Saturday, 21 May 2011

:: On the Shelf ::

Stephanie Alexander - The Cook’s Companion
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: Stepanie Alexander the Cook's Companion ::

When I first received the Stephanie Alexander Cook’s Companion as a Christmas present from my sister, I was quite the amateur cook. I flicked through it to the pictures. Hmmmm.... lacking. “It’s the bible” she assured me, “it has everything in it. You won’t need another book again. You have lots of apples, turn to ‘A’ for apples & there are all her recipes. ” “But where are all the beautiful pictures of her amazing food?” I screamed in my head while smiling politely. “Did she run out of money in her budget whilst shooting?”
You see, at the time I was very much a visual cook. I needed the finished product to cook to and I could not comprehend simply just working to text. I don’t know how long poor old Stephie sat on the shelf when I dusted her off, opened her up to look up how long to cook a roast beef. Then chicken. Then pork. Then prawns. Then I ventured to her sponge cake by using her recipe and a picture from another book for the finished product. SUCCESS! After a few attempts of this slap together visual method I had complete confidence in Stephanie Alexander’s recipes and my fear of working without pictures was cured! I now simply appreciate the brilliance of her cooking & reap the rewards of her genius.

The Content: Stephanie Alexander delivers a cook book for all levels. It looks daunting, but it really isn’t! The recipes are simple and easy to follow, some venture to the more advanced as your cooking progresses. Tonight, for example, I was able to look up under “beef” how I wanted to roast it, on what oven temperature and for how long for, for the weight that I had & then how long to rest it. Fantastic! It is one of those books that will remain in your book shelf for the rest of time with marks of love & use, not wear & tear.
The Recipes: The book provides just about everything, including information about the food your cooking with. My favourites are her buttermilk scones and lemon tart.

:: my favourite scone recipe ::

Now this book, as promised, is my bible & has become a true companion as the title suggests. It is loved in this household like a family member, fondly referred to as “Stephie” and the book is a “she” or “her”, not an “it”. She stands front and centre to my cookbooks: a book for life.

The Cook's Companion
:: follow through to purchase ::
Source:  Purchase any book from Amazon through this link. Amazon has many great products at great prices, I tend to get lost (& have it cost me) online there!

Thank you very much R, for being so thoughtful and introducing me to this amazing religion + book and, of course, to Ms Stephanie Alexander herself.

:: scribed by my sister, a great idea for a gift ::

:: Order in the Kitchen ::

Freezer Labels
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: my favourite freezer labels ::

 “Is this pizza sauce, pasta sauce or Moroccan lamb?” I said to my husband squinting through the Tupperware container trying to figure out the frozen contents. I had made a double batch of pizza dough & we were making fresh pizzas for some friends that evening. I had also pre-made some pizza sauce and frozen it, yet all those red, tomatoey based sauces seem to look very similar when frozen. “No, this has got to be it.” I said confidently picking a container. “I must have put it in this the red one, it matches the pizza maker.” Needless to say, Moroccan lamb pizzas were added to the menu that night.

It was then one fine day that I was spending an hour (or two) on Martha Stewart’s web site & I came across some freezer labels. These “Freezer Labels” help me immensely in the kitchen in so many ways. I simply circle the date when I freeze leftovers & pre-prepared meals for my toddler, sticky tape the label to make it frost proof, trim the edges & stick it on.

:: healthy meals frozen for my little guy ::

It not only helps me label in the freezer but also helps me in the fridge. Making up a number of meals? Have a large family to communicate to? People with diet restrictions in the family? These freezer labels are great for forgetful minds, busy lives & can solve some big headaches.
When taking food parcels for friends, I also re-label the side with a “Best Before” date if the food isn’t frozen for them. It is just so that they don’t leave it sitting in their fridge for too long & know when exactly to throw it out.

:: freezer labels cut & ready to use ::

How to use: I print them out, cut them up with a metal ruler and Stanley knife (or you can cut them with scissors) & keep a stock of them for when I am in need of them. It is also suggested to print them on to self adhesive paper, an option which I haven’t done yet but would be very convenient.

:: kept in a zip lock bag with magnet on the side of fridge ::

:: the magnet easy to attach with sticky tape ::

Handy Hint: I print a few pages at a time & prepare them so they are ready to use. I keep them in a zip lock bag with an old fridge magnet attached to it on the side of the fridge with a pen so they are at the ready when I make meals.

Source: Martha Stewarts Website of clip art & good things

Friday, 20 May 2011

:: Muffin, Muffin who’s got the Muffin ::

Blueberry Muffins
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: blueberry muffins freshly baked and cooling :: 

I must say I have been spoilt with my exposure to blueberries. We owned a blueberry farm when I was growing up and so I was able to eat them handfuls at a time, at any time I wanted. During the summer months I was able to pick these beautiful blue beads from the bush at will and in winter our freezer was always stocked with at least 3 20kg boxes of them. Remember how Bubba on Forest Gump from the shrimp boat and he had everything shrimp? That was our family and blueberries & I looovvved them. I can’t stand the fact that I have to pay for a teeny tiny little punnet now. Sacrilege.
My love for blueberry muffins started as soon as we harvested our first crop and my mother would whip up a batch of traditional American blueberry muffins on the weekends. I remember eating them warm, with the berries still molten hot, & a generous slathering of butter, which was a must when it came to our household. The joy these muffins would bring to a small young child.... ooh, heaven!
This particular recipe comes from Donna Hay, but I will continue to post my favourite blueberry recipes, particularly in summer, & when I get permission from my mother! If you have a favourite, let me know!

2 cups of plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ cup caster sugar
1 cup of sour light cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
pinch of sea salt, optional

:: Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare your muffin tins with baking paper or by greasing them. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the caster sugar. In another slightly larger bowl, add the sour cream, eggs, lemon rind & oil & whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the cream mixture until it is just combined. Add blueberries & stir through once as you don’t want to change the colour of the mixture. Use two tablespoons (one to pick up your mixture and one to neatly push it off your spoon) to place the mixture into your prepared non-stick muffin trays. I sometimes like to line mine with crisp, white liners. Bake for 14 minutes or until cake tested with a skewer and golden on top.

:: just combine & spoon into prepared tins ::
:: add fresh or frozen blueberries to your mixture ::

:: With any leftover batter that doesn’t fit into the prepared tins I tend to make mini muffins for my toddler, which are a hit. His favourite word at the moment is “cake, cake, caaaaaaaaake”, & the smile that comes across his face when I hand him one of these treats is priceless. These also freeze well for snacks on the run. 

:: toddler sized blueberry muffins- great for snacks ::

Serve: The best way to serve your muffins is fresh out of the oven, after about 15 mins of cooling, with a generous slathering of real, salted butter that melts as you bite into it.
Kitchen Notes: I have sometimes substituted the sour cream with natural yoghurt, or half-half when I haven’t had the complete ingredients in my fridge.
:: Always remember for a soft, moist muffin that rises to their full potential, stir the ingredients until it is just combined. Overworking your mixture activates the gluten, making it tough and dry.
Blueberries: It seems blueberries have every health benefit you could want in a tiny fruit. They are an antioxidant powerhouse, are cardio protective, help protect against macular degeneration and help with vision in general, you have a better learning capacity and lower stress levels while eating blueberries and are less likely to develop various cancers. Blueberries are high in vitamin C, manganese, dietary fibre & Vitamin E.
It is noted due to oxalates in blueberries that if you have untreated gallbladder or kidney problems, they are best avoided in large quantities.
Donna Hay General Store: Purchase Donna Hay Parchment Cupcake Papers- Small
Order in the Kitchen: make your own Parchment Paper Wrappers

Sunday, 8 May 2011

:: Cooking, Baking & Everything Making ::

Made a Recipe?
:: Megann’s  Kitchen ::

Have you made any of the "Megann's Kitchen" recipes? I would just LOVE to hear how it went! Like what you see? Megann's Kitchen would appreciate some of your comments into the page. I have had such positive feedback from friends but would also like to hear from my regular viewers & home cooks, especially my international ones!
Thank you all for your support so far,
Enjoy my Kitchen
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