Friday, December 31, 2010

Baby it's Cold Out There so Warm up With Fresh Baked Bread!

How do you warm up your house when there is a -34 celsius wind chill keeping the temperature down?  You huddle in the Little Kitchen with the oven on baking bread, that's how!  My son and I are both on holidays until the next week.  He has been working his way through a couple of novels for his English class ("To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, "April Raintree" by Beatrice Culleton, and "Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham.  All great books but he has his work cut out for him.  What better way to take a quick reading break than to punch out or knead some bread dough with your mom?

Figured out the timer on the camera!
It has actually been way too long since the Boy and I have worked in the kitchen together so this was a fun day (Well for me anyway).  I found a recipe for French bread in my "Taste of Home" cookbook.  I think this should perhaps be called White bread baked without a loaf pan.  It was a tasty bread, but not the nice crusty loaf of French bread I was hoping for.  Oh well, c'est la vie!  We still had fun and made some wonderfully fresh bread for our New Year's dinner with our friends.

Oh, and guess what?  We doubled the recipe!!

Bread, Adapted from Taste of Home
  • 4 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/ cup oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 -6 1/2 cups flour (depends on humidity)
In the bowl of your stand mixer, stir together the yeast, water, sugar, and oil.  Let the mixture get all foamy and lovely.
Measuring the oil

Add 2 cups of flour and the salt.  Mix with the dough hook to get it all combined.

Now start adding the flour one cup at a time.  Keep the machine kneading until the flour is incorporated.

Too sticky!
That's better!

After the 5th cup of flour, test the dough with your fingers.  If it is sticky, add another 1/2 cup of flour and knead until mixed.  The dough should be somewhat stiff but still workable and not sticky.  Knead for 5 minutes with the machine.

Kneading by hand build muscles!
Put the dough on the counter and knead by hand for couple of minutes.

He really liked this part.  (I told him it would help his 'baseball muscles'!
Place the dough ball into an oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
So much fun!

Punch the dough down, cover, and let rise for another 1/2 hour.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.  Shape into two oval loaf shapes.

Place on a lined baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise for a 1/2 hour.

In a small bowl, combine 1 egg white with 1 tsp cold water.  Brush the egg wash over the loaves.  This will give the crust a nice brown colour when baked.

Using a sharp knife, carefull cut some score marks across the top of the loaves.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and baked through.

One happy bread baker!
We actually made a couple of loaves last night as a trial run.  Today we put a small pan of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven while preheating to up the moisture content in the oven.  The first thing we noticed was a crustier finish on the loaves we baked today.

While the French bread was rising, we also put together a batch of the Honey Seeded Buns, since we were out and to provide some variety for tonight's dinner.

He did a great job weighing out the dough!

A very happy new year to everyone from the Little Kitchen.  May the coming year be filled with family, friends, and food.  All the best!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Field Trip and A Quick Dinner: Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara
 My sister and I should probably not be let out of the house together without proper supervision, especially when spending money is involved.  We went on a field trip to Costco today!!!!  It is way too easy to grab the things you want rather than the things you need at this place!  We wandered around, put things in the cart, thought about it, removed things from the cart...the same thing we do everytime we go.  I really don't have the room to store large boxes of items or too many extra things but my sister had a great idea and I don't know why we didn't think of it sooner!  We decided to split the cost of the items both families use on a regular basis. For instance I most likely won't go through 5 dozen eggs in a timely fashion but we split the cost and each got 30 eggs for a good price.  Ok, I will probably use up those eggs but I don't have the storage space. I don't do all of my shopping at Costco as they don't carry everything we need but it is a great place to stock up on items and for baking staples.  (Also to buy way too many things you don't need!)

Of course when it comes to field trips with my sister, we always get sidetracked and never get anywhere on time.  When if finally came time to make dinner, I was looking for something quick to make.  I thought of doing one of my favourites, breakfast for dinner, but then low and behold, on the pacakage of bacon (why not use bacon, I did afterall buy 4 packages of it today!), there was a recipe for a carbonara!  SWEET!

Bacon and eggs,Italian Style
(Pasta Carbonara a la Kirkland Signature bacon package)

1 lb bacon
1 lb pasta - tonight I used Soba noodles
3 eggs
1 cup grated parmesean
1/3 cup chopped parsely
1 tsp italian seasonings
pepper, salt to taste.

This is easy and quick!

First, chop and fry bacon until crisp.  While this is getting its crisp on, put a large pot of water on to boil.

Place the bacon aside on paper towels to drain.

Chop some fresh parsely (thankful to have my plant in the front window!) and measure out 1 cup of grated parmesean.

Crack 3 large eggs into bowl and beat away.

Mix the parmesean cheese into the eggs.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain and transfer to the bowl with the eggs and parmesean.

Now mix, mix, mix....or toss, toss, toss with your tongs to mix the eggs into the to cook the eggs.  (The hot pasta will cook the eggs enough to make a nice rich sauce!)

Add your parsely and the Italian seasoning and keep tossing.  Also add the bacon at this point, and mix. (Save some bacon for a garnish)

The boys enjoyed the pasta carbonara.  My son thought it was bland but liked the texture of the sauce. A google search netted basically the same recipe but I wonder if some garlic would have helped?
It was tasty.  So tasty.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Play With Your Food!

Mom always told me to not play with my food, but I just can't stop myself. Especially when other people join in! One of the great things about having vacation time is not only spending time with family but spending time with friends as well.  Today the girls and I got to play with our food!  We all share a passion for baking and cooking so at the bake exchange a couple of weeks back we decided we needed to get together for a day of baking, creating, and chatting!  We had a great day today.  Susie, Trina, and I gathered in Trina's kitchen with our cupcakes and accessories in hand.  Trina is really the group expert on all things cake so she was quite able to help Susie and I with a couple of things.

Trina's Bassets wanted in on the fun as well!  Sorry Buster and Baxter!
We made homemade fondant, which turns out is super easy to make and tastes BETTER than the store bought kind.  (I will have to ask Trina for a copy of the picture she took of this as I did make a bit of a mess in her kitchen!)

We also made some homemade gumpaste.  None of us has really worked with gumpaste before but all in all we think it turned out well.

The beginnings of a swiss meringue buttercream!!

Trina also showed us how to make swiss meringue buttercream (oh so tasty and creamy!).

Trina and I were both lucky recipients of the Cricut cake cutting machine!!  (EEEEEE!!!)  We ran dualing Cricuts today! 
What a lovely sight!!
Since we made fondant today, I felt the need to bring cake.  I made my Devil's food chocolate cupcakes last night and since this recipe makes so many, I was able to make a small cake (and a couple of Nomskulls as well).  Once the fondant was made and rested for a while, I was able to get the cake together.  I had to plan a little but once Trina and I figured out the machines...we were giggling all the way to the cake decorations!

We did take turns taking photos but with more than one camera working, I only got some of the photos.  No problemo, we really did get into the fun of the day and didn't take photos of everything.

Susie and I intently watching the machine at work!
  Susie was itching to practice some of her piping skills on some cupcakes so we let her go crazy.
Susie working on her piping using swiss meringue buttercream and her Eggnog cupcakes!
Trina working with the gumpaste she made
Trina and Susie starting the swiss meringue buttercream

Trina made some gumpaste birds with her Cricut!

A collaborative piece!  Devil's food chocolate cupcakes, swiss meringue buttercream, and gumpaste birdies!

My mini bird cake!  I had so much trouble deciding which border to pick, what to put on really is amazing that i got this cake finished at all!


Box O cupcakes!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ravin' Review: Mongos Grill

After tons of holiday cooking, baking, and eating it was time to let someone else do the work! Our lunch stop today was Mongos Grill. We do go here quite often these days. Mongos is a stir fry place. The veggies, meat, noodles, and sauces are laid out buffet style so you get to fill your bowl and create your own masterpiece. I can honestly say I have never had the same meal twice here!

Big ol' bowl of stir fr

When you go to Mongos, you have a choice of getting the 'one bowl' stir fry, the unlimited bowls stir fry, or the soup, salad bar, and stir fry. We have never done the soup and salad bar here, we always go for the stir fry. Mongos provides 25 various veggies for you to choose from which get replenished often. They also offer 10 different protein choices including tofu for you to choose from. Once you choose all of your veggies, meats, and noodles, you have a huge choice of sauces and seasonings to choose from. Mix and match to your heart's content. The choice of 16 sauces plus other seasonings makes sure you get all the flavour you want.
My 'working the grill' blurry shot....oops
There are many tricks to 'stacking' your bowl so you can maximize your one bowl experience:

Hubby likes to use the frozen sheets of beef to make a wall but today that proved a might difficult. The line up for the grill was long and when the frozen meat thaws, you risk an avalanche of tasty goodness!
Notice the drooping meat at the sides...everything settled. Also note noodles on the counter.
My son swears by using the potato slices for his extended wall. He says it works wonders.

Right here under the meat you can see his potato wall...working quite well today!

Today I went with the snow pea wall....first I use the tongs to pile on the snow peas, then take the time to insert them between the edge of the bowl and the food already in the bowl. This worked quite well. I only wish I had taken the time to do this all around as once the meat on the other side thawed.....I had a bowl breach!
Note the bowl breach on the right...the snow peas worked well tough!

Today was a very busy day at Mongos and the line up for the grill was long. It is neat to watch the staff 'work the grill' and cook so many stir fries at once! The waiting really is the hardest part though.

Once the lovely staff take your bowl for frying, you still get more choices!! They will ask you if you want rice and they will give you a bowl or they will mix it into your stir fry....not just rice though. You can choose from white, brown, or fried rice! You can also have an egg added to the mix if you would like. They even crack the egg and cook it along with your food! After the cooking is done, you can even have your stir fry wrapped up in a tortilla or a flavoured wrap if you'd like!
Hubby's stir fry with an egg cooking and rice waiting to be added!

Even though Mongos offers seafood and gluten items, they are very accomadating for allergies. Hubby has a fish/seafood allergy and they will clean the grill for him and give his food extra room on the grill. If you are looking for gluten free, they keep a list of their gluten free sauces on the wall as well as a list of their other gluten free items. The Mongos staff also offer to get you veggies and sauces from the back if you are worried about cross contamination with the buffet style of service. You can also find a list of nutritional information on their website.

Despite being super busy, the food was quite good. The waitress was very nice and pleasant but did seem to have trouble keeping up with tables who needed refills on their drinks. The wait (for us) at the grill wasn't all that bad either. It looked like it slowed down quite a bit after we sat down with our cooked food. That is the one thing with Mongos is you will have to wait in line with your full bowl for them to cook it on the grill.

I have heard people complain about the actual food at this place as well as the taste but this all depends on what you choose to put in your bowl. The veggies are fresh, the meat is fozen and sliced thin. I do think they need to send the clean up crew more often for the floor. People tend to overflow their bowls with sauces or hand landslides of noodles and this makes messy, and slippery on the floor. This is also a great place to feed a hungry teen!

And let's not forget my lightsabre chop sticks from home!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Leftovers for Breakfast!

What to do with alll of those leftovers??  I was rooting through the fridge this morning thinking about breakfast and low and behold I find a wonderful mix of items! Hmmm....potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, creamed spinach, onion, steak, egg whites left over from the cinnamon rolls....this sounds like a breakfast in the making!  I really couldn't have planned this better, even if I had tried!

First I finely diced some of the onion to saute in some butter.

Then I added the leftover mushrooms.

Sliced the potatoes and added those to the pan.

Please, can I be in this yummy breakfast???

The leftover creamed spinached just begged to be added (and thinned with a little milk).

I had a total of 8 egg whites and 3 whole eggs beaten with a sploosh of milk (yes, sploosh is a technical mesaurement in the Little Kitchen!)

Pour the eggs into the pan and give it a shimmyshake to get all of that eggy goodness around.

Bake in the oven at 305F for 15 to 20 minutes.

 Top with the grated cheese of your choice and broil until melty.

An oven mitt on the handle reminds me the handle is HOT! (Safety first you know!)

Add some sliced steak to the plate and enjoy!