Sunday, 27 May 2012

Homemade Twix. OMG.

Today I made these...

Dangerously, delicious, homemade Twix bars.
Tomorrow J will be taking them out of the house.  I can't be trusted.

When I was pregnant with R.  I would buy cases, yes cases, of Twix chocolate bars from Costco.  The same cases that grocery stores and gas stations buy to sell to customers, I was buying for me, myself and I, oh and baby R.  Twix bars = me in my pregnant glory.  I'm surprised R's first word wasn't Twix, that she didn't come out smelling like chocolate and caramel, or that we both didn't develop diabetes.  I was on a sugar high for months.

After I had R, I still loved/craved Twix, but I thought it best if we took some time off.  A break if you will.  I needed to shed some baby Twix weight, and eating pound for pound of chocolaty/shortbready/caramely goodness wasn't the way to go about it.  Why is it that Twix bars don't have the same nutritional needs as kale or tuna?  It's 2012, someone needs to figure out how to make vegetables taste like chocolate.  But until that day comes, I'm now ready to allow this chocolate bar back into my life.  On occasion.  And today is that occasion.  Tomorrow it's over.

....Oh and in case you are wondering.  No, I'm not pregnant.  Our family is perfectly complete.  1 husband, 2 kids, 1 dog.  I'm just a girl who has found her way back to her favourite chocolate bar.

Homemade Twix Bars


Shortbread Layer
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Caramel Layer
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp golden corn syrup
2 - 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate Layer
2 cups dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp shortening


Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla extract.  Add in flour and salt and continue to beat until dough comes together.  Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until pale golden in colour.   Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly.  Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture turns an amber color and thickens slightly.  Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set.  

Combine three-quarters of the chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Don't let the water touch the bowl.)  Melt the chocolate and bring it to 100 degrees, stirring, then place the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water; stir in the remaining chocolate until melted (the temperature should drop to about 82 degrees.)  Place the bowl back over the simmering water.  Bring back up to 88 degrees.

Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.  Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.

slightly adapted from Annie Eats

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Teriyaki Salmon Steaks w/ Mango-Pinepple Salsa

Summer grilling on a Saturday night.  I can't be alone in thinking this is a fabulous way to spend the weekend.  Throw in the fact we are having fresh salmon, juicy pineapples and mangoes, oh and a glass of vino.  This is my perfect family night.  Healthy, delicious and spring/summer appropriate.

A fresh fruit salsa is one of my favourite accompaniments to grilled fish and chicken.  It is also the one thing that I always have to double because I'm constantly eating the cut up fruit as I go.  (For quality control purposes of course)  It goes something like this..."one mango for me, one mango for the bowl, one pineapple for me, one pineapple for the bowl"  Luckily I didn't eat all of it, so now our teriyaki grilled salmon steaks have the perfect finishing touch.

Happy Saturday Night!

Teriyaki Salmon Steaks w/ Mango-Pineapple Salsa

4 - (6-8oz) salmon steaks
1 cup teriyaki sauce, divided (homemade or store bought)

Mango-Pineapple Salsa
1 cup fresh mango, diced
1 cup pineapple, diced
2 Tbsp red onion, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 lime juiced

In large resealable bag place salmon steaks and 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce.  Seal and refrigerate for 3 hours to marinate, turning occasionally.
To Make Salsa:  Combine all of the ingredients above and stir until well mixed.  Allow to sit for 1 hour to let flavours combine.
Preheat BBQ to  high heat and lightly oil the grate.  Secure the thin ends of the salmon steaks with cocktail sticks.
Place fish on grill and grill for 5-7 minutes per side depending on thickness.  Baste occasionally with remaining marinade. Transfer to individual plates and top with 1/2 cup salsa.   Serve.

Serves 4

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Orange Rhubarb Yogurt Loaf w/ Orange Glaze

After making my Rhubarb Oatmeal Crumb Bars earlier this week, I've come to realize that I now have a new food obsession to add into my rotation.  Rhubarb.  I have a few extra stalks leftover from the 'care package' courtesy of my parents.  This is what I refer to as avoiding the 'mid-week slump.'  Extra rhubarb?  Yes please!

We try and make the most of all the groceries we buy (or receive for free), trying to waste as little as possible.  This is especially easy when it comes to food I really, really like.  I put my thinking cap on today, and looked for a way to incorporate rhubarb into my life, for the second time in a week couple days.  I'll be honest, I really wanted to make a pie or a tart, or both.  But I think that would just spell trouble.  T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  Problem being, it's mid-week and I stay home all day, which means that yummy, delicious, pie/tart/combo would constantly be trying to woo and tempt me into eating it.  I can't have that.  So instead, I'm baking a yogurt loaf with hints of orange and pecans.  More figure friendly than let's say, flaky, buttery, pie crust.  Not as fun, but still delicious and at least I get my 'rhubarb fix.'

...and rhubarb season continues...

Orange Rhubarb Yogurt Loaf w/ Orange Glaze

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 tsp pure orange extract (or 1 Tbsp orange zest)

1 cup fresh rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp pure orange extract (or 1 tsp orange zest)


Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter 9-by-5 inch loaf pan.
Mix first five ingredients in large bowl. Add in pecans and rhubarb. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, applesauce, yogurt and orange extract.  Mix to combine. Fold into the dry mixture until just combined.
Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Cool 30 minutes in pan on a rack, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
To make glaze:  whisk all the ingredients together. Pour onto cooled bread. Allow to set for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy.

adapted from my carrot bread w/ hazelnuts, coconut & cream cheese glaze

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Rhubarb Oatmeal Crumb Bars

image courtesy: Victoria Public Market

Fact: The only thing better then fresh rhubarb, is fresh rhubarb from my parents garden.
I love (and am envious) that they grow their own fruits and vegetables year after year, without fail. I love it even more when they send me home with 'care packages.'  Fresh & free.  Perfect.

Every spring I tell myself, that this is the year I'm going to plant my own garden.  Every year summer rolls around and there is still no garden to be found.  I think I need a 'garden fairy' to swing by and plant one for me.  Either that, or mom and dad could do it....hint, hint.
At least between the farmers markets' and my parents, I've got the fresh produce market cornered.  There is no shortage to be found in our house.  Phew.  Good news for the vegetable and fruit lover in me.

Okay, back to the rhubarb. 
My parents made a delicious Rhubarb Crisp on the weekend.  Tart & sweet, it was everything I wanted in one delicious spoonful.  Guest post?  I think so.  The question is can I convince my dad to blog?  If I was in Vegas I'd bet it all and put it on 'no.'  Maybe he'll share the recipe though, blogging optional.
In the meantime, I need to figure out what to do with the bag of rhubarb they sent me home with.  Jam?  Muffins?  Tart?  Pie?  How about a portable 'crisp' aka, rhubarb crumb bars.  Winner.

Happy Rhubarb Season!

Rhubarb Oatmeal Crumb Bars

Crumb Mixture
1 1/2 cups Quaker quick oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup

2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced 1/2" thick
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
To prepare crumb mixture:  Whisk together oats, flours, and brown sugar in large bowl.
In small bowl combine melted butter and maple syrup. Pour over oat mixture, and stir till thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

To prepare filling:  Combine sugar and flour.  Mix well.  Add egg and vanilla, and beat until smooth.
Pour 2/3 of crumb mixture into prepared baking pan. Top with rhubarb.  Pour filling mixture over top evenly distributed.  Finally top with remaining 1/3 crumb mixture.
Bake for 40-50 minutes. Turning once half way.
Allow bars to cool for 3 hours. Cut into 16 bars.

crumb recipe adapted from my strawberry-pecan granola bars  &
filling recipe adapted from

Monday, 21 May 2012

Lemons + Blueberries = (Birthday) Cake

As I prepare to bid adieu to another long weekend, (insert tears of sadness here) I plan on doing so with cake. After all, drowning my sorrows in sugar is how I cope with events like these.
This weekend was a great one.  Two soccer games, a trip to the mountains with friends, capped off by a big family gathering with our east coast relatives.  It has been nothing less than fun-filled and action packed.

My Aunt L and my cousins K & C (plus their respective guys) arrived in town yesterday from Nova Scotia.  So tonight we gathered up the whole family, had an informal dinner to meet C's finance, and enjoyed some birthday cake in the process to celebrate K.  Family gatherings of this size are rare for us.  So anytime we can get 15+ people in the same place, I'm game.  Of course, the next time all of us will be together will be @ C's wedding in October.  It will also mark the first time in almost two decades that I've been back to visit eastern Canada.  Can't wait!

In the meantime, we have a birthday to celebrate.  Of course cake is needed.  And the cake of choice?  Lemon w/ Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting.  Wait a minute, is this K's birthday or mine?  We seem to both share an adoration for all things lemons and blueberries.  She's a girl after my own heart...
Happiest of Birthdays, so glad I could celebrate along side you.  Hugs.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese (reduced fat), room temperature
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 - 6 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla

In food processor pulse blueberries.  Remove and set aside.
Beat cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment until smooth; scrape down sides of bowl. Add butter; mix, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually mix in confectioners' sugar; add vanilla and pureed blueberries. Mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Use immediately.
Yields approximately 3 1/2 - 4 cups.

adapted from Martha Stewart

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

My Oat(meal) Obsession

It's no secret I could keep Quaker Oats in business by myself.  I should own stock in this company.  I love oats.  I love them rolled or steel cut, in cookies or smoothies, but mostly in the form of a piping hot bowl of oatmeal.  I figure it's time to recap my favourite breakfast obsession. 
If you are as crazy/mad-in-love with oatmeal as me, then this is sure to make your stomach growl and hunger pains set in...

Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake Oatmeal

Banana Nut Steel Cut Oatmeal

Zucchini Bread Oats

Baked Berry Oatmeal

Almond Butter, Banana & Oatmeal Smoothie

Steel Cut Oats 

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Sweet Potato Oatmeal

PB&J Oatmeal

Cheesy-Eggie Oatmeal

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Eggnog Oatmeal

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Waldorf Potato Salad

With me in the kitchen you are guaranteed two things:

1. A Mess
2. A Bigger Mess

What can I say.  Without fail, everytime I cook/bake/prepare something, the kitchen ends up looking as though a fighter jet flew through it.  It doesn't matter if it's a PB&J sandwich, or a seven course meal.  The results are the same.  Disaster.  I really need to work on this, but I figure I need to have at least one fault, right?
(Disclaimer:  My husband wants me to know that being messy isn't my only fault, there are many more that I'm overlooking.  Of course I disagree)

Despite the impending mess, I love being in the kitchen.  I equate it to the excitement a school girl has towards her first crush, or me towards Justin Bieber (don't judge).  I love the endless possibilities of meals, trying out ingredients that are foreign to me, and most of all sharing food with the people that matter most in my life.
This past weekend was Mother's Day, and like any good daughter I left the menu request up to my mom. Without hesitation she said "Potato Salad!" (see where I get my love of carbs from...)  Done.  With a twist of course. Introducing...Waldorf Potato Salad.  Grapes, apples and walnuts make this classic side dish a little sweeter.

Waldorf Potato Salad

3 lbs baby red & yellow potatoes, cooked, cooled and halved
2 Gala apples, chopped
2 cups red grapes, halved
1 cup celery, chopped
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayo
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley

In large serving bowl combine the first five ingredients.  Set aside.
In small bowl mix yogurt, mayo, sugar, parsley, and pepper.  Toss with the potato mixture using as much or as little as desired.

Serves: 6-8

Monday, 14 May 2012

Watermelon-Mint Smoothie

I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that it's May/springtime in YYC.  The sun is now my regular alarm clock, as are the birds, who without fail ensure I'm awake @ 6am.  Best part though, I've resumed running outside.  Awesome!  My treadmill in the dungeon basement is getting a much deserved break as I become reacquainted with nature.
Of course the warmer weather also means smoothies are back on the menu full-time. Whoop, whoop!  Time to break out some new flavour combinations.
Hello, watermelon and mint!  You and I are going to be really good friends, summer besties in fact!

Watermelon Mint Smoothie

2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped & packed
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular)
2 tsp flax meal

Combine all ingredients except ice in a blender.  Process for 1 minute, or until smooth.  Add ice process further.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Pass Me An Ear

When I think BBQ, three essentials come to mind...

1. Burgers
2. Potato Salad
3. Corn on the Cobb

Okay maybe four....Good Company
Okay maybe five...Extra Propane
Okay maybe six...Cold Beverages

Corn on the Cobb is a summer staple @ our house, a favourite amongst all.  With the influx of corn that we purchase/eat/love during the warmer months, there is also an influx in the amount of dental floss we are forced to buy.  Lucky for us we get both of these from Costco, consider us stocked up.
Of course the link between corn and floss, is directly attributed to those little kernels that always manage to get stuck in my teeth as I'm gnawing away.  Not too worry I'll get over it.  Some feta butter melting all over an ear of fresh grilled corn, is bound to make me forget, at least for the time being.  Pass me another ear,  it's officially corn grilling season.

Grilled Corn on the Cobb w/ Greek Feta Butter

1/3 cup Kraft Greek feta cheese, crumbled
3 Tbsp butter, softened
6-8 ears of sweet corn, shucked

In small bowl combine feta cheese and butter.  Mix well.
Boil or grill corn until tender.  Serve w/ feta butter.

Serves: 6-8
Note:  You could use plain feta cheese, but you'll want to add some fresh oregano or thyme and salt & pepper for added flavour.

A Letter To My Mom

Dear Mom,

1 day.
24 hours.
1440 minutes.
86400 seconds.

Surely I need more time than this to fully celebrate you.
For the last 29 years, you've put my needs/wants/ambitions ahead of your own.  You made my health and happiness your primary concern and never once questioned any sacrifices you would have to make along the way.  So today, as we celebrate and recognize moms everywhere, I want you to know that I appreciate you.  Truly appreciate you.  I can only hope to aspire to be as good of mom to L & R as you have been to me.  You've taught me to be proud of who I am and where I come from.  To walk this earth with grace and confidence.  That hard work and dedication pay off.  And, to live life to the fullest.  You are a beautiful person inside and out, and I love you.  Happy Mother's Day.


Let celebrating mom officially begin.  Family BBQ style.  Propane tank is full, chefs apron is pressed (okay not pressed, but free from last years bbq sauce stains), and the deck is officially summer-fied.

Mother's Day 2012 Menu

Chicken Burgers
Waldorf Potato Salad
Corn on the Cobb w/ Feta & Herb Butter
Grilled Watermelon Salad
Grilled Pineapple


Friday, 11 May 2012

Cinnamon-Sugared Peas?

What is it about cinnamon & sugar that is just so darn tasty?  Cinnamon toast, doughnuts, scones...the list goes on and on.  So for fun, let's add another to it.   A healthier one...cinnamon & sugar roasted chickpeas.
These make the perfect snack for movie night, or say a random Friday afternoon. 

Cinnamon-Sugar Roasted Chickpeas

1 - 19oz chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400. 
Toss chickpeas in oil and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.  Transfer to baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes, until crispy.  Tossing every 10 minutes, so as not to burn them.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Springtime in YYC

photo courtesy: Ontario Farm Fresh

Asparagus means spring has sprung, so to speak.  Spring also means I'm going to once again resume my favourite past time, perusing all the local farmers markets.  In all honesty, I could spend the better half of any Sunday (or pretty much any day) looking at fresh baked breads and picking up as many fruits and vegetables that I'm able to haul out on my own.  My dream day, indeed.

So because we are in the thick of asparagus season, I'm in need of multiple ways prepare it.  I've already fire-grilled it, roasted it with balsamic and almonds, and served it with a poached egg.  
Looks like it's time to break out the 'big guns.'  Garlic and bread.  It just so happens that these are two of my favourite things, also something that I always have in my pantry.  So it goes with out saying, that paired alongside some fresh asparagus, this side dish is bound to disappear in record time.  Garlicky goodness.

I love springtime in YYC!

Garlic Roasted Asparagus w/ Panko Bread Crumbs

2 lbs asparagus
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.
Bend asparagus gently until it breaks at a natural point, discard ends.
Place prepared asparagus in large baking dish,and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. 
In small bowl combine the breadcrumbs with remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Sprinkle evenly over top of stalks.
Bake for 15-20 (depending on thickness of stalks) minutes, until tender crisp and breadcrumbs turn golden brown.
Remove from oven.  Sprinkle with Parmesan if desired.  Serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Little Sugar, A Little Cinnamon, A Little Happy

I made these.....
Cinnamon-y, sugar-y, donut-y, deliciousness.

If you aren't from YYC, then you might not be familiar with "Those Mini Donuts."  Let me shed some light.  These are with out question, the driving factor, that makes me return year after year, to a midway packed with games, rides, and more deep fried food choices then you can count.  AKA, the Calgary Stampede.  You can actually watch these mini carb wonders make there way on an oil filled conveyor belt, destined for there cinnamon-sugar glory.  Yum.
So because we are still 2 months away from "the greatest outdoor show on earth,"  I've decided that this homemade version should tie me over until then.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to wipe the sugar and cinnamon remnants from my face, and go dust off the old cowboy boots.  I'm officially ready for the Stampede.  Yahoo!

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
4 tsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325F. Coat doughnut pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In small bowl whisk together buttermilk, sugar, butter, egg and vanilla until smooth. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; whisk until blended and smooth.
Spoon batter into large resealable plastic bag. Cut off corner and squeeze batter into prepared indents, about 2/3 full. Smooth tops. Bake for 13 minutes, until doughnuts spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in pan on rack for 3 minutes, then carefully turn out on rack.

To make cinnamon sugar mixture:  Blend cinnamon and sugar in bowl. 

Using a  pastry brush, gently brush each side of doughnut with melted butter, then press each side into cinnamon-sugar mixture.  

Serve warm.
Yields 6 doughnuts

adapted from my baked chocolate doughnuts

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake Oatmeal

Cheesecake for Breakfast.

Okay, so this really isn't cheesecake.  I tricked you.  Mean, I know.  But come on , I can't have a real piece of cheesecake for breakfast on a random Tuesday morning.  Can I?   Well maybe if it was my birthday, or Mother's Day (which is only a few days away...) or Sunday Funday....
Anyways, I've opted for the next best thing.  Oatmeal.  Aka, my breakfast staple.
I wanted to have fun with breakfast today.  So I broke out the container of cottage cheese and gave my regular bowl of oats a much needed protein boost.  Mixed with a little brown sugar, some graham cracker crumbs and sliced strawberries.  There you have it, cheesecake inspired oatmeal.

Happy Tuesday! 

Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake Oatmeal

1/2 cup Quaker quick oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup 1% cottage cheese
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced

In saucepan, heat almond milk till it reaches a boil. Add cinnamon and oats. Reduce heat and cook stirring constantly for 5-7 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in cottage cheese, brown sugar and strawberries (reserve a few for the top.)  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.  Pour into bowl, top with graham cracker crumbs and remaining sliced berries. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Welcome To Margaritaville | A Recipe Roundup.

I think Jimmy Buffet said it best with....

"Wastin' away again in Margaritaville
Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt..."

Happy Cinco de Mayo Friends!

These drinks below are sure to help with your festive celebrations, especially since in YYC we currently have a rain/sleet/-2 degree mix happening.  Hardly beach weather. 
Remedy = Jimmy Buffet music + Tequila.

Cherry Beer Margaritas

Strawberry-Basil Margaritas

Pink Grapefruit Margaritas

Frozen Peach Margaritas


Blackberry Thyme Margaritas


Cranberry Margaritas

Coconut Margaritas

Watermelon Margaritas

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