Friday, September 28, 2012

Easy Halloween Pizza Recipe

This boo-tiful Halloween pizza will be a hit with the kids!

The other day I shared my favorite pizza dough recipe. So today I thought I 'd share a pizza we made using the dough! Isn't it cute? 

I bought pre-sliced cheddar for the jack o'lanterns and thinly sliced a block of mozzarella for the ghosts. I used cookie cutters to make the actual shapes.To make the eyes and mouth I cut up a couple of olives. 

The only "trick" to this pizza is knowing you can't add the ghosts and jack o'lanterns BEFORE you bake the pizza! If you do the cheese shapes will melt into nothingness! So, add your favorite pizza toppings (not too thick or leave a few flat sections) and bake until done. Then take it out and add the ghosts and pumpkins. Quickly place the pizza back in the oven for 30 seconds or so until the cheese just barely begins to melt. Remove from oven wait a few minutes for everything to set and then serve!  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Easy Pizza Dough Three Ways

Clockwise from the top:
White pizza dough with oregano and thyme,
plain white pizza dough and whole wheat dough.

For years, we've been making the same pizza dough - the recipe came with my bread maker. It's definitely better than store bought versions and is easy to prepare as you just throw everything into the pot and press a button. But a few months ago, I  tried Mark Bittman's food processor pizza dough and fell in love with pizza all over again. 

Not only is his version just as easy as my old recipe, it tastes a million times better! Yes, you have to let it rise for awhile but you can make it ahead of time and let it rise in the fridge if you don't want to stick around and watch it. Usually I make multiple batches and freeze a couple for future use.

To Mark's recipe, I often add my own herbs to the dough for added flavour and/or add whole wheat flour for a slightly healthier version. The whole wheat version is a bit denser but still amazing. Try these and let me know what you think! Check out his original article here.

Pizza Dough Three Ways

Adapted from “How to Cook Everything: The Basics”

Makes two pizzas.


3 cups all-purpose (more for kneading)
2 teaspoon fast-rising yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 c warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

What to do

  1. Place flour, yeast, salt in your food processor and pulse three times to mix.
  2. With food processor set on low-medium speed, slowly add water and oil through the feed tube.
  3. Mix until the dough comes together to form a ball. (You can add a little more water if it is too dry or a tsp or two of flour if too wet).
  4. Remove dough knead a couple of times on a lightly floured surface.
  5. Spray dough with a little cooking spray and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area of your kitchen for 1-2 hours - until dough has doubled in size. 
  6. If desired you can through it in the fridge for up to 8 hours instead of in a warm spot for 2.
  7. Or freeze dough for up to 2 weeks. (Bring to room temp before proceeding.)
  8. Punch dough down and divide in two.
  9. Roll half of dough on a floured surface - roll as thin as you can (within reason - you don't want to have all your ingredients falling through!
  10. Add your topping - sauce, cheese, herbs, veggies etc
  11. Repeat with other half of dough.
  12. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about  15 minutes. The under side of your crust should be golden and cheese bubbling.

Tips: Throw a tbsp of cornmeal on your baking sheet to prevent sticking.

Variation #1

Herb crust:
Add 1-tsp of your favorite herbs to the flour, salt and yeast step. Proceed as directed.

Variation #2

Whole wheat version:
Use only 2-1/2 c all purpose flour and add another 1/2 c of whole wheat flour. Proceed as directed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cookbook Review: Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla

I like meat and dairy. Life without beef tenderloin, baby back ribs, ice cream or butter is just unimaginable... for me. But that doesn't mean I can't see the benefit of moderation and mixing my family's menu up with healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes. So when I was given the opportunity to review and try a few of the recipes from Anupy Singla's new book, Vegan Indian Cooking, I without hesitation said yes.

Ms Singla does a great job at explaining her vegan journey and her belief in everyone making their own choices. I especially like her description of all the spices and other ingredients used in Indian cooking and in her home. The book is well written and easy to read.

140 recipes are offered - everything from spice blends to drinks to breakfast to small plates, stews, rice dishes and veggies. Lots of variety that is sure to appeal to many including those of us who aren't Indian or Vegan afficienados!

Lots of great pictures accompany the recipes which are easy to follow and I like that different options and substitutions are offered for many ingredients just in case they are not available in your area.

I decided to try two recipes: Chickpea Poppers and Baked Samosas. They both turned out amazing. Even my six year old loved the poppers and ate them for school snacks most of the week. I found when I wanted the satisfaction of a chip but not the empty calories these really did make a pretty good substitute!

And the samosas were soooo delicious! Potatoes, peas and spices wrapped up and BAKED in golden crust  - a new comfort food for sure! The only comment I have is that is says it makes 12 medium samosas but I honestly would classify them as small, appetizer size. Although it doesn't say in the book, I asked Anupy via Facebook if they could be frozen and she said "yes" - unbaked - so I will definitely be making and freezing a few batches to have on hand for nights when we just can't decide what to have for dinner and drop in guests.

With permission, I have included the popper recipe but I think you should buy the book for the samosa recipe!
Chickpeas coated with spices just before going into the oven.

After they come out - crunchy and spicy!

Chickpea Poppers

from Vegan Indian Cooking: 140 Simple and Healthy Vegan Recipes by Anupy Singla
published by Agate Surrey, July 2012

Yield: 4 cups


4 c cooked chickpeas or 2 (12-ounce/341 gram) cans chickpeas
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cayenne pepper or paprika, plus more for sprinkling

What to do

1. Set an oven rack at the highest position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
2. Drain the chickpeas in a large colander for about 15 minutes to get rid of as much moisture as possible. If using canned, rinse first.
3. In a large bowl, gently mix together all the ingredients.
4. Arrange the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on the baking sheet.
5. Cook for 15 minutes. Carefully take the tray out of the oven, mix gently so that the chickpeas cook evenly, and cook another 10 minutes.
6. Let cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the cayenne pepper or paprika.

PS: Anupy is currently on a book tour and will be stopping in Vancouver, BC at Barbara Jo's Books-to-Cook store on October 13th 2012. Click here for more info!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Easy Tomato and Bocconcini Salad Recipe

Are you still harvesting tomatoes from your garden? I sure am! And anyone who has homegrown tomatoes knows how much tastier they are than grocery store tomatoes! This recipe allows the full flavour of your tomatoes to shine. When combined with fresh mozzarella cheese, basil and a little drizzle of sweet balsamic vinegar summer doesn't feel over just yet!

Note: You can add the olive oil if desired but I prefer just the sweetness of the vinegar without the oil.


8 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 large bocconcini cheese balls, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
3 Tbsp reduced balsalmic vinegar (see instructions below)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
A bunch (at least 16) of fresh basil leaves

What to do

Alternate tomato, basil leaves and bocconcini slices on a platter. Drizzle reduced balsamic vinegar and oil (if using) on the salad and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Reducing balsamic vinegar will turn it into a sweeter, thicker, slightly carmelized thing of beauty. To reduce balsamic vinegar, simply pour one cup of regular balsamic vinegar into a medium sauce pan. Bring to boil and reduce heat so vinegar simmers slightly (NOT a full on boil!). Simmer, uncovered, until vinegar is reduced by 2/3 (i.e. 1/3 is left in pot) and coats the back of your spoon with a slightly syrupy consistency. Watch carefully and stir often so it doesn’t burn! This usually takes about 20 minutes or so but will depend on heat level and size of pot. This will obviously give you more vinegar than is called for in this recipe so put in container and refrigerate for future salads or drizzle on strawberries.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Olive oil banana bread with molasses

This banana bread came about one day when I had a bunch of overripe, fruit fly calling bananas on my kitchen counter but no room temperature butter. I know I could have zapped the cold butter in the microwave but I always seem to melt it too much and make a mess. And being the impatient baker I am, I did not want to wait to let it warm up naturally. Instead, I used a light tasting extra virgin olive oil.

In case you didn’t know, you don’t substitute olive oil and butter amounts tbsp by tbsp. In this case, the original recipe calls for ¼ cup of butter but I only needed 3 tbsp of oil (healthier already!). I also didn’t cream the oil and sugars as I would have if I had used butter since the oil is in a liquid state.

Olive oil works in many baked goods but especially well here with the fruity bananas and deep tasting molasses and oats. It also adds a great depth of flavour that goes well with the cinnamon.

This banana bread is amazing toasted especially with … a little pat of butter! LOL…so much for “health” improvements. Oh well, I’m sure you’ll love it anyway you eat it! 


1 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c large flake oats
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c molasses
2 large eggs
1 c mashed bananas
1/3 c low fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

What to do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk, in a large bowl, flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and sugar.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, molasses, olive oil, bananas, sour cream and vanilla.
  4. Add wet to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Place batter into a 8 x 4 pan that has been coated in non-stick spray.
  6. Bake for about an hour or until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Let cool for 15 minutes and then remove from pan to cool completely.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ginger Snaps with Lemon Butter Cream

This is my Mom's ginger snap recipe but I have sandwiched two of them between a light and flavourful lemon butter cream. Lemon and ginger are AMAZING together. I especially like this combination in a Christmas cookie because it is a great contrast to the season's heavy meals and flavours. Tip: These are also great straight out of the freezer! Almost like an ice cream sandwich :) 

Ginger Snaps

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 egg, large
1/2 cup molasses
2.5 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

What to do
1. Cream butter and 1 cup sugar well.
2. Beat in egg.
3. Mix in molasses.
4. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.
5. Add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
6. Shape into 1 inch balls. Note: you want make each cookie the same size so you can sandwich them easily)
7. Let sit 20 minutes (you want them to be soft enough so that they will spread)
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Lemon Butter Cream


2 c icing sugar
1 c unsalted butter
1 tsp pure lemon extract
juice of 1/2 medium lemon

What to do

Cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes.
Add extract and juice. Beat 1 minute.

Putting Cookies Together

Place 1 tbsp icing onto flat side of a ginger snap. Place another cookie on top of icing (flat side in). Squish slightly. If desired, add Christmas candy decorations with a little bit of icing to act as "glue."

Cardamom and Vanilla Shortbread

It's only September and Labour Day Weekend hasn't even ended so I'm bound to really annoy a few people with a Christmas Cookie post! If you are one of those people I'm sorry and warning you I'm posting another Christmas cookie recipe today so it might be better if you wait till mid-week to come back again :)

Anyway, Christmas is my favorite holiday and I like to plan ahead - everything from present ideas to my Christmas dinner menu are thought of months in advance. I also like to get an early start on planning my Christmas baking. I like to try a few different things but these are really new takes on old recipes. My first post is a simple shortbread recipe but made "new" with the addition of green cardamom and vanilla. I know you are familiar with vanilla but for anyone not so familiar with cardamom it is worth trying! It provides a warmth and heat (not spicy hot though) that pairs perfectly with vanilla. I keep cardamom pods in my spice drawer and just crush them open for the seeds when needed. I used 15 pods in this recipe and then ground the seeds (about 1/2 tsp once ground).

In this recipe I molded the shortbread batter into a 10-inch tart pan and before I baked it, I sliced it into 8 pieces with a pizza cutter. Within 5 minutes of it coming out of the oven, I removed the side of the pan and recut the slices (I left it on the bottom of the pan). I thought Santa and Christmas trees were natural designs for the triangles shapes. Like them? If not come back in a couple months once the snow is in the air...maybe they will look cuter then!!! 

Cardamom and Vanilla Shortbread


1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c icing sugar
1 c flour
1/4 c ground almonds
3/4 c unsalted butter, room
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (approx 15 pods)
1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

What to do

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Sift cornstarch, icing sugar, flour into mixing bowl of stand mixer. Stir in (on low) ground almonds, vanilla seeds and ground cardamom.
  3. Beat in butter on low speed.
  4. Pat batter into 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. 
  5. Using a knife or pizza cutter cut into 8 pieces. Note: You might find it easier to remove bottom of pan, cut and then place back in tart tin.
  6. Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes or until shortbread is golden in colour.
  7. VERY carefully, separate bottom from sides (keep shortbread on the bottom of pan).
  8. Re-cut the 8 pieces.
  9. Cool completely.

To decorate you will need royal icing, food colour gels and icing bags and tip.


  • Approximately 2 c royal powder icing.
  • various food colour gels - I used Wilton in green, red, pink, light copper, black.

What to do

Christmas Tree

For green:

  • Add 1/2 c royal icing powder to a small bowl and add 2 tbsp water. Mix until smooth. 
  • Add green colouring until desired colour is reached.
  • Using a #2 tip and icing bag. Outline and fill every other triangle to make Christmas trees.

For red decorations on tree:

  • Add 1/4 c royal icing powder to a small bowl and add 1 tbsp water. Mix until smooth. 
  • Add  red colouring until desired colour is reached.
  • Using same tip (washed of course) pipe little strings of red lights onto trees.

For hat band, hat puff and beard...

  • Add 1/4 c royal icing powder to a small bowl and add 1 tbsp water. Mix until smooth. 
  • Use cleaned tip as above, pipe Santa's hat band, hat puff and beard. Fill in.
  • Repeat but add black colouring. Pipe eyes and buttons.
  • Repeat but add pink for cheeks. Pipe cheeks.
  • Repeat but add copper for face. Pipe.
  • Repeat but add red for Santa's suit. Pipe and fill in.
  • Let dry overnight before eating, giving or wrapping!