Monday, May 28, 2012

Words of Wisdom

Dearest Jess,

Your wedding day is fast approaching! What exciting times! I can't wait to look back on all this as a 'remember when' memory.

I haven't been trying many new things lately. My creative juices have been building up, but nothing has come of them yet. I have been making many stand-by recipes. Last week I made the Bean Burgers, today I'm making Mexican Lasagna, tomorrow I will be making Granola Clusters for Jason's lunches, and later this week I will be making Burritos. It has been nice to get to know my new kitchen and new kitchen tools this way. No pressure or frustrations... just creating a new familiar kitchen with the already familiar recipes.

My Grandma picked me up a copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. My mom says it's similar to The Joy of Cooking (which I made banana bread out of last week... mmmmm) in simplicity and easy-to-tweak-ability. I have not tried cooking anything out of it as of yet, but (as I do all my cookbooks) I have started to read it. What I found was the best introduction to a cookbook I have ever read. So for this blog post, I am sharing a quote rather than a recipe. I hope it inspires and encourages you, as I have been inspired and encouraged by it.

What Is Good Everyday Cooking?
Taken off page 3 of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, written by Marion Cunningham

"Every meal should be a small celebration. If you acknowledge so joyous a fact of life, the pride you take in your efforts in the kitchen won't be confined to company occasions. You'll find it rewarding every day to see that the table is nicely set so that you won't have to jump up all the time to fetch things and disrupt the conversation. Butter should be in a butter dish with its own knife; milk in a pitcher; bottled sauces and condiments, unless the jar is particularly pretty, should be removed from their commercial containers and placed in small bowls with spoons. If your table looks like a hash-house counter, you encourage people to eat accordingly.

The prime attraction, of course, of any meal will always be what you serve, and no amount of table dressing will make up for food that is tasteless and monotonous. But don't let that inintimidate you if you are new to cooking. Fortunately, experience is the greatest teacher. The more you cook, the more facile you become - and the more you enjoy it.

There is a tendency nowadays to make a separation between an everyday cook and a so-called gourmet cook. And the simpler cooks seem to stand in awe. Unfortunately gourmet has become synonymous with fancy and it conjures up the kind of cook who gussies up dishes with rich sauces and goes in for fussy, overworked dishes. We'd all be better off today if we admitted that there is really no such thing as gourmet cooking - there is simply good cooking. It takes more sophistication to know when to serve something simply in its own good juices and more cooking sense - born out of experience - to get perfect results. You get there by trial and error. Experiment when you have the time and inclination but evaluate your own performance critically. Do only what you have the time for, but do it well. And always shop carefully and respect the materials you work with. In other words, care. That is the path to good cooking and we should forget about 'gourmet.' Above all, don't get discouraged if something doesn't turn out perfectly the first time; too many fledgling cooks give up too easily, failing to realize that there are so many small unpredictable elements that confound even the most experienced cook, such as the variables in flour in different parts of the country, which can affect the outcome of a loaf of bread. So try to be resilient in the face of the unpredictable. Think of cooking as more of an art that a science. You'll have much more fun that way and you'll develop far more confidence than if you just rely of formulas."


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Bran Muffins

Dear Jess,

What a weekend. I can not express how thankful I am for you and Jesse to take the time out of your oh-so-busy schedule and come to TWO of our celebrations. I am truly honoured, and cannot believe how blessed I am to have you two in our lives.

Last week I tried my hand at muffins! I am trying to branch out in my baking world (yet again.) This is mainly to keep 'snack' foods in the house that are not chips (because I would eat all the chips...) So far I am doing well! These muffins are from Eat Shrink and be Merry by Janet and Greta Poldeski. They are unbelievably full of flavour, and it is extremely easy to swap ingredients to suit your taste. I will definitely be making these again!

A Bran New World (Sweet Potato Bran Muffins)
Makes 12 regular muffins
adapted from A Bran New World, Eat Shrink and be Merry by Greta and Janet Poldeski

1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato (about 1 medium potato)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
2 tsp grated orange zest
4 cups Bran Flakes cereal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice

1. Preaheat oven to 375F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together sweet potato, Greek yogurt, brown sugar, olive oil, eggs, and orange zest.
3. In another large bowl, combine flour, dried cranberries, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and pumpkin-pie spice. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Batter will be thick.
4. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 17 or 18 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm.

As you can see, I also added some chocolate chips. I had about 3 bags with a teeny bit of chocolate chips left... So I dumped them in too!

I hope all is going well on your end. I can't wait to see you again this weekend!

So much love,

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chipotle Bean Burgers with Sweet Corn Relish

Dear Jess,

P h e w ... I am officially moved into our house. Everything is a mess,  but it's all in one spot. Yessssss.

This is one of my favourite meatless recipes. It is full of flavour and can be ready within 20 minutes. (Less if you have made it a few times) I made this Monday night for dinner. It is full of flavour and has a great texture. There weren't any leftovers this time, but when there are I love to put it in a wrap with avocado, corn relish and lettuce! Mmmm. Delightful.

I have included the recipe I usually use for Corn Relish... Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it this time as I thought I had corn at home and didn't. Luckily, my Aunt Lynda had given us some jarred corn relish that you will see in the pictures. It is so delicious and if you need the recipe you will have to ask her!

Chipotle Chili - Black Bean Burgers 
Adapted from Students Go Vegan Cookbook by Carol Raymond
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup finely grated carrot
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
One 19oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1/2 cup rolled oats
Salt to taste

1. Heat 2 tsps of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the carrots, chipotle chili powder, and cumin. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2. Mash the beans in a large bowl with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon (it takes a moment for the beans to give in, but they will become creamy). Add the mustard, soy sauce, ketchup, and sauteed vegetables. Stir in the oats, and salt to taste.

3. Form the mixture into 4 or 5 burgers. Warm the remaining oil in the skillet and cook the burgers over medium-low heat for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Serve immediately topped with Sweet Corn Relish (recipe follows), fresh salsa, or your choice of condiments.

Sweet Corn Relish
3/4 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar or natural sweetener
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced

Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to simmer, and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Store covered in the refrigerator. It will keep for 4 days.

I can't wait to see you on Saturday (or maybe Friday night?) to tell you all about the honeymoon and to get ready for the reception!

Love Always,