Tasting the Past – Flora’s Chocolate Molasses Cookies

Voilà! Flora's molasses chocolate cookies.

Voilà! Flora’s molasses chocolate cookies.

Searching the battered blue notebook for a dessert last to bring over at friends proved to be quite intriguing. Flipping through the pages, I stumbled upon four variations of a molasses cookie. I opted for the one that contained chocolate.

This would prove to be quite the kitchen experiment: only the ingredients were listed. There was no method… none whatsoever. I would have to wing it, conduct a bit of research, tweak the recipe if need be. continue reading

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Tasting the Past – Myrtle A.’s Date Bread

Myrtle A.'s Date Bread.

Myrtle A.’s Date Bread.

Fresh out of the wooden box… another dessert. I went for this recipe this week based on simplicity. Also, I had all of the ingredients in the pantry and in the fridge. In other words, it’s a simple recipe to prepare on a weekday.

Two things in this recipe took me by surprise. First, all the prep for the bread is done in a single bowl. Dry and wet ingredients are often mixed separately before being combined. In this case, after hydrating the chopped dates, everything was thrown into the bowl. Second, the bread is cooked in two phases. The date bread is initially set to bake at 325°F for 40 minutes. The heat is then turned down to 275°F for an hour and 20 minutes. continue reading

Rediscovering Banana Bread

Ila's Canadian Banana Bread.

Ila’s Canadian Banana Bread.

Banana bread had always made an appearance in the kitchen over the years. However, I can’t say I ever was a diehard fan of it though. Recipes tried over the years always yielded decent results without necessarily being memorable.

That recently changed when I was flipping through the pages of Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters. I stumbled by chance upon Ila’s Canadian Banana Bread. The authors state that this recipe apparently dates back from the 1920s and had a note stating “ a Canadian receipt”. Let me tell you that Ila D. Berry found the secret to the perfect banana bread. It is simply delicious… So good that my friends Hélène and Isabelle wanted the recipe (hence this blog post sharing this tasty recipe).

continue reading

And the Beet Goes On

We can pickle that! Libby's Stovetop Pickled Beets.

We can pickle that! Libby’s Stovetop Pickled Beets.

For the longest time, the process of pickling seemed like something complicated and quite honestly inaccessible. Earlier this year, I asked my Nonna how to go about it. She provided some advice on how to pickle the likes of peppers and mushrooms, but the process kind of ended there since at the time, I had nothing to actually pickle.

Christmas was around the corner and there was a large amount of beets in the fridge. Suddenly, it was all clear: “We can pickle that!”

With Portlandia’s catch phrase in mind, I began searching for pickling recipes. I stumbled upon a simple recipe in Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters. My partner offered the book to me over a year ago but it’s only recently that I’ve been consulting it. The book consists of a compilation of hand written recipes found and collected in yard sales and used bookstores. A true gem.

Washed and ready: beets.

Washed and ready: beets.

Libby’s Stovetop Pickled Beets

The recipe is from Elizabeth Corkery of Groton Massachusetts. The recipe is simple and effective. It has made me confident in my novice pickling skills!

Ingredients

  •  6 to 8 medium sized beets
  • 1 cup of vinegar (250 ML)
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ¼ tsp. of salt
  • ¼ tsp. of whole cloves (which is about 4 or 5 cloves)
  • 1 cup of sliced onion (a medium sized onion)

Method

  • Wash beets. Leave a bit of the stem; do not trim tails (this will prevent the beets from bleeding hence less of a mess and an elegant presentation). Add beets to a pot of boiling water. Cook for about 35 minutes.
  • Remove beets from pot and le cool. Peel and slice into about ¼ to ½ – inch-thick rounds (that’s what the book said, I eyeballed it).
  • Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and cloves in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Add in beets and onions and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and place in a glass container and let the beets cool down.
  • Refrigerate overnight and voilà! The beets are ready to serve.

 The book:

Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters
By Marilyn Brass and Sheila Brass, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 285 pages.

Bacon mushroom roll-ups: a taste of the holidays

The bacon mushroom roll-ups are ready.

The bacon mushroom roll-ups are ready.

I only recently found out how this hors d’oeuvre had become part of my family’s holiday culinary traditions.

Flashback to 1979. At the time my mother, then a newlywed had a habit of exchanging recipes found in books and magazines with her sister. Apparently, her now famous roll-ups recipe originally came from Canadian Living. This homegrown magazine has been a rich source of recipes, crafts and fashion advice to Canadians since 1975. And ever since, the publication has accumulated an impressive amount of recipes, including this one.

Without further ado here’s the recipe.

Bacon mushroom roll-ups

Ingredients

  • 375 grams of chopped bacon
  • 1 pound of chopped mushrooms
  • 2 medium sized onions finely chopped
  • Half a pound of cream cheese (1 ½ cup)
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 35 slices of white sandwich bread (yes you have read correctly)
Fill each slice of bread with a generous heaping of the bacon mushroom mixture and roll each slice,

Fill each slice of bread with a generous heaping of the bacon mushroom mixture and roll each slice,

Method

The filling

  • Start off by finely chopping your onions, mushrooms and bacon.In a large skillet, melt a bit of butter and start browning the onions. Add in the bacon and mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes, mixing the blend regularly to ensue that the bacon is cooked.
  • Mix in the cream cheese, add salt pepper and thyme, and mix well. Let cool.

The bread

While your filling cools down, it’s time to tackle the bread. Usually, I wouldn’t ever prone the use of sliced bread, but in this case, there is nothing that can be said against it! It’s simply the perfect vessel for the creamy bacon and mushroom blend. Prepping the bread is actually the most time consuming part of the recipe.

  • Start off by cutting off the crust of all slices.
  • Flatten each slice with a rolling pin.
  • Scoop up generous heaping (an overflowing tablespoon) of the bacon and mushroom mixture.
  • Roll up each slice of bread making sure it is securely closed. Cut each roll in half.

Yields about 60 to 70 roll-ups.

To serve

  • Preheat oven at 350 ° F (177 ° C)
  • Place roll-ups on a baking sheet.
  • Brush a little melted butter on top of the roll-ups
  • Cook for about 15 minutes or until golden

Serve and enjoy!

The holidays are a great time to share some culinary traditions. What are your seasonal classics?

Cooking like it’s 1997

“Biscuits à l’avoine de ma grand-mère” (grandmother’s oatmeal cookies) – Photo Eric Rados.

Last weekend, while In Laval, my parents had asked me to empty up some drawers containing various items dating back to my years as a student. After reluctantly parting ways with DAT and Mini DV cassettes from my first ever reports and segments produced in university and scripts from acting classes, I stumbled upon something I had completely forgotten about: a series of recipes from my secondaire 2 (Quebec’s equivalent of grade 8) home ec class. It was then, during the 1996-1997 school year, that Danielle Langlois was teaching the basics of cooking to École d’éducation internationale de Laval alumni.

The class was divided in two groups. While half of the students were sewing buttons and toques with Anne-Louise Blain, the others were learning the ropes in the kitchen with Danielle Langlois. A couple of weeks later, the groups switched.

My memory was a little fuzzy as to how the class was structured so I asked my friend and fellow blogger Vanessa about it. She reminded me that the class was divided in teams of three to four students. Each class was organized around a theme. We had learned various things like how to bake cookies, prepare eggs benedict or serve up a “Mexican dip”. The recipes were obviously quite basic, but the class introduced us a bit more formally to certain techniques and ingredients.

Revisiting the list of ingredients of certain recipes was sort of like travelling back in time. For instance, trans fat wasn’t an issue on anyone’s radar back in 1997. My fellow classmate and friend Véronique remembers that the chocolate cookie recipe required a specific brand of vegetable shortening that clearly contained trans fat at the time; an ingredient that many of us would steer clear from today.

“Biscuits à l’avoine de ma grand-mère” (grandmother’s oatmeal cookies) – Photo Eric Rados.

Blast from the past: a recipe

For the purpose of this blog entry, I revisited the Biscuits à l’avoine de ma grand-mère (grandmother’s oatmeal cookies”) recipe.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of butter or margarine (it actually specified margarine)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. of baking powder
  • ½ tsp. of vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup of lukewarm water
  • ½ cup of granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. of salt
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • ½ tsp. of baking soda

* I added about ½ tsp. of a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander
*I added a good heaping of raisins

Method

  • Preheat oven at 375 ° F.
  • Beat butter or margarine until creamy. Mix in sugar until blended.
  • In another bowl, mix in flour, baking powder, salt and oats.
  • Mix baking soda and vanilla extract into the water.
  • Combine dry and liquid ingredients to the butter and sugar.
  • Roll out the cookie dough until about 3 to 5 mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to make the cookies. (I felt as though this step was labour intensive so I simply scooped out cookies with a spoon.)
  • Bake in oven at 375 ° F for about 10-12 minutes.
  • Cool and serve.

Verdict
Without being exceptional, they were decent. I’m glad that I added the raisins and spices for extra flavour.

Some final thoughts

I can still remember my 14 year old self waking up before everyone else Sunday morning to prepare my first-ever batches of muffins or crêpes. I guess the home ec class served its purpose: easing us students into the kitchen and ridding ourselves of any apprehensions that we could have had. While the recipes weren’t particularly adventurous or too difficult, the experience was nonetheless an empowering one.

What were the first dishes you learned how to prepare? Got any home ec or cooking class stories to share? Don’t be shy!

A glimpse of some of the techniques learned in Home Ec.

Found: culinary advice on a dish towel.

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It’s always nice to have some culinary advice handy, literally… Especially when it’s easily accessible – in the form of a dish towel. This intriguing find was discovered one of our numerous treks to Value Village. I’ve learned over time that one must keep his eyes peeled to make some unique discoveries.

Produced by Lakeland Plastics‘ Home Freezing Advisory Services, this dish towel provides information about blanching vegies. First, it explains the process.

Blanching fresh vegetables in boiling water halts the activity of enzymes and helps to ensure that a good flavour, colour and texture is retained.

Scrolling down the towel, there is useful advice to blanch asparagus, beans, broccoli, beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celery, courgettes, leeks peas, peppers and spinach.

Some useful tidbits of information, without stepping out of the kitchen.

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