No-Knead Bread for Beginners

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It’s Mental Health Week! Seeing as baking is proven to be good for your mental health, I wanted to celebrate by sharing one of my favourite baking recipes: No-Knead Bread.

Like most novice bakers, I thought making bread would be too difficult to master. The stakes seemed much higher than they did for cookies or quick breads. I was afraid of failing after dedicating so much time to making a loaf of bread, so I avoided it. But as my baking skills improved over the years, I wanted to try something more challenging. Enter no-knead bread.

The recipe I’ve shared below is a mash-up of other recipes, namely Mark Bittman’s recipe from the New York Times, Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Bake Everything (which has different proportions), and The Kitchn’s no-knead bread recipe. My first few loaves had problems (too gummy, too bland, unsatisfactory crust), so in an obsessive quest to resolve these issues, I turned bread into a science experiment.

This is my recipe for no-knead bread. I have baked this bread repeatedly and adjusted the recipe to suit my idea of what a perfect loaf looks and tastes like. That’s the cool thing about bread: it’s part science experiment, part magic. The slightest adjustments can yield different results. It’s all good, though; in the end, you have bread.

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You can make delicious bread, too. No-knead bread isn’t difficult, and you don’t need any fancy equipment, but it does take time; this recipe will take 22-24 hours from start to finish. Most of that time is hands-off, obviously, but if you’re baking bread for a specific occasion, be sure to start your dough early enough to avoid disappointment! If you put a batch of dough together before you go to bed tonight, you can have this bread for dinner tomorrow.

And finally, remember to trust and believe. This yields a very wet, slack dough that may look different from what you may have seen elsewhere. As long as your yeast is working (you’ll be able to see and smell it), then you’re on the right track. Don’t give up!

Continue reading “No-Knead Bread for Beginners”

How to Make Any Regular Weekend Feel Like a Holiday

Last Monday was the first day of spring, which seems hard to believe given the negative temperatures and bare trees in Toronto this week. This, combined with the fact that there are no long weekends in March this year, has made it difficult to really, truly enjoy weekends. Sure, the days are getting longer, but it’s freezing and I can’t sit on a patio. Sure, I could stay home and binge-watch a Netflix series, but I want real, “thank goodness Monday is a holiday”-type R&R. What’s a girl to do?

Frigid, rainy weather be damned: with a little imagination, any weekend can become a long weekend, regardless of whether or not Monday is a work day. Here’s how I plan to spend my faux-long weekend:

Continue reading “How to Make Any Regular Weekend Feel Like a Holiday”

Five Pancake Recipes to Try on Pancake Tuesday

Happy Pancake Tuesday! Today is Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras. For those who celebrate Easter, this is the last day of indulgence before the period of fasting known as Lent begins. It’s also a great opportunity to eat pancakes for dinner in the middle of the week (as if I needed an excuse). I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite pancake recipes, ranging from classic to totally indulgent: Continue reading “Five Pancake Recipes to Try on Pancake Tuesday”

Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls

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Confession time: if left to my own devices, I would eat burrito bowls every day of the week. There’s just something about the combination of flavours and textures that you get from a burrito bowl that keeps me coming back. Besides, I always make sure to load it up with lots of vegetables, so I don’t feel too badly about all the sour cream and cheese.

I love any excuse to pull out my slow cooker and have it do the work for me. This is a great meal prep recipe to tackle on the weekend and enjoy all week. You can use this chicken in a variety of ways — stirred into pastas, added to salads or sandwiches, or whatever you prefer. What I prefer is a burrito bowl heaped high with toppings that makes lunchtime more exciting, so here’s how to make that: Continue reading “Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls”

Instagram Favourites: Food Edition

I get so much cooking inspiration from Instagram that it’s hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. Seeing other people cook and bake beautiful things has given me the confidence to try new recipes and cobble together recipes of my own. In honour of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d round up a few of the food-related Instagram accounts I love best … Continue reading “Instagram Favourites: Food Edition”

Fancy Weeknight Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

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A few years ago, I had some people from work over to my house for dinner. I was worried about what to serve — I wanted something that seemed fancy, tasted good, and could be assembled easily in just a few minutes, preferably while drinking a glass of wine or two. After a series of increasingly complex Google searches (“what can I serve to my colleagues so they’ll think that I’m a good cook and won’t secretly judge me?”), I settled on tomato and goat cheese tarts. They vanished as soon as I put them on the table, and I’ve had this recipe in my back pocket ever since.

This is an Ina Garten recipe, and while I would never pretend to improve upon the Barefoot Contessa’s work, I did make a few changes to suit my own tastes. First, I cut the individual tarts into rectangles, rather than circles — it seemed easier to manage, and I didn’t have to waste any pastry dough this way. It was wintertime, so I used tiny, flavourful grape tomatoes rather than a large watery one. And finally, I followed my sister’s recipe for beer and honey onion jam instead of cooking them in wine. Okay, fine, I made tons of changes to Ina’s recipe, but sometimes you have to make a recipe work for you, rather than go out of your way to follow it perfectly.

There are two parts to this recipe: the onion jam and the tarts themselves. There are a few steps, but I promise this is easy and totally doable with minimal grocery shopping. The onion jam can also be prepared a few days in advance to speed up the process on the night of your party. Continue reading “Fancy Weeknight Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts”

Squash Soup for the Shortest Day of the Year

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December feels like it has flown by. I’m leaving town for the holidays tomorrow morning and there’s still so much to do — baking, packing, and assorted errands that somehow get edited out of Christmas movie montages, like getting new keys cut or going to the dentist. (That scene didn’t make it into The Holiday, for some reason …)

It’s also freezing in Toronto, which adds a layer of complication to running errands. I keep arriving home covered in slush and frozen to the core, and I have a craving for soup that cannot be denied. I’m also trying to use up all the food in the house before I leave, so I set out to make a version of my mom’s Thanksgiving squash soup that would use up all my orange vegetables and up my vitamin count before I spend a week in a house with ten other people.

I was not disappointed by the resulting soup. It requires some prep work, but the end result is so worth it. It’s so easy, keeps well, and reheats like a dream. You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, and eat soup anytime you like. Besides, it’ll be dark out by 4pm today. What else are you going to do? Continue reading “Squash Soup for the Shortest Day of the Year”

What To Eat When You’re Too Tired To Eat

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That shouldn’t really say “what’s for dinner.” It should say “what’s for every single meal today, and probably tomorrow, and let’s be honest, probably the next day.”

We eat eggs a lot in our house. They’re inexpensive and you can cook them in lots of different ways. And — most importantly, I think — it’s an easy choice when you’re tired or your mental health isn’t great and you know you need to eat something healthy and filling but everything seems like too much effort. Behold, then, the seven-minute egg. Continue reading “What To Eat When You’re Too Tired To Eat”

Take a Sick Day and Make Congee

Even if you are sick, even if you are in a pit of despair, even if you were woken up at 7am by the builders working on the neighbor’s roof, I promise you this: you can make congee.

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Congee is a rice porridge popular across Asia. I first had it several years ago when, laid up with the flu, I implored my boyfriend to get me something to eat. He combined what looked like not enough rice and way too much water in a pot, and an hour later I was eating the most delicious, warm, filling sick food I’d ever had.

Since then, we’ve had congee with his family at dim sum many times. It comes in many varieties: plain, of course, but also infused with meat, fish, or seafood, and topped with grated ginger, cilantro, and green onion. I love ordering it in a restaurant, because you can also ask for a side of youtiao, or “congee donuts,” deep-fried sticks of dough meant for dipping into the congee. For health purposes, of course.

Continue reading “Take a Sick Day and Make Congee”