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Posts Tagged ‘vanilla’

It’s time to do the Christmas decorating and traditionally I’ve finished my exterior before I even think of the interior! Since I can remember I’ve been making my own urns for the front, not because I’m cheap (OK, maybe a little) but because I like to have creative license and design my own! Over the last few years it has become increasingly popular to use birchbark branches to achieve height, but in my hood these branches cost $6.00 EACH! I have 2-3 in each of my four urns! That’s $60 before I’ve even added my evergreen boughs! So JT and I bring them back from the cottage! A little walk in the forest, about one hour of time is all it costs! And it’s fun (I’d like to add that we only take branches from property we own, never from other property). I have bobbles and pine cones from years past and some gorgeous red sparkly ribbon from last year (note to self, make the sparkly ribbon outside otherwise the sparkles will litter the house for years!). This year I bought eight bunches of various evergreen boughs at $5 each; so for about $40 and a little creative time outside, I have my four gorgeous urns ready for the holidays. Tell me, how do you decorate your home for the holidays?

Bobbles_1460

I think I’ll get one more year out of the red ribbon; I’ll buy another roll when they go on sale after Christmas! The pine cones will last a lot longer. The Bells were a dollar store find!

Step1 Urns_1458

We brought back new branches to add to the collection we had from last year!

Step2 Urns_1456

I like to start with the floppiest evergreens with the longest needles.

Step3 Urns_1454

I love to add cedar branches because they smell so good.

Step4 Urns_1453

I keep filling in the empty spots but for my final row I like to add something with berries; this year I was able to get little white berries. Boxwood is also lovely and it adds a totally different texture but this year my “guy” didn’t have it.

The finished product, with all the bells and whistles.

The finished product, with all the bells and whistles.

Final Urns_1452

The urns in the foreground are well lit with spot lights and the urns in the background have some lovely snowflake solar lights (from the dollar store!).

And with the house all dolled up for the season, I’m ready for a bite and these days that means soup so I’m constantly on the look out for new and innovative soups. I created this one for a dinner we were hosting for my nephew. Roasting really concentrates the sugars and makes this soup deliciously sweet and creamy. I’ve made it healthy so I haven’t added any cream, but you’re welcome to. Roasting the squash seeds adds a lovely texture to this soup. To take off the shells, simply squeeze the pointy end between your fingers (or mini pliers in my case) and off will one side pop! Simple like that.

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Creamy and slightly sweet. The crunchy roasted squash seeds really made the soup.

Acorn Squash Soup

Serves 4 smallish bowls

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 head garlic, outer skin removed but leave individual skins intact
  • 4 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion
  • Chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350°F. On a cookie sheet, place each half of the squash cut side up with 1/2 tbsp butter in each side.
  2. Toss the onion with a spot of EVOO and add to the cookie sheet.
  3. Put the garlic head into a small ramekin and add 3 tbsp EVOO, season with sea salt and cover tightly with foil. Put this on the side of the cookie sheet with the squash and onion. Bake for 45-60 minutes until very tender.
  4. Once everything is very tender, scoop out the squash into a glass container, add the roasted garlic WITH the salted EVOO and the baked onion and the vanilla extract. Blend until smooth adding stock until you achieve the desired consistency (I prefer it slightly thicker). Set aside and reheat to serve.
  5. To make the squash seed garnish, clean off the seeds and let them dry on a clean cloth. Add to a lightly non0-stick sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes until toasted.
  6. Allow to cool and using your fingers or mini pliers, take the pointy end of the seed and press the edges into each other allowing the sides or side to pop off. Remove the toasted seed from the shell and reserve.
  7. Reheat the soup, pour into bowls and serve with the seeds drizzled over top.

Additional ideas for garnish:

  • Sear a scallop in butter and serve on top with the butter drizzled over it.
  • Sear a shrimp with the hard tail removed (I hate having to dig out the tail with my fingers) with a little lemon juice drizzled over the top.
  • If you don’t have the seeds from the squash, use toasted sunflower seeds.
  • Make a crostini with squash seed pesto smear on top.
  • A nice dollop of crême fraiche or sour cream.
  • Balsamic or pomegranate syrup reduction drizzled on top.
  • Maple syrup drizzled on top.

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Just last week my friend Barb (of Profiteroles and Ponytails) posted an old family recipe for Moose Tracks Ice Cream Pie…and as luck would have it, our good friends Paul and T (remember Rock Star Bus? Well they are the Rock Stars!) were coming up for a ‘long weekend’ so I HAD to make this recipe. Not the healthiest dessert, but I made slightly smaller portions, or sharing is an option.

Individual Moose Tracks Ice Cream Pie, get your grubby paws off, this is MINE, ALL MINE!

I had a litre of heavy cream left over in the fridge from when I made only half the ricotta cheese recipe (from my friend John From the Bartolini Kitchen), so I thought I would make my own Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Everything else was virtually the same from Barb’s recipe.

That fudge ripple was exceptional

Home Made Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

from Cuisineart’s Ice cream maker recipe book

Serves 8-12

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/3 cups whole milk
  • 2-1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean (about 6 inches in length)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1-1/8 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Use the blunt edge to scrape out the “seeds.” Stir the seeds and bean pod into the milk/cream mixture. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Combine eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium bowl. Use a hand mixer on medium speed to beat until the mixture is thick, smooth, and pale yellow in color (similar to mayonnaise), about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the milk/cream mixture and discard. Update from a_boleyn:
    Do NOT discard your vanilla pod!! Squeeze as much of the cream off it as you can, rinse it briefly under cold water and let dry then add it to a cup of regular sugar and grind it up in your food processor and store in an small jar. It makes the best vanilla sugar to add to coffee or into your baking wherever vanilla sugar is called for.
  4. Measure out 1 cup of the hot liquid. With the mixer on low speed, add the cup of hot milk/cream to the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. When thoroughly combined, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk/cream mixture and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a bowl, stir in vanilla, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly on the custard, and chill completely.
  5. Pour the chilled custard into the freezer bowl, turn the machine on and let mix until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. Fold in the mini peanut butter cups at this point and follow Barb’s recipe to make the pie.
  6. Remove from freezer about 6 minutes before serving.

Adult Fudge Ripple Sauce (warning, this could be dangerous)

(From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp Kahlua Liquor (hmmmm, this wasn’t in the original ingredients…my word)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently, then let boil for a minute.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Cover and refrigerate. Whisk in the Kahlua! Drizzle over anything,oh oh hell, why not EVERYTHING, even body parts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. :-D

Notes: The cookie crumble was quite dry as Barb had mentioned but I did not heed her instruction and I relented and added a bit of extra melted butter; when frozen, the pie bottom turned out harder than expected, so I’m serving it with a jack hammer!

I thought I would update this post with a couple of shots of the freezing containers I used for presentation. The small square one’s I bought years and years ago at Ikea and they are for ice only, not to be baked in; the round ones may be used for baking, but frankly I am not fond of the smell of silicon in the oven, so I end up using it for frozen desserts only (plus the few times I did bake in them, they stained very badly!). I actually served the larger portions for our dinner party.

 

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Day one of JD went much better than expected!

As I mentioned I had to be downtown at 8:30am, and I’m fortunate, my entire trip was about 20 minutes; it would have been 30 if I had to walk to the subway, but JT kindly gave me a lift to the subway.
We all had to walk through security much like the air port, except we didn’t have to take off our shoes. Then we were registered, and told to sit in a room. The chairs are all lined up, facing a small TV placed precariously too low for anyone but the front row to see. Oh, will we see movies? Not quite; they ran a lame movie about actors pretending to be sucked into the process and how proud they all are. Bleh!
Now we wait. Just because you are summoned for JD, doesn’t necessarily mean you will serve on a jury. For each trial (there are several courts in this building) they draw names from the people in the room and if your name is drawn (lucky you) you are called into the courtroom. The other time I was here, my name wasn’t drawn. In the court room, the trial lawyers ask each potential juror a pertinent question to determine if they want them on the jury. Correct me if I’m wrong (Kelly), they don’t have a limit on how many they can decline. When JT was here, he was called but was rejected (now that’s a rejection I can handle).

In Canada you do not get remunerated for JD unless it is a trial more than 10 days. Then they pay you a whopping $40 per day! Seriously?

As luck would have it at around 10am some big wig came and further pontificated on the value of our presence and then in a long drawn out speech he released us for the week — just like that! Sweet. sweet words: “your service will not be required today, nor for the remainder of the week.” Is it appropriate to cheer in the courthouse? Now I’m done for three years (yup they changed it!)! Yay.

On my way out, you’ll never guess who I bumped into…non-other than Flat Ruthie…she’ll be accompanying JT and I on a short vaycay to Niagara Falls, Ontario where we’ll see the Band from TV as well as do some eating, drinking and shopping (perhaps even in the US where our dollar is ever so strong these days!).

This is the Panna Cotta that I made for our Vegetarian Valentine Dinner last Saturday. I served it with sliced strawberries and a 100 year old balsamic that I lightly drizzled over the plate. Asmita at the Compulsive Foodie inspired this recipe, but I made it lighter and used non-fat ingredients. It worked out very well. I’ll keep this recipe for the summer months.

Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 4 in 3.5oz ramekins

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/4 cup plain fat free Greek Yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups carnation fat free condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod
  • pinch of cardamon
  • 1 quart strawberries
  • Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Spray ramekins with non-stick spray.
  2. Sprinke the gelatin over 2 tbsp water
  3. Heat the milk with the sugar and vanilla bean until almost boiling. Add the softened gelatin and mix until it has entirely melted.
  4. Remove from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pod and scrap the seeds into the milk mixture and mix well. Add the cardamon.
  5. Stir in the Greek Yogurt until well blended. Pour into the prepared ramekins and allow to cool. Once cooled, place in refrigerator overnight to set.
  6. Run a little hot water on the bottom of each ramekin to loosen. Lightly loosen the edges of the ramekins with a sharp knife and turn onto the middle of a large plate. Drizzle with balsamic and decorate with strawberries. Enjoy.

Panna Cotta - a nice light dessert

That

If you have left over berries, dip them in melted chocolate for a valentine’s day treat.

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