31 July, 2013

For The Love....Of Gluten Free!!

I have a lot of friends that I love dearly who range from a light sensitivity to to gluten to a very SERIOUS allergy to gluten, yea even Celiac Disease.  Most of the time I feel so powerless to help them come up with great things to eat.  I've only ever dabbled in gluten free cooking and baking, but I am spending more and more time in my kitchen trying to maneuver this genre of eating in order to help them have fabulous things to enjoy whenever the urge to bake or cook hits them.  

Gluten intolerance and Celiac are a hard row to hoe.  But, it just illustrates the effect that GMO grains may be having on our culture as a whole.  The level of inflammation created in the body when these GMO grains are ingested is amazing...Google GMO grains sometime and learn how they can be a dangerous thing to flirt with in your diet.  Just as dangerous as hormone laden dairy....  There is a reason I go for non-GMO and organic with my foods, I like LIVING.

Gluten free desserts honestly aren't so hard to make, they are just fiddldy-farty to do.  Separating eggs, whipping whites...whisking this, folding in that...lots of steps, but luckily not complicated steps.  I recently found a recipe from King Arthur Flour (yeah...a flour company of all places!!) that I just HAD to try....but dairy free!  It had chocolate in it, that was my hook...chocolate is ALL it takes these days.  Anything with chocolate, I will come out of my comfort zone to try to make it.  This cake had chocolate AND pecans.  Pecans are my absolute favorite nut to eat; crushed, whole, halved...you name it; baked, candied, salted...I'm THERE!  Put the two of them together and you've really caught my attention.  Say I can make it gluten free and WELL THEN!...let's get this sucker in the oven!  So excited!!  I made two cakes.  Scroll WAAAAY down to the end of this post to see the Samoa version....trust me.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Pecan Bundt Cake
10 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 c. dairy free Enjoy Life! chocolate chips
heaping 1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. organic cane sugar
2 c. finely ground pecans OR pecan meal
1 tsp. vanilla paste
1/4 c. organic cane sugar, for egg whites
roughly chopped pecan for garnish, optional

1 bag of Enjoy Life! chocolate chips
4 T. vegan shortening

**Pecan meal will give the cake a smoother texture BUT...the finely ground pecans will allow the cake to rise higher.  So, decide what you would like more.  Smoother texture or higher rise on the cake.**

Preheat oven to 350 F

I decided to use a bundt cake pan for this cake.  It was a risky move.  You seriously only have a couple of options for greasing when you make something gluten free.  Shortening has a lower water content than butter.  If you can find straight lard, use that.  It has even less water than shortening.  Use a pastry brush to grease your bundt pan to make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies.  If you aren't brave enough to use a bundt, use a round 10 inch pan that is at least 3 inches high on the sides.  Trust me.  For extra insurance you can line the bottom of your round pan with a piece of parchment paper.

Separate the room-temperature eggs, putting the whites and yolks in separate large bowls.

Melt the two chocolates together, stirring till smooth, and set aside to cool slightly.

Now, beat the egg yolks till smooth and lemony-yellow then add the salt and 2/3 c. sugar, and beat again till thickened and it lightens again in color.  You can go ahead and add your melted and slightly cooled chocolate and the pecans.   

Beat the egg whites and vanilla paste until foamy.  While the beater is still going, sprinkle in the 1/4 cup sugar, beating till soft peaks form.  *I tip the bowl upside down over my head to check the whites...they shouldn't move or slide out of the bowl if they are done*

With the mixer at low speed, gradually fold the whites into the yolk mixture, mixing gently until there are no streaks showing.  Then spoon the mixture into your prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes, OR until it is toothpick clean.  Depending on what kind of pan you used, this baking time can vary greatly.  

Remove it from the oven, and set it on a rack. Loosen the edges, and let it cool in the pan for 1 hour. Loosen the edges again.  SERIOUSLY...leave it alone for AT LEAST 1 hour.

Invert the cake onto the rack onto a piece of wax paper, and prepare the ganache by combining all of the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl or saucepan, and heat till the chips are very soft. Stir till smooth.

Ladle the chocolate over the cake.  It's OK if the cake is still warm when you do it.  If you made a bundt cake, let the ganache set a bit before you sprinkle the chopped pecans on or the nuts will slide right down the sides of the cake instead of stay on top of it.

Allow the ganache to completely set before cutting and serving.  2 hours at least.  To speed up the process you can put the cake in the refrigerator for a half hour or so.

If you're feeling sporting...you could serve this with some non-dairy whipped topping as well, but this cake didn't need it at all!


Um...I do believe the picture speaks for itself.  Chocolate, pecans...more chocolate....more pecans...  I can't gush about this cake ENOUGH!  I'm not gluten intolerant but golly...lol...I can definitely survive the lifestyle if I know I have treats like THIS to look forward to every once in a while.  The cake was SO moist and chocolatey...the nuts didn't overpower the chocolate.  The whole dish was completely balanced with even amounts of chocolate and nut flavor.  I appreciated that about this recipe.  I didn't want to eat it and then remember it by thinking "Oh, I should make that gluten free nut cake again."  or "That gluten free chocolate cake was great."  I wanted it to be balanced enough for me to say "I gotta make that chocolate pecan cake some time soon."  It was!  I can't wait to have my gluten free family and friends try this out, I hope they love it as much as I did.

THEN!!...I got a deliciously devious idea into my head...what if I made this into a Samoa cake?!  What if....???  Hmm....  So I DID!  It was one of my little sister's birthdays coming up AND there was a family reunion I was planning on bringing something to.  That is how this cake was born....

The ONLY difference in the actual cake part is that I *switched out the pecans for macadamia nuts* and that's IT.  I just crushed the macadamias like I crushed the pecans and tossed them in.  The cake turned out identical in texture and crumb but the macadamia nuts matched the Samoa toppings much better.  So here it goes...

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Samoa Bundt Cake
1 recipe of gluten chocolate bundt cake, baked & cooled
1 recipe of vegan caramel sauce, cooled
1 recipe of chocolate ganache
2 c. of unsweetened coconut flakes, oven toasted & cooled

Make the cake as indicated above switching the finely ground pecans for finely ground macadamia nuts.  Also, when the cake is about 20 minutes cooled in the pan, turn it out to cool the rest of the way on a sheet of wax paper.  This is VERY IMPORTANT because you need the top of the bundt to be a flat bottom, not a rounded bottom when it cools completely. 

While the cake is baking and cooling make the caramel sauce that you will drizzle over the top so it also has plenty of time to cool before putting it on the cake.

Vegan Caramel Sauce
1 c. vegan buttery spread
2 c. sugar
2 c. unsweetened soy milk (I use Silk)
1 c. brown rice syrup
1 tsp. vanilla (use a high quality brand, Neilson Massey)

Place the vegan buttery spread, sugar, soy milk and brown rice syrup in a large saucepan (4 qt. capacity minimum). Bring ingredients to a boil stirring continually. Cook over medium-high heat while continuing to stir until candy reaches 230 degrees F.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Store whatever you don't use on the cake in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Toast your coconut flakes in the oven under a low broiler.  Watch it as it toasts so you don't burn it.  After it is toasted set it aside to cool.  You don't want to put hot coconut on the cooled caramel sauce!

The last thing you should make is your chocolate ganache and this should only be made once everything else is completely cooled.  It will take about 4 hours for the cake and the caramel sauce to be completely cooled for assembly.

Ready to assemble??  Good...prepare to fall in love with this cake!

First thing I want you to do is flip your cake so what WILL be the top is on the bottom and the flat BOTTOM is facing you.  Ladle half of your ganache onto the cake and use a knife to spread it to the edges, let it go over the edges if it decides it is going to.  A Samoa cookie has chocolate that comes up side of the cookie just a little bit, so if it does that...all the better.  As soon as you have it spread well, toss it in the fridge for 5 minutes to make the chocolate solid again.  DO NOT worry if the chocolate blocks the bundt hole...all that means is when you cut it caramel sauce that was stuck in there will ooze out.  There is NO such thing as too much caramel sauce!!  This is how the cake looks after the chocolate ganache is cooled....

Now, flip the chocolate covered side DOWN onto the wax paper and take your COOLED vegan caramel sauce and ladle it over the top.  It WILL pool onto the wax paper a bit.  Just keep spooning it up and back onto the cake until you have it at the desired level of ooey gooiness.

 At this point it is time to add the toasted coconut flakes.  I used Bob's Red Mill unsweetened flakes...so they were HUGE.  I crushed some in my hand and left some whole so it looked as gourmet as I could make it look.

As you can see...no matter WHAT shape bundt you use for this cake, it sort of loses it's original shape and takes on the shape of a generic bundt.  Which is fine...that is what was supposed to happen.  (The bundt I used was a rose shape for this one.  I wanted to have the tiers of the flower catch and HOLD tons of the caramel sauce.  Use that nugget of information when choosing what shape you do for your cake.)

The very last step to completing the look and flavor profile of this cake is to drizzle the top with MORE chocolate ganache.  I put my chocolate in a Wilton bottle with a small tipped top.  To achieve the look of an authentic Samoa cookie you only drizzle the chocolate in one pattern without doubling back.  It should look like this when you are done...

Yeah, this looks like a hot MESS right now but that is what a CAKE LIFTER is for!  Yay for cake lifters!  So, take this whole thing and use a nice, sturdy cake lifter (mine is made by Nordic Ware...so fabulous!) and put it on a NEW round sheet of wax paper and deposit it in your fridge to cool for 10 or 15 minutes.  Then you're READY to serve...  If you have any room.  I "taste tested" all of my components multiple times throughout the making of this cake.  I probably gained 5 pounds.  After it was cooled I perched it on a loverly cake serving pedestal where something this awesome belongs.

That cake was the birthday girl's cake.  She loved it, and that was all I cared about.  Lucky for the rest of the people at the party, they loved it as well.  It was AMAZING to find out how many people were allergic to dairy at the party...  It made me feel even BETTER that I decided to go dairy free with this gluten free recipe.  (Most people who have one allergy have MORE and don't even know it.  Yeah...Google that too!)

This was a slice from the cake produced for the family reunion, so please excuse the paper plate and plastic fork.  This cake turns out the same EVERY time.  It never fails to rise and never disappoints on flavor.  The wonderful part is that even though the cake itself is chocolate flavored it is NOT very sweet.  There is only 2/3 of sugar in the whole cake.  It was a 10 c. bundt cake pan when it was filled to the brim.  Not bad on sugar content.  So, with the caramel sauce being the sweetest thing on the plate, the Samoa version just knocks it out of the park with flavor.  I'm obsessed with this cake right now....  I can't wait for you, your family and your friends to try it!!  Make it, share it...everyone will love you!! 

24 July, 2013

Birthday Lunch 2013

Somewhere along the line I decided that going to Montreal for my birthday is a good tradition to have.  Great shopping, different scene and....great food.  SO I jumped through all of my hoops to find a good place and plan the important portion of the trip...the FOOD!

I knew I wanted Indian food....fabulous Indian food.  I had a couple of recommendations from people so we headed to our destination and the WORST thing on the planet happened (when you have a hungry 8 week old in the back seat...this is the WORST), we got to the place that I planned on dining and they were CLOSED on Tuesdays!  *Insert a fabulous array of cuss words here...*  We timed the feeding of the Sweet Pea so when we got there we could feed her while ordering so she could be satiated and happy while we ate our lunch.  This isn't how it turned out...at all.  Instead the Mister (yeah, this is a bad idea...don't do this EVER!) made a bottle and fed her in her car seat while I drove trying to find a different awesome Indian place to eat.  2 hours later than we had planned on eating...we were at our NEW destination, Malhi Sweets Indian Cuisine.

To say they were our "second choice" or "default" would be less than accurate...I sort of flipped a coin in the first place so, they had a 33% chance just like the other two places.  The difference was Malhi was OPEN!  I found out quickly, the advantages didn't end there...

The owner came out when I asked our waiter for recommendations from their menu.  "What is your best dish?" brings out the owner...intriguing.  We started to have a conversation about what I liked and didn't like as far as meats, consistency of sauces and flavors.  From there he was able to tell me exactly what I would love on their menu and he was going to make it for me himself.  Now that is awesome service people!!  We put in our gigantic (for two it was HUGE) order for Channa Samosa, Vegetable Pakora, Aloo Tikki, Garlic Naan, Onion Kulcha, Lamb Curry, Chicken Tikka and Basmati Rice.  I couldn't wait!  But, since there was a slight lull in the customer traffic I thought I had better take my indoor shots while I was able to.


We weren't waiting for even 5 minutes before the first round of delectable goodies made their way to our table.  That's some haste and rapidity goin' on in that kitchen!

Tamarind Sauce & Mint Chutney

Vegetable Pakora

My Mister's absolute favorite thing to have as an appetizer has become a must have for me as well whenever I eat Indian food.  There is just something comforting about a crispy, crunchy but soft on the inside pakora.  It was raining on my birthday...my favorite kind of weather (a reason to cuddle up under an umbrella and "stay in" with the one you love) so these were a welcomed beginning to what was about to be a fabulous meal.
Channa Samosa

My absolute favorite thing to eat is vegetable samosa and I've never had channa (chickpea) samosa, so I was keenly interested in trying it.  Let me tell ya!....it was some fabulous stuff.  Creamy, just the right level of spicy and quite substantial as a protein element to the appetizer as a whole.  I'll definitely be ordering Channa Samosa again. 
Aloo Tikki

Now, I am a HUGE lover of aloo tikki as well.  I don't think there is such a thing as "too much" when it comes to potatoes but I kind of felt that the channa on the aloo was a bit much.  They tasted fabulous but, when I have my aloo I am typically a minimalist.  I am sure plenty of other people would love it.  I encourage you to try it if you're ever there.  Especially if you don't order an entree...this could be a meal on its own.

I won't lie, I was already almost to the "full" mark on my tummy.  I was starving when we walked in out of the rain so, I dug in and hit these appetizers pretty hard.  It set me up to not be able to eat much of my entree.  It was on its way to the table along with our breads....

Lamb Curry

Garlic Naan
 Onion Kulcha

Basmati Rice

The first thing I did was rip off a piece of the garlic naan and dip it in my curry sauce.  It actually covered every single note of cooking that you can achieve in the kitchen; all of the sudden I decided that I had PLENTY of room in my stomach.  I grabbed some rice and spooned some lamb curry over my rice and dug in with my bread...no utensils required for this meal!

I can't quite articulate just how TENDER the lamb was in my curry.  I made it a point to ask the owner HOW in the world he did that.  No typical "gamy" smell OR taste for lamb, so I was dying to know how he did that.  He fully explained it to me but I still didn't quite understand all of his methods.  Oh well...I suppose I'll just have to schlep out to Montreal once a month for a meal.  No problem!

Now, the icing on the cake of this lunch HAD to be when the bill came.  ALL of this food, for less than 45 loonies.  Yeah...you read it.  Less than 45 bucks.  The pakora is priced by the pound, the breads were only 1.50-3.00 per order of breads, the aloo was less than 5 loonies...  Need I go on?!  Didn't think so.  I knew this before I went but honestly the information that got me to want to try Malhi out was something I read on Urbanspoon.  

A comment made by a diner on that website shocked me a bit..  "The quality of their beef has gone downhill..."   Beef??  Since WHEN do you go to an Indian place and order BEEF?  I believe they have it in house for the ignorant folks.  Indians don't typically eat beef.  It is illegal to slaughter beef in India.  Why someone would go into an Indian restaurant and order it is beyond me.  I only brought up that situation to illustrate that NO matter what someone else says about a restaurant, you really need to get out and try the place yourself.  You don't know what other people REALLY know about food...if they know anything at all.  

The other key thing to understand is...this is Punjabi food...  There are a number of different regions in India and foods vary from region to region.  Some regions of India are completely vegetarian and STILL fabulous!  This is NO different than eating bbq sauce in the United States.  Dry rubs vs. sauces, different spice levels, thick or thin sauce...  So, as I have told you time and time again...no matter what I say (good or bad) about a place, get out and pound the pavement and try these restaurants out yourself.  First hand experience is always the best; find what you love.

I loved my food, I appreciated the owners ability and willingness to make me food that I could be sure I would love and I would go back again without question.  Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your home cooking with this white gal from Minnesota!!
Malhi Sweets Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

17 July, 2013

Saffron Risotto

Typically the variety of risotto that Italians add saffron to is a risotto that isn't served "primo" (first course).  Risotto with saffron in it is served as a main and usually with osso buco (veal).  But, when I cook risotto in this house all I make is risotto and that is the main course itself.  Perhaps some day, when the Sprout and the Sweet Pea are teenagers and eating more we'll explore the option of having larger meals but for now, the 3 year old is still eating like a flea.

I have posted a recipe for a basic run of the mill risotto before, one that would appeal to anyone's palate.  Saffron kinda smells like metallic honey and tastes kind of like sweet hay.  This is an acquired taste that not everyone will enjoy, the real key is to get your hands on GOOD saffron.  Being that most of the saffron produced in the world comes from Iran...this can be a challenge.  Good saffron can cost an arm and a leg for a good amount of it, but you can find it in tiny amounts and large amounts in various places.  I swear...I just saw some at Target the other day and I know you can get it from World Market, but your best bet is to go to a grocer that sells Middle Eastern groceries.  It is there in abundance and the price is MUCH lower because they are direct buying it most of the time rather than getting it from a "middle man".

One final note, the whole process of cooking risotto can take 30-45 minutes.  Make sure you have the proper time to dedicate to this dish so you don't get rushed or fall behind with whatever else you may be serving.    

Saffron Risotto
4-6 c. organic chicken or beef stock (stock NOT broth!!)
6 T. of vegan buttery spread
2 ounces of pancetta or bacon, diced
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. saffron threads
1 c. + 1/2 c. for garnish fresh parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

In a medium sized saucepan, heat up your stock and leave it on a low heated simmer.  You should be adding warm/hot stock to the rice as you cook it, not room temperature.

In a large heavy saute pan on medium heat, melt the butter and saute your pancetta/bacon and onion for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent but NOT browned.  Letting them brown will ruin the risotto by turning the onions bitter.

Add the rice and stir it to coat it with the butter, then add the wine and cook it all for about 2 minutes or until the smell of alcohol has left the pan.  Begin to add stock to the rice pan 1 cup at a time.  With the first addition of stock add in the saffron, salt and pepper.  Stir the rice and allow it to simmer until the stock is absorbed.  This might take as long as 10 minutes.  After the first cup is absorbed, add another cup.  After each addition wait until the previous cup of stock is absorbed before adding the next one.

KEEP TRYING your risotto to assess the level of bite left to your rice.  You want it to be al dente...not mush.  Al dente means cooked, but still slightly firm...just how you want pasta.

When the risotto is finished turn the heat off and add 1 c. of the grated parmesan cheese.  If you wish to garnish the risotto with more cheese plate the risotto first.

I can hardly express how much I am in LOVE with this version of risotto.  I have come to believe it is mostly due to the fact that there is bacon in there.  Italian bacon....but bacon nonetheless!  Between the flavors of the saffron, pancetta and faint taste of white wine...I just close my eyes and I am in another dimension when I eat this risotto.  I love how starchy and hearty risotto is, which is why I typically serve it as a main dish.  It is filling all on its own in my opinion.  For those at the table that have larger appetites than the Sprout and I do, I serve this with medium sized pieces of baguette garlic bread.  We love this dish in our home!  Do NOT be intimidated by this dish...sure, Gordon Ramsay yells at folks on Hell's Kitchen when they get it wrong...but it isn't that hard to do correctly.  You aren't under any pressure by anyone to be perfect in the kitchen...just have fun!!

10 July, 2013


It is a cold and rainy day out...my favorite kind of weather.  It makes me quite happy to wake up to no sunlight and a slight nip in the air.  But this morning, nothing was going to make me smile.  So much has taken a back seat in our home since our little Sweet Pea was welcomed into our family.  Lumped right on the back seat next to our love of sleep is my "to eat" list.  

We haven't eaten out together in quite a while.  But, when you're tired, food blogging is honestly the last thing on your mind.  Last night my Mister and I got about 3 hours of sleep cumulatively.  I THINK I got 2 hours (but I can't be certain) and he may have gotten 1 hour.  Sweet Pea is giving us a run for our money, that's for sure!  But, how can you resent a face as darling as this one??

She is WIDE awake...my Mister is half dead.  
It was a heckova way to start out the day.  The Mister knew we had a couple of things we needed to do before his big meeting today but, he was dragging bottom so badly I had to scoot him out the door.  While we were out at our first destination he reminded me that we had a restaurant to try that a church friend recommended.  I can't remember much these days so I couldn't recall the name of the place.  "It's Chang Thai Kitchen...it's in Carp." he said.  Ah, yes. Chang Thai; we drove past the restaurant when we went to the Farmers Market two weekends ago.  Who is gonna pass up going out for cooking when they'd gotten no sleep the night before??  NO one I know!

There is free parking in the back of Chang Thai; a welcomed gift in this town!!  I could tell from the number of vehicles that the lunch rush hadn't begun yet.  What luck!  When you're traipsing around with a 7 week old, you don't want to disturb other people's leisure lunch break.  It also meant that I could keep it respectful when shooting indoors; easily able to keep dining customers out of the shots while still capturing the general layout and ambiance of the place.

We were seated right away and given a lunch menu.  Their lunch menu (as of yet) isn't available online but their dinner menu and take out menu is available to view.  The lunch menu has a few choice dishes that are Thai staples in any authentic Thai restaurant.  PaNang, Pad Thai, spring rolls, etc.  We knew what we wanted in less than 2 shakes of a lamb's tail.  Gaeng PaNang with chicken, Pad Thai with chicken and an order of Tom Kha for me!  Tom Kha is one of my FAVORITE soups of all time...even over my Momma's homemade chicken noodle soup.  With the cool, wet weather soup was the first thing on my mind.  All of the lunch entrees come with a vegetable spring roll and dipping sauce, so we didn't feel the need to order a platter of those.

The restaurant was pretty slow for customers, so I asked if I might be able to shoot photos inside.  The waitress wasn't sure if it would be okay or not, she would have to ask the manager.  I completely understood.  But the manager wasn't there until dinner service.  So...when she offered to call the manager I thought I'd have my answer before we left.  But, alas...our check was paid and we were out the door and no more mention was made of it.  It is too bad, it is quite cozy and decorative inside.  It would have been nice to show you...  

Not long after this exchange about photos our veggie spring rolls arrived at our table along with some soup...

Por Pia Pak with Sweet Thai Dipping Sauce

I won't lie to you...this is THE smallest spring roll I have seen in this town since I have been living here.  I actually had to make a conscious effort not to giggle when I saw it.  But, size doesn't always matter, right?  RIGHT!  This spring roll was pretty outstanding even if it seemed microscopic.  The flavor packed inside of that wrap was fabulous.  If only they were a little bigger.  Perhaps the spring rolls ordered at dinner are made larger???  One could only hope.


I am not sure I can call this "Vegetable Tom Kha" because it seemed to be more of a broth soup rather than a cream.  As if the soup was made with coconut WATER rather than coconut MILK.  In fact, I was so convinced of that I asked our waitress over before I even touched it and asked her if she put the order in for "Kha" or "Yum".  She said she sent in for Kha and that Kha is what I had.  I looked her in the eye and asked her if she was SURE there was coconut milk in there.  She seemed annoyed when I did that and she doubled down on the assertion that there was coconut milk in there.  I acquiesced because I didn't want to get snippy and I just dug in with my spoon and tried it.  Folks...this was not made with coconut milk.  I'm not gonna beat around the bush.  I was disappointed and disgusted on principle that I just got something I wasn't going to eat.  I put my spoon down and pushed it aside.  Of course...my Mister grabbed the spoon and tried it.  Then finished it.  He doesn't like to waste anything he is about to pay for.  Fair enough.  But I would never order that soup from them again.  Ever.  Not when I have had it better elsewhere and know that this should have looked milky, not watery.  The whole situation was pretty disappointing because I was SO looking forward to the warm creaminess that is usually Tom Kha.  

Our main entrees were out less than 5 minutes after she cleared our appetizer dishes.  Service is prompt and efficient in this place, that's for sure!  We planned on sharing so I have included shots of my entree and my Mister's entree this time 'round.

Gaeng PaNang with Chicken

There is some pretty wonderful plating goin' on in this place!  So interesting and beautiful.  It adds a special touch that makes you feel like the people who are preparing your food REALLY love food and aren't just "good with a knife" back there in the kitchen.  BRAVO!

The PaNang was properly seasoned with just the right amount of spice for a gentle sweat to break out under your eyeballs, without laying you out flat.  My nose didn't run, but I didn't want it to either.  It was just the right amount of everything.  Coconut milk (it WAS in there!), spice, vegetables and meat.  Spectacular balance to the meal as a whole.  I liked it.

Now...for the Pad Thai...

Pad Thai with Chicken

Again, the plate presentation on this dish is immaculate.  It made my job of photographing it very easy, no matter what angle I shot this plate from it made me hungry!  But, when I dug into it with my fork my hunger stopped there.  I was quite glad my Mister ordered that dish and not I.  I've had my fair share of Pad Thai in my lifetime and one thing I always worry about is the dish tasting like it was made using ketchup.  I'm not sure what happened with this dish but, one bite was all I needed.  I let my Mister finish it without a second thought.

Am I going to go back to this place??  I'm not sure.  The jury is still out.  I'm conflicted about how fabulous the spring rolls were and then the soup totally missed the mark.  The PaNang was spot on for flavor and viscosity with the sauce but the flavor of the Pad Thai sauce was confusing and overly sweet.  So, the best thing to say is that I am still on the fence.  The last thing I will say on the matter is that we left paying less than $30 loonies for lunch for two; quite reasonable for a sit down, warm lunch.  Please take the time to make the trek out to Carp and try them out for yourself.  Perhaps you'll have a different experience than we did.  If you do, absolutely let me know!

 Chang Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

*Since the original date of this meal I have been contacted by the manager of Chang Thai Kitchen and was given permission to come back any time with my camera to shoot the inside of the establishment.  With the Sweet Pea being only 10 weeks now and summer vacation hitting, I just haven't been able to go back yet and I am not quite certain when I will have the time.  But it has been added to my list of things to accomplish this summer. 


03 July, 2013

Bacon Sun-Dried Tomato Jam

If you know me you know I LOVE bacon....  It is a kind of love they write novels about...the depth of which, I am sure my Mister is jealous of.  This is a topic of discussion that comes up regularly on the Foodnatic Facebook page and on my personal Facebook page.  Some might assume this is something I am ashamed of...not so.  Bacon ON bacon is something I would eat...bacon makes everything taste better...even bacon itself.  Bacon wrapped bacon...think about it.

Before you get all hot and heavy into this process, have your jars ready for the jam if you are actually putting this into jars like I did.  I made it and gave all but one 4 ounce jar out to friends...they are my "guinea pig" friends.  Also, please be aware....this jam DEFINITELY has a shelf life.  Think about it...animal fat.  'Nuff said.  This jam will last only 4 weeks unopened in a sealed jar.  Once you open the jar of jam it HAS TO BE refrigerated, no exceptions.  When I called my Momma to ask her if there was any way to make it last longer on the shelf she said I could always pressure can it, which is how you traditionally can meat.  But then she raised a point which I quickly found to be true...  What made me think this jam was going to last beyond even ONE week...let alone 4?  True enough Momma...wise beyond your years!

This recipe makes five 4 ounce portions; so...not that much.  Really it is enough for one party worth of appetizers or 5 meals for four as burger toppings, etc.  Plan accordingly!  Let's begin with the bacon love, shall we?

Bacon Sun-Dried Tomato Jam
1 lb. bacon; cooked, cooled & chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion; soaked, then diced
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1/4 c. honey, maple syrup or molasses
1 c. apple juice
1/2 c. organic brown sugar
2 T. grain mustard
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
4 T. reserved bacon grease

In a large skillet or in the oven (I always do my bacon in the oven now...a whole pound at a time every time I make it.  Why make 4 strips when you can have a WHOLE pound!?) cook your bacon until it is just starting to get crispy.  Remove from heat to a plate with paper towel on it and allow the bacon to cool to a temperature that you can easily handle it.  About 5 minutes.  Reserve at least 4 tablespoons of bacon grease in the frying pan or in a dish.

While the bacon is cooling use the bacon grease to saute your diced onion and garlic.  Saute on medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Pour cooked garlic and onion into a large saucepan, making sure you scrape the pan out with a rubber spatula.  Chop up your bacon into a small crumble size, like what you would sprinkle on a salad.  Then just dump all the ingredients into the pan at once.  Bring it up to a low boil and stir.  Let it do that, stirring often, for about 25 minutes.

Put it in your jars and voila!  You're done.  Or...use immediately.

I'm sure you're asking yourself...what the HECK do you use bacon jam on??  Well...let me show you some ideas that tasted just fabulous...

Fried egg, Jam, Soy Cheese & Homemade Biscuit

Crostini with Aged Goat Cheddar, Jam & Basil

Roasted Red Pepper Feta with jam

Oven Roasted Chicken with Grain Mustard & Jam
(Excuse the quality of the photo above, I used my cell and forgot to use my SLR before my Mister ate it!)

These are just a few examples of what you can do with them.  More ideas for breakfast would be using this jam in or on a crepe or making this jam with blueberries instead of sun-dried tomato (reducing the apple juice down to a half cup rather than a whole cup) and making silver dollar pancake quesadillas that are filled with that jam and scrambled eggs.  

I have noticed I prefer dry, sharp cheeses paired with this jam more than any other variety.  Goat milk and sheep milk seem to work amazingly well with this jam.  But, a lot of people would likely enjoy this jam simply paired with a good quality cream cheese.  The sky is the limit with somethin' like this!

I hope you try this recipe out and come back and let me know the wonderful things you've done with it...and I hope you mess with the recipe combinations.  Cooking and baking can be SO much fun when there isn't pressure to do it "just like the other guy".  Make it your own!  Use what you already have in your kitchen.  Seriously!  I mean..this jam was ALMOST bacon & fig.  It would have tasted just as wonderful and would have been great with lamb dishes as well as all of these other things.  See how easy that was?!  Now go...COOK!