Friday, 27 February 2015

Salted Caramel (on Apple Pie Bars)

I've wanted to make salted caramel for a while now ... actually, I wanted to replicate a salted caramel, black licorice ice cream that I had tried in Halifax a few years ago. But I'm not quite there yet.

Going through my cold room, I found a couple of jars of "apple pie filling" that I made a while back.  It was made with some butter in the recipe and, at the time, I was worried as I had never canned anything with butter and I was concerned it might spoil easier than my usual canned veggies - but not so as it was quite perfect when I opened the jars.  And perfect to go with the caramel!

I used the crumble base from the Irish Apple Shortbread Pie that I often make and spread it into an 8x13 pan (and saved a bit for the top), topped it with two 500 ml jars of my canned apple pie filling, then drizzled the top with this luscious salted caramel.  Mmmmm.

So maybe use your favourite apple pie filling or just slice some apples with a bit of cinnamon and sugar.  Put it on top of a shortbread base, puff pastry or just make an apple pie and top with the salted caramel.  I think you'll like it ....

I halved the salted caramel recipe from  But it's pretty similar to most I've seen.  I used kosher salt instead of fleur de sel - just because.  Truthfully, maybe I should have used fleur de sel.  I use kosher salt when I make brownies and I always get the odd bite with a nice tasty chunk of salt.  But with the caramel, it all just kind of blended in.

And everything came right out of the fridge so not room temperature as described in the recipe as other recipes used the ingredients cold (and I simply didn't want to wait).  It just means the mixture flares up a bit when adding cold ingredients into the hot mixture - so just keep stirring!

1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2  cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon kosher salt

It would be best to reference another recipe for the method as I'm pretty new at this but it was very easy to make.  Just stir the sugar in a pan on medium heat until it turns an amber colour and all of the clumps have melted.  Add the butter (if cold, the mixture will flare up a bit) and stir until melted and mixture has thickened a bit and has started to bubble.  Add cream (flare again), remove from heat and stir until smooth.  Allow to cool a bit before adding salt.

Make sure both the apple bars and the caramel are cooled to room temperature then drizzle (or pour!) it on.  The caramel will thicken quite a bit when put in the fridge and won't be "pourable" anymore.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Harvest Monday: February 23, 2015

With another big dump of snow this weekend, the upcoming gardening season seems so far away.  But I was still able to enjoy some of the few remaining harvests from last year; in particular this weekend as I had a visit from a friend I hadn't seen in a while ... good food goes well with good company!

I had a repeat of this pasta with kale, mushrooms and my last acorn squash - with minor adjustments for the ingredients I had on hand.

And I served up some fingerling potatoes (with the same store-bought kale used in the previous dish) alongside baked trout.  Plus a drizzle of truffle oil - always a nice addition to homegrown potatoes.

I'll be popping over to Daphne's Dandelions to see what other Harvest Monday contributors have going on this week ... check it out!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Chana Palak (Chickpea Curry with Spinach)

I am not a winter person - I was born and raised in the 'burbs of Vancouver then moved to Ontario about 15 years ago.  Still not acclimatized.  Maybe I won't ever get used to it.  So winter for me is spending a lot of time indoors and cooking a lot of "comfort food" - casseroles and such.

Last weekend, I hosted another one of my Indian (well mostly Indian) food buffet for some friends.  As part of the meal, I decided to upgrade last year's chana masala recipe to include spinach as I still had some left from my own garden's harvest - so making it chana palak (palak being spinach).

In addition to the chana palak and various salads (raita, cucumber and tomato, etc.), I served:
  • Pea and Mint Pulao
  • Mesir Wat (Ethiopian Spicy Red Lentils)
  • Aloo Jeera (potatoes with cumin seeds)
  • Tandoori Quail
  • Ginger Prawns
  • Cabbage and Carrots with niter kibbeh (spiced butter)
I also made a Carrot Halwa for dessert, but it didn't turn out so well.  Probably because I was using carrots from the store which I generally find quite bland.  I think I'll try it again with my own carrots (assuming I have a good harvest later this year!).  I ended up dishing out what was left of my homemade rhubarb-strawberry ice cream instead.

I didn't take pictures of the other dishes, but I really want to share the recipes for the pulao dish and the potatoes.  I'm sure I'll make those again soon so I will take pics and post the recipes then.  In the meantime, here is the recipe for the Channa Palak.  It's hard to say how many it feeds - I had 10 people over but 7 other dishes!

2 1/2 onions
8 cloves garlic
2 inch (squared) piece ginger
2 green chiles (all I could find was jalapeno)
Neutral cooking oil
2 tsp cumin seed
1 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 19-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked spinach
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
2-3 tsp garam masala


Puree the onion, garlic, ginger and chiles.  Set aside.

In a large pan, heat 4 Tbsp of a neutral oil such as canola (not olive oil).  Add the cumin seed.  When the cumin seed starts to "spit", add the onion puree.  Cook 6-8 minutes on medium heat to remove most of the moisture.  Add remaining spices and cook 2-3 minutes.

Add  chickpeas and spinach.  Stir to combine all ingredients well.  Then add tomatoes.  Stir again, then reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.

Add garam masala to taste and adjust salt as required.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

2015 Garden Plans

So cold ... so much snow ... hard to concentrate on gardening.  Ugh!!  I've got the mid-winter blues.  Mid-winter?!  There's a lot more of this to go still. 

I have a lot of plans in my head for the spring - I just hope I can bring them to fruition.

I'm going to build a nice, big compost area with pallets.  I'm going to cut down some of the steel bars left from the old collapsed greenhouse to use as support posts in the garden.  I'm going to create a few more garden spaces.  I'm going to pull some timber from the woodpile to frame in already existing gardens.  I'm going to fill my new greenhouse with glorious plants!  I'm going to have the most successful gardening season ever!!!  ... Or maybe I will have mediocre results, but it will still be a lot of fun.

And it all starts here ... with my seed order.  Actually, this is the total plan for the upcoming season, not just the seeds I have recently ordered. 

Unlike most gardeners who plan their garden space and buy the seeds to fill out, I impulsively buy whatever interests me and then I figure out where to grow it.  I have lots of space, lots of containers if needed and a new greenhouse to play with!  To be honest, I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, but I'm confident it will all come together.

So here are all the plants I have planned this year and how I think (?!) I'll get them started.  I'll review my plans again when I'm less muddled from the cold weather.  It seems rather a large list. :)