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.