Happy Halloween

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I will post later with all the recipes and reflections on this, but here are some images of all the baked stuff I made this weekend – my last big bake, I do believe. I set it all up in the office and feel very… free.

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Getting the big Halloween bake all set up in the office

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Very basic Halloween decorations

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How will I organize this??

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Ready for their close-up: Coconut cream bar cookies

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Chocolate chip cashew cookies – same recipe as the white chocolate macadamia cookies, only throw in chocolate chips and cashews instead of white chocolate and macadamia nuts

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Mini pecan pie recipe… also these got some rave reviews

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M&M cookies… same recipe as the white chocolate macadamia cookies

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Chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips – same recipe as the chocolate mint cookies but with peanut butter chips instead of mint

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Table 1 of 2: Getting rid of ingredients cookies rather than the Halloween-themed goods

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The Halloween-themed spread

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Chocolate cupcakes (which happen to be vegan – not by design, just coincidence) with grey vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

 

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Witch finger shortbread cookie recipe… they freak everyone out

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Chocolate truffles: Very easy to make

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Coconut dark chocolate bites recipe: I toasted the coconut and blitzed it in a food processor, which is not indicated in the recipe. I think it works better this way

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Close-up: Candy corn cupcakes

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The full spread: Halloween baking 2017

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Happy Halloween 2017

 

 

Living on soup: Black bean soup

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So a few weeks ago I decided to make spicy black bean soup, and I went way overboard on the spice because I made something that was inedible. I made it edible, eventually, watering it down with water, broth and coconut milk, but it was still so incredibly spicy that I was eating less of it at a time than I normally would as a serving, meaning that it lasted far longer than it should have.

Now, wanting a more palate-friendly version of the soup, I tried again, shying away from the several teaspoons of chili powder the original recipe called for, and I am happy to say this was perfect and has kept me in delicious soup for days.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 diced red onion (any kind of onion you like will do, though)
1 or 2 diced carrots, depending on how much you like carrot
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 containers of black beans (drained)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 container (about 15 ounces/425g or so) stewed tomatoes

Heat oil, cook onion and carrot on medium heat for five to ten minutes, add garlic, cook for another minute. Keep stirring. Add spices (except black pepper). Stir and cook for about a minute. Add vegetable stock and 2 containers of black beans and the pepper. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes and other container of beans together in a blender and add to the pot. You could experiment here and add more beans to the blend (for a thicker soup). Stir while cooking for about another ten minutes.

You can also experiment with what you throw into the soup. If you like red or green bell peppers, chop some up and throw them in at the beginning with the onions and carrots. If you like spice, you could always chop up and throw in some jalapeno. Maybe you like corn – “liberate” some corn from the cob or throw in a drained can of corn. It’s up to you. Similarly, at the end, if you like a creamier soup, you could also add some coconut milk or cream/milk as well.

It was great when newly made but the leftovers the next days were REALLY good because the flavors had a chance to develop and the base of the soup got a bit thicker.

Broccoli-Herrgård pie

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I had broccoli, Herrgård cheese and pretty much nothing else. I decided to make a savory pie from it – hoping the coconut milk wouldn’t add too much “sweetness” to the flavor. I also did not want to make a pastry crust that required being rolled out, so here’s what we ended up with.

The pics don’t make it look too appetizing (photography isn’t my thing) but it’s bloody well yummy.

Broccoli-Herrgård pie

Preheat oven to 200C

1 head fresh broccoli, steamed and chopped

Steam your broccoli for about five minutes (until tender), chop it up and set it aside.

Crust
½ cup grated cheese (I used Herrgård because it’s what I had but cheddar would be great)
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ cup melted butter

Mix cheese, flour, salt and mustard and add the melted butter in until just combined. Press into a pie tin. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling
1 tablespoon butter
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream, half-and-half or coconut milk (that’s all I had on hand)
½ cup cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, slightly beaten

Melt the butter in a skillet, sauté the onion for about five minutes. Whisk in the flour, cream/coconut milk, salt, nutmeg and cheese until you have a kind of roux/sauce. Cook about one minute. Mix in the broccoli. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the beaten eggs. Pour into the prepared crust.

Bake for 15 minutes at 200C.

Remove from oven and reduce heat to 190C while you sprinkle a bit of extra cheese on top. Bake for an additional 20 minutes.

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Gluten-free pumpkin cream cheese muffins

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Made some pumpkin muffins using coconut flour – turned out well. 🙂 Gluten-free, paleo, and yummy.

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How?
3/4 cups coconut flour
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cups maple syrup
6 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 175C. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

Mix all ingredients together. Put the mixture into the liners (2/3 full).

Cream cheese filling
About 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix cream cheese and sugar together.

Make small indentations in the pumpkin mixture and add dollops of cream cheese filling – you can swirl it in slightly if you want a bigger mixture.

Put the muffins in the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, remove from pan and cool completely before serving.

Homemade paneer – experimental dinner

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Ready to eat

Ready to eat

When I hosted a guest at my place recently, I made my own paneer hoping to make this experimental pseudo-Indian dish. I always overestimate how much food I will need when people visit. I plan for breakfasts, lunches and dinners but prepare such elaborate breakfasts (a nice way of saying that I overdo it in a big way usually – even though I get better all the time), no one wants lunch.

Finally I got around to making this potato-paneer filling for red peppers, cooked in a tomato-curry sauce, accompanied by basmati rice and fried onions. Oh, how I love onion rice.

How did I do this? Well, I started a few days ago by making paneer. How do you make paneer? It’s pretty easy.

You need:
1 liter milk
1/8 cup lemon juice
Cheesecloth for straining

Put the liter of milk in a heavy saucepan, stirring every couple of minutes while you wait for the milk to come to a boil. Once it reaches boiling point, remove from heat and add the lemon juice in slowly until the milk completely curdles.

Line a strainer with the cheesecloth and drain the milk-lemon mixture. The liquid will drain away and you will be left with the thick curdled milk. Twist the cloth tightly and squeeze repeatedly from different angles to ensure that the liquid completely drains.

Turn the cloth over and place about one kilo of weight on top of it and leave for several hours to really make sure the liquid drains. This will create a solid paneer block, which you can use immediately or refrigerate for a few days – be sure to cover with water in a container if you are keeping it to ensure it does not dry out.

Now you can cut it into cubes, as many recipes call for, or use it the way I used it in my potato-paneer experiment.

potato paneer spice filling mixture

potato paneer spice filling mixture

Boil four small, peeled potatoes until soft. Mash them together with one cup of crumbled paneer. Mash in the following mixture of spices:

¼ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

Mash all of this together and then hollow out a couple of red peppers, discarding the insides and seeds and slice rings you can fill with the potato-paneer filling.

Pepper rings, ready to fill

Pepper rings, ready to fill

Filled pepper rings, ready to grill

Filled pepper rings, ready to grill

Set aside the filled pepper rings while you prepare the easy curry sauce and sauté the onions for the rice. (Prepare the rice at the same time in a separate pot.)

Nothing like onions the spice up rice

Nothing like onions the spice up rice

For the curry sauce… there is no exact recipe here, and you can adjust spices and heat levels to your own taste buds. I erred on the side of too spicy this time, but it was still quite tasty.

Sauce:
2 tablespoons oil
1.5 chopped onions
1 tablespoon garlic-ginger paste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper (I accidentally added far more than this)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
about 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
about 1/2 cup of tomato passata
salt and pepper to taste

How?
Sauté the onion for about 20 minutes on low heat, add the ginger-garlic paste and heat through. Add the spices. After a minute or two, add the tomatoes and passata. Let cook for about five minutes on low to medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of cream or coconut milk. Puree in a small food processor and return to oven-safe cast iron skillet to keep warm.

Saucy!

Saucy!

Now put the stuffed pepper rings under the grill and brown them and warm them.

Add the pepper rings to the sauce and heat on the stove or the oven.

Fluff the rice and add the fried onions on top.

The finished products

The finished products

Having completed this experiment once, I know where I went wrong and where I can improve. My next guest will benefit from my learning…

Shedding layers part seven: Books

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Cookbooks! Yes, why do I have so many cookbooks?

Long, long ago, in an era long before the internet existed and everyone had five devices to search for internet content, including recipes, people exchanged recipes on little designated notecards made just for recipes. Or they collected recipes and published them in books. Some were generalist in nature, some were very specific (for example, vegan desserts, which, contrary to what some might say, are not only sorbet related, or vegetarian Indian cooking).

I must have gone through many phases of wanting a collection of recipe books because… well, over the years I accumulated a whole lot of them. Everyone around me – grandmother, mother, parents’ friends, etc. – also had recipe books aplenty. It never struck me that is was not necessary. Back when I started my own collection, it was kind of necessary because, as I said, there was no internet then.

Moving from country to country, lugging hundreds of (and it used to be over 1000) books along with me, though, it all seemed like too much. Especially as each year saw the internet grow and its cornucopia of content overflow, it made no sense to carry around books I had cracked open maybe once – and never once used to cook with.

That said, I still have a stack of these books and these will be the next things with which I part as I go on shedding extraneous layers of my life.

Baked goods & recipes – May 27

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When I finally came out of hibernation and baked, I ended up making nine different things to take to my office. I had a list of more things than that but was so slow in the baking process that I was not even sure I would manage to make the nine things I did. But here is the recount and all the recipes, for those who care:

M&M cookies

MMM MMMMMM ... M&M cookies

MMM MMMMMM … M&M cookies

White chocolate macadamia nut cookies

Ever-popular favorite: White chocolate macadamia cookies

Ever-popular favorite: White chocolate macadamia cookies

ANZAC biscuits

Deceiving you into thinking they're healthy: ANZAC biscuits

Deceiving you into thinking they’re healthy: ANZAC biscuits

Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo bars for all those times you don't count calories and/or want to pretend you're Canadian

Nanaimo bars for all those times you don’t count calories and/or want to pretend you’re Canadian

Coconut macaroon shells filled with dark chocolate ganache

Gluten-free doesn't mean it's not amazing: Dark chocolate ganache filling in coconut macaroon tart shells

Gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s not amazing: Dark chocolate ganache filling in coconut macaroon tart shells

Chocolate chip cookies stuffed with Reese’s peanut butter cups

Heart attack in cookie form: Reese's peanut butter cup stuffed in giant chocolate chip cookie

Heart attack in cookie form: Reese’s peanut butter cup stuffed in giant chocolate chip cookie

Chocolate cookies with Andes mint chips

Using the rare Andes mints for chocolate mint cookies

Using the rare Andes mints for chocolate mint cookies

Chocolate cookies with Reese’s peanut butter chips

Using up peanut butter chips brought by "chip mule" from the States - chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips

Using up peanut butter chips brought by “chip mule” from the States – chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips

Shortbread with chocolate sprinkles

Perennial favorite - buttery shortbread with chocolate sprinkles

Perennial favorite – buttery shortbread with chocolate sprinkles