Friday, December 31, 2010

French Fridays With Dorie - Beef Daube

A beef daube is a type of stew....a delicious, delicious stew. Seriously, it should be illegal for animals to taste this good. I have been looking forward to making this recipe since I saw it on the list, but I waited oh so patiently to see if I would get my cast iron dutch oven for Christmas. I did, and I squealed louder than my daughter did after she got her sleeping beauty barbie. But back to the stew. It is the definition of simplicity. Onions, shallots, bacon, carrots, a blade roast, a bouquet garni and an entire bottle of wine. That's it. The prep is a bit time consuming, but your hard work will pay off in the end. Especially when it comes to the browning. Be good, dry your meat and don't crowd the pan. I served mine over mashed potatoes. I swear, this is what angels eat. I liked it so much I took my head out of the pot just long enough to write this post. Those angels have great taste.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On My Needles - Christmas Edition

For the past few months I have been hard at work making some gifts for a few people. It's only been a few because I knit very slowly and I didn't want stress myself out with too many projects. Now that I am becoming more confident in my abilities however, I find myself planning for next Christmas already. But enough of the future, here are some goodies I gave away this year.

 This scarf I made for my mom. Unfortunately it is too itchy for her to wear on bare skin. Must remember baby alpaca is a no no for next time.

 I found this purple malabrigo in the summer, and knew it would be perfect for my sister. It took me a long time to find the perfect pattern though, and I started knitting this baby 3 days before Christmas. This is the Kiwi hat and can be found on Ravelry.

 This cowl was made specially for my sister in law Tarra. I chose a simple pattern to show off the hand spun, hand painted beauty of this yarn. This "cowl'd and frosty morning" pattern is on ravelry as well.

Up next, knitting wise - mittens! January is National knit mittens month, and while I usually scoff at such things, I love knitting mittens and already have three pairs ready to go. Now I just have to dye that farmers market wool.....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge: Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Stollen is a traditional German sweet bread. It contains a generous amount of butter, candied peel, glace cherries and almonds. When I saw this month's challenge, I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled. Especially when I read some of the ingredients. Candied peel? Glace cherries? Not only had I never baked with either of these, but I found them both incredibly unappealing. Still, my whole goal in joining this group was to be more adventurous with my baking, so shopping I went.

This challenge did not get on my good side when it took me 45 minutes to prep all the ingredients for the dough. I thought "good lord, if this is how long it takes for me to prep the ingredients....I'm hooped when it comes to the dough." Okay, back story. Yeast dough and I have a love hate relationship, I love to make it, it hates to make it easy. I make most of the bread products my family consumes, and it has been hit and miss with me. It's a good thing my children have grown up with my bread, so the occasional (frequent) dense loaf is a fact of life. Long story short, this stollen made me nervous. I shouldn't have been. This recipe is amazingly easy. It is time consuming, so if you decide to give it a shot make the dough 1-2 days in advance.  Just follow it step by step, and you will be fine.

The dough turned out to be smooth, supple, and really easy to work with. Here it is ready for a sleepover in the fridge.

The next day I let the dough warm up for two hours, and after that it was time to shape. One of my favourite things about this dough is that it was very forgiving when it came to my clumsy attempt at shaping. After many attempts I finally managed to join the ends, and the wreath began to take shape.

After the shaping ordeal I was a little worried about proofing it, but it rose beautifully. After 50 minutes in the oven, I had the makings of a German masterpiece.

The competed wreath was huge. I am so glad I decided to make this for a family gathering. I have a large extended family, so they have a shot at finishing this monster. I wanted a simple presentation, so I filled the centre with some lovely dried mangos, pineapple and strawberries. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

French Fridays With Dorie: Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

Since I have the humour of a fifteen year old boy, this recipe was perfect for my vast collection of "eating nuts" jokes. Pretty much all I did yesterday was joke about eating nuts. But, if you're going to make it a practice to eat vast quantities of nuts, eat these ones. They are the perfect balance of sweet and salty, plus I added in a bit of smoked paprika for another level of flavour. One thing I did learn was that if Dorie tells you to take the nuts out one at a time and place them carefully (one should ALWAYS be careful with one's nuts) on the baking pan, then do it. I ignored this step because I can be impatient/lazy, but I won't next time. My nuts looked a bit like brittle when they came out of the oven, but they were easy to break apart. I used a combination of almonds, cashews and pecans, and while I made a double recipe right off the hop, I will be making more before Christmas. I'll bet even Santa likes to eat a nice nut from time to time (okay...I'm done now).

Friday, December 10, 2010

French Fridays Part Deux - Potato Leek Soup

I love soup as much as I hate roll cookies, so I was excited by this recipe this month. When I read it I was concerned by three things: the number of potatoes (there was only one), The amount of onions (one onion and three leeks), and the amount of liquid (seven cups in total). I really shouldn't have been. This isn't Dorie's first rodeo, and she really knows what she's talking about with this one. The balance of onion, potato and herbs is perfect. She gives us some choices for serving. It can be served chunky or smooth, hot or cold. I opted for smooth, and since I live in Manitoba in the My husband gave it the ultimate compliment by not adding hot sauce and requesting it be made again. I have to agree with him. This is an easy, comforting week night meal.

French Fridays With Dorie - Speculoos

For those of you that are like me and have never heard of such things, speculoos are a type of roll cookie. I would say they are akin to gingersnaps, minus the molasses. Now I'm just going to put this out there.....I really dislike making roll cookies. I do it every Christmas because my kids and husband like to have a few seasonal shapes lying about, but if I could get away with it I would just ignore their existence entirly (the cookies....not my family). When us members of French Fridays were voting on this month's recipes some spiced carrots were neck and with the cookies, and I was cheering those carrots on until the bitter end. Alas, all that encouragement was for naught. I was going to skip this recipe entirely, but then I put on my big girl panties and gave it a shot.

Dorie warns us the dough for this recipe is very soft, and it is. They are not the easiest cookies to cut and get in the pan, but they are delicious. I am tempted to say I won't make these again, but I would probably be lying, we'll see how the spirit moves me.

 The perfect accompaniment to a sunny winter afternoon, vanilla steamed milk and cookies.

Monday, December 6, 2010


As many of you know I have been doing a 100 day challenge, where I am active for 30 minutes every day for 100 days. It's been fine, but in truth, I was getting a little bored. Okay, a lot bored. It turns out I'm more of a yoga couple days a week maybe girl than a yoga six days a week girl. I need to do something else. In truth I would love to bike, I really miss my bike, but I am not insane, nor do I have a death wish. After much thought I have decided to call upon the services of two old acquaintances:

That's right folks, I'm running again. Well, walogging really. This time I'm doing a couple things differently. One, I did some reading and am going to stretch properly. Two, no treadmill for me this time. I'm all outside all the time baby! I went for my first walk/jog yesterday and it was great. Jogging for that one minute does not feel as slow as it did on the treadmill, plus I don't get as sweaty now that my body is trying to prevent my extremities from freezing. Just out of curiosity, what do you runners out there wear to run in winter?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On My Needles

I decided to be all adventurous this month and try a mystery knit with a couple of my friends. For those of you that are now going huh?, a mystery knit is, well, a mystery. You don't know what the pattern is, and you knit it up in different sections. When I saw the first part of the pattern I thought the crochet provisional cast on would be the hardest part, but I was wrong of course. I don't know what is wrong with me on this, I had to re-start this section six different times and failed miserably each time. After one evening with my knitting gurus, Erica and Odessa, I was on the right track and this section knit up pretty fast. I have now read through the instructions for the second part and COMPLETELY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THEM! Maybe I am too slow for mystery knits. Now I must hang my head in shame again and ask for help....sigh.  On the bright side, this is the yarn I'm using, it's yummy.

 A nice view of my crochet provisional cast on....I totally rocked that out!

The first section. I couldn't get a good picture of the texture, it's a wave pattern. I also think I'm going to dye this after it's done, I don't like the pink section and think it distracts from the pattern.

I started these when I was having so much trouble with my mystery knit. It's a super easy mitten pattern and the bright Noro yarn will cheer me up all winter.