Tuesday 25 October 2016

Scary Eyeballs

The kids and I took on another project from the 2016 Taste of Home Halloween magazine.  They are loving my continued willingness to make sugary treats in the spirit of Halloween!  I'm loving it too :) Giving these little treats a try also gave me the opportunity to test out another recipe for Taste of Home Tuesday, as hosted by Maureen on Red Cottage Chronicles.  Check out all of the links at the bottom of this post to see what everyone else tried this week!

This recipe definitely didn't disappoint.  Like the Spooky Brownie Haunted House, this would be another perfect treat to bring to a Halloween party.  The recipe made 42 spooky little eyeballs for us, and believe me when I say that a little bit goes a LONG way with this recipe.  They are super sweet, and very rich.  Don't worry though, this isn't a bad thing!  They are bursting with velvety peanut butter filling, but they definitely pack a punch of sugary goodness.

Another advantage to this recipe is that I found that these little treats froze extremely well.  I fully decorated half of the eyeballs with the red gel to take to a friend's house, and then froze the other half without drawing on the red details.   When ready to serve, I just took them out of the freezer, let thaw, and decorated with the red gel.

The kids loved dipping each little ball, and placing the candy. Be prepared for a bit of mess, but that's okay :)

You can find a link to the original recipe, here, or I have copied it, below:

1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
12 ounces white candy coating, chopped
1 tablespoon shortening
40 milk chocolate M&M's, assorted colors
Red decorating gel

1. In a small bowl, cream peanut butter and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Shape into 1-in. balls. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip peanut butter balls into coating; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper. Place M&M's, plain side up, on top. Let stand until set. Use red gel to create "bloodshot" eyes. 

Yield: 40 pieces.

© 2016 RDA Enthusiast Brands, LLC


Taste of Home Tuesday Red Velvet Cheesecake

In celebration of Halloween, Amy's Cooking Adventures is sharing Eyeball Cookies

Ellen from Family Around the Table is sharing Parmesan Chicken Sandwiches

Jolene from Jolene's Recipe Journal is sharing Mama Mia Meatball Taquitos

Maureen at Red Cottage Chronicles is sharing a Cheesecake Factory Inspired Red Velvet Cheesecake

Sunday 23 October 2016

Greek Quinoa Salad

This is hands down one of my favorite salads to whip up for any gathering.  I love every single ingredient that goes into it.  The leftovers are even better the next day....if you're lucky enough to have any!

1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cups canned chickpeas (about one 540 ml can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice (depending on how much you like lemon...I love it!)
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp souvlaki seasoning*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

-In a medium sized saucepan, bring 2 cups vegetable broth to a boil. Add quinoa, cover and reduce to a low simmer. Cook until water is fully absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to fully cool.

-Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, feta, chickpeas, cucumbers, green peppers, onion and parsley. Add cooled quinoa and mix thoroughly.

-Prepare dressing by whisking together lemon juice, olive oil, souvlaki seasoning, garlic, and salt. Pour over prepared quinoa and vegetable mixture and thoroughly combine. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper. 

-This can be served immediately, or for even better flavor, allow to rest for about 2 hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to really combine. 

*I used Epicure souvlaki seasoning, but if you can't find this type of seasoning blend, using about 1 tsp dried oregano and 1 tsp finely chopped fresh mint will give you a similar flavor.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Spooky Brownie Haunted House

Happy Tuesday!  I'm once again participating in Taste of Home Tuesday, as hosted by Maureen from Red Cottage Chronicles.  Take a moment to check out the links at the bottom of this post.  You will find several delicious recipes being made by some very talented cooks who also love all things Taste of Home.  This is a chocolate themed week. A couple of these ladies are also participating in #choctoberfest.  Check it out....I have been following along and there are some mouth-watering recipes being posted!

About a month ago I picked up a copy of Taste of Home's 2016 Halloween Bookazine.  I am such a sucker for these types of holiday magazines.  The pictures are so perfect and everything looks so fun and festive.  The trouble is, most times I just look in awe of it all and rarely actually take any of the projects on.  That, however, is starting to change!  My kids are the perfect age right now for some of this stuff!  They flip through the magazines and ask (and I actually mean beg) me to try these things. This magazine is no exception.  The list of spooky treats on my radar is out of control right now.  Here is our first project:  The Spooky Brownie Haunted House!

Here is a link to the original recipe.  I have copied it, below, with my own comments in italics. 

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules, optional
1-3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vanilla frosting
Chocolate frosting
Paste food coloring
Assorted sprinkles
Assorted candies

-Preheat oven to 325°. Line a 13x9-in. baking pan with foil, letting ends extend up sides. I used parchment paper.  It is one of my fave baking items.

-In a large heavy saucepan, combine sugars, butter, water and, if desired, coffee granules (I used these, as I have found they really deepen the chocolate flavor in other recipes) ; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Cool slightly.

-Whisk eggs until foamy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla; gradually whisk in chocolate mixture. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; stir into chocolate mixture.

-Pour into prepared pan. Bake on a lower oven rack until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs (do not overbake), 30-40 minutes. (Mine were perfect at the 35 minute mark). Cool in pan on a wire rack.

-Lifting with foil (in my case, parchment), remove brownies from pan; let cool completely. Discard foil. Cut off corners of brownie to resemble a house. 

Blank canvas, ready to go.
These are the perfect texture to cut.

If desired, cut scraps into pumpkins and ghosts using cookie cutters. (We made a bat!) Tint frosting as desired with paste food coloring. Decorate brownie house with frosting and candies. Yield: 16 servings.

I must say, this brownie recipe may replace my tried and true.  I can't believe it!  They are exactly what I love in a brownie.  Fudgy, dense, and chewy.  They cook very evenly (I hate when the center is perfect but the edges are dry and crusty....what a waste!!)  Since they were the perfect texture, they were so easy to work with.  They carved very cleanly, and were heavy enough to easily transfer to a prepared board for decoration.  Best of all, they taste SO CHOCOLATY!  

What a perfect dessert for a Halloween gathering!  This would also be a perfect activity for kids to craft at a Halloween party.  Just pre-make a few brownie houses and let the kids decorate in groups.  


Hungry Enough to Eat Six - Chocolate Biscuit Puffs

Jolene's Recipe Journal  -  Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

Family Around The Table  -  Mini Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes

Amy's Cooking Adventures - Ogre Eyes Hot Chocolate

Red Cottage Chronicles - Chocolate Almond Tarts

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Penne Caulifredo

Every once and awhile I buy a cauliflower with the hopes that I'll do something new and exciting with it.  It sits there....in the fridge.....looking sad and lonely.  Usually I end up making a cheesy cauliflower casserole.  It's actually delicious, but it's always the same.   A few nights ago I peered in my fridge and decided to make supper using some of the lonely looking foods.  The cauliflower. Some leftover chicken.  The last bit of a half and half carton.  The result was actually amazing!  This makes a deceivingly rich sauce, and it's actually fairly healthy compared to the alternative full fat cream sauce.

My daughter's review:  "It needs to have spaghetti".  (No shock here, she doesn't ever like penne)
My son's review: "More."  (We had to cut him off after his third bowl as we were pretty sure he was going to eat until he was sick!)

Penne Caulifredo (see what I did there?!  I know, I'm lame...)

4 cups well cooked cauliflower
1/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup half and half (10%) cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
250g dried penne, prepared as per package directions

-Cook penne according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
-Place cauliflower in a medium sized stockpot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and allow to simmer, covered, until it is very soft (about 15 minutes).  Drain and rinse with cool water to bring the temperature down from hot to warm.   Place in blender with the 2% milk, and puree until smooth.
-Chop onion.  Saute in a large skillet with the olive oil until translucent.  Add minced garlic and cook just until fragrant.  Whisk in cauliflower mixture, half and half, salt, and pepper.  Stir in chicken and allow to cook at a low simmer until slightly thickened and chicken is heated through. (This only took me about 2 minutes).  Stir in pasta, parmesan, and fresh parsley.

*If you find the sauce too thick, you can thin out with more milk (to be healthier), OR additional half and half.  The proportions worked just right for me, but you may have different preferences.



Wednesday 5 October 2016

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

The weather is getting colder, and I'm drinking more coffee now throughout the day to warm up and feel cozy.  I'm also already thinking about Christmas cookies, which for some reason always make me think of biscotti.  Biscotti definitely isn't a Christmas cookie, but that seems to be the only time of year I make them.  I made these almond biscotti previously.  Sure enough, it was in December.  I'm already dreaming about an eggnog biscotti that I'd like to create for Christmas. Shockingly, I'm already seeing eggnog in the store!  My favorite brand isn't out yet though, so I'll hold off on testing any eggnog related recipes until I can get my hands on it!

Even though biscotti is a multi-step process, it's so easy.  It's such a nice snack with a warm drink, and I completely forgot how much I love it.  The kids really enjoyed making this batch, likely due to the mini-chocolate chip component.  My little guy even stirred them in this time, which was pretty impressive given how much thicker the batter is than your usual run-of-the-mill cookie.

Here is my super simple chocolate chip biscotti recipe.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Biscotti (yield: approximately 20 cookies):
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (regular sized chips are just too much for these cookies)

-Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
-Add egg and vanilla, and beat until light in color and creamy.
-In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir into the creamed mixture.  Stir in mini chocolate chips.
-Line a baking sheet with parchment, and shape the dough into a log approximately 30 cm long, with about a 2 to 2.5 cm thickness (this will result in about an 8 to 10 cm width)

-Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 18 to 20 minutes (until just golden). Reduce oven temperature to 325F
-Carefully transfer parchment to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
-Using a serrated knife, cut the log on a slight diagonal into slices about 1.5 cm thick.

-Place the slices on the cookie sheet, with the cut side down on the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning biscotti at the 10 minute mark.  Cool on wire racks.