Healthy and Delicious Pudding Pops

Chocolate pudding pop

Summer is coming. The days will be long and full of terror. Ok, maybe not terror, but they’ll definitely be full of children constantly asking for food and that’s almost the same, right? My kids are at an age where they’re pretty good at getting their own snacks, but I’m still the one responsible for making sure there have a variety of healthy foods to choose from.

I’m also the guardian of desserts — the job comes with a cape. If my kiddos want a sweet treat, they know to ask first. Not to brag, but I make pretty mean desserts. I have a brownie recipe that’s to die for and these chocolate chip cookies are divine, but I can’t let my kids eat butter and sugar all day; I’m pretty sure that’s frowned upon. That’s where these healthier pudding pops come in.

I’m constantly looking for ways to get protein into my kids, especially my two grainetarians. I wish they were vegetarian, but that would require them to eat vegetables and they are green food averse. One way to up their protein is with Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has approximately double the protein of regular yogurt and is a good source of probiotic bacteria, which are good for gut health. I’m also always looking for things that are quick and easy and this recipe fits the bill.

If you want to get even healthier, you could make these pudding pops with chocolate pudding made with avocados. I will definitely try this recipe because, along with trying to up my kids’ protein consumption, I also have two kids on a calorie boost diet. Using avocados is a good way to increase the healthy fats they eat.

The pudding is made with whole milk (for a few needed extra calories), but choose whatever works best for you. It may seem contradictory to try to increase calories for a healthier snack, but I calories from Greek yogurt, avocados, or whole milk are a world above those from added sugar or hydrogenated vegetable oil any day.

I’ve already called dibs on one the pudding pops from the batch I made today. I plan on enjoying the deliciousness while sitting on my iron throne, or muskoka chair, whatever.

Chocolate pudding pop collage

Healthier Pudding Pops
A frozen pudding pop treat that is quick, easy, and more healthy than store bought.
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Ingredients
  1. 250 g Greek yogurt
  2. 1 pkg instant chocolate pudding
  3. 2 c milk
Instructions
  1. Prepare pudding as per package directions.
  2. Stir Greek yogurt into the prepared pudding.
  3. Fill molds and insert handles or popsicle sticks.
  4. Freeze.
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
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Classic Sugar Cookie Recipe – Perfect for Valentine’s Day

Class sugar cookie recipe, Valentine sugar cookies
Every baker needs a good sugar cookie recipe in their toolbox. Besides being fairly easy to make, they can be cut into shapes and customized for every holiday imaginable. The plain cookies also present a blank canvas for kids or adults to get creative with icing, candy and sprinkles. I’ve made plenty of sugar cookie recipes in my day since I was a young teenager, and this recipe is by far my favourite. Tender and buttery, they are full of vanilla flavour and are the tastiest I’ve made yet. I like to use a glaze made with simply icing sugar and a bit of whipping cream, so that you don’t have to worry about the raw eggs in royal icing with young kids.

You could get all technical here with the decorating, but I like to keep things simple; a bit of food coloring, some sprinkles, and a small offset spatula are really all you need. Nothing fancy, here! In fact, you don’t have to make these a long process, either. Make the dough the day before and tuck it in the fridge overnight before you bake. Or you can wrap it up and freeze it to bake later in the week. Bake one day, decorate the next; no need to make it a gigantic process!

Baking sugar cookies isn’t that complicated, but you do need to keep some things in mind. First, butter makes a better cookie so don’t go substituting any margarine. Secondly, try not to handle the dough too much or you end up with a tougher cookie (throw this rule out the window if kids are baking; they won’t notice anyway). Third, chilling the dough makes them easier to roll out because the dough firms up a little. Chilling dough also gives the gluten time to relax a bit so that they come out soft and buttery rather than tough and rubbery. Don’t skip that step!

Classic Sugar Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla

Icing:

1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2-3 tbsp whipping cream
food coloring, sprinkles

Directions:

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

3. Add an egg to the butter mixture and beat until well combined. Scrape down the bowl again and add the vanilla, mixing well.

4. With the mixer on the lowest setting, add the flour mixture in two additions. It may look crumbly, but the dough will come together. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and bring the dough together with your hands. Give it a good knead or two and then shape it into two disks. Wrap each with cling film and put in the fridge to chill for about an hour, or even overnight.

Classic sugar cookie recipe, sugar cookie dough

5. When you are ready to bake your cookies, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up for about 15 minutes or so. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured counter until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and cut with a 3 inch cookie cutter. Place the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until very lightly browned on the bottoms and the tops are set.

6. Remove the cookies to a rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

Icing the cookies:

1. In a medium bowl, stir the icing sugar with 2 tbsp of whipping cream. Add more whipping cream, or even water, bit by bit until you get a slightly runny consistency. You don’t want it so thick that the icing falls from your spoon in clumps, but a thick consistency that will run off your spoon is good. Accidentally make it too thin? Add a little more icing sugar.

2. Using a small offset spatula, ice the cookies and top with sprinkles. To keep sprinkles from getting all over the counter and floor, I like to set a wire rack inside a rimmed cookie sheet and decorate the cookies on the wire rack. The rimmed sheet catches any drips and stray sprinkles.

3. Let the cookies dry for 2-3 hours before packing away in an airtight container to keep fresh. They’ll last about 3-4 days if you can keep yourself from eating them. You can also freeze them in an airtight container for about 3 weeks. That is, if you can keep from eating them all.

Classic sugar cookie recipe, cookies on a plate, heart cookies

Valentine Sugar Cookies
Yields 24
Vanilla sugar cookies with a tasty whipping cream sugar glaze.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  2. 2 1/2 cups flour
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  6. 1 large egg
  7. 1/2 tsp baking powder
Icing
  1. 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  2. 2-3 tbsp whipping cream
  3. various food coloring, sprinkles
Instructions
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Add the egg to the butter and combine until smooth. Scrape down the bowl again, then add the vanilla and mix well.
  4. With your mixer going on low, add the flour to the butter mixture in two additions until it's combined. The dough may appear a bit crumbly at first, but dump the mixture out on to the counter and bring it together with your hands, kneading once or twice. Pat the dough into two disks, wrap each with cling film, and chill for about an hour.
  5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for about 15 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
  6. Roll out your dough on a lightly floured counter about 1/4 inch thick and cut with a 3 inch cookie cutter. Set the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes until the bottoms are lightly golden and the tops are set.
  7. Remove cookies to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature before icing.
Icing the cookies
  1. Mix the icing sugar with 2 tbsp whipping cream. It might clump a bit at first but keep stirring it vigorously. You want the glaze to be loose enough that it spreads easily, but not soupy or so thick that it falls in clumps off a spoon. If you can make it *just* run from your spoon to the bowl that's probably good.
  2. Ice the cookies, top with sprinkles, and set on a rack to dry for about 2-3 hours before packaging them in an airtight container. They will keep for about 3-4 days in the container, or up to 3 weeks in the freezer.
Notes
  1. The dough can be made ahead, wrapped in cling film, over wrapped in foil and then placed in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 3 weeks. Thaw before rolling out and baking. You can also bake the cookies and then freeze them, then take them out to decorate before eating.
Adapted from Canadian Living
Adapted from Canadian Living
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
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Queen of Hearts Tarts – Fit for Your Royal Family

It’s a weird world we live in, this age of technology. With the connectivity of Facebook you can keep in touch with people that you might normally lose track of, and it can bring back things you’d never expect. The other day I made this tarts and stashed them in the fridge where my 19 year old found them. If you know 19 year old boys, you know that they eat just about anything and everything. Kevin was chattering away, rummaging in the fridge for sustenance, and suddenly he stopped cold.

Cherry Tarts

“These are SO good! Where did you get the idea?” he mumbled through a mouthful of tart.

“Mrs. Koebel, ” I called back.

“Wait. What? Mrs. Kobel? You chat with Mrs. Koebel?”Two towns and a full 14 years ago, it’s been a long time since she sang her way through a day in kindergarten with Kevin. On his first Valentine’s Day in school, she baked him these very tarts-although she used canned pie filling, which is equally as tasty. I never would have thought to put cinnamon hearts in the filling, but the spice of the cinnamon adds some great flavour to the cherry. Try them warm with a scoop of ice cream, and you will thank me later.

“Mmm…” Kevin shoved the rest of the tart in his mouth. “Tell her thanks. Those are awesome.”

Queen of Hearts Tarts

Ingredients:

one 600 gram package of frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed (President’s Choice has a good brand)
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp almond extract
12 tart shells
50-60 cinnamon heart candies

Directions:

queen of hearts tarts, cherry juice, tarts

1. First, pour off the cherry juice into a small dish and whisk it with the corn starch until smooth. Set aside.

queen of hearts tarts, cherry pie filling 3

2. Mix your cherries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until it’s bubbly. Stir it constantly so it doesn’t burn. Gently stir in the cornstarch juice and continue to stir until it’s nice and thick. Remove from heat and let cool.

queen of hearts tarts, tarts and hearts2

3. Set the tart shells on a cookie sheet and pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Fill the tart shells with the cherry pie filling, and press 3-5 cinnamon hearts in each tart.

4. Bake the tarts for about 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is lightly browned and the filling is slightly bubbly. Remove the tarts from the oven and let cool.  They will keep 2-3 days in the fridge.

Queen of Hearts Tarts
Serves 12
The Queen of Hearts didn't even have tarts this good!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. one 600g package of frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed
  2. 3-4 tbsp sugar
  3. 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  4. 1/4 tsp almond extract
  5. 12 tart shells
  6. small package of cinnamon heart candies
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Pour the juice from the cherries into a small bowl and stir with the cornstarch. Set aside. In a medium sized pot, stir together the sugar and cherries over medium low heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Be sure to stir constantly, you don't want it to burn! Add the cornstarch and continue to stir until it thickens up. Remove from the heat and stir the almond extract. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Place the tart shells on a cookie sheet. Fill with the cooled cherry pie filling and sprinkle about 4 cinnamon tarts over top, pressing them into the filling.
Notes
  1. Tip: you can use canned cherry pie filling if you wish instead of making your own.
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
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How to Make Real Snow Cones

Real Snow Cones

Growing up in Northern Ontario, winter meant lots and lots of snow. That’s all we knew. Staying indoors all winter wasn’t an option. And we didn’t have 24hrs a day TV, video games, iPads, and other electronic devices. We actually played outdoors. We would build houses (forts were for boys after all!) We would make walls, chairs, beds, even snow telephones. We could spend hours out there in our make-believe world. Snow was our real-world outdoor Lego.

If you are having difficulty tearing your kids away from their screens, and you want to entice them to have some outdoor fun, you might consider bribing them. Cue the snow cones.

When the weather outside is frightful, and the kids are climbing the walls, pull this coolest-mom-E-VAH trick out of your magic bag.

Real Snow Cones
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup sugar
  2. 3/4 cup water
  3. 1 packet (0.16 oz) Kool Aid
  4. Clean snow (you are eating it after all!)
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar and water in a medium pot, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Reduce heat and let simmer 3 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and sprinkle Kool Aid over top.
  4. Stir for 1-2 minutes to combine completely.
  5. Pour into a glass container and place in fridge to chill.
  6. Place a good scoop of clean snow in a cup or mug.
  7. Drizzle syrup overtop (1-2 Tbsp).
  8. Enjoy!
Adapted from Hoosier Homemade
Adapted from Hoosier Homemade
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
If you prefer a more natural sweetener, 100% concord grape juice (like Welches) is super yummy and has a very saturated colour.  If sugar isn’t an issue, orange or blue raspberry pop (or soda for our US-based friends) also work well.

There are many recipes for sugar syrup, so feel free to mix things up and share in the comments.

What are you waiting for? Drag those kids outside! You never know what fun they might get into *wink*

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The Great Cinnamon Bun Taste-Off

cinnamon bun taste, The Great Cinnamon Bun Taste-Off

We have a birthday tradition in our family … and of course it involves food!  You get to choose a special treat breakfast.  For the past three or four years now, my son consistently has chosen cinnamon buns for his birthday. 

I’ve always been a little scared of making anything with yeast except for pizza dough.  But I ventured into bread-making this year and my confidence is at an all-time high.  I decided that I couldn’t take the risk on the day of his birthday to attempt my first cinnamon buns.  So I set out to practice and perfect.  I scoured the internet to find recipes that appealed to me and in the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to test, test, test and give, give, give.

I’ve chosen three scumptialicious-looking recipes.  Seriously, my mouth was watering just reading the recipes *wipes drool from keyboard*.

I tried one recipe, every other day and shared with our most awesomazing neighbours, the Ryans and the James’, and my sister, brother-in-law, and parents.  These recipes make a lot of buns.  *Geesh*.

Everyone weighed in on the presentation, taste, texture, gooeyness, and overall yum factor.

Here are the three recipes:

#1 Cinnamon Buns That’ll Make You Weak In The Knees by Bite Me More

#2 Homemade Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Bread by Pinch of Yum (adapted from Bea Ojakangas)

#3 Cinnamon Rolls by Ree | The Pioneer Woman

The most interesting outcome of this experiment is that everyone really does have different taste.  Some prefer gooey, others think gooey is overrated.  Some like a more bread-like dough, while others want it doughy and tender.  Some like lots of icing, some prefer a scant smattering.  So I will share the results of our taste-off, but the bottom line is I would make each and every one of these recipes again.  Which one would depend on my mood!

The toughest thing about making all three recipes was getting the cook time right.  If you over-cook them, they become tough or dry.  One pan I overcooked ended up with a layer of burned sugar on the bottom *yuck*.  If you under cook, you’re left with under-baked dough in the centre.  Having cooked 12 or 13 pans of cinnamon buns (I lost count), I think I can visually tell now when to pull them out of the oven, but seriously, there’s no easy way to know for sure.  You want them brown on top, but not overly brown.

Also, if you over-crowd your pan, the buns in the centre take longer to cook, while the ones touching the edges of the pan start to burn.  I tried one pan with the buns spaced so that they wouldn’t touch while cooking – These, in my opinion weren’t as yummy.  The sweet spot seemed to be 7 buns in a round 8” pan. 

The Pull Apart recipe called to bake the cinnamon rolls in a “loaf” on a pan.  These were the ones with the most significant ooze and sugar burn.  Pulling these out of the oven before the sugar started to burn was critical to them being edible. 

The Pioneer Woman’s dough was the simplest to make and didn’t contain eggs.  Just mix and let rise.  The other two required kneading.  Not a big deal for me because I have a stand mixer, but the Pull Apart Dough caused my mixer to shut down for risk of overheating.

The Pull Apart recipe appealed to those who preferred a cinnamon bun that was less sweet.  It had more of a sweet-bread texture.  The other two were more like what you would find at a Cinnabon.

Most people enjoyed the texture of the Pioneer Woman’s dough.  So in a stroke of brilliance, I tried one final pan using her dough and the icing from Bite Me More’s Make You Weak In The Knees cinnamon buns.  This is when the heavens opened up and angels began to sing – seriously. They were so good, I wanted to keep the entire pan to myself.

cinnamon bun taste, Yummy Cinnamon Buns

The Roundup

#1 Cinnamon Buns That’ll Make You Weak In The Knees by Bite Me More
Score:  8.7/10

This cinnamon bun got good scores all around.  Everyone LOVED the icing on this one.  Even people who don’t typically go for cream cheese.   

#2 Homemade Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Bread by Pinch of Yum (adapted from Bea Ojakangas)
Score:  8.4/10

The Pull Apart recipe appealed to those who preferred a cinnamon bun that was less sweet.  It had more of a sweet-bread texture.  The other two were more like what you would find at a Cinnabon.  This recipe featured the least-favoured topping.

#3 Cinnamon Rolls by Ree | The Pioneer Woman
Score:  9.1/10

Big hit with everyone.  This recipe makes a lot of icing and you can literally drown the cinnamon buns.  If you like gooey, definitely try this one.  The one disclaimer I have for the topping on this one is that I used 1/4 cup of maple syrup instead of the maple syrup flavouring and coffee … I *hate* coffee.

The clear winner was #3 Cinnamon Rolls by Bree | The Pioneer Woman, but if you like cream cheese icing, you may want to switch up the topping!

Winning Cinnamon Buns

No one was harmed in this experiment, except for the occasional scale creep.  These are seriously not low fat and sampling that many in the matter of a couple days did a little number on my digestive system.  I recommend exercising as much moderation as you can possibly muster. 

So in a couple of weeks when my soon-to-be teenager celebrates his 13th birthday, I’m armed with my new-found confidence in cooking with yeast and the perfect cinnamon bun recipe.  Lucky kid, eh?

 

 

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Super Easy Sugar Cookies for Christmas

For the last few years, I’ve leaned towards DIY Christmas gifts for my loved ones – in part because budgeting for gifts is extremely difficult on a single income, but also because I love making things. After spending hours and hours trying to decide what the “best” gift for this person or that person might be, I threw caution to the wind last year and made almost every gift I gave.

It was awesome.

Finley-ChristmasTree

My favourite DIYs involved my son’s hands and feet, first with our Christmas Tree canvas and second, with our LOVE canvas collection. We had a BLAST, but clean up was a whole other ball game – especially the time my son ran down the hall with paint on his feet. Oops!

This year, my Christmas lead-up has been lonely as my son is in Cape Breton with my family until we get him into a preschool in our new city (it’s a nightmare). It’s excruciating to be here in Moncton all alone during a time of “togetherness”, but I found a way to survive my (hopefully) last solo-weekend before Christmas: all kinds of COOKIES. 

FOURTEEN DOZEN cookies to be exact (I don’t care if I ever bake another cookie again). It was a tiresome weekend, let me tell you. Who knew baking could cause such a sore back? Anyway. Ginger cookies, shortbread cookies and these super easy sugar cookies – including a flop involving whole wheat flour and way too little sugar – and I’ve got no room left in my freezer. At least my other cookies don’t require an oven.

And now, I’m sharing the love.

Super Easy Sugar Cookies
Easy and delicious: just the way I like my cookies!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tsp baking soda
  3. ½ tsp salt
  4. 1 ¼ cups margarine (softened)
  5. 2 cups white sugar
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  8. ¼ cup sugar
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. 2. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. 3. Cream together margarine and 2 cups sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time then add vanilla. Blend well. Gradually mix in dry ingredients and stir until just blended.
  4. 4. Using a tea spoon, scoop dough and roll between your palms to create walnut-sized balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass or other flat instrument.
  5. 5. Bake in preheated oven for 8 - 10 minutes, or until just golden.
  6. 6. Devour.
Adapted from A crumpled piece of paper I found in my cookbook
Adapted from A crumpled piece of paper I found in my cookbook
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
(Enjoy!)

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The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love Christmastime and all the feel good giving, time with family, and parties with great food. Oh, the food *wipes drool and loosens belt in preparation for some epicurean debauchery*. This is the time of year that people bring out their best party recipes or their personal food treasures and share amongst their friends. I’m not the bravest party goer who will try one of everything on the buffet table – unless it’s the sweets table because “yes” to everything with sugar and butter as the first two ingredients – but I will give most things a try, especially when goaded by my friends because insert party food here is “soooo gooood”. I have definitely expanded my taste horizons thanks to Christmas parties, but I have also cemented the value I put on tried and true, best of the best, delicious comfort food. For me, comfort food takes the form of cookies, and I just so happen to have a recipe for the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

Some people thing that chocolate chip cookies are the plain Jane of cookies, but oh no, they are the pinnacle of cookies. A good chocolate chip cookie is what all other cookies are compared to to find their rank in the cookie hierarchy. Chocolate chip cookies are the all-season, any-occasion cookie and should definitely make an appearance on the Christmas sweets table.

This recipe came to me in 2006 from my husband who scoured epicurious.com looking for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe to make with the kids while I was off teaching karate. I came home one night and was greeted with the most delicious smell emanating from my kitchen and my kids all exclaiming that daddy had found it, thee best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. It was like he had found the holy grail, and I guess he sort of had, he found the holy grail of chocolate chip cookie recipes. I adapted this recipe slightly, but only because I’m all about easy and simple and there was some finicky business about whisking an egg and only adding a portion of it to the dough. My thought was Meh, a little extra egg isn’t going to hurt anything and threw the whole egg in. I doubt a fraction of an egg is going to change the heavenliness of these cookies, and my way makes things easier.

As with all cookies and other lovely treats from the kitchen, feel free to package these up and give them as gifts. I guarantee you will make someone’s day merry and bright.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
The holy grail of chocolate chip cookies.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 c all purpose flour
  2. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  3. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  5. 1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  6. 1 c granulated sugar
  7. 3 eggs
  8. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  9. 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the dough
  1. Whisk together: flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Beat together: butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  3. Add eggs and beat until creamy (1 minute).
  4. Beat in vanilla.
  5. Reduce speed to low and add in flour mixture until just blended.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
Baking
  1. Form balls between 1-2 inches in size and place 2-3 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Flatten balls of dough slightly.
  3. Bake until golden (9-12 minutes).
  4. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  5. Repeat from Baking step 1.
Adapted from epicurious
Adapted from epicurious
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
Three pictures of chocolate chip cookies

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How to Make Maple Taffy on Snow

Collage Maple Taffy on Snow

I have fond memories from my childhood of spending time at my aunt and uncle’s sugar shack.  Sure, all kids like sweet, sticky maple syrup, but the memories are about the carefree nature of those outdoor days. 

It’s as though the cold didn’t affect us.  We would run and play in the forest while the adults were gathered at the shack.  Ski-doo rides.  Sleigh rides.  *Pretending* to help.  There was always music playing.  Fiddle.  Accordion.  Guitar.  The entire forest came alive. 

From the outside, it may even have looked chaotic.  From the inside, it was pure bliss.  I’m sure that there was yelling, fighting, parental reprimand.  Funny how memory can be selective like that. 

how to make maple taffy on snow

So clearly, I’m no longer an 8-year old girl running carefree through the woods with her bazillion cousins and cousins of cousins, but one thing can take me right back to that happy place.  Maple taffy on snow.  There is nothing else out there that compares to this gooey treat.

If you want to be elevated from Coolest-Mom-E-VAH to the ‘Sickest’-Mom-on-the-block head straight to the liquid gold.

How to Make Maple Taffy on Snow
Serves 6
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. Pure maple syrup (aka liquid gold)
Instructions
  1. Fill a large shallow container (baking sheet with a lip, lasagna pan, etc.) with lightly compacted snow. Leave it outside or place in the freezer while you boil the syrup in a saucepan.
  2. Boil maple syrup for about ten minutes. If using a candy thermometer, it should read 115 °C (238 °F) for perfect taffy.
  3. Remove from heat and test on snow to check for consistency. If it is too hard, add a little water and stir to combine. If it is too liquid, return to heat and boil some more. As you can see, this is a forgiving recipe *wink*
  4. Transfer to a Pyrex measuring cup for easy pouring or use a metal spoon to pour the boiling syrup over the snow in long strips.
  5. Wait 30 seconds (You may have difficulty holding back the kiddos at this point).
  6. Give everyone a wooden Popsicle stick and start rolling. I cannot stand the taste of the iconic wooden stick, so I just roll mine on a spoon.
  7. These won’t keep, so get lickin’!
Adapted from Ricardo Cuisine
Adapted from Ricardo Cuisine
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
Now that you know how to make maple taffy on snow, it may not mean you’ll always want to. There are a lot of great places to visit in Canada that routinely roll up the nectar of the gods for guests. Check out The Rideau Canal during Winterlude in February and you’ll find maple taffy being rolled alongside hot chocolate and Beavertails.

Tire sur la neige

Photo credits:  Joanne Duchesne

Image source:  White Meadows Farms

 

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Chocolate Covered Liquorice

Chocolate Covered Liquorice

Have you ever gone to a party and been confronted with a dish that makes you question the creator’s sanity? I have; it was just last year and the the food item I found so strange was chocolate covered liquorice. Granted, I am kind of a food purist when it comes to chocolate, I mean, chocolate is at the tippy top of my Foods I Love list. Not chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered nuts, or chocolate dipped bacon (Ew. What is the matter with people? No, just stop it with the bacon and chocolate.). I want just plain chocolate, a brick about the size of my head would be nice. The incorrectly quoted Gestalt principal that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts does not apply to chocolate covered confections*. Chocolate on its own is the greatest and adding anything to it does not make it any better. I only have two exceptions to this rule of mine: chocolate covered salted caramels (excuse me while I go get a towel to wipe the drool off my keyboard), and as of last year, chocolate covered liquorice.

I’m not going to lie, when I first looked at the chocolate covered liquorice on last year’s Christmas table I thought What the…? Who made this abomination? Then I turned and asked the hostess if she had been drinking when she came up with this. She’s my sister-in-law and she knows I love her, so it was totally okay that I insinuated she had been drunk cooking. Anyway, I passed over this dish a few times but ultimately felt sorry that these liquorice morsels were not getting any love and reluctantly put one one my plate. Two hours and ten pounds later I found myself elbowing my daughter out of the way so I could get to the last one. In my defence, she should know better than to get between me and the sweets table – it isn’t safe.

Now, chocolate covered liquorice is on my Must Make list at Christmas. I love giving gifts from my kitchen and these will be a nice addition to my ginger crinkle cookies and fudge. The only problem I see arising is not eating them all before I get them packaged up and out the door. It will take every bit of my gift giving spirit to exercise some self control and share my festive bounty. On the other hand, I am a firm believer in the To: Me, From: Me gift, and I see nothing wrong with all of us whipping up a batch to go under our own trees.

*Yes, I know I used the incorrect version of the quote, but it suited my needs and it’s Christmas, so I’m hoping you’ll be merry and at peace with it.

Chocolate Covered Liquorice
Yields 30
A surprisingly delicious treat.
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Ingredients
  1. 15 Twizzlers liquorice sticks
  2. 1 c Milk chocolate chips
  3. 1/4 c White Chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Cut 15 Twizzler liquorice sticks in half.
  2. Cover a cookie sheet or rack with parchment paper of aluminum foil.
  3. In a double boiler heat the milk chocolate chips over low heat. Do not increase the heatto make the chocolate melt faster. Overheated chocolate can become thick and muddy.
  4. Once the milk chocolate is melted and glossy, dip the liquorice into it leaving a few inches without chocolate.
  5. Place chocolate coated liquorice on the lined cookie sheet/rack.
  6. Once all the liquorice sticks are coated with milk chocolate, melt the white chocolate in the cleaned double boiler.
  7. Use a spoon to drizzle the white chocolate over the milk chocolate portion of the liquorice sticks.
Notes
  1. Make sure no water, not even little drips from your stirring spoon get into the melted chocolate. This will cause it to sieze.
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
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Brutti ma Buoni (Ugly But Good Cookies)

My very best friend in the world is Italian. I’m not saying I chose an Italian best friend on purpose, but I think if you’re going to have a best friend then someone of Italian descent is always a good bet. Why? Well because of the food silly. Italian best friends have parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who are always trying to feed you. The Irish? They don’t do this. Just sayin’.

best friend

Italian best friends also get married. For foodies, this is like participating in the Iron Man of eating. You must train hard for these events because you need your stamina to make it through a full seven course meal and then the dessert table. After the dessert table is of course the midnight buffet and then if you’re in the inner circle, you get a brunch the next day. Yup, having an Italian best friend has been pretty good to me, even more so because my best friend’s family owns an Italian bakery called Capo Foods in London, Ontario. Every birthday cake, every lasagna, every cookie tray we ever served at a party at my non-Italian house growing up came from Capo. And then I moved to Ottawa. *cue the tears*

brutti ma buoni

I miss the food. I’ve found nothing in Ottawa that comes close to Capo and so whenever my best friend visits, I put in a request. I ask for the world’s best seafood lasagna, and cookies from the bakery. Inevitably, nestled in the box of Italian goodness are these little babies, Brutti ma Buoni which translates to “Ugly But Good”. These cookies are little heavenly bits of meringue with toasted almonds and I will take anyone down who tries to take my Brutti ma Buoni.

If you live in London then skip the making of these and just go get what you need at Capo…just don’t tell my crushed soul. For those too far to make the journey, here’s the Brutti Ma Buoni recipe straight from Capo.

Brutti ma Buoni (Ugly But Good Cookies)
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Ingredients
  1. 454 grams sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  2. 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  3. 7 egg whites
  4. 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Parchment paper, place on baking sheet
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium size bowl and using an electric mixer whisk egg whites until they form glossy medium hard peaks, approximately 3-5 minutes. Begin slowly adding sugar to the mixture and then add vanilla extract. When the eggs form medium hard peaks use a spatula to gently fold in almonds.
  3. Using a tablespoon gently place heaps of cookies mixture onto the parchment paper, leaving a 1 inch space around the individual cookies on all sides. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and turn the oven to 250 degrees F. When the oven comes to temperature, place the cookies back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/
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