Saturday, 31 March 2012

Blueberry Muffins

A great snack for school or work - homemade = no preservatives!

2 cups sifted flour
3 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup blueberries - or switch for another fruit if you like

Sift flour with baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Beat together milk, egg and melted butter.  Combine gently in bowl, turning only until the flour is dampened (there will be lumps).  Add blueberries and give it a few more turns, being careful not to over mix (the lumps will cook out).  Fill buttered muffin tins 2/3 full with mixture and bake at 400 degrees F. for 25 minutes.  Makes 6 muffins.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Plum and Blueberries Shooters Dessert

A simple and elegant dessert

2 Plums, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup whipping cream
4 sprigs lemon balm or mint
  1. Toss plums with blueberries and 2 tbsp sugar.  Stir in pomegranate juice.
  2. Combine mascarpone with whipping cream and remaining sugar and stir until incorporated.
  3. Fill each glass halfway with fruit and juice.  Add a layer of mascarpone and top with more fruit and juice.  Top with a sprig of lemon balm or mint.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Chocolate Pecan Torte

Chocolate and Pecans - you can't go wrong.  This works well with toasted almonds if you want something different.

For cake layers:
2 ½ cups pecans (about 10 oz)
2 tbsp all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
for filling:
½ cup well chilled heavy cream
1 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
for frosting
6 oz semisweet chocolate
½ cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350F and butter two 8 by 2 inch round cake pans.  Line each pan with a round of wax paper and butter paper.
Make cake layers:
In a food processor pulse 2 cups pecans with flour, salt and baking powder until finely ground (do not pulse to a paste).  Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in orange juice.  Separate eggs and in a large bowl with an electric mixer beat yolks until pale yellow.  Gradually add sugar, beating until thick and pale, and fold in pecan mixture gently but thoroughly.  In another bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites until they hold stiff peaks.  Stir about one fourth whites into pecan mixture to lighten and fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Divide batter between cake pans and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until cakes pull away from sides of pans.  Cool cake layers in pans on a rack 10 minutes and invert onto rack to cool completely.  Carefully remove wax paper from bottoms of cake layers.
While cake layers are cooling on a baking sheet toast remaining ½ cup pecans until fragrant and a shade darker, about 8 minutes.  Cool nuts and chop.
Make filling
In a medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat cream with zest until it just holds stiff peaks.
Arrange 1 cake layer top side up on a serving plate and spread filling evenly onto layer.  Put remaining layer, bottom side up on filling.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie

The kids will love this one!

1 1/4 cups Graham Crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup hot fudge dessert topping divided
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/4 cups cold milk
2 pkg Vanilla instant pudding
Combine crumbs with melted butter in a 9 in. pie plate.  Spoon 1/2 cup of the fudge topping into bottom of crust.  Place in freezer for 10 min.
Whisk peanut butter and milk in a large bowl until well blended.  Add pudding mixes.  Beat for 2 min. or until smooth.  Whip whipping cream.  Stir in half of the whipped topping.  Gently spoon over chocolate layer.
Top with remaining whipped topping.  Refrigerate 3 hour or until set.  Drizzle with remaining fudge topping just before serving..

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Chocolate Dipped Nut Brittle with Sea Salt

Be careful - this is highly addictive!

½ cup walnut pieces
½ cup pecan pieces
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup white corn syrup
1 cup semi sweet chocolate pieces
1 tsp sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Spread all the nuts on ungreased baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 10 min.  Stirring once. Let nuts cool completely.
  2. Line a shallow rimmed 15 ½ x 10 baking sheet with parchment paper and grease lightly with butter.  In a small bowl, place butter, vanilla and baking soda (no need to blend; set aside.
  3. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over high heat, bring sugar, corn syrup and 1/3 cup water to a boil, uncovered.  While sugar cooks, brush down the sides of pan with cool water.  Boil sugar over high heat until it turns a light amber colour about 12 min.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter, vanilla and baking soda with a wooden spoon (the baking soda will make it foamy).  Stir in nuts until coated and spoon mixture onto prepared baking tray.  Spread brittle as thinly as possible.  Let brittle cool completely at room temperature.
  4. Melt chocolate chips in microwave on medium, stirring every 10 sec. until melted.  Crack brittle into desired serving pieces and dip halfway into melted chocolate and place back onto greased parchment lined baking tray.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and allow chocolate to set.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Caramel Praline Cheesecake

1 ¼ cups graham crumbs
¼ cup melted butter
34 caramels
3 tbsp milk
1 cup chopped pecans
3 pkg cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
  1. Cover bottom of 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper.  Combine crumbs and butter; press firmly onto bottom of prepared pan.
  2. Melt caramels with milk in saucepan on low, stirring until smooth.  Stir in pecans.  Pour over crust.
  3. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla on medium until well blended.  Add eggs one at a time; mix just until blended.  Pour batter over caramel mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 F for 45 to 0 minutes or until centre is almost set.  Cool completely.  Chill 4 hours or overnight.  If desired, drizzle with caramel sauce and top with a few pecans.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Butterscotch Pudding

This is truly decadent!

1 ¼ cups heavy cream
¾ stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
2 ¼ cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
Accompaniment: whipped cream sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg
In saucepan heat cream over moderately low heat until warm.  While cream is heating, in a 3 quart heavy saucepan melt butter over moderate heat and stir in brown sugar.  Cook sugar mixture, stirring occasionally, until mixture is bubbling all over and appears smooth, about 5 minutes.  Carefully add warm cream (mixture will bubble and steam) and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until sugar mixture is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat.
In a large metal bowl or top of a double boiler whisk together milk, yolks, cornstarch, and salt.  Add warm butterscotch mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly, and set bowl or top of double boiler over a saucepan of simmering water.  Cook pudding, whisking constantly, 10 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.  Cover bowl or top of double boiler and cook pudding, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes more.
Remove bowl or top of double boiler from pan and cool pudding 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.  Divide hot pudding among six 1 cup ramekins or other heatproof dishes.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Baked Fish Nuggets

These are simple and the kids loved them.  An easy way to get them to eat fish!

Thaw 400g frozen fish fillets - your choice but Tilapia or some other white mild fish works well.  My kids like Salmon and it is a little better for them so I quite often use that.  Pat dry and slice into large chunks.  Stir 2 tsp chili powder into 1/4 cup mayonnaise.  Spread over fish, then press fish to coat in 2 cups coarsely crushed pretzels.  Oil foil lined baking sheet, place fish on sheet and bake at 450F for 10 minutes, turning once.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Chocolate Cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
decorating gel

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves and salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy - about 3 to 4 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl as required.  Add egg and vanilla, and beat well.

On low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined.  Divide dough in half, and form each into a disc.  Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill until firm - at least 1 hour or overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough until it is 1/2 inch thick.  Using 2 to 3 in cookie cutters, cut out shapes and transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet placing them 1 in apart.  Freeze for 10 min until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until cookies look dry.  Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  Use coloured decorating gel to decorate.  Allow to dry at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Big Batch Lasagna

A great lasagna that freezes well - make two - freeze one!

2 medium onions, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic, squished
2 lb (1kg) lean ground beef or ground turkey
2 carrots, diced
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)
2 cans crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
2 tsp crumbled dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
two containers (475g) ricotta cheese
4 eggs
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
30 no-boil, oven ready lasagna noodles
6 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Grease two 9 x 13 in baking pans.  Use foil for the one you will freeze.

To make the sauce, in a large pot, combine the onions, garlic and ground beef or turkey.  Place over medium heat and cook, stirring to break up lumps, until the meat is no longer pink.  Add the carrots and mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes longer.  Add the crushed tomatoes, water, oregano, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook, stirring once in a while, for 15 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

Mix together ricotta, eggs and parsley in a small bowl.  Spread about 1 cup of the meat sauce on the bottom of each baking dish, it will be a thin layer.  Arrange the lasagna noodles over the sauce to cover the entire bottom of the baking dish. You may need to break a few to make it fit - that is fine - kind of like making your own puzzle!  Cover the noodle layer in each pan with 2 cups of meat sauce.  Spoon about 1/4 of the ricotta mixture on top of the sauce in each pan, dropping it by small spoonfuls so that it is evenly covered.  Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese in each pan.

Add another layer of noodles, topped with 2 cups meat sauce in each pan, all the remaining ricotta mixture and 1 cup mozzarella per pan.

Finally arrange a third layer of lasagna noodles on top of each pan, top with the remaining meat sauce, dividing it evenly between the pans, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.  Finish with all of the grated Parmesan.

To bake fresh, cover loosely with foil that has been lightly sprayed with non stick vegetable oil spray.  Bake in preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the noodles are tender when poked with a knife.

To freeze, cool the unbaked lasagna completely, then cover tightly with foil, label and freeze.  To serve, don't defrost; place the covered frozen dish in a preheated 350F oven and bake 45 min.  Uncover and continue baking for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until sauce is bubbling and the lasagna is hot in the middle.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Arroz Con Pollo

This is a big batch recipe, make it for tonight and save one for a busy night.

2 tbsp olive oil
10 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 medium onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups parboiled (converted) rice - not instant
1 tsp turmeric
1 can (798 ml) diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp crushed dried chili flakes - or to taste
2 tsp salt (I skipped this)
1/2 tsp pepper
chopped fresh parsley

  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease two 9 x 13 in baking pans - I used 1 foil one for freezing.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet.   Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper (I just use pepper) and saute in batches - don't overload the pan.  Remove from skillet and set aside, leaving as much of the oil behind in the skillet as possible.
  • Add the onions, green pepper and garlic to the skillet.  Saute until softened, about 5 min.  Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add rice and turmeric, and cook stirring for a minute or two.  Then add tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, chili flakes, salt and pepper.  Transfer to prepared baking pans, dividing the rice mixture and liquid evenly.  Arrange the browned chicken pieces in the rice (half the chicken in each pan), pushing them down so they're just partially submerged.  Cover the pans with foil and bake for 40 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.  Cover tightly with foil wrap, label and freeze.
  • To serve, defrost fully in the refrigerator.  Place in the oven and reheat at 350F for 30 minutes, then remove foil and continue heating for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until heated through.  (If the rice seems dry, you may need to add a bit of water or broth).  Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Green Bean and Cashew Jumble

500 g Green Beans (1lb)
1 sweet red pepper
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp bottled black bean and garlic sauce
3/4 cup low sodium chicken stock, divided
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsalted unroasted cashews

Trim ends off green beans and slice each in half crosswise.  Slice red pepper into strips.

In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the sauce: Cornstarch, black bean sauce and 1/2 cup stock.

Heat oil in wok or large frying pan.  Add green beans and peppers and stir fry for 1 minute or until the pan gets dry.  Add 1 tbsp of the stock, stir to mix and cover; cook 6 to 8 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally and adding more stock when pan gets dry.  Pour in sauce and cashews, and stir until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Serve over rice.

Mini Apple Pies

These are fussy but fun!

3 cups apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped - about 3 - use a tart apple like a MacIntosh
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pastry dough for two single pie crusts

  • Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Lightly grease 16 disposable aluminum tart tins, or muffin cups
  • In a bowl, stir together the chopped apples, sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Mix well and set aside.
  • Working with half of the pastry dough at a time, roll it out quite thinly - thinner than for a full sized pie, making sure you don't get holes or that it is difficult to handle.  With a round cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles of dough.  Repeat with the other half of the dough so you have 32 circles. 
  • Gently press the 16 bottom crusts into the prepared tins.  Spoon the apple mixture into the pastry lined tins, heaping the apples up in the middle and keeping the edges clear.
  • Place one top crust at a time over the apples in the tin.  Press down firmly around the edges to seal.  With a tiny cookie cutter or wide plastic straw, cut a vent in the middle of each of the top crusts.  
  • Arrange filled tins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender when you poke a toothpick into the middle of the pie.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of each tin and remove pies to a rack to cool a few more minutes before serving.