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Mother’s Day/Half-Birthday Boy Cake

10 May
Vanilla Grapefruit Curd Cake a.k.a. Half-Birthday Boy Cake

Vanilla Grapefruit Curd Cake a.k.a. Half-Birthday Boy Cake

It’s been a while; 10 months to be exact. 7 days after my last post, I welcomed (more like roared) our identical twin daughters A and M into the world to join their big sister and brother. Since then, it’s been almost 10 months of whirlwind with barely any time to catch our breath. For many months, we were in the trenches, never able to anticipate what the next day would bring, let alone look forward to another canning season.

Somewhat miraculously and seemingly overnight, things changed. Life has found a groove. Sympatico nap and bed times are finally happening, leaving me with time to dream about the upcoming season. The “bigs” are big enough to help me with the garden and we look forward to sharing our joy of gardening with the kids. I have visions for uncanny and I’m excited to see where it will go this season.

In celebration of life, of spring, of parenting and of our kids, I wanted to create something special for our son who turned 2.5. While we don’t normally celebrate half-birthdays, this guy has had to share his Mama, his time, his toys and endure constant hair-pulling from the twins and know-it-all-ness from his older sister and was in dire need of a celebration to honour the immense strides of the past six months. It just so happened to coincide with Mother’s Day and since I need no excuse for cake, I present you: The Half-Birthday Boy Cake (or Mother’s Day cake…or really any excuse cake). It’s not fancy and I fully disclose I used a gluten-free boxed cake mix given my son’s intolerances and my time constants, but I encourage you to go all-out and make the cakes from scratch.

Vanilla Grapefruit Curd Cake

Irresistible.

 

Half-Birthday Boy Cake

2×8″ yellow cakes (I used President’s Choice yellow cake mix and added some homemade bourbon vanilla, but homemade cakes are preferred.)

1/2 to 3/4 cup Grapefruit Curd between the layers. I used 1/2 cup of curd I made over the winter and froze. I wished I had about 1/4 more.

Cover with 7 Minute Frosting. It’s so old school and wonderful and if you’re like me and have run out of confectioners sugar and can’t slip away to the grocery store, it’s even more perfect for frosting a cake.

**

It’s easy and basic, but the grapefruit adds such a great tang and punch of flavour. Any curd would be marvelous and very soon you could keep it seasonal with a rhubarb curd. As usual, this recipe is wonderful to do this with kids and watching the frosting increase in volume is a tasty science lesson. Enjoy!

Sampling

You’ve got something on your nose!

 

 

 

Thinking Outside the Jar: Strawberry Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

21 Nov

Disclaimer: I feel like this recipe was obvious to everyone but me. If that’s the case, smile and shake your head at me. If not, read on!

This recipe was born out of necessity (yes!) for a piece of frozen crumbly gluten-free birthday chocolate cake that was screaming for a side kick. The obvious pairing of ice cream wasn’t available and I wasn’t about to make buttercream frosting for one, but this is where whipped cream came in handy.

It’s really, really simple:

1. Cool your whipping cream, your bowl and your beaters then whip it, whip it good.

2. Fold in your jam. Any kind of loose set jam, really. I’ve been eating my Strawberry Vanilla Bean with and on everything and it was perfect with chocolate cake. It has a really soft set and blended perfectly, but avoid the stiff jam/jelly and opt for something that will fold nicely into the cream and help it retain it’s airiness. Start with about 2:1 ratio of cream to jam and if you want more jam, add more, just remember that the more jam you add, the looser the cream will get.

I know it’s obvious, but think of the possibilities! Tomorrow, when our American friends are gobbling up their pumpkin pie, what about a big dollop of Spiced Apple Butter Whipped Cream? Heaven.

Let me know if you give this a try.

Peach Vanilla Prosecco Jelly (Canning as a Love Song)

16 Aug

Peach Prosecco Jelly

It’s peach season, one of my favourite seasons and while peaches aren’t local to our region, I can at least be kept in good supply of beautiful peaches from the Niagara region.  Mr. Uncanny and I would visit many of those orchards when we were young and early married, living as students in Toronto and vacationing in the wine region, drunk on love and a few too many wine samples.

Peaches bring back fond memories for us but even more so about our daughter. I don’t post a lot about our family. I respect their privacy and their inability to approve of the pictures or stories I’d post. It doesn’t make me any less proud of them though and I often wish I could crow their accomplishments all day long. Honey Bear and her brother are my heart’s delight and being able to stay home with them, while balancing my creative passion through uncanny is a gift that I know many parents would love to enjoy.

Honey Bear’s birthday falls in the height of peach season and in fact, I was in early labour with her when making a big batch of peach conserve. I was 5 days overdue and determined to have a real gritty early labour experience, complete with laundry and jam making. I’d stir through each 2 minute contraction, clutching my back and trying to concentrate getting the conserve to the perfect setting point. It did. I called it my Pre-Game Jam and gave it out to the nurses and doctor at the hospital, but one jar remains in my pantry and I can’t bring myself to open it.

To me, that is the essence of canning. You bottle a moment, a season, a feeling, a wish. Everything I dreamed about our first encounter, all my hopes about her childhood, all my best wishes for her as she grew into an adult. All of it, as I stirred and stirred in the morning before we’d meet.

So this jelly is a love song to our girl. She turns 3 and like this jelly, she continues to sparkle and shine with sweetness.

Peach Vanilla Prosecco Jelly

Yield: 3x250ml

3.5 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped (reserve the peach skins)

2 vanilla beans, split and caviar removed

2 cups sugar

1 cup prosecco

1 pouch of Certo liquid pectin

Directions:

1. Add vanilla beans and peach mixture to a slow simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened, mashing with a potato masher.

2. Strain mixture in a jelly bag and measure out 1 cup of juice. (Save the pulp and the skin. I’ll tell you why in a minute.)

3. In a clean pot, add peach juice. prosecco and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes until all sugar has dissolved.

4. Add in liquid pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and ladle into jars. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Voila!

** One of my favourite things to do with the peach pulp and skin is to turn it into a peach syrup, which I learned about from Homemade Trade. What a fantastic way to make those peaches stretch even further. There is still lots of flavour in the pulp and that vanilla bean still has ways to go. **

Cheers!

Peach Vanilla Prosecco Jelly on Punk   Domestics

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

27 Jun

Strawberries have arrived! For me, it’s the fruit that really marks the beginning of the summer season and I’ll go just about anywhere to get my hands on plenty of them. While my garden patch is doing well, it provides just enough for the occasional treat so it’s off for my yearly pilgrimage to the u-pick farm where I usually pick my weight in berries, put up the majority of them and freeze the rest. It’s labour intensive, but it’s brief and you have a year’s worth of sunshine to see you through to the following June.

This year, I was excited a new strawberry patch opened up nearby, saving me almost 1.5 hours of driving. Hick’s Berry Patch has beautifully laid out rows, each identified by their variety. It’s easy picking and the berries were wonderful.

Just don’t get lost en route…

An hour and 17 lbs of strawberries later and I’m armed and ready to start this year’s Strawberry Preservefest. While almost all of them were earmarked for Cocagne River Orchard, I saved the last bit for a spur-of-the-moment and late night attempt at something unique and really special. Born out of a necessity to use up some sweet Marsala wine I inadvertently bought for a Chicken Marsala dish, it’s a gorgeous, deep red jam with a beautiful set and rich flavour.

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

Yields: 2x250ml, 1x125ml

4 cups crushed strawberries

1.5 cups sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 vanilla bean pod, halved and seeds removed

1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine

1. In a large pot, stir vanilla bean seeds and pod in crushed strawberries. If possible, let sit and marinade for a couple of hours. Remove pod before boiling. (I rinse the pod off and put it in granulated sugar.)

2. Add sugar and bring strawberry/vanilla mixture and bring to a soft boil over medium heat. In about 10 minutes, check the gel point. Mine took about 14 minutes for a soft set and I tested using the frozen saucer test.

3. Once set to your liking, stir in 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and ladle into hot jars. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam on Punk   Domestics

Thinking Outside the Jar: Rhubarb Preserves

14 Jan

No Scurvy Here!

Last spring, I had about 30 lbs of rhubarb donated to me and not wanting to waste anything, I froze a quarter, made rhubarb syrup with a quarter and made rhubarb preserves with the remainder. Some of it was preserved in a simple syrup and some with vanilla bean.

Well, it’s been over 6 months since I made it and let me tell you, it’s delicious. Add in some apples and the fruit I froze over the summer and you’ve got yourself a delicious fruit salad that is deliciously local (OK, minus those oranges, but it *is* citrus season and I can’t resist).

Added bonus is the syrup. While it’s a tasty base for the fruit salad, it also makes a killer drink.

Rhubarb Vanilla Syrup

While I’m sure it’s noon somewhere and it’d be a delicious martini, I decided to opt for a morning mimosa-style by adding club soda to the syrup and grabbing a fancy flute and pretending I was somewhere warm and sunny. Besides, nothing starts off a Saturday morning quite like sipping something sweet with the extravagence of real vanilla bean floating in your flute.

Have a happy Saturday!

Strawberry Season Has Arrived!

3 Jul

The Quintessential Summer Fruit

Turns out, the Maritimes are having a lousy year for strawberries; too much rain and not enough heat in the spring to really kick off a good strawberry season, so it feels great to be able to pick anything at all, let alone fourteen pounds of strawberries.

 

While about 2 lbs are destined for a strawberry wine and at least 4 lbs for the freezer to help us through the winter in case we undertake another 100 Mile Challenge, there was plenty of strawberries to go around and lots of strawberry preserves destined for the Sackville Market and online market. We have:

Chipotle Strawberry Jam
Strawberry with Vanilla Bean
Strawberry Jam (made in the French style of slowly drawing out the juices and keeping the berries whole)
Strawberry Margarita Jam

 

Vive La Fraise!

 

*Guess the Jelly Contest*

29 Mar

Can you guess the specific type of jelly I’ve made with the following ingredients? It’ll be tempting to name the predominant flavour, but the key is the supporting players that are adding a unique and specific type of flavour. Guess the correct jelly and you might win a jar! Please note: lemon and orange rind couldn’t attend the photoshoot, but are present in the jelly.

Those that guess correctly will be entered into a draw for a jar.

Guess the Jelly

Guess the Jelly

Winner will be announced next Tuesday, April the 5th. Contest limited to residents of  Canada and the U.S.

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