Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I say Book Club, you say...

Care to join me for the Simple Living Book Club?

You don't have to do much, just grab a book and start reading. Then join us online Thursday mornings for Q&A, discussions and inspiration.

Spearheaded by Tsh of Simple Mom, we are starting Michael Pollan's 'In Defense of Food' on May 6 and I can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

This book is a must read if you love food and care about your health and the health of you family.

Pollan states that the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to be. His manifesto, written as a journalist, talks about escaping from the Western diet and offers practical and applicable advice on how to make better food choices.

Head here to read Tsh's intro to the book and details on how to join the book club

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

For Your Weekend Reading Pleasure (and 'Thanks')

My laptop has been getting plenty of use lately. A series of rainy days made it easier to crank out a few guest posts, as well as the usual content for my two food blogs.

Can I just say? Thanks for reading. I don't usually talk numbers much around here but I see that well over 13,000 of you are popping by on a monthly basis and that makes me very happy. Really.

It's still a pleasant surprise to find that my sporadic recipes and copious photos of my (ridiculously cute) kids holds your interest. Hey, it even lands me on lists like this, which brings even more readers (and a whole heck of a lot of email spam, apparently. Ick.).

Another list I was super tickled to make was the popular Bullet List from The Mother Huddle.

I didn't have to think twice when founder Destri invited me to participate and I dedicated my list to Jamie's Food Revolution in support of his efforts to teach children how to cook.

Kids and cooking was the topic of choice this week. I also guest posted for Kim Vallee, Montreal's lifestyle and entertaining expert, while she jaunted around Japan with her husband.
Oh, and Ready Made decided they loved Simple Bites:

I've been spicing up Simple Bites with my Spices 101 series. In case you've missed it here where we're at:
OK! That's probably more than enough weekend reading for you! Now get outdoors and enjoy Mother Earth. It is Earth Week after all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lemon-Ginger Cream Scones

It's atrocious that I don't yet have a scone recipe on this blog. I guess it's because for the longest time I've viewed scones are mere transportation for the good stuff: jam.

I've finally found a recipe worthy of my attention: delicate cream scones flavored with fresh lemon zest and ginger two ways. Not only is their make ahead feature terribly convenient, but their tender crumb and winning flavor combination bump them to the top of my breakfast baking list.

These scones are guaranteed to hold the spotlight no matter what they are accompanied with.

Thanks to Jennifer from Mama's Minuta for passing along the recipe.

Lemon-Ginger Cream Scones
Slightly adapted (but not edited) from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

12 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes and frozen
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped and then chilled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped fairly small

For the topping:
2 teaspoons cream
2-3 tablespoons demerara sugar

Put the chilled cubes of butter in a food processor along with the flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, salt, and zest. Pulse for 10-15 seconds until there are no longer any large lumps. (Or, if you prefer, grate the butter on a box grater into the flour mixture, and combine gently with your fingers.)

Dump the mixture into a large bowl and add the crystallized ginger. Fold in the whipped cream. Knead the dough lightly, shape it into a ball, and then press it into a disk that is 6 inches in diameter and about 3/4 inches thick. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

After the dough has chilled (do not omit that step as the dough is very tender and will lose its shape if it is not sufficiently firm when it goes into the oven), remove it from the fridge, unwrap it, and cut it into eight wedges. Place the wedges on a lightly greased baking sheet, brush the tops with cream and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake the scones at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Any leftover scones should be stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag in the freezer; to thaw, remove them from the bag and set on a plate.

Do ahead: Rose suggests flash-freezing the cut, raw scones and then storing them in a plastic bag in the freezer. When ready to bake, simply place them on the baking sheets, brush with cream, sprinkle with sugar, and bake. Add 5-7 minutes to the baking time.

I tried this with excellent success and will now carry a secret stash of frozen scones in my freezer for impromptu afternoon tea.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Honour

Leading online parenting magazine, Babble.com recently compiled a list of Top 50 Mommy Food Bloggers.

I'm still scratching my head over how this happened.

A huge thanks to the food editors at Babble for including me in such stellar company. It is indeed an honour and a privilege.

Here's what they had to say about my little corner:

"It's so nice to come across a family food blog that shows not just pretty pictures of cute sandwich cut-outs next to elaborately crafted birthday cakes. You start to wonder — is this mother actually cooking for kids? If so, where are they in all the pictures? There is a lot real-life energy in this blog — you'll see Aimée's family everywhere from the kitchen to the garden. The homepage illustration picturing a scene of food-fueled mayhem under a high chair instantly makes harried moms feel like they've found a soul-mate in Aimée, but the recipes are nothing if not aspirational. Aimée worked as a chef before she had kids, and you can tell when you come across recipes like chocolate chip chili and glorious fruit cobblers."
Be sure to check out the entire list; you'll bookmark some great reads and find inspiration, no question about it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Variations on Yeast Doughnuts

What would you say if I told you I made doughnuts twice in one week?
Well, I did, and there aren't any left.

The coffee-glazed were the highlight of a recent Easter brunch, but not super kid-friendly.

These maple-glazed, sprinkles-topped were much more popular with the three-year-old's at a weekend birthday party.

And perhaps the best of all (Danny's favorite, anyway) were the very grown-up Bacon-Topped Maple Glazed Yeast Doughnuts.
(I know, right?!)

All doughnuts were variations on a superb basic yeast doughnut recipe from the fabu-tastic Gourmet Today cookbook, a.k.a. my new best friend.

I've tried the recipe twice--just to be double sure I can recommend it to my readers, you know. I taste-tested many of the results and well, as promised, here is the recipe.

You must try these doughnuts! Mix up the dough the evening before, let it rise over night in the refrigerator, then roll and fry in the morning. It's very little work and believe me, your hubby's going to love you.

Coffee-Glazed Doughnuts

slightly adapted from Gourmet Today which has this to say:

"For these doughnuts, an ethereal yeast dough is fried and then coated with a bracing coffee glaze. The result is a bit like having your morning cup of joe and a pastry in one incredible bite. Let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, and you'll wake up to something truly special."
Makes about 12 doughnuts

1 (1/4-ounce) package (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for sprinkling
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, salted
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

About 6 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying

Coffee or Maple glaze (Recipes below)

Special equipment:
Stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment
a 3-inch round cookie cutter
a 1-inch round cookie cutter
a deep-fat thermometer

Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes (If yeast doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Combine flour, milk, butter, yolks, sugar, salt and cinnamon in mixer bowl, add yeast mixture, and mix at low speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes.

Scrape dough from sides of bowl into centre and sprinkle lightly with flour, to keep a crust from forming. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Alternatively, let dough rise in refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round. Cut out as many rounds as possible with 3-inch cutter, cut a hole in centre of each round with 1-inch cutter, and transfer doughnuts to a lightly floured large baking sheet (or use a doughnut cutter to shape them, as I did)

Cover doughnuts with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm draft-free place until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes (45 minutes if dough was refrigerated).

Heat 2-1/2 inches oil in a 4-quart deep heavy pot until it registers 350F on thermometer. Fry doughnuts 2 at a time, turning occasionally with a wire skimmer or a slotted spoon, until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. (Return oil to 350F between batches.)
Allow to cool completely before glazing.

Coffee Glaze:
1/4 cup boiling water
5 teaspoons instant espresso powder, such as Medaglia d'Oro or instant coffee granules
1-1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir together boiling water and espresso powder in a medium bowl until espresso powder is dissolved. Stir in confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
Set a rack on a baking sheet. Dip doughnuts into glaze, turning to coat well, and put on rack.

Maple Glaze:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 Tablespoon water
(optional: few drops maple flavoring)

Whisk everything together in a small bowl until smooth. Set a rack on a baking sheet. Dip doughnuts into glaze, turning to coat well, and put on rack.

I love Gourmet's suggestions for how the doughnuts are to be enjoyed; basically, consume them as fast as possible.
"The doughnuts are best eaten right after they are fried, but they are still great several hours later and very good for the rest of the day."

I seriously doubt you'll have any left after brunch.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon Part 3: Desserts

You may want to grab some of that leftover Easter chocolate before starting to read this post - or not. Chances are your Cadbury eggs will pale in comparison to this line up of deserts we recently enjoyed at a local sugar shack.

Here are the first two parts of our culinary adventure to bring you up to speed on our outing:

Read Part 1: Appetizers
Read Part 2: Main Courses

Desserts are, as all of you know, my weakness. Desserts featuring maple? Well, let's just say we get along very well.

A little too well, perhaps, but who's counting pancakes??

'Crêpes Grand-Mère', I believed these were called, although I wasn't paying much attention to our server at that point. I'm somewhat of a pancake aficionado, and these were among the best I've had.

Can one really call them pancakes, though? They were deep-fried in duck fat, deliciously hot and crispy and served swimming in maple syrup. Definitely a perfect marriage between pancakes and doughnuts.

Our table polished them off in no time.

I called our server aside to inquire about the house policy on 'seconds', to which she promptly informed me that they don't accommodate. I remained calm, but firm, and managed to convey my deep and utter need for another tray.

Happily, another dish of pancakes arrived shortly in front of me, hot and devastatingly good. (Have I ever called anything 'devastatingly good' on this blog??)

OK, I'm going to get flack for this one, but this is my space, so I can say what I like. This banana split was just so-so. Sure it had banana's (what's local about those?) maple marshmallows (mine are better - just sayin'), some pretty kicking maple ice cream, and maple-glazed nuts, but I wasn't as impressed as some of the other eaters. Go ahead, call me spoiled.

The split's best feature was the maple cotton candy garnish, which was brilliant. I bought some to take home for the boys. Delish!

This was subconsciously what we had all come for: tire à l’érable, or maple taffy. This is a requisite treat for a visit to any sugar shack.

It is rolled up on a popsicle stick from it's bed of crushed ice (packed snow works better) and enjoyed in all it's teeth numbing, sticky sweetness.

(at this point, I almost had to hold onto the table when I stood up. Remember this was our third 'wave' of food. But there was one more...)

My second favorite dessert (pancakes were number one) was the maple mille-feuille, and easily the best of its kind I've ever had. Mille-feuille is a dime a dozen around here, but most of them are disappointing.

Not so here, Au Pied de Cochon's version leaves nothing to be desired, except, perhaps, the residual longing that all mille-feuilles were maple.

Ah, in a perfect world, perhaps.

~Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon: adult $49 CAD, kids from 3 to 12 yrs old $15

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter Weekend Recap

Four days of the most glorious weather combined with a relatively relaxed holiday made our Easter long weekend simply wonderful. I needed the sun - for my emotional and mental health - as well as a break from my online world. It's been a long winter.

Here's a recap of the highlights, although every minute was pretty sweet.

~ Waking up on Good Friday to two deer standing amidst the maples in the back yard.
~ Waking 2 sleepy boys to see the deer, followed by a leisurely breakfast.
~ Connecting with friends and family over lots and lots of ham.

~ Making Easter Brunch as a family: cider braised ham, maple baked beans, asparagus, scrambled eggs, and homemade Coffee-Glazed Doughnuts. Oh. MY. the doughnuts. (Yes, the recipe is coming.)

~ Enjoying brunch with family - and the first al fresco meal of the spring.

~ Catching up with the furry cousins, Roxy, Nelly & Tulip in our back yard.
~ Talking seriously about getting chickens.

~ Discovering signs of spring, and that the forest floor is carpeted with bulbs.
~ Finding the first crocus, only to see it trampled by little rubber boots.

~ Hours and hours spent outdoors, with a hand-built compost bin and fire-pit to show for our efforts.

~ Toasting homemade coconut marshmallows on that new fire-pit and establishing them as the new favorite delicacy for the summer.
~ Eating more meals out of doors than indoors.

~ Relishing in exposed knees and shoulders after a long winter, and even, the next morning, a touch of sunburn on the nose.

~ Enjoying the best part of camping -toasted marshmallows- but from the comforts of your own home.
~ Putting wasted kids to bed and staying up way too late with siblings and board games.

~ Watching geese, collecting rocks and hunting for worms on a casual day hike with friends.

Today we went back to the day-to-day stuff, but things feel different. I can compost now, for one. Then there are all those flowers in the forest to keep an eye on in anticipation of their blooms.

I also still have the canola oil from the doughnut fry-up, too....something tells me it's not going to go to waste.

Look for that recipe coming soon!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Yeast 101 Tutorial and Easter Egg Bread

Photo and bread by Lynn Craig

We've got a fabulous Yeast 101 tutorial today on Simple Bites for those of you may feel slightly skiddish about working with yeast.

Our post Taming the Yeast: Easter Egg Bread not only gives tips on how to feel confident when working with yeast, but shows, step-by-step, how to execute a lovely festive loaf.

Create this easy, yet impressive Easter Egg Braided Bread and show your friends this Easter
"Look, it has risen indeed!"

Head here for the tutorial and recipe...

Happy Easter, everyone!


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