Archive for April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding Bliss

I have been anticipating the Royal Wedding for weeks. In fact, I've been so excited for this day to arrive, one would think it was my wedding!

I remember watching the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, but only vaguely. I remember my Mom being excited and commenting on Diana’s gown. My sister and I couldn’t understand the intrigue and why my Mom was crying. I do now. Those moments are so special, so naturally, I was excited to share the tradition with my little girl.

I was up at 3am. By 3.15am, I was cuddled on the couch with my blanket, pillow, and cup of tea, prepared for an emotional morning.

My husband joined me on the couch at 4am. A few other guests came around at 4.30am for the viewing party. Our daughter sleepily walked down the stairs at 6am. My little prince was sound asleep in his crib and woke just in time for some bacon butties at 8am. It was fabulous. We enjoyed Prince William's Grooms Cake (see below), Royal Wedding cupcakes, tarts, shortbread, and scones with clotted cream and jam. It was like having high tea, but on a Friday...really early in the morning.

It was a beautiful wedding and a beautiful day. I am so proud to be an honorary Brit as well as one of two billion people watching history being made.

I also ate way too much sugar by 6am and feeling the eff...ects n...ow…zzzzzzzzzzzz

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

The Easter Bunny has gone back into hibernation for another year.

While I love to to fill my kids baskets with sweet treats, I tend to go overboard. Finding sugary surprises I know they will love to tear into come Easter morning is fun, but once the dust settles and the craziness passes, I'm left with chocolate oozing out every cupboard, drawer and closet. Of course, with bathing suit season lurking around the corner, it's imperative to get it out of the house as soon as possible. This is when I dig out recipes I keep for such occasions; recipes that don't mind if chocolate isn't in standard chip form and uses up a good chunk of the loot.

Despite the fact I have been baking these particular cookies what seems like forever, I only seem to make them around Christmas and Easter when said chocolate likes to crawl out of its hole and shout, "Here I am!".

Although I would prefer dark or milk chocolate, white chocolate adds the necessary sweetness to give amazing flavour to these cookies. I'm sure you'll agree. 


2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped pecans, optional

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 

In a separate mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir into butter mixture.

Add in white chocolate and cranberries with a wooden spoon. This is a great time to use up some of that leftover chocolate. Just chop into chunks and throw into batter. (The chunkier, the better!) Add in pecans, if using. 

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. 

Drop by heaping spoonfuls or use a small scoop with a retractable mechanism onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 9-10 minutes. Do NOT over bake. Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Yields: About three dozen. Cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Tres Leches Cake

Once in a while, a dessert that is just too amazing for words will present itself to you.

Tres Leches cake is one of those desserts. I am so not kidding.

My friend, Daniela, who hails from Mexico, introduced me to this gorgeous cake about 4 years ago. She thoughtfully brought me a piece that was leftover from a party she had with her family. True story, I licked the dish clean.

I was so very fortunate to be reunited with this mouthwatering masterpiece a few months later at her daughter's birthday party, but this time, the cake was made by a close friend of hers who happens to be pastry chef...and Mexican, so we are talking authenticity at it's finest. 

I moaned through every single bite. In front of complete strangers. In a building that echoes. Loudly.

Dignity - Nil. Stomach - 1.


½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk OR coconut milk

1 ½ cups whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; mix in eggs and vanilla.

Combine flour and baking powder; add gradually to butter mixture, stirring to blend.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Pierce cake with a fork all over....and I mean all over! I used a skewer and realized I would be there all day!

Combine the 3 milks, and pour on top of cake; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Mix whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl and whip.

Spread over cake and chill. Sprinkle with cinnamon just before serving. 

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Southwestern Egg Rolls

I told myself that if I ever started a blog, I would only stick to making sweets and desserts since there are so many baked goods I would love to share and would love to try.
However, there is one savory recipe that cannot go by without speaking of. One of my most favorite restaurants is Chili's. Top 2 for sure.

Unfortunately, where we live, the chain doesn't exist. Actually, I lie. There is ONE Chili's about an hour from us in the city, but if I decide to drive that far, I might as well go over the border and do some shopping Stateside where everything is cheaper.

When we do have the opportunity to go to Chili's, I am so predictable when it comes to ordering what I want there. My favorite dish is actually an appetizer.

The Southwestern Egg Rolls are just ridonkulous! It's like a meal packed neatly into a tortilla. They're AWESOME! If you've been and enjoyed them, can I get an Amen? If you haven't, give me one anyway. You will once you have them - I'm just saving you some time.

When I was pregnant with my son, I was craving these ALL the time. Sucks when there isn't one on the corner. Since the need to have them was nagging me incessantly, I had to find a recipe that was thisclose to the real deal that I could be satisfied with. I couldn't bring myself to have my husband make the hour trek over the border every time I needed them.

3 times and a hefty speeding ticket was enough.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons minced green onion
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
½ cup frozen corn kernels
½ cup black beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
4 tablespoons diced jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
1¼ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 package flour tortillas or egg roll wrappers
1 quart oil for deep frying, if deep frying

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook chicken approximately 5 minutes per side, until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in green onion, jalapeno peppers, and red pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until tender.

Dice chicken and mix into the pan with onion and red pepper. Mix in corn, black beans, spinach, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until well blended and tender. Remove from heat and stir in Monterey Jack cheese so that it melts.

Spoon even amounts of the mixture into each tortilla. I used egg roll wrappers. Fold ends of tortillas/egg roll wrappers, then roll tightly around mixture.

Arrange on a baking pan and brush generously with oil over the top using a pastry brush.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve with ranch dressing.

If you wish, you can also deep fry them. To do so:

Spoon and fold as stated above. Secure with toothpicks. Arrange in a medium dish, cover with plastic, and place in the freezer. Freeze at least 4 hours.

In a large, deep skillet, heat oil for deep frying to 375ºF. Deep fry frozen, stuffed tortillas/egg roll wrappers for 6 minutes each, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Happy Baking!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Egg Nests

This past weekend, I was busy making DOZENS of chocolate covered Easter eggs. Peanut butter, coconut cream, and chocolate ganache are among my favorite flavors, so I make them every year. The recipe is no secret, but it's so time consuming.

Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), I'm always left with extra chocolate once the last egg is dipped. Once upon a time, I would scoop all the leftovers into a zippered plastic bag and keep it for my next recipe. Not a big deal, unless you forget about them and discover 8 bags in the bottom of the pantry. Not that it's happened to me or anything like that.

About 10 years ago and 3 months into my relationship with my then boyfriend, now husband, my mother-in-law made these gorgeous little nests for Easter. Apparently, this is also how they make crispy rice cereal treats in England. Not a marshmallow to be had, only chocolate. It took her all of 10 minutes from beginning to end to make these adorable little treats. She decorated each of them with yummy confections like jellybeans, chocolate mini eggs and coconut and topped each one with a little chick. They were so cute and very tasty.

Suffice to say, over a decade later, the nests are a staple at Easter in my home.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Just when my thighs were starting to speak to me again, I go and blow it.


1½ cups very good quality milk or dark chocolate, melted
1 cup cornflakes, shredded wheat, crispy rice cereal, or chow mein noodles. (I used Crispix cereal only to show how versatile and easy they are to make using most cereal)
1 bag of mini candy coated chocolate eggs or jellybeans

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Bring just to a boil. Add cereal once it's completely melted.

Line muffin tin with cupcake papers.

Fill each one to about the top of the paper.

Flatten a little and make a well in the center and add three chocolate eggs or jellybeans.

Allow to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: About 12 chocolate nests.

Happy Baking!

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

For the past week or so, the paperboy has been delivering the national newspaper to our doorstep. The kicker? We don't subscribe. Either it's some gimmick to get me to subscribe and I'll be billed handsomely or one of my neighbors is thoroughly ticked off that they haven't been getting their paper. 

So, I do what anyone would do. Put on a pot of tea on and sat down to read the news. I know, I know. Cheeky. After skimming for a few minutes, I was immediately reminded why I don't like the news. It's too depressing and sad.

To lighten the situation, I searched for the lifestyle and entertainment section. I read over the movie reviews, checked out the latest fashion off the runway of Milan, read my horoscope *eye roll*, and attempted to do the sudoku puzzle, but failed. Miserably.

A recipe for Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake made with olive oil jumped out at me. Chocolate. You bet. Chocolate and olive oil? Hmmm....

As I pondered if it's something I would make, I came to the realization....if it's flourless AND made with olive oil, it must be healthy, so I made it.

I was impressed. It was a bit more work than I anticipated, but the outcome (or my outcome) was a cake that reminds me of a frosted chocolate brownie. I'm not sure if it's supposed to, but it did....and there is nothing wrong with anything tasting like a frosted chocolate brownie!

Mazel Tov to Bonnie Stern. You made a believer outta me!

Recipe adapted from National Post columnist of The Appetizer Bonnie Stern

 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup sugar, divided
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons ground almonds or almond flour - I used ground almonds.

Chocolate Glaze:
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup dry red wine, water, coffee or tea
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven at 350ºF.

In a bowl set over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Stir in olive oil.

In a large bowl beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar until light pale in color. 

Stir in melted chocolate mixture and then almonds. Be SURE to slowly incorporate melted chocolate into eggs or you will end up with scrambled chocolate eggs!

In a large clean bowl beat egg whites until light. Slowly beat in remaining sugar. Continue beating until stiff.

Stir about ¼ egg whites into the chocolate batter and then fold in remaining whites. The batter will be tough to work with, so try to be gentle when folding in the first bit. Once all the egg whites have been incorporated, it's much easier to manipulate.

It will look like this....

Spoon batter into an 8-inch or 9-inch deep cake pan that has been lined with parchment paper. I used a springform pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inverted into the middle. Cool cake in the pan.

When cold, press down any uneven edges and invert onto a serving platter and peel off parchment paper.

For glaze, bring sugar and wine/tea/coffee/water (I used tea) to a boil in a saucepan. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Add vanilla. Cool until spreadable.

Brush any crumbs off surface of cake.  Spread a thin layer of glaze over the top (originally the bottom) and sides of cake to “crumb coat.” Pour remaining glaze on top and swirl to cover the top and sides. Press almonds into the sides. I also applied to top.

Yields: 12 servings

Happy Baking!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Beer Bread

I have never been a fan of beer. In fact, it makes me gag.

I will never understand how someone prefers a beer in the dead of summer over a glass of ice cold lemonade, sweet tea or even water. On the flip side, I'm sure that many people would say the same about me.

However, I'm not a teetotaler by any means. I'm a walking cliché because I enjoy a fruity little cocktail every now and then. I'm super envious of wine drinkers. Wine is something I could definitely get into if I could only, again, get past the taste.

Whenever my husband and I have a party, we are usually left with a couple cans of beer hanging around. Short of dumping it down the sink to create room in the fridge - which would be a sin, even if I don't drink it - I'm usually left finding ways to use it up.

The first recipe I have that requires beer is a killer chili that calls for a can of beer, cup of coffee, chocolate and brown sugar. It sounds weird and slightly unorthodox, but it's smashing delicious.

The next standby is beer battered fish and chips. Enough said.

Then I found this recipe for beer bread. Oh, you delightful little carb. This bread is so versatile you can throw virtually anything into it. You could probably even say it's foolproof. It's the perfect partner for my infamous chili or fabulous with dippy eggs and bacon in the morning.

Thankfully this bread doesn't get you drunk. Otherwise, I would seriously be considered the town lush and wouldn't care one bit.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Farm Girl Fare

3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounce can of beer - any brand is good, but honey lager is my favorite in this recipe

This recipe is also super fabulous on it's own, but I opted to make the Italian version for the blog. For more variations, please see below.

To continue on with the Italian version, add to the basic batter:

1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
2 minced garlic cloves
½ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour (it's very, very, very important to sift the flour in this recipe), sugar, baking powder, salt in a large mixing bowl.

Add melted butter. 

Just a note: If you want your crust to be hard and crunchy, apply melted butter over top the bread just before baking. Otherwise, just add it to the mixture. You'll still get a nice crust to it, just not as crispy.

Slowly stir in the beer and mix just until combined. The batter will be thick and lumpy.
Spread batter into prepared loaf pan. Brush with the egg glaze if desired. I don't but you certainly can. This step adds shine.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool 10 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Other variations:

Garlic & Herb: Add 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 2 minced garlic cloves (or 1 teaspoon garlic flakes) to the basic mix. For fresh herbs, use 1 chopped tablespoon of each.

Dill & Chive: Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried dill) and ¼ cup chopped fresh chives to the basic mix.

Rosemary & Feta
Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary and ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese to the basic mix.

Other Additions: Any dried or fresh herbs; ½ cup freshly grated asiago (or other hard cheese); ½ cup finely chopped onion, ½ cup chopped scallions; ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, ½ cup whole wheat flour or ½ cup oats in place of ½ cup of the all-purpose flour.

Yield: One 8-inch loaf.

Happy Baking!

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