Friday, January 20, 2017

Spanish-Style Barley - CIC

It's the 20th again so it's time for another Crazy Ingredient Challenge! This month's winning ingredients are barley and salsa. Not too crazy but definitely not two items that you see together often. I always have lofty plans for CIC and then suddenly, it's a couple days before the 20th and I start grabbing all the ideas and choosing the easiest one. Casseroles, burritos, salads, slow cooker dishes. All were tossed in favour of this simple Spanish-style side. Usually with the Spanish style rice, you are chopping onions and garlic and tomatoes and peppers but since we're using salsa, you can skip all of that. Easy peasy and tasty!

I'm a sucker for corn so I stirred some in. Carrots, beans, and peas asked to join the party so I grudgingly let them in. I don't dislike carrots and green beans but green peas are not my friends. When I was a little girl, I convinced myself that they gave me a headache. I could look at a can of green peas and my head would immediately start hurting. I can't even tell you how I made the association between my headaches and green peas but I did. I think I was just looking for a food to hate? Or I just hadn't found the true trigger for my migraines? I do eat them now if they're on my plate but I'd prefer if they weren't. I really can't tell you if it's a flavour thing. Adult Kelly is just siding with her younger self.

Spanish Style Barley

1 tablespoon oil 
1 cup pearl barley
1 cup prepared salsa
2 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
1 cup frozen vegetables


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. When oil is hot, stir in the barley. Stir occasionally until barley is toasted - about five minutes. Make sure it doesn't burn!

Add the salsa, water, and salt to taste. You could also use stock but I preferred to use water since the salsa had a bit of salt in it.

Bring to a boil then allow to simmer covered for about 40 minutes. When all the liquid is almost absorbed, stir in the frozen vegetables. Cover and cook until the vegetables are heated through. Barley is ready when it's tender but still has a bit of a chew. If your barley still isn't tender, add a little bit of water and continue cooking.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Fruitcake Muffins - #MuffinMonday

Merry Christmas, everyone! I was trying to remember Christmas 2011, the last time December 25 fell on a Sunday, but can't seem to remember anything about it. It feels so weird. Do you celebrate on Sunday or Monday? Or do you do something on both days? We did dinner and gifts yesterday (Sunday) for the simple reason that my mother refuses to cook more than once per week. Today we'll enjoy leftovers and maybe a babka, if I can get my act together. Getting my act together has not been the easiest. My birthday was two weeks ago and I still have not finished baking my birthday cake. Maybe that's what I need to work on tomorrow? No, Tuesday is also a holiday (Boxing Day) so I think I'll do it then. Maybe. Well, if I'm turning on the oven for babka, I should just do the other layers of the cake too. Makes more sense - especially since gas may finish any day now. I think it's waiting until next Saturday night to finish. Stores will be closed until Tuesday. Perfect timing.

But forget cakes - I'll get into why I have not been baking cakes when I finally return to Bundt Bakers. Now, it's time for muffins. I thought I'd add some dried fruit and make this month's muffins a bit seasonal. I know, I know. I mentioned that I don't like dried fruit. I still don't but here's what happened. I baked this year's Christmas fruit cakes and as I was baking, I thought, well, why not try them in a muffin? I know I probably still won't like them but I keep trying. Also, my friend's wedding cake was a light fruit cake instead of the heavy black stuff and it was AMAZING. Had I known how delicious it was going to be, I would have gotten two more slices. I need to be there on the first anniversary when they cut into the top tier. Right now there's a tiny piece in my freezer and I'm treating it like fine wine - waiting for a special moment to enjoy it. Yes, it was that good.  I don't remember now if the wedding cake had the dreaded mixed peel. But I theorized that maybe in muffin form and with much less fruit involved, I could tolerate stuff. After all, I only recently started being OK with raisins. I just kept eating them until they didn't bother me anymore.

I loved the muffins! Dried fruit and all. I didn't use a ton of fruit so the ratio of muffin to fruit is so that I could bite into a muffin and not have to deal with an entire mouthful of fruit. Two thumbs up for fruit cake in muffin form. Next I'll try some of the blended fruit that I used in the fruit cakes. I'm not sure if I will like them. I won't have to bite into any fruit at all but then the flavour will be better distributed in the muffins. Tricky.

As always, scroll down to see what the other bakers whipped up this month!

Fruitcake Muffins

1 cup dried fruit (soak overnight in rum or orange juice)
2 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 cups milk
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a muffin tin or line it with cupcake wrappers.

Drain the fruit and set aside.
In a bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a separate container, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.

Gently add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until barely combined and there are streaks of flour remaining. Fold in the dried fruit.

Divide among the 12 muffin wells.

Bake for 15- 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins. You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday, can be found on our home page.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Baked Custard Rice Pudding - Crazy Ingredient Challenge

Custard Rice Pudding topped with Ice Cream

I just had the busiest but most fun weekend and need to sleep for about a week to allow my body to recover. This weekend was proof that  maybe, just maybe, I am not as young as I pretend to be. Back in undergrad, weekends like this were the norm. You did it every weekend and felt no different the morning after. But hello, "old age"!

So what did I do? I didn't sleep much on Wednesday night, partly because I became obsessed with a new game but mostly because I was anxious about something. Thursday was a long day of travel and the night was spent at my friend's bridal shower. Fun times but that was another very late night. I think I went to bed around 2am. Friday should have been an easy day but it turned into a lot of running around and another 2 am bedtime. Saturday was the wedding and you guessed it, back to bed at 2 am. Now, going to bed at 2 am wouldn't be so bad if my body wasn't programmed to wake up around 4:30 or so. By the time, I fell asleep again, it was time to wake up for the day. Sunday morning I went to a christening and a brunch then headed home.

A really great weekend that my hurried words don't give any justice to but I am trying to get to the point of this post and this post is LATE. I am blaming it on bad planning and being too busy dealing with my nephew yesterday. He hadn't seen me since Wednesday and he had to make up for all the lost Aunty time.

This month, rice and nutmeg won the Crazy Ingredient Challenge poll. My first thought was rice pudding. I always wanted to try it but I have a bit of a mental block against sweetened rice. I did try horchata and it was way better than I expected so there was hope for rice pudding. I talked myself out of it several times and came up with a few baked dishes that involved my favourite ingredient - flour - but in the end, I had no time so it was back to rice pudding.

I decided to try a baked custard version instead of cooking it on the stove. And I slightly regret that. This custard is not as creamy as I would have liked and I can see the rice grains. I don't want to see the rice grains. I did think of blending the mixture but opted not to. That would have taken care of that issue. The flavour is great though and I just have to overcome my mental block against sweetened rice and seeing the rice grains won't make a difference. Too late to blend them now.

Baked Custard Rice Pudding
Yield - 3 1/2 cup servings


1 cup plus 8 teaspoons milk
1 egg
1/3 cup cooked rice
8 teaspoons granulated sugar
8 teaspoons raisins (soak in rum, if possible)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of salt
a splash of vanilla
a splash or two of rum


Preheat oven to 300 F. Grease 3 half cup capacity ramekins.

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into ramekins. Alternatively, you can blend all but the raisins then stir in the raisins.

Bake in water bath for 20 minutes or until the custard is set.

Serve warm or chilled with whipped cream. I topped mine with ice cream. 

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