Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Worms n' Dirt Chocolate Cake

This past Saturday I hosted a Halloween party at my apartment for a bunch of my friends. I absolutely love theme parties and costumes, and it ended up being such a fun night filled with lots of great food and creative costumes! I asked all of the guests to bring a potluck item to share, and the result was a snack table packed with delicious Halloween-themed treats. I'm glad my friends love food as much as I do! I made this worms n' dirt chocolate cake for my potluck contribution, along with a few other snacks. I know worms n' dirt isn't exactly a novel idea, but if you're planning a Halloween party, then it's a great creepy cake that is very simple to make and serves a lot of people. The chocolate cake is super fudgey and almost brownie-like in texture. I topped it with a chocolate mousse icing, chocolate Oreo cookie crumbs, and of course gummy worms.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 heaping Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk - Make your own buttermilk by combining 1/2 Tbsp. of white vinegar with enough milk to make 1/2 cup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2-1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
Gummy worms


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven. Lightly spray a large sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter. Sheet pans almost look like cookie sheets, but have a higher lip around the edge so the batter doesn't spill over.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder to the melted butter and whisk to combine. Add the boiling water to the butter and cocoa mixture, allow it to boil for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat. Pour the chocolate over the flour mixture and stir to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate, small bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the chocolate mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and evenly smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Keep the cake in the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

*Chocolate cake recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Chocolate Mousse Icing:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
4-5 Tbsp. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
 3-4 cups icing sugar

In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer until it is soft. Add in the cocoa powder, whipping cream, and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined. Mix in the icing sugar 1 cup at a time until it reaches a fluffy, mousse-like consistency. If you end up adding in too much icing sugar then add in a bit more whipping cream to smooth it out, and if you add too much whipping cream just add in a little more icing sugar to stiffen it back up.

To Assemble:

Evenly spread the chocolate mousse icing over the cooled chocolate cake. Sprinkle the chocolate cookie crumbs over the icing until covered. Cover the cookie crumbs with gummy worms. I left some worms sitting on top of the cake and pushed some into the icing and cookie crumbs so they looked like they were combine out of the cake. Cut into squares and serve. Cover and store leftover cake in the refrigerator.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Roasted Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

With Halloween just around the corner I'm sure everyone is busy stocking up on candy, putting the finishing touches on their costumes, and carving lots of pumpkins. Did you know that when you're carving jack-o-lanterns you can save all of the pumpkin seeds you scoop out to make the most tasty and addicting snack ever? It definitely makes the labour of scooping and carving a pumpkin worth it - so don't throw out those seeds! My sister and I carved two pumpkins a few nights ago and I made us these savoury roasted pumpkin seeds, which are super easy to whip up, and so delicious. The seasoning possibilities you can use are endless, so feel free to change up the spices to create your own flavours. I'm convinced we have a Halloween ghost in our place because somehow these have disappeared already.


2 and 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds - This is roughly how many I got out of 2 medium pumpkins
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 and 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder - These aren't very spicy, but if you want them to be then add in more cayenne 


If you have just bought natural pumpkin seeds from the store, then disregard this step:
After scooping out your pumpkin, separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh, removing any little bits of fibre that remain on the seeds. It is best to do this right after you scoop out the pumpkin, when the seeds are still wet, so the little fibres don't dry and harden onto the seeds. Place the seeds in a large colander and rinse them well with cold water. Don't worry about drying them completely, just shake off the excess water while they are still in the colander.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with tin foil.

In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin seeds, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne powder until the seeds are coated. Evenly spread the pumpkin seeds out on the baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, occasionally stirring the seeds around the baking sheet with a spatula to ensure even roasting, until they are browned and crispy. Oven times may vary, so watch them carefully during the last 5-10 minutes, just to make sure they don't burn.
 Before baking on top and after baking on the bottom

Remove from the oven and allow the seeds to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag. Enjoy munching!

Check out our spooky pumpkins! Happy Halloween!

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares

I hope you aren't sick of pumpkin recipes yet because I have another great one for you! I made these squares to bring to a potluck last week and they were a huge hit with everyone there. There was only one left at the end of the night! The pumpkin spice square has a chewy and almost brownie-like texture, and you can't go wrong with the abundance of chocolate chips both inside and on top of the square. 


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 and 1/2 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips, divide use - I used a mixture of both semisweet and milk chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13" baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on two sides. Lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate, large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in the pumpkin puree. The mixture may look curdled at this point, but don't worry it is supposed to look like that! Reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in 1 cup of the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. This batter is very thick so it helps to use the back of a large spoon or spatula to spread it. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges begin to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out with just a few crumbs attached. 

Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. You can place them in the fridge or freezer to speed up cooling. Once the bars have cooled, lift them from the pan using the tin foil overhang, and cut into squares. Alternately, you could just cut the squares right in the pan and take out the bars one by one. 

*Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Banana Carob Muffins


These muffins make a fantastic breakfast or snack that will satisfy your sweet tooth and your hunger without the dreaded sugar crash. I love to make a big batch and store them in the freezer to grab and go! Instead of using all-purpose flour, these muffins are made with oat flour and rolled oats, giving them a lot more fibre to keep you feeling satisfied. These muffins are also vegan and can be gluten-free if you make these using gluten-free certified oats. The addition of banana and applesauce makes them super moist and the banana/carob flavour combination is just as delicious as banana/chocolate. Many people use carob as a substitute for chocolate because they have a slightly similar flavour, but I think carob has a delicious flavour in its own right! If you are wondering what the heck carob is then here is some more information:

Carob powder and carob chips are made by drying, roasting, and grinding the pods of the carob plant into a powder that can then be used on its own in baking or turned into carob chips. The flavour of carob is very similar to chocolate, but it doesn't have the same amount of bitterness as cocoa and has a slightly more sweet but earthy flavour. Since it is similar enough, it is widely used as a chocolate substitute. Since carob doesn't contain any caffeine or theobromine, which are both stimulants found in chocolate, many people who can't eat chocolate will choose carob as a healthier alternative. It is also a great vegan substitute for chocolate, because many chocolates contain added milk ingredients. You can find carob powder and chips in almost all natural food stores and many big box grocery stores are now carrying them as well (I have found it at Superstore, Save-On Foods, and Bulk Barn). If you would rather just stick with chocolate then in most recipes you can use carob and cocoa interchangeably and just swap one for the other. [Source]


1 and 1/4 cup oat flour - Oat flour is just made from finely ground oats, so you can easily make your own by pulsing the same amount of quick or rolled oats in a food processor until it turns into a fine powder.
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup carob powder
1/2 cup carob chips
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 medium-large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or soy milk (or dairy milk)
3 and 1/2 Tbsp. applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the oat flour, oats, brown sugar, carob powder, carob chips, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mix together the bananas, milk, applesauce, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups until they are completely full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. These are especially delicious when served warm.


*Recipe adapted from Vegan Family Favourites (Erin Pavlina, 2005)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola

Granola is one of my favourite snacks, and it's perfect for when you need an energy boost. I go through granola at an alarming rate because it's so addicting - it seems like once you start munching on it you just can't stop! This is especially true with this granola recipe because the peanut butter and chocolate combination is always SO delicious. The recipe is super easy since it has minimal ingredients and a short baking time, so it's perfect to whip up for a quick, satisfying snack (especially for all you university students busy studying for midterms right now). I made this particular batch a couple weekends ago to give as a birthday present to a family friend, so it also makes a great gift for fellow granola lovers!


1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray, or grease with butter/canola oil/

In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter and honey and microwave for about 20-30 seconds, until the peanut butter melts. Stir in the cinnamon and vanilla until combined. Add in the oats and stir until they are completely coated in the peanut butter mixture.

Spread the granola mixture evenly onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes, then mix the granola around with a spatula or large wooden spoon. Bake for another 2-4 minutes, until the granola is lightly browned. Remove from oven and place the cookie sheet on a wire rack to cool until the granola is crunchy. The granola will harden as it cools, so don't keep it in the oven for any longer even if it doesn't seem crunchy right when you take it out. 

Once the granola has completely cooled, stir in the chocolate chips. If you don't wait for it to cool then the chocolate will melt (which would also be delicious, so it's your preference). Store at room temperature in an airtight container or jar.

*Recipe adapted from Peanut Butter Fingers

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Pumpkin Pecan Cream Cheese Icing

This Thanksgiving I was asked to make dessert for our holiday meal at a family friend's. I couldn't wait to come up with a new Fall-inspired dessert recipe to bring, along with a classic favourite, homemade apple pie. I knew I wanted to make something with pumpkin, but didn't want to go with the traditional pumpkin pie, so this spice cake with the most amazing cream cheese icing was born! The pumpkin cake is incredibly moist and full of warm cinnamon and spice flavours. It pairs perfectly with the tangy cream cheese icing, which also has a hint of pumpkin, studded with toasted pecans for some crunch and even more rich flavour. This is definitely a decadent celebration cake that combines the signature flavours and colours of fall. It was a welcome addition to our Thanksgiving table!

Pumpkin Spice Cake Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 and 2/3 cups white sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 14-15oz. can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pecan halves, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottoms of 2 9" round cake pans with a circle of parchment paper, and spray with non-stick cooking spray. You could also grease and flour the pans instead.

In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate large bowl, combine the eggs, white sugar, vegetable oil, pumpkin puree, and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and continue to mix with the electric mixer until just combined. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans, smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. You can place the cakes in the fridge or freezer after about 20 minutes to speed up the cooling process. Allow the cake layers to cool completely before frosting with pumpkin pecan cream cheese icing, and garnish with the pecan halves.

Pumpkin Pecan Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:

1 8oz. block cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. milk or almond milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted


Finely chop the pecans and toast them in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Watch them closely so that they don't burn. Once toasted, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the pumpkin puree, milk, and vanilla and mix until combined. Beat in one cup of icing sugar at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Stir in the toasted pecans. Cover and refrigerate the icing for about 20-30 minutes, so it has a chance to stiffen up. Frost the cooled cake.

*Cake recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven and Icing recipe adapted from Country Living

Monday, October 8, 2012

Homemade Apple Pie


In April of 2012 I took an amazing Traditional Pie Making course at City Arts Centre, through the city of Edmonton arts and recreation programs. For about four hours, myself and the seven other participants learned all the fundamentals of pastry dough, made a pie of our own to take home, and sampled lots and lots of pie! I had always been intimidated by making homemade pastry dough from scratch, but this class completely changed that. It was an incredible experience and a great learning opportunity for me, and I would definitely recommend the class to experienced and beginner bakers alike. The pie that I made in the class was just a basic apple pie - you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to see a picture of it! Since then, I have made many more varieties of pie, and discovered that  practice really does make perfect when it comes to pastry. Nothing has quite the simple comfort of a fresh apple pie coming out of the oven, and this is my go-to recipe for the perfect homemade apple pie. I made the pie you see pictured for my family's Thanksgiving dinner dessert this year and it was the perfect way to end a delicious, festive meal!

1 unbaked 9" pie shell, plus dough for another 9" pie for the top - Click here and make my perfect pie crust recipe!
1/2 cup sugar - You can use white, brown, or a mixture of both. I like to use all brown sugar for a richer, caramel flavour
2-3 tsp. cinnamon - Sometimes I will use 2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
5 medium apples, peeled and sliced - Peeling is optional, but you will have more texture and chewiness if you leave the peels on. I use a mixture of Gala, Granny Smith, and McIntosh apples in the pie for a good balance of sweet/tart and soft/crunchy.
2 tsp. lemon juice
1-2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
Egg wash (an egg whisked together with 2-3 Tbsp. of water) - You won't use all of this egg wash, but the leftovers it can be refrigerated or frozen in an airtight container for future pies
Granulated sugar or turbinado sugar, to sprinkle on top of pie

In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and lemon zest (if using). Allow the apple mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes. This will bring out the natural sugars in the apples and make the pie filling much more flavourful.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place the rack in the centre of the oven. Roll out your pie dough for the bottom crust and place it in a 9" pie pan. Arrange the apples in the unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and lemon zest if desired. Cut away the excess pie crust with a butter knife, leaving approximately a 1" border of crust around the pie pan. Brush the exposed outer pie crust with the egg wash. This will be the glue that sticks together the bottom and top pie crusts.

Roll out the second 9" pie shell for the top of the pie. You will need to cut vents into the pie top in order to let the steam escape from the pie as it bakes. If you don't cut vents then your pie top will crack and the juices will bubble out. You can make simple vents by just making small slits in the centre of the pie top with a butter knife, or by cutting a design into the dough. I used small cookie cutters and cut through the dough then carefully placed it on top of the apples, with the apples peaking through. The dough will stretch as it is placed over the apples so wherever you cut will slightly open and let the steam out.

Place the top pie crust over the apple filling. Cut away the excess pie crust so that it lines up with the bottom crust. Seal together the top and bottom crusts by crimping the edges together. You can pinch it with your thumb and forefinger all the way around, use the heel of a knife and just push the two crusts together, or just fold one crust over the other for a more rustic look. As long as they get sealed together it will be fine!

Brush the top of the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with additional granulated or turbinado sugar. This will make the top crust golden brown and the sugar will give it a little crunch. Bake in the preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, until the pie crust is golden brown and the apple juices are bubbling. Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 60 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or a slice of sharp cheddar cheese!

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Here is my very first homemade apple pie that I got to make in the class and take home (as you can see, my pie skills have improved a bit!):

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pumpkin Pie for Special Diets! (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

With Canadian Thanksgiving just around the corner, I'm sure everyone is looking forward to enjoying a big slice of pumpkin pie! I've already blogged the recipe for my family's favourite pumpkin pie that my mom makes for our Thanksgiving dinner every year, so this year I wanted to blog a recipe that caters to those individuals at the dinner table with special dietary restrictions (my best friend happens to be one of them and this pie got his seal of approval!). Just because you are gluten-free, vegan, or lactose-intolerant doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to enjoy this delicious seasonal dessert, and I'm confident that this pie will be devoured even by those without any dietary restrictions. The gluten-free crust manages to be flaky, and almost buttery-tasting even though it's only made using three simple ingredients. It is the perfect base for the creamy pumpkin filling and sweet coconut milk whipped cream.

No matter the type of pie (or other dessert) you will be enjoying this weekend, I'd like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. I am so thankful for my blog for giving me the opportunity to share what I love, and to my blog readers who take the time to send nice messages my way. May we all have stuffed, happy bellies by the end of this holiday!

Gluten-free Pie Crust:

2 cups raw, blanched almonds or 2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
3 fresh dates, pits removed


Place the blanched almonds in a large food processor and process on high until they are the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. You don't want any large chunks of almond, but also be careful not to process it too long that it starts turning into almond butter. If you already have almond meal then skip this step.

Add the agave or maple syrup and the dates to the food processor and continue to process for approximately 1-3 minutes until it all starts to stick together. If it looks a little dry or crumbly then add in a bit more agave or maple syrup. 

Remove the crust mixture from the processor bowl and press it into a 6-8" pie plate. Use the heel of your hand to evenly distribute the crust over the bottom of the plate and up the sides to create an outer crust.

This is an extremely versatile, no-bake pie crust that you could use as the base for many different pie recipes! 

Pumpkin Pie Filling:

1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/4 cup almond or soy milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Combine all pumpkin pie filling ingredients in a food processor or blender until completely smooth. Scoop into the prepared pie crust and smooth the top evenly with a spatula or knife. Place the pie in the refrigerator or the freezer for at least 2 hours to allow the filling to set. If you freeze the pie then allow it to sit out at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving so that it can thaw.

Top the pie with coconut milk whipped cream (recipe below), slice and serve.

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream:

1 400mL can full-fat coconut milk
3-4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, so that the coconut cream inside can get firm enough to whip. 

When you are ready to make the whipped cream the next day, chill a medium-sized metal mixing bowl and your beaters in the freezer for about 5 minutes before you begin. 

Remove the chilled can of coconut milk from the fridge and turn it upside down. This is so that the liquid part that doesn't freeze will be at the top of the can and the hardened coconut cream will be at the bottom. Open the can and pour out the liquid - you can save the liquid for other uses or just discard it. Scoop the thick coconut cream at the bottom of the can into the chilled mixing bowl.

Whip the cream with an electric mixer until fluffy. Mix in the sugar and vanilla, taste, and adjust to your preference. Use as a topping anywhere you would use whipped cream! Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1.5-2 weeks.

*Gluten-free crust and pumpkin pie recipe adapted from Love Veggies and Yoga

*Coconut whipped cream recipe adapted from Oh She Glows