Pretty Pomegranate Parfait

Merry Christmas!

Pretty Pomegranate Parfaits

I remember as a kid on Christmas morning it took my parents a Herculean amount of effort to peel us away from the treats in our stockings and get us to eat a half-decent breakfast before our day of gorging ourselves on candy and chocolate. With the promise of that in store, plain cereal or toast just seemed too … BLAH to eat, and we ended up picking at our food and being cranky later on.

Pretty Pomegranate Parfaits

This quick dish might tempt even your most stalwart refusers this morning. Pomegranates are in season now and they’re an amazing superfood, full of antioxidants, vitamin C, and a satisfying crunch. The whole thing is just yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and granola, but you can assemble it in seconds and it looks like a fancy treat.

Pretty Pomegranate Parfaits

Grab a pretty glass (it is a special occasion after all) and scoop in a bit of granola, followed by some pomegranate seeds. Layer in a bit of yogurt and smooth it so it touches the sides and sort of “seals” in the layer.

Pretty Pomegranate Parfaits

Repeat until you get all the way to the top, and garnish with a sprinkling of granola and pomegranate seeds (maybe a sprig of mint if you’ve got it handy).

Pretty Pomegranate Parfaits

Scarf it down and have the energy to start your day!

Pretty Pomegranate Parfaits

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Apricot Oatmeal Loaf

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I’m always looking for new ways to put more fibre into my baking that don’t necessarily involve bran (I feel like that sentence alone puts me in the “grown-up” category.  And you know what’s good for you if you’re not getting enough fibre? APRICOTS. So I made an apricot loaf. And if you like apricots you can make one too.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter a loaf pan in preparation. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. I don’t even have a picture of it because it’s just a bowl of white (and because maybe I forgot). Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg for colour (and flavour).

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Because I forgot, you get a slightly more interesting picture of chopped apricots instead.

In a small bowl, scramble together 2 large eggs.

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Then tip in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or fruity yogurt, maybe apricot yogurt, it’s up to you), 1/3-1/2 cup apricot jam, and 1/2 cup milk.

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Pour that wet stuff into the dry stuff and stir until combined. Then pour in 1 cup oats and 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots. Stir stir stir!

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Smooth that into your pan and then bake for about 1 hour, until a deep caramel brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let it mostly cool in the pan and tip it out onto a rack to cool completely.

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I’m really enjoying it toasted, with butter, for breakfast.

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Jammy Bran Muffins

These muffins are a little bit different from your usually brown bran muffins. As you may know, I have a love/hate relationship with bran, so I’m always looking for new ways to ingest fibre without feeling like I’m eating sawdust. It’s a never-ending challenge. The additional challenge of these is that for some reason I have four jars of jam in my fridge and neither the Pie nor I is eating a lot of toast at the moment. So I decided to use it as my sweetener in this shindig.

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Start by setting your oven to preheat at 350°F and spray a muffin tin or rub it with butter. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, feel free to sour some milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to every cup of regular milk. Give that a stir and leave it for 5 minutes.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 cup bran, 1/4 cup ground flax (because it’s good for you – make sure it’s partially ground before you add it in), and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, scramble together 4 tablespoons melted butter3/4 cup of your favourite jam (this one is serviceberry), 1 large egg, and 2 cups buttermilk (or alternative).

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Now pour the liquids into the solids and gently whisk until only just combined.

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Dump in 1 cup raisins (or not, if you’re not a fan of raisins) and whisk until just combined again – never over-mix muffins. If you do they end up flat. And that’s lame.

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Divide the batter in your tin. Bake those puppies for 20-25 minutes, until the centre muffin tests clean when stabbed with a toothpick.

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Leave them in the pan for about 5 minutes to cool a little bit before digging them out and eating them or letting them cool completely.

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We always like our muffins hot, with butter. Because, well, butter.

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Fast-Tip Friday: Drying Herbs

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If you’re lucky, you still have time to run out and grab the rest of your late-summer herbs from the garden and do something with them before it’s too late. If you’re me, then while you were out of the country for work the temperatures dropped below zero and now all your basil is a disgusting black mess.

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HOWEVER, there’s still hope for a good number of your other hardier herbs.

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Since the summer, I’ve been hauling baskets of herbs inside to process. Some end up in butter (because mmmm, butter), and some, like the lemongrass stalks you see in this basket, go in the freezer. But most of them, I dry. It takes almost zero effort on my part and then the herbs are there for me to mix and package as gifts: spice rubs and herbal teas are quick and easy to make.

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What makes it easiest is this handy-dandy herb dryer that I picked up from Lee Valley. Hang it somewhere out of the way with good air circulation (for us, that’s over the side of our main staircase), and then just shove it full of fresh herbs.

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The mesh will allow air to circulate on all sides, meaning nothing gets mouldy or soggy, and some of your herbs, like lemon balm, will dry in a matter of days. And you didn’t have to do ANYTHING!

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Added bonus: for the few days it takes these herbs to start to dry up, the hallway smells like pizza or lemons or whatever we’ve got in the shelves.

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Rice Pudding

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I LOVE rice pudding. It was a big treat for us growing up in a household where desserts were a rarity. And it was a dessert that, like apple crumble, was totally legal for BREAKFAST too! My grandmother made it. My mother made it. I’ve made it too.

I’ve been hankering for it recently, and I realized I haven’t made it in almost a decade. BECAUSE THE PIE *HATES* RICE PUDDING. So in all the years we’ve been together I’ve only made it once.

Well that’s about to change. If he doesn’t like it, then it means I can have the whole thing to myself for breakfasts and desserts for, like, a WEEK.

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Now there’s kind of two schools about rice pudding – there’s the totally squishy school of puddings, where the rice pudding actually is more pudding like – and then there’s the baked pudding school, where it’s more like a casserole with custardy bits surrounded by crunchy. I’m kind of somewhere in the middle, but on this one I’m going to go with the more creamy stove-top version. I also like mine with raisins and orange zest and cardamom and lots of cinnamon so if you don’t, well – just leave them out. But I’m going to judge you for that. I won’t judge you for replacing dairy with coconut milk – that stuff goes well with everything.

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The type of rice you use can determine how creamy your pudding will turn out, and as traditionally this dish likely emerged from leftovers, take a look at what you’ve got stored in your fridge. If you use arborio rice, for example, your pudding will be very much like risotto (because that’s what arborio rice is for). Short or medium grain rices will also make for more creamy puddings. And then the spices you use all depend on which grandma’s recipe you’re using, and where that grandma is from. So this is *my* version, that I came up with after some experimentation. It’s not quite my mother’s. It’s not quite my grandmother’s. It’s all mine. I’ll be the grandma some day with this recipe.

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Before you start, measure out 2 cups milk or cream and crack open a 400mL can of coconut milk (or use any combination thereof).

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Beat up 1 egg and put that in a dish. Actually, scratch that. Put an egg in a dish. THEN beat it. Hard to do it the first way ’round.

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Zest as well 2 oranges and put the zest in a dish. Juice the oranges and drink up that glorious vitamin C. You’re gonna need it – winter is coming.

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Now, grab 1 cup arborio rice (the risotto stuff).

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I plopped it in a large pot with 2 tablespoons butter and let the butter get all melty and bubbly and stuff.

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Then I poured in 2 cups water and brought the whole thing to a simmer.

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FOR LIKE EVER. Seriously it takes forever to cook risotto. Keep stirring it occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

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Getting there …

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… almost there …

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When you can kind of scoop it to one side and it doesn’t flow back super fast you’re probably ready for the next step.

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Now you can pour in the milk and give it a stir. Tip in the egg as well and stir it around before the milk gets hot enough to curdle the egg.

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Bring it to a simmer and let the mixture begin to thicken, which it will do pretty quickly. While that’s happening, I grabbed 1/2 cup raisins and left them to soak in 2 splashes warm water and 1 splash bourbon (optional).

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Tip some honey into the pot until it’s sweetened to taste. I used about 1/4 cup honey.

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You can add in your orange zest now, as well as 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon cardamom.

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Then I chucked in the raisins, bourbon-water and all.

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Lower the heat and allow that to simmer, stirring occasionally.

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The liquid will begin to disappear.

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We are almost there. I dig those totally round air bubble pockets.

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When the pudding is at a consistency that you like (i.e., when you stir it the liquid doesn’t form pools) then it’s ready to serve. You can enjoy it hot and liquidy or cold and solid – it’s entirely up to you!

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Cardamom Orange Date Squares

Cardamom Orange Date Squares 25I know we’ve already done some truly decadent date squares at Ali Does It, but I wanted to do another one to emphasize how truly great dates are. They’re so underrated. And in date squares? My, my, my. Date squares always seem like some kind of old people food when you’re just looking at them, but then you bite into that crumbly, sticky, gooey-ness and you remember that they’re just pretty much amazeballs, regardless of how old you are. Cardamom Orange Date Squares 23

I was making these for that shindig business that’s coming along and I sent the Pie out to buy dates – I wanted the ones in a block, not the ones I would have to pit and chop up. Because I’m lazy. And the Pie, knowing my penchant for doubling and tripling every recipe, picked up the biggest block of dates he could find. IT’S A KILOGRAM. A whole kilogram of dates. So here’s what I came up with in order to deal with a KILOGRAM of dates.

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Start with your kilogram of dates. Unwrap them from the triple-wrapped wrapping craziness. I guess they’re pretty sticky if you let ’em.

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Then slice your block up a bit.

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Chuck that in a pot with 3 cups water. Bring that to a boil and then simmer it for like 10 minutes.

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It’s gonna be all squidgy and icky and gross. Take that off the heat and let it cool slightly. Zest and juice 2 oranges.

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Tip the juice, as well as 2 teaspoons ground cardamom and 4 teaspoons vanilla, into your date goo. Give it a stir.

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If you want, shove it in a food processor. I like my dates to be smooth but I’ll leave that up to you.

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And buzz it until it’s all super sludge.

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Now preheat the oven to 350°F and butter and line some baking dishes with parchment paper.

While that’s heating up, whisk together 3 cups flour, 3 cups oats, 2 cups brown sugar1 teaspoon baking powder, and that orange zest you have on hand.

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Cube up 2 cups room temperature butter and dump that in the flour. Mix it in with your hands until it’s all crumbly and you want to eat it.

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Scoop half that mixture into the bottoms of the dishes and press it down.

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Scoop the date mix into the dishes as well and smooth it over.

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Add the rest of the oat mixture to the top and press it down slightly.

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Shove those into the oven for 45 minutes, until everything is golden brown.

Cardamom Orange Date Squares 20Let those cool slightly in the dish, on a rack, and then lift them out to cool completely on the rack before cutting into eatable-sized squares. I won’t judge you on the size of said squares. Whatever works for you! Cardamom Orange Date Squares 24

Quick Caramel Custard Croissant Bake

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 18This is yet another one of those I-bought-pastry-on-sale-and-the-Pie-bought-some-at-the-same-time-and-we-didn’t-eat-them-soon-enough-and-they-went-stale-so-what-can-I-do-with-them-rather-than-chucking-them-in-the-compost kind of situations. I’m sure you’re familiar with those. And I HATE throwing food away. I’m very proud of the fact that the Pie and I produce one box of recycling, half a small kitchen bag of garbage (mostly plastic and styrofoam), and two 1L bags of compost (this includes used tissues and meat bones) a week. My luxury is the paper newspaper, which I know I should give up, but I just can’t, and I can always find uses for old newspaper. But I digress. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 5

Trav was over concocting the most recent SideBar and the Pie was stirring up some of our famous meatballs so I decided to take a moment to chuck some things together. I had 9 stale chocolatines that needed taking care of.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 2So I buttered up a baking dish and crumbled them in. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 7

Then I grabbed a small pot and filled it with 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons water. I put that on medium high heat and resisted the very real urge to stir it.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 4Eventually it started to bubble. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 8

And then turned golden. You can swirl the pot around but avoid stirring.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 10When it was this lovely caramel colour I removed it from the heat and tipped in, whisking all the while, 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons bourbon (you can use whisky too). Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 11

Don’t freak out when it fizzes up and you feel like it’s going to explode.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 12Just keep whisking, and when it calms down you’ll have a lovely caramel. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 13

Beat up 4 eggs.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 3Then whisk those eggs slowly into your caramel and pour the whole thing over your crusty baked goods. Let that stand for 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 14

Shove the dish in your oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the egg mix is solid (perhaps slightly less time than I did it as you can see it’s a little more than brown).

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 17Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream or caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or custard … Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 19