Monday, August 29, 2011

Healthier Chocolate Carrot Cake

Healthy Chocolate Carrot Cake
I love cake. I love veggies. I love chocolate. I love low-fat.

This cake has all of that and guess what? It tastes fabulous.

This Chocolate Carrot Cake was inspired by the absence of zucchini in my fridge. You see, zucchini is in season right now but the local grocery stores I frequent seem to have forgotten that. All the zucchini I`ve seen lately has been expensive or looks like tiny sad looking pickles. When I go shopping next week maybe I'll find some...fingers crossed. The reason I was looking for cheap plentiful zucchini is that I really wanted to make chocolate zucchini bread.

Yesterday my craving couldn't wait a day longer. I had to make some kind of chocolate loaf. Peering into my crisper I then saw them. 2 carrots. Chocolate Carrot Cake was born.

Healthier Chocolate Carrot Cake
I made this recipe healthier by substituting unsweetened applesauce for the oil. The blogger I got this recipe from said that they had already reduced the sugar. I was tempted to reduce it more but didn't and I'm glad because any less sweet and it would no longer be cake. This cake is moist, slightly sweet and oh so chocolaty. I will be making this again and again! Take that zucchini!

There is a cup and a half of carrot in this cake and they definitely count towards your daily servings. So dig in and don't feel guilty when you devour half of it in one sitting. I know I didn't ;-)

Healthier Chocolate Carrot Cake
from Mochachocolata Rita

  • 1/2 cup and 2 tbsp applesauce
  • 3/4 cup white granular sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of AP flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • handful of chocolate chips as a topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9" loaf pan.
  2. Cream the applesauce, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. (I used my kitchenaid standmixer)
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat together until smooth. Stir in the carrots.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake for 30- 40 mins until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for an hour before serving.
Healthier Chocolate Carrot Cake

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Ongoing Sourdough Project - Current Best Recipe

Sourdough Bread - One of the prettiest loaves I've made.
As the title of my blog states, I cook. I love to cook and do so everyday but to be perfectly honest, the bulk of my time in the kitchen is spent baking. I thought of naming the blog Kaitlyn Bakes but it was just too specific.

One of my ongoing baking projects is sourdough bread. I created my own starter last December 2010 and I've fed, nurtured and experimented with that starter ever since. I've made a few stellar loaves of bread with this starter and a few not-so-stellar ones. I just haven't been able to master sourdough. I can't get perfect shape, texture and sourdough flavor to occur consistently. But I still attempt it, constantly learning from my mistakes and my successes.

Baking with something that it alive means that so many things can go right, or wrong. I don't feed or use my starter regularly so I tend to come across problems like the one I had recently:

Two nights ago, after a two month stint in the fridge I pulled my starter out with the intent to feed it (finally) and perhaps bake with it. I thought that the hot thunderstormy weather would be perfect for making sourdough bread. It was warm out and the air actually held some moisture, rare for my high desert home.

As I opened the lid to the jar I peaked in and saw an inch of the lovely black alcoholic liquid bakers call hooch. I normally stir it back into the starter but I normally don't have quite so much hooch hanging out on top. "Whatever", I said and I stirred all that 1 inch of hooch right into my starter. 24 hours later I baked with it. That loaf was the strongest loaf of sourdough bread I've ever baked. We love a strong tasting sourdough but this loaf was too much. It literally tasted like sour beer. I put two and two together and determined that I should have poured most of the hooch off, oh well, next time.

The next day I set about making a second batch of sourdough as my starter always does so well after it's first intense feeding after use. My goal was to make sourdough but I think that subconsciously I wanted just a hint of sour after that hooch bread I made the day before. I put less starter in and the result was a very light chewy bread with a lovely crust and practically no sourdough flavor.

So sourdough is hit and miss with me. But when my starter is behaving properly and I haven't hooched it to death my current sourdough recipe works really well.

Below is my Current 'Best Recipe' for Sourdough. I've had the most success with this recipe. This recipe has created some yummy loaves. Just make sure your starter is very active and rising and falling regularly before you bake with it. Also when forming your loaves make sure that surface area is tight or the dough will rise and spread outwards/down. (I've done this way too many times, you think I'd learn ;-))

Sourdough loaf - THE BEST loaf I've made from Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe

Basic Sourdough Bread
by Kaitlyn McFadden

  • 2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter) 
  • 3 Cups of unbleached flour 
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons of salt 
  1. Mix sugar, salt, and oil into the sponge. Knead 1/2 cup of flour at a time. You may not need all the flour. Just add enough to make a soft, flexible bread dough that's not too sticky or hard.  Knead for 10 - 15 minutes. 
  2. Place in a oiled bowl, turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and wait for it to double. Can be anywhere from 3 hours to 24 hours depending on room temp, humidity, and how active your yeast are.
  3. Punch dough down, form into a loaf and place on a greased baking sheet or in a loaf pan.
  4. Cover the loaf and let it double again.
  5. Score the loaf and place in your oven, un-preheated. Turn the oven on to 350F and bake for 30-40 minutes. The loaf is cooked when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. 
  6. Let the loaf cool for an hour and slice and serve.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Healthy Baked Oatmeal

Healthy Baked Oatmeal
Healthy Baked Oatmeal
I love baked oatmeal. When I lived at my parents house I made it all the time using a recipe I found in some random Christmas themed food magazine. The recipe was called Amish Baked Oatmeal and it literally tasted like you were eating a bowl of soft, warm, crispy edged, crumbled oatmeal cookies. Since I began my healthy eating kick over 2 years ago I have avoided the recipe. You see it tasted like oatmeal cookies because it basically was a recipe for oatmeal cookies; chock full of massive amounts of sugar, eggs and melted butter. Eating that much sugar in the am is not a good way to start off the day.

So I avoided baked oatmeal like a plague until recently when I started experimenting with healthy oatmeal cookies...the no sugar, no eggs, no butter kind. (I've almost perfected that recipe and it should appear on the blog soon, especially since my sister in visiting next week!) We eat oatmeal for breakfast I'd say on average 4 days a week. The other day when I was eating oatmeal for the third day in a row (we try to avoid that as we want a good un-strained relationship with oats) I decided that if I can make a healthy oatmeal cookie, I can make some healthy baked oatmeal.

I found this recipe for Cookie Dough Oatmeal on Chocolate Covered Katie and slightly adapted it to make it more my style and in the style of Amish Baked Oatmeal. It's very similar to that recipe and I think, incredibly delicious. It is also a lovely break from the monotony of a bowl full of oatmeal. The texture is soft oatmeal cookie-like and moist with to-die-for crispy edges! Yum!

Healthy Baked Oatmeal
adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

serves 3 on its own or 4 as an addition to something else


  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup of soy milk
  • 1-4 tbsp of agave
  • 1-4 tbsp of canola oil 
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
**optional additions
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon and 3/4 cup of raisins (shown in pictures)
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon and 3/4 cup of diced apples
  • 1 cup of blueberries or other berry or chopped dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of chocolate chips

  1. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a prepared loaf pan. You could use a 8" square or round cake pan but watch the oatmeal carefully as it may need shorter or longer to bake.
  2. Bake at 360F for 40 minutes. Broil on high for 3-5 minutes after that for a crispy top and edges. 
Healthy Baked Oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Abita Purple Haze Review

Abita Brewing Company's Purple Haze
Abita Brewing Company's Purple Haze is one of the beers we picked up on our World Market shopping spree. I loved the name and the fact that it was brewed with fresh raspberries so I just had to get a bottle to try.  The brew is crafted from pilsner and wheat malts and Mt. Hood hops. The water used is artisan water from Abita Springs Louisiana, the spring the brewery is named after. Yes this is a Louisiana beer! The brewery location is 30 miles north of New Orleans. Its been around awhile too...25 years to be exact as it was born in my year, 1986. (I'm still waiting on my birthday though.)

So what do I think of this Louisiana raspberry beer?

Well I really wanted to love this beer but I didn't. There was a slight whiff of raspberry but that was about it. The colour was light amber, not purple in any way. There was no raspberry flavor and the chunks of raspberry that the label said I might find were disappointingly non-existent. The beer had low hops, which I love but it also had high carbonation, which I hate.

To be perfectly honest, this beer tastes like Budweiser with a raspberry dropped in it.  And by that I mean it tastes like a cheap, mass produced beer. There is some flavor in it but nothing distinguishable or significant enough to call it a fruit infused beer.

This beer is not terrible but its not great. I'd take a Ruby over this any day.

Score: 2/5

Abita Purple Haze

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Caramel Fail!

Failed caramels - they photograph well but are hard, brittle and oozed butter for 12 hours.
I haven't posted very much this month. I was away for the 1st week of August but other than that I've been home and cooking everyday like usual. I think the reason I haven't been posting frequently is because a lot of the recipes I've tried or have been working on myself have failed. Some have failed more miserably than others but overall August has been pretty brutal so far.

So far this month I've failed at a cake, batch of cupcakes, and caramel. Whenever I put myself out there to try something new and I succeed, I get all pumped and want to try something new again. When I fail, I instantly scrub all the bakeware/pots/pans of evidence of this failure. I then lay on the couch and watch garbage TV like the Real Housewives of New Jersey and then proceed to only make tried, tested and true recipes for the next week. So success = one step forward and failure = 7 steps back. Now that's a recipe for a neglected blog. I knew I needed to break this pattern.

So the day after my cupcake fail I decided to be adventurous and try a recipe for caramel I've had bookmarked for ages. This recipe ended up being my most epic fail yet. Sunken cakes can't compare to the disaster that occurs when your sugar separates from the butter when making caramel or toffee.  I haven't yet decided what to do with these little buggers. It kills me that I've wasted 2 sticks of butter when butter is so expensive these days! But lo and behold I did not lay on the couch and watch 40-year old moms duke it out or watch Bruce Jenner be Bruce Jenner...I scrubbed the pots clean of the failure and sat down at my desk to write this post. I don't think I'll be baking tomorrow (today) but at least I've posted. 

Hmmm...I think that I'll drain off the excess butter and crush up the remaining 'toffee' to use in cookies.  I'm thinking clearly again...I think my butter-wastage-rage has subsided   ;-)

**Update: Shawn loves them and has eaten 2 so far. Lol!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beer of the Month - Black Boss Porter

Black Boss Porter *must be drunk from an over sized goblet
I finally convinced the hubby that we should check out World Market. I wanted to go there to check out the bake ware, cooking tools, clearance stemware and gourmet foods and spices. Because I don't have a car I usually tag on my big box store shops to one of his trips to Home Depot because in Bend all those stores are next door to each other. So he did his Home Depot thing, I did my Target thing and we met at World Market. I walked in and thought "this is nice" and made my way over to all the baking sheets. Shawn followed me around, convincing me to buy some silicone bake ware, a glass plate for food photography, then he saw it....the glassware. He really has a thing for stemware/glasses. We have boxes of different glasses in storage so we can easily replace any of our currently displayed glasses that break. He also has his rare 'special glasses' that have their own shelf and are off limits unless his gives his permission.

In addition to the glassware he discovered the beer and at that moment I knew that we'd be in here for a while so I left him to go meander through the spice aisle. We left with 7 different beers, 2 specialty beer glasses - two of each (pilsner and schooner style), a jar of cardamom, 12 silicone muffin liners, a glass plate and 2 silicone egg poaching pods - love those things! The total was $51.29...not to shabby - but hey, it's all for the blog right? Charge it to my expense account!

Anyways lets focus on the beer, the reason you are reading this post.

One of the beers we picked up was a bottle of Black Boss Porter. This is a Polish beer, brewed and bottled in Witnica Poland since 1848. It has a high alcohol content of 9.4%!! Whoopee!

Tasting Notes:

1st sip: The first sip is a burst of flavor. It overwhelmed my taste buds to the point that I couldn't distinguish anything right away.

Sip 2 & 3: By the second and third swallow you can tell this is a fantastic, easy drinking beer.

Flavors: Sweet caramel, hops are light but present with a slightly bitter aftertaste that mellows out as you drink. Light drinking porter very reminiscent of a New Zealand Black Mac.

Colour: Deep rich caramel.

Cost: $1.99 USD

Shawn's notes: "This beer must be drunk from an over sized goblet in order to experience the true potential of this beer *see picture. Also, pick up a 6 pack as this a Porter that the ladies will enjoy drinking along side the guys."

Final Word: This is a fabulous beer! This is the first Porter that I really enjoyed drinking. We will be buying more of this! 5/5!!

Black Boss Porter

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sesame Noodles - A 6 Minute Meal

6 Minute Sesame Noodles!
You know those days where you are just so busy that you barely have time to eat and when you finally do get to squeeze a few minutes in for refueling, you can't think of a single quick meal besides the old PB&J standby that you've relied on for the past three days?

Well I remember those, dance classes, guitar lessons, research papers, rush hour, commuting, overtime. Bleh! Those last three are especially gross.

It may be hard to believe but from time to time I (the currently jobless, schooless one) have hectic days. Getting back to the house after a morning of kayaking and being able to fit in lunch, yoga, and timing a Costco shop between the over 70 crowd and when all those pesky moms with strollers show up can be difficult. ;-) (I tease stroller-moms!)

A quick, easy and fulfilling lunch is a requirement to get through a jam-packed day.  I have just the thing for you! Rice noodles cooked for 5 minutes and tossed with an easy, pantry friendly sauce and whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. A healthy, fulfilling meal ready to eat in 6 minutes! Can't beat that!

Hopefully this recipe will help break up the monotony of your workweek lunches.

Sesame Noodles...mmmm

6 Minute Sesame Noodles
by Kaitlyn McFadden


  • 6-7 oz of rice noodles (medium width - half of a pack)
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp of water
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • 1 tbsp of canola oil
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of ginger
  • 1 tsp of garlic
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp of sesame seeds
  • handful of diced onion
  • handful of chopped red bell pepper
  • handful of chopped broccoli 
  • *substitute the veggies for whatever you have on hand.
  1. Place the noodles in boiling water and cook for 5 minutes
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, water, honey, oils, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. 
  3. Drain noodles and pour sauce on warm noodles, add veggies and sesame seeds and toss to coat. 
  4. Serve warm.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bend Brewfest 2011 - Microbrew Mecca

2011 Bend Brewfest
The third weekend in August is Brewfest here in Bend Oregon. This year the event was 3 days long beginning on August 18th and ending this evening, August 20th. Over 80 different craft brews from 46 different local and regional breweries are available to taste at this epic event.

Bend is the perfect place to host this. This town is a micro-brew mecca. Bend has 7 local breweries located within walking distance of each other, a huge amount for a town of only 80,000 people.
Bend Brewfest 2011 - So many brews to checkout!
The hubs and I went last year. We were new to Bend and I was new to the beer drinking scene so the event was a bit overwhelming. After living here for a year and having had more exposure to micro-brews and craft beers I can proudly say that my beer tasting abilities have improved to the point that I can converse about what I'm drinking rather confidently with all those beer aficionados.  Beer and I will probably always have a 1 glass relationship but I've really come to enjoy tasting all the unique craft beer that Bend is known for.

We tried a lot of beer Friday night so my reviews will be short but sweet.


2011 Bend Brewfest - Food carts help to mellow out your beer filled tummy.

10 Barrel Brewing Co (Bend OR)
Duke 2:
According to the description, the beer makers got drunk one night and threw a whole bunch of stuff they don't remember into a 1 barrel batch. This resulted in a very different almost indescribable beer that's actually pretty delicious. This was the last beer I tried and my notes by then had gotten very sloppy. Ironically I can't read what I wrote but I remember it was refreshingly different. A nice change of pace from all the other beers I tried.

21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco CA)
Hell or High Watermelon Wheat:
OMG I LOVED this beer!! This was one of my favourites of the night. I love fruity beers and this one, crafted from fresh watermelon, smells and tastes like watermelon. A lovely, crisp, light, refreshing summer treat.
21st Amendment's Hell or High Watermelon Wheat
Big Sky Brewing (Missoula MT)
Moose Drool:
This beer is a deep brown in colour and has prominent notes of caramel and chocolate. Just like the description says, there is just enough hop presence to prevent this beer from being too sweet. I would have liked it sweeter but that's just my personal preference. Overall it's light drinking and has good balance. It's a good beer.
Big Sky's Moose Drool
Bridgeport Brewing Company (Portland OR)
Summer Squeeze:
I chose this beer because the description promised hints of lemongrass, and yuzu. I got a wiff of yuzu but no lemongrass. It's a very light beer but I found it too carbonated. Overall it was just decent, not great or memorable.

Caldera Brewing (Ashland, OR)
Dry Hop Orange:
It says it right there in the title "Dry Hop". If you like a fruity hoppy beer than this is the beer for you. Unfortunately most people I know that like fruity beers tend not to enjoy hoppy bitter beers. I am in that category so this beer was a disappointment. The orange coloration was gorgeous and I smelt and tasted orange and nectarine but the prominent hops just threw the whole thing off for me.

Crispin Cider (Colfax, CA)
Fox Barrel, Blackberry Pear:
Good, well balanced and refreshing cider. Lovely flavor, but I'm still partial to Okanogan Ciders.

Elysian Brewing Co (Seattle WA) - My pick for best Brewery of the night!
Avatar Jasmine IPA:
Gold colour, very floral nose and I smelled but didn't taste the jasmine. It was so different. The floral nose is akin to a fabulous wine; full of depth and interesting notes. I don't like IPA's because they are so hoppy but I loved how this brew challenged my palate.

Elysian Brewing Co's Avatar Jasmine IPA
Night Owl Pumpkin Ale:
I love pumpkin flavored beer and this Ale was no exception. Not a lot of pumpkin flavor present but there was tons of pumpkin spice and brown sugar on the nose and the tongue.

Fire Mountain Brewery (Carlton CA)
Steam Fired Stout:
Dark stout with roasted flavor and hints of coffee and chocolate. Shawn loved it but found it a little heavy for summer drinking. I mainly tasted roasted coffee.

Gilgamesh Brewing (Turner OR)
Mamba: - favourite of the night
This beer was my favourite of the night! It delights those with a refined or fine-tuned palate. I picked up orange pekoe tea, tangerine and a hint of vanilla. I also picked up a spice that I could not identify but I was leaning towards cardamom because that's what I wrote down. The colour of the beer is deep orange and I LOVED it!!!

Lompoc Brewing (Portland, OR)
Lompoc Strong Draft:
Lots of hops and a strong smokey flavor = least favourite. I really didn't like it. Shawn wasn't even much of a fan. It's just not to our tastes.
Lompoc Brewing's Lompoc Strong Draft

Lost Coast Brewery (Eureka, CA)
Tangerine Wheat:
Wheat beers are a favourite for me and fruit wheat beers rank even higher. This is an excellent beer. Fruity flavour, low hops, strong tangerine taste and aroma. 5/5 for this beer!

McMenamins Old St. Francis School (Bend, OR)
Father D's Kolsch:
I've never tried a Kolsh before and I liked this one. The beer was crisp and fresh tasting with the aroma of green tea.

Woodchuck Hard Cider (Middlebury, VT)
Granny Smith:
I did not like this. It tasted like water to me but Shawn loved it.

2011 Bend Brewfest
2011 Bend Brewfest - We had a great evening tasting awesome craft beers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Poached Egg Sandwich and a Poach Pod Review

Healthy Poached Egg Sandwich made with Poach Pods

Last week during my vacation on the Oregon Coast, the girls and I snuck away for the day and headed off to the outlets. A pair of boots, Harry and David and two kitchen stores later, I headed back to the resort with my goodies. In one of my shopping bags was a pair of poach pods. I love poached eggs but have never tried to make them due to the fact that there is often a lot of egg wasteage until you get the technique down. You know me, food waste is a criminal offense in this household.

When I saw these little poach pods I knew I had to get them. Crack an egg into the pod and place the pod in simmering water until the egg reaches desired doneness. Then just simply scoop the egg out with a spoon and enjoy the healthy simple pleasure of a poached egg. These little pods are gold!

This morning I decided to try out the poach pods and make some healthy poached egg sandwiches. I baked some of my homemade buns last night so I topped those with a poached egg, fresh salsa, sliced tomato, baby spinach, and a slice of cheddar cheese - for Shawn, not me. The sandwiches were the perfect Sunday morning brunch. Fancy and delicious with little effort. 30 minutes later we were out on our tandem bike enjoying the river-trail on a gorgeous sunny Sunday.

Poach Pods - make egg poaching a breeze

Poached Egg Sandwich (Using Poach Pods)
by Kaitlyn McFadden

serves 2


  • 2 eggs 
  • 4 tbsp of your favorite salsa
  • 4 slices of tomato
  • 2 slices of cheddar cheese
  • handful of baby spinach
  • 2 fresh baked buns or english muffins (recipe for buns here)
  • 2 poach pods

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. 
  2. You may lightly oil your poach pods (just a drop of canola oil will do). Then crack one egg into each pod. Place the pods in the simmering pot of water and cover with a  lid. Set kitchen timer for 5 minutes.
  3. Prepare the buns while the eggs are poaching. Slice buns in half and on the bottom slice place 2 tbsp of salsa, top the salsa with spinach and top the spinach with a slice of cheese. 
  4. When the egg is cooked - after 5 minutes the egg should have a solid egg white and soft yolk - scoop the egg carefully out of the pod with a large soup spoon and place the egg on top of the cheese. Top with two slices of tomato and the top half of the bun. 
Poached egg sandwich and a view of my new stainless steel counter top.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thai Marinade

Thai Marinade
I wrote this post in advance because at this moment I'm vacationing on the beautiful Oregon coast! 

I prepared the beef and this Thai Marinade in advance of this vacation and so it will have had a few days to soak up all the flavor. We are probably eating it as you read this....nomnomnom.

This marinade is my attempt at recreating the yummy goodness of thai beef satay. I threw together all the ingredients I thought might be in a thai marinade such as lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sweet chili sauce. The combination was perfect! The beef was tender and so flavourful. It was good on its own but I just had to serve it with peanut sauce as well. The peanut sauce took the whole dish completely over-the-top amazing good! Be sure to check out my awesomely delicious and easy to make recipe for peanut sauce.

Thai Marinade

*this recipe is scaled for about 3-4 pounds of diced beef

  • 3-4 pounds of diced beef (I've used sirloin, flank, and tri-tip. The meat pictured is from 6 rib steaks trimmed of all fat and bone)
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp of sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp of lime juice or vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Mix all of the ingredients with the beef and toss to coat. Refrigerate over night in large ziplock or a bowl tightly sealed with plastic wrap. 

To serve: Grill on pre-soaked (only if using wood) skewers alternating beef with red pepper and onion. Serve with vegetable brown rice and peanut sauce (peanut sauce recipe coming soon!)

Tasty Thai Marinade

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kaitlyn's Perfect Hamburgers

Perfect Hamburger - Take a bite! 
With our purchase of a quarter of a cow last January came the joy of opening our deep freeze to see a selection of premium organic beef that would rival any butcher shop. While we received plenty of roasts and all kinds of steaks, the amount of ground beef we ended up with is crazy! In the winter I took a stab at the ground beef by making chili, sloppy joes, pizza, and meat rolls. When the weather warmed up it was inevitable that I'd have to make hamburgers. I have a bad history making hamburgers from scratch. They just never taste good. They are too dense and dry and they always seem to shrivel up into nothing once they go on the grill.

Well I did some research online and came across a blog called Heat Oven to 350. The writer of that blog uses a milk/bread paste in their burgers to keep them moist. I had to try it. I used the milk paste idea and some other tricks I learned along the way such as putting a thumb print in the center of the patty to prevent the burger from swelling and not adding table salt due to it drying out the meat.

The burgers turned out AMAZING! Like eat-another-burger-plain-with-no-bun good! And that's saying a lot because Shawn and I love my homemade buns.

Kaitlyn's Perfect Hamburgers
by Kaitlyn McFadden

  • 1 pound of ground beef. (I'm told not too lean however I do not know the fat content of our ground beef and when I brown the beef it doesn't seem too fatty or's somewhere in between) 
  • 2 cloves garlic minced (the difference in taste between fresh garlic and powdered in these burgers is extreme - fresh is best!)
  • 1 tbsp of BBQ Sauce (recipe here)
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 slice of white bread (recipe here)
  • 1-2 tbsp of milk (we use soy of course)

  1. Dice the bread into little pieces and add to a medium sized bowl. Add 1 tbsp of milk to the bread and mush it all together until a paste is formed. You don't want chunks of bread. Only add the other tbsp of milk if you absolutely need it ie; the bread needs more liquid to break down into the paste.
  2. Add the ground beef, garlic, BBQ sauce and soy sauce. Mix with your hands until combined. Do not over mix - that will make your burgers dense - think muffin batter when you are mixing!
  3. Divide into 6 equal balls and form into patties about 3/4 of an inch thick. Push down in the center of the patty making an indent about 1/4 inch thick. 
  4. Grill to desired doneness. We've never had problem with these burgers sticking to the grill but if you are worried then remember to preheat your grill well and spray each burger patty lightly with oil. 
  5. Place on top of yummy hamburger buns and top as desired.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi - My Favourite Dinner

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Broccoli Pesto and Tuna Balls!
So last night I was finally able to snag a few photos of my favourite dinner. I've never been able to before because I'm usually so excited to eat that I just sit down and start chomping without taking the time to grab the camera. Well the camera was sitting on the counter last night and I couldn't miss another opportunity to photograph the simple delicious perfection of sweet potato gnocchi pared with broccoli pesto and tuna meatballs.

Gnocchi is tricky to make. Getting the right consistency takes a lot of practice and trial and error. Some people swear by a wet sticky dough, piped through a pastry bag and cut directly over a pot of boiling water. I tried it that way and it just wasn't for me. Some cooks are cutters, some are burners. I'm a burner and placing me over a pot of boiling water for an extended period of time is destined for disaster.

So I tried the more flour, less sticky, roll dough into snakes and cut route, and it works great for me. That's my method. I don't mind the extra flour. I find they taste much more dumpling like and I love dumplings so it works for me. Shawn however hates dumplings, perogies or anything like it. Apparently my gnocchi falls into this category. That's fine...more for me! ;-)

This recipe makes A LOT of gnocchi! I'd say it would easily serve 4-5 as a main dish. Since I am the lone consumer I freeze the extras. Defrosted in the microwave they taste just as fresh as the day I made them. So on days I'm feeding Shawn pasta I pull out a bag of frozen gnocchi for me. Compromise is one of the secrets to marital bliss right?

Sweet Potato Gnocchi


  • 1 egg
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups of flour (plus a whole lot more for dusting and rolling out)

  1. Now gnocchi seems simple (and it is when you make it a lot) but it can quickly turn into a disaster. You need to trust your culinary instincts when you make it. My instructions are for a more floury, heavier gnocchi that you roll out into snakes and cut up into 1/2 inch pieces.
  2. Cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave on your potato setting. When cooked, slice them in half to cool. Once cooled peel off the skin mash up and place on a well floured counter/table. 
  3. Make a well in the mashed potatoes and crack the egg into it and pour in flour. Mix with your well floured hands. It will be a sticky mess! Depending on the size of your potatoes you may need to add more flour in order to turn the galoop into a workable dough.  Always add a little at a time. This dough is supposed to be sticky, it should never be workable like bread dough, nor should it be soupy like quick bread batter. I try to aim for wet and sticky oatmeal cookie batter.
  4. Once the mixture can form a ball break it up into 4 equal pieces. Flour your work surface again and each piece of dough. Roll out into a snake about an inch thick and using a butter knife cut up into bite sized pieces. 
  5. Boil a large pot of lightly salted water. Add the gnocchi pieces to the boiling water in bunches, stirring to make sure they don't stick to each other or the bottom of the pot. When they float to the top of the pot they are cooked! 
  6. Serve with tuna meatballs (recipe here) and broccoli pesto (recipe coming soon)! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Basic Focaccia

Basic flavourful Focaccia Bread
I love focaccia. I mean who doesn't!

It's such a light, airy and flavourful bread that's perfect on it's own as an appetizer or as the platform for a main dish.

I mostly make this recipe as a side. The fact that you can cook it in one big dish, cut it into squares and serve makes this bread perfect for parties and BBQs.

This bread can also be used for sandwiches......
Sliced turkey with tomatoes, onions and pesto! Dry, thinly sliced Italian Salami with cheddar, arugula and mustard! Tomato, basil, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar! Oh how I love focaccia sandwiches!

The best part about focaccia is that it's so easy to make. Sure there's yeast and a couple rises but you don't need to shape the dough at all. Just mix, knead, rise, punch, roll out, place in dish, rise, top, bake! Yay! No braiding, loaf forming or bun shaping!

The toppings is where you can go-to-town. Anything goes: olives, onion, sauteed onion, garlic, grapes, Parmesan, rosemary, dried basil and oregano, sea salt, jalapenos, cheddar....I could go on and on!

I hope I've made you hungry. Now go make some focaccia!

Basic Focaccia
slightly adapted from Food Network

  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt (I use 1 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I use canola)
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil (again...I use canola)
  • toppings of your choice (I used rosemary, minced garlic, garlic and onion powder in the focaccia pictured)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the warm water, yeast and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes until the mixture starts to foam. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the flour and salt to the bowl.   Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the flour cup by cup until you reach 3 cups. Then add 1/4 cup at a time until you reach the right consistency (not too sticky). As the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, again...only adding more flour as necessary.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl, turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled - about 45 mins to an hour.
  3. Coat a 9X13 inch glass baking dish with a little olive oil. Once the dough is doubled, punch down, roll out into a rectangle between 1/2 inch and 1 inch thick. Lay the flattened dough in the dish and cover with plastic wrap. Rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Uncover the dough, brush the surface with the 2 tbsp of olive oil and then add desired toppings. Bake in the bottom half of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Light and airy Focaccia