Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Holiday Cookies

image courtesy:  Food Network

'Tis the season to be jolly, FALALALALALALA.
And why not?  It's cookie swap season.  This year marks the second annual cookie exchange with my book club.  No doubt, Thursday will be a busy day for me, as I bake 7 dozen cookies.  The upside, returning home with 7 dozen cookies of various flavours.  I know you must be jealous!

So this post is all things cookie related.  From storing, to baking, and even how to host a cookie swap. 

 ps.  Stay tuned for my contribution to the exchange.  (hint:  a campfire favourite)
  

Storing Baked Cookies

(courtesy: TLC cooking)

  • Store soft and crisp cookies separately @ room temperature to prevent changes in texture and flavour
  • Keep soft cookies in airtight containers.  If they begin to dry out, add a piece of apple or bread to the container to help them retain moisture
  • If crisp cookies become soggy, heat undecorated cookies in an oven set @ 300F for 3-5 minutes
  • Store cookies with sticky glazes, fragile decorations, and icings in single layers between sheets of waxed paper
  • Bar cookies and brownies may be stored in their own baking pan.  Cover with foil or plastic wrap when cool.
  • As a rule, crisp cookies freeze better than soft, moist cookies.  Rich, butter bar cookies and brownies are an exception to this rule since they freeze extremely well.   Baked cookies can be frozen in airtight containers or freezer bags for up to three months.  Meringue-based cookies do not freeze well and chocolate-dipped cookies may discolour if frozen.  Thaw cookies and brownies unwrapped @ room temperature

Cookie Tips & Tricks

(courtesy: theperfectchocolatechipcookie.com)

prob

There are many variables in baking.  Pictured are cookies with various problems using the same dough (with flour adjustments in numbers 3 &4).
1.  This cookie is done just right. It is pictured to compare with the rest.
2.  This dough was not refrigerated.  It is still good but a little flatter than it should be.
3.  This dough contained too much flour and did not spread much at all. It is interesting to note that the dough looked identical to the correct dough, but was much stiffer and drier.
4.  This dough had too little flour.  It spread too much and didn’t bake evenly.
5.  This dough was over-mixed.  It had a poor colour, baked flat and had a strange consistency.
6.  This dough was formed too small.  It was overcooked at eight minutes. It is fine to make smaller cookies, just bake them for less time.
7.  This dough was formed too large.  The outsides were done while the middle was too high and underdone.
8.  This dough was baked in an oven 25 degrees too hot.  The outside was overdone and the inside was slightly underdone.
9.  This dough was baked in an oven 25 degrees too cool.  It fell flat and became too crisp without much of an inside.
10.  This dough was frozen when baked.  It took longer to bake and didn't cook as evenly.  To use frozen dough, set on cookie sheet at room temperature while oven is preheating, 15-20 minutes.  It takes the frost off and bakes perfectly.


image courtesy: Martha Stewart

Hosting a Holiday Cookie Swap

  1. Decide on a number to invite (this year we have 14 girls partaking in the exchange)
  2. Send out invites
  3. Ask guests RSVP (this is important to know how many cookies each guest will be responsible for bringing)
  4. Include rules with the invites (for example; prepackaging cookies for each guest, bringing a container to take all of your cookies home in etc.)
  5. Assign a number of cookies to bring (we decided on 4-6 per person)
  6. Share the recipes (bring index cards or print outs of your cookie recipe to share with everyone)
  7.  Most of all have fun, you are surrounded by sweet treats and great friends.  So raise a festive beverage and toast the season! 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Pesto Please.


Pesto has the ability to make anything taste good.  I equate it, to how Ryan Gosling can make a paper bag look good.  Seriously, I'm certain if you slathered a layer of this (pesto, not Ryan Gosling) on a piece of rubber, I'd eat it.  As with most things, I tend to go on a 'kick' where I can't get enough of a particular thing.  Pesto is in the current rotation.  Other things in rotation?  Mini marshmallows, eggnog and sweet potatoes.  Hmmm, can I combine these four things and make something delicious??  Leave it with me.
On Saturday, I made my favourite pasta dish.  Gnocchi w/ Pesto, Shrimp and Green Beans.  Can you say delicious?  Seriously, what a Saturday.  Throw in some crusty bread and a glass of wine.  Happy Camper!  I didn't want to have gnocchi again (wait.  Correction.  I wanted to, but twice in 3 days may have been a little much.) Instead, I opted to bake some halibut fillets, coated in a nice layer of basily, nutty, parmesany, goodness.  Whoop, whoop.  Cheers to pesto!


Pesto Halibut


Ingredients:
4 (4-6oz) halibut fillets
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of pine nuts
salt & pepper to taste


Method:
Preheat oven to 450F
Place all ingredients except olive oil and halibut in food processor. Pulse a few times. Slowly stream in olive oil while appliance is running. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Season fillets with salt and pepper.  Transfer fillets to greased baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Top with pesto sauce (approximately 1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp)

Enjoy!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Faux Potatoes


Fake potatoes, really?  Just give me the real thing, I know that's what you're thinking.  Heck, that's what I'm thinking.  However, you'd be surprised at the resemblance that cauliflower bears to potatoes.  With the addition of some herbs, this was a side dish worth going back for seconds.  Non-guilty seconds.  My favourite kind. 
What?  Dessert?  Sure don't mind if I do.  I was good today after all.  Chocolate, justified.




Mashed Cauliflower


Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, florets cut into bit sized pieces
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste


Method:
In steamer basket over boiling water place cut up florets.  Cover and steam until tender, approximately 15 minutes.
Transfer cooked cauliflower to food processor.  Add butter and yogurt.  Process until smooth.  Stir in herbs, salt and pepper.
Enjoy!

Serves: 4

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Spirit of Christmas & a PB&J Sandwich


Today was a pretty special day @ our house.  It was our 2nd annual sandwich making party.  A few years back my family decided to forgo buying 'secret santa' gifts.  Instead, we pooled our money towards helping out those who needed it more than us.  We've participated in Operation Christmas Child, filling shoe boxes.  And last year, we decided on a more local approach, by supporting the 'Drop-In Center.'   We made over 700+ PB & J sandwiches, which we delivered and were flash frozen.  These sandwiches are used as part of the bagged lunches the DI provides to working clients.  As with any charity, supplies don't always match the demand.  In a city the size of ours, it's safe to say that 700 sandwiches won't last too long, but every little bit helps.

This newly adopted tradition is nothing extravagant and doesn't cost us much more than a few $ and time.  Best of all, we complete this project as a family and are helping out our fellow YYC'ers in the process.  I'm hoping this small act of Christmas cheer, may inspire some of you to go ahead and do the same.  Time and money go a long way, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year.  So go ahead, find charity in your community that could benefit from your volunteer efforts.  You will be amazed at how much better it is to 'give' rather than 'receive.'  Christmas to me isn't about the gifts (even though we all know that I love sparkly things and shoes), it's about being appreciative of those we can celebrate the season alongside. 

No holiday sandwich making party is complete without Christmas Carols and a delicious breakfast @ Cora's (think sustenance people, pancake sustenance!)  700+ sandwiches aren't going to make themselves. 


Merry Christmas!  Get your volunteer on!

image courtesy: etsy.com

For more information on sandwich making.  click here.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Eggnog & Moustaches


Dear Eggnog,

Why do you have to taste so rich and creamy?  I know you only come around during the holidays, but do you have to tempt me with your deliciousness every time I open the fridge?  I would appreciate it if you maybe hid behind the orange juice container once in a while.  There is no need to make yourself that present, all the time.  You must be exhausted.


Thank you,
JS


Okay, so in order to avoid drinking this entire carton by myself.  I decided to make cookies with it instead.  Hmmm?  I'm not sure which way is healthier?  Pfff, the cookies obviously. 
We are winding down on the month of moustaches, and tonight we have a wrap up party/fundraising event for Movember.  As promised, I'm making cookies, that go hand in hand with the season.  Eggnog cookies.  Yum.  Congratulations boys on all the money you've raised this year, I'm sure I speak for all of your significant others when I say December 1st can't come soon enough.  Raise a cookie, and cheers to facial hair!



Eggnog Cookies


Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup eggnog
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder

eggnog glaze

nutmeg sugar

Method:
In large bowl whisk together flour, nutmeg and baking powder.  Set aside.
Using mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Add in eggnog, egg and vanilla.  Blend.  Add in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix until a smooth dough forms.  Do not over mix.
Separate dough into two disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator for 2 hours to firm up.
Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator.  Working on a liberally floured surface.  Roll out dough to a 1/4-inch thickness.  Dip cookie cutter in flour before use.  Cut out shapes.
Preheat oven to 350F. 
Transfer cookies to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Brush cooled cookies with Eggnog glaze and sprinkle with Nutmeg sugar.   

Eggnog Glaze/Nutmeg Sugar

Ingredients:

glaze
1/4 cup eggnog
2 Tbsp butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

nutmeg sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg


Method:
In a saucepan warm eggnog and butter over low heat.  Do not allow this mixture to boil.  When butter is melted stir in sugar.  Keep stirring until the sugar is melted and a smooth glaze forms.
Once glaze is smooth and well blended, use a pastry brush to glaze the cookies.  Sprinkle immediately with nutmeg sugar before the glaze has a chance to harden.




slightly adapted from: mystery lovers' kitchen

Monday, 21 November 2011

Pineapple & Cheese.


I officially declare it winter in YYC. (Yes, I do have such a power.)  This past weekend was freezing.   In fact, it was so cold, it sparked me to go out and purchase winter boots.  Although it's supposed to warm up over the next couple days (yay!)  I can't help but remain chilled, as I know what mother nature has in store for me.  Windchills, snow, ice, yuck!  Today, I decided to bake up some bread.  Not just any bread.  Cheesy, fruity, nutty bread.  Something about baking in winter (okay, late fall) is just so comforting and perfect.  
I chose this bread in particular, because of last night's Good Wife episode.   One of the main story lines from Sunday's show, was the recent change over from the 'food pyramid', to the new 'food plate' concept.  Of course, as with any change, none of the food groups are happy about this, nor do they want to play nicely with one another.  So in order to appeal to everyone, this bread covers all of your food group bases.  Dairy, grains, fruits and protein.  It's also super delicious.  Problem solved.  
Today's bread is pineapple cheese.  Now you know this is going to be good.  How can you go wrong with either one of those ingredients?  Short answer?  You really can't.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have some fresh bread to attend to.  Happy Monday!  At least it is in this household.

Pineapple Cheese Bread 


Ingredients:
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup, plus 1 Tbsp crushed pineapple with juice
2 eggs
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 tsp pineapple extract

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and mix together. In a separate bowl, mix the pineapple, eggs and pineapple extract, and add to the flour mixture, mix well. Fold in the cheese and nuts. Pour mixture into a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool and turn out bread from pan. Allow to cool completely before slicing.



adapted from Paula Deen

Related to this post:
For a more in depth look at the GW check out lockhartgardner.blogspot.com.

Festive Oats | Eggnog


Last weekend I caved and bought my first carton of eggnog.  You know you are getting close to Christmas when you see this in my fridge.  Although, to be honest, I'm the same girl that put up her tree on the 5th of November.  So let's just agree, that perhaps I'm a little early with all things Christmas related. 
This morning I had grand plans for this carton of eggnog.  Oatmeal.  An extra special bowl of oatmeal.  Happy Monday to me!  By subbing out half of my regular milk, for this creamy, delicious, holiday treat, you can almost taste Christmas.  A warm bowl of oats is always a pleasant way to start any brisk morning.  Filling and yummy!

Just as I went overboard with pumpkin last month, you can bet you'll be seeing more of this flavour in the coming weeks.  I'm thinking pancakes, french toast, maybe even muffins.  Get ready people we are about to embark on an eggnog adventure.



Eggnog Oatmeal

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup eggnog
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, plus more for serving

1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp pecans, chopped
1/2 Tbsp raisins

Method:
In saucepan, heat almond milk and eggnog till it reaches a boil.  Add nutmeg and oats.  Reduce heat and cook stirring occasionally for 6-8 minutes.  Stir in vanilla and brown sugar. 
Remove from heat, pour into bowl.  Top with pecans and raisins.  Add additional milk if desired.  ENJOY! 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Christmas Markets & Gourmet Nut Butters


Oh how I love Christmas markets.  From strolling the vendors with a warm cup of hot chocolate.  To the unique finds, yummy food, and of course, the background Christmas music.  I seem to fill up with even more 'holiday cheer' whenever I'm at one.  Que the Christmas Carols "It's the most wonderful time of the year..."
Yesterday, marked a first for me.  I decided to sell some of my nut butters @ a local market.  The sale went splendidly, and it was wonderful to spend the day, side by side with my Grandma.  She sold jalapeno jelly (seriously yummy), cloverleaf buns (my favourite), and the cutest pot holders you may have ever seen.  I'm happy to say I sold all of my stock, except for 2 lonely jars.  Not too worry, I won't let these jars go to waste, I have plans to use both (yep, both.  You'd think I'd be sick of the stuff by now, you'd be wrong.)  Oh, bowl of oatmeal you are about to taste delicious!  I hope that all of my customers love the flavours as much as I do!   It was a lot of work, more than I initially thought.  My Kitchenaid food processor and I spent countless hours together.  And with only 2 meltdowns (more like overheat downs) we made it through.  Nut butter success!


Being at a Christmas market means one other thing...the chance to add to my ever expanding ornament collection!   It's well known, I have a small obsession/strong desire to own every ornament ever made.  I love collecting them.  My ginormous tree is filled top to bottom with unique ones from past vacations, hand painted ones from friends, and family heirlooms and milestones.  I've managed to collect so many, that I was able to get rid of all of the 'filler balls' leaving only the meaningful and special ones hanging.  However, this past-time/part-time hobby of collecting, is now going to mean a 2nd Christmas tree in the 'S' household.  Whoop, whoop.  Nothing wrong with that. Bring it!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Pizza Stuffed Potatoes


I get bored easily.  That might be an understatement.  I get bored often and frequently.   So, in order to keep myself and everyone else in our house on their toes, I try and introduce new meal ideas weekly.
Pizza stuffed potatoes are on the menu tonight.  Baked potatoes, stuffed with all things pizza like, especially cheese.  Potatoes can pretty much be stuffed with anything.  So go ahead, have fun, and get your spud on!


Pizza Stuffed Potatoes

Ingredients:
4 large russet potatoes, unpeeled and washed
1 cup favourite pasta sauce (i use tomato & roasted garlic)
4 slices deli ham
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
2 Tbsp diced red onions
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
basil

Method:
Preheat oven to 400F
Roast potatoes for 1 hour until fork tender.  Remove from oven.  Allow to cool until safe to handle.  Split open and scoop out potato, leaving a thin shell of potato inside skins.
In small bowl mash potatoes.  Add in onions, mushrooms and tomato sauce.  Mix well.  Stuff potato shells with tomato mixture and top with sliced ham and mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with basil.
Return to oven and broil until cheese melts.
Enjoy!

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Good Wife & Playing Favourites


Quite possibly the most exciting thing about last night's Good Wife episode, was the preview into next Sunday's episode.  Cleverly named Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  Really?  Could there be a better episode title?  Not likely.  Seriously, Team Gardner what will happen to you?  Only 6 more days...
For a great recap and commentary on this weeks episode.  Check out my favourite blog of all things GW (courtesy KPM) @ lockhartgardner.blogspot.com

This weeks GW food related entry is inspired by death row inmate Ricky Packer.  Immediate thought?  Man on death row = last meal of course.  This scenario had me asking myself, 'what would I eat as a last meal?'  Is it weird that I would mostly eat carbs?  Nah, it's my last meal.  Go big or go home.  Being that I've now banked over 115 recipe posts (breakout the bubbly,) I think this is the perfect opportunity to recap my favourites so far.  So here it goes, my last meal day of food consisting of the recipes featured here.


Breakfast

Dark Chocolate Orange Scones
Chocolate & Bacon Waffles
Sweet Potato Biscuits & Maple Butter


Lunch

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese
Cinnamon-Sugar Sweet Potatoes
Butterfinger Cookies


Dinner


Beverage

Beer & Ice Cream

Appetizer

Crab Cakes

Salads

Blueberry Nectarine w/ Brie and Candied Almonds
Beet, Apple & Goat Cheese Salad

Main Course

Pesto Gnocchi w/ Shrimp & Green Beans
Sausage & Grape Pasta
Seared Scallops w/ Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Sides

Bacon Fried Rice
Mango & Edamame Couscous

Desserts

Homemade Pop Tarts
Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Carrot Cake Pancakes (i love pancakes!)
Red Velvet Cupcakes


Well, there you have it, these are a few of my favourite recipes to date.  Pretty sure if I tried to eat all of this food, it WOULD be my last meal.  I'm full just thinking about it.
What would your last meal include?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Just for the Halibut


I'm sad that the long weekend is coming to an end.  Hard to believe that the next one we have to look forward to, will be accompanied by a jolly man in a red suit.  Fingers crossed he will come with a sack full of sparkly presents.  I was extra good this year for this reason alone.  As for this long weekend, at least it will go out on a high note.  Fish & chips, plus, the Good Wife.  Hello Sunday night!
Tonight's dinner was courtesy of JM and his fine fisherman skills.   It was also his suggestion that led to the use of halibut for fish 'n chips.  Twist my arm.  Who can turn down crispy breaded fish and a big mound of homemade fries.  Since my kitchen lacks a deep fryer, and I lack the skills to properly fry anything.  I opted to bake both in the oven.  This healthier alternative was still delicious.  I'll save the greasy, finger licking good version for the pubs that specialize in the art of deep frying (can deep frying be considered an art?) Oh, and who also specialize in wobbly pops! 

Happy Sunday!


Baked Fish 'n Chips

Ingredients:
4 (4-6oz) halibut fillets, patted dry
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt

2 large russet potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

malt vinegar, tartar sauce or fresh squeezed lemon for serving

Method:
Preheat oven to 400F. 
Scrub potatoes and cut into 8 wedges each.  Transfer to baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile in shallow dish combine bread crumbs, flour and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper.  In separate bowl whisk egg whites and mustard together.
Dip each fillet into egg mixture, then into breadcrumb mixture.  Transfer fish to baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  Add to oven with potatoes.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until fish flakes and potatoes are tender.

serve with tartar sauce, malt vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Cinnamon-Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges



Baked sweet potato/yam wedges make for the perfect appetizer, snack and side dish.  This vegetable is one of my favourite things.  Period.  Ahead of sweet potatoes would be pancakes, diamonds, apple pie and shoes.  Not necessarily in that order.  I'm mean diamonds after pancakes?  A girl would have to be crazy.  Crazy about pancakes that is...


My strong feelings towards sweet potatoes, stems from their versatility.  Serve them sweet or savory.  Either way, roast 'em up, I'm hungry.  Today, my sweet tooth won and this was the perfect snack for family movie night.  Carbs, couches, PJs and the movie Cars 2 capped off our Saturday night.  Here's to full bellies and family traditions!



Cinnamon-Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges


Ingredients:
1 large sweet potato or yam
1/2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

vanilla yogurt for serving
cinnamon & sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 400F
Scrub sweet potato, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges.
Transfer potatoes to large baking sheet and drizzle with oil.  Roast for 30-35 minutes until tender, turning once halfway.
Meanwhile in bowl combine cinnamon and sugar.  Remove roasted potatoes from oven and transfer to bowl with cinnamon sugar mixture.  Toss to coat.
Serve hot.  If desired use vanilla yogurt as a dip.  Sprinkled with a little cinnamon & sugar.


Movember Stashcakes

It's that time of year again...Movember!  Or, moustache season as I often refer to it.


Chances are at least one of the men in your life is currently growing a moustache in support of men's health issues.  It's amazing how many guys I personally know that are taking part in this fundraising effort.  Nicely done boys!  Being it's now the 12th of the month, hopefully the 'staches are filling in nicely and gone are the creepy looking 'lip sweaters.' 

Here is a short recap of what this campaign is all about for those of you unfamiliar.  To find out more visit http://ca.movember.com/.  You can learn how to donate and other ways to get involved with this wonderful cause.


About The Campaign
During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in Canada and around the world. With their “Mo’s”, these men raise vital funds and awareness for men's health, specifically prostate cancer.
On Movember 1st, guys register at Movember.com with a clean-shaven face. For the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts.
Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words, they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.
At the end of the month, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas celebrate their gallantry and valor by either throwing their own Movember party or attending one of the infamous Gala Part├ęs held around the world by Movember, for Movember
.
  


Okay, so how do the pancakes come into play?  Quite simply actually.  The are in the shape of 'stashes.  Not only were these fun to make and decorate, but they were just as tasty to eat.


Movember Stashcakes


Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
coconut, chocolate syrup, almonds and chocolate chips for decorating

Method:
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients until just moistened. 
Spoon batter into greased moustache cookie cutters.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until bubbles form and underside is golden.  Flip and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.  Carefully remove pancake from mold.  Repeat with remaining batter.
To make faces:  spoon batter using 1/4 cup portions onto lightly oiled griddle or pan.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbles form on top and underside is golden.  Flip and cook for 1 minute.  Repeat with remaining batter.
Assemble and decorate as desired.

Enjoy with syrup!  Make sure to wipe the crumbs off your 'staches boys!
Happy Movember & Happy Fundraising!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Good Wife & Red Velvet Cupcakes




I'm sure by now you know how much I adore Sunday's.  They're reserved for time spent with family, and always begin with pancakes.  I'm living the dream!  Sunday's recently got even better.  I know, you're probably thinking, "better than pancakes, no way!"  Way.
Enter, my new favourite TV obsession, The Good Wife.  If you haven't seen this show yet, you must, no seriously.  I still need to go back and catch up on previous season's.  If these last few episodes are any indication, I have some great TV ahead of me.  The cast is phenomenal and the story lines are worth the 7 day wait.  In the meantime, I've now become a 're-watcher.'  Never before have I been the type to watch an episode more than once.  Well, that's no longer the case.  I have to thank KPM for introducing me to this gem.  I'd also like to nominate her to be president of The Good Wife fan club.  During one of our discussions about all things GW, she mentioned (joking??) she should start a blog on the show.  Yes, please!  Do it.  I then followed up by committing to feature recipes that relate back to each weeks episode.  So far I've kept my end of the bargain...still waiting (more hoping) for KPM to keep hers.  No pressure.


This weeks GW inspired recipe is Red Velvet Cupcakes.  Cupcakes made three appearances in episode 7.  So it's safe to say while watching, I was secretly full on craving one (too bad we ate all of R's birthday cupcakes on Friday...grrr.) To quote the show (or the cupcake connoisseur, Mr. Gordon Higgs) "I think it’s just the name, red velvet, it just makes it so desirable."  So true.   I've gone ahead and put a healthier spin on this treat. Yummy and moist and everything you want a cupcake to be (just not 497 calories worth Mr. Higgs)

I'm currently on 're-watch' number 3 as I nosh on this delicious treat.  I wonder what next weeks episode will yield.  Stay tuned to find out!


 

Red Velvet Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

(adapted from Food Network)
yields: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg
1 Tbsp red food coloring
1/2 tsp white distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup reduced fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
chopped pecans & chocolate sprinkles for garnish

Method:
Preheat oven to 350F.  Line muffin tin with cupcake papers.
In medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, applesauce, buttermilk, egg, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer.  Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins (2/3 filled).  Bake for 20-22 minutes,  turning the pan once, half way through.  Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
***alternatively you can bake these in mason jars using 1/2 cup of batter for 20-25 minutes
For Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and vanilla together until smooth.  Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated.  Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
Frost cupcakes using a butter knife, or pipe it on with a big star tip.  Garnish with pecans & sprinkles.

Enjoy while watching TGW!


Monday, 7 November 2011

Chocolate Pecan Butter

October is out and November is in.  This marks the beginning of the holiday season in our household.  In fact, our tree is up (J thinks I'm crazy), Christmas cards are ready, and I've already listened to Boney M once.  All before November 7th. 
So, since we are entering holiday season, I figured my next batch of 'nut butters' should be more indulgent than my other flavours.  Enter chocolate!  Chocolate & nuts are BFFs in my books.   So this weeks butter is chocolate pecan.  Mmm, Nutella what? 
3 ingredients = joy!


Chocolate-Pecan Butter

Ingredients:
2 cups pecans
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla

Method:
Preheat oven to 325F.  Line baking sheet with pecans and toast for 8-10 minutes watching carefully so as not to burn them.  Allow to cool slightly.
Place toasted pecans into a food processor and process for 5-8 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. 

Meanwhile melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between.
Once pecans are smooth and creamy add in melted chocolate and vanilla.  Process for another 2-3 minutes.
Store in air-tight container in refrigerator.
**Pecan butter firms up in fridge, allow to sit at room temperature before using.


Check out my other favourite nut butters:
Pecan w/ Cinnamon & Raisin
Vanilla Maple Almond
Honey Cinnamon Almond

Friday, 4 November 2011

Cupcakes in a Jar for a Special Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday R!

It feels like yesterday that your dad and I brought you home.  Then the day came where you no longer wanted to be swaddled.  Then you rolled over.  Started crawling. Graduated from 4 limb transportation to 2.  Then first words.  To now, sentences and songs.  You are my big girl.  

There is one song that makes me tear up whenever it's played.  It came out roughly the same time you did.  I'm living the song.  The lyrics below say it all.  Love you R!  My sweet, sweet, baby girl!


Darius Rucker - 'It won't be like this for long'

He didn't have to wake up
He'd been up all night
Layin’ there in bed listenin’
To his new born baby cry
He makes a pot of coffee
He splashes water on his face
His wife gives him a kiss and says
It gonna be OK

It won’t be like this for long
One day we'll look back laughin’
At the week we brought her home
This phase is gonna fly by
So baby just hold on
‘Cause it won't be like this for long

Four years later ‘bout 4:30
She's crawling in their bed
And when he drops her off at preschool
She's clinging to his leg
The teacher peels her off of him
He says what can I do
She says now don't you worry
This’ll only last a week or two

It won’t be like this for long
One day soon you'll drop her off
And she won’t even know you're gone
This phase is gonna fly by
If you can just hold on
It won’t be like this for long

Some day soon she'll be a teenager
And at times he'll think she hates him
Then he'll walk her down the aisle
And he'll raise her veil
But right now she's up and cryin’
And the truth is that he don't mind
As he kisses her good night
And she says her prayers

He lays down there beside her
‘Til her eyes are finally closed
And just watchin’ her it breaks his heart
Cause he already knows

It won’t be like this for long
One day soon that little girl is gonna be
All grown up and gone
Yeah, this phase is gonna fly by
So, he's tryin’ to hold on

‘Cause it won’t be like this for long

It won’t be like this for long

It won’t be like this for long


 
Someone pass me a box, no, make that two boxes of Kleenex.  I'm officially a blubbering mess.  Although, I'm looking forward to watching you grow up into a little lady, I'm not sure I'm ready for the speed at which this is happening.  Stay little R.  For just a little longer... 

Okay, now onto the celebrations.....let's get this party started!
Today started with my famous birthday pancakes and of course candles and song.  No birthday celebration is complete in this house without pancakes & sprinkles, it's tradition.  Mmm, deliciousness!
Tonight we are celebrating with a family dinner out (complete with moose antlers and more songs sung by waiters and waitresses), followed by cupcakes in a jar @ home.  Nothing fancy.  Today is about R and keeping it simple and fun!

Cupcakes in a Jar


Method:
Using your favourite cake batter (homemade or boxed) place 1/2 cup portions in greased mason jars and bake @ 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Top with icing or ice cream (or both, hey it's a birthday after all) AND don't forget the sprinkles!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Maple-Soy Salmon



Last year's Christmas party with my hubby fueled a life changing event.  Prior to December 2010, the thought of raw fish, aka sushi, completely turned my stomach.  In fact, I'm pretty sure if you offered money, I would have turn you down (okay, depending on the amount of $$ I may have turned you down.)  So what fueled this change in me?  4 letters.  Wanna venture a guess?  W-I-N-E.  After a round of intense bowling and drinks, we were off to a sushi restaurant.  Well, there I was, the lone girl at the table who ordered teriyaki chicken.  Seriously, sushi?  Are you kidding me.  No thanks.  Well, I finished my chicken and I was still hungry.  There was nothing around me but, boats and boats of sushi.  Okay, I can do this, just give it a shot you big wuss.  After some coaching, I went for it.  Reaction?  OMG, this is AWESOME.  I waited 28 years to try this?  I've got some catching up to do.  I'm proud to say, I now sushi (can one sushi?) at least once a week.  If I don't I'm grumpy.  Pass the chopsticks!




So for dinner this past weekend, although not sushi, is similar in flavour.  Maple-Soy Salmon.  Mmmm.  I have to thank my buddy JM for the delicious fish, that he caught himself.  Not only did he bring me over salmon, but halibut as well.  Oh, and a bottle of my favourite red wine.  Thanks JM!  You're the best!!




Maple-Soy Salmon

Ingredients:
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
4 (4-6oz) salmon fillets, with skin

Method:
In small bowl whisk together maple syrup, soy sauce and garlic.  
In large Ziploc bag place salmon fillets and marinade.  Refrigerate for 2 hours, turning throughout. 
Preheat BBQ to high.  Spray grill top with non-stick spray.  Cook fish skin side up for 2 minutes, flip, skin side down.  Baste with remaining marinade and cook for 5-7 minutes with lid closed.  Remove salmon with spatula, skin should remain stuck to grill.
Serve.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Little Green Trees




Remember when we were kids, and parents would refer to broccoli as 'little green trees.'  I never quite understood this.  If kids have a hate on for broccoli, how come parents think calling it a tree will make it more appealing?  Really?  Do bark and leaves sound more appetizing?  Hmmm, I'm baffled.  Lucky for my parents, I always ate and enjoyed my vegetables, so there was no need to try and make up cutesy names for food.  Looks like my good childhood eating habits are genetic, my kids are vegetable enthusiasts as well.

Usually, we just steam this veggie and serve it plain or with some butter.  Or, on those days where I'm feeling fancy, I'll make some delicious cheese sauce to go along side.  This past weekend, I wanted to try my hand at roasting broccoli.   After all, why should carrots, beets and potatoes get all of the roasting fun.  It's officially the 'trees' turn.  Result?  Yum.  One word.  Enough said. 
Enjoy!  And eat your broccoli.


Roasted Broccoli


Ingredients:
4 cups broccoli florets
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame seeds

Method:
Preheat oven to 425F.
In large bowl, whisk together oil, soy sauce and minced garlic.  Add in broccoli, tossing to coat.  Transfer to baking sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Turning once halfway. 
Transfer to a bowl and top with sesame seeds.  Enjoy!
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