April 25, 2010

Irish Cream Truffle Fudge

Another bake-off at work! These days are awesome - the afternoon is spent wandering into the boardroom, sampling the treats, trying to figure out who baked what, and voting. Finally, after there is no doubt that everyone in the building is on quite the sugar high, the results are e-mailed.

The winner of last month's competition got to choose the theme for April: alcohol. What a tough one! We scoured the internet for ideas, and once again AllRecipes saved the day. From the kitchen of "LETSGGGO" comes Irish Cream Truffle Fudge. We made a few adjustments, like cutting the Baileys in half - but a little flavor was definitely sacrificed by doing so. Still....
We came in 2nd!!!! (again!) Woohoo!
Congrats to the winners. Hopefully they will pick an easier theme next time. May we suggest citrus? Cookies? Banana? Anyway, we can't wait!

Irish Cream Truffle Fudge
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur (we used Baileys)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate clips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur
1 tablespoon butter
  • Line an 8x8 inch pan with tin foil. Use butter to grease the foil.
  • Melt the 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, and butter until soft enough to stir. You can do this over a double boiler or on low heat in the microwave.
  • Stir in the icing sugar and cream until smooth. Stir in nuts. Place in pan and smooth top down. Note: it might be a nice touch to add the white chocolate chips with the nuts, instead of melting them at the beginning - it could up the prettiness factor if they don't melt.
  • Melt remaining chocolate. Using a fork, beat in butter and cream. Spread over the cooled fudge with a knife. Use hands to smooth the top, if necessary.
  • Refrigerate until firm - a few hours at least.
Love the combo of chocolate chips!
Sprinkle in the icing sugar.
Ready for the party...
See the nuts in the batter?
We used chopped walnuts.
Mixing the topping together.
We used some extra white chocolate chips to decorate.
We thought they'd look like dominoes...
but most people at work thought they were eyes!
Ready for judging!

Canadian Molasses Cookies

Canadian molasses cookies... these are similar to a ginger cookie, but with a zippy of molasses taste. Nice and chewy, they aren't your typical ginger snap kind of cookie. Slow as molasses in January? Well, we guess it's a lot easier to make these in the spring. And check out Lisa's artistic pouring photo below!

Canadian Molasses Cookies - from AllRecipes
1 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar (this flavor is important - don't substitute!)
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In a large bowl, stir together molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, and egg. Notice there's no butter in these cookies!
  • Add dry ingredients and mix until well blended.
  • Spoon the dough onto cookie sheets, leaving some room for them to spread.
  • Bake in 350 F oven for 12 minutes, or until edges are a tiny bit golden. Transfer to baking racks to cool.
Grandma Molasses... the French side of the box.
We thought that added to the authenticity. Parlez-vous Francais?

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake seems like such a springtime food, doesn't it? A million of these pseudo-healthy desserts pop up around Easter, just as bunnies start hopping around our backyard.
We used a recipe from an ancient cookbook... it's obviously well-loved, because it has no front cover, back cover, table of contents... but the recipe pages are all still intact (although some are starting to tear out). We think that it is the Five Roses: A Guide to Good Cooking (1967?) book, by Elizabeth Driver, which is described on Amazon as a must-have for vintage cookbook collections. So, this carrot cake recipe can be describe as an oldie but a goodie!

  • Click on the photo to enlarge!
  • Note: we halved the recipe.
  • We were SO proud of our decorating creativity! We cut up a real carrot to lay on top of the icing, and used the tips of celery stalks for the leafy greens.
Cream Cheese Frosting (from the same book)
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup soft butter or margarine
1 package (113 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add vanilla (we always add a little extra).
  • Beat in icing sugar gradually until desired consistency is achieved.
  • Ice your cake!
Mixing for 5 minutes was a workout for Lisa's arms.
Look at that bright orange batter!
The cake, uniced. Transfer to platter before icing.
The icing should be pretty thick.
We were SO proud of the decorations!
Cake time!

Dijon-Dill Brussels Sprouts

Did you know brusselS sprouts has an "s"?
Apparently they originated in Brussels (who would have guessed?)... Another fun fact: President Thomas Jefferson brought them to North America in 1812.
Amy just discovered these leafy green vegetables a few years ago, and of course fell in love. Lisa, not so much - regardless of how they're prepared. Usually, brussels sprouts are boiled, steamed, or roasted. Sometimes they're drowned in cheese sauces to mask their strong flavor. This recipe uses a light vinaigrette that complements the earthy taste but still makes them more exciting.
Disclaimer: Lisa still does not like brussels sprouts.

Dijon-Dill Brussels Sprouts - from AllRecipes
1 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts, halved
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Cook the brussels sprouts: place in pot with small amount of water, cover and steam for 12 minutes, or until tender.
  • Combine butter, mustard, lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper.
  • Drain brussels sprouts.
  • Pour dressing over brussels sprouts. You may not need all of it.
  • The original recipe called for sliced water chestnuts to be tossed in - that might be worth trying!
The sprouts, still crunchy before cooking.
The dressing - all shaken up.
Jazzed up, ready to eat!

April 6, 2010

Gelatin Spritz Cookies

One of Lisa's birthday gifts from Amy was a cookie press. Flipping through cookbooks in the last few months, we've come across quite a few gorgeous cookies only to realize that we need this fancy contraption to re-create the results. So to top off our Easter weekend kitchen craziness extravaganza, Lisa took the cookie press out of the box and we got down to work.

We searched through our cookbooks and online to find a recipe worthy of our first cookie press experiment. Finally we settled on Gelatin Spritz Cookies from AllRecipes (contributed by Kathy). The picture on the website shows a bunch of Christmas trees, but we put a definitely springtime spin on ours by using lime flavoring and flowery shapes.

Lisa's arm muscles get pretty much all the credit here (she's the athlete!). Amy made about 4 cookies (it's harder than it looks!) before declaring herself chief decorator. Lisa's right forearm took over from there.

Gelatin Spritz Cookies
We cut the original recipe in half (typed below) and had plenty of cookies.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter
1/2 of 3 oz package fruit flavored gelatin mix (we used lime)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Mix butter, sugar, and gelatin powder. Add egg and vanilla. Combine. Gradually add flour and baking powder, mixing until dough is smooth.
  • Place dough in cookie press.
  • Bake at 400 F for 5 minutes or until a split second before edges turn brown.
  • Note: you can also refrigerate dough until firm, and then roll it out and use cookie cutters to make shapes.
If you use lime Jello powder, your dough will turn green!
Unfortunately, the color faded after baking.
Through the cookie press.
After a few tries... finally, the first cookie!
Flowers were tough.
Cookie press in action.
Flowers on the pan.
Happy Easter!!!

April 5, 2010

Rhubarb Banana Crumble

We read the entire recipe section of April's Canadian Living magazine - separately. We reconvened. As Amy said, "There was one recipe that really stood out to me", Lisa chimed in and finished the sentence, "the rhubarb banana crumble!"
We've been waiting a few weeks to make this fruity dessert, and Easter seemed like an ideal time to try this cross between a strawberry rhubarb pie and apple crisp. It was an excellent ending to our quesadilla meal (see post below).

You might have noticed our mismatched crème brûlée containers (if not, don't look now!). Well we finally picked up real ramekins! Now we have uniformly sized containers that will make our baking adventures a little easier and a lot prettier.

Rhubarb Banana Crumble
Serves 8
5 cups sliced french or thawed drained rhubarb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 bananas, chopped
3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • Toss together rhubarb, sugar, and four. Divide between 8 lightly greased ramekins or pour into a square baking dish. Cover with foil and bake in 400 F oven for 25 minutes. If using one large baking dish instead of ramekins, stir once while in oven.
  • Combine oats, flour, sugars, and cinnamon. Use a knife or pastry cutter to blend in butter until mixture is crumbly. Mix in walnuts.
  • Spread sliced bananas over rhubarb.
  • Sprinkle crumb mixture over bananas.
  • Bake, uncovered, in 350 F oven for about 25 minutes, or until bubbly and topping is light golden brown.
Frozen rhubarb - from last year's garden.

Use a pastry cutter or knife to make the crumble topping.
Foil is only needed for the first oven session.
Layer the sliced bananas over the cooked rhubarb.
Fresh out of the oven. Check out that ramekin.
We served it warm, but (if you can wait long enough)
it would probably be pretty tasty cold too.

April 4, 2010

Overnight Raspberry French Toast

The Spatula Sisters' mom is making a guest appearance! Mom took on Easter morning brunch, trying something completely different. In the past, we've had frittatas on Easter morning... I think last year we had our traditional cranberry Christmas cake... this year we tried Overnight Raspberry French Toast, and it was a hit! Plus it was made with a dash of motherly love and served around a centerpiece of Easter bunnies popping out of pastel-colored ceramic eggs (see lime cookie post for a picture with decor).
This was another recipe from the Bravo! Best of Bridge Cookbook (Sally Vaughan-Johnston, 2009). We're on a roll with this book.

Overnight Raspberry French Toast
Serves 6
6 - 8 slices white bread, torn into small pieces
1 package cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen - no need to thaw)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted ** (see previous post for tips on how to toast)
6 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup half-and-half cream (10%)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Maple syrup
  • Grease an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Scatter the bread pieces in the dish. Arrange cream cheese, raspberries, and almonds on top. Top with a few remaining bread pieces.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, 1/4 cup sugar (half of it!), milk, cream, and cinnamon. Pour over bread.
  • Sprinkle remaining sugar on top. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  • Keeping foil on dish, bake in 350 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 30 minutes more or until puffy and golden brown.
  • Serve warm, with maple syrup if desired.
Bread with chunks of cream cheese... the cream cheese is
amazing when it's melted.
No need to thaw frozen raspberries.
Pouring in the sugar and milk mixture.
Fresh out of the oven.
Happy Easter!!!

Gouda, Apple, and Chicken Quesadillas with Orange-Almond Salad

Sandwiched between turkey dinners, we needed something a little different. The quesadilla recipe came from the lunch section of a cookbook, but it's hearty enough for a full dinner. Don't skip out on the gouda cheese! We didn't use smoked, but we made sure to get medium instead of mild to amp up the flavor.
We have to note that both recipes in this post came from a very special cookbook: Bravo! Best of Bridge Cookbook (Sally Vaughan-Johnston, 2009). Lisa and I won it in our grandparents' Christmas gift exchange, and we've been itching to try something out of it for ages. This weekend it was put to good use!

Smoked Gouda, Chicken, and Apple Quesadillas
Serves 4
4 flour tortillas (9-inches)
8 tablespoons peach or apricot jam
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 apple, thinly sliced
1/2 green onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese (we used medium, unsmoked)
Olive oil
  • Lay tortilla on work surface. Spread jam over half the tortilla, sprinkling Mozzarella over the jam. Layer apple, onion, chicken, and Gouda on top. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over everything.
  • Fold uncovered half over filling.
  • Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and grease with a little bit of oil. Cook quesadilla, flattening lightly with a spatula, for 3 - 4 minutes on each side. Cheese should be melted and sides will be lightly browned.
  • Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half. Serve warm.
Assembling a quesadilla.
Cheese, apple, and chicken - oh my!
Since the quesadillas have a bit of a summer flair to them (the weather was warm this weekend!), we thought a citrusy salad would be a perfect match. The salad recipe below is loosely based off of two we found: "Green Salad with Orange-Walnut Dressing" from the Bravo! book, and "Orange Almond Salad" from the Company's Coming: Salads (Jean Pare, 1985). Sidenote: The latter recipe's description reads "Men like this as well." Okay, great??

Orange-Almond Salad
Salad greens
4 tangerines (or 1/2 tin Mandarin oranges)
1/8 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons / a splash vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch dried tarragon
  • In tupperware container, add olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, honey, tarragon, salt, and pepper. Put lid on container and shake it!
  • To toast almonds, spread in single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 5 minutes.
  • Peel tangerines and separate pieces.
  • Put greens in large salad bowl, add almonds and tangerines, pour desired amount of dressing, and toss.
Orange dressing - a little frothy.
Toast the almonds to bring out a nuttier flavor.
We used fresh tangerines, but you can also try
canned Mandarin oranges.
Toss it all together!