Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dark Chocolate Dipped Crunchy Coconut Cashew Sesame Bars

Hmmmm, new name maybe?  "Dark Chocolate Dipped Crunchy Coconut Cashew Sesame Bars"...that's quite the mouthful, but so are these bars, soooo maybe it's a fitting name after all?!
I made these bars when I got home from our recent Caribbean cruise, and was trying to wean my sweet tooth off the buffet.  If you haven't been on a cruise before, the food alone is worth the vacation. For real.
You get seating every evening in a fancy restaurant, but Cory's idea of a vacation is not having to put on socks or shoes for a week.  It was the middle of January - I get it, Flop on, Bro!   My idea of a vacation, is not having to cook or clean or nag at children.  Also high on that list is getting to read as much as I want, especially if I get to read whilst bathing in the warmth of the sun.

We compromised on one formal night with suits (and socks & shoes!) at the fancy restaurant, and every other night we could hit the buffet.  Which in the end, was not that much of a concession for me, as the buffet was always outstanding.  I managed to eat really healthy for the most part.  But the dessert buffet?  Oh. Man.  I had at least one bite of each different kind of cake, I mean, how could you not?!  However, I didn't just eat and be guilt free, I ran at least 5 Kms each day, to allow myself this indulgence.  Worth it.

These heavily seeded roasty-toasty bars, are full of so much good stuff, they are practically guilt-free. You get healthy fats, protein, and mega-crunch from the cashews, chia, hemp, and sesame seeds, accompanied by the slight sweetness of the coconut and chocolate, with just a hint of cinnamon in the mix.
Warning!  A good teeth-brushing should follow consumption!
Dark Chocolate Dipped Crunchy Coconut Cashew Sesame Bars
Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1/2 cups coconut flakes
3 Tablespoons white sesame seeds
3 Tablespoons black sesame seeds
1/2 cup ground flax
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
3 Tablespoons hemp hearts
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pure maple syrup or honey
1 + 1 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1/2 cup (approx) 72 % Dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment,leaving overhang on all sides, and set aside.
Toast cashews, coconut, sesame seeds, flax meal and hemp seeds in separate areas on a large rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally (taking care to not mixing the seeds and nuts), until golden brown, about 8-12 minutes.  **The coconut toasted ALLOT faster than other ingredients, I removed it from the pan after about 8 minutes, and continued toasting other ingredients**.
Let nuts and seeds cool slightly and measure out 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon hemp hearts. Set these seeds aside to top the bars with.
Add the cashews, the coconut and the remaining sesame, flax meal, and hemp hearts plus the salt to a food processor or high powdered blender. Process until finely chopped.
Using a medium saucepan, bring maple syrup (or honey) and the 1 Tablespoon coconut oil to a boil. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Finally, add the cashew/seed mixture and stir to coat.
Press the mixture firmly into the prepared pan, using wet hands if necessary. Top the bars with the reserved seeds from earlier, and gently press to adhere.
Bake until golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Let cool, then remove from pan (keep the parchment in there!), and cut into the bars.
Melt the chocolate in a double broiler, or microwave, adding the extra 1 Tablespoon coconut oil if needed for a thinner chocolate.
Pour about 3/4 of the melted chocolate back into the parchment lined pan. Use the cooled bars, to help spread out the chocolate as you add them back in, bathing their bottom in the chocolate as you go. Use the remaining melted chocolate to drizzle over the top. Allow the chocolate to harden in the fridge or freezer, before breaking or cutting apart to serve.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bacon, Egg, & Avocado Corn Cakes

This is how we started out 2015...filling our faces with this amazing breakfast.  I don't even remember what we did for New Years.  For a change, it was not because I boozed it up.  We spent New Year's Eve having a quiet night at home with the kids.  I'm pretty sure we watched a movie?  I'm also pretty sure we didn't even make it 'til midnight.  New Year, New Us.

This one comes from a new cookbook, called Seriously Delish, the voice & author behind the blog How Sweet Eats: Jessica Merchant.  I've had a crush on this blog for quite some time, and was eager to sink my teeth into this cookbook!  What confuses me about this recipe though, is that "Bacon" is in the title, but appears no where in the actual recipe?  I read it a few times over, because sometimes I read too fast and skim over essentials.  But, ya.  How did that get past the editors? Librarian problems...we notice the details;)  Rest assured my version does indeed include the bacon, but feel free to omit if you just wanna get your veg on!  Cory loves the bacon (duh!), but doesn't dig the avocado action.  Grate some cheese for the lacto-lover!

Psst - The leftover corn cakes make great little croutons when cubed and reheated or baked, and your can turn the leftovers (sans egg, or make it hard boiled!) into an awesome tomatoes & avocado salad which pairs perfectly with a Dijon-y dressing.

Bacon, Egg, & Avocado Corn Cakes
Recipe adapted from:Seriously Delish Page 39

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal, finely ground
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh, canned, or frozen)
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons canola oil
4 large eggs, for serving
8 slices bacon, cooked, for serving (at least!  cook it all - save it for leftovers & salads & such!)
1 tomato, chopped, for serving
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced, for serving
Grated cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400.  Lay out bacon on a cookie sheet covered with tin foil, and bake for about 8-10 mins per side.  Once done lay bacon on paper towel to soak up access grease, and keep warm until corn cakes and eggs are ready to assemble.
While the bacon is baking, get your cakes together.  Using a small bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, along with the milk set aside.  Using a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt and pepper, along with the corn, shallots, and garlic.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just combined.
Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat, and add the oil.  Add the corn batter about 1/3 cup
measure.  Make sure to leave enough room between each corn cake.  Cook about 2-4 minutes per side, or until golden and cooked through.  Repeat until all the batter is used up.
Cook the eggs to your liking:  over-easy, sunny side up, poached, scrambled, etc.
Assemble your stack by laying out the corn cakes first, followed by bacon, sliced avocado, tomatoes, and finally, topped with the egg.  Season with additional Salt and Pepper, and serve up!  This also goes great topped with your fave: hot sauce, aoli, bacon marmalade, or maple syrup.  What ever you desire!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Speculoos Cookie Butter Popcorn

Valentine's is all about celebrating L.O.V.E., right?!  I love lots of things, and people too, of course!  I love my family beyond beyond...to the moon and back!
I love to read, and take long hot baths...I love to read, while I take long hot baths! 
I love food (duh!)!  And the food I love most of all, my desert island food, is popcorn.  I love popcorn like, in an unhealthy way.   I also use food to show my love, if I make something for you, I might have a crush on you;)

One way that I've been shown love recently was during our recent vacay, when Cory went along with the idea of travelling 1 hour on an unknown transit system in Miami Florida, to take me to a Trader Joe's. We could have been doing any number of other touristy pursuits (ahem - beach!), in this hot foreign land, arriving from like 3 feet of snow, and -15 weather.  But, I HAD to go to a Trader Joe's, and he was willing to make the trip (awwww!).   I am in love with this Speculoos Cookie Butter, which I had to have from Trader Joe's after years of reading all about it from state side food blogger's.  Everything they said was true - deadly delicious, and oh so addicting.

Love is this new to me Cookie Butter popcorn, and I think Cory is more enamoured with it than I am! I also managed to find a ginormous block of Log Cabin vanilla flavoured candy coating at the Target across the road.  Not sure if Log Cabin products are carried in Canada?  I've never seen it before, but have seen it mentioned in lots of food blogs.  Why does Target have to be leaving Canada?  I guess I will now love going to the states, to search out all my favourite Target products, just like the old days.  Everything old is new again.  Including my love for popcorn, cookie butter style!

Specaloos Cookie Butter Popcorn
Recipe adapted from: I Heart Naptime

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 squares Log House vanilla almond bark (you could always use white chocolate in lieu)
1/2 cup vanilla candy melts
3 Tablespoons cookie butter (found at Trader Joes ... Biscoff or even Peanut butter would work too)
assorted candy covered chocolates (smarties, m&m's - optional)

Pop the popcorn (I used an air-popper), into a large bowl.  Using a large parchment lined cookie sheet, transfer the popcorn by the hand-full, taking care to leave any unpopped kernels behind.
Using a small bowl melt the vanilla candy coating/white chocolate in microwave.  Or melt via stove top and transfer to bowl.  Add the cookie butter to the melted chocolate, stirring until combined. Drizzle the coating over the popcorn, using tongs to help distribute, until evenly coated. Mix in chocolate candies if using.  And allow to cool and harden before serving.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cinnamon Waffles with Cinnamon Cream Sauce

Well, Hello there! It has been a while hasn't it!  How was your Christmas?  Your New Years? Excellent!  Mine?  ...It was crazy, and without knowing I needed a break, the exhaustion of the all the heaviness of family drama and transition that we've been shouldering since June, finally compounded enough to allow myself to just take one.  I just kind of shut off mentally for the last month or so, and, it to be honest, it was awesome, and so badly needed!

One of the most awesome things that took place over my wee break, was going on a cruise, with my sweetie!  We left the kids behind with my mom (their Grammie), and that way were able to focus on our own relaxation and healing, and not have to worry about them at all.  We did miss the kids horribly though, and experienced so many fun excursions (I kissed a Dolphin! Drove an ATV through the Jungle & swam in a cenote, and Jet skied on the Ocean!).  Plus all the sights and sounds (and flavours!), that we wished we could have shared with them...we felt slightly guilty.  I think we will be planning another trip sooner than later, we just got to scrimp and save a little more, I miss that sunset.

Another reason I've been away so long, is that I have a NEW CAMERA!  Cory, gave it to me for my birthday, back at the beginning of December.  It's so so pretty, not to mention so generous of him, and now I have a big learning curve to get around.

I've been so excited to try and use this waffle maker, Just look at it!  So gorgeous!  I unearthed this summer from my Mother-in-Law's basement while we were moving her out of her place.  I've been slightly daunted by how old school, and heavy it is!  It's made completely of iron, and has waffle instructions in German engraved/embedded into it, and the waffles come out shaped like little hearts - perfect for Valentine's Day!  I think I'll only be breaking it out for specials occasions, as this iron was not the easiest to use, and created a lot of smoke as it's not really meant for use on a modern stove top, but in the end still created delicious results.

Valentine's day falls on a Saturday this year, so you've got the time to put some extra effort into a breakfast your all your lovelies, without the hassle of making reservations, worrying about finding parking, or the long lineups.  Stay in your jammies, or make it a formal affair, and celebrate all you love with these amazing Cinnamon Waffles, don't forget the Cinnamon Cream Sauce - tha bomb!

Cinnamon Waffles
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups milk
5 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled

Cinnamon Cream Sauce
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup half & half or table cream (I didn't have cream on hand so improvised w/ 1/2 cup Cinnabon International delight, & 1/2 cup milk).

Start by making the Cinnamon Cream Sauce.  Using a small pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and sugar, then add the cinnamon.  Simmer until the sauce thickens, then slowly add the cream about 1/4 cup at a time while continuing to whisk.  Turn the temp to low, so the sauce stays warm until ready to serve.
To make the waffle batter, begin with separating the eggs whites from the yolks, whisking the egg whites to stiff peaks.
Using a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, with the milk, and melted butter, followed by the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, sugar, and salt, until you have a smooth batter.  Gently fold in the egg whites into the batter, about a third at a time.
Pre-heat your waffle iron, and with non-stick spray, or your preferred method.
Ladle, scoop, or pour your batter onto the pre-heated waffle iron, and cook the waffles for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.  Keep the waffles warm in the oven at a low temp, while the remaining batter is used up.
Serve the waffles with the warm Cinnamon Cream Sauce poured over top, along with all your favourite breakfast fixin's, or just as they are!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Toasted Sesame Pretzel Toffee Bark

I love love love baking, it's my stress relief, and belly filler. I would assume, if you are perusing food blogs, that you love to bake too? Christmas time can add a different type of stress, maybe even panic(?), for those who are kitchen challenged. I'm not going to give you a turkey tutorial, although, that might be a good future post!  But, I can give you an idea on how to fill you're cookies platters!  The ultimate way to get a tonne of cookies, without having to do all the work, it to plan a cookie exchange!

For the past five years, I have coerced my co-workers into joining me in a cookie exchange.  I send out an internal email, and post a sign-up sheet in the staff room where they can add their name, and what they choose to contribute.  We have to bake one dozen per person, and this year we each baked for eight dozen!  Eight dozen different kinds of cookies!  Well, not just cookies, there was fudge, toffee, palmiers, and even Oreo truffles!

This is how library ladies organize cookie exchanges....on a book truck! haha

The best part about a cookie exchange is the variety of treats that you end up with!  I like to package them up for Holiday gifts for the kid's teachers, our neighbours and for friends.  I'm usually still left with enough treats for my own family, and any holiday visitors, to enjoy over the holidays, too!

Kind of ironic, that I like to bake probably the most out of all my colleagues, and I choose the easiest thing to make.  I contributed Toasted Sesame Pretzel Toffee Bark, which you may already be familiar with under the name Christmas Crack, or Saltine Toffee, or something similar.  This recipe is truly addicting, and so so simple.  Get your gift giving on - Toffee Bark style!!

Toasted Sesame Pretzel Toffee Bark

1/4 - 1/2 cup sesame seeds
roughly 50 salted waffle pretzels (enough to cover your cookie sheet)
1 cups butter
1 cups packed brown sugar
pinch of salt (optional)
1 -11/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (approximately – I usually just keep adding until it seems like enough!)

Using a small pan, over medium -high heat, toast the sesame seeds, tossing or stirring, taking care not to burn, and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment, or foil,  this helps with clean-up after (and to make it easier to remove).   Line the prepared sheet with pretzels, placing them right together.
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter and brown sugar, and pinch of salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Let it bubble for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and pour it evenly over the pretzels. Spread with spatula to fill any gaps.
Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until bubbling and deep golden in colour. Keep an eye on it for the last few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Remove from the oven, and then scatter chocolate chips over top while the caramel is still hot. Let sit for a few minutes, then spread chocolate out with a spatula or knife until smooth, and finally, scatter the toasted sesame seeds over the top.
Cool completely in the fridge, (or in the garage cold room) then break up into pieces using your hands.  I like there to be barks of all shapes and sizes, and prefer they aren't just squares - don't be a square, man!  Package up for gift giving, or get ready to get your will tested!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Overnight Gingerbread Spice Cinnamon Buns

I'm already mentally getting ready for January, so it's no shocker that Christmas Day's breakfast is already planned too.  Can I share my exciting news with you?  We are going...on a cruise!!  I know! I know!  We are gonna relax, and read, and relax, and eat, and relax, and take naps, and explore tropical islands, and relax, and shop, and relax some more!! 
It's so super exciting it almost makes me want to skip Christmas, so we could get to vacation time faster. Almost.  

I usually make some kinda cinnamon rolls, whenever my folks come to town.  They are my dad's favourite, and I love experiment on him with new and different kinds, flavours, and techniques each time.  My dad is already preparing his sweet tooth for the Christmas visit.  And it seems rather ho-hum to make something so vanilla as regular ol' cinnamon buns on such a special occasion.  So this year I'm gonna take it up a notch with these festive gingerbread spiced cinnamon buns!

I don't know about you, but I like to enjoy watching the kids open their gifts, and stockings, and quality family time on Christmas morning.  The idea of making a big production of breakfast, then cleaning it up, and starting in on the preparation of the big feast, holds little appeal.  The beauty of this recipe in particular, is you can get it all ready a day or so in advance, and then just pop them into the oven Christmas Morning!  Stay in your jammies for as long as possible, and tuck into this super decadent and delicious Christmas morning treat!

Overnight Gingerbread Spice Cinnamon Buns


2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast 
3/4 cup milk, warmed (I used 2% and nuked it for about 30 seconds)
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Gingerbread Spice Filling

6 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 Tablespoon molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons flour

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple extract

Place milk in a microwave safe measuring cup. Heat for 30-45 seconds in the microwave, add yeast and stir, allow the yeast to activate by setting aside for a few minutes.
Cream together the sugar, butter, and egg, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pour in the milk/yeast mixture and give it a few pulses.  Replace the paddle with the dough hook attachment and add the flour, and salt, mixing on low speed until the dough forms a ball in the center of the bowl.
Using a large stainless steel bowl,  grease with cooking spray or butter, and place the dough ball in it. Cover the bowl kitchen towel or plastic wrap, find a warm spot, and let the dough sit for 2-4 hours, or until it doubles in size.
My house is super cold in the winter, but my oven has a warming spot, I usually turn that on low, or keep it on the oven while I'm doing other baking!
Make your filling by mixing together butter, brown sugar, flour, and spices until it forms a paste, and set aside.  Grease a 9” pan, pie plate or baking dish with butter or spray oil, and set aside.
Once the dough is risen, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, about 12” by 9”. Spread the filling as evenly as possible over the rectangle all the way to the edges.
Roll the dough up tightly from the long end, and slice it into 9 equal rounds. Place the rolls into the prepared baking dish.
At this point, you can let them rise for about 30 minutes to 1 hour until they are swelling up in the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Or!  You can cover with plastic wrap and stick in the refrigerator overnight until ready to bake for a wintery morning treat or Christmas Day!  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If the rolls have been in the refrigerator, remove them and let them warm up while the oven is preheating.  Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
While they bake, make your Maple Cream Cheese frosting!
Using a hand held or standup mixer, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup.  Add in the cinnamon, vanilla and maple extracts, and finally, the icing sugar.  Mix until smooth with a thick, but spreadable, consistency. 
Remove the rolls from the oven, and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before frosting, and devouring serving!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Low Fat Chocolate Crackle Cookies

The problem with running a real life kinda blog, is that sometimes things don't always come together in the most attractive and cohesive ways.  Take, for example these Chocolate Crackle cookies I'm sharing with you today.  They are in fact leftovers from a Christmas Craft Fair I was part of last weekend.  I made them the day before the sale, so they'd be nice and fresh, and then packed them up all nice and pretty.
My sales at the craft fair went pretty well, despite the weather being horrible.  The day of the fair the temperature was -25 without the wind, and the roads were ice rinks, making sales a little sluggish.  I'm pretty sure I managed to at least break even(?).  Because the craft fair was in our community, I had the chance to hang with my family, putting my kids to work at the table, and catch up with friends and neighbours as well.  All in all, it was a really great day, and got me in the Christmas spirit.

I still brought home a fair bit of baking, including these Chocolate Crackle cookies, much to my Son's delight...these are his favourite cookies of all time!
But the real life reality is that, most of the sugar has worn off, making them not as photogenic, as they once were, but now I'm also SLAMMED with other real life responsibilities.  I have no time to take pics of anything else.  The voices in my head tell me it's okay though, because these cookies, regardless of their appearance, still taste fantastic, and are a year-round favourite for my family.

There are as many different versions of this recipe, as there are names for the cookie:  Chocolate Crackles, Chocolate Crinkles, etcetera, etcetera.  I prefer the Chocolava recipe from Julie's One Smart Cookie Cookbook.  Not only is her recipe delicious and  reminesent of a fudgy brownie, but it has about one quarter of the fat from any other recipe I've found.  For the sale I chose to rename them, thinking that a crackle was more Christmas-y than Chocolava, but you can call them any name you wish!
I always make them at Christmas time, I like to think the crackled icing-sugar dusted exterior is somewhat festive, or at least reflective of a good dusting of snow...no?  A fast,easy, and tasty recipe that is almost guilt-free, making them the perfect for a hostess gift or for giving to your neighbours or co-workers, or sharing with your family this Christmas!

Low Fat Chocolate Crackle Cookies
Recipe adapted from: One Smart Cookie Chocolava cookies, Page 65

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 - 1/2 cup icing sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a large cookie sheet with oil, or line with parchemnt and set aside.
In a large bowl, add the butter, and both the sugars and mix until creamy. Next add the eggs and vanilla, mix to combine.  Then add the the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, all at once until the dough just comes together.  It may still seem too dry, but it does come together, especially if you use your hands to bring it together - like magic!
Place a few heaping spoonfuls of icing sugar into a shallow dish. Roll dough into balls and roll the balls in icing sugar to coat.
Place them about 2” apart on the prepared cookie sheet, and bake for 12–14 minutes, until just set around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.