Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baked Spinach and Cheddar Dip


This dip is tasty, satisfying, and very addicting! It's also quite a bit healthier than most hot, creamy spinach dips because it is bean-based rather than cream cheese-based. Just using white beans makes it super creamy, thick, and perfect for dunking. It is a perfect party dip or appetizer that is sure to disappear fast!

Ingredients:

1 19oz. (540mL) can white (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of excess water OR 3 cups of chopped fresh spinach
1 and 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided use - I used Daiya shredded cheddar which is a brand of vegan soy "cheese" because that's all I had on hand. IIt turned out delicious and you honestly can't even tell the difference from regular cheddar cheese. 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

Combine the white beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, and salt in the bowl of a food processor (a blender might also work but I haven't tried it). Process until smooth, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. 

Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the spinach and 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Spread the dip evenly into an 8x8" square baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top. 

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve warm with pitas, chips, crackers, or cut veggies!


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cocoa Roasted Almonds


Roasted nuts are such a tasty and easy snack, and it is way cheaper to make them at home than buying them at the store! You can have your own sweet and salty treat ready in just 15 minutes flat with this recipe. They also make a great homemade gift!

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cup raw almonds
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup, agave, or honey
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small/medium baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease lightly with non-stick spray or oil.

Place the almonds in a medium bowl and add in the maple syrup/agave/honey. Mix with a spoon until the almonds are evenly coated. Add in the cocoa powder and salt and continue to mix until the almonds are evenly coated. 

Pour the almonds onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Make sure you watch them carefully and don't roast them for longer otherwise they will burn! 

Remove from the oven and give them a stir around the baking sheet. Allow them to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container and storing at room temperature.




*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cinnamon Buns


I made these with a friend yesterday afternoon, and they definitely got the seal of approval from two cinnamon bun lovers! This recipe is really quick and easy to make, and doesn't require a lot of rising time so you can have hot, fresh cinnamon buns out of your oven in a little over an hour. The dough is flaky on the outside and gooey in the middle, and there is no shortage of sticky cinnamon sugar. These are perfection!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup 2% milk
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine, room temperature
3 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided use
1 package instant yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup water
1 large egg

Filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine, softened - You could also use butter here, but I find that using margarine for cinnamon bun filling makes them more flaky and light because butter gets absorbed into the dough too easily while baking.

Directions:

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it bubbles. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it is melted. Set aside and allow to cool until lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your electric mixer with the dough hook attachment on, mix together the 2 and 1/4 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt until combined. Stir in the water, egg, and milk mixture and continue to mix until incorporated. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup at a time, into the mixture, stirring well after each addition. When the dough just starts to come together, turn it onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and not sticky at all, about 5-10 minutes.

Cover the dough with a hot, damp cloth and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and softened margarine until combined and smooth.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is a 12x9" rectangle. Spread the filling mixture evenly over the dough. Roll up the dough into a log and pinch the seam together to seal it. With a serrated knife, cut the dough into 10 or 12 even rolls. Lightly grease a rectangular cake pan or two round cake pans with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Place the rolls cut side up into the prepared pans. If you are using two round pans then divide the rolls evenly among the pans. We made the mistake of trying to put all 10 rolls into one 9" round pan and it was a little too crowded after they had baked. Cover and let the cinnamon buns rise in a warm area until they have doubled in size, about 30 minutes. To create a warm spot for the dough I place the covered cake pans on large skillets that I've warmed on low heat on the stovetop for a few minutes - not enough to get super hot, but just enough so that they are warm to the touch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the rolls have finished rising, bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve warm.


*Recipe adapted from Cookie Madness

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Breakfast - Avocado and a Shamrock on Toast!


Celebrate St. Patrick's Day tomorrow with this festive green breakfast! If you've never tried the avocado on toast combination before then I would highly recommend it - it's one of my favourites!

Ingredients:

1 slice bread, toasted
1 green bell pepper
1/4-1/2 an avocado, mashed

Directions:

Toast your bread in the toaster. Once it is done, spread the mashed avocado over the toast in a thick layer. To make the shamrock, cut the bottom off of your green pepper (it may have 3 or 4 bumps depending on the pepper) and place it in the middle of the toast. Cut a small square of pepper for the stem. Enjoy!

*By Brooke McMillan

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rainbow Cake

Every month at the Campus Food Bank we have a birthday cake day for all the volunteers who celebrate their birthdays that month! I was in charge of making this month's birthday cake and couldn't wait to try out this rainbow cake idea I've had in my head for a while. I had also considered making a St. Patrick's Day themed cake and but I figured that rainbows are also pretty thematic for this time of year. The best part about this cake is the surprise rainbow layer inside! It's a great birthday cake, and I think it would be perfect for a child's party or even Easter.

Rainbow Cake Ingredients:

1 box Rainbow Bits cake mix - This will make the top and bottom layers of your cake. To make the box mix more moist I use buttermilk in the place of the water or milk that the instructions call for.
 Mini marshmallows
Sour rainbow candy strips
1 tube white decorators icing

Vanilla Rainbow Cake Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk - Make your own buttermilk by combining 1/2 Tbsp. of white vinegar with enough milk to make 1/2 cup
Red, blue, yellow, and green food colouring

Directions: 

Bake the Rainbow Bits cake according to the directions for two 9" round cakes on the package. I line the bottom of my round cake pans with a circle of parchment paper and spray them with non-stick cooking spray for easy removal of the cakes after baking. Once they are done baking, allow them to cool completely on wire racks while you make the vanilla rainbow cake layer.

For the vanilla rainbow cake layer: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9" round cake pan with a circle of parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and continue to mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in three additions, alternating with adding in the buttermilk, mixing well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Once the vanilla cake batter is prepared, evenly separate it into four bowls. Dye each bowl of vanilla cake one of the four colours of food colouring, by adding in a few drops of colour and stirring.


Create the rainbow effect by pouring a small amount of one colour of batter into the bottom of the prepared cake pan, then adding in another beside it, and so on. Continue pouring small amounts of different coloured batters on top of one another (as pictured below) until all the batter has been used.


Bake in the preheated oven for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry with a few crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before assembling and icing the cake.

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1 and 1/4 cup butter, temperature
7 cups icing sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. milk
Blue food colouring - I used Royal Blue Wilton gel paste

Icing Directions:

In a stand mixer or with using in electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Slowly add in the icing sugar, 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in 1 Tbsp. of milk if needed to reach the desired consistency. Mix in the blue food colouring until the icing is bright sky blue. If you are making the icing ahead of time then in mind that the icing colour will intensify the longer you leave it to sit.

This recipe should make more icing than you will need to ice this cake, but I always like to have too much rather than not enough icing I just freeze whatever is leftover in an airtight container to use for other cakes or cupcakes.

Assembling and Decorating the Cake:

Begin by levelling off all of your cake layers with a sharp, serrated knife so that they are completely flat on top. If your cakes are already level then skip this step. Place one of the Rainbow Bits layers right-side up on your serving platter or plate, and spread out a thick layer of cream cheese icing on top.


Place the vanilla rainbow cake layer on top of the icing and spread another thick layer of cream cheese icing on top. Place the second Rainbow Bits layer, top-side down on top of the vanilla rainbow cake layer.


Put a large amount of the cream cheese icing in the middle of the top cake layer. Smooth over the top of the cake and down the sides with an angled spatula or knife. Finish evenly icing the cake with the remaining cream cheese icing.


To decorate the cake, I used sour rainbow candy strips to make a rainbow, then made small "clouds" with mini marshmallows. I placed a small amount of icing on the bottom of each marshmallow before I pressed it onto the cake so that they would stick on. I used more of the rainbow candy strips to decorate the sides of the cake by placing a small amount of icing on the back and wrapping them around the bottom, middle, and top of the cake. I piped the border and the "Happy Birthday" on using a tube of storebought white decorators icing that you can attach an icing tip onto.

Here is what the inside of the cake will look like when you cut into it! Each piece will have a different looking rainbow slice in the middle!

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cupcakes


I know not everyone is a fan of chocolate-covered maraschino cherries, but I happen to love them! They make a double appearance in these chocolate cupcakes, both hidden in the middle and sitting on top. I used an icing technique combining chocolate icing and pink vanilla icing that makes an impressive two-tone effect!

Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 chocolate-covered cherries

Icing:

I used store-bought chocolate icing and store-bought vanilla icing that I dyed pink to frost these cupcakes. Feel free to do the same, or check out some of my homemade icing recipes on this website! I topped each cupcake with an additional chocolate-covered cherry, so you will need 12 more for the decorating part of this recipe.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, vegetable oil, and water over low heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the melted butter mixture and whisk or beat with an electric mixture until smooth. Add in the egg and beat until it is incorporated, then add the buttermilk and vanilla and continue to beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Fill the prepared muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Place a chocolate-covered cherry in the centre of each tin of cupcake batter. 
Bake in the centre of the oven for 23-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean with a few crumbs attached and the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the muffin tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer from the tin onto the wire rack to finish cooling completely before frosting. Be careful when handling these cupcakes because the chocolate-covered cherry inside makes them pretty heavy!

Two-tone Icing Technique:

To frost these cupcakes you will need a piping bag, large star piping tip, a tall glass, and a spoon or knife. Begin by inserting your piping tip into the piping bag, then place the bag tip-down into the tall glass. Fold the top of the piping bag over the sides of the glass so it fits snugly inside and there is a large hole for you to put the icing into. Using your knife or spoon, scoop the chocolate icing into the piping bag along one side, then repeat with the pink icing. Try to get both types of icings all the way down the piping bag evenly - it doesn't have to be perfect but the two colours should be side-by-side and not one on top of the other. Your piping bag should look something like this, but more full of icing:
Remove the piping bag from the glass and twist the top closed. Pipe out a small amount of icing onto a paper towel or plate, until both colours begin to come out of the tip at once. Now you are ready to begin icing your cupcakes! Gently, and with even pressure, begin to squeeze the icing bag and make a swirl of icing on top of the cupcake, starting from the outside and working your way to the inner centre of the cupcake. Top each cupcake with an additional chocolate-covered cherry and store covered in the refrigerator until serving.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cookies n' Cream Cupcakes

Since it's the Oreo cookie's 100th birthday this year, I figured I would celebrate by making some delicious cookies n' cream cupcakes! These cupcakes are a super moist chocolate cake that has a surprise Oreo cookie hidden on the bottom. They are topped with homemade cookies n' cream buttercream icing, which could be the best icing I have made to date - I seriously could not stop eating it out of the bowl! If you'd like to make some other Oreo recipes to celebrate then check out my other Oreo cookie recipes by clicking the Oreo category link on the left side of the main page!


It also happens to be my mom's birthday today too, so Happy Birthday Mom! xoxo

Oreo Cupcake Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 Oreo cookies, separated into halves

Cookies n' Cream Icing:

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. milk or heavy cream
12 Oreo cookie halves plus 2-4 full Oreo cookies

Cupcake Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, vegetable oil, and water over low heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the melted butter mixture and whisk or beat with an electric mixture until smooth. Add in the egg and beat until it is incorporated, then add the buttermilk and vanilla and continue to beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Separate your 12 Oreo cookies into one half with icing on it and one half just the plain chocolate cookie. Place the half with the icing on it into the bottom of the paper cupcake liners, icing side up. Set aside the plain chocolate cookie halves for the icing.
Fill the prepared muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for 23-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean with a few crumbs attached and the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the muffin tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer from the tin onto the wire rack to finish cooling completely before frosting.


Cookies n' Cream Icing Directions:

In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the icing sugar, salt, and vanilla and continue to mix until combined. Add in the milk or cream and beat until the icing is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. 

Place the Oreo cookie halves that you set aside in a large plastic bag, along with the 2-4 full Oreo cookies. Crush the cookies in the bag until there is a mixture of small and medium sized cookie crumbs. Pour the Oreo cookie crumbs into the icing and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until they are evenly distributed in the icing.

Spread the icing onto the cooled cupcakes or pipe on with a piping bag and tip. I just spread mine on with an angled spatula, but if you are planning on piping on the icing then make sure your Oreo cookies are crushed very finely so that no large chunks clog up the piping tip. You can also garnish the cupcakes with Oreo cookie halves, or a single mini Oreo cookie, if desired. Store covered in the refrigerator if you are not serving these immediately.


*Recipe adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is sweet, creamy, and comforting. You may be surprised to know that it is one of my favourite desserts even though it doesn't require baking at all. There are many variations of rice pudding and different techniques for making it, but this recipe is about as simple and quick as it gets! If you can manage to cook rice then you can make this dessert no problem! 

Ingredients:

2 and 3/4 cups 2% or whole milk - Use vanilla almond milk to make this vegan or dairy-free
1/2 cups arborio rice - Arborio rice is a pearly-looking, round, Italian white rice that cooks up smooth and creamy without becoming too mushy. I love the texture it gives to rice pudding, but if you don't have any on hand then you can substitute short-grain white rice and you may have to adjust the cooking time.
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup raisins

Directions:

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, rice, and salt. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15-18 minutes. Stir frequently, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When the rice is tender, remove from heat and add the sugar, vanilla, and cinnmon. Return the pot to the heat and cook until the rice pudding thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the raisins. Spoon the pudding into 2-3 serving bowls and cover the bowls with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the rice puddings for about 1-2 hours, then lightly sprinkle with additional cinnamon and serve chilled, or warm if you prefer.

This recipe makes 2-3 servings, but can be doubled to make more.


*Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking