Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Between Herb Gardening and Baking, I'd say today was pretty close to perfect!

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Original recipe makes 8 inch square or round pan, adapted from 

 1/4 cup butter
 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar 

A couple of fresh rhubarb stalks, washed and cut to fit in the bottom of the pan, keep them whole or cut small slices (rings) and layer at the bottom of the pan, it's your choice

 1/2 cup oil or butter flavoured olive oil (from Olive That!)
 1/2 cup white sugar
 1 egg
 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
 2 teaspoons baking powder
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Melt 1/4 cup butter or margarine in small saucepan. Arrange rhubarb in flat layer in your baking dish then sprinkle brown sugar over top. Pour melted butter evenly over and set aside. 

In a large bowl, cream the oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Spread batter over rhubarb.

Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned on top, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove cake from oven, and let stand in pan for 5 minutes; invert onto serving platter.


Note: the original recipe is for peaches and the amount of sugar added is 1/2 cup with the melted butter so I made it this way but rhubarb is super tart so I increased the amount in the written recipe for you to 3/4, I hope this will work out! If you tried it and felt you needed more sugar let me know so we can adjust the recipe again.

Monday, May 25, 2015

First Trimester Pregnancy Woes

When my doctor instructed me to stay out of the kitchen at the end of my visit I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  Those words might have been the best advice I've received during my first trimester of pregnancy. 
The words almost seemed wrong, forbidden but you know what it was as simple as that.. take a break, take a vacation from regular life and learn to do things in a different way, I kept telling myself that and soon realized that it was the only way to get through it all.
 I didn't feel well and I just didn't feel like myself at all. Doing the normal things I would do was near impossible and that really stressed me out, but being the persistent person I am I rebelled ... going back and trying to do normal things, routines as simple as checking local food blogs, scrolling through instagram and watching the weekend lineup of cooking shows made me absolutely SICK until I realized that I need to just STOP.

This is not an advice post by any means, just simple things I've tried that helped ME get through it, and if they help you too then that's very good but everyone needs to listen to their body and figure out what they need to get through it. And for those women who don't go through any illness during their pregnancies, you have no idea how lucky you are!!! :)  hehe.

Kefir, I've been drinking lots and lots of it from the first couple of weeks and it seemed to be the only thing I could keep down. I thought it was only me until I heard that other women were doing this too. My doctors recommended drinking milk but being mildly lactose intolerant it wasn't something I ever did, so I had to think outside the box and either it was store bought kefir or I mixed my own Ayran/Laban drink a couple of times a week. Ayran is a mix of water and yogurt with a dash of salt, it's a delicious refreshing drink common in the middle east and balkan countries. 

My second suggestion was eating cold food, and surprisingly my doctor recommended the same thing, somehow it reduces the nausea. These little fruit sorbets in my freezer were a lifesaver, there's coconut in a half coconut shell, orange in a hollowed out peel, lemon and pineapple. The citrus ones were great for earlier in the morning and oh so soothing.

I've always been a warm food kind of person, and only drank hot teas but now I found myself switching to more cold food and drink choices, and it was a life saver.

Talk to your mother is another good tip, you never know if you might have similar symptoms! She could offer some valuable tips and suggestions. My mother had me as the first born, then three more girls following and she told me each pregnancy was slightly different. She mentioned while pregnant with my second sister she could only eat lebna (a middle eastern salted and strained yogurt dip) every single day. We've covered Lebna making here at AdventuressHeart and it's a common food on my breakfast table.
  In those weeks of my pregnancy everything sounded yucky to me so somehow the sound of lebna was nice and I began stocking up on yogurt at the grocery store and straining it on a weekly basis. It was and still is my go to breakfast every morning.

Learn some basic pressure points for nausea, you're going to need them. My mother and grandfather were always into learning about alternative medicine so I grew up with a couple of them in mind, however I didn't know about the wrist ones.
Somebody out there invented these morning and motion sickness wrist bands that you wear, one on each wrist and they claim to help relief nausea. It was absolutely vital for me to wear these during car and train rides.
These are called PSI bands, and you could do a google search as to where they can be purchased locally or online.

One of my earliest signs of pregnancy was drooling, it started off with what the doctor described and jotted down in her notes as "mouth: moist" and continued into a full blown drool, making it extremely uncomfortable to talk (I found myself spitting at people) and often the collection of saliva in my mouth just made me more nauseous having to swallow it all, which made me feel like throwing up. All I can say is have lots of tissues on hand, and maybe even a spitting bowl as one of my sisters suggested to me.  At some point I experienced the mild metallic taste in the mouth that many pregnant women describe, it was more of a cabbage taste than metallic, just horrible. I'm not sure if chewing gum or candy helped me though because it just made more saliva which I didn't need.

Reading through pregnancy forums I noticed many teas were on the no-no list, I never occurred to me before that I should be looking up foods and herbs before consuming them.  Things as simple as parsley and sumac, even chamomile tea which I assumed would be soothing and relaxing as I was rather sleepy through the early trimester and slept like a cat.

The risk of miscarriage is much higher in the early stages so to be safe it's better to avoid as much as you can and then eat certain things in moderation later on.  As an alternative to warm tea I had a lemony honey water which I drank in a big mason jar, it was soothing and yummy.  At the beginning I heard ginger was also a no-no as it was increases blood flow in the body so I cut it out completely but because it's also the number one ailment for nausea I gradually added it in in the form of a slice of fresh ginger into this lemon honey tea or a quarter of a ginger candy to suck on when the nausea was unbearable.

My faves are Chimes or GinGins make really potent candies or chews, you can find them at your local organic or natural store. I would either cut them into smaller doses or chew a small bit off instead of eating an entire candy at once.

If you're a fan of peppermint, which I'm absolutely not then peppermint candies might also work, I found myself sniffing those chocolate covered peppermint candy, and it helped! Eventually I took teeny bites if I needed to but the oil was strong enough to sniff.

It would be a good idea to find some essential oils, I know they are out there as my sister looked it up but we just didn't have enough time to order it online.

My life changed once put on Diclectin! The same meds were recommended to me when I went into the emerg from dehydration due to not keeping any foods down. Those pills are probably keeping me sane, even today!

There is no way to sugar coat it as these pills are not cheap but thank God for insurance! Also they may make you drowsy, I was sleepy in the first week but eventually adapted where by I read some women don't and can't drive or function during the day which could be dangerous.

I weaned myself off the morning pill so I would only take one at noon and two at bedtime (I'm assuming for morning sickness the next morning) Funny thing is I don't have morning sickness but instead I get sick towards the evening, around 4 I start feeling queasy and by bedtime I almost can't take it anymore. I prop myself up with pillows and force myself to fall asleep as fast as possible.

One of the worst things about pregnancy to me is still the bile issue, not everyone has it but for me it's bad and I can't simply wake up in the morning and eat or else it's a guarantee that I'll throw up that breakfast since it'll either curdle with the bile in my stomach or somehow not go through and digest so I MUST wake up and throw up all the bile in my stomach (it varies from a tsp to 3-4 tbsp on some days) and once all this stuff is out I'm ready to eat breakfast.

In the early days I wasn't throwing it up and my husband had the idea to bind the bile with some ground psyllium husks powder mixed into a glass of milk, some days it worked and some it didn't and I would throw up the psyllium mix so now I just get rid of it and I'm good for the rest of the day!

A tip I learned from a nurse in the hospital for staying hydrated and drinking was to get a shot glass and fill it with water, and drink only a shot glass at a time throughout the day, no more otherwise the stomach fills up and doesn't empty, slow digestion is probably up there with the worse symptoms of pregnancy, I found myself not mixing certain foods otherwise they'd curdle in my tummy because even hours after eating a bowl of mac & cheese for example, then drinking a bit of orange or mango juice it all came back up.

The nurse promised me that for most women it-does-get-better, to hand in there and at around 12-16 weeks things just turn around out of the blue, like a switch, and she was right, unless it was the diclectin... hmmm... I'll never know for sure.

My suggestion is keeping the foods you eat at the beginning very simple, I was having a child and ate like a child, seriously, but it does work... I even craved simple childhood meals or anything German that my grandma used to make. I didn't want any of my regular faves like Arabic, Middle Eastern, or Indian food anywhere near me.  I also could not digest legumes, or lentils, so it was simple carbs that got me through the early stages.

On the topic of digestion I also made one small discovery that made all the difference. Growing up with a father and grandfather who were very strict on posture, I learned from a young age to stand up tall, shoulders back sucking the tummy in, it was just natural to me but after throwing up everything I ate during my early pregnancy days and at the worst point my sister sent me a video on exercises to do after eating, it mentioned letting the tummy relax completely, letting it all fall out and never sucking it in at all, and just taking big breaths. At that moment I had realized subconsciously I was still sucking in my stomach and not allowing my pregnancy tummy to just do it's thing and fall into place! Believe me, after discovering that fact it made a big difference just letting things be.

Small meals, every two hours: Eventually I couldn't figure out if I was nauseous or nauseous from being hungry, it was this huge dilemma in my mind and I started eating small meals every couple of hours, this was a breakthrough!  A small meal/snack could be a bowl of stewed fruit or a piece of toast with jam, it doesn't have to be complicated.

As I started feeling better and had to go out shopping or for a doctor's appointment I made sure to take a couple of small things with me. Now I always have food and something to drink in my purse!

Oh and finally... when you're pregnant your supplements should taste either good or use pills that you can just swallow because I stocked up on everything I needed from the health store and my source for iron was through black strap molasses, at first it sounded like a dream taking a couple of big tablespoons of molasses but by the time the sickness hit just the thought of a spoon full had me running for the sink ... seriously!  Even today I can't think about it.
And if the smell of your fridge makes you want to throw up then stay out of it too. I couldn't bear opening the fridge so I had my husband get things out for me until he cleaned it out and threw away a couple of things which ended up being the source of the smells.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spring Time Dolma Picnic

Over the Victoria Day long weekend the family and I enjoyed a delicious spring time Dolma feast, we had a mixed tray of stuffed vegetables of onion, peppers, eggplant and zucchini made by my mother, a gluten free version using Quinoa for my sister and I contributed the lemony stuffed grape leaves, my youngest sister made salad too and we had a wonderful feast!

Here at AdventuressHeart we've covered Dolma, Mahshi and stuffed vegetables a lot over the last couple of years, here's a roundup of the recipes, enjoy! :)

Mahshi Stuffed Vegetables 

Stuffing and Rolling Dolma 

Minty Dolma - stuffed Grape Leaves 

Cabbage Dolma 

Cabbage Dolma II 

Dandelion Blossom Syrup

Spring is here! And nothing says spring in my yard more than beautiful blossoms! ... even though these guys get a bad rep I'm a big fan of the DANDELION. Both the green and the flowers are edible, The young leaves are absolutely delicious cooked in recipes and even though I've been hearing about a variety of preparations for the flowers I've never actually used them.

This spring I ventured outdoors into my backyard to pick all the gorgeous yellow bloods popping up between the grass, not only are they organic but they all looked as if they opened overnight so they should be very clean.

I snipped a bunch of blooms and then popped them in a pot in the fridge until I could figure out what to do with them... usually when I'm using a new ingredient I like to try it in the most simple preparation to really get a taste of it's flavour so dandelion blossom syrup it was!
I think this would be a really fun recipe for my husband to use with his Soda Stream. Dandelion blossom soda anyone?

Feel free to omit the citrus and store in the fridge instead of canning (consume within a reasonable amount of time). Thanks to Eat the Weeds (one of my favourite foraging website resources for the recipe below) 

Dandelion Blossom Syrup

This is a traditional recipe passed down from the old world Europeans.  I use it as a substitute for honey in any recipe that I’m trying to make wild.

1 quart dandelion flowers

1 quart (4 cups) water

4 cups sugar

½ lemon or orange (organic if possible) chopped, peel and all

Note: The citrus is optional, it will give the syrup an orangy or lemony flavor.  If you want the pure dandelion flavor, you can skip the citrus.  I make it both ways each year.

1. Put blossoms and water in a pot.

2. Bring just to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let sit overnight.

3. The next day, strain and press liquid out of spent flowers.

4. Add sugar and sliced citrus and heat slowly, stirring now and again, for several hours or until reduced to a thick, honey-like syrup.

5. Can in half-pint or 1 pint jars.

Recipe makes 1 pint. Perfect for giving out as holiday gifts in small jars.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Orange Cinnamon Sugar Buns

Think of these as a cross between a cinnamon bun and a sticky bun, and maybe even a sugary cake donut too! I happened upon this recipe when searching for "sugar buns" just out of the blue, I do that sort of thing on my mobile.. almost daily.. 

I remember seeing these before, maybe even bookmarking the recipe, it comes to us today via Seven Spoons and I think it can be made in many different variations, take the basic recipe and go wild!
Start with the Quick Danish dough, made the night before or a couple of days ahead

Seven Spoon Author writes "The is a whole wheaten adaptation of Nigella Lawson's Food Processor Danish Pasty Dough from How to be a Domestic Goddess, which I make by hand (a modest effort for less dishes). It can, of course, be pulsed together in a processor instead. "

¼ cup warm water
½ cup milk, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature and lightly beaten 
A few drops almond extract, optional
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
¾ cup whole wheat bread flour (I substituted a.p flour, just a tad more than 3/4 cup) 
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast (sub. 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast of using) 
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (8 ounces, 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small dice
In a small pitcher or measuring cup, stir together the water, milk, egg and almond extract, if using.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, sugar and yeast. Scatter the cubed butter across the flour mixture. With two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry mix, as you would in making biscuits or pastry. Stop cutting once the butter is distributed but chunks still visible.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture,  then pour in the milk/egg mixture. Stir quickly to bring everything together into a messy dough. It won’t be pretty, it will be shaggy and sticky and uneven. Not to worry. As long as the flour is all combined, it is ready to go. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight, or as much as two days.

When ready to proceed, bring the dough to room temperature. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20-inch square. (The dough may be hard to work with on the first rolling, but it will get silkier and easier with each turn.) Fold the dough in thirds, as with a business letter. Turn the package 90 degrees counter-clockwise, so that the closed ends are to your left. Roll out again to a 20-inch square, and fold again, then turn. Repeat the process of rolling and turning 3 more times, 5 folds and turns in total. If the dough seems to be getting sticky or greasy, chill briefly in between turns.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes before using, or freeze for a later date.



(I would use a tad less of both sugars, as the overall recipe is very sweet) 

1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup golden brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange, depending on taste 
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A good pinch of kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) browned butter, cooled
All-purpose flour for dusting 
2 pounds quick Danish dough, recipe below

Combine sugars, zest, spices and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. 

Brush the wells of a 12-cup muffin tin (see note) with a thin film of browned butter, using maybe 1 tablespoon in total. Set aside the rest. 
Coat the wells generously with granulated sugar, tapping out excess. Set aside.

On a lightly-floured work surface, roll your Danish dough to an 8x20-inch rectangle. Brush the remaining browned butter across the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the long sides. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly atop the butter. Press the sugar lightly into the dough. Starting from the long side closest to you, carefully roll the dough into a tight log. Once completely rolled, pinch the seam to seal. Turn the rolled dough onto its seam and cut into 12 equal portions. Turn each slice onto one of its flat sides, and press down lightly to level. Place slices in prepared pan.

 Set aside to rise in a warm, draft free spot until just about doubled in size, around 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).

Bake the buns until puffed and golden, around 20 minutes. Immediately turn the buns out onto another sheet pan. Carefully flip buns right side up, cool until just manageable to touch, around 5-10 minutes. One by one, roll the hot buns in a small bowl of granulated sugar, coating completely but shaking off excess. 

Best when eaten still warm. 

Makes 12.