Yum, yum: Churros

We’re nearly a month into 2013 and all of our healthy eating resolutions are beginning to feel a bit… boring. After weeks of sugary treats and cheese platters galore, the focus on veggies and whole grains was a welcome (and oh so necessary) change of pace. Now that our jeans no longer feel like they’re cutting off the circulation in our thighs, we’re ready to return to a more balanced lifestyle. Basically, this means we’re craving butter and sugar, and will punch someone if we’re offered another piece of kale. 




With the cold weather officially here, we’re a lot more likely to want to spend some time around a hot stove and a pot of bubbling oil. Don’t worry, the end result is a lot less Game of Thrones’ battle of Blackwater and a whole lot of delicious. Yes, we are talking about churros! The crispy, deep-fried dough is a favourite in Spain and Mexico. We highly recommend serving them with a rich hot cocoa. If you’re feeling especially loco, why not dip your churro in the cocoa?

Churros (recipe via Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
vegetable oil (for frying)
confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon or a cinnamon-sugar combo (for dusting)

Tools of the trade. 

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine one cup water, butter, sugar, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and sift in flour, stirring for one minute.

Sift that flour, baby. Sift it good.
2. Transfer flour mixture to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On low speed, add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition; spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip.

All ready to be fried!
3. Heat 4 to 5 inches oil in a large Dutch-oven until it registers 325 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer (note: we used a candy thermometer, which worked out excellently!). Holding pastry bag a few inches above the oil, squeeze out batter, snipping off 4-inch lengths with a knife or kitchen shears. Fry, flipping once, until deep golden brown all over, about four minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer churros to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Squeeze that dough. 
Fry that dough. 
4. Roll churros in topping of your choice. Serve immediately!

Ta da! Try not to eat them all at once. 

*Special thanks goes out to Trish Petozzi for teaching us how to fry churros like a pro. Trish works at Cake & Loaf Bakery and has the best sister in the world. 

Yum, yum: Smitten Kitchen

It’s no secret that we love food, cooking and all things delicious. So when we heard that one of our favourite food bloggers, Smitten Kitchen, was writing a cookbook, we were pretty jazzed. An inspirational blogger, her recipes never fail to wow whether at a dinner party or cozy meal for two. 


For those of you who are not familiar, Smitten Kitchen is a food blog written and photographed (beautifully) by Deb Perelman. 




She creates all sorts of simple, delicious wonders in a tiny kitchen in NYC. She focuses on tweaking already existing recipes until they’re easy to re-create at home, as well as combining a bunch of techniques from other kitchen wizards (Martha Stewart and Ina Garten make frequent appearances). Deb usually sticks with familiar comfort foods, with a bit of a twist. Everything we’ve ever made from this site turns out. Impressive.


Some of our favourite recipes: 


Avocado Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing: A hearty, healthy salad with a dressing recipe from our other favourite food blogger, GOOPy. Substantial enough for a lunch or light dinner. Yum.




Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto: Made this simple pasta dish after a long day at work recently and whoa! Making pesto from broccoli is an amazing revelation, plus, this dinner is super easy. Leftovers in the office the next day elicited serious looks of envy. 





Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint: Fresh, delicious, unusual and pretty. Awesome dish to bring to a potluck or BBQ – looks like it took a ton of time when really, it doesn’t.



Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup: Sounds odd, tastes like a dream. For some reason, sausage in soup seems pretty strange. But whip this up and you’ll never question it again. So. Much. Flavour. 



Potato Chip Cookies: The name says it all. Salty & sweet.



There are so, so many more recipes we could post, but we recommend browsing the site and trying whatever strikes your fancy. 

Deb is coming to Toronto on Friday, November 16 at the George Brown Chef School, to chat about her book and do some signings. Tickets are almost sold out, we hear – so grab ’em while they’re hot. See you there! 



All images courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

Yum, yum: Banana Muffins

Restaurants these days are offering gluten-free pastas, bakeries are making gluten-free baked goods, and gluten-free recipes are popping up everywhere. For those of us who try to avoid gluten, we say the more options the better. While some restaurants and bakeries have mastered this modified way of cooking and baking, in a lot of cases, the alternatives just do not compare. So we decided to take things into our own hands. 

After trying a few different recipes, our most successful gluten-free baking triumph happens to be one of our all-time greatest comfort foods: banana muffins.

 Image source.
Gluten-Free Banana Oat Muffins
Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups gluten-free oats (available at most health food stores)
1 cup almond flour (other gluten-free flours like brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, or quinoa flour, etc. can be substituted)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
2 cups mashed banana (4-6 bananas, over ripe are best)
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preparation:
1.     Beat egg, banana and melted butter together in a small bowl until smooth.
2.     Add banana mixture to dry ingredients, stir until mixed.
3.     Fill greased muffin cups (almost full).
4.     Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched.


If your food allergies are not just limited to gluten, we’ve also used this recipe courtesy of the website My New Roots, that has no eggs, dairy, or sugar and it works with a variety of flours as well.
Ingredients:
1/4 cup milk of your choice (almond, hemp, goat, soy…)
6 Tbsp. olive oil, butter, ghee or coconut oil
6 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups mashed ripe bananas (approximately 5 medium bananas)
2 cups flour of your choice
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup chopped nuts + seeds (walnuts, pecans, and pumpkin seeds)
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (1 standard 100 g bar) – optional
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Line an 8” x 8” cake pan or loaf pan with baking paper, or lightly oil and dust with flour, shaking out excess.
3. Put the milk, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and bananas in a blender and blend until smooth.
4. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Add banana mixture and combine using as few stroked as possible. Fold in nuts and chocolate.
5. Pour into a cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (time varies greatly according to oven – mine takes about an hour, but this recipe suggests only 30 minutes. Check periodically after the half hour mark.)
Gluten-free baking (well any baking really) is all about trial and error. Some flours will be too dry, others too moist. But if you’re willing to put in the time, it’s satisfying to find a healthy recipe that tastes great, and may even fool those who think they can taste the difference.

Yum Yum: Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette

Forgive us if we keep going on and on about how happy we are that our favourite fruits and veggies are in season. It was a long, hard winter and our taste buds are rejoicing at the return of fresh produce.

On our latest trip to Fiesta Farms we stumbled across some rhubarb. While these pink stalks can be quite bitter, if you add a little sugar and cook them down, they make a lovely compote or a perfect companion to berries. We’re more stoked on the latter and decided to attempt a Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette.

Our galette on the fourth floor.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette
(makes three mini-galettes)
Crust:
We used Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee recipe for the crust and it turned out perfectly (go Martha). We don’t have a food processor, so we blended the butter the ol’ fashioned way – with a pastry cutter. You’ll need to make the dough at least an hour before you plan to start baking. 
Tip for making your pie crusts super flaky: Stick everything in the freezer for 10 minutes before you start baking. The butter, your pastry cutter, your bowl. We aren’t sure how it works, but it definitely does.

Filling:

2 1/2 cups of rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces
3/4 cup of sugar + additional for garnishing
1 tbs vegetable oil
3 cups of strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 egg

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Celsius. 

2. Cook rhubarb first to reduce excess liquid. (This extra liquid has been the downfall of many a pie crust.) Mix 1/4 cup of sugar with rhubarb and heat the vegetable oil in a pan. Once oil is smoking, add the rhubarb-sugar mix and cook for 5 minutes. Rhubarb should be cooked, but still firm. Set aside and let cool.

3. Mix 1/2 cup sugar with strawberries. Drain excess liquid from the cooled rhubarb and fold in with the strawberries.

4. Take crust out of the fridge and roll out on lightly floured surface. Spoon rhubarb-strawberry mixture into centre of crust, leaving at least an inch around each edge. Fold the “naked” edges into the centre, pleating the dough as needed. The pastry will partially cover the filling, leaving an open middle where the filling will show through. Repeat with other two galettes.

5. Place galettes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Whip one egg and use a pastry brush to glaze the pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle the pastry with sugar.

6. Bake galettes in oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Celsius. Turn down heat to 350 degrees Celsius, and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool.

7. Eat while hot or at room temperature. Goes well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a hot summer’s night.

Media, Darling: Linda Luong

Linda Luong is the Editor-in-Chief of Where Toronto, Where Muskoka and Essential Toronto magazines, where she started seven years ago as an assistant editor. Prior to that, she worked at a children’s publication with Metroland and at Canoe.ca as a reporter. She is an avid pinner on Pinterest, Etsy shopper (her latest purchase was a Queen of a Quite a Lot print), magazine junkie, pink enthusiast, and has never come across a lemon dessert she could resist.  


Image courtesy of Edwin dela Cruz.

Twitter: @linda_luong

What was your favourite class in high school? Why?
Biology. I took it all the way through high school just so I could do dissection at the end of the year. Plus it made me feel smart talking about osmosis, cell division and homeostasis.

How did you get your start as an editor?
At Canoe.ca as a reporter during 9/11. It was the best on-the-job experience working in a busy newsroom, juggling multiple stories, deadlines, trying to stay on top of every new development.

If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
A baker. I am always baking something in my spare time – I’ve perfected peanut butter cupcakes recently, and my coconut cream cake and double chocolate brownies are often requested by my family and friends for gatherings.

Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
Email. It lets me digest the information in my own time and percolate potential tie-ins to upcoming editorial content. And if it’s a product pitch, please provide pictures – it helps to have a visual to go along with the message, especially if you’re going to reference a particular physical element.

We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are
no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
Really understand a publication and its mandate and audience before pitching something. I get a lot of pitches for products and services that are great, but as our publications are for visitors, some things will just not apply to our readers.

Respect deadlines. If you promise to send information, images or samples for a photoshoot by a certain date, then please do. There’s nothing worse or more annoying than having to scramble to find something else to include in an issue at the last minute because something you were expecting didn’t come in on time.

Be realistic in your pitches – don’t over promise. Please don’t promise me an interview with somebody if you haven’t spoken to their people yet and gotten the go-ahead, or please don’t tell me that a product will be in stores by my publication date just to get it in, if it won’t be in stores until a few weeks after that.

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise – I’m a morning person.

Scent?
Hermès’ Un Jardin Sur Le Toit.

Cookie?
Yes, please! Especially if they’re peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Flower?
Peonies.

Ticklish?
Absolutely.

Shower or bath?
Shower.

Film?
Officially, I say Scent of a Woman. Privately, I confess that it’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Crush?
Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Life and John Slattery from Mad Men.

First job?
Selling shoes at Naturalizer. I had never seen so much support hose in my life before that job.

Inspiration?

My grandma. She raised six kids on her own after being widowed at a young age, and at 85, she can still touch her toes with ease!

Yum, yum: DIY Whoopie Pies

Carly was feeling domestic again, and decided to take on the project of baking her very own version of the uber-trendy dessert, whoopie pies, complete with her very own expert (Bubbie), photographer (Dad) and intern/clean-up crew (Mom). Success or #fail? Read on to find out. 

Like most good cooking blogs, this one begins with a trip to the mall. To get your Bakerella on, buy whoopie pie mix, courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. You’re well on your way to success, and no one needs to know that it’s not from scratch.

Back at home, take your mix and line it up with your other ingredients. That’s one egg, lots of butter, and a jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Smile big for the camera.


Beat the butter until whipped. For those of you that forgot to leave the butter out for optimal room temperature whipping purposes, feel free to microwave the stuff. I did. Then, mix ingredients together:

 
Add egg.
Pour in mix.

Beat until there’s no more nasty clumps. 
If your mix looks weird, call in the expert. It is likely that you forgot an ingredient. Just sayin’.
Pour in forgotten ingredient (in this case…milk). Beat again.
Spoon clump-free batter into 16 cookie shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet .
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees Celsius. Wear chic oven mitts with your stripe-on-plaid outfit, and take out when fluffy. It is also not a bad idea to pre-heat the oven (oops).

On to the filling: it’s Marshmallow Fluff time. Use the whole jar. 

It’s a sticky situation, so have your expert on hand.

Let’s put these whoopies together now, people. Begin with one chocolate cookie. 

Spread the icing over the cookie, and top off with a second cookie. If I made the icing bit look easy, trust that it isn’t.

Press cookies into place, and show off your new polish change in Blue My Mind by OPI.

Enjoy them, but not too many of them. It will hurt your stomach.

Serve these special thank-yous to your crew. 

Special shout out to my expert baker (Bubbie), photographer (father) and clean-up crew (thanks, Mom).

Yum, yum: Matt’s Mom’s Recipes: Go-To Cookies!

As the name says, this is my “go-to” cookie that is great for impressing guests, and is super easy to make. I always use natural peanut butter – smooth or crunchy. I found this recipe in The Toronto Star about five years ago.

These are great! Sometimes if we’re lucky, we’ll get a care package of these brought up to the fourth floor. They’re such a good mid-afternoon snack when we need a break and a bit of a sugar hit.


Go-To Cookie
1/2 cup each white and brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup each flour and oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

1. Beat sugars and butter until fluffy.
2. Add peanut butter, egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients
4. Add mixed dry ingredients to butter and sugar mixture.
5. On a lightly greased cookie sheet (or lined with parchment paper), drop tablespoon-full balls of cookie dough, three inches apart from one another.
6. Bake at 375 degrees Celsius for eight to 10 minutes.

Photo credit: dietdessertndogs.com