A HEALTHY START

kajgana

The new year is off to a healthy start. Breakfast consisted of kajgana with an assortment of vegetables as well as seed bread with cream cheese.

Kajgana is the a creamy version of scrambled eggs I ate as a child. It is the only way I can eat scrambled eggs as the eggy taste is minimised by the addtion of both sour cream and buttermilk.

The kajgana gets an extra dose of sour cream before serving and is topped with fresh thyme leaves or chives or Urfa chile peppers. Today it was fresh thyme leaves.

CHOCOLATE PILLOW

chocolate torte 3

'Mama, you lied!' I heard Sage say as he eyed the flourless chocolate torte on his plate.

'You said you always need flour to make a cake' he continued as he explained his accusation. It is true that at one point I told the children the main ingredients for a cake include flour, eggs, sugar, and butter. But in the case of a flourless torte or a soufflé, this was the exception. He seemed satisfied with this answer and continued with the eating of his cake.

'It feels like a chocolate pillow' he commented as he took a bite with the whipped cream. I asked all three children what the cake tasted like and all three replied 'like your brownies'.

The recipe was the third version of the flourless chocolate torte I made close to four years ago. For this version I used five eggs instead of six, less butter, replaced the dark brown muscavado sugar with the light brown version, omitted the vanilla extract and cream of tartar along with the vanilla bean and cocoa powder, and baked the torte in a ceramic pie dish instead of a springform pan.

The result was a creamy chocolate torte perfect for our Sunday dessert.

VANILLA POPPY SEED BIRTHDAY CAKE

seenas cake

I scrambled around looking for the cake pans I bought at the Lakeland kitchen store in Scotland during my trip last year. The 6-inch cake pans. I had one but the other must have been packed away in one of the many unpacked boxes piled in the family room I have been using as storage.

The minutes passed and I decided on a change of plan. I would simply use three 5-inch pans. I wrote a revised recipe of my lemon poppy seed cake to exclude lemon and include vanilla bean paste. After the cakes cooled, I ended up using two of the cakes which I split in half and which resulted in a tall four layer cake.

The icing was made from cream cheese and butter along with heavy cream, icing sugar, and vanilla bean paste. Fresh berries I placed on top with a dusting of icing sugar. My birthday girl was pleased with her cake and I was glad to share this special day with my now eight-year old, her older sister, and younger brother.

CHOCOLATE CHIP ORANGE COOKIES

occ cookies

'Mama...' I heard Saffron start as her eyes lit up with delight at the sight of freshly baked cookies on a cooling rack on our dining coffee table.

'...you didn't bake anything for our afternoon snack in a loooong time' she continued.

She was right. Living in this cold 'cave' had taken away my desire to spend quality time in the kitchen enjoying and exploring my passion for baking. I then promised my children there will be more baking in our next place.

BEAN SOUP WITH A SIDE OF PASTA

pasta fazol

The children surprised me by eating the bean soup I made today. They told me they liked it although they asked to eat it with feta.

As a child, I would often eat pašta fažol for dinner or lunch. I also remember I preferred the version with polenta and not the one with the mushy pasta. Remembering this, I decided to cook the pasta separately after the bean soup was cooked for close to three hours. This was after the pinto beans soaked overnight for 16 hours.

Since I made a large pot of this soup, I knew there would be enough for another meal. I also knew that cooking the pasta on the side meant no more mushy pasta the following day.

PAPPARDELLE WITH TOMATO SAUCE

pappardelle

Saffron requested 'fat spaghetti' for dinner. She was excited when I told her I would make my tomato sauce for the pappardelle pasta.

'Your sauce is the best!' she told me. I am glad she likes it as her siblings prefer their pasta plain. I hope their taste buds get more daring this year as I would like to move towards something more interesting than pasta with feta and rice with beans for dinner.

The sauce was simple. It took a mere half hour to cook. Diced garlic sautéed in olive oil for two minutes. To that I added chopped fresh oregano and thyme before adding a can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes.

Two bay leaves and three sprigs of fresh thyme along with salt were next to be added. A splash of sparkling water and merlot and a secret ingredient were the last items to be added.

'Why do you add [the secret ingredient]?' asked Saffron. 'For taste' I replied. It was nice to have something different today.

PURELY POTATO LEEK SOUP

potato leek soup

I have never understood the need to use stock for soups. Whether you use vegetable, chicken, or beef stock the flavours of the stocks overtake the true flavor of the main ingredient of the soup you are making.

Today it was potato leek soup. I had one leek in the vegetable crisper which had been there for a few weeks. I had only one and thus added two shallots to make up for what would have been another leek. I sautéed these two ingredients in a two-quart saucepan with a pat of butter.

In the meantime, I diced two medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes and added them to the pot along with two sprigs of fresh thyme, two Turkish bay leaves (I find the California bay leaves are too intense in flavour), and sea salt.

After adding a liter of water, I left the pot on the stove to cook until the potatoes were tender. With a stick blender, I blended the soup but left a few large potato pieces. This blending eliminates the need for adding cream to the soup and thus leaves the pure taste of the potatoes and leeks.

This amount was enough for two people so tomorrow I will eat the rest before I make another simple soup.

A SUNDAY PUFFY PANCAKE

puffy pancake

Sundays I make an effort at making something different for breakfast. Something the children do not usually get to eat during the rest of the week. Today it was a puffy pancake, also known as a Dutch baby pancake or a German pancake.

cast iron pancake

Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet in the cold oven and heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius). Meanwhile, break five eggs into the blender container, add 240 ml whole milk, 30 ml heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoons raw cane sugar, 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, 145 grams cake flour, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth.

When oven is heated, add four tablespoons unsalted butter to the hot cast iron skillet and let melt. Add pancake batter to melted butter and bake 20 minutes.

Other additions I have made in the past include the zest of one orange and finely chopped basil leaves. Today it was simply the Grand Marnier for flavouring.

pancake like pie

Wait about five minutes until pancake deflates to cut into wedges. My son said my pancake looked like pie this morning as I did not cut mine up into small pieces as I do for him and his sister. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy.

GINGER LIME SEA BASS

tuesday breakfast

Chilean sea bass topped with butter and seasoned with salt, Urfa red chilies, grated ginger, and lime zest. Baked at 425F for 10 minutes en papillote.

Serve with tri-coloured baby potatoes which have been boiled until soft, then topped with carmelised onions and baked alongside fish for 10 minutes, sliced fresh cucumbers, and Honeycrisp apple slices.

Enjoy with a glass of Alto Moncayo Garnacha.

sea bass dinner
alto moncayo garnacha



NOT A WALDORF SALAD

arugula and apples

Salads I prefer to be simple and quick to put together.

Today's salad consisted of two handfuls of baby arugula leaves, five cherry tomatoes sliced in half, Nicoise olives, sliced Honeycrisp apples, candied pecans, and Greek feta. Other days I add green or yellow bell peppers, perhaps radishes, sometimes avocado, and maybe crushed rosemary crackers. But not today.

The only 'dressing' I have been using for my salads have been a sprinkling of Mayan sea salt, followed by Urfa red chilies, and a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar. The 25-year barrel-aged balsamic vinegar from Williams-Sonoma. I add no oil. Ever. Nor mayonnaise to coat the leafy greens or apples or other ingredients. After all, this is not a Waldorf salad.

POTATO SOUP FOR A NOVEMBER SUNDAY

potato soup

Soup weather is here as is the season for potatoes. Potato soup - where I could see the ingredients - was what I craved today.

The ingredients are simple. One onion, two celery sticks, two carrots, butter, one russet potato, fresh thyme, two bay leaves, salt, water, heavy cream. Vegetables are diced into bite-sized pieces.

The soup came together in less than an hour. Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots in one tablespoon butter for 10 minutes. Add potatoes, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and 3/4 liter water. Cook until potatoes are tender. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup so that half of vegetables are left as pieces. Add cream - about 120 ml. Top with Urfa crushed red peppers, if desired.

COOKING FOR ONE::HALIBUT + BABY POTATOES + SPICY CHARD

dinner halibut

400F (200C) oven, 10-15 minutes, 250g halibut en papillote. A simple and healthy dinner for one that came together in less than 30 minutes.

Cook the potatoes while preparing the halibut.

The piece of halibut was enough for one person...250g. On bottom of parchment paper, place two sprigs thyme. Place halibut on top, sprinkle with salt and Urfa crushed chiles, zest and squeeze half a lemon, close parchment paper on all sides. Bake 10-15 minutes.

For spicy chard: heat olive oil in stainless steel pan. Add two small shallots, diced. Sprinkle in one teaspoon crushed Urfa chiles. Add a large handful of Swiss chard leaves, chopped. Season with sea salt.

Plate. Eat. Enjoy...with wine.

 

 

COOKING FOR ONE::PENNE WITH SPICY TOMATO SAUCE

spicy penne

Yesterday I sauntered into Trader Joe's for wine and Greek feta. I left with one additional item - a small round tin of dark chocolate wedges placed ever so purposefully at the checkout counter. It pared nicely with the Nero d'Avola wine and was impressive in tonight's meal.

tomatoes

One small wedge of chocolate was all it took to transform the baby tomatoes with chilies and wine into a rich and spicy sauce for the penne pasta.

spicy sauce

The method is simple and comes together in less than 30 minutes. Warm olive oil for a minute before adding 4 chopped garlic cloves. Add orange and red baby tomatoes, sliced in half. Season with salt, cane sugar, Urfa red chilies, Nero d'Avola wine, a piece of dark chocolate.

Top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve with a glass of wine.

COOKING FOR ONE::RICE WITH CARROTS + BROCCOLI

rice broccoli carrots

Basmati rice topped with onions, broccoli, and carrots. A simple vegetarian meal with enough left over for lunch the next day to wrap in a flour tortilla.

Sauté half a sliced onion in olive oil for 10-15 minutes. Add two sliced carrots and a handful broccoli florets. Cook over medium heat for another 15 minutes. Make sure veggies are not overcooked. These still had bite to them. Season with sea salt and Urfa crushed red pepper.

 

Baby Ricotta Cake

ricotta cake

This petite cake has become a favourite for birthdays and Sundays - today having been both.

Baked in a push pan I purchased at Lakeland in Scotland in February, this cake comes together with minimal effort as no electrical appliances are required (other than the oven). A scale, a whisk, two bowls, and a spatula are the only tools needed. On my recent travels I've even made this successfully without a whisk and spatula, as a spoon was all I had available.

Moist with ricotta and cream, flavourful with lemon zest infused sugar, this 6" cake is the perfect size for one evening's dessert with minimal leftover for the next day.