Sunday, April 22, 2012

Minestrone Soup

There's nothing quite like a minestrone soup to warm you up and fill you full of nutrients... low in fat, low in sodium, high in flavour and protein, this soup's a winner!

My daughter, testing the soup to make sure it's ready... she's on her second "testing" bowl now!

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 cup cubed carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup cubed eggplant or zucchini
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 cup of fresh chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 3 Tbsp dry red wine
  • 1 cup dried pasta
  • A sprinkle of parmaesan cheese per person


Directions

  1. Add olive oil, garlic and onions to a large, heavy bottomed soup pot, and sauté until translucent.
  2. Add carrots and celery, then gradually mix in the oregano, black pepper and basil.
  3. Cover and cook over low heat for 5-8 minutes.
  4. Add the green pepper, zucchini, vegetable stock, tomato puree, lentils and wine. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the fresh tomatoes, and keep over low heat until 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Bring soup to a boil, add pasta, and boil gently for 5-7 minutes or according to the pasta's suggested cooking time.
  7. Spoon into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of parmaesan cheese and crusty bread.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies



Can't decide whether to treat yourself to a cookie or a chocolate? The mini peanut butter cups in the center of these cookies make them the best of both worlds! Please note this recipe is LARGE, as these little cookies are great for cookie exchanges, and for gifting to friends around the holidays - the recipe will make you 7 dozen cookies (84 in total). Be sure you have a mini-muffin tin before you start your mixer... it's the key to getting the cookies to rise high enough to fit the entire chocolate peanut butter cup inside!

Ingredients

  • 3 and 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 cup and 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 cup and 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 cup and 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 cup and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup and 1 teaspoon milk
  • 84 Reese's miniature chocolate peanut butter cups, unwrapped. Note: if you're buying them in bags, it will take you just over 3 bags to complete 84 cookies (some left over to snack on, or stuff in stockings!)

Directions
  1. Store the unwrapped chocolate peanut butter cups in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy. 
  5. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and milk. 
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture; mix well. 
  7. Shape into 84 balls and place each into an ungreased mini muffin tin.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. 
  9. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. 
  10. Cool entire pan in the fridge for 15 minutes before carefully removing cooled cookies from pan.

"Snow White" cookies


Nice, simple and yummy cookies to make with kids for the holidays (let's be honest... for any day!) The name comes bothfrom the almost entirely white ingredients list, and from the fact my daughter was wearing a Snow White costume the first time we made them!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut


Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the beaten eggs, followed by the vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  5. Gradually add the dry mixture into the butter mixture.
  6. If using a stand mixer, remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips and coconut by hand.
  7. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chocolate Mice


When my book club meets each month we enjoy not only each other's company and some great conversation, but we also enjoy food that's often inspired by the book we read that month. The member who recommended the book hosts the rest of the group in her home and is free to get as creative as she'd like with both the discussion questions and the snacks. This month the group will be meeting at my house to discuss "The Night Circus", a fantastic read that's full of amazing visual imagery and equally amazing food. One sweet snack featured in the book: chocolate mice. What a great challenge! I researched several recipes and ended up creating a bit of a hybrid of all that I read. I hope you, and my book club, enjoy what I came up with!

Ingredients
  • 4 squares of semisweet chocolate
  • 1 container of light or whipped cream cheese
  • 1 cup plus 1/3 cup of chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 24-28 colourful candy-coated mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 black licorice laces, cut into 12-14 pieces

Directions
  1. Melt the chocolate squares in the microwave using 60-second increments at 50% power. Be sure to stir well between each 60-second cycle.
  2. When the chocolate is melted, alternate additions of the 1-cup of cookie crumbs and the cream cheese, working gradually so the cooler ingredients incorporate without the warm chocolate hardening. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
  3. Once cooled, roll by hand into small balls, and then mould the ball into a slight point on one side.
  4. Roll dough in the chocolate cookie crumbs while it’s still slightly sticky from the warmth of your hands, and place on a plate or cookie sheet.
  5. Using a thin wooden skewer, make a hole in the wider end of the “mouse” and slide a piece of licorice lacing in for the tail. Press the coloured candy-coated chocolate chips into the sides of the pointed end of the “mouse” for its eyes, and gently insert the slivered almond for its ears.
  6. Transfer to the plate or container you’d like to serve the mice on (your work surface will be covered in chocolate crumbs) and refrigerate for at least two hours, until firm.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries



These beautiful chocolate-covered strawberries are perfect for occasions ranging from Christmas parties to romantic Valentines, and are surprisingly easy. In fact, my 6-year-old was responsible for the chocolate drizzle on the strawberries pictured above and we didn’t even have to clean chocolate off the walls or floor as a result!

Ingredients
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries
  • 1 ¼ cups of white chocolate melting wafers
  • 1 ¼ cups of dark chocolate melting wafers

Directions
  1. Lay parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Wash strawberries and dry them thoroughly – if strawberries are damp, the chocolate won’t stick properly.
  3. Pour all the dark chocolate wafers in one measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl, and all the white wafers in another. Melt them, one at a time, in the microwave using 60-second increments at 50% power. Be sure to stir well between each 60-second cycle.
  4. Holding the strawberries by their leaves, dip one at a time in either the dark or the white chocolate, rolling to cover all sides. Let each drip above the chocolate bowl for a moment before placing them on the prepared cookie sheet. It looks especially nice if you do half your batch of strawberries in the dark chocolate and the other half in the white.
  5. With a sweeping motion, swing or swirl the chocolate-dipped fork over strawberries that have been dipped in the alternate coloured chocolate. It’s a great way to use up your remaining chocolate, and makes the strawberries look especially beautiful.
  6. Once you’re happy with your drizzled designs, place the cookie sheet somewhere cool for at least 20 minutes. Once the chocolate has set and the strawberries release easily from the parchment, you can plate and serve, or put in a container in the fridge for 2-3 days (if they last that long, which if you have a chocolate-loving family like mine, they most certainly will not!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Moist Corn Pan Bread



This moist and slightly sweet corn bread is cooked in a cast iron skillet for maximum crispiness in the crust as well as a pretty cool-looking presentation on the table. It makes a great accompaniment to hearty soups (like my sweet potato corn chowder), but is also delicious heated the next morning and either drizzled with maple syrup or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for a decadent breakfast – what a great way to use up leftovers!

Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups milk
  • 2 1/3 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Grease a large cast-iron skillet and set aside.
  3. Add butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and cream on low speed until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together eggs and milk.
  5. In a third bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt), and stir well to incorporate.
  6. Combine all ingredients into the bowl of the electric mixer, alternating additions of the milk & egg mixture and the dry mixture. Be sure to stop and scrape the sides of the mixing bowl several times during mixing.
  7. Pour into the cast iron skillet and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the corn bread comes out clean. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting, then enjoy!

Sweet Potato Corn Chowder



This flavourful corn chowder boasts an extra rich golden colour thanks to the use of sweet potatoes instead of the standard white potatoes called for in most chowder recipes. Serve with a slice of corn bread on the side for a real ‘celebration of corn’ at your next family supper!

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup double smoked bacon, chopped
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cans of cream-style corn
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions
  1. In a large pot, fry chopped bacon over medium-high heat for roughly 5 minutes, or until crisp.
  2. Add sweet potatoes and shallots to the pot and stir to cover them in the remnants of bacon fat from the bottom of the pan. **
  3. Reduce the temperature to medium-low, and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sweet potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Stir in the vegetable broth, pepper and one of the cans of corn.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes are tender.
  6. Using an immersion blender, break up and blend many of the large chunks of sweet potato, keeping several smaller chunks for texture.
  7. Once the sweet potato is blended, add the second can of creamed corn. Stir, then cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes to heat through. Enjoy!

** If you’ve used butcher-quality double smoked bacon, there will not be a lot of liquid at the bottom of the pan – if you’ve used grocery store bacon, I suggest draining the pot before adding the sweet potatoes and shallots, leaving a tablespoon of bacon fat in the pot.