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Sunday, November 29, 2009



Sometimes there are things that I cook that are not particularly photogenic but taste oh so good. Moussaka is a really good example of this since everything just tends to ooze deliciously together. This was my first time making this and I was so glad that I gave it a try. I don’t know much about Greek food but I would imagine that this is Greece’s answer to the concept of comfort food.


The recipe starts off with ground lamb and browned onions with salt, pepper, ground cinnamon, a pinch of cloves and a pinch of allspice. Growing up we didn’t really eat lamb at home but The Husband and I both love it. and try to include it in the rotation.


The original recipe I had seen didn’t have potatoes but I really wanted to add them. I spoke to someone at work who is Greek and he said that there are versions with and without potatoes so I didn’t transgress any rules of Moussaka making by adding them. Since I wanted to make sure that they would be cooked thoroughly I sliced the potatoes and put them in the oven while I prepared the filling and the topping.


When the lamb was completely cooked I added in white wine and tomato paste and let it simmer to allow all the flavours come together.


I also chopped up a generous amount of parsley and chucked it in the pot.



The béchamel sauce was pretty straightforward except that the recipe called for an unpronounceable Greek cheese that I have never seen at the grocery store. Since I didn’t know what the said cheese tastes like I just ended up shredding some of each kind of cheese that I found in the fridge: strong cheddar, parmesan and some random French cheese.


I of course, also added salt, pepper and nutmeg. All béchamel needs some nutmeg or else it just isn’t right.


At this point I took my potatoes out of the oven and started putting the Moussaka together.


I added the meat filling directly onto the potatoes followed by..


the eggplants. Pretty much any recipe that uses eggplants will tell you to salt them and let them drain due to bitterness. I never do this, I honestly don’t taste any. Buying smaller eggplants also helps since they have less seeds and it is the seeds that can taste bitter. I just sliced my eggplants, I didn’t bother to peel them, and laid them on the meat.


Last to go on top was the béchamel sauce and then everything went into the oven to cook.


After roughly an hour the béchamel was golden and bubbly and ready to come out of the oven.


If I had a Greek grandmother I think she would be proud of my Moussaka making attempt. This was really, really good and not as much work as I thought it would be. It is no more labour intensive than making a lasagne and the results are so worth it. Since I cut into it when it was hot it didn’t really retain its shape so it didn’t photograph particularly well. Tasted great though which is what counts in the end.

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies


Pumpkin and chocolate are meant to go together. As strange as they might seem as a combination at first joined together in brownie form they make a great union. I actually got this recipe from Martha Stewart’s website here. As with pretty much everything I cook I have made some modifications which I have noted.


The brownies begin with sugar, eggs and vanilla, which is a change from the standard “cream eggs and butter together” instructions that start off most recipes. I have to confess that I was wondering how moist this was going to be given that there is not much fat in the base.


After a few minutes of beating the eggs and sugar they were pale and fluffy. I kept on beating them for a few minutes after I had taken this picture just to be sure.

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Instead of using just white flour I used half white, half whole wheat and added in some flax seed. I like the texture that this mixture gives and tend to use it a lot. Plus it makes things a shade healthier, even if they are brownies. I didn’t add cayenne pepper like the recipe calls for but I did add cinnamon and nutmeg.

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In the original recipe the plain batter is split in two and one half is mixed in with melted chocolate and the other half is mixed with pumpkin. I wanted a more pronounced pumpkin taste so I decided to just dollop pumpkin on top of the brownies. Instead of adding all the sugar to the batter I reserved some and mixed it into the pumpkin puree along with the oil and more cinnamon and nutmeg.


I didn’t have any baking chocolate so I just ended up using chocolate chips. I don’t really bother melting chocolate over a double boiler since doing it in the microwave is so much easier. You just melt it at 20 second intervals and stir it when you take it out.



I wanted a swirly effect so when I added the melted chocolate to the batter I mixed it very briefly, too long actually, I should have mixed it less. It wasn’t as swirly as I wanted it, oh well, next time.

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I poured the brownie batter in a pan and put dollops of the pumpkin mixture on top.


With a knife I carefully swirled the pumpkin into the batter before I put it into the oven.



Ta-da! The finished baked product. My kitchen smelled really good at this point. I liked the look of the swirly batter with the pumpkin interspersed throughout.

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These were really good and very moist because of the pumpkin. Because of the way the ingredients were mixed together each mouthful was different, parts of the brownie were more chocolaty and other parts more pumpkiney (yes, I know that is not a real word). The nutmeg and chocolate really brought out the taste of both the chocolate and the pumpkin. Whenever I buy pumpkin puree it comes in a huge can and I always end up making multiple recipes. This was a really great recipe and I will keep it in mind next time I have a craving for a pumpkin dessert.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Scones with Spice Glaze


I have always loved Starbucks’ pumpkin scones. Sadly Starbucks in Quebec are not actually owned by Starbucks corporation so they don’t sell the same pastries, hence no pumpkin scones for me. I poked around the internet to find a copycat recipe to try to fulfill my craving and I ended up modifying one to fit my tastes. The one I started off with is here (scroll down to the very bottom of the page and it is in the last post).


I started off with white flour, whole wheat flour, flax seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and dried ginger. I added quite a lot of the spices since I like a pronounced spicy taste. This of course, got mixed up and put to the side as it waited for the rest of the ingredients to join the party.


An egg, heavy cream and pumpkin puree. The original recipe calls for half and half which I have never seen in a supermarket. Is it purely an American thing? Anyone know?


Everything combined together to create a nice shade of orange.


I loathe cutting butter in by hand. I know the results are better but I usually end up doing it in the food processor. Alas, it was dirty and in the dishwasher so after much grumbling I went to try to find where I had stashed the pastry blender since it had been so long since I had last used it.


Here is my butter, all cut in, in nice pea sized pieces just like the cookbooks tell you to do.


I mixed in the wet ingredients but it wasn’t coming together properly. I added more cream and pumpkin puree until it was the right texture.

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I have one small working surface in my kitchen so if I can avoid having to roll out baked goods I do so. If you prefer pretty uniform sized scones please feel free to roll them out, if you’re pressed for time and not as particular about aesthetics as me, use an ice cream scoop. After I had made the scones I dipped my fingers in flour to be able to smooth out the tops, which is why you can see traces of flour on top of them. These then went in the oven.


In the original recipe there are two kinds of icing, since I was short of icing sugar I just made one. I honestly never bother measuring anything when making a glaze type of icing. You really don’t need to, all you accomplish is getting your measuring cups dirty. I used all the icing sugar that I had left along with cinnamon and nutmeg. I had already used a lot of the spices in the scones so I didn’t want too much of a strong spice taste in the icing.


I like to leave my glaze fairly thick and put it on my baked goods while they are still warm. That way the heat helps the glaze coat the scones. If you make the icing too thin it will just drip off and end up on the plate.


If you’ve ever had a Starbucks scone you will see that mine are a lot darker, mostly due to the fact that I doubled the spices and used half whole wheat flour. I love scones of all kinds, from fluffy to dense they are all good to me. Except dry scones, that I just cannot forgive. Or scones that use margarine instead of butter, that is just blasphemy. I digress, anyways these scones were really filling, a perfect balance between sweet and spice. One plus of denser scones is that they transport better than fluffy ones, I brought them to work as snacks during the week and they arrived in one piece everyday.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Italian Wedding Soup


I always wondered if Italian Wedding Soup is actually served at Italian Weddings. After some quick googling I discovered that no, it is not wedding food instead the name comes from a mistranslation of the original Italian name. Regardless of the origin it is a nice filling soup with lots of veggies, pasta and meatballs.


The recipe called for ground chicken but I complete forgot to buy some so I thawed some chicken breasts and minced them in the food processor. Aren’t I clever?


In the meat balls there was also Italian sausages (taken out of their casings), fresh parsley, generous handful of parmegiano reggiano, pepper, an egg and some bread crumbs. I mixed the whole thing up with my hands, not one of my favourite jobs in the kitchen might I add. It is messy and your hands get really cold.

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I made meatballs with my mini ice cream scoop and put them in the oven to cook while I made the soup.


The soup base was pretty simple with carrots, onion, salt, pepper, dried basil and dried dill.


Once that was cooked I added chicken broth and a superlatively generous amount of white wine, since booze makes everything taste better.


I also added in some mini pasta bows and turned the broth up to a boil. I wanted to buy the fancy-schmancy pasta shells that are imported from Italy and cost twice as much but I was vetoed by The Husband. I suppose anyone who is not a foodie cannot get excited about that sort of thing.


After half and hour or so (although honestly, I made these two weeks ago so I can’t even remember how long I baked them), my meatball were ready. The red bits are sausage, I know, it makes it look as though they are not fully cooked but they are.


A close-up of one of the meatballs. You can see the little green flecks of parsley peeking through.


The meatballs went for a swim in the broth along with a few handfuls of spinach. Once the spinach was wilted I served the soup.


I really liked this soup. It was a good balance between veggies, tasty meatballs and pasta. I also liked the taste of dill in this soup, I don’t use it that often in recipes but maybe I should. This made a lot of leftovers and reheated really well.

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