Monday, April 14, 2014

Millionaire Bars

withinthekitchen.blogspot.com
If your family is anything like ours, your family calendar is bursting at the seams - between all the kids' activities like  play-dates, soccer, swimming, homework, homework and more homework, violin practice, track and field,  not to mention the occasional workout for yourself, work, appointments etc etc - there is not always time for family dinners! And family dinners that are relaxed, homemade and without pressure to get somewhere else are even more rare.

To combat all this craziness, we try to have a bit more of an old school family dinner on Saturday or Sunday. Each week dessert duty goes to a different family member. The rules are it has to be homemade - no store bought cake/cookies etc. This idea has been a true hit with the kids! My 7 and 9 year olds love planning what they are going to create, shopping for the ingredients and the actual baking of their masterpiece dessert. It's also a good opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with the kids since adult supervision is still needed at their age.

Last week, my daughter made these absolutely fabulous millionaire bars or homemade Twix bars. This dessert looks more complicated than it really is so it's perfect for little hands. And let's face it - chocolate, caramel and shortbread? It's a trifecta of goodness!
withinthekitchen.blogspot.com
Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe. The bars can be cut in any size desired so you can easily get anywhere from 12 huge bars to 50 small bars.


Ingredients

1 cup butter, unsalted, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
pinch of salt

2 cups caramels
4 tbsp whipping cream

3 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Prepare pan by cutting a 9 x 15 inch piece of parchment.
Place it so the extra over hangs.
Spray with baking spray and set aside.

Crust

  1. Using a stand mixer, beat butter, salt and icing sugar at medium speed until well combined. 
  2. Add vanilla and combine. 
  3. Add flour on low speed until it starts to come together.
  4. Increase speed to medium and continue to mix until dough comes together and is smooth.
  5. Gently spread dough into the pan and pat with fingers to get it into the corners.
  6. Prick the batter base multiple times with a fork.
  7. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until edges are golden.
  8. Place on cooling rack.
  9. Set side to cool completely.

Caramel Layer

  1. On low heat, melt the caramels and cream.
  2. Pour over cooled base.
  3. Place in fridge for 15 minutes to set slightly.

Chocolate Layer

  1. Over very low heat, stir constantly and melt the chocolate chips in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Pour over caramel layer.
  3. Return to fridge to cool and set for 4 hours or overnight.

To serve

  1. Run a knife around the edges of the pan.
  2. Carefully pull the dessert out by lifting it out by the parchment over hang.
  3. Cut into desired sizes. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cardamom Vanilla Tea

withinthekitchen.blogspot.com

So simple, so good.

A former work colleague of mine would occasionally bring a cup of this delicious tea into work for me. Her husband makes her a cup every morning!

Makes 2 cups of tea.

Ingredients

1.5 cups water
1 cup milk
2 black tea bags
2-3 cardamom pods
1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan.
  2. Simmer for 20 – 30 mins. 
  3. You can also add a little bit of fresh ginger if desired. Enjoy!
withinthekitchen.blogspot.com

Friday, April 4, 2014

Peanut Butter Cocoa Smoothie



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Did you know a Canadian was the first to patent peanut butter?
In 1884, Marcellus Gilmore Edson (February 7, 1849 - March 6, 1940) from Montreal, Quebec was issued a patent for peanut butter. According to Wikipedia, “His cooled product had 'a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment' according to his patent application. He included the mixing of sugar into the paste so as to harden its consistency.”
As a child of the 70s, I grew up on Kraft dinner, lime soda and peanut butter and often watched The Six Million Dollar Man, Little House on the Prairie, & MASH. I'm sure there were healthier foods and other shows but that's what I remember. I also remember sometimes being allowed to eat dinner on our collapsible TV trays! Those were the days :)
Speaking of peanut butter, I don't eat it as much anymore but occasionally use it in my smoothies, including this one. When made with plain yogurt this smoothie has a tangy flavour that reminds me of sour cream ganache. If you use vanilla yogurt it will be milder and sweeter. Originally, I was going for a peanut butter cup type of flavour only to discover that I was running out of peanut butter so I went for more cocoa flavor. But feel free to add as much peanut butter as you want!

The great thing about this smoothie is that it will satisfy your sweet tooth and your chocolate craving at the same time - without the extra refined sugar and fat found in a chocolate bar or milkshake!
Makes 3 small smoothies.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp cocoa
2/3 cup yogurt - plain or vanilla
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 medium banana
6 ice cubes

Instructions

Place everything in a blender or Nutribullet and blend until smooth.

Monday, March 31, 2014

No Bake Avocado Lime Cheesecake



My workplace is filled with amazing people, many of whom have a keen interest in food and great cooking talent. Last year, we created a company dessert "bake-off" competition (I'm happy to say I won). It was such a success that we decided to do it again this year. Each week we have a different theme - avocado, chocolate, marshmallow, quinoa, banana etc. Up to five people create their best recipe using the featured ingredient and it's judged by three colleagues. After all of the weekly competitions are completed, the weekly winners then make their best dessert for a no restrictions final bake-off. They can bake anything their hearts desire and it's judged by every person in the office. The baker with the most votes takes the title of master baker! 

I'm in the avocado category this year and I'm competing against some incredibly talented bakers. I was going to go with chocolate and avocado but instead I'm going for something lighter tasting and citrusy. The only problem with avocado is that it is hard to create something that showcases the flavour of avocado because ...well...it doesn't have a strong, distinct flavour. It does however have a great creamy texture that goes well with cream cheese. The lime definitely is the star flavour here and if I didn't tell you there was avocado in it you might not figure it out. But when I tell you it's in there, you  say "oh yeah" because you can taste it if you know to look for it. The toasted coconut goes so well with the lime and adds another layer of texture to the dessert. 

This will make a great summer dessert since it requires NO baking! And it kinda reminds me of a lime margarita (one of my favorite summer drinks)... bring on summer!!

Update: Wow, what an amazing group of competitors and desserts! I'm glad I wasn't a judge because picking a winner would have been difficult. I didn't win this round :( but the winner was a truly deserving avocado pie! The other entries included an avocado Pop-Tart and an avocado crème brûlée - both of which were fabulous!


Ingredients

You need a 9x9 baking dish.

Crust

1-1/4 c graham crackers
1/4 c coconut
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Combine all three ingredients in a mixing bowl. 
  2. Press into pan (as compactly as possible).

Cheesecake

2 large avocados, peeled and pitted (about 1.5 - 2 cups )
1/2 c granulated sugar (can add up to 2 tbsp more if not sweet enough for your taste)
1 c whipping cream
1-1/2 tbsp gelatin powder
1/2 c water, divided
1 c vanilla or plain yogurt
1 lb cream cheese
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime

toasted coconut for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer, cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  2. Mix gelatin with 1/4 c of water. Add 1/4 c boiling water and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside.
  3. In food processor, puree avocados and lime juice until smooth.
  4. Add avocado mixture to the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
  5. Turn mixer on medium low and slowly add the gelatin.
  6. Add the yogurt and lime zest and mix to combine.
  7. In another mixing bowl, whip the whipping cream with hand beaters until soft peaks form.
  8. Using a spatula, fold in the whipping cream into the cream cheese mixture and combine well.
  9. Pour on top of crust.
  10. Smooth the top with a spatula.
  11. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours until set.
  12. When ready to serve, cut into 16 squares.
  13. Plate and top with a teaspoon or so of toasted coconut.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sandwiches



"I scream , you scream, we all scream for ice cream!" How many times have you heard or said that line? Did you know it was actually a hit song from the late 1920s? I didn't but here is recording:



And let me tell you, I would scream for these ice cream sandwiches! Oh man, these are good! The chewy, fudgy brownie layer and the creamy, chocolaty ice cream are perfect together. Kids and adults will rave about this dessert treat. 

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Ingredients

2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half and half
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Freeze ice cream maker bowl according to manufacturer's directions (usually 24 hours before you make the ice cream).
  2. Split vanilla bean and scrape out vanilla seeds. Place in medium sauce pan with whipping cream and half and half. Heat sauce pan over medium heat. Watch carefully and stir often until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and add sugar until combined.
  4. Temper the egg mixture. This means, slowly whisk in about a 1/3 cup of the simmered cream to the eggs. Repeat two more times. 
  5. Add the rest of the cream to the egg mixture.
  6. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and place on low heat. Using a thermometer heat the custard until it reaches 170 degrees F.
  7. Remove from heat and let sit for about 30 minutes. 
  8. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  9. Place custard in ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.
  10. After 25 minutes of churning add the mini chocolate chips. (If your ice cream maker seems too full to add chips, wait another 5 minutes until ice cream is done and then add them by hand when you remove ice cream from maker).
  11. Continue to churn for another 5-10 minutes.
  12. Scrape out ice cream into freezable dish. 
  13. It will be soft - if you prefer it more frozen just place in freezer for a few hours.

Brownie Layers

This recipe is adapted from Michael Smith brownie recipe. 

Ingredients:
  • 1 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably pure)

What to do:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour a 11 x 17 inch pan. Note: I use extra cocoa instead of flour so there is no white flour color on the brownies when baked.
  • Melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir until smooth and remove from heat to cool.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
  • Once melted chocolate mixture has a cooled a bit, add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir well.
  • Add the chocolate mixture to the flour bowl and mix until incorporated.
  • Spread batter evenly into the pan.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.
  • Cool completely.

Sandwich Assembly

I made my sandwiches about two inches wide by 4 inches long but you can cut them into any size you desire.
  1. Cut the brownie layers into desired sizes.
  2. Place ice cream layer next. (If ice cream is too hard just let it sit for a few minutes to soften.)
  3. Place brownie layer to finish.
  4. Press down lightly to make sure they stick.
  5. Place them back on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard. 
  6. Wrap if desired.

Note: You could also just cut the sheet of brownie in half, spread the ice cream, top with the other half of brownie and freeze. Once frozen you would cut the sandwiches into desired size.







Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Raisins




I love oatmeal cookies, do you? These are buttery, chocolatey and semi-healthy thanks to the whole wheat flour and oats. Your kids will love to find them in their lunch bags and you'll love them as a coffee break snack :)

Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies.

Ingredients

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup regular all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups mini chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
3 cups rolled oats
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In another large bowl whisk together flours, baking soda, oats, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugars for 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time to butter mixture. Beat for 30 seconds per egg and scrape down sides of bowl after each addition.
  5. Mix in vanilla. Beat for another 30 seconds.
  6. Add flour mixture and combine until just mixed.
  7. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chips and raisins.
  8. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment or silpat.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  10. Cool for 5 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Watermelon Salad


Vancouver had its first day of sunshine and spring-like weather this week and even though it's chilly today, I'm ready for a new season, new garden and new things to plant. The kids want to plant watermelons this year - though not sure we could pull it off with our short summers. I'm leaning more towards squash, tomatoes, beans, carrots and maybe a few beets. But since I had watermelon on the brain, we made this great salad. The saltiness of the olives goes really well with the sweet watermelon and creamy feta (we used Macedonian feta). I topped it with a store bought balsamic glaze - but you could make your own by reducing a bottle of balsamic vinegar.


Makes 4 side salads

Ingredients

1 mini-watermelon or 3 cups, cubed or scooped out with melon baller
1 cup yellow tomatoes (cherry tomato sized), halved
1/2 cup feta, crumbled or cut into cubes
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
handful of chopped basil
2-3 tbsp balsamic reduction

Instructions

Lightly combine all fruit, veggies and feta in serving bowl(s). Drizzle with balsamic reduction.
Serve immediately.