Twelve Days of Christmas: Five Golden Rings

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
Five Golden Rings!
Four Calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Okay so don’t hate me, but I had to skip the fourth day of Christmas… I’ll try to come back to it, I swear, but I just could not find something that I wanted to make for that theme… I had finally settled on calling bird sugar cookies, but can you believe that no one had a bird cookie cutter??? I got frustrated and decided to skip it for now.  I will introduce you to something fun I discovered while perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago: a pizza ring! This recipe is great because its easy, quick, and you can prepare it the night before and simply toss in the oven before serving.  So easy.  You can make it a variety of different ways, adding your own type of sauce, veggies, meats, cheeses, etc.  For my version, I used sweet basil marinara sauce, pesto, chopped spinach, chopped baby tomatoes, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.  I found this wonderful recipe at ducksinarow[dot]com.  You can chick on the link to see their variation of this recipe.

What you’ll need: 2 cans of Pillsbury crescent rolls, 1 jar of marinara sauce, spinach, shredded mozzarella cheese (plus more for topping), 1 tbsp of pesto, 1/2 cup of chopped baby tomatoes, pepperoni and parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 F Degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat with non stick cooking spray.  Lay out the crescent roll triangles on the baking sheet in the shape of a sun.  You will want to make 2 layers of this.  I cut a few of the triangle down since I found them a little big for my pan.

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Mix sauce, shredded cheese, pesto, and spinach in a medium bowl.  Spoon the sauce mixture onto the crescent roll sun in the shape of a circle.  Top with pepperoni and shredded cheese.

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Fold the crescent roll triangles over the middle of the sauce mixture and lightly press to the other side.  This will make your ring.

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Top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and bake for 20-23 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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I brought this in for a work potluck.   I prepared it the night before and then ran home to bake it about 40 minutes before the potluck.  It was a hit and my co-workers demolished it! If preparing ahead, just make sure to cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Happy baking!
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Two Turtle Doves

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

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The Twelve Days of Christmas recipes continue!!  Today’s theme is two turtle doves, and might I say this recipe is MUCH simpler than the last one.  It took very little time to make these and they are relatively simple.  To read about my Partridge in a Pear Tree recipe, click here.  I love turtles.  When I was growing up nothing excited me more than the orange turtle box under the tree.  My mom would leave it unwrapped since my dad would always go snooping for them, and by the time Christmas day would come around there would be none left.  She actually started buying two boxes of them because we just couldn’t help ourselves!  These turtle doves are essentially your basic run of the mill turtles, cloaked in white chocolate with a milk chocolate drizzle topping.  They are freaking fantastic.  I snagged this recipe from Woman’s Day Magazine’s December issue.

What you’ll need:  1 heaping cup of pecan halves, 16 soft caramel candies, 1 cup of white chocolate, 1/4 cup of milk chocolate and 1 tbsp plus 1/4 tbsp of shortening, divided.

The first step is roasting your pecans.  Toss a heaping cup of pecans onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F degrees for about 10 minutes.  Make sure the pecans are arranged in a single layer, not overlapping, in order to get evenly roasted pecans.  Once the pecans have cooled, divide them into 16 clusters.

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Next, add a soft caramel candy to the top of each cluster.  Try to arrange it so that it is at the top of the cluster, touching multiple pecans.  I actually flattened the caramels a little bit so that they would better coat the pecans.  Place in over, set to broil, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes or until the caramel has melted.  Watch your caramels carefully, it can burn very easily if you’re not paying attention.

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Let the melted caramel cool.  Meanwhile, melt white chocolate and shortening  in a double boiler, in a microwave, or in a heat safe bowl atop a pot.  Once melted, spoon heaps of the white chocolate over the pecan and caramel cluster.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, or until hardened.

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Melt the milk chocolate as you did the white, and then drizzle over the white chocolate.  Return to the fridge to cool.  I left them in for about a half hour.

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These taste really good.  Let them soften to room temperature before serving or you will be biting into a really hard caramel center.

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Annnd that’s pretty much it… super simple right?  With cooling time in the fridge it took me about an hour from start to finish.  They’re a great gift to give at Christmas – especially for Turtle lovers.  Pop them in a home decorated box, wrap and send – it’s that easy.

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On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
A partridge in a pear tree.

This year I decided to do something really fun for Christmas: I’m going to make 12 different recipes all following a “Twelve Days of Christmas” theme.  By now, I’m sure most of you have figured out that I am an absolute Christmas freak, and since I love everything food, I thought, why not do something super exciting that will allow me to make and try 12 different recipes!?  Over the next few weeks I will be posting a bunch of recipes/treats/etc, one for each verse in the Twelve Days of Christmas Song, until we get through each and every single one of them. The theme of today’s recipe is, of course, a partridge in a pear tree.  I found this recipe in the December issue of Woman’s Day Magazine.  For the pear, I made a cranberry poached pear, simmered with cinnamon stick, star anise, vanilla bean  and a whole naval orange.  The partridge portion of this recipe is a partridge pie crisp, egg washed and sprinkles with white sugar.

To make the pears, first combine 6 cups of cranberry juice cocktail and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a large saucepan or pot.  Simmer on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved into the juice. Next, add your spices; this recipe calls for two cinnamon sticks, one vanilla bean cut in half vertically, and two whole star anise.
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Peel 4 to 8 bosc pears and add them to the saucepan.  You will want to make sure your pears are quite firm as they will hold their shape much better when simmering.  Bosc pears work well when poached as they are a firmer pear to begin with, especially in the winter.

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Quarter a large naval orange and ass to sauce pan.  Simmer the mixture of medium-low heat (at a very gentle boil) for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pears can be easier pierced with a fork.  For best results, cover the sauce pan with a circle of parchment paper, cutting a small hole in the center in order to allow some of the heat to escape.

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While the pears are simmering, make a your pie crust.  I decided to use a homemade pie crust put you can just as easily purchase a pre-made one if you are pressed for time.  cut up one stick of butter (1/2 cup) into small cubes and freeze for at least 15 minutes.  Add 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter to the salt and flour mixture and pulse no more than 10 times.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp of ice water of the mixture (or more if needed… I used 3 tbsp) and process for no more than 20 to 30 seconds.  The dough should stick together when pinched.  Shape the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Don’t have a food processor?  Browneyedbaker.com explains how to do it here.  Once your dough is set, remove from fridge and let it sit for a few minutes in order to allow it to warm up a little bit.  Roll it out, and use this template to cut out your partridges.

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Cut out a partridge for every pear you are serving.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Brush each partridge with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Place a small black sprinkle on the head for it’s eye.  Bake at 375 F degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Once the pears are done, discard the orange and spices and remove from heat to allow the pears to come to room temperature.  Remove from the saucepan and place on a platter.  Return the liquid to a gentle soil and allow to simmer until reduced to 1 cup (about 45 minutes).  Spoon the syrup over the pears and serve with the partridge crisp and homemade whipped cream.

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Making homemade whipped cream is very simple! You have to excuse the pictures of the cream I made as my apartment was pretty steamy and I waited much too long to actually take the picture.  Place the bowl of a stand mixer in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Add 1 cup of cream, 1 tbsp. of sugar, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extra to the cold bowl.  Whip using the whisk attachment until medium peaks form, about 1 minute.  You may also use a hand mixer for this, but it will take more like 3 minutes for the peaks to form.

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Cranberry Poached Pears and Partridge Crisps

Ingredients

for the pears

  • 6 cups cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 naval orange, quartered
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 4 – 8 whole Bosc pears, peeled

for the partridge crisps

  • 1/2 cup of butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • granulated sugar for sprinkling
  • black sprinkles

for the whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine 6 cups of cranberry juice cocktail and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  Heat and stir until sugar is combined.  Add 2 small cinnamon sticks, 2 whole star anise, 1 vanilla bean and naval orange.
  2. Add pears and cover with a circle of parchment paper.  Cut a small circle in the middle of the parchment paper cover in order to let some heat escape.  Allow the pears to poach in the cranberry liquid for 20 – 25 minutes on medium low heat (or until you can easily pierce with a fork.
  3. Remove the sauce pan from heat, discard the orange and spices, and allow the pears to come to room temperature.  Remove from the liquid and place on a platter.
  4. Return the liquid to the heat and simmer for approximately 45 minutes.  The liquid should be reduced to about 1 cup, and should be like a thick syrup.  Pour over poached pears to serve.
  5. Make the pie crust:  place butter in freezer for at least 15 minutes. Add flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter cubes and pulse no more than 10 times.  Sprinkle the ice water of the mixture and process for no more than 30 seconds.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  6.   Using this template, cut out a partridge shape for each pear.  Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Add a black sprinkle to the head for the eye.  Bake at 375 F degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Serve with whipped cream:  place the bowl of a stand mixer in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Remove from cold and add cream, vanilla and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until medium peaks form (about 1 minute)

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This recipe took me a while to complete… likely because I was in the midst of baking other Christmas treats while I was making it.  Note that you can prepare this in advance.  Refrigerate the pears in the cooking liquid for up to 2 days.  To serve, simply remove the pears from the liquid and place on a platter so that the pears may come to room temperature, then reduce the liquid as instructed above.  I have to say that this recipe was pictured in the magazine and it is MUCH pretty than mine… and the sauce is like, 3 shades darker.  But it tasted amazing! Anyways, happy baking!

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Chocolate Covered Oreo Cheesecake Balls

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So I have a secret, a guilty pleasure if you will, maybe even an obsession – with cheesecake.  I love cheesecake.  I think it is my favourite dessert ever, of all time.  Every time I order dessert at a restaurant, it’s cheesecake.  Always.  So when I discovered that I can roll cheesecake into a tiny bite sized ball and cover it in chocolate, I was sold.  Chocolate covered Oreo cheesecake balls.  So freaking amazing.  This recipe is incredibly easy, which is one of the reasons why I decided to add it to my list of recipes that I would be making this year.  I have a few more things on my Christmas baking bucket list that I want to make, but as anyone who bakes at Christmas knows, the easier the recipe the better,  especially if you’re making a lot of different items for a lot of different people.   photo 3

For this recipe, you will need a few simple ingredients:  one package of cream cheese, one package of Oreos, 2 cups of melted chocolate and 2 tbsp of shortening.  I always add shortening to my melted chocolate as it will make the chocolate thinner and more manageable when coating.

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This recipe is super simple: using a food processor, crush Oreos until finely ground.  If you don’t have a food processor, toss the Oreos in a large Ziploc bag and crush the cookies using a rolling pin.  
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Mix the crushed Oreos with the cream cheese (softened), and once combined, form the mixture into small balls, about 1/2 oz each.  Pop the Oreo cheesecake balls into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Once the balls are hardened, toss them in the melted chocolate and shortening mixture, one by one, and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Let cool for another 20 to 30 minutes.  I add red chocolate drizzle to coat the cheesecake balls in order to give them a little Christmas colour.

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Chocolate Covered Oreo Cheesecake Balls

Ingredients

1 (18-ounce) package Oreo cookies
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Directions

1. Crush the Oreos using a food processor, or by adding the Oreos to a Ziploc bag and crushing them using a rolling pin.

2. Using a spoon, press, mix and stir until the cream cheese is completely mixed into the Oreo crumbs and you have a soft, homogeneous mixture.

3. Roll the mixture into small 1/2 oz. balls (equal to about 2 tsp)  and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4.  Using a double boiler (or microwave, or heat safe bowl atop a pot)  melt chocolate and shortening together.  Place the cooled cheesecake Oreo balls into the melted chocolate, one at a time, until fully coated.  Use a fork to lift the balls from the mixture, tapping against the side of your bowl to remove excess chocolate.  Place back on baking sheet and cool in the refrigerated until the chocolate has hardened (10 to 15 minutes).

Told you it was simple! Try them – they are amazing.  Everyone loves cheesecake, right?  So it’s pretty well a must make.  Happy Baking!

The All About Eggnog Post

Happy December!  With only a few weeks until Christmas, I thought I would share some “Christmas Flavoured” treats today.  One Christmas flavour that I have always loved is eggnog. Well, I’m actually not a huge fan of just plain old eggnog, but add a little spiced rum and I’m sold.  I stumbled upon a recipe for eggnog cookies with an eggnog glaze a few weeks ago and I immediately put it on my Christmas baking bucket list.  I also found an eggnog fudge recipe that I was dying to try, especially since I’ve never made fudge before, and I was curious of the process.  Both these recipes were actually relatively simple and they both taste absolutely freaking phenomenal.  Eggnog flavoured cookies and fudge are a must for your Christmas baking this year.  I scooped the fudge recipe from recipegirl[dot]com  and found the eggnog cookie recipe from yourcupofcake[dot]com.

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I really love these cookies because they are the right kind of chewy while still having enough of a fluffy, airy texture.  I’m a huge hater of crunchy cookies, so these really fit the yummy bill when it came to it’s chewyness.  I also like that while these are eggnog cookies, it’s not all you taste when you bite into them.  This cookie has a great combination of flavours and the added eggnog glaze really gives it a kick of extra sweetness in every bite.  I REALLY loved these.  But, since I’m not a “oh my goodness eggnog is my favourite thing EVER” kind of girl, I decided to bring them along to my bestie’s house for a taste test.  She is a true eggnog lover.  She loved them and had no complaints… and my have even been a little sad that I didn’t bring more.  They passed the taste test from a true eggnog lover so trust me when I say that they will not disappoint you.

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When baking I made the cookie mounds relatively small.   The recipe yielded about 24 medium-small-ish cookies.  Make sure when baking that the cookie mounds are well separated as the spread our quite a bit when baked.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.  You can glaze the cookies warm or cooled and then sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

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Eggnog Cookies

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Eggnog Glaze

  • 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons eggnog

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F Degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with non stick cooking spray.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
3. Cream sugar and butter until light.  Add eggnog, vanilla, and egg yolks; beat at medium speed with mixer until smooth.
4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined.  Do not over mix
5. Spoon dough mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, making the balls relatively small, as they will spread generously in the oven.  Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.
6. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until the edges barely start to brown.
7.  While cookies are in the oven, make the eggnog glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar with 3 tbsp eggnog.
8.  Gaze your cookies warm or cooled and top with cinnamon.
Like I said, these cookies taste REALLY good, and will make an excellent addition to your Christmas baking.  Next came the fudge.  When I was a kid my parents traveled alot from Northern Ontario to Southern Ontario because of the type of work they did.  We made it a tradition to stop off at a trading post 45 minutes south of Sudbury to have a quick bite to eat and do some local shopping.  My mom would always buy me a small brick of Maple Fudge – it was my treat every time we went.  Since we only bought fudge when we took the long drive up to Sudbury, I just assumed it was the only place you could get “real fudge”.  Even when I learnt that you could buy fudge elsewhere, it still seemed like a really special, unattainable treat that one could not just simply make in your own kitchen.  Of course, during my baking escapades I have come to the realization that there is no recipe that is too complicating or too difficult to make in your own kitchen.  When I found this eggnog fudge recipe, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a go alongside my eggnog cookies.

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The fudge making process is simple really.  You just have to be prepared to work quickly when mixing your ingredients as you don’t want your mixture to start cooling while you’re still combining.  Start by bringing the sugar, eggnog and butter to a boil.  Continue to boil the mixture on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes.  Make sure you are stirring constantly so that the eggnog mixture doesn’t burn.

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Remove from heat and mix in the white chocolate and nutmeg.  Continue to stir until the chocolate is melted.  Stir in the marshmallow cream (you will likely find this in the ice cream cone aisle…surprisingly enough) and rum extract (maybe next time we use real rum 😉 ?).  Beat the mixture until everything is well combined.  Pour into a foil lined and greased pan, sprinkle with nutmeg and cool.

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Ensure that the fudge is completely cooled and has hardened before you cut it, or it will break apart.  I popped mine into the freezer once it had cooled to room temperature in order to speed up the cooling process.  This fudge was REALLY tasty.  I cut the fudge into very small squares (since it’s so sweet.. you don’t need much and it will hit the spot) – it made about 30 squares.

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Eggnog Fudge

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup eggnog
  • 10.5 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, plus a little more for the top of the fudge
  • One 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract

Instructions

1. Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil and let it hang over the sides. Butter the foil.

2. In a large saucepan combine sugar, butter and eggnog. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat or until a candy thermometer reaches 234°F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

3. Using a wooden spoon, work quickly to stir in chopped white chocolate and nutmeg until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in marshmallow creme and rum extract. Beat until well blended and then pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle a little ground nutmeg on top. Let stand at room temperature until cooled. Refrigerate or freeze if you’d like to speed up the process.

4. When completely cool, cut into squares. Store in a covered container.

Fudge freezes well.  My favourite way to eat this is when it is super cold, so I must admit a few less people will receive fudge this year based on the amount I’ve snuck out of my freezer.  Since it’s December I will be doing TONES of baking –  sugar cookies, turtle doves, and lots more. Stay tuned, Happy Baking!

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Santa’s Favourite Peanut Butter Balls

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I am a pretty big peanut butter person.  Anything that includes peanut butter is at the top of my sweet tooth list, especially if it’s paired with chocolate.  Let’s face it… anything that is paired with chocolate tastes better, so naturally, chocolate covered peanut butter balls made my baking bucket list this year.  I like peanut butter balls because they are super easy to make, they are no bake, meaning that I can cook or bake other things while the balls are setting, and they require very few ingredients which means less shopping time for me.  Oh, and of course they taste freaking phenomenal, and I have it on good authority that Santa LOVES peanut butter balls… so bake lots for him this year! Sometimes I like adding crushed pretzel bits to my peanut butter balls, it gives the right amount of sweet and salty, but for now I have just made your basic, run of the mill peanut butter balls, decorated with a little white chocolate drizzle just to add a little extra something for jolly old Saint Nick!

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You will need a few, simple ingredients: peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, icing sugar, chocolate chips and shortening.

Mix the peanut butter, butter and brown sugar together.  Once combined, gradually add the icing sugar until completely combined.  I used my stand mixer to combine all the ingredients, but I have used my hands in the past (I find a hand mixer makes too much of a mess… just use a really deep bowl if you’ve got one).  Roll the mixture into 1 oz balls.  I usually get about 42 balls if I measure each out to exactly one ounce.  Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Refrigerate until the balls are firm (30 – 60 minutes).

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Using a double boiler (or a microwave, or a heat safe bowl on top of a pot like I do) melt the chocolate and shortening.  The shortening makes the chocolate a little more “liquidy” and  easier to coat.  You may omit the shortening, just be prepared to melt more chocolate; your balls will have a thicker chocolate layer if you don’t use shortening.  Dip each peanut butter ball into the chocolate.  I use a fork to remove from the melted chocolate to help remove any excess chocolate from the ball.  Place each ball on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate until set (again 30 – 60 minutes).  And you’re done! For extra decoration, melt some coloured chocolate (or melt white chocolate and colour it with candy colouring) and using fork, scoop up some of the chocolate and quickly whisk your fork back and forth over the balls to add a few lines of colour.  I like using red, green or white, or a combination thereof.

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Peanut Butter Balls

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 16 oz chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 tbsp shortening

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine peanut butter, butter and brown sugar.  Gradually add icing sugar until completely combines and no sugar streaks appear.
  2. Roll the peanut butter mixture into 1 oz balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes, or until balls are hard.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler.  Dip each ball into the chocolate and remove using a fork to help remove excess chocolate.  Place on a wax sheet and refrigerate until set.

Keep these balls refrigerated as they may melt if they get too warm.  These balls freeze well.  Store in airtight container or ziplock bag in the freezer for 3 to 6 months (although…I have friends who often store their stuff up to year and have had no problems).  Happy baking!

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Nanaimo Bars with Ganache Topping

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I said it once, I’ll say it again.  Christmas is not Christmas without Nanaimo bars? I absolutely love these little custard centered dessert bars; they are probably one of my favourite desserts around Christmas time.  Each layer is like a fun new adventure. The bottom is a chocolaty graham cracker crust like layer loaded with coconuts and your favourite nut.  The middle layer is a buttercream-like custard center and the bar is finished off with a fantastic hard chocolaty top layer.  So. Freaking. Good.  Now, I must say I do have a bone to pick with Nanaimo bars.  I absolutely hate when I bite into one of these tiny dessert bars of awesome, and the hard chocolate top layer pushes down on the custard center, which then proceeds to gush out from all side, all over my hands, plate, clothes, etc.  It leaves for a very messy treat and a very sticky Kelsey.  Last year I made these Nanaimo bars, and they were great (oh how my blogging has changed since then…wow!), but I just did not like how hard the top layer was.  So I brain stormed, and I thought, what can I do to the top layer to make it softer?  That when I remembered my absolute LOVE for chocolate ganache and thought, I’m sure these would be just great with a chocolate ganache topping!

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There are a lot of different variations of the original Nanaimo recipe.  I used a recipe that varied slightly from the original in terms of measurements;  I found it at warmvanillasugar[dot]com.  This recipe uses brown sugar rather than white sugar in the bottom layer4, less cocoa and more graham crackers, and walnuts instead of almonds (loved this substitution).  Instead of the usual 1/2 cup butter and 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp of cream, this recipe calls for 1/4 cup of butter and a full half cup of cream.  I then topped everything off with a basic ganache topping, but adding a small amount of icing sugar to sweeten it up even more.

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For the ganache topping I halved a recipe meant to cover a 13 x 9 inch pan that I used for my Cheesecake Bars last Christmas.  I used 4 oz of heavy whipping cream, 4 oz of chocolate, 1 oz of butter and 1/8 cup of icing sugar to fill the 8 x 8 inch top layer.

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Nanaimo Bars with Chocolate Ganache Topping

makes enough for an 8 x 8 inch pan (approximately 25 squares total)

Ingredients

for the crust

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

for the custard buttercream center 

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons custard powder

for the chocolate ganache top

  • 4 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar

Baking Directions

  1. Make the crust:  Melt the butter, brown sugar and cocoa in a pot or double boiler.
  2. Beat the egg and quickly whisk it into the chocolate mixture.
  3. Add the graham crackers, coconut and walnut and press into a 8 x 8 ungreased pan that has been lined with parchment.  Chill in refrigerator for at least a half hour.
  4. Make the custard buttercream center:  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the powdered sugar, butter and custard powder.
  5. Slowly add the cream and beat until light and fluffy.
  6. Spread the cream layer evenly over the crust and refrigerate for another half hour.
  7. Prepare ganache.  Heat cream and butter on stove until just before boiling.
  8. Remove from stove and pour over chocolate.  Stir until completely combined.
  9. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat with a wire whisk until combined and smooth.  Pour over middle custard layer, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Nanaimo (1) The bars turned out really well… much better than last years and I did a much better job at making nice even layers.  I really hope you enjoy this recipe – try the chocolate ganache top, it’s heaven.  Happy Baking!!!

S’more Blondies and the Beginning of the Christmas Season

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Kitchen fail of the week:  So I have recently taken a slight interest in the Paleo lifestyle. Not completely, don’t worry all my sweet-toothed, carb loving friends, I am not abandoning you.   I could never follow this type of lifestyle… well, actually I’m sure I could if I really tried… but I am a firm believer in bread. And cheese. And I will never give it up, NEVER I TELL YOU! YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE! Sorry… I get a little carried away when I talk about any type of bread free diet.  I’ll try to be a little less dramatic about the whole thing from here on out, promise.  Anyway, despite my unhealthy addiction to carbohydrates, over the last few months I have really been trying to cut down, and I have been really trying to cut out any and all processed foods.  So far, I’d say that I have cut down more than 60% of processed foods, and 100% of artificial sweeteners.  Including aspartame (I’ll miss you diet Coke!) and Splenda based products (my coffee is a little bit bitter but I have been substituting with honey).  Anyway, since I am a huge foodie and love learning about different types of diets and lifestyles, I decided to try some Paleo recipes.  Since I am focused on losing about 10 pounds by Christmas time (although I’m not sure how focused I will be considering the amount of baking I’ll be doing… how can I not try my treats?), and since I wasn’t gifted with the “eat anything you want and you won’t gain a pound” kind of body, and I’m absolutely not a “oh my god I love the gym because it just totally helps me blow off steam and I really love sweating” kind of girl, but more of a “I’d rather eat my own vomit then spend another damn second on that treadmill and oh my god I can’t breath I think I’m dying from this 10 minute jog”  kind of girl, a weight loss of any kind, whether it be small or big, will require effort, and change.

So let’s talk Paleo.  As I understand it, the Paleo lifestyle is based on eating wholesome, contemporary foods from the food groups of hunter-gatherer societies during the Paleolithic era.  The time period would be around 2.6 million years ago up until the agricultural revolution, which dated about 10,000 years ago.  Paelo dos include: fresh meats (preferable grass-fed or free-range), fish, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils such as olive or coconut oil, flax seed avocado, etc.  Paleo don’ts include ceral grains, legumes, refined sugars, processed foods, and dairy (FYI I got all this info from thepealeodiet[dot]com).  One thing I know I could NEVER give up is dairy.  Starches? maybe. If I really had to.  If I really made a commitment.  I’ve done it before and I could probably do it again.  But dairy? I will die before I give up cheese! You will have to pry it out of my cold dead hands before I give it up! I’m being dramatic again.  Anyway.  So I decided to try a Paleo pizza recipe last Friday.  It uses coconut milk, coconut flour, eggs, garlic and a few spices for the crust.  Blend in a processor and then spread in a pizza pan and bake.  It was a disaster.  Needless to say the recipe was not meant for me.  I offered my dad seconds, and he refused, saying he was full (if you know my dad you will know that he does not refuse seconds) and my boyfriend flat out said that I will be a single woman if I ever though of making him a fake pizza crust again… Oh well, at least I tried.

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Anyway, on to the good stuff. I am a Christmas freak.  A big one.  I’m one of those crazy people who start planning for Christmas before Halloween is over, and start decorating the first week of November.  This means, of course, that I start my Christmas baking just as early as I decorate my house.  My first recipe for this year is S’more Blondies.  I love S’mores – the chocolate, marshmallows and the ewey-gooeyness, it reminds me of campfires and summer.  So, when I stumbled on this recipe I just HAD to make it.

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I got this recipe from motherthyme[dot]com.  These things a frigging good. I Had one while it was still warm annnnnnd I almost died and went to heaven.  I found it very difficult to cut these things though, the marshmallow wasn’t having any of it.

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Chewy S’more Blondies

makes 12 to 16 blondies (or more if you make them smaller, I managed to get 32 small blondies out of the batch)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp baking poeder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz. milk chocolate squares, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows

Baking Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

2.  Mix flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Mix until combined and set aside.

3. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Add vanilla and then eggs, one at a time.  Mix until combined.  Gradually add flour mixture until combined.

4. Spread the blondie mixture into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes on centre rack.

5.  In a small bowl toss marshmallows and chocolate and then sprinkle on top of the blondies.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

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One Christmas bake down…ten to go?  I’m going to try a new nanaimo recipe next week so stay tuned for that. Happy baking!