Meat and potatoes for dessert?

Here’s a novel dessert idea from The Nibble (an online magazine) –

Grilled Idaho Potato Ice Cream with Milk Chocolate Cake and Bacon Toffee, garnished with Potato Rings.

If anyone is brave enough to try it, let me know how it turns out!

Get the scoop: “If I had 1,000,000 Flavours” new Ben & Jerry’s flavour of ice cream

I spent the weekend with Ben and Jerry.

Okay, so that would be Ben and Jerry of the feline world (AKA my sister’s cats), not Ben and Jerry of the ice cream world (although the former pair were named after the latter pair due to my sis’ love of the dairy dessert!).

Ben, Jerry and me!

Bonding with Ben and Jerry

It seemed fitting to come home yesterday from visiting Loreen on Long Island, along with her two friendly felines, to hear today that Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s was teaming up with the popular Canadian musicians, the Barenaked Ladies, to introduce the first-ever Canadian flavour of ice cream – “If I had 1,000,000 Flavours.” (If the name of this flavour and band mean nothing to you, the BNL are a well known and beloved Canadian rock band – made up of fully clothed men – who’ve had numerous hits, one of them – “If I had $1,000,000.”)

“If I had 1,000,000 flavours” is a wild and wacky combo of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cups, chocolate-coated toffee chunks, white chocolate chunks and chocolate-coated almonds. Apparently it is the most ingredient-packed ice cream Ben & Jerry’s has created.

Ben & Jerry’s and the Barenaked Ladies are celebrating the launch of “If I had 1,000,000 flavours” by asking Canadians what ingredients they would include if they had a 1,000,000 flavours?

Starting today, Canadians can go to www.benjerry.ca and create your own 1,000,000 flavours ice cream portrait. You also have a chance to win four front row seats to a BNL concert and a year’s supply of the new ice cream. And, you can get a free download of “If I had $1,000,000”.

The new flavour of ice cream will be sold at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops. Not sure where to find one in Canada? Unfortunately, there aren’t many locations. Check here to see if there’s one near you.

Fun, fun, fun! Sandwich cookie cake pans from Williams-Sonoma

How much fun is this sandwich cookie cake?? It would be perfect as a dessert for any occasion from a spring or Mother’s Day tea to a birthday party or backyard barbecue.

Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma)

Sandwich Cookie Cake (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

I picked up the pans to make this fun dessert this evening, racing into the Williams-Sonoma at Sherway Gardens at 8:58 p.m. (the store closes at 9 p.m.). Just in time!

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Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

The 9″ cast aluminum cake pans are exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and sell for $29.95 (US) for the pair. Bake your favourite brownie or chocolate cake recipe or mix in them, then sandwich the layers together with flavoured whipped cream, ice cream or buttercream icing.

Visit Williams-Sonoma’s website for more information and to read reviews about the pans. According to the online reviews, it’s really important to grease the pan well with cooking spray to remove the cakes easily.

I’ll have to hold off testing out the pans until next week as I’m off to New York City this weekend to take a Four-Star Breakfast cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education and visit with my sister Loreen who lives on Long Island. We’ve got afternoon tea reservations in NYC at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Friday.

Recipe pranks for April Fool’s Day

chocolate-egg-sucker

Is it a fried egg?

Be on guard tomorrow. It’s April Fool’s Day.

All may not be what it appears. Even at the breakfast or dinner table.

Nope! It's a Chocolate Egg Pop!

Nope! It's a chocolate fried egg on a stick!

With the following “recipes”, you”ll be the one planning the surprises, serving “cake” for dinner and “spaghetti and meatballs” for dessert. Don’t be fooled into thinking these ideas are difficult. Read on to see how easy it will be to play food pranks on your fellow diners tomorrow, or any day of the year.

If you want more wacky food ideas and recipe pranks, there are additional suggestions and videos at Family Fun magazine’s website.

  • Fried Egg and Toast? – Serve breakfast for dessert. Create a faux fried egg by spooning vanilla yogurt or sweetened whipped cream on a plate in the shape of the white of a fried egg. Add the yolk by placing a well-drained canned apricot or peach half, round side up, on top of the yogurt or cream, a little to one end. Toast a slice of pound cake. Spread with a thin layer of jam. Serve with the fried egg.
  • Drink Up! – Prepare fruit-flavored gelatin according to package directions. Pour into drinking glasses. Place a straw in each glass. Chill until set. At serving time, garnish rim of glasses with fruit. Serve and see how long it takes for someone to request a spoon to eat the “drink”.
  • An Antsy Cake – Turn a layer cake, ice cream cake or cheesecake into an anthill with this easy treatment. On top of the cake, carefully pour crushed vanilla wafers or nuts in a small mound to resemble an anthill. Arrange ants parading around the top of the cake and climbing up or down the side of the cake and/or the anthill using a chocolate-covered almond for each ant body and a chocolate-covered raisin or caramel (e.g. Skor Bites) for each  ant head. Pipe on eyes and legs using a tube of black gel icing.

Meat Loaf Cake

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

Favourite meatloaf recipe (use 2 to 3 lbs/1 to 1.5 kg) ground beef
Hot mashed potatoes (about 4 cups/1 L)
Cherry tomatoes
Ketchup

Prepare meatloaf mixture as usual but before cooking, divide mixture in two and place into two 8-inch (20 cm) cake pans. Bake as usual, allowing a shorter time since meatloaf will likely cook faster as the mixture will be thinner than usual.

Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes using boiled or instant potatoes. The mashed potatoes should be fluffy and spreadable. Keep mashed potatoes warm until meat loaves are cooked.

Once cooked, drain fat from meat loaves. Invert one loaf onto a round pizza pan or heatproof plate. Cover with a thick even layer of mashed potatoes. Place second loaf on top and “frost” the top and sides of cake with remaining mashed potatoes.

If desired, some of the mashed potatoes can be spooned into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip and piped around top or bottom edge of cake.

Place cake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes to warm through. Remove from oven and decorate with halved cherry tomatoes. If desired, write a message on top of cake with ketchup. (If the opening of the ketchup bottle is too large to write a message easily, spoon some ketchup into a clean piping bag or a squeeze bottle with a small top to write your message.)

Spaghetti and Meat Ball Dessert

(Makes 1 serving)

Small slice of pound cake or half of a cupcake
Homemade or prepared icing
Yellow food coloring (if desired)
Strawberry sauce
2 of 3 chocolate malt balls or small truffles
Ground almonds or grated white chocolate
Chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips or candy melts
Lady fingers or biscotti
Toasted coconut
Green sprinkles

Place pound cake in the centre of a plate.

If desired, tint icing with food colouring to resemble the colour of cooked spaghetti. Spoon icing into a decorating tube fitted with a large circular tip; pipe icing in a looping fashion around the sides of the pound cake (don’t frost the top) to resemble spaghetti.

Spoon strawberry sauce (meat sauce) on top of the cake to cover it. Drizzle a little over portions of the spaghetti.

Using the dull side of a knife or a grater, rough up the surface of the malt balls (meatballs). Place them on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle ground almonds (parmesan cheese) over sauce and meatballs.
Carefully melt white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave oven; stir until smooth. Spread chocolate over lady fingers (garlic bread). Sprinkle coconut (garlic) and green sprinkles (parsley) over top. Serve with spaghetti and meatballs.

St. Patrick’s Day recipe ideas. Green food colouring required for some!

istock_000005210471xsmall-4-leaf-cloverCount yourself lucky to find these great recipes to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Have fun being Irish for a day!

Cooking Quarters blog:

Kraft Canada’s website:

McCormick’s website:

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from Harrowsmith magazine

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies from my neighbours Jim and Karen, and Harrowsmith magazine (Feb. '09 issue)

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies from Harrowsmith magazine (Feb. '09 issue)

Last week our neighbour Jim brought over some chocolate chip cookies his wife Karen had baked. She had tried a recipe from the current issue of Harrowsmith magazine.

These cookies are chock full of yummy ingredients including oats, nuts, coconut, and three kinds of chocolate (milk, semisweet and white).

As for the “best ever” moniker, the cookies were very good (a little chewy, which is how I like them) and every bite had great flavour. But I wouldn’t give them a “hands down, can’t be topped, to die for” rating.

That shouldn’t stop you from trying this recipe. The cookies are really good, especially if served warm with a glass of milk!

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 28 large cookies)

2 cups large-flake rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 oz milk chocolate, grated (113 g)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly tosated

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly oil two baking sheets, or line with baking parchment.

Place oats in the bowl of a food processor and whirl until very fine.

In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in coconut. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in brown sugar, white sugar and corn syrup until well mixed and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture and grated chocolate. Add chocolate chips and pecans; stir until well combined.

Roll dough into 28 balls; place each on a baking sheet, then flatten to 1 inch thick, leaving lots of space between each cookie.

Bake until just golden brown around on the edges, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on racks.

Recipe Source: Harrowsmith magazine, February 2009

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars. Good!

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars

Here’s the recipe for Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars which I mentioned in my last post. It’s from Anna Olson, Food Network TV chef and cookbook author.

No doubt Anna’s original recipe is great, and I’ll have to try the recipe as written some time. When I wanted to make it recently, I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand and didn’t have time to go to the store to get what I was missing. Thankfully, my modifications worked out just fine.

Here are my substitutions:

  • quick oats instead of rolled oats
  • salted butter instead of salt and unsalted butter
  • 4 well-crushed Skor bars instead of Skor toffee bits
  • chopped walnuts instead of almonds
  • aluminum foil instead of parchment paper

These CAT Bars are good. No, very good! And, they make a great gift. If you’re giving them away, don’t forget to keep back a few pieces to enjoy yourself!

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars
(Makes 25 to 36 squares – depending how big you cut them!)

1-1/2 cups (375 mL) rolled oats
1/2 cup (125 mL) graham cracker crumbs
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (250 mL) Skor toffee bits
1 cup (250 mL) chocolate chips
1 cup (250 mL) sliced almonds
1 can (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease and line an 8-inch (2 L) square pan with parchment paper so the paper hangs over the sides of the pan.

Stir oats, graham cracker crumbs and salt in a bowl to combine, then stir in melted butter. Press crumbly oat mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle Skor bits evenly on top, followed by chocolate chips and sliced almonds. Pour condensed milk evenly over top (it will sink as it bakes).

Bake until top is golden brown and the edges are bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool to room temperature in the pan, then chill for at least 4 hours before slicing into squares.

Christmas Countdown: Pumpkin Pound Cake and a tale of three – no, four sauces

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Dulce de Leche Sauce

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Dulce de Leche Sauce

Whether you like to bake or not, at Christmas there are lots of reasons to do so. Sometimes it’s because you’ve been asked – or you’ve volunteered – to bring dessert to a party. Last Friday I did just that – offer to bring dessert for a dinner with friends.

I’ve been making pound cakes lately, and thought that would make a nice dessert.

I had tried a recipe for an eggnog pound cake made with a cake mix. The end result was okay, but the recipe really wasn’t special enough to share.

Then I made a pumpkin pound cake from Company’s Coming new cookbook, Tonight! (Magical Meals on Short Notice). This pound cake was definitely better, but the accompanying sauce was nothing to write home about, or write about at all. Well, I’ll write a little about it.

Strike one…..

The first time I made the sauce, the consistency was great, but I burnt it. In the recipe (see below), the brown sugar and butter are to boil gently together until thickened (about 5 minutes). The key words in this concept are gently and about. Obviously neither word registered with me the first time around. I should have kept a closer watch on the sauce as it thickened – then blackened! – before I checked in on it. Sadly, I was too busy trying to multi-task: clean up the kitchen, pay some bills, feed the dog….while a sauce was boiling out of control, then burning on my stovetop!

Strike two…..

I made the sauce again, but this time the butter and brown sugar never quite melded together. I probably over compensated for the first disaster and didn’t boil the mixture long enough. I added the brandy anyway, hoping for a miracle. (What was I thinking??) When I tasted the concoction, I decided 2 tablespoons (30 mL) was either way too much brandy or, maybe I really didn’t care for brandy all that much! The sauce had a strong, harsh and unpleasant taste.

With the second attempt nearly as disastrous as the first, I looked around for another recipe. Lesser, perhaps more intelligent(?!) cooks would have given up and just drizzled a commercial caramel or even chocolate sauce over the cake, but not being one to give up easily I forged on, scouring some of my cookbooks for another recipe.

Strike three…..

I found one that called for cornstarch as a thickener. This should give me the right consistency, I reasoned, and then I’d just add less brandy than called for to minimize and mellow the brandy flavour. Of course, smarter cooks would have opted to try flavouring the sauce with some thing they liked, like rum or amaretto. But I seemed determined to make myself like the taste of brandy.

And so a third round of sauce-making began. Sadly, it too was unsuccessful. The sauce, although nicely thickened, was thin in flavour and very pale, almost sickly looking. Surveying the mounds of pots and wasted ingredients, I felt like a sauce-moron.

Home run??

Since I was bringing the cake to a friend’s place for supper, I needed a solution – immediately! A raid of the fridge produced a jar of dulce de leche (a caramel creme spread – pronounced dool-say de lech-ay). I spooned some of it into a small bowl and warmed it briefly in the microwave – just enough to thin it slightly and make it easy to stir. Into the sauce I stirred a little half and half. (Milk would have worked as would whipping cream -35%M.F.) In mere seconds, I had a smooth, creamy, not too sweet sauce. I sliced off a piece of cake and spooned a little sauce over top for a test run. Mmmm. Home run! At last!

There was enough cake to enjoy for supper at my friend’s home that night, and to serve to guests at home the next day. A set of small gravy boats doubled beautifully as mini pitchers for the sauce so each person could serve themselves as much or as little sauce as they wanted.

Dulce de leche is basically cooked sweetend milk. You can make it yourself or buy it commercially. The brand I used was President’s Choice. You can use it as a spread for toast or as a topping for cakes, waffles, crepes, etc. Here are some additional recipes using it.

Pumpkin Pecan Pound Cake with Brandy Sauce
(Makes 12 slices)

When making the sauce, the brown sugar and butter should boil gently for 3 to 5 minutes without stirring, but keep watch over it. Instead of the Brandy Sauce, serve with warmed butterscotch or caramel sauce or maple syrup, or warmed dulce le leche spread thinned with a little milk or cream. A spoonful of sweetened whipped cream (add a little ground cinnamon if desired) or vanilla or butterscotch ice cream would also be a nice accompaniment.

1 cup (250 mL) butter or hard margarine
2 cups (500 mL) sugar
4 large eggs
1 can (14 oz/398 mL) pure pumpkin
2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract
3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
2 teaspooons (10 mL) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) chopped pecans, toasted

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add pumpkin and vanilla in two additions, beating well after each addition. (Mixture may look a little curdled.)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Slowly add to pumpkin mixture, beating on low until combined. Fold in pecans.

Spread evenly in a greased and floured 12 cup (3 L) bundt pan.

Bake in a preheated 350F (175C) oven until wooden pick or cake tester inserted in centre of cake comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let stand in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool slightly.

Brandy Sauce: Combine 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter in a small saucepan. Heat and stir over medium heat until boiling. Boil gently, uncovered and without stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup (125 mL) half and half  and 2 tablespoons (30 mL) brandy. Drizzle over individual slices of cake.

Recipe Source: Company’s Coming Tonight! (Magical Meals on Short Notice), Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2008

Christmas Countdown: Chocolate fondue an entertaining option

fondued-orange

Mandarin orange segments make great dippers for chocolate fondue, as do pineapple chunks, apple wedges, banana slices, strawberries, pound cake cubes, pretzels....

Dippidity do dah!

Get out the fondue pot and forks. It’s time to gather ’round the glow of burning embers (make that a tealight) and dip yummy things into a vat (or just a small bowl!) of melted chocolate!

The nature of fondue makes it a special way to entertain, especially during the holiday season. This social, communal eating adventure allows participants to enjoy food and each other in a relaxed, leisurely way.

Chocolate is a favorite fondue choice. It’s fun! It tastes exceptionally good, especially if you use a fine quality chocolate. It’s easy. And a minimal number of ingredients (two!) are required – chocolate and cream (whipping cream or half and half both work). Liqueur can be added for flavour.

A good quality chocolate is essential and will definitely give the best flavour.

For easy melting, chop the chocolate into small pieces. You can use your microwave instead of a double boiler on the stove top to melt the chocolate, but do so carefully, at Medium (50%) power. Melt the chocolate partially, then remove it from the microwave and stir until the remaining chocolate melts.

A chocolate fondue should be served in a small earthenware or ceramic bowl instead of the larger stainless steel or ceramic pots reserved for cheese, oil or broth fondues. A small votive candle or tealight will provide enough heat to keep the chocolate warm without burning it.

Dark Chocolate Fondue
(Makes 4 servings)

3/4 cup (175 mL) whipping cream (35% M.F.)
12 oz (375 g) dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp liqueur (e.g. Kahlua, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, kirsch), optional
Fondue dippers (e.g. slices or pieces of fruit, angel food or pound cake cubes, marshmallows, cookies, pretzels, potato chips)

In the top of a double boiler, heat cream over hot (not boiling) water until warm. Add chocolate; stir constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

If desired, stir in liqueur. If chocolate mixture is too thick, stir in a little more cream. Transfer mixture to a dessert fondue bowl and place over a lit tealight.

Enjoy by spearing fruit or cake and dunking dippers in chocolate mixture.

Hallowe’en Fun with Food

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en

Hallowe’en is the perfect holiday to go over the top with decorations and party food. It’s probably the only time of year when poor taste and “grossness” are preferred, or at least tolerated.

If you’re planning a Hallowe’en menu, you can go all out and spend lots of time, money and energy on creating a “terrorific” atmosphere at the dinner table. Or you can unleash your imagination and stir up little home-brewed ambiance by simply renaming favorite foods.

Need some inspiration?

Why not serve worms and eyeballs and dried bones (spaghetti and meatballs and biscuits) for supper? Or how about witch’s fingers and slime sauce (chicken strips and ranch dressing or plum sauce dyed green) or barbequed bat wings (chicken wings) or witches’ brew and dracula diggers (chili and tortilla chips)?

Wild and whacky side dishes might include grass and weeds with sliced toadstools and witch’s teeth (salad greens with mushrooms and sunflower seeds), maggots (rice), rotting teeth (corn) or lizard tongues (sautéed red pepper strips or carrot sticks).

Pond scum (jello with gummi worms) or bones (meringue cookies) make delicious desserts, and swamp water (frozen lemonade concentrate, lemon-lime pop and lime sherbet) will wash the meal down.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

Here are a couple recipes for dried bones. Bon Appetit!

Breadstick Bones
(Makes 6 breadsticks)

1 can refrigerated breadsticks
Melted butter or margarine
Italian seasoning, Tex Mex seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese

Open can and unroll dough; separate into 6 strips. Carefully stretch each strip until about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Loosely tie a knot in both ends of each breadstick. Place breadsticks on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush melted butter over breadsticks. Sprinkle seasoning or cheese over top.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

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Meringue Bones
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

5 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla, orange or lemon extract

Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a piping bag with a round tip (about 3/8 inch/1 cm diameter).

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a couple tablespoons (about 30 mL) at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny and smooth. Add extract and beat just until combined.

Fill piping bag with meringue. Pipe a log about 3 inches (8 cm) long. Pipe two balls on both sides of the ends of the log. Repeat with remaining meringue. You can smooth any peaks that occur with a wet finger.

Bake in a preheated 220F (105C) oven for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Leave cookies in oven for 8 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container.

Tips:
* Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 20 minutes after separating; they will beat to a greater volume if they aren’t cold.

* Stirring a drop or two of yellow food colouring into the meringue mixture before baking will give the bones an aged look.

* If you don’t have a piping bag, use a sturdy ziplock bag. Cut off the tip once you have filled the bag with meringue mixture.