Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tyler Eating and Laughing...

I don't know what he found so funny but he was laughing up a storm!!! lol...

Tyler Starts Crawling....

this was taken yesterday...2 days after Tyler started crawling...of course, of all his toys he goes after the TV remote...typical GUY...LOL...enjoy!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Introducing....

Introducing Baby Tyler...
Born Monday, May 19th at 9:53 AM at 7 pounds 14 ounces and 20 inches long...

The other love of my life :) !!!!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Creamy Lemon Squares...

These squares were spectacular!!! Easy to make, tart but not too tart, loads of lemon flavor, and love love loved the shortbread crust! I forgot to line the pan with parchment paper though so next time I will definitely line the pan because it was a little difficult to get the squares out of the pan without making a big mess!

Picture courtesy of Everyday Food Mag

Creamy Lemon Squares

Everyday Food Mag

Ingredients
Makes 16.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.

Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares, and dust with confectioners sugar.

Easiest Berry Terrine...

Lately I've been craving Jello but since I hate the storebought kind, I went on a quest to make a homemade version. I found a recipe while I was flipping through one of my most recent cookbook purchases - Lori Longbotham's Luscious Berry Desserts. It looked easy to make and very delicious so I decided to go for it....

I was right!!! It WAS very easy to make and DELISH!!!! So much better than the storebought Jello!


Easiest Berry Terrine
Recipe from: Luscious Berry Desserts by Lori Longbotham

Serves 8 to 10

2 cups cranberry-raspberry juice (divided use)
2 envelopes plain gelatin
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 cups mixed ripe berries

Pour 1/2 cup of the cranberry-raspberry juice into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over it, and let soften for 5 minutes.

Heat the sugar with 1/2 cup of the cranberry-raspberry juice in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the gelatin mixture and lemon juice, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the remaining 1 cup cranberry-raspberry juice.

Place the berries in an 8 1/2-by-4-inch loaf pan. Pour the juice mixture over them and press the berries down so they are submerged. Refrigerate, covered, until set and thoroughly chilled, at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days.

To serve, run a table knife around the inside of the pan and dip the pan in hot water for about 5 seconds, then invert onto a serving platter and shake to release the terrine. Serve cut into slices.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Macaroni & Cheese....

This is Marc and I's absolutely favourite Mac n' Cheese recipe! It took a bit of tweaking and now the recipe is PERFECT!

First of all, we skip the homemade bread crumb step altogether - to save time and also for convenience. Instead I use store-bought Italian flavoured bread crumbs and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. We use 2 tsp of dried mustard powder because we found that the amount called for was not enough. As for the cheese, we use an extra cup of cheddar cheese for a total of 3 cups. After a bit of trial and error we discovered that the best cheddar to use was an aged (minimum 2 years) extra strong kind. For the other 2 cups, we love gruyere.

Super yummy and super easy!

Classic Macaroni and Cheese
The New Best Recipe - Cook's Illustrated

It's crucial to cook the pasta until tender--just past the "al dente" stage. In fact, overcooking is better than undercooking the pasta. Whole, low-fat, and skim milk all work well in this recipe. The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch-square, broilersafe baking dish. If desired, offer celery salt or hot sauce (such as Tabasco) for sprinkling at the table.

Serves 6 to 8, or 10 to 12 as a side

Bread Crumb Topping
6 slices white sandwich bread (good-quality, about 6 ounces), torn into rough pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces

Pasta and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon table salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
5 cups milk
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese , shredded (2 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (2 cups)
1 teaspoon table salt

1. For the bread crumbs: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.

2. For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

3. In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

4. Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9-by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Grilled Portobello Burgers.....

This was a great base recipe! I think my hubby was skeptical at first and wondering how a mushroom could replace meat but to my surprise he loved it...I did too!

I used Boursin Garlic & Herb cheese instead of cheddar and left out the mustard, ketchup, and pickles. It was delish!!! I can imagine how much better these would be on the BBQ this summer!

Grilled Portobello Burgers

Portobello mushrooms' large size and substantial texture make them a natural choice for a vegetarian "burger." These are quick and supereasy to prepare.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons honey mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 large portobello mushroom caps
1 red bell pepper, cut into 4 wedges
Cooking spray
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices onion
8 (1/2-ounce) slices reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns
4 Bibb lettuce leaves
8 sandwich-cut bread-and-butter pickles

Preparation

Prepare grill.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; brush both sides of mushroom caps with sauce mixture.

Place bell pepper on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill for 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel. Place mushroom caps, top sides down, and onion on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until tender. Place 2 cheese slices on top of each mushroom cap; cover and grill 1 minute or until cheese melts.

Spread 1 tablespoon ketchup and 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard over top half of each bun. Place mushroom caps on bottom halves of hamburger buns. Separate onion into rings; arrange onion slices evenly over mushrooms. Top each serving with 1 lettuce leaf, 2 pickles, and top half of bun.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 burger)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 283(27% from fat); FAT 8.4g (sat 4.6g,mono 2.1g,poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 14.4g; CHOLESTEROL 20mg; CALCIUM 299mg; SODIUM 995mg; FIBER 3.2g; IRON 2.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 37.7g

Cooking Light, AUGUST 2006

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Quiche...

Pregnancy brings weird cravings and this is definitely one of them...I haven't had a craving for quiche in years!!! I went to the Cooking Light message boards for inspiration and a member by the name of Heavy Hedonist was kind enough to suggest this winner!

The formula is simple:
1 pie shell, unbaked
1/2 -1 cup grated cheese
1 cup sauteed veggies or 1/2 cup each chopped meat and vegetables
A ratio of 1 cup milk/half-n-half to 3 eggs or 1 1/2 cup to 4 eggs
Salt, pepper and/or a dash of nutmeg
Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes


I used:
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms
1/2 cup cooked/chopped chicken bacon
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 tsp pepper
Baked at 350 for 50 minutes

Super Yummy!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Icing...

What do you do when you have leftover mascarpone cheese - you make cupcakes!!! I made these yesterday! Yummy! The icing is lick-the-beaters good and the cupcakes are delish! Only change I made is I added a bit more mascarpone cheese for the icing since I found the icing a bit too sweet with only 4 oz.




Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Icing
Nutritionists have long known that yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body converts into essential vitamin A, but only recently have the full benefits of this color group of produce come to light. Orange fruits and vegetables taste bright and zesty, and they help keep us healthy in many ways throughout the year. In this recipe, carrots help make these cupcakes moist and sweet.
Ingredients:
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. maple syrup or honey
1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
2 eggs
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
7 Tbs. fresh orange juice, warmed
1 tsp. baking soda
For the mascarpone icing:
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
4 oz. cold mascarpone or low-fat cream cheese
Strips of dried mango for garnish (optional)
Directions:
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line 10 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, maple syrup and orange zest until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the carrot.

In a bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. In another small bowl, stir together the orange juice and baking soda. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture in two additions, alternating with the orange juice mixture in two additions until smooth. Do not overbeat or the cupcakes will be tough.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake until the cupcakes are risen and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a baking sheet and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

To make the mascarpone icing, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest and mascarpone until blended.

When the cupcakes are cool, frost them and garnish with strips of dried mango. Cupcakes may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes 10 cupcakes.

Adapted from New Healthy Kitchen Series, Desserts, by Annabel Langbein (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Chocolate Panna Cotta...

I recently bought 3 of Lori Longbotham's books....I really had a hard time deciding what I was going to make first!!! I finally decided to make chocolate panna cotta...

This recipe was excellent! Perfect texture, perfect amount of chocolate and sweetness, perfect richness....It is definitely NOT low-fat though (heavy cream and mascarpone cheese...need I say more!) so I probably won't be making this too often! While I was pouring the panna cotta into the molds I thought that the portions would be too small but finally the portion size is just right since they are soooo rich! I also loved the fact that the recipe is relatively easy to make and can be made ahead of time....

All in all, a great dessert recipe for entertaining!....




Chocolate Panna Cotta

Panna cotta has become a very popular dessert on our shores these last few years, and for good reason. It's a luscious, totally Italian custard, no eggs, just cream and flavorings. This is good served alone or with the slightest dusting of finely ground cocoa nibs or shaved chocolate. Panna cotta is usually vanilla—this one is for chocolate lovers.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 tsp. plain gelatin
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese or additional heavy cream
2 Tbs. sugar
Pinch of salt
2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Coat four 5-oz. ramekins or 6-oz. custard cups lightly with flavorless oil. Pour 1/4 cup of the cream into a small heatproof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over it and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and stir until the gelatin has dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining 1 1/4 cups cream, the mascarpone, sugar and salt just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

Add the gelatin mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir until well blended. Pour through a fine strainer into a 4-cup glass measuring cup or a bowl with a pour spout. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins and let cool to room temperature.

Cover the panna cotta loosely and refrigerate until set and thoroughly chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 1 day.

To serve, dip the ramekins one at a time into a bowl of hot water for about 5 seconds, then run a table knife around the edges of the custard and invert onto a chilled serving plate. Serves 4.

Adapted from Luscious Chocolate Desserts, by Lori Longbotham (Chronicle Books, 2004).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Frozen Mocha Cheesecake

I love desserts! I love chocolate! AND, I love no-bake super easy recipes! This recipe is all of these things!

I first had this at my mom's house a few months ago and since my kitchen was still under renovations, I hadn't been able to get around to making it until this week! I had forgotten just how delish it was!

Of course, I did modify the recipe slightly. I lightened the recipe by using 1/3 less the fat cream cheese and low fat sweetened condensed milk. I am happy to report that it was just as good as the full fat version!

Picture Courtesy of Cooking Light



Frozen Mocha Cheesecake
Taste of Home

Ingredients:
Crust:
1-1/2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted


Filling:
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened (I used low fat)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk (I used low fat)
2/3 cup chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon hot water
1 cup whipped cream


Directions:

Combine crust ingredients. Press into the bottom of a 9-in. springform pan; set aside. For filling, beat cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Gradually add milk and syrup. Dissolve coffee in water; add to mixing bowl. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into crust; freeze at least 6 hours. Yield: 12-16 servings.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ida's Homemade Chicken & Pastini Soup...

I have a super amazing soup to share...my best friend Ida makes the best homemade chicken noodle soup...actually I call it chicken and pastini soup because she doesn't use the traditional noodles....she uses any small pastini (any small pasta shapes) like ditalini (mini tubular pasta), stelline (stars), pastina (tiny bead sized pasta), and sometimes ravioli but really, you can use whatever pasta you want....go crazy!

I've had alot of homemade chicken noodle soups before and I think what sets this one apart from the rest is the addition of the tomato (who would have thought?!) and the bouillon cube...it's really easy to make and you can add almost anything you want to it (or replace ingredients)...it is really adaptable...she makes it for us often because she knows we go crazy for it...I finally asked her for the recipe so she gave me approximate amounts for the ingredients...

Picture Courtesy of Cooking Light

Ida's Homemade Chicken & Pastini Soup
2 chicken thighs with skin on
1 large tomato
3-4 carrots peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken bouillon cube like from Knorr
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 lb. of pasta of your choice
Grated parmesan for serving

Directions:
Put the chicken into a large soup pot.
Add everything but the pasta and cover completely with cold water.
Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for two hours or until the chicken is falling off the bones.
Take the meat off the bones and return it to the pot with the broth.
Bring the broth back to a simmer for a few minutes, and then add noodles and cook just until they have softened.
Adjust seasoning and serve. Add water as needed.

Note: the following day you might have to skim the fat off the top of the soup after refridgerating....

Watermelon-Feta Salad with Balsamic

My best friend made this for New Year's eve...it was one of the best salads I've ever had! Super yummy and sooo easy to put together!

Image Courtesy of Coastal Living

Watermelon-Feta Salad with Balsamic

4-6 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

In a large bowl, gently toss together all ingredients.

Makes about 4-6 servings.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Low-Fat Chocolate Marble Cake...

I had first seen this recipe about a year ago on my favourite blog - Nicole's Baking Bites! What first attracted me to this recipe was the fact that it was low in fat. At the time I was skeptical about just how good any low-fat dessert could be - Of course, now I know better! I gave it a try despite my skepticism and I was NOT disappointed!

Since discovering this recipe, I have made it countless times (and again this weekend!). I love it because it's so versatile. Topped with a chocolate glaze, it's elegant enough for a dinner party. Yet by itself it's non-fussy enough to bring to a casual get-together like a BBQ or picnic. It's also easy to make which puts it high on my list of desserts I turn to when I have no idea what to make and when I'm strapped for time. Besides the convenience of it, it is also SUPER DELICIOUS and I always get recipe requests whenever I make it. The cake itself is moist and fluffy. The chocolate cake swirl has an intense chocolate flavour. The white cake has a great tang from the yogurt! Together they are heaven!

I make a few changes though. I use vanilla yogurt in place of the plain kind. I use 1 tbsp. of instant coffee instead of the instant espresso since I can never find it. Lastly, I only measure out 1 cup of the yogurt batter instead of 1 1/2 cups.


Chocolate Marble Cake
By Alice Medrich "Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts"
Serves 12

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg white
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Position the rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F. Spray 8- to 10- inch tube pan with vegetable oil spray.Use a wire whisk to combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift together. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine espresso powder, cocoa, and 1/3 cup of the sugar with 1/4 cup water. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

In another small bowl, whisk whole egg with egg white. Set aside.

Cut the butter into pieces and place in an electric mixer bowl. Beat for about 1 minute to soften. Gradually add remaining 1 cup of sugar and beat at high speed for about 3 minutes. Dribble eggs in slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly for about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in a third of the flour mixture. On medium-high speed, beat in half of the yogurt. On low speed, beat in half of the remaining flour. On high speed, beat in the rest of the yogurt and the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the remaining flour.

Measure out 1-1/2 cups of yogurt batter and mix into the cocoa mixture; set aside.

Use a large spoon to fill the bottom of the pan with about three quarters of the white batter placed in dollops. Cover the white batter with dollops of chocolate batter. Top the chocolate batter with small dollops of white batter spread so that the chocolate batter shows through. Use a table knife to marble the batters together with a circular or zigzag motion; be careful not to blend them too much.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake in several places comes out clean. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes on a rack. Unmold the cake. Cool completely before serving or storing. Serve cake upside down or right side up. Cake may be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for 3 to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Nutritional Information: 230 calories and 6.9 grams of fat per serving.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cream of Broccoli Soup

What do you do when you have a whole bunch of broccoli to use up, it's chilly outside and you're craving something comforting like soup? You make cream of broccoli soup, of course!

I originally wanted to make a recipe I found in the Everyday Food mag but I didn't have any potatoes so I took out my trusty "How to Cook Everything" cookbook and found a recipe that called for my choice of rice or potatoes - perfect! What I love about this cookbook is that you can adapt any recipe and personalize because almost every recipe has add-in's, substitutions, and tips...I keep wondering why I don't use this cookbook more often! Maybe I need to do a little more cooking and a little less baking - yeah right!

So the verdict: OH MY GOD, AMAZING! Not only is it super tasty, it was ridiculously easy and fast to make! The soup is a little chunkier than the soups I've had at restaurants but I think it has to do with the fact that my blender isn't the best in the world. Regardless, the taste is out of this world! I'm glad I decided to add some garlic and onions to the original recipe - this is really a keeper recipe!


Picture Courtesy of Everyday Food


Cream of Broccoli Soup
Adapted from recipe from "How to Cook Everything"

1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups loosely packed broccoli
1/2 cup rice
4 cups low-fat reduced-sodium chicken stock
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup half-and-half

1. In a small saucepan saute the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent and fragrant. Set aside.

2. Combine the broccoli, rice, and stock in a large, deep saucepan or casserole and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Cool broccoli mixture slightly, then puree with garlic and onion mixture in batches in blender (you may prepare the soup in advance up to this point. Cover, refrigerate for up to 2 days, and reheat before proceeding.).

4. Return to the pot and reheat over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper, then add the cream; heat through again and serve.

Friday, October 19, 2007

In Seach of the Perfect Chocolate Cake Recipe....

I really hate making baked goods from a boxed mix or using premade frostings! No matter how good they taste, I get soooo turned off when I read the ingredients and see the list of chemicals, preservatives, and weird-sounding ingredients (the organic versions are not bad at all but they are $10.00/box!). Honestly, I must say, I've never had a cake that was as moist or as soft or as fluffy (Marc's birthday cake last year was close but not quite) as the boxed mix versions. This is what led to my quest in search of the best recipe for an everyday chocolate cake. The criteria: the recipe had to be super easy, the cake had to be moist and fluffy, and the icing had to be as good as the premade versions!

My first try was the Texas Sheet Cake from Cooking Light. It was very good for a low-fat version but it was neither, super easy to make (it was easy but it wasn't effortless) or what I was looking for in an everyday recipe. It was fluffy but not as moist as I would have liked it and Marc and I did not like the addition of the cinnamon at all.

My second try was the Hershey "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe that was suggested on the Cooking Light message boards. It is very moist and fluffy, perfect amount of chocolate flavor and sweetness, the frosting is to die for, and the recipe is super easy - a one-bowl recipe! The perfect recipe - the texture and flavor was exactly what I was looking for - like the boxed versions but just a little less sweet! I used the one-pan cake variation and the cake was done after 35 minutes. After a tip from my mom, I sifted all the dry ingredients - I'm not sure how much of a difference that made in the recipe but I'm sure it contributed to the fluffy/moist factors!


Picture Courtesy of Cooking Light

HERSHEY'S "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
"PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING(recipe follows)

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.

Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

VARIATIONS:
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.
THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.
BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.
CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

"PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Texas Sheet Cake
Cooking Light

Ingredients
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, divided
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, divided
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup fat-free milk
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Coat a 13 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray, and dust with 2 teaspoons flour. Set aside.
Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup butter, and 1/4 cup cocoa in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add to flour mixture. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Add buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and eggs; beat well. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 375° for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack.

Combine 6 tablespoons butter, fat-free milk, and remaining 1/4 cup cocoa in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in powdered sugar and remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla. Spread over hot cake. Sprinkle cake with pecans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Yield: 20 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Nutritional Information: CALORIES 298(30% from fat); FAT 10g (sat 5.5g,mono 3.2g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 3.1g; CHOLESTEROL 44mg; CALCIUM 25mg; SODIUM 188mg; FIBER 0.5g; IRON 1.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 49.8g

Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back From Paradise...

Marc and I are back from our amazing trip in Varadaro, Cuba!!! We stayed at the Paradisus Princesa del Mar (formerly Sandals) which we booked through Sunwing.ca. I had found the resort for our honeymoon in St-Lucia last year through Tripadvisor so I did my research again on Tripadvisor too - I LOVE that website! We are 2 for 2! It was the BEST trip!

The grounds of the resort were lush - lots of exotic flowers, plants, and trees everywhere you looked! The pool was HUGE and well maintained. I am allergic to chlorine but I guess with the salt water they only had to use the minimum amount because I didn't have any reaction. In the pool, there was also a swim-up-bar that was GREAT - I didn't even have to get out of the pool to order a Mojito! The beach was the BEST! The sand was white and the water was the most beautiful color of turquoise AND the perfect temperature - not too warm and not too cool - just refreshing! The resort is pretty much at the end of the Varadero peninsula so we didn't see too many people from other resorts wandering over to our beach so it felt very private! The resort itself is also "couples-only" so there was no drunken scenes or people getting out of hand even if it was all-inclusive, not that we saw anyways, so we had alot of peace and quiet even if the resort was 1/3 full. The rooms themselves were pretty big and the bathrooms were quiet spacious. We had a room that was labeled "garden view" but we still had a view of the ocean from the balcony of our room. As for the food, we didn't have high expectations because of the reviews I had read about Cuba, as well as, the comments we had gotten from friends but we were pleasantly surprised! Our resort had 7 restaurants - 1 was a buffet, 1 was a restaurant reserved for concierge guests only, and the remaining 5 were "a la carte". We thought the Italian and French restaurants were just okay and we really didn't like the buffet. Breakfast and Lunch were served in the buffet restaurant but we found out that the Snack Bar also had breakfast and lunch and we went there every day for the rest of our trip - it was really good! Our favourite restaurants were the Japanese and the Cuban - both we soooo good that we ended up going back to both! Wednesday nights the resort hosts a Cuban Gala in the courtyard and we reserved for that - the food the excellent - we had lobster and chicken! As for excursions, we only ended up going on the Seafari (we wanted to do the Jeep Tour but we both had forgotten to pack any running shoes) but it was worth every extra penny we spent! The tour company picks you up at the hotel and drives you to the marina where a catamaran was waiting (complete with an open bar and Cuban music!). Our first stop was to swim with the dolphins, then snorkeling, and then a stop at a small island called Cayo Blanco where we were served Lobster for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon here on the beach and then the catamaran brought us back to the marina.

We loved our trip sooo much that we have already decided we're going back next year! I can't wait!












Monday, September 03, 2007

Lemon Cream Meringue Pie

For our weekly get-together I received a special dessert request from our friends Ida and Max - Lemon Meringue Pie! I LOVE lemon meringue pie but I've always found that the ones sold in grocery stores, bakeries or restaurants are always overly sweet! The only place I've ever enjoyed lemon meringue pie, without an instant sugar rush or tooth ache, is at my gramma's house - her pies are never too sweet with just the right amount of tartness and none of that artificial lemon flavor or chalkiness. I didn't have time to call her so I did a quick search on the Cooking Light message boards and I took a chance on this recipe. Compared to other recipes I found it had a lot less sugar and I was also intrigued by the addition of the milk since most of the others I found used water instead. It got great reviews so I figured it would be a good recipe to start with!

I was absolutely right! The filling is absolutely amazing! Very very similar to my gramma's version - perfect balance of sweetness and tartness! Now, I can't say the same for the crust and the meringue but that was my own fault! The crust was soggy (I am pretty sure I under baked it!), the meringue wept (recipe's fault as I later found out!) and the meringue shrank (my fault!).

While the pie was cooling I noticed the meringue was shrinking and starting to weep so I did a search on the net and I learned that sealing the meringue to the edge of the pie crust is very important to avoid "shrinkage" - I obviously did not know that! I also learned that the reason that meringues weep (A syrup that forms between the filling layer and the meringue) is that they are undercooked on the bottom, and some of the moisture that is held in suspension in the egg foam seeps out all over the pie filling. The solution is to never let your filling cool before smoothing on the meringue - the filling should be piping hot to help set the bottom of the meringue. Also, egg whites should also be room temperature before beating them - this was the only thing I did right apparently! I will need to keep all this in mind for the next time!...

Sooo...my pie ended up being a very messy disaster but it was still amazingly tasty! A work in progress!



Picture Courtesy of Cooking Light


Lemon Cream Meringue Pie

1 pie crust recipe (I used a Pillsbury Deep Dish Frozen Crust)

FILLING:
2 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 to 4 lemons
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
2 TB unsalted butter, softened

MERINGUE:
4 egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla (my addition)


1. Prepare your pie crust.

2. To make the filling, combine the milk & sugar in a nonreactive saucepan. Strip the zest from the lemons with a sharp peeler, making sure you remove the yellow zest but non of the white pith beneath. (it is bitter). Add the zest to the milk & sugar and bring it to a simmer over low heat. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes; remove the strips of zest with a slotted spoon and discard them.

3. Squeeze lemons to make 1/2 cup strained juice. Place the juice in a mixing bowl and whisk in the cornstarch, then yolks.

4. Return the milk & sugar mixture to a boil over low heat and whisk in about a third of the boiling milk into the lemon juice mixture. Return the remaining milk and sugar mixture to a boil once more and whisk the lemon juice & yolk mixture back into it, whisking constantly till filling comes to a boil and THICKENS. Allow to boil, whisking constantly, for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, whisk in the butter & pour into a glass bowl. Press saran wrap against the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Cool till it drops to 75 degrees. ( that's about room temp.) I let it sit out on the counter to cool. COVERED!

5. Set a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350.

6. Bake your pie crust "Blind baking style. (Empty filled with weight or beans 20 minutes, then remove weights and bake about 10 minute more. Cool completely.

7. Spread cooled filling in baked and cooled pie shell.

8. To make meringue: Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer. Comine ingredients in bow of mixer. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and whisk the egg white mixture gently for 2 minutes, till whites are hot (140 degrees) and sugar is dissolved. Whip the meringue on medium speed till it has cooled and is able to hold a shape, but not too dry. Distribute spoonfuls of meringue all over top of pie, then using back of spoon to spread it evenly. It should cover the top completely and TOUCH THE EDGES of the crust all around. (This prevents to much shrinkage) Here and there, bring up the surface of the meringue so that it is swirled. Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake 5 to 10 minutes, till meringue is colored evenly.

9. Cool Completely.

From Nick Malgieri's Book "HOW TO BAKE" Page 169

Monday, August 27, 2007

Garlic and Herb Oven Fried Halibut

With the ongoing renovations, we've slacked off on our normally healthy diet. We decided that we were going to get back on track, including eating out less, eating more fruits and vegetables, and eating more fish.

I remember when I saw this recipe, I had thought that it would be something that we would like. So last night we decided to make this with a couple of changes. We couldn't find panko so we just used regular italian breadcrumbs. Also, after reading the reviews on the CL website, I added more garlic.

All in all I thought this was really really good and we would make this again!

Garlic and Herb Oven Fried Halibut

Coat fillets with crumbs and bake at a high temperature for a crisp texture similar to fried fish. Fresh herbs and other seasonings heighten the flavor. Total time: 42 minutes.

Ingredients
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 (6-ounce) halibut fillets
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a shallow dish. Place egg whites and egg in a shallow dish. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour. Dip in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 fish fillets; cook 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining fish. Bake at 450° for 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 fillet)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 293(29% from fat); FAT 9.6g (sat 1.4g,mono 4.9g,poly 1.8g); PROTEIN 39.4g; CHOLESTEROL 90mg; CALCIUM 89mg; SODIUM 446mg; FIBER 0.5g; IRON 1.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.2g

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ricotta Cheesecake with Fresh Berry Topping

Last weekend we stopped off at a farmer's market on our way back from Marc's parents chalet in the country. We bought freshly picked organic strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and a basil plant! Of course, there was no way I way going to be able to use up 2 pints of strawberries and a pint of raspberries in a week so I froze half the strawberries and raspberries. I went on a search for the perfect recipe to use the berries for and my search ended when I came across this recipe! The reviews were good, it's relatively low in fat, we love cheesecake, and we love berries...plus we were invited to our friend's Ida and Max (my taste-testers extraordinaire!) on Friday night so I had the perfect excuse to try out a new dessert!

I made a few minor changes. I didn't use homemade ricotta, instead I bought 2 cartons of low-fat ricotta (I like the Saputo brand the best). I also didn't use any blueberries, instead I used 1 pint of strawberries and 1 pint of raspberries - it was more than enough! I also didn't measure the lemon rind, I just grated the rind of one lemon directly into the bowl - I think I might have had about a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon - it was a big lemon! This was also super easy to make, it took 10 minutes to put together before it went in the oven! It was ready after an hour and 10 minutes.

So after trying it, I have to say I wasn't impressed. Maybe it was just because it wasn't what I was expecting. The flavour was awesome but I wasn't crazy about the texture. Max loved it but I think the rest of us weren't in agreement! It just wasn't creamy enough, like a cheesecake should be. Perhaps, if I decide to make this again I will replace half the ricotta with cream cheese. This dessert should definitely be paired with berries though, it definitely made the dessert!

Ricotta Cheesecake with Fresh Berry Topping

You'll need to make at least 1 1/2 batches of Homemade Ricotta Cheese for this luscious dessert. Although cream cheese-based cheesecakes are served chilled, ricotta cheesecakes are often enjoyed warm or at room temperature. If you've made this dessert in advance, cover and refrigerate, then let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. While a shiny metal pan makes a delicious cheesecake, a dark metal or nonstick pan consistently gave us a taller, lightly browned cake.


Picture Courtesy of Cooking Light


Ingredients


Cheesecake:
4 cups (2 pounds) Homemade Ricotta Cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon powdered sugar


Topping:
2 cups quartered strawberries
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Mint sprigs (optional)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cheesecake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into a 10-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until cheesecake center barely moves when pan is touched. Remove cheesecake from oven; run a knife around the outside edge of cheesecake. Cool slightly; remove outer ring from pan. Sprinkle cheesecake evenly with powdered sugar.

To prepare topping, combine berries, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and juice; toss gently to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve berry mixture with cheesecake. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 cheesecake wedge and about 1/2 cup berry mixture)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 286(32% from fat); FAT 10.2g (sat 5.6g,mono 3.1g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 18g; CHOLESTEROL 101mg; CALCIUM 353mg; SODIUM 328mg; FIBER 2.5g; IRON 0.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 31.7g

Cooking Light, APRIL 2005