Thursday, November 29, 2018

Easy Dinner Packets

What's that? You're looking for a delicious and hearty dinner idea that will leave you without any dishes? Have we got a deal for you!
These easy dinner packets have everything you need: meat, potatoes, vegetables, gravy, all in one no-muss, no-fuss what-do-you-mean-there's-nothing-to-clean-up dish. 
It's easy to customize with your favorite veggies and you can swap out sweet potatoes for the potatoes if you like. You can use ground beef or pork or turkey. Throw in some cheese or even sprinkle with hot sauce to spice things up. 
Like I said, no-muss, no-fuss. 

Easy Dinner Packets

Meat Patties
1 lb lean ground beef
1 pkg vegetable soup mix

5 medium potatoes, sliced
2 cups carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 large onion, sliced
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic granules (or 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced)
salt & pepper

1 can condensed mushroom soup

Preheat oven to 375. 
Prepare meat patties - mix together the ground beef and the soup mix. Separate into 5 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten between the palms of your hands. Set aside.
Prepare vegetables - Place the vegetables, oil, and spices in a large bowl. Toss gently to coat the vegetables. 

Prepare packets - Tear off a large strip of tinfoil and place it on a flat work surface. Scoop up 1/5th of the vegetable mix and place it in the center of the tinfoil. 

Top with a meat patty.

Place 2 Tbsp of the condensed mushroom soup on top of the patty. 

Fold up the long sides of the tinfoil and pinch to seal. Fold over the other sides of the tinfoil and pinch that as well so no steam escapes. Repeat with remaining veggies and meat patties - you should get 5.
You can place the packets directly into the oven on the oven rack OR you can place them on a large cookie sheet. You may have to squish things around to get them to fit if you use a cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Carefully open one packet (steam will come out) and prick the potatoes with a fork - they should be tender. If not, reseal and continue cooking until they are done.

I serve them in the tinfoil packages on top of a plate. You can scoop the contents directly onto a plate if you prefer. 
I put them on a cookie sheet just in case one springs a leak - it saves having to clean up the oven. You don't need to though if you are careful not to tear the tinfoil. I also serve them in the tinfoil because that means your plate won't be dirty either - it just gives them more stability. 
Don't like carrots and Brussels sprouts? Use green beans, turnips, beets, broccoli, cauliflower.... you have a lot of choices here. This is one of my favorite meals to cook when it is a particularly busy day. You can make the packets up ahead of time and refrigerate them until ready to cook. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Fresh Cherry Cake

Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. "Old fashioned" comes to mind. No fancy schmancy ingredients, no expensive equipment needed, just some fresh fruit and a few minutes to whip up. 
This cherry cake is definitely one of those recipes. 
A lovely vanilla cake with fresh cherries that is moist and crumbly and perfect for brunch, or dessert, or with a glass of wine for watching movies! It also freezes very well so you can make it up in advance if need be. Don't have cherries? Sub in blueberries or raspberries or even some chocolate chips and pecans (just leave out the lemon zest). Personally I love the texture of the fresh cherries though.

Fresh Cherry Cake

1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, halved and pitted
2 Tbsp sugar 
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla (or seeds from one vanilla bean)
zest of one lemon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup milk

icing sugar for dusting

Prepare cherries - Toss together the cherries, sugar, and vanilla. Place in a strainer in the sink and let sit for an hour to drain.
Prepare cake - Preheat oven to 350. Line a 10 inch spring-form pan with parchment paper, spraying sides with cooking spray, set aside. 
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. 
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, alternating with the milk. Beat until just combined. 
Stir in the cherries.

Spread into the prepared 10 inch pan.

Bake at 350 until top is golden and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean - about 30 - 40 minutes. 

Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes before removing cake from the pan. Let sit on wire rack to cool completely. 

If desired you can sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar. I don't usually - I find it sweet enough without. 

This cake is sturdy enough to be packed in a lunch kit and, as there isn't any frosting, is a bit easier to keep. Cover and store at room temp or in the fridge. I would try to eat it within 2 to 3 days at the most. You can freeze it if you need it to last longer. 
You can, of course, frost it with a vanilla or lemon frosting or even a glaze but I don't find it needs one. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Pineapple Coconut Cake

Pineapple and coconut may seem a bit out of place in November but I say there is no better time to have them! It's cold, it's rainy, it's a stay under the covers watching movies kind of month BUT if we add a little pineapple and coconut it's like summer is here again.
Okay. Maybe not. But, it doesn't hurt to try. 
Plus... you get to eat delicious cake sooooo pretty much worth your time regardless of if it makes the sun shine again or not. 

Pineapple Coconut Cake

3 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
5 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter, room temp
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup flaked coconut

Pineapple Filling
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups drained, crushed pineapple (reserve juice)
1/2 cup butter, room temp

4 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp pineapple juice (more if needed)

1 cup toasted coconut

Prepare Cake - Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray 3 - 9 inch pans with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper, set aside.
In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy, scraping sides of bowl as needed. beat in eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Beat in vanilla and coconut extracts. 
Alternately beat in the flour and buttermilk until well mixed - scrape the sides of the bowl between each addition. 
Divide the batter between the 3 prepared pans.
Bake at 350 until toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean - about 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting cakes onto wire racks to cool completely. 

Prepare Pineapple Filling - Add the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and pineapple to a pan. Whisk well. Add in the butter and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and, stirring constantly, add in 1/4 cup of the reserved pineapple juice, simmer 5 minutes to thicken, then remove from heat and let cool completely. 
Prepare Frosting - in a mixing bowl, beat together icing sugar, vanilla, and pineapple juice until spreading consistency. Add in more juice if too firm, or more icing sugar, if too runny. 
Assemble Cake - Place one layer of cake on a serving platter. Scoop frosting into a piping bag (or plastic bag) and pipe a ring of icing around the rim of the cake. Spread half of the cooled pineapple filling in the center of the cake, spreading to meet the icing. (See photo below for clarification)

Place a second layer of cake on top and repeat the ring of frosting and the rest of the pineapple filling. Top with the last layer of cake. 
Pipe (or spread) the last of the frosting on top of the cake.

Lastly, top with the toasted coconut.

Unfortunately this cake disappeared so quickly I didn't get a chance to take a photo of it sliced. I like the "naked" look of the cake that comes from not frosting the sides. If you want to frost the sides I would recommend doubling the frosting recipe so you have enough. You could then press toasted coconut on to the sides too, if you wanted to. 
Pineapple and coconut is a classic pairing that is sure to have your guests coming back for more. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Lightened Up Chicken Lasagna Rolls

Lasagna always seem to take so much prep time; which is why I think I rarely make it. 
This recipe, like most lasagna, does take a bit of fuss to make BUT, like most lasagna, it is also totally delicious. I healthied up our usual lasagna by using ground chicken, whole wheat pasta, and partly skim cheese and you would never know. I polled the family to see what they thought and not one of them guessed it wasn't the usual lasagna! 
I know that it is a pain in the butt to make lasagna but this recipe is so nicely portioned and is great for dinner parties because you can make it ahead of time and just pop it in the oven when ready -  meaning no clean up while your guests are there. 

Lightened Up Chicken Lasagna Rolls

Meat Sauce
1 lb ground chicken
1 can PrimoThick and Zesty Garlic and Herb tomato sauce
(or approx 2 1/2 cups of tomato sauce)

Lasagna Rolls
300 gr (~10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and drained
15 oz (~1 3/4 cup) partly skim ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesan (light)
3/4 cup shredded, partly skim mozza cheese (DIVIDED)
1 egg
salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
9 Catelli Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles

Prepare Meat Sauce - In a frying pan, cook the ground chicken until no longer pink, breaking up into crumbly pieces as you cook it. Add in the tomato sauce and heat through. Remove from heat. Scoop one cup of the meat sauce into an oven safe 9 X 9 pan. Set aside. 

Prepare Rolls - In a mixing bowl, stir together frozen spinach, ricotta, parmesan, 1/4 cup of the mozza, egg, salt & pepper, garlic, and onion until well combined.

Cook the whole wheat noodles according to package directions and then pat dry. In the mixing bowl, separate the filling into 9 equal amounts (about 1/3 of a cup each) 
Place a noodle on the counter and spread 1/9th of the filling evenly on the noodle.

Roll up and place, seam side down, in the pan with the meat sauce.
Repeat with remaining 8 noodles.

Top the rolls with the remaining meat sauce and then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of mozza cheese. 

Now, you can either cover and place in the fridge until ready to bake OR preheat oven to 350 and place in the oven (uncovered). 
Bake at 350 until heated through and cheese is melted, about 40 minutes. If you have chilled it before hand it will take closer to an hour to cook. 

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 

I love these for dinners because they are so nicely portioned out already. Plus, because you've done the prep before hand, you only have one pan to wash. 

See, can't even tell it's chicken. 

Throw a salad on the side and you've got yourself a meal. You could also add some garlic bread too. It's a great accompaniment. 
According to Myfitnesspal one serving (recipe makes 9) is - 310 calories, 29 carbs, 10 fat, 27 protein, 4 fiber, and 8 sugar. This will vary of course depending on brands you use, etc... 
These rolls also freeze quite well to reheat later. Just pop in the microwave for 5 minutes and *voila* done. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Reindeer Candy

Don't ask why this is called reindeer candy. All we know is that our Aunty Pat called it reindeer candy and she is the one who made this for us growing up. Every Christmas time she would whip up a batch of this magical treat and we would eat soooooo much of it! I have memories of her sitting on her couch cutting it and wrapping each piece in wax paper while we would sneak in and steal a piece. 
As we grew older she would always make sure to send us a package in the mail filled with a bag of reindeer candy. A tradition we miss dearly since her passing. 
This year I was missing my aunt and happened to go through a pile of old recipes she had sent me and came across this one. I knew I had to give it a try. Word of advice - get yourself a candy thermometer. You need to get it to the right stage for it to be justright

Aunty Pat's Reindeer Candy

1 cup corn syrup 
1 tin (300 ml) Eagle Brand condensed milk 
1 cup butter
4 1/2 cups brown sugar

Prepare a pan that is approx 12 X 15 by greasing VERY well with butter. NOTE - I rolled up some tinfoil and placed it on my 12 X 17 cookie sheet as a wall to get it to a smaller size and held it in place with clips. The exact size of the pan can vary, it just means your candy will be a bit thicker or thinner. It will stick to the pan if it is not completely greased so grease it well.
Prepare caramel - Place all ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. 

Stir constantly until candy thermometer is in the area between soft ball stage and firm ball stage (approximately 245 F or 117 C). Basically, it is done when it just comes off soft ball stage by a degree or two. 

Immediately pour it onto the prepared pan.

Set somewhere to cool completely. You can place in a fridge to speed up the process, if desired. Be careful handling the pan, it will be hot from the candy!
Once it is completely cool, I ran a large spatula under it to free it from the pan and then flipped it onto some wax paper on a cutting board to make it easier to cut. 
Cut the candy into approximately 1 inch strips.

Then cut each strip into approximately 8 pieces. 

Roll each of the pieces into a smooth log shape (kind of like a tootsie roll)

Wrap each piece in a square of wax paper.

And the twist the ends to hold it in place.

Repeat until all candy is wrapped. I got 120 pieces (10 dozen) from one batch. You may want to recruit some help for this - it can take a while. (NOTE - you can, of course, cut them into any sized piece you like! This is how I cut them to get 10 dozen) 

Rolling it into a log is not necessary but this is how our aunt used to do it so this is how we do it.
You could just wrap it in the flat shapes you get when you cut it. 

This is THE BEST Christmas candy ever. Ok, it's not necessarily just for Christmas BUT it totally is for us. Getting it to just the right stage is the secret to perfect gooey caramels. 

Just passed soft ball stage is where you want it. From when I put it on the stove to start cooking to the time I took it off the heat was 16 minutes exactly. DO NOT only go by the time though! Many things can affect how fast caramel cooks. Get a candy thermometer! If you boil it to the firm ball stage or hard ball stage your candy will be rock hard (think: brittle, not gooey). Which is still delicious but not as much fun to eat. 

Aunty Pat's reindeer candy might be known to you by a different name but to us it will always be Aunty Pat's Reindeer Candy. It's funny how only 4 ingredients can create such a wonderful memory of a truly beautiful human being. 

We're sharing over at Carole's Chatter. Be sure to pop over and say Hi!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Beaver Tails

Until now I had never tried a beaver tail. What is a beaver tail, you ask?
Basically it is a hand stretched wheat dough that is deep fried and then tossed in cinnamon sugar. A Canadian classic dessert. They are called beaver tails because, obvs, they look like a beaver's tail. 
Deep fried dough? Sign me up. No need to tell me anything more. I'll try it. 
They are delicious, in case you are wondering. Like a donut but thinner and crispier. Definitely putting these on my favorites list. 

Beaver Tails

1/2 cup hot water
5 tsp instant yeast (not quick rise)
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
4 - 5 cups flour

1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Oil for deep frying

Prepare dough - stir together the hot water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes for yeast to bloom.
Add in the warm milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs, oil, and 3 cups of flour. Mix to form sticky dough. Add in enough flour to form a stiff yet soft dough that is not sticky. 
Place in oiled bowl in a warm place, covered, and let rise for 40 minutes. 
After dough has risen, pour oil into a large pot and bring up to 360 degrees. 
While oil is heating, separate dough into 16 equal sized balls. Roll each ball into a long oval and then score to look like a beaver tail. (2 lines vertically, 3 lines horizontally should do it). See photo below for clarification. 

Place the beaver tail on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue until all balls have been shaped and scored. 
Prepare cinnamon sugar - in a large shallow dish, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. 
When all tails are ready and oil is at temperature; gently stretch the dough again before placing in oil. Two tails should fit together in the pot. Cook each side for 1 minute, until golden.

Remove from oil and let drain on paper towel for a minute. Then toss each tail in the cinnamon sugar. 

Let cool. Continue with remaining beaver tails. *Remember to gently stretch the dough before placing it in the oil.* Do your best to ensure the oil stays at around 360 degrees to ensure even cooking. 

Best eaten the same day they are made. 

Crispy exterior, light and fluffy interior! 
You can also top them with crazy things - nutella and banana slices, maple butter, strawberries and whipped cream. So many options.