Friday, February 14, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

My weekday breakfasts consist of the exact same thing, every day. I'm a big smoothie lover, and smoothies fit perfectly into my morning schedule because a) I'm usually not hungry at 6:00 a.m. (or even 7:30 when I'm leaving for work), b) the smoothies I make are really healthy and I intend to share them on here at some point, and c) I already get up early enough. Ain't nobody got the energy to get up an extra 20 minutes to eat breakfast before the leave for work. Although, I suppose that if I confiscated my laptop in the mornings, I wouldn't need to get up earlier. But that's an entirely different issue I'm not ready to broach yet.

So, when the weekends come around, I'm usually looking for something that is filling (as I end up eating even later), nutritious, and let's face it, a bit carb-y. And I like to make something that lasts for a couple days. So oatmeal is often a go-to for me! And this oatmeal is really fulfilling. It has multiple grains that give it a nice chewy, not mushy texture, delicious caramelized apples, warm spices, and to-die-for maple syrup. This is the real stuff folks. None of that imposter corn syrup stuff. Not even real maple syrup from the sugar bush. This is maple syrup made from MY bush, right here on my property. I can't take credit for cooking it all up; that was my parent's doing last year, but I do hold a certain amount of pride knowing the syrup was tapped from our trees. And it has a delicious smoky flavour. Not to make you jealous or anything... but you should be jealous.

Yield: 2-3 servings
3 cups water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup steel cut oats
3 tablespoons quinoa, rinsed
1/3-1/2 cup large flake oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of all-spice and nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2-4 tablespoons maple syrup (depending on your taste)
1/3 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large apple
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon

Combine water and milk in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add in the steel cut oats and rinsed quinoa, and continue to simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, peel and dice apple to desired size. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat and add in the apple. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over top, and slowly cook the apples until they begin to become translucent and soft. The sugar will also start to caramelize on the outside of the apples.

Once the oats and quinoa have cooked for 20 minutes, stir in the large flake oats. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken up. Stir in the cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg, salt, brown sugar, maple syrup and raisins. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until the liquid is almost completely gone and the oats are soft (*note, sometimes the oats take longer to cook or depending on your own taste, you might like them firmer or harder. If you need to cook them longer, simply add in a little more water and continue to cook). Once the oatmeal is done to your desired firmness/softness, stir in the vanilla and the caramelized apple pieces.

Serve while hot and enjoy! If you have leftovers that you are heating up the next day, add in a little milk prior to heating to help loosen the oats and restore some of the moisture.

Source: Sweet Treats & Healthy Eats Original. Pin It

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Happy Stuff-Your-Face-With-Chocolate-Hearts Day!

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Truffle Filling

For those of you who don't follow, that's Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm taking a short bit of time to share with you some of the different cookie sets I've made for Valentine's Day this year. I tried out a delicious new recipe for chocolate sugar cookies, found on Sweetopia's site. Easy to come and hold together, easy to roll out, holds it's shape nicely when baked, stays beautifully soft, and has a delicious and rich chocolate flavour. My new favourite.

Minis in a mason jar, cute! Only problem with these babies is that because they're bite-sized... you can gobble up the whole jar in... well let's just say a very short time. But great for little fingers!

Conversation heart cookies! These are so great, because they can really be personalized to say whatever you like! And they really take very little time to make. They make a great gift when you pair them with a cute little bucket and wrap it all up!

Lastly, how stinkin' cute are these?? For the doggy-lovers out there, these dog-themed Valentine's Day cookies are perfect. Love how they turned out.

Ok, just one more, because when all packaged up, these puppy cookies take the adorable-ness factor to a whole other level.

In the mood to check out some more Valentine's Day goodies? Take a look at some of these!

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Truffle Filling 
Soft Heart Sugar Cookies
Whoo do you love Sugar Cookies
Cherry Chip Rose Cupcakes
Strawberry Cupcakes
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

Hope every one gets to spend Valentine's with someone/somebodies special. But just remember, you don't need a 'special' day once a year to tell/show someone you love them. Telling/showing them on a random day for no real reason makes it SO much more special and meaningful. In my opinion. :) Pin It

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Honey Glazed Salmon with Browned Butter Lime Sauce

I am SO pleased to share this recipe with you today! I know it's been a long time since I posted anything healthy- ahem, or really anything in general. I'm going to try to do a little better this year. Lately I've been uninspired and unmotivated in the domain of cooking, and I'm guessing this has something to do with the amount of things I have going on in my life. For the most part, I just try to get something quick and healthy on the table, and usually in big batches so I can eat it all week, but the dishes are often lack-lustre and repetitive.

Not this one though baby! I am so pleased I stumbled upon this recipe the other night. The preparation itself could not have been easier, and overall took minimal effort. For all that effort, the final result was absolutely delicious. The flavours in this dish were light and delicate, perfect for anytime of year, but I think it will really shine in the summertime. With every bite you can taste the sharp tang of the lime, the subtle nutty flavour of the browned butter, the sweetness of the honey, and just a touch of garlic.

I have a garlic maple salmon recipe that is typically my go-to; although I haven't posted it on here yet, I do have a similar recipe found here. However, I think this dish may have become my new favorite, and I'm sure I'll be making it again shortly!

6 salmon fillets, or about a pound and a half cut into fillets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
zest of 2 limes

For the browned butter lime sauce:
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

To make the sauce, heat the butter in a small saucepan on medium-high. Swirl the butter occasionally until it has turned a light brown color and has a nutty fragrance. Be sure to keep an eye on the butter so that it does not burn. It will begin to collect brown flecks on the bottom- this is what you want so don't worry! Once the butter has browned, turn the heat to the lowest setting and whisk in the garlic, honey, salt and pepper. Keep the sauce on low to keep warm until the salmon is ready.

To make the fish, place the salmon fillets onto a cutting board and put approximately 1 teaspoon of flour on each side, evenly spreading the flour over the salmon. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of honey on each side of the salmon (you can coat the second side of the salmon once it's in the saucepan to avoid getting honey on the cutting board).

Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a saucepan and heat to medium-high. Since you don't want to overcrowd the pan, you may want to use two pans, or do two batches, reserving the second tablespoon of olive oil to use then.

Carefully place the salmon into the pan and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, browning each side of the salmon until the fish flakes. Once the fish is cooked, pour the browned butter sauce over the salmon and sprinkle with lime zest.

Source: adapted from The Recipe Critic, who adapted from Cooking Classy Pin It

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cookies, cookies and more cookies #2 (Christmas Edition)

Merry Christmas everybody! Or nearly Merry Christmas, only 3 days to go (or 4 for those who don't count Christmas Eve)! I'm already in holiday mode, even though I still have to go into work on Monday and do a 3/4 day on Tuesday. I may be going in physically, but my mind is wayyy checked out. How bout you guys? Do you start to feel this way around the holidays?

I can happily say I'm done all my cookie decorating, which is why I'm writing the second post in my "Cookies, cookies and more cookies" series (more on that in a bit). Now before you get all jealous and hateful, let me clarify: I'm done all of my sugar cookie decorating... not all of my baking. In fact, I haven't even started any normal cookie baking. All of my time this month has been consumed with cookie decorating for bake sale, orders, and friends and family (more on the first two later). However, I do have plans to do some baking this weekend, and am relieved to say that I am only baking a couple batches, so it shouldn't be too bad!

Back to my "Cookies, cookies and more cookies." Back in September, I decided to start a series featuring decorated sugar cookies that I make. Because I fairly consistently use the same recipe, and I don't offer tutorials on how to decorate the cookies, it wasn't making sense for me to write a post for every single set of cookies. Instead, I figured that a post every few months showing multiple sets would be a better use of my time, and because I post all of my cookie (and other goodie) photos on my Facebook page for my Sweet Inspirations business, I didn't want to duplicate the work I was doing (I have a very busy life right now!). Although I have made multiple cookie sets between September and December, I will wait until the New Year to post those so that this post can focus strictly on Christmas!

If you know me personally or follow my blog, you might think these cookies look a little familiar. That's because I made very similar ones last year. I had no intention of making the same or similar set, but my mother kept harassing me saying that these Nordic Christmas cookies were her absolute favourite, and the fact that they are my most re-pinned item on Pinterest prompted me to reconsider my decision. So I re-made some of the old cookies and added in some more wildlife-themed cookies. I'm very happy with them! I should also mention that I am extremely happy with my Airbrush machine that was a birthday present to me back in October- I love it! It creates such added dimension and interest, which you'll be able to see in my other photos!

Back in November, I was asked to contribute some goodies to a bake sale my mother's work was hosting, in support of the local Women's Abused Shelter. I had already participated earlier in a similar bake sale around Halloween (will post pictures in the future), which was quite successful. I was more than happy to let my creative side loose while knowing that the proceeds would be going to a cause that is near and dear to my heart.

Most people said they liked the reindeer with the icicles the best. Personally, I actually liked the 'Merry Christmas' the best! What's your favourite?

The whole lot of em! It was quite the undertaking, but I loved doing them!

A very good friend of mine ordered a cute Christmas set for her family Christmas. This is the most traditional Christmas set I've done before, and I really enjoyed doing it! A few things I'd like to say about this set/photo. Again, I LOVE my airbrush machine. You can see the effect it has here on the Christmas trees; subtle, but the slight darkening around the edges really adds dimension. Can't get enough of it. Second, I LOVE chalkboard effect cookies! I think that middle cookie really tied in the whole set, and was so much fun to do!

Third of all, this is my first time a) using my newly built DIY lightbox and b) experimenting with my brand new Canon Rebel T3i camera. Merry early Christmas to meeee! I decided to build a lightbox, something I've been thinking about for a long time, because it's extremely difficult these days for me to capture pictures in natural light. Because I work Mon-Fri during the day, by the time I get home, it's dark out. And I'm not always so fortunate to have things to photo on the weekend when I can utilize natural light. So I finally got off my butt and built a lightbox! I'm thinking it could benefit from one more lamp, but that's a purchase for down the road. As for my camera, that's also something I've been thinking about for quite awhile! Up until now, I've taken all my photos with a simple Sony Cybershot point and shoot that is about 7 years old. It's actually done me quite well, and is a great little camera. However, I felt that it was time for an upgrade, and I definitely noticed an immediate difference. I'm so happy with it, and have only just begun to understand how to use it! It's quite exciting.

Lastly, here are the CUTEST cookies ever! Well maybe not ever, but they are pretty darn cute! Earlier in the month I had some time on my hands, so started doodling some cookie ideas that were floating around in my head. This is what the result was! These cookies were brought into my work earlier in the week for a Christmas cookie exchange.

There were about 40 cookies in total that I brought in and I must say (brushing off shoulders), that my cookies were the star of the show. Yes I'm totally that full of myself, and totally chose to work 4 days on these cookies to bring into work so I could knock the socks off of my co-workers. Which really isn't that hard to do, considering most people in general have never seen any cookies like these, so anything would impress them. I'm just happy to say that mine did impress them. As a quick side note again- you can see here how awesome using an airbrush machine is! Don't those chevron and polka dot backgrounds really add something to the cookie? Love love love it.

Well that's it for this year's round of decorated Christmas cookies. If you have any questions on decorating sugar cookies, I would be more than happy to try and answer your questions or direct you to somebody who could. I love hearing when someone has tried out something new and special, it really makes my day.

Sending you warm Christmas messages! Pin It

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Less than 8 days to go until Christmas! Yippee, I can't wait! Although I must say, as excited I am for the holidays, and even moreso for some time off of work, this time of year sure is exhausting! I haven't been this busy all year, and while I'm doing things I love, like decorating, baking lots and lots of goodies, Christmas present shopping and wrapping, and visiting friends, it leaves me pretty spent by the end of each evening! I'm not complaining, just looking forward to a little break! How bout you all, do you find the Christmas season to be fun, relaxing, enjoyable, stressful, sad? I think for most people it's a combination of joy and stress; I just hope there's more joy than stress!

I've used this chocolate cupcake base from Annie's Eats multiple times, and it has consitently provided good results. If you're interested in baking these cupcakes and/or seeing what else I've made with this recipe, check out my Black Forest Cupcakes and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Truffle Filling. I altered the recipe very slightly by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract (and 1 less teaspoon of vanilla extract) and a good handful or two of peppermint chips (seen in photo on top of frosting), but if peppermint isn't your thing feel free to omit them.

I actually made these cupcakes a year ago and was a little skeptical at first about pairing chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing; however, the combination of the tangy sweet icing, dark chocolate glaze and chocolate pepperminty cupcake sent me over the moon. They turned out to shoot to the top of my cupcake list! I'm happy to be finally sharing these cupcakes now, and I hope that you find the opportunity to make them sometime in the near future, provided you're not too busy with Christmas decorating/shopping/baking/whatever else comes with this busy and glorious season!


For Cupcakes:
Refer to my post on Black Forest Cupcakes for recipe and instructions.

For Ganache:
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For Frosting:
8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-2 teaspoons peppermint (not mint!) extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar (depending on preferred stiffness)

To make ganache, put chocolate chips in a small glass bowl. Place heavy cream in a microwave safe glass and microwave until it begins to boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips, stirring quickly until chips have melted. Dip cupcakes into mixed chocolate and shake off excess. Allow to cool and harden, at least a half hour to an hour.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together using the paddle attachment of a stand or hand mixer. Scrape down the bowl once or twice to ensure no chunks of cream cheese are left. While beating, add the peppermint extract. Add powdered sugar, starting with 3 cups initially, on low speed and increasing to medium-high for 2 minutes, until frosting is light and fluffy. If frosting is not stiff enough, add an additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Fit piping bag with decorative tip, and pipe frosting over cupcake. Top with desired garnish, such as peppermint chips and/or festive sprinkles. Pin It