Author Archives: Margaret

About Margaret

A self-trained cook, cooking for herself and her husband in their condo. Cue the cozy domesticity! So, yes, this blog is about the creative satisfaction of cooking, about making meals that real people eat, in real people time (I also work outside the home), about trying to find the best recipes out there and about trying to stretch my cooking skills while I’m at it. Join me? I’ll link the recipes to the blog posts, so that you can try them too (I’m interested in feedback), and put in pictures so that you can see how they turned out.

Pesto Swirl Bread aka How to Up Your Soup Game

Perfect with a hot bowl of soup, especially on a cold winter’s night!

Last week I wrote about how to make Super-Easy Pesto Focaccia; this week, it’s time to step up our bread-baking game and make some Pesto Swirl Bread! Delicious, freshly-baked bread, swirled throughout with some hearty pesto…there’s nothing quite like it to make Soup Night something to look forward to!

Plus, Pesto Swirl Bread looks fantastic, and it really isn’t as hard as you might think. I love it fresh out of the oven, when it’s still hot and has puffs of steam escaping, but the DH prefers Pesto Swirl Bread toasted and crunchy, with some butter melting on top. Either way, it’s delish!

Let’s get to making some!

PESTO SWIRL BREAD

  • 2-3 tbsp. pesto
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 c. warm water (110 degrees is perfect — too hot or too cold will affect the yeast, fyi)
  • 3/4 tbsp. yeast 
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 c. oil
  • 3 c. flour 

Mix the water and yeast together and let sit until foamy. Stir in sugar, salt, and oil. Add in flour, a cup at a time. Knead dough (I use a mixer) until everything is incorporated, and then for an additional 5-10 minutes (this stretches the gluten in the dough). Once the dough is no longer super-sticky (just tacky), place it in an oiled bowl, cover it with a damp-ish cloth, and put in a warm place until it has doubled in size. (I usually turn the oven on for a minute or two and then turn it off, and place the bowl with the dough inside. It warms up the space enough to help the dough rise, but not enough to start cooking the dough.) This rising of the dough takes about an hour. 

Spreading the pesto on the dough. (I doubled the recipe, to make two loaves.)

Once the dough has risen, punch it down (pow! pow! pow!) and, on a floured surface, roll it into a rough rectangle. Spread the pesto on top of the rectangle, and roll the dough up tightly. Place the rolled dough in a greased loaf pan, and put it back into a warm place, until the dough has doubled in size. Remove the pan from the oven, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and then put the pan back into the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is golden brown. Take the pan out and let it cool for a few minutes before removing it from the pan, and let it cool on a cookie rack (if you don’t remove it from the pan, the trapped moist heat can make the bread bottom a tad soggy. And no one wants a soggy bottom). Slice, and enjoy your freshly baked Pesto Swirl Bread!

This bread freezes well and, like most of my recipes, is easy to customize. You could add in some fresh chopped garlic, or cheese, or both! You could turn these into buns too; they’d be great with burgers, I think! If you make the bread, let me know if you make any additions — let’s learn from each other!

Next Post: I’m working on a recipe for Tutti-Frutti Candied Popcorn. This is one recipe that won’t make it to the DH’s office; I’ll be eating it all myself! Bonus: there’s a vegan version of it too! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday as well as at Happiness is Homemade! And at Full Plate Thursday! And, at Foodie Friday!

Super-Easy Pesto Focaccia and Why I Currently Have 50 lbs of Flour

Pesto-topped focaccia — what could be better?

I love fresh bread, but I also love easy meals that come together in a jiffy. When I was given a jar of fancy pesto recently, I knew I had to put it to good use, and I did; I made Pesto Focaccia! So, so easy, and so, so good, whether fresh out of the oven with dinner, or heated up in the microwave for lunch the next day.

Why is this such an easy focaccia to make? Because I use my Easiest-Pizza-Dough-In-The-History-Of-Ever as the base! Some dough, some pesto, some salt…et voila, fresh focaccia for dinner! You could make this from start to finish in 45 minutes, and that includes the baking!

Seriously, it’s that easy. Let’s get to making some!

SUPER-EASY PESTO FOCACCIA

  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) quick active dry yeast
  • 1 c warm water
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil (or vegetable oil is fine too)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. pesto
  • large grain salt (if you have it)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add rest of ingredients, except for pesto and large grain salt. Mix it up in a mixer (or hand mix. I’ve done both). Let sit for 10 minutes. Flatten it onto an oiled cookie sheet, and let it rest for another 10 minutes. Spread the pesto over the surface, and press your fingertips into the surface all over for that class focaccia look. Sprinkle the large grain salt on the top. Bake in a 425 degree oven until the crust is puffy and golden. Serve, and enjoy! 

Oh, and I did mention in the title that I have 50 lbs of flour in my kitchen. Much to the chagrin of my DH, I must say. He’s not fond of opening the fridge and being faced with containers of flour, and then opening the freezer and being faced with the same. He wanted to order out the other day; I said, we have plenty of food in the fridge! He said, we have plenty of flour! (Incidentally, we didn’t order out. I just made this easy pesto focaccia and served it with some soup!)

But why so much flour? Because a few weeks ago there was a great deal on flour so I bought a large bag, only to find out when I got home that it was bread flour. Now, bread flour is very different from all-purpose flour, in that it in higher in gluten, and gluten content affects your baking. You can bake bread with all-purpose flour, but I don’t recommend making cupcakes with bread flour. Anyway, so I had all this bread flour, but I needed all-purpose. So I bought a bag of all-purpose flour. And then today I came across a suuuper good deal on all-purpose flour, and I just couldn’t resist…so I bought another 25 lbs. Poor DH. The look on his face when I walked in the door with a 25 lb bag of flour and not much else!

But why do I keep flour in the fridge and freezer? That, dear reader, is a story for another day!

Next Post: I’m thinking Pesto Swirl Bread. Or…maybe veggies. Mmm…veggies. I do love them!  

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, and Happiness is Homemade! As well as at Full Plate Thursday! And…at Foodie Friday!

Cappuccino Cupcakes and Blogging Resolutions for the New Year

Whipped mounds of yumminess, topped with chocolate-covered espresso beans!

Every now and then I like to send in some yummy baked goods to my husband’s workplace. I’ve made them Candy Cane Cookies, Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream Frosting, and Dutch Chocolate Cupcakes, just to name a few. I’ve also sent in my SUPER yummy, and very addictive Cappuccino Cupcakes! These delicious cupcakes start with French Vanilla cupcakes (or chocolate ones), and are topped with super-delicious and super-addictive Cappuccino Buttercream. And for good measure, I place a little chocolate-covered espresso bean on top! Yummy, and just enough caffeine to put a little pep in your step. *drooling just thinking about them*

Want to know how to make them? Let’s get to the recipe!

CAPPUCCINO CUPCAKES (with Cappuccino Buttercream)

  • one batch vanilla cupcake batter or chocolate cupcake batter
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. shortening
  • 3 1/2 c. icing sugar (add more icing sugar if you like a stiffer icing)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • chocolate-covered espresso beans

As you are making the cupcake batter, stir in 1 tsp. of coffee granules. You need to stir the granules in with the wet ingredients, so that the granules have time to dissolve. Bake the cupcakes according to the recipe, and let cool.

Then, make the cappuccino buttercream. Whip the butter , shortening, and  remaining tsp. of coffee granules together until fluffy. Add in the icing sugar (1/2 c. at a time) and the vanilla extract. Beat on high for at least 10 minutes, so that the buttercream becomes nice and fluffy. Using a piping bag and a 1M piping tip, pipe the icing in swirls onto the cupcakes. Top cupcakes with an espresso bean. Eat and enjoy!

This batch of cappuccino cupcakes was made with chocolate batter, and topped with fondant toppers for a baby shower!

Around this time every year, I think about my blogging goals for the New Year and write about them. They’re generally Big Goals, and often Stretch Goals, and occasionally even Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Why? Well, why not? To quote Norman Vincent Peale (or someone. There’s debate as to who actually said it),  “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”. I’m aiming for blogging fame and fortune (or at least a solid income) and more importantly, to turn people on to how fun and easy it is to cook delicious foods in your own home. And on that note, here are my goals! (Some are a repeat from last year’s goals. That’s okay, I’m going to hit them eventually!)

  • Complete the Elite Blogging Academy 3.0 course. I’ve worked my way through part of it, and want to complete it this year.
  • Get a sponsored post
  • Start an Instagram account
  • Monetize my blog (specifically by adding in ads – possibly side bar and/or in text, and looking into affiliate marketing)
  • Switch platforms to a more polished and professional one (I’m thinking of the foodie pro theme on the genesis platform)
  • Hire a graphic designer to design a header for me
  • Switch to an automated email platform (probably paying for Mailchimp, although I’m investigating Sumo as an option, as well as continuing to pay for a P.O. Box)
  • Hit 10,000 views/month (I’ve improved over last year, and am learning about how to up my pageviews, but still haven’t hit this yet)
  • Revamp my pinterest strategy
  • Build my email list (I’ve been working on building it this past year, and put together a freebie e-book about kitchen substitutions for those who opt-in to my email list. If you haven’t yet, sign up via the sidebar on the right!)

Those of you who read last year’s blogging goals post will realize that it’s very similar. But that’s ok — I’m going to hit the stars one of these days!

Speaking of stars, thanks to all of you for reading my blog. I truly appreciate that you find value in my writing and recipes. And here’s a very delicious 2018!

Next Post: That Strawberry Cranberry Jam I wrote about? Or perhaps a recipe for Super-Easy Pesto Focaccia? Or perhaps Pesto Swirl Bread? Mmm…so many delicious things to make in 2018!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And I was even FEATURED at Full Plate Thursday! And also linked up…at Foodie Friday!

Five MORE Last Minute Gifts from the Kitchen (Plus White Chocolate Macadamia Cookie-Mix-in-a-Jar)

Gifts from the kitchen…may include cookies-in-a-jar mix!

Hello, dear readers! The holidays are upon us and I’m still in the thick of holiday preparations, lots of which involve gifts from my kitchen. I’ve made Chocolate Walnut Fudge and White Chocolate Candy Cane Bark, but there are still lots of easy (and delicious!) gifts that can be whipped up by you and by me. I’ve previously written about last minute gifts that you can give from your kitchen (and even from your microwave), but here are five more!

FIVE MORE LAST MINUTES GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN

  • Marshmallow Snowman Pops – In case you missed it, I made these tasty snowman pops out of marshmallows, white chocolate, and a few trimmings. You can too!
  • Easy Pickled Vegetables – Want to give something that’s not pure sugar? What about these easy pickled vegetables? Bonus, they’ll also use up whatever veggies you have in your fridge or pantry!
  • Chocolate-Covered Honeycomb Candy – Like the candy bar, but homemade so no preservatives! Also makes a nice large batch so that you can make several gifts at once! Or eat some yourself. Either or.
  • Wine BonBons – Because sometimes you just want to sit and eat bonbons by the light of the Christmas tree.
  • Christmas Peppermint Patties – These delicious treats are easy, tasty, and can be made using whatever cookie cutters you have on hand. Great for party platters, after dinner treats, or just to package up in cellophane and gift to lucky recipients!

Do you have any gifts that you still need to get? If yes, I strongly suggest making some of the above delicious things! Who doesn’t love a food gift, made with love, and fresh from the kitchen?

I think I have most of the gifts I need ready to give to people, but I have one more gift to make and that’s for A Very Special Person, my own DH. Want to know what I’m going to make him? Well, he doesn’t like actual chocolate (I know, egads!) but he does like white chocolate and macadamia nuts, so I thought I’d make him a container of white chocolate macadamia nut cookie mix! That way he doesn’t have to eat them now during this season of delicious, delicious holiday excess, but can keep them to make a month or so down the road when a cookie emergency arises. (What, you don’t have cookie emergencies? No midnight cravings? Ok, so maybe just me.)

WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA COOKIES — IN A JAR

(Adapted from My Baking Addiction)

  • Layer 1 – 3/4 c. all-purpose flour + 1/2 tsp. baking soda 
  • Layer 2 – 1/2 c. large flake rolled oats + 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Layer 3 – 1/2 c. brown sugar (not packed down)
  • Layer 4 – 1/2 c. white sugar + 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Layer 5 – 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • Layer 6 – 1/2 chopped macadamia nuts
  • Layer 7 – 1/2 c. white chocolate chunks
  • Layer 8 – 1/2 c. fine-milled oats

Mix the vanilla extract with the white sugar. Using a funnel, drop the ingredients in the layers as mentioned above. Write out the following instructions, and attach to the jar, so the recipient knows how to make up these yummy cookies!

When you’re ready to make the cookies, beat 1/2 c. softened butter with an egg. Stir in the entire jar of cookie mix. Bake in a 350 degree oven on a greased baking sheet for 8 minutes if you like softer cookies and 10 minutes if you like crunchier cookies. And, enjoy! 

This recipe is easily customizable! Replace white chocolate with dark chocolate; switch out the macadamia nuts for walnuts; add in raisins or other dried fruit; and so on and so forth. Make it your own! By the way, if you don’t have fine-milled oats, just regular ones will do, or you can briefly (v. briefly) blend the large-flake ones in a blender. If you make this recipe, let me know in the comments if you subbed out any ingredients! 

 Next Post: Probably the Cappuccino Cupcakes I mentioned previously. Mmm…cappuccino goodness! Just the thing to keep my awake to wrap all of my presents!

Linking Up at Full Plate Thursday!

5 Last-Minute Holiday Gifts You Can Make in Your Microwave! (WITH RECIPES!)

Last minute gifts from your kitchen? I’ve got you, boo!

Ok, so the holiday season is here and if you’re anything like me, there are still plenty of people for whom I need to get gifts. But I don’t have a lot of time, and don’t want to spend hours in the malls, spending, spending, spending. What to do? Give gifts from your kitchen! After all, who doesn’t love food?

Here are 5 Last Minute Holiday Gifs that YOU can make in the microwave! (just click on the title to be brought to the recipe post)

  1. Personalized Candy Bars – Who wouldn’t love a candy bar made out of their favourite chocolate, and stuffed full of all of the yummy candy that they love? Wrap it nicely, tuck it in a stocking, and be ready for oohs and ahhhs and mmmms!
  2. Chocolate Non-Pareils – So embarrassingly easy, but I’ll give you the recipe below.
  3. Healthier Peanut butter Cups – Got a relative or friend who is a bit more health conscious? Made these for them. They can eat them and feel virtuous, and totally show them off on Instagram!
  4. Choc-Dipped Potato Chips – Got a relative or friend who is a bit of a foodie? Or a couch potato? These hand-dipped chocolate-dipped potato chips will hit the spot. But, fair warning, you can’t eat just one! These are so easy, that you don’t even need a recipe. Just melt 1 c. chocolate chips in the microwave in a bowl, along with a tablespoon of veg oil. Stir til mixed, then dip individual chips in the mixture, and refrigerate dipped chips on parchment-covered cookie trays until set. Bam, done!
  5. Candy Cane Bark – This is a staple at my annual holiday party, and also a staple of the cookie tins that I give to friends each year. Easy, delicious, and a great way to use up last year’s candy canes!

Have I inspired you to made some gifts? I encourage to jump in and try them! They’re really, truly easy to make, they all taste FAN-TAS-TIC and just think how impressed everyone will be when you tell them that you made it yourself!

Oh, and here’s the recipe for 1-Minute Easy-Peasy Non-Pareils

Platter of pareils! Technically, these are non-pareils: little discs of chocolate covered in teeny tiny candy balls. Yummy!

1-MINUTE EASY-PEASY NON-PAREILS

  • 1/2 c. multi-coloured non-pareils (those teeny tiny multi-coloured little candy balls you often find on cakes or cookies)
  • 1/4 c. chocolate wafers (white chocolate, dark choc, milk choc — you do you!)

Take the chocolate wafers and place them on a piece of parchment paper in a small microwave safe glass tray, about an inch apart. Zap for 60 secs, or until the chocolate is slightly soft and melty, but not runny. Remove from microwave and pour the non-pareils over them. They’ll run everywhere, but that’s ok as they’re in a container; you just want to make sure that they stick to the softened wafers. Stick the tray into the fridge until the chocolate is set. Then pop the candy-ball covered chocolates off the parchment paper, and…you’re done! Seriously, they’re that easy. You can pour the leftover little candy balls back into their original container, and use them again for the next batch.  

Isn’t it fun making gifts from your kitchen? I’ve made a whole bunch so far this season, and packed some up in cellophane and fabric bags for gifting. If you make some, let me know in the comments how you package your gifts!

Next Post: Cappuccino Cupcakes! I thought I had previously posted a recipe for them, but can’t seem to find it on the blog, so…either you’re getting the same recipe twice, or it’s a new recipe! Eh, either way, it’s delicious!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Full Plate Thursday! And again at Full Plate Thursday!