French style yogurt cake

cake-6167

My talented friend Sarah over at The Chumsleys invited us to her place for lunch a couple of weeks ago.  During the short time that I sat on Sarah’s couch and nursed Savanna, she disappeared into the kitchen and made this really awesome cake for us.

The cake was moist and delicious, and even better yet it was quick and easy to make.  The original recipe came from Orangette.  It’s a very versatile recipe.  Sarah added frozen raspberries to hers.  When I came home and tried the recipe the same night, I added frozen blueberries to mine.  And in an effort to use less sugar, I reduce the sugar and added some applesauce.  Here’s my version of the cake:

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries

For the glaze:

  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Direction

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and zest, mixing to just combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch round cake pan lined with parchment paper.  Scatter blueberries on top of the batter.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan to cool completely.

When the cake is thoroughly cooled, combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and spoon it gently over the cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like a syrup.
Serve.

Chewy brown sugar oatmeal and coconut cookies

cookies-7076

Freshly baked cookies don’t ever last for more than 24 hours in our house.  So after I made these cookies today, I split them into 5 ziplock bags, in the hopes that we can control ourselves enough to only consume 1 ziplock bag worth of cookies a day.  On Friday this week you can all ask me if I still have any cookies left.

I found this recipe on Pinterest.  The cookies are awesome.  I like chewy cookies, so these are right up my alley.

Ingredients

1 cup butter, slightly softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Direction

1.) Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together butter and sugars, until they are well-combined.

2.) Add one egg and mix until it’s fully incorporated. Then add the second egg, and the vanilla, and mix until everything is evenly incorporated.

3.) Add baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the wet mixture. Mix until well-distributed.

4.) Add about 1/2 your flour, and mix until the flour is JUST incorporated. Scrape down the sides of your bowl, and then add the second half of your flour, mixing until just incorporated. You don’t want to overmix here, or you’ll end up with tough cookies.

5.) Add oats and coconut, mixing until they’re JUST incorporated.

6.) Roll dough into balls, or use a cookie scoop to evenly portion out the dough . If you are rolling the dough by hand, you’ll want a ball that is a little over an inch in diameter.

7.) Place the dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat liner, leaving about 2″ between each cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are veeeery lightly brown, but the center is still light in color and puffy. This will result in a very moist, very chewy cookie.

8.) Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack. Once they’re fully cooled, they can be stored in a ziploc bag or airtight container for up to a week

Pork and poblano stew, now with pictures

A while back I posted a recipe for a pork and poblano stew.  I have since then made the stew at least 4 or 5 times this winter, and it has always been well received by our friends and family.  It has become our go-to dish when the weather is lousy and we feel like something hearty and flavorful.

I made it again this week, and finally took some pictures of the charred peppers and the stew.

Try it!  If you like spicy and hearty soups/stews, you’ll love this dish!

Note: Cliff generally asks the butcher for the “pork shoulder”, which is a leaner cut of the pork shoulder.  I went to a different butcher this time and he gave me “pork butt roast” (i.e. Boston butt) and it was amazing.  The butt roast is the portion of the shoulder that is more marbled, and I think it is just better than the leaner cut of pork shoulder.

food-5892 food-5899

My new favorite: grilled brussels sprouts

brussel sprouts-6043

I never really liked brussels sprouts much, unless it is cooked in a ton of butter and seasoning so I can barely taste the brussels sprouts.  But a few weeks ago when I was shooting Angela, Brent, and Kaitlyn, Brent was bragging about Angela’s cooking and mentioned how she roasts brussels sprouts in the oven.  That gave me the idea to grill the veg on the BBQ.

This is a super easy recipe, and the result was out of this world.  I ate so much brussels sprouts tonight that Cliff was quite surprised because he knows how I don’t normally like it.  Grilling it gave it a very nice nutty flavor, mixed in with a bit of a bite like mustard.  It’s hard to describe, but so damn good.  I am going to be eating a lot more brussels sprouts from now on!

Ingredients

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Salt
  • Grapeseed oil (or olive oil)

Direction

Wash brussels sprouts and cut them in half.  Drizzle with grapeseed oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place brussels sprouts on the BBQ on medium low heat, grill for about 15 minutes with lid closed, turning half way.

Baked blueberry French toast

I’m all for making things ahead and just popping them in the oven the next day.  It’s a part of my make-life-easier campaign, thanks to having two kids.

I made this baked blueberry French toast for my mom while she was here, and she loved it.  I made it for my dad while he was visiting, and he ate some out of curtesy despite his dislike for anything to do with milk.  I’d say that’s a pretty successful dish.  Ha!

The original recipe is from Epicurious, but I simplified it because I’m too lazy.  It is still very good.  Please try it.

Ingredients

  • a 24-inch baguette
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups blueberries (about 12 ounces)

Direction

Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Cut twenty 1-inch slices from baguette and arrange in one layer in baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, and 3/4 cup brown sugar and pour evenly over bread. Chill mixture, covered, until all liquid is absorbed by bread, at least 8 hours, and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Sprinkle blueberries evenly over bread mixture. Cut 1/2 stick butter into pieces and in a small saucepan heat with remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, stirring, until butter is melted. Drizzle butter mixture over bread and bake mixture 35 minutes, or until any liquid from blueberries is bubbling.

french toast-5506

Low fat cream of asparagus soup

When it’s cold out, I crave soup.  I saw an asparagus soup recipe a while back that looked good, but I wanted some creaminess to it, and I lacked some of the ingredients called for.  So I added a bit of low fat milk to the soup, using ingredients I have on hand, and it was quite good.  It’s super duper easy to make, super low fat/calories.  Both Cliff and I liked it a lot, and even Joshua enjoyed it.

Since I just did with whatever I had on hand without following a recipe, all measurements are totally estimated.

Cream of asparagus soup

Cream of asparagus soup

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):

  • 2 bunches of asparagus, cut into 2″ pieces (you can save the top to blanch separately and decorate the soup with it, or just throw it all in to make the soup)
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • chicken stock (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 1% milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • salt, pepper, grapeseed oil

Direction:

Heat a heavy bottom sauce pan, add grapeseed oil, and saute the chopped onion on medium heat for about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cumin to onion, and cook another minute.

Add asparagus pieces and chicken stock, turn heat up high to bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Let the soup mixture cool a bit, then puree the soup mixture in a blender.

Return the pureed soup back to the sauce pan, add milk to the desired creaminess.  Heat the soup on medium low heat (do not boil).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in lemon juice.  Serve as is, or add blanched asparagus top for decoration.  If you have some sour cream or greek yogurt, I bet it’ll be really nice to add a dollop to the soup as well.

 

Green bean and pancetta salad

Green bean and pancetta salad.

Green bean and pancetta salad.

My mom couldn’t stay in Vancouver long enough to spend Christmas with us.  So last week before she left, I made an “early Christmas dinner”.  My mom isn’t very interested in large portions or heavy meat dishes, so I made a salmon wellington as the main dish, and a green bean and pancetta salad as a side.

I quite enjoyed the green bean and pancetta salad.  Any salad that calls for pancetta or bacon is going to be a hit in my books!  This salad is easy to prepare and savoury–a winner.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 5 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Direction

Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain well.

Cook pancetta in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp, stirring often. Transfer pancetta to paper towels, using slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons fat from skillet. Add shallots and chopped rosemary to skillet and cook over medium heat 2 minutes, stirring often. Add beans and stir to coat. Add oil and lemon juice and stir until beans are heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with pancetta.

 

Ricotta gnocchi

food-3076

When you have a newborn baby, there’s little time in a day to prepare meals.  So you might notice that most of the posts about food recently are quick/easy type food, and they are generally things that can be frozen or eaten over multiple meals.

If you’re wondering when I have the time to search for recipes, here’s my secret: I have the Epicurious app on my iPod, and I go through it when I’m nursing Savanna.  That means I have about 3 1/2 hours a day of time to look at recipes (and create grocery lists, write out to-do lists, read the news, check Facebook, read my favorite blogs, check Flipboard, and pin up a storm on Pinterest).  I am becoming quite good at multi-tasking!

Today I made this ricotta gnocchi from Epicurious.  Most gnocchi dishes are full of carbs.  This one uses ricotta as a base, so I figured some protein is better than all carbs.  It’s easy enough that I was willing to give it a try.  Cliff and I both liked it.

The entire batch is enough to feed 5 or 6 people.  If you’re making it for 2 people, I would freeze some of the gnocchi for another day.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta (1 pound)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 ounces), divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

Direction

Stir together ricotta, eggs, 1 cup cheese, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add flour, stirring to form a soft, wet dough.

Shape dough on a well-floured surface with lightly floured hands into 2 (1-inch-thick) ropes. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces with a lightly floured knife. Put in 1 layer on a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cook gnocchi in 2 batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water), adding a few at a time to pot and stirring occasionally, until cooked through (cut one in half to check), 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.

Meanwhile, cook butter with rosemary in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Toss gnocchi with brown butter in skillet and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt.

 

Apple cider braised pork shoulder

It’s fall.  It’s raining.  It’s cold.  It’s time for comfort food.  I picked this recipe to try out today because I like the combination of apple and pork.  It gives a very “autumn” flavor.  The active prep time and effort is pretty minimal compared to the effect of the presentation.  After I stuck the dutch oven in the oven, I went and had a nap.  It was nice to wake up to the aroma of the dish!

The 3-lb shoulder we got made enough to feed at least 6 adults, so there’s plenty of left over for another quick and easy meal.

The recipe is taking from Epicurious.  It’s pretty critical to serve the pork with the caramelized onions.  Tonight we ate it with the fat still in the cooking liquid, which was fine, but it was a bit too rich for my liking.  So the next time I make it, I would make the dish a day ahead, refrigerate it, so that I can skim off the fat from the cooking liquid more easily, then reheat it in the oven before serving.

To side track a little, I had to buy a big jug of apple cider to make this dish, so I had a lot of apple cider left.  I put a few cups of it in a sauce pan, added cloves, cinnamon sticks, all spice berries, a slice of ginger, and simmered for 20 minutes to make spiced apple cider.  So yummy.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3- to 4-lb) bone-in fresh pork shoulder half (preferably arm picnic)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb onions (5 or 6 medium), halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3/4 cup unfiltered apple cider

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Score fat and any skin on pork in a crosshatch pattern. Make slits all over meat with a small sharp knife and insert a garlic sliver in each slit. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart ovenproof heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown meat on all sides, turning occasionally with the aid of tongs and a carving fork, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate.
  4. Add onions to pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes more.
  5. Stir in cider and return pork to pot.
  6. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and braise pork in middle of oven until very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  7. Transfer pork to a serving dish with the aid of tongs and carving fork. Boil cooking juices with onions until mixture is reduced to about 2 cups, 2 to 3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and serve with pork.

Pork can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, uncovered, then chill, covered. Reheat in liquid, covered, at 325°F 1 hour.

 

Beautiful cut of pork shoulder from Market Meats.

Beautiful cut of pork shoulder from Market Meats.

Searing all sides of the pork shoulder.

Searing all sides of the pork shoulder.

Apple cider braised pork shoulder.

Apple cider braised pork shoulder.

Tender Asian chicken breast stir fry

chicken-2884

I don’t know about everyone else, but I used to dislike chicken breast.  Secretly I called it the “white people meat” because Asian people tend to use chicken legs/thighs.  I found chicken breast to be bland and dry in general.  But back in the summer, someone changed my mind about this cut of meat.  I’ll tell that story another time.  It turns out that I’ve been over-cooking it all these years, causing the meat to turn dry.  With the right cooking method, chicken breast can actually be moist and flavorful.

My mom came to Vancouver a few weeks ago to help us with Joshua/Savanna/my postpartum care.  She made a stir fry dish with chicken breast that further solidified my new “like” of chicken breast.  I had no idea chicken breast can be *this* tender and flavorful.

With the way my mom cooks, there’s no “recipe”.  Everything is by estimate–a sprinkle of this, a splash of that.  So here’s the estimated recipe.  Please adjust all seasoning to your own taste.  You can use whatever veggies your heart desires.  Today we had a zucchini in our fridge, so that’s what I used.  But feel free to use green beans, gai lan, bok choy, whatever.

Joshua painstakingly picks out the veggies, but he eats up this chicken like there’s no tomorrow.

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces of chicken breast (i.e. the entire breast from 1 chicken)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking wine (rice wine) (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • a dash of white pepper
  • a bit of graded ginger (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon of corn starch + 2 teaspoon of cool water
  • 1 zucchini or whatever veggies you want to use
  • salt
  • grapeseed oil (or whatever cooking oil you like to use)

Method

  1. Thinly slice the chicken breast.  I find it easiest when the meat is half frozen.  So I tend to defrost the meat from the freezer for a couple of hours, and slice it before it’s completely thawed out.
  2. Combine the sliced chicken breast meat, soy sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil, white pepper, ginger together in a bowl.  Let sit either over night, or at least for 10 minutes.  Set aside and prepare the veggies.
  3. Cut up the veggies you want to stir fry, and cook them up first.  Generally I heat up a couple of tablespoon of grapeseed oil, stir fry the veggies till cooked, and add salt.  No magic here.  Place the cooked veggies on a plate.
  4. Combine corn starch and water in a separate small bowl until the corn starch is desolved. Add this liquidy paste to the marinated chicken.  Stir until the chicken has absorbed all the liquid.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil to the frying pan on medium high heat, and add chicken to the pan.  Continually stir and turn the chicken to ensure even cooking.  The biggest “trick” here my mom taught me, is that you only cook the chicken till it is 80 or 90% done.  So as soon as I don’t see any pink on the surface of the chicken, it’s time to remove the chicken from the heat.  Pile the chicken on top of the veggies, or you can throw all the veggies into the pan and mix it up with the chicken, and you’re done.
  6. Let the chicken sit for 3 or 4 minutes before serving.  The heat from cooking will continue to cook the chicken while it sits, ensuring super tender meat cooked to perfect done-ness.
  7. Serve with rice.