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Speaking of chocolate chips … I’m excited to share our family’s new favourite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe.  My family has quite literally fallen in love with these.

Last year, while visiting my husbands parents in Florida, one of their good friends Marian, baked up a batch of cookies to welcome our kids to the sunny south. Well, while the kids were busy swimming at the pool, this kid, was quite happily sitting in a lounge chair, devouring their cookies.

They ended up being so delicious that I couldn’t help but mention to my mother-in-law before I left, how I’d just love to have the recipe.  And sure enough, when she returned in the Spring,  she presented me with a hand-written card from Marian for her oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and I’ve been baking them almost every other week, since then.

They’re a combination of oatmeal and milk chocolate chips that are crusty on the outside but are surprisingly thick and chewy on the inside.

Besides being delicious, satisfying and easy to make, the dough is frozen and then sliced and baked. This is the perfect way to have something sweet on hand that can be baked up in just 10-12 minutes. Roll the dough in waxed paper, store it in the freezer and they’re readily on hand for those days when you need something in a hurry.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe from Marian Gabel

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup shortening

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 tablespoon of hot water

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups all-purpose flour

500 grams milk chocolate chips

Coarsely chopped almonds (optional)

Method

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the rolled oats and flour and set aside.

2.In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugars together until pale and creamy (approximately 5 minutes).

3. Add eggs, one at a time, creaming well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and baking soda in hot water.

4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.

5. Divide dough into 2 halves. Roll each half in waxed paper and store in the freezer for a minimum of 1 hour.

6. When you’re ready to bake the cookies, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and remove the rolls of frozen dough from the freezer.  Slice the dough into 1/4  inch discs and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are just slightly brown.

Notes

If the dough has been frozen for a while, it may be necessary to wait 5-10 minutes before slicing.

These cookies are best when not over-baked.  I take them out when they still look slightly under-baked to ensure a chewy centre.

I found with this recipe, that it’s important to line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.   This is a step that I always used to skip, but now understand how it helps to keep baked goods from over-browning on the bottom, while waiting for them to get perfectly baked in the centre. Parchment paper can usually be found in your local grocery store next to the waxed paper and plastic wrap.

I typically like to use butter in my cookie recipes but decided to follow the recipe and use shortening – the results speak for themselves – everyone loves them. I haven’t tried  a butter substitution yet, but I’m curious to know how they would turn out.

I use Callebaut milk chocolate chips for this recipe but any chocolate chip will work.

I usually double the recipe, so I have extra rolls on hand.

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If you buy bananas, you’ll know that every once in awhile, some will start to start to grow spots and the next thing you know, you need to whip up a batch of something with banana in it.

A while back Jenn, from My Kitchen Addiction, posted a recipe for Chocolate Chip Toffee Banana Muffins. They looked delicious and I loved the idea of making them mini-snack-sized. They baked up fluffy and delicious, and just like she said, they made a lot. I stored most of them in a container in the freezer and took some out every so often as I needed them. It was perfect for those busy days when there wasn’t any time to bake, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you here.

I have to warn you though, they are addictive and pop ever-so easily into your mouth as you walk by.

I hope you enjoy them!

Chocolate Chip Toffee Banana Muffins

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen muffins

Adapted ever so slightly from My Kitchen Addiction

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups mashed banana
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup toffee bits, (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with paper cups (or lightly grease), and set aside.

2. Combine the softened butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Beat on medium speed to cream the butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until well incorporated.  Stir in the mashed banana.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the white whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the hot water, starting and ending with the dry mixture.  Stir just enough to moisten all of the dry ingredients.

4. Add the mini chocolate chips and toffee bits, and fold them into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans (approximately 1/4 cup of batter for each muffin).  Bake the muffins for approximately 20 – 22 minutes.  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes:

If you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour, you can make it, by using regular whole wheat flour, removing 2 tablespoons per cup and replacing it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and whisking thoroughly.

In June I had all kinds of gorgeous, berry delicious recipes picked out to make while strawberries were in season, sadly though life was hectic and I never made it to our local patch this year.

Strawberry picking is a tradition in our family that I’ve always looked forward to. The best part of being in the patch is popping that very first plump, juicy berry into your mouth and tasting that off-the-vine freshness that comes with picking your own. It sure motivates you to get picking and fill that basket so you can bring more of that berry goodness home with you.

Recipes abound for these ruby-red beauties and the possibilities they bring to the table are endless.  One of the ways I’ve been eating them since the spring is in a goat cheese and spinach salad that I truly love.

For this salad, one of the things I really concentrated on, was the dressing. I wanted to come up with something that was light, summer-y, full of good-for-you ingredients and the most important thing – great berry flavour.  Nothing artificial. I wanted to compliment the spinach and goat cheese with a berry-bursting freshness — the same freshness found in berry patches across Ontario.

Each year, I usually make strawberry jam as a way of capturing and enjoying those delicious berries all year-long. One of the jams I make is a no-cook strawberry freezer jam which is basically a mixture of freshly crushed berries, sugar, pectin and lemon juice.  The jam is not cooked but poured directly into jars and kept in the freezer until I need it. Because it doesn’t go through a long cooking process, the jam is bright red, sweet and full of delicious berry flavour.

I had some in the freezer that hadn’t set all that well, so I’d been saving it to serve as a topping over ice cream. Then I thought, what better way to bring that berry-freshness to the dressing than to use my runny strawberry freezer jam. It would work perfectly as a base for a salad dressing.

I added a little olive oil to thin it out, apple cider vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon juice for a little flavour contrast, and some poppy seeds for crunch.  This is now one of our all-time favourite dressings and it has everyone helping themselves to seconds of vitamin-packed spinach and strawberries. It takes just a couple of minutes to put together, and brings one of the freshest tasting dressings right to your table, so you can enjoy summer all year-long.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Serves 6

6 cups spinach, washed

2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered

4 – 5 ounces goat cheese

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped

Method

1. Wash and dry spinach leaves and remove longs stems if necessary.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Wash strawberries, remove stems and cut into quarters. Place berries on top of spinach.

3. Crumble goat cheese into bite-size chunks and place on top of berries and spinach followed by the almonds.

4.  Make the dressing.

Perfect Summer Preserve Strawberry Dressing

1/2 cup strawberry freezer jam

1/8 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Method

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and stir with a whisk for 30 seconds until incorporated or place all the ingredients in a mason jar fitted with a lid and shake for 15 seconds.

Pour over your salad and enjoy!

Any left over dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

If you don’t have strawberry freezer jam, you can easily substitute any favourite strawberry preserves.

There’s a lot of rhubarb grown on farms in the country.  Just about everyone has a patch somewhere out in the yard and everyone looks forward to the beautiful green and red shoots that can be baked up into the most delicious pies, tarts, jams, cakes, squares and even punch. Yes, punch.  My sister-in-law has been making a rhubarb punch for as long as I’ve known her, It comes from straining cooked rhubarb and serving it mixed with sugar and ginger ale.  It’s positively delicious; a little tart, a little sweet and I always look forward to having some when we visit.

This recipe though, isn’t for rhubarb punch, it’s for Rhubarb Sponge Pudding which is a delightful way to make use of some of that rhubarb that may be growing in your garden.

Unfortunately my rhubarb never survives the winters and I’ve all but given up hope of ever having my own patch.  Thankfully the neighbours are generous and share plenty of their’s with me.  This is some that I’ve had in the freezer from last year’s season so I wanted to get it used up.

This recipe sounded like the perfect way to use it and one I’m sure I’ll use again and again.

The moist sponge topping is light, yet full of flavour and it really compliments the tender fruit underneath. I sweetened mine with pure maple syrup, popped a few raspberries into each ramekin and it was a delightful combination of some of my favourite flavours.

Perfect with vanilla ice cream. (Unfortunately those pictures have seemingly disappeared).

This can be made as a single desert in a 9×9-inch baking pan or in 6 individual ramekins.  Either is perfect for sharing and can be made well ahead of any entertaining you may be doing as it keeps well for days in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb Sponge Pudding

1 pound (about 3 cups) rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup golden corn syrup or pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Place rhubarb in lightly buttered 9×9-inch pan or 6 ramekins. Drizzle with the syrup and brown sugar.

3. Beat butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs.

4. Mix together dry ingredients and gently fold into the batter. Spread on top of the rhubarb.

5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Serve while still warm with custard or ice cream.

Optional:  Add in 1 cup of your favourite berries (strawberries or raspberries work best) to the 9×9-inch pan or 3-4 berries per ramekin.

Serves 6

Adapted from Lucy Waverman, The Globe and Mail

Last we spoke, I told you I was making Rhubarb Honey Yogurt Scones and I told you I’d let you know how they turned out. 

They turned out heavenly.

I wasn’t really trying to keep all of this goodness to myself.  Really, I wasn’t.

I just happened to get busy baking cakes for a few friends and neighbours celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and such.

Oh, and maybe a wedding. Or two.

So I haven’t been able to share these with you until now. But truth be told, they’re worth every minute you’ve waited.

These scones are magically light and fluffy with a zesty sweetness of jammed rhubarb and candied lemons balanced out with a little drizzled honey and a sprinkle of rosemary. 

They bake up tender and biscuit-like, but have the texture of a typical scone and I just love how rustic they look, once baked. 

They’re best served slightly warm and taste just as good without butter or preserves as they do with them.

This is the yogurt and honey dough with the jammed rhubarb folded in.

Gorgeous.

The dough is gathered into a ball on a floured surface, cut into 8 wedges and sprinkled with candied lemon zest and chopped rosemary.

I adapted these scones from a recipe by Joy the Baker for Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones, which you can find here

I used Joy’s idea for grapefruit and switched it out with the rhubarb, lemon, and rosemary,which may sound strange, but it really, really, works so you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

Besides, my middle name is Joy, so you never know, we just may be kindred spirits when it comes to scone flavour combinations.

Rhubarb Honey Yogurt Scones with Lemon and Rosemary

Makes: 8 Scones

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons honey plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

1 cup rhubarb, chopped

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup plain yogurt

few sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped fine

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium pot, simmer rhubarb with brown sugar until it thickens into a jam. Set aside.

3. Zest the lemon and rub together with the tablespoon of sugar and set aside.

4. Dice cold butter into small chunks and add to the dry ingredients.  Using a pastry mixer or your fingers and working quickly, break the butter down into the flour mixture until the butter chunks are the size of small peas.  Add the honey, plain yogurt.  Toss together lightly with a fork until all of the dry ingredients are moistened by the yogurt and honey.

5. Next add the jammed rhubarb and fold gently.

6. Turn the scone dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Form into an 8 inch circle, about 1 inch thick. Use a knife or a bench scraper to cut the dough into eight scone triangles.  Place the triangles on the prepared baking sheet.  Generously sprinkle the tops of the scones with the candied lemon zest and chopped rosemary.

7.  Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly gold brown on top and firm but soft in the center.  Drizzle each scone with honey and allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm with butter or jam.  These scones are best served the day they’re made.

Grapefruit Bars

I love squares that sparkle because they look like jewels. Close your eyes and imagine a delicious burst of citrus in every bite of these tangy grapefruit bars.

Sprinkled with a kiss of powdered sugar, they magically dance on your tongue and leave you with a taste of summer.

Grapefruit Bars

Cookie Base:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ (icing) sugar

3/4 cup cold butter

Filling:

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

zest of 1/2 grapefruit

3 tablespoons Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons flour

pinch of salt

Confectioners’ sugar

Method

1. In a small bowl, combine flour and confectioners’ sugar; cut in the butter until crumbly.  Press into a lightly greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until the edges brown slightly. Set aside and let cool.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Whisk in the eggs, grapefruit juice, zest, and yogurt until combined.

3. Pour the mixture evenly over the cooled crust and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until just set – the centre should jiggle but not be fluid when you gently shake the pan.

4. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes and then run the tip of a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen it.

5. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Serves 12  Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

With rhubarb  in season, I’m also making Rhubarb Honey Yogurt Scones.

I can’t wait to see how they turn out.

I had some brown rice left over from last night’s dinner, so here’s what we had for lunch today.

It was beautiful and delicious.

And if I’d thought about it, I would have added some goat cheese.

This rice pilaf is a simple summer favourite that really sings.

By itself or with a skewer of grilled shrimp or chicken.

Or a few pieces of goat cheese.

In fact it’ll compliment just about any grilled meat you fancy.

Perfect for your next potluck/barbecue, picnic or cookout. It’s seriously good and good for you!

Here’s the recipe.

Almond Apricot Brown Rice Pilaf

Serves 4 for lunch, 16 as part of a potluck

4 cups brown rice, cooked

1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup pistachios, slightly chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup roasted almonds

1 cup baby spinach (or a generous handful)

Dressing

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon curry powder

pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl, add apricots, pistachios and red onion to the rice.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, curry powder, and salt. You can also add these ingredients to a glass jar with the lid on and shake it for about 15 seconds.

3. Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and toss. When completely cool, sprinkle with parsley, spinach and almonds.

4. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour before serving.

Notes:

The brown rice can be substituted with quinoa or barley with delicious results.

The ingredients can be prepared in advance, but toss in the spinach, pistachios, almonds and dressing just before serving.

Serve this with some sliced nectarines, a skewer of shrimp or chicken or a few pieces of goat cheese for a delicious lunch that’s nutritious and makes a beautiful presentation.

This makes a delightful side when paired with grilled chops, steak, chicken or sausage.

The dressing is minimal.  If you like a lot of dressing, you may want to double the dressing ingredients. Extra dressing can be drizzled on any leftovers the following day just to freshen it up.

As if that’s possible.

Leftovers, that is.

I hope you enjoy it!