Monday, February 21, 2011

The new joy of my lunches - Carolyn Salad

A few months back, my Mum, her friend Carolyn and I went on a shopping expedition to Buffalo, NY. We had a wonderful time and desperately tried to have lunch while in and around the Walden Galleria Mall but the wait time everywhere we went was more than an hour. We decided to drive home and find somewhere to eat in our neck of the woods. An hour later we were at Milestones and were plotting what would satiate our ever agonizing hunger pangs! I can't for the life of me remember what I ordered but our darling friend, Carolyn, ordered their California Spring Salad. She said it was delicious but was convinced that she could make her own version at home. She swore that she would scour the internet to find out how to make it. 

About two weeks ago, I have beginning a lovely bout of some stomach bug that is going around, but I was trying to be a trooper through the experience. Mum and I had gone to visit our local garden store with Carolyn and her husband, Gord, and were invited back to their place for lunch. I was quite content on just having some toast for lunch but Carolyn insisted on making me her version of Milestone's salad and who was I to say no? Let me tell you I was BLOWN AWAY by not only how delicious this salad was, but also how easy it was to make. 

The recipe can be found on Bakergirl's blog, bakergirl's creations, here. In the first week of having this recipe, I actually made this salad 4 times!!!! And then made it again twice last weekend! The recipe is really straightforward and simple. I actually just bought candied pecans rather than making my own. Also, the dressing recipe makes a TON of dressing. I found that making that much was great as it lasted for 4 large salads. I did lessen the amount of poppy seeds to about 1/4 cup rather than 1/3 cup since I thought it was just way too much. I think the most important piece of advice that I can give about making this recipe is this: when the recipe says make the dressing in the blender, listen to the recipe. I have made the recipe once in the blender and once just by mixing everything in a jar and shaking it and it doesn't work as well. I know it's a pain in the neck to pull out the blender just for the dressing but I swear it's worth it.

I mean really, how can you say no to this gorgeous salad??

For those of you living in Ontario, I hope you all had a relaxing Family Day - I know I did!! 

Enjoy the rest of your week, loves!

Happy Cooking!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cooking à la française aka Beef in Beer and a dream come true

I have always wanted a dutch oven. CORRECTION: I have always wanted a cast iron dutch oven. After having watched countless Food Network chefs use theirs to make stews, braises, bread and all sorts of wonderfulness, I have wanted to get one. My colour scheme in my kitchen (when I move out) is burnt orange and so I had always figured that one day I would save up enough money and splurge on a Le Creuset Orange dutch oven. Well, I couldn't wait any more: I wanted one and I wanted one now. I set out a few weeks ago on a mission to try and find one that wasn't going to cost me my first born! It also probably didn't help that I watched this recipe being made that morning while watching French Food at Home.

I have always had a love for stews. My first experience with them were from my maternal Grandmother, my Baba, who makes a goulash that my brother and I still go crazy for. Frankly though, Baba's goulash is pressure cooked to infinity and beyond but it's comfort food regardless. After watching Julie and Julia for the first time, I oh so desperately wanted to make boeuf bourguignon and did make it as per Julia child's recipe (I will write a post about that one day). It was delicious even though I feel that somethings didn't quite work out as well as they should have. So naturally, when I came across Laura Calder's recipe for Beef in Beer, I knew I had to make it. 

As any beef stew begins, you must brown the meat. One little tidbit of information that I've learned from Julia Child is that your meat must be dry before you brown it, because if it is too wet, it won't brown. Your first step is to brown the meat. To do so, melt some butter in a cast iron dutch oven like so:

Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Be sure not to overcrowd the pot:

Look at the delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pot!

Next, and without getting rid of the delicious brown bits, throw in your onions and start to brown them too. They will somehow know to pick up all of the wonderful-ness that has developped on the bottom of the pot:

Once the onions and garlic are cooked and soft, remove them and add your flour to make a roux - pronounced roo! (as an aside, a roux is called that because of its colour. Roux is french for rust, and that is truly the colouring that you're looking for when you make a roux!) A roux is very simply flour and some sort of fat mixed together until it's cooked. It is then used to thicken a sauce and is the base for many wonderful dishes such as bechamel sauce and southern gumbos! I know a roux isn't the most beautiful thing, but I promise you the things that it can do for you is definitely beautiful. Give it time, it's really it's own little ugly duckling!

When your roux is ready, add some stock, beer and vinegar. I was a little apprehensive about this combination of ingredients but you will personally want to thank Laura Calder and the entire population of France when you try this dish! Cook this saucey goodness until it thickens. Now here comes the fun part: LAYERING! 

Layer some of your precooked onions on the bottom of the dutch oven, followed by some beef, followed by some more onions and more beef. 

Then toss in the bouquet garni and add some more beef and onions. 

My bouquet garni - simple with just lemon thyme and rosemary sprigs

All of that reserved stock/beer/vinegar thickened mixture, now gets poured over the beef and onion layers until it looks something like this:

Now, boys and girls, this is the hardest part of the entire beef in beer stew making process. You have to let this sit covered, in your oven, for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Do not peek at it, do not fidget with it, for all I care, go and take a nap (but set a timer!). Once it's done, take the beef out, and add a sort of quick makeshift roux to the sauce. My quick roux was simply 2 tablespoons of butter on a plate mixed with about a tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Just mash them up until they make a paste then add them to the stew juices. 

Let it come back to a boil for about 5 minutes and then add your beef in once more while taking out the bouquet garni. Let it all simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes, and serve while piping hot over some delicious grain like rice or in my case, quinoa. I've grown to love beef stew on top of quinoa because it truly is divine! Right before serving, toss some chopped parsley on top as garnish, grab a hunk of baguette and run with it. This dish will have you craving MORE!!!! 


  • 2 tablespoons beef drippings or butter, more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds sirloin tip, cut into fat fingers
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 cups beer
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme spring, a few parsley stems)


  1. Melt the butter and oil together in a sauté pan and, working in batches, brown the beef strips on all sides. Remove. In the same pan, fry the onions until soft, about 15 minutes, then add the garlic one minute. Remove. (Check if there is fat in the pan. If not, add a good tablespoon of butter and let it melt.)
  2. Add the flour and sugar to the pan and cook 1 minute to make a roux. Gradually whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. (At this point, turn the oven on to 325°F/160°C.) Add the beer and the vinegar to the boiling stock, and bring back to the boil, cooking until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove.
  3. In a large casserole, layer the onion mixture alternately with the beef strips, seasoning each layer as you go with salt and pepper. Tuck in the bouquet garni and pour the liquid over. Cover and bake for 2-1/2 hours. If you can wait a day before eating, cool the dish completely when it’s out of the oven, and refrigerate overnight: the flavour will be even better when you reheat it.

I hope you're all having a wonderful long weekend! I know I am looking forward to not dreading Monday morning this week!!!! 

Take care and happy cooking!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Heart Day Baking Extravaganza

There is no hiding it. Not even if I tried. I LOVE CUPCAKES!!!! Even more than just loving cupcakes for the purpose of consumption, I adore making them! They're just so perfect and cute and little and there is nothing better than a simple swirl of frosting on top of them. 

My girlfriend, Kathryn, suggested that we make Valentine's Day cupcakes together yesterday so she could send some to school with her Mum this morning. While I was looking forward to a typical lazy Sunday of nothingness, I welcomed the idea thinking that I would whip up a batch of cupcakes and take them to work with me. While Kathryn wanted to make some very cute and fun cupcakes, I was on a mission to make a classically swirled cupcake with a twist. Ladies and gents, I have never made frosting that swirls two colours (intentionally) but am so glad I tried it. 

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, here are what products of our labourious afternoon :) Red Velvet Cupcakes (Martha Stewart's Recipe) with a twist - I threw in about a cup of semi sweet chocolate chips/chunks. 

My kitchen table during the crafting process

The boxed little bits of goodness

Kathryn's cupcakes - I LOVE the XO one!
I want to wish you all a very Happy Valentine's Day and hope that you're spending it doing something you love with someone you love :) 

Happy Monday! 


Saturday, February 12, 2011

New-found Addiction

I am in love with The Nesting Project!!!! This blog is fantastic and I have only just discovered it! I swear Rosy, who writes the blog, is me in Tennessee! She cooks, she sews, she knits and she is wonderful :) 

I was at home yesterday going through my rounds of checking up on all of my regular blogs and was so enamored with her blog that not only did I decide to replicate one of her posts, but TWO! Post one was about a delightful knitted blanket found here. I've been trying to knit my own blanket for AGES now and it takes so much time (especially since I am using quite small knitting needles!) but this one is sinfully easier because the needles are so much bigger. I promise to post a photo ones mine is done! I swear there is nothing more fantastic than finding the supplies for one's new project on sale for half price! Hello $30 blanket! 

The second post was for Challah Bread (found here)! It's from one of my favourite books, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and I have tried to make it once before. While my bread turned out amazingly, I don't think it's really possible to call what I made Challah for the simple fact that I forgot to add the eggs (don't ask, it was a long day!) Challah is a sweet egg bread and when one forgets to add the eggs, you don't in fact have challah. Regardless, The Nesting Project has made me want to make it again and that boys and girls is exactly what this gal is doing today!

I will post the results of both projects as soon as they're complete! 

Happy Saturday!!! 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cornmeal Muffin HEAVEN!

I don't know if I've mentioned this in the past but I LOVE cornmeal muffins. My Dad used to buy them for me every once in a while and I'm pretty sure that's where the love affair began. It probably also doesn't help that when we used to vacation in Jamaica, they used to serve them every morning along with the most delightfully moist banana bread. Anyway,  I am always intrigued when I come across a cornmeal muffin recipe and tuck them away into my "try me one day" folder. However, the recipe that I came across at Blissfully Domestic claimed that these muffins were both moist AND delicious. How could I resist!?!?

So with a girls brunch coming up and all of us bringing something, I decided to give these muffins a try. Am I ever happy that I did!!!!!  They are super easy to make, they are moist and delicious and they keep well in a sealed container for upwards of a week. On top of all of this wonderfulness, I also got to use some of my cute cupcake liners (have I mentioned that I have a slight obsession with them? Well, I do!). And here they are, in all of their delicious and amazing glory! 

Featherlight Corn Muffins
by Gale Gand
  • 1 cup All Purpose flour
  • 1/2 C yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. Grease or line 8 muffin cups. (**I doubled the recipe and ended up making a dozen regular muffins and a ton of minis too).
  3. Sift dry stuff together.
  4. Whisk eggs and milk in large bowl.
  5. Add a third of the dry stuff to the egg mixture, then a third of the butter, stirring gently just until incorporated.
  6. Repeat with remaining dry stuff and butter–don’t over mix.
  7. A little flour not mixed in at the end is fine (she says-but I always mix everything in, lol).
  8. Use an ice cream scoop, filling muffin cups half full.
  9. Bake about 15 mins, till risen, light golden brown, and firm to the touch.
  10. Let cool about 15 mins in pan.
Look how cute!!! I mean honestly!
The dry ingredients
The wet ingredients

Do not overmix. Just mix until things are just combined.
I used a mini-scoop for the small muffins
Hello! We're cute little bite-sized mini muffins!
All packed and ready to go to girls' brunch!
Hope you all have a wonderful week!