maxwell turns one

Last Friday Maxwell turned one. To celebrate we threw him a small party with family. We kept things pretty simple. Platters of sushi and sashimi, some Korean and Filipino appetizers, and a homemade banana layer cake.
Mundoo, in honour of Maxwell's newborn nickname (Korean dumplings):
My mom made the Filipino lumpia (springrolls) and empanadas:
I baked the banana layer cake the night before. In the background are two go im towers (used to decorate the food table) that I made out of candy and beans. The one has Maxwell's Korean middle name written in Korean.
A platter of Korean rice cakes called tteok:
The highlight of a traditional Korean dol (first birthday celebration) is the future-predicting ceremony. Basically, a bunch of objects are placed in front of Maxwell and whatever one he reaches for first determines his future. A roll of string represents a long life, a pencil means he'll be a scholar, money equals wealth, a brush means he'll be an artist, and a bowl of food means he'll never go hungry. These days you can also add more objects, but we kept it simple. So what did he choose?
The food! 
I can't believe Maxwell is one already! He's crazy about food (surprise), walking up a storm, and turning into a pretty swell dude. I feel like I'm still learning the ropes at this parenting thing, but it's fun to watch him change and grow each month. 


holiday cheer

Christmas is just days away and I'm pretty excited to be spending our first real Christmas as a family (last year didn't really count as Maxwell was just days old). Even though we don't buy presents (we only do stockings), it'll be nice to have Christmas dinner with Maxwell and spend the day relaxing together. This year though, Joe and I decided that we wouldn't be able to have a real tree. With Maxwell being mobile and getting into literally everything, it just wouldn't be safe. I was seriously bummed. I love the smell and look of a real tree. So, instead we got a small, four-foot tall fake tree and displayed it on top of our desk. I couldn't hang most of our regular ornaments on it as Maxwell would pull those off, so I kept it simple with some lights, candy canes, a popcorn garland and baby-safe ornaments.
I made this ombré garland from pompoms I found at Dollarama. Sadly, it was too short to wrap around the entire length of the tree. Oh well.
Joe's sister even crafted Maxwell a few felt ornaments. My favourite is her rendition of his first (and most cherished) stuffed toy, Boris (originally named Albert).
And it wouldn't be the holidays without some sweets. I haven't been able to do much baking, but did manage to crank out some shortbread and these salted brown butter cookies.
Now, time to cozy-up on the couch and stare at my tree.


marble loaf cake

Last week we were a house full of sickness. First Joe, then me, then Maxwell. It was Maxwell's first cold, but he fought it like a champ. By Sunday we were all feeling sort of better. I even whipped up this easy-to-make marble loaf cake as an afternoon snack. Then this morning I woke up with a sore throat! Ugh, how unfair.  Well, at least there's leftover cake.
This cake stays moist for a few days if wrapped tightly, so it's a great make-ahead treat. And it's not too sweet—which means it's perfectly fine to eat a slice for breakfast...at least that's what I told myself.
You can find the recipe here


unintentional milk chocolate ice cream

I haven't made homemade ice cream in ages, so I was excited to dust off my ice cream machine and get it running again. I kept things simple and settled on chocolate chip ice cream. For the base vanilla ice cream, I used Jeni's cookbook. I thought that having big chocolate chips throughout the ice cream might be a bit much, so I melted the milk chocolate with a few tablespoons of heavy cream to make it liquid, and drizzled it into the ice cream as it was churning. The result was, well, not what I had planned. Instead of vanilla ice cream speckled with chocolate, I got milk chocolate ice cream.
I realize now that I should have let the ice cream churn until it was almost completely frozen before drizzling in the chocolate. That way it would have been cold enough to freeze the chocolate into little bits. Oh well, this ice cream still hit the spot!
Jeni's recipes never seem to disappoint. You can see a few of my favourite recipes from the book here, here and here.


pickles, three ways

Over the weekend I finally was able to hunker down and do some preserving. I decided to make regular dill pickles and a batch of bread and butter pickles. Pickling cucumbers are in season right now and I found big bags of great looking ones (i.e. firm, small and with no bruises) at the PAT Korean grocery store for only $4 so I grabbed a couple and got down to business.
I started with the dills. I like mine a bit spicy so I made half with garlic and dill and the other half with chili peppers, garlic and dill. To help the pickles stay crunchy I always add grapes leaves to each jar. I read somewhere years ago that grape leaves contain an enzyme that keeps the pickles crisp.  
For the bread and butter pickles, I used the same cukes, but sliced them into rounds. I also added slices of red pepper and onions.

dill pickles
about 20 pickling cucumbers
5 1/2 C water
2 C cider vinegar + 1 C white vinegar + 1/2 C rice vinegar (you can really use 3 1/2 cups of any vinegar)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
5 tsp dill seeds
fresh dill
10 garlic cloves
2 red chilis, sliced (optional)
5 grape leaves

1. Trim blossom end of cucumbers (I heard that doing this will help prevent the pickles from turning soft...not sure how/why). I kept the regular dill pickles whole and halved the cucumbers for the spicy batch.

2. Place a teaspoon of dill seed in each sterilized jar (I used  6 x 500 ml canning jars), followed by a grape leave, a sprig or two of fresh dill, 2 garlic cloves and a couple pieces of chili (if using).

3. Arrange cucumbers into jars.

4. Combine water, vinegars, sugar and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. While still hot, ladle brine into each jar. Leave about a 1/4-inch of headspace. Screw on lids. 

5. Process jars for 15 minutes.* Let pickles cure for at least 2 months.

not-too-sweet bread and butter pickles
4 lbs pickling cucumbers, sliced into rounds
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
1 medium sweet onion, sliced into strips
2-3 trays of ice cubes (about 30)
1/3 C pickling salt
3 C sugar
2 1/2 C cider vinegar
2 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp celery seeds
1 tsp tumeric

1. Mix cucumbers, peppers and onions in a large bowl. Add salt and ice cubes and mix again. Let the mixture sit for 2 hours. After 2 hours, rinse and drain, then rinse and drain again.

2. Combine the sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and tumeric in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the drained cucumber mixture and bring back to a boil.

3. Spoon into mason jars (I used 5 x 500 ml canning jars), leaving about 1/4-inch of headspace. Screw on lids and process for 15 minutes.* Let pickles cure for at least 4 weeks.
Next up: pickled carrots, green beans and turnips! Yay, for summer produce...and pickles!

*I process jars by placing them in a pot of boiling water (make sure water reaches about an inch over the jars). Boil for length of time required. 


picnic time

My long weekend was filled with overdue cleaning, errands and catching up on sleep. Not super exciting, but we did make sure to spend one sunny afternoon at the park having a relaxing picnic. Once we laid out the blanket, I brought out the yummy eats: devilled eggs, a fat muffuletta sandwich (influenced from when Seema blogged about the deliciousness that is the muffuletta) and some rice krispie treats.

For the muffuletta, I loosely followed this recipe. What resulted was a mega-flavourful sandwich explosion! 
Layers of meat (sweet soppresata salami, capicola and mortadela), cheese (provolone) and a sweet/salty/spicy mixture made of giardiniera, olives, roasted peppers and capers. It's a serious sandwich that's for sure. I'll definitely be making this bad boy again.
Instead of regular rice krispie treats, I made a white chocolate cake batter version—basically a cake mix infused rice krispie treat. They were a sweet addition to a great summer picnic.
white chocolate cake batter rice krispie treats
5 tbsp butter
6 C rice krispie cereal
5 C marshmallows (more or less depending on how gooey you want them)
1/2 C dry cake mix (I used rainbow chip)
1 1/2 C white chocolate, chopped
rainbow sprinkles

1. Melt the butter and add the marshmallows, stirring constantly until melted. Stir in cake mix.

2. Add in the cereal and stir until evenly coated.

3. Press into a baking pan (8 x 11) and set aside.

4. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Spread over the treats. Scatter sprinkles over the top and let cool.


apricot galette

When I saw these fresh apricots at the farmer's market last week I knew I wanted to transform them into a classic apricot galette.
A galette is so much easier to put together than a pie and tastes just as yummy. Here's mine right before it went into the oven:
And freshly baked:
For the pastry:
1C flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
3 oz. unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/4 C cold water

1. Stir flour, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add in the butter and toss so that it gets coated with the flour. Using your fingers, pinch the butter and flour together so that the butter is evenly distributed with the flour (you can also use a pastry cutter for this).

2. Add in the water and gently mix with a fork until the dough looks ragged. Gather the dough into a loose ball and place on your work surface. Use the heels of your hands to gently knead the dough until it just comes together. There should be pieces of butter throughout the dough. Do NOT overwork it and work fast so the butter doesn't melt. Form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.

3. Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. After, roll it into a 12-inch circle about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Place on a piece of parchment paper and let rest for another 20 minutes in the fridge.

For the filling:
about 10 small, ripe apricots, sliced
4 tbsp sugar, divided
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp melted butter
1 tbsp demerara sugar (regular sugar works too)

1. Take pastry out of the fridge. Mix 1 tbsp of sugar with the flour and sprinkle evenly over the pastry, leaving about a 1 1/2-inch border.

2. Arrange the apricots on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 3 tbsp of sugar (apricots, no matter how ripe, seem to get a bit more tart when baked).

3. Fold pastry over the edges of the apricots. Brush the pastry with the melted butter and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Chill the galette while the oven heats up.

4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Back for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let the galette cool for at least 20 minutes so that the juices settle.


zucchini pizza

Oh hi blog. It's been a long time. I'm not making any promises that I'll be posting on the regular (yet), but for now, here's my favourite recipe so far this summer! I spotted some awesome yellow zucchini at the farmer's market this week and threw together this pizza for a perfect mid-week dinner.
These days, my go-to pizza dough recipe is Jim Lahey's No-Knead dough. I half the recipe and add a tablespoon of honey to the dough. It's great because you mix the dough the night before and just let it sit until the next day.
For the toppings, use pesto for the base. Sprinkle with some grated parmigiano and a thin layer of mozzarella, and top with thinly sliced rounds of yellow zucchini, red onions and small dollops of goat cheese. Bake until golden brown. So good! 


sew hungry

Last Friday I attended my first Sew Hungry food truck rally in Hamilton with Seema. I was pretty surprised by how busy the event was. Food trucks lined Ottawa Street and each had a line-up, plus a crowd of people waiting for their orders. We had to skip the Dirty South truck because of its long line (and because I was trying hard to get Maxwell to sleep in his stroller and the sidewalk was jammed!) and moved on to Buster's Sea Cove for lobster rolls and fish tacos. Both were tasty, but I'm sure I could have eaten about three of those small lobster rolls (but not at the $13 a pop they were going for)!
The most surprising bite of the day was El Gastronomo Vagabundo's asparagus (perfectly cooked) topped with a battered poached egg (nice and runny), candied bacon, tarragon emulsion, ramps and dukkah. We couldn't believe there was barely a line-up. 
Another surprise came from the homemade meat pie Seema and I scarfed down from a local church mainly to get a table and chairs. When you have two babies in tow, $8 for a seat and a tasty meal seems like chump change.
We all really wanted to try the food from The Big Chief, a new Hamilton food truck that specializes in First Nations cuisine, but unfortunately, they were sold out by the time we got to them. 
It was great to see how popular Hamilton's food truck scene has become and a nice way to spend a sunny Friday afternoon.


follow me...if you want

I finally decided to jump on the social media bandwagon! You can find me on twitter @writeveronica and instagram.