Thursday, July 16, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Tea Loaves

Salutations once more fellow food lovers! We have been busy with kitchen renovations as of late so haven't had a chance to try any recipes let alone any new foods. But, as you can see, we FINALLY have access to our kitchen and cookbook collection once more! So how did we celebrate this glorious moment? By trying out a new tea time treat. 

Apple Cinnamon Tea Loaves
90g (3 ounces) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (110g) caster (superfine) sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups (200g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1 medium red apple (150g), quartered, cored, sliced thinly
15g (1/2 ounce) butter, melted
1 tablespoon white (granulated) sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Spiced honey cream
2/3 cup (160ml) double (thick) cream
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Grease 8-hole (3/4 cup/ 180ml) petite loaf pan.
2. Beat softened butter, extract and caster sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg,  beat until combined. Stir in sifted flour and milk, in two batches. 
3. Divide mixture into pan holes; top with apple, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with half the combined white sugar and cinnamon. 
4. Bake loaves about 20 minutes. Sprinkle  hot loaves with remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture. Stand loaves 5 minutes before turning top-side up onto wire rack to cool. 
5. Meanwhile, make spiced honey cream.
6. Serve warm cakes with spiced honey cream.

~ The Artist ~ 

Since we don't have a set of mini pans which was suggested to use, I actually ended up using a muffin tin and evenly distributed the dough to be cooked. The only small change to the original recipe I had to do was add a little bit of additional time to the cooking process but that was about it. The end result of this little treat was a light and slight buttery flavor with a fluffy cake texture reminiscent of an light bundt cake. The unanimous suggestion that has come up with this particular recipe, however, is to replace the milk with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce so that the cake had some apple flavor aside from the apple slices that were on top as garnish. Besides that small change for a future try, this is the perfect accompaniment to a light or slightly fruity tea such as either a green tea or fragrant herbal. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Victorian Lavender Cookies

With Spring finally here, we have chosen to look at Victorian recipies to welcome the blooming flowers. What could be better then adding some of these delicate blossoms into a fregrant treat to be enjoyed with a cup of tea and friendly company? Let's get this season kicked off with cookies!

Victorian Lavender Cookies 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon culinary lavender, crushed
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, lavender, flour, baking powder and salt to creamed butter and mix until combined.
  4. Drop by teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

~ The Gamer ~
The appearance of these cookies could lead one to initially think that they'd be more on the savory side, but the first bite will quickly get rid of any thoughts along those lines. It actually ends up being slightly sweet, with small buttery tones in the background. There's also a very small hint of what I would best describe as herbal spice, most likely from the lavender. The cookies turned out nice and soft on the inside, with just a slight amount of crunch on the bottom where it browned the most. I would say that in terms of moistness, it's somewhere in the middle, leaning just a little bit towards the dry side. This is definitely a baked good that I would recommend to others, and what's more, it's my own opinion that it doesn't need anything additional added to it. The only thing that might make it even better is a nice hot cup of green tea, something light that would compliment the flavor of the cookie without overpowering it.

~ The Artist ~
I thought that it would be a good plan to start this chapter of our food adventure off with something simple so chose a fairly basic recipe. I did leave the cookies in the oven for a couple of minutes longer in the oven then the stated 10 minutes just to be sure the little treats were cooked all of the way through. Pulling them out of the oven and let them cool for a moment, I was delighted to see how fluffing and light they came out to be. Not overly sweet and having a light flavor of lavender, I found myself wishing I had some home made fruit jams or even other light treats to go along with them. An absolute treat for a nice Spring day in the garden. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fruit Bonnag

Today we venture into the land of the Isle of Man which is off of the coast of England. With so many traditional foods similar to those of England, it took some time in order to discover something that would be unique for the area. Searching and taking time to pick through the various things on the internet, we discovered some interesting baked good recipes. Deciding on one was only the first part of the adventure in this European adventure. Are you prepared for this humorous journey in food? 

Fruit Bonnag
225g plain flour
a pinch of mixed spice 
a pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g butter
110g light soft brown sugar
225g sultanas (golden raisins)
225g currants
225g raisins
225g mixed peel
1/2 tbsp black treacle 
2-3 tbsp buttermilk, to mix 

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3. Sift the flour, a pinch of salt, mixed spice, nutmeg, and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, rub in the butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, Stir in the sugar, fruit and peel. Add the treacle and mix to a fairly stiff dropping consistency with buttermilk or milk. 
  2. Turn mixture into a well-greased 1 lb loaf tin and bake for 2 1/2 hours in the center of oven - a skewer should come out clean after inserting into the cake. 

~ The Artist ~ 
Well this was perhaps the most amusing quest into European recipes that I've ever had.  Bonnag is a type of all purpose bread but it doesn't follow the standard format that I'm used to. That wasn't the issue I was having when looking through the ingredients and temperature when I was converting things. I had to replace the golden raisins and currents with dried cranberries due to the local grocery store was out of both at the time for some reason and also had to replace black treacle with molasses.The temperature ended up being 320°F which wouldn't have been bad save for the 2 1/2 hour time frame. I discovered that it only took 1 hour 25 minutes to cook completely through. Even with the minor changes, it came out rather well. With a nice crust but warm moist interior, the raisins and cranberries worked well with the molasses. It reminded me of a merging of a holiday molasses bread mixed with a fruit bread. Delicious with a little bit of butter and pairs nicely with a cup of black tea. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Scottish Apple Scones

Huzzah! As you know, for the month of March we will be taking a look at the traditional foods of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, and England. Why? Why not! As we continue on with our tour of foods from our Atlantic neighbors, we take a stop at Scotland. While hunting and researching, we discovered an entire variety of traditional recipes which made narrowing down what we should try that much more difficult. So many things to try and not enough time or kitchen space. 

Apple Scones
One medium cooking apple 
8 oz (250g or two cups) self raising flour (all-purpose flour with baking powder) 
½ teaspoon salt 
Level teaspoon baking powder 
2 oz (60g or ½ stick) butter 
2 oz (60g or ¼ cup) castor (fine granulated) sugar 
Up to ¼ pint (150ml or half cup) milk
Ingredients for glaze: 
A little milk 
1oz demerara (light brown) sugar

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F or Gas Mark 6). 
  2. Peel and core the apple and then finely chop. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Then rub in the butter followed by the sugar and chopped apple and mix. Add milk until you have a soft but not sticky dough. 
  3. Roll out on a floured surface to about ¼" thick and 8" round and mark into 8 wedges. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush the top with milk and sprinkle with the demerara (light brown) sugar. Bake in the pre-heated oven at 200°C (400°F or Gas Mark 6) for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

~ The Artist ~
Originally I was a bit puzzled by the measurements that were given for the flour. Not because the recipe was obviously European but the fact that it seemed so indecisive. Going on a hunch, I went with the 2 cups of self raising flour. During the baking process, I did not expect for the round of scones to spread as much as as they did. The size went from 8" round to about 12" round. However even with this, the crust became a golden brown once it was done baking. The inside was soft and slightly crumbly. With a light and faintly sweet flavor, it was a perfect pairing with a cup of tea. The only moment of disappointment that I had was that I was hoping for more of an apple flavor but I would need to experiment a little in the future when creating the dough.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Irish Tea Cake

March is finally here and we would like have decided that we will be taking a look at our friends across the Atlantic and try foods from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England this month. So how are we going to kick this off? By taking a look at a recipe for an Irish Tea Cake. 

Irish Tea Cake
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (for dusting) 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175° C (350° F). Grease and flour a 9 inch round pan. 
  2. In medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. If the batter is too stiff, a tablespoon or two of milk may be added. 
  3. Spread the batter evenly into prepared pan. 
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack, then turn out onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioner's sugar. 

~ The Gamer ~
     Today Dawn ended up deciding to make an Irish tea cake, something that my occasionally short attention span apparently failed to note until she asked me if I would like a slice of it. I'm happy to say that it came out quite well. Although rather plain looking, the inside was soft and warm, while the outer crust had just enough crunch to give it a bit of variety. The taste actually reminded me a bit of the Greek Almond Crescents we had written about previously, sweet but not overly so. Some people might even be reminded of cornbread upon tasting it, albeit without the corn flavor that comes with it. Definitely something to have with a nice hot cup of tea (or coffee if that's your preference). Personally, I would probably go with a nice herbal or black tea to offset the powdered sugar that was used as a topping.

~ The Artist ~
     Originally I was asking some of my regular readers from Facebook for traditional Irish dishes in celebration of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day so I could steer away from the Americanized, stereotypical 'Irish' food which is typically seen as sweets loaded in green food coloring or just alcoholic beverages out of the wahzoo. Luckily some friends were able to give some suggestions but I was struck by the thought that why not have the month of March just be focusing on Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. I've had this particular recipe for some time in and can't remember where I actually found it but thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out. The process itself was quite simple and only needed to put a little bit of extra time in order to make sure that the center was cooked completely through. Every time I opened the oven door, the kitchen was filled with the sweet aroma of the cake. Once we were able to sample the treat once it was cooled enough, I was delighted over how soft it was on the inside and how the crust had just the right amount of firmness. A suggestion for a possible alternative in the future was replacing the vanilla extract with almond extract. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Banana Bailey's Crumble

As the month of February winds down and the weather hasn't quite figured out what it wants to do, the need to make something different stuck and struck hard. What could possibly
strike the fancy of a food seeker? Roaming the resident kitchen library, the decision was made to look through Bootleg Bakery: wickedly boozy treats inspired by the roaring twenties by Kiki Bee. Flipping through the illustrated pages of various treats, one seemed to be an interesting combination of flavors to try out. What could possibly go wrong?

Banana Bailey's Crumble 
3 ripe bananas
100 ml (6 1/2 tablespoons) Bailey's Irish Cream
2 tablespoons clear honey
100 g (3 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, roughly chopped 

For the crumble topping:
150 g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
100 g (6 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
golden caster/natural cane sugar, for sprinkling

6 small ramekin dishes

  1. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F) Gas 5
  2. In a bowl, mash the bananas with the back of a spoon, then add the Bailey's and honey. Give the mixture a couple of good stirs, then divide between the ramekins (the mixture should come about two thirds of the way up the dish). Set aside while you make the crumble topping. 
  3. Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rub between your fingers until you have a crumbley texture. Cool hands and a cool head are required, so don't overwork the mixture. 
  4. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the Bailey's banana mixture, dividing it equally between the ramekins. Finally, sprinkle a little sugar on top of each crumble. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and pop in the middle of the preheated oven to bake for about 12-15 minutes until the crumble is lightly golden. Serve immediately with a side order of vanilla ice-cream. 

- The Artist - 
     Though I had an enjoyable time making this recipe, there are some issues with the book itself that I would like to address before anyone decides to purchase a copy of their own. First off, as you may have already noticed with this particular food feature, there is a bit of a discrepancy  between ingredients and directions. The list of items has chocolate in it but the directions makes no mention of the ingredient, yet it is obvious in the dish in the photograph. This is not the first of a random set of editing oversights and missed corrections in the book. From mis-labeled oven temperatures to missing ingredients or directions, make sure you have your pencils ready to write in corrections. This particular recipe I didn't use any chocolate in it and it actually took a bit longer then expected for the crumble topping to brown. Flavor wise, on the other hand, was quite tasty and reminded me of perhaps a pudding version of banana bread. So warm and creamy! Even though I could smell the sweetness of the Bailey's, I really couldn't taste it since the flavors mixed so surprisingly well with the banana. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Spinach Mushroom Quiche

Having decided to look at various quiche recipes, the Artist of the questing duo decides to make this a special project out of this choice. What could she possibly do with a recipe submitted to a website like Well just wait and see! 

Spinach Mushroom Quiche
1 prepared 9 inch single pie crust
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach
1 (8 ounce)  package sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 (4 ounce) container crumbled feta cheese
1/2 (8 ounce) package shredded Swiss cheese, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F (200°C) 
  2. Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish
  3. whisk eggs, milk, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl 
  4. Gently combine spinach, mushrooms, onion, and feta cheese in a separate bowl. Spread spinach-mushroom mixture in the prepared pie dish; top with half the Swiss cheese
  5. Pour egg mixture evenly over the filling, swirling egg mixture in bowl to spread seasonings through the eggs; top the quiche with remaining Swiss cheese. Place quiche on a baking sheet. 
  6. Bake in preheated oven until the quiche is lightly puffed and browned, 45 to 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the filling should come out clean. Cool for 30 minutes before serving 

~ The Artist ~ 
     Alright folks who may be choosing to make something for themselves or for a loved one this Valentine's Day, I would like share a little bit of advice when cooking. I have found over the years of cooking that it's similar to speaking. There will be times where you know what to say, in this case using a recipe as a script to follow, which comes out the way you expect. Then there are times when that looking at your 'script' that it doesn't seem right. That the predicted ending does not articulate correctly what you instinctively feel. These are the times that you will find yourself using the recipe as a simple guide and then changing things here and there to make the end result come out the way you see fit. Will the appearance of the end result be exactly like it is displayed on that little recipe? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But the presentation shouldn't be the first thing that you should be concerned with. Does it taste good? How is the texture against your tongue? These are the parts of your 'conversation' that are just as important as the pretty little display on your plate. Of course I will probably get a great many professional chefs disagreeing with me on this but oh well. 

     Originally I was debating if I should even share the recipe for this due to the fact that I had change so many things along the way but my other half suggested that it would be best if I did but also mentioned the changes I had done. I had to agree with his logic on this so please bear with me on this one. 

Changes made to recipe: 
-Switched out 'store bought pie crust' with making homemade savory tart crust 
-Omitted parsley 
-Cheeses used include feta, mozzarella, and raw milk gouda 
-Cooked the onions, garlic and half of the mushroom first before putting together the spinach-mushroom mixture

     The end result of the changes that I made to the recipe was that the cheeses worked together in harmony with a balance of creamy, salty and mild sharpness. With the onions having been cooked before hand, the subtle onion flavor enhanced the flavors of the other seasonings and wasn't overpowering as it would have been if left in a raw state when put with the spinach-mushroom mixture. I ended up pairing the quiche with some small turkey sausages and a light salad to round everything off. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Beef Paprikash

February always has such damp weather - frosty snow-laiden wind or rain filled storm clouds. It is difficult to get into the mood of the season when you're shivering. With that in mind, we thought what would be better then sharing some comfort food with someone you care about or even to brighten up your day. So where better to find some ideas then from a recipe book with the title Like Grandma Used to Make: A Treasury of Fondly Remembered Dishes which was originally published by Reader's Digest. 

Beef Paprikash 
Nonstick cooking spray or olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 medium-size yellow onions, cut into wedges
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika or paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) lower-sodium tomatoes, undrained and cut up 
1 cup lower-sodium beef broth
1 large sweet bell pepper, cut into bite-size strips
1 cup reduce-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  1. Coat a Dutch oven with cooking spray. Heat the Dutch oven over moderately high heat. Add the beef, onions, and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or until meat is browned.
  2. Stir in the 1 tablespoon flour, paprika, thyme, salt, and black pepper. Add the tomatoes, beef broth, and bell pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and the 2 tablespoons flour; stir into meat mixture. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or until thickened (do not boil). Serve over hot cooked noodles.

~ The Artist ~ 
      I thought it would be a great idea to make something that would add a bit of warmth to the season to share with someone or just have while snuggling up into a blanket. Following the instructions, I enjoyed how the aroma of meat and veggies mixing with the sweet and smoky scent of the paprika filled the kitchen as I cooked. Serving it up on a small bed of wheat noodles, I was surprised how good of a combo the sweet tomatoes worked with the savory meat and creamy sauce. I think that the next time I make this, I will try it with egg noodles instead or even with rice just to experiment but it did taste delicious. 

~ The Gamer ~
     This is another dish that ended up well. The meat turned out just right in terms of texture, soft and tender but not to the point where it just fell apart. There was still some rather fatty spots in the portion I received, but that's to be expected with a chuck roast. Although there is sour cream in the sauce, it's not overpowering. You can taste just a hint of tanginess coming from it, but that's about it. Other than that, it was rather similar to a thick beef stew, especially with the peeled tomatoes added into the mix. The recipe book recommends serving this over pasta, which we did, but I also had some on its own, and it's just as delicious with the pasta as it is without. All in all, it's a nice, simple dish that's perfect for a winter evening.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds, and Pistachios

February is finally here and we are spanning our search for things beyond the realm of chocolate. This time around, we decided to take a look at Moroccan cuisine. Recently we have added a book to our ever-expanding kitchen library arsenal by the title of Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Basan. With illustrations of the various dishes along with helpful hints and bits of history going with each recipe, there is plenty to try out. The recipe we decided to highlight has the description of: 

In Arab culture, dates are an age-old source of nutrition and natural sugar; nomads could survive in the desert with dates alone for nourishment. As the fruit is regarded as special, it is often added to festive grain dishes and stews. This slightly sticky date and nut tagine is a favorite at weddings or other family feasts.

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds, and Pistachios
2-3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/4 lb lean lamb, from the shoulder, neck or leg, cut into bite-size pieces
8 oz moist, ready-to-eat, pitted dates
1 tablespoon dark honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste) 
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pat of butter
2-3 tablespoons blanched almonds
2 tablespoons  shelled pistachios
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped 

  1. Heat the ghee in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Stir in the onions and saute until golden brown. Stir in the turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Toss in the meat, making sure it is coated in the spice mixture. Pour in enough water to almost cover the meat and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for roughly 1 1/2 hours. 
  2. Add the dates and stir in the honey. Cover with a lid again and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil with butter in a small pan. Stir in the almonds and pistachios and cook until they begin to turn golden brown. Scatter the nuts over the lamb and dates and sprinkle with the flatleaf parsley.

~ The Artist ~
     When I first spotted this recipe, I thought it would be perfect for the Valentine in someone's life who enjoys being adventurous with trying new cuisines or even for themselves if they wish to treat their taste buds. The only difficulty that I had with this recipe is that there really isn't any butcher shops in my general location and a rather tiny lamb selection at my local grocery store. The recipe itself was actually quite easy to follow and filled the kitchen with a wonderful aroma of cinnamon. I was surprised by how surprisingly sweet the dish was. The slight saltiness of the nuts actually were delightful sparks of added flavor and texture. The lamb itself was quite tender as well from this cooking process and look forward to trying this again in the future, perhaps with a pot roast.

~ The Gamer ~
I was interested when it was announced that we were going to be having a meal made with lamb. I've come to enjoy it quite a bit in the past years, and this dish certainly didn't disappoint. I had expected it to be more spicy due to the tumeric and cinnamon in it, but there was such small quantities of both that the dates and the honey really ended up coming through, making it much sweeter then what the ingredients might make it sound. The lamb turned out soft, tender and juicy, and blended well with the sweetness. I'm going to assume that when the recipe called for pistachios that the person cooking would use pre-shelled, unsalted pistachios. We ended up using pistachios that were still needed to be shelled and were salted. Dawn thought that the salt from the pistachios was enough to satisfy the optional ingredient of having salt and pepper in the dish, to which I would agree. They added just enough saltiness to counter-act some of the sweetness, but not enough to overpower it. I would suggest this dish to anyone willing to try new things, but if you aren't in to sweet things, this may not be your cup of tea, so to speak, as the dates and the honey do come out a bit strongly.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Mocha Rum Brownie Bites

February is nearly upon us! With the season of love coming up, we here at Epic Food Quest have accepted the challenge of making and trying out various treats and meals that you can attempt. Be it for you to remind yourself that you are special or to create for your loved ones, stay tuned for some interesting things that we have lined up for this month. 

Do you have a chocolate lover in your life and want to kick it up a notch? Well we may have found a possible goody for you try. This one comes from Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine, and Beer by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone. Illustrated with images of the treats that each recipe is letting you make along with a notification at the top of the recipe which lets you know what type of occasion each one is good for, this is a comprehensive manual for those who enjoy baking. 

Mocha Rum Brownie Bites
1 (19.8 ounce) box brownie mix
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup half and half 
1/4 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/2 cup dark rum 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan
  2. Combine all brownie ingredients and mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into 24 equal pieces.
  3. Top with generous dollops of frosting and raspberries. Arrange on a platter and let everyone dig in, family-style. 

Mocha Rum Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 teaspoons dark rum

Stir to combine butter and cocoa. Beat in confectioners' sugar and milk in three alternating additions, Add milk mixture to the butter and cocoa, along with vanilla and rum, stirring until smooth and creamy. Makes about 3 cups. 

~ The Artist ~
     This was one of most enjoyable brownie recipes that I've had a chance to play with. The only thing that I changed was choosing to make them in individual little pans so that the brownie came out as a little cake instead and switched the raspberries out for sliced strawberries and blackberries. My brownie mix of choice for this particular project was Ghiradelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie Mix. The mini cakes came out perfectly (save for some cracking on top which I wasn't worried about since they would be filled in by the frosting anyways). Just taking them out of the oven filled the kitchen up with an intense chocolate-floral aroma. Once cooled and decorated, it was time to indulge! The small brownie cake was soft and the frosting just intensified the richness. With the fruit on top, it just seemed to add to the indulgence of the experience. 

~ The Gamer ~
     When I was told that we were going to be having brownie bites, I wasn't quite expecting them to be turned into what can be best described as mini cakes. It certainly didn't take anything away from the experience though. The outer crust of a bit harder then appearances would have led one to believe, but once past that you get into the nice, soft center that's rich with chocolatey flavour. I believe there's rum in the recipe for the brownie bite itself, but you don't really notice it too much. That is more than made up for through the frosting that covers it. You get this lovely combination of rum and chocolate with neither overpowering the other. Overall it was a wonderful dessert, though one that some may wish to avoid due to how rich it can be. It's definitely worth a try by those that can handle it though.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lemon Lavender Pound Cake

     Have you ever spotted a recipe online that the image of the dish or even the description made you want to try it? We're pretty sure that many of us have been there at least once or twice. Well we decided to go forth and try one of these recipes so you don't have to risk your kitchen. This one was originally posted by the blog Today's Nest for their Treat of the Week segment in April 2014. 

Lemon Lavender Pound Cake
For the cake:
1 cup self rising flour / 175g
3/4 cup sugar / 150g
11 tablespoons unsalted butter / 150g , at room temperature
3 eggs, beaten
zest of two lemons
1 teaspoon lavender
pinch salt
For the icing:
juice of one lemon
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar / 170g

The method:
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Sift flour and set aside. Add sugar and butter to a mixing bowl and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add eggs, zest, lavender, and salt. Beat until well combined. 
Add flour a quarter at a time mixing just until moistened.
Pour batter into lined loaf pan and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check at 35 minutes with a toothpick. It should be clean with just a little moisture left behind when removed.
Cool completely on a wire rack.

While cake is cooling, mix lemon juice and sugar together. Stir until you get a good icing consistency. Pour icing over cooled cake and sprinkle with lavender, if desired. Store in an airtight container to retain moisture.

- The Gamer - 
     This dish turned out a little differently than I had expected. Part of that may have been due to the fact that we didn't have enough powdered sugar to make a regular glaze for it, but in the end it still turned out alright. Despite it being a pound cake, I found that it reminded me more of cornbread in taste and texture. It wasn't very sweet, although the lemon did come through without being overpowering. Unlike most of my experiences with cornbread, the cake wasn't overly dry or crumbly, but it was still nice and firm, with a nice bit of crust on the outside edge. Unfortunately, although there was lavender in it, you couldn't really taste it. Overall, it was a nice recipe that I would definitely enjoy having again, although perhaps with a proper glaze next time to see how that changes the texture and flavor.

- The Artist -
     Well I followed the recipe save for the fact that I didn't have enough confectioner's sugar for the icing. So instead I made a lemon juice based simple syrup and lightly drizzled a bit over the pound cake. The result? Soft but firm so it didn't crumble, cooked to a golden brown. The treat tasted wonderful, however unfortunately all I could taste was a light lemon flavor and nothing of the lavender. More then likely if I do this particular recipe again, I would be testing out how it would work if I omitted one of the eggs and replaced it with a 1/3 cup of lavender tea and in turn make the icing with lavender tea as well. Just little personal notes for the future that I get to keep in mind.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Corned Beef and Vegetable Casserole

Wanting to have something that could be made as a main course or a side dish? This is what we looked into when dusting off this book from our collection. The Spice Cookbook by Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckey was originally published back in 1968 but don't let that
deter you. Filled with a history of various spices and their countries of origin, the book describes old uses for the spices then takes a look a large variety of recipes. Flipping through the slightly yellowed pages and looking at the different choices, we settle on Corned Beef and Vegetable Casserole. 

Corned Beef and Vegetable Casserole
2 cups cooked, diced potatoes
2 cups cooked, sliced carrots 
1 cup cooked, sliced celery
1/3 cup onion flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can (12 ounces) corned beef
1/4 cup vegetable cooking water (vegetable broth)
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Combine the first 8 ingredients and turn half into a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Break corned beef into small pieces over the vegetables. Cover with remaining vegetables. Add vegetable water. Combine bread crumbs and butter or margarine and sprinkle over the top. Bake in a pre-heated moderate oven (350° F). 45 minutes or until browned. 

- The Artist - 

There were a couple of slight differences to the recipe that I had done but was still thrilled with the results. Instead of using cooked vegetables, I used fresh raw vegetables. The other change I did was 2 cans of corned beef instead of one and not using extra salt, instead opting to rely on the saltiness of the meat to do the work instead. I assembled the casserole as the directions instructed but at the 45 minute point, I stirred everything then put it back into the oven for an additional 25 minutes to finish the cooking process of the potatoes. The end result was tender vegetables complimented by the texture of the salty corned beef. The best way to describe the experience of this is like eating a deconstructed pot roast dinner. In the future when making this particular dish, I will probably experiment with adding other vegetables such as corn or even turnips. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cabbage Smothered with Bacon

Wanting to use up some left over cabbage or just went on an impulse buy at the local farmer's market and not sure what to do with that sizable head? That was our dilemma on today's Food Quest installment. So what could you possibly do with this understated vegetable? We found an answer! This time we take a peek at an unlikely recipe book in our eclectic kitchen library which gives us a solution - Ideas for Entertaining from the African-American Kitchen by Angela Shelf Medearis. The book itself is filled with meal ideas set up as a menu then discusses how to make each item in order to celebrate various holidays throughout the year. Chapters are divided by month and celebration which are as follows: 

  • January
    • Emancipation day - Jubilee Dinner Party
    • An Afrocentric Baby Shower
    • Martin Luther King Day Celebration
  • February
    • African-American History Month Buffet
    • African-style Engagement Dinner for Two
  • March
    • Women in History Month - Sisters' Rejuvenation Brunch
  • April
    • Traditional Easter Dinner
    • Blue Monday Party
  • May
    • National Malcom X Day Dinner
    • Memorial Day Dinner on the Grounds Picnic
  • June
    • Junteenth Caribbean-Style Dinner
    • Jumping the Broom Rehearsal Dinner
  • July
    • Fourth of July Family Reunion Barbecue
  • August
    • Young Adult Rites of Passage Dinner
  • September
    • Honoring the Ancestors - Parents' Day Dinner
  • October
    • Heroes' Day Children's Party
  • November
    • Thanksgiving Harvest Celebration Dinner
  • December
    • An Old-Fashioned Christmas Dinner
    • Kwanzaa Karamu Feast
In the Martin Luther King Day Celebration section, one of the side dishes caught our attention which was perfect for our needs. 

Cabbage Smothered with Bacon
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 small head cabbage, washed and shredded
1 large green bell pepper, sliced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, cut diagonally into thin slices

     Fry the bacon until crisp in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Remove the bacon and set aside, reserving the bacon drippings in the pan as they will add flavor and moisture to the cabbage. Add the cabbage, bell pepper, onion, tomato, and celery to the pan. Raise the heat to high and fry the vegetables, stirring constantly, for 5 to 8 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer the vegetables for another 5 minutes. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it over the vegetables. 

- The Artist - 

The recipe was rather easy to follow, the cooking of the bacon taking most of the time to cook. The only item in the ingredients list that I changed for this was instead of a green bell pepper, I used a yellow one instead since I'm not personally a fan of the bitterness that the green has. Since I was working with a massive amount of cabbage, I put a lid over the whole pan of vegetables for them to sweat down a minute or two before I was able to actually stir the entire mixture. Flavor-wise, it was very reminiscent of something I had in my use when I lived in Germany for a few years. Though simple, the butteryness of the cabbage was brought out by the drippings of the bacon. This went perfectly with the sweetness of the bell pepper and tomato which was itself balanced out by the salty bacon. Since this was a side dish, I had made a herb seasoned pot roast and jasmine rice to go along with it. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Greek Almond Crescents

This time around, we bring to you a recipe from The Afternoon Tea Collection published by Metro Books. Full of colorful pictures of decedent snacks along with their easy to understand recipes, there are so many goodies to choose from to make and enjoy with a perfect cup of tea. Flipping through the pages, trying to narrow down just one to try out could be a bit difficult. Chapters in the book include:

  • Sandwiches
  • Scones
  • Friands
  • Little Tarts
  • Little Cakes
  • Big Cakes 
  • Biscuits
  • Slices
Today we take a look at one of the options in the Biscuit category called Greek Almond Crescents. 

Greek Almond Crescents
250 g (8 ounces) butter, softened 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup (60ml) brandy
3/4 cup (120g) roasted blanched almonds, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (225g) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup (60ml) rosewater
1/2 cup (125ml) water
3 cups (480g) confectioners' sugar 

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease oven trays.
  2. Beat butter, extract and caster sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and brandy; transfer to large bowl. Stir in nuts and sifted flours and nutmeg, in two batches
  3. Turn dough onto floured surface; knead lightly until smooth. Shape tablespoons of dough into crescent shapes; place about 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart on trays.
  4. Bake about 15 minutes or until browned lightly. Lift hot crescents onto wire racks; brush with combined rosewater and water. Coat thickly with sifted icing sugar; cool 
prep + cook time 50 minutes      makes 50

- The Gamer - 

I wasn't quite sure what to be expecting when I first got my little plate full of crescents, as I hadn't been informed yet as to what had been used as ingredients. What I did notice shortly after taking a bite was a slight tartness to it, which I would assume came from the rosewater, as it was accompanied by the faint scent of roses. The pastry is fairly well balanced, not too dry that it just crumples in your mouth, but also not so moist that it's just a soggy mess in your hand. The dusting of powdered sugar also compliments it well, giving it a bit of sweetness that wouldn't be present otherwise. There was a slight background flavor of almonds that could almost be missed if a person wasn't looking for it. Overall, it was a rather tasty treat and somewhat reminiscent of things that my grandmother and/or mother would make when I was a child.

- The Artist - 

Having been looking forward to trying this recipe out for some time, I gathered up the ingredients that I needed and set about following the instructions. Since I didn't have any caster sugar, I went about and used one of my mortar and pestles to manually grind white sugar into the superfine consistency that I needed. The only alteration that I made to the recipe was the size of the crescents, making them just a little larger in size. This only added an additional 10-12 minutes to the cooking time. Pulling them out of the oven, the kitchen was filled with the subtle scent of the chopped almonds and vanilla from the little tidbits. This was soon accompanied by the wonderful floral notes from the rosewater as I brushed them with the mixture and gave them all a good snow fall of powdered sugar. Finally having a chance to taste my hard work, I was pleasantly surprised and rewarded by how all of the scents and flavors worked together in harmony in my mouth. I ended up pairing the treats up with a nice cup of peach green tea which worked wonderfully. The only thing I would probably do differently to my process would be chopping the almonds a bit smaller then I had done or use a food processor to make sure they were small enough. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lavender Rose Tea

      2015 is finally here and we are dusting this little foodie haven. After a bit of a discussion, we agreed that it would be a good idea to also include recipes that we will try out which will range from meals and desserts to beverages. With a small library of cookbooks at our disposal and friends who suggest things to us via Facebook, there is no lack of inspiration. So what are we starting off the new year with? Tea!

Lavender Rose Tea
- The Artist -

     There are so many types of tea out on the market but for those who are more on the DIY stance of things, there's always the option to make your own which gives you more freedom to try various flavor combinations. One popular option is floral teas. If you have your own edible/herbal use flowers, you are able to harvest and dry your own. For  this particular combination, use English Lavender and Autumn Damask Rose. If you are unable to grow your own, check your local ethnic grocery stores or online. Mix equal parts (of course feel free to play around with the ratio of the combination to find out what you like) dried rose and dried lavender and brew like you would a standard loose leaf tea.

     Your nose will be greeted by a wonderful aroma of lavender and rose harmonizing together. The color itself is a lovely golden hue which shimmers just slightly from the essential oils that had come off of the flowers during the steeping process. The reason I chose to add rose to the lavender in the first place was that I wanted to see how it would work with the strong flavor of the lavender. I was not disappointed in the results. Yes, the lavender was dominant, but the rose seemed to tone it down just a bit and add a subtle sweetness to it. On another note, if you choose to add sweetness to your tea, try only 1/2 Tbsp of honey.