Lemony fresh lemonade

Today I went to the giant bulk store, Costco. I try to only buy what I need, as sometimes good prices on giant packages of food can be too tempting and it usually takes me a while to use them all. This is all well and fine for non-perishable items, but for bags of vegetables or fruits, it’s not a good thing.

Sometimes, I can’t resist buying something I know I probably shouldn’t.

That’s why I walked out with a giant bag of fantastic looking lemons. I know, it’s out of season and I’m not buying locally. But I live in the Alberta prairie, and all our citrus comes from somewhere else anyway.

What do you do when you have more lemons than you know what to do with? Make lemonade of course.

I used a recipe from the great site Simply Recipes, and the result was a wonderfully tart drink and a kitchen smelling of lemons. Half of the batch is already gone, so I’ll probably make more tomorrow. Heaven knows I still have enough lemons for probably 2-3 more batches.

Perfect lemonade
From Simply Recipes

Ingredients
1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup)
1 cup water (for the simple syrup)
1 cup lemon juice
3 to 4 cups cold water (to dilute)

Method
Make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved completely.

While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 4 to 6 lemons, enough for one cup of juice.

Add the juice and the sugar water to a pitcher. Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water, more or less to the desired strength. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes. If the lemonade is a little sweet for your taste, add a little more straight lemon juice to it.

Serve with ice, sliced lemons.
Serves 6.

I used the lesser sugar measurement as I prefer lemonade that isn’t too sweet. The comments on the Simply Recipe site has some great tips for variations on this recipe too, like raspberry lemonade or alcoholic versions. I think the Simply Recipes version of pink lemonade is a great idea to try too.

Edited to add: Frozen raspberries or strawberries make a great substitue for ice cubes, and give the lemonade a bit of extra flavour!

Chocolate and almond financiers

Before I met her, one of my friends was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which means she cannot eat anything with gluten (wheat, soy sauce, bread, etc.). Luckily, with the ability to share experiences and recipes over the Internet, there are many gluten-free recipes to be found.

My challenge with gluten-free baking though, is that most of it requires a mix of different kinds of flour (potato flour, arrowroot flour, rice flour, xanthan gum, etc.). Except for when I bake something for my friend, I will not usually use these multitudes of different flours and am reluctant to buy them only to have them sit in my pantry for long periods of time. So when I saw this simple David Lebovitz recipe for chocolate financiers on the Gluten-Free Girl’s blog, I couldn’t resist giving it a try.

Chocolate and almond financier

Chocolate and almond financier

This has become one of my go-to “let’s impress people” dishes because they’re so tiny and yet pack in so much chocolate and almond flavour. People love these things; it’s just a bonus that they’re gluten-free too. Continue reading

Berry cobbler

Berry cobbler

Berry cobbler

I was invited to a BBQ a couple of weeks ago and decided to bring a dessert. Unfortunately I only had a short time to pull something together, so some of my normal desserts were out due to lack of time or missing ingredients. I did have a bag of frozen berries sitting in my freezer, however, and so I hopped on the Internet and found a fairly simple berry cobbler recipe. The original recipe can be found on Cooks.com; however I made a few adjustments.

Berry cobbler

3 c. mixed berries, frozen or fresh
1 c. all-purpose (whole wheat) flour
1 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
5 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Pour berries into 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan. If you wish for a sweeter cobbler, sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and mix. Don’t put too much as the fruit will be sweet already. My berries were frozen, so I put the pan in the oven while the oven warmed up.

Stir flour, sugar and egg mixture; it will resemble coarse meal. Sprinkle in chunks over berries. Drizzle melted butter over top of cobbler. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 -40 minutes until the topping becomes golden and the berry mixture bubbles.

This tastes best when hot, and goes well with ice cream.

Creating your own salad dressing

Last night, I decided to make my own salad dressing for the first time, instead of using one out of a bottle. I’ve seen salad dressings being made on cooking shows all the time, and I knew it wasn’t hard to do.

Before I started I did a quick Google search for recipes, but nothing really caught my fancy. I had quite a few of the ingredients that the various recipes said I would need for a salad dressing, and a number of vinegars to choose from. Should I use balsamic? Red wine vinegar? Mustard? Do I want something creamy or a light vinagarette?

The salad leaves I would be using had a bit of flavour on their own, so I decided that I needed something with a strong taste of it’s own. Except for Caesar salads, I generally don’t use cream dressings anymore.

The Brûlée Blog’s Honey Mustard Vinagrette

2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
2 teaspoons liquid honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
one part apple cider vinegar
one part extra virgin olive oil

Mix throughly, adding the oil gradually as the last step. This makes a strong mustard tasting vinagarette, so you may want to adjust the amount of mustard depending on your personal tastes. I added the amount of vinegar and oil until the dressing became the consistency that I wanted. I ended up with enough dressing for 3-4 large servings of salad.

I’ve seen similar recipes with pressed garlic and/or sugar added to the dressing, but I didn’t think it needed either of those at all.

Smoothies

For Christmas I requested one appliance on my Christmas list – an immersion blender. Since I opened the box on Christmas, I have kept it working making various things like sauces and smoothies. Mostly smoothies.

My main go-to smoothie has been this one which uses frozen bananas, vanilla and almond extracts, and milk. I substitute low-fat soy milk and add a bit of liquid honey for some added sweetness. Yummy.

For variations, I’ve added cocoa powder (not bad but not enough chocolate taste), as well as frozen and/or fresh fruit (berries work great). I found that you don’t need ice cream as long as you froth the smoothie enough. Healthier than a milkshake, and cheaper than going to Dairy Queen.

On cooking with the Internet and cookbooks

Everyone who knows me, knows about the love affair I have with books. They’re scattered all over my house and I’m ecstatic when I receive a bookstore gift card. I even used to work in a bookstore a long, long time ago. So when I started cooking, I also started to buy cookbooks. I’ve bought items like a couple of the Moosewood books, a Chinese cookbook, a Jamie Oliver cookbook, one-pot dishes books, slow cooker books, vegetarian books… the list goes on. I’ve got a nice little collection now – enough books to last me at least a few years if I cooked one recipe per day. But do I use any of them? Not really.

I’m not sure if this is a result of working and reading on the Internet a lot, but I’ve found that 99% of the new recipes I’ve tried have come from blogs, e-mails, or Google searches. I’ve made recipes from some of the blogs that I’ve listed in my blogroll. I’ve made some from the US and Canadian Food Network websites, from Epicurious, and from Cooks.com. I’ve even bookmarked items from Cooking for Engineers, a great step-by-step site. I started to notice my bookmarked favourites getting bigger and bigger, so to help me organize all my online recipes I created a folder in my searchable e-mail account titled Recipes and started e-mailing myself items that I find on the Internet. I have 47 e-mails in there, some of which have multiple recipes within them. Who needs cookbooks when you can open up your laptop and cook from there? Be careful of spillage on the keys though – that’s even harder to clean (and more expensive to fix) than sauce marks on your cookbook.