Sunday, September 29, 2013

Peanut Butter Carrot Cake (For Dogs)

This past Monday September 23rd marked the 5th birthday for our beloved Bull-Mastiff, Salem!  I remember making her a birthday cake for her first, but it was just thrown together on the fly, I had used a can of wet dog food, as that's a suuuuper duper treat for a dog who only consumes dry kibble, and shaped it into a number one, and covered it with shredded carrots.  It's was inhaled!  


I don't remember making another cake since the first, though.  And of course my guilty conscience got the better of me!  I make a cake for everybody else, so why not Salem too?   My poor baby puppy, how could I have neglected you so?!  I happened to be off from work with sick kids on Monday, so I actually had extra time at home to bake her the fabulous cake of her dreams!  

I asked Sloane is she thought we were crazy for baking a birthday cake for a dog? She replied, "People who don't make cakes for their dogs, are the crazy ones!" So smart, that girl!

I swear, Salem knew I was baking for her, she was in the kitchen the whole time wagging her tail excitedly.  Maybe it was all the extra pets, and carrot stumps thrown her way?  

Served on a silver platter with a homemade birthday hat on her head, we sang her happy birthday, and let her go to town!

Peanut Butter Carrot Cake (for Dogs)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 + 1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 + 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350°F
Mix together 1/4 cup of peanut butter, oil, 1 cup of the shredded carrots, vanilla, egg, and honey.  Add flour and baking soda, and mix well. You will end up with a firm batter, and it won't rise much!  I used a loaf pan, and sprayed it with non-stick spray, before baking for 30 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool, for about 10-15 minutes, before removing from the pan, and cutting into desired shape - I chose a bone!
To "frost" the cake, warm up the extra 1/4 cup of peanut butter in the microwave (you could do this on the stove top as well!) for a consistency that's easier to spread.  Spread the warmed peanut butter over the the whole of the bone-shaped cake,  I used melted carob chips to spell Salem's name, and then the extra 1/2 cup of shredded carrots to decorate the edges. 

Happy Birthday!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Peanut Butter Popcorn!

Oh maaaaaan!  This popcorn!  It's the best/worst!  Everybody has their go to craving or comfort food, and if you haven't figured it out yet, popcorn is totes mine.  It's the best 'cuz it's soooo yummy, but the worst, "cuz I can't stop once I start!  I always crave the salty yeast covered Koots style popcorn, but lately have been venturing into a lot more sweet styles: with Nutty Caramel Popcorn, or Salty Sweet Coconut Oil Popcorn, and a few more flavour experiments that are still in the trial stages...aka: I ate the whole bowl before I took pics!

What I enjoy about this particular recipe is that it's gooey stickiness can be used for further experimenting.  How 'bout a peanut butter popcorn ball?!  Studded with peanuts, and chocolate candies, the peanut butter balls become a portable snack, or a party favour!  I think the peanut butter caramel would also taste great with puffed wheat, or maybe a breakfast cereal as well!  Going there - Stay tuned!

Peanut Butter Popcorn
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
pinch of salt
1/2 cup honey or agave
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

I use a air-popper for my popcorn, and then do my best to remove any un-popped 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.
Mix the honey and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the salt, and peanut butter. Stir vigorously until all the peanut butter is melted, then mix in the vanilla.
Pour about half of the peanut butter mixture over the popcorn, and give popcorn a toss.  Use a wooden spoon with a long handle, the peanut butter caramel is HOT!   Add the second half, and toss again - so that it's distributed throughout the popcorn!  Let cool for about 10 minutes before devouring  serving.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

His and Hers Pizza Night

Everybody in this house likes something different on their pizza...really this should be his, hers, and theirs pizza night!  It can turn into a bit of a schmozzle when ordering out.  But if you make pizza at home, as long as you have the ingredients at home, it's totally do-able!!
I'm trying not to eat flour right now, but I gave that up for one night to make my fave: butter chicken pizza!  I already had leftovers of butter chicken from the slow cooker butter chicken I made the other night, so it was freeing up fridge space as well!

Cory has been obsessing over the idea of cheese-stuffed hot dogs baked into the crust of a meat laden pizza.  Not even joking.  He comes up with some pretty crazy meal creations, and this was one he would not give up on.  So I made his dreams come true!

The kids aren't too picky, it's pizza!  Sloane likes Spinach and Feta, and Presley goes for plain pepperoni.  Once you have a basic pizza dough recipe, the topping can be totally up to personal preference!  Slice it up, and serve it up with a big ol' Caesar Salad!

Pizza Dough
1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 – 3 cups flour (all purpose or whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil

In a large stainless steel bowl, stir together the water, yeast and sugar; set aside for 5 minutes, until it’s foamy.  Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, & salt and stir until the dough comes together. Then using your hands, knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it’s smooth and elasticy, adding a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.  I do it right in the bowl to save on clean up, but you could move it to the counter top as well.
Using the same bowl (no need to wash) cover the top of the bowl with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm place (I use the stove top, and bake cookies while I'm waiting!) for 30 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size.  Oil a round pizza pan, and place dough in the centre.
Using your finger tips, gently push the dough out in a circle formation toward the edge.  Cover the pan once again with the tea towel, and allow the dough to rise on the pan.

Time for toppings!  
For the Butter Chicken - Spread the pizza dough with tomato sauce or paste, spread out leftover butter chicken, lots of chopped spinach, a handful of cilantro, and top with mozzarella cheese.  Add grated garlic and ginger over the top of cheese for some extra zing!

For the meat lovers - If you're doing the hot dog stuffed crust, slit the hot dogs, and add a long slice of cheese, place the hot dogs around the outer edge and gently wrap with dough.  Spread dough with tomato sauce, and add favorite toppings: pepperoni, onions, olives, peppers (etc.) top with mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of dried basil.  Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, until bubbling in the centre, and golden at the edges.
Makes enough dough for 2 – 9” pizzas, or one big rectangular one.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

This is a super quick and easy weeknight dinner solution.  Butter Chicken is among the best known Indian foods all over the world. The name is somewhat misleading, as it actually contains no butter!  I've tried to minimize the fat contact as much as possible by using a fat free Greek yogurt or sour cream, and half & half in lieu of whipping cream.  The sauce an be made as spicy or mild as you like so it's usually enjoyed by the kids too.  If not at least there's the rice! Also commonly known as Murg Makhani, Butter Chicken tastes great with the addition of lentils, chickpeas, and spinach.  This is recipe is the mild version, and super delicious!  

find that cooking with the bone in the chicken adds a lot more flavour, and buying the chicken with skin and bones is usually cheaper as well!  So, I just remove the skin from the chicken before adding it to the slow cooker, but you could always use boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a pinch!  You don't even need to defrost the chicken first!  Just toss it in the pot, and shred it or chop it before serving it up!  If you find it's too soupy, leave the lid off for 20 minutes or so for the sauce to reduce.

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
Recipe Adapted from: Dinner with Julie

6-8 chicken thighs and/or drumsticks, skinned
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon curry paste or powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup fat free greek yogurt or fat free sour cream
1/2 cup half & half
salt & pepper

In a slow cooker combine onions, ginger, garlic, all the spices, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste.  Add the skinless chicken (frozen or not), cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Uncover, and remove the chicken from the bone, and place back in the slow cooker along with the yogurt and cream,  and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with Basmati Rice, fresh cilantro, and fresh warm naan.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Peanut Butter & Cocoa Banana Bread

At some point last week, in an attempt to rid my home of the multitude of fruit flies (why soooo many this year?!), I stuck my bananas in a plastic bag, and hid them in a pantry.  If you don't know the trick, this is also how you would ripen bananas, they emit ethylene gas as they ripen, and trapped inside a bag, the gas will accelerate the ripening!  Aaaaaand outta sight = outta mind. ugh.  I already have a freezer full of over-ripe bananas that I have yet to use, and now 6 newly purchased really ripe bananas demanding to be used stat!
There are so many possibilities for use of ripe bananas, I always feel the need to experiment and try something new.  I had it narrowed down to two recipes: Cocoa banana bread, and Peanut butter Banana bread, but still couldn't decide which one (maybe I should've had coffee first?!).  Put your hands together!

It makes perfect sense, really.  Peanut butter and chocolate are the best of friends, why not bake them both?!  I used two different recipes both by culinary guru Dori Greenspan. And, although it was a little more work, I had a tonne of batter to play with!  I made a ginormous swirled loaf, and still had enough for 2 pans of mini muffins, and 2 mini loafs! After the swirled loaf, I added chocolate chips to the peanut butter batter, and made marbled mini-muffins -perfect lunchbox additions!  And in another mini muffin tin, I did the cocoa batter to the bottom of the muffin, and topped with the peanut butter chocolate chip batter; and another muffin tin visa versa: half peanut butter on the bottom, and cocoa on top! Sooooo many marvelous muffins! I went Banana's!  Yup.   

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Adapted from Classic Banana Bundt Cake by Dorie Greenspan via lottie and doof

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
4 very ripe bananas, mashed 
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grease a 9 inch loaf pan, and or Muffin tins

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and set aside
In a large bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Add in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for after each egg goes in. Finally add in the bananas.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until incorporated, do not over mix.  

Cocoa Banana Bread
also Adapted from Dori Greenspan Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  In a large bowl, using a mixer or just a wooden spoon, beat the butter and the sugars until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, and then the bananas and buttermilk as well.  If baking a loaf, bake for 65-75 minutes, and for muffins about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow the loaf and muffin to cool before serving.


Monday, September 16, 2013

11th Birthday Extravaganza!

Happy Birthday to my Sloane!!
I cannot believe my baby is 11!!  How did this happen?  Where did the time go?  So, although Sloane's birthday is today, we celebrated with six of her friends this past weekend.  The girl's all do a half day of school on Fridays, and this past Friday happened to be my day off.
The weather is absolutely spectacular for the middle of September, and is almost warmer than we've had all summer!  I wanted to take the girls swimming as part of the Birthday celebrations, but unfortunately all the city run pools and spray parks close after Labour Day!  Major bummer! And with the wrath of the June floods, many of our usual swimming holes no longer exist! I decided it would be worth the drive to be able to swim, and burn off (some) of their energy.  So I picked up the girls from school, and we headed out to Ghost Lake, out past Cochrane Alberta, about an hours drive from home, but totally worth it.  They had a blast! 

When I asked Sloane what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she said she wanted and an ice cream cake, which meant a DQ cake...I could make any cake she could dream of, so of course she would choose something store bought! I tried not to take it personally, it's the age she's at.  I don't buy cakes.  I suggested a build your own sundae bar, and she was all over it!  Yay!  "But no fruit, or healthy stuff, k?".  So I purchased a huge 4 litre pail of ice cream, waffle bowls, and gave them syrups, sprinkles, smarties, cupcake goldfish, gummie worms, marshmallows, and marshmallow fluff, as options for toppings.   They went wild!  Many of the girls put so much stuff on their sundaes, they became almost inedible!  But when I was their age, I probably would've done the same thing!
They we're up til all hours watching movie, and making their own Harlem Shake videos, doing make up, and giggling the night away!  Birthday Success!    

One other birthday treat I made was this Cake Batter Popcorn!  Soooooo good!  The girls even put it on their sundaes!  It is incredibly addicting!  I think it will be making a return to our home soon, birthday party or not!

Cake Batter Popcorn
Recipe adapted from: Erica's Sweet Tooth

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1 cup white chocolate chips 
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup rainbow bit cake mix
1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles

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.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.   
In a small pot, melt coconut oil, and white chocolate chips (or you could also do this step in the microwave). Add the cake mix to the melted chocolate mixture, it will be thick - and that's okay!Spread popped popcorn out on parchment lined sheet, and pour the batter mixture over top, also add about half of sprinkles.  Use a wooden spoon, or your fingers, and do your best to distribute.  Spread out evenly, and top with the remainder of sprinkles and allow to harden, about 20 minutes at room temperature  or 5- 10 minutes in the fridge. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Scream! Ice Cream!

Did you know that "Ice Cream", and I Scream" are an example of wordles?  Me neither, until I recently read this fantastic children's book!
I Scream! Ice Cream! A Book of Wordles By: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Another exaple is "Heroes" or "He Rows"!  or how about "Sorry, no more funnel cakes" and "Sorry, no more fun elk aches" hahaha!
I adored this book of "wordles," also known as groups of homophones (words that sound alike but have very different meanings), maybe even more than my kids?  I thought it was clever, hilarious, and had such creative illustrations!

So, you may remember, my first recipe using my ice cream maker was a delicious experiment, a spicy, chocolaty dream!!  I loved it!  But my fam voted for something more basic = vanilla!  I told them they were "soooo boring!"....but really, once you have a vanilla ice cream, you have endless opportunities of flavour add ins! 
So I complied, and I used David Lebovitz Vanilla Ice cream recipe to make my vanilla custard.  Once the custard froze to an ice cream soft serve stage, I divided the ice cream by two, leaving a plain vanilla for the fam to eat, and then a separate portion for me to play with.
Chocolate and Peanut Butter, anyone?  Yup. I added mini Peanut Butter cups, and a swirl of sweetened peanut butter.  Heaven.

When I first looked at the recipe, I was wondering "what is heavy cream"?  In Canada, we don't use that term, so I wasn't sure where to start!  I was able to find a great cream reference via thekitchn!  I actually found in the comment section of their post, the difference between Canadian and American Creams!  Revelation!  Check it out:

  American                                                                                   Canadian
Half and Half: 12% fat                                                           Half and Half 10%          
Light Cream: 20% fat                                                             
Light Cream 5%  
Light Whipping Cream: 30% fat                                            Table Cream 18%
Whipping Cream: 35% fat                                                      Whipping Cream 30%
Heavy Cream and Heavy Whipping Cream: 38% fat

Vanilla Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from Ready for Desert by: David Lebovitz

1 cup whole milk ( I used 2%)
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream (I used whipping cream)
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Peanut Butter Swirl
1/4 cup peanut butter
1-2 Tablespoons honey or agave
1/2 cup mini peanut butter cups

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk, and add the emptied bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and allow to infuse for at least one hour.
To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Add the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, taking care not to burn the bottom, until the custard thickens enough to coat your stirring utensil - I used a spatula.
Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice bath until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly.  Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If adding the Peanut Butter Swirl & cups, if your peanut butter is too firm heat it slightly via stove top, or microwave, and then add honey.  Into your container bound for freezer, add a layer of ice cream stir in peanut butter cups, and then add about 3 Tablespoons of peanut butter & honey mixture and swirl carefully. Add another layer of ice cream, and repeat, so that the cups and swirls are encourporated well!

Transfer Ice Cream to a container bound for the freezer to firm up.  It is recommended to not use glass (freezer burn), I found a "thicker plastic" container worked best.  Because the Ice Cream freezes much firmer than store bought, a cheap plastic container cracked everytime I tried to scoop...but on that note, always take out the ice cream with enough time to thaw slightly for easier scooping!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cinnamon Bun Waffles

It's become ritual that at the end of almost everyday, as I lay in my bed awaiting heavy eyelids, instead of reading, I peruse Pinterest.  If you have not yet discovered Pinterest, it is an amazing website "...a tool for collecting and organizing things you love."  And by things that means anything & everything!  I use it for everything from display ideas for work, home decor, fashion inspiration, and of course, recipes!  
I came across this cinnamon bun waffle recipe... it's totally not my thing to use packaged baked goods, but I showed it to Cory, and it is so his thing.  
He made me promise that I would make them this weekend.  So I did.  

This is the pin that gave me the idea, but the link didn't take me to a recipe, so I kinda wung it!
I don't know if my waffle iron operates on a really high temperature, or something, but the cinnamon buns only took a minute or two to cook?  So fast!  And really this could not be simpler. 
These cinnamon bun waffles will be loved by your dude, kids, and would be a super easy breakfast for a sleepover crew or company.  I made two rolls worth, so leftovers will also be making their way into lunchboxes this week!

Cinnamon Bun Waffles

1 can refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
1 Tablespoon Maple syrup

Preheat waffle maker. Remove cinnamon rolls from can; set icing aside.  Spray waffle maker liberally with non stick spray, and place 1 cinnamon roll in center of each waffle section and close.  Bake 1+1/2 to 2 minutes or until waffle is thoroughly cooked and golden brown.

Using a small bowl, stir together reserved icing, and maple syrup, stirring until glaze is smooth.
Serve glaze over hot cinnamon bun waffles.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vietnamese Shredded Chicken Salad

Did I ever tell you the story of when my dog, Salem, got into my lazy susan?  I probably left the lazy susan cupboard open (where I keep my unrefrigerated condiments, and canned food, etc), when in a rush to get out the door or something.  But when I came home later on, I was greeted by a strange pungent smell...FISH SAUCE!!  Salem had managed to carry off a small (thank goodness!) bottle of fish sauce, take it to her bed (thank goodness not MY bed!), and have herself a little feast!  Her dog bed was of course a write off, which was too bad, as it was on of those nice large ones from Costco with the wood chips.  But I managed to salvage the removable cover of the bed, and wash it about a million times to get rid of the smell.  And there was no damage to the laminate flooring, as the fish sauce had soaked through her bed and puddled on the floor.  It was just that fishy smell that lingered for a few days.  And now whenever I use fish sauce, the scent takes me back to that day!  Oh, the memories!

But this Vietnamese shredded chicken salad is great for a use of leftover chicken, or for putting a rotisserie chicken to a new use!  This recipe is also great for all those busy school nights, and extra curricular activities that are back with a vengeance!  If you have the dressing made ahead, it takes nothing to throw together all the salad ingredients, serve it up with a fresh french baguette, and you're good to go!

I had a savoy cabbage to be used up, but the original recipe called for a napa cabbage, I wondered what the difference would be for which cabbage I used, and found this great article via the Kitchn - a never ending source of knowledge - check them out!

Vietnamese Shredded Chicken Salad
Recipe adapted from: Saveur

1-2 red chiles (Thai or serrano), seeded & minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon  rice wine vinegar
3 Tablespoon  fresh lime juice
3 Tablespoon  fish sauce 
3 Tablespoon  canola oil
1 green onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
4 cups shredded napa cabbage
2 medium carrots, matchsticked
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro and/or mint
Freshly ground black pepper

Seed red chiles, then mince. (It is always best to wear rubber gloves, or work through a plastic bag when working with chiles.) Place chiles in small Tupperware, bottle, or jar. Add to container garlic, sugar, rice wine vinegar, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, and oil.  Place lid on container of choice, and shake until sugar dissolves.
In a large salad bowl, add together shredded chicken, shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, and fresh cilantro/mint. Season with freshly ground black pepper, toss ingredients to incorporate pepper, and then pour dressing over whole thing, or serve in individual bowls and add dressing separately, this will leave you with fresh and still crunchy leftovers!  Serve with a fresh french baguette for all the gluten lovers out there!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Honey-Oat Rainbow Cookies!

Can you believe it's the first day of school tomorrow?  I can't really wrap my head around it!  I'm not a stay-at-home mom, so I'm not about to get a day free to myself, but I am going to get children back on a schedule.  Yay!  I think we all do a little better when we're on a schedule, as much as the monotony can be a bore, everybody in my house seems to perform a little better when we have our daily routine, and stick to it!

These colourful cookies are something special to stick in their lunch boxes for the first day back to class, and even if they go to a nut-free school you're still safe with this treat.                             
The hardest part is actually finding these chocolate covered candy coated sunflower seeds.  I made these cookies for the first time a few years back, and at that time the Bulk Barn in my area carried them, but have since stopped!  They may still at your local bulk barn though?  I finally located some rainbow seeds at Safeway along with the regular sunflower seeds, these particular ones are Spitz Rainbow Bitz.

Honey-Oat Rainbow Cookies

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 egg + 1 egg white
11/3 cup flour
2 cups oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chocolate-covered candy coated sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar, and mix until smooth.  Add honey and eggs, and blend well.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir gently to combine.  Finally add in the chocolate covered candy coated sunflowers seeds.
Drop onto cookie sheet, by about a Tablespoonful.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until golden around the edges, but slightly raw in the centre.  Transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool before storing.