How to: Seasonal Cooking – Plum Cake

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So…I birthed a baby!  A real life human child!

Best excuse for skipping a few weeks of blogging ever.

The wee girl came a little earlier than expected. She’s healthy as a horse though, so don’t y’all worry.

Despite my resolve to keep my blogging act together once she came along, I admit I just wasn’t prepared.  C’est la vie.  I find myself saying that a lot these days.

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One of the many things I did not anticipate about raising a newborn is my absolutely insatiable appetite due to breastfeeding.  Especially for the carbs and the sweet stuff – the quick energy foods.

I am having WAY more cravings now than I did throughout my pregnancy.  Gimme all the fruits and the candies and the breads and the cookies and the cakes, please.

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Thankfully, from a healthy living perspective, it’s prime harvest season and all the very best seasonal fruit is on offer.  Most of the time, I’m satisfied with a ginormous hunk of watermelon or a big juicy peach.

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However, when fruit doesn’t cut the mustard on it’s own?  I put it in cake.  Obviously.

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I bought these prune plums (otherwise known as italian plums) at the farmers’ market on a whim.  They looked great and they were a great deal.  Once I got them home though, I realized they were a titch underripe and too tart for my taste.  Nothing a little sugar and baking can’t fix.

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So I went searching for a recipe on my go-to baking blog, Smitten Kitchen.  I found the easiest cake imaginable.  Easy is my friend.

This cake is top notch and I plan on trying it with other seasonal fruit for sure. I love the simplicity of the recipe and will be adding it to my short list of ‘guaranteed easy and crowd pleasing desserts’.

Giver ‘er a go.

Erin

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Plum Cake

Serves 8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Website Recipe courtesy of Deb Perlman over at Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar (divided)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 italian/ prune plums (halved and pitted)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Add flour mixture slowly until just combined. Batter will be very thick.
3. Transfer batter into a non-stick 9 inch springform pan (no need to grease the pan). Place plum halves cut side down over the batter. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, cinnamon and then 1 Tbsp sugar.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes until toothpick comes out of batter (not plums!) clean. Cool thoroughly before serving.

How To: You Only Live Once – S’mores Dip

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Well hello there! It’s been a while – about one month to be exact.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for our blog silence this past month. Between life, work, and summer vacations, there was really very little cooking happening in our kitchens these past few weeks.

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But as summer sadly is coming to an end, we are getting our butts back in gear and back in the kitchen. And can I just say I am so happy about that. Sure, a little cooking break does a body good now and then, but I sure do miss my home cooking.

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And what better way to kick off our blogging return than an unbelievable dessert. The classic campfire treat can now be made any time of year – perfect for drowning your end of summer sorrows. I had seen this recipe circulating the blog world and after my husband and I devoured it this past weekend I knew I just had to share it with all of you. I made it to serve two very hungry adults, but feel free to double or triple it for a crowd. But I have to say, I kind of like the cute individual portions.

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Serve this dip with graham crackers to recreate the classic summertime treat, or just dig in with a spoon. I am not one to judge!

Dara

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S’mores Dip

Serves 2-3
Meal type Dessert
Website Dessert For Two

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 marshmallows (cut in half)
  • graham crackers (for serving)

Note

This dip can easily be doubled or tripled to serve a crowd. It makes a great show stopper dessert for a dinner party or a casual night at home.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Divide chocolate chips evenly among two single serving ramekins or one 6 inch baking dish. Top evenly with marshmallow halves.
3. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until marshmallow begin to brown. If they haven't browned yet, broil for about 1 minute, watching closely so they don't burn. Serve warm with graham crackers for dipping and a spoon for eating straight up!

How To: Big Batch – Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Baked Orzo

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Can you believe it? I have an ACTUAL meal to share with you. Not a snack, not granola, but a real live dinner MEAL!

After watching my daughter eat one too many bowls of mac and cheese (and it wasn’t the homemade kind), I finally got the kick in the butt I needed to get back on the meal planning track. And what did I make? Well, I guess this is kind of an upscale version of mac and cheese – but instead of mac we have orzo, and instead of plain old cheese sauce, we have lots of delicious vegetables, chunks of mozzarella, and lemon zest and oregano.

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This recipe makes a double batch – perfect to eat one now and freeze one for later. If you don’t want such a big serving (then I think you are crazy because this is delicious) but feel free to half the recipe and make just one pan. Big batch meals are perfect for me as you all well know summer is not my prime cooking time – who else can second that?

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One of the great things about this baked orzo casserole is that there is no need to pre cook the orzo. Everything gets cooked together in the same pan – a one pot meal means less clean up. Something I also would rather not do in the summer, or anytime for that matter.

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While I hope my cooking mojo is here to stay, at least if it’s not I have a dinner waiting in my freezer. No boring old mac and cheese tonight kids!

Dara

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Baked Orzo

Serves 8
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable
Website Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplant
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrot (diced)
  • 2 celery stalk (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 450 gram box orzo
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 ball mozzarella (diced)
  • 1 cup parmesan (grated)
  • 5 tomatoes (sliced)
  • salt and pepper

Note

If you didn't want to bake a big batch, you could easily half this recipe to serve 4. You can roast the eggplant ahead of time and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the orzo.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread eggplant cubes evenly over sheets and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast in the oven until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
2. Heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the orzo, tomato paste, and roasted eggplant and cook for another two minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat and add half of the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, lemon zest, water, and salt and pepper. Mix until combined.
4. Spray 2 8 x 8 baking dishes with cooking spray and divide orzo mixture evenly among them. Lay sliced tomatoes out evenly along the top and sprinkle with remaining oregano, and salt and pepper.
5. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and cover baking dishes with foil. Bake for 20 minutes with foil on and then another 25 minutes with foil off. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving so orzo can firm up.
6. Once cooled, you can cover tightly and freeze as is, or separate into individual servings and freeze.

 

 

How to: Recipe Makeover – Grilled Potato Poutine with Mushroom Gravy

IMG_5516I’m not even sure where to start.  I am without words.

Ok, one word.

Poutine (drops mic, walks off stage)

IMG_5437This one’s killer, guys.

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It’s potato salad season and I’ve been looking for something new and cutting-edge. A real crowd pleaser.

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Things that please crowds:

  • Gravy
  • Cheese
  • Grill marks

This, I can work with.

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This gravy recipe is out of this world.  I’m going to make it and put it on everything from now until forever, amen.

It’s super complex and ‘meaty’ with the perfect amount of sweetness and acid from the balsamic vinegar.  A perfect complement to the cheese curds.

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And yes, fries are traditional.  I’m telling you though, the grilled potatoes…boomshalaka. Also, there’s the improved healthiness factor. So, bonus.

IMG_5464This can be served on individual plates as a side, or even as a meal with a little side salad.  It’s super impressive on a big platter served family style too.  You’ll want to make sure no one else is bringing potato salad if this is for a potluck, lest you shame them from the party.

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Holy cannoli that looks awesome.

Erin

Grilled Potato Poutine with Mushroom Gravy

Serves 4-6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Website Gravy adapted from Epicurious.com

Ingredients

  • 1 ½lb new potatoes (halved or quartered into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 bunch green onion (washed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil (divided)
  • salt & pepper
  • 200g cheese curds

Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1lb cremini mushrooms (or a combination of any other varieties)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions

1. Preheat barbecue to medium-high, about 350F.
Toss potatoes in 1½ Tbsp of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss green onion with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Transfer potatoes to a grilling basket or wrap in aluminum foil. Place on indirect heat on the grill. Place green onion on direct heat and grill for about 2 minutes, flipping once, until slightly softened and charred. Remove onions, cool slightly and slice.
Close barbecue and continue to cook potatoes for 20-25 minutes on indirect heat, stirring once halfway through.
Move potatoes over to direct heat (if you're using aluminum foil and you want a grilled flavour, put potatoes directly onto grill). Continue cooking over direct heat for additional 10 minutes, stirring/flipping potatoes every minute or two for even grilling.
3. While potatoes are cooking, in a 10" heavy bottom skillet heat butter over medium heat. Add onions, cook for 3-4 minute until soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 additional minute.
4. Add mushrooms and soy sauce. Cook over medium-high heat until all liquid is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 7-9 minutes. Add broth and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated.
5. Add corn starch to cold water, stir until completely dissolved and add slowly to mushrooms. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes until gravy consistency reached. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
6. Top warm grilled potatoes with cheese curds, hot gravy and green onions. Serve immediately.

How To: Snack Healthy – Chocolate and Dried Fruit Granola Chunks

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If we are being honest, this recipe didn’t quite start out as “chunks.” In fact, it wasn’t even in the “healthy snack” category. I had originally titled this post a “make your own granola bar” post. However, that didn’t turn out quite as planed. I even posted a photo on instagram commenting on my failed recipe for chocolate chunk granola bars.

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Well sometimes your biggest failures can actually be your biggest successes. I’m sure there is a famous quote somewhere that can say that better but moral of the story here is, a granola bar failure lead to a granola chunk success.

As I was attempting to cut these into uniform bars, they sort of formed more “chunk”-like shapes, with some of the oat mixture crumbling to the sides. Side note – this is why it is very important to listen to my instructions and press down firmly before baking and let them cool completely in the fridge prior to cutting. Back to the story- my husband came by, grabbed a chunk, moaned in delight, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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These granola chunks are loaded with dark chocolate and dried cranberries and make the perfect afternoon snack. You can wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze them for a grab-and-go option or store them for about a week in a sealed container at room temperature.

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My granola bar failure is your chocolate snack reward. And lets face it, chocolate granola chunks just sounds so much better than your boring old granola bars, no?

Dara

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Chocolate and Dried Fruit Granola Chunks

Serves 30ish chunks
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Snack
Website Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (or grind oats in the food processor until finely ground)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cups quinoa (raw)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup all natural peanut or almond butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Note

These granola chunks tend to be a bit crumbly, so make sure to press down really well before baking and cool in the fridge. The odd crumbly bits are delicious sprinkled over yogurt or ice cream.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides a little.
2. In a large bowl combine oats, oat flour, quinoa, coconut, salt, chocolate chunk and dried fruit. Mix to combine.
3. In a small bowl combine oil, peanut butter, and honey. Mix to combine. Pour wet ingredients over oat mixture and stir until evenly coated. Pour into prepared pyrex and spread out evenly, pressing down as you go. Take another piece of parchment and use it to protect your hands as you press down very hard, spreading the mixture as flat as you can to the edges.
4. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Remove and let cool in the fridge until cold, a couple hours or over night.
5. Once fully cool, cut bars into squares or chunks. Some of the oat mixture may crumble a bit but you should get about 30ish chunks of delicious oats and chocolate. Store at room temp or wrap them individually and freeze them, defrosting for about an hour before you wish to eat.