting out cookies.

2014-03-12 20.27.12Try to aim for 1/4″ thickness when rolling out the dough. I find that is the ideal sugar cookie thickness for small to medium sized cookies (like I made with my 3D printed Giraffe cookie cutter). Bump the increment up to 3/8″ if a bigger cookie is being cut, and allow for a 2-3 minute increase over the standard 6-8 minute baking times for small to medium sugar cookies.

After the cut cookies are moved from the work surface to the baking sheet, the dough can be balled up and rolled out once more for additional cookies before the dough needs to be covered and chilled for another 10 minutes between batches. My hands are always warm, so I don’t push this. If I feel the butter in the dough literally melting in my hands, I will chill it without a second rolling and cutting. I don’t chance it. The cookies wouldn’t come out with a nice crisp edge if I baked a soft cut out.

2014-03-12 20.30.29[ Total loss of giraffe detail after baking the softer dough cookie cuts. ]

If you have cold hands (oh, how I envy you all who do), you can spend more time rolling and cutting out the dough between trips to the fridge. If you do find the cookies are softening while sitting out in the hot kitchen, simply pop the cookie tray into the fridge while it awaits its turn in the oven to firm up the butter again.

Store the cookies after completely being cooled down in air tight containers. And NEVER decorate these while still even a teeny-weensy bit warm. The icing will run like an athlete in the summer Olympics.

Sugar cookies are the #1 cookie to bake during all holidays where gifts are to be given or when guests arrive for an occasion like a wedding or baby shower. Get creative with shapes and icing designs. I have seem some great ones lately. Like this batch for Chinese New Year. How gorgeous are they?! I wouldn’t want to eat them because they look like they belong in a frame in some cookie museum.. ­čÖé

chinesenewyear[ Happy belated Chinese New Year 2014 to my bff since Grade 3! ]

Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti

Eggnog Biscotti I made for Christmas gift giving a year ago.

This is my own variation of a recipe I found online years ago. I had to modify it to suit my particular food tastes and baking sensibilities, but it wasn’t that hard and the taste didn’t suffer one iota. One Italian man couldn’t tell the difference. Yields roughly two dozen and total time is 3 hours.

Enjoy!

2014-03-13 09.32.58

Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti:
1/4 C Margarine or Butter, room temp
1/2 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 Tea Almond Extract
1/2 Tea Anise Extract (or vanilla extract)
1 3/4 C Flour (I use unbleached all purpose)
1/2 C Almond Meal
1/4 Tea Salt
1 Tea Baking Powder
1/2 C Nuts (optional, any kind)
Slivered Almonds + 1 Tbsp Egg White or Milk, for garnish (optional)
Melting Chocolate, for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Cream the sugar until nice and fluffy, about 5 minutes, and then add the sugar and beat to combine well.

2. Add the eggs one at a time, and drizzle the extracts in as the mixture is running.

3. Combine 1 1/2 C of the flour in separate bowl with almonds, salt, nuts, and baking powder. Sift with spoon and start adding it to the wet ingredients in the mixer bowl as it runs on a low speed. Gently stir in last 1/4 C flour to complete the dough by hand.

4. Cover and chill mixture for two hours.

5. Divide dough into two balls and shape into rectangular logs with squared up ends, then flatten them out to roughly less that an inch in height, taking care to keep the squared off ends of the logs. Place each one of a sprayed cookie sheet or atop of foil on a jelly roll pan. Cover tops of each loaf with egg white or milk wash and slivered almonds for extra taste.

2014-03-12 22.54.456. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees C until center is no longer sticky. Place on racks to cool down for cutting. When each loaf is cool to touch, use a long blade knife and gently but firmly press down each time to cut the loaves into clean strips.

2014-03-12 23.37.007. Turn each strip on its side and bake for another 15 minutes each at same temperature. Take care in the last five minutes on the second side not to dry them out by leaving them “toast” too long. I found it only took 7 minutes on each side in my stove to get a great crunch that won’t break teeth if you’re not a┬áhot beverage┬ádrinker. If you are, I recommend the full 15 on the first side and 10 minutes on other side, and leaving them out in the open air to cool completely to get the true hard-as-a-rock biscotti effect.

8. If the flat sides are rough from the knife, once the biscotti is completely cooled, you can micro-plane them smooth before dipping one side into, or drizzling with, melted chocolate.

Flavour Variations:
* 2 Tbsp Orange Zest + 1/2 Tea Vanilla Extract + 3 oz Dark Chocolate Chips
* 2 Tbsp Orange Zest + 2 Tbsp Espresso Powder + 1/2 Tea Ground Cinnamon
* 3-4 Tea Orange Juice + 1/4 Tea Almond Extract + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)
* 3-4 Tea Eggnog + 1/4 Tea + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)
* 3-4 Tea Lemon Juice + 1/4 Tea Vanilla Extract + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)

Saturday Morning Coffee Chatter

pastasauceStill trying to locate that awesome banana bread recipe I used at Christmas, but so far no luck. ­čÖü Will post it here when, or if, I ever do get it again. In the meantime, I’m home on my day off (so far – work may still call me in yet) enjoying a latte while my Marcella Hazan tomato sauce bubbles on the stove.

I wish you could all smell the inside of our house today. It smells like what I imagine the afterlife will smell like. I’m almost in a dreamlike state of hypnosis. It’s *that* delicious!

I’m also planning to make some sugar cookies for the express purpose of using my new giraffe cutout cookie cutter my husband made me using the MakerBot III 3-D printer. How cute is this sucker?!

2014-02-21 09.33.36So, what’s going on with all of you this lovely Saturday morning? Talk to me.

Best Banana Bread

2014-01-12 11.13.15Before we got sick over the holidays, I made this banana bread with loads of dark chocolate chips. It looks fantastic, no? It was. It really was. So tasty. Especially with a morning latte.

I have been thinking about that bread a lot lately.

I would make it again, but apparently I can’t figure what recipe, if any, I used. It’s like I pulled it out of thin air because I can’t find any link on any of my computing devices that lists what I recall using to make the batter or even the temperature I used since it wasn’t the usual 350C.

Oh, this is so maddening!!!

GRR.

Stacey Takes A Tumble, Goes Boom

Xmas TreeThis is our small Christmas tree. It’s a fake 4 ft pencil pine tree that I wrapped over 275 mini purple lights around each branch on to illuminate it (from space). I dig this tree, but I’m getting tired of it always leaning one way or another no matter the pot I put it into. Anyway, this pictures were taken last week, so yes that means I left my tree up till the end of January. Nothing out of the ordinary for me. I love the look of the tree lit up at night. It makes me feel cozy and warm on the inside (where it’s gooey and my black heart barely beats).

I also left it up longer this year because I was thinking my brother and his finacee were going to come to dinner at our house right after the holidays, but we got sick and kept trying to find a new date that worked for all of us to reschedule. We’re still trying to do that, and it’s the middle of February now. (sigh) But in the meantime, I broke down the tree and put it all in storage. The next few photos and the story that goes with them will clearly illustrate why I should never procrastinate, or do anything halfway or even in stages when my personal safety is at risk. (snort) Dark Basement LandingOne night last week, I had to use the bathroom, so I decided to use the one in the basement. All of our stairs in the house are carpeted, and we’ve lived here 4 years so far, and no once has this been an issue for me. Not even a near miss of an issue. Until this night. I was so confident in my ability to navigate these stairs in socks that I didn’t bother turning on the light over them. I routinely don’t. I should. I know that now.

Anyway, I got down to the last three steps and slipped all the way down to the landing. In one fell swoop. I felt it jolt in my left leg first, and then the pain in knee as I landed right on top of the knee cap. Hard. Straight down over it. All of weight. My main concern at this moment wasn’t pain or injury, but it was to avoid those two bookcases directly in front of my body as I went down. I did my best to roll to my left side, but it was dark and I forgot I was too lazy to put the ornaments and boxes away in my Harry Potter storage closet, and well… CRASH.

At this point, I will mention it was 10:45 at night, and my husband was on the couch sawing logs. As soon as I crashed into the junk, and the noise stopped, I froze. I listened. Yup, he stopped snoring. Crap. I yelled up, “I’m all right! Go back to sleep!” I had no idea till I got up if that were true, but I didn’t want him to freak out. I jumped up, hobbled down the hall and did my thing. By the time I walked up the stairs again, I knew my knee was fine.

Or was it…?

A week later, I keep hyper extending that knee (especially when I’m at work and have to move around fast and sharply), and this is causing spasms in my left butt cheek as well as my left calf on the outside, and my left ankle on the inside. It’s enough gnawing spasm pain to wake me up every few hours all night long, and to make my leg almost seize as I walk out of work each night.

Yeah, so lights. They’re fairly useful. Apparently. :-\

Dark Basement Hallway

Ideas I’m into right now

California_Sweetpotato_Latte[ Picture courtesy of Amy Sherman. All her rights are reserved. ]

I really love coffee (although I had to scale it back from one vat every day to one cup every other day), and I have seen a few ideas I think I may way to play with at home on my next day off. Will you play along at home with me?

The first recipe idea up is this one for the California Sweet Potato Latte, created by the fabulous Cooking With Amy. I love the colour. It’s drawing me right in! ­čÖé (see above). Right?!?

The second one is something I saw pop up on Pinterest last year, and I have been thinking about it and internally debating the concept and why people say it works ever since. It’s called the Swedish Egg Coffee. I can’t quite bring myself to do this one. Yet. I love eggs, but in my coffee? What if it ruins my otherwise perfect cup of joe? That will have the potential to ruin my mood for a whole day. I’m old and grumpy at the ripe age of 45!