homegrown mama

Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

::Let them eat cake!::

In food, look what I can do! on 20112011-11-25T05:54:13+00:0030 9/11 at 05:54

She answered: chocolate. 

A military wife who’s relatively new to the base recently had her first daughter, Amelia. Wanting to celebrate the birth of this precious child, the fantastic Liz (a mutual friend) decided to throw Sherry (mommy) and Amelia a shower. I was responsible for the cake, among a few other small items. Liz asked Sherry what kind of cake she preferred. She answered: chocolate. She’s my kinda gal.

I have always loved baking but never as an art, just as a hungry girl with a sweet tooth. And let’s face it: cakes are intimidating these days. If it doesn’t have fondant, require cutting and reshaping, or feature moving parts, it comes across as rather juvenile, I find. With Cake Boss, Food Network Challenge, and Ace of Cakes on tv, it’s no wonder the art of cake-making has taken baking to a new, and seemingly unattainable, level.

However, I was armed and ready. I have an already well-loved recipe from Real Simple magazine (fave!) in my collection that provided a deliciously moist chocolate cake. The article is called The Only Cake Story You’ll Ever Need and it’s seriously a no-fail cake-making tutorial. Then, I came across this awesome filling/frosting option from Sweet Paul magazine for Chocolate Layer Cake with Salty Caramel Filling. Who could say no to that?! So I made Real Simple‘s chocolate cake recipe, and added Sweet Paul‘s salted caramel and chocolate ganache andta-da!—chocolate goodness on a plate.

And then! I was pinning one night (you know…as we do) and came across this tutorial for making chocolate leaves. Beautiful! And so sweet. So I asked Safeway’s floral department to box up some leaf discards for me and hubby brought them home so I could make the chocolate leaves. Note: make sure the leaves are considered NON-toxic. All I knew were rose leaves were good to use, and I forgot to ask what the other leaves were, so I had to throw most of them out. I followed the tutorial but ended up cracking about 4 of the leaves when trying to peel them off, leaving me with less than I wanted. But c’est la vie.

Close-up of the chocolate leaves

Full-sized cake.

I sprinkled more sea salt on top of the ganache, and surrounded the base of the cake with homemade chocolate salted caramels. Whoa baby, this was RICH! Also, the recipe for the ganache made WAY too much. Granted, I only put caramel between the cake layers and left the ganache for the outside. But even if I had added ganache between the layers, there still would have been too much. Half this recipe is more than enough!

The beautiful Sherry and her adorable Amelia!


::Butternut squash soup::

In food on 20112011-10-31T03:02:28+00:0031 9/11 at 03:02

I did a simple Google search to find an easy recipe

Nana B. is here for a visit and you know what visitors mean: I get to COOK! Cooking for hubby and I isn’t a problem; but cooking for two adults just isn’t as adventurous. Having a third adult to feed means I can try bigger recipes and plan full meals, knowing we won’t end up with a fridge full of leftovers by Friday. So far, the Bakopoulos sisters’ Greek Lemon Chicken & Potatoes and Healthy Harvest lasagna have made an appearance at the table. But tonight, tonight, was creamy butternut squash soup.

I did a simple Google search to find an easy recipe, and many variations on this fall soup came up. Foodnetwork.com is usually a safe bet for yummy recipe goodness, so I investigated the recipe Google proposed further. It sounded easy enough, but as I scanned the many reviews, I learned that many people found the amount of stock to be too much, and the taste quite bland. After reading and incorporating people’s suggestions, I came up with a creamy, rich version that looked gorgeous when served (although I forgot to take photos – totally scooped this one off the interwebs), and tasted DELISH! Here’s the new soup recipe, adapted from Cathy Lowe on Foodnetwork.com.

Rich & Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: 6


1 (2 to 3 pound) butternut squash

4 slices bacon, diced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups beef (or chicken) stock

1 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk


Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Slice squash lengthwise, remove seeds with a spoon, and place cut-side down in a large ovenproof dish. Add 1/2-inch of water and bake at 350F for 1 hour.

In large stock pot, cook the bacon chunks on med-low, until the fat is rendered and the meat has cooked, but before it turns crispy. Add the butter and allow it to melt, while stirring. Add garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add cooked squash (scooped from the skins with a spoon), wine and stock. Bring to a simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

If you own an immersion blender (and you should. They’re fantastic! Pick up one on sale at Canadian Tire. You’ll never regret it.), pop it in there and give the soup a good whir until its texture is consistent. CAUTION: the soup is hot, so do NOT lift the base of the blender close to the surface of the soup. If you do, your arms, chest and face will be sprayed with hot liquid! Alternatively (that is, if you do NOT own an immersion blender, but it’s on your shopping list…), transfer the soup to a standard blender in batches and puree. While blending (either way you choose), slowly pour in the half-and-half/milk, to create a creamy, thicker soup. If using a standard blender, now return the mixture to your pot and stir in a few good shakes of nutmeg, and hearty helping of sea salt, and a good amount of freshly cracked pepper. Season like this to your personal taste.

Ladle into deep, heavy bowl and top with a dollop of  yogurt or sour cream, and a light dusting of nutmeg for presentation. If you have some white truffle oil kicking around in your cupboard, drizzle a tablespoon over the soup at the last moment. This gives it incredible depth.

Serve with fresh crusty bread to clean out your bowl. Thank me later. 🙂

::Fall fun::

In family, food, outings on 20112011-10-24T09:30:07+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

Fall is here, fall is here!

Ah, my favourite season has arrived again and I’m enjoying these days of crisp breezes, morning frost and my favourite GAP jeans. But while my love for autumn relies heavily on fashion options, the true reason I look forward to this time of year is the FOOD! I just love that Thanksgiving in Canada is in October, not too close to Christmas, like in the U.S. All September long, I pine for turkey, cranberries, stuffing, sweet potato crisp and chewy ginger chocolate cookies (are you drooling yet?). Time to dig out my scarecrows and fall leaf garlands, toss some gourds in a decorative bowl, light an autumn spice candle, and sit on the couch with a good book and a fuzzy blanket.

Of course, it’s also time for all things pumpkin. We recently took the family to Meandher Creek Pumpkin Patch! Last year, hubby was on a course in Gagetown, N.B., from October to December, so I took H on my own for the afternoon. She was only 13 months old at the time and while she enjoyed sitting in the straw, watching the goats and piglets, and crawling on the mounds of pumpkins, she didn’t really know how to have “fun” there just yet. She did choose her own little gourds and I picked up our pumpkins for the season but other than that, it was a little anticlimactic.

This year, though, my crazy little redhead is two and she’s on the move. She had a blast running through the corn maze, climbing the hay bales, and choosing pumpkins. I was equally excited to take hubby, because dads seem to make these outings more fun for kids, don’t they?

While I was there last year, I purchased a small jar of Meandher Creek’s homemade pumpkin pie spice. It’s great stuff and while I don’t often make pumpkin pie, I do bake with pumpkin a lot in the fall and winter, so this was a yummy find. I  have taken to using it in my recipe for Starbucks Pumpkin Scones. Instead of measuring out the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, I just add 1.5 tsp. of the pumpkin pie spice in their place and it’s wonderful.

Photo by run for your life

But I also realized how expensive my Starbucks pumpkin spice latte habit was becoming last fall, so decided I would venture to make my own at home to cut costs. Needless to say, I had to buy a new jar of the spice this month at the pumpkin patch, because I just ran out.

Here is my recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice latte. Enjoy while snuggling on the couch with your honey…or babes.

Baxter-style Pumpkin Spice Latte

½-cup 2% milk (use 1% or skim if you’re watching calories)

½-cup hot brewed coffee or two shots of espresso (adjust according to your taste)

½-tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp real maple syrup

optional: whipped cream/dessert topping

Pour milk in your mug and heat in the microwave until hot but not boiling (mine has a beverage setting on it that worked well). Remove and stir in pie spice and maple syrup. Add coffee, stir, and top with whipped cream/dessert topping if you’re throwing your cares out the window. Relax, and enjoy!*

*Note: The last sip usually contains some leftover spices. It’s pretty gritty, so I’d avoid it if I were you!

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