Monday, August 29, 2011
Once again, it's that time of year when the fig tree in my parent's backyard bears its fruits!
I remember my mom planting that tiny tree like it was yesterday and me questioning her at the age of 10 what figs were and if I would even like them.
Before I moved away from home at around 20 years old, I don't remember eating fruit off that tree. I do remember my mom getting really excited one year when she was able to get 3 figs off the tree. But she must have eaten them....
On my journeys away from home, I became more and more familiar with figs. Especially in the dried form. In Dubai and Damascus, I remember strings of them hanging in the store fronts along with dried dates and apricots. I fell in love with them.
Fast forward to this summer.... my first summer after returning to Canada, just a short ferry ride from home. And boy was I surprised this week when my mom came over with 2 huge buckets of ripe figs from the tree.
I ripped some apart immediately with my hands and ate them, with the intention of turning a lot of the remainders into jam.
My sister, not knowing what to do with all these figs, resorted to the internet, and came up with this fantastic recipe for a fresh fig cake.
The only modification that she made was to use 1 1/2 cups of figs in the cake batter instead of the original 1 cup. And the cake was TO DIE FOR! It was so good, that I had to share it with all of you!
Fresh Fig Cake
For the Cake:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh figs
For the Filling:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups chopped fresh figs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with the evaporated milk. Fold in vanilla and almond extracts and chopped figs.
Divide into two prepared 8 inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry.
To make the filling: In a saucepan, combine 2 cups figs, brown sugar, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Spread thinly between layers of cake and on top.
Monday, August 22, 2011
When it's raining outside, one great way to warm up your house is to bake. Somehow, it makes every trouble go away!
The cookies that I made today fit the bill to a tee. They are hearty, healthy, just sweet enough oatmeal cookies.
I made 24 larger cookies (about 3 inches round when baked), but you could make them whatever size is right for you. Don't be alarmed if the dough feels kind dry. Just use your hands to form the balls of dough and then press them gently with your hand. They will turn out just fine!
Whole Wheat Oatmeal, Chocolate, Raisin Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup White Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup Raisins
2/3 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.
Cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
In a seperate bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Then stir in the oats, raisins and chocolate chips.
Form the dough into 1.5 inch balls. Flatten onto a baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Lots of recipes are just variations of other recipes. Everyone adds their own special touch, adapts recipes to their specific tastes, or uses what they have on hand or in season.
In this case, I made Pasta Puttanesca. Basically, it's a tomato sauce with anchovies, garlic, onions, olives, capers, chili flakes and Italian Parsley. I made it my own by adding a whole bunch of kale to bulk it up and using whole wheat pasta.
You could top this with cheese, or eat it just drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil. However you deal with this flavorful sauce, it is sure to please!
My Pasta Puttanesca
Serves 4 people
375 grams Whole Wheat Spaghetti
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 Large Red Onion, chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
2 tbsp Anchovy Paste
1/3 cup Sliced Green Spanish Olives
3 tbsp Capers
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1- 28 ounce can Diced Tomatoes
3 cups Chopped Kale
1 1/2 cups Italian Parsley, chopped
Cook the spaghetti as per the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, bell pepper and anchovy paste and sautee until the onions and peppers just start to soften. Stir in the olives, capers, red pepper flakes, oregano, and black pepper. Then stir in the tomatoes. Let simmer for a few minutes, then stir in the kale and parsley until just wilted. Toss in the pasta. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Bread. Starch. All that stuff that people nowadays are avoiding. For me, it's a staple food. And it's available everywhere. Yet so often, the breads in the grocery stores are packed with stuff that we have never even heard of and then end up sitting on shelves for who knows how long. Then, the consumer takes that bread home, slathers it in stuff to make it taste good, and eats it.
Well, for starters, the bread should taste good. By itself. Alone. With no accompaniments. And then, topped with a really good jam, salted butter, or cured meat, that bread is taken to a whole new level. Yes, that is what bread should taste like!
That is why I try to make my own bread. I would say I make a loaf every week. And it has just 4 ingredients. Good flour (whole wheat, white, rye, multigrain or a mix), yeast, salt and water. That's it.
But lately I have found myself gravitating towards flat breads. I like them because they are easy to eat during the week. They serve as a vessel for a whole variety of things, such as left over chicken and alfalfa sprouts, ground pork with barbeque sauce, veggies and cream cheese. You name it, it can be wrapped and eaten in a flat bread.
So, I decided to try to make my own. After all, $3 for 6 tortillas doesn't go far. Plus, they are once again packed with so many unnecessary ingredients that I am sure they cannot be that healthy.
Yes, it did take a little more labor than making a loaf of bread, however, there was no rising time. And the result was fantastic. I let them cool, put them in a ziplock bag, and left them in the fridge for a week of tortilla pleasure!
Whole Wheat Flax Tortillas
Makes 12 tortillas
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups White Flour
1/2 cup Ground Flax Seeds
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Canola Oil
1 1/2 cups Warm Water
In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients.
Add water and oil and mix until just incorporated.
Knead for a few minutes to form a soft, smooth dough.
Divide into 12 balls. Cover with a towel.
Take one ball and roll it into about a 10 inch round (roll it as thin as possible).
Heat a flat griddle pan or grill pan over medium high heat.
Place the rolled out tortilla onto the heated pan and cook for about 30 seconds on each side, or until air pockets start to form in the tortilla.
Use immediately or store in a ziplock bag in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.
Monday, August 1, 2011
It was my cousin's birthday today. So I made cupcakes. Delicious, decadent chocolate ones. In fact, it is my go to, one bowl chocolate cake recipe care of Ms. Martha Stewart. It still never fails me. I use it for cakes and cupcakes for ever occasion, and adjust the frosting based on the person, the occasion, or my mood.
In this case, these cupcakes were for a summer birthday so I wanted the frosting to be rich but fresh (is that possible??).
I decided to use cream cheese frosting, because my cousin loves it! In fact, last time I made Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, she devoured them!
But to add that freshness, what better than some orange? I mean, chocolate and orange?? A match made in heaven! And on a summer day, it was the perfect combo!
Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Cupcakes
(I used the One Bowl Chocolate Cake Recipe for these!)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large YOLK
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups warm water
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line your muffin pans with paper liners or spray your cake pans with cooking spray.
Sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Add the eggs and yolk, milk, oil, vanilla and water, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth and combined (about 3 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Fill the prepared muffin tins with the chocolate cupcake batter until the cups are about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.
For the Icing
1 cup Cream Cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 3/4 cup Icing Sugar
Zest of 2 large Oranges
Dark Chocolate Shavings for Garnish
Beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a bowl until completely smooth. Add the icing sugar, half a cup at a time until the icing is smooth. Stir in the fresh orange zest. At this point, you can spread onto the cooled cupcakes or you can place in the fridge and cool for 1-2 hours and pipe the icing onto the cupcakes. Garnish with a sprinkle of dark chocolate shavings.