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Posts Tagged ‘home-made’

PlumButter_First

Small Italian plums would have been perfect for those delicious Plum Dumplings my cousin and I made in June, sadly they were not around then. When I spied them at my green grocer a week or so ago, I knew I couldn’t resist so I picked up a small container knowing full well they would be converted to something delicious. While Plum Dumplings are a great childhood memory, they are not the type of thing we eat on a regular basis so I decided on Plum Butter, another thick jam made without the use of pectin. Making jam or Lekvár is so easy, I’m astonished that I hadn’t done it more often in the past; perhaps it was the fear of making more than we could consume! Well, fear not my dear readers because this recipe makes a few small jars so we’ll be in great shape over the cold winter months.

plum butter, plum jam, szilvas lelvár

We enjoyed the delicious plum butter on homemade bread!

Plum Butter

Makes 370 mL thick jam

Ingredients:

  • 630 g plums (a small container)
  • 255 g sugar
  • 60 mL water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Cut plums in half and remove stone. Put plums into a heavy bottom pan and add water and sugar. Set over medium heat and cook until softened.
  2. Add cinnamon and cook for 30-40 minutes until thickened, testing often with the freezer method.
  3. Once the butter has thickened, pour into sterilized mason jars and follow canning best practice instructions.

Notes:

  • I left the peel in for texture, you may run the mixture through a fine sieve if you prefer no peel.
  • The plums cook down to a very creamy texture so there is no need to purée or press through a food mill, unless you wish to.
plum jam, plum butter, szilvás lekvár

It’s far too chilly to enjoy the plum butter outside now!

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HomeMadePhyllo_First

Growing up, one of our family favourites was Rétes (Hungarian Strudel) and my dear Mom made Hungarian delicacies like Káposztás Rétes (Savoury Cabbage Strudel) and Túrós Rétes (sweet Cottage Cheese Strudel) and even sometimes but not often, Almás Rétes (Apple Strudel). Mom’s favourite was Káposztás Rétes (Cabbage Strudel) and although as kids we couldn’t stand it, I often find myself craving the savoury flavours of this treat.

My dear Mom always told stories as she was cooking or baking, stories about food, of course! The one story that has resonated with me all these years is that Grandma (Nagymama) made her own Rétes dough! The story goes that Nagymama laid a clean, white sheet on the dining room table, dusted it with flour and stretched and stretched and stretched her homemade dough until you could read newsprint through it. I always imagined an enormous dough (like this) on the table! Mom never made strudel dough that I recall, by the time she was a homemaker, ready made, frozen dough was already available and so much easier than making it yourself. I have used ready made Phyllo more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes, but I’d never made it myself. So you can well imagine why homemade phyllo dough is on my bucket list.

Recently, we invited dear friends to the cottage and I thought homemade Baklava would be a lovely dessert over the weekend and a great excuse to make homemade phyllo dough. I chose Baklava because if the Phyllo didn’t work out as well, the syrup would ‘hide’ its flaws, unlike Rétes. The recipe I followed is here (why reinvent the wheel?) but I can tell you right now that using the pasta maker is not nearly as satisfying as rolling by hand. A marble rolling pin (or something really heavy) would be helpful…I had a rolling pin made by one of my dear Mom’s friends many years ago and I paid the price by bruising my palms and fingers!

Bucket List

Homemade Phyllo Dough

This recipe makes 25 sheets approx. 25 cm x  41 cm (10″ x 16″)

I allowed the dough to rest overnight.

The recipe instructions indicate to take the dough to #9 on the pasta maker (mine is a KitchenAid Stand Mixer with attachments) but I recommend to take it to #8 and do the rest by hand. I also tried rolling it entirely by hand (see photos below – only took about 12 minutes each) and it wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated but it did bruise my hands badly). Between each number of stretching the dough by pasta machine, keep rubbing a little flour to both sides of the flattened dough, this is how the correct texture is achieved. Believe me, you will know when you feel it.

I also found that rolling the dough through each pass on the pasta maker a couple of times instead of just once results in a finer dough.

Baklava

Yields:

  • 17 (4-sheet) baklavas
  • 11 (2-sheet) baklavas
  • 4 left over sheets (freeze for later).

Ingredients:

  • 21 sheets of phyllo dough
  • 120 g hazelnuts
  • 200 g almonds
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Roast both nuts on 163° C (325° F) for 18 minutes or until most of the skins have separated from the hazelnuts (almonds may or may not separate).
  2. Using a clean tea towel, rub the hot nuts until most of the skins come off. Separate skins from nuts.
  3. Chop both hazelnuts and almonds roughly and combine with sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.

Syrup Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine  first three ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Stir well, set aside.

Baklava assembly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 163° C (325° F).
  2. Divide the dough into 40 g dough portions.
  3. Lightly flour a large, clean surface and roll out to approximately 25 cm x 41 cm or 10″ x 16″ sheets. Continue to roll all of the dough like this until you have rolled it all out. Cover with a lightly damp cloth and a jelly roll pan to protect it from drying out.
  4. Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it length-wise in front of you. Brush generously with the melted butter. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the nut mixture per sheet. Continue for 2-3 sheets.
  5. Taking the long end, begin to roll the phyllo tightly. Brush the finished roll with melted butter.
  6. Cut into 5 cm or 2.5″ lengths (or smaller equal lengths). Place cut side up into a lightly buttered pan, it doesn’t matter if they touch. Continue until all the dough and nut mixture is exhausted.
  7. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool completely and then pour the syrup over The rolls and allow to rest for a few hours.
Phyllo40g

I found that 40 g made the perfect sheet size.

Phyllo_1

A relatively damp and somewhat elastic dough (not nearly as elastic as pizza dough)

Phyllo_2

You can roll to 9 in your pasta maker, but honestly I did not find rolling by hand difficult.

Phyllo_3

OK. By saying “I did not find the rolling difficult”, what I meant was “not difficult as I was rolling” but the next day, my palms were bruised from the shear pressure I had to put onto the rolling pin. You may wish to roll with a marble rolling pin.

Phyllo_4

For some reason, my Nagymama (grandma) always said the dough has to be thin enough to read a newspaper through it, I figured a nut panel would suffice!

Phyllo_5

This is one of the rolls of Baklava.

Phyllo_6

Cut rolls into 16-17 equal lengths and place into a greased pan. It’s OK if they touch because the dough has been greased sufficiently so they won’t stick.

Baklava_Beauty

The finished product, with a little extra honey drizzled on. PS, that silver tray comes from my Dad’s side of the family, it’s probably over 100 years old!

 

Notes:

This is quite a damp dough and it’s a bit sticky but don’t worry, you’ll be stretching and rolling additional flour into it to give it the correct wet/dry ratio.

The dough only becomes difficult to work with (breaking, cracking) when it dries out; make sure you have a lightly damp tea towel to cover any rolls or sheets. I also used a 10″ x 16″ jelly roll pan to cover it.

In hindsight, I should have used only 2 or 3 (not 4) sheets per roll. Next time I think I’ll sprinkle the nut mixture on each sheet and not just the end — I have adjusted the recipe above.

I was 100% sure I would not be making this recipe again because it’s so inexpensive to buy ready made, but in reviewing the ingredient list I may have to resort to making it myself as there is one or two ingredients that gross me out.

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This is an absolute favourite of our household, but to be honest the gravy is usually laden with butter and ghee which is really bad for you, so I prefer to make my own so that it’s healthier. The Makhani gravy is from this recipe, but as I mentioned in the menu post, I had to add a little sweetness (I used Agave Nectar) to counter the very acidic tomatoes — I suspect that the full butter and cream of the original recipe would do the same, so if you choose to go full fat on this baby, omit the agave. There I said it.

The paneer is a soft unripened cheese made similarly to Ricotta, but instead of leaving it loose, you press it into a rectangular shape to be cut into cubes. Easy.

A delicious, rich tasting tomato gravy with gently firm paneer

Paneer Makhani

This is the original recipe I just doubled the quantity

Serves 4-6 as a part of several dishes

Ingredients:

  • 4 liter Fresh whole milk
  • 4-6 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in the deep and heavy bottom pan at medium heat (this is really important, otherwise you will need to spend at least a half hour trying to clean the burnt milk off the bottom). Allow it come to a gentle boil and stay there for a minute. Make sure the milk is not vigorously boiling (also important, see note above). If it does, immediately reduce the heat and bring the milk back to gentle boil. But if you do burn your enamel pan, I have a great tip at the end.
  2. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice and quickly stir it in (because I had doubled the recipe, it took a bit longer to develop). At this point, you will start to see small curdles in the milk but no whey. Add another tablespoon or two of juice and again stir it in. The curdles will increase and you will slowly begin to see the yellowish whey. Add the last tablespoon of juice and with this, you should be able to see a clear yellowish whey separating from the curdles, switch of the gas immediately at this point. Depending on the acidity of the juice, the amount of juice you require may differ. Start with one tablespoon at a time till you achieve the results.
  3. You could save the whey, and if you do: Line another pan with double layered cheesecloth. Make sure the cheesecloth is long enough to be bundled up and hanged later. Run the whey through the cloth which will collect all the curdles. Set the whey aside.
  4. Wash the curdles in the cheese cloth, by running it through cold water to remove the lemon taste.
  5. Tie up the cheesecloth in a tight bundle and let it drain for about 30 minutes. Then place weight on the cheese to get it to be flatter and drain out extra moisture. I wanted a nice block of cheese so I pressed the contents of the cheese cloth into a square cake pan about 20 cm (8 inch). Then I took the still wrapped cheese and placed it between two cutting boards and put a heavy pot on top for 1-2 hours.You don’t want to add too much weight for too long as it can drain out way too much moisture from the cheese making it hard and crumbly. Your cheese should have a slightly elastic texture so when you lightly press your finger into it, it will bounce back.
  6. Wrap it and store it in the fridge for up to a week.
  7. Reheat very slowly in the microwave for 30 second spurts until too warm to touch. Add to the makhani gravy at the last minute (I didn’t want my paneer to fall apart).

TIP: if you happen to burn the milk to the bottom of your pan, try this handy tip, cover burnt area with a good thick layer of table salt, add a bit of water and heat but don’t hard boil. Using a silicon scraper, see if it comes off. If it doesn’t, do the same but instead of water, use lemon juice and this time bring to a soft boil. Using a silicon scraper, peel away the burnt layer. Voilà!

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We had good friends over for dinner on Saturday night and I wanted to make a light, healthy dinner which we could all feel good about. The couple recently down-sized about 22.6 kg (50lbs) combined total weight and I sure did not want to make them feel bad with a heavy meal. Plus it’s been ridiculously hot in Toronto, with high humidity so a heavy meal isn’t even appealing. I also planned the meal so that we had little kitchen time, other than plating and serving. We served family style to allow each individual to have as much or as little as desired.

Over the following few days, I will document the recipes that I served; here is the menu to give you a little taste:

Cocktails: Home made Ginger Ale (recipe below. I was inspired by The Cook’s Sister with this recipe)

Hors D’œuvres: Bite-sized Caprese Salad with EVOO and Himalayan pink salt.

Appetizer: Chilled Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Warm Sesame Encrusted Goats Cheese Balls (Barb at Profiteroles and Ponytails gave me the idea for this recipe, but I did the ol’ switcheroo and made the soup cold and the balls warm)(insert all goats cheese ball jokes here 😉 )

Intermisso: Lemongrass and Thai Basil Granita

Main: Susur Lee’s Singapore Slaw (aka 19 ingredients slaw) with Thai Marinated BBQ Steak (steak prepared as per Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella)

Dessert: Armenian Nutmeg Cake with Hazelnut Frozen Yogurt and Caramel Drizzle (the Armenian Nutmeg Cake was reinvented from a previous post)

Late night snack: Fresh Ontario Strawberries and Cantaloupe bites

Our guests last week were on a sabbatical from drinking alcohol so I wanted to make a special cocktail for the evening, I came across this recipe from The Cook’s Sister recently and bookmarked it for the occasion. I changed it up only to reflect the time I had to spend on the recipe, otherwise it was pretty similar. The ginger was strong enough to be refreshing and the added sugar made it just sweet enough to cut the heat from using fresh ginger. I really enjoyed it, it was a refreshing summer beverage. Of course, you can add booze to it to make it that much more interesting: gin, vodka, amber rum or whiskey seem to be preferred choices to add to ginger ale on the net.

A refreshing cocktail that aids in digestion! What more could you want?

Home made Ginger Ale

Original recipe can be found here

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated ginger (you will notice this is significantly less than the original recipe, but because it’s grated, it seems to infuse the water with enough flavour)
  • 2-4 tbsp Demerara sugar
  • 1 liter San Pelegrino (this is a lightly carbonated natural spring water)
  • 1 lime, cut into eights

Directions:

  1. To prepare the syrup, place the water, ginger, sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. I allowed it to boil for about 10 minutes to concentrate the flavours and reduce a bit.
  2. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate over night.
  3. When ready to serve, strain the ginger bits out of the syrup, pressing as much of the ginger juice out as possible.
  4. To serve, add 4 tbsp (or to taste) of the syrup to each glass mixing in the San Pelegrino. Serve with lime wedges and garnish with mint. Individuals can add as much freshly squeezed lime juice as desired.
  5. Cheers!

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My latest endeavour was the home made Ricotta from my BB (blogging buddy) John, and it was a huge success; even so, we had left-overs. We’re having our nephew Brian over for Sunday dinner and I thought it would work perfectly in a little hors d’œuvres of whole wheat-flax pan cakes with ricotta and chives and a little lightly pan fried chicken and turkey, spinach feta sausage (another left over from our little brunch on Saturday).

Pass the canapés, please.

Ricotta and Sausage Pancakes

Makes about 14 little pan cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Home-made ricotta (or store bought, but the home made is so darn easy)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 14 sausage slices, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup soda water
  • 3 tbsp egg whites
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Mix the chives into the ricotta and set aside.
  2. Mix well together WW flour, flax seeds, egg whites, soda and salt. If it’s really runny, set aside for 2-5 minutes (you want a slightly thicker mixture than crèpe batter).
  3. Heat a large cast iron pan and spray lightly with a non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Drop small spoonfuls of the batter onto the hot pan so that they each form a 5cm or 2 inch little round. Cook both sides until golden. Repeat until the mixture has been all used up.
  5. In the same hot pan, spray another little squirt of non-stick cooking spray and sauté each side of the thinly sliced sausage until golden and slightly curled.
  6. Top each little pan cake with a dollop of the home-made ricotta and one slice of the sausage.
  7. Enjoy with a martini.

Canapé Anyone?

And a new friend…

Meet Brown Squirrel.

As many of you already know, my favourite pet in the whole world was my dearest little bunny, Dustie. Sadly she passed away about 7 years ago at the age of 10, and the impact of her friendship has prevented me from trying to find another pet, any pet. Until I met brown squirrel. The strange thing about brown squirrel is that she is the same golden colouring as my Dustie, and that this type of colouring on squirrels in the Toronto area is not common (we have mainly black, some grey and a couple of white squirrels). Brown squirrel is not really a pet, but she has become a ‘friend’. I wonder if she’s on FB?

Now it’s not just the colouring on Brown Squirrel that makes her special, she is a lot tamer than the other squirrels in the hood. She will come when she is called (she’ll even cross the road when we call out to her; she doesn’t look both ways (she IS a squirrel) but we do!). She responds to munching noises (my Dustie did that too!). She’ll even come right up to you and eat from your hand (although I wouldn’t recommend it, after all, she is still a wild animal). We always have to remember to close the front door because she would follow you in (never happened but I sure wouldn’t want to chance it). Brown Squirrel comes to the house every morning for her treats. I snapped this photo from the dining room window through the screen (hence the weird overall colour); normally we wouldn’t feed her on our front porch, but it was darn chilly at 7:30 that morning, and we only had PJs on!

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Hello everyone! Christmas Baking is over for the time being and I am quite happy with the results; there is a lovely variety of old and new favourites and I am excited about putting my gift boxes together for our friends and family. I still have a dessert to bake for Christmas Eve which we usually enjoy at my brother’s house (it will likely be a bûche de noël because that is what my family has done for years, and I just saw Charles’ at Five Euro Food which made me very excited to make it again!).

Here is a little synopsis of my Christmas baking over the years (not that I only started in 2007, but that is when I started to blog!).

In 2007 we had our Renovation party so I didn’t specifically do the cookie gift boxes because we hosted about 50 friends and family at our renovation unveiling party and I catered the entire event (I had serving help which was great!).

I designed these invitations for our Renovation Unveiling Party in 2007

In 2008 I made 11 items but I didn’t take a photo of them 😦

In 2009 I made only 9 items but I bought lovely ceramic casserole dishes to package the cookies in as gifts.

In 2010 JT had a health setback and I just didn’t do much baking at all (he’s ALL GOOD now).

And here we are in 2011 and my list of cookies with links are:

I was able to find these really cute cookie boxes at the dollar store! I line them with parchment paper.

Holy Bat Man, that's a lot of cookies!

I package each cookie box in a zip-lock bag and freeze it until we see the people that I prepared it for!

Your cookie box is ready, when can you come over to pick them up?

I wanted to mention some of my blogging friends cookie recipes which I am certain are equally, if not better tasting then my own.

Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide has mastered the perfect Macaroon. And check out Ann’s Cooking Healthy for Me Coconut Macaroons that she baked from her well loved Better Home New Cook Book. And then of course, there is Barb’s Coconut Pyramids at Profiteroles and Ponytails which are just so darn adorable. And pop by Jessica’s site Kitchenbelleicious for a truly lovely Espresso Crinkle Cookie that just looks like it would melt in your mouth. And then there is fellow Torontonian Divya at Flavour Fiesta’s healthier Choc Coco Truffles with Cherries. There are so many great cookie recipes out there and so little time to try them all — that’s why I love reading all the wonderful blogs, I can try ALL of your cookies in a virtual sense and not gain an ounce! The beauty of technology.

How many cookies did you bake this year, and did you bake any special needs cookies?

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