Monday, 31 October 2011

The Caramilk Skinny

This drink is about 150 calories - not really skinny - but not horrible, tastes delicious.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add
1 oz Caramilk liqueur,
2 oz chilled coffee
2 oz skim milk or soy milk.
Shake sharply and strain into a glass with crushed ice.
Dust with cinnamon.


Saturday, 29 October 2011

Cobb Salad

Here is a different take on the traditional Cobb Salad.  This one was excellent and did not take long to finish up.

2 cups Baby Spinach
8 strips Bacon
2 cups Grape Tomatoes halved
2 ripe Avocados, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup herbed Goat Cheese, crumbled
500 g peeled, deveined raw shrimp

Cook bacon in heavy bottomed fry pan until crisp, remove and crumble.  Drain all but 1 tbsp of the fat from the fry pan and cook shrimp over medium heat until translucent.  Remove and place on paper towel. Arrange all ingredients in a 13x9 tray - be creative and make a pattern!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Sausage Pasta

Okay here is an easy one for those of you with fussy kids - mine love this.  It is basically spaghetti with sausage instead of ground beef in the sauce.  Cook your pasta according to directions, put a package of sausage in the saucepan and cook - if the kids will tolerate it add vegetables - otherwise just leave it for the carnivores.  Once the pink is gone from the sausage, add a can of spaghetti sauce and serve.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Mini Blueberry Lemon Layer Cakes

These are a delicious, light desert.  Make sure you use fresh blueberries, or if they are not available the best fruit you can find.  Do not use purchased lemon juice for this - you will taste the difference if you use fresh squeezed. From the Food and Drink Summer 2011 magazine

Lemon Curd
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Mint leaves

  1. For the lemon curd, whisk together sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks, eggs and salt in a large, heatproof bowl.  Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water so the bottom of the bowl is about 1 inch above the surface of the water.  Cook, whisking constantly, for about 10 minutes or until curd is thick and pudding like.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla until blended.  Immediately transfer to a cool bowl, place plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled, or for up to 3 days.
  2. For the cake, preheat oven to 350 F.  
  3. Grease the sides of a 9 x 13 inch metal baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, 1 at a time.  Beat in lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture alternately with milk, making 3 additions of flour and 2 of milk.  Spread into prepared pan, smoothing top.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes or until tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes.
  6. To assemble cakes, cut cake into 24 squares, then cut each square in half horizontally.  Spread cut side of bottom and cut side of top layers with about 1 tsp lemon curd. Arrange blueberries on bottom layers and replace top layers (cut side down) to sandwich.
  7. Just before serving, place cakes on a platter, spread remaining curd on top of cakes and arrange remaining blueberries on top.
Makes 24 mini cakes

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes

These are definitely kid approved!  Great for Halloween or any time, kids can help decorate once they are done.  Based on a recipe from Todays Parent magazine October 2009.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground ginger, nutmeg and allspice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
Icing and decorating supplies

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 16 muffin tin compartments with paper cupcake liners
In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and creamy - about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat in pumpkin puree.  On low speed, alternately stir flour mixture and milk into butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling each 3/4 full.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes; they're done when a toothpick poked into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, with no batter clinging to it.  Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely.

Ice and decorate!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Crustless Quiche

This was surprisingly wonderful!  I added some crumbled bacon to the top at the end for a little extra flavour.  The only thing I couldn't figure out is that I baked it in a glass pie pan and it took an hour to bake as opposed to the 35 to 40 minutes that it states in the recipe.  I am posting the recipe with the original baking time and hopefully it doesn't take you as long as it took me.  This was served with a spinach salad. I got this recipe from Todays Parent magazine May 2008.

1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
9 eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar, Asiago or Swiss cheese (I used cheddar)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup diced roasted red peppers (from a jar is fine)
4 green onions, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 10 in pie pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very fluffy and almost doubled in volume - 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the flour mixture and beat until just blended.  Add the cheddar (or whatever), ricotta and Parmesan cheeses and beat very briefly.  Finally stir in the diced red peppers and green onions.  Transfer to the prepared pie pan and put into the oven.   Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until nicely puffed, lightly browned and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Savoury Apple Tart

A really nice change for pie, this is on a puff pastry sheet (which makes it super easy) and the herbs and cheddar make it more savoury than sweet.  A great dessert if you are in a hurry or have unexpected guests (and just happen to have puff pastry in the freezer - ok so none of us do that but it would be nice to think we would).  Got this out of the Food and Drink magazine Autumn 2010.

2 large pink lady apples, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick, about 3 cups.  (I used Gala apples but the magazine also suggests Jonagold or Northern spy.
1 cup apple cider
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 lb (250 g) frozen butter puff pastry sheet, defrosted (a 10 inch square)
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp cream
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cups grated aged cheddar

3 cups baby arugula
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Simmer apples in apple cider in a medium skillet over medium heat until they are softened but still have a bit of bite, about 10 minutes.  Remove apples and set aside.  Reduce cider until thick and syrupy.  You should have about 2 tbsp.  Pour syrup over apples, add thyme and toss together
  3. Place pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Use the point of a sharp knife to cut partway through the puff pastry around the edge to make a 1/2 inch border.  Brush border with egg wash.  Spread the rest of the pastry with mustard and sprinkle over two thirds of cheese.  Top with sliced apples, leaving a 1 inch border and sprinkle over remaining cheese.
  4. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and pastry is crisp and browned.
  5. Just before serving, toss arugula with olive oil and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper and pile on top of tart.
Serves 6

Monday, 17 October 2011

Chocolate Sheet Cake

A versatile cake that dresses up with fresh fruit.  Got this one from Better Homes and Gardens Chocolate book.  I don't use buttermilk, but sour regular milk with a little vinegar - seems to work just fine and I am not stuck with buttermilk that I will not use for anything else.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter (don't even think about using margarine)
1 cup water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter
 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp buttermilk
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Grease and lightly flour a 15x10x1 inch or a 13x9x2 inch baking pan; set aside.  In a large mixer bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  In a medium saucepan combine the 1 cup butter, water, and the 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.  Bring the mixture just to boiling, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add the mixture to the dry ingredients, beating on low speed of electric mixer just till combined.  Add eggs, the 1/2 cup buttermilk, and the 1 1/2 tsp vanilla; beat on low speed for 1 minute (batter will be thin).  Turn batter into prepared pan.  Bake in a 350 oven about 25 minutes for the 15x10x1 inch cake, or about 30 to 35 minutes for the 13x9x2 inch cake, or till the cake tests done.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan combine the 1/4 cup butter, 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder and 3 tbsp buttermilk; bring to boiling.  Remove from heat.  Add powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla; beat till smooth.  Stir in pecans.  Pour hot frosting mixture over the warm cake, spreading evenly.  Cool cake on a wire rack.  Makes 12 to 15 servings.

Chocolate Cinnamon Sheet Cake:  Prepare Chocolate Sheet Cake as above, except stir 1 tsp ground cinnamon into the dry ingredients.

Chocolate Covered Marble Cheesecake

This is the reason I exercise - I like all the wrong food!  Delicious cheesecake - and what is life with out love, chocolate and cheesecake!  This came out of a cookbook Chocolate - Better Homes and Gardens.  My kitchen floor got an unexpected wash as I dropped the bowl I had melted the chocolate and shortening in - broke the bowl of course - and sprayed chocolate all over the kitchen.  Good thing the kids were downstairs at the time and didn't hear me cursing like a sailor!  So word to the wise - hold onto that bowl!  BTW I now have a very clean kitchen floor!

1 1/2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (about 33 cookies)
1/3 cup butter melted
2 squares semisweet chocolate
2 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 cup cream style cottage cheese, drained
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp finely shredded orange peel
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
4 squares semi sweet chocolate
4 tsp shortening
halved orange slices or mandarin oranges (optional)
Finely shredded orange peel (optional)

For the crust, combine the crushed wafers and melted butter.  Stir till well combined.  Press crumb mixture onto the bottom and 1 3/4 inches up the sides of an 8 inch springform pan.

For the filling, melt the 2 squares semisweet chocolate; cool. In a large mixer bowl beat together cream cheese, cottage cheese, milk, 1 tsp orange peel, and vanilla till well combined.  Stir together the 1 cup sugar, flour, and salt; gradually beat into cheese mixture.  Add the 2 eggs and egg yolk all at once; beat on low speed of electric mixer just till combined.  Do not overbeat.  Transfer half of the cheese mixture (about 2 cups) to another bowl.  To the remaining mixture, stir in the melted chocolate till well combined. Spoon filling into the prepared crust, alternating light and dark mixtures.  Using a narrow spatula, swirl gently through the filling to marble.  Bake in a 450 oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300p bake about 40 minutes more or till a knife inserted near centre comes out almost clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  While cheesecake is cooling melt together the 4 squares semisweet chocolate and shortening. (watch out here).  Spread over warm cheesecake.  Chill 4 to 5 hours.  Before serving, use a knife or a narrow metal spatula to carefully loosen sides of cheesecake from springform pan.  Remove the sides of the springform pan.  Garnish cheesecake with a ring of halved orange slices or mandarin oranges and finely shredded orange peel if desired.  Makes 12 servings.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Strawberry Lime Cooler

Fresh and tasty cocktail - loved it.  A little alcohol wouldn't hurt it either....:)  Got this from Todays Parent Magazine May 2008

1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1/4 cup lime cordial syrup
3/4 cup soda water
2 or 3 ice cubes

In a blender, combine the strawberries, lime cordial syrup, about half of the soda water, and the icecubes.  Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice.  Add the remaining soda water and blend briefly to mix.  Pour into fancy glasses and if you like, garnish each one with a slice ofl ime or a fresh strawberry.

Makes 2 cups or 2 to 4 servings.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Amazon Jungle

Another lovely summer drink.  Not a Margarita - but still a great drink.  Got this from the LCBO.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 1 oz Margaritaville Oro (or tequila of your choice), 1/2 oz Alize Sunset Passion liqueur, 2 oz orange juice and 2 oz pink grapefruit juice.  Shake sharply and pour into a tall glass.  Garnish with a pink grapefruit slice.

Queenstown Margarita

Yes I do love my Margaritas!  This one is a great summer drink.

To a blender, add 1 cup ice, 1 oz Margaritaville Oro (or any tequila you can find), 1/2 oz Chambord, 2 oz raspberry juice and 3 oz limeade.  Blend until slushy and pour into a margarita glass rimmed with sugar.  Sprinkle with 1 tbsp fresh raspberries.  Then make more!

Honey Roasted Curried Nuts

These are fabulous.  I made them for one of our get togethers this year and they were gone!  Not a bad idea for a give away at Christmas either.  From Food and Drink Magazine Early Summer 2011

1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp garam masala
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
4 cups salted mixed nuts
1 tsp Kosher salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place honey and butter in a large frying pan and set over medium heat.  Cook until butter has melted and mixture is bubbling.  Then continue to cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 more minutes until it starts to turn a caramel colour.  Remove from heat.  Add garam masala and cayenne pepper, then nuts.  Stir until nuts are well coated.
  3. Spread on baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake until nuts are toasted, about 15 minutes.  Cool slightly, then toss with salt.  Taste and add additional salt to taste, if desired.  Cool completely, stirring occasionally to break nuts into clumps.
Makes 5 cups.\

Green Beans with Almandine Crumbles

Lots of crumbles here - so hold onto the leftover ones and use them for your next meal - they are very yummy!  This is a nice way to dress up green beans.  The recipe calls for blanching the beans but I steamed them - either way they are delicious!  This came out of Food and Drink Magazine Early Summer 2011

1 to 2 kaiser or Italian rolls
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 to 1 1/2 lbs thin French green beans or a mixture of ordinary green and yellow wax beans
1 to 2 tbsp butter

  1. Make very coarse crumbs by finely dicing bread, including crusts, into scant 1/4 inch cubes; measure out 2 cups.  Toss bread crumbs with parsley, zest salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
  2. Heat oil with garlic in a large frying pan over medium to medium low heat until hot and fragrant.  Add bread mixture and almonds; cook, stirring very frequently for 10 to 12 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and almonds are golden.  Stir in cheese just until mixture is clumpy; cool in pan off heat.  (Store airtight if making ahead.)
  3. Cut off stem end of each bean, but leave gracefully curved opposite end intact.  If beans are somewhat thick, french them by slicing each in half lengthwise.  (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to a day.)
  4. To serve, steam or boil beans in at least 1 inch water for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender crisp.  Drain; place back in warm pan and lightly toss with butter.   Turn into warmed serving dish; liberally sprinkle with crumbles.  Serve right away, passing additional crumbs.
Makes 6 to 8 servings

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fresh Tomato Pasta

This came out of a parenting magazine with the theme of "cooking with kids".  Well on the upside it is simple, tasty and quick.  On the down side my kids won't touch it.  It is a bruschetta style sauce that is great for adult taste buds but I don't think kids will like it much - despite the wagon wheel pasta I chose.

3 large fresh tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces (about 3 cups)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
ground pepper to taste
300 g dry pasta
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper.  Let the mixture marinate (stir once) while you cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water.

When the pasta is al dente, drain and return to the pot.  Toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking, then immediately toss with shredded cheddar while the pasta is still hot.  Drain the tomatoes (discarding garlic and marinating liquid) and stir into pasta.  Serve immediately with grated parmesan cheese.


How about a nice change from turkey?  Brush the leaves off the BBQ, don a raincoat and get grilling!  I usually BBQ until the snow is so high outside that I just can't get to it anymore - so here is a great, simple burger recipe. This recipe came out of Todays Parent July 2008

1 1/2 lb (750 g) Lean ground beef
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp pepper

In a bowl, stir together the ground beef, water, soy sauce and pepper.  By hand, very gently form into 4 to 6 patties, handling the meat as lightly as possible.  Arrange on a waxed paper lined platter and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the meat to firm up.  Cold meat will hold together better on the grill.

At grilling time, preheat the barbecue on high for 5 minutes.  Place the burgers on the grill, turn the heat down to medium and grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side (flipping once) or until the meat is no longer pink inside.

Remove from the grill and serve on buns with the usual accompaniments.

** Goat cheese or feta makes for a wonderful adult hamburger accompaniment.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Corn and Black Bean Salad

Whew, Thanksgiving was wonderful!  Hope you had family and fun and food (maybe even a glass of wine or two). I had an amazing time, although I did learn I should not have two glasses of Pinot Noir on an empty stomach.  Despite that the dinner turned out lovely.

Now to get back to some healthier eating here is a recipe I got out of Food and Drink Early Summer 2011.  I made it earlier this year and don't have a picture of it but it turned out really well.  I love bean salads year round.

1/2 cup Feta Cheese
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp Dijon Mustard (grainy works well)
2 cans black beans (540 ml each)
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 cups frozen corn, thawed and rinsed
1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1 cup red pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1.  In a large bowl, break up feta with fork.  Whisk in vinegar, olive oil and mustard.
2.  To the same bowl add black beans, grape tomatoes, corn basil, red pepper and onion.  Stir well, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves 4

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Maple Walnut Blondies

These guys might look a little plain, but don't let their looks fool you, they pack a real flavour punch!  I love the maple syrup flavour here and they couldn't be easier to make.  Whip up a batch in a few minutes and your family will love you for it!  I got this recipe out of Todays Parent Magazine 2008.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup rolled oats, old fashioned or quick (not instant)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (toasted almonds would be a nice switch here)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar, just until creamy.  Add the maple syrup, egg and vanilla, and continue beating on high speed until thoroughly combined.  The mixture may look a little curdled; this is OK.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, oats and baking powder.  Add to the butter mixture, beating just until evenly mixed.  Stir in the walnuts and spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the middle of the pan comes out mostly clean. (Don't overbake!)

Makes about 16 squares

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Grilled Zucchini Pepper Wraps with Lemon Grass Aioli

I love grilled vegetables and this is a really great way to jazz them up a bit.  If you want to skip the Aioli they also taste great just on their own or you could drizzle a bit of balsamic vinaigrette over them - definitely a healthier choice.

2 stalks lemon grass
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 medium zucchini, each about 7 x 1 3/4 inches
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
36 thin strips each sweet orange and yellow pepper each about 2 inches long

  1. For the aioli, cut lemon grass stalks in half lengthwise.  Trim out tender inner hearts and the tenderest inner layers.  Reserve remaining lemon grass for another use.  Finely mince hearts and enough of the tender layers to make about 2 tbsp.
  2. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium low heat.  Saute minced lemon grass and garlic for about 3 minutes or until softened but not browned.  Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool.  Whisk in mayonnaise until blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to blend the flavours or for up to 2 days.
  3. For the wraps, heat barbecue to medium.
  4. Trim ends from zucchini.  Cut lengthwise into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, until you have 36 slices.  In a shallow dish, combine oil, coriander, salt and cayenne.  Add zucchini, and rub or brush to coat evenly with spices.  Grill, turning once for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until grill marked and tender (do not let crisp).  Return to shallow dish and let cool to room temperature.
  5. To assemble, hold 1 strip orange pepper and 1 strip yellow pepper together.  Wrap 1 slice of zucchini horizontally around peppers, with peppers sticking above the top edge of the zucchini.  Secure with a toothpick and place on a platter; gently separate pepper strips so the point in opposite directions.  Repeat to make about 36 wraps.  
  6. To serve, place bowl of aioli on platter along with a small spoon to dollop on top of wraps.