Saturday, December 31, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I'll admit it.  I'm addicted.  To soup that is.  This happens to me every winter. We've been eating turkey soup for lunch every day and a veggie soup with dinner each night.  And now I'm out of soup for lunch.  I just can't do those canned versions. And I don't have quite enough time just yet to make another soup.  Never mind run to the grocery store to get a bunch more veggies.  So I had veggie soup again today with lunch. Addicted, I say.

I made this soup while making the cream of vegetable soup that I posted the other day.  I used the leftover béchamel sauce that I didn't put into the cream of vegetable soup into this soup instead of using cream or milk.  The recipe was originally just for broccoli soup, but cheddar just makes it that much better.  So I just grated some low-fat cheddar into it at the end and cooked until it melted.

1 bunch broccoli
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 C chopped onion
1/4 C chopped celery
1/4 tsp. curry powder
2 C chicken or vegetable stock
1 C 10% cream
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch pepper
grated cheddar cheese 

1.  Separate broccoli into florets; reserve 1/2 C for garnish.  Peel stems and chop coarsely.  Set aside.

2.  In large heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; cook onion, celery and curry powder, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until softened.

3.  Add broccoli florets and stalks and chicken stock; bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until broccoli is just tender.
4.  Add in grated cheddar and cook until melted.

4.  Transfer soup, in batches, to food processor or blender; purée until smooth.  Return to saucepan.  Add cream (or béchamel), salt and pepper; bring just to simmer.  Ladle into warmed bowls; float reserved broccoli florets on top.

Makes 4 servings.

Friday, December 30, 2011

BBC: Wanna be in the sun drink(ing???)

Jerome and I discovered this drink while vacationing in Antigua many years ago.  That was the trip after which we were heavily questioned at customs because my wedding ring is yellow gold and his is white gold.  I guess they thought that was suspicious and an indication that we were smuggling drugs across the border!  When really, we were just smuggling a few extra bottles of rum. 

This drink is a Bailey's banana colada, known as a BBC in Antigua.  I've tried to get it on trips to other islands, but I've so far only been able to find it in Antigua.  It's very rich, so you likely won't be able to drink more than one.  And they're not super healthy, so you won't want to be drinking one of these every day if you're not on vacation.  When we were in Antigua, we had one of these each afternoon and called it our afternoon snack. These are delicious!!! Even my 88 year old grandmother loves them and asks for one (or several) every time we are together!  For a gluten-free version, you can use Panama Jack instead of Bailey's, though I find it slightly better with Bailey's.  

We whipped these up quickly one day over the Christmas holidays with my family.

Logan even got to enjoy his own alcohol-free version, with just coconut cream and banana:

Just up from a nap, sucking back his delicious drink.

2 bananas
1 can of coconut cream

Be sure to use coconut cream in this recipe and not coconut milk.  Coconut cream is a bit harder to find, but is thicker than coconut milk.  You can usually get coconut cream at well-stocked grocery stores.  If not, you'll definitely be able to find it at any Asian market.

I don't have a real recipe for this.  I just put the two bananas and the entire can of coconut cream in the blender with a good handful of ice and a big swig of Bailey's.  Just add the Bailey's to taste and enough ice to make it the consistency of a smoothie or mixed drink.  Then sprinkle a bit of nutmeg on the top, close your eyes and enjoy it while envisaging yourself lying on a beach in your bikini!

Makes 4 large glasses.

Making Blueberry Muffins with Grammy

What a long drive round-trip from Montreal to Toronto for Christmas, with two little ones under 20 months!!  However, I hope that everyone was as fortunate as I was to be able to spend this time of year with family.  The drive was well worth getting to spend time with loved ones (never mind getting to sleep in every morning while grammy got up with the kids!).  We had a lovely visit with everyone and got a chance for everyone to hang out with all three kids.

Grandpa with baby Chloé

The beautiful Maddykins in her Christmas gear

Cuter than the real Santa

Maddy and mommy on Christmas morning

Logan, discovering the joy of stockings

Auntie Kristy with all three monkeys

Daddy and Chloé

I guess I can't really complain about the drive, given that Chloé slept the entire way both ways, only waking twice each time to feed quickly.  Logan, on the other hand, spent much of his time on the way home alternately whining and screaming, waking Chloé up on occasion.  At one point, he was so tired, he was screaming "dodo, dodo" (which means sleep in French), but the poor guy just couldn't fall asleep. When he finally did (less than an hour from home), Chloé of course woke up to feed... grr... but we made it home safely and in good time.  I just wish that I'd brought a pair of ear plugs!

Logan still hasn't been eating much for the past few weeks, probably because he's been teething.  Well, that is, he hasn't been eating much other than the day that he ate 3 melting moments cookies for lunch at my parents' house.  This was his first introduction to "real" cookies other than when my sister gave him one months back, after which he immediately learned the word "cookie" (can you say motivation??).  In any case, the one thing that he will still eat is muffins, so I've been making sure that we always have some on hand. I'd brought home a batch of zucchini muffins with us, but he ate through those before we left.  So we dug through grammy's recipe books and fridge and quickly whipped up a batch of these blueberry muffins.

Logan, helping to stir the muffins

He discovers that he likes muffin batter about as much as he likes muffins.

Giving grammy a taste.

This recipe comes from Company's Coming Muffins & More. I first made the recipe as is.  I just don't bother mixing the blueberries with the additional flour, as I don't care if the batter all turns blue if the muffins are just for us.  I packed them away for our car ride home, along with some cheese, tofu spread and crackers and applesauce, for Logan to eat on our way home.  But when we stopped for lunch, Logan wasn't hungry.  We quickly packed the car back up to get back on the road.  And only maybe half an hour later, Logan was yelling that he was hungry and wanted a muffin.  And as I begun to dig for the muffins, I suddenly realized what the big thud we had heard as we had pulled onto the highway was... it was our blueberry muffins flying off of the top of the car, which is where I'd put them when I'd strapped them into his car seat.  And there began the fits... at least he finally cried himself to sleep.

So I whipped up another batch of these as soon as we got home and a bit unpacked.  This time, I used 1 C of all-purpose flour and 3/4 C of whole-wheat flour.  I also used only a 1/2 C of blueberries and used a 1/2 C of cranberries as well.  I probably won't make these a ton, as I typically prefer more hearty, healthy muffins.  But these were good and nice for a change.  And they were especially good served warm with a pat of butter on top.  They're more cake-like than the muffins I usually make, more like the ones you'd get in a store.  

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C butter or margarine
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
3/4 C milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1.  In a large bowl put flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir together thoroughly.  Make a well in centre.

2.  In another bowl cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg until quite smooth.  Mix in milk and vanilla.  Pour into well.  Stir just to moisten.  Batter will be lumpy.

3.  Stir blueberries with flour lightly.  Fold into batter.  Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake in 400 degree Farenheit oven for 25 minutes until nicely browned.  

Makes 16 muffins.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Salted Chocolate-Covered Caramels

I became fixated on making these (despite having a sick son and no time these days), after seeing a picture of them that Karen had posted on facebook.  Despite my better judgment, knowing that I should be cleaning the house in any spare time I can manage, I ran out to the  Bulk Barn yesterday afternoon to pick myself up some caramels.  I then sat in front of the tv, unwrapping caramels, for the better part of half an hour, while Logan played with some wrapped caramels and a bowl.  So easy to keep little guys entertained.  He kept stealing caramels out of my bag, as I stole them out of his bowl to unwrap, without him ever being the wiser.

This recipe comes from the Kraft What's Cooking Festive 2011 magazine


1 package (269g) caramels
5 squares Bakers premium 70% cacao dark chocolate, melted
1 tbsp. sea salt 

I do like Bakers' 70% dark chocolate, but I used some 70% dark chocolate that we had brought back from France with us. I also used fleur de sel instead of sea salt, as it is a better quality salt (also brought back with us from France).

1.  Insert toothpick into 1 caramel; dip in chocolate.  Shake gently to remove excess chocolate.  Place on wax paper-covered baking sheet.  Remove toothpick.  Repeat with remaining caramels.

2.  Sprinkle immediately with salt.  Let stand until chocolate is firm (or to firm up chocolate more quickly, refrigerate until firm).

Makes approximately 32 caramels.

I made a huge batch of these, packing them away to go with a gift certificate that I've picked up for Logan's two daycare providers to thank them for the love they've given Logan over the past 6 months.

We used the leftover melted chocolate to make homemade hot chocolate.  We just stirred some of it into some milk that we'd heated in the microwave.  We usually drink 1% or skim milk at home, but I always keep a small carton of 2% on hand for hot chocolate in the winter. Lower fat milk just doesn't seem to cut it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

My sister sent me this recipe off of The Vegan Version blog.  Chocolate avocado pudding... sounds kind of disgusting, right?  It's actually pretty tasty and you'd have no idea that there's any avocado or anything else remotely healthy in it unless someone told you. Note: do not tell anyone this is avocado pudding until they've already eaten it.  I mean, really, who would try chocolate pudding if they knew there was avocado in there?  Turns out, the texture is the same as any chocolate pudding and the taste is quite similar. I have to admit that I didn't like my first bite of it, but quickly started enjoying it.

The author who posted this recipe said that she found it slightly bitter and would add more agave or decrease the cocoa next time.  I made it as her recipe called for and agree that some sort of adjustment needs to be made. Funny enough, I couldn't figure out though if I found it too sweet or too bitter. Lack of sleep? Jerome tried it and said maybe less cocoa powder, so that's what I'll try next time. Maybe it's because I used a dark cocoa powder, which tends to be more bitter to begin with??

I made this pudding for sick little Logan.  With his flu came very little appetite. Poor guy hadn't eaten in at least 3 days.  And by not eaten, I mean he'd only eaten a half yogurt, a half cookie and a pudding in two days.  Now that doesn't mean that he isn't smart enough to request both pudding and cookies, which are both things that he only gets from time to time as a treat.  But the 'demand' for pudding started days ago.  I ignored him and just kept giving him his regular food, but yesterday, following his 3 day food strike, I started to feel badly for him and figured maybe it's not the end of the world if he eats pudding for lunch, if that's all that he'll eat, other than milk.  And out came the store-bought pudding.  And for the first time in days, I actually saw him gobble something down.  Well, half gobble, because as he got to the bottom of it, you couldn't shove another spoonful into him.  I guess pudding only has limited value when you're sick. 

But that got me to thinking that I should make this chocolate avocado pudding recipe that Ash had sent me awhile back.  So I whipped this up for Logan, figuring that if he's going to eat pudding for a meal, at least it can be healthy pudding. Figures that he wouldn't even try it.  

Perhaps now that he's starting to feel a bit better, I'll be able to convince him to take a bite of this.  I'm glad to report that he's finally on the mend. Thank goodness.  There's only so many nights a mom can take of hearing your child sob for you when there's nothing much you can do to help.  The other night, when I had to leave him with dad to go breastfeed Chloé, I whispered in his ear "mommy just has to go feed the baby, I'll be back in a minute".  And he broke down into uncontrollable sobs and I just felt terrible.  Nothing can make a mom feel worse than knowing your child is suffering and that there is nothing you can do about it.

A few short minutes later, I heard him clambering out of the bed he was sharing with Jerome and frantically trying to open the door of the room I was in with Chloé, while frantically screaming "mommy, mommy". Until Jerome scooped him up to return him to bed, amidst screams that would have led others to believe that he was being murdered.  Repeat at least 3 times.  And my heart broke just a little bit more.  Thankfully, Chloé feeds relatively quickly and went right back to sleep each time I fed her, so I was able to climb back into bed with the little burning man and cuddle him back to sleep.  Nonetheless, there were a tough few nights and I'm glad that he finally slept through the night last night and seems a bit more himself today.  Hopefully, he will soon be enjoying this pudding :)

1 avocado, pitted and removed from the shell
1/3 C agave syrup (can be found in a health food section/store)
3 tbsp. cocoa powder (preferably raw)
1/2 C water
1/2 tsp. vanilla

In a blender, mix all ingredients until smooth and the consistency of pudding.  Refrigerate and serve. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ginger Cookies

As it turns out, my planned shortbread baking extravaganza got hijacked this week, when Logan ended up getting sick.  Crotte!  Though I have to admit that I knew we were due for it, as he's barely had anything more than a slight cough since he was born.  And now that he's in daycare, I figured he'd start bringing home every bug that exists to man.  And it started this week. 

As I type this, I am dreaming of my bed, and actually being able to lie in it for more than an hour at a time.  Turns out that the poor little guy has a flu and a double ear infection.  Which essentially means that he's been up screaming every hour or so the past few nights.  Add to that that Chloé still needs to be fed and you get... a bit of a zombie who is still wearing pyjamas because I don't have any clean clothes that fit right now... (but the clothes are finally in the wash at least!).

So no Christmas cookies in the house just yet... just doesn't feel quite Christmasy without Christmas cookies.  Never mind without snow!  I'd even bought everything I needed to make some cute decorated cut out sugar cookies this year, but it looks like those may have to wait until next year.  

I also have to skip Jerome's work Christmas party tonight, as we didn't want to leave a poor 18 year old with a screaming Logan (nor did I want Logan to have to be with someone he doesn't know when he's feeling so crappy).  I had been tossing whether to bake cookies when Logan goes to bed tonight (since he doesn't start waking until 10pm or so) or just go to bed with him at 7pm.  And I had a sneaking suspicion that the latter would win... 

So, in the absence of any Christmas cookies at all (well, other than the half batch of chocolate chocolate shortbread that I froze), and knowing that I won't have the energy to bake once Jerome leaves tonight, I chose to make these cookies this afternoon.  They're a big batch cookie, so if I don't find any more time between now and the holidays to bake, at least I'll have a few dozen cookies on hand. 

I got this recipe years and years ago from Katie, when we were in undergrad. That is, more than 15 years ago. Wow... can you believe it has been that long that I've known you?  And I'm still making your cookies most Christmases :)  I threw a screaming Chloé in a sling, encouraged a screaming Logan to watch as I mixed the cookies up and to help press down the tops of them with a fork.  This quickly transformed a screaming household into a small piece of quiet.  Again, I can't wait until the kids are actually old enough to partake in some of this baking and can enjoy it along with me.

2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 C shortening or butter, softened (I used butter)
3/4 C molasses
2 eggs
4 1/2 C flour
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/3 C granulated sugar

1.  Cream first four ingredients.  Add remaining ingredients and mix together.

2.  Make small balls and roll in sugar, then press with a fork.

3.  Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 10-12 minutes.

Makes approximately 7 dozen cookies (I got 5 dozen).

Dairy-free if made with shortening instead of butter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chocolate Chocolate Shortbread

You know that your life has changed when you are already in the middle of making a batch of shortbread cookies at six in the morning... I had declared today shortbread day and had intended to make a bunch of different shortbread recipes that I had found in the Canadian Living Special Cookbook Issue.  Unfortunately, starting before 6am still didn't leave me enough time to get more than one batch done today.  But there's still lots of time before Christmas.  I had made shortbread jam bars from this same magazine last year and they were fantastic, so I figured the other recipes must be pretty good too.

This recipe is a good one to make when you have kids at your feet.  I mixed the dough this morning and then stuck it in the fridge to harden.  We then went to the Marché de Noël in l'Assomption just for a little outing. 

In passing, there was a pork producer at the Marché who had a little stand there called Cochon Cent Façons.  They make and sell a huge variety of pork products, including some of my husbands favourites, such as rillettes and andouillette (yuck!).  They also sold lots of nitrate free meats, such as ham and bacon. We picked up a decent sized bag of various meats for only $30, so their prices are more than reasonable. I can't wait to make the bacon tomorrow morning, even though I'm typically not a huge bacon person.  In any case, I just wanted to mention their farm, in case anyone happens to be in their part of the woods (in St. Jacques, somewhere between(ish) Rawdon and Joliette).  We're thinking that we may go up sometime this summer to buy a huge order of pork, since it's so much more natural (and tastier - they had samples!) than what is sold in grocery stores.

We got home from the Marché around 5pm, leaving me just enough time to cut and bake the cookies, while at the same time, whipping up some chicken and rice for tonight's dinner.

My chef-in-training, looking on
as I sliced the cookie dough.
This is the first time that I've ever made refrigerator cookies, as I've always thought that they were more headache than they were worth.  But this was actually super easy, and comparably easy to drop cookies.  These cookies are intensely chocolatey.  A bit too much, for my taste. I have to admit that I still prefer classic shortbread cookies. But these are still good.  I thought I would blog them for people with an intense love of chocolate.

1 1/2 bars (150g) good-quality bittersweet chocolate (such as Lindt)

1 C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C superfine sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 C all-purpose flour

1.  Chop 1 bar (100g) of the chocolate.  In heatproof bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt chopped chocolate; let cool to room temperature.

2.  In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light; beat in cornstarch and salt.  Stir in melted chocolate until smooth.  Stir in flour to make smooth dough.

3.  Divide dough in half; form each into 12-inch (30 cm) log.  Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

4.  Cut remaining chocolate into generous 1/4-inch (5 mm) pieces.  Slice each log into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Place, 1 inch apart, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Top each with piece of chocolate.

5.  Bake in 325 degree Farenheit oven until firm, about 16 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 10 minutes; transfer to racks and let cool completely.

Makes about 80 cookies (I have no idea how this is even possible... I only got maybe 30-40 out of the recipe... maybe my logs were too fat???). 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Zucchini Nut Loaf

Still on a hunt for new muffin recipes, as Logan is still plowing through muffins as if there is no tomorrow.  He ate 1 1/2 of these muffins today.  I forgot that he couldn't have raisins when I made the raisin breakfast bars, so it's been about a week that he has been muffinless.  And not a day has gone by that I haven't heard him beg "uffi, uffi".  So this morning, as he was eating his breakfast, I whipped up a batch of this zucchini nut loaf.  I figured that it was a good way to sneak a bit more vegetables into him.

I used to often throw a mixture of flax, chia and hemp seed into my muffins, just to make them a little bit healthier.  But as Logan started eating them, I often omitted these ingredients, just in case he was allergic to them.  But I've finally given him each of them and he's not.  And further to an e-mail from my dad reminding me of these ingredients, I've gone back to throwing them in.  I put maybe a tablespoon or two of each of them into the batter, but I really just play it by ear with each recipe.

The minute Logan saw the hemp and flax seed bags, he started yelling "cookie, cookie".  I guess the bags look like the bag of baby cookies that I give him.  And there's no telling a 19 month old that it's not cookies.  So finally, I just sprinkled a bit on his cereal.  But then he wanted some in his spoon.  And proceeded to eat spoonfuls of flax and hemp dry, directly from his spoon (yuck!) saying "mmm... cookie".  I'm glad my kid things hemp and flax seed are cookies, lol.

Logan sat in his high chair, screaming "see, see" as the mixer whirred and realized the minute I got out the muffin tins that muffins were soon to be had.  Poor thing is still too little to understand that they need to be cooked and he just lost it when they disappeared into the oven. 

I can't wait until the kids are old enough to actually participate in some of the baking projects (aka tear apart my kitchen).  In the meantime, I'll keep whipping up muffins with him in his high chair, providing commentary the entire time.

I omitted the nuts from these again, since I'm not eating nuts.  The recipe says you can substitute with raisins or chopped fruit if you want to lower the fat content of the muffins, though I didn't bother.  This recipe comes from the Dietitians of Canada's cookbook Cook Great Food.

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. each salt and ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 egg 
3/4 C granulated sugar
1/3 C vegetable oil
2 tbsp. 2% milk
1 C shredded zucchini (unpeeled)
1/2 C chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest (optional)

1.  In a large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and baking powder.

2.  In a medium bowl, beat egg; whisk in sugar, oil and milk.  Stir in zucchini, nuts and lemon zest, if desired; stir zucchini mixture into dry ingredients.

3.  Pour batter into greased 8- by 4-inch loaf pan. Bake in 350 degree Farenheit oven for 50 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in pan.  Turn out onto rack to cook completely.

Makes 10 servings.

Nut-free if walnuts/pecans are omitted.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Bars

Years ago, one of my clients brought me some homemade toffee bars as a thank you gift.  And they were absolutely delicious.  And gone within mere days.  When I asked her for the recipe, she said that she would give it to me if I would pick her child up for an additional block of therapy.  Her son had reached discharge age and was being transferred to school.  When I chuckled, I realized that she wasn't kidding.  And with that, realized that I wasn't getting that recipe. Seriously??? Are people that guarded with their recipes that they will only reveal them as a tool to obtain speech therapy?  Apparently so. I've clearly never been quite so possessive of my recipes, as I post them all over the internet.  

So instead, I went home and started searching for a similar recipe on-line.  Unfortunately, I've never come across anything that quite approaches what she gave me (gosh they were delicious!).  But I did come across this recipe, which is quite wonderful in its own right.  And it has since become one of my Christmas classics.  I wish that I had a bigger family and/or more visitors over the holidays so that I could go wild and bake up mass quantities of treats.  But since we go back to my parents' for the holidays, and my mom makes her own treats, I always limit myself to just a few each year.  Otherwise, we end up with Christmas cookies still in the freezer at next year's Halloween (as I've learned from previous years). 

You can click on my Christmas tag on the left hand side of the page for ideas for other Christmas goodies.  Some of my favourites include: brown butter babies (a recent discovery from last year), shortbread jam bars (utterly delicious), sucre à la crème and shortbread cookies.  I'll try to beef up the Christmas section over the next couple of weeks, if I have the time.

This recipes calls for pecans, but I omitted them, since I'm not eating nuts again these days (darned breastfeeding and family allergies!).  I also didn't read the recipe fully while making these (which I frequently do and is terrible), so I ended up making them in an 8-inch square pan instead of a 13x9-inch pan, as this is what I recalled.  So they didn't work out as well.  I'd also reduce the brown sugar a bit in the crust next time, as both Jerome and I found them too sweet.

Also, for the first time ever when making this recipe, I overcooked the sweetened condensed milk mixture in the microwave and ended up burning it slightly.  So watch this carefully, as it continues to cook a bit once out of the microwave.  4 minutes would have been plenty in my microwave.  So this is a bit of a blog fail, but I am posting it anyways, as I've made these many times before and they are absolutely delicious.

3/4 C butter or margarine, softened
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt

1.  Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl of mixer until smooth.  Beat in egg yolk.  Stir in flour and salt until well blended.

2.  Press mixture into bottom of lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degree Farenheit 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly.

1 can (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp. each black coffee and butter
6 squares semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 squares white chocolate, chopped
1 pkg. pecan pieces, toasted

3.  In large microwave bowl, blend condensed milk, coffee and butter.  Microwave on high 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and smooth.  Spread evenly over crust.

4.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until set.  Sprinkle surface with chopped chocolates.  Let stand 1-2 minutes until chocolates begin to melt.  Using a knife, swirl the chocolates to make a decorative pattern.  Sprinkle with pecans.

5.  Cool on rack.  Refrigerate 30 minutes or until chocolate is firm.  Cut into bars.  Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Makes about 3 dozen bars. 

Nut-free if pecans are omitted.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Zucchini and Feta Clafoutis

Today, I officially diagnosed myself with a moderate case of boredom. Lately, I've been lacking any motivation to do much of anything.  Not that there aren't a ton of things that need to get done.  Like finishing decorating the Christmas tree.  Or sending back the papers our financial advisor sent to us weeks ago.  Or finally organizing the front closet so that I can actually find two mittens that are the same colour.  Or maybe, just maybe, finishing the blanket I was making for Maddy that has sat untouched pretty much since I got pregnant again.  But for some reason, I just can't find any motivation these days to get much of anything done.

Of course, besides cooking/baking and doing my blog, which is thriving.  I guess this is all part of what I enjoy doing and what constitutes 'my space', when I don't have the kids crawling at my feet (or sometimes I do and I'm just ignoring them), which is probably why I've been doing so much lately in the kitchen.

I think that part of the blah lack of motivation these days comes from not working out.  I'm a bit of an endorphin junkie and it's now been over two months that I haven't done anything more strenuous than go for a walk. Or carry 30ish pounds of kids at the same time (perhaps along with a grocery bag/diaper bag or two).  And I'm missing the 'me time' that working out constitutes.  I was getting excited to hit the 6-week mark and get back to some of my favourite activities: yoga, pilates, zumba, when my physio told me last week that she wants me to still wait a little while longer before working out.  Perhaps just a month or two.  But at a time when working out is the only thing that motivates me to get out of the house at all, this came as a bit of a disappointment.

And so I'm back to not really wanting to do much of anything (though I will do the exercises she gave me to be able to get back to real exercise).  So I've diagnosed myself with a moderate case of boredom.  You know how there's that optimal level of stimulation that gets peak efficiency and results?  You know how it is - if you have too much to do, you're sometimes overwhelmed and don't know where to start.  And when you don't have much to do at all, you can't actually motivate yourself to do anything? That's about where I am on the scale these days.  Don't get me wrong.  Who doesn't love spending their entire days changing diapers and wiping snotty noses, doing laundry and incessantly mopping the floor that is covered with food, thrown there on purpose?  It certainly keeps me busy enough, but I have to admit that it doesn't give me much of an endorphin rush.

I've come to the realization over the past few weeks that I'm not cut out to be a long-term stay-at-home mom.  I love my kids to death.  Love spending time with them.  Love the tickles, the giggles, the grins and the non-stop kisses.  But I need more.  And I've come to a point in my life where I'm not afraid to admit that staying home full-time with my kids just doesn't float my boat.  And that doesn't mean that I love them any less than another woman who chooses to stay home with their kids.  I'm learning to not feel guilty about this and know that if I do what I need to keep myself happy and fulfilled, my kids will also be happy. 

So my goal over the next couple of weeks/months is to regain a bit more balance in my life again.  To maybe go for some walks without the kids, where I can stick on my MP3 player and at least recreate that bubble I get into at the gym, even if I can't be there just yet.  And I'm going to try to find a new hobby that I can pursue just for myself... to try to reach that optimal level of stimulation where you get things done efficiently.  After all, my mat leave is only one year long and the to-do list of things I'd like to accomplish will never get done if I keep hanging around doing nothing all day.   

Of course, one of the things I'll definitely keep up as a "me" activity is my cooking/baking and this blog.  Though I suspect that as I start go be able to get back to my "real" life, the frequency of my posts will decrease again.  In the meantime, I'm taking advantage to try all sorts of new recipes.  This one comes from the cookbook Flans, Fars et Clafoutis that my mother-in-law had given to us.  We've had it for awhile, but I had yet to make anything from the selection of delicious-sounding recipes.  

Although my husband has made both cherry clafoutis and banana chocolate clafoutis (I will have to post that one day!), we've never made a savoury clafoutis. I thought that we would be able to cut this into slices, as you can a sweet clafoutis.  But the texture of this recipe is somewhere in between scrambled eggs and an omelette.  

The recipes calls for 2 cups of cream. Ouf!  Though I love good food, I don't typically use much cream, unlike the French.  I suggested to Jérôme that we substitute with milk, but there was no having it for him.  So I decided to make it once with cream, to see what it is supposed to taste like.  And next time, I'll make it with milk.  I'm sure that it will still be yummy, all the while appreciating that there is no way it will taste as good as it did with cream. Mmm... I served this last night with some carrot and coriander soup.

4 eggs
75g flour (scant 2/3 C)
2 C 15% cream
2 zucchini
2 tbsp. olive oil
10 mint leaves, minced
100g of feta (if you don't have a food scale, just estimate, based on the weight of the entire package of feta)
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  

2.  Cut the feta into cubes.

3.  In a bowl, beat the eggs until a bit frothy.  Progressively add the flour and cream.  Beat well until you obtain a smooth mixture.  Add in the feta.  Add salt and pepper to taste (don't forget that feta is already salty).

4.  Rinse the zucchini and then shred them.  Cook them in a pan, in the olive oil, for approximately 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste .  Add the minced mint leaves.  Drain the zucchini mixture and then mix into the egg mixture.

5.  Lightly butter a pie plate.  Pour the mixture into the dish and cook for 25 minutes.

Serves 4-5.
Variations:  Cut the zucchini into rounds instead of shredding it.  The zucchini can also be replaced by carrots.

Diabetic-friendly if you use milk instead of cream.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Raisin Breakfast Bars

This recipe comes from Canadian Living's Best Muffins & More, which I am shocked to see that you can still find on Chapters' website, as it was published in 1994.  My copy has "To Sleepy Owl from 2nd Bradford Brownies" written on the inside of it from back in the days when I used to volunteer with Brownies.  And used to live in Bradford.  And that was ages ago.  My Brownies are not getting married and having their own babies.  That's how old I am. 

I was flipping through this for some new muffin recipes.  Logan is more than slightly addicted to muffins.  He stands at the bottom of fridge (I keep the muffins in a Tupperware on top of the fridge) shouting "uffi", "uffi" incessantly until someone finally appeases him with some muffin.  And the kid doesn't quite understand that sometimes that Tupperware is up there even when there is nothing in it to savour.  And then begin the fits... If terrible twos begin at 18 months, does that mean they should be over by 2????  That is my question (prayer) of the month.  

I've been trying to keep muffins in the house as regularly as possible, since the little guy loves them so much.  But I'm getting a little sick of always making the same recipes.  So I came across this recipe that sounded not only delicious, but also super healthy, since yogurt replaces a lot of the fat in the recipe.  They're really just muffins, but baked as a bar instead.  Their flavour is actually quite similar to my mom's recipe for bran muffins - which is fantastic, and highly recommended.  But it makes fewer, which is good for when you're not necessarily feeding a crowd or looking to fill your freezer.  Maybe if Logan loves muffins as much as he does now when he's 16, I'll be making my mom's recipe (which makes 60) on a weekly basis.  But these are a nice substitute for days when I want something that makes a smaller batch.

2 C raisins
1 C whole-wheat flour
1 C All-Bran cereal
2/3 C packed brown sugar (I used 1/2 C)
1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 C plain yogurt
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. coarsely grated orange rind (I omitted this, as I'm not a fan of orange in baked goods)

1.  In large bowl, combine raisins, whole-wheat flour, cereal, sugar, all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together eggs, yogurt, oil, vanilla and orange rind;  pour over dry ingredients.  Stir together just until moistened.

2.  Pour into greased 9-inch square cake pan.  Bake in 350 degree Farenheit oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean and cake has come away from sides of pan.  Let cool on rack; cut into bars.  

Makes 16 bars.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Raspberry Truffle Brownies

Busy day yesterday... holiday parties number one and two, back to back.  We started with Jerome's work party for kids at the Récréathèque, where Logan was in complete heaven.  I wish I had a playroom like that in my basement!! I'm not sure I've ever seen him quite so happy as he was as he rolled around in the balls and whipped down all of the slides:

I can't say that I enjoyed crawling through those little tunnels quite as much as he did, though it did bring back some awfully fond memories of Amazing Kidz and cleaning those darned play structures!

We also got a chance to visit with Santa, yet again.  And for once, Logan was neither afraid of him, nor did he yell "no, no, no!" as he was taken to Santa.  I guess the third time's a charm.  Though he still did wiggle and appear just generally miserable when sitting on him... 

We then basically got home from the Récréathèque and had just enough time to feed Logan and get him to sleep before our babysitter knocked on the door.  And then we were off to Michael and Cynthia's wonderful annual Chranukkah party that we are fortunate enough to be invited to.  They have a great circle of friends and every year is filled with wonderful conversation and great food.  

Chloé and Annabel were lucky enough to be the only babies young enough to be allowed to join the adults this year.  Annabel, the daughter of my friend Christine, is only 2 days younger than Chloé.  And neither yet knows that they will be each others' best friends.

Did I mention that Chranukkah's theme every year is chocolate??  This year, I decided to make these brownies to bring with me.  My grandmother made them for Logan and Maddy's baptism and they were absofrickin' fantastic.  And I have to admit that I really hate raspberry and chocolate together.  Or mostly any fruit and chocolate combination that isn't with real fruit, other than banana.  In fact, when my grandmother told me in advance that she was going to bring these, I have to admit that I thought to myself "yuck, disgusting" (sorry grammy!).  

Now, of course, that didn't stop me from trying them at the baptism and it turns out that they were amongst the world's best brownies that I have ever tried.  They're rich, and moist, and just plain delicious.  And the raspberry flavour isn't at all overwhelming and just gives it some sweetness.  Scott and I hid in my parents' dining room at the baptism, enjoying way too many portions of these.  The ones that I brought to last night's party were a little too cooked and weren't quite as tasty as my grandmothers'.  So be sure to get them out of the oven in time.  This recipe comes from Taste of Home's Prize Winning Recipes.

1/2 C butter
1 1/4 C semisweet chocolate chps
2 eggs
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 tsp. instant coffee granules
2 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 C all-purpose flour

1 C (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 C confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
1/3 C seedless red raspberry jam

1/4 C semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. shortening

1.  In a heavy saucepan, melt butter and chocolate chips over low heat.  Cool slightly.  

2.  In a large bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar.  Dissolve coffee granules in water; add to egg mixture with melted chocolate.  Mix well.  Combine baking powder and flour; stir into chocolate mixture.  Spread in a greased 9-inch square baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean.  Cool.

3.  For filling, melt chocolate chips; cool.  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy;  add confectioners' sugar and jam.  Stir in melted chocolate; spread over cooled brownies.

4.  For glaze, melt chocolate chips and shortening.  Drizzle over filling.  Chill before cutting.  Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart

I was watching Anna & Kristina one evening earlier this week.  Don't ask me why, as it's not a show that I particularly love.  But I was bored and there was nothing else on tv.  They were taste testing a bunch of Oprah's recipes from The Oprah Magazine Cookbook, which I knew nothing about.  Clearly, anything associated with Oprah is typically gold, so I figured that her recipes had to be pretty good.  

Though Anna & Kristina didn't taste taste this particular recipe during their show, they did mention that it was fabulous.  A quick google search later, followed by a walk to the grocery store, and I was armed with everything I needed to whip this together for dinner last night.

I thought that the tart was absolutely delicious.  Jérôme didn't like it at all.  Turns out he doesn't really like thyme.  Who'd have known....

The recipe calls for whole fat ricotta.  Our grocery store had three different percentages of fat - 4%, 7% and I can't recall what the highest was.  I opted to use the 7% and it was yummy with that.  I also just used my food processor recipe for a pastry, as I find store-bought pie shells pretty disgusting.  Part of being married to a French man and spoiled by excellent French pastry at least a few times a year, I suppose.

As I didn't quite have enough time to make this all in one shot, I made the bacon and onions one night while Logan was eating.  As he screamed "see, see", wanting to watch the onions cook and then proceeded to cry along with the rest of us, as the onions were pretty darned strong.  I then stuffed them in the fridge to be used the next day.  I then whipped together the ricotta mixture yesterday morning as I was preparing the pastry and then put the whole thing together just before dinner.

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 small onions, cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 C whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
freshly ground pepper
1/4 C plus 1 tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 (8-inch) frozen pie or tart shell

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Cook bacon in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until fat is mostly rendered and bacon is crisp around edges.  Transfer to paper towels to drain, and set aside, leaving 1 tbsp. bacon fat in pan.  Crumble bacon after cooking.

2.  Add onions to pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 8 minutes.  Turn heat to medium-low and add 1 tbsp. thyme and pinch of salt.  Continue to cook until onions are soft and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

3.  Meanwhile, combine ricotta, egg yolk, 1/2 tsp. salt, pinch of pepper, 1 tsp. thyme and 1/4 C Parmigiana in a small bowl.  Stir well to combine.

4.  Spread ricotta mixture evenly on the bottom of tart shell.  Arrange onions on top of ricotta and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. Parmigiano.  Sprinkle bacon over top.  Transfer to oven and bake until edges of filling are golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cooked Apples

We made these as a delicious and relatively healthy snack while Ash, Eric and Maddy were down visiting recently.  They're quick to prepare, though they take awhile to cook.  Jérôme and I occasionally enjoy one of these for dessert.  

The best type of apple to buy for these (at least in my opinion) is Cortland.  If you can't find Cortland apples, just be sure to buy a variety that holds its shape when cooked, otherwise you will just end up with a big mush of apple.

We had these twice while our visitors were here.  The first time, I did it according to the recipe and cored the apples and stuffed them with the filling (omitting the pecans, since Ash is allergic).  The second time, I had Chloé in my arms while preparing them, so I opted to cut the apples into chunks instead and just dump the topping over them.  Not a good idea... it was edible, but not as tasty.  The oatmeal doesn't get soft from being inside the apple the way it does if you core them.  I also suggest putting the apples individually in oven-proof bowls, if you have them, instead of cooking them on a baking sheet, as it will contain the mess of each apple as it cooks. 

4 apples
1/2 C oatmeal
2 tbsp. raisins
1 tbsp. pecans
4 tsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. maple syrup

1.  Preheat the oven to 350oF.  Empty the centre of the apples. 

2.  Combine the oatmeal, raisins and pecans, then put 1/4 of the mixture into the cavity of each apple.

3.  Sprinkle apples with brown sugar, then pour the maple syrup over top.  Cook for 40-45 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

In passing, I had posted in my maple surprise post last week that I was going to try the recipe again with only 1/4 C of maple syrup.  Not recommended.  I think 1/2 C is the minimum you can get it down to and have it still be really yummy.  I ended up adding an additional 1/4 C after it was all cooked, but it still didn't taste quite the same as when I had added the full 1/2 C in the beginning of cooking.  So I'd recommend at least 1/2 C - or more, if you like things very, very sweet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mojo-Marinated Pork

This recipe was suggested to me by my dad and comes from the How to Grill cookbook. It's a simple, tasty way to prepare pork.  The recipe calls for pork tenderloins, but I've only ever done it with pork loin.  I've never bothered using the remaining mojo as a sauce, but I would if we were having company, as I'm sure that'd make it even better. Don't omit the fresh coriander, as that's a big part of what gives this its flavour. I've only made this in the winter, so instead of barbecuing it, we just cooked it in the oven as you would any pork roast (it took just slightly over an hour to cook our 2 lb. roast).

1/2 C olive oil
8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tsp. ground cumin, or more to taste
1/3 C lime juice
1/3 C orange juice
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro or mint
2 to 3 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 lbs. total)
2 large sweet onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 navel orange, peeled and sectioned with membranes removed, for serving 

1. Prepare the mojo. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cumin and cook until the garlic is fragrant and a pale golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown too much or it will become bitter. Stir in the lime and orange juices, salt, pepper and oregano and 1/3 C water. Stand back. The sauce may sputter. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil. Taste for seasoning, adding salt or cumin as necessary. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the cilantro.

2. Pour half of the mojo over the pork and let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably, overnight, turning to ensure even marinating. Refrigerate the remaining mojo to serve as a sauce.

3. Brush the onion slices with any leftover mariade, skewer them crosswise on skewers or toothpicks, and place on the grill. Grill the pork and the onions until cooked to taste. The meat will take 3 to 4 minutes on each of its four sides, 12 to 16 minutes in all for medium. The onions should be nicely charred after 4 to 6 minutes per side.

4. Slice the tenderloins crosswise on the diagonal. Fan out the slices on a platter and top with the unskewered grilled onions. Spoon the reserved mojo over them, garnish with the orange sections and serve at once.

Serves 4.