Friday, December 28, 2012

Peanut Butter Fudge

This was my first fudge and it was very easy and very yummy.  My kids loved it.
Here's the recipe:

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla,
3/4 cup peanut butter.

Bring sugar and milk to a boil. Boil two and a half minutes. Keep stirring to prevent burning on the bottom. Remove from heat and stir in PB and vanilla. Pour into a 9x9 pan and let set.  I keep fudge in the fridge or freezer so it stays set properly.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

No, no picture this time.  This recipe speaks for itself.  It is super easy and super tasty!  Here it is:

chicken thighs (I used a half dozen)
can of coke (I've also used Dr. Pepper and I bet root beer would work too)
BBQ Sauce (lovin' the Sweet Baby Rays right now)

And that is it.

Put the chicken thighs in your slow cooker.  Pour the can of coke over top.  Keep heat on low for 8 hours or so.  Take the meat out and shred it with a fork into a bowl.  Squeeze a little BBQ sauce over top and mix it in to your liking.

I like to serve this meat on a toasted roll with a little potato salad and grilled corn on the cob on the side.

Delicious!

PS - Mom - Dad would love this!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pumpkin Pull Apart Bread

I cannot take credit for this delicious recipe, only the fact that I baked it and it was insanely good!  Yes, this is that recipe, the one that has been floating around Pinterest this fall.  It is time consuming, but it is completely and utterly worth it.  I made it during one of my Saturday baking days (one of those fabulous rainy days where the kids happened to be content to play Lego all day and allow me to bake).  These directions come from Sunny Side Up's blog, who got it from Willow Bird Baking.  (I love a good web of recipe trail). 


Ingredients
Bread
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp unsalted butter


Glaze
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar

*Sunny Side Up added 1 tbsp of rum to her Glaze which I did not



Directions
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, brown 2 tablespoons of butter, letting it bubble up and turn a dark golden brown but being careful not to allow it burn (turn black). Once browned, remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the milk, return to stove and heat through.**** Pour the milk and butter into the bowl of standing mixer (fitted with a dough hook) and allow to cool so it is no longer hot but also not cool (about 100-110 degrees F). Once it has reached a warm but not hot temperature add the yeast and 1/4 cup of sugar and allow to proof (this can take up to 8 minutes, the top will look foamy and the liquid cloudy). Then add the the pumpkin, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Stir until combined then add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time and knead for 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and just slightly sticky. If the dough is too moist, add extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time.

Move dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.

While dough is rising, brown another 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.** Making sure sugar evenly absorbs the butter. Set aside. Next, grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and flip out onto a clean floured surface and knead with hands for 1-2 minutes. Roll dough into a 20×12 inch rectangle.*** Evenly sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar mixture and press into dough with palms of the hand. Cut the rectangle into 6 strips. Lay strips on top of each other and cut each strip into 6 even squares (cut in half then each half into thirds). Stack strips vertically into the loaf pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes.  (I ended up with 2 loaves from this recipe, there was too much dough for just one, so I split the strips evenly in the two pans)

In the meantime preheat an oven to 350 degrees. After rising in the pan bake for 30-40 minutes (mine took 37 exactly) or until top is a very deep golden brown.

To prepare the glaze, heat the butter, milk, and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil then immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the  powdered sugar.

My kids went crazy for this bread.  It is a lot like a cinnamon bun, but with that pumpkin yumminess to it that is perfect for fall!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gordon Ramsay's Garlic Rosemary Focaccia

When it comes to Gordon Ramsay people either love him or hate him.  I'm part of the love him crowd.  Masterchef is one of my favorite shows.  As harsh as he can be with people he truly loves good, quality food and good, quality cooking.  He doesn't settle and he pushes people to be better. 
Last night I was looking for a way to use up the rest of my fresh figs before they went off and I thought 'Flatbread'.  I decided to open up Gordon Ramsay's "Healthy Appetite" cookbook.  He did have a focaccia recipe in there.  His needed a couple of special flours that I don't have on hand, so I substitued All Purpose Flour in their place.  His measurements for active dry yeast were in the oz and g forms, which I'm not used to (I need tsp and tbsp) - I did weigh out my yeast, but being such a small amount, I'm still not sure I got it right so if anyone has a tsp version I'd appreciate the note.
His recipe was for the flatbread alone, I topped mine with sliced figs, sliced garlic, goat cheese and a little drizzle of raspberry basalmic vinegar.  I really liked the result, quite tasty.
So here's my version of a Gordon Ramsay dish:

1/4 oz (7g) active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt (he recommends fine sea salt, I used kosher salt)
2 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves (I subbed in dry rosemary)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed
1/4 extra-virgin olive oil

Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl.  Add the yeast and rosemary. Stir. 
Make a well in the center.  Add the crushed garlic, olive oil and water.   Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together.  You should get a soft, not sticky dough.
Press the dough together and put it onto a lightly floured counter.  Kneed the dough for about 5 minutes.  Place it in a lightly oiled large mixing bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Heat the oven to 400*.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and kneed lightly.  Place on a well-oiled baking sheet and gently flatten with the palms of your hands.  Pull and shape it to the edges of the baking sheet to form a 1/2 inch (1cm) thick rectangle.  Press with your fingertips to form indentations in the dough.
At this point I added the sliced figs, goat cheese, sliced garlic and raspberry basalmic vinegar.  He suggests rosemary leaves, whole garlic cloves and olive oil.
Bake for 15-20 minutes (until the bread is golden brown).  Let cool slightly, slice and serve warm.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Seafood Chowder

This morning we set out to the local Fisherman's Days down at the harbour.  What could be a better dose of Maritime Fun than the promise of a boat parade, a shell shucking contest, fiddle music, local displays and of course a bouncy castle for the kids?  Until we got there and it started raining shortly before the opening ceremonies.  We all huddled under the tents.  Feeling brave my family ventured out to look at the boats and what was still open of the displays.  My husband and I thought we would warm up a bit with a bowl of chowder from one of local vendors, except that it wasn't yet ready.  We went back, it still wasn't ready.  After the third time going back and starting to realize that the drizzle was not going to let up and that the wind was only getting stronger, we set ourselves back for home.  But now we both really wanted a bowl of chowder.
I remembered my dear friend Luan serving us the best seafood chowder at her husband's birthday a couple of years back and tried my best to find it.  This recipe jumped out at me in my search and by looking at the ingredients I thought it would be very good.  It was, it was very good indeed.
This recipe is an award winning recipe from PEI's Chef Jeff McCourt.  It took first prize in the PEI International Chowder Championship in 2003.  It is a little time consuming to make, but very much worth the effort.

1 cup (250 mL) butter
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
2 cups grated peeled potatoes
1/4 cup (50 mL) vermouth (I didn't have any vermouth, and substituted white wine instead)
2 cups (500 mL) milk
2 cups (500 mL) heavy cream
2 cups (500 mL) shellfish (choice of lobster, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and/or crab) *I adapted this with what I had on hand, cooking up a little salmon, haddock and shrimp - I also added a can of sweet baby clams
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced potato, steamed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat, add onions and sauté until translucent. Stir in garlic and continue to sauté until onions are golden brown. Add grated potato, vermouth, milk and cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, until potato is cooked, about 20 minutes.

In a blender, purée chowder base in batches, then return to chowder pot and season with salt and pepper.

Cook whatever shellfish you want to add to the chowder, retaining all liquid from the cooking process. Shuck and set seafood aside. Add cooking liquid to the chowder base. Add diced, cooked potato for texture. Add seafood, and check for seasoning one last time. Finish with chopped chives.  Makes 8 to 10 servings.

*I paired this with some homemade dinner rolls - delicious!

While making the chowder, I happened to chat with my friend Luan on the phone.  When I told her I was making chowder and was remembering how much I loved hers, she started to tell me her recipe.  It turns out this is the recipe she uses!  Too funny :)

 

Dinner Rolls

Is there anything cozier than the smell of homemade bread baking on a rainy day?  I know, you wouldn't expect it to be in August, but after piles of gorgeous August weather, today we had a cold, rainy, windy day, so I baked a little.  I'm not usually a bread baker, though I'd like to be and I am getting better at it because I do enjoy it, it's just something you need to have the time for.
I have these very fond memories of Sunday dinners where my Uncle's Mom (who I called Nana Murray) would bring fresh baking of beautiful pies and dinner rolls.  Making these today brought me back to those suppers.
I know these aren't the prettiest rolls to look at (I'll have to work on my forming technique) but they were so tasty!

I found the recipe via Pinterest (with a warning these rolls are like crack).  That pin led me to "Eat Cake for Dinner".  She found the recipe floating around blogland herself.  The claim was that these are Texas Roadhouse rolls copycat recipe - a restaurant I'd never heard of before. 

4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water
2 c. milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
3 Tbsp. of melted butter, slightly cooled
1/2 c. sugar 
2 quarts all purpose flour (7-8 cups)
2 whole eggs
2 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water with a teaspoon of sugar; let stand until frothy.  Combine yeast mixture, milk, 1/2 cup sugar and enough flour to make a medium batter (about the consistency of pancake batter).  Beat thoroughly.  Add melted butter, eggs and salt.  Beat well.  Add enough flour to form a soft dough.  Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto counter and let dough rest.  Meanwhile, grease a large bowl.  Knead dough until smooth and satiny and put in greased bowl; turn over to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk.  Punch down.  Turn out onto a floured board.  Divide into portions for shaping; let rest 10 minutes.  Shape dough into desired forms.  Place on greased baking sheets.  Let rise until doubled.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown (I did bake mine for closer to 20 minutes).  Baste immediately with butter.  Yield: 5 to 6 dozen.  (I didn't get that many, I got 4 dozen and those were pretty small - I can't imagine how small they would be to make 5-6 dozen)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Hubby's a Foodie Too

After watching me post on food for a few years (and doing a few guest posts himself) my hubby has joined the community of food bloggers.  Introducing Flavorite Savors!  He is posting his own recipes as well as his own reviews of restaurants we have been too.  Show him  a little blog love!

Mango Lassi Popsicle

I'm absolutely in love with two flavors right now: Mango and Cardomom.  This has both - yummy! 
I have to thank Desserts for Breakfast for this recipe - they have a Strawberry-Honey Yogurt one on there too that looks just a delicious.

2 cups ripe mango, chopped
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp sugar (I substituted 2 Tbsp of honey instead which worked well)
BIG! pinch of ground cardamom
big pinch of salt

Blend everything up in the blender.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
As a side note, my picky picky 5 year old who "hates" fruit - loves these popsicles!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New York Cheesecake

I hadn't baked a New York cheesecake in years, but when my son asked for one for his 8th birthday, how could I refuse?  This cake was a mix of 2 recipes.  The crust is just a basic graham cracker crust, very simple and the cake part I got from a Cheesecake Factory copycat recipe, very delicious.

Here's the recipe:

Crust:
23 graham crackers, crushed (my kids loved using the rolling pin for this-just put the crackers in a ziplock bag and smash away)
1/4 cup of margarine or butter, melted
Mix the two ingredients together in a bowl.  Once well mixed, use the mixture to cover the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  Bake at 325* for 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

The Cake:
  • 1 1/2 lbs cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  1. Beat cream cheese together (I did all the mixing in my Kitchen Aid)
  2. Add sugar and beat in slowly.
  3. Next add the eggs in one at a time. Make sure each is fully beaten in before adding another one.
  4. Next add flour, vanilla, and lemon juice and mix well.
  5. Add sour cream and beat in.
  6. Pour the mixture into the crust
  7. Place in the oven on the top rack for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  8. Turn off oven, open the door ( just a crack) and leave cheesecake there for one hour.
  9. Place the cheesecake in the fridge for about 8 hours ( the more you wait the flavors will become better).
  10. Enjoy!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cooking With Kids - Homemade Marshmallows

One of my summer goals is to cook more with my kids.  I had them look through a couple of my kid-friendly recipe books and pick the recipes they really wanted to try.  I'm not surprised that their first pick came from the River Cottage Family Cookbook.
This is one fantastic cookbook.  It is written in a way that makes cooking accessible for kids.  Every ingredient and cooking tool you need for each recipe is listed at the top and the instructions are easy to follow.  Although it is kid-friendly, it is not "kiddish".  Meaning that the food inside is something that would appeal to kids and adults alike.  The idea is that you would work together as a family to get to know how to work with food from scratch.  I just love it and everything I've tried from it has been delicious.
I'll give you my simplified directions here - their directions are much more descriptive than mine.

Ingredients
1 tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
canola oil for oiling the pan and knife
1 packet gelatin powder
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 egg whites
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water

-sift sugar and cornstarch together into a small bowl.  Rub an 8 inch square pan with a little of the oil, then sprindle some of the sugar mix on top to dust the pan - set both the bowl and pan aside
-bring a kettle of water to almost a boil.  Mix 1/2 cup of water with the gelatin powder and stir until gelatin is disolved.  Add a couple of drops red food coloring to the mix if desired.
-Put egg whites into a stand mixer near the stove
-Put the granulated sugar and water into a medium saucepan.  Put it over low heat and mix until all the sugar granules are dissolved.  Clip a warmed candy thermometer to the pan and raise the heat to boil the sugar and water together.  While this mixture is heating, start mixing the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
-Boil the sugar until it reaches 252* (hardball stage) and immediately turn off the stove
-Pour the gelatin into the pan of syrup and mix with a wooden spoon.
-Turn the mixer back on low and very carefully add the syrup to the egg whites.
-Mix everything together (you can raise the speed a bit here) and keep mixing until everything is thick and bulky but still pourable (if you lift up the beaters a ribbon of marshmallow should sit on the surface for a few seconds before sinking back down).
-Pour the marshmallow into a prepared pan and let set in a cooled place for an hour or two.
-Dust the cutting board with the rest of the cornstarch mixture.  Coat a putter knife with a little oil.  Ease the marshmallow onto the board.  Sift extra cornstarch/sugar mix on if neccessary. Cut the marshmallows into squares (you probably need to oil the knife after each cut)

My kids were very impressed with this recipe and everyone had a chance to pitch in.  Great family project :)









Monday, June 11, 2012

Filled Crescent Rolls

Here's another idea i picked up on Pinterest.  I made 3 variations of filled crescent rolls.  All were tasty and given a "thumbs up" by my kids for lunch.  All use Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to make, adding a filling before rolling it up to bake as directed

Variation 1 - cheese filled
Variation 2 - cheese & hot dog
Variation 3 -peanut butter and chocolate chip

I think the possibilities here are endless.

Baked Eggs - easy, tasty breakfast!

I've been seeing variations of this idea on Pinterest recently and decided to try it out for myself.  It was worth it!  Yum!  I made these eggs 2 ways, one that appealed to me and one that appealed to my kids.  My kids liked it too.  This was very easy, you really just need the time for baking.

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.  Line the cups with turkey bacon.  I cut the turkey bacon slices in half and used 3 halves to make the cup. Crack an egg into the cup.  Bake at 350* for 20-25 minutes.  For my kids, I whisked their eggs first before adding to the cup so they resembled scrambled eggs.  I can also see doing this with eggs whites, or, adding egg fillings such as cheese, peppers, onions...

There you go, easy breakfast.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Pinterest Promise

I've spent a lot of time pinning over the past 6 months.  If you are anything like me you've also seen these beautifully photographed recipes, inspiring your home kitchen.  I've tried a number of these now and have found that the picture does not tell the whole story.  While I've had my fair share of successes, there have been more disappointments.  So this is my promise to you.  I promise that I have cooked and tasted every recipe on my own personal recipe blog.  If it sucks, I will tell you.  If it's delicious, it becomes a staple around here.  I am in no way a professional photographer.  I have a fairly decent camera that I don't know how to use to its full power.  The pictures may not be pretty, but the food tastes good.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

 These muffins are a variation of Jean Pare's  Banana Oatmeal Muffins.  I have one very picky eater in my house.  He does not like eating any sort of fruit or vegetable.  It is actually painful to see him choke them down.  Whenever possible I use recipes like this to my advantage.  It's weird, but he loves them and will eat more than anyone else.  These muffins are tasty and fairly simple to make.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup milk
3 medium mashed bananas

1 cup frozen blueberries

In a large bowl, measure the first 6 ingredients.  Stir to mix.  Make a well in the centre.
In a small bowl, beat eggs until frothy, mix in the rest of the wet ingredients.  Pour into well.  Stir just to moisten.  Stir in the blueberries.  Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake in 400* oven for 20-25 minutes.

My picky 5 year old chowing down on these muffins for breakfast.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Black Forest Cake

 It was my husband's birthday last weekend.  His immediate, overwhelming response to what kind of cake he'd like was "Black Forest".  Originally, I was going to make my cheaters version, a combination of wacky cake, cherry pie filling and canned whipped cream.  The disappointment on his face was evident, so I looked up a much more authentic version.  It was worth it.  He loved and I was in cake heaven.  This was so tasty!
It is a bit of work, but not so much that it's difficult.  It looks fancier than it is hard to make.
I found this recipe on Food.com and did change a few things.  Their recipe called for Kirsch, I used maraschino cherry juice in its place to make it kid friendly.  I also could not find canned cherries, so I did use the cherry pie filling, which I like, but purists would take offense to :)

  • 1 2/3 cups cake flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup kirsch
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon very strong coffee
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans sweet cherries in heavy syrup, drained
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch
  • 1 ounce semisweet baking chocolate

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 8-inch round pans with parchment paper circles. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and 1 teaspoons salt. Set aside.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat into flour mixture, alternating with 1 cup buttermilk, until combined. Pour into prepared pans.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool completely. Remove paper from the cakes. Using a thin but sturdy string (dental floss works well), wrap the string around one of the cakes at the halfway mark, horizontally. Tie the string once and pull slowly, cutting through the cake forming two layers. Repeat on other cake. Sprinkle cut side of each layer with kirsch.
  4. In a medium bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioners sugar, pinch of salt, and coffee, beat adding buttermilk as needed for consistency. Place first layer of cake on plate(cut side down works best for frosting). Spread with 1/3 of the filling. Top with 1/3 of the cherries. Repeat with remaining layers.
  5. In a seperate bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Beat in 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 TBS kirsch. Frost top and sides of cake. Decorate with chocolate shavings made with a vegetable peeler on chocolate. (I grated mine which worked just as well)
     

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Orange Julius - Pineapple Julius Copy Cat Recipes

As a kid, going to Orange Julius was a big treat.  So sweet and refreshing!  My favorite always was the Pineapple Julius, yum!  I recently found a copycat recipe for Orange Julius on Pinterest.  I didn't think it would be that difficult to adapt to make a pineapple version.  I was right.  This was very easy. 

Here's the Orange Julius recipe I found from the Budget Savy Diva
  • 6 oz. can frozen concentrated orange juice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 or more ice cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon of Instant Vanilla Pudding Powder
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender except for the ice cubes.
  2. Blend until mixed
  3. Add ice cubes one at a time – blend until smooth.
Here's my adapted, lightened up Pineapple Version:

1-2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped into chunks
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/4 cup Splenda
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 or more ice cubes (I didn't have any ice, so I left these out, but I can see where they would make it even better)
1 Tbsp of Instant Vanilla Pudding Powder (I didn't have any on hand, so I used Butterscotch instead)

Place all ingredients in a blender, except for the ice cubes.  Blend until mixed.  Add ice cubes on at a time, blend until smooth.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Resurrection Cookies for Easter

This was one of the best Easter ideas I've ever seen.  My husband and I are always on the lookout for activities to do with our children that will make our faith real to them.  Experiential learning is a fantastic way to go.  I found this idea on Pinterest which led me to the the MOPS website.  They have a great number of ideas that I look forward to going through and sharing with my kids.  These were easy to make and the kids worked at every step together.  They were involved completely (my kids range in age from 2 to 7).  Here's the recipe:

  • 1 c whole pecans or 1 c mini-chocolate chips (for nut allergy)
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 c sugar
  • Ziploc bag
  • Wooden spoon
  • Tape
  • Bible
1. Preheat oven to 300.
2. Place pecans (or mini-chocolate chips) in bag and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, the Roman soldiers beat him. (Read John 19:1-3)
3. Let each child smell the vinegar before putting it into a mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, he was given vinegar to drink. (Read John 19:28-30)
4. Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave his life to give us life. (Read John 10:10-11)
5. Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers and the bitterness of our own sin. (Read Luke 23:27)
6. Add sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because he loves us. He wants us to know him and belong to him. (Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16)
7. Beat egg white mixture with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. (Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3)
8. Fold in broken nut or mini-chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. (Read Matthew 27:57-60)
9. Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven off. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. (Read Matthew 27:65-66)
10. Go to bed. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers felt despair when the tomb was sealed too. (Read John 16:20-22)
11. On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. He is risen! He is risen indeed! (Read Matthew 28:1-9)


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cookie Pizza

I had this glorious plan that each day of the March Break I would do something creative with my kids.  While we didn't get to every day, we did get to a couple of days crafty.  This one was the highlight.  The idea is so simple really.  Take your favorite cookie recipe, spread all the dough out onto a pizza pan, bake it and then decorate.  It was such a hit with my family!  My husband asked why he'd never had this deliciousness before.  So I figure we'll be making it again sometime soon :)
I used Mrs. Field's Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe which is from her Best Cookies Cookbook (one of my favorites).  I did have to bake it for longer than I would for individual cookies (about twice as long - but keep checking to make sure you don't burn it).  The topping is some leftover cake icing I had in the freezer and the kids had a blast with the Smarties and sprinkles on top.  I used a pizza cutter to slice it up (and of course a side of milk for all!)

Mrs. Fields Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
 
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. Mix well with wire whisk. Set aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, blend sugars at medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix at medium speed until just blended. Do not overmix. Add the flour mixture and chocolate chips, and blend at low speed until just mixed. Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes.  (For the pizza, I spread all of the dough out onto a pizza sheet.  I turned the it in the oven after 20 minutes and kept checking every 10-15 minutes until it looked nicely browned).
                                                     My son can't quite believe his eyes!


                                              My kitchen assistants looking pretty pleased!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dinosaur Volcano Cake!






My son turned 5 this week.  We had an all dinosaur themed party for him.  This was the cake.  I used an angel food cake pan to bake it in, doubling the amounts of my recipe for Wacky Cake (by far the most used cake recipe for us).  Once the cake was cooled, I covered it in chocolate icing, even spreading the chocolate icing onto the plate (really a cutting board, covered in foil).  I then mixed vanilla icing with red and yellow food dye to make a good lava colour.  I put that icing into the microwave for about 30 seconds to liquify it (it was hot - be careful).  Then, I slowly poured it around the top of the cake to let it naturally flow down over the cake, giving it a realy lava effect.  I like how it made little pools and rivers of lava at the bottom too (tip - turn the edged of the foil up just a little to catch the lava from flowing onto your counters).  The rocks and mud were done by placing Rock Candy and crushed Fudge-E-O cookies around the cake.  And of course the dinosaurs had to be stomping around too!  To complete the effect, we used sparklers instead of candles to make it look as though the volcano was really exploding (I have heard of people using dry ice in the centre for this too).  The kids were wowed by it! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vegetarian No-Noodle Lasagna - 5 Pts+

This was seriously delicious.  My husband was hugely skeptical about it because he does not like eggplant at all and thinks there should be meat in pretty much everything, but he really enjoyed it!  I found it via Dr. Oz who had Jennifer Hudson on presenting it as a Weight Watchers recipe. 

Instructions

  • To roast vegetables, preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Place eggplant on one prepared baking sheet and place zucchini on other prepared baking sheet; coat vegetables with cooking spray. Roast 8 minutes; turn over vegetables and roast for 7 to 10 minutes more (total roasting time should not exceed 20 minutes or the vegetables will get too mushy); remove from oven and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine egg, ricotta cheese, basil and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; set aside.
  • When vegetables are done, reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
  • To assemble lasagna, coat bottom and sides of a 14- X 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of sauce (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) on bottom of pan. Layer eggplant over sauce (use all the slices, even if you have to overlap them). Cover eggplant with half of marinara sauce and then spread half of ricotta mixture on top; sprinkle with half of mozzarella cheese. Top mozzarella cheese with zucchini and cover zucchini with remaining marinara sauce; spread with remaining ricotta mixture and then sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake until the bottom starts to bubble, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove lasagna from oven and allow it to rest for about 15 to 20 minutes before slicing into 12 pieces. Yields 1 piece per serving.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Diet Coke Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I found these over at Emily Bites who found the frosting over at Gina's Skinny Recipes.  If you haven't discovered their sites yet, they are well worth the look.  Tasty recipes, all with the nutritional information and Weight Watchers Points Plus information on them.   I had heard about the idea of using a cake mix and pop before, but I was skeptical.  I decided the low points plus value (4) was worth the effort. I'm glad I did, they were yummy!

Diet Coke Cupcakes
Ingredients:
1 box of cake mix
1 can of diet pop
2 egg whites

Directions:
1.    Preheat oven per directions on cake mix box
2.    Line cupcake pan with 24 cupcake liners or use cooking spray to lightly coat 24 spots
3.    Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat together until thoroughly mixed. Pour mixture into cupcake liners.
4.    Bake according to directions on cake mix box. Let cool completely before frosting.

Yields 24 servings. WW P+: 3 per serving

*for one more P+ you can push a Hershey's Kiss into each cupcake for an extra surprise :)

Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients:
8 oz light cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1.    Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat with an  electric mixer until smooth

Yields 24 servings. WW P+: 1 per serving

They were a hit with my family, don't you think?





Sunday, February 19, 2012

Healthy Class Snack

Last week I was asked to provide a healthy snack as part of my son's class' Valentine's Day party.  I started thinking about what kids enjoy - you have to please the masses you know.  Then I remembered seeing this idea on my friend Taryn's Pinterest.  Cute and perfect really.  At every kid event I've ever been too (and there have been lots over the past 7+ years), goldfish crackers and grapes disappear rather quickly.  My son told me the kids really enjoyed this and his teacher loved the idea.


Here they are, a bowlful of Valentine Butterflies :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

VH Chinese New Year Blog Tour - Recipes and Giveaway!

I like to keep a cooking mindset that food should not be boring.  We love to try food from other cultures and 'theme it up' once in a while for different celebrations; pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, Roast Lamb for Easter and most recently, a Chinese Feast for Chinese New Year!
When we were living in Toronto, we were most fortunate to have become friends with a pair of sisters who were originally from Hong Kong.  One of our most treasured memories was being their guests at an authentic Hong Kong Chinese Dim Sum.  We were the only table in the room with non-Chinese guests at it.  Our hosts ordered for us as the menu was only in Chinese.  The food was fantastic and I've had a longing to recreate those dishes now that we live elsewhere.
(our family at Dim Sum in Toronto last summer)

While I've never been able to recreate those recipes (yet) - we still do enjoy creating our our Canadian Chinese food at home.  That is why I was so happy to be asked to join the VH Chinese New Year Blog Tour.  What better way to celebrate the Year of the Dragon than to have a family feast?  
Whenever dining Chinese it always strikes me how family and friend oriented the meal is.  At a Dim Sum restaurant, the tables are usually round so there is no head.  Dishes are served in large portions so to be shared with the entire table.  We all partake in the meal together.  Chinese tea is often featured, traditionally, you do not pour your own tea, someone else at the table serves you, just as you would serve them.  It is a great reminder of friendship, family and community.

At home, we try to remember this act of family dining by creating many large dishes to share.  Having small children (ages 7, 4 and 2), we also try to find food that will please their choosy palates, while still satisfying our own need for unique and tasty dishes.  The menu we came up with for this Chinese New Year was greatly assisted by the sauces to try out from VH.  We feasted on: Sweet and Sour Shrimp, Pineapple Chicken, Mushroom Chow Mein, Beef & Broccoli and Steamed Rice.

The Giveaway!
Thanks to the generosity of VH and Mom Central Canada you, I invite you to join in on the fun of having your own Chinese New Year Celebration!  Leave a comment below telling your favorite Chinese Dish and you will be entered to win a Chinese New Year Gift Pack valued at $60! Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only.  One name will be drawn at random at the end of the day, February 10th.  Please include your name and contact info (email address) in your comment so I can reach you should you win.  Readers may enter this giveaway on multiple blogs, but may only win one prize.  Prizes will be sent out from Mom Central Canada on behalf of Crafty Kris.


The Recipes!

Mushroom Chow Mein

drizzle of canola oil - heat in large frying pan or wok - add:
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
cook over medium heat until heated through and just beginning to soften - add:
a couple of Tbsp of VH Hoisin Sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp chicken stock powder
1/4 C water
stir it all in together and turn heat up to medium high to get everything really hot! - add:
 4 oz chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
a generous drizzling of soya sauce
1 cup bean sprouts
2 cups of chow mein noodles, uncooked
mix it all together, add a bit more water to get some steam going in the wok (1/2 cup).  Cover and allow noodles to steam cook.  This cooks fast so check often and keep stirring to prevent sticking.  Top with green onion slices for garnish when serving.
 *on a happy eating side note - my picky eating boys both ate the noodles (and unknowingly the bean sprouts) from this dish as well as tried the bamboo and water chestnuts and thought it was pretty good!

Pineapple Chicken
By far the easiest of the dishes I made!

drizzle of canola oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp flour
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 jar VH pineapple chicken sauce
1/2 can pineapple tidbits

Heat oil in medium cooking pot - medium heat.  Toss the chicken pieces with the flour to coat the chicken.  Put coated chicken and red peppper in the cooking pot, stir frequently.  Add the jar of sauce.  Continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce starts to bubble.  Add the pineapple.  Continue to cook until the pineapple is heated.
*my kids loved this dish 

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

My husband's contribution to our feast.  He used a Buttermilk Batter recipe from Food.com (originally intended for onion rings).  

16 shrimp (tails on) - he let the shrimp marinate a little bit in a mix of a little bit of Thai Fish Sauce with a pinch of salt before battering
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
canola oil
VH Sweet and Sour Sauce - to serve over the shrimp once cooked.

Whisk together the flour, buttermilk, sugar, baking powder and salt until smooth.  Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a dutch oven.  Heat to 375*.  Dip shrimp in batter, coating well.  Fry a few shrimp at a time until golden.  Drain - (my husband uses a 2 step draining process, first in a metal strainer, then onto paper towels.)  Repeat with remaining shrimp.  *We had enough batter to fry up some onion rings as well, which isn't very Chinese Food-ish, but still delicious with the sweet and sour sauce.
Seriously yummy!  The Sweet and Sour is our favorite VH Sauce to use!

Beef & Broccoli
 
This recipe comes from Stephen Yan's Cookbook on Chinese Cooking from the late 70's or early 80's.  He was the charismatic host of Wok With Yan - a Canadian Chinese cooking program that ran for 15 years or more.  This recipe is simple and very tasty.  
 
1 pound of fresh broccoli, sliced into bite sized pieces
1/2 pound beef flank steak, sliced thinly across the grain
1 tbsp light soy sauce
dash of pepper
1 tbsp tapioca starch or cornstarch
a few drops of sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 tbsp sesame or peanut oil

Marinate the beef with light soy sauce, pepper, few drops sesame oil and starch for 15 minutes.  In a wok or skillet, help up 2 tbsp of oil until smoke begins to rise.  Put in broccoli, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 cup of water.  Mix and cover with lid.  Cook with high heat for 4 minutes, until steam escapes from the edge of the lid.  Remove to a plate.  Use high heat and 2 tbsp of oil; when hot, brown garlic for a minute.  Then add beef, stir fry until the color of the meat changes.  Return broccoli and mix.  Serve hot.
A sprinkle of sesame seeds on top makes a nice garnish!

*This was the first time we used our new rice cooker and I'm in love with it - super easy and perfect rice!  I highly recommend you get one too.

Still in the mood for Chinese, but not so much up to cooking tonight?  Look out for VH Steamers in the freezer section of your local grocery store. 

Disclosure – I am participating in the VH Chinese New Year Celebration program by Mom Central Canada on behalf of VH.  I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cookie Monster Cake

This is my daughter's second birthday cake.  She is loving Sesame Street right now.  The cake was really easy to make.  I used a deep circle shaped Pyrex casserole dish to get the height of Cookie Monster's face.  The eyes are 2 cupcakes that I frosted completely in vanilla icing.  I used mini Oreos for the centres.  The blue colour was probably the most difficult to make.  I used the Wilton's Food Dye for that and it's still not quite dark enough, but probably could have been if I'd been more patient.  The great thing about this cake is that I just piled the icing on, no worries about how messy it looked because Cookie Monster is quite messy!  To get the mouth, I just used a butter knife to cut out a mouth shape and stuffed it with my Banana Chocolate Chip cookies.  I also broke a few and scattered them on the cake plate to finish the effect.  I think she liked it, don't you?


Monday, January 30, 2012

Cooking with Kids - Creamy Garlic Penne


 


I've involved my kids with cooking and food prep, pretty much since they could stand on a chair and add chocolate chips to cookies.   As they each get a little older, I've taught them more and more skills in the kitchen.  My 7 year old is now pretty sufficient at the basics like making sandwiches, orange juice and snacky food.  He often will get his younger brother and sister drinks and snacks on a Saturday morning allowing me to sleep in just a little bit longer.  A couple of weeks ago, my husband went out of town for just over a week.  At some point while he was gone our son decided that he wanted to make his dad a special meal to welcome him home.  I have to laugh because my husband confessed to me that he was expecting hot dogs and Kraft Dinner, but was prepared to like whatever it was our dear boy had prepared.  He was pleased and blown away with what recipe was served to him.   
Our son just loves Penne pasta.  It's his favorite, so he asked me to help find him a good penne recipe that he could make for Dad.  I found this one on Food.com.  There were not a lot of ingredients, it had easy to follow directions and it was tasty!  All key points in letting a child do the cooking.  It is also a quick recipe to make, taking about half an hour all together.  I was working right beside him to keep him on track, but he did the majority of it himself.  There were a few things I wouldn't let him do (nor, would it have been safe at his age) - like drain the boiling hot noodles, but the measuring, stirring and mixing he handled quite well.

Here's the recipe:
  • 1 (1 lb) box penne cooked as directed, drained and kept hot
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (he crushed them through a garlic press)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth 
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons parsley flakes
  • grated pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (we didn't have quite this much parmesan cheese on hand, so we used about a 1/4 cup of that and added a couple of slices of havarti to the mix)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter and add garlic in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Cook over medium for 1 minute.
  3. Add flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Stir in broth and milk and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce boils and thickens.
  5. Add parsley, pepper and cheese. *my kids won't eat anything with parsley in it, so we left it out and just sprinkled a bit on top of Dad's and mine to look 'fancy'
  6. Stir until cheese is melted.
  7. Toss hot pasta with sauce and serve immediately.


My boy stirring the sauce on the stove.

Mixing the noodles and sauce together.

Dinner is served.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snowman Cupcakes

Have I mentioned yet my new found love of Pinterest? Of course, if you are crafty you probably already know about it and are more than slightly hooked on it. Well, my daughter turns 2 tomorrow. We aren't having her party until next weekend, but I couldn't let the day pass without something special. I decided to make cupcakes for her to take to daycare and share with the kids there. I searched 'cupcakes' on Pinterest and my goodness there are some amazing cupcakes out there! Wow! I needed something fairly simple though and I saw these. Aren't they cute? My daughter loves snowmen so this is perfect. The eyes and mouth are upside down chocolate chips and the nose are cut up pieces of fruit gummies - so simple.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Maritime Christmas, make that New Year's Feast!

I was sick, and I mean the kind of sick where you don't move for a few days kind of sick over Christmas. We still had our turkey dinner, but I didn't make it. In fact, I didn't eat it. But my husband and our guests (good friends who understood me sleeping on the couch) enjoyed it. Thank goodness my husband knows how to cook (and well!). By New Year's I was feeling well enough to eat, just not well enough to go anywhere and do anything New Years-ish. I had also been seeing a lot of friend's Christmases on Facebook. It seemed every family I know who lives here in our little village, or one of the nearby villages bought lobster pretty much right off the boat for their Christmas Feasts. I haven't had lobster since just before we moved away to Toronto a couple of years ago, and now being back here, it just fits. So for New Year's we had Surf and Turf. Jonathan marinated a couple of t-bone steaks with his own special seasoning rub and I picked up 2 lobsters. Here are a few photos of our little feast. Did I mention Jonathan did up his own homemade onion rings and deep fried shrimp to go with it all?
 Giving the lobsters a little last run.

 The feast.
 mmm lobster!
 steak with shrimp

*Sorry, no recipes this time - just the pictures!