Archives for posts with tag: food

I realized I’ve had a string of sewing/crafting posts so it seemed like well past time to share some baking delights. And this morning provided a couple tasty subjects.

We had a baby shower for a good friend today and I’d been trying to think of what sweet things to make for her. She loves salted caramel, so this recipe from Smitten Kitchen was a no-brainer since I know I can trust that her recipes will turn out even on the first try.  So what to pair with it? Something non-chocolate? Then it hit me… this baby made her mama extra nauseous early in the pregnancy and one of the only things that sounded good were pop-tarts (and hot chocolate, but now that the sun is out that didn’t seem as appealing). Yup, time to try homemade pop-tarts. And this recipe for strawberry nutella pop-tarts seemed like the perfect place to start.

Happily both turned out – especially the brownies, those will be a new go-to favorite I’m sure!

Ready for a morning of baking

Ready for a morning of baking

As much as I bake, my little secret is that I pretty much avoid any dough that has to be rolled out – it scares me. But I was too excited about the pop-tart idea and besides, my friend is worth it. I also had a duh moment when I realized that just because I have a baby food processor that doesn’t mean I can’t use it. I needed two balls of dough anyway, so I just mixed it up in two batches and just like that – pastry dough! I just might be able to add a whole new category of baking into my repertoire.

I know it's not an exciting photo, but I was so proud of these two little balls of dough that I'm sharing anyway.

I know it’s not an exciting photo, but I was so proud of these two little balls of dough that I’m sharing anyway.

Then came the rolling and cutting and filling stages of the pop-tarts; not so bad. And more importantly I got a complement on the flaky pastry dough!

Pastry with nutella and strawberry jam.

Pastry with nutella and strawberry jam.

They're starting to look like pop-tarts!

They’re starting to look like pop-tarts!

Ta da! Homemade pop-tarts.

Ta da! Homemade pop-tarts.

Next up… the brownies. Which started with homemade caramel (getting over that fear really opened up a whole new world of goodness).

Caramel bits ready for the brownies.

Caramel bits ready for the brownies.

Gooey chocolate with caramel bits? yes please.

Gooey chocolate with caramel bits? yes please.

Salted caramel brownies. These were a chewy, gooey, decadent treat that I'll be making again for sure!

Salted caramel brownies. These were a chewy, gooey, decadent treat that I’ll be making again for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time for my good friend Jess and I to commit ourselves to chocolate making for one full weekend. It’s daunting every time and yet, I love it every time. It’s always more work than we remembered and it’s always more rewarding too. One of my favorite parts is deciding on our many flavors and we hit some winners this year!

But first things first, seven pounds of chocolate need to be chopped before it can be tempered and turned into shells. This year I borrowed and new weapon from a friend and I still had to chop a block every other day but each one sure went a lot faster!

ready to chopNext, up heading to Vancouver – I even had snow on the drive to help set the festive mood – and getting all set-up. We were both exhausted from a couple hard weeks so tried to take our time, lay everything out and only do things one at a time (and I still forgot to steep the chai in the cream for the chai truffles and tried putting the wrong filling in the wrong mold – but we managed to catch both things early and fix them!).

ready to go

Each mold with the makings for the centers

3 types of ganache and 1 vegan caramel waiting to be put into the chocolates

3 types of ganache and 1 vegan caramel waiting to be put into the chocolates

Next up the couple hours it takes to temper the chocolate. It has to be heated to the correct temp, then lowered back down and then brought up to the magical two degree range we then have to keep it at for the many, many hours it takes to finish the molds. We have learned to use as much chocolate as we can afford since the increased volume is easier to keep at a steady temperature.

Step one, coat the molds with chocolate. Step two, fill with ganache. Step three seal up the molds with more chocolate. (each step has to sit and set-up for an hour or so).

Molds all sealed up

Molds all sealed up

Jess has the hardest job - gently scraping the excess chocolate off (without breaking any) so we can release them from the molds.

Jess has the hardest job – gently scraping the excess chocolate off (without breaking any) so we can release them from the molds.

We spent quite a few hours this year convinced we’d lost temper on the chocolate and sure they were all going to be streaky and ugly. There was total joy (and maybe a few tears) when we unmolded the first batch and discovered that they were perfect!

Vegan burnt caramel

Vegan burnt caramel

This was the other saga of the chocolate making – my quest for vegan caramel. I originally wanted caramel that was soft enough to be a good center, but hard enough that we could cut it and dip it into the chocolate. I failed on all six tries. Luckily I saved this batch of burnt caramel – it just tasted too good to toss. We piped it into our new mold and it ended up being the best chocolate of the season! Gotta love (and trust in) happy accidents.

Here are our other creations:

White chocolate peppermint

White chocolate peppermint

Milk chocolate caramel hazlenut

Milk chocolate caramel hazelnut

Dark milk chocolate chai

Dark milk chocolate chai

We also dipped vegan peanut butter balls, pretzels and a few swedish fish into the chocolate.

pretzels and pb balls

And, we’ve learned to use all the excess chocolate to make tasty bark – another way to play with new and tasty flavors.

This year we had cranberry, macadamia nut & white chocolate; toffee, cashews & bacon salt and "kitchen sink bark" with the rest of the white chocolate, macadamia nuts, cashews and a few hazelnuts.

This year we had cranberry, macadamia nut & white chocolate; toffee, cashews & bacon salt and “kitchen sink bark” with the rest of the white chocolate, macadamia nuts, cashews and a few hazelnuts.

The next day was my other favorite part – packaging up all our pretty chocolates!

All this stuff and I stuck to simple white boxes with either red or green bakers twine.

All this stuff and I stuck to simple white boxes with either red or green bakers twine.

The vegan box (peanut butter balls and cardamom caramels)

The vegan box (peanut butter balls and cardamom caramels)

ptrezel boxsampler box

And finally, the best part of all. Giving these treasures out to friends and family!

Well that and starting to think up possibilities for next year 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More fall love… Both last weekend and today (a Monday no less), I had perfect lazy fall days with friends. Last weekend a friend who’s learning to sew came over for the afternoon and we had a mellow few hours talking, sewing and enjoying some homemade pumpkin soup. My project that day was to start some pillow covers for fall/winter. I got one front done and they’ve been mocking me ever since. But today another friend came over to teach me how to bake bread (yeast and I just don’t play well together). The bread baking took a few tries – there just might be something to my yeast jinx… but we got one tasty if somewhat dense loaf out of it. And… while we waited for the dough to rise we enjoyed more pumpkin soup and did some sewing. Once she finally pushed me to get back to the pillows I got back in the groove and got them both done! And I’m feeling motivated to keep sewing and to keep trying to make friends with yeast. We’ll see how it goes…

A sure sign of fall, one roasted pumpkin just waiting to be turned into tasty goodness.

First up… pumpkin soup. At first I was disappointed that it was so mild. But it worked out for the best, I added a different combo of things to it each time I served it. A few things on the list: bacon, parmesan cheese, cashews, chilli oil, garlic croutons and I wanted to added roasted apple but ran out of soup before I tried it.

I saved some of the pumpkin puree because I have to bake with it. This is gluten free pumpkin, chocolate, hazelnut bread for a stitch ‘n bitch.

Sewing day one about all I got done was cutting the strips and piecing together one front (that was the intimidating but fun part). But finally a week+ later… here are the two pillow fronts.

Here are the two quilted backs.

completed pillow #1

and completed pillow #2. Oh, it feels good to have those done! And to finally have some new fall pillows on the couch.

And just for the fun of it, here are the bacon maple biscuits I made on Sunday while I was avoiding the pillows 🙂

I feel like I say “this is my favorite season”, every time we start a new one. But for Fall, I really mean it – if I had to choose only one to live in forever it would be fall. The leaves are turning, the sun is out but the mornings are crisp or foggy. Plus my morning walk hits right when the sunrise is turning the bay aqua and orange. It’s time to pull out my favorite clothes, boots and even scarves and gloves. It’s all about orange and other cozy fall colors. It’s time to switch back to red wine, darken up the beer and enjoy some hot chocolate or apple cider. And… fall is the best season for cooking. The harvest is still in full swing so there are tons of fresh ingredients to pick from and I can turn the oven on again! I’m craving getting into the kitchen and making soup, pasta, pork, bread, anything with apple or pumpkin and of course it’s time to bake, bake, bake.

It was all about getting the house and yard ready for winter this weekend, but I did manage a trip to the farmers market first. And in between chores, I took time to play in the kitchen.

First up, Autumn Salad with toasted hazelnuts, goat cheese, arugula and roasted acorn squash.

Squash dish number two I’ve literally been craving since last fall! This was the first time I’d made brown butter on my own, so I’m sure that helped make it even more memorable. But what a perfect fall comfort food dish. Spaghetti squash with sage brown butter and parmesan cheese. (I know it’s not the most photogenic dish, but it sure is tasty!).

Just one more… Luckily I still had some acorn squash on hand from the salad, because after a trip to the dentist I needed some soft food. I heated the squash up, added some chilli, lime, garlic vinaigrette and a bit of parmesan and had an easy fall dinner.

Next up: pumpkin! (or maybe soup…)