Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cheddar Mustard Muffins

Now that autumn is in full swing, my focus on
on meal planning has taken a turn towards comfort food. Nothing is more welcome on a cool crisp day than a steaming hot bowl of soup or chili. I enjoy cool weather cooking because it means I get to use my slow cooker a lot more and along with the stews and such, it is nice to have a baked accompaniment for dipping.

I made these Cheddar Mustard muffins to have with lasagna. They're chock full of cheese, grainy Dijon, red peppers and freshly ground black pepper. To make these, I used my Spice Depot black pepper grinder. What is a Spice Depot grinder, you ask? It is a typical spice bottle that has a grinder under the lid so all you have to do is turn it upside down and twist. Voila, fresh and instant spice! What I like about the grinder is that the pepper comes out coarsely so it adds not only flavour, but texture to the muffins. I was able to also put a quick sprinkle on top of each muffin for added colour. The grinder was very useful and you use only what you need, so the spice is never stale.

The muffins were very piquant. There were a lot of complementary flavours present and would be enjoyed by those who like assertive seasoning. I didn't use smooth Dijon and I suspect that the muffin would taste quite different from using grainy mustard. I prefer grainy as it looks and tastes nicer. So next time you want something other than a crusty baguette, try these out. They're easy and flavoursome!

(Disclosure: I was provided (with thanks) a bottle of each Spice Depot Black Peppercorns, Sea Salt and Salad Seasoning.)

Recipe: Cheddar Mustard Muffins

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Prize Winning Apple Pie

I would like to say that I won a prize for making this pie, however I did not. Grandma Thompson's Prize-Winning Apple Pie is the official name of this recipe and was made by Brenda Hall from Collingwood. She won the prize, not me.

The making of this pie is very appropriately timed. There is a coolness in the morning breeze signaling the coming of Autumn and orchards are beckoning us to come 'pick your own'. In order to enjoy the abundance of fresh Ontario apples, I went to Chudleigh's Apple Farm to marvel at the numerous apple varieties they offer and to enjoy one of the last beautiful days of summer.

The apples that were available for picking the day I went were Ginger Gold and Wealthy. I had never heard of either and was excited to go out into the orchard to pick them straight off the tree. We were told that two apples equaled a pound and they sure were huge! Nothing beats eating a crisp, juicy apple off the tree - the Ginger Gold was gorgeous and I picked a bagful of Wealthy apples to take home and bake with.

I decided to try a different apple pie recipe from my usual one. The crust called for sour cream and lard. As I don't have lard on hand, I replaced it with all vegetable shortening. I don't know how much of a difference this had on the final product, but I find that you can make a great crust using butter and shortening. The only mistake I made was slicing my apples too thinly. Next time I'll make them thicker so that they don't make the filling all mushy. Overall, the pie was enjoyable - the crust was nice and the filling was spiced perfectly.

If you have the opportunity to pick your own apples I highly suggest you do! It's lots of fun for everyone and if you get hungry, no problem, eat an apple. Just watch out for all those pesky bees - they're in apple heaven.

Recipe: Prize Winning Apple Pie

Monday, September 03, 2007

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

You've all seen the recipe on the label of a jar of mayonnaise - Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. Hmmm, you thought. How would that taste? Would it taste mayonnaise-y? I decided to make the cake for myself to see how it would turn out. Mind you, I didn't use a box of chocolate cake mix as the recipe suggests. I had a different recipe that specifically called for mayonnaise which I thought would give me a better idea of how the mayonnaise flavours or doesn't flavour the cake.

My decision to make this cake coincides with a country-wide Hellmann's Taste Test that asks Canadians whether or not they can tell the difference between Real and Half The Fat mayonnaise. I always buy real mayonnaise but, to be fair to the general idea of the taste test, I made two cakes using both types of mayo. It was up to my taste-testers to see if there were any discernable differences.

The first difference I noticed was in appearance. Real mayonnaise is thicker and scoopable whereas Half the Fat is creamier. When incorporating it into the cake batter, the Half the Fat mayo dissolved very smoothly. Both cakes baked up exactly the same way in exactly the same amount of time. The interesting thing about the recipe I used is that it doesn't require butter at all - the mayo completely replaces it. Once the cakes were frosted, it was time moment of truth. Would one taste better than the other?

The result? Both cakes tasted the same. They were both moist and chocolaty with no mayo flavouring evident at all. I knew which cake was which but, if someone was presented with two slices I don't think they would have been able to tell the difference. I've concluded that, in this particular cake, both types of mayo worked equally as good as the other. There was no sacrificing of taste and, if you're counting calories, Half Fat mayo cake would be a reasonable dessert choice, icing being optional.

To see if there's a taste test going on in your neck of the woods, check Hellmann's for details. They're running until September 23 at a grocery store near you.

(Disclosure: In anticipation of this event, I was provided (with thanks) a jar of each Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise and Hellmann's Half the Fat.)

Recipe: Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake