Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One Shortcake for the Highest Bidder. Garbage?! Where did you get a paddle?

How fun does baking a cake on a Saturday night while all of your friends are out having a gay old time sound? Fun, right? And did I look like some what of a loner as a roamed the aisles of Sobeys' at eleven o'clock at night in search of a pastry blender? Perhaps. But have you ever tried to make a two layer strawberry shortcake? I never really thought that the idea of baking my own cake, from scratch, would enthrall me enough to stay in, specifically to bake this cake, and miss a night of unnecessary drunkenness. Well, it did. And the results weren't satisfying, but I learned some key pointers that every new chef should experience on their own.

Strawberry Shortcake


3 pints fresh strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
2 cups whipped heavy cream


Step 1: Slice strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup of white sugar.
Step 2: Preheat oven to 425F and grease one 8 inch round cake pan.

Step 3: Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and 2 tablespoons of white sugar in a bowl. With the pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles course crumbs
Step 4: Make a well in the centre of the mixture for beaten egg and milk. Stir until just combined.Step 5: Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Let the cake cool in pan.Step 6: Slice the cake into two layers. Top one layer with whipped cream and prepared strawberries. Place second layer on top and cover with remaining whipped cream and strawberries.In theory, this cake should have been delicious. Just thinking about the combination of caramelized strawberries, swirls of whipped cream, and a sweet, crumbly cake was enough to make my mouth water. In the end, however, the only worthy mouth of this cake was the garbage. First, I must stress how important it is for a new cook to follow the given directions. I started to read the comment section underneath the recipe and almost all of them said that they reduced the amount of baking powder from 4 teaspoons to 2 teaspoons. Since the general consensus was that the cake turned out better will less baking powder, I decided to follow the crowd. Well, my cake never baked. I sat in front of the oven for nearly an hour and after deciding that four times the recommended baking time was enough, I took out my still raw cake. This left me with two choices: I could abort the cake baking mission or I could try again, following the instructions to the T. This time around, I did everything the recipe told me to and the cake came out fine. Now that I had convinced myself to follow directions exactly as they were written, I came to my next problem, which was in the form of whipped cream. All the recipe said about whipped cream was that I needed 2 cups of it. So I bought a container of whipping cream and used a beater to turn the liquid cream into a solid form. My mom told me that I should probably add sugar to the whipped cream or else it wouldn't be sweet, but the recipe never said anything about sugar in the whipped cream, so I didn't do it.

The end product of this cake was less than desirable. In total, I had two bites of cake. The first bite, including cake, whipped cream, and a strawberry, was not terrible but it wasn't anything to die for either. The second bite, on the other hand, lacked a strawberry and left a rather regrettable taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, the cake sat in the fridge for about two days before it made its rightful way to the garbage!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fruit and Nut Salad...by Yours Truly

Standing in my kitchen comes with a new found sense of confidence. The confidence that allows me to offer to make dinner to three always hungry, always eating men. The confidence that allows me to glide through the grocery store as if I have been there millions of times before. The confidence, finally, that allows me to think up a recipe of my own! It doesn't take a chef extraordinaire to make a salad- all you have to do is combine a few of your favourite ingredients and voila, lunch!

Fruit and Nut Salad

Ingredients (these ingredients are for a single serving salad, to my liking!)

1 cup strawberries
1/2 Royal Gala apple
1/2 cup Swiss cheese
1/4 cup Cashews
1/4 cup Red onion
2 cups Baby Spinach
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive oil


Step 1: Wash and cut Strawberries and 1/2 apple into quarters and cubes, respectively.
Step 2: Cube Swiss cheese.
Step 3: Slice onion into longer-length pieces.Step 4: Chop cashews (Either by hand or with a food processing device)
Step 5: Mix ingredients together and dress with Balsamic vinegar and Olive oil to your tasting!
As you can tell by the directions, it is a very simple recipe to follow. I found the most difficult part was measuring out the amount of ingredients I needed. Usually, if you are going to make something this simple just for yourself, you can probably just eye out exactly how much of each ingredient you want. Recipes like this are great to be modified by your mood or your taste. If you don't like cashews, maybe try slivered almonds or pecans. And I learned something new on my "own recipe" adventure. Can you just imagine me shuffling around drawers and cupboards and suddenly I come across all these funky tools that makes me think "I wonder what this thingamajig here is for" and then I proceed to cut myself on the sharp zig zag blades that I thought was freakin' awesome? Well, now that I am comfortable in my kitchen, I found out that that thingamajig is a very handy food chopper that chopped my cashews into perfect, little pieces.

I would highly recommend my fellow new chefs to try out a recipe of their own. You might just be surprised at what you can think up!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ole! (snap, snap!)

Many of you might be familiar with the Christian tradition of Lent. Every year, for as long as I can remember, I've given up some form of food, ranging from chocolate and chips to cucumbers(I love, love, love cucumbers, in case anyone thought that was weird). Lent lasts the 40 days from Ash Wednesday, which fell on February 25 this year, until Holy Saturday, which falls on April 11, 2009. And every year, for as long as I can remember, I have not once completed the 40 days with out eating said food. Well, this year I decided it was going to be different, and for once, I would follow up on my word. I decided to give up meat- I am not a big meat person but, not being able to eat something that is the primary food group in your house, I'm thinking is going to be hard. Technically, I haven't given up all meat since I still eat fish (mostly tuna and salmon), but I have stopped eating chicken, beef, pork, lamb etc. This being said, just be prepared for a meatless theme in my future recipes!

7 Layer Meatless Tortilla Pie


2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
1 cup Pace Picante Sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
1 small tomato, chopped
7 (8 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

(these are the directions I thought I read... follow the linked recipe for actual directions!)

Step 1: Mash drained pinto beansStep 2: Stir in 3/4 cup picante sauce and garlic powder

Step 3: Mix in black beans, tomatoes, and remaining picante sauce
Step 4: Preheat oven to 400F

Step 5: Place on torilla shell on baking sheet. Top with 3/4 cup bean mixture and 1/4 shredder cheddar cheese. Repeat until all 8 shells are used.Step 6: Cover with foil and bake at 400F for 40 minutes
Step 7: Cut into wedges and serve.

Alright, so who wants to hear another story about how Alex thought she read the directions correctly, but in reality, missed a few key steps? As per usual, I read over the directions and assumed that I knew exactly how to make the bean mixture. First of all, I poured in the black beans with the pinto beans, a step not in the directions, which resulted in me having to pick out the pinto beans one by one. I then proceed to question the directions as to why I would first pour in 3/4 of the picante sauce if I was just going to mix in the remaining 1/4 cup with the other ingredients. Well, turns out there was supposed to be a pinto bean layer with cheddar cheese and a black bean layer with cheddar cheese. My 7 layer pie had one type of layer- black bean and pinto bean mixed! It's all going to the same play anyways, right? Now, I did not include the cilantro, because I don't like it, and I only used mild taco sauce instead of the picante sauce. If I have learned anything from cooking, it is that when you remove or change ingredients, you also remove or change the taste of the dish. Suffice it to say that the 7 Layer Meatless Pie was a not very tasty. I plopped on some sour cream, which added some taste, but then I added some medium salsa which just took it to a new level. As with all cooking, it's the personal touch I gave to this dish that made it all the more delicious!