December 14, 2011

Rum Balls

When I was I child I spent my allowance on one of two things - bananas or rum balls. My brother and I would trudge 2 1/2 miles down to the bakery and spend far too much time, much to the annoyance of the bakery staff, with our hands on the glass of the display cases, trying to decide what we wanted. I, invariably, settled on rum balls. They taste so warm and chocolatey. We would slowly meander home, only to arrive there empty handed with chocolate covered hands and faces.

This recipe is a very common one, although I have modified it by reducing the amount of nuts and increasing the cookie crumbs, thereby making it slightly more affordable to make. Surprisingly, the modification does not at all affect flavour or texture. So, make a double batch, keep a dozen, and give a dozen to someone special for Christmas. :)

Ingredients
  • 1 Cup Finely chopped hazelnuts or pecans
  • 1 3/4 Cups Crushed Nilla wafers or arrowroot cookies
  • 1/2 Cup powdered sugar (aka: icing sugar)
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp Light corn syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Dark rum
  • 4 Ounces Dark chocolate
  • 1 Tsp butter
Method
  1. Combine first four ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

  2. Place the corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high for ~15 seconds to warm and make easier to incorporate into the dry ingredients.

  3. Stir the warm corn syrup into the dry ingredients.

  4. Add the rum to the mixture; stir well. The mixture should be thoroughly moist so that it will stick together in balls, but not so wet that it won't hold the shape of a ball. If the mixture is too dry and crumbly, add another teaspoon of rum; stir.

  5. Refrigerate mixture for ~1 hour.

  6. Form into balls appoximately 1 1/4 inches in diameter.

  7. Place the dark chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl; heat on high for 15 seconds; stir. Repeat until the chocolate and butter are melted.

  8. Dip each rum ball into the melted chocolate to coat. Place the rum balls on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Garnish each with a bit of chopped nuts.

  9. Allow the chocolate coating to set for at least 1 hour before serving.

Enjoy! :D

November 20, 2011

Squash Orange Cake

If there could be a luscious cake that could be called almost healthful, this is would be the front-running candidate. It is packed full of vitamin dense grated squash and orange rind, and made with whole wheat flour. Don't let that put you off, though, as this cake is truly a delicious treat.


Ingredients
  • 3/4 c. softened butter
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • finely grated rind and juice of 1 1/2 oranges
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 c. coarsely grated raw butternut squash
  • 1 c. raisins

Icing
  • 1-8 ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange rind
  • 2 tsp. orange juice
  • orange zest to top cake

Cake Batter Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

  2. In a medium size bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the grated orange rind and juice. Beat well.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to the butter mixture and stir until moistened.

  4. Add the squash and raisins to the batter. Mix well.

  5. Grease a 7-inch springform pan; line the bottom with greased parchment paper. Spoon the batter into the pan; smooth the top of the batter. Place on center rack in the preheated oven; bake for 1 hour. After 1 hour, test the cake to see if it is done by inserting a clean toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

  6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan to let fully cool on a rack.

Icing Method
  1. Place cream cheese, powdered sugar, orange rind, and orange juice in a small bowl. Beat well until light and fluffy.

  2. Ice the top of the fully cooled cake. Garnish the center with orange rind.

Enjoy! :D

October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

A few years ago, a missionary friend talked me into volunteering to cook at a summer bible camp. I had visions of baking wonderful foods for the children who would, because of my culinary prowess, love and admire me. When I arrived with my truck load of organic vegetables, organic whole-grain flours of all sorts, and whole-grain pastas, I was shiny-faced and excited to prepare uber-healthful foods so the children would be healthy and thriving. Then, I cooked. This is what I learnt:
  1. Children hate foods that are healthful.
  2. Children have evil powers of persuasion (it looks a lot like mournful sadness).
  3. Children, especially female children, would rather starve themselves to death (yes, actual death) than eat anything that even vaguely looks like it might have nutritional value.
  4. Children do not like whole-wheat bread, no matter how carefully and lovingly it has been prepared.

By the end of the first week I was putting sugar in the spaghetti sauce. BUT! I did figure out a way to get them to eat healthful bread. Enter, pumpkin bread.*cues the angels* You, and even the very small controlling people who live with you, will love this bread. It is exquisitely moist, has a lovely thin crust, and the subtlest hint of pumpkin flavour.


  • 2 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 4 tbsp. butter, cut into small bits
  • 1-1/2 c. very hot water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-1/4 c. pureed pumpkin (bake and puree fresh pumpkin if possible, otherwise canned is ok, too)
  • 4 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 4-5 c. bread flour
  • 1 egg, beaten (for washing the loaves)
  • 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds

Mix together the yeast and 1/2 cup warm water; cover; set aside for approximately 10 minutes, until it is foamy. Place the hot water and butter in a large bowl; stir until the butter has melted. Add 1 cup of bread flour to the water/butter mixture; stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the salt, egg, pumpkin, brown sugar, yeast mixture, and whole-wheat flour. Stir for 2 minutes. Add bread flour, 1 cup at a time, until it forms a soft dough, which will be sticky, but not so soft that you can't pick it up. Turn out on lightly floured surface; knead, adding flour as needed, until the dough forms a soft ball that is smooth, soft, and elastic. Place the dough in a bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray; cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for about 40 minutes, until double in size. Turn the raised dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead lightly to partially de-gas; divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each into a loaf. If you choose to use a loaf pan, a greased 9 x 5 x 3" pan works well, otherwise, use a greased cookie sheet. Let the loaves rise for another 30 minutes, or until double in size. Right before placing the loaves in the oven, brush them with the second beaten egg and sprinkle with the sunflower seeds. Slash each loaf on the diagonal. Place the loaves on the center rack of an oven that has been preheated to 400f. Mist the loaves with water then quickly close the oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350f and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, until the loaves are brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Nom nom nom!! Enjoy! :D

5:00

October 16, 2011

Purist Pumpkin Pie



Some things are so perfect, they shouldn't be messed with. Pumpkin pie is one of those things. Classic pumpkin pie trumps any of the 'improved' versions you might be tempted to try, and if you are a purist, you not only stick to a recipe that has been around for decades, you go to a field, pick a pumpkin, bake it, then puree it to make your pie. Making your own pastry is a given (using a store-bought crust would be sacrilegious and bring down upon you, and all of your descendants to the 7th generation, horribly bad karma). Do it old-school - the end product is worth it and you will impress the hell out of everyone, most of whom have never had a made-from-scratch pie. So send everyone away, put some good music on (this is a good place to start), assemble your pie, then sit cross-legged on the floor in front of the oven, watching your pie turn golden, feeling like a modern Julia Child, inhaling the warm aroma of tradition that seeps from your oven.

Filling
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 c. baked pumpkin, squished to drain of excess moisture, then pureed (canned plain pumpkin may be used if you are not going for the Julia Child experience :)
  • 2 3/4 c. evaporated milk (I use evaporated milk because it is low-fat - use heavy cream instead if you like.)
  • 4 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 425f. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Place in preheated oven; bake for 15 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 375f. Bake for an additional 45 - 60 minutes, until toothpick (or sharp, thin knife) inserted in middle comes out clean.

Pastry Crust
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. shortening
  • 7 tbsp. ice water

Place flour in a medium bowl; add salt; stir. Using a pastry cutter, cut the shortening into the flour until it forms a coarse, crumbly mixture. Using a fork, gently stir in the cold water. Mix only until the dough forms a ball. Use your hands to squish it together a bit if needed, but do not knead! Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface; line a large pie plate (2 inches deep). Trim the excess from the edges of the pan if there is dough hanging over the edges. Use the excess to make pastry leaves for garnish.

5:00

September 18, 2011

Spiced Whole Wheat and Oats Bread Rolls

Sometimes subtlety is very good thing. Case in point: these rolls. I wanted to make a bread roll that has an interesting flavour profile - something more complex than the usual bread flavour - so I added a bit of allspice to the dough, then topped the rolls with anise. The result is pure love and goes really well with the squash soup I made. Not everything I make turns out so well, though. The day before yesterday I unintentionally crafted what could be a very effective bread-based melee weapon... :P Check my personal blog later today for details.

  • 1 c. bread flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c. milk
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 3/4 - 1 3/4 c. bread flour

In a large bowl, or stand mixer bowl, combine first four ingredients. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine milk, butter, and honey. Heat to 130 - 140F (very warm, but not boiling). Pour into the oats and flour mixture; stir well. Add beaten egg. Mix well for two minutes then let the rest for 10 minutes.

Add whole wheat flour and allspice to the wet dough mixture. Mix well. Add bread flour 1/2 cup at a time, while mixing, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough into a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until dough is double in size.

Punch down the dough until almost all of the bubbles are expelled. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and shape into rolls. Place onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Let rise for 30 minutes, or until dough rolls are double in size.

Just before placing the rolls in the oven, beat one egg and brush the rolls. Sprinkle the rolls with oatmeal and anise seeds.

Bake at 375F for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

5:00

September 17, 2011

Squash Soup



A few days ago, I woke to find my car covered with thick frost. I was both delighted and disappointed. It means that summer is gone, but it also means that autumn is upon us. It is now the season of warm socks, sweaters, scarves (yay! scarves!) and soup. This luscious, slightly spicy soup is one of my favourites as it is hearty, but very healthful, and can be thrown together in 45 minutes, making it ideal for preparing after work.

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp balti curry powder
  • *1 1/2 - 3 lbs squash (butternut or acorn), peeled, and cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and diced
  • 3 14 ounce cans of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 12 oz low-fat evaporated milk

  • *Consider this amount to be a mere suggestion. For some magic reason that I don't understand, a large squash or a medium squash can be used. If you use a particularly large squash, just add an extra can of chicken broth.

In a large stock pot, saute onion in the vegetable oil. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add apples and curry seasoning; stir. Add squash, apples, chicken broth, and apple juice. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until the squash and apples are tender. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Using a kitchen blender, blend until the soup is smooth. Return to the stock pot; add evaporated milk. Stir well. Garnish each bowl with cracked pepper and fresh thyme or sage leaves.

Enjoy!

5:00

September 11, 2011

La Rossa by Birra Moretti

La Rossa

  • Appearance: Rich, deep caramel.
  • Aroma: This has a really nice nutty aroma.
  • Flavour: When it first hits your palate there is a hoppy bitterness followed by a mildly sweet finish that then reverts to slightly bitter. Subtle caramel and nutty flavours. It is really quite nice.
  • Mouthfeel: Not quite what I would call creamy but it is definitely smooth. It has just enough body to form a nice head.
  • Overall impression: This is a really nice beer with just enough complexity to be interesting, but not so much so that you wouldn't be able to enjoy a few over the course of an evening.

Summary (each characteristic on a scale of 1-10, where one is very poor and 10 is excellent):
  • Appearance: 9
  • Aroma: 8
  • Flavour: 8
  • Mouthfeel: 8
  • Overall impression: 8
Total: 41/50

I have recently developed a strong appreciation for Fridays and an equally strong dislike for painting. I dislike painting almost as much as I dislike Jello...or vanilla pudding. OH! Cilantro = supreme evil. Mondays are like cilantro. Mondays are to cilantro as Fridays are to La Rossa. I don't even know what that means. What I do know is that you should try my new favourite beer. When I first bought it several weeks ago, I took a photo as I always do, then sat down to sip and write. I so thoroughly enjoyed it that I never got around to writing. I simply sat and enjoyed. However, as I am a stick-to-it kind of girl, I thought I should buy a couple more bottles and give it another go. *cracks open a bottle, pours, admires, sip....sip....sip...does not write* Do you see a pattern here? Third time is the charm. The things I do for this blog.

In any case, if you can find this beer, you should buy some. It is lovely. You should also check out my even more personal blog. See that link over there on the right? Don't click it. Srsly.

5:00

August 19, 2011

A Rare and Beautiful Thing.


On Tuesday, I sat on the deck in the cloud filtered sunshine, enjoying the brew I will tell you about in a paragraph to follow, I listened to Ludovico Einaudi played against the background of Rainymood (seriously, play them both at the same time - it's brilliant...everything is better with rain). As I sat, with my eyes closed, I thought about all that I've seen and all that I've done in my life. Doing so is a bit like walking down an endlessly long corridor in a theatre multi-plex, peeking inside each theatre, watching a moment of my life on the screen...and thinking, "ahhh...yes...I remember that".

Some memories are better than others and it caused me to wonder...if I could, would I change any of it? The short answer is no. I wouldn’t change even one thing. Everything that I have experienced has lead me to this moment, this glorious moment where I am beginning wonderful new adventures and happiness potential is everywhere. Life has been better to me than I deserve…but I won’t bore you with the details. ;)

I've had other things on my mind as I drank this beer so I am not going to give you a breakdown of each characteristic. Today you get only this summation – it is a rare and beautiful thing and you should have some. And that is probably higher praise than a number could convey.

What I do have for you is a wish - that you find love. Real, honest to goodness love that makes you put aside the tools with which we measure others, makes you not care about the superficial things that don’t matter, and makes you believe everything, including flying, is possible. When you find it, it will carry you through life. It will also give you something to smile about when you are watching your own memory movie in your mind.

Cheers! *clinks my glass to yours* To flying…and really good beer…which I give 45/50. ;)

5:00

August 7, 2011

Tetley's English Ale and Synchronicity

Late yesterday afternoon as I was satisfying my daily compulsion to learn something new or different, I stumbled upon an interesting documentary. I was sitting at my desk, sipping my weekly beer (yes, I have been limiting myself to a single serving of beer each week so as to ensure I fully appreciate it), contemplating its characteristics, and watching Hulu. When the documentary I had been watching ended, an advert for another documentary played - one promoting a short film about beer ticking in England.

What, you might ask, just as I did, is beer ticking? As it turns out, it is similar to my beer project, although with much more ambitious goals. A beer ticker's goal is to try as many different beers as possible and to record that it has been consumed by ticking it off of a list. I could never be a good beer ticker as I am only trying one new beer and consuming only one serving of that beer each week, but there is a subset of tickers, scoopers, that may have goals more closely aligned to mine - to try different beers, tick it off their list of beers, and make tasting notes and/or score the beer. When I learned there was a large number of people who tick and scoop I thought, "My people! MY PEOPLE!!", and rose from my chair with my arms raised high, yelling, "I AM BEING CALLED HOME!!!" Ok, not really, but I do admit that the people who indulge in such a hobby only make England that much more wonderful. It is almost, almost as wonderful as Canada.

Anyway, beer ticking documentary on Hulu - watch it. It's the right thing to do.

Now, on to this week's beer!

Tetley's English Ale

  • Appearance: As you can see from the photo above, it pours beautifully and makes a thick, creamy head, which is made possible by the nitro widget inside the can. It is a pleasing, rich caramel colour, which provides a hint as to how it might taste.
  • Aroma: It has a pleasant, if a bit weak, nutty and caramel aroma.
  • Flavour: Although I thoroughly enjoyed this beer it wasn't terribly memorable, nor did I feel compelled to proclaim its virtues while I was drinking it. It was slightly sweet, a bit nutty, and had a subtle caramel flavour, but it lacked complexity. It is a rather predictable, mass-produced beer.
  • Mouthfeel: This really has lovely body - creamy but not too thick. Really nice.
  • Overall impression: If you are heading over to a friend's place for a barbeque and don't have time to shop for something really interesting to take along, stop and pick up a six-pack of this. It is easy to drink, predictable, and would go really well with fresh air and a burger.

Summary (each characteristic on a scale of 1-10, where one is very poor and 10 is excellent):
  • Appearance: 9
  • Aroma: 7
  • Flavour: 7
  • Mouthfeel: 8
  • Overall impression: 7
Total: 38/50

Tetley's English Ale can best be described as "meh", accompanied by a head tilt and a shrug. It was neither good and memorable, nor offensive and regrettable.

Next week, a beer from down under!

Cheers!

July 31, 2011

Pineapple Upside-down Cake

For years I have had a very dear, elderly friend who has become like family, like my grandmother. When I go to her house she squishes me in her arms as though I am a long-lost relative she hasn't seen for years. She kisses both of my cheeks a couple of times each while talking a hundred miles an hour in her thick Italian accent, then immediately sets about assembling elaborate trays of cakes, meats, and cheeses. Then, in her loud, jovial, insistent voice says, "Eat! Eat!!" (the inspiration for the name of my blog). It is impossible to visit her without being force-fed the most wonderful food.

Over the last few months, it has become apparent that her vigour is escaping her, and doing so quickly. She no longer has the energy to rush down the walk to greet me at my car. There is no more energy to spend bustling around making tons of food. It is as though her flame is quickly going out...and it is incredibly sad to see.

This summer I've made a point of going to see her more often, and I couldn't accept the loss of our tradition of having good food, so now when I go I take food along with me. When I arrive, I am greeted not by a woman with flailing arms rushing down the walk, but with happiness at the kitchen table. And she sits while I bustle around her kitchen, making tea and assembling the meat and cheese tray. While I prepare the food, she tells me about growing up in Trieste, going to an Italian school, Mussolini, and how to make sausages like her grandmother did. Then we eat just like we always have.

This morning, to take along on my visit today, I made a pineapple upside-down cake. It goes particularly well with stories of the old country.


  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 5 canned pineapple slices, drained
  • 3 egg whites (2 if using extra large eggs)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup extra-fine sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice

In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and melted butter. Pour into the bottom of an ungreased 9" round cake pan. Arrange pineapple slices on top of brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow. Gradually add sugar. Mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to the egg yolk mixture along with the pineapple juice. Mix well. Set aside.

In a medium size mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold gently into the egg yolk/flour mixture.

Pour the batter evenly over the pineapples and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. After removing from the oven, let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert on a plate. Serve warm with whipped cream.

July 30, 2011

Soft spaces - what ciabatta is made of.

There is something wonderfully comforting about a home filled with the fragrance of baking bread. Its warm aroma seeps out of the oven and fills the home with round, soft scents and elicits feelings of security and peacefulness. The process of baking bread cannot be hurried, and I think that is one of the reasons I like it so. It forces a person to slow down and do things one step at a time. From the time of making the biga to when the loaves were cooling on the rack, this bread took 17 hours, and it was worth every minute invested.

Make some bread, assemble a rustic sandwich, sit in the sunshine on your deck and savour your food with a glass of good red wine, smile, and enjoy just being.

My sandwich was made with soppressata, roasted tomatoes in olive oil, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil. Mmmm.

Biga (starter)

4-24 hours before you intend to make your bread, mix together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 tsp (generous 1/2) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 3 tbsp rye flour

Cover with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter for 4-24 hours to allow the flavours and yeast to develop.

Dough

When you are ready to complete the process of making the bread, place the biga in your stand mixer's largest bowl, and add to it:

  • 4 3/4 cups bread flour (reserve 1/4 cup to add only if needed)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt

While mixing on a low speed, add flour in three additions, alternating with the water. Add salt. Mix well for 10 minutes (or even 15! This part is crucial!). The dough will be very loose and sticky,and only mound. It will not be firm enough to knead as you would with a regular bread dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.


The sticky dough after all of the ingredients have been mixed together.

Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let set until the dough rises to double its original size (about 90 minutes).


Dough after the first rise.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured counter. Gently press the dough down to release most of the gases. Cut into 12 equal parts to make large rolls, or divide into two to make two medium sized loaves. Make each piece of dough into a rough square approximately a 1/2 inch thick. Fold two of the sides opposite each other in toward the middle third, as though folding a letter. Flip over so the pieces folded in are now underneath. While the dough is still covered in the loose, dry flour from the counter, gently pull the dough lengthwise to finish shaping into a rectangle(this will also give the ciabatta its characteristic striations on the crust).


The dough shaped into a rustic loaf, before the final rise. Notice how soft it appears.

Let the dough loaves/rolls rise again until they are approximately double in size.

Bake in an oven preheated to 475F for five minutes. When you first place the loaves in the oven, you may lightly spray them with water to increase oven spring and help form a chewy crust. Reduce the heat to 425 to finish baking, about 22 minutes, until loaves/rolls are a very light golden brown.

Om nom nom nom

July 29, 2011

The Beer Project.

God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer. – Anne Sexton

God spoke to me this evening. It wasn’t good. But, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Beer is the drink of the people, and I think that is one of the reasons I enjoy it so. It is, without pretense, made and consumed by people the world over. It has an aura of history and tradition about it. While I sit on my deck this Friday evening, enjoying a cool glass of ale, it is somehow comforting to think of the thread of continuity beer provides. The simple pleasure of sipping this old recipe beer connects me to all of those who have done so before me.

I have long been an advocate of living, not just existing, so focus intently on the small, good things life has to offer. Beer is one of those small, good things. Each week, I intend to not just drink, but experience, savour, and research a beer I’ve not tried before. Having a liquor store in my town that sells imported beers by the single serving bottle makes this an easy project.

I have basic knowledge of brewing processes and styles of beer, and I will fill in the gaps with research. ….I have just realized…my geek quotient has just become very apparent. Where others think “yay beer! *glug glug*”, I think “yay beer *samples, researches, does comparative analysis, and writes a report to post on the internet*” I won’t blame you if you have just navigated away from this page. :\

Anyway, back to my geek-out. In addition to personal experience, I have a number of resources to draw upon: The Encyclopedia of Beer, which has very complete descriptions of brewing processes and styles of beer; and, The Beer Lover’s Rating Guide, which has good descriptions of standards; and, of course, the internet. My palate is, and always has been, biased toward English beers, but I will try to rate each beer according to its style standard.

Now, back to this evening’s encounter with God’s voice. If God’s voice is like beer, then he must have been spewing venomous obscenities in a thin, high voice when this stuff was made. Because I am Canadian, I thought I would first give a nod to my home country and review a Canadian made beer – Blanche De Chambly, a Belgian style white beer, which should be a light straw colour, have a light mouthfeel, be slightly citrusy with a touch of spice, and be able to form a small head.




  • Appearance: You can’t imagine how disappointed I was when I poured into my glass what looked like cloudy apple juice into which some apple juice-hating prankster had placed a few Alka Seltzer. The beer had no body at all, so head formation was an impossibility, which meant that the beer simply fizzed. Yes, fizzed. It made Alka Seltzer fizzing noises while in the glass. There isn’t a standard for what sounds beer should make in the glass, so I think this is probably not a good thing.
  • Aroma: Not only did it look bad, it smelled winey. I suspect this might be because it had, at some point, been allowed to reach an unacceptably high temperature.  In addition to the wine odor, it smelled sour, and of very strong citrus. Belgian white beer is meant to be slightly acidic, but not this acidic and certainly not winey.
  • Flavour:  Being committed to my project, even though I should have know better, I tasted it. Yes, put it in my mouth. My mouth has now been violated by evilness previously not known to mankind. It tasted like very strong wine, was overwhelmingly sour, and was overtly citrus. Then, I waited a few minutes and tasted it again. So, I’m not the brightest girl in the world – in those few minutes it hadn’t been magically transformed by invisible fairies into something fit for human consumption.
  • Mouthfeel: Watery effervescence. Enough said.
  • Overall Impression: Ick.



Summary (each characteristic on a scale of 1-10, where one is very poor and 10 is excellent)


Appearance: 2 (It was the right straw colour, but that is all it had going for it)

Aroma: 1  (If I could give it a 0, I would)

Flavour: 1 (A beer should never be winey and sour)

Mouthfeel: 1 (While Belgian style white beers are supposed to be light, they should not effervesce in your mouth)

Overall impression: 1 (Awful.)

Total:   6/50

Canada: doing Belgian white beer wrong. I have tasted many, many beers, and this is the first I simply could not drink. I used it to water my trees. Save your money and buy a six pack of Blue Moon, which is infinitely better in comparison.

July 26, 2011

Sweet, sweet lime.

My life is ruled by the seasons. When autumn arrives, I have an overwhelming urge to bake bread, make hearty soups and stews, and break out the stout. Winter is all about chili and caramel flavoured Irish cream fortified hot chocolate. Spring brings all things strawberry, and summer is infused with lime.

I will admit to being a lime addict. There is nothing better than slicing open a fresh lime and nom'ing on a wedge, or drinking lime juice with a little tequila and ice.  Mmmm. I  came across a recipe for orange nut shortbread cookies and immediately realised it was begging to be heavily mod’d to satisfy my lime craving palate. With a little extra sugar, changing out the orange for lime, dropping the nuts, and adding lime juice, this could be the perfect cookie.

Behold: Lime Shortbread Cookies.*cues the angels*



  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup caster sugar (aka baker's sugar)
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tbsp grated lime peel (grated peel of 3 med limes, 
  • 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
In a large bowl beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add lime peel and lime juice; mix well. Add flour and cornstarch; mix until the dough is smooth. Shape into a ball and refrigerate for at least an hour until the dough is firm.

When dough is firm, pull off tablespoon sized bits and shape into balls that are 1 inch in diameter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-13 minutes, until cookies are set and just lightly browned. Let cool for 3-4 minutes then toss a few at a time in a bag with confectioners sugar to coat. Immediately remove from bag; let fully cool before storing.

Nom nom nom.

Butter Tarts



Butter tarts are about as Canadian as can be and are fantastically good. They are so good they have been known to cause a person to spew profane praise both during and after consumption. Also, after you make these little sticky treats, are blissed out with gooey sweet stickiness all over your lips, and are surrounded by a mound of flaky pastry crumbs, you will feel compelled to belt out a rousing round of O' Canada. Indulge. It's the right thing to do.

Makes 12 large tarts.
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Pastry
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 7 tbsp cold water
Mix together flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms a firm dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out and cutting into rounds to line the cups of a standard muffin tin.

Filling
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup golden corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup california raisins
Beat butter and sugar together; add beaten egg and vanilla. Stir. Add golden corn syrup and salt; beat well. Stir in raisins. Place 2 tablespoons of filling in each pastry-lined muffin cup.

Bake for 5 minutes at 375° F. Decrease oven temperature to 350° F and continue baking for another 22 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Nom nom nom.

Little Packages of Goodness

These are, without a doubt, the best healthful muffins I have ever tasted. 


Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
Preheat oven to 400ºF

Muffin batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup skim (non-fat) milk
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups or spray it with cooking spray.
  2. Combine oats, flours, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg white, then add applesauce, milk, brown sugar, and oil. Mix.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Gently stir blueberries into batter.
  6. Fill muffin cups until nearly full.
Topping
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
Mix together until crumbly; sprinkle over unbaked muffin batter.

Bake for 20-22 minutes until a rich golden brown.

Om nom nom.