Testing more new waters

My grandmother is the baker in the family. Every year she checks out the MacIntosh apples until she finds the bushels she wants, sets my grandfather to peeling, and makes big batches of apple pies to store in the freezer and distribute among her 4 children. And some of us grandchildren too.

Despite liking to cook, I've never liked baking pies if I had to make my own pie crust. I've just never liked making pie crust, and never liked rolling out the dough. Until last Friday, I didn't even own a proper rolling pin any more, having tossed the awful one I had years ago. It wasn't being used anyways.

Well Friday I found the rolling pin I wanted to work with at Hendrix, again my go to store for kitchen supplies. My rolling pin of choice was the French style rolling pin. It fit comfortably in my hands and did not involve any of the silliness I've found always comes with a ball bearing style pin. Though I have yet to figure out where I can store this thing.

To enter these uncharted waters known as pie making, I started out asking a question. "I'm going to make a pie. If you could have any kind of pie, what kind would you like?"

I asked this question of my husband, expecting something involving raspberries.

Instead I got an unexpected answer: "Lemon Meringue."

I'd never made a lemon meringue pie before. Aren't those easier to buy premade from the store?

I had offered though, and knew this was not beyond my abilities, even my non-pie making skills were probably sufficient to make this pie.

I started out with my trusty little stand mixer and the recipe for pie crust from the manual. I'm not going to rewrite the recipe here because you can get pie crust recipes anywhere, or skip it an buy the premade, frozen kind from the store (which is what I have always done when making pies). And I'm not sure I like the recipe from my mixer book so will try a different one next time.

A conversation with my neighbour, however, reminded me that not everyone who tries to make this pie knows you have to prebake the pie shell before you add the lemon filling in. I knew, my crust was in the oven while we were discussing his adventures in pie making. But if you've never made this kind of pie before, remember - Bake that pie shell first!

For the rest of the recipe, I went back to my Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book. The 35 year old new cookbook. One thing I like about making this kind of pie - the egg yolks get used in the filling, the whites for the meringue. No waste of egg parts! Throw my shells in the composter and everything has been used.

For my first pie of this type I was quite pleased with it. I'll need to practice my pie crust skills a bit before I can even match my grandmother, but it wasn't too bad for a first time. I think I understand now why she uses disposable alluminum pie plates every year, aside from the cost savings when you make 4 dozen pies - it is easier to crimp pie dough right at the edge than it is on a pie place with an extended lip and handles on it. So my pie shrunk a bit, despite the precautions taken to prevent it. It didn't shrink so much that it wasn't usable, though I did not have a pretty edge to my crust.

Feedback on this was good, very good. I had a nice high meringue, golden and gooey. The lemon filling was tart and not too sweet. Even my children ate it, though to be fair my youngest started at the top, and ate some of the lemon, before he announced that he didn't like pie. It's his new thing lately, to eat 1/2 to 3/4 and then say he doesn't like something.

Lemon Meringue Pie
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablesppons all-purpose flour
dash salt
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 slightly beaten egg yolds
2 tablespons butter
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 9-inch baked pastry shell, cooled

In saucepan, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar, constartch, flour and salt. Gradually add hot water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over high heat until mixture comes to boiling. Reduce head; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Stir small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks, then return to hot mixture. Bring to boiling and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add butter and lemon peel. Slowly add lemon juice, mixing well. Pour into pastry shell. Spread meringue over filling; seal to edge. Bake at 350F for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool before cutting.

Meringue For one 9-inch pie

3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff and glossy peaks form and all sugar is disolved. Spread meringue over hot filling, sealing to eadge of pastry. Bake at 350F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until meringue is golden. Cool.

Notes: I didn't let the pie shell cool before adding the filling. I increased the amount of lemon zest, simply to enhance the lemon flavor. And no one was willing to wait for the pie to cool before eating it, hence my filling weeps a little bit. Tasted just great though!

Blogger Postcards from the World

Meeta over at What's for lunch honey is the hostess/organizer of the first ever Blogger Postcards from Around the World event!

Not as complicated as it sounds, at least for those of us just sending postcards. Poor Meeta however had to randomly pick names and send out emails to 64 people!

I read about this form another blog, and thought it sounded like fun, so I am blogger number 13, getting my postcard ready for it's recepient.

I learned something doing this.

It is very hard to find a postcard in Ottawa outside of the downtown area! If you aren't in a tourist section, good luck finding a postcard! And finding a postcard that doesn't contain the usual Parliment Hill/Chateau Laurier is just as hard! As I live way out in the subburbs of Ottawa, there aren't any tourist facilities around here.

I was eventually able to find a postcard in a Hallmark store in Kanata. Not any closer to downtown than I am, but it is where I was when I spotted the rack.

This is the postcard I eventually settled on, showing the flower vendors of the Ottawa Byward Market. The Byward market has been a part of Ottawa since at least 1901, where residents of the area used to write letters to the editor complaining about the cost of the stall rentals, lack of garbage pick up and the hard work that went into being up and at the market by dawn with their fresh produce from area farms. These days it has a permanent covered section that houses little lunch restaurants, a few funky boutiques, and other food related stalls, including a tea shop, a fresh bagel shop and a place to get mountains of chocolate. The fresh vendors are located in stalls outside this permenant fixture and line the sidewalk in front of deli's, cheesemongers and one of my favorite's, Lapointe's Fish Market.

I wonder where in the world my postcard will come from?

Now I'm off to find a stamp so I can mail my postcard!

PS For anyone who was interested in doing this, Meeta may do another in September. I'll post about it here when she announces it!

Insalata Caprese

My husband is not a cheese person. Though he is a tomato person. So I have always hesitated to try this simple classic salad for fear I would end up eating the cheese entirely by myself. And while I love cheese, I am only a fan of mozzarella in the melted form.

However we had friends coming for dinner last night and I wanted to do something a little different to go with the bbq'd sausages and corn on the cobb I was preparing. With vine rippened tomatoes in abundance, and a bunch of fresh basil growing in my garden, begging to be used for something, I decided to try it.

A ball of fresh buffalo mozzarela was the last item I needed, which was quickly obtained from my local grocer.

There are probably alot of "recipes" written about Insalata Caprese, but really all you need are fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarela, fresh basil, fruity olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper. The cheese and tomatoes are sliced and layered on a platter, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper. Fresh basil is ripped on top of the salad, adding to the traditional colors and flavors.

It certainly looked pretty.

But I must not be Italian as I did not really get the fascination with this salad. It was good, fresh and flavorful, but not the fabulous feast of flavors I had been led to expect it would be. Super fresh tomatoes with a sprinkling of salt and pepper is one of my favorite summer flavors, so I was off to a good start. Cheese is a necessity, and the buffalo mozzarella was lovely, soft and mild, completely unlike regular store bought mozzarella and more like the texture of good melted mozzarella.

The response to it was positive, with two of the three children at least trying the cheese, and my husband happily eating everything but the cheese.

I would be tempted to make this again for a special occassion, and may do so later this summer when the tomatoes from my garden are calling out to be used.

And I still think I would like to try the pasta version of this salad, Spaghetti Alla Caprese.

More baking on a hot day

What is it that makes a normally sane person decide to bake bread on a very hot day? It certainly wasn't necessity. I have a perfectly nice local grocer with an in-store bakery, less than 2 minutes walking up the street from me.

This foray into bread baking resulted in Honey Oatmeal Bread, another recipe from my KitchenAid Stand Mixer instruction and recipe book.

The bread, which did not want to rise to double its bulk during its resting periods, resulted in two high, golden loaves. The bread was dense and rich, but not sweet as I had expected it to be, despite the 1/2 cup of honey included. While good with just a smearing of regular butter, it was best when slathered with sweet honey butter (really just a combination of butter and honey mixed together to taste.)

Consensus from eaters is this bread is a keeper, though I will no doubt continue on my little journey of breadmaking, mostly because I can.

It was a dark and dreary day

Or at least it was when I planned dinner, though by the time diner was served, the sun was blinding us and the temperature outside was rising!

Is this a sub-section of Murphy's Law? As soon as you plan warming, comfort food, you will no longer need the warming?

Oh well, a big pot of sauce never goes to waste in this household!

Filled with chunks of meat and tomatoes, this sauce was very hearty and tasty. A generous grating of parmesan cheese melted into the pasta, gave it that necessary finishing touch.

Dinner was followed up by a classic dessert, rhubarb cobbler, made with rhubarb picked fresh from my garden. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a necessity in my food world for any crumble or cobbler, it was the final touch to this comforting meal.

Rhubarb Cobbler (Trust me, it tastes much better than this picture shows!)

This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Of course it is called new, but is about 34 years old, maybe more. It is one of two cookbooks my mother was given by my aunt when I was a baby. When I moved out of my mother's home, she told me I could chose one to bring with me, and 15 years later, she still won't let me have the other one. And I still cook a few items from this book.

For Filling:

4 cups rhubarb (I used more like 6 cups)
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4)
1 tablespoon each water and butter
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine together and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Pour filling into 8 1/4 x 1 3/4 round baking dish (I used a medium size Corningware dish.)

For Topping:

1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 slightly beaten egg

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine milk and beaten egg, then add all at once to dry ingredients. Stir until moistened.

Spoon topping in 6 mounds over rhubarb filling. Bake at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Great minds think alike

I recently posted a response to The Canadian Baker about her Spicy Ginger Cookies, saying that great minds think alike. While I've frequently been inspired to bake something from her blog, this time we actually had the same idea at the same time!

My recipe came from the owner and chef of The Coveside B&B in Georgetown, Maine, Carolyn. She is a former pastry chef who now supplies wonderful breakfasts for her guests, and keeps a supply of fresh baked cookies available at all times. We haven't been there in about four years, having gone back to back years, but hope to get back there as soon as our children are old enough to be guests again. Or they move out and we can go without them.

I am not a fan of ginger cookies, but the first time I had these at Coveside I was blown away by how good they were. When we returned the next year, I was disappointed when they weren't in the cookie jar. But then the jar was suddenly empty and Carolyn was debating what to make. Remembering how good they were, I not only requested the cookies, I begged her for the recipe. I can't say where she got it from originally but the photo copy she gave me was ripped from a magazine.

Normally I reserve these cookies for Christmas time, when the effort of making them doesn't seem as much compared to the other things I have to do at the time. They are generally a bit of a pain to make as they involve 4 1/2 cups of flour and alot of stiring.

Stiring is what having a mixer is for! So out came the recipe, somewhere about the same time that The Canadian Baker was posting about her cookies, whose recipe is very similar to mine!

These cookies turn out soft, dense and with just enough ginger in them to provide good flavor, though not overwhelming. My ginger-disliking husband will happily eat these cookies any time of the year.

I think I need to invest in some nice big cookie jars, just like the ones on the guests counter at Coveside, so I too can keep fresh cookies available at all times.

Slow cooking weekend

This is the fanciest cooking I did this weekend, slow roasting over an open fire while camping with family and friends.

For camping food, you can't get much better than that!

Borrowing recipes from other bloggers

I own stacks of cookbooks, which some day I may gather up and take a picture of. I also own stacks of cookbook magazines. But lately most of my inspirational recipes have come from other food bloggers.

My Bloglines feed seems to get bigger and bigger, almost all of it under the food catagory.

Tonights desire to bake came from a blog I have had open on my desktop for a few days. I just kept going back to it, looking at it, re-reading it. Then, without warning, I stopped cleaning up after dinner and started to bake. Never mind the mess already on the counter! Ignore the pile of dishes building up in the sink. These cookies needed to be made!

Mine don't look nearly as beautiful as Jenjen's do. It could be my kitchen lighting. I do seem to take alot of pictures at dusk when there isn't much light, using a close up setting that doesn't give alot of extra light. Looks, however, were not the only reason these cookies called out to be made.

Cocoa Cappuccino Cookies.

In other words, chocolate.

No one in this family likes coffee. Or cappuccino. And I may be an amature baker, but I know a bit of coffee can really make the flavor of chocolate jump out and bite you. Which is a good thing if you like chocolate!

I admit I reduced the amount of coffee by 1 teaspoon. I wanted the chocolate to shine, but did not want the flavor of the coffee to come through. And I also rolled my cookies in turbano, or raw, sugar to start. After about 6 cookies, however, I ran out of turbano and had to roll in regular granulated sugar. Maybe I should take a picture of those and compare them to the original recipe photo?

This recipe does not make alot of cookies, only 18 using my tablespoon scoop. The cookies are very rich, dense, though still moist, with a nice sugary crunch on the outside, so one cookie is actually sufficient for a snack or dessert, rather than the usual 2 or 3.

Of course the children complained when I limited them each to one, but not until they had praised me as the best cookie baker ever! I tried to disuade them from having these, telling them there was coffee in them, but their cookie senses told them they were still safe to eat. Oh well, better luck with that trick next time.

So to all the food bloggers out there, thank you for the ongoing inspiration you have been providing me. I may never be as adventurous as some, nor as competent, but I am going to keep trying. At least, I'll keep trying as long as I'm having fun!

More mixer fun

I am not a bread baker. I own a bread machine, but haven't used it in forever. It is big, bulky, loud and a pain to clean.

With my new mixer, however, it was time to give bread baking a try.

Here is a loaf after the second rise. Getting to this stage was surprisingly easy. The recipe included with my mixer was easy to follow, and the ingredients mixed together nicely with the dough hook. The bread required very little in the way of handling after it had been mixed. A quick coat in oil before the first rise, punching down, dividing and shaping after the second rise. My hands almost stayed clean for this.

Thirty minutes in the oven was all it took to have my house filled withe the aroma of fresh baked bread.

The loaves sliced easily. I should have taken a picture of the steam rising off of the first slice, the heel, always my favorite part of bread warm from the oven.

The inside of the crust was moist, airy and light. The crust was lacking the crispness that I am used to from bread machine dough.

While I think this recipe was a general success, I may have to make it a few more, dozen, times before I'm sure. All that white bread can't be good for me, so it is a good thing I've got lots of friends who would be happy to have me test on them!

Happy Birthday to me!

I woke up yesterday morning hearing a wierd noise. At least wierd for my house at 6am.

Turns out it was my husband setting up a very much wanted birthday present for me.

Black is such a lovely color, isn't it?

With such a wonderful new toy, what's a girl to do but make her own birthday cake?

The cake of my choice on this day? Chocolate Meringue cake, courtesy of The Joy of Baking.

Why this cake? It certainly does not look like a traditional birthday cake. However this cake had three very important aspects to it:

I get to use my mixer to make the chocolate cake layer.

I get to use my mixer to make the meringue layer. (My first ever meringue too!)

I get to use my mixer to make the whipped cream layer!

Okay, and it involved chocolate.

The first step involved the chocolate layer, a quick batter mixed up using the creaming method, that eventually yielded a dense, fudgy, brownie like textured cake.

And in retrospect, I probably had cake pans (yes, those are disposable tin foil - my cake pan collection is slowly growing into real non-stick cake pans the more I bake, but I haven't gotten to this type yet) that were too big. I didn't measure them as I had no other round pan options at that time.

The second step involved making the meringue, to place on top of the chocolate before baking either one. I'd never made a meringue before and admit to a small amount of nerves. Possibly I could have beaten those egg whites a bit more, given them a touch more volume. For a first try, however, I was quite pleased with the results. The meringue ended
up with a golden color, and had the slight chewiness that a good meringue should.

The final mixing stage for my brand new toy was the whipped cream. Real whipped cream only of course. Billowing white, to be sandwiched with raspberries between the layers of cake and meringue.

The final assembly of this cake didn't happen at home. Tuesday night is also soccer night. So out came the cooler, and everything was packaged up for the final product to be displayed on the side lines and shared with family and friends. Which is why the picture of the final product is slightly lopsided, and the cream has lost some of its volume.

The end result was messy, very messy, but it was also quite decadent. This is not a childs birthday cake. It is assuredly a grown up cake, mixing and matching flavors and textures together in a way that makes children cringe.

The children involved in this little celebration had mixed reviews, one liking everything but the raspberries, others liking the cake but not the cream, and my youngest child asking for more cream when he still had most of the cake part left.

The adults were pleasantly surprised by how well the three layers worked together. The cake, though fudgy, was not overly sweet. There was not enough meringue to satisfy those of us who really enjoy a good meringue, but it was goey and airy, and again, not too sweet. The slightly sweetened whipped cream helped to suck up the juices made from the macerated raspberries, and provided a light contrast to the thick cake, though it did nothing to hold the layers themselves together.

In the end I accomplished what I started out to do, which was to test out my new mixer. The final result of a three layered cake was just a side effect of having fun mixing and stiring and giggling like a school girl over my little black machine. (Can you tell I like my present?)

And typical of me, I noticed there were recipes in the manual after I had already started on making this, so now I have a few new ideas I can try out!

A little experiment

I've been moaning my lack of certain kitchen equipment lately - primarily a stand mixer and an ice cream machine. The stand mixer I can work around, but there isn't much you can do without the ice cream machine. At least I thought.

One of the magazines I subscribe to is Canadian Living. I don't get it for the clothes or the make-up. I get it for the food. And this months food portion included a bunch of recipes for ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet.

And it included instructions for how to make these frozen delights without an ice cream maker!

Now, to be fair, I should have made one of the recipes from the magazine first for this little experiment. I didn't. I decided to try it using this instead: Banana Buttermilk ice cream, a recipe I found on another food blog, Bakingsheet.

If you follow back the links, you will see that my ice cream looks nothing like the original ice cream. That one was creamy and milky looking, almost frothy. Mine shows hues of banana in its coloring, as well as crystals of ice. Though I did find if you let the ice cream melt a bit, then mixed the melt back in, the ice cream became creamier, milkier in texture.

The flavor was a mixture of the sweetness of the banana and the tang of the buttermilk. Not too sweet, or too tangy, but a near perfect balance of the two.

I would like to try this recipe again, using an ice cream machine, but in the end I think I was reasonably satisfied with how it turned out.

Now I need to decide if I will try a recipe from the magazine, or try the Rice and Noodles blueberry ice cream first!

Where's the Beef?!?!

Another scorcher of a day, high humidity, no wind, and no cooling effects from the brief downpour of rain earlier in the day. Thank goodness I own a kickin' bbq that I can do lots with!

Today though, the focus of my bbq was meat. Lots and lots of meat. Finger lickin' meat actually.

Succulent pork ribs, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, then generously sprinkled with Club House Montreal Chicken spice. The spice mixture provided a lovely salty, tang to the rib meat. They caramalized to a beautiful golden color, showing off the wonderful charr marks that you can only really get from a nice hot grill.

In addition to the ribs, I bbq'd up a big batch of chicken wings, again lightly seasoned with kosher salt and pepper. Cooking the wings up in this simple manner first allowed me to ensure they were cooked through, before I took them off the grill and tossed them into a bowl with a large amount of brown sugar bbq sauce. Not my own, sorry, but Kraft. (I suppose I could make my own but I use bbq sauce so infrequently that it doesn't really seem worth it.) Putting them back on the grill briefly, the chicken sucked up some of the sauce and each wing ended up a sweet, gooey taste experience.

I finished off the meal with a caesar salad, not the grilled kind though.

We had a few extra people over for dinner that night, so it wasn't just the four of us finger lickin' up all this bbq goodness. Even with six of us eating, and one of those six loading up on calories for a race the next day, there was still a very generous helping of wings left over.

No dessert included tonight. The adults didn't miss it and the children enjoyed fruit popsicles while running through the sprinkler, cooling off from a very hot summer day.

Too hot to cook

Thursday nights are soccer nights for my oldest child. Usually means pasta night as well. Fast, easy and gives him the energy he'll need for practice and a game.

Last night was just too hot though. The idea of heating the house up more with boiling water was not a good one. So I scrounged up stuff for dinner for the children and they were happy and had the energy for soccer and play. I would make pasta when we returned so we parents could have dinner together while we enjoyed watching the Tour de France together. It would be cooler by 8pm. Surely it would be cooler.

It wasn't.

Neither of us was overly hungry. We were too hot to be hungry!

Checking the contents of my fridge to see what I have that is light and cool (and since I did not do my usual Thursday grocery shopping, the contents are very little.) Hmmm I have a tiny bit of orange juice. There is some yogurt left. Hey! When did I buy tofu? Oh wait, a friend left that here, all nice and sealed in the original packaging. Strawberries, I know I have lots of strawberries in the freezer.

Lightbulb suddenly flashes on above my head!

Smoothies! I haven't made smoothies for awhile.

Pulling out the blender, I quickly dumped everything in. A touch of milk for a bit more liquid. Oops, out of milk now too! I really must go shopping tomorrow.

Mmmmmm nice and cool! Just what we needed.

A little unconventional I suppose, but if you are going to drink your dinner, isn't this a nice way to do it?

Trying something a bit different

I'm still fairly new to this blog thing, so my readership is mostly friends and family whom I have remembered to tell about my blog. Having a fairly extensive list of food blogs that I read myself, however, has given me a desire to have a broader readership. I may never get the hits that some of my fellow blogers do, but I can try.

To move closer to that accomplishment, I invited a bunch of online friends to view and review my blog. I wasn't disappointed in their comments, though no one chose to comment here specifically. Oh well. I especially liked the comment about my food preparation being the reason my husband had to take up marathon running.

So for the guys reading, my prediction about what I planned to make for dinner did come true. Mostly. Just a small variation.

I don't know where exactly I saw it. Somewhere on the FoodNetwork most likely. A grilled caesar salad. It looked interesting. Something a bit different from the ordinary. That's probably why it appealed to me.

I need to be braver though. Since I didn't actually look up temperature and time for grilling the halved romaine hearts, I had to guesstimate. I think I needed to have that side of the grill hotter, and to have left them on longer. I got some grill marks, but not as many as I would have liked. I was nervous about leaving the greens on the grill too long, and since I had some steaks grilling on the other side, the inside temperature of the bbq was hot.

In the end the salad came out reasonable. I topped it with a home made caesar dressing that I had prepared a few days ago using a base mixture from Epicure Selections. The dressing was nice and garlicky (though I'm not sure I want to try this salad mix again - when I bought a salad mix, I did not expect to have to add in the same ingredients I would have to add in if I had made it from scratch. It is supposed to be simpler, not about the same!)

And because I am still having fun playing with my new microplane grater, I topped off the salad with a generous shaving of parmesan cheese.

Accompanying the salad was a grilled hip steak, well seasoned using the Epicure Selections Beef and Steak Rub. Again, not sure if I was happy with this, but I'll obviously try it again as I have a full shaker of it to use. My steak was grilled to medium rare and for my liking, was perfectly grilled. I'm still learning how to properly gauge how I have cooked a steak and tend to err on the underdone side (which doesn't bother me, that's how I like my steak!)

Simply steamed green beans accompanied our meal.

I did not have the opportunity to make a dessert with this, so we happily finished off the lemon bundt cake I'd made earlier this week.

I didn't hear any complaints about dinner, but look forward to hearing the responses from my hopefully new found readership.

Omg! I should have bought one of these years ago!

Itching to use my new zester (isn't it a beaut?), I went digging in the archives. Otherwise known as my Blue Book.

Every cook has some version of the book. A place they keep the recipes they beg off of others. Where the piles of newspaper and magazine clippings are gathered, in hopes that one day, some of them will be made.

Earlier this year I went through a burst of industriousness and had sat down and actually organized my book. I ruthlessly shifted through the pages and clippings, disgarding recipes I would never really make. I shorted into categories, including the category known as "Still to test."

It was hard work but in the end, I had a functioning, organized recipe book. Several months later and it is still in good shape, so good that I barely had to open the cake section to find this recipe: Lemond Cake with sliced peaches.

I skipped the peaches. It was the lemon that I wanted!

I can't tell exactly where I got this recipe. It is from a calendar, the month of August. The web site on the bottom references www.ontariotenderfruit.com but a check of the website does not reveal this specific recipe.

The zester, the entire reason for baking a cake on a hot, Monday afternoon. It was beautiful. I have never seen lemons zested so cleanly and or so fast! The small mountain of zest, two lemons, done in less than a minute. Had I but known! If I ever need a new zester, there will be no hesitation. I will buy!

The cake itself was dense with a decent crumb. The recipe called for a lemon glaze to be poured over the still hot cake, with the idea being that the glaze would seep into the small holes made over the top. In reality most of the glaze pooled in the center of the bundt. Some soaked up through the bottom but mostly it made the bottom soggy and very, very strongly flavored of lemon. The lemon flavor was very strong in the cake, even without the glaze penetrating into it.

Now that I think about it, this would have been just as wonderful in place of the shortcake I made yesterday. The lemony tang would have made a good contrast to the sweet berries and the richness of the cream. Perhaps on another hot summer day, when the lemons, and the strawberries, are calling to me.

Summer time feasting

The weather has been hot, humid, sticky and downright icky the last few days. Who wants to cook in that?

But the children must be fed, and cereal is okay in an emergency, though Sunday afternoon on a hot summer day is not an emergency, even if the cooking doesn't start until after 6pm.

What's a mom to do?

No reason to heat up the kitchen - that's what I have that big, lovely bbq for!

Grilled vegetables, lightly basted with a balsamic vinagrette. Fresh, vine ripened tomatoes, zucchini and rounds of sweet red onions. Medium style Italian sausages, nothing fancy, formality not needed with this meal.

I choose to embelish my meal, topping those sweet roasted vegetables with goat cheese, enjoying the smooth, creaminess with every bite. My husband is not so adventerous, goat cheese being a flavor he doesn't like.

The children were not impressed with anything but the sausages, and would only eat them if I provide ketchup. Which is funny because they both ignored the ketchup on their plates. Neither wants to try the zucchini, the only roasted vegetable I attempted on them. Instead they choose a pile of leafy green lettuce with ranch dressing, their favorite way to eat salad.

Earlier that day, before it got too hot, I did the advanced prep work on dessert: strawberry shortcake.

The shortcake recipe came from Canadian Living, and was easy to make. The dough was easy to handle, which is a good thing. Despite enjoying cooking, I don't often make pastries, partially because I don't like the sticky mess that goes along with them. I like to eat pastries, not make them.

Lacking a proper cookie cutter for rounds , I chose to make wedges instead. I own a few cookie cutters but for some reason snowmen, snowflakes, maple leafs and bones do not seem like appropriate choices.

With strawberries fresh from the local patch, and piled high with freshly whipped cream, dessert was lovely. The shortcakes were dense and strong enough to hold up under the masses of whipped cream and strawberries piled on top of them.

My husband went for seconds, topping it instead with fresh raspberries. He almost went for thirds.

I guess this summer feast was fairly successful. Now if I could only get the children to try zucchini in something other than bread!

Berries, berries and more berries

What more needs to be said?

A little piece of heaven

It started with a lemon.

Or more specifically, a bit of lemon zest.

The zest was supposed to go into my muffins, blueberry muffins, the recipe for which I found here: Simply Recipes. Thank you Elise! (Today's post from Elise, Parmesan Chicken, looks so yummy, I am going to have to make it the next time it is a raining, non-bbq, day!)

I could not get any zest off any of the lemons I had on hand. No matter what I did! Stomps feet and grabs kids and keys!

I've driven past this store many times. It is right in front of the local bowling lane. Not that we go bowling often, but when we do, I always see it. And we almost always go at a time when it would be closed.

Hendrix was equal to the Glebe Emporium to me (sorry, no website for them that I've found.) Much smaller but with just as many things. I drolled over the rack of baking pans, shelves of ramekins, dishes and other odds and ends that a restaurant kitchen might need.

In the end, I left with what I came for (and with one other little item, but really, it was little! More about it after) and with a desire to come back without children and really take the time to look and explore.

A Microplane zester. I've been eyeing these for awhile now. It's been near the top of my "kitchen wish list" that I keep on the fridge (in case people need ideas), though I can now cross it off. For some reason I kept holding off buying one. I think it had to do with a handle. I didn't really want one. I wanted the straight zester that I'd seen Ina Garten use. And I could never find one anywhere. Thank you Hendrix!

As to that "little item" extra? A butter ruler. Just a small plastic card with measurements all around it for marking off and measuring a pound of butter. I've bought alot of butter lately and have not been able to find those oh so convenient packages that come in stick form, where every stick is 1/2 cup and is neatly marked with measurements for when you only need tablespoons. Since those packages of butter usually cost alot more than a regular pound, my ruler will have itself paid for in a matter of weeks!

Happy Birthday Grandma - Take 2!

After having been unable to deliver the carrot cake I made for my grandmother for her birthday a few weeks ago, I made plans to make her a new one when I went to see her in North Bay for the Canada Day long weekend. First in my plans was to come up with a different cake for her. Carrot cake is just fine, but as we'd just had some recently, I wanted something a little more festive. I eventually settled on Strawberry Tunnel Cake as my choice for a summery dessert that was nice enough to serve to my Grandmother.

The first step in making this cake though involved making phone calls.

"Mom, do you own a tunnel or a bundt cake pan?"

"No. I don't bake, why would you ask such a silly question?"

"Okay, I'll call Grandma."

"Grandma, do you own a tunnel or a bundt cake pan?"

"Of course sweetheart! I'll have them all cleaned up and ready for you when you come. You can take them home with you after if you'd like."

Saved by Grandma again!

I had to make a slight variation to this cake recipe. I wasn't cooking in my kitchen where I know where everything is, where I plan recipes based on what I have on hand or can pick up and use again later. I was cooking in my mother's kitchen, and as she said, she doesn't bake. I have whole wheat flour on hand, she does not, so I swapped out the whole wheat for more all-purpose, knowing the cake would be missing a touch of nuttiness from the flour but also knowing that it should still work out fine. The recipe called for margarine (it is sponsored by a margarine maker after all) but I only had butter on hand. And I found out much later that she did own a hand mixer so I could have done a much better job creaming the butter and sugar. Oh well.

I had some concerns about the cake though, as the dough seemed very cobbler like and did not want to spread into the pan. The instructions use the word "pour" but there was no way this batter was going to pour into the pan. It had to be scooped and it had to be spread out. Nor could I get the strawberry mixture to stay in the channel I created for it.

Many dirty dishes later, the cake was in the oven, just in time to sit down to a family bbq dinner outside.

The cake tested as finished just as we were done eating dinner. No one wanted to wait for it to cool though.

I did make one other variation to the recipe before I served it though. The original recipe calls for a glaze of icing sugar and strawberry liquor or lemon juice. I could have done the lemon juice but I had this pot calling out to me, a pot of the juices from the strawberry mixture. So instead I added a bit of icing sugar to those lovely, fragrant juices, and glazed the cake with it instead. It gave the cake a lovely color, and added a touch of moisture to the cobbler like cake.

Finally I was able to deliver a cake to my Grandmother for her birthday!

Served with cold, soft ice cream, the cake was good. The sticky sweetness of the glaze was a needed addition, adding not only its strawberry flavor but also its moisture to what was a dense cake. It was enjoyed by adults and children alike and by the time we had all had a piece, there was only a small piece left to send home with my grandmother to enjoy the next day with her tea.