Do you hate beans but like chili? Do you like beans but also like chili that’s a little different? Do you like chili? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions then this chili is for you. It’s beanless and beefy and incredibly satisfying, which is good because though it may be spring SOMEWHERE, in Ottawa we’ve had some major flooding and on Monday it stopped raining enough to SNOW. ALL. DAY. So we kind of need something cockle-warming. This chili is adapted from one my parents found on the internet and printed out and that I stole off their fridge in Florida and smuggled across the border.
Start with 2lbs cubed beef chuck or stewing beef, and huck that in a non-stick skillet on high to sear all the sides. Chuck the browned beef into a large slow-cooker pot.
Next, add in 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (“wooster”) sauce, 1 cup beef broth, a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Now, the recipe did not say to drain the tomatoes so I didn’t and I found my chili ended up a bit on the watery side (I also added twice as many tomatoes as the recipe asked for). I thickened the sauce with some cornstarch later on and it turned out super awesome, but I’ll leave it to your discretion to either drain the tomatoes or use a smaller can.
Dice up the following: 1 white onion, 2 red bell peppers, 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks, and a couple large green chilis. I used Anaheim chilis because they are huge and not too hot and I wanted to be able to feed this to LongJohn. Gather as well 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika (ours is smoked), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Chuck all that in the slow cooker.
Don’t forget to give it a bit of a stir.
Cook that sucker on low for 8-12 hours, or on high for about 6.
Before serving, juice 1 lime and add the juice to the mix.
Serve garnished with either grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, or chopped cilantro (or all of the above, who are we kidding?).
I love taking classic dishes and putting a little something extra in them to add just that little bit more to their perfection. And there is nothing more perfect than the classic BLT (that’s a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, for those few of you uninitiated). But is that actually true? No. Because you can always add. There’s the BELT, for instance: bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato (on a biscuit, no less). And a variation of the grilled cheese that we like around these parts, the BTC (bacon, tomato, cheese).
As I have learned, adding avocado makes pretty much ANYTHING better. In fact, I think I’m going to make a decree here for the Avocado Rule, which parallels the Pie’s Banana Rule, wherein adding a banana to anything (shakes, smoothies, pies) makes it better. So this one is the same rule, but, you know, with avocados. So we’re making a BALT (bacon-avocado-lettuce-tomato).
We don’t do a lot of sandwiches here at Ali Does It, but with the Pie away for the weekend it’s all I can really muster up the energy for. This sandwich is at the high end of my give-a-crap level for the next few days. So stand back in awe.
First you take a nice ripe avocado. And you cut it open. And you get rid of the pit.
And you empty it into a bowl. I know, this is heady stuff.
And you mash it up with some garlic and some lime juice.
Until you have a marvellous guacamole. I would use a whole avocado for one sandwich but the Pie doesn’t let me so I would recommend one avocado for TWO sandwiches. Leave that alone for a bit.
Then you take a couple teaspoons of mayonnaise (whatever kind you want, it’s your sammich), and add a sprinkle or two of chipotle seasoning. Give that a stir. Tada. Now you have chipotle mayo. CAN YOU EVEN HANDLE IT? Me neither.
Slice up a tomato while you’re at it. And wash and dry some lettuce.
Now you need some bacon. However much you want, cooked however you like it. I would recommend at least two slices of bacon per sandwich, but you can do what you want. I’m not your mother.
Slice up some bread of your choosing. This is a simple ciabatta. Regular sandwich bread is standard. What is the total BEST though is a nice fresh croissant (it might be my favourite thing ever, especially if you add some gooey Brie to your BALT). Like the BEST.
Now you put it together! Smear on some spicy mayo and soothing guacamole, then layer on your bacon, lettuce, and tomato and you’re good to go.
Did you need a DIY on how to make a sandwich? Perhaps not. But I don’t care. Because now I get to eat this. With a salad that is mostly comprised of exactly the same ingredients: lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and bread. Oh well.
How much do I wish I was visiting my parents right now? They’ve been in Florida since January, and they always offer to fly us down there every year when they go for a nice sunny break. Unfortunately the university here doesn’t offer that Reading Week in February that most Canadian universities do. Instead we get three days off, and then two days of midterms. So leaving the country right now is out. I did, however, see this recipe in the Globe and Mail and figured if I can’t be in Long Boat Key right now I can at least have some Key Lime Pie. Even if it doesn’t actually involve Key limes.
I’m a huge fan of lime pies, and I’ve made two attempts to make my own. They aren’t pretty, but they’re sure tasty. This recipe avoids the issue of having to deal with Canadian-sized cans of condensed milk (by adding mango as thickener), which means I can go ahead and only make one pie this time. I also don’t have to grate and juice all those tiny key limes, which is a bonus for me. I really hate doing that.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a 9″ pie pan, stir together 1 cup graham-cracker crumbs (I’ve used Oreo crumbs before as well, and it’s delicious, and I bet Nilla crumbs would also work), 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup shredded coconut (adds a nice texture to the crust). Melt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter and drizzle that over the top.
Stir it all up with a fork and press it down into the pan and up the sides to form your crust. Bake that for 10 minutes.
Let that cool on a wire rack while you’re making the filling, and leave your oven on. If the crust has puffed up during baking (which it probably has), just pat it down again with the fork.
Take 1 medium-sized very ripe mango, peel it, cut it into pieces, and smash it up in a blender.
Take 1/2 cup of the mango purée and put it into a bowl (you’re supposed to save the rest for smoothies or something but I just chucked it all in, to be honest).
Add in 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (this is like the equivalent of 2-3 juicy limes). I grated one of my limes before juicing and added that zest in as well.
Also chuck in 1 300mL can of condensed milk. Sorry to all you folks who use 400mL cans. You’re just going to have to figure something else out. Or chuck in the rest of the can (which is what I would do — screw leftovers). And when I say chuck the can in I mean chuck the CONTENTS of the can in. Recycle that can.
Separate 4 eggs and plop 4 egg yolks into the mix as well. I am going to use the whites to make meringue cookies to serve with the pie. Because I’m that awesome.
Stir what’s in that bowl until it’s smooth and lovely. You’ll notice it’s not green. Key lime pie is not supposed to be green. Don’t let anybody tell you different.
Pour that lovely smooth substance into your pie crust and bake for a further 15 minutes. It’s still going to be rather un-solid in the middle but it will set as the pie chills. Put the baked pie on a wire rack until it’s cool enough to chuck in the fridge. Then refrigerate the thing for at least eight hours, and up to three days. Honestly, try to wait that long to cut into it. The longer you wait, the more solid your pie will be. I promise.
Serve cold with a dollop of whipped cream or meringue cookie. Mmmm. Tastes like summer.
My brother Ando has always been a fan of carbonated beverages. Specifically the cola variety. The more caffeine the better (he used to be a bit of a night owl). Sodas aren’t that great for the teeth, of course, as they contain a lot of sugar. The colas especially so. Ando’s tip for strong dentition: drink sodas only in conjunction with food, and use a straw. When I saw this recipe, I thought he’d like it. It’s made of all natural ingredients and contains significantly less sugar than your average can of Coke (which has 39g of sugar in it, the same as 10 sugar cubes).
These sorts of natural syrups are a sign that we are trying to return to simpler times, and the creators of this recipe, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, are doing just that (so you can go visit them Ando and tell me how the recipes compare — it’s just over the bridge after all).
So this is his DIY Christmas gift from his little sister (SURPRISE!), which, together with all the other presents for the Manhattan Crew, I am trying to get completed and mailed out before the end of the month — how’s that for organization?
The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but does require a certain attention to detail. I also had to do some serious sleuthing around St. John’s to find all the appropriate ingredients, though if that means puttering around Food for Thought and Fat Nanny’s for an hour or two then I really don’t mind.
You’ll need to grate the zest from 2 medium oranges, 1 large lime, and 1 large lemon. I doubled my batch so that the Pie and I would have some to try, and then made up an extra set of dry ingredients so that Ando can cook himself up a refill. Each batch makes about 3 cups syrup.
So I grated a lot of citrus. I’m going to save it and make a fabulous beverage soon.
For the extra dry ingredients, I used a zester, which gets the peel without the bitter pith.
Then I heated my oven to 150°F and spread the peel on a baking sheet to dry.
It probably cooked for about an hour while I was doing all that other stuff.
Take some whole nutmeg and a fine rasp and grate yourself about 1/8 teaspoon of that stuff. Mmm, smells so good.
Crush one section of one star anise pod with a spoon.
Cut a vanilla pod so you have a 1 1/2″ section (that’s almost 4cm for you metric folk). Use a knife to split that section in half lengthwise.
You’ll also need 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. You can get citric acid at stores that sell canning supplies, or try specialty or health food stores.
In a heavy pot over medium heat, bring all those ingredients to a simmer in 2 cups water. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar.
Plop a colander or strainer on top of that and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.
Pour the contents of the hot pot over the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth together so that all the solids are in a nice little package. Use a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the package against the side of the pot.
Stir the syrup occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a container and keep it in the refrigerator.
In order for this to last the trip over the sea and land and a river to Manhattan (from one island to another) I decided to can it. You can see my tips on canning with a stove top canner here.
To drink, pour 1 part syrup over ice and mix with 4 parts seltzer or soda water. It tastes FANTASTIC. Not like a commercial soda, but one where you can taste all the flavours that went into it. AMAZING.
And here is the little container with the dried peel and all the other dried ingredients (minus the sugar) that Ando will need to make his own batch.
This simple, zesty cobbler has a hint of citrus that takes it from ordinary to extraordinary, and is wicked easy to make. The recipe, taken from the O Magazine Cookbook, calls for orange zest, but I substituted it for lime, because that’s what I had on hand.
I also used flash-frozen cranberries instead of fresh, and they worked out just fine.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, beat together 6 tablespoons softened butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth and creamy.
Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, until well blended.
Add in 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange (or lime) zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Add in 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder and beat until fully blended.
Set that aside for a wee bit.
In a 2-quart shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, pour in 6 cups cranberries.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon orange zest (or lime zest) on top. Give it a bit of a stir.
Spread over this 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup cranberry juice.
Spoon the topping batter over the cranberry mixture by heaping spoonfuls.
Feel free to spread it and flatten it a bit if you like.
Bake for 40-60 minutes (depending on your oven), or until the filling is bubbly around the edges and the topping is brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped or ice cream.
This is a recipe that I made for the Great Wedding Cupcake Experiment of 2009. I have recently reinstated a “cupcake collective” at the office and I vowed to bring back this crowd-pleaser as my inaugural bake.
Seriously, this cupcake got so much hype when I brought it in the first time. It didn’t make the final cut for the wedding but it’s the one everyone remembers with fondness. I also remember it as being one of the few recipes I made where everything turned out exactly as it was supposed to, which is rare when you’re me.
These pale babies come from page 26 of Susannah Blake’s Cupcake Heaven, and I always double my recipes. In my notes I took from last time, I found that the cupcakes were best if not allowed to brown, and that I used extra ingredients in the frosting, which was originally too cream-cheesy for my taste. But that’s up to you.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with baking cups (the amounts are for the single version of the recipe, but the photos show me tripling).
Beat together 6 tablespoons room temperature butter, 2 tablespoons coconut cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. The mixture should be pale and fluffy.
Beat in 2 eggs, one a time.
Sift in 3/4 cup self-rising flour (or add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to 1 cup regular flour for the correct proportion and reduce accordingly) together with 1 teaspoon baking powder. Fold that in.
Add in 3 tablespoons dried shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened, that’s your choice) as well as the grated zest of one lime and stir it in well.
Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons milk.
Use a table spoon to spoon the mixture into the cups, and bake for pretty much exactly 17 minutes until risen and golden. A toothpick inserted in the centre will come out clean.
Flip them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, beat together 5 oz cream cheese (5/8 of a cup if you care, which is slightly over half of one of those 250g packages), 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar for the neophytes), and 2 teaspoons lime juice in a bowl. As I mentioned above, I ended up adding extra sugar and extra lime juice, but that’s my own preference.
Swirl the frosting on top of the cupcakes, then sprinkle with shredded coconut or coconut shavings in a thick layer.
The Pie and I were married on 22 August 2009. We wanted to do our wedding on the cheap, because we are stone broke, and we also wanted to give our guests a little taste of our personality. With that in mind, we turned down my parents’ repeated offers to make fruitcakes (‘but it’s a traditional Scottish wedding cake’) and decided to make cupcakes instead of buying a tiered and costly confection.
Which flavours were we to pick? The choices were almost endless and we didn’t know where to begin. My mother gave me Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake as a Christmas present, and we decided to start there. With one exception, all the recipes we tried are from there.
I chose a panel of a dozen people at work to help us to test our cupcakes, and every one of them looked forward to Cupcake Friday. By the time I was finished the experiment (which ran from the beginning of March to the end of June 2009), my panel had doubled in size and I was a very popular lady at work.
A crucial piece of machinery without which I would have gone MAD is the Kitchenaid stand mixer. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who does a lot of baking. Also my camera, of course. I took a lot of pictures during this period. You can see the rest of them on my Flickr site here.
#1 Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream
These were extremely tasty but not particularly attractive, texture-wise. Aesthetically they weren’t much to go on either. The icing was also quite runny and very sticky, but also very good. The sour cream mixed with the lemon and the icing sugar made a tangy topping. The Committee thought it would make a good brunch baked good.
One thing to note about these is that I had to re-cup the cupcakes after they were baked, because the bottoms had burned a bit in my antiquated oven and I wanted to hide that. Fun fact: if you re-cup a cupcake, the cupcake will not stick to the paper cup anymore, as you can see in the photograph.
#2 Carrot Cardamom
I really like the word ‘cardamom.’ These ones turned out exactly like the picture in the book, which was gratifying, and they had a much smoother texture than the Apple Cinnamon, which was reassuring.
I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, however; they have a bitter after taste that I am not fond of – I much prefer pecans. The mascarpone icing, however, was incredible and there was an enormous amount of it. If these cupcake experiments taught me anything (and to quote one of the Committee members), ‘there is no such thing as too much icing.’
#3 Cherry and Marzipan Cupcakes
These little boogers were a spectacular failure on my part. The recipe involved putting half the batter into the cup, then sprinkling it with grated marzipan, then putting the other half of the dough on top. Silly me, I did all the bottom halves first, then all the marzipan, and by the time I got around to the tops, I had run out of batter.
In addition, I had to deal with runny icing and artificial cherries, and that’s never a good combination. Let us not forget as well that I had to face the inevitable comments at work that these strongly resembled boobs. So much for professionalism.
Overall, they were too sweet, and too much of a pain to make. Vetoed.
… then something magic happened …
… my oven exploded!
I’m totally serious. The Pie was making dinner one night and I heard this loud thrumming noise coming from the kitchen, accompanied by a yell that I should probably get in there. I ran in and saw bright white light coming from the oven window – element was arcing and sending off sparks. It was making the thrumming noise. We turned off the oven and got the hell out of there. Two days later my landlord bought us a new oven. It’s so low tech that it has no interior light and you have to shine a flashlight in to see if your stuff is done, but it works really well, I will give it that.
#4 Creamy Coconut Lime
It was from this new oven that a new generation of cupcake was born. I could now actually follow the recipe when it came to temperature and cooking time. Nothing burned, or exploded. It was inspiring, actually. The first experiment to come out of the new oven, or ‘tailgate special’ as I like to refer to it, was this perfect confection. It was unanimously voted by the Committee as the perfect cupcake for a wedding. Nothing I made after this counted for much in their opinions. I was, however, undaunted, and continued on with my experiments. I couldn’t stop now – things were just getting good.
#5 Orange Poppyseed with Mascarpone Icing
In these, I substituted canned mandarin slices for regular orange segments. Other than the fact that I am truly lazy and did not want to segment several oranges, the canned pieces meant that my cupcakes would be uniform and also that the quality of the fruit would be good. Living in Newfoundland, especially during the winter, means that produce quality is always a guessing game.
These cakes were popular with those who liked poppyseeds. I liked them, but the Pie was not a huge fan.
As you can see, I was really getting into my groove here. My photographic cupcake record had turned more artistic now that my appliances were cooperating.
#6 Blueberry and Lemon with Cornmeal
These little beauties contained fresh Newfoundland blueberries stuck right into the batter, and were made with cornmeal, which made the batter a sunshiny yellow but which created a texture many were not expecting.
I thought they were great but most people were unconvinced. In any case, I had a lot of fun with my new zester, creating and photographing my confections.
Martha Stewart eat your heart out:
#7 Maple and Pecan
I had a lot of fun making these – and burned myself severely in the process. They were one of my favourite cupcakes, taste-wise, but many people found the hard caramelized sugar too sharp or tough to bite into, the Pie included, so they were eventually scrapped.
Playing with melted sugar is a lot of fun. If I ever made these again, however, I would let the sugar cool a bit more before pouring it, to keep the fluid from spreading too much – I think that was my major failing here.
#8 Bittersweet Chocolate Wedding Cupcakes
I ended up renaming these bad beauties Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, because that’s pretty much what they tasted like, and that’s pretty much all the ‘icing’ really was: hot whipping cream poured over dark and bittersweet chocolate and then whipped into a light foam. They are truly divine. The batter itself was a little bland, however, so I thought I could improve somewhat.
You can see at this time that spring was coming, and my seedlings were on the sprout. But spring comes late to Newfoundland, and we had a while yet to wait.
#9 Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing
I can pretty much guarantee that I will never make these again. I have never been so disappointed with myself. I didn’t want to serve them to the Committee, and some Committee members refused to even finish them. They were dry and tasteless and the crystallized ginger on top was too strong. It was supposed to be stem ginger in syrup but this being Newfoundland I couldn’t find any.
I had to redeem myself.
#10 Marble Cupcakes
When these were finished they looked nothing like the photograph but boy were they tasty. Inside was a chocolate-vanilla swirl cake that really wasn’t visible unless there was no icing but which was nice and moist and light.
The icing was cream cheese mixed with cream and icing sugar. You can’t really top that, but of course that would mean leaving out the caramel.
I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping, but had I been thinking I would have used real dulce de leche, because it would have held its shape better and not oozed everywhere. These cupcakes certainly entailed sticky fingers.
#11 Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes with Ricotta Icing
The Pie and I wanted to experiment with a few lower-fat options, and this was one of them, containing no butter at all, and of course using ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese for icing.
They turned out really well but weren’t quite what we were looking for.
#12 Chocolate Fireworks
These were meant to be served with lit sparklers in them, but I wasn’t sure how I would get them into the office.
I settled for the little silver balls instead. Did you know they are called ‘dragees’?
The icing was rather unimaginative and runny, but the batter had some orange in it that kept in moist and gave it a nice tart tang.
#13 Raspberry Trifle
Unlucky number 13. We were drawing to the close of our experiment here, with only three more recipes to try, and I was pretty tired of making cupcakes at this time. It seemed every week I was adding someone new to the Cupcake Committee email distribution list.
I made these while watching Detroit lose to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I was cheering for the Red Wings (my beloved Senators didn’t even make the post-season) because I hate Crosby, but alas, I was out of luck.
This cake was really good, though, because it was chock-full of raspberries. I thought the custardy topping could have had more flavour, but that might have had something to do with me failing at making custard.
#14 Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake
I left the picture of this one small because it’s blurry. It was late, I was tired, and these were such a hassle that I forgot to take a picture until super late at night.
The recipe called for slicing off the top of the cupcake so the cream cheese topping would set, smooth and flat, like a real cheesecake. I cut off the tops, which was a pain, considering I then had to re-cup the cakes, and then topped them. And discovered that the topping wasn’t going to lie smooth and flat anyway.
There was some swearing.
In the end, these were one of my favourites: a fine vanilla cake with vanilla cream-cheesy ‘icing’ and sliced strawberries on top. The fanning of the berry was my idea, as the berries I got weren’t of the quality that they would stand up on their own, like they were in the book.
#15 Gluten-Free Chocolate Cheesecake
Another cheesecake-y recipe that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac, as is one of my former coworkers, and both of them were coming to the wedding. I didn’t want them to feel excluded from the cake part of the festivities, so I experimented with a gluten-free recipe.
It was an all right cupcake, but it wasn’t light or fluffy, the potato flour I used made the texture a little grainy, and, all in all, it was rather bland.
#16 Coconut Cream
This was my final cupcake, and it wasn’t really an experiment.
One of the people in the Cupcake Committee had been talking about the Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut and Cream cupcakes for a while so as a final treat I decided to make them. You can get the recipe from the Food Network here.
The cupcakes were huge, and I knew I wasn’t going to make them for the wedding – they were pretty time-consuming. But everyone on the Committee had been talking about that other coconut recipe for ages, so I thought I would end it with an echo of the earlier recipe.
They were fabulous and if you ate more than one you felt ill. We had wayyy too many leftovers and I think we ate them for three weeks straight. Or at least it felt like that. They were good though. I recommend giving them a shot.
And that’s it. Sixteen cupcakes in seventeen weeks.
Which ones did we eventually choose: Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake, Fireworks (but with the icing from the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse), and the Raspberry Trifle (but with a lemon cream cheese icing instead of the custard. They were a hit.