Monday, July 30, 2012

Moroccan and Rollin' Quinoa Salad

Dear Jess,

This Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) Salad is so good that I made it last week and I am right at this minute making it again. As I sit here writing this entry (in our newly painted 'study/office/drawing room',) the Quinoa is in the pot boiling, and the aroma is floating through the house. (I also have bread baking in the bread-maker, so my house basically smells like heaven.) This is another gem from the Podleski sisters (The Looneyspoons Collection.) On page 38 you will find Moroccan and Rollin' Quinoa Salad.

I have fallen in love with this particular seed for many reasons. One being you can do so much with it, another being it's delicious, and most importantly: it is a full protein! Janet and Greta have a nice little description of it that I will share here with you:

"Though commonly referred to as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed of the goosefoot plant, a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. Once considered 'the gold of the Incas,' Aztec warriors used quinoa to increase their stamina. It's not wonder: quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse! It has twice the protein of brown rice and contains all nine essential amino acids (nutritional building blocks that help form proteins and muscle and other tissue) - rare in the plant kingdom. That's why quinoa is winning the popularity contest among vegetarians and others who don't want to eat meal 'til the cows come home. All that protein plus tons of fiber make it a waist-watcher's dream, a diabetic's dream, a cholesterol-lowering dream and... well... a dream come true for anone who wants to put the best possible fuel in their body. The tiny seeds can boost energy and also contain lots of magnesium that can help prevent high blood pressure and osteoporosis. As an added bonus, quinoa is gluten-free, ideal for those with Celiac disease or other grain sensitivities." (page 38 of The Looneyspoons Collection)

So there you go! One major tip when buying quinoa: make sure you get 'prewashed' or 'prerinsed' quinoa. It will say this on the package. If you don't you have to thoroughly strain it.

Moroccan and Rollin' Quinoa Salad
From Janet and Greta Podleski's The Looneyspoons Collection

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup dried currants (I didn't do this)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp liquid honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canned no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup each finely chopped red bell pepper, grated corrotts and peeled, diced English cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves
1/4/ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine quinoa, broth, currants, curry, cumin, coriander, honey and salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid. Remove from heat. Let stand covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and leave uncovered to cool completely.

2. When quinoa is cool, transfer to large mixing bowl. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Mix will and refrigerate for at least an hour or two before serving. Tastes even better the next day!

This salad I eat most days for lunch and also include some in Jason's lunch. (He loves it!) It will last me about a week. I will likely make a big batch of this before I go to Spain as part of Jason's 'meal plan' that I will be leaving him.

I can't wait to see/talk to you soon. Hopefully before I leave, but if not sometime shortly after I get back.



*(my signature is on my other computer which is giving me some problems lately...)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Dear Jess,

We need to Skype soon! I want to hear everything about your honeymoon(s), and how co-habitation is going! Again... I am so excited for you!

I am almost as excited about these granola bars... but obviously not quite that excited. I have tried a couple different recipes over the years, and some have been rather tasty, but usually they are either too dry, too moist, or not yummy enough to bother making them again. This one, however, has won me over! If you are part of a 'peanut-free' school these will not due. I'm sure you could substitute the peanut butter for whatever you're allowed to use instead. Is it true that someone came up with an entirely nut free peanut butter twin but it tasted and looked so much like peanut butter that some schools banned it too in case it was mixed up?! Anyways... the point is: these are delicious.

I found it somewhere on the internet, but for the life of me I cannot find it again... good thing I printed it out!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup liquid honey
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 13x9 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, melted butter and vanilla and blend well.
3. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well.
4. Press mixture evenly into prepared pan.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown.
6. Cool pan completely on wire rack (or in fridge)
7. Cut bars into desired size and shape.

Oh man. So tasty. Especially as an 'energy-boost' snack. I will be making these again for sure!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Delicious Jambalaya

Hello Mrs Brickell!!

The summer is flying by. You are already married! So exciting! Congratulations again. Your wedding was beautiful and I am so glad to hear you were pleased with how it all came together.

I have learned something very important that has changed my grocery lists, meal planning and cooking habits. Jason eats a lot. A lot. So much. He works so hard during the day that his body can't keep any fat! He eats and then *slurp!* his body sucks up and burns off the energy almost instantly. I'm the opposite. I don't eat much. I mean I can eat a lot, but typically I don't. And my body holds on to all the fat.

I have gotten used to half a casserole dish of macaroni disappearing onto Jason's plate as one 'serving' of dinner. I have stopped being disappointed when a meal I thought would last a couple days lasts one. I have changed my thoughts from 'Oh dear... I can't keep up' to 'My husband likes my cooking!' And really, when it comes to it: I like a challenge. The grocery bill can get a little bigger, and I can attempt to have too much food in the fridge.

This Jambalaya recipe surprised me. It will become a regular for sure. This time I used sausage but realized I could use beans instead and it would still be delicious (and cut the cost almost in half!) It is spicy, so make sure you adjust it to your personal taste. It makes a huge pot and is very filling.

The best part of this was that it called for Creole Seasoning. I know I have seen this around but (of course) I could not find it in time. I decided to make my own Creole Seasoning. I highly suggest it. It is a combination of regular spice-rack items, looks pretty in your pantry and smells so good.

Delicious Jambalaya
Adapted from

1/2 cup butter
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chili pepper, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 1/2 lbs mild Italian sausage, removed from casing and broken into small pieces
2 cups chicken broth
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3 cups long-grain rice

1. Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add the onions, green onions, bell pepper, garlic, serrano chile, bay leaves, Creole Seasoning, cayenne pepper and thyme.
3. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
4. Add sausage, broth, tomatoes and rice.
5. Bring mixture to simmer.
6. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is very tender, stirring occasionally, about
30 minutes to 45 minutes.

Creole Seasoning
Adapted from This Recipe

2 Tbsp onion flakes
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
2 Tbsp dried sweet basil
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaves
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
5 Tbsp paprika

1. Mix them all together!*

*The original recipe called for 1 Tbsp of celery seed. I thought I had some but didn't realize until too late that I didn't. Next time I will add it as I feel it would add even more awesomeness to the seasoning.

I hope all it well and you will soon return from your second trip and enjoy the settling down and relaxing stage.

I love you and can't wait to see you again!


Monday, July 16, 2012

PB&J Wedding Cake

My Dearest Sally,

What an amazing day! I could not have imagined it more beautiful than it was and I am so blessed that you were there beside me. Jesse and I cannot thank you and Jason enough for your love and support. We love you very much.

I can hear the many voices along the way telling me that I was crazy to try and make my own wedding cake. This is true. But everyone knows I am a little crazy so they really should not have been surprised. It was a process and a journey that was stressful and OH SO MUCH FUN at the same time. The hardest part was not scraping my oven clean after I did a trial run and filled the pans too full. Nor was it trying to cut the layers perfectly flat or the dowling just right. Nope, nope, nope. The most difficult part was getting Jesse to approve the icing flavour. We tried various forms of buttercream to no avail. They just didn't taste the way icing should apparently! Finally I found a simple recipe for vanilla frosting. Jesse liked vanilla alright but wanted to experiment. I put peanut butter in one small batch and chocolate in another. He loved both of those options but his favorite was the combination! In the end we had peanut butter vanilla frosting with a strawberry rhubarb vanilla filling. Three tiers and many hours later BAM! Wedding cake. The final product was a 10" chocolate pound cake followed by an 8" vanilla pound cake, topped off with a 6" simple white cake. I used three dowling pieces in the bottom two layers for support and I am glad I did. The cake was heavy!

Peanut Butter Vanilla Frosting

(adapted from Wedding Cake Art and Design - Toba Garrett)

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 cup peanut butter (determined by flavour)

1. With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.

2. Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.

3. Add vanilla, and beat until frosting is smooth. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Simple Vanilla Pound Cake

(adapted from Wedding Cake Art and Design - Toba Garrett)

4 3/4 cups cake flour
4 cups white sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pkg. cream cheese
2 tbsp vanilla
5 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray or line the cake pans.

2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix for 2 minutes on stir speed with the paddle attachment to sift and blend in the ingredients.

3. Add the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla and beat on low speed for 1 minute. Stop and scrape the bowl. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Stop and scrape the bowl. Beat for another minute.

4. Whisk the eggs and whole milk together. Add the batter in 3 increments on low speed. Stop and scrape the bowl; then increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Stop, scrape the bowl, and then beat for 1 minute longer.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

I cannot thank Rebecca enough for volunteering her advice and her amazing cake pans. Jesse has decided that I need to make cake more often. Oh what have I done! Jesse and I will begin to tear apart walls next week and plan to have you and Jason over a visit before the summer is out. What is summer without your people?

All my love to you and Jason. God bless and buckle in for whatever we have coming for us! I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Dear Jess,

You're getting married this weekend! It's so close! Both Jason and I are so excited to celebrate you!

Last weekend Jason and I went to celebrate his cousin's graduation from the University of Toronto. We had a lovely dinner together and enjoyed catching up. I was asked to bring dessert, so I started to think of what to make. I thought of brownies, cupcakes, cakes, squares... and decided to do a 'summer theme' cake. Something not too heavy but something delicious and sweet. Viola! I had bananas!

I got this recipe from a mix of different recipes I saw on the internet. I took what I liked from all of them and baked it. The Cream Cheese icing I also got from the internet.

Banana Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup buttermilk* 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your pan. I used a round one with a hole in the middle) In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar adn brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake in the preheat oven for 30-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean) Removef rom oven, and place on a damp tea towel to cool.

*If you don't have butter milk, simply put one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and then fill with milk until it reaches one cup. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Cream Cheese Icing
2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use. 

2. When your cake has fully cooled, spread icing on at desired thickness. 

I did a small sprinkling of lemon zest on top for colour. I may add lemon zest to the cake next time. It was quite nice!

I can't wait to see you this weekend! I am so excited for you and your upcoming wedding and marriage! Let me know if you need anything to be done.