Archives for posts with tag: butter

Fresh from the oven. They're delicious piping hot, too...

I have been living away from “home” now for four Christmases-worth. Happily, each year I have managed to spend the holiday season with good friends, enjoyed many wonderful meals and parties, and witnessed others’ traditions. There’s no place like home for the Holidays in many things, though… and for me, a big part of what makes up “home” (besides the loved ones surrounding me, of course) are certain treats that I enjoyed pretty much every year of my life thus far.

I have mentioned Mom’s Peanut Butter Balls here, before, and how I changed the recipe to be a little more healthy. Another recipe that I gleaned off Mom via telephone this year was Scuffles.

Scuffles are, for my family, one of the highlights of Christmastime. Despite the fact that they are made with common ingredients (I am on a tight budget at the moment, yet I have all the ingredients on hand…) and take very little effort, for us they are a Christmastime-Only tradition. Perhaps this is due to their fattening-aspects. Hmm. Well, in any event, it turns out that many of Scuffles’ ingredients can be altered to be a touch more “healthy”.

Mom’s Traditional Scuffles

Combine 1 package yeast + 1/4 Cup lukewarm water. Let stand a few minutes.

-Mix: 3 Cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 Cup butter.

-Add: 1/2 Cup milk, 2 eggs, and the yeast mixture.

-Knead ’til soft. Leave, covered, overnight in fridge.

-Divide into four parts. Roll each part out on a layer of about 1/4 Cup sugar and cinnamon.

-Cut into approx. 1.5″ wide wedges (triangles) and roll up from wide end.

-Bake 15 minutes in 350F oven.

The dough can be frozen, the scuffles can be frozen, all sorts of things can be done to prevent you from eating the entire batch right away. I recommend having friends around when you make them, so that you cannot eat them all yourself.

UPDATING THE RECIPE:

Now, Mom’s recipe calls for some pretty traditional baking ingredients. I have changed this recipe a couple of times, with good results. My tentative changes have been:

-Brown sugar in place of “Sugar”: This caused a marvelous caramelization.

-More cinnamon in place of sugar on the outside: This was good, too. I love cinnamon, more than I love sugar.

-Half Kamut Flour instead of all Regular Unbleached Flour: I didn’t notice any difference, it was still really wonderful in both texture and taste.

-Using organic sugar, infused with cinnamon and vanilla (see previous recipe, thanks Tammy!) on the outside when rolling out dough: Wonderful, and even more delicious than ever.

Indeed, I thankfully have a packet of yeast, some flour and butter, a bit of sugar, two eggs and plentiful amounts of cinnamon. I know what’s for breakfast tomorrow…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Advertisements

“Ooof! There is no time left, yet I still need a meaningful gift!”

No problem.  All you need is a couple jars, 2 or 3 commonly found ingredients and 5 minutes.

Ready, set, go!

Caffeinated Sugar Scrub

Caffeine is a very popular ingredient in cosmetics at the moment. Amongst it’s many attributes, it is said to increase circulation and thereby decrease the occurrence of cellulite.   Sugar is a popular exfoliant.  Oil helps to nourish the skin.  Put the three together, add some scented ingredients, if you wish, and you have a great scrub for arms and legs.

Ingredients:  1/4 cup fresh fair-trade organic coffee grounds, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup oil (sunflower, grapeseed and olive oil are a few ideas)  And what can be used to compliment this rather robust scrub?  I think 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp dried ginger goes well with the coffee and sugar.

Salt, Bay Leaf and Pink Pepper

All you need is rock sea salt, bay leaf and pink peppercorns. This can be used to season vegetables and meats such as fish and chicken.



Lavender Bath Salts

Ingredients: equal parts epsom salts and baking soda, *organic lavender essential oil.

Use 20 – 30 drops of organic lavender essential oil per cup of the epsom salts and baking soda mix.  Typically people recommend adding a 1/2 cup to the bath.

* Yes, organic lavender oil.  Lavender essential oils are some of the most adulterated essential oils on the market.  You want great quality, especially if you expect a therapeutic effect.

vanilla and spices to be covered with sugar

Vanilla and Spice Sugar

Ingredients: vanilla bean, sugar, optional spice including cinnamon stick and cardamom pods

For those who put sugar in their coffee, a special gift could be a little jar of sugar with a whole vanilla bean in it.  You could also add a cinnamon stick, some cardamom pods or whatever spice you wish.  This vanilla and spice sugar can be used for coffee, tea and even in baking.  Be sure to let the recipient of this gift know that they can refill the jar with sugar many times and the vanilla will continue to imbue the sugar with a vanilla essence.

You are not going to believe this… Compost!

Last week I received an exciting gift from my friends, Julie and Mer.  It was a box of vermicompost.  My friends compost fruit and vegetable scraps by feeding these scraps to a worm farm in their basement.  Julie and Mer found that they were rich in compost this year, so they packaged it up and gave it away.  Don’t worry, they did not send over the whole worm farm, just the compost.  I love this gift because I have a couple houseplants and it feels good to feed these little plants some “local” homegrown vermicompost from friends.

Happy Holidays from Tammy Schmidt in Montreal.

Holly berries and new spring leaves

holly berries

One of the best gifts to give at this time of the year is home-made goodies.  Here is a recipe that I adapted from Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson (2008).  This one does not require baking and easy to make.

Rocky Road that tastes like Christmas

175g unsalted butter
400g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons agave syrup
200g amaretti biscotti (the crisp ones), place in a freezer bag and slightly crushed into crumbs and lumps
125g mini marshmallows
150g cherry flavoured cranberries
150g brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans or almonds (crush them slightly in the freezer bag with a rolling pin)
2 teaspoons icing sugar, to dust (optional)
(1)Heat the butter, chocolate and agave syrup in a saucepan over a low heat.
(2)Add to the melted chocolate mixture: amaretti crumbles, marshmallows, cranberries and nuts.  Fold in well to coat everything.
(3) Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9″baking tin lined with parchment and smooth the top with a spatula.
Refrigerate for about two hours or overnight.
(4) To serve, cut into 40 squares and dust with icing sugar for a little festive fun.

(Store for up to one month in a festive tin in the freezer or a cool location.)

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Cooks remove racks of herring from a tradition...

Cooks remove racks of herring from a traditional smoke house

The following recipe was adapted from one found in Nigella Christmas.  I love Nigella Lawson’s recipes because they are fun to read.  She takes the complication out of cooking.  When I follow her recipes, I end up making quick and delicious dishes.  It is the opposite of the early Martha Stewart Living recipes that seemed to assume we all have kitchen staff and abundant time to cook elaborate meals.

For the most part, Nigella’s recipes are great, but this one had a gross error in it.   My spidy senses were tingling the first time that I made it.  I already knew that I needed to make some modifications by inverting the recommended amounts of smoked fish and white fish.  The recipe recommended 300g of white fish and 750 g of smoked fish and I used the 800 g white fish and 200 g of smoked fish on the first round.  This was still too salty.  The second time, I decreased the smoked fish even more and increased the other seasonings and finally, it turned out.

Since it took a couple rounds to figure out, I am happy to share the recipe with you!

Ingredients

50 g unsalted butter

50 g flour

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1/4-1/2 tsp ground mace or nutmeg

1 tsp dijon mustard

350 ml whole milk

1 onion

75 g of italian flat leaf parsley (approximately 1 bunch of parsley)

100 g Digby smoked herrings, roughly chopped

800 g haddock or another firm white fish, fresh or frozen, cut into 2 inch pieces

400 g baking potatoes (approximately 2-3 potatoes, I used yukon gold), sliced thinly, perhaps using a food processor.

1-2 tbsp olive oil

white pepper or black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 400’F
  • In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the flour.  While stirring, allow this to bubble for a minute.  Take off the heat and stir in the white wine, mace or nutmeg and mustard.  Whisk in the milk and return the pan to the heat and continue to whisk as it thickens.
  • In a food processor, mince the peeled onion and then add the parsley and pulse til minced.  Add the coarsely chopped smoked herrings and pulse once or twice to chop until the fish is in approximately 1 cm pieces.  Pour the onion, parsley and fish mix from the food processor into the sauce in the sauce pan and stir the two together.
  • Pour the combined sauce into a 9.5″x13.5″ casserole pan.  Put the fish pieces on top of this.
  • Arrange the sliced potatoes on top of the fish pieces, covering the entire casserole.
  • Pour the olive oil into your clean hands and quickly apply olive oil to the potatoes.  Grind pepper over the top.
  • Bake for 1 hour at 400’F.  Serve with buttery petits pois.

By Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

 
by Natasha Henderson, Montreal
 

When I moved across the country from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island to Montreal, Quebec a little over three years ago, I knew that I would experience many changes. Not the least of these changes, I felt, would be to my diet.

The view from Kitty Coleman, in the Comox Valley

I had in mind that I would indulge in new things, new foods, perhaps try French Cuisine… it is true that I experienced some change in my diet and lifestyle, and a lot of that was due to what was available in the supermarkets. Different vegetables, different prices, smaller cuts of meat, and a wider selection of new cheeses greeted me at the first supermarket I visited in the downtown core of Montreal. After a couple of months I learned about the fresh farmer’s markets in the city. I began shopping for goods that were more locally grown, and in season whenever possible. Now, three years into life here, I am signed onto a CSA programme with a local organic farm for weekly veggie and fruit delivery. While enjoying the process of transformations within my new life in a new city and province, I was developing an interest in what I was putting into my mouth… an interest beyond the question of simply flavour.

Festivities and poutine abound in Montreal

After realising how much I liked poutine, but how guilty I always felt whenever I indulged, I figured that I must find a way to make a healthier option of it… something I could do at home, too, and save a little cash in the process. The first thing that I tried was to purchase frozen fries at the grocery store, and whenever I had some leftover gravy (not that often, of course… it’s GRAVY) I would make poutine the next day. While experimenting a little more with cooking, I finally discovered the joyous root that is the sweet potato. One day I had some potatoes, so made some wedgie-fries like my mom used to make out of their delightful Yukon Gold potatoes from the home garden in Comox, BC. Butter in a pan in the oven, bake. Easy. I thought about some fried sweet potato chips a friend had treated me to a year or so before that, this seemingly exotic chip. We had dipped them in home-made mayonnaise. That’s another delightful story… I had found the intense flavour of the sweet potato a little powerful, a little overwhelming. So I made a batch of wedgies with some potato, some sweet potato. Perfect combination (for me, anyhow).

Using sweet potatoes in place of, or as well as, regular potatoes for the fries is a tasty option that makes a poutine “healthy”. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins. Their flesh is a bright, appetizing orange, and their flavour carries a pleasant sweetness. Try to leave the skin on for your fries, like you would with regular potatoes. Just cut off the ugliest bits, and the “eyes“. Cut the sweet potatoes and potatoes into even-thickness strips, like house-fries in restaurants. One healthy option for baking the fries is to use butter or olive oil and fry them in a pan until soft, then bake until crisp. Another is to simply bake them in the oven until they are crisp, using no fat at all, or you can add a little olive oil or butter on the pan for taste. When the fries go in the oven, try sprinkling some salt, pepper, chilli pepper, garlic, steak spice, rosemary… any spice or flavouring that you like on them. You could even add some grated parmesan cheese, though with the upcoming level of cheese curds it might not be necessary. Bake them at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until done to your liking.

Options for the gravy include using butter or olive oil as a tasty start; you don‘t have to have fat drippings from a roast. To thicken and add flavour, stir into the saucepan a small handful of flour, about 2 tablespoons (depending on quantity of gravy you are making). If you’d prefer to not use flour, try using another starchy substance, such as cooked lentils or beans that have been mashed a little with a fork. Once browned, thin out the roux (browned flour or other starch) with a little veggie, beef or chicken stock. Use wine, beer, or water if you have no stock. Bring to bubbling while stirring, then simmer and reduce, adding more of your chosen liquid (or now switch to plain water) as you go. During this reduction process, I like to add a good generous sprinkle of pepper. Other spices can be added, according to your taste. Rosemary, garlic, paprika… the kitchen ceiling‘s the limit. Or, just leave it plain, and practice gravy-making to find your own favourite combo!

Poutine, the "UN-Healthy" version. Click to read CTV story...

The fries will take about an hour once in the oven, and the gravy can be re-heated once it’s made, so I would start in on making the gravy as soon as your fries are baking. That way the fries will be nice and hot when it is time to eat them, and that is quite important for full enjoyment of poutine. You can find cheese curds readily throughout Quebec, and in some regions across Canada. However if there are none in your supermarket, there are other options. A white, flavourful cheese is all right to use for this poutine (though purists would argue not.) I have used Edam, or Havarti, or Old Cheddar as a cheese curd replacement in poutine, with similarly tasty results. You could add a nice tanginess by adding some feta or parmesan, if you have it. Lately, I’ve switched to non-pasteurized, old cheddar and the results are excellent. I like to put the cheese onto the fries inside the oven, to melt a little, and even turn a light brown. Again, it’s about options and taste. It’s all up to you what you do with your meal. Some would add the curds and gravy to the fries, stir around so it is a melting mess, others like to layer their food neatly. If you are serving to guests, I would recommend placing the fries on each plate, then adding the cheese, then the gravy on top to melt the cheese a little.

Healthy Poutine. Seriously.

Now that I’ve shared a little dash of this story with you, I hope that you have fun experimenting with taking those traditionally unhealthy treats and turning them into sustenance to truly enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: