Monday, 31 December 2012

Truffle Brownie Bites & Other Treats

I love baking and working with fruit. I also love checking out new recipes on Pinterest so I combined these two pastimes to make a few old favorites and new treats as my contributions to the Christmas buffet at our home this year.

Truffle Brownie Cups

For a few years now, I have enjoyed making a Pampered Chef recipe called Truffle Brownie Cups. These are two-to-three POLITE bite chocolate delights (that comment is mainly for benefit of the teenaged son who is prone to eat in a way that I tease him is akin to an anaconda unhinging its jaw to devour its food!). 

Anyway, the Brownie Bites are very easy to make and I can top them with a variety of different goodies. They are not just for Christmas; I have gifted them to my children's school staff, made them for my birthday parties, or shared with fellow chocoholics any time of year.  The main part of TBBs is a dense brownie base baked in mini-muffin cups. These get an indent pressed into them after 10 minutes in the oven, sit a few minutes before being removed from the pan, cooled a bit, are then filled with some delicious chocolate ganache you made and cooled while the baking was going on, and adorned with anything you fancy. Some of my choices have included:

  • mini M&M candies
  • a toasted whole pecan
  • a toasted whole natural almond
  • a few toasted almond slices
  • a chocolate kiss or Golden Bud
  • a twist of orange rind
  • a dried cherry
  • Wilton's decorator sugar Sprinkles
  • chocolate-covered cocoa beans (dark, milk, and white chocolate)
  • white, red, and chocolate candy melts
  • plain chocolatey goodness...[drooling]
Here is my work station.
Some of the cups are filled and some are waiting patiently for their turn.
Behold the results!
The shot above is from this year and the two below are from bakings past. 
If your mouth is watering, click here for the recipe for Truffle Brownie Cups!


Confession: I think since teaching my first peanut-allergic student, I began craving foods with pecans, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, and the like. I love desserts containing them and salads with a nice texture contrast with a nutty crunch. (I am really careful about what I take to school to eat and only indulge elsewhere, by the way.)  At Christmas, I go to town with nuts in my cooking. 


Peanut Blossoms

I missed making one of my faves last year.  This season I had time to bake Peanut Blossoms, a peanut butter cookie ball rolled in granulated sugar, baked (they flatten out on their own, actually a lot more than I expected!), and crowned with a chocolate kiss or Golden Bud while still warm so it melts onto it but the chocolate keeps its shape. 
You can see from the initial position of the cookie balls on the sheet how much they spread...a lot more than I was expecting!  The mini kisses are shown on the left batch and the Golden Buds are on the right.  I'll still to the GBs next year - more chocolate per cookie!
I also learned that one should be careful to bake these just until set; the education came from my sensitive teeth on the sugary outside and then biting through the firm , overbaked cookie!  The recipe I followed was from the Cookies cookbook from Company's Coming.  I think that was my very first cookbook!  Click this link to the free recipe. (Jean Pare and her kin are generous with some of my favorite recipes, I discovered!)

Ice Box/Refrigerator Cookies

Two of the new recipes I tried this year were for what are known as ice box or refrigerator cookies. As a child, I remember ogling pictures of these in my mom's cookbooks.  They were also so beautiful!  To create these round, edible works of art, you make the dough, form it into logs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for about 6 hours or overnight so it's firm. I let the dough warm up a bit before slicing and baking the rounds. Coincidentally, these cookies were from the new Christmas Cookies Company's Coming mini-cookbook I couldn't resist at the was just too pretty! The varieties I made this year were Cranberry Pistachio and Cherry Macadamia White Chocolate.
They were a bit too delicious, however, and I think only two whole cookies made it to the Christmas Day cookie tray!  I will make these again for certain and remember to.

Nutella Rice Krispie Balls

Continuing on the nutwagon, I also love Nutella. Boy, has that product been in the news for a variety of not-so-terrific reasons this year! Anyway, I enjoy it in moderation. Another Pinterest recipe find was for Nutella Rice Krispie Balls. They were a bit tougher to mix together than regular Rice Krispies' marshmallow goo, but any anomalies in the "batter" didn't matter since you roll it into balls before dipping them in chocolate.
The ingredients for the balls are Nutella, mini marshmallows, butter, vanilla, and Rice KrispiesTo the melted chocolate chip coating, I added a teaspoon of vegetable shortening to make the coating more shiny, a trick I learned when my own children were making chocolate-dipped strawberries for my birthday many years back.  The funky white fork -like tool above is a Wilton's product I bought.  (After a tough cake pop dunking session, I was seduced by the promise of an easier go of future coating experiences!)  As per the recipe from Erica's Sweet Tooth blog, I crumbled some Krispies for the top; some toasted, finely chopped hazelnuts would have been good, too.  Our Nutella Rice Krispie Balls were Goldilocks-worthy: not too sweet, not painfully crunchy as to shred one's upper pallet, not messy - just right! 

I did share a few healthy dishes this Christmas, but I shall give my accounts of them another day.  Who would have thought one Christmas would lead to three four postings? 

I hope you had a sweet New Year's Eve; I won't expect too many at my island tonight as I put this up on the worldwide web! 

Wishing you a 2013 filled with blessings of all kinds,


Inspired At My Island's First Christmas

Merry Christmas, family, friends, and other folks! 

I hope you have had time to enjoy the company of loved ones and some good food to boot.  We hosted my parents, my brother's family, and the family of the brother of my blog-inspiring cousin.  How are those for handles, Troy and Trevor? ;-) 

This Christmas meal, as per the last seven we have hosted since moving to our acreage, has been prepared primarily by my father.  "We'll bring the turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cabbage rolls, carrots, and peas," he informed me again!  It makes my dad happy and he says we're too busy with the kids and work, so we thanked him and obliged.  I have made a turkey in the electric oven my parents gave me (mixed message?!) with no food poisoning experienced by my nuclear family, but my dad's bird-baking ability is tried and true.

Dad even kicked it up a notch with a new style of presentation as you can see.  Gregory looks impressed!

My husband wanted to contribute two traditional Ukrainian dishes.  One was nalysnyky; these are made by mixing dry cottage cheese (as opposed to creamed-style) with dill, perhaps other spices like pepper, even cinnamon, maybe some eggs for added adhesive power for the ingredients, rolling a few spoonfuls of that in many-a-small crepe, and baking them in cream.  My mother-in-law insists that one must boil the cream first so it doesn't overflow the pan in the oven...but you still need to keep an eye on it! 

The second dish was nachynka, a cousin of polenta, prepared by cooking chopped onions, frying the cornmeal a bit, adding milk or cream, perhaps some eggs depending on the version of the recipe, and baking it.  The consistency varies, depending on the cook's family traditions and personal style; sometimes it might be creamy like porridge or perhaps more on the firm side.  I think that the best part of nachynka is the crunchy crust that you might be lucky to get a piece of!  You can see the yellow nachynka on the right bottom corner of this photo.

Both dishes turned out very well and the husband of this blogger was very pleased with himself.  The recipients of the food were satisfied, too.  The feast was also enhanced with a traditional cooked red cabbage dish from the German heritage of Troy's wife, Monica, and my sister-in-law, Nicole, made a sweet-and-tart salad with Granny Smith apples, pieces of Snickers bars, vanilla instant pudding, and Cool Whip.  The salad is the fluffy white delight in front of Little Boy Blue and the cabbage is in the foreground of the graciously grinning girls.  

Hungry people ready for the spread; the Ukrainian          Bob of the Bird and Lovely Lorraine
chef is the handsome fellow in the long-sleeved                         a.k.a. my parents
blue dress shirt.

Now, are any of you thinking, "Jennifer, did you contribute ANYTHING to your family's feast?!" 
I did, I promise!   For the main course, I'd prepared a coleslaw salad from Bon Appetit, but the island was pretty full and I forgot about it until we'd all gone through the line and were well on the way to FULL on our belly tanks' gauges!  The dessert and snack table bore more of my efforts.  However, just in case this post is getting a bit lengthy for your taste, I will share them in the two entries to be entitled "Truffle Brownie Cups and Other Treats" and "Jennifer vs. The Grinch."

Thank you for joining our family's tasty celebration at the island this Christmas and I hope you will be back many times in the coming year!


P.S.  If you'd like an email message when I put up new posts, feel free to fill in the Subscribe section on the right side of the blog.  I excitedly told Larry that I was up to NINE followers.  He smiled and chuckled at me - he knows I'm not in this for the stats and is happy that I am finding joy in this journey. :-)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Happy Treatmas: Gingersnaps

Mwah, mwah, mwah: My blog - have MEESED you!

It has been a crazy-busy fall but I am back.  I've been looking forward to some Christmas sharing, from me to start with, but also from you, I hope, if you have some delicious sweet tradition of your own to tell me about!

I start to feel like baking when December 1st hits.  The rest of the year, I am more inclined to make cakes and other desserts to be sliced up and shared; for Christmas, I love fussing with the individual goodies.

One of the must-makes in my house is gingersnap cookies.  My dad's parents, Howard and Marion Lawton, immigrated to Alberta from Iowa, U.S.A. in 1932.  They became cattle ranchers and lived a simple but interesting life with their four boys and beloved horses.  As a little girl, no older than 9-year-old, my senses captured the typical evening scene in their dining room:  the much-used Scrabble board on the table, sprinkled with fragrant bits of Grandpa's Sail pipe tobacco, half-full coffee cups, a dish of gingersnaps, westerns or mysteries in my grandparents' hands or left open at the last-read page like little tents, Grandma usually wearing a cardigan adorned with a brooch, her hair in a bun, and Grandpa with a bolo tie and a cowboy shirt. 

A display I made for our Lawton family reunion

Yesterday would've been Grandpa Howard's 111th birthday; he passed away on the New Year's Eve before Gregory was born.  Grandma died of cancer when I was in Grade 3, and I remember missing my class' Hallowe'en party for her funeral.  I wish I had had more years with them, but my dad was the youngest brother so I was lucky to have spent as much time with them as I did.  Scrabble and homemade gingersnaps during the holidays are the connections to them I hold dear. 


My favorite cookie recipe is from Company's Company; I found it on their website's Free recipes section! 
  • WARNING: The dough is quite sticky so sometimes I dip my hands in cold water or give them a spray of Pam before rolling the balls. More often, though, I just remind myself, "Oh, yeah, this is the messy'll be over soon..."
  • I usually use the coarse white decorating sugar to roll the cookies in to give them more sparkle and crunch; I make the amount of sugar go further by rolling only the top 2/3 of the cookie in it instead of the whole ball.  Last year, I found and used three varieties of Wilton Sparkling Sugars with beautiful results!

  • The yield given by the recipe isn't usually how many it makes for me though I do follow their 1" ball size.  I wouldn't want them any smaller! 

Hard margarine (or butter), softened                      ¾ cup           175 mL
Granulated sugar                                                   1 cup            250 mL
Large egg                                                              1                  1
Fancy (mild) molasses                                           ½ cup           125 mL
All-purpose flour                                                    2 ½ cups      625 mL
Baking soda                                                           2 tsp.           10 mL
Ground ginger                                                        2 tsp.           10 mL
Ground cinnamon                                                   1 tsp.           5 mL
Salt                                                                       ½ tsp.          2 mL

Granulated sugar, approximately                            ¼ cup          60 mL

Cream margarine and first amount of sugar in large bowl.  Add egg.  Beat well.  Add molasses. Beat until smooth.

Combine next 5 ingredients in medium bowl.  Add to margarine mixture in 2 additions, mixing well after each addition until no dry flour remains.  Roll into 1 inch (2.5 cm) balls.

Roll each ball in second amount of sugar in small bowl until coated.  Arrange about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on greased cookie sheets or ones lined with parchment paper.  Bake in 350°F (175°C) oven for about 10 minutes until just firm. Let stand on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 7 ½ dozen (90) cookies.

1 cookie: 45 Calories; 1.7 g Total Fat (1.1 g Mono, 0.2 g Poly, 0.4 g Sat); 2 mg Cholesterol; 7 g Carbohydrate; trace Fibre; 0 g Protein; 62 mg Sodium

Thank you for coming back to my island after the hiatus!  I hope you will take time to have a cookie-baking date with someone you love and raise a cup of coffee to your own loved ones during the Christmas season.  See you again soon!