I have two current obsessions: making loaves of quick bread and buying unique or pretty dishes to add to my collection.
One obsession makes my family happy. The other gets me into trouble because we’re running out of cupboard space to put all of the dishes.
There are just so many reasons to make a loaf of quick bread: it’s a great way to use up ripe bananas; it packs up nicely as a school or work snack; they make great gifts; and you can mix up all the ingredients and pop it into the oven in five to ten minutes. Although I think my favourite reason is the way the house smells when you’re baking a loaf—it takes you right back to childhood.
With any luck, the loaves will keep my husband in a sugar coma long enough that he’ll stay out of our overflowing cupboards and won’t discover all the new dishes I’ve bought recently. Although I think it’s too late—my friend Nancy was commenting on the weekend about all the new dishes she’s noticed in my recent posts.
Okay then, I guess my best bet is to win him over with the cost savings of the Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf. The girls absolutely love the version that you get at Starbucks—but a family visit to Starbucks these days comes close to setting you back as much as your monthly iPhone bill if everyone splurges on a drink and a snack. That was the incentive for coming up with this version of Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf, as I’d much rather
spend my spare money on dishes save money to pay down our mortgage.
If that doesn’t work, there’s always Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. My oldest daughter started requesting a new version of banana bread . . . she was getting sick of my Butterscotch Chip Wholewheat Banana Bread. That lead to thinking that I needed to try the coconut oil that I’ve been reading about all over the blogsphere in my recipe. Have you tried baking with it yet?
If not, you really should. I reckon that it’s better for you than broccoli—and it tastes a lot better too. According to Dr. Oz, it can help our bodies resist illness-causing viruses and bacteria; boost thyroid function helping to increase metabolism, energy and endurance; increase digestion and help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins; and help fight off yeast, fungus and candida.
I’m meeting my friend Eva tomorrow after work to go shopping at Tap Phong Trading Company in Chinatown. It’s a great place to buy dishes and cooking utensils at great prices. Do you think I need to bake another loaf this week?
Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (measured solid)
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9 ½“ x 5 ½“ loaf pan
- Mix dry ingredients (flours, salt, sugar and baking soda) in small bowl and set aside.
- Mix wet ingredients (bananas, egg, melted coconut oil and vanilla) in large bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and shredded coconut until incorporated.
- Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
- Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup oil
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup milk (I use 1%)
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/3 cup poppy seeds
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp milk
- Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9 ½“ x 5 ½“ loaf pan
- Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and baking powder) in small bowl and set aside.
- Mix wet ingredients (oil, sour cream, milk, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla) in large bowl. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Add poppy seeds.
- Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
- Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow loaf to cool completely. Mix drizzle ingredients in small bowl and spoon glaze over bread.
“There are no words to describe how good this is,” said my husband after just one bite of the Nutella Molten Lava Cakes that I made for a dinner party over the holidays. One of the ponytails was quick to follow up with: “This is the best dessert ever!”
So, it is without hesitation that I recommend this recipe to you as one to make when you want to impress and delight your dinner guests. Your guests will love the luscious chocolately goodness that oozes onto your plate and melts in your mouth. You will love how easy it is to make.
Now, I have to say that I’m all for making my husband happy these days. He really hit the ball out of the park on Christmas morning with a beautiful new automated cappaccino maker and the Larousse Gastronomique Culinary Encyclopedia. Both items were a complete surprize, as I had forgotten all about the book recommendations that many of you left on the blog post for my book giveaway in November. I owe a special thanks to Tandy from Lavender and Lime for recommending this book. It’s nice to know that my husband reads the blog, isn’t it?
From what I’ve read so far, this book is a must-have for foodies. Packed with recipes, tips and detailed explanations, it is regarded as the French cooking bible. In fact, Julia Child once wrote, “If I were allowed only one reference book in my library, Larousse Gastronomique would be it, without question.”
I’m sure that this book will successfully keep me out of trouble for countless hours this year and I promise to share a few highlights with you.
In the meantime, I’ll be able to keep up with working by day and blogging by night thanks to my convenient new source of caffeine! (I must tell you that I’m addicted to cappuccinos!)
Our dinner guests Tammy and Les asked for the recipe for these Nutella Molten Lava Cakes, so this post is really for them. They both enjoyed these molten lava cakes and liked that the recipe is no fuss, no muss. (The microwave conveniently melts the butter, chocolate chips and Nutella for you and then you just have to stir in the remaining ingredients.) The recipe is from my new favourite cookbook Savory Sweet Life, which my mom gave me for Christmas along with Ina Garten’s Foolproof. I’d say all around I’m a pretty lucky foodie, wouldn’t you? (Remember, my husband reads this blog . . .)
Nutella Molten Lava Cakes
Makes 12 cakes; recipe from Savory Sweet Life
10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1- 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whole hazelnuts, toasted
fresh strawberry slices
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
- Place the butter, chocolate chips and Nutella in a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 60 seconds, and then in three 30-second increments, stirring it until smooth after each interval. Stir the flour and confectioners’ sugar into the chocolate-butter mixture. Mix in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are firm but the centres are still soft.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 3 minutes to set up. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes and invert them onto a cutting board. Transfer each cake to a serving plate. Lightly dust confectioners’ sugar over each one, followed by a dollop of Nutella, a hazelnut and strawberry half (optional).
- Molten lava batter can be made up to a week in advance. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and cover it with plastic wrap. Store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake them. Set the muffin tin on the counter while the oven is preheating. The baking time will be the same.
- Because I only needed six of these cakes for my dinner party, I scooped the batter for six cakes into my muffin tin to cook that day and the remaining batter into six small ramekins to store in the fridge for a later date. This worked well. I just found that the cakes in the ramekins needed to cook for a minute or two longer than they day that I first made them.
My friend Eva (at KitchenInspirations) and I have been joking around for a while now that we should start a blog called Fifty Shades of Grey Cooks. I guess that it was only a matter of time before someone connected this literary phenomenon with cooking. It was bound to happen. So, really I wasn’t that surprized when I saw this book in the window of an Indigo Bookstore this week:
A quick google search revealed a few of the recipes that this recently-released book has in store: mustard spanked chicken and learning to truss you. Hmmm, I wonder if my spatchcocked chicken recipe made the cut?
I’m not sure if Fifty Shades of Chicken is going to be on my Christmas list, but this cookbook definitely is:
In fact, I’m positive that my mom is going to get it for me because I found it hidden in the room where she stays when she comes to visit. I couldn’t resist having a peek at the book, and well, when I saw the recipe for Salted Caramel Brownies, I knew that I couldn’t wait until Christmas to make them. Fortunately, the recipe is already online so there aren’t any chocolate smears on the book to give my secret away. (But, please don’t tell my mom that I was snooping!)
The brownies were just as good as I imagined that they would be. They combine Ina’s outrageous brownies with caramel and salt, so really, how can you go wrong?
I’m really excited that I have this book to look forward to. But I’m not sure what other cookbook I should add to my Christmas list. Any suggestions? My husband reads this blog and he never knows what to get me, so I’d really love it if you could point him in the right direction by leaving your cookbook suggestions in my comment section.
Blogiversary Cookbook Giveaway
In fact, as a little incentive, if you make a cookbook recommendation or just leave a comment, you’ll be entered into a draw to win a cookbook. I’m in the mood to celebrate, since my one year blogiversary is coming up next week (Nov. 19). The winner will have a choice of either Fifty Shades of Chicken or Ina Garten’s Foolproof cookbook — I’ll contact you if you win and you can decide which book you’d like. If you also sign up to subscribe to my email updates from now until Nov. 19th, you’ll be entered a second time.
You can enter until November 19 at 12:00 EST. The draw will take place on November 20th — the winner will be drawn manually by one of the ponytails.
Even if you haven’t read the Fifty Shades books, you really must watch the trailer for Fifty Shades of Chicken by clicking here.
Salted Caramel Brownies
Slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Foolproof
- ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces plus 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1 1/3 cups + 1 cup)
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 3 extra-large eggs
- ½ tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 to 6 ounces of caramel sauce (see note below)
- 1 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt (I used 1 ½ tsp fleur de sel)
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9” x 13” baking pan.
Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature (see note).
In a medium bowl, sift together ½ cup of the flour, the baking powder, and salt and add to the chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake.
As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in a microwave and heat just until it’s pourable. Stir until smooth. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt. Cool completely and cut into (12) bars or more, according to your preference.
- When making the brownies, it is important to ensure that the batter cools before adding the chocolate chips, otherwise the chips will melt and ruin the batter.
- Ina uses a 9′ x 12″ pan, but I find that the 9″ x 13″ pan is standard here in Canada. The 9″ x 13″ worked perfectly!
- Ina suggests using true caramel sauce rather than dulce de leche, which has a lot of milk or cream added. She uses Fran’s. (www.franschocolates.com).
- I used Lyons Caramel Sauce ,which I bought at Pusateri’s. I also really like Starbuck’s caramel sauce, which I have used for years.
- If you have trouble finding caramel sauce, you can make your own. Please see fellow blogger A. Boleyn’s recipe here.
- One 350 g bag of chocolate chips is approximately 12.7 ounces. Sissi, you’ll be happy to know that I finally bought a scale!
- I adapted the recipe by reducing the amount of coffee and increasing the amount of vanilla to make these ponytail-friendly.
- The giveaway is sponsored by me, not a publisher!
So, what’ll it be Fifty Shades of Chicken or Foolproof?
Our dishwasher has been broken for two weeks now, and so I get a “look” from my husband whenever I start baking. He likes to point out that cooking is my hobby, but doing dishes is not his. Although, he looks super cute with a towel over his shoulders at the sink, doesn’t he?
And, for the record, I help with the dishes too! Anyway, I know that by now you must think I have a bad case of muffin fever, since it seems like only yesterday that I posted my Apple and Dried Cherry Mini Muffins. But I really just had to share. The double-batch of these charming little pumpkin lovlies that I made this weekened is almost all gone . . . and that now makes for eight batches (and counting) in less than a month.
I love the fact that these are “skinny” muffins. Made with only two tablespoons of canola oil and just the egg whites, these muffins are sooooooo moist. Of course, I made them mini and nut-free so they are lunch-box friendly.
If you have a few pumpkins that you’d like to use up, see the directions for making pumpkin puree from Sawsan at Chef in Disguise here.
For the pumpkin muffin recipe, go to SkinnyTaste.com
But first, promise me that you won’t go and buy pumpkin pie spice! It is so easy to make and you likely have all the ingredients in your cupboard.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon all spice
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
Mix all of the spices together in a bowl until well combined and there are no lumps; store in a spice jar. You can double or triple the recipe according to your baking needs.
Yield: The recipe above makes just under 3 tablespoons.
- I replaced the pecans with raisins in the SkinnyTaste.com recipe and topped them with a sprinkling of raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds). I also used regular white sugar, rather than raw sugar.
- I made mini muffins rather than regular size and baked them for 15 minutes at 350°; yield approx. 30 muffins.
- In Canada, the pure pumpkin comes in a 796 ml size. It makes two batches perfectly, so a double-batch is a good way to make sure that you don’t throw the other half of puree out, isn’t it?
If apple pie is comfort food, then cinnamon crumble apple pie—served warm with ice cream and caramel sauce—is the equivalent of wearing your favourite warm cozy sweater, while having a foot massage and being served a martini. Well, I think so anyway.
I wish that I could take credit for it . . . that the recipe was an old family secret or my own creation. But I can’t. I found the recipe in Bon Appetite magazine in 2003 and I’ve been making it ever since.
This pie was the “jumping off point” (as the designers from all of those HGTV shows I’m addicted to always like to say), for a dinner party I hosted on Saturday. I started with the pie and built the menu around it, with other dishes that felt appropriate for fall.
However, the pie was the only “tried and true” recipe on the menu. I also made a pork loin stuffed with baby spinach, prosciutto, and dried apricots—but I had never made it before. I know that is breaking the rule of make what you know when having company for dinner. I was hoping that if didn’t turn out, I could divert the attention away from my failure by serving lots of wine and finishing off with this apple pie. I think everything turned out okay though . . . hopefully my guests didn’t have to stop at McDonalds on the way home???
We enjoyed a lovely evening with my work colleagues and their families. (I’m fortunate to work with a group of people who I really like!) The ponytails did an amazing job of taking our charming three-year old guest, Miss A, under their wings. In fact, I think it was one of the smoothest dinner parties we’ve ever had, as there was quite a long stretch at the “adult table” where I forgot the kids were even there! (You’ve gotta like that.) The only thing missing was the other members of our team who live and work in Ottawa.
How about you? Do you ever try new recipes when you’re having company?
Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie
Recipe from Bon Appetit
- 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup frozen solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 1/4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Vanilla ice cream
- Caramel sauce
- Mix flour, salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter and shortening; rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms. Mix 3 tablespoons ice water and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Drizzle over flour mixture; stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 30 minutes.
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch; turn edge under and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate while preparing filling and topping.
- Mix all ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.
- Toss filling to redistribute juices; transfer to crust, mounding in center. Pack topping over and around apples.
Bake pie on baking sheet until topping is golden, about 40 minutes (cover top with foil if browning too quickly). NOTE: I covered the top with foil after about 25 minutes because the pie was browning too quickly.
Serve with ice cream and caramel sauce.
The wonderful thing about kids is the fact that they are unpredictable. The challenging thing about kids is the fact that they are unpredictable.
There are times when I expect a negative reaction to a situation, and my girls will completely surprize me by showing a level of maturity that is beyond their years. Yes (smile), they are unpredictable.
One week something is an all-time favourite. The next week it is the worst thing ever. This is particularly the case when it comes to food. Yes (sigh), they are unpredictable.
But, I find that if you hold your ground, they eventually eat the dish or snack that you made for them. And I think they like it too . . . they just won’t admit it. (They get their stubborn streak from their father.) Otherwise they’d have a very unhealthy and boring food repetoire (think mac & cheese, pizza and grilled cheese). Somedays it wears you down, but it keeps me on my toes as I live in search of recipes that my ponytails will like.
These mini apple muffins went over well last week, which made me very happy since they are made with lots of healthy bits, such as apples, oats, dried cherries and sesame seeds. They were perfect to send to school for snacks, since they are nut-free, but still have some crunch to them from the sesame seeds. I guiltlessly ate quite a few myself because they are made with very little fat–only 2 tablespoons of canola oil for the entire batch. They ranked right up there with the Blueberry and Banana Muffins that I wrote about in my very first post.
I keep wondering how many more years until the girls become more adventurous about their food–the way they were when they were really little and weren’t influenced by the kids menu at restaurants? Is there cause for optimism?
Healthy Apple Breakfast Muffins
Slightly adapted from Style at Home Magazine
- 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
- 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I used 1%)
- 2 cups grated peeled apple
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup fat-free milk (I used 1%)
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tsp pure vanilla
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2/3 firmly packed brown sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup chopped dried cherries
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 375°
- Combine the oats and yogurt in a medium bowl and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Whisk together the apple, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl.
- Add the apple mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir to blend.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- Pour the yogurt mixture over the dry ingredients and sprinkle with the dried cherries and sesame seeds.
- Stir until just combined.
- Spoon the mixture into a mini muffn tin and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are brown. If using regular sized muffin tin, bake for 35 minutes.
- For tips on making mini muffins, see my original post.