Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dutch Oven Dinner

I'm the kinda girl who would be significantly happier taking a walk with M around Williams Sonoma than Tiffany.

Weird? Maybe. 

Any inclination to change? Nope.

While shiny diamonds are pretty awesome in their own right, they've got nothing on a shiny dutch oven! 

When this arrived at my door a few weeks ago, there may have been some hysteria. 

My love for all things bake/cookware is wonderful (unless you're approaching it from a "financial" or "space in our tiny kitchen" angle... but hey, how about we just don't?). And while a lot of the time, items tend to be more pretty than they are useful, it was most definitely not the case here! 

As I've mentioned time and again, my favorite part of cooking is the connection it provides to the past and to the incredible people in my life, from my grandparents to my parents, presently. I love that I can make a cake in my kitchen, and the apartment will smell just like my grandmother's home when I was 10. I love that after messaging my Mom a million times over a recipe and instructions, once it's complete, I can give my boys a dish my Mom would make me. 

I've honestly never felt a greater connection to the memories of being around my grandmother while she prepared dinner, than I did while preparing this meal. For one, I started at about noon. My grandmother would always start making dinner shortly after breakfast. It wasn't that dinner necessarily needed that much time to cook, but it was when she had the time to dedicate to it and ensure it'd be ready and no one would have to wait to eat. I'll be honest, I'm usually not so great with the "no one waiting" part. Oftentimes, dinner will only be ready (read: I'll start cooking) after M gets home. This was different though. N was napping, Y was happily sitting in his high chair with snacks and excited to watch Mommy cook, and I had both the ingredients and energy to get started!

Even more significant than starting at noon, I made this from intuition and preference rather than from ratios and research. I struggled to keep the measuring spoons in the drawer, and approached the addition of spices from a intuitive angle. I don't think I ever saw my grandmother use an actual measuring spoon (which may also explain why I haven't been able to recreate a few of her recipes...). I stuck to what we like, rather than what would be expected and the reward was an incredible dish arising from the mingling of flavors and simplicity. 

It's no secret that I prefer recipes that involve minimal ingredients, prep time and clean up. This recipe used exactly two dishes: the dutch oven itself, and a plate for preparing the meat. That's it! And the dutch oven is so beautiful in and of itself, that it transfers seamlessly to the table and is a gorgeous serving dish.

A noteworthy feature is it's weightlessness. I've always had my eye on cast iron cookware, but being an itsy bitsy balebusta there's no way I'd be able to lift it, once full, in and out of the oven. Not the case here! This 3qt  dutch oven was light enough, even when full, that I could easily take it from counter, to oven to table with no struggle at all. Nordic Ware's dutch oven is made of cast aluminium. The Pro Cast Traditions line is sturdy, the heat conduction properties are excellent and the value and affordability make them accessible for those looking to purchase a heirloom quality pan without spending hundreds. There's no questioning the quality, and the fact that the product is so gorgeous, with a beautiful, gleaming cranberry colour, is an added bonus! Also, this specific model is the 3qt and it was large enough to double this recipe, at least! It's the perfect size for our family and a filling weeknight dinner! 

The dish came out absolutely excellently! The potatoes were soft, the meat pulled smoothly and the garlic was roasted to perfection. Everything cooked evenly and retained its moisture. Both M & our toddler Y, absolutely loved this and clean up at the end was as easy as the meal prep! 

If you're looking to add to your cookware collection, looking for the perfect gift or simply want to elevate your cooking with minimal effort, this is the line you should look to!

Dutch Oven Dinner (Serves 3)

2 large Sweet Potatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1-2 tsp Onion Powder
1-2 tsp Garlic Powder
1-2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 cup BBQ Sauce of your choice (I used a classic Chicken/Rib BBQ Sauce)
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
0.5kg Boneless Blade Steak
5 Cloves of Garlic
1/4 c Sweet Red Wine

*I've added the measurements for the spices, but feel free to add them at your discretion! 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes, into small cubes

Add sweet potatoes to dutch oven and generously drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (4-5 tbsp)

Add 1-2 tsp each of onion powder, garlic powder and paprika

Add 2 tsp of cinnamon 

Add 1/4 tsp of black pepper and 1/2 tsp of sea salt

Mix the potatoes to ensure even distribution.

On a separate plate, mix the BBQ sauce and brown sugar. Dip the steak in the mix until covered well on both sides. Add to dutch oven.

Peel garlic cloves and add to dutch oven.

Place in oven and bake for 40 minutes. 

Remove, stir potatoes and add sweet red wine.

Return to oven and cook for an additional hour, checking occasionally. 

Ready to serve directly to table!

I was generously provided with this Pro Cast Traditions 3qt Cranberry Dutch Oven by Nordic Ware. The opinions and experience provided within this post are completely my own.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Pan Cakes with Flare

Having graduated with a double major in English & Art History, I’ll be the first to say that math and science aren’t my strong suit. I took all required classes but I’m way more of a Chaucer and Caravaggio kinda girl, than the Galileo or Einstein type.

There’s no doubting that my willingness to jump into anything scientific has grown exponentially, given that the science of baking and cooking is definitely a science that speaks to me. And of course, whenever the division needed to figure out how much that new bundt pan will cost me on sale is necessary, I’m your girl (or y’know the girl that will ask my husband exactly how much we'll be saving…).

Having said all that, my list of favorite scientists is starting to grow, and on that list? Dr. Thomas Povey, Professor of Engineering at Oxford. He’s a rocket scientist who, among other feats, seriously cut down my cooking time in the kitchen. I like to think of him as the patron scientist of Mama’s to two under two.

Nordic Ware’s recent introduction of the Flare Cookware line has brought an innovative, practical and revolutionary product, to a market that could use this ingenuity.

Dr. Povey used his experience of trying to boil water on a camp stove while mountain climbing in the Alps (only slightly more difficult than trying to boil water with a newborn and toddler in the background) to develop a product that would both heat up and cook food faster, more evenly and efficiently.

Hello, Flare Cookware!

With the addition of scales to the bottom of the pan, the absorption of the stoves heat energy is quicker and held, not dissipating. This result in less time preheating, less cooking time and less energy.

With Flare, less is more.

More time to enjoy breakfast and less time cooking it. More time to read stories and less time scrambling eggs.

In my opinion, recipes need to be quick and easy and the fewer bowls or items needed for prep, and the less time in the kitchen the better. While pancakes definitely meet the first criteria, for some reason they always take me They’re so easy and with the addition of fruits and altering which flour I use or which additions I make, are a quick and healthy meal option for our toddler. But what toddler (or Mom for that matter) is patient enough for the process of ladling batter onto a frying pan over and over and over again, with later batches burning, early batches taking ridiculously long to cook and so on?

And have you tried to clean a pan after making a dozen pancakes?

No. No thank you.

Not the case now! I literally made 10, evenly and perfectly cooked pancakes, in 15 minutes. And the pan wiped clean afterwards.

*Cue confetti*

And these weren’t just any instant, light pancakes. These were legit pan cakes. They bear a denser texture, a stronger flavor and are definitely hearty. I adapted my grandmother’s recipe. The one she’d make occasionally and have ready for us after school, warm and gigantic. These don’t need any syrup or topping, but of course you’re welcome to garnish and dress them up however you’d like! I may or may not have made a maple icing drizzle for them the last time…

Definite to do list items for this week?

1. Get yourself a Flare pan.

2. Make these pancakes.

You’re welcome!

Makes 10, 8” pancakes

1 C whole milk (3%), cold
½ C white sugar
2 large eggs (cold)
1 ½ C all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
dash of cinnamon

Whisk all ingredient, in order, until just combined
Allow to rest for 1-2 minutes
Using a ladle, fill the surface area of the pan with batter, leaving enough room to flip the pancake with a spatula.
Allow to cook for 1 minute* and flip
Cook for an additional 30 seconds
Turn onto a platter and repeat until you’ve used all the batter
Best served warm, and on the same day (can be kept in a sealed container, in the fridge for up to 3, reheat before serving)

*Times may vary depending on your stove. These times are based on our electric stove.

Disclaimer: The 8" Flare pan used and mentioned within the post, was generously provided by Nordic Ware. All opinions expressed above are completely my own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Muffins

When I shared these coconut berry pops a couple of months ago, I was exhausted from chasing around our one year old and having just moved (at 8 months pregnant, nonetheless!). Now that there's a new, super cute reason to be exhausted, I'm not only loving recipes that are quick to make and require few ingredients, but ones which are quick to eat too!  

You see, either I have to eat quickly because there are only a few minutes left during nap time, after my to do list has been partially tackled, or for instance, my 18 month old is standing in front of me, longingly staring at whatever it is that I'm eating (and not moving until he's had a piece... Or half!).

So these days, I'm absolutely loving smoothies, muffins and anything else I can make quickly, add nutrients to and eat on the go! Coconut water has been a great help in meeting all three! Using it as a substitute for water in smoothies, is a simple and effective way to add electrolytes and a little boost. And when your muffins may have a tad more chocolate chips than a healthy muffin should, adding coconut water is an easy way to add nutrients! 

When Epicurex introduced me to Chocolate Coconut Water, I was more than happy to give it a try! Nutrients and chocolate? Yes, please. Adding a touch of chocolate to smoothies and a few recipes calling for water, has been a simple yet effective way to boost flavor while adding electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium (and more!) effortlessly! The intensity of coconut water, is muted with the addition of chocolate and a subtle coconut underlying flavor. It's a fantastic way to add a new dimension to your treats!

These chocolate coconut muffins are a great, simple treat! They are best served fresh with your favorite spread or a touch of margarine! With the boost of electrolytes and chocolate, thanks to the coconut water, you're only enhancing and not compromising the flavor at all!


Chocolate Coconut Muffins (Makes 12)

2 large eggs
1 C sugar
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Optional: 1/2 C of chocolate chips or a handful of shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F
Line and grease a muffin tray
Beat sugar and eggs together until well combined
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt
Add the flour mixture alternating with the chocolate coconut water
Mix until just combined
Add the optional chocolate chips or shredded coconut, if you'd like
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes

These muffins are best served fresh! They have bread like consistency and are wonderful with jam, cream cheese, margarine etc! 

Keep in a sealed container, at room temperature for up to 2 days otherwise

Epicurex provided me with a sample of Cocozia Chocolate Coconut Water to help create this recipe. The opinions, images and recipe provided, are all my own.