Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Week's Worth of Nutella Breakfasts

Nutella - a smooth, decadent chocolate hazelnut spread. It is marketed as being "part of a nutritious breakfast'", but then again, what breakfast product isn't these days? Anything can be 'part' of a nutritious breakfast as long as the rest of the breakfast is balanced and nutritious and you don't binge on that item. That being said, Nutella isn't terrible - nuts are very nutritious, being naturally high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. They are however high in calories and fat (the good fats), especially concentrated nut butters. Natural nut butters with no additives are great breakfast spreads, and Nutella is full of Vitamin E rich hazelnuts. It also contains a touch of cocoa for added decadence and skim milk powder. Of course it also has added oil and sugar, which makes it not so good. But that doesn't stop me from incorporating it into my breakfasts.

This week I will be posting a week's worth of breakfasts with one common ingredient - Nutella. These have Nutella as the main ingredient - not just spread on the top. There are so many great ways to enjoy Nutella - here are a few ideas.
For today, this is not a breakfast per se (although it could be I suppose), but a quick Nutella idea. Gently warm a brownie in the microwave, then spread it with Nutella. Top it with a little ice cream or whipped cream if desired, then more Nutella.

Friday, February 27, 2015


1 can (540mL/19oz) chickpeas
2 Tablespoons tahini
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
flavoring ingredients (herbs, spices, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, etc.)

Blend all together in a food processor until well combined and smooth.
Hummus, along with pesto and guacamole and tzatziki, is one of my favorite go-with dishes, a dip, a spread, or a sauce. I love savory items like this you can use to flavor a variety of foods - from vegetables, to crackers, to cheese, to pasta and sandwiches. They tend to be healthy, as least healthier than plain old butter or mayo, and much more flavorful. In addition, hummus, a bean-based spread, is high in protein. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dark Chocolate Mocha Brownies

Dark Chocolate Mocha Brownies
6 Tablespoons oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups dark chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line an 8x8-inch square pan.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and oil/ Beat in the coffee and vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Stir in the flour and baking powder, then fold in the chocolate. Bake for 30-40 minutes until set but still moist. So fudgey and yummy - they need no icing.

These have a slightly different taste and texture for a brownie - dark and delicious with a hint of coffee. They have a fudgey middle with a firm, cake-like exterior. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Double Dose Cinnamon Coffee Cake

I call this double dose because it has a sweet cinnamon sugar filling and a crisp stresuel topping - two doses of cinnamon and brown sugar. This makes the cake extra decadent and delicious. It is a firmer cake, not as moist, but it needs to be to hold up well. Enjoy for breakfast, dessert, or an afternoon snack with coffee or tea. It is especially good warm. 
Double Dose Cinnamon Coffee Cake
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup buttermilk

TOPPING: Mix all together until well combined.
FILLING: Mix together.
CAKE: Preheat oven to 325F. Grease or line a 9x13-inch rectangular baking pan. 
Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the oil and vanilla. Stir in 1 cup flour, the baking powder and soda. Stir in 1/3 cup buttermilk. Stir in the remaining one cup flour than the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk.

Spread half the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with filling. Top with remaining batter, then topping. Bake for about 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Breaded Rice Balls

I wanted to make a different kind of starch dish for a side. I was growing tired of potatoes (of any shape, flavor or form) and I didn't want a sauced pasta. Rice sounded good, however I didn't want to go with the typical risotto, pilaf, or steamed rice. So I came up with this rice ball recipe, sort of based off a pommes duchesse recipe that is breaded and fried. They are quite flavorful and crispy on the outside but soft and tender on the inside, and fun and easy to eat. For more flavor, stir some grated cheese such as Parmesan in with the rice or place a small cube of cheese such as mozzarella in the middle. Variations are endless of course, type of rice (brown, wild), type of liquid (broth, coconut milk), herbs and spices, and type of coating (panko, sesame seeds cracker crumbs), and type of cheese or other add-ins (bacon, anyone?). 
I had a little extra rice at the end and breadcrumbs that would not hold in balls, so I placed it in a casserole dish and baked it along with the balls for a more flavorful pilaf-style rice dish.

Breaded Rice Balls
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, small dice
2 cups white rice
4 1/2 cups water
garlic powder
ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced chives
2 large eggs
dry breadcrumbs

In a large saucepan, sweat the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until coated with oil. Add in the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is cooked. Remove lid and allow any excess moisture to evaporate, set aside to cool slightly.
Stir in the garlic, pepper, chives, and eggs, mix well.
Roll the rice into small balls, then coat in the breadcrumbs.
Place rice balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes until golden and crispy. They can be spritzed lightly with oil before baking for an extra crispy coating. Alternately, they can be deep-fried. Makes 30-40 golf-ball sized.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Steamed and Sautéed Vegetables

Here are the vegetable side dishes I made for the supper. They aren't really anything special - I kept the vegetables simple to go with the main courses. I made steamed asparagus, sautéed porcini mushrooms, and sautéed julienne of carrots and red onion. Steaming is my favorite way to prepare asparagus - a tender, delicate vegetable whose flavor should be allowed to shine and not mask. I also think the beautiful stalks should be served whole. Grilling or griddling asparagus also works quite well, but cooking methods such as sautéeing and boiling are tricky with whole asparagus and do not allow the flavor to shine through as well. 

I chose a different type of mushroom than what we usually get - the standard button mushrooms. There isn't a huge flavor difference, and like button mushrooms, I like to sauté the mushrooms for a fairly long time, beginning with high heat to sear them and then turning the heat to low to caramelize them. I often add in onions with the mushrooms and garlic is a good addition as well.

The julienne of carrots and red onions were leftover from my garnish for the salmon en papillote. I just very quickly sautéed them up to add color to the vegetable plate and served them on the side. They did not take long to cook at all because they are a small, thin cut.

I served these vegetables with the roasted carrot coconut sauce, but other than that they only need a dash of salt and pepper, and maybe a dab of butter to flavor them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chicken Breast with Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Chicken Breast with Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1/4 cup butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cubed
salt, pepper, and dry mustard powder, to taste
cooked chicken breast (1-2)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until combined. Stir in the cheese, allowing it to melt. Season to taste. If desired, this sauce can be thinned out with a little milk or cream, which I would recommend adding before the cheese if possible. Spoon over chicken breast before reheating to retain moisture, or add halfway through the cooking time. 
This is a super fast cheddar cheese sauce - sort of like one that would be used to create a macaroni and cheese casserole, only thicker. The butter provides a lot of moisture for the chicken so it does not dry out, and the cheese creates a flavorful topping. Multiply the sauce as needed for more chicken breasts.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Roasted Carrot Coconut Sauce

This is a really quick and easy sauce recipe I came up with on the fly. It is not based on any classic mother sauces, but just a light, simple contemporary sauce. It is a good accompaniment to light meats - such as fish or roasted chicken, as well as a nice sauce for vegetables. It is also good on bread and biscuits. For a sauce I was worried about working out and thought was quite simple, it certainly earned some rave reviews!
Roasted Carrot Coconut Sauce
1 large carrot, peeled
1 can (398mL) coconut milk
1 large navel orange, juiced
2 Tablespoons minced chives
salt and pepper, to taste

Roast the carrot in the oven until tender. Mash until smooth.
Meanwhile, reduce the coconut milk in a small saucepan by one half. 
Whisk together the carrot purée and coconut milk. 
Whisk in the orange juice, a little at a time, until of desired consistency and strength of orange flavor. Whisk in the chives, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about one cup of sauce.

Next time I make this sauce, I will double the recipe - one batch just isn't enough! My procedure isn't very detailed because I just made up this recipe as I went along. The oven temperature for roasting the carrot isn't important - you can do it in advance if you have something else in the oven to conserve energy - just throw the carrot in with it. If you want the sauce to have a really smooth texture, use a blender to purée the carrot or purée all of the sauce at the end. I went for a chunkier consistency and just mashed the carrot with a fork. The amount of orange juice you add and the amount you reduced the coconut milk depends on how thick you would like the sauce and how concentrated you would like the flavors. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Salmon En Papillote

 Salmon En Papillote
salmon portions (any salmon will do - fresh or frozen thawed, portions, steaks, or fillets)
ground black pepper
olive oil
freshly squeezed orange juice
julienne of carrots
julienne of red onions
julienne of chives

Place each salmon portion on a piece of parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and juice. Arrange a few pieces of carrot, onion, and chives over each portion. Seal the parchment paper closed. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 400F for 12-15 minutes until cooked. Fish will remain moist but will flake easily with a fork. Do not overcook, especially if serving in the parchment, because carryover cooking will occur.
En papillote is a French cooking term meaning in parchment. It refers to food, most often meat, but it can be vegetables and starches as well. Sometimes entire meals are cooked in parchment paper, and then delivered to each diner at the table so they can open the package and have an entire meal in paper. Cooking en papillote allows food to cook in it's own steam - keeping it moist and flavorful. The ideal way is to cut half-heart shaped from doubles rectangles of parchment paper, placing the food in the middle, and then sealing the edges tight. However, as long as the parchment package is fully sealed, it should cook properly. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Five Onion Marmalade

Onions and marmalade may not be something you would think would mix, after all onions are savory and marmalades are supposed to be sweet spreads for toast, aren't they? Well this marmalade is designed to be less sweet than your typical fruit marmalade, and is better designed for a condiment for meat in a main course or spread for crackers or crisp breads for an appetizer. It is a good dip or chunky sauce for lots of meats and vegetables, and can be served after a meal for a less sweet dessert with fresh biscuits. The onions become tender and thick like a marmalade consistency, almost taking on a caramelized flavor. This marmalade is really easy to make and keeps well too. 
Five Onion Marmalade 
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup honey
one large white onion, large dice
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
10 pearl onions, quartered
2 green onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, bring the vinegar, water, syrup, and honey to a boil. Add the white, red, and pearl onions. Simmer for forty minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed if water evaporates or sugar sticks to pot. Add green onions and garlic and season to taste. Reduce to marmalade consistency and until onion is tender. Serve hot or cold on biscuits or over meat or seafood, or with chips or bread as an appetizer. If you add too much sugar, this makes an atypical dessert component that is quite pleasing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter Dinner

While I was home visiting on a recent long weekend I decided to make a special dinner with several components. I didn’t make any particular theme for this meal or anything, it isn’t winter comfort food based or Valentine’s themed, or anything of that nature. I just employed several new culinary techniques I have learned and thought of several dishes that would go together to make a tasty, not too labor-intensive, meal. Actually, I was planning for two meals – preparing enough food to have leftovers for the next night. But I guess we were hungry the first night because I needed to cook a few more things to extend the meal for the second day. Here is the menu of all the items I made:

Heart-Shaped Biscuits with butter
Five Onion Marmalade

Salmon en papillote with julienne of vegetables and Roasted Carrot Coconut Sauce
Chicken Breast with Cheddar Cheese Sauce
Lasagna (prepared much earlier and taken from the freezer. It always pays off to have extra food on hand)

Steamed Asparagus
Sautéed Porcini Mushrooms
Boiled Carrots
Sautéed Julienne of Vegetables
Breaded Rice Balls and Rice Casserole

Double Dose Cinnamon Cake
Dark Chocolate Mocha Brownies
I will be featuring this recipes in the days to come. The biscuits were featured in yesterday's post. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Heart Biscuits

These biscuits are based from my go-to biscuit recipe I devised myself. I haven’t found a tastier, easier biscuit to make and this recipe never fails and can be manipulated in different ways. Here is the base formula

Basic Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup cold butter or hard margarine, cut into cubes
1 cup milk

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in the milk to form a soft dough and knead briefly until it just comes together. Roll or pat out to desired thickness and cut as desired. Bake until golden.
Flour: Try whole wheat, a mix, ground oats, or adding in other whole grains.
Sweet: Cut back on the salt and add up to two tablespoons of granulated sugar to use dough for sweeter applications.
Fat: Both butter and margarine work well. Use a compound butter for extra flavor, or cream cheese for extra richness.
Milk: I have had success with evaporated, powdered, and fresh milk of varying milk fat percentages.
Baking: I have been able to bake these at temperatures ranging from 350F to 425F – all work but the lower the temperature, the longer they take. Higher temperatures also make the biscuits slightly crispier. I always bake them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Preparation: I have prepared the dough ahead of time and refrigerated before rolling and cutting. I have also prepared biscuits and refrigerated those before baking. I have also mixed up the dry ingredients and had the butter cubed and ready to go and the milk poured in advance.
Applications: Use for basic biscuits, crescent rolls, pizza roll-ups, crusts for meats, croissants, shortcakes for desserts, turnovers, toppings for casseroles and soups, and more. The dough holds filling really well.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine Cookies, Desserts, and Suppers

One more Valentine's-themed post for this year. Here are some nicely decorated heart shaped sugar cookies for valentines day. They are both plain sugar cookie with pink sprinkles. One of them has a vanilla drizzle and the other has crushed pistachios. 

Every Valentine's Day I like to make one main, fancy, and very chocolaty dessert. I also like to make some side treats for snacks, such as cookies or truffles. And if I can, I like to make a savory item or two with a Valentine's theme - such as heart shaped biscuits or pizzas. Here are some titles of Valentine's foods I have made from previous years. The posts can be searched in my search bar.

Brownie Dessert
Strawberry Truffle Tart

Valentine's Day Parfaits
Chocolate Fruit Nutella Cups
Berried Treasure Bar Cookies
Heart-Shaped Cake
Lovely Cheesecake

Heart Truffles

Valentine Truffles
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Chocolate Cake Cookies
Box of Chocolates
Kiss Cookies

Tomato Heart Appetizers

Valentine Biscuits
Heart Pizzas

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine Truffles

This is the Valentine's gift I gave to my valentine this year. Last year, I made a box of chocolates in a box made of chocolate (see Box of Chocolates). This year I made truffles, spelling out "I LOVE YOU JULIAN", each truffle containing a different filling. The truffles are incredibly easy to make and very tasty - and they can be filled, dipped, and decorated as desired. Wrap them up in a special package and you have a divine gift straight from the heart. 

Dark Chocolate Truffles
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 Tablespoons coconut oil
5 Tablespoons water
desired fillings
melted chocolate, for dipping, if desired (I used dark)
contrasting chocolate, for piping, if desired

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt all ingredients, stirring often, until smooth. Transfer to a shallow dish and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. The truffles should be firm enough to roll but not too hard that they are unmoldable.
Scoop up tablespoon-sized scoops and roll into a ball, placing a filling in the center, if desired. Place on parchment paper and chill until firm.

Once firm, chocolates can be dipped as desired, then placed on parchment and chilled until firm again. Then you may pipe on them.

Fillings I used:
coconut cream
fudge brownie
strawberry jam
date softie
cranberry chew
Nutella (of course)
peanut butter
almond crunch
dark chocolate
plain (two of them)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Chocolate Nutella Fruit Cups

What goes better with Valentine's Day than chocolate? And of course some fresh red berries are nice too. This is the Valentine's Day dessert I made this year for my valentine. All of my valentine desserts, as least from the past three years, seem to rely heavily on chocolate, include fresh berries, and feature hearts. 

This year's dessert is quite simple - a recipe isn't even required - yet it looks pretty and elegant and seems special. First I made chocolate cups - this is done by melting a good-quality chocolate and using a pastry brush to brush it on the inside of paper muffin cups, then chilling until firm. You may need to apply several coats for structure, I did three coats and used dark chocolate. Then I piped the cups full of nutella, or chocolate hazelnut spread, which I seem to like to use quite a bit lately. I guess I didn't get a good enough dose of nutella on World Nutella Day last week. It's just a great all-purpose chocolaty spread, but alternately chocolate mousse or chocolate pudding could be used instead. Next I placed fresh raspberries and blackberries on top (as strawberries are so expensive and tasteless at this time). I gently heated some raspberry jam and brushed it over the fruit to perserve them and add sweetness and shine. Then I sprinkled the cups with some finely chopped nuts for a little crunch, and added some white chocolate heart decor.
The idea for this dessert is simple and can be used to make a wide variety of different dessert possibilities - use any type of chocolate for the cups; any type of mousse, pudding, custard, yogurt, or preserves for the filling; and any type of fruits and nuts for the topping. You may also garnish with whipped cream, icing sugar, or a caramel drizzle.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Coconut Squares

Coconut Squares
2 large eggs
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular pan.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the sugar. Stir in the flour, soda, and salt, then the coconut. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until set and light golden. 

This is a simple, chewy bar for coconut lovers. It can be enriched with some chopped nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips added in if desired. It may also be topped with an icing for added decadence. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cherry Swirl Streusel Cake

This is an easy way to make a fruit streusel coffee cake, except this version is exceptionally rich and moist. You could try using a golden or spice cake mix instead for a slightly different flavor, or use a different fruit filling. If you have some homemade fruit filling or jam, use that instead. The cake batter rises up to the top, encasing the fruit filling in the middle and scattering sweet, buttery streusel all throughout the cake.
Cherry Swirl Streusel Cake
one package (two layer size) white cake mix
3 large eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 cup water
1 can cherry pie filling
3/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup softened butter or hard margarine

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13-inch rectangular pan.
In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.
Spoon the cherry pie filling over top, then swirl it into the cake batter slightly with a butter knife.
Crumble the remaining ingredients together well and sprinkle over top. Bake for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Sometimes it can be difficult to calculate how many potatoes you need to cook in order to serve mashed potatoes to a family or a crowd. With baked potatoes it is easy - usually allow one potato per person, big or small depending on how big of an eater the person is. Homefries are easy too - always make more than you think you need because they will disappear quickly! But mashed potatoes aren't that easy - the one per person method does not always work and it isn't beneficial to make a big pot full, because people don't tend to go back for more and more mashed potatoes. Depending on the potatoes you get as well, mashed potatoes really bring out the good and the bad in the roots. No matter how much gravy you use, you cannot totally save bad potatoes. Leftover mashed potatoes do not reheat well either, and can sit in the fridge for days, looking unappetizing. Luckily, I have developed a few different ways to put leftover mashed potatoes to good use, and transform them into something different entirely!
  1. Scalloped Potatoes - When I make scalloped potatoes, I cut a few less potatoes than needed. then when I bring my milk sauce to a boil, I stir in some leftover mashed potatoes and whisk until smooth. this makes a thicker, creamier sauce without adding more fat and gives more texture and potato flavor.
  2. Potato Salad - When making potato salad, I whisk some leftover mashed potatoes into the mayonnaise-based dressing, which makes a creamier dressing with less fat.
  3. Baked Goods - Unseasoned leftover mashed potatoes can be used for a variety of different baked goods - from breads, to cake, to frostings, to muffins, to fudge. If making bread, be sure to save the boiling water from the mashed potatoes as well - it will add extra flavor and nutrition.
  4. Thickening Agent - Mashed potatoes are great for thickening items, in particular soups, chowders, and sauces. Just stir some in and bring to a boil.
Here are some of my examples:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Apple Pudding

Apple Pudding
1 can (389mL) apple pie filling
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1 cup cream
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspon salt
ground cinnamon
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325F. 
Spread the apple pie filling evenly over the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, beat together the next six ingredients well. Spread over apples.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, then brown sugar. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
I have been making quite a few pudding recipes lately. Now pudding can refer to several different types of desserts, usually (1) A creamy, custard-like dessert usually made of milk cooked on the stove with flavorings and usually cornstarch or eggs for thickening, same consistency of yogurt and eaten with a spoon (chocolate pudding, butterscotch pudding, etc.); (2) A baked, or traditionally steamed, dense, cake-like dessert usually served with a hard or soft sauce (plum pudding with rum sauce, sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce, etc.); (3) A baked cake-like dessert with a thick, syrupy bottom layer creating it's own sauce for the cake, and creating a pudding-like middle texture (hot fudge pudding cake, butterscotch-sauced pudding, etc.).
Lately I have been tending to make more of the third type, and here is another variation - this one using apples for extra flavor and texture and not simply a sauce alone.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Orange Bran Muffins

These muffins are moist, with a nice texture. They are healthy with a refreshing flavor.

Orange Bran Muffins
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 cups natural wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
juice of two large blood oranges, strained'
zest or two large blood oranges
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, stir together the first six dry ingredients.
In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the milk, oil, juice, and zest. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined.
Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 18 muffins.

Note: If blood oranges are unavailable, any type of orange can be used. Blood oranges give a more pronounced orange flavor, so use additional juice/zest if desired.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Egg Pesto Cheese Sandwich

Here is a warm, vegetarian sandwich - nothing particularly special but something a little different and definitely tasty. Here I have two toasted slices of homemade onion walnut wheat bread. I then topped it with some of my homemade parsley cashew pesto. Next I seasoned with salt and pepper and sliced some cheese on top, as well as adding a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Then I quickly 'scrambled' an egg in the microwave. I arranged all of these ingredients artistically on top of my bread, and popped the entire thing back in the toaster oven until warm and the cheese was melted. This can easily be served as an open-face sandwich, but it can also be stacked as a sandwich, wrapped in tin foil, and kept warm for a little while until ready to eat or deliver. This way, you can enjoy a hot sandwich on the go! 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Nutella Sundaes

To finish up this year's World Nutella Day recipes, here is one more treat. I didn't actually make this one for World Nutella Day, but it is something I made recently, eyeing that full jar of nutella in my cupboard and the full container of vanilla ice cream in the freezer. It may be the middle of winter, but following a long, busy day of moving, I was warm, thirsty, and craving a cool, chocolaty treat. These are simple sundaes - mostly vanilla ice cream topped with nutella as a chocolate sauce. I find nutella spread is fairly thin in order to allow spreading on soft breads. On the contrary, nutella sold in countries such as Germany, France, and Spain is slightly more solid, since hard, crusty bread is more prevalent in these regions. The tastes are relatively the same. If desired, you can microwave the nutella briefly to thin it out a bit and make it more of a hot fudge sauce.
 This sundae also has some color from some sprinkles, creating the 'funfetti' effect. 
This bottom sundae is more my style - vanilla ice cream with a chocolate brownie with chocolate ganache, along with nutella piled on top of that. If only the ice cream was chocolate (or death by chocolate, or even nutella) as well...

Friday, February 06, 2015

Nutella Biscotti Sandwiches

Nutella Biscotti Sandwiches
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/4 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 Tablespoon baking powder

In a medium bowl, mix together the flax and water. Let sit for a few minutes. Beat in the oil, sugar, Nutella, and vanilla. Stir in the flours and baking powder. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long and 3 inches wide.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough on the sheet and bake and chill for 20 minutes. Bake at  375for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. 
Cool until cool enough to handle, then cut diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place cut-side up on baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, flip over and bake 5-10 minutes more, until crisp and dry. Cool, then sandwich together with Nutella. 

Biscotti are crisp, twice-baked cookies just made for dunking. With this Nutella version, they are best dunked in a coffee or espresso, a chocolate tea, or hot chocolate - the Nutella will melt into it and make a double hot chocolate. Chocolate or regular milk would work as well, though hot beverages are best. This was another addition to my World Nutella Day spread!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Miniature Nutella Croissants

Happy World Nutella Day 2015!! As you may have figured out by now, I am kind of a big fan of Nutella (chocolate and hazelnuts in spreadable form, need I say more). I particularly like to bake with it, and so every year I make several treats for the occasion. Just type "nutella" into the search bar of my blog, and you'll find entries from the last few years, as well as a number of Nutella creations I have made throughout the year.

Miniature Nutella Croissants
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup cold cubed butter
1/2 cup milk
melted butter
more Nutella

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in the milk to form a soft dough, knead just until it comes together. Roll to a 1/4 inch think circle. Cut into eight triangular-shaped wedges. Spread each with Nutella, then roll up from straight edge to form a crescent. Don't be skimpy with the Nutella, but don't overfill or it will just ooze out in baking. Spread it evenly all over the dough. Freeze for at least one hour before baking.
Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 425F for about 15 minutes until golden. Brush immediately with melted butter. Once cool, heat a little Nutella and a small amount of butter until slightly thinned, but do not overheat or it will seize up. Drizzle over the croissants.

Ok, so these are not authentic croissants. Croissant-making is a long and tedious process. This is a biscuit dough, but it is still rich and buttery and looks like a croissant. Plus with all that Nutella in there, you won't notice the difference, except maybe the flakiness. These are great warm, especially for breakfast, but are even better when spread with more chocolate!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Easiest Nutella Cupcakes

Tomorrow is World Nutella Day once again, and I have been preparing for it. Here is a sneak peek. Three ingredients, one delicious, chocolate-hazelnut taste. What could be easier? Top in so many ways - with additional Nutella, frosting, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc. You'll be enjoying a second one in less than an hour - one batch isn't enough. These are so fudgey and chocolaty, you won't believe how simple they are!
Easiest Nutella Cupcakes
1/2 cup Nutella
5 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
Nutella for filling
garnish, if desired (note: this will make this a four ingredient recipe)
I topped mine with little fudge brownie pieces

Mix all together well, then scoop half the batter into greased or lined muffin cups. Place a dollop (about 1/2 teaspoon) of Nutella in the middle of each. Cover with remaining batter. Top as desired. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in a section without Nutella filling will come out somewhat fudgey, but do not overbake as they firm up upon cooling and will become too firm. These are really good but also really messy warm. This is a really small batch and makes about 5-6 regular-sized cupcakes. You could make these into miniature cupcakes if desired, and decrease the baking time.
I drizzled mine with a little extra Nutella.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

These bars could constitute as breakfast - chock full of three types of cereal and some peanut butter, but the addition of brown sugar and corn syrup makes them incredibly rich and sweet enough for a dessert. Whenever you enjoy them, you can have them ready in less than 15 minutes!! Feel free to use whatever cereal you have on hand as well. Unfortunately, this recipe is so simple and delicious, I didn't get a chance to photograph the ones I made!

Peanut Butter Cereal Bars
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 cups corn flakes cereal
1 cup bran cereal
1 cup oat O's cereal

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt together the peanut butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the cereal. Press evenly into a greased 9x13 inch pan.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Boston Cream Pie

Boston cream pie is actually a custard-filled cake with a chocolate topping. However, this is my recipe for a Boston cream pie that is indeed a pie. It uses a vanilla pudding mix as the custard filling, which is just like a custard made from scratch, which of course can be substituted if preferred. It is topped with a rich, chocolaty glaze. Garnish as desired for a quick and simple cream pie. Feel free to use a graham crumb crust or shortbread in place of a traditional pie pastry. 

Boston Cream Pie
one 9-inch prepared pie crust, baked and cooled
2 cups cold whipping cream
2 packages (four serving size) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine, melted
3-5 Tablespoons hot coffee
flaked almonds and icing sugar, to garnish 

In a medium bowl, whip together the milk and pudding mix until very thick, approximately one minute. Spread evenly into prepared crust. Chill while preparing glaze.
In a small bowl, beat together the sugar, cocoa, butter, and coffee until smooth. Add enough coffee to make a barely pourable but easily spreadable glaze. Spread evenly over filling. Decorate with almonds and sprinkle with icing sugar. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Turkey Broth Risotto

Turkey Broth Risotto
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, small dice
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup Arborio rice
3-4 cups turkey broth
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
chopped parsley
chopped cashews

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and shallots and sauté for a few minutes without browning until translucent.
Stir in the rice and cook for two minutes to toast kernels. 
Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the rice to almost fully absorb it before adding more. Stir often. Cook to desired consistency, risotto usually tends to remain al dente. If you prefer a thinner risotto, use more broth.
Season to taste, and garnish with parsley and cashews. 

Risotto has a reputation of being a fancy, time-consuming dish but really it is quite easy and a family favorite. The flavor is so much richer when you use a homemade broth. Feel free to add in other ingredients - butternut squash, turkey meat, beans; and use any type of broth you wish for a different flavor each time.