January 17, 2009

Tortilla Soup

This soup was inspired by my friend and faithful reader Irina. Her recipe is very loose and vague, so I really just did whatever I wanted to, and based it on her recipe. Oh man, it's exciting.

I started by sautéing some salt and pepper, garlic, chili powder and a tiny amount of red pepper flakes in olive oil. I also put on a pot of rice, but I didn't really take photos of rice cooking... it's kind of like paint drying... pretty self explanatory.

Next I chopped up some green onions (I like them better than yellow or white onions).

And then some red peppers.

I added both those things to the pot and let them cook until they were a bit tender.

Then I poured in some vegetable broth.

While the broth was heating up, I chopped some grape tomatoes in half. Okay, so it was just supposed to be chopped tomatoes, but 1) there weren't any good ones AT ALL at the grocery store and 2) I thought it was be awesome.

Anyway, then I threw those tomatoes into the broth. I also threw in some tomato paste.

And while that was cooking a bit, I opened a can of kidney beans and a can of black beans...

and rinsed them!

I threw them into the broth, along with the cooked rice.

I let that cook for about 15 minutes and then it was time to eat!

Irina suggested putting chips and cheese (soy cheeseloaf, if you're actually Irina) in the bottom of the bowl and then pour the soup on top, but I really can't do soggy things.
And Anders doesn't do cheese, so he put chips on the bottom of his bowl, and I elected just to put some on top along with my cheese.

This soup was absolutely great and delicious and quick. It was like eating nachos in soup form or something! I also like that I can just throw in what I/the grocery store happen/s to have on hand. The other excellent point is that Anders liked it. We don't eat soup like... ever. When he eats soup, it's usually from a can and with big hunks of beef in it. It did happen to be a little spicy for him, but we both really enjoyed it a lot.


Tortilla Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, pressed
6-8 green onions, chopped
1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cups vegetable broth*
1-2 cups tomato, chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 ½ cups cooked rice


Sauté spices and garlic in oil. Add onion and pepper and cook until they become slightly tender. Add broth and simmer for a few more minutes. Add tomato and tomato paste and continue to simmer. Add beans and rice and stir well. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and cheese.

Guten Appetit!
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January 15, 2009

Christmas 2008 Baking!

Over Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I baked a lot. I made two lemon meringue pies, two types of cookies and a rather elaborate cake for my mother's 60th birthday. It was a very busy time, so I didn't do photos of my whole process and I apologise! But below you'll find my photos, recipes and thoughts on the things I made over Christmas!

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with Hazelnuts

½ cup cold butter or margarine
¾ cup flour
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
75 grams chopped hazelnuts
2 tablespoons sugar


Combine flour, powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Cut in the butter and continue mixing until a smooth batter forms. Roll the dough out into a 20 centimetre long roll.
Mix together chopped hazelnuts and sugar. Spread the mixture out on a baking pan, and roll the dough in the mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the roll into thin slices and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.


I originally got this recipe in a Sanella recipe booklet (Sanella being a German margarine brand), which my German professor gave me. I'm not a fan or a friend of margarine, so I decided to switch it out for butter, making the cookies a lot like shortbread. Also, the recipe originally called for walnuts, and I was going to be making these cookies with my sister who is allergic to walnuts, so I switched those out for hazelnuts. These are very chocolatey cookies, however, a little dry. My suggestion would be to cut the flour down to about 2/3 cup, which would not only make them less dry, but also make the hazelnuts stick to the dough better.
All in all, a very good cookie, which I plan to make again, with the minor adjustment to the amount of flour.

Ginger chocolate chunk Cookies

7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
½ cup dark-brown sugar, packed
½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup granulated sugar


Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into ¼-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
Heat oven to 325°F. Roll dough into 1 ½ inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


This recipe is one I got my Anders' mum. She'd made it a few times previously and just... they are so amazing. Easily the best cookies I've ever had. The ginger is intense, the chocolate is an amazing addition and this is overall the most delicious cookie ever, and I really can't describe it well enough, so you'll just have to make them.

Lemon Meringe Pie

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, diced and chilled
1 x large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
5 tablespoon cornstarch
5 large egg yolks
dash salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 large egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch


For crust, combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in chilled butter until a rough crumbly texture and little bits of butter are still visible. In a small bowl, whisk egg and lemon juice. Pour all at once into flour mixture and combine just until dough comes together. Shape dough into a disc and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 °F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to just less than ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle a 9-inch pie shell with flour and line with dough. Tuck in rough edges and crimp (pinch) with your fingers. Put pie shell in freezer just for 10 minutes to rest and firm up. Once chilled, line pastry with aluminium foil (and have foil hang over crust edges to protect it) and weigh down with pie weights, dried beans or raw rice. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375 °F and bake 15 minutes more. Remove aluminium foil and weights and bake 10 minutes more, to dry out centre of the
shell. Cool completely before filling.
Whisk sugar, water, and cornstarch in a heavy-bottomed saucepot. Whisk in egg yolks and salt and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Increase heat to medium and, still whisking, cook until filling becomes glossy and thick, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and butter until butter dissolves. Pour immediately into cooled pie shell and let cool 15 minutes. Chill completely before finishing with meringue, about 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Whip egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. While whipping, gradually pour in sugar and whip on one speed less than highest until whites hold a stiff peak (the meringue stands upright when whisk is lifted). Whisk in cornstarch and dollop over chilled lemon filling. Use sweeping motions with your spatula to create swirls and peaks that look so enticing once browned. Bake pie for 10 minutes, just until meringue browns lightly. Let pie cool or chill until ready to slice.


I got this recipe from Anna Olson. I love Anna Olson. I loved the idea of a lemon meringue pie crust with lemon in it. The filling also set up really nicely, which I've had problems with in the past. It was a very delicious pie, all in all. There's nothing I would change about it and I would make a million and eat them all. Everyone who ate it liked it too. Make this lemon meringue pie.

Espresso Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Mousse and Chocolate Ganache

And one of my mum singing Happy Birthday to herself!

Espresso Cake

2-2 ½ cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup espresso, cooled
¼-½ cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar


Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar into a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, vanilla, espresso and water. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. The batter will foam slightly where the baking soda and the vinegar are reacting (you should do this only when you're ready to pour the batter into the pan and put it directly in the oven). Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Cake

1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water or brewed coffee (I used water for this one, because of the coffee layer)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vinegar


Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan, and dust lightly with cocoa powder. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar into a bowl. In a 2-cup measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid into the bowl and mix the batter with a fork or small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter where the baking soda and the vinegar are reacting. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Hazelnut Mousse (only make this when both layers are cool and ready to assemble!)

1 teaspoon agar-agar powder (gelatin substitute)
3 tablespoons cold water
½ cup chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella
½ cup mascarpone
1 ½ cups chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar


Sprinkle agar-agar over water in a 1- to 1 ½-quart heavy saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring, just until agar-agar is dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken. Whisk in Nutella until combined and remove from heat. In a large bowl, whisk together mascarpone and Nutella mixture. Beat together cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in another large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed until just combined, then increase speed to high and beat until cream just holds medium-firm peaks (if they're too soft, they'll deflate when everything is mixed together). Whisk one third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whipped cream until well combined.

Simple Chocolate Ganache
1 ½ cup whipping cream
½ lb. semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup Nutella


Chop the chocolate into small pieces, and place in a medium bowl with the Nutella. In a pot over high heat scald the cream. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate and Nutella. Whisk rapidly until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is a smooth, even colour. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Whip half the ganache until soft peaks form.


Even out the tops of the cakes by slicing off any round dome that may have formed. Place the coffee layer on the base of the springform pan and spread the whipped ganache over just the top. Place the chocolate layer on top and use any remaining whipped ganache to to fill in the crack between the two layers. Clamp the collar of the springform pan around the top portion of the chocolate layer. Spread the mousse over the chocolate layer, inside the collar and refrigerate, covered, for a least three hours. Just before serving, remove the collar and pour the remaining ganache over the top, allowing it to spill down the sides.


So... this cake. Wow. I made up the espresso cake recipe based on my chocolate cake recipe (number of times the chocolate cake recipe has been altered: 3), and the flavour came out pretty well, but if I made this again, I would leave out the espresso layer altogether. In that case, I would cut the chocolate cake in half and layer that with the whipped ganache. Moving on - the chocolate cake was delicious, as always and the hazelnut mousse... wow. It was just perfect and so amazingly tasty. It went perfectly well with the chocolate cake. I'm planning to do the chocolate cake with the hazelnut mousse for Anders' birthday coming up next month.
The cake was really delicious, and while it had many layers and lots of parts, it was nearly as heavy as I was expecting and I was really pleased with how it turned out.

So that's Christmas, in a nutshell. Coming up next, tortilla soup inspired by my friend Irina, and both peanut butter chocolate chip and apple cinnamon muffins. Delicious!

Guten Appetit!
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January 13, 2009

Blueberry Cheesecake Squares

So here's my excuse for this stretch of time without updates: it was the end of the semester, and then Christmas, and THEN when I got back to Kingston my computer's power adapter died so I was without my computer for a few days. Now, instead of doing laundry or getting ahead on reading, I've decided to update my blog. With a baked good I made over a month ago... It was for a potluck Christmas dinner I went to at my best friend's apartment, the night before I went home for Christmas.

It started with a sort of shortbread base.

I pressed that into a greased baking dish, and baked it for a bit.

While it was baking I put together the cheesecake filling, something I'd never made before.

Now, when you say "whip together the cheese and sugar" it sounds just so wrong. But if cheesecake is wrong, I don't want to be right...

Added some eggs...

And whipped until smooooooth.

Next, I opened the can of blueberry pie filling I had bought on sale before Thanksgiving... thank goodness for canned goods.

And I poured the cheesecake filling onto the shortbread base...

And then spooned the blueberry filling into lines in the filling.

Next I took a knife and swirled the blueberry pie filling through the cheesecake filling.

It baked for a bit and then came out looking much the same as it did before I baked it, just a little more brown!


All cut up and lovely.

Of course, I had extra pie filling, and I made this the day after I made my chicken pot pies, so I had extra pie dough, SO I made mini blueberry pies.


The cheesecake was enjoyed by all at the potluck! I had fun making it, too, since I had never made cheesecake before. It's hard for me to say if this is a good recipe, since I hadn't made cheesecake before this, but it was very tasty and I did actually follow the recipe, so it couldn't be too bad!


Blueberry Cheesecake Squares


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
½ - ¾ cup blueberry preserves or pie filling


Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. In a medium sized bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with brown sugar. With pastry blender cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven to cool on a wire rack.
In large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed beat together cream cheese and sugar just until combined. Beat in remaining 2 tablespoons flour, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla until combined. Pour over partially baked crust. Drop spoonfuls of blueberry preserves over top. With the broad side of a butter knife lightly swirl in preserves. Bake 20 minutes longer. Turn off oven; prop oven door open with handle of wooden spoon. Let cheesecake cool in oven 10 minutes; then cool completely on wire rack away from drafts. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and then cut into squares with a wet knife.
Store in refrigerator.

Guten Appetit! And stay tuned for my Christmas baking, including a five layer cake I made for my mother's birthday on December 26th!
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