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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