Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cookbook Review - Poptails by Erin Nichols - Bellini Pops

A "boozy treat" from POPTAILS.
"Poptails" by Erin Nichols is all about putting frozen cocktails on sticks!

Living in Vancouver means long, hot summers...well ok maybe two weeks of hot weather...over the course of two months... but we Vancouverites relish those hot, dry days and try to make the most of them (well ok we complain about the heat and wonder if it will ever cool off... I think think this is why we are sometimes referred to as Crazy Canucks...). When you add two young kids  on summer vacation into the mix trying to beat the heat and have fun you can be sure our freezer has its fair share of a kid my favorite kind was rootbeer popsicles...I can't find them anywhere anymore but grape, lime, raspberry still seem to make the kids happy! 

Anyways, when Erin Nichols' new book "Poptails" landed in my mail box it just happened to be a really hot, wish-I-had-air-conditioning, kind of day. And flipping through the 60 cocktail-on-a-stick recipes and lush photos helped me cool off and made me crave these adult popsicles.

Erin does a great job in offering a variety of recipes to satisfy any adult craving including:

  • strawberry-basil margarita
  • cosmopolitan
  • mojito
  • moscow mule
  • festive spiked eggnog
  • white russian
  • creamsicle
  • and dessert on a stick like the "oatmeal cookie" and the "banana split"!
Obviously most alcohol doesn't freeze so Erin tells us the secret - boiling down the alcohol a little bit to keep the flavour and make it freezable!

I recommend this book for any adult having a fun party and looking for "something different" to make their guest "ooh and ahh".

I decided to make the Bellini Pops because I had a bottle of prosecco in the fridge and it didn't require the alcohol to be boiled down saving me some time.

They are delicious but definitely strong! Next time I will try them with pureed fruit to sweeten them up a bit. Btw...Erin has a recipe for "Big Girl Root beer Float" that will bring back root beer popsicle memories! Buy this book for great summer time treat ideas... even if it isn't summertime for much longer...who says a frozen treat in the fall or winter wouldn't brighten up someone's day!!

Bellini Pops from Poptails

1-1/4 c flattened prosecco
20 ounces fresh or frozen sliced peaches (or other fruit)

What to do
  • flatten prosecco (in your fridge) for 8 hours
  • pour prosecco into moulds
  • add a peach slice into each mould making sure there is at 1 cm of space at the top so the liquid to expand 
  • add sticks or mould tops and freeze for at 24 hours
Note: How many this makes will depend on the size of your moulds - mine made 6.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Daring Bakers August - Pate a Choux Swans and Stabilized Whipped Cream

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild! 

I've made choux pastry before and went from being very intimidated by the thought of this dough to realizing it's quite easy to make and work with! My previous and only use of the dough was used in creating a delicious Croquembouche so I was looking forward to using it again in making a bevy of swans. My only concern was that the final result might look more like ugly ducklings than beautiful swans!  

I'll let you be the judge as to whether or not I succeeded!  

I kept it simple and used stabilized whipped cream as my filling.

Click here for a pdf of all the recommended recipes and look below for my stabilized whipped cream recipe.

Stabilized Whipped Cream

Using stabilized whipped cream will prevent it from separating - especially useful on warm days!


1/4 c water
1 tsp unflavoured gelatin
1 c heavy or whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

What to do

  • Chill your bowl and beaters in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • Place water in a deep microwave safe bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the water.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Microwave the the gelatin mixture for three minutes making sure you you stir every 30 seconds or so or it might bubble over and make a mess!
  • Let it sit for about 10 minutes so that the mixture is liquid but not warm.
  • Remove your cold beaters and bowl from freezer and pour in cream. Beat until soft peaks form.Add vanilla and sugar and whip for 10 seconds more.
  • Add gelatin mixture and whip until stiff peaks form.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Simple Homemade Ketchup

To go along with my homemade mustard from a few posts ago, I also made homemade ketchup. I love it - it does not taste like Heinz! It tastes like real tomato ketchup should - fresh and tomatoey!

Simple Homemade Ketchup

Customize this recipe to suit your taste - add hot sauce, chillis, extra spice - whatever your taste buds desire!


1 can 28oz  tomatoes (whole or chopped) 
1 can 5.5 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cloves

1 tablespoons (30 mL) nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon (5 ml) pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

What to do

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Cool.

Once cooled, use a blender or immersion blender to puree the ketchup.

Store in refrigerator up to 3 months.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Five seed cracker recipe

Are they all they’re “cracked” up to be?

Homemade crackers are easy and pretty impressive…after all how many times have you been served homemade crackers…not many I bet.

Generally, ingredients are minimal, simple and quick to come to together so if you are just beginning to make your way around a kitchen or want an easy recipe to make with the kids this is the way to (google homemade goldfish crackers for kids!).

This recipe is stuffed with nutritional goodness thanks to five varieties of seeds – pumpkin, poppy, sunflower,flax and sesame!

They are great topped with flavoured cream cheese and also go well with bits of fresh bococcini and basil leaves. But really the sky is the limit... of course, they are also good on their own.

Tip: If you don't need to make all the crackers at once, just freeze any unbaked dough. It will last at least a couple of months in the freezer.

adapted from LA Times recipe
¼ c hulled sunflower seeds
¼ c hulled pumpkin seeds, unsalted
¼ c ground flax seeds
¼ c sesame seeds – the tan coloured ones + more for garnishing – about an extra 2 tbsp
¼ c poppy seeds + more for garnishing – about an extra 2 tbsp
2 c whole wheat flour
¾ tsp salt
2 tbsp honey
2-1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
¾ c water

Egg Wash
1 egg
½ c water

What to do
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Using a coffee grinder or blender, grind the sunflower, pumpkin seeds into a fine powder (but not so much it turns to nut butter).
  3. Using a stand mixer, combine all of the seeds (except for garnish), flour, salt, honey and oil on low speed to combine.
  4. Add the water and mix on low until the dough turns into a firm ball.
  5. Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is combined. The dough will be tacky but definitely not sticky. If it is, add more flour.
  6. Line three baking sheets with parchment.
  7. Divide the dough into three portions.
  8. Roll out one portion at a time so it is paper thin i.e. less than 1/8 of an inch! The smaller  the cracker, the crispier it will be.
  9. Tip: Keep moving the dough a little as you roll it out. If needed dust work surface with more flour to prevent sticking.
  10. Cut rolled dough into squares or diamonds… or any other shape you want!
  11. Move the cut dough onto the baking sheets.
  12. Tip: these crackers don’t spread so they can be placed very close together.
  13. Repeat with each portion of dough.
  14. Mix the egg with ½ c of water and brush over the tops of dough.
  15. Sprinkle lightly with sesame and poppy seeds.
  16. Bake crackers (you can bake each pan separately if needed) for 10 minutes.
  17. Rotate sheets and bake another 10 minutes.
  18. Rotate again and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  19. The crackers should be golden brown, looking dry and crispy.
  20. Cool the crackers on their pans.
  21. They can be stored at room temperature for a week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Julia!

"Bring on the roasted potatoes, bring on the Rosé !"

Tomorrow, Aug 15, is Julia Child's 100th birthday. PBS put together this fantastic video is celebration.

Happy Birthday, Julia and thanks for sharing your passion, talent and enthusiasm for all things food!

Easy Raspberry-Lime Freezer Jam

Easy Raspberry-Lime Freezer Jam

Who knew making jam was so easy??? To be honest canning scares me - boiling bottles, sealing yada, yada, yada...not for me. BUT freezer jam is beyond easy - crush, stir, pour, done. Easy peasy.

Of course, freezer jam can't sit in your pantry because it is not properly sealed but it is great to make small batches of jam - keep a few jars for your family and give away the others to deserving friends! 

This jam has not only sweet, delicious raspberries but also a hit of lime zest which adds an amazing citrus zing to the jam.

I made a batch of home-made butter the same day as this jam - OMG when I slathered both on some fresh, warm bread! 

Note: I also made a batch with blackberries - you should too!


4 c raspberries, crushed (pulse in a food processor)
1-1/2 c sugar
1 package (45 g) freezer pectin
zest of 2 small limes

What to do

  1. Stir sugar, zest and pectin in a large bowl.
  2. Add crushed raspberries and stir for 3 minutes.
  3. Spoon into 6 250ml preserving jars. Wipe clean and add lid and ring. Close tightly.
  4. Let sit for 30 minutes so it thickens.

Refrigerate - will last up to 3 weeks
Freeze - will last up to 3 months

Friday, August 10, 2012

Homemade Canadian Rye Mustard Recipe

For many years I often felt left out as far as motherhood went ... you see my kids hated condiments....ketchup, mustard, ranch dressing, mayo, cheese sauce on veggies....they just wouldn't eat the stuff. Plain broccoli, carrots, noodles were fine but if you offered them anything to dip those things in they would look at you like you were off your rocker.

Now that my son is a grown up six year old with "sophisticated" tastes, he does like ketchup and mayo but he still isn't completely sold on mustard and still dispises cheese sauce on veggies.

And my eight year old daughter hates them all (well, except cheesesauce but only on macaroni) which may explain her dislike of french fries - let's face it....without ketchup fries are just ... well...potatoes. (PS - Homemade ketchup recipe coming soon!)

So luckily for me when I came across a booze filled mustard recipe I didn't have to give a moments thought to whether I was about to start my kids down a path of addiction and smoked filled pubs... cause I know they won't touch this crazy good condiment recipe...I, on the other hand, am heading down to the bar as soon as I...hiccup...finish this last bite of pretzel covered in rye soaked mustard....hiccup...

Adapted from Gifts Cooks Love by Diane Morgan.
1 c mustard seeds
1 c Canadian rye (whiskey)
1 c water
1 c chopped dried apricots
5 tbsp cider vinegar
5 tbsp honey
1 tbsp kosher salt
What to do
  1. Add mustard seeds, rye and water into a bowl and soak 12-24 hours.
  2. Add apricots and soak for another 12 hours.
  3. Reserving the liquid, strain the mixture.
  4. In a food processor, pulse all ingredients including the reserve liquid, to desired consistency, adding remaining liquid as needed.
  5. Place in clean jars, making sure to wipe the rims and secure the lids.
  6. Refrigerate for 2-3 weeks so the flavours meld together.
  7. It will keep for up to three months.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Day at the Beach cake - Hawaiian themed party #3

A Day at the \beach!

A perfect topper to our Hawaiian themed party.

This is my favourite home-made cake. It is a buttery, melt in your mouth yellow cake. The flavour gets even better after a day or two (if it lasts that long)! I like that it is only a 6-inch, two layer cake - portion control! lol 

I also chose it for the topper of my daughter's cupcake tower because the top of the cupcake tower is also 6 inches! Perfect fit.

I used the same icing and decorating theme that I made for the cupcakes - in fact there was enough left from the cupcakes that I didn't have to make more. I found the chair, trees, and flamingo at my trusty cake decorating shop.

The Hawaiian themed party was great fun and my 6 year old son has already put in his request for his next birthday party (even though it's 9 months away!) - Angry Birds. I've already started planning...

A Day at the Beach Cake

Adapted from The Kitchn
1 c cake flour
¾ c butter, unsalted and at room temperature
1 c sugar, preferably berry or super fine sugar (not icing sugar!)
½ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs, large and at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla

1-1/2 c icing
1/4 c graham cracker crumbs for "beach"strip
1 lifesaver gummy
2 teddy grahams
1 leather 
various beach decorations - umbrella, candy surf boards, chair, flamingos etc.

What to do 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar for 4 minutes. 
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat each egg addition for 30 seconds. 
  5. Stir in vanilla.
  6. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder.
  7. Add to the wet mixture and mix until just combined.
  8. Divide between prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Cool for 10 minutes and invert on to cooling racks. Reinvert so cake top is up. Cool completely before decorating.
  11. Using your favourite butter cream or mine, frost cake including within the layer.
  12. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs to resemble sandy beach.
  13. Add beach decorations.
  14. Use teddy grahams, gumy life savers and fruit leather as described in bear cupcake recipe.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Beach Bear Cupcake Recipe - Hawaiian themed party #2

Beach bear cupcakes - with a rainbow surprise inside!

This is the second of three recipes from my Hawaiian themed party posts. These little cupcakes were definitely a hit with the 6 - 8 year old crowd! They loved that not only was it a cupcake but that it was also part cookie and candy! The rainbow cake they found inside was the icing on the cake, so to speak!
Bears at the beach!

The cupcake is a vanilla cake recipe. The batter is divided and coloured and finally layered in the muffin tins - super easy. The decorating of the cupcakes also could not be easier! Slap on some blue icing, stick in a little umbrella, a couple teddy grahams, a bite of fruit leather and a gummy life-saver and SHAZAM you are on your way to making any party a memorable hit!

Beach Bear Rainbow Cupcakes

Makes 24-27 cupcakes.


12 ounces or 1-1/2 c of unsalted butter
2 c sugar (I prefer berry sugar)
4 eggs
1/4 c vanilla
4 c all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk

various food colour gels (I use Wilton brand - the colours come out particularly vibrant)

Icing - see recipe below
Vanilla butter cream

2 teddy graham bears per cupcake
graham cracker crumbs - about 1-1/2 cups.
fruit leather - if using store bought strips, you can usually cut three towels per one fruit leather.
life saver gummies - same number as cupcakes
cocktail umbrellas - same number as cupcakes

What to do
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time and mix for 30 seconds after adding each one.
  4. Add vanilla and mix.
  5. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour bowl to the creamed mixture and beat till smooth.
  7. Beat in half of the milk and mix until smooth. 
  8. Repeat with flour then milk and then flour again.
  9. Divide the batter into as many bowls as you have colours (I wouldn't recommend more than four).
  10. Add colour to the batter by using a toothpick. Stir until colour is even. Add colour until desired shade is reached.
  11. Set 24-27 muffin tins with muffin liners. 
  12. Place a tbsp or so of one colour batter into each muffin liner. Repeat with remaining coloured batters. Cups should be about 3/4 full.
  13. Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Butter cream Icing

4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, unsalted and at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c milk

What to do
  • Sift sugar into large bowl.
  • Cut butter into smaller pieces.
  • Turn mixer on low and slowly add the butter one piece at a time.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Slowly add milk.
  • Turn to medium speed and beat for 4 minutes.
  • Add blue food coloring and beat until consistent color is reached.

How to decorate

  1. Spread icing onto cupcake - not too thick since there will be other candy on it. "Rough" up the icing so it looks more like water by using a spoon or small spatula and lift it off the icing on one half. 
  2. On the other half sprinkle graham cracker crumbs so it resembles a sandy beach.
  3. Cut fruit leathers into towels so they are a little bit longer than the teddy. Place on sand (you may need to add a dollop of icing on the bottom of fruit leather so it sticks to sand).
  4. Add a dollop of icing to the back of teddy and place on fruit leather towel.
  5. Stick umbrella next to bear.
  6. Take a gummy lifesaver and place over teddy. Stick teddy into the water.

See the orange lifesaver gummy?
A few burst die to the girth of the teddies! Still delicious!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Flip-flop Cookies Recipe - Hawaiian Themed Kids Party

Flip flop and island flowers add to the Hawaiian themed party.

My little girl turns 8 this weekend. Yikes, eight years. That's 2,922 days (including leap years). Wow, where has time gone? This birthday makes me especially nostalgic. You see she was born just before the Summer Olympics in 2004. The theme of those games was "Welcome Home"  - just like we were welcoming home our daughter. And since Athens is 10 hours ahead of Vancouver, my daughter and I spent a lot of late nights and early morning feedings snuggled up on our Ikea couch watching the Games. They were special bonding moments even if she doesn't remember them! 

In 2010, Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics. The feeling in the city was electric - just walking downtown amongst all of the athletes and visitors was as fun as attending the events. My daughter and I went to a skating event to watch Patrick Chan (Canadian Champion) work his magic. And our entire family went to curling and took in many of the free events throughout the city. It was an unforgettable time. I'm sure many Londoners are experiencing the same sense of pride and excitement as we did in 2010.

This year as we watch many Olympic events, our kids are once again caught up in the talent and spirit of the Games. In fact, after watching a day of swimming events my daughter has decided that she will be an Olympic swimmer when she is 16. She's written out her training plan which includes swimming laps four days a week and improving her diving! But isn't that what the Olympics and being 8 yrs old is all about - dreaming big, believing in yourself and living life to the max.  

The big "8".

For her birthday party last weekend, we had not an Olympic theme but Hawaiian (she really wanted to wear grass skirts :). 

We decorated the house and yard with dozens of leis, paper lanterns, Hawaiian cut outs, flowers, blow up aquatic animals, and fish nets. All the kids had leis and grass skirts and name tags with their Hawaiian names printed on them. We also purchased plastic pineapple cups that we filled with "Hawaiian" punch. We downloaded Hawaiian music (with some steel drums thrown in and, of course, a little Carly Rae Jepson). 

I love these flip-flop cookies, how about you?

The kids played games including pin the coconut on the palm tree, the limbo, sack races, bobbing for apples, Hula hooping, and hula dancing. The kids also had their own conga line. 

Hawaiian themed birthday treats!

For lunch we made Hawaiian nachos (OK so nachos aren't Hawaiian but who cares, they're nachos!), fruit, flop-flop cookies, beach bear cupcakes and bears at the beach cake. 

Beach bear cupcakes hide a colourful surprise inside.

For loot bags they each got a beach bag that they could carry their leis, grass skirts and pineapple cups in along with pop rocks and extra flip flop cookies. Judging by the smiles as they left, the party was a success!
Bear- on-vacation cake is easy and sure to please.

Recipe Schedule

Over the next few days I will post recipes for the flip-flop cookies, beach bear cupcakes and the "bears on vacation" cake.

The cupcakes are really vanilla cake dyed with various colours to make them more festive and the icing is a simple vanilla butter cream dyed blue.  The little cake on top is a simple 6 inch cake that is beautifully buttery and moist. 

The flip-flop cookies are two recipes - one a chocolate cookie from Lilaloa. I recommend trying them - they don't spread and taste like a brownie cookie. Yum. The other is an easy and delicious a simple butter cookie originally from Cook's Illustrated. It stands up well to rolling and cut outs. The icing is royal icing with little candy flowers as the toe piece.

Hawaiian Themed Party Recipe #1

Flip-Flop Cookies

Warning: These cookies take time - at least 2-3, maybe 4, days. If I were you, I'd bake the cookies on day 1, decorate the base on day 2 and the toe piece on day 3 - they still need another day to dry!

Learn from me: Leave time! The first time I made them my flooding icing was too thin and it took 2 days to dry!!!!!

Luckily these cookies keep well!

2-1/2 c all purpose flour
3/4 c berry sugar
1/4 tsp salt
16 tbsp or 1/2 c unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp cream cheese, at room temperature

What to do

  1. Using your stand mixer and the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar and salt on lowest speed for 10 seconds.
  2. Add butter by the tbsp and mix until dough comes together in a crumbly like consistency (a minute or two).
  3. Add cream cheese and vanilla and mix until dough comes together into large clump and isn't sticking to sides of bowl.
  4. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten slightly. 
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. Roll out dough so it's about 1/8 inch thick.
  8. Cut into flip flops using cookie cutter. Place cookies on cookie pan with parchment or silpat. Cookies should be about 2 inches apart.
  9. Place pan in fridge for ten minutes.
  10. Place pan in oven and bake for 10 minutes, until cookies are golden.
  11. Let cool five minutes and then remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
  12. Re-roll remaining dough (if if too soft refrigerate for ten minutes) and repeat. 
  13. Use second half dough in the same way.
  14. Makes about 36 cookies. 
  15. Cool completely before decorating!

To decorate

icing bags or Ziploc
decorating tip #2 (Wilton)

Pre-made royal icing mix. (I use a powder that I only have to add water to.)
Teal blue food colouring (or whatever colour you want to use for base)
Pink food colouring for toe piece or leave white
pre-made candy flowers (optional) - I buy mine here at Scoop 'n Save - great little shop in Langley - they even have mail-order!

36 flip-flop cookies

What to do

Step one - base of flip-flop

  1. Outline each flip-flop by attaching the #2 tip to your decorating bag and filling the bag with royal icing you have made to a piping consistency. Try to get as close to the edge as possible.
  2. Using another bag with a slightly bigger tip or using a Ziploc bag with a small corner cut off fill with royal icing that has a flood consistency. "Flood" or fill each cookie with the same colour royal icing overnight as your outline.
  3. These must now dry before you can add the toe piece - let them dry over night or 8-10 hours.

Step 2 - Toe Piece

  1. Make more royal icing - about 1/4 the amount as in Step 1.
  2. Leave white or colour as desired.
  3. Pipe toe piece outline and then using flood consistency fill in the toe piece. 
  4. If desired add flower candy.
  5. Let dry 12 - 24 hours.

If royal icing scares you or haven't used it before read this post from Lilaloa. She is brilliant and an excellent teacher!

Check back in the next couple days for the recipe for "Beach Bear" Cupcakes!