Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Radishes and Rhubarb Turns 2!

February 1st marks the second anniversary of Radishes and Rhubarb! In honour of that momentous occasion I wanted to take a few moments to reflect back on the experiences of these last two years.

I started this blog back in 2010 as a means to express my love of food and cooking but over these past two years this website has become so much more than that. I have felt the frustration of trying to keep the inspiration going week after week. I have pushed myself to develop and grow as a cook, a writer and a photographer. But what has been most rewarding is that through writing this blog I have met some really extraordinary people.

I have met food activists and fellow bloggers. I have connected with others passionate about cooking and with those just starting out. I have connected week after week with people who have been good enough to follow me from the beginning and I keep meeting new friends and cooking enthusiasts every day. So THANK YOU to all of you who visit and all of you who read my words and try my recipes. You have been the best part of this project. It is still amazing to me, but I have had over 200,000 visitors in this short time.

So I thought it would be fun to share my Most Popular Posts from the last two years:

Banana Cream Pie

Number 1 with a bullet is my Banana Cream Pie recipe. It's a great recipe and my husband's personal favourite but I have to thank Endless Simmer for linking this recipe to their article "100 Things To Do With a Banana". What can I say, sex sells folks.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
 Number 2 is my Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes.  Vegan or not, you must try them. These are the BEST Chocolate Cupcakes. Quick to make, delicious and moist. You cannot go wrong with these little cakes.

Shepherd's Pie with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Number 3 is Shepherd's Pie with Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I was honestly surprised this was on the list, only because I posted it three months ago and it has already rocketed right to the top.  Everyone loves comfort food and this definately fits in that category.

Apple and Fennel Salad
 Number 4 is Apple and Fennel Salad. This is a brilliant, simple little salad that packs a lot of flavour. Perfect for a summer barbeque.

Chocolate Cake
 Number 5 is Chocolate Cake. What can I say, who doesn't love Chocolate Cake. This one is a winner, three layers, full of dark chocolate flavour. It is THE Birthday Cake around our house.

Spicy Hot Chocolate
 Number 6 is Spicy Hot Chocolate. Thick, liquid chocolate heaven. This is like drinking a chocolate bar. Forget your wimpy powdered cocoa, this is the way to make Hot Chocolate.

Strawberry Jam
 Number 7 is my Strawberry Jam recipe. That makes me happy. It is nice to see that so many other people are looking to make their own Strawberry Jam.  This was the first time I tried making my own cooked jam and I am truly glad I did. It is not so intimidating once you try it.

Cheater's Lasagna
 Number 8 is Cheater's Lasagna. This is a great week night dinner. Easy to prepare and a hit, especially with the kids.

Apple Butter
 Number 9 is Apple Butter. Again, I am glad that this is so popular. I think there is a real DIY movement out there right now. More and more people are looking to make jam and other preserves for themselves!

Whole Wheat Bread
Finally, Number 10 is Whole Wheat Bread. More of that DIY (or MIY, make it yourself) enthusiasim. This is a great recipe to start with if you have never made your own bread. Quick, not a lot of kneading or wait-time and great flavour.

So there you have it, my Top 10 list.  So what is next? Well, this year I have vowed to myself that I am going to try to be even more fearless in the kitchen. I have my comfort area and I stick to it, even if some of my recipes are quite involved. So I want to try to continue to move out of my comfort zone. Making fudge for the first time was a start, I'm going to keep forging ahead with the untried.

Also, watch for a new project coming soon!  Something for all of you MIYers.  Thanks again for visiting!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Penuche (Brown Sugar Fudge)

Last week I was in a cooking funk.  I just could not find anything that inspired me to get up out of my chair and create. I get like that sometimes, just completely "cooked out". But my brain works against me because I am still thinking boy I could really go for a piece of cake or a brownie or a ...(I suffer from an overactive sweet-tooth). It's a tug of war between my laziness and my cravings.

Well, my cravings (and that insistent sweet-tooth) won out and I ended up making something I have never made before, fudge.  What's more it was a unintended adventure as I originally set out to make these coffee squares I had found in one of my many cookbooks.

The recipe looked good, a nice little square to have with a cup of coffee or tea, so I went ahead and started to make them.  Half way through I notice the recipe calls for 3 ounces of vanilla fudge chopped (this is why most people read through a recipe before embarking on the "making it" part). 

I stopped and thought, "well sh--, I don't have any fudge. Do I make them with out it?" Most rational people would say yes, but apparently I am not a rational person because all of a sudden I find myself at 8 o'clock at night whipping up a batch of fudge for the first time!

And the outcome? Well, I'll be honest it was not easy and at one point I thought I had ruined it by stirring for too long but in the end it came together beautifully.  It was creamy and rich and had a lovely taffy flavour as I decided to make Penuche or Brown Sugar Fudge instead of the Vanilla Fudge the recipe called for.

And the squares? They were not great, WAY too sweet with the addition of the fudge, but I'm so glad I let my sweet-tooth talk me into getting out of my chair. I have always wanted to try making fudge, and now I have, quite unexpectedly and, hurray, successfully!

Penuche (Brown Sugar Fudge)
This recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 1/2 hours
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: 32 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup half and half cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • pinch salt

  1. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Generously butter the parchment and set aside.
  2. Butter the sides of a heavy 2 quart saucepan. Combine the sugars, cream, milk and pinch of salt. Cook and stir at medium heat until the sugars dissolve and the mixture begins to boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and reduce the temperature to medium low. Continue to cook and stir until the thermometer reads 236 degrees (soft ball stage). This takes about 15 - 20 minutes.
  3. Immediately remove from the heat but keep the thermometer clipped to the side. Add the butter and vanilla but DO NOT STIR.
  4. Leave the fudge to cool to 110 degrees, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the thermometer and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon (the mixture is quite thick) for about 10 minutes or just until it begins to lose its gloss. (this is where I made the mistake and beat it a little too long. It changes in an instant from smooth mixture to dry fudge, so be careful)
  5. Spread into the pan. Leave it until it is firm then cut into squares. Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hungarian Goulash

I try not to get stuck in a routine when cooking. I do have a roster of favourite recipes that make a pretty regular appearance but I like to be adventuresome and venture into the untried as often as possible. I think it is one of the best parts of life that there never seems to be a lack of new flavours, tastes and combinations to try. Plus, I want to encourage my children to keep an open mind and develop a sense of adventure as well.

So when I bought some stew beef the other day I resolved to do something other than my usual, which is pretty similar to what I do for chicken stew but with red wine, beef stock and rosemary.  I wanted to try something new, with flavours that would be pretty out of the ordinary for my kids. All of which led me to decide on Goulash.

Now, I am am not saying Goulash is hard to make or that it is a complex recipe, because it is the same process as any other stew, it is just something that quite honestly has never graced our dinner table. I was not sure if I would like it and I knew there was a good chance my husband and kids would want nothing to do with it, as they are far less adventuresome than me but I forged ahead anyway.

How did it turn out?  Truth be told I didn't love it.  It was good and hearty and the spaetzle was a nice accompaniment but I found the paprika flavour overpowering.  My husband however, thought it was delicious and my kids, much to my surprise, really liked it too.
So, why am I telling you all this and why am I going to the trouble to give you this recipe if I was not wowed by it?  Well, because you're not going to love everything you make. I think that sometimes the adventure is the thing, even if it does not turn out with the best results. And I do truly believe what Julia Child said: "Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

So here is the recipe, and if you have never made Goulash, I suggest you try it. It might become one of your all time favourites, or you may not love it. That is the risk, that is the adventure and, to me, that is what makes it so much fun.

Hungarian Goulash
I adapted this recipe from one that I found on Allrecipes.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Total Time: approximately 1 3/4 hours
Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound stew beef
  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cup beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  1. Brown the beef in the olive oil in batches using a large dutch oven sauce pan with a heavy bottom. Make sure all pieces have a been browned nicely on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the onions to the pan and saute 2 - 3 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, paprika, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute more. Return the beef pieces to the pan. Add the tomato paste and stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to mix in any of the caramelized meat that has stuck to the bottom. Stir to mix all the ingredients and then bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. You can add additional stock if the sauce becomes too thick.
  4. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Serve over hot buttered spaetzle (you can find spaetzle noodles in the dry pasta section of most grocery stores) or over rice. You can also serve with a bit of sour cream. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Curried Chicken Salad

It's January 4th. You know what that means? We are back at it. The Holidays are over, back to work, back to school, well into winter and the long march to Spring. Sound bleak? Well, it doesn't have to. 

If you live in Canada, which I do, you have to learn to embrace Winter. Sure, you can maybe escape it for a week or two but in the end you still have to just go with it.  I was never very good at that but I have to admit now that I have kids I am much better. They see so much fun and excitement in everything that it is hard not to be affected by their enthusiasm. So we get out and skate, toboggan and just keep going no matter what and I kind of think that is the way to approach life in general. 

The Holidays are fun but I don't like the thought that there is a big build up and lots of fun and family and good food and then nothing for months on end, so I resolve (boy I hate that concept) to continue to enjoy and not treat the rest of the season like a punishment. 

Anyway, I am not a big cleanse, get your life back on track, 30 days of carrot juice kind of gal. To me that is just adding insult to injury. So let's have a great January and February and lets try to make the little things fun and special and not save it all up for a couple of weeks in December.

Let's start with lunch.  If you are brown bagging it, then don't condemn yourself to an uninspired meal of carrot sticks and rice cakes. Let's spice it up a bit, add some zing. This little bit of chicken salad heaven is one of my favourite ways to use up leftover roast chicken.  It is full of texture and taste. 

You can change up the ingredients to suit your palette but I love it with a mixture of green grapes, apples, celery, a bit of onion and some chopped walnuts.  It is crunchy, sweet, spicy and cooling all at the same time.  Serve it on its own or on some spring greens.

I like it in a sandwich and I prefer a dense sourdough because I think it requires a bread that can stand up to all those ingredients. We have a great bakery here in Hamilton that uses local, organic ingredients called De La Terre. They also make a mean sourdough, so that was the perfect accompaniment. So delicious. Now we can start looking forward to January!

Curried Chicken Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: about 4 cups of salad

  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken 
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Red), diced
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 small granny smith apple, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup seedless green grapes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup toasted chopped walnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder (your choice hot or mild and add more if you like a stronger flavour)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a small bowl, combine the diced chicken, vegetables, fruit and walnuts. Mix in the mayonnaise, curry powder, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit.
  2. You can either plate the salad with a bit of lettuce and add a dollop of Mango Chutney on the side or you can serve it on a sandwich. I spread about a teaspoon of Mango Chutney on both slices of bread (I like the Patak's Hot Mango Chutney but you can use any kind or leave it out all together) and then fill with the Curried Chicken Salad mix and a bit of lettuce. Enjoy!
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