Again, a brief break. Family is important

Hello,

I was preparing a post about a sausage pasta I had made, super simple, and I realized it wasn’t exciting enough and I haven’t had time to whip up anything else. So I’ve posted the photo and given you some instructions how to create a similarly simple and delicious meal for yourself.

I maybe be absent from the blog for a few days, if not a week. My father is not well, as I’ve mentioned before, and it has become necessary for me to fly home and help out, be with my parents, do what I can. While I am away, I will likely cook but I can’t say for sure that I will be able to create details posts. The blog takes a lot of energy and love, and right now those things need to be directed completely at the situation at hand.

So, when I can, I will post some of my favourite pictures I’ve taken over the years as some non-food related filler. And when I return, I will get back on track. Thank you for reading, Not Crocker has been a point of strength for me, focussing on something I love, that is beautiful and fun, has kept me sane. The blog, school, and my husband have been wonderful sources of joy through all of this, but I need to focus and only my husband can be part of that.

Flying windsocks and donut holes,

Stacey

Oh, and Mascarpone Pasta Sauce over Pear and Brie Tortellini and Summer Spicy Sausage and Apple Tortellini

  • Cook some of your favourite dinner sausage in a drizzle of olive oil until done, remove from pan. I like Lamb and Rosemary sausages from Choices Market… but check your grocer or butcher for a wonderful sausage.
  • Pick up a can of your favourite tomato sauce, something mild is alright, you can add spices (1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil… at least double if using fresh).
  • Heat your tomato sauce in the sausage pan. Add half a cup of mascarpone and stir through until melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook your pasta according to package directions. I got my gourmet tortellini from Granville Island Public Market. The selection was amazing and these two pair well with a lightly creamy tomato sauce and a spicy sausage.
  • Serve up the pasta in portions, smother in creamy tomato sauce, slice sausage and plop on top. Eat.

 

Swiss Chard and Onion Pakoras

I’ve been having some big cravings for pakoras lately. I am not sure why I’ve wanted them so bad, they aren’t something that we’ve every regularly eaten, and I’ve never made them before, but this week I made it my mission to cook some up! Veggie pakoras can have a lot of different add-ins, often spinach is an ingredient, onion as well. As usual, I didn’t have spinach on hand but had a handful of delicious swiss chard, and knew that this would be an easy substitution. These pakoras pack a little heat, so feel free to tone down the spice. A lot of extra spice can be had with some good mint chutney, make it yourself if you dare (I will be daring to do this later, today I used store-bought… I know, I know, Stacey, get it together).

Swiss Chard and Onion Pakoras

Adapted from here.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Chickpea Flour  (aka Besan or Gram Flour)
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper (use half if you are spice-averse)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (make your own, essentially it is my Amazing Curry spice mix, minus the salt and the chilli powder)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 green chili pepper, thinly sliced (use half if you are spice-averse)
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion (or 1 medium onion, my onions were massive), sliced into 1/8inch crescents (cut in half, chop off ends, cut along ribs to create thin, but not too thin, slices)
  • 4-6 leaves of Swiss chard, fold the leaves in half lengthwise, cut off stem, and slice into 1/4-inch thick, 2-inch long strips.
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Grapeseed oil (or another mild-flavoured oil), for deep frying

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill an 8-inch cast-iron skillet half-way up with oil. Heat the oil to 360-375ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the chickpea flour, red chili flakes, garam masala, salt, baking powder, sliced chilli pepper, cilantro, Swiss chard, and sliced onion.
  3. Slowly add in the water, while mixing with a wooden spoon or your hands. Vigorously mix for a couple of seconds. The batter will be thick, and air bubbles should be evident, if not, give it another vigorous stir.
  4. If you don’t have a thermometer that goes to 360°F, don’t fret. Put the end of a wooden spoon into the oil, if there are a lot of bubbles forming around the end, and coming towards the surface, you are ready to fry.
  5. When the oil is ready, carefully place heaping tablespoons of batter into the pot. Don’t do more than three, or four at a time. If you overcrowd the pan, you will lower the temperature of the oil significantly and your pakoras wont fry, but absorb the oil. Greasy pakoras are no good.
  6. Turning once, fry until the pakoras are a pecan-brown. Drain on a cooling rack placed over a cookie sheet.
  7. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.
  8. Serve with mint chutney, sriracha, mango chutney, ketchup chutney, ketchup, anything really.

This is my kitchen situation. Small space, but now that we’ve removed the microwave, it is a lot more functional. That cord off to the left? That’s my camera cord, as right now it is the only way to use my camera… I forgot my battery charger in the Yukon and sadly the cord only allows the camera to operate, it doesn’t charge it.

Icebox Cookies. Or, how to use your egg yolks after making meringues

These are made with a rich dough that can be rolled in or topped with whatever you like. I just baked up a small batch plain so I could easily dip them in some hot chocolate and coffee. They are a beautiful cross between a sugar cookie and shortbread… more on the sugar cookie side of things. This is a great way to use up excess egg yolks after making meringues, or chocolate mousse. But, if you want to make these first, at least you also know what to do with your whites! I like icebox cookies because they are essentially cookies anytime, whip up a recipe throw the cookie log in the freezer, slice and bake and you’ve got fresh cookies in 15 minutes. If you think ahead… I didn’t… you can roll them in coconut, chocolate, nuts, etc. and have fancier versions ready for when guests surprize you!

Icebox Cookies

This recipe makes about 2 large logs of dough… I am not a log-forming master, so you can probably make many more small logs.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • tasty flavour additions: 1/2 tsp cardamon or 1 tbsp orange zest or swap 1/4 tsp of vanilla for a flavoured extract like almond or roll the log immediately after forming it, in chocolate shavings, crushed walnuts, shredded coconut, or sprinkles.

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add yolks and beat well, scraping down the sides. Add vanilla.
  3. Add flour (and flavours if wanted) and mix until just combined.
  4. Separate in two and roll into logs. Roll the logs in desired toppings. Wrap the logs in plastic and freeze for at least two hours, but feel free to leave them longer, until you want them! Slice off one, or two, or twenty cookies and bake!
  5. Heat oven to 350°F. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper.
  6. Unwrap log, and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice off 1/4 inch cookies.
  7. Arrange cookies on your baking sheet, 1 inch apart and bake until pale golden, 13 to 15 minutes.
  8. Serve with coffee, milk, hot chocolate, or just a smile.

Poorly shaped, expertly sliced cookies.

Delicious

From the cover photo, because its such a lovely shot.

 

Fresh Fig and Frangipane Torte

I have always wondered about fresh figs. My only experience with figs at all has been in Newtons, and while I liked those, I couldn’t imagine the fresh fruit being particularly special. Finally, when cruising through the grocery story for other ingredients I decided to pick up some fresh figs. When I got home I cut one open and gave it a taste. I get it, they are yummy, though nothing in their flavour really stands out for me. The skin has a bit of a tart punch, but I wish it was more, and the flesh is slightly sweet but really muted. Overall I enjoyed it, but I really did want to make something special. So here we go, a torte with almonds and figs. I made a fairly standard almond torte, then whipped up a small batch of frangipane, an almond cream (of sorts) that elevated the figs and the almonds in the torte to a whole new level. Now, I did slightly burn the outside of my torte, sigh, but that is a product a poor pan, the centre is crumbly, buttery, perfection.

Fresh Fig and Frangipane Torte

Inspired by Orangette.

INGREDIENTS

Frangipane

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg

Torte

  • 2/3 cup almond meal (make your own by pulsing whole almonds in a coffee grinder until they are fine, not too long though or you will make almond butter)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp dark rum (I went with The Kraken, no surprize, but you can use any liquor you like here, or vanilla)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 to 5 ripe figs, quartered

DIRECTIONS

  1. Frangipane: Heat the oven to 350°F.  Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant.  Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature.Put the almonds and the sugar into a food processor and process until fine.  Add the butter and the egg and pulse until well-combined. Set aside.
  2. Turn the oven to 375 F. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
  3. Take 1 cup of whole almonds  and in small batches, grind in a coffee grinder until you have a fine powder. Be careful not to over process. Empty into a measuring cup until you have 2/3 cup of almond meal. Remove and reprocess the large chunks of almonds.
  4. Whisk together the almond meal, flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.
  6. Add the rum, the dry ingredients, and the eggs. Beat well until everything is incorporated.
  7. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread it out until even across the base of the pan.
  8. Dollop your frangipane in 5 parts on top of the cake batter and gently smooth in an even circle across the centre, leaving 1/4 inch at the edges.
  9. Arrange the fig pieces on top and bake for 40 minutes or until the top of the cake turns golden brown. A toothpick test should also come out clean.
  10. Run a knife along the edge of the pan and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Flip the cake onto a plate, allowing it to come out of the pan. Then, place a rack on the bottom and flip it back over to cool for another 10 minutes.
  11. Serve alone or with a dollop of mascarpone whipped cream.

Homemade almond meal

A little dark, but super tender inside.

Black Bottom Meringues— Chocolate meringues with dark chocolate and espresso bottoms

Alright, alright, the bottoms are less black than brown but brown bottom sounded questionable, so I went with it. These are easy meringues with a dark chocolate and espresso ganache for the bottoms. The ganache mellows out the sweetness of the meringue, it is a lovely pairing. I mentioned my friend Angela in the last post, and I will mention her again! These meringues were made in celebration… in mourning… of her imminent departure. Angela is leaving us Vancouver folk for the wilds of the Sunshine Coast, she is moving on to bigger and better things, though we think she’ll come back to us, we’ve got all the beer here!

Black Bottom Meringues

INGREDIENTS

Meringues

  • 6 large egg whites (save your yolks for icebox cookies: to be posted this weekend)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 2/3 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Ganache

  • 2 squares of dark bakers chocolate (or 2 oz of dark chocolate of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp of room-temperature espresso or very strong coffee
  • 3 tbsp of whipping cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 175°F.
  2. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a large metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water, not touching the water, and not boiling water.
  4. Whisk the mixture constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth and warm to the touch (roughly 3-4 minutes). Remove from heat and beat the whites until stiff, glossy peaks form (this is most easily and quickly done with a mixer, but I am sure it could be accomplished by hand).
  5. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
  6. Using a sifter (or a mesh strainer in my case) sift the cocoa over the meringue and stir until no streaks remain. I am not usually this particular about sifting stuff, but my cocoa was lumpy as all hell, so I did it and it worked beautifully.
  7. Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag or a large ziploc with a corner snipped off. Squeeze out quarter-sized dollops onto your parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 2 hours, until they lift from the pan easily, mine took a little extra time because I wanted them quite dry. If you want them a little chewy, check after 1.5 hours. Allow to cool completely.
  9. While the meringues are cooling make the ganache.
  10. In a small pan over simmering water, melt the chocolate taking care not to scorch it.
  11. Add espresso and cream and stir to combine, it will come together… trust me.
  12. Once meringues have cooled smooth a layer of ganache across the bottom, place meringues bottom-up on a baking sheet as you go. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the ganache to set.
  13. Serve.

The meringues are starting to stiffen.

Folding in the cocoa powder.

Homemade Pita, the perfect pocket for meals of all sorts!

Seriously now, breads are easy. My lovely friend Angela (who is leaving us in a few days for the boonies) brought homemade pita to a party months ago and casually mentioned that it wasn’t that hard to make. We all revelled in her culinary genius but I had never thought to take up the task. Well, consider that task taken up. It was truly not that hard, and it was definitely worth it. Pita made at home is fluffy and delicious. I baked these up in no time and we stuffed them with that Curry Chicken Salad. It was an awesome dinner, made all the better by fresh pita.

Pita Bread

Makes 8 pitas
Preparation: 2.5 hours
Cook time: 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/2- 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • a pinch of sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the yeast, 1/2 cup of the warm water, and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl, stirring until the yeast is just mixed into the water. Set this mixture aside and let it do its thing for 10 minutes, until creamy.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the rest of the warm water with the flour, salt ,and olive oil.
  3. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix until a soft dough has formed. Knead the dough in the bowl until you have a soft, smooth dough that springs back when poked.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, rubbing some oil over the dough as well, cover let it rise for 1.5 hours, until doubled.
  5. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  6. Turn out your risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate and section the dough into 8 equal balls.
  7. Roll each ball into a circle of about 6 inches, about 1/4 inch thick.
  8. Cover your rolled-pitas and allow them to rise for another 10 minutes.
  9. Place the circles on a parchment-lined (or greased) cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or till puffed up and light brown.
  10. You might have to do a couple rounds of baking to get all your pitas done.
  11. Stuff with Curry Chicken Salad, or whatever you gosh darn want.

Soft and oiled pita dough.

Pita in it raw form… also delicious…

Puffed and prime for stuffing.

 

 

 

Tentative consistent schedule!

So, with this summer filled with visitors, visiting, and work (I wish I could’ve got another ‘v’ in there), I have been really erratic with my posting. When I first started Not Crocker I had hope for my sister having time to post, but with two small children, there just hasn’t been time, so it’s all me. I was posting as often as possible, but this left me exhausted with no energy to cook. When folks came into town, or if I took a vacation I didn’t have any posts ready to go. So. A schedule has been made! I am going to post Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. There will be occasional posts in and around these days, heck I get excited about the stuff I make, but you can count on great posts on those four days. And don’t worry, this isn’t today’s post! I have a recipe for Pita Bread coming out in an hour, it is easy and delicious and amps up any sandwich.

Here’s a photo of my messy-faced niece telling YOU to come back for more!

“I want YOU to come back for more!”… no really, she can’t talk yet, but it is clearly what she’s thinking.

Chocolate & Nut Date Balls- chocolate cravings killer

These sticky treats are not your grandma’s date balls. They are fudgy and packed with chocolate flavour. I added a lot of nuts, probably more than you might want, but they are tasty. And they are easy to adjust to what you have on hand or what your tastes are. I am often finding myself pining for chocolate and these have successfully satisfied those cravings time and again. They keep wonderfully in the fridge and travel well. While I happily used my food processor that I got from my friend Kim, these could be made without it by chopping things up very small by hand and mixing well, though they will be less fudge-like. They are pretty darn healthy, there is no butter or sugar added as the dates act as both.

Chocolate & Nut Date Balls

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups of pitted medjool dates (can be whole, chopped, whatever. You are processing them)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup salted cashews (I just had these on hand and they were awesome, the saltiness added a new dimension)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa powder (start with two and work up to your desired fudginess)
  • 1/3 cup dried oats (whole oats if you are using a food processor; quick oats if not, as they are already chopped up)
  • 2 tbsps of semi-sweet chocolate chips are optional (totally not necessary but will further amp the chocolate factor)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Chuck everything into the food processor and blend. Start with only 2 tbsp of cocoa powder and add more as needed. If the texture isn’t coming together more dates will add the necessary stickiness. Add more nuts, coconut, dried fruit, etc. as desired.
  2. Once things have been chopped down to your taste, roll into balls, place in a tupperware and refrigerate to firm them up. Feel free to roll these in some additional cocoa powder or coconut.
  3. If you are making these by hand, which is definitely possible, chop all the ingredients that need it, as well as you can. Pop everything into a bowl and stir aggressively (that’s right, aggressively!) to combine. You are looking for the ingredients to stick together and distribute evenly.
  4. Eat morning, noon, and night.

All the good stuff, ready to mingle.

Mozzarella & Basil Bread

I am doing a terrible job of using my basil plant to its full capacity. I constantly forget that it’s hanging out on our balcony, growing away for us. But when I remember to us it, it is always awesome. Fresh basil on pizza with some sliced tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella, perfection. Fresh basil in a loaf of bread, awesome. I’ve gotten so much better at making bread, thanks largely to my birthday mixer. I am a terrible kneader, as I am sure my family will attest, so having a mixer that can do so much of the work for me has allowed me to make fluffy, stretchy, beautifully consistant loaves. I am in heaven, as is my husband. So here is my latest loaf, a cheesy, basily loaf that according to Gen is reminiscent of pizza… It makes great bread for a sandwich, oh my it would be heaven for grilled cheese! It is also awesome when sliced open, slathered with some garlic butter and chives and broiled for garlic bread. Make it: moral of the story.

Also, thanks for your patience with my very-brief hiatus. I needed that time.

Mozzarella & Basil Bread

Adapted from here.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tsps active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsps milk
  • handfull of fresh basil, about 1/4 cup (or 2 tbsp dried basil) *technique time: layer all your leaves of basil together and lightly roll lengthwise. Cut this roll into thin strips, BAM you’ve cut all your basil in one shot.
  • 1 egg, beaten for eggwash

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a cup, stir lightly and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until creamy.
  2. In a large bowl combine the creamy yeast mixture with 1 cup of bread flour to form a loose batter.
  3. Stir in 1 more cup of flour and the salt.
  4. Add in the third cup of flour with the shredded mozzarella, milk, and roughly chopped basil. Mix in additional flour if needed, until a soft dough forms and pulls away from bowl.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface, and knead until the dough is thoroughly mixed, but still sticky, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour into the dough as you knead, if necessary. Form the dough into a ball, and place into an oiled bowl, lightly oil the dough to keep it moist. Cover, and allow to rise until double, about 1 hour.
  6. After it has doubled, punch it down in the bowl, to deflate. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface, and knead for about 3 minutes. Form into a football, tucking the seam at the bottom. Place on a parchment-lined (or greased) cooking sheet. With a sharp knife, slash the loaf in your desired pattern… nothing elaborate. Cover again and allow to rise for 25 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  8. Uncover the loaf, brush lightly with your beaten egg.
  9. Bake until browned, about 25 minutes. Allow it to cool for about 25 minutes before slicing. Seriously, try.

Cheese is shredded and basil is plucked!

*Basil ribbons… not precise or even, but delicious!

Crisp crust, fluffy interior with little cheesy pockets. I cut it before it had time to cool, I was just that excited.

My lovely husband brought me lovely flowers. Ooooooh.

Brief Hiatus— Super brief, I will be back at it Sunday

I am in the midst of buckle-down time for a number of real-life work projects. My stress level has peaked and I need to let something sit for a bit while I get stuff done. Not Crocker has been doing wonderfully the last few weeks and I hate to stall progress, but I really need to wrap up some other projects so I can back to a normal level of stress. But, don’t fret, I am just going to take the rest of this week and will be back with a couple of glorious posts. What to look forward to? Flourless chocolate cake with praline and cayenne, inspired by a favourite restaurant; pasta sauce made with mascarpone (seriously, I still have a ton); a new and exciting braided and stuffed bread; at least one new dip; something blueberry (blueberries are out and about!).

To tide you over, photograph-style, here are a couple photos from the summer.

I am crazy about radishes and happily my parents always have a bowl of them in the fridge.

 

My husband and mom being sassy.