Tuesday 21 April 2015

The BEST Brownies

Brownies are amazing!  Nothing beats sinking your teeth into a rich, dense (but moist), oh so perfect brownie.  This tried and true recipe comes from my mother in-law.  I feel like brownies are something that everyone has that perfect recipe for.  I had one of those for years, but it was finally de-throned by this one.

And guess what?  For those non-gluteners in your life.....(it's rampant, I know!)........  This recipe is almost indistinguishable from the original when made with rice flour.  That's right!  THIS RECIPE IS ACTUALLY DELICIOUS GLUTEN FREE!!!!  I'm shouting it because it has me so excited!  I generally find gluten free baking revolting (except my friend Trina's....somehow she's figured it out).  This is not revolting.  It's revolutionizing.

So, here it is....  End your search for a perfect brownie recipe now.

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup all purpose flour (or rice flour, for gluten free)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp butter or margarine
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp honey
1 cup icing sugar
~1 tbsp milk

Preheat your oven to 350F.  In a pot, melt butter.  Add sugar and cocoa and mix well.  Remove from heat and whisk in 2 eggs.  Combine flour, salt and baking powder and combine with the chocolate mixture.  Pour into a greased 8x8 pan, and bake for 25 minutes.  DO NOT OVERBAKE.  No one likes those dry, crusty-on-the- outside brownies.

For the glaze, melt the butter and honey together.  Add cocoa and icing sugar.  The mixture will be very dry.  Add 1 tbsp milk and continue to stir over very low heat until you get a silky, fudgy icing.  If you prefer it thinner, add additional milk, 1 tsp at a time.  Spread over warm brownies.

Eat.  Repeat.

Shut. The. Front. Door.  

You're welcome.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Coconut Cheesecake

It was recently my mom's birthday.  She LOVES coconut.  Coconut, macadamia nuts, pineapple..... basically anything Hawaiian tasting, she loves it.  I wanted to  put together a cheesecake that had all three, but I left it until last minute.  So, I focused on coconut because I almost always have coconut in my house.  Next time I make this I think I'll add some chopped macadamia nuts to the crust, and make some kind of pineapple syrup for the top.  Hopefully that will be a future update here!

I used a pretty basic cheesecake recipe, but subbed coconut cream for what is usually sour cream in my recipes.  Here it is.....

Coconut Cheesecake - serves MANY!  This is RICH!!

-1 and 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
-1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
-1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
-3 packages (~250 g each) cream cheese (I used full fat, but find light works fine too)
-1 cup sugar
-1 and 1/2 tsp coconut extract
-pinch salt
-3/4 cup coconut cream (This is different than coconut milk.  It is thicker, and found with the coconut milk at your grocery store.  DO NOT BUY SWEETENED COCONUT CREAM!!)
-1 Tbsp corn starch
-3 Tbsp milk
-3 eggs
-1/4 cup toasted coconut for topping.

To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix together crumbs, coconut and melted butter, and press into a 9 inch spring form pan.  Press about 1 inch up the sides as well.  Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Start checking at about the 8 minute mark as this will brown quickly.

To make the filling:
While the crust is cooling, beat the 3 packages of cream cheese (it's easiest at room temperature) until light and fluffy.  Add 1 cup sugar, coconut extract and salt and continue beating until smooth.  Add coconut cream and cornstarch which has been whisked together with the 3 tbsp of milk.  Once thoroughly combined, start adding the eggs one at a time, and beat only until they are combined.

Pour into the prepared crust and bake at a lower temperature (approximately 325 degrees) for approximately 60 minutes.  Check at about 55 minutes, and continue baking until the cheesecake is set (up to 65ish minutes).  The center will be slightly jiggly,and this is normal.  It will firm up nicely :)

Let cool completely in the pan, and then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

NOTE:  I do NOT bother with a water bath, as is usually the norm while making a cheesecake.  I like to top this cheesecake with about 1/4 cup of toasted coconut when cool, which hides any small cracks that may form.  Cheesecake is a gamble, even with the water bath.  I've had them crack with a water bath, and then not crack at all without the water bath.  So I just don't bother anymore.  Just have a delightful topping to add and no one even sees the cracks!

I only got one picture of this cheesecake before transferring to my mom's house for the birthday.  I wish I could have got one of it sliced!

Monday 13 April 2015

Easy Chicken Soup

When you need a super quick and easy recipe for a comforting bowl of chicken soup, this is it.  I've made chicken soup many, many times when you toil over the leftover turkey or chicken carcass after the holidays.....and I have to say, it's not really worth all that effort after making this.  

Easy Chicken Soup (serves 4 to 5 people)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large chicken breasts, diced into small cubes 
3 ribs celery,chopped
3 carrots, diced 
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/8 tsp pepper
1 carton chicken broth (approximately 4 cups)
1 cup water
3/4 cup soup noodles

Heat olive oil in a large pot over high heat, and add diced chicken.  Make sure the oil is very hot as you want your chicken pieces to brown and not just steam.  The brown bits will add better flavor to your soup.  Once the chicken pieces have browned, reduce heat to medium and add the celery, carrots and onions.  Cook and stir, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, for approximately 3 minutes.  Add broth, water, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Add the soup noodles, and cook until done (I use fine soup noodles and this takes about 5-7 minutes).  

This soup is a huge hit with both kids.  Well, sort of.  For one I have to remove all "the orange", and the other wants it blended up.  Bah.  So it's actually not a huge hit.  But at least they eat this in some form and I'll take that as a win!

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Cadbury Creme Egg Inspired Cupcakes

I love that any upcoming holiday is a perfect excuse to make a themed cupcake.  Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's, St. Patrick's, Easter.....  Really any day can be turned into a reason to make a cupcake.  Every Easter I indulge in at least one bag of mini creme eggs, and this year was no exception.  This time, I thought I'd incorporate them into a cupcake.

I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe for the cupcakes.  I've raved about it before in my post on Christmas Tree Mini Cake, but here it is again.  It has been adapted from a Taste of Home recipe, found here.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a measuring cup, measure water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Switch to a wire whisk and beat out the majority of the lumps.  Pour the batter into paper lined cupcake tins and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15-18 minutes.  This should yield 15 cupcakes.

When the cupcakes were cool, I piped swirls on them using a Wilton 1M tip, with both white and orange icing added haphazardly to the piping bag.  It resulted in a mixed orangey-yellow and white effect, just like a creme egg!  Here is my favorite quick cupcake icing recipe:

Easy Cupcake Icing 

1/2 cup crisco shortening
1/2 cup butter
4 cups icing sugar - I don't bother sifting
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the crisco and butter together until well mixed.  Add the icing sugar at low speed, one cup at a time, adding 1 tbsp of milk after each addition.  Beat in vanilla at the end.  The linger you beat this frosting , the lighter and fluffier it will be.

I added a whole mini creme egg, some of them split, to the top of each swirl of icing.  These were a delicious treat.  VERY sweet, but oh so yummy!