Gluten Free Nanaimo Bars

I was busy doing Christmas baking on Saturday and whipped up a batch of these for Christmas. I must say Nanaimo Bars have always been one of my favourites and a staple on my Christmas baking list. A few years ago, I doctored up a few recipes and came up with this modified version for a delicious gluten free version. I thought it might be worth a repost with so many busy baking for Christmas . If you love Nanaimo Bars you must try this recipe…you won’t be disappointed.

Sensational Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

I’ve made “loose” versions of Strawberry Shortcake over the years…basically angel food cake (or white cake) with either whipping cream or vanilla ice cream and strawberries, but this was my first time ever making a true Strawberry Shortcake recipe. It was my husband’s birthday this week and he didn’t have a specific birthday cake request, so I decided to finally give Strawberry Shortcake a try and believe me this recipe from Glorious Treats did not disappoint! Her presentation was much better, but never the less, it was absolutely delicious! When it comes to trying new recipes, I have this thing I do….I’m not sure why, but almost every time I try a new dessert recipe, I end up making adjustments of some kind. It really makes no sense because the “tweaks” are not a result of the recipe lacking in some way, but rather my presumptions as to what would make it even better. For the full original recipe, please visit Glorious Treats, but I do want to share my thoughts and the changes/additions I made.

First of all, I absolutely loved the density of the cake. It was a bit of a heavier cake, but it combined perfectly with the whipping cream and strawberries. Glory mentions the Balsamic Glaze being key in this recipe and I have to agree. The flavour it brought to the strawberries was amazing. In her recipe, she uses Sprouts Organic Balsamic Glaze. I have never actually come across a Balsamic Glaze (or another recipe that calls for it). I didn’t want to have to hunt for it and then store a mostly full bottle for a measly tablespoon, so I opted to make my own. I found the recipe on Add a Pinch and then just reduced it to make a half recipe. It was super easy to make and my version made about 2 tablespoons of glaze. I had the vinegar on hand, so it cost me nothing to make it and the flavour was fantastic. Here’s what I did:

Balsamic Glaze

  • 1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup (or honey or brown sugar)

Place ingredients in a small pot. Heat over medium heat until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced by half. Stir every couple of minutes. This takes about 10 minutes and makes approximately 2 tablespoons of the Balsamic Glaze. Cool.

I’m not sure if cream cheese is a staple in Strawberry Shortcake recipes or not, but I loved the added flavour in the whipping cream mixture of Glory’s recipe. (Seriously, her recipe is fantastic!)

Last, but definitely not least, I decided to add in the Strawberry Crumble that I found on Deliciously Sprinkled. The cookie crumble incorporated a bit of crunch and I loved the contrasting texture that it added. The only down side is that the recipe makes quite a bit and you really can’t cut it down because it calls for one box of Strawberry Jello and one box of Vanilla Instant Pudding. However, I put the extra in a ziplock bag and froze it. I can’t be sure, but my guess is it will freeze well. (The fresh strawberry topping and cookie crumble would also taste amazing on vanilla ice cream for a quick dessert, so having a stash in the freezer may come in handy.)

To Make My Version:

Print the original Strawberry Shortcake recipe from Glorious Treats and follow all of the steps (substituting your own homemade Balsamic Glaze).  Don’t forget to add in a layer of Strawberry Crumble, following the fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle ~ Oh yeah!

As amazing as this tasted, I did find the denser cake layers a bit tricky to cut through while maintaining the integrity of the cake. Of course this had zero impact on the flavour, but it didn’t look as pretty when it was served. In summary…this could honestly become one of my favourite recipes…so amazingly yummy! However, the next time I make this it will absolutely be in a trifle bowl! Oh yeah…STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE TRIFLE! I predict that the flavours will meld even more when combined trifle style, and it would also take away the fuss with presentation and serving. To make the trifle, I would simply add the strawberry crumble into the original recipe, as the fourth layer in the trifle bowl. (Cubed cake, whipping cream mixture, fresh strawberries and cookie crumble, repeat X3) The only other thing I might consider when converting this to a trifle is perhaps dipping the cake chunks into the juices from the strawberry mixture. There probably would not be enough juice to dip all three layers, but I’m thinking that it might be nice to dip the pieces for the bottom or middle layer of the trifle. I will absolutely be sure to post when I pull this amazing recipe together in a trifle. Let me know if you beat me to it!

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and let me know how it turns out. Be sure to check out my archives for more great recipes, gift wrapping ideas, DIY projects and home decor tips! Thanks for visiting!

Don’t forget to LIKE/SHARE the post and SUBSCRIBE to my blog for more great ideas.

Paleo Morning Glory Muffins

Paleo Morning Glory Muffins
Grain free, sugar free, moist and delicious!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found that I feel the best when I avoid grains. Period. I do not have an official diagnoses of any kind, but avoiding grains has really helped me reduce unexplainable aches and pains, as well as brain fog and water retention. In addition, I found that it was also key to shedding those last few pounds that seem impossible to penetrate on the scale. Sticking to a grain free diet isn’t easy, I’m not going to lie, but when you are battling health issues, is seems like a no brainer. Although I try not to let old habits sneak back in, I believe that a little cheat now and then is totally acceptable. The key to my success is often directly related to discovering a few go-to foods that work specifically for me. I’ve collected a few recipes that are both tasty and quick to crab when the cravings come knocking. One of my absolute favourites is this muffin recipe. I almost always have them frozen in my fridge freezer for easy access and a quick snack to grab and go. I generally pop one in the microwave for 30 seconds and smother it in butter…yum!! Although I try my best to avoid grains, I am big on fats and never shy away from butter and high fat cream in my coffee! These are hands-down my favourite muffins, but I should preface that by saying that I try not to eat too much sugar either, so some may find they lack sweetness. My palate has adjusted to minimal sugar in my diet, so I don’t find them bland at all. I have tried many recipes for “healthy muffins”, but I always return to this go-to recipe that was passed on to me by a friend at work. They are 100% guilt free, filling and super yummy!

Paleo Morning Glory Muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups almond flour
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 large apple (peeled, cored and grated)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. melted honey
  • ½ cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 cup chopped dates/prunes (or raisins, if you prefer)
  • *Orange zest (optional)
  1. Grease the muffin tins. (I always cut small squares of parchment paper that are about 1 ¼” to fit right in the bottom of my pan. My mom always did this and the muffins come out beautifully. I peel the little papers off before serving or freezing.)
  2. Combine dry ingredients and mix.
  3. Add carrot, apple, coconut and dates/prunes. Combine well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, honey, oil and vanilla together.
  5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix well. It will be very thick and appear almost too dry.
  6. Spoon into muffin pan and gently pat each muffin down (it’s thick enough to do this). Bake 25 to 35 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean.)
  7. Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before removing to a rack.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

*2 T. of honey is not much sweetener as compared to a regular recipe, but I will often lessen the amount. Once you eliminate sugar from your diet, it is surprising how quickly your palette adjusts to needing/wanting less sweetness.

*The original recipe calls for raisins, but I much prefer dates/prunes.

*I will often use a date based sweetener in lieu of the honey. See below:

Place 6 dates and 3 T. of the water in a microwave safe dish and heat for 30 seconds. Remove and use a fork to mash the dates. Add a 4th T. of water and heat another 30 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth.

Be sure to let me know if you decide to try these out. I’d love to hear how you like them. You may be like me and they become a new staple in your freezer!

    

Chocolate Mocha Trifle

Chocolate Mocha TrifleI’m not gonna lie….this dessert involves several steps and is a bit time consuming. Having said that, it isn’t hard to make and can be made over several days because of the various steps. If you love the meshing of chocolate and coffee flavours…I think you’ll find it’s worth the effort! I had never really tasted a Chocolate Mocha Trifle before, but I had to make a dessert for an event and I love making trifles because they taste good and are relatively stress free. Seriously, not much could go wrong with a trifle!

I somehow got it in my head that I would love to make a Chocolate Mocha flavoured trifle, so I began scouring the internet for that perfect recipe. There were several, but one comment that surfaced more than once in the reviews was that many of the recipes had a “processed” food taste…yuck! I decided that instead of searching for an actual trifle recipe, I would instead look for what appeared to be good Mocha and/or Coffee flavoured desserts. This dessert is completely from scratch (other than the Coffee Crisp Chocolate Bars) and combines several recipes (all of which I tried for the first time for this trifle).  The good news is that some of the recipes can be made ahead and frozen until the day you assemble the dessert.

Chocolate Mocha Trifle Layers:

  • Chocolate Cake with Kahlúa drizzle
  • 8-10 Café Coffee Cookies
  • Chocolate Mocha Mousse
  • Mocha Whip Frosting
  • 2 Coffee Crisp Chocolate Bars, chopped

Chocolate Cake:

For this trifle, I used one of my go to Chocolate Cake recipes. This cake is super moist, but a bit denser than some. I like it for a trifle because it is a heavier and holds up better in the layers. For this trifle, I doubled the cake recipe. I did end up with some left over cake, but didn’t want to end up short and not have enough cake for the trifle bowl. My bowl isn’t overly large, but I’m glad I doubled it up, despite the left-overs (which make great cake pops)! I made the cake several days ahead; cooled it completely, cut it into 1″ squares and then froze it in a zipper bag until the day of assembly.

Kahlúa – I used about 1/2 cup of Kahlúa and drizzled it over the layers of cake, as they were added to the trifle bowl.

Chocolate Mocha Mousse:

This recipe was adapted from the recipe found on page 181 in Enjoy! from The Best of Bridge cookbook series.  I can’t find the recipe online to link it to, but their recipes are very good and I have several of the books from the series. The original recipe uses chocolate wafers for the base of the dessert and I didn’t need a base, so the recipe is not exactly the same as is in their book.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups (small bag) of miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 4 teaspoons of instant coffee
  • 1 cup of whipping cream

Method:

Melt the marshmallows in the top of a double boiler (or in short increments in your microwave – that’s what I did). While the marshmallows are melting, stir the coffee into the boiling water. Once the marshmallows have melted, stir in the coffee mixture. Cover and chill at least an hour. (I did this step the day before I planned to assemble the dessert.) This is super quick to do, but waiting for it to chill can really slow down the process, so plan ahead.

On the day of assembly. Whip the cream. Remove the marshmallow/coffee mixture from the fridge and whip. Fold in the marshmallow/coffee mixture. Place back in the fridge until all of the trifle layers are prepared and ready for assembly.

Café Coffee Cookies:

Café Chocolate CookiesThis recipe was found on the Betty Crocker site. The cookies turned out great, but I did make a couple of minor changes to the original recipe. I reduced the chocolate chips and omitted the pecans. The recipe calls for one 12 oz. bag of chocolate chunks (I used chips instead). I felt like this was too much, so I only used half a bag (and still felt like that was more than enough). The cookies are very much like a regular chewy chocolate chip cookie with a coffee twist. The recipe says that it makes 15 servings. I made my cookies 1/3 to 1/2 the suggested size and baked them about 10 minutes. Yielded about 3 dozen cookies, give or take (I didn’t actually count them). You can find the original recipe for the Café Coffee Cookies here. I made these about a week before I needed the dessert and frozen them.

Chop/break 8-10 of the cookies for use in the trifle.

Mocha Whipped Frosting:

Again, this recipe is taken from the Best of Bridge Series. I found it on page 196/197 of Grand Slam. The recipe is actually called Mocha Whipped Cream Cake, but I only used the frosting portion of the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup strong, cold coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons Kahlúa

Method:

Whip cream with sugar until soft peaks form. Add the coffee and kahlúa. Beat until stiff.

Chocolate Mocha Trifle Assembly:

  • 1/3 of cake, drizzled with kahlúa
  • 1/2 of Chocolate Mocha Mousse
  • Cookies
  • 1/3 of cake, drizzled with kahlúa
  • 1/2 of Chocolate Mocha Mousse
  • 1/3 of cake, drizzled with kahlúa
  • Mocha Whipped Frosting
  • Top with broken Coffee Crisp Chocolate Bars

Enjoy!

 

Yummy Chia Seed Breakfast Porridge

Chia Seed Breakfast PorridgeI’ve struggled with digestive issues for most of my adult life.  As I’ve gotten older, it seems like a constant battle just to maintain some sort of regularity. I am always assessing what works and what doesn’t and analyzing the variables that may have contributed to my frequent states of constipation. It is very frustrating (and uncomfortable) to say the least! I do take supplements when desperate, but prefer to try and manage through diet and exercise. Sometimes I feel like my whole life revolves around choosing foods that “work” and I’m embarrassed to say that “poop talks” now seem like normal conversation.

Over the years, I have tried many different foods, supplements and diets to help me stay regular and although I have found success at various times in my life, it always seems to evolve into a routine that only works temporarily. In the past, Fibre 1 cereal was always my “go to” breakfast because my digestive system seemed to really like it. I would double-up on the recommended serving size and consume my entire daily fibre goal in one shot. Although I still enjoy it, I found that over time, it became less effective.

I recently tried a simple recipe recommended to me by a friend. I have never been much of a porridge lover, mostly because I’m fussy when it comes to certain textures.  For me, porridge had to be prepared just right in order for it not to trigger my gag reflex. So, when my friend suggested I try eating chia seeds for breakfast in a porridge-like recipe, I was skeptical. In fact, it took me at least a year before I actually gave it a try. Feeling desperate to get my digestive system back on track, I decided to test her recipe out and was surprised that I enjoyed it! The texture hasn’t bothered me and I really do think it has been instrumental in helping me to become more regular once again. It is the perfect way to start your day as it is not only high in fibre, but also a great source or protein.

Chia is the new nutrition powerhouse on the block! It’s 100% gluten free, and high in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, too.It’s a great addition to any diet for the health benefits, but particularly helpful in gluten free and vegan baking as a both binder and as an egg substitute. (Harris Whole Health)

Chia Seed Breakfast Porridge

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • cinnamon to taste (a generous amount ~ but I don’t measure)
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • fresh or frozen blueberries (or fruit of your choice)
  • 2 to 4 T. of Cracknola (optional, but necessary if you ask me ~ AMAZING homemade grain-free granola recipe)

Place chia seeds in a cereal bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon. Stir to coat. Pour the boiling water over the seeds and let stand for 3 minutes. Stir well, as it will be lumpy. (The chia seeds will break open and gel in the hot water.) Add the blueberries and Cracknola for extra flavour. Enjoy!

What is really great about this recipe is that the main ingredient is chia seeds which are not only gluten free, but also considered a superfood because of their high nutritional value. They are not only high in fibre, but also packed with many other nutrients and offer significant health benefits. Dr. Axe has written a comprehensive article on the health advantages linked to chia seeds including anti-aging properties, digestive support, heart health, energy and metabolism booster, diabetes support, weight loss, cancer and dental health. Check out the nutrition profile from Dr. Axe’s article ~ 9 Chia Seeds Benefits + Side Effects:

Chia Seed Nutrition Profile

The reason chia seeds are so beneficial is due to them being rich in fiber, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.

For example, one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds contain about: (1)

  • 137 calories
  • 12.3 grams carbohydrates
  • 4.4 grams protein
  • 8.6 grams fat
  • 10.6 grams fiber
  • 0.6 milligram manganese (30 percent DV)
  • 265 milligrams phosphorus (27 percent DV)
  • 177 milligrams calcium (18 percent DV)
  • 1 milligram zinc (7 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligram copper (3 percent DV)
  • 44.8 milligrams potassium (1 percent DV)

Chia seeds also contain essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid; mucin; strontium’ vitamins A, B, E and D; and minerals, including sulphur, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, niacin and thiamine; and they’re a rich source of antioxidants.

The benefits are so numerous it seems almost criminal not to be incorporating them in your diet. They’ve been a staple in my pantry for a few years now, but up until recently I only sprinkled them on salads or added them to my smoothies. This is the first time I used chia seeds as a main ingredient in a recipe and I’m so pleased with the results. Check out this short video of Dr. Axe’s to learn more about chia seeds:

For more great information and recipe ideas, check out Dr. Mercola’s site as well.

Let me know if you decide to give this recipe a try. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I am finding that with teenagers in the house, now more than ever, I need to have fresh muffins available for a quick snack or lunch addition. This muffin recipe is a staple in our house. They are super moist and so delicious!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup of oil (or 1/3 cup apple sauce for a healthier version)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Method:

In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg and stir in the milk, oil and vanilla. Once combined, add in the mashed bananas and stir again.

Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are moist and just combined. Do not over mix. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Cut small wax paper squares to sit in the base of each cup (about 1 1/4″ squares). I learned this trick from my mom! The little squares help to prevent the bottoms from sticking and help the muffins to release from the pan easily. Divide the batter among the 12 cups and bake for 18 to 22 minutes.

Once cooled, remove the wax paper squares from the bottoms and place in a sealed container or zipper bag to store. I will often wrap them individually in plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer. This keeps the muffins fresh and makes them easy to grab and go!

Click here for a Printer Friendly Version of this recipe.

 

Upcycled Nanaimo Bars? I Can’t Believe They’re Gluten Free!

Nanaimo Bars have been a favourite dainty of mine, since I was a child. Over the years, I have tasted many versions of it ~ both homemade as well as store-bought. I have attempted to make them several times, but must confess that my success rate has not been great. I don’t think I’m alone in my struggle to achieve the perfect base layer. I often find the base to be too dry and crumbly. There is nothing as frustrating as trying to cut a dainty that crumbles apart when you go to serve it. I also found that many times the crust actually tasted dry and lacked flavour as well. I always prefer home baking over store-bought, but eventually gave up on the idea of ever finding the perfect recipe. Eventually, I was served a piece of Nanaimo that seemed to have the perfect base. It was more fudgey and served up beautifully. When I asked for the recipe, I was extended a smile and told it was the “Robin Hood” box mix. I was sold and proceeded to buy the mix and make it as one of the dainties on my annual Christmas baking list. Sadly, Robin Hood discontinued their Nanaimo Mix a few years ago and so I simply omitted it from my baking list. This year I embarked on a mission to find a recipe for the base that would be similar to that of the mix. I googled and searched, but was unable to come up with a recipe. It was then that I decided to come up with my own. I was shocked when my very first attempt came out not only delicious, but held together and served perfectly. I was so excited I just had to share. In addition to it meeting my high expectations…my version is also GLUTEN FREE. I didn’t really intend to create a gluten-free Nanaimo Bar recipe, but as I worked on the recipe, I quickly realized that none of the ingredients I used contained gluten…bonus! So, for all you gluten-free people, here is a delicious gluten-free recipe that does not make you feel like you are sacrificing flavour or texture ~ in my opinion it’s better than some of the more traditional recipes! Obviously, not everyone will agree ~ but I really love my new base recipe which is more like a fudge.  I can’t wait for others to try it and let me know if they like it as much as I do!

Incredible Gluten Free Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

Base:

  • 2 1/4 cups semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips
  • 3/8 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of *thick and creamy coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of medium shredded coconut

Filling:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Bird’s Custard Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cream + 2 teaspoons
  • 2 cups of icing sugar

Top Layer:

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (or 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate squares)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Line a 9″ X 9″ square pan with parchment paper (or wax paper) and be sure it extends up over two of the sides so you have something to hold onto to remove the set dainties
  2. BASE:  Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe dish. (My microwave has a setting for melting chocolate, so I would do it in very short increments of 15 seconds or so and stir in between, if you don’t have a setting.) The chocolate does not need to melt completely in the microwave it will continue to melt as you stir it. DO NOT over heat.  Once melted, stir in the coconut milk and vanilla. Finally, add the coconut and walnuts to the mixture and stir well to combine.
  3. Spread the chocolate base mixture into the parchment lined pan. Chill in the freezer while you make the yellow filling, but do not allow to set completely or the two layers will separate when you serve.
  4. FILLING:  To make the yellow filling, cream the four filling ingredients together and beat until light. Spread over the chilled bottom layer. Transfer to the fridge to cool while you prepare the top layer. It should set about 10 minutes or so.
  5. TOP LAYER:  Melt the chocolate chips (or squares) and coconut oil in the microwave as in step 2. Once all lumps have been melted, immediately spread an even layer over the yellow filling. I will often spread quickly with a knife and then slide my pan back and forth on the counter to create a smooth even layer, but you have to work fast so the chocolate doesn’t begin to set before you do this.
  6. Transfer the finished Nanaimo Bar to the fridge to set the chocolate. Monitoring the setting is key ~ you want the chocolate to set enough that it is no longer gooey, but not so much that it will crack when you cut it. I usually set my timer and check it after 10 minutes and then about every 5 minutes until the top looks “just set”. I then remove it from the fridge and score the top layer. You may or may not want to slice right through to the bottom, but you want to score through the top layer so that it will not break and separate from the filling when you go to serve it. When I go to cut it into squares, I pull the entire piece out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper to remove it. This allows me to cut nice even squares.
  7.  It can be stored in either the freezer or refrigerator. The freezer will give it more of a candy bar consistency while the fridge will make it more like fudge.
 
*The “thick and creamy coconut milk” is made by keeping the can of coconut milk in the fridge, so that the water and cream separate. When you open the can, discarded half the water and blended the remaining water with the milk to create a thick, creamy coconut milk.
*I substituted 1 tablespoon of cream with the thick and creamy coconut milk in the filling layer and loved it. I was tempted to try the whole amount, but didn’t. I might try that next time!

This might seem like several steps, but it is really quite quick and easy to whip up. If you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it turns out for you. I hope others enjoy it as much as we did!

Scrumptious Pumpkin Poke Cake Dessert

Scrumptious Pumpkin Poke Cake Dessert

Sorry, no great pictures of this dessert! I snapped this one quickly before putting on the plastic wrap and taking it to work.

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you already know that I love pumpkin! There is no better time than the fall to try out a new pumpkin recipe and this fall was no exception. In fact, this recipe is so yummy I’ve made it twice and can’t wait for an opportunity to make it again!

Let me begin by saying that this recipe was adapted from Jennifer W.’s recipe Better Than Sex Pumpkin Dessert on Key Ingredient, so suffice to say…it’s delicious!

I’m sure the original recipe is fabulous…. I only changed it because you can’t buy Heath Bits here and I prefer homemade caramel sauce. Here is my version.

Pumpkin Poke Cake Dessert

Yield 8 – 12

Ingredients:

  • 1   box spice cake mix
  • 2  cups pumpkin puree (be careful not to buy Pumpkin Pie Filling)
  • 1   14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1   tub Cool Whip (I bought the larger size and had some left over, even with a generous layer)
  • ½ bag SKOR Bits (original recipe calls for Heath Bits)
  • 1   batch of Ree Drummond’s homemade Caramel Sauce .  The original recipe calls for a jar of Caramel Sundae Topping, but it is worth the tiny bit of extra effort to make your own ~ so good!

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven 350º and grease a 9 X 13″ cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix and pumpkin puree until a smooth batter forms.
  3. Pour the batter into the pan and bake according to the directions on the cake mix box.
  4. Test with a toothpick to ensure it is cooked. (Toothpick should come out clean when poked into the cake.)
  5. Let cool for about 10 minutes after baking. Using the bottom of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the top of the cake. (The first time I made this, the holes were nice and uniform, the second time they seemed a bit gooey and I was worried the cake wasn’t cooked even though I’d tested it. Don’t panic, mine tasted great both times.)
  6. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake and spread as is necessary to fill the holes.
  7. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the fridge and spread a generous layer of cool whip over top of cake. Sprinkle the SKOR bits on top and drizzle with caramel sauce. Reserve the balance of the sauce to serve over each individual piece.
  9. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight, if possible.

This recipe is super easy and a real crowd pleaser! Enjoy and thanks Jennifer!

If you love pumpkin as much as I do, why not check out some of my other recipes!pumpkin cheesecakePumpkin Pie Cake Dessertoatmeal pumpkin sandwich cookie

pumpkin cookiespumpkin pancakesPumpkin LoafPumpkin Salted Caramel Blondies with Glaze

 

Roasted Cranberry & Brie Crostini

Over the holidays I was searching for some Christmassy recipes for a dinner party we were hosting. I love trying new recipes and am really into cranberries right now. Cranberries are a super food that often gets overlooked because of the tart flavour. Obviously, as a stand alone snack, they aren’t great, but I often add frozen cranberries to my morning smoothies and love them.  WebMD suggests that cranberries are second only to blueberries in their total antioxidant capacity.

Cranberries have vitamin C and fiber, and are only 45 calories per cup. In disease-fightingantioxidants, cranberries outrank nearly every fruit and vegetable–including strawberries, spinach, broccoli, red grapes, apples, raspberries, and cherries.

One cup of whole cranberries has 8,983 total antioxidant capacity. Only blueberries can top that: Wild varieties have 13,427; cultivated blueberries have 9,019.

Dr. Nalini Chilkov also outlines seven reasons why we should include cranberries in our diet on Cancer Schmancer. Check it out to see how cranberries can benefit your over all health and wellness.

I came across this recipe for Roasted Balsamic Cranberry and Brie Crostini on NeighborFood and it sounded delicious. Sometimes when you read a recipe you just know that it is going to be fabulous. Such was the case with this one. I knew it would be a winner and it certainly did not disappoint ~ thanks Courtney! You really must visit her blog and check-out the fabulous pictures. When I made these I was in the midst of preparing for company and in all honesty pictures were a mere after thought (and as you can see my daughter had changed my camera settings and I didn’t even get one good picture).

Roasted Balsamic Cranberry and Brie Crostini

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ½ a french baguette, sliced thin
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 T. rosemary
  • 4 ounces triple cream brie, thinly sliced
  • fresh thyme sprigs to garnish (optional)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Combine the butter and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with the oil mixture and place on a baking sheet. Set aside.

3. In a second small bowl, add the cranberries, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and rosemary. Mix. Spread the mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper.

4. Place the cranberries in the oven and roast for five minutes. Add the tray of baguette slices to the oven. Roast for an additional 6 minutes.  Remove the baguette slices to flip them over and return to the oven for another 4­-6 minutes, or until crispy and golden. At this point, the cranberries should be popped open with juices running out. Remove both the cranberries and baguette slices from the oven.

5. Top each baguette with a slice of brie and a spoonful of cranberries. Garnish with thyme, if desired. These can be served while the cranberries are still warm, or you can make the components ahead of time. The cranberries can be chilled overnight and the crostini will keep in a zip lock bag. Simply assemble and serve at room temperature when you’re ready!

When I made this appetizer for our dinner party, I ended up with a small amount of the cranberry mixture left over. I simply refrigerated it in a covered container and served the cold mixture over a bed of greens with purple onion and feta. No dressing necessary. This made a salad that was both beautiful and delicious! In fact, it was so good that I’ve since made another batch just for salad topping. Mmmm….so good!

The combination of flavours in this recipe is so great, that I really hate to mess with it.  However, I do try to reduce the sugar in recipes when possible. Next time I make it I will try to reduce the sugar amount slightly – I might try 1/3 of a cup and see how that works.  Enjoy!

Meals in Minutes ~ Well kind of!

Sausage & White Bean SoupOur schedule, like so many other families, is crazy busy. I’m finding it harder and harder to stay on top of things and one of the areas I feel like I’m failing is in providing my family with good quality meals on a regular basis. I would say we eat well most of the time, but lately I’ve been feeling as though we are having more last-minute pulled together meals and I’m just not satisfied. Last weekend, I decided to find more slow cooker meals because I find it so much less stressful to come home at the end of the day and have our meal ready or at the very least close to it. In my search, I ended up on a great site called Who Needs a Cape (love the name). On the site, Katie shares how to make 40 slow cooker freezer meals in 4 hours. No way! I was intrigued and spent quite a bit of time exploring the site. What fascinated me the most was that I could pre-make the meals, freeze them and then just dump them in the slow cooker without having to spend time preparing the slow cooker meals in the morning before work. It almost seemed to good to be true.

In my reading, I discovered, that she also posted different options including how to make 7 meals in one hour. This seemed like a great place to start because some of the larger meal plans (30 and 40) involve doubling recipes and making enough for two separate meals. This makes great sense if your family likes the recipe, but if not, it could be a big waste of money. (I was also a bit concerned about the recipes tasting watered down because in my experience, freezing sometimes does that.)  So, on my last day off, I spent the morning grocery shopping (using the shopping lists she provides on the site – so great!!) I got home at noon and by 12:10, I was making the first slow cooker freezer meal. I can’t say I was super organized. I was taking ingredients out as I needed them and labelling bags as I went. In the end it took me an hour and half to complete all 7 of her meals. However, I was “on a roll” and ended up making a few other recipes that I had found on-line. In the end, I made 13 meals in 3 1/2 hours. I was so excited (and exhausted), but the true test will be when the meals are served to my family. I must say I was pretty proud of my accomplishment and the fact that I tried 11 new recipes in one day seemed like one of the craziest things I’ve ever attempted in the kitchen.
Last week, we ate the first slow cooker freezer meal and it was a huge success! The whole family gave the Sausage & White Bean Slow Cooker Soup a thumbs up. I didn’t adapt the recipe at all, but in the future I’ll be sure to double it. The only complaint was that there wasn’t any left! I was even more excited about my 3 1/2 meal marathon after we’d tested the first one and it was hit.  I can’t wait to try the next recipe and see how it scores with the family.

 

Sausage & White Bean Slow Cooker Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb breakfast sausage, crumbled, cooked & drained
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 14 oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 t dried rosemary
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1 32 oz. carton chicken broth

Instructions:

Crumble breakfast sausage into pan and cook thoroughly, drain & let cool if freezing.  Place all items into slow cooker, stir and cook on low 6 hours. If freezing, add all ingredients EXCEPT chicken broth into gallon-sized freezer bag. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before placing into slow cooker. Add chicken broth & cook on low 6 hours.

Taken from Who Needs A Cape (which she adapted from: Sausage & White Bean Soup)

I can’t say how much the meals cost because I bought items far beyond what was needed for the meal preparation and had many of the required items on hand already. What I do know is that it will help reduce the stress of not knowing what to make for dinner, the frustration of having to run to the grocery store for items we don’t have in the house or even worse, the feelings of defeat when you accept the futility of being at a total loss and order-in or pick-up fast food as a last resort. Obviously, the few hours spent preparing seems like a miniscule sacrifice in comparison to the rewards of convenience, stress free meal times and the peace of mind knowing that your family is getting a well-balanced home cooked meal. I’m feeling blessed to have found Who Needs a Cape ~ this might just be life changing… can’t wait to taste the remaining meals!

PS We’ve tried two of the other new recipes that I found and used that day, but will far less success. Both were found on a different site and although super easy to prepare, the results were less weren’t very impressive. The Chicken Broccoli Alfredo  and Hawaiian Chicken had mixed reviews, but no one thought they were great. I am still very optomistic and can’t wait to try the remaining 6 meals from Who Needs a Cape. I’ll keep you posted.