Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Sauce

My sister and I both baked pie pumpkins and made homemade pies for Thanksgiving. My sister had extra that she froze and decided to make a pumpkin cake recipe that we had in one of our parenting magazines and brought it up to our place for Christmas. However, with all the treats that we had, we never ended up having it while everyone was here. So, she was gracious enough to leave a few pieces for us and I made the caramel sauce for Sean and I to have a treat one evening. It was a nice moist cake which wasn't overpowered with pumpkin. The caramel sauce was flavoured with apple cider and was the perfect compliment. It would be a great Thanksgiving dessert next year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Monkey Bread or Plucketts?

Many people commonly know this breakfast/dessert as monkey bread, including my husbands' family. However, we grew up calling it plucketts as you "pluck" the pieces of bread to eat. I have to admit that I've never actually made it myself, but I have assisted my mum in making it many times. It's essentially dough, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon that are mixed all together and pressed into a bundt pan. I've seen cooking stores selling "monkey bread pans," but a bundt pan works just fine and gives it a nice shape. Mum always put walnuts in the bottom of the bundt pan so when you turned it out after baking it would be adorned with sugary walnuts. Mum brought this over the day after Christmas for all of us to enjoy while we were prepping for lunch that day.

Plucketts were one of those treats we had on a weekend growing up, like having homemade cinnamon rolls every once in a while. In fact, mum and I took at cinnamon roll class at Meijer Gardens recently, but they were gone before I could snap any photos to share.

Did your family have a tradition of making this and what did you call it?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cookies and Milk

We've all tried many different types of chocolate chip cookies, but the recipe I have seems to surpass any that I can recollect. It's perfectly chewy on the inside and crispy around the edges. And, of course, it's best warm with melting chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli this time). I think the idyllic texture is due to the use of shortening. I tend to bake with butter instead of Crisco, but I have it in the pantry specifically for this recipe. I'm not sure where the recipe originated either, but I wrote it on a recipe card from somewhere. The recipe makes three dozen and it's not that great to have so many cookies around waiting to be eaten, so I tend to make a full batch and freeze several small packets that will make 6-12 cookies so I can bake them in a pinch for the two of us to have a treat or if we have company. Ah...gooey warm cookies with a tall glass of cold milk!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

This was the first year that I tried making pumpkin pie from scratch. I've always made my own pastry and mixed together the filling, but I've typically used canned pumpkin. I roasted a sugar or pie pumpkin a few weeks ago, pureed the cooked pumpkin and kept it in the freezer until a few days before Thanksgiving. I used Martha Stewart's "Classic Pumpkin Pie" recipe for the filling and used homemade pastry and made an oak leaf pattern around the edge with the extra pastry. It was well worth it as the flavor was fantastic, especially served along with pumpkin whip cream.

My Favourite Thanksgiving Sides

It was a quiet and peaceful Thanksgiving dinner this year. We stayed home (which we realized hadn't done in about five years) and made a simple meal for just us and my mum. The turkey turned out perfectly, but the stuffing wasn't the greatest this year (which Sean admitted to me). I need to stick to the recipe I've used in the past! However, my favourite side dishes this year were the ever so sweet potato casserole topped with golden marshmallows (which Audrey loved!) and the sauteed brussel sprouts with pancetta.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Butternut Squash Bisque

There is this Amish farm stand in mid-Michigan that I always like to visit and get food when I'm visiting my mum. I get my maple syrup and eggs from them and this time of year they always have a bountiful selection of pumpkins, gourds and all kinds of squash. This year, I bought nearly a dozen squash and my favourite is still butternut. Each autumn I make this butternut squash bisque and it's the most comforting soup for a gray fall day like today. For this recipe, I used four squash and roasted them cut sides up draped with pancetta. The squash soaks in all the flavor from the pancetta and then I reserve the pancetta to cut up and sprinkle on top to serve. It's such a perfect combination of savoury and sweet. I have just one squash left from my trip to the Amish farm stand and I plan to use it for Thanksgiving. Audrey tried squash for the first time recently and loves it too!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Best Autumn Bread

Several years ago, I found an apple bread recipe to try when I had a bunch of extra apples in the fall. We instantly loved it and it has turned out to be a family favorite. In fact, I recently cut up extra apples so I could make it for my brother this weekend as he's the one that always requests it. The recipe makes two large loaves and I often times make one large loaf and two mini ones so I can send them home with people. It always reminds me of autumn and is the best with a cup of hot cider or tea. Sugar and spice and everything nice!

Homemade Teething Biscuits

Of any baby I've been around the past year, I have the biggest teether out there. Audrey started getting teeth at only 4 months and she has almost all of them at 13 months! I found a simple recipe for homemade teething biscuits that involves just four natural ingredients to make these yummy sweet biscuits. Using a "donut" shaped cookie cutter and taking out the middle makes them easy for her to hold onto as well. One of the best things is that it takes her a good 15 minutes or so to finish one so I have time to clean up after a meal and do the dishes while she enjoys it. You should see her face when she sees I'm bringing her one - a big dimply smile!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tea at the Crown & Crumpet

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I made Sean take me to Crown & Crumpet, a fairly new yet very highly publicized tea "salon" in the famous Ghiradelli Square. It has a very fun menu, decor, retail shop and tea time experience. They blend their own teas and we tried the Paris tea (with a hint of vanilla) and their own house black tea blend. The tea was lovely, especially served in their customized cups and saucers with witty tea quotes. However, we were not that impressed with our meal. For a place with "crumpet" as a part of their name, our crumpets were so very dry and rubbery that I could barely cut it with my knife. And, while I do think my scone recipe is quite good, it was miles better than the scones they had that were very dry and crumbly (not to mention small). Crown & Crumpet did a great job of catching my eye and providing a good experience (as well as much inspiration for my future endeavour). But, it didn't do a very good job of pleasing my palette.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cupcake Party


For Audrey's 1st birthday, I decided to do a cupcake theme. Cupcakes are fun, kid size and allow you to provide several options. And, not only did we end up doing dessert cupcakes, but most of the entire meal was in cupcake form including meatloaf cupcakes with piped mashed potato, macaroni and cheese cupcakes and pizza cupcakes. The dessert options included roasted banana with honey cinnamon butter cream, vanilla with vanilla butter cream, chocolate with peanut butter frosting and cream cheese filled chocolate cupcakes. With all the different kinds, I was very thankful to have family to help with the frosting and decorating for the party. I've definitely been on a cupcake kick and have since made them for the cake walk at Audrey's Montessori school and have had fun decorating them in different ways. I love all the different cupcake papers you can get too. How did the birthday girl like her cupcake? She thoroughly enjoyed the roasted banana cupcake and didn't hold back one bit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Museum Lunch

I don’t often leave the office to have lunch, but I took a walk with a colleague one day and was glad that I did as we had some good conversation and a very tasty lunch at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) café. I had the portobello mushroom ravioli with a butternut squash sauce and a bordeaux reduction. Not only was it a beautiful presentation, but it was a fantastic meal. And, it was a very fitting meal for the first day of Autumn.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Relish This - Grilled Salmon with Corn, Tomato and Avocado Relish

This was a very simple, light and lovely meal we had one evening recently. We just grilled the salmon and made the no-cook relish while it was on the grill. We enjoyed our salmon with the relish and Audrey had some of the avocado with us – one of her favorites! It’s a wonderful light summer meal and great with a chilled glass of white wine.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Afternoon Tea for Two Weeks

On our recent visit to England with Audrey, we vowed to try to find somewhere to have afternoon tea every day we were there. Audrey always has an afternoon snack, so going out for afternoon tea would allow us to find a place for her to have her snack and we could enjoy afternoon tea and scones each day and take a breather from sightseeing. For the most part we succeeded in having afternoon tea most every day and it ranged from the quaint tea rooms of Alfriston, the Pump Room in Bath to a café in Caerphilly. I was surprised to discover that most places didn’t offer fruit scones with raisins, so we primarily had plain scones and always tried to get the sinfully good clotted cream and strawberry jam to go along with it. Here are some photos of the scones we enjoyed. The English strawberries with cream were fantastic at the Pump Room. But, my favorite is still The Singing Kettle in Alfriston.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Baked Camembert and Crusty Bread

We enjoyed a lovely candlelit dinner with Audrey and my cousins at my favorite pub in England – the Giant’s Rest. The Giant’s Rest (http://www.giantsrest.co.uk/) is a quaint and simple country pub with a fantastic menu with features listed on a chalkboard on the wall.
I used to study there over a glass of wine when I was going to school at Queen’s and have since had dinner there on most every visit with Sean. We started our meal with this baked camembert. It was served warm and gooey and we broke apart the bread to dip in – yum!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Filet Takeout

Everyday has its rewards. Mine today was a lovely filet dinner that my husband brought home to me from the golf club. After a full day at the office, a fun evening of reading and playing with my baby daughter, Audrey, and serving her a three course meal, it was a wonderful treat to enjoy a three course meal of our own after she was sleeping peacefully. This meal involved no waiting for a table, perusing a menu or entertaining the baby while we wait for our meal.

We enjoyed our gourmet takeout along with a bottle of red wine. We are short on the grocery store variety and ended up opening a bottle of red that we brought back from France a few years back. It was a 2001 Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone that was simple, smooth, tasty and perfect with my meal of filet, asparagus and fried croquettes of mashed potato. To start, I had a salad with tomato, cucumber, blue cheese and balsamic dressing. Yum!

I was also happy to find that we can restock the wine rack and buy this wine online for a mere $10 a bottle (www.wine.com).