Monthly Archives: March 2011

Applesauce Cookies Version 2.0

Update – the “secret” project has been unveiled. Please have a look.

Friends help each other out, right? Actually, I think that might even be the first rule of friendship. So when I was asked recently to lend a hand for a great cause AND it involved cookies, the answer every single time is going to be “YES!”

I can’t get into the specifics of the project, but it involves cookies, so already you know it’s going to be fun. As for the cookie selection, well, that was easy. Ever since I baked my grandmother’s applesauce cookies, I have been wondering what it would be like to add chocolate chips to the original recipe. I know, applesauce and chocolate chips don’t necessarily sound as if they go hand-in-hand, but the applesauce is really just a way to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe while making the cookies extra soft.  I said it before and I’ll say it again, this cookie is like a muffin top and I don’t know about you, but I love the top of a muffin, especially filled with chocolate chips!

While we wait a few more days (I think) for the special project to be completed by some VERY (hint) talented people. Let’s enjoy Version 2.0 of the Applesauce cookie…Chocolate Chip & Raisin Muffin Top Cookies.

Applesauce Cookies V2.0 – Chocolate Chip & Raisin Muffin Top Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of applesauce (
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar, then add applesauce, blending in.
  3. Sift flour with baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add sifted ingredients to applesauce mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Add chocolate chips, raisins and nuts and stir until combined.
  6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2 to 3 inches apart.
  7. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

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10 Comments

Filed under applesauce, Applesauce cookies, Chocolate Chips, Muffin Top

We’re All Pat On The Back Worthy

Most days I see very talented people tweeting with glee that “Thank you ‘insert food porn site here’ for approving my picture!” However, on most days, I also see very talented people bemoaning through Twitter “Can you please tell me what’s wrong with the ‘insert reason for rejection’ in this picture!?!?”

I’ve felt both emotions of this very fine line. Although, truth be told, I have only felt the sting of rejection for the handful of pictures I’ve submitted since I last shared my honest feelings about the subject of food porn sites. I’m not into conspiracies, but for those that are, knock yourselves out.

What I took out of the comments that so many of you passionately wrote about was that it is a very subjective matter and while it’s understandable to be disappointed, it’s not worth the frustration. So in the meantime, individually, we must pat our own backs and remind ourselves that we are talented and more importantly, always looking to improve. Some random person who has nothing personally invested in you will not tell you how good you are nor really do they care. If you are honest with yourself, you will be your own worst (and helpful) critic.

I decided recently to have a look back at the very humble beginnings of my blog. About a year ago I wrote about Cabbage Soup. It was my 33rd post (needless to say, I was still very new to the food blog world) and I want to guess maybe averaging 20 hits a day (if that). It told a fun little story (I thought) and the accompanying picture I thought told its own story. A big pot of warming to the soul cabbage soup in the middle of winter. I enjoyed the steam caught in the picture to show it was hot and ready to be served. Even the messy wooden spoon was shown in the picture displaying that it had worked hard to stir what was a thick pot of cabbage, tomatoes and raisins.

Looking back at that picture, I still like it and maybe I could have played with the lighting or removed whatever happens to be poking through at the top left hand corner. But I know now it’s not a picture that would make someone say “Wow, I need to visit this blog again.”

The cabbage soup was made again recently, so I decided to see what I could do a year later and possibly wiser.

I know I still have work to do on many things, including lighting and dealing with shadows, if you look closely, you can see my reflection in the spoon. But, the pictures are cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing. However, to me at least, I feel as if I’ve misplaced part of the soul of the big pot picture. I’m sure I could accomplish that goal if I had the skill and knowledge of someone like Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites but he too had to go through these growing pains, right? Or maybe he was just born with it. So not to depress me too much, I’m going to say he learned how to be as good as he is and in the meantime, I’ll keep shooting and learning.

With all that said, I was very pleased with how my pictures came out and for that, I will pat myself on the back.

19 Comments

Filed under Cabbage, photography

What is expected of a food blogger?

Being  a food blogger can certainly be a full-time job. It involves cooking, photographing, writing and that doesn’t even include planning, editing or searching for that one nowhere-to-be found ingredient. All these steps should be done with pleasure, otherwise, why bother blogging at all, right?

There is one thing I have struggled with lately and it’s a by-product of being part of a wonderful community of food bloggers in the ever-expanding social media world. I want to support as many bloggers as I can in a variety of ways but that too seems to be turning into a full-time job.  So I’ve recently asked myself what is the expectation of one food blogger to another food blogger? Or better yet, is there even an expectation? Let me paint a scenario that should be all-too familiar for most of you.

Blogger X posts an entry on his/her blog. You may subscribe to the blog on Google Reader so you read it there or they may they tweeted it, so you click and read. After taking the 3-5 minutes of reading the post, you are inclined to leave a comment. The comment may be as simple as “Looks great” or it may be something more in the form of a follow-up question or recounting your own memory that was triggered while reading the post. Afterwards, you may have the option to click on any number of social media “share” buttons. You can Tweet it, Facebook Like it, StumbleUpon it, Reddit it, Foodbuzz it or do “it” to any number of sites that you’ve never heard of. As far as these buttons go, this blog isn’t that fancy…yet.

For me personally, I love comments on my blog. I appreciate the time and effort people put into sharing something that sparked something within them simply from them reading my words. Recently, I weaved the eulogy I gave when my Bubbie passed away into a post. It was a story I’ve wanted to share for quite some time and I was overwhelmed with the responses and the raw emotions that people friends shared with me in comment form. For me personally, I’d take a heartfelt comment over a retweet. However, if Jamie Oliver, Ree Drummond – the Pioneer Woman or Lady Gaga want to retweet me and expose me to millions of people, who am I to say no? (1 of the 3 names there doesn’t quite belong in a food blog, does it?)

The whole process of commenting and sharing may not sound overly daunting when it’s crammed into a few sentences like I’ve just done. I do my best to comment and retweet, but sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day and when you fall behind, there is no catching up. When it’s multiplied by the 10, 20, 30 blogs that you follow, it’s just not possible to give them all their proper due, is it?

1st note – I do get the irony that you may comment or “share” this post.

2nd note – Tastes Better With Friends will be getting a facelift soon and there will be additional “share” buttons on the new site. And yes, I get the irony there too.

53 Comments

Filed under Jamie Oliver, Lady Gaga, Pioneer Woman

Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcake Timeline

Baking cupcakes with a three-year old girl goes a little something like this…

16:13 – Arrive at my friend Jean’s house to bake cupcakes with her and her 3-year-old daughter (Hannah).

16:14 – Hannah and I have never met, she hides behind Jean’s legs as we’re introduced.

16:17 – Hannah shows me her closet full of clothes and her 1,2,4,5,6,7,8 shoes. (4 pairs, but 8 shoes).

16:18 – I think Hannah and I are friends now.

16:20 – Peanut Butter Cupcake Surprise preparation time.

16:21 – I show Hannah the chocolate rosebuds, chocolate with sprinkles, chocolate covered bananas and Easter eggs that will be used for the “surprise” centre.

16:21 – Hannah says “the Easter bunny will bring me chocolates soon”. I reply “Well, the Easter bunny gave these to me as an early present”.

16:21 – Hannah smiles.

16:22 – Around this time, I wish I had researched the whole legality of showing pictures of kids on a blog. I have a feeling Hannah is going to be pretty cute during this baking adventure. I’m sure it would have been fine since Jean was there, but to be safe, I choose not to take any pictures of Hannah…next time.

16:22 – I’m pretty sure I can take a picture of Montana the dog. He’s thinking “Please buddy, drop a cupcake later for me”.

16:23 – Jean pours the sugar in the measuring cup as I measure out the butter.

16:24 – Hannah grabs the sugar from the counter and moves it to the bowl. Sugar ends up on the floor.

16:25 – I was right, Hannah is very cute.

16:26 – Hannah likes to crack eggs. Eggs and shell(s) go into bowl.

16:27 – Jean spends 5 minutes pulling shells from the bowl. Hannah is unaware of this activity.

16:32 – Batter is being mixed and it’s peanut butter heaven.

16:35 – Hannah gets to lick the whisk and says it’s “yummy”. We can continue.

16:38 – Hannah has a very important job. Place the chocolate right in the middle of the batter. After her first one, I say, “that’s perfect”. Hannah than places each chocolate into the middle of the batter and says “that’s perfect”.

16:40 – Note to self – Kids like to copycat, be careful of what I say.

16:45 – First batch of cupcakes go into the oven. Jean wants to play with her new convection oven. We cut the baking time from 18-20 minutes to 10 minutes.

16:55 – Cupcakes are out and they smell terrific.

16:57 – Cupcakes start to implode and crash inwards.

16:58 – Note to self – Turn off convection oven for the second batch.

17:04 – Hannah begins setting her small table for tea with seven glasses of water, even though there are three of us.

17:18 – Second batch of cupcakes come out looking perfect.

17:30 – All the cupcakes have cooled and get a slight dusting of powdered sugar.

17:31 – Hannah takes a bite and proclaims “It’s good and my surprise in the middle was a sprinkle”.

17:32 – Although they do not look as appealing, both Jean and I decide that the imploded/convection style cupcake is amazing. The outside is perfectly done, but the middle has a warm gooey batter-like consistency. For someone who likes batter and cupcakes, this is the best of both worlds.

17:36 – Hannah lays pillows across the living room floor and takes a nap.

18:00 – I am introduced to In the Night Garden and Igglepiggle. Igglepiggle and his friends chase a bike going down a hill for 20 minutes.

19:00 – I say good-bye to Jean and Hannah. I get a hug from Hannah.

19:01 – Today was a good day.

Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcakes – (Recipe from Southern Living – 1,001 Ways to Cook Southern)

Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup of butter, softened
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 24 milk chocolate kisses (or in my case, whatever you think might entertain a three-year old)
  • Confectioners sugar
  1. Preheat over to 375F. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add peanut butter, beating until smooth.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to peanut butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low-speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter into each of the 24 paper baking cups in muffin pans. Place 1 chocolate on its side in centre of batter in each cup. Top evenly with remaining batter (about 2 tablespoons in each cup) covering each chocolate.
  4. Bake at 375F for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Dust with confectioners sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

33 Comments

Filed under chocolate, Cupcakes, Peanut butter, Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Charcutepalooza – Brining and Learning

I’m a little late to the Charcutepalooza party, but better last than never. For those wondering what is (say it with me) “shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za”, it’s a year-long salute to meat created by Cathy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Kim who is The Yummy Mummy. Although I missed out on duck prosciutto in January and bacon and pancetta in February, I was set for the March challenge of brining my very own (and first) brisket.

I was a lucky kid growing up knowing what a brisket should taste like. It was to be sliced thin to melt in your mouth and be perfectly seasoned with a slightly salt taste. Growing up in London, Ontario (population 330,000) didn’t offer the “big-city” options when it came to food as Montreal or Toronto. So on road trips to Montreal to visit my grandparents, we’d always stop at a butcher shop on the way back to London and load up the cooler (that we brought specifically for this mission) with brisket, salami and smoked meat.

As I’m currently in London these days, I was realistic of my options when I walked into the downtown market. I asked the organic butcher if they had a brisket and his response was “I have a roast that you can cut the strings off of and there’s your brisket”. I had a quick look at the roast/brisket and although it was a nice piece of meat, I immediately noticed it lacked a lot of the marbling that I was accustomed to growing up. But beggars can’t be choosers and off I went with my meat which from here on out will  be referred to as “brisket” not “roast”.

The brisket was about 2.5 pounds or 1.1 kilograms in weight, so I cut all the ingredients in half from our Charcutepalooza bible Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. The recipe called for a 5 pound (2.25 kilogram) brisket, so I knew it also wouldn’t need the five days in the brine which was confirmed by Cathy and Michael (thanks guys). After three days in the brine, it got a good cold bath and then simmered away for 90 minutes. As an added bonus, I made my own pickling spice following Charcuterie’s recipe and tweaked it a bit with some additional spices to try and give it a bit more of a kick.

The results were very good and I was impressed with myself as evidenced by the brisket disappearing in a matter of days.  But for a variety of reasons the brisket did not taste like I had remembered growing up. I know some reasons are real (I need to slice it thinner) and some others are just in my head (tough to duplicate childhood memories).

The brining experience was simple and surprisingly easy. In all, it was a great learning experience and I will certainly be doing it again. Next time, I’m going to channel my inner-deli and carve/shave like this.



5 Comments

Filed under Brining, Brisket, Charcutepalooza, Montreal

Memories of a (Beef) Tongue

It’s funny how things rarely play out as they do in your head. Last week, I did my best to weave parts of the eulogy I gave at my Bubbie’s (Yiddish for Grandmother) funeral into a post. As I was writing, I thought to myself as I teared up at Starbucks, “This is heavy for me, but I don’t know what others will make of it?” But I decided to just write for myself and let the rest take care of itself.

Simply put, I was touched by all the wonderful comments, so thank you. It was great to see my Bubbie and her love of family resonated with those who are or have been blessed with a similar relationship. But even more importantly, I felt it a privilege to share that moment with others who were not as fortunate to have known their grandparents.

My Bubbie was not a fan of having her picture taken, so sadly there are not a ton of pictures of us together. She gave in somewhat in her later years (I think just to humor us), so although I have a ton of memories, they are not always affiliated with pictures. On the bright side, a memory lasts forever.

I was thinking of some good times we shared and one of my fondest memories is when I was about 5 years old living in Montreal. She was a wonderful cook and when a Bubbie gives you food, you eat, it’s a rule, even if it’s not your Bubbie! So she gave me a piece of meat and told me it was chicken, so of course I believed her. As I took a bite, my mother came into the kitchen and asked if I liked the beef tongue I was eating. Needless to say, at 5 years old, I only knew of the tongue in my own mouth, not the eating of someone else’s so it quickly went back on to the plate. My Bubbie had a good laugh about it and said I had liked it just fine when I thought it was chicken.

To this day, I have yet to try beef tongue again and I don’t really have an inclination to do so. But at any mention of it, I smile and think of an adorable little 4’11” Bubbie who was happiest in her kitchen surrounded by family and having fun with her grandson.

Ironically enough, this memory about beef tongue actually ties in with a contest currently being sponsored by Eat, Write, Retreat, a  food blogging conference in May 2011. Eat, Write, Retreat has partnered up with the folks at Canadian Beef to generously sponsor five (5) randomly selected Canadian food bloggers to attend the conference in Washington if they share a story or recipe of Canadian Beef.

It’s not very often a story about beef tongue can be applied to a chance to attend a food blog conference.

18 Comments

Filed under Beef, Bubbie, Tongue

Getting my “Around My French Table” groove back…

Confession is good for the soul, especially when there is nourishment involved. Recently, I confessed I have a weakness for Southern belles and their alluring accent, not to mention sweet tea. My next admission is that I’ve been slacking when it comes to French Fridays with Dorie. There is no obligation to post every Friday, but why wouldn’t I treat myself? The opportunity is there to cook (and eat) something wonderful every week and share it along the way.

Last week, when I saw everyone’s posts for their Savory Cheese And Chive Bread, I knew I missed out. First off, what part of that doesn’t sound good? Even the word “and” sounds delicious sandwiched between “cheese” and “chive”. Secondly, a bread recipe that does not involve yeast is a recipe I can get behind. Yeast and I are slowly getting to know each other, we’re still in the acquaintance stage, not friends…yet.

When I saw that the dish for this week was something called Beggar’s Linguine, the Savory Cheese And Chive Bread was beckoning to be served along with it and really who am I to say no?

I’d like to find a simpler recipe that results in something this phenomenal, because I don’t think it exists. Within five minutes of having placed the bread in the oven, the combination of cheese, chives and walnuts made for an aroma that even a baker would applaud. When I pulled the loaf pan out, I was smiling (and salivating) from seeing the baked cubes of cheddar cheese. As for the taste, it is indeed savory and comforting. Each bite provides something just slightly different from the next one. I will make this again with pleasure and the next time I take this over to a friend, I am sure they will ask for it again as well.

As for the linguine, it was a treat. It’s not often you find a pasta recipe that includes pistachios, almonds, figs and raisins but they all went together very nicely. Not surprising, the pasta and the bread were a perfect match and already has me looking forward to next Friday’s recipe.

As is the case with recipes from Around My French Table, the members of French Fridays with Dorie hope to encourage people to buy this incredible book rather than posting the recipes. I don’t want to sound like a used car salesman, but the recipe for the bread alone is worth the price of this book. It’s a great deal at Amazon (US) or Amazon (Canada) if you’re interested!

14 Comments

Filed under Beggars linguine, Bread, Cheese, Dorie Greenspan, French Fridays with Dorie, pasta, Savory Cheese and Chive Bread