Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Conquering the Cake

Cake has been the bane of my existence in the kitchen since arriving in Turkey. Ankara is at a higher altitude and without proper cups or measuring tools, it's been a crap shoot. Getting cupcakes to work was my first step and once I got that I figured I could do a cake (a zucchini loaf to be exact... which went terribly array and the only thing I can think of to explain it is that the zucchinis were really young and watery...). Anyway, tonight, I conquered the cake!! I decided to try again as I sometimes attend the Marine House Happy Hour that the US Marines put on at their house/bar on the US Embassy. They are a bunch of great guys who are loads of fun and the last time I was there they sent me home with an AMAZING salsa dip in a container.
Now, I don't know how your mothers raised you, but mine said to never show up at someone's house empty handed and NEVER return a container, that came to you full, empty. So even though I won't be attending this week's happy hour, I wanted to get their container back to them and thought I could make some cupcakes (see this entry for recipe and substitute apples and cinnamon for extra dark chocolate chips or chunks) or a cake. I decided to do both and, in the words of Monica on Friends: I WON! I WON! I WON!!!

Here's the recipe I used (I found it online when searching yogurt pumpkin bread):

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree (I finely grated fresh pumpkin and it was AWESOME)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (I didn't have any so I grated up a few cloves to bring that spicy aroma in)

First cream the butter and sugar together, add in the eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Then fold in the dry ingredients until well mixed and at last put in the pumpkin and fold it in. Bake at 350 until the knife comes out clean. The result? Have a look at that:

It is moist, not too pumpkiny and just right. I love this recipe and I LOVE this cake... hope the guys like the cake and cupcakes... if not... meh? *shrugs* whatcha gonna do? ;)

Happy Eating friends!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pumpkin Risotto... the easy way

So lately when I cook, I want something savoury and PRETTY!! I want it to be a feast for my eyes as well as my tummy. And pumpkin/squash is just such a beautiful vegetable. So I went online searching for pumpkin recipes that wouldn't require pureed pumpkin or things that I couldn't get here in Turkey and this is what I came up with:

The recipe called for some things I didn't have or couldn't get so I modified it and made it my own recipe. For this you need:
Pumpkin, 2 cups of rice (I combined rice and bulghur wheat for a different texture), 5 cups of chicken stock, 2 sprigs of fresh dill, 2 cloves of garlic or some garlic powder, 1 or 2 red peppers, 1 purple onion, a small bunch of fresh basil, 1 or 2 sprigs of oregano, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 or 4 pats of butter.

In a pyrex dish (a fairly large one), pour your oil, hot chicken stock and rice. Stir them around a little... like the murkey picture above. Don't rinse the rice first, the starchiness is required to make a more sticky and risotto like rice.

Chop up all your veggies and spices and toss them into the pyrex. Add a little salt and pepper if you like, stir, cover tightly with foil and pop into your oven at about 375 F and cook. Check it occasionally to stir it and once it is near to being done, put the butter on and let it cook down a little more. I let my cook a little too far so it was dryer than a risotto should be, so be careful to let there be some liquid still in it...

Happy Eating... it's a delicious savoury dish!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Simple, Apple Cupcakes

I've had some apples in the fridge that I've been meaning to make into something for a while, but it isn't always easy to think of what to do. Initially I thought I would make some muffins but most of the recipes I found online had things that I didn't have readily available in my kitchen. However, this cupcake recipe did. And then I finely chopped up some apples, added them in with some cinnamon and voila:

They were light, fluffy, not too strong in flavour and the most successful thing I've baked since coming to Turkey. The altitude and not having proper measuring tools is doing me in for baking... until today, that is!

Happy Eating.

Eggplants and Saffron Rice

Eggplants are one of those vegetables that people are often uncomfortable turning into a main dish at a meal unless they are vegetarian. I love them, I love their texture, their flavour and their meatiness. So here is what I did with a couple of them last night to make a wonderful meal:

I had the skinnier versions of the eggplant and sliced them length-wise after taking off the tops and bottoms. I then brushed them in olive oil and sprinkled salt and garlic over them and popped them in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or so.

While they were baking, I put on some rice mixed with a little bulghur wheat in a pot with salted water, some saffron and a little butter and set that on the stove to cook. Then I sliced up a couple of tomatoes and some cheese (since I am in Turkey and all the cheeses I would normally use - brie and mozzarella - are really expensive, I just used some halloumi cheese and some kasar cheese).

I then took the eggplant halves out of the oven, topped them with the tomatoes and lightly dusted them with basil, oregano and rosemary before putting the cheeses on top and putting them back in the oven. There is no time limit for how long they should stay in the oven, but the general rule is to wait until the cheese is bubbly and melty good! I originally took this recipe from Cook Yourself Thin, but have had to make some adjustments now that I am here and can't just find all the things that they list so easily. But if you are in North American or Europe and can easily get what they call for, I really recommend their recipes. Super healthy and easy and TASTY!!

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Awesome Food Inventions

Today one of my students brought his snack in this:

Is that not one of the smartest food inventions you've EVER seen?!?! I love it. I love it as much as I love my Tupperware/Pampered Chef orange peeler, or my Pampered Chef oil sprayer, my Pampered Chef chopper (which is sadly in Canada and not here in Turkey with me), my Pampered Chef egg slicer, my apple corer/slicer and my Pampered Chef peeler, corer, slicer. I love kitchen gadgets and neat inventions that make things neater and more convenient. This is definitely one of the best I've seen in a long time!

What are your favourite kitchen gadgets/inventions?!