Friday, October 29, 2010

Monster Cookies

Quick!  There is only 2 days left until Halloween and you have to make these cookies!  Halloween is the best excuse to make these peanuty, oatmealy, chocolatey, Monster Cookies...all 5 dozen of them.  Yup, 5 dozen delicious, holiday appropriate cookies.  They are just begging to be made and given away to friends and Halloween drop-ins.  These cookies have very little flour, they are all about the mingling of peanut butter and oatmeal.  You can customize them with whatever treats you want to add in, nuts or m&ms are popular additions.  This mix of chocolate chips and Reece's Pieces is scrumptious, and perfect for Halloween.

Monster Cookies
Origin: Unknown

Notes:  Hurry up and get started...these cookies need to rest in the fridge for at least 5 hours!  I think it's to help soften the loads of oatmeal in them.


5 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Reese's Pieces

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda and salt until combined.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I'm sure a bowl and a hand mixer will work for this), cream the butter until smooth and pale in color (a few minutes). Beat in the sugars on low speed until incorporated. 

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.  Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat just until combined. Add the peanut butter and beat on low just until smooth. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time (in three additions) on low speed until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips and Reese's Pieces by hand. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (I left it overnight).

When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the middle position.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. 

Scoop the dough with a small  ice cream scoop (about 2 tablespoons worth) and place them on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they begin to brown.  Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking.  (I baked 2 trays worth of cookies at a time on 2 oven racks - one in the upper third of the oven and one in the lower third.  My cookies took about 16 minutes to bake when I did this.  Make sure you alternate racks and rotate the baking trays halfway through baking.)

Cool cookies in their pan for 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuna Antipasto Salad

This is a twist on the classic Italian Antipasto Salad.  We do a lot of twisting around here, and subbing and switcheroos...that's how we roll at my place.  Meat rarely graces our stove on weekdays, so meat alternatives are super important to us.  For this swap-out, tuna makes an appearance and does a pretty good job standing in for salami.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty standard...artichokes, bocconcini, olives and a red wine vinaigrette.  I like to bring this to work for lunch.  The salad is filling, with diverse flavours, and if I close my eyes and pretend my water is a glass of red wine, I am transported to Italy for an hour.

Tuna Antipasto Salad
Origin: Impeccable Taste, Jaime

Notes:  This recipe can be easily modified to suit your taste.  Don't hesitate to take something out or add something in.  You can really add anything you might find on an Italian antipasto plate, try sun dried tomatoes, red onion slices or roasted red peppers.  Olive haters can remove them no problem.  The flavours in this salad are quite intense, it's best served with some good bread or over a bed of salad greens.


1 container bocconcini mozarella, each ball sliced into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons green olive tapenade
1 cup mixed pickled vegetables (carrots, cauliflower etc. sometimes called giardiniera), chopped into bite sized pieces, plus 1/4 cup brine liquid
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained
4 marinated artichoke hearts, cut in half, each half cut into 3 or 4
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup sliced green olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/4 red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine bocconcini, green olive tapenade and 1/4 cup giardiniera brine liquid in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper.  Let the cheese marinate while you prep the rest of your items.

To make the vinaigrette, combine red wine vinegar, garlic and oregano in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper.  Slowly add olive oil whisking constantly to emulsify.

Combine, giardiniera vegetables, chickpeas, tuna, artichokes, tomatoes, olives, cheese and fresh herbs.  Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat.  Serve with some good crusty bread or over a bed of lettuce.

Serves at least 4.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


 Our street is pretty quiet.  On Halloween we only get a handful of trick or treaters if we're lucky.  It's usually a pretty dull evening around here.  I need to indulge in a few extra Halloween themed activities and treats to get the most out of the holiday.  These sweet, salty, crunchy snacks are totally addictive.  They are very simple to make and they always help fill my Halloween void.

Origin: Unknown

Notes:  I like to cover my peanuts and noodles with chocolate separately so that I can better control the shape of the spiders...they taste equally delicious and still look pretty spider-like when you mix them together in one bowl. 


2 cups good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 cups of fried chow mein noodles
1 cup roasted salted peanuts

Lightly grease or spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil.

Set a large glass bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Melt the chocolate chips in the glass bowl stirring with a spatula until smooth and melted.  Remove from heat.

Stir melted chocolate, peanuts and chow mein noodles together, coating everything evenly with chocolate.  Alternatively,  place peanuts in a bowl and toss with about 1/4 cup of melted chocolate.  Toss the chow mein noodles with the remaining chocolate.

Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto prepared baking sheet.  If the noodles and peanuts are kept separate, drop spoonfuls of noodles onto baking sheet first and then top with peanuts.   You can manipulate the shape of the spiders a bit after you place them on the baking sheet.  I used tongs for this task but two forks or spoons would work well.  Let the spiders set, the chocolate will solidify after a couple of hours or you can speed it up by placing the baking sheet in the fridge.

Makes approximately 24 Spiders.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Maple Granola Brittle

This is a new recipe for me.  I knew I'd be into it.  I am a big fan of both maple granola and any kind of brittle (although I recently saw a blog post about Fritos Corn Chip Brittle - not sure about that one).  It makes perfect sense to combine these two favorites.  It becomes a portable, super decadent the type you know you shouldn't be eating for breakfast.   I should not be eating this for breakfast.  There is a ton of sugar and maple syrup in this recipe which makes it so decadent but the subtle orange flavour helps maintain the taste of granola.


Maple Granola Brittle

Notes:  You need a candy thermometer and some parchment paper for this recipe.  The original recipe said to line your baking sheet with a silicone mat before laying down the hot brittle...I used parchment paper for this and it was fine.  My sunflower seeds tasted a little stale so I omitted them and increased the amount of almonds and pecans.  You can play around with the nuts/seeds/oats combination as long as the total amount is the same in the end.

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest 
1 cup packed light brown sugar 
1/2 cup pure maple syrup 
1/2 cup fresh orange juice 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in the middle position.

Spread oats, almonds, pecans, and sunflower seeds in an even layer in a large baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until oats are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with pumpkin seeds and orange zest.

Line a baking sheet with nonstick liner (or parchment paper)

Cook brown sugar, syrup, juice, and salt in a 4 to 6 quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon (be careful not to splash or splatter while stirring; mixture will become extremely hot), until it registers 290°F on thermometer, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in butter until melted (mixture will thicken and become opaque), then quickly add nut mixture and stir until coated well. Immediately pour onto liner (baking sheet with parchment), then cover mixture with a sheet of parchment paper. 

Roll out brittle as thin as possible with a rolling pin (I ended up pulling the parchment paper and the brittle off of the baking tray and rolling it between the two sheets of parchment directly on my counter). Carefully peel off  top layer of parchment paper and discard.

Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Break brittle into large pieces.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Café Salad with Apple, Cheddar Bundles and Walnuts

Are you scared of working with phyllo dough?  A lot of people are.  Don't beleive the's a cinch once you get the hang of it.  Take my hand...don't be afraid...let's do this.  This dish is so tasty and well worth the ten minutes it will take for you to learn this technique.
To prepare phyllo dough from scratch would be a nightmare...stretching and rolling the fragile dough into paper thin sheets.  It is available frozen in most grocery stores and it's one of those things that you are expected to buy frozen.  No one would frown on the idea of using a frozen phyllo dough (frozen pie crust is another story...ahem).  Putting together impressive phyllo parcels, or bundles, or pockets full of goodness requires no more than brushing these pre-made dough sheets with melted butter and layering them.  This combo of apples and cheddar is one of my favorites during this gorgeous fall season. The café salad which I served with the apples and cheddar is a simply dressed green salad with so much flavour.

Café Salad with Apple Cheddar Bundles and Walnuts
Origin: Salad Dressing Adapted from Food Network, Mellisa D'Arabian

Notes:  Don't be intimidated by the long instructions for the phyllo dough.  It's detailed work but once you get through it'll start dreaming about what else you can cram into those layers of phyllo.  You really need a pastry brush to do this right.  But in a pinch (at the cottage) I have put a plastic baggie over my hand and with a light touch, spread a thin layer of melted butter over the dough.


Apple Cheddar Bundles
1 package frozen phyllo dough (thawed per package instructions - you will only use half of the package for 4 servings)
1/4 cup butter - melted, plus 1 tablespoon for sauteing
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices (I used Granny Smith)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their stalks
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional if you're not into it)
1 cup grated sharp (old) cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

Café Salad
1 large garlic clove, sliced in half
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

6 cups salad greens (I like red leaf lettuce for this)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

To make the apple cheddar bundles:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and place a rack in the center position.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute apples for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften and brown a little bit.  Add thyme and cook for one more minute to help release the thyme flavour.  Set aside.

Have your melted butter handy and prepare a clean work surface or cutting board to prepare your dough.  

Unroll your phyllo dough, you can cover your dough with a damp kitchen towel while you work, as the dough can dry out quickly and crack easily.

Lay one sheet out on your work surface and brush the entire sheet with a thin layer of melted butter.  Lay another sheet of phyllo on top of the buttered surface and brush it with melted butter.  Continue layering and buttering until you have 6 sheets of buttered phyllo total.

Cut the large rectangular stack of dough into 4 smaller rectangles - 1 cut through the center vertically and 1 cut through the center horizontally (I use a pizza cutter for this).

Take one rectangular stack of dough and place it in front of you vertically so that the short side of the rectangle is directly in front of you.  Spread the dough with 1/2 teaspoon of mustard, leaving a one inch border around the entire rectangle.  About one inch from the bottom of your rectangle place about 1/4 cup of sauteed apples in a pile (do not spread them out - heap them at one end of your dough)  top the apples with 1/4 cup of grated cheese.  Fold the bottom 1 inch border of the dough over the apples and cheese, then fold the sides (1 inch, mustard free borders) inward.  Make sure your filling is tucked in and roll the bundle up.  Prepare the other 3 apple cheddar bundles the same way.

Place the bundles on a baking sheet, seam down, and brush with additional melted butter and egg wash.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

To make the salad:
Rub the inside of a mixing bowl or salad bowl with the cut sides of the garlic.  Add vinegar, mustard and soy sauce, season with salt and pepper and whisk together.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Add the greens to your bowl with the dressing and toss just before serving.  Divide greens between plates and top each one with an apple/cheddar bundle (I cut mine in half for presentation) and scatter walnuts over top.

Serves 4 (recipe is easily doubled and 1 package of phyllo will make at least 8 bundles).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Superior Sandwich: The Best Egg Salad Sandwich I Ever Ate

I saw this sandwich on the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate - Served Cold episode.  It got my attention right away.  I have always loved a good egg salad sandwich.  Artificially soft, sugary white bread slathered with mayo laden onion-y egg salad...yup, love it.  But there is room in me for growth...I'm open minded.  The addition of sun-dried tomato pesto sounded divine, and the sophisticated touch of the important MEDIUM boiled eggs really had me hooked...I had to try it.  But what sealed the deal on the final recipe was the freshly squeezed lemon juice, I wasn't expecting this small detail to bring this sandwich to "superior" status.

I had most of a jar of sun-dried tomatoes left after making the Walnut Pesto.  So I got to work in on making my Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto right away.  Super easy...

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

1 jar oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained of most of it's oil (or 1 jar minus 2 tablespoons - for Walnut Pesto)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and combined.

The Best Egg Salad Sandwich I Ever Ate
Origin: Euro Pane Bakery, California, The Food Network

Notes:  Whoa, that title is a mouthful. But this sandwich...oh this sandwich, it deserves a title like that.  The sandwich was featured on the Food Network but originally comes from a restaurant/bakery in California called Euro Pane Bakery.  There was no recipe provided, I just rewound the episode a couple of times to see how it was made.  Do not skip the chives or lemon juice!

hearty bread, toasted (I used Ciabatta, but any baguette or crusty whole grain bread would work)
8 eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons chopped chives, divided
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto
a handful of lettuce or salad greens
freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper

Place eggs in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  When a full boil is reached turn of heat and let stand 6 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the eggs from cooking further.  Peel the eggs and roughly chop into large pieces.

Combine eggs, mayonnaise, mustard and 2 tablespoons of chives in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, mix.

Take the toasted bread and cover with about 1 tablespoon of pesto,  layer with greens or lettuce,  then egg mixture.  Top with additional chives, pepper and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.  Serve open-faced.

Makes about 3 sandwiches.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Walnut Pesto

I'm not fancy.  See that photo up there with the little red and green garnish?  I did that for you and for the blog, but it's all a lie.  The photo below is how I would really serve this delicious pesto.  All brown on brown and everything.  See, I'm casual.  I do enjoy pretty things, pretty plates and napkins really turn my crank.  But I'm not the type to come up with a garnish to enhance the look of a dish even though that garnish has nothing to do with what's in the dish.  If the pesto tastes good, put it on a pretty plate with the right tool to eat it, maybe add some pretty napkins along side and we're good to go.  There is no basil to be found in this pesto.  It's a rustic blend of earthy walnuts, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes and thyme.  It would make a great Autumn or Thanksgiving appetizer.

Walnut Pesto

Notes:  The garnish I used in the top photo was chopped parsley and diced red jalepeno.  It actually tasted great.  It added a bright freshness and a little heat to this appetizer.  I would recommend this combo...if you are the fancy type.

1 cup walnuts, halves or peices, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1/2  teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 teaspoons of sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 loaf of crusty bread or a baguette, sliced

Place walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme, salt and vinegar, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse several times to chop everything.  Add the oil a little at a time, pulsing and scraping down the sides of the bowl, to further break down the ingredients and combine everything into a uniform pesto.

Grill or toast your bread.  Top warm bread slices with a heaping teaspoon of pesto or serve pesto and bread beside each other, letting guest serve themselves. 

Pretty eh?!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cool Cookbook: IKEA!

IKEA seems to be focusing more and more on their in-store restaurants and food sections.  They are dabbling in cookbooks and growing their menus and product lines.  I found a 2009 IKEA cookbook release online.  It's obviously a marketing thing, with an add on every page for a kitchen item and a kitchen catalogue in the back.  But it has a cool vibe with it's simple recipes and European and Middle Eastern flair.  Check it out...

I had to try one of these recipes.  Being a salad junkie I opted for their "Vegetables Salad", a basic garden salad with a vinaigrette.  The dressing had a nice complex flavour thanks to the addition of soy sauce and sumac (a ground spice that has a sour/tart flavour).

Vegetables Salad
Origin: Manal El-Alem for IKEA, see recipe in above online magazine

IKEA has been in the cookbook game for 30 years now.  There was one released in 1980.  Described as "A cookbook with Swedish and foreign foods for daily family meals and parties".  There are a few copies floating around Ebay but it's not really a hot commodity.  Carl Butler, a chef and restaurant owner, included 75 of his original recipes in this cookbook, it looks like a legitimate showcase of Swedish recipes.

Another cookbook was released in 2000.  It contains swedish recipes, but most of the ingredients used can be purchased from the IKEA food section, making this more of a marketing tool than a legitimate cookbook.

Cookbooks are not new to IKEA but with the most recent release, Homemade is Best or Hembakat är Bäst, it looks like they stepped it up a notch.  It's a 140 page, coffee table baking book containing 30 recipes and beautiful photos shot by Carl Kleiner and styled by Evelina Bratell.  It is absolutely stunning and innovative.  The new cookbook is available for a limited time, free, at IKEA stores in Sweden only (sniff).

 Check out how gorgeous these photos by Carl Kleiner are...

These ingredients...

 Become Cinnamon Buns!

 These ingredients...

Become Vanilla Horns!

I happen to love some of IKEA's food products.  Their sweet mustard is great, I love it as a dip for things like eggrolls and chicken nuggets, they have amazing cookies and cinnamon buns and have you tried the Marabou/Daim chocolate they carry?  Heavenly, as most european chocolate is. Ikea restaurants offer organic and vegetarian options, and they strive to meet high environmental and ethical standards with their food products. If the line up to get in the door in the morning to enjoy their $1.00 breakfast is any indication...something good must be going on in the kitchen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Strawberry Shortcakes

To my surprise, at the farmers market this weekend, I saw rows of baskets filled with perfectly bright red, juicy strawberries.  I didn't get it.  I was expecting to see the squashes, huge cauliflowers, hearty greens and apples...but strawberries?  So I started asking questions and I got a very cool answer.  In recent years around our region of Ontario and Quebec, farmers have been extending the harvest season by planting varieties such as "Day Neutral" and "Ever Bearing" strawberries.  These fruits have a later season and can be harvested until after the first frost!  They were really delicious berries and I wanted to relive some of summer's splendour, so I decided to showcase them in a classic Strawberry Shortcake recipe.  Oh!  And I hear they are experimenting with fall harvest raspberries too...delightful!

Strawberry Shortcakes
Origin: Smitten Kitchen, adapted from this recipe

Notes:  The shortcakes were light, fluffy and buttery on the inside with a perfect crisp crust.  They were simple to make.  The most time consuming part was making the hard boiled eggs for the shortcakes.  Seems funny too, hard boiled egg yolks in a pastry batter.  But it works, they add a richness to the shortcakes.  The final outcome of your dish will depend on the ripeness and flavour of your fruit.  You could substitute many types of fruit for these shortcakes, peaches would be divine too.


1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest, optional (I forgot to add the zest -  but I would definitely use it in the future)
2/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
coarse sugar for finishing (I used regular granulated sugar)

Strawberry Shortcake Assembly
1/2 pound strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt.  Pulse to combine.  Add the butter and zest and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal (the butter should be mixed throughout, in pieces no larger than peas).  Add 2/3 cup of cream and pulse just until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a ball.  Knead a couple times to make it into a cohesive mass and then pat it into a rough circle about 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and 3/4 to 1-inch thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 6 wedges and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You can also use a cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to make shapes of your choice.  Chill the pieces for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours)

Preheat oven to 350° degrees.  Brush the tops of the shortcakes very lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle lightly with the coarse sugar.  Bake until risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.  Turn the pan around halfway through to ensure even cooking (my shortcakes took 22 minutes to start turning golden brown, then I broiled the tops of them for a couple of minutes, without taking my eyes off of them, to get the right colour).

While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl.  Let stand several minutes (if the strawberries are extremely firm, do this 30 minutes in advance).

Split the shortcakes in half horizontally and set the tops aside.  Place the bottoms on dessert plates and heap strawberries over them.  Spoon whipped cream generously over the strawberries and replace the shortcake tops.  Serve immediately with any remaining whipped cream on the side.

Serves 6.