Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Funday = Christmas Eve Elf Timbits!

A few weeks ago, I saw this photo of teeny tiny doughnuts circulating the interwebs...

Maybe you saw it as well?  I found the source via Pinterest!  I adore this idea!  So, so clever! 

We always leave out cookies and eggnog for Santa...and a carrot for Rudolph...but what about those hard working elves, left exhausted back at the North Pole??!!

This is an absolutely perfect Sunday Funday project fit for Christmas!  To give this project a little Canadiana twist, we made ours into Christmas Elf Timbits!

You will need:

Card stock, or a heavier paper to print out this template:
Template for Mini Timbits Box

Spherical Cereal (Corn Pops, Gorilla Munch, etc)
Milk (a Tablespoon or two)
Icing sugar, plus extra for rolling (approx 1/4-1/2)
Cocoa, or Hot Chocolate (approx 1/4 cup for rolling)

Have ready a cookie sheet or plate lined with parchment as your drying station.
First we combined roughly 1/4 cup of icing sugar, with just over a Tablespoon of milk, to create a really thin paste for the icing sugar and cocoa to adhere to.  Take some cereal, roll the cereal in icing mixture, and then roll in either the icing sugar, or the cocoa.  Leave some uncoated so they resemble the Honey-Dip, or Old Fashioned Plain!  Allow your Timbits to dry, before transferring to your to your handmade mini Timbits box!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Grandma's Pizzelle Cookies

When I think of pizzelle cookies, my mind is suddenly filled with images of my Grandma, and the sights, sounds, and smells of her bustling tiny kitchen.  Pizzelle cookies were one of my grandma's many specialities, and much adored in my family.  They were always made in abundance at Christmas time, and are a perfect addition to a cookie platter with their snowflake like pattern beautifully on display.  When my grandma passed away, quite a few years ago now, she left me her own treasured pizzelle iron.  Only she would have seen the burgeoning baker, and known how much that had meant to me!  My eyes fill with tears just thinking of it! Jeez!

If you've never heard of them, pizzelle cookies are a traditional Italian waffle pressed cookie.  Usually they are made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter and anise or vanilla flavouring.  My Grandma always made them anise flavoured, but I have seen many different versions, such as chocolate, or topped with icing, or rolled and filled with cream.  So many delicious possibilities!

**You do need a pizzelle iron to make these cookies**.

Grandma's Pizzelle Cookies

6 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup butter, melted, and slightly cooled
1½ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon anise seeds (optional)
2 1/2 -3 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the eggs on medium speed until pale and thick.
Add the melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined. With the mixer still running, add the sugar and mix until combined.  Add the extracts and continue to mix.  Reduce mixer speed, and gradually add the flour, mixing until combined.
Preheat your pizzelle iron according to the manufacturer's directions. When the iron is ready, drop batter by heaping tablespoon onto iron, close, and hold closed for as long as the manufacturer states, about 1-2 minutes.  Open iron and remove pizzelle with a fork, or carefully with your fingers, and lay flat on a cooling rack to dry.  Repeat until all batter is used.
Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Funday = Christmas Oreo Lollipops!

There's a reason why I do not take my children or my husband grocery shopping.  Actually more than one reason.
First they beg me for sooooooo many ridiculous treats.  Treats that have fancy cartoon characters, or that they saw on the TV box, and that are inevitably full of chemicals.
Second I am weak (sooooo weak), and I HATE arguing and/or dealing with tantrums in stores.
Third, I usually give in (because I am weak) which leads to enormous grocery bills!
Fourth, what the heck am I gonna do with a whole box of gingerbread Oreos? Ugh.

But I do have a Sunday Funday activity we could do with these Oreos!  Since we are headed into the last week of school before the kids go on winter break, we need teacher gifts!  Snowmen and Christmas Ornament Oreo Lollipops is what we shall make!

Here's what you'll need:

** not pictured** mini chocolate chips, or black frosting for eyes/mouth of snowman- oops!

Carefully insert the lollipop stick into the icing between the two cookies, move slowly, so as not to break the cookies.  I think using the "fresh" gingerbread Oreos helped, the lollipop stick was surprisingly easy to insert, as the icing was still soft.  I also attempted this with Chocolate Girl Guide cookies (these have been in the pantry for a while), which simply popped apart!  I was still able to get the Girl Guide cookies to work, I just had to manipulate the icing a fair bit.

Using a double boiler, or a stainless steel bowl, placed over a pot of simmering water, melt the white chocolate wafers.  Make sure the chocolate isn't too hot or the Oreo icing will melt, and the cookies will slide apart!  Carefully immerse the cookie into the melted white chocolate, and turn to coat.  Or you can use a spoon to add the chocolate to the cookie, and turn to distribute, or use the spoon to spread the chocolate if that's easier.
Using a jar or a mug, place the lollipops upright to dry, make sure to space well apart so they don't damage each other.
Reserve a small amount of melted chocolate to help adhere your sprinkles & chocolate chips in the pattern of your choice!
To finish them off, and help protect the lollipops in their travels, we used lollipop wrappers (found at Bulk Barn), and then tied them with some twine.

Merry Christmas & 
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lower Fat Nanaimo Bars!

Growing up, the only time of year you would see a Nanaimo Bar in our home would be Christmas time.   It was not one of the treats that my mom would make, so more likely a neighbour may have brought it during an open house, or for a holiday potluck party.   I was a chubby little girl, and adored treats, although I wasn't always permitted to gorge my self on them like I would've wished!  Nanaimo Bars have sort of that untouchable, forbidden treat status in my memory banks. So hard to resist!

I would consider Nanaimo Bars a quintessential Canadian classic, everyone has their own version. What I like about this recipe from Julie is that it is much lower in fat than almost every recipe I've ever perused before.  Almost half the amount of butter! Rejoice!  

It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes these bars so scandalously delicious, once you've had one, it's hard to stop!  With this version of Nanaimo Bars though, you don't have to feel as guilty.  Feed your inner chubby girl!

Nanaimo Bars
Recipe from: Dinner With Julie

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
3-4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups graham wafer crumbs (make these Gluten-Free by using GF graham crumbs!)
1/3 cup shredded coconut
pinch salt

Custard Filling:
3-4 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 Tablespoons. custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
2 Tablespoons. milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Topping:
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate

In the bowl of a double boiler or a medium stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering (almost boiling) water, combine the brown sugar, cocoa, butter and corn syrup.  Whisk in the egg, and continue to whisk until the mixture melts and thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, graham crumbs, coconut and salt.
Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of an 8” x 8” pan ( no need to grease)place it in the freezer (or in the garage, or outside!) while making the filling.
For the filling use a medium bowl, and add butter, custard powder, icing sugar, milk and vanilla, beating (or use hand held mixer)until smooth.  (Julie says: adding a few extra drops of milk if necessary until you have a spreadable frosting).  Spread over the base, and return pan to freezer (or cold space) to chill until firm before covering with chocolate layer.
Use the the same double boiler or stainless bowl over top boiling water from base step, and melt chocolate, stirring until smooth and spread over the chilled base & filling.  Chill until firm.  The hardest part is cutting these so that the chocolate doesn't crack, so allow to come to room temperature, and use a sharp knife when ready to cut, and/or serve.  


Friday, December 6, 2013

Gingerbread Popcorn!

Well, doesn't Salem look festive...and super unimpressed! Ha!  That's because this batch of Gingerbread Popcorn is not for us to eat!  We must package it up to gift it away.  
Cory went out for lunch at the Farmer's Market the other day, and told me that the Kettle Corn people were selling gingerbread popcorn!  Ding!  On went the lights!  How could I have never considered a gingerbread popcorn?  This must be rectified! 

This is what I came up with for my version, and this popcorn turned out so totally addictive!  The traditional sweet caramel coating with the deep flavour of the molasses, and spice of the ginger make this popcorn hard to resist.  I've been trying to ignore the presence of this popcorn calling out to me from the cold room (AKA the garage).  I look about as depressed as Salem!  I just wanna eat it all!

re-purposed or up-cycled (whateveryouwannacallit) coffee cans of all different shapes and sizes, by 
gluing regular wrapping paper around them, and topping the lid with a bow.  Add a gift tag, and you're good to go!  

Gingerbread Popcorn

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/2 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
I use a air-popper for my popcorn, and then do my best to remove any unpopped kernels.  My technique is to use two bowls, shake the the first bowl so the seeds fall to the bottom, and then transfer popcorn to the second bowl by hand, leaving all the unpopped kernels behind.
Using a small bowl, add your spices and such: the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, combine and set aside.  
In a medium pot, using medium-high heat, melt the butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses and salt together.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, until the caramel is bubbling and dark in colour.  Add the spices, and stir to incorporate.
Take the pot off the heat, and quickly stir in the vanilla and baking soda. The caramel will get light and frothy. I Like to add the caramel to the popcorn in stages, so in a large bowl (grease if necessary) have about a quarter of the popcorn, and then add the caramel, stirring to coat the popcorn as best you're able.  Add another quarter or so, and repeat, until all popcorn is coated in caramel.  
Transfer the popcorn to 1 large sheet or 2 small sheets, and bake the popcorn for about 15 minutes. Take the sheet out of the oven and stir the popcorn to help the popcorn get of an even coat.  Repeat this again after another 15 minute mark etc. for an hour of baking time total.  After which the popcorn should be fairly evenly coated.  Remove from the oven, and allow to cool completely before transferring to airtight containers to store, or gift away!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake with Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting & A Star Wars Baby Shower!

Ummmm, have you had enough eggnog recipes yet?!  No?  Yay!  This Chocolate Gingerbread Cake, was made for a super lovely lady friend of mine, who is expecting her first baby!  We threw her a Star Wars themed baby shower, which may seem a little odd for a baby shower, but if you know this girl, you know how perfectly suited to her it was.  No gross baby shower games like eating out of a diaper, drinking out of a bottle, or guessing weight and date were done at this shower.  But if I had to guess a baby name?  My money's on Luke, Leia, or Harrison.  I  love this girl.  She's gonna be the best mama.

Remember those eggnog sugar cookies that we baked up last week?  Those were the topper, and the inspiration for this "It's a Jedi cake".  Perfect for this soon to be mama, who loooooves her eggnog!   Underneath those cookies?  Pure holiday spiced, chocolaty, and sugary-sweet form!  Chocolate gingerbread cake?? Come on!!  And if you're going to do an eggnog flavoured frosting, it might as well have cream cheese too!  (Duh!)  Rum would be a delightful addition to the frosting, but I figured, booze and baby = a no no, so I stuck with vanilla.  What really took this cake to the next level, was the decadent chocolate gananche!  I found that the Star Wars Font "It's a Jedi" letters that I had created out of the eggnog sugar cookies, didn't really stand out.  Ganache was my delicious solution to help give the lettering some pop!

This cake is full of the flavours of the holiday season, and would be a perfect addition to any party you may be hosting or attending this Christmas, and is absolutely certain to wow all!
Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
Recipe adapted from: Savory Sweet Life

2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced or grated.  (A trick I learned, is to keep a nub of ginger in the freezer.  Super easy to add fresh ginger to recipes, by grating the frozen root!  Thanks Martha!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare 2 round cake pans, by greasing with butter or oil,  and shaking with cocoa or flour, and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together, and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the hot coffee, and fresh ginger, with the cocoa powder, and set aside. 
Using a large bowl cream the butter, oil and both sugars until the mixture is super fluffy, about 3-5 minutes, add the eggs and molasses, mixing for another minute or so.  Next add the dry ingredients, and mix until combined.  And lastly, add the coffee-cocoa-ginger concoction to the batter and mix until smooth.  Pour the batter into your greased cake pans, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cook for 5-10 minutes before shaking loose.  Finish the cooling on wire racks, before frosting.

Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rum extract (optional)
2 teaspoons nutmeg
3-4 cups icing sugar

Using a stand up or hand held mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.
Add in the vanilla and nutmeg and continue to mix.  On low speed, slowly add in icing sugar a cup at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.  

Chocolate Ganache

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 - 1/2 cup half-and-half

I don't have a double boiler, I just use a stainless steel bowl over a pot of boiling water. I use a mix of dark and semi-sweet chocolate, but you can use all 8 ounces of either type according to your preference. Add the chocolate, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth and glossy. Allow ganache to cool slightly, but use while still warm.
Make sure you are using a large plate, or baking sheet, to catch any drips. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using a spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. 
Refrigerate, uncovered, for at about 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Eggnog Sugar Cookies

I found this recipe via one of my fave blogs, Dinner With Julie a few years back, and have made it annually since.  Julie is a well known blogger/food writer who is also located in Calgary, so I can trust that her recipes will turn out perfectly every time.  When I go to her blog I know I won't have to adapt for climate or elevation, all which make a difference in how your baking turns out.  It's something we don't really think about as we share our recipes globally, but it really does make a huge difference! 
I also adore Julie's recipes for being low in fat!  Check out her book One Smart Cookie for lower fat alternatives to many traditional cookie recipes.  You can also find this Eggnog Sugar Cookie recipe in that book.  If you're a local, I know CPL has copies for sure, or check out your local library or bookstore!  I tried searching her website for the recipe to link directly to her version, but I can't find the recipe on her website!   
I have a well used, dog-eared printed copy of this recipe in my binder, so I can still share this with you! 

I find this cookie dough is very forgiving and easy to work with, and is the perfect compromise for those of us (uh, me) who don't enjoy short bread.   Or those who find may gingerbread too much.   This Eggnog Sugar Cookie recipes meets in the middle, so we can still provide something simply spiced, and not too overly sweet for our holiday platters. 
Please note - This recipe requires a bit of forethought, as the dough needs to be refrigerated before cutting.  I usually make it in the evening after the kids go to bed, and then bring it out as a fun afternoon activity the next day.  We can break out our cookie cutters, and get crazy!
Eggnog Sugar Cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or rum
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Using a medium bowl stir flour with baking powder, spices and salt, and set aside.
Beat butter with sugar in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high, until fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Then gradually beat in flour mixture, just until combined, you can use your hands to bring the dough together, it may be crumbly, but that's okay!  Gather dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment, or spray with oil.  Dust a rolling pin with flour.  Roll out dough in between the plastic, or in between parchment (saves on clean up!), or on a lightly floured surface until 1/4-1/8 " thick.  Cut into shapes using cookie cutters or the rim of a small drinking glass.  Arrange cookies approximately 2" apart on prepared sheets and bake in centre of oven until cookies just start to brown at the edges, 10-12 minutes. 
Allow cookies to cool completely on a rack. Gather any dough scraps and form into a disc, then chill until firm enough to re-roll and cut.  Decorate with icing, if desired...I like to sprinkle mine with sugar before baking! 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mandarin Orange & Vanilla Bean Jam

'Tis the season for boxes of mandarin oranges to be seen languishing away.  I know I always have a box in my pantry at this time of year, and as much as I swear "this time, I won't let them go bad", I just lose track!
Last week I was given a box for free at the Superstore, you know... those "spend this much get that", incentives.  Normally, to avoid a whole box of oranges from going bad, I try to buy them closer to Christmas, when the house if full of family to help eat them all.  The box I received was already set to turn, some already mushy, and some even moldy(!), there's no way the fruit will last until Christmas, let alone next week, but I wasn't about to turn down "free" food!
You know this of me now, I cannot stand to see food go to waste!  The worst, Jerry.  The worst!
This being the season of giving, how about making a delicious and beautiful batch (check out all those vanilla beans!) of jam to give as Christmas or hostess gifts, or to feed oncoming Christmas company! 

Apples, crab apples, quinces, plums, currants, gooseberries, cranberries, oranges and other citrus fruits, contain high levels of the type of pectin perfect for jelly making.  Soft fruits, like cherries, raspberries, and strawberries, have relatively low pectin levels, and will require a commercial pectin package. 
When using a commercial pectin your jelly mixture will always set, but when relying on the natural pectin in the fruit, it is important to test for the jelly stage.

3 ways to test for the jelly stage are:

1.  The Thermometer test:  The jelling point for jelly is 220F.  Using a candy thermometer would be the most accurate way to test.

2.  The Sheet test:  Using a cold metal spoon (keep it in the freezer), scoop out some of the boiling jelly.  If the mixture has not reached the jelly stage, it will drip drop off the spoon.  If it has successfully reached the jelly stage, it will come off the spoon in a sheet or clump.

3.  The plate test:  drop a Tablespoon or so of the mixture onto a cold plate (keep it in the freezer), return the plate to the freezer for about 1 minute.  Push the spot of jelly with a fork or spoon, if the mixture wrinkles, it's done! 

If the jelly stage is not reached, add a packet of pectin.  No big.

Mandarin Orange & Vanilla Bean Jam

2 lbs mandarin oranges mandarins, well-washed
2 1/2-3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
juice of 2 lemons
package of pectin (optional - if fruit won't jelly)

Finely grate about a tablespoon of zest from your mandarins, then peel all of them, removing as much of the white pith as possible. Cut each mandarin in half around its middle and pick out any seeds. Place into food processor with the zest and remaining ingredients and pulse until well blended and fairly smooth.
Transfer to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes, until it sets. Meanwhile, have clean mason jars, and lids in a hot water bath.  Remove vanilla bean, and pour into hot jars, place jars, back in water bath and allow to seal.  Then carefully remove hot sealed jars from pot, and allow to cool.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Chocolate - Caramel Popcorn!

This sweet popcorn is an absolutely, over the top, decadent indulgence!  It is definitely meant to share. If you eat a whole bowl to yourself, you won't feel well...take my word for it!
Since we are entering the season of gift making and giving, this popcorn would be perfect for packaging up to gift away.
Just make sure you double the recipe, so you have a little for yourself as well!

Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 8 ounces of chocolate squares
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 225ºF. Spray a baking pan with oil, and set aside.
I use a air-popper for my popcorn, and then do my best to remove any unpopped kernels.  
My technique is to use two bowls, shake the the first bowl so the seeds fall to the bottom, and then transfer popcorn to the second bowl by hand, leaving all the kernels behind.
Heat chocolate chips, brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling, and keep at a boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and immediately stir in vanilla, and baking soda.
Pour chocolate-caramel mixture carefully over popcorn and nuts.
Use tongs or a wooden spoon to incorporate the popcorn and chocolate-caramel mixture as best you're able.  Bake popcorn for 60 minutes stirring popcorn about every 15 minutes.  Try to let popcorn cool before serving, about 15 minutes.
Break cooled popcorn into bite-sized pieces and store in an airtight container, or pack in a seasonal container for gift giving!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1 Ratatouille = 3 different meals!

I love, love, love, this versatile Ratatouille recipe.  If you haven't had this dish before, or don't know what it tastes like, it's basically a savory stew of eggplants, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes.  A perfect harvest meal, and perfect for a chilly winter's night.  But if  your kids are like mine, put a dish where they can actually see the vegetables, and you'd have a mutiny on your hands!  So I end up playing short order chef, and making it two different ways for one meal.  In the end every body's happy, and not complaining - to me that's worth the extra effort.  This Ratatouille also freezes well, so maybe try first making it and serving it the traditional way, and then defrosting and turning it into the spaghetti sauce! 

If you enjoy the large savory chunks of eggplant, peppers, and zucchini, stay with the traditional format.  Give a delicious twist, by serving on top of this amazing buttery pumpkin sage polenta. 

Alternately, blend up the ratatouille, and add some cooked ground beef, or ground turkey, and extra tomato sauce.  Serve it on top of spaghetti pasta. Kind of like a Bolognese-Ratatouille recipe!
Also a great way to sneak some extra vegetables into your family's diet, totally unbeknownst to them! 

Or, if you still have leftovers, try this hearty whole egg bake up! 
My amateur attempt at the spicy tomato-y dish, with baked eggs, inspired by the Shakshuka from the absolutely beautiful cookbook, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
You really need to view this cookbook in person.  So. So. Gorgeous.

1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 eggplants, peeled & cut into 
large pieces
sea salt and ground pepper
2 onions, chopped
1 head garlic cloves, chopped
2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and diced large
2 large zucchini, diced large
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon marjoram or oregano leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Place tomatoes and juices on a rimmed baking sheet, using your hands to break tomatoes into 3/4-inch pieces.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and bake about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a colander, toss eggplant with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.  Let sit 20 minutes, then squeeze out excess liquid (I do this using a clean tea towel, and wringing out the juices).  In a large pot, heat the remaining 4 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Next add peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bay leaf, marjoram, salt & pepper to pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook at a gentle simmer until vegetables are tender but not mushy, approximately 15 minutes.  Season to taste with vinegar, salt & pepper.  Remove bay leaf before serving.

Pumpkin Sage Polenta
Recipe Adapted from: Kitchen Confidante

3 cups water
1 cup corn meal or polenta
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 Tablespoons butter

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, whisk together the water, corn meal, and salt.  Bring to a boil, and continue to stir, allowing the corn meal to thicken.  Turn the heat to low, and add the pumpkin, and sage, stir and allow to cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Finally, stir in the butter, and Parmesan cheese, and serve topped with the Ratatouille.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Eggnog Ice cream

Well, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, And since we've no place to go, Let it snow, let it snow, Let it snow!
I don't know why that song came into my head when thinking of Eggnog Ice Cream??  
Maybe because this ice cream, although, not the first thing you'd think of on a cold winter's night; is really such a comforting holiday treat...with a twist!  It is absolutely rich, thick and deelicious!  I've been experimenting with crushed up gingersnaps, the really crunchy store bought ones, that are my husband's fave.  He always begs me to buys them (because I don't really buy cookies), promising to eat them all, but he just hoards them!  Is this normal?  How do you forget about food?!!  Especially treats??!  I have an ongoing catalogue in my brain!  Maybe it's a mom thing, that way I can find everything too!

So anywhoo, I don't want the gingersnaps to go to waste, and I end up eating them!  I've also made Eggnog ice cream sandwiches with leftover Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies...I still need to share that recipe!  And over top of warm Apple Crisp...I still need to share that recipe too!  Jeez!  
Enjoy this frosty festive treat by the fireside, in your cozy jammies, or under blankies, the best!  

Eggnog Ice Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Pinch salt
2/3 cup white, granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tbsp rum, bourbon, or brandy (optional - I left
it out)

Using a medium pot, over medium-high heat add 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of the cream.  Add the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla bean, salt and heat until steamy, but not boiling.  Turn off the heat, cover, and let spices steep for at least a half hour.  Add the sugar and stir until it's dissolved.

Put remaining 1 cup cream in a metal bowl, resting in a larger bowl of ice water, and set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl.  
Slowly pour about half of the heated cream milk through the strainer, into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it.   

Return the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan on medium heat, stirring the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon.  You should be able to run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 10 minutes. The second this happens the mixture should be removed from heat immediately, and poured through the strainer over the ice bath to stop the cooking.
Pour the custard through the strainer and stir into the cold cream you set aside, to stop the cooking. Once initially chilled in the ice bath, chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least a couple of hours).
When it comes time to churn the ice cream, stir in the vanilla extract and the alcohol if you're using it, and process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Remove ice cream from the ice cream maker and transfer it to an airtight container; store in your freezer for several hours before eating.

When stored for more than a day, you may need to let it sit for a few minutes to soften before attempting to scoop it.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken!

Yes!  40 cloves of garlic!  Garlic is one of the most valuable foods on this planet!  Garlic is well known for being great for your heart, and for boosting your immune system, or even for being a natural antibiotic.  I've shared with you before my solution to my daughters chronic ear infections, using homemade garlic oil ear drops.  

This summer, I also revealed to you that I've been recently diagnosed with a genetic mutation called Factor V Leiden, which basically makes you more prone to developing blood clots.  I'm now on daily meds to help my blood to thin, but did you know that garlic is also a natural blood thinner?  It contains the component Methyl Allyl Trisulfide, which dilates blood vessel walls, and thins the blood by inhibiting platelet aggression, which in turn, reduces the risk of blood clots and aids in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes!

So in addition to being a richly delicious and comforting; this classic French inspired dish, could truly cure what ails you!  The most intensive part of this dish is peeling the garlic!   Make it easier by separating the garlic cloves from the head, and pressing down on them with the flat edge of a large chef's knife!

40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken

1 Tablespoon canola oil
8 Chicken thighs, skin on
40 cloves of garlic (about 4 heads)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken broth
approx. 2 Tablespoons fresh minced parley to garnish

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown the chicken all over (not completely cook), transfer to a plate.
Drain excess fat from pan (keep stuck on skin, it'll add flavour!), keep the temperature at medium, and add garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage, salt & pepper.  cook for about 5 minutes, or until garlic is golden.  Sprinkle flour over top of garlic and herbs, and cook, stirring, for about another minute.
Add chicken broth, and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Return Chicken (and any juices) to the pan, cover and simmer, until the juices run clear when chicken is pierced, and the garlic is softened, about 25-30 minutes.
Garnish with fresh parsley, and serve with smashed or boiled potatoes, and the garlic would be so yum smushed onto a fresh french baguette!


Friday, November 8, 2013

DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend & Pumpkin Pie Spice Popcorn!

I have a tonne of pumpkin recipes to share with you, and in most of them I use a blend of fragrant fall inspired spices.  I would consider Allspice, Ginger, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon to be pantry staples, it just simplifies things to keep a jar of this mix on hand!  If you dig it, double the amounts, so you have a good stash on the ready, to use in your favourite recipes, or in your coffee, or on top of ice cream! Yum!

Why don't you make a small amount of that Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend right try out of this deeeelicious crunchy caramely popcorn treat!  The white chocolate on top takes it to the next level, just try and stop eating it, I dare you!

Pumpkin Pie Spice Popcorn with White Chocolate Drizzle
Recipe adapted from: Cooking Classy

1/2 cup, unpopped popcorn kernels 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 F degrees. Pop your popcorn into large bowl, remove any unpopped kernels.
Using a medium pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.  Bring mixture to a boil, and allow to boil for approximately 4 minutes without stirring.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda, and give it another stir.
Pour half of the pumpkin pie spice caramel over the popcorn, and toss/stir using a wooden spoon , it's super hot!  Be careful!  Add remaining caramel, until popcorn is evenly coated.
Using a x-large baking sheet, and spread out popcorn, bake for 1 hour stopping every 15 minutes to give it a stir.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  While you are waiting, make your drizzle!
In a small bowl using the microwave, melt your white chocolate chips.  For the drizzle you can use a spoon, and let it fall  down onto the onto the popcorn from above.  Or, for more precise drizzle, use a Ziploc bag, place the melted chocolate in the bag, and cut off the corner.  Squeeze the melted chocolate over the popcorn, and allow to harden.