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Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread

shortbreadTHE VERDICT:

This recipe was a lucky find. It arrived in the mail one day along with the holiday edition of my magazine subscription. Normally I chuck promotional material as soon as I pull it out of the mail, but because this flyer had tasty baked goodies on the front, so I decided to flip through it and came across this recipe, which is an excellent jazzed-up version of classic holiday shortbread.

We made it as part of the goody bags for Z’s first birthday party and received good feedback, so we decided to add it to our list of Christmas baking. It got rave reviews from a number of family and friends over the Christmas holidays and many people have asked us for the recipe. So finally, after a long hiatus that involved Christmas festivities, a computer break down and an adjustment to my new life as a working mom, we are giving the people what they want: a copy of this recipe.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Cranberry & White Chocolate Shortbread (source: Robin Hood Flour promotional flyer)

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup icing sugar

vanilla extract

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper so that it overhangs ends for easy removal.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour with cornstarch and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, beat butter with icing sugar and vanilla until very creamy. Stir in flour mixture, then cranberries and chocolate chips.
  • Using floured hands, pat evenly into prepared pan. Using a fork, prick surface all over.
  • Bake in a preheated oven 40-50 minutes or until deep golden around the edges. Let stand in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Using parchment paper, lift out of pan. Slice into bars while still warm. Cool completely. Dust with icing sugar if desired.
  • Freezes well.

Makes 48 bars.

Total time: 65 minutes

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Cheese Stuffed Celery Sticks

Celery SnacksTHE VERDICT:

This is one of our favourite after-work or weekend snacks. I think it even has potential to be a good casual appetizer or side dish at a barbecue, potluck or picnic. A unique, more sophisticated twist on “Ants on a Log,” it would be a fun alternative to devilled eggs. I could see these being very popular with kids, especially the kind that like cheese.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Cheese Stuffed Celery Sticks (source: www.foodnetwork.ca; A Dairy Farmers of Canada original recipe)

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Cranberry-Cornmeal Quick Bread

Cranberry-Cornmeal BreadTHE VERDICT:

First I should probably confess that I am allergic to nuts, which means I have to modify about 50% of the baking recipes I try. This recipe, in particular, called for pecans. I substituted extra dried cranberries for the nuts, but you could easily substitute seeds or other dried fruit if desired.

The other thing I should probably confess is that I screwed up when making this recipe. I combined the dry and wet ingredients before realizing that the melted butter was still sitting in the microwave. While my knowledge of baking chemistry is limited, I have a feeling that adding the melted butter to the already combined batter may have adversely effected the outcome. The bread was a little dry.

But overall, this bread was tasty and I would make it again. Just add a little butter, margarine or jam to make it a little moister and the dryness problem is solved. It kept well for several days stored in a Ziploc bag on the counter. It made a wonderful breakfast with some fresh fruit and a cup (or two) of coffee.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Cranberry-Cornmeal Quick Bread (source: www.epicurious.com; original recipe)

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Chocolate Chip Cranberry Granola Bars & Sparkling Iced Tea

Granola Bar and Sparkling Iced TeaTHE VERDICT:

Both of these recipes make for a tasty afternoon snack though the beverage is a much healthier option if you are counting calories. The granola bars are amazing, but they are a problematic snack. The original recipe should be prepared in a 9 x 9 cake pan and then cut into 16 pieces, leaving you with a miniscule portion size that packs a whopping 157 calories without filling you up. Because we cut larger, more filling bars, I’ve doubled the original recipe, so that we can eat these as snacks all week long. We won’t make this recipe often as it is not the healthiest choice (though it is still preferable to the heavily processed granola bars available at the grocery store), and in the future we may try to make healthier substitutions for some of the ingredients (e.g. pumpkin seeds instead of chocolate chips).

The iced tea is extremely refreshing and I am looking forward to making several variations of this recipe over the warm summer months. The original recipe only serves two and is designed to be served shortly after making it, so I altered things a little bit. I just made a jug of extremely strong cranberry-raspberry tea and then diluted it with club soda whenever I made a glass. This would be a great drink to serve at a summer barbecue.

THE RECIPES:

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Granola Bars (source: Spark Recipes; original recipe)

Sparkling Iced Tea (www.canadianfamily.ca; original recipe)

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Fresh Tomato Pasta with Garlic Shrimp and Green Salad

Fresh Tomato Pasta DinnerTHE VERDICT:

This recipe was our favourite find of last summer. As the weather has been warming up, we decided it was time to bring this dish out of the vault. It is a quick and easy weeknight meal and the leftovers make a tasty pasta salad.

For this meal, we paired it with some grilled shrimp and a green salad with citrus vinaigrette.  We love free styling salads and this was another one of our produce aisle inspirations.

To prepare for baby: Choose a small pasta noodle (e.g. macaroni) or cut your noodles to a suitable size after cooking. Make sure the tomato is finely diced. You may want to ease up on the garlic as well. We found Z wasn’t as keen about this dish as he usually is when it comes to pasta and can only conclude that the fresh garlic was too strong for him because he loves raw tomatoes almost as much as he loves pasta.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Fresh Tomato Pasta (source: Today’s Parent magazine; original recipe)

Green Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

1 bag butter lettuce or your favourite salad greens

1 avocado, diced

1 cucumber, diced

1 handful dried cranberries

a few tablespoons olive oil

a few splashes of lemon juice

a few splashes of lime juice

salt and pepper

  • Toss all ingredients together in a large salad bowl. Serve.

Garlic Shrimp (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

Two dozen shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. butter

  • Melt butter in a small frying pan.
  • Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add shrimp and saute until cooked (shrimp will turn pink).


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Four Grain Hot Cereal

Four Grain Hot Cereal

Four Grain Hot Cereal


THE VERDICT:

Ever fantasize about going to bed one night and waking up to discover that a warm, nutritious breakfast is ready and waiting for you? It’s possible. Most people think slow cookers are only good for making stews and other dinner dishes, but they are the best kept breakfast secret ever. Just spend a few minutes assembling this tasty porridge the night before and you will have a wonderful hot breakfast waiting for you before you are even fully functional in the morning.

This is one of our favourite meals as well as our favourite slow cooker recipe. The ingredients can be found in most bulk sections at the grocery store. It takes almost no time to assemble and makes enough for at least two days worth of breakfasts, and we can usually stretch it to three. As you may have guessed, it reheats beautifully and is just as delicious the next day. Justin likes to stir a bit of yogurt into his while I prefer mine plain.

The only downside is clean up. Like all porridges, it’s a little sticky, so make sure you rinse out your bowls before heading out the door in the morning so that you don’t have to scrub the breakfast dishes too hard later.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Four-Grain Hot Cereal (source: Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Slow Cooker magazine)

3 cups water

2 ½ cups apple juice

½ cup regular barley

½ cup steel-cut oats

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup dried apricots

¼ cup wheat berries

¼ cup quinoa

¼ tsp. salt

¼ cup honey

  • In slow cooker, combine the water, apple juice, barley, oats, cranberries, apricots, wheat berries, quinoa and salt.
  • Cover and cook on low heat setting for 6-7 hours.
  • Stir in honey just before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings. Per serving: 331 calories, 5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 108 mg sodium, 70 g carbohydrates, 8 g fibre, 7 g protein

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