365 Recipes: Lemon Chiffon Cake for Mama

The Recipe: 
My mama, sadly, is allergic to milk protein. She’s also a big lover of lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. So last year I made it my mission to invent a milk-free lemon cake with vegan-cream-cheese frosting. This year I perfected it– the only thing I wish I’d done, but didn’t was to buy lemon curd and spread it between layers. That would’ve taken this from good to great. But this frosting exceeded my wildest dreams. It’s pillowy and lemony and the perfect balance of tart and sweet. Try it; you won’t be sorry.

The Ingredients:
For the Cake:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 cups minus 4 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 tablespoons vinegar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
For the Frosting:
8 oz Daiya dairy-free cream cheese
1/2 cup very soft butter (slightly melted in microwave if need be)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1-2 teaspoons lemon extract
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon

Lemon curd for filling

The Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Add lemon zest and whisk through.
2. Combine all wet ingredients in a graduated measuring cup. Pour into the dry ingredients and whisk together thoroughly.
3. Pour into 2 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.
4. With an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add lemon juice, extract, and zest (reserve a little to garnish the cake), and whisk until combined. Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating until incorporated before adding next cup.
5. Ice the cake, spreading lemon curd between the layers. Garnish with strawberries, mint leaves, and lemon zest. Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.


365 Recipes: Black Bean Burgers


The Ingredients:


2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 egg
1 jalapeño pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen/defrosted)
4 large slices Cheddar cheese
Vegetable oil, for frying
Avocado, lettuce, mayo, and Sriracha or other hot sauce for topping
4 sturdy hamburger buns

The Method: 

  1. Seed and roughly chop jalapeño. Add jalapeño and garlic cloves to a food processor and mince finely.
  2. Add one can of beans to the jalapeno/garlic mixture and pulse to combine. Add seasonings, and pulse until mixture resembles chunky black bean dip.
  3. Transfer the bean mixture to a large bowl and stir in the bread crumbs, tomato sauce, egg, and corn. Stir well to combine and add remaining black beans.
  4. Heat a olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Form black bean mixture into patties and fry for about 4 minutes per side, until golden and crusty brown, adding Cheddar cheese to melt after the first side is done.
  5. Serve burgers with avocado slices, Sriracha, lettuce, and other burger toppings to taste.

The Verdict:

I’m always happy to find a vegetarian recipe where you don’t miss the meat. This one will, I think, receive a few tweaks over time, but it’s a good one.

365 Recipes: Asian Pork & Noodle Salad

The Ingredients:

For the Salad:
1 package linguine noodles
12 ounces boneless pork loin chops, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 bag baby spinach
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 bag bean sprouts
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 whole scallions, Sliced
1 cucumber, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cashews
For the Dressing:
Juice of one lime
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/8 cup brown sugar
1.5 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)
1/2 tablespoon cilantro, minced

The Method:

  1. Fry pork pieces in a frying pan set over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Prepare pasta according to package directions, rinse in cold water to cool, and drain. Combine salad dressing ingredients and set aside. Lightly toast cashews in a skillet.
  3. On a large platter, toss linguine, pork and vegetables until combined. Drizzle with dressing, and garnish with cashews and additional chopped cilantro to serve.

The Verdict:

Make this. Just do it. A perfect summer meal: healthy (especially if you use wholegrain or fibre-added pasta), fresh, quick, and so delicious.

365 Recipes: Fried Chicken Tenders

The Recipe:

One of the Christmas presents we received (well, technically, the Partner in Crime received it, but the two shall become one flesh and all…) was an adorably miniature deep fryer. It’s taken us a while, but we’re slowly venturing into the exciting world of deep frying things. Donuts are at the top of my list to try next, but for now, here’s my first attempt at fried chicken, inspired by the recipe from this amazing Cook’s Illustrated cookbook (seriously, buy it; you won’t regret it) and this Chowhound thread.

The Ingredients:

Chicken Marinade
10-12 chicken tenders
1/2-1 cup buttermilk
Salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne, to taste

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk

Peanut oil or vegetable shortening, for frying

The Recipe:

  1. Earlier in the day, combine all marinade ingredients in a plastic storage container or bag, toss to coat, and refrigerate.
  2. About 2 hours before you plan to eat, remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off excess, and spread on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet. Refrigerate an additional hour.
  3. Remove chicken from refrigerator and prepare two pie plates; one with the flour, and one with the baking powder, baking soda, egg, and buttermilk whisked together. Preheat the oven to 200F, and place another wire rack and baking sheet on the middle shelf. Place a paper-towel lined plate beside deep fryer. Pour oil into deep fryer to a depth of about 2 inches and heat to 350F.
  4. Working in batches of four, dip tenders into flour, turning to coat. Shake off excess, then dip into the egg mixture and turn to coat, allowing the excess to drip off. Coat in flour once more, shake off excess, and place in fryer basket.
  5. Fry pieces for about 4-5 minutes, until crust is golden brown and inside of chicken is no longer pink (you should only have to check one piece and use it as a guide as they will all be the same size.)
  6. Remove chicken to paper towel to drain for 1 minute, then place in warm oven and continue frying the remainder of the batch. Serve with your favourite dipping sauce. (I used buttermilk biscuits and coleslaw with buttermilk dressing as my sides for a pleasing round of buttermilk-based dishes.)

The Verdict:
It’s a good starting point. I was happy with the moisture of the chicken and the crispiness of the breading, and although the breading didn’t adhere to the chicken as well as it would’ve if I used skin-on pieces, the ease of prep and the uniform cooking time were good trade-offs. My big beef with this as a recipe was just that the breading was pretty bland. However, using the Chowhound thread linked above, I think I can work out a blend of spices to add to the breading to bring its flavour up to the level of the texture.

Also, fair warning: this is not one of those easy weeknight meals I love so much. These are the words that came out of my mouth as I served up: “Enjoy this, because I probably won’t be making it again until the baby is over 1 year…”

Meal Mondays: Slow-Cooker Ramen

The Recipe:
Adapted from this Chowhound recipe, this is my first attempt at a ramen more sophisticated than Mr. Noodle cups.

The Ingredients:
1 2lb. beef roast (choose a cheaper, tougher cut)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 leek, halved lengthwise and coarsely chopped (white and green parts)
1 cup cremini or button mushrooms, chopped
Soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt and pepper to season
4 servings dried ramen noodles
8 large eggs (optional)
1 generous handful spinach, chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped (white and pale green parts) or 1 cup mung bean sprouts, to garnish

The Method:
1. Season the beef with salt. Heat oil in a large frying pan set over medium-high heat, then brown the beef on all sides, 3-4 minutes a side. Set beef aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and 1 cup of the broth and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, then let simmer for 1 minute.
2. Transfer the beef and the onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the leek, mushrooms, and the remaining 7 cups of broth, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 8 hours. The pork should be very tender and the broth should be fragrant.
3.Set water to boil according to ramen package directions. In another pot, put on the eggs to soft-boil. Remove beef from slow cooker and shred with two forks, removing any large chunks of fat. Return shredded beef to slow cooker and add the spinach. Season to taste with soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper.
4. When the noodles are done, add them to the slow cooker. Serve soup into bowls. Peel the eggs, cut in half, and place on top of soup, along with green onions or bean sprouts. Serve.

The Verdict:
This is a recipe I’d like to play with. I didn’t love the heavy ‘slow-cooker’ taste that the broth and beef acquired after 8 hours in the slow-cooker. I might experiment with recreating this in a Dutch oven instead, or alternatively trying 4 hours on high instead of 8 on low. There are also  vegetable variations to think about– carrot, bok choy, etc. However. All in all, a solid step up from Mr. Noodle, and the Partner in Crime did have three bowls, so.

Food for Thought: The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to eat more whole grains as a family (sorry, Partner in Crime, you’re along for the ride!) Overall, I felt like we ate healthy enough to keep me from worrying and unhealthy enough not to look like weirdos when we had people over to dinner 😉

However, I knew there were some areas we could up our game. One of the things I wanted to avoid, though, was unscientific nutritional advice. There’s so much advice floating around in the name of health that is unsupported or just plain wrong. *cough*GMOS*cough* I found Authority Nutrition, which links supporting studies through all it’s articles, and that helped, but they still sometimes get off-track, and they also focus way more than I’m interested in on weight loss versus overall health.

When I happened on the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, though, something just clicked. So much nutrition advice can feel conflicting, or burdening, or restricting, but this just feels easy. Although we pretty much ignore the advice about bacon and butter, everything else has been easy and enjoyable to incorporate without feeling like I have to buy all kinds of unusual/expensive specialty items or demonise all the ordinary food at the grocery store.

Simple to remember, research-based, and freeing– our crisper drawers are full and we’re happy campers.

Advent Activities 2015: December 4th, Snowman Pancakes

Today’s activity was kind of spontaneous. It wasn’t on the list, but I woke up this morning and felt like pancakes, so I figured if I was going to spend the energy making them, I might as well make it the day’s activity. So, voila, snowman pancakes!

In other news, I am the best at pancakes (this is not bragging, it is just fact) and so can you be if you follow my recipe. I added apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to these, and then made the snowman faces with raisins and dried cranberries and drifted powdered sugar over top as snow, but usually I make them with blueberries and they’re also amazing.

Food and Wine’s Buttermilk Pancakes
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (can substitute buckwheat flour for 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs

1. Place a large frying pan on the burner and preheat to medium-low (I set mine specifically 3/4 of the way between medium and low.) In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. If you are adding fruit, stir it into the dry ingredients.
2. Measure 2 cups of buttermilk in a 4-cup graduated measuring cup, then whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and melted butter.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until flour is just moistened.
4. Generously butter the pan (this is key, do not skip it) and pour in pancakes using a 1/4 cup measure. When bubbles show through the middle of the pancakes, flip and cook 1-2 minutes on the other side. Best served right off the griddle with butter and maple syrup.

Meal Mondays: Roasted Tomato Soup with A Cheddar Lid

The Recipe:
Taken from Smitten Kitchen, this biting, warming soup is so great for when the weather is cold and autumnal. Which, it wasn’t today, traitorously. The joys of meal-planning in advance, right?

The Ingredients:
3 pounds tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) red pepper flakes

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Crusty bread, cut into short strips
Cheddar cheese, grated

The Method:
1. About 2 hours before you want to eat, preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spread tomatoes out on it cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic in foil, add to pan, and roast everything for about 45 minutes to an hour, until tomatoes are browning and garlic is very soft.
2. Cool tomatoes slightly, then add tomatoes, peeled garlic, and any browned bits from the pan to a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree.
3. Place tomato puree, thyme, red pepper flakes, and stock in a medium stock pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350F. Spoon soup into 4 ramekins, top with bread strips and generous handfuls of cheddar. Bake on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. Broil for a few minutes to brown cheese, and serve.

The Verdict:
So good, make it.

Also. I hate it when Steven is working long hours and I have to take my own pictures, bleah.

Meal Mondays: Five-Hour Roast Duck

The Recipe:
My friend has been trying his hand at raising free-range ducks and chickens, and we were the recipients of his first slaughteree (File that under ‘words I never expected to type.’) It wasn’t the prettiest duck ever roasted, but beauty is as beauty tastes, so…

Recipe from Global Gourmet.

The Ingredients:
1 duck (I don’t know what weight it was, sorry!)
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
Handful thyme sprigs

The Method:
1. Begin cooking about 5 hours and 45 minutes before you wish to eat. Preheat oven to 300F and set a rack in the middle level. Remove giblets from duck and pat dry with paper towels, removing any loose chunks of fat from the cavity. Rub the cavity with salt, pepper, and garlic, and lay the sprigs of thyme inside. With a very sharp knife, prick the skin all over, being careful not to pierce the flesh.
2. Place duck breast side up in a roasting pan with a rack (as there will be lots of grease) and begin roasting. Every hour for 4 hours, remove pan from oven, piece skin all over, pour fat out of the pan (reserving for future use!), and turn duck over.
3. After 4 hours, increase oven temperature to 350F, sprinkle duck with salt and pepper, and cook for about 1 hour longer, or until skin is crisp and browned. Let rest for 20 minutes, carve, and serve.
Note: Duck can be served after four hours; it will be juicier but not as tender as the five-hour duck.

The Verdict:
Much better than my rather sad first attempt cooking a duck a year or so back. I only cooked it for four hours and at a slightly higher temperature as I was in a hurry, and I think I pierced it too deeply, so the breast was a little dry, but the dark meat was very juicy and succulent. Mostly I think it’s a case of ‘practice makes perfect’; the recipe is good but I need to get better at cooking it.

Our new cat Domino was also thrilled to receive the mostly-raw neck, which had been left on the bird. Because I’ve been reading about homemade cat food and it put the fear in me about the unnaturalness of dry kibble for a cat.