Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 12

Remember when I made that lovely rigatoni casserole and I forgot the ricotta?  Well I still have it, and so I’m trying to figure out what to do with it, other than slap together the regular ol’ lasagna or cannelloni.  How about something sweeter?  How about breakfast?  Sold!  This recipe is adapted from Canadian Living.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 2

So.  In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 1

Melt 1/4 cup butter, and chuck that in a smaller bowl together with 1 egg, 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and 3/4 cup extra smooth ricotta cheese.  The recipe also called for lemon rind, but we don’t have such fancy things here in Newfoundland. Well, we do — I just don’t have any at the moment.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 3

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir it up.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 4

Stir in 1 cup fresh blueberries.  If you use frozen ones (I did), just keep in mind that the the ice is going to make your pancakes a little runnier.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 5

Heat a frying pan on medium and dollop in some pancake batter.  Because the pan is still heating our first pancakes never come out as well as we planned so we always make them a bit on the small side.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 6

Cook your pancake until the bubbles that form on the top pop but don’t disappear, leaving little craters in your batter.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 7

Then flip and cook for another minute or so.  Not long.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 8

And that’s it, really.  Serve with whatever you like.  We kept it simple with butter and maple syrup, and that was good.

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes 11

Cheesy Bacon Scone-Off

Om nom nom nom.

That’s all I can really say about this recipe from The English Kitchen.  And this one from my pal Caroline at The Wanna Be Country Girl.  But which one to make?

Oh come on.  You knew I was going to do something ridiculous like that.  It’s in the title for Pete’s sake.  And any excuse to make these beauties twice is a good one.

So here we go.

Bacon, Cheddar and Rosemary Scones from The Wanna Be Country Girl:

First, fry up about 6 slices of bacon.  I discovered at the last second that my bacon was still frozen, so I did something genius.  While I was doing the dishes I popped the sealed package in the sink and when I was finished with washing up the bacon was ready to go.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 1

Because I was so pleased with myself I made it a round 7 slices.  You’ll want to fry this up extra crispy.  Set it aside to drain and cool, then break into a million little pieces.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 3

Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of salt (if you’re using salted butter leave this out), and 1 tablespoon sugar (I actually forgot the sugar, and I don’t think it made much difference).  If you don’t have a hand sifter, you can shake your flour through a fine sieve instead.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 6

Cut 6 tablespoons butter into small cubes (it’s like halfway between 1/3 and 1/2 cup butter) and plop that into the flour mixture.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 7

Use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter into the flour, so in the end all you get is crumbs.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 8

Find yourself some fresh rosemary.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 10

Take about three sprigs of that and chop it up so you end up with about 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary.  Add that to the flour mix.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 11

Find yourself some sharp cheddar.  If you have access to a Costco or you live in Ontario, make it a lovely Balderson aged cheddar.  It makes everything better.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 9

Gren knows exactly what the cheese grater looks like, where it’s stored, and what it does.  Unfortunately, I am not as liberal with my cheese droppings as the Pie is so he was disappointed today.  Grate up about 1 cup sharp cheddar and add that to the flour mix.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 12

Crumble up your bacon and add that to the flour mix.  Give the whole thing a good stir so everything is evenly distributed.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 13

In another bowl, plop 2 eggs and 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream, in Canada).  Stir that up.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 5

Pour the liquid into the flour.  Stir it around as much as you can.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 14

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 15

Eventually you will need your hands to make everything stick together into a ball. Knead that ball once or twice inside the bowl.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 16

Dump the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it down to a thickness of about 1 1/2″.  Use a cutter or a knife to divide it however you wish, and transfer it to the baking sheet.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 17

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 18

Bake for 12-15 minutes, checking to make sure they’re not browning too much.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 19

This one was pretty much fresh from the oven and the butter melted just looking at it.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 21

See?

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 23

We may have eaten these for dinner one rainy night.  Don’t judge us.

Cheese and Bacon Scones from The English Kitchen:

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  Grab yourself a baking sheet.  

Fry up some bacon.  The recipe calls for 4oz of bacon (who weighs bacon?  The British, naturally), but in the interest of fairness I just used the same amount as I did in the last batch, which was 7 slices bacon.  Go for extra crispy, then let it cool and break it up into wee bits.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 1

Sift together 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt into a large bowl.  I love my sifter, but a simple sieve is easier on the hands and a mite quicker. If you think your cayenne might be extra fresh, I would recommend using slightly less than a teaspoon — that stuff can build on you.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 2

Use a pastry cutter, and then probably your hands, to work 2 tablespoons cold cubed butter into the mix, until you have a crumb-y consistency.  Same as the last one.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 4

Grate up 1 cup sharp cheddar (again, go Balderson or go home).

Bacon Cayenne Scones 7

Add that to the flour mixture, along with the broken bacon.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 8

Whisk together 1 egg and 1 2/3 cups buttermilk.  You can sour milk with lemon juice, or vinegar but it’s not quite the same.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 6

Make an extinct volcano with your dry ingredients (dig a crater, yo) and pour the wet stuff into the hole.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 9

Mix this into a soft dough with your hands while trying the whole time not to knead it.  Apparently in this recipe kneading is a no-no. Dump your doughy mass onto a floured surface and pat the sticky stuff down with your hands until you get a little square patty about 3/4″ thick.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 10

Then you cut it into about 15-20 pieces. I decided, for science, to do mine the same way I did with the previous recipe, to get a better idea of how each one cooks.  Sliced into thick wedges, yis b’y.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 11

Plop those onto your baking sheet and pop them into your oven for 10-14 minutes, or until they’re risen and a nice golden brown. Just remember that this time is for the smaller square scones. If you make them big fat wedges you’re going to need to bake them for about 20-25 minutes.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 14

This recipe says to let them cool on a wire rack, but I’m not sure I can wait that long.  Where’s my butter?

Bacon Cayenne Scones 17

AND THE WINNER IS

Okay well there is no winner.  They’re both amazing.  I loved the fluffiness and slow heat of the English Kitchen version, and the flaky rosemary-ness of Wanna Be’s was amazing.

I mean, if I make these again I’ll probably combine my favourite elements of the two, and come up with my own version.  I always thought scones were hard, but these ladies have certainly corrected that assumption for me!

Fun with Science! Bouncy Balls!

Good morning!  Today we are introducing a new category to Ali Does It: MAD SCIENCE.

Cait and I did a lot of science together in high school, and we quite enjoyed ourselves.  So we decided, while I was home in Ottawa for a WHOLE MONTH, to do some more science to keep ourselves occupied and out of the Pie’s hair.

For our first attempt at science, we decided to create polymer bouncy balls.  Seemed simple enough.  We got all the necessary supplies at the dollar store, including these sparkly plastic Christmas balls that held chocolate.  We threw out the chocolate but kept the spheres to serve as moulds.

Rum and Glue Balls

So what you need to do this is borax; corn starch; white, clear, or blue school glue; warm water;  measuring spoons; two small plastic containers for mixing, as well as a stick or spoon for stirring; and optional glitter or food colouring.

Rum and Glue Balls

Pour 2 tablespoons warm water and 1/2 teaspoon borax into one of the containers and stir or shake it to dissolve the borax. If you want to add food colouring, now’s your chance.

Rum and Glue Balls

In the other container, pour 1 tablespoon glue.

Rum and Glue Balls

Add in 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 1 tablespoon of the borax solution that you just made. DO NOT STIR. Let this all mellow and mix together on its own for 15 seconds. I think maybe our container was too big because there wasn’t really any interaction going on.

Rum and Glue Balls

After fifteen seconds, whip out your spoon and start stirring. Stir until the mixture becomes too stiff to pull the spoon through.

Rum and Glue Balls

Then empty the contents of your container into your hands and start kneading. It will begin as super messy.

Rum and Glue Balls

But then it will start to come together.

Rum and Glue Balls

And eventually form a ball.

Rum and Glue Balls

However, we couldn’t really get our ball to fully solidify, and it never bounced, so we thought we’d try again.

This time we used clear glitter glue.

Rum and Glue Balls

This stuff ended up forming an odd sort of non-Newtonian fluid and never solidified at all. Not to mention it didn’t turn out translucent as promised.  I blame the weird dollar store glue.

Rum and Glue Balls

And of course the amounts we used were way too small to fit in our clever little moulds.

Rum and Glue Balls

Never mind. We’ll try again some time.

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore

Canadian Living always seems to have the best freezer-friendly recipes.  I haven’t tried this, but the stuff smelled great and when I licked my fingers to catch some spills I was quite happy.

I doubled the recipe, but the single batch makes 8 chicken thighs and a bunch of red delicious sauce.

Start with your vegetables.  Chop up an onion and a pepper.  I had some roasted red peppers in a jar so I used those as well to boost my quantities.

Chicken Cacciatore

Take 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  You can use bone-in ones to save money, but they will need to cook for twice as long.

Chicken Cacciatore

Toss them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons flour and some salt and pepper for seasoning.

Chicken Cacciatore

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil and, working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides.  You don’t need to cook it all the way through — you just want a nice crispy edge.  That’s why I like the skillet.

Chicken Cacciatore

Transfer the chicken to a plate and drain any fat out of the pan (if you used skinless chicken this shouldn’t be a problem).

Chicken Cacciatore

Add a bit more oil to the skillet and fry up your onion and pepper, with a little bit of minced garlic and some Italian seasoning (or basil and oregano if you don’t have it).

Chicken Cacciatore

Pour in 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 can tomato paste and bring it to a boil. Because I doubled the recipe, I ran out of room in the skillet and had to move to a pot, alas.

Chicken Cacciatore

Add your chicken back in and simmer for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serve over rice or pasta and sprinkled with parsley, or freeze for later, which is what I did.

Chicken Cacciatore

Gluten-Free Chocolate and Raisin Brownies

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Fussellette and I have been attempting to re-create the ooey-gooey goodness of Gluten-Free Pantry’s Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix.  This recipe, from one of my favourite bloggers Nick at Frugal Feeding, may very well replace that mix in my heart.

The ingredients are simple: chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, cocoa, almonds, and raisins.  And we all know the best things in life are often the simplest.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray and line a glass baking dish.  The larger your dish, the thinner your brownies will be, so keep that in mind.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

In a large metal bowl suspended over simmering water, melt together 200g dark chocolate and 75g butter until smooth.  Remove it from the heat and put it on a heatproof surface.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Chuck in 130g sugar and stir that up.  Then add in, one at a time, 2 eggs.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Stir in, as well, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons ground almonds.  I think next time I might experiment using almond flour instead, but today I didn’t have any. With just ground almonds I did have some trouble with cohesion when it was done.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

When that’s all combined, add in a couple handfuls raisins according to your preference.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

Slide that good stuff into your dish and bake for anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes, depending on your brownie depth, until the centre is JUST set.  If you bake any longer, then you’ll have cake, not a brownie, and that just isn’t the point.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies

As hard as it will be, make sure you let the brownies cool completely before slicing and serving.  in fact, it often helps, when making especially tender brownies, to freeze them for an hour before cutting them.  You can always heat them up again later, but if you move in too soon you’re likely to end up with a brownie mess.

Gluten-Free Raisin Brownies


Apple Clafoutis

Apple Clafoutis

This recipe comes from one of my favourite daily reads, Caroline over at The Wanna be Country Girl.  Clafoutis is a traditional French dish made with cherries.  Technically, if you’re making it with some other fruit you should call it a flaugnarde.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, okay?

This being my first ever clafoutis to bake and to eat, I can wholeheartedly say that it is a warm, comforting, and easy dish.  It practically makes itself.  It’s kind of like a half-pastry, half-custard, fruity pudding-y-type thing.  That’s the best way I can describe it.

So this is how you do it. Ask the kitchen spider to give you a hand.

Apple Clafoutis

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Take yourself some fruit, enough to fit in a single layer on the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate.  I decided that 4 Royal Gala apples would do the trick.

Apple Clafoutis

Peel, core, and cube those babies up and chuck them in a saucepan or frying pan with 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.  Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Apple Clafoutis

Butter your deep-dish pie plate and pour in the cooked fruit, together with the pan juices.

Apple Clafoutis

In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup flour and 3/4 cup sugar.  Add to that 3 eggs, slightly beaten, and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk.

Apple Clafoutis

Mix thoroughly.  You’ll have a super-runny batter.

Apple Clafoutis

Pour that batter over the fruit in your pie dish.  The fruit will float to the top, don’t worry.

Apple Clafoutis

Shove that in the oven and bake it for about an hour, until the whole thing is set.

Apple Clafoutis

Allow to cool, but serve warm.  So custardy and good!

Apple Clafoutis

Oh, Gum Drops!

Gum Drops!

I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella.  I think it’s awesome.  Challenge accepted.

Gum Drops!

Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint.  She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being.  I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry.  I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”.  I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.

Gum Drops!

You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.

So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.

Gum Drops!

Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.

Gum Drops!

Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.

Gum Drops!

Some are downright lurid.

Gum Drops!

Now we’re ready to go.  Five flavours here.

Gum Drops!

And my “fruit salad” here.

Gum Drops!

The recipe below will give you two flavours.  I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.

Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops.  I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.

Gum Drops!

So.  Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.

Gum Drops!

In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water.  Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.

Gum Drops!

Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.

Gum Drops!

Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat.  You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over.  And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight.  No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone.  I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all.  They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though.  I had to do that three times.

Gum Drops!

Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other.  Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.

Gum Drops!

Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.

Gum Drops!

Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days).  See how nice and firm that is?

Gum Drops!

Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.

Gum Drops!

This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.

Gum Drops!

Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation.  It looks like a lung or something …

Gum Drops!

Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.

Gum Drops!

Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.

Gum Drops!

I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates.  You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned.  Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.

Gum Drops!

Cut the strips into the sugar.

Gum Drops!

Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.

Gum Drops!

A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:

Gum Drops!

Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.

Gum Drops!

Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself!  It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!

You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.

Gum Drops!
Clockwise from top left: Fruit Salad, Raspberry, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry

Tofu Feature Month: Tofu-Spinach Calzones

Tofu Spinach Calzone

[Note from Photographer’s Ego: Yes, I know these pictures fail to follow that number one rule of food photography: use natural light!  I will be building myself a light box soon, not to fret.]

This will be our final tofu recipe for you folks for a while.  Our digestive systems are not used to so much soy and they have unequivocally had enough.  The Pie especially so.  Poor man.  Pity him that his wife cooks new things for him on a regular basis.  Tsk.

The last time the Pie and I attempted calzones, we ended up with floor pizza.  I was determined to get it right this time.  The recipe below, with some modifications, comes from the Savvy Vegetarian, and it’s pretty easy.  The dough is nice and stretchy, and I could definitely use it again for a calzone with a different filling, which is exciting!  The yield for this is 10 hand-hold-able calzones, and I halved it (because there’s only the Pie and myself — Gren doesn’t get people food).

For the dough:

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in 1 1/4 cups warm water.  Stir in 2 teaspoons active dry yeast and allow that to sit for 10 minutes.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Or until it gets all foamy.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

In a larger bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to 3 cups flour and mix well.

Rub in (exactly how it sounds) 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Rub it between your fingers until there are no large clumps left.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Stir the water/yeast mixture into the flour until it forms a shaggy ball.  Make sure to get all the floury goodness at the bottom of the bowl.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

On a floured surface, knead the ball for about 10 minutes.  The more you knead it, the tackier it will get, so you will need to add more flour on occasion.  Also, keep in mind that the more you knead it, the more elastic it will be (because you worked all the gluten together).  You want your dough to be nice and stretchy.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with a clean cloth and set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

For the filling:

Dice up 1/4 cup onion, and about 8 mushrooms and toss them in a frying pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons minced garlic.  Sauté until soft.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

In a small bowl, mix up 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon powdered vegetable stock, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, a pinch of cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Toss that on the vegetables in the pan and stir it around.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Plop in 16 ounces fresh baby spinach (you can use frozen spinach, if you thaw it and drain it first), as well as 2 12-ounce packages of firm silken tofu and a dash of soy sauce.  You can break up the tofu before you toss it in, but it gave me something to do while I waited for the spinach to wilt.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

I had some leftover chèvre, 8 ounces worth, so I tossed that in as well.  So if you’d like to add that to this recipe, chuck in 8-16 ounces goat’s cheese and stir it around until well-incorporated and completely melted.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Remove the mixture from the heat.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Calzone Assembly and Baking:

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Punch down your dough.  Literally.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Divide it into 10 equal parts, rolled into balls (remember, my recipe is halved, that’s why you only see five).

Tofu Spinach Calzone

On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a 6″ round.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Divide the filling into 10 equal parts and place each portion on a round, slightly to one side.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Wet the edges of the dough with your finger and fold over each round to make a half circle.

Squish down the edges with your finger and crimp with a fork to seal them.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Place the calzones on a baking sheet.  You can brush them with oil and sprinkle them with salt if you like, for a crusty, salty top.  I chose to cook ours on our pizza stone, which I put in the oven when I turned it on. Cut two diagonal slices in the top of each calzone to let the steam escape.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the filling bubbles up through the holes.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Be careful, they’re HOT!

Espresso Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream

Espresso Cupcakes

So here I was, trying to come up with a good morning cupcake for my Sweet Treats committee at work.  Everyone at the firm seems to need a bit of a caffeine kick in the morning, so I thought I would modify my espresso brownies into cupcake form.  Then I thought, what about a smooth mocha buttercream icing on top?  Yeah, that sounded good.

Espresso Cupcakes

And then, lo and behold, what did I find on the internet?  The exact recipe I wanted!  And I didn’t even have to make it up myself!  Score one for the lazy part of me and big thanks to Nam for cooking it up and writing it down.

Brew  up a pot of strong coffee and save 1 cup coffee for this recipe.  Do what you like with the rest (preferably drink it, or save it for iced coffee).

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin pans with cupcake cups.

In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups cocoa, 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and set aside.

Espresso Cupcakes

Dissolve 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder in 1 cup coffee and set that aside.

Espresso Cupcakes

Clear the spider out of your stand mixer.  Apologize profusely to it as you send it on its merry way, but explain that despite its residency of nearly two weeks in your bowl, it does not qualify for squatters’ rights.  Then decide that, as you are doubling the recipe, the batter won’t fit in the mixer anyway, and opt for a larger bowl and a hand mixer.  Sorry, spider.

Espresso Cupcakes

In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together 2/3 cup canola oil, 2 eggs, 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until well combined.  Add in 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar and mix some more.

Espresso Cupcakes

Pour in the coffee and beat for another minute.

Espresso Cupcakes

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Espresso Cupcakes

Using a spoon, fill the paper cups about two-thirds full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.

Espresso Cupcakes

Let the cupcakes rest in the pan for about five minutes before removing them to a rack.  Remember that a super hot dropped cupcake will explode all over your floor, while a cooler cupcake will just bounce a bit.  That’s a handy fact to remember.

Espresso Cupcakes

Now for the luscious buttercream frosting.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (you know, like the one you just used), whip 10 tablespoons room temperature butter (which, by the way, is 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons butter) until it’s fluffy, light, and creamy. Add in 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder and whip until combined.

Espresso Cupcakes

Slowly add in 3 tablespoons room temperature espresso (you can make this by following the instructions on your bottle of instant espresso powder).  As with most buttercreams, it will look a little curdled and gross at this point, but don’t you worry.

Espresso Cupcakes

A little bit at a time, add in 3-4 cups icing sugar.  You may need more or less, depending on the consistency you want, or the temperature outside, or a bunch of other variables.  Just go with what looks (and tastes) right to you.  Refrigerate the buttercream for at least ten minutes before using.

Espresso Cupcakes

Once the cupcakes have completely cooled and the frosting has chilled out a little, you can frost your cupcakes, or pipe on the frosting, if you wish.

Espresso Cupcakes

Garnish each cupcake with a dusting of cocoa powder (or some shaved chocolate) or a chocolate-covered espresso bean.

Espresso Cupcakes

Your coworkers will be appropriately wowed, especially once the caffeine kicks in.  Good morning to you, too!

Espresso Cupcakes

Tofu Feature Month: Corn and Tofu au Gratin

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

This quick and warm meal comes just in time for the start of school and our rainy season here in Newfoundland.  So while the wind howls outside our windows, averaging 75km/h (on a relatively calm day), and the rain patters through the holes in our leaky roof, we can curl up after a long day at school with this comforting little casserole.   I pulled it from Metro’s recipe site, and modified it a bit because I can’t find chipotle purée anywhere (hint, hint: stocking stuffers, people).

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Chop up about 1/2 a small onion.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Chuck in your chopped onion and 2 teaspoons minced garlic and sweat that stuff for a minute or so.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Next, crumble up 1 (1lb) package firm tofu and dump that into the pan.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Add in 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons chipotle seasoning (chipotle purée if you can get it), 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and the leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Also add 1 12oz can of corn, drained (you could probably use thawed frozen corn, too). This is the world’s best can opener, by the way. We got it at Lee Valley. You should get one.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Then add 1 cup vegetable broth.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Stir that around and reduce for 5-10 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Transfer the whole shebang to a baking dish and top with 7oz crumbled chèvre (goat’s cheese).

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin

Bake until the cheese is melty (chèvre doesn’t get all runny, so you have to keep an eye on it), about 10 minutes, and serve right away.  Fantastic reheated the next day as well.

Spicy Corn & Tofu Gratin