Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

If I was the lyricist of the Sound of Music, I would have included potluck dinner parties in "These are a few of my favourite things". Because although 'raindrops on roses' are pretty fabulous, they pale in comparison to the delightful experience that dinner parties provide.  The chance for everyone to show off their culinary chops (or lack thereof) and share recipes gives insight into the people you've known for ages in a way conversation alone never could.

When it comes to potlucks, I'm always quick to volunteer to do dessert. Dessert is fun and provides room for plenty of creativity without infringing on gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, vegetarian territory. Also, even if you don't do a great job, everyone will most likely enjoy what you've made. Mediocre dessert is still better than no dessert at all. Which brings me to the chocolate strawberries I made for the dinner party I attended last Thursday.

I had planned to get them done Wednesday night after my student council meeting, and had thought ahead to ask my roommate to bring me back toothpicks when she went home the previous weekend. This way, the strawberries could chill in the fridge all Thursday and be ready to serve by dinnertime. Unfortunately, Murphy's law would never allow such an organised plan to follow through. My meeting ran until 11:15pm, I couldn't find the toothpicks and my roommate had already gone to bed (8am class, gross). So I improvised. I thought spaghetti would be a great substitute for toothpicks to hold up the strawberries until they set, which worked, sort of. I got about a dozen of them done before I called it a night and stuck them in the fridge, forgetting a very simple fact. Spaghetti cooks and softens in water, strawberries contain water. Therefore, spaghetti left in strawberries turns to mush, which would leave strands of weird mush for my guests to discover. Thankfully, I had a few hours between classes the next day to de-mush the ones I had made the previous night and dip many more with actual toothpicks and forgot the incident by dinnertime. Moral of the story, don't attempt to replace cooking implements after 4 hour meetings.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week 7: Chocolate Orange Cookies

My good friend SP requested my baking skills last week as she was planning to make a 'cupcake castle' for a friend's 21st birthday. Though I had no idea what exactly a 'cupcake castle' was, I was glad to help. This was under the assumption that she wanted help with the cupcake part, and not so much the castle part as I'm quite sure castles aren't exactly my area of expertise.  Since I was going over to bake anyways, I thought that we may as well make it bakefest and baked up something too.

The copious amounts of oranges I've been consuming in the form of smoothies recently was the inspiration for these cookies. And since chocolate is good in almost anything. . . Chocolate orange cookies were an obvious choice.

This recipe is loosely based on another chocolate cookie I made during our December exam period. I also made them as freeze-and-bake style cookies as I realised that this was much faster than to scoop out individual portions of dough. Besides, this makes for very aesthetically pleasing perfectly circular cookies. This recipe makes for many many cookies (I ended up with 114) but the dough can be kept frozen until your next craving, which is another great thing about freeze-and-bake cookies.

This one is definitely going in the 'favourites' pile. They are thin and crispy and taste just like those chocolate oranges that you smash before eating. Except better.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creamsicle smoothie

The thoughts running through your mind at the moment may be along the lines of "baked smoothie? eww". I assure you, the recipe below does NOT involve any baking but it is so delicious I just had to share.  Our campus welcomed the addition of a new smoothie joint this year, a nice 'healthy' addition to the many not-so-healthy options available to us.  The problem is, they only sell their smoothies in one size, a practically-need-both-hands 24oz size (though still not as large as the new 31oz Trenta) for about $6-7.

Ideally, they would just sell them in smaller sizes for less money, but that's no way to make a profit now is it? Which leads me to my creation this afternoon post-gym pre-running for the bus to get to class on time: The Creamsicle smoothie!  Although I never liked that fluorescent orange coated vanilla frozen treats as a child, I started to really like the combination of vanilla and oranges recently. Maybe it was the highlighter hue or unpronounceable ingredients that turned me off. . .

Creamsicle Smoothie
Yield: 1 smoothie; ~16oz

  • 1/2 navel orange (frozen and separated into wedges)
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt (it doesn't need to be fat-free but make sure it's plain, the flavoured stuff is full of sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional if you don't like omega-3's and fibre)
  • a bit of cold water to adjust consistency
  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth
  2. Add more water if necessary
  3. Serve immediately
Per smoothie:
235 calories | 24.3g sugar | 5.3g fat

compare that to the >90g sugar $6 version!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 6: Krispie Butterscotch Cookies

According to a very reliable source (i.e. Wikipedia), butterscotch was traditionally made with one pound each of butter and sugar, and a quarter pound of a sugary syrup known as treacle, which I’ve never even heard of. Regardless, I knew that this toffee-coloured little piece of heaven was too good to pass up when I saw bags of butterscotch chips displayed at the store while I was home for the holidays. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but then again, I buy most of my baking ingredients without a specific goal in mind.  I like to let the ingredients guide me to my creations.  

In search of a recipe to use my new find, I came across countless recipes for some horrendous concoction involving coloured marshmallows and peanut butter (which my sister actually enjoys quite a lot) and many others that would involve melting the chips to use the butterscotch flavour to complement something else. But this would not do, if I was going to bake with these, they were going to have play the leading role.  Finally I found this interesting recipe for cookies that have crisped rice cereal in them and deemed it worthy of my precious butterscotch chips.
These came out deliciously light and airy thanks to the cereal, a perfect platform for sinfully sweet butterscotch. If it’s any representation of how good they are, I’ve eaten about four in the last hour. I made some alterations to the original recipe and made sure to mix carefully near the end so the cereal wouldn’t get pulverised to a dusty mess. I suggest you do the same, unless a dusty mess is what you’re looking for.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Walnut Banana Muffins

I’m a big believer in signs and hunches. So when my constant cravings of delicious-but-oh-so-unhealthy banana nut muffins from Tim Hortons miraculously coincide with a sale on bananas at my local grocery store, I take that as a sign that I need to bake myself some banana muffins before my junk food temptations get the best of me. And I hate to say this, Tim Horton, but I may have just ousted you in the contest of making the best banana muffins. Really, Tim, are your muffins heavenly moist and delicious, not really. Do they contain actual bananas? Unlikely. Are they filled to the brim with fat and calories? Most certainly. Which brings me to my night’s accomplishment: Walnut Banana muffins worthy of a patent for a fraction of the caloric evil… Take that, Mr. Horton.

Walnut Banana Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen

  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas 
  • 1/3 cup melted butter 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats 
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week 5: Chocolate Coconut Marshmallow Puffs: An experiment

    After eating quite a few these delicious cookies from President’s Choice and deciding that the thin Chocolate Coconut kind were my favorite (see below), I’ve set out to create the perfect Chocolate Coconut Marshmallow Sandwich. I optimistically thought that I would be able to do this with one go, but it appears that this experiment is still a work in progress. Here’s a summary of attempt 1 and 2! Also, thanks to the all-consuming huge lab report I have due next week, I currently only know how to write in the form of lab reports. So here it is!
    Thin crispy chocolate coconut cookies with marshmallow centre
    ATTEMPT #1 (January 2, 2011)
    Reagents and materials:
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 18 large marshmallows
  1. Oven was preheated to 350F.
  2. Butter and sugar were creamed and vanilla added, followed by milk and water.
  3. Dry ingredients were then added and mixed until a homogenous dough was formed.
  4. Level teaspoons (small cookies)  and tablespoons (large cookies) of dough were distrubuted onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and baked as follows.Tbsp: 8 min; Tsp: 6 min
  5. Half a marshmallow was then placed on cookie halves and broiled until marshmallow was lightly browned, another cookie half was placed atop immediately out of the oven to form sandwiches
  6. Results: 3 dozen thick soft cookies with the  right level of sweetness, needs more coconut
    Future Experiments: Try more baking time and more liquid (more water, less milk) to get flatter cookies.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Week 4: Lemon Cranberry Scones

Scones may just be my favourite coffee shop indulgence. They’re flaky, buttery and available in just about any flavour. The problem is, they are also often absolute calorie/fat/sugar bombs, which I can do without. So I thought I would try to create a better scone! One that would taste like the 500 calorie evil things sold by an unnamed ubiquitous Seattle-based coffee shop, but less evil.

I’ve replaced the usual buttermilk with low-fat plain yogurt and added in ground flax seed for an omega-3 and fibre boost, along with fresh cranberries and a bit of lemon zest for some antioxidant punch. Unfortunately I didn’t have any whole wheat flour around, or else I would have tossed in some of that as well.
The recipe is loosely based on this one as I needed a basic scone recipe to work around. Mine baked much quicker than the recipe prescribed so they turned out a bit more browned that I would have wished, so I’ve reduced the baking time below.  Also, even though I’ve made these as Lemon Cranberry scones, the recipe could easily be adapted to make blueberry, or raisin, or orange, or chocolate, or… anything you want to toss in, scones.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Total Pageviews