Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Warm Beet & Broccoli Couscous Salad.

If you're like me and pretty darn stuffed from the delicious food this Christmas holiday season brings, you may want to try out this light Warm Beet & Broccoli Couscous Salad. This delicious salad is light yet filling. Couscous is a one of the most healthy grain's and is high in protein. I love adding lemon to most couscous dishes...

1 1/2 cups cooked couscous
4 small green onions, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 head broccoli, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 can sliced beets, drained (or in my case, a can of whole beets and chop them yourself!)
1 can water chestnuts, drained
Lemon juice
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic powder (or fresh chopped of course!)
Salt & pepper

1. Prepare couscous according to package directions. (In my case, I had approx. 1/2 cup regular couscous and 1 cup whole wheat couscous and it worked out fine when putting into 2 cups boiling water).
2. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil into a heating pan. Add cooking onion.
3. Begin to steam broccoli and carrots...

Broccoli and carrots in a bamboo steamer.

4. Put green pepper, water chestnuts and beets on top of onions:

5. Finish steaming broccoli and carrots. Add to ingredients into the pan.
6. Drizzle lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder to vegetable mixture.
7. Add cooked couscous and green onions, stir all together. Drizzle extra lemon juice and/or balsamic vinegar if desired. Don't be afraid to use a lot!


Pecans make a delicious topping!

  • If you like nuts, try mixing a 1/2 cup of chopped nuts in with the other ingredients. I would highly recommend pecans, however walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds would be tasty as well.

    Thursday, 8 December 2011

    Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Truffles.

    These are absolutely delicious and so easy to make! They would make a great gift to give away for the Holidays... Try it today!

    1 cup Semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 package (250g) Cream Cheese at room temperature
    1/2 cup Icing sugar
    1/2 cup Graham crumbs
    1 tbsp. Vanilla extract
    Pinch of salt

    Ideas of things to roll truffles in: Sweetened coconut, sprinkles, cocoa, white sugar, graham crumbs....

    1. Melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in a small sauce pan on low. Meanwhile using an electric mixer, beatthe cream cheese until smooth. Add icing sugar, graham crumbs, vanilla and salt, and blend well. Mix in the melted chocolate and the remaining chocolate chips. Cool mixture in the freezer until firm (about 15 mins).
    2. Hand-roll into balls the size of large marbles. Toss balls in coconut sprinkles, graham crumbs etc until well coated. Return to freezer and chill thoroughly (about 15 mins).
    3. Enjoy or wrap up in a box to give away! (But keep in freezer until ready to give away!)

     Chocolate chip cheesecake truffles rolled in graham crumbs and icing sugar.

    • Don't roll your truffles in icing sugar unless you want it to come out and look like little donuts!
    • You may need to re-freeze the mixture half way through rolling them if the mixture begins to get too soft as this will make your hands really messy.....

    Note: These truffles were made far too big. haha!! 

    Rolled in Graham Crumbs.

    Delicious chocolate chip cheesecake truffles!

    Friday, 2 December 2011

    Lemon Rice Soup.

    Mmmm. Soup!
    I don't know if it's due to the coldness outside or a desire for comforting home cooked food, but I woke up this morning remembering a delicious bowl of soup that my boyfriend Ben's grandma made for us back in March of this year. I loved it so much she provided me with a copy of the recipe (from a magazine of some type!). As a naturally organized person, I am actually perplexed as to where it is! I will blame its disappearance on moving cities in the late spring/early summer... But alas, it was I who misplaced it... However, I am confident that it will eventually turn up, most likely in the summer time when I don't want soup! ha!

    So without having the recipe, I took to the good ol' internet to find a similar recipe. I searched for "lemon rice soups" and found numerous recipes for "Greek Lemon Rice" soup (aka Avgolemono). I quickly learned that this soup contains egg and that the rice soup I had been dreaming of from last March also would have contained egg. I have never used egg in a soup before and feel it is somewhat 'odd' to do so! I have however tried many yummy soups that contained egg, but I just have never personally felt compelled to try it for myself... until now!

    Traditional Avgolemono consists of a few basic ingredients: chicken broth, rice (or orzo) and eggs. First, I read a recipe that called to separate the eggs. Uhh, that's a pain... no thanks. Next. I read a recipe that called for EIGHT eggs. No thanks, Next! I read a soup recipe that even included a cream of chicken soup can! Whaaat! Soup in soup? Nooooo Thank you! NEXT! I finally came across a recipe I was fond of and was delighted to discover that I had all the other ingredients! This is from TLC's Cooking website. I kinda followed it, of course... Here it is. My version follows.

    TLC's Greek Lemon Soup
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/3 cup minced green onions with tops
    6 cups canned chicken broth
    2/3 cup uncooked long grain white rice
    4 eggs
    Juice of 1 fresh lemon, or to taste
    1/8 teaspoon white pepper (optional)

    1. Melt butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add green onions. Cook and stir about 3 minutes or until green onions are tender.
    2. Stir in chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender.
    3. Beat eggs in medium bowl with wire whisk until well beaten. Add lemon juice and 1/2 cup broth mixture to bowl. Gradually return egg mixture to broth mixture in saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over low heat 2 to 3 minutes or until broth mixture thickens enough to lightly coat spoon. Do not boil.
    4. Stir in pepper, if desired. Garnish with fresh mint and lemon peel, if desired.
    5. YIELD Makes 6 to 8 servings.
    Recipe Source:

    Homemade lemon rice soup.

    So, as a tribute to the lovely M.Mathewson whose recipe I misplaced, here is:

    My own Delicious Lemon Rice Soup!
    6 cups water
    3 chicken bouillon cubes
    3/4 cup white rice
    The last few squeezes of lemon juice I had
    4 eggs
    1/2 a carrot
    1/4 of an onion
    Lemon Basil
    Salt & Pepper to taste

    Since I didn't have chicken broth like the recipe called for, I needed to make my own with bouillon cubes, but I didn't want to have to make the broth and THEN make the rice, I wanted to make it all at the same time.... So....
    • Pour 6 cups water into a large pot and bring to a boil.
    • Once water boils add bouillon cubes and rice.
    • Allow to boil for 1-2 mins.
    • Reduce to low heat, cover with a lid. Cook for approx. 30 mins
    This is when I discovered that the TLC recipe was a wee bit bland. So I decided to add some carrot for some colour and flavour! I was going to add more ingredients but decided I better try to stick to the recipe as close as possible the first time so that the Greek Gods  don't become upset with me! ha!
    • About 5 minutes before the rice is done, melt butter in a small cookpan.
    • Add chopped onion and carrot. Allow to cook for 5 mins.
    • As the onion and carrot are being cooked, crack eggs into a bowl and mix well. Add lemon juice.
    • Pour half of the broth/rice into the egg bowl. If you're like me, you may want to use a measuring cup to take approx. half the ingredients out vs. pour them out ;)
    • Mix eggs and broth/rice mixture. 
    • Begin to add a bit of this mixture back into the cooking pot where the rest of the broth/rice is. Stir in well.
    • Add cooked carrot and onion into the soup pot.
    • Add more egg and broth/rice mixture into the soup pot. Stir in well. Keep doing this until all contents are back in the soup pot.
    • Add parsley and lemon basil if you have it. Otherwise add some spices you like, perhaps some garlic powder or salt?
    • And voila, done! Let me tell you, it tastes divine!!!
    • Flavour would be greatly enhanced with the use of real chicken.

    Homemade lemon rice soup. Simply Amazing!

    Thursday, 1 December 2011

    Brown Sugar Frosting.

    Last night while my easy breezy One Bowl Cake was baking, I searched for an icing recipe to compliment and subtly enhance the simplicity of the cake. I knew I had a tub of vanilla Betty Crocker frosting in my cupboard but didn't use it. With its long expiration date, I suppose I just like to keep it for baking emergencies and opt to make my own icing whenever possible. I am not a huge baker, and certainly am not well acquainted with icings, frosting and sauces alike. I know, it's shocking! Anyways, I decided to use this recipe based on the fact that I happened to have coffee cream in the fridge and it's one of the ingredients!

    So I mixed up this recipe and was very pleased with its outcome! I followed the recipe closely but not completely, and I am happy to say that it all worked out well! Obviously you will see this is a very sugary recipe. Tips on what I would do better are includes, so go on, give it a try it....

    Brown Sugar Frosting
    6 tablespoons of butter
    1/2 cup of light brown sugar
    1/4 cup of milk
    1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
    1/4 teaspoon of salt
    1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons of light cream

    Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Then stir in your brown sugar and milk. Raise the heat and bring it to a rapid boil. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the sugar, salt, vanilla, and cream. Continue beating until the icing is thick and cool enough to spread.

    But I didn't wait long enough... I spread on the frosting after only a few minutes.... Mmmmm.... O0o0ooooooy Goooooy Goodness!!!!

    My boyfriend tasted a piece and asked how much maple syrup I used.... I was delighted to tell him NONE! But it sure tastes like a maple brown sugary dream!

    • Resist the urge to eat the entire bowl of frosting while it cools if you can! Wait until it thickens a wee bit and is spreadable. You do not want to begin spreading it while it is warm as the frosting will melt and will result in only a thin layer. 
    • This would make an incredibly nice sauce to dip plain cookies in... Or dipped in shortbread. This would also go nicely on pound cake, donuts, biscotti, and muffins...
    • Best served warm. 
    • Can be made ahead and re-heated.
    • NOTE ON THE ICING IN THE PHOTOS: I used a mixture of newer and 'older' brown sugar (aka incredibly hard sugar) and obviously did not mix them long enough. Although I could have sworn I was standing there mixing for a long time! So due to using really hard sugar (or was it my laziness?!), the bumps in the photos are pure tiny lumps of sugar. YUM!

    Super Yummy and Easy Brown Sugar Frosting on top of One Bowl Cake.

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011

    Simple One Bowl Cake.

    While I usually use them as guidelines, I have to admit, I like to collect recipes!!!!
    I do know however that there are times when one really should completely follow a recipe.... or follow it as best they can! The best example of this is when you bake!

    Recently I took a look through some of my dessert recipes and discovered one that I've had for quite a few years but have never made, not even once! I read it, stunned... One bowl cake!? Why have I not tried this sooner?! I am all about easy meals, easy desserts, easy breezy goodness.

    So tonight I set to making it just after supper and here is the recipe to share with you! Think of your Grandma when I tell you to remember to sift your flour for better results! ha ha! However, as per my usual, if you can't sift than oh well, I'm sure your cake will turn out just fine!

    One Bowl Cake,
    Recipe from an old friend's grandma, 2006

    1 1/2 cups flour (or pastry flour if you will)
    2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1 cup white sugar

    Sift and add all ingredients together into one bowl.

    6 tbsp. soft shortening
    1/2 cup milk
    3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

    Mix with ingredients in bowl. Then add 2 unbeaten eggs.
    Bake for 30 mins @ 350 F.

    Tuesday, 29 November 2011

    Last Harvest.

    I just wanted to share this photo with you all before it's winter time! It's of my last harvest... And while it was all very fresh and delicious, I must admit, I just like the assortment of colours in this photo! Nature's rainbow in a garden... hehe....

    My last harvest.

    Tiny red onions (although small, they were potent!!), cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes.... The bottom left tomato is a small beefsteak, and the one on the right is an heirloom tomato (which I started from seed!)....

    Growing your own food is truly satisfying! :)

    Sunday, 27 November 2011

    Winter Planters.

    Whether it's because I am Canadian or not, I have always liked the look of freshly fallen snow on top of well, anything! (Yes I admit I like snow, but I suppose only for a while, that is until it turns into slush. Yuck!) But freshly fallen snow just looks so pretty on top of trees and bushes. To help brighten up my pathway at home, I decided to make some winter planters for the winter season and will explain how I did so below. The best thing about these planters is that they help spruce up one's house exterior for the Christmas season, yet the look is suitable for the entire winter season!

    The Finished Product.
    My walkway planters, currently awaiting some snow!!!

    Items Used:
    •  A Planter Pot (able to sustain cold temperatures)
    • Sticks, Boughs, Berries, whatever wild things you can find
    • Dirt and/or Sand (it doesn't matter what you use since the sticks do not need to grow roots and are not expected to live)
    • Rocks
    • Place rocks in the bottom of the planter pot (this will help weigh it down and protect the final product from blowing over)
    • Pour some dirt or sand into the pot. Fill approx. half of the pot.
    • Stick the tallest of your wild findings in the centre of the pot of dirt/sand.
    • Start sticking the other branches and pieces into the dirt/sand revolving around the the tallest one in the centre.
    •  Continue sticking in pieces until you have none left.
    • Place planter along walkway, under window, by door, etc... for a beautiful wintery feel - Well, after it snows!!!!
    • To help visually balance the planter, try thinking of the planter as a clock. If you stick something in at 2 O'clock, try sticking the same type of piece in at 6 and 10 O'Clock. This will help balance out the look of the branches and overall feel of the planter.
    • Also, the look of these planters could be greatly improved had I used more attractive plant pots.... but ya gotta love reusing what you have (Recycle, Reduce, Reuse)!!!!

    The Finished Goods (awaiting snow!):

    Saturday, 26 November 2011

    Frozen Soup Pucks

    I tend to make large batches of whatever I cook. This is due to a few reasons, mainly because I rarely use recipes and also enjoy having extra food on hand for friends and family. I recently learned a new trick to help prolong the life of your food by freezing the left over portions! This is done by the use of a muffin tin. How ingenious!

    To freeze a cream/blended soup, simply pour the right amount of soup into each individual muffin tin. Be careful not to overfill as the contents will expand once frozen. Freeze.

    To freeze a broth soup, it is safe to assume there will be chunks of meat, veggies, etc in the soup. In this case, it will be hard to pour a perfect mix of broth and other ingredients so here is another ingenious idea; Use half the muffin tin to freeze broth and the other half to freeze the ingredients. However, try to cover the ingredients in a bit of broth. Don't worry if it's not perfect. Freeze.

    Frozen Ginger-Carrot Soup in a muffin tin.

     Frozen Soup.

     2-3 soup "pucks" would make a nice portion once melted!

    For either soup:  Place frozen muffin tin in a sink with a bit of hot water. Let the muffin tin simply it in water, sort of like a puddle! After a couple of minutes, the bottom of the tin will become warm. Take the tin out of the water and flip it upside down over a clean counter; this will release the soup into what I call "soup pucks". If you're lucky, all the pucks will fall out.... Otherwise you may have to put the tin back into hot water. OR you can also keep the tin upside down on the counter and bang it a little. haha... This method seems to work nicely for me!

    Once all the pucks are out you will want to freeze them. What I like to do is put some into plastic bags and some into containers. I eat the ones in containers sooner than the plastic bag ones. Why? freezer burn will happen quicker on things in open containers and since these are pucks, you cannot fill a whole container without wrecking the puck shape, thus, plastic bags work better to wrap around the puck shape.

    Soup Pucks in plastic bags.

    Cream/Blended soup: Place 2-3 soup pucks into a small pot or pan (this amount should be enough for an individual meal). Place on burner on low-medium heat.  Wait for pucks to begin to thaw out. Stir. Once pucks have thawed, keep on burner for a couple minutes to ensure all contents are at the same temperature before consumption. Once at suitable temperature, take off burner, pour into bowl and eat!!!!

    Broth soup: Place 2 pucks into a small pot or pan. Since these soup pucks have more broth in certain ones, you will need to adjust the amount of pucks to thaw depending on whether or not you want more broth or frozen ingredient pucks (and as well as how many people are eating). You may want to thaw out 3 pucks to get a good mix of broth and veggies/other ingredients. 

    Place on burner on low-medium heat.  Wait for pucks to begin to thaw out. Stir. Once pucks have thawed, keep on burner for a couple minutes to ensure all contents are at the same temperature before consumption. Once at suitable temperature, take off burner, pour into bowl, and eat!!!!

    but most of all, ENJOY!!!!!

    Friday, 25 November 2011

    Two chilis on the go.....

    I woke up today and decided to make some chili. Seeing as I love my slow cooker and simply love smelling food cook all day, I opted to use it! I rummaged through the fridge and cupboards to use what ingredients I had. Without any beef I decided to use some Italian veggie ground. From my experience most people have a hard time telling the difference between real meat and veggie ground once cooked; It is all in how you flavour it you see! Using the Italian kind of veggie ground is best for things like pasta, chilis, etc., but you can also buy other flavours too!Veggie ground breaks up nicely whether it is frozen so try it sometime as I find it good just to have on hand.
    My boyfriend Ben knew I was going to make chili so he bought some ground beef when he returned from the grocery store after a meeting earlier today. I had already started the veggie chili and while he doesn't mind veggie chili, the look in his eye told me he was hoping for a thick meaty chili - you know guys and their meat obsessions, haha. Soooo I decided to make two batches of delicious chili goodness; one meaty and one vegetarian! Chili is so easy to freeze and I like stocking up the freezer, so two chili's on the go seemed like a good idea to me!

    Fresh ingredients, unchopped.

     Homemade pressed garlic in oil next to a variety of things: chopped onion, red pepper, hot pepper, green pepper, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms...... 

    The following are my chili guidelines as I hardly ever follow or use recipes! I am also a huge advocate of using whatever you have around. In this case, I had no beans for either chili. oops?! But you see, that's alright! It'll still taste delicious! hehe...

    • 1 package of Yeve's Italian veggie ground
    • 1 red pepper
    • 1 green pepper
    • 1 onion
    • 1 large hot chili pepper 
    • Garlic to taste (use fresh or minced in oil)
    • 1 can crushed tomatoes
    • Spices: Cumin, Chili, Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Sweet chili and pepper spice (Club House brand)
     Cooking Method:
    • Place veggie ground in a slow cooker or large pot and if frozen let de-thaw  with lid on until you can break it all up
    • Add garlic and onions, stir
    • Add all other ingredients, stir
    • Cook on low with lid on for approx. 6 hours
    • Enjoy!

    • 2 lbs lean ground beef (1 lb is usually enough, but I was a bit lazy and didn't want to refreeze the other half, lol)
    • garlic to taste (use fresh or minced in oil)
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 orange pepper, chopped
    • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
    • a bunch of mushrooms , sliced
    • 1 celery stalk, chopped
    • 1 can of tomatoes (I didn't have crushed tomatoes so I chopped up these!) 
    • 1 real tomato, chopped
    • Spices: Cumin, Chili, Salt
    • Other: A few squirts of hot sirachia sauce (that red bottle of sauce with a rooster on it found at Chinese food places at the mall)
    Cooking Method:
    • Brown beef in a large pot (or slow cooker)
    • Add garlic and onions, stir
    • Add all other ingredients except for mushrooms, stir
    • Add mushrooms once other ingredients have mixed around a bit. Why? Cuz I don't like mushrooms to get mushy.
    • Cook on low with lid on for approx. 6 hours
    • Enjoy!

    • If your chili is too watery, try adding a can of tomato paste to help thicken it up. You can also try simmering the chili on low without a lid.
    • Using fresh ingredients is best, but canned vegetables can be used as well
    • Basically, use whatever ingredients you have and have fun!!!

    Beef Chili. YUM!

      Tuesday, 22 November 2011

      Autumn and Christmas Wreaths.

      Last year when I lived in a small town, I went for a long walk on a country trail on a nice Autumn day. Without knowing what I was doing, I instinctively gathered some grapevine and casually worked it into a circle, careful not to snap the fresh vine. I added some freshly fallen autumn leaves, headed home and hung the makeshift wreath outside and left it there. The leaves faded and eventually fell off. By Spring time, my creation had hardened and became a beautifully sturdy start to an eventual wreath. I brought it inside and hid it somewhere in my craft room only to forget about it until this past Autumn....
      Around this past Thanksgiving all the leaves outside began to change colour and it dawned on me that I had a circle of grapevine that I could use for an actual wreath. I used what I had available to me from my collection of random art/craft supplies. I added some leaves, some butterflies and other brass charms.... I enjoy this wreath very much in its simplicity! I hope you do too!

      I loved having this my door!
      Items Used:
      • Grapeleaf vines
      • fake autumn leaves and berries
      • sparkly gold butterflies
      • a few random brass charms
      • hot glue gun + glue

      Since I enjoyed having a wreath up during October and into November, I decided I should make one for Christmas as well. I had a string of plain garland, some poinsettias (as part of a candle ring) and some sparkly green butterflies (as you can guess, I like butterflies!). I twisted the garland into a circle... ok, as good as a circle as I could and began gluing on the poinsettias. I added the green butterfly but took them off as they were too distracting. This wreath is simple as well but I like it!!!

       My super easy Christmas Wreath!

      Items Used:
      • 1 string of garland
      • 2 candle rings with poinsettias
      • fake pine cones and berries
      • 4 tiny bells
      • hot glue gun + glue

      Monday, 21 November 2011

      Shoulda started this sooner!!!

      Hello World!
      This blog has been just waaaiiiting to finally happen! And here it is; A collection of all my personal Cooking and Crafting experiences and stories! And I cannot forget a little Gardening too!!!