Posts Tagged ‘homemade’

Remember that roasted fig and strawberry jam I made?  Well, I saved some for a rainy day and found this recipe for homemade fig newtons.  It’s raining, pouring actually, so I took to the kitchen to try out the recipe.  It needs a bit more flour, but the flavour and texture is very similar to the real McCoy.  The strawberries were few in comparison to the figs, but the hint of red-cheeked berries is there in the background.  Next time I will add more strawberry, maybe half and half!

Viva la fig!


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I’ve seen other bloggy friends make their own granola.  I like crunchy cereal but there’s always the dreaded note in bold on the labels at the store: may contain traces of tree nuts.  A few times I thought I had found a pure and nut-free granola, take the box home and crack it open.  Taste a few clumps and feel a lingering numbness at the back of my throat.  It’s hopeless!

As part of feeding myself and the family better, I gave homemade granola a try.  This was the answer to my nut-free quest.

I took condensed milk as the binder as seen on A Recipe A Day’s blog when she made granola bars.  The only thing needed was a fresh bag of rolled oats.

Here’s what I tossed together and baked on a greased cookie sheet at 200 ºF for about an hour:

  • rolled oats (not the instant oats)
  • wheat bran
  • dried cranberries dried with blueberry juice
  • raisins
  • dried apricot
  • crystallized ginger
  • sweetened condensed milk (about 1/2 can)

Chop the ginger and apricot in tiny pieces, leave the raisins and dried “blueberries” whole.  Keep adding a little milk at a time and mix it in, about half a can was enough for the amount of oats in the bowl.  Bake and toss every 30 minutes trying to keep some chunks whole.

Store in an airtight container, such as an empty mason jar.  I’m putting mine in the fridge to hopefully keep longer.

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About a year ago, I made a request to my readers for an ingredient challenge.  One of the best ideas was from The Edmonton Tourist and she wanted spätzle.  I knew this was due to travels to Germany, where both she and I (on separate occasions) encountered this other-worldly dish.  It’s not suffice to call them noodles, they are not really noodles.  Dumplings might be closer, however this makes you think of golf ball sized spheres of dough floating in a chicken soup.  Nope, these are not those sort of dumplings.

At the time of the challenge, I was lacking proper equipment to prepare a steaming bowl of spätzle .  And probably to ET’s dismay, the idea was dropped like a hot boiled egg when you forget to use tongs.  Well, with a bit of good old Canadian ingenuity (and tools in the garage) I’ve DIY-ed a spätzle maker!

Here is what you will need to make yourself a spätzle maker:

  • a lipped plastic lid
  • hole making device (drill press would be ideal, and no, I’m totally not kidding)
  • scrap wood (so you don’t drill holes on the kitchen table or floor)

Drill fat holes (5/16 “) in the plastic lid to evenly cover the middle of the surface without rendering the lid too weak.  Use your head, people.  Clean off the lid prior to using.

Note: This whole project could have been circumvented had I bought a wide-holed colander.  But what’s the fun in that?  Kind of takes the “challenge” out of the challenge, don’t you think?  Or if you want something fancy, search for a spätzle press.  When you see the price tag, come on back here and start drilling.  Oh, you will also need something to scrape the dough over the holes, I found a plastic part from Big Brother’s lunch box that will work perfectly!

I should take a closer look at my goals and put some dates next to them.  This is why ET has been waiting so long for how to make spätzle !


The basic recipe for spätzle can be augmented by extra ingredients, say herbs, spinach, or finely grated sharp cheese.  I found the following recipe on Food&Wine’s website and it reminded me of the mac’n’cheese variety of spätzle I had while in Mannheim.  I also had them as a side dish, I think butter and parsley were the only added flavours.  I took Wolfgang Puck’s dough recipe and cut it by half, this is enough for lunch for the kids.  Also, instead of adding cheese I’m serving the noodles with chicken and brown gravy.  The original recipe with onion and cheese sounds heavenly too.

Adapted from Spätzle with Gruyère and Caramelized Onions at Food&Wine (by Wolfgang Puck)

  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the milk with the egg yolks and egg. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg mixture into the flour, leaving a few lumps. Cover and refrigerate the batter for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.  Feel free to call in an assistant.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully hold a colander with large holes (or your DIY spätzle maker) over the boiling water.

Add about 1/2 cup of the batter to the colander and press it into the simmering water with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Repeat until all of the batter has been used.

Cook the spätzle for 2 minutes longer, then drain.  Add the cooked spätzle to the hot sauce, butter, or gravy.

Forgive me for not having a pretty “plate shot” of this dish.  I put the spätzle on the plate and left it on the table, I turned around and found both kids devouring it.  I’d rather see that than have my blog picture 😛   I think you can get the idea from the pan shot.

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This is another idea for busy moms, and busy people in general.  Instead of paying for greasy overpriced delivered pizza, try this instead!

I picked up pre-made personal sized pizza crusts, fresh basil, tomatoes, and soft mozzarella cheese while grocery shopping.  A basic Margherita pizza can be the start of your own custom pizza and get the kids to help build their perfect pie!

One pizza had capers, the other black olives and slices of jalapeño with a little cilantro.  Both were awesome and super easy (and fun) to make.  Here is what I used for two small pizzas:

  • about 2 Tbsp tomato sauce per crust
  • 1 large tomato, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp capers (for the first pizza)
  • 2 sprigs basil, Julienne
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • dried up black olives from the fridge (for the second)
  • 1 tsp cilantro leaves (for the second)
  • 4 -5 thin slices of jalapeño (for the second)
  • about 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese

Crank up the oven to 400 or 425ºF and these little puppies will be done in about 10 minutes, just keep an eye on them.

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Caraway Rye Bread

This one has caraway seeds.

This one did not.  And it had this tear along the top, I guess I was too rough with it.  It does have personality though!

Caraway Rye Bread is one of the homemade breads you can buy locally from me.

Check out Cardamom Finnish Cottage Bakery!

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It’s a rare thing these days, buying stock in a box or can.  Before the holidays arrive full of turkey, chicken, and family members visiting I spend time to prepare and freeze stock.

Stock will keep in sealed containers in the freezer for about 6 months.  Make sure to label anything you freeze for later use.  Portions that are easier to manage are a good idea.  Most of my containers hold 2 pints (about 4 cups), I use this as soup and stew base.  Smaller containers, even freezer bags, work well for gravy.  Sometimes when you roast drier types or cuts of meat, there’s not a heck of a lot liquid left in the pan.  That’s where a bit of stock can extend or replace the pan drippings when making gravy.

To make your stock you need any of the following vegetables, spices and herbs:

  • celery
  • leek
  • onion
  • carrots
  • bay leaves
  • black peppercorns
  • cardamom pods
  • cumin seeds
  • caraway seeds
  • dill
  • fennel
  • rosemary
  • thyme

Then, if you want meat you can collect chicken, turkey or pork bones and freeze them in freezer ziptop bags until you have enough to make stock.  When I buy whole chickens, I save the neck, wings, and legs.  Either roasted or raw, freeze the extra bits for your stock.  Bone marrow helps add richness to the stock.  Beef can be used too, we just don’t have many beef bones leftover at my house!

Salt, should you add any at all, should be minimal.  The stock is a component for something else, the destination might already contain salt so you don’t want to end up with sea water soup.

Ready?  Throw the chunks of veggies, palm full of seasonings, the optional meat components into the biggest pot you own.  Add water until everything is covered.  Bring to a boil slowly, then reduce to low heat for an hour or longer.  The longer you simmer the stock, the more concentrated it will be due to evaporation.

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double chocolate banana muffins fresh out of the oven

To make these chocolate banana muffins a little easier on the waistline, I substituted most of the oil with vanilla yogurt.  The result was an intensely moist muffin that retained more moisture over the few days they survived in the kitchen.

double chocolate banana muffins with topping

I saw marshmallow topped cupcakes on Martha Stewart’s website, so the second tin of muffins received the same treatment.  For experimental sake.  The kids loved the sticky caramelized marshmallows, I might have too.

Here is the recipe:

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.  Fill a muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine the wet ingredients, mashing the bananas to a fine pulp, in a bowl.  In a second, larger bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center to pour in the wet mixture.  Gently mix by hand until the flour is no longer visible.

Fill the paper cups mostly full ( I like big muffin tops) and bake for 25 minutes.

Option: Top the baked muffins (do not over bake them) with one large marshmallow each.  Place under the broiler for a few seconds, do not walk away!  Squish the toasted marshmallows to cover the top of the muffin.

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I’ve had Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking on my kitchen shelf for nearly a year now.  I’ve used one single recipe out of the lot.  This book revolutionized American cuisine at home, along with the PBS cooking show starring its author.  You would think, being enthralled with food, I would be half way through cooking every single recipe.  My obstacle is time, and to a slightly lesser degree, energy.  The willful will prevail.

Cooking from scratch is, or at least was, going by the wayside at an alarming rate.  It’s far too easy to grab food to-go on the way to your destination, while we are busy watching the clock instead of our waistlines and our health.  How many people do you know who bake their own bread, make their own fresh pasta, prepare batches of stock, and bake their own cookies?  Grandma.  Hmmm… anyone else?

Sweet Onions for the soup

In contrast to Julia’s methods, I read through my vintage cook book written in the early 1980’s by a group of church ladies.  I could positively tell you that over half the recipes in their collection contained at least one canned or otherwise pre-packaged ingredient, as well as half a cup of oleo (of which puzzled me, I found out that oleo is short for oleomargarine.  Also, based on when this cook book was written and guessing the participants were probably at least 50 years old, they probably wanted to say that vegetable margarine should be used, not one containing animal fat.  Margarine as we know it today was created in 1950 (when the recipe ladies would have been of “marrying age” and learning the fine art of becoming domestic goddesses) due to newer technology that enabled the extraction of oils from vegetable matter in a cheap enough fashion for commercial production.  It’s just a guess though!).  Not all pre-processed foods are created equal.  Compare a box of cheesy macaroni to a freshly frozen pasta dinner, both are pre-packaged pastas that require minimal cooking on your part, but one is not fluorescent orange (and nasty).  Does it hurt to use a can of cream of mushroom soup now and then?  I don’t think so.  I’m a mom, I take advantage of short cuts.

Back to the recipe at hand today, onion soup.  Not from a can or box, real onion soup.

Soft Onions

Julia Child calls for booze in this soup, which I don’t keep on hand, nor do I see a need for it.  These onions had so much flavour that I didn’t want to mask them with much other than my homemade chicken stock perfumed with fennel.

French Onion Soup

I found these vintage soup bowls at Goodwill for a few dollars, nifty eh?  Do make yourself some croutons and melt Gruyère cheese on them, this is a must for your French Onion Soup experience.  This reminds me of home-ec class because this was one of the few recipes we were tasked to replicate.  My home-ec teacher had to taste everyone’s creation at the end of class in order to receive a passing grade for that day, I’m not sure I would want that job.  I wasn’t the greatest cook at the wide-eyed and bushy-tailed age of thirteen.

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I made a strange no-knead bread with pumpkin seeds and 10-grain cereal.  I left it all day while I was at work and baked it off as soon as I got home with the kids.  It was so heavy and the fizzle of the yeast was long gone by then.  It didn’t budge.  It didn’t puff.  However, the interior was soft and full of the flavour of the grains and bite of the emerald seeds.  The crust wasn’t pretty but had a lovely golden hue.  I named it a flat bread and called it a night.

Now I’m stuck with this flat toad of a loaf until we eat it all.  I’m not making more bread until this sucker is finished off.

Some digging through the fridge produced deli ham and cheese, plus a red onion.  (I had bought the deli foods thinking I was going to bake bread this week to make sandwiches for lunch.)  Pizza was my first thought.  Split the loaf open and top with some tomato sauce, meat, onion, then cheese.

A quick stint under the broiler was all it took to “bake” my pizza.  What I should have done was broil the bread first and then top it, just like the Welsh Rabbit.  That would have given the pizza crust some stability once completed.  In other words, it was a little soggy, but not so much that it fell apart.

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Breads: Rye Dinner Rolls

Through another blog (Lisa’s Food on the Move) I found the recipe for insanely delicious, fluffy dinner rolls made with the help of my bread machine.  Nancy, if you read this, I hope you can try this recipe out as it started with your Awesome Dinner Rolls.  All I did was replace some of the bread flour with dark rye flour, the results were fantastic!

Here is the adapted recipe for your bread machine:

  • 2 Tbsp salted butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (80-100ºF)
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour + 3/4 cup dark rye flour, blend the flours together
  • 3 tsp active dry yeast

Add in the order specified by your bread machine manufacturer, the order above is the order I used.  Make a well in the flour for the yeast.  Mix on the dough cycle.  Divide the dough into equal pieces, you should get 12 – 15 buns.  Equally space the dough balls on a deep cookie sheet and brush with more butter.

Rise the buns for 45 minutes in a warm place free of drafts (like in the oven!)

Bake at 375ºF for about 15 minutes.  Brush the hot rolls with melted butter.  Try to share these, they will go straight to your thighs!



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Apple Sage Roasted Chicken

olive bread

No-Knead Olive Rosemary Bread


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