Saturday, 29 December 2012

Banana-Oat & Honey Mini Muffins

For Christmas this year I got what every home cook/baker hopes for, professional tools.  New pots, frying pans and baking sheets, every kind imaginable.  From tart pans, to mini muffin tins and even a bundt pan (what's a bundt pan?)  Oh the baking that will no doubt commence, at least I don't need to start any NY resolutions for a couple more days...

I decided that a Saturday morning baking party was a perfect excuse to try out my mini muffin tin, and I even had two special helpers along for the ride.  Outfitted in their cute little aprons (courtesy of my crafty grandma) and their new 'kid-sized' oven mitts (courtesy my fun loving aunt, who always manages to find the coolest gifts ever) we set out on baking healthy banana muffins.

Muffins were a success.  What wasn't a success, was clumsy me spilling an entire bag of oats all over the floor.  Looks like the baking party may have just turned into a cleaning party....oh well at least we have muffins to show for it.


Banana-Oat & Honey Mini Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Quaker quick oats
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3/4 unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 large bananas, mashed

chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.
In large sized bowl, combine mashed bananas, butter, sugar, honey, egg, milk and vanilla.
In separate bowl whisk together flour, oats, walnuts (if using,) baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to wet ingredients and mix until just moistened.
Lightly grease mini muffin tins and fill with batter.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Yields: 36 mini muffins

Friday, 28 December 2012

Another Year.

Happy (almost) New Year!

How is it that there are only a few days remaining in 2012.  (Insert tear here)  Is anyone else sad to see the year come to a close? 

With a new year comes new resolutions, or in my case, revisiting a failed attempt at last years.  The dreaded home organization attempt.  I started off strong (like most people with their resolutions) but slowly declined from there.  This year is going to be different.  Fingers crossed.  Wish me luck, feel free to send me tips, or an organizing guru to come to my house and do it for me.

Health & Happiness to you all in 2013.  Love, JS.

Here is a smattering of some of my favourite recipes (some healthy, some not) over the last 12 months.  It's undeniable that 2012 was a most delicious year in our household.

Watermelon-Mint Smoothie

Oven Toasted Ravioli

Grilled Bread & Tomato Salad

Wild Rice w/ Apricots & Almonds

Double Strawberry & Goat Cheese Sandwich

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Roasted Red Pepper & Asparagus Lasagna

Whole Wheat, Banana & Blueberry Pancakes

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

Homemade Twix Bars

Baked Avocado Fries

Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake Oatmeal

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Healthy Appetizer on a Stick

Oil & balsamic goodness.
Hello Caprese Bites, so lovely to see you again.

These cute little guys made an appearance at our annual Christmas Eve party.  They are one of my go-to favourites because of their beautiful simplicity.  Also, it doesn't hurt that they just so happen to showcase the colours of the season.

Portable, healthy and oh so colourful with their vibrant hues, I'm in love with this trifecta (and you should be too!)

Love, JS

Caprese Bites

grape tomatoes
mini bocconcini
fresh basil leaves
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt & pepper

toothpicks to make skewers

In small bowl combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar, using a 2:1 ratio, season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
To assemble, thread tomato onto toothpick followed by bocconcini and a small piece of basil.

Drizzle with olive oil mixture using as much or as little as you'd like.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Morning Breakfast | Eggnog Pancakes

Christmas morning you can be guaranteed of 3 things in our household.

1. Presents
2. Pancakes
3. Baileys & Coffee

I absolutely love Christmas morning.  I'm always without fail, the first person up.  I might be 30 years old, but try telling that to the 7 year old girl inside me.  The girl who still races downstairs in anticipation of PRESENTS,  I'm pretty much Peter Pan, I never want to grow up.
The only thing I enjoy more than unwrapping my own gifts, is watching my kids dive into theirs.  The excitement and pure joy on their faces brings back fond memories of my own childhood.  Oh to be a kid again...

It goes without saying, opening presents works up quite the appetite.  Good thing I know my way around the kitchen and can pretty much whip up a batch of pancakes with my eyes closed.  This morning I decided to use up some of our leftover eggnog, for an extra special and festive breakfast.

Merry Christmas.

Eggnog Pancakes

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup eggnog
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

maple syrup for serving

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together, eggnog, milk, and eggs.  Add to dry ingredients until just moistened.
Spoon batter using 1/4 cup portions onto lightly oiled griddle or pan.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbles form on the top and underside is golden.  Flip and cook for 1 minute.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Yields 7-8 pancakes

Monday, 24 December 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Guess who's coming tonight?

Hint:  Red. Jolly. Reindeer. Sleigh. PRESENTS.

That's right, Santa himself is scheduled to stop by.  And how else do you repay the man that's bringing gifts for you and your family?

Milk and cookies of course.

This year I couldn't make up my mind on which cookie to make, so I let my kids decide for me.  Turns out in doing so, meant that I was going to make two different kinds of cookies since they couldn't agree.

L's choice was the classic chocolate chip.  I think this has to be the #1 flavour favourite among little kids everywhere.  From crispy to chewy to cakey, you have countless options when trying to satisfy your chocolate craving.  I came across this recipe for soft chocolate chip cookies from Anna Olsen, which brings out an unusual (well to me anyway) ingredient: cornstarch.  I've never thought to put cornstarch in cookies before, but in doing so, I've managed to create a moist and soft cookie, perfect for Santa, or me, or the kids...

Milk chillin', cookies cooling, we're ready for you Santa.

Merry Christmas!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup gruanulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F
In large bowl combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside
Cream together butter and sugars until smooth.  Add egg and vanilla and blend in.  Add in flour mixture and stir till combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Roll into balls and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.
Remove from oven and let cool for 4 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to baking rack to cool completely.

Yields: 2 dozen

slightly adapted from Anna Olsen

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Milk & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

This year Santa gets two kinds of cookies.  You might be thinking that I'm trying to bribe my way to more presents, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong....but, the real reason for the two cookies is completely kid-driven.  The little people in our house love cookies, but they can't agree on their favourites.  This doesn't come as a surprise, since they're siblings and are just paving the way for future disagreements I'm sure.  However, the one thing in common with these cookies aside from the tastiness factor, is that they are true classics.

Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter.

My little girl loves PB so it comes as no surprise to me that she chose that cookie to make for Santa.  I call her a PB fanatic, from sandwiches to cookies, this girl gets her daily dose of the stuff.  She's in love, in love at the age of 3, and adamant that Santa share in her PB excitement.

Growing up I remember  peanut butter cookies being on the crunchy side, still tasty, but crunchy.  However, as I've stated (numerous times now I'm sure) I like a soft and chewy cookie.  And let's be honest, if someone has to help Santa eat the cookies it may as well be one that I'm going to enjoy each and every bite of.

Pass the milk.  Cheers!

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and peanut butter together until fluffy.  Add in sugars and beat until smooth.  Add in egg, milk,  and vanilla, mix well.  Add flour mixture and beat thoroughly. 
Place sprinkling sugar on a small plate.  Roll dough into balls and then into sugar.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they aren't.
Cool the cookies on the sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yields 4 dozen
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Champagne Shrimp & Angel Hair Pasta

We regularly eat shrimp in our house; whether it's straight up with cocktail sauce, mixed with pesto and gnocchi, or served over creamy grits, it's one our quick go to's year round.  Not only protein packed, shrimp also has a healthy dose of B vitamins, iron and omega-3s while being low in calories.  That alone should counteract all of the cookies and indulgent treats you are bound to consume in the next 2 weeks.  Right?  Okay so maybe not.

I'm always on the lookout of new and different ways to eat this little crustacean, so when I was contacted by The Shrimp Council (yes, there is a shrimp council) to feature the health benefits and a delicious recipe, I couldn't pass it up, and neither should you.

Now I'm off to stock up on more shrimp...maybe Santa would prefer this to cookies.  Or maybe he'd like both, afterall he's got a busy night ahead of him.

Champagne Shrimp & Angel Hair Pasta

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 oz angel hair pasta
2 cups champagne
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 plum tomato, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp shallots, minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Cook pasta as directed; drain and coat with a tablespoon of olive oil
Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Cook the mushrooms until tender, remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
Combine the shrimp, champagne, and salt in the pan, and cook over high heat.  When the liquid starts to boil, removed the shrimp (careful not to overcook them) and add in the shallots and tomatoes.  Boil for 8 minutes; until reduced to about a half a cup.  Stir in 1/4 cup of heavy cream and half-and-half, boil for an additional 2 minutes.  Add back the shrimp and mushrooms to the sauce, heating thru.  Season to taste with pepper.  Toss the hot cooked pasta with the remaining 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and the freshly chopped parsley.  Spoon the shrimp sauce over pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.  Serve.

Serves 3-4

Recipe barely adapted from The Shrimp Council
Image courtesy of The Shrimp Council

Friday, 14 December 2012

Gingerbread & White Chocolate

There are three flavours that should be present (pun completely intended) around this time of year.  Egg Nog, Peppermint and Gingerbread.  Probably not all in the same sitting, but hey maybe that would work....
I'm not sure what it is, but every December I have to have a little fix of each to truly feel Christmas-y.  So far I've got the gingerbread and peppermint down, only thing left is the Nog.

When I think of Gingerbread cookies, my mind immediately goes to decorating houses and men.  Those hard crunchy cookies are always fun to adorn with candies and chocolate, but I prefer eating cookies that are soft and chewy.  Mmm, I get goosebumps just thinking about them.  So today's cookie is just that, a delicious soft cookie with a couple of white chocolate chips for good measure.

With Christmas less than 2 weeks away, this morning marks our last "official" Mom's group until the new year.  So the Mrs. Claus in me, baked up some cookies to share at our morning get together.  What better way to round out a year, than with a good 'ol fashion cookie party with my girls and our little ones.  I think we can all agree that great friendships were forged in 2012 and I'm so excited to see you girls again in 2013 (or next week)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

White Chocolate & Ginger Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 - 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl.  Set aside.  Beat butter, brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the the bowl of stand mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add molasses, egg and vanilla; mix well.  Gradually add in flour and beat on low speed until well mixed.  Press dough into a thick flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll in remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar to coat.  Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 7-9 minutes or until edges of cookies just begin to brown.  Immediately press in 3-4 white chocolate chips into the centre of each cookie.  Remove to wire racks; cool completely.
Store cookies in airtight container for up to 5 days.

Yields: 5 dozen
recipe adapted from

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Sweet Treats for the Man in Red

It's crunch time, we are now less than two weeks away from hosting the big, jolly man in red, has panic set in yet?  Also, where did this last year go?  I'm pretty sure it was September only a few weeks back.  Ack!

I can't speak for everyone, but, I know my name is under the nice column on Santa's list.  So I'm expecting big things; big, sparkly, wonderful things (okay, maybe that's wishful thinking, but a girl can dream.)  For those of you on the naughty side, my advice, bribe Santa with some yummy treats.  Presents for you, and sweets for him (and you, it's Christmas after all)

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