Cream of Asparagus Soup

This is what happens when your husband decides to buy two bunches of asparagus for dinner and promptly forgets about the second one. And look, a photo!   Cream of Asparagus Soup oil or butter for pan (I used olive oil) 1 onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, chopped 1 lb asparagus, chopped, reserve tips 2 cups chicken stock 1 cup milk or cream 4 slices prosciutto Chop everything up. Bring stock to a boil in one pan (or thaw and boil in the microwave, in my case!). In another, heat oil. Add onions and garlic. Heat approx. 10 minutes until soft. Add asparagus and 2 slices prosciutto and heat until soft. Approx 5 minutes. Add basil for 30 seconds before removing from heat. Put asparagus mixture into blender. Add broth as needed to help puree. Transfer puree back to pan. Rinse blender with remaining stock and add to pan. Add cream and asparagus tips. Heat until tips are cooked. Serve warm; sprinkle remaining prosciutto on top. To make this dairy free I used olive oil (would have preferred butter) and a soy coffee creamer in place of milk/cream.

Balloon Party: The Cake

Having a blog is a great way to organize your thoughts! I'm going to keep updating this post as I figure this key element out. Baby Girl has a dairy allergy, and I suspect an egg allergy, which makes the whole cake thing a bit challenging. There is a really popular Wacky Cake out there, but it uses cocoa powder, which I'm not too keen on. One, I don't like chocolate cake, and two, last time she had any caffeine (I had an Earl Grey soy latte at 7pm while nursing), she was wired until 3am. Now, she was three weeks old at the time, but it's not an experience I want to repeat! So no cocoa powder, and I don't know how integral to the recipe it is. Cake trial number one: Pinterest lead me to a Vanilla Sponge Cake that can be made gluten, dairy, egg, nut, and pretty much all allergen free. I'm going to make this for desert when we have Ryan's expectant godsister and her hubby over to check out some of my baby carriers (I may have a bit of a carrier problem...). Hopefully this works and we'll be all set. If not, I have a box of my favourite "looks like you spent hours instead of less time than it takes the oven to heat up" desert on hand. Cake colouring: Another Pinterest find (what part of this party didn't get it's source from Pinterest? Oh, right, the movie!), I want to make it a rainbow cake, without any food colouring. Frosting: I am not a cake decorator. Any time I've tried to ice something in the past it has gone horribly wrong. And yet, I still wanted to give it a shot. I found a buttercream recipe I could adapt to be dairy free (what? buttercream doesn't actually have butterjQuery15206313854226691823_1400019203538? I had no clue!). And as lovely as the Hydrangea frosting is, I didn't think I'd be able to pull it off, so I went with the much more popular (and simple, and supposedly super quick) rose design. I also love her video tutorial. I need to make a trip to Michaels to pick up some piping bags and an "M1" tip and I'll give it a try! Wish me luck (I'm going to need it!).   Cake One Results: It was a bit oily, insanely sweet, and a little dense, but I think I can work with this recipe. The icing was really oily, so I'm going to experiment with mixing shortening and Earth Balance spread. Cake trial number two: My girlfriend wanted to see how I did the roses, so I whipped up a second cake over the weekend. This time I used club soda instead of water, apple sauce in place of the oil, and reduced the sugar by a quarter cup. The cake ended up quite dense and not sweet enough. The icing wasn't as thick as it should have been, so I need to play with the ratios a bit more. Cake trial number three: I made this cake for Baby Girl's one year photo shoot/cake smash. I went back to water, split the oil/apple sauce 50/50, and increased the sugar slightly. I was pretty happy with the cake, but still found it dense. The joys of not being able to cook with egg! I tried colouring the icing using blended strawberries and it was a complete disaster. I had to start over from scratch with zero time left. The final cake: I made both a sheet cake (double batch) and a "smash" cake for Baby Girl. During the week between cake three and her party we discovered that eggs were okay, so I decided to ditch the oil/apple sauce struggle and just use egg, which really helped the fluff factor (though it is still a pound cake!). Icing wasn't great again. I didn't tint the cake, so I coloured the cake with some liquid dye I had (after the disaster with cake three I wasn't fussing with alternative colouring sources). I made the icing slightly too runny this time. I iced the cake on Saturday night and by the party on Sunday the roses on the side of the smash cake had slumped a little.   Final opinion: I am not a cake person! I'll probably switch to pies or other deserts after this. No one cares about a two year old doing a cake smash, thankfully. The cake, however, was a huge hit.   Some other links that caught my eye include: Dairy/Soy free frosting Vegan Orange frosting

Christmas morning dairy free overnight Caramel French Toast

My family does Christmas morning at my parents' house each year. We do a yummy brunch while opening gifts. In previous years I've made this coffee cake, but wanted to do something different this year. Also, being dairy free, I was worried about finding frozen yeast rolls I could eat. For several years I've eyed Pioneer Woman's cinnamon buns, but they look like too much work (especially when we are hosting Ryan's mom for dinner on Christmas Eve, when I should be preparing it). And there is a lot of butter in that recipe! Any time I see an overnight/wifesaver type of recipe pop up on Pinterest I add it to my Christmas board, so after some browsing of the options I came across this Overnight Caramel French Toast. It does call for a bit of dairy, and the heavy cream was concerning, but I was able to find substitutions for everything! Dairy Free Overnight French Toastmodified from Six Sisters' Stuff Topping: 1 cup packed brown sugar 7 tablespoons dairy free margarine (I used Earth Balance buttery spread) 1/3 cup less a tablespoon soy coffee cream 1 tablespoon corn syrup Optional: crushed nuts (pecans or walnuts would be good) French Toast: 6 eggs 1 cup dairy free milk (or use the coffee cream if you won't have any other use for it) 2 teaspoons vanilla 1/2 teaspoon salt dairy free bread slices to fill your pan (I found a nice airy artisan bread at my local grocery store with lots of holes to sop up the batter) Directions: Coat a non-stick 9x13 baking pan with something to keep this from sticking. Yes, it's that sticky. I did a light coat of olive oil and we had issues. So don't skimp, especially on the sides. In a 2 quart saucepan mix and heat the caramel sauce until smooth. Don't boil it! Transfer into the baking pan. In a bowl that will fit your bread nicely (to sop up the very last bit of egg batter), mix the French Toast ingredients (except the bread). Dip your bread to get it sopping wet and transfer to the baking pan. I placed mine on a 45 degree angle so I could get more bread in, the original recipe placed them flat. I think there is enough caramel sauce you can fit in the extra bread and still have lots, but feel free to be caramel greedy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes at 400 F until bubbly and toast is golden brown. Let stand 3 minutes. Place a serving tray over top of the pan and invert so if flops out and the caramel goodness is now on top. Scrape any caramel still in the pan over top. Serve immediately (as if you could resist). If I make this again (and I am very tempted to), I will add a teaspoon or two (or five - I'm an addict) of cinnamon to the French Toast batter, as I found the bread a bit lacking in flavour. I'm not a fan of nutmeg or I'd also add that. Sorry for no photo, it was quickly devoured!

Christmas Baking: Date squares

Growing up, his grandmother's date squares were one of my dad's favourite treats. These super sweet goodies were also one of my favourites. We now make three pans of them; one for each household, and they all quickly disappear! Oatmeal Date Cake (Date Squares)2 cups oatmeal2 cups flour1 cup brown sugar1/2 cup butter1/2 cup lard (shortening)1/2 cup sour milk1/2 tsp baking sodaMix all together. Split in two. Press half into bottom of 13x9x2 inch pan. Spread filling. Put rest on top.Filling:1 lb dates1 cup brown sugar1 cup waterBoil until mushy.

Christmas Baking: Butter tarts

My maternal grandmother made the most amazing, runny butter tarts, and I was lucky enough to get a copy of her recipe before she passed away ten years ago. I've actually had to share it with a few of my relatives because they'd lost their copies. This year my dad substituted maple syrup for the corn syrup. The tarts ended up a bit less runny, but super tasty. I'm usually lazy and use frozen tart shells, but I forgot them at home this year (we bake at my parents'), so I actually made pastry for them! Very indulgent of my father and husband (as they are the primary eaters, since I can't have dairy this year). Butter Tartsegg1/3 c butter3/4 c brown sugar (packed)1/4 c corn syrup (or maple syrup)1 tsp vanilladash saltnuts, raisins or both (or none - my choice!) Beat egg.Add butter and sugar and beat.Add other stuff (except nuts & raisins).Grandma plumped up raisins in hot water first (or you could use rum). She'd put nuts/raisins in tart shells and spooned the wet mixture on top. For yummiest results you want the wet mixture so it would just fill the tart shell, but kind of rounded. This will help avoid it boiling over the edge while cooking.Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.Lower temp to 350 until brown (for another 5 to 10 minutes) or done.I discovered that my old oven doesn't actually get even close to as warm as it claims, so if you like them runny, cook at 325 for 8 minutes then lower to 300 for about 15-20. Thanks to that oven, I can't cook a "solid" butter tart! (Which rocks for my Dad who loves them runny, but Ryan doesn't like them quite that messy.)

Christmas Baking: Poppycock

I love how quick this recipe is to put together. It probably isn't the most Christmas-y of recipes, but that is when it's become a tradition to make it in my family. This would probably be great at Haloween as well. Poppycock 1/2 cup butter or margarine1 cup packed brown sugar1/4 cup light corn syrup1/2 tsp. baking soda1 cup peanuts8 cups popped popcorn (1/3 cup unpopped)In three quart glass bowl, combine butter, sugar and syrup. Cook in microwave on High for 3 minutes.Stir. Add baking soda and stir gently until light and foamy. Cook 1 ½ minutes. Stir in nuts. Add popcorn (make sure you remove any un-popped kernels first) and stir until well coated. Cook 1 ½ minutes. Spread mixture onto buttered parchment paper. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to harden. Loosen mixture form parchment paper and break into pieces.

Christmas Baking: Nuts and Bolts

Nuts and bolts have been a family favourite for years. We can often go through five batches of this in a holiday season. I've made them so many times it's almost become an art. I've put a bunch of my tips into this version of the recipe.   Nuts and Bolts 2 cups Shreddies/Chex2 cups Cheerios2.5 cups pretzels1.5 cups peanuts ½ cup butter (melted)1.5 tbsp Worchestershire sauce¾ tsp garlic salt¾ tsp celery salt While butter is melting in the microwave, measure dry ingredients into a 9x13x2” pan. Add Worcestershire sauce, garlic and celery salt to butter. Stir until combined. Drizzle over dry ingredients. Mix (get in there with your hands!). Bake at 250 for 30 minutes, stirring once. Stir after it comes out of the oven and again after about ten minutes of cooling for best flavour distribution. I actually don’t own garlic salt and will substitute garlic powder. And I’m always a little heavy on the Worcester. Makes it taste better! I also strategically measure my ingredients in the reverse order to what they are listed above so the Chex and Cheerios get the most sauce.

Christmas Baking: Turtles

Several years ago, a co-worker told me the story of her infamous turtles. She found the recipe in a Company's Coming cookbook when she was young and foolish, and gave it a try. She hasn't gone a Christmas since without making them, and now makes several batches to give away to family, friends, co-workers, and her husband's staff and clients. I figured what the heck, I'll give it a try. And now I'm in same conundrum. These babies are a lot of work, but are incredibly tasty. I can't eat commercial turtles any more (they also look ridiculously dinky to me now), and they used to be one of my favourite holiday treats.   Turtles1.5-2 lbs Pecans (I buy the 1kg bag from Superstore and use it all or the 2lb bag from Costco and have a bit extra caramel)1.5 c corn syrup1 c butter1 can (approx 1 cup) sweetened condensed milk1 c packed brown sugar 2c semisweet chocolate chips (or more – I normally need at least twice this; and buy the good chocolate, Chipits don't melt well) Cover several large trays (cookie sheets, cutting boards, etc) with plastic wrap, parchment paper or Silpat. Combine syrup, butter, sugar, and condensed milk in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring. Continue to boil slowly over low heat stirring constantly for about 25 minutes to medium hard (soft-ball) stage (250F on a candy thermometer – a small amount dropped in ice water will form a firm ball that can hold its shape but can easily be flattened; the colour will start to get a bit darker at this point). Remove from heat and mix in pecans. Spoon 3-5 pecans and caramel into clumps onto trays. Freeze until firm for easy dipping. Melt chocolate chips. Dip pecan clumps (balance on forks). Place back on plastic wrap to set. Makes 5-9 dozen depending on cluster size. First paragraph takes about an hour. For information on soft-ball stage, view my YouTube video I made for friends last year.

Christmas baking

Every year I get together with my dad and sister to do a day of marathon baking. As both my sister and I have kids under 1 (plus my sister's older two), we decided to split the baking up over two days - it was still a marathon! Day 1 My sister had a birthday party to take her kids to in the morning, so Dad and I started the day by making butter tarts, then prepping the crusts for tourtiere we'd make once my sister arrived. I hate making pastry, but I'm told the butter tarts turned out great (unfortunately, I can't eat them this year because of our daughter's dairy intolerance). The crust for the tourtiere ended up a little dry for both the butter and the non-butter version; I suspect part of this due to using shortening instead of lard. We finished off the day with a few batches of nuts and bolts and poppycock. Overall, I'd say going dairy free using Earth Balance buttery spread worked out okay for everything but the pastry (and I'm just not that good at making pastry). Ryan actually said he liked the poppycock better than in previous years. Day 2 This was a day of torture for me. I spent most of it dealing with a cranky baby or making turtles. Those stupid things are a labour of love and contain so much dairy I can't even look at them without my daughter getting ill (she did have a minor reaction that night, so I suspect I licked my fingers by accident). My sister and dad also did up some shortbread and date squares, and one more batch of nuts and bolts. The dairy free date squares were very tasty - more like what I remember from my childhood than what we've been making in recent years (it's amazing the difference butter makes!). We had some extra time so we also tried making up a batch of sugar cookies. Mine ended up with a strange almond flavour which we suspect was due to the Earth Balance, though it doesn't contain any nuts.   I've split the recipes up in their own posts so this one isn't a mile long! Turtles Nuts & Bolts Poppycock Shortbread Buttertarts Date squares Sugar cookies Tourtiere

Freezer Food Exchange: Chow Mein and Lumpia (spring rolls)

This post is part of my Freezer Food Exchange diary. Similar to a Christmas cookie exchange, a group of people all bring a set amount of food for each participant (a dozen cookies, two frozen 3-4 serving dinners, etc). In this case, everyone made two dinners worth of two dishes for each participant. There were six of us for November, 2013, so we all came home with 24 meals, two of twelve different dishes.   For November, one of the dishes Jenny decided to share was my mom's spring rolls and some pancit. Of course, getting the recipe from her is a bit like pulling teeth, so I found one online. The pancit was a total fail, and the spring rolls were edible, but need some improvement. Next time, I'll likely add some diced potato and water chetnuts to give it more moisture, along with a bit of cabbage. Be careful when you're buying the wrappers for these to buy spring roll wrappers and NOT egg roll wrappers. Spring roll wrappers are about 8-10 inches wide, and much thinner than egg roll wrappers. I decided to fall back on a noodle dish I know how to make, Chow Mein. Chow Mein Small prawns 2/3rd 1 pkg of 3 minute chow mein noodles 2 tbsp cooking oil   Meat Marinade: 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 tbsp sesame oil 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or equivalent in thighs) cut thin 1/2 lb of pork tenderloin (sliced thin) Veggies: 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced into 1 inch strips 2 carrots julienned 1 medium sweet onion 2 cups snow peas 1 cup chopped cilantro Additional options: bok choy water chestnuts green onions Sauce: 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce 4 tbsp oyster sauce (or hoisan sauce) 3 cups chicken stock 3 tbs corn starch 1 tbsp sesame oil   Slice all veggies. Slice up the chicken breasts and pork tenderloin. Combine the marinade ingredients, mix the meat into it and set aside. Get a large sauce pot or a wok, and get it hot with approximately 2 tbsp of your favourite cooking oil. Get a pot of water boiling too. In a small saucepot, combine the sauce ingredients and cook at low heat until thickened. Take the cabbage, carrots, onions, snow peas and other vegetables and throw them into the pot. Put a cup of water in and cook until everything has softened. Remove vegetables and set aside. Put the meat into the pot with the marinade and cook thoroughly. Add the shrimp once the meat is about halfway done. Remove and set aside after it is cooked. Cook the noodles in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, put back into the pot and toss with sesame oil. Cook for 2 minutes. Immediately add vegetables, meat and sauce and combine well. Serve with a squirt of lime juice.