BAM Cup of Soup

Posted by Pussycat in Soups | Leave a comment

IMG_0001 Shirataki Noodle Cup of Soup

Do you remember the cups of noodles that you probably ate shamelessly as a teenager? The ones that are full of fried noodles, less than a half dozen pieces of vegetables that are so out of place they stand out and allow you to brainwash yourself into believing that perhaps you’re actually eating something that might be healthy; the ones that only require that you plug in the kettle and pour boiling water and wait? Though the waiting is truly a challenge and I would often burn my tongue slurping it too soon. I loved these noodles. Okay, I still love these noodles or at least I love the memory of them. I always had the spicy version, spicy chicken, spicy beef, but who are we kidding there wasn’t actually any meat in these styrofoam cups. It was the spicy broth and the noodles that always appealed to me as well as the ease and portability of them. You could throw the shrink-wrapped cup in a bag and as long as you could get some hot water you were good to go.

Maybe you’re still eating them but I for one have long past the age where my internal system is able to manage all the salt and MSG that lurks inside and I have been avoiding them for years. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss them and wish I could still eat them. Yes, it seems I’m still doing some ‘lamenting’ as I was in my last post. Maybe I need to go out and buy myself a convertible, or maybe I just need to get over it. Though I suppose that’s the challenge for many of us and would be why so many people my age are driving some pretty expensive sports cars. You know who you are.

IMG_0003 Shirataki BAM Soup

We’ve seemingly been immobilized by the winter weather lately, hunkered down watching as many of the Oscar nominated movies as we can and the list is amazing this year to be sure. My experience of watching these movies so far has evoked my mother’s voice. “You have to taste it before you decide you don’t like it.” These words also ring true of the movies. You have to watch them before deciding you don’t like them. Granted that may not be true of ALL movies, I think we need to have some latitude here to dismiss some movies though I’m not going to tell you which of those I think they are, I will say that they are not of the ones on the list of this year’s nominations. These words snapped in my head as I reluctantly watched Birdman. It wasn’t even just that I wasn’t much in the mood for that kind of movie, which by the way was not at all what I had talked myself into thinking it was going to be, I wasn’t even actually in the mood to see if it was something that I would like. But I did. Watch it that is. And love it.

Now I’ve seen most of the nominated movies and Birdman is dark and funny and eerie in a way that is not metaphysical or unrealistic but realistic in a way that will follow you for a few days. But don’t take my word for it, try it and see what you think. It happens to be my favourite so far.

IMG_0006 Shirataki BAM Soup

This brings me back to the ‘try it and see before you decide’ comment. I posted Shirataki noodles with Chicken soup before and after moving out butts and getting out on a nicer winter day this soup is pure comfort. The noodles themselves are gelatinous and really pretty flavourless but once you immerse them in a broth that is killer they will bring back memories of your youth though with much less guilty and much less swelling as a result if MSG does that to you as it does me. It’s also pretty simple and just a wee bit more work than boiling water. So simple. So good. So healthy! Also good for Dukan followers everywhere. I’m still going to post the BAM Shrimp but today I needed soup.

Cup of Soup

  • package of ground turkey
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons (to taste) Emeril’s Essence seasoning*
  • 1 litre of beef broth (salt and fat free)
  • 2 bunches of baby Bok Choy
  • handful or two of chopped cabbage
  • 2-3 kale leaves chopped
  • 1 package of Shirataki Angle pasta noodles

Fry the onion in a medium sized pot in a small drizzle of oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and season with Emeril’s Essence mix, fry until the turkey is cooked through. Add the broth and throw in the vegetables. I use the ones as listed above but any ones can be added depending on your affinity towards certain veggies. Rinse the noodles in a strainer and then add to the mix. I cut my noodles up since they’re a challenging to keep on the spoon if they’re too long and warm everything and eat. I will generally top my soup off with some additional chili paste but you don’t have to, it really depends on how hot you like it and Emeril’s seasoning mix packs a bit of a punch if you use a fair bit like I do.

The thing that is nice about these noodles is that they do NOT disintegrate or suck up a whole bunch of the broth. The lousy thing about these noodles is that they do NOT suck up the broth which means that a) they can sit in the soup as long as need be if you’re making this for the week’s lunches and b) they still won’t taste like much but they contain a whole lot of pure fibre.

*Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning Mix (I left out the salt in my mix and generally season with salt to taste)

INGREDIENTS
• 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon black pepper
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Linzer Cookies

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

Gluttony and Leftover Linzer Cookies

IMG_0001 Leftover LinzersI’m not sure what it is that twists us into gluttonous swines during the holidays. Food is so central to the celebrations that we don’t often even enjoy it but rather stuff our faces until we brink on explosion. Our pants get unbuckled and we lay back into our seats be they at home or at a relative’s, we adjust over and over again until we move in such a way that allows even just a whiff of space… only to be filled, overfilled once more with things like cakes and cookies. Every year when we do this… we know…. yet we do it anyway.

I’m not only guilty of overfilling myself during the holidays I am also guilty of overcooking and overbaking, making sure that there is MORE than enough so that everyone struggles to keep their bloated bodies in their clothes. Every year I double or triple cookie recipes to make sure that there is enough, rather, more than enough actually. Maybe it’s the tediousness of such baking that makes me always want to make things in bulk. It just doesn’t seem to make sense to make just a few when it takes so much time and energy. Once you have all the cookies baked why go through the mess of melting chocolate and brushing them for just a few? Then I continue to justify the madness and I think to myself. Why make two dozen when I can make four or six. What if I want to take some to work? What if more people cover over? For god’s sake, what if we run out!? It is madness. It is not rational.

IMG_0008 Leftover Linzers

I’d like to say that it’s my leftover panic, a throwback to the days when I had nothing, this fear of running out. But that isn’t it. Yes, we were certainly poor when I was growing up. We didn’t have much but I don’t ever remember not having food or not having enough. And when I got divorced we didn’t have much either. Though we never ran out of food, it wasn’t that expensive feeding two little girls who didn’t eat much. Christ, I could make a whole turkey last for a week, butchering it and making four different stir fry meals out of the breasts, a huge pot of soup with the carcass and roasting what was left, the roasted pieces alone would last for a couple of days.

I was asked recently by the bloggers of havefruitwilltravel, who are currently in the Czech Republic, to answer some questions about the culture of Czech food. It made me think that even European’s don’t seem to hoard food the way Canadians and North Americans do, what with our monster sized refrigerators supplemented by the freezers most of us have in our basements all bursting with food that frequently gets lost and freezer burnt in a back corner. As far as I’m aware Europeans have always had very small refrigerators, strolling on their way home from work and picking up the evening’s and the next day’s food on their way. I’m sure it was about availability and about space and also about a different way of living and yet they lived through numerous wars and famines you would think they would hoard the way we do. Of course, then again, we don’t know what millions of jars of preserves are hiding in their cold rooms either, maybe they just hoard food differently.

IMG_0012 Leftover Linzers

So today I’m lamenting. I’m lamenting the teenager I once was that didn’t seem to need to overindulge in food, I’m lamenting eating and never feeling bloated or gaining weight and I’m also lamenting eating! I’m on day four of a carb cleanse and I’m constantly being taunted by the few dozen cookies that are lurking in my porch in boxes. Packed away for what I do not know. They are stacked in boxes and as I walk by the big windows leading into the room and see them stacked there I swear they are screaming my name…. I swear they are shamelessly begging to be eaten. In years past we’ve discovered that most of these cookies are also fantastic frozen, maybe they aren’t really as good but when you’ve been living in a food deficit that is synonymous with most of our New Year’s resolutions frozen cookies taste like a dream!

So today I’m posting the Linzer cookie. A smooth, buttery, creamy cookie filled with a tart cherry jam. These are the ones that were my favourites as a kid and they are a staple for Czech Christmas baking though they are not only a seasonal cookie but a year round one. Similar to, but much, much better than the ones that hide in the boxes of bought cookies I used to see in the store. Though not difficult these are as all the other Czech Christmas cookies seem to be, time consuming to make. Time slipped away from me before the holidays and I didn’t get around to posting them but today I am pulling a few out of the box, warming them up, taunting them and giving them a moment of fame, sprinkling them with icing sugar and sharing them with you before I pack them back up and freeze them into silence until my body has adjusted to protein and veggies and isn’t begging me to eat the rest of the entire box. It’s my way of being passive aggressive and once this is done I’ll share with you some of the more nutritious and less carb laden food I’m vowing to eat for the rest of the month. Stay tuned for the BAM Shrimp that’s coming up! Or if your pants are strangling you and you can’t wait then check out my post on Dukan bread — it’s the only bread I’ve been eating for the last three days and for the next month…. almost feels like a cheat!

IMG_0002 Leftover Linzers

Linzer Cookies (altered from my post last year Lemon Linzer Cookies with Cranberries)

* makes about 100 little cookies… not nearly enough!

  • 350 gr flour
  • 140 gr icing sugar
  • 200 gr softened butter (unsalted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Tart cherry or Raspberry Jam

Mix all the ingredients together to form a nice soft ball (nothing too fancy here… just easy peasy). Let the dough rest overnight in the fridge or not if you’re dying for some of these today just cool them in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Roll out the dough and cut out half for the bottoms and half with holes for the top. bake on parchment at 180 degrees for about 5 – 6 minutes. Watch them, if you roll them out fairly thin like I did then they will bake quickly and go from light golden to over-baked very quickly.  Set them aside and let them cool before spreading your favourite jam in-between and placing them together.  I used a tart cherry jam I had hidden away though you can always also use a lemon curd if you like.  Sprinkle with a little icing sugar before serving.

If you’re going to store these that can be done easily in a cold room for a few days or freezer for longer, especially if you make these in bulk like I did. Make sure to separate the layers between wax paper so they don’t stick together.  However if they do because you didn’t think ahead then you will have to eat these… they won’t look as pretty and we wouldn’t want to serve cookies that don’t look pretty!

Rosemary, Nutmeg and Butter Roasted Chestnuts

Posted by Pussycat in Sides, Sweets | Leave a comment

Firsts…. and Happy New Year!

This year I’ve transcended the need to hear the booming detonation of chestnuts, bursting and exploding out of their skins, spitting overdone meat on the four walls that would later need to be scraped and scrubbed or better yet cremated into ash in a self-cleaning oven if you were so lucky as to have one of those. This is how we used to know they were done. The explosion would send my mother running back to the kitchen, racing as she quickly pulled them out before a succession broke out, slapping themselves against the walls, blowing the lid off the cast iron pan meant to hold them in. SHIT! She would yell in another word, in another language as she bolted, a chestnut bounding out of her seat, grappling the lid to the pan, often burning skin that nudged against the hot iron skillet as she hurried. We would laugh. We weren’t the ones cleaning the damn oven later.

IMG_0043 Roasted Chestnuts

My mother would buy chestnuts around this time of year and our fingers would hurt for days from the scratches and dents that were caused by prying them open, the corners of our nail beds sore, our skin sometimes mimicking the same bursting chestnut. The steaming meat soft and tender, so different from anything else we would indulge in throughout the year; similar to a slightly undercooked sweet potato but more like the texture and even slightly in flavour to a roasted cassava root albeit lacking the explosion that has always marked the experience for me.

IMG_0074 Roasted Chestnuts

In Austria and other parts of Europe where the winter is far less biting outdoor vendors sell small paper bags of the cooked jewels, a visit on my bucket list, but for now I’m told by my mother that people put them in their pockets or hold them in their hands to keep warm. Something of a pointless endeavour in Manitoba and maybe that’s why we don’t have any vendors selling them street side in the winter… Come to think of it selling anything street side in the winter in Manitoba as it seems is something that hasn’t crossed anyone’s mind. Manitobans aren’t strolling anywhere but rather running, determined to get quickly from point A to point B, hoods over their heads, scarves over their faces, hands covered in warm mitts. Perhaps if they had hot chestnuts in their pockets they would be less focused on their destination. Or perhaps even these wonderful nuts wouldn’t warm us to the point of strolling anywhere at all when the temperatures plunge beyond minus 30 degrees… Yes people that’s far colder than many Europeans have to endure lest they refused to leave their homeland.


IMG_0068 Roasted Chestnuts

I’m not sure if my mother didn’t know to score these nuts prior to placing them in the oven or if this is a Czech tradition that she held on to but it has become an obsolete experience in my home. I am much too lazy to spend an hour or so washing splattered meat off the inside of my oven. I am much more inclined to restrict my experience to pained fingers, eased in suffering by licking browned butter infused with rosemary, nutmeg and salt, as suggested by Bon Appétit magazine, off of them as I joyously place them in my mouth one by one, suckle the seasoned butter before cracking them then carefully and eagerly peeling and eating.

IMG_0015 Roasted Chestnuts

If you are so fortunate as to have an underused three season porch surrounded by frosted windows this time of year, sit close to the cold nipped glass and suckle a handful of these nuts. Or if you have a fireplace then set it ablaze and enjoy the baked and fragrant butter that transforms these nuts into a treat that is not only for the mouth but also for the nose as the nutmeg and rosemary fill your home with the aroma of winter warmth.

IMG_0031 Roasted Chestnuts

This post marks several ‘firsts’ for me; the first post of the year, the first time I’ve roasted chestnuts and haven’t had to spend the following hour or so cleaning the oven as a result, the first time I’ve dressed these nuts in a concoction so utterly delicious, the first time I’ve been so damned wordy in a post! I anticipate it will be a year of many more ‘firsts’ as my resolution is about creating a great many ‘firsts’ and practicing a new perspective on things that are not.

Happy New Year everyone…I hope that 2015 is filled full of many wonderful ‘firsts’ for all of you!
Rosemary Nutmeg Butter Roasted Chestnuts (as found in Bon Appétit, though slightly altered)

  • 2- 3 dozen fresh chestnuts
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary (I used dried rosemary, broken and rubbed between my hands)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and set a kettle of water to boil. First take the chestnuts and score an ‘X’ on each of them using a sharp knife. Once they are all scored pour hot water over them and let them soak for a minute. Lightly dry off the chestnuts and place them in a baking dish (best to have them in a single layer) where you have melted the butter. I tried to arrange mine all cut side down… better to soak up the butter or at least that’s what I was hoping.  Sprinkle them with rosemary, salt and nutmeg and cover loosely with foil. I promise that they will not explode in the oven and will not force you to spend an hour cleaning same oven when you are done… ;) Bake for about 45 minutes and then remove from the oven, push them around a little to make sure they are well buttered (Also as payback for the way they will destroy your fingers when you peel them!)

Sit back and enjoy…. maybe even with a hot cup of chocolate milk and some damn good minty marshmallows!

Roasted Veggie Wild Rice Salad

Posted by Pussycat in Salads | 7 Comments

We had a large Christmas / Holiday gathering at our house, roasted turkey with all the fixings was on the menu as was a new treat for those who don’t eat meat.  We are such carnivores in our house that I often forget that others don’t appreciate flesh the way we do.  Consequently as the second turkey was baking (yes, I did two of them; roasting one the day before) and all the veggies were being prepared I decided that I needed to make a more dedicated vegetarian dish for those who might otherwise feel left out.  Luckily for me I have a monster sized (50 lb) bag of wild rice hidden away that we bought when we were frequenting the northern part of Manitoba that I dip into for special occasions such as this.

IMG_0034 Wild Rice - Veggie

I had initially wanted to make a squash dish and I picked up about 4 lbs of cubed squash earlier in the week but opened it up to find it had gone bad in just a few days.  This would have made a great pairing with the wild rice and I love squash but that was now out of the question.  Though squash would have bulked up this dish and could easily be added I have to say that adding other veggies like large chunks of roasted onions and whole roasted garlic made it super yummy.

IMG_0022 Wild Rice - VeggieI love the layers of garlic in this dish from roasted and raw garlic and even though I’m not the biggest fan of cooked spinach it worked well as did the roasted chickpeas.  I know this dish seems like a lot of work with the list of ingredients but if you have the oven going anyway slipping another pan on the bottom rack with some veggies on it for this is not a big deal and well worth the time.

IMG_0002 Wild Rice - Veggie

Roasted Veggie Rice Salad

  • 1 cup raw wild rice
  • 1 jar slowly roasted tomatoes (recipe found here or use sun dried tomatoes —  though admittedly not as good)
  • 2-3 onions
  • 2 garlic bulbs (I actually used 3)
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 large bag of spinach
  • olive oil to coat the veggies while roasting
  • cayenne pepper to season the chickpeas
  • butter to lightly cook the spinach
  • Salt and pepper to season

Set the rice in a pot of water to cook (cook according to instructions) lots of water and for about 35- 45 minutes on medium until the rice starts to split. You can cook for a longer or shorter amount of time depending on your preference for a stiffer or softer rice.

While the rice is cooking quarter the onions and cut off the top of the garlic bulbs, coat with olive oil and set in the oven (I baked at 350 F on the bottom rack) make sure to check often and turn the onions as they become nicely caramelized roasting the garlic until they start to push out of the top. When you cut the tops off the garlic bulbs you’ll end up with the tips of the garlic that would normally get thrown away, don’t toss these, mince them and then throw them in raw with the wild rice.

Place the drained and rinsed chickpeas on a separate pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper.  Also place these on the low rack of the oven and bake for about 10 – 15 minutes, checking and rolling them around frequently until they have a nice crisp outside… taste them as you go along…. once you like the consistency take them out.  Mine were pretty crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Pan fry the spinach with butter until it’s wilted.

Assemble

Toss the rice with the minced garlic; a jar of roughly chopped roasted tomatoes, roasted onions, the roasted garlic (mashed and broken up slightly), the cooked spinach and lastly the roasted chickpeas.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.  I made this early in the afternoon and had to warm it up a little before serving.

You do have to love garlic for this dish to be a hit and I’ve come to understand it is doubtful that there is a person alive that doesn’t love garlic.  I know it seems as though there is a lot of it in this dish but the roasted garlic, which really is the bulk of it has such a nice sweet flavour without the burn.

This was an improvised dish that I’m going to make soon again for sure…. it’s just that good…. and super healthy…. and there was barely a spoonful left over – seems it was a hit with the vegetarians and the carnivores.

 

 

Gingerbread Cookies and Drizzling Chocolate

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IMG_0033 Gingerbread Cookies

You should never be in a hurry when drizzling chocolate, certainly not if you actually want it to look really nice.  Of course, I tend to always be in a hurry… it’s an affliction I’ve suffered from since as long as I can remember.  It also doesn’t help that it’s the last weekend before Christmas and I had some finishing to do… there are just so many steps in our traditional Christmas baking that you really need to think ahead…. and I keep adding baking to the list.. it’s crazy I tell you!  You know… having decided not to make certain things then deciding somehow that you can’t live without them.. like these boozy chocolate covered prunes with almonds… really… Can it be Christmas without Rum?  What the heck is that!  Plus…. given that I’ve been using the kitchen A LOT this last few weeks (I also made marshmallows for staff and it takes some intense work cleaning snow from all corners of the kitchen) I have some serious house cleaning to get done as well.

Back to the chocolate drizzle.  Today I needed to  brush the backs of the Marokanky with chocolate, my absolute favourite Christmas treat. I also needed to drizzle chocolate on the  gingerbread cookies that just didn’t ice very well… again… I was in a hurry… it was a weeknight… Now they needed something to make them look a whole lot nicer than the icing that, though it tastes yummy… looks terrible!  I found these instructions on how to melt chocolate in a ziplock baggie in the microwave here and it actually worked really well.

Figuring out how to manage a ziplock baggie full of melted chocolate chips takes a bit of practice.  First cut a small corner off the baggie… make it small you can always make it bigger…. You can’t go back and make it smaller!  If you’re in a hurry and squeeze the baggie too much you end up with this…  kind of a fun curly thing but very obviously not the look we’re going for.

IMG_0014 Gingerbread Cookies

And if you cut the hole too big you end up with this…

IMG_0006 Gingerbread Cookies

Just like Goldilocks… you need to get it just right and you need to put just the slightest pressure on the baggie so that you end up with a nice drizzle like this.  I only have a small handful of ones that actually turned out looking nice. I’ll have to come back here the next time I need to drizzle chocolate to remind myself to put the coffee down, take a breath, relax and let the drizzle happen!  ;)

 

IMG_0018 Gingerbread Cookies

As for the Gingerbread cookies.  I’ve always loved my mother’s gingerbread cookies at Christmas… they were a speciality cookie that was a staple this time of year so I made them following a recipe my mom has from one of her old Czech cookbooks, altered of course over the years and made to taste really nice and gingery.  You can play with the spices a bit, add more of one if you don’t have enough of another.  These cookies are very forgiving in terms of spices as long as there are ENOUGH spices — the exact combination, however, is pretty lax. There isn’t any molasses in these ones, I find I’ve never really much like the taste of  molasses.  I actually tried another version earlier but they didn’t turn out very well so I stick with these.

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 650 grams flour
  • 100 grams honey
  • 50 grams butter
  • 250 grams icing sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 7 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fine candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 heaping teaspoons star anis
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • citrus zest (could be lemon or orange)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

****  Anytime you can use whole spices and grind them yourself that always produces the best flavour, just add the spices to a coffee grinder and let it go until you have a nice fine powder.  Again, because the mixture of spices is so forgiving, it won’t matter if the amounts of ground spices don’t measure up exactly to the whole ones you added in… make sense?  Essentially ‘eyeballing’ it is okay as long as you don’t cut anything back too much!

First melt the butter and honey together then mix in the egg yolks.  Mix all the dry ingredients together and add the seasonings.  Mix the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until you have a nice dough.  Let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Roll the dough out and cut out your favourite shapes, snowflakes, snowmen, gingerbread men, Christmas trees.  Bake at 350 degrees until just browned.

IMG_0034 Gingerbread Cookies

Icing

Squeeze the juice from two lemons and add icing sugar until you have a nice paste (a little  runny) in a bowl then dip the cooled cookies into the icing and let them sit until dry and store for Christmas or enjoy.  I’ve also then drizzled with melted chocolate and I tend to use unsweetened as the cookies are sweet enough.  You can also decorate any other way you like.  * I should note that if you mix too much and don’t let the sugar calm down you’ll end up with bubbles and they won’t look great (like some of mine) and if you don’t let the sugar actually melt then the icing won’t be even (again some of the mistakes I made with mine).

Mine may not be the prettiest but they sure do taste good and I love the lemon juice with the icing sugar as it gives them a bit of tang.

 

Hoblovačky or Czech Carpenter Curls

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

It’s that time of year and I’ve been desperately trying to get on top of my Christmas baking.  I’ve made a few already, for instance I’ve already made Marokanky and I’ve also made Gingerbread cookies (which just need to be iced and decorated… they are coming soon.  For today I was fiddling with these…Hoblovačky or in English, Carpenter Curls.  I’ve always thought these were so darn cute and I love fennel and so it was a challenge keeping them out of my mouth.

IMG_0011 carpenter curls

Make no mistake these are a bit tedious and finicky but they are well worth it… chewy, sweet, crunchy and the fennel… well what can I say but PUT THAT COOKIE DOWN!  :)

IMG_0052 carpenter curls

Different people make these differently.  Some recipes call to bake the batter in a pan and then cut them with a pizza cutter or cheese cutter and then curl them quickly… This seemed like far too much stress for me.  My mother makes these like flat pancakes without the fennel and then rolls them out into something resembling a Pirouette.  But I like these best with the fennel and curled up like these carpenter curls… they seem more fun for Christmas.

IMG_0070 carpenter curls

They are a bit of a pain and you have to roll them or shape them while still warm…. or hot enough to burn your fingers… yes… that fast … but they are well worth the pace… have an extra cup of coffee and go for it…. before you know it you’ll have a nice batch of these that you’ll have to hide from friends and YOURSELF so you have them handy for Christmas.

Hoblovačky – this makes about 100 cookies

  • 180 grams of butter
  • 420 grams sugar (plain granular)
  • 200 grams flour
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 8 egg whites
  • fennel seeds (enough to sprinkle on the cookies before you bake them)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Cut the softened butter into the flour and sugar and grate in the lemon zest.  Add the vanilla and egg whites and mix with a fork or whisk until smooth.  You should have a nice batter.

Line your pans with a silpat sheet (best) or parchment (still a very good idea) or lots of butter (so I’ve heard but not tried).

You can either pipe the batter using a flat tip like the #47 (which is what I used and then I evened and flattened the out with the back of a spoon) or you can spoon them by hand.  Spread the batter into strips about 2 inches wide and 4-5 inches long.  Make sure that the batter is quite thin and as even as you can get it.  You’ll want to give these some room, they don’t spread too much but I was putting about 8 to a pan and that was giving them enough room and also making sure I didn’t have so many coming out  of the oven all at once… you need to work fast!   As they cool they get almost impossible to shape.

Once you have the batter in strips on the pan then sprinkle with the fennel seeds and bake  for about 3-5 minutes, the amount of time will really depend on how thick your batter is… trust me 30 seconds makes a difference so keep your eyes on them.  You’ll want to take them out when they are nice and golden brown around the edges and then quickly use a knife or spatula and lift them up, curl them around the handle of a wooden spoon and let them sit for a minute or two until they keep their shape.  Again, work fast… you’ll notice that they lose their pliability very quickly and I’ve been told that you can put them back in the oven to warm up if need be for a second or two if you can’t bend them.

These will keep for a while (couple of weeks?) in the fridge or longer in the freezer… It’s cold in my part of the country so we’ve always kept small boxes, lined them with foil or parchment and then stored boxes of cookies in the garage around this time of year.  Whatever works!

 

Eating with our Eyes at The Beachcomber – Winnipeg

Posted by Pussycat in Reviews | Leave a comment

We don’t always think ahead, P and I. Sometimes we get distracted and then find ourselves scrambling for somewhere to eat, quickly before such things as plays that begin in a couple of hours. This is the situation we found ourselves in last week and since there isn’t much for restaurants close to home we ventured into the city…. Endeavoured to be seated at several places before we landed at The Beachcomber at the Forks.

The Beachcomber seems to bustle in the summertime since they have a lovely patio in a beautiful part of the city. People gather there and The Beachcomber draws patrons from the folks who hang, wander, sun, and shop around the area. In the winter time though, the area is far less bustling and the empty seats at The Beachcomber reflected the lack of people outdoors. It was a Saturday night; we had about an hour and a half before we needed to leave to make our play. I was hungry and consequently a little grumpy. A lack of food always does that to me.

 
We let our waiter know that we wanted to be out by 8 o’clock and he suggested that we have salad or appetizers as they don’t take as long to prepare. Oddly, at home my steak only takes a few minutes; I wasn’t sure why I would take much longer here. But I needed food, I question less when I’m hungry since I can get a little ornery and I’m very aware of that personality trait and we decided to stick with what seemed to be easy and timely.
We ordered a full sized Greek Salad to share, Salt and Pepper Wings, Dry Ribs and Lobster Stacks.

The salad came out first, it was beautiful but the taste, hungry as I was, was lacking. I would have liked a bottle or at the very least a splash of vinegar to throw on it as it seemed to have a dressing made with olive oil and herbs but little to no zing from any vinegar and though I can appreciate that it’s winter here in Winnipeg, the tomatoes were cut into huge wedges and were the consistency and taste of what I imagine baseballs would be if I bit into them. Not a great first plate!

 
We then got our Lobster Stacks, “Lobster claw meat stacked over garlic and white bean bruschetta on a parmesan baguette” as listed on their menu. Again this dish looked very beautiful with good sized chunks of lobster meat but it was short on taste and the bread, which we expected would have some crunch was in fact quite soggy. This dish would have benefited from some crunch and a splash of lemon or sprinkling of lemon seasoning.

 

Lastly we received our wings and dry ribs. There was definitely a theme here. The wings and ribs looked beautiful and were very nice and crispy, and I’m not a fan of too much salt but the seasoning was coarse salt and pepper and there was definitely a shortage of it when we bit into them. Unfortunately adding to it wasn’t really a good option since the seasoning really does need to be added as soon as the bites are taken from the fryer in order for it to stick and so these were also lacking some flavour.

 
All in all, hungry as we were the dinner was a little disappointing, given that the dishes weren’t on the cheap side it was even more disappointing. We don’t ever mind paying a good dollar for food that is prepared and seasoned well but this price for these dishes was a little steep for what we got. Will we be running back there? No, but we may stop in for a drink and a seat in the summer on their beautiful patio. I would suggest this is a nice summer place, for patio seating, as long as your expectations of the food are fairly low.

I’m sorry that I didn’t stop to take pictures of the beautiful food and I’ll be more conscious of that next time.  But when I’m starving and we’re in a rush, pulling out my phone to take pictures isn’t always at the forefront of my mind. Next time I’ll try to take a breath before I dig in.

Vánočka – Czech Christmas Sweetbread

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

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I know that it’s a been quite a while since I’ve tended to my blog.  It’s been a very busy November, my final class of my second degree is finally, finally completed.  I uploaded my last assignment on the 27th.  Whew…. needless to say that November was filled with papers, groups projects and facilitating a seminar.  Though I got to work with some great women in this class I’m not sorry that it’s over… and just in time to get started on my Christmas baking!

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We’ll start this off with my most favourite sweet bread in the world…Vánočka… it’s kinda like Challa and egg bread and fruit bread all rolled into one.  Though these days I’m really trying to be good I have certainly been known to eat a whole loaf… one glorious slice after one glorious slice… just walking back and forth. I barely make it to the couch …. I have to go back for another… I swear… it doesn’t just call to me but more like SCREAMS at me!  At least until I eat the whole damn thing.

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I’m hoping to freeze one loaf (I made two) and pull it out closer to Christmas … as a treat… you know after I’ve already eaten a whole one… oh who am I kidding… for sure I’ll be making another two before Christmas.  Half of one is already gone!

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Vánočka

  • 1 kg of flour
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 240 grams butter (melted)
  • 2 packages of dry yeast (or 50 grams fresh)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • grate of 1 or 2 lemons
  • As much milk as you need (okay… about a cup)
  • 150 grams almonds
  • 150 grams raisons
  • 150 grams cranberries
  • 150 grams dried apricots
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Put aside a bowl with warm milk and a spoon of sugar and the yeast, allow it to bloom.  In the meantime mix all dry ingredients and place in a stand mixer with a hook attachment.  Once the yeast has bloomed add the wet ingredients (including the yeast) slowly incorporating them into the mixer allowing the mixer to develop a ball of dough.  Keep adding wet ingredients until you have a nice dough.  Let the mixer knead the dough for about 15 minutes (on medium speed) until the it just slightly starts to pull off the side of the bowl.  Then knead on the counter (by hand) to incorporate all the fruit and nuts.

Cut dough in half as this amount makes 2 loaves.  From each half cut into 9 pieces so that you can braid, a four strand, then a three strand and last a two strand all stacked on top of each other. Brush with egg wash in between the layers to help them stay together and brush the whole of the loaf with the egg wash before putting into the oven.

Bake at 350 for about a half hour or until golden.  You may need to cover it with foil as the top may burn before it’s done baking.

Slice and enjoy… oh yeah… maybe butter?  If you can be bothered.

 

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | 12 Comments

It’s definitely pumpkin time of year.  At work a couple of weeks ago someone was talking about these amazing pumpkin cookies – ‘I ate the whole batch… one after the other’ was their comment…. these must be good I thought.   So I figured I would give them a try.    They don’t have the consistency that makes me think of cookies but more like muffin tops which certainly lends itself well to the cream cheese filling or icing if you decide to cover them with it.

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When you make them you have to know that the batter does’t change much – or melt down the way that cookies do so when you put them on the baking dish so you need to shape them the way you want them to look BEFORE you bake them.  I knew this ahead of time so I decided the use my piping bag to shape them.  I had initially thought I would make an indent in the top to create a dip in the cookie for the icing but once they were baked they puffed up a little and I lost the groove for this…. alas I decided to make these more like whoopie pies.


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They really do taste more like muffins with cream cheese but this does not in any way deter one from eating them…. seriously good…. though I think next time I’ll pay more attention to the way they are shaped to leave myself a place to put the icing on top… they are a little filling!

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Recipe (comes from all recipes)

Cookies (muffin tops)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree

Frosting

  • 1 (3 oz) package cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, lightly grease baking sheets

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and ginger in a bowl. Mix together in a seperate bowl 1 cup butter, white sugar, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla exact and egg with electric mixer beating until smooth.  Add and beat in pumpkin puree and gradually add in dry ingredients.

Spoon batter or pipe batter onto prepared baking sheets and bake in preheated oven until cookies are lightly browned – 10 – 15 minutes.  Let them cool for about 5 minutes before moving them to cool on waxed paper.

Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla with electric mixer until soft and creamy, beat in confectioners sugar slowly ensuring frosting is smooth and spreadable then either top or use the frosting between cookies.

Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Buns

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and I have so very much to be thankful for… I’ve certainly had my years of challenges… some easier than others… some much more painful than others…. it’s time to be grateful.   Not just on this weekend… I’m generally pretty grateful that my children are healthy finally and safe and that I have a job that provides well for me and I have people around me that I love and appreciate… you know who you are…. :)  And though I often get caught up in feeling like I just don’t have time enough for all the things I want to do… I’m grateful that I have the strength, health and energy to do all the things I can… Like spend the day in the kitchen…. Life is good!  I hope you all have everything you need… and most of the things you want… a little longing for something can always be motivating…. and that life makes you happy!

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One of the things I spent my time on this morning getting ready for a filling turkey dinner was these buns.  I saw these on foodgawker some time ago and though I made them before they didn’t turn out so great last time…. don’t know why.  I thought I would try them again and this time they were pillowy and soft and so good with turkey dinner….. and so darn cute!  I ate 3 of them…. they were so good…. and that was not long after they came out of the oven.

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They really do look beautiful on the dinner table and so impressive even though they are so easy to make…. the link to the original recipe can be found here…. but I’ll retype the recipe below with very minor alterations in case you’re not wandering today….

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Pumpkin Dinner Rolls (slightly adapted from www.beyondkimchee.com)

  • ¾ cup skim milk, scalded
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (1/2 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 15-20 almond slivers

Pour hot milk in a mixing bowl, add butter and stir to melt. Add sugars, pumpkin puree to the milk and combine well. In a small bowl proof yeast in a lukewarm water with a teaspoon sugar. When it gets foamy add to the pumpkin mixture, and add the egg, mix well.  Add half the flour gradually and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Attach a dough hook in a stand mixer place the rest of the flour into the bowl and add the mixed batch into the mixer….. beat for about 5 minutes the dough should be nice and silky.

Turn the dough out to a wooden board dusted with a little flour. Knead with hand for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball shape, place in a greased bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hr.

Punch the dough to deflate and knead it for a few seconds on a wooden board. Cut the dough in half. Cut each half into about 15 pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball shape with your hand. Flatten the piece with palm of your hand a little. Using a knife, give 8 cuts on the edge to mimic flower pedals but the leave center uncut. Poke the center with your finger to give a deep indentation, and repeat the same procedure to all the other pieces. Place them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or baking mat giving them enough room to grow and let them rise again to be doubled, about another hour.

If the center indentation is not obvious on the rolls, poke them again with your finger.
Brush with egg wash, if you wish, and bake for 9-12 minutes at 350 degrees until the top gets slightly golden. Put a slivered almond in each indentation to mimic the stem…. serve with butter and enjoy.