Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peaches n' Cream Oatmeal Cookies


These cookies are a delicious combination of peaches, vanilla, and white chocolate. The instant oatmeal and vanilla pudding mix both melt away into the dough, making these cookies perfectly chewy and pillowy. 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 4-serving box instant vanilla pudding mix (dry)
4 individual packets of peaches n' cream instant oatmeal
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

In a large bowl, cream together the sugars and butter until smooth. Add in the vanilla and the egg and continue mixing until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and vanilla pudding mix. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until well incorporated.

Stir in the contents of the instant oatmeal packets and the white chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Cover and refrigerate the cookie dough for at least half an hour prior to baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the chilled dough into small balls and place on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the cookies just begin to lightly brown around the edges and the middle has just set. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gourmet Chocolate Covered Strawberries


I made these chocolate covered strawberries for a big family BBQ last weekend. Since my kitchen at home is currently undergoing renovations and didn't have the new oven installed yet, I was limited in what I could make for dessert for all of our guests. I decided to get a little creative with the basket of strawberries in the fridge and other random baking ingredients I found. I've called these "gourmet" because they go a little beyond the basic chocolate covered strawberries and use fun coatings like shredded coconut and slivered almonds. They are super easy and quick to make, and perfect finger-food for summer gatherings.

Ingredients:
*Note: I haven't included measurements because it will depend on how many strawberries you are making, so just use whatever amounts you need to cover your strawberries
Fresh strawberries, washed and dried
Milk chocolate (I used milk chocolate chips)
Coatings: sweetened shredded coconut (toasting optional), crushed slivered almonds - Feel free to get creative and try out other coatings, just crush them into smallish crumbs so they stick onto the chocolate

Three variations: Coconut, almond, and regular chocolate

Directions:

Line some large baking sheets or a platter with wax paper. Set aside.

Pour the shredded coconut and slivered almonds into two separate shallow bowls or large plates. Be sure that the almonds have been lightly crushed so there are smaller and larger slivers. Set aside.

In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the chocolate until smooth. Alternatively you could melt your chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave - just be sure to only microwave the chocolate for 30 seconds at a time, then stir and check it after each 30 seconds so you don't burn it. Don't microwave it all at once because it will harden as it cools and you don't want to have to reheat a huge amount every time.

Hold each strawberry firmly by the leaves and dip into the melted chocolate. You may find it easier to use a small spoon to evenly cover the strawberry with chocolate. Immediately roll the chocolate covered strawberry into either the coconut or almonds until it is evenly coated. Place the strawberry onto the wax paper covered baking sheets. Repeat this process with the remaining strawberries.

Place the covered strawberries in the refrigerator for up to one hour, until the chocolate hardens. Arrange on a serving platter and serve. Keep leftovers refrigerated.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rocky Road Fudge Bars


These sweet fudge bars could not be easier to make since they only have 4 ingredients and require no baking! The rocky road flavour combination is one of my favourites, and the peanuts and marshmallows give great contrasting textures in the chocolatey fudge. 

Ingredients:

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
2 and 1/2 cups peanuts
2 and 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Directions:

In a large double boiler, or in a heat-proof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate chips over low heat. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Stir in the peanuts. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly, then stir in the marshmallows.

Line a 13x9" pan with tin foil and grease the foil with butter or margarine. Spread the rocky road fudge mixture into the pan and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Once they have hardened, lift the bars from the pan using the foil. Set on a cutting board and cut into the desired amount of bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator so they don't melt, or freeze for longer storage.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mom's 50th Birthday Cake


Last night we celebrated my mom's 50th birthday with a big party! The birthday girl requested that I make a chocolate cake with cream cheese icing, and left the rest up to me. I knew I had to make something extra special for her and I wanted this to be one of my best cakes yet. My mom is such an amazing and hard-working woman, and she deserves nothing but the best - in cake and otherwise! She had a wonderful birthday celebration surrounded by her family and many of her closest friends, and I was so happy that everyone enjoyed the birthday cake. It disappeared about 20 minutes after I made the first cut, and I was lucky to snag a little piece! 

A special thank you goes out to my grandma who let me take over her kitchen for 2 days to make this cake, since our kitchen at home is currently in the middle of renovations and doesn't even have a sink or oven!

 Cutting the cake at the party

Happy Birthday Mom! I love you xoxo

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Blackberry Peach Cobbler



I made this cobbler for my grandma's birthday last week, and it was enjoyed by her and some of my other family members after her birthday lunch. It was the perfect dessert to celebrate a special lady and to kick off spring with all those juicy berries and peaches. The cobbler comes together very quickly and I love how the layer of buttery, light cake rises to the top and the fruit sinks to the bottom during baking!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. baking power
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh or canned peach slices (if using canned, drain the syrup)
2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter and pour it into a 13x9" baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a whisk. Stir in the milk until it is just incorporated, then pour the batter over the butter in the pan. Do not stir it together.

Combine the peach slices, blackberries, brown sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture has reached a boil, pour it evenly over the batter in the pan. Try to evenly space out the berries and peaches as you pour. Do not stir it together.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve the cake warm or cool, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator. 


*Recipe inspired by Sugar Plum

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cooking Class Part 1... and a recipe for Crepes!


This spring I'm taking a course at the university all about food preparation, presentation, and demonstrations. Needless to say I am loving it! Today in class we made crepes, which are one of my favourite breakfast/dessert foods. They look so pretty and fancy when you plate them up! Today we filled our crepes with strawberries and whipped cream, and topped them with chocolate sauce.. but next time I make these it will be all about the Nutella and bananas! You can really fill your crepes with whatever you want, so get creative with different fruits, jams, chopped nuts, nut butters, custard, ice cream, or anything else you can think of.

These would be perfect to make for a Mother's Day brunch tomorrow!

Crepe Ingredients:

3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. white sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. oil (for frying crepes)

*This recipe makes enough batter for 3-5 crepes, depending on the size of the pan you use

Filling Ingredients:

Fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Chocolate syrup

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add in the flour, sugar, salt, and milk. Whisk until batter is completely smooth. 

Pour the oil into a small dish and use a pastry brush dipped in the oil to coat a non-stick frying pan or crepe pan. Heat the pan over medium heat until it is hot when you place your hand above the pan.

Pour the crepe batter into a liquid measuring cup or bowl with a spout for easy pouring. Stir the batter to ensure the ingredients are still well incorporated.

To make the crepes you will have to pour the batter into the frying pan with one hand, then lift the pan above the heat source and use your other hand (preferably your dominant hand) to quickly tilt the pan in all directions. You should only need to pour a little bit of batter into the pan at a time and keep rotating the pan in circular motions so that the batter spreads out in a thin layer. Once the bottom of the pan is coated with a thin layer of batter, place the pan back on the heat and allow the crepe to cook. This won't take very long! When the edges look cooked, gently lift them away from the pan with a heatproof turner. Once the bottom is lightly golden, flip the crepe and briefly cook the other side for a few seconds. 

Remove the cooked crepe from the pan and place it on a large plate. Continue cooking with the remainder of the batter, oiling the pan only when necessary with the pastry brush. Stack the cooked crepes on top of each other, then once the batter has been all used up, peel them apart to plate and fill them individually.

To plate:

Prepare the whipping cream by beating the whipping cream, icing sugar, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until thickened.

Place a crepe pale side up on a serving plate, pipe or spoon a dollop of whipped cream onto the crepe, then top with the sliced strawberries. Fold over one side of the crepe, then the other. Top with more whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Garnish with additional strawberries and a light dusting of icing sugar.

Enjoy immediately!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lentils in Tomato-Feta Sauce


This is a tasty vegetarian dish that I like to throw together when I want something comforting yet healthy and simple. It's a great balanced meal or side dish, with lentils providing protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, and the tomato feta sauce serving up vegetables and dairy. It's best served with fresh pita bread to scoop it up! 

Ingredients:

1 540mL can red lentils (about 2 and 1/2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
1 can tomato sauce
1/3 cup feta cheese, cubed
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried basil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, then transfer to an 8x8" or 9x9" baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly and thick. Serve as a side dish or as a vegetarian main dish with pita bread or over top cooked rice.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Homemade bagels are something that have been on my bucket list to make for a while, and I'm so glad I finally got around to making them! It's incredibly satisfying to bite into a warm, fresh bagel, with a chewy outside and soft doughy inside, that you've just pulled out of your own oven. 

It takes a bit of time, but making your own bagels is really very easy - and once you have the basic dough down you can customize it to whatever flavour of bagel you love. Cinnamon raisin is my favourite kind of bagel (I used to get one from Tim Hortons every Saturday morning without fail) so that's the kind I decided to make first. Sorry Tim Hortons, but I think I know what I'll be doing every Saturday morning from now on instead of waiting in your ridiculously long lines!

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. honey or white sugar
1.5 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Directions:


Step 1:
In a small bowl, combine the honey or sugar, yeast, and 1 and 1/4 cups of warm water. Stir to dissolve and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, or until foamy on top.

Step 2:
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of flour with the salt. Once the yeast and water mixture is frothy, add it to the flour and stir well until evenly mixed. Add in another 1/2 cup of flour and continue to stir. At this point the dough will become hard to stir, so turn it out of the bowl onto a well floured surface.

Step 3:
Begin kneading the dough with your hands, adding in another 1/4-1/2 cup of flour a little bit at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. You may require less or more flour depending on the humidity, so just stop adding flour until the dough is fairly stiff but still pliable enough to knead. Knead the dough for 8 minutes.

Step 4:
After you have finished kneading the dough, flatten it slightly and place the cinnamon and raisins down the middle of the dough. Fold the dough over and continue to knead it until the cinnamon and raisins are evenly incorporated. This is the most frustrating part because the raisins will be popping out of the dough, but just keep kneading and incorporating them back in and eventually everything will be evenly distributed throughout. 

Step 5:
Form the dough into a ball, place it in a large bowl and lightly cover with a dish towel. Place in a warm place (I used my oven, which I turn on low heat for about 1 minute just to warm it up, then shut it off before placing my bowl of dough inside) and allow the dough to rise until it has double in size, about 45 minutes.

Step 6:
After the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out of the bowl. Roll the dough into a long log, then cut into 8-10 even pieces (8 for medium-large size bagels and 10 for small-medium size bagels). Form each piece into a ball by pulling the dough back and under itself.

Step 7:
When you have a smooth ball, pinch it in the center with your thumb and index finger to make a hole, then gently stretch out the hole until it is a couple of inches across. You want to make the hole a lot bigger than you think you need it to be, because it will get smaller as the dough puffs up during the second rise and baking. Form the rest of the bagels in the same way.

Step 8:
Place the formed bagels on a baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or lightly covered in cornmeal (this will keep them from sticking to the paper). Allow the bagels to rise again in a warm place for another 45 minutes, until doubled in size.

 Step 9:
Once the bagels have risen a second time, preheat the broiler in your oven. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. While you wait for the water to boil, place your baking trays of bagels on the middle rack in the oven to broil on one side for 1 minute. Then, carefully take them out of the oven, flip to the other side, and broil for another 1 minutes. You don't want them to get browned, just slightly dull on the outside. This step will prevent them from falling apart and getting too soggy when you boil them.

Step 10:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the water has come to a rolling boil and all the bagels have been broiled on both sides, drop the bagels into the boiling water 3-5 at a time. Boil for 1 minute, then gently flip over with a butter knife, spoon, or chopstick and boil on the other side for 1 minute. Boiling the bagels gives them that chewy outside surface, while the inside stays soft and doughy.

Step 11:
Lift the boiled bagels out of the water with a slotted spoon and place them on a wire cooling rack to drain so that the bottoms don't get soggy. Repeat with the remaining bagels. After about 5 minutes of draining, place them back on the parchment paper-covered baking sheets and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown.

Step 12:
Remove from the oven and allow the bagels to cool slightly on a wire rack. Cut with a serrated bread knife and enjoy with butter or cream cheese, toasted or untoasted. Store bagels in a plastic bag at room temperature, or in a freezer bag in the fridge or freezer for longer storage.

*Recipe adapted from Budget Bytes