Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pear Ice Cream with Candied Ginger

Fall is pear and apple time, and pumpkin, and, well, the list goes on and on and on. Fall is my FAVORITE time of year! Not just because of all the wonderful things available in the garden for baking and cooking but because of the weather, the colors, and the smells, pretty much everything.
Our pear trees had an abundance this year. We have so many pears in the storage shed that even bringing 2 huge boxes in to share at the office has not made a dent. I’ve looked up several pear recipes to try but most of them only use 3 or 4 pears.
I did make this recipe last year – HP Sauce – that I found at Canadian Crafter’s blog. (Okay, her recipe calls for apples but I used pears) It’s great and uses a lot of pears....but I still have so much HP sauce from last year that I don’t need to make more.
Hmmm.... while I find a way to use up more pears I will share this tasty recipe for pear ice cream.
Side story – while trying to find pear ice cream recipes I scoured the internet for the most interesting sounding recipe. There are not too many pear ice cream recipes out there and the ones that are out there are mostly custard based (ie: heat your milk/cream, beat it into the eggs & sugar, cool it down...blah, blah, blah) or involved caramelizing or roasting the pears. Don’t get me wrong, they sounded delicious, but I was looking for something simple. My dad loaned me his ancient ice cream book that he uses for his recipes. This is another of the old school, no photos, pages held in with elastic bands cook books.
Guess what?
Perfect pear recipe inside.
Easy peasy, no muss, no fuss, start to finish in like 10 seconds.
(Well, maybe a few more than 10 seconds but, you see where I’m going with this.)
I made a few small changes (I can’t help it, it’s an affliction of mine) and added some finely chopped candied ginger and, voila, delicious Pear and Candied Ginger ice Cream.

Pear Ice Cream with Candied Ginger

4 ripe pears
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 - 2 tbsp finely chopped, candied ginger
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup half & half

Peel and core pears. Place in food processor with lemon juice, ginger, and sugars. Process until smooth.
Pour mixture into bowl of stand mixer. While mixer is running add cream and half & half. Mix until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth (about 5 - 8 minutes).
Pour into container of ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions. (May have to mix in 2 batches)

I’m not a huge fan of the candied ginger, I did that for a friend who loves ginger, but I do think this would be even better with no ginger and a hint of cinnamon. I will try that next time.
I do love the simplicity of this recipe. Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes all the extra steps don’t really add a lot, sometimes they do, I guess you never know until you try. Do give this recipe a try though, for how easy it is the results are amazing.
I know fall isn’t really “ice cream season” but this ice cream is heavenly with any kind of fruit crisp/crumble you may be baking up.
I KNOW you are making fruit crisps/crumbles because that is the law in fall.
At least one crisp/crumble has to be made or the earth will implode.
At least, that’s what I heard.

Be sure to visit Carol's Chatter for some more fantastic links!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spiked Apple Crisp

Sue is moving into a rental house with her hubby and Kenzie as they have sold their house and their new house is not built yet. It so happened that Sue’s hubby’s birthday was this weekend. I said I would make a fancy schmancy new dessert for the birthday boy’s dinner so Sue wouldn’t have to worry about finding dishes in amongst the packing chaos. (Awww, aren't I sweet?)
I saw this photo...

....and had to make it. (Thank you Betty Crocker)
Who knew butter ripple schnapps would be so good in an apple crisp?
Okay, so maybe an apple crisp isn’t all that fancy schmancy’s fall now and apples/crisps are what you have to use/make right now.
I’m pretty sure it’s the law.
Unfortunately, I had to make it up ahead of time so it wasn’t served warm – I think it would have been totally addictive had it been warm. Tasting it cold though – I was sold.
This is my new apple crisp recipe.
I believe the original recipe called for Butterscotch Schnapps but I could only find Butter Ripple Schnapps at our local liquor store. Trust me, it works just fine!

Spiked Apple Crisp
5 medium tart apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup Butter Ripple Schnapps
½ cup butter, melted
1 pouch ( 17.5 oz) Betty Crocker Oatmeal Cookie Mix

1 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp Butter Ripple Schnapps
1 Tbsp icing sugar

 Caramel topping
Preheat oven to 375. Spray bottom only of 8 X 8 pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, toss apples, white & brown sugar, cinnamon, and ½ cup Schnapps. Spread in pan.

Waiting to combine melted butter and cookie mix for topping.

In medium bowl, mix melted butter with cookie mix. Sprinkle evenly on top of apples. (Yes, use all of it, use your fingers to poke it down in amongst the apples a little)
Bake 40 minutes, or until apples are cooked. could just eat it like this but it's not as pretty :)

Remove from heat and let cool a bit on wire rack.
Beat whipping cream with schnapps and icing sugar until stiff peaks form.

All that's missing is the caramel drizzle.

To serve: place a scoop of apple crisp in bowl (or small glass if you are doing
the “shots”) and top with whipping cream. Drizzle with caramel topping. Serve immediately.
I happen to sell Sunset Gourmet Food Products so I used their amazing Gourmet Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Sauce to drizzle on top. FYI – if you have access to this sauce, it worked REALLY well.
 If you are preparing this in advance and need it to sit then DO NOT put the whipped topping on the hot apple crisp. It will melt. Wait until your crisp is chilled and then place the whipping cream on top and drizzle with caramel. It tastes wonderful cold as well – I imagine it would be soooo much better warm though. I am sure I will find out soon as there are a bazillion apples and pears just begging to be used up at my house PLUS I still have half a bottle of Butter Ripple Schnapps in the cupboard to use up.
Wouldn’t want it to go to waste.....

UPDATE: I just had to let everyone know - eating this warm is definitely the way to go! Oh my goodness! Addicting doesn't even begin to describe it. :)

Check out Carole's Chatter for tons of great links!

Banana Coconut Rice Pudding

I’m not going to lie: I was expecting great things from this beautiful looking dessert. All those scrumptious layers of pudding, coconut, banana, and whipped cream lead me on.
Okay, okay. There are some redeeming qualities in this recipe. It looks really pretty. And the banana and coconut and whipped cream tasted delicious. Unfortunately the rice pudding part of it fell flat.
Really flat.
Like, won’t-ever-make-that-again flat.
I think you could maybe salvage this recipe by adding cinnamon and/or your favourite rice pudding spice.
My usual (old fashioned) rice pudding is cinnamon and raisins and is delicious just like that. I should have known that trying to get all fancy with bananas and coconut was too “crazy” for rice pudding.
I’m still posting the recipe though because maybe you will have more luck with it and/or maybe you will like the flavour better than we did. (We being mom and dad and I, not Sue, because Sue thinks rice pudding is “yucky”) Besides, I had to post the photos because they just look so pretty.
How the photo looks, that is how I wanted the dessert to taste. It didn’t.
 Banana Coconut Rice Pudding
1 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup rice
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup toasted coconut
2 bananas, thinly sliced
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1 Tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Stir milk, whipping cream, half & half and rice together in medium saucepan over med - high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med - low; cook, stirring often, until rice is cooked and mixture is thickened. Anywhere from 10 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
In medium bowl, whisk vanilla and coconut extract with eggs. While constantly whisking, slowly add 1/2 cup of hot rice mixture to eggs. Continue to add 1/2 cup at a time until completely mixed. Do NOT do this too fast or eggs will curdle.
Return mixture to saucepan and cook for another1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Transfer to bowl and chill completely.
Whip cream with Tbsp of sugar and tsp vanilla.
To assemble parfaits: layer 1/4 cup cold rice pudding with toasted coconut, sliced bananas, and whipped cream. Repeat layers once more.
It’s not too complicated to make at all. Which makes it even more unfair. If it is easy and pretty it SHOULD taste delicious also.
It’s okay, I’m not bitter about it at all.
The recipe calls for it to be served cold – which I thought was weird – we eat our old fashioned rice pudding warm so the cream on top gets all melt-y.
Originally we tried it warm so I though, to be fair, I should try it cold to see if that makes a huge difference. Cold version equalled me spitting it out. It was like eating cold rice. I have to give it some credit though; the texture was very smooth and creamy. It just had no flavour.
Who wants to eat flavourless, cold rice?
Not me.
I suggest if you are going to attempt this recipe that you add something to the pudding that will flavour it. The 1 Tbsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of coconut extract really added nothing. I’m thinking cinnamon would be a good start.
Let me know, if you give it a try, what you think.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chili Macaroni Biscuits

Looking for something to throw at the kids after school? Or maybe pack into a lunch? Or, maybe you just want a quick and easy dinner idea.
One of the many email newsletters I get weekly had this idea for a meal in a muffin tin. I believe it was Pillsbury or Kraft. As soon as I saw the photos of pasta and cheese and chili baked in a biscuit I knew I had to give it a try. They had different combinations as well (ie: a lasagna in a muffin tin biscuit) but this one spoke to me.
"Jo," It said, "you need more carbs in your diet. You should make me. I'm delicious."
Who am I to argue with food?

Chili Macaroni Biscuits

1 box macaroni and cheese dinner (I used KD)
butter and milk as per macaroni and cheese dinner instructions
1 can (15 oz) chili
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cans Pillsbury refrigerated biscuits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package directions.
Stir in chili and 1/2 cup cheese.
Separate the two cans of dough into 20 biscuits. Press each biscuit into muffin tin, making sure it goes up side of cup. Fill with macaroni mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 20 - 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 2 minutes then remove from pan.

It's that simple. I managed to get 2 dozen cups out of this recipe instead of just 20 because I trimmed a little dough off each biscuit round and squished it into 4 more. It worked great.
I want to try this now with spiral pasta, spaghetti sauce, sausage meat, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese - as per the lasagna cup idea. I'm guessing there is a bazillion different ideas you could try. Sue doesn't like the biscuits from Pillsbury (*cough* wierd *cough) so I am thinking of maybe trying it with the croissant dough.
Simple. Fast. Tasty. Great after school/lunch snack.
All things we like in a recipe.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Burnt Grapes

Here is the final grape recipe to close out Grape Week here at

This is the only grape recipe this week that wasn’t a “new” recipe. This has been a family favourite for several years now. Granted, the presentation is a little sketchy, but the taste is unbelievable. You could also call these caramel grapes if you don’t like the “burnt” connotation. (A rose by any other name...)
Our big sister, Orra, submitted this recipe as her entry in the grape contest last weekend. There was another dish there that was kind-of similar but had orange peel and a few different ingredients thrown in. Messing with perfection is what I say. This 6 ingredient dish is fantastic as is. Unfortunately, it didn’t place in the top 3 but that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to be a family favourite.

Orra calls it “grape crack” implying its addictive nature. It really is hard to stop eating it once you start. For the sake of your waistline, you had better have a few people to share this with when you make it or else you will eat it all!
Seriously...just warning you....

Burnt Grapes

2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
5 cups seedless green grapes
1/2 cup butter (don’t use margarine)
1/2 cup brown sugar

In a large bowl, mix together sour cream, icing sugar, and vanilla. Stir in grapes. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Stir constantly and cook over medium heat until mixture starts to thicken. It does not need to boil.
Pour brown sugar and butter over grape mixture and stir until well blended.
Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Interestingly, when I Googled this recipe to see how others made it, most people don’t mix the brown sugar/butter into the grapes but rather pour it on top and let it harden like that. I didn't care for it as much that way.
As you can see in the above photo the crust that forms keeps all the caramel goodness on top.
It's not bad that way...BUT...I definitely enjoy it more all mixed in!
 Preparing it our way (mixing everything together) produces a wonderfully sweet caramel custard sauce for the grapes that is AMAZING. In fact, we often double the butter and brown sugar to 1 cup each just because we loooooooooove the sauce.
Not the healthiest thing to do but... sometimes you have to splurge!
We hope you enjoyed our grape inspired week this week :)
What is your favorite grape inspired recipe?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

French Vanilla Grape Swirl Ice Cream

This is the recipe I really, really wanted to enter into the grape cooking contest. I wanted it to be spectacularly grapetastic. It wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic – very smooth, creamy, incredibly decadent - it just wasn’t grapey enough.
It was originally called Concord Grape Swirl Ice Cream. My problem may have been that I didn’t use Concord grapes. I used Sovereign Coronation grapes because that is what my dad grows. I am thinking maybe they don’t pack the flavour punch of Concords. Oh well, regardless, the ice cream that resulted is more of a French Vanilla Grape Swirl Ice Cream – so that is the name we are sticking with.
By the way, the winner of first place in the grape cooking contest that I was attempting all these recipes for was Grape Ice Cream. It was a beautiful dark purple color and must have tasted amazing!
French Vanilla Grape Swirl Ice Cream
3 cups stemmed grapes
1/2 cup sugar
7 egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half & half
12 Tbsp white sugar, divided
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
¼ tsp coarse salt

Make the jam and syrup: Mash grapes with sugar. Cover bowl and let sit at room temp for an hour (or can be refrigerated overnight).
Transfer grape mixture to small saucepan and bring to boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer approx 10 minutes. Strain liquid through fine mesh sieve into a bowl, this is the “syrup”. Set sieve over another bowl and, using plastic bowl scraper, press the grapes through the sieve to remove seeds and skin to create a “jam”.
You should have approximately 1/2 cup syrup and 3/4 cup jam.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. (Can be up to overnight)
Make the custard: In a large bowl beat together egg yolks and 6 tbsp sugar until pale yellow, set aside.
In a large saucepan, whisk together cream, half & half, remaining 6 Tbsp sugar, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring mixture to a boil over med-high heat. As soon as mixture begins to rise up the sides of the pan, remove from heat. Remove bean pod from cream and reserve for another use.
Very slowly whisk ½ cup of hot milk mixture into the egg yolks. DO NOT do this too fast or your yolks will curdle! Continue to add in hot milk a little at a time until completely combined. Whisk in salt.
Cover and chill custard until very cold, at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
Add grape syrup to chilled custard and whisk to combine. If desired, strain through fine mesh sieve.
Transfer grape jam to a large metal bowl and transfer to freezer. Freeze until firm but not solid. (I put it in the freezer while the ice cream was in the ice cream machine and it seemed to be firm enough.)
Transfer custard to ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to a large bowl and fold in half-frozen jam with a spatula. Transfer to airtight container and freeze.
I know, I’s a pain in the butt. It is worth it though if you are looking for the smoothest vanilla ice cream on the planet. I would love to try this again minus the vanilla bean and using Concord grapes as the recipe originally called for. I have learned that using vanilla bean seeds instead of vanilla extract totally changes the flavour. I was told by my father that using Concord grapes would change the taste as well as make the color much deeper purple.
Oh well, this version still looked pretty and tasted great. Just not the award winning GRAPE recipe I was looking for. It did go very well served with the Winemaker’s Grape Cake I blogged about yesterday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Winemaker's Grape Cake

This is recipe number two during Grape Week here at This recipe is more subtle than my Grape Cream Pie recipe that I blogged as our first recipe.
It is a very beautiful looking cake and using olive oil in the recipe certainly adds another level of flavour. If I had to choose one word to describe this cake it would be – sophisticated. I don’t usually use that word to describe food but it really fits here.
I went back and forth a million times, trying to decide whether to enter this recipe or the Grape Cream Pie as my official entry in the grape cooking contest. I decided on the pie simply because it had more “grape-iness” than this cake. I convinced my mother to enter this cake just to see how it would fare. Turns out it didn’t place in the top 3 but we did hear that everyone loved it. (Whew, glad I went with the pie!)
Winemakers Grape Cake
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Silk (Or could use milk)
½ tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange rind
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup grapes (seedless, small), stemmed and washed
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8 or 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray.
In large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until thick and lemon coloured (about 3 mins). Add melted butter, olive oil, Silk, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix well.
In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, orange rind, and salt.
Beat dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix briefly again. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Stir about3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Smooth top with spatula.
Bake about 15 minutes. Sprinkle remaining grapes on top of cake.
Bake until the top is golden brown and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. (Depending on what size pan you use you may have to cover cake with tinfoil to finish cooking without browning too much)
Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Run a knife around edge of pan. Remove sides of springform pan. Let cool on wire rack.
Slide a metal spatula under cake to remove from bottom of pan. Place on serving platter.
Dust with icing sugar. Cut into thin wedges.
Why it is called “Winemakers” Grape Cake I have no idea. It does make it sound fancier though so I decided to keep the name. It is a nice, dense, moist cake that would go very well with tea and coffee at lunch time or with a glass of wine after dinner.
There is a sneak peak at the next blog in one of the photos on this blog. Can you see what it is? If not, stay tuned for Grape Week blog number 3!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Grape Cream Pie (or Tarts)

I am not a very competitive person. In school when they picked teams for sports I was always chosen last. Everyone knew I was not going to be of much help to their team in terms of winning. They knew it, I knew it, we accepted it, we moved on.
I think my lack of competitiveness is a fear of failure. I am pretty sure that there is always going to be someone out there who is better than me at whatever it is I am trying to do at that particular time. Don't get me wrong, I know I am a good cook or a good photographer or a good ....whatever..... I'm just willing to admit I am not the best. I don't need to enter a competition to find that out. If I don't compete I can continue to believe that I am awesome and what I have done IS the best in the world.
That being said, this is my roundabout way of saying I entered a competition this weekend.
A cooking competition.
A cooking competition where grapes were the focus of the recipes.
Not exactly my forte.
I prepared all last week by scouring the internet for interesting grape recipes and prepared several of them to find my entry.
So, with great fanfare (insert trumpets blaring here) I officially announce this week to be Grape Week here at
I will be posting the recipes I tried all last week, starting today with my official entry - Grape Cream Pie!

Grape Cream Pie

1/2 cup white sugar
6 Tbsp cornstarch
pinch salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups grape juice
(I used fresh juice from grapes in our garden - you DON'T want grape juice with a lot of sugar in it)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 9 inch, baked pie shell (or 24 tart shells)
2 cups whipping cream

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in grape juice - do not whisk in fast or you will create foam which makes the grape pudding go a little weird.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Remove from heat. Add lemon juice.
Pour into prepared pie shell or tart shells. 

Makes one pie or approx 24 tarts. 

Let sit until completely cool.
When cool - whip the cream until stiff peaks form and place on top of pie/tarts.

You can use extra grapes for decoration, if desired. 

Chill until ready to serve, at least 2 hours. You can make this a day ahead and it is fine. The crust will start to get soggy after about a day though so don't make it more than a day in advance.

Put as much or as little whipped cream on as you like. 

The color is very pretty. 

This was a really, really good pie. I'm glad I was inspired by the grape contest to try new recipes outside of my normal realm. If I had to compare it to another pie I would have to say lemon meringue pie. It is quite tart - which is weird because seeing that purple color lead me to believe it would be really sweet.

ADDENDUM: In case you were wondering, I did place third with this recipe. Yay! I do like to win, I'm not going to lie. I just don't like having to compete in order to win.
Stay tuned for more grape recipes this week!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quinoa Spinach Soup

This recipe is great for those days when you are running late, things aren't done, you are starving, tired, and don't feel like preparing anything. From start to finish I believe it took me 30 minutes. Not too shabby for dinner or lunch rush. This is also great if you are trying to watch your weight. Loads of veggies, spinach, and healthy quinoa make this a filling choice. I tried to work out the calories per serving and I believe it was close to 130 calories for a cup and a half. (Don't quote me on that but I think I'm pretty close.)
Plus, this is a great vegetarian choice if you are going meatless. (Although I am thinking it would be fantastic if you added tiny meatballs or spicy sausage bits to it but that would add some time and calories to this recipe.)

Quinoa Spinach Soup

1 cup water
1/2 cup quinoa
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 large carrot, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
3 cups spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
salt & pepper

Bring water to a boil. Stir in quinoa, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add broth, onion, carrot, and zucchini. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until veggies are done.
Stir in spinach and allow to wilt in soup.
Salt and pepper to taste.

A couple of notes - I used Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix mixed with 4 cups of water for the broth.
I also used closer to 4 cups of chopped spinach as I wanted to use up what I had.

There you have it. Super fast, super easy, super tasty! Three things I love in a meal.
I apologize for the foggy photos - I was in a hurry to eat and couldn't wait for it to cool enough for the steam to clear. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baked Southwest Wontons

We recently came into a whole lot of wonton wrappers. My freezer and Sue’s freezer were brimming with them. Needless to say we wanted to start using them up.
Wonton wrappers can be filled with just about anything to make a tasty treat. They can then be deep fried, boiled, steamed, or baked. Sue wanted to try and bake some up for her daughter, Kenzie, to take to school in her lunch. She came up with this Southwest style filling and it was really delicious. The wontons seemed to hold their crunchiness too. They softened a bit but didn’t go soggy.
Deep frying is probably one of the tastier methods of cooking wontons but you definitely do NOT have to deep fry to get them crispy. Baking them at a high temperature works just as well.
Southwest Baked Wontons
2 cups chicken, cooked, shredded
½ can black beans
¾ cup corn
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded, finely chopped
1/3 cup Thai Chili sauce (Or your favourite sauce with a little zip)
Stir fry all ingredients in large frying pan. Let cool to at least room temp. (You can put it in the fridge to speed process.)

Mmm... Filling!

 Preheat oven to 400. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Fill wonton wrappers with only a little the filling so they are not too full.

Don't fill wrappers too full or they won't seal

Wet the edges of the wrapper with water (Have a little bowl of water to dip your finger in) and seal. Place on cookie sheet. When you have filled your cookie sheet with wontons, spray them lightly with cooking spray.

Different ways to seal your wontons

Bake at 400 until wrappers are golden brown. (I think this was about 15 minutes but I’m not 100%)
Can be eaten now or let cool to room temp, store in airtight container in fridge, and eat for lunch the next day.
This is a simple yet different recipe for the kids to take in their lunch. This was basically a “throw everything into a pan and hope for the best” recipe that turned out pretty tasty. Sue has learned to be pretty creative to feed her picky eater. You can, of course, fill wonton wrappers with whatever ingredients you have on hand. As long as it is not too liquid-y then you should do okay.
Our next experiment with wonton wrappers is going to be wonton wrapper ravioli. Stay tuned, we will let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vegan Peach Ice Cream with Caramelized Almonds

What the heck is going on?
Another vegan, gluten free, egg free, dairy free recipe?
I'll admit I'm probably the last person on the planet who thought I would be making vegan dishes. I love milk, eggs, meat, all those things that vegans avoid. That being said, the thought of making ice cream without actually using cream intrigued me. What would the texture be like? What would the taste be like? Would I be able to tell instantly that it wasn't "ice cream"?

I decided to try and find a recipe on line for vegan peach ice cream to make. I couldn't really find any that didn't involve using some kind of nut-paste or ingredients that I had never heard of before and didn't want to invest in. I decided to invent my own. All things considered, I think I did pretty good.
Did I learn some things to try for next time?
Will I try again?
I could not tell this was not a "true" ice cream. It was smooth and creamy just like any other ice cream I have made. It did freeze a little hard for my liking. I had to let it sit out for about 20 minutes to be able to scoop it, but other than that I found it pretty tasty.
The peach flavor is very mild so you don't want to add too many of the caramelized almonds or they take over the whole dish. In fact, if you wanted to just leave out the almonds you could do that too.
Personally, I love caramelized almonds so didn't mind them influencing the flavor of the ice cream.

Vegan Peach Ice Cream with Caramelized Almonds

5 medium peaches, skins on*, pitted
1 can (400 ml / 13.5 oz) Coconut Cream
1 cup non-dairy creamer (I used Silk)
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds
5 Tbsp white sugar

Using food processor, process peaches until pureed.
In bowl of stand mixer, pour in pureed peaches. Add coconut cream, non-dairy creamer, brown sugar, and salt. Beat until sugar is dissolved. (About 3 - 4 minutes)
Place in ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer's directions.
While ice cream is in machine, prepare almonds.
First, have a cookie sheet greased well with cooking spray ready. Place almonds and 5 tbsp sugar in medium frying pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often so sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar starts to brown it only takes a minute or two so watch carefully. When you have a nice caramel color remove from heat and pour onto greased cookie sheet, spreading as much as possible.
Be careful! This will be extremely hot!

Caramelized almonds, broken into tiny pieces

Place in the fridge for about 5 - 10 minutes to cool completely. Break into tiny pieces using your fingers.
When ice cream is almost completely frozen, stir in pieces of caramelized almonds. (Use as much or as little as you like. Keep in mind they do influence the flavor of the ice cream.)

*NOTE - Whether you leave the skins on or remove them is up to you. I like the little flecks of color they leave in the ice cream. I ended up removing about half of the skins from the cream before freezing it so there were not too many bits floating around.

So, what did I learn to try differently for next time?
I learned that if you chill the mixture before you place it into the ice cream maker that it can help prevent ice crystals from forming in your ice cream therefore helping to prevent a grainy texture.
I learned that adding a Tbsp of alcohol can help to prevent your ice cream from freezing really hard. I was thinking a Tbsp of Peach Schnapps might help make the peach flavor more bold and prevent the hard freeze.
I learned that the word "vegan" doesn't have to be scary. The thought of drinking a glass of Silk still makes me a little nauseas, I can't lie, but the thought of enjoying Silk in ice cream is now very pleasant.
I can say that making a vegan, gluten free, dairy free, egg free recipe isn't as "weird" as I once thought. Don't get me wrong - I'm not giving up my flour, milk, eggs, meat, chocolate, etc.. But I am a little more willing to try something different.
Little changes make the biggest differences :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

I love cookies. LOVE THEM. If it were feasible I would eat cookies every day, for every meal. It’s true. Sue thinks I’m insane. She’s not a cookie freak.
It’s sad really.
Today’s cookies are Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies. Who doesn’t love surprises, right? Especially baked inside a cookie. A PEANUT BUTTER cookie.
(Peanut butter should be its own food group I say)
Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup smooth peanut butter
24 Mini chocolate bars (I used Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar)
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and set aside.
In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add peanut butter and beat until combined.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients all at once. Beat at low speed until just combined.
Roll dough into log and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.
Cookie log and chocolates waiting to get together
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut log into 24 equal pieces. 
Press a mini chocolate bar into the middle of each piece of dough and enclose with dough so no chocolate shows through. Roll into ball.  (See pic below)
Place onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 for 10 - 15 minutes, or until cookies are just starting to turn golden brown. Do not overbake.
Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheets for about 10 minutes before
removing to wire rack to finish cooling.

I had to make these ones as soon as I spotted the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar. Who knew they made Reese’s in a chocolate bar?
Not me.
Oh sure, I knew about the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Pieces, Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Big Cup Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Dark Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s White Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream, aaaaaaaand Reese’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream Bar.
Hey, what can I say, I am a fan of the Reese’s line.
Anyway, apparently they make a chocolate bar now too. It worked perfectly for the cookies.
 If, for some ridiculous reason, you are not a fan of the Reese’s Peanut Butter line then, by all means substitute whatever you like. (IE: mini Snickers bar, mini Caramilk bar, etc..)
These go great in the lunch box for school or freeze well in an airtight container.
Or, and here is my favourite suggestion, just eat them all as soon as they are cool enough to do so.

Creme Brulee Cookies

Ever since a friend of mine introduced me to crème brulee I have been a little crème brulee crazy. I tried Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee and Crème Brulee Cheesecake Bars. Then I came across a recipe, whilst Googling, for crème brulee cookies. Well, several different recipes to be exact. The idea intrigued me. None of them seemed to be exactly what I was looking for though. The one on this blog ( was the closest to what I imagined crème brulee in a cookie to be. I only made a few small changes to come up with this version.
I don’t know if it is the flavour of the crème brulee or the fact that I get to use the kitchen torch that keeps me trying different versions of crème brulee recipes.
 Crème Brulee Cookies
1 cup butter, room temp
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 pkg (3.4 oz) Jello vanilla pudding mix (not prepared)
2 eggs
Vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 pkg (I believe 3.7 oz) Dr.Oetker Crème Brulee Mix, prepared as per package
¼ cup white sugar, for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare Dr. Oetker (that is the brand I had available here – I’m sure whichever brand would work) Crème Brulee Mix as per package directions and set aside.
In large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add in Jello vanilla pudding mix and blend until combined. Add in eggs and vanilla bean seeds. (Save pod for another use)
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat until combined.
Using small cookie scoop – or just pinching off a golf ball sized amount with your fingers and rolling into balls, scoop dough onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper a couple of inches apart. Using your thumb or back of measuring Tbsp, press indent into cookies.

Chill in fridge for about 15 minutes.
Carefully fill indents with prepared crème brulee filling. You can fill them fairly full as it does not bubble up or anything.
Bake in 350 oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Edges should be golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
Sprinkle approximately 1/8 of a tsp of sugar on top of pudding in each cookie.
Caramelize sugar using kitchen torch, being careful not to hit the cookie itself as it will burn. (Unfortunately, using the broiler to try and caramelize the sugar will not work. It ends up with burned or very crunchy cookies.)
From bottom to top - plain, with sugar, and completed caramelized sugar

 These were very tasty. This is a fancy, lightly spiced cookie that you would never guess started out as a plain sugar cookie. The fun part is that you still get to hear a little bit of that trademark cracking as you break the sugar like you get with actual crème brulee. Only if you eat it the first day though. I found the sugar got a teeny tiny bit liquid-y after sitting in the fridge overnight and the cookie got a teeny tiny bit soggy. Not enough to ruin the cookie per se but enough that if you were serving them to a group of people trying to impress them with how cool you are in the kitchen then you would definitely want to serve them right away.
You could probably even wait until just before serving them to caramelize the sugar. Impress everyone with your amazing kitchen torch skills.
I think next on my “To Try” list will be Crème Brulee Cupcakes or perhaps a Crème Brulee Pie. I have seen video how-to’s for both ideas and they look pretty interesting.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Greek Salad Dressing Dilemma

A while back Sue and I went on a bit of a road trip to Chilliwack to visit a friend (Hi Shannon!) and do a bit of shopping. Shannon took us to a wonderful Greek Restaurant named Greek Islands Restaurant. The food was amazing and so reasonably priced it was crazy!
If you have the opportunity to go there you really must.
I insist.
Anyway, why I am sharing this is because it relates to the topic of this blog - Greek Salad Dressings.
The Greek Islands Restaurant had the MOST addictive Greek Salad Dressing on their Greek Salad. It was a creamy, garlic-y, not overpowering yet still extremely flavourful, blend of wonderfulness. Shannon warned us that we would be hooked and she was right. She said she and her girlfriends had tried many different variations on dressing recipes to try and duplicate the taste but had not yet succeeded. Sue and I decided to give it a try.
We found three different yet kind-of the same Greek Dressing recipes online and set out to make them with some changes to try and match the restaurant's flavour.

 Creamy Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp fresh dill
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 cup buttermilk

In blender or food processor, whirl all ingredients together except buttermilk for one minute. With the blender (or food processor) running, slowly pour in buttermilk and blend until thick and creamy. Turn off your machine as soon as it thickens or the dressing may curdle.
Chill at least 1 hour so flavors blend. If it separates you can just give it a quick whiz in the blender again. (Will last 3 - 4 days in airtight container in fridge)

Feta Cheese Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp mayo
1 tsp mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
In bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Chill for at least an hour.
(Can be refrigerated up to 5 days in airtight container)
Greek Dressing
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp dried oregano
In container of blender or food processor, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth, stopping and scraping sides as necessary. Chill for at least an hour.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the same results as from the Greek Islands Restaurant. (Boooo!)
These were all delicious in their own right but not quite what we were looking for. It’s all Shannon’s fault...we will now have to travel back to Chilliwack to get at that delicious salad and dressing. I’m thinking this may have been her plan all along to get us to visit more often.
If anyone out there knows the secret to Greek Islands Greek Salad Dressing then
please let us know.
(We will beg if we have to.)
And, If you think that we may be exaggerating on how delicious this dressing really is then we challenge you to go to the Greek Islands Restaurant and try it out. They have locations in Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
P.S. – The other food was also delicious! I had the calamari and it was amazing. A huge plate of kalamari (their spelling) with rice, roasted potatoes, steamed veggies, pita & tzatziki, and Greek salad(or Caesar salad or soup – but trust me take the Greek salad) was only $11.99. (Crazy, right?)
I apologize for not taking a photograph. I guess I will have to go back and eat there again so I can get a photo for the blog.
It’s a legitimate reason to travel 3 hours there and 3 hours back.
Food is serious business.