Saturday, October 30, 2010

No Bake Halloween Marshmallow Pops

Aren't these Halloween treats just the cutest things EVER?? I found the original recipe on the Decorated Cookie blog and her amazing photos here. Her zombies are fantastic, as are her amazing cookies! If you haven't visited her site please do just for pure cookie enjoyment!

My versions are less zombie-like and certainly not as professional looking but my son's preschool buddies (and their parents) loved them! Not one was left by the end of the party :)

Go to the Decorated Cookie site for the recipe. The only thing I added was the "Hair". To do that, I dipped the heads into corn syrup and used a tooth pick to scrape off all but a thin film of syrup. I then dipped the head top into a bowl of back and orange sprinkles. I also found it easier to insert the lollipop sticks before I did any other work.

Easy Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Wraps

How many of us are trying to reduce our carb intake?? One easy way is to replace tortillas with lettuce! The lettuce provides great crunch and a freshness factor to any dish you might use with a tortilla especially tacos and fajitas. Last night I whipped up this chicken dish and thought I'd share it with you. It's quick and easy and very adaptable. I used left over chicken but pork, beef, shrimp or even fish could be used ...or go vegetarian and leave meat out all together. You can also add in any veggies or sauce you like. Serve with a little sour cream or extra chilli sauce and you are ready to go.

2 cups cooked diced chicken, or pork or beef
1 can black beans
1 red bell pepper, thinnly sliced
1 red onion, thinnly sliced
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 cup salsa or corn and chile salsa (TJs)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 head lettuce
1 tsp cumin
few dashes hot sauce

What to do
Cut lettuce head in half. Wash and remove top layer or two of leaves. Remove core. Set aside.

Spray large wok or saute pan with cooking spray. Heat pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add carrots, water chestnuts and peppers and saute 2 more minutes. Add cooked chicken, beans, tomatoes and cumin and saute 3 minutes more. Add salsa, hoisin sauce and hot sauce. Stir together ensuring mixture is heated through.

Place mixture in serving large bowl or platter and serve with lettuce so everyone can make their own wraps. You could also make the wraps yourself and serve to guests but sometimes the leaves wilt because the mixture is so hot.

I serve them with sour cream but you could serve with a side of extra hoisin sauce.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alien Donuts - A Daring Baker Challenge!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Well, ok, the "alien" wasn't part of the challenge but it is almost Halloween so they seemed fitting! Aren't they cute?!? My 4 and 6 yr olds loved helping dip the donuts (or doughnuts, as we write in Canada).

Sadly, I had some rather aggrevating camera problems during this challenge so I don't have any pics of the actual making of the dough process :( Also, if you don't have time to make the actual donuts at home, you could always buy some at Timmy's or Dunkin' and decorate yourself to save some time and effort.

The icing is good 'ol Betty Crocker Vanilla that I coloured with some food colouring gels. Then I microwaved the icing until it was quite thin and melted (maybe 15-20 seconds per cup of icing). Acting quickly, I dipped the donuts and donut holes and then placed them on a cooling rack on a pan. To help them set I then put them in the freezer for 20 minutes. Once set, I carefully placed the holes on top of the donuts and decorated with licorice and m&m's.

The whole process made for quite an afternoon! Messy and fun!

Here is Alton Brown's recipe for yeast donuts in case you decide to try these for yourself!
Yeast Doughnuts
Equipment required
  • A Dutch oven or very deep skillet
  • Deep fry thermometer, candy thermometer or any thermometer that will withstand and measure temperatures of up to 380 degrees
  • Metal slotted spoon, metal slotted spatula or tongs
  • Cookie sheets or a wire rack lined with paper towels to allow doughnuts to drain
  • Electric hand mixer or stand mixer, or a bowl and a spoon if you are able to utilize a lot of elbow grease
  • Doughnut or biscuit cutters or you can use a glass and a piping tip for the center

Preparation time

Hands on prep time - 25 minutes
Rising time - 1.5 hours total
Cooking time - 12 minutes

Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size

  • Milk 1.5 cup / 360 ml
  • Vegetable Shortening 1/3 cup / 80 ml / 70 gm / 2.5 oz (can substitute butter, margarine or lard)
  • Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon (2 pkgs.) / 22.5 ml / 14 gm / ½ oz
  • Warm Water 1/3 cup / 80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C)
  • Eggs, Large, beaten 2
  • White Granulated Sugar ¼ cup / 60 ml / 55 gm / 2 oz
  • Table Salt 1.5 teaspoon / 7.5 ml / 9 gm / 1/3 oz
  • Nutmeg, grated 1 tsp. / 5 ml / 6 gm / ¼ oz
  • All Purpose Flour 4 2/3 cup / 1,120 ml / 650 gm / 23 oz + extra for dusting surface

Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)

What to do:
  1. Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
  2. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
  4. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
  5. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
  6. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
  7. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  8. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
  9. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
  11. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).
  12. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan.
  13. Decorate as you wish once cooled.
  14. Enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Apple Crumble with Berries

If you are ever in Vancouver, British Columbia during UBC Apple Fest you MUST go! This year visitors could buy more than 60 varieties of apples and learn about another 140 types! They expected to sell almost 30,000 lbs over two days to approximately 14,000 visitors.

My kids loved the Johnny Apple Seed Kids Area where they had their faces painted, made apple blossom rings our of tissue paper and learned more about apples than I thought possible.

We bought 2 types of apples that we had never tried before. The first was a bag of Winter Banana apples. Winter Banana apples are an heirloom variety. Winter Banana Apples are pale yellow with faint pink blush. The flavor is a nice combination of sweet and mild, with a definite banana aroma and a crisp texture.

The second was a bag of Topaz apples. The Topaz is a sharper-tasting apple and is medium-large in size. The skin colour is yellow, almost completely overlaid with red and crimson flush. The flesh is crisp. I preferred the Topaz to the Winter Banana but both taste wonderful.

Although both varieties were great straight out of the bag, I also used them in this apple crumble. This is a quick dessert using apples, frozen berries, and instant oatmeal (I ran out of my usual long cooking oats). Quick. Simple. Delicious.

4-5 large apples, peeled and sliced  (1/4 inch)
1 cup mixed berries - frozen or fresh
juice of one lemon
2 tbsp rum
1 tbsp flour
1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar (depending on how tart apples and berries are)
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

3 packs instant brown sugar oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter cut into small pieces

What to do
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the first 8 ingredients in a 1.5 quart baking.
3. In another small bowl place topping ingredients together. With hands, quickly rub butter into oatmeal and cinnamon until crumbly.
4. Sprinkle over top of apple mixture.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until juices bubbles and top browns.
6. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Carrot, Raisin, Orange, Pumpkin Muffins or CROP Muffins

So many muffins today are really just cakes or cupcakes in disguise. But let's face it, it sounds way better to say you had a muffin for breakfast rather than a cake! Even so-called healthy varieties like bran or fruit varieties are often full of sugar and fat. And what about those massive costco muffins - there must be a days worth of calories in one of those pretty boys!

Well, these muffins are pretty good as far as muffins go. There is quite a bit of fibre thanks to the pumpkin, carrots and raisins. And there isn't too much oil or sugar thanks to the pumpkin puree and its natural sweetness.  I don't know the exact calorie count but if you follow Weight Watchers(tm) one muffin has 4 points. Their flavour is best within 48 hours of baking.

Recipe adapted from Canadian Living's Best Muffins and More

Makes 12 muffins.
2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 vanilla
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 egg, beaten
1-3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup orange juice

What to do:
  1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
  2. Stir in raisins.
  3. In another bowl blend together egg, pumpkin, oil, orange juice, carrots and vanilla.
  4. Pour all at once over dry ingredients; stir just enough to blend.
  5. Spoon into large greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling to top of cups.
  6. Bake in 375°F (190°C) oven for about 25 minutes or until tops are golden and firm to the touch.
  7. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing from pans to cool on racks.
  8. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chocolate Overload Cookies!

So, it's a Wednesday night and I suddenly have a craving for chocolate chip cookies. Just thinking about the aroma of fresh baked cookies sends a shiver down my spine and puts a smile on my face. But I've had dinner, am comfortably sitting on the couch and waiting for So You Think You Can Dance Canada to come on the TV. And besides, how do I justify to myself eating cookies on a Wednesday night? Perhaps a bowl of strawberries will suffice??? Who am I kidding, it won't. In my head, I go over the ingredient list of one my fave recipes...I think I have everything so what the heck, let's do it.

Well.....apparently I used all of the regular flour when I made chocolate turnovers, all of the white sugar when I made a cake for a friend, didn't have any room temperature butter. Was my craving to go unfullfilled? No way, Jose. I decided to improvise. I used cake flour, cocoa (cause by now my chocolate craving was out of control) and melted butter. And by adding 2 more types of chips, my craving monster was finally satified! These cookies are cakier than my other chocoalte chip cookie recipes, soft and dense...and the aroma....oh man, I'm craving them again!!!

3/4 cup melted butter
2 2/3 cups cake flour (not self rising)
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee (optional)
2 tbsp hot water
2 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa, sifted
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

What to do:

1. Heat oven to 375°F (190°C).
2. Dissolve coffee into hot water.
3. In large bowl, beat melted butter, brown sugar, eggs and hot coffee water until smooth.
4. In medium bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
5. Stir into butter mixture until blended.
6. Mix in chocolate chips. Drop from teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Bake 8 minutes.
8. Let cool 1 minute.
9. Remove to wire rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cinnamon Bun Sugar Cookies

Aren't these the cutest little cookies ever?? I had left over sugar cookie dough in my freezer and didn't feel like using cookie cutters and re-rolling scraps so I thought this was a great alternative.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

1/3 cup melted butter
4 tbsp cinnamon
4 tbsp sugar

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. In bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine.
3. In another large bowl beat butter and shortening.
4. Beat in sugars until light and fairly fluffy.
5. Beat in egg and vanilla.
6. Mix in flour mixture.
7. Divide dough in half; flatten each slightly.
8. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
9. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough, 1 piece at a time, to 1/4-inch (5 mm) thickness and in a 8 inch by 14 inch rectangle.
10. Brush melted butter over rectangle.
11. Mix cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over dough. 
12. Place 14-inch side of dough parallel to you and roll dough fairly tightly away from you.
13. If dough is very soft refrigerate for 20 minutes.
14. Slice dough into 1cm or 1/2 inch slices using a sharp knife so as not to squish dough.
15. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.
16. Let cool for 1 minute on baking sheets.
17. Transfer to racks; let cool completely.
18. Drizzle icing over cookies.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Easy Chocolate Turnovers

My Mom and Mother-in-law make fantastic tea biscuits - always high and delicious! My husband, however, will be the first to tell that my tea biscuits have never received the same high grades - even when I use their recipes. Secretly, I wonder if they left out some special ingredient in the recipes they gave me in order to sabotage my efforts - like Marie did on Everybody Loves Raymond when Deborah tried to make on of her recipes!

This recipe allows me to come into my own on the tea biscuit front because they've magically turned into chocolate turnovers! This tea biscuit recipe is sweetened up with the addition of whatever chocolate you have on hand. I used chocolate medallions (2 per turnover) in the photo below and in the 1st photo I used nutella! I think adding raspberry jam to the chocolate will be my next turnover adventure.

2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup of nutella or your favorite chocolate, (chopped if using normal chocolate)

2 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

What to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  3. Cut in shortening with pastry lender or 2 knives until crumbly.
  4. Pour all of milk into bowl and stir with a fork. Do not over mix. The dough will be soft and sticky.
  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface.
  6. Knead 8 times.
  7. Roll dough into 16 x 8 inch rectangle.
  8. Cut into 8 four-inch squares.
  9. Divide your chocolate among squares and place just off centre of squares.
  10. Fold the dough over to produce triangles.
  11. Pinch dough to seal triangles.
  12. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  13. Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  14. Bake for 20 minutes.