Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a great holiday with friends and family.  We spend some time before Christmas visiting my brother and his girlfriend in Edmonton. They gave me an awesome gift - a new pasta maker and ravioli maker!  I'm hopefully going to try making my own pasta a bit later this week.   From Edmonton we continued onto Bonnyville to visit with Marc's sister and her family.  We had a great time visiting with everyone, and it was really cute spending Christmas morning with our nieces.

When we came back home, my best friend Heather was here visiting from Manitoba, so she stayed with us for a few days.  We caught up with some much needed girl time (I especially enjoyed polishing off a bottle of red while watching Dirty Dancing one of the nights she was here). 

 Marc and I both managed to come down with a winter cold this week - he made us a huge batch of his awesome homemade chicken vegetable soup yesterday.  Whenever I'm not feeling very well, this soup always helps me feel better (plus it means I didn't have to cook, so that's always a bonus! 

 I decided to take this week off from blogging to recover from my cold and re-charge my batteries for the new year - I'll be back to regular blogging next week! 

Until then, Happy New Year!  I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday! 
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mini Sweet Potato Pies

I have to admit I have never had sweet potato pie before, so I have no base of reference for these (as a huge fan of sweet potatoes, really not too sure how I managed to never try them in my 27 years on this planet).  To me, these taste exactly like mini pumpkin pies.  So much in fact, I think I might try swapping sweet potatoes for pumpkins in more of my recipes (while pumpkins are out of season anyway). 

Ingredients

For Pastry 
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, chilled
- 3 tbsp ice cold water

For Filling
- 1 cup mashed sweet potato
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice

For Topping
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
Directions
For Pastry
In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and salt and pulse until combined.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add water, 1 tbsp at a time and pulse until a ball of dough forms.  Remove from food processor, wrap, and place in fridge for at least an hour to relax the gluten in the dough.  Once refrigerated, roll out dough and cut into 24 tart size pieces (I used a narrow drinking glass for mine) and place in a mini muffin tin to create tart shell. 
For Filling
Using a hand mixer, whip all of the filling ingredients together until completely smooth.  Spoon mixture into tart shells until nearly full.  

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until filling is cooked and tarts are lightly browned. 

While tarts are cooling, whip together topping ingredients.  Spoon into a pastry bag (or sandwich bag) with your favourite icing tip and place topping in fridge for 5-10 minutes to set.  Pipe onto cool tarts.

Refrigerate leftover tarts. 

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Homemade Kahlua

Last year I made homemade Bailey's on Christmas Eve, and it was nothing short of awesome.  This weekend I set out to make a batch in preparation of the upcoming holidays, and ended up making a batch of Kahlua as well.  Here are the results: 
Ingredients
- 6 cups of your favourite coffee, brewed
- 1 lb light brown sugar
- 2 cups vodka
- 4 tbsp vanilla extract
Directions
Combine freshly brewed coffee with brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved.  Transfer to a medium saucepan set to medium heat.  Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.  Cool the mixture completely, then add vanilla extract and vodka. 
 
Recipe makes 6 cups (1.5 L).
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Spinach Dip


This recipe is my latest feature for Hinton Voice and appeared in their December 6th, 2012 issue!  :)  

[With the holidays fast approaching, most of us are bound to attend a gathering or two.  Spinach dip is an appetizer that is usually a hit at any event, and it’s one of my personal favorites.  Luckily for me, someone usually brings this dip so I’m set.  Well this year, I vowed to be that someone.

There are SO many variations of this popular recipe, but I chose to use a simple version that focuses on bring out the flavors of the spinach, without overpowering it with too many other ingredients.  No matter the dish, I always like to sautéing the vegetables to help bring the flavors to life, and this recipe is no exception.

I also used my favorite go-to base for hot dips, which consists of cream cheese and mayonnaise.  As long as you have this part taken care of, the next ingredients you add are extremely flexible. For this step, it’s really important to use real mayonnaise and not Miracle Whip.  While the tang of Miracle Whip can be great as a stand-alone sauce, it can be quite overpowering when combined with other ingredients.

One of the best parts about spinach dip is that it tastes great both hot and cold.  For a cold dip hollow out an Italian round bread and use it as an edible bowl.  For a hot dip, spoon dip into your favorite oven proof dish and serve warm with tortilla chips or crusty bread.  Hot or cold, no matter the event, spinach dip is sure to be a star.]

Ingredients
- ½ tsp. olive oil
- ½ small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-10oz package fresh spinach
- 1-8 oz. package cream cheese
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 - 4 oz. can water chestnuts
- 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Directions 
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saucepan, set to medium heat, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are slightly translucent.  Coarsely chop spinach and add to saucepan in a couple of batches so not to overcrowd.  Stir often until spinach is completely wilted.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Strain as much liquid as possible from the spinach (there will be a lot!).

In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and Greek yogurt – whip with a fork or electric mixer until smooth. Add spinach mixture, grated mozzarella cheese and chopped water chestnuts – stirring until just combined.  Let dip rest in fridge for a minimum of 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld together.

Top with remaining mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until dip is hot and bubbling, and the Parmesan cheese has turned golden brown.  Serve immediately.

- Nutritional Info (per 1/4 cup) -

Calories - 145   Fat - 12    Carbs – 4     Protein - 5   Fibre – 1


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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lemon Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

I originally saw the concept for the recipe on Pintrest called "The Best Broccoli of Your Life".  As soon as I saw it I knew that I had to try making it. I made a few modifications to the original (I used less oil, roasted the parmesan and the broccoli together, and used almonds instead of pine nuts) but used the same flavour combination.  I gotta say, this turned out so well I can see it making it's way onto my plate more often!  This would be such a great way to get kids to eat their veggies! 
Ingredients
- 2 heads of broccoli
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- salt and pepper to taste
Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  
Wash broccoli and pat dry.  Chop into medium sized pieces and place on a baking sheet.  Mince garlic and toss with broccoli, along with olive oil.  
Cook for 10-15 minutes until the broccoli is bright green.  Toss with fresh lemon juice, parmesan cheese and almonds - cook until cheese has browned, another 5-10 minutes.  
Season with salt and pepper. 
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Flour Mill Fun & Blueberry Muffins


I am a member of my local Toastmaster's group, and during a break at a recent meeting, a fellow member and I got to chatting about her flour mill.  She had made a delicious cake for our final meeting before the summer, and had milled the flour herself.  I was intrigued!  Needless to say we planned a day of flour making and baking together.  We made 4 different kinds of flour (quinoa, corn, buckwheat, and of course whole wheat).  It was so a really neat experience and now I know I'll be purchasing my own flour mill in the future!  

Here is a shot of the wheat being milled. 


And is the resulting flour!  You can sift the flour to remove the bran, but we decided to keep it all together for more fibre.


I have a ton of plans for the other flours, and am really excited to experiment with them!  Below is the recipe that Cheri and I made with some of the whole wheat flour. 

Cheri's Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffin Recipe
Ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup fruit (we used frozen blueberries)

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 

Using a mixer, combine the first 4 ingredients and mix until smooth.  Stir in the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Be sure not to over mix at this step. 

Add your favourite fruit (we used blueberries this time, though strawberries and rhubarb is another delicious variation!) 

Spoon into a greased muffin tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. 

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

French Onion Grilled Cheese

If you're craving a delicious bowl of homemade french onion soup, you're going to want to make this recipe.  If you're looking for a fun, creative spin on the classic dish, you've come to the right place! 
Ingredients
- 8 slices of french bread
- 1 medium sweet onion, sliced into thin rings
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil or butter, 
- 3/4 cup mozzarella
- 1/4 cup greyer
- 2 tbsp beef broth
- 1/8 tsp worcester sauce 
- 1 tsp cooking sherry (optional)
- salt & pepper to taste
Directions
Slice french bread and butter or oil the bottom side of each piece. 
Saute onions in remaining butter or oil until lightly translucent.  Add beef broth, worcester sauce, cooking sherry, and salt and pepper.  Cook down until little moisture remains. 
Assemble the sandwich in this order: light sprinkle of cheese, onions, cheese (this helps keep the bread in the middle from getting soggy). 
Pre-heat a large frying pan over medium heat.  Cook the sandwiches 2-3 minutes per side, until lightly golden brown. 
Serve with au jus or french onion soup for dipping! 
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hazelnut Butter



A fan of all things hazelnut, it was only a matter of time before I tried making the above at home.  I first tried hazelnut butter from Safeway, then later from my local health food store, and finally at home. I was surprised at just how easy it was to make homemade - I can't wait to try different nut butters in the future, and more importantly, homemade Nutella! 

Ingredients
- Hazelnuts, any quantity (sometimes called filberts in the baking isle)

Directions


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Roast hazelnuts for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned & skins have loosened. 


Once roasted, immediately transfer  hazelnuts to a clean dish cloth or paper towel and rub them with another dish cloth or paper towel to loosen the skins.  It's important to complete this step while the hazelnuts are still warm - once cooled the skins are much harder to remove.  


Some of the skins will stubbornly stay on, but as long as you get most of them you should be good to go.


Once skinned, place hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until blended, scraping down the sides as needed. 


At first the hazelnuts will appear coarse, like coarse bread crumbs. 


Then they will grind down and resemble graham crumbs.  At this point you're going to have to resist the urge to add oil to the hazelnuts. Up until this point, the nuts seem dry and you may start to wonder how it could possibly turn into nut butter.


After a little patience, the magic starts to happen, and the natural oils from the nuts come into play. 


Soon the mixture will start to stick together and start to look more like nut butter! 


The more you blend it... 


The smoother the nut butter will be.


 Now off to try a homemade Nutella recipe!  ;) 
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Macaroni & Cheese



This recipe appeared in the November 1st edition of The Hinton Voice

[One of the great things about Hinton is the ever-changing seasons.  Though the calendar still tells us it’s fall, the fresh blanket of snow that covered our town last week suggests otherwise.   Needless to say, the chill in the air has got me craving comfort foods – and nothing says comfort food better than a steaming, creamy bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese.  A classic favorite for kids and adults alike (does anyone know anybody who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese?) this simple dish is always a crowd pleaser.

The key is to start with a good old-fashioned cream sauce.  Butter is melted in a saucepan, and then flour is stirred into it to make a paste (which is called a roux).  After the flour has cooked a few minutes, milk is whisked in.  The starch from the cooked flour expands in the milk, creating a creamy, thick sauce.  The starch binds the sauce together, ensuring that when the cheese is stirred in, the sauce remains smooth rather than stringy.

Another important step is to add a nice sharp cheddar.  I find that aged white cheddar gives the smoothest, cheesiest sauce.  Past experiences have taught me that yellow or processed cheddars  (or an accidental splash of water into the sauce) can give the sauce a grainy texture.

If you’re craving something fancier than the basics, throw in your favorite vegetable (we like broccoli) or if you’re craving something extra decadent, crab or lobster makes a wonderful addition.

So there you have it - a great classic dish that can be casual or fancy. Besides, there’s nothing more comforting on a chilly day than a hearty helping of good old macaroni and cheese.]

Ingredients
-        ½ lb (8 oz) dry macaroni (or your favorite pasta)
-        3 tbsp butter
-        4 tbsp all-purpose flour
-        2 ½ cups milk
-        1/2 tsp salt
-        1/8 tsp nutmeg
-        1/8 tsp black pepper
-        dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
-        1.5 cups (6 oz) grated sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)
-        ¾ cup (3 oz) grated gruyere or parmesan cheese

Topping:
-        ½ cup panko bread crumbs
-        1 ½ tbsp butter, melted

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook pasta as per package directions for al dente (firm) pasta.  Strain and rinse pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process and to remove any extra starch. While extra starch might sound like a good idea to thicken the sauce, in this case it can change the texture of the sauce. Strain noodles well and place them in a casserole dish.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set to medium heat.  Add flour to form a roux and cook for about a minute or so.  Stir in spices. Whisk in milk and stir until well blended.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Stir in cheese, and then pour cheese sauce over noodles.  Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top.

Cook in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs have lightly browned.

Recipes makes 6 servings.

- Nutritional Info (1/6 recipe) -

Calories - 467   Fat - 20   Carbs – 41     Protein - 21   Fiber – 2


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Roasted Chestnuts

Our first official snowfall of the year has came and gone - only to come again with full force!  As a result Christmas music has been dancing in my head.  On our way home from a recent trip to the city, we stopped to pick up groceries along the way and I saw a bin of fresh chestnuts.  Immediately I thought of the infamous line about chestnuts roasting on an open fire from "The Christmas Song" so I couldn't resist buying them. Since (much to my dismay!) we don't have a fireplace at home, and it's well past campfire season - I opted for oven roasting instead. 
I was surprised by the final taste - I was expecting a harder nut with a nuttier taste.  Chestnuts are quite soft (especially once roasted), and the taste is pretty mild. Marc and I both thought they tasted similar to mashed potatoes!  I'm going to try them again later in the week, only this as apart of squash soup!  
Ingredients
- fresh chestnuts, any quantity
Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
With a sharp knife, cut an "x" in the centre of the chestnut, round side up.  As the chestnuts roast, the shell will curl away enabling easier peeling. 
Roast chestnuts on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes until lightly browned.
 
Peel the shells away while the chestnuts are still warm.
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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Butter Tarts

Butter tarts are a true Canadian classic with the first recorded recipe dating back to the early 1900's.  I love classic recipes like these that have been able to stand the test of time.  It's so awesome to envision people making this same dessert back in the day.  Like most older recipes, this one is simple, and calls for ingredients that most people will already find in their kitchens.

Butter tarts are such a great dessert to serve during the upcoming holidays. The sweet, flaky crust, paired with the creamy, buttery filling creates an incredible flavour combination.  Not only can these be made in advance, they also freeze quite well so they make an ideal dessert to make for get togethers.  
For Pastry
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, chilled
- 3 tbsp ice cold water
For Filling
- 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1/2 cup raisins or chopped nuts (optional)
Directions
Place flour, sugar, and butter into a food processor and blend until combined.  Slowly add water and blend until a dough forms.  Place dough on a floured surface and shape the dough into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to relax the gluten in the dough. 
Once chilled, roll dough to approx 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut 12 x 4 inch circles (I used a large mug as my cutter).  Place the dough ontop of the pie tin and lightly press down to create a cup.  Cover and chill cups for additional hour. 
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 
Meanwhile, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment wisk together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Mix in vanilla extract.  Add cream and whip until combined. 
Line the bottom of each pastry cup with raisins or nuts.  Divide filling amongst cups. 
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or so until the filling has bubbled out and is set. 
Let tarts cool completely before removing from the muffin tin.
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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sell a Mo & help a bro.


An old friend of mine (above) recently opened up her own bakery in Qualicum Beach called "Mo's Mini's".  If you are in the area I highly recommend that you check her bakery out!  She makes some amazing miniature sized treats.

She is doing an awesome fundraiser for "Movember" and I thought I would share it with you all! 


Check out her Facebook page to see some of her delicious treats and photos of people sporting their very own Mo's like the adorable ladies below: 

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