Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back Again... :)

The last couple of weeks have not seen the arrival of our new baby yet but at the same time neither did my desire to start cooking too! But having started mat leave, its about time to stat getting back into the swing of things... So I start with something close to my heart and especially sweet. I was offered a recipe from my cousin, tweaked it with some others I found on websites and came up with the following:

Chocolate Macaroon Brownie

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 cup baking cocoa
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
½ cup chopped nuts

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 cups flaked/shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
½ cup baking cocoa
¼ cup milk
¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)


Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa until smooth. Blend in eggs, sugar and extracts. Stir in flour mixture and nuts.

Pour into a parchment lined 13 in x 9 in x 2 in baking pan.

In small bowl, combine condensed milk, coconut and vanilla. Spoon over brownie base.

Bake at 350o for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean.

For icing, in small bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, butter, vanilla and enough milk to achieve desired spreading consistency.

Spread over filling. Sprinkle with nuts (optional). Cool in pan. Cut into bars.

Enjoy! (I know we did!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More Summertime BBQing ....

Hubby and I have recently found out our new home purchase has been delayed for another year. We were so excited to be moving out of our little apartment and finally having a place to call our own. One of the things we have been looking forward to the most is its rooftop deck and being able to own a bbq of our own... now there's a heartbreaker :(

So we've decided no need to wait until then to grill and we have started practicing with some recipes now and taking them to my sister's place for grilling there. Here's a great chicken skewer recipe with the slightest hint of lemon... Great for a hot summer's day like today... We served them with some vegetable skewers that were marinaded in Italian salad dressing. Great accompaniment to this bbq.

Lemon Chicken Kabobs
By: The Canadian Living Test Kitchen


1 lb (500 g) boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp (2 mL) each dried thyme and salt
½ tsp (2 mL) poultry seasoning ( I added)
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper


Cut chicken into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces. In bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Add chicken and toss to coat. Put all ingredients into a resealable bag and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Once ready to BBQ, soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. In the meantime, seed and cut pepper into 1 inch chunks. Alternately thread chicken and pepper onto skewers. Cook on greased grill, until the chicken is browned and no longer pink inside, 12 to 16 minutes.


Filipino BBQ

Anyone who knows me, will tell you how much I absolutely love filipino BBQ. I've tried numerous times to obtain the ever famous recipes from my in-laws with no luck but this year I am happy to announce that my father-in-law was more than happy to share the recipe to his Filipino pork BBQ sticks... and they were just as yummy as ever!

Dad's Filipino pork BBQ sticks


1 pound pork tenderloin, cubed
¼ cup soy sauce
5 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup tomato ketchup


Add all ingredients to a resealable bag and marinade overnight. Before barbecuing, soak wooden skewers in water for 30 mins.

Thread pork through skewers and BBQ.

Serve with vegetable shish kebobs and hot steaming rice.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Ice Cream Machine is on overload....

My ice cream machine is on overload and I'm loving it... Having recently purchased a case of mangoes and not being able to finish eating all of them, decided to put them to good use especially for the upcoming hot summery days... What better way to enjoy them than in a refreshing sorbet!!

Mango Sorbet


3/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
5 cups of ripe mango
1 lemon, juiced
1 large egg white


Bring sugar, water and lemon zest up to a simmer in a saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Then bring to a boil for just 1 minute. Cool liquid before chilling.

Purée mango and lemon juice with a hand blender. Stir sugar syrup into purée and pour into an ice cream maker. Once sorbet has thickened slightly (about 8 minutes), whisk egg white lightly and pour into ice cream maker. Continue to thicken in ice cream maker for about 20 minutes and then transfer sorbet to a container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.


Frozen, creamy and it needs Nutella...yummy!

Original recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis and I have to admit this may be the best homemade gelato that I've ever had. Soooooooo creamy. What a keeper!

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato


2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
4 egg yolks
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup Nutella spread (recommended: Nutella


In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour ½ cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the almond, cocoa powder and hazelnut spread until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions to freeze. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls and top with chopped/toasted hazelnuts.

Please note: I’ve incorporated some of the changes I made to the recipe including lowering the sugar from ½ cup to a 1/3 cup, using almond extract instead of vanilla extract, adding 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and omitting the ½ cup of hazelnuts. For the original recipe please visit the website.

It's a rainy summer day...

...and I've been up to my old vices. What better way to spend a rainy day than playing with your little girl and cooking up a storm... Hmm... can't wait to share all the recipes with you...

With bananas ripening so quickly in this heat, I wanted to find a new recipe to incorporate them and this bread was fantastic especially for making a great breakfast toast for our mornings.

Banana-Nut Bread
From: The Great American Home Baking Collection


2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup slivered almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Beat together butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in bananas. Graduatlly beat in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in lemon zest and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake bread until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn bread out into rack to cool.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Our Canada Day Picnic (...cont'd)

I know that most people are advised to not try new recipes while entertaining but I always find its the perfect opportunity to try something new and get a cross-section of feedback. So although the following tart recipe didn't look the prettiest as the filling had caved in quite dramatically after being cooled, guests seemed to really enjoy this treat. I'll have to work on getting it to retain its shape in the future :)

Rum Butter Tarts with Toasted Pecans
LCBO Spring 2007 Issue
By: Marilyn Bentz Crowley

1¼ cups (300 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
¼ cup (50 mL) cold butter
2 tbsp (25 mL) cold lard or shortening
½ tsp (2 mL) lemon juice
2 to 3 tbsp (20 to 45 mL) ice cold water

1 egg
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar
¼ cup (50 mL) corn syrup
2 tbsp (25 mL) dark rum (I used regular white rum)
½ tsp (2 mL) pure vanilla extract
¼ cup (50 mL) melted butter
¼ cup (50 mL) coarsely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts


1. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter and lard until butter pieces are about the size of small peas. Stir lemon juice into 2 tbsp (25 mL) water. Stir into flour mixture, adding up to 1 tbsp (15 mL) more water if needed to just moisten. Press together to form a ball of dough; then flatten, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Coat cups of a standard 12-cup muffin pan generously with cooking spray or lightly butter. Roll out pastry until thinner than usual for pie crust, about 1/8-inch (0.5-cm) thick. Use a 3-inch (8- cm) cookie cutter (or upturned glass) to cut into rounds. Press into cups forcing dough two-thirds to three-quarters up sides. Use scraps to fill in any breaks, low sides or thin parts. Freeze 10 minutes while making filling.

3. Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).

4. Beat egg lightly with a fork. Gradually add brown sugar, corn syrup, rum, vanilla and melted butter. Stir until smooth. Divide ¼ cup (50 mL) nuts among homemade shells or ½ cup (125 mL) among frozen purchased shells; spoon in filling. Bake 15 minutes or until filling is bubbly and browned. Cool in pans on racks; then run a knife around edges of tarts. Remove tarts from pans. Covered tarts keep for a day or 2 at room temperature and freeze well.

Makes 12 tarts


Note: I was pressed for time, so for the pastry I purchased frozen sweetened tart shells and then proceeded directly to step 3.

Our Canada Day Picnic (...cont'd)

This recipe was passed to me by hubby's cousin Leslie and what a hit it was... It was also my first time at making any type of yummy square. So glad I tried it... Next time after baking and cooling, I'll put it in the fridge for about an hour before serving to settle the caramel into a more firmer consistency.

Chocolate Caramel Nut Bars


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels
¼ cup caramel chip morsels
1 bag (340 g) caramels (about 43 caramels), unwrapped
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup chopped walnuts


PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Line 15x10x3/4-inch baking pan with foil. with ends of foil extending over sides of pan; set aside. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour; beat on low speed until mixture is well blended and crumbly. Press dough firmly into prepared pan.

BAKE 15 to 17 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with chocolate and caramel morsels ; cover with foil. Let stand 5 minutes or until chocolate is melted. Spread evenly over crust.

MICROWAVE caramels and cream in microwaveable bowl on MEDIUM 4 minutes or until caramels begin to melt. Stir until caramels are completely melted. Spread evenly over chocolate layer; sprinkle with walnuts. Cool on pan on wire rack. Remove dessert from pan, using foil handles. Cut into bars.

Makes 2 dozen squares.


Our Canada Day Picnic (...cont'd)

This has been one of my long time favorite pasta salads and I'm glad to get to share it with you...

Greek Pasta Salad

8 ounces rotini pasta
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 lemon juiced (3 tbsp lemon juice)
2 cloves large garlic crushed
2 teaspoons crushed dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium cucumber peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 cup crumbled feta cheese


Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse with cold water and drain.

In a bowl combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper; whisk well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, cucumber, tomatoes and olives. Mix with dressing; toss well to coat. Gently fold in feta cheese. Refrigerate until served.


Our Canada Day Picnic (...cont'd)

These were quite the hit at our picnic but next time I would bake these wings in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour… I find you have a better appreciation for the different flavours when this recipe is baked and not grilled.

Grilled Asian Chicken Wings


1/4 cup soy sauce (60ml)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (80ml)
1/2 cup honey (60ml)
1/4 cup Asian sesame oil
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (30ml)
3 tablespoons peanut oil (45ml)
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes (25ml)
Pepper to taste
2 lbs of chicken wings


In a bowl whisk together soy, lemon juice, honey, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and dried chili flakes.

Rinse the chicken wings under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the meat in a large resealable plastic bag and pour marinade overtop. Seal the bag and toss to distribute the marinade evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to 24 hours turning occasionally.

Preheat the grill to medium heat.

Remove the wings from the bag, place on a tray and discard the marinade. Pat the excess marinade off of the chicken and drizzle with oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Oil the grill. Grill 10 minutes per side or until the skin is crispy and golden brown and when pierced in the thickest part the juices will run clear. Remove from grill and tent with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold.


Our Canada Day Picnic

I have to tell you that I absolutely love to celebrate Canada Day surrounded by all of our friends and family but most importantly its the one day of the year that I don't have to cook...hubby mans the BBQ and I can sit back and enjoy the company of others :) Here's a look at our menu for this year's 6th Annual Canada Day Picnic. (* recipes are included below - all other items were contributed by guests)


Nachos & Dip
Chips for the kids

* Grilled Asian Chicken Wings
Filipino pork BBQ sticks
Grilled chicken breast
Grilled pork chops

* Greek pasta salad
Citrus green salad
Brazilian Bean stuffing

* Rum Butter Tarts with Toasted Pecans
* Chocolate Caramel Nut Bars
Chocolate & strawberry trifle (pictured above)
Chocolate chip cookies

Iced Tea
Juice boxes for the kids
Bottled Water
Zinfandel Wine

Saturday, June 14, 2008

In a Caribbean frame of mind...(cont'd)

I also made this Cucumber and Carrot Salad to help tone down the heat in the jerk chicken. What a great summer salad if you are looking for one!

Cucumber and Carrot Salad

Yield: 4


1 x cucumber, sliced thinly
2 x carrots, grated
Half a red onion, sliced thinly
2 x fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper


Put ingredients into a medium sized bowl and toss well. Adjust seasoning.

In a Caribbean frame of mind...(cont'd)

Caribbean Salad

For the Salad Base:

6 cups of mixed salad greens
3 x green onions, sliced
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1 x mango, peeled, pitted and sliced

For the Coconut Lime dressing:

Zest and juice of 2 limes
1/2 cups of coconut milk
1 tbsp of fresh ginger, grated Salt and pepper


Put dressing ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the greens.


In a Caribbean frame of mind...(cont'd)

Reggae Rice
Yield: 4


1 cup of basmati or 1 cup of white rice
1 x 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 x can of black beans, rinsed
1 tsp of ground allspice
1 x cubanella or 1 x chili pepper, minced
2 x green onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, minced
1 tsp of salt
pinch of pepper


Put rice, tomatoes, black beans, allspice and salt and pepper into a medium-sized saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and let simmer until liquid has absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add green onions and cilantro just before serving.

In a Caribbean frame of mind...

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Chef at Home with Micheal Smith... Well not too long ago he was creating a Caribbean Meal and thought that I would try it out for a couple of friends who had stopped by for dinner... We had jerk chicken, reggae rice, caribbean salad, a cucumber & carrot salad and topped it off with banana rum coconut smoothies... (obviously mine was a mocktail ;)

For our jerk chicken, I used a bottle of jerk seasoning that my father-in-law had given us with the chicken legs and thighs I had in the fridge. The longer it marinates the spicier it is so be careful with how long you keep it marinated...

Banana Rum Coconut Smoothies
Yield: 2

4 x bananas
2 cups of pineapple juice
1 can of coconut milk
pinch of ground allspice
1 tsp of vanilla extract
4 oz of vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lime


Place all ingredients into a large pitcher and puree with an immersion blender or alternately, puree in a blender.


P.S. I'll post additional recipes from the caribbean meal shortly!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

French Toast...

I've been wanting to try this recipe since the first time I saw it being made on the FoodNetwork's Healthy Appetite. Plus to hear that it was healthy... what an added bonus :) I was so glad when I realized last night that I had everything in my cupboard to make it for breakfast... It was absolutely delicious and I couldn't believe how wonderful the smell was in our home as it baked in the morning.

Peach French Toast Bake

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 servings


Cooking spray
1 large whole-wheat baguette (about 8 ounces)
4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
1 cup low fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups sliced peaches, fresh or frozen
1/2 lemon, juiced about 1 1/2 tablespoons
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Slice the baguette into 1/2-inch slices and arrange the slices in a single layer in the baking pan. Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the pan. In a medium bowl, toss peaches with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar. Scatter the peach slices evenly on top of the bread. Combine the remaining brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake for 40 minutes.

Serving suggestion: Top with a dollop of vanilla yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup and a side of Canadian bacon.

Nutrition Information
Nutritional Analysis per Serving Calories 263
Total fat 5 grams Saturated fat 1.3 grams
Protein 12 grams Carbohydrates 42 grams
Fiber 3 grams


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Having a Chocolate Craving?

Had a craving for something chocolate-y and with a few things in my cupboard, I was able to make this recipe I found on Boy, they weren’t kidding when they said, “You haven't had a real chocolate chocolate chip cookie until you've tried this one! “ I made a few variations to accommodate for what I had so you will have to visit the site to get the original recipe.

Ultimate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins


6 triangle pieces of Toblerone chocolate
1 cup mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs


PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

MELT Toblerone pieces in a double broiler over low heat; stir until smooth. Remove from heat.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in melted chocolate. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 8 to 9 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


Summer is in the Air with this Sangria Punch

There is just something about bringing out the glass pitcher and getting it full of fresh summer ingredients that helps me cool off in the warm weather. I came across this recipe on and it is quite the hit around here. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Sangria Punch

Prep: 5 min
Ready In: 5 min
Serves: 8


1 pouch CRYSTAL LIGHT Raspberry Ice Low Calorie Drink Mix
4 cups low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 cups club soda (we used Perrier)
2 seedless oranges, sliced (we used 1 orange)
2 limes, sliced (we used 1 lime)


EMPTY drink mix into large pitcher. Add juices; stir until drink mix is completely dissolved.

REFRIGERATE until ready to serve.

STIR in club soda and fruit. Serve over ice cubes in tall glasses.

Note: For an even fruitier punch, add 1 cup mixed berries with the sliced citrus fruit.

60 Calories per serving (Serving Size = 1 cup)

Helena’s Note: For an alcohol-friendly version of this recipe, you could substitute the club soda for Prosecco (a softer version of champagne)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


This was my first time using puff pastry and what better recipe to use than Elly’s Cheater’s Spanakopita. Although it was a lot easier to make than I expected I know for next time I’ll be a little better prepared and have prettier spanakopita to look at ;) Nevertheless it was extremely yummy and fit perfectly into our Greek midweek dinner.

Puff Pastry (Cheater's) Spanakopita


1 tsp olive oil
3 green onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, to taste
2 tbsp fresh parsley, to taste
1/2 lb. fresh spinach leaves, chopped
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, beaten, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
1 box (2 sheets) puff pastry dough, thawed


Preheat oven to 375.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and sauté until tender. Stir in the spinach and then turn off the heat. The spinach will start to wilt down, but not much.

Meanwhile, roll the puff pastry dough into a square, on a lightly floured surface and then cut each sheet into 9 equal squares by making 2 horizontal cuts and 2 vertical cuts.

To the spinach mixture, add the feta, parsley, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Beat one egg and add that into the mixture. Mix.

Spoon about 1-2 Tbsp. of the spinach mixture in each puff pastry square. Brush the sides of the square with a little water and then being 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle. Press with your fingers to seal. Place on a baking sheet. Beat the second egg and then brush the tops of the triangles with the egg.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

April's Daring Baker Challenge

These cute little bites of cheesecake, held on a stick and dipped in chocolate and, if you like, decorations, are sure to make you smile. The cheesecake is New York style, the pops can be jazzed up with different toppings, and they are FUN…just right for a party.

Cheesecake Pops
From Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Makes 30 – 40 Pops


5 packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional


Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Hope you enjoy them as much as my co-workers and I did :)

Miss Julie’s Famous Banana Bread

This recipe was passed to me from my sister many years ago and if I remember correctly as far back as when I was living off campus in college. I’ve used this recipe numerous times to save those ever ripening bananas. My favourite variation includes substituting the raisins for a ¼ cup of butterscotch chips. (Tip: coat the butterscotch chips in flour to prevent them from settling to the bottom of the banana bread)

Miss Julie’s Famous Banana Bread


2-3 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup raisins


Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl mash bananas and eggs, beat until foamy.

In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients. Then fold into foamy mixture.

Add raisins.

Bake 1 hour.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Mushroom Mashed Potatoes

I do try to incorporate a picture into each of my posts simply because I don't usually try a recipe from a cookbook unless there is a picture that I can reference myself to. This will be one of this exception posts as I'm not sure why but I wasn't able to capture a photo before engulfing my meal all down....oops!

Mushroom Mashed Potatoes


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 package of small Portobello mushrooms
1 bag of small yellow potatoes, skin on, quartered
1 cup Evaporated Milk


Place potatoes in large saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes or until tender; drain.

In a small saucepan, melt butter until foamy; add 1 clove finely chopped garlic and finely chopped mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.

Return potatoes to saucepan; add evaporated milk and sautéed mushrooms. Beat with hand-held mixer until smooth. Season with salt and ground black pepper.


Note: this is a great pairing to my mini meatloaf recipe.... :)

What have I been up to?

I am constantly on the web, viewing other blogs from food, to events to this great one I came across from a beautiful mom of 3 named Claudia. She is one of the most creative individuals I have met to date and on her blog posts these ideas - a new one daily.

I was asked to host her Flat Stanley (her goal is for Flat Stanley to travel among her loyal blog readers) and here is a glimpse of our adventure...

Flat Stanley, who'd have ever thought he'd be my companion for the 6 weeks that were to follow, eh? He starts off his voyage in Toronto. Where to go? What to do? Felt like an unfamiliar guest I was unprepared for. The uneasiness settled and I became more comfortable with our new guest. Stanley joined me everywhere. He was alongside my little girl and I as we watched and cheered at a local semi-finals hockey game. They won and I could feel Flat Stanley's smile grow wider just a little...He was there with us as we travelled and shopped the chic Queen Street West (fashion district) for a prom dress for my little sister's upcoming big day. He travelled through the downtown core in our famous TTC transit subway system. We saw the CN Tower, the tallest standing structure but my fear of heights had us watching from below than from atop! But a few days into Flat Stanley's visit and I was sure he must have brought with him a bug of some sort. I was feeling nauseous, crappy and tired all the time… A quick pee stick later and Flat Stanley was escorting our little family to our OB's office as we heard the news that we are expecting a new addition to our family. Was this Flat Stanley multiplying??? The next couple of weeks had us stuck at home as I tried to recover from morning sickness. Flat Stanley tried and day after day I could sense him holding my hair back as I made daily visits to the porcelain God. Relief was in sight, parties to attend in April and as my birthday rolled around, hubby surprised us all with a one-week vacation to Mexico. So here was Flat Stanley, although destined for Canada was now on his way with us to Mexico to enjoy the sun, the sand and maybe a few tequila shots with my husband ;) A great time was had although an unpleasant finale shocked us, as we learnt that our camera was lost and did not make it to our home. A camera can be replaced but not as much can be said for the 675 pictures that documented our trip and our follies with our guest: Flat Stanley. So I share with you the only picture I was smart enough to store on my computer before we had left and wish Flat Stanley all the best as he moves to his next new destination...


Daring it really for me?

What did I get myself into again this month? This month's challenge (March) was going to be the Perfect Party Cake courtesy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my Home to Yours... Making cakes overwhelm me but I can't say that I don't love to devour them. This one was no exception. Not wanting to experiment away from the original recipe (and risk making something that was not edible) I stayed true to the recipe...


Words from Dorie

Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake

2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.

Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.

Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.

Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.Remove the bowl from the heat.Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.

During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.On medium speed, gradually beat in more lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.Spread it with one third of the preserves.Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.


The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.


The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around

Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake

If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – before serving.


Crockpot... could it get any easier?

There is a restaurant close to our home that has absolutely the best BBQ ever!! Everything from ribs, barbequed chicken to pulled pork sandwiches. People flock to this small restaurant often waiting in line as the smell from the grill envelops them... Pulled pork is what I had on the brain but the I wasn't brave enough to go out and weather the storm so I pulled the crockpot out of its dusty cupboard and decided I was going to try to replicate these sandwiches at home. Never suspected it could be this easy...

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches


1 pork shoulder roast (about 2 ½ pounds)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 bottle (21 ounces) President’s Choice BBQ Sauce
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp brown sugar
2 medium onion, chopped, divided
8 hard rolls


Place 1 chopped onion along bottom of slow cooker. Rub garlic all over pork shoulder. Place roast in slow cooker on onion. Cover. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
Remove pork; shred meat with 2 forks. Discard any fat and any liquid in slow cooker. Return pork to slow cooker and top with remaining onions.
In a separate bowl, combine barbecue sauce, lemon juice and brown sugar. Cover pork in slow cooker with this mixture. Cover; cook on low for 2 hours or on high for 1 hour longer.

Serve on hard rolls with coleslaw and potato salad.


Trying my hand at a new stir-fry...

I always wanted to try my hands at a teriyaki dish and although this one was pretty good, my suggestion for next time would be to the cut the chicken breasts into even smaller pieces. The pieces seemed a little overwhelming for me but I've learnt for next time :)

Chicken Teriyaki Stir-fry


½ cup soy (125ml)
½ cup sherry (125ml)
½ cup brown sugar (125ml)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar (62ml)
1 tbsp garlic, minced (15ml)
1 tbsp ginger, minced (15ml)


4 Chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 tbsp corn oil (15ml)
Head of broccoli
1 zucchini
1 tbsp of cornstarch (dissolved in 2 tbsp of water)


Add all of the marinade ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes just until flavor is infused. Let the sauce cool to room temperature.

Cut the chicken breasts into strips and place in a sealable plastic bag. Pour cooled marinade over top and place in the fridge to set up for a minimum of 2 and up to 4 hours.

Cut broccoli into small flowerets. Heat a wok over high heat. Add corn oil. Stir-fry broccoli for 1 minute. Push to one side of wok and add the beef and zucchini. Stir-fry till chicken turns brown and is cooked. Add marinade and cornstarch and stir for 2 minutes until it becomes thick.

Serve over rice.


Food Funk...

Wow it’s been how long since I’ve updated my blog?? Much has happened since then (hosted Flat Stanley, went on a Mexican vacation, found out we are welcoming a new addition to our family, celebrated another beautiful birthday, made a prom dress for my little sister) but what an incredibly long cooking funk it’s been for me…I’ve just had so little motivation over the last couple of weeks to create any new and special recipes and to be honest most of the time it became easier to step out and get a bite to eat then to labour over a hot stove. But I’m glad to be back and I’ll have a few blog updates for you today.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Another winter storm on our way...

...which means its time for some comfort food for dinner. Tonight we're having Chili con Carne and this great Cornbread Muffin Recipe I found from a Cooking Light Magazine (October 2007). Hope you enjoy them as much as we did...

Chili con carne


1 tbsp oil
1 large onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 lb extra-lean ground beef
796 ml (18 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste
398 ml (14 oz) can beans in maple syrup


Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic, chilli and cumin and cook for 1 minute.

Add the ground beef and cook for 5 minutes, or until browned, breaking up any lumps with a fork as it cooks.

Stir in the tomato, stock, oregano and sugar. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Run a hand blender to thin out the meat mixture.

Stir in the tomato paste and beans. Cook for 5 minutes to heat the beans, then serve with cornbread to mop up the juices.

Corn Bread Muffins
from: Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2007


2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) cheddar cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 (10-ounce) can cream-style corn
Dash of hot sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Combine cheese and remaining ingredients except cooking spray in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Add to flour mixture; stir just until moistened.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in cups 2 minutes on wire racks; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Baby Shower...

I am a firm believer that every baby should be showered with love, friends and family, whether its the first, second or seventh child. Maybe you don't need an elaborate baby shower with hundreds of gifts but why not get everyone together and celebrate the meaning of life with some laughter, some yummy home-cooked food and a few games. So we decided to throw a small and intimate baby shower for our cousin, who is expecting her second baby any day now.

Below are some games we played to get everyone up and moving:

Baby Pictionary
Create playing cards with the words below that have to do with babies. Divide into teams of 3 and give each team a pen or pencil and pad of paper. Each round, one person from each team views a card and draws the word or phrase for her team to guess. No words can be used. The team that guesses correctly first earns one point. Set a timer for two minutes to keep the game moving along. If the timer goes off before a team guesses correctly, allow someone new from each team to draw and choose a new card. After playing 5-10 rounds, each team adds up their points and the team with the most wins. A prize should be given to each person on the team. Here are some of the words we had:

Dirty diaper
Burp pad
Baby wipe
Water broke
Due date
Morning sickness
Umbilical cord
Stretch marks

Any guess what this word was?

Baby Sock Game
(Materials: 14 pairs of baby socks that can be given to the mommy to be after the game, timer). Take the 14 pairs of new baby socks of different styles and colors and mix them up. Next, start and timer and tossed them in the middle of the floor, each guest has 30 seconds to try and "match" as many socks as they can.

Guess Mom's Tummy Size
Materials- String or yarn and scissors)
Have each woman pull the yarn to the size they believe would fit perfectly around the Mother-To-Be's center of her pregnant tummy. After everyone cuts their string, compare the results to the Mommy-To-Be's actual tummy. Give a prize to the woman who is the most close! In this case our strings were soooooooooooo long that we had to invite the daddy-to-be to stand back to back with his wife and then had everyone measure around BOTH their tummies to see who was the closest. Crazy to think that alot of the strings were still too long :)

Pregnant for a Day Co-Ed Game
Don't tell the object of the game up-front. Make a statement to the women in attendance-- "How many of us women wished that men could be pregnant just for one day?" Ask the men to come to the front of the room. Hand each man a balloon. For each man that doesn't have on shoes with shoe laces, tie the piece of yarn around each of his slip on shoes to mimic a shoestring. Instruct each man to blow up his balloon and tell each man when to stop filling it with air. The balloons should be filled with enough air that it could fit under each participant's shirt, yet be a bit uncomfortable for them to sit down and tie their shoes without popping the balloon. Start the game and whoever ties their shoes without popping the balloon, or lifting their feet from the floor wins. This game usually provides some great picture moments. At the end of the game we had all our "pregnant" men pose with the mommy-to-be.

Do You Know What It Is
Sort the following items into paper bags (one item per bag) and number the bags 1-10
1. Bottle
2. Aspirator
3. Bib
4. Yellow Rubber Ducky
5. Shampoo
6. Hanger
7. Onesie
8. Wash cloth
9. Ear Medicine dropper/Ear syringe
10. Receiving Blanker

Give each guest a pad and pen and have them number 1-10 and then hand out the bags randomly to the guests. Each guest or team at the baby shower will try to figure out what is in each bag based on what they can feel and/or hear (the bags can not be opened). The bags are passed around until everyone has had a chance to touch and write down their answers. The mother-to-be then opens each bag and shows it to the guests. The guest who gets the most correct gets a prize. (A clue that was passed to the guests... The first letter of each item spells out baby shower)

Finish the Baby Rhyme
As the new mom was opening her gifts, a part of a nursery rhyme was read out loud that was to be finished by the individual who gave the gift she was opening. It was a great activity for the gift opening section and a great laugh. (some of us had remembered them quite differently ;)

1) Mary had a little lamb, it's _____________.
2) Baa, baa, black sheep, _____________?
3) Mary, Mary, quite _____________?
4) Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub, ____________?
5) Pat-a-cake, ________________!
6) Little Jack Horner, sat in a corner, ______________
7) Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet, ________________
8) Peter Piper picked _____________.
9) One, two, buckle my shoe, _____________.
10) Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater, ____________.

Answers to the questions.
1) fleece was white as snow
2) have you any wool
3) contrary, how does your garden grow?
4) and how do you think they got there?
5) pat-a-cake, Baker's man
6) eating his Christmas pie;
7) eating her curds and whey
8) a peck of pickled peppers
9) three four, knock at the door
10) had a wife but couldn't keep her

This game is a lot of fun and any age can play. You need 2 laundry baskets and assorted size and shape balloons. Place a basket at either side of the room or at any distance, and place the inflated balloons in the starting basket. The object of the game is to have the players fit as many balloons between their legs and waddle to the other basket and without using their hands get the balloons in the basket. This game is really funny because sometimes the balloons stick to the players legs, fall out or if the squeeze their legs too tight the balloons will pop.

Have fun!

Quick Lunch

I remember being in college and I came across a recipe in a Chatelaine magazine that had a twist on the classic tuna salad. I had passed on the recipe to my family and since then this recipe has gone through many changes, deletions and additions. This has been my take on the recipe and a favorite around here whenever a quick lunch is needed.

Tuna Salad


1 cup of rigatoni, penne or elbow macaroni pasta
1 tbsp salt
2 small cans of tuna, drained
¼ cup chick peas
¼ cup of chopped stuffed pimentos
4 mini pickles, sliced
¼ red onion, chopped (or ¼ cup green onions, chopped)
1 tbsp of hot pimento paste
2 tbsp of mayo


Bring water to boil. Add salt and pasta. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Drain.

In a bowl add tuna, chick peas, pimentos, pickles, green onions, pimento paste, mayo. Mix well. Then add pasta and mix well. Place in bowls .

Serves 2


Friday, February 29, 2008

So much bread leftovers... that even possible? In our household, yes! So I decided to try another cooking challenge combining all my leftovers with cinnamon and ended up with french toast for dessert...

Dessert French Toast with Fresh Berries and Cinnamon Vanilla Sauce

4 large eggs
1/2 cup evaporated Milk
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 French baguette
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch 2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup evaporated Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries and/or blackberries)
Powdered sugar, vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream (optional)


WHISK together eggs, evaporated milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt in a medium bowl. Slice bread 1-inch thick on the diagonal. Place bread in a flat-bottomed shallow dish. Pour egg mixture over bread and turn bread to coat evenly. Let soak for 2 minutes. Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add bread and cook on each side until golden, about 2 minutes per side.

COMBINE sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon sticks in a double boiler. Bring water to a boil and then gradually stir in evaporated milk into sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes just to a boil and slightly thickens. Remove from heat and remove cinnamon sticks; stir in vanilla extract.PLACE 2 slices of French toast on plates. Arrange berries on top of each slice; spoon sauce over berries. Garnish with cinnamon, powdered sugar, ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately.

Hope it warms your tummy like it did ours. Enjoy!

I'm not a salmon fan...

...but this recipe won me over! I came across it while reading a baby magazine, I think but boy am I glad I tried it... Even our 14-month baby loved it!

Sesame Salmon Fillets with Red Onion & Ginger Cream

454g salmon fillet (4 pieces)
Salt and pepper to season
3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp butter
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 cup heavy cream


Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper; press tops into seeds. Place skin down on buttered, foil lined baking sheet. Bake in 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or just until white juices appear.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté onions and ginger until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar until it evaporates. Stir in cream and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon sauce on serving plates and top with salmon. I served it with a prosciutto & chick pea salad and boiled baby carrots.


What did I get myself into?

I decided to join the Daring Bakers Challenge and of all recipes to start with, this month our challenge was Julia Child's French Bread hosted by Bread Chick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook.

My biggest fear about baking has always been making my own bread although deep down inside I always wished I was a natural baker… so for 25 days of the month of February, I procrastinated and questioned dropping out of this month’s challenge. If I hadn’t done it this month, I don’t think I’d have ever have tried making it on my own. Can’t believe what a wonderful support team the girls on DB are. After having looked at the 16 page recipe and 7-9 hours needed to complete this recipe, I had to ask my sister for help. She was able to condense the recipe down to 1 ½ pages… I was starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I made the recipe and it wasn’t as difficult as I had thought. The hardest part of this challenge was to wait 2 hours for the bread to cool and with the apartment smelling like fresh bread, after about an hour of waiting, hubby and I caved in… We cut a piece and as we spread the butter, slowly seeing it melt, I instantly knew this was going to be heaven. I’ve been won over and will definitely have to try this recipe once again…

Pain Francais (French Bread)
(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck)

Recipe Quantity:
3 - baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”)

Making French Bread:

Step 1: The Dough Mixture

(1 ¾ tsp) 1 package dry active yeast
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water,
3 ½ cup all purpose flour, measured by scooping
dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 ¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups tepid water


Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Depending the humidity and temperature of your kitchen and the type of AP flour your use, you may need to add additional flour or water to the dough. If the dough is super sticky, add additional flour one handful at a time until the dough is slightly sticky and tacky but not dry. If the dough is dry and feels hard, add 1 Tbsp of water a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.

Turn dough out onto kneading surface, dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes.

Step 2: Kneading

Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly. In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes. Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute.

Step 3: First Rising

You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it (Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl).

Cover the bowl with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Let rise free from drafts. Dough took 3 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. (I had the oven on at 300 degrees the entire time to keep the apartment warm). When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour. Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them. Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion. Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched. Dough took 2 hours to rise.

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves

Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Making clean cuts with a large knife, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes). After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming.

Step 6: Forming the loaves

After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered.Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them. Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge. Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, seal the edges of the dough together. Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands. Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand. Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens. Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet.

Step 7 &8: Final Rise

Sprinkle the baking sheet with corn meal and place the baguette dough on it. Cover with plastic and towel once again and let rise for an additional hour. Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.

The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. I made 3 slashes with some cooking scissors I had handy.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450 degrees (230 degrees C).

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface with a soft brush dipped in cold water and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. (I placed a bowl of water with ice cubes on the lower rack to create some steam in the oven) Rapidly paint with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

Step 11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours

Cool the bread on a rack so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

This is what mine looked like when all was said and done...

and here's a picture of my sister's French bread...its funny how we can all have the same recipe but end up with a very different end product.

Here's looking forward to next month's challenge. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's a Cold February Night...

My husband kept mentioning this homemade chicken & rice soup, his mom used to make for him all the time when he was a child. So here’s my attempt at making a Filipino dish called Arroz Caldo and I have to admit I really loved it too! What a great dish to make on a cold February night…

Chicken Congee (Arroz Caldo)


2 tablespoons of oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 onion, chopped
1 rotisserie chicken, deboned, chopped
1 cup long grain rice
7-8 cups of water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons patis (fish sauce)
½ tablespoon black pepper
1 chicken bullion cube
3 stalks green onions, chopped
Fried minced garlic
1 lemon, sliced into wedges


In a pot heat oil, then sauté garlic, ginger and onions. Cook until onions are softened and translucent. Add chicken and heat through. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Pour in chicken stock to cook the rice. Season with patis, black pepper and bullion cube (if used water instead of chicken stock).

Continue cooking over low heat until rice is done. Approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve topped with chopped green onions, fried garlic and a wedge of lemon.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Smoked Salmon Penne with Asparagus

I was looking through a decorating magazine and came across this recipe by Michael Smith. I just love how he throws ingredients together and always seems to make a yummy dish. I made some changes based on what I had in the fridge so here goes. I'm not a salmon fan but hubby is and he really liked how this came together...

Smoked Salmon Penne with Asparagus


500 g vegetable penne
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
125 g (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
4 green onions, chopped
1 lemon, juiced and zested
½ tbsp of Dijon mustard
2 tbsp of capers
8 ounces of smoked salmon
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ bunch of fresh dill, chopped


Bring a large post of salted water to a boil. Add pasta. Cook to al dente (8-10 minutes). After 6-8 minutes add the asparagus to the pasta and continue to cook until pasta is ready.

Line bowls with smoked salmon.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta. Place the pasta back into the pot with ½ cup of pasta water.

Immediately add cream cheese, green onions, lemon juice, zest, mustard and capers. Toss well, melting the cheese and forming the creamy sauce. Add more pasta water if needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Place pasta on salmon bowls and top with dill. Serve immediately.


Portuguese Comfort Food for a cold & wintery day...

So we've been getting a range of weather over the last couple of weeks, from the very warm to the very bitter cold. I think I've finally found the perfect soup recipe "Sopa de Couves to get us through those cold winter nights.

Sopa de Couves (Kale Soup)


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon pimento paste
8 cups of water (or low-sodium chicken stock)
1 leg of Portuguese chouriço sausage
8 mini white potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ bag of baby carrots, cut in thirds
1 tablespoon coarse salt or to taste
1/3 cup elbow macaroni pasta
½ bunch fresh kale or collard greens, rinsed and sliced thinly
1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dried red kidney beans soaked overnight covered by cold water


Heat olive oil. Add onion until soft and fragrant. Then add garlic, tomato paste and pimento paste and sauté for 1 minute.

Add 8 cups of water and chouriço. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove chouriço and cut into quarters. Add back to the water. Add potatoes and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes.

Add salt, pasta and kale to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add beans, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Soup is ready when the pasta is done and the kale is tender.

Note: Add a touch of red wine to soup and serve with crusty bread.


Yummy Turkey...

I've made many turkeys since moving into this apartment but never as yummy or juicy as this one...

Roasted Turkey


1 (6.5 kg) turkey
Garlic salt
4 tbsp hot pimento paste, divided
2 lemons, quartered1 medium onion, quartered
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
2 tbsp garlic, pureed
1 cup red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Spanish onion
8 carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch chunks 1 bag of small yellow potatoes


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove turkey parts from neck and breast cavities and wash the turkey inside and out. Dry bird well with paper towels, inside and out. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the lemons and onion.

Melt the butter. Add the pureed garlic and 2 tbsp of hot pimento paste. Sprinkle the turkey with salt and brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture. Tie the legs together with string and cover the wing tips with foil.

Mix the wine, chicken stock and water and pour ½ into the roasting pan. Set aside the remaining ½ for later.

Peel and slice the remaining onions, toss them with olive oil, and scatter them around the turkey.
Roast the turkey for 1 hour. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and tent the turkey with foil. Continue to roast, consistently basting the turkey with the wine mixture for about 3 hours more.

Toss the onion, carrots and potatoes with the vegetable oil and add to the roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and continue to roast for about 1 1/2 hours more, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with foil for 20 minutes. Stir the vegetables and return the pan to the oven. Continue to cook the vegetables while the turkey rests. Slice the turkey and serve on a platter with the roasted vegetables.


Happy New Year....

Okay its been way too long since my last post and its catch-up time... We've had a rough start to 2008 but no need for it to define the upcoming year ahead of us.

Hubby and I wanted to start the New Year with having our family over for a nice lunch. Here was our Menu:

New Years Day Menu

Individual Ham & Cheese Quiches

Roasted Turkey
Stuffing with sautéed vegetables (mushrooms, red peppers, onions)
Roasted Vegetables (carrots, red onions, small yellow potatoes)
Spinach Salad (mandarin oranges, slivered almonds and red onion slices)

Toblerone Chocolate Fondue (strawberries, pound cake, ladyfingers, angel food cake)