My absolute favourite Fall cookies

I may not be the most organized kitchen person.  Case in point, the gingersnap recipe disaster (or near disaster).  This is my favourite of all Fall cookie recipies.  I found it two years ago on thekitchn and have made it many many times.  It has found its way into Christmas gifts, Christmas parties, work parties and is a personal favourite when accompanied by a cup of tea and a good book.  One would think such an important recipe would be tucked safely into a recipe box or some other sort of fabulous system.  Imagine my distress when, upon looking for this recipe in my bookmarks on the laptop, it was nowhere to be found.  We reformatted our laptop this Summer, and with that, went all my recipes and bookmarks.

I searched high and low.  The one knock I have against thekitchn’s website would be that their search function stinks.  After combing through the search function results using a variety of search terms I was convinced this recipe was lost for good.  Then, I turned to gmail.  Who was I kidding, I should have gone here first.  After typing ginger into the search bar the second email found contained the recipe.  Turns out I liked this recipe so much that I emailed it to another cooking friend.  Fabulous.

And so it is never lost again I will share it with you!  If I ever come chasing you down looking for a soft gingersnap cookie, gently direct me back here.  This is what I’m looking for.

My Favouritest Gingersnap Cookies – adapted from “takeitandlikeit

3/4 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses – apparently they don’t have molasses at waitrose and sainsbury – I used a really dark brown sugar instead, and cut back on the sugar earlier put in the recipe.  If you’re in Canada though, Molasses shouldn’t be an issue
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves (ground)
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 c flour
sugar to coat

Beat the butter until light, adding the sugar, egg, and molasses and combining until well mixed.  Add the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and flour, stirring until combined.  Put in the fridge to chill for 30-60 minutes.  This makes it easier to form the cookies.

Once the dough is chilled, shape the dough into 3/4″ balls, roll them in sugar and place them on cookie sheets.  Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes at 350F/180C.  They might look a little underdone, allow them to cool on the pan for ~3-5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to finish cooking.

butter - all good things start with butter

also, can we say "Welcome back" to my kitchenaid? It's back in the game courtesy of a voltage converter and adaptor plug. I love my kitchenaid

these guys got a little overdone - still figuring out convection oven with the Fahrenheit to Celcius changes

Enjoy them with a cup of tea and a good book!

Cassoulet – a one dish wonder

Today has been grey.  The bbc weather folks describe days like today as “grey cloud”.  Not partly cloudy, not overcast, but grey cloud.  Last night we turned on the heat.  The radiators are now warming our apartment nicely (and helping my laundry to dry as an added bonus).  I still felt though, that I needed a little more warmth.  Enter the Cassoulet.  A dish which originated in the South of France and typically contains some combination of meat and beans. Originally named for its cooking vessel, the cassole, Cassoulet now a days is in my eyes, a really nice casserole.  Lots of rich flavours coming together to make a stick to your ribs dish.

As an update to the original post – thekitchn has just posted an entry on cassoulet and links to its’ history in Saveur. Who knew cassoulet was so ‘happening’

This recipe comes from threemanycooks.com, and is found in the promo video for their new cookbook, Perfect One Dish Dinners.  Now I can’t speak for the cookbook, but this recipe was an absolute snap to throw together and the flavours were alright.

bringing it together

getting there...almost ready for the beans

ready for beans

and Dinner!

and Dinner!

Cassoulet – adapted from threemanycooks.com

***note – I don’t say how much of each item – more exciting that way ***

Sausages
Onions
Tomatoes – cherry or whatever you have on hand
Garlic
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Basil
Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Beans -white – I used a canned variety

Put the sausages in a baking dish, roughly chop the onions, smash the garlic and combine them with the sausages. Add the cherry tomatoes (or whatever tomatoes you have on hand).  Add a splash or two of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, tossing to coat. Add some basil (thyme is good too, but I had basil to be used up),  bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Bake for 50 minutes at 350 then add the beans, allow it all to warm up again and serve.

We ate this with salad and crusty bread pita wedges.

Chelsea Physic Garden

On Saturday we found ourselves in the Chelsea Physic (not Psychic) Garden, in swanky Chelsea, beside posh Fulham and just under London’s AmericaVilleTM, Notting Hill.  How did we get in here?  Rather than being honest and saying we’re Canadian, I lied about my peerage and told them I was Lord Fizzlebottom the Third.

Actually, it was a 30th anniversary party for the kind folks who helped us find our neighbourhood.  It played out something like a wedding reception, and we had a great time meeting some new people.

But enough about the people and more about the plants.  The garden is basically a collection of stuff around the world that shouldn’t really be in England (from pineapple to coconut to the trillium).  It exists thanks to Mr. Sloane, who liked Important Plants more than most.  On a cold September evening it’s quite novel to walk around and see this stuff actually growing outdoors, even moreso under a blue sky.

Slideshow (click to view):

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Competitive streak – baking edition

I was recently informed by Mr. 416-expat that his office was having a bake sale to raise money for a local cancer charity and that he wondered if I would make something to contribute.  Make something?  A chance to bake and experiment AND send all the results on to other people?  (Baking adventures where it’s just the two of us and one of us doesn’t like sweets are not good for the waist line)  This opportunity could not be passed up!

The results?  The petite vanilla scones were requested, made, and packed, (I sent a bunch from the last batch with Mr. 416 expat to the office) but I wanted to do something else, something uniquely Canadian.  What’s more Canadian than a maple leaf baking pan and Maple Syrup?

Carrot Cake Muffins with Maple Glaze Icing

Therefore I found a Carrot Cake recipe on Epicurious, added my own Maple glaze drizzle and baked the cake recipe up in a maple leaf pan that was given to us as a Canadian parting gift.  All tied in red ribbons (red for Canada or someone’s employer)

Have you ever noticed that muffin and cake recipies have a TON of oil in them?  Did you know you can replace SOME (not all!) of that oil with other yummy things like apple sauce?  The Carrot Cake Recipe called for 1c of canola oil.  I split the difference and used 1/2 c canola oil and 1/2 c apple sauce.

Now I couldn’t find apple sauce in the grocery store (also not yet found – chocolate chips, peanut butter, and cornmeal but that’s a story for another day).  I found something called apple sauce, but it was more mint jelly-like than apple sauce-like.  Very strange.  Instead I picked up a bag of apples, brought them home and made my own.

Apple Sauceadapted from Anna Olson’s Another Cup of Sugar

2 c apples, peeled, cored, and diced (smaller you cut them up the faster it cooks down)

2 tbsp sugar – Anna says 3 tbsp but I find that too sweet

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1 inch of ginger – I didn’t have any on hand so used a couple of pinches of ground ginger

Put all the ingredients in a pot, bring to a simmer and cook until tender.  Use a potato masher, a blender or a fork to mash it into sauce.  I used an immersion blender but just barely had enough apple sauce to blend efficiently.  My sauce ended up a bit more chunky – some would say rustic, but this isn’t that kind of a place 🙂  This makes about 1c of apple sauce.  And it’s tasty.

Maple Glaze

1 tbsp butter (I use room temperature – soft and squishy makes for easier mixing)

1/2 c icing sugar

3 tbsp maple syrup

Sift the icing sugar and combine all ingredients stirring until well mixed.  I wanted a runnier glaze, if you want something more icing like, use less maple syrup, start with 1 tbsp and go from there.

Stir-Fry for dinner!

Sometimes dinner just needs to be quick, and for me, that means dinner is either take away or a stir fry.  Last night, it was stir-fry.  I found a yummy recipe on thekitchn.com and picked up the ingredients after meeting Mr. 416-expat for lunch.  I didn’t make many drastic changes so have just posted their recipe with my pondering points interspersed (with link and credits)

ingredients gathered

Pork Stir-Fry with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas
serves 4

1 small pork tenderloin (between 12-16 ounces)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry – I didn’t have this so left it out – not missed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon corn starch
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 shallots, sliced thin – I didn’t have these, so used 1/2 a yellow onion –  no harm no foul
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 pound asparagus,trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

First I sliced the pork tenderloin into 1/2″ medallions, then slices the medallions into 2-3 strips, keeping all slices approximately the same size (so they cook up at the same time).  The whole lot of them were then seasoned with S&P

Then I whisked together the soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and corn starch and left it sitting.  Next time I would do this while the pork is cooking.  When it came time (later not now) to add the sauce it had settled and needed re-whisking (is that a word?).

Then I added 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large (14-inch) sauté pan over high heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring and turning strips once or twice, until edges begin to brown and they are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Cooking pork tenderloin...I want it to brown nicely so I leave it alone (the hardest part)

This, for me, is the hardest part.  I want to move those pieces of pork around in the pan, check to see how they’re doing, generally, just muss about.  However, the more you do that, the less likely you are to get nicely browned meat. At a cooking class I took at Calphalon the chef very sternly told us that to properly brown meat, you have to put the meat in the pan and walk away, then, when you think you should check it, leave it alone, then when you can’t hardly bear it, check the meat.  Now, I don’t think he really meant walk away, but I have had better luck since letting the pan do all the hard work.

The second thing I learned, was to avoid over-crowding the pan. Over-crowding means the meat ends up steaming more than browning and searing.  Avoid over-crowding.

Look at that all that browning goodness

At this point in time my kitchen was getting smoked out (windows open, exhaust fan on, Mr. Expat entering the kitchen with fire extinguisher – just kidding about the last part, but he did wonder what was going on).  I think it’s safe to say you can lower the temp of your stove top a bit.  I’m still getting used to cooking with a fake gas stove top.  Not quite as responsive as my old kitchen gas stove.

Back to dinner, then I added the other tablespoon of sesame oil to the pan, and cooked the onions for until they were soft.  Then I added the garlic and ginger.   I added the asparagus,and then add the sugar snap peas cooking them until they were bright green.

asparagus...not yet bright green

I poured half of the water into the pan, and scraped the bottom of the pan to pick up browned bits (brown bits = flavour). I didn’t end up using the other half of the water, my pan had cooled down and wasn’t devouring any an dall available liquid anymore.

nearly done and apparently nearly falling off the stove

At this point I added the red pepper flakes, the sauce and the pork.  The sauce thickened (cornstarch is a thickener that must reach boiling in order to activate) and was all kinds of goodness.  We ate it with the last of the quinoa.

dinner

Germany

I got to travel to Germany for a presentation last week.  I’m glad to report a German factory tour is just what you would expect: clean, efficient, and led by a Hasselhoff superfan.  Within 5 minutes of exiting the airport, I was in the back of a Mercedes S-Class doing 160 on the Autobahn.  And yes, there was lager.

My stay there was pretty short but I was able to take some pictures in and around the small town I stayed in:

Hotel Wilder Mann was where I stayed, which appeard to have a wild man as a logo…

…Mr. Mann was also fond of wardrobe malfunctions.

This couch appeared to be brand new, but for the style.  Is the Eastern Bloc still around?

It really looks like Germany.

Sweet garage.

Der Kastle.