About Jasmine

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3.14

Because I go to a fairly nerdy school and because I am friends with a handful of math students, I have found myself surrounded by people who care that today, March fourteenth, is Pi Day. Now, I am not personally a fan of math, but I am a fan of pi(e), which makes today a good day for math and I to temporarily reconcile.

Unlike Chelsea, I’m not a pie expert. Lucky for me, I am related to one. My dad is a great pie maker. I think it’s fitting that I talk about him today since he taught me how to make pie, and attempted to teach me how to do math. He was (and still is) exceedingly patient with me. The time I added water to the flour before the butter and created a sticky paste, or the time(s) I burst  into to tears at 10:00 on a school night* over the math problem that I just could not get right, he would simply shake his head and help me start over.
*10:00 was late back in the day. Especially on a school night. 

My very favourite kind of pie in the whole wide world is my dad’s blueberry pie. With some help from my unusually patient brothers at home (who I called not once but three times today) I was able to acquire Dad’s recipe.

Like I said, I don’t have loads of pie wisdom but I do have a few little tips:

  1. Keep your dough as cold as possible while you’re working.
  2. Mix by hand.
  3. If you don’t own a rolling pin you can use a wine bottle (#studentproblems). If you fill it with icy water it will help with tip 1.
  4. Rub a little milk on top of your crust right before you put it in the oven. When I was little my dad would let me drink the extra milk from the pie. I always thought it tasted better than regular milk, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense because the only difference was that it had our fingers in it, and maybe a few crust bits.

I don’t have much to say about the butter vs shortening debate except that it is one that will go on forever. Essentially butter tastes nicer and shortening gets flakier. In the end, you can still make a flaky pie crust with butter or a tasty one with shortening, so I usually use whichever I have around.

After a gorgeous day of perfect weather and casual baking I was fortunate enough to share this pi pie with some people that I like. Later I was even more fortunate to be able to go for a walk in the park in a t-shirt. It was a very happy Pi Day indeed.

Now I’m off to work on some stats homework because it suits the math-y nature of 3.14 day and because I promised that I would. There’s a chance I’m also being bribed a little.

Dad’s Blueberry Pie

For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
4-6 tbsp cold water

For the filling:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
rind of one lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups blueberries (if frozen, thaw and drain)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter

Sift the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Cube cold butter then add to the flour and mix with a pastry blender until it resembles small peas. Add water as needed and mix until everything comes together into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 45 minutes or as much as two days. You can also freeze for a rainy day.

In the meantime, mix flour, sugar, lemon rind and cinnamon. Carefully fold in berries. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

When the dough has reached the firmness of cold butter you can begin to roll it into two circles. If you’re like me and don’t own a rolling pin you can fill an empty wine bottle with cold water, which has the added bonus of keeping your dough extra cold. Lay one circle of dough over a 9″ pie dish and then pour in filling. Sprinkle on lemon juice and dot with butter. Cover berries with the rest of the dough. Cut out something pretty or just poke some holes for the steam to escape. Rub a little milk on top and then bake at 425F for 40-45 minutes.

“Desserts” Spelled Backwards

This picture pretty much defines my life at the moment. I’ve been using baking as a coping mechanism, and since the cake from last wednesday is long gone, I made it again! Same cake, but with upgraded icing. This one is more work, but 100% worth the effort.

As a kid I wasn’t much of an icing fan, I always scraped most of it off and plopped it onto the plate of my little brother, who always received the extra helping of sugar happily. These days, I’m a bit more hit and miss. I’ll devour a good icing, but the thick, sickly sweet kind found on grocery store sheet cakes will never have a place in my heart. That’s right folks, I’m an icing snob and proud of it!

I think the Alice in Wonderlandesque message reflects my current state of mind. Yeah? This icing is light and creamy, sweet but not over the top. It lets the cake itself take the centre stage. The measurements listed will make enough for the Everyday Chocolate Cake, or any other round (eightish inches) two layer cake.

Anyway, I think I’ll go fall asleep in my clothes now read a textbook and do some sit-ups.

Whipped Buttercream Icing
Adapted from epicurious

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sifted flour
1-1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter on medium speed, 3 to 5 minutes, in a standing mixer or with a hand mixer until soft, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of the cream and the flour and whisk until there are no lumps. Over medium heat, slowly add the remaining 3/4 cup cream, whisking constantly, and cook until the mixture comes to a low boil. Then reduce the heat to low and keep whisking for a few more minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat, but keep stirring. (After you have removed the pan from the heat, the mixture will continue to cook for a minute or two on its own. If you overheat it and get small lumps, try to whisk vigorously to get them out, or pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.) If necessary, place the pan over a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and allow the mixture to cool.

Once the cream mixture has thickened, set it aside to cool to room temperature. You can stick it in the freezer to rush the cooling.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the cream mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add vanilla to combine. Stick in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Happy Wednesday!

Do you ever have one of those days where you’re sitting on the couch, reading a John Cleland novel, and you’re suddenly hit with an unignorable hankering for a Pina Colada? Before you know it, you’re standing in the grocery store trying to decide which brand of coconut milk to buy.

No?

You should try it sometime. It’s awesome.

With my tropical drink craving satisfied I moved right along to chocolate cake. I picked an easy, one bowl recipe from BBC food and tinkered with it a bit, converting the measurements (which were in grams) to cups, replacing the vegetable oil with coconut oil and adding a teaspoon of esspresso powder.

As I mixed, I had a fantastic idea. Gillian and I have matching giant teacups (you may have seen mine here or her’s here) that we once bought together at a thrift store. Chelsea loves them and uses Gillian’s all the time. So naturally, I thought of her when I found a third matching teacup at the same thrift store yesterday! Since they’ve already been proven heat-safe I thought this would be a fantastic way to show my co-blogger some Wednesday love. Not to mention, an excuse for a surprise visit to “headquarters” a.k.a Chelsea’s house, where I ended up eating some awesome nachos! There is always something tasty cooking in that kitchen.

As I said, this cake is ridiculously easy to make, easy to clean up afterwards and the ingredients are probably already in your cupboard, making it the perfect last minute chocolate cake. My only moment of panic came during the final step when I added in the hot water and saw my batter turn to a consistency so viscous it could have easily been mistaken for a beverage. I checked and double checked the recipe, then checked and double checked my conversion thinking that there was no way I had done it right. In spite of a rather understated note in the recipe that “the cake mixture will now be very liquid” I was sure my cake would be a disaster. But, I reasoned to myself that this is the BBC… I’ll just keep calm and carry on.

And guess what folks? It worked!

In the end I had one teacup cake, six small cupcakes and one round cake about 8 inches in diameter. If you’re making a regular two layered cake you’ll want two pans about 9 inches in diameter.

For the icing, I just did a really simple mix of half and half cream, unsalted butter, icing sugar and vanilla. Go by feel till you’ve got what you want. In order to avoid making Chelsea’s two roommates jealous, I personalized cupcakes for them, and while I was at it made some for my own roommates as well. Thanks to my lack of patience and the fact that it took forever to bake, the icing on the teacup cake was a litt-le melty. I should have let it cool for longer but I was just so dang excited!

As you may have deduced, I had a fantastic Wednesday. I hope you did too!

Everyday Chocolate Cake
Adapted from BBC food

2 cups flour
1-1/3 cup sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1-1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp espresso powder
1 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease your pans.

Measure all ingredients except for boiling water into a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Then add the boiling water a little at a time until everything is combined and your “cake batter” looks like a giant bowl of hot chocolate.

Pour into cake pans. If using round 9″ pans, bake for 25-35 minutes. If making cupcakes, bake for 15-25 minutes. If making a teacup cake bake for an hour or more. Of course, you can always check if your cake is done with a wooden skewer.

Look at that! You’re done already!

Happy Belated.

Hi. Remember me? It’s been a while.

Since I last posted I’ve finished one term and started another. I’ve skied in the Rockies and the Laurentians. I’ve found a place to live in the fall, cleaned my room (it’s worth mentioning), had my first financial crisis, and started spending more time at church. I’ve dreadlocked (some of) my hair, welcomed two new roommates into the house and become obsessed with Fun.. Relationships that I hoped would last have ended, but they’ve been replaced with ones I never expected to form. Christmas cheer has come and gone and we’ve celebrated not one, but two New Years (welcome to the year of the dragon!). On January 3rd Canadians hung their heads in shame while Russia celebrated and today we’re all supposed to drink beer watch a bunch of huge guys play with an oddly shaped ball, or so I hear. (Side note: I’ve always found footballs frustrating because when they hit the ground it’s impossible to tell which direction they’re going to go!).

Since “better late than never” is the cliche I live my life by, I figured that this particular lazy Sunday would be a good day to finally make good on my promise to post part two of Gillian’s birthday cake.

As you may remember, Chelsea and I teamed up to make our dear friend Gillian a birthday cake (one of three! Lucky girl). In the interest of time, we baked the cake together a few days ahead of time and I decorated it on the day of her birthday celebration.

I found an icing recipe that looked pretty much perfect on Smitten Kitchen. I thought that the semi-sweet chocolate icing would compliment the banana cake much better than any buttercream ever could. So I pulled up Deb’s recipe for “Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting” and then proceeded to alter it until it was completely unrecognizable. Deb would probably take one look at what I’ve done and exclaim that I’ve completely destroyed the integrity of her frosting, and, well, I have. BUT I am totally happy with the result, and I think the birthday girl was too.

My grandmother, who is an excellent cake baker, taught my mother to always freeze your cake after it’s cooled and before you ice. My mother passed this on to me and I have been grateful for the tip ever since as it allows you to make the cake a few days in advance without it going stale and makes icing and assembling your masterpiece infinitely easier. Another important icing tip is to ice a thin “crumb coat” at the start. It will make a world of difference.

The white writing is an icing sugar/sour cream mixture that I threw together in a panic when I realized that brown on brown wouldn’t make for very attractive decorating. The lighter brown icing is just a half and half mixture of the chocolate icing and the white concoction, because I thought the sides needed “a little something”.

Below is the recipe for a bittersweet chocolate icing that will rock your world. But don’t forget to pour yourself a tall glass of cold milk, this one ain’t for the faint of heart. Happy belated, Gillian!

Bittersweet Chocolate Icing

4 squares of bakers chocolate
1/2 cup icing sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1-1/8 cup sour cream (room temperature)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (give or take a few tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the bakers chocolate in a double boiler, then stir in espresso, butter, cocoa powder and icing sugar.

In a large bowl whisk remaining ingredients, adjusting corn syrup to your own preference of sweetness.

Combine the chocolate mixture with the sour cream mixture (making sure the temperature difference between the two is not too extreme) and then chill in the fridge until spreadable (about half an hour).

Enjoy!

Pumpkins again.

It is possible that I am beginning to tire of pumpkin. But I am also in the throes of exams. As such I thought today would be a good day to talk about a recipe I made a while back, during my obsession with pumpkin. These pumpkin pancakes were absolutely delicious, and I honestly have no idea why it has taken this long for me to get around to posting them.

During my pumpkin craze I had a huge list of pumpkin things I wanted to try. The muffins I wrote about on this blog, but also pumpkin cakes, cookies, stir frys, casseroles, and waffles. I had dozens of recipes bookmarked, and while there are lots I didn’t get to, I did manage quite a lot.

But the pancakes. Do you have any idea how many recipes for pumpkin pancakes there are out there? I had at least four bookmarked. So friends, what I give you today is a hybrid of some of the recipes I found (along with my own ideas of course).

My main inspiration came from Adrianna over at A Cozy Kitchen, which you should really check it. Her post on Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes is an especially great one, not to mention the photography really puts this post to shame (for some reason I really didn’t come out with very many decent photos after making these). A fun fact about A Cozy Kitchen? Adrianna started her food blog with a friend. JUST LIKE ME AND CHELSEA. I guess it isn’t that uncommon, but I still thought it was neat.  Caroline now writes for a different blog, called Pink Basil which you should also check out. I might just make an exception to being done with pumpkin in order to try these babies.

In spite of how long it took me to get these up here, I think they were my favourite pumpkin recipe this year. Maybe next year I’ll tackle the rest of the pumpkin recipes.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes                                                                                                          Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen (and the internet in general)

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled slightly

Mix the dry ingredients except for spices in a medium bowl and set aside.

Measure the wet ingredients into a blender or food processor and mix well. Add spices and blend for a minute or two, to make sure the pumpkin is really smooth.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in two batches. Be careful not to overmix, the batter might still have some lumps.

Brush your frying pan with butter. Cook the pancakes over medium low heat. Unlike usual pancakes these won’t spread very much, so I used a spoon to spread them a bit as soon as I scooped them. Cook until you see bubbles on the surface then flip and cook for almost a minute, or until golden.

Eat as you go, or keep warm in a 200 degree oven. I served mine two ways. The first round I covered in maple syrup and sprinkled with icing sugar. The second round I spread with icing that I had leftover from making this. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, but for me maple syrup (not a certain aunt‘s table syrup) has always been the one and only topping for pancakes, waffles and french toast. Recently I’ve been experimenting with lemon curd, jam, custard and so on. It’s all good, but nothing will ever top maple syrup. Likewise, the icing was good but kind of overpowered the pumpkin flavour.

Freeze your leftovers so that you can heat in the microwave or toaster on busy mornings. Future you will thank you!

Teacup Soufflé

I can’t be alone in thinking that food served in a teacup is incredibly cute. I have this friend. She likes tea, and cute teacups, and cute little cupcakes that you eat with the tea that you drink out of said teacups. She’s pretty adorable herself so cute little things like this always remind me of her (which makes me like them even more). …Anyway now that I have thoroughly abused that mundane word let’s move things along…

You know when you stumble upon a brand new recipe and 20 minutes later find yourself wandering around in the grocery store looking for walnuts, feta cheese and pears because you simply have to try this new crepe filling, and it just can’t wait until tomorrow? (That happens to everyone, right?)

Well, this isn’t one of those times. This is one of those times when you realize that your fridge has just a few too many soon-to-be-expired items sitting in it. You resign yourself to a mismatched meal of leftover soup, a few spoonfuls of yoghurt and a salad of soggy tomatoes on wilted lettuce… but then inspiration comes along and turns the leftovers into something new.

In this case, I had some spinach that was maybe two days away from sprouting legs and walking itself to the green bin and some eggs and cheese that needed to be eaten… soonish.

I was about to make an omelet, one of my usual leftover solutions, when it occurred to me that I hadn’t had soufflé in a while. This prompted ten seconds of excitement before I realized that I don’t have an oven-safe dish appropriate for soufflé. Disappointment. I wondered if mugs might work. They hold hot stuff, right? I did a quick google search and learned that you can bake soufflé in a mug or teacup! Success! There might have also been something about only using a certain type of mug, but I didn’t have time to read the fine print, I was on a soufflé mission.

Just like mom taught me, I carefully melted butter, separated eggs, stirred cheese and cautiously folded in egg whites. Then with the reckless abandon of someone craving warm cheesy deliciousness, I carelessly dumped it into mugs and threw it all in the oven.

Fortunately, these mugs ended up being the kind that are safe to put in a three-hundred degree oven! Honestly though, I just picked them because they didn’t have ducks on them and they weren’t advertising anything.

Keep in mind, soufflé is kind of an eat-it right way thing, so you would be wise to share this with a few friends if you’re serving it as a side. Or you can go the way of yours truly and give yourself a nice little soufflé stomach ache. Don’t worry though, it’s totally worth it.

So folks, this story has a happy ending. The mugs are safely back in their cupboard, the spinach was rescued from impending bacterial doom and the heroine enjoyed a warm, cheesy, melt-in-your-mouth dinner with not a brown lettuce leaf in sight!

Spinach Souffle
With teacup advice from eHow

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (mozzarella would be good too!)
1/2 cup spinach, cooked chopped and drained
1/2 tablespoon chopped onion
2 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter with the flour in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until this mixture is smooth and bubbly, but not brown. Add salt, pepper and milk, stirr constantly over medium heat until smooth and thick. Stir in cheese until it is melted and remove from heat.

Add spinach and onion. Gradually add beaten egg yolks. Allow to cool slightly. Beat in egg whites until stiff and then fold into the other ingredients.

Now you can pour the mixture into your mugs. I used an oversized tea cup that is really more of a bowl (see first photo). I was afraid it was too small to hold all the souffle, so I poured some into a regular mug. As it turns out I probably could have fit it all into the teacup, the souffle didn’t rise past the top. Assuming you are using regular old mugs (make sure the ceramic is heat-resistant!) this recipe should fill 2 biggish mugs or 3 smallish ones. Butter your mugs, fill them with the egg mixture, then place on a cookie sheet to transfer to the oven.

Bake until soufflé has grown like a mutant alien in the movies and is brown on top. This should take about half an hour. Serve right away to your favourite teddy bears.

Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious…

“If you’re gonna name a food, you should give it a name that sounds delicious. Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat-patootie, which does not sound delicious.” -Linguini, Disney/ Pixar’s Ratatouille

I always been a lover of markets, but never really a frequenter of them. So naturally when Gillian asked me if I was interested in going to the market last week I responded with a very enthusiastic yes.

So last Saturday I woke up at an ungodly hour, made even more ungodly by the fact that it was a Saturday and headed out to meet Gillian at Starbucks. Not only did she beat me there, when I arrived she was dressed in a completely adorable manner, dispite the fact that it was freakishly early and she probably (okay, definitely) had to leave the house at least 20 minutes earlier than me. [NOTE: I am almost certainly exaggerating about how early in the morning all of this actually took place.] We both grabbed a much-needed coffee and hopped on the bus.

When we arrived at the market I wanted to take absolutely everything home with me from crisp apples and crunchy green beans to that beautiful busker playing by the maple syrup stand. (There’s just something magical about holding a guitar that makes sevens transform into tens.) Gillian’s motherly reminders that “anything you buy you have to carry home on the bus” paired with the thought of my ever-shrinking bank account kept me from buying a second jar of honey (but this one has cinnamon in it!), a little Christmas tree (it would look adorable in the living room!) and a pair of moccasins (but they’re nothing like my other ones!). However it did not stop me from buying lots of tasty fall veggies, some Niagra honey and a big jug of apple cider, which I’ve been dying to buy for weeks but could never bear the grocery store price.

I arrived home with an armload of delicious fresh veggies and a hankering for Ratatouille. In September I made “Ratatouille’s Ratatouille” from Smitten Kitchen and was looking forward to trying it again with a few of my own alterations. Side note: Smitten Kitchen is a fabulous blog written by Deb Perelman, who puts both my photography and writing skills to shame. You should go look at her blog. Also she’s writing a cookbook, which you should probably buy the second it comes out. Anyway, Deb describes this Ratatouille as being just like that fancy shamncy dish from the Disney movie, and nothing like the chunky stuff your mom used to make. Not that there’s anything wrong with the stuff you mom used to make, but this Ratatouille? Let me just say, one bite of this and you’ll know exactly why that snobby food critic sacrificed his whole reputation to eat food made by a rat.

This dish is the perfect thing to make on a lazy fall afternoon when you have the time to leisurely puree tomatoes and chop eggplant whilst chatting with friends who are making jello shots cupcakes for that evening’s birthday party. What’s that? Nobody has time to leisurely chop eggplant? Oh that’s right. I just use food to procrastinate when I have a hundred other things to do. Just yesterday I made chocolate zucchini cake instead of working on this post, and with exams just around the corner I’m worried for both my GPA and my BMI. Nonetheless it was a splendid morning of shopping with Gillian and a fun afternoon of eggplant chopping and being entertained by the birthday girl’s hilarious little brother.

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/3 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
3 bigish tomatoes, 4 small ones
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 zucchini
2 small bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Start by peeling your tomatoes. You can do this by letting them sit in boiling water for a minute and then running cold tap water over them. The skins will slide right off. Dice the tomatoes and puree them in a blender or food processor. Pour this into a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer so that the liquid can evaporate. As you do this the puree will get thicker and redder. When the tomatoes are approaching desired constancy add the onion and garlic. Let simmer for a little longer and then pour into the bottom of your baking dish. Stir in salt, pepper and one tablespoon of the olive oil.

Trim the ends off the eggplant and zucchini. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the peppers and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube. With a sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini and peppers into very thin slices. Keep in mind that you want all your vegetables to be about the same circumference, so that the layering process is easier. If one of the vegetables is thinner than the others (this happens to me with the zucchini) you can cut it on a diagonal to make the circles longer.

Arrange slices of prepared vegetables on top of the tomato sauce. Overlap them so just a bit of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You might have some left over after. I had about a third of the zucchini and eggplant left. Remember that this is a particularly flexible recipe quantity wise. If your dish is bigger just use an extra tomato or two in the sauce.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside and bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top. Deb also suggests crusty bread or couscous. Hmmm… next time.