June 20, 2010

Mocha Cutouts... Oh Canada!

Time for a little patriotism!
These would have been perfect for Olympic celebrations... so we fed them to athletes you just might see competing at London 2012 or Rio 2016!

Quite early in the morning on a sunny Thursday in May, Amy filmed a profile piece of Lisa's swimming team... As a thank you to the girls and coaches for their patience, hard work, enthusiasm, and sense of fun, we made cookies for after the practice. After an early morning workout, the hint of coffee flavor was a nice wake-up boost.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens: The Ultimate Cookie Book (edited by Lois White, 2007).

Mocha Cutouts
Makes 18 - 24 cookies
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon strong coffee
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
  • Baking for adults? Try spiking these cookies! Instead of the tablespoon of strong coffee, add 1 tablespoon of Baileys Irish Cream or a coffee flavored liqueur.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds on medium to high speed. Mix in brown sugar, coffee powder, cocoa, and salt. Beat in egg yolk and coffee.
  • Gradually mix in flour. The dough will get very thick - use a spoon to stir in flour, if necessary.
  • Divide dough in half. If you need to, cover and chill until easy to handle.
  • Roll out one half of the dough at a time, to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to shape cookies. Place cookies on un-greased baking sheet.
  • Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 12 minutes or until set. Remove from over and let cookies stand for a minute on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
  • In small pot, melt together chocolate chips and shortening over medium-low heat. Stir until smooth. At this point you might want to put waxed paper under the wire racks to save on clean-up time.
  • Dip cooled cookies into chocolate mixture. Let stand until chocolate sets.

Leave about an inch between cookies, just in case they spread.

A pile of leaves!

A perfect coffee cookie.

June 18, 2010

Maya Angelou's Banana Pudding

Overripe bananas on the kitchen counter.
There are more than a few brown spots, and the yellow fruit is simply past the point of peel-and-eat. The inside is a little mushy and the taste intensified. This is because as bananas ripen the starch in the fruit turns to sugar.
This recipe puts those very ripe bananas (or perfectly yellow bananas) to good use.

Originally found in an Oprah magazine, this recipe is also listed on the Oprah website as a celebrity favorite. It was created by Maya Angelou and is described as her "highly superior banana sweet".
You have to, have to, have to like banana to enjoy this dessert. As long as you do, you're in for a hearty treat!

Banana Pudding - from Oprah.com and the January '06 issue of O Magazine (slightly modified)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespon sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch salt
3 cups milk
8 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 cups vanilla wafers
4 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Note: we halved the recipe and it was plenty!
  • In large pot, stir together 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in milk. Cook over medium heat - keep stirring! Milk burns easily and will stick to the bottom of the pot... keep stirring until thickened mixture boils. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. This is your custard.
  • In bowl, whisk egg yolks together. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot custard. Pour this mixture into the pot and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes... keep stirring. Add butter and vanilla. Stir.
  • Cover bottom of shallow casserole dish with vanilla wafers. Cover with half of the banana slices, and then a layer of half the warm custard. Repeat these layers.
  • In a large bowl, beat egg whites and sugar together until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Gradually beat in the sugar you didn't use in the custard. Continue beating until still peaks form in the egg whites. This is your meringue.
  • Spoon the meringue over custard. To stop it from shrinking while in the oven, make sure it touches the casserole dish on all sides.
  • Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 20 minutes, or until golden.
  • Let cool for one hour.
  • Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.... As Maya Angelou says, "All great achievements require time."

Vanilla wafers meet bananas.

The custard spooned over the vanilla wafer crust.

Stiff peaks in the egg whites.
Meringue can be more difficult on humid days.

The stiff peaks hold up well in the heat.

Golden brown...
it looks almost like a giant toasted marshmallow.

June 6, 2010

Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread

The flavor burst of one of those smashable throwable dropable chocolate oranges (you know the ones we mean?), packed into a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie. Mmhmm... that's what this is.

The recipe for these citrus twisted cookies comes from Better Homes and Gardens: The Ultimate Cookie Book (edited by Lois White, 2007).
The original recipe calls for raspberry chocolate chips, which would be quite the flavor combination. We didn't have any on hand, but we'll be sure to try that next time.

Orange and (Raspberry?) Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Makes 24 cookies.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Orange glaze (recipe follows)
  • In medium mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Beat in sugar and orange peel, until completely combined. Beat in flour until crumbly.
  • Stir in chocolate chips, pressing the dough together until smooth. If the dough is just too crumbly to pat together, try putting it in the fridge for a few minutes.
  • Pat dough into a rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick) on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 25 - 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 325 F. Bake until bottom is just beginning to brown and the centre of the cookie is set.
  • Place cookie sheet on wire rack to cool.
  • Spread glaze over cooled shortbread. Let the glaze stand for about 30 minutes, until set. Cut lengthwise, then crosswise, making 24 rectangles.

Chocolate chips and crumbly batter.

The consistency threw us off at first.
Add a tiny, tiny bit of milk if it's just too crumbly.

Press the dough together into a giant cookie!

Orange Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon orange juice
  • Stir together powdered sugar, butter, and orange juice.
  • If necessary, stir in extra juice, one teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Once the glaze sets, cut into rectangles.

Summer Picnic Chicken Salad

It is way too easy to get lost in our grandma's library of cookbooks. She has an entire closet full... dozens upon baker's dozens... and she's also one of the best cooks we know (and most organized - she scans and uploads winning recipes onto her computer for easy access). When she recommends something, we know it will be good.
When we saw Best Recipes Under the Sun (Marion Kane, 1987) tucked away on one of her shelves, we picked it up because we own it too. We wanted to see what the colorful sticky notes were marking off her in her version.
A quick and easy summer salad looked like another promising addition to our parentless week... This was dinner for Lisa one night, and lunch for Amy the next day.

Summer Picnic Chicken Salad
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 chicken, or 2 - 3 chicken breasts (boned, skinned, diced) --> see tip below
1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 can (14 oz, or 398 mL) pineapple chunks, drained
1/2 can (10 oz, or 284 mL) mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 can (10 oz, or 284 mL) water chestnuts - optional (we didn't add them)
Lettuce leaves
  • Toast almonds: place on baking sheet in 350 F oven for 5 minutes.
  • Combine mayo, curry powder, and soy sauce in a large bowl. Add almonds, chicken, grapes, celery, pineapple, and oranges. Feel free to leave out the water chestnuts, like we did (Amy doesn't like them). Toss everything together.
  • Refrigerate overnight.
  • Serve on a lettuce leaf, over salad, or on a sandwich!

Tip for extra juicy chicken:
Place chicken in roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle inside and out with onion powder.
Place 3 tablespoons margarine in chicken cavity, and 2 tablespoons around the exterior.
Cut 1 stalk of celery into 4 pieces. Place in chicken cavity.
Bake uncovered for 1 hour 15 minutes, to minimum internal temperature of 180 F.
Remove from heat, baste with melted margarine and drippings.
Cover with aluminum foil. Let chicken rest a half hour before serving.

Penne with Asparagus Pesto

Lisa and I were on our own for a week, left to forage through a near-empty-fridge, slopping together PB&J... kidding. Left to our own devices we cooked up a storm!
Dinners were a little tough because of how late Amy gets home, but we did a lot of making ahead. This penne recipe was perfect for that!

Rita Demontis is a Toronto Sun columnist who offers up an abundance of recipes to Torontonians. In early May, just as asparagus was coming into season, she started "stalking" the green vegetable. Did you know it has no fat and is high in fibre? Neither did we. Thanks, Rita. And thanks for our dinner, detailed below.

Penne with Asparagus Pesto (from the May 1, 2010 Toronto Sun)
1 pound asparagus
1/2 cup mint leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups whole wheat penne
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Wash asparagus, trim, and remove the tips. Set the tips aside - they'll be added at the very end.
  • Cut asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. You should end up with just over 2 cups. Cook the stalks in boiling water for 3 - 5 minutes. Drain well, and cool by rinsing under cold water.
  • Place asparagus stalks and mint leaves in food processor. Turn on the food processor and gradually add garlic.
  • Add walnuts, lemon rind, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to food processor. Coarsely chop. Add oil and broth. Process until blended, but leave walnuts a little chunky.
  • You can press pause here! If this is a make-ahead meal, stop here, refrigerate, and finish up tomorrow.
  • Cook penne according to package directions. Add the asparagus tips for the last 2 minutes. Drain pasta and return to pot.
  • Add pesto - start by adding 1/3 of the mix, and work your way up until desired flavor is achieved.
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

'Tis the season for these bright green stalks.

Mint leaves, ready to be turned into paste.

Almost pesto.

From here, just toss and serve!