August 8, 2010

Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

The LCBO Food & Drink magazine brings culinary creations to life in such a dazzling way that you simply must see it for yourself, if you can. The popular (free!) magazines come out seasonally at LCBO stores, usually to quite a bit of fanfare, and disappear quickly. The publication's photographers are truly artists, which makes it a treat to read - and makes it all the more tempting to try the suggested recipes!

We made the Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes (found on Canadian Baker Too's blog) as the grande finale to our summertime backyard meal (see post below). They took quite a bit of work but oh my goodness they are one of the best (tastiest and prettiest) desserts we've ever made.

Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Note: we made 8 cupcakes by cutting the recipe in half. The recipe below has the full ingredient amounts.
1/2 package Dare Simple Pleasures "Lemon Social Tea" Biscuits --> we had to use a different brand, but try to stick with Dare to make measurements easier
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packages cream cheese
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup lemon curd (recipe follows)
6 strawberries (fresh is best)
  • Line muffin tins with papers.
  • Place eggs in small bowl and cover with hot water to warm them up. Set aside.
  • To prepare the crust, put the lemon tea cookies in a food processor. Blend until the cookies are fine crumbs. You should have about 1 cup. Add melted butter and stir until evenly coated.
  • Divide crumb mixture equally between cupcake liners, pressing the crumbs firmly into the bottoms of the cups.
  • Wipe the crumbs out of the food processor.
  • Combine cream cheese, eggs, jam, sugar, and vanilla in food processor. Spoon this batter into the cupcake cups, on top of the crumb crust.
  • Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 20 minutes, or until just set. Ours cracked a little - but don't worry, the lemon curd covers any cracks that may appear.
  • Cool the cupcakes on a rack. Cover and store in fridge until chilled.
  • Top with lemon curd and a strawberry slice.
Tea biscuits about to be turned into dust...

The next food processor combo is about to turn a lovely shade of pink.

Graham-cracker-esque crust made with lemon social teas.

A few cracks appeared on the cheesecake tops. Don't worry if this happens to you too!

Lemon curd adds major glamour to these creamy cupcakes.

Lemon Curd
We also cut this recipe in half. The full recipe, which makes 2 cups, follows.
4 lemons
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
  • Squeeze the juice out of the lemons until you have 3/4 cup of juice.
  • Stir eggs with 1 cup sugar in small pot. Whisk in lemon juice. Add softened butter.
  • Using a whisk, stir constantly for 10 - 12 minutes while lemon mixture cooks over medium heat. It should get thicker and a little darker. Do not let it boil!
  • Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl if you'd like, and place plastic wrap directly on surface of the lemon curd. Cool and store in fridge.
Keep stirring!

Prepared lemon curd will keep for over a week in the refrigerator.
Or, freeze it and it will stay good for several months.

Rosemary Ranch Kabobs with Strawberry Feta Salad

A summertime meal in the backyard: cool refreshments, a hot BBQ, lingering over the meal, and finally lighting citronella candles as the mosquitoes come out.

We invited our grandparents over for dinner on the deck, and decided to tackle the meal preparations ourselves. We started marinating the chicken early in the afternoon and tossed the salad just before serving the meal. As sides, we served hot rice and cold marinated asparagus. Our next blog post will be the spectacular dessert!

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs - from AllRecipes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (we used 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar (optional --> we didn't add this)
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
Assorted chopped vegetables
  • Stir together marinade ingredients (everything on the list except the chicken!) and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Put the marinade in a wide bowl or shallow baking dish and add the chicken, coating it in the sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Thread the chicken and vegetables onto skewers. Grill over medium-high heat for 8 - 12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked thoroughly (juices will run clear). Discard the rest of the marinade.
Strawberry and Feta Salad - adapted from AllRecipes
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar --> we used cherry vinegar and it was perfect!
2 tablespoons balsamic vingar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 head romaine lettuce, torn
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced --> we used 3/4 cup frozen... and you should definitely use fresh
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Toast the almonds in the oven (350 F for 5 minutes) or in a skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and set aside
  • To make the dressing, whisk together garlic, honey, mustard, vinegars, brown sugar, and vegetable oil.
  • In a large salad bowl, toss together the almonds, lettuce, strawberries, and cheese. Add the dressing a little bit at a time - you won't need all of it! Toss and serve.

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

These cookies fit perfectly with the sweet and salty trend making its way through grocery stores (tried those yummy Nature Valley granola bars?), restaurants (we've heard of chocolate bacon), and blogs (these cookies!). We adapted a recipe found on PickyCook, a well-organized blog with a huge range of culinary ideas.

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
(the name is quite a mouthful...)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons butter, softened but still cool --> this works out to about 3/4 cup + 1/8 cup
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (we put in about 2 teaspoons)
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats --> do not use instant or quick-cooking oatmeal!
1 cup white chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt
  • Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars for about 20 seconds. Increase mixer speed and beat for a minute longer, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding egg and vanilla to the mixture. Beat until well-combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl again.
  • Add flour mixture into the large bowl, mixing on low speed until just combined. Slowly add oats and mix well.
  • Add white chocolate. We found it easiest to stir with a wooden spoon, but you can mix for a few seconds if you would like.
  • Form dough into balls between 1 and 2 tablespoons each.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat... We'd used our silpat (ours is Patisse brand) mat to roll out cookies on the counter before, but we had no idea it could go in the oven. Very cool! And the cookies really don't stick.
  • Place cookies on baking sheets, leaving an inch or two between each one so they have room to spread.
  • Use your hand to flatten the dough balls so they are 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  • Bake in preheated 350 F oven until cookies are golden brown and edges are starting to crisp - 13 - 16 minutes. We let ours bake for 15 minutes, which left the centers a bit chewy. Let the cookies cool a little bit before transferring to a wire rack.
Combining the wet and dry ingredients.

The original recipe called for a chopped-up white chocolate bar.
Chocolate chips are a little bit easier, but we're sure the chocolate
bar would be decadent!

Dough is done, pan is prepared, oven is on.

Sprinkling the salt.

August 7, 2010

Ginger-Honey Glazed Salmon

We love going through magazines to find recipe gems, but Oprah sometimes serves up complicated ingredient lists. This simple salmon recipe, found in the January 2006 magazine and on the Oprah website, has surprisingly few ingredients.

Salmon is a very good source of protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids (which are one of the reasons some fish are called "brain food"). Improved cardiovascular health is often touted as another bonus of this fish. On the Whole Foods website it's suggested that salmon consumption can lower hostility, decreasing grumpiness.

Ginger-Honey Glazed Salmon
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil (we used olive oil)
1 fillet salmon
2 tablespoons olive oil
  • In a small pot, bring orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, honey, and sesame oil to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes on medium-low heat.
  • Pour half of the marinade into a shallow dish and let cool for a few minutes. Put the fish in the dish, coating with the marinade. Turn the skin side up and cover with plastic. Set the salmon aside for 10 minutes
  • Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook fish with skin side down, covered, for 3 minutes. Skin should be crisp. Flip the fish and cook for another few minutes until cooked through.
Our mini honey jar - the perfect size for this recipe.

We store ginger in a plastic bag in our freezer.

Salmon frying. Feel free to use packaged cut filets.

August 4, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

Lisa has been itching to make these for ages. They're out of one of our favorite cookbooks, Better Homes and Gardens: The Ultimate Cookie Book (edited by Lois White, 2007) and can also be found online. You should see our copy of the cookbook: there are purple post-it notes sticking out all over the place, marking recipes we just have to try!

These cookies are chockfull of pecans, so take this into account when sharing with others. We don't recommend omitting the nuts though, because they help to hold the cookie together.

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 vanilla caramels (we used regular caramels)
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 1/4 cups finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat well. Then add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla (make sure to put the egg white in the fridge, because you won't need to use it for about 2 hours).
  • Stir together dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, and salt) in a small bowl. Add to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. The original recipe says to lightly grease a cookie sheet, but we didn't bother.
  • In a small pot, melt caramels with whipping cream over low heat. Stir (milk burns quickly) until mixture is smooth. Set the pot aside.
  • Slightly beat egg white. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in egg white, and then in pecans. The egg white will make the pecans stick.
  • Place the balls of dough an inch or two apart (they spread!) on the cookie sheet. Use your thumb to make a dent on the top of each cookie.
  • Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. If the center indents disappeared while baking, redo them with your thumb (or a spoon if the cookie is hot). Spoon melted caramel mixture into the dents. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.
  • Drizzle with melted chocolate if you want to up the decadence factor. Enjoy!
Egg and vanilla added to the batter.


The caramel really spreads!
Store these in the fridge to keep the cookies from sticking together.

Creamsicle Cookies

We're all about the summertime flavors right now, if you haven't noticed. Remember running around as a kid with a sticky popsicle mess dripping down your hand? Maybe you ran through the sprinkler afterwards to rinse off. Or maybe it wasn't a popsicle. Maybe you were lucky enough to have a box of ice cream filled orange popsicles (creamsicles!) in your freezer...

This recipe comes from Baked Perfection, a blog with a ton of great tags, which makes it easy to search by ingredient or flavor. Apparently they were originally called "Orangebursts", but we like the frozen treat inspired name better.

Creamsicle Cookies
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest (we put a tiny bit more in)
2 cups vanilla chips (we used white chocolate chips)
  • Mix together butter and sugars (make sure to firmly pack the brown sugar) until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add this mixture to the butter and sugar bowl, mixing on low speed until just combined.
  • Stir in orange zest and chips (vanilla, white chocolate - whatever you decide!).
  • Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. They spread a little bit, so make sure to leave some room.
  • Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 8 - 10 minutes, or until light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven but let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes (they'll continue to cook for a minute or two). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Check out the mini grater!

The orange will add a surprisingly strong flavor burst...
we did add a little extra.

Mixing things up...

If you can find vanilla chips, please let us know how they are!
We used plain white chocolate chips and the end result was still delicious.

Lisa hard at work.

August 2, 2010

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Summertime and the living is easy. Pink lemonade in one hand, and a pink lemonade cupcake in the other. The tartness of the lemonade makes these refreshing.
Lisa is the expert icing queen - the two-tone was a fun effect to go for!
These cupcakes fluttered through Amy's workplace, and then we made another batch for a July birthday party.

The recipe comes from a very pretty blog, Sweet Tooth. The writer has a bunch of other great ideas too!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
  • Combine all ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium for one minute.
  • Line muffin tins with 18 - 24 cupcake liners.
  • Divide the batter between cupcake liners. The original recipe says it makes 24, but we made 18 and the cupcakes seemed to be a good size. The liners should be about 2/3 full.
  • Bake cupcakes in 350 F oven for about 25 minutes. If you insert a toothpick, it should come out clean.
  • Cool cupcakes before adding icing.
3 cups confectioners (icing) sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons frozen pink lemonade concentrate
Pinch of salt
Food coloring
  • Mix together all ingredients on low speed, until combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium or high, beating until desired consistency.
  • Divide frosting evenly between two bowls. Add food coloring.
  • We tried to follow this tutorial on two-tone frosting technique. Give it a shot. Alternatively, use our mom's technique! Put the icing in the fridge for a few minutes, so it's easier to manipulative. Roll equal amounts of each color into long tubes (a little bigger than gummy worms) and place side by side in an icing bag.
  • Add little straws or cocktail umbrellas for extra flair!
Plain white cake mix is the base.

Separating the yolk from the white.

Adding bright pink frozen lemonade.

Just wait... they're about to get much prettier.

Icing swirls.

This icing technique didn't work incredibly well for us,
but give it a shot! We basically did the same thing, minus the plastic.

Piping the two-tone icing onto the cooled cupcakes.

July 19, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

These cookies have been a big hit this summer, traveling to cottage country, Ottawa valley farmland, Mom's office, and a girls' night BBQ. They can be summed up very simply: cinnamon rolls in a cookie. It's a divine melding of cinnamon and walnuts mixed into a cookie!
They're a perfect match for a quiet cup of tea or coffee (guilty pleasure breakfast?) but are equally yummy when eaten around a noisy kitchen counter with a bunch of friends.

We found the recipe on "Canadian Baker Too", a blog we visit quite often. The original recipe comes from Martha Stewart. Before making these, note that they are refrigerator cookies, so they have to sit for a while - which means you need to set aside a few hours for baking.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Cookie Dough
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 eggs
  • Mix together butter, sugar, and orange zest on medium speed, until smooth. Beat in eggs.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add slowly to butter and sugar mixture, mixing on low speed until just combined.
  • Divide dough in half. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Roll dough onto well floured surface into a rectangle that's approximately 10x12 (ours was probably a bit smaller). Transfer the rolled-out dough onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • To toast walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 5 minutes. You can also use a frying pan on the stove to achieve the same result.
  • Use a fork or spoon to combine the filling ingredients. Crumble the mixture evenly over the rectangles of dough.
  • Starting at the long edge, roll the dough rectangles into logs. Make the logs tight, because air bubbles will cause the cookies to fall apart when you slice the dough. If the dough doesn't seem sticky enough, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes.
  • Wrap the logs in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Slice logs into cookies (just like you do with the Pillsbury dough) that are about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer onto cookie sheets.
  • Bake in 350 F oven for about 13 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Let cool for a few minutes on pan before transferring to wire racks.
Make sure to remember the orange - it adds a little zip.

Mixing the dough.

Make sure to keep your rolling pin well-floured to avoid stickiness.

Spreading the filling evenly should make the
dough easier to roll into logs.

Roll it tightly!

Slicing the dough... try to keep them at
a uniform thickness.

Ready to bake!