Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Block Party on Simple Bites

simple living block party

Crazy things are happening over at Simple Bites starting June 30 and continuing for the entire holiday weekend. In fact, all across the Simple Living Media Network, things are going to sizzle and pop in honor of Canada Day and the Fourth of July.

Now, I'm not going to give too much away, but I will leave you with one hint:

You won't want to miss out on the fun, so be sure to stop by--and often.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strawberries and stuff

I completely forgot about Meatless Monday this week. We were squeezing in a last-minute Ikea grab before my family arrives (tonight!) and I realized our impromptu supper of soft tacos with shredded cold chicken had been decidedly carnivorous.

Oh well, no one is checking up on me, are they?

This morning was spent setting up sleeping arrangements for 15 in my three-bedroom house and a final blitz to the market for decent bread, cheese and a bottle of gin, for my brother. He will be on holidays, after all.

I also picked up another flat of strawberries (my fourth in 2 weeks). My New Mexican sister is supposed to be bringing good tequila and strawberry margaritas will be consumed.

Speaking of strawberries, the kind Susan Schwartz from the Gazette interviewed me last week for an article she was writing on strawberries. What was intended as a few quotes for her article, turned into another, shorter article about Simple Bites, strawberries and me.

You can read the full article online here, or grab the paper today and check out the Arts & Life section.

If you're in the mood for a little baking, be sure to check out our recipe for Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Whole Wheat Crust on Simple Bites today. My contributor, Elizabeth, actually submitted the post to me while in labor with her daughter. Such is the dedication of my writers--and it tells you how excited she was to bring us this pie recipe!

I am admittedly going to be fairly M.I.A. for the next few weeks, what with hosting our family reunion and all. I am looking forward to playing with my nieces and nephews and rubbing shoulders in the kitchen with my siblings--all of whom are great cooks.

Undoubtedly, our house is going to be the best place to eat in town.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Poor Girl Gourmet Cookbook Review, Peach Crostata & Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winners: John, Kim and Ella!

This post could very well be titled My New Favorite Cookbook, but I wanted to lure you in with promises of a summery dessert recipe and a (yes, another!) giveaway.

Hang on, because I'm about to wax lyrical on another cookbook.

This on comes to me from the amazing Amy McCoy of Poor Girl Gourmet, one of my daily reads in the food blogosphere. She's such a cool gal, and I was super excited to be asked to review her brand new cookbook, Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget.

For the record-- I LOVE it!

Before I could even flip through the book, I had to beat back my little sister, who happened to be here when the cookbook arrived and attempted to make away with it

"But. But. It's perfect for me!!" she protested when I removed it from her bag.

Indeed, it's perfect for everyone, because who doesn't want to eat like a gourmet, but still stay within their monthly food allowance?

Amy kick-starts the cookbook with some highly practical pointers on how to save money. Head over to Simple Bites to read 10 Tips to Help You Conserve Some Coin, an article inspired by Poor Girl Gourmet, plus get another fabulous recipe!

With the tagline 'Eating in style on a bare-bones budget', the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook takes us on a low-budget, high-quality food adventure. Every recipe is gorgeous, gorgeous, and makes you want to jump up and COOK.

Like this one, for example. Oh, and stick with me until the bottom for your chance to win Amy's cookbook!!

Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata

Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget
by Amy McCoy/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Cornmeal Crust:

  • 2¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (½ cup) very cold vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ to ¾ cup ice-cold water

Peach Filling:
  • 6 medium peaches (approximately 2 pounds), halved, pitted, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
  • ¼ cup honey
For Finishing:
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk (any kind)
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (sold as Sugar in the Raw), for dusting the crust

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt, mixing well to distribute all of these dry ingredients. Add the shortening and butter to the flour mixture, and blend until the fats are incorporated into the flour yet remain the size of peas.

2. Using a fork or pastry blender if not using a food processor, add the ice-cold water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together, meaning that no loose flour remains in your bowl. Form the dough into a ball. Place a piece of plastic wrap approximately 9 by 12 inches long on your work surface. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap, and flatten it into a thick round. Cover all parts of the dough round with the plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the peaches and honey, allowing the peaches to release their juices, or macerate, for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400°F and get out your 10 by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet.

5. On a lightly floured surface, working from the center of the dough round, roll out the dough to a misshapen rectangle approximately 10 by 15 inches. I like to do this on a piece of reusable silicone parchment, which makes the transfer of the dough to the baking sheet infinitely easier, as I also bake the crostata on this piece of parchment. You can do the same by rolling the dough out on regular parchment paper and then sliding the dough and parchment paper onto the baking sheet before filling it with the peaches.

6. Place the honeyed peaches and their accumulated juices in the middle of the misshapen dough rectangle, spreading the peaches around so that there is a 2-inch peach-free border of dough. Working from the long sides first, fold that 2-inch dough border back over the peaches, then fold the short sides’ 2-inch dough border over the peaches, tucking the corners up and over the dough to be sure all peaches at the edges are sealed in and leaving a center of exposed peaches, like a window of golden summer fruit.

7. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk and milk, and then brush the egg wash over the crust. Sprinkle the crust with the turbinado sugar, then bake until the crust is golden brown and the peaches are bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving it forth.

Estimated cost for four: $3.17.

Hungry yet?


This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to our winner

John, Kim and Ella!

John, Kim and Ella said:

"My favorite is to buy local and in season! I've been trying to do this for the past year, and have loved it!
Thanks for the great post, can't wait to get the cookbook and make the tart!

John, please contact me with your address and you will be receiving your cookbook shortly!

Thank you to ALL who entered!
* * *

OK, Amy McCoy is generously offering you a chance to WIN the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook. I strongly suggest you do not miss this chance to get your hands on this book.

Here's what you need to do to enter this Giveaway:

1. Read 10 Ways to Conserve Some Coin over at Simple Bites.

2. Jump back here and leave a comment on this post.

3. In your comment, tell me ONE of Amy's money-saving tips you will implement into your lives, OR one thing you already do.

4. Optional: For an extra entry, you can TWEET this giveaway. Leave a second comment, letting me know you have tweeted. Thanks!

That's it! This giveaway is open until midnight on Friday, June 18.

Winner will be selected by random.org and announced sometime on Saturday, June 19.

Good luck!!

Amy, thank you so much for the opportunity to get to know you a bit better and for your inspiring cookbook. You better believe that the next time I am coming through RI, I am stopping in for a cup of tea and your very own honey.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to You (recipe: Very-Vanilla Buttercream)

June is a month of birthday's around here. This week there was one every day in my extended family & friends. Whew!

Today, however, is a very important birthday for a super cool mom, Nicole. She's turning thirty, folks, and for those of you who have been there, it ain't easy saying good bye to the twenties.

Won't you join me in wishing her a happy birthday?

Happy 30th, Nicole!

Now, Nicole, take a deep breath and repeat after me: everything is going to be OK.

It looks like the thirties are going to be kind to you, as far as I can tell. I mean, you've got that great hair, a super cute and decidedly edible baby, and a pretty rad husband.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, he sent me this letter:


My name is Jonathon and I am writing to let you know that my wife, Nicole, is a big fan of Under the High Chair. She has made several of your recipes, all of which were delicious, and she loves reading about your family.

We recently had our first child, Eric, who is now a bouncy 6-month old baby boy. During the pregnancy and after Eric was born, we were so busy that we got away from cooking (something we both love). Your blog has encouraged Nicole to get back in the kitchen and become passionate about cooking again. Thank you.

Anyway, I have a request, and please feel free to decline. Nicole (my wife) is having her 30th Birthday this Friday, June 11th. I know that she is feeling a little down about the age thing (however, to me she has never been more beautiful than she is now holding our boy).

Would it be possible for you to email her a short happy birthday email? I know it would tickle her to death and would be an unexpected surprise. You could even include some sage wisdom about cooking and/or motherhood.

I apologize if this is a strange request. We don't put a lot of stock in Hollywood, but right now you (and your recipes) are a celebrity in our household.
I will attach a photo of Nicole and Eric to this email. I am proud of both of them.



Thanks for your email, Jonathon. It pretty much made my night!

As for sage wisdom about motherhood, well let just hope people pipe up in the comments section, because I've still got a lot to learn.

Nicole, I hope your birthday was stellar and really, the thirties rock!

Oh right, I almost forgot. The cake!

It's all components that you've seen before... Yellow Butter Cake, layered with buttercream and homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam, and iced with a classic Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It's finished with rolled fondant, and by now you're probably thinking you've seen this cake before. Yes, you have, right here.

I kicked everything up with about four vanilla beans, however. Here is my new favorite, very-vanilla frosting:

Swiss Meringue Vanilla-Bean Buttercream
-slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 vanilla bean, split plus 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Continue beating until the mixture if fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to have separated after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again.)

With the tip of a knife, scrape seeds from vanilla pod and add to icing. Beat on low speed to eliminate any air bubbles. Stir until smooth.

Frosting is now ready to use or it may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days. Before using, bring to room temperature.

Also, a big "Happy Birthday" to all my friends & family who celebrated a birthday this week: Josh, Laura, Peter, Rachel, Daria and Melanie!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Monday, June 07, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Puddle Cookies

More often than not, it's a recipe from Julie that ends up bookmarked in my elite Firefox folder titled "Foods to make ASAP".

It's not just any recipe that I tuck away in there, it has to be something that looks and sounds jaw-droppingly delicious - and come from a reliable source. There are currently only five recipes in the 'Make ASAP' folder; these shrimp are one of them, as is this vanilla bean dulce de leche. They are both slotted for testing very soon.

Julie's Chocolate Walnut Puddle Cookies have been there since the day she posted the recipe back during Olympic fever and I've made them several, *ahem*, many times. While most recipes are made once and then moved over for the next, this puddle cookie recipe just stayed.

I guess more than a few times this spring have I felt the need to make these cookies As Soon As Possible. They are that good.

I so enjoy the reaction when I bring them here or there, or serve them up to guests, that I have almost been hesitant to share the recipe, and thus the glory. But so many of you have asked for the recipe, that I can't keep it a secret any longer!

Here it is, courtesy of Julie, who is, in a way, my cookie mentor, whether she knows it or not. It seems every decent cookie I make these days comes from her little corner, starting with this one, where I first discovered her blog, to me working my way through her cookie cookbook. Yes, that's right, her best-selling cookie cookbook. (psst, get yours now!)

I make my puddle cookies with pecans, which are well on their way to being my favorite nut and I always have around. I imagine the hazelnut version would be pretty spectacular, too.

Chocolate Pecan Puddle Cookies
adapted from 101 Cookbooks, via Dinner with Julie

3 cups pecans (or hazelnuts or walnuts)
4 cups icing sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
4 large egg whites
1 Tbsp. good vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Toast your pecans, cool them and roughly chop them.

In a large bowl, stir together the icing sugar, cocoa and salt. Add the nuts, then stir in the egg whites and vanilla. Stir until well combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and drop the batter in small mounds (about 1 tablespoon each) spacing them well away from each other.

Bake for 9-11 minutes – they will spread, puff, crack on top, get glossy and then turn matte. Slide the cookies on the parchment off the sheet onto a cooling rack and let them cool.

Makes three dozen 2-inch cookies.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Meatless Monday and 'Kitchen Scraps' Giveaway Winner!

Before I divulge the winner of my Kitchen Scraps giveaway, let me first give you your Meatless Monday inspiration. (If you're visiting for the first time, you can read here about our forays into vegetarian cooking and how we got started.)

This week's recipe is over at Simple Bites, and is an old family favorite. Can you guess what it might be by the ingredients assembled in the photo above?

Head here the get the full story and a simple, seasonal meatless recipe.

Thank you to all who left comments on my interview with Pierre Lamielle!

In the end there can be only one winner, and that person is chosen by random.org.

So, the winner of the award-winning cookbook 'Kitchen Scraps' is...


Gale Reeves!
Congratulations, Gale! You have been notified via email.

Thanks again to everyone for reading and entering the giveaway. Remember, even though you didn't win, you can still catch Pierre's work and recipes on his blog, Kitchen Scraps.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! I'm off to assemble a fondant-covered, three-tiered, vanilla-bean layer cake that is supposed to serve 80 people this afternoon at my nephew's baptism celebration. Tootles!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Interview with award-winning author/illustrator Pierre Lamielle of Kitchen Scraps

I didn’t even make it past the foreword to Pierre A. Lamielle’s award-winning cookbook, Kitchen Scraps, before I was chuckling to myself and asking the one question I continued to ask aloud for the next 200 odd pages:

How does he come up with this stuff?!

This ‘stuff’ is brilliant and 100% original illustrations, paired with succulent recipes, and rounded out with downright hilarious captions and anecdotes.

It’s nutty, it’s wacky --it’s entirely engrossing.

If I hadn’t recently met Pierre in person (oh yes I DID!), I would have had a jolly time conjuring up what he must be like to produce such an off-the-wall cookbook. However, we recently sat down over coffee to talk about Kitchen Scraps and chew the fat over the publishing industry, food blogging, and the tireless work of Jamie and Julie (not together, although it’s not a bad idea), and I’m reporting back to you in all honesty when I say that Pierre seems like a fairly normal guy. A downright sweetheart, I may even go as far as to say.

So, wait, who is this fellow anyway?
I don’t think Pierre would mind me alluding to his obscurity, as he admits to keeping a low profile. Among being a chef-illustrator, Pierre is a semi-reluctant blogger, can’t get into Twitter, and modestly insists his life hasn’t drastically changed since Kitchen Scraps won a major international award.

Yes, that’s right, Calgary's Pierre A. Lamielle represented Canada in the recent Gourmand International Cookbook Awards and brought home the top prize in the Illustrated Cookbook category!

I’m nearly as patriotic as I am competitive, and was bursting with national pride when I heard this news via Twitter. (where I get all my news, these days.)

To think, I’ve even been published in the same cookbook as this fellow! Which he was kind enough to autograph for me. Thanks Pierre!
As if winning international recognition wasn’t enough, Kitchen Scraps has sold nearly 5000 copies and is close to making the Canadian Bestsellers list. Really, it’s pretty awesome. Despite Pierre's modest statement that life is more-or-less the same since his cookbook and award, I say, keep your eye on him. He is destined for great things.

Back to that cookbook foreword for a second though, if I may. The illustration of a handful of celebrity chefs squabbling over the honor of writing the foreword to Kitchen Scraps and accompanying self-written forward is reason enough to buy Pierre’s book. And that’s all I’m going to say.

Go pick one up right now and see if you don’t agree.

Kitchen Scraps is a cookbook for the whole family, well, the over-18, anyway, as some of the subject matter is -ahem- decidedly mature. It's easy to imagine the book traveling from the kitchen (where I whipped up the dead simple and deadly delicious Half-Baked Pot Brownies) to the bathroom with Danny (forget Calvin & Hobbes, this is perfectly suitable throne room reading material) to the nightstand, where my copy currently resides.

Again, let me reiterate, it's unlike any cookbook you've ever seen.

Here's what else I think: you need a copy. Like today.

Fortunately I can help out with that need for one luck reader...

Yep! It's giveaway time!

The folks at Whitecap have offered one copy of Kitchen Scraps to UtHC readers.

Just leave a comment below to enter
- that's IT!

Giveaway ends Saturday, June 5 at Midnight, EST. Good Luck!

* * *
You can read more about Pierre in this interview where he talks about his work ethics, income sources and where he stands on 'selling out'. You can also read his chat with The Hot Plate, the official blog of Pierre's old stomping grounds, the French Culinary Institution.

Both interviews are infinitely more professional than mine.

Pierre, thanks for taking the time to meet with me--and for Kitchen Scraps. Best of luck for the future!


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