Monday, September 27, 2010

Vanilla Extract

When my mother was diagnosed with Celiac, she was actually really happy to finally have a reason for all of her medical difficulties. As we delved into her new diet however, she began to realize just how many of the food products we eat every day contains gluten!

Even her two favorite kitchen staples, vanilla extract and balsamic vinegar, fell prey to gluten, having added caramel colour.

This bothered me as well, and I decided that my mother shouldn't have to go without her staples. I decided to make vanilla extract for her, the way we used to back in the day.

This is actually ridiculously simple. All you need is vodka, and some good quality beans.

The vanilla beans were no problem. You can get them at most decent grocery stores, but I decided to purchase mine off e-bay. They were MUCH cheaper that way, and I knew exactly what beans I was getting.

The vodka is easy as well. I used potato vodka in mine, because it's going to my mother, and I wanted to be extra sure that there was no way any gluten could get its sneaky little way into my extract. Chopin vodka comes in a nice bottle too!

All you need to do is split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise, not all the way, leave them sticking together just a little bit. Stuff them into a jar, and cover them with the vodka. This needs a couple of weeks to soak, so just wait until it gets that nice brown colour we're all used to.

Simply pour and use! I poured mine back into the bottle the vodka came in for show. When your extract levels dip, simple add more vodka and wait for the colour to come back. These beans will last for a good long time.

Enoy the amazing flavour that is TRUE vanilla.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apricot Yogurt Muffins

No time for breakfast? Make it the night before!!!

Apricot Yogurt Breakfast Muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached flour
2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 brown sugar
2 tbsp wheat germ
3/4 dried diced apricots
1 - 8 ounce container plain (or vanilla) yogurt
4 tbsp canola oil
1 egg
zest of 1/2 orange
juice of said orange

Mix all the dry ingredients except the fruit, make sure it is blended before adding the fruit and tossing to coat. In a seperate bowl, combine all the liquid ingredients (make your own yogurt to be super stellar!). Mix together, stirring only to coat.

Pour into muffin tins, bake at 400 for 15 min

These freeze really well, so I make a batch or two, and freeze them two to a bag. Just take them out the night before, and you've got a healthy breakfast on the go.

Not-So-Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil

Summer is nearly over.. So it's time to save the tomato harvest.

I've already done two batches of diced tomatoes, and a large batch of tomato sauce. With more tomatoes STILL at hand, I decided I wanted to give dried tomatoes a whirl.

Tomatoes take between 12 to 24 hours to dehydrate completely. Ours took about 14 hours.

Once they're dry, you can store them under olive oil in a dark, cool cupboard.
In a mason jar, do the layer system!

Layer tomatoes
Pinch of salt
Pinch of garlic
Pinch of dried oregano (I used fresh from my garden)
Layer fresh basil leaves

Keep these layers going until you reach the top, then fill the jar with olive oil to cover. Press the tomatoes down a bit, and add more oil if you need to keep everything submerged.

Wait for 6 - 8 days before eating, so the oil can soften the tomatoes and the herbs can do their thing.
Easy! The longest part was waiting for them to dry!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Frozen Chocolate Pots

This is a slightly modified version of Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Pots. I had to change it a bit according to what I had, and I accidentally left them in the freezer while cooling them. Turns out, that was an awesome mistake.

1 cup whipping cream
7oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate (I used Bakers)
2 large egg yolks
3 tbsp rum
1 tbsp + 2 tsp butter (I used my homemade unsalted)

Heat the cream until nearly boiling, and let it cool for about a minute before adding your chocolate. Stir until it's all creamy and melted, then beat in the egg yolks and rum.
Let it cool a bit longer, and mix in the butter. Make sure you let it cool, or it'll split. If it splits, add a little milk until it smooths out.
Put this aside, then beat your egg whites to a stiff meringue. Fold it in!

I poured these into espresso cups to serve, and put them in the freezer.
It tastes like a dark chocolate ice cream.. Yum yum.

School again School again

Well, I'm back in class for my final year at George Brown. After 5 years in school, I'll be leaving with a piece of paper proudly held high, ready to enter the 'real job' market.

This year is going to be challenging, but I must say I'm really looking forward to it. This is due in part to a deal I made with my partner.

We've agreed that I'm cutting back on my work schedule to allow more time for me to spend at school. However, this also means that I may not be able to pay my regular rent, so my partner is reducing my rent in exchange for cooking meals on the nights that I'm home.

Sweet deal? I think so!

Monday was homemade pizza, basic bread recipe topped with onions, mushrooms, and broccoli, all sauteed in balsamic vinegar. Goat cheese and mozzerella strewn across the top.
Tuesday was garlic mashed potatoes, with a steak served rare and mixed greens topped with homemade butter.
Wednesday (tonight!) is going to be homemade bread, with a Moroccan chickpea and rice stew.

I'm not really sure what makes the stew Moroccan, but I'm very excited to give it a try. I saved a bit on the cost by using dried chickpeas, and leaving them soaking overnight. I'm also slashing a bit of the price by using my homemade canned tomatoes, which cost me about $1 a jar. This recipe can be made vegetarian by using a vegetarian stock instead of chicken.

I'll post the complete recipe with a picture tonight after it's finished.