Saturday, August 18, 2012

Peach Cobbler Smoothie - *Gluten & Dairy Free!*

This will be a super quick post. I promise.

I just had to share this smoothie with you all. Notice how I didn't say, 'Y'all'. I'm from the North. I know my place. Unfortunately, I do know a few born-and-bred northerners who use that expression, thinking they're cute and witty, but it drives me bananas. Sorry folks, but it only sounds incredible when southerners say it.

As I had mentioned in a post a while back, I LOVE peaches. It's my favorite fruit by far. 

Well, this smoothie just upped the ante for me. It's not something I would normally blog about, but when a treat is this yummy, it should absolutely be shared. It really is like eating peach cobbler through a straw. Just better for you.

Even if you drink it all by yourself.

PEACH COBBLER SMOOTHIE - *Gluten & Dairy-free!* 
Recipe adapted and modified from The Food Network

2 cups original or vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground flax seeds - I used Bob's Red Mill
4 teaspoons gluten-free rolled oats - I used Bob's Red Mill
2¼ cups fresh or frozen peach slices
8-10 ice cubes

Place ingredients in a blender and pulse for about a minute or so. Pour into glasses, garnish with fresh fruit and enjoy.

Yields: About 4 cups.

share this on »
Add a comment »

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blackcurrant Cupcakes

Well the Olympics are officially over.

I'm pretty bummed about it actually. It was one of the best summer Olympics I've seen in a while. It was also nice to relax a bit more than I usually do. 16 days was pretty sweet - and I didn't feel guilty at all either. I considered it my patriotic duty.

I thought I would recap the events in my own words. Yes, these are my opinions. I have many.

Cue newsroom music.

There is no denying that London 2012 Olympics went all out in ALL forms of the word. The Olympics in itself never cease to teach me something new, but one thing remains constant. 


Like Miss America and Gracie Lou Freebush, I, too, want world peace. Life is complicated enough, why can't we all just get along? Celebrate people. Celebrate life. That's what it's all about.

But the athletes? The events?

Michael Phelps is a machine. That man can swim. He was born to swim. A six foot wing span is ridiculous. He's like a human pterodactyl. He deserved every medal he's ever earned. Most Celebrated Olympian is putting it lightly. Well done, Mr. Phelps. Well done. Missy Franklin is well on her way to being the female version of Michael. Watch this space.

Five words. Korea. China. Badminton. Utterly DISGRACEFUL. I'm glad both were disqualified in the end. People pay A LOT of money for tickets and don't always get to choose the events they want to go to. To have to sit and watch a farce like that? I would have been steamed. NOT. COOL.

Canada vs USA women's soccer match? Canada should have won that game. Period. Proud American right here (insert thumbs), but fair is fair. They should have won. 

I'm not into muscular physiques by any means, but the men's swim teams should absolutely be made to come out of the locker rooms to the intro of Hot Chocolate's, 'You Sexy Thing'. You know, 'Buuuum....bum, bum, bum, bum, buuuuum'? You can almost see the condensation dripping off the foreheads of women everywhere.

I am so proud of the USA girls gymnastics team. They were definitely a force to be reckoned with, no doubt, but can someone please teach McKayla Maroney what sportsmanlike conduct is? I can completely appreciate how disappointing it must be to set the bar so high for yourself and not reach it, but keep your emotions in check. There is no reason to act like a Diva. It was embarrassing.

The road cycling was hilarious to watch. Nothing like several hundred shirtless, hairy spectators, donning a beer belly and a can of lager, screaming and toasting the faces of the cyclists as they pedaled by to get one in the spirit. Seriously, where were the barriers or guard rails to keep the lager louts at bay?

I am so proud that trampolinist Rosie MacLennan won Canada's only gold medal of the games. I'm also a bit put off that Christine Sinclair held the flag in the closing ceremonies. I know the Canadian women's soccer team is very celebrated in Canada, but Rosie did win Gold. It should have been her moment.

I teared up when Canadian Paula Findlay crossed the finish line last in Triathlon. She was apologizing the whole time. It broke my heart.

Jessica Ennis was an absolute ROCK STAR. Sheer Brilliance. Britain should be so proud of her. I know I am. On a side note, did you see that girl's abs?

The Chinese are incredible in so many events, but they are incredible divers. Just incredible. I could watch them all day.

The rowing teams make me feel so bad for complaining when I have to carry 6 bags of shopping into the house that is like 20 feet away. My heart dropped when the New Zealand women's rowing team were flying through the competition, then suddenly, caught a crab. It was the look on their faces that did me in. I can't imagine training that hard for weeks upon weeks, only to lose it that fast.

I think some judges needed to have their eyes checked when it came to the synchronized swimmers. Can we say biased? Yeah. I said it. In fact, I've always been iffy about events that are judged. This is like basing something on one person's opinion. It's dodgy. It just doesn't seem right.

Best Sportswear: Japan.
Best Culturally Dressed at the Closing Ceremony: Ukraine.
Best Dressed at the Closing Ceremony: USA.
Worst Dressed at the Closing Ceremony: Canada. 

In closing, it just goes to show how wonderful the human body is. You can push it to do extraordinary things.

Like making these cupcakes.

And then trying to restrain yourself from eating the lot.

BLACKCURRANT CUPCAKES                                     
The cupcake recipe adapted and slightly modified from The Joy of Cooking

2 eggs, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, unsalted and at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract
½ cup milk


1 jar Blackcurrant Jam, such as Hartley's - see photo. Outside the UK, this is usually found at a British shop or a specialty grocery store that carries British goods. If you can't find Blackcurrant, you can use Blackberry Jam. (You also won't use the entire jar!)

Blackcurrant Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons blackcurrant jam
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In another bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add vanilla paste/extract. Add flour mixture slowly and alternate with milk until everything is incorporated. If you use the paste, you get those gorgeous seeds in the batter. 

Fill cups about 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Mine took 18 minutes. 

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Fill cups about 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Mine took 18 minutes. 

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, hollow out middles of cupcakes and add jam. Use an apple corer. It's magic. 

To make frosting: 
Cream butter, sugar, cream, and vanilla until smooth. Add jam and blend until incorporated.

Pipe or spread frosting on top of cupcakes and finish with a candy or embellishment, if desired. 

Yields: 12 Blackcurrant Cupcakes.

share this on »

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Do you want fries with that? Burger Topped Cupcakes!

Wanna know how to make me cry my weight in tears? Keep reading.

A few weeks ago, I went to see a Naturopath. I haven't been feeling as good as I should be for quite sometime, even with all the exercise and fresh air I've been getting. I also don't sleep very well, so this was my excuse for why I'm not feeling super awesome. Sleep = Rejuvenation.

It's frustrating, because I've always been a pretty healthy and energetic person, but for some reason my body and mind have been fist fighting the past few years. And I had no idea why.

Until now.

What has two perfectly manicured thumbs and a full on dairy allergy?

This gal.

Nope, there is nothing wrong with yo eyes. You read this right. Full. On. Dairy. Allergy.

Milk, butter, cream, all cheeses; if it's got cow's milk in it, I'm to run for the hills like I'm on fire. Apparently, my body has been launching a full on war against it without my acknowledgement or consent, thus creating havoc on my system over the past few years. And here's me, blaming childbearing for all the changes my body has incurred. Oops.

When the Naturopath read me my test results, I would not have been more surprised or shocked if a unicorn wearing high heels and a set of pearls walked into the office and threw up rainbows in the shapes of hearts than I was at that moment.

When I flatly refused to accept it and told her the tests must be wrong, she asked me a series of questions that most dairy challenged folk would easily fail. When I couldn't deny the symptoms, I graciously raised the proverbial white flag and submitted to my fate. It was at that moment a single tear beaded down my cheek, like a bad 80s music video.

Oh, but I'm not done ladies and gentleman.

It turns out that I also have a small gluten intolerance to most grains, including the ancient, totally-good-for-you ones. Not as bad as the Mister, but I now have it. Apparently, 42% of the North American population have a gluten intolerance and just don't know it. I'm also apparently intolerant to cherries, (seriously?) grapes (what?), watermelon (You've GOT to be kidding me, right?), oranges, cucumbers,  onions, and garlic and brown rice and rice bran....this is ridiculous. If I can't have rice, what DO I eat? Great.

'Oh, sorry love, no cookies and milk for me, thank you. I'll just gnaw on some tree bark and coconut water.' Super fun.

So what do I do now?

Keep calm and do what I've been doing. Except not eat any of it. Yeah, good luck with that.

Sucks. Sucks. SUCKS!

Anyway, I retaliated and made these lush-full-o'-dairy-and-gluten cupcakes for a BBQ we were invited to. I'm not about to punish the rest of society for my faulty system. I figured that our friends should benefit from my baking. 

I mean, at least someone is. 


For the burgers:

1 cup shredded coconut
1 tub of white ready made icing (or you can use your own) 
1 package chocolate mint cookies, such as Keebler Grasshopper, Girl Scouts Thin Mints, or a store brand, such as Great Value
1 box vanilla cookies, such as Nilla wafers
1 cup sesame seeds
Agave nectar or honey
Red, yellow, and green food coloring

For the cupcakes:

1 box of yellow cake mix
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup whole milk

For the vanilla buttercream frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste 
¼ cup heavy cream

To make hamburgers:

In two small bowls, mix about a ½ cup frosting in one and a ½ cup in another, along with a few drops of red and yellow food coloring and blend until you get 'ketchup' and 'mustard'.

In a small ziploc bag, place coconut along with a few drops of green food coloring. Mash together until all pieces are tinted green. This is for the 'lettuce'. Pour into a small bowl. Place sesame seeds in a bowl for easier dipping. 

Lay out vanilla cookies in a row. On the top of each cookie, place a dot of honey or agave nectar. Smooth over with finger until the top of cookie is coated. Dip cookie into sesame seeds and dab until you get a nice coat of seeds. Allow to dry for a few minutes. 

On top of mint cookie, place a generous dollop of red or yellow frosting. Apply coconut to the top of that. On the underside of the seeded 'bun', place a dollop of frosting of the opposite color. This will ensure the 'lettuce', 'bun', and 'burger' all adhere well and give the effect of a burger. 

On the flat side of the bottom 'bun', place a generous dollop of red or yellow frosting. Finish off burger by sandwiching to the rest of the cookie. Apply slight pressure, but not too much or you'll end up with 'condiment' oozing out your burger. 

Allow to dry and set, at least several hours. Prepare and bake cupcakes, as well as frosting. Pipe buttercream onto cupcakes and place a burger on top. 

Yields: 24 burger topped cupcakes.

share this on »

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cherry Bakewell Tarts

It's Day 6 of the Olympics. Bring. it. on.

I am a SERIOUS Olympic junkie, especially Summer. I could sit and watch for hours if it was acceptable to do so - and if my children were old enough to at least make themselves, and me, a sandwich. And a cup of tea.

It's even more exciting, because this year, it's in London. I'm missing the UK more than one could imagine, so during some events, like bicycling, where they ride through the streets and small villages that attach to London, it is that much harder to watch. My heart pines for it. 

I am a nervous wreck when I watch any of the events. It's nail biting excitement for 3 weeks. To make matters worse, I'm an emotional eater. I always have been. When I'm tired, I eat. When I'm bored, I eat, but when nervous situations warrant it, like sports, dramatic movies, or the Real Housewives series, forget it. I'm like Henry the VIII at his last meal. Mind you, the RH's is popcorn mandatory, so it doesn't really count. And it certainly doesn't make me nervous. If anything, it's cat-fight deliciousness.

Speaking of popcorn, since the Olympics started, I have been stuffing my gob by the fistfuls, screaming at the TV like a banshee for the athletes to move their tails, getting all sorts of red in the face, while kernels fly through the air. My house looks like the aftermath of the Super Bowl party pretty much every night. However, I tow the line at the double can hat with built-in straw. That's just loutish.

Can I just say that if I was ever in the Olympics and won a medal, especially a gold, I would be an absolute mess on the podium. My composure would fly out the window and I would be sobbing like a toddler that just lost their balloon. Unless they add a cupcake eating contest, I won't be competing in one in my lifetime, so we won't need to see the blubbering fool I would turn into.

Of course, popcorn decorating the air isn't in proper British form. One should stop and enjoy a proper cup of tea with a delicious British confection.

Bakewell tarts are fabulous on their own, but brilliant with a cuppa. However, I tow the line with the pinky extended in the air.

Unless you attach a foam finger onto it. 

That's about as proper as I get.


For the crust:
Please see my Grandma's Rhubarb Tarts for instructions:

2¼ cups cake flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, COLD and cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

For the filling:

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup ground almonds
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda 
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract 
½ cup cherry or strawberry jam 

For the icing: 

1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk 
12 maraschino cherries 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with flour. Roll out and cut dough into 24 disks, a size slightly larger than the muffin cup. Form to shape the cup and set aside.  

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Blend in almond extract, ground almonds, flour, baking soda, and salt. 

Spoon about a tablespoon of jam into the bottom of cup. 

Spoon about a tablespoon of almond mixture on top. For some reason, these look really full, but they weren't.

Top with remaining disks. 

Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes and transfer to a rack.

To make the icing:

In a small bowl, combine sugar and milk until well blended.  Drizzle over top of tarts and immediately place a cherry on top. 

Yields: 12 Bakewell Tarts.

share this on »

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Costco is a beautiful, but terrifying place.

It's also the only place I can justify spending $130 on 6 bottles of ketchup, 4 industrial-sized jars of strawberry jam, 160 rolls of 3-ply toilet paper, and 18 pounds of romaine lettuce.

Plus, you can practically get a free lunch out of it just for stopping by -  that is if you don't get run down by the fifty million shoppers first. And don't even THINK about waiting in line for the goods to be dished out. You'll have serious cart dents on the ankles and end up limping out of the warehouse.

As I was perusing the produce section, I was listening in on an older couple having this deep and consuming conversation about whether or not they needed a 4-pack container of hummus. I picked up what I needed and headed over to the laundry and juice aisles. Once I got there, I realized I forgot lemons, which was the thing I went there for in the first place, headed back to produce and found they were still at it.

Here's a tip: With the exceptions of shoes, clothing, and desserts, if it takes you 15 minutes to decide whether you need something, you probably don't need it.

On my way to the checkout, I made a quick detour into the cookie aisle due to the serious congestion in the cereal aisle and scored a box of club-sized Oreo Cookies for $5.99. That's one heck of a deal. 

And yes, before you ask, I did need 450 Oreo cookies. Who needs cereal when you can have Oreos? The breakfast of champions.

I ended up having a few on the ride home. Just a few. Rows, maybe. Oops. Since my cookie jar is filled to capacity, I had to use up the opened package to avoid them going stale or soft in this weather. It would be an absolute travesty to let these beautiful cookies go to waste. It would be a travesty to let any cookie go to waste for that matter.

So I made these. What a beautiful thing it is to pair up Oreos with even more chocolate and peanut butter. 

My club-sized cookie purchase has completely been justified. 


1 package chocolate sandwich cookies, like Oreo Cookies, finely ground 
¾ cup melted butter
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup mini chocolate chips
½ cup peanut butter chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup coarsely crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, about 8
Combine cookie crumbs and butter; pat onto the bottom of a 13"x9" baking pan. 

In a small saucepan, melt sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Pour over crust. 

Sprinkle with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, and crushed cookies. 

Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until chips begin to melt but do not lose their shape. Allow to cool completely before cutting. 

Yields: About 24-48 cookies, depending on size.

share this on »

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grasshopper Cookie Truffles

The outside temperature reached 111ºF this week with the humidity.

I'm beginning to think they are on to something with this global warming situation. The worst part about it was standing outside talking to my neighbor for TWO minutes and I started sweating like the back of a cold toilet.

How attractive.

We could not get the temperature to dip under 83º in the house even with 4 ceiling fans, central air pumping out at maximum capacity, and all the curtains closed. I felt like a sewer rat in my own home. And now I have a cold because of it.

What could make this any more irritating? I wanted cookies. Of course I wanted cookies. When do I not want them? I was not about to turn on the oven. I may be crazy, but I'm not insane.

These are the moments you truly have to be thankful for anything no bake, especially the minty sort that cools down the mouth when you take a bite of it, like these. 

Unfortunately I had to work fast. My truffles started to sweat once I took them out of the fridge to snap a photo.

At least I know it's not only me.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Six Sisters

1 package chocolate mint cookies - like Keebler Grasshopper, Girl Scout Thin Mints, or store brand like Great Value, finely ground
½ block cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Aero Mint Chocolate Bars
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup green candy wafers, melted

Using a food processor, pulverize cookies until they resemble crumbs. Pour into a separate bowl and add cream cheese. Mix until combined.

Roll into 2" balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Place in the fridge for a least an hour. This will help firm the balls up for dipping.

Using a double broiler method, melt chocolate in a heatproof dish until smooth and creamy. I found using a skewer was the best way to tackle these. Dip into chocolate and be sure the ball is completely covered. 

Place on cookie sheet until all balls have been dipped. Place in the fridge to allow chocolate to set and firm up. 

Melt wafers in microwave using a microwave safe container. Using a fork or a ziploc bag with the corner cut off, drizzle over truffles. 

Keep refrigerated for best results.

Yields: About 24 Grasshopper Cookie Truffles.

share this on »

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Cookies

Summer has officially made itself known.

It's a hundred billion degrees outside. There is nothing like walking outside and having the humidity getting all up in my business.

I love the hot weather, don't get me wrong, but not the sticky, muggy, swimming in lava with dragons breathing fire down my neck while the sun is shooting mega solar flares right in my face kind of weather.

Yeah, it's freakin hot. 

Thankfully, there are many ways to cool down when one doesn't have the amenities at one's fingertips. Can I just tell you how thankful I am for central air and a finished basement? 

Cool as a cucumber.

Speaking of cucumbers, I love lemons this time of year. (What? When you think of cucumbers, you don't think of lemons?) I will literally suck the life out of them and not feel the least bit guilty doing so. They are such refreshing little buggers.  

But pair them with blueberries? Brilliant. 

These cookies are immense and perfect with a cup of tea or a cold glass of milk, although I'll forgo the cup of tea today. Ya know, with the heat and all. I don't need my insides burning as well.

But not the cookies. 

I will never forgo on the cookies.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Hot Polka Dot

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup fresh blueberries - frozen for about an hour
1 package cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line cookie sheets sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper; set aside. 

In a large bowl using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Blend in the lemon zest, juice, and eggs, scraping down the bowl as you go. 

 In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and slowly add into wet ingredients. Gently fold in the blueberries. I used my hands to incorporate them so they didn't burst and make the cookies blue. Refrigerate the dough for about 20 minutes. 

Roll a generous tablespoon of dough into a ball and flatten slightly. According to Hot Polka's post, she placed a cube of cream cheese in the center of the cookie and covered the cookie around it, but I pushed several cubes around the cookie. I love the way cream cheese bakes and tastes when exposed. 

Bake for 10-14 minutes until the edges brown slightly. This time is about right. One batch took 11 minutes, another took 14. Go figure.

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Hot fruit on lips is not a nice feeling.

Yields: About 3 dozen cookies.

share this on »