Donde fueres, haz lo que vieres [Tarta de Santiago]

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Trying to keep up my amateur food blogging in my piso has its little difficulties: lack of equipment (building muscle and making me better at eyeballing!), unfamiliar grocery stores (you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got!), and lack of natural light in the apartment for my semi-decent photos/lack of time spent in said piso during daylight hours (you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines!)…but I think my quest to be more like an española in the kitchen got off to a good start.

Tarta de Santiago, “Cake of Saint-James”, has been eaten since the middle ages in Galicia and is traditionally decorated with the cross of Saint-James. I opted to dust mine with icing sugar and top it with sweet Andalucian strawberries that are just starting to be seen at the market.

This cake was much like the Andalucian Orange Almond Torte that I made last fall, minus the orange– only three main ingredients in this one, so it doesn’t get much easier! To practice my Spanish, I followed this recipe, but have copied it below in English for you.

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Tarta de Santiago
250 grams of ground almonds
250 grams of granulated sugar
5 large eggs
Zest of half a lemon (I used the zest of a whole lemon!)!’
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of icing sugar (for dusting)
butter for greasing the pan (I used sunflower oil)
one 22-cm diameter springform pan

Mix together the almonds, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Mix in the eggs until well combined but don’t beat the eggs. Once the batter is smooth, pour into the greased pan and bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until the top is golden (if it starts to brown too much just cover the top with tin foil). To decorate the cake traditionally, you can print off the cross template from the Spanish re pie website; place your cross on the cake and top with icing sugar around it. Or, top with icing sugar and fruit; easy and delicious! Buen provecho!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas [Spanish Spice Cake]

I can’t believe it has almost been three months since I first came to Spain, and a whole year since I started this little blog. (Something about time flying?) In one week, I’ll be home in Ottawa for a quick visit over the holidays. I am having a great time here, but am excited to be with my family and friends at home in snowy Canada!

My puppy at home on a frozen pond -- picture by tomshap :)

My puppy at home on a frozen pond — picture by TShap :)

Before I left for Huelva, my mum planned a really lovely send off. There was a band, an awesome mix of my friends and family, and of course, great food. The food was Spanish themed (but of course) and alongside the pitchers of sangria, Spanish meats, olives, and tapas there was a great spread of desserts. My wonderful mother organized everything and I basically showed up and enjoyed myself. So I did as I was told, and stayed out of the kitchen; the only thing I made was this Spanish Spice Cake.SONY DSC

A few days before the party, my mum was trying to think of what Spanish things she could include on the dessert table. As she was falling asleep, she suddenly remembered a “Spanish” cake that my nana used to buy from A&P when she was a kid. The next morning she googled “Spanish cake A&P” and that is how we came up with this recipe! It’s dark and moist, with a good touch of cocoa. This would fit in perfectly as a holiday dessert with the warm spices that are featured here (Also, cakes like this are the best “air freshners’. Cake in the oven? Best smell to welcome guests with.).

Dunlop enjoying some of the party decorations the next morning.

Dunlop enjoying some of the party decorations the next morning.

Aside from the people, one of the things I miss most about home is my time in the kitchen. The kitchen is in the centre of our home, and the area is opens up into the family room, so the kitchen is where everyone gathers to chat and relax (and cook, obviously). I made this cake during one of my last evenings in Ottawa while one of my best friends sat chatting with me at the counter and sipping on tea. I love that easy feeling of getting stuff done in the kitchen surrounded by your favourite people — I guess it’s what I would call my happy place. Looking forward to being with them back in that kitchen in just a few days! I may or may not have been singing “I’ll Be Home From Christmas” a ridiculous amount this weekend…

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Giddy Up! [Cowgirl Cookies]

SONY DSCI’ve got a bit of a cookie crush on Moo Milk, a charming milk and cookie bar in Toronto that opened last August. After trying one of their ice cream sandwiches I was hooked (marshmallow ice cream with toffee bit cookies, can you blame me?!).   I’m not even a huge milk drinker, but their delicious flavours have turned me into a bit of a convert, and there really isn’t anything better to go with their show-stopping cookies (which are pretty much  perfect;  a little crispy around the outside, with a chewy center…I think I may have tried almost every flavour they had the last time I was in town).  mooThough it’s tough to pick a favourite Moo cookie, their Cowgirl cookie might just be it.  My love of sweet and salty combinations had me going back for seconds…and bringing some back for my family in Ottawa.
moosandwichI’m not sure why these are called Cowgirl cookies, but I like it.  It’s feisty.  They are great for Cowboys as well, of course.  This recipe isn’t for Moo Milk’s cookie, but rather my attempt at recreating them in my kitchen in Huelva…Moo’s has (I’m pretty sure) some mini choco chips, toffee bits, pretzels, and espresso grounds.  Mine include chocolate chunks, pretzels, oats, espresso grounds, and I threw in some shredded coconut the second time I made them.  So, not quite “the” Moo Milk Cowgirl cookie, but pretty darn delicious all the same! cowgirl
Giddy up and make yourself some Cowgirl Cookies!

Weekends Are Too Short [Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies]

Some things are just good. Like Girls (which I’ve only just discovered, thanks to my girls), car karaoke times, girl getaway weekends, homemade sangria, dressing up for a classy dinner, dancing at the bar til it feels like a workout, and, oatmeal cookies. In my mind, these things are all kind of related. It’s like, after a weekend of all those things, an oatmeal cookie is the perfect, old-fashioned, comforting ending. I think I’m getting a little too poetic about this oatmeal cookie.  But I hope your weekends were lovely. Mine was, and Monday morning seems like a very cruel thought right now. Might have to have an oatmeal cookie for breakfast.

If it’s as steamy where you live as it is in Ottawa lately then it is probably way too hot to consider using your oven…so why don’t you just keep these cookies in mind the next time you’re able to move around your kitchen without sweating. (Or! Wake up early and bake before it’s hot and then you can have a fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie when the sun comes up. I wish I was more of a morning person.)

If you’re more of a raisin than choco chip person when it comes to oatmeal cookies that’s cool, too. Or dried cranberries (kind of good for Christmas, right?).

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(don’t even try to steal my) Fig Gallette

Well hey there! I do still exist, I’ve just been having too much fun and a tad disorganized. My mum said that I’m going to “socially exhaust” myself…I laughed at her, but I’ve been battling a runny nose&sore throat combo that just won’t go away so maybe she’s right (as usual!). Amidst all the fun I’ve been having there was a bit of a bummer a couple weeks ago: my iPad and wallet were stolen from under my desk at work while I was at a short meeting.  Several other people on my floor were also unlucky victims of this thief who made off with some extra cash, iPhones and Blackberries; it wasn’t a fun day at the office. It’s unfortunate because everyone is just so comfortable at work and security is good (you need a key card to get in on each floor) so I never really thought to worry, but now I have a locked drawer and that’s where all my stuff will stay. Anyway, I’m only writing about this because the story has an almost-happy ending! The next day one of my super nice supervisors dug through garbage cans outside of our office building to see if the thief had dumped some stuff in there.  Indeed, he had!  I was able to get my nice wallet back (although it was really stinky), and all my cards/ID/license, which saved a lot of hassle. So just goes to show that there are some supremely nice people out there (I mean, he went through downtown garbage cans with his bare hands, what a guy!). I lost some cash and my iPad which really blows, but it’s not the end of the world. 

That day I had lunch with some great gals who watched me cry and ranted with me about how low some people are which made me feel a lot better (thanks, girls!).  I was also lucky to be having another great gal over for dinner that night! My brother made chow mein and Angela brought over a delicious cheesecake, so this fig gallette that I made may have been superfluous to our meal but I had fun making it, and by the end of the theft-day that was what I really needed.

Gallettes are lovely since they really let the sumptuous fruit shine through with a flaky, buttery crust for a bit of a treat. This recipe from franish nonspeaker was easy to whip up and perfectly nut-free for both Angela and my twin; hurrah! The simplicity of baked figs with a drizzle of honey is a perfect combination (even without the dough if you are so inclined). Bon appetit! And if you happen to buy an iPad with “KShap” engraved on the back…that’s mine!

GMOs and Baked Polenta Fries

Polenta is enjoying a sort of resurgence in my household. I remember eating it when I was young, but until last year I feel like we had sort of forgotten about it. I’m so glad it’s back in action in our kitchen.

I feel like I often talk about how much I love a certain ingredient featured in a recipe because of it’s versatility  and polenta fits in exceptionally well in the versatile-club. (Polenta vegetable pie is a favourite at home, and I’ve been wanting to try this cake for a while…see how versatile? Yay polenta!) Seriously, I think I like these better than potato fries (but then, I don’t really like potatoes). Either way, they were a big hit.

Cripsy and crunchy on the outside with a little cheesy goodness…you won’t have leftovers.

These “fries” are so easy to adapt to different preferences in taste and texture; I’ve made them three times already but I’m excited to experiment some more. Also — cut these up into smaller pieces before you bake them, and you can have polenta croutons!! Perfect on soups, salads… I get way too excited about food…

I found the recipe on Kitchen Vignettes by Aube, and not only did I love the sound of the recipe and the beautiful photographs, but the way she fit a little bit of activism into her post about Monsanto and GMOs made my heart beat a little faster. At the time I had read the post, I was actually working on a group project for a class at school about the environmental impacts of genetically modified organisms, so it really struck a chord. If you have a couple minutes, head over to her post and watch the clip from the documentary called “The World According to Monsanto” — hopefully it gives you some food for thought.

Enough talk, make those fries!

Baked French Toast

Weekday breakfasts for me are usually just something fast and simple, but weekend breakfasts can be special. Without work or school to rush off to, it’s so nice to sit and really enjoy your first meal of the day! As far as “special” breakfasts go, I’m a pretty big fan of french toast; it’s easy, delicious and you can add almost anything to it. Well, this baked french toast takes even less prep time but is still lovely enough to serve for an occasion.
You can put it all together and leave it in the fridge overnight, then all you have to do in the morning is pop it in the oven! I think everyone can handle that.Ottawa is getting it’s second weekend of beautiful weather in a row, and I can’t get enough of the sunshine (although my lobster red shoulders might disagree).   This long weekend is the perfect time for a languid breakfast in the sun — hope you can take advantage of it!

This baked French toast was part of our Mother’s Day brunch… it was a delicious morning and I have so much love for my wonderful Mum & Nana! 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day…start baking!