Tuesday 24 February 2015

Potato Soup

I really love soup.  It's the perfect main dish for lunch or a lighter dinner.   Almost every time I make homemade soup I make sure there's a fresh loaf of bread to go with it.  Both of my kids like to dip the bread in their soup, so it's a perfect way to get them to eat a little more of those soups that they're iffy on.  They think they're playing with their food, and I think they're eating more of the good stuff.  It's win-win!

This particular soup is a very quick one to put together.  It's the perfect comfort food on a cold winter day, but is also awesome in the summer.  The dill and potatoes remind me of the most delicious combo out of my grandma's garden in the summer.  So I make it year round.  This recipe was adapted from "Hearty Potato Soup" from Taste of Home.  I've made a few changes for my liking (adding dill, using broth vs. water, and tweaked some quantities).  You can find the original recipe here.

Potato Soup (makes approx 6-8 servings)  

6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 large carrots, chopped
6 celery ribs, chopped
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 onion, diced
4 tbsp butter or margarine
4 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1.5 cups milk
1 tbsp fresh or dried dill

Place potatoes, carrots and celery into a large pot with broth.  (Note that I've tried this soup with purchased broths, homemade broths, and broths made with bouillon cubes.  It works well with all). Bring to a boil and simmer until tender (about 20 minutes).   Strain the vegetables, saving the broth in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in the same pot used to boil the vegetables, Stir in the flour to make a paste.  Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring constantly until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper, and add dill.

At this point I take a potato masher and lightly mash some of the potato and veggie cubes in the soup.  This step isn't necessary....it's just my personal preference to have them broken down a little bit more.   Your soup will be very thick at this point.  Add as much reserved broth as you would like to get the consistency you're looking for, and heat before serving.


Wednesday 18 February 2015

Whiskey Cake

A few nights ago my husband requested that I bake something.  This almost never happens.  He loves my baking, but usually his only request is to bake cakes without icing.  For some reason he dislikes icing.  I know, that's ridiculous.  Just ridiculous.  He'll eat almost any baking (as long as it doesn't contain raisins or icing).  He's okay with a light glaze, but no icing.

So, when he specifically asked for "a whiskey cake, please", I was surprised.  And kind of irritated.  He never requests anything, and then when he does, he chooses something that I am iffy on.  I love booze.  Yes, love it.  But I feel like it is not welcome in my baked goods.  What a waste of good alcohol.  To me those are two worlds not meant to collide.  Rum chocolate balls that everyone makes at Christmas?  Yuck.  Rum cake?  Sick.  Irish cream cupcakes?  Gag me.

Of course I agreed anyways.  Thank goodness for Pinterest.  Within just a couple of minutes, I found a cake that looked pretty.   The chocolate component of it made me willing to give it a whirl.  And there was a caramel sauce that looked like a challenge, so why not?

Let me just say that I am so so so glad that my husband suggested this cake.  It was so rich and chocolaty with just a nice warm hint of whiskey to warm your throat after each bite.  DELICIOUS!!

Here is the link to the original recipe, from loveandoliveoil.com.  I didn't change much at all, other than using light buttermilk (which was weird to me, as I didn't know you could even buy different fat contents of buttermilk until I noticed it when I got home).  I used Canadian Club whiskey because it was the first one I found in my cupboard.  I realize that Canadian, Scotch, Irish, Tennessee and Kentucky whiskeys are all quite different, so I guess one could experiment with all kinds.  I've never tried any recipes from this site before, but if this is any indication of the awesomeness of the others on the site, then I need to make them all!!!

Also take note that you don't need to use a mixer for this one as the original recipe suggested.  I just used a whisk and it turned out wonderfully.  It seemed like such a quick stir that it wasn't worth dirtying the beaters.

The caramel sauce was a little bit of a challenge.  The first go round, I took my sugar off the heat and stirred in the cream too early as I was paranoid about burning it.   It ended up weak tasting and kind of a yucky yellow color.  I gave it another go and am glad I did.  Be patient and wait until you have a deep amber color.  The flavor is so much more robust and it's just a beautiful golden brown.

Here's the end result.  I wish I had a picture of this plated with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream and more whiskey sauce drizzled on top.  I always forget to take a picture once it's plated....I guess I was just too focused on eating it.

This is a keeper FOR SURE.  It doesn't happen very often, but I was wrong in this case.  Whiskey belongs with chocolate cake.  Definitely.

FYI :  If anyone is as nerdy as me when questioning the spelling of something, take a look at this article (re: does one spell whiskey as "whiskey or whisky?")  It's an interesting read.

Friday 13 February 2015


We were once at a birthday party with the kids where the loot bag at the end contained a bag of homemade playdough and cookie cutters.  Ever since, playdough has been a huge hit in our household.  We have quite a mix of store bought and homemade playdough floating around.  As it gets dry and crusty, there is never a meltdown to throw it out, because making it and choosing the color is always an exciting event.  Here is an easy 5 minute recipe.....  If left in a sealed bag, it can be played with daily for several weeks before needing to be thrown out.  All that salt keeps it sanitary-ish.  The whole concept of germ infested playdough grosses me out, so it's nice to make it from scratch and toss it out every now and then.

This recipe can easily be doubled.

1/2 cup salt
1 cup flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tbsp oil
1 cup water
Food coloring (paste gives a much more bright, vibrant color)

Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heavy plastic or wooden spoon until it forms a ball.  Let cool completely before sealing in a ziploc bag.  Enjoy :)

My helper :)

Almost there!

Finished product

Monday 2 February 2015

Flour Tortillas

Our family enjoys soft tacos, but it seems we often think about them last minute when I don't have any store-bought tortillas in the house.  On one of these occasions, I found a flour tortilla recipe online, and tweaked it to our liking.  (The original recipe did not have any fat content, and it made the tortillas just too tough and dry).

What I love about this recipe is the versatility of it.  I've made them a bit bigger to use as a wrap,  or made them as-is to use as a perfect shell for fish, chicken or beef tacos.  I've even added some garlic and a bit of butter in the frying process to turn it into a makeshift naan bread to go with Indian dishes.

Here is the recipe:

2 cups all-purpose flour (I don't recommend whole wheat here)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp stick margarine, shortening or butter
~1/2 cup water

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together.  Cut in the margarine as you would when making pastry, until the flour mixture is slightly coarse:

Add 1/2 cup water and stir until dough starts to come together.  It may seem a tad on the dry side, but before adding more water (1 tsp at a time),  knead approximately 30 times on a floured counter top.  Even if it seems dry, it will almost always come together as you knead it.  I have made the mistake of adding water too early in the process and ended up with a far too sticky dough.  You want a fairly firm, tough dough, as it will ease up when you let it rest.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for approximately 20 minutes.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions, and roll into small balls.  Keep the balls you are not working with covered so they don't dry out.  Using a rolling pin, roll the balls into the thinnest circles you can, and then fry in a medium/hot non-stick skillet until they are golden brown on both sides.  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the finished tortillas when I made them recently, so you'll just have to trust me that they end up looking (and tasting) delicious!

Fill with your favorite taco filling and you're set :)