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Kung Pao Veggies

Every year on Valentine’s Day, Hubby cooks me dinner.  And he never settles for something ordinary, either.  The weeks before he searches cookbooks and online recipes until he finds the perfect dishes.  It is his one day a year to shine in the kitchen!

For the past two years he has made dishes created by Chef Michael Smith (he’s a favourite around here!)  Last year he chose an Asian theme and we feasted on Kung Pao chicken and a cabbage salad with citrus dressing.

And oh the King Pao chicken!  Nutty and creamy and spicy and we were tempted to eat all of it in one sitting.  It is a recipe I have made again several times…..with a few changes of course!

Our new favourite is a vegetarian version (because we still like to eat meatless several nights a week), but keeps the wonderful sauce and is one of our favourite ways to eat cabbage! 

Kung Pao Veggies

  • peanut oil
  • 1 dried chilli, crumbled (adjust amount to your taste preferences)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper, seeded and cut into chunks or strips
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cups of chopped green cabbage
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (optional)

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce (for a completely vegetarian version, try substituting with soy sauce or tamari or Braggs and a dash of worcestershire – it won’t be the same, but it will still be good)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 heaping Tbsp natural peanut butter

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a large mason jar and shake until smooth.

Heat some oil in a wok or large frying pan.  When it’s hot, add the chili and stir.  Then add garlic and ginger and stir again.  Toss in the veggies (except bean sprouts) and continue to stir until the veggies are tender.  Pour in the sauce and stir until thick and bubbly.  (If you want a thicker sauce, simply add cornstarch mixed with water a little at a time until it looks the way you like it.  If things get a little too thick, toss in a little more orange juice.)  Stir in bean sprouts and serve over rice.

Enjoy!

 

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I was lucky enough to enjoy two Christmas dinners this year with all of the trimmings.  One with my husband’s family on Christmas day, and one with all of my family on New Years Day.

In my family, Christmas is the one time of year when there is not a bit of room in the fridge, and the fridge in the basement gets stuffed full too.  Dinner is always a feast, with lots of leftovers (which we like to call “encore presentations.”)

There are a few creative cooks in my family, and we enjoyed many variations on the theme, with lots of creative dishes featuring key ingredients found in various containers in the fridge. 

But there were still sweet potatoes left over.  I thought of making muffins, but we already had sweet potato bannock as well as several other types of bread.  I thought of making some type of fritter with them (maybe with some finely diced apple and cinnamon?), but as I had just made a batch of fritters with the white potatoes, it seemed like something else would be better suited.  (although I kind of like the idea of an apple/sweet potato fritter and might still try it sometime….)  In the end, I went looking for a recipe for Sweet Potato cookies, as with several cookie monsters in the house, our Christmas cookie selection was quickly dwindling.

I found a recipe, made a few changes (of course) and yum!  We had some beautiful, moist, cookies.  I especially enjoyed them warm for the oven, but they kept well in a cookie tin for a few days (and the sweet potato flavour intensified as they aged.)

Sweet Potato Cookies

based on this recipe

  • 1 cup cooked, mashed, sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Turn oven to 375.  Mix potato, milk, butter and egg and beat until smooth.  Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (or cook on a non-stick mat).  Bake for 15 minutes. 

Enjoy!

 

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Yummy Yogurt Waffles

The other day I was perusing one of my Christmas books, looking for yet more items to add to my ever-growing to-make list, and I discovered a recipe I just had to try.

I do not know why it is that I love breakfast foods so much, but I do.  I could eat pancakes, waffles, muffins, eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and be a happy girl.  So I couldn’t resist trying another waffle recipe.  And I’m glad I did.  Compared to some other waffle recipes I have made, these were light, not heavy, more like a pancake in texture than a waffle, staying soft and moist even when fully cooked.  With some fresh fruit, a dallop of yogurt and a drizzle of syrup they were perfection!  Here is the recipe:

Yummy Yogurt Waffles (formerly Sour Cream Fruity Waffles)

  • 1 1/4 cups whole white flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used a thick Balkan style)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I think I put in a little more than that and I loved the vanilla smell as they cooked!)

Combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs and mix with yogurt, milk, butter and vanilla.  Stir into the dry ingredients.  Bake in a waffle iron until done.  I got six waffles out of this batter in my waffle-maker. 

Enjoy!  They are also good reheated in the toaster!

 

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We have had some hot weather here over the last few days.  And on a steamy hot day, what better for cooling and refreshing than a cold glass of water? 

But somehow, water can seem a little ordinary.  But add some cucumber and lemon and a handful of garden-fresh herbs, and you’ve got something a little special, but just as thirst-quenching.  Make it in a glass pitcher, and you’ve got something pretty to grace your picnic table.

Refreshing Cucumber and Lemon Herb-Infused Water

  • a piece of cucumber
  • a lemon
  • a handful of herbs (I like mint or lemonbalm or a combination of the two)

 

Slice the cucumber into rounds and place in the bottom of your pitcher.

Cut the lemon in quarters and gently squeeze to release the juice as you place it on top of the cucumber.

Finally, gently squish the herb leaves in the palm of your hand to release their fragrance and flavour and place in the pitcher.

Fill the pitcher with cold water and ice and let steep for at least an hour before serving.

We often fill our pitcher up with water a second time and leave it in the fridge for the next day with results that are just as refreshing.

Enjoy! 

How are you keeping cool on these hot summer days?

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I’ve had this Harry Potter inspired project on the back-burner for the last few months, but with the new (and last!) movie coming out very soon I knew now was the time to tackle it.

And so, may I present, straight from my sewing room Madam Malkin’s: Robes for All Occasions: Gryffindor school robes!

I used this tutorial on BurdaSyle and although I found them a bit of a challenge to put them together, I am pretty happy with the results.

I used broadcloth for its affordability, and found the Gryffindor crest on Etsy.

If you are thinking of making some yourself, definitely read through all of the comments on the tutorial, as they were really helpful in drafting and cutting out the pattern.  Next time (oh yes, there will be a next time, I still have at least one more to make!) despite the extra fabric it will take, I think I will line the whole front, and not just 4 inches as the pattern calls for.  This was the first time I have used seam tape and I wasn’t really happy with it. 

I can’t wait to hand these robes over to their owner tomorrow! 

Harry Potter Fun!

Your robes are on and you are ready for a magical adventure.  Here are some magical ideas I’ve collected from around the web.  (Most of these I used to create a magical day at Hogwarts for my students, but the kitchen creations would be appreciated by fans of all ages.)

1.  Find or make yourself an owl and send letters by “owl post” in invisible ink.  (I was lucky enough to find a beautiful snowy owl stuffy at a yard sale, but several years ago I made a pompom owl for my mother as part of  Harry Potter-themed birthday present, that, of course, had to arrive by owl post.)  Or write letters in regular ink, or with calligraphy pens,  on “scrolls” (receipt or adding-machine tape works great for this!)

2.  Spend a day taking classes at Hogwarts! 

  • Herbology: create magical plants of your own with art supplies, or use your imagination and spend some time in the garden planting and caring for “magical” plants. 
  • Potions: think cooking or science experiments (magic mud is a favourite), or write your own
  • Transfiguration: play a game of charades
  • Charms: create your own spells
  • and if you have enough people, don’t forget to play a game of Quidditch (I have played a modified version with as few as seven people)

3.  Cook up some favourite Hogwarts treats by following some fun recipes on Heather Bailey’s site: Chocolate Wands, Butterbeer and mini broomsticks, Cockroach Clusters, and of course you could always make chocolate frogs or pretend any jelly beans are of the “Bertie Botts Every Flavoured” variety.   

Enjoy!   And remember: “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”

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The gardens are planted, the weeding is done (for now!) and it is time to enjoy the first of the garden’s harvest.  Fresh leaves of all kinds are poking up in my garden, perfect for pairing with radishes, asparagus, strawberries, and other early summer fruits and veggies.  To top it all off, here is a quick and easy yogurt-based salad dressing.

Yogurt & Herb Dressing

  • plain yogurt
  • fresh lemon juice
  • fresh herbs (I love this dressing with mint)

Pour some plain yogurt into a glass jar with a lid.  (You don’t really need to measure, think about the size of the salad you need to dress and then eyeball it.)  Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and some freshly chopped herbs.  Put the lid on and shake the bottle.  If the dressing is too thick, add a little more lemon juice.  If it’s too thin, add a little more yogurt.   

Toss it with your salad and enjoy!

What’s your favourite way to enjoy the first of the harvest?

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Last week, a co-worker handed me a recipe for “Cranberry Almond Bread.”   She told  me it was “that amazing bread so-and-so’s mom brought into the school last week.”   There almost always seems to be some amazing treat in our school kitchen (which has led many of us to both love and fear going in there) but I must have missed out on the bread because I don’t remember it at all.   On the other hand, the last week of school was a whirlwind.   I packed as much as I could into those last days of school so I’m not too surprised that I missed out on the usual kitchen treats!

A quick glance at the recipe told me it was something I could work with, so I brought it home with me to test out.   I took it out tonight, and after my usual fiddling started to create the bread only to discover that I don’t own any almond extract.  So I threw caution to the wind and let the contents of my fridge be my guide, and as I write this I am now eating a very delectable bread that would probably be unrecognizable to the person who wrote the original recipe, but is excellent and worth sharing anyway.  (It is a rare thing to get a recipe right the first time you make rewrite it, so I am savouring this moment!)

Orange Cranberry Bread

  • 2 cups flour (I used 1 cup spelt and 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  •  1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. orange marmalade
  • orange zest (optional – I didn’t have any to add, but I think it will give the bread a nice orangey zing.)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (I used maple sugar)
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine egg, honey, orange juice, applesauce, butter, marmalade, and orange zest.

Add the wet to the dry and stir until just moistened.

Fold in the cranberries.

Spread in a greased loaf pan.  (I always put a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of my loaf pans – it makes it very easy to get the loaf out of the pan.)

Sprinkle the almonds and sugar on top.

Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (You can see from the photo that I left mine in just a tad too long…)  Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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Zucchini is something that grows very well in our garden.  So well, that with only 3 plants we (or I…hubby won’t touch it) ate it all through the summer, shared some with neighbours, and stocked the freezer with bags of grated zucchini for baking.

For the last three years I have frozen enough zucchini to bake muffins and breads all through the winter.

And then I forget about it.

And much of it is still waiting for me when I go to freeze the next batch the following year.  (I know, I know, sometimes I think I’m hopeless too….)

But not so this year!   I made it my mission to test out new recipes this winter and to use up what was in my freezer BEFORE the first yellow zucchini blossoms appeared this summer.

And so it was that I have discovered my new favourite zucchini muffin recipe.  It’s based on one found in “Cook Once a Week: Eat Well Every Day”  by Theresa Albert-Ratchford, but adapted of course to my whole grain, skip the refined sugar, baking style.    They are moist and stay moist even a day or so after baking and freeze exceptionally well (and the double batch is perfect for freezing!) 

Favourite Zucchini Muffins

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup date palm sugar (this is what I had on hand, feel free to substitute whatever sugar works for you)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups whole white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini (thawed and drained if frozen)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed

Beat the eggs, and add in the honey, sugar, applesauce, oil, butter, almond butter and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl combine the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

Add to sugar mixture with zucchini and stir until combined.

Fold in raisins and flaxseed.

Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes. 

Enjoy!

 

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You might remember from last year that once a year my students get to choose their own topic of study for a month.  This year the winner was something they called “Ooshy, Gooshy, Take Home Science.”   So this month I have been up to my elbows in goo each day as we explore the messiest science experiments I can find, and at the end of the day there is always something ooshy or gooshy for them to take home with them. 

On one of our theme days I decided to teach the students about kitchen chemistry.  We had already learned about suspensions in a previous science experiment (a solution where solid molecules are suspended in a liquid) so making our own butter seemed like a good extension of this.

It was a hit!   (With the students and the grown-ups in the room.)  It was fun to make, and delicious spread on our home-made pizza dough  (we studied how leavening agents work) with a little garlic and cheese as homemade garlic fingers. 

You can make your own butter, too.  Here’s how:

Start with whipping cream and a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.  (The bigger the jar, the harder work this is going to be so start small.)

Fill the jar 1/3 full of cream.

Now shake!

This takes a lot of shaking, and if there are kids doing it, a lot of “is it done yet?  Can we look at it?  If you stop to look, you will see that it is getting thicker, but it’s not butter yet.

Put some good shaking music on to renew the motivation to keep shaking!  In my classroom we enjoyed shaking around to “Philadelphia Chickens” from the Sandra Boynton CD of the same title.

Eventually it is going to get so thick that you feel like you can’t shake anymore.  Trust me, it can be done. 

On the outside the jar is all white.  On the inside you will find you’ve made whipping cream.  Yummy, but not the goal for the day.  Put the lid back on and shake some more. 

You will know your shaking is paying off when you start to see little bits of clear glass again.  Keep shaking.

As the cream turns into butter and buttermilk the sides of the jar will become clear again and you will be able to see the butter starting to gather.  Keep shaking until you have a nice clump of butter and some milky white liquid (the buttermilk)

Open the jar and pour off the buttermilk (you can save it for baking if you like.)  Rinse your butter with cold water and transfer to a serving dish.

You have just made your very own butter!  (and enjoyed a good arm workout, too!)  Enjoy!

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Source:  Victory Economy Bulletin No. 10  Date:  WW2

It’s been a while since I have done one of these posts.  If you are unfamiliar with this project, you can find out more here

With the war putting restrictions on sugar, these “Victory Economy Bulletins” were put out by the Lakeside Home Baking Services Bureau as a way to help the cooks of the day create favourite recipes without sugar, and, of course, to promote the use of Campbell’s flour.  I have made a few recipes from these bulletins already, some successfully, some not

I think this might be the best one so far.  It is sweet, with jam being the only sweet ingredient, it’s moist, easy to make, and Hubby would have happily eaten it all in one sitting if I had let him.  “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!” 

Here is the recipes as written:

And my version.

Jam Roly-Poly

Mix one cup of whole wheat pastry flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. 

(Note the vintage bowl)  🙂

Cut in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or softened butter until crumbly. 

Add enough milk to make a soft dough (I found this took slightly less than 1/3 cup)

Roll about 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.  If necessary, use your fingers to nudge it into a rectangular shape.   Spread with a thick jam (I used raspberry.)

Gently roll up the dough until you have a log-looking shape.  (Be gentle!  You don’t want the jam to squish out everywhere!)

Now….here is the step that gave me pause.  The recipe asks me to put it into a greased bowl and steam.  Although I vaguely remember my grandmother steaming plum puddings at Christmas it has been years since I have seen such a thing.  Hello Google!  I discovered the Roly-Poly was often originally steamed in a shirt sleeve to keep its log-like shape, but that you could also wrap it in parchment paper to achieve the same effect.  Many sites recommended the use of a “pudding steamer” (hmmm…..I seem to have missed that one on the bridal registry…) which is a nice oblong shape.  Then there were sites that recommended using your roasting pan as the steamer with the metal rack serving to keep the pudding off the bottom.

Choices, choices.

So I went to the expert – Mom!  She recommended the use of a double boiler steamer and a glass bowl (hmm….kind of like the original recipe suggested?)  The problem is the long log wouldn’t fit into the bowl that would fit into my double broiler (trust me, this recipe is easy, I just have a knack for turning the easiest thing into a Google hunt.)

So, I did what I should have done from the beginning.  I cut the roll in half, put them side by side in the greased bowl, covered it with parchment paper secured with an elastic, and put it in the steaming basket over a pot of boiling water.

After 45 minutes I had almost boiled my pot dry (note to self, check the pot every once in a while when steaming) and the pudding was steamed to perfection. 

The recipe suggests serving with a sauce, but I opted for whipping up a little cream and flavouring it with a little of the raspberry jam.  Yum. 

Not only was this a good dessert, but I no longer have a fear of steamed puddings (and there are MANY of them in Nana’s collection.) 

I’d love to know if you give this a try, or if you have tried other steamed desserts.    Enjoy!

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