Friday, February 11, 2011

French Toast Casserole

Today is my birthday!

As much as I love it, and I do love it, I have never been one to go up to people, draw attention to myself and say, "Hey, today's my birthday!" It's just not my style.

Unless you know me or you're privy to the fact that you know it's my birthday, I'm more of a party-in-silence kind of gal.

I adore breakfast food. One of my favorite breakfast foods is french toast. There are so many ways to make and enjoy it that I have lost count. I've had it stuffed, grilled, candy coated, you name it. Then I had it in casserole form and let me tell you, it's like dessert in a baking dish.

One of the best perks about this casserole is that it's one of those make-the-night-before jobbers. Not having to rush around making breakfast on my birthday - or any morning for that matter, enjoying a nice cup of tea with my husband and getting cuddles from my 2 most favorite little people in the world is the best gift I could ever ask for!

That and a new kitchen appliance never hurts.


1 loaf challah or egg bread - about 8-10 cups. Slightly stale bread works fine.
7 eggs
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
Maple syrup 

Generously grease a 13x9 baking dish.

Tear bread into bite size pieces and spread out evenly into prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Pour over bread and pat down lightly so bread absorbs egg mixture. Dot with butter, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning, place foil-covered dish into a cold oven, then crank oven to 350ºF. Bake covered for 40 minutes. I like the casserole to have a soft and fluffy consistency inside while the crust has a slight crunchy top.

Serve immediately, drizzled with maple syrup and a nice cup of tea.

Yields: 8-12 servings - or one big serving. Don't worry, we won't judge.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vermont Maple Cookies

I have never been to Vermont. The closest I got the the Green Mountain State was when my husband & I went to Montreal on a camping trip back in 2002. If it's anything like these cookies, it's a gorgeous place to be. 

The first time I came across this recipe, I was a bit nervous when I read the ingredients. Vermont is a state that takes their maple syrup very seriously. Since the only maple ingredient is a flavoring, I knew I had to incorporate the real deal in there somewhere to allow these little lovelies to do the State proud. I couldn't very well use just the flavoring and slap the name Vermont on them.

After some tweaking, I was praying I didn't mess up the recipe.

Once these maple morsels were signed, sealed, and delivered, I took one bite and suddenly, the hills were alive with the sound of Vermont's State Song.

And this Mama knew all the words.

You're welcome Vermont.


½ cup butter
1½ cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk or sour cream
¼ cup REAL maple syrup
2 ¾ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
OPTIONAL: 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped 

Brown Butter Maple Glaze

½ cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
4 tablespoons milk

Combine flour, baking soda, salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. I like to sift everything together using a mini sieve. Like this....

Mix butter and brown sugar together until incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time.

Add buttermilk and maple ingredients. Mix well.

Drop by tablespoons onto a baking sheet. I use an ice cream scoop. It makes like so much easier!

Now for the glaze.
Melt butter in a pan until it gets a nice nutty color.  Stay close to the stove as it only needs about 4 minutes. 

Add confectioner's sugar, flavoring, and milk.

If you use the glaze immediately, this is how the cookies will look....

Let the glaze cool for a bit, you will get more of a frosting effect....

Yield: 3 ½ dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

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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!

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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!

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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. 

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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!

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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!

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