Pig Roast Weekend Highlights

Alright. I feel I have to address this right off the bat, concerning the topic of this post.

Vegans and vegetarians, we’re friends, right? I completely respect your decisions to live certain food lifestyles, and it would be really awesome if you, too, could respect my food lifestyle, which tends to involve a lot of meat cooked in sometimes graphic ways.

A pig roast is a tradition where I’m from, which is a small town in the Ottawa Valley. Hunt clubs, big barbecues, and neighbourhood game roasts are a great opportunity to get the all our friends and family together.

That being said, I don’t want anyone to get upset. There’s a photo or two of the pig roasting coming up, and I just want to warn everyone ahead of time. Photos below, but for now here’s a picture of my dog. Get promptly jealous of how cute she is:

Her name is Ceilidh, she’s a duck tolling retriever, and she’s so cute I could die.

Okay, so it’s coming up to the end of summer, which means it’s barbecue season! This past weekend my family held a pig roast potluck event for the neighbourhood, family, friends, and work colleagues. We got a pig and a big roasting… tub… thing and did it up rotisserie-style for 6 hours. We also cooked two chickens, some vegetarian options, and a bunch of desserts and sides. Lots of people came, and brought more delicious dishes and it was just all-around a great event. Below are some shots!

My dad cooking up the pig.

A family friend slicing up the pig into tasty bits. I eat the ears every time, no shame here.

Willa, the new puppy. She’s a cross between an ackbash and a great pyrenees, so she’s pretty much
growing up to be a polar bear.

My two sisters and I made tamales with the leftover pork meat for dinner the following night.

Also pictured is fresh, handmade salsa.

My niece and my dad drew this together.

There was a great summer shower. No wind, so the rain just fell down like a sprinkler and it was the best.

The rest are honestly just pictures of my adorable niece being adorable with an adorable puppy.

Computer’s Busted!

Sorry guys! My computer just uttered its death rattle and made for computer paradise, and as a result I can’t upload anything! Major bummer.

I’m hoping to have a new computer within a couple days and will hopefully be able to get back on track shortly after.

Sorry :(

Cucumber-Mint Granita

Granita is a dessert that carries with it an air of class and worldliness, when really it’s just pureed fruit, frozen. Short of instant pudding, it’s probably the easiest dessert you’ll ever make.

This one is flavoured with mint and cucumber, two of the freshest summer flavours. I’ve really gotten into the herby-sweet taste of things lately, and I think if you’re a fan of cucumbers, you’ll like this also.

For real, here’s what you do:

You’ll need:

  • 1 large cucumber (it’s summer, buy local if you can!)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup mint leaves, depending on your love of mint
  1. Skin cucumber and chop it into inch-sized cubes
  2. Throw cucumber cubes, sugar, and mint into a blender and pulverise until smooth.
  3. Pour into a metal bowl or pan and freeze for 1 hour.
  4. After the hour, scrape and mash the cucumber ice until it’s all mushy again.
  5. Freeze again for 1 – 2 hours, and scrape and mash it again before serving.

Bonus
Spoon granita into a tall glass halfway and add 1 oz. vodka, gin, or light rum. Fill the rest of the space with club soda, and drink on a patio. Instant cucumbery cocktail.

 

Coconut Lime Pound Cake with Lime Cream Cheese Icing

Pound cake is so named because traditionally it’s made with one pound’s worth of each basic ingredient: pound of butter, pound of eggs, pound of flour, pound of sugar; making this probably the most low-maintenance kind of cake ever.

It’s a fantastic way to use up a bunch of eggs, travels and stores well, and modifies like a boss. You can flavour the cake with anything you like, or instead use a glaze or frosting to supply flavour.

Basically what I’m saying is, why haven’t you made a pound cake yet?

Coconut Lime Pound Cake adapted from Perfect Cakes

  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour (or 2 cups minus two tablespoons regular flour), sifted
  • 1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl with electric beaters, or with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy on medium speen.
  2. Beat in the vanilla extract, shredded coconut, and lime zest.
  3. Turn the mixer speed down to low. Beat in 3 of the eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully combined.
  4. Start beating in the flour, 1/3rd at a time, then another egg.
  5. Continue adding flour in additions, with the last egg between the 2nd and 3rd additions of flour.
  6. Mix on low until everything’s combined and smooth.
  7. Prepare your loaf pan: either line with parchment paper, or grease with margarine or butter and sprinkle flour all around the pan, until all surfaces are covered with flour.
  8. Pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake for 60 – 75 minutes, checking at the 60-minute point.
  9. The cake should be golden brown, springy to the touch, and an inserted toothpick should come out clean when it’s done.
  10. Cool on a wire rack. Drizzle with glaze, if using.

Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 250g package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cream together the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Add in the lime juice and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat or whisk until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add more or less icing sugar depending on desired consistency of frosting, or add more lime juice if you want a stronger flavour.

Variations

The above recipe provides a cake with a subtle coconut and lime flavour, not enough to be overpowering. If you would like a really strong lime flavour in the cake, add more zest or some lime juice to the batter along with the rest of the wet ingredients. If you would like more coconut, by all means, add another 1/3rd cup.

If you want to experiement with different flavours in the frosting or cake, try:

  • grapefruit zest
  • lemon zest
  • poppyseeds
  • cinnamon
  • almond extract
  • kirsch

If you don’t desire a cream cheese frosting, you can use instead a flavoured simple syrup by boiling together:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • flavoring (kirsch, various juices and extracts)

or you can make a simple flavoured glaze with:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon flavouring
  • 1 teaspoon – 2 tablespoons milk, based on desired consistency of glaze

If you use a syrup or a glaze, poke the cake with a fork to get a bunch of holes in it, and then brush or pour the syrup or glaze overtop. That way it’ll soak into the cake, which is awesome.

Pound cake can be a little dry, so I suggest a topping of some kind.

Tea Time: Harney and Son’s Dragon Pearl Jasmine

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about tea. The weather’s heating up now and the city is scorching. Hot tea in the mornings is less appealing now than in the dead of winter.

Anyway, here’s another winner from Harney and Sons. These delicate little pearls are hand-rolled in Fuan, China, and infused with the refreshing scent of jasmine flowers. Brewing yields a floral, fruity and calming tea with an almost-clear liquor. The scent of jasmine is just slightly present, and doesn’t come across as perfumey or fake, as with many store-bought jasmine teas.

The leaves do unravel during their first steep, but you could probably still get a second cup out of them to conserve, if you want.

Brewing

According to the website, this tea is best brewed at 195F (90C), which is just less than boiling. If you’re not as anal retentive as I am and don’t want to hover over your water with a candy thermometer, then just bring your water to boil and let it sit and cool down for 1 minute. Gently brew the leaves for 4 – 5 minutes.

Flavour Notes

Obviously the light aroma of jasmine is all over the taste of the tea, but what I like best about this one is that it’s so delicately flavoured. There are definite floral and almost peachy notes to it, while keeping the tea light and subtle.

I think this tea is best at breakfast, but it’s pleasant at any time of the day.

 

I think I’m going to try out an iced tea with it soon. It’s getting freaking hot out.

Bagels by Hand

This past long weekend my friends E., J., and A. and I decided to check out the new Picasso exhibit at the AGO here in Toronto. Whenever E. and I hang out together we usually make it heavily food-centric, and this time we decided to start the day with a fancy brunch at her new apartment, like the classy ladies we hope to someday be. E. provided a variety of awesome soft cheeses and some fresh fruit, and A. and I were to bring the bubbly for mimosas and some bagels. I was too lazy to go out and buy real Jewish bakery bagels, so I decided to whip up my own batch. E. would have to deal with Secular Humanist bagels this time.

Making bagels is just as easy as hopping on the subway and buying your own, and is probably cheaper, pound for pound. Plus you can customize with all the delicious (or weird but delicious?) combinations your heart desires that you can’t pick up in a store. Bake a giant batch, slice them, and freeze them for later use. You’ll always have them at your fingertips and won’t have to deal with the flavourless and unappealing bagels at your nearest Tim Horton’s/Starbucks/Second Cup.

I used the recipe from Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network site. I found that parts of the recipe aren’t exactly clear, like the usage of a whole sheet pan sprinkled with cornmeal that isn’t heard from again, or why you’d flip over bagels that have toppings on them.

So, for the dense plebians of the baking world like myself, I’ve altered the directions to reflect how I did things, which resulted in perfectly cooked bagels anyway.

Bagels!

  • 2 cups warm tap water
  • 2 (0.250z) packets active dry yeast (I use Fleischmann’s)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 – 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing your sheet pans
  • Your favourite toppings

Dough

  1. In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment (or in a large bowl, if you mix dough by hand), lightly stir together the sugar, warm water and yeast and leave to set 5 minutes, or until foamy.
  2. Gradually sprinkle in 4 cups of the flour, cup by cup, while mixing slowly, until the mass comes together.
  3. Turn out onto a heavily floured surface, and knead by hand (adding extra flour if necessary) until the dough is no longer sticky, or shiny.
  4. Pour 1 teaspoon of the oil into a large bowl and toss the dough around in it to grease it. Let it rise for an hour in a draft-free place (ideally, your oven with a bowl of boiled and super-hot water on the bottom rack). It should have doubled in size.
  5. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces, and roll out each piece into a sausage.
  6. Join together the ends, and let rise a second time for about 20-30 minutes, or in the fridge overnight if you want them fresh in the morning.

Baking

Preheat oven to 400F.

  1. Boil a medium to large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of sugar in it.
  2. Boil each bagel for 30 seconds on each side.
  3. Fish out each bagel with a slotted spoon or spatula and place onto a baking dish greased with vegetable oil, or lined with parchment paper.
  4. While the bagel is still wet, apply your toppings.
  5. Repeat for as many bagels as will fit on your baking sheet and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Toppings

Aw yeah, you’ve proofed your bagel dough twice and boiled them. Now it’s time to top them with all your favourite things. What do you like best? Some ideas include:

  • poppyseeds
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • toasted dried onion and garlic
  • roasted salted sunflower seeds
  • sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • coarse sea salt
  • herbes de provence
  • basil
  • cheese (cheddar, parmesan, asiago, feta!)
  • minced olives

And what are you gonna serve with those delicious and fresh bagels? Butter and jam? Artisan cheeses? Cream cheese and smoked salmon (a personal fave)? Or maybe make yourself a breakfast bagel-wich! Or bagel benedicts! Start your mornings off right.

Peanut Butter and Banana Mini Cheesecakes with Pretzel Crust

Hey friends! I know this is another banana-related post, but I had a lot left over. And after bananas on my toast and in my cereal and just everywhere for a while, I figured I might as well use some more up in a tasty, easy dessert.

Cheesecake is one of those things that sounds super hard and fancy until you actually make one. Then you’re all, “Oh, this only takes like 20 minutes?” and you’re making cheesecakes for the rest of your life.

This recipe is no different! And if you make mini cheesecakes like I did, you can have creamy, banana-y, peanut buttery, salty-sweet cheesecake in your mouth in the same amount of time it takes to make a batch of cookies. Isn’t that just the best?

I used a pretzel-brown sugar-butter crumble for the base. The salty-sweetness of the crushed pretzels and brown sugar just go so dang well with the other beloved companions peanut butter and banana. Below is the recipe.

Cake

  • 2 8oz packages regular cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter (don’t use the “raw” kind, stick with the one with preservatives this time!)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (come on, use full fat, you know you want to)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare a muffin tin with paper cups.

  1. Beat peanut butter and cream cheese together until fluffy and light brown all over.
  2. Beat in sugar, sour cream, and mashed banana.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract.
  4. Set aside while you prepare the pretzel base

Base

  • 3 cups crushed stick pretzels, the ordinary small and thin kind, crushed as well as you can by hand.
  • 1 1/2 cups melted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  1. You can modify the above depending on if you’re making a large cake or just mini ones. For mini ones a blend of 2 cups pretzels, 3/4 cup melted butter and 3/4 brown sugar fits the bill nicely.
  2. In a blender, food processor or immersion blender mini-blender attachment, blend pretzels, melted butter and sugar together until you get a paste. Some chunks are okay, but the end result needs to stick together and press firmly into the bottom of your muffin cups.

Assembly

  1. Put 1 teaspoon of the pretzel mixture into the bottom of your muffin cups. Press firmly with a spoon so you flatten the lump.
  2. Spoon 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of cake batter on top of the pretzel mixture. Use more or less depending on how mini your muffin cups are.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until the muffins spring back at the touch. They can be a little jiggly in the middle.
  4. These do rise, pretty dang well, so be careful not to overfill the cups!

It’s best to let them cool to room temperature and then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but come on, you can’t wait that long for cheesecake. Serve with vanilla ice cream and eat them warm!

Stack them up high and just gaze at them.
Then unhinge your jaw like a snake and devour them all at once.

What’s most loveable about this recipe is how well the flavours work together. Banana and peanut butter have been a favourite combination for many of us since we were small children, and enjoying it in the very adult dessert of a cheesecake is pretty heavenly.

You can also make a regular, big version in a 9″ springform pan. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, and use more of the pretzel mixture.

Ta-daaaaa!