Julie and Julia mania

I suspect Julia Child has a few new fans since Meryl Streep brought her to life in the big screen production Julie & Julia.

From what I’ve been hearing and reading since the movie’s debut on Aug. 7, copies of Child’s My Life in France are being snapped up along with Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the cookbook she wrote with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.

Julie Powell‘s book, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, and her blog (The Julie/Julia Project), on which the movie was based, are also proving to be popular reads.

Whether this translates into more meals being served in kitchens around the country that don’t come straight from a package, a can or the drive thru remains to be seen, but if the movie serves to generate interest in all things culinary, I say thanks, Julie and Julia!

Some Julia Child and Julie Powell links –

“Cooking lessons” from Kevin of The Office

More insight (??) about food from NBC‘s The Office. This time, a cooking lesson from Kevin Malone.

Learn how to make pseudo quesadillas and creme brulee using food from the vending machine.

If you dare.

See also Funny Food Moments on The Office.

Mini scones make a perfect little dessert or tea time treat

Watch out! These bite-sized scones are more than a little addictive. And since they’re small, it’s easy to pop one, then another,  and another in your mouth without keeping count!

Scones with jam and whipped cream

Scones with jam and whipped cream

That said, they pair perfectly with tea and are great for a party when you want to serve something a little different as a sweet. Just set out a bowl of jam or fruit spread and a bowl of clotted cream, stiffly whipped sweetened heavy cream (35% M.F.) or Cool Whip, along with a couple of knives and watch the mini mountain of sweet little biscuits disappear.

Cream Tea Scones
(Makes about 20 1-3/4 inch (4 cm) scones)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour or 1 cup (250 mL) each all-purpose and cake & pastry flours
2 tablespoons (30 mL) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
1 egg
2/3 cup (175 mL) milk or light cream
Sugar

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk egg; reserve 1 tablespoon (15 mL) to brush on tops of scones before baking. Stir together remaining egg and milk.

Using fork, stir egg mixture into flour mixture to make a light, soft dough. If dough seems too sticky, stir in a bit more flour. (I find I usually need a tablespoon or two (15 to 30 mL) less milk than called for so I hold back a little and only add it if necessary.)

Gather dough into a ball; on a lightly floured surface, lightly knead dough a few times until smooth. Gently flatten with hands or a rolling pin to 3/4″ (2 cm) thickness. Cut into 1-3/4 inch (4 cm) rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Brush tops with reserved egg. Sprinkle sugar over tops, if desired.

Bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven until golden brown, about 9 or 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature if scones begin to brown too quickly.

Recipe Source: Prizewinning Preserves by Yvonne Tremblay, Prentice Hall Canada, 2001. Recipe originates with food writer and author Carol Ferguson.)

Tips:
* Pronounce it “skawn” (like yawn) or “skown” (like groan), as you wish!
* Don’t twist the cookie cutter when cutting out the scones or the edges will be pressed together and the scones won’t rise as high.
* Instead of mini scones, you can use a 2-1/2 inch (7 cm) round cutter or a glass to make approximately 10 larger scones.

Meat and potatoes for dessert?

Here’s a novel dessert idea from The Nibble (an online magazine) –

Grilled Idaho Potato Ice Cream with Milk Chocolate Cake and Bacon Toffee, garnished with Potato Rings.

If anyone is brave enough to try it, let me know how it turns out!

Pantry staples for cottage kitchens; Best ways to store steak

Restocking bare cottage kitchen cupboards…..

The first holiday weekend of the warm weather season is almost here. For cottage owners opening up their seasonal homes this weekend that means it’s time to restock the kitchen. You will first want to check any dry goods left on the kitchen shelves over the winter for signs of mice or bugs. Toss any stale spices or dry food products. Then restock the shelves and cupboards with this list of pantry staples courtesy of Cottage Life.

How to store steaks for best flavour and texture…..

If you’re taking steaks up to the cottage and are wondering how to keep them in peak condition until you plan to grill them later in the weekend, Cottage Life has tested five storage options. Find out what they recommend as the best way to store steak for a few days to preserve taste and tenderness.

Fun, fun, fun! Sandwich cookie cake pans from Williams-Sonoma

How much fun is this sandwich cookie cake?? It would be perfect as a dessert for any occasion from a spring or Mother’s Day tea to a birthday party or backyard barbecue.

Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma)

Sandwich Cookie Cake (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

I picked up the pans to make this fun dessert this evening, racing into the Williams-Sonoma at Sherway Gardens at 8:58 p.m. (the store closes at 9 p.m.). Just in time!

img5m

Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

The 9″ cast aluminum cake pans are exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and sell for $29.95 (US) for the pair. Bake your favourite brownie or chocolate cake recipe or mix in them, then sandwich the layers together with flavoured whipped cream, ice cream or buttercream icing.

Visit Williams-Sonoma’s website for more information and to read reviews about the pans. According to the online reviews, it’s really important to grease the pan well with cooking spray to remove the cakes easily.

I’ll have to hold off testing out the pans until next week as I’m off to New York City this weekend to take a Four-Star Breakfast cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education and visit with my sister Loreen who lives on Long Island. We’ve got afternoon tea reservations in NYC at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Friday.

Enjoy a chili cheese dog in honour of Corner Gas series finale

Chili Cheese Dog

Chili Cheese Dog

A chili cheese dog would have been the appropriate thing to munch on tonight while watching the series finale of Corner Gas and the conclusion of the show’s successful six year run. Instead I sipped on Darjeeling tea and the last slice of lemon meringue pie left over from Easter dinner.

Much of the zany activities of the quirky characters on this beloved Canadian sit com took place at Corner Gas (the gas station in the small fictional town of Dog River in the not so fictional province of Saskatchewan) or at The Ruby Cafe next door. Brent, one of the main characters in the show, ate a whack of chili cheese dogs at The Ruby over the six years. (The Ruby was the kind of place that would also have served lemon meringue pie!)

A chili cheese dog is simply a hot dog doused in chili (from a can or made from your favourite chili recipe) and topped with grated cheese.

We’re not talking gourmet dining here. Just plain good food. Or so Brent would tell you.

If you’ve never had one, it’s pretty simple to make. And, Brent would likely also tell you, a chili cheese dog is no doubt well worth whatever effort you put in to make the chili – whether from scratch or a can.

If you want to make your own chili, you have some options….
* use tomato sauce, canned pureed tomatoes, canned condensed tomato soup or chili sauce instead of ketchup
* omit garlic and/or onions
* add canned or cooked kidney beans
* add cumin or sauteed green peppers

Chili Cheese Dogs

(Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound (450 g) lean ground beef
1 cup (250 mL) ketchup
1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) yellow mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 all-beef wieners
8 hot dog buns
1 cup (250 mL) grated Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add garlic. Continue cooking until onion is soft and translucent, another 2 or 3 minutes.

Add ground beef, breaking it up with the back of a spoon; cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in ketchup, chili powder and mustard; simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. (Add more ketchup or a little water to thin, if desired.) Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, grill or cook wieners as desired. Grill or toast hot dog buns, if desired.

To serve, place a wiener in each bun. Top with chili and Cheddar cheese. Open mouth wide and enjoy!

Spaghetti and snow: a match made in spring?

It’s spring in Ontario, not that you can tell by the weather we had today.

The snow is back!! It’s been gone for three or four weeks already but I’m sure it’s returned because this past weekend I mentioned to Murray it was time to switch the snowflake-patterned Corelle plates we use in winter with the plain white “rest-of-the-year” plates. (I was talking to myself when I told him this. Apparently the type of dishes we use is of absolutely no interest to him!)

Now yesterday was a beautiful day! We even hauled some of the patio furniture out of hibernation and sat on the front deck for a while enjoying the warm weather.

Then today – snow! Sure it’s not going to last, but c’mon! It’s spring already.

Yes, those are little icicles hanging off the bottom of the chairs!

snow-on-lawn-chairs

So, tonight’s spaghetti and meatball supper was appropriately served on the “winter plates” that were still in the cupboard.

spaghetti-and-meat-balls

The amount of effort one can put into making spaghetti and meatballs can really vary. The general “recipe” is simple. Heat home-made or store-bought spaghetti sauce with home-made or store-bought meatballs. Spoon over cooked multigrain or whole wheat spaghetti. Grate Parmesan cheese over top, if desired.

Serve in any season, and on any plate you choose (or that’s handy)!

Easy Spaghetti Sauce

(Makes 4 cups/1 L)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) sliced cremini mushrooms (6 oz/175 g)
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried basil
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) pureed tomatoes
1/4 cup (60 mL) tomato paste

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil and salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Recipe pranks for April Fool’s Day

chocolate-egg-sucker

Is it a fried egg?

Be on guard tomorrow. It’s April Fool’s Day.

All may not be what it appears. Even at the breakfast or dinner table.

Nope! It's a Chocolate Egg Pop!

Nope! It's a chocolate fried egg on a stick!

With the following “recipes”, you”ll be the one planning the surprises, serving “cake” for dinner and “spaghetti and meatballs” for dessert. Don’t be fooled into thinking these ideas are difficult. Read on to see how easy it will be to play food pranks on your fellow diners tomorrow, or any day of the year.

If you want more wacky food ideas and recipe pranks, there are additional suggestions and videos at Family Fun magazine’s website.

  • Fried Egg and Toast? – Serve breakfast for dessert. Create a faux fried egg by spooning vanilla yogurt or sweetened whipped cream on a plate in the shape of the white of a fried egg. Add the yolk by placing a well-drained canned apricot or peach half, round side up, on top of the yogurt or cream, a little to one end. Toast a slice of pound cake. Spread with a thin layer of jam. Serve with the fried egg.
  • Drink Up! – Prepare fruit-flavored gelatin according to package directions. Pour into drinking glasses. Place a straw in each glass. Chill until set. At serving time, garnish rim of glasses with fruit. Serve and see how long it takes for someone to request a spoon to eat the “drink”.
  • An Antsy Cake – Turn a layer cake, ice cream cake or cheesecake into an anthill with this easy treatment. On top of the cake, carefully pour crushed vanilla wafers or nuts in a small mound to resemble an anthill. Arrange ants parading around the top of the cake and climbing up or down the side of the cake and/or the anthill using a chocolate-covered almond for each ant body and a chocolate-covered raisin or caramel (e.g. Skor Bites) for each  ant head. Pipe on eyes and legs using a tube of black gel icing.

Meat Loaf Cake

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

Favourite meatloaf recipe (use 2 to 3 lbs/1 to 1.5 kg) ground beef
Hot mashed potatoes (about 4 cups/1 L)
Cherry tomatoes
Ketchup

Prepare meatloaf mixture as usual but before cooking, divide mixture in two and place into two 8-inch (20 cm) cake pans. Bake as usual, allowing a shorter time since meatloaf will likely cook faster as the mixture will be thinner than usual.

Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes using boiled or instant potatoes. The mashed potatoes should be fluffy and spreadable. Keep mashed potatoes warm until meat loaves are cooked.

Once cooked, drain fat from meat loaves. Invert one loaf onto a round pizza pan or heatproof plate. Cover with a thick even layer of mashed potatoes. Place second loaf on top and “frost” the top and sides of cake with remaining mashed potatoes.

If desired, some of the mashed potatoes can be spooned into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip and piped around top or bottom edge of cake.

Place cake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes to warm through. Remove from oven and decorate with halved cherry tomatoes. If desired, write a message on top of cake with ketchup. (If the opening of the ketchup bottle is too large to write a message easily, spoon some ketchup into a clean piping bag or a squeeze bottle with a small top to write your message.)

Spaghetti and Meat Ball Dessert

(Makes 1 serving)

Small slice of pound cake or half of a cupcake
Homemade or prepared icing
Yellow food coloring (if desired)
Strawberry sauce
2 of 3 chocolate malt balls or small truffles
Ground almonds or grated white chocolate
Chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips or candy melts
Lady fingers or biscotti
Toasted coconut
Green sprinkles

Place pound cake in the centre of a plate.

If desired, tint icing with food colouring to resemble the colour of cooked spaghetti. Spoon icing into a decorating tube fitted with a large circular tip; pipe icing in a looping fashion around the sides of the pound cake (don’t frost the top) to resemble spaghetti.

Spoon strawberry sauce (meat sauce) on top of the cake to cover it. Drizzle a little over portions of the spaghetti.

Using the dull side of a knife or a grater, rough up the surface of the malt balls (meatballs). Place them on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle ground almonds (parmesan cheese) over sauce and meatballs.
Carefully melt white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave oven; stir until smooth. Spread chocolate over lady fingers (garlic bread). Sprinkle coconut (garlic) and green sprinkles (parsley) over top. Serve with spaghetti and meatballs.

A simple supper salad made with fridge finds

Sassy salad greens with poached egg and balsamic vinaigrette-sauteed mushrooms and grape tomatoes

Salad greens with fried egg and balsamic vinaigrette-sauteed mushrooms and grape tomatoes

I get paid to say nice things about eggs. As the Food and Nutrition Specialist for Egg Farmers of Ontario, it’s my job to promote the nutritional goodness of eggs and the many different ways they can be prepared.

Before I signed on for this gig, I was already an egg lover, readily extolling the virtues of eggs. One of the reasons I was – and still am – a fan of this nutritious and economical food is that it’s quick to cook, so versatile and always available.

The other night I came home late from work, tired and hungry. There wasn’t much in the fridge except for some mushrooms, eggs and salad greens. Within minutes I had put together a simple supper salad and was sitting down to eat.

To make the salad I sauteed sliced mushrooms in a little balsamic salad dressing, tossing in a few halved grape tomatoes partway through cooking. Before the mushrooms and tomatoes were completely cooked, I cleared a space among them in the middle of the pan and cracked an egg into it. I covered the pan with a lid and within a few minutes had a steam-basted sunny side up egg that resembled a poached egg. (I cooked the yolk so that it was still runny but it could also be cooked thoroughly if desired. And, instead of “frying”, the egg could have been soft- or hard-poached in simmering water.) The mushroom/tomato mixture and egg were then spooned over a plate of salad greens, and dinner was served!

Easy, fast and very good!