Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Roasted Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcakes with Cardamom Whipped Cream

I could no longer find rhubarb in grocery stores after making the clafoutis, so I thought I’d have to hold off on making more recipes with rhubarb until next season. But then I was lucky enough to get rhubarb straight from my grandmother’s garden! Since there were still a lot of delicious, seasonal, local strawberries at the store, I decided to make roasted strawberry-rhubarb shortcakes – and, bonus, I’ve got lactose-free cream here to go with it! These were delicious as a not-too-sweet dessert, and I imagine they’d be good as an indulgent breakfast, too. This recipe makes 6 shortcakes, though we had leftover cream and filling (great with yogurt or ice cream).

For the shortcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. kosher salt
1 ½ cups plus 1 Tbsp. lactose-free cream, divided (I think coconut milk would work here too)
1 Tbsp. demerara sugar

For the fruit filling
4 cups chopped rhubarb (1-inch pieces, from 4 or 5 stalks)
4 cups quartered strawberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
juice of 1 medium lemon

For the whipped cream
1 ½ cups lactose-free cream
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. ground cardamom

For the shortcakes
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in 1 ½ cups of the cream and stir until the dough is shaggy. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds, just until it all comes together. Shape dough into a 4x12-inch rectangle.

Cut the dough into 6 (4-inch-square) pieces. Transfer to the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the shortcakes with the remaining 1 tablespoon cream, then sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake until golden-brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling
While the biscuits cool, reduce the oven temperature to 350 °F.

Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a large bowl. Spread over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until soft, stirring halfway through, about 20 minutes total. Cool on the baking sheet.

For the whipped cream
Whip the cream on high speed in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, vanilla, and cardamom, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

To assemble the shortcakes
Slice the shortcakes in half. Place the bottom halves on serving plates. Spoon the strawberry-rhubarb filling over the bottom halves, top with a big dollop of whipped cream, and top with the other shortcake half.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Small knitting projects

I kept going in my efforts to knit through the stash, prioritizing baby projects because, well, people keep getting pregnant. I mean, if everyone could just stop having babies for a second, I could finally knit something for myself, you know? Ha! I suppose I’ll get there eventually.

I started by digging into some gorgeous yellow yarn, Malabrigo Lace Baby Merino in Cadmium – it also comes in worsted weight and probably others, but what I had on hand was lace, so I knit double-stranded. First, I made a puerperium cardigan for a tiny little boy who turned out to have the really cool name Asher Hendrix. I used blue buttons that were in my collection, originally from Etsy.

In my previous post in this series, I mentioned the ongoing grey yarn saga. See, I had a skein of Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace Yarn in Medium Grey (03) left over from a previous project, and I really wanted to use it up. I thought I had enough to make a small garter yoke baby cardigan for the Fox, but it turns out I didn’t. So I set about buying a second skein, only to realize that it’s been discontinued! I finally located one in the U.K. Of course, once I got it, it was from a different dye lot, so I figured I’d use the recommended trick of knitting alternating rows from each skein, so that the greys blend into one another. So I started over, only to realize that there was still a visible striping effect! I frogged everything and balled up the colors individually. I ended up making another puerperium cardigan with most of the first skein, this one for the Fox, and the second (British) skein is still sitting in my stash.

As for the garter yoke cardigan, I made it in more of that luscious cadmium yarn, with star buttons I hadn’t used in a while.

I decided to make the Fox an Offset Wraplan with more of that yarn – I can’t get enough of that color, and it’s super soft, too. Plus, it’s a great pattern! I used wooden buttons.

I then used up some Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Duck Egg (leftover from the Temari sweater) to make another Jeudi sweater, again for the Fox.

Friends of mine announced they were adopting their second daughter, so I made them a short-sleeved Kina cardigan with Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Coral. I had 4 skeins, so I made the 4T version – it’s definitely too big for her right now, but at least she’ll grow into it (and can currently wear the cardigan I had made for her older sister). I used a button from my stash and threw in a knit flower to make it more interesting. I really like the pleats at the neckline! It turns out I actually had a blank card with a design that looked like the flower, so of course I had to use it for the care instructions!

Finally, for the Little Prince, I made the Lancelot sweater I’d been eyeing for so long. I bought some Classic Elite Adelaide Yarn in Charcoal because, based on its description, it seemed perfect to show off the pattern on the front. In person, it’s a bit fuzzy and I feel like it looks better in the pictures than in real life. I had set aside two large black buttons to finish it up, but they ended up being too big, so I riffled through my mother’s button collection and chose two yellow ones. I needed a little less than 4 skeins of yarn (I thought I’d need 6), but then again the sweater came out a bit smaller than I expected – I had hoped it would fit him for a trip a year from now, but I’ll be lucky if he can still wear it this winter! At least I’ve got another child on whom I can pawn it off.

Clafoutis à la rhubarbe et à la noix de coco

Je n’ai vu de la rhubarbe à l’épicerie qu’une seule fois depuis mon arrivée, au début juin, mais heureusement, j’en ai acheté deux paquets! J’ai fait un peu de compote avec le premier, et avec le deuxième, ce clafoutis. Il s’agit d’une recette sans produits laitiers ni gluten, et je conserverai la base pour utiliser avec d’autres fruits, car c’était vraiment réussi! J’ai modifié un peu la recette en utilisant un moule carré de 8 pouces et en ajoutant une pincée de sel; la version ci-dessous est la mienne.

250 g. de rhubarbe
2 c. à soupe de sucre
3 gros œufs
125 g. (5/8 de tasse) de sucre
1 pincée de sel
90 g. (9 c. à soupe) de fécule de maïs
1 boîte de 400 ml de lait de coco
40 g. (6 c. à soupe) de noix de coco râpée

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F et bien graisser un moule carré de 8 pouces.

Peler la rhubarbe (je ne l’ai pas fait) et la couper en petits tronçons d'environ ½ pouce ou 1 cm. La déposer dans un bol et la recouvrir d'eau bouillante. Saupoudrer de 2 c. à soupe de sucre et couvrir. Laisser reposer au moins 30 minutes, cela ayant pour but d'attendrir la rhubarbe et de lui enlever un peu de son acidité.

Fouetter les œufs avec le sucre et le sel; ajouter la fécule de maïs, la noix de coco râpée et le lait de coco.
Égoutter la rhubarbe et l'ajouter au mélange. Verser cette préparation dans le moule et cuire au four pendant 25 minutes.

Servir tiède et saupoudrer d'un peu de sucre glace, au goût.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Chicken with Mustard and Bacon

I decided to make this recipe because it claimed to be a one-pot meal, and I’m all for ease; that being said, it’s really just a main dish and does not include any sides! So I made honey-and spice-roasted carrots to accompany the dish (though if you wanted something richer, I’d recommend the sour cream mashed potatoes I tried earlier last month). I found the chicken too salty, though, so I think you should taste the sauce before adding any salt – this may also depend on what kind of mustard you are using. Other than that, it was really good!

¾ cup Dijon mustard, divided
½ tsp. smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
3 Tbsp. lactose-free cream (or soy creamer)
6 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine ½ cup of the mustard, the paprika, and the salt and pepper to taste in a shallow bowl.

Fully coat each chicken thigh in the mustard mixture. If using chicken thighs, be sure to get in all the nooks and folds. Place the coated chicken in 2 large ziploc bags and place in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge and set aside.

Add the diced bacon to a large skillet over medium/high heat. Stir as it cooks, until fully crisp and done. Set aside and allow to drain on a paper towel; leave the bacon grease in the skillet.

Place the chicken in the empty pan and brown each side for 4-5 minutes (the chicken doesn't need to be all the way done). Remove from the pan and set aside with the bacon.

Add the wine to the pan and scrape the bottom with a wooden spatula to deglaze. Whisk in the remaining mustard, the whole grain mustard, and the cream. Add back in the chicken, bacon and toss in the fresh thyme.

Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce is reduced to your liking.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Banana Bread with Muscovado and Chocolate Chips

You know by now that I like banana bread. But I must have posted a dozen recipes already! I wanted to try something a bit different, so I made one with maple syrup, but I felt like I couldn’t taste it much. I mean, it was good banana bread, just somewhat plain. I then tried a recipe from Orangette that uses muscovado as a sweetener. Sadly, muscovado was *really* expensive at the store, so I did the same thing Molly Wizenberg did in her recipe: I used all the muscovado I had, which was about half of what was called for, then I used brown sugar and a tablespoon or two of molasses to make up the rest (I weighed it all to get the right amount). It was really good, and with chocolate chips, impossible to resist!

2 cups (250 g.) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 generous pinch of kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. (235 g.) muscovado sugar
14 oz. (400 g.) ripe bananas (peeled weight), or about 3 medium bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 ½ oz. (100 g.) dark chocolate, chopped to the size of fine gravel (I used chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease a standard-size loaf pan (approximately 9 ½ x 5 inches) and line it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt. Whisk to blend.

In another bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. They should still be lumpy, not fully pureed. Stir in the vanilla.

In yet another bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter briefly, just to get it going, and then add the sugar. Continue beating until the mixture is light, fluffy, and the color of coffee with milk. Add the beaten eggs, and continue to beat. (If the mixture looks like it’s curdling at any point, add a spoonful of the flour mixture.) Add the chocolate and the mashed bananas, and beat to mix. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture. Beat to incorporate.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and smooth the top. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out moist but clean. If there is any sign of wet batter, continue baking for a few more minutes, tenting the top with foil if it’s browning too much.

Cool the finished loaf in the pan for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides with a thin knife, then carefully lift out the loaf with the parchment liner. Cool completely before slicing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Petits pots de crème à l'érable et au beurre d'arachides

Ces petits pots de crème à l’érable et au beurre d’arachides, de Coup de Pouce, étaient excellents! J’ai obtenu 8 ramequins d’une capacité d’environ ½ tasse chacun et je les ai saupoudrés de flocons d’érable que j’avais sous la main – je recommande fortement!

¾ tasse de sirop d'érable
1 tasse de beurre d'arachides crémeux (j’ai utilisé du Kraft)
1 ½ tasse de crème sans lactose
flocons d’érable, pour garnir (facultatif)

Dans une petite casserole, mélanger le sirop d'érable et le beurre d'arachides. Cuire à feu moyen, en brassant, jusqu'à ce que le mélange soit homogène. Verser la préparation dans un grand bol et laisser refroidir légèrement.

Entre-temps, dans un autre bol, à l'aide d'un batteur électrique, battre la crème jusqu'à ce qu'elle forme des pics fermes. À l'aide d'une spatule, incorporer délicatement la moitié de la crème fouettée au mélange de beurre d'arachides en soulevant délicatement la masse. Incorporer le reste de la crème fouettée de la même manière jusqu'à ce que la mousse soit presque homogène. Verser dans de petits ramequins et réfrigérer pendant au moins 4 heures ou jusqu'au moment de servir. Garnir de flocons d’érable, si désiré.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Chocolate - bean-to-bar, local, and otherwise

I decided to try some Canadian bean-to-bar chocolates during my stay this summer. I placed an order on the Miss Choco website, which is (as far as I know) the only store in Quebec specialized in bean-to-bar chocolate, though not all products are local. I bought three bars through them.

The first one I ate was Hummingbird Chocolate in Fleur de Sel. The chocolate itself was good and quite smooth, but a bit too bitter for my taste, at 70% cocoa. I liked the design of the bar and the packaging, but oddly, even though the company is in Ontario, I initially couldn’t tell which, of the English or French text, was the translation, as both were poorly written. (I’d wager now that the English is poorly written and then the French translation… Well, garbage in, garbage out.) That contributed to making a poor overall impression, even though I’d obviously like to support the company.

I then tried a Chocolat Madagascar bar – I can’t find it online anymore, but it’s a 61% cocoa content with fleur de sel and (I only realized this after tasting it) combava. Sadly, the citrus flavor (almost orange-y) overwhelms everything, and I can’t even taste the salt. I’m not a big fan of this one.

The third one was from Palette de Bine and it was a single-origin bar with beans from Vietnam. Even though it was 72% cocoa, I found it delicious, plus it had a smooth mouthfeel. I also liked the design of the packaging and bar (made to look like wood). This is the one I’d definitely buy again! No wonder they won so many awards.

I placed a separate order to Les Chocolats de Chloé for truffles. Interestingly, even though a photo pf their products appears on the Miss Choco website, they use Valrhona chocolate instead of bean-to-bar (the photo is in the section explaining how confectioners use couverture chocolate, but there is no legend to the photo, so it’s really not clear why it’s there). The truffles come in very interesting flavors, but sadly many of them were unidentifiable, meaning either they weren’t on the chart, or they were but I still couldn’t taste what I expected to taste. The spices, ginger and vinegars came through well, but I felt like most fruit was muddled at best. It should also be noted that the package was sent without any insulation against heat, so the truffles were a bit worse for wear upon arrival… They were still good, but next time I’d either order them in winter or choose them myself in the brick-and-mortar store.

Finally, I’m talking about it here even though it’s not bean-to-bar either: Rochef Chocolatier’s Dark Chocolate with Fleur de Sel. This was absolutely delicious! It’s 70% cocoa, but I did not find it too bitter at all. This was something I just picked up at the grocery store, from a local company, and I’d go for it again. I’ll actually keep an eye out for it next time I’m at IGA.

Mini-parfaits de poires à l'érable

J’ai fait ce dessert pendant que j’ai de la crème sans lactose… En fait, je pensais aussi profiter de mes vacances au Québec pour acheter des flocons d’érable, et je n’en ai pas trouvé! J’ai donc pris du sucre d’érable avec un diamètre assez gros. J’ai aussi trouvé que la recette n’était pas claire, puisqu’en la relisant, je me rends compte qu’il faut 2 tasses de crème *déjà* fouettée – ce qui est logique, je trouvais que j’en avais beaucoup trop! Il faudrait donc peut-être… ½ tasse de crème? J’ai aussi utilisé le liquide qui me restait après avoir fait cuire les poires pour sucrer la crème, car j’avais d’une part trop de liquide et d’autre part de la crème trop fade. C’est donc facile d’ajuster, c’est sur le principe d’une bagatelle… On pourrait aussi y aller avec des pommes et de la muscade ou de la cannelle en automne?

1 carré de pâte feuilletée de 10 cm (4 po)
2 c. à soupe de beurre sans lactose
6 poires mûres, pelées, épépinées et coupées en cubes
½ tasse de sirop d’érable
2 tasses de crème fouettée sans lactose (voir plus haut)
2 c. à soupe de flocons d’érable

Préchauffer le four à 400 °F.

Déposer la pâte feuilletée sur une plaque à cuisson et la couper en cubes de 2,5 cm (1 po). Recouvrir d’une feuille de papier parchemin et d’une autre plaque à cuisson de la même grandeur que la première.

Cuire la pâte au four pendant 30 min ou jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit bien dorée. Retirer du four et réserver.

Dans une grande poêle, faire fondre le beurre. Ajouter les cubes de poires et faire sauter pendant 3 min à feu moyen. Ajouter le sirop d’érable et laisser caraméliser pendant 2 min. Retirer et réserver.

Avant le service, monter les verrines en y déposant successivement des cubes de pâte feuilletée, des cubes de poires à l’érable et de la crème fouettée.

Garnir chaque verrine de flocons d’érable et servir.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Curly hair

Around the time when I turned 30, my straight hair became wavier and now, it’s definitely curly. This means that I’ve had to change not just hair products but hair care routines as well, and there’s been a learning curve. (This is made harder by the fact that somehow, curly hair has become a statement and mainstream product lines just aren’t helpful, not to talk of hairdressers!) Now that I mostly know what I’m doing, I figured I’d share some resources in case it helps other people out there. (Some of these links are affiliate links, which means that as long as my Amazon store is up and running, if you use it to make a purchase, I’ll get some money off my next purchase.)

I started reading online about care for curly hair, especially the Curly Girl method (more on that in a moment) – namely cowashing more often, and eliminating sulfates (too drying for curly hair) and silicone (too heavy for curls) from hair products. But even with the proper technique, some products work better than others. In the spirit of thorough reviewing, I’ll name-check products I tried even if I didn’t end up liking them; feel free to skip ahead to the paragraph where I get back to the Curly Girl method (in bold font).

Up until last fall, I was using a lot of Organix products – specifically the Quenching + Coconut Curls shampoo and conditioner, along with my trusty argan oil Defining Cream. (For some reason, though, the Curling Hair Butter never really did it for me, as it was either too heavy if I left it in or not enough if I rinsed it out.) I still like those products, though I realize now that they sometimes leave my hair frizzy, perhaps because they contain alcohol.

I mentioned Moroccanoil here, but I actually first heard of it there. I started using their Original Treatment with argan oil on my now-curly hair, to tame frizz. I really liked it, but I’ve since decided that it’s not necessarily any better than the Biosilk Silk Therapy Original Serum I’d been using on my straight hair, and that one is certainly less expensive, so I think I’ll stick to that for now. (For the record, the Moroccanoil Frizz Control spray was no help whatsoever.) I still have more frizz than I’d like, but at least this helps a lot on dry hair.

I tried Herbal Essences Naked Cleansing Conditioner, which was fine but a bit unremarkable. I wanted to love L’Oréal’s EverCurl Cleansing Balm, but even though I liked the results, I wasn’t crazy about the smell. I also tried Joico Co+Wash Curl, but I felt like my hair was too dry after using it (maybe because it contains alcohol?), and I find pressurized canisters impractical (they don’t travel well, for example, and it’s hard to gauge how much product is left at any given time).

Then I focused on hydrating my hair. I haven’t had luck with hydrating masks; I tried Garnier Whole Blends Hydrating Mask (coconut water and vanilla milk formula), but it felt too heavy for my hair. The next step would be a homemade mask with something like coconut oil, but I’ve been putting that off because it sounds messy – I’ll get around to it eventually, I guess. As a post-shower hair gel, I tried but actually did not like Kérastase K Curl Fever – it was hard to dose and I usually ended up with crunchy hair, which I hate even if the curls are decent – and Dippity Do’s Girls With Curls Curl Defining Cream – also less than ideal, and contains alcohol so leaves some frizz. In any event, I’ve now found something that works even better for my hair.

Enter Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey et al., which seriously changed my life (I know it sounds trite, but I really mean it). The corresponding website is I had read a lot online about how to care for curly hair before that. There are other websites that provide both information and products, like NaturallyCurly.Com, but despite my best intentions, I could never figure out if I was a 2B or another kind of 2. But now, with the Curly Girl handbook, I know I have wavy hair and I have clear instructions to follow for my specific hair type. I couldn’t implement everything all at once, but every time I changed one thing in my routine to follow these instructions, my hair got better. I used their technique to squeeze water out of my hair, and the curls were so much nicer already! I switched to a cotton knit instead of a terry cloth towel, and my curls were even nicer (I ended up buying jersey knit pillowcases in colors that match my terry cloth bath towels and use those on my hair). And I know what to look for in hair products. The book also has chapters for men and children, as well as white/grey curly hair, plus tips on cutting and styling curly hair. I strongly recommend it if your hair is curly and you’re not sure how to care for it!

The products that I found and liked enough to use are from two collections. First, from the DevaCurl line for wavy hair, the ”low-poo” cleanser, conditioner, and anti-frizz styling cream. These are on the pricier side, but packages tend to be cheaper (I got one as a gift and bought a second during a 25%-off sale). On the lower-price end of things is the Hair Milk collection by Carol’s Daughter. Predictably, the leave-in moisturizer is too heavy for my wavy curls, but the cleansing conditioner, the (alcohol-free) styling gel, and the cream-to-serum lotion are working out really well. (Sadly, they seem outrageously expensive to procure in Canada…)

As far as hair style goes, I had grown out my bangs already, since with hair as thick as mine and curly to boot, I felt like they were too much to maintain. (It’s actually funny how many people have a love/hate relationship with their bangs!) That being said, my otherwise very nice hairdresser didn’t know how to cut curly hair, despite having naturally curly hair herself (she always straightened hers). So I used the DevaCurl website to find a stylist who could cut curly hair, and I am thrilled with my new hairdresser! It’s amazing how much of a difference the proper technique can make. For the record, she used Redken’s Frizz Dismiss line on me, and I particularly liked the hair mask. I haven’t found the time to go see her since the Fox was born, but I’ve booked an appointment for next month and can’t wait!

Hopefully this post will help some curly-haired people out there love their hair again!