Sunday, December 15, 2013

Skinny Peanut Butter Cup Mini Cheesecakes

My friend Shannon wanted a cheesecake for her birthday, no problem! That's my kind of birthday gift. She was pretty jealous of one a made a while ago on full scale with Reese's PB Cups in it so I decided to go that route but to cut it down a little bit calorie wise. I found this recipe on Pinterest (obviously!) and loved it instantly. It needs to be chilled overnight to get to the right consistency of cheesecake, otherwise it definitely tastes a little like the light cheesecake it is. I made this into 6 mini cheesecakes so it didn't need to cook as long. The mini's are easier to share and to split up - because I obviously wanted one for myself!

Skinny Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecakes
(Adapted slightly from here)

Ingredients

2/3 cup chocolate chip cookies, crushed
2 cups fat free cottage cheese
1 (8oz) package light cream cheese
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (Or brown sugar)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 bag mini peanut butter cups, chopped (reserve a couple for garnish if desiered)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Line a 9 inch baking pan with foil, and spray with nonstick spray.(I used my 6 mini cheesecake pan and skipped the foil)

Press the cookie crumbs into the pan, pressing down with a glass to get an even compact crust.

Add cottage cheese and cream cheese to a food processor. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Add brown sugar, sugar, sour cream, flour, vanilla, egg, and egg whites. Pulse until just blended. Fold in 3/4 of chopped peanut butter cups.

Pour over graham cracker crumbs.

Bake for 1 hour or until almost set on top, it took about 45 minutes in the mini pan. Turn off the oven, and let cheesecake set in there for 1 hour with the door closed. Remove from the oven and cool.
Cover and chill overnight, covered in the fridge.

To serve garnish with the remaining peanut butter cups, and chocolate sauce if desired.



My Birthday Tea Party

I really wanted to do "High Tea" for my birthday. I vetoed the Fairmount, solely because for $50 a person we could have a super awesome one at someones house with a lot more champagne! So my "control freakness" took over and I made a little menu. Everyone picked a sandwich (crustless on white of course) and brought a bottle of bubbles. I did all the baking, because its kind of what I do, my friend Alex made mini Quiches that were wonderful. I really didn't think I liked those until recently.

I was really happy with how it all turned out. My mom had a classic tea set for us to use and we even had some real tea between the Champagne. Morgan (our hostess), bought some Birthday Cake tea for use to enjoy - it was so good! And it had sprinkles in it. So here's some recipes for the baking, a copy of my menu and some pictures. I hope it inspires you to dress up and have one of your own. Fascinators optional, but so much fun!



Cream Scones
(Adapted from here)

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream (35%)

Glaze:

Heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.

In a small measuring cup combine the whipping cream, beaten egg and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix. 

Sprinkle flour on a mat or clean counter and knead dough gently four or five times, adding a touch more flour if needed. The more you add, the heavier the scones with be though. Pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round. Then, using a 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing a few inches apart. I got 12 out of the recipe

Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream. This helps to brown the tops of the scones during baking.
    
Bake for about 15 - 18 minutes or until nicely browned. 

These turned out nicely sweet and paired amazingly with Double Devon Cream and Jam. I would make them again for sure. The parchment will help them come out a bit lighter while still being cooked, so if you mind - don't skip that step. 


Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Loaves

*Coming Soon

(Fudge courtesy Spruce Meadows Christmas Market)

Citrus Cheesecake in a Chocolate Shell
(Adapted slightly from Here)

Ingredients:

2 cans (11 oz) Mandarin oranges, drained
6 oz cream cheese
4 oz heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
Dash of Lemon Juice
6 Chocoate Shells (Such at Choco-Lux)
Chocolate Garnish (optional, Choco-Lux)

Beat whipping cream until firm.

Blend in cream cheese, vanilla, and 1 can of the Mandarin oranges.

Gently spoon mixture into chocolate shells, smoothing the top. 

Decorate the top with remaining fruit and chocolate garnish if desired.

Chill for 4 hours minimum, covered. 

I was really happy with how this turned out, I'm sort of a cheesecake snob and a no bake was pushing it for me but I really liked the chocolate shell idea, so I had to go that way. I thought mandarin was a good flavour to go with for the season since we already had lemon loaves. I added a touch of sugar and used the vanilla paste because I like the little bits of vanilla bean in there. I also upped the cream cheese to help it stand a bit better and saved some whipped cream for the tops to decorate. I would make this again for sure. 



Profiteroles with Chocolate Drizzle

I stuck with the cream puff recipe I made for Thanksgiving except made them a bit smaller. I added a little more egg than last time and was worried they weren't going to turn out, but they actually raised and puffed out way better than the last ones. I waited to fill them until about 30 minutes before the party and let the chocolate set in the fridge for a bit as well. I used St Dalfour Chocolate Raspberry dessert sauce for the drizzle, but any type of melted chocolate or caramel would work. What ever you want! 



And that does it for the tea party. It was so much fun, there was a lot of food. We definitely didn't eat it all but had our fair shares with leftovers for the men that didn't get an invite. 





Thursday, December 5, 2013

Spicy Maple Kettle Corn

One of the many cooking shows that I watch on a fairly regular basis is In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita. I like it because he's always excited to be cooking and he likes butter. Plus its Canadian. So at least everything they're using, I can actually get. Also, he makes a lot of really great snack type food which helps to get Sean to be ok with watching the show once in a while. I made this (A double batch) for our Halloween Party, just over a month ago.

I thought it turned out really great. Some people thought it was a bit too spicy. So make sure you only do the Cayenne to your audience, or no one might eat your awesome snack! Another thing I would recommend is to use a thermometer. I managed to over toast my sugar in the second batch even with the digital one, but its not a candy one that you can leave in the pot. If the sugar gets over cooked it can break the popcorn apart or worse you might need to start over - burnt sugar doesn't make any friends. I left the nuts out, but I might put pecans in it if I made this again. You can pop the popcorn however you usually do, I've found stovetop with peanut oil has been the nest luck for me so far. I would also do unsalted and salt the final product before the oven if desired.

Spicy Maple Kettle Corn
(Adapted from Stefano)

8 cups popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups unsalted nuts (optional)
1 1/2 cup pretzels
3/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup corn syrup, white or golden
1/4 cup butter (unsalted)
Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
Cayenne, to taste (I used about a heaping teaspoon)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. I sprayed my roasting pan lightly with pam instead of parchment.

Combine popcorn, nuts and pretzels in large bowl or roasting pan. Set aside.

Over medium heat, bring maple syrup and corn syrup to a boil and cook to soft ball stage (240 degrees F.). Add butter, salt and cayenne pepper.

Carefully pour the maple caramel mixture over popcorn and toss with wooden spoon or tongs to combine. Bake, mixing every 8 to 10 minutes, until caramel hardens on popcorn, about 30 minutes.

Let cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies

As with most of my recipes I found this one online. I follow the Williams Sonoma "Taste Blog", which I would highly recommend if you're ever considering a dinner party, and this was their featured cookie of the day. Sean (and his whole family) love peanut butter. Anything peanut butter. And if you throw chocolate in there you get a gold star. So I knew these would be a great choice for some cookies to have out at one of our many get together's over the next few weeks.

It wasn't as easy as I was hoping for but nothing that ends up that great usually is. The hardest part for me was chocolate spreading - melted chocolate on cooled dough. I didn't get it quite right, which messes with the rolling if you have too much chocolate in there. The rolling up wasn't too bad, but I would suggest using waxed paper instead of parchment. The dough is quite soft and sticky. The only other things I had to change were adding a few more chocolate chips to the melt - about 1/4 cup more and they needed to be baked for about 2 minutes longer I found. But my mom made them in her convection oven and the 10 minutes was perfect. So here's the recipe (and a picture soon!) I hope you give these a try and impress your guests with them!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies
(Adapted slightly from Williams Sonoma)

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup good-quality unsweetened creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 (12-oz.) bag semisweet chocolate chips, plus some extra if needed

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat all but 1 tablespoon of the butter and the sugar on medium-high speed until creamed and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into the bowl, and stir into the peanut butter mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan or double boiler filled with about an inch of water, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter with the chocolate chips over very low heat. Stir until smooth. Let cool slightly.

Divide the dough into 2 balls. Place 1 dough ball on a large piece of floured waxed paper. Flour the top of the dough, place another piece of parchment on top, and roll into a rectangle about 10 by 15 inches. The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick. Use the waxed paper to help you, and keep peeling it up and sprinkling it with flour if it gets too sticky. If you keep the dough floured, it will roll out more easily. When you spread the chocolate, brush off any excess flour, or the chocolate will be difficult to spread. Spread the rectangle with half of the chocolate mixture, leaving a 1-inch border on the long side closest to you. Starting from the long side farthest from you, and using the waxed paper to help, carefully roll the dough into a log. Place the log seam side down and wrap it in the waxed paper, twisting the ends to hold it tight. Repeat with the remaining dough and chocolate mixture.

Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours or ideally overnight.

Space 2 racks evenly in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap the logs, trim the ends of each log, then cut crosswise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Space the cookies evenly on the prepared pans. They don't puff out too much, so you can probably get quite a few on the sheet. Aim for about a fingers worth of space between. You will need to bake in batches, so refrigerate the remaining portion of the logs until you are ready to cut and bake more cookies. Bake until the cookies are puffed and lightly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

I made about 85 cookies.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Stuffed Potatoes

Sean's parents have been away for about 6 weeks. They're back! So we're having them for dinner tonight and I wanted to make it a little more special than your basic meal. We decided on Slow Baked Ribs, Asparagus and as the title of this post may have suggested, Stuffed Potatoes. Now I've never made these before. I tried once and decided on mashed potatoes after I hit some issues. I've come along way in my cooking since then and had a lot more confidence that I could do it. I just googled stuffed potatoes and the first one that came up was over at food network. I went through a few different recipes and just grabbed a few things from all of them to make what I imagined would be an ideal Stuffed Potato. Here's what I came up with. We had Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Bars for dessert, if you were wondering.


Loaded Stuffed Potatoes

Ingredients

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
1-2 Tbsp oil
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup 0% Greek Yogurt
1 Bunch green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
2-3 Slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped into bits
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used a pizza blend, because I had it)
Extra cheese for topping
1 Tbsp melted butter
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Poke potatoes with a fork several times around the potato. I did about 6 pokes evenly spaced on all sides. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and oil them, place in the center of the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove potatoes from the oven, and turn the heat down to 375 degrees F.

Hold the potato with an oven mitt or towel, trim off the top of the potatoes to make a canoe-like shape. Reserve the tops. Carefully scoop out most of the potato into a bowl, I used a grapefruit spoon for this while the potato was placed in a small bowl to help hold it in place. Take care to leave enough potato in the skin so the shells stay together, a couple millimeters should be ok. Mash the potato lightly with fork along  with sour cream and greek yogurt. Stir in the onions, bacon, garlic and cheese. Refill the shells with the potato mixture mounding it slightly, I used a small ice cream scoop to help get in as much filling as I could in each potato. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the potato filling. Brush the reserved top with the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Set the potatoes and lids back on baking sheet, and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Here's a picture pre baking (for the second time), they disappeared before I could get a photo after.





Monday, October 21, 2013

Roasted Tomato and Butternut Squash Pasta

If you don't already know from prior posts, I watch/tape Rachael Ray every single day. She was cooking with some roasted butternut squash the other day and it inspired me some how. So I went online to her site to search the recipe and then this other one came up, along with a few more pages. I had more of the ingredients and I liked how it sounded. I don't know if you could get away with this being one of her 30 minute meals, but if you multi-task it well, and maybe up the roasting temperature you can probably get it to 45 minutes. Not including cubing up that horrible butternut squash. I love it. But it really is a pain to cut up and peel.

I used Pam instead of the 4 Tbsp olive oil and just sprayed the veggies down a bit. Because that whole can doesn't have as many calories as the oil does, and we're going to Antigua here soon so we're watching that a bit. I had dried Thyme, fresh will work just fine though! I also cut the butter a little bit as well as the Saffron. It's pretty expensive and it was only 1 cup of liquid. You could use Veggie stock to make this vegetarian and no cheese for Vegan, depending on your pasta. I chose Penne because I had it in my pantry. I would recommend one with lines and maybe a Tube or shell shape to hold the sauce. It was super filling and we have a ton left over, because the picture was probably almost 2 servings.

Roasted Tomato and Butternut Squash Pasta
(Adapted slightly from Rachael Ray)

Ingredients

3 pounds tomatoes (I used on the vine)
1 medium butternut squash, seeded and diced into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Pam or other oil spray
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 bulb garlic, top end cut to expose cloves
3 tablespoons butter
A pinch saffron threads, 10 threads or so
1 cup chicken stock
1 pound penne or pasta of your choice.
A fat handful of basil, torn or sliced. (I used about 10 leaves)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra if desired

Directions

Heat oven to 425F.

Arrange tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and the squash on another. Spray tomatoes with oil spray and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Roast tomatoes until charred at edges and burst, 30 to 35 minutes (or longer depending on size)

Spray squash with oil spray and season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Roast squash to golden and tender, 25-30 minutes.

Drizzle garlic with oil, season with salt and pepper, and wrap in a foil pouch. Roast garlic to soft and golden, 40-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small pot over medium-low heat; add saffron and swirl. Let  saffron simmer with butter for a minute or two to help infuse. Add stock and keep at a low simmer.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente. This is usually around 10 minutes, this way the pasta will absorb more of the flavours of the dish.

Remove vegetables, leave squash for a few minutes. Place tomatoes in a large bow (Large enough for all ingredients) and mash with basil.

Squish garlic cloves into the saffron & stock and stir in. Add to bowl of tomatoes, add pasta and squash, toss to combine.

Sprinkle with cheese to serve.








Sunday, October 20, 2013

Basic Lasagna

One of the other new Le Crueset dishes we bought was a lasagna dish. I was pretty excited because while I have a couple dishes that are the same shape, I didn't have any that would fit a whole lasagna noodle. I sort of wanted to make a bechamel lasagna but we kind of waited too long to start dinner so we stuck with a basic one. So here is a basic recipe that I started with. I would recommend doubling it and having a higher lasagna so it's a bit more filling. Next time I would also add a carrot or two, some celery and an onion all chopped up to the base with the tomato sauce and ground beef. For some extra filling and veggies. We cut this into 12 squares, but because it was thin I would only do 9.

Ingredients

1 large jar tomato sauce, I used a Vodka Tomato for a bit more added base flavour
1 pound ground beef
12 lasagna noodles, cooked (or no bake, whatever you have)
500g Cottage cheese or ricotta
Grated Mozza (as much as you want!)

Directions

Cook ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Once cooked, add the jar of tomato sauce and simmer for 5-20 minutes. As long as you have time for to add to the flavour.

Smear a little of the meat sauce mixture on the bottom of the lasagna dish so the noodles don't stick, then begin the layers.

Three noodles beside each other, 1/3  meat sauce mixture, 1/3 cottage cheese and 1/3 mozza. Do this three times and cover with the final noodles. Cover with mozza and foil  and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes or until the top layer of cheese is nice and bubbly.



Cream Puffs

I saw cream puffs on three of the cooking shows I watch fairly recently so I decided I should probably make them. They made it look so easy! Turns out, it was kind of a pain.

So, my first ones turned into pancakes which was rather sad. So I decided I needed to watch a cream puff video (Another one). It helped quite a bit. The biggest things I found to help was to slightly beat the eggs and add slowly. Because The recipe said I needed 4 eggs, turned out I needed about 3 and half. The other thing the video really helped explain was that when you're cooking out the dough in the pan it can really vary as to how much water evaporates which will change the consistency of your dough.

The second time, I cooked it a bit longer in the pan before moving it to the mixer. I also let more steam escape and let it cool off for an extra minute before adding the eggs. The second ones turned out perfectly. I got 13 fairly good sized ones out the recipe, a solid Bakers Dozen!

For the recipe, I only used the first half (The puff part). Below is the Cream Recipe I used. You can adapt this so many ways. maple whipped cream, Baileys whipped cream, and so on!

Here's the link to the video. You can use her recipe as its fairly similar but smaller. But I recommend highly you watch the video, unless you've done this once or twice.

Cream Puffs
(Adapted from here

1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Directions:

 1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Grease or line with parchment a large cookie sheet.

 2. In saucepan, heat water, butter, and salt to boiling on medium until butter melts, you don't want it to boil for too long to control the amount of water that evaporates.

 3. Remove saucepan from heat. Vigorously stir in flour all at once until mixture forms ball and comes away from side of pan. Watch for a film on the bottom of the pan, its an indicator it should all be coming together.

 4. Transfer into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Let rest for about a minute to cool and turn on to low to spin for about another minute before adding eggs. This helps release the steam and cool off the dough a bit.

5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until batter becomes smooth and satiny. I added the first 3 and beat the fourth one and added it gradually. I don't needed about half. See the video for the consistency that's needed. But you can also just remember you want it to stand up on its own. Like a cookie dough, not like pancake batter.

6. Drop batter by scant 1/4 cups into 10 large mounds, 2 inches apart, onto prepared cookie sheet. With fingertip moistened with cold water, gently smooth tops to round. I used an ice cream/batter scoop but next time I will pipe them on to the cookie sheet. You can use a star tip and make it look extra fancy.

7. Bake 15 minutes at 400º and then lower temperature to 365º to finish off for another 20-25 minutes or until puffs are a golden-brown. Remove cookie sheet from oven; with knife, poke hole in one side of each puff to release steam. Turn off oven. Return cookie sheet to oven and let puffs stand 10 minutes to dry out slightly. Transfer puffs to wire rack to cool completely.

Once the puffs are completely cool and dried out, make the cream to put inside them. Here's the recipe I made.

Chantilly Cream
(From Martha)

1 cup heavy cream (cold)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine all ingredients into a bowl, if the bowl has been in the fridge, it will help it out. Beat by hand with a whisk or take the easy way out (Like I do) and use a hand mixer. Beat until soft peaks form and will hold inside the bowl (turned upside down). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

I've seen a couple ways to do this. Alot of people seem to cut the puffs in half and fill like a sandwich. I like the surprise of cream in the middle! So I piped it in with a filling tip into the puff.

Have fun! There's so may things you can do with these!







Dinner Rolls

Just in time for Thanksgiving, my all time favourite (basic) bun recipe. I've made these a few times, but enough times to know that you don't need to change anything! You do need to have the time to prepare them. The multiple rises are what makes these. This dough puffs up like no other.  I don't pour butter over top of them, because honestly, you're probably going to put butter on them anyways... But that's just me.

I recommend to roll them into fairly even sized balls to split the dough. Split the ball in half, half again, and then the quarters into thirds. Each quarter should give you 9 buns. I managed to get 37 total. But 36 is pretty standard unless you want them a little larger. I made them again and only got 30. Really depends on ball size.

Dinner Rolls
(Adapted slightly from here)

2 1/2 cups warm milk
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened or melted and cooked slightly
2 teaspoons salt
7 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed


1/2 cup butter, melted (Optional)

Directions

I heat the milk in the microwave for about 2 minutes at half power. It should be around 100ºF. Then pour milk into a large mixing bowl, and sprinkle yeast over the surface. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Beat in the sugar, eggs, 1/2 cup butter, and salt; mix thoroughly, will be paste like. Gradually stir in the flour, a cup or so at a time to make a soft dough. Cover bowl, and set in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough, cover the bowl, and allow to rise again. Repeat this step once more.

Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish, and maybe a second 9x9.

** I've  found that baking them in smaller dishes like the 9x9 is a better option, I've had to throw out the center ones a couple times due to the rest of them being cooked nice and the middle ones still being raw. Otherwise you may want to bake them at 375ºF for a bit longer.

Break off 2 to 3 inch size pieces of dough, about golf ball sized and roll lightly into round shape, and place in prepared baking dish, edges touching. Repeat to make 36 dough balls. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in size. I find this is the step they start to get a bit of a crust, ensure you moisten the towel to keep that at bay.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Bake rolls in preheated oven until tops turn golden brown, 15 - 20 minutes..

If desired, When rolls are finished baking, drizzle melted butter over the top, and serve warm.





Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Sean and I went to our friends baby shower on the weekend, it was great, just how I'd like a baby shower to be. A party. We both got to go, no boys here and girls here and no silly games! Ok, sometimes I like those, but I didn't know many people. My go to is usually cupcakes but I always worry there will be an abundance of cake. Lucky for me, I chose vanilla and the only cake there was mini and chocolate. The shower was for a little baby girl, Hailey, so I wanted pink icing. But I also wanted it to be good and not just dyed frosting from a can, which may have crossed my mind since I was running out of time. I happen to love swiss meringue buttercream so I looked quickly for a variation of that. Martha Stewart always has my back.If you've never made this type of buttercream I wouldn't try to do this last minute. Its pretty finnicky and can go wrong easily and quickly. There was a point in mine when I thought I was doomed. Luckily it shaped back up and piped nice. Did I mention I ate waaay too much of this icing? I'm not someone who usually licks the beaters or the bowl but this is by far the best icing I have ever made. I would say make sure you choose a good quality jam and one that you like the flavour of to be sure though! I made a half recipe which was enough for these little flower type tops on 22 cupcakes. If you want to pipe it up high, make the whole recipe. Here's the recipe!Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(Adapted from Martha
Ingredients:4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) strawberry jam, pureed in a food processor

Directions:

In the heatproof bowl, either of an electric mixer or you can transfer it after, set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees). I have never been able to get mine to 160. I usually top out about 145º. I also wouldn't whisk this by hand if you don't have to. Your arm will be sore. I used my little hand beater and it still took about 10 minutes to get to 140º and fluffy. 
Transfer or Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.This is where it starts to get a bit tricky, I was really lucky until the jam part. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well and on medium high after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat in vanilla. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir in strawberry jam with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth, mine looked a little curdled after this part so I put the bowl back on the mixer and mixed with the whip attachment for about a minute on medium high and it came back together. If you have more problems, this link should help you out!Here's a picture of my decorated cupcakes, I just used French Vanilla boxed cupcakes if you were wondering. I was short on time and these were never meant to be the center of attention at the dessert table.  

Roast Beef with Fresh Herbs

We started our weekend spending waaay too much on some new Le Creuset Pots and Dishes. Among other things. We may have been Williams Sonoma's favourite customers. One of the pots we bought is a wide, shallow 3.75 quart oval. So obviously we really wanted to use it. Pair that with the fact that Humanely Raised Roasts were on sale (plus 500 points!) at Sobeys and you have how we came up with this idea.

Sean was excited because he'd never cooked a roast. I don't know how different it is than a Prime Rib, considering we eat fairly small ones but in any case he found this recipe. He's come to like and trust Stefano's recipes, probably because I watch him every day. We liked it because it was simple and easy to follow. Plus we didn't have to buy a ton of ingredients to make it.

Roast Beef with Fresh Herbs
(Adapted from Stefano)

INGREDIENTS
1 boneless sirloin roast or prime rib roast, about 1.5 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
*Handful of fresh basil
*Handful of fresh parsley
*Handful fresh mint
*2 sprigs fresh rosemary
*2 sprigs fresh thyme
     *OR we found a beef blend of herbs at Co-op. It was $1.50 instead of $2 each for all of those. 
1-2 garlic cloves
Mustard, for serving
Horseradish, for serving

PREPARATION
Preheat your oven at 425 degrees F.

Season the roast with salt and pepper.

Heat an oven-proof fry pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil. When olive oil is hot, add roast and brown on all sides.

Transfer roast to preheated oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 365 degrees F. and cook until internal temperature registers 130 degrees F. on a meat thermometer for rare - medium rare, about 20 to 35 minutes, depending on thickness of roast. Alternatively, cook roast until doneness is to your liking.
While roast is cooking, finely chop the garlic and herbs. Mix to combine. 

Transfer to a large platter or baking dish.

When roast is cooked, remove from oven and roll in the herb mixture until completely covered. 

Tent the roast with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Slice and serve the roast with horseradish and mustard.

Here's a picture! We like ours rare - medium rare at the most and this was perfect. 













We also roasted a full head of garlic in with the roast, we just sliced the tops off and put a bit of oil on top and Since we only have one oven (I can always dream) we roasted cauliflower at the same time on the bottom rack of the oven. You'll find that recipe Here

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Seared Tuna Salad

Sean and I eat quite a bit of fish. Tuna is the primary one and we try to enjoy it in a salad when we do. I decided to do a quick google search and look around my favourite Chef's sites for a new salad recipe.

We had just been at the Farmers Market and picked up a solid sized Tuna Steak, around 3/4 of a pound. If you're not going to cook the tuna through (and even if you are) buy good tuna. The flavour of good tuna is amazing. It melts in your mouth. The place we get ours is about $26/pound. And its so worth it. If you can buy it freshly frozen from a fish market it might be a little less, ours goes down to $14/pound. Which is nice to have in your freezer.

So I decided on this salad, without the tapenade. We wanted something fast and light.

What I did as well as the full recipe is available below.

Seared Tuna Salad
(Adapted slightly from In the Kitchen)

Ingredients:

3/4 pound Ahi tuna (sushi grade)
1/2 pound potatoes, red mini new potatoes, scrubbed, skin on
1/2 pound green beans
Mixed heirloom tomatoes, sliced or cut in wedges

4 ish handfuls mixed greens

Directions:

Add potatoes to saucepan. Cover with cold water. Generously salt with water. Bring to a boil. Cook potatoes until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on size of potatoes.

Cook green beans in boiling water until tender crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. You can cook the beans in the last 4 minutes of the potatoes, if desired.

Season tuna with Salt, Pepper and Cayenne (If desired) on both sides and let sit while pan is pre-heating.

We use a Stainless Steel fry pan, turn the heat on to Medium- medium high and let heat for a couple minutes. Oil pan slightly, about 1 tbsp. If your pan is hot enough the oil will spread nicely around it.

Place tuna in pan and let cook around 1 minute on each side, usually around 45 seconds in a hot pan. You can cook it more or less depending on your tastes. Turn and cook the other side. We usually also sear the sides quickly while holding the tuna up on it with tongs. 


Let tuna rest for 5 to 7 minutes and then slice.
Add to platter: mixed greens, potatoes, green beans (or asparagus), tomatoes, and tuna slices. 

*For a dressing I used 2 tbsp Lime Ponzu and 1 tsp Sunflower oil whisked together. 

Drizzle the dressing. Serve.






Monday, September 9, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

It was Sean's brothers birthday in August and I had volunteered to make the cake once again. I know he enjoys cheesecake and I know I can make one comparable or better than any you'll get in a store. He loves peanut butter, anything peanut butter. Reese's are a big one. So, of course I considered this when I went about planning this cake. Cheesecakes are different (for me) in that I do need to "plan" them. I never have 4 packages of Cream cheese on hand or many of the other ingredients. You also usually need to carve out a solid chunk of your day (in this case, 2 days) to make them.

Since we happened to be in the States prior to having to make the cake I got the chance to pick up some Peanut Butter Oreos that I used for the crust, they don't sell these in Canada. I found they tasted pretty much identical to the Reese's Pieces cereal that we have here though. And if I make this again, I'll find a way to incorporate those into the crust. It just added a very small peanuty flavour into the crust and I liked that.

I ended up going with 2 recipes for this cheesecake, one for the cake itself and another for a Peanut butter Mousse topping. And a third, I suppose if you include the Oreo Crust. I stuck with a solid chocolate cheesecake, which was the best chocolate cheesecake recipe that I have ever come across. It was the only cheesecake that I've ever made that didn't crack, was rich, but not too rich and wasn't overly sweet. Of course I had to put a mousse on my perfect looking cheesecake. The mousse was light and had a great complementary peanut butter taste to the chocolate. I'm not a huge Peanut Butter fan and I really enjoyed this cake. I wouldn't even try another recipe. Here's the culmination of the recipes.

Crust

1 Package Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies
2 Tbsp Butter

Chocolate Cheesecake
(Adapted slightly from Sugar & Spice)

12 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
24 ounces 3 - 8 ounces packages) Room temperature cream cheese, I used 2 ful fat and 1 light
1 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup 2% Greek Yogurt

Peanut Butter Mousse Topping
(Adapted slightly from Inside BruCrew Life)

1 package light cream cheese (8 oz.)
500 mL container Cool Whip
1/2 cup peanut butter

Mini Reese's for Garnishing

Directions:

Butter or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 10 inch spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with rack in centre of oven. This time, since it was sort of a gift, I put parchment paper down on the bottom of the pan so it would come out nicely.

Crust:
In a food processor, crush cookies until overall the same sized crumb. Then place in a medium sized bowl to combine with the melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake in oven for about 10 - 12 minutes until set slightly. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

At this time place a roasting pan or large dish in the oven on the bottom rack, fill with water about half way. Leave this in the oven while the cheesecake cooks to help avoid cracking.

For Filling:
Melt the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Try not to let the boiling water touch the bowl. This step can take a while but its so worth the flavour of using a good quality baking chocolate.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese, on medium low speed, until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the melted chocolate and beat until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and Greek yogurt and beat until thoroughly incorporated.

Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan in the oven on the rack above the water bath.

Bake for about 50 - 55 minutes or until firm yet the centre of the cheesecake will still look a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or offset spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools as well). Let cool and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours (about 4, or overnight) before covering with the mousse.

Mousse:
In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until creamy. Add the cool whip and beat with the wire whisk attachment until creamy. Place spoonfuls on top of cooled cheesecake and spread out evenly with an offset spatula. Top with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

I piped extra little blobs of cool whip around the outside of the cake and put a mini Reese cup on each one. I made it so there would be 16 slices, if everyone got one Reese Cup.

You'll need a long, sharp knife to cut this cake nicely, and a tall glass of hot water to clean the knife in between cuts to continue to get smooth cuts.

Here's a picture of the un-cracked, un-covered cake for now. I'm making this cake again in a couple weeks and hope to take some better ones. I unfortunately don't have any pictures of it as a finished product yet because it got eaten fresh out of the fridge, very fast.











Pretzel Buns

I love pretzels. Soft Pretzels anyway... They're one of the things I use the most flour towards on a regular basis. I recently pinned a Pretzel Hamburger Bun recipe and thought that it was time to give it a try. We were just about to take off for the long weekend and do some camping (with our home ground Sirloin burgers), so I needed a bun to complete that. These are the best pretzel buns I've ever had and I honestly don't think I would even give another recipe a chance at this point. I suppose the only thing I would change is that it made a double recipe.

And so I pass it on. This recipe makes about 8 large buns.

Homemade Pretzel Buns
(Adapted from Juanita's Cocina)

Ingredients

For the Pretzel Dough

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (100ºF)
1 Tbs. sugar (brown or white, I used brown Sugar)
1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For Boiling the Buns

8 cups water
1/2 cup (ish) baking soda
1 large egg, whisked with a dash of water
Kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

Add the water, sugar, and yeast to a measuring cup or bowl and stir slightly. Allow the yeast to bloom, or for bubbles to form in the cup. This should take about 5-10 minutes.

Add the flour, salt, yeast mixture, and melted butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix ingredients together on low speed until a rough ball begins to form. Continue to knead on low speed for another 5 minutes, or until the dough ball turns smooth and pulls away from the walls of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large lightly oiled bowl. Cover and allow the dough to rest for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. If its a hot summer day, you'll have no problem in your kitchen (unless you have AC, and I'm jealous), otherwise you can quickly preheat an oven to 200º and turn it off right after. Place a damp towel over your bowl and put in the oven to rise. Without a damp towel, it will probably get a crusty skin of sorts.

Preheat the oven to 450º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Punch down the dough and divide the dough into 8-12 equal portions (8 for large buns, 12 for more dinner roll sized buns). Roll each portion of dough between the palm of your hand and the counter/hard surface to form a ball. Place the rolls on the baking sheet and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes, or until they have risen again.

Meanwhile, bring the water and baking soda to a low boil in a large pot, I used a braiser as it gives me a large surface, I can do about 4 buns at a time. Then, turn the heat down so that no bubbles are breaking the surface. (bubbles will cause “divets” in your bun’s surface) Drop 1-4 buns (comfortable fit) at a time into the hot water, leaving them for 30 seconds on one side, before flipping them over and leaving them for another 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain each bun, returning it to the baking sheet.

Brush the egg wash lightly on all of the pretzel buns. Immediately sprinkle the top of the buns with a bit of Kosher salt. Cut two small, shallow slits in the top of each of the buns. I did an "=" pattern, an "X" is also common.

Once all pretzel buns have been salted, bake them in the oven for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until they turn a deep golden brown colour.

Cool on a rack until they won't steam up a container! Unless you're going to eat them right away, I wouldn't blame you.

I generally notice with pretzels and the buns that if left in a container or plastic bag when too warm or humid that the tops will wrinkle and envelop the salt on them. This isn't pretty looking, but they'll still taste great I promises. Although they also may be a bit sticky.















Here they are in all their glory as Sirloin burger buns on our Glacier Falls Camping Trip


Everything Bagels

Bagels have been something I have wanted to attempt for a really long time. I'm definitely the girl who would give up 3 square meals for a couple of bagels in a day. Call me crazy. So this was my first attempt. I wish I had made them earlier or later as we took them on our camping trip and they sat alone in the cooler. As anyone else with a "baking problem" may know, we were a bit overstocked on delicious food options. I did manage to try a couple before they sadly went mouldy. And I was fairly happy with them. Bagels can for sure be a blank slate for you to put your own touch on and add whatever you enjoy. I started with everything, since they're fairly basic and well enjoyed. Now that I know generally how they go, I'm definitely attempting the Jalapeño Cheddar variety next time. Stay tuned.

Things I would change ... I would bake them a tad longer (unless you have convection bake!) and I will get malt powder to boil them in next time, I used brown sugar instead. I would also keep the boil to a low boil, my bagels were a little bit dimply. Easily hidden with the toppings though!

Everything Bagels
(Adapted slightly from Arctic Garden Studio)

Dough

1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 cups Bread Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water, lukewarm (100ºF)

Glaze and Everything Bagel Topping

2 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried onions
1/2 teaspoon toasted garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 egg white

Water Bath

8 Cups water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Set on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes. The dough will be quite stiff and sticky. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and set it aside to rise till noticeably puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Mix together all of the everything bagel topping ingredients, except for the egg white and set aside.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it into eight pieces. I like to half my ball of dough, then half the halves and so on till 8. Makes them much more even than one giant bagel and 7 mini bagels. Working with one piece at a time, roll it into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap or a towel, and let them rest for 30-45 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water, malt and sugar to a very gentle boil in a large, wide-diameter pan, I used my braiser. Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole till it's about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 4 inches across). The twirling is fun, but be careful not to launch your bagel across your kitchen! Place each bagel on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Transfer the bagels, four at a time if possible, to the simmering water. Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and cook 1 minute more. Using a skimmer or strainer, remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Just before baking, with a glaze made of 1 egg white beaten till frothy with 1 tablespoon of water; glaze each bagel, and sprinkle heavily with everything bagel topping. You can eliminate this step if you prefer plain bagels, or use another topping of your choice if you are not a fan of everything bagels.


Bake the bagels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're as deep brown as you like. Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 8 bagels.







Graham Crackers

I really hate Graham Crackers. Which is really sad because I love the idea of S'mores. So when I started seeing make your own Graham Cracker recipes popping up I figured I would give them a try. And now, I can clarify that I really hate Graham Crackers, from a box. These are still fairly similar but have a lot more flavour and you can definitely manipulate them slightly if you would prefer more of a certain flavour. I would make them a bit thinner next time and the flavour of them still overwhelms the S'more a little bit.

Graham Crackers
(Adapted slightly from Baking and Boys)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup water (may need a little more)

In bowl of food processor, combine flours, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.  Pulse a few times. Add the cold butter and pulse until texture is dry and crumbly.

In a separate bowl, mix together the honey, molasses and water.  Add to food processor and blend together until it forms a ball, or close to a ball. I needed to dump it on to my plastic wrap and hand form it.

Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll the dough out on a well floured surface.  Roll the dough out as thin as you would like and cut with cookie cutters, I used a glass, for circles  Make fork marks in the dough.  Transfer to baking sheets.  You could sprinkle these with sugar or cinnamon/sugar before baking, I had a Maple Sugar Epicure Grinder that I used.  

Bake for 11-14 minutes until golden and crisp.  This recipe made about 20-26 Circles. I think I rolled some out thinner than others.

I also decided to take this one step further and melt some chocolate chips and butterscotch chips to pipe onto half the crackers. Eliminating the need to remember chocolate for the S'mores! I used about 1/4 cup of each for 24 crackers, as I had made a double recipe.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

English Muffins

Yes, this happened. I don't honestly know why I never thought of making these myself before. We now have a ton in our freezer and I'm sooo happy for that. They turned out amazing and they were super easy to make. Sean even helped. He was a little unsure at first, never making bread before but he had fun shaping them and manning the griddle. Yes! You griddle them! I really never pictured that either. Silly now that I think of it.

Anyways, it's bread so we followed the recipe exactly. We will definitely make them again. The recipe says 16, we got 22. It may be because they were smaller or because we REALLY let our dough rise. If you need them to be the exact same size, not judging I do it too, you should probably weigh the balls.

English Muffins
(Adapted from Homemade English Muffins)

1 3/4 cups lukewarm milk (I heated my milk in the microwave, 30 sec on med, stir, repeat till 100º)
2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) yeast
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg
4 1/2 cups flour
Pam for bowl and hands
Cornmeal for griddle

Place milk in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and sprinkle yeast over top.

Let sit for 10 minutes and then add the butter, salt, sugar, egg, and flour.

Mix on low until the flour is incorporated and then switch to medium and beat for 5 minutes - dough will be very soft and sticky.

Scrape dough out into an oiled bowl and cover, letting rise for ~2 hours.

Keeping your hands well oiled to prevent the dough from sticking, pinch golf ball sized pieces of dough off (2 oz, if you have a kitchen scale), form a ball, and place on a griddle pan that is generously dusted with cornmeal.
Lightly press down on the balls once on the pan (I could fit 8 on my large pancake griddle and then I put the remainder on a baking sheet to cook in three batches).

Let rest for 20 minutes to rise again. This is what mine looked like in the cornmeal, risen, before cooking.


Turn burner or grill to medium low and cook until golden brown, about 14 minutes on each side. (If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat.)

Carefully transfer the second batch to the griddle so as not to deflate them and cook until done.

Let cool completely on a rack before splitting open with a fork.
Muffins will keep fresh on the counter a few days and freeze well.

Here's a finished picture!


Caramel Macchiato Ice Cream

I knew I wanted to make some type of ice cream with the hot temperatures over the past few weeks. I really didn't know what type I wanted to make though, so I skimmed Pinterest until one jumped out at me! I did find a few but I knew my boyfriend would love this and I had all of the (modified) ingredients. It might be a bit heavy on the coffee flavour for some people and I used strong coffee. So adjust accordingly!

This is super creamy and doesn't get too hard considering it isn't a cooked ice cream. I know, until I figured out what that meant, it sounded really strange to me. But I won't confuse you with the details. My next one will probably be a cooked one, so you will see then!

Caramel Macchiato Ice Cream
(Adapted Slighty from here)

1 Cup 1% Milk (Any is ok)
2 Tbsp Instant Coffee (2-4 individual packs)
3/4 Cup White Sugar
1 Pinch Salt
2 Cups 18% Cream (You probably could use 10% too)
3/4 Cup Dulche de Leche (I used Eagle Brand in a tin)

Whisk together milk, instant coffee granules, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream, then cover and refrigerate until chilled. If your ingredients all went in cold, this won't take long. It will help to dissolve the coffee a bit more. 

Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions until it reaches "soft-serve" consistency. It took me about 35 minutes. The heavier cream you use, the more likely it will be for the ice cream to sort of "over flow" out of the top of the machine. 

Transfer a couple scoops of the ice cream to a one- or two-quart lidded plastic container. Pour some of the caramel sauce over the top, then repeat the layers with the remaining ice cream and caramel. Swirl the caramel into the ice cream using a chopstick or knife if desired but mine sort of absorbed into the ice cream and swirled it self.. Cover surface with plastic wrap and seal. For best results, ice cream should set in the freezer for at least 2 hours. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Steak & Goat Cheese Salad

Don't let the title fool you, there's a lot more to this salad than Steak and Goat Cheese. We've been on a bit of a salad kick lately and I've found the key is really to add in things you like to make it less boring.

Here's what we add to basic romaine!

Steamed Asparagus - Blanch in cold Water to maintain Crispness
Diced Red Pepper
Cubed Avocado
Cabra al Vino Goat Cheese - Or any goat cheese you like, this one is mild and creamy.
Salt and Pepper
Sunflower Oil
Rice Vinegar

Toss is all together and top with some thin sliced medium rare Steak. By far my favourite salad recipe!

Picture to follow.

Black Forest Graduation Cupcakes

My boyfriend graduated University after 6 long years this past June and his family threw him a party to celebrate. I had seen these on my (new favourite site) Pinterest and was pretty much determined to make them. They went over really well and were by far the coolest cupcakes I have ever made. I of course had to change them a bit, making them black forest for Sean, since its his favourite.

I really tend to keep it simple when I'm making a large amount of cupcakes and stick to a box cake mix. I used a Swiss Chocolate Duncan Hines cake mix for this one. Bake them according to the box, they usually make 24-30. I got 30 out of mine. I let these sit and cool over night, but a few hours will be fine.

You can buy a cupcake corer at Williams Sonoma or just use a paring knife to cut out a cylinder of the middle of the cupcake about half way deep. You can throw out the scraps.

Before moving on, pour a jar of pitted "sour" cherries through a strainer. Pour 1 cup of the juice into a small saucepan and add 1/2 cup of white sugar. Boil until reduced into a slight syrup, not too thick. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops and the hole in the cupcake with the drained juice from the cherries. Let this absorb completely and do it one or two more times depending how cherry flavoured you want them.

Place a cherry into each cupcake center.

I made a double recipe of stabilized Whipped Cream with this recipe. I needed the whipped cream to hold its shape for a little while so I decided to use this.

Put a bit of whipped cream on top of the cherry in the centers, and top with another cherry. Continue to ice the whole cupcake.

Taa-Daa! Black Forest Cupcakes!

Now for the Graduation Part of these Cupcakes, which was actually what I saw on Pinterest. I couldn't actually find much on them, a few people recommended Ghirardelli Chocolates for the tops, but those are fairly expensive for people that probably wouldn't notice either way.

I bought a bag of individually wrapped Reese's Mini Cups for the base. I melted 14 oz of chocolate and butterscotch chips (half and half) separately over a double boiler. I poured down the bittersweet Chocolate and swirled the butterscotch on top in a parchment lined baking sheet. I smoothed this out and put it in the fridge for about an hour. This is basically a chocolate bark. After it has cooled, cut it into about 2" squares. I put it back in the fridge after this.

I made a half recipe of this Icing Glue to attach the bottom of the Reese's Cups to the Bark Squares. You can definitely stop after this, they will look like little Grad Caps. I chose to add a licorice rope tassel with an edible Candy Pearl on the top.

Press the caps onto the Cupcakes and you're ready to go!

Here's A Picture:






Sunday, April 14, 2013

Italian Mussels and Pasta

About a week ago we decided to go to the Farmers Market for something to do on a Sunday. You never really know what you'll find or what you'll be inspired to make. We had recently had some pretty amazing Mussels at the new pub by our place and figured we could attempt our own. I had never made them or even really looked at them when we've been at the fish shop so this was all around new for me.

Mussels are probably one of the cheaper shell fish varieties at around $6/lb. Considering we're no where near an ocean, that is fine with me. We also picked up some nice scallops - those ring in at closer to $25/lb. Worth every cent, as long as you take the time to cook them right. But back to the mussels. I knew I had a few different recipes hidden away, in favourites folders, cookbooks and so on. At first we were really feeling a beer steamed mussel feast. But we kind of decided that was better for more of an appetizer situation and we were cooking for dinner. So this is the recipe I picked and changed in traditional fashion. It comes highly recommended, even the basic tomato sauce was really good.

Italian Mussels and Pasta
Adapted slightly from Here

  • 8 ounces  buccatini
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Basil, about 2 tbsp packed. 
  • pound  mussels, cleaned
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Big pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  •  
    If you've never made mussels or just want a refresher, I found this page (with a video even!) to help you figure out how to prep them. It is a bit of a pain, also I would highly recommend that you buy an extra half pound of mussels in case some die. All of ours were very much alive but after the scrubbing they had died (So Sad..)
     
    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.
    Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it just begins to colour, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully add crushed tomatoes (the mixture may splatter) and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
    Meanwhile, bring mussels and wine to a boil in a Dutch oven (or other large pot) over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the mussels open, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. (Discard any unopened mussels.)
    Strain the mussel broth through a fine-mesh sieve into the tomato sauce. Stir in crushed red pepper and simmer over medium heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle about half the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Divide the pasta, top with mussels and spoon the remaining sauce over the mussels.

    We served ours up with a tosted bun with garlic butter.


    A Pinterest St Patricks Day - Recipes and Fun

    I know I may be a little late with this post. St Patricks Day is sort of the reason that I ended up pretty much addicted to Pinterest. I basically google imaged St Patricks day food and everything that I liked linked back to Pinterest. And that was it. Hooked. So here is my random collection of recipes I made for our St Patricks day party.

    It was also my man friends housewarming aka my housewarming do over, since he moved in here! It was by far a better experience than my first one. No broken bones and we had a keg and way more people. It was great. The best themed party I've had, ok, except for maybe our Mad Men/NYC party. That was pretty spectacular. I don't know how many of my friends read this, but really, thanks for always going out of your way to dress up and be a part of my theme parties. They are pretty awesome.


    Key Lime Jello Shots

    So because this was 2 very awesome occasions mixed into one, jello shots were called for. They were the fastest thing to go on our counter for sure.

    2 packs Lime Jello
    2 Cups Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
    2 Cups Boiling water

    Mix the boiling water and the lime jello mix until dissolved, add the vodka.
    Pour into 1 oz (ish) cups and let sit in the fridge for 4 hours or up to overnight

    I got little 1oz plastic cups at the wholesale store. For less than $5 for 200. Because you'll never know when you'll want to whip some up!




    Green Velvet Cupcakes

    Red velvet is most of my friends favourite cupcake. So I figured I'd do that... except green. These are your every day red velvet, chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing. I just used green dye! Pretty much epic. Just saying.

    Recipe adapted slightly from here

    2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    2 cups sugar
    1 Tablespoon cocoa
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 eggs
    1cup canola oil
    1 cup buttermilk*
    1 Tablespoon vinegar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 oz. green food colouring (Yes, that is a whole little bottle)
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Prepare 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners, makes about 24 cupcakes. And yes! I did get little white, black, gold and green shamrock liners at Michael's!
    • Lightly stir eggs in a medium bowl with a wire whisk. Add remaining liquid ingredients and stir together with whisk until blended. Set aside. (You can also use your stand mixer for this, I did)
    • Place all the dry ingredients in your stand mixing bowl and stir together until well mixed.
    • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high for about a minute or until completely combined.
    • Pour into prepared cupcake liners/tins, let settle to avoid bubbles.
    • Cupcakes take about 18 minutes in my oven. Instead of 30 for a cake. Just in case, start checking (for a toothpick to come out clean) at about 12 Minutes for a convection oven and 14 for a regular oven.
    • Let cool before frosting, otherwise frosting will melt.
    *If you don't have buttermilk, you can make one cup of "soured milk" with 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice and 1 cup (less 1 Tbsp) Milk. Let it sit for 5 - 10 minutes and you'll get pretty much the same flavour. I never have buttermilk so this is what I do, unless I know I need a lot.
    Cream Cheese Frosting

    Everyones favourite part of a red velvet cupcake...

    This is my favourite recipe I've found for cream cheese frosting. Its actually less sweet than many others I've tried, but definitely still has the sugar. With "icing sugar" adding more of it will NOT thicken the icing. Only more cream cheese with thicken the icing, and sometimes not even then. Its a bit of a different texture to deal with. A few tries though and you'll figure it out in no time.

    Recipe from Here

    2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened (I used light)



    In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. I like to use a hand mixer or stand mixer for this, depending on the amount. 
    Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar.

    I piped the frosting using a large, round, tip. You can do whatever you like! I like to pipe.

    Store in the refrigerator if you aren't ready to use it right away, or have some left over.




    Margarita Lime Cupcakes

    I've made these cupcakes before, last year for St Patricks day actually! Since we were expecting close to 30 people (or more) I figured I'd be safe and have 2 kinds of cupcakes. These are lighter and less sweet than a standard cupcake I found. The lime helps balance them out and swiss meringue buttercream is pretty much amazing.

    I DID have some major issues with it this time. Which is the first time that has ever happened to me. I think I was just trying to do too many things at once. Here is a link on how to fix it if something goes wrong.

    Here is the link back to these cupcakes. I would write it out myself, but I think she does a really good job of it and I didn't change anything!

    Margarita Cupcakes

    Spinach Dip with Shamrock Chips

    I don't think you can go wrong with Spinach dip, pretty much ever. I like to think of it as the sort of healthy dip on the counter. I mean, look at all that green right? Ok, probably not the best thing. But that's ok, its a party.

    First things first, buy an awesome loaf of bread. We used sour dough, shaped into a big circular loaf. Cut into the top of the loaf at about a 45º angle to make an inverted cone in the loaf that you can take out. Here is your bread bowl lid. I cut most of the bread off the cone so that it really is just a lid. You can scoop out more of the loaves insides if you need to make room for the spinach dip. Hopefully you can tell by the photo what I mean.

    I pretty much always use this Spinach Dip Recipe, with a few changes. Here's mine below.

    1 cup miracle whip
    1 (16 ounce) container non fat greek yogurt
    1 package dry leek soup mix, I used Knorr
    1 (4 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
    1 Full, 10 ounce package fresh chopped spinach
    1 (1 pound) loaf round sourdough bread

    In a bowl, mix together miracle whip, greek yogurt, dry leek soup mix, water chestnuts and chopped spinach. Chill in the refrigerator 6 hours, or overnight.If you don't have time for this, its not a big deal. But a few hours is ideal.
    Remove top and interior of sourdough bread as I mentioned above. Fill with spinach mixture. Tear removed bread chunks into pieces for dipping. Unless you make the awesome Shamrock chips below!


     
     
    Shamrock Chips
    Adapted from here
     
     
    These were super easy, and like a craft inside cooking. Which is kind of my favourite thing ever.
     
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I used a pack of spinach tortilla wraps (10) and a pack of whole wheat wraps (10. Each wrap yielded 5 shamrocks with my cookies cutter.
     
    Push a shaped cookie cutter firmly through the wrap and wiggle while pressing until a clean cut is made. Place the cut-outs on a cooling rack placed in a cookie sheet and sprinkle salt and pepper across the chips. I also added some garlic powder for extra flavour.
     
    Cook the chips for approx 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them though, as ovens are different and they could burn easily. Burnt spinach wraps don't taste as good.
     
    Vegetable Rainbow
     
    I saw a few pictures of this on Pinterest and knew it had to be done. Most of the ones I saw were fruit though and being a night party I figured vegetables were a better choice. I bought some chocolate gold coins at the dollar store and put them in a little dish at the end of the rainbow. All in all it was just a fun way to arrange the veggies.
     
    I used, in order from top to bottom: Red Peppers, Carrots, Yellow Peppers, Celery, Green Peppers and some Blueberries at the bottom.