Candy Cane Redux Cookies & What Happens When My Baking Cred is Challenged

Leftover candy canes? Now in cookie form!

Hello dear blog readers!

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging (or baking) as much over the last few weeks. Between some health  issues (now resolved, whoot!) and trying to cut down on my baking so that the DH could lose some weight (it’s hard to watch your weight when your wife is always making delicious things), plus some technical challenges (*shaking fist at combination of mailchimp, hellobar, and sumome apps, plus at self’s lack of technical know-how*), well, the result is blog bog.

I’ve been making and photographing some healthier treats (cough*salads*cough) lately, so those will show up on the blog soon. In the interim…let them eat sugar! Or at least cookies.

Because the DH came home yesterday and handed me a giant container of candy canes. I looked at him. He said that his coworkers had mentioned the recent dearth of delicious baked goods, and challenged me to use up the leftover candy canes lying around the office that no one would eat.

Well.

Challenge accepted!

I went on pinterest, I googled different search terms, I experimented with baking different things (did you know that you can bake and shape candy canes?), and came across some interesting options for leftover candy canes.

I told the DH, I bet that if I turn it into candy cane vodka, it’d be gone in a snap!

He agreed. (I mean, obvs!)

I decided to try something else instead, as I’m pretty sure that however laid-back the DH’s office culture is, the higher-ups would frown on a workforce giddy on peppermint vodka.

So, cookies it was! This is a basic cookie base, with the addition of ground candy canes. It’s really not that minty; it just gives a hint of flavour to a buttery, crunchy, sweet cookie.

Candy Cane Redux Cookies (adapted from www.momvstheboys.com)

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. crushed candy canes (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle, but I think a sturdy plastic bag and a rolling pin would work just as well)

Mix butter, eggs, sugars, and vanilla together until creamy-looking. Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir into butter/sugar/egg mixture. Once mixed, stir in crushed candy canes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-9 minutes. They will harden as they cool, so take them out of the oven when they’re still a little soft. Let cool on the tray for two minutes (so they don’t fall apart), and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Eat, drink, and be merry! (Makes about 50 cookies.)

These cookies are much easier than you’d think, and really are a great way to use up those candy canes that are festive in December and mere unwanted calories in January. Best to turn them into delicious, wanted calories, yes? Tee hee!

Next Post: More minty goodness, with chocolate peppermint whoopie pies! Or…faro salad with baby spinach and roasted greens? Hmm, choices, choices.

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

New Year, New Blogging Goals (Plus Dreams of Chocolate-Dipped Kale)

Happy New Year to all!

Happy New Year to all!

A New Year means Big Dreams for my blog! And more importantly, lots of delicious things! I’ve got some pea soup simmering on the stove right now, and dreams of faro and quinoa dance in my head. I was watching a cooking show last night and now I’m all about the ancient grains! (For about two days and then it’s probably back to chocolate. Mmm…chocolate! I wonder what chocolate-dipped kale tastes like?)

I rarely do New Year’s resolutions, as my attitude is why wait until the New Year to make life changes or achieve goals? If there’s something I want to do, I generally go after it when I think of it. (As in the case of chocolate-dipped kale. I think this is something I need to pursue!) However, I do have some goals for my blog for this year. I like to dream big — as P.T. Barnum once said, if you aim for the moon, you may hit the stars! So, my goals for my blog for this year include:

  • complete the Elite Blogging Academy 3.0 course (I’ve signed up already, and am waiting for the doors to open)
  • get a sponsored post
  • monetize my blog (specifically by adding in ads, looking into affiliate marketing, but first and foremost, by putting up a page that states my ‘ethics in blogging’ promise to my readers, followed by a ‘work with me’ page)
  • switch platforms to a more polished and professional one (I’m thinking of the foodie pro theme on the genesis platform)
  • switch to an automated email platform (probably paying for mailchimp, as well as continuing to pay for a P.O. Box)
  • hit 10,000 views/month
  • revamp my pinterest strategy
  • build my email list

So, you know, nothing big! *Any readers who blog will now be clutching their sides and roaring with laughter*

These are all doable goals, but will require consistent, sustained effort. Which is slightly at odds with my no-stress-no-editorial-schedule-blogging-as-fun-not-side-hustle approach to blogging. Which I also want to keep. Hmm. But I’m confident that I can reconcile the two! (As in the case of chocolate dipped kale — healthy AND tasty! Now on my list of recipes-to-make.)

Do you have any New Year’s goals? Any recipes that you’re longing to make/conquer/eat? Regardless, Happy New Year’s to all! And may this year be a fruitful and tasty one!

Next Post: For all my talk of ancient grains, I still have some peppermint buttercream sitting in my fridge and staring at me with limpid eyes. So the first thing on my baking list is probably the chocolate whoopie pies with peppermint buttercream that I mentioned earlier! Definitely an achievable goal. 🙂

Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad, & Boosting Nutrition Profiles

Salad looking lovely! (Was promptly eaten, fyi)

Salad looking lovely! (Was promptly eaten, fyi)

The days after Christmas are always filled with delicious foods, and oftentimes, with self-recriminations over eating all those delicious foods (not that I speak from personal experience or anything). So I developed this recipe to be a) delicious and b) healthy! And I made it using only what I had in the house, hence the name: Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad!

Fattoush is a Mediterranean salad, made with crunchy bits of pita. I suspect that it originated as a way to use up stale pita — toss it with olive oil, vinegar, a few herbs, and some veggies! These days it’s made with fresh pita, usually dabbed with oil and baked until crispy. I didn’t have any pita in the house, but whipped some up myself using this recipe. (Who knew it was so easy?)

My dad, who is of Mediterranean origin, will shake his head if he reads this post, because fattoush usually contains some dried sumac as a seasoning. Do I have it in the house? No! Am I the Queen of Substitutions? Yes! So I just mixed up a dressing that seemed vaguely Mediterranean-ish (heavy on the olive oil and garlic), sprinkled on some pomegranate seeds, and called it good. The DH called it delicious!

Make some fattoush yourself, and modify the ingredients to match what you have in the house! Then feel virtuously healthy and enjoy another Christmas sweet! (Hey, it’s all about the balance, is it not?)

Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad

Serves 2

  • 8 baby tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce, sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cubed
  • 1 pita
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. pomegranate seeds

Dressing

  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. high quality olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over the finished salad
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • dash of dried thyme
  • pinch of dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar

Split pita in half, spread 1 tbsp. oil on each half, and toast in oven on high heat until it starts to get crispy. Let cool, and break into bite-sized pieces.

Mix dressing ingredients together and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the vegetables together, add in the pita pieces, pour the dressing over it all, and toss to mix. Plate immediately, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Enjoy!

Pita from scratch! (So cool to see it puff up in the oven when baking!)

Pita from scratch! (So cool to see it puff up in the oven when baking!)

But…didn’t I write something about a nutrition profile in the title of this post? Indeed I did! While salad for a meal is in and of itself healthy, why not bump up the nutrition level? Which is exactly what I did! I used blackstrap molasses in the dressing instead of regular molasses, because it’s higher in iron and lower in sugar.

Plus, when I was making the pita breads, I sprinkled either side of the pita with freshly ground flax seeds (omega fatty acids, baby!) as well as ground psyllium husk (up with fibre!). Ideally, the pita would have been whole wheat, but again, I was working with what I had in the house.

Had I had more time, I probably would have made some lentil sprinkles to add to the salad as well, just to make sure there was some protein in the dish, but hey, one does one’s best. When I make this dish again though, those lentil sprinkles are IN! (Totally picturing my culinary purist father throwing his hands in the air at the addition of lentils to fattoush. Tee hee hee!)

Next Post: Those peppermint chocolate candy cane cupcakes that I mentioned last time! Probably. Unless I make some chocolate whoopie pies with peppermint buttercream. Hmm. Any strong feelings either way? Let me know in the comments!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

Easy Christmas Peppermint Patties and Why I Had to (Obvs) Make a Second Batch

So good there were only a few left to photograph. But it was all quality control, I tell you!

So good there were only a few left to photograph. But it was all quality control, I tell you!

I sometimes wonder whether I put the word ‘easy’ in front of too many of my recipes. But the thing is…they really ARE easy! Except for today’s recipe, which EXTRA-SUPER-DUPER easy! Also extra-super-duper yummy! What is this easy and delicious treat, you ask? Christmas-themed Peppermint Patties!

The patties themselves are made up of only 3 ingredients, and if you want to dip them in chocolate, well, that’s just one ingredient more. How to make this 4-ingredient candy? That is no-bake and so easy that a child could make these patties? Read on, dear readers!

EASY CHRISTMAS PEPPERMINT PATTIES

For the peppermint patties:

  • 1 1/4 c. icing sugar
  • 4-5 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract, to taste

For chocolate-covered peppermint patties:

  • 1 c. chocolate melting wafers

For Christmas Tree Peppermint Patties

  • a scant handful of white chocolate melting wafers
  • multi-coloured sprinkles

Kitchen Hack Alert! If you don’t have chocolate melting wafers lying around, but do have some chocolate chips lying around, there’s a substitution you can do by adding one more ingredient! Sign up for my mailing list (the banner at the top of the page or at the top right of the page) to get my free e-book entitled “This for That: Easy Swaps and Substitutions”. You’ll find the secret ingredient for turning chocolate chips into chocolate coating in the e-book! (Have I mentioned that it’s free? Yes? Good. ‘Cause it’s free!)

Make the ‘dough’: mix the icing sugar with the melted and cooled butter and the peppermint extract. It will slowly form a ball of ‘dough’. Roll out the peppermint dough on a cool surface dusted with icing sugar. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place these shapes on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer to firm up and get really cold.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate wafers in a microwave-proof mug in…you guessed it, the microwave. Use 30 second bursts to check and see if it is melted yet. When it is almost all melted, take it out and stir it with a spoon until fully melted.

Using a fork, place the now frozen peppermint patty on the fork, and dip into the melted chocolate. Lift out of the chocolate, tap the fork on the edge of the cup to get off any excess, and place back on the parchment paper lined cookie tray. Repeat for all peppermint patties, and return sheet to freezer to set up the chocolate.

To decorate the tree, melt some white chocolate melts in a plastic bag in the microwave (a strong plastic bag, as a thin one will melt), snip off the end, and pipe a back and forth design on the peppermint patty. While still wet, sprinkle with multi-coloured ball sprinkles. Return to freezer to set-up. And…you’re done!

Give to family and friends and place on holiday cookie trays, and revel in the praise that will come your way when they bite into it (“Omg, so perfectly melty!” It really does melt in my mouth!” You made these? No, really? Wow!”).

Honestly, it’s seriously super-duper easy. If you don’t want to mess about with dipping them in chocolate, a 4-year-old could make these. Even if you’re not a baker or a cook, YOU could make these! Just don’t dip them in chocolate, and instead sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Bam, you’ve made Christmas!

I made these and as you can see, only a few actually made it to the photo session. The rest happily reside in my tummy. The DH saw how I packaged the one up above, and asked for some for his office. So, another batch should be coming up shortly! (I still insist on dibs when it comes to quality control!)

Next Post: Chocolate Cupcakes with Candy-Cane Frosting, Two Ways. Because um, yum!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Lentil Sprouts and Staying Healthy in the Season of Indulgence

 

Grow your own sprouts in 30 seconds a day! (Or less.)

Grow your own sprouts in 30 seconds a day! (Or less.)

At last, dear readers, I have gotten around to writing up this post about lentil sprouts, after blogging about it here and here. (Here too.) It costs literally pennies to grow these sprouts, and they’re uber healthy. (Healthy is important, given all the delicious, calorie-laden yumminess available around the holidays!)

Light, and crunchy, like little bites of summer freshness, these sprouts add healthiness to your salads and sandwiches. Or maybe sprinkle on top of some soup? Yes, I think that’s perfect! A bunch of fresh sprouts on top of a bowl of steaming soup, served with my favourite bread recipe. Wouldn’t that hit the spot right now?

How to make them? Rinse them in water. Bam, done!

Ok, so it’s sliiiiightly more involved than that, but only slightly. I kid you not! I present:

HOW TO GROW LENTIL SPROUTS

(or pea sprouts or alfalfa sprouts or any other sort of sprouty goodness)

  • 1/8 c. of dried lentils (now you see why I say it costs pennies!)
  • mason jar with lid
  • cheesecloth

Place dried lentils in mason jar. Stretch cheesecloth over top and fasten in place with the canning jar ring (or an elastic). Add water until covered by an inch of water. Soak for 12 hours. Empty jar of water by turning upside down and draining water through cheesecloth. Turn right side up and leave for 12 hours. Then rinse (not soak) in water,  drain water (immediately) again, and repeat rinsing and draining immediately every 12 hours or so. In a day you’ll see sprouts starting, and in 3-5 days, your sprouts will be ready to nom-nom-nom on! When you want them to stop growing, put the canning lid on them, and store in the fridge. They’ll keep for several days.

This time with dried peas!

This time with dried peas!

This is a great project to do with kids, as they can see the sprouts growing with each watering. It really is super-easy!

Be warned though, a tiny bit of dried lentils will produce a lot of sprouts! I learned this the first time I made some. I made a huge mason jar full, and after eating them with every meal for several days, I conceded sprouty fatigue, and gave the rest of the jar to a colleague.

All this said…I must add a caveat emptor: if you grow your own sprouts and it is theoretically possible that they could grow bacteria. To quote the www.foodsafety.gov website, “Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts carry a risk of foodborne illness. Unlike other fresh produce, seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. These conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.” So, be informed, and make your own judgement call. I’ve never gotten sick eating homegrown sprouts, and no one I know has gotten ill eating sprouts (homegrown or otherwise), but if you grow them and they look odd, toss them and try again. Better safe than sick, amirite?

With that said, I totally suggest growing your own sprouts! Hey, you get to grow your own nutrients, and look all cool doing it (at least, I think it’s cool!) If you grow them, take a photo and tag me on my facebook page! I’d love to see the fruits (vegetables, actually) of your labour!

Next Post: Peppermint Patties! Three ingredients, 3 minutes, 30 patties. Dip them in chocolate? Eat as is? Your choice!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!