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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Almond and Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

I had never ate or made thumbprint cookies, but again I had to make cookies for a kids christmas party....and after using so much chocolate (m&m oatmeal cookies, cranberry white chocolate oatmeal cookies, sweet marie bars, chocolate bark) I decided that perhaps jam might be a nice change and a hit with kids....turns out they like chocolate much more! But they did brighten up the plate with a deep red raspberry jam. The toasted almonds on the outside added a nice crunch and complimented the raspberry flavor really well.
Thumbprint Cookies

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts of choice (I used almonds)
1/3 cup jam (any flavor - I used raspberry)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla extract and salt. Gradually stir in flour.

Form dough into 1-inch diameter balls. Dip in lightly beaten egg whites, then roll in nuts. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Press down center of each with thumb.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Just before serving, fill centers of cookies with jam. Or, fill centers with 1/2 teaspoon of jam before baking.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pecan Rolo Pretzels

Yeah there are finally snowflakes in the air making it feel more like Christmas time and that I am not just baking millions of cookies for no reason. I pre-made dozens of cookies and happy that I did because it seems like there is an event every other night to attend which involve festive drinks and food. With so many cookies I decided to wrap some up as a hostess gift. These mini rolo pretzels were simple and make a great gift. You can place them in a jar or festive bag or take out food box. My sister in law made these treats with the help of her 6 and 4 year old boy, making it an easy and fun recipe to do together. They have since named them 'Paws' on the account that when you flip them over they look like dog paws!! Very creative!!
Pecan Rolo Pretzels
1 bag of mini pretzels
12 oz bag of Rolo chocolates
1 bag of pecan halves or almonds
Preheat oven to 250. On a cookie sheet, neatly lay out pretzels, single layer. On top of each pretzel place an unwrapped rolo on top.
Carefully place in the oven for 4 minutes. Remove. Immediately take pecan halves and squish them into the rolo, squishing the caramel out and making the pecan stick.
Cool for 15 minutes, and then place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, until the caramel hardens.Pack up and give these away before you eat them all.

Drinking hot chocolate at the tree farm.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sweet Marie Bars

Every year for the holiday season, as most of us do, I spend hours in the kitchen making festive appetizers and decadent baked goods. In order to help out for my nephews Christmas party this coming weekend I spent a good three days baking dozens of cookies. Good thing there were lots because when I asked my 2 and half year nephew said he wanted for Christmas from Santa he stated he wanted lots of cookies.

I tried making thumbprint cookies, which did not make very many, and for the effort they require, were not worth it to me. Next I made oatmeal cookies with cherry flavoured craisins and white chocolate chunks, oatmeal cookies with holiday M&Ms and these mouth-watering and easy no bake Sweet Marie Bars. Seriously if you have no time to bake and want to whip up something delicious these are the bars to make as they only take 10-15 minutes.

A traditional Sweet Marie Candy bar is Canadian in origin and made by Cadbury. It has a nougat, caramel, roasted peanuts and covered in chocolate. This homemade version will not disappoint anyone who loves the combination of peanut butter, caramel and chocolate.

Sweet Marie Bars

½ cup corn syrup
½ cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 cups rice crispy cereal
1/2 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
1 ½ cups chocolate chip

Grease an 8x8 baking pan with butter. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the corn syrup, peanut butter and brown sugar. As soon as melted remove from heat and stir in cereal and peanuts.

Press the mixture into the 8x8 pan. I use the bottom of a glass the press it down.

Place in the fridge to cool. You can melt the chocolate and spread it on immediately, but I prefer to let the mixture cool a bit first.

In a glass microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate chips and melt on medium heat for 40 seconds. Take out and stir and then continue to melt in the microwave at 20 second intervals until melted. Then spread evenly over the chilled mixture. Return to fridge and let cool completely. Once cooled can cut into bars.

You can also melt the chocolate using a double boiler.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mustard & Herb Crusted top Sirloin Roast

A few weeks ago I had my in-laws up to watch a GeeGees football game on what we thought would be a nice but crisp and cool fall day. Therefore we packed mitts, blankets, tuques, warm beverages and in the end it turned out to be the hottest fall day ever, and we had to strip down to T-shirts. The team did fantastic beating Guelph to head to the playoffs. They will be playing Western this Saturday and I plan on being in attendance for what should be a great game.

Post game we headed back to my house to enjoy some fall appetizers and barbeque. We barbeque all year round in my house and many times I think a BBQ in the fall or winter is more exciting than summer. As much as I love sitting on my deck in the summer, and enjoying the aroma of grilled streak, fall and winter grilling is really cozy and comforting. Although the day had been warm, by the time the sun went down it was cool and felt like a fall evening. To make it even more enjoyable I set the deck up with our outdoor couch, lit a fire in the outdoor fireplace, poured some red wine and put a 3 lbs sirloin roast on the rotisserie. We served the roast with fall root mash and balsamic roasted heirloom carrots.

Mustard & Herb Crust
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp thyme
2 T grainy mustard
ground pepper
1 tsp olive oil
Mix all the ingredients together and rub on the roast. Let sit in the fridge for about 1-2 hours.
Preheat the grill to med-high heat (400F). Reduce heat to low to medium heat and roast it slowly for about 20-25 min per lbs. An internal temp of about 155F is good for medium done and 150 for medium rare.
Remove from grill and tent it with foil for 10 mins. Then carve up and serve with horseradish and sides.

In laws and husband watching the GeeGees game.

GeesGees on the side line

Apple chutney with cranberry and almond crackers.

Blue cheese, pears, apples, brie and walnuts with baguette.

Cozy Fire.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Balsamic Roasted Heirloom Carrot

Not only do we enjoy food because of the way it tastes and smells, but also because of the way it looks. There is nothing more pleasing to the eye than a plate full of beautiful colors. That is why I was excited to roast these multicoloured heirloom carrots I bought at the local market. The yellows, oranges, blues and purples made the plate look very vivacious, which transcended into me feeling the same way. I kept them whole and unpeeled to get that rustic fall appearance. Tossing the carrots in balsamic vinegar added a complex and faintly sweet flavour to these vegetables. The carrots were a side dish to a creamy root vegetable mash and mustard and herb crusted top sirloin which was cooked by rotisserie on the grill.
Balsamic Roasted Heirloom Carrots

1 lbs heirloom carrots (washed, unpeeled)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a medium pot of water to boil and add the carrots. Boil them for 10 minutes. Remove and place carrots in a bowl. Toss with olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper. Place them on a baking sheet or pan and cook them for 30 minutes at 350F.

Heirloom Carrots at the Parkdale Market

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leek & Potato Soup

This past Sunday was a perfect fall day, weather wise. The sun was bright and warm, so I opened all my windows to let in the fresh air. With weather like that I certainly did not want to be cooped up indoors for the whole day, so in the morning I ventured to the Gatineau Park for a trail run with my husband. I figured that it would be a popular thing to do in weather like that, so I was up early and out the door allowing me to have the trail all to myself (except for my husband a few white tailed deer).

After the run I was incredibly hungry for lunch, but also being so motivated by the fall weather to be productive I went through my fridge and gathered the ingredients to make a silky smooth leek and potato soup. This soup does not take long to make, so I decided it was worth the wait and had some other nibbles to tie me over until the soup was ready.

This recipe is from the Loonies Spoons cookbook and incorporates buttermilk at the end, rather than cream or milk. Not only does the addition of the buttermilk make the soup extremely silky and smooth, but it makes it an incredibly low fat and low calories lunch. After trying buttermilk in this soup, I have taken that idea and now use it to replace cream or milk in most of my soups and even in my baking.

As it was so gorgeous outside I could not resist but to sit out on the back deck to enjoy my soup while watching the squirrels comb the premise for buried nuts. Rather than sit at the patio table I threw down a cozy blanket, sat cross legged like a child and enjoyed a picnic style lunch with my warm soup, topped with my garden chives and served with a couple slices of warm whole wheat baguette.

Leek & Potato Soup

1 T butter
2 cups sliced leeks (white parts and part of green)
1 cup celery, chopped
4 cups low-fat vegetable broth
3 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup carrots, chopped
3/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup buttermilk (or more as desired)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and celery. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, until veggies soften. Add broth, potatoes, carrots, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return to pot. Stir in buttermilk.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Butternut Squash & Kale Lasagna

My favorite time of year is autumn, I love the smell of the crisp fresh air and the wood burning stoves. I love the color of the changing leaves. In fact I was really happy to get out for a long 20km hike in the Adirondacks last weekend to enjoy the changing of the leaves. But most of all I love the bounty autumn offers. I think my favorite of all the great produce of fall is the squash. There are so many types of squash and they are colorful and very versatile – you can use them in pies, soups, stews, pastas, and/or side dishes such as salads or risottos.

My father provided me with yet another large butternut squash from his garden. I made butternut squash and spinach lasagna last year and was excited to make another one but wanted to change it up a bit. This time I used provolone cheese instead of mozzarella and enjoyed its stronger taste and how it did not melt as much as mozzarella does and rather crisped up a bit.

In this dish the butternut squash is pureed rather than left in chucks. I have no preference over either method in terms of texture they are both good, but the pureed form made putting the lasagna together and serving it much easier as it kept its form better when cut. The recipe also has other changes such as kale vs. spinach and a few different spices. Overall both recipes are highly recommended and make a great week night vegetarian meal.

This recipe was adapted from two different lasagna recipes from cooking light.

Butternut Squash & Kale Lasagna

Cooking spray or olive oil
3 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves peeled (1 whole and 2 minced)
1 lbs fresh kale
6 round slices sharp provolone cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1 (30-ounce) carton part-skim ricotta cheese
6 cups diced peeled butternut squash cut into ½” cubes

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large saucepan add the olive oil and heat over med-high heat. Add onion and whole garlic, cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer until thick and flavors are combined, about 30 minutes. Set aside.

While sauce is cooking, in a large baking pan, sprinkle squash with thyme, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add minced garlic cloves and toss squash mixture to unsure the squash is well coat with the oil. Bake until soft about 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Transfer squash and garlic to a food processor and purée until smooth.

Tear kale leaves from center ribs and discard ribs. Boil leaves until soft 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and let cool. Squeeze out as much water as possible and chop finely.

In a bowl, mix ricotta, nutmeg, eggs, parsley and salt and pepper.
In a 10x10 baking dish put the lasagna together.

First Layer:
Spread 1/2 cup Marinara sauce in the bottom of one prepared dish.
Arrange 3-4 noodles over sauce.
Spread 1/2 of the cheese mixture over noodles.
Arrange 1/2 squash over cheese mixture.
Spread 1/2 kale mixture
Spread 1 cup tomato sauce over squash and kale.

Second Layer:
Arrange 4 more noodles over sauce.
Spread the other 1/2 of cheese mixture over the noodles.
Spread remaining squash.
Arrange the rest of the kale mixture over squash.
Spread 1 cup sauce over kale.

Third Layer:
Arrange 4 noodles over sauce.
Spread rest of the sauce over noodles.
Lay down provolone sliced on top of sauce
Cover pan with foil and bake at 375° for 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

46er Sandwiches - Mt. Marcy and Algonquin

Chalkboard with all the 46er Sandwiches
(in order from highest peak to lowest peak)

Last weekend I hiked in Lake Placid and completed my 20th out of 46 high peaks. My husband and I decided on hiking the close by Whiteface, which is the second highest of the 46ers. The following day rather than hike again we decided to head into Lake Placid and check out Big Mountain Deli. This is a Deli that our friends had introduced us to the previous day. The gourmet deli offers up a menu of 46 sandwiches named after the 46ers. They also offer many more sweet and savory items ranging from egg dishes, crepes, soups, chicken curries and so much more it is difficult to decide.

As a group we decided that it would be fun to enjoy a 46er sandwich after summiting a 46er. We were are are definitely excited about that idea. Having summated Whiteface the previous day, we thought perhaps we’d enjoy a Whiteface sandwich. However we have also summated 19 other peaks before Whiteface and therefore decided to pick one of those. I had the Mount Marcy (Roast turkey, cranberry horseradish sauce, cheddar, apple on Whole wheat bread) and Marc enjoyed the Algonquin (Roast turkey, apple wood smoked bacon, avocado, sprouts and Russian dressing on seeded Rye Bread). We cannot wait to go back and try more sandwiches and all their different breads they have - they even make there own breads - asiago/peppercorn, caramelized onion, rosemary garlic, basil pesto are the homemade choices and then the list continues with whole wheat, rye, flour intolerant, wraps.

Check out Uberfit for posts on hiking the Adirondack 46ers.
Check out Simply Gourmet Lake Placid

Here are photos of our gourmet sandwiches:

Mt. Marcy Sandwich

(Roast turkey, cranberry horseradish sauce, cheddar, apple on Whole wheat)

Enjoying my sandwich on the main strip in Lake Placid

Algonquin Sandwich (Roast turkey, apple wood smoked bacon, avocado, sprouts and Russian dressing on seeded Rye Bread).

Marc enjoying his Sandwich

Big Mountain Deli

Views on the drive home from Lake Placid

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Novel Food - Butternut & Bean Soup

I belong to a book club with a good group of intelligent women, who also appreciate that art of gastronomy. Each month we rotate who hosts and picks the novel. When we meet to discuss the novel we always have a dinner party themed around the book, particularly any ‘culinary inspiration’ offered by the book. We have enjoyed African food after reading What is the What by Dave Eggers, Sri Lankan food – Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, 50s Chicago style dinner after reading Revoluationary Road and most recently Jewish Food after enjoying A.J. Jacobs humor book called A Year of Living Biblically. I have blogged about this before and had vowed to blog about each book club dinner, but have not followed through.

Therefore when I stumbled upon the new edition of Novel Food, a culinary event that Lisa of Champaign Taste and Simona briciole co-launched a few seasons ago I was excited to blog about Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. For this meal we all contributed to the dinner potluck style. This novel made it easy for us to decide on the menu considering the whole novel is literally about food and provides recipes in the text. In this post I have provided a brief summary of the novel and posted a couple of the recipes I enjoyed the most. In keeping with Kingsolver’s theme about eating local we attempted to buy all the ingredients and products in season from local vendors.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a narrative & part memoire of Kingsolver’s family journey from an urban life in Arizona to a rural lifestyle in West Virginia, where they vow to eat only locally grown food for one year (Exceptions: spices, coffee, olive oil and flour whereby fair trade alternatives were purchased). The chapters flow from month to month and season to season recounting how the family learns about farming, gardening, cooking and ultimately become an integral part of their community.In Kingsolver’s words: “This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals & vegetables whose provenance we really knew and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbours, drank the water, and breathed the air."

The first course was this wonderful butternut bean soup, which a bookclub member decorated so elegantly with local organic thyme.


1½ cups dried white beans, soaked overnight and drained
3 medium portabella mushroom caps, sliced (optional)
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbs. thyme
1 tbs. sage
4 tsp. rosemary
2 butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
Olive oil

Combine beans and spices in a large sauce pan, add water to cover amply, simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until beans are tender and most water has cooked off.
Add mushrooms toward the end.
While beans are cooking, drizzle a large roasting pan with olive oil and arrange squash skin-side-down.
Cook at 400 for about 40 minutes, until fully tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and serve each half squash filled with a generous scoop of bean soup.

The soup was hearty and delicious. Locally speaking, my dad was able to grow over 30 butternut squashes with nothing but sun and water.


*Original recipe adapted to use green house spinach rather than Swiss chard and jalapeno cheddar & monterey jack instead of brie. The sweet potatoes, onion, garlic and spinach came from a local organic greenhouse. The flavor and texture of these quesadillas were likely the best I have ever had.

2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 onion1 clove garlic
1 T oregano
1 T basil
1 tsp cumin
chile powder and cayenne powder to taste
Olive oil for saute

Cut sweet potatoes into chunks, cook until soft, then mash. Chop and sauté garlic. Add onion in a large skillet. Add spices and sweet potato, mix well, adding a little water if it’s too sticky.
Turn burner very low to keep warm without burning.
4 flour tortillas
4 oz. jalapeno
cheddar (St. Albert Cheese Factory)
5 leaves spinach

Preheat oven to 400. Oil a large baking sheet, spread tortillas on it to lightly oil one side, then spread filling over entire toritillas. Top with slices cheese and spinach. Place another tortilla on top of filling and press down. Bake until browned and crisp (15 min.). Cut into wedges & serve.