Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fried Halloumi (Halloom)

I've been eating this salty, chewy cheese for years. I love cheese. All kinds of cheese!! The brand I buy is called Halloom (Cedar Phoenicia brand) but if you do a google search, the results will come up as Halloumi.

I've always just eaten it as it is though. I decided I needed to try frying it as I've seen them do on TV. I went with butter but you can use oil.

Here's what it looks like before it's fried.

Just melt a teaspoon of butter or oil in a hot nonstick pan, over medium high heat. Add the cheese. Cook it for just a minute or two or until the bottom is golden. Flip and repeat. It really only takes minutes.

The amazing thing about this cheese is that it doesn't melt like other cheeses. The inside is still chewy even after you fry it. If you're using butter, go with the unsalted kind, the cheese is very salty.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Banana Orange Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting

I took my favourite Banana Bread recipe and twisted it up again to create these delicious banana orange cupcakes with orange cinnamon frosting. I wanted to make something for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who are visiting from Virginia Beach. We ate them just after they were cooled and frosted but I think they'd be even better the next day. I always like banana bread better after it's had a chance to sit around for several hours. But maybe that's just me. Either way this recipe is a keeper! Oh, and I forgot to put in the baking powder but I added it to the recipe below. That's probably why they didn't rise as well as they should have. Oopsie!

Makes 12 cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup 2% milk (or buttermilk)

Juice of 1/2 a large orange (1/4 cup maybe)
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup shortening, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 cup confectioners sugar (or more)

Preheat oven to 350F and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl. I whisked them together in the bowl, then make a well in the centre.

Combine the oil, milk, orange juice, mashed banana, egg and vanilla with a fork until well combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix just until combined.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting; combine all ingredients, except for confectioners sugar, in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again until fluffy. If it doesn't seem stiff enough you can add more sugar. Frost the cooled cupcakes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Raisin Cookies

This is originallly a recipe for chocolate chip cookies (but I used raisins) and usually turns out crispy which is what I was going for, but for whatever reason they were soft this time. Maybe because I didn't have white sugar so I used all brown. Adapted from my favourite Martha Stewart holiday cookie magazine but also available online (see bottom of post).

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar beating on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Reduce speed to low and add the salt, 1/4 cup water, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute.

Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Use a small cookie scoop and place balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake until cookies are golden brown about 8-10 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Nowruz!

Happy New Year to all you Persians out there!

Our Haft Seen. 7S. I dyed the eggs with onion skins. Amazing how regular onions can produce such a beautiful red colour! Just boil the skins from cooking onions (I guess I had about 4 cups worth or skins) for 30 minutes. I put the eggs right into the simmering liquid skins and all. I simmered them on medium low for about 10 minutes the turned off the heat. I let them sit overnight. Why not. After I removed and dried them, I rubbed the first few with canola oil to buff them up a bit. Those are the ones on the left. You can see they're slightly shinier.

If you want to read about Nowruz or what the items in the Haft Seen represent, go here.

I already have a small tank with fish in it.
I don't need anymore real fish hanging around here so we went with this guy instead this year.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Treats

There was a bake sale at daycare today so I chose some easy treats that everyone seemed to enjoy.

Pretzels with Chocolate
These were really quick and the best part is, the candy coating comes in so many different colours. You could make these for any holiday or event. I don't know where this idea originated but you can find it all over Google. Some people use kisses, but they don't come in all sorts of colours. It's really up to you! And who said you had to use M&Ms? How about whole nuts or a dried cherry? Use your imagination here!

Makes as many as you want.

Pretzels (I chose square)
chocolate candy melts
M&Ms or Smarties

Preheat the to 175F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Place the pretzels in a single layer on the parchment and place a candy melt in the centre of each one.

Place the tray in the oven for 4 minutes. That's all mine needed. Kisses are thicker, they may need a minute longer. Try to press an M&M into one and see how it goes.

Remove the tray from the oven and immediately start placing an M&M in the centre of each candy melt. Allow the chocolate to harden on the tray before storing in an airtight container.

Related postings on other blogs
Love From the Oven - Quick and Easy Chocolate Pretzel Bites for St. Patrick's Day
House on Hilltop - These use round pretzels and look like buttons!
Newlyweds - Rolo Pretzel Treats (this one has pecans!)

Chocolate Stir Spoons
Here's another recipe you can find all over Google and Pinterest. Easy and really cute. Use these to stir your coffee or hot chocolate.

And again, I used candy melts in this recipe. You can use pink or blue for a baby shower, or red for Valentine's Day. The bulk store has all sorts of miniature candies and sprinkles that you can use. I found little shamrock sequins which worked with the St. Patrick's Day theme of the bake sale. And the mini gummy bears were too cute to pass up.

Makes as many as you want.

candy melts
sprinkles and candies
plastic spoons

Melt the candy melts in the microwave. 45 -60 seconds should be more than enough to melt a cup of candy melts.

Place the spoons on a board (so you can move them around easily if you need to) with a wooden spoon or a rolled piece of foil to hold up the handle. You want to make sure the spoon is level so the chocolate doesn't drip over the edge.

Pour some chocolate into the spoons making sure not to go up more than 3/4 of the way. when you add the candies the chocolate will rise. If you fill them too much, it'll just go over the edges of the spoon.

Add the candies and sprinkles then allow to dry completely before packaging them up.

Related postings on other blogs
Glamour This - DIY Chocolate Spoons (this is where I got the idea)
Sweetapolita - Sprinkled Chocolate Party Spoons

Cheater Cake Pops
For this recipe. I used Timbits (aka doughnut holes). This saves you the job of baking a cake and rolling it into balls. You save a bunch of time right there! The candy melts were used again in this recipe, and once again, the colour selection on those is great! I used different sprinkles and coloured sugars to decorate.

Makes as many as you want.

Timbits (doughnut holes)
candy melts
sprinkles and coloured sugars

Melt a few candy melts in the microwave for a few seconds. Dip the lollipop sticks into the melted chocolate, then press the chocolate end into the Timbits. Do them all, then refrigerate for half an hour or so. You want them to be a little bit cool before dipping so the candy melts will harden faster.

Melt the candy melts in the microwave. 45-60 seconds for a cup of them will do. Stir it up so there are no lumps. Swirl the Timbits in the melted chocolate until they're completely coated.

You can dip the bottoms in sprinkles or sprinkle them over the Timbits while turning them. If you let them dry completely, then you can drizzle more chocolate on to make lines and swirls. Sprinkle with coloured sugars if you like.

Let them dry completely on parchment paper before packaging.

Related postings on other blogs
itmom - Saint Patrick's Day Cake Pops
Pint Sized Baker - St. Pattie's Cake Pops
And finally ....

Lucky Charms Cereal Treats
I loved these. I ate some for breakfast. A twist on the regular Rice Krispy treats, is adding some Lucky Charms to the mix. I would have liked them a bit gooier, so next time I'll probably add less Rice Krispies I used the same little shamrock sequins that I used for the stir spoons. I cut mine in small squares but the number of servings will simply depend on how big you cut yours.

3 tablespoons butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies
3 cups Lucky Charms
white chocolate

Line a cookie sheet with parchment and lightly grease it.

In a large non-stick pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Stir in the marshmallows and stir now and then until they're melted and gooey. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the rice Krispies. Stir in the Lucky Charms.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and grease up your hands. Use you hands to spread the mixture evenly onto the tray. I picked out about 1/3 cup of the marshmallows from the Lucky Charms. If you choose to do that, sprinkle them on top while the treats are still sticky.

Melt a bit of white chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. Drizzle it over the cereal then add sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet. Allow everything to dry, then slice into squares with a buttered knife. Store in an airtight container.

Related postings on other blogs
Ezra Pound Cake - Lucky Charms Treats (this is where I got the recipe)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Casserole

This recipe uses hash browns (or in my case, grated potatoes) and tasted a lot like a tuna casserole to me! And you can't go wrong with cheese! I squeezed some of the water out of the potatoes, but it's okay to leave some. The original recipe called for frozen hash browns. I don't normally buy those. I used the small side of the grater for the onions, and just drained some of the liquid in a sieve. You can't squeeze them, they were almost a puree. I suppose you could just use a blender but I wasn't thinking.

Check out my paprika from Macedonia!

6 servings

1 cup sour cream
1 cup half & half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 medium potatoes, grated (about 3 cups)
1 medium onion, grated
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast, cubed
2 oz cream cheese, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar (I used marble)

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a baking dish. I used a disposable because I didn't feel like doing dishes. A glass dish would be better.

In a large bowl, combine everything except 1/2 cup of the cheddar.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese. Cover it with foil. If your foil will be touching your casserole, spray it with cooking spray first so it doesn't stick. Bake it for about 1 hour then uncover the dish.

Bake for another 15 minutes or so until the cheese starts to turn golden and potatoes are cooked through. You can taste it to check on the potatoes if you need to.

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen.

Crazy Cake Cupcakes - Small Batch (egg free)

Have you ever run out of eggs or just didn't feel like using them in your cake? Well that's when this recipe for Crazy Cake will come in handy. I've made this a few times before but this time, I only wanted to make a few cupcakes out of it. I scaled the recipe down from 18 to 2 servings and got 12 mini cupcakes out of it. The site I got the recipe from will do the calclation for you. I still made some adjustments though. And don't worry about the vinegar, you can't taste it at all!

Makes 12 mini cupcakes

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon canola oil
3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cold water

Preheat the oven to 350F and line your mini muffin tin with paper liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder. Add the wet ingredients and whisk just for a minute until combined.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for 8 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

I put a smartie on top of each one before baking, but you can decorate them however you like.

Adapted from All Recipes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes with Rosewater Icing for Holi

Today we celebrated Holi (the Indian Festival of Colours) at work, with FOOD of course! We love to eat at work. I was going to make Gujiya (deep fried, mini empanada-like things), but I’m not big on deep frying at home and it would take time to fill and seal all those little bundles of goodness. So I decided I needed to go with something easier.

I found a recipe for pistachio-cardamom cake with rosewater frosting, but frosting with egg whites is not my thing, so I decided to make the icing from another recipe (Raspberry Cakes with Rosewater Icing). One day I’ll have to make those raspberry cakes as well, but for today, just the icing.

I kept the decoration simple by using coloured paper muffin liners and adding a Smartie on top of each cupcake. Use all one colour if you want to use this cupcake to celebrate a different holiday, or use all the colours like I did. It’s the Festival of Colours after all!

36 mini cupcakes

1/4 cup shelled pistachios (mine were salted)
2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cardamom pods, ground (less than 1/4 teaspoon ground)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup 2% milk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon rosewater
1 tablespoon milk
Something to make them look pretty (see tips below)

Preheat the oven to 350F and line your muffin tin with paper liners.

Finely chop the pistachios in the food processor until ground, but not pasty.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom and set aside.

On medium speed, beat the the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes until fluffy.

Add the egg and beat again on medium speed for another 30 seconds until smooth.

Add half the flour mixture and beat on low just until combined. Then add the milk, vanilla and almond extract, beating again on low until combined. Add the rest of the flour until it’s barely combined. You still have to stir in the pistachios, and the time to do that is now. Fold them in just until combined.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups (I used my small cookie scoop) and bake for about 18 minutes or until lightly golden and a tester comes out clean. Adjust the cooking time if you’re making larger cupcakes. Allow them to cool completely before adding the icing.

To make the icing; mix confectioners sugar with butter, rosewater and milk to form a paste. I just used a fork for this. Make sure the butter is soft or it will be lumpy. Adjust the sugar or milk until it's the consistency of toothpaste. Top the cupcakes with the icing then decorate. You can use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread it. I found the recipe for icing was just enough but if you're putting it on a little heavier just whip up a bit more. Add the decorations before the icing dries.

Tip: To decorate I used smarties but you can use sprinkles or reserve 2 tablespoons of the ground pistachios and sprinkle them on top. Or how about a single shelled pistachio? That would be pretty. You can purchase tiny dried rosebuds as well from tea shops or even some Asian grocery stores (in my area at least, that’s where I’ve seen them).

Adapted from Food52 and How to Cook.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Baked Spaghetti - Crazy Cooking Challenge

It's that time of the month again. No, not that time! It's time for another Crazy Cooking Challenge! This month it's all about spaghetti! I chose this recipe for baked spaghetti from Cully's Kitchen because it's easy and it has lots of cheese! I used a nice Catelli sauce. I like the thickness of it. You can use whatever flavour sounds good to you.

Here we go!


1 box spaghetti
1 lb lean ground beef or chicken
8oz fresh button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium Onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon italian seasoning blend
1 700ml jar spaghetti sauce
salt and pepper
2 cups grated cheese (I used Italiano blend)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Boil the spaghetti according to package instructions. Make sure it's not overcooked since it's still going in the oven after it boils and will cook a bit more.

What the pasta's cooking, in a pan over medium high heat, fry the beef with mushrooms, onions and garlic for about 10 minutes or until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Stir in cinnamon, turmeric, oregano and italian seasoning. Stir in the spaghetti sauce and taste it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the spaghetti and toss it in the sauce. Use tongs and make sure it's well mixed.

Place 1/3 of the spaghetti into a glass baking dish followed by 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat 2 more times. There should be a layer of cheese on top.

Bake your spaghetti for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Ideas

Here's the list of things I've got pinned so far. They're all fabulous ideas! Now I just have to decide what to make for the daycare St. Patrick's Day bake sale next week.

Here's the link to my St. Patrick's Day board on Pinterest in case you want to follow as I'll continue to post wonderful items as I come across them.

I thought this might be a fun way to teach my older one how to read numbers. Maybe just using 1-10 or something like that.

Yazdi Cupcakes (Cayk-e yazdi) - with Rosewater and Cardamom

These are Persian cupcakes with the flavours of rosewater and ground cardamom. The recipe doesn't call for it, and I didn't have any, but fresh whipped cream would be nice on these if you wanted to fancy them up a bit. I made half the recipe and we got 9 cupcakes out of it. Also, I didn't have any rice flour or pistachios so I used only all purpose flour and walnuts.

My little helper.

9 cupcakes

2 eggs, separated (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup plain yogurt, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a few pinches of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (I ground 3 pods)
1-2 teaspoons rose water
1 1/8 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350F and line your muffin tin with paper liners.

Beat egg yolks and sugar for about 2 minutes until creamy. I did this by hand with a whisk. I suppose you could follow the recipe from the book and do it for 5 minutes, but after 2 my arm was about to fall off. Or you could get smart and use an electric mixer.

Add the butter, yogurt, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom and rosewater. Whisk again until combined, then gradually whisk in the flour.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites (this time I used the electric mixer) for several minutes until they're fluffy and stiff. Use a rubber spatula to fold the whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups and sprinkle a few nuts on top. Bake for about 16 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Adapted from the book New Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij.