Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

There’s no doubt in my mind that if I were to log my daily eating routine and share it with you, 99% of you would find it boring 99% of the time. What can I say? For someone who loves food, I also tend to opt for simplicity and efficiency of preparation when making meals. It means a lot of salads, smoothies and just raw fruits and vegetables (leaving room for chocolate of course). Not the most exciting, I know, but I’m not proclaiming it to be either.

So when I go out of my way to make something a bit more interesting for dinner, it feels like it would be a waste not to share it here. I was craving breakfast for dinner the other day, hence these huevos rancheros were born. Let’s face it, when can you go wrong with topping a dish with a runny egg? Actually that doesn’t sound very good. “Runny” should only be associated with colds and flus. But the alternative “oozy” isn’t much better. Unless you are describing an open wound. Thanks for tuning into “How not to make your food sound appealing” with Mallory Frayn. Eggs are good. We will leave it at that. Eggs and beans – even better.

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 1 sweet white onion, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 eggs, cooked either over-easy or sunny side up
  • shredded cheese, if desired
Instructions
  1. Slice up your onion and cook it over medium heat with a pinch of salt until it is softened and caramelized.
  2. Stir in your sliced bell pepper and tomato, adding the spices (chilli powder, cumin, oregano) and stirring so that everything is evenly distributed.
  3. Drain your beans, but don't rinse them - you want some of the starchy liquid to help make the sauce. Add in the beans to the sautéed vegetables and stir to combine.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and allow to cook for at least 15 minutes to bring all the flavours together. You can make it ahead and cook it longer if you have the time.
  5. Before serving, cook your eggs however you like them, 1 per serving, seasoning them with salt and pepper as well. Then put the bean "stew" of sorts in the bottom of your serving vessel of choice, and top each portion with an egg. Enjoy!

Huevos Rancheros

Green and Black’s Flourless Chocolate Torte

Green and Black’s Flourless Chocolate Torte

Everyone has different motivations for cooking, baking or whatever other kitchen-related activities they choose to participate in. I would say that a large portion of the population simply makes food because they have to eat it to survive. In many cases convenience is the number one priority, meaning that eating out is preferred to eating in. You also have the people who really like to cook – but simply because they really like to consume the final product that they make (hey if it tastes good, there’s nothing wrong with that, assuming you leave some room for moderation). Then you have people like me. Yes we like to cook and bake, and no, we do not completely abstain from eating our creations. But for the most part, we are perfectly content baking up a storm for hours on end, and then feeding the majority of our efforts to those around us. It’s almost like the introvert/extravert distinction, but in the kitchen. Intro-bakers keep things to themselves. Extra-bakers give it away.

I get questioned about this all of the time. People cannot wrap their heads around the fact that you would make something and hardly eat any of it. “What’s the point?” seems to be the common concern. I was feeling especially contemplative yesterday and thought about it as I kneaded a batch of bread that I had no intentions of eating (the buns turned out like pathetic little pancakes so maybe it was karma). I concluded that for me at least, it comes down to motivation; intrinsic vs. extrinsic. Whereas intrinsic motivators come from within, extrinsic motivators are those that are present in the environment around us. It does get a bit complicated because some might argue that baking to eat is an intrinsically motivated process. I disagree with that. I will argue instead that you are baking to serve an extrinsic motivator, that being hunger, taste or what have you. See true intrinsic motivation doesn’t require anything else to validate it. I bake because I enjoy it for what it is. The entire process puts me in my happy place. If you know what I am talking about, I am sure you can relate. Otherwise, you think I am crazy, I know. I get that a lot. That’s not to say that extrinsic motivation doesn’t play a role though. Giving food to other people and seeing the enjoyment they get from it definitely serves as extrinsic motivation. No matter how intrinsically motivated you are to cook or bake, if you continually experienced rejection from those you tried to share it with, I don’t doubt that you would lose the extrinsic motivation to keep doing it.

See it’s a careful balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation – in all aspects of life. Ultimately, you want to strive for extrinsic motivation, yes. But you cannot discount the importance of extrinsic motivators either. Would you go to work every day if you did not get paid for it? And would you work for free if you never got any recognition for the job you were doing? If your answer to either of those questions is “yes”, you are a better person than I will ever be. Hey, maybe I could work for free, but realistically I could only do it if I was extrinsically motivated by chocolate.

Now about this torte. My love for Green and Black’s Organic Chocolate runs deep. Although they have some amazing flavours like Burnt Toffee (used here) and white chocolate, studded with little flecks of vanilla bean (used here), sometimes you just have to go for the classic, 70% stuff. Make no mistake, this flourless chocolate torte is the perfect, rich application to show it off for all it is worth. If you like light, fluffy desserts, this torte probably should not be your go-to. But for all you other intrinsically or extrinsically motivated chocolate lovers out there, this torte is for you!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Green and Black's Flourless Chocolate Torte
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Green and Black's Flourless Chocolate Torte
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 100g bars of Green and Black's Organic dark chocolate (I used a combination of 70% and 85% bars)
  • ¾ cup (6 oz.) butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1¼ cup (8 oz.) brown sugar
  • 1 mandarin orange, juice and zest
  • ⅔ cup ground almonds (ground hazelnuts also work)
Instructions
  1. Melt together the dark chocolate and butter, either over a double boiler or just in the microwave. Let it cool slightly at room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, orange juice, zest and almonds.
  3. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into an 8 inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F until it doesn't jiggle anymore, about 40 minutes.
  5. Allow the torte to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Chill for at least 2 hours prior to slicing and serving.
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

vanilla bean ice cream
Oh hi guys. I guess I kind of dropped off the face of the planet there for a bit. Well 3 days, but it sure feels like longer. In that time I honestly did not touch anything related to blogging. No new posts, no Facebook updates, no scouring the interweb or communicating with other food bloggers. I could attribute this to the busy start of a new semester but that is not the truth. In the past I have always found time for this site, no matter what other things are going on at school or otherwise. The break had more to do with the feelings I have been having towards blogging lately. As you may or may not know, I don’t make any money from this site. It is purely a hobby, but over the past little while it has started to feel more like a chore. I set up these expectations for myself that I had to blog regularly, at least 3 times a week, to ensure I was creating new and relevant content to expand my readership. Progress did not really occur as quickly as I would have liked and putting 20 hours a week into this thing for fun was not so fun anymore. Burned out isn’t the right word to describe it, more like a combination of frustration and anger sums it up better. Maybe my expectations were too high and I should have lowered the bar. Then I got thinking about what I really want to get out of this whole shebang. Yes, I would like to increase traffic. Yes, I would eventually like to make some money from it if I am doing it anyways. But do I actually want a career food blogging? Not really. If some sort of unforeseen opportunity came up I would definitely consider it, but otherwise I have a career plan in process and it is one that I really enjoy. So why am I getting so stressed out about this blog?
It’s probably the competitiveness in me that says I can’t do anything without diving headfirst into it and not looking back. I don’t want to write a blog that no one reads. I don’t need to be the next Joy the Baker but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I want some recognition. Despite my efforts, right now I feel as though I have not really accomplished much. And those feelings make it really difficult to commit myself to this when I know that it isn’t going to effect my livelihood in the long run.
Where do we go from here, or more specifically, where do I go from here? I have put far too much work and effort into this to throw in the towel, I know that much for sure. At the same time, I know the focus has to be on creating something that I enjoy and obsessing less about readers and followers. Which is hard because it is a blog, not a diary. I am giving serious thought to switching over to WordPress though. I have used it at work and I definitely think it is the next step in bettering this site. Who knows? I could get to it this afternoon or continue to put it off for the time being. Decisions, decisions.
That’s where I am at right now. As for a recipe, today I have more ice cream coming your way. We are well on our way to assembling all of the components into a homemade ice cream cake. Have a great weekend everyone!
vanilla bean ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Ingredients

1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped out
3/4 cup white sugar
pinch salt
5 egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream

Instructions

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk, vanilla, sugar and salt. Allow it to steep for at least 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile pour the whipping cream into a bowl and place this bowl in a sink filled with ice water. Put a fine mesh sieve on top of the bowl so you are all ready to strain your custard when the time comes.
3. Place the egg yolks in another bowl. Reheat the milk and gradually whisk it into the eggs to temper them. Pour everything back into the pot and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
4. Pour to custard through the sieve, into the whipping cream. Stir to help it chill off (you want to do this as quickly as possible so that the eggs do not overcook).
5. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.
6. Once chilled through, churn the custard in an ice cream maker for 20-25 minutes, or until it reaches the consistency of soft serve. Freeze and enjoy!

vanilla bean ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream

Halloween Candy Bread Pudding

We had all of 5 trick-or-treaters show up for Halloween this year; dismal turn-out, I know. But it made for lots of leftover candy. Depending on how you look at it, that is either really bad – more candy to eat – or really good – more candy to eat. I’m going with really good. Especially because it led to this Halloween candy bread pudding. Everyone puts leftover candy in bark and cookies and blondies so I figured I would try something different. Watch, now you are all going to jump on the Halloween candy bread pudding bandwagon, I just know it.
Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
That wasn’t the only great idea I had. I got thinking about Halloween candy and trick-or-treating, which naturally brought me to psychology. A logical progression, obviously. I started wondering if any studies had been done related to the topic. I mean, a lot of really weird experiments have been run in the field of psychology so some crazy back in the 60’s or 70’s must have looked at Halloween. And what do you know, back in 1976 there was a study published titled “Effects of Deindividuation Variables on Stealing Among Halloween Trick-or-Treaters”. Don’t worry, it’s a lot simpler than it sounds.
 
Essentially what they did was stage an experiment in 27 homes in Seattle on Halloween night. Here is a lowdown of the set-up:
 
– a female experimenter greeted the kids when they came to the door (keep in mind these kids just thought it was any old house and all they wanted was their candy).
– in the entrance there was a table with both Halloween candy and money. The kids were told that they were only allowed to take 1 piece of candy. The money was not mentioned by the experimenter.
– she then left the room and they had another researcher hiding in the back, recording what the kids did.
 
Are you still with me? Good.
 
Here’s where things got interesting. They varied the conditions so that some kids remained anonymous and others did not. What does this mean? Well the experimenter asked the non-anonymous kids what their names were and where they lived. Obviously not creepy or pedaphilic in the slightest. They found that the kids who remained anonymous were more likely to take extra candy and more likely to steal the money. Rates of stealing were even higher when the kids were in a group vs. trick-or-treating alone. This suggested that the kids were modelling their behaviour after that of their peers. In the anonymous condition, if the first child in the group transgressed and took extra, there was a 83.3% chance that at least one other child would as well. But if the first child only took one piece of candy, 88.6% of their peers did as well. I know this was done back in 1976 but I think it’s safe to say that peer influence in kids is pretty huge.
 
What else has this study taught us? Well first of all, if you don’t want kids stealing from you, be sure to ask for their full name and address. The parents might call the cops but at least you will still have all of your possessions. More importantly though, to all you kids out there, don’t give into peer pressure. Sure it’s only Halloween candy now but who knows what that could escalate to? On the bright side, all it takes is one good role model to set the tone. One good role model and a complete stranger who wants to know every detail of your life. Awesome.
 
I love the experiments they were allowed to run back before ethics were ever considered. Imagine replicating this study today. You would be labelled as a sex offender before you even had the chance to explain yourself. Really, you might as well park a white van on the driveway while you are at it. It does make for interesting reading though!
Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
Halloween Candy Bread Pudding

Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
Makes 9 portions

Ingredients

5 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
6 hot dog buns, cubed (or 5-6 cups of cubed, dry bread)
1 – 1 1/2 cups leftover Halloween candy (I used Smarties and chopped up Aero bars)

Instructions

1. Heat your oven to 325F. Line a 9″ pan with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add in the milk and whisk to incorporate.
3. Mix the dry bread cubes into the custard. Allow it to stand for at least 5 minutes to soak up some of the liquid.
4. Once the custard has been absorbed by the bread, stir in the Halloween candy, reserving a handful or so to sprinkle over the top.
5. Pour the bread pudding into the pan and level out the top. Sprinkle it with the reserved candy and bake, covered (with tin foil), at 325F for about 45 minutes. After 40 minutes, you can remove the foil and allow the top to brown for the remaining 5 minutes.
6. Cool slightly, slice and serve. Bread pudding can be made in advance and then reheated either in the oven or in a pan (in which case I coat each portion with sugar to develop a nice crust on the outside). Refrigerate any leftovers for later.

Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
References
Diener, E., Beaman, A., Fraser, S. & Kelem, R. (1976). Effects of deindividuation variables on stealing among Halloween trick-or-treaters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33(2), 178-183.

how to make pasta from scratch – homemade cavatelli and other shapes

Fresh pasta was one of the first things I learned how to make in a professional kitchen. Actually come to think of it, it was the very first thing I made. It was in grade 9, for “take your kid to work day”. Thing is, my dad’s job for an oil company wasn’t cool enough for me, so I decided to go work with a real, live chef instead. We made butternut squash ravioli flavoured with Sambuca. It’s a combination that you never really see but more people should try it because it is awesome! Liquorice and squash, they’re basically the next pb and chocolate. Ha, yeah right!

Anyhow, the fact of the matter is, pasta making is a skill that everyone should have in their arsenal. It’s so easy, there’s no excuse not to channel your inner Nonna every once in awhile and whip up a batch. *Disclaimer (I seem to be doing a lot of these lately) – I would NOT recommend making the specific cavatelli shape unless you enjoy yourself a bowl of chewy pasta. I made these puppies Sunday night and have been trying to come up with an answer as to why they turned out the way they did. I just can’t do it. There are typically 2 ways you can screw up fresh pasta; either you over-work the dough or you cook it for too long (once it floats, its done, that’s it). But I did neither of those things. Thus I have concluded that cavatelli is simply too much dough wadded together and inevitably, it’s going to be more chewy than long, thin noodles. So do yourself a favour and opt for fettucini or pappardelle instead. You will thank yourself in the end because you won’t be disappointed that all of your hard work resulted in mediocrity.

Homemade Cavatelli with tomatoes, mushrooms and broccolini
Homemade Cavatelli with tomatoes, mushrooms and broccolini
On to how to make pasta from scratch. I refuse to give an exact recipe because it is ALL about the method. You need all of 5 ingredients; flour (bread, semolina, 00, AP, really whatever you have), eggs, olive oil, salt and maybe water. Pasta dough is a heck of a lot more forgiving than something like bread dough because you don’t have to worry about adding the right proportion of yeast to make it rise. And because there’s no yeast, you also can’t kill the yeast, therefore killing your bread/pasta.
Ok so you have all of the ingredients I mentioned above, now how do you combine them? Take about 2.5-3 cups of flour and put it in a bowl, or on your counter if you are feeling really rustic. Add a few good pinches of fine salt to the mix (you don’t want to be crunching into coarse salt or have the sharp salt tear the gluten in the dough). Make a well in the centre of it, essentially a nice big nest to hold in all of your eggs and other liquidy goodness.
Here’s where you have to make a choice. You can go all eggs, some eggs, or no eggs. All eggs (meaning mostly egg yolks but it’s ok if some whites get in there) makes for the richest dough, obviously as you are adding more fat. Whereas with no eggs, it’s pretty darn lean. However, it does make it vegan if that’s something you are going for. Most of the time I go for part egg, part water. Mainly because I get sick of separating eggs and end up dumping in some water to make the works hold together. But that’s the beauty of it, no matter which alternative you choose, you can get great results.
For the ~3 cups of flour I used 2 eggs, 4 yolks,  2 tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 cup of water (unlike bread the temperature isn’t all that finicky, just as long as it’s not boiling hot). But don’t take for granted that such a ratio will work for you. Calgary has a very dry climate so you may only require 1/4 cup of water. I recommend starting with smaller measurements and adding if necessary. You want the dough to be smooth and moist, but not sticky. So if it’s too dry, add more water or more egg. If it gets too wet, add more flour. Knead it, just like bread dough, until it becomes smooth and elastic. About 3-5 minutes will probably do the trick.

Homemade Cavatelli pasta

Then wrap it in plastic and let it rest for at least 30 minutes, allowing the gluten to relax. Giving it this time will make it significantly easier to roll out as it won’t shrink back on itself nearly as much. You can even make the dough a day ahead, or make a batch and freeze it. My only warning is that if there are a lot of eggs in your dough, it will lose its beautiful yellowy colour and go grey over time. From an aesthetic standpoint, egg-rich pasta dough is best made the day you want to serve it.
Now that you have your dough, it can serve as the base to whatever pasta shape you desire. If you are going to make sheets or noodles, you will be happiest if you get yourself a pasta machine. Rolling pins will work (I’ve even done it with a wine bottle) but it’s not fun. Cut off a small piece of the dough (you may have to flour it if it feels sticky) and feed it through the machine on the thickest setting. Fold it in half and do it again (putting it through folded side first to prevent air bubbles). Then change the machine to the next thinner setting and feed it through. Keep going until you get it as thick as you want.  This is usually anywhere from 4 to 6, 4 being the thickest. Remember to flour as needed if it is sticking everywhere.
You can leave the dough as sheets if you are making lasagna or open-faced raviolis. Or you can run it through a fettucine attachment. Don’t have a noodle cutting attachment? Flour the sheet and fold it in half. Fold it in half again…and again and again. Once it’s about an inch wide, you can cut the pasta however thick you like it. Not matter what shape you are making, always LIBERALLY flour it when you are done. Nothing is worse than a clump of pasta that won’t unstick itself. Place it on a sheet tray lined with parchment and more flour, in a single layer. Cook immediately, leave it out to dry, or freeze for future use (this pasta can be dropped straight from the freezer into boiling water, don’t thaw it first). As a rule of thumb, once it floats, it’s done. This never takes more than about 3 minutes I would say.
homemade cavatelli pasta
As for the sauce? I like to keep fresh pasta nice and simple. Let it speak for itself, you know? All I did was sauté some mushrooms, broccolini and cherry tomatoes (added in right at the end). I tossed it all together with the juice of half a lemon and a good handful of grated feta. Summer in a bowl folks!
Homemade Cavatelli with tomatoes, mushrooms and broccolini
Homemade Cavatelli with tomatoes, mushrooms and broccolini
For those of you who would like to make bite sized pasta shapes, I highly recommend checking Youtube for videos. It’s much easier to watch it than try to figure out what I mean as I explain it. Good luck!