Friday, October 29, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 34

He won!!!! Our mayor got elected for his third term and I am now relaxing after the hectic campaign and an awesome victory.
This is also a busy weekend with both Halloween and a Ball my husband and I are attending out of town. I've had a lovely day getting my hair done, having lunch with hubbie and buying some va-va voom shoes (the blue ones) for the ball. If I remember I'll post a pic from the ball and the kid's cute halloween outfits next week.

Back to cooking, I completed two dishes: the Crackling "Peking" Duck and Chicken Pot Pie.


You'll notice the scare quotes around Peking, that is because this version isn't exactly Peking Duck, according to Joy Of Cooking, where the recipe was found, "with its crispy, lacquered-looking skin, this is similar to the famous Pekin duck but requires much less time and effort."

Real Peking Duck have ducks specially raised for the dish and have air blown between the skin and fat to separate. They are also hung while cooked in a special oven. Real more in this Wikipedia entry.

For those that have the Joy Of Cooking cookbook, I used the recipe for Chinese Roast Duck, found on pg 448 of my 75th anniversary edition. I cannot find a recipe online the same as the one I used, but I'll give a brief outline, otherwise go buy the book or get it from the library.

Chinese Roast Duck:
Bring a pan of water with soy sauce and honey to the boil. Place duck in solution for 1 minute, ensuring to coat the whole duck. Remove, pat dry and place on a rack over a baking sheet, uncovered in the the fridge overnight. This dries it out.
The roasting process takes place on a V-rack over a roasting pan. Roast at 425 F for 20 min, turn over and roast again for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, reduce heat to 350 F. Prick duck skin all over, careful not to pierce the meat. Brush the duck with a mixture containing: orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and 5-spice powder.
Roast again for 20 minutes, turn over and brush again. Repeat twice more turning, brushing and roasting.
Let rest and serve.

The mixture really gives the duck a fantastic flavour and the skin is crispy and the dish was overall very delicious. It was a huge hit, especially hubbie loved it....he'd turned down duck the night before in a great Quebec city restaurant, because I'd warned him I'd be making it. He said it was worth it.


I made this one the night before the election with the intent that the family could eat the leftovers when I was working election day and night. They ended up having cereal....silly boys, but thank goodness they had good pizza and pasta at the victory party later that night so they got some decent food in and I then didn't need to cook the next day when I was super tired. My James seemed to really like it as he requested it for breakfast and wanted some for school and told his teachers about it. He was really disappointed when it was done, I should make it again soon.


1 can condensed chicken broth (10 oz)
About 1 1/2 cups sliced carrot
1 1/2 cups diced red potato (I think it was 2 or 3)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups white mushrooms quartered
1 onion chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup flour
2 1/2 cups cooked diced chicken, 2 large breasts
1 defrosted unbaked piecrust/ puff pastry enough for a 10 inch piecrust

Preheat oven to 425F
Combine broth, 1 cup water and carrots and potatoes in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute onions and mushrooms until softened. Add to broth mixture. Add peas.
To thicken: whisk together flour with equal amount of water (1/3 cup) to form a paste. Whisk into vegetables. Turn up heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Add chicken.
Roll out piecrust on a floured surface. Roll it out to overhang the pie-dish using. I used a 10 inch pie-dish.
Transfer chicken and veg mixture to the pie-dish. Place crust over filling, trim and flute edge. Cut a hole in centre using a cookie cutter. (I used a cute pie crust cutter set, featuring Fall son chose the pumpkin for this pie)
Bake until filling is bubbly and the crust browned, about 20 minutes.

I had some leftover pie dough, so I like to roll it out, put some blobs of my favourite jam and fold it over and voila, a dessert too.


I unlocked Caramel Corn after the Halloween catering event, so that will be added to my master list.

Up Next: I need some sweetness, so Angel Fruit Cake it will be.

Progress: 62/83

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 33

This is my last week of campaign volunteering, so this time next week I'll either be a woman of leisure again or have a job, but between you and me I think I'd like to have a little leisure time for a while.

This week I turned a boring regular meal into one of the new Cafe World meals, In Flight Meal. At the beginning of the week I had a grandiose idea to select various real airline's meals and serve them this week, kind of a best of what the different airlines offer, but my husband was away and I totally ran out energy, so I just tried to copy the graphic from the game.


During my research into airline meals, I found this website,, it shows actual photos people have taken of their meals and rate them etc. I was interesting having a look at the airline fare from around the world. I actually quite like airline food and especially look forward to South African Airways flights into South Africa, as they usually have some local cuisine that I sample before I arrive home. The only problem I have with airline/airport eating is that I tend to eat too much as you fill time waiting by sitting in a restaurant at the airport and then you get food immediately when you take off and you have your meals at strange times.

This week's meal has no recipe, I copied the game graphic by serving steak, steamed veg, salad, bread roll, juice and a packaged dessert.

 Up next: I have duck in the fridge ready for making Chinese Roast duck, which will be similar to Peking Duck, I don't have the ability to make Peking Duck in my kitchen so this will be close enough.

Progress: 60/82

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Sunday, October 17, 2010

American Sewing Expo Visit

I attended the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan on September 25th. It is only about 45 minutes from my house, so I had a fun day away from the family and came back with a few goodies. I've never been to a sewing event like this before, so I was like a kid in a candy store. I didn't attend any of the seminars, but will be doing something next year, since it was my 1st year I wanted to take in everything and figure out how long it took to work my way through the booths. After my shopping, I started making a jean bag in the deconstruction zone, but soon realised the Pattern Review Natural Fibres fashion show was starting, so rushed off to that. Some very impressive entries.

My shopping haul:

Underneath: my partially completed jean bag
top left: Kathy Ruddy's 3 ways to learn CD - Swing & Pleated Yoke Jackets
Fray was cheaper than at my local store & you never know I might need it??
top right: Fashion in Harmony - Acute Angle Blouse pattern
Bottom left: silk cuts at $8/yd, they were selling like wildfire. I got a black necktie silk with leaf detail (1 3/4 yrds) and lime green silk dupioni (1 1/8 yrds). Close up photo below.
Bottom right: my new darling, KAI sewing shears. My husband thinks I'm mad the way I delight in its use. Oh girls get it right???
Not pictured: a teflon iron sole plate

Not bought: a royal blue 100% cashmere from Haberman fabrics that was screaming to be a coat, but alas the $90/yrd price tag would have put my husband in the hospital. But at least now I know that Haberman's is very close to Detroit Zoo of which we are members and visit often, so I think next zoo visit mommy can drop off the guys and go browse.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 32

I actually made some good progress this week, knocking off a Stuffed Turkey....Happy Thanksgiving Canadians...and two fantasy theme dishes. I'm still working everyday, but hubbie took most of the week off and thanks to turkey leftovers the week wasn't as hectic. I'm working on our mayor's re-election campaign, so this routine will come to an end after election day in 10 days. Then I'd better start job-searching again, but I'm really missing my "home-time", but at least now I seem to really take advantage of any time I have at home, no more wasted hours.


A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe for ham and mushroom stuffing and I set it aside for our thanksgiving meal.

Ham and mushroom stuffing:

12oz/375g smoked ham
1lb/500g white mushrooms
5tbsp butter
1 1/3 cups minced celery
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch ground clove
1 turkey liver, minced
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp fresh thyme
6 cups cubed bread (1/2 inch/1cm)
1 egg
1/2 cup chicken stock

In a food processor, mince ham and set aside.
Finely chop half the mushrooms and slice the rest. Set aside.
In a skillet, melt 3 tbsp butter over medium heat and add celery, shallots, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves. Fry until celery is softened. Add finely chopped mushrooms, liver and sherry, cooking until mushrooms are wilted and mixture is moist, but no liquid remains. Mix with ham.
In the skillet, melt remaining 2 tbsp butter and fry sliced mushrooms over high heat until lightly browned. Add to ham mixture, with parsley and thyme. Mix well. Fold in bread. Beat egg with stock and mix into stuffing.
Stuff turkey with stuffing and place remainder in a covered casserole dish. Cook extra stuffing in oven with turkey during last 45 minutes.

I basted my turkey with a mix of melted butter and sherry during the cooking and made a gravy using the remaining pan juices, flour and my homemade chicken stock. Once again, excuse the messy looking turkey photo, my husband turned the turkey over and tried to start carving before I'd taken the pretty picture.


I didn't want to serve a steak with plain old ketchup, which would give the right "blood" look. So I opted to make my own ketchup. Its very tasty, much better than store bought stuff and doesn't have the artificial ingredients listed in some ketchup varieties.

I found the recipe on the blog Once Upon a Plate, I've made a number of her recipes now and just love the beautiful images.

My ketchup was sweetened with honey, but she lists various other options. I also used the whey from the natural yogurt, which is funny, because I usually use that very same technique, but discard the whey liquid and use the thickened yogurt for desserts or I love to use the thickened plain yogurt for breakfast with a little maple syrup mixed in.


Since I started this challenge, I've always had this one at the back of my mind and imagined a pizza sized cookie with icing decorations. So that's what I did!!!

I was making a batch of plain sugar cookies (recipe to follow) and used an upturned bowl to cut out the large cookie. It took considerably longer than normal to bake, I think it was in there for about 25 minutes, but it worked pretty well, I also made it a little thicker as I didn't want the bigger cookie breaking apart.
I made up a batch of royal icing, using meringue powder, icing sugar and water and spread that on the cooled cookie. When the icing had hardened, I painted the green swirly bits and the red outline with food colouring and used various coloured icings to make the border and "stars". I also thought it needed a little sparkle, some "pixie dust" and sprinkled some decorating sugar in places. I think it came out pretty well compared to the game version (above), although my sons desperately wanted to add dinosaur sprinkles.

I made a big batch of the cookie dough, cut out the cookies and froze them between layers over parchment paper on a tray in my freezer. When I want to make cookies again, I just lift a parchment layer and bake from frozen, it works brilliantly and the kids get to have cookies to decorate in no time. Also check out their efforts below the mystical pizza, we have such fun decorating cookies and I just LOVE cleaning up sprinkles for a few days, its amazing how far they travel.

Sugar cookies

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

With an electric beater, beat butter, and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and beat till well blended.

Divide dough as needed and roll out on a floured board (flour hands & rolling pin too) to about 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Cut out cookie shapes and repeat until all dough is used. Bake on a parchment lined baking tray at 300 F for 15 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely before icing and decorating.

Cafe World Cookbook Additions

The limited time items are still here so I'll them to my list now, they are In-Flight Meal and Red Burrito. I'm not unlocking the catering order items so they will not be added to my list now.

Up Next:  Mmm, I haven't planned my next week's meals yet, so we'll just wait and see.

Progress: 59/82

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 31

Another week has rolled by and I still haven't posted about my Expo visit, but I have been sewing. I've picked up some of my UFO (unfinished objects) dresses from my SWAP plan and been fitting in a few seams here and there.

On the cooking front I made beans again this week, it really seems to please my husband..he loves beans, but you know the problem with too many beans!!! I think I will lay off them for a bit. I made a big pot and made a tamale pie for use on Monday and made tamales as well and then froze them and they were eaten on Thursday night. Tuesday was leftover Tamale pie and Wednesday for a change I made Spaghetti Carbonara. I'm really trying to be better at multi-function dishes, as I'm  finding that making a full meal from scratch every night is really hard now that I'm not home all day. I had some chicken carcasses in the freezer, so I made a batch of chicken stock on Sunday night and used some to make the masa dough for the tamale pie and tamales, as well as for the spaghetti dish. I also now have some lovely stock in the freezer for use with the stuffing and gravy for the Thanksgiving turkey this weekend. Making homemade stock is super simple, just load chicken carcass with some meat attached into the crock pot with whatever vegetables you have on hand and cook long on low. When I woke up in the morning the house smelt fragrant and yummy and the stock just had to be strained and cooled. I wrote down the ingredients for this batch, so I will share after the tamale recipes.


This recipe can be broken into two parts, the filling and the masa dough. Since the Cafe World version is vegetarian, I opted to make mine with beans, but ground meat, chicken or anything else is great too.


1/2 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup frozen corn
28 oz (796ml) canned tomato
1/2 bell pepper
2 19oz (540ml) cans beans, I used red kidney and black beans
chilli powder, to taste
oregano and cumin, about a tsp each
1/4 cup black olives
salt and pepper

Cook onion and garlic until softened. Add diced bell pepper, cook for two minutes. Add rest of ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Masa dough:

2 cups masa (I used Maseca brand)
2 cups warm chicken broth or water
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup lard or shortening
2 tsp chilli powder (optional)

Combine masa, baking powder, salt and chili powder, add broth and combine with fingers or a fork. In a separate bowl, beat lard/shortening till fluffy. Add to masa mix and beat till it has a spongy texture.

Tamale Pie:

Place filling into a casserole dish and top with masa dough. Bake at 350F until masa topping browns slightly and filling bubbles. You can top with some grated cheese during the last minutes of baking.


Soak dried corn husks in water to soften and then dry. Spread some masa dough on husk and top with a line of the topping. Fold over husks, encapsulating the filling in the dough and tie with kitchen twine or whatever will work for you. A few tricks I learnt here...using the bigger corn husks works better or you might need to use two husks to cover a tamale, use your hand to form and flatten the dough on the husk, it seemed to work better for me. Let your filling cool a bit before working with it, I found mine was initially too hot and was melting the shortening in the dough and made things really difficult. My tamales weren't pretty as you can see in the photo, but they tasted great and that counts more in my opinion.

I read that tamales freeze really well, so I placed mine in the freezer and steamed them two nights later from the frozen state. I used a bamboo steamer in a few inches of water in a pan. You need to keep adding water as you will steam the tamales for about 90 minutes. Open and enjoy!!

Chicken stock recipe:

1 lb chicken carcass
1 large onion quartered with skin on
4 carrots washed and cut in 4
1 garlic clove
small handful of black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
few sprigs of fresh parsley
water to fill crock pot and cover ingredients

Place all ingredients in a large crock pot, cover with water and cook on low for 10 hours to 24 hours. I either make at night and strain the next morning or I make in the morning and strain at night. I use a cheesecloth lined sieve over a large bowl to strain my broth, I then let it cool and usually fill a few ice trays, for smaller quantities of broth for sauces or I have 1 litre containers for larger quantities for soups.

Next up: It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, have a great weekend Canadian readers, so I will share a stuffed turkey and I made Vampire Staked Steak tonight, so that will be included as well.

Progress: 56/80

 Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 30

After 30 weeks of cooking through the Cafe World cookbook, I've cooked some interesting dishes, posted others which I wouldn't have thought blog-worthy and always posted on Fridays, until now. Cafe World got the better of me this week by introducing an anniversary catering mission with some delish dishes to unlock. Under normal circumstances I might have finished it on time, but with my working/volunteering I ran out of time, but I tried....boy did I try. So I won't be able to add the anniversary dishes to my list, but I have printed off recipes for Feijoada (from Brazil & Portugal) and Pastilla (from Morocco). I also haven't posted about my trip to the American Sewing Expo yet, I'll try that tomorrow.

So back to my cooking...I made my version of Ranch Beans this week. I made enough for two separate meals and it helped take the stress out of my evening chaos.


The first night I made the beans, I served them with cornmeal muffins and the next time on a bed of rice.
To save time I used canned beans, but by all means use dried and soaked beans if you want.

3 strips bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans beans (15oz), I used white kidney and red kidney
1 small can (4 oz) diced green chilies
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Brown bacon in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook about 4 minutes over medium heat. Stir in beans, chilies, salsa and cumin. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until mixture has thickened a little.

Cafe World Cookbook additions

There have been a number of limited time cookbook additions this week, none of which I'll add to my master list, unless they get permanently added to the game. The two mentioned above, as well as Shanghai Dumplings, Anniversary Cake, Ratatouille (love it), Red Burrito and In Flight Meal.

Progress:  55/80

Next Up: I was thinking maybe Vegetarian Tamales, will look at some recipes later.

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property