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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Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Every now and then, I get a hankering for something different. Every blue moon, I will crave something I've never had before.

My blue moon has risen.

Since my husband is British, I am American, and we live in Canada, I decided to skip what I know, ignore my cookbooks on the shelf and hit the internet for inspriation. The first stop on the information superhighway? Martha Stewart. She has made every sweet and savory menu item known to man; she's the best place to start.

After searching her site, I came across Lamingtons. I never heard of them, but they sounded interesting. As I did some more digging, I discovered Lamingtons are native of Australia. Bingo. (Or should I say Dingo!?) Because it would only be appropriate to do as they do in Rome, I wanted to delve further for an authentic Australian Lamingtons recipe. No offense Martha.

Unfortunately, all the Australian websites I visited required the use of day old/ready made/box cake. This only increased my determination to find a genuine recipe. After about 15 minutes of even more searching, I finally found this recipe that seemed to tick all the boxes on my checklist. With a few Aussies raving about how incredible they are and how this recipe took them back to their childhood, I couldn't go wrong. 

Wrong was the last place I went. These are AMAZING. After eating a few, I'm not surprised the Aussies have a national Lambingtons Day. These little cakes are definitely something to be celebrated.

At least the recipe doesn't require Vegemite. *shudder*

Recipe adapted from Aussie chef Syrie Wongkaew 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk

2 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter an 8 inch square cake pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each egg. Add vanilla to the mixture and mix well to combine.

Use a spatula to alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, starting and finishing with the flour.

Spread the batter into the cake pan, making sure it's evenly spread.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Test the center of the cake with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean. Cool the cake in pan for about 5 minutes and  invert onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the cake has cooled cut it into squares of a desired size. I opted for the two-bite size.

Place them in an airtight container. Pop the container in the fridge for at least 2 hours or even overnight. This is a crucial part as it helps the cake from crumbling once it comes in contact with the chocolate icing.

For an extra special treat, you can also fill the Lamingtons. To do so, cut a cake square in half and generously spread strawberry jam, finishing off by sandwiching together. This must be done before applying the icing.

Now for the icing.

Place icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Stir the mixture until it is smooth, but still a bit thick. You don't want the liquid to get too thin otherwise the sponge cake won't absorb the coating.
Working quickly, dip cake into chocolate and coat on all sides. 

Shake off excess chocolate and gently roll coated cake in coconut.

Lamingtons can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days.

Yield: 25 two-bite pieces.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Georgia Cookie Candy

After two glorious weeks basking in the Florida sunshine, we arrived home a few days ago to bone chilling temperatures. Mind you, 26ºF really isn’t that cold when one has been used to it for a few months now, but coming from 88º weather, one can forget what cold is like really quick. If there is an upside to dealing with the less than favorable weather, it would be the excuse to stretch the comfort foods out a little longer. 

My inspiration for making these cookies was a layover we had in Atlanta on the way to Orlando. My husband has a very soft spot for the city of Atlanta for a few reasons, so the Hartsfield Airport shops for him are like watching a kid in a candy store. As he was browsing and slightly salivating, I did as well - minus the salivating part - and came across a cookbook, A Taste of Georgia. As I skimmed the cookbook, I knew I had to have it in my arsenal of cookbooks.

As we were leaving the shop, I passed an issue of Paula Deen's magazine. She is the queen of southern cooking - and my kind of lady. Butter smothered on everything, full fat ingredients, Oh yeah. As I flipped through it, 18 of those annoying subscription cards floated out. As I picked them up, (yes, I pick them up) I noticed these cookies on one of them. They looked very interesting and right up my alley. I took one of those cards and decided to use it for a bookmark during my holiday reading, only so I could remember to make these cookies in the near future.

Welcome to the future. I thought today was as good as any to give these a whirl. They are incredibly simple to make and have the all important moan factor.

Don't worry if the words, 'Oh my ya'll!' fly out of your mouth while eating them.

I got used to it after the 3rd piece.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Paula Deen's original recipe

Just a note: With this recipe, I recommend using the best chocolate and peanut butter ingredients you can afford. You can and will really taste the difference!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter - If you don't have crunchy peanut butter, add ¼ cup chopped peanuts to the mix. The crunchy helps awesomeize these!
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1½ cups crispy rice cereal

Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with foil.

Combine the butter, peanut butter, and and graham cracker crumbs in a food processor. I used a hand mixer to see if a food processor was really necessary. It isn't and worked just as well. I also didn't have crunchy peanut butter on hand, so I added ¼ cup chopped peanuts to the mix.

Add sugar and mix well. This is what it will look like using a hand mixer.

Press into the foil-lined pan using your hands or a spatula.

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over simmering water.  You can microwave the chocolate as well, but I find that the chocolate can seize up on you really quick, so it's safer to use the double broiler method.

Pour the cereal over the peanut butter mixture. Using a spatula, spread chocolate over cereal, making sure to cover bars in it's entirety.

Chill for several hours. When ready to serve, allow the candy to come to room temperature before cutting into pieces.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 36-40 pieces.

Happy Baking!

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