Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Graham Crackers

I had full intentions of turning these into your basic rectangular shaped graham crackers when I set out to make them yesterday afternoon.   However, just as I was rolling the dough out I caught my new heart shaped cookie cutter out of the corner of my eye and decided that I would use it instead.  I am really glad I did, I think these turned out pretty well! 

This was the first time I have ever tried this recipe.  I usually start with a basic idea, and alter the recipe a few times before I find the perfect fit.  I was planning on adding molasses to my second batch thinking it would be essential for the graham cracker flavour, but I was so pleased with how this recipe tasted the first time around so I decided to keep it as it was.

In addition to crushing these bad boys up for homemade graham cracker crusts (hello cheesecake!), I can see myself tackling homemade marshmallows in the near future for the most epic 'smores on the face of the planet... is it camping season yet?!?

- 2 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour*, (plus more for rolling)
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 7 tbsp (100 grams) butter, cut into pieces
- 1/3 cup honey
- 5 tbsp milk (I used 2% for these)
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract

* If you have any on hand, you can substitute flour with graham flour (a combination of fine-ground white flour and coarse-ground wheat bran and germ).  I didn't have any in my cupboard or else I would have used it.  You can also substitute 1 cup all purpose flour with whole wheat flour if you like.

Optional Topping
- 1/4 cup raw sugar (or granulated sugar)
- 1 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Place flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in food processor and blend until well combined.

Add butter and pulse until well combined (mixture will be crumbly). 

Combine milk, honey, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk together.  

Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the food processor combining with the other ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

If dough is too sticky, add up to 1/2 cup more flour until it is a good consistency for rolling. 

Take 1/3 of the dough (put rest of dough in fridge to chill) and and roll it to about 1/8-1/4 inch thickness on a floured surface.  Cut into squares or use your favourite cookie cutter. 

Cut the end off a bamboo skewer and use it to score the cookie down the centre so your cracker breaks in half nicely when it's finished.

I used the tip of my bamboo skewer to poke holes in the dough for decoration. 

Optional: Sprinkle cookies with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for approx 15 minutes, until cookies are golden brown.

Recipe makes 6 dozen graham crackers.


- Nutritional Info (per cracker) -
Calories - 39  Fat - 1    Carbs - 8     Protein - 1   Fibre - 0

Sunday, January 22, 2012

No-Bake Granola Balls

So I was perusing Pinterest one night (story of my life!), when I came across these No-Bake Energy Balls brought to you by Smashed Peas and Carrots.  Within 10 minutes of seeing the post, I was already making them with what I already had in my kitchen.  The recipe below is not exactly the same (I used hemp seeds instead of flax for more protein, and omitted the chocolate chips, simply drizzling chocolate on some of them), but that's the great thing about this recipe!  It's easily adaptable to what you already have at home/what you are feeling like that day.  Needless to say, these did not last very long in my house!  A mere two days later and I was back in my kitchen making another batch (double this time!).  As Maggie from Smashed Peas and Carrots says "Good thing they are easy to make, another batch is never too far away". 

- 1 cup uncooked oatmeal (I like wild oats)
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
- 1/3 cup liquid honey
- 1 cup coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup hemp seed (or flax)
- 1 bar (1 oz.) Baker's* dark chocolate (optional)

* You could try using chocolate chips instead, but I find that Baker's chocolate tends to hold up a bit better (i.e. not as sticky when it dries). 


Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Let mixture rest in fridge for about 1/2 hour (this will help them stay together when you roll them). 

Roll into tbsp sized balls.  

Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl and transfer to a sandwich bag.  Snip a small tip off the corner of the sandwich bag and drizzle away! 

  Let balls set in fridge for another 1/2 hour before serving. 

Or try pressing them into a granola bar mold for an awesome granola bar!  


- Nutritional Info (1 ball) -
Calories - 93  Fat - 5    Carbs - 10     Protein - 3   Fibre - 2

Heidy's Cranberry & Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Picture by Heidy Valdes

First off I would like to start by saying Happy Birthday Heidy!  In honour of her special day, I would like to share with you all one of her original recipes. 

Heidy is one of those friends that you consider family.  She is one of the most genuine people I have ever met, and I am really glad that she is apart of my life.  When she asked me if I wanted to use her recipe for my blog, I jumped at the chance!    One thing I really like about Heidy's cooking style is that even in something like cookies, she is sure to throw some healthy ingredients into the mix (i.e. rolled oats, cinnamon, honey, dried berries).  

- 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup raw, natural sugar or brown sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup dried blueberries
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium sized bowl combine rolled oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cranberries, and blueberries, set aside. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy; beat in egg until blended.  Add vanilla and honey (if honey is thick melt first); mix well.  Add dry ingredients and mix until blended.

Shape into 1.5 inch (4 cm) balls and arrange on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.  Flatten with floured fork tines. 

Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Makes about 2 1/5 dozen.


Picture by Heidy Valdes

 Picture by Heidy Valdes

Picture by Heidy Valdes

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Martha Stewart's Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

This is not my original recipe, but it's too good not to share!  :)  Always a huge fan of Martha Stewart, I decided to rent her cookbook "Martha Stewarts' Cupcakes" from my local library.  One of the first recipes that I came across were for these decadent treats.  My husband isn't a huge fan of frosting and he LOVES peanut butter so I thought these would be a great cupcake to start with.  We both give this recipe two thumbs up!  :) 
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Filling:
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Put butter and chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly. (I melted the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave stirring every 30 seconds until smooth)

Whisk granulated sugar into cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well incorporated.

For Peanut Butter Filling

Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately.

Spoon 2 tablespoons chocolate batter into each lined cup, followed by 1 tablespoon peanut butter filling. Repeat with another tablespoon of batter, and top with 1 teaspoon filling. Swirl top of cupcake batter and filling with a wooden skewer or toothpick.

Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 40 minutes. Transfer tin to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature in airtight containers. (These baked in exactly the amount of time the recipe said they would).


Birthday Cake Smoothie

"Birthday Cake" flavoured ice cream is something I always look for when I am perusing an ice cream shop on a hot summers day (oh who am I kidding, any time of the year is a good time for ice cream). I can honestly say that next to good old fashioned vanilla, birthday cake ice cream is my favourite kind.  This smoothie tastes like the real deal - even I can't believe how low in calories it is!

- 1/2 cup vanilla frozen yogurt (throw in an extra 1/2 cup if you like your smoothies extra thick)
- 1/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
- 2 tbsp whipping cream, for garnish
- 1 tsp sprinkles, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend.

Optional:  Top with a few tbsp of whipped cream & a dash of sprinkles


- Nutritional Info (whole recipe w/o toppings) -
Calories - 218  Fat - 5    Carbs - 38     Protein - 7    Fibre - 1

- Nutritional Info (whole recipe w/ toppings) -
Calories - 338  Fat - 16    Carbs - 41     Protein - 8    Fibre - 1

Mango Carrot Smoothie

Wake up your taste buds with this energizing smoothie! 

 Bonus: This smoothie is completely fat free. 

- 1 cup frozen mango
- 1 cup orange juice (I like lots of pulp)
- 1/4 cup shredded carrot
- 1/4 tsp ginger

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend. 

Optional:  Top with a sprinkle of shredded carrot for garnish.

Makes 2 cups.


- Nutritional Info (whole recipe) -
Calories - 245   Fat - 0    Carbs - 57     Protein - 4    Fibre - 4

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

I know, I know... cream cheese and graham crackers in a smoothie?  Even my husband (who will try anything) was a bit skeptical when I told him what was in the drink he was about to consume.  Trust me though it works.  I tried several different combinations to get this smoothie just right.  And yes, it received my husband's official seal of approval. ;) 

- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup frozen yogurt
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 tbsp cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbsp graham cracker crumbs
- 1 tsp liquid honey


Combine ingredients and blend.  

Makes 2 cups.


- Nutritional Info (whole recipe) -
Calories - 346   Fat - 17    Carbs - 42     Protein - 8    Fibre - 3

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

This is pretty similar to the Almond Butter Banana Smoothie that I shared early last year, but in honour of Smoothie Sunday, I decided to post again with a new picture.  Because I used peanut this time instead of almond butter, the nutritional info at the bottom has changed. 

Whenever I make this smoothie it's for a meal replacement, as it's packed with some great healthy ingredients.  Great for breakfast; this bad boy has enough protein to carry you through to lunch and then some!

- 1 medium banana
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 1/2 cup frozen yogurt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or skim milk)
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tsp liquid honey (optional)

Combine ingredients and blend. 

Top with a drizzle of honey for decoration.

Makes 2 cups. 


- Nutritional Info (whole recipe) -
Calories - 445   Fat - 17    Carbs - 61     Protein - 20    Fibre - 6

100 Calorie Strawberry Smoothie

This smoothie is so easy to make, I would hardly call it a recipe.  It's so delicious, and amazingly low-cal, it was too good not to share!  
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tsp liquid honey

Combine ingredients and blend.

Makes 2 cups.


- Nutritional Info (whole recipe) -
Calories - 100   Fat - 2    Carbs - 35     Protein - 1    Fibre - 5

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Rack of Lamb

One of this Sunday's recipe's is brought to you by my husband Marc, who loves lamb.  I must admit, I haven't had a lot of experience eating it, let alone cooking it.  This recipe turned out pretty great, and didn't last very long!  Next time we are going to try the "French" style of cutting (removing the top layer of fat for a neater appearance). A fan who happens to be a culinary student also let me know that if you wrap the bones in moist paper towel when cooking, the bones will retain their white colour, thus making them more ascetically pleasing.  Can't wait to try it like this next time. 

- 1 rack of lamb

- 2 tsp rosemary
- 3-4 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1/2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
- pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Blend the rub ingredients together and rub over the lamb. 

Bake in preheated oven until desired doneness (30-35 minutes for well done). 


Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I remember first seeing someone throw whole garlic cloves into boiling water with potatoes at my Uncle Brian's & Aunty Pat's house when I was a child.  Aunty Pat is an excellent cook, so I remember taking note.  Now, as an adult, I almost always throw at least a couple of garlic cloves in with the potatoes.   This recipe is extra creamy, and infused with a wonderful garlic flavour.  Great dish to make for a potluck!  

- Serves 6 -
- 4 large Russet Potatoes
- 5 cloves peeled garlic
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces


Peel potatoes and quarter.  In a large saucepan, combine potatoes, garlic cloves and 1/4 tsp salt; cover with water.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Drain and place garlic and potatoes in mixing bowl.

Pour milk over potatoes.  Add butter and 1/4 tsp salt.  Using an electric mixer, whip until smooth and creamy.


- Nutritional Info (1/6 recipe) -

Calories - 197   Fat - 9    Carbs - 25     Protein - 4    Fibre - 3

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I have always wanted to make my own vanilla.  Recently a reader asked me if I had a recipe.  I didn't at the time, but I decided to see what I could come up with.  These are the results. 

- 1 oz (about 6) vanilla beans, halved
- 1 cup bourbon or vodka

Other Supplies:
- sharp knife
- cutting board
- 1 - 8 oz mason jar, or other glass jar(s)

Sterilize mason jar(s) by running through the dishwasher, or soaking in an extremely hot water bath.

Cut vanilla beans in half and scrape seeds out using a spoon.

I personally love the look of vanilla beans in a recipe, so almost didn't scrape the bean.  I'm glad I did though for two reasons.  1) There were still quite a few beans floating around in the jar even after I scraped the beans, and 2) I was able to use the scrapings (vanilla seeds) in another recipe, vanilla sugar

Reserve vanilla beans for vanilla sugar, or other recipes if desired. 

Pour bourbon or vodka over beans and seal mason jar.  It is important to completely cover the vanilla beans with alcohol to prevent them from moulding.

The extract is usable after 4 weeks, but will continue extracting for 6 months. 

Bourbon Extract:

Vodka Extract:


* Update - As of the date of this posting (day 5/28 of the process), both vodka and the bourbon extracts are almost the exact same colour!  The vanilla infused bourbon has a strong bourbon scent that overpowers the vanilla, whereas the vanilla infused vodka both looks and smells like vanilla extract you would find in a store.  I will post an update at the end of 4 weeks, so be sure to check back!  

4 WEEK UPDATE - Vodka is defiantly the way to go for your extract!  While the bourbon is still use-able, it still has a STRONG bourbon scent whereas the vodka vanilla smells just like vanilla extract!  The original recipe called for 3 vanilla beans, but I think it would be safe to double that amount for a stronger vanilla flavour.   I recently ordered just over a pound of Madigascar vanilla beans, and the order came with a recipe which says to use 1/4 lb of beans per quart of cheap vodka.  I have adjusted the recipe accordingly! 

- Nutritional Info (per tsp) -
Calories - 15    Fat - 0     Carbs - 0     Protein - 0    Fibre - 0

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is a great way to use up any extra vanilla seeds from recipes that only require the pod. Vanilla sugar is great in your morning coffee, or mixed into recipes that require sugar for that nice, vanilla bean look.   I made a yummy fruit dip a few days ago and stirred in a sprinkle of this.  It looked amazing, and extra fancy with the vanilla bean accent!  

- 2 vanilla beans
- 1/2 cup sugar


Cut vanilla beans in half and scrape seeds out using a spoon. 

Reserve pod for vanilla extract, or another recipe. 

Combine vanilla seeds with 1/4 of the sugar and blend to a fine powder (a small blender such as the magic bullet works great for this).  While blending is not necessary,  it helps create a better aesthetic.  Otherwise, the beans tend to clump with the sugar, making for an uneven texture.

  Mix together with remaining sugar.  

  Voila!  You now have vanilla sugar!


- Nutritional Info (per tsp) -

Calories - 17   Fat - 0    Carbs - 4     Protein - 0    Fibre - 0
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