22 February, 2014

Mmm.... Cookies!

It is still winter here in Ottawa (a fact that I am truly grateful for), in fact it is snowing as I type.  One of my favorite things...whether it falls gently or there is a raging white out going on outside my window, there is just nothing like a good snow fall.  One of the first things that happened when I was growing up and snow was falling was to get into the kitchen and bake.  Never a better time to have the hot oven on!  The primary things we bake in the winter, sure you guessed it...cookies or some kind of bread.

I have been on a real candy kick since about....Halloween.  Specifically candy bars.  I sit around trying to think of ways to make my favorite candy bars into cookies or cake...or even cheesecake.  One of the my favorite candy bars has what I consider to be the perfect balance between sweet and savory and has plenty to offer in the way of texture, the Almond Joy.  Milk chocolate, coconut, and almonds.  C'mon...how is that not fabulous?  

I sat around for a while...do I make the cookie dough chocolate?  Naw...can't do that, there is only a thin coating of it over a TON of the coconut and a single almond.  So, the dough became a plain butter cookie dough.  Have to have milk chocolate chips in it, not semi-sweet.  Then of course there is the coconut.  Do I want the whole base of the dough to be coconut?  After all, the candy bar IS mostly coconut.  No, the truth is when I eat Almond Joys I can only eat a half of the bar at a time because it is SO sweet that I get ill.  I figured out my amounts and got into the kitchen to fiddle about with it and I think I got it to where there is a perfect balance.  Forgive the lame name, but I didn't want to use a trademarked name for my cookies, call me crazy.  But, let me know what you think when you try them out!

Nirvana Cookies
1 c. (two sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (NO subs!)
1 c. organic brown cane sugar
1/3 c. organic cane sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
2 1/4 c. flour
1 T. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1 c. milk chocolate chips

*Whatever you do, DO NOT use shortening instead of butter in this recipe.  The water content of butter is higher than shortening and the butter will keep your cookies from drying out because of the coconut and the nuts.  Butter only!!

Beat together the butter and sugars until fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of your bowl as needed.  Add in the vanilla.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated.  Fold in coconut, slivered almonds, and the chips until just combined.

Cover and refrigerate dough at least 1 hour. (it will hold its shape better if you refrigerate it first because this is a butter based dough).

Shortly before you plan on baking the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 F.  Then, drop scoops of dough onto cookie sheets, I used my PC medium scoop.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, watching for the edges to be just golden brown.  (Remember they continue cooking for up to 2 minutes as they rest on the cookie sheet.)

Remove from oven, and let cool for about 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooking rack.

I couldn't have imagined how well these would turn out...even the Sprout (who will not consume chocolate as a rule) took a single bite and said "Mmmmm!  I LOVE these!".  Color ME surprised!  The Mister ate one and said there were too many nuts.  That did NOT surprise me.  Any nuts are "too many" with him, so I just ignored him and moved on.  It was a perfect amount of everything and a great combination for a cookie.  Hmmm...I wonder how these would taste as a brownie....  

15 February, 2014


I got a text the other day from a Foodnatic fan asking for a good stroganoff recipe.  I texted the recipe back to her right away from memory.  That prompted me to ask myself WHY in the world had I not made stroganoff a SINGLE time since we've been stationed in Canada?  I know the recipe by heart for a reason.  It is simple, it is fabulous, and any level of cooking experience can make it.  Heck, it is even easy to maneuver this recipe into dairy free without breaking a sweat.  So...stroganoff...why not?

Typically people I know serve their stroganoff with the noodles under sauce.  I have always mixed the noodles IN.  I put them in when JUST hitting al dente so they may absorb some flavor from the sauce before serving.  You don't have to do this, but I guarantee you once you try it, you'll always make it that way.

*This can be made vegetarian simply by omitting the beef and using vegetable stock instead of beef stock.  To make this dairy free omit the sour cream.  Frankly, you can make this with chicken breast or turkey breast if you don't eat red meat...this dish can be quite made over to be whatever you want or need it to be.Voila! 

Beef Stroganoff
8 oz. beef, sliced into thin strips about 1.5 in. long
1 1/2 c. beef stock (not broth!)
1/4 c. flour
6 T. olive oil
1 tsp. black pepper
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 button mushrooms, sliced
1 box of fettucine, cooked per box directions
4 T. FULL fat sour cream

fresh parsley or fresh chives for garnish
sea salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Saute the onions in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, once they are translucent add in the minced garlic and allow to cook for 2 minutes.  Toss in the sliced mushrooms and saute until just tender, about 4 minutes.  Add in the slices of beef and black pepper then cook until beef is browned.  Add in the flour and stir until the flour is no longer white and allow it to "fry" a bit in the pan and fully mix with the oils.  Start slowing adding in the beef stock, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring between each 1/2 c. addition.  Allow to simmer on lowest burner setting.

(You may like your sauce thicker or thinner than we do...add or subtract beef stock to this recipe accordingly.  Watch the thickness of your sauce after 1 c. of stock has been added.)

Cook noodles per box instructions, when the noodles are al dente drain the noodles.  Before adding the noodles to the sauce turn the heat off, remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the sour cream.  Don't allow the sauce to be taken to a high temperature again, it will cause the sour cream to curdle the sauce.  

Add the noodles directly into the pot of sauce and stir.  Allow them to sit in the sauce for 3-5 minutes before serving to allow the flavor from the sauce to soak into the noodles a bit.  Garnish with parsley or chives and serve.

Making this dairy free was a cinch, and the whole family was able to enjoy it.  Even the 10 month old had her way with a plate of it.  I'm glad to say that more went into her mouth than ON her.  That's an accomplishment.  The meat was so tender, the noodles cooked perfectly, and the flavor infused into the noodles from just the couple of minutes in the warm sauce was a pleasant surprise for everyone at the table.  

08 February, 2014

Worth the Drive

I get tips from friends every once in a while (not NEARLY often enough in my opinion!) of great establishments I simply must try.  I have the most fun with desserts, so when someone mentions a bakery...HELLOOOOO!  I'm going.  Way back in December a friend clued me into a fabulous hidden gem called Slater's Baking.

Now located in Arnprior in the Kenwood Centre, Slater's Baking has actually been an Ottawa area treat for nearly 100 years.  Their selection of goodies isn't too large, but you don't need to be when you've mastered what you do offer.

I was pretty sure I was going to get some of every variety of yumminess but I had to take it all in and think.  I was hip deep in the middle of Christmas baking and my house was already wall to wall junk food.  So, I got realistic real quick.  Which was hard to do because the prices were SO fabulous!

Seriously...after seeing the prices I was having a hard time resisting buying one of everything.  I knew I wanted a caramel pecan bar for sure and a package of the first thing I smelled when I walked in...the sticky buns.  She had a plate of several bars out for people to try...so you know I ended up leaving with all of the things I tried.  Well, I did.  I took my haul home...

Somewhere on my counter was a HUGE bag of dried bread crumbs as well.  I'm not sure how they didn't make it into the photo, but Christmas was coming and that means stuffing/dressing in our house.  It is the one thing I can count on the four year old eating for sure if it lands on his plate.  But, from the top of the photo and clockwise around the plate you have a package of sticky buns, two peanut butter cookies, a hint of orange brownie, a meat tourtiere, a lemon bar, and a caramel pecan bar.  I ate that whole caramel pecan bar and didn't share a single bite with the Mister.  Everything else I took pity on him with and gave him a bite or two.  Yes, I was feeling generous that Saturday.

I took a slab of the sticky buns and set it in my oven for a couple minutes to make it soft and ooey gooey again.  Fabulous!  You don't have to do that, but I did.  I love a straight out of the oven, warmed through sticky bun.

After 88 years of baking, I can tell you it is safe to say Slater's knows what they are doing, they do it very well, and they have a very faithful customer base.  While I stood inside talking with the owner's wife, people were constantly coming in and out mostly to pick up their order of a loaf or two of bread.  Before they left, they made sure to put in an order for another loaf for the following week.  Loyalty like that doesn't just come out of thin air.  If you believe in driving for a cause, head out to Slater's and give their fare a try.  I would personally recommend you not go on an empty stomach, you may end up regretting that.  I showed an amazing amount of restraint keeping my mitts off of the goodies until I could get home to take a proper photo of the desserts.  I barely made it.  Give yourself a treat and try out Slater's.  I promise there is something there that you will fall in love with.
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