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Archive for the ‘Party Food’ Category

Happy Spring!

It’s official, it’s here, it’s wonderful and I’m blissfully excited. I hope those who live somewhere close to where I do enjoyed the sweet pleasures of Spring last week as much as I did. It was spectacular! The weather’s been incredibly warm and each day felt a little more like Summer, than Spring.

Mother nature’s busy working her magic, transforming everything into a lush green, including the field of spring wheat behind our house, which my husband is awfully excited about. My tulips and daffodils are on notice that it’s time to rise and shine, the buds are on my lilac bushes and the apple blossoms are coming to life.  Each day I get a little more excited about all of the wonderful transformations that are taking place.  Each one offers up a gift for those who pause to take notice. So I encourage you to take a moment and slip outside.  Oh I know, if you’re a blogger like me, you’ve got pictures to take, posting and editing to do.  There’s always food waiting to be cooked and laundry piling up, people to email and research to do.  It will wait, but mother nature won’t.  She takes direction from no one and she waits for no one.  She beats to the sound of her own drum and as good as your intentions are, if you don’t take a moment right now, to look, and to listen, and breath deeply, and feel it on your skin and in your lungs, you will miss it.  The promises of spring before it truly delivers.  The promise of what’s to come but isn’t quite here yet.  The mystery of tiny seeds sprouting into their destiny … Hhh hem, okay, I’m coming down off my soapbox now. Truly, I am.

  

Over the course of the past year, I’ve devoted some serious time and some serious ingredients into trying to achieve some sort of mastery competency making cake pops.  While learning to bake and decorate cakes, I always found that I had large bowls of cake and buttercream left over at the end of the day.  Not one to waste good cake, I delved into the quintessential world of Bakerella to get some advice on her adorable cake pops.  Bakerella has some serious off-the-charts talent and there are no limits to the imaginative ways she can dream up to use cake and icing or any dessert ingredient for that matter. This week , however, when I decided that I was going to bring all of my excitement about spring into an awesome baking post, I wasn’t really thinking about Bakerella or cake pops.

I rose at dawn and the first thing I did was whip up a half batch of Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That’s right.  There’s absolutely no baking involved in making marshmallow treats. You don’t even have to preheat the oven. What can I say, I’m a simple girl. The truth is, the first thing I saw in my pantry was a stockpile of marshmallows that needed to be used and I did what I always do with marshmallows. Once I was done, I stared at those marshmallow treats and searched racked my brain for ideas about how to transfer my love of spring to you.  I pressed them into cookie cutters, I sprinkled them with stars, rolled them into eggs, I ate some between two wafers of white chocolate.  And that’s when I knew what to do.

Oh Krispie Pops.

Where have you been all my life? And why have I never thought of you before?

Harbor no hard feeling. We now have a serious attraction and I promise I will never stray again. You satisfy every sweet tooth I have.

I have to be fair and let you know that these Rice Krispie Pops come with a  serious warning.  They are quick, easy and highly addictive.  Your kids will want them, your friends will want them, your husband, your neighbours, the cat, the dog and everyone in between.  They are especially great for kids and parties and I imagine Halloween treats for spooks you know, gift-giving or just plain brightening up someone’s day.

So there you have it my friends, I hope that these wonderful treats will bring a little bit of Spring and pop some sweetness into your life, the way it has mine this week. This Easter, why not pop them in a bag, tie it with a bow and spread a little sweetness in your part of the world.

Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats

1/4 cup (15 ml)  butter

1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) real vanilla

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

8 cups (1 Qt.) marshmallows, feel free to use either large or small

1. In a large pot melt butter over low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the marshmallows and stir until melted. Immediately remove from heat.

2. Add vanilla and stir.

3. Add 3 cups of the Rice Krispie’s cereal and fold with a buttered spatula or large spoon. Add the last 3 cups of cereal and fold again, making sure all of the cereal is coated in the gooey marshmallow coating.

Once the Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats are mixed, do not press them into a pan, leave them in the pot, away from the heat or pile them loosely in a bowl.

If you would like a full picture tutorial for making the Rice Krispie Marshmallow  Treats on the stove top, you can find it here. Note that for this project I halved the recipe and it’s listed above.

Microwave Directions:

In a microwave safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Follow steps 2 and 3 above.  Please note that not all microwaves are equal and the cooking time may vary.

Notes for making Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats:

}} For best results, use fresh marshmallows.

}} Marshmallow crème can be substitued for the marshmallows.

}} Diet, reduced calorie or tub margarine is not recommended.

This is what you will need to make the Rice Krispie Pops:

1 Recipe of Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats (see above)

1 lb. of white chocolate ( I’ve used both Mercken’s White Chocolate Moulding Wafers, available at the Bulk Barn in Canada, or Callebaut Pure White Chocolate, available at Golda’s kitchen, also in Canada, with success. Both melt easily and have good flavour.  I prefer Callebaut because it’s made from 100 % pure cocoa butter.  Another alternative is to use candy melts by Wilton.

Coloured chocolate coating melts (if you would like to add colour to the chocolate coating).

White lollipop sticks (I used Wilton 6″ lollipop sticks)

Coloured sugar, quinns, stars, or sprinkles

How to make Rice Krispie Pops:

1. Prepare a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment.

2. Smear both your hands with a small amount of butter and rub together. Using your hands, tear off small pieces of the Rice Krispie Marshmallow mixture and roll it into a ball between both hands until it is round and smooth.

3. Melt a small amount of the chocolate in the microwave (10 second intervals, stopping to stir in-between). Dip one end of the lollipop stick in the  chocolate and insert it into the Krispie ball.  Repeat until you have a stick in every ball.  Allow to set at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate for 10 minutes.

4. In a small microwave-safe bowl, or these candy melt bowls by Wilton, melt your chocolate in the microwave (30 second intervals, stopping to stir in-between).  You can colour your chocolate by adding coloured pieces of chocolate along with the white.

5. Dip each ball into the chocolate and indirectly tap off the excess by repeatedly placing two fingers on the wrist of the hand holding the lollipop stick. Place the lollipop sticks into a brick of styrofoam or florist foam to dry.  An alternative (and the one I used) is to place them down on a clean piece of waxed paper or parchment to dry.

6. When to add the glitter and/or sprinkles and/or quinns will depend on the temperature of your chocolate.  You want to add them before the chocolate sets but not while it is still drippy so that they don’t slide to the bottom, if you wanted them at the top.  This may take some practice to get it just right.

Notes for making Krispie Pops:

}} You can weigh the marshmallow treat mixture on a scale but I found that you need to be very precise or your balls will still be different sizes depending on how tight or loose you roll them. With practise it will get easier to make them all the same size.

}} Never let water come in direct contact with your chocolate or candy coating.

}} Be careful not to over-microwave your chocolate or candy coating because it will seize or burn.

}} If you do not have a microwave, you can use a double-boiler as an alternative for melting.

}} These make great Easter treats~!

}} The possibilities for decorating Rice Krispie Pops are endless. Use your imagination and you will be amazed at all of the ways you can put your own personal signature on them.

}} Most of all, have fun sharing these treats with your family and friends.

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Today is a beautiful, apple-icious day!

I love Spring. It just may be my favorite season. It and Summer. The Fall is pretty nice too. It’s winter I’m not so fond of. The snow is pretty, it’s the cold I have issues with, though I know some people like it. This week has been filled with mild temperatures and bright sunny days. It’s almost like a pre-cursor of what’s to come. My husband reported seeing his first Robin already and the Killdeer are quickly taking up residence here. The thing I love most about Spring is feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and I ‘m so looking forward to the heady scent of apple blossoms wafting from the trees. That and flowers popping up everywhere, getting re-acquainted with my Spring bulbs, fresh green grass and buds on the trees. I have to admit it’s been a mild winter here in Ontario, even by my standards, and it seems almost too good to be true, that Spring is officially just a week away. So this may seem rather odd, especially since we’ve just sprung our clocks forward an hour in anticipation of Spring, but I’m going to ask you to indulge me for just a moment.

Remember the Fall.

 It wasn’t all that long ago, really.

 

Think falling leaves, warm winds and crisp green apples.

 Or curly haired sheep with beautiful blue eyes and straw on their forheads.

Or pink pig caramel apples with candy watermelon slice ears, m&m eyes and a marshmallow snout.

Fall for me always includes a county fair or two and a delicious caramel apple. Or two. I know some of you worry about  all that messiness. Not me. No Siree. I’m all for messy, when messy tastes that good.

I love the crispness of the apple and the chewiness of the thick caramel followed by the deliciousness of the chocolate and crunchy peanut coating. Mmmm, so good.

I made this yummy treat last week and it reminds me of all of that minus the chocolate but with peanut butter, apples, Skor bits, caramel and chopped peanuts all on a sugar cookie crust, and sprinkled lightly with cinnamon, you won’t miss it. This Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza is a delicious treat and will be sure to delight young and old alike.

It combines the flavours of “Fall Fair” caramel apples on a delightful sugar cookie crust that is so yummy and delicious, it will literally disappear before your very eyes.  Seriously.

You’ll be, like, wait a minute – where’s the Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza I just made?  No seriously, is this a joke?

So my advice is, cut yourself a generous piece before serving, because as soon as you turn around, it will instantly disappear ~ it’s that good.

Now you can go back to blue skies and the sweet smell of Spring. Oh, that does sound good, doesn’t it!!  Happy, happy, happy!

Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza

Slightly adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

Serves 8

3/4 cup refrigerated sugar cookie dough

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons Skor pieces (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 medium tart apple, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup caramel topping, warmed

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

1. Pat cookie dough into a pie pan or lay it on a pizza pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 °F for 12 -14 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. Cool completely.

2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Add Skor pieces and stir. Spread over sugar cookie crust. Arrange apple slices on top in a circle.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and dust with cinnamon. Drizzle with warmed caramel topping and cut into wedges to serve.

Notes

To prevent the apple slices from browning, I brushed them with a pastry brush dipped in a solution of 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 tsp vanilla

Method

1. Place the water and sugar into a small, heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Cook undisturbed until the sugar starts to color around the edges.  Gently swirl the pot to even out the color and continue to cook only until the mixture turns a light amber. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.

2. At arm’s length, gradually stir in the heavy cream. Be careful as it will bubble up.  Stir until the caramel is smooth.  When the bubbles subside, stir in the vanilla extract.

Notes

Like all caramel, this sauce thickens considerably as it cools.  It can be made ahead and refrigerated, then reheated for a few seconds in the microwave or on the stove over low heat. The sauce will be quite stiff when cold and will thin as it warms.

Caramel sauce can be kept covered and refrigerated until the best-by date stamped on the cream carton.

Other recipes with apples:

Vanilla Bean Baker’s Apple Pizza Pie

My Kitchen Addiction’s Balsamic Onion, Apple, and Gorgonzola Pizza

Brown Eyed Baker’s Homemade Caramel Apples

Picky-Palate’s Honeyed Apple Peanut Butter Tart

The Pioneer Woman’s Quick & Easy (and Yummy) Apple Tart

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Calling all mushroom lovers. Ovvvv–er here!

 

One of the things I absolutely love to eat are appetizers.  They’re so cute and so flavourful and of course, so little, that you have to have more than just one, or even two and well, dog-gone-it, sometimes 3 or 4.  Well the great thing about these little appetizers, is that they are almost all vegetables, so I’m giving you permission to have as many as you like and there’s absolutely no guilt involved.  None. Eat as many as your little heart desires.

The thing I like about this combination of flavours is its freshness.  It doesn’t leave a heavy aftertaste, nor does it make you feel like you’ve over-indulged.  It delivers a light, flavourful mouthful with every bite that will have your family and friends coming back for more. Served at a party, as an appetizer, these yummy little morsels are sure to get polished off.

Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

4 strips bacon, diced

1/4 cup (50 ml) ground pork

30 – 40 medium to large fresh mushrooms

1 cup (250 ml) onion and garlic salad croutons, crushed

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1/2 yellow pepper, finely diced

1/4 cup  (50 ml) grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons (25 ml) minced fresh parsley

1-1/2 teaspoons (6 ml) minced fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Method

1. In a large skillet, cook pork, drain fat and pat with a paper towel.  Chop finely with a knife or a hand-held blender and set aside. In the same skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, until crisp.  Remove to paper towels; pat dry, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings.

 

2. Remove stems from mushrooms; set caps aside. Finely chop half of the stems (save the remaining for another use).  Add chopped stems to bacon drippings; saute for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat. 

3. Mix mushroom stems with crushed croutons, cheeses, tomato, pepper, cooked ham, bacon, parsley and oregano.

4. Firmly stuff crouton mixture into mushroom caps. Place on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 425 °F for 12-15 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine 2011

Notes

I filled a combination of 40 medium to large mushrooms and still ended up with enough filling left over for a great lunch idea which I’ll be posting here later in the week. In the meantime, here’s a handy little tip I found over at Farm Boy to keep mushrooms fresh.

What’s the best way to keep Mushrooms fresh?
Once you’ve purchased mushrooms loose or in a package, keep them in a paper bag to ensure freshness. This allows the mushrooms to breathe better and stay fresher longer so they retain their firm, tasty shape. Do not store them in plastic bags since plastics non-porous nature causes faster deterioration and loss of flavour while cooking. Stored properly, mushrooms should keep for several days. It doesn’t matter what size of mushrooms you pick. Size isn’t a sign of quality or age. Large ones are great for stuffing and smaller ones for marinating. Medium mushrooms are perfect for anything.

 

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