cooking

Candied Sweet & Spicy Pecan Recipe

BY TARA BURKE

I’m always on the lookout for really simple ways to make salads or yogurt a little different. The other day I had a salad from a restaurant that had these delicious sweet and spicy pecans in them. I searched online for the simplest recipe I could find and found one with just four ingredients on Once Upon A Chef.

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Easter Weekend

BY TARA BURKE

This Easter I was really looking forward to some time at home. Not only is it starting to be that really hectic time in college where all of your research papers, presentations and homework starts piling up, but if you’re a senior (like me) you are probably dealing with a whole array of other issues. I don’t know whether I should spend more time contemplating my severe college-life nostalgia or the impending uncertainty of my future. As you can see I needed a break, some good food, and time to celebrate my faith with my family! Easter is one of my favorite holidays and this year’s celebrations were even more special because Cailin and I were in charge of both brunch and dinner. The first thing we did was plan our menu, so here it is:

BRUNCH: Bread Pudding

DINNER: Ham, Ratatouille, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Carrots, Cheesy Garlic Biscuits

DESSERT: Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies

Cailin and I had been wanting to make bread pudding after we fell upon an episode of the Barefoot Contessa making breakfast bread pudding. Cailin had never tried it before and had been wanting to try it ever since, so we thought Easter brunch would be the best time to make it. I had tried a dessert caramel version of bread pudding at a restaurant before and although the first few bites were divinely delicious the rest just seemed soggy and mushy. Thus, the hunt for the perfect bread pudding recipe commenced! Of course, I turned to the Pioneer Women’s blog and looked up a bread pudding recipe. She too confessed to not having a taste for the sometimes mushy texture of bread pudding and had a recipe that used sourdough bread instead of more traditional bread pudding breads like Challah. Sourdough bread is able to hold its structure better and give a better balance of gooey and crispy textures. We gave the recipe a shot and it couldn’t have turned out any better. Our whole family wanted seconds and we were all fighting over the last piece.

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Please excuse my sock pjs!

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An easy way to finely chop pecans is to use a meat tenderizer.

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The next things we tackled were the ratatouille and Cadbury Creme Eggs brownies. Almost all the credit for the ratatouille goes to Cailin. Again, we were inspired to make the dish after we watched it being made on tv, only this time the chef was a tiny mouse. Yes, the movie Ratatouille and our travels in Nice, France had us vying to make the intricate vegetable dish. We picked up fresh zucchini, yellow squash, a small eggplant, yellow and red bell peppers, minced garlic, an onion and tomato puree at the grocery store to make the dish. Cailin and my Mom chopped all of the vegetables into the thinnest slices possible. They then spread about two cups of tomato puree on the bottom of a 13X9 baking pan with half of a diced onion and threw in some minced garlic. Then the best part came, layering the vegetables! We made the oval overlapped pattern typical of ratatouille by interchanging the yellow and green colors of the squash and zucchini.

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All the while, I was in charge of dying the Easter eggs. We found an Easter egg dying kit laying around from last year but quickly found out that the dye wasn’t sticking to the eggs. So we had to improvise. Ultimately, we ended up painting some designs on with food coloring and a paint brush and using makeup sponges to make cool dye designs. We ended up loving the designs and had a lot more fun doing it.

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For the brownies we kept it really simple. We started cooking on the later side and using a box batter made the process much shorter. All we did was stick 9 whole Cadbury Creme Eggs into the batter, which we baked in a 9X9 baking dish. We loved them, but they were really sweet. You may need an extra sweet tooth for this dessert!

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The roasted carrots were also super simple. All I did was toss them in some olive oil, salt and pepper and popped them in the oven. We baked the sweet potatoes and heated up our very convenient pre-cooked and sliced ham. While the food was all still hot I made the biscuits. I tend to be drawn to recipes with 5 or less ingredients. The easier the better. All you need to make these biscuits are Bisquick, milk, shredded cheddar cheese, butter and garlic powder. First you mix two cups of Bisquick with two and a half cups of milk and half a cup of shredded cheese. Then spoon the batter onto a baking sheet to make perfectly imperfect drop biscuits. Before you take the biscuits off the baking sheet give them a good brush with melted garlic butter.

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There it is! A simple and delicious Easter brunch and dinner that anyone can make!

Health Enthusiast and Baker: Julie Mason

BY CAILIN BURKE

Happy Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 17.05.05 !

IMG_0753Today we’re featuring Julie Mason, a health enthusiast that spends her time baking, cooking, and blogging about it! Except one thing differentiates her from other chefs out there; she aims to make everything healthy! Her goal in baking or cooking something is to use at least one healthy ingredient. That way, Julie’s culinary creations are both delicious and have an ingredient that gives you a dose of healthy nutrients or vitamins. She has a lot of recipes that she has tested herself and one day hopes to use these recipes to start her own healthy bakery. We can’t wait to see what Julie does in the future, but for now, Tara and I love checking out her blog and Instagram to see the amazing looking foods and baked goods she’s making next. She’s definitely inspired us to use healthy ingredients, try new things in the kitchen, and to stop baking from a box. Julie took the time to answer a few questions for us and even shared some tips for healthy eating. Read her interview below and make sure to check out the great pictures of some of her favorite creations!

1) What got you started?

My love for baking and cooking could have came from watching my mom bake 6 dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in one day, or it also could have started after watching my older sister experiment (and make a mess) in the kitchen when I was growing up. I was lucky enough to grow up with people in my life who have a passion for cooking, and this definitely rubbed off on me. My family is also very health conscious, due to poor family health history, and this inspired me to study nutrition at Framingham State University.

2) Tell us a little bit about who you are?

Currently I am a senior at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. I am studying Nutrition and Dietetics, with a minor in business. I love food, big surprise there! But I also enjoy running, animals, my family and friends, nature, and enjoying life! Once I receive my undergraduate degree, I plan on applying to graduate school and getting my masters in nutrition. I am considering the idea of applying to British Columbia University in Canada. (side note: I was born in Ontario, Canada). Eventually, I want to receive my RD, which stands for Registered Dietitian. Once I receive this certification I will be well on my way to achieving my dreams!

3What are your inspirations?

When cooking I am inspired by European and Mediterranean ingredients. I love using olive oil, lemon, nuts, and fresh vegetables/fruits in my dishes. I am a college student so I buy my ingredients on a budget. To save money I buy many plain frozen vegetables, and I also shop around to find the best deals for fresh produce. It also helps to buy produce that is in season because it is the freshest and cheapest!

4) What are your favorite ingredients or types of food to make?

My favorite foods to make are baked goods. I have a special place in my heart for baking muffins. I love to take a recipe that someone else has created, and tweak it to make it healthier! I started doing this after watching my mum create healthy baked goods for my family, and my interest grew further when I got to school and we did this same thing in the food lab. An example of a healthy alternative for a recipe is swapping out some of the fat for natural applesauce. So if the recipe called for 1 cup of oil, I would change this to 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup apple sauce!

5) Where are you most inspired to bake and cook?

I am most inspired in my own kitchen. I love it when I have the apartment to myself and I can turn on Pandora radio and try out a new recipe. As weird as it sounds my favorite time of day to bake is in the early morning…which could be as early as 3 am! (I’m sure that doesn’t thrill my roommate). I love when the house is silent and tranquil, and I can get into the baking zone! There really is nothing like the smell of warm honey-nut granola toasting in the oven in the early morning!

6) What are your future goals and biggest dreams?

When I consider what my biggest dreams would be, owning my own healthy bakery/café comes to mind. I have a huge love for coffee (I drink too many cups to admit). I would love to share my recipes with customers and give nutritious baking advice.

7) What have you learned in your creative process?

The most useful thing I have learned in the kitchen is becoming a good cook/baker is all about trial and error. I have experimented many times, took a bite, and thought what was I thinking!? Adding too much salt comes to mind… Then I learned from my past experiences and moved on. I think people take cooking and baking too seriously, and they should just have fun with it! It’s all about putting your creative hat on and getting out of your comfort zone. There is nothing more gratifying then creating something you initially thought would be too difficult to make, and it turns out delicious!

8) Any tips?

Baking tips and tricks!

  • When a recipe calls for oil, you can substitute half of the oil for natural applesauce! You can also use mashed banana or avocado in place of some oil.
  • Run out of one egg while baking? You can replace one egg with either: 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup pureed banana, 1/3 cup applesauce.

* Keep in mind, these substitutions work best when you are baking items that start as a batter rather than a dough. Baked goods that start as a batter would include muffins or brownies. When making cookies I would stick to traditional butter.

Want to keep up with Julie’s tips and see her delicious (and healthy!) daily meals? Then make sure to check out and follow her blog, Juju’s Secret Ingredient:

http://jujusecretingredient.wordpress.com/

Of course we couldn’t leave out pictures of some of her baked goods. Try your best not to let your mouth water or get completely hungry. Or do, and bake one of Julie’s delicious recipes after reading this!

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Feature Friday Sneak Peek

Make sure to check back tomorrow for our third Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 17.05.05!

This time we’re spotlighting someone with a talent a little different than those we’ve featured before. Here’s a clue:

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The full interview will be revealed at 10AM. Don’t forget to check it out and email castlefoundations@gmail.com if you’re interested in being featured yourself!

Sunday Roast Recipe

BY TARA BURKE

After studying abroad in the UK, Sunday roasts have a special place in my heart. Settling into a new culture and being so far away from home can be hard, but the Sunday roast was the first real meal I had with my new friends abroad. Sitting in that pub with a bunch of other study abroad students made me feel at ease. Not to mention as far as trying new food goes, Yorkshire pudding was a non-intimidating and delicious start. As a result, a Sunday roast will always symbolize comfort food for me. So, I decided to make my own version of a Sunday roast for my family while I was visiting. It’s different than the typical British or Irish meal, but it still has the main elements of beef, potatoes and vegetables.

Ingredients needed: 

At least one pound of sirloin (get pre-cut to make it easier)

Three large potatoes

Four large carrots

One onion

One package of mushrooms

Salt and Pepper

Four tablespoons of butter

Goya Adobo Seasoning

The first thing I did was give all of the vegetables a good washing. Then I peeled the potatoes and carrots. I learned from my Mom that the skin of carrots have a bitter taste, so if you want that sweet carrot taste the skins gotta go. I then cubbed the potatoes and put them in a bowl of water as I prepared the rest of the vegetables. This is another trick I learned from my Mom. If you leave peeled potatoes out too long, similar to apples, they will brown fairly quickly. Keeping them soaked in water will prevent this from happening while you’re getting the rest of your ingredients prepared. I then cut the carrots into one inch slices and sliced up all of the mushrooms. My Mom, who had been helping me out with all the preparations, diced up the onion as I shielded my eyes! Now it is time to get cooking!

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The first thing I did was cover the entire bottom of a deep pan with oil. Then I placed the diced onions in and let them cook down a bit before I added the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. I seasoned the vegetables with salt, pepper and Goya’s Adobo seasoning. This is when I ran into a dilemma. After a few shakes of the Adobo seasoning we realized that we had run out! We would have to improvise some seasoning to get the proper amount of flavor into the vegetables. My Mom ended up throwing in some steak seasoning and to my surprise and skepticism some Ramen noodle chicken flavoring powder. Despite my reservations about using the Ramen flavouring I decided to trust her instincts since she has a knack of throwing random ingredients together and still making them taste good.

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The beef was only going to take a minute to cook so I waited until the vegetables were nearly done before I heated up the skillet. But before I get going on how to cook the beef I’ll let you in on a little secret. This was the first time I cooked steak! I was always a little afraid to cook beef, since cooking it perfectly seems like somewhat of an art form. After all, I’ve ordered several medium steaks at restaurants before that ended up being more well done than medium. In turn, I thought you would have to be a super chef in order to cook beef perfectly. That was until I caught an episode of The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network. She was cooking steak bites and it was literally the simplest thing I ever saw and I said to myself… I can totally do that! All you have to do is season the cut up steak tips with a good amount of salt, heat the pan at medium-high to high heat, melt the butter in the pan until it is starting to brown, throw the steak in so that the pieces lay flat, keep them there for thirty seconds, flip them, wait another thirty seconds and then you’re good to go! You end up with great buttery seared steak bites.

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The vegetables turned out great (Ramen powder and everything) and the steak was cooked with just the right amount of pink inside. It is safe to say I will definitely be cooking more “Sunday roasts” in the U.S. now that I’ve gotten over my steak cooking phobia.

Banana Peanut Butter Waffles

BY TARA BURKE

I don’t know about you guys, but I have been enjoying a lazy Sunday and have been loving every minute of it. Although we didn’t make these delicious Banana Peanut Butter Waffles today, I think they are a perfect Sunday brunch option! It’s a super simple recipe and is completely customizable.

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Here is what we used:

A Waffle Press

Box of Waffle Mix

A Few Fresh Bananas

Creamy Peanut Butter

Half a Handful of Chocolate Chips

However, like I said this recipe can be changed to reflect whatever your tastes are for that day. Crunchy peanut butter, Nutella, cinnamon and a little vanilla extract are just a few simple ways I can think of to switch the recipe up. When it comes to making waffles and pancakes we tend to eyeball all of our measurements, but for this particular batch of waffles we filled a standard Pyrex up about halfway with waffle mix, added water until it was a liquid consistency, put in a whole over-ripe banana (much easier to mash and mix into the waffle mix), and added a few generous spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter. This makes the batter a little stiff so give it a good strong stir to make sure the batter is fully mixed. Make sure to oil or butter your waffle maker a little before putting the batter in.

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We like to mix our batter straight in a Pyrex cup since it makes it much easier to control the batter as you pour it into the waffle maker. This mixture usually makes a good four waffles in our maker. Try to keep them in the waffle maker as long as possible before they burn. Since the batter is so dense the waffles are ooey gooey in the center, so a crispy crust adds a needed crunchy texture. We added some fresh cut bananas on top and poured some pure maple syrup over the whole thing. If I’m going to do sweet I like to go full-out in order to appease my sweet tooth, but these waffles have all the natural sugar of the bananas in them so they taste great all on their own. If you’re ever bored with your typical waffles and pancakes try this really easy recipe for something different!

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CALLING ALL CREATIVES!

Castle Foundations is launching Feature Fridays on March 14th and we are looking for people with creative talent to spotlight! All you have to do to be considered is send the following to castlefoundations@gmail.com:

#1 Name your talent (Can be anything from art, design, fashion design, illustration, music, crafts, baking, interior design, makeup design, photography, dance, writing…etc.)

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#2 A brief description of yourself and your work (One paragraph please!)

#3 Some examples of your work (No more than 5)

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It’s as simple as that! After we receive your application, we will contact you and let you in on the full process. Take this opportunity to share with the world what you’re passionate about and inspire others to follow their dreams!

P.S. You don’t have to be a professional, if you love what you do that’s good enough for us. Show em’ what you got! 

 

Pasta Recipe & Girl’s Night Tips

BY TARA BURKE

Getting together with your best girlfriends is always so much fun. For a catch-up with our friend who goes to school nearby, we decided we wanted to cook and have a girl’s night in. Our friend found a pasta recipe on Pinterest that she had tried and loved, and she wanted to share it with us. When she arrived at our place we were so excited we hopped right into the car to hit the grocery store for the ingredients. Here’s what you will need:

#1) One Pound of Gemelli Pasta

#2) Salt and Pepper

#3) Six Slices of Bacon

#4) Four Leeks or Two Large Leeks

#5) Two Large Eggs

#6) 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan 

#7) Zest of One Lemon

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Here’s a link for how you mix all these ingredients together to make this delicious and easy pasta dish: http://www.alexandracooks.com/2011/11/28/pasta-carbonara-—-easiest-weeknight-dinner/

We all split up the cooking tasks. I cooked up the bacon, Cailin zested the lemon and our friend Katy took the lead and chopped the leeks and bacon. She also cooked them down and added the ingredients into the mixing bowl along with the eggs, lemon zest and drained pasta. It was done in no time. All that was left to do was sit down and enjoy!

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Our meal was delicious and it’s a perfect pasta dish if you tend to lean towards the creamier pasta recipes that are amazingly scrumptious, but not that healthy. The eggs and parmesan cheese give it a creamy flavour, without having to actually add heavy cream and the lemon vest balances all the flavors giving it a fresh zing.

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After lots of catching up, girl talk and literary discussions, yes, we can’t seem to escape our love of books when we’re together; we were ready for dessert. I tampered with the idea of making something from scratch, but after a big business law test had me beat from studying I opted for an easy favorite, brownie mix! However, the mix we used isn’t your ordinary fudge brownie mix, it is Ghirardelli Caramel Turtle brownie mix. We tried this mix for the first time after our family brought them to our Super Bowl party. They were too good and were a simple way to make a ooey gooey chocolate dessert.

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We had a great time, with great food and lots of laughs. If you ever find yourself in need of an easy, but put-together meal for a casual dinner party, try this dish!