Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a sweet, no-bake treat that happen to be 100% Canadian! They are made up of three decadent layers: first there is a chocolate, graham cracker, and coconut base,  then a creamy, buttery vanilla filling, and finally it's all topped off with melted chocolate. 

Ingredients:

Layer 1:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
5 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 and 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut

Layer 2:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp. heavy cream or 2% milk
2 Tbsp. instant vanilla pudding powder
2 cups icing sugar

Layer 3:
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter

Directions:

Line an 8x8" or 9x9" square baking pan with parchment paper or tin foil, so that the paper or foil comes up all 4 sides. Set aside.

In a double boiler, combine the butter, white sugar, and cocoa powder and stir until they are melted and smooth. To make a double boiler, fill a medium-sized pot halfway with water and put over medium heat on the stove. Place your ingredients in a small-medium heatproof bowl that fits over the pot, then place it on top of the pot, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. The steam from the boiling water will gently heat your ingredients to melt them together slowly, so they won't burn.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Then, slowly whisk the egg into the melted double boiler mixture with a wire whisk. Don't add it all at once or you will end up scrambling your egg, just slowly pour it in, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until fully incorporated and the chocolate mixture is thick.

Remove from heat and mix in the graham crumbs and coconut. Firmly press the first layer down into the prepared baking pan, making sure that it is evenly distributed across the pan.

For the second layer, cream together the butter, cream/milk, and vanilla pudding powder with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add in the icing sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing until smooth. Evenly spread over the bottom layer with an angled spatula or knife. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until the middle layer has set, about 30-60 minutes.

Once the middle layer has set, melt the chocolate and butter together in another double boiler or in the microwave. Make sure to watch it carefully so the chocolate doesn't burn. Evenly spread the melted chocolate over the middle layer with an angled spatula or knife. Cover with plastic wrap and place the bars back in the fridge to chill until the chocolate is no longer melted but not completely hardened, about half an hour.

Before the chocolate completely hardens, score the bars into squares. (Note: I know from personal experience that if you let the chocolate completely harden you will have a terrible time trying to cut the bars. The chocolate layer just ends up cracking and making a mess and the bars do not look pretty! Just let the chocolate get a little firm and then gently make cuts through the chocolate layer with a sharp knife) Once the bars have completely set after being refrigerated, lift from the pan using the parchment paper and cut into squares. These are very sweet so you can get away with cutting very small squares. Wipe off your cutting knife frequently so that you get clean cuts and don't smear the layers into one another. Store bars in an airtight container in the fridge, or freeze for longer storage.


*Recipe adapted from I Adore Food!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Green Smoothie


Looking for a way to add more green veggies into your diet? This recipe sneakily packs 2 cups of healthy fresh greens into a tasty smoothie! I promise that aside from the bright green colour, you won't be able to detect the taste of the kale or spinach. Enjoy for breakfast, before or after a workout, or to cool off in the warm spring and summer weather ahead! 

Ingredients:

2 cups kale (de-stemmed) or spinach
1 ripe banana - Use a frozen banana for a super thick and creamy smoothie
1 cup ice cubes
1 cup almond, soy, or dairy milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Other optional add-ins: 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries, 1 small peeled orange, 1 Tbsp. flax or chia seeds, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 Tbsp. peanut or almond butter, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. honey or agave

Directions:


In your blender, layer the kale or spinach, banana, ice cubes, almond milk, and vanilla extract. Putting the banana and ice cubes on top of the kale or spinach weighs it down and ensures it gets blended smoothly. If you are including any of the optional add-ins then put those at the bottom of the blender as well.


Blend on high for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and no whole pieces of kale or spinach remain. Pour into a large glass and serve chilled.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Curious about kale? Here are some of its nutritional information and amazing health benefits:

1 cup of kale has 36 calories, 0 grams of fat, and contains nearly 20% of the RDA for dietary fiber, which promotes regular digestion, slows absorption of sugar into the blood, lowers cholesterol, and keeps you full longer!

1 cup contains over 192% of the RDA for Vitamin A, which is an antioxidant that boosts immunity and maintains healthy bones and teeth. It also contains over 88% of the RDA for Vitamin C, another antioxidant that lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, and promotes optical health.

1 cup also contains over 1300% of the RDA for Vitamin K, which promotes bone strength, nervous system health, and prevents calcium build-up in tissues that can lead to blocked blood vessels, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

It contains antioxidants in the form of carotenoids and flavonoids that help defend your body from free radicals (bad cells that cause oxidative stress on the body and can be cancerous).

It is a source of cancer fighting compounds called glucosinolates, which have been shown to protect your body from many forms of cancer.

It contains omega-3 fatty acids which prevent inflammation in the body and promote heart health.

Kale is also a very good source of copper, calcium, Vitamin B6, and potassium.

You can enjoy kale in a variety of ways! Try it raw in salads or smoothies, steamed or sauteed (like collard greens or spinach), or baked into kale chips. Find it by the lettuce and other greens or in the frozen vegetable section in any grocery store. 

Here are some of my other recipes with kale:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Moscato Cupcakes


I made these cupcakes for a friend's birthday because she loves Moscato wine. They are definitely the perfect cupcake for a girl's night or special occasion! Moscato is very light, sweet, and fruity so it pairs perfectly with desserts. The cupcakes and icing taste more like vanilla than they do the wine, but these are probably one of the best vanilla cupcakes I have tried. They are best enjoyed with a glass of chilled Moscato of course!

Ingredients:
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 and 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup Moscato wine
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. white vinegar
Optional: fresh strawberries or sprinkles for garnish

The secret ingredient

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put cupcake liners in two cupcake pans. This recipe should make 12-18 cupcakes depending on the size of your pan.


In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar, and whisk together. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, Moscato, buttermilk, eggs, and vinegar. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into dry and mix until it is  just blended. 

Scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake pan, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks before frosting with Moscato vanilla icing.

Moscato Vanilla Icing:

8 oz. (1 cup) butter, room temperature - You could also use a mixture of half butter and half cream cheese for the icing if desired, but I used all butter and it was delicious!
3 Tbsp. Moscato
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar

In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer until it is smooth and fluffy. Add in the Moscato and vanilla and continue mixing until combined. Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until smooth and light. Frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish with a fresh sliced strawberry half and/or sprinkles.


*Recipe adapted from Sutter Home Blog

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Honey Wheat Bread


Nothing beats the smell or taste of freshly baked bread! It's probably one of my favourite things in the world! I know a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of baking bread from scratch, so I've posted a step-by-step recipe with photos that will hopefully show that it is really so easy! All you need is are some simple ingredients, a few hours, and some patience, and then you can enjoy the aroma and taste of warm, crusty bread right from your own oven. This bread is perfect for making sandwiches, or just enjoyed on it's own smeared with butter and jam or honey.

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. active dry yeast
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2-3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

Step 1:
Combine the warm water, yeast, and honey in a large bowl. Stir with a spoon to dissolve the yeast and allow the mixture to sit until the top becomes foamy. This will take about 10 minutes.

Step 2:
Once the yeast mixture is foamy, stir in the olive oil and salt. Then, stir in the 1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour.

Step 3:
Begin to add in the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough becomes clumpy and you can no longer stir it with a spoon. You won't be able to add in all of the all-purpose flour in this step, just add flour until you can no longer stir.

Step 4:
Lightly flour a countertop or clean surface and turn the ball of dough and any little stray bits of dough from the bowl out onto it. Begin to knead in the rest of the all-purpose flour until the dough comes together and is no longer sticky. Depending on the moisture content of your environment and your flour, you may not need to use all 3 cups of the all-purpose flour. (Note: I only used about 2 and 1/4 cups to get to the right texture of dough). Just add flour and keep kneading until you have soft, elastic dough that is not sticky. Knead the ball of dough for about 3-5 minutes by applying pressure with the heel of your palm and rotating the dough in 1/4 turns.

Step 5:
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Loosely cover the bowl with a dish towel and place it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. This will take about 45 minutes. To create a nice warm environment for the dough to rise in, I like to turn my oven on for about a minute just to get it warmed up, then turn it off and place the bowl of dough inside.

Step 6:
After the first rise, remove the dough ball from the bowl and shape it into a log the length of your bread pan. Coat the bread pan with non-stick cooking spray or oil and place the dough inside. (Note: I should have used a bigger bread pan because my bread expanded much more than the loaf pan I used. This didn't affect the taste of the bread at all, but I would use the bigger pan for a more uniform, appealing appearance next time). 

Step 7:
Cover the bread with a dish towel, place it in a warm environment, and allow the dough to rise again until it has doubled in size. This will take about another 45 minutes. 

Step 8:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut a long slit in the top of the dough with a serrated bread knife or sharp knife to allow for expansion during baking. 

Step 9:
Once the oven is heated, bake the bread for 30 minutes, until the top is deep golden brown. (Note: The top of my bread got a little more browned than I would have liked (didn't taste burnt though!), so next time I make this recipe I will keep a closer eye on it towards the end of baking time and maybe remove it after 27-28 minutes instead of the full 30. Every oven is different so you may need to watch the bread in the last 5 minutes of baking and play around with the time a bit if you want a perfectly browned top). Remove the bread from the pan immediately and allow it to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Store bread in an airtight container or plastic bag on the countertop, or in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life. Make sure the bread has cooled completely before placing it in the plastic bag and/or the refrigerator, otherwise it will form condensation and cause the bread to become soggy.

*Recipe adapted from Budget Bytes

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Flower Cupcakes


These vanilla cupcakes with berry jam filling and cream cheese icing are the perfect way to welcome spring!

Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup milk
12 large yellow circular candies - I used yellow Wilton candy melts, but you could use any candy you have on hand. M&M's, Smarties, jelly beans, or Skittles would all work well. Alternatively, you could just dye a small portion of the icing yellow and pipe a dot into the middle of each cupcake.

Cupcake Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. I used a flower-shaped muffin tin and green mini cupcake liners, but feel free to use a regular tin and regular liners. 

With a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Cool the cupcakes completely before icing.

I filled my cupcakes with a berry jam filling, using a long filling icing tip. This step is totally optional but adds a tasty surprise when you bite into a cupcake!

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-4 cups icing sugar
Purple or pink food colouring

Icing Directions:

Cream together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add in the vanilla extract, then add the icing sugar one cup at a time, until well combined and creamy. Add in your food colouring (I used Wilton gel pastes) and mix until the colour is evenly distributed.


Attach a large petal or leaf icing tip to a piping bag and fill with the prepared icing. Pipe "flower petals" around the top of the cupcake by applying gentle pressure to the piping bag and moving the tip in a teardrop shape, beginning and ending in the centre of the cupcake. Work your way around the cupcake until it is covered, making as few or as many petals as you would like. Place a yellow circular candy in the centre of each cupcake. Store decorated cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator or serve immediately.



*By Brooke McMillan

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sticky Finger Squares


I made these squares for my soccer team when we were playing in a day-long tournament a few weeks ago. They were a great portable snack that provided a boost of energy when we needed it! The squares are sweet, crunchy, chewy, and sticky (as the name implies) and make a great addition to lunchboxes, potlucks, bake sales, or for when you need a quick, sweet snack.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
3 cups Shreddies (or other wheat cereal squares)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup raisins

Directions:

Lightly grease an 8x8" or 9x9" square baking pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl or medium saucepan, combine the corn syrup and peanut butter. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or heat on the stovetop over medium heat until smooth. Stir to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the Shreddies, coconut, and raisins. Pour in the corn syrup/peanut butter mixture and gently stir until everything has been evenly coated.

Spread into the prepared pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container on the countertop or in the fridge.



*Recipe adapted from Kraft

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Bread Pudding

Peanut butter and banana is always a delicious combination, and it works so perfectly in this breakfast bread pudding. The bread pudding is warm, gooey, and comforting, with just enough sweetness from the caramelized bananas. Make this recipe the night before for a simple and quick addition to your weekend brunch!

Ingredients:

4 slices sandwich bread
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk or almond milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
Honey for drizzling (optional)

Directions:

Roughly cut or tear the bread slices into 1-inch pieces and set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, milk, and salt. Place the peanut butter in a small dish and microwave for about 30 seconds, or until soft and liquid. Stir the melted peanut butter into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.

Gently stir the bread into the wet mixture and toss until the bread pieces are evenly coated and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Slice the bananas and very gently stir them in. Lightly grease an 8x8" square baking pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Pour the bread pudding mixture into the pan and gently press down with the back of a spoon or wooden spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
 After refrigerating overnight


After baking

After refrigeration, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the bread pudding for 20 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve immediately with a drizzle of honey on top. Store covered in the refrigerator.

This recipe will serve 4 small portions or 2 large portions.



*Recipe adapted from The Kitchn