Tag: Winter

Cinnamon Espresso Oats

In my world breakfast doesn’t begin until coffee is present and accounted for. More often than not it’s thick, black espresso, lovingly nicknamed “jet fuel” made on the stove top in an old fashioned percolator. If I’m not at home, it’s a coffee shop Americano, but either way I want it to be strong, dark and bold. I don’t add cream or sugar to my coffee, but I do enjoy coffee in sweets like my Coffee and Cream Cake or warm coffee over vanilla bean ice cream for a classic affogato. Bittersweet is a flavor profile I really love. Coffee and cinnamon both fall into this category and I find them quite remarkable together, so these Cinnamon Espresso Oats were a somewhat obvious breakfast hybrid for me. They are simple to prepare – this is barely a recipe – but they make up for it in the complexity of their nuanced flavor. I’ve dressed them up here with some creamy slices of banana and crunchy green pumpkin seeds because I find oats to be at their best when they are part of a textural landscape with a variety of things going on. All alone they can be a bit, well, stodgy, but add a crunchy crisp something or a soft fruit and they get infinitely more exciting.


Pear and Cardamom Bundt Cake

This recipe came about as the result of a conversation concerning a certain muffin (I actually think they call them ‘baby cakes’) from local Vancouver mini-chain, Terra Breads. The confection in question is something that can only be described as a symphony of apple and cardamom. Baked in charming brown paper sleeves and delicately perfumed with the alluring musk of cardamom, they are a real treat.

If you aren’t familiar with cardamom, here it is:

It’s sort of an ugly little pod, but quite delicious. It’s related to the ginger family and has a somewhat similar pungency to it. Wikipedia has a lot to say about it here. You can easily find both green or black (shown here) varieties. I am less familiar with the black cardamom so I thought I’d try it this time. In hindsight, I’d say that the two are very, very similar, but the black variety is less floral, and more smoky. It’s one of those flavours that once you have it, you won’t forget it, but it’s almost impossible to describe. Either way, it is the perfect match for the soft pears in this cake and of course, the almost magical muffins from Terra Breads.

So why not just go get one? Well, you certainly could. I certainly could have, but I enjoy the challenge of recreating and reinventing recipes. The reinvention here is threefold:  1) It’s a cake, not muffins 2) I used pear not apple 3) I used a trio of spices, one of which was cardamom, so this is less of a punch to the face in terms of cardamom flavour.  All that said, this is a quick and easy cake to make (I didn’t even pull out the mixer! Mixed by hand, imagine that!) and requires no frosting or adornment besides a pretty dusting of powdered sugar  — but you’d be forgiven if you plopped a cloud of whipped cream on it, or even a drizzle of caramel.

I won’t tell. Your secrets are safe with me.

Pear & Cardamom Bundt Cake

Inspired by the Apple and Cardamom Baby-Cake from Terra Breads

preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Core and chop 3 large, ripe pears (about 3 cups of fruit)

Set aside.

Sift together:

2 Cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground cardamom

Set aside.

In a second bowl, cream together

2/3 C. butter – softened to room temperature

1 1/2 C. sugar

Once creamed, beat in

2 whole eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. milk

Add the dry ingredients to the butter, egg and sugar mix.

Stir in the chopped pear.

Scrape (the batter will be thick) into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until risen brown and a skewer or toothpick inserted into it comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the pan onto the rack and the cake should drop out. Allow to cool fully before cutting.

Whole Wheat Winter Waffles (say that 5 times fast!)

This is a recipe I recently came up with based on whole wheat pancakes. They are hearty, only slightly sweet, they crisp up nicely and they are the perfect fuel for a Sunday morning (with a cup of strong coffee, of course) to get you moving on whatever weekend project you need to complete.

Usually the primary difference between these favourite breakfast foods is that waffle batter is a bit thicker and has oil added. The oil allows for a crisp crust to form in the waffle iron, while the extreme steam that comes off the hot surfaces keeps the center of the waffles tender.

You’ll notice that this recipe has no added oil. Why, you ask? Simply put it doesn’t need it. I find that a non stick waffle iron that has a very fine skim of oil (either a baking spray or a quick swipe with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil) allows you to achieve the crust we all desire in a waffle without eating additional teaspoons of oil in the batter.

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 a Cup of yogurt (I’d recommend plain or vanilla)

1/2 a Cup of milk (soy milk works nicely too)

Mix together well

1 Cup whole wheat flour

1/3 of a Cup oat bran

1 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

Add the wet ingredients to the the dry

Stir just until combined into a thick batter

Let your batter sit for about 10 minutes

Spritz or smear a whisper of oil on the waffle iron and add your batter, about 1/2 a cup per 6 inch waffle. Cook until they are brown and crisp (the timing will depend on your waffle iron, ours takes 5-6 minutes per waffle).

Serve them up with whatever you like. In our house that means butter and syrup or cottage cheese with salt and pepper. Delicious!

Guinness and Chocolate: something for everyone

Well she’s done it again. As if chocolate cake wasn’t decadent enough, the British bombshell Nigella Lawson has combined the ever popular stout, Guinness, with a rich, moist chocolate cake and topped it with cream cheese frosting to mimic the foamy head on the classic beer.

This cake is a favourite in our house, though it’s over the top enough that it only gets made once or twice each year. It’s easy to make, impresses a crowd and is satisfying beyond imagination. Follow this link http://www.nigella.com/recipe/recipe_detail.aspx?rid=20552 to read Nigella’s poetic description and the original recipe or read on for my version (very similar and not in metric) and some pictures. Enjoy!

1 Cup of Guinness
1 Cup of unsalted butter
3/4 of a Cup of cocoa
2 Cups of white sugar
1/2 a Cup of fat free sour cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
2 3/4 Cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

250 g cream cheese (1 whole brick at room temperature)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of honey

On medium-low heat, warm the Guinness and butter in a large saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add the cocoa and sugar. Mix the eggs and sour cream together and add carefully to the chocolatey mixture (careful not to scramble the eggs!) Once incorporated, stir in the vanilla. Remove from the heat. Add baking soda to cake flour and stir well to combine. Add the flour all at once to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into a 10″ spring form pan that has been buttered or sprayed with non stick spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins – 1 hour until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. The top will be slightly cracked, never fear, this will be covered by the liberal layer of icing.

Beat together cream cheese, vanilla and honey until smooth. Glob this mixture onto the top of the cooled cake. Swirl it with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to make frothy looking peaks.

Serves 12

An obvious beginning: Breakfast

Admittedly, breakfast is more appealing in the winter months when you want a little something to stick to your ribs before you start your day, but I am still not very good at orchestrating this so called “most important” meal. Frankly, most mornings I would rather have the extra 15 minutes in bed or take a longer shower.

But, it’s a new year and with that comes the urge/pressure to be better, do better, eat better, live better; therefore this seems like a good time to break an old habit and forge a new one. That new habit is breakfast. Everyday.

So how does a night owl like me accomplish a balanced breakfast on the go? I make it before bed and by the time I wake up, it’s exactly what I want it to be. What is this holy grail of breakfast foods? Why it’s a Breakfast Parfait.

I won’t pretend that this is a recipe, it’s far too intuitive to be categorized as such. It is an assemblage of delicious things that you have on hand, most prominently, though you could make changes if you so desired:

  • fruit (canned, frozen, fresh, or a combination)
  • yoghurt (flavoured, plain, in whatever style you like best)
  • oats (I use large, raw slow cook oats, but granola or a crunchy cereal like Go Lean Crunch would be awesome)

I start with a small Mason jar (they seal perfectly and it’s a great way to re-use jars from other foods, plus they last longer and stay cleaner than plastic containers) and drop in whatever fruit I feel like, tonight it was some canned peaches and a few fresh strawberries.

Then in go the oats, about 1/2 a cup. I know what you’re thinking: Plain, raw oats? Trust me.

Then add your yogurt so you have a deliciously layered concoction …

Then seal it up tightly and stash it in the fridge until morning. By the time you are up and awake, the fruit and yoghurt will have softened and flavoured the oats, making them tasty and tender.

I like to eat mine at work while I go through my morning emails, but it would be delicious any time of the morning, or any time of the day, in fact; this would even make a satisfying dessert.