Friday, 28 December 2012

Hot Chocolate Cookies

Just made a batch of these using my NEW 1" ice cream scoop for perfect little balls of chocolate lovin' with little effort.

I made them using butter instead of coconut oil (none on-hand) and forgot to add 1/4 cup chocolate chips at the end, just melted it all.

Mix well with your bare (clean) hand and form into balls.  They don't spread or change shape at all when you bake them, so you can line them up in tight rows on the pan.

So rich and yummy!  Use the best quality chocolate you have.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Food, family, friends and fun (recipe for Pineapple Squares)

I'll be home with my kids and partner for this holiday season.  My parents are flying here tomorrow and will be with us for a whole week!  They'll get a pretty good "feel" for what life is like for us.  It's pretty chaotic at times, magical at others.  I'm so fortunate to have people around me that I love, that love me, we all have good health and are, for the most part, very happy people.

We'll be eating a turkey that led a happy life, organic vegetables and pineapple squares (my father's favourite recipe, but I'll be switching out the heavenly shortbread base for a graham crust as my father gets heartburn from the shortbread).  I had a difficult time finding a recipe similar to the one my Mum uses that is from a United Church cookbook from Newfoundland.  The name of the squares is a hard one to nail down and get the right list of ingredients.  Here's my Mum's version:

Low fat (tee-hee) Pineapple Squares
1st layer: Mix 2 cups flour, 1 c. butter and 4 T sugar.  Save 1/2 c. for crumbs if you want them for top of squares.  Press on bottom of 8 or 9" pan.  Bake 20 minutes at 350F and then cool.
2nd layer: Cream 1/2 soft butter, 1.5 C icing sugar and 2 eggs. Add to cooled base layer.
3rd layer: Whip 1c. of whipping cream and add a drained small can of pineapple.
4th layer: Reserved crumbs from base or cherries or nothing.
Note: if you are ever making them for your Dad (his fav recipe) use graham cracker crumb base as he get heartburn from shortbread base.
Here is a link to a blog that has an image like mine will look like in a couple of days when I make them.
How are you spending the holiday season?  Do you get any extra days off?  Are you traveling?  Do you wish you were with someone you cannot be with or somewhere?  What are you most looking forward to?  Anything you'd like to share?

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Butterscotch Sauce

So, I've figured out one of my problems with this whole blogging thing - I'm overzealous.

I make something and then get so excited to share it with you that I don't always have pictures or know how said dish reacts to being frozen or left on the counter for three days.  I don't practice the dish with substitutions or give myself a day or two to mull it over and really know how I feel about it.

I will work on this.

But in the meantime, I'd like to share a recipe impulsively again.  Just for old times' sake.

Who can go wrong with butterscotch sauce?!  The recipe states you can "serve Hot Butterscotch Sauce warm over vanilla or chocolate ripple ice cream, pound cake slices, peach or apple pie, tapioca pudding, baked custard."  Oh my goodness!  The Big Kid and I love tapioca pudding and when I read that blurb to him, his eyes got big and he was slowly nodding his head.  I guess I know what we're having for snack tomorrow! 

Apple pie!  Pound cake!  Apple slices!  Waffles!  Oh my!

I don't get out enough.

I also don't make butterscotch sauce enough.

I'm going to change that right now.

Hot Butterscotch Sauce
from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup half-n-half or 10%
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
- combine all in a small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat (or medium high) stirring occasionally.
- serve as above or on a spoon (once cooled to a safe temp)
- store in an airtight bottle or in a squeeze bottle in the fridge for a couple of weeks or at room temperature for several days.

Waffles, plain ol' waffles

Here are two fabulous waffle recipes from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.

Regular waffles
1 3/4 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1/3 cup oil (or melted butter)
2 eggs
- whisk dry
- whisk wet
- combine to thoroughly blended
- make in waffle iron as directed (or pancakes)

Buttermilk waffles
1 3/4 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk *
1/3 cup oil (or melted butter)
2 eggs
- whisk dry
- whisk wet
- combine to thoroughly blended
- make in waffle iron as directed (or pancakes)

* if you don't have buttermilk in your fridge here's a reliable substitution:
     pour 1 Tbsp white vinegar in a measuring glass
     top up to the top with milk and let it stand about 5 minutes to react
Here are a few more ideas to sub for buttermilk.

Each of the above recipes makes about 20 waffles in my waffle iron.  That's refilling the 4 squares 5 times with 1/3 cup batter each.  Batter recipes can be doubled.

Waffles make a great leftover snack as is or warmed slightly in the toaster.  They also freeze and thaw exceptionally well for an almost effortless breakfast.  Cook once, eat twice - yeah, baby!

Top with anything you can imagine!  Table syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup, Hot Butterscotch Sauce, fruit, whipped cream, Nutella, peanut butter with a sprinkling of brown sugar, bananas, sunbutter, lemon juice and icing sugar, an egg and a slice of bacon...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Another person's blog

Man, this woman can cook! 

She feeds a big family, loves to put stuff in the freezer, bakes for her neighbours and is a joy to read, at least, in my opinion.

Please meet Ree, The Pioneer Woman.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Holiday cookie exchange

I took part in a cookie exchange today!

I feel like I won a jackpot.

Here is what I scored:

Here is what I shared:

See the difference?  I used fancy plastic wrap and most of them used their imaginations.

I scored snowballs, chocolate chip cookies, peppermint bark, spiced sugar cookies, butter cookies with cherries on top, white chocolate lemon drop cookies, lemon rolled cookies, gingerbread men, oatmeal raisin cookies.  Great variety and I'm kind of surprised there weren't any shortbread cookies.  So far, the quality of the ingredients used is good too, though I have yet to sample them all.

We brought a treat to share, but because the cookie I made to exchange had peanuts in it, I did not share them in the nut-free facility we were using for the event.  I made a batch of cake balls and shared them instead.  They went over well, but they weren't the biggest hit.  I honestly feel the butter cookies with the cherries on them were better. 

I'm really impressed with the perceived effort that went into the gingerbread men.  This means she rolled out, cut out and fully decorated 72 individual cookies.  That's more dedication than I had for the cookie exchange.



 In retrospect, I will put more imagination and effort in to a cookie exchange next year and maybe my offerings will be dressed to impress!

I made Janet & Greta Podleski's Girl Guy Cookies, a cross between a peanut butter cookie and a spicy molasses cookie.  They are chewy and bake up really purdy-like so they look good for setting out on a platter and trading to new friends and neighbours.  The recipe is here for the Girl-Guy Cookies.

Girl-Guy Cookies with a chewy centre and crispy outside.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tuna Noodle Casserole and a cheese sauce recipe

After a busy Sunday out 'n about (where I come from that's pronounced "oot 'n aboot") we landed home with a Christmas tree and no premeditated supper.

I was in the mood for noodles and tuna so I whipped up a tuna noodle casserole.  I based it on a recipe from Janet and Greta Podleski's cookbook Eat, Shrink & Be Merry.  I also used a white sauce from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook as I did not have a can of condensed soup on-hand.  I've been maintaining a pretty bare pantry lately in an effort to use what I have already.

Tuna Noodle Stovetop Casserole
based on Janet & Greta Podleski
1 375g pkg rotini (or any small shape)(I used whole wheat)
2 cups frozen vegetables (I used peas and corn)
1 batch of cheese sauce (recipe below)
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 cans tuna (or bnls sknls salmon), drained
- cook pasta according to pkg directions, adding frozen veggies for the last 5 minutes.  Drain.
- meanwhile, prepare cheese sauce
- meanwhile, in a big pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook just to softened (about 5 minutes).  Add cheese sauce, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Stir in pasta, vegetables and tuna.  Serve hot.

Cheese Sauce
from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cook
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1 cup milk or half-n-half
1/2 - 1 cup grated cheese (can be medium cheddar or older)
- melt butter in small pot, add flour, salt, pepper and paprika over low heat, whisk well.
- slowly add milk, stirring constantly, to thickened.  Remove from heat and add cheese, stir to melted.

Now, without adding the pasta to the tuna / cheese / veg sauce mixture above, it could easily have been served on toast, maybe thinned out just a bit with a bit more milk or cream.  It was so tasty!  I found mixing in the pasta really dulled the tuna mixture's flavour.  It's hard to stay straight-faced as I talk to you about creamed tuna on toast, I have to admit.  It's not a serious subject.

The above-mentioned cheese sauce is also great on a package of elbow macaroni for mac 'n cheese.  I recently posted about this white sauce here and suggested how great it was on broccoli.  I wasn't kidding.  I'd mix the broccoli with the pasta and pour on this cheese sauce. 


Saturday, 8 December 2012

Movie night and pizza

Every Friday since we moved in to our new house (in our new town in our new province) we have had movie night on Friday night.  We choose a very docile, kid-friendly movie and we all gather together on the couch (we have a couch in our new house!) and watch a movie. 


My Man has fond memories of his Papa making an enormous bowl of popcorn and sitting down with it to watch a movie and everyone was welcome to dig into his bowl.  So now My Man, also known as Papa, makes a big bowl of popcorn every Friday night and each of the kids gets their own container to eat from.  He makes it in a pot on the stove, the way his Papa did and the way my family has always made it as well.  Here's how: heat some oil in a big pot on almost-high heat, throw in three kernels.  When those begin to pop pour in about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of kernels and put the cover on.  Keep the pot moving so as to not burn the already popped popcorn.  When popping slows nearly to a stop (a couple of seconds between pops) immediately dump the popcorn into a big bowl.  You can melt some butter and shake on some salt if you want.  If you have ideas to flavour popcorn, please feel free to share them with me below in the comments section.  I have tried cinnamon and it was not well received.

Tonight, we watched Ice Age and I cried.  I'm such a baby.

Twin 1 (aka Thing 1) helped me out cutting "wif the big, sharp knife" before his sisters awoke from their nap.

We also made PIZZA.  Individual pizzas!  They each had their own that they dressed as they pleased.  The toppings were pizza sauce, red peppers, green peppers, crushed pineapple, ham, ground beef with a bit of taco seasoning (homemade with this recipe) and mozzarella cheese.  Miam.  The crust was also homemade and such a pleasure to work with. 

4 kids' pizzas before going in the oven - they topped them themselves.
Close-up of kids' pizzas before baking.

Pizza crust
adapted from Canadian Living
1-1/4 cups hot (120 F/50 C) water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp traditional or instant dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
- pour water into mixong bowl, add sugar and sprinkle yeast on top.  Let proof until slightly foamy on top
- add salt and oil
- add flour while mixing, adding a Tbsp at a time more until it is no longer sticky.  In my Kitchen Aid mixer, I let it knead about 8 minutes on speed 2
- grease a bowl and the top of your dough, let rise in a warm place 1 hour (Make-ahead: Refrigerate unrisen dough and let rise for 24 hours. Or freeze in plastic bag for up to 1 month; let thaw and rise in refrigerator overnight.)
- grease baking sheet and spread your dough out (it's a dream to work with!), top as desired and bake at 400F for about 25 minutes. 

Kids' pizzas after baking and before devouring.


The "adult" pizza.  The Big Kid ate almost half of ours as his wasn't big enough
(and he's not nearly a teenager yet!).
What kind of family traditions did you have?  Not necessarily around holidays, but the weekly or monthly ones.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Real food - Thai Shrimp Soup

I'm usually so excited to share with you all the sweets, treats and desserts that I make that I forget to share with you all the normal, everyday food that my family grows on. 

Well, we eat three meals and at least two snacks a day.  We share two of the meals together every day as a group of six.  My Man takes his lunch to work, but the other five of us still eat lunch together at home.  That's a lot of meals and snacks!  I bet you're wondering what we really eat all day long!  The next few posts will give you some insight into this.

The Big Kid loves shrimp!  "Shrimp and tortellini" his Gramma Jean and Nanny will tell you.  I don't think he's had them together in the same dish, but definitely in the same meal!

This soup does not contain tortellini, fear not.

All the kids gobble it down, especially the Big Kid.

There's a bit of chopping to do, then it just simmers for a few minutes.  This could most definitely be made on a school night.  You can even buy sweet potatoes that are peeled and cubed for you in many big grocery stores thereby cutting back on even more prep work.

This recipe came straight out of Janet and Gret Podleski's cookbook Eat, Shrink and Be Merry.  Hopefully you won't be put off by the long list of ingredients, it's a really good soup.

Thai Shrimp Soup
from Janet and Greta Podleski
2 tsp butter or olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 tsp minced garlic
4 cups peeled sweet potatoes (about two large)
1 tbsp fresh grated gingerroot
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground coriander I can't stomach coriander so I leave it out
3/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups chicken broth
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp each chopped fresh cilantro I can't stomach cilantro either so I leave it out
3 tbsp basil leaves (I usually don't have fresh basil lying around and the soup is fine without it)
2 tbsp light peanut butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 lb cooked medium shrimp, tails removed, (thaw first)
- heat butter in a large non-stick pot over medium heat. Add onions, red pepper, celery and garlic. Cook and stir until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
- stir in sweet potatoes, gingerroot, cumin, coriander, curry powder and cinnamon. Cook and stir for 30 more seconds. Add broth, coconut milk, salt & pepper. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, just until sweet potatoes are tender.
- trasnfer half the soup to a blender and purée until smooth. Return puréed soup to pot with remaining soup. Stir in cilantro, basil, peanut butter, brown sugar, and lime juice. Mix well. Add shrimp and heat for about 2 more minutes just until shrimp is hot.

This is NOT my photo, but my soup looks just like this so I felt it was an accurate representation.

What do you guys eat every day or even now and then as meals?  How do you get your whole family to stay at the table to share a meal?

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Homemade Peppermint Patties

I love mint.  I seem to keep forgetting.  But then, maybe that's a good thing because then I keep getting surprised by how much I enjoy minty things whenever I eat them.

Just dry enough, yet a smooth minty filling.

These mints remind me of a York Peppermint Patty.  So cool and refreshing.

The recipe I used is based on one from How Sweet Eats.  She based hers on The Joy Of Baking - a great information site I recommend you read, it's a great site.

These were easy to make, very rewarding and simple ingredients.  There are a few steps, of course, but nothing is complicated.  These can be made and enjoyed in one evening.

A simple candy requiring no special tools.  Your guests will love these and perhaps you will give them away in your cookie exchange or to the bus driver or teacher or favouritest co-worker or babysitter.  Who knows?!


I did use peppermint extract, I didn't even bother looking for peppermint oil in this little town of mine.  I dipped my candies in a combination of a dark (72%) chocolate bar I had on-hand and some Hershey's Chipits dark (50%) chocolate chips I also had on-hand.  Delish!  The candy centre was good straight up but once dipped in chocolate, the balance was perfect.

Peppermint Patties
adapted from a combination of How Sweet Eats and Joy of Baking
2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
drop or two of peppermint extract
2 Tbsp milk (I used 10% cream)
Chocolate Coating:
1-2 cups semi sweet, bittersweet or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp butter
- in an electric mixer, beat first 5 ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate to set. Once firm, scoop by the teaspoonful (or any size you want - from Junior Mints to York patties), roll into balls.  Fridge to set. Push down to flatten. Set in freezer.

- melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Remove patties from freezer and dip in chocolate, setting on wax paper. Freeze again until ready to eat.
I made 39 patties using a teaspoon.  I think there are about 25 left...  My Man is loving them, the Big Kid too.  The Three Wees haven't had any yet.
These pictures are actually okay!  I'm pretty pleased with them.

Post script: I'm certain a drop or two of green food colouring would suit if you associate green with mint.