Friday, July 26, 2013

Nectarine Skillet Cobbler

When ever I have an abundance of fruit, I almost always make a crumble.  It works with the fresh fruit in the summer months, and all the fruit and berries that I freeze for the winter months.  Sweet and thickened fruit and or berry juices, and oven baked brown sugar and oats, never fail to impress.  I rarely ever stray from my crumble commitment, but there are so many traditional and regional fruit bake ups, and with so many unique names, that I have yet to try.  Crumbles, Cobblers, Buckles, I've all heard of, but Pandowdy, or Grunt?  Never.  Check out this great article via The Kitchn for complete descriptions. 

So I've always crumble girl myself, and you know what?!  This is the first cobbler I have ever made!  Crazy!  And let me tell you; it could not be simpler.  Especially if you choose to cook it in a skillet, it basically makes it like a one pot meal!  Easy Peasey! 

And if you already have the oven on for dinner on a rainy summer evening, it just takes a moment to throw this together, so why not!  So great served hot with a scoop of ice cream, or the next morning cold with greek yogurt - Yum! 

Nectarine Skillet Cobbler
Recipe adapted from: Savory Simple
approx. 5 ripe nectarines
2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine chopped nectarines with the butter, brown sugar, and salt.  Cook for several minutes until the butter and brown sugar have melted and the nectarine juices have released and mostly evaporated. In a separate small bowl, mix together the lemon juice and cornstarch and add it to the nectarines, this will thicken the fruit mixture.  So, once it is thickened remove from the heat. 
In a medium sized bowl, add together the flour, 1 Tablespoon of the sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the milk and butter using a fork, until the dough is just combined. 
Drop the dough by spoonful over the cooked nectarines. Sprinkle the cinnamon and remaining Tablespoon of sugar on top of the dough.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the sides are bubbly and the dough has cooked through.
Serve hot with ice cream on top, or cold with greek yogurt!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cherries Galore Birthday Cake

This is about the prettiest in pink cake, you may seen made for a grown man!  But my man is all about the cherries: black cherry cola; cherry koolaide; chocolate covered cherries; even cherry flavoured cigarillos!  Every imaginable imitation cherry flavour is his favourite thing; so obviously cherry cake it had to be!  Chocolate cake, with cherry cream cheese frosting, covered in a chocolate ganache, and topped with chocolate covered cherries, to be exact;)

Luckily, the weather held out for his July birthday!  The rains had finally seized, and the sun cam out to shine, so it was the perfect weather for an outdoor BBQ feast with the whole family!  My mom made her famous "Nuts about Broccoli" salad, and I made a super dill-y potato salad, to go along with fresh Albertan corn on the cob, baked beans, and the most amazing ribs I have ever made.  I'm not even a rib fan, and I L.O.V.E.D. those ribs!  There's still allot of summer left, I'll have to make that recipe again so I can share it with you!  And my Mom's salad too, you'll need that recipe to go with the ribs!  Soon. Promise.  First I'll share this Cherries Galore cake. 

Trying to take pictures of the food in the middle of serving it was less than ideal...everyone standing around watching me...and waiting for me. Ugh.  So, sorry for the super rushed pictures, but that's real life, and you get the idea...this cake is obviously super duper deelish, and worth the wait!

Cherries Galore Birthday Cake
Recipe adapted from: Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

Chocolate Cake
2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup boiling water or hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 Grease and flour 3 round 8 inch pans.  In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using a mixer, add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes.  Slowly add the boiling water while continuing to beat, until also combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven, and allow the cakes to cool for about 15 minutes, and then remove to finish cooling on wire racks. 

Cherry cream cheese frosting
1 brick (250g) cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1(ish) cup chopped maraschino cherries, drained - reserve juice.
6 cups powdered sugar

Using a medium sized bowl fixed with a mixer, or using a hand held, combine butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add chopped cherries, and 1 cup of powdered sugar, and continue to mix, alternate between the powdered sugar, and the reserved cherry juice until you get the right consistency, it will firm up in the fridge as well, if need be.

Chocolate Ganache
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate
1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 Tablespoon honey

**If you're making chocolate covered cherries, dip them in the melted chocolate, and allow to set on parchment, before proceeding with the ganache process.**

Using a double boiler (I just use a stainless steel bowl, over a pot of boiling water), first melt the chocolate, then slowly add the cream, stirring after every addition, until glossy and smooth.  Remove from heat, add the honey, stir to combine, and refrigerate until thick, and slightly cooled, but still pourable.

Place bottom cake layer on plate, or whatever you're serving it on, and carefully spread a layer of the cherry cream cheese frosting.  Place second cake layer on top, and repeat frosting. Place on third cake layer, and carefully spread frosting over whole cake, this will act as crumb coat, so crumbs are okay!  Place cake in cool spot or fridge to firm up.  Use this time to make your ganache.
Remove cake from fridge and give a final crumb-free frost.  Return to fridge to firm up once more.
Pour the cooled ganache over the middle-top of the cake, spread it slightly so it will completely cover the top, but allowing it to fall over the edges, and create the decorative chocolate drips & pools.  Return to the fridge for the ganache to set.
**If your are adding the chocolate-covered cherries & whip cream, wait until the ganache is cooled, and add swirl of whip cream, and finally top with your chocolate-covered cherries**


Friday, July 19, 2013

Sweet n' Salty Coconut Oil, Honey & Sea Salt Popcorn!

Oh My Goodness!  This popcorn is totally swoonable!  Who doesn't love the combo of salty and sweet? This is somewhat comparable to the kettle corn you might find at the farmer's market or a country fair, but a little bit more sticky, and a lot more deelish!  Aaaand, it's super easy and inexpensive to throw together! Yay!

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tablespoons honey
salt to taste

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 to the second bowl by hand.
In a small pot, melt your coconut oil, and add honey, stirring until the two blend (you could also do this step in the microwave).  Pour about half over the popcorn, sprinkle with sea salt and give popcorn a toss (you may need to toss with your hands), then add the second half of the coconut oil & honey and another sprinkling of sea salt, so that it's distributed throughout the popcorn.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Oatmeal PeanutButter Cup Cookie Bars

I recently made these Oatmeal PeanutButter Cup Cookie bars for my colleagues at the library, and have been asked for the recipe on almost a daily basis since!
I personally, was not all that smitten (?!), I think my meds are screwing with my tummy and my taste buds! Gah!  Could you imagine the ramifications of not being interested in peanut butter? Or chocolate? Or peanut butter and chocolate together??!!  This is serious business!  I'm totally not giving up on my buds, they'll be back.  Trust.

In the meantime, you should try this recipe out for yourselves, as they have received rave reviews, and let me know what you think!

Oatmeal PeanutButter Cup Cookie Bars
Recipe adapted from: mom on time out

1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter baking chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups peanut butter cup minis

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add peanut butter and vanilla and continue mixing.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg.   
In a small bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry mixture slowly into the wet mixture, stirring until well combined.  Stir in the peanut butter & chocolate chips.
Spread 2/3 of the dough on the bottom of the dish, and top with peanut butter cup minis.
Drop the remaining dough over the minis by the spoonful.  The remaining dough it won't cover all the chips & cups, and that's okay!  Bake for about 30 minutes, it should be golden around the edges, and not too wobbly in the middle.  Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting into bars.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Funday = Homemade Garlic Ear Drops!

My poor daughter is prone to ear infections, particularly in the summer months with all the swimming she does.  I've found that over the last year or so even antibiotics, which are extremely expensive, are not helping her.  I'm beginning to worry that she may have built up a resistance to the generally prescribed Amoxicillin, which is rather scary should she come in contact with a more serious infection or illness!  So, last week when she began to complain about her ears, I decided it was time to try something more natural, and see if we could fight the infection on our own.

I've long known of this remedy, but had never put it to use!  One of the most effective natural remedies for the ear pain associated with an ear infection is warm homemade garlic oil!  Both olive oil and garlic have antimicrobial properties, and garlic has exceptional medicinal properties including: antiseptic, antiviral, and antibacterial agents.  The antiseptic compounds will be absorbed through the skin and the eardrum into the inner ear and surrounding tissues, fighting infection and reducing inflammation at the same time - Super AMAZEing!

Garlic Oil Ear Drops
1-2 clove of garlic, minced
2-3 Tablespoons of olive or coconut oil
In a small pot using low heat warm oil slightly.  Remove oil from heat and add minced garlic. Cover and allow oil and garlic to steep for at least 30 minutes. Strain the garlic from the oil, and keep in a glass jar or bottle. I only made a small portion, as it will only keep in the fridge for about a week max.  I submerged the jar in warm water before administering the drops, you could also run it under hot water straight from the tap.
Administer 2-3 drops of oil into the ear, 2-3 times a day.  I recommend having the person lay on their side, to allow the oil to settle in, and then switch ears/sides, if necessary.  For additional pain relief, use a warm compress (homemade "magic bags") applied over the ear.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Pudding

I'm craving something sweet, but I still want to be abstaining from flour, and unhealthy treats in general if possible, as I'm still supposed to avoid the gym for now *sobs*.   This Chia seed pudding is a healthy treat that I don't need to feel any guilt over, and is also perfect for mega hot summer days, as it doesn't require the heat of the oven!

If you haven't tried Chia seeds yet, or don't know their fantastic health benefits, inform yourself and give them a try!  They are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, calcium, and magnesium, and have tonnes of protein.  Chia seeds also slow down digestion, so for diabetics they're are helpful for prevent blood sugar spikes, as well as blood pressure, and improve overall heart health.  Also, Chia seeds are virtually tasteless, so you can add their nutritional benefits to all sorts of dishes, sweet or savoury, without changing the flavour.

This pudding is super easy to throw together, only requiring 4 ingredients, and is absolutely delicious.  I would compare it to a tapioca pudding, as far as texture is concerned.  Even Mr. health food snob, had a taste and thought it was yummy, even after I told him what was in it!

I took a picture of Soy milk, but text on the measuring cup states Almond milk, whoops! Whatever, you could use whichever, and if you're not dairy-free, you could use chocolate milk!  Totally versatile!  Also in lieu of agave you could add honey, and add more, or less, according to your sweet tooth!

Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Pudding

1 cup almond or soy or dairy chocolate (or vanilla!) milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 Tbsp agave syrup or honey
1 tsp cinnamon

Using a well sealing tupperware container, or lidded jar; add all ingredients, and give it a stir to mix everything together, or put on the lid and shake vigorously!  Place in fridge for at least one hour, but it's even better to leave overnight -  for chia seeds to absorb milk and expand!  I usually give the container a good shake everytime I open the fridge door for good measure!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Toffee Chewies - No Bake!

In Calgary yesterday on top of 35 degree heat, we actually had a humidity warning (?!).  In the 15 years I've lived here, I don't think that has ever occurred before!  We are completely unacclimatized for such conditions, and drenched in sweat from simply standing still!  My daughter resorted to dunking her head in a bucket of water; which I pointed out to her the dog had been drinking out of all day -  hahaha. - gross!  And my 4 year old boy, who is growing out his gorgeous ginger locks, had a mass of voluminous mass of curly hair, totally hilarious for his small stature.

You'll find these Peanut Butter Chocolate Toffee Chewies perfect for the hot summer days that are finally upon us, and cure your cookie craving without the heat of the oven!  Hooray! I put mine in fridge to set, as it was so hot and humid!   I found they are super chewy straight outta the fridge, however when transferred to cookie jar, at room temperature, they were much easier to consume!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Toffee Chewies
Recipe adapted from: Mom on Timeout

1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups toffee bits (I used a whole 200g bag of SKOR toffee bits)

In a large saucepan or medium pot over medium - high heat, combine sugar and corn syrup.  Stir occasionally over heat, until mixture reaches a full boil. Remove from heat, and add in chocolate chips and peanut butter stir until melted and fully combined.  Next add in oats and coconut, and finally, fold in toffee bits.  Drop by the (Table)spoonful onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and let set for 20-30 minutes. Store in airtight container, if you like a super chew, store them in the fridge, or for slight chew keep at room temperature.