The Blog! Archives

So much to learn!

I’m currently on vacation (yay!) and I’m visiting my brother and his family.  He’s kindly let me have the run of his kitchen, and as you all know, this makes me very happy!  It took me less than 24 hours before I got stuck into baking here.  But, I didn’t have many things turn out the way I wanted or expected, so me, being me, kept trying recipes until I got one that I was happy with.  I watch the cooking shows on TV and realise I have SO much to learn before I’ll be happy with what I can produce!

So here’s what I’ve learned in the first 24 hours of being here in Canada:

  • Canadian all-purpose gluten-free flour doesn’t have xanthan gum in it, which means anything I cook with it as a 1-for-1 replacement turns into a crumbly mess!
  • My shortcrust pastry recipe (here) probably needs to be blind-baked with some beans or dried rice to weigh it down before using as a crust … and needs to be rolled or patted really thin.  Otherwise it becomes very thick.  Yummy, but very thick.
  • M&Ms in Canada are gluten-free (yay!)
  • Hershey’s instant chocolate pudding works really well in Worms in the Mud (recipe here) and it is gluten-free!
  • I really should just let guys show me how to cook meat … I tried to cook some fried chicken a few days ago for the Quest and it was a failure.  My brother used almost exactly the same ingredients, but knew what he was doing and it turned out perfectly!

Please let me know of any suggestions you may have for me – I really want to learn how to cook things better!

And, as always, please comment on any of the recipes, blog posts or on my Quest – I’d love to hear from you!  And put in your e-mail address to receive any updates to these and other recipes!  You can also follow me on Twitter (@sarahcookathome) … I’m learning more about this social media thing.

Until next time … enjoy cooking at home (or wherever you are!)

Sarah

Savoury foods

Most of you would be aware by now that most of my time in the kitchen is spent making sweet things.  But I do enjoy trying (being the operative word) to make delicious main-course dishes as well.  Trying to make them from scratch, rather than relying on packet or jar mixes, and I’ve had some successes.  Many failures though!  But here’s some successes that I’ve had recently – check out the recipes by clicking on the pictures, try them, and let me know how you fare with them!

Crustless ham and veggie quiche

Crustless ham and veggie quiche

 

Pseudo-Bircher Muesli
Pseudo-Bircher Muesli

 

Thai coconut curry

Thai coconut curry

 

 

Honey tamari marinade with chicken

Honey tamari marinade with chicken

Creamy bacon and broccoli pasta

Creamy bacon and broccoli pasta

Burgers

Burgers

 

Last week Grant and I were blessed to be asked to cater for the local youth group.  We had heaps of fun, pretending I was ‘head chef’ and Grant was my ‘sous chef’ (or however you spell it!).  We made chilli con carne with sides of gluten-free cornbread (recipe here), corn chips and the option of sour cream.  Even though the main chilli seasoning was from a packet, we fancied it up with other spices, beef stock, tomato paste and beans, onions and celery.  The 20 people that were there thought it was great – one guy came back for about 4 servings of it!  Sorry for the quality of the photo, but I forgot the camera and this was taken from my phone … 

Catering chilli con carne

As always, I’d love to hear from you so PLEASE write comments on any recipes that you find interesting, or have tried, or just want to encourage me in my quest to relax and have adventures in the kitchen.  And if you want to be kept up to date with the new things I put on the website, sign up with your e-mail in the box up the top of every page.  I don’t send many e-mails, maybe one or two a week, so it shouldn’t clog up your inbox too much!

And remember, my Quest of making/eating foods according to the US National Food Day calendar is ongoing.  Check out my adventures under ‘The Quest’ or through Twitter @sarahcookathome.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Trying new recipes

Along with my National Food Day quest (follow my adventures here), I’m still trying some new recipes.   However, this hasn’t been without dramas either .  This weekend I’ve managed to:

  • Break our food processor, affectionately known as ‘The Wazzer’, meaning we needed to buy a new one …
  • Burn the filling for a special dessert for Grant, meaning we had to make an emergency dash to the shops to get more supplies …
  • Realise that egg whites can’t be whipped with a ‘slender blender’ (see the first point above!) – it needs a whisk, either electronic (much easier) or the hand-held variety – only realised after trying to obtain soft peaks after using the slender blender – they ended down the sink …
  • Realise that pineapple can (and should) be used in baking cookies …

 And again, you get the opportunity to have a say as to which of the following you’d like me to put on this website (after I make sure they’re good enough and reproducible enough for success!):

So add your thoughts in the comments below … I’d love to hear from you!  And if you like the recipes you see here on the website, please subscribe so you keep up to date with the new recipes I add.  Or sign up your friends and family …

I’ve just signed myself up for a Twitter account, so if you’re on Twitter, please follow me @sarahcookathome … and you’ll get all the adventures as I cook my way through the US National Food Day calendar!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

 

 

June 12 is National Peanut Butter Cookie day in the US.  So, in honour of this holiday, I am giving you a summary of all the recipes for peanut butter cookies I have tried with success … Feel free to try these and let me know which one(s) you like the best.

Recipes can be found by clicking on the links below:

Chickpea peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Flourless peanut butter cookies

Flourless chocolate peanut butter cookies

Gordon’s peanut butter and jam cookies

Monster cookies

Sally’s peanut butter cookies

Sally’s peanut butter chocolate cookies

 

And for the quest:

I recently found a website that detailed all the national food holidays in the US.  I have also recently watched the movie ‘Julie and Julia’, where Julie challenged herself to make every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook over the course of a year.  So, I am challenging myself to the following:

  • Follow the national food holidays guide and make/eat at least 4 out of 7 of the foods every week.
  • Ensure everything is gluten-free – whether I buy it (in the case of something like sushi) or whether I make it
  • Take photos wherever possible
  • Update The Blog with my experiences to share with you all!

And so the quest begins … I’ve updated the website format a little so there’s a dedicated section for this quest here.  Please follow along, add comments to support me and enjoy my journey!!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home.

Sarah

Things I’ve learned this week

Lots of baking this weekend (lots of eating, some exercise as well!).  I learned a lot about various things that I’d like to share with you all – feel free to comment on any of these or add your own experiences!

  • The type of white cooking chocolate used in recipes is really important.  Generic brand white chocolate buttons are great as choc chips in cookies, but not necessarily great when wanting to melt them and then have them hardened again.  Not mentioning any brands, but using a known brand versus the store-brand made such a difference in our cheesecake recipe!
  • M&M’s are gluten free when you source them from the US, but not from Australia.  Every type of M&M’s I’ve looked at the ingredients list here in Australia contain wheat.  And Smarties are the same.  I am thinking of writing to the company that makes M&M’s and ask why it is different from the different countries.  Until I can get gluten-free M&M’s, I won’t be able to make monster cookies again … and I want to!
  • Cinnamon rolls made using yeast rise … lots.  I followed a recipe that said I could make them up to when they’ve been rolled up and put in the tin to rise, then you can leave them at room temperature overnight.  I woke up the next morning to find they’d exploded over the top of the tin … still a nice taste, but kind of took the shine off of it all.
  • Using white sugar or brown sugar makes a difference in the texture for German ginger cookies … I’m not sure whether it was the type of sugar, or that one of the recipes required chilling, but out of the 2 I tried (in the never-ending quest for the ultimate German ginger cookie for Grant), one was light and fluffy, the other was a bit more crispy.
  • Using cornmeal and rice flour in a shortcrust pastry base works for some fillings and not for others.  It just seemed to be much thicker than the other crusts I’ve worked with.  This pastry worked well with a banana caramel filling, and a pecan pie filling, not so good with the pumpkin pie filling.
  • The Ugly Crust pastry works just as well for savoury pies as for sweets.  We made a beef casserole filling and mashed potato topping and put it in a pre-baked Ugly Crust.  Really yummy.  Thanks Janelle for inspiring me to try savoury stuff!

Stay tuned for the next exciting adventures in the kitchen …

Until then, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Internet recipes

This weekend I tried out a number of recipes I’ve been finding on the internet – those I’ve wanted to try for ages, but other things (like life) have gotten in the way.  Unfortunately I didn’t have that many successes … not to say the recipes were at fault, it was more likely my conversion to gluten-free that caused them not to stand out and make their way into my recipe folder.

The ones that worked (stay tuned for seeing these recipes on this website!):

  • Flourless chocolate cloud cake, from Nigella Lawson – I saw this on TV about 6 months ago and have been meaning to make it since then but other things have always taken priority instead.  I have tried a number of different recipes for flourless chocolate cake, but this was definitely the lightest in texture and really simple to make too.  Using dark chocolate, rather than milk chocolate, may have made a difference … but the fact that the recipe doesn’t require cocoa means there’s definite scope for a trial of a white chocolate cake – I’ll let you know when we try this!!
  • Oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  I am beginning to find this website as one of my favourite ones.  Everything I’ve made from here has been great, as long as you follow the instructions, which are usually given with great step-by-step photos and even some of the science behind her recommendations.  These were soft and chewy … really yummy!
  • Inside out chocolate chip cookies, also from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  Again, soft and chewy.  Again, really yummy.  For cookies, this website is the place to go (in my opinion, anyway!).

The ones that didn’t work as well (again, not saying there is anything wrong with the recipes, just with my making of them!):

  • Peanut butter cookie dough brownies, from Crazy for Crust.  I thought this would be my ultimate – peanut butter, cookie dough and brownies all together – but it just didn’t reach any great heights.  It was ok, the kids loved it, much better when it was eaten straight from the freezer.
  • Gingerbread fudge, from Crazy for Crust.  With Grant and his never-ending love of all things ginger at the moment, I thought I’d give this a try.  It just didn’t set, or turn into a fudge texture.  The taste was there, but it was very gooey, even with spending overnight in the freezer.
  • Oatmeal peanut butter cookie dough truffles, from Crazy for Crust.  I didn’t mind these as I was sampling them while making them, but after they had chilled overnight in the fridge they lost a lot of the flavour.  I was going to try this recipe again, substituting the brown sugar with honey, but I’m not sure I care any more since I have a lot of other recipes that taste similar.
  • Quick cinnamon rolls, again from Crazy for Crust.  This was my first attempt at making cinnamon rolls using yeast.  The taste was there, they were very yummy, but didn’t quite have the lightness that you get from Cinnabon, for example.  Again, likely due to using gluten-free flour rather than normal flour.
  • Greek yoghurt truffles, from Dessert for Two.  This was a really simple recipe, Greek yoghurt and melted white chocolate.  But it just didn’t set, again, even overnight.  We think it might be due to the white chocolate that we used, considering white chocolate was used in the gingerbread fudge as well, and that didn’t set.  So I went and bought a different brand … we’ll see how that one goes next time I try something like that!

As always, please comment on any recipes, whether you have tried them, are going to try them, or just think they look cool – I would love to hear from you.  And if you’d like to get regular updates when I add new recipes, please subscribe to the website.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Successes … and failures (kind of)

I had a number of successes this week .. and some failures that weren’t actually that bad.

Wins:

  • Really soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies (recipe here)
  • Really soft and chewy peanut butter cookies (recipe here)
  • Arroz con leche – rice pudding – with cranberries instead of raisins (recipe here)

Not-so-successful:

  • Flourless chocolate chip cookies – using walnuts, almonds, honey, egg and vanilla – this was ok, but not really a cookie.  Might try it as a slice next time.
  • Lebkuchen – German christmas cookie – yes, I’m still trying to find the recipe for the elusive cookie for Grant.  This one he has said the taste was there, and the texture (YAY!), but I had all sorts of problems getting it into a dough that I could knead and roll out.  I ended up just baking it in a big round circle, then cutting it after baked.  So it still needs a bit of work before I’ll post it on this website.

And a heads up for the gluten-intolerant of us – check your icing mixture packets.  I had just finished icing the lebkuchen, had a spoonful of the leftover icing (as you do) and started feeling crook … because the icing mixture I used contained wheat.  Who would have thought?

Thank you to those of you who have started commenting on my recipes – keep the comments coming!

Until next time – enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

 

Reader’s choice

I’m giving you the opportunity to have a say in what recipe I next post on this website.  I’ve done a reasonable amount of baking this weekend, although I’ve tried to make it a little healthier i.e. less added sugar, more natural ingredients.  And what I’d like to know is whether any of these finished products should be worthy of being included on this website.  Vote for the recipe you’d like to see in a comment below and I’ll see which one gets the most (if any!

Chewy ginger snaps

And in my quest for Grant’s ultimate gingerbread cookie, I made these.  These cookies were soft and chewy, loads of spice (I doubled the amount in the recipe).  Grant has said that he’d eat these quite happily, but it’s still not what he’s after.  What he’s looking for is some German gingerbread cookies that usually come out around Christmas time, dusted with icing sugar (or something else).  Any comments/suggestions greatly appreciated!

 

 

So that’s it from me for now.  Please leave comments/suggestions so I know that you’re actually reading these posts and/or trying the recipes!  And if you like what you read, please sign up for updated recipes when I post them.  And share the website with your family and friends – the more the merrier!

Until then, enjoy cooking at home,

Sarah

 

I need your help!!

To all of you that look at this website – I NEED YOUR HELP!!  Grant has given me the task of finding the recipe for the ultimate gingerbread cookie.  He had some gingerbread at Christmas time one year and fell in love with the flavour – now he wants me to re-create it.  So, I’m asking for all of your help to get this recipe to his liking.

The criteria is that it needs to have a spicy flavour, with definite tastes of ginger and nutmeg.  It also needs to be soft and chewy on the inside, not hard like some of the commercial gingerbread men that you can buy.

Gingerbread cookies trial #1I tried a recipe this weekend that I had had in my folder for ages.  I thought it was ok, and so did most of the people that tried it, but Grant didn’t think they were anything special, just tasted like a generic honey biscuit (even though there was no honey in them!).  Needless to say I’ve now taken that recipe out of my folder and I’m asking for any and all assistance.

If you have a gingerbread recipe (either the bread or a cookie) that you use with great success, please either include it or a link to it in the comments section below.

 

I did make some other things this weekend, but I’ll save those for another blog post later.

As always, you can comment on any recipe, make suggestions for me to try and suggestions to improve this website – I’d love to hear from you!  And if you like what you see here, please subscribe to get the updates as I put them up here, and sign up your friends and family!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home.

Sarah

Small changes

This weekend I wanted to try something new with some of my recipes.  Just some small changes to various aspects based on stuff I’ve read and seen on the Internet.  Some worked, some didn’t!

 

Chocolate peanut butter jam cookies

Flourless peanut butter jam cookies

Recipe: Chocolate almond butter cookie

Changes:  Peanut butter instead of almond butter, jam on top before baking. 

Result: Pretty dry, Grant suggested making them half-size so you could put them straight in your mouth and get the sweetness of the jam to complement the yumminess of the chocolate and peanut butter combination. 

 


Chocolate peanut butter cookie sliceChocolate peanut butter cookie slice

The original recipe that I got this from stated it served either 10 kids, or one very tired and stressed mother. Even with my love of chocolate and peanut butter, I would struggle to eat all of it (especially in one sitting)!

Recipe:  Peanut butter cookies

Changes:  Crushed cookies into small pieces, melted chocolate, butter and peanut butter together and mixed in crushed cookies.

Result: It was really difficult to slice easily, and I didn’t get any really nice looking pieces, but ultimately, it just comes down to how it tastes.  And in my humble opinion, how can you go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter together? 

Carrot cake

Carrot cake

Carrot cake

Recipe: Carrot cake

Changes: Almonds instead of hazelnuts, doubled the amount of mixed spice

Result: It was delicious.  Really moist and tasty.  I only made a half-batch, but between the four of us in the family, we cleaned it up in just one sitting – it was that yummy!

 

I had been hanging out to try making a rice pudding – the recipe looked so easy and the pictures looked so delicious.  But, it didn’t work.  It was a peanut butter rice pudding from Chocolate Covered Katie, but I changed it … probably a little too much.  I didn’t use peanut butter, I substituted honey for the sugar and raisins for the chocolate chips.  It just tasted like soggy rice.  I remember reading that she doesn’t guarantee her recipes work if you try to substitute things … this is definitely evidence of that!  So, it’s nothing against the actual recipe, just my interpretation of it.  If any of you have rice pudding recipes that work, please let me know!

Other recipes I tried this weekend:

Recipes are available on this website for the pasta and the chocolate prune bars (no changes this weekend).  The oat slice changed from being an apple oat slice (using strawberry jam instead of pie apples) and the banana bread actually changed from being pear and granola muffins …!  Please let me know if you’d be interested in these recipes being put on the website – I may have to try them a few more times before I’m happy with my changes!

As always, please feel free to leave a suggestion or comment (starting to think that no one reads this due to the lack of feedback …!) and if you like the recipes please enter your e-mail to subscribe for the updates and let your family and friends know about it.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home.

Sarah 

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