My warm-up drawing for the day turned into a cookbook cover. I consider it a rough, mock-up. I could tweak, change and alter this thing forever, if I let myself.
…And now I think I need my own cookie fix… : )
A weekend or two ago, I visited my first Sugar Shack (or cabane a sucre). I always heard about this Quebecois tradition, but never quite managed to make the time to experience it for myself. So I and a few friends (and half of Montreal, it seemed! It was crowded.) went to Sucrerie de la Montagne in Regaud, Quebec on a bright, coolish, spring Sunday afternoon. What was the experience like? Photos and brief commentary below.
Below: Outside the main building where the banquet halls are to eat are located.
Below: Buckets on trees. Note. Snow on ground and noooo leaves. Arg!
Below: Things you do while waiting to eat…
Below: Inside the main banquet hall you….
Below: The main course…
Below: After all the maple sugar-laden food, wine & song, life looked like this…
Just kidding. : ) A fun time was had by all. I cut loose and played the wooden spoons. A lot. Must have been the maple wine (was it maple…? Everything was MAPLE!).
Hi all. I just wanted to give a big thanks to the folks at Attune Foods for loving my sketch and personal like of Skinner’s Raising Bran, which I blogged about here! Annelies (the online community manager at Attune Foods) saw my post, left a comment, and asked me if she could send me a little something. Soon thereafter, a package arrived in the mail. And in that package were TWELVE boxes of my very favorite (but often hard-to-find) raisin bran–Skinner’s! I am set for the year, that’s for sure! So I want to thank Attune Food for kindly making my day by gifting me with the Skinner’s. Their other products look mighty good-for-you, too: lots of other cereal brands and bars for healthy eating.
Gotta love the internet, for all the great things you can find–and for them finding you!
I feel I need for some cartoon practice so I’m going to start drawing some “snippets” out of my life each day. It should give me the ability to fool around with the style, etc. We’ll see how that goes. These are from yesterday, Sunday. It was a cool and rainy day but we weren’t having the tornado problems that were happening south of us. Come to think of it, most everything is “south” of us. Oh, and the cantaloupe I picked out was, wow, REALLY good! I checked out the Loblaw circular again and it seems it’s a “pixie melon”; supposed to be “40% sweeter than the average cantaloupe”. And it is! It tastes like these melons should taste. So I’m going to have to go back this week and get some more. The price was good ($2.50 each) verses getting below-average tasting melons nearby for $5 each. I would recommend it to those who like cantaloupe and are in the area.
Snack: Crunchy home-made cashew butter on a slice of honey, raisin & hazelnut bread next to a fruit medley consisting of apple, orange and banana segments, topped with blackberries and wild blueberries.
Lunch: Lasagna with a side of seasoned and steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and onion.
Some photos from this morning.
Below: Scrambled egg with smoked cheddar & and a few baby spinach leaves, tucked inside a corn tortilla; broiled tomato with same smoked cheddar; an orange. You’re welcome.
(Yesterday’s lunch from Howard’s BBQ, down town Corpus Christi Texas. Thanks, Buck & Jimmy!)
Where ever you live, you can probably name a restaurant or item of food that has become “legendary” in the area. In South Texas, Whataburger is probably the place/item that would be at the top of that list. Whataburger started in Corpus Christi, actually, as a Sonic-like drive in. Back then, the burgers were made to order. You’d then follow your burger as you went through the line, telling the employees how to prepare it (like Subway). Over the last few decades, Whataburger has expanded all across the South and Southwest. Its’ still an oddity to me when I run across a Whataburger outside of the region.
Is the burger any good? I hear people say that that there’s no burger that tastes like a Whataburger. I think that’s true for the most part, but I couldn’t tell you what about it sets it apart. It just tastes “different”.
So I brought this up because I had myself a Whataburger for lunch today, something I’d thought to get during my stay in South Texas, but just never got around to doing. Today is my last day to fill my belly with yummy favorites that I can’t get up north (I’m heading back to Montreal tomorrow). So tonight, I’m thinking a nice plate of bar-b-que is in order. Yu-um!
THIS is a pretty darn good chocolate cake, I must say. I baked this up Thursday afternoon for a friend’s birthday bar-b-q we attended last night. I was telling party attendees all week to make room for some special decadence as word on the internet street was that this was an A+ chocolate cake, one, as they say, “to die for”. I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t live up to the hype, but oohs, ahhs and oh my’s were uttered across the room after each person took their first bite…and their second and third in most cases. It wasn’t overly rich and chocolaty, like you were eating fudge (e.g., a chocolate torte), but it was moist and dense and the cream cheese frosting made a perfect balance. I happened to have made a strawberry sorbet that we served with it and the two were surprisingly complimentary–a bit of cake, then a bite of sorbet to cleanse the palette. Yeah, this cake is a keeper. And it’s very easy to make, too, though I warn you, it’s not exactly low-cal. The good thing is, a little goes a long way. You won’t be inclined to indulge on seconds as one slice will satisfy. Enough talk. Here’s the recipe:
Chocolate Guinness Cake
1 cup Guinness
1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees. lightly butter or grease a 9-inch springform pan.
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine Guinness, butter and cocoa. Stir and cook very gently until butter and cocoa melt and the mixture is fairly smooth; remove from heat. Whisk in the sugar.
In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk this mixture into the Guinness mixture. Add the flour and baking soda and mix again until smooth.
Pour the batter into the buttered pan and bake 45 minutes to an hour, until risen and firm (and a knife comes out clean). Place on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.
Mix the powdered sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the cream until it is loose enough to spread easily. Spread on the top of the cooled cake only, so it resembles a poured Guinness beer with foam/head.
Notes: First, any bitter stout will do, not just Guinness. I had on hand a stout by a local brewer, so I used that. As for the butter, if you’re worried about the amount, you can experiment with cutting back on it a little. I had seen a posting by a blogger who said they used only 6 tbs and didn’t think it marred the results. I also used a lower fat sour cream and cream cheese. I wouldn’t use fat-free versions for baking items like this, as it may alter the taste and texture too much, and that’s one of the appeals about this cake. You can try at your own risk, though. Lastly, though I bought heavy cream to use, the texture and consistency of the frosting using just the cream cheese and powdered sugar was perfect for the cake. I’m not sure why milk or a lower-fat cream wouldn’t suffice to thin out the frosting if it was needed. I’m now stuck with a pint of heavy cream to figure out how to use. Perhaps some ice CREAM …? Anyway, so many people have blogged about and taken photos of this cake, I’m linking to a few that I perused prior to my making it. Check ’em out yourself and see what you think, below.
–Heidi’s photo. Yep, that’s how it looks!
–Recipegirl makes a chocolate ganach for the top. Hmmm….
–Nicole makes it for St. Pat’s day.
–Kim for the Washington Post.
–Tom’s version of the Stout Cake. Some people have a recipe for making it a 3-layer cake.
The above is just a bit of my playing around, experimenting with some images and lettering, though this isn’t a random choice. I have a recipe to share in regards to my obsession as of late with my ice cream maker. Funny…I didn’t even remember I HAD an ice cream maker until I was going through cubby holes, etc., looking for useless items to put in a garage sale. I vaguely…No, I don’t remember at all picking up a 1 1/2 quart Rival electric ice cream maker at some garage sale, maybe last summer…I don’t know. Sometimes I remember vividly when and where I get my garage sale “treasures”, yet other times…Well, obviously I can forget about the purchase all together! But anyway, once I saw it, stashed behind the rarely-used pasta maker and wok, I went, “Hmmmm!” and decided I’m up to some ice cream experimentation this summer, yeah. Let’s give this a whirl. And I really have. But to the bewilderment of my husband, I’ve been making sorbets, sherbets and ice milks, not ice CREAM. I just can’t make myself combine such rich and calorie-laden ingredients. I’m mentally trained to stay away from cooking like that, besides, I’ve always liked ice milks. So I’ve tried a few recipes so far (a chocolate ice milk & a blueberry sherbet), with this one being at the top of the list:
Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream (Sherbet)
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cups sweetened condensed milk
1 tbs sugar
1/2 cups strawberries, diced
2 tbs sweetened condensed milk
Whisk the first 4 ingredients together and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Dump into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is done, swirl in the 2 tbs sweetened condensed milk. Serve soft or put it into the freezer to set up.
(I feel bad because I can’t find the blog I got this recipe from. I’ll keep searching and give the author credit when I do.)
Also, the two times I’ve made the above recipe, I forgot to do the condensed milk-swirly thing. I’ll try and remember that for the next go-round.
Other ice milks or sherbets I’m hoping to make soon:
-Coffee Mocha Sherbet
Sound yummy? Yeah, I know. : )
Again, is it this winter weather? I find myself mentally blah lately. Nothing has a zing to it; everything just…is. In many respects, that’s just fine. Better blah than trouble. But I’ve yet to figure out how to shake myself out of this. Presently I’ve simply come to resolve just to push through and do the things I’ve gotta do, zing or no zing. Zing’s not a necessity, though it’s nice (more on the “Zing” factor later). Let’s get to the curry and rice.
A friend of ours was born and raised in Southern India (MK–Missionary Kid). T is our Indian food guide for the Montreal area Indian restaurants, as well as Indian food in general. His preference is for South Indian food so once in a while he’ll treat his friends to a meal of some of his favorites. A few weeks ago a couple of us had lunch at he and his wife’s home after Sunday church. I don’t recall all the items he/they cooked up but my two favorites were the tomato curry and yogurt rice. Yum! T was kind enough to email me the family recipe for the curry the next day. I’ve been waiting to find tomatoes at an affordable price. During Thursday’s produce shopping excursion I managed to find tomatoes at $.99 a lb so I bought about 4-5 lbs to make the curry (with the intent to freeze the leftovers to enjoy for many meals to come. Below is the recipe:
Momma Hahn’s Hot Tomato Curry
(edited by Paula Becker)
2 Tbsps. Oil
1/4 tsp. Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp. Cumin Seeds
10 Curry Leaves (or 2 Bay Leaves)
1/3 cup finely chopped Onion
1/2 tsp. Ginger (Fresh is better but powder will do)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. Madras Curry Powder
1/2 tsp. Tumeric
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 cup water max
Cut tomatoes into pieces.
Heat oil on medium and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves (or bay leaves) and cut onion. Fry until onions are golden brown (mustard seeds should pop open). Add ginger, garlic, curry powder, tumeric and fry for a couple of minutes more.
Add tomatoe pieces, salt ,water and cook for about 35 minutes uncovered stirring occassionally.
1. The best tomatoes for this recipe are the big meaty ones (non-green house variety) available during the summer. For an interesting and tasty variation I’ve tried the Italian ones and they are excellent too.
2. I normally cook a minimum of two to three times (or more) the recipe as the major work is in the preperation. While salt is necessary to get the curry flavour out, be careful as you may not need two to three times that quantity.
3. If the tomatoes are watery, I don’t add the water.
4. Some people think that the oil should be very hot when frying the mustard seeds, cumin seeds etc… but I find that the mustard seeds pop all over the place and make a mess.
5. I use a large non-stick wok to cook this. But you can also use a 4 quart sauce pan or a very large fry pan.
6. Use normal canola or sunflower oil.
7. You can use regular curry powder, but Madras curry powder as a special zip!
Serve with Basmati rice. I like to have a little yoghurt from time to time on the side to cut the acid.
I did have a few slight changes. I tripled the recipe as I had a few pounds of tomatoes I was cooking up. The only areas I deviated from the recipe was in that I used a roasted red pepper olive oil, powdered ginger vs. fresh, and the recommended bay leaf substitution (as I didn’t have curry leaves). I didn’t add any water since there was plenty of liquid with the tomatoes themselves. So how did it turn out? I don’t think it was as good as what T served at his house. I keep wanting to blame the Tumeric (can you get a *bad* batch of tumeric?). It seems that whatever curry recipe I use that in I get this ‘odd’ flavor. I think I’ll toss it and get some more and see if that makes a difference in future recipes…When I decide to cook a curry again.
Paul and I had a lot going on this past weekend. I spent Friday evening and Saturday morning working on a special cake for a surprise baby shower for some friends of ours. Back a few weeks ago another couple, who were having a pot-luck dinner Saturday night, opted to turn it into a baby shower for this couple. I said, “Ill do that cake!”. I had visions of doing something neat, putting my decorating skills to use–again (a-waaay back when I was young, I was the cake decorator girl at a Baskin-Robbins. I learned to do rudimentary cake decorating. It was better than scooping ice cream and “rolling cones”–B&R employes will know what that means). So as it typically goes, the passing of time found my ideas as to what to create changing–as well as just how ambitious to be about it. I had subtly quizzed my with-child gal-pal as to what kind of cake she likes, “I don’t really like cakes, but if I have to eat one, it has to be chocolate.” I then thought a nice chocolate cake with white trim for the decor would be fine. So the night before, I got to thinking how that’s not going to work; and I also came up with the *brilliant* idea to use the Little Nut Brown Hair as the theme. She had previously shown me material she had bought to make misc. baby bedding stuff and had painted the baby’s room a sage-like green. I had already scanned Brown Hair to frame as a little picture to hang in the baby’s room, so I could use the same image and put it on the cake. So Saturday evening I baked the cake (white) and Saturday morning I did the decorating. I made the decorator icing from scratch and pulled out my little Wilton starter kit that I’d never used but had around for just such events. It took me most of the morning from start to finish to complete the cake and the results were satisfactory; not mind-blowing terrific, but nothing to be ashamed of. I made WAY more icing than I needed (I now have a bag of blue and green icing in the fridge (Anybody got any ideas what I can do with it besided make another cake?). Also, the Wilton bag fell apart as I was working on the trim. The icing started oozing through the seem as it began to pull apart (I guess the bags can get old and the glue lose it’s grip.) Towards the end, I wondered whether the project had been worth the effort or if I should have bought icing to cut down on the work, or some other something to have cut down on the amount of time and effort that went into the project. It’s too bad that I got to thinking that way. I should take more pleasure in having chosen to make and decorate a cake for a special occasion, rather than cut corners and save time in buying a ready-made cake. Something to think about.
I surprised the Mister with this this morning:
I knew he’d love it!
And this is what I got:
And then we BOTH got…
When I awoke this morning, I found Paul had already left for a brief trip down to Plattsburg with one of his buddies. Their aim was to pick up a few things that had been shipped to our P.O. box as well as do a little grocery shopping for items that can’t be found north of the border. So…I had the place to myself for the day.
I felt rested. I can’t say I feel that way most of the time, if I think about it. But I took note of that today when Paul called from his cell to double-check the items I had on the grocery list I left for him. I was putting together the ingredients in the bread pan for raisin bread when he called. Yes, another loaf of bread to talk about! I had grand plans to have the bread with two fried eggs (over medium) for dinner. Yum! Easy enough.
The bread recipe came from the internet, though I can’t recall the exact website. Here’s the recipe:
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
by Tony van Roon
(with modifications by Paula Becker)
For a 1 1/2 pound loaf:
1 cup warm water (I used 1% milk)
3 tbs butter or margarine, cut up (I used 3 tbs apple sauce)
3 tbs honey
2 3/4 cups bread flour (I just noticed that I only added TWO cups. Oopsy.)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I added slightly more)
2 tbs brown sugar, packed
2 tbs dry milk powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamom (I used 2)
2 tsp yeast
1 cup raisins
I also added about 2 tsp fresh orange juice and a little orange zest, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of cloves. As the dough was mixing/kneading, I added about 3 tbs bread flour. Now I can see why it was as wet as it was. Duh!
The dough didn’t bake much above the middle of the bread pan but I don’t know how large it was supposed to be. It turned out to be a dense loaf with a lot of flavor. I thought it tasted like the cinnamon rolls that I sometimes pick up at Boulangerie Marmalade in the Pointe Claire Village. Paul didn’t care much for it saying it tasted too much like a fruit bread. I don’t see what’s wrong with that but if he was expecting a straight raisin bread, this didn’t fly. Well, the more for me, I guess! Next time I’ll leave out the extra ingredients so it’ll be more to Paul’s liking.
Just as a side-note, I did a little cross-country skiing Friday noon. The other day’s snow “storm” brought us about 3-4″ of powder. Friday was sunny with only a slight wind so I talked myself into pulling out the skis and getting a little exercise. It’s been 2 years since I last took the skis out (I was down in Corpus all last winter) so it’s been a good while!
We’re fortunate enough to live across the street from a golf course which is an ideal place to do a few recreational winter sports. The day was gorgeous and I dressed lightly, but my body was NOT used to doing the minimal amount of moving on skis! I could feel the muscles in my arms and legs constantly tensing to keep balance. That’ alone is a work-out, least ways shuffling along in the skis.
I only stayed out half an hour, but it’s a good start. And because of the milder weather we had the previous week, there’s not as much snow on the ground as usual. I hit quite a few areas of ground that were barely snow/ice covered.
Now that the skis are out, I’ll make more effort to take breaks to get in a little skiing before spring comes around.
All images copyright © 2015 paulabecker.com