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Archive for February, 2012

Calling all mushroom lovers. Ovvvv–er here!

 

One of the things I absolutely love to eat are appetizers.  They’re so cute and so flavourful and of course, so little, that you have to have more than just one, or even two and well, dog-gone-it, sometimes 3 or 4.  Well the great thing about these little appetizers, is that they are almost all vegetables, so I’m giving you permission to have as many as you like and there’s absolutely no guilt involved.  None. Eat as many as your little heart desires.

The thing I like about this combination of flavours is its freshness.  It doesn’t leave a heavy aftertaste, nor does it make you feel like you’ve over-indulged.  It delivers a light, flavourful mouthful with every bite that will have your family and friends coming back for more. Served at a party, as an appetizer, these yummy little morsels are sure to get polished off.

Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

4 strips bacon, diced

1/4 cup (50 ml) ground pork

30 – 40 medium to large fresh mushrooms

1 cup (250 ml) onion and garlic salad croutons, crushed

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1/2 yellow pepper, finely diced

1/4 cup  (50 ml) grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons (25 ml) minced fresh parsley

1-1/2 teaspoons (6 ml) minced fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Method

1. In a large skillet, cook pork, drain fat and pat with a paper towel.  Chop finely with a knife or a hand-held blender and set aside. In the same skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, until crisp.  Remove to paper towels; pat dry, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings.

 

2. Remove stems from mushrooms; set caps aside. Finely chop half of the stems (save the remaining for another use).  Add chopped stems to bacon drippings; saute for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat. 

3. Mix mushroom stems with crushed croutons, cheeses, tomato, pepper, cooked ham, bacon, parsley and oregano.

4. Firmly stuff crouton mixture into mushroom caps. Place on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 425 °F for 12-15 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine 2011

Notes

I filled a combination of 40 medium to large mushrooms and still ended up with enough filling left over for a great lunch idea which I’ll be posting here later in the week. In the meantime, here’s a handy little tip I found over at Farm Boy to keep mushrooms fresh.

What’s the best way to keep Mushrooms fresh?
Once you’ve purchased mushrooms loose or in a package, keep them in a paper bag to ensure freshness. This allows the mushrooms to breathe better and stay fresher longer so they retain their firm, tasty shape. Do not store them in plastic bags since plastics non-porous nature causes faster deterioration and loss of flavour while cooking. Stored properly, mushrooms should keep for several days. It doesn’t matter what size of mushrooms you pick. Size isn’t a sign of quality or age. Large ones are great for stuffing and smaller ones for marinating. Medium mushrooms are perfect for anything.

 

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A couple of weeks ago, on February 9th, Paula, of Vanilla Bean Baker, who is

an ultra talented baker, introduced 16 year old Angelyn, of Everyday

Desserts.  Angelyn bakes some seriously decadent cookies, brownies and

treats that are highly addictive and almost always contain chocolate in some

form or another.  I can’t wait  to try a TON of her recipes. 

As a guest blogger for Paula, Angelyn’s post was an awesome Deep Dish Milky

Way Cookie that she’d baked up in a “Whoopie pie pan”.  These cookies looked

so good that I decided right then and there that I wanted to give them a try. 

I immediately rang my husband and asked him would he pret-ty, pret-ty 

please pick me up some “Milky Ways”, if I promised to bake him something

pret-ty special and delicious.  What I didn’t know, is that Milky Way chocolate

bars aren’t sold in Canada, and so I was presented with a package of Snickers

chocolate bars and a package of Mars chocolate bars instead.  I could have my

pick. No problem ~ either would work perfectly.  I decided to go with the

Snickers because the thought of peanuts AND caramel AND cookie dough

sounded like something I’d dreamed of. 

Unfortunately this brought me to my next problem, which was that I didn’t

have a whoopie pie pan. I’m smart enough to know, no amount of pret-ty

pleasing was going to get me a whoopie pan, and since I’d rather stay home

than go out, I decided to be resourceful, and pulled out my 9″x9″ pan and

made bars instead.

Yum. Yum. Yum. 

Look, you can see the Snickers chocolate bar right there

surrounded by all that yummy cookie dough.

I made some tea and we ate some bars and it was … JOY-ful.

  Served warm, these are rich, chewy and delicious. 

In fact, I like them best, served warm, it brings out the chewiness.  

Even though it may look like it, we didn’t actually eat outside.  Unfortunately,

it’ll be at least a month before spring arrives, though it does feel like it’s close

by at times. The sun wasn’t coming in the window when I tried to take these

pictures so I decided to take the party outside.  The good news, is that as of

yesterday, I now have a whoopie pan and can’t wait to make these bars

again.  Whoop–ie!!

Deep Dish Snickers Bars

1 cup butter (250 ml), room temperature

1 cup (250 ml) dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp (5 ml)vanilla

1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda

1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) baking soda

1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) coarse sea salt

2 1/2 cups ( 625 ml) all purpose flour

4 Snickers chocolate bars, chopped

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 ° F (180 ° C).  Prepare a 9″ x 9″ pan by first spraying it with cooking spray.

2. Mix flour, baking soda and sea salt and set aside.

3. Cream butter and sugars together in electric mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed until really creamy (approximately 5 minutes). Turn speed to low and add eggs, one at a time until completely mixed.  Add vanilla and mix. With mixer on low, add flour, baking soda and sea salt. When just mixed, fold in chopped Snickers bars.

4. Press batter into prepared pan and bake for 22-25 minutes until the edges are golden and the center is JUST set.  Remove from the oven and let cook in pan. When cool, turn out onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and serve.

Makes 1 dozen large bars or 2 dozen medium bars

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I’ve discovered that I’m hardwired to bake.  It’s what I think about when I

wake up in the morning and what I think about when I’m driving, when I’m

at the grocery store, or in the dentists’ chair. It’s what I think about when

I’m in a crowd or all alone.  It’s what I yearn for when I have other chores

to do, what I stay up late for and what I dream about. It’s how I mend a

wounded heart, comfort a worn out soul, plan a big event, show off a new

idea, serve up my sincere gratitude, or share my heartfelt love.  Quite

simply, it’s what makes me happy. And I know it makes a lot of you happy too.

Seeing as today is a day for declaring our love for the people and things we

love, I took this opportunity to write my true love a very special Valentine.

 

 

For a long time I searched for “my calling”.  Something I was good at.

Though I tried on many hats, nothing seemed to be a good fit. Until, quite

unexpectedly, I discovered I was good at something I already did.  It’s funny

how you can miss something so entirely, while you’re incredibly busy looking

for it.  Has anything like that ever happened to you?

I baked these cupcakes for Jennie, my son’s special valentine, on the

occasion of her 21st birthday.  The  vanilla buttercream recipe is the same

one I always use, and the one I wrote about earlier in the week, in the

post Strawberry Heart Cupcakes. It tastes delicious on any flavour of cupcake.

I hope you’re enjoying the valentines in your life, today … and every day.

Love, Jackie  XXOO

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They say love is in the air, so what better way to say “I love you”  than with a strawberry cupcake topped with whipped buttercream and candied hearts.

These cupcakes are easy, moist and straw-bel-icious!!!  Filled with fresh

strawberries the sweet, light flavour comes through in every bite. Whip

some up for the sweethearts in your life.

 

Strawberry Cupcakes

Makes 12

1/3 cup (75 g) butter, softened

1 cup (230 g) sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp (2 ml) vanilla

1 cup (150 g) flour

1 tsp ( 5 ml) baking powder

1/3 cup (85 ml) milk

6-8 (120 g) fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped

1-2 drops gel food colour in red (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F /175 ° C.  Line one standard 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the egg and then the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating between the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; beat until combined after each addition.  Fold in the strawberries. At this point I added two drops of Americolor “Super Red” soft gel paste food colour to add a deeper strawberry colour.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups so that each is about two-thirds full.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are slightly golden around the edges and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean,about 20 minutes.  Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 2 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the pan and cool completely on wire racks.

This recipe can easily be doubled.

Vanilla/Strawberry Buttercream

Yields:  3 cups

5 large egg whites

1 cup (210 g) butter, softened

1 cup (190 g) + 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar

6-7 (100 g) chopped strawberries (optional)

1. Pour egg whites and sugar into a grease-free and heatproof bowl. Place the bowl in a double boiler, with the water simmering, but not touching the bowl.  Whisk the sugar and eggs continuously until it reaches 160 °F / 70 °C .  This will take approximately 15 minutes.  If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the mixture by rubbing it between your fingers; if the sugar has dissolved, and the mixture is thick, it’s ready for the next step.

2. Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whip using the whisk attachment until white, glossy, thick and cool.  You can test the temperature by placing your hand on the outside of the bowl, if it’s comfortable and approximately room temperature, it’s ready for the butter.  This step can take 10 – 15 minutes.

3. Start by switching to the paddle attachment on your mixer.  Slowly add the butter in chunks, one at a time, until incorporated and your mixture is thick, smooth and silky.

Notes:

Don’t worry is your mixture looks soupy or curdles.  It may appear to be ruined, but keep mixing and it will come together.  If your buttercream appears to be too runny; place the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes and rewhip.  If the buttercream appears to be to cold, set it back in the double boiler for a few seconds and whip again.

Add the pure vanilla extract or scrape a vanilla bean, if you would like some tiny vanilla bean specs, and mix.

If you would like to have a strawberry buttercream add 100 g (6-7) coarsely chopped fresh strawberries to the buttercream and whip for 1-2 minutes.  (You can also add a drop of strawberry flavouring, though you won’t need it if your strawberries have a lot of flavour).

Pipe vanilla buttercream using a Wilton tip # 2A  tip in a pastry bag in swirls on the cooled cupcake topped with a couple of candy hearts, sprinkles, smarties or Hershey’s kisses.

To pipe the strawberry buttercream you will need to use an open piping tip so that the strawberries won’t get stuck in the tip.  Wilton # 12 Round or #199 Open Star should work just fine.

The buttercream should be used immediately or stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer.  Leave out at room temperature and rewhip with the paddle attachment of your mixer for 5 to 10 minutes when needed.

Mmmm. Mmm. mmm. mm. Can’t you just taste that fresh berri ‘ ness?

Hope you’re busy spread’in some berry-licious love and I hope you have a wonderful

weekend.~!

Jackie

XXOO

 

 

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One potato, two potato.

My dear friends, please forgive me, but this is my second potato recipe  in 

just over a week and I’m not done yet.  The thing is, I’m making a lot of  them

these days and they’re so yummy, that I just have to share them here with

you.  It’s all white and winter-y here in Ontario, so I’m fixated on warm, stick-

to-your ribs, comfort foods and potatoes keep making the menu.

When you think of all the ways that you can prepare potatoes, it makes

you realize what a versatile vegetable they are.  Whether in soups, stews,

casseroles, bread, rolls, pancakes (yum, LOVE potato pancakes), baked,

boiled, or roasted  ~ you’ve gotta admit, potatoes are pretty awesome. 

What I like about THESE potatoes is they’re crispy outside followed by a soft

and yummy inside. Par-boiling makes all the difference. It releases the starch

before you bake them in the oven, jump-starting the crisping process.  By

tossing them vigorously with garlic, salt and olive oil, for one to two minutes,

the water evaporates quickly and you get a nice starchy coating all over,

which gets all nice and crispy in the oven. Just look at all that yummy garlic,

olive oil and starchy coating.

Yukon Gold potatoes offer the best results for this recipe.  They ensure an

even crispiness outside and a silky-smooth inside – everytime. It’s also

important to get the pan good and hot before you put them in the oven in

order to achieve that crispness and golden colour. Chopped garlic is optional,

but if you like garlic, be sure to mix it in, as it adds another flavour dimension. 

 

Placing the sliced potatoes in a single layer, flat on the baking sheet, achieves

a warm, golden color and a nice, even crispness. Take them out of the oven

after 15 – 20 minutes, when you’ve got a nice crispy brown all around the

edges, and give them a good flip.

 

Back in the oven for 10 more minutes and voila, gorgeous crispy, baked

potatoes. Sprinkle them with a little salt and some ground pepper and you will

eat well, my friend.

These potatoes are great.

for breakfast.

for lunch.

for dinner.

They’re really quick and they fill people up.

They’re delicious! 

They BAKE in the oven, while you’re busy with other things. (Like taking

pictures of things baking in the oven).

They’re self-sufficient – which is awesome.You only need to flip them ONCE,

not a gazillion times like the fry pan method. I love self-sufficient food.  

Things, or people.

They free up your stove top. You can never have enough stove top.

They’re versatile. 

Here are just a few flavour combinations you can try.

Serve them with eggs, for a hearty, country-style breakfast.

 

Dip them in sour cream, apple sauce and then sprinkle them with a wee bit of

chili powder.

 Mmmm … can you say delicious?

  

For those who recently accepted my invitation to follow this blog, and for all

of your encouragement and fantastic advice,  thank you from the bottom of

my heart. I look forward to sharing more posts about our life here in the

country, the foods we love and the everyday adventures we encounter while

raising a family on a working farm in Ontario. From my table to yours, I hope

you’re having an awesome, super delicious day. 

Love, Jackie

This Sweet Wife

Here’s the recipe:

Crispy Roasted Potatoes

Adapted from: The Best of America’s Test Kitchen

2 1/2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5 medium)

rinsed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds.  For the photos, my

potatoes were peeled; you can do either peeled or unpeeled.

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Method

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on

the rack, and heat the oven to 400°F (200° C).  Place the potatoes and 1

tablespoon salt in a Dutch oven and add cold water to cover the potatoes by 1-

inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and gently simmer

until the exteriors of the potatoes have softened but the centers offer

resistance when pierced with a paring knife, about 5 minutes.  Drain the

potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.  Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons

of the oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Using a rubber spatula, toss

to combine.  Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons more oil and 1/2

teaspoon salt and continue to toss vigorously until the exteriors of the potato

slices are coated with a starchy paste, 1 to 2 minutes.

 

2. Working quickly, remove the baking sheet from the oven and drizzle the

remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the surface. Carefully transfer the potatoes

to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer (skin side up if an end

piece).  Bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are golden brown and crisp, 15

to 20 minutes.

 

3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula and

tongs, loosen the potatoes from the baking sheet andcarefully flip each slice. 

Continue to roast potatoes until the second side is golden and crisp, 10 to 15

minutes longer, rotating the baking sheet as needed to ensure the potatoes

brown evenly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

 

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