Monday, October 31, 2011

Candy Bark and a Special Halloween Treat!

Candy Bark
Happy Halloween! As an adult I no longer get super excited about halloween. I don't really like dressing up, the overcrowded clubs and all those obnoxious people who think they can get away with being silly just because they are wearing a mask. You know the ones! Sheesh!

Frankly I can't wait for the day AFTER halloween because that's when all the leftover halloween candy goes on sale!!!

I have the perfect recipe that will help you use up all that extra Halloween candy or put your recently purchased 75% off candy to use!

It's candy bark or more specifically Halloween candy bark. I love it. It's the perfect marriage of sweet, salty and chewy. Plus is looks great, so much more fancy than a bucket of variously packaged candy bars.

I haven't bought any candy yet so I had to use what I had in my pantry plus some rejects from our vending machines. On my bark I included milk duds, Reese's pieces, sixlets, almonds, and peanuts. I was out of raisins and I would have added those too if I had any. I'm thinking chopped snickers or milky way bars would be fabulous additions.

Another reason why we haven't bought any Halloween candy yet is that on Saturday we purchased a different kind of treat for ourselves.....a brand spanking new 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid! We picked it up this morning and are still basking in the aura of having our fuel bill reduced by two thirds! It's a fabulous car, gets amazing fuel mileage, handles like a sports car and we got it for $5,000 less than a 2011 PriusII! Yay for saving money and finally having a car that I can drive! Happy Halloween!
Our new 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid
Our new 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid

Candy Bark

Halloween Candy Bark
by Kaitlyn McFadden

Ingredients:

  • About 3 cups of chocolate chips
  • Halloween Candy!
  • Nuts
  • Dried Fruit
  • Seeds


Directions:
  1. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl at 1 minute increments on 50% power. Stir chocolate chips and keep heating them until they are smooth and glossy.
  2. Pour chocolate onto a wax paper lined baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon or a spatula spread out the chocolate forming thin layer. 
  3. Evenly distribute your chosen toppings on top of the chocolate. Press down to lock all the candies into the melted chocolate. 
  4. Place in the refrigerator to firm up and once firm, break it into pieces. Store in the fridge as the chocolate is not tempered.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Pudding - Healthy Pudding from Scratch

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Pudding
Mmmm. Chocolate Pudding. And I've dressed it up for Halloween too! 

There is a soft spot in my heart for chocolate pudding. I love the creamy cool texture of the stuff. What I do not love is all the artificial ingredients and preservatives in those instant pudding mixes. What exactly is in that mystery powder? Well there's a whole lot of: disodium phosphate and tetrasodium pyrophosphate (for thickening), mono- and diglycerides (prevent foaming), and BHA (preservative). Not cool.

Dr. Oetkers has an awesome organic pudding mix (mentioned here) but I find it difficult to find where I live and why buy pudding when you can make healthier pudding from scratch with everyday ingredients?

I found a recipe in Vegan Pie in the Sky for chocolate pudding. It's easy, vegan and using soy milk it's lower-calorie too! In the cookbook the pudding is meant to be poured into a cookie pie shell and chilled but I simply pour the pudding into single serving sized jars or ramekins and chill them that way. 

Now I have my own homemade pudding cups! You have no idea how much joy I obtained eating one of these last night! ;-) 


Healthy Vegan Chocolate Pudding
Vegan Chocolate Pudding
from Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups of soy milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips (make sure they are vegan if you strictly follow this diet)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:
  1. Whisk one cup of soy milk with the cornstarch in a medium sauce pan. Whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder and remaining soy milk. Cocoa powder will be lumpy but don't worry, it will dissolve.
  2. Turn burner onto high and whisk the mixture until it just starts to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and continue to whisk until the mixture is thickened. This whole process should take around 7 minutes. 
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips and and vanilla extract. Pour into serving containers. Let sit on counter until the pudding is not longer steamy. Cover with lids or parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.
  4. Cool for 3 hours in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On being a frugal foodie...

I've spent the last few days on excel revamping our food/alcohol/beef/household supplies/entertainment budget for the coming new year, and on my About page you can see part of the result.

Food Budgeting is a great way to become more aware of what you are buying. You gain valuable insight on costs per pound/gram and can make more educated choices while in the supermarket.

On the bottom of my About page you will find some details about how we structure our food budget for your own interest or to help you develop your own budget.

You can always contact me at kaitlynmcfaddencooks@gmail.com for more detailed information or if you have any questions short or long. I keep digital copies of all our receipts so I'm ready for anything you can throw at me!

Happy Budgeting!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Plum Crisp - Double Crusted Deliciousness

Plum Crisp - Double Crusted
Never has there been a recipe that made me so head over heals crazy for it than this recipe.

It all started in September. There was a glut of gorgeous plums on the market for cheap and we wanted to take advantage of it. We purchased a 5 pound box of black Italian plums. Looking back now we should have bought more, but that was before my canning epiphany.

Our favourite way to eat plums is to wash them and bite in. But holy moly did we have a lot to get through. One late September evening I was taking inventory of my fridge and noticed the giant pile of plums that had been there for a few weeks and panicked. There is nothing I fear more than wasted food as wasted food is wasted money. So I decided to make the one recipe I know that uses a lot of fresh fruit....a crisp.

My husband and I have always loved crisps. We are of the slim minority that don't like pie. Take the filling out of the pie and put it on a plate and we will probably eat it but that buttery, floury crust?! Bleh! We think it's just gross. We love crisps because you get yummy apple/blueberry/marionberry/stonefruit pie without the buttery soggy crust and with a crisp, sweet, healthy crust made from good-for-you-oats.

Crisps are simply lovely baked fruits with crumbled oatmeal cookies on top. How can you not love that?

So that night with my oats and plums I made a crisp. A scrumptious, to-die-for double crusted crisp. Two days later I made it again and one week after than I made it for the third time. I did not stop after that. I simply traded the plums for apples. :)

Happy October! Now go make a crisp so I don't feel so bad about the amount of my own crisp intake of late.


Double Crusted Plum Crisp


Plum Crisp
by Kaitlyn McFadden

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of  rolled oats (plus an extra 1/3 cup)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of cardamom (optional)
  • 1 stick of butter or butter substitute melted
  • 3 cups of pitted sliced plums
  • 1/4 cup of sugar *optional - can use less or omit to taste.
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix the 1 cup of oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom together in a large bowl. Add the butter and stir, breakup large chunks until all the oats and flour are moist. Take half of the oat mixture and press into the bottom of a loaf pan. Add the remaining 1/3 cup of oats to the remaining oat mixture and mix together with you hands in the large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl mix the plums, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and vanilla. Stir until the plums are evenly coated. Spoon plum mixture onto the oat mixture crust. Pat down plums lightly to smooth them out. Reserve any extra liquid from the plum bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture on top of the plums. Pat down. Drizzle any remaining plum liquid on top of the top layer of oats. 
  5. Bake for 45 minutes and let cool for 10-20 minutes before serving. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Barefoot Merlot

Barefoot Merlot Review
In the next couple of months are you hosting a party, partaking in a girls get together, or going on vacation? If you answered yes to any part of this question then you will be needing wine, and lots of it. Good thing I've discovered a great, budget wine that suits most tastebuds.

That wine is Barefoot's Merlot. 

Yes, I know it's Merlot and I don't usually like Merlot but I love this one. It's not too fruity or floral or acidic or sweet. It pairs well with all foods and as I stated before, pairs well with most people. Out of all the Barefoot varietals I believe this wine to be generally the most easy drinking and neutral. When you open the bottle it doesn't scream Merlot but instead you get a hint of red berries, a slight sweetness from blackberries and it finishes with a little bit of tart to neutralize the sweet. 

This wine also comes in those GIANT bottles, come on...you know the ones I'm talking about ;-)

So I, Kaitlyn McFadden, the wine snob and Merlot hater, like this wine. It doesn't knock my socks off with its depth, distinct aroma, and multiple layers of flavor. But I can feel good about serving this to guests, bringing it to a party or sipping it alone in the evening. 

I know you will too! 

Score: 80% for varietal
Score: 90% for general appeal and drinkability

Barefoot Merlot Review

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout - Beer of the Month

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout
October always seems like the busiest month of the year. First comes thanksgiving, then my birthday, then my mothers birthday, then Halloween, then my fathers birthday at the beginning of November. Each year the whole month seems full of celebrations, cake, family dinners and leftovers. This month seems extra busy. We've had to fit in a trip to the Rogue Valley and northern California and I've had to juggle my mapping project with Bend Parks and Rec with filling out job applications....yes...I can finally work for money!

So instead of taking advantage of all these holidays and celebrations, I've instead neglected my blog for the past few days :(

But that stops now! :)

In my notebook I've got two easy-peasy but hopefully cute Halloween recipes to post later this month, three restaurant/brewery reviews, a ton of beer/wine reviews and perhaps a recipe or two. (I'm drowning in leftovers at the moment so don't hold your breath on the recipes!) Now I just need the time and focus to type them out!

Beer reviews are pretty straight forward so I'm starting there.

Enjoy this review and the many more to come!

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

Samuel Smith's is a brewery in England that has been in operation since 1758. Once you've seen a bottle of their beer you can recognize one of their brews anywhere. They have a characteristic almost square like bottle with gold foil over the opening, like a wine bottle. The labels are similar but the colour is different according to the type of beer. Their beer can be expensive per bottle at specialty craft beer stores however we've found them cheapest at World Market for $2.99 a bottle.

-Tasting Notes-

Aroma: roasted oats, malt

Colour: Opaque black

Taste: Roasty, malty, full flavored, smooth. There is an earthy graininess to it.

Overall: This is everything you'd expect from an oatmeal stout. It's not too bitter and has a good balance between sweetness and hops. It's also not very heavy or carbonated. Frankly I loved this beer. I'm really starting to appreciate dark beers. The first dark beer I really enjoyed was the Back Boss Porter. We tried this beer soon after and I also enjoyed it. Now I will order any porter or stout on nitro at a brewery but half a pint is usually my limit. Samuel Smith, this is a great beer!

Score: 4.3/5

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout - Writing down tasting notes

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Banana Cake for my 100th post and 25th Birthday!

Banana layer cake
Banana layer cake
I love efficiency and so you won't be surprised when I managed to combine my birthday and university graduation into one party. That was two years ago. This year I managed to combine my 100th post (huge milestone!) with my 25th birthday (another huge milestone!).

I chose banana cake for my birthday, in layer form for the blog. Yes. This is my first layer cake. I did the whole thing with only one cake pan and a plain old butter knife to spread the frosting. No fancy cake decorating products or off set spatulas here. Impressed? ;-)

I think it turned out beautiful! Don't you agree?

This banana cake is a favourite with Shawn's grandma. I've made it twice for her. It's moist, sweet and soooo delicious. It's also different from your run of the mill birthday cake. That's why I chose it. This version is also low-fat and I've reduced the sugar substantially. The icing however throws all that low-fat/low-sugar off. It's a traditional butter cream full of butter and powdered sugar. So leave the icing off for a healthier cake and include it for an indulgent treat that's totally birthday worthy.

Happy Birthday to me!!

Slice of Banana Layer Cake



Banana Cake
by Kaitlyn McFadden

makes one 9X13 sheet cake or two 8 to 9" cake pans

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup soy milk with 1 tbsp of lemon juice added
  • 1 cup mashed bananas or 2 large bananas

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Cream the applesauce, eggs, sugar and vanilla
  3. Mix the flour, baking soda and baking powder together and add to the creamed mixture. Mix together.
  4. Add the milk and bananas to the mixture and beat until smooth and well blended.
  5. Pour into a prepared pan (either lined or greased) and bake for 20 minutes for cake pans and 30-40 minutes for 9X13 pan.
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan and let cool completely before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of butter room temperature
  • 3-4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp of soy milk
Directions:
  1. Beat butter. Add sugar and stir until combined. Beat mixture and add the vanilla. Add soy milk tbsp by tbsp until icing reaches desired consistency. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Curried Apple Chutney and excuses for a day spent in your PJ's

Curried Apple Chutney

Five excuses to hang out in the kitchen all day in my PJ's:
  1. It's Saturday.
  2. We just got home from three days of traveling across Oregon and California in the truck.
  3. I picked a truck load of apples that need to be processed and canned.
  4. I strained my back and it hurts to sit.
  5. It's my Birthday Weekend!
Now that's more than enough excuses so today I did sleep in and hang out in the kitchen making spiced applesauce and curried apple chutney. I wore my comfy yet chic, micro fleece PJ's. I ate oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter for lunch and a slice of chocolate carrot cake, just because. I chopped a lot of apples and burned myself a few times sanitizing my mason jars. I sat out on the patio with a mug of green tea and dreamed about the banana layer cake I am making tomorrow while soaking in the gorgeous fall colours. I was am happy :-)

Here's to my last day as 24! 

Curried Apple Chutney
adapted from Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving

Ingredients:
  • 10 medium apples diced
  • 2 cups of raisins
  • 2 cups of vinegar
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 sweet bell pepper diced
  • 3 tbsp of pickling spices (or 3 tbsp mustard seed and 2 tsp allspice)
  • 2 tbsp of ginger
  • 2 tsp of yellow curry powder
  • 2 tsp of salt/onion salt
  • 2 tsp of red chili flakes 
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced

Directions:
  1. Add all ingredients to a large sauce pan. Simmer with the lid off for 45-60 minutes until thickened.
  2. For canning: Ladle piping hot chutney into sanitized jars and process in a large pot or boiling water canner for 10 minutes. I processed for 20 minutes due to my high elevation. Makes enough to fill 6 half pint mason jars.
  3. Don't want to can? Then freeze the extras in freezer safe containers.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tervis Tumbler - My new smoothie container.

My Tervis Tumbler keeping my smoothie cool
When I was notified that I would be receiving a Tervis Tumbler as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program I was sooooo excited. Not only was this my first ever item received on this program but the item happened to be a super high quality, insulated, virtually indestructible tumbler! When it was finally delivered I opened the box and was so pleased. The cup was super cute, had a modern design that suits our decor and was labeled with "Foodbuzz Tastemakers".

I am super proud to be a part of the Tastemakers program so I will be proudly "using" my cup whenever we have guests over. My husband is also happy that we now own a cute, fashionable cup that I can't break. I'm a tad clumsy when it comes to glass so I'm always drinking out of boring, unattractive plastic water bottles. In fact while opening the box that contained the tumbler I dropped it! No worries, it was perfectly fine. Now I have a glass for me!

Later that day when I was making my daily smoothie I decided to test drive my new tumbler. I whipped up a batch of Creamy Peach Smoothie (recipe below) in my blender, poured it into the tumbler and topped it off with a straw. The first thing I noticed was that my fingers stayed warm. The tumbler is insulated keeping my warm hands from melting the smoothie and keeping the cold smoothie from freezing my hands! It also kept my smoothie colder and therefore thick and creamier longer! Yum! It's obviously a keeper.

These tumblers are also freezer, dishwasher (yay!) and microwave safe. They reduce condensation which means no more rings on your coffee table or frantic searches for coasters. Most importantly, they keep hot things hot and cold things cold! The Tervis Tumblers get my stamp of approval. My only complaint was that I didn't get a whole box of them ;-)

Creamy Peach Smoothie
by Kaitlyn McFadden

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of soy milk
  • 1 6oz container of peach yogurt
  • 1 cup of frozen peaches
  • 1 frozen banana

Directions:
  • Place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, thick and creamy. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Sometimes I get into dinner ruts where I tend to stick to the same tried tested and true recipes. It's so easy to do. You get busy and by the time dinners rolls around you gravitate towards a meal you can make with your eyes closed. Thankfully I have something to counter act the gravitational force of my favourite recipes...my blog and my husband. I can't post the same recipe over and over again, I need new material. And when we go out to dinner Shawn loves to challenge me to make a copy-cat recipe of something awesome we've had.

This happened the other evening as we were partaking in Bend Fall Festival's plethora of food carts. We picked up a couple of Vietnamese spring rolls with shrimp, some yummy Deschutes Jubelale, and sat down to eat and enjoy the music. Boy were those spring rolls good! The were fresh, crisp, colourful and the mint was a welcome surprise to our palettes. Shawn challenged me to make them one day and a couple days later, craving those delicious spring rolls I had, I decided to make them myself.

The great thing about this recipe is you can use what you have and there is no cooking required except for boiling some noodles for 5 minutes. The trick to making the spring rolls look great is using a variety of colours and cutting your vegetables into thin strips; a technique called julienne.

This is not really a recipe but more of a guideline as I'm not including amounts. Just gather up what you have in the fridge and start rolling until you've made enough. We each ate three for dinner and I was so full I kind of regretted eating the third one ;-) Also they are not compete until they have been generously dunked in Peanut Sauce so make sure you whip up a batch.

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Ingredients:

  • Spring roll skins (I use Bahn Trang - a Vietnamese Product) 
  • cooked rice noodles rinsed with cold water
  • carrots (julienned)
  • cucumber (julienned)
  • red/yellow/orange bell pepper (julienned)
  • onion (thinly cut)
  • baby spinach/butter lettuce/romaine lettuce
  • fresh mint
  • shrimp/pork/chicken/beef (cooked and shredded or thinly sliced)

Directions:
  1. Fill your clean sink with some hot water and soak a spring roll skin in the hot water for about 20-30 seconds until it is soft and no longer rigid. Carefully remove and place on a clean work surface. Dab with a paper towel to remove excess water. 
  2. Add ingredients to the bottom third of the skin leaving 1 inch on either side and 2 inches on the bottom. I order the ingredients according to weight - the lighter ingredients go on the bottom and the heavier go on top of those to keep them in place. 
  3. Once the ingredients are all in place, take the remaining 1 inch on either side and fold them over each end of the ingredients. Fold the bottom up and making sure the sides stay tucked in, roll tightly up. The skin should stick and stay in place. 
  4. Place on a tray and repeat until you've made desired amount. Serve with peanut sauce

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Peanut Sauce

Delicious Peanut Sauce
I love a good peanut sauce and after trying quite a few recipes and ingredient combinations I've hit gold! This peanut sauce is the best! And obviously I'm not ashamed to admit it ;) In my opinion it has the best balance of sweet, salty, peanuts and heat. The texture is perfect, smooth and not too thick. This sauce is the perfect compliment for chicken satay, beef satay, fried tofu, stir fry, rice, and spring rolls. 

I recommend whipping up a batch of my Thai marinade, grilling some beef and vegetable skewers, cooking some rice and serving this peanut sauce for dinner tonight. You won't regret it!

Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 5 tbsp of low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp of white vinegar (rice wine, apple cider or red wine vinegar will work too)
  • 3 tbsp of canola oil
  • 2 tbsp of ginger
  • 1 tbsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes

Directions:
  • Whisk all ingredients together in a medium sauce pan and bring to a low simmer. Remove from heat and let cool. As the sauce cools it will thicken. 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Green Curry - With Tuna!

Green Curry - Can you find the tuna hiding behind all those veggies?
Green Curry is my absolute favourite Thai take-out dish; we practically lived off it when we were in Sydney, Australia last year. It also happens to be a simple, satisfying dish that you can make easily at home, making it also one of my favourite home cooked meals.

Green Curry is traditionally served with a protein of your choice, usually a lighter meat so it doesn't over power the delicate flavour of the green chilies. I make it with chicken or pork all the time and we occasionally will order it with shrimp if we know where the shrimp were harvested. Tuna however, is new for us.

I had been craving green curry all week but we already had chicken that week, I was out of tofu and I didn't have time to defrost and cook some pork shoulder. You see, I've been trying to stretch our animal proteins to about once a week per animal to help with out budget and our health! It gets tricky! You really need to plan ahead....or have an open mind. I took the open mind route and decided to use the left over tuna I had sitting in the fridge. Fish in green curry is common and according to google, putting tuna in it is not uncommon!

So in went the tuna with my usual plethora of veggies and 15 minutes later we sat down to one of our favourite meals. The tuna was almost completely overpowered by the curry. You knew it was there but it wasn't in your face. In fact I think it tasted lovely and I will be making green curry with tuna again and again!

Give this yummy dish a try. It's very filling and full of veggies, good fats (coconut milk) and omega-3's! It is also easy on the wallet and I LOVE that!

**Recipe note: I do not make my green or red curry paste from scratch. I get a 2 lb 3 oz bucket of the stuff from a restaurant supply store for $3.99! I've done the math and it's way cheaper for me to buy it than make it myself but I fully support those of you who do!

Green Curry with Tuna
by Kaitlyn McFadden

this SPICY dish serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp of sesame oil or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup of green curry paste with 1 tbsp removed (I use Mae Ploy)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (14 oz)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 cups of tuna 
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 2 carrots grated 
  • 2 cups of chopped brocolli
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey

Directions:
  1. Heat up your wok and add the oil and curry paste. Saute until fragrant and add half the can of the coconut milk. Stir until smooth and lump free. 
  2. Add remaining half of coconut milk and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  3. Add the veggies and tuna. Simmer with the lid on for 5 minutes. Take the lid off and continue to simmer until the veggies are softened.
  4. Remove from heat and sprinkle with sugar or drizzle with honey. Serve on top of brown rice.