Thursday, August 26, 2010

D is for Danger (Nutella Brownies)

Every so often a recipe comes along that requires immediate attention, as in, drop everything that you are doing and make me instantly.

When these Nutella Fudge Brownies popped into my Google Reader from Savory Sweet Life's RSS feed, I knew I wouldn't hold out for long. Requiring just four ingredients -four!- and all of them pantry staples around here (well, the hazelnuts I keep in my freezer), it was pretty much impossible to say "no" to these brownies.

And why would you want to, anyway? They are dense and delicious, addictive in the best of ways, and simple enough to bake with kids --or at eleven pm in a sleepy stupor.

The recipe is small, making just twelve mini brownie bites, but I think that was planned. These brownies are dangerous with a capital D and half a dozen can easily disappear like that.

So here's the story: the lovely Alice of the sensational Savory Sweet Life blog, has the recipe for these Nutella Fudge Brownies. You're going to have to head over there to get it, and I'm doing you a favour in sending you there because her photos are stunning. If you are ho-humming looking at mine, Alice's shots will have you lunging for the ingredients before the post is read through to the end.

Head here for the Nutella Fudge Brownie recipe.

While you're at it, why not enter Alice's giveaway to win a copy of Abby Dodge’s Desserts 4 Today cookbook? Abby Dodge is the creator of the Nutella brownie recipe and her new cookbook includes over a hundred more simple dessert recipes like it.

Alice's giveaway runs until Sunday, August 29th.

Head here to enter the Desserts 4 Today giveaway.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Two major life events are rapidly approaching and there's nothing I can do to change their course. So, I've been baking instead.

This first, and most imminent, event is my 32nd birthday (tomorrow) and I'm trying to drum up some excitement over it. Sure, I'm looking forward to a girl's night out to see Eat, Pray, Love followed by stuffing ourselves with pizza margherita's, but the birthday -that number- not so fun!

The second event takes place a week from Monday when Noah will start kindergarten. There's a whole lot of emotions welling up over that big day that I won't even get into!

In an attempt to compose my mixed sentiments over these two events, I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Baking and cooking is clearly therapeutic for me, and 'recipe testing' can sometimes be code for 'working through some stuff'.

One of the many projects on my plate this week was to perfect my zucchini bread recipe. Several pounds of zucchini and eight various loaves later, I narrowed my favorite down to two, one of them featured here today and the other, or 'The Best Zucchini Bread Ever', will be has been posted Monday on Simple Bites.

Both recipes are actually fantastic; however, I know I have a bevy of chocolate lovers over here, so that may have influenced my decision to feature a chocolate zucchini bread here.

This dark and deadly loaf is "...too good to be healthy" as one of my 'tasters' remarked. But with the inclusion of whole-wheat flour and plenty of zucchini, it's a lot better for you than a slice of cake.

This, in fact, will probably be my birthday cake, it's that great. Double chocolate? It's allll good.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Joy of Baking

  • 1/2 c. cake flour
  • 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 1 cup organic turbinado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded, raw zucchini
  • 3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven. Grease, or spray with nonstick vegetable spray, a 9x5x3″ loaf pan. Set aside.

Grate the zucchini using a medium sized grater. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended – about 2 minutes. Fold in the grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55-65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely.

Yields one large loaf.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Preserving. What are you waiting for?

If you've been wondering where I've been lately, the answer is easy: either at the market, staggering under laden produce bags and trying to corral two little monkeys, or in my kitchen, up to my armpits in fresh produce.

This month there's been pounds and pounds of fruit and vegetables coming through the front door, languishing briefly on the counter top, and passing through various preserving methods before making their way to their final resting place, i.e, the pantry or the freezer.

If you don't believe me, here's proof aplenty:

Sweet Summertime Blueberry Syrup

How to Freeze Sweet Corn

Garlic-Dill Pickles (This one is still on the 'to-do' list)

Freezing Broccoli 101

Canning Cherries (happening today)

How to Preserve Summer's Herbs

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (I added orange zest this time. Yowzas!)

My canning and preserving streak has even roused the interest of a certain local TV station...and they're coming over to crash the party next week. Double Yowzas.

Now if you'll excuse me, please, I've got a brand new cherry pitter to inaugurate.

Are you preserving anything this August? What are you waiting for?!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Grilled Peach & Haloumi Salad with Arugula

Danny and I enjoyed this salad al fresco for lunch; the fragrance of grilled peaches wafted up from our plates and we clinked our glasses in a toast to summer and the quiet of our leafy backyard.

It was great to travel to Maine last month, but there's no place like home - especially if these salads keep coming and the sun stays out...

This is another easy summer grilling idea from Sobeys! (here was the first)

Well, they suggested the delightful combination of sweet peaches and salty haloumi, I added in the peppery arugula to round out this pretty salad. The result is a delightful trio of favors, brought together by a light, but potent, lemon and olive oil vinaigrette.

It's a super salad, and with Ontario peaches making their way into stores and markets here in Quebec, there's no better time to try this dish.

Grilled Peach & Haloumi Salad with Arugula

  • 1 pkg (250g) Le Bedouin Haloumi, drained, patted dry and sliced in 5-6 slices
  • 4 Compliments Peaches, washed, pitted & quartered
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Compliments honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Compliments fresh thyme
  • 100 g organic baby arugula
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat grill while you whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, honey and fresh thyme in a bowl.

2. Toss peach segments in the vinaigrette and place on grill. Grill both peaches and haloumi for about five minutes, rotating them as needed, until they show lovely grill marks and both have softened.

3. Toss arugula with remaining vinaigrette and arrange on four plates or a serving platter.

4. Arrange grilled peaches on bed of arugula and top with haloumi. Serve warm.

*Disclaimer: So, yep, the folks at Sobeys sent me a gift card and I went shopping for ingredients! Everything to make this meal was purchased at my local IGA, including the Complements products.

You can find plenty more inspiration for summer meals on their website.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Maine Mini-Vacation Highlights

In case you were wondering, our recent road trip to the Maine coast wasn't ALL about food. I didn't even make a menu for the camping part of things--and I think that is a first. OK, I have to admit part of me was hoping we'd encounter so many local good eats, that cooking over an open fire would take a backseat.

Sure enough we did, like the absolutely perfect lobster roll pictured above from Percy's Store on Popham beach. Oh and you already heard about our lobster feast, complete with a hatchet to open the claws.

Yes, there was great food, but most of our time, though, was spent enjoying this:

You won't find much information online about the Popham Beach area, or the small, family run campground we stayed in. It was the perfect, non-touristy, off-the-grid kind of place that we like to hang out at.

Most of the time we had the beach nearly to ourselves, especially in the early mornings and late evenings, my two favorite times to stroll the beach. And on a cloudy day? The 3 kilometer stretch was ours!

These little dudes acted like they owned the beach, especially the one in the middle.

Popham Beach was SO ideal for small children, with it's gentle surf and miles of sand. Even the big kids had their fun.

Choosing to spend the maximum time at the beach, we kept the food really simple. Well,with the exception of this chocolate cake that I made the day before the trip...

I somehow had the feeling that we were going to need some comfort food, but I had NO idea how badly...

Maybe you heard about our storm tornado from my tweets, but you didn't hear about the power outage on the entire point. The trees down. The flooding of our tent. The terror of my children. The tornado touchdown not far away and The. Most. Intense. lightning storm I have ever witnessed.

And, at about 10 pm, our retreat to Comfort Inn.

I consider myself a seasoned camper; I've canoe-camped, winter-camped, and slept under the stars by glacial streams. Never in my 31 years of camping have I ever taken a hotel. Seriously though, those coastal storms are somthin' else.

And so chocolate cake was consumed, our tent dried, camp set up and the next day looked like this: perfectly peaceful.

Some of the local sites included a magnificent old fort, which Noah was convinced was a castle, and ripped around the place with tireless energy.

Another hit with the whole family was the Maine Maritime Museum, where we played pirate on a almost-to-scale 'real' pirates ship, toured the extensive and interesting shipbuilding grounds, and went aboard a real wooden fishing vessel.

Our morning in Portland flew by (OK, so maybe stops at the L.L.Bean empire and J. Crew outlet store on the way cut into that precious time) but we saw enough to vow to return. And possibly even move there.

Highlights were The Standard Baking Company, which Travel & Leisure calls the best bakery in Maine, and this place:

We took our sweet time on the drive from Montreal to Maine, making sure the road trip was about the journey just as much as the destination. Stops along the way included this one, of course, for a full factory tour.

Aaaand this place,

which will now be on our not-to-be-missed list. (Psst! Free WiFi on the terrace!)

How nice are the folks at Green Mountain Coffee? They supplied us (no charge) with more than enough of their French Roast to last our camping trip. Thanks, Green Mountain Coffee!

Rolling Vermont hills, dotted with farms. I never get tired of the drive.

And a good time was had by all...


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