Saturday, December 31, 2011

Quinoa with black beans and mushrooms

It's almost a new year so that means new resolutions about eating healthier and exercising more. I can't help you with the exercise part but here's an easy recipe featuring quinoa and beans which will increase your fibre intake and if you use it as an entree you can skip a red meat serving!

3/4 c quinoa
1 can black beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup corn kernels
4 cloves garlic, chopped small
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 c water
1/2 c white wine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
2 tsp oil
2 tsp butter

What to do
1. In a large pot, add oil and butter to sauté onions and mushrooms over medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic, ginger,cumin,chipotle and salt and pepper. Sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add quinoa, water and wine.
4. Bring to boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Add beans and corn and heat for additional 5 minutes.
7. Serve.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

How was your Christmas? Merry, I hope!

I know many of us will have a tonne of leftovers. For me, the best part of Christmas leftovers are turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pie! Here is an easy recipe for pot pie. I like a thick and hearty filling so I use leftover gravy and pretty much any other leftover veggies. The crust uses frozen butter to create the flakiest crust that you will ever taste.

2-1/2 c flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup frozen butter
12 tbsp ice cold water

2 c turkey, chopped
1/2 c carmelized onions
1 c cooked yams, diced
1/2 c carrots
1/2 c peas
any other veggies you have left from dinner could also be added
1-1/2 c gravy

What to do

  • In a large bowl, stir or whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.
  • Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour bowl. (this is not fun, but well worth it)
  • Toss the butter and flour mixture together.
  • Add the ice water by the tbsp so evenly spread over butter-flour mixture.
  • Using your hands (take off your rings!), mix and knead the mixture until it comes together in a smooth ball.
  • Divide the dough in two, wrap each in plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate at least an hour, perferably overnight.


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, gebtly mix all of your left overs together. Season as required.
  • Take dough out of fridge and let warm up slightly so you can more easily work with it (15 minutes).
  • Flour your working surface and your rolling pin.
  • Roll out the first wrapped dough so it fits into the bottom of the 9 inch glass or ceramic pie plate.
  • Add the turkey mixture.
  • Roll out the second half of the dough and place on top of pie.
  • Tightly crimp the edges of the two layers of dough together so they form a tight seal.
  • Slice four vent holes in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.
  • Bake for 60 minutes.
  • If you find the crust browning too much wrap edges in foil.
  • Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: Any leftovers should be reheated in the oven as microwaving it will make the crust soggy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thumb Print Cookie Recipe

Thumbprint cookies are so simple and easy to make. They are also the perfect recipe when the kids want to help in the kitchen. Their little thumbs are the perfect size for making the needed jam holder!

Makes about 20 delicious cookies.

1-1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs yolks
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups  flour
3/4 cup jam (any flavor)

What to do
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
  • In a large mixing  bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  • Beat in egg yolks, vanilla and salt.
  • In another bowl whisk flour and salt. 
  • Gently combine flour and salt into creamed ingredient bowl.
  • Form dough into 1-inch diameter balls.
  • Place 2 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.
  • Press down center of each with your thumb or back of spoon.
  • Fill centers with about 1 teaspoon of your jam.
  • Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.
  • Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reindeer Kit Kat and M&M Cake

I saw this cake on Pinterest last year and put it in my mental recipe box for this Christmas.  I didn't save the recipe but, to be honest, you don't need one. It's all about the decorating! I have had a tonne of compliments on this cake but anyone can do it. I used a 2 layer, 10 inch round chocolate cake that I made from scratch but you can use a cake mix, a smaller diameter cake, or any flavour you desire. Again, I used homemade chocolate frosting but store bought would save time (and let's face it, who isn't time crunched this month???)

It took about 8 kit kats to cover the outside of the cake (you'll have to break the bars into "2s" to easily shape to the outside of the cake). I used about 3 cups of mint M&Ms to top the cake. I found the "pooping" reindeer at a local grocery store and I am not sure if itis available outside of Canada??? But any cute toy or bigger chocolate would work (I also bought a 4 or 5 inch chocolate bear from Lindt that will be gracing the top of my next kit kat cake.) I tied it with cute ribbon and voila a super festive cake was completed!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reindeer Cake Pops

1 9-inch round or square cake, I used chocolate
3/4 c icing, I used store bought vanilla
24, 6-inch lollipop sticks
1 package chocolate melting candy
30 or more pretzels, I used chocolate covered ones
red smarties
edible ink pen
small candies for eyes
Styrofoam to stick pops into so they stand up

I'd be totally lying if I said these were easy! They are not. The crumbling of the cake and forming the little balls of cake mush is easy and the melting of the candy coating isn't too hard either. Coating the deer heads takes a little finesse and a few practice runs. BUT those damn antlers put me on Santa's naughty list for sure -thanks to the expletives that came out of my mouth while trying to find a way to easily attach them to the heads!! Hopefully, Santa will forgive me!

(The Christmas tree cake pops that I made last year were waaaaay easier to make so I recommend that recipe if you are nervous or a cake pop virgin.)
These are adapted from Bakerella's beautiful reindeer cake pops.
What to do
1. Crumble cake by hand into a sand like consistency (if you have a few hard end pieces that don't want to crumble, eat them - or use a food processor).
2. For me the key to cake pops is adding the right amount of icing - too much and you end up with a sickly, sweet ball of mush. But add the right amount and they will be loved by kids and adults! I start with 1/2 cup of icing and mix it in with a silicone spatula. Often I will end up adding another 1/4 cup of icing so that the mixture is just "wet" enough to just stick together when formed into a ball.
3. Using a 1 inch cookie scooper, I form the cake mixture into 20-24 balls (I also use kitchen latex gloves so it isn't so messy) and place them on a cookie sheet.
4. Refrigerate the balls for at least 20 minutes but preferably an hour so that they harden up a bit.
5. Melt candy coating according to directions. (gotta be honest and say that I melt them over very low direct heat.)
6. Add 2 tbsp of vegtable shortening - this will thin the candy coating a little. If it is still too thick add a bit more shortening.

7. Get your lollipop sticks out. Take one stick and dip one end in the candy coating (1cm or 1/2 inch) and then poke it into the cake ball. Push it in so it is at least 3/4 of the way into the ball. Place back on cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls.

8. Place all of the balls back in fridge for 15 minutes.

9. Get a piece of styrofoam ready.

10.Remove from fridge and, one-at-a-time, dip the cake pops into the candy coating. Make sure the whole ball is covered. Gently tap off any extra coating.

11. Place the coated cake pop into the styrofoam so it stands up and can dry. Repeat with all of the remaining balls.

12. The candy should dry rather quickly or you can place them back in the fridge until you are ready to finish them.

13. Here is where you will learn from my frustration. To affix the antlers, cut pretzels in half (or not - I did both ways - half and full). Now, using some melted candy coating, place some of it on a spoon or in a little bowl. You want it to start to firm up a little - this way it will dry rather quickly and you won't be stuck holding the antlers on those cute little heads for an eternity while it dries. I tried sticking the antlers through the chocolate with limited success - sometimes the pressure cracks the coating. So, once the coating starts to firm up, dip the end of an antler into the coating and using it as "glue" stick it to the cake ball head.

14. For the eyes, I used some small white round sprinkles I had on hand. To add the pupil I used a black colored edible ink pen.

15. The nose is a red smartie. Both are added using a little bit of candy coating glue, just like the antlers.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge - Filopino Desserts - Sans Rival

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog. (I didn't do this bonus recipe but it looks great.)

This Filipino dessert is amazing and is a decadent dessert ...definitely something I will be making on special occasions. It's a very rich combination of dacquoise and buttercream that is relatively simple to make. Simple as it may be to create, it will also impress your guests with its beautiful layers. In my version there were four layers of chocolate dacquoise separated by three layers of raspberry buttercream. I enrobed all of these layers in a coffee buttercream and added some fresh raspberries for extra visual appeal.

If you decide to make your own Sans Rival I recommend picking a buttercream recipe that is not to sweet. I used neoclassical buttercream created by Rose Levy Beranbaum...the plus to this recipe is that it doesn't require a candy thermometer!
You can check out the recipe here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Maple Oat Scones with Ginger

These scones are simply amazing! Even more amazing is the aroma of these delicious treats during and after baking. I bet you could sell tickets to people to just come and take a deep breath in your kitchen. The scones have a slight crunch when you bite into them but they are soft and delicate inside. The maple flavor is subtle and the bits of ginger perfectly complement the nutty oat flavour and texture.

  • This makes a BIG bowl of dough - a small bowl will not do for mixing.
  • The first batched I baked was put into the oven right after the dough was mixed and cut. The second batch I put in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. The first batch came out about an inch or so thick but the 2nd colder batch came out at least double that size. Both tasted delicious and baked for about the same time.
  • I find powdered sugar can have a bit of a strange taste so I add a squeeze of lemon to brighten it up.
  • Makes approx 22ish scones.

Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten.

3-1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 c oats, quick cooking
2 c butter, cold and diced
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c crystallized ginger
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
5 large eggs
1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 c buttermilk

1-1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
squeeze of lemon

Sanding sugar and extra oats (optional)

What to do
1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt.

3. Mix in the cold butter in at the lowest speed and combine until the butter is mixed in and the size of peas.

4. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended or your scones will be tough. The dough will and should be sticky.

5. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands and knead 4 times (again to avoid toughness). Using a floured rolling pin flatten the dough to 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Pieces of butter will be visiblem (mmm butter). Cut into 3-inch rounds with a circular cookie cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and bottoms are golden.

7. To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. When the scones are removed from the oven, cool for about 5 minutes and drizzle each scone with some of the glaze (I put it in a squeeze bottle so I have more control over it).

8. Sprinkle tops of scones with some raw oats and sanding sugar if desired.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cherries

I love cranberry sauce. I have a confession though....until adulthood I didn't know it could be made from scratch...I thought the canned jelly variety was the ONLY variety! Now I make my own because it is soooo simple to whip up a batch and it tastes soooo much better than the canned sauce. In this version, I add dried cherries for extra zing but you can leave them out if you don't have them on hand. If you don't want to use alcohol, substitute orange juice for the cointreau.

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1 c water
1/2 c dried cherries
1/4 c cointreau
1 c brown sugar

What to do
  • In medium sized pot, combine all ingredients over medium heat.
  • Bring to simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let sit for an hour.
  • Remove cinnamon stick.
  • If desired, mash with potatoe masher or use an immersion blender to puree slightly.
  • Refrigerate over night.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sugar & Spice Cookies

These are one of my favorite Christmas cookies. In fact, I like them so much I couldn't wait for Christmas! These skeleton cookies are made with a Wilton cookie cutter and premade icing for super easy cookie making. My advice is to follow the pictures and let each colour set for 10 minutes or so before adding another colour.

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 teaspooon nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

What to do
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In large bowl, beat butter and sugars together until smooth about 3 minutes.
  • Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat for an additional 2 minutes.
  • In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
  • Stir in dry ingredients into butter mixture in 2 additions.
  • Flatten dough into a disk shape.
  • Wrap disc in plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Roll out each disc into 1/8 inch thickness.
  • Using 3 inch cookie cutters, cut out shapes and place on ungreased baking sheets.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, until edges are browned.
  • Immediately move to cooling racks.
  • Makes about 30 cookies.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crunchy Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are similar to the flourless peanut butter cookies I posted previously but they have less sugar and no baking powder. In fact, you could even leave out the chocolate if you didn't have any on hand. But only if you have to because I think chocolate and peanut butter is one of the world's best flavour combinations! By grinding the chocolate, the chocolate and peanut butter flavours truly mix into a great little cookie.

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp ground flax
1/2 cup sugar (brown or white)
1 large egg
300 g dark chocolate

What to do
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a food processor, pulse chocolate until coursely ground.
  • In a large bowl, add all ingredients and stir until well combined (or mix on low with electric beaters).
  • Roll into 24 balls.
  • Equally distribute and place on two cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until golden. Do not over bake.
  • Cool for 5 minutes on pans and then move to cooling racks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Halloween Links

Hi All! I just wanted to post the links to other Halloween inspired recipes on the site. This weekend I'll be making skeleton sugar cookies and some new marshmallow zombies and frankensteins so check back early next week for those posts!

Alien Donuts

Zombie Marshmallow Sticks

Halloween Cookies

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My "Mummies" Favorite Gingerbread Cookies

Halloween is almost here! The kids and I sat down and decorated a bunch of gingerbread cookies last weekend. I didn't want to make royal icing so instead I used some premade Wilton icing that I had on hand. Since I only had white and red, we were limited in design options but the kids didn't seem to mind as they piled Halloween coloured sprinkles on top of everything!

The mummy and ghost and skeleton cookies are easy to create and don't take a lot of time or precision! My kind of cookie....especially when you have 60 cookies to decorate. The recipe below is simple and delicious. If you roll them thinner you will get a crispy gingerbread cookie but I like them softer so rolled them out to 6mm instead.

Happy Halloween!

1/2 c shortening
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c fancy molasses
2-3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

What to do 
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and sugar together for 4 minutes until light and creamy.
  • Add and beat in egg and molasses.
  • In another bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
  • With a wooden spoon and in 3 additions, add the flour mixture to the shortening bowl.
  • If dough is stiff, use your hands!
  • Divide the the dough in two.
  • Flatten dough into discs between pieces of wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness (6mm).
  • Using 3 inch cookie cutters, cut out shapes.
  • Place on cookie sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper.
  • Freeze for 20 minutes.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely before decorating.
  • Makes about 30 cookies.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Carrot and Ginger Soup

This soup tastes great AND is healthy, lowfat and low calorie. The recipe was on an Oprah episode many years ago and it has been on my "go to" soup list ever since.

Learn from my mistakes! The second time I made this soup, we were staying at my future in-laws for the weekend (thankfully they were away). When it was time to blend the soup, I forgot to a) do it in smaller batches and b) to leave off the little lid in the middle of the top of the soon as I pressed the "puree" button the soup exploded from the container...the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the counters were covered in carrots! I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few orange spots still there! So please, blend in small batches and remove the center vent in the blender lid (cover it with a folded dish cloth and keep it in place with your hand).

PS You can also strain the soup after blending is you want, I prefer the texture without straining it.

• Cooking oil spray or 2 tsp oil
• 1 thinly sliced large spanish onion
• 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
• 3⁄4 pound carrots, very thinly sliced
• 3 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
• 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
• 1⁄2 c orange juice or 2 freshly squeezed oranges
• 1⁄2 tsp salt
• pepper to taste

What to do:
• Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.
• Coat with cooking oil spray or oil.
• Add onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
• Add carrots and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes.
• Add broth and ginger; bring to a boil.
• Add orange juice and salt.
• Reduce heat; cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
• Transfer mixture in batches to a blender or use an immersion hand held blender.
• Puree until smooth.
• Strain if desired.
• Reheat, if necessary; ladle into bowls or espresso cups.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Skeleton Cupcakes Recipe

My Mom told the kids this joke a couple of years ago and it remains one of their favorites:

Question: What did the skeleton say to his guests before dinner?

Answer: Bone Appetite!

Funny, right?! Anyways, Halloween is quickly coming up and we are almost prepared - costumes layed out (Green Lantern and a Witch), candy is bought, and the decorations are ready to go. I also have a few Halloween recipes to make. The first one is this beyond cute skeleton cupcake - in the interest of time I used a prepared cake mix but feel free to do it from scratch with your favorite cupcake recipe. A couple more Halloween inspired recipes should be creeping up soon so check back next week!

Adapted from Women's Day

Makes 16-18 cupcakes


  • 1 box (18.25 oz) cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cup water
  • 2⁄3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tubs (16 oz each) cream cheese frosting (you'll have some left over frosting)
  • 18 marshmallows
  • 5 or 6-in. lollipop sticks
  • Black food-safe writing marker
  • 72 yogurt-covered mini-pretzels plus extra to allow for breakage
  • 1/2 c white candy melts

What to do
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 18 medium sized muffin cups with liners.

2. Beat cake mix, eggs, water, vanilla and oil in large bowl on low speed for 1 minute until blended; increase speed to medium and continue to beat for an additional 2 minutes until batter is smooth.

3. Immediately pour batter amongst muffin cups, filling each 2⁄3 full.

4. Bake 20 to 22 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted into the centres comes out clean.

5. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes before removing cupcakes to rack to cool completely.

6. Frost cupcakes with frosting (I used a large tip and decorating bag).

7. Insert a lollipop stick into the long side of a marshmallow. With the black food-safe decorating pen, draw the skeleton face.

8. Melt white candy per directions on bag.

9. Carefully thread the lollipop stick through the smallest hole of the pretzel. Secure with some melted candy (use another lollipop stick to smear the candy - especially under the pretzel so it doesn't fall down.)

10. Repeat with two more pretzels so you now have the skeleton ribs. Make sure you leave enough room at bottom of the stick to insert fully into cupcake. (BUT don't insert them yet!)

11. Lay down carefully on cookie sheet to set (about 5 minutes).

12. Repeat with remaining lollipop sticks until you have enough skeletons.

13. Once set, insert into cupcakes.

14. Cut two more pretzels in half legthwise to use as arms (see picture as a guide). Again use melted candy to adhere them to the rib cage.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Croissants - Daring Bakers Challenge

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

I love freshly baked bread...the taste, the smell, the feel of it in your mouth. Mmmm. I have made homemade bread before but never croissants. I must say it was a long process. In fact, it took three days from the day I started until the final baking! Was it worth it? Well, yes in the sense that I can cross it off my baking to do list. But to be honest, next time I'd rather fly to Paris and enjoy an authentic croissant in a small, romantic French cafe!

I used a recipe from Fine Cooking (so, I guess, I technically failed the challenge) and not Julia's, because Fine Cooking's was super easy to follow and well laid out. I also kept it simple and chose not to add chocolate or anything else to fancy it up...sometimes simple is best!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nut Free Pumpkin Seed Granola

Fall is here and Halloween is just around the corner so, of course, I have pumpkin on the brain. When I came across pumpkin seeds at the grocery store, I knew a big batch of granola was in order. This version is nut free so the kids can take it to school for a healthy and energy filled snack. I also had a bag of dried blueberries so I threw those in too. That's the great thing about granola - pretty much anything goes! Note: The dried fruit goes in after baking so it doesn't burn.

3/4 c canola oil
1 c maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp chocolate extract (optional)
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
7 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup milled flax
1 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots
1 cup raw pumpkins seeds

What to do
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In medium sized pot combine oil, maple syrup,vanilla, chocolate essence, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  • Stir over medium heat until just simmering and remove from heat. Watch carefully and be careful not to burn yourself.
  • Combine oats, wheat germ, bran and flax with salt and pumpkin seeds.
  • Pour oil mixture over oats and stir until well combined.
  • Spread granola on two large cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden. While baking stir granola every ten minutes to ensure even baking.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely.
  • Place in large bowl.
  • Add dried fruits and combine.
  • Store in air tight containers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DIY Fruit Leather

I'm not a big fruit leather fan, but my kids love it! So, when I made a big batch of apple-pear sauce, I put some aside for this recipe. After the sauce was made, all I had to do was pour it in a thin layer and dry it out. The drying process is a bit long as its done at a low temperature but what else is there to do on a rainy fall afternoon?

My daugther says the store bought variety is sweeter but she liked the cinnamon flavour in this version so in her opinion it's better than the prepackaged variety.

  • 3 cups apple sauce (homemade or store bought)
If store bought add:
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla


What to do
  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees F  - if your oven doesn't go that low 200 degrees F is fine.
  • Cover a baking sheet with a silpat.
  • If using commercially prepared sauce, combine it wiht spices and vanilla in a large bowl.
  • Spread evenly over silpat (up to 1/4 inch thick). Place the pan in middle rack of oven.
  • Bake for 5 to 7 hours. Fruit is dry when the surface is no longer tacky, it's smooth.
  • Cool completely.
  • Remove fruit leather from pan and silpat.
  • Cut into strips or shapes with cookie cutters.
  • Roll the pieces with plastic wrap or parchment.
  • Store in an airtight jar.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apple-Pear Sauce

Have you ever made your own apple sauce? If not, put it on your to do list and DO IT! Homemade sauce is infinitely better than anything you buy at the grocery store. Even better, you can make it anyway you like - with sugar, without sugar, smooth, chunky, flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla ...or not! It really doesn't take long and it goes with so many things. Try your own sauce on top of oatmeal, ice cream, in smoothies, on its own, with pork or with french fries (sounds crazy, I know).

I made a big batch of apple and pear sauce the night before last and it's almost gone. The kids have had it for dessert and with their breakfast! I also made extra so I could make some fruit leather which I will post soon.

Side story: My son started kindergarten last week at a school where he didn't know anyone in his grade. I was a little worried about him making friends as he can be a little shy. I'm happy to report that last night he told me he found a new buddy. We had been coaching him to go up to kids he wanted to befriend and ask them to play at recess. When he was telling me about his new friend, he exclaimed with delight that he didn't have to go up to him because the boy came up and asked if he wanted to be friends! So cute. Even cuter ...when I asked him his new friend's name his response was "I don't know, I forgot to ask ...but we're still friends!!"  Don't you just love kids and how they think?!

Apple Pear Sauce

4 medium to large apples
5 Bartlett pears
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c water
1/8c - 1/4 c brown sugar (depending on sweetness of your fruit)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

What to do
  • Peel, core and chopped apples and pears into large chunks.
  • Place in large pot or dutch oven.
  • Add sugar, water, vanilla and spices.
  • Bring to boil over medium heat.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • For chunky sauce, mash with a hand held masher.
  • For a smooth sauce puree in a blender AFTER if has cooled or use an immersion blender.
  • Refrigerate and use within 5-7 days.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Butterfly Birthday Cake and Vanilla Frosting Recipe

My daughter turned 7 a few weeks ago. I swear we just brought her home from the hospital yesterday! I'm not sure where time goes but my daugther has certainly made the most of it. I don't think a minute  goes by without her posing a question about something she's seen, heard or imagined! But her curiosity
has helped her grow.

I love this time of her life - over the past year she's learned to read chapter books, to write and create stories, learned to ride a bike, almost "mastered" water skiing, tells terrible knock-knock jokes, tries to be nice to her little brother ("tries" is the key word), and has accomplished so much more that it would take pages to list. Of course, she's still my little girl and I don't want her to grow up too fast but I am very proud of her (well...except maybe the time she spilled nail polish all over her bed trying to paint her nails).

For her birthday, she wanted a butterfly theme...butterfly cake, butterfly decorations, butterfly shaped sandwiches etc. And homemade strawberry lemonade, tea sandwiches and watermelon - she leaves nothing to chance! She also wanted outdoor fun - bobbing for apples, the limbo, potato sack races, three-legged contest and more!
This is the cake. It's a 9-inch layer cake and a 6-inch layer cake stacked and iced with buttercream. I forgot to take a picture of the inside of the cake which was coloured in pink and purple swirls. I searched high and low for edible rice paper butterflys and finally found great ones on ETSY. They arrived in time even though a postal strike had just ended and I LOVE them. Take a look at her site as she also offers other shapes. The kids adored them and couldn't believe they could actually eat them!

This recipe has been used in my family for a long time but I also found a similar recipe on Martha's site recently! Although basically just butter and sugar, it doesn't taste too sweet or heavy. You can also add colour gels if you want to colour your frosting.

Easy Vanilla Frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes

3-1/2 c - 4 c powdered sugar, sifted
2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla
1/8c  - 1/4 c milk

Edible butterflys, candy flowers and pastel icing
make a seven year old VERY happy.
What to do
  • In a large bowl (preferably a stand alone mixer) beat butter until light and creamy.
  • In half cup increments add sugar and beat until combined.
  • Add extract and beat until combined.
  • Depending on the brand of butter I use, the amount of milk I need varies. Start with 1/8 c and add more if needed. Beat the mixture at medium speed until the frosting is perfectly smooth and creamy. I usually beat it for about 5 minutes or so.
  • Add colour, if required and beat until colour is even.
  • Use imediately or refrigerate (if refrigerating bring back to room temperature before using).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Irish Cream Frozen Coffee

Summer is almost over but that's no reason to bring out the hot chocolate just yet! This blended frozen drink is great to sip while you remember the lazy, hazy days of the past few months. You can also skip the irish cream if you want.

  •  1-1/2 c ice
  •  2 oz of espresso
  •  3/4 c non-fat milk
  •  1/4 c irish cream (I use Bailey's)
  •  optional  - whipped cream and chocolate sauce

What to do

  1. Blend all the ingredients a blender until ice is crushed and a milk shake consistency is reached.
  2. Pour into a tall glass and add whipped cream and chocolate sauce, if desired.
  3. Add a straw.
  4. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kids Peanut Free Lunch Ideas

There is a strange cloud hanging over my house...and I can see a few more grey clouds over some neighbour's houses too. Yet, the weather man is promising sun shine today... is he wrong again?? No... it's just the kids counting down the last days of summer and freedom before school starts.

Of course, my 7-year old daughter is also looking forward to seeing her friends and nervously excited about who her teacher will be and whether she and her best friend will be in the same class again. And my 5-year son is just beginning kindergarten this year so he is also excited but apprehensive about starting "real" school in a few days. New to our area is full-day kindergarten. Until this year, 5 year olds only attended school for half a day. This means both children need a packed lunch and recess snacks...5 x a week (thus my grey cloud:)!

Coming up with a variety of lunches that they will actually eat and are healthy can be difficult! On top of that, I keep their lunches peanut free (even though they are thankfully allergy-free) because of the prevalence of this allergy which limits many products and "go-to" lunches like PB and J! Of course, the inconvenience is worth it given the alternative of causing an accidental, life-threatening allergy reaction in another child!

I'd thought I'd share my list of ideas just in case anyone else is dreading the "what's for lunch" question. Of course, read every package to ensure it does not contain or come into contact with peanuts.

Peanut free lunch and snack ideas: 
  • carrot and cream cheese sandwich or wrap
  • cucumber and cream cheese sandwich or wrap
  • cold homemade pizza (cheese or vegetarian are healthy options)
  • BBQ chicken salad
  • pasta salad
  • celery stuffed with cream cheese or humous
  • crackers and cheese
  • yogourt and fruit parfait
  • yogourt and breakfast cereal (packed in separate containers)
  • tuna salad
  • cream cheese and jam sandwich
  • cream cheese and strawberry sandwich
  • rice salad
  • couscous salad
  • cereal and milk
  • pita and hummous
  • nut-free granola
  • bagel and deli meat
  • cold grilled cheese
  • cheddar scones
  • homemade fruit leather - click here for recipe!
  • mac and cheese
  • hard boiled eggs
  • cold macaroni salad
  • meat ball stuffed pitas
  • leftover pancakes and waffles with a side of syrup or jam
  • baked beans
  • cottage cheese and fruit
  • meatloaf sandwich or little meatloaves baked in muffin tins
  • veggies, meat, fruit and cheese cubes packed in separate containers or a bento box
  • raw veggies and dip
  • School Snack Mix

Great substitution ideas for regular bread:
  • Bagels or rolls
  • Naan
  • English muffins
  • Bread sticks
  • Flat bread
  • Pita bread
  • Rice cakes
  • Buttermilk biscuits
  • Melba toast
  • Homemade muffins
  • Crackers
Bonus idea: To keep food cold, use an ice pack, frozen juice box or frozen yogurt tube in an insulated lunch bag. Use frozen bread for sandwiches (they will thaw by lunch time).
And remember there are other names for peanuts:

  • Arachide
  • Ground nuts
  • Arachis oil
  • Kernels
  • Beer nuts
  • Mandelonas, Nu-Nuts
  • Cacahouète/cacahouette/cacahuète
  • Nut meats
  • Goober nuts, goober peas
  • Valencias


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge - Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

This challenge was definitely challenging! It taught me I am not a master of candy making or tempering chocolate! I made sponge candy from Wilde in the Kitchen and burnt the first batch. The second tasted great as I also added orange extract but I enrobed it in chocolate that was not tempered correctly as you will see in the photos! I highly recommend the sponge recipe though - it's fun to make and tastes like a Crunchie bar (Canadian readers will know what I'm talking about!).

For chocolates, I made some with caramel in the centre, some with caramel and salted pecans (mmmm) and finally some with a center of fig butter (from Trader Joe's)! The flavours of the fig butter and chocolate melded well together to form a sophisticated and delicious taste. However, I don't think the chocolate tempered perfectly on any of these as they weren't as shiny as I had hoped nor did they have the right "snap". Read this article to find out how to temper chocolate - it certainly brought out my "temper"!!

It was an interesting experience though!

Tempering gone wrong!

Salted Pecan and Caramel Chocolates
Tempering Chocolate is tricky but even when it fails it tastes good!
Edible rice paper butterfly makes everything look pretty.
Fig Butter Chocolates - yum!