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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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Garlic Scapes Pesto and Tipsy Salad

Pesto & SaladTHE VERDICT:

One of the best parts about shopping at the farmers’ market is discovering new things. For the last few weeks, we had noticed that some of the stalls were selling garlic scapes (the stalks of the garlic plant that roughly resemble a curled version of the green portion of a scallion). We love garlic, so we figured anything associated with garlic must be good, but we had no idea how to cook with them. Luckily, we came across a recipe for garlic scapes pesto at one of the booths and decided to be adventurous and try it out. We were well rewarded for our efforts. The scapes have a lot of garlic flavour, but it comes in a milder form. They made a wonderful base for this simple pasta sauce, but I think they would also do well mixed with some Greek yogurt as a dip.

We paired the pasta with a salad we nicknamed the tipsy salad because of its boozy ingredients. We picked up some mixed salad greens at the market along with a brick of Tipsy Jill cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. We diced the cheese, which is infused with blackberry wine, and tossed it with the greens along with some dried cherries and sunflower seeds. We drizzled a homemade raspberry-champagne vinaigrette over top. Enjoyed with a glass of the remaining champagne, it was quite a meal.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Garlic Scapes Pesto (source: Trout Lake Farmer’s Market)

1 pound garlic scapes

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

olive oil (about 1/2 to 1 cup)

pine nuts, if desired

  • Chop the garlic scapes into 3 inch lengths. Put in the food processor and process until pureed.
  • Add the parmesan and pine nuts (if using) and process until smooth.
  • Slowly add the olive oil as the food processor runs and continue until all the oil is combined into the garlic and the desired consistency is reached.
  • Store in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator.

Tipsy Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

Several handfuls of mixed salad greens

1 small brick of Tipsy Jill cheese or similar wine infused cheese

1 or 2 handfuls of dried cherries

1 handful of sunflower seeds

  • Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with your chosen salad dressing.

Raspberry-Champagne Vinaigrette (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp. champagne

1 Tbsp. raspberry jam

A sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and/or sea salt, if desired

  • Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until combined.
  • Alternatively, you can combine the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

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Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Dried CherriesTHE VERDICT:

These cookies make my mouth happy. It was like the favourite cookie of my childhood decided to grow up and get even more irresistibly delicious. Adding to the indulgence level, we discovered Callebaut chocolate chips in the bulk aisle of our favourite Save-On Foods and decided to use them instead of regular chips.

I should probably note that we used our stand mixer and not a food processor to prepare the dough, so you may have different results than we did if you follow the recipe to the letter. We also do not have two racks in our oven (it involves a long, frustrating story about the people who used to own our condo before us and their fish pond), so I simply baked them on a rack in the centre of the oven. They turned out fine without all the silly switching around that the recipe calls for. The only tragedy resulted when I forgot to set the timer for the first batch. I’m blaming “mommy brain” for the immolation of the first dozen cookies. Once I’d had my first taste of an unburnt cookie, I realized just how tragic a loss they were.

Overall, I would say this is by far the best cookie recipe I have tried in ages.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries (source: www.epicurious.com; 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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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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