Friday, February 26, 2010

Marshmallows: The Basic Recipe

I've been playing around tons with this basic marshmallow recipe, adding coloring, cutting and piping it into different shapes...basically having loads of fun when I should probably be cleaning my house or shoveling snow.

I'm finding it's incredibly versatile, hence these treats for Mateo's 2nd birthday. The 'fluff' was softer than usual after the long beating, so I quickly scooped it into a piping bag and pipped out dozens of 'M's and '2's instead of patting the marshmallow mix into a pan.
A dusting of powdered sugar finishes them off.

Aren't they cute? Shh, he hasn't seen them yet.
I hope there are some left for his birthday.

I wanted to share this recipe with you without delay, so you can start playing around and not miss out on any of the fun! It's one of the simplest I've seen. Enjoy!

(more photos and tips to come, but this recipe is all you need to get started)

Basic Vanilla Marshmallows
(from the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller)

3 envelopes of Knox gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Line a 9x13 pan with plastic wrap and lightly grease all over with vegetable oil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for 10 minutes.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.

Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. Add vanilla and incorporate into mixture.

Scrape into a 9 x 15-inch pan and spread as evenly as you can.

Cover marshmallow mixture with another piece of oiled plastic wrap and press mixture into the pan. 

Let mixture sit for a few hours or overnight.

Remove from pan, dredge the marshmallow slab with confectioners' sugar and cut into 12-20 equal pieces with scissors or a chef's knife.

Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interviews 1 and 2

These photos are totally irrelevant to the post, but they captured a memorable milestone in our little family: Noah's first skate! We have this wild swampland out behind our place that froze over perfectly smooth and is the ideal playground for little boys. They've been very inspired by the Olympics and we've reenacted many of the events in our own winter wonderland.

Good times.
My super-talented sister, Haidi, made this hat; isn't it just precious?

Alright, I'm really just dropping in to share a few mentions of Under the High Chair that happened earlier this week.

The Montreal Gazette, our major English newspaper, ran an article Monday on the Blog Aid cookbook. They applauded the efforts of all 27 food bloggers involved and quoted me at the end.

You can find the article HERE.

Jessica from I Spy Montreal, read the article and requested an interview, which ran yesterday on her website. She asked about my strategies for getting the boys to eat (pray?), family friendly recipes, and UtHC.

You can read the full interview HERE.

It was fun to chat with her and I definitely recommend her informative website for any Montrealer with kids.

Cooking? Food? Right. I realize we're way off topic here.

Well, we talked 'Muffins' on Simple Bites this week, in case you missed it. I shared tips on how to make them, favorite flavor combinations and divulged my all-time best recipe.

You should probably head over and print it out for the morning.

It's hard to believe two years have passed since this announcement, but yes, the little guy crossing the pond above is turning two on the weekend. My baby!

Even though I've got a simple menu planned, there is still plenty to do before I can receive the 40 or so guests expected, so I'll leave it at that.

Go Canada! #olympics

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

As I write this, with fingers still sightly sticky, several dozen pale green marshmallow 'M's and '2's languish on my counter top, drying themselves and awaiting their dusting of icing sugar. They will then be tucked away in a glass jar until Mateo's 2nd birthday, which is fast approaching. (that recipe for vanilla marshmallows to come in a later post)

I've discovered that marshmallows are an ideal do-ahead party treat, as they stay fresh for up to three weeks---I'm discovering a lot about homemade marshmallows these days.
It all started with this batch featuring toasted coconut.

Alright, so I may be the last one to jump on the homemade marshmallow bandwagon, but the point is, I'm here now and very happy about it.

I'm still holding out on the trendy cake-pops and macarons, or macaron-pops, for that matter. While I admire them (and the talented individuals that create them) immensely, I just don't have that kind of time.

Marshmallows, however, I can do
. They can be whipped up in a mere 15 minutes, perfect for squeezing in during a hectic day. And I do mean 'whipped up'; do not attempt these without a stand mixer, as it does the brunt of the work.

This recipe was straight out of my new Gourmet Today cookbook, and are pretty darn fine. I loved the contrast of the chewy toasted coconut with the marshmallow interior; however, the coconut police (a.k.a, Danny) had issues with it.

Since then I've played around with a few other versions, which I'll be bringing you eventually. For now, these are a wonderful starting point, provided you like coconut!

Toasted-Coconut Marshmallow Squares

2 cups finely shredded unsweetened dried coconut
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavoured gelatin
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (I omitted this)

Special equipment:
a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
a candy thermometer


  • To avoid stickiness, make the marshmallows on a dry day.
  • The marshmallow squares keep, layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350F

Toast coconut on a baking sheet in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Lightly oil a 9-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften while you make syrup.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 cup water, and slat in a 1- to 2- quart heavy saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing down any sugar crystals from sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Insert thermometer and boil, without stirring, until it registers 240F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate.

With mixer at low speed, pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl, being careful to avoid beater. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat for 1 minute more.

Spoon marshmallow mixture over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky). Sprinkle top evenly with 1/2 cup toasted coconut. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.

Run a sharp knife around edges of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares.

Put remaining toasted coconut in a small bowl and dredge marshmallows in it to coat completely.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Marshmallows

Yes, I made marshmallows. I boiled and beat, patted and sliced, and tossed them in toasted coconut.
Yes, they were amazing.
I just picked up ingredients to make another batch, this time with vanilla bean. Danny comes from a long ancestral line of marshmallow aficionados (me not so much), so we're taking this homemade marshmallow step very seriously.

There's the story -and recipe- coming sometime soon. Things have been a little nuts around here, (see my previous post).

This weekend I'm getting ready for Mateo's 2nd birthday and the 45 guests that will join us for the event. The little fellow went through a lot last year and we want to celebrate him and his life.

The menu is still TBD, but one thing I know, there will be hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

UtHC Bulletin: An Exciting Week

This has been one happenin' week for me! An update is obviously needed at this point because it's all good news that needs to be shared.
So here goes...

Today is the last day to enter my super-duper basket giveaway at Simple Bites. 'Basket' giveaway means ONE lucky person wins the WHOLE shebang. Are you feeling lucky? Winner will stock their kitchen with nearly $500 worth of pretty cool products. You have until midnight to enter, so get over there and leave a comment.

Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti
Yesterday our fundraiser for Haiti wrapped up. The Blog Aid cookbook was a spectacular success, selling 1818 cookbooks in a little over a week and raising, with matched funds from the Canadian government, $47,166.00 for Haiti relief.

Not bad for a bunch of food bloggers!
A huge thank you to all who purchased our cookbook--you now have a limited edition book to treasure. My copies have already arrived and I have nothing but good things to say about it. I can't wait to try those recipes and it's pretty cool to see our little family photo on those glossy pages.

Simple Bites Launch
Five blogs launched Monday under the Simple Living Media umbrella and were met with a very warm welcome indeed. My part in this, as you know, was Simple Bites.

I hardly know what to say about the enthusiastic response to Simple Bites, as it has completely take my by surprise. I'm exceedingly grateful for your support. Many of you have joined me over there and for those of you who haven't visited yet, you are welcome anytime!

As editor, I had set goals for SB--three month goals that were surpassed after three days. Things haven't slowed down all week, and I have sat, mouth agape, watching the stats come in and reading the comments. It's been amazing.

Danny continues to wax eloquent about it all, remarking "Hey, people gotta eat".
Guess he's got a point there. I'm looking forward to what lies ahead.

Montreal Centre-Ville Magazine
I was fortunate enough to be featured in a local magazine with some of Monteal's creme de la creme food bloggers. How my name ever made it past the editors, I'll never know, but nevertheless, there is a lovely little blurb about UtHC and photo of yours truly.
Also featured is Gastronote, endless banquet, le gourmet galopin, and 2Capriciux.

Cooking School
For some reason, I have always held back over talking about my experiences in culinary school. It was both a good and bad experience, with a little 'ugly' thrown in, and I always felt like there wasn't enough water under the bridge before I made events public.

Well, shy no longer. Today was the first post in my 'Cooking School' series on Simple Bites, a series that will be as helpful as it is entertaining. At least, that's what I am hoping. You can read it and decide for yourself!

* * *
My time is up! No Valentine's Day post from me, sorry...

My plan for V-day is to cook up some of our filet mignon that I have been hoarding, and create another recipe for the Beef Chronicles.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Beef Chronicles: Chocolate Chip Chili

Huh? What are these Beef Chronicles? See the bottom of the post for links, recipes and the full story on why we bought a cow.

You're just going to have to trust me on this one. I know it sounds freaky, and I had my serious doubts, but hear me out.

So there's Nigella Lawson, who some people love and some people love to hate. Personally, I both adore and admire her and when she says "Chocolate-Chip Chili" I say "Giddiyup".

There is so much more to this complex chili than just chocolate chips. In fact, they play such a small role in this feature, don't ask me why they earned a spot in the title instead of just credits; however, the words 'chocolate' and 'chili' in the same sentence got your attention, admit it!

Big bold flavors in Nigella's chili include chorizo, cumin and cinnamon--not sure what she was thinking with the alliteration (yes there is even cardamom & chilies) but it works. It really works.

This hearty one-pot wonder comes together looking like a mess, but after 4-5 hours in a slow oven, and overnight chill in the fridge, it collects itself and the final result is remarkably presentable!

In short. We loved it.

This recipe offers everything we love about chili, but is a welcoming change from the usual Super Bowl sludge. It has plenty of textures, thanks to the beef cubes used instead of ground beef, and is completely satisfying and the most substantial way.
And for the chocolate-chips? They added another dimension of flavor and complement the chilies superbly.

If you are a fan of batch cooking, this chili freezes beautifully and I might even go as far as to say it improves with age.

Chocolate Chip Chili

In keeping with the "C" theme, I topped my chili with cilantro. Avocado is great too, as are tortilla chips, and sour cream is essential.

550g chorizo sausages (not the salami sort), to give 10 sausages or 5 linked pairs
1.5kg boneless shin of beef, cut into 1.5cm cubes
500g onions (about 3), peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 fresh long red chili, de-seeded ( I used less, you know, for the kiddo's sake)
4 x 15ml tablespoons vegetable oil
seeds from 3 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried crushed chillies
4 x 15ml tablespoons tomato purée
4 x 15ml tablespoons tomato ketchup
4 x 400g cans red kidney beans, drained
3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
50g dark chocolate chips
250ml water (swilled out in one of the chopped tomato cans)

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F

Finely chop, or process the onion, garlic and chili.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan (with lid) or flameproof casserole and fry the onion, garlic and chili until soft, on low for about 10 minutes, then add the cardamom seeds, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and dried chillies.

Stir the onion-y spiced mixture together and then add the chorizo sliced into 1/4"(5mm) coins, letting them ooze their paprika-orange oil.

Drop in the cubes of beef, turning them in the pan with the chorizo and onion mix to brown the meat.

Stir in the tomato purée, ketchup, drained kidney beans and chopped tomatoes. Add the water and bring the chili to a boil.

Once it's started bubbling, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the chili and give it a good stir. Put on a lid and transfer to the oven.

Cook at this low heat for 3 hours. Stirring occasionally. Chili will taste mighty firey, but the heat will mellow out overnight.

Once cooked it is best left overnight to improve the flavour. Enjoy!

More Beef Chronicles:

In Which we Buy A Cow

An Introduction

Rib Steak With Red-Wine Butter

Rosemary-Garlic Marinated T-Bone

Cumin-Scented Kebabs

Sesame-Beef Lettuce Wraps

Beef Tacos with Salsa Cruda

Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

Shepherd's Pie with Cauliflower Purée

Steak au Poivre & Sweet Potato Fries

Ossobuco in Bianco

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

Simple Bites Goes Live!

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.....Blast Off!

That's what the boys are hollering from the playroom and it perfectly sums up my feelings from the past 24 hours.

Simple Bites has officially launched!!

(For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, read this post)

I'll admit it, I got mighty jittery in the last few hours leading up to the launch. Minutes before I was to hit 'Publish" on this post, I started questioning everything about what I was about to dive into.

All the 'what ifs.. (they don't like me)?' and 'how will I... (maintain the pace)?' crowded my mind.
It was 1 in the morning, hardly time for intelligent conversations with myself, so I published the post and hit the hay.

Today has been a 'blast'!

It's been easily five years since my last job interview and over ten years since the first day of culinary school, so today was significant for this SAHM.

My first day on the job. I even put my favorite pair of dress pants on, like a big dork, to outwardly show my professionalism.

In the end, my girlfriend canceled our lunch and so I dressed up for nothing. The UPS guy didn't even show. (That's OK, it's going to be one of the best things about working from home: I only have to dress up--or get dressed-- if I feel like it!)

I brewed many cups of coffee, took one of my pre-made meals out of a well-stocked freezer for dinner( gotta love batch cooking), and chained myself to my laptop for the better part of the day.

The response to Simple Bites blew me away. I've never had so many emails, DM's, and encouraging comments in such a few hours. It was encouraging to see the traffic pour in--even if it made the site slightly sluggish.

A very bit thanks to all of you who left comments and sent Tweets. I'm very encouraged and the jitters are (almost) all gone.

If you haven't stopped by Simple Bites yet, be sure to visit tomorrow, as we celebrate our launch with a super-duper giveaway!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti

What began as a creative and selfless idea from my friend and fellow food blogger, Julie Van Rosendaal, actually came into being today in the form of a absolutely stunning cookbook.

I'm so excited to share this with you; I can't sit still.

Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti is a collaboration of 27 food bloggers, Julie, her friend Cathryn Ironside, Beth Snyder, and many other individuals, all who gave their time and resources to help a noble cause: Haiti.

The cookbook contains 72 recipes, all contributed by a talented and diverse group of chefs, food writers and bloggers. I am truly honored to be in their company. Oh, didn't I mention that yet? Yes, I've got a couple of recipes in the cookbook!!

Front & Back cookbook covers. Click photo to enlarge

Here's how it works: 1oo% of the proceeds from the cookbook will go directly to the Red Cross and Doctor’s Without Borders to assist in their efforts in Haiti.

But wait for the clincher: both West Canadian Graphics & Blurb (printers) are matching the dollar amount of the proceeds raised, up to $10,000!
Oh, and until February 12th, the Canadian government will match that! As you can see,we have the potential to raise quite a bit of money here.

It’s a POD (print-on-demand) system, meaning the books are printed and shipped as they’re ordered and arrive at your doorstep in about 8 days (or less, if you order express shipping, as I did!)

You can purchase cookbooks for a good cause HERE in softcover ($25US) or as a hardcover ($50US)

I bought a few copies this morning--it was the first thing I did when I woke up-- and they will be printed on demand and shipped to my doorstep in about 8 days. Can't wait!!

Seriously, go to Blurb and take a peek at the book...the preview is gorgeous!

I haven't been so excited about anything in a very long time. I feel like this entire post should be written in CAPS, bolded and italicized!! It's an incredible feeling to be actively involved in a project that is sending relief to a country that has been so decimated.

It's truly an honor to be a part and I am grateful to Julie for the opportunity and for MAKING IT HAPPEN!! (there, couldn't resist those caps. Julie is an ALL-CAPS kind of girl.) It was only three short weeks ago when I received an email from her asking me to participate and now the presses are rolling.
Seriously the fastest cookbook project ever.
Congratulations, Julie!

For more information and a complete list of contributors, check out the Blog Aid blog.

UPDATE: Sales have been booming all day and the grand total of funds raised so far has surpassed $20,000 CAD!!! Woot!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Top Ten Things To Expect When Dining With A Food Blogger

Exactly a year ago I posted this list, the complete contents of which came to me during one of those midnight feedings with the baby where the mind has no choice but to explore the cobwebby corners of itself.

The overwhelming response to the list was a sheer delight to read, as bloggers barred their souls, confessed all, and nodded understandingly.

The Top 10 List made it's way around many popular food sites and remains one of my most popular posts. It is most worthy of a re-run in it's anniversary.

**Disclaimer: The following is a tongue-in-cheek and much exaggerated preview of what to expect should you accept a dinner invitation to the home of an avid food blogger. At least, I think it would be like this; certainly at my place things are done with much more consideration for the guest!**

Top Ten Things To Expect When Dining With A Food Blogger:

1. You won’t be asked to bring anything for dinner except perhaps a bottle of wine or two.

2. Dinner will be served at three in the afternoon because the natural light is better for photographs.

3. Once the meal is ready, it will be marched past the beautifully set dining room table and out the back door for a photo shoot on the shady deck; it will be served to you approximately fifteen minutes later. If you're lucky.

4. Due to #3, dinner will be cold.

5. There will be one beautifully presented dish - the one being photographed - but any side dishes may look like they were hurriedly slopped together.

6. The dining room has a backdrop and fill lights. Don't touch any props.

7. You may be asked if you can be photographed while eating, but note that this request is merely a formality and the host will snap away at will no matter what your response. Expect close-ups of your lips,hands, etc.

8. The host may seem lost in thought for the most of the meal -- presumably because he/she is already composing a blog post in his/her head.

9. If there is conversation, it will probably revolve around the food (details on how it was prepared, the chef’s feelings on how it turned out) or the weather (too sunny for good photographs or not sunny enough).

10. You'll notice that the cake for dessert has a slice missing from it. That's because the host needed to photograph the layers.


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