Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Baking Part 2 - Lebkuchen (Big Cookies)

Yesterday I made beautiful cookies.

Today I made ugly ones!
These cookies have been made in my family at Christmas time for at least four generations. My great grandmother taught my nana how to make them. My nana taught my father how to make them and my father taught me. We have other traditional foods that we make at Christmas, but these are my favorite, so every year I take an afternoon to bake and think about my great grandmother whom I was lucky to have many years with. She moved to Canada from Denmark when she was young, in the 1920's I believe, and lived on a farm in New Brunswick with my great grandfather for the rest of her life.

The cookies are like rocks if you try to eat them as is. The only liquids in them are honey and smidge of lemon juice, so they will hurt your teeth if you chomp down on one. But, dip them in a hot cup of coffee or tea (4 seconds is the perfect amount of time) and they become soft and spongy. The icing melts a little and the center of the cookie is nice and chewy. Not to mention it sweetens your hot drink a little. I always like to let my tea cool for ten minutes or so before I drink it, so what better way to pass the time than with a cookie? They are a little bit spicy and a little bit sweet, one of my very favorite Christmas treats.

I wanted to share this family recipe so that hopefully some of you will add this to your Christmas baking list. Let me know if you do!

Recipe: Lebkuchen (Big Cookies)

Makes approximately 2 dozen


1 cup honey
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 beaten egg
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon rind
1/3 cup chopped citron peel
1/3 cup almond slices
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves

Bring honey to a boil, pour in a bowl and let cool.

Add sugar and remaining ingredients. Mix well and store overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Turn out on floured board and roll out 1/2" thick and cut into 2” circles with a circular cookie cutter or a drinking glass. The dough will be sticky, so flour the rolling pin and board frequently to prevent sticking.

Space well apart on cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 12 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Cookies are done when one or two start to brown along the bottom edge.

When completely cool, ice with almond icing and decorate with almonds and citron. Serve with coffee or tea.

For the icing, I usually make sort of a poor man's buttercream. About 1/4 cup butter, 2 1/2 cups icing sugar, 1 tsp almond extract and enough milk to make it easy to spread, all mixed together until smooth but not until fluffy. Spread a thin layer on the cookie and allow the icing to harden. By not using as much butter/shortening as with a regular buttercream, it crusts much faster which is the effect you want.

I'm not sure if the boiling honey is an old way of pasturizing it for safety, or what the purpose is exactly, but I do it anyway. At the very least, having warm honey in the dough makes it much easier to stir, but I'm not sure it's actually necessary to bring it all the way to a boil.

I made two batches so I can leave out half a dozen or so for snacking before putting the rest in the freezer until Christmas.

So far my Christmas baking is shaping up nicely!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Baking Part 1 - Snowflake Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing


I waited as long as I could.

I've had the Christmas baking itch for weeks now and I haven't made anything. Finally, yesterday I decided it was close enough to start on the freezables.

It's snowing cookies!!!

Anyone who knows me knows that I go nuts for blue snowflake-y things at Christmas. I scour the stores for blue and silver wrapping paper with matching tags. I have snowflake decorations on my tree and throughout my apartment. With the exception of the decorations on my Christmas tree, my apartment is decked out in silver and blue for the holidays.

I'm going to be putting together gift baskets of baked goods for a lot of my loved ones this Christmas. I have gorgeous blue boxes with silver snowflakes that I found at Winners, and clear cellophane with blue snowflakes that I found at the dollar store, so I thought a snowflake cookie would tie it all together.

I've been wanting to make sugar cookies with royal icing for a while now, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity! I was inspired by the Wilton website to pick up one of their cookie cutters and start baking!

The cookies are plain sugar cookies, made using this recipe from The are amazing! I rolled them out to about 1/4" and they baked up light and fluffy. Perfection.

I used the royal icing recipe I learned in Wilton Course 2:

Recipe: Royal Icing

1 1/2 Tbsp meringue powder
2 cups icing sugar
2.5 Tbsp lukewarm water

Mix on low/medium speed with an electric mixer for 7 minutes. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth while working with icing because it dries out very quickly.

I separated 1/4 cup of the icing and coloured the rest with royal blue icing colour.

These took quite honestly the whole day to ice. My hands were absolutely aching by the end of it and for a while I thought I would have to split it over two days, but I stuck it out and made 40 gorgeous cookies. I am so impressed with how beautiful they turned out. I make a lot of cute foods but I think these are my favorite of anything I've ever made!

The cookies are not particularly sweet, so I find the sweetness and crunch of the icing complements the soft cookies perfectly.

To ice these babies, first I waited for the cookies to cool. Next, using a #2 tip, I piped the outline of the snowflake on each cookie in blue. I added a few teaspoons of water to the remaining blue frosting until it was of a pourable consistency, but not too thin. The trick is to add the water a teaspoon at a time and check it by pouring a spoonful of icing back into the bowl. If it melds into the rest of the icing in about 10 seconds, it's thin enough.

Next I piped the thinned blue icing inside the outlines using a #4 tip, and used a toothpick to smooth it out the edges to create the smooth blue surface. Don't worry if the surface doesn't look smooth at first. It smooths out as it dries and most of it will be covered with white anyway.

The last step is to pipe on the snowflake with the white icing after the blue had dried. I used the #2 tip for that as well and placed a silver ball in the center of each snowflake while the icing was still wet.

And that's it! Not to difficult, but very time consuming and hard on your hands.

So these guys will live in the freezer for the next two weeks and make their grand appearance at Christmas. I have at least two more types of cookies to make, so I will post them as I go.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wilton Course 2 - Final Cake

As I've mentioned previously, my sister and I started taking Wilton cake decorating lessons at Michael's back in October. Last week we finished Course 2 and I was really happy with how my cake turned out, so I thought I would share.

The reason I started to take these courses was because I had tried making flowers out of icing and fondant a few times and wasn't having much luck, so I figured I could use some direction. In the first class we just covered the basics, but in Course 2 we focused almost entirely on making flowers from royal icing and learned a few new borders.

Here is the top of the cake. As always, click on the picture to get a closer look.
Lots of flowers! The roses, daffodils and daisies should be easy to pick out. The orange flowers are chrysanthemums, the large yellow and purples ones are pansies, the small purple ones are violets, the large pale pink ones are primroses, the small pink ones are apple blossoms and the tiny pink ones are rose buds. All of the flowers are done with royal icing, and the cake, leaves, borders and basketweave are done with buttercream (Don't tell my instructor, but I used my own buttercream recipe instead of the Wilton one!).

BF was impressed with how I balanced out the colours and arranged the flowers. He said he bets I learned those skills from making so many bento lunches.

Here is a side picture to show a flower arrangement on the side of the cake.And here's a front picture to show the basketweave around the sides of the cake as well as one of two run-out birds made from royal icing.

The royal icing recipe we used for the course consists only of icing sugar, meringue powder and water. The result is an icing that is stiff and holds its shape well as you mold it. It then hardens into a crunchy sort of candy. Some people don't enjoy the taste I guess, but I think it's yummy. Although this is the only icing we used for the flowers, I think a stiff butter cream would also work, although it might not hold all of the minute details. It would probably have to be kept cool as well so that it would hold its shape.

Overall, I'm really pleased with what I learned in this course and the value for the cost. The course itself was $21 and the course supplies kit was $40 but I had a 50% off coupon. I already had all of the rest of the decorating equipment I needed (piping bags, practice board, cake turntable, cake board) from Course 1 so it was just a matter of picking up a couple of bags of icing sugar. And now I know how to make gorgeous flowers! Course 3 isn't offered until January, so we get a month off (so I can get back to making cupcakes!!) and then we'll be back at it.

My understanding is that their are Michaels stores across North America, so I definitely recommend taking the classes if you have any interest in making pretty things with icing. It's an easy way to learn some new practical skills. Before I took the classes, piping swirls on cupcakes with a 1M tip was pretty much the extent of my cake decorating repertoire. I don't necessarily think that The Wilton Method is the be all/end all of cake decorating, but I do feel that the amount I've learned is definitely worth the 2 hours per week investment. Like anything in life though, I would suggest getting several different perspectives and choosing the method you like the best. For me that means using my own recipe for buttercream frosting and using a traditional variation on royal icing for icing run-outs rather than purchasing the Wilton Color Flow powder.

I love learning!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Carrot Cake Recipe

I love to look in the sweets case at the grocery store. Little truffles, tarts and cakes all lined up, so cute. I peeked in it today while BF and I were shopping and saw some carrot cake cupcakes and absently muttered to myself "I should make a carrot cake..."

BF stopped in his tracks, looked at me and said "You can't joke about that, because I'll won't be able to help but run over and grab a bag of carrots and hope for cake."

Of course I told him to go get the carrots.

Here are some slices all ready and lined up for him to take to work tomorrow. We can't eat a 9 x 13 cake all by ourselves!

The recipe is adapted from one I found online. It is incredibly dense, moist and flavourful. One of my favorite things about making carrot cake is watching all of the ingredients going into the bowl because you put about twice as much stuff in there as you do for normal cakes, but it goes into the same size of pan.

I originally planned to make cupcakes, but after some soul searching, I realized that for me to enjoy carrot cake to its fullest potential, it should be served in cubes. So instead of piped swirls of frosting, I just made a really thick layer on the top of the cake.

Recipe: Carrot Cake


4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugars and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed for three minutes.

Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in carrots. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Recipe: Cream Cheese Frosting


1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about three minutes. Add vanilla and mix. Add icing sugar and blend until consistency is uniform.

The little carrots were made by colouring 1/4 cup of the frosting orange and 1/4 cup green. The carrots were piped with Wilton tip #5 and the green parts were piped with Wilton tip #3. The rest of the frosting was exactly enough to frost the cake.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Creamy Potato and Leek (and Bacon!) Soup Recipe

Twice in the past week I've been walking down a street and seen a sign outside a restaurant advertising potato and leek soup. I love potato and leek soup, but I didn't go in either time.

This morning, BF and I headed to our regular brunch haunt (Halifax Residents: Check out brunch at Luxx in Park Lane. It's Halifax's best kept secret brunch in my opinion) and sure enough, the soup of the day was potato and leek. I had my heart set on eggs benny though, and I knew that although I believed at that moment I had room for both, my eyes are generally bigger than my stomach so I should just stick with the eggs.

Lucky for me though, the restaurant was directly across the street from the grocery store, so you can guess what my next stop was.

It turned out to die for. Soooooooo good!

Here's the recipe:

Recipe: Creamy Potato and Leek Soup


4 good sized new potatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 lb bacon
1 bunch of leeks
1/2 cup heavy cream

Peel potatoes and cut into bite sized cubes. Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large pot and add potatoes. Boil until potatoes are cooked through.

Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces and fry over medium heat until crispy. While the bacon is cooking, remove bottoms from the leeks and cut the tops into small slices. Remove bacon from pan and drain about half of the bacon fat from the pan. Saute the leeks in the remaining bacon fat for about 8 minutes.

Once the potatoes are cooked, reserve 1/4 of the potatoes. Allow the rest of the stock and potatoes cool a little bit and then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and return the reserved potatoes to the pot. Reheat the soup over medium heat and add the bacon, leeks and cream. Mix until combined. Enjoy!

As an aside, a bowl of soup at brunch today cost $6.

To make this soup, I spent $2 on potatoes, $1 on leeks, $1.75 on bacon, about 40 cents on cream and about 25 cents on chicken bouillion for a total of about $5.40. It made 4 bowls, so that works out to $1.35 a bowl.

I love to eat at restaurants, but luckily I also love to cook because it's definitely more economical!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Squash and Raisin Muffin Recipe

I enjoy when I get a request to make something. It's fun to have an opportunity to try something new that you would never have thought of on your own.

For example, I had no idea that squash and raisin muffins existed.

I sent BF with a batch of cranberry lemon muffins (sweet, familiar flavours) to share with his coworkers earlier in the week. One of his friends mentioned that he liked homemade squash and raisin muffins which BF then passed on to me. The concept sounded so foreign and counterintuitive to me (eww, squash as a breakfast) that I had to try it. The logical parts of my brain reassured me that pumpkin and sweet potato both make delicious desserts (pie, anyone?) but the instinctive parts of my brain were grossed out.

The verdict? While these are not my favorite muffins, I managed to make them fluffy, moist and nicely textured, using a recipe adapted from I actually worked to bring out the flavour of the squash by roasting it rather than boiling, and by easing up on the spices, so the end result is a fairly complex taste that I'm sure would be enjoyed by fans of squash.

As for me however, I will wait until I have leftover squash already before making these again (although that has yet to happen in my 27 years, I'm sure it has to happen eventually!) To me, these muffins weren't worth the extra time to roast the squash. I can make many other kinds of delicious muffins much quicker!
Recipe: Squash and Raisin Muffins
Makes 12 to 15 muffins

1 cup cooked and mashed butternut squash
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup uncooked oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup raisins
Brown sugar

To prepare squash:

First peel, seed and cube the squash. Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and ¼ tsp salt and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, turning once, half way through.

To make muffins:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line or grease muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, white sugar, salt and spices.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together milk, egg and butter. Stir in squash. Fold the squash mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in raisins.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling cups about 2/3 full. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from muffin pan and cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chocolate Bavarois Recipe

I was craving something creamy and chocolatey.

My thoughts immediately turned to chocolate mousse, but the honest truth is that I've never really been comfortable with the raw egg whites present in an authentic mousse.

Then I found this recipe for chocolate bavarois that solved all of my problems! (Well this one at least) It's light and fluffy like whipped cream, but more stable thanks to a little gelatine and definitely rich! The recipe says to use 8 oz glasses for each serving, but it is so rich I could only eat half of that at a time, so you can definitely stretch out this recipe.

*sigh* I miss BF's camera...I can't seem to take a good picture with mine...

Recipe: Chocolate Bavarois


  • 200g (6 ½ oz) good quality dark chocolate
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 Tbsp gelatine
  • 1 ¼ cups whipping cream
Combine the chocolate and milk in a small pan. Stir over low heat until the chocolate has melted and the milk just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Gradually add the hot chocolate milk, whisking until combined. Return to a clean pan and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat.

Put 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the surface and leave to go spongy. Stir into the hot chocolate mixture until dissolved.

Refrigerate until the mixture is cold but not set, stirring occasionally. Beat the cream until soft peaks form, then fold into the chocolate mixture in two batches. Pour into six 250 ml (8 fl oz) glasses and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, or until set.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Congee, Tempura and Miso Soup Recipe

I tried out some new recipes while making lunch yesterday, so I thought I'd share them.

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on building habits and skills to transition from making North American meals to to making Japanese/Asian inspired meals instead. My set of matching dishes is slowly being replaced by all different sizes and shapes of dishes, each carefully selected and gorgeous on its own. My fridge and cupboards have been filling up with new and foreign ingredients for me to try. My goal is to get to a point where I can throw together a gorgeous, balanced Asian style meal without giving it much thought, rather than taking the 'easy' route of making the pasta or meat and potato type meals I grew up with and are ingrained in my psyche. I want it to become second nature. But it's a lot of work getting there, building up a repetoire of recipes and understanding the versatility of ingredients so that nothing gets wasted.

For example, I bought a large piece of gobo (burdock root) to use in the soup pictured below. Of course this is a small bowl of soup, so I didn't end up using the whole thing. Rather than wasting what was left, I took it as an opportunity to experience the different textures and flavours that can be created with this vegetable. I tried kinpara gobo, gobo and carrot braised with soy sauce and mirin and really liked it. And I tried tataki gobo, gobo boiled, smashed and mixed with sesame paste (I didn't care for this one). So nothing went to waste and I learned a little more.

One habit I've been attempting to build is to make soup with every meal, in traditional Japanese style. The first step was learning to make my own dashi stock, a lightly flavoured fish broth.

Here is the recipe:

Recipe: Dashi

- 15 Square inches of dried kelp (kombu)
- 1/2 cup dried bonito flakes
- 4 1/4 cups of cold spring water or filtered water

Rinse kombu and place in a pot with the water. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Slowly heat the pot until you see the bubbles that it is just starting to boil.

Remove from heat. Sprinkle bonito flakes on the top of the broth. Let sit for three minutes and then strain through cheesecloth so that you are left with only the broth.

It's really quick to make so I've started to keep a pitcher of it in the fridge at all times. This allows me to make a bowl of soup very quickly at mealtime. The recipe makes about 4 cups and my soup bowls hold 3/4 cup of soup, so it doesn't get a chance to go bad, I make a new batch every couple of days.

I'd also like to mention that I don't like the taste of fish, but this broth is so light tasting and has a bit of a smokey flavour, so that when seasoned with other ingredients, I quite enjoy it. The taste is so light in fact, that when I made it the first time using tap water, the flavour of the broth was completely overpowered by the minerals in the tap water, that's why the recipe calls for spring water.

So here is the lunch I made yesterday. My apologies for the picture. I realized after I took the pictures that everything is brown! So it doesn't look very appetizing I'm sure (although it really was delicious) but perhaps you'll try some of the individual components if not the whole meal.
For the rice dish, there is a small bowl of congee, a Chinese word for rice porridge. Congee is the Chinese equivalent to chicken soup, in that it's a comfort food that is served to sick people. I am in love with this food! It's hearty, delicious, and incredibly inexpensive and simple to make. I bought a bag of congee mix called '8 Treasure Congee' that contains about 20 servings for $1.65. It's basically a mix of white rice, black rice (that's what gives it the purple-y brown colour), green and red beans, barley, peanuts, cornmeal and something called flower beans, so it has both carb and protein content. You can make it at home easily, but I find it's just as easy to buy it premixed.

The recipe is incredibly easy. Throw 1/4 cup congee mix, 2 1/2 cups water, and a small packet of beef boullion in the rice cooker and press start on the porridge setting. You may have to run it through more than once to cook up all the water (On my Sanyo rice cooker I cook it on the 'porridge' setting and then a second time on the 'normal' setting and it comes out perfect). That's it! You can add meat or veggies to it of course, but it's also delicious on its own.

On the left are some tempura sweet potato wedges. My tempura skills still need work, so I will wait to post a recipe for that. The small dish above that contains dipping sauce for the tempura, a mix of dashi, soy sauce and mirin.

Finally there is a bowl of miso soup.

To make this, first fry thin slices of gobo in a bit of sesame oil for about a minute(to prepare gobo for use, run it under cold water and scrape of any dirt with the back of a knife). Mop up any remaining sesame oil with paper towel and add 3/4 cup of dashi, 2 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp mirin and brought to a boil.

While the dashi is heating, in your soup bowl place one green onion, sliced, and 1 1/2 tsp white miso.

Add some thin carrot slices to the boiling soup and allow to simmer for about a minute, until carrots start to soften.

Spoon a little of the soup into the soup bowl and mix with the miso so that the miso becomes soft and smooth. This is to make it mix easier with the rest of the soup. Pour the soup from the pot into the bowl and stir. Serve piping hot. Serves 1 but recipe can be easily adjusted for more servings.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Masaman Beef Curry Recipe

Masaman curry is hideous. It looks like a tasteless pile of mush, completely unappetizing.

But, if you're brave enough to get a little closer to it, the smell will start to intrigue you. You'll notice a faint aroma of Indian spices like caradamom and cinnamon but there are other scents there too.

And if you work up the courage to actually taste'll be surprised and delighted at how delicious such an ugly food can be.

Of all of the curries I have tried so far, masaman beef curry is by far my favorite. It is so rich and hearty and the beef is incredibly soft and tender.

Over the past month or two, I've been spending a small fortune buying masaman curry from a local restaurant. When I saw how much of my food budget it was actually taking up, I decided it was time to figure out how to make it myself.

For a first try, it turned out excellent so I thought I would share the recipe which I adapted from another website. Here it is:

Recipe: Masaman Beef Curry


  • ½ large sweet potato
  • ½ lb stewing beef
  • 1 large white onion
  • ¾ cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp masaman curry paste
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts


Peel potato and slice into chunks, approximately 1” x 1” x ½”. Slice beef into thin slices, about 1” square and 3/8” thick. Cut onion into chunks of a similar size.

Heat ½ cup coconut milk and curry paste in a medium pot over medium heat and stir. Break up the paste and mix well with coconut milk. Stir constantly to keep the mixture from sticking.

When you see the red oil bubbling up (about 5 minutes), add the beef and stir to cover the beef with curry. Add ½ cup water or enough to cover the beef.

Add the cardamom, bay leaves, sugar, tamarind, cinnamon and salt and allow to stew for ½ hour, or until beef is tender.

Add remaining coconut milk, potatoes, onion and peanuts. Let simmer for 20 minutes more to cook the vegetables. This should be a fairly dry curry, however you may need to add more water if it the liquid becomes very low while simmering.

Serve over hot long grain white rice.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

I heard of a woman on the internet who tried fifty different chocolate chip cookie recipes to find the best one. I can't even imagine the magnitude of such an undertaking.

Of course I had to try the recipe! (although I've lost track of where the website was now)

No pictures this time because I made them at my mom's house and only brought a couple home. And they didn't last long!

These cookies are soft and chewy on the top and light and crispy on the bottom. They are absolutely perfect. The measurements are a bit strange (who uses eighths of a cup???) but just go with it :)

One change I made to the recipe: I missed the part about melting the butter so I ended up beating it until fluffy instead. I'm not sure how that would afect the end result.

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about three dozen.


  • 2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark), 7 ounces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 - 2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet)
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.

Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving about 2" between cookies.

Bake, reversing cookie sheets' positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 10 to 12 minutes. (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.) Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eggs On Rice Recipe

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite breakfasts to make whenever I have leftover rice after making bento. It's a spin on traditional Japanese egg on rice in bonito broth and it's a good balance of complex carbs, protein and a little bit of veggies.

I like this recipe because it doesn't require much additional effort on top of making bento. I start it after all of the bento food is cooked and the stove is still hot, and the breakfast cooks while I am arranging the food in the bento box. If I time it right, everything is ready at the same time and BF and I can enjoy a hot breakfast together with the lunches already packed.

Recipe: Eggs on Rice

1 1/2 cups hot cooked rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 eggs
green onions, salt and pepper for garnish

Notes about ingredients: Vegetable broths vary quite a bit across different brands with some light and airy and others dense and tomato-ey. As well, some are much saltier than others. I tried numerous brands while putting this recipe together and my favorite is Knorr Simply Vegetable Broth. Any other broth would work, putting a different spin on the recipe, but for a light dish, vegetable broth or dashi is quite nice.

Experiment with different greens! I made this one with green onion because that was what I had on hand but parsley leaves work well and pea sprouts are particularily nice because of their soft crunch.


Bring a water to a gentle boil in a deep frying pan (enough water to cover the eggs, about 2"). At the same time, put the broth in a small pot and simmer.

When the water in the frying pan is boiling, carefully slide in the eggs, one at a time. The easiest way to do this is to first crack the egg in a small bowl and section off a part of the water in the pan with a large spoon so that it is not bubbling in that small area. Then you can slide the egg into the calm water and let it cook for a few seconds before removing the spoon. This keeps the boiling water from separating the egg into shreds. Alternately, you could use an egg poacher.

Allow eggs to cook for about 3 minutes or until they reach desired doneness. While eggs are cooking, divide rice into two rice bowls. Remove cooked eggs from pan with a slotted spoon to drain the water and place one on top of the rice in each bowl. Pour half of the broth into each bowl.

Garnish with green onion. Salt and pepper to taste.

Notes about the recipe: The doneness of the eggs affect the overall texture and flavour of the dish a great deal. My favorite way to cook them is so that the whites are completely cooked and the yolks are quite runny. When I take my first bite of egg, I pierce the yolk with my spoon. It mixes with the broth and turns the broth into a delicious pale yellow eggy mixture.

BF on the other hand prefers his egg well cooked because he doesn't like the egg and broth to mix. It's very much a matter of personal taste.

As a last comment, I have to say that my biggest complaint with a traditional North American bacon/eggs/toast breakfast was that my eggs always got cold unless I ate them up right away. This dish fixes that problem because the broth keeps the egg warm throughout the duration of the meal (Plus it doesn't leave you feeling greasy and heavy afterwards).

So give this one a try some time when you have leftover rice after making bento. You can also throw in the vegetable scraps you have left over after you punch shapes out of them so that there's no waste at all!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dora-Yaki Recipe

I've been reading up on Japanese sweets and tea lately. It started with this blog and the beautiful examples of wagashi that the author shows. Wagashi refers to the sweets and confectionary served with tea in Japan, usually involving mochi and/or sweet adzuki bean paste.

I'm not yet ready to try my hand at mochi, but I found a recipe for dora-yaki that seemed simple and quick to make so I tried it out last night.

Dora-yaki is sort of a pancake sandwich. The pancakes are about 4" in diameter (although I made mine smaller, about 2.5" because they are so sweet) and are very sweet and egg-y compared to what we're used to seeing for breakfast. The filling is chunky sweet adzuki (red) bean paste.

The recipe posted below is from with a few adjustments. There is also a recipe for it in Japanese Cooking - A Simple Art that I plan to try next time I make these as it looks to be a little less sugary.

Recipe: Dora-Yaki


  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 3/4 lb sweet azuki beans
Put eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk very well. Dissolve baking soda in water. Add the water in the egg mixture. Add sifted flour in the egg mixture gradually. Heat a skillet or hot plate and lightly oil it. Pour a scoop of the batter into the skillet and make a small pancake. Turn over when bubbles appear on the surface. Repeat this process to make 8-10 pancakes. Cool the pancakes. Divide pancakes into pairs, matching size and shape as best you can and put a 1 1/2 Tbsp red bean paste between each pair. Slice in half before serving.

Makes about five 4" dorayaki cakes or ten 2.5" cakes.

A note about the recipe: If you're used to making typical pancakes, it tempting to want to let these cook on the first side until bubbles appear and the sides of the top start to dry out. With dorayaki pancakes, do not wait for the sides to dry out or the pancake will most like burn. Be sure to flip them once the surface becomes bubbly.

Because of the moisture still present in the edges, these are a bit tougher to flip than breakfast pancakes. The easiest way I found to do this while preserving the round shape of the pancake was to slide a spatula under the pancake slightly, lifting it up enough to fit a chopstick underneath it. You can then lift the pancake with the chopstick, allowing you to slide the spatula far enough under the pancake to flip it properly.

The dora-yaki pictured here is accompanied by a cup of sencha green tea.

Sencha green tea is a slightly higher grade of tea from typical green tea (called bancha) or gen-maicha. Something to note when preparing sencha green tea is that the water should not be boiling when it is poured over the tea leaves. Instead, unplug the kettle and wait for the bubbles to stop before pouring it into the tea pot. The tea leaves should be removed after steeping for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Apple Crisp Recipe

Hello Fall!

When I think of Fall, I start craving anything with apples. Pies, dumplings, you name it. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll make it to the Annapolis Valley some time this fall to go apple picking. Mmmm fresh apples from trees.

So I picked up a bag of McIntosh apples yesterday and decided to make an apple crisp. While I was putting it together, first I was thinking that I wanted it to have loads of apples, so I was peeling apples for what felt like forever. But then I was thinking about how much I love the crunchy topping, so I decided to make a whole lot of topping. So really I just ended up making a tonne of everything. And it was delicious!

This is a great recipe to welcome Fall. I used slow cooking whole grain oats to give it a little more crunch because they don't get as soggy as other types of oatmeal. Also, please try to use pure maple syrup if you can. I think the synthetic kind would not turn out very good.

Recipe: Apple Crisp


  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter or 1 cup unsalted butter plus a pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3 lb bag of apples, peeled cored and sliced
Note: do not slice apples too thinly or the end result will be mushy.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Cut butter into mixture until crumbly.

Place apple slices in 9” x 13” pan. Pour maple syrup over the apples and toss to coat.

Sprinkle crumb mixture over the apple slices. Bake for 50 minutes or until the apples are tender.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cornbread Recipe

BF was making chili tonight (too incredible for words) and requested some cornbread to go along . I was more than happy to oblige because he makes his chili so hot that a tiny bite of chili with a big bite of cornbread (and a sip of chocolate milk!) is the perfect amount of spicy for me.

This is not my original recipe (it's from allrecipes) but it's incredible. It turns out perfect every time.

Love it!!Recipe: Cornbread


  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal and milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, eggs and oil until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

Yup, Another Blog

I've been pondering starting a new blog for a couple of weeks.

Ever since I made a beautiful, delicious chicken udon soup.

It was my first attempt at making a Japanese soup and it turned out incredible. The taste of the broth was just the right mix of delicate dashi and salty soy sauce. The noodles were perfectly cooked and on top of them, the chicken, vegetables and other odds and ends were beautifully arranged. All of this was laid out in gorgeous bowls I had bought that afternoon, specifically for the purpose of udon noodle dishes.

It was a perfect meal and a perfect experience in trying a new recipe and a new cooking technique from a foreign cuisine.

At the time, I thought to myself "I should do a blog entry about this so that I don't forget about this wonderful soup and how I made it", but after giving it some thought, I decided that I didn't want my blog to lose its focus of bento lunches and cupcakes.

But now, a month later, the memory of the perfect soup is haunting me.

And I know it won't end at the soup. I have two Thai cookbooks on order from Amazon, and a head full of plans for different dishes that I want to try to make.

So I've decided to start this blog as a journal of my experiments in the kitchen unrelated to bento lunches or cupcakes. At the moment that means forays into Asian cuisine and meal planning and attempts at expanding my baking repetoire.

Life is learning!

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