Thursday, October 31, 2013

Foodie Pen Pals - October - Cooking with Jax

Another great month with Foodie Pen Pals!

This month I was lucky enough to be paired with Jax from Cooking with Jax! Check out her site for great recipes.

I have a confession to make - for the first time ever I forgot to take pictures of everything before we ate them!!! This shows just how good of a package it was. So, in addition to what was left when I finally remembered to pull out my camera there was also Thai curry paste, a fruit bar, maple flavoured coffee, and mandarin flavoured juice!

My favorite item was the bag of coconut chips! I must find more of them - I think they will be perfect on top of cupcakes (although they were also fabulous right out of the bag).

Jax, thanks so much for all the thought that went into this great pen pal box and sorry I forgot to take a pic of the whole package!

The Lean Green Bean

And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Pen pals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your pen pal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your pen pal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your pen pal!

-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

-Foodie Pen pals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your pen pal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

-Foodie Pen pals is open to US, Canadian and European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for September, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 

You must submit your information by Nov 4th as pairings will be emailed on Oct 5th!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Monster Marshmallow Pops

Ok, I did these the day before Halloween last year and didn't have time to post pre-Halloween. I thought I'd post them early this year for readers to see but of course I forgot! Yikes, I must be getting old! Anyways I'm posting them today instead of waiting another year.

They are easy to make. Melt green candy melts, stick lollipop stick in marshmallow, dip in melted candy, dip top marshmallow in colored sanding sugar and add two candy eyes. Once dry draw on a mouth and scars with an edible ink marker. Easy Peasy.


24 Marshmallows
2 cups green candy melts
edible food pen - black
sanding sugar or other candy decorations for hair
24 lollipop sticks
48 candy eyes


  1. Melt green candy melts according to directions (2 cups should easily do 24 marshmallows)
  2. Stick lollipop stick in marshmallow,
  3. Dip marshmallow in melted candy - if needed gently tap to remove excess melted candy.
  4. While still wet, dip top of marshmallow in colored sanding sugar
  5. Add two candy eyes - if the candy is already dry add a little dap of candy to the back of the eyes and stick to marshmallow.
  6. Once dry draw on a mouth and scars with an edible ink marker.
  7. (I stick finished ones in styrofoam to dry but you could also just place them hair side down carefully on a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat to dry.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Homemade Almond Butter

Easy almond butter - one ingredient!
Easy almond butter - one ingredient!

Who knew it was so easy to make almond butter? Not me, that's who!

We had a bag of almonds that tasted a bit stale to me so I was going to through them out...but it was a whole pound of nuts. Since I didn't want to waste them I decided to use them in my first attempt at making almond butter - if I totally screwed it up then no biggie since I was going to throw them out anyways.

I basically roasted them for twelve minutes in the oven. This actually made them taste much better!

I then threw them in my Nutribullet. If you don't have one a food processor will do the job - it just might take a bit longer or be a bit grainier than my results.

I didn't add anything else - no salt, no sugar, no nothing.

My husband says this almond butter is better than any type we have bought before! It's also creamier and doesn't seem to go as clumpy once in the fridge. It's delicious on apples, bread, yogourt, smoothies, oatmeal...well pretty much anything!


1 lb almonds (raw or roasted, skin on)


  1. If using raw almonds, toast them in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Cool.
  3. Throw into food processor or Nutribullet.
  4. Turn it on. It will quickly look like sand and you may think this is not gonna work. It will.
  5. If you have to, stop it and stir or shake it. Turn on again. Repeat as needed.
  6. Eventually (5-10 minutes) you will see it start to look more like almond butter. Keep going so it become really smooth. (another 3-5 minutes)
  7. I was multitasking the day I made this so I turned off the Nutribullet for 10 minutes while I did other things and then put it on again to ensure it was as smooth as possible.

Makes about a cup of almond butter.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Turducken Roast Review

Happy Thanksgiving! We had 10 family members over for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner this year. Last year we roasted a turducken and we liked it so much we were thrilled when we were asked to try Echelon's new premium turducken roast with Italian sausage stuffing. De-boned duck and chicken breasts are layered with italian sausage stuffing into a whole turkey. It is formed into a large sized roast as the wings and legs are removed. It is wrapped in a twine net to ensure it stays together.

This year, we decided to smoke the turducken. We've smoked a traditional turkey before and loved the smoky flavour it imparts so I was hoping smoking the turducken would add an extra level of flavour.

Our turducken roast was so simple to prepare. We just had to defrost it. Our roast was about six pounds in weight so we had to let it defrost in the fridge for three days. Thanksgiving morning my husband  got the smoker ready and then all I did was open the package and slipped the turducken onto a roasting rack and placed it in the smoker. Five hours later we took it out and let it sit for 45 minutes. No basting required. Easy Peasy. The smoker imparts an amazing colour to the turducken skin.

Right out of the package!

Into the smoker it goes!
The best part of smoking the turducken is that it frees up my oven for other dishes! I was able to bake fresh buns, bake a spaghetti squash dish, and bake up an amazing puff pastry brie appetizer. It also makes those last few minutes of getting every on table much easier. The benefit of the roast version of turducken is the ease of slicing it. There are no bones, no legs, no wings, and it's already filled with stuffing. A sharp knife and a fork is all you need. The turducken slices definitely must be cut thicker than regular turkey slices or it doesn't stay together. And since it looks so great to have a slice that includes turkey, duck, chicken and stuffing you want it to stay together. It easily fed 6 adults and 4 kids. There was even a few slices left over for lunch!

Yup, overcooked but look at the beautiful colour of that skin!!
Getting back to the smoker, we all agreed that the smoking added lots of flavour to the skin and a little to the turkey layer but it didn't seem to penetrate further than that. Given the thickness and solid nature of the turducken this really isn't too surprising. Also, we learned that the turducken is pretty forgiving in terms of dryness. We overcooked the turducken - we should have taken it out when it 165 degrees F. By the time we finished our wine and remembered to check on the bird(s) the internal temperature had reached 200 degrees F!! Yikes! I was worried everything was as dry as the dessert. Thankfully, our turducken was  quite moist. There was a couple bites of my turkey layer that were on the dry side but every other layer was perfectly moist! Let's face it over cooking it wasn't the turducken's fault, it was ours. The turducken layers though kept it from drying everything out! Yeah turducken!

Three birds and stuffing all in one slice!
I wholeheartedly recommend a turducken from Echelon Foods! Guests love being able to boast about eating a turducken, it is flavourful and soooo easy to prepare either in the oven or in a smoker. If you haven't tried one yet go for it! You'll love it.
Happy Thanksgiving!
A turducken was provided to me for review but opinions, as always, are my own.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes with Espresso Cookie Crust

mini chocolate cheesecake -

I love these mini cheesecakes - the base is my favorite extreme caffeine chocolate shortbread cookies simply pressed into my mini cheesecake pan. The pan is great because it has removal bottoms so dislodging the cheesecake from the pan is quite easy. If you don't have the pan, you can use mini muffin tins or even regular ones - you will just end up with fewer or greater amounts of finished cheesecake (make sure you grease the pan!). I usually make an entire batch of cookie dough for this recipe even though I could get away with cutting it in half. If I don't make the left over cookie dough right away, I throw it in the freezer for another day. The cheesecake is made with condensed milk. Condensed milk now comes in regular, chocolate and dulche de leche flavours - any can be used here. The chocolate goes really well with the shortbread though!

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes using a mini cheesecake pan similar to this one.

Cookie Base

  • This make about 3 dozen regular cookies so you will probably have left over dough. Freeze it and make cookies or more cheesecakes later! .


1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ or powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 c mini chocolate chips

What to do

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Spray tins with baking spray or grease them with butter.
  3. Dissolve the espresso powder in very hot water, let cool to room temperature.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 4 minutes. You want the mixture to be light in colour and completely smooth.
  5. Add the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low.
  6. On your lowest setting, add the flour. To prevent your cookies from being to brittle and dry mix in the flour just until it is combined. Don't over do it!
  7. Gently stir in the chips.
  8. Press a tbsp or so of dough into the mini cheesecake or muffin tins and up a bit on the sides of the tins. You don't want too thick of a cookie layer.
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes 
  10. Remove from oven and cool.



2 pkgs (250 g each) light or regular cream cheese, softened
1 can (300 mL) Regular or Low Fat Chocolate flavoured sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In large mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy.
  3. Gradually beat in condensed milk, eggs and vanilla.
  4. Spoon equal amounts of batter over cookie bases.
  5. Bake in preheated 300 degrees F  oven 14-18 minutes or until centre is just set.
  6. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gluten-Free Gravy Mix Review and Mini Turkey Meatloaf recipe

Mini Turkey Meatloaf |
Mini Turkey Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Did you know 3.1 million turkeys were bought by Canadians in 2012?? That's a lot of gobbling by turkeys and us alike!

Canadian Thanksgiving is officially on October 14th but we will celebrate on Sunday the 13th.  This gives us Monday to relax and enjoy all the leftovers! I love making Thanksgiving dinner and planning the menu from beginning to end. I make home-made rolls, appetizers, desserts, mains, sides ... pretty much everything ...except the gravy! I love gravy but I always find the last 30 minutes of trying to get everything to the table (and keep it hot) very stressful so I decided years ago to cut out the home-made gravy. I have to say that no one has complained. I usually buy it from a local shop, heat and serve.

Of course, when you host a big dinner like Thanksgiving or Christmas you have to make sure everyone's needs are met - extra sides for vegetarians, Uncle Fred's favourite brussel sprout dish and gluten free offerings for friends and family with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities (and don't forget my big glass of wine). It can be a lot of preparation and effort but, of course, it's all worth it when everything is on the table and bellies are pleasantly full (ok... stuffed to the max).

If you are like me and don't want to make gravy and need to ensure it is gluten free, you should try Club House gluten-free turkey gravy mix. I was lucky enough to be offered a stash of samples to review. Club House is part of McCormick Canada. Did you know,130-year-old McCormick Canada is the largest spice, dry sauce and seasoning extract and specialty food operation in the country! The largest of McCormick's brands is Club House which is now the 54th largest brand in Canada. They have launched a line of gluten-free products to meet the needs of the 15% of North American households who are consuming gluten-free foods.

Preparing the turkey gluten-free gravy mix is as easy as opening the package and adding water. That's it. Easy. If you want to gourmet it up a notch, you can add turkey drippings. Today, I used it to top off some mini-turkey meat loaves and mashed potatoes but I will also be using at my Thanksgiving dinner. It was great. What I liked the most was:
  • consistency - not goopy or too thin - easily coated my spoon.
  • taste - tastes like gravy, not too salty (it actually has 25% less salt than Club House's regular mix), no after taste. 
  • ease of preparation - no need to make a roux, season, stir forever etc
  • calories - if you just use water (no turkey drippings) there is only 20 calories in 1/4 cup of gravy (leaves room for extra dessert :)
One package makes 1 cup so I'd suggest using one pack per 3-4 people at your table.

Here is my mini turkey meatloaf recipe. Please note that I did not make it gluten free but you could easily substitute gluten free breadcrumbs and other ingredients:


1 lb ground turkey breast
3/4 lb  turkey sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp worcestershire 
1 c panko bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup curry bottled sauce (I used yellow curry) + extra for brushing 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix all of the above in a large bowl until well combined.
Press mixture into 12 muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking oil.
Make a small indentation in the centres of each "muffin".
Bake for 25 minutes. 
If desired carefully spread a bit more curry sauce on top of mini loaves and bake for another 5 minutes.
Make sure the internal temperature of meatloaves reach 165 degrees F.

If desired, pipe smoothly mashed potatoes on top and spoon Club House's gravy over top!

Click for more information on Club House Products or McCormick Spice on Facebook.

This sponsorship is brought to you by The Gluten Free Agency whom we have partnered with for this promotion. 

All opinions and recipes are my own.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Three Milk Cake - Daring Bakers

The Daring Baker Challenge this month was to bake a pastel de tres leches or three milk cake. It was the first time I had ever made (or tasted) this type of cake. It was delicious!

Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!

This recipe is slightly adapted from Fine Cooking

For the cake:

  • Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan or cooking spray
  • 4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup  milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the soaking liquid:

  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream (heavy cream)
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • Pinch kosher salt

For the topping:

  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Bake the cake:

1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.      Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch Pyrex or glass baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and lightly butter or spray the parchment.
3.      Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
4.      Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl.
5.      Using electric beaters, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow in colour (2 minutes).
6.      Add the milk and vanilla and continue to beat until combined.
7.      Clean and dry your beaters (this is important – you don’t want any of the yolks on it or they whites won’t fluff) and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks. (3 minutes)
8.      Add the other 1/4 cup sugar slowly, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks. ( 2 minutes-ish more).
9.      Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture and thoroughly mix.
10.   Lightly fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula.
11.   Alternately, fold in the remaining flour and egg whites, in two more batches each, until fully mixed.
12.   Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake is golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.
13.   Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely. It will shrink a bit – that’s ok.
14.   Put the cake back into the baking dish  so the cake will soak up more of the liquid.

Soak the cake:

1.      In a large saucepan, mix together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, coffee, and salt until it is all well blended. Cook over medium-low heat (don’t burn it!) until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a large heatproof glass measuring cup so it stops cooking.
2.      Using a toothpick, poke the cake at 1/2-inch intervals. Slowly, pour the soaking liquid over the cake, starting at the edges and waiting to let it soak in before adding more liquid. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 36 hours.

Top the cake:

1.      Beat the whipping cream on medium speed until it begins to thicken
2.      Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until it holds a firm peak.

3.      Spread on the cake.