Monday, December 31, 2007

It's New Year's Eve!

Well, here it is, folks, the last blog post for 2007. It's been a rocking, wild rollercoaster of a year for me, emotionally and especially physically, and I wanted to take a minute and thank everyone who reads this blog, for making me feel like my 164 inane ramblings and bad photography (haha) are something special. I wish you all the best in the New Year.

So, what better recipe to share on such a day as this than one with Black-Eyed Peas? No, I'm not talking about the band, though I'm sure that they can probably pull off a dish or two themselves in their RV kitchen (or whatever they tour in). Originating in Africa, Black-eyed peas are creamy-white with a black "eye" and have an oval shape. They are ubiquitous in the Southeastern United States where they've become a traditional New Year's good luck dish served with rice and greens as well as the key ingredient in Hoppin' John and Texas Caviar. Since I figured there would be a lot of traditional recipes floating around today for those two dishes, I'm proceeding to pass off a couple slightly un-traditional dishes to you. Enjoy them, have a wonderful night, and remember, IF YOU DRINK, DON'T DRIVE!

Herby Cheese n’ Bean Dip
Serves 4
4 garlic cloves
15 oz canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
200 gm cream cheese
1 rosemary sprig
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place the garlic cloves on a square of foil, add 2 tsp water and make a little parcel.
  3. Roast for about 15 minutes towards the top of the oven, or until the cloves are soft.
  4. Cool, then squeeze out the softened pulp into a food processor.
  5. Tip the peas into the processor and add the cheese and rosemary.
  6. Blend until smooth.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 259.0
Total Fat: 18.0 g
Cholesterol: 55.0 mg
Sodium: 152.0 mg
Total Carbs: 19.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 6.5 g

Aside from the good luck symbol of the black-eyed peas in these moist (and low-fat, to get you started on those resolutions) brownies, the addition of the almonds is also considered good fortune by the Chinese and Ancient Roman civilizations. The trick is to puree the beans very well, bits of skin hanging around in the batter are not pleasant!

Starry Eyed Brownies
Makes one 8" square pan, 9 brownies
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup black eyed peas, pureed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
6 tablespoons evaporated skim milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa
pinch salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, grease an 8" square pan.
  2. Cream butter, black-eyed pea puree and sugars.
  3. Add eggs and beat well. Beat in milk and vanilla.
  4. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt, stir into the creamed mixture.
  5. Stir in the almonds.
  6. Spread brownies in prepared pan.
  7. Bake 25 minutes and cool completely before cutting.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 220.9
Total Fat: 10.3 g
Cholesterol: 61.2 mg
Sodium: 69.2 mg
Total Carbs: 30.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.5 g
Protein: 5.8 g

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Few Bests, and a Few Plans...

The end of 2007 is drawing nigh, folks, and the "best of" lists are abounding! Nupur over at One Hot Stove is continuing in this vein, bringing her own event, "Best of 2007", to the table. So many things have happened since the beginnings of this blog way back in the beginning of July: over 160 posts, a new business, new opportunities, and a host of new friends and colleagues that I could only dream of having before. Each post that I've written has been well recieved by those who read it, and every time I spoke to someone in my family or friend circle who reads this blog they tell me how much they enjoy reading both my recipes and the blogs of those I link to (or who link here). I have learned so much over the months, not only about cooking and baking, but about writing, friendship and expressing myself that I don't think I would have learned otherwise. This year brought ups and downs, as do all years that pass, but I have a few favourites of my blogging year to share now, along with some of my favourite posts from other bloggers and tastes I hope to create in the year to come.

My 10 Favourite Posts (Chronological Order)
Chocolate Guinness Cake (July 6)
Teaghan's Favourite Cake: Recipe File Memories (August 6)
A Going-Away Gift, and a Full Day's Work: Coq Au Vin & Bakery Stuff (August 28)
WHB with the Last Pieces of the Garden (Product Review included) (September 30)
The Post - Thanksgiving Glut: Leftover Turkey Sandwiches with a Twist (October 9)
A Kinda Thai Pumpkin Pie... Getting Paid to Invent! (November 1)
Extreme Makeover: Recipe Edition (November 24)
This Cheesecake is Wired! (November 30)
Holiday Musts from Mom... Filled Brioche and Challah! (December 25)
Making Snow-Cakes (December 26)

My 10 Favourite Posts by Others (No Particular Order)
A Guide to Working With Gluten-Free Flours from Shauna (Gluten-Free Girl)
yes. from Shauna (Gluten-Free Girl)
212 Sensational Christmas Cookies from Around the World 2007 from Susan (FoodBlogga)
Adventure on the High Seas from Jen (Milk and Cookies)
Ten Tips For Better Bread from Susan (FarmGirl Fare)
Knit Night Cupcakes from Lolo (Vegan Yum Yum)
Cream Puff Goes to School: Week 1 from Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice)
Sugar High Fridays - The International Sweet Tooth Blogging Extravaganza from Jennifer (The Domestic Goddess)
Can't Be Beet Chocolate Cake! from Susan (FatFree Vegan Kitchen)
Calling All Bloggers: Things to Eat Before You Die? from Melissa (The Traveler's Lunchbox)

My Top Kitchen Resolutions for the New Year (what I hope to achieve from other sources, no particular order)
Date and Fig Ravioli from Escapades
World Peace Cookies from Dorie Greenspan
Pecan Pie Cookies from Cherrapeno
Red Lentil Soup from Cream Puffs in Venice
White Chocolate and Pecan Nanaimo Bars from The Domestic Goddess *again!!*
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage from Simply Recipes
The Ultimate Baguette from Peter Reinhart
Red Pepper, Spinach, Mushroom, and Asparagus Terrine from Coco Cooks
Dutch Crunch Bread from Baking Bites
Hawaiian Sweet Bread from Baking Bites
Honey and Saffron Loaf from Baking Bites
White Bean and Garlic Stew from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Quinoa Vegetable Paella from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Mini Crustless Tofu Quiches
from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Skinny Figgy Bars from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
My Favorite Lasagna from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Vegan Quinoa and Brown Rice Sushi and Cavi-Art from Spice Island Vegan

New Recipes to Test in the New Year (untried recipes I've written and want to make)
Nutty Night Owl Cake
Whole Wheat And Cornmeal Potato Bread

Kettle Corn
Hippie Cheesecake

Tomatoey Mac (Un) Cheese
Torta Del Garbanzo
Super-Chunk Brownies
Peanut Cake With Giandua Truffle Creme
Squaw Bread
Torta Straticella Alla Andrew
Coffee-Spice-Slice Cookies
Twixlets

Vegan Stuffed Shells
Baked
-Not-Fried Doughnut Series

Whew!! Talk about lists! Looks like I'd better get cracking if I want to make any headway by 2009! Happy New Year's to all!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Catchin' Up with Holiday Breads: Breadsticks and Beer Bread

Even though I have posted lots of things I had baked off this month for assorted Holiday gifts, I didn't manage to get them all posted by the big day. So, I'm continuing in the gift vein, with a couple different recipes that I gave out with Andrew, and which were a great hit. One of which, I found over at a fellow blogger's site and am submitting for the World Bread Day After Hours Party, the second of which was my own invention using an old basic recipe for a base.

I adapted this recipe for breadsticks or crunchy pretzels from one on Arabic Bites that I saw on World Bread Day (by Zorra) back in October. The description of the goodies looked promising (as did the photos), so I gave them a whirl to go with my dad's Christmas gift of Hobgoblin Ale and mincemeat tarts. Needless to say, they were well recieved, and since I know my dad has some glorious Garlic Mustard by Kozlik's in his fridge, I doubt they'll be around long. These are seriously crunchy breadsticks flavoured with garlic, pepper and herbs and made wholesome with whole-wheat flour. Playing around with the initial recipe, I dropped the cheese and added cornmeal for some more texture, and I broke out The SpiceDepot's Garlic Pepper grinder for a new twist. It didn't make as many as Zainab & Hameeda were able to turn out, but I don't think anyone seemed to mind! The cute shapes won over a lot of people too.

Tasaly
Serves 16
½ cup white flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 tbsp yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp SpiceDepot Grind Fresh Garlic Pepper (or 2 tbsp garlic powder + 1 tbsp black pepper)
1/3 – ½ cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp honey

  1. Mix all the ingredients in order listed.
  2. Knead dough for 2 minutes, then divide into equal pieces.
  3. Let rest for 10 minutes and shape each piece to long sticks.
  4. Place sticks on a lightly greased baking tray, and shape them into zigzag shapes.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 10-15 minutes, then turn off the oven and let crackers dry 1 hour inside the oven.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 51.1
Total Fat: 1.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.6 mg
Total Carbs: 9.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.4 g

This second bread came as the brainchild of an old Beer Bread recipe my mom had in an old, tiny bread book (that when purchased was a whopping 35 cents!). Again, I added the whole-wheat flour, substituted honey for the white sugar and olive oil for the vegetable oil for a better flavour. This accompanied a few soup mix jars that I put together for Andrew's wonderful parents, and I really do hope they enjoy it! I'd bet it would be great with a rich, chunky soup like the ones I made, or a hearty, spicy chili. It does make excellent toast for sandwiches too, especially if you grate in 1/4 cup or so of Old Cheddar cheese and throw in about 1 tsp of black pepper. Omit salt entirely if adding cheese though, and be sure to pick a rich, flavourful beer that you enjoy drinking - just like you'd pick a wine for tomato sauce.

Stout Irishman's Bread
Serves 14
1 cup flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp olive oil
12oz dark beer

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9x5" loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Pour in honey, oil and beer, beating until a stiff batter is formed.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 110.2
Total Fat: 0.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 3.8 mg
Total Carbs: 22.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 3.4 g

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wishes For Christmas, And Using Up Eggnog

Well, the guests are gone, the gifts are put away, and most of us are swearing off turkey for the next few months. Christmas was a long slog, but it's over now and we're all stuck with the leftovers!! There are endless possibilities... cranberry sauce muffins, yummy turkey sandwiches, mashed potato bread, but what about the thick, rich contents of the carton hiding in the back of your fridge??

Yessir, I'm talking about eggnog. While I can't stand the stuff, finding it way too rich, thick and catch-in-your-throat, Andrew loves the stuff (as long as it is sans nutmeg, which makes his throat itch). Since we hosted both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning's brunch this year, we have more than enough of the stuff hanging around. We aren't lucky enough to have our own home-made recipe, but if you are feeling particularly festive or creative, there are several recipes available to you. Each of these sweet morsels are well worth the small amount of time it takes to create them, and the results will be more than enough to convince you that maybe, next year, you'll pick up just one more carton.

Tender Christmas Wishes
Makes about 60 cookies
2 cups flour
½ cup brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened (no substitutes!)
1/2 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup eggnog
1/3 cup combined red and green decorating sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Combine flours, baking powder and nutmeg; set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar.
  4. Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
  5. Blend in eggnog.
  6. Add flour mixture, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  7. Refrigerate until firm.
  8. Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls and roll in decorator sugar.
  9. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet.
  10. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 58.2
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 7.7 mg
Sodium: 1.8 mg
Total Carbs: 7.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.6 g

A quick word about this cake... it's a great (and super-fast) use-up for not only the last bits of eggnog in the house, but also for any leftover fudge sauce, chocolate chips and OJ that are hanging around from the holidays. If you're like us and have a cake mix in the pantry, you can bake away!

Chocolate Eggnogg Company Cake Recipe
Serves 16
1 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
1 tbsp hot fudge sundae sauce, room temperature
1 box plain chocolate cake mix (not fudge or devil's food, without pudding)
1 cup eggnog
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch pan and dust with flour. Set the pan aside.
  3. Place the all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  6. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake 38 to 42 minutes.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before unmoulding onto wire rack and cooling completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 230.0
Total Fat: 4.6 g
Cholesterol: 34.1 mg
Sodium: 267.2 mg
Total Carbs: 32.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Making Snow-Cakes

It's been a few days (lol) since I've mentioned my bakery or my wonderful friends and customers from my mom's work. Well, back on the 18th I had my mom (thanks!!) bring in a new creation that one of her co-workers (and our friends) had requested. I was under the impression that it was a holiday treat for her family, but my mom sure set me straight on that one! She came home with starry-eyed glee on her face, rambling about how Georgiana had divided the cake amongst their entire work team so everyone could have a taste. Comments were in the vein of how gorgeous the cake was, how decadent and rich and perfectly sweet it was, and how it wasn't as cloying as the restaurant-style cheesecakes that no one can ever finish off. Apparently my mom was not alone in her opinion, because two days later I had an order for 3 more, to be delivered on the 24th, sitting in my inbox!! Normally I wouldn't agree to something so close to the holiday break, but I couldn't resist for the wonderful people who have welcomed me into their little community and social circle.


This cheesecake is named after one of my best customers (the same gorgeous and wonderfully supportive woman who ordered this pie a while back), and is quickly becoming one of the most popular custom items on my bakery's menu! It is egg-free but just as rich and creamy smooth, with the additions of silken tofu and custard (or vanilla pudding) powder. This is, without a doubt, a royal showstopper for any gathering.


Georgiana’s Snow – Cake
Serves 16
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons miniature chocolate chips
5 oz silken lite tofu (Mori-Nu or similar)
1 tsp custard powder (or cook-and-serve vanilla pudding powder)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup full-fat sour cream
16 oz full-fat cream cheese, fully softened
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz white chocolate, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9" spring-form pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine crumbs and melted butter.
  3. Press into the bottom of the pan, and bake 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
  4. Sprinkle cooled crust with the chocolate chips. Set aside.
  5. In a food processor or blender, combine tofu, custard powder, water, vanilla and sour cream until smooth.
  6. In a large bowl, using electric beaters, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.
  7. Beat in the tofu mixture until smooth, followed by the white chocolate.
  8. Bake in a water bath at 350F for 45 minutes.
  9. Turn off the oven, leaving the cheesecake inside, and let sit for 45 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Refrigerate before serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 303.4
Total Fat: 22.4 g
Cholesterol: 49.7 mg
Sodium: 180.5 mg
Total Carbs: 22.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 4.6 g


Seeing how popular an off-the-top invented recipe of mine has become so quickly, how well-recieved it was by everyone and my sheer amazement at not only conquering my fear of cheesecakes but becoming quite the cheesecake queen over the past few months, I definitely think that this has been my best recipe of 2007. The event is being hosted by Sandra and zorra, with the round-up to be posted on New Year's Eve. Such wonderful people, working on a round-up when the rest of us are drinking bubbly and singing Auld Lang Syne!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Musts from Mom... Filled Brioche and Challah!

You will have to excuse the "out-of-the-box" style blog post, but seeing as it is right smack in the middle of the holiday season I doubt anybody is reading this today anyways. I just had to show you the two stars of our Christmas brunch this (and every) year, since their creation and presentation have been a part of my very being since I was old enough to stand on a chair at the kitchen table to punch down the freshly risen dough.

My mom first complained when I told her that I was putting this recipe up on my blog (yup, she reads it occasionally... hi mom!), but in the end it saved our Holiday tradition! I had the recipe typed up a while ago, and her copy somehow went missing this past year. Without the recipe for our brioche, a steadfast and (if you will) sacred part of our Christmas tradition would be gone. Now, she's thanking her lucky stars for my thoughtfulness to the food blogging community! How about that! It's a decadent bite of bread, nuts and raisins, and very rich without being overly sweet, and my grandfather says it's perfect with a little bit of butter on Christmas morning!

What makes this bread so amazing is it's rich raisin and nut filling... perfect for the Bread Baking Day roundup over at Rolling in Dough.

Holiday Brioche
Makes 2 large loaves... about 60 servings 
Dough:
2 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 envelopes dry active yeast
1 cup whole milk
½ cup sugar
¼ cup salted butter
1 tsp salt
6 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten

Filling:
2/3 cup honey
3 cups sultana raisins
1 cup chopped almonds
½ cup chopped hazelnuts
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup heavy cream (no substitutes)
2/3 cup salted butter
2 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves

Topping:
1 egg white, beaten with 2 tbsp water
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup flaked almonds
  1. Dissolve yeast in sugar and water, let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Scald milk. Add sugar, butter and salt, cool to lukewarm.
  3. Stir foamy yeast mixture well and add to the milk.
  4. Beat in half the flour, add eggs and beat to incorporate.
  5. Add the remaining flour and mix until smooth and elastic dough forms.
  6. Knead 10 minutes, place in a greased bowl.
  7. Cover and let rise one hour or until doubled.
  8. Make the filling by combining all ingredients until blended.
  9. Punch dough down and divide in half.
  10. Roll each half to an 8” x 20” rectangle.
  11. Spread filling on the dough rectangles and roll up lengthwise, pinching seam.
  12. Curve rolls and place in two greased 10” springform pans.
  13. Cover and let rise 50 minutes.
  14. Preheat oven to 375F
  15. Brush each loaf with the egg white mixture and sprinkle with sugar and almonds.
  16. Bake 30-35 minutes.
  17. Cool completely in pans.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 231.0
Total Fat: 9.6 g
Cholesterol: 25.3 mg
Sodium: 38.8 mg
Total Carbs: 33.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 4.5 g


This is the second of the two loaves of bread that feature prominently at our Christmas brunch table every year. The leftovers are always greedily consumed over the following week with peanut butter and honey or a smear of jam, though of course if you have the time or inclination French toast or bread pudding is a welcome use of this! It does keep well in the fridge for about a week, freeze any that will be hanging around longer.

Mommas Challah
Serves 32 - One HUGE loaf!
2 cups warm water, divided
2 pkg yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
3 eggs, beaten
8 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
  1. Combine 1 cup warm water with the yeast and sugar, let stand until foamy (about 10 minutes).
  2. Add oil and eggs and beat well.
  3. Slowly blend in flour until dough is very stiff and leaving the sides of the mixing bowl.
  4. Turn out onto floured board, knead for 10 minutes until smooth and supple.
  5. Place into a well-oiled bowl, and turn to grease the top.
  6. Let sit in a warm place 1 hour or until doubled.
  7. Punch down, knead lightly and divide in 3.
  8. Braid strands loosely, tuck the ends under and place on a greased cookie sheet.
  9. Cover and let rise 1 hour.
  10. Preheat oven to 375F.
  11. Combine egg yolk and water, brush over the top of the risen loaf.
  12. Bake 35 minutes, cool completely on a wire rack.
Amount Per ServingCalories: 136.6
Total Fat: 2.2 g
Cholesterol: 26.3 mg
Sodium: 6.8 mg
Total Carbs: 24.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 3.9 g
And for the finish... here's a photo of last night's Scallops Arugula!! A little tricky, a little noisy, and a whole lotta tasty!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Something for Everyone on Christmas Eve...

Questions
- by Me
Isn't it queer
How every year
The very fate of Christmas cheer
Is not with friends and family near
But on a sleigh with flying deer?
But I can't shed a single tear,
For Christmas Eve is finally here!

Well, the big hoo-hah Italian feast I've been writing about is here... tonight the whole Italian side of the family will join my grandparents, sister, Andrew and I in consuming possibly the entire stock of fish and seafood at our local Superstore in the Feast of the Seven Fishes. My mom and I have spend literally months preparing for this, I've personally written three recipes for the night (two of which are in this post, one that I had submitted to the Festive Food Fair a while back), and in the span of 5-6 hours it will all be over! It is always the same with holidays, birthdays, or anything you look forward to: you spend months waiting for those few hours of insanity before everything returns to normal. It's so hectic around here that I'm on the verge of "bah humbug" Scrooge-ism, but I'm hoping that the festivities tonight will perk me up just that touch to get me through the next week or so!!

Let's start with the slightly more virtuous recipe, shall we? This is my latest idea for my Christmas Eve dinner while the family is feasting on some festive dishes I can’t eat. If you like, add cheese, nuts and olive oil to your pesto, they’re on my stomach's no-no list, so I use pasta water and nutritional yeast for flavour instead. If you don't care for (or can't find) shirataki noodles, substitute regular spaghetti instead, it works just fine!

Sarah's Scallops Arugula
Serves one me!
7 oz shirataki noodles, drained
1/2 cup arugula leaves, washed and patted dry
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
pinch salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
8 sea scallops
fresh coarsely-ground black pepper
1 plum tomato, chopped
  1. In a large pot of salted water, blanch the shirataki noodles (about 2 -3 minutes). Drain, reserving about ¼ cup of the cooking water.
  2. In a food processor, combine arugula, roasted red pepper, red pepper flakes, salt, garlic, lemon zest and nutritional yeast.
  3. Puree, adding pasta water as necessary, until a thin pesto-like sauce is achieved. Set aside.
  4. Heat a little cooking spray in a medium pot over high heat.
  5. Place pepper in a shallow dish, crust both flat sides of the scallops.
  6. Add the scallops in one layer to the hot pot, leave 30 seconds without moving before flipping.
  7. Cook the other side 30 seconds, remove scallops to a plate.
  8. Turn heat to very low.
  9. Add pasta to the pot, followed by the chopped tomato, pesto and finally the scallops, and toss until everything is heated through and well combined. Serve immediately.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 187.6
Total Fat: 1.7 g
Cholesterol: 39.6 mg
Sodium: 205.8 mg
Total Carbs: 17.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.2 g
Protein: 25.8 g

This next recipe is a slight tweak on one I came across in the Presiden't Choice Insider's Report. Ricotta is a delicious and unusual topping for crisp bites of baguette, topped with roasted tomatoes and drizzled with rich balsamic vinegar. It's one of our many pre-dinner nibbles.

Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini
Serves 24
7-8 plum tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt
1-2 fresh, crusty baguettes
2 cups ricotta
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease.
  3. Slice tomatoes crosswise into ¼” rounds.
  4. In bowl, toss together tomatoes, oil, pepper and salt.
  5. Place in single layer on prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake in centre of oven for 15 minutes. Set aside. Turn oven to BROIL.
  7. Cut baguettes into ½” slices, cutting at an angle.
  8. Place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
  9. Broil 6-7 minutes, flipping slices ½ way through.
  10. Spread each toast with some ricotta.
  11. Top with a tomato slice, a drizzle of vinegar, and a pinch of basil.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 130.6
Total Fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 10.5 mg
Sodium: 197.3 mg
Total Carbs: 16.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 5.1 g

Okay, so we've had our healthy meal, our delicious appetizers, and we're looking for the main feature here. Well, my favourite thing on the table this year without doubt would be my mom's paella, but since I don't know her recipe (she does everything by eye, including the addition of authentic saffron!) I'll pass along the alfredo sauce recipe I've created for the party. This is no shy, weak, thin alfredo sauce... this is a belt-loosener at it's finest! It serves 8 as a main dish, but we're 16 tonight so hopefully the artery clogging will be slightly less startling!! (And I know, why bother putting the nutrition info for this one? In short, because I have it, and it's scary!)

Screw-the-Diet Alfredo Sauce
Serves 8
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (starting to feel a little like Paula Deen here...)
1 cup evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (fresh fresh fresh!!! No bottles!)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (yup, definitely bustin out of the little black dress!)
2 cups fresh-grated Parmesan (use the good stuff.... come on, it's not like goin' cheap will save your butt here!)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper
  1. Stir 1 cup of the cream, evaporated milk and the lemon juice in a heavy large skillet
    to blend.
  2. Add the butter and cook over medium heat just until the butter melts, stirring
    occasionally, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. **If adding pasta or vegetables to sauce, add at this point and toss**
  4. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of cream and Parmesan to the cream sauce in the skillet.
  5. Add the lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  6. Stir and cook over low heat until sauce thickens slightly.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 424.0
Total Fat: 38.5 g
Cholesterol: 121.0 mg
Sodium: 521.4 mg
Total Carbs: 7.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 13.9 g

Have a great Christmas tomorrow for everyone celebrating, and don't forget to leave some cookies out for Santa! If you're lacking inspiration, check out Foodblogga's round-up of her Eat Christmas Cookies event, which ended today.

Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year to all!! I will be posting as much as I can over the next week but since we're all busy I'm not going to worry about it! Coming up soon: brunch breads, Christmas Gifts, "snow-cakes" and dealing with your not-so-usual leftovers!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lemony Birthdays and a Bit of History!

Well, today marks my stepdad's birthday (can't remember which one, maybe #56). Though, depending on whose government you talk to, his birthday isn't actually until January 1. This is probably one of the only really interesting things about his history to me, since it doesn't really have anything to do with how awful and horrid his childhood was *rolls eyes*.


You see, being an Italian citizen before 1972 meant that, he would have had to comply with a mandatory military service. For men only, until December 31, 2004, this practice continued, though in 1972 the right to "conscientious objection" was recognized. It meant that a "non armed military service", or a community service, could be authorised as an alternative to those who required it. The way they went through the lists for conscription was by birth year, and out of fear of another World War his mother made the decision to postpone the issue of his birth certificate until the new year, saving him from the possible drafts. So now, he milks this fact for all it's worth, and we celebrate his birthday twice: a small gathering on the 23rd (his actual birthday) where he's usually taken out to dinner, and a typically huge Italian bash on the first where the whole family gets together and feasts yet again after weeks of eating from the holidays.


Of course, between the two days, we have another two feast days that are celebrated as well at our house - the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes and our famous Christmas Brunch. Needless to say, our kitchen is a tad bit more cramped than usual, our fridges are packed so full we've had to resort to our garage as a makeshift ice-box, and we still have two more major loaves of bread to bake tomorrow morning (recipes forthcoming of course) before people arrive at 5 for dinner!! As if the holiday cooking wasn't enough, I (foolishly, according to my mother) agreed to take an order for 3 white-chocolate cheesecakes (again, recipes forthcoming) that are due at my mom's office in North York tomorrow, as well as managed to bake off a pan of diabetic-friendly, completely invented Lemon-Almond Squares for the SF's birthday, and a tasty-looking birthday loaf cake for my best friend James' (belated, again by 3 months) birthday! I think our oven might just go on strike, if I don't first... I am tiiiirrrrreeeedddd!


So, happy birthday out there to James, Cel (the SF) and everyone else out there celebrating. Enjoy your day, the season, and the rest of your year!


Diabetic Lemon-Almond Squares
Serves 16
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup unbleached flour
1 tbsp ground almonds
4 oz butter, cold
1 tsp almond extract
Several tablespoons of cold water
2 eggs
½ cup Splenda Granular
2 tbsp honey
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 oz butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ tbsp freshly grated lemon rind
¼ cup crumbled amaretti cookies


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Mix flours and almond meal in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it is coarse-meal textured.
  4. Stir in almond extract and 2 tablespoons of cold water, adding water gradually to form dough that is pliable but not too sticky.
  5. Press into the bottom of a 9” square pan. Dock crust all over with a fork.
  6. Bake 10 minutes and allow to cool.
  7. Reduce oven to 350F.
  8. Beat eggs, Splenda and honey with electric beaters until creamy.
  9. Beat in lemon juice, butter, and lemon rind.
  10. Pour mixture into baked pastry.
  11. Sprinkle amaretti crumbs over the lemon filling.
  12. Bake 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack and chill thoroughly before serving.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 153.3
Total Fat: 9.4 g
Cholesterol: 45.7 mg
Sodium: 14.5 mg
Total Carbs: 15.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 3.0 g

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dad's Favourite, Because it's Christmas

My dad and I have similar tastes for a lot of things. We both love spicy and exotic foods, hearty chili, Beef Stroganoff and "trailer-park" BBQ'ed new potatoes (you'd have to ask him for the recipe, I think he made it up), as well as a slice of apple pie after a Holiday dinner. One of the guaranteed bakery wishlist items for my dad, though, is a major flip of the coin. Every Christmas, I know he craves his all-time favourite mincemeat tarts. Though I enjoy making them for him, and they are always a part of his sweet goodie bundle, I have to say the taste of them to me is simply revolting. Perhaps it's the rather strong hit of brandy in the recipe that bothers me, since I have never enjoyed the taste of hard liquor (or wine for that matter) very much (vodka mixed with juice being the sole exception). Bothered by the name "mincemeat" as a sweet term, or just don't know what it is? Read on for a bit of background of this nas... I mean... acquired taste.

Mincemeat began as a way to preserve food. It was made in large batches and canned. The term gets its name from fine cutting of animal ingredients and fruit, essentially mincing the ingredients needed to make mincemeat.

Most commonly modern mincemeat (which you can find readily in most groceries) has raisins, currants, suet, sugar, and spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Adding brandy or rum, which gives it a rather tart taste, preserves it. My (vegan) version has a little bit of a spicier kick to it, using fresh ginger root instead of ground, nixing any added sugar, and incorporating apricots, prunes, dates and figs all in a whole-wheat crust. Just to throw in another twist, I added another very unorthodox addition: cayenne pepper!

Seeing as these are ever-so-slightly rogueish (maybe in a Jack Sparrow kinda way...), I believe these tarts would make a fine ally in The Mini Pie Revolution. They even have their little fighting hats on, ready to take on the large-scale sweets out there. Why is there a revolution? The Manifesto tells all, and maybe you too will jump on the train to Mini-pie-aville!

These do take a while to prepare, so plan ahead, and make sure you save at least one, just in case my dad's in town!

Mincemeat Tarts with Flair
Makes 12
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
6 dried figs chopped
2 apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup sultana raisins (though if you can find flame raisins, they are even better!)
12 prunes seeded and chopped
1/2 cup brandy
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 tsp fresh-grated ginger
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2-3 tablespoons of iced water

  1. Combine all fruits and spices in a saucepan, cook uncovered over low heat until apple is soft (about 20 minutes), stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  2. Pour into a non-metallic bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 375F.
  4. Combine flours in a large bowl.
  5. Cut in shortening until mixture is like coarse-meal.
  6. Add water to flour mix, stir well.
  7. Turn out of a floured board, knead lightly, cover and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Roll out dough, cut 12 circles that fit the bottoms and sides of muffin tins.
  9. With a smaller cutter (either circle or decorative… your choice!) cut remaining pastry into 12 “hats” for the tarts.
  10. Fit dough “bottoms” into the tins, spoon room-temperature (or thereabouts) mincemeat into each.
  11. Place pastry “hats” on the centre of each tart, leaving some open space around the edges.
  12. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 260.1
Total Fat: 5.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.1 mg
Total Carbs: 47.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.8 g
Protein: 3.5 g

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Nutcracker Sweets...

Well, here it is... the last of the Eat Christmas Cookies submissions to Susan's Foodblogga. Originally I didn't want to burden her again (since I had already sent in, what, nine other posts?) since it was the busy Christmas season, but she gave me the green light and I really do want to share these brownies with you, especially these first ones.

If you lived in Canada in the late 80s and early 90s, chances are you know of the children's entertainers Sharon, Lois and Bram. These singer-actors, like Mr. Dressup and Fred Penner, were such an integral part of my childhood life that even though I haven't seen or heard it in years, I can still do the entire Skinnamirink Dance and song by heart. One of the recordings released by the band, along with a TV special, was a Christmas CD known as Candles, Snow and Mistletoe. Basically a take-off of many well known songs, the best songs on the disc had to do with... you guessed it... food! Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake, Don't Bring an Elephant (To a Family Meal), and Winter Sweet would blast from our tape player every winter without fail. Winter Sweet is the song that brought this first dessert into being, since most of the music is interrupted by Lois Lilienstein asking about where the brownies were! If you get your hands on a copy of the music, give it a listen for me for old time's sake. You won't be disappointed! Brownie Cravings from Sharon, Lois and Bram
Recipe courtesy Lois Lilienstein
Yield: 30
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butter
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13” pan.
  2. Melt chocolate, 1/2 the chocolate chips and butter together. Cool slightly.
  3. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add chocolate and beat smooth.
  4. Mix flour, salt and baking powder and add to chocolate mixture, stirring gently.
  5. Add remaining chocolate chips, marshmallows and nuts, fold in gently.
  6. Scrape into pan and smooth top.
  7. Bake 40-45 minutes. Do not over-bake or they will be dry!

NI (without nuts) Per Serving:
Calories: 189.0
Total Fat: 10.5 g
Cholesterol: 45.8 mg
Sodium: 60.2 mg
Total Carbs: 23.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 2.3 g

These brownies were this year's feature in all my Christmas cards... I made up the recipe when I had an abundance of fresh mint on hand, and it works beautifully with the rich chocolate and tangy cherries. I just love it when a plan comes together, don't you? Don't be squeamish about using the silken tofu, it really does give these brownies a richness eggs don't, and the prune puree deepens the chocolate flavour ever so slightly more. The key, as with all other brownies, is not to over-bake!

Holly Brownies
Serves 16
¼ c. butter or margarine, melted
¼ c. pureed prunes, unsweetened (baby food)
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ a 12 oz box silken tofu, or 2 eggs
½ c. flour
½ c. cocoa
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. dried cherries
½ c. fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” pan.
  2. In large mixing bowl blend melted butter, prune puree, and sugars.
  3. In a food processor or blender, combine vanilla and tofu until smooth.
  4. Add to butter mixture and beat well.
  5. Separately, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
  6. Blend gently into wet mixture.
  7. Fold in dried cherries and fresh mint.
  8. Spread into prepared pan.
  9. Bake 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan and chill before cutting.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 107.7
Total Fat: 3.8 g
Cholesterol: 34.3 mg
Sodium: 12.4 mg
Total Carbs: 17.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.7 g

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ARF for the Holidays?

One of the most famous and loved treats of the holidays in my family (especially with my mom) is the classic chocolate truffle. Smooth, silky chocolate melting in your mouth after you bite through a bitter layer of cocoa powder... mmm...

Not a chocolate fan (sacrilege!)? Well, how about the infamous Christmas symbol of the gingerbread man? You know, the guy that runs around the countryside in a fairy tale, and loses his legs (and almost his buttons!) in a well-known animated movie trilogy??? Crunchy, spicy, and ever-so decadent, with just enough bite to still the sweetness of those truffles scarfed earlier (that you claim you didn't like).

What more could a girl ask for?

Yeah, yeah, I know... *sigh*... less calories and fat maybe? Well, lucky lucky readers of mine *laughs evilly* I have an early Christmas / Kwanzaa or late Chanukah gift for you! The next amazing round-up Sweetnick's ARF / 5-A-Day is slated for Christmas Day, though I am sure we will all be much too busy eating lots of antioxidants and veggies *ahem* that day to worry about blogging. Anyways, here are my two cents (and submissions) to the event... Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles and vegan, whole-grain, delicious gingerbread men with fresh ginger!! As a bonus, both of these treats are entirely vegan and entirely delicious!

Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles
Yields 48
2 1/2 cups chocolate wafer cookies, crushed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup icing (powdered) sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup Amaretto or Frangelico (use 2 tsp vanilla in water, or equal amount of orange juice if not using alcohol)
Melted bittersweet chocolate (for dipping, optional)

  1. Pulse cookies, cocoa and almonds in a food processor until fine.
  2. Add to icing sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Blend in melted chocolate, pumpkin and liqueur.
  4. Let stand in fridge 10 minutes to firm up.
  5. Shape mixture into 1" balls, place on a wax paper lined platter and refrigerate until firm.
  6. Optionally, dip firmed truffles into melted chocolate and let set on wax paper in the fridge.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 62.2
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.1 mg
Sodium: 34.4 mg
Total Carbs: 8.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 1.0 g

Gingie’s a Vegan!
About 24 cookies
½ c sugar
½ c shortening
½ c molasses
2 tsp cornstarch
1 c flour
1 ¼ c whole-wheat flour
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp cloves
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp water

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and beat well.
  3. Stir all dry ingredients together, add to creamed mixture.
  4. Stir in water.
  5. Cover dough and refrigerate one hour.
  6. Flour rolling pin and board.
  7. Roll dough out about 1/8” thickness. Cut out gingerbread figures and place ½” apart on ungreased sheets. Dough can be re-rolled several times.
  8. Bake 8 minutes. Remove cookies immediately to wire racks and cool completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 118.6
Total Fat: 4.5 g
Cholesterol: 2.4 mg
Sodium: 3.1 mg
Total Carbs: 18.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 1.4 g

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Italian Christmases are Filled with Cookies!

Well, even though the suggested deadline for Foodblogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event has passed and the gorgeous round-up is posted, I'm still in cookie mode!! I swear our house has never smelled better or more vibrant, with everything from breads to cake to cookies popping out of my oven, and a gorgeous cranberry sauce that simmered on the stove!

So, as most of you know my sister and I wound up as by-products in an Italian marriage this year, which means that a bunch of traditions that entered from the other side of the family are foreign to us. I figured I would at least embrace the culinary side of the new stepfamily, and pass the goodies onto you!

The name of these first cookies (well really, filled pastries) is Sicilian for Buccellati, or "little bracelets". With a lot of work and a very unique blend of ingredients (figs, raisins, orange zest, walnuts, honey, cinnamon and chocolate), you can have a treat that has something everyone likes on your holiday dessert tray. Ingredient substitutions work really well here too: don't like figs, try dates or even dried apricots for something totally different! Like me and hate walnuts? Pecans or even almonds are good too. Play with different marmalades and jams, too. Think of it as a science lab in your own house!

Cucidati
Makes 60
1 lb dried figs
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp orange zest
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup orange marmalade
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets.
  2. Grind the figs, raisins, orange zest and walnuts in a food processor.
  3. Gradually blend in the honey, cinnamon, chocolate chips and orange marmalade. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking powder.
  5. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  6. Stir in the eggs, milk and vanilla until the mixture can be gathered into a ball.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll out.
  8. Cut the dough into strips that are 4 inches wide.
  9. Spread filling onto one lengthwise half of each strip.
  10. Fold the dough over to cover and seal the edges by pressing on them with the tines of a fork. Slice into diamond shapes about 1” wide.
  11. Place the cookies onto the prepared cookie sheet.
  12. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
  13. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 116.4
Total Fat: 3.2 g
Cholesterol: 8.1 mg
Sodium: 7.3 mg
Total Carbs: 22.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 1.4 g

These second cookies are another traditional Christmas cookie in Sicilian Italy. They're round, chocolate, sweet and spicy, and the name translates literally to “Meatball Cookies”! A nice change from some of the sweeter treats out there, but still decadently rich, they are a great little nutty, toothsome whole-grain snack that travels well to parties, swaps and school (when you or your kids drag themselves back after the holidays!)

Biscotti di Polpetta
Makes 50
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
melted semisweet chocolate (for dipping)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and blend.
  5. Add nuts and mix with hands.
  6. Roll into little 1 inch balls. (Wetting your hands makes this so much easier!!)
  7. Place on the cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes. Do not overcook.
  8. Remove from oven, let rest on the sheet for a few moments and remove to wire rack to cool completely.
  9. When cool, dip the tops of each cookie into melted semi-sweet chocolate and let set.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 76.5
Total Fat: 3.6 g
Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Sodium: 4.5 mg
Total Carbs: 10.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 1.7 g

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy (Belated by 3 Months...) Birthday!

No real intro to this recipe today, folks... as you can tell by the time that I'm posting this, it's late, I'm exhausted, and I'm still not done yet!!! How do we still manage to gain weight over the holidays when we're on our feet 24/7?? Everyone knows what you eat while standing has no calories....

This is going to be part of the birthday and Christmas gift package that I’ll be giving to one of my best friends, Heather, this year. It is a take on one of our first tandem baking experiences, which was a lemon (box) cake with cherry – vanilla (box) icing. I’ve taken the flavours, flipped them around and “gourmetized” the memories by making both the cake and frosting from scratch, adding lightness to the cake with rice flour and cornstarch, and the extra flavour layer of honey to the frosting. It's a gorgeous-looking cake, and hopefully she enjoys this as much as we did the original!

Heather’s Birth – Mas Cake
Serves 8
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup maraschino cherry puree (about 1 ¼ cups stemmed whole cherries)
1 tsp red food colouring (optional)
1 cup flour
1/3 cup white rice flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole milk
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup stick margarine, softened
1 ½ teaspoons lemon extract
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon yellow food colouring (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and flour a large loaf pan.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, vanilla and maraschino puree, along with food colouring if using, and blend well.
  4. Mix flours, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
  5. Add flour alternately with milk to the creamed mixture.
  6. Bake 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool 30 minutes in pan, unmould onto wire rack and cool completely.
  8. Beat together shortening, margarine, lemon extract and lemon zest at medium speed for about 30 seconds or until well blended.
  9. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar, a bit at a time, while beating.
  10. Beat in the honey.
  11. With a sharp, serrated knife or unflavoured dental floss, cut cake horizontally into two layers.
  12. Fill and frost the cake with the frosting, decorate if and as desired, and enjoy!
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 527.3
Total Fat: 22.3 g
Cholesterol: 37.1 mg
Sodium: 86.0 mg
Total Carbs: 79.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 3.7 g

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Soetkoekies: Sugar and Spice from South Africa

I am sure Susan, over at the oft-mentioned FoodBlogga, is glad that this is my second-last post to her awesome event. Eat Christmas Cookies was such a joy for me to be a part of, and brought me back to a lot of my childhood memories as well as gave me a chance to venture forth into new experiments and adventures of my own. With so many amazing entries from around the world, I'm amazed that my oven isn't already running overtime trying everything out! I'm sure I'll never be lacking for inspiration in the years to come (and nor will my mom, sister, dad or fiance Andrew be lacking for cookies, haha). These cookies stand for an important part of who I am and what my childhood was - not the recipe exclusively, but it's origin and who I remember when I think of it.


Soetkoekies are of Dutch origin and apparently have been a favourite South African tin filler for many years. The reason these are a nostalgic find for me is that my beloved teacher Verity (of MLCP fame) is from South Africa, and of Dutch descent herself. Her beautiful features, accent and zest for life and learning are the most fetching qualities of anybody I know. She is undoubtedly the reason why I began to like writing in the first place (I used to HATE writing back in Ellesmere Montessori, my school from 3 - 7 years old). So, thank you, V. These are for you, and see you Tuesday!


Spices, sugar & wine get blended up all together in a cookie, so what could be better for Christmas?


Soetkoekies
36 Cookies
1 cup flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar
4 ounces chopped almonds
¼ cup softened butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup port wine
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray or grease a cookie sheet.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, brown sugar, and almonds in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter blend into the flour mixture.
  4. Add the beaten eggs and red wine and mix dough together until it can be formed into a ball.
  5. Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place on cookie sheets about 2" apart.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes - until golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 81.7
Total Fat: 3.3 g
Cholesterol: 15.2 mg
Sodium: 15.5 mg
Total Carbs: 11.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 1.8 g

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Childhood Basic, and Throwin' in Fusion

Well, as the days left for chipping in to FoodBlogga's round up of the Eat Christmas Cookies event are dwindling down (she suggests sending them in by no later than December 17, so get in on the action!! You can even win a cookbook!), I've continued to play around in my kitchen. Now that Andrew's home (yay!!! My baby's back from college all grown-up and gorgeous!) he's going to be able to give me a wonderful hand when I get a little whacked from all the festivities. By the way, he did absolutely amazing in his Police Foundations program, so any criminally minded people out there, beware!!! Anyways, I've come together with a few not-so-usual cookies for anyone daring to differ from the "norm" this Christmas, or for those just looking for some tasty nibbles all for themselves!

This first cookie is a fusion-inspired, whole-grain creation, blending together the traditional Western taste of dried apples and cherries with the more Asian ingredients of tahini and toasted sesame seeds. Kinda chewy, kinda crunchy, totally yummy!

Fusion Cookies
Makes 20
¼ cup shortening
¾ cup tahini
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
4 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
¼ cup diced, dried apple
2 tbsp dried cherries
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
  2. Cream shortening, tahini, and sugar.
  3. Add egg and vanilla, beat well.
  4. Stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda and sesame seeds.
  5. Fold in the apple and cherries to the creamed mixture until well blended.
  6. Drop by spoonfuls on prepared baking sheets.
  7. Bake 11 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on sheets, then remove to wire rack and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 142.9
Total Fat: 8.7 g
Cholesterol: 12.2 mg
Sodium: 17.3 mg
Total Carbs: 14.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.7 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Okay, so how many times have you pondered the dilemma of your favorite way to eat an Oreo cookie? Okay, probably not too many. We all take it for granted... twist, lick, dunk (and yeah, that sounded kind of wrong... but blame the marketing, not me!). However, people who are allergic to wheat, or have celiac disease (like Shauna, Karina, Karen, and all of these wonderful people), don't really have that option. These wheat-free, egg free and completely vegan cookies taste exactly like the real Oreo cookies, and can give that classic, childhood taste to everyone.

The Perfect Cream – Filled Chocolate Cookies
45 servings
¾ cup rice flour
¾ cup tapioca flour
¾ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons egg replacer, dry
2/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg replacer, prepared
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons water
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons shortening
¼ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons hot water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour mix, xanthan gum, egg replacer, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of the mixer, cream the margarine and sugar until light. Add the egg replacer and vanilla and beat well.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions. If the dough becomes too stiff, add the water as needed.
  5. Shape the dough into two logs. Wrap and chill about 20 minutes.
  6. Cut into 1/8" slices (if you have a cookie press, you can at this point press in onto the sliced cookies before baking).
  7. Bake these cookies on an UNGREASED cookie sheet for 10 minutes.
  8. Let cool for only a few minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Cool thoroughly on a rack.
  9. For the filling, combine confectioners' sugar, shortening, vanilla and hot water (use enough to create a good spreading texture).

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 92.0
Total Fat: 3.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.5 mg
Sodium: 28.5 mg
Total Carbs: 14.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 0.4 g

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Virtuous and the Sweet (ARF and more ECC!)

Well folks, it's official: only 10 more days until Christmas Eve! I know I'm not the only one groaning... I mean, I've only wrapped 3 gifts so far, and have so much to bake before the holidays that I think either I or our poor oven may die from exhaustion! Not to mention organizing travel schedules, day trips, and gift giving in and around all those other things!

However, and I know you've heard it before, being busy is not an excuse for eating poorly! Especially at this time of year, where you have turkey skin, chocolate truffles and shortbread cookies at every turn, your brain (and body) will thank you for a few more virtuous meals in between the parties (and I'm not saying skip those, either... it's the holidays!!!). So, for this week's ARF / 5-a-Day roundup at the virtuous Sweetnick's, I'll send you off with a warm, comforting dish that won't leave you feeling like you swallowed a turkey. In fact, it's full of healthy veggies like carrots (for Vitamin A), peppers (Vitamins A & C), zucchini (manganese) and potatoes (Vitamins C & B6, potassium and fibre), with a kick from some crushed red pepper flakes, and some tang from creamy, calcium-rich goat cheese. It's a great weekend lunch when you're wrapping gifts or just relaxing in between rushes!


Warm Grecian Salad
Serves 4
6 medium red potatoes, unpeeled and chopped
3 cups whole white mushrooms
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
2 red peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 oz soft goat cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Mix vegetables, garlic, oil and herbs.
  3. Pour into a roasting pan. Bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  4. Switch heat to broiler and cook a further 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer all to a serving bowl.
  6. Mix vinegar, pepper and pepper flakes. Pour over vegetables and toss.
  7. Crumble cheese over the dish and serve warm.

Calories: 346.0
Total Fat: 6.1 g
Cholesterol: 6.5 mg
Sodium: 101.3 mg
Total Carbs: 63.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 8.8 g
Protein: 11.8 g


I know, I know... so what else could I bring to the awesome Eat Christmas Cookies event over at FoodBlogga? Well, it's yet another twist on the good ol’ chocolate chipper, but this time I threw in some custard powder and Smarties (again, the Canadian chocolate, not the American candy) for flavour, texture and colour! These are eggless and whole-grain to boot, and are a joy for kids and adults alike (just ask my mom's office!). If you can’t find custard powder (something like Bird’s – not the instant kind though) you can substitute measure-for-measure with cook and serve vanilla pudding.


Smartie Pants Cookie Drops
Serves 45
3/4 cup shortening
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp water
1 cup flour
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder
2/3 cup miniature chocolate chips
½ cup Smarties or M&Ms
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cream together shortening, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat in vanilla and water.
  3. Combine flours, cornstarch, baking soda, salt and custard powder.
  4. Gently blend the dry ingredients into the creamed batter.
  5. When almost completely blended, add the chocolate chips and Smarties.
  6. Drop dough balls onto un-greased cookie sheets.
  7. Bake 10 minutes and cool completely on sheets.

Calories: 89.9
Total Fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 2.1 mg
Sodium: 2.8 mg
Total Carbs: 11.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 0.8 g

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Warm Me Up, Peanut Butter Cup!

Okay, okay, cheesy title I know. But I'm stuck home sick with a stomach bug (while it blizzards outside) while Andrew gets to go out for sushi with all his college buds before his last day tomorrow, so gimme this bit of leeway. I'll make it up to you in yumminess, I promise. Well, if you're like me and love the combination of smooth peanut butter and scrumptious chocolate, you will. If you don't, well... this might not be the post for you.

Yesterday my mom and I got to play Santa Claus (or the Devil incarnate, depending on who was dieting!) around her office by giving out shortbreads and chocolate chip cookies (recipe coming!) to her fellow co-workers. Other goodies I managed to bring in, though have no idea how well they were recieved, were these peanut butter cookies with (if you couldn't tell by the colours) yummy yummy bits of Smarties in them! Note that these are the Canadian chocolate from Nestle... not the American candy!! I really hope her co-workers (hi everyone!) did my mom a favour and took these off her hands for her, though, since she moaned that these were her favourites and that she'd be forced to eat them, making her gain some sort of tonnage (yeah right, Mom). All I know is that my chocolate chippers (and the chocolate chip - smartie cookies too) were almost all gone by the time I left that day. These are great and chewy, whole-grain nibbles with a bite from the candies throughout.

The Nuttiest Rainbow Cookies
Serves 24
1/3 cup shortening
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup honey
¾ cup smooth, low-fat peanut butter
1 egg
3 tablespoons non- or low-fat plain yogurt
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup M&M or Smarties candies, slightly crushed

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  2. Cream together shortening, sugar, honey and peanut butter until smooth.
  3. Beat in egg, yogurt, and vanilla.
  4. In another bowl, blend flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the peanut butter mixture until well blended. Fold in M&Ms.
  5. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto un-greased cookie sheets.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 154.4
Total Fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 11.1 mg
Sodium: 71.6 mg
Total Carbs: 20.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 3.6 g

Of course, being the cookie monster that I am, I would be out-of-place not to be submitted to something as wonderful as Susan's Eat Christmas Cookies event! The round-up is always being updated, too, so check out the worldwide goodies!

And... what goes better with cookies than something warm to drink?

Since it was so freaking cold and nasty today (both outside and in my Yoga studio... which for some inexplicable reason refuses to warm up beyond freezing temperature) my mind turned to all things warming and hearty... warm fireplaces, hearty stews, and hot chocolate. But not just any hot chocolate, ohhh no. Peanut butter and honey hot chocolate. I'm a convert of the flavour combo, what can I say?? This is an awesome blend... creamy peanut butter, thick golden honey and creamy milk... what could only make this better but rich, dark cocoa? The only note I will say on this recipe (besides make it, and enjoy!) is use no less than 2% milk for this (yes, I know... no 1%, no skim!), and whisk it well. You need the full creaminess for this.

Duo of Decadence Hot Chocolate
Serves 2
2 tbsp unsweeteened cocoa powder
3 tbsp cold water
1 1/2 cups milk (4% is best, use no less than 2%)
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter

  1. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and cold water, mixing until thoroughly combined into a paste. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, pour milk and honey and stir. Set over medium-low heat.
  3. When milk is warmed through, stir in peanut butter and cocoa paste, whisking to froth slightly and combine fully.
  4. Keep over heat until it reaches desired temperature, but do not let boil.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 233.4
Total Fat: 10.8 g
Cholesterol: 18.3 mg
Sodium: 112.5 mg
Total Carbs: 30.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 9.0 g