Archive | May, 2009

Refreshing summer drinks

24 May

Watermelon or Cantaloupe Aqua Fresca

Agua fresca is a light fruit drink popular throughout Mexico. It’s simply made by blending fruit with water, a bit of sugar and a little lime juice. Begin with sweet, juicy melon, or your agua fresca won’t have much flavor.

  • 4 cups diced, peeled ripe watermelon or cantaloupe
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Blend together the watermelon or cantaloupe with 1 1/2 cups of the water, the lime juice and the sugar at high speed until smooth. Strain through a medium strainer into a large pitcher or bowl. Stir in the remaining water. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. Fill a glass with ice, pour in the agua fresca, garnish with a mint sprig, and serve.

Yield: Four servings.

Variations:

* Stir an additional cup of finely chopped fruit into the strained blended drink and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

* For the watermelon version, add 4 hulled strawberries.

* Mango or Pineapple Agua Fresca: substitute mango or pineapple for the melon.

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Homemade Salsa

16 May

Want to whip up something healthy for when guests come over? Hate that overprocessed salsa in the jar? Well I was inspired by the peppers episode from Chef at Home with Michael Smith to chop and combine a delicious homemade southwestern salsa. Play with the ingredients, substitute with organics, everything to taste – and that’s why there are no measurements in my recipe!

  • Tomatoes – cubed or chopped coarsely but still bite sized. I used a combo of tomatoes I found at my neighbourhood grocer – steakhouse, roma and hothouse. UPDATE: Use all romas for best flavour – maybe toss in a few heritage ones for colour.
  • Onion – diced a bit more finely. I prefer to use red, but use what you will.
  • Cilantro – Michael Smith said that this was the core of Southwestern cooking. Chopped finely.
  • Poblano Pepper – diced finely. A mild chili pepper from Mexico – gives it a bit of a bite, without the fire. When dried, this is the Ancho chili. Start with 1/3 of the pepper, then add more if you want it spicier. I got mine at Whole Foods – they have a pretty good selection of peppers. Well they should, as they’re based in Texas!
  • Lime – all of the lime peel (grated, thank you) and lime juice. Tip: to get the most juice from your lime, microwave it for 10 seconds. Start with 5 if you have a powerful microwave or else you’ll be burned (from experience).
  • Seasonings – sea salt and freshly ground pepper – The salt makes all the difference! Be liberal with it! And pepper to taste.

UPDATE (1 hour later)

As per usual, I decided to up the recipe. Added:

  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp virgin olive oil – to make it more smooth <– or less
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Agave syrup, for a bit of sweetness
  • and more sea salt

Eat with nachos (I prefer the local Que Pasa corn nacho chips) or Jalapeno Cheese bread from Save on Foods bakery

Magnolia’s Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 May

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

  • 3 ⅓ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature (important!)
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring*** if using gel, use a few drops, the add more vanilla extract to make up for the liquid amount***
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • Frosting:

  • 1 pound (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and lightly flour three muffin tins. Place cupcake papers in the tins.
  3. To make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
  5. In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overheat.
  6. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
  7. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake each tray for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the vanilla and beat well.
  3. Gradually add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy.
  4. Cover and refrigerate icing for 2 to 3 hours, but no longer, to thicken before using.
  5. When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting liberally on the cupcakes.
  6. Makes 36 cupcakes

Bobbie Lloyd of New York’s Magnolia Bakery demonstrates how to make delicious red velvet cupcakes

UPDATE:

SUCCESS!! Though I 1/3rd the recipe to yield 12 large/24 mini. Lessen bake time though.

Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/6 cups cake flour
  • 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring (if using gel, use 3-4 drops. I added some chocolate colouring as well)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Icing:

  • 5 1/3 oz (or 2/3 of one pkg) softened cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup icing sugar