Easter Nests

Easter Nests

Inspired by many different pinterest posts I have created my own chocolate nest cookies.  They will be the perfect decoration for our Easter brunch table.  These no bake cookies have been a staple in our house and my mom’s home for years.  With a small indent they become little bird nests which perfectly house three candy coated chocolate eggs.

Chocolate Drop Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk (1%)
1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

2 1/2 cups oats (a mixture of old fashioned and quick cooking is best but either will work)
1 cup shredded coconut – unsweetened if possible
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

  1. Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large stock pot combine milk, sugar, butter and salt.
  3. Over medium heat stir until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Once the mixture starts to boil set a timer and boil for 5 minutes without stirring.  The mixture will rise to almost double in height but don’t stir.   This process will allow water to evaporate so that the cookies firm up in the fridge.
  4. In a medium sized bowl combine oats, coconut, cocoa powder and chocolate chips.
  5. After 5 minutes remove from heat and stir in oat mixture until combined.  Add vanilla and stir.
  6. Using a small ice cream type scoop or 2 teaspoons form rounded cookies on your prepared baking tray.  They can be close together as they will not spread.
  7. Put cookies in the fridge until they get firm – approximately 2 hours.
  8. Store cookies in a container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer.

 Sticky Tips:  

  • To make the nests while cookies are still warm using your finger make an indent and insert 3 chocolate covered eggs.
  • If you use a medium sized pot the mixture will need to cook for 6 minutes without stirring.  These cookies are very sensitive to the amount of moisture which evaporates and can become too dry or won’t harden properly if you cook outside the 5-6 minute time.
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Grated Carrots

This weekend was my father’s 70th birthday party and as per his request every year I made Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing.  While I was grating the carrots – about 8 of them (does that make the cake healthy – I wonder…) I decided why not grate a few more and make some muffins; then a little extra to go in Grandma’s recipe for Tomato Sauce and Meatballs.  In the past I have also added them right in the meatball mixture, to salads and to stir-fries.  I like to use the small grating side of the grater and they always cook perfectly.  Here is the recipe I used for the muffins.  The batter will be VERY thick but trust me it will work out and the kids will enjoy these filling muffins.

I also have to mention how much I hate washing dishes – my husband can attest to this fact.  So where ever possible I try to cut corners including using baking cups to line my muffin tins.   The ones made by PaperChef using parchment paper are awesome.  Not a crumb of muffin sticks to the paper and therefore nothing is wasted.  Unfortunately you can’t buy them at every grocery store and not at the dollar store but they work for me.

Carrot Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or canola oil)
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 large egg
4 medium carrots

Instructions:

  1. Prepare muffin pan with 12 paper liners and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel carrots and grate carrots using the small side of your grater.  The result should be 1 ½ cups loosely packed or a total of 5.25 ounces.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients – set aside.
  4. In a glass measuring cup melt your coconut oil in the microwave and to that add yogurt to equal 1 cup.  Then in a medium bowl whisk together oil, yogurt and the egg.
  5. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients along with the carrots and stir with a spatula just until combined.  The batter will be VERY thick.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

 

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Chicken Chimichangas

I think I just want to make this Mexican dish for dinner so I can say “Chimichangas” as many times as possible.  Today was a fabulous cooking session with my good friend Kristine and the results were delicious.  I just happened to be the one who sampled the results before dinner; all in an effort to get a photo done before the light faded away.  This is a great recipe to make with a friend since you can use the same oil to fry up the tortilla packages.  When it was all said and done each package soaked up about 1 tablespoon of canola oil so not all that bad I would say.  The Chicken Chimichangas recipe has been adapted from one I found at Cooks Illustrated.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown rice (I used Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup salsa

2 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion – finely diced
2 garlic cloves – minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can pinto beans or black beans – rinsed and drained

1 cup grated jalapeño havarti or monterey jack cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper

1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon water

4-6 10 inch flour tortillas
3 cups canola oil for frying
guacamole and/or salsa for serving

Instructions:

  1. In a ceramic dish microwave rice, broth and salsa on high for 5 minutes and stir.  Put in for an additional 2-4 minutes until most of the broth is absorbed.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. In a large dutch oven heat oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until softened approximately 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin and sauté another minute stirring constantly.  Add 1 1/4 cup broth, the rice mixture and beans and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low and place seasoned chicken on top of the rice mixture.  Cook with the lid on for 10 minutes then flip the chicken over and cook another 5-10 minutes until chicken registers 160 degrees.
  5. Set chicken aside on a cutting board to cool for a few minutes.
  6. In a large clean pot add approximately 3 cups canola oil and heat to 325-350 degrees.
  7. Cut chicken into small pieces (approximately 1 cm in size) and put back in your pot and mix together with rice, cheese and cilantro.  Taste and add any additional salt or pepper needed.
  8. Stir together flour and water in a small bowl to make a paste.  Place 1/4 or less of filling in the centre of the tortilla and brush one side with the flour and water paste.  Roll one side of the tortilla tightly over the filling and then fold the side with the paste to create a roll.  Next using paste on both ends fold in to seal.
  9. Working with 2 chimichangas at a time place them using tongs seam side down in the oil.  Fry until chimichangas are a deep golden brown about 2 minutes per side.  Pat with paper towel and set on a wire rack in a baking sheet to drain and cool.  Repeat with remaining chimichangas ensuring oil stays at approximately 325 degrees.
  10. Slice in half and serve with guacamole and salsa.

Sticky Tips”

  • Warm the tortillas in the microwave if they do not fold easily.
  • Make ahead, refrigerate after cooled and reheat in the oven 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or on a lower temp using your convection feature to help the chimichangas get crispy again.
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Meatball Quinoa Soup

If you are looking for something different to do with some frozen meatballs give this soup a try.  Uncooked homemade or store bought versions cooked in the broth impart an amazing hearty flavour to the soup.  You can even just shape some meatballs using ground beef or turkey.   Top with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve with a crusty bread for a warm you up dinner – something we unfortunately still need in March.

Ingredients:

small uncooked meatballs – approximately 2/3 of a lb of meat

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
2 carrots diced
2 celery stalks diced
1 bay leaf
1 carton of broth – vegetable, beef or chicken 3-4 cups
1 cup strained tomatoes
1 – 14 oz can of navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 small bunch of kale, chard, spinach or beet greens (approximately 3 cups chopped)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Heat your dutch oven on medium heat, add oil and then onions, garlic, carrots and celery.  Stir constantly and cook for approximately 7 minutes until vegetables have started to soften but not brown.
  2. Add bay leaf, broth and strained tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  3. Add your small meatballs and continue to simmer for 20 minutes until cooked through.
  4. While soup is simmering prepare your greens by removing tough stems and spines, and finely chopping leaves – the smaller the better for my kids.
  5. Add beans, greens and quinoa then simmer 15 minutes until greens and quinoa are tender.
  6. Taste and add additional water, salt and pepper as needed.
  7. This soup is more flavourful made ahead of time.  Refrigerate and reheat before dinner.
  8. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.
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5 Ingredient Sweet Potato Soup

Basic Sweet Potato Soup is one of the easiest recipes to make and is always a crowd pleaser in my house.  My kids have loved sweet potatoes since they were babies when they ate so much their skin turned orange.   I have tried other versions with curry, coconut, lemon, apple but always come back to this basic version that doesn’t really even require a recipe and it makes a big batch so you will hopefully have lunch leftovers for the next day.  Yes if you count the salt and pepper there is 7 ingredients…

Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients:

7 cups chicken broth (2 cartons)
6 large sweet potatoes (approx. 3 lbs.)
1 large onion (sweet onion works well)
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper
salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 3 cm chunks.
  2. Dice onion into similar sized pieces.
  3. In a large stock pot (dutch oven) add sweet potatoes, onion, broth and butter.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then cover, turn to low and simmer about 20 minutes until sweet potatoes are soft.
  4. Puree – with hand blender or blender or food processor. If soup is too thick you can add more broth or water. Add nutmeg, pepper and salt if needed.
  5. Serve with a hearty french baguette.
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Baked Corn Dip

Here is a quick and easy recipe to serve as an appetizer this family day weekend.  Toppings are very flexible so whatever you like or have on hand will work.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded jalapeño – monterey jack or havarti cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups frozen corn

1 small tomato, diced
1/2 sweet pepper, finely diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 green onions, sliced thin

tortilla chips for serving

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the cheeses, mayonnaise, garlic powder and corn together. Pour into a small oven safe dish.
  3. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
  4. Top with diced tomatoes, peppers, green onions, and cilantro.
  5. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

“Sticky Tips”:

  • Your kids can make this recipe with some help.  Grating, measuring, mixing, chopping and cutting the cilantro and green onions with kitchen shears is great for kids.
  • You can also make it ahead of time and bake later, just keep the toppings in a small container to sprinkle on before serving.

 

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Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Quesadillas

This week I thought I would change up the regular pulled pork on a bun recipe with one in a tortilla shell.  We served these with a side of guacamole but sliced avocados inside or beside would also be delicious.

With a little planning the day before the pork can go into the slow cooker before you leave for work or the kids go to school.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

2-3 lb boneless pork rib or shoulder roast
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoons canola oil
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 small cooking onions
1 bottle of dark beer – Rickard’s Dark or Red works great
1 cup of store bought BBQ sauce – our kids like honey garlic versions.

Large Tortillas and Grated Cheese – Jalapeño Havarti or Monterey Jack works well
or Rolls to serve as sandwiches – we love the whole wheat baps from Cobs Bread

Instructions:

  1. Prepare carrots by scrubbing off any dirt or peeling and roughly chopping.
  2. Prepare celery by washing and roughly chopping – extra leaves can be added.
  3. Remove outer skins and chop the onions in half and then into quarters.
  4. Place all vegetables in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  5. Remove pork from the package and leave on any strings.  Using tongs place roast on a plate and rotate to sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Heat large dutch oven or other heavy duty pot on the stove on medium high heat. Wait a minute or 2 and add the canola oil covering the bottom of the pot.
  7. Add pork and brown on all sides – including the ends.  Pork should release to rotate when it is brown.  Use oven mitts and tongs as the oil will splatter.
  8. Place browned roast on top of vegetables in the slow cooker.
  9. Reduce heat on your stove to medium low.  Pour in half the beer and scrape up any brown bits.
  10. Pour the contents of your dutch oven into the slow cooker along with the remaining beer.
  11. Cover and cook on auto shift (which is high then low for a total of 8 to 10 hours on most slow cookers).  If you are home rotate the roast half way through the cooking time.
  12. At least 30 minutes before dinner time remove the roast from the slow cooker onto a cutting board.  Turn off slow cooker.
  13. Place a strainer over a medium sized bowl and using oven mitts pour the remaining contents into the strainer.  Reserve 1 cup of the liquid and add back into the slow cooker.  Vegetables and remaining broth can be discarded.
  14. Remove any string from roast and discard.  Using a knife and a couple of forks shred the meat until the roast is pulled apart.  Discard any fat that remains and put meat back into the slow cooker.
  15. Mix meat together with broth and 1 cup of BBQ sauce.  Turn slow cooker to warm.  Spread meat and cheese over half of a tortilla shell and heat in a large frying pan until lightly browned and cheese has melted.  Repeat, cut and serve.

“Sticky Tips”  

  • Leftover meat can be frozen or refrigerated and then reheated to have another night.
  • This recipe makes 2 meals for our family or is great when we are having company.
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Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken Fried Rice

With a little planning ahead, at the end of the week you can enjoy this easy recipe for dinner.  The key to good fried rice is to make the rice a day ahead of time so it is cooked and cold before frying.  This recipe is much healthier than a take out option.  Pack it with vegetables you happen to have in your fridge of freezer.  Any protein will work – leftover chicken, pork, steak, shrimp or even tofu is perfect.

Here I have suggested some options but this recipe is very flexible.  Works with quinoa too!!

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 eggs
1 cup broccoli
1 large carrot
1 red pepper
3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame
3/4 cup frozen corn
4 green onions
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves minced
3 cups cooked rice – cold from the day before (quinoa if you prefer) approximately 1 1/4 cups uncooked rice
2 cups cooked chicken or beef diced
3 tablespoons soy sauce

Instructions:

  1. Finely dice broccoli, carrots and peppers.
  2. Slice green onions and divide white and green parts.
  3. Heat a large frying pan, brasier or wok over medium high heat.  Add 2 tsp of oil and fry up your eggs, stirring to scramble and break into small pieces.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. In the same pan add an additional 2 teaspoons of oil and stir fry the broccoli, carrots, peppers and white parts of the green onions for 5 minutes.
  5. To the pan add edamame, corn, ginger and garlic and stir fry stirring constantly for another minute.
  6. Add the final 2 teaspoons of oil along with the rice, meat, eggs and green onions.  Heat though and then stir in your soy sauce and serve.  Play around with the amount of soy sauce low sodium you might need more and regular soy sauce you may want less.
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Butter Tart Squares

Maple Butter Tart Squares

Maple Butter Tart Squares

If you love butter tarts then this is a much easier way to bake and enjoy them.  Plus usual corn syrup is replaced with maple syrup for an extra special Canadian treat.  Perfect to enjoy over the holidays.

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup cold salted butter cut into cubes

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 maple syrup
1/3 cup melted salted butter
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cream

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut a piece of parchment paper the width of a 9 x 9 inch square pan with some hanging over the ends or grease your pan with butter.
  3. Using a food processor or pastry blender mix together flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  4. Cut in or process cold butter until your mixture is fine and crumbly.
  5. Press crust mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 11-13 minutes until crust starts to turn golden brown around the edges.
  6. In a medium sized bowl whisk together an egg and brown sugar until combined.  Stir in all remaining ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula.
  7. Pour into the baked crust and return to the oven for an additional 25-30 minutes.
  8. Let cool in the pan and cut into squares.

“Sticky Tips”

  • If using parchment paper remove from the pan and freeze first for easier cutting.
  • You can also use unsalted butter just add a pinch of salt to both the crust and the filling.
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Beef Barley Stew

Beef Barley Stew

With this stew recipe you will make your own broth using the short ribs (first ingredients list) then finish the stew later in the day (second list).  Start in the morning for approximately 40 minutes and then finish your work 1 hour before dinner.  Wrap some presents in between kitchen sessions this weekend.  You will love the end result and your house will warm with a wonderful rich aroma, perfect for this Sunday’s dinner.

Broth Ingredients:

2-3 lbs beef short ribs cut in 6-8 pieces
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoons canola oil
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 large cooking onion
1 medium size rutabaga
2 garlic cloves
3 springs of parsley
1/2 cup rich red wine

Stew Ingredients:

1 onion
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 garlic cloves
1 litre jar pureed tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 cup barley (ideally pot barley but pearl works too)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh parsley chopped for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Prepare vegetables for the slow cooker.  Scrub carrots clean or peel and roughly chop. Wash and chop celery – extra leaves can be added.  Remove outer skins and chop the onion in half and then into quarters.  Peel rutabaga and roughly chop into large cubes.  Peel garlic and cut in half.  Place all vegetables in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Heat large dutch oven or other heavy duty pot on the stove on medium high heat. Wait a minute or 2 and add the canola oil covering the bottom of the pot.
  3. Add short ribs – sprinkle with salt and pepper and brown on all sides.  You may need to work in 2 batches so that meat is not overcrowded.  Use oven mitts and tongs as the oil will splatter.
  4. Place browned ribs on top of vegetables in the slow cooker.
  5. Add wine to the pot and scrape up any brown bits then pour the contents of your dutch oven into the slow cooker along with 8 cups of water.
  6. Cover and cook on auto shift (which is high then low for a total of 8 to 10 hours on most slow cookers).  If you are home skim fat off the surface of the broth as it cooks.  Cooking for 5-6 hours is ideal, you can also simmer on the stove covered for about 3 hours.
  7. Prepare soup ingredients.  Dice onion, carrots and celery and mince garlic.
  8. 1 hour before dinner remove beef from your slow cooker and place on a cutting board.
  9. Place a strainer over a medium sized bowl and using oven mitts pour the remaining contents  of your slow cooker into the strainer.  Vegetables can be discarded.
  10. Using a knife and a couple of forks shred or chop the beef, discard fat and bones.
  11. In a soup pot add chopped vegetables – onions, celery, carrots and garlic sautéed until soft approximately 5 minutes.  Add broth, meat, tomatoes, thyme, barley and worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes until barley is tender.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with fresh parsley.
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