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to make (bake?) these: Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups. Who wouldn’t want them? Dark chocolate + almond butter = world peace.

I had lofty intentions to make these for my office’s Valentine’s Day pot luck lunch this Friday. Unfortunately, life has gotten in the way, and this week in order to keep myself sane I need to cut loftily-intended projects from my schedule.

They still look like the most amazingly delicious desert to me, and I’m determined to make them before the end of the month, but in the meantime I wanted to share, because I feel like eating these will make the world a better place.

So try them out and let me know how it goes! Thanks to PattyCake.ca for sharing the recipe!

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Last week, I blogged about a contest I’m running to give away heart-shaped cake pans in celebration of Valentine’s Day, thanks to the generosity of Lucky Leaf. It’s still not too late to win your own heart-shaped cake pan either! Just email me your favorite Valentine’s Day recipe, or post a link to it below in the comments section along with your email address, and the cake pan will be yours!

I finally got around to making the recipe they had sent me, in my cute new heart-shaped tin, and I’ve got to say, I was surprised (in a good way!) by the result.

Sweetheart Cherry Cake!

At first I was a bit skeptical of the recipe, as it involved canned pie filling, and store-bought cake mix, two things which I usually prefer to make from scratch. Maybe I was just being a snob, because even though I don’t particularly love cherries, I thought this was one of the yummiest cakes I’ve made in a long time! The heart-shaped cake pan was easy to work with, was the perfect size for the recipe, and made decorating a fun new challenge. I used the buttercream frosting recipe they had suggested, but took liberties with the decorations, dying the icing pink, then adding white-chocolate chips and red sprinkles. The final result looked sort of like a 6-year old girl’s dream cake, but with a bit more finesse could also be the perfect desert for a Valentine’s Day treat.

Instead, I served mine at our Superbowl party. 😛

So, without further ado, here is the recipe: Sweetheart Cherry Cake

Ingredients

Cake:

-1 dry white cake mix

-2 large eggs

-1 tsp baking powder

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-1 can Lucky Leaf Cherry Premium Pie Filling

Buttercream Icing:

-1 cup butter, softened

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-4 cups icing sugar

2-4 tbsp milk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325, and grease heart-shaped pan.

2. Mix together dry cake mix (disregard the directions on the cake mix box), eggs, baking powder, vanilla extract, and half the can of cherry pie filling. Gradually fold in 2nd half of pie filling, until batter is very thick, but moist and well blended.

3. Pour cake mix into pan and bake for 65-70 min. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting

4. Prepare frosting: cream together butter and vanilla extract, then gradually mix in icing sugar. Add a few spoonfuls of milk if consistency is too thick, but be careful! I added too much milk (none was really necessary) and so my icing was too runny, and was not easy to use when frosting the cake.

5. Add other love-ly embellishments such as sprinkles, white chocolate chips, more pie filling on top, etc under your cake is appropriately festive. 🙂

I highly recommend you give this recipe a try, it’s really tasty and really easy to make. Don’t forget to email me your favorite Valentine’s Day recipes this week to win your own free heart shaped cake pan! Or, you can just post a link to the recipe in the comments section, and leave your email address to I can get in touch to send you the prize.

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A while back, I posted a pretty good recipe for whole wheat banana bread. I’ve been feeling more adventurous with my baking lately, and have also been trying to eat even more nutritiously, so I decided it was time to give that recipe a revamp, and voila, a more decadent, sweet, satisfying and filling recipe was born.

Mmmm Banana Bread - this one is so decadent and tasty, but still somewhat healthy. 🙂

A few of my inspirations: I’ve been running a lot more (yay!) and drinking a lot less (booo! boring!) so I’m looking for more protein-rich, nutritious foods, and I’m not quite as concerned about fat/calories as I used to be (the upside of running 25 + km per week!). So I incorporated some hemp protein powder, other good things like flax seed and unsweetened applesauce, and a delicious honey-nut glaze topping, and the result is really fantastic. J and I enjoyed two thick slices each while still warm, although one would’ve prolly been enough. 🙂

Ingredients:

-1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

-1/2 cup ground flaxseed

-2 tsp baking soda

-2 tsp baking powder

-1 tsp cinnamon

-1 tsp pure vanilla extract

-3/4 cup hemp protein powder

-1 cup brown sugar Splenda

-1/4 cup butter

-1/4 cup canola oil

-1 egg

-1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

-3 mashed bananas

-3 tbsp honey

-1/2 cup chopped walnuts

-1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions:

1. Mix all dry ingredients together (Flour, flaxseed, baking soda, baking powder, protein powder, cinnamon) and set aside

2. Cream butter, Splenda, oil and vanilla together, set aside

3. Mash banana and stir in apple sauce, add to dry mixture along with sugar/butter mixture.

4. Add in egg, stir together, and pour (although the consistency will be quite thick) into loaf pan.

5. Bake at 350. After about 10 minutes, remove from oven. Drizzle honey over top of loaf, then sprinkle chopped nuts and brown sugar on top. Place bake in oven and bake for another 50 minutes.

6. Make sure to cool before serving, loaf is very dense and moist.

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The past two weeks I’ve spent more time in my kitchen than at my office, and while that fact sort of horrifies me, it’s also been very relaxing and fun. Post Christmas and New Year’s celebrations came my wonderful boyfriend’s 30th birthday. While dinner was had at Le Bleu Raisin, I of course baked a delicious cake, in this case Jamie Oliver’s “A Rather Pleasing Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone Icing” (found in his book “Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook“).

I will include the full recipe below at the bottom, but be warned, as cake recipes go, this one is fairly complicated, and takes about an hour to complete (including the icing, which is deeeeelicious).  The cake itself comes out delightful, it is very moist, a bit dense, packed full with flavour and the lime and mascarpone icing really sets it off nicely. I find it tastes a little too  much like orange (and I hate all orange flavoured deserts with a fairly strong passion) so I would recommend using only half of the orange juice and zest recommended.

Also – serve it at room temperature to make sure the full flavours came out. I kept this one in the fridge before serving it, and it was a bit too cold. So, below are the directions, good luck and enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

2 cups light-brown sugar

5 large eggs, separated

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 slightly heaped teaspoon baking powder

1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground nutmeg

>1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup ground almonds

4 ounces shelled walnuts, chopped, plus more for garnish

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour, sifted

10 ounces carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

Sea salt

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 scant cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Zest and juice of two limes
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-by-2-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, pulsing after each addition. Add orange zest and juice; pulse to combine. Add baking powder; pulse to combine. Add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger; pulse until mixture is well combined.

In a large bowl whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Gently fold in almonds, walnuts, flour, and carrots; fold cake mixture into egg white mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cake cool in the pan 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, mix together mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and lime zest and juice. Spread mixture over top of cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped walnuts

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Quite the title eh? Well, it sums up the new recipe I tried out this weekend. My boyfriend bought a large amount of hemp protein powder a while back, and while I’ve been eating the dark chocolate flavoured one a lot (sprinkled over plain oatmeal, or fruit and yogurt) we still have a ton of the plain kind left. So, I decided to make muffins, and in the spirit of keeping things healthy post-holiday over indulgence, I came with up a recipe that is very low in calories and fat, high in fibre and protein, tastes good and is very filling.It’s based on a recipe that I found at SparkPeople.com but modified myself.

One small warning though – these are not pretty, fluffy, sweet muffins that you make for a bake-sale or for your kids (see picture below). They are more for a healthy breakfast option or pre/post workout fix. They come out moist thanks to the apple sauce but very dense, thick, and filling. 

Ingredients (makes 20-24 mid-sized muffins):

-1 1/2 cups 1% milk

-2 cups rolled oats

-1 cup Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein Powder

-2 cups whole wheat flour

-1/2 cup brown sugar Splenda

-300ml applesauce

-2 eggs

-2 egg whites

-1 tsp baking soda

-2 tsp baking powder

-2 tbsp cinnamon

-1/2 cup ground flaxseed

Directions:

1. In  large bowl, soak the oats in the milk for 20-30 min, until most of water is absorbed. Mix in the apple sauce, eggs, protein powder and Splenda.

2. In seperate bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and flaxseed.

3. Gently mix dry ingredients into wet mixture, and still until blended but do not over mix.

4. Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 20 min.

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One of my favorite Christmas books as a kid was called A Cranberry Christmas, and on the back it had a recipe for `Maggie’s Favorite Cranberry Cookies’.

Cranberry Christmas

I only ever tried making them once (as a kid I wasn’t too keen on cranberries) but vaguely remember them being tasty. This year, I’ve decided to make them again for Christmas Eve dinner, which J and I are hosting for his family. So, here is the recipe, I’ll post some pics later once they are ready.

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Directions:

Measure flour, baking powder, baking soda into a bowl, mix with a fork. Cream butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy, beat in egg, milk, and lemon juice. Stir in flour mixture until well blended, then add cranberries. Drop by tsp on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, until firm and golden.

Note from Fudgie: The recipe also calls for 1 cup of chopped walnuts, but frankly I hate chopped nuts in my cookies. I am thinking of adding white chocolate chips instead. 🙂

UPDATE: Cookies turned out AWESOME, one of the best cookie recipes I’ve ever made. I added coarsely chopped white chocolate with coconut flakes (about one full large-sized chocolate bar) which really set off the sweet and tart flavours nicely.

Cranberry Cookies with White Chocolate

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So, I made the annual attempt to bake and decorate some yummy and cute sugar cookies, to help me feel festive and this year, to give to my staff. I still used the same recipe I always do – the Rich Roll Cookies recipe from the Joy of Cooking. This year though, I thought I’d be clever and try chilling the dough for a few hours (as recommended) rather than being my usual impatient self and rolling it right away. It turned into a bit of an epic fail: my fridge is so cold that the dough essentially froze, so I had to take it out and thaw it again, which I tried doing by placing in a warm oven for a few minutes, which just ended up almost cooking the exterior layer, and keeping the inside still frozen. Eventually I just left the dough along until it completely thawed on its own, but learned my lesson and will continue to just roll the dough right away after mixing it in the future.

A few other pointers – the cookies are better when thick, I recommend at least a quarter inch. Store-bought decorative icing works just fine, and it much simpler than embarking on making your own. Lastly, these stay good for quite a while, I would say up to a week, so feel free to make them in advance and then just store them in airtight container. Without further ado, below is the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, along with some pics from this year’s batch.

Rich Roll Cookies

Happy Sugar Cookie People

Cream together:

1 cup butter

2/3 cup whte sugar

Beat in:

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, and use cookie cutters to make festive shapes. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, they remain white when done (if they are starting to get brown, you’ve overdone it).

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This one is an oldie but a goodie – a vintage desert square recipe that is super easy to make and really popular with kids. When I was young my best friend’s mom used to make it for special occasions and I truly thought these squares were the best thing I had ever tasted, and they held a special excitement for me since her mom was the only person I knew who would make them.

Peanut Butter Marshmellow Squares

Anyway, on a whim, and as an excuse to make something using peanut butter, I whipped up a batch for my office’s holiday pot-luck last week. They were sort of well-received but a lot of people found them too sweet, so be forwarned – these are for kids and adults with a super-sweet tooth only.

Ingredients (makes about 24-30 squares)

2 cups peanut butter (I used low-fat kind since it’s all I usually buy, and it still tasted good).

1 cup butter

2 packages of butterscotch chips

1 small bag of mini marshmellows ( I prefer the multi-coloured ones, they look for festive)

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, melt butter, peanut butter and butterscotch chips over medium heat, until well-blended. Set aside to cool a bit, until the texture is a bit thicker and the pot is cool to the touch.

Mmmm Melted Peanut Butter Goodness

2. Stir in the marshmellows so they are all even covered with the mixture.

3. Pour the mixture in a pan lined with wax paper or aluminum foil (a large 9 x 12 pan or two smaller pans should do the trick).

4. Leave in the freezer for at least 1 hour, so the squares harden, then cut into individual serving-size pieces.  You can keep them in the freezer until ready to serve, but take them out at least 15 min before eating so they thaw a little bit.

Yum yum yum anything with peanut butter is awesome.

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This is a delicious, fresh, tasty and filling dish I prepare frequently, when I feel like eating something really healthy.

Steamed Salmon with Fresh Veggies

Steamed Salmon with Fresh Veggies

It’s pretty easy to prepare and doesn’t really involve much cooking, and was invented by my bf J (he’s the better cook by far, however I’m learning). Basically, it’s a large bowl, with a layer of brown rice at the bottom (drizzled with peanut sauce), salad with steamed veggies, and steamed salmon on top. I don’t use much of a dressing, just a drizzle of good olive oil, Umeboshi vinegar and fresh ground black pepper. The flavours in the dish do the rest of the work.

Serves 4
Ingredients:

4 cups long grain brown rice
1 head of romaine lettuce
4 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 heads of broccoli
4 salmon fillets
olive oil
Umeboshi Vinegar
butter
fresh ground black pepper
2 yellow peppers
2 tbsp peanut butter

Directions:
1. Cook brown rice in advance, mix in 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp peanut butter, set aside to cool
2. Prepare veggies: clean and chop lettuce, yellow peppers and celery, grate carrots.
3. Cut the broccoli into small florets, steam until tender and set aside to cool.
4. Steam the salmon in a double boiler until properly cooked and flaky.
5. Spoon one cup of rice mixture into the bottom or a large bowl. Add lettuce, and the place veggies on top. Add salmon on top of veggies.
6. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over dish, sprinkle with pepper. Enjoy!

You can also use grilled tofu as a substitute of salmon in this recipe.

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As a shout out to all my American friends who are about to dig in to a five day holiday weekend of overeating and shopping, I thought I’d share my favorite recipe for cooking a Thanksgiving or Christimas roast turkey. J and I first made this for friends a couple of years ago for a New Year’s feast, and it was absolutely amazing.

The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Cook with Jamie’ book, and it looks a bit daunting when you first read it. I’m not going to lie, the first time you make it, it’s a bit overwhelming, and took us about 3 hours to complete (may have also been slowed by the copious amounts of wine we were drinking). We made it again this past October for Thanksgiving, and it was equally delicious, and only took us an hour to get into the oven. Below is a picture of what it looked like before going into the oven. Here a few things that make the recipe especially delicious:

– tiny sprigs of rosemary and fresh garlic slivers wrapped in pancetta are stuck into the skin all around the turkey, to add more succulent flavour
-the turkey is stuffed, in a layer between the skin and the meat, with a delicious mixture of traditional stuffing, more pancetta, apricots and herbs
-it is cooked in a pan with yummy carrots, potatoes and onions, so your side dish is already done for you

Ugh, I’m starting to drool just thinking about it! Anyway, instead of re-copying the recipe (and possibly violating copyright infringements?) you can find the full recipe here, on Jamie Oliver’s website:

Best Roast Turkey, Christmas or Any Time

Try it. Do it. It will make your life better and people will respect you and adore you.

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