Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs

This is a very quick and easy sugar cookie dough, that really isn't fussy or difficult to work with. My mother uses it every year for both Christmas cookies, such as trees, bells, and stars decorated with sprinkles or colored sugar; and frosted ghost cookies for Halloween. This is a good cookie dough for any shape, and has a nice flavor that isn't dry or crumbly.

Sugar Cookie Dough
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour and salt. Form the dough into a ball and flatten. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
To Bake: Preheat oven to 325F. Line cookie sheets if desired.
Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out desired shapes and place cookies on prepared cookie sheets. Decorate with sugar or sprinkles if desired, or ice after baking. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until just golden on edges, do not overbrown. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Exhibition Flops

It is almost inevitable when one is trying to bake large quantities as quickly, as accurately, and as professionally as possible for a special competition that something, or several things, will go wrong. Usually I experience a few small pitfalls, despite all my prior planning and organization, not everything can run smoothly. But I had a quite funny experience my fist year entering this competition.

I was making my signature chocolate cake. I had made this cake recipe many times before, and it had always turned out perfectly. This time I decided to halve the recipe because I only needed three pieces, and not two whole cakes. I am not sure if I did not halve the recipe correctly, or what exactly happened, but it did not work out. I had put the cake in the oven to bake, and things seemed to be going smoothly, but then I began to smell toasted marshmallow. It didn't smell bad or burnt, so I figured someone was having a campfire. Then, when it came time to check on my cake, I came across quite the surprise! The cake had overflowed from the pan, and spilled onto the oven rack and floor. That's what was burning, though I am not sure why it smelled like marshmallow. The rest of the cake seemed to have survived ok. I was much more concerned about the mess I had left in my parent's oven than with the condition of my chocolate cake. Surprisingly, they weren't upset and it wasn't too difficult to clean once it cooled down. My brother was also happy to eat the cake. He said it tasted fine, and I could have probably entered that cake in the exhibition no problem, but I whipped up another (full) batch the next day. Then we ended up with a lot more cake then we had bargained for. 

These things happen. That is why I plan ahead, and begin baking crucial or time-consuming items the day before. That way I can re-do them the next day, if needed. Even tried and true recipes do not always turn out perfectly. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Awards 2013

Here are the results from the exhibition baking competition. I received a placement for each of the sweets I entered and I placed fourth overall. I received a nice gift basket, that appears to have an Italian theme - it includes a pasta cookbook, pasta, manicotti shells, pasta sauce, vegetable broth, and a sauce mix. This is certainly a nice fit with my Italian heritage. Once again this year, my chocolate cake placed first - it really is the best! My mother's awesome chocolate zucchini loaf placed first again as well. The other items I have not entered before, but my vanilla cake won first too. My two heritage recipes also earned top prizes. I am a little surprised with the placement of my lemon squares and chocolate coconut squares, which both got rave reviews from family and friends. Oh well, at least they are popular among us. I am quite pleased with my winnings, especially considering I am competing with breads and preserves for a top place, neither of which I have entered. 
4th Place Overall Exhibition 
COFFEE CAKE - Chocolate Streusel Cake - 2nd
ZUCCHINI LOAF - Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf - 1st
BROWNIES - Chip Brownies - 4th
BAKED SQUARES - Lovely Lemon Cookies Bars - 3rd
NO BAKE-SQUARES - Chocolate Coconut Squares - 2nd
CHOCOLATE CAKE - Classic Chocolate Cake - 1st
WHITE CAKE - Vanilla Cake - 1st
SUGAR COOKIES - Classic Sugar Cookies - 3rd
PLAIN SHORTBREAD - Nonna's Shortbread Cookies - 1st
BLUEBERRY ITEM - Blueberry Yogurt Cake - 1st

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cooking Competition 2013

I am preparing baked items for the local exhibition baking contest again. This year, I have chosen eleven different items that I have made before, and that are all favorites. Most of these recipes I have also featured on the blog before, but if not, they will be featured soon! If you would like to check out the past two years, follow these links:
2012. Results 2012. 2011. Results 2011.

This Year:
COFFEE CAKE - Chocolate Streusel Cake -
ZUCCHINI LOAF - Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf -
BROWNIES - Chip Brownies -
BAKED SQUARES - Lovely Lemon Cookies Bars -
NO BAKE-SQUARES - Chocolate Coconut Squares -
CHOCOLATE CAKE - Classic Chocolate Cake - Featured in many of my posts, but I will never actually give away my award-winning recipe!
WHITE CAKE - Vanilla Cake -
SUGAR COOKIES - Classic Sugar Cookies - plus another to come soon
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES - Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies -
PLAIN SHORTBREAD - Nonna's Shortbread Cookies - plus another to come soon
BLUEBERRY ITEM - Blueberry Yogurt Cake -

I will have the results tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Exhibition Preparation

Once again, it is the time of year where the local exhibition is in town. That means there is a home cooking and baking competition and I am busy baking up a storm to enter many of my items. The process of baking, packaging, and delivering the items all happens mostly within the span of a two-day period; the baked goods have got to be fresh. However, planning beforehand does take some time, and I try to do this as early as possible in order to get as much accomplished as I can and reduce my workload for the two days before the competition. This involves getting the entry form and deciding which items I am going to bake. There are approximately eighty different categories I could enter, but there is no way I would be able to bake that much in two days. I know I am not the best at making breads, jams, or pickles, and these items are all quite time-consuming, so I eliminate those categories right away. But there are still many cakes, and squares, and cookies, and pies to choose from. So I choose what I believe I am the best at, and what I know I have great recipes for. I also try to choose recipes that are, for the most part, quick and easy, as I want to bake as much as I can in a short amount of time. 

Before baking begins, I also write up all of my tags for the entries, gather my recipes together, organize my supplies, and make a grocery list and purchase ingredients.  I certainly don't want to run out of something in the middle of baking, and lose precious time running to the store, so I make sure I have plenty of everything.

Then when it comes time to bake, I grab the recipe from my stack, bake the item, cool it properly, and package and tag it to be displayed on a paper plate in a plastic bag. Then I place it in a safe place, and make sure everyone knows the leftovers are there for eating, not the ones on the plate! I try to bake things in a logical order, to make best use of oven time, and bake things like cake and bars the day before, to be cooled properly before cutting, and bake items that need to be the freshest or are the least stressful the day of. 

Leftovers, there are usually a lot of them, though I try to make small batches. I end up freezing a lot of them, sharing with my family, or giving away to friends. But of course, these are all family favorite recipes, and every item needs to be tasted before I enter it!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Boil

This recipe is a time-saver, and also a saver when it is too hot to even think about turning on the oven. It seems simple, but is quite addictive. You can add 1/2 cup chopped nuts along with the coconut if you wish. The chocolaty flavor is good, and these need no other garnish, though some melted chocolate or icing will make them appear a bit fancier. 

Chocolate Coconut Boil
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon milk
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt

Grease or line an 8x8 inch square pan.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa, milk, and sugar. Stir together, then stir a couple spoonfuls of this mixture into the eggs to temper them. Pour the eggs into the saucepan, and stir. Bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring occasionally and boil for one minute. Remove from heat, stir in remaining ingredients. Press mixture into prepared pan. Refrigerate until firm.

To decorate: I spread squares with a mixture of 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and two tablespoons hard margarine melted together. After this set a bit, I drizzled them with a bit of icing sugar and milk mixture in one direction, and cocoa, icing sugar, and milk mixture in the other direction. I let this set only a few minutes at room temperature before cutting in order to avoid cracking. Then I refrigerated them after cutting.
Paré, Jean. "Chocolate Boil." Recipe. 150 Delicious Squares, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1981. 128.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ferrero Rocher Brownie Bites

If you are not familiar with Ferrero Rocher chocolates, they consist of a whole roasted hazelnut surrounded by a creamy caramel filling and crisp wafer coated in milk chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. Yum! Though most are familiar with the classic chocolate, there are also two other types of Ferrero Rocher out there; the Ferrero Rondnoir, which is a dark chocolate creation, and the Raffaello, which is an almond in a creamy coconut coating. Ferrero Rocher are exquisite creations, and very delectable. They are wrapped in fancy gold cup packaging and are a bit pricey, but make great gifts for Valentine's Day, Christmas, and birthdays. I found some extra Ferrero Rocher chocolates at my house, though it is a bit of a surprise they had not been gobbled up. I remember seeing a recipe for brownie bites with a Ferrero Rocher in the middle, smothered with a caramel and caramel cream cheese frosting. Though I did not bother with the frosting, these brownie bites are still divine!
Ferrero Rocher Brownie Bites
1 brownie mix or brownie recipe, about 18.5 ounces or enough to make an 8x8 inch pan or 24 miniature muffin cups full
24 Ferrero Rocher chocolates, or use any other chocolates you think will work, unwrapped
caramel sauce, if desired
frosting, if desired

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 miniature muffin cups with paper liners. 
Prepare the brownie mix, and divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them 3/4 full.
Bake for 11-13 minutes, or as directed.
Immediately press a chocolate into the center of each warm brownie bites. Be gentle, but press it in so the brownie sinks a bit. The chocolate will melt a bit, but will firm upon cooling.
Cool completely. Add a dab of caramel sauce, and a swirl of frosting if desired.

I used mostly original Ferrero Rochers, but I also had a few of the dark and coconut kind. I used a basic brownie cup recipe I have used before with another type of candy; chocolate peanut butter cups. You can find that recipe here:  Peanut Butter Cup Buttons.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cinnamon Bread Cake

My mother made this delicious cinnamon bread cake. I call it a cinnamon bread cake, because technically it is a cinnamon bread, but instead of baking it in a loaf pan, my mother made it in a square cake pan. This worked out really more, and now it is more like a cake! It is sweet enough to be a cake anyway. She was looking for a cinnamon fix, and cakes are easier and quicker than making cinnamon rolls, but we were looking for a new cake recipe to try. She found this bread in an old cookbook. It is light, fluffy, and full of cinnamon!
Cinnamon Bread Cake
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x5x3 loaf pan or 9x9 inch square pan.
In a large bowl, measure all ingredient in order given. Beat for three minutes. Pour into prepared pan.
TOPPING: Mix all ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Use a knife to swirl gently. Bake for about 50 minutes, it might need less time for the square pan.

Paré, Jean. "Cinnamon Bread." Recipe. Muffins & More, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1983. 109.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Almond Raisin Date Granola

Almond Raisin Date Granola
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup almonds, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, as desired
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dates, chopped
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan with parchment paper. 
Stir together the oats, almonds, wheat germ, coconut, and spices in the baking pan. Drizzle the oil and molasses over top and mix. 
Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes until golden.
Add the raisins and dates and let cool before stirring.

This is just another granola cereal recipe I tried. I really like this one, as it is easy, hearty, and I really like the flavor combinations, but you can vary the type of nuts and dried fruit as you wish. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chocolate Banana Soft Serve

This is a great way to make homemade "ice cream" without an ice cream maker. It also doesn't require the old-fashioned way of placing cream in a bag in a bag of ice and shaking for hours. Technically speaking, this isn't ice cream, as it contains no milk ingredients. I guess it would be considered a sorbet. It certainly is reminiscent of ice cream, and a lot lighter and healthier. I could eat a lot of this. The bananas need to be ripe and frozen for the best flavor and texture in this dish. Without sugar, it takes like a banana dark chocolate ice cream, but if you aren't fond of dark chocolate, sweeten or serve with caramel or hot fudge sauce on top. This is quick and easy, and you'll be enjoying some homemade soft-serve in just a few hours! 
Chocolate Banana Soft Serve
3 overripe frozen bananas
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
sugar, agave, honey to sweeten, as desired

Place all ingredients in a food processes and process until smooth. This should only take a few minutes. Then transfer to a shallow container and freeze overnight or until firm. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vanilla Cake

I am still looking for a really good, basic white cake recipe. I would like to say this is it, but that is not the case. This is the cake I used for my mother's birthday cake yesterday. This one isn't too bad, but not the best. It has a nice vanilla flavor, and a good texture. But it isn't light and fluffy and moist like I am looking for. I wouldn't say the extra work is worth it for this recipe, as I have a one-bowl white cake recipe that is better. 

Vanilla Cake
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups granulated (white) sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour-cream or yogurt (low-fat works), at room temperature
3 cups cake and pastry flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour three 8 inch or two 9 or 10 inch round pans with high sides (at least 2 inches).
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, then add the sour cream and beat for thirty seconds. 
Mix the dry ingredients together and add to batter in three additions, stirring carefully after each addition.
Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes. 
Allow to cool in the pans for ten minutes, then gently loosen from pans to cool completely. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mom's Tulip Cake

This is my mother's birthday cake for this year. It starts with a basic vanilla cake recipe, one that I will share tomorrow. Then the cake was iced with "margarine milk" icing by my father. My mother prefers this icing, which is a specialty of my father, as opposed to my buttercream. Personally, I am more familiar with (and more fond of) buttercream, but this is my mother's cake, not mine, and this is what she requested. This is why my father made the icing and iced the cake. However, I did all of the piping and decorations. Normally I would do this with buttercream, as it is stiffer and easier to pipe and to work with, but there was just enough leftover margarine milk, so I used that.

My mother really likes tulips, and that is the only request she had for the decorations on her cake. We aren't fondant or gum paste fans here, so I tried to find a way to make tulips using margarine milk icing. If you can make buttercream roses, why not margarine milk tulips? It wasn't as difficult as I though, I just used my flower petal tip, and made three lines as tulip petals. I decorated the top of the cake with one big and several small tulips, then I put four on the side of the cake as well. The top border is a simple flower border using my drop flower tip. The bottom border is a ruffle border using my petal tip again. I piped "Happy Birthday Dianne" with my mother's name as requested. All of this was done in my mother's favorite color, light pink. Then I added some leaves with a light green icing and my leaf tip. It didn't take very long, and is quite simple, but that's the way my mother likes it.
 Happy Birthday Mom! :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mocha Choco Oat No-Bake Cookies

I wouldn't necessarily call these "healthy cookies" but they are better for you than most typical cookie recipes. They are also a lot faster and easier to make - an added bonus. They contain a nice dose of chocolate, a nice flavor of coffee, and the nutrients of whole-grain oats. They are made with coconut oil, a healthier alternative to butter or margarine. The amount of sugar could probably be reduced, but I recommend using the full amount first, then adjusting to suit your tastes. Perhaps honey or agave would work too. I found the idea for these cookies on a healthy dessert recipe site.
Mocha Choco Oat No-Bake Cookies
1/2 cup old-fashioned (or quick) oats 
(or use 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons oat flour)
3/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grind the 1/2 cup oats in a blender until it resembles flour.
In a medium bowl, mix together the first seven dry ingredient. Stir together the liquid ingredients separately, then add to the dry, mix well. Roll into balls and refrigerate until firm.
The yield depends on how big and how flat you make them. I got 13 round cookies. One of these cookies is enough to give you a nice pick-me-up in the mid-afternoon! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Zucchini Potato Patties

Zucchini Potato Patties
2 medium zucchini, shredded
1 small carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper and salt to taste
1/2 cup mashed potato
1/4 cup pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
oil for frying

Place the zucchini and carrot in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Allow to drain for at least 30 minutes.
Squeeze all the excess water from the vegetables and pat dry. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Form into patties with your hands, I made about ten patties, but it depends on size. The patties will hold together better if refrigerated at this point for at least 30 minutes. Or prepare the patties ahead and refrigerate overnight.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the patties, about 5-6 minutes per side, until lightly browned. 

If you want crispy patties, make them thin, and possibly cook them in batches or use two frying pans. I made my patties thicker, and ended up baking them for a bit after frying. This works well, or works to keep them warm, just be sure to grease or line the tray with parchment paper.
This is a really quick and quite tasty side dish to go with supper, that doesn't require many ingredients or prep work. They can also be prepared ahead, or cooked and reheated, or eaten cold. It makes good use of fresh zucchini. The zucchini flavor is quite prominent. You could vary this recipe by adding minced onion or garlic, or using different spices. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Complete Wheat Batter Bread

Complete Wheat Batter Bread 
4 cups warm water
2 packages active dry instant yeast
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup each: natural wheat bran, ground flaxseed, oat bran, wheat germ
6 cups (approximately) whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water, then the sugar on top. Stir, then let stand ten minutes until frothy. Stir to dissolve yeast. Stir in molasses and salt. Gradually stir in the grains and flour until a sticky, but stiff, dough forms. 
Cover bowl and let rise for 45 minutes.
Stir dough down for twenty seconds. Divide between two greased or lined 9x5 inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise for an hour, until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 400F for about 35 minutes. 
This bread recipe doesn't require too many ingredients, yet it very nutrient-dense. It is easy to do - no kneading required, although you do need to wait for two rising times. It also rises very nicely, and makes a light, wheaty bread. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Square Selection

Here is a sample of the plates of squares featured at a celebration last week. There were about ten different types of squares in total, and all were baked by family members. Here we have Chocoalte Revel Bars,Lemon Graham Slice,Graham PB Coconut Chocolate Squares, Cherry Squares, Skor Bar Squares, Brownies, Date Squares, Blockbuster Bars, Date Tarts, and Buttertart Squares.
I made the chocolate revel bars, my mother made the cherry squares, my grandmother made the lemon, chocolate pb coconut, and date tarts, and the others were made by a few of my aunts. 
All together, arranging a variety of the squares on each plate offered a variety of desserts to everyone, and looked quite eye-appealing. This way, there was likely to be something for everyone, whether you were looking for something chocolaty, something with fruit, something sticky, something sweet, or something light.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Birthday Cake for Grandpa

This is the birthday cake we presented to my grandfather. Yes, this cake is for one person, but he is addressed by several different names: Sheldon by his wife, his sister, and his in-laws; Dad by his children; and Granddad by his grandchildren. His birthday was actually a few months ago, but this is the first time the family was able to come together to celebrate. My grandmother baked the chocolate cake and frosted it with chocolate frosting. I really liked the swirl design she did with the frosting, it added a special touch to the cake.

I did the white trim, lettering, and decorations  We decided to keep this cake low-key, as we knew we would have a large cake the next day, and I was focused on that cake. It was featured earlier this week. I also did not have much time to decorate this cake. My grandmother had it prepared before I arrived and I finished it. The cake is only a 9x13 inch, though we had a fairly large crowd, we knew everyone would be fairly full from the restaurant meal or would order a different dessert, so this is all we needed. For the decorations, I just quickly whipped up a little bit of white icing, and used a sandwich bag to pipe. I did a quick swirl border around the edges, wrote happy birthday, and added a happy face for good measure. My grandfather likes chocolate, so he really enjoyed his piece of cake. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Graham PB Coconut Chocolate Squares

I do not have the recipe for these squares, because they are another one my grandmother made  although I am sure it would be easy to find a similar recipe out there. Basically these bars consist of a graham cracker crumb crust in a 9x13 inch pan. They are topped with peanut butter and coconut, and perhaps sweetened condensed milk to pull it all together. Then they have a simple chocolate glaze on top. The squares are good, but a little difficult to cut. Perhaps it would be better to line the pan and lift them out to cut them. The base is quite firm, and chocolate toppings are difficult to cut without cracking them. When lifting them out, the base tends to crumble a little, or the chocolate lifts off the base. They are too hard kept in the fridge, and too soft left out. They do not have a lot of peanut butter flavor, or coconut or chocolate or graham for that matter, but just a nice hint of each. They are tasty, but a tad messy. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lemon Graham Slice

Lemon Graham Slice
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
10 ounces/284mL sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemom juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8 inch square pan.
CRUST: In a medium bowl, crumble all ingredients together. Pack into prepared pan.
FILLING: Stir all ingredients together and spread over crust.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.

This is a really quick and easy recipe that gives a nice, sweet lemon fix. It makes a small batch, which is unfortunate since it is difficult to stop at just one. My grandmother made these squares, and they disappeared quickly, even among a selection of other squares. 

Paré, Jean. "Lemon Graham Slice." Recipe. 150 Delicious Squares, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1981. 128.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Purple Wedding Congratulations Cake

This is the cake I made for a pre-wedding celebration party for my cousin and his fiancée. Therefore it is not a wedding cake, but simply a celebration cake, like I have made before. I used my large round pan, and a double recipe of my signature chocolate cake. I covered it with my signature vanilla buttercream, then I got to decorating. I used a light purple because that is the bride's favorite color. I also used my new larger eighteen-inch piping bag with a large open-star tip for the two borders. I did a shell border around the bottom edge, and a sort of flower or star border around the top edge. I used a larger open round tip to do the lettering, so it would take up more space and be the focus of the cake. I did the lettering free-hand. I added a double heart below that with the year 2014, as that is the year during which the wedding will take place. I used my new multi-opening star tip to add two small designs on the bottom of either side of the cake, but this could be done with a plain open star tip as well. Finally, I added three pansies on top and one on the bottom, as well as a little green for the centers and leaves. I found the larger-sized piping bag easier and more efficient to use for a larger-sized cake like this one, and it makes the borders larger and more attractive as well. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Chocolate Revel Bars

This makes a large batch of delicious squares. It uses a 10x15 inch jelly-roll pan to feed a crowd. The recipe says cuts into 70 squares, but it depends on how big you cut them. I have made squares similar to these before, and they are delicious! Who doesn't like the combination of a sweet oat base with a rich chocolaty filling? If you would like to halve the recipe, I am sure you could use a 9x13 inch pan. The recipe comes from a source that has never failed me before, the Company's Coming series of cookbooks.
Chocolate Revel Bars
1 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 can (11 ounces/300mL) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 10x15 inch jelly-roll pan.
CRUST: In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in rolled oats/ Press 2/3 of mixture into prepared pan.

FILLING: In a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Once melted, stir in nuts, if desired. Pour evenly over prepared base. Sprinkle with remaining crust. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden.

Paré, Jean. "Chocolate Revel Bars." Recipe. Jean Paré's Favorites, Volume One, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1988. 191.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Homemade Fries

My father made these for the first time while I was away, and again now, upon my request. We have made fries and sweet potato fries in the oven before, but never in the deep-fyrer. Partly because we have only had the deep-fryer for a few years now. We are not big on deep-fried food, but a light frying with just a little oil and these fries are delicious! My father has now perfected the process - the potatoes need to be peeled and cut and placed in ice, then fried twice, with a 30 minute rest in between frying times to cool. Not exactly sure on the science on that one but it sure works. Apparently three fry times are even better, but that is a bit labor intensive. I am not a huge fry fan, but homemade fries that still resemble potatoes and not just greasy sticks I do enjoy. I eat them plain - not even a little salt or ketchup. I bet sweet potatoes would be good like this too, or even squash or carrot fries. My father has now perfected these fries - and they are delicious and crispy, even using the same batch of oil as the first time. They go well with a variety of different meals, breakfast, lunch, supper, or even a snack!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Matthew's Birthday Cake

The birthday was a couple of weeks ago, but I just did not get the chance to feature this before. This is my brother's birthday cake. I did not make it, as I was not around for his birthday this year. Honestly, it might be a bit of a relief, as the past two years he has asked for a cake as chocolaty as possible, and I am not sure I could top last year's (Chocolate Overload Cake). Although I said that after the year before as well (Death By Chocolate Cake).  To be fair, my brother was not around for his birthday either, but my parents delivered his cake to him. They made a simply chocolate cake, and decorated it with chocolate margarine-milk icing (a different take on buttercream). They made it in a foil pan so it was easy to deliver to him. I must say, my father has flawless piping skills!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Multigrain Pizza Crust

Multigrain Pizza Crust
1 package instant yeast
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup oat flour
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

In a medium bowl, mix the first five dry ingredients. Mix the sugar and water together and stir into the flour mixture. Knead for a few minutes until smooth, add a little extra flour or water if necessary. Wrap in a damp towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a baking sheet. Roll the dough out thin, either in one big form or several smaller forms, and place on prepared sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp. 
This can be used for a pre-made pizza crust, but I use it as a base for sandwiches, or like pita bread for breakfast. It is pretty versatile. This only makes a small batch, but may easily be doubled. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Banana Dark Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Banana Dark Chocolate Swirl Muffins
3 large overripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/4 cup oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 + 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. 
In a large bowl, mix together the first six wet ingredients. Add the next four dry ingredients. Remove 1 cup of batter. Melt 1/3 cup chips and add to the one cup of batter, along with the remaining chocolate chips.
Place one Tablespoon plain batter, followed by one Tablespoon chocolate batter, and one Tablespoon plain batter in each cup. Top each with a teaspoon of chocolate batter. Swirl gently with a knife. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Overripe bananas are inevitable, especially in hot weather. These muffins make a great snack - moist with a nice hint of chocolate. The two batters take a little extra effort, but it is fairly quick to do and so worth it. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Nutty Seed Quick Bread

This is my first time baking in over five weeks! Naturally, I began with something simple, but something I love, a quick bread chock-full of delicious whole grains. I hadn't eaten homemade bread for five weeks. The only bread I ate was whole wheat toast every morning for breakfast. Before my trip, I cannot remember the last time I had eaten toast. I am not a toast fan, I prefer my homemade biscuits and quick breads for breakfast. The only time I had whole grain bread here was my brunch at the restaurant, and that was delicious - Mon Brunch  So I really missed my whole grain breads!
Nutty Seed Quick Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup ground nuts (I used almonds)
1/8 cup each: natural wheat bran, oat bran, ground flaxseed, wheat germ, sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 olive oil
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. 
In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Mix the liquid ingredients together and add, stir thoroughly. Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for approximately 40 minutes. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Welcome Home Twin Chocolate Delights

My mother asked me what kind of sweet I wanted when I got home. I answered with chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Not a cake, but chocolate. The cafeteria did not have enough chocolate. She found this recipe, and when she told me the name, I immediately knew where it came from, as I had wanted to make it too! These are soft and certainly chocolaty! Mom took the photo as well. Thanks Mom! The recipe comes from our favorite mystery novels.
Twin Chocolate Delights
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted
1 1/4 cups granulated (white) sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup chocolate chips (we used dark)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional (we left them out)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar. Add the cocoa, soda, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the eggs. Mix in the flour, then nuts and chocolate chips. 
Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, let them cool 2 minutes before removing. 

Fluke, Joanne. "Twin Chocolate Delights." Recipe. Blueberry Muffin Murder, New York: Kensington, 2002. 136-137.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

I'm Home!!!!

Finally, I am home! Finally, I can post in English again. Finally, I can bake and cook and post recipes and pictures of things I have made again. Finally, I have more of a choice of what I want to make and what I want to eat. Yes, I miss the camp. But yes, I am happy to be home. I am happy to be back in the kitchen, doing what I love. I will be sure to post something I have made very very soon, as I will be baking very very soon. Recipe, picture, comments - all in English. Though there may be more grammatical errors than usual, I haven't written in English for five weeks after all. 
I already have plenty of ideas and occasions I would like to bake for in mind. The hardest question is, where to start? À bientôt!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Mon Expérience

C'est vraiment difficile de décrire mon expérience ici. Incroyable bien sûr, mais mieux que ça. Il n'y a pas des mots pour le décrire. J'ai appris beaucoup et j'ai amélioré mon français. J'ai rencontré beaucoup des nouveaux amis. Je suis allée aux excursions inoubliables, et j'ai fait des activités amusantes. C'était une expérience fantastique, que je n'oublierai jamais.
Mais la nourriture. J'ai essayé des nouveaux plats. J'ai mangé des gourmandises exquisités, et j'ai visité des boulangeries, des cafés, et des brûleries uniques. Aussi, j'avais l'expérience de la nourriture d'une cafétéria, qui n'était si mauvais qu'on pense. C'était différent de manger toute la nourriture d'une cafétéria, et pas la nourriture de moi-même ou ma famille. J'avais l'expérience de la nourriture différente, et la structure des repas différente. J'ai beaucoup plus d'articles je pourrais partager, beaucoup plus de repas, articles, photos, etc. mais je pense que c'est le temps de retourner de mes postes d'habitude.

Mais surtout, j'ai habité dans un environnement francophone pour cinq semaines, et c'était une expérience inexplicable, inoubliable, et incroyable, qui va m'aider dans l'avenir beaucoup.  

Friday, August 02, 2013

Le Dernier Souper

Pour notre dernier souper ici, nous n'avons pas mangé à la cafétéria comme d'habitude, mais à un hôtel chic. Alors le souper était un changement apprecié. Le repas a commencé avec une soupe de légumes à la table.
Ensuite, un buffet avec une grande sélétion, qui incluent les crudités, la salade vert, la salade gréc, les légumes sautés, la salade de pâtes, le penne avec la sauce de tomate ou la sauce de viande, la lasagne de viande, la lasange végéterienne, la pizza, et les frites. Il y avait beaucoup des légumes, et beaucoup des glucides comme la piza, les pâtes, et les frites. Il n'y avait pas beaucoup de protéine, mais dans l'ensemble, le repas était bon.
Mais, la meilleure partie du soir - le dessert!! Je ne pourrais pas le faire mieux moi-même. C'était incroyable et tellement délicieux. J'ai espèré pour beaucoup de chocolat, et je l'ai reçu! C'est un gâteau au chocolat, avec une mousse au chocolat très riche et douce. Puis une garniture de sauce de chocolate et du couli de framboise. Yum, yum! Chaque plat est presenté parfaitment. La seule plainte: c'était trop petit!

Thursday, August 01, 2013


J'ai pensé que je partagerai ce plat avec vous. Avant je suis allée ici, je n'avais pas entendu de ce plat. Il s'appelle « vol-au-vent » et ce n'est pas un plat nourrissant et équilibré, mais c'est délicieux! Simplement, c'est un cercle de pâte feuilletée, avec un petit trou dans le milieu. Puis, le pâte est noyé avec une sauce – n'importe quelle type de sauce est possible. La sauce cause la pâte de réchauffe et la pâte est tendre. Une sauce épaisse est le clé pour succès. Ici on a une sauce de la crème et brocoli. Ce plat est vraiment comme un volcan.