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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

There’s nothing like pumpkin anything to kick off the fall season…  Pumpkin scones, pumpkin spice drinks, and of course pumpkin cream cheese muffins.  Starbucks really knows their pumpkin baked goods….

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(This photo is from a more successful pumpkin season…)  Unfortunately this year’s pumpkin crop in the backyard is pretty much non-existent because I was far too late getting the plants in the ground.  While there is no shortage of foliage to my plants, the actual pumpkins are maybe 2″ diameter and probably wont amount to anything.  Thankfully I still have perfectly good puree preserved from years’ past still in my freezer.  I was aiming for ‘as good as Starbucks’ with this muffin recipe, however I have to say I think these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are actually better!

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 45 min    YIELD: 12
Ingredients:

Cream Cheese Centre:

  • 4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a package)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pumpkin Seed Topping:

  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Pumpkin Muffin Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tbsp buttermilk
 Directions:
  1. For Cream Cheese Centres: combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Place in the fridge and chill until you’re ready to use; this makes it a bit easier to handle later.
  2. For Pumpkin Seed Topping (optional, but well worth it): Line a plate or baking tray with parchment paper and set to the side.  Heat large frying pan on medium-high heat, and add pepitas, stirring frequently.  When pepitas begin to pop after 3 to 5 minutes, add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt to the pan.  Stir continuously until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Carefully remove the seeds from the pan and place onto the parchment lined plate to cool.  Once cooled, break apart for sprinkling on top of muffins.
  3. For Pumpkin Muffins:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tray with paper cups.  Combine dry ingredients: flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, salt, and sugars.  I had substituted coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar.   Whisk together and set aside.
  4. In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, pumpkin puree, canola oil, and buttermilk and mix with an electric mixer just to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl gradually and mix just until combined, 30-60 seconds.
  5. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Add a dollop (about a level teaspoon) of the chilled cream cheese mixture to the centre of each muffin, then cover with remaining batter to fill the muffin cup.  Sprinkle candied pumpkin seed topping on top, then place in oven.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted (not through the cream cheese!) comes out clean.

 

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Perogy Nachos

When you think about it, a heaping plate of perogy nachos is really just a natural evolution of the humble perogy.

And while we’re here, has anyone concluded what is the proper spelling of this potato-filled dumpling? Pierogi? Pirogi? Piroghi? Perogie? Pyrogy? Perogi? I digress…

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The key to a successful perogy nacho is crispiness.  For this experiment, I’ve opted for a healthier version and I’ve baked the perogies (because “healthy” is first and foremost on the mind of anyone contemplating a plateful of perogy nachos, for sure).  Baking this way produced a successfully crispy perogy that was slightly chewy as well.  Warning: the chewiness may be a bit too unorthodox for true perogy traditionalists.

For (blow your mind) more crispiness, try deep-frying day old leftover perogies and I guess, put whatever new year’s resolution diet you may be on, on-hold for the day.  If this intrigues you, see the alternate directions below.
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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 30 min    YIELD: 
Ingredients:
  • 1 package of your favourite frozen perogies (cheddar variety recommended)
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced
  • 200-250 g bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • jalapeño or favourite chilli pepper to taste, sliced
 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F, and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread frozen perogies on baking sheet and spray with canola oil, or brush lightly to coat.
  2. Bake perogies 20 min, or until lightly browned, and maybe even a little bursting at the seams.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare toppings.  Slice green onions, tomatoes, and chilli peppers; crumble cooked bacon; grate cheese.
  4. Remove perogies from oven, pile and layer with remaining ingredients in oven-proof baking dish, and broil at 400 F just until cheese is melty, about 2 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately, and why not have some Guac on the side for dippin’ (because it’s “healthy” *wink* *wink*, *nudge* *nudge*)
 Alternate Directions:
  1. Instead of frozen perogies, use perogies that have been previously boiled and drained.  This is a great way to use up leftovers if you happen to have any.  Preheat canola oil in deep-frying device of your choice (I use the George Foreman Lean Mean Fryer) to 375 F.
  2. In batches, submerge perogies for approximately 10 min or until lightly browned, and turning halfway through.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, and pick up from step #3 above.
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Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

I really can’t help but to wonder why “lemon blueberry” isn’t a combination that you see more often– because it’s delicious.

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Baking with whole blueberries is tricky– if the batter is too runny, berries generally sink to the bottom instead of being nicely distributed throughout.  Though when the batter is thicker, the texture of the cake also usually becomes more dense.  Full disclaimer: this batter tends to be on the runnier side, but some of the blueberries managed to stay in suspension.  And the light airy texture of these cupcakes is amazing!

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 50 min    YIELD: 
Ingredients:
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3-4 tbsp lemon zest (requires 2-3 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, divided
 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F, and prepare muffin tins by lining with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Whisk egg whites on high until stiff peaks form, gradually adding in 1/4 cup white sugar.  Set aside.
  3. Combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder and salt in separate bowl and also set aside.
  4. Beat together egg yolks, canola oil, water, lemon zest, lemon juice until combined.  Gradually add in flour mixture and mix , beat on medium just until smooth.
  5. Carefully fold in eggs whites to the batter, then add blueberries, making sure not to overmix.
  6. Spoon batter into cupcake wrappers and place in preheated oven.  Bake 20 min or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
  7. Frost with your favourite cream cheese frosting and enjoy!
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French Toast Waffles

Can’t decide between French Toast or Waffles for breakfast?  Let me make it easier and tell you that you don’t have to: cook French Toast, using your waffle iron *mind blown*

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This is by far my favourite French Toast recipe.  Including a little bit of cinnamon/vanilla and sugar to the mix just brings it to a whole new level of awesome.  Taking out the egg whites help to alleviate some of the sogginess associated with your usual unspectacular French Toast.  To even further help this problem if you’re just making plain French Toast on a griddle or in a frying pan, I highly recommend toasting the bread before you dip it in the egg bath– this really helps the texture!  When cooking on the waffle iron, however, I didn’t find this step was as necessary.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 25 min    YIELD: 2 servings
Ingredients:
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (could be omitted, if you’re just planning to smother in syrup anyway)
  • White bread, sliced 1″ thick
 Directions:
  1. Pre-heat waffle iron.
  2. Combine egg yolks, 3/4 cup milk, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar and whip until well mixed.
  3. Dip sliced bread in egg mixture and briefly soak, only 5 seconds or so.  Let excess drip off and place immediately on the waffle iron to cook.
  4. Serve with your favourite topping.  Some of our favourites are plain (real Canadian) maple syrup, strawberry sauce and whipped cream (below), or blueberry sauce.

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Strawberry Sauce

Making your own breakfast fruit toppings may seem intimidating, but it’s actually really easy.  I typically prefer to make my own rather than buying the stuff in a bottle, namely because then I’m able to control how much sugar goes into it.  It’s also a good way to use up berries that are looking a tad over-ripe or have been sitting in the fridge a bit too long.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 20 min    YIELD: 1 cup
Ingredients:
  • 2 heaping cups of strawberries, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
 Directions:
  1. Thoroughly wash, then hull and slice up strawberries.
  2. Add strawberry slices, orange juice, vanilla, and sugar to sauce pan.
  3. Over medium heat, bring to boil then reduce to low-medium and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly and strawberries soften.
  4. Remove from heat, and using a hand-immersion blender (carefully, because the mixture is HOT) purée until smooth, or if you prefer your sauce to have a chunky texture, just purée slightly or avoid this step all together.
  5. Allow the sauce to sit for 5 minutes or so, then serve warm with pancakes, waffles, oven pancakes, or french toast.
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Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

Bruschetta is one of those things; there seems to be so many variations and everyone has their own version.  Is it cooked and served warm?  Cold and raw?  Does it have garlic?  onions?  cheese?  vinegar or not?  About the only thing I know for certain, is that usually always involves tomatoes, basil and toast as an open-faced sandwich of sorts.  I guess the same could be said for almost any recipe, but it does surprise me that there seem to be infinite different versions something so simple– and all by the same name.

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And this is my style of bruschetta, and I’ve tried enough to be confident to say this is most definitely my favourite.

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This unseasonably warm weather lately has me getting excited for gardening season (and pining  for fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes!)

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 25 min YIELD: 4 servings

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 medium mixed variety heirloom tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small onion, diced small (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, (or substitute 2 tsp dried)
  • 2 heaping tbsp parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • small pinch of salt/pepper to taste
  • French bread, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • olive oil
 Directions:
  1. Preheat broiler to 425F.
  2. Brush oil on sliced bread and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Broil toasts under high heat for ~5 minutes, or until tops just start to brown then remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in small frying pan, fry diced onion in 1 tsp of olive oil just until softened and starting to brown (about 5-8 minutes).  Cooking the onions helps to mellow the strong flavour.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and toss in the cooked onions then let the mixture sit for at least 30 min before enjoying.
  5. Don’t top the toasted bread with tomato mixture until you’re ready to serve, otherwise the toasts tend to get a bit soggy.  Garnish with some fresh basil leaves if you’re feeling particularly fancy.
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Leftover Chicken Wrap

These wraps are lovely!  It’s a great use for leftover chicken (or turkey) Even without the wrap (or even the chicken really), the star of this post is the salad and dressing, which would make a great side-dish just own it’s own.

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This recipe is just one of a handful of reasons why I recently ventured out into the cold last week and picked myself up a copy of Jamie Oliver’s “Save with Jamie” cookbook.  I’m skipping a bit ahead in the story, let me go back…It was a typical Saturday late morning and I was perusing the TV channels, looking for something interesting to keep me from doing anything productive.  I stopped when I came across an episode of Jamie’s Money Saving Meals (considering anything with Jamie Oliver is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining… with phrases like “just wazz it up” and “bang it in my gob”, how can you go wrong?).  Anyway, this episode included a version of this wrap spotlighting leftover chicken as a budget-friendly option (and also a couple other recipes that looked very intriguing).  End result is this book made a nice addition to the collection and I’ve acquired some new/easy dinner ideas that I’m quite excited about.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 30 min YIELD: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:
  • leftover chicken (about 1/2 c or however much you have), pulled apart so it fits reasonably in a wrap
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2-3 10″ soft tortilla shells

Salad:

  • 1 cup fine rice noodles (cover with boiling water, drain after 5-10 min after noodles have softened)
  • half of a yellow pepper, finely sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tbsp green onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, julienned
  • 1 tbsp fresh chilli pepper or jalapeño pepper
  • 4 large leaves romaine or other green lettuce of choice, sliced
  • grated zest from half a lime

Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from half a lime (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
 Directions:
  1. In medium frying pan, over medium heat, combine chicken and hoisin sauce and re-heat until chicken starts to go crispy/sticky (~10 minutes)
  2. Meanwhile, mix together dressing ingredients.
  3. Combine salad ingredients and toss together with dressing.
  4. Now, the fun part, stuff the wrap with a little chicken and a whole bunch of salad– a little more than what you think you can reasonably fit into a 10″ tortilla shell
  5. Garnish with a little cilantro and/or sesame seeds if you’re feeling fancy, wrap it up then do your best and try to eat it without making a mess.  It’s best if served immediately (otherwise the tortilla can go a little soggy).
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Old-Fashioned Waffles

My waffle iron was the first appliance I ever owned and while it may be a bit beat up today, it managed to survive many moves and it still produces delightful waffles.

The first time I ever made waffles I used this recipe from a (now very tattered) cook book of my mom’s.  I’ve since tried a number of waffle recipes, but none have ever really compared to these.  This recipe comes from the Women of Unifarm Cook Book, Alberta Section circa 1978-79 (the index page is actually missing, so I’m not sure the year).

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I believe what makes these waffles perfect is their crispy outside, and soft/light insides, courtesy of the beaten egg whites.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 25 min    YIELD: 6 servings
Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil (such as canola)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
 Directions:
  1. Pre-heat waffle iron.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients.
  3. Combine egg yolks milk and cooking oil, and stir into dry ingredients.
  4. Gently fold in egg whites, leaving a few little fluffs and don’t overmix!
  5. Bake in a pre-heated waffle iron

(Though be careful not to overfill the iron, or you may end up with a mess all over the iron and counter top to clean up like this:)

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Guac!

Guacamole that is.  More specifically, easy guacamole for one (or make more to share by multiplying this recipe… your choice).  I, however, have been making single servings these days because my better half is struggling a bit with guac-overload.

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I’m a bit ashamed to admit that awesomeness of the avocado is only a recent discovery for me. This post is my homage to Chili’s Tableside Guacamole, which is really what kicked off my current obsession with this fruit.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 10 min    YIELD: 1 serving
Ingredients:
  • 1  avocado, mashed
  • 3 tbsp diced tomatoes (equivalent to 1/2 a Roma tomato)
  • 1 tbsp grated or very finely diced red onion
  • 1 tsp minced jalapeño
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro (or 1 tsp of fresh cilantro finely chopped, if you happen to have)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
 Directions:
  1. Remove skin and pit from avocado, and mash the flesh.  A potato masher works well for this, or alternatively a hand blender or just a fork and a little elbow grease.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients with avocado and serve. This is best if eaten immediately!
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Simple Coleslaw

Good doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming, or precious.  Proof in point:

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Feeling a little shut in from the winter, and reminiscent of warmer days with BBQ meals, we enjoyed some of this classic coleslaw last night atop of shredded pork sandwiches.  This very classic ‘slaw is a dependable favourite and is so because of the ideal balance of tangy and sweet.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 10 min    YIELD: 5 servings
Ingredients:
  • 3 1/2 cups (loosely packed) head green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup (loosely packed) purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup carrot, finely shredded

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 1/2 tbsp white sugar
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
 Directions:
  1. Mix shredded cabbages and carrots in large bowl.
  2. Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss with cabbage mixture.
  3. Serve immediately after mixing for delightfully crisp coleslaw