Saturday, September 14, 2013

Seared Tuna Salad

Sean and I eat quite a bit of fish. Tuna is the primary one and we try to enjoy it in a salad when we do. I decided to do a quick google search and look around my favourite Chef's sites for a new salad recipe.

We had just been at the Farmers Market and picked up a solid sized Tuna Steak, around 3/4 of a pound. If you're not going to cook the tuna through (and even if you are) buy good tuna. The flavour of good tuna is amazing. It melts in your mouth. The place we get ours is about $26/pound. And its so worth it. If you can buy it freshly frozen from a fish market it might be a little less, ours goes down to $14/pound. Which is nice to have in your freezer.

So I decided on this salad, without the tapenade. We wanted something fast and light.

What I did as well as the full recipe is available below.

Seared Tuna Salad
(Adapted slightly from In the Kitchen)


3/4 pound Ahi tuna (sushi grade)
1/2 pound potatoes, red mini new potatoes, scrubbed, skin on
1/2 pound green beans
Mixed heirloom tomatoes, sliced or cut in wedges

4 ish handfuls mixed greens


Add potatoes to saucepan. Cover with cold water. Generously salt with water. Bring to a boil. Cook potatoes until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on size of potatoes.

Cook green beans in boiling water until tender crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. You can cook the beans in the last 4 minutes of the potatoes, if desired.

Season tuna with Salt, Pepper and Cayenne (If desired) on both sides and let sit while pan is pre-heating.

We use a Stainless Steel fry pan, turn the heat on to Medium- medium high and let heat for a couple minutes. Oil pan slightly, about 1 tbsp. If your pan is hot enough the oil will spread nicely around it.

Place tuna in pan and let cook around 1 minute on each side, usually around 45 seconds in a hot pan. You can cook it more or less depending on your tastes. Turn and cook the other side. We usually also sear the sides quickly while holding the tuna up on it with tongs. 

Let tuna rest for 5 to 7 minutes and then slice.
Add to platter: mixed greens, potatoes, green beans (or asparagus), tomatoes, and tuna slices. 

*For a dressing I used 2 tbsp Lime Ponzu and 1 tsp Sunflower oil whisked together. 

Drizzle the dressing. Serve.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

It was Sean's brothers birthday in August and I had volunteered to make the cake once again. I know he enjoys cheesecake and I know I can make one comparable or better than any you'll get in a store. He loves peanut butter, anything peanut butter. Reese's are a big one. So, of course I considered this when I went about planning this cake. Cheesecakes are different (for me) in that I do need to "plan" them. I never have 4 packages of Cream cheese on hand or many of the other ingredients. You also usually need to carve out a solid chunk of your day (in this case, 2 days) to make them.

Since we happened to be in the States prior to having to make the cake I got the chance to pick up some Peanut Butter Oreos that I used for the crust, they don't sell these in Canada. I found they tasted pretty much identical to the Reese's Pieces cereal that we have here though. And if I make this again, I'll find a way to incorporate those into the crust. It just added a very small peanuty flavour into the crust and I liked that.

I ended up going with 2 recipes for this cheesecake, one for the cake itself and another for a Peanut butter Mousse topping. And a third, I suppose if you include the Oreo Crust. I stuck with a solid chocolate cheesecake, which was the best chocolate cheesecake recipe that I have ever come across. It was the only cheesecake that I've ever made that didn't crack, was rich, but not too rich and wasn't overly sweet. Of course I had to put a mousse on my perfect looking cheesecake. The mousse was light and had a great complementary peanut butter taste to the chocolate. I'm not a huge Peanut Butter fan and I really enjoyed this cake. I wouldn't even try another recipe. Here's the culmination of the recipes.


1 Package Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies
2 Tbsp Butter

Chocolate Cheesecake
(Adapted slightly from Sugar & Spice)

12 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
24 ounces 3 - 8 ounces packages) Room temperature cream cheese, I used 2 ful fat and 1 light
1 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup 2% Greek Yogurt

Peanut Butter Mousse Topping
(Adapted slightly from Inside BruCrew Life)

1 package light cream cheese (8 oz.)
500 mL container Cool Whip
1/2 cup peanut butter

Mini Reese's for Garnishing


Butter or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 10 inch spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with rack in centre of oven. This time, since it was sort of a gift, I put parchment paper down on the bottom of the pan so it would come out nicely.

In a food processor, crush cookies until overall the same sized crumb. Then place in a medium sized bowl to combine with the melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake in oven for about 10 - 12 minutes until set slightly. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

At this time place a roasting pan or large dish in the oven on the bottom rack, fill with water about half way. Leave this in the oven while the cheesecake cooks to help avoid cracking.

For Filling:
Melt the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Try not to let the boiling water touch the bowl. This step can take a while but its so worth the flavour of using a good quality baking chocolate.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese, on medium low speed, until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the melted chocolate and beat until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and Greek yogurt and beat until thoroughly incorporated.

Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan in the oven on the rack above the water bath.

Bake for about 50 - 55 minutes or until firm yet the centre of the cheesecake will still look a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or offset spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools as well). Let cool and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours (about 4, or overnight) before covering with the mousse.

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until creamy. Add the cool whip and beat with the wire whisk attachment until creamy. Place spoonfuls on top of cooled cheesecake and spread out evenly with an offset spatula. Top with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

I piped extra little blobs of cool whip around the outside of the cake and put a mini Reese cup on each one. I made it so there would be 16 slices, if everyone got one Reese Cup.

You'll need a long, sharp knife to cut this cake nicely, and a tall glass of hot water to clean the knife in between cuts to continue to get smooth cuts.

Here's a picture of the un-cracked, un-covered cake for now. I'm making this cake again in a couple weeks and hope to take some better ones. I unfortunately don't have any pictures of it as a finished product yet because it got eaten fresh out of the fridge, very fast.

Pretzel Buns

I love pretzels. Soft Pretzels anyway... They're one of the things I use the most flour towards on a regular basis. I recently pinned a Pretzel Hamburger Bun recipe and thought that it was time to give it a try. We were just about to take off for the long weekend and do some camping (with our home ground Sirloin burgers), so I needed a bun to complete that. These are the best pretzel buns I've ever had and I honestly don't think I would even give another recipe a chance at this point. I suppose the only thing I would change is that it made a double recipe.

And so I pass it on. This recipe makes about 8 large buns.

Homemade Pretzel Buns
(Adapted from Juanita's Cocina)


For the Pretzel Dough

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (100ºF)
1 Tbs. sugar (brown or white, I used brown Sugar)
1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For Boiling the Buns

8 cups water
1/2 cup (ish) baking soda
1 large egg, whisked with a dash of water
Kosher salt for sprinkling


Add the water, sugar, and yeast to a measuring cup or bowl and stir slightly. Allow the yeast to bloom, or for bubbles to form in the cup. This should take about 5-10 minutes.

Add the flour, salt, yeast mixture, and melted butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix ingredients together on low speed until a rough ball begins to form. Continue to knead on low speed for another 5 minutes, or until the dough ball turns smooth and pulls away from the walls of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large lightly oiled bowl. Cover and allow the dough to rest for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. If its a hot summer day, you'll have no problem in your kitchen (unless you have AC, and I'm jealous), otherwise you can quickly preheat an oven to 200º and turn it off right after. Place a damp towel over your bowl and put in the oven to rise. Without a damp towel, it will probably get a crusty skin of sorts.

Preheat the oven to 450º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Punch down the dough and divide the dough into 8-12 equal portions (8 for large buns, 12 for more dinner roll sized buns). Roll each portion of dough between the palm of your hand and the counter/hard surface to form a ball. Place the rolls on the baking sheet and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes, or until they have risen again.

Meanwhile, bring the water and baking soda to a low boil in a large pot, I used a braiser as it gives me a large surface, I can do about 4 buns at a time. Then, turn the heat down so that no bubbles are breaking the surface. (bubbles will cause “divets” in your bun’s surface) Drop 1-4 buns (comfortable fit) at a time into the hot water, leaving them for 30 seconds on one side, before flipping them over and leaving them for another 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain each bun, returning it to the baking sheet.

Brush the egg wash lightly on all of the pretzel buns. Immediately sprinkle the top of the buns with a bit of Kosher salt. Cut two small, shallow slits in the top of each of the buns. I did an "=" pattern, an "X" is also common.

Once all pretzel buns have been salted, bake them in the oven for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until they turn a deep golden brown colour.

Cool on a rack until they won't steam up a container! Unless you're going to eat them right away, I wouldn't blame you.

I generally notice with pretzels and the buns that if left in a container or plastic bag when too warm or humid that the tops will wrinkle and envelop the salt on them. This isn't pretty looking, but they'll still taste great I promises. Although they also may be a bit sticky.

Here they are in all their glory as Sirloin burger buns on our Glacier Falls Camping Trip

Everything Bagels

Bagels have been something I have wanted to attempt for a really long time. I'm definitely the girl who would give up 3 square meals for a couple of bagels in a day. Call me crazy. So this was my first attempt. I wish I had made them earlier or later as we took them on our camping trip and they sat alone in the cooler. As anyone else with a "baking problem" may know, we were a bit overstocked on delicious food options. I did manage to try a couple before they sadly went mouldy. And I was fairly happy with them. Bagels can for sure be a blank slate for you to put your own touch on and add whatever you enjoy. I started with everything, since they're fairly basic and well enjoyed. Now that I know generally how they go, I'm definitely attempting the Jalapeño Cheddar variety next time. Stay tuned.

Things I would change ... I would bake them a tad longer (unless you have convection bake!) and I will get malt powder to boil them in next time, I used brown sugar instead. I would also keep the boil to a low boil, my bagels were a little bit dimply. Easily hidden with the toppings though!

Everything Bagels
(Adapted slightly from Arctic Garden Studio)


1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 cups Bread Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water, lukewarm (100ºF)

Glaze and Everything Bagel Topping

2 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried onions
1/2 teaspoon toasted garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 egg white

Water Bath

8 Cups water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Set on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes. The dough will be quite stiff and sticky. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and set it aside to rise till noticeably puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Mix together all of the everything bagel topping ingredients, except for the egg white and set aside.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it into eight pieces. I like to half my ball of dough, then half the halves and so on till 8. Makes them much more even than one giant bagel and 7 mini bagels. Working with one piece at a time, roll it into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap or a towel, and let them rest for 30-45 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water, malt and sugar to a very gentle boil in a large, wide-diameter pan, I used my braiser. Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole till it's about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 4 inches across). The twirling is fun, but be careful not to launch your bagel across your kitchen! Place each bagel on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Transfer the bagels, four at a time if possible, to the simmering water. Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and cook 1 minute more. Using a skimmer or strainer, remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Just before baking, with a glaze made of 1 egg white beaten till frothy with 1 tablespoon of water; glaze each bagel, and sprinkle heavily with everything bagel topping. You can eliminate this step if you prefer plain bagels, or use another topping of your choice if you are not a fan of everything bagels.

Bake the bagels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're as deep brown as you like. Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 8 bagels.

Graham Crackers

I really hate Graham Crackers. Which is really sad because I love the idea of S'mores. So when I started seeing make your own Graham Cracker recipes popping up I figured I would give them a try. And now, I can clarify that I really hate Graham Crackers, from a box. These are still fairly similar but have a lot more flavour and you can definitely manipulate them slightly if you would prefer more of a certain flavour. I would make them a bit thinner next time and the flavour of them still overwhelms the S'more a little bit.

Graham Crackers
(Adapted slightly from Baking and Boys)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup water (may need a little more)

In bowl of food processor, combine flours, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.  Pulse a few times. Add the cold butter and pulse until texture is dry and crumbly.

In a separate bowl, mix together the honey, molasses and water.  Add to food processor and blend together until it forms a ball, or close to a ball. I needed to dump it on to my plastic wrap and hand form it.

Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll the dough out on a well floured surface.  Roll the dough out as thin as you would like and cut with cookie cutters, I used a glass, for circles  Make fork marks in the dough.  Transfer to baking sheets.  You could sprinkle these with sugar or cinnamon/sugar before baking, I had a Maple Sugar Epicure Grinder that I used.  

Bake for 11-14 minutes until golden and crisp.  This recipe made about 20-26 Circles. I think I rolled some out thinner than others.

I also decided to take this one step further and melt some chocolate chips and butterscotch chips to pipe onto half the crackers. Eliminating the need to remember chocolate for the S'mores! I used about 1/4 cup of each for 24 crackers, as I had made a double recipe.