We made this last week and I though it would be the perfect way to ring the new year here. With something sweet. And simple. The perfect way to start a year no? I can’t quite believe it is 2011 already. It seems like 2010 flew by so fast. There were a few weddings of people we love, lots of various events and a bunch of interesting trips. There was obviously also lots of cooking and I finally started this blog which I am so happy and grateful for. It was definitely a great (and busy!) year for me and I am now looking forward to 2011. It should also be a good year and I am excited. Lots of projects and plans in the works and probably lots of surprises too. It’s always fun to start a fresh year isn’t it?

altcondensed

This caramel something my grandmother used to make (and that we all love). Basically, it’s a can of condensed milk that is boiled for three hours. I am not sure where she got the idea of boiling a can of condensed milk for 3 hours but I am glad she did. It turns into a nice dark dulce de leche type of caramel. Needless to say it is delicious. It is quite sweet but if you (like me) like your sweets, you will like it. You can make it more a golden caramel by boiling it for a shorter time (2 hours?) but it retains more of the sweetness (more than the dark at least). I have been having it with the donuts my mom made (and the occasional just with a spoon) but it is good with lots of things (I’m sure you don’t need suggestions on what to do with caramel). Click here to know how to make condensed milk

Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

Condensed Milk Caramel

  • 1 can condensed milk

Put the can in a large pot. Cover the can with water, bring to a boil. Boil for 3 hours, adding water when needed. Remove from the water, let cool and open the can carefully.

I know I shared a banana bread recipe not too long ago. Not long at alll in fact, a mere four month ago. And it’s similar, sort of. I know. I have been on the fence of sharing this one just for that reason since the week-end. In the end I’m finally deciding to share it since, well, it’s a pretty good one. And by good I mean really great for all the chocolate fans out there. It all started when we inherited very very ripe bananas. We obviously let them ripe a bit more (because we are such organized people) and by the time I got around to them they were practically falling apart. So in a not to original moment, I decided to make banana bread again. Healthy one at that, with whole wheat and all.

banana-and-chocolate-chips-bread

Since we were going to Matt grand-mother the next day, I figured we would bring her some and that maybe I should add something chocolate to said banana bread since she is the biggest chocolate fan I know. So I did. Chocolate chips. A whole cup of them. And as you would expect, it was pretty delicious (although maybe less on the healthy side than I had planned for). It makes a nice heavy banana bread with large pockets of chocolate. You don’t have to go as heavy handed on the chocolate but if you are adding chocolate in the first place, might as well go for it. Also, you could replace the whole wheat by regular but with all that chocolate whole wheat is maybe the least you can do to still sort of justify having it for breakfast (on the week-end at least!).

Banana and Chocolate Chips Bread

1 loaf

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, smushed
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar well. Add all the dry ingredients and mix. Add the bananas, the yogurt and the eggs, mix so that everything is well incorporated (it will be quite thick). Add the chocolate chips and mix in. Put in a bread pan and bake for 1 hour.

Last christmas Matt’s mom made the pretty wonderful scones for a late mid-morning treat. Turns out they were from Ruth Reichl’s ‘Gourmet Today’ cookbook. A wonderful cookbook we also own but with which I have a bit of a complicated relationship. I do like it – a lot – but not a in a way to cook with it following the recipes. It’s more in a getting inspired from it way and then going and doing my own thing. But when I felt like scones last week, I remembered the ones from christmas and thought maybe I should just follow the recipe for her scones since they were great. But then I didn’t. I should have known better that it would turn out like this I guess but I tweaked it. Quite a bit. As usual.

orange-glaze

So these are my version of Ruth’s Orange and Raisin Scones. Cut to Orange Scones for me. To my defense the tweaking started with the purpose of using the whole orange and the whole egg since I never get around to using a zested orange or half and egg but feel bad a few days ( weeks?) later when I find it still sadly sitting in the fridge. Then I adjusted the remaining to my liking meaning less butter, brown sugar instead of white and adjusted the other things to accommodate these things. In the end, I must say, they turned out really pretty wonderful too.They were exactly what orange scones are supposed to be, pouffy and crumbly, just enough, with a nice underlying orange taste. Unfortunately I didn’t have any Devonshire cream on hand (or the will to go to the market – next time!) but we had them with marmalade we are still working on.

Orange Scones

8 scones

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅓ cup butter
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 orange (the same orange)
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • milk, to brush
  • brown sugar, to sprinkle

Pre-heat you oven to 375F. Put the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) in a large bowl. Add the butter and pinch in, until you have pieces roughly the size of peas. Add the orange zest, juice the orange over the bowl and mix in a little. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk and pour over the flour mixture. Mix in well until you have a dough that comes together. Put a parchemin paper on a baking sheet and put the dough on the baking sheet, forming a disc with it. Cut the disc into 8 pieces (but keeping close to each other to bake) and brush the scones with milk. Sprinkle brown sugar over each and bake for 50 minutes until golden. Cut each scone again before serving.

We made gravlax again last week. We had a nice piece of salmon hanging around and decided to cure it. Just our regular gravlax, with sugar, salt and dill. We thought we would have it with bagels and a salad before we went to the basketball game last Wednesday as we are always in need of something quick and easy to have on the run before we go. Since I was on a tight schedule, I ended up going to the supermarket to grab all the missing bits and pieces for the dinner and couldn’t find any Montreal style bagels. I didn’t want any soft regular bagels (I’m difficult for bagels, I admit it! One thing for which I fuss!) so I ended getting a nice loaf of bread and we sort of had a deconstructed version of what we had planned, with the capres, onions and lemons in the salad, cream cheese on the bread and gravlax all around.

gravalax

To be honest I have been back an forth about sharing it since it is, well, just a salad. And really, who needs instructions for salad? I am never sure for these kinds of things. But I really liked it so I decided I should. It is a really beautiful one with bright contrasting colors and it’s all sharp, from the radishes and lemon, and creamy from the gravlax and avocados. If you don’t have gravlax on hand (or are not making any in general) I think this would be pretty fabulous with smoked salmon too, with that added smokiness to it. This time we kept the vinaigrette to our super simple everyday lemon and olive oil but next time I might add a bit of dill in there too.

Gravlax Salad

2 large portions

  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • 3 radishes, sliced
  • ½ english cucumber, seeded and shaved
  • lettuce
  • few thin slices of lemon
  • 1 tsp capres
  • 7-8 slices of gravlax salmon
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil

Put all the ingredients in a big bowl. Salt and pepper over it and pour the olive oil and the lemon juice over. Toss and serve.

So it’s pretty much here, in a few days it’ll be Christmas. If you are like me you are nowhere near ready (as usual) and things are a bit hectic. There are still gifts to pick up and lots of wrapping to do. There are multiple lists of names, places to be, people to see and things to bring. And there are still a few things to make in the kitchen too (although most of it is done and the fridge is bursting at it’s seams the poor thing). We made these chocolate dippers last week-end as part of the baking and if you are still looking for something to make (between the excitement, running around and being exhausted) they might just be the thing for you.

choc-dippers

Basically, they are just dried fruits dipped in chocolate. Super simple. Despite being so simple, they are actually one of my favorites as I find they look very pretty and are light and sweet, just what I want after a big meal (or meals). The possibilities are pretty much endless, we used candied ginger (my favorite), dried mangoes and dried pineapples here but whatever you find or prefer is good too.

Chocolate Dippers

  • dried mango
  • dried pineapples
  • candied ginger
  • semi-sweet chocolate

In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate. Dip the fruits up to their middle in chocolate, put on a tray (or a rack) and let cool and harden.