Monthly Archives: January 2010

Cocoa Brownies!

 

So, when I opened up my google reader this morning to indulge in my favourite food blogs, this post by Smitten Kitchen caught my eye!  It is for “The Best Cocoa Brownies”.  The beautiful pictures and the great description caught my eye.

So, I made them.  WOW!!!!!!!!! Incredible brownies!  They are fudgy, chocolatey, rich and delicious!!!! 

Smitten Kitchen says that they taste similar to “gasp!” boxed brownie mix.  When I brought my brownies to my “testers” (mom and sister), my sister said that they tasted like brownie mix, but better.  I knew Smitten had a winner of a recipe when my mom called me as soon as she got home and asked for the recipe!

The recipe calls for a double boiler.  I just use a stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmering water.  It works just fine!  Apparently, Smitten Kitchen says that you can use a microwave too.  But I like the double boiler method.  It’s fun!

So, here is the recipe.  You’ve gotta try it!!!

Best Cocoa Brownies
recipe from Smitten Kitchen — check it out.  Her pictures are amazing!
Makes 25 small brownies

3/4 cup unsalted butter (I used salted butter, because it was what I had, and I decreased the salt to a couple shakes from my table salt shaker)
1-1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp cocoa powder (I used Fry’s, it was good!)
1/4 tsp salt (decrease salt if using salted butter!)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.  Line an 8×8″ pan with parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in the top of a double boiler.  Heat over a pan of lightly simmering water.  Stir occasionally until the butter is melted.  Take off of the water, and let sit for a few minutes to cool down a bit.  Stir in the vanilla.    Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each one is added.  When the batter is shiny and well-blended, add the flour.  Stir until just combined, and then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with a spoon.  Pour into the prepared pan. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a little bit of moist batter on it.  My brownies took closer to 30-35 minutes to cook.  Let the brownies cool completely, then take them out of the pan, by pulling on the overhanging parchment paper, put on a cutting board and cut.  I washed my knife with hot water in between cuts to clean the knife and facilitate cutting.  Cut into 25 squares (or if you’re feeling over-indulgent, 16 squares!)

Enjoy these brownies!
The Hungry Teacher

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Creme Brulee

On the weekend, I went to go see a play at the UFV theatre, Paper Wheat.  It was a great play!  I would recommend it.  It’s a musical about the Wheat Pool in Saskatchewan.  It sounds… well, kinda boring… but they did a good job!

We went to see the play with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law and his girlfriend.  I invited them all over for dessert.  It’s always a tough decision to decide what to make.  I paged through a few cookbooks, and in Make it Fast, Cook it Slow, there is recipe for slow-cooker creme brulee.  I decided to try it (it’s one of my mother-in-law’s favourite desserts).

It was a lot easier than I thought it would be!  I was going to use my slow cooker to cook the custard the first time, but, I wanted to make the creme brulee in individual ramekins, rather than in one dish like the recipe called for.  BUT, 5 ramekins would not fit into the slow cooker!  Grr!!  So, I ended up adapting the recipe for the oven.  I do not have a kitchen blow torch, so I had to broil them to caramelize the sugar on top. 

The creme brulee tasted delicious, but, it was a bit runny for some reason.  I’m wondering if it is because I broiled them, rather than torching them.  I think that may have overheated the dessert, causing the custard to seperate.  And, we ate it right away, after it was broiled, rather than chilling it again.  But, regardless, the dessert turned out wonderfully… even better than I thought!

Creme Brulee
adapted from http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/02/crockpot-crme-brulee-recipe.html

2 cups heavy cream
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup raw sugar (for topping, later!)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Get 4-6 ramekins and make sure that they fit into a baking dish (I used a 9×13 pan).  Place them in the dish.  Beat the egg yolks, then slowly whip in the cream, sugar and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.  Pour the mixture into the ramekins.  Now, put the 9×13 pan on the oven rack and add tap water around the ramekins, until the water is halfway up the ramekins outer side.   Put this in the oven, and cook for around an hour.  Mine took closer to one hour and 20 minutes.  When the edges are set, but the center is still jiggly, remove from the oven. 

If you would like to try it in the slow cooker, pour the custard into a dish that will fit inside your cooker.  Try a 1-1/2 quart dish.  Then, add water to the outside of the dish until it is halfway up the outside of the dish.  Cook on high for 2-4 hours.  Chill for 3 hours. 

Place the ramekins in the refrigerator and chill for at least three hours.   Turn on the broiler (or your kitchen blow torch).  Sprinkle raw sugar on the top of each custard .  Broil until the sugar is caramelized.  Now, you can chill them again for a few hours until they are cool.  Eat and enjoy!

Go ahead!  Try it!
The Hungry Teacher

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Salmon En Croute

I am always looking for a new way to prepare salmon.  I am not a seafood lover, so cooking any seafood is a stretch for me.  However, the husband went fishing for a week in the summer (1-1/2 years ago), and we are still working on eating the salmon in the freezer. 

When salmon is cooked properly, it is delicious!  While perusing cookbooks, getting ideas for dinner, I came across a recipe for Salmon En Croute in Jamie’s Food Revolution.  As you can see from the picture, it’s salmon fillet with all sorts of goodness on top, wrapped in puff pastry and baked.  YUM! 

This was really fun to make!  I thought it was going to take a long time to prepare, but it actually only took 10 minutes to get ready before it went in the oven.  I used half of a tub of bocconcini cheese.  Bocconcini cheese is fresh mozzarella cheese, formed in balls about the same size as cherry tomatoes.  It is sold in tubs of water with the specialty cheeses.  Bocconcini has a mild, soft flavour.  It is a cheese that I really love.  I think its worth using in this dish.

This dish looks really impressive once it is finished.  It is a great meal to serve to company!  Last night, the husband and I had green salad on the side, and this complemented the salmon nicely.

Salmon En Croute
Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution

all-purpose flour, for dusting
2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted (I used the whole package of Tenderflake brand, from the freezer section, as it was all I could find in my grocery store.)
1-3/4 lb salmon fillet, bones removed (we also removed the skin… it’s nice to have an evenly shaped piece)
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup black olive tapenade paste (our grocery store was out of this, so we got some olive spread from the deli counter.  It worked fine!)
a small bunch of fresh basil
1 ripe tomato
1/4 lb of fresh mozzarella cheese
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Take a large sheet pan and dust it with flour.  Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour.  Lay the puff pastry sheets on one on top of the other.  Roll out the puff pastry until it’s the same size as the sheet pan.  Put the pastry on the pan.  Drizzle the salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place in the middle of the pastry and spoon the black olive tapenade on the salmon and spread it into a thin layer.  Pick the basil leaves and place them over the fish.  Slice the tomatoes and place them over the basil.  Tear the mozzarella into pieces and put on top of the fish and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Gather up the sides of the pastry and push them together.  The pastry will not cover the entire top of the salmon.  Beat the egg with a fork, and use a pastry brush to paint the egg wash over the pastry edges. 

Place the pan on the bottom rack of the oven, and put an empty sheet pan on the rack above to prevent the top from getting too much heat.  Cook for 35 minutes,  then remove from the oven, cut it into slices and serve!

Enjoy!
The Hungry Teacher

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Chicken Strips and Spicy Fries

This is one of my favourite meals of all time.  We have made this meal so many times we have the preparation down to a science.  My husband loves to cut the potatoes (which I didn’t know until  yesterday.  I got out the knife and cutting board, and then he begged me to allow him to cut the potatoes…)

This is a quick, easy meal that is perfect for movie night.  I feel that it’s really rather healthy.  I mean, chicken breasts and potatoes?   There is only a bit of olive oil on the potatoes, and olive oil is definitely one of the healthier oils out there. 

We serve eating this meal with lots of Heinz Chili Sauce.  It tastes rather like spicy ketchup, and it’s something I recommend trying.  We also have plum sauce or honey mustard for dipping the chicken strips in.  Yum!

One thing I have considered doing is chopping up a box of chicken breasts, breading them all and freezing them, for those nights when I just don’t really feel like cooking.  Although, I have very few nights where I really don’t want to cook.  I think the chicken strips would freeze well though.  If you want to try it, place the strips on a baking sheet so they’re not touching each other and freeze until solid.  At this point, you can move them to a resealable freezer bag, and they won’t stick together because they’re already frozen!

A few notes I would like to mention.  I use my Pampered Chef Stoneware to cook these on.  The chicken strips would be fine on a regular cookie sheet, but the fries are much better on my stone bar pan (cooking sheet with raised edges).  The fries cook evenly (you don’t need to flip them or turn them), and clean up is a breeze!  If you cook the fries on a regular cookie sheet, they may stick.  I would recommend covering the cookie sheet with foil, to help with clean up, but even so, the fries may stick.  Buy some Pampered Chef Stoneware, you won’t be disappointed! 

One other thing I would like to mention, I cook both of these dishes in the oven at 450°F.  Put the fries in first, let them cook the five minutes with the foil on, remove the foil, put in the chicken strips (on the top rack) and continue to cook for 20-25 more minutes.  The timing usually works out quite well, but occasionally one or the other needs to be kept in the oven a bit longer.

Chicken Strips
Recipe adapted from Quick Fix Meals by Robin Miller

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (If you ever see chicken tenders on sale, buy them!  They’re already the perfect size and don’t need to be cut!)
2/3 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.  In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs and spices.  Add the chicken strips one at a time, and turn to coat evenly.  Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Spicy Cheese Fries
Recipe adapted from Grazing

2 medium russet potatoes, unpeeled but scrubbed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 475°F.

Cut potatoes into evenly sliced wedges or 1/4″ to 1/2″ fries.  Place them in a bowl and fill with hot tap water.  Soak the fries for 10 minutes.  Get a heavy, rimmed baking sheet and coat with oil.
Drain the potatoes and thoroughly dry with a clean kitchen towel.  Put the fries on the baking sheet and toss with the oil.  In a small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Toss this mixture with the oiled fries.

Don’t crowd the fries, or else they will not get crispy!  Cover the pan with foil and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for 25 more minutes.  Turn these once or twice while cooking.  Serve immediately!

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Whole Wheat Berry Muffins

Ok, so I wanted to make muffins for breakfast today.  The new cookbook I got is Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  I had borrowed their first cookbook (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day) from the library, and I really liked it.  So, I decided to buy it and the Healthy Bread cookbook together.  The premise of these books is that you can make truly great bread in only 5 minutes of active time a day!  It’s true, it really does work!  The bread dough is no-knead, it’s designed to last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (depending on the dough), and it makes enough dough for approximately 4 loaves .   I love the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes and I would highly recommend it!  Making bread this way is so easy and so impressive!

I had made a recipe (the master recipe for a round loaf, boule) from the Artisan book a few times, and I found it to be delicious and versatile (I used it for bread, focaccia and pizza)!  I thought that these books were amazing, and nothing could go wrong.

Well, I made these muffins for breakfast this morning– after making the dough last night.  The idea is great, so I think I’m going to try the recipe again, but they were not very good.  The muffins are not really muffins, but they are more like buns.  We found them to be lacking in flavour.  The recipe called for mixed frozen berries, but I only had frozen blueberries on hand.  Also, I’m not sure if I used enough salt.  My dough didn’t rise as fast as I thought it should, but I think that might be because my blueberries were not fully defrosted.  I also could not find white whole-wheat flour, as the recipe called for, so I used regular whole-wheat flour.  This may have contributed to the recipe not turning out quite right.  I did love the raw sugar sprinkled on top, though.

So, next time, I think I am going to use mixed frozen berries, but make sure they are defrosted all of the way first.  I’m also going to add some more salt and see if that helps improve the flavour.  I’m going to try baking the remaining bread into a loaf to take to school on Monday for the staff.  I know that the dough changes characteristics a bit based on how long it sits, so maybe that will be the secret.

Whole Wheat Berry Muffins
adapted from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

4 cups white whole-wheat flour (I used regular whole-wheat)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (I found it in the flour aisle at Safeway)
2-1/4 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup honey
3 cups mixed frozen berries and their juices, defrosted
Egg wash (1 egg beat with 1 Tbsp water)
Raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Mix together the flours, yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten in a large bowl.  Combine the water, honey and berries, then mix with the dry ingredients (I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment).  You can use a spoon, but may need to use wet hands to incorporate all ingredients.  Put the dough in a large container, and cover, but not airtight and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for two hours.  Refrigerate dough in a covered, not airtight container for up to five days. 

To make muffins:  grease a muffin pan.  Cut off a piece of dough that is about the size of a cantaloupe.  Divide this ball into 12 equal pieces(about the size of a golf ball).  Shape each one into a smooth ball by stretching the dough to the bottom of the ball.  Place balls into prepared muffin tin.  Let them rest, lightly covered, for 40 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Just before baking, brush muffins with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until nicely browned and firm.  Remove the muffins from tin, and allow them to cool a bit before eating.

Let me know if you try them and find a trick that works!
The Hungry Teacher

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Chicken Tikka Masala

I discovered Indian food a few years ago… It’s amazing!  I love curries and samosas.  I have made samosas before, but they were a very North-Americanized version.  They were delicious, but not authentic.  So, maybe authentic samosas will be the next thing on my must cook Indian list.  This was the first time I had actually made curry from scratch (I tried butter chicken from a jar once).

I got Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook Jamie’s Food Revolution.  It’s amazing.  The pictures are beautiful, and there are tons of amazing looking recipes.  I’m in love with Jamie… I have 5 of his cookbooks, and I am not disappointed with any of them.  Sometimes, the recipes are a bit British, and I can’t get all of the ingredients, but that’s not the case with Jamie’s Food Revolution.  It’s totally practical and beautiful.

The book has a whole chapter on curries!  So exciting!  I’ve been wanting to try them for a very long time, so on Wednesday night, I finally did.  It turned out great!  Next time, we will use medium or hot curry paste, because we would like a bit more bite.  But, the recipe had great flavor, and for a mild curry, it was perfect.  Our curry was quite thin at the end of cooking time.  We had to simmer it for an additional 15 minutes with the lid off to evaporate the liquid.  So, I adapted the recipe to reflect that.

Now, the only thing I have to say, is that it’s Friday, and when you walk in our apartment, you can still smell curry.  But, it’s a small price to pay for an amazing dinner!

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into 3/4 inch strips
2 medium onions, peeled halved and thinly sliced
1 fresh red chile, finely sliced
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
small bunch of fresh parsley, leaves picked and put aside, stems finely chopped (cilantro is what the recipe calls for, but I am not a fan of cilantro)
vegetable oil
a pat of butter
1/2 cup mild curry paste (I used Patak’s)
salt and pepper
1-14 oz can diced tomatoes
1-14 oz can coconut milk
1 cup plain yogurt
1 small handful sliced almonds

Put a large pan on medium to high heat and add some olive oil and butter.  Add the onions, chile, ginger and parsley stalks and cook for 10 minutes, until softened and golden.   Add curry paste and chicken.  Stir well to coat everything and add salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes and coconut milk.  Fill one of the empty cans with water, pour into pan and stir.  Bring to a boil and then turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid off.  Jamie recommends checking it to make sure it doesn’t dry out, but this was definitely not a problem for me.  When the meat is cooked through, taste the curry and add more salt and pepper if necessary. 

Serve over rice, dolloped with yogurt, sprinkled with almonds and parsley.

Enjoy!
The Hungry Teacher

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Cute Cupcakes!

A close friend of mine had a beautiful baby girl on December 23 (my dad’s birthday!), and  I had the chance to help throw her a baby shower.  We had the baby shower on Tuesday and it went great!  It was a lot of work, and I came home thoroughly exhausted, but it was fun, and I think mommy felt really special!

I decided to make cupcakes for the shower instead of a cake.  Something different, you know!  Cupcakes are so cute, and I was able to borrow 3 cupcake stands, which made for a nice presentation!  The cupcakes were a lot of  fun to make.  I made them on Sunday afternoon and iced them on Monday.  We served them at the baby shower on Tuesday, and my students eagerly gobbled up the leftovers, leaving a few for me to share with fellow staff members on Wednesday. 

All in all, the cupcakes were a success, even though there weren’t very many eaten.  There was a lot of other food that was brought by fellow guests, and there was also some other beautiful desserts. 

The cupcake recipe is so simple, I can’t believe I’m sharing it.  It was the recipe my Grandma Tolmie always used for wedding cakes and all of her amazing confections.  My Auntie uses it when she makes wedding cakes (even ours!).  The recipe ALWAYS turns out, and makes a moist, flavorful cake.  The recipe uses cake mix and instant pudding mix.  Feel free to mix and match the flavours to your heart’s content.  I made one batch of vanilla cupcakes and one batch of chocolate cupcakes (24 cupcakes each).  Because my recipe is from Grandma, and especially because she’s no longer around to ask questions of, I am not sure of the different sizes of pans and baking times for each one for this recipe.  I believe it’s pretty much the same as on the back of the cake mix box.

I used the recipe from my good old Betty Crocker cookbook for Buttercream Frosting.  It is so good!  I made the mistake of looking at the nutritional information.  Don’t.  Just realize that it’s a once-in-a-while treat!  If you only have it occasionally, it’s just fine, and definitely worth it!  Yum!!

Grandma’s Pound Cake
Recipe from Grandma Tolmie

1 cake mix
1 pkg. instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil

Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 350°F for at least 35 min. 

That’s all I have!  Use your discretion and follow the times on the back of the cake mix box.  This recipe made 24 cupcakes for me.  I used paper liners and took them out of the muffin tin right away, because I was making another batch. 

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
from Betty Crocker Cookbook

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk

Mix powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed (I used my hand mixer).  Stir in vanilla and one tbsp of the milk.  Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable.  If frosting is too thick, beat in milk a few drops at a time.  If it’s too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.

I made 2 batches of frosting and it was enough for my 4 dozen cupcakes!

Enjoy!
The Hungry Teacher

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