Fruity Santa Bread

What a surprise this Fruity Santa Bread will be when it is brought to the table with the other sweets! Chock-full of fruits and nuts, the bread will be sure to please all the good and naughty kids around.

Lots of bread baking in the air and #twelveloaves is a great group where we bake a bread with the addition of the monthly theme flavor or ingredient. And keeping with the season, we were asked to prepare a Holiday bread. An online search brought on a list of the same old thing until this chosen one grabbed by attention big time. Could I actually make the Fruity Santa Bread to look like Santa?

Fruity Santa Bread

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

The Liver Experiment Week 7: Lamb Liver Raspberries and Hazelnut Salad

Here we are at the 7th installment of The Liver Experiment where I will try to acquire a taste for liver. Over a 10 week period I will cook, consume and post my experience once a week about trying to appreciate my food nemesis. I hope my experiment will inspire you to try the same with your own personal food nemesis. And even if you are determined to hate liver for life I hope you will follow along throughout the whole series.

It seems like all the recipes I have made so far all have a hearty edge to them. Not this week as we are going green with a Lamb Liver Raspberries and Hazelnut Salad.

Lamb Liver Raspberries and Hazelnut Salad 1

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Creative Cooking Crew: Brie Brazil Balls and Lentil Loaf Tapiocas with a Brazilian Salsa

Thank you for all the kind and encouraging words from everyone last week following my dad’s bypass surgery. He is doing great and he was released from the hospital, able to come back home, yesterday. We now enter a hopefully steady recuperation road.

The new Creative Cooking Crew hosts really seem to have racked their brains in the last months to challenge the members with fun and crazy themes. Last month we had a Chopped (TV show) like challenge where we had to use Granny Smith apples, nut butter, vinegar and bacon in a recipe.

And our hosts where just as cooky this month with this theme: BLT Sandwich WITHOUT bacon, lettuce and tomatoes! A famous movie quote came to mind: Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore! I also added a personal challenge here: to defy the concept of the sandwich. You see my ‘bread’ was the T of my BLT. Well actually I made a BBBLLT with Brazilian flair! Let’s explore my mysterious sandwich.

BLT sandwich 047

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Nutlove: Deluxe Nut Bars

This is the perfect time of the year to be recipe hunting. I will have 2 family gatherings and I will have to bring a dish to each event. I have my favorite finds bookmarked in a special folder. This month’s Love Bloghop is focusing on Nuts. A perfect choice for a holiday treat.

I came across these Deluxe Nut Bars and I knew I had a winner. Bars are a great recipe to prepare for a holiday gatherings because you can make them ahead of time, freeze them if you have too, and they are so much easier to carry then a cake!

I made one single change to this recipe. I added a layer of chocolate between the base and the nuts, really good move if I do say so myself. And I am giving you the full recipe for a big pan but I made half the recipe and baked the bars in a small loaf pan. Keep that in mind as you look at the picture.

So I have a confession to make. I honestly cannot remember the last time I made dessert bars. I use to make them all the time as a teen when I started baking. But I had no desire to make bars for the last years. It was not exotic enough I guess. Well after making these I remembered another reason why I stopped making them. They are to good, so deliciously sweet and filled with calories! Is there a food or recipe you have not prepared in a long time, and why?

 

Deluxe Nut Bars

Recipe Type: Desserts
Author: Linda J. Amendt
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 52 bars
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (500 mL)
  • 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar (75 mL)
  • 1⁄4 tsp salt (1 mL)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces (250 mL)
  • 3.5 oz (100 gr) 70% cocoa fine chocolate bar
  • 2⁄3 cup light (golden) corn syrup (150 mL)
  • 1⁄2 cup packed light brown sugar (125 mL)
  • 1⁄3 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces (75 mL)
  • 3 tbsp whipping (35 percent) cream (45 mL)
  • 4 cups mixed nuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with foil and grease with butter.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar and salt until well combined. Using a pastry blender, a fork or your fingers, cut in butter until evenly combined. Mixture will resemble coarse crumbs and start to come together. Using the back of a spoon or your fingers, press crust evenly into bottom of prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden.
  4. Break the chocolate bars into squares and cover the crust. When the squares have melted push down on them a bit to spread the chocolate. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat corn syrup and brown sugar, stirring constantly until brown sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes without stirring. Add butter and cream. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in the nuts. Spread nut filling evenly over cooled crust.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely in baking pan on a wire rack.
  7. Using foil, lift cooled bars from pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into small bars.

 

December is #nutlove month!

Please join in on the #nutlove fun by linking up any nut recipe from the month of December 2012. Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #nutlove event! The twitter hashtag is #nutlove :). Here are my fellow co-hosts…

Badger Girl Learns to Cook ~ Kimberly
Cheap Ethnic Eatz ~ Evelyne
Rico sin Azúcar ~ Helena
Teaspoon of Spice ~ Serena
The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen ~ Susan Palmer
The Spicy RD ~ EA Stewart
Vegan Yack Attack ~ Jackie S
Baking and Cooking, a Tale of Two Loves– Becky
No One Likes Crumbley Cookies ~ T.R.
Pippis in the Kitchen Again ~Sheila



Israeli Couscous With Spinach, Feta and Walnuts

Every once in a while you discover an ingredient you just cannot get enough of. My current fetish ingredient is Israeli couscous. I L-O-V-E the stuff. I first discovered it in a farmer’s market in Toronto. On a following trip I went back to buy some more…I have yet to find some in Montreal. I just may have to order some online.

I wanted to make a casserole like dish with Israeli couscous for a dinner with a friend. Now this friend is not vegetarian but she is 100% all about sustainability and organic food…particularly meat. I applaud her effort but I won’t pay 12$ for 2 chicken breasts. Perhaps I just don,t know where to go shop for organic meat. Anyways, when she comes over I always do a vegetarian dish. This one if loaded with CHEESE!

She is also a foodie so my goal was to blow her mind, or should I say her taste buds. This recipe was absolutely astounding and amazing. It is full of intense flavors, especially garlic. We both had seconds.

 

Ξ Israeli Couscous With Spinach, Feta and Walnuts Ξ
adapted from KLHquilts on Food.com

1 1/2 cup Israeli couscous
2 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1 cup feta, cubed
1/3 cup walnuts
5 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Harvarti (or Gouda, Monterey Jack, Provologne)

Add couscous and salt to boiling water. Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes, then fluff with fork.

Heat oil in large skillet. Saute garlic and onion until tender and translucent.

Drain canned tomatoes, reserving 2/3 cup juice. Add drained tomatoes to garlic and onions. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir tomato mixture into couscous. Mix in half the reserved tomato juice, basil, feta, walnuts, 4 cups of the spinach, salt and pepper.

Spread half of the couscous mixture in a square baking dish. Sprinkle half the Havarti evenly, then top with remaining couscous mixture.

Spread evenly on top the cup of spinach left, pour remaining tomato juice over and sprinkle remaining Havarti.

Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 375 F.

Sweet and Savory California Walnuts

I was just absolutely thrilled when I was contacted by the wonderful folks at Faye Clack Communications to try a sample of wonderful California walnuts. I have had wonderful review opportunities so far with this blog but I believe it was the first time I was offered such a raw product and I had already heard great things about these nuts. To my surprise I received an enormous bag of absolute fresh and sweet walnuts. I was giving away small samples to my friends I had so many.

Walnuts have been part of our diet for thousands of years. As a matter of fact walnuts are the oldest tree food known to man, going back to about 7000 BC. Walnuts are commonly featured in Greek and Roman lore and mythology. Seems our ancestors knew about the goodness of the walnut long before science proved the healthy benefits. Did you know that 3/4 of the fat found in the walnut is actually a cholesterol fighter? They are also packed with Omega-3s, they can reduce the overall risk of coronary heart disease, defend against some cancers and help ease symptoms of inflammatory diseases like arthritis. So keeping a bowl around to snack on is a pretty good idea!

I did not even know California grew nuts but apparently the mild climate and fertile soil is a perfect match. And I have to say these California walnuts were probably the best I have ever tasted: so fresh, almost chewy, lovely nutty flavor and jam packed with goodness. If you have extra remember to store them in a dry cool place. I put my leftovers in the freezer in an airtight container. A great idea when using older nuts is to toast them to bring out the flavor. Easiest way is to bake them at 350ºF for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tip: sure you can chop your walnuts on a board with a big knife and have them fly all over the place. Or nothing beats the zip lock and rolling pin method. Make sure to take the air out of the zip lock before sealing it and wack away, great stress reliever too!

Not only are walnuts great on their own as a snack but they can be so versatile in recipes. You can add them to almost anything like salads, meats, sweets and veggies. The website provides a long list of fabulous walnut recipes but I went ahead and made my own recipes. I wanted to do both a sweet and a savory dish and I had puff pastry on my mind for both. The first is a Walnut and Mushroom en Croute which is a great vegetarian dish and fresh thyme does make all the difference here. I kept my walnuts fairly coarse so they added a lot of texture. For my sweet one I went with a Walnut Strudel: if you use dark chocolate like me it will not be too sweet so if you want a more chocolaty result go for milk chocolate.

Now if you want something savory….

Mushroom and Walnut en Croute

Ingredients:

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 minced onion
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 package puff pastry dough
1 egg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 390 degrees F.

2. In preheating oven, spread walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 7 minutes, or until lightly browned.

3. In a large pan, cook onions and garlic in butter over medium heat until translucent. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden. Toss in walnuts and remove from heat.

4.Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the pan mixture in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet. Put the mushroom mixture in the middle.

5. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (fold sides in and then fold long flaps in making sure no filling can leek). Brush with the egg glaze. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned.

and for something sweet….

Walnut Strudel from Chef in You

Ingredients:

1/2 cup dark chocolate
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
cinnamon to taste
1/2 package puff pastry dough
1 egg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a bowl melt chocolate with milk and butter in a microwave, 30sec. Stir well.

3. Roll out the puff pastry sheet on a floured surface and spread the chocolate mixture on the pastry leaving 1 inch clear.

4. Sprinkle the walnuts on the chocolate along with cinnamon. Roll it up like a jelly role and seal with egg.

5. Bake for 30-45min until golden brown. Remove and dust with cinnamon. Cut into slices.

Chocolate Apple Pie with Nut Crust

Looking for a practically guilty free pie when the sweet tooth attacks? Well I have a recipe for you. This recipe was given to me by Stef. The crust of the pie is made of crushed nuts, and egg white and a bit of sugar. That is it. You could fill it any way you like but here is our somewhat low cal version. Note the ingredients are to make one pie, we just happen t make two when he showed me.

Chocolate Apple Pie with Nut Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed nuts of your choice (we did 1/2 almonds and 1/2 hazelnut)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar is desired
  • you can add cinnamon, nutmeg or what you like for extra flavor
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 apples
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • cinnamon to taste
  • sliced almonds
  • 2 oz dark chocolate, melted

Directions:

  1. Crush your nuts if whole, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups crushed.
  2. Mix nuts with egg and sugar plus spices is desired.
  3. Spread in a pie shell evenly and cook at 350F till the crust is golden.
  4. Melt chocolate and mix in cream until homogenized. Spread in the bottom of crust.
  5. Sprinkle a layer of sliced almonds.
  6. Peel and core apples and then cut in thin slices.
  7. In a pan melt the butter and add apples with sugar and cinnamon. Cook until just tender.
  8. Poor apples into the pie crust and spread evenly.
  9. Sprinkle a few sliced almonds again and swirl decoratively the remaining dark chocolate.
  10. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.