Tag Archives: cooking

Mascarpone Pots with Fresh Berries

7 Jun

IMG_8657Last week-end we had some friends over for a Sunday morning brunch.  Luckily the weather was beautiful so after months of cold and rain we could finally sit outside and eat and chat and enjoy the sunshine.  The little kids frolicked in the garden in Gramma-made princess dresses and the parents drank home-made beer and my famous (well not really) rhubarb, lime and prosecco cocktails with fresh mint (see post about those here).

Besides all the normal brunch fare I made these little pots with a cookie bottom, mascarpone cream and fresh berries.  I actually invented the recipe on the spot not really knowing if they’d be edible or not.  In the end the were definitely edible, I’d even say delicious.  They have a cheesecake feel to them without the heaviness (I did add a little cream cheese to the mixture though).  And there is absolutely no baking involved in this quick and simple recipe making it perfect for hot summers when the last thing you want to do is put the oven on.  I served them in pretty little jam jars with lids and they were devoured within minutes.  I’ll take that as compliment.

Read on for recipe:

Mascarpone Pots with Fresh Berries

250 g mascarpone
75 g cream cheese
200 ml fresh cream
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 Tbsp sugar (depending on taste)
tiny pinch of salt

125 g finally ground digestive biscuits
70-80g butter

1. Mix ground cookie crumbs with melted butter until well blended.  Press into the bottom of little glasses (or as I did glass jars).  You can decide how thick you would like the cookie crumb layer.

2. Whip cream until stiff peaks begin to form.  Set aside.

3. In mixer cream together the mascarpone and cream cheese until smooth.  Add in vanilla, sugar and salt and mix until just combined.  With a spatula gently fold in whipped cream.

4.  Drop the mascarpone mixture on top of the cookie crumb bottom (shake glass or bottom to level it out).  Sprinkle fresh raspberries and blueberries on top (or any other berries).  Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.  Enjoy!

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After our brunch guests left we headed out to watch our twin daughters play Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in their theatre group’s rendition of Alice In Wonderland (Alice Nel Paese delle Meraviglie).  In case you’re wondering, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are translated as Dammelo and Dimmelo in Italian.  Over all a really lovely Sunday.

Edible Home-Made Gifts

14 Dec

It’s that time of year to start making little gifts to give your teachers, postman, hairdresser and kid’s bus driver.  The last few days I’ve been busy roasting nuts, melting chocolate and writing out thank you notes.  Here are a few of the home-made gifts on my list this year.  They’re easy, delicious and perfect to show someone your gratitude for all they’ve done the past year.

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We have a few people on our list that aren’t super keen on sweets so I thought I’d make some spiced nuts for them.  I found this recipe in an old Martha Stewart magazine from eons ago and they’re absolutely tasty.  A little sweet, a little spicy and a little salty.  Perfection.

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Here’s how to make them:

Spicy Almonds

1 tsp course salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups whole blanched almonds, toasted

-First of all toast the almonds in a 350 (180) degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.
-In a large bowl combine salt, sugar and spices.
-In a large skillet over medium heat bring butter, molasses and vinegar to a boil.  Add toasted almonds and stir to evenly coat.
-Add nut mixture to spice mixture, toss to coat.
-Transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake but mixture for 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.
-Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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Next we made some orangettes which are chocolate covered candied orange peel.  My daughter made them for her papa’s birthday last week and I realised how easy it is to make them.  Perfect to take as a hostess gift or give anyone who loves the orange/chocolate combo.

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There are only four ingredients to make these professional looking sweets.  Here’s how to make them:

Orangettes

100 g Chocolate (good quality, preferably Belgian of course)
2 oranges
300 g sugar
3 ml water

-Cut the oranges in quarters and cut away everything to leave only the peel.
-Slice into skinny slivers (like above).  Wash under cold water.
-Put sugar and water in pot and bring to a boil.  Add orange peels and cook for approximately 60-80 minutes (or until you see they have become candied).
-Let candied peels cool on parchment paper.
-Melt chocolate and dip candied peels in to completely cover.
-Put peels in fridge so that chocolate hardens.  Store peels in container for up to 2 weeks.

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And last but not least I decided to make yet another edible gift that involves chocolate.  I found some lovely little chocolate liners so I decided to try my hand at chocolate/truffle making.

I put some chopped chocolate in a double boiler and melted it.  I then added some heavy cream and a few drops of mint extract.  I did a bit of guessing at the measurements but at the end I had a thick smooth and pour-able mixture.  I then filled the little chocolate wrappers and sprinkled crushed candy cane on top.  From what the family says they are quite rich but very delicious.

You can also check out my Belgian Chocolate Spread which I made for everyone last year.  It was a huge hit and quick to make with only 3 ingredients.

Do you have any favorite recipes or homemade goods that you give away at Christmas?

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

8 Aug

The other day when it was 38 degrees outside my children came to me with a specific request.  They all wanted pumpkin spice cake.  Desperately.  I told them that such a cake filled with cinnamon,  nutmeg and pumpkin AND involving putting on the oven for almost an hour was something for a cold winter’s day in front of the fire with a pot of hot tea.  They looked at me with confusion in their eyes and asked again for pumpkin spice cake.  And because it was too hot to rationalize with 3 surprisingly insistent kids I just caved and started to bake.

While the cakes baked the house smelled of autumn but was hot enough that I laid on the cold  tiles until they were done. But the ecstatic and grateful kids were well worth it all.  Kind of.

 

This recipe calls for cream cheese in the batter which helps makes it really moist and dense.  Instead of adding cinnamon and cloves you could also just add a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.  I usually make this recipe in a loaf pan but considering the heat and the fact I wanted the oven on for as little time as possible I made them in mini muffin tins. Here’s the recipe if you would like to give them a try.  Whether in summer, fall or winter (go for the latter two!).

Continue for recipe: Continue reading

Apricot Rosemary Jam

20 Jun


I’ve officially become a jammer (oh geez).  I spend my days planning my next jam-making session and scour the local fresh fruit and vegetable stands for the best in-season fruits.

I’ve slowly acquired all sorts of different sized jam jars and bottles and I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with the whole sterilizing process that goes into canning and preserving jams.  I’m still terrified of poisoning my family or friends with botulism but my fear is waning slightly.

Last week I bought some delicious looking apricots from the local produce truck and decided to make Apricot Jam with Rosemary (found on my all-time favorite preserving site Food in Jars).

Seeing as I almost didn’t survive after making the Cherry Rhubarb  Lavender Jam a few weeks ago  I had to enlist the help of my husband to do the initial cleaning, pitting and chopping of the fresh apricots.  But once they were safely in the Le Creuset and I was gloved, I was ready to start the whole process ( I was even tempted to don some swimming goggles but was terrified of some of the locals catching a glimpse of the crazy Canadian making jam WITH GOGGLES!).

This is a quick jam recipe and I have to say it has such  a unique end result with the addition of rosemary.  It’s sweet with a distinctive savoury background that really makes for a new experience for your taste buds.  It might even initially  confuse them.  But that’s a good thing.

For lunch today I made this sandwich above.  Rustic raisin bread with thinly sliced Gruyere cheese,  salame di Parma and a good layer of the Apricot Rosemary Jam.  It was more than delicious (although I’m pretty sure the kids would bolt from the table if I tried to serve them this).   This past week-end I marinated magret de canard (duck breast) with this jam and some garlic and barbecued it and it turned out to be an absolutely delicious combination.  

Please pop over to Food in Jars for the recipe!

Cherry Rhubarb Lavender Jam (the jam that almost killed me)

7 Jun

Yesterday I picked up some ripe, beautiful cherries at the supermarket and decided I needed to continue my successful jam-making run that started a few months back (Blood Orange Marmalade, Strawberry Lime Vanilla Jam).

Many years ago I loved to sit down with a paper bag filled to the brim with fresh cherries and polish off the whole thing.  Unfortunately things have changed since then.  Since my last pregnancy I’ve acquired a fruit allergy and am unable to eat  most fruits raw.  It was a hard adjustment for this fruit-lover but the little boy I got in return was well worth it.

So now I have to enjoy apples, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries and cherries (to name a few) cooked.  Usually the thought of cooked fruit brings images of old people in hospital beds but I’ve found some great ways to enjoy my favorite fruits over the years.

So how did this jam almost kill me?  Well, I pitted all the cherries, washed my hands with hot water and soap 5 times and an hour later touched my eyes.  And this my friends turned me into a swollen-faced mess.  My face puffed up to double it’s normal size, my eyes were swollen shut and welts appeared.  My kids ran away screaming in terror.  I actually heard my son ask my husband in a traumatised voice “will mama ever go back to normal?”.  Luckily I had some antihistimines close by.  The jam ended up turning out so delicious that it was almost worth it.  Almost.


I browsed through the internet for a good cherry rhubarb recipe and came across this one on the apt 2b site (amazing recipes on this blog).  In the end I couldn’t really manage all the steps that the recipe calls for (due to suddenly being blind!) so I literally dumped approximately 300g of chopped rhubarb with 200g sugar into a large pot and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  I then added about 600g chopped pitted cherries, another 2500g  sugar, a few tablespoons of lemon juice and a few apple quarters.  I let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes before adding some fresh lavender tied in cheesecloth (the recipe didn’t call for it but I thought it would be a nice addition) and a few tablespoons of powdered pectin.  I let it simmer a further 5-10 minutes and then removed the apple pieces and lavender bundle.

Then I went and soaked my head in cold water for half an hour to try and get the swelling down while the jam cooled.  The jam cooled but the swelling didn’t go down.

I think I lucked out because the jam turned out perfectly.  It’s sweet with a slight tart and perfumey aftertaste.  My family loves it and after breakfast one jar was almost finished.  I take that as a compliment.

Pesto di Rucola

9 Feb

Another day, another mason jar recipe.  I was browsing through some great blogs and I came across this recipe.  I had a fridge full of lemons and arugula so I figured it was meant to be for me to make it.  And I’m so happy I did.  It is all sorts of delicious.  It’s one of those recipes that I can make at any time due to the fact I always have every single ingredient in my house.  I’ve looked at Italian recipes for Pesto di Rucola and none of them call for anchovies but I think it’s a really perfect addition to the recipe.  It gives some saltiness and of course the famous depth of flavour that is always associated with adding anchovies to any dish.  Put anchovies on my pizza and I’ll be running away in horror but saute them in a pasta sauce or puree them in pesto and I love it.

My husband and I ate it on crusty white ciabatta with goat cheese for lunch.  Then on pasta for dinner.  Then in a salad dressing the next day. You just don’t get bored of this stuff.  Get recipe here.

Consolation Bagels

30 Dec

Tomorrow I am leaving my whole family and going alone to CanadaJust the thought of an 8 hour flight alone is something that’s hard to get my head around.  I will miss them all terribly.  But I’m sure I’ll be able to enjoy myself as well.  A least a little bit.  Or maybe a lot.

There was a lot of protest from various family members for various reasons.  One being the fact I will be able to eat bagels every single day.  So to make them all feel slightly less slighted by the whole ordeal I made a huge batch of fresh bagels for them all this morning.

I made my usual recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book How to be a Domestic Goddess.  So easy.  And so delicious.

Recipe: Bagels

1 kilo strong flour

1 Tbsp salt

7g (1 satchet) dry yeast

2 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

500 ml warm water

2 Tbsp sugar or malt for poaching bagels

1.  Combine flour, salt and yeast.  Add sugar and oil to the warm water.  Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid.

2.  Knead dough for 10 minutes.

3. Put kneaded dough in oiled boil and cover with saran wrap.  Let sit for an hour.

4.  How punch down dough and divide into 16 pieces and form into bagels shapes.

5. Boil a big pot of water and add the sugar or malt.  Add batches of 3 or 4 bagels and boil for 1 minutes turning over half way through,

6.  Now is the time to dip bagels in any sesame seeds or poppy seeds or anything else you can think of.

7.  Bake in a 240 degree  (celcius) oven for 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy!

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