Saturday, January 31, 2009

Extra-Special White Chocolate and Almond Cake

yesterday evening we celebrated Monica's 30th birthday... I decided to try out this special recipe for Mon's big day - after all, you only turn 30 once...

I've been saving this recipe for a while... in theory I knew this recipe should work - white chocolate chunks, slivered almonds... and the secret ingredient...Limoncino :0) The result is a moist yellow cake... not too sweet or heavy.

Monica - I'll bake this for you any day. I'm just thrilled you loved it. Happy Birthday!

White Chocolate and Almond Cake
3/4 c. butter (room temp)
2 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp Limoncino (or almond extract if you don't want to add the alcohol)
2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. b. soda
zest of a lemon (optional)
3/4 c. white chocolate disks or block, roughly chopped
1/2 c. slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 325 F

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating them in individually. Add the Limoncino and combine well.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, b.soda and lemon zest.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients combine well. Add in the chocolate and almonds - stir to just combine. You don't want to over mix the batter.

Now, this is your choice - either use a large bunt cake pan (spray with cooking spray) or do as I did - use mini bunt pans (I have 10) and mini muffin pan (makes 12). I sprayed the pans with cooking spray.

Bake in the oven for between 25 - 32 minutes (depending on your oven, and whatever pan you use).

Let cool in the pan.

Now - I tried out two different "icings"...

Limoncino Syrup

2/3 c. water
6 tbsp white sugar
3 tbsp Limoncino

In a sauce pan over high heat dissolve the water and sugar. Stirring constantly. Once the mixture is rapidly boiling, cover the pan and remove it from heat. Allow the syrup to cool completely.

Once cooled, add the Limoncino, stir to combine.

I took my cakes, poked holes in the tops with a fork and then dunked the cake into the syrup. Place on a cooling rack (which should be over a cookie tray to catch the dripping syrup) and then placed the rack into the freezer to completely chill the cakes and syrup... all I can say is WOW

Limoncino Sugar

1 c. powdered sugar (divided)
2 - 4 tbsp Limoncino

In a bowl combine 1/2 c. sugar and 2 tbsp Limoncino - stir well, the sugar will thicken. Add more sugar and more Limoncino (go according to the flavour and however much you need).

Pour the liquid sugar over your cake. DELISH. Allison ate it on it's own... so good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

i heart peanut butter and honey... so let's make a loaf!

yes... I know - another post - another peanut butter recipe. I'm obsessed. I know - so forgive me for always using peanut butter in my baking - you can always use regular ol' butter - I'm sure the loaf will be lovely... but this is REALLY lovely ;0)

Deb and Brynn again assisted me with putting this together - and we learnt an important thing... changing ingredients does change bake times. Because I used clover honey instead of brown sugar -I should have decreased my baking time by 15 minutes and I should have turned the oven down a little... lesson learned - the final product still tasted great - and I'll make this recipe again.

I'd also like to thank Deb for her photos - she not only helped with the baking, but she also took pictures of the goods. All pictures on this blog (except the pb&j cookie one) are all thanks to Deb. Thank you!

Peanut Butter & Honey Banana Loaf
3 x bananas, mashed
3/4 c. clover honey
1/4 c. peanut butter (use crunchy if you like)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. oat bran
1/2 c. oats
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. b. soda

heat your oven to 325 F (this is the new temperature, Deb and I baked the original loaf in a 350 F oven)

beat the peanut butter and honey together. Add the mashed bananas, eggs, buttermilk & vanilla. Beat until well blended.

combine the oat bran, oats, flour and b. soda together. Add this to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.

pour into a loaf pan (we baked 2 loafs with this batch)

Bake 55 minutes (again, new time) until the top is springy to the touch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

simple salad...

This past weekend has been an adventure at home - my landlord has decided to focus his attention on the apartment - so Allison and I have been adjusting to only having water for a few hours at a time... I guess one can only say, c'est la vie!

When it came time to figuring out my "easy to make, easy to pack" lunch for work I figured - simple is most definitely better. Hence the simple salad I made. I was inspired by Celia Brooks Brown's book "Party Food for Vegetarians" (the original recipe is entitled "Sugar Beans")... I love this book (thank you Katie Edwards for introducing me to it in Edinburgh all those years ago) - but had sort of pushed it to the backburner (literally, there are burn marks on the cover)... so I'm happy to welcome it back into the forefront and to take my inspiration from it... I hope you enjoy this salad - and really, use whatever easy to steam, crunchy veggie you feel like eating. Oh, and Louise - you could use the dressing on your bok choy - something to help with those cravings the little one is giving you ;0)


Ingredients (super simple, I swear)
string beans (I bought some pre-packaged, pre-cleaned beans and used the entire bag)
1 x red bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 x red onion, thinly sliced
1 tin mixed beans (the 6 beans mix), rinsed and drained
1 tin Red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tin water chestnuts, rinsed and drained

nuts - pine nutes, slivered almonds, walnuts
dried fruit - raisins, apple, pineapple, cherries

for the additions, I add them daily - so whatever I feel like eating that moring I add to the base of the salad... that way, if I don't like 1 combo, I'm not stuck with it all week...

4 cloves of garlic, minced
knob of ginger, finely minced (tip: freeze your ginger, easier to grate and last forever in the freezer)
3 tsp. of honey (or to taste - I start off with the first tsp. and add as I feel is necessary)
zest of a lemon
juice of a lemon
hot red pepper, finely diced
coarse sea salt
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1-2 tsp. sesame oil (remember, this is strong stuff, start with less and add as you taste and season)

Bring water to a boil over high heat. Once that water is bubbling away, steam your string beans about 3 minutes - you want them to be warm but still have that crispy bite to them. Remove from heat (I don't put them in ice water since it was a steam and not a boil - they never touched the water)

Meanwhile, combine the beans in a large bowl (I put them all in the Tupperware bowl I'm storing them in for the week - less dishes for me)...

Now: in a small bowl, whisk together your dressing - start with throwing in the hot pepper, garlic, ginger, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, soy sauce, salt and honey... then add the sesame oil - whisk well to combine all the flavours. Then dip that spoon in there and taste it - and adjust everything according to your tastes... add more honey if you want, or more spice... do whatever you think tastes good - you're the one eating this.

Add your dressing to your beans and combine well, then add the onions, bell pepper, water chestnuts and string beans - mix everything well. The dressing should coat the veggies and beans.

Cover and leave in your fridge. I made this at 8 pm and just left the container in the fridge until I was ready to pack my lunch this morning... It makes about 6 lunches - so perfect for the work week -and it would be super simple to add some tofu, chicken even tinned tuna to it if you wanted to...

The flavours combined are fresh and light - a taste of spring... something I need with the end of January freeze!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

bean cookies... seriously

I got to spend this afternoon with Deb and Brynn Ransom... it was awesome. Let me tell you, the best little helper in the kitchen is Brynn... and Deb isn't half bad either ;0)

I decided to re-create these cookies - made many years ago and sort of forgotten... I have to admit, I dipped into the batter... I love this batter - and I know that Deb agrees... Brynn on the other hand, not so excited about pureed white kidney beans and chocolate chips... but I swear - give this recipe a try.

BELIEVE ME (actually, US - Deb and I) - they are worth it! simple to make, and delicious to boot. A great way to get some protein and fiber... but if the health benefits don't tempt you, the taste of these sure will!

I dare you! (and I bet you can't eat just one)...

Kidney Bean Cookies (with other goodies thrown in)
2 c. oats
1/2 c. oat bran
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (as per usual, I use pastry flour)
1 tsp. b. soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 x 14 oz (398 ml) tin of white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. peanut chocolate chips (thank you bulk barn)
1/2 c. raisins
1/3 c. slivered almonds

Heat the oven to 350F

Place the oats in a food processor and pulse the oats into a corse flour. Add the remainder of the dry ingredients: oat bran, flour, b. soda and cinnamon. Combine the whole lot together. Transfer to a large bowl.

In the empty food processor, add the white kidney beans and pulse them to smooth. They'll get thick. So add the vegetable oil, the egg and vanilla and blitz it all together. The mixture should end up looking like a thinned out cake frosting... easy to pour into the dry mixture.

Combine the kidney bean mixture with the dry ingredients and give that a good stir - combine everything. Once you have your dough, add the peanut chocolate chips, raisins and almonds. The easiest way to get these into the dough is to use your hands (Brynn was really good at this part). Get your hands dirty and everything will blend well.

Place large scoopfuls of the dough onto your cookie sheets (I line my sheets with wax paper, and eliminate the need for greasing the trays)... Once you have your cookies on the tray, dampen your hands and flatten each one down a little...

Bake the cookies for about 14 - 16 minutes. You should be able to get at a minimum 2 dozen cookies, we got 44 cookies out of this batch.

***If you can't bake them all at once, cover your dough with cling-film so that it doesn't dry out... otherwise the result will be crumbly cookies...

this would also make a KILLER BAR... next time I bake them I'm going to bake them more like brownies - and then cut them up. Deb and I also think that these would make incredible toppings for ice cream... I'll let you be the judge of that.

Enjoy - and Deb & Brynn - thank you for a wonderful Sunday afternoon...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

crustless pie...

This year at Christmas I made these cherry pecan cookies and they were an enormous success with the family - my grandfather especially loved them. Ever since the holiday's I've been toying with turning the cookies into a pie filling...

As those of you who know me well, pecan pie is my absolute favourite - my weakness. But sometimes, you just need to change it up. This is my twist on pecan pie. It includes cherries, chocolate and no pastry crust. Yep - my twist is cooking the filling, almost like little nuggets of heavenly goodness. try this recipe. I swear you'll bake up a batch of these whenever you feel like pie without having to put in too much effort...

Chocolate Cherry-Pecan nuggets
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose b. flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. pecans, pieces
1/2 c. dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. dark chocolate disks
1 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and flour together. Add the eggs, pecans, cherries, chocolates, corn syrup, butter and almond extract. Stir well.

Pour the mixture into two-bite muffin pans. Cook for 35 minutes

This batch makes 48 nuggets (aka two-bite muffins)

Cool in the pan in the FREEZER... and leave until completely cooled.

TIP - use flexible silicone bakeware if you have them... easy to flip the nuggets once they have baked and cooled...

RIDICULOUSLY good. cuz sometimes, you just want the filling....

Nutella cookies

Allison got to witness my obsession with Nutella take shape... first it was a spoonful of the delicious spread... and then it became a spoonful of nutella with some peanut or almond butter... so I figured - why not take that combo and bake cookies? And really, if they hadn't worked out - no biggie. Sometimes mistakes are best dunked in cold milk...

I'm also going to make these into ice cream sandwiches - bake them and fill them with some vanilla ice cream - nothing wrong with that! ... and Allison - they're even gluten free - so you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour :0)

1/3 cup nutella (pretty much an entire small jar of the stuff)
1/3 cup almond butter
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup brown sugar
1 egg white
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl (no need for fancy mixers - a wooden spoon will do).

Bake for 12 minutes on a tray lined with wax paper. Remove from the oven and let sit on the pan for about 5 minutes.

Remove from tray and allow to cool on a rack.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fisher-lady's Stew

Another Sunday evening... another work week to come - that means, what to do for lunch? last week was red meat and beans, this week - fish, shellfish and lentils. another winner me thinks. I'm sure Julie will voice her opinion if she doesn't like it...

my suggestions for this stew:
1 x yellow onion, chopped and diced
6 x cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 x bulb of fennel - chopped
1 x small celeriac (celery root) - peeled and chopped
1 x carrot - peeled and chopped
1 x red pepper - chopped
1 x yellow pepper - chopped
2 x hot red peppers - chopped (i leave the seeds in... adds some heat)
1 c. green dry lentils
1 x bottle clamato juice
1 large tin tomatoes (stewed is best)
1/4 c. red wine - pick something you'd drink. if you wouldn't drink it, why cook with it?
1 x stalk lemon grass, chopped in about 1 inch pieces
1 x lime - zest and the juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp star anise (you can get them already in seeds or ground the larger pieces)
salt and pepper to taste

Fish (these are my choices today)
2 x fillets haddock
2 x fillets cod
2 c. mixed shellfish

Now... in a large pot over medium high heat, heat 2 tsp of olive oil. Once heated, add the onion, let it sweat a bit, and then add the garlic. Once the onion and garlic have cooked down a bit, add the chopped fennel, celeriac, carrot and sweet peppers. Let them cook down a bit - stir every once and a while. Add the star anise, lemon grass, hot peppers, lime zest and juice and lentils. Stir all the spices and peppers to the veggies so that everything is well blended. Add add the liquid and bring the pot to a boil. Cover and let simmer. Now add the good stuff... the FISH! Include the chopped haddock, the cod and the mixed shellfish. You want to make sure that all the fish are covered by the tomato stew - you're basically poaching the fish in the broth. Add the tomato paste so that the stew thickens and leave it on a lower heat to quietly simmer (uncovered)...

Use whatever meaty fish you feel like eating - or whichever one "catches" (ha ha) your fancy... it really is up to you.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A little piece of pie...

In honour of Chloe and Joe's annual Christmas party I had baked my Chocolate-Hazelnut tarts... well, I baked the filling anyway, and used a pre-packaged crust. Joe called me out on it :0( I decided to giver and make my own crust, and found the perfect occasion - James "Alabama" Salazar's birthday pie! So, in honour of both Joe (for kicking me into gear) and James - here is my absolutely divine Double Chocolate-Pecan Pie... but you'll see, the recipe for the filling is easy to adapt to whichever combo you feel like using. Giver!

My pastry recipe is taken from the joy of baking website ( - great reference - and other than using whole wheat pastry flour rather than white flour, I really didn't re-invent the wheel... so I'll save you scrolling down and let you sort out the pastry recipe on your own :0)

now for the good stuff...

Double-Chocolate Pecan Pie
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose b. flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. milk chocolate disks
1 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and flour together. Add the eggs, pecans, chocolates, corn syrup, butter and vanilla. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust. Bake for 40 minutes.

Cool for 30 minutes before serving.

I promise you, this will be a HIT. I made my variation on this (hazelnuts and chocolate) for the Christmas season - and everyone enjoyed them... even Julie (who isn't a sweets kinda girl)...

Happy Birthday Alabama! (and Croy, enjoy your slice too)
and Joe - watch out, soon I'll be selling these to the Black Tomato


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chilli con... bison?

So as many of you know, I decided to give eating meat a shot in 2009... it all started with that ostrich at the Black Tomato and has actually ended up with me finding... a butcher :0) So rather than making a chilli with some ground turkey or chicken meat, I decided to give Bison a try. I wasn't disappointed. And I hope that you aren't either...

Bison (of course)
lg. tin, stewed tomatoes, chopped
Red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
White kidney beans, drained and rinsed
lg. onion, chopped and diced
3 x cloves of garlic, minced
2 x portobello mushrooms caps, sliced
1/2 a green pepper, sliced and chopped
1 entire sweet red pepper, sliced and chopped
2 x carrots, peeled and thinly chopped
3 x celery stalks, thinly chopped
2 x red chili peppers, chopped (if you like it hot, don't seed the peppers)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chili powder
salt and pepper
cajun spices

In a large pot, add the chopped onion and garlic to some hot olive oil. Once the onions have sweated a bit, add the bison. brown it (until no longer pink)... I turned down the heat closer to medium heat, so that I wouldn't dry out the meat.

Once you've browned the meat, add the sliced, diced, chopped (etc.) veggies - mushrooms, peppers, carrots, celery, hot peppers. Let those cook down a bit, adding the spices. Stir that pot.

Add the tomatoes (the entire can, liquid and all), the drained kidney beans, the tomato paste and brown sugar and turn up the heat! Let the chilli really simmer - once it's reached that point, lower the heat, cover the pot and allow the magic to happen - everything will blend together and create this spicy, hearty, lovely meal.

My adventure in eating and cooking red meat has started... I'm already thinking of buying some Wild Boar... oh, what a difference a year can make!

UPDATE... PB&J recipe (it needed some tweaking)

Ok... so after I baked the cookies (I did in fact eat the raw dough - which did taste delish) I realized that using all natural peanut butter for this recipe means that there is a lack of SUGAR in the end result.

I am therefore adding another ingredient to the recipe below...
ADD brown sugar (1/2 cup should do)...
that will add the sweetness to this otherwise solid cookie.

Chloe is my first guinea pig with this recipe... I hope that she wasn't disappointed :0)


Saturday, January 10, 2009


Everyone loves peanut butter and jam sandwiches... and everyone loves cookies, so I decided to try blending the two together and created this cookie. I used strawberry jam this time round, but I think it would be great with a grape jelly or even an apple compote...use whatever you have on hand, or whatever catches your fancy. As per usual - do with this as you like, but I hope you like it ;0)

This batch should make you 4 dozen cookies (and not mini ones either!)

2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. b. soda
1 c. p. butter
1 c. strawberry jam
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl – combine the flour and b. soda.

In a large bowl, combine the remainder of the ingredients. Stir in the dry ingredients. Combine well. Drop the cookie dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes & transfer to a rack to fully cool.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

the ULTIMATE bar...

I'm always looking for pre-workout bars that are satisfying and nutritious... so when I came across this recipe in my "Grazing" cookbook (by Julie Van Rosendaal), I decided to give it a try. As most of you know, I tend to look at a recipe as the starting point, but I certainly don't feel restricted to use only those ingredients already laid out for me. This recipe is case and point. I love peanut butter, but I ADORE almond butter and so I decided to start with that simple swap... and then changed up some of the other options and ended up with this tasty treat. Make it your own - use whatever catches your fancy, or whatever you have in your pantry (dried fruit of any type, nuts that you prefer). Enjoy anytime of the day... and beware - the batter is just as good as the end result!

1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. almond butter (smooth or crunchy, your choice)
1/4 c. skim milk
1/4 c. dark molasses
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour (all purpose will do as well)
1/2 c. oatbran
3/4 c. oats
1/2 tsp. b. soda
1/4 c. dried cherries, chopped
1/4 c. dried apples, chopped
1/2 c. dark semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. sliced almonds or pecans
1/4 c. sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, mix the b.sugar, a.butter, s.milk, molasses, oil and vanilla. In a smaller bowl combine the flour, oatbran, oats, and b.soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients along with the cherries, apples, chocolate chips, almonds and sunflower seeds. Stir until well blended.

Spread the batter into a 9"x13" pan (already sprayed). I usually spread it out using my hands - I wet them with water, since the batter is quite sticky (thanks to the molasses).

Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
I also will place the cooled pan into the freezer and get the bar really cold. This makes it much easier to cut.

The batter yields about 18 bars.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Red & White Stew

New Year... and a Resolution to blog more often... which means I'll cook more too (I think it's a win-win situation all around).

I needed something quick and easy for my lunchtime meals and thought... bring out the crockpot! By going through my pantry, I was able to find some staples, throw them and some spices together and voilĂ ... lunch is served.

you'll need:
a tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
a large tin of plum tomatoes, with juice
1 large white onion, sliced and diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
a knob of fresh ginger, minced (about 1 heaping tbsp. of fresh ginger)
3/4 c. dry red lentils
2 c. chicken stock (I used tinned)
4 tsp tomato paste (divided)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp corriander seeds
1 tsp black and white mustard seeds
pinch of sea salt

Toss your chickpeas, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, red lentils, stock, onion and 3 tsp of tomato paste into your crockpot. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper.

In a pestle and mortar blend your fennel, corriander and mustard seeds together w/ 1 tsp of tomato paste. the paste will allow you to really grind the seeds and make them much finer. Once you get the paste well blended, add it to the pot, throw in your salt and cover it with the lid.

Turn it on "automatic heat" and allow to cook for 6 hours. Enjoy!