Monday, May 30, 2011

Double Chocolate Skor Trifle (Oh Yes I Did!)

I was reading the latest issue of "Chatelaine" magazine, and came across an article with Jeanne Beker listing her favourite things to do when touring Northumberland County in Ontario.  One of the places she loves is a small tea room where they serve something called "Sex in a Bowl" - layers of chocolate pudding, cake, whipped cream and Skor bits.  I just had to have it.  Plain and simple.  Skor and chocolate and whipped cream?  Magic!  The title of this post is not "Sex in a bowl", for obvious reasons. I have a sneaky suspicion that the person putting "sex" into a google search is not looking for a wondrous dessert such as mine.  I'm sparing them the disappointment! And fending off pervs! 

My sis was in town with her girly girls for the weekend.  Her birthday, you see.  I welcomed her to the dark side of forty!  Weird to think that we are getting to be of a certain age, but the older we get the more we like each other.  There were days when we were growing up when we tried to scratch each other's eyes out.  Really.  Just ask my Mom.  It wasn't until we were in our mid twenties when we started to develop a closeness, and in the past few years, it's gotten even stronger.  She's the first person I call when something terribly good, or terribly bad has happened, and with the wonders of text, she's able to give me constant updates on the girls, such as "O said mama", "O peed in the potty!", "M cut her first tooth!", "M is walking!".  My sis pretty much rocks, and I love her to bits.  Which is why she ended up getting such an amazing dessert for her birthday. 

The kids love nothing more than pudding and cupcakes.  The request was made and the Auntie complied.  (I hadn't made any since these lovely red velvet cupcakes, and it was about time!) Saturday night was a round of cupcakes, then some pudding.  I'd been running around like a crazy person all day, and didn't have time to assemble the amazingness until Sunday, which is the birthday girl's big day anyway.  Wanting to be a little different I  made smaller trifles in pretty glass bowls, and we scooped out of them. Some shared, others didn't, it was that good.  I was holding Miss M, and all she kept saying was "Yum. Yum. Yum."  Kind of like her Auntie.  I think I was overheard saying I could eat Skor everyday.  Knowing there is a glass jar with Skor bits handy saves many a meltdown. 

This is my favourite chocolate cake recipe.  It's the real deal: dense and moist, full of chocolate richness, but not too sweet, and the coffee enhances the chocolate flavour even more.  And you'll never know there is only 1/4 cup of oil in it!  For Realz!!!  The buttermilk gives it a richness, you'll never know these are "low fat".  I even substituted in some whole wheat flour for Pete's sake.  You'll never notice that either.  Look at me sneaking fiber into your chocolate cake!  You can make cupcakes, or a 9"13 cake.  I like the cupcakes because they fit the glass bowls perfectly, and I had extras to freeze for a later time.  If making the cake, just cut some pieces for this, and use the rest for another use.  I'm sure you'll come up with something. 

Chocolate Cake with Buttermilk and Espresso

2 tbsp espresso powder
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350*F.
Dissolve espresso powder in boiling water.  Let cool.  Grease or spray a 9 x 13 inch pan, line bottom with parchment. Or line muffin tin with papers.  Makes about 18 cupcakes, just so you know. 
In the bowl of a mixer, add dry ingredients.  Beat in buttermilk, eggs, oil, vanilla.  Beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Pour into prepared pan, or scoop into muffin tin.  Cupcakes take about 22 minutes,
cake takes about 40-45 minutes.  Let cool. 

Now about the pudding.  If you want, you can buy the boxed stuff, I won't judge.  But seriously, this stuff made from scratch took no time, and it's pretty luscious.  Miss O devoured it, so there you go.  Kid approved!!!

Creamy Double Chocolate Pudding

2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups whole milk
4 oz.  good quality dark chocolate, around 55% cocoa, chopped (I used Camino)
1 tbsp butter

In a medium saucepan, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, cocoa, and milk.  Bring to a boil, whisking constantly until thick, about 3 minutes.  Turn off heat, and whisk in chopped chocolate and butter.  Pour into a dish, put plastic wrap directly on the surface so you won't get that icky "skin", and refrigerate.  Makes 6 servings.  Adapted from "Bon Appetit".

To assemble the trifle, you'll need:

some chocolate cake pieces
some chilled chocolate pudding
2-3 cups whipped cream, sweetened
1 cup Skor bits or 2 Skor chocolate bars, chopped. 

In a trifle bowl, or smaller glass dishes, layer cake, pudding, Skor, whipped cream, Skor, cake, cream, skor.  Or however you like.  As long as there are layers of pudding, cake, cream and Skor, you can't go wrong!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah, Julia Child and Boeuf Bourguignon

Some days the stars align and everything falls into place.  Scary, that.  So I had just finished reading Julia Child's "My Life In France", a couple of nights ago.  If you remember back to when I made these earth shatteringly good Petits Pain au Chocolat, I had just started the book.  I know. I'm a slow reader .  My only time to really tuck into a book is before I go to sleep, and only then its a few pages and I'm done.  So it's been a couple of months of reading about Julia, and yes, her time in France, and getting her first cookbooks published.  Good read.  Made me like her more.  And made me want to attempt one of her recipes.  Why not start with the infamous Boeuf Bourg?  I mean, it has lots of my favourite things in wine, bacon, mushrooms, red wine, onions, red wine, and did someone say bacon?

Speaking of favourite things, we all know Oprah is signing off forever today.  As my fingers type on this keypad, she's officially saying goodbye.  Hope I set the VCR correctly.  (That's right VCR.  I'm still pretty old school with my electronics!  There is a Walkman AND a Discman somewhere in my house and don't even ask me what a PVR is.  Some days I'm amazed I have a website!)

When I googled "Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon"  Oprah's site was listing number two, so really it was meant to be that I found the recipe there.  She must have had someone make it on her show once upon a time. Those were my favourite Oprah episodes - the ones about food, and fashion, books, and of course celebs.  After a rocky day at school or work, or just life, it was somehow comforting to come home, turn on the TV and have Oprah entertain me for an hour.  I'll genuinely miss that.  What I grabbed from her were two things:  finding a calling.  And being mindful of gratitude.  She always, always said that people have a calling, and it's our obligation to find it.  I truly believe that, and I'm lucky in that I think I'm on the right path to mine.  And gratitude.  I've blabbed about that here a few times, and not too many days go by where I don't consciously thank my lucky stars.  Oprah is off the airwaves, but those two things will linger with me for a long long while. 

So about this beef.  It's a wee bit of an undertaking, but 100% worth it.  I served this on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes, with a side of roasted asparagus, just because I can't get enough of the fresh green gorgeousness into my belly at this time of year!  Give yourself lots of time, then sit back with a juicy red, light some candles and give thanks to Mrs. Child for this recipe.  Boeuf bourguignon reheats very well, because like a good romance, it gets better the longer it lingers.

Boeuf Bourguignon

10 slices bacon, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
3 pounds of lean stewing beef, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
3 cups red wine, full bodied, such as Chianti
2-3 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
crumbled bay leaf
18-24 small white onions, braised in stock
1 pound of quartered, fresh mushrooms, sauteed in butter
parsley, thyme or sage or garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a frying pan, cook the bacon over med heat until crisp.  Remove to side dish with slotted spoon.  Dry the beef on paper towels, as it will not brown if it is damp.  Fry, a few pieces at a time, in the smoking hot bacon fat, until nicely browned on all sides.  Add it to the bacon.  In the same pan as the fat, brown the sliced vegetables.
Add the beef and bacon to an oven proof 9 or 10 inch casserole dish, 3 inches deep.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour.  Set the casserole in the middle position of a preheated oven for 4 minutes.  Toss the meat and return to oven for another 4 minutes.  (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole and turn down the heat to 325 degrees. 
Stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs.  Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, then cover the casserole and set in lower third of oven.  Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2.5-3 hours.  The meat is done when fork pierces it easily. 
While meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms, set aside.  (I left out braising the onions, but go ahead, if you like!  This would be just simmering them in a little stock until they are tender.)
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole through a sieve set over a saucepan.  Put the meat back into the casserole, and scatter the mushrooms and onions over it. 
Skim the fat off the sauce in the saucepan.  Simmer the sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat.  Should be about 2.5 cups of sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly.  If too thin, boil it down rapidly; if too thick, mix in a few tbsp of stock.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Pour sauce over meat and vegetables.  If serving immediately, cover the casserole and simmer for 3 minutes, basting the meat and veg several times.  Serve in its casserole or arrange on a platter.  Scatter the herbs, if using.  Can be served with boiled or mashed potatoes, noodles or rice. 
If serving later, about 15 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serves 6. Adapted from Julia Child.

If I could pick anyone, living or dead, to have dinner with, Oprah and Julia would definitely make the short list.  How about you? Who would you choose?

Baked Rigatoni With Sausage, Ricotta and Swiss Chard

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated financially by Barilla to write it. All thoughts, feelings and opinions about their pasta are my own. 

Sometimes I find inspiration for meals in the oddest of locales.  There I was, minding my own business in Superstore. (For those not in the know, Superstore is a huge grocery store chain in Canada, with their own cheap and cheerful clothing line, housewares, and other big box store stuff.  They don't sell tires though.) I sauntered down the housewares aisle, just for fun.  I love all things kitchen.  I could spend hours examining pots and bowls and wooden spoons and vegetable peelers.  Kitchen stuff is my crack.  Good thing my little green kitchen is tiny so my habit is fairly under control - until I find something I must have this very second.  Like this new line of stoneware Superstore has in stock now.  I found the most perfect red baking dish.  It's deep, like 3L deep, with nice high sides.  But really, it's the red that got me.  And the price.  $17.99!!!  Deal of the day. 

While looking at this perfect baking vessel, I thought hmmm....pasta would bake up lovely in this, with its cheesy goodness self contained with the high sides.  I've got a box of Barilla Rigatoni in the pantry, and oh, I have some excellent Pine View Farms Italian sausage in the freezer, along with some cherry tomatoes ready to burst from ripeness, and half block of mozzarella that should find a purpose, too.  There.  Dinner planned, just from looking at my new purchase.  I skipped over to the produce aisle (no I didn't really skip - that would be silly) and picked out some good-looking Swiss chard, because all of a sudden I wanted a ricotta cheese filling, with greens in it, and I love chard over spinach any day.  Grabbed a can or two of crushed tomatoes and I was set.  Superstore, I love you. 

Rigatoni is perfect for this dish.  It has more personality than rotini or penne, though in a pinch those would work well here too.  So would lasagna noodles, if you wanted to go that route.  It's really all about the sauce, pasta, and cheese.  I prefer to use a high-quality pasta like Barilla, that cooks perfectly al dente every time. You can leave the sausage out of the sauce too, but I love the really good quality sausage that Pine View produces.  Very lean and jam packed with flavour.  Splash in some red wine too, if you have some sitting on the counter that needs to be used up (ha!!!) or crack open a bottle, and drink the rest with your fabulous dinner.  There are a few steps here, but it's not too fussy.  The ricotta filling is well worth it - I daresay it makes the dish.  Well, that and the bubbling mozzarella on top.  Where would we be without that glorious lid of melted cheese?

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage, Ricotta and Swiss Chard

Cooking time: 50 minutes
Makes 6 servings

454g Barilla Rigatoni

1 Tbsp canola oil
500g good quality Italian sausage, mild or hot
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of hot pepper flakes, or more
few glugs of red wine
1 796 ml can crushed tomatoes
small handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 Tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

1 500g tub of ricotta cheese (not low fat)
1 egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
salt and pepper

3 cups shredded mozzarella

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until it's still a little firm (about 7 minutes) - it will cook more in the oven. When cooked, drain, and set aside.   
  • To make the sauce, heat a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the oil. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings, and cook until no longer pink inside, breaking up with a wooden spoon.  Add the chopped onion and garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  
  • Add the glugs of wine, if you wish, let reduce for a bit, then add the crushed tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, honey and a little salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about half an hour, stirring now and again. Adjust the seasonings. 
  • In the meantime, in a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, Parmesan, basil and red pepper flakes.  Heat a medium skillet over medium-high and add olive oil.  Sauté the onion until translucent and then add the chard.  Cook until soft.  Let cool a bit, then add to the cheese mixture. 
  • To assemble:  in a large, deep 3L casserole dish, lay down some sauce, then half noodles, then the ricotta filling, then remaining noodles, remaining sauce and finish with the mozzarella. Bake until cheese is bubbly and golden, about 25 minutes.  Let sit 5 minutes before cutting into.  Serve with crusty bread and a big salad.  Makes lots for 6. 

The baking dish did not disappoint!  I didn't think to grease it, and low and behold it washed like a dream - no stuck-on cheesy bits to give me grief.  I'm happy I added the red dish to my inventory of cool kitchen stuff....I can foresee it baking up wonderful crisps and cobblers, maybe even a scalloped potato or two.  They also sell little 3L roasters, complete with lid, for the same price.  I may have to make another trip....

Does anyone else have a bad kitchen equipment habit?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Green Goddess and Raspberry Beer

This post is heavy on photos, light on text.  Please forgive?  Truth is I'm a bit zonked.  Had a tremendously productive weekend planting my garden.  The weather held out for a change, so all of the seeds and bedding plants are in!  Hooray!  Last year at this time the ground was super wet so things didn't get done until mid June.  Then we had a humongous hail storm early July which wiped out all of my tender crops, like lettuce and carrots and leeks, which were just tiny at that point.  So here's hoping that this season will be better!  So far Mother Nature is being very kind to me.  And today it's raining - couldn't ask for a better situation!

Before all of this crazy planting began (but after I managed to spread 100 pounds of cow manure throughout my garden plot) my dear friend Shan came over for a BBQ on Friday night.  Simple fare, with just grilled sausages on fresh buns with my Aunts' homemade beet relish, and a green salad, with this amazing Green Goddess dressing I had seen in "Everyday Food".  Avocados are one of my favourite things in the whole world.  And now that I know they can be made into a tangy yet cream salad dressing, well Hallelujah!  Add some fresh herbs and garlic, and this is good stuff.  I was eating it all weekend on various combinations of salads.  Some with salmon, others with chopped bacon and egg, and asparagus, which I picked up fresh at the farmer's market Saturday morning.  Amazing!  I still have a bundle in my fridge, which makes me think it's maybe time again to make these delicious appetizers.  Hmmmmmm. 

Shan and I had to wash this good food down with something cool and preferably boozy - cuz I'd had a crazy week, and so had she.  I  read about this concoction earlier and was intrigued.  Others were a bit fearful - you mix beer with raspberry punch what?  But it's only booze after all.  How bad can it be?  And this was not bad at all.  In fact, I kind of hate beer, but I LOVED this.  Adding the vodka and citrus slices and frozen raspberries was a good call.  My only gripe is that I had forgotten to make ice, but whatevs.  Next time I'll be more prepared.  We sat back, and enjoyed it in front of the first bonfire in the chimenea.  It was a good start to a really great weekend. 

Green Goddess Salad Dressing

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream OR plain yogourt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 garlic clove
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Put everything in a blender and blend until creamy.  I think this would be great with fresh dill too. 
Makes about 2 cups.  Adapted from Everyday Food.

Raspberry Beer

In a bowl or large pitcher, add:
1/2 cup vodka
1 can of frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate (if you can find it)  OR  frozen raspberry punch concentrate, thawed
3 cans (355ml) of beer, chilled
slices of 1 lemon and 1 lime
3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Serve over ice and garnish with mint. Makes enough for 6. Adapted from Southern Living.  
Let me know if you like it too!

And now a few pics from the weekend...

First tulip blooms

I bought ginger mint and lime basil from this herb vendor at the farmer's market.  Can't wait to use them!

My asparagus came from here.

First bonfire!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Curried Quinoa Salad With Mango and Black Beans

These are busy days.  May always means lots and lots to do around the yard.  (I may have a tiny house but my yard is HUGE!)  If you love to garden, you know what I'm talking about.  Flower beds to be churned up, weeds to be yanked (damn you Creeping Bellflower!) and it seems like I'm always edging or enlarging something to make room for more flowers.  Because, like my aforementioned kitchenware addiction, I'm also a greenhouse addict.  I love trying new plants in the flower beds and herbs in the window boxes.  All of those years of renting and not being able to plant what I wanted have made me now want to plant everything!  If I had my way I'd get rid of all the grass and have a field of wildflowers.  Some day! 

All of this time spent outdoors means less time in the kitchen.  And I'm okay with that.  Here in Saskatoon we get basically four gorgeous months of Summer (if we are lucky!) and I savour every second of it.  Which means lots of cooking outside and sensational summer salads.  I particularly love hearty grain salads - I'll make a big batch and keep it in the fridge so I have something to eat after all of that digging in the dirt.

Quinoa seems to be the "it" grain right now.  And deservedly so.  Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source - a wonderfully unusual attribute for a grain.  Plus it's gluten free (Celiacs cheer!) and easy to digest.  Simply rinse well before cooking, (can be cooked like rice or pasta), and the finished product is fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy with a nutty flavour.   Really, quinoa appears to be a grain, but it's actually the seed of a leafy vegetable.  Who knew?  It was also sacred to the Inca, who would sow the first ceremonial quinoa seeds each season using golden implements.  Seems appropriate, but I have no golden gardening tools in my shed!

Back to this salad.  I was inspired after reading a similar recipe over at Julie's blog.   I love fruit in salads, but really it's the mango chutney (and fresh mango!) that sold me on this one.  Super nutritious with the black beans and veggies, I have a feeling I'll be eating plenty of this salad over the summer.  With the onslaught of May Long Weekend (please don't rain!), and many vegetable seeds to sow, I'm happy I have this salad hanging out in my fridge. 

Curried Quinoa Salad With Mango and Black Beans

1 cup of quinoa, rinsed very well (like 3 minutes under a faucet)
1 red pepper, chopped
2 mangoes, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, chopped
1  398ml can of black beans, rinsed
1 good handful of cilantro, stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
juice of 2 limes
4 Tbsp mango chutney (I like Patak's)
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp Indian curry paste OR curry powder
1 tsp salt

To cook the quinoa, bring to boil 3 cups of water.  Add the rinsed quinoa and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, or al dente.  Drain.  Put back in pot, cover and let it steam until cooled.  About another half hour.  In a large bowl, combine the cooled quinoa with the veggies, beans and mango.  In a medium bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients.  Pour over the quinoa mixture and stir well to incorporate.  Adjust seasonings.  Serves 4-6. 

Is anyone else planting a garden this year?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Aunt Helen's Big Batch of Buttermilk Bran Muffins


Update and Hello!

Thank you to everyone who has been baking this recipe! The original was posted way way back in 2011, when this blog was just a baby. It has also appeared in my award-winning cookbook All The Sweet Things, published in 2017. I've gone and updated the photos (because in 2011 my food photos kinda sucked) and as per some of your recommendations I've increased the salt to 2 tsp. 
I've chatted with Aunt H on the phone and she thinks the bran muffin buzz is kinda funny, but she loves it. Thanks for making this old lady and her niece really happy. And, happy baking!

Let's face it.  There is absolutely nothing sexy about bran muffins.  Nothing at all.  Unlike these lemon muffins  I made awhile ago, with their cream cheese filling and all, they could be called sexy, but no, not bran muffins.   I even questioned whether I should write about these muffins, until I tasted one, and thought, no, the people should  be made aware that some bran muffins can indeed rock.  And it's my Aunt Helen's Recipe, which makes them kinda special. 

Aunt Helen is my Mom's aunt, my Grandma's sister, who I got to know really well when I lived in Edmonton.  She was my only family on my Mom's side there, and in a way she became my surrogate Grandma.  I never knew my Grandma Clara as she passed away before I was even born, but Aunt Helen would tell me all about her, and I kind of loved that.  Through her I would connect to a bit of my history, finding out what my Grandma was like as a kid; stories I never heard from my Mom.  We'd sit in Aunt Helen's living room and drink tea while she gave me a glimpse into the past and where I come from. Me and Aunt Helen spent lots of time together, hitting up yard sales, driving out to the country to pick berries, going to movies where she almost always fell asleep.  We were kindred spirits, she and I, and leaving her to move to Saskatoon was especially difficult.  Aunt Helen was happy for me, that I had opportunities awaiting me here, but more than a little sad to see me go.  In exchange for being closer to my Mom, I left behind another lovely lady, who I miss very much.

Going to Aunt H's place, there was always some sort of baked good lying in wait.  She constantly sent me home with little care packages of food, and back when I was a poor student, those packages were most welcome.  These bran muffins were a "regular" (couldn't resist) in the package and the good thing about the recipe is that the batter can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks, so you can bake them off as you need.   Fresh baked muffins daily if you like!  Full of all kinds of good things like the bran (of course), ground flax seed and large flake oats, I reduced the sugar amount and even sprinkled some with sunflower seeds, just for fun.  Because, if you can't be sexy, you might as well be fun. 

Aunt Helen's Big Batch Buttermilk Bran Muffins

2 cups boiling water
2 cups natural bran
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups buttermilk
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
5 tsp baking soda
4 cups large flake oats
sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  In a medium sized bowl pour the boiling water over the bran.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the oil, brown sugar, molasses and buttermilk.  In a large bowl, add your dry ingredients.  Stir well.  Pour in the wet, stir a little, then add the bran.  Stir just until the batter is moistened.  Y'all know I will not let a raisin come near this mouth, but if you like, go ahead and add some if you must.  Just don't tell me.
Line a muffin tin with paper cups, or lightly spray.  Scoop the batter, until 3/4 full, sprinkle with seeds and bake  for about 20-30 minutes, until the tops have risen and spring back when touched. My cups were rather full so it took closer to 30, but if in doubt, check with a tooth pick.  Slathered with some butter, or just on its own, this bran muffin doesn't suck.  Makes about 3 dozen muffins.  Batter will keep in fridge for 3 weeks. 

Now excuse me while I go call my Aunt Helen.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Celebrating Mom with Salted Caramel and Vanilla Ice Cream Sundaes

If you've been following my blog for awhile you've probably figured out a thing or two about me, such as 1) I have a hearty affection for all things bacon and chocolate.  2) I absolutely abhor raisins.  3) I really like movies and books and tea.  4) I NEED to visit France.  5) I have a really good Mom.  When my sister was visiting a couple of weeks ago, we were sitting around and saying how much we are turning into Mom more and more every day.  We looked at our hands and saw Mom's hands.  Peeled off our socks, and yup, Mom's feet.  I hear my Mom's voice when my sister sings to her little girls, just like she did to us.  My dad passed away a month before my seventh birthday, leaving my Mom to raise 4 little ones under the age of 9.  So my Mom is kind of my hero, see?

Throughout the years, my Mom has truly been my rock, selfless in all ways.  And just very cool.  I'll never forget, when I was 18 she let me go with my friends into Edmonton through unpredictable March weather, to see my very first concert - INXS.  On a school night. Turned out to be one of the best days of my life.  And all of those years when I was living away, she never once broke down and cried when we had to say good-bye in airports and bus depots and drive ways.  I was a big mess, usually doing the whole Oprah ugly cry thing, but she kept it together.  And when I was moving back to Saskatoon three years ago, she spent her week's summer vacation painting all of the walls inside of my little house for me, so I could move in with ease when I arrived.  The green in my little kitchen was painted by a really wonderful woman.

Now that we live just a few blocks apart, Sunday dinners are shared together, and we talk everyday.  I borrow all of Mom's gardening equipment and she gives me advice on where to move my raspberry bushes.  We trade baked goods and fill each other in if we missed "Coronation Street".  Mom has taught me to be independent and strong, encouraging me to always follow my bliss and to never settle, be it for a crappy job or for a crappy boyfriend.  With her massive wealth of knowledge and strength and love,  I don't know what I would do without my Mom or how to thank her.  Somehow my bouquet of hydrangeas doesn't seem like enough. 

So this Mother's day weekend we gathered with my bro and his family.  I made some vanilla sundaes with salted caramel sauce.  I kind of love caramel so I was in a little bit of heaven.  Mixed with the creaminess of good vanilla ice cream and bits of waffle cone, we were all on a bit of sugar rush afterwards,  and thankful no one is diabetic.  Caramel has a mind of it's own, but don't be scared, it's really very straight forward to make.  Adding the bits of coarse salt adds another layer of flavour I kind of love.  Salt and sweet?
Yes and yes.  

Salted Caramel Sauce

1 cup of granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
In a heavy sauce pan, melt the sugar on high.  Stir often.  Boil until it is an amber colour.  Add the butter and stir lots.  It's going to bubble really high.   When it dissipates, add the whipping cream and stir stir stir with a whisk until creamy smooth.  Add the salt.  Stir some more.  Let cool.  Drizzle over good vanilla ice cream, and break up some waffle cones or waffle bowl pieces if you like.  The caramel sauce will keep in the refrigerator for a week, but if you love caramel like I do, it won't last that long!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Restaurant Review: Sura Korean BBQ

It's been a little while since I've reviewed any restaurants in Saskatoon, but in the last week and a bit I've been dining out plenty.  If you read my first review in "Eating Around Saskatoon, Sweetsugarbean Style", you know I never go to chains if I can help it, seeking out the independents instead.  Bonus points if I go to a place which offers dishes I don't make at home.  Such is the case with the Sura, where I fell in love with bulgogi and bibimbap!

Sura is a very new little neighbourhood Korean BBQ house situated not too far from where I live.  The owners came to Saskatoon from Korea about 5 years ago, and have set up shop in a space that was a Chinese restaurant in a former life.  Extensive gutting and renovations have turned this place into a cozy nook with an urban feel.  Dark brown lacquer dining tables are set off nicely with warm purple walls which are highlighted with some interesting textures.  Soft lighting beams out from some pretty neat light fixtures (I love cool lighting!)  The dining room has only 7 tables,  but I did find out they have 3 rooms in the back for private bookings, with 2 rooms having a capacity for 10 and one room that is smaller for a party of 5.  Good to know!   Reservations are a must for evening dining.  We were here on a Wednesday night, and a few of the other tables were already occupied by fellow weekday diners.

Korean BBQ
We were out celebrating my b-day, so I was allowed to pick dishes I wanted to try.   Nice friends, hey?  We were at a BBQ house, so of course we had to try that.  The neat thing about the tables is that they have a little BBQ grill built right inside so we can grill our own meat.  Cool!  There were 5 of us in total, so we chose one order of thinly sliced beef brisket, and one order of sliced pork belly.  The meat was sliced super super thin, and with Mindy as grill master it cooked up fairly quickly, two minutes max.  Accompanied by some dipping sauces and hot sauce, lettuce leaves, sliced garlic and jalapenos, this was a pretty neat experience.  I mostly ate mine dipped in sauce, but rolled up in lettuce with rice and hot sauce was really good too.  I preferred the beef to the pork, as I thought it had better flavour, and the thinness of the pork tricked my brain into thinking it was bacon (!!!), which it obviously wasn't.  Lamb is also an option, but considerably more expensive.  We all quite enjoyed the grill-your-own-meat thing, and I would definitely try it again.

Beef Bulgogi

We also ordered a few other dishes that were freshly prepared for us, including the beef Bulgogi, which the menu describes as 'sliced beef marinated in a sweet fruity soy sauce'.  It is that and more!  Subtlety spicy and sweet and not too salty, I really loved this.  Sometimes I wrapped it in lettuce, sometimes I ate it with steamed rice.  Same goes for the pork dish we ordered, Gochajan Joomuluk.  Again, fabulous.  Light, with a garlic and sweet chili sauce, this dish was a hit as well.   

Gochajan Joomuluk
To accompany all of the meat being consumed, we ordered some  Bibambab, which is a bowl of steamed rice served with assorted vegetables and a red pepper sauce.  There are two kinds of Bibambab, one with rice and veggies, and the other more deluxe with the veggies and a raw egg on top.  Apparently the heat of the bowl  makes the rice crispy on the outside and the egg cooks from the heat and adds a richness to the rice and veg.  We ordered the egg one (or so I thought!), but for some reason we received just the plain rice and veggies instead.  No matter.  The Bibimbab did not shine quite as bright compared to the other  meat dishes, but still very fresh and very tasty. 


Sura has three different types of soups on the menu and I wanted us to try one, so I opted for a bowl of Soondooboojjigae (which I pronounced something like soodoobugaloo.  Not even close!)  The soup was full of soft tofu and veggies, in a warm soy bean paste broth. You can eat as is, or add some steamed rice.  I liked it but would probably choose one of the others next time just so see what they are all about too.  There was Haemulpajun on the menu, a sizzling seafood pancake fried with vegetables and topped with egg, (or as we lovingly referred to it as egg pizza), that caught my eye but no one else seemed as into it as me, so this dish remains to be tried next time.

And there will be a next time.  Service was very good, attentive but not clingy.  We figured out the menu pretty quickly, and they answered our questions very well.  If I had any annoyances, they were small, like when the menu said we get side orders of kimchi with our meal, and we didn't.  Or when they took too long refilling water glasses.  But these are small, poky things.  Sura is not licensed for alcohol yet, but they are in the process of acquiring one.  We were served this wonderful tea made of Solomon Seal root.  It has a sort of hazelnut scent, which at first I couldn't quite place, but liked very much.  I enquired about gluten free options, and was told that their soy sauce most likely contains wheat, but that grilling meat at your table would be fine if you brought your own soy sauce, which I know some Celiacs do anyway when they eat out.  As for the vegetarians, they are in luck!  The Bibimbab is veggie, as is the soup with Kimchi in it.  I made a point of asking what the broth is based of, and was told all soups have a soy bean paste base.  If eating fish is an option for the vegetarian, they can also have the Haemulpajun.

We had plenty of food for five people, and the bill was just a little over $100 before tip, including tax.  The food was very delicious and light.  Not a lot of grease or deep fry action here, which is a nice change from some other restaurants.  Sura currently has 2 specials to take note of:  a daily $4.99 lunch special, 11am-2pm.  And on Sundays from 4pm-8pm  there is an all you-can-eat grilled meat buffet featuring beef and pork, including soup and rice, for $24.95 plus tax.  Kids under 12 eat for $14.95 plus tax.  Good deals!  Saskatoon's dining scene is so much better now that we have an authentic Korean BBQ house like Sura.  I can't wait to go back and try the egg pizza!

Sura Korean BBQ
1517 11St. West
Tues-Sat 11am-2pm; 5pm-9:30pm
Sun 5pm-9pm
(Kitchen closes at 8pm)

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