Category Archives: Recipes

Recipe: Grandpa’s chocolate brownies

I’ve posted photos of these brownies before and figured it was about time I put up the recipe.  It’s my grandfather’s brownie recipe, but I’ve tweaked it to make it a little richer (of course) and I recommend topping with something decadent such as Nutella cream cheese frosting or maybe even chocolate ganache.  Experiment away with these and let me know what you come up with 🙂

For these brownies, here’s what you’ll need:

* 1/2 cup margarine

* 1 cup white sugar

* 2 eggs

* 1/2 cup cocoa

* 1/2 cup flour

* 5 squares of semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease a square baking pan (I use one around 8×8).

Mix together the margarine and sugar using a Kitchen Aid mixer if you have one, or a handheld mixer.  If you are a superhero or want to bulk up your muscles, feel free to do this by hand.  Personally I’d just do some jumping jacks while the Kitchen Aid does its thing, but that’s because I have the upper body strength of Mr. Burns 🙂

Sugary goodness in a shiny bowl.....

Next, add in the eggs and mix well.

Eggs....joining in on the mixing fun!

Next mix in the cocoa and flour. Then the real fun starts – add in the melted semi-sweet chocolate!  The chocolate can either be melted in the microwave over low heat or on the stove, over low heat.  Make sure you keep an eye on it so it does not burn.  Sweet, chocolatey brownie batter goodness – nom!

Pour the batter goodness into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Make sure not to overbake, so check the little guys and use a cake tester.  If it comes out clean or with the odd crumb carnage, then it’s done!

Now if you choose to do frosting, I highly recommend using the Nutella frosting.  To quickly recap, you will need 1 package of light cream cheese.  Go for the full fat version if you’re partying like it’s 1999!  Cream this with 1/4 cup of unsalted butter.  Gradually add in 2 cups of icing sugar.  I think it’s called confectioner’s sugar or something else in the US.  Anyway, it’s fine, white powder – not to be confused with anything illegal because this is a PG 13 blog afterall and not an episode of The Wire….Then add in 2/3 cup of Nutella.  I’m really hoping some of you will go wild with the basic cream cheese frosting and add in creative things like caramel, crushed Oreo cookies, gummie worms….possibilities are endless…and tasty 🙂

Nutella frosting...good on brownies or by the heaping spoonful!

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Recipe: Sweet Italian sausage casserole

I’m always looking for quick recipes to make during the week, mostly because I am lazy and hungry at the end of a day and all I want to do is stuff my pie hole and watch bad tv….So now that my slothful habits have been revealed for all to admire or mock, here’s a recipe I found from Epicurious that is speedy and screams out for experimentation.  The original recipe can be found here, and includes things like eggplant, but since I like to tinker with recipes, here is what I used:

* 2 packages of chicken sausage (instead of the Sweet Italian sausage) – if you want to make this vegetarian, substitute in veggie chorizo or veggie ground round.  Go wild with whatever you prefer.

* 1 large zucchini, chopped into pieces

* 1 red pepper, diced

* chopped broccoli – approximately 3 small crowns

* 1 medium onion, diced

* 1 serrano pepper, chopped

* basil leaves, torn – approximately 1/4 cup

* 2 cloves of garlic, minced

* 1 can diced tomatoes

* fresh black pepper, crushed red pepper

* cheese – I used a mozza/cheddar combo

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large saute pan or a Dutch oven (both work, Dutch oven ensures nothing falls onto the stove top), heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil and then saute the chicken sausage or whatever sausage substitute you are using.  Just remember to remove sausage from the casings 🙂  Saute until it is almost cooked all the way through and place cooked sausage in a bowl.

Next add in the fiesta of vegetables and saute until tender, adding pepper because it’s fun to play with pepper grinders!  This will depend upon your stove – mine seems to take its sweet time.  After the veggies are tender, add in the cooked sausage, a can of drained, diced tomatoes (experiment with which type you like – fire roasted, low sodium, spicy), and torn basil leaves.  Add in extra spice as desired with crushed red peppers.  Let this lovely mixture simmer for a few minutes.

Veggies and sausages together at last...

Now the fun part – taking this nommy mixture and placing it in a large ceramic baking dish.  I honestly don’t know the measurements of mine, but it can hold a fair bit and it’s French, so it’s very chic 🙂  Cover with a layer of shredded cheese if you desire and bake in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Serve over rice or something equally carbolicious.

Sausage & veggie casserole...ready for a night of comfort food and bad tv

The beauty of this recipe is that you can go wild with whatever veggies you wish to include and it is very simple to make it vegetarian or vegan.  I’ve also discovered it is an excellent way to use up, not only leftover veggies, but leftover rice :  place a layer of leftover rice in the bottom of the baking dish before placing the sausage/veggie mixture on top, then bake as before.

Leftover extravaganza - cooked brown rice on the bottom & leftover shiitake mushrooms

Before I forget to mention, be careful when handling serrano peppers.  Despite hand washing, the heat can remain on your skin – and it will burn baby burn when you touch your eyes!  Trust me on that one 🙂

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Shiitake mushroom & ginger stir fry

One of my favourite recipe web sites is Epicurious, especially because so many people give helpful feedback and hints with the recipes.  The original recipe is for Pan-Seared Tuna with Ginger-Shiitake Cream Sauce but I decided to skip out the tuna and try this with chicken instead.  I’ve also used the sauce as a great base for using up leftover brown rice and an assortment of veggies.  Go wild with whatever you want to throw in there because it seems to all work out!

Here’s what you’ll need for my chicken version of it:

* 1 Tbsp olive oil

* 1 bunch of green onions, sliced

* chopped cilantro – approximately 1/2 a cup

* 2 Tbsp chopped, peeled fresh ginger – I just eyeball it and use a giant chunk cut up

* 4 cloves of garlic, minced

* shiitake mushrooms, cut into pieces – I add in approximately 1 1/2 cups

* 3 Tbsp soy sauce

* 1 tsp sesame oil

* approximately 125 mL whipping cream or half & half – a bit less than 1/2 a cup

* 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

* chicken thighs, chicken breasts cut up, or go with tofu

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add chicken and saute until browned. Remove from pan and place on a plate or bowl.  Add onions, cilantro, garlic and ginger to skillet and saute for approximately 30 seconds.

cilantro, green onions & ginger....on my most awesome Swedish cutting board!

If you are adding additional vegetables, add those in now too.  Then add in mushrooms, soy sauce and sesame oil and saute for a couple of minutes and add in the cooked chicken.  Next add in cream or half & half and let this mixture simmer for a few minutes.  Add in lime juice if desired.  Serve over top of brown rice.

Chicken in a ginger shiitake cream sauce - nom!

I also like to add in cooked rice as a variant and add this in after I add in shiitake mushrooms and before adding the soy sauce and sesame oil.  This recipe is one to have fun with, so please let me know what variations you come up with 🙂

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Mark Bittman’s Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding

I was saddened to read that this was the last week for Mark Bittman’s Minimalist column in the NY Times.  Although I look forward to reading his new column focusing on food policy and other cool issues, I will miss the Minimalist and his fabulous recipes.
For the full recipe and instructional video, please see Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding

I’m generally a tad skeptical about desserts made with tofu because me likey butter and sugar far too much.  After trying this recipe, I’m a convert to silken tofu and I’m imagining all of the nifty desserts I can make with it.

Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe (with my modifications):

* 3/4 cup sugar

*1 pound silken tofu – I used about 1 & 2/3 packages of Mori-Nu Silken Lite Tofu (each package is 349 g)

* 8 ounces of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted.  I used 1 package of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate squares.  If you plan to make the recipe vegan, make sure the chocolate has no milk ingredients

* 1 tsp vanilla extract – I just dumped some of the Mexican vanilla extract I have in my cupboard

* 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

* 1/2 tsp chili powder – I omitted it, but I imagine it would taste wonderful

* I added in a pinch of sea salt because chocolate + salt = swooning…

Optional – chocolate shavings. A couple of fresh raspberries or strawberries would also be lovely

Combine sugar and 3/4 cup of water in a small pot on the stove.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stir a bit and cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Let this mixture cool slightly.

Sugar, meet water...now start boiling!

Melty chocolate goodness....

If you actually follow the recipe correctly, the next step is to put all the ingredients except the chocolate shavings into a blender and puree until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender.

Tofu & friends, waiting for chocolate to join them...

Since I didn’t bother to do anything in order, I proceeded to throw everything into the blender except the sugary water because I was still boiling it.  I must be the only person terrified of her blender – one hot soup blender explosion is one too many in my view and I just didn’t feel like more therapy sessions to deal with my blender issues.  Instead I decided to blend the tofu choco spice mixture (lots of scraping involved).  Then I added the sugar water once it had cooled, took the little top part off the blender and covered it with a paper towel before turning the blender on.  Explosion prevented – woo hoo!…..and it made it easy to pour into ramekins.  Chill those little guys for at least 30 mins in the fridge.

Tofu, chocolate & sugar….it’s a good thing 🙂  Mark Bittman, thank you for making food so accessible to home “chefs” like me.  You rock!

ummm.....pudding....

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Chicken & sausage ragu

I’ve apparently started 2011 off in a total slackerish fashion, so my apologies for the lack of posts.  For New Year’s Eve, I made the most amazing chicken & sausage ragu from my Bon Appetit cookbook.  Having tried it once before, I decide to tweak it a little bit.

Here’s what you’ll need for my revised version:

* boneless, skinless chicken thighs (2 small packages)

* 2 packages of sausage – I went with chicken sausage, but choose whatever type you fancy

* 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into small pieces

* 1 onion, chopped

* fresh thyme, about 1/2 a cup

* 6 garlic cloves, minced

* 1 tsp lemon zest

* crushed red pepper – a generous sprinkling, depending on your heat tolerance

* 1 cup dry white white

* 1-28 oz can diced tomatoes

*2 cups low salt chicken or vegetable broth (personally I like Whole Foods veggie broth)

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or other large pot) over medium-high head and saute chicken until browned.  Remove chicken and place in a bowl.  Add the sausage and saute until brown.

Cooking sausage....

Transfer cooked sausage to bowl with the chicken, where the two will discuss important world events or movie trivia 🙂 Add onions and carrots to pot and saute until the vegetables are tender.  Add in thyme, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper.  I like a bit of heat, so I sprinkle the crushed peppers liberally.  If you aren’t a fan of spicy, exercise a somewhat lighter hand while sprinkling.

Vegetables cooking away, getting ready to join their buddies in the ragu

Next, add the wine and boil until it is reduced by about half.  Then add in the diced tomatoes in juice and broth and bring to a boil.

Saucy, veggie mixture ready to boil away!

Add in the chicken and sausage, as well as any accumulated juices, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for approximately 35 minutes.

Personally I like to serve this with a lovely bowl of brown rice with steamed broccoli – nom!

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Recipe: Peanut butter squares

It’s always nice to come home for the holidays and eat special treats from my childhood.  My mom made an old family recipe called peanut butter squares and there aren’t many of them left 🙂

For peanut butter squares, you will need the following:

*1/2 cup brown sugar

*1/2 cup corn syrup

*1 cup peanut butter

*1 cup corn flakes (for food cancellation purposes, mom used bran flakes)

*1 cup rice krispies (for optimal food cancellation, mom says to forget rice krispies and go with even more bran flakes)

* 1/2 tsp vanilla

Dissolve the brown sugar & syrup together in a sauce pan over low-medium heat, then remove and add in the cereals, peanut butter and vanilla.  Blend this mixture together – it should be thick.  Spread this goodness into a 7 x 10 inch pan.

Now this recipe is not complete without the piece de resistance – icing! Mom made a layer so thick that I almost died from sugar overload 🙂  For the icing extravaganza, you will need:

*1 cup brown sugar

* 2 Tbsp butter

* 6 Tbsp cream or whole milk.

* 2 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar in the US)

If you don’t like icing as much as we do, cut the recipe in half! To make the icing, boil the brown sugar, butter and cream/whole milk in a sauce pan over the stove or else you can just melt it in a bowl in the microwave – either method will work.  Remove from heat and gradually add in approximately 2 cups of icing sugar (aka powdered sugar for my lovely American readers).  Mom suggests mixing it gradually by hand and then using a hand mixer.  I’ll take her word for it!

Once the icing is complete, throw it down on the healthy bran flakey peanut butter base and spread it around.  Let it set – I’m guessing the fridge would be a good place for that to occur and once set, proceed to stuff in pie hole…preferably after cutting it into a piece or two!

Peanut butter squares....with mega icing!

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Recipe: chocolate covered pretzels

This snack is the perfect blend of salty & sweet.  I discovered them years ago when Flipz were still available in Canada.  For some reason, we no longer have them (perhaps I was the only one who actually bought them!)  Anyway, I figured it would be great to try making my own chocolate covered pretzels.  Here’s what I used:

* 3 Cadbury Dairy Milk bars (or your favourite plain chocolate bar – I imagine Lindt would be awesome)

* baked pretzels (or go for the regular ones if you want to live a bit dangerously!)

Break the Dairy Milk into pieces and place in a large sauce pan over low heat.  Stir gently and melt.  Keep the heat low so you don’t burn the precious chocolate.

Dairy milk before melting....

Once the chocolate has melted, remove the chocolate from heat and pour in pretzels.  Gently stir pretzels to coat with chocolatey goodness 🙂 Pour chocolatey pretzel noms onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and refrigerate until chocolate has hardened.  Proceed to stuff in pie hole and enjoy – nom!

Chocolate pretzel goodness, spread out to cool off

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