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Kate's Kitchen Voodoo Kake

photo by Chris Couper

I have a dear friend named Kate. One of my first blog posts was about me making cookies for Kate's mom to take to a cookie exchange party at Christmas because Kate's mom, like Kate herself, doesn't cook.

Imagine my shock the year that Kate brought this chocolate cake, covered in whipped cream to our annual Christmas Eve party? My son ate half of it and proclaimed it to be THE best cake he had ever eaten. He even asked if Kate could make it for him as his birthday cake. That would be like Kate's daughter asking me to organize her room.

I decided that I wanted to make this magical chocolate cake myself and asked Kate for the recipe. She looked at me like I had three heads and said "there isn't a recipe. Are you making fun of me?"
It seems like I am the only person of our generation who did not grow up eating this Nabisco chocolate wafer refrigerator cake. My mom was the queen of easy desserts and I certainly ate my share of Jello 1-2-3,  sherrif lemon meringue pie and frozen McCain's banana cream pies but this was something I had never heard of.
Little Shack had requested creme brulee for his birthday but we were also going to spend Easter at my sister's house and it would be a bit of a birthday celebration as well so how could I make anything but Kate's cake?

The hardest part was finding the Nabisco chocolate wafers at the grocery store. It's just cookies, 3 cups of whipped cream and I added fresh strawberries and shaved dark chocolate because I can't leave anything well enough alone.

I swear to god, this is one of most delicious things I have ever eaten and I can't wait to try the 300 variations that I have running through my head right now. I also feel a bit vindicated by the simplicity because even Prince William had a no cook bisquit cake as his groom's cake at his wedding. I sense a trend.
I hereby declare that the cake pop and the cupcake are dead! We are entering the year of the refrigerator cake! Long live the refrigerator cake!

Kate's Kitchen Voodoo Kake
adapted from the Nabisco Refrigerator Cake

1 pkg Nabisco chocolate wafers
2 to 3 cups of whipping cream, whipped of course (you can get away with just two cups but why would you want to do that?)
2 pints of strawberries, washed and sliced and about 1/2 cup or so of those chopped very fine
chunk of dark chocolate
1 blood orange
1/4 cup sugar

I sprinkled the sugar and the juice of the blood orange over all the strawberries that were left after making the cake and let them sit all day and get nice and juicy and served those along side the cake.

make stacks of six cookies

spread a bit of whipped cream on the cookie

add a few pieces of finely chopped berry

top with another cookie

strawberries that you will maserate with sugar and blood orange juice all day

repeat until you have a stack of six cookies with whipped cream

move on to the next stack of six

lay them on their sides and make them into a long log or a two side by side

cover is plastic wrap and leave in fridge at least four hours or even overnight

just before serving, cover the whole thing with whipped cream

now it will look pretty enough to eat so you can stop here if you wish

or you can shave some dark chocolate all over the cake

how pretty is that?
thanks to Shack for taking pictures of the construction and to my talented nephew, Chris for taking the afters. Check out Chris's photography site.

Final Grilled Cheese for April to End Grilled Cheese Month

I'm really turning into a sandwich person. I still don't like them totally loaded down with oodles of gooey cheese but I am actually enjoying all of these grilled cheese variations, which has taken me by surprise. I will miss April, month of the grilled cheese because it has been fun. I look forward to months of grilling and salads and charred things but at least now I have added a whole new catagory to our dinner choices and I have something new to do with all that leftover grilled meat this summer apart from my go to vietnameseish noodle thing or feeding it to the dog (sorry Reno)

Cheesey Turkey Panini
makes two big sandwiches

pesto mayo:
2 tbls mayonnaise
1 tbls sundried tomato pesto
1 clove mashed, roasted garlic (i did my garlic with the caramelized onions)

2 chiabata buns
tomato pesto mayo
thinly sliced tomato
100 grams of sliced swiss cheese
100 grams of sweet mustard coated roast turkey
1 small onion, thinly sliced and caramelized along with 1 huge clove garlic

Cut buns in half. Mix the pesto mayo ingredients together and spread half of it on the bottom of one half of the bun. Next goes 1/4 of the cheese, top with half the onions, then slices of tomato and a final layer of 1/4 of the cheese. Put the top of the bun back and and wrap the sandwich in tinfoil.

Preheat the oven to 375F and put the sandwiches on a baking sheet. Cover them with a heavy cast iron skillet just like I did here and cook them for about 20 minutes.

steamed artichokes with tzatziki was the perfect side dish

Creme Brulee

We are not birthday cake people at all. For my birthday, I usually have a lemon tart or a pie - this year, Jen, at Piccante Dolce made me a delectable lemon meringue pie which was THE highlight of my birthday dinner. Last year the kid requested a chocolate wafer/whipped cream cake that my good friend, Kate, makes and this year he asked for creme brulee. The problem is that I couldn't find my creme brulee recipe anywhere. I read a hundred others and couldn't find anything that sounded right and I was about to have a breakdown when I thought "Look to Ina. If anyone knows a really fattening, terrible for you but delicious, decadent dessert it would probably be her. I took down my Barefoot in Paris book and there it was. The perfect creme brulee with just a couple of small changes and now I don't care if I ever find my old recipe because this one is absolutely perfect.

Creme Brulee

adapted from Barefoot in Paris

1 large egg
4 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tlbs per serving
3 cups whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tbls maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 300F.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a deep bowl with a hand mixer), mix the eggs and the sugar together until just mixed. Meanwhile, split the vanilla bean and scrap it out then throw it all in the cream. Heat the cream until just before it starts to come to a boil. The minute I see the tiniest hint of a bubble on the surface, I take it off the heat. You want to temper the eggs before adding all that hot cream by adding just a tiny bit of the hot cream to the egg/sugar mixture and mix it on low speed for a few seconds. Start to slooooowly add the hot cream to the egg/sugar with the mixer going until it's all added in. Add the maple syrup, let it take another few turns and then turn the mixer off.I like to strain the custard into another bowl that has a pouring spout to remove the vanilla bean and any tiny bit of egg that might have scrambled a bit when you first add the hot cream.This recipe says it will get you 5 or 6  6-8oz ramekins but I got 9 in my small ramekins.So, pour the custard into your ramekins which you have set into some sort of a baking pan. After they are all filled, carefully pour boiling water into the pan until the water comes halfway up the ramekins. Carefully move the whole thing into the oven on the middle rack and bake 40-45 minutes until the custard is set and it's just a little wiggly looking in the very centre.Remove the custards from the water bath and let them cool completely on a wire rack. Once they are cooled, put them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. At that time, take them out of the fridge, sprinkle a tbls of sugar on the top of each custard and shake it all around to make sure each one is completely covered with sugar.This is where you get to fire up your handy blow torch and torch the surface of each custard until the sugar bubbles up and gets all brown. Let them sit for a minute or two to let the coating cool and harden.

Easter Treat

I looked and looked to find one of the blogs where I first saw this little treat and I couldn't find one, even though I have seen at least two or three different versions. At any rate, I wanted to make something quick and simple and easy to transport to take to visit my family this easter weekend. Honestly, this is candy making for dummies.

preheat the oven to 350F

waffle pretzels
candy melting wafers
cadbury mini eggs
coarse sanding sugar

Get small waffle pretzels - I got mine at Bulk Barn. Lay them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Lay a candy melt in the centre of each pretzel (mine are wilton candy melts like these that I also bought at bulk barn). Put the baking sheet in the oven for 3 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven and lay one cadbury mini easter egg on top of each candy melt. Sprinkle  some sanding sugar in a contrasting cover over the tops of each one and let sit until cooled enough to move onto a wire cooling rack and then let them cool completely so that the melting candy is completely set and hard again.

For me, these are a perfect little treat and the only thing that would make them better would be to incorporate some caramel into them somehow. You pop the whole thing in your mouth and you get that salty pretzel with the crunch of the candy coating and then the melt of chocolate all coming together at the same time.

Carrot Cupcakes for a 12th Birthday!

Who would have thought that I would ever be the proud owner of a 12 year old boy? One day you are pulling him down off of the bookshelf and the next, you are buying him Axe deodorant and he is asking you if you think he will look good with a beard?

Grilled Cheese of the Week- Grilled Cheeseball and Broccoli Salad

So, it's the third week of Grilled Cheese month, otherwise known as April, and I was craving something that would feel taste like a cheese ball. Doesn't everyone my age have happy childhood memories of parking themselves right next to your aunt's famous cheeseball that she rolled in toasted walnuts and just hoovering the entire thing? The cheeseball I am remembering had a bit cayenne and a tiny bit of brandy added to it so it was exiting to eat as a child. I would pretend that I was feeling all tipsy from consuming a tbls of booze.
Or is that just me?

Another Snack Day, Another Muffin

Tomorrow is our turn for snack day so the search for a healthy, tasty muffin begins. I must have bookmarked 20 recipes last night but when I woke up this morning, the only one that was still stuck in my head was Smitten Kitchen's perfect blueberry muffins . The only thing I needed to go and buy was a lemon but then they had blueberries that looked nice so I bought some and used those instead of the frozen blueberries I had intended to use. I stuck pretty close to the recipe with just a few changes - I added some whole grain flour and because my greek yogurt was as thick as cement (in a good way of course) I added a bit of vanilla soy milk so that my batter would not require actual kneading. Oh, I threw in some poppy seeds because I am all about the poppy seeds right now and those kids should be too.

Blueberry Poppy Seed Muffins
adapted from a recipe on Smitten Kitchen
Made 12 regular muffins

5 tbls soft butter
1/2 cup sugar (meant to use brown but forgot - will use brown next time)
1 large egg
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1/4 scant cup vanilla soy milk or milk or buttermilk for that matter
zest of one lemon, grated on a rasp
1/4 cup 9 grain bread flour
1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375F
Line 12 muffin tins with liners

Beat the butter and sugar together with a hand beater until smooth. I think it's too small of a batch to work really well in the kitchen aid. Once its fluffy, add the egg and beat well and then add the yogurt, zest and half of the soy milk. Mix the dry ingredients in another bowl and add half and mix until combined. Add the other half and mix until the flour just disappears. If that isn't happening, like it wasn't for me, add some more milk, a tiny bit at a time until you can mix all the flour into the batter. Then fold in your blueberries. The batter is really thick and is more like a cookie dough. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until a tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

I was a bit worried about the 9 grain bread flour but they turned out great! Healthy enough to feed the little buggers guilt free and tasty enough that they don't know they are good for them!

It's Still Grilled Cheese Month - Grilled BAT

It's time for another tasty grilled cheese sandwich and I was planning to make a brie/green apple/toast sliced almond on brioche but today I want something more savoury. I am just kind of getting into this sandwich thing late in life, never being a sandwich fan in the past. In fact, you could almost say that I didn't believe in sandwiches, unless you were talking a mushy egg salad on white without crusts served at a baby shower. That is barely even a sandwich and it's food that your aunts still make but they seem to be a dying breed. If I attend a shower thrown by young people, it's all dips and flat breads and veggie trays and fancy designer cupcakes. I think I might do a post about those lovely little treats that you only eat at showers thrown by older women and funerals if the funeral has a reception in a church basement afterwards.

 One of the few sandwiches I do crave from time to time is a BLT. I didn't think that the crisp iceberg lettuce that works so well in a toasted sandwich would work in a melty, cheesy sandwich so I subbed in some peppery arugula. Crispy Bacon, arugula, some tomato slices and then a smear of tomato jam with cheese sounded perfect. I decided not to make the bread for this one so it was off to one of my favourite neighbourhood bakeries for a loaf of really seedy twelve grain bread. The nuttiness of the bread was a good foil to the richness of the tomato jam and the bacon.

BAT Sandwich
tomato jam
cheese ( I used havarti with sun dried tomato)
bacon strips, cooked til crispy and drained on paper towel
sliced tomato
bread slices
kosher salt and pepper
arugula, washed and dried

Tomato Jam
adapted from Rachael Ray

8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 lb)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
1 tbls rosemary wine syrup (if you don't have anything like this, just use 2 tbls of balsamic)
3 sundried tomatoes, chopped finely

put all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and simmer over medium low heat for about 30 minutes until it's all thick. Remove from heat and let cool. Because I didn't peep the tomatoes, I did give them  a mash with a potato masher at the very end. How easy is that?

For each sandwich:
butter two slices of bread
put bread on a cutting board, buttered side down
put cheese on the bread
add a couple of tomato slices
pinch kosher salt, grind of pepper
two slices of crispy bacon
a nice smear of tomato jam
top with more cheese and the second piece of bread, buttered side up

cook in a frying pan over med heat until the cheese is melty and the bread is nicely browned.

It's Grilled Cheese Month So Let's Grill Some Cheese

I have done a complete 180 in regards to sandwiches. Prior to starting our no reEATS challenge, it would have never occurred to me to make a sandwich and call that a meal but now, I can't stop making them. I have been doing panini style sandwiches with leftover roast meats but it seems that April is grilled cheese month so I am going to try to do a grilled cheese sandwich every week.
For my first grilled cheese, I baked a loaf of light whole wheat bread with poppy seeds. I wanted something nice and colourful and pretty and so I was thrilled to find some orange tomatoes and I started with those. Bright green watercress, roasted red pepper provided some pretty factor while the sautéed mushrooms gave it some earthiness and heft. After sampling the first one, I decided it needed either a spicy mustard or tapenade but since I didn't have tapenade, I added some sun dried tomato pesto and that was a good choice.

My Pretty Grilled Cheese

Two slices of poppy seed light whole wheat bread
kosher salt and black pepper
sun dried tomato pesto
sharp cheddar, either grated or sliced
orange tomato, sliced in thin slices
roasted red pepper strips
watercress, washed well and dried
mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic

So, unless you have them lying around already prepared, you will want to slice up enough mushrooms and sauté them in some butter with a clove of garlic and kosher salt. It all depends on how many sandwiches you are making and how much you like mushrooms. I did about 10 good sized brown mushrooms and 1 tbls of butter, a pinch of kosher salt and I clove of garlic, chopped for two sandwiches.

You can use pre roasted peppers or roast your own,  however you like to roast peppers. You can do that over a gas burner, in a hot oven, under the broiler, on a bbq.

Preheat a frying pan over medium heat

To assemble:
butter the outsides of the bread slices.
Onto one slice of bread, spread some sun dried tomato pesto onto the bread, buttered side down. Next add enough cheese to cover the bread (it's easier to work with sliced cheese). Add a couple of slices of tomato and kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Next comes the layer of sautéed garlicky, buttery mushrooms - that's the meat of your sammie. Add a couple slices of roasted pepper then pile some watercress on top of the mushrooms and finish with another couple of cheese slices. Add the second slice of bread, buttered side up, on the top of the sandwich.

Fry it in the frying pan until the cheese on the bottom starts to look all melty, at least a few minutes. Don't use a super hot pan or the sandwich will burn before the cheese can get all gooey - better to go slow and low. When it's time to turn, use a flipper and your hands to turn the sandwich really carefully or it will fall apart. Cook on the other side for the same amount of time or until you can see the cheese on the bottom melting. Don't worry if cheese oozes out and gets all crispy on the bottom of the pan - that's the best part!

Poppy Seed Bread

I almost bought a loaf of sourdough poppy seed bread for some grilled cheese sandwiches the other day until I saw the $4 price tag and thought "why am I buying a $4 loaf of bread when I only need 6 slices?"

Instead, I bought a bag of poppy seeds and came home and made some Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes bread and added them to it. I think my home made bread probably cost about 50 cents, if that and I hate to admit it but we probably wouldn't have finished that other loaf of bread anyway.

It will probably be no surprise to anyone by now to know that I messed up the dough a bit. I was halving the recipe and I put a whole cup of whole wheat flour into the dough, instead of 1/2 a cup but i just added water and used wet hands to mix it together at the very end and it turned out okay. I would NOT suggest you try it though because I am sure it would be even better had I not made that mistake. Do as I say, not as I do.

Poppy Seed Bread
adapted from the Light Whole Wheat Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

1.5 cups of warm water
8 ml of granulated yeast
8 ml of kosher salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tlbs of poppy seeds

Mix the warm water, salt and the yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add in all of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed with the dough hook until just combined. DON'T KNEAD. If you have to, wet your hands to mix in any flour that didn't mix in using the stand mixer.

Cover lightly and let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. Either use it after that or put it in the fridge, lightly covered but not airtight. This dough will last for two weeks but you will eat it before that time is up.

If you are cooking it before refrigerating, ignore this step: sprinkle a bit of flour over the surface of the dough grab half of it. Shape it into a rough ball but pulling the surface of the dough underneath so the top is smooth. Set it down on a cornmeal covered pizza peel and push it into a more oval shape. Let it rest for at least 40 minutes.

Twenty minutes before you are going to bake it, preheat your oven to 450F with a baking stone on the middle rack (use an empty tray of some sort on the rack underneath - I use a tinfoil pan) and let the oven get really hot.

Right before you put the bread in the oven, dust it with flour and slash the top in a scallop pattern. Slide the loaf right onto the hot baking stone and quickly pour a cup of hot water into the pan beneath it. Shut the door quickly and bake for about 35 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack until you need it.

Portuguese Corn Bread

I love my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book. It has turned me into a bread baker for the first time in my life. I have a lot of problems with my wrists and I just can't knead a proper loaf of bread so I was just sort of resigned to the fact that this meant I could never bake a proper loaf of bread. I have their new book with the whole grain breads too and I have not made a bread that has not turned out yet. It's such an easy, forgiving method that I truly think a trained chimp could turn out a decent looking boule so I don't get too cocky about my skills. It's basically bread making for dummies and I really should stop telling everyone I know about it because by letting them all in on my secret, I am also taking away some of my own thunder but I just can't keep something this great to myself.

I don't know how it can be that I haven't made this particular bread before, since I love Portuguese corn bread but I haven't. I didn't want to make a full batch so I halved it with great results (this has not always been the case but I think it's just a matter of my terrible math skills, not a flaw in the recipes). I didn't flatten the ball out like you are supposed to because I was making sandwiches with the first loaf and the centre was a teeny bit dense but since I toasted them panini style, it didn't affect the sandwiches.

Portuguese Corn Bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day

1 1/5 cups warm water
8ml of granulated yeast
8ml kosher salt
3/4 cup cornmeal
2.5 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
cornmeal for the pizza peel and for dusting on top of the loaf

Mix the yeast and the warm water in a bowl (I make mine in my kitchen aid using the dough hook)
Add the remaining ingredients and either use a big spoon to mix, or a stand mixer like I do. I had to use my wet hands to really get all of the ingredients mixed in and end up with a nice, damp dough.

Cover loosely and let it rest out at room temperature for around 2 hours. If you aren't going to bake it that same day, put in the fridge in a container with a loose fitting lid and use it at some point over the next week to ten days.

If you use it right away, sprinkle a bit of flour on it  form a ball out of half the dough. Place it on a pizza peel or inverted cooking tray covered with cornmeal and flatten it slightly. Preheat the oven with a baking stone on the centre rack to 450F and put some sort of empty tray on the rack underneath (I use a small foil baking pan). I like to preheat it for about 20 minutes to make sure it's really, really hot.

Right before you put it in the oven, sprinkle some cornmeal on the top of the bread and slash it using a serrated bread knife. I did a tic tac toe design but you can do whatever you want.

Slide the bread onto the baking stone and quickly pour a cup of hot tap water into the baking tray on the bottom rack and close the door right away. Bake for about 30 minutes until nicely browned.

Cool on a rack before slicing if you have the patience.

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