Friday, November 21, 2014

I Would Be Proud To Partake In Your Pecan Pie...


     Happy Friday everyone! I am having a particularly wonderful day and I feel like spreading some joy.  I hope this recipe does the trick.  I must confess that before making this (which was for an order, not for family or friends) I had never made, nor even tasted, a pecan pie. I know right? What was I thinking?! Thankfully for all parties involved, it turned out beautifully AND tasted good. Whew!  

     With the holidays fast approaching, you may be in need of simple and impressive dessert. This recipe is easy to follow and the results are spectacular.  It makes enough for one pie and I had enough filling left over to make some tarts (which are great for sampling your work!). Seriously, give it a try. I think you will be impressed with both yourself and the end product. Happy baking!


You will need

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup (1 stick butter), melted
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
One 9-inch deep dish pie shell, unbaked, or homemade pastry if you feel ambitious
1 cup pecan halves for topping
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving 



Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs until creamy. Add the chopped pecans, melted butter, milk, flour and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Arrange the pecan halves on top of the pie in a circular pattern.

Bake the pie for 55 minutes. Check for doneness by shaking the pan slightly. The pie should be firm with only a slight jiggle in the center. It will set more as it cools. Serve topped with vanilla ice cream or with a dollop of whipped cream (or in my case, blueberry pie ice cream!).

*Recipe adapted from Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen
 by Trisha Yearwood (c) Clarkson Potter 2008

I'm sure everyone will be proud to partake in your pecan pie!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mix until glossy?


     Do you ever wonder what it means when a recipe says "mix until glossy?" Sometimes much can be lost in the interpretation. The other day I was baking a batch of brownies and my recipe instructed me to add the eggs and mix until the batter became glossy.  Here is a quick visual of what it means...

Batter before eggs: 

Add the eggs: 

Mix until "glossy:"

See the change? The eggs transform the batter into yummy goodness! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Braaaaiiinnnssss...

     


   Happy Halloween!

      Last night I was busy in my laboratory, I mean kitchen, creating cupcakes for a potluck at my son's high school.  Boys. You have to love them.  I got a text yesterday morning asking me if I could "bake 32 of something" for today. He added that it needn't be "anything special." My son, you'd think he'd know better. 

      With the help of my minions, I created these ghoulish brain cupcakes. Perfect for a class full of brainy students!  The red velvet batter makes quite a bloody starting point.  My poor apron came out looking like exhibit "A" after forensic testing!  





Here is what you'll need:



Red Velvet Batter:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
4 Tbsp red food colouring
2 tsp vanilla extract


  • pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
  • in a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  • beat in eggs one at a time
  • mix in sour cream, milk, food colour and vanilla 
  • add wet mixture to dry mixture and blend until combined (do not over beat!)
  • scoop into muffin tins lined with paper cups, 2/3 full (makes about 30 cupcakes)
  • bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
  • cool in pans for 5 minutes, then cool completely before frosting


Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar
peach food colouring

  • beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy
  • add sour cream and vanilla
  • add in confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, until well blended and smooth
  • stir in food colouring until you get just the right colour for braaaiiinnnssss!

How to pipe your frosting to look like brains:
thanks Sugarhero



*recipe from allrecipes



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Welcome Autumn...


     I cannot believe that yesterday was the first day of autumn. There are so many things I love about the fall. It is my favourite season; the colours, the flavours, crisp air and cool nights.  The other day I baked up a batch of these pumpkin nutella  muffins from a recipe I found online.  They were wonderful and I highly recommend that you try them.  The recipe is very straightforward and the results are spectacular.  These are guaranteed to bring the taste and smell of fall into your kitchen. Happy baking!



You will need:
  • 3 1/3 cups all- purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • Nutella


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line muffin pans with cupcake liners.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk together.
3.  Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined and then fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
4. Drop a  teaspoon of Nutella into each muffin tin over the pumpkin batter and use a toothpick to swirl it in.
5. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with no pumpkin batter on it (there may be some hot Nutella that sticks to the toothpick but that is fine!) 


Thanks to YourCupofCake for inspiring this recipe!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

No bake? Piece of cake!


     Back to school means back to routine.  Back to making lunches, after school snacks and  portable, homework enticing treats. Peanut butter, especially when paired with chocolate, is a hands down winner here at my house.  Since peanut butter is contraband at school this fudge can't be packed in lunches, but the recipe is quick and easy; perfect for an after school reward.  It calls for only 3 (yes you read that right... 3!) ingredients.  Oh, and did I mention that it doesn't require an oven?  This is a no bake treat.  Even if you don't consider yourself a baker I am confident that you can pull this one off. Seriously, give it a try. You won't be sorry!

PS- You don't have to tell anyone how easy this delicious treat was to make. Feel free to pretend you were slaving away over a hot stove for hours. It'll be our secret...


Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Bars


You will need:

  • 26 individual, regular sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped (20 for the bottom and 6 chopped and sprinkled on top)
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

  • Line a 9x9” pan with foil and spray with cooking spray
  • Place the peanut butter cups in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. (You should use 20 on the bottom)

  • Place chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until chips and milk are melted together.
  • Once everything is melted together, spread evenly over peanut butter cups in prepared pan. 
  • Immediately sprinkle with the crumbled Reese's, pressing them lightly into the fudge. 
  • Cool on the counter until it’s room temperature, then cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator to harden completely.
  • When completely firm, cut into squares and enjoy!
  • Leftover pieces, if you have them, can be stored in an air tight container.
Recipe adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

Friday, September 12, 2014

Are You Ready For Some Cookies?





"Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
fluttering from the autumn tree."
~Emily Bronte

     I love the fall. For as long as I can remember it has been my most favourite season. Crisp air, sun burnt leaves, cozy sweaters, flannel pjs, crisp apples and pumpkins. It's a time for getting back into routines, slowing down and giving thanks. This is the season when nature bursts with its last beauty as if it had been saving up all year long for a grand finale.

     Surprisingly, another thing I love about the fall is the start of football season.  By no means am I an avid fan. I simply love the fact that it draws my family together, in one room, lounging in front of the t.v. sharing snacks. Everyone knows that the best part of watching football is the food that goes so well with the game; a loaded plate of nachos, a steamy bowl of chili, and perhaps a batch of fresh baked cookies.  Being in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon with a football game on in the background, knowing that my family is home and gathered together is bliss for me. 

     I don't know about you, but I am ready for some football. I'm thankful it's the season to slow down and get cozy. Bring it on Autumn, I am ready for the kick off.


     I found this recipe on Pinterest and baked up a batch the other day. They are so moist and delicious! This recipe is a dancing in the end zone touchdown.  



You Will Need:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 box instant vanilla pudding
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts



Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper
  • In a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together, set aside
  • Using a mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and pudding mix for 2-3 minutes
  • Scrape down bowl as needed
  • On slow, add eggs one at a time, scraping bowl in between additions
  • Add vanilla extract
  • Slowly add flour mixture and mix until combined
  • Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts
  • Roll  dough into the size of golf balls and place on cookie sheets
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown
  • Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks for additional cooling


Thanks to Your Cup of Cake 
for the inspiration for this recipe!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Circle of Life...


       It's been just over a month since I started my new (old) job and I am thrilled to say that I am enjoying it tremendously! While some things have changed in the 10 years since I left, much has also remained the same. Imagine my surprise when I found my old mug still in the cupboard! I was delighted to learn that even the tea pot that I used so often was still there too.



     There are many familiar faces, both on staff and in the stacks. I am enjoying reconnecting with patrons and co-workers and being surrounded by books once again.  It is wonderful to feel that I have once again found my place in the working world.  The added bonus is that I now have a new venue for my baked goods!  I baked up a batch of these muffins and brought them in to work the other day. They are moist and delicious and pair perfectly with a nice hot cuppa!



Blueberry Banana Muffins

You Will Need:

1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas, (2-3 bananas)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 handfuls of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Mix in eggs, bananas and applesauce
  • In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and whisk to combine
  • Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir until just combined, do not over mix
  • Stir in blueberries dusted in flour (so that they won't sink to the bottom!)


 To make a loaf of banana bread, pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes until centre is firm. Let cool before slicing.

To make 12 muffins, scoop batter into lined muffin tin and bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

* I sprinkled mine with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar just before baking to give them crunchy sweet topping

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wait summer... we need S'more!


   Summer, the season that we long for all winter long.  This past winter was harsh.  We Canadians hunkered down and tried to make the best of it. We made snowmen, we played hockey, we built warm, cozy fires and drank vast amounts of hot chocolate. We deserved a long warm summer. Especially after having to deal with so much snow....


   After such a brutally cold winter I made a vow to never complain about the heat again. I promised myself that I would not curse my hair for going curly due to the humidity.  I swore that I wouldn't gripe when I had to fan myself to cool off or seek shade for relief from the hot sun. I longed for lazy afternoons spent floating in our pool reading a paperback novel with an umbrella drink in my hand. I never once considered that I'd instead be complaining about our lack of heat!  

   Is it just me, or is this summer not all that we hoped it would be? I had such great expectations for long hot days and warm summer nights. Don't get me wrong, we have enjoyed our summer, but the weather just hasn't been as hot as we hoped it would be. I keep thinking that any day now we are going to experience the heat and humidity that we are accustomed to. Maybe tomorrow it will be warmer. Perhaps next week it won't rain. There are still plenty of days left of summer.... it will warm up soon. Summer can't be almost over, it hasn't really begun!

     Imagine my surprise when I went shopping the other day and spotted fall mums in abundance at our local grocery store. The aisles of our dollar store added insult to injury later that day. I kid you not when I say that they now have a complete aisle devoted to HALLOWEEN! As my kids would say... "Wait. What?"

       As we approach Labour Day weekend I am going to do my very best to soak up the remaining days of the season.  Summer, please don't go. We want S'more!  

 We Want S’more Cookies



Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Hershey bars, broken into pieces (I put mine in the freezer first so that they don't melt when handling)
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows



Instructions:

  • Cream together butter and both sugars
  • Mix in egg and vanilla
  • Add flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and salt, mix until smooth
  • Stir in chocolate chips and chocolate chunks until well combined
  • Drop by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet about 3 inches apart, or use a cookie scoop
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes
  •  Remove and quickly press marshmallows into warm cookies
  •  Return to oven and cook until done, about 2 more minutes

Yields approx. 3 dozen 2″ cookies
Thanks to Jen@CarlsbadCravings.com for the inspiration for this recipe


Monday, August 11, 2014

The Way Life Should Be...


    I love summer reading. The season gives us an excuse to slow down, take things in, relax and enjoy the warmer weather.  My literary choices, come summer, seem to take on my more carefree attitude.   I like to read books that lend themselves to joy, love and frivolity (winter months require psychological suspense and serial killers, but I don't want to scare you away!).

    One of the perks of working in a public library is having access to the return cart. What better place to see what people are reading than in the assortment of books being brought back? An added bonus is being able to chat with the patrons about their returns and gain insight to the hits and misses. 

     Recently I came across this book, The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline.  The cover caught my attention (I know, I know!) and I had to read the inside flap....


   "Angela Russo is thirty-three years old and single, stuck in a job she doesn't love and a life that seems, somehow, to have just happened. Though she inherited a flair for Italian cooking from her grandmother, she never has the time; for the past six months, her oven has held only sweaters. Tacked to her office bulletin board is a picture torn from a magazine of a cottage on the coast of Maine, a reminder to Angela that there are other ways to live, even if she can't seem to figure them out.

   One day at work, Angela clicks on a tiny advertisement in the corner of her computer screen--"Do Soul-mates Exist?""--and finds herself at a dating website, where she stumbles upon "MaineCatch," a thirty-five-year-old sailing instructor with ice-blue eyes. To her great surprise, she strikes up a dizzying correspondence with MaineCatch--yet as her online relationship progresses, life in the real world takes a nosedive. Interpreting this confluence of events as a sign, Angela impulsively decides to risk it all and move to Maine.

    But things don't work out quite as she expected. Far from everything familiar, and with little to return to, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up, moving into a tiny cottage and finding work at a local coffee shop. To make friends and make ends meet, she leads a cooking class, slowly discovering the pleasures and secrets of her new small community, and--perhaps--a way to connect her heritage to a future she is only beginning to envision.

    The Way Life Should Be is about the search for the right relationship and the right life, the difficulty of finding true love, and the yearning for the home that food represents. Laced with recipes and humor, wisdom and wit, it is at once a clear-eyed portrait of Maine, a compassionate look at modern life and love, and a compelling work of literary fiction that explores the gulf between the way life is and the way we want it to be.

*excerpt from Chapters/Indigo.ca


    The author had me at "for the past six months, her oven has held only sweaters." That, plus the fact that the novel included recipes at the back, well it was a given that this one was coming home with me in my book bag.  It was a delightful read, one that I'm sure many of you would enjoy. The recipes come alive with the narrative and you'll soon be drawn in by the characters and the magnificent Maine setting.      


    Of course I had to try out some of the recipes that were included in the back of this book  The Maine Blueberry Muffins were delectable!  With hopes that the author doesn't mind, I've included the recipe below.  Give it a try, then grab yourself a copy of the book. Once you have it you'll have access to other great recipes such as Torta al Limone, Simple Baked Ziti and Nonna's Banana Bread. A good read with mouthwatering recipes included... what more could you ask for?  I hope you enjoy this novel as much as I did. Happy reading!


 You will need:

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon extra for the blueberries
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup blueberries

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. and line a muffin tin with pretty paper liners
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar until creamy
  • Add the milk and egg
  • In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture, mixing until moist
  • Add the cinnamon and lemon zest
  • In a separate bowl, toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour (this will prevent all of the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of your muffins)
  • Fold blueberries into the batter, do not over mix
  • Scoop batter into lined muffin tins evenly
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until springy to the touch




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Harvest

  
   It's that time of year again. The time when the warm summer sunshine has turned our gardens into a bountiful harvest.  While I don't have a garden of my own, I am fortunate enough to have some friendly suppliers who are more than happy to have me turn their crop into something sweet.  

     This year I decided to try out a new recipe and combine zucchini with blueberries and one of my most favourite baking ingredients - cinnamon. The results were gobbled up!  There are several ingredients in this recipe that will make you feel good about eating these muffins. Give it a try and you'll see what I mean.   



Zucchini Blueberry Streusel Muffins
*adapted from allrecipes.ca
Makes enough for 24 muffins or 2 loaves of bread

For the batter:

3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini 
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)

For the streusel:

1/4 cup butter (1/2 a stick), cold
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon


Directions:

  •  In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat eggs, applesauce, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy
  •  Place grated zucchini onto some paper towels and pat out extra moisture
  •  Add zucchini to bowl or mixer and stir until just combined
  •  Add in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon
  •  Mix until well combined
  •  Gently stir in blueberries
  •  Spread batter evenly among lined muffin cups or pour into two greased loaf pans
  •  For streusel, add all ingredients to a bowl and cut with a pastry cutter, or two forks, until small crumbs form
  •  Sprinkle evenly over tops of muffins or loaves
  •  Bake at 350 for 17-20 minutes for muffins or 50 minutes for loaves, or until a toothpick comes out clean
  •  Cool before slicing and serving loaves

I made these for my sister in law's birthday. She is expecting, 
so I tried to balance the cupcakes with something 'healthy!' 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Catching Air

 

    Are you looking for a great summer read? If so, pick up a copy of Sarah Pekkanen's latest book Catching Air. Set in Vermont in the winter months, this book has just what you need to cool off and relax on a hot summer day.  

     I had the pleasure of 'meeting' Sarah during a recent telephone conversation as she was kind enough to call in and chat with my book club.  What a thrill it was to discuss the book with the author, hear about how she breathed life into her characters, and learn what she envisions the characters doing after the final chapter ends.  It was such a treat to hear about the writing process, how ideas are formed, and learn tidbits about life as a writer.  Sarah is so engaging and kind, she sounds just like the type of person I could become fast friends with! 

    I'm a fan of all of Sarah's books, but after chatting with her and talking about the characters of her latest book as if they were people we knew, Catching Air has a special place on my bookshelf.



     One of the many great novels by Sarah Pekkanen

     A chance to run a B&B in snowy, remote Vermont—it’s an offer Kira Danner can’t resist after six soul-crushing years of working as a lawyer in Florida. As Kira and her husband, Peter, step into a brand new life, she quells her fears about living with the B&B’s co-owners: Peter’s sexy, irresponsible brother Rand, and Rand’s wife, Alyssa…who is essentially a stranger.

    For her part, Alyssa sees taking over the B&B as the latest in a string of adventures. Plus, a quiet place might help her recover from the news that she can’t bear children. But the idyllic town proves to be anything but serene: Within weeks, the sisters-in-law are scrambling to prepare for their first big booking—a winter wedding—and soon a shy, mysterious woman comes to work for them. Dawn Zukoski is hiding something; that much is clear. But what the sisters-in-law don't realize is that Dawn is also hiding from someone…

   Relatable and dynamic, Catching Air delves deeply into the vital relationships that give shape to women’s lives.

Some book club treats!

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Cool Canadian Treat

  This is a re-post for a Canada Day party favourite. It feeds a crowd, doesn't require a hot oven and best of all it's very easy to make!  I've made this several times and it is always a hit.  Simply follow the directions and you can have your Canadian cake and eat it too!

Canadian Ice Cream Cake



You will need:
  • approximately 20 ice cream sandwiches, unwrapped
  • Nestle Quick Chocolate sauce
  • 1 large container of Cool Whip, thawed
  • strawberries, sliced to decorate

~ Place enough ice cream sandwiches to cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan
~ Spread chocolate sauce on top of sandwiches
~ Top with a layer of whipped topping
~ Repeat layers: ice cream sandwiches, chocolate sauce, whipped topping
~ Freeze uncovered for 2 hours
~ Cover with foil and freeze until ready to serve
~ Top with sliced strawberries (to resemble the Canadian flag)

 Share with friends & have a
Happy Canada Day!