Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tidbit Thursday #2 - All About Chocolate

Chocolate covered strawberries - so easy. Look for recipe on this Saturday's blog post!

This week's Tidbit Thursday is all about chocolate!

The World's Top Chocolate Loving Nations are (lbs/yr):

1. Switzerland 22.36
2. Austria 20.13
3. Ireland 19.47
4. Germany 18.04
5. Norway 17.93

Chocolate Facts
  • Chocolate production starts with harvesting cocoa .The seed pods of the cacao tree don't grow from the end of its branches, but directly off the branches and the trunk of the tree.
  • Seed pods are about the size of a football and holds up to fifty seeds–enough to make about seven milk chocolate or two dark chocolate bars. Fresh cocoa beans are not brown and they do not taste at all like the sweet chocolate they will eventually produce.
  • Cacao flowers are pollinated by midges which are small flies that live in the rotting leaves and other debris that fall to the forest floor at the base of the tree.
  • In 1847, Fry and Sons Company of Bristol, England, introduced the first solid eating chocolate. The family–who, like many early chocolate dynasties, were Quakers– boycotted cacao from parts of the world where working conditions resembled slavery.
  • Although we tend to think of chocolate as a solid today, for 90% of its history it was consumed in liquid form.
  • Chocolate manufacturers currently use 40% of the world's almonds and 20% of the world's peanuts
  • 71% of North American chocolate eaters prefer milk chooclate.
  • 22% of all chocolate consumption takes place between 8pm and midnight.
  • More chocolate is consumed in the winter than any other season.
 Great sites about chocolate:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Triple Threat Bars

Oooohs, aaaahs and mmmmmmms will be all that you hear from your friends and families when they bite into these oh-so-delicious layered bars.

I have been making these for years and the recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on a condensed milk can (Eagle Brand , I think). I call them "triple threats" because of the chocolate, peanut butter and caramel oozing from every bite of these decadent treats. They are not for anyone watching their waist line (well, unless you are watching it expand!) - butter, condensed milk, chocolate, caramel, peanut butter ... my mouth is watering ... definitely makes for a bit of a calorie nightmare but we all need a treat once in awhile! A small square or two is worth an extra workout this week. Don't you agree?

Triple Threat Bars

1/2 cup butter
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups coconut
1 can condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1.5 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup mini peanut butter cups
1 cup soft caramels (maybe 20 prepackaged caramels such as Kraft)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Place butter in 9 x 13 pan and melt in oven.
2. Remove pan from oven.
3. Sprinkle graham wafer crumbs evenly in pan.
4. Sprinkle coconut evenly in pan.
5. Pour condensed milk evenly over coconut.
6. Place back in oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
7. About 5 minutes before taking out pan, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips in small sauce pan over low heat. Stir constantly to prevent burning.
8. Pour peanut butter and chocolate mixture over hot base.
9.Cool 10 minutes and then sprinkle mini peanut butter cups and cut up caramels evenly over bars. If desired run a knife through caramels once they have had a few minutes to melt to spread out a bit.

I had made a batch of pistachio caramels that turned out too hard so I melted them down with a bit of cream and used them in this recipe. I'm sure premade soft caramels would work too - I would just cut them in half and sprinkle on top while still warm so they will melt. Dollups of ice cream sundae butterscotch would work if you are serving them on a plate as a dessert but the sauce would be a bit too messy if you were to serve them as a cookie bar meant to be picked up with your hands.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tidbit Thursday - Did you know?

It's Tidbit Thursday! A new Within the Kitchen weekly feature where I'll share a few interesting (at least to me) bits of food and cooking information that I've learned during the week. If you have any tidbits you want to share send them to me at and I'll feature as many as I can.

Tidbit - noun
1 : a choice morsel of food
2 : a choice or pleasing bit (as of information)

Tidbit Thursday - Did you know?

  • Lemons are picked when they are green by most commercial producers of the fruit. Their colour changes when ethylene gas is added to the storage bins.
  • According to the Sunkist(tm) website, the Meyer lemon, actually a cross between a lemon and possibly an orange or a mandarin, was named for Frank N. Meyer who first discovered it in 1908. 
  • 3 tbsp of juice can be squeezed from an average lemon.
  • 2 tbsp of juice can be squeezed from an average lime (persian limes not key limes which are smaller).
  • Eight strawberries will provide 140 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for kids.
  • The strawberry is the only fruit with the seeds on the outside of the fruit.
  • Apples ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than if they were refrigerated.
  • 25% of an apple's volume is air. That's why they float.
  • The first pie recipe was published by the Romans and was for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie.
Pie Pops are mini pies on stick!
Click for recipe.
Hope you learned something new...check back next week for more Tidbit Thursday!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pucker-up Lemon Loaf

This is adapted from my Mom's amazing lemon loaf recipe. The sanding sugar (sugar with large granules) produces a great crisp-like topping that adds a great crunch to this beautifully moist loaf. It also keeps it crunch after the lemon glaze is added.

1.5 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp lemon rind

Juice of 1 -2 large lemons
1/3 cup sugar

Sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 x 5 loaf pan.

1. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy about 3 minutes.
2. Beat in cream cheese for another minute.
3. Beat in eggs one at a time.
4. Add vanilla and rind.
5. In another bowl sift or whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
6. Alternating with buttermilk, mix in dry ingredients in three additions (start with milk).
7. Pour batter into greased 9 x 5 loaf pan.
8. Bake for 60-70 minutes.
9. Cool for 10 minutes. Poke loaf all over with tooth pick or skewer.
10. Mix lemon juice and sugar until sugar is mostly dissolved. Pour evenly over loaf.
11. Wait another 10 minutes so juices can soak into loaf. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely.


Do not over beat dry ingredients into wet. Mix until just incorporated to avoid a "tough" loaf.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


It's the weekend which means there are usually items in my fridge that are about to pass their expiry date if not used quickly. This week my large carton of half and half  is on the chopping block. For those who aren't familiar with half and half - it is a popular dairy product that is equal parts milk and cream. The fat content is usually around 10.5 - 18% . I use it with my coffee and it is also used with strawberries and breakfast cereals.

I found an ice cream recipe that sounded delicious and since the kids have been begging to use the ice cream maker it was the one chosen.  But I have to admit it did not freeze! I have no idea why - maybe my ice cream thingy wasn't cold enough. I told the kids it was strawberry "soup" instead - they loved it!!!

But I needed to prove to myself that I could produce a frozen ice cream! So I tried again - I altered the recipe even more by adding caramel, lemon zest (the zest adds a bright, summer flavour) and real vanilla to my version for a decadent cheesecake ice cream. And since we used half and half instead of full fat heavy cream, I don't even feel too guilty about having a second scoop!


1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces softened cream cheese
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
3 cups half-and-half
1 heaping tsp. fresh lemon zest, grated
1 1/2 cup strawberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp caramel sauce

1. Beat sugar and cream cheese together until smooth and creamy.
2. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla (if using liquid); set aside.
3. Dice strawberries and mash a few times with fork or potato masher.
4. Mix strawberries and brown sugar in small bowl; set aside.
5. Pour half-and-half into heavy saucepan.
6. If using vanilla bean, splice in half and scratch out inside of pod. Add to half and half.
7. Bring half and half to a low simmer.
8. Slowly mix the hot cream into the cheese mixture.
9. Pour mixture back into saucepan and heat over medium - low heat. Stir constantly until custard thickens slightly. Be careful not to boil or the egg may will scramble. About 5 minutes.
10. Remove from heat.
11.Allow mixture to cool for 20 minutes or so.
12. Add lemon zest.
13. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or longer.
14. Stir chilled custard; freeze in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.
15. Add strawberries when ice cream is semi-frozen and allow machine to mix in.
16. Add caramel sauce in slow stream to machine at very end - the sauce will probably end up mixing in rather than forming a "ribbon" but that's ok - still tastes great!
17. For firmer ice cream, transfer to freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 2 hours.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Indian-Italian Vegetable Stew

I was craving cauliflower and curry the past few days. Luckily, while waiting in a doctor's office (has anyone not waited in a doc's office?!) I came across a Canadian Living magazine that incorporates both ingredients! With a little tweaking and using what I had on had this is the result. The spaghetti sauce and curry does seem a bit of an odd pairing but it works quite well. Tomorrow I'll put it over a bed of Jasmine rice but tonight it was delicious on its own.

Adapted from a Canadian Living Recipe:

1 head of caulifower
3 cups butternut squash
1 small zucchini
2 large carrots
1 medium red onion 
1 tsp mustard seeds, optional
2 tbsp Indian curry paste (I enjoy Patak's brand)
645 ml Newman's sphaghetti sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
540 ml (19oz) can of chickpeas, drained
1/2 cilantro, chopped
2/3 cup water

1. Chop caulifower into small florets.
2. Cube squash (or purchase precut, to save time!)
3. Slice zucchinis and carrots into baby finger sized pieces.
4. Chop onion.
5. Set large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add a bit of oil.
6. When oil is hot, add onion and saute for 3 minutes.
7. Add mustard seeds and stir for 30 seconds till they start to "pop".
8. Add curry paste and stir for 1 minute.
9. Add tomato sauce, water, vinegar, sugar and all remaining vegetables.
10. Bring to a boil.
11. Reduce heat and cover, and simmer on medium-low heat for additional 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
12. Add chickpeas and simmer for additional 5 minutes.
13. Serve. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

Makes 8 cups.

Nutritional Info per cup
Calories: approx 185
Fat: 3g
Carbs: 34 g
Fibre: 7 g
Protein: 8 g

Notes: When I want even more protein in this dish, I'll add chicken or fish. Also, if available, accompany the meal with papadums (a thin Indian crispy cuisine sometimes described as a cracker or flatbread) which I usually buy prepackaged at the local grocery store.

You can also substitute lentils for the chickpeas, if desired.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cream Cheese and Asparagus Roll

Ever get home from a long day at work, husband is out for the evening, kids need to be fed and put to bed, dishes must be done and you have another hour or so of work to do in order to get caught up on the day ... and, oh yeah, you're hungry? Welcome to my day.

Instead of throwing a frozen dinner into the microwave, I decided to take a minute and look in the fridge....hmmm I saw some left over grilled asparagus, some chives, and a tub of sundried tomato and basil cream cheese. Ok, I decided I could do something healthy and easy with that and that way I could also enjoy a left over chocolate Easter egg for dessert :)

1 soft tortilla
2 tbsp cream cheese
6-8 stalks of asparagus - grilled or steamed or just blanched etc
handful of chives
sweet peppers strips also taste delicious with this though I didn't have any on hand!

Spread cream cheese on tortilla.
Place asparagus and chives neatly on tortilla as pictured
Roll fairly tightly.
Eat as is or cut in half.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easy Beef & Pork Meatloaf

In North America, meat loaf is often considered a comfort food- something that takes adults back to our childhoods and something most kids will eat without a fuss.

My own children will experience meatloaf for the first time tomorrow! I made it tonight because my husband has been craving it. My recipe went by memory from the dish my Mom made me as kid. It turned out wonderfully! It filled the apartment with a great aroma - onions, garlic, cumin wafted through each room...mmm. I had a little taste of it and it is delcious! I hope the kids like it tomorrow! And my husband is looking forward to it for lunch - although he hasn't decided if he wants it in the form of a sandwich or simply as is.

1 lb extra lean ground beef
1/2 lb lean ground pork
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup corn niblets
1/2 panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 BBQ sauce - something smoky
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning or other seasoned salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put everything in large bowl. With gloved (to keep your hands semi clean) hands, mix everything together with hands. Mix really well. Place in 9 x 5 loaf pan. Make sure there is at least an inch from top of meat to top of pan as the fat produced could easily splatter - be very careful!. If desired, place another squirt of ketchup or BBQ on top of loaf. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or longer - until meat thermometer registers 170 degrees. Let sit 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Easy Homemade Salsa

I had some roma tomatoes that had to be used quickly or they would spoil. I hate wasting food so when I suggested nachos for dinner and everyone agreed I was a happy girl. I quickly chopped up the tomatoes and a few other ingredients to make this tasty salsa.

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 chopped jalapenos, including sseds
1/2 red onion, fine chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lime, juiced
6-10 shakes of chipotle hot sauce
handful freah cilantro, chopped
Chili powder, salt, and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place in refrigerator for up to 12 hours so flavors can come together. Also, good as soon as it is mixed!

Makes approximately 2 cups.

Serve with tortilla chips.

This is a very basic salsa recipe. It serves as a good platform to advanced your salsa making abilities. For instance, you could roast the garlic and jalapenos for greater depth of flavour. Add black beans or corn or red pepers...or anything else you think would taste great. Ole!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fruity Sauteed Chicken

From whistler and chicken 2

3-year old:"Mom, I don't like this. What is it?"
Mom: "Chicken. You love chicken"
3-year old: "Then this isn't chicken, Mom."

Hmmm, hard to argue with logic like that. What my 3-year old doesn't like is any hard outer pieces on chicken - like BBQ charbroiled bits or pan fried hard outer parts. Normally, I just try to cut the outer part or cook it with skin on and then take it off when cooked. Tonight, I threw caution to the wind and tried something new. 

We went to Whistler for the Easter weekend and by the time we arrived back home there was a lot of fruit on the counter that needed to be used quickly or thrown away due to over ripeness. I suppose I could have made fruit salad but taking the easy route has never been my style!

Instead, I decided on a simple chicken dish that the kids would eat without worry of "hard bits". I diced up two apples, 1 pear and a handful of grapes. I threw these in a pan with six boneless skinless chicken thighs and a 1/2 cup of OJ .Voila 20 minutes later dinner was complete. I added some steamed rice and cauliflower and called it a meal.

The kids thought it was funny to have fruit on their chicken but then dug right in!

Quick, easy and kid approved!

2 apples, diced
1 pear, diced
handful of seedless grapes, quartered
1/2 cup orange juice
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
2. If desired, lightly oil non-stick pan.
3. Over medium high heat brown chicken on both sides.
4. Add juice and fruit to pan.
5. Reduced heat to medium, cover and cook for approximately 15 minutes.
6. Remove cover and cook another 5 minutes to thicken sauce and cook chicken through. (make sure there is no pink and internal chicken thigh temperature is 170 degrees)

Serve with rice and favorite veggies.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

For the last couple of months, one of the things on my recipe "to do" list has been roasted cauliflower. The thought of roasting a vegetable heretofore known as either a mere raw must have on a veggie plate or something steamed sounds intriguing to me.  Could it really be made to taste as anything but a healthy, but rather less than sexy dish?? Today, was the day to find out. I mixed a bunch of my favorite spices together, added some oil and fresh garlic. Poured it over the chopped cauliflower, added some breadcrumbs and butter and called it a day. Actually, I called it delcious - deliciously sexy! I will defintely whip this up the next time we have company over. I'm sure it will get positive reviews!

1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp medium curry powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp Old Bay or other seasoned salt
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c panko or regular bread crumbs
1 tbsp butter

Method:1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Chop up head of cauliflower into large bite size pieces.
3. Place in medium size roasting pan or oven proof dish.
4. In a small bowl add all spices, garlic, ginger and oil. Mix well.
5. Sprinkle over cauliflower.
6. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over cauliflower.
7. Dot with butter.
8. If desired sprinkle with a dash more salt.
9. Place in oven and roast for approximately 25 minutes.

Serve. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pie Pops are fanstaSTICK!

Above: The perfect 3-inch pie pop. From pops big
From pie pops
Gotta love a dessert that takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and has an off-the-chart cute factor!

Let’s face it –a stick adds FUN and POP to the mundane whether it’s frozen water (popsicles), sugar (lollipop), or processed meat (corndog – hmmm perhaps it should be cornpop).

When I saw Bakerella’s and Luxirare great pie pops I had to try it myself. I took Bakerella’s advice and went the easy route for my first foray into the world of stick pies. And although I usually prefer to make things from scratch, I must be honest and say that I think they tasted great with the pre-made help.

And talk about simple… cut out round dough pieces, place a stick on it, add some filling, complete with another layer of crust and egg wash. “Pop” in the oven for 15 minutes and they are ready!

I did a little experimenting – I added a little extra strip of crust over the stick to help keep the stick stuck and I tried one batch in mini muffin tins to maximize the filling. The first batch, I made a bit smaller than Bakerella's as I managed to get 15 pie pops out of one crust. But to be honest the pie to crust ratio was wrong - unless you really love crust! My kids, however, loved them. My husband much preferred the muffin tin version which was the perfect three bite pie. When I made the mini muffin tin versions I put the stick across so it touched both ends, in the hopes of keeping the stick in place. It seemed to work! They also took about 20 minutes to bake.

Try these – for co-workers, kid parties or even a rainy day… these pie pops are guaranteed to bring smile to everyone with whom you share them. Enjoy!

Update: I tried these with a three inch circle cutter and it was the perfect combo of filling and crust! I also added a sprinkle of coloured sugar to them. This gave the pie pops a great "crunch".
  • use paper lollipop sticks not plastic
  • I baked the pie pops at 350 degrees
  • any pie filling will do
  • I used "cookie" 6 inch sticks by Wilton but if you are only making the smaller versions the smaller Wilton lollipop sticks will be fine 
From pie pops

From pie pops

From pie pops
From pie pops
From pie pops
From pie pops
From pie pops
From pie pops
From pops big
One and half inch and mini muffin tin pie pops. From pie pops