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.