Agua Frescas: Pomegranate Chia Lime and Melon

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


As the mercury seemed to be again on the rise this week, I thought it only appropriate to implement a mandatory drink week here on the blog. 

After thumbing through one of the many cookbooks borrowed from the library, I began to notice a trend toward the drink agua frescas or “fresh waters.” These drinks, popular in Mexico and Central America, do wonders to refresh the fatigue brought on by such humid and hot climates. As this fatigue was something I was experiencing today, I thought what better time than to try my hand at making an agua fresca. A pomegrante lime fresca with chia was my first choice, followed by a melon fresca. Both were wonderfully revitalizing and restored my weariness from the hot day. 
 Pomegranate Chia Lime Fresca
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
Place everything is a container, cover and shake to mix. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours so the chia seeds can expand and for a gel. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
Original recipe: Nourishing Meals by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre

Melon Agua Fresca
3 cups melon (watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew)
1 1/1 cups water
sugar to taste (optional)

Mix everything in and blender and serve chilled.

 Be sure to check back later in the week for more delicious drinks!






















Recipes That Work: Chocolate Cake and Gluten-Free Brownies

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Have you been wondering who Sisi & Leeta are? You thought it was simply a fanciful name dreamt up by a single writer? The two sisters working on this post must protest! We are real and we are sisters, and we do apologize for not formally introducing ourselves sooner.

You can remember us this way: as Sisi the Senior and Leeta the Little. Sisi has golden hair and green eyes (watch for them to flash if any harm comes near her younger sibling). Leeta has locks of soft brown and bright blue eyes (quite steely if Sisi steals her sweaters).

Or you could think of us this way: Leeta is a gloriously skilled chef. Sisi once thought buttering the sides of an egg was a real piece of recipe instruction.

Thus, when we title this post “Recipes That Work” we do mean it because Sisi had a hand (gently guided by Leeta) in their making! And they turned out! They weren’t just passably edible, either. No, we are happy to report that half of each disappeared in the course of the afternoon. So even if you, like Sisi the Senior, suffer in the kitchen, rest assured that these two chocolate confections will cause you little grief. But do be careful taking them out of the oven (Sisi recommends growing your own aloe plant; it’s cheaper than buying repeated bottles of the stuff.)

Today we made Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake and Paleo Brownies. We adhere to a gluten-free diet and have for the past 5-plus years, while other members of the household prefer non gluten-free baking. This afternoon we thought we would make a treat that each of us could enjoy. 

 Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake (From Nigella Lawson)
 For the cake
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 ½ sticks soft unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • cup sour cream
  For the icing
  • ¾ stick unsalted butter
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate (broken into small pieces)
  • 2 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup or light corn syrup
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  1. Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line and butter two 20cm / 8 inch sandwich tins with removable bases.
  3. Now all you have to do is put all the cake ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream - into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter.
  4. Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to scrape into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. 
  5. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. 
  6. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the confectioners' sugar into another bowl
  7. Add the golden syrup or light corn syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved confectioners' sugar.
  8. Spoon the icing onto the cake 
Original Recipe: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/old-fashioned-chocolate-cake-119

 Paleo Brownies (from Elana's Pantry)
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 ounces baking chocolate (100% cacao)
  • 7 Medjool dates (1/2-2/3 cup) pits removed
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted (or vegetable oil)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla 
  1. In a food processor, pulse together almond flour, salt and baking soda
  2. Pulse in squares of dark chocolate until the texture of coarse sand
  3. Pulse in dates until the texture of coarse sand
  4. Pulse in eggs
  5. Pulse in oil and vanilla until mixture is smooth
  6. Transfer mixture to a greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish
  7. Mixture will be very thick, smooth with a spatula
  8. Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes
Original Recipe: http://www.elanaspantry.com/paleo-brownies/
     

    Blueberries and cream cake

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014


     Spurred on by a day of summer rain and 40 odd pounds of blueberries, I decided it was best to make a cake. I had whipping cream and berries to use up. Therefore, I wanted to bake a something reminiscent of a strawberry shortcake, but with my own twist. I stumbled upon Barefoot Contessa’s "Strawberry Country Cake" and thought it was a perfect match.
     This rustic or country style of cake is one I feel very drawn to because I have many a memory of my mother whipping up a lightning cake (similar to a sponge cake) on a rainy Sunday evening. When this recipe, written on a yellowed and aged index card, was plucked from the treasured recipe box the anticipation of this delightful cake would awaken me from my stupor of a long day of studying. Usually lopsided and somewhat askew with whipping cream by the time it reached my plate, I always remember the joy of that first bite with a rich cup of Earl Grey tea.  

    Strawberry Country Cake from Barefoot Contessa (Makes two 8-inch cakes; Each cake serves 6 to 8)

     12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
    2 cups sugar
    4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
    3/4 cup sour cream at room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 cups flour
    1/4 cup cornstarch
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda 
     

    Filling for each cake
    1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream, chilled
    3 tablespoons sugar
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced 

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Butter the bottoms of the pan, line them with parchment paper and then butter and flour the pans.

    Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

    Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. If using one cake, wrap the second well and freeze.
    To make the filling for one cake, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until firm. Slice one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife. Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, spread with 1/2 the whipped cream and scatter with sliced strawberries. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Decorate with strawberries (or blueberries).

      Original Recipe:http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/strawberry-country-cake-recipe.html

     

     



    Berry Picking Quest

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    Saturday dawned and I felt the need for a bit of an adventure. The heat wave had finally subsided and it was a perfect, cooler day to head out to pick berries. I had been doing some research to find a berry patch and came across Emma Lea farms on Westham Island. After reading about Westham Island in Edible magazine I was quite intrigued to make a jaunt out.  Only accessible by bridge, this island is located in Delta, and I must shamefully admit I had not heard of it before even though I live only a mere 30 minutes away. I do love finding small green spaces such as these amongst the dailyness of urban sprawl.

    After passing over the single lane bridge we soon arrived at Emma Lea Farms, and collected our buckets and headed out to the windswept fields. As we walked along the berry fields I noticed a row of Tay berries, something I had not heard of before. I boldly plucked one from the thorny bush and was greeted with an authentic blend of a blackberry and raspberry.  I savoured the elusive berry, as that was the only one I found to pick. The raspberry and blueberry bushes were so laden with fruit that we filled our containers with great ease. 

     
    As I bagged up my berries for the freezer once home, I imagined the cold, grey days of winter and how the berries will remind me of such a lovely expedition on a treasured summer morning to Westham Island.

    I look forward to when I return to this peaceful island and explore the bird refuge, winery, and other lovely farms. Maybe I’ll even bring my bike and stop for a picnic to truly enjoy the tranquility that I found here.

    No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake

    Wednesday, July 16, 2014

    I was in the mood to bake a treat, but the week long span of 30 degree weather was putting a slight kink in my plans. Although the oven was not an option I was undeterred in finding a treat that was “no-bake.” Maybe I was slightly spurred on with this “no-bake” concept after spending a day clearing out my dear Grandma’s house. I stumbled upon her cookbooks (only 1 of 2 she used) and found myself thumbing through a bevy of no-bake desserts.


    I decided on a “no-bake” cherry cheesecake, as I seemed to have most of the ingredients on hand. (I do love when that happens!) I left out the sugar in the crust as I thought it might be a touch too sweet.

    No-bake Cherry Cheesecake (from allrecipes.com)



    Ingredients:

    Graham Cracker Crust
    1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
    1/4 cup margarine, softened
    1/4 cup sugar

    Filling:
    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
    1 cup powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup heavy cream, whipped
    1 (12.5 ounce) can cherry pie filling (or
    other filling of your choice)



     Directions:


    Mix together graham cracker crumbs, margarine, and sugar in a bowl until well incorporated and crumbly. Press into a pie plate, going up the sides as much as possible.

    Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth and spreadable. Whisk whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour cream cheese into prepared crust. Smooth the top with a spatula, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 to 3 hours. Spread the cherry pie filling over the top, and refrigerate until serving.






    Original Recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/the-best-unbaked-cherry-cheesecake-ever/


    Black Is The New Orange

    Thursday, July 10, 2014



    Despite the popularity of the TV show, in my case, black is definitely the new orange. When I acquired this table I was struck with the shape, rather then the colour. Unhampered by this striking orange, I decided to purchase it with the intention of spray painting. Fast forward a few months and I finally found the time to change the hue to a much more suitable colour for my house.

    My initial thought that this would be an afternoon task but I found it took a tad longer due to the finickiness of the circular shape. It was rather difficult not to spray directly onto the glass, resulting in me having to purchase “goof off” spray which easily removed the errors of my over-spray.



    I am quite pleased with the end result, as that corner of my living room had grown weary with the same end table decor for some years. It can be rather dark in that corner in the winter months therefore the reflection of the mirror adds a touch of sparkle for those gray, November days.



    Styled with purple and white hydrangeas plucked from my garden and a favourite floral teacup add the perfect pairing for this rejuvenated corner of my home. 

    Maple Syrup and Moose

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

    I was feeling rather patriotic this year and decided to make a Canadian flag cake to celebrate Canada Day, despite it being the hottest day this year. A mere 30 degrees was expected, but this heat wave could not dissuade my desire to bake!
    
    After a rather warm early morning walk to the grocery store for a few essential ingredients, I poured myself some peach iced tea and cracked on. I find the process of making a cake rather relaxing; somehow the consistency of the butter, sugar, eggs, et cetera is all too hypnotic for me.  
    
    As I was becoming more and more hypnotized by the consistency of the batter, I reflected on a question posed to me a few weeks ago by a friend. My friend was born in Japan, but has lived in Canada for the past seven years. One day when we were out and about he suddenly asked, “what is Canada known for?" My mouth immediately wanted to shout "maple syrup, moose, and hockey!" But I decided to take a moment to really reflect on why so much of the world is drawn to Canada. Being a relatively young country of 147 years, we don't have history that comes with castles, cathedrals, or even much colonial architecture (despite once being a colony of Britain). I realized I had found my answer on my last trip to Victoria on Vancouver island. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and houses our impressive Parliament buildings. I took a jaunt there on a warm March afternoon and was struck by the fact that although the Parliament buildings are quite an architectural highlight, it was the view that most tourists were struck by. The buildings overlook a spectacular waterfront and prove a fantastic setting for the Parliament buildings. I then realized what Canada was known for: its natural beauty. I could have come to this conclusion much faster if I had glanced at my license plate, which aptly reads "Beautiful British Columbia." This beauty is quite prominent in Vancouver where, without the curved coastline of the Pacific Ocean hugging the city and the bellowing border of the Coast mountains in the background, I don't believe this city would have quite the continual influx of year-round tourists.
    After rousing from that deep reflection I then realized that my cake was out of the oven and ready for my patriotic decoration. I chose a cream cheese frosting and decorated with it strawberries and coconut flakes for the flag. I used a template for the maple leaf to accurately arrange the strawberries. Thankfully, the Canadian flag is one of the easiest to replicate (I shudder to think of replicating the flag of Brunei).
    I had leftover batter so decided the make cupcakes, and appropriately had Canadian flags to top them off. I think it's time for another peach tea and cool down on the lanai.
    Happy 147th, Canada! Flag sheet cake recipe (from the Barefoot Contessa) 
    Ingredients

    18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
    3 cups sugar
    6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
    1 cup sour cream at room temperature
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    3 cups flour
    1/3 cup cornstarch
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    For the icing:
    1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
    1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
    1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

    Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

    Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

    Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

    For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth

    Original Recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/flag-cake-recipe.html