I’m attending the FBC conference this weekend! Even though I don’t update the blog often, I really wanted to go for the learning experience and to meet other bloggers. I was sent some swag from Nordic Ware (one of the sponsors) and had the opportunity to review some of the products (disclosure: a review gives me a chance to win $500 in product from Nordic Ware). Can I say how impressed I was with what I got?! I had to pick up the package and wasn’t expecting anything big, so I was completely surprised to see a gigantic parcel.
I’ve been using the bowls on an almost daily basis. They’re lightweight, dishwasher safe and microwaveable. I like the non-skid bottom which helps keep things in place when mixing. The microwaveable feature helps when you’ve forgotten to soften butter:
The sheet pan is very big. Here’s a comparison with one of my other pans:
This is excellent for cookies. Usually I get pretty lazy and I try and squish as many cookies in the pan as possible. The bigger pan means more cookies. Perfect for the ginger cookies I made (which makes like 25 dozen teeny tiny cookies!).
The pan is lighter than my regular ones so I’m not sure how it will withstand extreme high heat. It held up perfectly for these cookies.
I can’t wait to try out the other products. The pinata cake seems like a perfect choice for a smash cake for my soon-to-be one year old (how does time fly so fast?).
I started writing about strawberry shortcake, but quickly realized that the real star was the the easiest and foolproof small batch biscuits I made. Even if you don’t have strawberries, give the biscuits a try.
Whenever strawberries are in season i always plan on baking with them. Except I always end up eating them straight out of the basket because let’s be honest, it is the best way to eat a nice route strawberry. As a kid i would lightly dip them in sugar before eating them letting the sugar dissolve slightly in my mouth before biting into it.
I’ve been seeing strawberry shortcakes pop up everywhere (June 14 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day) and I got a hankering to make some.
With 2.5 people in the household, I only need a recipe for 2. I found a recipe in my Small-Batch Baking cookbook and made it quickly. The dough was a bit of a disaster and called for too much liquid so I had to add in more flour. The next day when I re-read the recipe, it was me who messed it up. I like to scale all my flour and I ended up only putting half the amount called for. When I re-did the recipe, they turned out, but I liked my accidental ones better! The extra fat made for a delectable buttery biscuit.
With a bit of recipe testing, I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my tastes. The biscuits are foolproof, just pay attention to cues. You’ll want a batter that’s sticky, but not soupy and you’ll want to bake it until it’s a light golden brown. It’s an extremely forgiving recipe and even this “nervous chef” can still turn out a decent one. You can reduce the sugar (omit to make savoury ones) and probably even omit the baking powder and still have them turn out. I halved the flour and so these are a wee bit smaller than the original. If you want a larger biscuit, double the flour and cream, but leave the rest of the ingredients the same. Because it only makes two, you can get creative without worrying too much about ruining a big batch. They’re so fast and easy to make that you can have fresh biscuits everyday like I have for the last 3 days…
Strawberries vary in sweetness so this recipe is very loosely written so you can do everything “to taste”. Super ripe sweet ones won’t need much sugar.
Strawberry Shortcake (adapted from Small-Batch Baking)
1/3 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoons of heavy cream (whipping cream)
2/3 cup of strawberries, sliced
1 tablespoon of sugar
As many strawberries as you feel like eating, sliced
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Mint as garnish (optional)
1. Place sliced strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle some sugar on top. No need to be heavy handed, a small amount is needed. Toss the berries and the sugar together and let it sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest. Macerating the berries will make it extra delicious, but you can always skip this step. I don’t recommend it though.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
3. In a small bowl (I use a Pyrex measuring cup), mix the vanilla and heavy cream together.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together with a fork. Slowly drizzle the liquid in while mixing being careful not to overmix. The dough will be sticky and shaggy. If not too sticky, add a tiny bit more cream. If the dough is really wet, add more flour a little at a time.
5. Divide dough in half and shape into a ball (you may need to flour your hands first if the dough is really sticky). Flatten slightly and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
6. Bake for 20 mins or until light golden brown. A toothpick inserted in the middle should be clean.
7. Place biscuits on cooling rack until completely cool.
In a small blender (like an immersion blender)/food processor puree the berries and sugar.
Make whipped cream
Whip the cream and sugar using a handmixer until light and fluffy. It’s a small amount so be careful about overwhipping or you’ll end up with butter! I almost turned mine into butter.
Assemble the shortcake
Divide the syrup on two plates. Add a biscuit, scoop up half the strawberries and half of the whipped cream. Garnish with mint. Repeat for the other plate.
I was really excited to receive How to Feed a Family
for review when I was pregnant. I also received this as a gift (signed by the author!). While my kid won’t be eating the meals in this book for awhile, I don’t have the same luxury of time to be in the kitchen for hours. It’s tiring work growing a human being, so a lot of the cooking was done by R. He can cook, but he doesn’t like recipes. His meals are much more laid back: grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, nachos and cheese, tuna melts or a frozen meal. While he is happy to eat that all the time, I need some variety. So I made him test out the cookbook.
He bookmarked a bunch of recipes to try which is always a good sign.
Apple and chicken curry was simple to make and the directions were straight forward. It’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner and the yogurt gives the dish a nice creaminess. It wasn’t too spicy so it’s very kid friendly. 2 chicken thighs didn’t seem enough, so we used more. I wish the weight for the chicken was given as pieces can vary in weight.
For an easy breakfast, I made the Oatmeal and Strawberry Blender Pancakes. Because all the ingredients are just thrown in, the batter comes together in no time. The pancakes tasted…well…healthy. I’m used to making fluffy, not very wholesome, but delicious pancakes on the weekend. I understand as a parent you want to feed your kids more nutritious meals. Would I serve these to my kids? Absolutely! Would I make them for a brunch with friends? Probably not. Balance is key so I would consider these as everyday pancakes and the version I usually make as a weekend treat.
The last recipe I tested was Risotto, Spinach and Kale Cakes with Parmesan. These are bite sized and easy to take on the go. Once I made it, I had to make it again that same week. Doubling the recipe and freezing it would make an easy last minute dinner option. I’d also mow down these as a snack. I usually take pictures of what I make, but none of the pictures turned out.
There’s a handy legend letting you know which ones are quick to make or my favourite, the ones that make little mess. I would have also liked to see a quick index for the legend. That way I can see a list of make ahead meals at a glance.
The book is geared to older children so you won’t see any first foods like purees. While I still have a couple of years before my baby will be eating any of the food in this book, I like how it’s fast and uncomplicated.
image courtesy of Random House
Risotto, Spinach and Kale Cakes with Parmesan
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes: about 8
1/2 cup (125 ml) arborio rice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (250 ml) chopped kale, fresh or frozen
1 cup (250 ml) chopped spinach, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup (125 ml) Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400F(200C). Using a nonstick spray, grease a muffin tin.
Cook the arborio rice according to the package directions. If you’re using fresh greens, wash and remove any tough stems then chop. If your greens are frozen, thaw them for a few minutes and squeeze out any liquid.
Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the kale and spinach and sauté for about 5 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Transfer to a medium-size bowl and add the rice and cheese. Beat the eggs and then add to the rice. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) space at the top. Place in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the egg is set and the edges are golden brown.
Allow to cool for a few minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn the cakes onto a plate. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Who is crazy enough to make their own baby shower cake? This gal. I refuse to make my own birthday cake, but I needed to make this.
I wanted an ombre cake in varying shades of purple ruffles, but ended up changing things on the fly. I changed the ruffles to rosettes to make things easier. I used a Wilton 1M tip and you can see a tutorial here on how to make rosettes. It’s really simple and looks fancy. I don’t have much piping experience so this was my first real decorating job. I ran into a problem trying to achieve a purple colour. You’ll want to make sure your purple food colouring isn’t too old as the red dye will fade and you’ll end up with blue. Mixing red and blue together turned everything kind of muddy. I needed to choose a different colour so I chose yellow instead.
I was inspired by the elephant cake by Hello Naomi and had R create the elephant topper and banner. I didn’t want to buy a styrofoam ball, so I made the balloon out of fondant. This barely held up during the shower, but it’s heavy and was supported by a thin wire. If I were to make this again, I would use the styrofoam to make it lightweight. The fondant toppers were made the day before and weren’t dry by the baby shower happened. I think it takes a week or two to dry out so it’s best to do toppers way in advance.
I relied heavily on Craftsy for the buttercream techniques. Craftsy is an online learning platform where you learn via high quality videos. You can also ask the instructor questions throughout the video. There’s a free class called Modern Buttercream by Joshua John Russell and he goes through how to cut a cake into layers, crumb coat and decorative techniques. Because this is a free class, the instructors aren’t required to respond, but the community is so big that other students will help answer questions. There are other free classes available that you can take to see what it’s all about. I loved the free pizza class with Peter Reinhart and his pizza dough is now my go to recipe.
I’ve also purchased some of their classes and have found that the instructors respond pretty quickly. If you wait long enough, usually you’ll see that class on sale. Note: I wasn’t paid by Craftsy to do this review, I just really like the site. The only drawbacks is that they say you’ll have the class forever, but realistically that’s not possible. Instructors will eventually move on and you will no longer be able to rely on them for help with your questions.
I feel like this is old news if you haven’t been following me on Twitter or Instagram, but I thought I’d make it official on this blog.
How does a baker tell their family that they’re expecting? With cookies of course. This explains the long gap of silence. It’s hard to have a food blog when food wasn’t a top priority.
I’m back at it in the kitchen for the most part. I’ve got a few favourite cookbooks that I’ll hopefully share soon.
It’ll be interesting to see how my life changes with a new teeny tiny human. I think the days where I spent hours in the kitchen making complicated meals will become scarce. I’ll now be looking for quick, easy and nutritious meals to feed my family.
I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to juggle a blog and a baby, but I guess I’ll be finding out soon enough!