28.9.14

My Cookie Cutter Obsession

I have no idea when it happened. It wasn't while I was in university in the College of Home Economics. I was a health freak before it was fashionable. Cookies did not touch my lips unless they were gall darned good.

I have never been a cookie freak but now I have a cookie cutter obsession. I am a search for a round cutter with a scalloped edge for cutting butter tart crusts. It is an older style and I am having no luck.

This set is my newest purchase and I found them in an antique shop. I love the rectangular cutter with the fluted edge. It speaks the perfect sugar cookie to me. A perfect sugar cookie with a sugary top.

Above it is a donut cutter. As a kid on the farm we didn't have this luxury. My mom made doughnuts by cutting them with a drinking glass and the hole was cut with a thimble. I am not a huge donut fan but it is nostalgic. The round fluted one means nothing to me but it was a package deal.

I would love to see your favourite cookie cutter. If you love cookie cutters visit Monique at  La Table de Nana . She has many amazing ones. I would like to see her collection one day. If you are up to it everybody, why don't you post a comment with a picture of your favourite cookie cutter? I would love to see all the ideas and hear your stories.

Marjie at Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet you must have a stash of cookie cutters. And what about you Roz at La Bella Vita Cucina or Valerie at More Than Burnt Toast. My there are so many great food bloggers. You must have a favourite cookie cutter.

This is my Canadiana collection. I had planned to make the large maple leaf for Canada Day but that didn't happen! Next year.

These two sets are my  miniatures. Autumn and Christmas miniatures. I like to use them to cut vents in pie crusts or to make pie crust decorations for a pie top.

I bought one of these for a friend who raises bees. Of course, I had to get one for me, too. You can see how much it has been used!
Cookie cutters for doggie treats. I have only used the bone shape.

I had an obsession with stars a few years back. I liked to make a variety of sizes for Christmas gift giving. I would decorate sugar cookies all in white with icing, glitter and dragees. Star of David of course would be with white or blue glaze.
These are my regular sized Christmas cookie cutters. As with the stars, I had a need to have a mitten cookie cutter. Did I use it yet? I don't think so. This year.
This is my most frivolous cookie cutter. And least practical. I used this with children. Not a good idea. The handle of the teapot is so thin that it breaks. This is merely a decoration.
And who doesn't need a set of simple circular cutters. They are my most practical and most used.

24.9.14

June's Barbecue in September

I am a substitute teacher at a nearby Hutterite Colony. It was tough to get the children onside in the beginning but as we all learn sooner or later, food is the language of camaraderie and trust. It was not until we had a barbecue that I won them over.

That was three years ago. We were so disappointed in June when the weather did not cooperate and we did not have our annual barbecue. I must have said something like, "Well we can always do it in September!"

Trust children to remember every word and promise. September it was and today was the day.

We have always done the usual, hamburgers and hot dogs. This year they decided they would like to grill a chicken. I decided Chicken Under a Brick. They  l...o...v...e...d  it!

As an aside, I do not take any pictures. I turn over my DSLR camera to them. These images are from their eyes. Every year I am amazed by the wonderful pictures they take. These are not cropped and minimally altered, only for exposure.

Here is our day in pictures.



Jacob trying to light the 'chimney' with more charcoal.

Annie is only in Grade 4! Eek! She is making the milk shakes with my VitaMix blender. I am showing her how to use it.



The aftermath of making milk shakes.

Jacob the barbecue meister.

Annie made all the veggie packets for the grill. Labelled because some don't like carrots :)

Someone dashed off for a better photo-op.



Boys on the Colony do not have the opportunity to cook. In another life Jacob would be a chef.

Me with the German teacher. He is also the gardener and has an exhausting summer. He brought us some lovely golden melons for our lunch.


If they are not all filled by now they will be soon. Night and day harvesting season.

Knive as art.

Marinating our spatchcocked chicken.

Timely lesson on salmonella poisoning.

I love the feeling of movement in this picture.

Emma and tomatoes.

Blurred in the foreground is the Shopping Bag math game. Guess how we use it? They love it.

21.9.14

Hot Herb Garlic Ricotta Dip



Do you see a milk theme in my last couple of posts? Yes, well, I don't remember the exact details but I had a surplus of milk back in the spring and tried a bunch of new recipes to use it up. I have held back until now because the recipes and pictures were being published. Well, finally that has happened and they are mine again and I can share as I wish.

Ricotta has way fewer calories than cream cheese. No guilt enjoying this cheesy spread!

I posted a few years ago about making ricotta cheese at home. Nothing could be easier and I thought a refresher would be in order. One thing I have learned over time is that if you strain your milk vinegar mixture and get a lot of whey and it appears to be very milky then simply add more vinegar and let it sit longer. The curds will come but the milk may need more acid.

Homemade ricotta is fresher and half the price of the ricotta I can buy at my grocery stores. I always make it now but one does need to plan ahead.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
I like my curds dry so I let it strain overnight in the refrigerator. Planning ahead is required.

8 c. whole milk
2 tbsp. white vinegar
Bring the milk to just scalding temperature and turn off the heat. You can tell when it has reached scalding because there will be little bubbles in the milk around the inside of the pot.
Stir in vinegar. Put lid on and let sit for an hour. Carefully strain the clotted curds through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. 

Hot Herb Garlic Ricotta Dip

8 oz. fresh ricotta
garlic
olive oil
fresh herbs such as rosemary or oregano
sea salt, to taste
In a small ovenproof skillet, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom over medium heat. Add a few cloves of sliced garlic and cook until fragrant and just beginning to color, then immediately top with a layer of ricotta about an inch thick. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Bake in a 375 F oven until bubbling on top, about 20 minutes. Top with finely chopped herbs and sea salt. Serve immediately with toasted baguette slices. (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

20.9.14

Supper...Simply

It does take a certain level of om to make a lovely yet simple meal. Try throwing vegetables together when you are harried and it doesn't yield the same results. I know that from a meal I made last week. I can count on one hand the number of friends that have visited me in the five years since I moved away. That alone should provide motivation to make a nice meal when dear friends drop in on their way across Canada.

Farmers' market season is officially over for me even though next week is the final market of the year. After making over 2,000 scones 'a mano' this summer I hang up my apron until next June. What begins as a meditation and therapy gradually becomes a chore that brings on near nausea and loathing by the end of the season.

Even making a simple and enjoyable meal takes on a feeling of apathy that you want to fight but at the same time are helpless to resist. Such is the end of market season. Thank heaven that all things end and there is new.

Chatting with another vendor today told me that she feels the same. However, we both agreed that being a farmers' market vendor is like having a case of retrograde amnesia. The winter gestation is greeted with expectations of newness every spring. The anticipation is so strong that we plan and replan our new ideas until they can come to fruition and greeted again by the wonderfully appreciative market goers. I must say that I am impressed how many people take the time to thank me for what I do. I cherish that.

19.9.14

Italian Cheesecake



At the risk of making enemies I am not a cheesecake fan. I find the traditional New York style far too rich for my liking. And the unbaked type, well, they don't even count in my books. But this Italian style is delicious. It is not overly rich and has delicate floral undertones with the golden raisins nicely complimented by the dark rum.

Carefully bake this in a bain marie or it may separate. If you are not familiar, a bain marie is a water bath. Use something like a roasting pan that is larger than the cake pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches the same level as the cheesecake mixture. When finished baking remove from oven and let cheesecake cool slowly in the water bath.

Italian Cheesecake        Adapted from Lidia’s Italy in America

2 tbsp. softened butter
1/2 c. ladyfinger crumbs
1/2 c. golden raisins
3 tbsp. dark rum
5 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 c. drained fresh ricotta, at room temperature
1 c. mascarpone, at room temperature
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts 

Preheat oven to 325 F . Brush a nine or ten inch springform pan with butter on the bottom and sides. Place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Butter the parchment paper. Coat bottom and sides with ladyfinger crumbs. Excess can stay on the bottom of the pan. Put raisins in a small bowl and pour rum over, let soak while making the filling.

In a mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat eggs, sugar and salt at high speed until foamy and the sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy, about 2 minutes. Puree ricotta, mascarpone and zests and add to mixer. Drain raisins, set aside and add leftover rum to the mixer, mix on medium until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Fold in raisins and pinenuts by hand.

Put springform pan in the bain marie, smoothing the top with a spatula. 

Place on the lowest rack in the oven and bake until edges are set and golden but the centre is still a bit jiggly, about 1 hour.  It will continue to cook as it cools. Cool completely before cutting and serving. Serves 10 – 12 persons.

Oven Baked French Toast


Brunch is one of my favourite meals but one I rarely partake in. I found a Christmas pannetone in my cold room, long past its prime freshness. A dry bread or sweet bread is best for this overnight French toast. The bread soaks up some of the eggy goodness and then it bakes up like a souffle. If you want a nice presentation quickly take it straight from the oven to the table. After even 15 minutes it has fallen.

I bought the reproduction Medalta Pottery casserole dish and was dying to try it. Next time I would use a more shallow baking dish. It will cook faster and you will have a higher ratio of crunchy topping. The pecan crunchy topping drizzled with maple syrup should not be omitted.

 
Baked French Toast

Butter, for greasing the pan
8 eggs
5 cups whole milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
Day old bread such as French bread, cinnamon buns, brioche
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans
1/4 c. maple syrup

Generously grease a 9”x13” pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks or cut into cubes and evenly distribute in the pan. Use enough bread to completely fill the pan. Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. If you are using an unsweetened bread you may want to increase the sugar.

Cover pan tightly and store in refrigerator, overnight preferably.

Top with coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup. Preheat oven to 350F and bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot out of the oven with more maple syrup and fresh berries.