Tag Archives: baking

Naughty and Nice

14 Jul

So, you’ve heard this before. The name of the blog is Hungry Healthy Hilary. And while I am always hungry, I try to always be healthy, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t always happen. As for the title of today’s post, I’ve made two chocolate IMG_2130things this week – one is a little more indulgent – the naughty. And one can be enjoyed on a more regular basis – the nice.

Let’s go naughty first – I’m talking cheesecake pops! Now, to be fair, I didn’t make these for me. They were for the same meal as the fruit bouquet and the lemon thyme biscuits. So while I did eat one (and may have a couple more, as the recipe made A LOT), I am not the sole benefactor, and thankfully, I don’t have all 56 of these beauties kicking around my house – that would be trouble!

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The recipe is courtesy of one of my favourite decadent dessert cookbooks – Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. There are just so many fun and over-the-top recipes in there. If you want to indulge, this book is it! And since kids were part of the group I’d be making these for, I figured they’d be a huge hit (they were – and I don’t think the adults minded either Winking smile). My only “complaint” was that the recipe made WAY  more than it said. 30 to 40 turned out to be 56!!!! Guess they were supposed to be bigger?!? So I’m taking the 14 or so I have left here to my ladies’ Bible study tonight. I figured with a group of girls, chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick will go over well, don’tcha think? (so if any of my Bible study gals are reading this, you know what I’m bringing tonight).

Cheesecake PopsIMG_2109

From Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Makes 30-40 (or 56 in my case)

  • 5 – 8 ounce/250 g packages cream cheese, at room temperature (you’ll notice I used reduced-fat, so this is practically health food Winking smile)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • boiling water as needed
  • 8 inch lollipop sticks (30 to 40 or 56, depending on how many pops you get)
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate coating (the disk shapes – I couldn’t find these at my grocery store, so I had to use chocolate chunks – it turned out find)
  • decorations of your choice (I used sprinkles, mini m&ms and graham cracker crumbs)

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer set a low speed, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour and salt until smooth. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in vanilla and cream.

Lightly grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan) (I didn’t have one, so used a 9  inch square pan). Pour the cheesecake batter into the cake plan and place in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan (my roasting pan wasn’t big enough to fit my square pan, so I used my large bar stoneware pan). Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes (mine took over an hour, and I still think it could have been firmer. Likely this was due to using a smaller pan).

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or overnight.

When cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2 ounce balls and place on a parchment or waxed paper-lined baking sheet (if you don’t have a cookie scoop, you MUST get one for this task – it works perfectly) . Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 to 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate coating. Place half of the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir. If the chocolate is not completely melted, microwave for 20-second intervals, stirring until smooth (this is what the recipe says, I microwaved less than half the chocolate for 2 minutes, then stirred in some unmelted pieces until they melted and the mixture was smooth. I melted more chocolate as needed).

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Hold the pop over the melted chocolate and shake off any excess. Place the pop on a clean parchment or waxed paper-lined baking sheet to set. If using decorations, sprinkle them on right away, as the chocolate sets quickly due to the frozen pops. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate as needed.

Refrigerate the pops until ready to serve (and store any leftovers in the refrigerator).

These would be great party food. Kids would love them, but they’d also be fun for bridal or bachelorette parties, birthdays, anniversaries, you name it! Also: they’re delicious! And you can personalize them by using decorations of your choice.

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On the left is just the cream cheese and sugar. On the right is in the middle of adding the eggs….beat, beat, beat!

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Hmm….5 packages of cream cheese, 2 cups sugar, 5 eggs and 2 egg yolks….I’m not sure if this is decadent enough yet. We better add some heavy cream just in case! Winking smile

 

 

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My square pan inside its water bath (in case you ever wonder why I have so much stoneware, I do love it, but I also used to be a Pampered Chef consultant).

 

 

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Let the scooping begin! I found it worked better if I let the scoop do all the work and I just left my hands out of things. The dangerous thing about a recipe like this is that no one will know how many cheesecake bits and bites you sample (strictly for quality control, you understand).

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These guys are scooped, sticked, and ready to chill out in the freezer.

 

 

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Chocolate is melted, decorations are set, let’s go for a dip!

 

 

 

 

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Don’t forget the sprinkles!

 

 

 

 

Now onto the “nice” chocolate item. I’ve IMG_2146already mentioned the copious amounts of zucchini that my garden produces. That means lots of zucchini baking ‘round these parts. I am about to share with you my favourite zucchini muffin recipes. It’s a recipe for chocolate zucchini muffins that I got off of the Weight Watchers Community Forum waaaay back in 2004. It comes from the kitchen of “Wootsy.”

Wootsy, I don’t know who you are or where you are, but if you’re reading this – thank you! Thank you for giving me a chocolate zucchini recipe that contains no oil, whole wheat flour, and still tastes amazing, and that I love with all my heart. I thought the 2 cups of white sugar seemed a bit much, so I cut down just a touch when I made these yesterday (I could hear the whole healthy living blog world “tsk tsk”-ing me for using 2 cups of REFINED. WHITE. SUGAR…..the horror!), but then I got to thinking – this makes a HUGE batch (30 muffins), so really, when you consider that, 2 cups isn’t SO much.

Anyway, thanks to Wootsy (and me), you too can enjoy these delicious muffins (in fact, Donna has already – I surprised her with some after UFC class last night). If you need zucchini to make them, you know who to call! Please, please make these. Like all zucchini baked goods, they are incredibly moist, and they are totally delicious, and can be enjoyed for breakfast, snack or dessert! Also: this is a one bowl recipe – everybody’s favourite!

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One tip before I launch into the recipe. I always use a regular old box grater to grate my zucchini. With a little elbow grease, the zucchini you saw above was reduced to what you see on the right.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins – Makes 30 regular muffins (or 24 plus 14  mini muffins. I like to make a few minis for snacking.)

From Wootsy on the Weight Watchers Community Recipe Forum in 2004

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  • 3 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (which conveniently, is almost exactly 2 individual cups)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin tins with paper cups or spray with non-stick spray.

Sift (which I almost NEVER do, including here. Just use a fork/whisk/slotted spoon – save yourself some time) flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Mix with remaining ingredients until just combined (did you know that over-mixing muffin/quick bread batter can result in a domed top? I learned that from Mrs. Douglas’ food and nutrition class back in grade 9).

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes (about 10 for the minis) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (watch out for the melted chocolate chips though, they can mess with ya Winking smile). Cool and dig in and/or share with loved ones, as it makes a HUGE batch.

*Note: as with all muffins, these babies freeze beautifully.

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Blogging sin: I forgot to take a picture of the dry ingredients before I started adding the rest. So here’s the mixed dry ingredients with the shredded zucchini on top and nothing else added.

 

 

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Batter is mixed up and ready for action. And just because these are “healthy” muffins, it doesn’t mean the batter’s not delicious … not that I would know or anything, ‘cause I NEVER eat batter (if you believed that, you obviously haven’t been following this blog very long).

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Muffin cups filled up and ready to go. Let’s get these guys in the oven and get this party started!

 

 

 

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All done. It’s muffin time!

 

 

 

 

Ok, I promise, I’m done! Kudos to you if you made it all the way to the bottom of this post. It turned out a little longer than I thought, but I just had to share both of these recipes with you, and I thought the naughty and nice was a fun idea. So you can decide if you want to be naughty (although I truly don’t think it’s naughty to enjoy little indulgences like these every so often, and their small size makes it easy to treat yourself) or nice. Or be like me and do both!

When you make indulgent treats, do you gobble them down yourself, or try and get them out of the house as soon as possible? Or do you just avoid making decadent desserts altogether?

Break out the Tye-dye

6 Apr

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Last weekend, I gathered some eggs from my chickens, participated in an anti-war demonstration, made my own nut butter, wore my Birkenstocks over my sandals and burned some incense. …WHAT?!?!? Ok, ok, I was having some fun with you…only one of those statements is actually true (hint: look at the picture). To me, all of those activities seem rather “hippy-ish” (no offence at all if any or all of those things are things you engage in on a regular basis). I am in no way a hippy – I won’t be voting for the Green Party in the upcoming election, I hate incense and I wouldn’t be caught dead in socks and sandals (even though some very cool people that I know choose to partake in this fashion “statement”). But, last weekend, I did make my own nut butter….so, as per the title, if that makes me a hippy, then break out the tye- dye (wait ‘till you see what I did with it, then you’ll really  think I’m a hippy).

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Now, I know that many members of the blog world have made your own nut butters. In fact, the inspiration for the title of this posts comes partly from Tina – I remember her blogging about how her husband referred to her homemade nut butter as “hippy butter.” I have no exact measurements for you, but since my ingredients were simply 100 % nuts (how’s that for all-natural?), you can’t go wrong!

Homemade Nut Butter

I started by getting my nuts nice and toasty. I keep my nuts in the freezer (they IMG_0627keep longer that way. Due to the high natural oil content in nuts, then will go “off” more quickly if stored at room temperature), so toasting them in the oven took just over 10 minutes at 350. I just spread  them in a single layer on a baking sheet and toasted away. My mix of nuts consisted of pecans, cashews, almonds and hazelnuts; all unsalted, with skins. I was REALLY happy with the flavour I got, but at the same time, I can’t wait to try other nut combos. Once toasted, I put all the nuts into my mini food processor (I didn’t even wait for them to cool) and got to blending.IMG_0628IMG_0629

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two pictures show different stages in the blending process. At first, it’s just finely chopped nuts….then the mixture gradually starts to clump up and come together…until it’s finally a nice smooth paste as all the oils are released…no added ingredients needed!IMG_0630

I found my homemade nut butter a lot smoother than most natural nut butter that you buy, it didn’t separate at all. I was going to just put my nut butter into a tupperware, but I decided it seemed much more “artisanal” to go for the Mason jar, don’t you agree? From the quantity of nuts I used, I got about 3/4 cup, I’d say (the amount in the jar is the entire batch). Side note: don’t you LOVE the new picture spot I found? It’s our dining room window in early evening….I just love the combo of the old wood, the lace runner and the perfect lighting! 

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So what did I do with my delightful nut butter? Generally, although I LOVE peanut/nut butters, I try not to eat a lot of them because of their high calorie content. But some did find its way onto a slice of HG Banana Bread (thawed from the freezer) for a late night snack…tasty! But that’s not the “hippy” use I found for my nut butter….no…that was: homemade granola bars!

Since it was the beginning of the month, I was thinking about what to make my brother-in-law for his monthly birthday sweets instalment. Since he and my sister have just gotten possession of their new house, and he is busy doing some minor renovations over there,  granola bars came to my mind. I thought they’d make the perfect healthy snack/breakfast on the go for the busy days ahead. I’ve made 2 granola bar recipes from Smitten Kitchen, both have been delicious. I remembered one had nut butter as an optional ingredient, so I figured, if making homemade granola bars, why not go all the way (into hippy-dom Winking smile) and use my own homemade nut butter?

The recipe I used is below, my adaptations/changes/notes are in brackets. These bars are really tasty, but a bit hard to cut, even after chilling in the fridge for 1/2 hour, as per recipe recommendations. You just have to use your hands to sort of smush them together a bit…definitely worth the effort! And a bonus for my celiacs out there….if you can get your hands on gluten-free oats (I know they’re hard to find), you can make these gluten-free!

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from King Arthur FlourIMG_0643

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender – that’s what I did)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (I went for the full 3 cups…a nice mix of sweetened flaked coconut, lots of dried raisins, dried apricots, dried apricots, a little bit of leftover tropical fruit from the tropical chocolate chip cookies, and chopped pecans and cashews)

1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional) (since I was so enthused about my homemade stuff, I used 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

6 tablespoons melted butter (since I bumped up the nut butter, I decreased this to 4 tbsp)
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (I used honey…if you observe the warped bottle in the photo above, it’s because my honey had crystalized and I had to microwave it in the bottle…and it warped)IMG_0644
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″  (mine was 9 x 9) pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and IMG_0645water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)IMG_0646

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)IMG_0653

Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. [Updating to note, as many had crumbling issues:] If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

There you go, 2 delicious hippy-inspired recipes (and once again, no offence at all meant to anyone who considers themselves a hippy, I’m just having a little fun, since I am about as far as you can get from a hippy). Put on your tye-dye, light your incense, break out your guitars and enjoy!

Do you have any favourite “all-natural” (hippy) recipes you make? Or do you consider yourself a hippy?

Amazing Apricot Scones

31 Mar

March 25 20112

I have always loved to bake. Some people were not bakers when they were younger, but came into it as they got older. Some people became bakers by necessity, starting to make their own creations when they moved out on their own. I feel like I was born with an apron on and a mixing spoon in hand. Case in point: If you were 16 and had a little extra cash to spend, what would you spend it on? Maybe some make-up, junk food, music…perhaps a magazine? Well, at age 16, I had some of that extra cash, and I did spend it on a magazine….but it wasn’t Seventeen or another teen/fashion magazine…it was Taste of Home’s Bread Bonanza….every 16 year-old’s heart’s desire, right? Winking smile

Ok, so it may not be typical, but that’s never stopped me before. That Bread Bonanza mag is now 8 years old…and I have made countless recipes out of it – muffins, breads, loaves, and scones….like these apricot ones. According to my notes in the magazine, I first made these for Mother’s Day, I think 2004. They have since become a family favourite. I’ve never had scones like this anywhere…what really sets them apart is the streusel filling…combined with nice chunks of apricot and a crunchy top….they are DELICIOUS!

So last week when my mom and sister were having a girls’ day together and wanted to pack a breakfast, I offered to make these…I knew they’d be a hit (and I was right)! They may not exactly be guilt-free, but if you have overnight guests, or need to contribute something to a breakfast, or want a yummy treat for afternoon tea, give this recipe a shot. I know you will come to love it as much as my family does.

Apricot Scones

From Taste of Home’s Bread Bonanza, 2003

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup oats (the recipe calls for quick, but I always use old-fashioned)

¼ cup sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1/3 cup cold butter or margarine, cubed

2 eggs

¼ cup sour cream (you can substitute plain yogurt if you don’t have sour cream, I often do this)

1 tbsp milk

¾ cup finely chopped apricots

3 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp oats

1 tbsp butter or margarine, softened

additional sugar (I like to use Demerara sugar here, when sprinkled over the scones, it gives them a nice crunchy top)

In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients; cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

In a small bowl, beat eggs; set aside 1 tbsp for glaze. In another bowl, combine sour cream, milk and remaining beaten eggs; add apricots. Stir into crumb mixture until the dough clings together.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead 12-15 times (I just do this in a bowl big enough so I can work it with my hands and “knead” in the bowl, that way I don’t need to dirty my counter). Divide dough in half. Pat one portion into a 7 inch circle on a greased baking sheet.

Combine the brown sugar, oats and butter; sprinkle over dough. Roll out remaining dough into a 7 inch circle; place over filling. Brush with reserved egg; sprinkle with additional sugar. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges (depending on how large you want your scones) but do not separate.

Bake at 400 ̊ F for 15-20 minutes or until scones are golden brown. Then, slightly separate scones and bake an additional 3-5 minutes until done all the way through (I added this step, because if you skip it, you can sometimes get golden scones that are somewhat gooey in the center). When you cut the scones, you can get lots of crumbs/chunks and a gooey yet delicious mess on the knife…use your head (and your mouth)…I’m sure you can figure out what to do with the excess! Cool slightly, cut again if necessary.

I’m keen for these brownies

27 Mar

Quinoa Brownies

Note: in order to understand the title of this post, you have to know that the word quinoa is pronounced keen-wah. So remember all those quinoa recipes I posted last week? Well…I tried my first one: quinoa brownies! Even better? I had a snow day to bake them on! I am not thrilled that we got snow/ice at the end of March, but it gave me a day off  work to bake, so I can’t complain. Better still? My sister (also a teacher) was staying at our house, so we got to bake the brownies together.

So…here’s the recipe. It’s kind of unusual, in that you cook the quinoa, let it cool, then just throw it and all the other ingredients into a food processor and puree (see photos above)…but I’m game for anything. I made the recipe as directed, except I didn’t use the PC Organics Quinoa or Omega 3 eggs….and shockingly, the brownies still turned out (bold move using other brands, I know Winking smile ). Also, I used a 9 inch square pan, not an 8 inch, and cut the brownies into 16 smaller squares, not 9 BIG ones. And there was one final addition (you’ll see it if you look in the photo on the bottom right)…remember those cocoa nibs I bought in London? I’ve been itching to try them out, and after searching the internet and not coming up with much, I decided to go my own way…I sprinkled some on top off half of the brownies. So, what’s the verdict (on both the brownies and the nibs)?

I liked the brownies. They are SUPER-moist, and the quinoa adds just a subtle nutty flavour. The texture is not quite like regular brownies, but I don’t mind it. I gave a few to my mom’s assistant (she’s a regular reader…hi Julia Winking smile)…after visits with a naturopath, her and her son are cutting out several foods and so are looking for flour alternatives. In her son’s words the flavour was the “best of all the “alternative” brownies”…but he didn’t love the texture. I think I enjoyed these best on the day they were made, not the day after.

And the nibs? I think I will become a big fan of these things! They are not sweet at all (so if you don’t like really dark chocolate, I’m not sure these are for you), but they have a great crunch and a deep cocoa flavour. I really like the crunchy texture they gave the brownies. I think they would be good in a nice hearty oatmeal cookie with some dried fruit…will keep you posted if I try. If you look in the top right, you’ll see that the nibs and the brownies made their way into a TASTY sundae on Friday night. It started with a scoop of light vanilla ice cream, then I drizzled with sugar-free chocolate syrup, one crumbled brownie, fat-free Reddi Whip (both this and the ice cream were from my Buffalo trip) and some more nibs. Oh my goodness…SO GOOD! Again, the nibs added great crunch and a deep chocolate flavour. I can’t wait to think of more ways to use these delightful little gems. And the bag says they’re a Mayan superfood, so I can’t go wrong, right?

Have you ever tried cocoa nibs (or any other Mayan superfood)? Are you a dark or milk chocolate person?

Double Chocolate Dream

22 Feb

Healthy eaters out there…don’t turn away from this post! The cookie recipe I am about to share with you comes from a Weight Watchers cookbook (but if you don’t tell anyone, I’m sure they’d never guess). More specifically, it comes from a WW cookbook called All Things Sweet that my mom purchased back in 1999. I’m sure it must be out of print, but if you click the above link, you can see what’s available through Amazon. I love this book. Actually, a couple of my favourite (and most popular) recipes come from it- these cookies, a great peanut butter cookie recipe, cream cheese brownies (best recipe I’ve found, seriously) and black bottom cheesecake cups, to name a few. I snapped a picture of the open pages to cry and capture just how “well-loved” this cookbook is. Although it’s hard to see, there are splatter marks everyone, and I can assure you, it’s this way throughout the cookbook.

I made these on the weekend because I was going to a get-together at a friend’s house (hi Megan :P). I wanted to bring something that I knew would be a crowd-pleaser, but that I could enjoy guilt-free. I’m not sure why these cookies came to my mind, as I haven’t made them in at LEAST 5 years (probably more), but I’m so glad they did. As soon as I made them, I asked myself why it had been so long. Rest assured, I will not wait so long before making these again. They have a great fudge-y, brownie-ish texture…achieved with only 3 tbsp vegetable oil! One cookie has just 64 calories and 1.6 grams of fat (1 point on the old WW system). A batch makes 48 cookies (or in my case, 46, with enough batter for a good bowl-licking). Give these a try…they aren’t just “good for low fat” cookies, they are just plain YUMMY!

Before I post the recipe, an update on yesterday’s run….8 miles seemed long enough in windy, snowy weather. I ran almost entirely on the road (not sidewalks), which was fine, as there wasn’t much traffic out at 8:30 on a holiday Monday. I can really tell how the wind and snow slow me down, compared with all of my summer training runs. My time wasn’t what I would have liked, but I toughed it out and made it! When I got back, I enjoyed a DELICIOUS bowl of hot oatmeal with apples. I didn’t plan to take a bath, but my muscles were a little sore and I was COLD, so I enjoyed a quick hot bath with Epsom salts (I should have added that to my list of running tips…I think my frequent Epsom salt soaks were a big part of reducing muscle soreness). I’m hoping the weather is a little nicer for my 9 miler next weekend :)…update will follow.

Double Chocolate Chews

from WW All Things Sweet

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup icing sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened sugar

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips, divided (note: it’s important to use the mini chips, since a small amount gets put in the cookies, the mini size goes a lot farther than full size ones)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup

1 tbsp water

2 2/1 tsp vanilla extract

3 egg whites

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a whisk, and set aside.

Combine 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until chocolate melts (1 and 1/2 to 2 minutes). Stir until all chips have melted, and let cool slightly. Add brown sugar and next 4 ingredients to chocolate mixture, and stir well. Stir in flour and remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips.

Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on to baking sheets coated with cooking spray (I lined the sheets with parchment paper first for easy clean-up). Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool on pans 2 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; let cool on wire racks. Yield: 4 dozen cookies.

Try these…you won’t regret it!

Big Batch Brownie Bliss

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day! What better way to celebrate than with homemade brownies? And these ones are so easy, you don’t even need a mix….I promise! In this post, I am going to show you how I took one brownie recipe and made it work for me in 3 ways. As much as I love being in the kitchen, I have less time for it now that I am teaching full time. So I look for ways to streamline. I took the brownie recipe below, doubled it, and used it for 3 different purposes (explanations to follow). Each brownie incarnation had a different personality and use, but all are equally delicious and fantastic. Try one (or all) for your sweetheart today (or any day)…a sweet and delicious way to show your love!

This recipe comes straight off the Hershey’s Cocoa container (you can’t buy Hershey’s cocoa in Canada though, I bought it on one of my State-side shopping trips). I love the texture and flavour of these brownies…plus they’re made in one bowl so they come together in a snap! Below is the original recipe, which makes on 9 x 13 inch pan, but for what I made, I doubled it.

Hershey’s Best Brownies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa or HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional – I generally don’t add nuts)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Place butter in large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 2 to 2-1/2 minutes or until melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; beat until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat well. Stir in nuts, if desired.

Pour batter into prepared pan (but before you do this, make sure you eat some batter…it’s FANTASTIC!….see photo if you need instruction on how to complete this step 🙂 ). Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Frost if desired. Cut into bars. About 36 brownies.

Now….a double batch of this brownie batter makes:

1 ) One large cookie sheet of brownies…which I cut into 30 medium to large-ish brownies. They will be a treat for my class today (shhh, it’s a surprise). I am bringing them in plain, and we will decorate them with the pink icing I made (I creamed together about 1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup cream cheese, vanilla extract, icing sugar and red food colouring) and Valentine Smarties.

2) 22 mini brownie cupcakes….these were for the get-together my mom had yesterday. I made a chocolate ganache to top them…by microwaving chocolate chips (I just so happened to have some chocolate raspberry ones) with a touch of cream, then adding in a squirt of corn syrup. I dipped the cupcakes in the ganache, spread it around, then topped each one with a raspberry….so cute!

3) 4 heart shaped brownies…which I iced (with the icing above) and sandwiched to make 2 heart-shaped brownie layer cakes. These are going to two special couples I know….I topped them off with Valentine sprinkles for an easy way to complete the romantic look. 😉

And there you have it…one double batch of brownies…3 delightful and delicious desserts! Bet you didn’t think a humble dessert staple like that could do so much!

What is your planned indulgence for Valentine’s Day? Chocolate…champagne…dinner out…dinner in?

From the heart

11 Feb

Happy (early) Valentine’s Day! Even though I’ve been single for my entire life (no I’m not kidding) and never had a Valentine on Valentine’s Day, I’ve always loved this holiday. After all, pink is my favourite colour and I adore chocolate, so what’s not to love? I know it’s a contrived holiday just designed to make money…blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to let that get in my way.

Last weekend, I went to see my cousin play in a hockey tournament. Given that her and her sister both love sugar cookies (we have made them together many times over the years), I decided to make them a pre-Valentine’s Day treat (any excuse to bake, right?). I made my classic go-to sugar cookie dough, cut it in heart shapes, topped most of the cookies with sprinkles and filled some with jam. For the jam-filled hearts, I cut out two large hearts for each sandwich, then cut a smaller heart out of one of the hearts. After baking, I spread the whole heart with strawberry jam, then topped with the cut-out one. For the sprinkled cookies, I topped them with sprinkles before baking and patted them down a bit to make sure they’d stick.

This recipe comes from my Company’s Coming for Kids Cookbook….we have written in the book that I first made these cookies for Halloween 1998. They are a stand-by in my kitchen. The batch is fairly small, but doubles (or triples) easily. They are great for decorating for any occasion. I thought I’d share the recipe now in case you want to whip up some hearts for someone special this weekend…nothing spreads the love like cookies! An added bonus to this recipe? It’s extra-easy since it’s from a kids’ cookbook – and it only uses one bowl! And now my aunt (who is an avid reader of my blog :P) has the recipe!

Sugar Cookies – from Company’s Coming – Kids’ Cooking

6 tbsp softened butter or margarine (I always use butter)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Put the first four ingredients into a bowl. Beat on medium speed (or with a spoon) until smooth.

Add remaining ingredients, beat on low until just moistened. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or overnight. *Note – this dough freezes really well. I often make it ahead, wrap it, and freeze until I need it. If you are in a rush, you can freeze it for about half an hour before using.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets with nonstick spray. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface (using a floured rolling pin) to about 1/8 inch thick. Use desired cookie cutters to cut into shapes. Arrange the cookies on the greased sheets.

If you want to decorate with coloured sugar, sprinkle before baking. Bake for about 10 minutes (depending on size). Cool on sheets about 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. If you like, you can decorate with your favourite icing.

More Nutella

6 Feb

As promised, as part of World Nutella Day, here is another Nutella recipe (return to healthier eats tomorrow, I promise)! I made these yesterday for the Super Bowl party I was supposed to be co-hosting today. But, sadly it was canceled as my friend’s grandmother passed away unexpectedly. Since the party wasn’t happening, I took them over to my friend and her family (I am not good at offering words of comfort, but I’ve got the food part covered)…when all else fails, bring chocolate….plus, these things are AMAZING and dangerous to have around, so I was eager to get them out of the house!

If you are a Paula Deen fan, you’ve likely heard of her gooey butter cakes. I have made them a couple of times, I like to add skor bits and chocolate chips. As I was trying to find a suitable Nutella recipe for the party, nothing was jumping out at me. But then I remembered that there was a peanut butter variation to the basic gooey butter cake recipe and I thought, why not substitute Nutella? And these babies were born….and they are gooooood!

As with the Nutella Brownies, I *technically* didn’t have any. But there were some that had uneven edges, some were just a little too big, and, let’s get serious people, I had never made these before, I couldn’t let them leave my kitchen without a little taste, could I? (Confession: this is why I like to make squares/bars – there are always edges you can cut off and feel less guilty because you didn’t eat a whole one…with cookies, it’s all or nothing 😛 ). They were YUMMY! You have to try gooey butter cakes yourself to experience the texture….when they come out of the oven they look under-baked (that’s a good thing). They truly are gooey and fudgy and like nothing else. As with the brownies, I wish the Nutella flavour had been a little stronger (maybe that’s just the way it is with Nutella baked goods?), but no complaints. Thank you Paula Deen, for helping me celebrate World Nutella Day (and bringing comfort to my friend and her family) in my own unique way.

Here is the recipe how I made it:

Nutella Gooey Butter Cakes – adapted from Paula Deen

Cake:
1 18 1/4-ounce package yellow cake mix (you could use either chocolate or yellow…I actually used a mix because I had partial cake mixes left over from other recipes)
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 16-ounce box powdered sugar (This is an American recipe, I had to get out my kitchen scale to measure, but I think it’s about one 500 g package here in Canada)

1 cup Nutella

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer.  Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan (I did my standard parchment paper and cooking spray trick).  Prepare Filling

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat together. Add Nutella, beat until incorporated. Add butter and beat together.

Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well.  Spread over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes (it took me more like an hour, but I was using a stoneware pan).  Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.

Once  mostly cooled, melt chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle over the bars. Let chocolate set, then cut into squares (they are super-rich, so keep them small)!

So…funny story about the chocolate I used to drizzle over these. In December, I received a while chocolate snowman from one of my students as a Christmas gift. I am not a white chocolate person (it’s not even technically chocolate!)…I consider it a waste of time and calories (no offense meant if you’re a white chocolate fan). I should have just given it to someone else, but I never got around to it, and Christmas came and went. So when I decided to give these squares the ol’ drizzle treatment, Frosty came to mind. I melted him down with some semi-sweet chocolate chips, and no one was the wiser (except for all of you now…but I know you won’t tell…will you?). The semi-sweet even disguised the white chocolate taste, so that licking the leftover chocolate off of the bowl was a pleasant experience. 🙂 Sorry Frosty!

I hope you have enjoyed my Nutella experiences, and will try them (or some other Nutella recipes) for yourself. Happy Super Bowl Sunday as well…hope you are enjoying some tasty game day grub!

 

Happy World Nutella Day!

5 Feb

Happy World Nutella Day everyone! Here is the first of the treats I made: Nutella Brownies that I found on this page. I made these brownies for two 30th birthdays that are 5 months apart…allow me to explain.

My brother-in-law Tim turned 30 last September. Like me, he has an insatiable sweet tooth. So I gave him a “sweet a month” for a year. This weekend, my sister and brother-in-law’s friend Jen is turning 30. To celebrate, her husband rented a cottage in Collingwood for several couples, including Catherine (my sister) and Tim. Back in August, my sister had me over for a delicious birthday lunch. Jen happened to be over that day, and did a lot to help prepare, including picking up some absolutely gorgeous flowers (picture at left), and giving me some of her homemade fig preserves (the ones I used to make this sandwich). So I suggested to Catherine that for Tim’s bday treat this month, I combine it with Jen’s birthday as sort of a thank you for the help she was in my birthday. Cat thought it was a good idea, and given that the weekend falls on World Nutella Day, I pretty much had to go with something Nutellicious (don’t you love that new word I just made up? 😛 ).

I made this recipe as directed, except for: I *very* slightly reduced the sugar, I melted the butter in the microwave instead of over the stove, I sprinkled the brownies with chopped toasted hazelnuts before baking, and instead of simply baking in a greased pan, I baked in a greased and parchment lined pan. This is one of my FAVOURITE tricks for baking squares – it makes cutting and cooling squares so much easier. You just spray the pan with nonstick spray (essential to do this before lining with parchment paper so it has something to adhere to), line the pan with parchment paper, making sure that you have a generous overhang so you have “handles” to lift the squares out with, and then spray the paper with more nonstick spray. After the squares are baked and have cooled slightly, you can lift them out using the paper handles, and they will cool faster. They are also much easier to cut and separate, since you don’t have to worry about wedging out those pesky corner pieces and cutting all the way to the edge of the pan.

The result? Well, *technically* I didn’t eat any. Why do I say “technically”? Of course, I made sure to eat copious amounts of batter (as I’ve confessed before, it is a HUGE weakness for me – tasting as I bake). And then, of course, as I was cutting them, there are those corner pieces that don’t look quite right (I AM giving these as a gift here people) so I had to trim them up a bit, and some pieces were just too large, so I had to cut off the excess….and I couldn’t let those pieces go to waste, could I? 😉 So from the pieces I “didn’t” eat (don’t you just love my rationalizations – anyone else do “food math” like this?)  – I thought the brownies were deliciously rich and fudgy. I thought they could have stood for a bit more Nutella flavour, but I’m not complaining – they were still amazing!

Hope you are celebrating WND with some delicious treats! Another Nutella post (or 2) are coming up…including the recipe I am making for the Super Bowl Party I am co-hosting (you heard that right)…neither me or my friend who I’m hosting with are football fans…we’re just in it for the food!

Happy WND everyone…and Happy 3-0 Jen (and Tim too)! 🙂

Cozy and Warm

30 Jan

I swear, I am turning into more of an old lady/wuss every day. I’ve been driving 40 minutes a day for school the last couple of weeks, and went to meet up with friends out of town last weekend – and on several occasions, the weather was less than ideal for driving. So last Sunday, I decided I had it…I was sick of driving and I was not leaving the house…so I stayed in all day – did not get dressed until 3:30….it was wonderful! And for me, nothing completes a cozy, lazy day like some baking.

I wanted to bake something healthy that I could enjoy, so I turned to one of my Hungry Girl cookbooks. I had previously made a recipe for caramel pumpkin cupcakes that were quite yummy. So I took that recipe and played around with it a bit. I had some soft apples to use up, so I added that to the batter, halved the recipe, baked it in a pan and eliminated the caramel topping and came up with these pumpkin apple spice squares. Now you’ll notice in the photo, there’s a box of cake mix. Personally, I am not a big fan of cake mixes. I enjoy baking so much that I honestly feel that using a cake mix would take a lot of the fun out of making a cake. But, if I am making a recipe for something else that calls for a cake mix as one of the ingredients, I will follow along. Here’s my adapted recipe:

Pumpkin Apple Spice Squares

Adapted from Hungry Girl

1 cup moist style yellow cake mix

1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin

3 tbsp fat free egg substitute

1 tbsp sugar-free maple-flavoured syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp Splenda

Dash salt

1 apple, chopped (I didn’t peel it, but you could if you want to)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients except apple in a mixing bowl with 3 tbsp water. Whip with a whisk or fork for 2 minutes or until well blended. Fold in the chopped apple.

Spray an 11 by 7 inch pan with cooking spray (this size is a little tricky to find…you could probably use 2 loaf pans). Spread batter evenly in the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cut into 6 squares – each one will have only a little over 100 calories! I enjoyed one of these squares as is, and it was good. Not anything super-special, but nice and moist. But then I came up with a little sundae-inspired dessert, fancied up the square a bit, and it was FANTASTIC! I topped the square with one tbsp of fat free caramel dip. Then I scooped on a 1/4 cup scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt and added a dash of cinnamon. Of course, like any dessert enjoyed during the winter months, I washed it down with a cup of tea.

Do you like to bake when the weather is cold? Any winter favourites?