Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Every country is known for a specific food. Italy is know for it's pasta, Belgium is chocolate, India for their spices, and so on.

When it comes to the country that knows how to create unique desserts with even more interesting names (Spotted Dick or Banoffee Pie to name a few) there is one land that understands the need for stodgy goodness.

Home of the Chip Butty, it's the United Kingdom.

Here's a little geography lesson for you. Don't worry, you won't be tested, but don't be surprised if you feel a bit cheated from the educational system.

The United Kingdom is made up of 4 countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Great Britain, however, only consists of England, Scotland, and Wales. It's kind of like the USA in a way. Although there are Fitty States (yeah, that's right, I said Fitty), 48 of them are contiguous States. Alaska and Hawaii are still members of our great land, they're just not connected to the same land mass. Same goes here. Just as each state has their own flag, each country in the UK also has their own flag. 

Anyway, we were in England a few years back for a wedding. We were staying at my husband's mate's parents house. These are some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. I just adore them.

Mama Angela is an amazing cook. One night after a gorgeous meal of Lancashire Hot Pot, she brought out her homemade Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Oh. My. I took one bite and I literally needed a moment. I mean, I had Sticky Toffee Pudding before, but nothing like this!  My daughter was 2 at the time and I don't think I ever heard her so quiet at the dinner table.

This dessert should come with a disclaimer: Be prepared to lick the bowl clean and wet yourself a little.



½ cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs

Preheat oven at 350 F.

Butter 8-inch square cake pan.

Put dates and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Boil over medium heat until the dates are very soft - about 5 minutes. Like so....

Transfer dates into a food processor and puree. (You should have about a cup). Let cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a bowl; set aside. 

In separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until pale in color. Add eggs one at a time until well blended.

Incorporate flour mixture in small batches, alternating with the date mixture until all is well blended.

Pour into prepared 8-inch pan. I like to do intricate designs in all my cakes. It's like my signature move.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Toffee Sauce:

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup unsalted butter

Add the 3 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure everything is melted and incorporated. Pour over cake.

Note: Both cake and toffee sauce are best enjoyed warm.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Monday, January 31, 2011

No Bake Cookies

Confucius once said, "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." Such words never rang more true. 

I am a simple baker. I don't like anything too fussy or recipes that call for too many ingredients. This is probably why I don't make my own bread as often as I would like to or make my Grandma's gorgeous Seven Layer Torte - unless the occasion is extra special.

Take these cookies for instance. These babies are so simple that a 5-year-old can make them. In fact, that's how I came to make these delicious heaps of bliss. I found this recipe in a box my Mom gave me when I moved out of the family home and on my own at 21. Attached to it was a Polaroid of me with my Kindergarten class proudly making these cookies - complete with paper chef hats! I've been making them ever since.

The moral of the story: Never underestimate simplicity. The goodness of a simple homemade chocolate chip cookie can do wonders for a bad day. It's not fussy, but damn can it make life a bit more bearable.

Even if only for a few minutes.


½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup milk
3 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar

3 cups oatmeal (you can use quick oats or steel cuts oats)
½ cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Combine first 4 ingredients together in a saucepan. I like to use a whisk to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.

Boil for one full minute. Remove from heat. Add  peanut butter and vanilla. Whisk.

Add oatmeal.

Drop by tablespoons onto foil or wax paper. Allow to cool.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dinosaur Cookies for Noel

We love parties in our household. My husband and I have been known to throw parties for the most ridiculous reasons just so we can entertain. Ask anyone we know and I guarantee they have been to at least one of our get togethers. One year, we had 8 parties. This is not counting birthday parties.

We especially love birthdays. Our friends invited my family to their son's 5th birthday party/dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. It's all my daughter has talked about for DAYS! So, naturally, she asked if we could make cookies for him. Not that I ever need a reason to make cookies, but it always makes it that much more fun when we make them for someone else.

She chose to do butterflies and hearts, but I had to explain to her that he probably doesn't like them as much as she does, so we settled on a dinosaur theme instead - only because that's what he likes.

He went crazy when he saw them. His reaction was worth all the work we had put into them. As we were stepping out of our seats to go have a look around, someone walked by and asked if the cookies were made of modeling clay.

They get out of the hospital on Wednesday.

Okay, okay, I'm kidding.

But seriously. 

share this on »
Add a comment »

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Broccoli Bread

My daughter loved green foods from her first bite.  Spinach, zucchini, peas, brussel sprouts, asparagus - you name it! Out of the green family, her most favorite is broccoli. Her eyes would light up and start jumping out of her high chair when she saw me coming with it. She couldn't get enough. I felt like the luckiest Mom on the planet.

However, my luck was about to change. We were into the first couple of weeks of Kindergarten when, suddenly, she didn't like broccoli anymore. Ah, the joys of peer pressure.

I was no longer allowed to send her to school with broccoli and dip in her lunch bag because it was 'yucky'. If I did, it would come back the same way I sent it. I was so disheartened because we had worked so bloody hard from the age of 6 months to 11 months; the time frame most children are likely to eat anything and set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits, only for her to go to school and have all that work flushed down the toilet in one day. I had to find ways to get her to eat it again.

I stumbled upon this recipe a few weeks later when I was sitting in the dentist office, reading old issues of Cooking Light. I had 5 heads of broccoli in the refrigerator at home, one stubborn little girl, and desperation on my back. Willing to try anything, I made it that afternoon hoping for the best. Guess what?

Broccoli's back bitches!

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Cooking Light Issue March 2002

4 eggs, beaten
¾ cup fat-free cottage cheese
½ cup fat-free sour cream
2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted
¾ teaspoon salt
1 package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained OR 1½ cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1 package corn muffin mix (such as Jiffy)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

Add onion, broccoli, and muffin mix; stir until well blended.

Pour into 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 27 minutes.

Yields: 12 servings.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Monday, January 24, 2011

Maple Fudge

I appreciate a nice piece of fudge. I'm not talking your average run-of-the-mill fudge. I mean a niiiice piece of fudge. The sort that makes you moan with pleasure until the last bite. 

Unfortunately, fudge is something that usually misses my radar when I need a sweet treat for a few reasons:

A. To buy a slab of fudge, it's a hefty price to pay for a small indulgence.
B. To make it at home, I find it is as temperamental as my ex-boyfriend. If I ruin the first batch, it could cost me more than if I would have just spent the $15 per pound to buy it in the first place.
3. Candy thermometers scare me.

After looking through countless recipes that didn't require a candy thermometer or ingredients that are equivalent to the cost of my weekly grocery shop, alas, I found the fudge recipe. The 'moan-through-every-bite fudge'. The fudge that will not break my bank account to make AND is foolproof.

My sweet tooth is high-fiving my taste buds as we speak.


3 cups of brown sugar - you do not need to pack it
1 cup butter
½ cup of sweetened condensed milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon maple flavoring or vanilla extract

Put the first 4 ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Boil for a full 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Stirring is the key to this fudge being smooth and creamy. If you don't stir enough, it can become crumbly once cooled. It's also best to stir with a silicone spatula or spoon so it won't stick. 

After it's boiled, it should look like this....

Remove from heat. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of maple flavoring or vanilla extract. I highly recommend sifting the sugar before adding it to the pan.

Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared 8 x 8-inch pan - one that has been sprayed with cooking spray or lined with wax paper).

Chill and cut into squares.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lemonade Cake

There is a famous saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." When life hands me lemons, I bake.

It all started when my friend, Bal, asked me if I would help stage her home to put on the market. I'm not a stager by any means, but I watch enough design shows to know what buyers of today look for and what makes them cringe. Plus, she's a sweetheart and I couldn't say no.

As we were moving and rearranging furniture, I mentioned to her I was a firm believer that bowls of fruit placed strategically in main living quarters sell a home. She looked at me like I had a third eye, but she must have taken what I said at face value, because she went and bought 12 out-of-season lemons at $1 each to display in her kitchen. Yikes! I mean, you can't just eat lemons on their own. Apples. Absolutely. Pears. Of course. Lemons. Ugh.

Funny enough, the day after the open house, her home sold! It was only on the market ONE DAY! I am now completely convinced it was the lemons that sealed the deal.

So here we are, left with 12 lemons that need to be used up. We could make lemonade or make a refreshing Lemonade Cake. 

No contest.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel

⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
⅔ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease two 8" or 9" loaf pans. You could also use a bundt pan, but I find it's a cake worthy of sharing with a friend or neighbor! In this post, I used two 9" loaf pans.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time and mix well.

Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, and beating only until blended after each addition.

Stir in lemon peel.

Note: When zesting a lemon, be sure to avoid the white pith. It's very bitter and not very nice!

                                           LIKE THIS....

                                          NOT THIS....

Divide and scrape batter into prepared pans.  Level batter.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Please know that no matter what size pan you choose to use, the bake time will not change!

Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes. Remove cake and place on foil or wax paper.

Prepare glaze. My Grandma taught me to warm the lemon juice and melt the sugar within it. It makes a clear glaze that is the consistency of lemonade and with no sugar granules in each bite.

Poke holes with a skewer. This step ensures the glaze gets into the cake, making it lush and lemony from the inside out!

Brush glaze over entire cake.

Cool completely and enjoy!
Happy Baking!

share this on »

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Super Chocolate M&M Cookies

My daughter loves to go through my cookbooks.

My BFF, Beth, gave me a fabulous cupcake cookbook for my birthday last year and my daughter immediately claimed the book as her own (partially because the cover was pink). It now sits on her bookshelf alongside the other best loved books and bedtime stories. One night, she actually chose that book for my husband to read and he actually made up a story about a little cupcake and it's adventures. It was quite riveting and incredibly heartwarming.

We thought we would make some cookies for a playdate she had this afternoon with her BFF. She opened up the cupboard that houses the plethora of cookbooks and choose carefully, but wisely. Monster Cookies was the winner. 

These cookies are huge and definitely live up to the title of the cookbook. As she skimmed her little fingers through the pages, she chose the Super Chocolate M&M Cookies.

These gorgeous mounds of heaven have a little something for everyone. Chocolate. M&Ms. Raisins. Peanuts.

Mmmm. Mama like.

Recipe adapted from the Monster Cookies Cookbook

2 cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
½ cup shortening
1 ⅓ cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup M&Ms or candy coated chocolate pieces
1 cup raisins
¾ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

Beat butter, shortening & brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until well blended.

Stir in candy, raisins, and peanuts.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. I like to use silicone mats whenever I bake. Space 3 inches apart and flatten slightly.

Bake cookies 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets and transfer to wire rack. Cool completely.

Yield: 18 to 20 4-inch cookies

Happy Baking!

share this on »