The Blog! Archives

New toys & a new look

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post – not that I haven’t been cooking, as you will notice by the new recipes and updates on my challenge, so I thought I’d just summarise what I’ve been doing since I got my new toys.  You may also notice a change to the website – please (PLEASE) let me know what you think – whether you like it or not!

First of all, the new toys are:

KitchenAid 600 Series 6 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer, otherwise known as ‘Nigella’, and a Ninja Food Processing System, otherwise known as ‘Ninja’ (sorry, not that inventive!).

Kitchenaid mixer

‘Nigella’

Ninja

‘Ninja’

 

So I’ve been busy using both of these toys making lots of old favourite recipes, and trying out new ones.  The first one that I made in the KitchenAid was my monster cookies since I’d burnt out a motor in a previous mixer and I wanted to make sure my new mixer could handle what I could throw at it.  And it did … with flying colours!  The first one that I made in the Ninja was my quinoa bars, again since I’d burnt out a motor in a previous one and the Ninja did awesomely!  See below for other favourites I’ve made and try them yourselves!

Again, if you like what you see here on my website, I’d love for you to sign up to receive the e-mail updates (they don’t happen that frequently), or sign up your friends and family.  And I’d also love to hear your comments and suggestions on any of the recipes!

If you’re into more social media-type stuff, you can also follow me on Twitter at @sarahcookathome.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Catering adventures

I’ve been in Canada on vacation for the past 3 weeks, and have been incredibly blessed by my brother and his wife, who have let me invade their kitchen many, MANY times.  Thank you SO much Brian and Briana – your hospitality has been amazing!

But they have also asked me to do some catering (provide desserts and other stuff) for various events they have had during this time, so I thought I’d do a quick recap of all I’ve made (and failed).  The photos aren’t necessarily of the exact things I made, but they contain links to the recipes if any of them catch your eye and you feel like trying it out!

Pecan pie #2

Pecan pie

 

Worms in the mud

Worms in the mud

 

Carrot Cake with pecans

Carrot cake

 

Honey tamari marinade with chicken

Honey tamari marinade with chicken

Cookies & cream cheesecake

Cookies & cream cheesecake

 

Burgers

Burgers

White chocolate berry baked cheesecake

White chocolate berry baked cheesecake

Chocolate crackle cookies

Chocolate crackle cookies

 

Peanut butter mystery cookies

Peanut butter mystery cookies

Lemon polenta cake

Lemon polenta cake

Chickpea peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Chickpea peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Quinoa bars

Quinoa bars

 

Creamy bacon and broccoli pasta

Creamy bacon and broccoli pasta

White chocolate flan

White chocolate flan

No-bake energy bites

No-bake energy bites

PS Sorry the photo alignment isn’t perfect – for some reason I couldn’t get this to work after I edited a few things – bear with me as I learn more about this website design thing!

Gee, I did do a lot of baking, didn’t I?  And that’s not all I made during my time in Canada.  I made up a few things for the US National Food Day quest (details here) that were either just for me or didn’t work out so I don’t have the recipes on my website.  But you can follow my adventures in the Quest updates (subscribe with your e-mail address in the right-hand corner here) or on Twitter @sarahcookathome.

Next week I’ll have lots more recipes to share my successes (hopefully) with you as we’re officially moving to the US so I need to use up a whole pile of ingredients, as well as continue the Quest.  Stay tuned!

As always I’d love your comments on anything you see here, and suggestions on how to make the website better, what type of recipes you’d like to see etc.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home (or wherever you may be!)

Sarah

Comparison – monster cookie recipes

This is the experiment you’ve all been waiting for … the battle of the monster cookie recipes!  Since I found these two recipes, I’ve been wanting to try them out, but since Australian M&Ms contain gluten, I’ve had to wait until I went to North America again to do this.  And then I had the issues with the Canadian gluten-free all-purpose flour blend last week, so now that I’m making my own flour blend, AND I can get gluten-free M&M’s (peanut butter at that), and I had the perfect opportunity to give away the finished product to a great number of people, rather than eating it all myself, I can now let you know the results.

Recipe contender #1: From Sally’s Baking Addiction (recipe here) – Soft-baked monster cookies.

Monster cookie Sally

Soft and chewy, one taster said it was like a shortbread cookie, and they turned out a little ‘puffy’, but no one really seemed to mind that!

Recipe contender #2: From Dessert for Two (recipe here) – 1 dozen monster cookies.

Monster cookie dessert 4 2

These were called the ‘flat’ cookies because they spread so much in the oven.  Sally’s recipe called for chilling of the dough prior to baking, this one didn’t.  I wonder if I had chilled this recipe whether they would have turned out ‘puffy’ as well.

And the results were … (drum-roll):

Out of the 16 taste testers, the result was split.  Some people liked the crunchy texture of the flat ones, others liked the soft and chewiness of the others. 

Me personally, I liked both of them equally, but I can’t go past my standard recipe (here)

Feel free to try all these recipes out for yourself and let me know how you go!  I’d love to hear from you (hint, hint!!)

Until next time, enjoy baking at home (or wherever you are!)

Sarah

Monster cookies

Monster cookies

Comparison – brown vs white rice flour

Travelling to Canada has been an eye-opener for me in terms of gluten-free cooking.  I guess I got a little complacent with a really good gluten-free all purpose flour blend that I could get from Aldi Food Stores in Australia.  I bought a big bag of GF flour the first day I was here, and then proceeded to make very crumbly muffins and cookies for the next few days, even with added xanthan gum.  So I went back to the good ol’ internet and looked up potential other gluten free blends.  I had my standard blend of rice flour / tapioca starch /potato starch / xanthan gum that I used extensively in Chile (conversion here), but wondered if there were any other potential ones.

We often found the above blend to produce rather ‘grainy’ textures, and found a link to a flour blend that used brown rice flour, rather than white rice flour.  In Australia, it’s a little more difficult to get brown rice flour, so I haven’t bothered (and because the Aldi flour blend is so good!).  But here in Canada, we were able to get brown and white rice flour as well as a lot of other starches and other types of flours.  And here begins the experiment.

I made a batch of double chocolate chip cookies (loosely adapted from this recipe), half with brown rice flour and half with white rice flour.  Exactly the same proportions and other ingredients.  And then asked the extended family to tell me which one tasted either better or more grainy.  Out of the 8 people that tested the recipe, none of them could taste any difference.  But then again, this recipe may not have tasted grainy previously either … so I’ll just have to try this again with a different recipe.

Rice flour comparison

On the left is the cookie made with brown rice flour, on the right with white rice flour.  No difference in appearance, texture or taste!

I’d love to hear any suggestions you guys may have with regards to making your own gluten-free flour blends.  Just comment in the section below!  And any other experiments you’d like me to try while I’m on vacation, have full access to the kitchen (with an awesome Kitchen-Aid mixer and food processor) and a bit more time on my hands!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you all …

Until next time – enjoy cooking at home,

Sarah

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

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