Saturday, December 25, 2010

My favourite pie crust recipe

It's Christmas day and I have been home for a week now and have already made 2 pies - the first was a QUICHE and the 2nd was a heavenly (but pain in the be-hind) coconut cream pie, which, I must add, was my first ever experience toasting coconut! Christmas at the Hartley James home is definitely a time for baking ... as I type, I can hear my sister working away at the stove making her famous butter tarts. We just finished off another dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert tonight and, over the course of the past couple of days, have consumed an embarrasing number of cheese biscuits (recipe to follow soon, I promise) and cinnamon buns. Somehow, as a family, we have gone through two and a half 1L cartons of heavy whipping cream. Hmmm.

I now introduce - trumpets abound - the most flawless, flakiest, ... fantastikest pie crust around. Thank you Ms. Martha (of course!). I have cut and pasted from her:
tutorial which I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend. It has really nice, clear pictures that show you what your crust should look like along the way. To note is that this recipe uses a food processor which, now that I own one, I strongly recommend any good cook pick up. Everyone knows that you make the best pie crust in a food processor. Hey, anything other than having to use a pastry cutter or, worse yet, 2 knives. These are options though ladies if you find yourself poor in kitchen appliances. Bon appétit all and have a most wonderful Christmas - a celebration of our Saviour's birth! I'll eat pie to that :)

Ingredients and Equipment:
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
• 1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed (I found that adding an extra tbs 1/2 was helpful)
• Food processor
• Rolling pin
• Glass pie plate or metal pie tins

Step 1: Making the Pie Dough
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. After the dry ingredients are pulsed together, the butter pieces are added all at once. The mixture is pulsed again until it has clumps ranging in size from coarse crumbs to 1/2 inch. This usually requires only a few pulses and takes about 10 seconds; it's very important not to overprocess the dough. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)

Step 2
Ice water is added (with the machine running) until the texture of the dough is crumbly and just holds together; the dough should not be wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Step 3
The crumbly dough is transferred to a work surface and divided in half. Each portion is placed on a sheet of plastic wrap; the wrap is gathered around the dough and pulled toward the center to form a ball. The dough is then flattened into a disk and chilled. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using
Step 4: Rolling the Pie Dough
Roll dough back to its proper dimension. Start rolling, working from center. If dough loses circular shape, place end of pin near the crooked edge and roll, working that area by pressing with one hand while holding the pin loosely with the other. Keep the work surface floured so the dough doesn't lose its shape, stick, or tear. Every few passes, release the dough by running a long offset spatula underneath, then throw more flour under it. As you go, run your fingers around the edges of the dough to feel if the thickness is even (and if not, to find where you need to roll more).
Step 5: Fitting the Pie Dough
After the pie dough is rolled out to its proper dimension, it's then rolled back up over the pin and gently draped over the pie plate. The dough is then fitted into it.

Step 6: Trimming the Pie Dough
Once the dough is fit properly into the pie plate, kitchen shears are used to trim the dough, leaving an even overhang along the perimeter of the plate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Baked Penné Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Jeremy finished his 4th/5 exams today. Poor guy has had 4 exams in the past 5 days. To decompress, he helped me make dinner tonight while Georgie looked on ... sniffing the air :) I have to say that for this meal, it's very nice to have a helper on hand - one person whisking the sauce while the other runs around getting all of the ingredients ready! If you don`t have a helper on hand, I`d recommend you really prepare the garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes etc. all before hand so that things run smoothly. This dish was pretty darn yummy. You can make it before hand and freeze it for later, which is always nice on a day that things are going to be pretty crazy around dinner time! Bon appétit!


3 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound penne rigate
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, halved horizontally
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
3/4 cup shredded provolone (3 ounces)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (2 ounces)


1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta, and return to pot.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.

3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Off heat, gradually stir in provolone and 1/4 cup Parmesan.

4. Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper. Add pasta mixture to your baking dish; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.

5. Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My famous Lemon-Poppy Seed Cookies

All I`ll say is that, right now, at this very instant, my house smells delicious. Like heaven. Lemon scented heaven. Tomorrow we`re having a little cookie exchange in the OT department at the hospital so I`ll be coming home with lots and lots of yummy cookies. These lemon poppy seed cookies are famous at the Giles`. They`re from Martha`s 2006 Christmas Cookie magazine that I just adore. One year I made 18 dozen of them for another cookie exchange. Now that was just plain crazy. Our wedding cake was lemon-poppy seed too... the flavour is, hands down, just one of my favourite things. Bon appétit! 

(Makes about 30)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced by half. Add 1 stick butter; stir until melted.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream remaining stick butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix in egg and lemon butter. Mix until pale, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla and 2 teaspoons zest. Mix in flour mixture and poppy seeds.
3. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons zest. Roll spoonfuls of dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll them in sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Press each with the flat end of a glass dipped in sugar mixture until 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with seeds.
4. Bake until just browned around bottom edges, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

I was out with some lovely colleagues of mine this past week to the hospital's most visited coffee joint - Ideal Coffee. If you are around the area of Bruyere and Dalhousie, you must, and I mean must check this little joint out. It comes highly recommended by all Bruyere Hospital OT staff and by my very own husband who is quite the coffee snob. Ideal grounds their own coffee beans (making it smell exactly like our basement!) and have a wonderful, quirky staff. Their drinks/eats are remarkably well priced (cookie + chai latté was about 3.00$) and each of their mugs is different. It`s not your regular Starbucks, let me tell you. I write about Ideal because they have the BEST ginger cookies. As I was downing my cookie over lunch, I thought to myself that I could really go for a few more of these mega, soft ginger cookies with the crackled tops. That night I went home, checked to see if I had any molasses and went to town. Bon appétit! 

- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon 1/2 ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1/4 cup regular unsulphured molasses
- granulated sugar (for coating cookie dough before baking)


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the center. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon pan liners. Set aside.

2. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves into a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. With mixer on medium speed, beat in the egg and molasses, then increase the speed to high and beat about 1 minute longer, until the mixture no longer looks curdled. Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula several times while mixing.

4. Mix in the flour mixture on low speed. The batter will be rather stiff. Place some granulated sugar on a small plate or saucer. Use a tablespoon to form 1 tbs portions of dough. (Spray the spoon with the optional non-stick vegetable spray to make it easier to release the dough.) Transfer the dough to your hands and roll each portion into a rough ball, then roll each ball into the sugar. Place 9-12 sugared balls on each baking sheet, spacing them evenly, because they will spread during baking.

5. Use a slightly damp bottom of a cup or measuring cup and press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it a little and dampen the top. Refrigerate one filled baking sheet while the other bakes. **Just remember the flatter you make your cookies and the longer you bake it, the crispier the cookie will be. So don't over do it.***

6. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the cookies have spread and are firm to the touch. Rotate the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. Remember to remove your cookies slightly before they look totally cooked. They will cook a little more on the baking sheet. Watch your cookies really well during the last few minutes so that they do not burn - nobody likes a burnt crispy cookie!

Note: This dough can be frozen for slice-and- bake cookies. Just roll into a log 2-1/2 inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. Can be stored in the freezer up to 6 months.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thai One On Chicken

A few months ago I cut this recipe out of my Clean Eating magazine. I know I've mentioned this magazine on the blog before - it's a magazine that essentially devoted to raw, clean cooking. As in, nothing from a box. Green cooking. Good for you cooking. Cutting down on fat (I recently finished reading an article on common dishes they`d 'scaled' ... I laughed when I read their comparisons between LIGHT and RICH dishes). And yada yada yada. Needless to say, I've been meaning to try this recipe for some little while now. 

Once again, all I can say is YUM. The coconut milk (in the article it calls for 'light'... come on' now... LIGHT coconut milk??) is so incredibly rich and tasty. We did our grilling on our Griddler - one of our favourite cooking appliances - but you could do this right on your BBQ, George Forman etc. I have to admit that after making dinner tonight our whole apartment smelled like Thai food, but it was a small price to pay! As you can guess, I must give photo creds to Clean Eating ... sadly Jerms and I didn't actually have any skewers when we came to threading our meat and veggies. Ours looked something like the picture except our skewer bits were all over our rice :)
Bon appétit!

- 13.5 oz light coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz each), cubed into skewer-size pieces
- 1 cup dry basmati rice
- 1 orange bell pepper (or bell pepper of your choice)
- 2 green zucchini
- 10 to 12 small white button mushrooms

Metal, bamboo or wooden skewers (soak your bamboo or wooden skewers for at least 20 minutes prior to use)

INSTRUCTIONS:1. In a saucepot, bring coconut milk to a boil. Add curry paste, whisking it in, and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until it thickens a bit. Remove from heat and let mixture cool. Place chicken in a resealable container. Reserve some coconut-milk mixture to brush over your vegetables and chicken while they cook. Pour remaining coconut-milk mixture over top of chicken, cover and put in refrigerator to marinate.

2. Cook rice according to package directions. (NOTE: Amy uses this covered-pot method: Bring 1 3/4 cup water to a boil, add rice and simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Then add 1 grind sea salt.)

3. Cut pepper and zucchini into chunks that are the same size as your chicken to ensure even grilling. Thread vegetables, including mushrooms, and chicken onto skewers – each skewer should be one-third chicken and two-thirds vegetables.

4. You can use a grill pan over the stovetop, indoor contact grill or outdoor grill. Keep heat moderate so chicken doesn’t burn before it cooks through. Grill your skewers over medium to medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender-crisp, turning halfway through and brushing reserved coconut-milk mixture over top of skewers as they cook.

5. Serve chicken-vegetable skewers over shallow bed of rice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New tunes.

The new winter tunes list is up.
Do enjoy some new sounds by some great artists :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Warm Chocolate Lava Puddings

All I can say about these little guys is yum, yum, yum, yum, YUM. And... did I mention... Yum?
A most lovely friend of mine and I made up a batch of these little lava cakes and were so darn pleased with ourselves. I think that I will make up another recipe (x 2, or 3) for our next round of Yums & Yarns (my monthly craft and chocolate night). The important thing is to have a set of ramekins on hand, otherwise you could probably make these in a muffin tin as well. Very bon appétit! 

Serves 4
- 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Ice cream (any flavor), for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place four 6- to 8-ounce ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Set aside.

2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in 2 tablespoons sugar, then egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Still beating, gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until mixture is stiff and glossy.

4. Using a rubber spatula, mix about 1/3 egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture just until combined. Divide among bowls. (Puddings can be prepared in advance up to this point; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 day.)

5. Bake until tops are puffed and cracked but insides are still quite soft (a toothpick inserted in center will come out gooey), 20 to 25 minutes, or 25 to 30 minutes if puddings were previously refrigerated. Serve, warm or at room temperature (puddings may sink as they cool), topped with ice cream, if desired.