French Macarons

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

Happy New Year!!



Two big and beautiful cookbooks have been sitting on my table since before Christmas just waiting for their turn. I was determined not to get sidetracked, because it’s so easy for me to do. The Christmas baking was done, Christmas was removed and cleared out of my house and back in boxes in the basement and with another weekend here it was time to try something new.   The two books I had waiting for me were, Pierre Hermé’s Macaron; The Ultimate Recipes from the Master Pâtissier and The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pleiffer. I need to start by saying just how incredibly beautiful these books are!

A family member recently brought me a box of assorted Ladurée Macarons. Ladurée being one of most famous places in Paris that makes and sells macarons and a bakery where Hermé worked before he went out on his own to experiment with different flavour combinations. If you search on the internet for the best places for macarons these two places come up as the top choices.

Hermé’s book is definitely beautiful, filled with stunning photographs of very unique flavor combinations of macarons in large oversized shots that grab your attention. I was excited to dive into the recipes. My first attempt was less than successful, the beautiful cookies fell flat, literally flat as pancakes but as they baked they did have the lovely smooth top and the ‘feet’ that macarons are so famous for and they tasted amazing!

One of the things that I didn’t actually like about the macarons that I tried initially is that they were far too sweet for my liking. I understand that they are basically almond meringues and they need to be sweet but sweet cookies filled with sweet filling is just a little too much sweet on sweet for me. I was surprised that Hermé’s cookies didn’t seem to be quite as sweet… though I hadn’t yet filled them.

I was determined to get the cookie right and so I made another batch. This time they came closer, they rose as they were supposed to and again had the ‘feet’ but the ground almonds weren’t fine enough and the cookies ended up a slightly bumpy on the surface; a little short of the goal. This is where I have to admit to my obsessiveness. It’s not something new, only something that I’ve become keenly aware of and have learned to appreciate rather than ignore. I am determined, stubborn and a little crazy and when I set my mind to something often it becomes an obsession, for at least a time…. Imagine standing on the edge of a pool thinking about getting in… when I decide to get in I JUMP, with both feet and sometimes without looking, definitely without looking back. This is part of my personality that I’ve come to appreciate. Keeping that in mind you can well imagine that I made another and another batch of these little cookies in an attempt to perfect them as best as I could.

I’ve come to realize that as beautiful and incredible as the Macaron book looks I was disappointed that there really isn’t much flavor variation in the actual cookie. I certainly understand that macarons are essentially a meringue and meringues are very finicky and adding anything to them creates issues with baking consistency. Having said that, I suppose I expected the book to provide some interesting ways and means of attaining that kind of variety. I was a little shocked that the cookies actually come in very few flavours and are mostly colored with food coloring to make them so beautiful and different from each other. It wasn’t until I started reading the macaron section in The Art of French Pastry that it was pointed out that these cookies most often come in one simple flavour and coloring them is the way to create the variety we see in these bakeries.

This leads me to what these cookies reminded me of as I baked them, essentially all day. For some, how something looks is vitality important and the world at large cares immensely about ‘how things look’. Most important to me, is not how things look, or how they look to the world around me but more about what’s inside, how they taste and sometimes how much love, time and patience it takes to create something.

Here I have three flavours of macarons all looking quite similar to each other. Following Hermé’s recipe but flavoring them with; pumpkin spice, coffee and cocoa and making my own version of fillings I’m quite happy with how they turned out.  Since I flavoured the actual cookies getting them to look very different from each other was quite difficult.  The ingredients I used didn’t come in blue or green or pink… thus they are varying shades of brown.

 

So here’s to a Happy New Year, filled with inner beauty first!!!

 

Basic Cookie

  • 240 grams almond flour
  • 480 grams icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon apricot puree (I used jam)
  • 180 grams egg whites

 

Sift together the sugar and flour, ensure that the almond flour is fine enough to sift, if not grind it finer or toss the larger pieces. In a stand mixer whisk the egg whites until they are foamy enough to hold onto the whisk when you pull it from the mixture. In a separate bowl mix the water and puree. Alternatively add the flour and sugar mixture and water, apricot puree mixtures and fold into the egg whites. Fold this entire mixture until when you lift up the spoon and drop the batter it slowly disappears into the mix. If it’s too thick then fold a couple more times to obtain this consistency.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and place the cookie mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip. I used wilton #12. On a pan with parchment pipe the cookies into one inch rounds leaving about an inch of space between them. Tap them on the counter to ensure they are all smooth on top and leave them be for 20 to 60 minutes. This gives the egg whites time to dry and that’s what gives them the smooth top and creates the ‘feet’ along the bottom as they bake.

After the cookies sit place them on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 13 – 15 minutes opening the oven door a couple of times during the baking, this lets some of the moisture escape from the oven. They should bake until they are puffed up and still the same color as when they went in. These cookies should only be the color that you made them.

When they are done slip the parchment onto a flat surface, counter, until they’ve sufficiently cooled off and you can carefully take them from the paper.

According to some of my searchings…. If the food coloring you use changes color then you baked them too hot.  If they crack on top then your temperature was too hot. Lower by 10 – 15 degrees and try again.

This process takes patience and commitment. Or at least it did for me.

I flavoured my actual cookies by adding 20 grams cocoa powder, 20 grams instant coffee, 20 grams of pumpkin spice. I added these ingredients to the flour/sugar mixture and folded until incorporated.

My recipe here is an incorporation of Hermé’s, Pleiffer’s and Martha Stewart’s that I searched to gain some ideas since my first batch fell so flat. Making them over and over, each time they got better…. Though still not perfect I’m thinking this will be my New Year’s mission!

Happy Holidays everyone. In the following weeks I’ll provide my version of fillings, which are more tart than they are sweet.

 

Czech Vanilla Crescents or Vanilkove Rohlicky

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

 

Another year of Christmas baking is coming to a close.  This year, unlike other years, I’ve made only a few choice traditional Czech Christmas cookies, Marokanky, Linzer, Gingerbread and Carpenter Curls.  I made enough of each to share and to have a selection around for guests.  I added the Vanilla Crescents or Vanilkove Rohlicky, ones I’ve never made before.  I never appreciated their simplicity when I was a kid, but now as an adult I love their simplicity and I love the way they melt in your mouth.  They are simple, easy and deliscious.

 

 

The recipe is very simple and you probably have everything in the house to make them.

Vanilla Crescents 

  • 1/2 lb butter, unsalted and room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • lemon zest from one lemon
  • Icing sugar, 1 – 2 cups- enough to coat the cookies when they come out of the oven

Mix all ingredients together and form in to a nice dough… mix butter, sugar, vanilla, egg yolk, lemon zest and salt first, then add in the flour 1 cup at a time and mix to form a dough ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or put in a zip bag and refrigerate either overnight or for a couple hours to allow it to rest a bit.

Roll the dough into a noodle about 1 inch thick and cut into 2 inch sections.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet forming them into crescents making sure you give them a little room to expand.  Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes depending on how big you’ve made them.  The ends should just barely be browning when you take them out of the oven.  The trick is to have them all as similar in size as possible so that they all bake the same.  Before you coat them in icing sugar give them enough time of cool off so that they don’t fall apart when you pick them up but still warm enough that the sugar sticks to them.

 

Hope you enjoy them…  Happy Holidays!

Kilcona Dog Park Dog Fest 2016

Posted by Pussycat in About Me | Leave a comment

I serendipitously got involved with the Kilcona Park Dog Park board several months ago and really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I started taking our beast there because he loves to run and we wanted to make sure he was socialized with other dogs.  I never wanted him to be threatening or skittish, he’s a big dog and he needed to be friendly and approachable, until of course, I needed him not to be, and this park was the perfect place for him to build those skills.

Our dog park is a great place, built around a garbage dump that was covered over with grass and trails that let him run wild and play with other dogs.  It was a lifesaver over the last fall and winter when we first got Brax.  He got to run, play and burn off energy and we got to walk.  Win win!

We’ve met so many nice people on many our many walks and it wasn’t long before I realized there was actually a board that worked to ensure the park remained for the many who use it.  Little did I know that I would be baking and cooking human grade dog treats to use as fundraisers.  Dreaming up fun treats has been so much fun and for those attending our Dog Fest the recipes are here so that folks can make these yummy treats at home.

The gluten free dog bones were posted before and the recipe can be found here.

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As well the Fetching Stix have also been posted before, though without the herbs and with cheese instead.

Some new additions include;

Brie Chon Freeze Paws and Bones – Delicious little Brie Ice Cream bites with Blueberries.

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Dog’s Breakfast Trail Mix – A healthy trail mix that packs a little heat.

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Now for the recipes… here you go folks… enjoy!

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Brie Chon Freeze Paws and Bones

The base of this ice cream comes from the Roasting Rambler but instead of making a blueberry sauce I chose to add frozen blueberries to the ice cream once it was cooled.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 ounces brie trimmed of its rind
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries

Place the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to medium heat… until steaming.  In a seperate bowl mix the yolks and sugar and then ladle the hot milk, one scoop at a time into the yolk mixture while whisking.  Once you’ve added a couple of ladles of milk into the yolk mixture then pour the yolk mixture back into the pot of hot milk and simmer gently for 2 – 3 minutes. Drop chunks of the brie into the hot milk mixture and allow the brie to melt.  The mixture will thicken slightly.

Allow the mixture to cool and add the blueberries.  Spoon into silicone moulds and freeze until solid.  Store in a sealable plastic bag or plastic container in the freezer until ready to serve.

Dog’s Breakfast Trail Mix

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I love trail mixes and this one was born out of a chocolate almond recipe I posted quite some time ago. I make these almonds all the time and often have a bag of them in the freezer.  You feel like you’re getting an adult version of a chocolate covered nut but less calories and less sugar.

The proportions for this recipe are really up to the individual and preferences but mine goes something like this;

  • 2 cups cayenne chocolate almonds
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 2 cups banana chips
  • 2 cups chopped dehydrated apple rings
  • 4 cups cheerios *
  • 4 cups chex cereal *

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

* Cheerios and Chex Cereal

In a deep big frying pan, melt about a 1/2 cup butter.  Once the butter is melted add about 4 cups cheerios and mix to have them coated in butter.  Add about a 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 2-3 tablespoons expresso instant coffee, 1/2 cup brown sugar and for the cheerios add 1-2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.  Mix all the ingredients together until all the cereal is coated in the mixture.  I will do the cheerios and chex separately and then toss them into the bowl with all the other ingredients.

The amount of cayenne is a preference and some folks like it hot, others don’t.  I find that if I only make one of the cereals a little spicy even folks who don’t like much spice can often tolerate it.

Kulajda – Sour Dill Soup

Posted by Pussycat in Soups | 1 Comment

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Some foods seem to be an acquired taste, or maybe just for some people. I’m not sure, what I am sure of is that this soup is one my mother loves. We didn’t have it very often, my father wasn’t a fan and when we were growing up I wasn’t much of a fan either. I remember my mom would get a craving and she would make a small pot and she would savor it, often alone. But as with many of the other unusual flavors I wasn’t born loving, as a teenager I was curious and when I had a taste on one of those days she made a small pot, I fell in love with it.

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Perhaps it’s the love of sour that I share with my mom that won me over in this soup. Or perhaps it was just time. In any event, like my mom, I now make a small pot of this, when I have a craving and I savor it.

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If you have had or like the koprová omáčka – Dill Sauce that is so traditionally Czech you will probably like this as well.  Though I need to warn you, the traditional Dill Sauce is a sweet and sour combination, this soup has none of that sweetness, made without sugar it’s just a little tart… which I love.

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I know many Czechs would say that mushrooms are essential though I can tell you that often times we didn’t have mushrooms and my mom would have a craving so she would make it without them.  This is a truly Czech version that I found online Prava kulajda it can and has been adjusted many ways at my house, using extra vinegar and a bit of sour salt if we didn’t happen to have sour cream on hand.  Our versions weren’t always quintessential to the homeland but they were always good.

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Kulajda – Sour Dill Soup

  • 2-4 potatoes (peeled and chopped into small cubes)
  • 4-6 cups water (a little more than enough to cover the potatoes in a pot)
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorn
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (regular white)
  • handful of chopped fresh or soaked dried mushrooms *optional 😉 if you dislike mushrooms
  • handful of chopped fresh dill
  • 1-2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • Salt to taste

Rinse the chopped and peeled potatoes and cover with just a little more water than needed, add the bay leaves and peppercorns and caraway seeds if you’re using them.  Once the potatoes are soft, mix the flour (in a cup) in with the sour cream, mixing well.  Add liquid from the hot soup a couple of tablespoons at a time until it’s smooth and then (just to be safe and avoid lumps) run the mixture through a fine strainer back into the soup pot.  Bring to a simmer until the soup thickens.  Then add the vinegar, handful of mushrooms and chopped fresh dill.

This is where you can get a little fancy if you’re serving this right away.  Break open the eggs and allow them to cook in the soup (like poached eggs) for about 3 minutes until soft boiled.  Or you can make it the way I’ve always made it and once you add the eggs swirl through them with a fork so that you have broken chunks of eggs in the soup.  The more you swirl through them the smaller the chunks.

Serve and enjoy!

Rawhide Breadsticks

Posted by Pussycat in People Food - Recipes, Sides | Leave a comment

It’s April 2nd and it’s snowing in our corner of the world.  I’ve been feeling lousy, battling a headache for over two weeks and my big Friday night was passing out on the couch by 8:00 pm and getting up at midnight only to crawl into bed and sleep until 8:00 this morning.  I wish I could say it was just the weather, or some tequila 😉 but alas my body seems to be experiencing some issues.  🙁  I’m working on it…. For now though my answer to feeling awful, aside from sleeping, is to cook… or bake… or just to make something delicious in the kitchen.  This is my way of relaxing and it doesn’t hurt that we then get to enjoy the results.

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I had thought of these a while back while at a board meeting.  I wanted to make rawhide like dog bones and I needed to make them in such a way that they could be made ahead and stored until ready to be consumed.  I needed to be able to make them in big batches. I wanted to make them from donut or beignet dough but the though of trying to figure out how to get a deep fryer into the park, not to mention making big batches of a finicky yeast dough without a kitchen, was just not going to work.  Then it occurred to me… who doesn’t love breadsticks?

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Hard crunchy, salty and garlicky breadsticks.   YUMMY….. I know because I ate several of them before they cooled off enough to be crunchy…. and they do get crunchy when they cool off… and they are deliscious!

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They are delicious and fun when you twist and tie them up like I did…. they make for a great snack, one I think might be a winner for our Dog Fest this summer 😉

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The base of the recipe comes from Manu’s Menu though I changed it and added some fun ingredients.  I had the last bit of lemon infused olive oil that worked really well here and worked beautifully with garlic salt and rosemary though there could have been a bit more rosemary and I might suggest sprinkling some on top as well and kneading into the dough.

 

Dog Bone Breadsticks

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water, lukewarm
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 10-15 grams fresh yeast
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp of dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp garlic salt
  • 4 tbsp lemon infused extra virgin olive oil + more for brushing
  • 1/2 tsp salt + extra (coarse) salt for sprinkling

Mix the water and sugar in a microwavable bowl and heat until just hot to the touch, add the yeast and set aside for 2-3 minutes.  Put the flour and salt in to the bowl of a stand mixer and add the melted butter and yeast mixture, stir with a dough hook attachment.  Mix on low adding the lemon infused olive oil then bring up to medium speed and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, it will still be a little sticky.

Take the dough out of the mixer and cut in half.  Knead each half separately adding rosemary to one half.  Roll each half into a rectangle, try to make them the same size.  Sprinkle the dough with olive oil, then add more rosemary to the one half and sprinkle the other half with garlic salt.  Cover with a dry clean tea towel and let rise for about 2 hours.

Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife cut a narrow strip from each rectangle, twist them together and knot them at each end. Place them on a pan lined with parchment paper, brush with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt then bake at 290 degrees F until golden brown.  You can eat these warm, they’ll be soft, if you can actually wait and allow them to cool they’ll be nice and crunchy.  We like to eat them with a little butter.

BRIEchon Cherry Cheesecakes

Posted by Pussycat in People Food - Recipes, Sweets | Leave a comment

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Sometimes things happen that make you play with food in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise. I recently became a board member at one of the city’s dog parks. This is something new to me – dog parks. I had a Cocker Spaniel for 14 years, he was a rescue and had spent his first year pretty much alone so he was very needy and barely left my side. Though he was super sweet and somewhat energetic, taking him for a run was plenty sufficient for him. In the last few years he was actually just happy to be near us and in the last year when we moved outside the city he ran back and forth around our property chasing the scent of all the various critters that crossed our two acres. His sense of smell was pretty incredible always but I’m guessing even more refined as he went deaf.

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We weren’t going to get another dog but alas it seemed such a waste to have so much yard and no four legged to enjoy it with us. I cruised the shelter websites and when I saw Mojo, now Brax, I just couldn’t resist those oversized Shepherd ears and that black stoic face. The kids had moved out and I missed rushing home to a wagging tail, walking with a buddy, curling up with a fur ball, and just having a dog around.

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Brax was about 5 months old and he quickly grew into those ears though they still sit like satellite dishes, moving independently, catching all the noise around him. He forces me to walk, which is a good thing, but as much as I try, he isn’t keen on being a lapdog, no matter how much I try to convince him otherwise. He’s far more social than Jesse ever was and thrives on being with other dogs, playing in the dog park and I get my steps in, it’s a win win.

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He’s also opened up a whole new world of cooking for me. Not only did I start making his food, making sure he was getting a more holistic diet than the dried kibble but since becoming a board member for the KPDC dog park I’ve been playing with dog themed people food for our upcoming Dog Fest.

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This is just one of the recipes that I’ve tailored to fit that theme — BRIEchon cherry cheesecakes. It’s an adaptation of the cheesecakes my mother used to make and they turned out to be pretty delicious.

 

BRIEchon Cherry Cheesecake

Crust

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ C sugar
  • ¼ lb butter (preferably unsalted)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ¼ C flour
  • Splash of vanilla

Mix all ingredients into a dough. Use about a tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball then flatten it and drop into each muffin cup.

Filling

  • 500 grams (I package ricotta) OR dry curd cottage cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 package of vanilla pudding (UNSWEETENED) I use Dr. Oetker’s, the kind that you cook.
  • 300 grams of softened Brie cheese
  • Zest of one lemon

Mix all ingredients in a mixer until smooth and then fill the muffin cups about 1/2 to 3/4 full.  The crust and the filling puff up quite a bit and so make sure you leave some room for them to expand.  The first time I made these I filled them too much and they overflowed… not pretty!  I could have filled these a little more but they were still very good.

Bake the cheesecakes at 350 for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and allow to cool.   Top with your favourite topping.  This time I used canned cherry cranberry pie filling and drizzled with melted chocolate.

Before topping, the cheesecakes can be frozen until you’re ready to use them then just allow to come to room temperature, top and serve.

Southern Pulled Pork and Slaw

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes, Salads | 1 Comment

I’ve never been much of a fan of pulled pork, not sure why, just didn’t seem to ever find it had much flavour.  It was always a meal I could take or leave.  The only recipe I ever liked was this one I found in my Simply HeartSmart Cooking by Bonnie Stern.  I changed it up a little bit but it pretty much the same and it is by far my favourite.

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It is definitely one of the best make ahead recipes I have, the stuff freezes and warms up like a dream.  I love those kinds of dishes where you can make enough and freeze half for another time.

 

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If it’s cold outside and you’d rather read a book by the fire than make dinner, get this stuff going in a crock pot and have relaxing day.

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I pair this with a coleslaw recipe I found many, many years ago in a magazine.  It’s a simple vinaigrette that pours hot over the coleslaw and is amazing.  It has always been my  ‘go to’.  One I’ve only occasionally veered from and only by using celery seed instead of caraway seeds for those in my life who seem to dislike caraway seeds.  Not sure how anyone does but alas it is apparently true…. so I adjust. 🙂

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Lastly a word about these buns.  Though I love bread I have tried to stay away from it most of the time in the last few years.  I just find that it seems to sit in my guts and just doesn’t feel good.  Because of this when I do indulge I want it to be for some REALLY good bread and these buns or rohliky are the only ones I just cannot resist.  Topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds they are just as good with a smather of butter and warm from the oven… but I digress… I bought these at a local bakery and freeze them…. otherwise they would ALL get eaten by ME…. and I gently heat them in the oven at 350 degrees until they are soft…. just like freshly baked.

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But really … any buns will do!

Southern Barbecued Pork Roast 

(adapted slightly from Bonnie Stern’s Simply HeartSmart Cooking)

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped or minced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup vinegar (she uses cider but I’ve used white)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs hot red pepper sauce (she says 1 tsp and optional… I like more… way more)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 3 lbs boneless lean pork (I’ve used tenderloin)

Make the BBQ sauce by heating oil in a saucepan and adding garlic and onion, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add rest of the ingredients and simmer until sauce thickens to the consistency of ketchup.

Rub pork with 1/2 cup of the sauce and place in slow cooker, add 1 cup water and cook on  high for 8 hours or low for 4 hours.  Remove roast from pan, skim fat off and add the rest of bbq sauce and bake for another hour, until heated through.

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Coleslaw

  • 1/2 large or 1 small cabbage sliced
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot grated
  • 1/2 large or 1 small onion halved and sliced very thin
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced very thin
  • 2 tsp of caraway seeds or 1 tsp of celery salt
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper

I use a mandolin to grate slice the cabbage, onion and celery and grate the carrots.  Mix cabbage, carrots, onions and celery in a large bowl.  Mix the rest of the ingredients in a heat resistant bowl or small saucepan.  Mix and simmer until bubbly and the sugar is dissolved and then quickly pour over the salad and stir.  Coleslaw will stay in the refrigerator for several days.

 

Parsley and Mint Dog Breath Cookies

Posted by Pussycat in Doggie Treats - Recipes | Leave a comment

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It’s Valentine’s Day and our celebration this year is to relax, have a great dinner with good steak, seafood and roasted veggies and to binge watch Breaking Bad.  We’ve been on holidays and spent a beautiful week out in Falcon Lake.  Though the weather was cold we did manage to snowshoe and hike every day. There is something so magical about spending time out in the Canadian Shield, especially in the winter when it’s so quiet… yes… you hear the odd blaring of the snowmobile but during the week it’s quite peaceful.  The trails are beautiful and it’s so nice to be away from television and phones and the guilt of all the things you should be doing and just revolve your time around spending as much of it as possible outdoors… catering to your biggest concern… what to eat.

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We came back early because we finally made the appointment to have Brax fixed.  🙁  Not that there was ever really a decision to be made about having it done, just about deciding when to have it done.  Since he’s such a big dog my internet research and our vet thought it was best to wait as long as possible to have him neutered only so that he could have his full hormone compliment for as long as possible for his growth.  One of the things that the internet and vets don’t really talk much about is the propensity of disdain of neutered dogs towards non-neutered dogs.  It seems dogs can tell whether others are fixed or not and so many other things just from sniffing.

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Having not been fixed Brax would sometimes be seen as a threat by other dogs at the dog park and they would growl and snap at him… this wasn’t so  much the problem… Brax being almost 90 lbs he’s fine to stand his own ground…. the issue becomes when he has had enough of their pestering and snaps back.  Brax could definitely do more damage than most just given his sheer size and you have to know that any aggressive behaviour would most definitely be blamed on his hormones and not the punk that was pestering him… not an ideology to which we want to contribute.

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I wish I could say that I’m not one to cave to convention and wish I’d had a little more backbone about this, at least for a little while.  But I will admit I LOVE the DOGPARK!  It makes my life so easy and his so much more fun.  Having a restless preteen shepherd who is pretty smart is challenging when you lose one of your main outlets for burning off energy… It’s a challenge to keep him entertained for any length of time nevermind in a way that tires him out the way playing and running with other dogs at the park does and we both miss it. I know some folks aren’t so crazy about all the dogs at the park and the perceived lack of control but we love it.  Brax has learned pretty quickly to stay away from the growly dogs, he doesn’t much concern himself with the dogs that don’t seem to be on the same page or don’t want to play the way he does and generally manages to find another dog or two that love to play the way he does.  He has socialized well and we have both made some good friends on the trails. Staying away from the dog park since his hormones have been kicking in has been a struggle.

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So… Happy Valentine’s Day my furry pooch….just a few more days of recovery and we’ll be back at the park… In the meantime here are some breath mint cookies to help pass the time we have for the next few days in closed quarters….

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Parsley and Mint Dog Breath Cookies

  • 1 Cup Steel Cut Oats
  • 1 Cup Chick Pea Flour
  • 1 Cup Coconut Flour
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • A bunch fresh chopped mint
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Water

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Blend the eggs and coconut oil in a food processor or bullet (eggs including the shells) and add the mixture into the dry ingredients. Add enough water to make a sticky dough and let it sit for a few minutes. Add in the chopped herbs mix well. The dough should hold together but it won’t act like dough you’re used to if you bake regular cookies, it remains pretty sticky and pasty.

Roll out the dough and cut into shapes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until crunchy.  These can be stored in a plastic bag in the freeze for up to a month.

Calzones

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | 1 Comment

calzone0137Calzone… Stromboli… pizza pop…… I know this dish to go by many names. Though each are different the essence of them remains similar… pizza in hand held form and easy to move from freezer to oven to plate to mouth. I remember loving Pizza Pops as a kid… as an adult I’m prepared to make my own from scratch and want more meat, more cheese, more spice and actually more everything from these perfect make ahead meals.

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I had wanted to make these for a while and I finally got around to it, making a few extra to stash in the freezer for those days when time is short and the comfort craving is hard to manage. I have to admit that it was a bit of a challenge to make these in a size that fits in the hand and they ended up being quite a bit larger than I had anticipated. One is more than enough to fulfill a meal and I suspect almost equivalent to a personal pizza.

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I started these with a homemade sauce that came from combining some scratch tomato paste I had from leftover tomatoes this summer; adding a small jar of slow roasted tomatoes I also had canned in the fall and infusing it with more flavour by adding fresh garlic, salt, pepper and some fresh oregano I have growing under a lamp for the winter, mixing and heating it all together in a pan. You certainly do not have to go to these lengths and I probably wouldn’t have but I had these things handy in the cupboard…. and I didn’t have pizza sauce.

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The dough recipe I used was the 2 ingredient pizza dough I posted previously. I found that 1 cup to 1cup ratio made 8 good sized calzones. Depending on how thick or thin you make the dough this amount could change but I would caution against making the dough too thin, which is the way we like it, though not the best plan for these to be able to hold everything together well.

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Fill these with your favourite ingredients and bake for 20 minutes (until golden brown) and serve or vacuum seal and freeze for later use.

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I made two kinds:

Bacon, pepperoni, caramelized onions and cheese for P’s and pepperoni, bison Italian sausage, caramelized onions, green peppers, mushroom and habanera cheese for mine…. There was a lot to fill these and I found the best way to distinguish which were which was to slit the tops twice for one variation and 3 times for the other. Also it helps that P’s have mozzarella which is white (and sprinkled some on top) and mine have cheddar which is orange.

These are a winner and so nice to have around when pressed for time. I say the next time the weather is crappy spend some time making these for when it’s nice out and you don’t want to spend time making dinner.

Calzones

1 Dough recipe

Home made Pizza Sauce

  • 1/4 tomato paste
  • 1/2 slow roasted tomatoes
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 – 3 sprigs of oregano
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and sauté for 5 minutes and allow to cool before placing on pizza dough.

Divide the dough recipe into 8 and roll each out into a 8 to 10 inch circle.  Fill have with all your favourite pizza toppings and fold over and seal.  Brush the top with egg white and place on parchment to bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Bake until lightly golden if you want to freeze and store so you can bake them again to bring them to a nice golden brown.  Or… bake until nicely browned and enjoy straight from the oven.

Italian Sausage and Cabbage Pasta

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

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Yum

Sometimes there are recipes that are so simple and tasty that it’s ridiculous. This is one of those. I have been enjoying this every so often for over 25 years and I first found this in a cookbook that was put out by La Leche League.   Perhaps because it was put out by this group that supported nursing mothers that many of the recipes were so simple… I’m not sure. But one of my ‘go to’s’ since then has been this one, I believe it was called Bubble and Squeak. I may not even be replicating it exactly; it really doesn’t need to be written down because the concept is so simple. I’m also not sure why the name, I don’t remember that it said anything about that but it was and is yummy. To counter act the many things I seem to not know about this recipe I will say emphatically that I do know it is delicious!

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This recipe is essentially three ingredients and this time when I made it I had bison Italian sausage on hand, though it was good, using a regular Italian sausage is almost better just because the bison meat is quite dry and doesn’t give the recipe as much of those delicious juicy bits that regular Italian sausage does. Regardless, the combination of pasta, hot Italian sausage and cabbage works… and is fast…. for any night of the week.

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Italian Sausage and Cabbage Pasta

(Under 30 minutes and only 3 ingredient dinner option)

  • Pasta of choice for 4 people (I use linguine or fettuccini)
  • 4 – 6 Italian Sausages (I generally use hot but you can choose to use mild)
  • 2 Cups Chopped Cabbage
  • ¼ Cup Water

Put a pot of water on to boil to make the pasta. Cook enough pasta for 4 servings according to directions. I would suggest flat pasta like fettuccine but any kind will do.

While the pasta is cooking chop and fry the sausage in a large frying pan on medium heat. As soon as the sausage is cooked through add the chopped cabbage, stir, add ¼ cup water and cover for a couple of minutes to allow the cabbage to start to wilt but remain firm. As soon as the pasta is cooked add it to the mixture. Stir and serve.