Sunday, February 7, 2016

Crème Brûlée


This recipe appeared in the February 4th Edition of The Hinton Voice as the Cooking With Jax monthly cooking column. 

[This summer when my husband and I were in Whiterock, BC, we stayed in an adorable, vintage 1920’s style beach house that we found on Airbnb.  With an ocean view, and just down the street from an array of unique eateries, it was like a little slice of paradise.  At one of the restaurants along the beach we decided to split dessert – which happened to be the most perfectly cooked crème brûlée
either of us had ever eaten.  Every bite had a smooth, creamy texture, sprinkled with real vanilla beans and a crispy glaze of caramelized sugar on top.

Once we had finished, we both shared a look of regret for not ordering our own (and 2 more on top of that).   We were only in town for that night though, so when we left Whiterock, we also left a piece of our souls with a renewed love for all that is crème brûlée.

I came across some really nice vanilla beans recently, and the second I opened them the memory of this recipe came to mind.   I set out to attempt to perfect the recipe, making it a total of 4 times in the same number of weeks.  After becoming some of my friend’s favorite person ever (and maybe not so much to those who are just reading this now), I think it’s safe to say this recipe is just like the one we had overlooking the ocean on that beautiful summer’s day.]

Recipe makes 6 servings

Ingredients
- 1 L whipping cream
- 7 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1 vanilla bean

Equipment
- 2 round cake pans
- 6 oven proof 7 oz ramekins
- kitchen torch

Directions

Pour cream into a medium saucepan.  Cut vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds – place seeds and pod into the cream.   Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.   As soon as the cream starts to boil, cover and remove from heat.  Allow cream to sit for 15 minutes.  Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.

In a medium bowl, whisk ½ cup sugar and egg yolks until the mixture just starts to lighten in colour.  Add cream, very slowly, being sure to stir quickly.  Pour evenly into ramekins.  Divide the ramekins and place in cake pans.  Pour boiling water into the pan to come about half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake in a pre-heated, 325 degree oven for 1 hour.  You’ll know the crème brûlée is ready if you nudge it slightly and it jiggles like Jello (vs moving like a wave).  You want to be very careful not to overcook it.  The crème brûlée shouldn’t puff up, nor brown.

 Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before transferring to the fridge.  Allow to set in fridge for 2+ hours (overnight for optimal results).

Remove crème brûlée from fridge and allow to rest on counter for 15-20 minutes.

Divide remaining ½ cup sugar among the ramekins (about 1-1.5 tbsp each) being careful to spread evenly on top.

Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a crispy caramelized crust, starting on the outer edge and working your way to the center.  Be sure to move quickly to ensure you don’t burn the crust.

Allow crème brûlée to sit for a few more minutes before serving (the crust will harden as it sits).


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Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Far West" Chicken Wings


This recipe was published as my monthly column for the January 7th edition of The Hinton Voice, my local newspaper. 


[Back in October I went on the road trip of a lifetime, spending just under two weeks driving across Canada.  I had a conference in Montréal for work and since most of my husband’s family lives in a small French community nearby, we decided to extend the trip and visit everyone while we were there.  For a portion of the trip we stayed with his Mémère (grandmother) in the 1800’s farmhouse that she and Pépère had saved up all of their hard earned money to purchase in their early days of marriage.  Walking into the house is like stepping back in time.  Not only is the antique wood stove in the kitchen used for cooking all of the meals, it also heats the entire house, acts as an incinerator (nothing gets thrown out – everything is either recycled or burned), and even has a spot to hang laundry to dry.   To say that this visit was one of the most enriching experiences of my entire life would truly not do it justice. 


We spent a lot of time exploring the old barn, which was filled to the brim with antique treasures.  One of the rooms even boasts an original spinning jenny and some of the items date back as far as the 1600’s.  Some of these treasures included cookbooks with pages so brittle they crackled beneath my fingertips, and instructions that required cooking over the cooled down coals from the morning fire.  Needless to say, I spent a good portion of my trip pouring over cookbooks with Mémère, bringing many, many recipes home with me.


One morning after exploring the barn and chatting over recipes, Mémère disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a cast iron pan filled with these chicken wings.  They were literally the best thing ever, and I knew it was a recipe that I would have to re-create once I arrived home.  When I asked how she had made the sauce, she responded with “oh, a little of this and a little of that” and I thought that was the end of it.  Mémère had other ideas though, because just before we left she came over and placed a handwritten copy of this recipe in my hands.  I couldn’t help but smile at the title of her recipe, written specifically for her visitors from “The Far West”.]


Ingredients
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 kg chicken wings (or any cut of chicken, skin on)


Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine sauce ingredients.

Heat an oven safe frying pan over medium heat.  If you don’t have an oven safe frying pan (cast iron works great for this recipe!), you can use your usual frying pan, transferring the chicken to an oven safe dish for the next step.

Dip the wings in the sauce, and then fry for 5-7 minutes, until wings are slightly crisp.  Turn chicken wings over with tongs, then coat with the remaining sauce.

Transfer chicken wings to a well pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, turning them midway through and covering them with the sauce. 

The wings should be crispy but well glazed with the sauce.
  
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Friday, January 8, 2016

Winter Citrus Salad with Poppyseed Dressing


This recipe is the brainchild of my friend Kate and I.  We love to get together to cook and bake, and this time was no exception.  Not only do we get to have an awesome visit, we get to create great food together too!  

I really love New Year's Resolutions, because in a way they feel like new beginnings.  I'm the kind of girl that always has to start diets lifestyle changes on a Monday, and every single week feels like a fresh start.  I successfully quit smoking thanks to a New Year's Resolution,  and I even lost 40 lbs thanks to better eating habits I adopted back in 2009.  I'm incredibly happy to be leaving 2015 behind me, and in it's place, a shiny new year to start fresh. 

 I have some pretty important events coming up 2016  that need me to be more focused on health.  For one, I signed up to hike the Berg Lake Trail this summer. This will be my first overnight backpacking trip, and it will span the course of a few days.  A few short weeks after that I get to watch two of my best friend's get married, and for the first time in my life, be a part of a wedding party.

Photo credit to my friend Sarah Burns over at Stop Nothing But Time. She hiked this trail last year and is organizing a group of friends to go again this summer.  You can find more pictures of her adventures on her Instagram page. 
Needless to say, this year decided to focus on myself.  Instead of one specific resolution for 2016, my resolution is just to be better.  Be better with my health, pay more attention to the food I put into my body, and improve my overall eating and fitness habits in general. 
As with anything life changing the first few weeks are always the hardest.  Incorporating fun and interesting ideas and flavours into meals are essential for staying on track.  This salad is bursting with so much flavour you'll almost forget you ever liked Big Macs.

Recipe makes 4 salads + 1 cup of dressing

Ingredients

Salad: 
- 1 clamshell of baby greens
- 1 grapefruit
- 1 cara cara orange
- 1 blood orange
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
- 1/2 english cucumber, sliced
- 1 cup cooked quinoa

Dressing: 
- 3 tbsp citrus juice (see directions below)
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup olive oil 
- 1 tbsp poppyseeds

Directions

Start by slicing and segmenting the citrus fruit. Squeeze the citrus juice (from the remaining pulp) into a separate bowl (this will be used for the salad dressing).
Combine the ingredients for the salad dressing, mixing well. 
Divide lettuce between 4 plates, then top with remaining ingredients and drizzle lightly with dressing. 
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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Loaded Potato Skins


A couple of weeks ago my good friend Amanda and I went on a road-trip and had some of the best potato skins ever at one of Amanda's favourite restaurants, the Atlantic Trap and Gill in Edmonton.  They were so very tasty in fact, that I haven't been able to get them out of my mind ever since. 

A few weeks back I re-created them at home, and they were a huge hit.  I also had a couple of Christmas potlucks to go to and brought these along - not a single one remained! 

Ingredients
- 6 medium russet potatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 cup cheddar cheese
- 4 slices of cooked bacon
- 1 bunch chives
- 1/4 cup sour cream


Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub potatoes clean, being sure to dry thoroughly.  Lightly coat potatoes with olive oil and cook for 45 minutes or so, or until potatoes are soft enough for the next step. 

Allow potatoes to fully cool, then scoop out the insides leaving 1/4 of the potato surround the skin.  Reserve extra potato for another use. 

Coat potato skins (inside and out) with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook face up in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes to give the added crispiness essential to potato skins.  Be sure to use a heat resistant pan (I used a pizza pan).  A cookie sheet will warp at this temperature.

Allow potatoes to once again cool completely.  Sprinkle with cheese and bacon, then broil under high heat on the top rack for 1-2 minutes until cheese is bubbly and melted (watch carefully during this step, the potato skins will burn very easily at this temperature). 


Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives. 
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Monday, December 7, 2015

Snickerdoodles


This recipe appeared in the December 3rd edition of my local newspaper, The Hinton Voice.  

[My friend Sarah hosted a cookie exchange this past Sunday and for this particular cookie event, I decided to make one of my favourite nostalgic cookies  - the Snickerdoodle.  My friend’s mom used to always make us Snickerdoodles when we were little, and my Gramma’s all time favourite spice to bake with is cinnamon so needless to say, these cookies definitely carry a lot of feel good vibes whenever they’re around.

With a name like Snickerdoodles, you have to have to wonder about their history (I did anyway).  Word on the street is that Snickerdoodles are German in origin, and that the name is derived from the German word Schneckennudel ("snail noodles"), a rolled type of pastry also made with cinnamon (quite similar to cinnamon buns). There’s also another theory that the name is no more than a nonsense word without a particular meaning, originating from a New England tradition of whimsical cookie names (pass the Joe Froggers please).

What gives them their particular charm are their crackled tops coated with sparkles of cinnamon and sugar.  Cream of tartar combined with baking soda leavens the dough and with gives it the required lift to make the soft pillowy centres that make these cookies so unique.

As with most any cookie, it’s essential to start with a cold dough.  For best results make the dough the night before and refrigerate. I wouldn’t recommend baking these without at least an hour in the fridge, or my personal favourite method - outside on your deck on a cold winter’s day.]
  
Recipe makes 2 dozen large cookies

Ingredients
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla bean extract
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- ¼ tsp salt

For Rolling:
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
  

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

Add vanilla bean extract and 2 large eggs, one at a time.

Combine dry ingredients and work into wet batter.

Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour but preferable overnight.

Measure the dough into 2 tbsp balls and roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. 

Refrigerate the dough once again for 15-20 minutes (trust me, this is an essential step for ultimate cookie pillowyness).

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.   The cookies will look slightly underdone on top, but as long as they have a slight crackle on top, they will cool to the perfect texture.

 Once you pull the cookie tray out of the oven, leave the cookies on the tray for 5 more minutes to firm up.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  

Always start the next batch with a cold cookie sheet.


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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Oven Baked Breakfast Sandwiches


This post sponsored by World Kitchen.  I was compensated monetarily as well as with product for this post.  As always, all thoughts and options are my own, and I only work with brands that I use in my own kitchen. 

This simple, out-the-door breakfast is quick and easy with convenience in mind, and one you'll definitely want to remember this holiday season.  Using a muffin pan, you can make large quantities of easy to assemble, wholesome and nutritious breakfast sandwiches in a breeze! 


If you've never used a muffin pan to make breakfast sandwiches, you've simply got to try this recipe. Pair it with Oven Baked Bacon and you've got a wholesome and nutritious breakfast  that you can not only assemble really quickly, but that you can make the night before or even freeze in advance if you like. I've had success freezing not only the cooked eggs, but an entire assembled breakfast sandwich (simply heat up in the oven or microwave and wrap in foil for a steaming hot breakfast that can be eaten on the go). 

For this recipe I like using the Baker's Secret 6 Cup Muffin Pan - it makes the perfect amount of breakfast sandwiches for the two of us to have for a couple of days for breakfast.  If you have a larger crowd to feed, you could easily use The Full 2 Cup Muffin Pans and fit 2 dozen eggs into the oven making up to 24 breakfast sandwiches at once. 

Needless to say, with lots of holiday breakfasts and brunches right around the corner, this recipe is definitely one to keep in mind! 
 
Ingredients
- Large Eggs
- English Muffins
- Bacon
- Cheddar
- Butter or oil (for brushing)
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
Brush Baker's Secret muffin tins with butter or oil (I like to use coconut oil, but olive oil works great as well).
Carefully crack eggs into muffin pan, being careful not to break the yolk (unless you like that kind of thing, then break away!). 

Cook eggs in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until cooked through (if you like your eggs a little on the runny side, cook for 15 minute instead). 

Toast an english muffin and top with an oven baked egg, bacon, cheddar, and your favourite condiments! 
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Oven Baked Bacon



This is kind of one of those recipes that's like "seriously, how is this even a recipe?".
It is however, my absolute favourite way to make bacon.  This might be the way you make bacon already, but just incase this helps even one person make the best bacon of their entire life, then this post will have served it's purpose. 
This method will give you the best bacon texture out there.  It's cooked perfectly, and each piece stays looking like a perfect piece of bacon and not some weird looking curled up blob on your plate (tasty, but weird looking). 
Ingredients
- Bacon, lots of smoky, delicious bacon (or enough to fit on a baking sheet without overlapping)


Directions
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you will thank yourself later for this, trust me). 

Arrange strips of bacon on baking sheet being careful not to overlap any of the pieces. 
Place in a COLD oven.  You read that right.  This is a rare recips where you absolutely do not want to preheat your oven first.  The same goes for when you are are frying bacon, it's good to start with a cold pan, and cook the bacon as it warm up so that the fat doesn't burn and you get a chewy, crisper bacon (I mean, I don't think I've ever rejected bacon before, but no one likes half burnt, half raw bacon!). 
Cook in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or so, or until your bacon has reached desired crispiness I tend to air more on the side of crispy bacon, so if you like yours chewier, just be careful to watch it closely around the 15 minute mark.  You'll want to take the bacon out when it looks slightly undercooked because it will continue to sizzle away for a few seconds after you take it off the pan. 
 
Pour bacon grease into a can or jar and dispose of parchment paper (see, I told you that you would thank yourself later!)

Now, enjoy all of the delicious, wonderful bacon. 
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