Family Thanksgiving

So before I get started on today’s blog, I wanted to share something uber exciting that happened for me……on my Instagram, I posted my yummy chocolate peanut butter tarts and not only did I get a whole bunch of ‘likes’ and a few comments, but Chef Taylor Erickson from the Food Network’s show Chopped AND Chef Dan McClumpha, the Head Pastry Chef for Jamie Oliver, yes, THE Jamie Oliver are amongst those people!  Eeeeeek…..that’s so cool!!

Ok, so back to Thanksgiving

Yes, I know, Thanksgiving was about a month ago (for us Canadians), but if anyone knows my family, we kind of do things……well, on our time.  With wonky work schedules and both my brother and sister having in-law families, sometimes our dinners and holiday celebrations don’t always fall on (or even close) to the actual day.  This past weekend we got together for our Thanksgiving dinner, and as I was responsible for bringing dessert (shocker, I know!), it was either going to be apple or pumpkin related.  So, I decided on pumpkin with all those tasty fall spices – cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, but I wasn’t really in the mood to make another pumpkin cheesecake.  I found a great little concoction on Allrecipes for a Pumpkin Spice Cookie.  All the yummy ingredients for your basic cookie – flour, butter, eggs, sugar (I almost always substitute in brown sugar), add in a bit of those savory spices and pumpkin puree and there’s your mix.  Pop ’em in the oven for about 15 minutes and while they’re baking, you can make the glaze and drizzle it over them once they are cooled off enough.  I made the mistake of not waiting for them to cool before the glaze because basically, I wanted a nice, warm cookie and didn’t want to wait.  Unfortunately, the glaze just oozed off and more ended up on my fingers and in my hand than what stayed on the cookie!

MixOut of the ovenGlazing

 

 

 

 

This is a pretty straight forward and simple recipe, plus it makes a big batch of cookies to share with all the cookie monsters in your family Even my youngest niece and nephew loved them – I just left out the fact that there was pumpkin in them!  Like every family, things may not be perfect, BUT the main thing is that we do get together to celebrate birthdays and holidays and it’s always filled with laughter, reminiscing stories, more laughter, amazing food, a few refreshments, even more laughter and great company.  And this Thanksgiving was no different.  I’m so grateful to have such a wonderful and crazy, fun family, I love them all to the moon and back! 

ready to eat

 

Halloween Leftovers

Halloween is now behind us and if you have kids, you’ve probably already sorted through your kidlets’ candy and maybe downsized the amount of goodies (namely chocolate bars), to save yourself a not-so-fun trip to the dentist, or for other reasons like avoiding borderline diabetic shock or possibly just to have a few for yourself!  Maybe you bought a whole big Costco size box of goodies to hand out to all those cuties that were supposed to be knocking on your door, politely chiming “Trick-or-treat” in unison, yet you had all of a dozen little costumed munchkins show up.  So what do you do with all those extra little chocolate bars?  You could eat them – “I’ll just have a couple, they’re only mini ones”, next thing you know, the whole bowl is empty and beside you is a big pile of wrappers.  Prepare for intense sugar crash!  OR there’s always the alternative – make something easy and fun out of them – Peanut Butter Cups!  I found a super simple recipe on Allrecipes and made some scrumptious little treats that got 2 thumbs up from Ric (I’m told he’s a PB cup expert!).  I simply grabbed some Hershey milk chocolate minis, some smooth peanut butter and a lined muffin tin.

PB Cups - prepMelted the chocolate, added some icing sugar to the peanut butter to make it a bit thicker, scooped a spoonful of each into the liners, then topped it off with some more melted chocolate. Let em chill in the fridge for about an hour and voila!!  Homemade Peanut Butter Cups!  And just to be sure I’m not tempted to eat the whole lot of them, I gave them to Ric so he could enjoy them! Haha.  These will make great little gifts for someone who is a bit of a chocoholic!

PB Cups - choc & pb

PB Cups 2

Fall Baking

When the leaves start to turn brilliant reds, yellows & oranges, that means it’s time to take a trip to the local orchard and pick some fresh apples to do some yummy baking. Whether it’s for a family gathering, like Thanksgiving, or just because you have an afternoon that’s an “inside” kind-of-day (like yesterday was!), the smell of apples and cinnamon baking in the oven just gives you a cozy kind of feeling.  A few weeks ago, I went to Frootogo Orchard in Waterdown to do some apple picking and had a pretty fun time!  The trees are dwarf trees, so it’s easy to see what you’re picking, whether you’re 3 feet tall or 6 feet tall and there’s a very good variety of apples.  I, and when I say “I”, I mean the kidlets, decided on picking Honeycrisp and Cortland apples. I got home and picked out a few simple recipes with my mini bushel of apples.  First one, of course, was to make some yummy apple sauce – it’s a family recipe, so I wanted to see if I could make it taste just as good as I remember when I was a kid.  I don’t think it was as good, but for my first crack at it, it passed the “kid test”!  Plus, the aroma from the apples and cinnamon simmering on the stove filled the house!

Easy peasy apple sauce

Quick and easy apple sauce

Next, was apple crumble!  Now this is definitely one of my FAVOURITE desserts…..add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and I’m in heaven!  I got this delicious recipe from Martha Stewart’s website, although I chose the Apple Cranberry Crumble instead of the traditional “apple only” crumble. It was very simple to follow, didn’t take very much time at all and the pecans in the crumble added just that little extra bit of flavour. The only thing in the recipe that I changed was I used dried cranberries instead of frozen or fresh, even though she specifically said not to – I’m kind of a rebel that way  😉

Oh so delicious Apple Cranberry Crumble

Oh so delicious Apple Cranberry Crumble

There are so many different goodies to make with apples – they’re so versatile when it comes to baking and each type of apple creates a different taste too.  Just a bit of advice (from personal experience), if you’re following a recipe and it calls for a certain type of apple, for example, Honeycrisp, Empire or Fuji, be sure to use that type.  If you substitute the recipe with another type, like Red Delicious, your baking may not turn out the way you want it to or could even be mushy and lacking in taste.

Here’s a little humour to hold you over until my next blog – How do you make an apple turnover??…………………Push it down a hill     Hahahaha 🙂

Baking From the Heart

I know that for some people, something as simple as baking a cake seems like climbing Mount Everest, but for me, I could spend a whole day in the kitchen, baking everything from cookies to cakes to chocolate anything!  And there’s nothing that makes me happier than to watch someone take that first bite, see their eyes light up and the expression on their face when their taste buds explode with pleasure!

 

Now anyone who knows me, knows I’m not exactly a big Christmas person (I’m not a Grinch, but I’m certainly not a Who-ville citizen either!).  However, I absolutely LOVE doing copious amounts of baking at Christmas, it’s my escape from the craziness.  Yes, I know that Christmas is still 2 months away, but really, that’s only 8 more weekends, and unless you love baking as much as I do, you’re probably not going to want to, or be able to, give up one of those weekends to spend it in the kitchen!  From experience, doing a lot of Christmas baking does require a bit of planning ahead of time, and for me, it usually ends up being more than just a single weekend event!  I’ve already started planning my list of goodies that I’ll be baking for gifts to my family and friends.  There will be of course, my 2 traditional treats, which are both my own recipes and ones that I’ve been making since high school – my secret recipe shortbread and my chocolate truffles (my brother, who loves these, has another name for them, however, it’s not exactly blog-friendly! Haha).  Like with any recipe, it takes some tinkering to get them just perfect and with about 20 years of practice, I’ve been told they’re pretty close!

Cut & baked

My secret recipe shortbread

White chocolate and white sprinkled dark chocolate truffles

White chocolate and white sprinkled dark chocolate truffles

One of my recent and most challenging creations was Chocolate Ganache French Macarons, which I decided to make for a birthday gift.  Now these delectable treats either work out or they don’t, there’s no in between.  I ended up looking through a bunch of different websites – Allrecipes, Martha Stewart, Food Network and Popsugar, (to name a few), to find a recipe that caught my eye – and believe me, there are LOTS of different recipes out there!  I finally settled on one that didn’t have about 25 different ingredients and that wasn’t overly time consuming (meaning less than 3 hours from start to finish)  The recipe I chose to use was from Chowhound and they turned out great!  As I mentioned before, the look on my friend’s face when she bit into it, was all worth it!

Chocolate Ganache French Macarons

Chocolate Ganache French Macarons