How We Stood In My Kitchen in 2015

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Superb Dried Fruit Cake

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‘Tis the season, and this one’s a winner. Adapted from the 2015 Holiday ‘Food & Drink’ magazine recipe, I’m sure it will remain my go-to Christmas cake recipe for years to come. So moist you can warm it as a pudding and serve with a rum sauce, yet it keeps and slices well as a cake you’ll be pleased to share!

Traditionally, this sort of cake is made a few weeks ahead of when you plan to enjoy eating it, allowing the flavours to come together in ubiquitous deliciousness. This recipe, however, only needs a few days ahead prep time (ideally a week) for the fruit to sit in the mixture of alcohol it has been pre-simmered in.

And why limit making a good fruit cake to the Christmas season. Why not make it for New Years, or to enjoy with a cup of tea any time during the winter months?

Be sure to shop for high quality dried fruit for this recipe, and if you plan to give some of your cake away, divide the batter between 5 smaller give-a-way foil loaf tins…Line them with parchment paper, then once the cakes are baked and cooled you may reuse the foil containers to hold the wrapped cakes for gifting.

INGREDIENTS:

6 oz. dried apricots (175 grams)

4 oz. organic dried pineapple (125grams)

4 oz. organic dried black Mission figs (125 grams) – (be sure to remove the hard stem ends.)

6 oz. pitted prunes (175 grams)

4 oz. dried cherries (125 grams)

4 oz. Thompson raisins (125 grams)

4 oz. Sultana raisins (125 grams)

3/4 cup port, or Imperiel Apera (a medium, amber coloured fortified wine, relatively inexpensive, which has aromas of walnuts, caramel and figs, along with flavours of brown sugar.) (175 mL)

1/2 cup dark spiced rum (125 mL)

1/2 cup brandy, or grand marnier (cognac brand with bitter orange) (125 mL)

1/2 teaspoon ginger bitters (2 mL)

1 Tablespoon liquid clover honey (15 mL)

1  cinnamon stick, approx. 3 inches (8cm) long

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon rind (10 mL)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (375 mL)

2 teaspoons baking powder (10 mL)

1 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (6 mL)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (1 mL)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (1 mL)

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (0.5 mL)

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (0.5 mL)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (250 mL)

1 1/2 cups demerara sugar (packed) (375 mL)

4 large farm fresh eggs, at room temperature

wrapped cake

Line 5 smaller foil loaf tins with parchment before dividing the batter between them. Later you’ll be able to wrap cooled cakes first with wax paper, then plastic wrap, and store in the same foil containers used for baking.

METHOD:

Using a sharp knife, carefully chop the dried apricots, pineapple, figs, and prunes. Briefly and coarsely chop the cherries and raisins. Place the dried fruit in a large heavy bottomed pot along with the port (or fortified wine), rum, brandy, bitters, honey, and cinnamon stick. Place pot over medium heat – bring to a low simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally – until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the grated lemon rind.

Scrape the entire fruit mixture into a glass storage container, seal with lid or plastic wrap, and let stand for a few days – ideally for one week, stirring every couple of days.

Baking Day: Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. (140 C)

The cakes are baked low and slow, which keeps them really moist.

First grease, then fully line your 5 mini loaf tins with parchment paper cut to size. (We used an oil sprayer loaded with grapeseed oil to ‘grease’ the tins first).

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a smaller bowl and blend with a fork or wire whisk.

Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer, or with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating really well between additions, and scraping down sides of bowl as needed to keep the batter from separating.

Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

LOCATE AND REMOVE CINNAMON STICK FROM FRUIT MIXTURE. DISCARD THE CINNAMON STICK.

Scrap dried fruit mixture (CINNAMON STICK REMOVED) and any remaining syrupy liquid into the batter bowl and stir until just combined.

Divide batter between prepared mini loaf pans and bake for 2 hours, 20 minutes (or until cakes are golden and a cake tester comes out with crumbs clinging to it).

Let cakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Peel off parchment paper and let cool completely. Wrap cooled cakes well (first with waxed paper, then with plastic wrap) and keep them in an airtight container(s) until ready to eat or share.

MAKES 5 small fruit cakes.

with joy as Christmas time approaches, and the advent of a wonder-filled new year,

Diana E. Natalie

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Autumn Harvest Takes Soup Beyond The Mirepoix

Colour Full

Let this year’s abundance of autumn vegetables take your seasonal comfort foods beyond the usual mirepoix base of onion, carrot, and celery, to a whole new level. Soups and stews can be so much more COLOUR FULL than that.

So sharpen those knives and practice your chopping and dicing skills! Toss some crucifierous veggies into the mix ~ cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli…

Do more than dry or preserve garden herbs before the frost hits them. Use them fresh as flavour boosters in soups or stews ~ fresh thyme, parsley, basil, or rosemary.

Staring at a bumper crop of tomatoes? Soups and stews LOVE tomatoes of any kind, diced, halved, or even whole! Slice a few in half crossways, gently squeeze out the seeds, and throw them into the pot. How easy is that?!

Got garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, or green onion? Now’s the time to add them liberally to any recipe and see how it hits you ~ and see how they’re able to boost your immune system heading into cold and flu season.

A little off topic, but here’s a lovely tip to give chicken stock a ubiquitous “Thai” flavour; toss in a whole star anise for the entire cooking time, and a cinnamon stick for about ten minutes of the cooking time.

Be adventurous. Use up what you see in front of you and enjoy the complexity of flavour and colours that are autumn.

with joy over changing seasons and trying new things,

Diana E. Natalie

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Ottawa, ON Upcoming Foodie Event ~ 1st Annual CHEESEBURGER THROW-DOWN!

Hey guys, if you’re in the Ottawa area on Friday, September 18th, check this out ~ should be a ton of fun and Grace In The Kitchen, & Serious Cheese, is a great place to pick up some amazing foodie tips and “serious CHEESE”!!

For more info. see the GRACE IN THE KITCHEN Facebook page. They are located at 442 Hazeldean Road, Kanata, ON.

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with joy over melting cheese of any kind by any means,

Diana E. Natalie

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A Slice Of Information About Knives

knife          In her book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, author and Le Cordon Bleu graduate Kathleen Flinn highlights kitchen tools, basic cuts, and why you really need only a couple of good knives. Her assessment is both accurate and helpful as many of us have the misconception that we need the over-the-top eleven piece knife block set full of blades (some of which we will never use) in order to cook well.

Everyone has their favourite knife ~ the one they use most of the time, whether it be a vegetable or paring knife, santoku knife, or chef’s knife. It may be a twenty-five-dollar chef’s knife you picked up at the big box store, or an expensive Wusthof or Henckel selected for it’s full tang (where the blade extends all the way to the butt of the knife handle and is held together by rivets). Some people prefer a more expensive forged knife with a heavy bolster designed to help balance the knife in your hand as you are cutting. For some of you, as long as it feels comfortable in your hand and you’re able to slice and dice effortlessly, you really don’t care…

Flinn suggests the following two key considerations when buying a knife; “The steel and ‘the feel’. You want a knife with the kind of steel that can take an edge and hold it. Not all steel is created equal. Harder steel takes an edge better, resulting in a sharper knife.”(1.) “How a knife fits into your hand is the ‘feel’… Go to a place that has a good selection of knives…Feel the subtle differences in the weight and the grip of the handle. A comfortable knife is a highly personal thing.”(2.)

We suggest you buy only the knives you will actually use. Start with a good chef’s knife, a paring knife (with a blade a bit longer than your mother’s or grandmother’s), a nice bread knife, and when you’re able, supplement these with a santoku knife that has some curve to it’s blade for “rocking ability” (making it more multi-purpose) for effortless slicing, dicing and mincing. Santoku knives are often recognizable by the blade’s “scalloped” or dimpled sides.  I also use my husbands extremely thin, sharp fillet knife periodically for removing membrane from wild poultry and game meats…he likes to clean fish for me so I miss out on actually filleting fish with it!

If your budget can handle getting one good knife, invest in the best knife you can afford. Look for full tang, good steel, and great feel! Take good care of it and it will be the best spent money on anything in your kitchen. Have your knives sharpened at lease once a year, and learn to properly hone (or fine tune) them yourself in between sharpening if you use them a lot. Most culinary or cookware stores that sell quality knives offer sharpening service.

I’ve waited for years to upgrade my favourite knife, and recently did so with zero buyers remorse. Pictured above: my new MIYABI 600S Morimoto edition santoku knife, made in true Japanese fashion by the Japanese factory of ZWILLING J.A. HENCKELS, purchased on sale at Grace In The Kitchen, Hazeldean Road, Ottawa, Ontario. Thanks Jamie Nadon, for your assistance in helping me select my new best friend, and a sweet new cutting board too! Standing in my kitchen just reached a new level of effortless enjoyment.

tomato

I’m in Home Grown Heirloom Persimmon Tomato heaven these days. Oh, and watch for my fresh herb salt (pictured) recipe coming soon, just in time to preserve your September herb harvest for months to come!

with joy over sharpness and cutting ease…

Happy slicing, dicing, mincing!

Diana E. Natalie

References: (1.),(2.) The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Kathleen Flinn, Copyright, 2011. Penguin Books.

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Guest Recipe: Sweet Potato Quiche, from Love Letters In A Pan

Apologies for the lengthy period of silence since the last post on Stand In My Kitchen…Recovering from surgery I spent a period of quiet respite at a friends cottage this summer, where I was introduced to a delectable quiche with a delicious crispy crust crafted of thinly sliced sweet potato. The recipe can be found HERE on my friend Sally’s lovely blog entitled Love Letters In A Pan. Once I was feeling like cooking again, this was the first thing I had to try…and it definitely won’t be the last time this beauty comes out of our oven here!

With joy over sweet introductions!

Diana E. Natalie

Photo: ‘Sweet Potato Quiche in the making…’

sweet potato quiche

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Super Mario Chocolate Zucchini-Carrot Cake

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The original recipe for cupcakes, by Carole Fraser in North York, ON Canada, was published in the 2013 Taste of Home Special Edition ‘Cupcakes’. Works well as a cake batter ~ with a moist, rich brownie-like texture due to the addition of grated carrots as well as zucchini. Choc Zuch Cake We followed the cupcake recipe, using organic zucchini & carrot quickly grated with a food processor, unbleached all purpose flour and organic Spelt flour, premium dark cocoa, and real vanilla. We then put the batter into a 9-inch springform pan, rather than a muffin tin, and increased the baking time to 5o -55 minutes.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar (we used Florida Organic sugar)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon real mexican vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached All Purpose flour + 1 cup Organic Spelt Flour (whole or light)

3/4 cup Royal Dutch dark cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plain yogurt (we used Liberte Greek yogurt)

1 cup grated organic zucchini (use a food processor for grating to save time)

1 cup grated organic carrots (use a food processor for grating to save time)

FROSTING: We used a basic Butter Cream Frosting recipe for our birthday cake, and Royal icing for the Super Mario face decoration. We found a template on the internet for Mario’s face, placed it on cardboard, covered with plastic wrap, and painted the royal icing onto the surface. We used fruit leather and various candy and marshmallows to decorate. Super Mario’s nose is a pared down jumbo marshmallow. What two-year-old wouldn’t want to pull that off and eat it?! Mario Face CAKE METHOD:

Prepare grated zucchini and carrot and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a stand mixer or hand held blender, cream butter and sugar together in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Combine the Flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Measure out the yogurt.

Add dry ingredients (flour mixture) and yogurt alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.

Fold in zucchini and carrots.

Pour batter evenly into 9-inch springform cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 55 minutes – until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out fairly clean. Cool. Remove from springform pan.

May be wrapped and stored in fridge for up to 48 hours before decorating. Cake remains moist.

A nice firm cake for decorating. Cut into smaller, dense slices, this cake serves 12 to 16 people.

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With joy over chocolate cake and second birthdays, Diana E. Natalie

Note: All ingredients may be found at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St., Peterborough, ON. K9J 2V7

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