Tuesday, August 21, 2012


We eat a lot of Salsa at our house. I've always loved it but it has lately grown on Axel as a quick tasty snack. We finally found a brand that we like but we go through it like crazy so I decided to try my own. This is one of the recipes I looked at to get an idea of where to start. After reading through it, it really did sound simple. I used ordinary tomatoes and added a roasted green pepper for color.

salsa ingredients
this is what went in
Ten handful-sized tomatoes (skins removed, 5 chopped, 5 pureed), one green pepper (toasted so it's easy to remove the skin), two chilies, three red and three white onions, five cloves of garlic and 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt.

salsa in progress
done cooking and ready to go in the jars
Cut a green pepper in eights and put under the grill to blacken the skins. I just set a cookie sheet on top to trap the steam and loosen the skins while I chopped the onions and roughly squished and chopped the garlic. These I sauteed while getting the tomatoes ready. Half were chopped, the other half pureed in the blender and added to the pan. The chilis were chopped very finely and added as well along with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Simmer until it is the thickness you would like.

After taste testing with Leah, next time I would add another chili, use 2 teaspoons salt and simmer until all the wateriness was gone.

the finished salsa

Um, yeh, I don't think these first four jars are going to even see the water bath. Leah and I ate one, another will go into breakfast burritos for dinner tonight and I have no doubt we'll demolish the other two jars within the week.

If you've never tried making your own salsa I highly recommend it. It's really quite simple and you can play around to get the flavors you want most. Best of all no preservatives or thickeners - a big plus in my book!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My house smells divine!

Is there anything better than the smell of Banana Bread?


We had too many. They ripened too fast.

And since I still can't stand sweet there's no way Axel could eat them all on his own.

So here's my adaptation of the recipe I grew up with. Oh, and my favorite way to eat it? Warm (even toasted) with a slice of cheese. Mmmmmm!

baked banana breadBanana Bread

1/4 cup milk
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas*

  1. Preheat oven to 325F / 160C
  2. Line a 5"x8" (13cm x 20cm) loaf pan crossways with baking paper.
  3. Mix the milk and baking soda together in a cup and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cream together the sugar and vegetable oil.
  5. Add in eggs one at a time and cream well.
  6. Stir in flour and milk sugar.
  7. Add mashed bananas**
  8. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

Mom's original recipe called for shortening so I've always used butter. Eureka moment this week when I used oil instead! It creates the perfect texture. Before I had always considered Banana Bread just "ok" now I might just be an addict. Yummmmmeeee!

Of course I reduced the sugar, it calls for 1 whole cup. No thank you. I find the bananas add enough sweetness.

I only had two bananas today and it was fine. I also never mash them. Just add them into the mixing bowl at the end and stir until incorporated.

naked banana breadIf you use a 5"x8" pan like I suggest it will be very full, but it makes a lovely high loaf. Trust me.

Also gone are the days of greasing and flouring pans. I just line the bottoms or go across like I did here. It works a treat and makes it easy to lift out. Just loosen the loaf at the ends and voilá!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Passing the Torch

Oh boy ... I do love me no bake cookiessome No-Bake Cookies and when I saw my bestie from college pin a recipe I got the hankering again. A quick glance at the recipe she pinned revealed that it was identical to the one I grew up with. Kind of nice that some recipes just stay as we remember and don't get "adapted" via via. Yep, I am fairly certain this recipe was penned into my little grey cookbook during one of those phone calls home after I had set up my own pad.

I made multiple batches of these cookies this week and gave them away as fast as I could. Axel doesn't like them (that peanut butter problem of his) and I can / could only eat so many. But ugh ... I seriously overdosed. Which probably explains why it's been three years since I made them (I know for certain I have not made them since we moved into this house).

So now it's your turn ... at least for the next three years. I think I'm good for awhile.

No-Bake Cookies

In a medium-size pan bring the following ingredients to the boil and allow to boil gently for ONE minute:
  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 2 cups sugar*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Meanwhile measure these things out so they're handy when that one minute is up:
  • 3 cups oats (yes, this is one time I think instant are better than rolled) 
  • 4Tbsp cocoa powder on top.
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter* (I like Adams chunky for this - trust me you do not want peanut butter that has sugar added .. these cookies are sweet enough on their own)
- I don't think my mom ever added coconut and it might be good but coconut is grated to a fine dust here so I've never bother trying.

When your timer has gone off (yes set it. I don't have one and if you go over the minute you risk the mixture getting crumbly ... they still taste good but the texture of the cookies is not as good), pull the pan away from the heat and quickly stir in the peanut butter until it's mostly combined. A few lumps are ok ... in fact sometimes it's a nice surprise ... almost like a Reece's hiding in your no-bake.

Then pour in the oats and cocoa powder and mix until combined.

Working as quickly as you can drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. I don't bother lining my baking sheet with aluminum foil or baking paper - it's just more waste. Instead, after they are cool, I use a twisting action to release the cookies from the pan.

DO NOT MAKE A DOUBLE BATCH ... unless you have double the hands to help you drop the cookies. The batter will cool, stiffen up and become crumbly. It's just not worth it.

* A word on sugar. Yes, whenever possible I try to reduce the amount of sugar in most recipes. This is one occasion where I have never tried. I just don't know what it would do to that boiled stuff you need to bind these cookies. But I do insist that my PB is sugar free. I borrowed some from my neighbour for the 3rd batch last week. Uck - waaaaayyy to sweet for this girl. But let me know if you have any tips / hints here.


Friday, June 1, 2012

You know it's summer when ...

I start making this!

There are a couple versions of this salad around. I have really simplified it to just the core basics. You can always add more but I like it like this. I can't call it plain and simple - it packs way too much flavor for that. But easy - yes!

Woops - yah, there should be a picture .. but you can find those other versions here, here and here. Honestly I'd rather share really good recipes than worry about getting the right pic.

One version has sugar and melted butter in the dressing .. seriously? Others add chickpeas, corns, beans, etc which I think is fine but distracts from the lovely popping of the Quinoa (I'm a sucker for anything that pops in my mouth ... poppy seeds, figs ... ). And some add avocado but I don't like that it goes slimy in the fridge.

I make a ton of this salad (at least double) and then just eat away at it.

Hehe, Axel doesn't like it so it's mine, all mine! Well ... I do share with friends. It's just too good to keep it a secret.

Quinoa, Cilantro & Lime Salad

1 cup quinoa, uncooked

2 medium tomatoes, diced
3 scallions, chopped finely
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped


the zest and lime of 1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly and add to a pot of salted water (some cook in bullion, again - I don't bother). Bring to a soft boil and let bubble away for about 10 minutes or until the little tails on the seed loosen up.
  2. Drain thoroughly and at this point I allow it to cool down.
  3. In the meantime, chop the tomatoes, scallions and cilantro.
  4. Whisk the dressing together and then toss it all in a bowl with the cooled quinoa.
  5. Refrigerate and enjoy!
I'd tell you how long it stays good in the fridge but I don't know. Mine never lasts that long.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our New Favorite Cake

In fact he even requested it for his birthday instead of his former "favorite" carrot cake. But we had carrots that needed to go before we went on vacation and not a grapefruit in sight. So he had carrot cake. Mighty good it was, candles and all.

Essentially you're going to make an exquisite Yellow Cake Recipe, add zest to it, poke holes in it after it has baked and soak the top with syrup.

So ... blog reading and writing is a crazy thing. Recipe "adapting" is even crazier.

I first read about Pink Grapefruit Cake at Urban Comfort. She posted the recipe as "adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller". So if I made / make changes to her posted recipe who do I credit now?  I'll play it safe and credit both and hope that's ok with all of you.  Ugh, the world of copyright and lawyers has just ruined the old days of recipe swapping.

Honestly, you can add any zest to this. Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit ... and it would be that kind of cake. But the grapefruit is amazing .. just the right amount of perfume balanced with flavor. I am going to try Lime ... but I have other recipes where I prefer Lemon and Orange.

Very Moist Yellow Cake Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs - if you can get your hands on home grown - do ... the very yellow yolks will give your cake a wonderful color.
1 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil of your choice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
freshly grated zest*

*about the zest
grapefruit - I used the grated of one whole grapefruit - about the size of a softball.
orange - I'd use two oranges
lemon - probably 2, maybe 3 if they were small
lime - definitely 3, maybe 4

the juice of whatever fruit you zested**
1/2 cup granulated sugar

**how much juice?

grapefruit - all of the juice
orange - 2/3 to all
lemon - probably the juice of 2, maybe 3 if they were small
lime - again definitely 3, maybe 4

Urban Comfort says 1 cup of juice but she didn't use it all. Neither did I. I squeezed the juice of my ONE grapefruit and added the 1/2 cup of sugar to make the syrup. ❤ leftover syrup was added to sparkling water for an amazingly refreshing drink.

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F / 175°C. Line the bottom of a 9" x 9" baking pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir in the salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat sugar and eggs at medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and the whisk leaves a trail. Beat in the milk, then the oil, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate; scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Spread the batter in the pan. 
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack.
  6. Meanwhile, combine the grapefruit juice and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and simmer for 1 minute. Set aside. 
  7. After the cake has cooled for about 10 minutes, carefully turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and set right sides up. Use a long skewer to poke deep holes every 3/4 inch or so all over the top of the cake.
  8. Begin brushing the grapefruit syrup over the top of the cake. It may be necessary at times to wait for the syrup to soak in, but continue until you feel like it won't absorb any more. 
Let the cake cool to room temperature. Ice if desired. Easily serves 9.

    Grapefruit Icing - I skipped this ... eh, just not a fan of "icing." Buttercream frosting is another matter.
    3/4 cup powdered sugar
    1 tablespoon plus
    1 teaspoon fresh pink (or red) grapefruit juice

    Stir the powdered sugar and grapefruit juice together in a bowl until smooth. Using a spoon, drizzle the icing on a diagonal over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Slice the cake and serve.

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Chicken with Lovage & Lemon

    Easy Peasy Chicken Dinner with an added twist of LOVAGE. Love-what? If you've never heard of this herb, run over here to our Sweet Harvest blog and read a bit more. I've had Lovage in the garden for quite a few years but have only just fallen *in love* with it. I hope you do too!

    Anyhoo .. this dinner .. it really was a quicky. Thrown together and into the oven to roast away while we did other Saturday things.

    Chicken with Lemon & Lovage

    I used chicken thighs & legs. They were on sale. They were cheap. It meant less prep for me.

    One for each person. We're two but I threw in a third in case Axel was extra hungry. 

    Slice a couple of lemons and stuffed one slice and a couple of lovage leaves under the skin of the thigh.

    In the middle of the pan I layed down a bed of lovage leaves and put my chicken on top. 

    In a bowl I put the chopped lovage stem, a huge chopped onion (or two or three if they're smaller), a teaspoon of dried basil and the zest of about an onion. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle generously with good olive oil. Toss well and divide between the two ends of the pans.

    Cut up a few potatoes, toss in oil, salt and pepper and lay on top of the onions.

    Baked Lemon & Lovage Chicken

    Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 395F / 200C for about a half hour. Remove foil and bake for at least another half hour. Honestly ours could have roasted a bit longer. It was good and we were hungry but another 15 minutes or so would have meant those potatoes and chicken skin would be nice and crispy.

    Turns out we the third let put it in a salad the next day - delish!

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Chewy Brownie Cookies

    You know the best part of a brownie - that chewy yummy bit around the edges of the pan? Well, here you have it - in a cookie! No more fighting, there's enough for everyone.

    I first got turned onto this recipe on Pinterest ... it was pinned from Divine Baking but it turned out she "adapted" the recipe from Epicurous. Yep - it's nearly identical ... so I'll compare what they did to what I did ... I don't think I can really call it an adaptation because the basis for the recipe is the same ... I just changed a few things.

    EpicurousMy Changes or Comments
    Nonstick vegetable oil sprayI keep a stick of butter in the fridge door and just use that to grease pans (mom's trick)
    1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces), dividedI used 200g chocolate which is only 7-1/2 oz. That's the size of baking chocolate here so it's easy and it was plenty. The bars are usually divided into 8 squares so I break 4 apart to melt and chop the other 4 for putting into the dough as chunks.
    3 large egg whites, at room tempno change
    2 1/2 cups powdered sugarI found 1-3/4 cups is plenty (1 cup goes in the eggs first and the other 3/4 cups gets mixed with the cocoa powder)
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powderGet the best European cocoa powder  you can - trust me - avoid Hershey's ... if you need some I'll mail it to you ... it's worth it!
    1 tablespoon cornstarchno change
    1/4 teaspoon saltno change

    Preheat oven to  175°C / 350°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray or use a stick of butter.

    Melt 1/2 the chocolate in glass bowl in microwave - I set the timer 30 seconds at a time, taking it out and stirring it each time until it's smooth. Cool slightly.

    Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme.

    Use a fork to combine 3/4 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in medium bowl. On low speed, stir dry ingredients into meringue.

    Stir in lukewarm chocolate and the remaining chocolate cut into chunks. The recipe says the batter will be very stiff. Mine never has been but if your kitchen is warm I would recommend refrigerating the dough for at least a half hour.

    Then you're supposed to roll the dough into balls - yuck! It's sticky and sometimes not stiff enough. So I just drop it by teaspoonfuls directly onto the baking sheet. And they turn out just as pretty and round without all the hassle but be sure to leave enough space between because they will spread.

    Instead of rolling the balls in powdered sugar I just sift it generously over the top - perfect and a lot less messy! (In the pictures I wasn't generous enough ... will remember to use more next time. I was also reading the comments on Epicurous ... oh my goodness, there are a ton of comments about adding things like cinnamon to the dusting sugar, or chopped jalopenos, ginger or almonds to the batter. Hehe, this is obviously for me ... not the hubby except maybe the almonds.

    Bake for 10 minutes until the tops are cracked. Cool on the sheets (on a rack) for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack and allow to cool.

    Epicurous says this quantity makes about 24 cookies. Diving baking says it makes 18. Yikes, I don't know what size there cookies are but mine made 32 and they were plenty big enough - a tad bigger than my camera lens cap - so definitely big enough.

    Roll 1 rounded tablespoon dough into ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheets on rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack and allow to cool.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    My GO-TO {pregnant} Salad

    This being pregnant thing is crazy ... I know it's different for everyone. But I am so glad I pulled the straw I did ... I DO NOT WANT ANYTHING SWEET!

    In fact it's the opposite .. the more savoury the better. Spicy, salty, you name it I am there. Salsa, Chili, Feta Cheese, OLIVES and Axel's fantastic spaghetti sauce are just a few things that get routinely rotated throughout the week.

    But this week it's all about one of my all-time favorite salads. I used to order it at least once a week at a little cafe just a block from the newspaper offices in Everett.

    The must have ingredients are a huge pile of fresh spinach leaves!

    Plus spring (or finely chopped red) onions and lots of sliced mushrooms.

    Optional ingredients include croutons, crumbled bacon and / or grated mature goat's cheese or parmesan.

    But the SECRET? The secret is in the dressing!
    Ok, so I don't actually use measurements .. I just start pouring into a glass jar until it looks right and adjust if necessary. It starts with soy sauce probably about 1/3 to 1/2 of the total quantity you're making. Then add a splash of vinegar - I use water I have on hand: rice, white wine, apple and you could probably even try balsamic, but I avoid just plain white vinegar - ew! Then double the quantity by topping up with oil and I always add a bit of water. Screw the cap on a give it a good shake! I love how it gets a bit foamy ... dip a spinach leaf in and taste ... maybe a bit more soy sauce (to add flavor and saltiness), if it's too strong add a bit more water. 

    Let me tell you, this salad hits the spot every single time! I've had it for lunch every day this week.

    With WINTER spinach I tend to tear it up quite a bit because the leaves are thicker. You can even get away with dressing this salad and tossing it a few times before serving.

    With tender spinach you probably don't want to handle it as much - the leaves are usually more tender and smaller so dress and toss just before serving.

    And enjoy!

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