Daring Bakers: It sounds like a birthday party in here!

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

See? A birthday party. Cake and ice cream.

Okay fine, cake and ice cream for grown ups then!

While the Daring Baker's have made flourless chocolate cakes before, this is the first time we've been encouraged to make our own ice cream. Something I like to do, when it is warm outside. Which it isn't right now. (Actually, right now, as I write this, I could probably chill my ice cream machine canister much quicker by putting it outside than by putting it in my freezer.)

Still, I like cake, I like chocolate, and I like ice cream. And no one said I had to put coffee in my cake, they said I could use whatever chocolate I wanted, and I could make whatever ice cream I wanted.

So I did. (They also said I could use whatever size I want, so I went with 8 mini cakes in my ramekins instead of one big pan, even choosing not to use my heart cake pan. I like mini's.)

I have to say, when making this cake, I really did not think it was going to come together. Not because I distrusted the recipe, but as I was mixing things up, it just did not look right. I went with milk chocolate, which melted down fine, but when I began mixing in the 1/3rd of the egg whites, it really looked like it was going to break and I would have to start all over again.

Patience and persistence paid off, folding in the rest of the egg whites, things did smooth out and the batter nicely flowed into my prepared ramekins.

The cakes themselves were tasty, a little gooey on the inside but not so gooey as to be lava cakes. And very rich, which made me glad I went for little ones for portion control.

My children, of course, loved them!

While Wendy and Dharm were kind enough to supply us with an ice cream recipe each, I did not use either of them. Neither really appealed to me, though I did want to go with vanilla as a flavor, something that could stand its own against the strength of all that chocolate. I didn't have far to go to find my chosen recipe, getting it from fellow blogger Peabody, her recipe for Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche ice cream.

Small problem, though. I have not been able to find creme fraiche here in Ottawa, and asking some other Ottawa based bloggers resulted in a recipe, but no location for finding creme fraiche. And I have to be honest, the idea of making the creme fraiche, well, while not difficult, knowing how it was made, it sounds disgusting. So I didn't do it.

Instead I made my own variation of this ice cream, using some Double Cream I found at the grocery store.

Btw, who thought up this idea of Double Cream to begin with? Thicker than sour cream, almost all fat, it screamed out to me as I pulled off the lid, "Aha! Another victim, straight to her thighs!" I ignored it, used it anyways, and will never be the same.

Back to the Daring Bakers....

Anyways, sorry about the horrible pictures this month. I actually made this early enough in the month that I was not rushed, and would have time to remake if I felt I'd done something wrong the first time, took alot of pictures as I made it (with 3 kids hovering over me waiting for their own portions) but didn't look at the pictures early enough to see if I needed to remake them just so I could take new pictures. Oh well, I didn't really need more ice cream anyways, and have run out of block milk chocolate.

Big thanks to Wendy and Dharm for this months selection, as well as for the freedom of choice in these recipes. Plus big thanks to Ivonne and Lis, our lovely leaders, for their ongoing work with the Daring Bakers. (Hey did you know you could make a donation to help support the Daring Bakers?)

Don't forget to go check out all the other flourless chocolate cakes, and their ice cream. Birthday party hats and noise makers are optional!

Vanilla Bean Double Cream Ice cream
based on Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche Ice Cream from Peabody

1 cup double cream
1 1/4 cup half and half cream
2/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 vanilla bean pods, scraped, pods saved
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks

Place half and half in a medium, heavy bottomed pot with the vanilla beans and the pods. Bring to a boil and then immediately take off the heat. Let sit for at least 20 minutes before removing the vanilla pods.

Gently add the double cream, heavy cream, butter milk, extract and the sugar to the pot with the infused half and half. Warm the mixture ove medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is warm to the touch and the sugar has been dissolved.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well blended. Use some of the warm cream mixture to temper the eggs, whisking constantly, until about half the cream has been added to the eggs. Return this mixture back to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 10-12 minutes.

Strain this custard into a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool to room temperture before freezing, for at least 3 hours, though over night is better.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your machines instructions. When finished, transfer the ice cream to an air tight container and freeze until set - I found this ice cream was rich enough that an over night freeze was best.

Outside the kitchen: Product Review

Shortly before Christmas I was contacted about doing some product reviews that did not involve food. Sure, this is a blog about food, and family, but the connection between eating and the product was a natural one.

I'd been asked if I would review some electric toothbrushes.

Now doesn't that have an obvious connection to food?

After giving it some thought, I decided this was a good type of product to review for the readers of All Things Edible. Afterall, if you are going to eat some of the desserts I sometimes post about, you are going to want to be able to get a good toothbrushing done afterwards. And since I am a "trouble" dental patient with a strong gag reflex who has problems with alot of toothbrushes, I am actually a good person to try out some electric toothbrushes and see how they do for someone who has problems brushing their teeth.

When my package arrived, it had two brushes in it, one of them an Oral B Vitality Pro White, which looks similar to this one here, but isn't exactly this one here.

This is a plug in and go type of toothbrush. Okay, sure, let it charge up first, then use it, but beyond that it doesn't need fancy instructions. Press the button to turn it on, brush your teeth, and it will tell you when you have reached two minutes. Press the button again, it turns off. Pull off the brush head, rinse it off, and then put it all back together on it's charger base. Almost as simple as a plain brush without any power, only with this, you get a better clean.

As I said, I have a strong gag reflex. When cleaning my teeth, my dentist gives me lots of little breaks and if I put up my arm, everything comes out of my mouth right away. So far this has worked for us. So I tend to be a bit nervous about the size of brushes I use in my mouth. Afterall, one thing my dentist has never been able to do is take full, adult sized x-rays (though we manage child sized ones). I was pleasantly surprised to find that this bulky looking toothbrush was actually easier to put into my mouth than the regular one I use. Which helps in getting to those back teeth.

All together, a good toothbrush. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive electric toothbrush, this is a good investment. Provided you actually use it.

Now the other toothbrush in my Oral B box was a cadilac among toothbrushes, the Oral B Triumph with Smart Guide. It comes with a good set of instructions, batteries, two brush heads, one for daily use (with floss things in it) and one for ocassional polishing. The remote acts as a clock when it isn't doing its timing job for you as well.

I put mine together very quickly, while thinking, "I have toothbrush with a clock and a timer. Who needs this with their toothbrush?"

Let me tell you, I do. I love this thing. The size of the brush head is essentially the same as with the Vitality brush, though shaped a touch differently, but it is such a good brush.

Press the button to start and the little timer starts counting up for you while showing you a little circle, suggesting you focus only one one "quadrant" of your mouth at a time. It gives you 30 seconds per quadrant before moving on to the next. When you've reached two minutes, it still counts but gives you a happy face to show you've made it.

Teeth feeling sensitive today? Well press the lower button and the brush changes from regular brush mode to sensitive mode, again giving you your count up timer to show you how long you've brushed for. If it is only one section of your mouth feeling sensitive, then switch back to normal mode when you are done brushing there.

According to the instructions, the Smart Guide will give you warning when it is almost time to change your toothbrush head. And it won't confuse your daily brush head with your polishing head, telling you to replace one when it really means the other. And if I were to go out and get additional heads, I could also program the Smart Guide to let the brush have two users, each with their own set of brush heads, each monitored for use and replacement warnings.

Who knew a toothbrush could think?

Plus it monitors your rechargable battery life and comes with a carrying case for when you want to go away and bring the brush with you. As with the Vitality, it is easy to clean, just remove the head and rinse it, then you are done.

The downside to this brush? Well, it isn't cheap, costing more than $100, and replacement heads are not going to be inexpensive either. However if it saves you time in the dentist office, well then it is a good investment, isn't it? For our dental money, and my sensitive mouth, this toothbrush is worth the cost.

Now since I've started using these two brushes, I've had a visit with mydental office and they were quite pleased with how clean my teeth were, especially considering I was several months late for my cleaning. As much as I like my dentist office and all the staff, less time with me in the chair is a good thing.

Many thanks to the folks at Oral B for giving me a chance to try these two toothbrushes. My "testing" period for them is over, but I fully intend to keep using them: I keep the Vitality in the downstairs bathroom and the Triumph in my bathroom, so they are both used on a regular basis.

A Chinese feast, with TFF as guest

We don't normally do anything to celebrate Chinese New Year in our house. Partially because it falls along the same time we have 3 important family birthdays over 2 days. Makes that time a bit busy.

And partially because, until recently, the only Asian foods my children would eat were chicken balls and fortune cookies. One of them would also eat egg rolls. Which does not a healthy, filling, Chinese food feast make.

Now that they are willing to try a few more things, I had been keeping my eyes out for something that I wanted to try, that I thought they might eat, and an excuse to make it. Coincidentally, while this was happening, Cate of Sweetnicks had a Chinese New Year celebration with her family. What good timing! I liked her recipe choices and menu, so printed off all 3 recipes and then needed an excuse, since all 3 dishes would make alot of food.

Then we had company for a weekend, including one very tall, hungry, teenager.

My excuse was set!

As I said, this feast consisted of 3 dishes, plus some rice. The first, for Garlic Scallion Noodles, or Garlic Sugar Noodles, was easily doubled and came together very quickly. The hardest part was finding the egg noodles. Tasty, but simple. The only change I will make next time is to soak the noodles a bit longer and they were a bit too firm.

Now I said that Tyler Florence was a "guest" at this feast, or at least Tyler Florence Fridays was, with one dish, the General Tso's Chicken being a Tyler recipe. Which is why this feast, with Tyler's chicken, is my entry for this week's TFF.

This recipe made alot of sauce. Alot. And the soy sauce was a touch too strong, but that could have been because I ran out of my usual sauce part way through and ended up using a different, stronger, brand part way through. There was still too much sauce for the chicken, even with spooning it over rice, so when I make this again, I will increase the chicken in the sauce (and stick with one kind of soy.) Too much sauce is only a bad thing when it goes to waste, hence, add more chicken!

While everything was tasty and well received, the "star" of this dinner was the Happy Shrimp. Despite my not so good choice of an orange bowl for pink shrimp in an orangish sauce, this still looks good. Oh it was good. And it was the absolute favorite of my youngest, who kept asking for more and more and more and more. He liked the sauce on rice too, of which we again had plenty of. So again, I will just make more shrimp when make this again. (I should add, while writing this, he just came to look over my shoulder and wanted to see all the pictures. He grinned at the picture of the shrimp and was quite happy to hear I would make it again sometime.)

Since this is my TFF for the week, I'm including the recipe for Tyler's chicken. Be sure to follow the links, however, for the Garlic Scallion noodles and the Happy Shrimp. (Oh Happy Shrimp, you made my boy so happy!)

General Tso's Chicken
from Tyler Florence, as found on The Food Network

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, thinly sliced (I will increase this mount by about 1 pound next time)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil (I used canola)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 slices fresh ginger, smashed (I used some frozen minced ginger)
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peanut oil, for frying (again, canola)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch, plus 2 tablespoons for slurry
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
4 dried red Thai chilies (need to make a trip to China town as I have never seen these! Wish I could remember what I used, I think I made a note somewhere)
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (again, the frozen minced)
3 thick strips orange zest (I can't remember if I used this - heck I don't even remember it being in the recipe, must check those notes!)
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Steamed white rice, for serving

Put the chicken into a bowl with the remaining marinade ingredients. Stir well to combine all the flavors, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a wok or deep skillet to 375 degrees F. Mix the egg, cornstarch, water, and sesame oil in a large bowl until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Add the marinated chicken and coat it well with the batter. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken pieces in batches until they are browned and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels. When you have fried all the chicken, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil. Over high heat, add the chilies, scallion, garlic, ginger, and orange zest. Stir-fry for 1 minute then pour in the soy sauce, chicken stock, vinegar, and honey and bring it to a boil. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water until smooth. Pour the slurry into the boiling sauce, in 2 additions, until the sauce thickens. Add the chicken pieces and cook until they are heated through, about 2 more minutes. Garnish with scallions and cilantro leaves. Serve with white rice.

Menu Plan Monday

It took me a bit more time than usual to make up this week's plan. I wasn't feeling inspired by much, and we've had a bit of a change in our schedule to add to my confusion.

However, here goes:

Sunday: Chicken Parmesan

Monday: Hoisin and Honey Pork with rice and green beans, which looked good on last week's Organizing Junkie menu plan.

Tuesday: homemade veggie pizzas with garden salad

Wednesday: Chicken "gougons" with yogurt dip, and hot corn dip with pitas. The "gougon" recipes is Jamie Oliver's fancy name for chicken fingers.

Thursday: Shrimp and Veggie tempura (still haven't done this from earlier plan)

Friday: Hamburgers with homemade onion rings

Saturday: We are going to LUPPER (late lunch/early dinner) at my sister-in-laws, and going to play with our recently learned to crawl nephew. Going to be fun!

And that's my contribution to this week's Menu Plan Monday.

Now, as for that recipe organization I mentioned this morning, here is where it is so far.

It is cleaner looking than it actually is, since at least two of those binders are filled with things that need sorting out. But I did get myself a label making machine and have already put it to use getting the binders labeled and making up some of the dividers for inside them.

And I'm sure if I take a walk around my room and my kitchen, I likely will find more recipes to go in. Plus I hope to go through my stack of magazines, mostly still in unpacked boxes, and start pulling things from them.

Hopefully I will have a finished set up to show later in the week!

Magazine Mondays: Modern Girls Lunch Bag

When Ivonne started posting recipes for Magazine Monday, she was inspired by the pile of food magazines she'd collected, with wonderful recipes in them, that had never been used. I can relate to that, I have a similar mountain of my own, even though I seriously downsized my pile, with dog eared corners and post it notes marking pages.

Which is why she tries to make a recipe from one of those magazines each week, and why I've been inspired to join her as often as I can.

This week, however, marks a transition for my own mountain of magazines. Inspired by I'm an Organizing Junkie, and Sara of I Like to Cook, with her notebooks, and a ever growing pile of recipe printouts and cut outs from that mountain of magazine, it is past time I reorganized my recipe binders. I'm not doing anything haven't done before, separating and organizing my recipes by type in a divided binder, but the last time I did this, I ended up with one neat binder. This time I bought a few extras and am leaving room for growth.

I'll show how it went in a few days, when it past the stage it is at now, with labeled binders and stacks of recipes on the floor at my feet.

Now back to the recipe!

I pulled this one from the December 2001 issue of Cooking Light. I used to regularly subscribe to this magazine, but stopped when I was fed up with half the magazine being used for things like make up tips and clothing advice. I picked a copy up before Christmas and found that it was still like that, so doubt I will restart a subscription with them any time soon. (As it is, I am likely going to let my subscription to Canadian Living lapse, not because it does not have good recipes, but because the recipes are only 1/5th of the magazine, and I don't want make up and clothing and raising my pets advice, since I neither wear makeup, am a fashionista or own a pet!)

Sidetracked again! (Can you tell it is Monday morning?)

I like couscous, but, like a few other yummy food items, I am the only member of my household who will eat it. So I was looking for an excuse to make this salad, and found two. First, my mom was coming to visit and has been trying to eat healthier. Second, Emily from Modern Girls Kitchen invited me to be part of a Modern Girls Brown bagging lunch round-up. While I was too late even making this to join in on the round-up (and eat lunch at home most of the time), I'm still going to give credit where credit is due. This salad is quick, simple to make, and takes very little time at all. And makes a great brown bag lunch, healthy, easy to eat, portable and is good at room temperature.

I'm submitting it today for Magazine Monday, and forwarding the post on to my mother, who asked me last night for the recipe so she could make it for herself, and linking to Modern Girls Kitchen.

I've made a few minor changes from the original, using a bit less couscous than originally called for, and doubling the dressing. I'm including the recipe with the single measurements of the dressing, but as I said, I doubled it, after tasting and finding I couldn't taste anything.

Grilled Fennel-Couscous Salad
from Cooking Light, December 2001

half a fennel bulb
1/4 cup dry roasted cashews (we still have a child who isn't supposed to eat these yet, so while I used the cashews, on hand from when we had to cancel his allergy challenge to clear him of the allergy, I kept these separate until I plated mine, just in case he wanted to eat any - he didn't.)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp fresh black pepper
1 naval orange, peeled and cut into cubes
2 cups water (I used 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups uncooked couscous (I used only 1 cup)

Grill the fennel until crisp tender, then cut into cubes the same size as the orange pieces. Bring the water to a boil, the pour over the couscous in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and leave for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork then add everything else into the same bowl. Mix well, to be sure the lemon and oil covers everything, then taste. Adjust the seasonings as necessary (I found the dressing needed doubling, and that is with my having reduced the couscous by 1/3.)

TFF: a bowl full of warm

This is probably the first Tyler Florence recipe I ever made, his Texas Chili, which I first saw on my friend Megan's blog back before we moved. I liked the looks of it so much (even dumped all over french fries) that I printed it off and moved it with me.

That print off has since gone home with a family member, who enjoyed the chili so much when I made it for them that they wanted to make it themselves.

Now I have to say, my kids don't like chili. I don't like chili with beans, but they just don't like chili. Though I pointed out to them that chili is just spaghetti sauce with Mexican spices instead of Italian spices, and they love tacos, so they love Mexican spices. I also pointed out that this chili has chocolate in it. They don't care, they don't like chili.

How they can tell that since they essentially refuse to try it, I don't know.

On the bright side, more for the hubby and I, because we like this very much. Which is why I've made it more than once and will continue to make it.

As for my changes, I have yet to see an Ancho chili, so I skipped that. And I skipped the Masa Harina, but did not skip the chocolate, dark in stead of Mexican. I've also never seen queso fresco, so I used grated Monterey Jack cheese instead.

For a bowl of this, the best spoon is a tortilla chip.

I'm including the recipe, in its entirety, even though I skipped the Ancho's. As for my source, I got it from Megan. Thanks Megan!

This is my entry this week for Tyler Florence Fridays, though I may be too late for the round up.

Tyler's Texas Chili

3 dried ancho peppers, stemmed and seeded
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons whole coriander
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 canned chipotle chile, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, hand crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons masa harina
1/2 tablet Mexican chocolate (about 1 1/2 ounces)
Grated queso fresco, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

In a small dry skillet over low heat add the ancho peppers, oregano, paprika, coriander, cumin, and chili powder. Cook until they begin to smell, about 2 minutes. Put the spices into a spice mill or food processor and grind until they are powdered. Set aside.Heat a large heavy bottomed casserole over medium heat; add 3 tablespoons olive oil and the onions. Cook until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Pat the beef dry and season it with salt and pepper. Add it to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the toasted spice mix, the garlic, chipotle, jalapeno, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, and sugar. Season with salt and stir well. Add some hot water until the meat is just covered with liquid. Return to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the meat and shred it with a fork. Return it to the pot, stir in the masa harina and chocolate, and cook for another 10 minutes, uncovered, to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with the queso fresco, cilantro, and lime for garnish.

Birthday fish and chips

Don't let the greasy looking, not very exciting pictures dismay you. Beer battered fish is good. It is not healthy. Yes, there is grease involved. And beer. But it still isn't healthy and it still tastes good!

My birthday boy turned 10. Double digits, that's a big one. And we've made it a tradition that for a birthday dinner, whomever's birthday it is gets to choose dinner. Usually the kids want to go out somewhere, so when my boy said he wanted fish and chip, I figured he wanted to go out and knew of two places he could choose from. He very quickly corrected me and said he looooooooooved the beer battered talapia I'd made a few weeks before from the Nintendo DS recipe, even though it was not crispy, and wanted me to make it for him at home.

And yes, I should buy myself a deep fryer for his birthday. Please.

How terrible is that? "Please, Mom, I like your cooking better than a restaurant, won't you cook for me for my birthday, and please go buy yourself something for your kitchen so it will be easier for you to cook it?" So I did, I bought this one here, on sale.

And here is the recipe I used for his birthday dinner. I didn't have that much pastry flour, so used all purpose, and increased the cornstarch slightly. I found that 3/4 of a cup of beer was not enough, the batter was thick, thick, thick, so I added more beer, and the batter was thick, thick. I probably should have just used the entire bottle instead of leaving the last 1/4 cup in it. This made plenty of batter, enough for over 2 1/2 pounds of fish, and I had batter left over, probably enough for at least another 1 1/2 pounds.

Beer Battered Fish
from Allrecipes.com

3 eggs
3/4 cup beer (use the entire bottle)
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups pastry flour (or all purpose)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cornstarch (increase by 1 tablespoon if using ap flour)
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (I didn't have any so skipped it)
1 1/2 pounds cod fillets (I used nearly 2 pounds of haddock and close to 1 pound of talapia, for 4 adults and two children)
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Mix in beer. Stir in flour mixture. Season with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
In an electric deep fryer or a heavy saucepan, heat oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Coat fish in batter, and submerge in hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Serve.

Magazine Mondays

I missed being able to contribute something to Ivonne's Magazine Monday, so did not want to miss this week. While I can't guarantee I am going to participate every week, I am going to try and do so regularly. If for no other reason than to use some of that stack of magazines I moved with me!

Favorite of my cooking magazines, and the one I have never thrown out an issue of, is Fine Cooking. While I don't subscribe to their online service (yet), it is only because I have so many other online sources for reading and recipes.

This recipe comes from the February 2007 issue, and had been sitting bookmarked since it came through the door. The surprising thing is that I had not yet made it until now.

We love cinnamon buns, and quick cinnamon buns are no exception. I wasn't turned off by the addition of cottage cheese to the dough (though if you'd asked me to eat the stuff outright, that was not going to happen!), so it must have simply been the fact that I rarely, if ever, have that ingredient on hand.

These were quite tasty, though the glaze was too thin for my icing liking and lacking cream cheese, a necessity for cinnamon bun icing, in my very prejudiced opinion. Unfortunately my left over buns suffered a horrible fate - they were partially wrapped in foil on the counter when I accidentally knocked over a gingerale, another terrible loss, and the gingerale seeped into the foil and into the left over buns. As much as I like both those items, together, not so good.

I think I will make these again next weekend, for Sunday breakfast.

Fastest Cinnamon Buns
from Fine Cooking, February 2007

For the dough:
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
For the filling:
1-1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped pecans (optional, I did not use, but did substitute raisins)
For the glaze:
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 to 3 Tablespoons cold whole or low-fat milk (or do as I do and use 1/2 and 1/2 cream)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. (My only springform pan was busy elsewhere, so I used a 9 inch cake pan instead, turning the buns out onto a plate at the end, which worked just fine.)

In a food processor, combine the cottage cheese, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and pulse in short bursts just until the dough clumps together (don’t overprocess). The dough will be soft and moist.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with floured hands 4 or 5 times until smooth. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12x15-inch rectangle.

Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border unbuttered around the edges. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Sprinkle the mixture over the buttered area of the dough and pat gently into the surface. Sprinkle the nuts (or raisins) over the sugar mixture.

Starting at a long edge, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Pinch the seam to seal, and leave the ends open.

With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces. Set the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared pan; they should fill the pan and touch slightly, but don’t worry if there are small gaps.

Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 20 to 28 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Run a spatula around the inside edge of the pan and remove the springform ring. Transfer the rolls to a serving plate.

To make the glaze, in a small bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar, 2 Tbs. milk, and vanilla to make a smooth glaze. It should have a thick but pourable consistency, so add up to 1 Tbs. more milk if necessary. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls. Let stand 15 minutes and serve.

Menu Plan Monday: Back on track

Still the occasional chest pain here, but I am gradually getting back to "normal". This week will be the true test of things: extra work shift and attempting to make all 3 of my swims!

In the meantime, after a good weekend feed, with lots of new things tried, here is my menu plan for the week:

Saturday: Normally this is hubby's night to cook, but we had company, so we had a homemade Chinese food feast, though he did help make it. Recipes and pictures for this later this week.

Sunday: Mexican Pot Roast Tacos

Monday: Fried chicken with tomato salad

Tuesday: Sweet and Sour Pork with rice (my grandmama's recipe for the sauce, but not using the ribs tonight.)

Wednesday: Grilled steak with mashed potatoes

Thursday: Club sandwiches with soup

Friday: We are going to Brockville to meet my other Mom, a yearly tradition where we have dinner with her when she is there for a curling tournament.

As always, so see I'm an Organizing Junkie for even more plans. There are so many out there that you could start menu planning just by "borrowing" someone else's plans. Many include recipes or recipe links too - you will sometimes get recipes from me, but I have been attempting alot of new recipes lately so only post them after I've made them, slooooooooooowly.

Tyler Florence Fridays: Lasagna Bolognese

I don't really need to say anything, do I?

Oh, well how about "Dinner at My Place, pages 22, 23 and 27."

And check out the round up, here.

Bake Along 3: Malted Milk Cookies

Notice I didn't say "vanilla" malted milk cookies?

I was sure I had a jar of malted milk powder, but now I think I must have thrown it out after the kids and I discovered we didn't like it as drink. Ooops? We did, however, like the chocolate malted milk, so I still had that on hand and just used it instead of the plain powder. And I skipped the vanilla bean part, since you wouldn't be able to taste it over the chocolate.

I'm not a fan of Martha recipes, or of Martha herself. Sure, these are easy enough to make up, but how the heck do you pipe the dough for these? It was very thick and I could tell right away that it would not be nice to my pastry bags, so I tried with a heavy duty ziploc. Twice. After the second one broke, I decided to skip that part of the instructions and just scooped them instead.

That was last night. And I still have no idea how these taste as they are still on the counter, waiting to be eaten. The kids had big cookies in their lunches already, and I had sent in cupcakes for their classes Valentine's day celebrations, so they did not need extra cookies in their lunches. And I'm sure they will be disappointed to find I don't bring them any for after school snack. But I will have them ready for them tomorrow when they get home.

Unless they are inhaled after dinner tonight.

Despite being from Martha, I suspect these cookies are highly edible. I hope they are since 3/4 of the dough is in the freezer to be baked off later!

Go see Megan or Nic to see the recipe and to see who else baked along with them.

Thai style beef and noodle soup

Shortly before we moved, we talked our children into trying Vietnamese for dinner one night. Two appetizers, three bowls of pho and a bowl of noodles with chicken was an inexpensive but healthy dinner out for our family of four. And at the end of the meal, we had at least one pho convert from out children, and two children who desperately wanted to learn how to use chopsticks!

Since then, the oldest has learned to use chopsticks and has asked to go back, and the youngest is working on learning how to use kids chop sticks, like these. (And he uses them to get toast out of the toaster without burning his fingers.)

This is a Rachel Ray version of a noodle soup bowl, which was alright, but was not pho. Rice noodles would have been better than pasta in this, and next time I try a noodle soup such as this, I'm going to use them. From her original recipe, I made only minor changes - I forgot to buy the shiitake mushrooms, but then the kids wouldn't have eaten them, and I used half chicken and half steak, to provide a variety.

Thai-Style Grilled Beef in Broth with Lot o'Noodles
from Rachel Ray's Express Lane Meals, page 218-219

1/2 pound thin pasta, such as vermicelli (I found capelleti, but as I said, use rice noodles)
3 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 1/2 inch thick shell steaks (or 2 top sirloin steaks, since we don't get shell steaks, and 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
2 celery ribs, thinkly sliced (or left bigger if you want the option of eating around them, like I do)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
12 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps thinly sliced (or do as I do and forget to buy them)
black pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3/4 cups bail, chopped (oh yes, I forgot to buy this as well, so much for a grocery list!)
juice of 1 lime

In a shallow dish, combine half of the ginger, the Worcesteshire sauce, 2 tablespoons of the veg oil and the hot sauce. Add the steaks, and chicken if using, and marinate.

Preheat a soup pot over med-high heat with the remaining oil. Add the coriander and cumin, toasting for about 30 seconds while constantly stirring. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, remaining ginger, the jalapeno, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

While the stock is simmering, heat a grill pan over high heat, and bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and then run under cold water.

Season the steaks with salt, then grill on high heat until rare to medium rare. If using chicken, be sure to cook thoroughly. When desired doneness, remove to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes before cutting into thin strips, at an angle.

When ready to serve, add the cooked noodles to the simmering broth, along with some of the cilantro and basil, just until the noodles are reheated. Add lime juice.

Use kitchen tongs to transfer noodles and veggies to bowls, top with slices of grilled meat, then ladle the broth over the meat. Serve with extra cilantro, basil, slices of green onions, chopped jalapeno, whatever else you might like to top your soup with.

Use chopsticks to eat the noodles and meat, and big soup spoons to slurp up the broth.

Expect to dribble some on your shirt.

Word of advice

When baking a cheesecake, don't go off to play Rock Band 2 with your guys, trying to get through a set or two with all of you on expert.

It's a bad idea.

Trust me.

Menu Plan Monday: Can I have a redo?

Last week's plan? It really didn't happen.

And I've learned something important.... Having a freezer well stocked with meats is great, if you can cook them. Otherwise, not so helpful. Having a few premade items in your freezer, whether store bought or homemade, very necessary for times when you can't cook.

So, I'm not actually going to move last week's plan over to this week, though some of it is coming over, and I am going to try and take it easy still this week as I am still very weak, still coughing, and tire easily. Which is sooooooo much better than I was last week.

Sunday: hamburgers and fries and caesar salad

Monday: pepper garlic chicken with green and yellow beans (the chicken is preseasoned with a wet rub from Costco and I just have to cook it)

Tuesday: stew with mashed potatoes

Wednesday: pizza. I want to say homemade but I am going to leave myself open on this, just in case. If it ends up being homemade, it will likely be the Thai Chicken pizza I wanted to make last week.

Thursday: We are having a birthday today, my "baby" is turning 10, and he wants fish and chips.

Friday: Breakfast for dinner, eggs, bacon and/or sausage, hashbrowns and toast.

Don't forget to head on over to all the other menu plans and join in with your own.

Monthly Mingle: Healthy Family Meals

When Meeta and her cohost, Michelle, of What's Cooking Blog, picked the theme of Healthy Family Dinners for this months Monthly Mingle, I'm sure Meeta had no idea that I was going to turn to her for my inspiration.

You see Meeta, in addition to being a photographer, blogger and extrodinairy cook and baker, is also a mother. She knows how important it is to feed her growing child good, healthy food. And she knows how important it is that the food taste good, or that growing child won't eat it. Fortunately, my children, like Meeta's son, are sometimes up for a bit of culinary adventure.

Since I have discovered that my boys love Indian Butter Chicken, I decided to try something similar, but different, which is where Meeta comes in: her recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala. Yes, it involved more work than my oldest son's favorite jar of butter chicken sauce, or even of the homemade recipe I've made for butter chicken, but not huge amounts more. And most of it was just planning ahead.

Having an indoor grill is so handy!

That's one of the good things about a menu plan, especially one visibly posted where it can be easily accessed.

The recipe itself is not difficult, and Meeta's instructions are very good, so the only question I had to field to her was about canned cocktail tomatoes. For those of us not in Germany, use canned diced, they work just fine. And if you can't find red chilies, crushed red pepper flakes substitute well. Just be careful of the heat when feeding non-adventurous children.

To go along with this, I also made homemade Naan bread. I don't know where I printed this off from, but it says it was adapted from The Cook's Book, by Dan Lepard, and has some personalized instructions in it, things like, "I used melted butter because I love the flavor." Sounds good to me!

I know it doesn't look like I served a vegetable with this, aside from the tomatoes in the sauce, but I did. I just didn't put it on this plate for the picture. Because then it would ruin the prettyness of the tikka masala spread out across the rice. See that's how food bloggers think, isn't it?

Looking forward to seeing what else makes it to the mingle, with such a great and diverse theme to choose from. And now that I'm finally starting to feel better, I may be looking for some culinary inspiration from other families.

Go see Meeta, here, for the Tikka Masala recipe, but here is the Naan, with my notes now, not the ones on my printout.

Naan Bread
adapted from The Cook's Book, recipe by Dan Lepard, no idea where I got this from

2/3 cup water at 72F
1/3 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 cups cake flour
3 1/2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt (I don't think mine was low fat)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (I used kosher)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
sunflower oil, ghee or melted butter for kneading (I too used the butter and am just going to say butter in the recipe, but use whichever you want)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley

In a small bowl, mix the water and yeast. Add half the flour, mix together with a fork, then cover the bowl and leave in warm place for 30 minutes.

Stir in the yogurt, then add the rest of the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix together with your hands into a soft, sticky ball. Pour 2 tsp of melted butter into the bowl and rub it over the top of the dough. Pick the dough ball up, butter and all, and squeeze it once or twice. Recover the dough, still in the bowl, and leave it to rest for 15 minutes.

Pour another 1 tsp of melted butter onto the dough, rub it lightly all over, before turning the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface. Knead the dough gently for 30 seconds, then return it to the bowl. Cover and rest for another 15 minutes.

Knead the dough, now a fairly smooth ball, on the oiled surface for a few minutes, then divide it into the number of breads you want to make (I think I had 5). Dust the portions with flour and leave them for 5 minutes.

Heat a wok or a nonstick skillet with a lid over medium heat.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it it out into a teardrop shape, dusting well with flour as you go. The dough should be quite thin when you are done rolling.

Lay the rolled out piece of dough in the hot pan, brushing the surface with a little oil, ghee or melted butter (though it is recommended if you use butter to mix it with a bit of oil so it will not burn so easily, which is what I did.) If using the herbs, have it mixed with the butter before brushing it on. Place the lid on the pan and leave for 1 minute. (This is enough time to prepare your next piece of dough.)

When the naan has risen slightly and is slightly browned on the bottom, flip and cook for an additional minute. Remove from the pan and keep warm in a clean dish towel.

Repeat until all the naan is cooked.

Enjoy with some lovely Chicken Tikka Masala.

And the results are....

Showing off some moves with the demo team - my boy can kick!

I know everyone is just waiting, finger nail biting nervousness, for the results of our tournament today. (And if they aren't, well, they should be!)

Our school, the host school, placed very well from everything I saw throughout my day, but for our little family, we are proud to say, it was a bronze medal in patterns, and a silver medal in sparring.

Have I mentioned?

That I am sick and tired of being sick and tired? Three days so far of antibiotics, for bronchitis, and inhalers twice a day. You'd think I would be feeling alot better by now.

Today I did two things - I asked my mother in law to make the cookie recipe I'd had out on my printer for a few days, so the kids would have a snack for later, and I took a nap.

And, no, I have not yet taken pictures of the cookies. I may not get to it before they are eaten.

It took alot of energy to do those two things, so I have none left and am going to bed now.

Goodnight everyone.

Tyler Florence Fridays: Roast Chicken dinner

Let me start by saying this: This is a horrible picture which makes the chicken look flabby and uncooked. It wasn't. In reality, the skin was crisp and browned and it was definitely cooked. Trust me, however, the other pictures I took looked worse.

Okay, with that out of the way, on to the meal itself, Rotisserie chicken with lemon, garlic and bay leaves, along with lemon roasted fingerling potatoes. First the changes. I could not find fresh bay leaves, I don't live somewhere where they just grow in your front yard. I also could not find Meyer lemons this time, and if I could, stuffing it up a chicken's butt is not where I would put one. Waste of a lemon. I also did not find fingerling potatoes at the time, in the two stores I had been to that day and was not willing to go into a third to look for them.

You may have also noticed I called this post roast chicken, not rotisserie. I have two rotisseries, both unused at this point. One goes with my stove and I don't know how to use it, and the other with my snow buried bbq, which has no propane in it right now. In neither case could I put a pan of potatoes underneath to catch the juice of the chicken, so I went with Tyler's other method of oven roasting the chicken on top of the potatoes.

And the final results?

It was a chicken. Nothing special, nothing fragrant, nothing special. Just a chicken. Couldn't taste lemon, or garlic, or thyme, nothing but plain chicken. Though the bones did make a decent stock.

The potatoes were very lemony.

By now you might be wondering if I even like Tyler Florence recipes, since this is the second week in a row I've not had anything really amazing to say about what I made. I'm not sure myself, but there are alot more recipes left for me to try.

Or we are just much fussier than he is. (Try not to laugh too hard over that one!)

Good thing I have this lovely group (hi everyone!) to remind me and encourage me to try different things.

Now since I am still home sick, and it is a long walk to where I've left my cookbook, I will have to get back to everyone later about the page number for these two recipes. I can say it is from the "Dinner at my place" book, but that's it.

Menu plan.... Or not

Course, a menu plan will mean nothing to you if you and your husband get sick at the same time and spend your day sleeping, when the coughing stops long enough to let you.

Guess I'll save that ham for another day.

And later this week, when feeling better, restock the pantry with canned soups.

Menu Plan Monday: its carb loading time

We've done the carb loading thing in our house before. My husband has run marathons and is currently in training for a triathlon this summer.

But I admit, I didn't really think we needed to carb load for my son's Taekwon-Do tournament this weekend.

He, however, has different ideas, and since he isn't asking for anything unusual or exotic, what the heck.

Oh, also requested was a good amount of protein to go with those carbs, and not too many "junky" desserts, since he wants to behave this week and figures he can't if I make too many things involving sugar and chocolate.

It really does sound like his instructor took the round-a-bout way of saying, "Eat healthy this week, and not too much sugar." He's having more success saying it the other way, so probably a wise call.

Sunday: Penne with spicy Italian sausage, cream, tomatoes and peas

Monday: ham with cheesy mashed potatoes and broccoli

Tuesday: homemade hamburgers with fries (baked sweet potato for me) -I want to try out this hamburger spice mixture I picked up at the grocery store

Wednesday: Thai chicken pizza

Thursday: chicken meatball and tortellini soup with garlic bread

Friday: spaghetti with either meat sauce or meatballs, depending on what I feel like making at the time.

Saturday: It is tournament day! So we are likely going out, either to celebrate a win or just to celebrate all the hard work in training that has been done lately.

Don't forget to go see the other menu plans for the week, and maybe join in yourself?

And if you happen to be in Ottawa, why not come out to the tournament on Saturday morning? They are always lots of fun to watch, and who knows, you might be inspired to try being more active yourself?

Grocery shopping in Ottawa

Now that I live out in the "boonies," I regularly receive all the local grocery store flyers again. This did not happen when I lived in the fastest growing neighborhood in the city, where I had 5 grocery stores in a 5 minutes drive radius of me.

Now that I have no grocery stores less than a 10 minute drive away, usually more, I am trying to plan things a bit better. Having that stack of newspapers helps, but can be a bit confusing.

Well not anymore!

While I don't regularly read the Ottawa Citizen, I do daily read whatever their food editor, Ron Eade, has to say about food and the food scene in Ottawa. So when Ron started putting up what the best food deals of the week were from the flyers, then asked for input, I was IN!

Ron knows his food, not just buying it or eating it, he also knows how to make it. I've read him long enough, pretty well since he started his blog, to know that he knows what he is talking about. So when Ron says boneless blade roasts are on sale at the local Independent Grocer's, and make the best post roast, I trust him! (And the fact that I've made pot roasts for years with that cut of meat and agree with him, well that's just handy too.)

So if you live in Ottawa and area, I highly recommend you bookmark Omnivore's Ottawa and make it a regular read. I've learned lots of little things over the last year, not just where to buy the least expensive milk for the week (Food Basics this week, at $3.97 for a 4 liter bag.)