Molasses Oat Cake with Glazed Pineapple

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If you have checked me out recently on Instagram, you may have noticed that LongJohn and I just spent the last three weeks hanging out with my parents in Florida, where we both got a nice tan and the kid grew about four inches.

Really going to miss watching this yahoo enjoy the beach every day. #alidoesit

A post shared by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

I didn’t do too much cooking while I was there, but I did make one or two things, and here’s one of them. My dad was trying to clear out the pantry in preparation for their trip back to the True North, so in my efforts to help him get rid of a few things, I came up with this puppy. It’s a good cake for the winter or the summer (I think).

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish. Might as well polish off some of the brownies-from-a-box you made the day before. Gotta keep cleaning out that cupboard, right?

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Grab some butter (oh, the land where butter is always at a spreadable temperature!) and melt 3 tablespoons of it.

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Grab a small bowl and tip in 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Then assemble the rest of your stuff: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch ground cloves, 1/3 cup molasses, 1 egg, and of course your 3 tablespoons melted butter. You’ll see here as well about 1-ish cup fresh (not frozen) blueberries. If you use frozen blueberries the juice from the broken blueberries will get all through the batter and alter the molasses taste. It might also take longer to cook.

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Take all the stuff that isn’t in a bowl with oats or is blueberries and beat that together.

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Take the blueberries and tip them in the bowl with the oats and flour and stir that a bit. Coating the blueberries in flour prevents them all from sinking to the bottom of the baking dish.

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Plop the oats, flour, and blueberries into the molasses mix and stir until smooth(ish).

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Spoon that into your prepared dish and bake for 25-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. This timing will really depend on how thick the glass on your dish is. I cooked this in a convection toaster oven which I think is slightly hotter than it says it is, and so it was done in 25 minutes. Put the cake, still in the dish, on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Now if you want to make it fancy, grab yourself a nice ripe whole pineapple. The pineapple trivet is optional.

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Cut the top and bottom of the pineapple up and then slice off the skin.

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Cut the pineapple into quarters along its core, and slice off the core from the quarters.

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Cut each quarter lengthwise into three pieces. Too complicated? Just cut it up any way you would like. I’m not your mother.

Molasses Cake Pineapple 11Coat each one of the pineapple pieces in granulated sugar.

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Set those aside for a minute.

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In a large skillet or frying pan (or saucepan, whichever is your biggest), melt another 3 tablespoons butter.

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Cook all the slices of pineapple in the skillet on medium heat until they’re cooked through and kind of shrunken, about 8-10 minutes. If you don’t have room to cook them all in the pan at once, wait until some of them shrink before adding a few more slices.

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Remove from pan and set on serving plate. They will start to ooze thick sugary juice.

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Add 3 tablespoons water to the butter and sugar in pan and let it thicken, stirring, JUST until it starts to brown then remove immediately from the heat. It will continue to brown as you stir, off the heat.

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Drizzle that over the pineapple.

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You can serve them hot but if you leave the caramel on the pineapple as it cools it will slowly dissolve back into the juice, leaving a nice sauce you can spoon over the pineapple and the square when you serve it.

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Enjoy!

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FLAT Ginger Molasses Cookies

This post has been sitting in my brain since Thanksgiving (the Canadian one, that is), so I figured for the American one I could accent your Black Friday with a chewy cookie.

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These cookies inspired by Gimme Some Oven came out way flatter than I normally like and tasted a little greasy. I still prefer my Starbucks knockoff cookies, but I’m always on the lookout for another recipe, and someday when I no longer have a tiny boy with a short attention span on my hands, I may come up with my own.

Start, as you do with most cookies, with your powdery bits. Whisk together 4 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking soda, and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (put it together from here).

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Set that aside and cream together 1 1/2 cups salted softened butter, and 2 cups granulated sugar.

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Then pour yourself a lovely gob of 1/2 cup molasses.

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Tip that into the butter mix, together with 2 eggs, and beat that up until combined.

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Slowly add the flour mix and beat until well combined. Chill that dough for 30 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll your dough into golf ball-sized balls and roll them in granulated sugar (with a dash of cinnamon mixed in). Plop them on the baking sheet and leave a lot of space as they flatten quite a bit.

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Bake those puppies for 8-10 minutes, until they start to crack, then let them cool on the sheet before removing them to a rack (or just eating them).

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See? They expand quite a bit. And eat all the other cookies.

Again, not my favourite adaptation but good nonetheless.

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Happy Windfall Handpies

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There’s this tree in the green space where I walk with Gren and LongJohn in the mornings. It’s a beautiful old apple tree. I know it’s old because the apples on it are tiny and REALLY sour. But that doesn’t stop people from picking them – no sir. All the apples within a reasonable reach have been removed, so I scoured through the windfall after a recent storm and brought home about 15 or so more or less unscarred apples (because as you know I can’t resist stealing fruit from public places). I wanted to make turnovers, or handpies.

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Holy Hannah are strollers ever handy for carrying crap. And babies, I suppose.

This is the first bit of baking I’ve done while solo in the house with an active and demanding baby on my hands, so it was a challenge to test both my rusty cooking skills and my son’s patience threshold. All in all, it worked out for the most part. I also cheated and used puff pastry but can you really blame me?

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We didn’t cut the lawn for a long time and the long grass killed our mower. So now we REALLY need to cut the grass.

First, you need to peel the apples. I used about 15 of these tiny sour things but if you’re using regular apples maybe 3 large apples would suffice. Actually, before you peel the apples, you need to install the baby in his swing chair with Raffi for company. This will buy you about fifteen minutes.

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It takes a while to peel 15 tiny misshapen apples.

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Avoid the wormy ones.

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Chop the apples up roughly and sprinkle the pieces with lemon juice, both to keep them from going brown and to add some tartness to the mix (not that you really need tartness with sour apples). Wrap them up and set them aside.

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Next, whisk together 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup water.

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Tip your apple pieces into a pan with some liberal dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and some sugar. Use about 2 teaspoons sugar for each regular apple – for the sour ones I went a bit more generous and added about 6 tablespoons for the whole lot.

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Re-install your baby in a new location with new focal points. You’ve got another fifteen minutes or so.

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Cook the apples on medium heat until they’re bubbly and the liquid is starting to cook down.

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Tip in the cornstarch mixture (you may need to re-whisk it because it’s not a solution and the cornstarch will likely be sticking firmly to the bottom of your dish).

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Stir quickly in and watch the juices thicken.

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Remove from the heat and spread in a thin layer on a plate to cool. Attempt to put your baby down for his nap.

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After failing to put your baby down for his nap (strange how a logical argument does not work on a three-month-old), grab some thawed puff pastry (this stuff comes in a box with two rolled out squares in it) and use a rolling pin to gently expand the sheet. You want the pastry a little thinner than it comes standard.

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Cut the square into 9 equal(ish) pieces.

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Place a dollop of the cooled apple goo on each square.

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Mmm, cooled goo …

Carefully peel the pastry off the paper and fold it over itself to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed.

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Puff pastry objects to being handled so roughly so they look a little demented.

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Give your baby a different toy to punch. Encourage him to yell obscenities at the toy (I don’t speak baby so that’s what I’m assuming he’s doing) to buy yourself some more time.

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On the second sheet, I didn’t roll the pastry out as much, and it was easier to remove it from the paper. They looked less demented.

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Crack and beat an egg and brush each of the pastries with a bit of egg goo. Set them on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.

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Bake your pastries for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F and eat them as soon as they’re cool enough to hold in your hand. The demented ones stayed together better than the non-demented ones – just keep that in mind.

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Non-demented …
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Demented …

Enjoy!

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Ginger Molasses Cookie

So there’s a certain giant mega-corporation coffee chain near our office. I’m sure you know the one – it has a fishy logo. Because it’s the only place near our office, we go there ALL THE TIME. And I’m kind of in love with their giant ginger molasses cookies. But they’re a million dollars and I just KNOW that the reason they’re so chewy and amazing is because they’re filled with all sorts of ick. And there’s probably some form of addictive substance in them (other than sugar, I mean), because I don’t even LIKE cookies and I can’t resist these. And I just found out TWO DAYS AGO that the place near work has discontinued the darned things.

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So it’s been a quest of mine to re-create the recipe on my own. Turns out I’m not the only one who has tried. Most of the recipes I found seem to be taken from the same source and have mostly the same ingredients, so I picked this one from Food.com. Forgive my crappy photos – it’s a weeknight in the winter in Canada so it’s dark. Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Then grab your ingredients.

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Whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Next, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 3/4 cup butter and 1 cup dark brown sugar. I didn’t have dark brown so I went with regular brown. But the darker your sugar, the darker your cookie.

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Scrape down the mixing paddle and the sides of the bowl and crack in 1 large egg. Pour in as well 1/4 cup regular unsulphured molasses. I used fancy grade molasses, because that seems to be what you can get in Canada. Not sure what the difference is.

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Give that a good beating until it’s smooth.

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Now, slowly add in your flour mixture while beating on low speed. Keep mixing until the dough forms a cohesive mass – it’ll be super thick and you’ll have to scrape things down occasionally to ensure good mixage.

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Now grab your cookie dough, and your baking sheets, and a shallow dish or plate. Tip about 1/3 cup granulated sugar onto the plate and spread it around. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the dough (I’m not kidding, these things are huge), roll it into a ball, and roll it in the granulated sugar before placing it on the baking sheet.

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Do that five more times for the first sheet, spacing them far apart (they spread). Do the other six on the other baking sheet (yeah, this recipe only makes 12. If you’re not insane and you’d like a smaller cookie go ahead and do that).

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Next, wet your fingers and press down on each cookie ball to flatten it slightly and dampen the sugar coating. Shove one baking sheet in the fridge and the other in the oven.

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Bake each sheet, one at a time, for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until the cookie is an even brown and is mostly solid in the middle. Let those giant suckers cool on the baking sheet.

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I’m not sure if they’re *quite* the recipe I was looking for – I might add more ginger and more molasses (or maybe my ginger is just a little old). But they’re really good nonetheless!

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Last-Minute Gifts: Home Made Coffee Liqueur

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Okay so it’s not THAT last minute, because it takes a week to percolate, but if you do it NOW it will be ready for Christmas. Plus it’s SOOOO easy you can finish it in minutes and then spend the rest of your time procrastinating about your other gift ideas. And for me I could make it with stuff I had on hand, which was nice.

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First, you need 700 ml vodka. It doesn’t have to be super fancy vodka. I have three open bottles here. For the record, none of these were originally mine. I just keep finding new booze in my cupboard. I swear.

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Next, you need 200g whole coffee beans (I doubled the recipe so this is 400g, don’t freak out).

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And some SPICES: 1 vanilla bean, 3 cinnamon sticks, and 15 whole cloves. That’s it.

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Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds, and chuck it and the rest of your ingredients into a large sealable container. I didn’t have anything that would fit anything over a litre so I used my camping water container (which holds like 20 litres). It’s a bit of overkill, I know. But you want to be able to give the liquid a good shaking, and then store it in a dark place for a whole week. I figured with the dark sides of the container I could leave it somewhere accessible and that would remind me to shake it every day. Because that’s the other thing you need to do: make sure to shake the container at least once a day.

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After the week is up, find yourself some appropriate bottles or jars. Since I used bottles for the Krupnikas I decided on jars for this, for variety’s sake. Wash them carefully (use Star San or other sanitizer if you can). This recipe makes about 1 litre of liquid, so plan accordingly.

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Strain the vodka through a sieve into a bowl for now (I used my trusty produce bag as a strainer to get all the wee bits that may have come loose in the shaking process). Do what you will with the boozy spices.

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In a large saucepan (that will hold the final amount of your liquid), dump 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups water.

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Stir over high heat to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil.

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Add in your coffee/vodka and give it a good stirring before removing from the heat. And now your liqueur is ready to go!

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Pour the liquid into pretty containers, seal, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.  Aside from just drinking it straight or mixing it into the Pie’s favourite White Russians (or Trav’s White North), you could drizzle it on top of cake and ice cream and it would be amazeballs.

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Bees plus Booze: Making Krupnikas

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This recipe popped up on Global Table back in January 2012 and I have been positively itching to make it ever since. The problem is that in order to make lovely, lovely liqueurs, you need grain alcohol. And there are very few provinces in Canada where you can legally purchase such things. Fortunately one of my lovely friends picked some Everclear up for me when he was in Michigan and brought it across the border for me for my birthday.  And this lovely warming sipper will make a fantastic gift. Did I mention it makes your house smell lovely as you’re making it, and also that it’s ridiculously easy? LOVELY.

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First, though, you have to do your due diligence regarding what you’re going to put your finished concoction in. I searched high and low, in second-hand stores and restaurant supply stores, to find appropriate bottles for a reasonable price. Finally I found these 200mL flasks at Terra20 (sorry non-Ottawans, it’s a local store, but they do have online shopping). Now, you can put your bottles through a run in the dishwasher if you like, but I don’t trust my dishwasher fully because I have never cleaned it. I am my father’s daughter and as such he has taught me to properly sterilize things you’re going to put booze in. So first you wash them thoroughly in detergent and hot water.

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Let them drip dry.

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Then grab some Star-San if you can get it from a local home-brew place.

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Follow the instructions carefully, and wear gloves! Let your bottles air dry while you prepare your ingredients.

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I love that this recipe uses whole spices.

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In fact, it uses WHOLE turmeric, which was tricky for me to find after trolling through several health food stores. But it was super cheap. When the cashier asked me how much I wanted to order, I said, “Oh, 200g or so,” not knowing how much that would be. It was a lot. And it cost me about $4. I only need one of those weird little ginger-like knobs.

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You’ll need about 1 1/2lbs of honey (organic and local if possible, naturally). This works out to about 550mL liquid honey.

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Peel 1 orange.

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And peel half a lemon.

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Grab 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks.

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And 5 allspice berries.

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And a nutmeg. (A nutmeg? A meg nut? I dunno.)

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And 8 cloves.

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And 10 cardamom pods.

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And 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.

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And 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

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You will also need 1 vanilla bean, sliced and scraped. Except for some reason I totally forgot to include that in the recipe. It’s still amazing, but I bet a vanilla bean would make it even more amazing.

Grab yourself a 3″ knob of ginger, and slice that into four pieces.

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And grab a 2-3″ knob of turmeric, and slice THAT into four pieces.

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Look at that gorgeous orange. The turmeric will give a nice sort of earthy base to the booze, while at the same time keeping that lovely yellow tint you expect of something made with honey.

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Crack all the spices to let the flavour out. I used a nutcracker on the nutmeg.

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And my pestle for the rest.

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Gather your spices and plop them in a cup for now. Not shown of course is the vanilla bean I forgot.

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In a large saucepan, dump in your honey and 1L water and bring that to a simmer.

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Skim any foam off the top with a slotted spoon.

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Dump all your spices in and let that become an amazing concoction.

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Simmer that sucker, stirring occasionally, for about 35 minutes. At this point the young man who was fixing my ceiling crept up behind me and asked me what I was making that smelled so good. As he was about 16 years old I did not offer him any of it. I’m not sure if he was sad or not. But I’m sure the craftsmanship on my ceiling would have suffered.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in 750mL grain alcohol. Watch out, as it will fizz up and the fumes will likely make you cough a bit. While it still smells good I don’t recommend you go around huffing grain alcohol fumes. That might be bad.

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Strain out the spices and use them for something else, like a syrup or ice cream base.

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I plopped them into some applesauce I was making. It made the applesauce taste like CANDY.

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Line up your bottles ready for filling. I put them all in a dish and wedged them with a dish towel to keep them steady while I filled them.

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I filled all 8 200mL bottles exactly, just like I’d planned.

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Seal the bottles and let them cool. The mixture will be cloudy at first.

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But still gloriously cheerfully yellow.

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The cloudiness is a sediment that will settle over the next couple of days. You can drink this stuff right away and it will be unbelievably good, but the longer you let it sit the mellower and more amazing it will get. Try to wait at least two weeks.

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Even after just 24 hours most of the sediment has settled. You can stir the sediment back in if you like, or filter it out and serve it on cake or whatever.

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My true sadness is that I was hoping for a little extra krupnikas to try myself, but I didn’t get any. I am going to give all of this away. So I hope that my friends share.

When in doubt, make soup!

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My parents are down in Florida and I’m looking after the house while they’re gone. This entailed cleaning out the fridge after they left, and so I arrived home with this oddment of groceries: 1 small zucchini, 4 wilted green onions, 2 baby bok choi, 9 multicoloured carrots, half a large sweet onion, half a large rutabaga, and half a large Savoy cabbage.

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Welp, that looks like a soup to me. Fortunately I had some stewing beef in the freezer which I chucked in the sink to defrost. Then I got to chopping.

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I also chopped up 1 head of garlic, and sautéed it with the onions in a large stockpot with a drop of olive oil until they were soft and sweet.

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Remember when cutting up rutabagas to be very careful. Slice off the top and bottom first so you have a flat surface to work on before you go after the skin, as it will be tough, especially if it’s been waxed.

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I added all the other chopped veg to the pot. I only scrubbed the carrots, didn’t peel them. All that vitamin-y goodness is in the skin and these are such tender carrots it seemed like a waste to remove the skin.

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Make sure to dry your beef before you brown it. It will make browning way quicker.

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I also like to dredge it in flour for a nice crust, and the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. You can use rice flour for a gluten-free option.

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Brown the meat until it has a nice seared edge all the way around.

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Then you can chuck that in the pot, too. I added about 8 cups water and two mini cups of concentrated beef bouillon, but go with whatever floats your boat.

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Give it a stir and set it to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the rutabagas are soft when you smush them with a spoon.

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I added in a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves, as well as a few teaspoons of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper as well, if you like.

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To combat the bitterness of the cabbage I also added in a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and rice vinegar (it sounds weird, I know, but it works). You can also use cider vinegar.

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My scrumptious savoury stew!

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I shoved it into large freezer bags that I froze flat for easy storage. I can’t wait to haul one of these babies out in the dead of winter for some comfort food!

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