Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Batch of links - Bilingualism

While decluttering my computer, I found some documents that I had started for themed “batches of links” and never got around to finishing. Some are still relevant even if they are not recent, but I’ve added one brand new link below about a new study and one article published right before Christmas. So here’s a belated batch of links about bilingualism!

- Being bilingual changes the structure of your brain, which is why I sometimes find myself reaching for a word in my native language and coming up with it only in my second language. Also, my brain sometimes thinks in chiac. Turns out, it’s normal.

- People who are bilingual can learn a new language more quickly than those who are monolingual.

- The brain remembers the birth language in some way, even when the individual forgets it. Here’s another article on the same topic.

- Another way of looking at it: the first language you learn changes how you hear all other languages after, even if you no longer speak the original language.

- Interesting article on how babies learn two languages at the same time, which leads to the conclusion that bilingual babies have more flexible brains.

- Bilingual babies benefit from learning faster.

- Bilingual children are better at problem-solving, probably because they are used to thinking about the same thing in different ways. The sample size is small, but since my children are bilingual, I’m not going to question this.

- Good New York Times article on bilingualism, which such gems as the fact that bilingualism helps forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and bilinguals are better at multitasking.

- For a better brain, learn another language.

- Although, to be fair, the bilingual advantage is often overstated.

- The language you speak changes your view of the world, and this view can change depending on the language in which you operate. For example, English doesn’t have gendered nouns whereas French does. When the Engineer reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar to our kids, the caterpillar is male, but when I read it, she’s female. A random fly or spider that finds its way into our house is male in English and female in French. Really, there’s a 50-50 chance anytime either one of us speaks about said fly or spider, but it’s interesting to see genders spontaneously applied differently by different members of the household!

- As a matter of fact, writers who switch languages compare the process to being born again. With my limited experience, I’d tend to agree, because there are certain things that I can only express in one language.

- However, a new study actually found no evidence of any advantage in the brain’s executive functions. A very informative article is here. In short, studies are often hard to replicate and easy to criticize.

- Les enfants bilingues ont l’oreille musicale.

- Les bébés vivant dans des milieux bilingues sont plus attentifs.

- Les bienfaits du cerveau bilingue se confirment.

- J’ai aimé aussi ce petit billet, De la diglossie dans les chaumières montréalaises, qui parle du fait que bien que le Québec impose le français dans la place publique, les ménages tendent à conserver la langue et la culture allophones à domicile, ce qui n’est pas le cas en Ontario par exemple, où l’anglais prend toute la place.

- Which leads me to How a family recipe taught me what is at stake when Franco-Ontarians lose their roots.

[Update, May 22, 2019: Here’s another link! Support for bilingualism for children waning in Canada.]

Friday, May 17, 2019

Carrés magiques au citron

C’est un fait, j’aime les gâteaux magiques. Comme celui à la noix de coco ou celui au chocolat. Là, j’en ai essayé un au citron, publié dans le magazine 3 fois par jour de mai 2018 (mais je ne le trouve pas sur leur site). C’était absolument excellent! On a tous adoré, vraiment. Le truc, en fait le plus important, c’est que tous les ingrédients soient à la température de la pièce. On pourrait aussi parfumer avec du zeste d’orange ou de citron Meyer…

Je change quand même une instruction – en effet, il est plus facile de séparer un œuf quand il est froid, alors je vous recommande de séparer les œufs tout d’abord et de les laisser venir à la température de la pièce ensuite.

4 œufs, séparés, à la température ambiante
¾ tasse de sucre
½ tasse de beurre ou de margarine sans lactose, fondu(e) et à température ambiante
le zeste de 3 citrons
¾ tasse de farine tout-usage
2 tasses de lait sans lactose, à température ambiante
sucre en poudre (facultatif)

Préchauffer le four à 325 °F et placer la grille au centre. Graisser et tapisser un moule carré de 9 po (j’en ai pris in de 8 po) de papier parchemin, puis réserver.

Dans un bol, fouetter les jaunes d’œufs avec le sucre 3 ou 4 minutes afin que le tout soit léger et mousseux.

Ajouter le beurre fondu et le zeste de citron, puis fouetter pendant 1 minute supplémentaire.

Incorporer la farine, puis ajouter graduellement le lait jusqu’à l’obtention d’une texture lisse et homogène. Réserver. (À cette étape, la pâte sera liquide.)

Dans un autre bol, fouetter les blancs d’œufs jusqu’à l’obtention de pics fermes.

Ajouter les œufs en neige au mélange précédent sans trop remuer, afin que le tout ne soit pas homogène.

Verser dans le moule et cuire au four de 45 à 50 minutes, ou jusqu’à ce que le dessus soit bien doré et que le centre soit presque pris.

Laisser tiédir à température ambiante, puis placer au réfrigérateur pour refroidir complètement.

Saupoudrer de sucre en poudre pour servir, si désiré.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The best hummus

It had been a while since I’d made hummus at home. I’m a big fan of my mother’s recipe, which I’ll have to make again soon, but this one is different. I had some dried chickpeas left over from a recipe the Engineer had made and I wanted to use them up. It’s not one of those recipes for which you have to peel the chickpeas, because ain’t nobody got time for that (though I’d consider adding ice cold aquafaba instead of olive oil to see what happens). As it is, though, this is the BEST hummus I’ve ever made, and it was plenty smooth and creamy without having to peel the chickpeas! When I made it, I gChatted with the Engineer, and it went a little something like this…
LFG – Hey, you know how Jerusalem Grill has the best hummus ever?
Eng – Umm… Yeah?
LFG – Well, they’ve got some competition. IN OUR KITCHEN!

So yeah, this was amazing. The Engineer said it was ridiculous how good it was, and I should just throw away any other hummus recipe I have because they will never hold a candle to this one. It was presented in Bon Appétit on two occasions and was created by Michael Solomonov, chef at Philadelphia’s Dizengoff (which, BTW, *delivers* hummus). It’s certainly not hard to make, but it is a bit long, even though some of it is remembering to soak the chickpeas the day before. For presentation tips, see here for the hummus swoosh technique.

1 cup dried chickpeas
2 tsp. baking soda, divided
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
⅓ cup (or more) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
⅔ cup tahini
¼ tsp. (or more) ground cumin
olive oil (for serving)

Place chickpeas and 1 tsp. baking soda in a medium bowl and add cold water to cover by 2". Cover and let sit at room temperature until chickpeas have doubled in size, 8–12 hours. Drain and rinse.

Combine soaked chickpeas and remaining 1 tsp. baking soda in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover by at least 2". Bring to a boil, skimming surface as needed. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer until chickpeas are tender and completely falling apart, 45–60 minutes. Drain; set aside.

Meanwhile, process garlic, lemon juice, and 1 tsp. salt in a food processor until coarsely puréed; let sit 10 minutes to allow garlic to mellow.

Strain garlic mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing on solids to release as much liquid as possible. Return liquid to food processor; discard solids. Add tahini and pulse to combine. With motor running, add ¼ cup ice water by the tablespoonful and process (it may seize up at first) until mixture is very smooth, pale, and thick. Add chickpeas and cumin and process, occasionally scraping down sides, until mixture is extremely smooth, about 4 minutes. Thin with more water if you prefer a looser consistency; taste and season with salt, more lemon juice, and more cumin as desired.

Spoon hummus into a shallow bowl, making a well in the center, and drizzle liberally with oil. Top as desired.

Spring outings

Here’s a quick recap of our outings so far this year. I should really create a new tag for those… Anyway, we may or may not have an “official” outing in May, but we’ll almost certainly hit a few spots like the River Walk and the Doseum when my mother-in-law visits, so those might have to do.

In January, we went to the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Even though it was a beautiful day, it was low season, so there were very few people – this suited us, as we don’t like crowds. There’s still plenty to see, though! For one thing, the citrus is in season, and there’s plenty indoors as well.

Unbeknownst to us, Geometric Harmony, an exhibit by Otto opened that day, so there were modern sculptures on the grounds. It was also our first time visiting the new Family Adventure Garden, which opened last year. There’s a space called No Name Creek which is actually a splash zone in the summer, but dry in the winter – as far as I’m concerned, I’m glad we were there when it’s dry, because I really don’t want to have to schlep swimsuits and towels when I go to the botanical garden with my kids! There are lots of play houses and child-size picnic tables and structures for the kids to have fun, so we really enjoyed our time there.

We also visited parts of the garden that we had seen before, but it was the first time for the kids. We stuck to the glasshouses of the Lucile Halsell Conservatory and the Orangerie, then made our way back via the WaterSaver Garden and the Rose Garden (the Kumamoto En Japanese Garden was closed that day). We had seen the lake before and decided to skip it this time, especially considering that the Little Prince was getting tired of walking and we were all getting hungry. We had lunch at Rosella at the Garden (which I think is the former Carriage House restaurant); they had great brunch options, and we really enjoyed the meal. It was a nice way to cap off the visit!

We then had a few outings consisting of taking family photos in a field of bluebonnets (and driving around to find said field, only to settle for one within walking distance), and going out to a picnic at the playground, so we’re rolling that up into one and counting it as February.

In March, we went to the Science Mill in Johnson City. We went on a Sunday, so it wasn’t too busy. This old mill has been turned into a children’s museum, with exhibits in the STEM fields. I think that our favorite exhibits ended up being outside: the colossal robotic hand and the incredible ball machine are must-sees, though the Little Prince was probably more into the fossil dig at the end, even refusing to leave because he was having too much fun in his adventure!

The April outing was Landa Park in New Braunfels. I had been thinking that it had been a while since we rode a little train here (even though we did ride one in Vancouver), but I wanted to go someplace new, so Landa Park it was. The park is 51 acres of big oak trees, grass, and water (Landa Lake and Comal Springs). There are playgrounds for the kiddos, and you can fish, swim or rent a paddle boat if you are so inclined! The Engineer and the Little Prince played a round of mini-golf; there are also volleyball courts, BBQ grills and walking paths. We enjoyed our visit!

Friday, May 10, 2019

A quick lunch idea

It’s the end of the school year (the last day of school here is in very late May, but the end of June isn’t far off for everyone else in North America). If your kid is like mine, there are things that he liked for lunch at the beginning of the year that he doesn’t like anymore, and you’re trying to find something else but have no inspiration. So here’s an idea shared by a nutritionist in April’s Parents magazine: healthier corn dogs. Simply buy some Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, but only fill the cups 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, then push a 2-inch piece of nitrate-free hot dog sausage in the center of each muffin (also cut the sausages lengthwise for a small child, obviously). Continue baking for 5 to 7 more minutes, until muffins are set. Things of note: the package of Jiffy mix didn’t have any ingredients that I object to, and the muffins were really good; however, the package only makes about 6 muffins, so consider buying two packages; and the muffins have a major tendency to crumble. The Little Prince absolutely loved them, though! I used Applegate Organics uncured turkey hot dog sausages. You could make you own cornbread, but I didn’t have a good recipe (the last one I tried was “meh”).

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Baked Potato Egg Boats

I was at a loss for what to make for dinner, and the Engineer suggested baked potatoes. It was a good idea, because it seemed like it had been a long time since I had bought baking potatoes (I made these baked garlic parmesan potato wedges in December and can’t clearly remember buying them since). So after looking through my recipes, I decided to make baked potato egg boats, even though it was presented as a brunch recipe.

I had to bake the potatoes for a much longer time than called for, but the result was so worth it! I also used more cheese than called for, and the amounts below are mine. This was delicious and so satisfying! I served it with leftover rainbow salad.

Keep in mind that you can bake the potatoes in advance and finish the prep closer to meal time. Also, you don’t actually use the flesh of the potatoes in this recipe, so you can snack on it as you’re waiting for the egg boats to bake or you can reserve it for another use.

6 small russet potatoes, scrubbed well and pricked with a fork all over
6 strips cooked bacon, chopped (divided)
2 cups shredded lactose-free cheddar (divided)
8 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup lactose-free milk
2 thinly sliced green onions
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 ˚F.

Place potatoes directly on oven rack in center of the oven (I used a baking sheet) and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender through the center (it took longer in my case).

Remove from oven and allow potatoes to cool for about 15 minutes.

Slice each potato in half lengthwise and hollow each half out, scooping the potato flesh into a mixing bowl for another use at another time.

Sprinkle a small amount of bacon and cheddar into each hollowed potato skin and transfer skins to a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Whisk milk, remaining bacon, half of the remaining cheese and green onion into the egg mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Pour egg mixture into each potato cavity (¾ full) and top with remaining cheese.

Lower oven temperature to 375 ˚F and bake potatoes until the egg mixture has set, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool a bit, and serve.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Batch of links

- First, not a link, but a quick announcement: I’m taking down the Amazon store linked to this blog. Amazon has changed a bunch of things, making running the store a very frustrating experience (and very user-unfriendly as compared to when I first opened), so it’s not worth my time. It’s been down for a while anyway, this is just more official. This means that there will be broken links in previous posts, but as far as I can remember, products were mentioned by name in addition to being linked, so you can still find them on your own.

- I listened to Spilled Milk Podcast’s episode about MSG, all the while marveling at the nocebo effect, and it led me to this episode of This American Life for more detail. And from there down the rabbit hole to learn more about the Stork Derby (I’d heard about it, but not in this much detail).

- I had been reminiscing about a series I used to watch over and over as a kid (it had been taped off TV, I think). It was animated and taught science concepts, but some were considered pretty advanced – I haven’t met many other 5-year-olds who understood that things get hotter as their molecules move faster, you know? Anyway, it took a lot of Googling, but I finally tracked it down: Eureka! This is a link to the English version on YouTube; I couldn’t find the French version that I used to watch (the series was made in Ontario and it exists in both languages, or at least it did). It holds up really well, and we’re currently watching it with the Little Prince.

- A photographer documents what she finds in her preschooler’s pockets and those treasures are really sweet.

- For your inner child (or your actual child): Disney songs in their native languages.

- There’s a dating app that pairs people based on the contents of their fridge, and if I were single I’d be all over that.

- Don’t get fooled when you buy San Marzano tomatoes.

- And another link to a Spilled Milk episode, this one about meal planning. I left a long comment on their page, but the gist of it is that I plan meals for the week to come, and even though that takes work, for me it’s an anxiety-reducing tool because I can’t stand not to know what I’ll be serving the next day. It also helps to have meal templates, especially if you have small children. Other families might decide that Wednesday is always chicken day, for example, but they’ll vary what type of chicken they make. My long-term plan would be to narrow down my recipes to my family’s favorites, use an online service to make them into a book, and come up with a few monthly menu templates taking into account what’s in season. What’s your take on meal planning?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Patates douces garnies de salade de pois chiches

Le midi, j’aime bien manger végétarien, à moins d’avoir des restants. Comme une fois récemment, j’avais des restes de riz du restaurant chinois, alors j’ai décidé de faire du riz frit en suivant ces règles (recette ici, autre source pour ceux sans wok ici); c’était délicieux! Je vous recommande aussi cette frittata aux pois chiches et aux herbes, servie avec aïoli, qui était vraiment meilleure que ce à quoi on s’attendait! Enfin, pour les adultes; les enfants n’ont pas vraiment aimé. (Je l’ai fait pour souper, celle-là, mais ça aurait été excellent pour dîner aussi.) Ou encore la salade de légumineuses de Ricardo, que malheureusement le Renard n’a pas aimée, même s’il aime les ingrédients séparément.

La recette que je vais partager ici, par contre, était vraiment, vraiment délicieuse, et photogénique en plus! Je l’ai trouvée dans Coup de Pouce; elle a été créée par la chef Stéphanie Audet. J’ai préféré manger les patates douces pelées, mais c’est vrai que c’est un peu plus joli avec la peau, alors c’est comme vous voulez. Le Renard et moi, on a adoré – on mangerait ça à journée longue!

Pour la crème de tahini
½ tasse de tahini
2 c. à soupe de jus de citron
½ c. à thé de sel
1 c. à thé d’huile d’olive
½ tasse d’eau (j’ai pris de l’eau chaude)

Mélanger le tout, soit dans un bol à l’aide d’un fouet, soit dans un petit pot avec un couvercle.

Pour les patates douces et les pois chiches
2 patates douces moyennes
2 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 ½ tasse de pois chiches cuits (j’en ai pris une boîte de conserve de 15 oz.)
1 c. à soupe de jus de lime
2 c. à soupe d’oignons verts hachés
2 c. à soupe de menthe fraîche hachée
¼ tasse de coriandre fraîche hachée
1 ½ c à thé de sel de mer (j’ai pris ¾ c. à thé de sel cachère)
les arilles de 1 grenade

Couper les patates douces en deux sur la longueur. Badigeonner le côté coupé des demi-patates de la moitié de l’huile d’olive. Les saler, puis les déposer sur une plaque de cuisson, le côté coupé vers le bas. Cuire au four préchauffé́ à 350 °F de 20 à 25 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que la chair soit tendre. (Dans mon cas, c’était plutôt 45 minutes à 400 °F. Vous pouvez les peler ou pas, au choix.)

Entre-temps, dans un grand bol, mélanger les pois chiches, le reste de l’huile, le jus de lime, les oignons verts, la menthe, la coriandre et le sel de mer.

Au moment de servir, répartir les patates douces dans les assiettes, le côté́ coupé vers le haut. Garnir de la salade de pois chiches et des arilles de grenade. Arroser de la crème de tahini.

Pâtes crémeuses au tofu

J’avais fait quelques plats d’hiver dont je pensais parler, comme une quiche avec une croûte de courge spaghetti (qui, en fin de compte, n’a pas été un grand succès, mais vous pouvez consulter ce topo sur la courge spaghetti pour avoir d’autres idées). J’ai aussi fait du bœuf braisé aux tomates et à l’ail : ultra-simple comme recette, délicieux en plus (j’ai servi ça avec de la polenta à la courge musquée, garniture de ricotta), mais je n’en ai pas de photo potable! Pas plus que du mélange ricotta-basilic que j’ai fait par la suite. Ce gratin de gnocchis fondant est aussi excellent, du moment qu’on le laisse cuire assez pour que les gnocchis soient moelleux.

Toujours est-il que ça avait beau être bon, il y avait toujours au moins une personne (habituellement un enfant) qui n’aimait pas le repas. J’étais donc très contente de trouver ces pâtes! La sauce est faite à base de tofu soyeux et de poivrons rouges rôtis. On peut acheter des poivrons rôtis en pot, mais j’ai fait rôtir les miens parce que je ne voulais pas de restes d’ingrédients (d’autant plus que j’en profitais pour finir mon pot de pesto rouge!). Je pense que le plus important ici, c’est d’utiliser de tofu soyeux, qui est plus difficile à trouver que celui vendu dans la section réfrigérée de l’épicerie – j’achète le mien en ligne. Quant aux noix, elles sont facultatives, mais j’ai trouvé le plat meilleur avec des pignons rôtis! En tout cas, ces pâtes sont excellentes, et on n’a même pas besoin de dire aux enfants qu’il y a des poivrons dedans. Tout le monde a aimé!

1 lb de pâtes longues
1 c. à thé d’huile d’olive
1 oignon, haché finement
2 gousses d’ail, hachées finement
1 paquet de tofu soyeux (300 g)
2 poivrons rouges rôtis en pot, égouttés et hachés
1/3 tasse de pesto aux tomates séchées
sel et poivre, au goût
¼ tasse de basilic frais, haché
1/3 tasse de noix de Grenoble grillées, hachées (ou des pignons grillés, ou rien du tout)
copeaux de parmesan et jeunes feuilles de roquette, pour servir (facultatif)

Dans une grande casserole d’eau bouillante salée, cuire les pâtes en suivant les instructions sur l’emballage. Égoutter en réservant ½ tasse d’eau de cuisson. Remettre les pâtes dans la casserole.

Entre-temps, faire chauffer l’huile à feu moyen-vif. Ajouter l’oignon et l’ail, et cuire pendant 5 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que l’oignon soit doré. Mettre l’oignon et l’ail dans le récipient d’un mélangeur. Ajouter le tofu, les poivrons et le pesto. Réduire en purée lisse. Verser sur les pâtes dans la casserole (ajouter un peu d’eau de cuisson, au besoin). Saler et poivrer. Réchauffer à feu doux.

Au moment de servir, garnir chaque portion du basilic et des noix, puis des copeaux de parmesan et de la roquette, si désiré.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Momofuku Milk Bar's Birthday Cake

I’m going to be upfront about it: this cake is involved. Like, A. Project. But if you don’t mind a project for a special occasion, say, your youngest’s second birthday, well then, you’re in for a real treat! The upside is that it can be broken down into steps and made ahead of time and kept in the freezer until the morning of the day you need it, at which point you transfer it into the fridge until the party. I made a lactose-free version of it and it was AH-ma-zing. Like seriously, possibly the best birthday cake you can conjure up. That being said, the road there wasn’t exactly smooth.

To refresh your memory, Christina Tosi is the chef at Momofuku Milk Bar (she’s the one who invented cereal milk ice cream and crack pie, too). I really got into this cake when I saw her on Chef’s Table, Season 4, Episode 1. (Admitedly, some found it lacking. While we’re at it, here’s an interview focused on how she stays so thin even though she’s a famous pastry chef.) The recipe for her birthday layer cake is in her cookbook, but I referred to the version published in Bon Appétit. Which, as it turns out, is erroneous: when I baked the cake in the specified 9”x13” jelly roll pan, which I had bought specifically for the occasion, it overflowed and I had a disaster on my hands. There’s nothing in the comments about this, but a bit of googling revealed I wasn’t the only one. I think that the problem stems from the fact that Christina Tosi calls for a quarter sheet pan (assuming this is the original recipe in her book), and then Bon Appétit went on to quantify those measurements as 9”x13”. The problem is that a quarter sheet pan IS NOT A STANDARD MEASUREMENT! So let me save you some trouble here: what you want is a rimmed baking sheet (such as a jelly roll pan) measuring 10”x15”. Smaller and your cake batter will overflow; bigger and your cake will be too thin and burn. For the record, there’s a pretty big difference in volume between a 9”x13” pan and a 10”x15” pan, so I’m surprised Bon Appétit let that slide! In any event, I had to make the cake a second time, and it turns out that the 9”x13” pan wasn’t a complete waste because that was the only size that would fit in my lower-drawer freezer for the last step! Plus, the Fox loves playing with it now.

My version (below) is lactose-free! It all works with Earth Balance sticks, even the frosting. It’s also nut-free as long as your ingredients aren’t cross-contaminated (I’m thinking of the sprinkles and clear vanilla extract in particular).

Before you even attempt this, make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment: in addition to the 10”x15” pan, you’ll want a roll of 3”-wide acetate and some clear vanilla extract (I bought Wilton, but Christina Tosi recommends McCormick). The distinctive imitation taste of the clear vanilla extract really makes this cake. You also need either a 6” cake ring or a 6” springform mold (I have the latter). The resulting cake is small, obviously, but it was enough for 4 adults and 2 kids. Also, as per the recommendations on Liv for Cake (which had solved the pan size issue), I made 1.5 times the recommended amount of frosting – you’ll have a bit leftover, but that way at least you won’t run out, and that’s what I wrote below. Since this recipe is so involved, it’s a good idea to start at least several days ahead of time, so that you can course-correct if needed.

All that being said, this was an amazing cake. The crumb is a vanilla funfetti that tastes like the best version you remember from childhood (even for me who hadn’t had those types of cakes on my birthday!), the crumbs are almost like a funfetti granola, and dang it if that frosting isn’t the best one I’ve ever had! I’m making that frosting again for sure; it was stark white, had the perfect consistency, and wasn’t too sweet (although the finished, assembled cake certainly was). I think we all really loved it. The Little Prince has even asked me to make it again for his birthday – oy! I’d actually love to adapt it to make a regular 2-layer, 8- or 9-inch round cake. Do let me know if any of you have tried!

For the cake
2 cups cake flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. rainbow sprinkles, divided
1 ½ tsp. vinegar + enough lactose-free milk to make ½ cup (instead of ½ cup buttermilk)
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tsp. clear imitation vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) lactose-free butter or margarine, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
3 large eggs

For the crumbs
¾ cup cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. rainbow sprinkles
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp. clear imitation vanilla extract

For the frosting and assembly
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) lactose-free butter or vegan margarine, at room temperature
6 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
3 oz. lactose-free cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 ½ Tbsp. + 1 tsp. clear imitation vanilla extract, divided
7.5 oz. powdered sugar
¾ tsp. kosher salt
3/8 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ cup lactose-free milk

For the cake
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a 10”x15” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (I left some overhang on the long sides and strongly recommend it) and coat with nonstick spray; set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and ¼ cup sprinkles in a large bowl.

Combine buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat granulated sugar, shortening, butter, and light brown sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Continue to beat mixture, occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl, until almost doubled in volume and very light, airy, and pale yellow, about 4 minutes.

With mixer on low, add buttermilk mixture until incorporated. Add dry ingredients, beating until just combined, about 1 minute.

Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. sprinkles. Bake until cake is light golden brown, the center springs back when gently pressed, and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30–35 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer. The cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days. (In the photos below, I’m showing you the prebaked cake in the 9”x13” pan because it has the 2 Tbsp. of sprinkles on it; I forgot that step when I used the proper 10”x15” pan.)

For the crumbs
Preheat oven to 300 °F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Combine flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, sprinkles, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and vanilla, and using your hands (or a wooden spoon), mix until no dry spots remain and large clumps form when mixture is pressed together. As though you were making a crumble topping, break mixture up into clusters (some small, some large) and spread onto prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until crumble is light golden brown and crunchy, 10–12 minutes (it will firm up as it cools). Let cool completely. The crumbs can be kept in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 5 days.

For the frosting
Combine butter, shortening, and cream cheese in large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until mixture is smooth and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and slowly stream in corn syrup and 1 Tbsp. vanilla. Beat until mixture is silky smooth and glossy white, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down sides of bowl and, with mixer on low, add powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon juice until just combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until you have a brilliant stark white, beautifully smooth frosting, about 4 minutes (it should look just like it came out of a plastic tub at the grocery store!).

Frosting can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

For the assembly
Place a piece of parchment paper on a counter. Invert cake onto it, then peel off the parchment paper (the one which was in the pan and is still stuck to the cake). Use cake ring to punch out two 6" rounds from cake (or, using a springform pan as a guide, cut out 2 rounds using a paring knife). These are your top 2 cake layers. Use the remaining cake scraps to cut out two semicircles, which will form the bottom layer of the cake.

Cut 2 strips of acetate – each should be 3 inches wide and 20 inches long.

Line a (small) sheet pan with a clean piece of parchment. Clean cake ring and place it in center of the pan. Use 1 acetate strip to line inside of cake ring. Place cake scraps inside ring and use the back of your hand to press scraps together into a flat, even layer (you never see this layer, so it’s okay that it’s messy, but since it’s the base of the cake, it needs to be flat).

Combine milk and remaining 1 tsp. vanilla in a small bowl. Dunk a pastry brush in milk mixture and use half of it to generously moisten the base layer.

Use the back of a spoon to spread about 3 Tbsp. frosting evenly over cake (I used a bit more). Sprinkle ⅔ cup birthday crumbs evenly over frosting (I recommend saving the larger, more aesthetically pleasing pieces for the top of the cake). Use the back of your hand to press them in place. Use the back of a spoon to spread another 3 Tbsp. frosting as evenly as possible over crumbs (honestly, I found it hard to do this without being a bit messy and using up a bit more frosting than 3 Tbsp. just to try to get a cleaner finish).

With your index finger, gently tuck second acetate strip between cake ring and the top ¼" of the first acetate strip, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5–6" tall—high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Top with a cake round (if 1 of your 2 cake rounds is less pretty than the other, use it for the middle layer and save the most perfect one for the top). Brush layer with remaining milk mixture. Repeat frosting-crumb layering process.

Nestle remaining cake round into frosting. Cover top of cake with remaining frosting. Use an offset spatula to form decorative swirls (this hard to do with the acetate and it’s what I don’t like about the aesthetics of my finished cake), or do as they do at Milk Bar and shape it into a perfectly flat top. Top with remaining birthday crumbs.

Transfer cake to freezer and freeze at least 3 hours to set cake and filling.

At least 3 hours before serving the cake, pull sheet pan out of freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop cake out of cake ring. Gently peel off acetate and transfer cake to a platter or cake stand. Defrost in fridge at least 3 hours. (Properly wrapped in plastic, the cake will keep up to 2 weeks in the freezer, or up to 5 days in the fridge.)

Batch of links

- I read this great article about Nanaimo bars last week, so of course I just had to make Nanaimo bars this week with the ubiquitous tub of Bird’s custard powder.

- Related: how to fix melted chocolate that has seized.

- How to prevent hot milk from sticking to the pan (I would not have guessed that just water makes a difference).

- How to prevent beets from staining your cutting board (same basic principle).

- The difference between fudgy, chewy and cakey brownies – I’m camp chewy myself.

- I am adding pink celery to my imaginary garden!

- Next time I see chickpea butter, I’ll have to buy some to try it out – it might be especially good for school lunches!

- An elementary school in Indiana is turning leftover cafeteria food into meals for kids in need (and by “leftover”, I mean prepared-but-not-served). Awesome initiative that limits waste while also doing good!

- Café Ohlone, in Berkley, is serving only indigenous foods.

- The bitter truth about taste buds, genes and flavor.

- Ever notice how when women follow a weird diet, they have an eating disorder, but when men do it, it’s “biohacking”?

- And an essay by chef Amanda Cohen (of Dirt Candy) on how female chefs are expected to stay thin while male chefs are expected to let loose and enjoy the food.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Lemon Pudding Cake

I felt like making a good lemon pudding cake a while back, so I tried Cook’s Illustrated’s version, but I was underwhelmed – and I think no one else really liked it. Same thing happened with this lemon-soufflé pudding cake. So eventually, for old time’s sake, I made Daisy Goodwill’s lemon pudding (from The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields), but it wasn’t as I remembered. I gave up for a while, but eventually the urge to get this right became quite strong, and I ended up googling a good recipe. I settled on this one right here, which was just what I was looking for. It only makes 4 (big) servings, though, so it won’t last long… The kids didn’t really like it, but the Engineer and I gobbled it up!

3 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup lactose-free butter or vegan margarine, softened
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup lactose-free milk
powdered sugar, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Beat egg whites in bowl at high speed until foamy. Continue beating, gradually adding ¼ cup sugar, until glossy and stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Combine remaining ¾ cup sugar and butter in another bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg yolks, lemon juice and lemon zest; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour and salt. Beat at low speed until well mixed. Stir in milk. Gently stir in beaten egg whites.

Pour mixture into ungreased 1 ½-quart casserole dish. Place casserole into 13x9-inch baking pan. Place baking pan on oven rack; pour boiling water into baking pan to ½-inch depth. Bake 45-55 minutes or until golden brown (I left mine an extra 10 minutes because it was still too wobbly). Remove casserole dish from water; cool 10 minutes (longer, in my case; the Engineer prefers his served cold). Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Friday, April 05, 2019

World Peace Cookies, now with Mallow Bits

I made a few unfancy desserts that didn’t quite pan out like I wanted. There was a banana cake with penuche frosting, where the frosting never quite “took” (and it wasn’t as good as this banana cake). Black-bottom cupcakes were surprisingly underwhelming. Apricot handpies from the Minimalist Baker cookbook were bland. Loaded Oatmeal Cookies were just okay.

As I was giving my pantry a quick once-over to figure out what ingredient I should use up next, I realized that my leftover Mallow Bits (from making the lackluster hot cocoa cookies) were going stale. So I decided to make world peace cookies – it’s a recipe by Dorie Greenspan and it also goes by the name Korova cookies. And I added Mallow Bits to half the batch, just to see if I’d like that cookie better than the hot cocoa one. (Spoiler: I totally did.)

For me, the yield was about 2 dozen cookies, and I can attest that they are better when sliced on the thick side. When comparing the plain (original) version to the one with Mallow Bits, the latter won hands down for all household members; that being said, I think that the original version would benefit from a pinch of salt on top of each cookie before baking. The chocolate flavor is intense here, which is very satisfying! We all loved these.

1 ¼ cups (165 g) all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/3 cup (25 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
11 Tbsp. (155 g or 5.5 oz.) lactose-free butter or vegan margarine, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) (125 g) light brown sugar
¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
½ tsp. fleur de sel or ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 oz. (140 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous ¾ cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
½ cup or so of Mallow Bits (NOT miniature marshmallows) (optional)
fleur de sel, for garnish (optional)

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces (and Mallow Bits, if using) and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. The dough can be baked right from the freezer; just add 1 minute to the baking time. I prefer baking a batch of cookies at a time and keeping the rest of the dough in the fridge for a few days.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 °F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½ inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them. Sprinkle with fleur de sel, if using.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Liens de la semaine

- J’ai lu À la ferme comme à la ville dans La Presse + et j’ai été complètement séduite. Le concept : des maisons à la campagne avec un espace communautaire dont personne n’a à assurer l’entretien individuellement. Les résidents ont accès à un jardin, à un ruisseau, à des espaces verts, mais sans la charge de travail qui vient avec le tout (l’entretien est payé grâce à des frais de copropriétaires). Ils ont aussi une vie communautaire, avec des enfants qui peuvent jouer ensemble dehors et des activités comme un atelier de confection de bouquets de fleurs ou un cours de yoga, par exemple.

- Si vous avez le temps, je vous suggère une série de quatre podcasts sur les menstruations (environ 1 heure par épisode). Il s’agit de l’un des nombreux thèmes abordés par LSD (la série documentaire) sur France Culture. Voici les liens pour les épisodes : 1, 2, 3 et 4. On y parle du caractère tabou des règles (alors que la moitié de la population est directement affectée), de la manière d’aborder les menstruations pour les sans-abris ou les prostituées, de la ménopause, de l’art menstruel… Vraiment très intéressant!

- Dans le numéro d’octobre 2018 de Coup de Pouce, il y avait une demi-page (en haut de la page 71) qui citait des données d’une étude réalisée auprès d’un millier de Canadiennes la même année (malheureusement, je ne trouve pas la référence sur leur site et je ne peux pas vous en dire plus sur l’étude en question). Mais voici quelques données intéressantes : 53 % des femmes se sont déjà absentées du travail en raison de douleurs menstruelles; 90 % ont déjà saigné au travers de leurs vêtements (je suis surprise que ce ne soit pas 100 %!), et plus de 75 % évitent de porter des vêtements clairs pendant leurs menstruations en cas de fuites embarrassantes; plus de 80 % ont déjà souillé leur literie (encore une fois, seulement ça?) et plus de 40 % ont dormi sur des serviettes pour éviter de tacher leurs draps.

- Notre prénom influence-t-il notre vie?, un article très intéressant dans La Presse +.

- Je n’en avais pas encore parlé, mais voici un article sur le nouveau guide alimentaire canadien.

- Vous voulez une épicerie zéro-déchet (par exemple, pour réduire votre consommation de plastique), mais il n’y en a pas près de chez vous? Commandez en ligne chez Zest pour vous simplifier la vie!

- Ma mère m’a fait parvenir un lien vers un article sur les commentaires laissés sur les recettes en ligne. J’ai beaucoup aimé, et ensuite il a absolument fallut que j’aille lire les commentaires sur la recette d’avocats à la crème sure maison de Ricardo – hilarants! (Pis le groupe Facebook pour les réponses passives-agressives sur Ricardo, tant qu’à y être – moi, c’est sûr que je répondrai dans ce genre-là aux questions niaiseuses!)

- Enfin, aviez-vous entendu parler de Floramama? Pour les gens du Grand Montréal et de la Rive-Sud, c’est comme un abonnement à un programme d’agriculture soutenue par la communauté, mais avec des fleurs. J’aime tellement le concept!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Sheet Pan Greek Chicken and Vegetables

I’m not sure where I came across this recipe – was it Instagram? Pinterest? In any event, it looked good to me and I put it on the menu the following week. And I loved it! It’s easy to prepare, looks good, tastes great, and is very adaptable to what you have on hand (or prefer). I served it with rice, but it would be good in pita pockets, too, or consider Greek-style potatoes.

For the chicken and vegetables
4 (four) 5-oz. chicken breasts, cut into small cubes (or use however much chicken your family will eat)
2 cups bell peppers, any colors, cut into squares or slices
1 medium red onion, cut into squares or slices
1 cup of zucchini broccoli, mushrooms, sweet potatoes or plum tomatoes, sliced or diced
rice or pita, for serving

For the marinade
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil or thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper

For the tzatziki sauce
1 cup plain lactose-free yogurt
¼ cup cucumber with peel, grated or minced
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill or basil
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 °F.

Arrange chicken and veggies on a large sheet pan to create a rainbow pattern.

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Brush mixture onto chicken and veggies or toss chicken and veggies in mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until veggies are charred and chicken is tender. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Whisk all the ingredients for the tzatziki in a small bowl.

Serve chicken and vegetables with tzatziki sauce alongside rice or pita.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Charcoal Banana Bread

I saw this recipe for charcoal banana bread, from Black Girl Baking by Jerrelle Guy (the book was just nominated for a James Beard award), and I just had to make it! So I bought some activated charcoal and got to it.

To be honest, I’m not sure that the charcoal here does anything other than give the bread a cool color (I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it next to the Fox’s wooden rainbow because it was just so grey!), but I enjoyed the experience. You certainly can’t taste it in such a small quantity, so I wonder if I should just use it again in other banana bread recipes, or perhaps in a chocolate cake that I want to make a bit darker. This also means that you could omit the charcoal and still end up with a truly delicious vegan banana bread!

I changed the order of the ingredients to make it easier.

2 cups white whole wheat flour (or spelt flour, but I didn’t try it)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. activated food-grade charcoal powder, for color (optional)
1 cup sugar
½ cup melted coconut oil
1 cup nut or grain milk (or lactose-free milk if you don’t need it to be vegan)
3 very ripe bananas, mashed well
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup cocoa nibs, plus more for sprinkling (optional)

Set the oven at 400 °F. Position a rack in the upper middle of the oven. Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line it horizontally with a 4-inch-wide strip of parchment paper, allowing a 2-inch overhang on each side (I left the overhang on the long side instead because it’s easier).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and charcoal powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, milk, bananas, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and the cocoa nibs into the wet ingredients and fold until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

Scoop the mixture into the loaf pan and gently smooth the top. Sprinkle with more cacao nibs and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let bread cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes, then slice and serve.