Thursday, July 29, 2010

Peanut Butter!

I adore peanut butter. I eat it almost every day either in oatmeal, a protein shake, on a sandwich, spread onto crackers, rice cakes, or celery, in sauces, in baking, or just scooped straight from the jar. It is a super versatile food, and a staple food for me so I figured I share some information about it on the blog!

 Regular peanut butter that you would find most commonly on the grocery store shelves usually contains stabilizers (in the form of hydrogenated vegetable oil, palm oil, or other oils) to keep the natural peanut oil from separating from the peanut solids. It also usually contains a lots of added sweeteners and salt to enhance flavour. This makes a very healthy product actually not very healthy at all and may be why peanut butter has a bad reputation for being an "unhealthy" food that you shouldn't eat when trying to lose weight. It saddens me that people think of peanut butter like this because it really isn't the case if you eat peanuts or peanut butter in their natural form! They are actually super healthy, very high in protein, healthy fats, and fibre, just to name a few!

I made the switch to natural peanut butter a couple years ago because I didn't want to eat something with a bunch of added oils, sugars, and preservatives that eliminate the health benefits of the peanut. Now when I eat "normal" (but really not normal) peanut butter it just tastes weird to me and way too sweet! If you've never tried natural before then I recommend giving it a try - before long you won't even want to go back to the unnatural kind. Natural peanut butter is made only with peanuts (and sometimes salt is added), and you can buy it crunchy or smooth. You can now find it at pretty much any grocery store by the other peanut butters, or even just buy some plain or dry roasted bulk peanuts and make your own in a food processor. One thing to note is that when you first open a jar the natural peanut oil will have separated from the solids, so you have to stir it to incorporate them before using it, and store it in the refrigerator to slow the natural separation. However, they also now sell no-stir natural peanut butters that eliminate this problem. 

Either type of peanut butter is delicious in baking and you really can't tell the difference!
Did You Know?

Peanuts are not technically nuts! They are actually part of the legume family because they grow beneath the ground, as opposed to nuts like walnuts, almonds, etc. that grow on trees (which are why they are sometimes referred to as "tree nuts").

Check out this website dedicated to peanut butter:

I have tons of great recipes featuring peanut butter, so if you'd like to test some out then click the "peanut butter" category link on the left hand side of the page or type "peanut butter" in the search box. Enjoy!

*Note: I do not own any of the pictures in this post

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Orange Sauce

You can never have too many blueberries in your pancakes! These were fluffy and delicious, and I want to pour this blueberry orange sauce over everything. It would be perfect drizzled over vanilla ice cream.. or for the best of both worlds you could just put a scoop of ice cream on your pancakes. :)

Pancake Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Extra melted butter or oil for greasing the pan


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until just combined. The batter should have some small lumps - do not over mix the batter or the pancakes will be tough. Gently stir in the blueberries until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium high heat until a few sprinkles of water dropped on the pan or griddle splatter. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the pan with melted butter or oil.

Using a small ladle or scoop, pour about 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto the hot pan, spacing the pancakes a few inches apart. When the bottoms of the pancakes are golden brown and bubbles start to appear on the uncooked top surfaces of the pancakes (2-3 minutes), turn them over. Cook until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes) and cooked through.

Repeat with remaining batter, brushing the pan with melted butter between batches. Serve immediately topped with whipped cream and fresh berries, syrup, butter, or blueberry orange sauce (recipe below). You can keep the pancakes warm by placing them on a metal pan or in a pie plate, in a 175 degree F oven, for about 15 minutes.

This recipe makes enough pancakes for about two servings, so you can double or triple it if you're serving more people!

*Blueberry pancake recipe from Joy of Baking

Blueberry Orange Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1-2 tsp. orange zest - Remember, a little zest goes a long way! So don't use any more than 2 tsp. in this recipe or the orange flavour will overpower everything.


In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the blueberries, sugar, and water for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off and stir in the orange zest. Serve sauce immediately while warm. Just spoon onto your pancakes, waffles or French toast. You can double or triple this recipe to accomodate the number of people you are serving.

*Blueberry Orange Sauce recipe by Brooke McMillan

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vanilla Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are one of the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipes I have ever tried - they definitely my new favourite cookie! I read somewhere that adding pudding mix into a cookie recipe makes them really flavourful and chewy, so I thought I would give it a try. The addition of the vanilla pudding mix really does make these cookies something special! It gives them a super delicious flavour and the oats make them perfectly crunchy. Before you know it these cookies will have disappeared!


1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 package vanilla pudding mix - You can use either the 4 or 6 serving size
2 and 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugars and butter with a mixer. Add in the vanilla and eggs and beat well. Then add the flour, baking soda, salt, and puddig mix. Mix well. Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into small balls and place on the prepared cookie sheets. These cookies don't spread very much while baking so you can flatten the balls of dough a little if desired. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until the tops are golden. Remove from oven and place on wire racks to cool.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oreo Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

These brownies really need no explanation. But since they are one of my absolute favourite recipes I need to strongly suggest you wipe the drool off your keyboard and run to your kitchen to make them right now! They are seriously so good.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
3/4 cup white sugar
8 oz. (1 pkg.) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt (scant)
2 large eggs
1 and 1/2 - 2 cups coarsely chopped Oreo cookies


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch square baking dish with foil or parchment paper; coat the foil with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Whisk in the sugar and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Using an electric or stand mixer on medium speed, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract, until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt until combined. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, then slowly whisk in the melted butter-sugar mixture until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined, then gently fold in the Oreo cookies.

Evenly spread about 3/4 of the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish, followed by cream cheese layer. Dot the top of the cream cheese with the remaining brownie batter, and spread evenly, as best as you can. Run a sharp knife through batter to make "swirls" of chocolate in the cream cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top of the brownies is set. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature before slicing. Lift the brownies out of the baking dish using the foil for handles, and slice into bars. For easier slicing, try refrigerating or freezing the brownies for 30-60 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

*Recipe from Sugar Plum

Friday, July 16, 2010

Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie boasts one of my favorite combinations: banana, chocolate, oats, and walnuts! These cookies have a chewy, cake-like texture with a great banana flavour. They are also a healthier cookie due to the addition of the whole wheat flour and oats.


1 cup all-purpose flour - Feel free to substitute this cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour if you want! I used all whole wheat flour in my cookies and they turned out great.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz. semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Evenly spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until toasted and fragrant (about 8-10 minutes). Be sure to keep a close eye on the walnuts so they don't burn.

In a bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and baking soda until combined.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of mixer to low and add the egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in the mashed banana.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and toasted walnuts.

Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing about 2" apart. Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through the baking time. These cookies will spread and brown quite a bit, but make sure you don't take them out too early because they will fall apart on you.

Once removed from the oven, let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes. Then, transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container and they will stay soft and chewy.

*Recipe from Martha Stewart

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pecan Mocha Cookies

These are great cookies for all coffee lovers! The coffee flavour is strong but not too overpowering, the chocolate chips are gooey and sweet, and the pecans give a little crunch. What's even better is that these cookies will stay soft and chewy for a few days after you make them.

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules or crystals - I used Starbucks instant coffee packets
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the sugars, butter, egg and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. On low speed, beat in the flour, instant coffee granules, baking soda and salt. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls about 2″ apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and edges are set. Cool on the pan for 2-4 minutes, then remove cookies from pan to wire racks and cool completely.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Monday, July 12, 2010

Japanese Salad


1 pkg. tricolour coleslaw
Toasted sesame seeds
Toasted slivered almonds
1 pkg. Ichiban noodles
Chow mein noodles - These are the thick orange/yellow noodles in bags in the Asian food aisle of the grocery store
Steamed noodles - These are thin, white, twisty-shaped noodles in bags in the Asian food aisle of the grocery store


1 pkg. Ichiban noodle seasoning
½ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 green onions, chopped


Combine all dressing ingredients and shake well. Chill in the refrigerator. The longer you allow the dressing to chill before using it the better it will get, because all of the flavours get more of a chance to mingle and develop.

Toast your sesame seeds and almonds on the stovetop in a frying pan or on a baking sheet in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant. Crush up the Ichiban noodles into small chunks.

In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients. No precise measuring needed, just keep adding until there are relatively even proportions or to whatever is your taste. You probably won’t need to use up all of the ingredients (especially the bags of noodles) unless you’re feeding a really large crowd.

Pour in the dressing and toss to combine. Serve immediately. This salad can be stored in the refrigerator, but the noodles will get pretty soggy after a day so it’s best enjoyed immediately after you make it.

Don't be scared off by the whole noodles-in-salad thing because, although it is a little different, this salad is amazing! You could even throw in some diced chicken breast to make it a meal.

*Recipe from Karen McMillan

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sex-In-The-Pan Cake

This is one of my family's favorite desserts that we always request for my mom to make. A buttery, nutty shortbread layer is topped with a layer of creamy, sweetened cream cheese, then smooth chocolate pudding, and finally whipped cream and chocolate shavings. It's a great dessert for the hot summer months because it's so simple and doesn't require a lot of baking time. Feel free to halve the recipe to make a smaller 8x8" pan. When my siblings and I were young, our mom called this "Mississippi Mud Pie" instead of "Sex-In-The-Pan" to creatively avoid the inevitable birds and the bees discussion. So if you have little ones then feel free to call it by either name haha. Even though we're all older now, the name stuck and we still call it Mississppi Mud Pie!


2 cups flour
1 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup icing sugar
8 oz. (1 pkg.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup whipping cream
1 pkg. instant chocolate pudding
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding
1 and ¾ cup milk
1 pkg. Dream Whip or 2 cups real whipping cream, whipped and sweetened to taste
Garnish: shaved chocolate, dusting of cocoa powder, or finely chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter.

Finely chop the pecans with a knife, food processor, or put them in a Ziploc bag and use a can to smash them.

Using a fork or two butter knives, cut together the flour, butter/margarine, and pecans until crumbly. Evenly press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely. After it’s had a chance to cool on a wire rack for about 15-20 minutes you can put it in the refrigerator to speed up cooling.

In a medium bowl, cream together the icing sugar, cream cheese and whipping cream with an electric mixer. Evenly spread this mixture over the crust. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the next layer.

In a separate, large bowl, mix the chocolate and vanilla pudding mixes, and the milk with a hand mixer until thickened. Pour the pudding mixture over the cream cheese mixture and spread evenly. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the next layer.

Prepare the Dream Whip topping according to the package directions, or beat the whipped cream until light and fluffy. Sweeten the real whipped cream to taste with icing sugar and vanilla extract. Evenly spread the whipped cream over the pudding layer. Sprinkle chocolate shavings, a dusting of cocoa powder, or additional coarsely chopped pecans over the top. Serve chilled, and store in refrigerator.

*Recipe from Karen McMillan

Lentil Salad

This is a really great vegetarian dish that my Grandma Marian makes all the time - it's one of my favourite meals!


1 19 oz. can red lentils, rinsed and drained
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 red pepper, diced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced


2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp each salt and pepper


Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Store in the refrigerator and serve cold.

Want to know more about lentils? Here is some information on their amazing health benefits:

Lentils are extremely popular and inexpensive protein choices, specifically for vegetarians due to their protein and fibre content. Folic acid is one very important nutrient found in lentils. One cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of folic acid, which makes lentils the #1 source of folic acid compared to any other unfortified food. Folic acid is a B vitamin that both adults and children require in order to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia. Lentils are also one of the best vegetable sources of iron. 100 g of lentils contain 60% of the RDA for iron and 26 g of protein, which makes them an important part of a vegetarian diet and useful for preventing iron deficiency. Lentils are also a great source of dietary fibre - 100 g of lentils contains 31 g of fibre. This soluble fibre acts as a scrub brush, cleaning the digestive system.

*Recipe from Marian Brooks

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vanilla Blueberry Cupcakes

These mini cupcakes are so pretty and elegant. They are the perfect showcase for fresh, juicy blueberries.

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 box French Vanilla cake mix - If you can't find French Vanilla then any white cake mix will do
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs

Blueberry Buttercream Icing Ingredients:

3 cups icing sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
6 Tbsp. blueberry syrup (1 and 1/4 cup blueberries and 1 cup white sugar)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Add the cake mix, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Add eggs one at a time, until the batter is well-mixed. Increase speed to high and beat until thick and fluffy, 2 minutes longer.

Pour or scoop the batter into the paper liners until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool on a wire rack.

Icing Directions:

First, begin by preparing the blueberry syrup. Smash up 1 and 1/4 cup of blueberries either by hand or in a food processor or blender. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the blueberries and 1/2 cup of white sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before using.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and butter with an electric mixer until they are blended and creamy.

Add the vanilla extract and milk and continue to beat for another minute. If desired, add more icing sugar to make it stiffer. Stir in the blueberry syrup.

Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes and top with a fresh blueberry.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Layered Taco Dip


1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, minced
1 - 1 and 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled - Just leave out the bacon to make this dip vegetarian friendly!
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Green, red, and yellow peppers, diced
3-4 green onions, chopped
Tomatoes, diced


Combine cream cheese, sour cream, and garlic. Spread out in a large pan (a sheet pan, cookie sheet, or tin pie plate all work great) or serving platter. Next, add the layer of salsa and sprinkle the bacon on top of that. Cover with a layer of shredded cheddar cheese, then top with the green peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Serve with tortilla chips. Store in the refrigerator.

*Recipe from Karen McMillan

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chocolate Sheet Cake

I made this cake for my sister's 18th birthday party this past weekend. It's a huge sheet cake so it's perfect for a big crowd! The cake itself is kind of a cross between a brownie and chocolate cake, and the icing is amazing - the pecans give it a really nice crunch. The best part is that it is so fast to make because you don't have to worry about letting the cake cool before icing it. Definitely make this to bring to your next BBQ this summer!

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. (heaping) Cocoa
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Icing Ingredients:

1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 and 3/4 stick butter
4 Tbsp. (heaping) cocoa
6 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-3 and 1/2 cups icing sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of oven.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa to the butter and stir together until well combined.

Add the boiling water to the butter and cocoa mixture, allow it to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over the flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool. Set aside

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into a large sheet cake pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. When the cake is out of the oven, place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Do not remove the cake from the sheet pan.

While cake is baking, make the icing. First, chop the pecans finely. Then, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add in the cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and icing sugar. Stir together and add in the pecans. Stir until all ingredients are well combined, then pour the icing over the warm cake. Spread the icing evenly over the cake with a rubber spatula. It will firm up as it cools.

Cut into squares and enjoy!

*Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Thursday, July 1, 2010

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

This was my very first paid cake order! I'm really pleased with how it turned out and I hope that it will be enjoyed :). I'm hoping to continue doing more orders!

White Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Peanut Butter Icing Ingredients:

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
2/3 cup softened butter
1 and 3/4 cups peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3-5 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup of milk

Cake Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line the bottom of two 9" round cake pans or one medium rectangular sheet pan with parchment paper and then grease with non-stick cooking spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, melt the white chocolate and hot water over low heat. Stir until smooth, and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, beating well with each addition. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, then add the melted white chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s). Bake for 23-25 minutes if using two round cake pans and 30-35 minutes if using a rectangular cake pan, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before icing. You can cover and place the cake in the fridge or freezer to speed up the cooling process.

*White Chocolate Cake recipe from AllRecipes

Icing Directions:

With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Then add in the peanut butter and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. Add about 3 cups of powdered sugar and mix together. The icing will look very crumbly. Then add the milk, beat until light and fluffy. Keep adding in icing sugar and blending until the icing is nice and smooth but firm. You don’t want the consistency of the icing to be runny at all. It should be spreadable and able to hold its shape.

To assemble the cake:

With a long serrated knife (I use a bread knife) or a cake leveller, level off your cakes so they are completely flat and even.

Using a spatula or small knife, spread a layer of icing on the top of the cake that will be on the bottom and place the other cake on top of that.

When icing the entire cake, it's easiest if you just put a large glob of icing on the top and then spread it outwards and down the sides of the cake. It is easier to spread the icing it is is cooled. If you find the icing starting to get too soft and melted, just put it in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to allow it to firm up again.

I garnished the cake with whole and chopped White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. The recipe for those can be found here.  This cake was ordered for a birthday celebration so I also piped "Happy Birthday" in white vanilla icing in the center of the cake. My icing lettering skills are a work in progress - I still need a lot of practice but it's getting there!