Thursday, October 2, 2008


Not that I recommend it (bingeing, that is), but after spending two months on the road my kitchen is a haven and my stove my best friend. Cookies are the outcome of this sweet sweet union. It's a completely natural and beautiful act. Although, yesterday I baked a pear cake and met with minor disaster. The batter was sweet, subtle, smooth (too many s's, I know) and the pears perfectly ripe but stupid me pulled it from the oven too soon. Upon cutting into the cake, I was greeted by a gooey fist clenched at its centre. Opps. I nearly cried. It was to have been pure bliss. But I will bake the pear cake again. Oh yes, and I will eat it with whipping cream. And ice cream. Ha.

But back to the cookies, I found the recipe in my new favourite cookbook in the whole entire world, Perfect Light Desserts, by Nick Malgieri, and David Joachim. It is seriously the best dessert book I have chanced upon in some time. These men can bake. Mmmm, men who can bake... The cookies are both molasses laden and chocolaty. Go figure. Plus, wait for it, they contain 4 Tbsp of butter! It sounds like less when I put it in tablespoons. Somehow, a quarter cup sounds like more and I'm aiming for popularity, so tablespoons it is. I brought a plate of these circles of perfection into the high school where I was substitute teaching this week. I left them in the staffroom along with my card. Let's just say I've been getting a lot of calls. Although the one at 6:30 this morning was less than thrilling.

Anyhooo, here you have it:

Chocolate Spice Cookies

1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves (I used allspice)
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (good thing I've been churning out gallons)
1/4 cup molasses

Preheat the oven to 350.
Sift the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar together. Beat in the applesauce and molasses
Stir in the dry ingredients. Don't over mix! This is the low fat cookie cardinal rule.
Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared pans. Flatten the cookies with your hand or the back of a fork.

Now, the baking is slightly different. Position your racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Place one sheet on the top rack and one on the bottom. Bake the cookies for ten minutes, switching the positions of the sheets half way through baking. The cookies will be quite moist when done but they will firm up as they dry. Resist the temptation to keep baking them. This is the second cardinal rule of low fat cookies: always slightly under bake.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Peter Piper Puts Peppers into Pesto..

Finn and I happened upon a beautiful vision of peppers today. Well, a beautiful stand with bags of peppers just waiting to be gobbled up. I got to work roasting the peppers and making a red pepper and spinach pesto, as well as a red pepper hummus. I've always loved roasted peppers but hate, HATE taking the peel off them. I have solved this problem -why bother? There is nothing wrong with a bit of skin. After you've taken the charred bits off you can just chuck the lot in the blender and be done with it.

To roast your beauties-
I sliced them in half, seeded, and rubbed, no 'massaged', a little oil onto the peppers. I placed them on an oiled cookie sheet and popped them under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Don't stray too far, when they start getting nice and blistery (charred little black spots) take them out and pop them into a bowl, cover with saran wrap and let cool. When cool you can skin them or, take a note from a lazy cook and if you are using them in a sauce or dip just chuck them into your blender or food processor.

Peter's Pepper Pesto (say that one three times fast)
For my pesto I put 2 peppers (4 halves) into the blender. I added the "juice" from the pan, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, about a 1/4 c of pine nuts, 2 handfuls of spinach, garlic, salt, and pepper, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and a crumble of feta cheese. Add a little bit of water if necessary, until you get your desire consistency. I would definitely say that this was more of a Mediterranean pesto. It would have been prettier without the spinach but I need to resort to trickery to get sir Mikey to consume his veggies.

Pepper hummus.
Make hummus. Add roasted red peppers. Done.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Butter and Apples

More than once this fall, I've pulled out a bowl, a canister of flour, and a pastry recipe only to find, alas, that I cannot lift my hand to cut the butter (or lard, according to some recipes). It seems that my mother's lessons in health have been carved with fire upon my soul. "Too much," her voice screams through my mind. "Too much." And so I closest the block of butter back in the fridge before rummaging for the oldfashioned oats to make a crisp. A few days ago, my vision of pastry was forever changed when I checked out a book from the library titled Perfect Light Desserts. Amongst other low fat and delicious-looking recipes, I found a lighter pie dough, which still uses butter. I'm not a huge fan of the oil crust. I'm not going to give you the recipe as I haven't tried it yet; although a pumpkin looms on top of my fridge, so the time may be neigh. But last week, after casting aside yet another pie crust recipe with a sob, I made this lovely French Apple Cake. The recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking but I've tweaked it to my liking.

Here's what I did:

French Apple Cake

Spray a deep 8 inch pie pan or a deep round casserole dish. Cover the bottom with:
3 cups sliced apples (you could up it to 4)
Sprinkle the fruit with:
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour

In a bowl, sift:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

In another bowl, beat together:
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup milk
Add to the dry ingredients and beat with swift strokes just until blended. Cover the fruit with the batter. Bake at 375 for aprox. 30 minuted. Reverse on a platter and cool slightly.

Make meringue:
Beat until frothy:
1/8 tsp salt
2 reserved egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
Add gradually:
4 Tbsp sugar
Whip until stiff and glossy. Be sure to whip continually. Heap onto cake and bake at 300 for 15 or 20 more minutes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pad Thai--
This is a go-to meal at our place. I started making pad thai from a Moosewood recipe awhile back. I have adapted it through the years so that I'm not sure how close this recipe is to the original. There are lots of instructions here and even more brackets but that's just to make the recipe look like way more work than it is. Pad thai is very forgiving, I am always playing with the ingredients depending on what I have on-hand.

I like to serve this garnished with strips of omelette, green onions, peanuts, and prawns.

First your protein bits:
Saute cubed tofu, or chicken, or prawns, and set aside (you could skip this step if you want vegetarian pad thai). I add a shot of asian chili sauce or soy sauce for flavour. When it's just our little Campbell trio I just use tofu, but for company I typically use prawns as well.

Mix Sauce ingredients:
lime juice from 1 lime (I substitute lemon juice sometimes or skip this if using a vinegary asian chili sauce), 3 T asian chili sauce (that sweet, vinegary red stuff you see on the table at Vietnemese restaurants. If you don't have it use ketchup), 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 T natural peanut butter, 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I just usually put a few shakes of hot sauce in instead), a shot of water (maybe 3 T) and 2T fish sauce (you could skip the fish sauce but it definitely is better with it). I also add about half a teaspoon of dried ginger if I don't have fresh, ditto for garlic.

Get those noodles ready:
Pour boiling water over one package of rice noodles (flat noodles, not the really skinny ones - these are in the Asian food section at most grocery stores). If you are just making this for 2 people you only need about half a package but break the noodles in the package!!! I learned this the hard way and was finding little noodle bits months later). Let soak for about 5 minutes while you get going on the next step and then drain.

Start wokking:
Heat a wok or deep frying pan with a half T or so of veg or peanut oil, add 3-4 cloves minced garlic and a few teaspoons of finely minced or grated ginger.
(Optional: If you want to add shredded carrot, sliced cabbage, or julienned peppers add now and stir fry. I typically add a cup or two of grated carrot). Then make a space and scramble 2 eggs (I often cook the eggs like an omelet beforehand and cut them into strips and then add at the end with the peanuts).

Next add:
bean sprouts (as much as you want, I probably use about 4 cups), the noodles, and the sauce. Stir for a few minutes - if it doesn't seem like enough sauce I add a bit of water, and another squirt of chili and soy sauce.

Stir in the meat or tofu, about a cup of chopped green onions, and about a half cup chopped peanuts. Sprinkle on some reserved green onions, peanuts, sprouts, and egg for garnish. Serve with lime wedges.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


I think about cookies, a lot. Mostly, I think about eating cookies. When, where, how many? I ask myself. Is eight thirty a.m. too early? Is obesity a possibility? These are all difficult questions, which I eventually ignore and simply eat cookies. My favourites include oatmeal chocolates chip in all its splendid varieties (Have you been to Pure Vanilla Bakery and tried the Kitchen Sink? Go! Go!), double chocolate, and peanut butter. Yes, this is a predictable list. I’ve come to accept that I’m not the most creative person. Quirky, yes, but I’m unimaginable to a fault, routine to the brink of boring.

A few weeks ago I lay awake at three in the morning. To calm my revving brain I invented ice cream flavours. I came up with apple pie.

Two nights ago, yet again, I lay awake at three in the morning. This time I brainstormed cookie recipes. After over an hour I had created two combinations. One involved oats, one involved chocolate. Why not use a pre-existing recipe, you are probably wondering, as over one million chocolate and oatmeal cookies already exist in the world? Despite the banality of my ideas, at three in the morning I felt the excitement of creativity, which is highly addictive and enabling, a word I hear spoken with reverence these days. So I enabled myself.

Besides, I like thinking about cookies. They are chewy. And sweet. Like fat little men. Or baby heads.

I tried the oatmeal recipe, which I’ve titled Honey Nut, and the cookies were truly tasty, and wheat free, for those poor, poor, allergy-suffering souls. I thought about selling the recipe rights to Martha Stuart for disgusting amounts of money, but then I’d be a SELL OUT, so instead, I’ve posted it here for your gorging enjoyment.

Honey Nut Cookies

1 cup barley flour

1 cup slivered almonds

1 ¼ cups old fashioned oats

1/2 cup coconut

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

¾ cup honey

¼ cup applesauce

¼ cup oil

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup chocolate chips.

Mulch the oats in a food processor or a blender. Place them in a bowl. Do the same to the almonds. Add the almonds to the oats. Add the cinnamon and salt and mix.

Combine honey, applesauce, oil, and vanilla.

Add the dry mixture to the wet, mix and add chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Take out the cookies even if they seem a bit soft. They will harden up as they cool.

Yum! I found the recipe a little sweet so I’m going to try cutting the honey to a half cup or upping the amount of barley flour.

Monday, September 15, 2008

cooking frenzy--

I have a mini-me. Seriously, Finn loves his food. This kid can put it back just like his mom. Fortunately for me, Finn is showing more of a Reems approach to food (MikeyC being the most "particular" eater ever. Not an exaggeration). Unfortunately for me, the little food-monster is a beggar, and so I need to cook when he is having his afternoon siesta. Lately these hours have become a full-blown cooking frenzy. Today I made two loaves of banana bread, a batch of corn chowder, and cheese scones.

Now my new town, Chilliwack, is the land of corn. Cows and corn. There is a "corn drive-through" on every corner. There are entrepreneurial five-year olds sitting behind mounds of corn. To live here, you have to love your corn. We've eaten enough cobs for awhile and so I decided to try a chowder.

Chilliwack Chowder-

Chop up some celery, garlic, and onion - red pepper would be great too.

Saute this in a few tablespoons of butter over low heat.

When nice and limp, and smelling oh, so lovely, stir in a few tablespoons of flour.

Next, add a few cups of water. Then add a diced potato or two (I used left-over roasted potatoes chopped fine). Cook until potatoes are tender.

Then add cooked corn-off-the-cob- as much as you have. Today I had two cobs. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, chili powder, or whatever else you want to jazz it up with. If you want you can put everything into the blender at this point, or you could leave it a bit chunky. I like the best of both worlds and use my hand blender for a rougher texture.

Finally, add a few cups of milk, and heat through. Garnish with green onions.

Voila. Lift up a ladle to Chilliwack.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It's Sunday morning and I'm a little groggy. The guy downstairs decided to play, no, blast, base-loaded hip hop last night at three in the morning. Yup, thanks. So I hope this blog makes sense. Regardless, my stove-top espresso and these pictures are softening my jagged nerve endings.

Here's a bit of what I' ve been doing with my spare time.
The great thing about substitute teaching is no marking, no preparation, and more time for cooking.

Shrimp and Coconut Curry
This one (above) is a new recipe I improvised from the Vij's cookbook. Vij's is an award winning Indian restaurant in Vancouver, which I am dying to try. Anyhow, the basic gist is puree two tomatoes and heat them in a saucepan with some spices. I used graham marsala, cayenne pepper, salt, and tumeric. Let the mixture simmer for about three to five minutes. Add half a cup of water. Simmer for another ten minutes. Add a cup of coconut milk and simmer for yet another ten minutes. Throw in 15 to 30 deshelled prawns and cook for four minutes. The prawns will turn pink. They really don't take long to cook.

Serve the prawns and curry bowls over brown rice along with steamed veggies.

Dinner on the deck
We bought and old ironing board at a thriftstore last week. It makes a perfect table.