December 30, 2010

Truffle Brownies

I am always quick to offer to make dessert for any occasion. So when my sister invited my husband and me over to celebrate the arrival of her new dining room chairs, I knew I had to make something special! 

One of the challenges I find with making desserts for small groups of four or five people, is that a whole cake is simply too much food. I was gravitating towards brownies for this dinner party, but brownies didn't seem special enough; we were after all, celebrating some pretty nice chairs. But when I found this recipe from Martha where you make brownies in a springform pan, I knew these were the ones for me. What I loved about them was that immediately the presentation factor was up five notches, while you could eat a larger slice than say, a cheesecake, so the left-over factor went down five notches. How could I go wrong? 

These brownies were rich and dense with a smooth, creamy, truffle-y ganache on top. I was amazed how smooth and thick the topping got too. A nice change to traditional brownies and perfect for a dinner party.

Truffle Brownies
Printable Recipe
Serves 8-10


For the batter:
  • 4 tbsp butter, plus more for the pan
  • 3 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
  • 4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

  • Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, and set aside.
  • Make the batter: put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof medium bowl and set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, put the sugar and the eggs and beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment until pale and fluffy, about four minutes. Add the chocolate mixture, milk and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture; beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl until well incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester into the brownies (avoid centre and edges) comes out with a few crumbs, but is not wet, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan.
  • Make the topping when the brownies are cool. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan on medium-high heat until just simmering. Pour over the chocolate; let stand five minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool, stirring every 10 minutes until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Pour the ganache over the cooled brownies in the pan, let set about 20 minutes. Refrigerate until cold, 30 minutes to an hour. Let brownies stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving. 
  • Cut the brownies into wedges, wiping the knife with a hot damp cloth between each cut.
Recipe from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics

December 28, 2010

Peppermint Chocolate Bark

Chocolate and mint are one of my favourite flavour combinations. After-eights. The new 3 Musketeers dark mint. Andes. And now, peppermint chocolate bark. The flavour in this festive treat was delicious, easy to make, attractive to wrap (I love my new twine!) and fun and festive to give. But next year, I'll know to start looking for white chocolate earlier in December as going to eight grocery stores on December 22 was not fun (though funny when on my fifth store, I met someone else also on a mission for white chocolate, so we compared notes to avoid stores either of us had already been to!), but in the end, with chocolate in hand, this bark was certainly worth it! 

Peppermint Chocolate Bark
Serves 4-6

  • 8 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/3 cup candy canes, chopped

  • Line a 9 x 13 cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • In a double boiler over low-medium heat, slowly melt the white chocolate, stirring occasionally. Once melted, pour over the parchment paper using a spatula to spread it out evenly (it's ok if the edges are rough and messy). Put in fridge while making the milk/dark chocolate layer.
  • Using a clean bowl, melt the milk/dark chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Once melted, add the peppermint extract, mixing in well. Pour chocolate over the cooled white chocolate, using a spatula to spread evenly over the white chocolate. 
  • While chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the candy cane over top. The candy will naturally go red/green side down, so you may want to be careful how you place larger pieces to ensure a nice finish.
  • Leave in fridge for 3-4 hours, until chocolate is completely set. Use a knife to roughly break all pieces. Share and enjoy!

December 20, 2010

Eggnog Pancakes

It's eggnog season! Every year, I buy one delicious litre of eggnog, to enjoy during the holiday season. This year, I wanted to find some creative ways to cook with it, so for Pancake Sunday, I subbed in eggnog in my standard buttermilk pancake recipe. The result was a pancake that tasted a lot like french toast. They were light and fluffy and a great new way to use up that extra nog!

Eggnog Pancakes
Makes 12-14 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups eggnog
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (cinnamon would work too)
  • some butter to grease the skillet


  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the eggnog and melted butter.
  • Using a spatula, combine the dry and wet ingredients to make a thick, lumpy batter, being careful not to over mix.
  • In a non-stick skillet, melt some butter over medium heat. Ladle 1/3 cup batter into hot skillet. Do not overcrowd the skillet because the pancakes will puff up and out as they cook.
  • When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes, and the edges begin to brown, flip the pancakes and cook the other side. 
  • Smother with maple syrup and a dollop of whipped cream.

December 16, 2010

Holiday Appetizers

When people walk through the door for a party, you're busy taking their coats, their gifts, and getting them a usually much-needed glass of wine. The last thing you want to be doing is hanging out in the kitchen fiddling with appetizers. 

Lots of consideration needs to go into those little bites: Hot or cold? Cheese or cheese-free? Can I make it ahead? Will I need to continually replenish? Will everyone like it?

The most important consideration, I think though, is: is an oven required and/or available? 

If you need an oven, you'll need to do a little more last minute work with the appetizer, but it may also interfere with the main course. If you don't need an oven, you can probably do most of it ahead. The best parties I have been to, have a balance of both -- good for the guests and the host!

Here are some great options for both that are in my own recipe file and some from around the web for your next holiday get together.



December 14, 2010

Blueberry Sour Cream Cake

I don't know what's taken me so long to blog about this one; I make it all the time. This is one of the easiest dessert recipes I make, and is one of most well received desserts. It's also very light so it's good to serve after a heavy meal. 

What more can I say? It's delicious and you must try it.

Blueberry Sour Cream Cake
Serves 8-10

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 box frozen blueberries (about two cups)
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 egg yolks (yes, more eggs, but this time, yolks)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (yes, more sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (yes, more vanilla)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter 9" or 10" springform pan.
  • Beat sugar and butter until soft. Add the whole egg and 1 tsp vanilla. Stir baking powder into flour and gradually add to creamed mixture. Turn into prepared pan.
  • Sprinkle blueberries on top to cover. If using frozen berries, no need to defrost.
  • In another bowl, combine sour cream, yolks, sugar and vanilla and blend well. Pour over berries.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until edges of custard are lightly brown.
  • Let cool before removing sides of pans.

December 12, 2010

Chocolate Cream Pie

We never used to eat dessert. Until I started baking. Now, every night, T says, "What's for dessert?" And if we don't have something, he suggests that I whip something up. Truthfully, I don't know how other food bloggers -- especially baking ones -- stay thin. Especially when there are decadent recipes like this chocolate cream pie out there. 

I had never had one, but recently rewatching Julie&Julia, I was inspired to make one as I am now constantly looking for recipes to expand my waistline repertoire. 

Chocolate cream pie is like the richest, most decadent pudding you've ever had, in a perfectly flakey pie crust and topped off with real whipped cream. Every, perfectly smooth bite just melts in your mouth. 

Chocolate Cream Pie
Serves 8


  • Combine sugar, flour, milk and chocolate in saucepan, stirring constantly until mixture begins to bubble. Continue stirring for two minutes.
  • Temper the eggs by mixing a little of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, beating rapidly to avoid cooking the yolks. Stir the warm yolk mixture into the chocolate mixture and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
  • Pour filling into baked pie shell and chill until set. 
  • Spread whipped cream over top or serve each piece with a dollop of whipped cream.
Recipe from

December 10, 2010

Asparagus and Swiss Quiche

One of the hardest things about serving brunch to a group, is that so many things need to be done at the last minute: eggs, bacon, pancakes. One recipe I discovered last year and has made a number of showings at the brunch table, is sausage and vegetable strata. This year, for my girls' festive brunch, I wanted to make something new so my mom shared her tried and true quiche lorraine recipe with me. 

The great thing about this recipe is that it's almost entirely make ahead. The day before, you can make and roll out the pie crust, cook and chop the asparagus and grate the cheese. The morning of, you simply need to mix the egg mixture, and bake it. Making this let me spend time with my guests instead of spending time in the kitchen.

Asparagus and Swiss Cheese Quiche
Serves 6

  • 1 flakey pie crust, well chilled
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup swiss cheese, grated
  • 8 asparagus stalks, steamed and cut into fifths

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine eggs, cream, salt, nutmeg, sugar, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Beat long enough to mix thoroughly.
  • Sprinkle pie shell with grated cheese then pour in cream mixture.
  • Place asparagus pieces evenly throughout the mixture, using a paring knife to dunk them slightly into egg mix.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean.

December 8, 2010

Creamy Chicken Soup with Wild Rice

As a new cook, I don't yet read recipes with a full vision of what the end product will look or taste like. In some cases, this barrier has led to some really bad food, or a really stressful cooking experience. In others though, it has led to some amazing dishes. I don't want to ruin the surprise, but this soup definitely falls into the latter category.

I had no idea what to expect going into this one, but 888 people gave it five stars on, so who was I to argue? The tipping point here, is the addition of a creamy white sauce flavoured by a rice seasoning packet (don't judge until you try it!) that makes this soup border on a stew. It is decadent and rich, hearty and delicious. 

I'd now like to master the art of bread so I can serve this up in a crusty bread bowl. Yum!

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Serves 8

  • 1 roast chicken (or you could use three chicken breasts, cooked), shredded
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalked, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 package long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream (5 or 10%)

  • In a large stock pot, melt the butter and sautee the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. 
  • Add the broth, water and chicken and bring to a boil before adding the rice -- reserving the seasoning packet. Cover and simmer until rice is cooked.
  • In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the seasoning packet, stirring until the mixture is bubbly. One tbsp at a time, add the flour to form a roux. Whisk in cream and milk until fully incorporated and smooth. Add in salt and pepper and cook until thickened, about five minutes.
  • Stir cream mixture into broth and rice. Cook over medium heat until heated through.
  • Serve with crusty bread or better yet, in bread bowls.
Recipe adapted from

December 6, 2010

Orange Almond Salad

Mandarin oranges are out so it must be Christmas. This time of year, we buy a box of these a week and go through them like they're candy. So when I was having my girlfriends over for a festive lunch, I immediately thought of this salad my mom makes because I love the mandarin oranges in it mixed with the crunchy almonds and sweet and sour dressing. It's a crisp, refreshing salad and, one of my favourites.

And while it is Mandarin orange season, you'll notice that I used tinned oranges. This is great because you make this salad any time of year, but the tinned orange segments are peeled which are much nicer in the salad. You'll find them with the canned fruit in your grocery store.

Orange Almond Salad
Serves 6

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce
  • 11 oz tin drained mandarin orange segments
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Sweet and sour dressing:
  • 1/2 cup tarragon wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 cup vegetable oil


  • Wash and dry the lettuce and break into bite sized pieces. Add the oranges and almonds and toss.
  • To make the dressing: place tarragon leaves, salt, pepper, sugar and dijon mustard into small mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk, beat the vinegar into the spices until thoroughly mixed. Slowly add oil. Continue mixing until the oil is completely blended and the dressing is a light creamy colour. 
  • Let the dressing sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend (overnight is even better). It will separate so needs to be shaken before pouring.
  • Place salads on plates and sprinkle with dressing.
**Note, this will make a large quantity of dressing and you'll only use about 1/4 for a whole head of romaine.

Bacon, Tomato and Cheese Frittata

Pancakes are our traditional Sunday morning breakfast, but this week, I wanted to be a little less hands on and give this quick frittata recipe a try. It was a nice change of pace and, since we don't eat a lot of bacon, a real treat to have something a little salty and well, let's just say it: greasy. 

I used six eggs which was two more than the recipe called for so it took a little longer to cook, but two of us easily split it. (Split may not be the right word here... there was definitely a hungry man in my kitchen that may have had more than his half!). Overall, a great way to mix up breakfast and give me some time to sit back and relax while this was cooking. A great way to start a Sunday.

  • six eggs
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • In a skillet on medium, melt 1 tbsp of butter.
  • In a bowl, beat the eggs slightly, then add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
  • Pour in the warm skillet and cover. 
  • Cook for 8 - 10 minutes, or until centre is set.
Recipe adapted from Kraft Canada's What's Cooking magazine

December 2, 2010

Homemade Chicken Stock

After I made a roast chicken last week, and savagely pulled all the meat from the body, I was left with nothing but a pile of bones. Or was I? This seemed like the perfect opportunity to make my own chicken stock.

To buy the same amount of stock that I made (about four cups) would have cost me nearly $5 in the store. But here, I bought the whole chicken for $6 and practically got this delicious, low sodium stock for free!

Now, take note that while this is super easy, it does take time on your stove. I left my on for over three hours, but let me tell you, it was worth it. Because it was just simmering, I didn't need to be near it, but just aware of it on the element. 

  • chicken carcass (some chicken can be left on the bones)
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in thirds
  • 2 celery stalks, leaves on and cut in thirds
  • salt and pepper
  • water
  • Put the carcass, onion, celery and carrots in a large stock pot.
  • Generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Add enough water to cover the carcass.
  • Bring to a boil and then turn down to a slow simmer. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for 3-4 hours.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the bones and aromatics. Pour the rest of the stock through a strainer to remove all the bits.
  • Pour stock into a container and refrigerate or use immediately.


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