Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Year # 2.... New Beginnings and Fresh Cranberry Eggnog Cinnamon Buns

Well... what can I say?!  As I enter the 2nd year for this lil' adventure.. I'm pretty sure just about everything possible that could change with my life.. has.  YUP... I mean you just gotta looooove that rollarcoaster-thing-a-ma-bob call LIFE right?!   SO... take this post as a tease of things to come. :) The air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and some of my favorite fall flavours are in full season.  Think Pumpkin (scones anyone?!).  Think CRANBERRY. Think EGGNOG... Think earthy spices.  mmmmmm....  OH yes.... I LOVE THE AUTUMN.  Well let's of course start with the traditional teaser picture....  Fresh Cranberry Eggnog Cinnamon Buns.

Lucky me came into a whole 5 Gallon buckets of fresh... British Columbia Cranberries, picked right here, only minutes away from my door step! They are tart, they are super healthy... and they are perfectly plump.  Delicious!! SO... to kick off the ole' Autumn / Holiday / Fall... these Cranberry Eggnog Buns are perfecto! (and yes... I think it's a little early to stock up on Eggnog... BUT..really...there I was, all innocent, walking down the milk aisle in the grocery store.. and WHAM... it's there.. Eggnog... just calling out to me....)  I'll probably end up making a batch of these... Eggnog Scones.... But for now.. I've got a second batch of the rolls rising.... they seem to just disappear...right off your counter!  I will say, after a gorgeous hike on a beautiful crisp Autumn day.. the buns warmed up hit the spot.
Recipe is easy-peasy.  Even EASIER if you use your dough hook on your kitchen aid mixer.... Not too sweet...  just a perfect hint of eggnog and the tart pop of flavour from the fresh cranberries.  Go ahead... make up a batch.. or 3... I won't judge!

Cranberry Eggnog Cinnamon Buns

  • 1 cup Eggnog
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons active yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries - chopped
- Heat eggnog and 1/4 cup of butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted.  (make sure to keep stirring to avoid burning eggnog)
- Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm
- In the mixing bowl of your kitchen aid mixer (dough hook attachment), combine the eggnog mixture, yeast, egg, salt and 1 cup of flour.
- Gradually add remaining flour, until a nice smooth (doesn't stick to your fingers) dough has formed.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm place until dough rises to double in size.
- Once dough has risen, combine 1/2 cup softened butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar into a small bowl.
- Roll out dough into about a 12x9 rectangle (it doesn't have to be perfect)
- Spread butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly on top of rolled out dough
- Sprinkle chopped cranberries over top
- Roll up dough length wise, pinching seam to seal.
- Cut into equal sized pieces, placing each one in a lightly greased 9x13 glass pan.
- Cover, and let rise again until double in size
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Place in a 375F for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden grown
- When done, remove from oven, and let cool slightly.
- You can drizzle with an easy - eggnog/icing sugar glaze... (just mix some eggnog with icing sugar until desired consistency)

Serve Warm.... Serve Cold...  heck.. eat em' right out of the pan.. I won't judge!!  
So, you may be wondering.. what I've been up too!?  well... hmmm... let's just say.. I'm learning change is good.  I've learned I've got some pretty incredible friends, and that my family will always be there for me. I'm learned that challenging yourself is good...  and that sometimes.. all you need to lift your spirits is a simple walk outside.... just taking in all your surroundings and enjoying some of what Mother Nature offers!  Until next time.. go out...and... Just Breathe!  :) 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Saucy Baked Gnocchi...Got Wood?!

May....  Where did YOU come from?!  Doesn't matter.. you're here.  Spring is "here", kinda.  Snow is melting (in most places), and technically we're "between" seasons... no more sledding... yet a lil' early for the endless summer days floatin' on the water. *sigh* It's time to GET WOOD.  HA... okok... giggle away!  But it's true!  Seems like my life these days is all about wood... and I mean the big tall ones that grow in abundance in our beautiful province.  SO, spending a "spring" day outside, stocking up on what fuels those evenings outside round' a fire, or warms the inside of the cabin during those chilly winter nights requires a good and hearty meal to satisfy even the most hungry wanna-be-lumberjack-for-a-day. The entree for this job: Saucy Baked Gnocchi. Perfect potato dumplings baked with freshly chopped spinach, lean hot capicola, diced pancetta and ooey gooey melted mozzarella cheese all surrounded and baked in your favorite pasta sauce.  YUM YUM is right.

SO, things you need to know.  rather ... I needed to know.... There is a preferred species of tree that many people have when planning to burn inside a wood burning stove. (that's how we heat the place up at the lake). Fact: Many people don't SPELL this species of tree correct. Fact: it's not even a true FIR tree....  YUP.... I'm talking about Douglas fir  also known as Pseudotsuga menziesii as (and yes... I did just spell that correctly.. google it if you must!) :)  Chainsaws, beer, and heading out on some good old fun forestry roads.  My kind of a spring day!  

Usually, we look for the ones that already are on the ground... not green.. and just begging to be chopped up. (ie.. not too far from the road, not too wet, but still fun to get)...  It's "easy" then... trim it to a size you can drag closer to the road, drag, then cut to a predetermined size, load up truck.  repeat.  (maybe toss back a wobbly pop or 2 somewhere in there)
Then there's the time when I guess "boys will be boys" ... though I admit, I kinda liked it too... OR... there's just no Douglas fir laying around.... then ya get to play lumber jack... carefully might I add... please kids.. don't try this at home. lol  

Of course...after a long day out in the woods... the appetite is huge.... This dish is a perfect way to satisfy, it's easy to make, and the variations are endless in what actually goes IN the baked dish.  I used what I happened to have on hand... hmm... wonder what YOU can come up with?!
Saucy Baked Gnocchi
  • 1 package of  mini gnocchi (or make your own... you decide!)
  • 1 cup diced pancetta
  • 5 slices of extra lean hot capacola salami
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Boil pot of water, and cook gnocchi, stirring occasionally, until they start to float
- In small sauce pan, cook pancetta until crispy, remove from heat and place in small bowl, reserving some of the drippings

- Dice up capacola slices, and place in small sauce pan with reserved drippings.  Fry until a little crispy.
- Drain water from gnocchi and toss in the spinach, pancetta, and salami

- Pour in half of the jar of pasta sauce, and half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Toss well.

- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Divide gnocchi mixture into 4 oven safe serving bowls

- Pour remaining sauce over top of each bowl, and top with remaining shredded cheese

- Place bowls on a cookie sheet, and put in oven until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted and golden. (about 20 - 25 mins)
- Remove from oven... and enjoy!!!

Now, if you don't have pancetta or salami... maybe toss in some cooked ground beef... or cooked diced chicken.. or even some peppers, mushrooms or really whatever you would typically toss in with a pasta... it could work. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gluten Free Lemon Meringue Bites ...tastes like spring!

OK, sooooooo Mother Nature appears to be struggling a little.  One day is sunny - blue skies - temps a rising, the next day, there's frost on the windshield. But you know what.... I'm ok with that (for now).  I mean, it's like a "tease" of what's to come... annnnnnnd with the promise of warmer weather...lesser clothes... means more motivation to try and kick things up a notch in the workout department.  That ALSO means every good push... deserves a lil' reward.  These are bite size - gluten free, with the real ZING of freshly squeezed lemons.  Have I mentioned how much I looooooove lemon "stuff" before?!  The tops of lightly toasted meringue, oh aaaaaaaaaand the melt in your mouth -taste of lemon pie - all in a tasty lil' package.
How can you go wrong?!

Gluten Free Lemon Meringue Bites

  • 1 prepared batter of Gluten free Cake Mix (I used the GF- Betty Crocker golden cake mix)
    • prepare cake batter exactly how it's recommended on back of box
  • mini cupcake liners
Lemon Filling:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup pasteurized egg whites 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Optional tool - kitchen blowtorch...LOVE THIS TOOL!  (though if you don't have one, oven broiler works too)

OK, some of you may wonder why I didn't post "how to" make the GF cake batter.  Well, that's because, each mix tends to request/use slightly different ingredients and such, so please use your favorite  Gluten Free Cake Mix, follow their directions on their box and then continue on with this recipe.... (this is the one I used....)

To Prepare the Lemon Filling:
- In medium heat proof bowl, set over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together  eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice.

- Stir constantly until a space remains after spoon is drawn  through it.  About 8- 10 mins.
- Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl.

- Cover with plastic wrap, making sure wrap is directly on the surface of the lemon curd to avoid a skin forming.  Place in the fridge to cool.

- Preheat oven to 350F
- Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan, and fill 1/2 way with prepared cake batter

- Bake in 350F oven until golden, and toothpick inserted comes out clean, (about 8-10 mins)
- Remove from oven, and let cool on rack.  (fill more cupcake liners if batter remaining and repeat cooking process!)

- Fill each cake with a spoonful of prepared lemon curd

- Set filled cakes in fridge to continue to cool
To Prepare the Meringue:
- Using your stand mixer with the whisk attachment,  beat egg whites until soft peaks form
- Gradually add in sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form

- Using a pastry bag fitted with plain tip (or zip lock bag with corner snipped), pipe meringue on top of each filled cupcake, make sure meringue covers top of lemon filling completely. 

- Using your kitchen torch (loooove this thing!) *carefully* toast the tops of the meringue until golden. If you don't have a torch, place on cookie sheet, and toast under oven's broiler on high.  KEEP AND EYE ON THEM, they toast QUICK!

You can now enjoy these lil' mouthfuls of pure lemony bliss!  (or make ahead and store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours) No need to thank!  I'll be enjoying some more too! haha
Ok folks,  until next time.... hmmm... next time...  sweet or savory, savory or sweet..... wonder where my cravings will take me next!  


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gluten-Free NO BAKE Cookies-n-Cream Cheesecake,,,it's been how long!?!

OK OK... sooooo I've been a slacker.  I take full blame...  That being said, a lot has happened over the last few months in this thing called "My Life".  There's been UPS... downs (lots!)... buuuuuttttt I appear to be grasping onto that ladder...and seemly headed back UP. whew.  I can add another "activity" (or 2) to my "list" of hobbies... and have recently achieved something I never thought possible... YUP... this "Chick" can "Run".... and THAT my friends, deserves a lil' treat.....  Gluten-Free NO BAKE Cookies-n-Cream Cheesecake -Bite Size! 

These babies are melt-in-your-mouth, not too sweet, not too light, juuuuusssstttt right, and did I mention... NO BAKE!?  and GLUTEN FREE ?! Shut the front door! If I didn't mention the whole "GF" part...  as a taster... you wouldn't know.  I promise!   Super easy - minimal guilt - (I mean, they are "bite size"... the calories don't count when it's bite size right?!) haha

Over the past 6 or so months, I've gotten close with an amazing group of women.  It took the encouragement of one in particular that words cannot describe how grateful I am that she believed in me, took the time to "dummy" it down, push, and then run right beside me as I finished my first ever 10km race.  Love to hate... Hate to Love these awesome ladies!  NOPE... I wasn't the fastest (heck, not even close - TURTLE TURTLE), however was determined.  I was able to run, the entire race - non-stop, with my super amazing friend right beside me, pacing me, and making sure I didn't give up.  I'm down a few "sizes" in the looks department, and for the first time... in a long time...  am unafraid to wake up and look in the mirror.  I actually CRAVE exercise now.  weird.  who knew that could happen?!  Anyways...  mushy stuff aside... I am truly blessed to have this group in my life!  #YOLO.
I will say, my eating habits have changed... no no...  I wouldn't call it a "diet" (hate that word), what I'm trying to accomplish is a lifestyle change... no depriving myself of the yummy foods I love.. or the occasional indulgence in a glass (or 4) of vino...  I welcome you to join me on this next journey of mine... as I continue my training...  who knows where I'll take it...I'm just going to see where it goes... So far I've got a 10km, and a "7 Miler" (11.26km-ish) under my belt... and already looking towards another run in May...
BUUUUTTTT now... back to the YUMMY stuff.... hey, I've earned it!  Have you?!

Gluten-Free NO BAKE Cookies-n-Cream Cheesecake Bites

  • 1 pkg Gluten Free "oreo" type cookies 
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup Whipping Cream ( Heavy Cream)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • mini-cupcake liners (if using the mini muffin pan, if not - regular cupcake liners to match size of pan)
- Line muffin pan with liners, set aside

- Put 12 of the GF Oreo-like Cookies in a medium sized ziplock bag, using a rolling pin, elbow, whatever works ... crush cookies into fine crumbs

- Divide the crumbs evenly between the cupcake liners, pressing with your thumb to form a solid base for your mini-cheesecakes

- Using the Whisk attachment with your mixer, whip the Whipping Cream on high speed until stiff peaks form.

- Scrap with a spatula into a medium sized bowl, set aside.
- Place cream cheese, vanilla, sugar in the mixer bowl.  Using paddle attachment, mix on high until well blended and smooth.

- Place remaining cookies in ziplock bag,  this time,  crush so that there are larger pieces left (for the yummy chunky bits in the cheesecakes)

- Fold in the chunky cookie bits into the cream cheese mixture

-Fold in the Whipped Cream

- Spoon mixture onto top of crumb base. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour.

 Feel free to lick spoons.. bowls.. fingers..... while you are waiting for them to set in the fridge!
Being that I was headed off to a dinner with GF (Gluten Free) friends.... I couldn't just stop at one sweet treat!  ...  heck, it had been awhile.. I was on a roll.... here's a SNEAK PEAK... at the next upcoming post....  Gluten Free Lemon Meringue Bites...... See ya'll soon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken Parmesan Rollups with a side of winter...

Happy New Year! ....better late than never right?!  Winter is in full force, new years resolutions in full effect (hopefully STILL in full effect)... and, well... even though the days may be shorter... it doesn't make them any less busy!  Most people try to eat and live healthier, becoming even more focused every start to the year... I'm no different.  My goals.... try new things. Cook/bake up some yummy meals and treats, and to "up" my game on the whole fitness front.  These Chicken Parmesan Rollups, though seemly small, pack a great big flavour punch, and help curb those cravings for hefty pasta / cheese / Italian style dishes we all love.

Using items you probably already have, these are quick and easy, tasty and truly a crowd pleaser!  I paired them with a simple garden salad a perfect week night meal.  Being that it's ready in less than an hour - start to finish - you have time to do other things... like spend the day out on the mountains!  Winter means SLEDDING in our household.... BRAAAP! ...and with some of British Columbia's best mountains right at our doorstep... who wouldn't want to take advantage of the sights!? YUP...  B.C. truly is the BEST PLACE ON EARTH!!

Up in the mountains, it always seems like there are more "bluebird" days than not...  and usually when down on the Coast it's pouring rain or completely fogged in..... up in the hills... well... it's full on powder - SUN - and endless views of the mountain tops!

The sunsets are breathtaking, well worth spending a full day "playing" in the snow....

But of course... long active days, means building up quite the appetite at night.  These rollups are sure to do just the trick... especially when you don't have the strength to do much more than pour yourself a nice glass of wine and get ready to do it all again the next day!  :)

Chicken Parmesan Rollups
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (or 4 chicken cutlets bought at grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs (panko crumbs work well too)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
- Preheat oven to 475F
- (if using chicken cutlets, skip this step)  Take each chicken breast and carefully fillet the breast in half
- Place in a large freezer bag, and seal.  Using a mallet or hammer...  carefully flatten the fillets until they are roughly 1/4 inch thick.

- Lightly spray a 8 inch square baking dish with cooking spray (helps with clean up!), and spread half of the pasta sauce into bottom of pan

- In a small bowl, mix mozzarella cheese, basil and Parmesan cheese well
- On a cutting board, lay out each chicken fillet, and place a generous spoonful of the cheese filling onto the wider end of the chicken fillet, reserving at least a half cup of cheese mixture for the topping. (there will probably be more... which is perfect!)

- Carefully roll up the chicken fillet, starting from the wider end

- Place roll in the sauced baking dish, repeat with remaining chicken fillets

- Pour remaining pasta sauce evenly over the chicken rollups

- Sprinkle the remaining cheese mixture over top of the sauced rollups

- Mix cornflake crumbs with the oil, and sprinkle on top of the cheese

- Bake in the oven until the crumbs are golden on top, and the chicken is fully cooked (registers 160 degrees), about 20 minutes. 

Remove from oven, serve with a fresh garden salad, garlic bread... you choose!!  Enjoy!

.....me....  Think I'll go back outside... sit around the fire... and dream of the next epic day out on the sleds!