Fruit Cake with Turkish Apricots, Pistachios and Candied Ginger

Posted by Natalie in Cake, Recipes

fruit cake 1024x682 Fruit Cake with Turkish Apricots, Pistachios and Candied Ginger

To fruit cake or not to fruit cake…

Like many people, I ‘ve had a lot of really bad versions of this Christmas classic. There’s something about the fluorescent rainbow of cheap candied fruit not complemented by the slab of fondant icing and synthetic marzipan that will have even the most dedicated fruit cake enthusiast running for the door. I’m not sure how it got to this point, but somewhere along the line, it seems fruit cake lost all of it’s attractive qualities to the demons of low quality ingredients and mass production.

The irony of this however, is that people are buying this stuff, they have to be, or I wouldn’t be seeing it stacked mile high at every single grocery store I enter during the holiday season. All I can think is that there has to be some kind of secret low quality fruit cake lovers club out there somewhere, or it’s been shamed so much that people have to sneak out of there houses late at night to buy the stuff. I’ve never personally witness anyone buying a fruit cake from the store, granted I’ve not exactly dedicated a large amount of time to staking out the fruit cake isle, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be in secret that this stuff is being bought and consumed.

Coming from a German family we always eat stollen during the holidays, which does have a lot of similar elements but is made with a yeast dough and traditionally leaned more on the side of a bread than a cake. I was never exposed to much of the fruit cake phenomena during childhood because my parents never had it around so it wasn’t until my teenage years when I got a job baking at a local pie company that I encountered it for the first time. I distinctly remember taking my first bite and expecting to not like it. Because of this, I was shocked that it was not at all how I imagined it to be. Granted this cake was expertly made with good ingredients and I now know it to be a bit more on the side of Black Cake than actual fruit cake, but it goes to show how bad the reputation of this holiday classic is.

In the years since, I’ve had many great fruit cakes and have also found myself defending it on many occasions. I find that for the most part people who don’t like it have never actually tasted real fruit cake, homemade fruit cake, fruit cake with quality whole ingredients. Most have tasted the scary fluorescent grocery store stuff somewhere along the line and even if they are interested in exploring the possibility of making some themselves, they don’t realize that like most things fruit cake is completely customizable.

This year I decided it was time to tackle the fruit cake in my kitchen. I spent a few weeks researching what others had done, comparing basic ingredients and different flavour combinations. I also put some thought into the different varieties of dried fruit I like to eat before deciding to go with apricots, ginger and pistachios. I decided to use Turkish apricots because to me they are superior in flavour and texture to their bright orange and often treated with sulphur counter parts. The key here is to find flavour combinations you already like, if you love dried cherries and macadamia nuts use that combination and you will love your fruit cake because you are starting with flavours you already enjoy.

The recipe I based my recipe on was from David Lebovitz. The flavour combination of my cakes are different than his, again I used what I know I like, but the basic cake recipe is the same. I decided to bake mine in mini loaf pans so I could give a few of them away as gifts and I also made half alcohol free for the members of my family who do not drink and of course this little monkey…

rain Fruit Cake with Turkish Apricots, Pistachios and Candied Ginger

Instead of soaking those in rum I used a little maple syrup, which turned out great. This recipe will make 2 standard loafs or 4-5 minis. You will have to adjust your time if you decide to make mini ones, I found mine took around 40 minutes.

This cake is dense just like a fruit cake should be, it’s incredibly moist and the flavours of apricot and ginger are absolutely the perfect combination for my taste this winter.

Serve in the afternoon with a cup of earl grey tea.

Happy Holidays everyone!

fruite cake 31 1024x682 Fruit Cake with Turkish Apricots, Pistachios and Candied Ginger

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Purple Potato Beet Tarte Tatin

Posted by Natalie in Cake, Gluten Free, Recipes

Potato Tart Purple Potato Beet Tarte Tatin

Today is one of those day where I feel like I can do anything. Occasionally, when I have an unusually great sleep, or a particularly inspirational cup of coffee one that actually wakes me up and keeps me feeling balanced without sending my nerves through the roof – I get this feeling like there’s no stopping me. This time however, it’s not because I’m rested or adequately caffeinated – it’s because I just harvested my very first crop of potatoes that I grew with my own hands, in my own garden. It’s an indescribable feeling of accomplishment that I could never get from any other kind of work.

I”m not sure exactly why that is. Maybe it’s because I have lived my whole life, with the exception of the last few years, pretty detached from the earth and disconnected from where and how my food comes to me. Over the last 5 years leading up to the birth of my son, I have made an effort to turn this around. While we have only been in our house for a year and a half now, even in our former downtown existence I was starting to become conscious of how we consumed. We had no outdoor space of our own for many years but during that time I laid the ground work for what I knew would come.

In the spring of 2011 I planted our first vegetable garden in our new house. It was a good start and one I knew I would build on this year. We graduated from mostly greens (lettuce, kales, chards) to a full well rounded garden that produces from January to November. Our goal is to make use of this amazing temperate climate of ours and see how we can grow almost year round.

This past winter I researched potatoes and what would be the best way to grow them in our backyard. This was a project I took on with my neighbour and together we decided to give burlap sacks a try. Here’s what they looked like a few weeks before the plants died off which is when we harvested.

potato Purple Potato Beet Tarte Tatin

As most experiments go we were anxious to see if it worked. If after all those months of adding solid we has actually managed to grow a few potatoes of our own.

I am happy to report that it did! And the lesson that  we learned was we planted too conservatively and perhaps the burlap wasn’t the best choice. One bag yielded about 20 potatoes of varying sizes and the bag did decompose a bit towards the end. We are still waiting on another sack to harvest at which point I will take some pictures of the potatoes – it seems I got too excited this time around and cooked them up before I remembered to take a picture.

I’m not sure why but I think potatoes may be the most gratifying thing to plant for me. There is something about digging up perfectly formed potatoes after months of waiting that is so indescribably fulfilling. More than all the beans, tomatoes, squash, peppers and greens – these potatoes have given me confidence as a gardener and I can’t wait to devise a plan on how we will tackle these next year.

After harvesting these little guys – they were purple potatoes by the way – there was only one thing I could think of making that would highlight their beauty adequately. It is not my recipe – it comes from Aran at Cannelle et Vanille and its become a household favourite of ours I have made many times now and I highly recommend. She calls it Beetroot Tarte Tatin – this time around mine had a few more potatoes than beets. It is so lovely with a perfectly textured buckwheat crust that we’ve started using for all kinds of sweet treats as well. It is filled with caramelized onions and fennel and topped with a rainbow of roasted beets and potatoes – you can get the recipe here. It’s a great one, even this little farmer in the making loved it. Tee hee.

RainFarmer Purple Potato Beet Tarte Tatin

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Baklava

Posted by Natalie in Recipes, Sweet

Baklava 1024x682 Baklava

If you’ve ever made baklava you’ll know that it’s always worth making in large quantities. But then what isn’t? This time around I practically filled a full sized sheet pan and while that may seem a bit excessive to you it was still gone in 2 days!

Ok I admit I had a party but still it was definitely enough to feed an army because we had some serious leftovers – I used 2 full packs of phyllo dough and over 2 pounds of nuts… and the best part is I was still under the impression that it wouldn’t be enough.

I’m starting to realize more than ever that I may have a problem with making too much food. I have this thing that happens in my head, especially when I’m having people over where I convince myself that the food I’ve prepared is lacking in quantity. This generally results in running out to the market (like a lunatic) an hour or so before my guest arrive to stock up on more ingredients. It happens every time and I never learn.

Inevitably, I always have way more than enough to begging with and my family ends up having to eat through the left overs for days on end.

This time it was the baklava, which turned out to be a good thing because this recipe totally rocks. It might be the best I’ve ever made. This recipe has tons of nuts and honey – way more than the one I used to make and I’m pretty sure that is the difference. I also had a whole variety of nuts – some non traditional which added its greatness.

I’m pretty sure you’re all going to love this one!

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Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans and Prosciutto de Parma

Posted by Natalie in Recipes, Salad

ArugulaSaladFINAL 1024x576 Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans and Prosciutto de Parma

This is a light but satisfying dinner, while it may not be the most kid friendly meal it’s an easy one to whip up for parents who eat after their kids are in bed. The nice thing about this salad is it feels sort of fancy, kind of like eating in your favorite little Italian restaurant without ever leaving the comfort of your home. Open a nice bottle of chardonnay and make a few crostini’s and this could become a tradition in your household like it has in ours.

This is a sample recipe from a downloadable collection I created over at Pigs and Piglets. Come on over and download your free copy today!

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Pigs and Piglets – New Free Recipe Book – 10 Days of Slops!

Posted by Natalie in Food News

Screen Shot 2012 06 11 at 1.40.41 PM Pigs and Piglets   New Free Recipe Book   10 Days of Slops!

Dear Hunger Struck Readers!

Together with my super awesome business partner we’ve just launched a brand new site for moms, babies, caregivers of any kind and anyone else who wants to have a laugh at all the hilarity and hijinks that can ensue when two totally unconventional women (at least we thing we are! lol) – one with her 1yr old (me obvi) and another who is waiting for her bun in the oven to cook (this ones almost done!) embark on their own journeys of motherhood.
Please go check out our new site http://www.pigsandpiglets.com/ and spread the word if you know anyone who would be interested!
If you ‘like’ our page on Facebook today we’ll send you our easy to follow recipe book “10 Days of Slops” compliments from Natalie and Patricia at Pigs and Piglets. Additionally, you can also sign up directly at www.pigsandpiglets.com to receive your free copy.
Thanks and we are looking forward to sharing all our new found knowledge and stories with you!
Natalie
pf button Pigs and Piglets   New Free Recipe Book   10 Days of Slops!
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Apple Honey Coffee Cake

Posted by Natalie in Cake, Recipes, Sweet

AppleCake Apple Honey Coffee Cake

Is there anything better in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea than cake? I know I’ve said it before but cake really does deserve it own time of day, unobstructed by other foods that may come before it – it’s hard to really appreciate a cake unless its on its own I find. I love coffee cakes of all kinds but have a real obsession with apple cakes for some reason. This is one of my new favorites and I’ve made it a few times over the last year. It;s really full of apples which I like and the cake crumb is quite dense without being hard.

As seems to always be the case when unplanned baking urges strike, I was missing a few ingredients so I had to make some substitutions. Honestly, I’ve really become the master of substitutions and though I do try to avoid them when I can, I’ve been pretty lucky lately which is nice. This time around I was totally out of sugar so this cake was made with entirely with honey, it turned out a little less sweet than normal which I quite liked so I decided to make a cinnamon glaze to sweeten it up a bit. I really love how this cake tuned out – you can taste the honey and together with the huge amount of apple it made for the perfect treat with afternoon tea.

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Raspberry Dacquoise and a big 1st Birthday

Posted by Natalie in Gluten Free, Recipes, Sweet

Daquoise Raspberry Dacquoise and a big 1st Birthday

I had been thinking about what kind of cake to make for Rain’s first birthday for a few months. I’ll admit I’ve been really excited about all the fun things I can do for kids birthdays now, you know things in small format on sticks etc. Even before I had a kid, despite constantly dissing the cute trend that’s been snowballing in the last few years, I had thought about how I might get away with it at my next dinner party. But then the adult in me couldn’t visualizes brown butter rice krispy pops as the desert following beef bourgangion, go figure. This kid thing may open up a whole new chapter of cute, which used to terrify me but I find myself suddenly drawn to.

I’m sure all of you mothers out there with even the slightest interest in baking understand the dilemma. It was going to be his first taste of sugar so it had to be perfect. I went through the usual list of common first birthday cakes from the allergen free to the fake chocolate black bean cake, none of which seemed particularly appealing to me. I think maybe this is because I’m not exactly a birthday cake person *gasp* shocking I know. I do love many kinds of cake especially those that shine in the morning with a cup of coffee, I’m just not crazy about the typical icing heavy variety traditional to birthdays. I don’t find them very exciting. They have a tendency to be overly sweet with not much flavor, at least the North American variety. I also really wanted to give him something he would love, he’s never had cake before or really any sugar to speak of so I was challenged by trying to find something he already liked and take it to the next level with some serious sugar.

I know you’re thinking that I’m crazy because any kid presented with a high concentration of sugar for the very first time will absolutely go nuts over it no matter what form it come in. While I don’t deny that could be the case, there were also a few other problems that influenced the direction I took. Most important of all, I had yet to give him any form of wheat or eggs. I’m really not one to get all crazy about the allergen thing, but why take the risk on his first birthday even if it is remote?

Actually, once I stopped focusing on birthday cake the answer came quickly to me: yogurt. My son goes absolutely nuts over plain unsweetened yogurt. I mean completely nuts. You would think you were in a monkey cage at the zoo standing in the middle of a giant vat of bananas. It’s to the point where we have to conceal the yogurt all the way in the back of the fridge because if he even gets a glimpse of the shiny white container he becomes completely entranced, every fiber in his little body starts to twitch and noises of all frequencies come flying out of his mouth at such speed there’s no time to even comprehend whats happened before a melt down of epic proportions is well underway. We have to go to great lengths to conceal yogurt in our fridge or anything that resembles a yogurt container.

Yes this was going to be the perfect introduction to sugar and the perfect occasion to just let him have at it. I had the perfect cake… see how many times I’ve said perfect in the last 2 sentences? That’s how PERFECT it was going to be.

Raspberry Dacquoise for the adults and the filling which contained no wheat, nuts or eggs made into a mini individual flower shape for the wee one. I’ve been making this cake for a few years, a recipe I found over at Chocolate and Zucchini that has become one of our favorites. It’s definitely not the most simplistic but really worth it for a special occasion and the filling on the inside: a combination of Greek yogurt, whipping cream and sugar was the answer I was looking for. It is totally yogurt like, same colour, same texture with just a few ingredients to make it even better. I was sure he would love it and that it would result in tiny adorable yelps of joy, with little hands grabbing for it before the candle was even blown out. After which we would have to take him outside and hose him down because much like most meals his entire little body would be covered from head to toe… all of this would naturally be captured on video which we would watch years down the road… blah blah blah…

Oh my GOD was I wrong.

Rain 1st birthday collage 1024x576 Raspberry Dacquoise and a big 1st Birthday

Who took my banshee and replaced him with this sweet little reserved angel? He barely even expressed interest in touching it. I had to feed him some with a spoon. Dude are you serious? My child hates being fed with a spoon, pureed baby food lasted for maybe a week or two with this guy. He has to do everything himself. He comes by that honestly.

2012 03 18 Raspberry Dacquoise and a big 1st Birthday

After a good 20 minutes of trying to spark his interest we gave up and fed him plain unsweetened organic yogurt for dinner for which he displayed his usual enthusiasm. Sigh. Just when you think you have them figured out they change.

But not all was lost the cake was as amazing as ever and if you’re fairly brave in the kitchen I suggest you give it a whirl – it is truly exceptional. For the recipe you’re better off referring to Chocolate and Zucchini (Raspberry Dacquoise Entrements)as this time around I quadrupled the recipe making the dacquoise in a full sized sheet pan and assembling in a giant pastry ring to accommodate all of Rain’s party guests. I will mention that I used exclusively Greek yogurt which turned out to be my favorite so far. The original recipe calls for Fromage Blanc, which is not only hard to find in North America but adds another lengthy step to the process should you choose to make it like I previously did. Also, I used frozen raspberries this time, I wanted them to taste good and they’re not even close to in season right now – I would suggest using fresh if you can find some decent as mine bled as they thawed taking away from the aesthetics of it.

Daquoise 2 Raspberry Dacquoise and a big 1st Birthday

Aesthetics aside, it did look nice on the cake stand!

daquoise 3 Raspberry Dacquoise and a big 1st Birthday

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Rajma

Posted by Natalie in Gluten Free, Indian, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Rajma Rajma

I really love making Indian food. Another lifetime ago, long before I was married and even longer before baby Rain was an idea, I spend around 8 months travelling all around India and Nepal with two of my girlfriends. Despite my indifference to almost everything at that time of my life, somehow food and cooking was a priority as it’s always been. I was relatively intent on learning as much as I could about the regional cuisine of the many different places we travelled and I did a pretty good job of retaining and documenting most of that information considering I was completely stoned out of my mind 98% of the time.

All of you former young world travellers out there know how it is to be 18 and in search of the next “life changing” experience. Or maybe that was just typical to the angsty teenage backpackers travelling in South Asia in the late 90s? Either way, I was definitely in search of something or at least thought I was because it was all or nothing on every front. I think it’s safe to say that was the case for my friends as well. From the strange yogi who completely hypnotized my friend into covering her whole body with turmeric – incidentally my first experience with the spice – which despite relentless scrubbing made her appear jaundiced for 2 weeks afterwards (this still makes me laugh harder than most things), to the apprentice of a particularly famous guru, who I thought had the answers to all of life’s questions and had me dressing all in white and carrying a poster sized FRAMED picture of her with me for the rest of my travels. It’s safe to say that I am completely terrified of having a teenager, or at least one as willful as I was.

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Pumpkin, Apple and Molasses Coffee Cake

Posted by Natalie in Breakfast, Cake, Recipes, Sweet

photo Pumpkin, Apple and Molasses Coffee Cake

Sometimes a little unplanned baking session can really work to your advantage, even in cases where substitutions are necessary. I’m the kind of person that believes in having a fully stocked pantry if I can at all times, meaning that if I am a little low on one sort of baking staple I will make sure to restock on my next trip to the store. I’m likely even a little over stocked with many different grain flours, sugars and nuts – I like to be prepared because I really love to bake and running out quickly to grab what I’m missing is really not as easy as it used to be.

The other day when the urge to bake struck I was unusually underprepared and couldn’t manage to shake the desire to make some sort of soft cake-like apple muffin, so I was forced into improvisation and completely out of my comfort zone. I’ll admit the situation wasn’t dire, I had little bits of different flours: regular AP flour, whole wheat, rye, corn, barley, oat and rice as well as about 1/4 cup of flax and a few walnuts. I routinely bake with a mix of these, but all together and completely unmeasured made me a bit nervous and the fact that I had only one single egg, almost no sugar and half the amount of oil I generally use was not going to help me. I knew that if I didn’t add in a significant amount of moisture, the result would be dry.

Fortunately, I had a can of pumpkin which to be quite honest is one of the most important pantry shelf items because of its versatility. I use a lot of this stuff both for baking and cooking it can completely save you in a situation like this. I also had some apple sauce and yogurt that was meant for baby R and a container of molasses that would substitute for some of the sugar. I was on my way, but still feeling a bit skeptical – again baking substations are really not my thing.

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Butternut Squash, Kale and Balsamic Glazed Onion Tart with Whole Grain Flax Crust

Posted by Natalie in Recipes, Vegetarian

SquashTart Butternut Squash, Kale and Balsamic Glazed Onion Tart with Whole Grain Flax Crust

While we’re on the topic of butternut squash I thought I may as well post this improvised tart I made with left over squash from my previous post. I bought one of those jumbo squash this time around so we’ve been eating a lot of it. I have to hold back making my absolute favorit squash loaf as i am trying to control the urge to bake 24/7. Baby Rain even sampled some of the pureed variety and of course he loves it – still haven’t encountered a food he wont eat, including greens, we are so fortunate!

This tart is a little involved as there are many components that require individual cooking and of course anything involving crust will take just a bit longer. It’s definitely worth it though and this crust is now one of my favorits. I have been improvising with different whole grain flours for a while and while I do use a combination of white AP flour you could substitute all whole grain if you like. This is a really flavourful crust which we’ve come to love and it pairs perfectly with these sort of  Autumn root vegetable tarts.

pf button Butternut Squash, Kale and Balsamic Glazed Onion Tart with Whole Grain Flax Crust

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