Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spiced Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

Spiced Cranberry Hot Cross Buns


Hot cross buns are an Easter tradition for my family. They will forever hold a special place in my heart. Every year my lovely British grandparents would bring us these delicious buns from the British pantry at Easter time. They have exactly the right amount of sweet yeastiness and they just look so darn cute. This year I tried a twist on the "original" hot cross bun. I am definitely a fan of this recipe and will make it again. Happy Easter to all! Christ is Risen indeed :D



Spiced Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

Adapted from London Bakes

Ingredients
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cups) milk
  • 50g (a little under half a stick) unsalted butter
  • 500g (4 cups) strong bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 75g (1/3 cup) unrefined caster/granulated sugar
  • 1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
  • egg, beaten
  • 100g (4 oz) dried cranberries
  • Zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Olive oil, to grease the cling film
For the cross:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk
For the syrup:
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined caster/granulated sugar

Cooking Directions
  1. Heat the milk in a pan over a low heat until it is just about to boil, stirring to prevent any scorching. Add the butter and stir until it has all melted and leave to cool until it is warm (the same temperature as your hand ie the temperature at which yeast is activated).
  2. Meanwhile, put the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Make a well in the middle and add the warm milk/butter and then the egg. Bring everything together with a wooden spoon and then knead the mixture on a low setting for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  3. Cover the ball of dough loosely with an oiled piece of cling film. Set aside in a warm place for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.
  4. When it has risen, put the bowl back on your stand mixer. Add the cranberries and spices and knead again for a couple of minutes until combined. Re-cover with cling film and allow to rise again for an hour or so until doubled in size.
  5. Divide the dough into equal pieces weighing 75g (3oz). I usually get between 12 and 14 from the mixture.
  6. Place the balls of dough on a baking tray lined with parchment leaving room for them to expand cover, again, with a piece of oiled cling film. Let them rise again for an hour until they have, you've guessed it, doubled in size.
  7. Finally, you're ready to bake! Heat the oven to 200C/375F (fan). 
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  9. While they are cooking, melt the sugar in 2 tablespoons of water. When the hot cross buns are cooked, take them out the oven and brush with the syrup so that they look all shiny and appetising.
  10. While buns are cooling, mix together powdered sugar and milk into a thick frosting. Put in a plastic bag, cut the tip off, and when buns are cool pipe crosses onto the buns. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homemade Fresh Goat Cheese

Homemade Fresh Goat Cheese



I am so blessed to have some of the bestest friends on the planet. One of them being my beautiful friend Chiharu! She never ceases to amaze me with her gentle, selfless love and generosity towards others. Her gifts are SO thoughtful, and when she gave me this cheese making kit for Christmas I was ecstatic! Seriously one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. We made this cheese together last week and it was WAY easier than I ever anticipated it to be. You can make it even if you don't have a cheese making kit! See the tools below that you'll need. Thank you Chi for the cheese making kit and for being such a wonderful human being and friend, I love you bunches!



Homemade Fresh Goat Cheese

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. plus a pinch of citric acid
2 quarts of goat milk
1 tsp cheese salt, or to taste
Herbs (optional)

Tools:
Small bowl
Large pot (at least 3 quarts)
Large slotted spoon
Cooking thermometer
Colander
Fine cheesecloth
Large heat resistant bowl (optional)
Cheese molds (optional)

1. Pour water into the small bowl and stir in citric acid, let stand until dissolved
2. Pour milk into large pot, set over medium heat and heat gently stirring with the slotted spoon every 5 minutes or so to prevent scorching, until milke is foamy and steamy and reaches 190 - 195 degrees F. 
3. Reduce heat to low and before foaming subsides, drizzle in citric acid solution. Cook, stirring very gently to avoid breaking up the curds, for 15-30 seconds. You should see some curdling.
4. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand until you see a clear separation between curds and whey, about 10 minutes. The whey should be creamy yellow, if it still looks like milk add a little more citric acid and stir in gently.
5. Line the colander with the cheesecloth; if you want to keep the whey place a large heat-resistant bowl underneath the colander, then gently pour contents of the pot into the colander. Drain until the curds resemble wet oatmeal (5-10 minutes). Mix in cheese salt and stir the curds gently. Add herbs if desired. Let drain until the curds are the consistency of mashed potatoes. You can taste the curds at this point and adjust salt and herbs if desired.
6. Shape and press into cheese: for little cheese wheels, place the cheese molds on a tray (to catch any liquid) and spoon in some curds, and gently press to eliminate air pockets. For a more rustic wheel, leave the curds in the cheesecloth and gather them into a mound. Fold the cloth over the curds and place on a plate with a plate and weight on top to press. To firm and cool cheeses, let them drain in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or up to overnight. 7. Serve cheeses immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to one week. 




Monday, March 25, 2013

Red Wine Spinach

Red Wine Spinach


Looking for a different sort of recipe to use up that leftover red wine? Look no further! This is the most simple side dish ever. But it still seems so fancy with the red wine and all! Bottom line is, you're going to impress your guests with this dish, and not be sweating all day in the kitchen. Can life get better? Plus it only uses like 2 ingredients so it's real nice on your wallet too. AND an added bonus: an excuse to drink some wine while cooking.


Red Wine Spinach
Adapted from Angie's Recipes

3 cups spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbsp cup butter
2/3 cup red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet. Stir in shallots and garlic and saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Pour red wine and cook until it's syrupy. Add chopped spinach and cook, covered, for 2-3 minutes. Taste with salt and pepper.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Bars

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Bars


Nick and I have such WONDERFUL friends who are willing to drive us everywhere and sub for us in rehearsals! Thanks especially to Robert, Luke, Sam, Alex, and Alex for helping us out this past weekend when we were coming back from Canada. You are all so wonderful and I wish I could give you something more than these cookie bars to thank you! These bars kinda make me think of a brownie squished between two buttery oatmeal cookies. You HAVE TO eat these warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heaven.

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Bars
Adapted from Love, Life, Lavins


2 sticks butter
2 eggs
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup milk
3 cups oatmeal

Mix the butter, eggs and brown sugar.  Add vanilla and milk.  Slowly incorporate the rest of the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  I prefer using a stand mixer since it's quite thick.

In a saucepan over medium heat melt together:

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (typically one bag)

Then, spread 3/4 of the cookie mixture on the bottom of a greased 13x9 pan, pour chocolate mixture, then spread rest of cookie mixture on tops in spoonfuls (won't cover completely-but will leave cool designs). The top can tend to get done before it's completely cooked, so you can put aluminum foil over it for the last ten or so if it looks like it's browning too much. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool, otherwise it won't set up and will just run when you cut into it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, and Kale

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, and Kale


Risotto is one of those all time comfort foods for me. I've only ever made it with rice before, so when I came across this recipe using barley, I knew I had to try it. I was in high need of some comfort food after my 16 hours of traveling last Monday. And what better way to relieve stress and wind down than to cook? Though this isn't a super fast recipe, the prep is very easy and there is little "hands-on" time. So all in all, it's rather simple. Trust me, the comforting and complex flavors are well worth the wait.


Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, and Kale
Adapted from She Knows

Ingredients:


  • 1 cup pot barley
  • 3-1/2 cups broth (I used mushroom, but veggie and chicken will also work well)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped into small squares
  • 1-1/2 cups small button mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • 2 1/2 cups packed kale, shredded
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Place the onions and olive oil in a large pot. Heat for 2–3 minutes. Add in the garlic, and continue cooking until onions start to become tender.
  2. Pour in the barley, and toast it in the oil for up to a minute.
  3. Pour in the vegetable broth, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potato, and stir to cover it with the broth. Cover with the lid, and let cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the mushrooms, and cook for 20 minutes. Keep the heat on low so the barley doesn't burn, and stir regularly.
  6. Toss in the kale, salt, pepper, and oregano. Stir until the kale has wilted.
  7. Transfer the risotto into bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or cheese substitute if desired, and serve.
Note: If barley or sweet potatoes seem undercooked or all broth has been absorbed, add water 1 Tbsp at a time until it reaches a desired readiness.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Flourless Chocolate Cake


Flourless Chocolate Cake

Cake with no flour?!? That’s not possible. Well actually it is. Basically this cake is magic. Brace yourself though cause it can get intense. If you like your brownies fudgy, you will most definitely like this cake.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Ingredients:
·       6 1-ounce squares coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate
·       1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
·       3/4 cup sugar
·       3 large eggs
·       1/2 cup cocoa
·       1/4 teaspoon salt
·       1 teaspoon vanilla
·       For Glaze:
·       2 1-ounce squares coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate squares
·       1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
·       1 1/2 teaspoon milk OR light coconut milk
·       1 1/2 teaspoons Agave syrup OR honey
·       1/8 teaspoon vanilla
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°F

Spray a 7-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. If you don't have a tart pan, use a 6 to 7-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the paper.


1.     Melt 6 ounces of chopped chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.
2.     Add sugar and salt and reduce heat to low. Cook while stirring for about one minute, until sugar starts to dissolve.
3.     Remove pan from heat. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. The mixture will look smooth and glossy.
4.     Use a mesh hand sieve to sift cocoa into mixture. This prevents lumps. Whisk until the cake batter is smooth.
5.     Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes. The center of the cake should be just firm to the touch, but be careful to not overbake the cake or it will be dry.
6.     Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake on a plate.
7.     To prepare the glaze, melt 2 ounces of chopped chocolate and 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in the same saucepan you used to make the cake. When melted and smooth, remove the pan from heat. Add milk and Agave syrup OR honey and vanilla and stir until smooth and glossy. Let the glaze cool for about 3 minutes before pouring it on the cake.
8.     Pour all of the glaze in the middle of the cake. Use a silicone or rubber spatula to spread the glaze evenly over the cake, allowing the glaze to evenly run down the sides of the cake.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Bars

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Bars


Chocolate and peanut butter is literally one of the best combinations on the planet. OK, lets get real, anything plus chocolate is a fantastic combination. Especially dark chocolate...oh my goodness...I could go on and on and on...so good. Only problem with the chocolate peanut butter combo is that it gets really rich, really fast. But I'm ok with that. These bars, Reeses pieces, peanut butter cups, choc-pb milkshakes etc...all amazing. But really if you haven't tried chocolate peanut butter ice cream, your life is not yet complete. I hope after reading this post, you buy yourself some of this sinfully delicious ice cream. Ugh...now I'm drooling.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I used dark)
4 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped peanuts for garnish


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners' sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan lined with wax paper.
  2. In a metal bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Sprinkle with peanuts. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gluten Free Apple Crisp

Gluten Free Apple Crisp


I had the great pleasure of staying with the Galuban family this past weekend at their home in Dallas. They are hands down some of the sweetest and most fun people to hang out with. Nick and I made this apple crisp for everyone our last night there. I must admit, it was a partially selfish move on my part because I LOVE apple crisp, but I think everyone else loved it too, so it worked out. This is one of those recipes that is super simple to whip together but still tastes delicious. Serve a scoop of it over vanilla ice cream and I promise you won't be disappointed!


Gluten Free Apple Crisp
Adapted from The Wanna be Chef


Ingredients(Makes about 6 servings):
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons oat flour*
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
*You can make this easily yourself by grinding oats in a food processor.

Method:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the diced apples, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. Pour the water into an 8 x 8 baking pan and dump in the apple mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, oat flour, brown sugar, and pecans.
  5. Pour the melted butter into the flour mixture and mix them together completely.
  6. Spread the crumble mixture out evenly on top of the layer of apples.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust has hardened and turns golden. Serve hot.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup


This post has certainly taken it's sweet time getting published! Life has been a lil' bit crazy these past two weeks and I've completely neglected my blog. Sorry guys, I hope you'll still follow my blog! 

Anyway, this recipe was inspired by my beautiful and wonderful cousin Kaylie! She told me about the recipe while I was visiting home and it sounded so delicious I decided to make it the week I got home. Plus I have a million cans of black beans I need to use in my cupboard. This is a perfect hearty soup that goes a long way. Though it definitely fills you up, it is full of super healthy veggies and beans. Enjoy!


Black Bean Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 pinch black pepper
4 cups of broth (veggie or chicken)
3 (15 ounce) cans black beans
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion, celery, carrots, green pepper, and garlic for 5 minutes. Season with chili powder, cumin, and black pepper; cook for 1 minute. Stir in vegetable broth, 1 can of beans, and corn. Bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, process remaining 2 cans beans and tomatoes until smooth. Stir into boiling soup mixture, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes.