Cooking Classes


Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake

I am subbing in schools now!  It is a little business where I have to build up my clientele!  Who woulda thought.  I have to cajole the teachers into 'picking me'!  I am subbing for the Art and Sewing teacher at the high school tomorrow and I thought this little cake might make a splash in the staff room.  It smells so delicious!  I might have to steal a piece for my breakfast.  I will just stick a few of my business cards in it as decoration!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bundt pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can; not pie filling)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs

For glaze:
2 T butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1-3 T cream or milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour bundt pan. Combine together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, then add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.

Spoon batter into pan. Shake a few times to be sure to remove any bumps then bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.

To make glaze, heat butter until melted. Stir in sifted powdered sugar. Mix in cream or milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Drizzle over cake while it is on a wire rack so excess falls through.

Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes at 350F.  Let cool and then drizzle with glaze.


Coq au Vin à la Julia Child

A few weeks ago my good friend, Val, gave me Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I promised to make a recipe from it and I am finally doing that.  This is a traditional French Coq au Vin.  I have not made this in years.

Although the traditional recipe uses red wine, I had my trepidations.  It was so painful looking in the pot!  Beautiful farm chicken stained red?  But I did it and the result was well worth the initial fears.  The final product was similar to Chinese lacquered duck.

The process was a little more detailed than other chicken stews.  But again, worth the effort.

Boiling the bacon lardons in water before sauteeing removed a lot of their fat and therefore, the flavour did not dominate over the chicken.  I bought pancetta already cut and it was perfect.  It added a nice subtlety.  Then lightly browning them in butter made them very palatable in the dish.

After simmering the chicken in wine and broth, and removing it to another plate, it was time to degrease the liquid.  I have always degreased by cooling the liquid.  Julia's method requires that it is brought to a simmer.  Actually this works, too.  The fat tends to come together around the edges and, even though I removed some cooking liquid, I was able to remove most of the grease.  Also, as the cooking liquid reduced, I did skim off any scum that formed.

I substituted the cognac with calvados ( Grace - just one more time to use up all your calvados! ).  It flamed nicely and burned off the alcohol.

If there was one change I would make, it would be to cut the chicken into pieces large enough that one piece would be a serving.  I cut the breast into three pieces and thus, more than one piece would be required for a serving.  I think it serves much more nicely if one piece of chicken is on the plate.  But then, that is a personal preference.

I like the serving suggestion, that it can be prepared to a point that it can wait 'indefinitely' before presenting.  I think this makes for a wonderful casual dinner party dish.

Traditionally, it would be served with baby potatoes or mashed potatoes and root vegetables or green beans.  I think it would also be amazing with polenta.

This is more of a commentary than sharing a recipe.  You know how detailed Julia's recipes are!  And you all know how to find it!  Adapting it to a simpler version so I can publish it on my blog would be blasphemy.  So I leave you with these notes to follow when you try this.

Bon Appetit!


Potato and Chard Frittata

We must savour every fresh moment until we find ourselves in the doldrums of winter.  This is only potatoes and chard but tastes so nice and fresh.  I bought the chard a few days ago at a farmer's market.  It is so much more substantial than spinach.  It is so full of nutrients and fibre.

I made this in an All Clad skillet and then baked it in the oven for a little while to be sure it was fully cooked.  It is hearty and light all at the same time.

Potato and Chard Fritatta

2 medium sized potatoes
2 leaves of chard
2 ounces of freshly grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs

Very thinly slice the potatoes and set aside.  Remove the ribs from the chard and rip the leaves into smallish bits and set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet until smoking.  Add a layer of potato slices, then a layer of the chard and another layer of potato slices.  Grate cheese over all.  Lightly beat the eggs and pour over.

Cook on the stove top until the bottom is crispy and done.  Flip the galette onto a plate and slide it back into the pan to cook the top side.  Put in a 350F oven for another 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.


Chard Wrapped Paillards of Duck

This showcases the earthiness of both the duck and the chard.  The pumpkin butter adds the right amount of sweetness and aromatics to round it out.  Serve with oven roasted root vegetables and wild rice.  Paillards are simply 'thinly pounded pieces'.  When pounded thin like this, it cooks in no time.  It also tenderizes.  I shared the recipe for pumpkin butter yesterday.  I learned how it is a Southern favourite when I was in Tennessee last year.  Now I am a convert.

Chard Wrapped Paillards of Duck              serves 2

  • 1 whole boneless duck breast
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large chard leaves with ribs removed
Pull skin off duck.
Trim silver membrane from each breast half. Halve the breast (horizontally or vertically, doesn't matter) to make 2 pieces. Gently pound each piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to an even 1/4-inch thickness with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin.
Remove the rib from each chard leaf and lay out with dull side up.  Place the duck paillard on a piece of chard.  Sprinkle generously with ancho chili powder.  Roll up tightly and place in a greased ovenproof dish.  Repeat with the other half of duck breast.  
Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes, depending on your taste.
Serve with roasted carrots and pumpkin butter.


Pumpkin Butter and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

It is that time of year when we can have all the pumpkins that our hearts desire.  I love the sight of pumpkin fields.  There were beautiful pumpkin fields when I was in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago.

You can really get creative with pumpkins!  I think I should try some homemade skin care products with pumpkin.  You might find me blogging about that soon.

I discovered pumpkin butter when I spent several months in the southern US last year.  It was very popular in east Tennessee.  I made some this year and I think it makes a lovely accompaniment to meats such as pork or duck.

Not to waste, I roasted the pumpkin seeds for snacks or use in recipes calling for pepitas, Mexican pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Butter

1 pumpkin

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out all the seeds and pithy insides.  Place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 350F until soft.  This will take about 30 minutes.

Scoop the cooked pumpkin flesh into a food processor and puree.  The flavourings can be added to your taste.  I used this ratio.  For each cup of pumpkin puree, I used 3/4 cup of white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cloves and 1/8 teaspoon ginger.  Cook this for about 8 hours in a slow cooker.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Wash all the pumpkins seeds that you have removed.  Toss lightly with a little olive oil and roast at 350F for about 15 minutes.  Season with sea salt and ras el hanout or any favourite spice mixture, to taste.

This is my entry for Seasonal Sundays with The Tablescaper.


Decorated Sugar Cookies

I was too busy for the Daring Bakers challenge a couple of months ago.  I was also more interested in making Christmas sugar cookies than September themed sugar cookies.  After all, I won't be eating these!  I love them as hostess gifts or Christmas decorations.  And I just found out that my new step-niece is a sugar cookie fiend.  I will have no worries about finding a home for these cookies.

I used the same icing to make a border on the stars as to flood the top.  I used a small butter knife to smooth the icing on the top.  Then I sprinkled dragees and sanding sugar.

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36 - 4" Cookies

½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 cup Caster Sugar or Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.

Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 350°F .
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

 Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.

Royal Icing:
1 1/2 - 2 cups Icing Sugar, unsifted
1 Large Egg White
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Almond Extract, optional
• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.

• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.

Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.

• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

Decorating Your Cookies: Royal Icing
The most important thing when it comes to decorating with Royal Icing is the consistency.
There are two ways of flooding your cookies. Some like to do the outline with a thicker icing and then flood with a thinner icing. Some like to use the same icing to do both which saves time and you don’t have to have two different piping bags for each colour you’re using.

The Same Consistency Method
• Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions
• Drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing and count to 10
• If the surface becomes smooth between 5 & 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, do the 10 second test, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test

Two Different Consistencies Method
• Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions.
• Separate into 2 different bowls, one lot of icing for outlining, the other for flooding.
• For the outlining icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
• If the surface becomes smooth at around 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 10 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test.
• For the flooding/filling icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
• If the surface becomes smooth at around 3-4 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 3-4 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 3-4 second test.

• Separate Royal Icing into separate bowls for each colour you plan on using.
Tip: Make sure to cover the bowls with cling film or a damp cloth to prevent the top from setting and then making lumps
• Using a toothpick, add gel or paste colouring to each bowl and mix thoroughly until desired colour is reached
Tip: You can use liquid food colouring but you might not be able to get the desired strength of colour, liquid colouring will also thin out the icing so you’ll need to add more icing sugar to thicken it again.

Prepping and Filling Your Bag
• Attach your icing tips to the piping bags using couplers
Tip: You don’t need to use a coupler but it makes it easier if you want to change tip sizes
Tip: A size 1 tip is best for doing intricate details. A size 2 tip is good for some details and outlining. Fill or flood with sizes 2 – 5.
Tip: You don’t need a piping bag, you can use a parchment cone or ziplock bag with a tiny bit snipped off the corner. I would however recommend getting a piping set if you don’t have one as it will be much easier and more precise.
• Stand the piping bags in glasses with the tops of the bags folded over the top of the glass.
• Fill your icing bags with each coloured icing.
• Tie the ends of the piping bags with elastic bands.

Decorating: Outlining
• Fit the piping bag with a size 2 or 3 tip.
Tip: Or snip a very small bit of the corner off of a parchment cone or Ziploc bag
• Hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle above the cookie where you want to start the outline.
• Gently squeeze the piping bag and start moving in the direction you want to outline the cookie.
• Start lifting the piping bag away from the cookie so that the flow of icing falls onto the cookie, making it an even and neater outline.
• As you start to reach the beginning of the outline, bring the piping tip closer to the surface of the cookie to meet the start of the icing outline.
Tip: If you’re doing an intricate cookie, like a snow flake, you won’t be able to lift the tip as far away from the cookie.
• If you’re doing a different colour border, eg a black border, let the outline dry before flooding. If using the same colour for the outline as you’re flooding with, begin flooding after doing the outline.

Decorating: Flooding
• Fit the piping bag with a size 2-5 tip, the bigger the area being filled, the bigger the tip.
Tip: Or cut slightly more off the corner of a Ziploc bag to create a slightly larger opening.
• Quickly zigzag back and forth over the area you want to fill.
Tip: You need to be quick when flooding the cookie so don’t worry too much if it’s not filled in neatly.
• Using a toothpick or clean paintbrush, push the icing around into the gaps that are still remaining.
• Either pick up the cookie and tip it from side to side to even out the filling, or lightly bang the cookie down on your kitchen counter.

Decorating: Melding Colours
• If you would like to add lines or dots to the base colour that you flooded the cookie with so that they meld and dry as a smooth surface, you need to add the lines/dots/patterns as quickly as possible after flooding and smoothing the surface of the cookie.
Tip: Make sure to have all the colours you’re planning on using ready and close by so that you can switch between colours quickly
• Simply pipe other colours onto the flooded surface in patterns or lines which you can either leave as that or then drag a toothpick through to make marbling patterns.

Decorating: On top of flooding
• If you’d like to do other patterns/outlines or writing on top of the flooded surface so that they are raised above the flooded background, simply allow the icing to dry, preferably over night.
• Fit the piping bag with tip sizes 1-3.
• Pipe patterns or write on top of the dry icing
Tip: For writing, the consistency of your icing should be thicker rather than thinner, drag a knife through your icing and when the surface smooths around 12-15 seconds, the consistency is correct.
Packaging and Storing
• Once fully decorated, allow cookies to dry for 24 hours in a cool and dry area.
• Stack cookies in an airtight container, from largest cookies at the bottom, to smallest and more intricate at the top, with parchment or wax free paper in between the layers.
• Store in a cool and dry area with the container’s lid firmly sealed.
• Will last for about a month if stored this way.

General Baking Tips
• When measuring by volume (cup) always shift/aerate your flour/icing sugar in the container/bag before measuring because it settles as it sits and so you end up with more flour/icing sugar in your cup. I do this by moving the ingredient around with a spoon, whisk or fork.
• When measuring flour or icing sugar by volume (cup) never scoop the flour/icing sugar up with the cup otherwise you compress the contents and this can make a big difference in the amount you’re using. Rather, spoon the ingredient into the cup until level with the top.
• When measuring baking powder or baking soda, always level off the top of the measuring spoon with something flat (like the back of a knife) as these ingredients need to be accurately measured.
• When mixing your ingredients, always follow the recipe instructions, especially when it comes to beating in eggs and flour, so if it specifies to mix until just combined or to beat for 4 minutes, follow the instructions to get best results.
• Unless otherwise specified, always have your ingredients at room temperature.
• It’s always best to invest in an oven thermometer so that you know exactly the temperature you’re baking at then you can also find out if you have cold or hot spots in your oven.
• If you need to rotate your trays midst baking, always allow at least half the baking time to lapse before opening your oven to move baking trays around, this allows time for your baked goods to form a good structure so that they won’t flop.

General Royal Icing Tips
• Keep a damp cloth handy while decorating your cookies so that if you’re switching between different icing bags, you can keep the tips covered with the damp cloth so that the icing doesn’t dry and clog them.
• If your icing tips do clog, use a toothpick or pin to unclog them.
• Always pipe a little bit of royal icing onto a board/paper towel before you begin to make sure there are no air bubbles.
• Remember to always cover bowls containing royal icing wither cling wrap, a damp cloth or sealable lid so that the surface doesn’t dry.
• Don’t store anything decorated with royal icing in the fridge otherwise the royal icing will
become tacky.



Apple Crepes with Calvados Butter

It is apple season and I just bought a half case of MacIntosh apples from British Columbia.  That is what I used for this recipe.  I think that Macs from BC are the best apples in the world.

Apple Crepes with Calvados Butter Sauce

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados or other apple brandy
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Calvados butter sauce:
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons Calvados or other apple brandy

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium-size Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados or other apple brandy
For crepes:
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. DO AHEAD Crepe batter can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reblend before using.
Line plate with paper towel or parchment paper. Heat 9-inch-diameter nonstick skillet with 7-inch-diameter bottom over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons batter to skillet; tilt and rotate skillet to spread batter evenly over bottom. Cook until center of crepe is cooked through and edges are lightly browned, about 1 minute. Run spatula around crepe and invert onto prepared paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining batter, placing paper towel or parchment paper between crepes, making at least 18 crepes. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
For calvados butter sauce:
Using electric mixer, beat butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add sugar and coarse salt; beat until fluffy. Gradually beat in Calvados just until incorporated. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
For apples:
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add apples; sprinkle with sugar, coarse salt, and cinnamon. Sauté until apples are tender, about 3 minutes. Add Calvados and cook until most of liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Place crepe stack (with paper towels between crepes) on rimmed baking sheet. Cover baking sheet with foil and seal at edges; warm in oven until crepes are heated through, about 20 minutes for cold crepes and 15 minutes for room-temperature crepes.
Stir Calvados butter sauce in small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and heated through. Rewarm apple mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Place 1 crepe on plate, browned side down. Spoon 2 teaspoons Calvados sauce over crepe, then fold crepe into quarters. Repeat with remaining crepes and Calvados butter sauce, placing 3 crepes on each plate. Spoon apples over crepes on each. Spoon any remaining sauce over crepes and serve.

This is also for Fresh Friday with La Bella Vita!


Drive in the Country #6

Most of my drive was actually on the Trans Canada Highway!  I drove into our capital city this weekend for a bit of shopping and a visit with one of my sisters.

The weather was beautiful autumn weather.  But silly me, I forgot my camera.  My pictures are from the kindness of my sister and her husband.

We took their grandchildren into the Qu'Appelle Valley to a pumpkin patch and a corn maze.  This is a short drive north of the city.

The Qu'Appelle River and Valley derive their name from a Cree legend of a spirit that travels up and down it. The aboriginal people told the North West Company trader Daniel Harmon in 1804 that they often heard the voice of a human being calling, "Kâ-têpwêt?", meaning "Who is calling?" ("Qui appelle?" in French). They would respond, and the call would echo back (there is a strong echo phenomenon at Lebret).  E. Pauline Johnson, the half-Mohawk poet, whose "work was well received by critics and was popular with the public during her lifetime, but faded into obscurity after her death,"[2] and who made speaking tours of Canada, the United States, and England between 1892 and 1909, learned of the legend and elaborated upon it with Victorian sentiment. In her version, a young Cree swain heard his name while crossing one of the lakes and replied, "Who calls?" Only his echo could be heard (hence Echo Lake), and he realized it had been his bride-to-be calling out his name at the instant of her death.   (from Wikipedia)

E. Pauline Johnson's poetry taught me the meaning of onamatapoeia!  That is the talent of using words that sound like what you are describing, such as water lapping on a shore.

The folksinger and activist Buffy Saint-Marie was born on the Piapot Cree Reserve in the Qu'Appelle Valley. One of her songs is entitled "Qu'appelle Valley, Saskatchewan".   One of her best known songs is Univeral Soldier.

There is another little history lesson.

All too soon it was time to drive home to Swift Current.  The day was lovely.  Driving through the farmland, it was so nice to see that most of the crops have been harvested.  Dust hung in the air as trucks travelled down gravelled roads and combines were in the fields.  Hundreds of birds were flocking and readying for their long journey south.


My Sister's Homemade Pizza Pie

I spent the weekend visiting my sister and her husband and family in Regina.

Regina, the Latin word for "queen," was originally called Pile O'Bones. When it became the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1882 it was renamed Regina after Queen Victoria, the mother-in-law of the Governor General, the Marquess of Lorne. Regina was incorporated as a city in 1903, and was designated the capital city of Saskatchewan when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905.

So now that you have had your history lesson, I can proceed.  I went into the city to pick up light fixtures for my home renovation project.  It was so nice to be able to visit with my sister who has spent the past two and a half years in Nunuvut.

We were at lunch at the Fainting Goat when she asked me if I had my camera!  I was rather embarrassed to admit that I forgot to bring it along.  The Fainting Goat, by the way, was a nice little restaurant with Middle Eastern menu choices.  Ashley said the Tikka M'something Flatbread was "delicious"!  So when a teenager says something is "delicious" it is so!  We had a great lunch.

Dinner was at home.  My sister, Gloria, made pizza.  Well, it was the best homemade pizza I have ever had.  I took her little 'snap and shoot' digital camera to document the preparation.  The pizza dough recipe was from Jean Pare's Company's Coming - Breads cookbook.  It was different from what I have seen because it was a blend of a traditional yeast dough and a biscuit dough.  There was yeast and baking powder.  The result was amazing.  It was ideal for a traditional meat and cheese pizza.  We also added fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, red peppers and onions.  It was so crispy and tasty.

Pizza Dough  adapted from Company's Coming Breads

3 c all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons quick rise yeast
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 t sugar
6 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups warm water

Measure first 5 ingredients into a large bowl and mix.

Add cooking oil and warm water.  Mix well.  Turn onto a well floured board and knead 30-40 times until smooth and elastic.

Oil two 12 inch pizza pans.  Divide dough in half and pat and stretch the dough to fit the pans.  Bake at 425F for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and add your favourite toppings, starting with tomato/pizza sauce.  Bake at 425F for another 10 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

You will probably notice an interesting bottle of wine in most of the pictures.  What is cooking without wine!  It was called Girls Night Out and is a VQA wine from Ontario.  It was yummy!  And so appropriately named.  Only, Ashley had to enjoy her grape soda along with us, but kudos to a 14 year old for hanging out with the 'old ladies'.

And I also learned something new.  Flour is dated.  See this bag of Robin Hood flour.  It has a 10 for the year 2010.  The next number is 205 for the 205th day of 2010.  You know exactly when this flour was bagged.  Fresher flour is better so now I know how to check this before purchasing.  Never knew that!  Thanks Gloria!


Homemade Facial Exfoliant

I am branching out!  Using food for beauty products is not that far from cooking in the kitchen.  I have been wanting to buy a facial exfoliant but they are expensive, how good is the product, yada, yada.

When I have a kitchen full, why not try something homemade.

I found this recipe on a blog Pure Beauty.  From Nasirah's instructions I made this simple exfoliant.  I found that it was a little stingy on my face so next time I will likely use cornmeal rather than salt but it worked in a minute or two and left my face feeling so great.  And isn't the pretty peach colour so feminine!

Homemade Facial Exfoliant
1/3 cup pureed tomato
1/3 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons honey

Combine and rub onto face in circles.  Rinse.  Dry.  Moisturize.

This is my entry for Fresh Friday with Roz at La Bella Vita.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Stuffed grape leaves are a part of many cultures including the Syrians, the Turks, the Greeks, the Lebanese, the Albanians, the Israeli's, the Iranians, the Iraqis and the Armenians (just to name a few). Generally speaking the stuffed part could be in zucchinis/courgette, eggplant, tomato or peppers. Really it also extends to stuffing certain types of fish as well. It is suggested that the origin of stuffed grape leaves goes back to the time when Alexander the Great besieged Thebes. It has also been suggested the Byzantines refined and spiced up the recipe and used the leaves of other vines such as hazelnuts and figs.

I decided to use my old favourite recipe.  I love the sweetness from currants and flavour of pinenuts.

Yolantzi Dolmathes (Greece)                             from Time Life Books
Steamed Grape Leaves with Rice, Pine Nut and Currant Stuffing

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup uncooked long or medium grain white rice
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground blakc pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons dried currants
40 preserved grape leaves
2 tablespoons cold water
lemon wedges

In a heavy large skillet, heat  3 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it.  Add the onions and, stirring frequently, cook for 5 minutes, or until they are soft and transparent but not brown.  Add the rice and stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the grains are coated with oil.  Do not let them brown.  Pour in the water, add the salt and a few grindings of pepper and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid.  In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil and in it cook the pine nuts until they are a delicate brown.  Add them to the rice, then sir in the currants.

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Drop in the grape leaves and immediately turn off the heat.  Let the leaves soak for 1 minute, then drain them in a sieve and plunge them into a bowl or pan of cold water to cool them quickly.  Gently separate the leaves and spread them, dull sides up, on paper towels to drain.

Layer the bottom of a heavy 2 to 3 quart casserole with about 10 of the leaves.  Stuff each of the remaining leaves with about 1 tablespoon of the rice mixture.  Stack the stuffed leaves, side by side and seam sides down, in layers in the casserole and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the cold water.  Place the casserole over high heat for 3 minutes, reduce the heat to low and simmer, tightly covered, for 50 minutes.  Then uncover and cool to room termperature.

 To serve, arrange the stuffed grape leaves attractively on a platter or individual plates and garnish with lemon wedges.


Canadian Thanksgiving

The harvest is late and there is no time for the farmers to have a big sit-down turkey dinner.  Instead turkey was delivered to the men while they worked in the field.

Old Barns of Tennessee

A year ago I was house sitting in Tennessee.  I arrived late in August and stayed for over 5 months.  I am thinking about my friends that I met while I was down South.  This is a little tribute to the barns of east Tennessee.  And one picture of the Smoky Mountains in autumn.

For Fresh Friday with Roz at La Bella Vita I am revisiting the barns of east Tennessee that I would drive past almost every day.  Most are amidst lush greenness but you can see the change of the season with the barn still used to dry tobacco and with the old fashioned cantilevered barn.

This is also my entry for Seasonal Sunday with The Tablescaper.