face of the forest

Discoveries from the forest floor and beyond.

Baileys Maple Fruit Syrup

by amy – July 26, 2016 in Cooking
Pain perdu (French toast) with Maple Whiskey Syrup and greek yogurt

French toast (pain perdu) with Baileys Maple Fruit Syrup and greek yogurt.

Want to add some pizazz to your weekend breakfast/brunch? This fruit syrup is an easy concoction to take your pancakes or french toast to the next level.

Here’s a simple ratio for two servings:

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons jam
  • 1 teaspoon Baileys Irish Cream

Nothing could be simpler; just mix together and warm up in a small pan. Pour over french toast, pancakes, or crêpes. These three flavors combine with perfection! As you might imagine, they make a super-sweet berry syrup, with a saucy punch from the whiskey. Yup, I just used saucy as an adjective for sauce. Anyway, it’s quite irresistible and highly addictive, so be forewarned!

I stumbled on this idea late last Friday evening when making breakfast for dinner for me and my man. I had tried blueberry syrup before (thank you, Canadian ex-roommate!) and since then have made my own a few times. As usual when practicing kitchen alchemy, which is my term for assembling a meal on-the-fly without knowing what it’s going to turn out like, something I do very often, I can’t help but glance around the kitchen thinking, what else can I add to this? I do this a lot. Sometimes for the worse. But sometimes for the better. And in unexpected cases like these, for the betterment of myself and all humankind.

So, intrepid chef, go forth and pour whiskey on thine pancakes. To life!

A Good Bread Recipe

by amy – May 6, 2016 in Cooking
Homemade Bread

One of my early attempts at making bread by hand

There’s nothing like bread made by hand. I made my first loaf about eight months ago. My partner and I liked the result so much that we stopped buying storebought bread. Bread is a staple in the house, and one loaf only lasts two or three days. Making bread about twice a week since then has given me plenty of chances to experiment with variations on the recipe that worked for me. Read more

The Big Purple Pancake!

by amy – October 13, 2015 in Cooking

This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for.
Welcome… to The Big Purple Pancake.

the big purple pancakeSo there I was. It was late, late morning. Other people were way past their morning coffee and muffins, pastries, porridge, whatever it is that you people eat for breakfast. But not I. I hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours. I was skeletal, not to mention hungry. Hungry as hell. I needed a meal that was more like brunch. Read more

Crusty Pan Pizza

by amy – October 1, 2015 in Cooking

One day I felt like pizza.

Do you ever get that craving? But I didn’t want to make just any old pizza. I wanted that Pan Pizza kind like the one I remember from Pizza Hut, the one with a thick, puffy crust with a crunchy, buttery exterior that collapses onto a soft, pillowy interior when you bite into it. This, believe it or not, is a crust you can achieve at home. And you can do it in a cast iron skillet.Crusty Pan Pizza

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Roasted vegetables

by amy – September 7, 2015 in Cooking

Roasted vegI  may have stated previously that I’m fond of meals that require few dishes. This would be one of those dishes. It’s so versatile, and requires very little actual work besides cutting up the veg. This is a hands-off dish; the oven does it all. And the best part is the delicious flavor that roasting brings out in all the vegetables.

I love roasting a mélange of root vegetables. It’s probably hard to tell what’s in the photo, seeing as it’s blanketed in melted cheddar cheese (mm, cheese). I’ve put in large chunks of turnip, yellow potato, kumara (New Zealand’s sweet potato), brussel sprouts, onion and apple. You can use just about any veg you want to use up in your fridge. Just aim for vegetables of similar hardness, and cut them up about the same size. Root vegetables work well together like this, because they are often of similar hardness, and will all take about the same amount of time to cook. In a “softer” dish you could put zucchini and eggplant together, for example. The apple is one exception in my version here. I added it during the last half hour of baking, as it wasn’t a very hard variety of apple. But in retrospect, I could have dealt with it softening up more, allowing its sugar to carmelize to add another dimension! No matter what sort of vegetables you use, I highly recommend adding onion or garlic. These roast to perfection and will bring an extra magnitude of flavor to your dish.

Is there anything else to preparing this to go in the oven? Not really. If you want to keep it basic, just mix in a few spoons of olive oil to make sure everything is lightly coated, and perhaps a bit of salt and/or pepper.

oil & spice mixtureThat is, if you like to keep things basic. I like to spice up my olive oil before I mix it into the vegetables. In fact, I use this opportunity to do what I love most in the kitchen: perform some alchemy. I pour some oil (maybe a couple tablespoons) into a small bowl, and then I go to the pantry and the spice shelf and grab everything in sight that will take this dish to the next level, and give these plain veggies a real kick in the pants. The mix of spices is different each time, as I like to choose them spontaneously. Fresh herbs from the garden are great! Much better than their ground, bottled versions if you got ’em. For this dish I got to use some fresh rosemary from my garden. Wow, what a treat to have fresh herbs. I always add some salt and pepper, and if you like heat, add some cayenne or red chili flakes. Or hot sauce. As you can probably tell by now, you can put just about any kind of condiment, sauce or spice into the oil.

Side note: When I’m roasting just potatoes, which are capable of absorbing lots of flavor, I always grate or mince a few cloves of garlic into the oil, and add a dollop of grainy mustard. You know, the kind with whole grains of mustard in it. Any mustard will do for a nice kick of flavor.  The more mustard, the more kick. Garlic and mustard work so well for potatoes. I usually add paprika too, to give them that reddish dusting that looks so appealing once the ‘taters get all crusty and toasted on the outside. If you happen to have any tips on how I can add even more flavor to roasted potatoes, I’d be excited to know.

In this picture of the oil rub, I’ve set aside the apples to put into the roast later on. I put some of the oil mixture on them so they can start absorbing flavor even before they start cooking.

This dish takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the oven at about 350º F. I usually cover my dish with foil to make sure they hold the vegetables hold their moisture and don’t dry out. When it’s done, grate some cheese on top and put it under the broiler for a minute or two. And voilà! A warm, delicious, nutritious dinner. I had this the other night with some cured meats on the side. Can’t wait to do this again.

Upside-down cake in a cast iron pan

by amy – September 1, 2015 in Cooking

It’s late in the afternoon and your loving partner writes to say that sadly, he was a little late to work and missed out on Monday cake at the office. He’s sad and dejected, and more importantly, cakeless. What do you do?

Kiwi & Pineapple Upside-down Cake

You bake him a cake.

But it’s late in the day, and you’re already planning to cook dinner for when he arrives, tired, hungry, and wet from biking home in the rain. You need a solution, and you need it fast. Something sweet and ridiculously easy.

I’ve made upside-down cake once before. It was the classic one with pineapple circles and maraschino cherries in the middle. (That recipe was quite different!) But this time I didn’t have any pineapple rounds. And now we’re down under in Kiwiland (New Zealand). We also just acquired a big bag of kiwi fruit at the farmer’s market on Sunday. What could be more appropriate than kiwi cake?

Upside-down cake is a snap. I’m gonna show you how I made it in my cast iron skillet. Since I came into possession of this beautiful 8-inch pan, thanks to the generosity of a previous tenant at my house, I realized I knew very little about what could be done with such a pan. I searched “cast iron recipes” and a whole bunch of tantalizing ideas popped up, making me eager to try every single one. And what do you know? You can cook cake in a cast iron pan. Perfect. I leapt into action.
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