Fresh Strawberry Margarita

by byn on August 3, 2016

in Cocktails

Fresh Strawberry Margarita

Don’t get excited, this is not my Signature Summer Cocktail. The #1 rule of the SSC, as dictated by my friend Weedy, is that it has to be super simple and quick to mix up. This is definitely not that, but it’s so delicious and vibrant that we have to talk about it anyway.

The first time I made these, I was too lazy to buy a bottle of Aperol, and instead replaced that with more Cointreau. BIG MISTAKE. The whole thing tasted like fake oranges, and you couldn’t even tell there were fresh strawberries in it. Over the past few summers, I’ve made a lot of cocktails with fresh summer fruit, and found the most challenging part is making sure that the fresh flavour of the fruit shines through. This margarita is successful because you use a fresh strawberry puree, which you only have to shake up with a bit of sugar, instead of making simple syrup, which I always find annoying.

Top Shot

Anyway, this was so pretty and refreshing, it will definitely get made again next year as soon as strawberry season starts!

Fresh Strawberry Margaritas

Source: Annie’s Eats

Yield: 3-4 margs

Ingredients

10 strawberries, hulled

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup tequila

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp lime juice

1/4 cup Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)

1/4 cup Aperol

Directions

  1. Use an immersion blender/blender/food processor to puree the strawberries and sugar. Add to a pitcher, then mix in the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau and Aperol. Serve over ice, topped with sparkling water if you like, plus lime wedges and a sliced strawberry.

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Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

by byn on August 1, 2016

in Breakfast

Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

When strawberry season rolls around, I’m usually too busy eating them fresh to bake anything. This year I tried out a couple new things though, and liked them enough to post here. First up are these Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes, which were a lovely long weekend breakfast. I actually had some corncakes for brunch when I was in Chicago that I wanted to re-create, and this recipe was pretty spot on (except for the strawberries, the version I ate had cinnamon, pecans and whipped goat cheese!).

I don’t normally put fruit IN my pancakes, instead preferring it ON them, but the cooked fruit turns into little pockets of jam as Smitten Kitchen says, which is okay by me.

Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp butter

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 cup chopped strawberries

+ butter for pan

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a medium, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave, then whisk in the buttermilk and eggs, then stir in the strawberries.
  3. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and fold gently until just combined and no dry spots remain.
  4. Heat your favourite pancake-making skillet over medium heat, and add a pat of butter. Once melted, drop small scoops of batter, flipping once bubbles start to pop up. I usually make the whole batch, eating what I want, then freezing the leftovers which can be reheated in the toaster like the best Eggo waffles.

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July on Planet Byn {2016}

by byn on July 31, 2016

in Monthly Recaps

BeerFest

The highlight of this month was my weekend in Chicago, and I’ll have a separate post on that up soon, because I have many things to say about all the food in this great city! In the meantime, here’s what else went on in July:

  • I met my friend Heather down at Harbourfront, and we sat outside on the huge new patio called The Slip. It’s right on the water, there was a nice breeze, and it was pretty much the perfect summer night. The margaritas were delicious, but I have to give a warning about the food (don’t eat here). Still a great spot for a few cocktails though!
  • The Tasty Gardener celebrated her big 40th birthday and after a bunch of us tried out an Escape Room, we went to The Craft, one of her favourites. I love everything about this place! We shared the popcorn chicken, lumpia spring rolls and cider honey flatbread to start, and then I had short rib tacos. I also had a Bodacious Blueberry Blonde beer and it was like drinking a glass of summer. I already want to go back.
  • Kristine and I tagged along with her cousin to get our nails done (more on that below) and afterward we went to Old School for a late lunch. I am now OBSESSED with this place. Kristine and I ordered a General Crunch (fried chicken) Sandwich and The Little Pig (pulled pork) Sandwich and shared. I couldn’t decide which one I loved more (K was partial to the chicken). When we left I saw a couple who each had a gigantic waffle in front of them – one with fried chicken on top, the other with pulled pork – plus a skillet of mac & cheese in the middle of the table to share. Now that’s true love right there.
  • I met my 39 weeks preggo friend Nicole for a last hurrah lunch at Union on one of the hottest days of the summer. We split the amazing Union Salad, which comes with double smoked bacon, potato rosti and goat cheese drizzled with honey and lots of cracked black pepper, as well as another seasonal salad we weren’t as crazy about. Plus fries to share, of course!
  • After a 5+ year absense, I made a (not-so) triumphant return to Toronto’s Festival of Beer, which is now at Bandshell Park at the Ex grounds. This is something I used to go to back in the day when it was at Fort York, and you could kind of leisurely walk around and try different things, and maybe there would be a couple places to get food. Now, it’s so packed with beer tents, food trucks, and people that it’s hard to wander around. I tried a few different things I liked, but it was like 40 degrees with crazy humidity that day, so I didn’t last too long.
  • I didn’t cook much this month (I usually struggle with this in the hot summer months), but pulled it together to try a couple new things: Thai Pineapple Fried Rice from Cookie + Kate, Broccoli Pesto Pasta from Annie’s Eats, and this Kale Caesar Salad Pizza from How Sweet Eats (sounds weird, but I LOVED IT).

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I read so many great summer reads this month, and my favourite by far was Modern Lovers by Emma Staub. Second runner-up is Emily Giffin’s First Comes Love, then Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam and The Assistants by Camille Perri.
  • Alexis and I went to see Ghostbusters and we totally loved it, and of course we were there on opening night with Kristine to see Jason Bourne.
  • I binged on Season 1 of UnReal, and as a proud member of #BachelorNation, it was a great faux-behind the scenes look at how that show runs.
  • As I mentioned above, I got my first shellac mani at Wow Wow Nails with Kristine and her cousin Maya. I was going crazy in the week leading up to this because I couldn’t decide what colour or design I wanted! I finally went with a colour changing polish (blush pink when warm, hot pink when cold) with a couple jewels and and silver chevron stamps. I was totally obsessed with it for the week I had it on, but to be honest, I don’t know if I would do shellac again. I was slightly majorly horrified with the way shellac polish is removed (essentially it’s scraped off), and I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t do it myself.

Flashback!

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Take 5 Birthday Cake

by byn on July 28, 2016

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

Take 5 Cake

When one of your foodie friends is celebrating a big birthday, it’s time to bust out the big guns with a special cake. For Tasty G‘s big day, it had to be a Take 5 Birthday Cake.

I wasn’t acquainted with the Take 5 Candy Bar until I met Heather. It’s her favourite, and whenever our friend Jenny goes to the States, she always brings her back a bag of the minis. I somehow once wrestled one away from Heather (kidding, she handed it over willingly) and immediately understood the obsession.

Take 5 Slice

The five components of Take 5 are: chocolate, peanuts, pretzels, caramel and peanut butter. I actually made some Take 5 Bars a couple of years ago to celebrate the Tasty Gardener’s five year blog-iversary. They were sugar bombs of the highest degree, and they were glorious. I knew it wouldn’t be hard to convert this into a cake formation. Here’s what I did:

  • Baked up three chocolate cake layers (using this recipe from Sweetapolita, as recommended by Danielle)
  • Filled and frosted with Prairie Girl’s peanut butter frosting (you could also use this one)
  • Spread My Favourite Salted Caramel between the layers (one batch was the perfect amount)
  • Sprinkled chopped peanuts on top of the caramel
  • Pressed pretzels on the outside

Inside Peek

It was absolutely perfect! Shout to The Craft (where we went for dinner) for storing the cake while we were at our Escape Room activity, then bringing it out with sparklers for Tasty G! Happy Birthday Heather!

HBD Tasty G

(Apologies to Mom for the profanity on this cake, but it was a hit!)

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Ombre Glamour Shot
I haven’t really done that much baking this month, as evidence by my lack of posts. I’ve been busy outside the kitchen, and also it is so. freaking. hot. I did make a couple of pretty amazing layer cakes in June and July, so I wanted to document them here.

First up is this gorgeous (if I do say so myself) turquoise ombré layer cake I made for Nicole’s baby shower back in June. I wasn’t able to attend the party (I was on a family trip), but I had to make sure I could still contribute to making the day special for Nicole.

Ombre Slice

I told her I was going to make her this cake, and she also requested some squares (I made lemon squares and these strawberry rhubarb ones). The method was pretty straightforward, with a little bit of baking math mixed in:

  • First of all, I remembered to weigh the mixing bowl I was going to be using before I started, and recorded it
  • Then I mixed up Smitten’s 1-2-3-4 cake, which is my go-to vanilla cake
  • I then weighed the mixing bowl again, with the cake batter in it. I took that number and subtracted the weight of the bowl to get the weight of just the cake batter. I then divided it by four, as I wanted to make four equal size cake layers. I can’t remember what it was, but let’s call it x grams. You’ll see why this is important next.
  • With all my cake pans lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick spray, I began the tinting process
  • To start, I added the smallest drop of turquoise gel colouring to the entire bowl and mixed it up. I removed x grams of cake batter into the first cake pan, and spread it out with the offset spatula.
  • I added another drop of turquoise gel colouring to the remaining batter in the bowl, and once I was satisfied it was distinct enough in colour from the first layer, I removed another x grams to the second cake pan.
  • Repeat for layers 3 and 4. Now you can see why the math is important. It allows you to work from the same bowl, tinting as you go, instead of splitting the cake batter into four bowls and mixing each separately.
  • I baked the cakes until done (12-15 minutes, I think), and let them cool.
  • I frosted it with a big batch of My Favourite Buttercream, piped on the detail with a large round tip, and filled the middle with a custom sprinkle mix I made from Bulk Barn.

Treat Table

I had many happy texts from Nicole once the party was over, and she said everyone freaked out over the cake. The funniest thing was that she told me after that she was a little bit disappointed when she saw the cake; she thought it was going to have ombre icing on the outside. So she was super surprised and excited when she cut into it and found the ombre cake layers on the INSIDE!

Meanwhile, Nicole is currently three days overdue! C’mon baby, we’re ready for you!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

by byn on July 20, 2016

in Breakfast

Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

This is hands-down the best summer breakfast you’re ever going to have. I started making breakfast crisps at the very beginning of this blog, when I adapted Smitten Kitchen’s Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp with an all-rhubarb version. Deb subsequently updated the recipe in her cookbook, and that’s been my go-to for the last few years. I do make this in the Fall with apples, but this is truly my favourite.

Summer Breakfast

Over the years I’ve realized that a pure rhubarb fruit component is a little bracing for the morning, so now I do equal parts rhubarb and strawberries. I like to make this on Sunday nights before bed, and chill it in the fridge until the morning, then scoop out a bit into a mason jar with a huge dollop of plain Greek yogurt to bring to work, then repeat all week. I’ve been meaning for years to make a peach and blueberry version, so that’s going on the to-do list for August.

Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (with a couple adaptations)

Ingredients

Fruit Part

4 cups diced strawberries & rhubarb (I basically use equal amounts of each, enough to fill a large baking dish)

2 tbsp turbinado sugar

1 tbsp flour

Granola Part

4 tbsp coconut oil (the original recipe calls for butter, but I’ve been making this substitution for a few years and love it)

1/3 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

pinch salt

+ Greek yogurt for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Add the fruit to a large baking dish, and sprinkle the sugar and flour over top. Stir to combine.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, then stir in the sugar, followed by the oats, then flour, and salt. Sprinkle over the fruit.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, then let cool to room temperature and chill in the fridge overnight.

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Nanaimo Ice Cream Squares

Baked Sunday Mornings is celebrating Canada Day today by remixing a classic Canadian dessert: Nanaimo Squares. My Mom always made these at Christmas time when I was growing up, but many Canadian families (ahem, Danielle) enjoy them all year round.

For my American friends, here’s a quick lesson. A traditional Nanaimo Square consists of three layers:

  1. Base: a no-bake crust made up of graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, COCONUT, and cocoa powder
  2. Filling: vanilla custard buttercream
  3. Topping: semi-sweet chocolate (the thicker the better, in my opinion)

The thing is though, coffee shops and grocery chains have ruined Nanaimo Squares for many people (meaning, me). Those store-bought versions are overly sweet and just gross.

The Baked Boys remixed the Nanaimo Square for Baked Occasions by swapping out the vanilla custard filling for ice cream! I was into this version, except I found that I really missed the coconut from the base layer (the Boys call for chopped up pretzels instead). I used vanilla ice cream in my filling for a classic Nanaimo flavour profile, but I like the other suggestions in the book for subbing in salted caramel, coffee or mint chip ice cream. Clearly I had trouble getting nice clean slices, but I’m sure that’s solved with a little more patience.

These were a hit at my family Canada Day celebrations yesterday!

You can find the recipe here! (For a traditional Nanaimo Square recipe, scroll down on this post)

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

Side note: LOL @ the Boys saying they enjoy the cooler summers in Canada. They’ve obviously never been to Toronto on a hot, humid summer day.

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June on Planet Byn {2016}

by byn on June 30, 2016

in Monthly Recaps

Snow Queen

Summer has arrived in full effect, and I fully enjoyed it and soaked up as much of it as I could before being knocked out by a summer cold:

  • My friend Weedy and her son Ronan had me over for dinner, and it was such a treat. Weedy’s signature summer cocktail is the Negroni, and she explained that your SSC has to be easy and quick to mix up. I love this strategy! She grilled lamb chops and asparagus and made some amazing crispy potatoes as well.  We ate in her backyard and talked until it was so dark we couldn’t see.
  • Speaking of summer cocktails, I met my friend Krishna on the rooftop of Gusto 101 on a blazing hot day for brunch. She was having an Aperol Spritz when I arrived, so I had to copy her, especially after Annie made them last year. I loved it and will have to pick up a bottle of Aperol to re-create this soon (see above re: Signature Summer Cocktail!).
  • I met my old co-worker on the patio at Local, a restaurant in Liberty Village (where Origin used to be). We shared some guac and I had a fish taco that was incredibly light and crispy, totally a winner. I’d go back in a minute to try a bunch of other things on the menu.
  • Who knew that Parkdale has not one, but two tiki bars? Not me! I tagged along with Sarah and her friends at Miss Thing’s where the drinks are served in vintage glasses, coconuts, and seahorse mugs and are super cute and colourful. I wasn’t head over heels about the food, but would go back for the cocktails and overall vibe for sure.
  • My foodie girls and I returned to Tavolo where we hadn’t been an ages. On Sunday nights they have a salad bar (is it all-you-can eat? We’re not sure, but we went up multiple times anyway!) and delicious pasta or pizza for a steal of a deal. We also had this deconstructed cannoli dessert that I’m still thinking about.
  • Libby invited me to the launch of Hidden Burger, this secret spot in the back of The Bottom Line. The premise is that they only take orders via app, and for $10 you get a burger, fries and a drink. The burger was delicious, and I would definitely go back if and when a burger craving strikes.
  • I spent a long weekend in Nova Scotia on a family visit to my parents’ hometown. Sadly my favourite childhood restaurant is now closed, but Snow Queen Leisure World is still in full effect! I made my Dad drive me here for a chocolate dipped cone, and it was the best!
  • Lydia and Aoife came over for happy hour to kick off the Canada Day long weekend, and we had fresh strawberry margaritas (I messed them up though, will post the recipe when I re-make it), guac and chips, plus some fresh watermelon and other snacks. So nice to sit on my balcony in the sun and catch-up.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I didn’t see many movies this month, but my Mom and I did go see Me Before You because we both read the book. I was still stuffed up from my cold, so crying my face off during this movie made breathing quite challenging. The only other movie I saw was Central Intelligence with The Rock and Kevin Hart. I’m not sure if it was because I had been cooped up in my place sick all weekend, but this movie was HILARIOUS. Kristine and I were definitely the only ones laughing at the Sixteen Candles scene at the end.
  • I started working my way through my summer reading list (might do a separate post on this), after finishing Longbourne, which was a re-telling of Pride & Prejudice from the servants point-of-view. I also re-read Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld’s first book that I last read in 2006. Totally holds up.
  • When I was sick on my couch I watched both Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies, and it just makes me so happy that the girls are all still friends in real life!

Flashback!

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S’mores Cupcakes

by byn on June 28, 2016

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

S'moresy Goodness
Finally, finally, finally I had S’mores Cupcake success!!! I don’t know what it is, but I have the worst luck ever with marshmallow frostings. Even when I’m so careful and follow every tip in the book – making sure my egg whites are room temperature, have no trace of yolks, using a metal bowl, wiping it down with lemon juice or vinegar – sometimes my egg whites still won’t whip to stiff peaks. I first tried this recipe back at Thanksgiving and had no luck with the frosting.

S'mores Cupcake

It was my nephew’s birthday party a couple weeks ago, and I vowed to conquer this once and for all. I tried the same frosting recipe and had another disaster, but instead of giving up, I switched to another recipe from a different blog that worked for me in the past and had great success! I made two separate batches, but doubled it in the notes below, so I’m sure that would be fine.

Toasted Tops

Anyway, after all that egg white madness, my reward came in the form of using my cute little kitchen torch to toast these babies up. They were a huge hit! I want to toast everything!

S’mores Cupcakes

Source: Annie’s Eats + A Cozy Kitchen

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, melted

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cocoa

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp hot water

2 1/4 cup flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 2/3 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

3/4 cup sour cream

Marshmallow Frosting

4 tbsp water

1 1/3 cups sugar

4 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, and line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. For the crust, in a medium sized microwave safe bowl, add the butter, and melt in the microwave. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs and sugar until well combined. Add 1 tbsp of the graham cracker mixture to each cupcake liner. Use clean fingers or the back of a spoon (I used a pestle) to press down into an even crust. Bake for 5 minutes.
  3. For the cupcakes, get out a small, medium and large (microwave safe) bowl. In the small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. In the medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the large bowl, melt the butter in the microwave, then whisk in the sugar until combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, then the cocoa mixture.
  4. Switch to an electric mixer, and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add mixture to cupcake liners, right on top of the graham cracker crusts. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  5. For the marshmallow frosting, set up a double boiler (so, a saucepan with about 2″ of simmering water, with a heatproof bowl set over top that is not touching the water). Add the water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and salt to the bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix together on low speed to combine, then slowly increase speed to high, whipping the mixture to stiff peaks. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the double boiler, and set on the counter on a tea towel. Whip for 2 more minutes, then add the vanilla and mix until combined.
  6. To assemble, add the frosting to a piping bag with a large open star tip. Pipe onto cupcakes (start at the outside and swirl in). Using a kitchen torch, toast the marshmallow lightly until golden brown. (Alternatively you can do this under the oven broiler, but watch very carefully so you don’t light the cupcakes, and your kitchen, on fire).

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Rhubarb Poppy Seed Dressing

I’m boldly going where no Planet Byn recipe has gone before today: a savoury rhubarb recipe. I tried to make a rhubarb chutney once and it was a disaster, so I’ve given other savoury rhubarb recipes the side eye ever since. Rhubarb barbecue sauce? No thanks. Raw rhubarb in a salsa? Nah.

Pretty in Pink

However, a rhubarb poppy seed dressing seemed like something I could handle. It was so easy, tasted great, and is so pretty and pink. I basically re-created this salad from last summer, and added the dressing. Such a delicious summer lunch to enjoy outside.

Rhubarb Poppy Seed Dressing

Source: Chatelaine

Ingredients

1 cup chopped rhubarb

1/4 cup water

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp poppy seeds

Directions

  1. Add rhubarb and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the rhubarb is broken down. Let cool.
  2. Add rhubarb mixture, maple syrup, white wine vinegar, dijon and olive oil to a large measuring cup, and use an immersion blender to puree. Stir in the poppy seeds.

 

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