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
1 box of cake mix
1 can of diet pop
2 egg whites

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
8 oz light cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

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 (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?