May 31, 2010

I mentioned last week that I would be entering my first ever "Hey Hey it's Donna Day competition" and here it is folks!

Thanks to this month's host (and fellow Food writer) Mardi at and event facilitator, Chez Us. Check out both blogs for more details on the HHDD event.

And now, introducing....Blackberry Cheesecake pots by yours truly (with recipe from Donna Hay, of course).

First, I whipped the cream thanks to Mardi's suggestion. She mentioned that her cheesecake didn't firm up that much, so she suggested whipping the cream before adding it to the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. I used 18% table cream.

I added the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and mixed it all with my new hand mixer (just had to show it off). Then, I added half of the blackberries to the mix. I love how colourful the blackberries made the mix.

I bought three jars and it took me awhile to decide if I wanted to spread the mix throughout a few or just pile it into one.

As you can see, cheesecake got everywhere.

I decided to pile everything into one jar. I put the jar the fridge for about an hour and then took it out to serve. The consistency was like a firm pudding. It was not quite as firm as a regular cheesecake, but a great consistency for dipping.

Then, I added my piece of flair. I melted some chocolate chips in a small bowl and then drizzled some over the top of the mix and then on top of the blackberries.

I put the extra blackberries into the bowl with the remaining melted chocolate and served everything on a plate with almond biscotti.

We had people over on Saturday night, so I put the tray out and everyone loved dipping into the cheesecake with biscotti. Unfortunately, I ran out of biscotti, so the next day I used the remaining mix to make an actual cheesecake.

I crushed up some digestive cookies and mixed them with melted butter. I lay the cookie mix into the bottom of a spring-form pan and baked for 15 minutes. Then, I added the remaining cheesecake mix and let cool again in the fridge for about an hour.

I must say, the digestive cookies went wonderfully with the cheesecake. I would recommend serving the cheesecake pot with digestive cookies instead of biscotti. As much as I liked dipping the biscotti into the pot, digestive cookies made the "cheesecake" taste more like an actual cheesecake.

Overall, a wonderful recipe and great for entertaining!

You can also keep up with the event on Twitter @HHDDay and tweet about your creation with #HHDD.
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May 27, 2010

I got two of the best Birthday presents ever this year.

I think my friends and family have noticed my obsessive baking and cooking. I love baking and cooking because they are relaxing and a great way to unwind after a long day. I'm also one of those people who loves instructions and lists, so I derive some weird satisfaction from following recipes.

I was wonderfully happy when I unwrapped a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" volume 1 by Julia Childs from my parents (well, I unwrapped a copy of the Amazon order as the book hasn't actually arrived yet...)

I have watched "Julie and Julia" three times now and I have read Julia Child's book "My life in France" and loved them both. I won't be cooking all of the recipes in a year, like Julie Powell, but I am excited to finally flip through the book and attempt some of the recipes.

And then, my fiance's Mom got me a KitchenAid 9-speed hand mixer. I didn't even know hand mixers could have 9 speeds.

Before, everytime I baked or made icing, my arms felt like they were going to fall off. Now, my baking will be smooth and lump-free. I must be an avid baker now if I get excited over a hand mixer!

There's another Birthday coming up this weekend, so I will probably be slaving away over a cake again this week.

And, tonight I am buying all of my ingredients for my first ever Hay Hay it's Donna Day cooking event

Basically, this year is the 50th edition of Donna Hay magazine. So food blogger, Chez Us started up this monthly event where food bloggers all cook/bake one recipe, send in a picture of their interpretation and then the host blogger and participants judge the recipes. The winner hosts the next event and picks a new recipe. Sounds cool, right?

This month's event is hosted by Eat live travel write and she chose Blackberry Cheesecake Pots.

250g cream cheese

¼ cup (55g) caster (superfine) sugar

¼ cup (60ml) pouring (single) cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

120g fresh blackberries

8 biscotti, to serve

Process the cream cheese, sugar, cream and vanilla in a food processor until smooth. Add half the blackberries and process until just crushed. Spoon into 4 x ½ cup-capacity (125ml) dishes and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Serve with the biscotti and the remaining blackberries. Serves 4

To enter, check out her event page.

I'll post my interpretation in a few days and then I will cross my fingers to see how I do in the competition!
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May 25, 2010

I had a lovely Birthday (long) weekend filled with good food, beautiful weather and wonderful people.

On Friday night, my fiancĂ© and I went for dinner and then a show at our local theatre. On Sunday, my parents took us out for dinner at this Italian place that we love. And the rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, sipping mojitos and chilling with friends. Birthday celebrations don't seem as crazy now that I'm getting older (24!)

Since I thought it would be weird to make my own Birthday cake, I gave Mike a recipe for something I wanted.

He made a Bailey's Strawberry Frozen Cheesecake by the lovely Erin Bolger, "The Happy Baker." I met Erin at a few weeks ago at our local Farmer's Market and she is just as wonderful in person as she is in her book, "The Happy Baker: A Dater's Guide to Emotional Baking."

Her recipes are delicious and her stories are hilarious (more on "The Happy Baker" coming soon). The Strawberry Cheesecake was creamy, fruity and refreshing with just a hint of chocolaty Bailey's.

Mike decorated the top of the cake with even more Strawberries and whipped cream. Who says men can't bake?

The cake was eaten at an alarming speed....

Mike loves cooking and baking just as much as I do. When we were in University, he used to come over to my house and bake Chocolate Banana Bread or Lemon Poppyseed loaves for us. And now, he loves when I don't cook, so he can take over the kitchen and make what he likes to call his "masterpieces" (usually a huge plate of pasta or stir fry). Gotta love a man who cooks (and bakes!)

Full cheesecake recipe here.
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May 21, 2010

Ms. Humble from Not so Humble Pie started a "Not so Humble Pie contest" last month and encouraged foodies to submit their pie creations and stories.

She featured my Avocado Pie today as part of the contest!

Go check out the post.

Thank you Ms. Humble!
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I made fish pie last night for dinner and I have to say that fish pie has a bad rep in North America. I'm used to fish pie because my Mom makes it all the time. My parents were born in England, so the English tradition of hearty pies and simple (but sometimes bland) food has been passed down to me.

Fish pie is a traditional English dish usually made with white bechamel sauce and potatoes. It's kind of like a mix between Chicken Pot Pie and Sheperd's Pie, but with fish.

I know some people hate seafood -- and the name, "fish pie" doesn't sound that appetizing-- but I think potatoes, cheese and fish is a wonderful, hearty combination. Jamie Oliver agrees with me and I loved his simple, light recipe for the pie. Full recipe here.

Check out this photo montage of him making fish pie:

First, grate the vegetables and cheese into a dish. The recipe called for carrots and celery, but I used zucchini and onions instead:

Then, drizzle the fish with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper:

 Put the fish into the dish and top with spinach or tomatoes. Then, top everything with the mashed potatoes and grate a little more cheese on:

Cook in the oven for about 40 minutes until the fish is cooked and the top is golden brown and this:

Jamie suggests serving with ketchup, baked beans, steamed vegetables or a green salad. I like mine with just ketchup. Delicious!


Last night I went out for a few hours and when I came back, most of the pie was gone. 

I think, instead of a Food Revolution, Jamie Oliver and I should start a "Fish Revolution" to get North Americans keen on fish pie.

If you haven't checked out Jamie Oliver's petition or his Food revolution, read more here.
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May 19, 2010

This month's Food Network Monthly Cooking Club Challenge is Sour Cream Apple Coffee Cake by Anna Olson.

I wanted to use low-fat sour cream, but the recipe clearly stated that low-fat is not ideal for baking. I splurged and bought full-fat (16 per cent !!) and I can gladly say Anna Olson convinced me that sometimes you gotta go full-fat. Low-fat baking is silly sometimes.

The sour cream made the cake moist and the baked apples and walnuts on top were delicious. I also baked the cake in a bundt pan which gave it some neat ripples. I had a slice (or two) with some "Apple Pie" tea (South African Rooibos flavoured with apple cinnamon flavour, apple pieces, orange peel, and spices) from my favourite Tea Shop, the The Tea Haus.

This was a great recipe that I will make again for sure. The cake goes perfectly with a nice cup of tea. After my fiance had his first slice, he said, "How much sour cream do you have left in the fridge? Can you make another one?" Great success!

Check out the Food Network Cooking Club and the full recipe here.
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May 18, 2010

Last Friday I decided to bake a Marching Band-themed cake for a big Birthday party. A bunch of us from University Marching Band still keep in touch -- and a few of us also have May Birthdays -- so we decided to combine all of the Birthdays into one big party.

I scoured the internet for Marching Band cake inspiration and I found some amazing creations:

 From Music Radar

 From Cake Central

 On Deviant Art

I decided to make a Bass Drum cake. I baked two cakes and stuck them together with a filling. Then, I flipped the massive cake on its side, like a bass drum, but one half of the cake decided to almost fall apart. I quickly changed my mind and made a Snare Drum instead. I also had a hard time icing because of the crumbly cake, but in the end, the cake somewhat resembled a drum. And drum roll please.......

The drum sticks are actually shortbread cookies painted with black food colouring.

I also made adorable shortbread cookies with Royal Icing faces for all of the May babies:

I placed the cookies around the cake and voila!

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May 07, 2010

I am so excited because I just found out I won a copy of the "Eat, Shrink and Be Merry" cookbook by Janet and Greta Podleski! Thank you to Suzie the Foodie!

Suzie has a lovely food blog with wonderful food photos, recipes and commentary on her cooking experiences. All of her creations look delicious. I especially love her Recipe Review on these Apple and Cranberry Phyllo Turnovers.

Thank you Suzie. I can't wait to start cooking up some wonderful, healthy recipes :)

Now on to the case of the mysterious green pie. It all started when I saw this recipe on the Food Network website for Avocado Pie. The recipe looked interesting and I love avocadoes, so I decided to give it a try. I also wanted to submit a pie picture for the Not so Humble Pie contest.

So I gathered all of my ingredients: 2 avocados, lemon and lime, cream cheese, condensed milk, digestive cookies (because I prefer the taste of those over graham cracker crumbs), butter, sugar and salt.

I had never used condensed milk before, so when I opened the can, I was a little weirded out by its syrupy and sweet texture. At first, I had no idea how the milk would ever taste good with the savoury avocados.

I started by making the crust with melted butter, crushed digestive cookies and sugar and salt and then cooking it in the oven. So far, it looked like the beginning of a perfectly normal cheesecake.

Then, I made the filling with avocados, cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon and lime juice and salt. The green goo filling reminded me of some kind of Dr. Seuss creation or some green slime out of a horror movie. Also, to my horror, I didn't have a hand mixer, so mixing everything by hand was tough and I couldn't quite make the filling smooth and bump-free.

Then I let the pie chill in the fridge. I decided to bring the pie over to a friend's house that weekend. We were helping him move into a new apartment, so I brought it along as a housewarming treat. Then, after a day in the fridge, the avocado started to brown and my green pie turned into a green/brown pie.

After a few hours of moving furniture, we decided to dig into the pie. I tasted a slice and I was actually surprised. The pie tasted like a regular cheesecake with a hint of avocado, which added an interesting taste. For such an unappetizing looking pie, I enjoyed the taste.

So I didn't know what to expect when I saw the recipe. When I made it, I never expected the weird, green pie to taste good. Overall, it was an interesting and experimental cooking experience. Here's what my friend had to say about the pie:

"Oh man Laura, while I have to thank you for the cake because I have enjoyed it, there really only is so much avocado cake one person can eat in a week. I`ve never consumed this much avocado before in a whole year, let alone 7 days."

I am now known as the girl who makes weird, green pies.
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May 06, 2010

Yesterday was my fiancĂ©'s Birthday, so I was baking and cooking up a storm!

First, I did caricature cupcakes of us. I made peach-coloured blobs out of Royal Icing, then drew the faces with Food Writer markers (my new favourite thing), and then iced the hair and lettering with Butter Cream.

Tip: Let the Royal Icing set for at least a week if you plan on drawing with Food Writer markers. I only let the "faces" set for about a day and if you look closely, you can see a few cracks and smushed corners. Baking is a learning experience, right?

Then, for the rest of the cupcakes, I added Royal Icing flowers and yellow piping. The red and yellow cupcakes are McDonald's-themed cupcakes because his Birthday happened to fall on McHappy Day:

Instead of making 2 dozen cupcakes, I used the rest of the batter to make a mini Birthday cake:

Then for dinner I made a Mango Coconut Curry with Butternut Squash on Jasmine and Wild Rice with Naan bread.

And that was my edible Birthday present for this year!

I am also excited for this weekend because I am interviewing Erin Bolger, "The Happy Baker," and covering the opening of our local Farmer's Market for a Food blog story.

I'll be asking her some Mother's Day recipe suggestions, baking tips and a bit about her experiences with baking and dating.

Check out her website here.
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May 03, 2010

I managed to overcome my fear of Royal Icing and I actually enjoy working with it now! I have learned Royal Icing flowers and birds, as well as some new Butter Cream techniques.

I'm planning on making some adorable Royal Icing faces for upcoming Birthday cupcakes...

This was my final cake creation from Course 2 Wilton Techniques:

I must say, quite the improvement from my first cake. Sadly, I can't join my friend for Course 3 and 4 (working with Fondant and gum paste) because of my schedule, but maybe she will graciously share some of the lessons with me.

For now I will keep practicing the Royal Icing flowers and the Wilton Roses. They really make anything look good.

I can't wait to start baking and decorating some new creations! Stay tuned.
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