Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunflower-Coconut Snack Balls

I added a few more snacks into my rotation.  The bean dip I showed you the other day was one of them, and a really creamy mini quiche, that I'll post in a few days.  It comes by surprise every time, but it's amazing how much difference a little change can make, when it comes to busting out of the same-ol' same-ol' rut feeling.

This weekend I caught up with some friends I hadn't seen in a month or so, celebrated my birthday (in advance) and got in a nice morning walk.  Who could ask for a better weekend?  The best part -- it isn't over yet! I have tomorrow off, so I can celebrate my birthday by not working.  Whoo hoo!

Sunflower-Coconut Snack Balls
Makes: about 36 1/2 Tbsp sized balls

1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup natural nut butter (I used peanut butter, no salt, no sugar)
1/2 cup carob
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Blend all items in a food processor, adding ingredients one at a time and blending well after each addition.

Using a 1/2 Tbsp measuring spoon, measure out each ball, roll in your hands to finish.

Balls can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer. I like the texture in the freezer... sort of like a cookie.

Source: Rachel Hewitt, RHN.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Apples and Pecans

Mmmm, breakfast!  I really, really enjoy breakfast.  I may be one of the few, though, judging from all the articles and books out there trying to convince people to eat it.  I don't need any arm-twisting.  I wake up looking forward to breakfast, and for one really enjoy adding variety to it.  In the past, I've made porridge, baked oatmeal, cold oatmeal, oat bran, frittata, bars, granola... the list goes on, and I'm continually adding to it.

It was while I was digging through my browser bookmarks looking for something 'new', that I was reminded of an old favourite that I hadn't shared with you yet.  It's one I've made several times since first 'discovering' it on another blog, and each time I've enjoyed it, regardless of the variations I've made to it.  This one I sincerely recommend trying out, you won't be disappointed!

Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Apples and Pecans
Makes: 4 servings

1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk
Pinch of salt

2 large apples, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 1/2 tsp maple syrup, divided (optional -- I left it out)

1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Cook the oats according to package directions.  Mine were to boil over medium heat for 20 - 25 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, do the apple prep:  Chop apples, and combine with water, the cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup (if using) in a small pot.  Cook over medium heat until the apples have softened a little and turned syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Stir the apple mixture into the oatmeal.

Divide the oatmeal among four bowls, top with toasted pecans.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the maple syrup over each bowl (if using). Serve immediately.  

Source: Well-Fed Newlyweds.

Friday, April 27, 2012

High-Fibre Bean Dip

Ever get a case of the weekday blahs?  That's how I'm starting to feel toward my work day snack.  I usually have a vegetable of some sort, and a nut butter, mid afternoon.  But celery and almond butter only cut it for so long, right?  I tried a few variations... like bringing the nuts themselves, or making some granola, or various bars... but they just aren't speaking to me lately.

So where to turn when I'm all out of healthy options?  Well, to my Clean Eating stash of cookbooks, of course!  I looked, thinking maybe a quiche would do?  It'd give me a little something to chew... Or maybe some healthy cookies?  In searching, I found this bean dip, and with the spice kick that comes with it, it just might be enough to bust me out of my snack rut.  Best part, you can make it with whatever you have on hand.  I swapped a few ingredients and it's still great!  Three cheers for that!

Happy Friday!

High-Fibre Bean Dip
Makes: 36 1 Tbsp servings, approximately

1 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I used black beans)
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch sea salt and black pepper

Blend everything in a food processor until desired consistency is reached.  
Transfer to a container with a lid, or a bowl with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Tips from the cookbook: You can enjoy this dip with bread, veggies, in wraps, or on grilled chicken for a change of flavour.

Source: adapted from Tosca Reno.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Black Forest Cake, part III (Assembly)

Lastly, the most important step.  How do you put it all together?  Well, in many small steps, of course!

For starters, whip up the chocolate mousse, and wait out the hour while it cools in the fridge.

Then, level the cake layers. Slice each cake layer in half horizontally; place on waxed paper.
Brush each cut side with 2 tbsp of the cherry syrup; let stand for 5 minutes.  While you're waiting out the 5 minutes, whip up the whipped cream frosting.
Place 1 cake layer on cake plate.
Spread with 1 cup of the mousse.
Arrange 3/4 cup of the drained cherries over top.
Repeat for second and third layers; top with remaining layer.  Spread reserved whipped cream over top and side.
I piped some design on too, for a more finished look.
I also added about 2 oz of finely chopped semisweet chocolate to the top for decoration, since I didn't do the chocolate curls called for in the original recipe. (If I'd dreamed it up before I piped on the borders, it probably would've turned out better, but hey, inspiration hits when it hits!)
Decorate with remaining cherries. (I used maraschino cherries here because they're brighter and give a more decorative finish.) 


Source: Canadian Living, online.

Black Forest Cake, part II (Fillings & Frosting)

The cake was finished on time, and it's beautiful!  I was so excited!  I was able to get everything done in the morning, so I could lay back and relax until party time knowing the cake was ready to be shared.  Having the work done in advance means the world -- it saves my mind going to all the worst-case scenarios, like 'what if the cream has spoiled?' or 'what if the power goes out and the cake doesn't bake properly'.  I hate to disappoint!  I could hardly wait to post it and show you how well it turned out!

Chocolate Mousse (filling)
Makes: about 3 cups

2 cups whipping cream
2 Tbsp cherry brandy
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

In saucepan, bring cream and brandy just to boil; pour over chocolate in large bowl, whisking until smooth.
 Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Beat until soft peaks form. Cover and set aside.

Cherry Syrup
Makes: about 1/2 cup

1 (28 oz / 796 mL) jar red sour cherries
1/3 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp cherry brandy 

In sieve over bowl, drain cherries, pressing lightly; reserve 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the juice. In small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the sugar and reserved juice to boil; boil until reduced to 1/2 cup (125 mL), about 5 minutes. Let cool; stir in brandy.
Whipped Cream Frosting
Makes: 3-4 cups, approximately

2 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup white sugar

In large bowl, whip cream with remaining sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Cover and set aside.

Source: Canadian Living, online.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Black Forest Cake, part I (Cake)

Tomorrow is the 30th birthday of a friend I've known since I was a very young teenager.  This friend is a good buddy, and a huge supporter of my baking.  With that in mind, I asked, what should I make for this birthday?  The reply: a resounding BLACK FOREST CAKE.  I asked if black forest cupcakes would be okay, since they come in individual servings, and would be perfectly easy to serve at the planned backyard barbeque party.  The reply: BLACK FOREST CAKE!

So, since only cake will do, I started searching for recipes.  This was no easy task, let me tell you.  From the myriad of (sometimes ugly) cakes online, there's everything ranging from cake mix + cherry pie filling + whipped cream cakes, to cakes with kirsch, cakes with maraschino cherries, cakes with fresh cherries, frozen cherries, jarred cherries, some with cherry Jell-o... it's enough to make your head spin!

I finally settled on a recipe from Canadian Living.  It's a black forest cake with chocolate mousse and jarred cherries.  Which really was my only 'real' option since fresh cherries are just plain out of season, and the frozen ones are nearly impossible to find.  So far, so good.  It smells delicious and is waiting to be decorated and shared.

Happy (nearly) birthday, Chris!

Black Forest Cake
Makes: 2 8-inch cake layers

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Grease sides of two 8-inch springform pans or two 8-inch round metal cake pans; line bottoms with waxed paper. Set aside.
In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla.
With wooden spoon, stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of flour mixture and 2 of buttermilk. Spoon into prepared pans, smoothing tops.
Bake in 350F oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 35 minutes.   Let cool in pans on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans; let cool completely on rack.
(Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or overwrap in heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks.)


Source: Canadian Living online.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cherry Chocolate Coconut Granola

I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats ages ago, and I have been itching for a reason to make it.  I get that it's not exactly "healthy", but there aren't any preservatives, so it's got to be better than store-bought, right? It's a sensory experience -- it smells delicious and looks good... it sucked me in, and this weekend, I gave in and made it.  Almost like I was possessed to, the need took over.

The recipe itself isn't especially difficult.  I might add a little more honey next time to get it to all stick together more, but it doesn't necessarily require any additional sweetener.  One of the hardest things about this recipe was actually finding dried cherries.  I was going to swap in dried cranberries if I couldn't find them, but really I'm glad I didn't.  The cherries are just tart enough to balance out the sweetness of the honey and chocolate; cranberries might be too sweet for this recipe, especially if you use sweetened coconut.

Cherry Chocolate Coconut Granola
Makes: approximately 14 cups

Source:  Annie's Eats.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chocolate Mint Puddles

This week I was sick.  Fever sick.  Sore throat sick.  Makes me want to sleep all day, sick.  I hate being sick!  It makes it hard to think, hard to work, hard to get my errands done.  And it makes it so that I can only look at these, and remember how good they were, instead of baking them again.  I made these back around Christmas for a friend of mine and her family, and since my sugar-free sick self can only oogle sweets right now, ooling I am!

Chocolate Mint Puddles
Makes: 36 cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used Sucanat)
2 Tbsp water
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flower (I used white whole-wheat flour)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
36 chocolate mint wafer candies (I used Andes mints)

In a double-boiler over low heat, combine butter, sugar and water just until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes to cool off slightly. 

In a stand mixer at high speed, beat eggs, one at a time into chocolate mixture. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, beating until blended. Chill dough about 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Roll dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes. 
While cookies are baking unwrap mints. When cookies are brought out of the oven, put 1 mint on top of each cookie. 
Let the mint sit for up to 5 minutes until melted, then spread the mint on top of the cookie. 

 Source: All Recipes, via Sing for Your Supper.

Monday, April 9, 2012

(Deviled) Easter Eggs

I hosted Easter dinner with family yesterday.  I wanted to decorate eggs for Easter, and decided what better to do with my hard boiled eggs when I was finished, than make deviled eggs for the dinner.  Sounds like a good idea, right? No waste, no worries... right.  Except I forgot -- when it comes to food, my family is a bunch of picky eaters.

In the past, I've seen my father turn down cookies he really likes because they had been food-dyed green.  I've seen "new" things (like fondant) be separated from "familiar" things (like chocolate cake) in order to be eaten.  So, really I guess I should've known better.  But how does one not fall in love with an idea like these & these!

I thought that if I made something familiar like deviled eggs, and used the Cook's Illustrated, time-tested, "classic" recipe that the eggs would pass family inspection.  They didn't.  But, it meant more for me, so really, should I complain? I'll have fun snacks for work all week.  Win-win?

Listen to me going on and on, when what you really want to see are the eggs, right?

(Deviled) Easter Eggs & Dying Tutorial
Makes: 6 whole / 12 deviled eggs

dyed eggs
6 hard-boiled eggs
various colours food dye gel

deviled eggs
3 Tbsp mayonnaise (I used plain Greek yogurt)
1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
3/4 tsp whole grain mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

For cracked Easter eggs
Hard boil eggs as usual.

Dissolve a small amount of food dye gel in 1/2 - 3/4 mug of cold water, and soak one - two eggs per mug for several minutes to give them some initial colour.  It is recommended to use dark-coloured mugs so that any accidental permanent dye stains will not be noticeable.

Remove eggs from mugs and dry off with paper towels.  Gently crack eggs without piercing the membrane or egg underneath.
Take each cracked egg and place back into the mugs.  You can mix up the colours if you wish.
Soak eggs in cold, dyed water for 7 hours or over night in the fridge.
Remove eggs from the mugs again, and peel to reveal their secret design.
Source: inspiration from Barefoot Kitchen Witch 

For deviled eggs
Slice open hard-boiled eggs to create two even halves.  Remove the hard yolks gently into your mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix together until you reach a smooth consistency.

Scrape mixture out of bowl into a pastry bag fitted with a star attachment.  Pipe into egg whites and arrange on a serving plate.  If not serving immediately, cover and store in the fridge.
Enjoy! (Hopefully yours will get better reception than mine!!)

Source: adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chocolate Ice Cream (Bon Appetit)

If you're paying close attention, you'll notice I've posted chocolate ice cream before.  So... why do it again?  Because I've found the queen of all chocolate ice cream recipes.  The other one is good, don't get me wrong, but this one, this one is frozen chocolate pudding.  This one is velvety smooth, sticks-in-your-brain-all-day-knowing-it's-at-home-waiting good.  So good I had to give it away to keep from eating it all at once.  It's.That.Good.

I intend to make it again, but only for a very special occasion, for two reasons.  One, it's so good it must be kept special, and two, it's insanely long to make!  Day 1, make the mix.  Day 3, freeze the mixture.  Day 6, now you can eat it!  But on the days in between, you can't peek at it, sample it, smell it, "test it", or anything remotely close because it'll all be gone before you know it.  Really, it's that good.  I say, go make it now, right this instant, if you don't believe me.  That, and wash your stretchy pants, because you're going to be tempted to eat it all in one sitting and you'll be happy to have them.

The other deciding factor between this pot of ice cream and the last, is that this is more dark chocolate, and the other tastes more bittersweet / milk chocolatey.  Either way, you won't be disappointed.  Now, go make some ice cream!

Bon Appetit Chocolate Ice Cream
Makes: approximately 1 quart / 1 litre

7 oz dark chocolate (70 - 75% cacao), finely chopped
2 cups + 2 Tbsp whole milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large egg yolks
13 Tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Melt chocolate in a double boiler.  Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk milk and cocoa powder in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil; set aside.

 Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 Tbsp sugar until very thick ribbons form, about 2 minutes.  Whisking constantly, gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture.  Return mixture to saucepan.  Add melted chocolate and whisk to blend.  Stir over low heat until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 175 degrees F, about 5 minutes.  Transfer chocolate custard to a large bowl and place over another large bowl of ice-water.  Stir until chocolate custard is cool.

Bring remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a small heavy, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush (do not stir), until a dark amber color forms, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk caramel into chocolate custard. Strain into a large container; cover and chill for 2 days.

Freeze custard in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to another container; freeze for 3 days before eating. It's worth the wait!!

I wish the picture did it justice...

Source: Bon Appetit, online.