10.4.16

Chicken Quinoa "Mac" and Cheese by Rose Reisman and a Giveaway

Chicken quinoa mac and cheese

I don't know where my cookbook collection came from. It was one of those things that I started collecting and then without thinking, I had amassed almost an entire IKEA Billy bookcase worth of cookbooks. The first cookbooks I owned were some of the books that originally got me into cooking like Delia Smith's "How to Cook" and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." With any cookbook collection, you need some examples of the masters of cooking. They are the ones who inspire you to jump right into the beautiful pages and try the recipes yourself.

cookbook shelf

When I think of Canadian cookbook authors, one of the first names that comes to mind is Rose Reisman. Rose has published 18 books over the last 20 years with recipes focusing on healthy living. She is now a columnist, speaker and owner of Rose Reisman Catering and Personal Gourmet. I have two Rose Reisman cookbooks in my collection: Rose Reisman...Brings Home Light Cooking--one of her classic books, a bestseller published in 1993--and one of her newer books Weekday Wonders. They are my go-to cookbooks when I need a healthy recipe for a busy weeknight or something light on the weekend. The recipes also follow the recommendations of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating and trust me, they are still tasty dishes.

Rose Reisman cookbooks

Finding comfort food recipes that are also good for you is a challenge. Mazola Corn Oil has partnered with Rose Reisman and the Make Good campaign to create five delicious recipes that are comforting and healthy. The recipes all use Mazola Corn oil, which has a high smoke point and neutral flavour profile. It is perfect for cooking, grilling and baking, and has lower cholesterol than olive oil.

Over the last year I have seen family members struggle with heart issues. With recovery and rehabilitation, a concerning factor is how to eat right. With so much nutrition information out there, it is difficult for anyone to know the "right" foods to keep your heart healthy, as well as the right balance of foods. That is another reason why Rose Reisman's books and message of these recipes is so important to me. Healthy food doesn't have to be boring. You can still have fun with healthy food and get the whole family involved in living a healthy lifestyle.

Ingredients

This recipe (full recipe) is creamy, comfort food with protein rich ingredients like quinoa and chicken. I used leftover cooked chicken and substituted the feta cheese for Boursin cheese because that was what I had in the fridge at the time. All you need to balance the dish is a crumbly cheese and a soft cheese. The recipe seems like a lot of steps at first. It is worth it for this take on a classic comfort food that masks that sometimes bitter taste of plain quinoa. 

chicken and quinoa

Chicken and Quinoa Mac and Cheese

Quinoa Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
6 ounces/200 g diced chicken breast
1 tbsp Mazola Corn Oil
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped re-hydrated sundried tomatoes
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Sauce Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 cup shredded cheese
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
Dash salt and pepper

Topping:

1/3 cup panko or unseasoned breadcrumbs
2 tbsp cheddar cheese
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 tsp Mazola Corn Oil

Chicken and quinoa mac and cheese by Rose Reisman

Directions:

1. Heat quinoa and water/broth in a saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Toss chicken with flour in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 5 minutes until well browned.
3. Place quinoa, chicken, tomatoes and feta cheese in a large bowl.
4. For the sauce, heat milk, chicken broth, flour and mustard in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in cheese and salt and pepper.
5. For the topping, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
6. Pour the sauce over the quinoa mixture and stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle topping over the top.
7. Bake in a 375F pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until the topping is slightly browned.

Chicken and quinoa mac and cheese by Rose Reisman

I have teamed up with Mazola Corn Oil to GIVEAWAY some fun stuff so you can get your family in on the healthy cooking action. Enter below to win a Mazola Oil Gift basket that includes 1 bottle of pure Mazola Corn Oil, a recipe card box including all five of Rose Reisman's custom recipes and kitchen goodies, including 2 green tea towels, a wooden spoon and wire whisk (approximate value $50). 

This giveaway is open to Canadian residents only. The winner will be contacted by email to confirm a mailing address for shipping the prize. No purchase necessary. Ends April 18, 2016. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

11.3.16

Entertaining with Espuna Tapas Essentials

Espuna Tapas Essentials

Look on any hip restaurant menu right now and you will most likely see some kind of cheese course, charcuterie or "tapas" plate. I will take a savoury meat and cheese plate over dessert any day. People appreciate savouring a good cheese or piece of cured meat. I think it stems from the increased attention and appreciation to where food comes from. Sometimes I make a "plate" of food for lunch with assorted meats, cheeses, vegetables, hummus, pickles, etc. that I find in the fridge. For entertaining, you can't go wrong with an elevated version of that with fresh olives, nice cheeses, crackers and crusty bread. Espuna Tapas Essentials were kind enough to send me a few selections from their Tapas Essentials line to sample. 

Espuna Tapas Essentials

Espuna launched the collection in Ontario and Quebec in December. Their line of authentic Spanish tapas and cured meats includes 15 varieties of tapas, some of which are ready-to-serve and heat-to-serve. The Spanish company is family-owned dating back to 1947. Espuna sent me chorizo salami and original salami, as well as original salami canitas, chorizo canitas and salami canitas. For the salamis, they recommended slicing and serving in a small bowl with mini toasts or bread sticks. When you have beautiful products, it is imperative to plate them equally as nice, and this is something I struggle with sometimes. I cut up the some of the meats into smaller pieces and served with olives, cheese and crackers. 

Espuna Tapas Essentials

The Spanish term "tapas" actually used to mean "cover" or "lid" which was a slice of meat or bread that covered your wine to keep it free of dust. Now, it refers to light meals, small plates or an appetizer served with drinks. I usually know which cheeses to buy if I want to make a nice cheese plate, however, I never know which types of cured meats are the "right" ones to impress people. It is a whole new territory of snacking that I enjoyed exploring. 
Tapas platter

Normally, I am not a big fan of chorizo. I find it too spicy and overpowering. The Espuna chorizo was quite mild and had a nice, deep red colour. I was expecting the canitas to taste like "pepperettes." They are obviously much nicer than those and pack a lot of flavour punch for such thin sticks. I did prefer the salami canitas over the chorizo canitas. Like most cured meats, they can be salty, so I find I need to only eat a few at a time or balance it all out with cheese or something neutral. One thing I did love--which I'm not sure if I was supposed to do--is cut up the meats to use in cooking. I used some of them on a homemade pizza and more in a quiche. I almost preferred the tapas cooked and warmed. Just goes to show how versatile they are and how many ways you can serve them.

Homemade pizza with sausage

Last weekend we had friends staying for the weekend, so it was the perfect time to bring out some tapas, drink some wine and sit by the fireplace. As much as I love having people come to visit, I wonder how people with Airbnb's host people all the time. From cooking to cleaning and organizing things to do, it is fun, but sometimes tiring. Along with some relaxing, movie watching and chatting, we made time to check out some Ottawa hot spots because no trip is complete without checking out some local food. I bought a half dozen donuts from Suzy Q donuts and some bread from Art Is In Bakery beforehand. Then we went back to Art Is In to stock up on more supplies (i.e croissants and bread). 

House of Targ Ottawa

One of those local hot spots that I have wanted to go to forever was House of Targ. It is a bar, live music venue and pinball and classic arcade. You would think that kind of place would be hopping on Friday and Saturday nights (and it usually is) and would not expect it to be a happening hangout on a Sunday morning. They also do Sunday brunch along with arcade games. I didn't know what to expect as I had never been there before, so at first I was a little hesitant taking friends there for Sunday brunch. I was relieved that so many other people--especially families--were loving the vibe and the brunch. House of Targ's food speciality is perogies and the brunch came with some of the delicious perogies as well as kolbassa sausage (photo from Instagram).

House of Targ brunch

I have this knack for taking people to weird and wonderful places when they are in town. Thankfully it was a big hit. That night we went for dinner at Two Six Ate for half-price bottles of wine and shared a feast of chicken confit poutine, foie burgers, pasta and more. We had a few dinners at home cooked by yours truly, including chicken drumsticks, sesame noodle salad and an Asian-inspired green salad. Seriously, if you stay at my house, you will be fed well. 

Spinach salad

On Sunday night we got back from dinner in time to watch the Academy Awards with some tapas. I printed out some Oscar ballots and had everyone fill them out with their guesses. Overall it was a dun weekend. Espuna definitely helped me out with the tapas. My personal tips for entertaining are to include some downtime in the plans, make sure guests are comfortable and have everything they need. If they are from out of town, show them some cool things that tourists might not know about and obviously, wine and dine them well!

Tapas

Disclosure: I received free samples of Espuna Tapas Essentials for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own based on my own experiences.

22.2.16

Valentine's Day Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Valentine's Day cupcakes

Valentine's Day is one of those occasions like New Years Eve that makes you stress out unnecessarily. You stress out if you end up not doing anything and you stress out about what you are doing: Is it perfect? Will I have fun? Did I buy the right gift/drink/food items? "Oh my god, this is a lot of pressure for a holiday that is not a real holiday!" In the end, it doesn't really matter or have to be perfect. For instance, I had grand ideas to make cupcakes and decorate them nicely with candy and chocolates. As I was making the cupcake batter and scooping the batter into the muffin pan, I put the pan into the oven and realized the oven was not warm and the light was not even on; it stopped working all together.

Valentine's Day cupcakes with buttercream icing

There is a reason sometimes that people think millennials cannot do anything practical. I tried switching it on and off again, unplugging it and plugging it back in and generally trying to see if it would magically turn back on again, thinking to myself "is there an Uber-type service for this?" and "What YouTube videos can I watch to figure this out?" I had a dozen cupcakes ready to go and no way to bake them. Knowing it probably wouldn't get fixed before the weekend and I didn't have time to take them over to someone else's oven, I googled how to freeze the batter. Yes, you can freeze cupcake batter. All you do is either freeze the batter in a ziploc bag or already in the cupcake liners. Then when you want to bake the cupcakes, allow the batter to thaw slightly and bake for a few extra minutes. 

Sainte Adele Quebec

After a phone call to the landlord, it ended up that some switch must have been wiggled and after that it started working again. No trip to the hardware store or visit from the handy person was needed. The cupcakes were baked and I also managed to roast the two whole chickens we bought on sale that week, so the crisis was averted. 

The only reason I thought we should do something special for this particular Valentine's Day weekend is because we needed a weekend getaway. Seriously, the winter gets to you and with no destination to warmer far off places tentatively booked until later this year, I was alright with just a little change of scenery. As is our tendency to book things last minute, many of the hotels in the area we were looking (near Mont Tremblant and close enough to Montreal and Ottawa) were all booked. The one that had vacancy for a long weekend that also happens to be Valentine's Day weekend, and a long weekend in Canada with Family Day weekend, was Hotel Le Chantecler in Quebec. 

Hotel Le Chantecler Quebec

It was also the coldest weekend of the year. The low was minus 35 to 40 degrees celsius on Saturday. Look at the happiness of enjoying the weekend (i.e bitter pain from the cold) in our faces. I didn't realize the sheer amount of skiing around that area of Quebec. It is the Laurentians after all, which has some of the best skiing in the world and all of the amenities of world-class ski resorts and towns. To be honest, if I were at home I would have probably stayed inside all weekend. We decided to skip the skiing all together because of the cold and thought we should at least attempt one outdoor activity. 


The Hotel Le Chantecler, built in 1938, sits on top of a hill overlooking a lake view, which is probably lovely in the summer. We ventured down the hill to the lake to check out the skating. The lake was a nice, smooth skating surface with a figure eight-like track around the lake and a warming cabin at one end. Plus we were able to get a nice view of the entire hotel from the lake. Even with about four layers of clothes on, as well as a hat, hood and scarf, it was still so cold that you couldn't actually comprehend how cold it was. It's like when you don't realize you're getting dehydrated when it's hot outside and you know it is going you're going to hurt later. After walking and skating for about an hour, that was enough outdoors time for the day.


The room itself was quite nice, if a little basic, keeping in mind the hotel is an older, cabin-style building. That also means creaky floors and paper thin walls, so there was quite a lot of noise from the hallway and all that. I suppose that's the charm of an older hotel. Sometimes I find these kinds of hotels cozier and more comfortable than something that is so new and modern that I feel like I'm sleeping in a conference room. For the price, I was happy with the room and the hotel itself, as well as the amenities. On the first night, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant Namos with standard hotel restaurant food and drinks and live piano music.  

Hotel Le Chantecler

After working up an appetite with skating it was time to continue the full Quebec experience with an authentic Quebecois lunch at Restaurant Au Petit Poucet in Val-David--the next town over from Sainte Adele. There are a serious number of restaurants nearby for "apres-ski" meals, including all of the standard Canadian chain restaurants and even St. Hubert chicken. As we waited for a table, we enjoyed complimentary hot chocolate and coffee and browsed their gift shop with homemade jellies, maple syrup treats and take away tourtieres. This was the place for a hearty, homemade meal in a rustic chalet with roaring fireplaces and was so perfectly what I wanted at that moment. 

Restaurant Au Petit Poucet

In case you're not familiar, "tourtiere" is Quebec's version of the meat pie that is a staple in many cultures usually made with veal, beef, pork, game or all of the above. Mike had the "Authentic Quebec Meal" with smoked ham, meat pie, baked beans and home fried potatoes. You can't get anymore authentic than this meal. With bitter cold weather, it was all we needed to warm up and fill our bellies. 

Restaurant Au Petit Poucet Quebec

I had the "Le Savoie" sandwich with smoked ham, liver pate, swiss cheese and dijon mustard. I don't know if the photo captures the sheer size and layers of meat and pate. This time of year is still early for maple syrup sugar shacks, which is another Quebec experience I would like to try at some point. If I was skiing all morning, I would love to warm up at this restaurant for lunch. I don't know how much skiing I would do afterwards though. 

Restaurant Au Petit Poucet Quebec

Back to the cupcakes and the special treat that was my "Valentine's Day gift." The cupcakes were inspired by a few different images I found on Pinterest. They were supposed to be "pink velvet." As you can see, the colour baked right out of them. I added red food colouring to the buttercream icing, added some "conversation heart" candies and got creative with chocolate. 

"Love" cupcakes with chocolate

Pink Velvet Cupcakes (from Taste of Home)

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice added)
A few drops of red food colouring

cupcakes with strawberry jam filling

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and food colouring until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla.
2. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternating with adding the buttermilk.
3. Fill a paper-lined muffin tin with the batter about 2/3 full. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before filling. 

cupcakes with pink buttercream icing

For the filling, I scooped a little hole out of the top of the cupcake with a melon baller. Then I added a blob of strawberry jam and put the little piece that I scooped out back on top. Since I iced the cupcakes, you don't see the top that I took off anyway. Alternatively, there are "cupcake filling" tools or you can bake the filling into the cupcakes. I like adding filling because it adds a little extra texture besides cake. The icing is the standard Wilton buttercream icing recipe. 

cupcake filling

cupcakes

The chocolate work was inspired by these cupcakes and these ones. All I did was melt chocolate and fill it in a piping bag. I piped out hearts, words (and blobs to practice) onto parchment paper and put them in the freezer overnight. Then I carefully peeled them off the paper and used the shapes to decorate the cupcakes. It's something I've never done before and the chocolate, as well as the cupcakes, seemed to work out without (hardly) any meltdowns. 


Valentine's Day pink cupcakes

5.2.16

Marbled Pink Valentine's Day Cookies

Marbled sugar cookies

There are two types of people when it comes to weekends. The first is the type that refuses to do anything and chooses to soak up that precious free time from a long work week. This type thinks of weekends as optimal nothingness. Then there are the weekend "go-getters." The ones who take full use of those two days and packs in as much as possible with activities, trips and errands. Depending on the week, I usually fall into one of these two categories. Sometimes I want a weekend of nothing and other times I want to go out and do things. This past weekend I felt like I hadn't had pure weekend time in awhile, so I took advantage of it to do some fun things.


One stop was the National Gallery of Canada. If you live in Ottawa, you have to at least claim you have been to most of the museums in the city. I normally save the museum trips for when people come to visit. This time it was nice to go on a leisurely stroll around the gallery and see the collection, as well as the special exhibit of Monet paintings on view until February 15. As well as the Monets, the gallery has their own collection of paintings by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Van Gough and Edgar Degas. 

National Gallery Ottawa

The building itself is a work of art with grand windows overlooking the Parliament buildings, as well as amazing courtyards and arches inside to sit and admire while you take a rest from looking at art. The galleries themselves contain Canadian, contemporary, American, Inuit and European art and I was thoroughly impressed with the scope of the collection. I have now visited the Museum of Nature, Museum of History, National Gallery and the Museum of Science and Technology (three of them since living in Ottawa). 

National Gallery of Canada Ottawa

Because we're crazy enough to do these things during one of the busiest times of the winter in Ottawa--Winterlude--we also went skating on the Rideau Canal. This was our second time going this year. We went for a quick evening skate on the second day it opened and last Saturday was the first chance to enjoy (or battle) the crowds in the afternoon. Now that I'm used to skating on the canal--I'm getting to be a pro at it, seriously--I forgot how neat it is for people trying it for the first time. My endurance has gotten better too and I can skate for 4 or 5 kms no problem. 

Skating on the Rideau Canal

This year they added some art underneath one of the bridges from Library and Archives Canada. The collection represents 100 years of women's suffrage and highlights famous women through Canada's history. You might as well get some culture in between skating, sipping apple cider eating Beavertails. I will miss all of this stuff when we move from Ottawa. Yes, that's a hint that we sadly may not be here for much longer. 

Winterlude Ottawa

After all of that, we treated ourselves to dinner out at Town restaurant on Elgin Street. Town is a cozy little place that serves locally sourced casual food with love. They serve a mix of small and large plates, cheese sharing plates and rustic, Italian food. We started with a refreshing beetroot tartare with creme fraiche followed by a pork ragu and their famous ricotta stuffed meatballs with polenta and cheese. I am still drooling over those meatballs. They were still quite light, but hearty, with the perfect amount of seasoning and cheese. For dessert, we shared the Meyer lemon tart with marshmallows and cream. It was such a nice, satisfying dinner with the right amount of food for two people and a cozy and not too pretentious atmosphere. 


I have to follow a nice dinner and afternoon out with something else romantic. Just like Christmas, I start my holiday baking in advance. I sometimes test a few recipes out or embrace the season and make a few different things celebrating the time of year. My first Valentine's Day dessert this year was these marbled heart sugar cookies definitely inspired by Baked by Rachel. This is one of the only times of the year I can go crazy with red food colouring for a purpose: all the red things! 

pink marbled sugar cookies

Marbled Pink Valentine's Day Cookies
Recipe by Baked by Rachel

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
Red food colouring


Directions:

1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter.
2. Mix in the egg and vanilla followed by the salt and baking powder.
3. Gradually mix in the flour and mix until fully combined.
4. Divide the dough in half and add red food colouring to one half. Mix until the colour does not streak.
5. Chill the dough in plastic wrap in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
6. Take the dough out of the fridge and take off small pinches of the red dough and add it into the white dough until both are combined. Do not over mix or the colour will blend together. 

pink heart cookies

7. Roll out the dough and cut out the desired shapes. Space out the shapes onto a baking sheet.
8. Freeze the shapes on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.
10. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. 

Valentine's Day marbled cookies

This is a fun recipe that lets you get creative with mixing coloured doughs. My Mom used to make similar cookies at Christmas by twisting pink and white cookie dough to make swirled candy cane cookies. Keep in mind the colour will lighten slightly after cooking.

13.1.16

Cranberry Bliss Bars and a Christmas Recap

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Let this be a warning to you to be careful about some of the recipes you find online. During my holiday baking bonanza, I bookmarked a ton of recipes for cookies and sweet treats. I don't know if it is somehow an odds games, as in the more recipes you find means you will have more total failures, or if it was purely random chance. Let me tell you, I had some complete flops. It started when I tried to find recipes for "Cranberry Bliss Bars," which are those delicious white chocolate bars you can find at Starbucks. Not naming names, the first recipe I tried was a complete failure. The bars were soggy in the middle and burnt on the outside. Was it my baking conditions or the failure of the recipe itself? I tried a different recipe that called for a different combination of eggs, flour and sugar, and somehow they turned out completely fine.

Christmas cookies

Another recipe I found for "shortbread cookies" called for granulated sugar instead of icing sugar and 2 cups of butter. I should have known that one would end up being a melted butter mess of "cookies." An enticing photograph doesn't necessarily mean the recipe will turn out in your own kitchen. Maybe it is the fault of whomever tries the recipe or maybe it is actually the fault of the food blog? This is why recipe testing is so important. What do you think? I did have many holiday baking successes, such as the Cranberry Bliss Bars in this post that were wonderful (good verified recipe further down the page) and some great cookie recipes like chocolate peppermint ganache cookies (pictured left) and sprinkle sugar cookies (pictured right). Since this is a holiday recap post I will stop being such a downer and move on to more positive things. Fla-ver Candies sent me a sample of some of their artisanal candies to try because you can never go wrong with more candy over the holidays. 

Flaver candies

Fla-ver candies are artisan crafted with natural flavours and low in calories. A 25g bag only has about 95 calories with big bursts of flavours. They are good to impress foodie friends with the interesting flavours, such as popcorn, pineapple jalapeno, or lime chipotle. Just make sure to warn your friends about the spicy flavours! The pineapple jalapeno flavour was actually really spicy. Fla-ver candies would make a neat stocking stuffer or as a "taste test" exercise at a holiday party. Plus they look neat in glass bowls, on candy platters or a in a special Fla-ver dispenser

Flaver candies

I took the cherry flavour for myself and liked the little bursts of flavour. I would compare them to "Nerds" candies with slightly more flavour. I'm not sure I would voluntarily buy some of the other flavours myself, since I don't like chipotle or super spicy things. The candies are a neat foray into interesting flavours you wouldn't normally find in candies. Fla-ver candies are available to buy on their website or Amazon store

Flaver candies

Just like I didn't start this holiday recap like a regular holiday recap, this year's Christmas didn't feel like every other Christmas. As much as the holidays are about joy, peace and happiness, it is strange when those things are turned upside down. My Mom was in hospital for most of December and she was luckily discharged a few days before Christmas. This made the holidays feel a little different because she was not quite her active self and obviously couldn't do the normal holiday prep activities. For me, this made celebrating at a distance different too because I knew my Mom and Dad weren't having a regular old Christmas; it was harder for me to enjoy it when I knew other people were struggling. I saw them for a few days before Christmas and then went back to Ottawa for actual Christmas.

Christmas tree

Other people struggle around Christmas too--people that don't have very much or are missing family to celebrate with--so this made me more aware of those situations too. We tried to make the best of the situation, as I bet many other people also do, by adding some normalcy and traditions to the celebrations. Getting a real Christmas tree is one of those things we have to do every year. It signals the beginning of the season by decorating it, and seeing a lovely tree every day as a reminder of holiday joy. I also love the glow of the lights and cozying up on the couch next to it while watching a Christmas movie.

Christmas place setting

For Christmas Eve dinner, I made salmon with fennel, onions and cranberries based on this Christmas Salmon recipe. On the side I made roasted Brussel sprouts and butternut squash. Of course, as is holiday tradition, every meal starts with a cheese platter albeit a smaller selection than previous years. The biggest success was the Cranberry Bliss Bars for dessert and for bringing over to the in-law's and friend's houses. Everyone seemed to love them: "It's like the Starbucks bars, right?!" 

Cranberry Bliss Bars
Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Icing:

1 cup white chocolate, melted
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8 pan with foil or spray the pan with cooking oil.
2. In a medium bowl, microwave the butter for about 1 minute. Allow the butter to cool slightly, and then add the egg, brown sugar and vanilla.
3. Add the flour and salt and then fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Pour the batter into the baking pan.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until the centre is set and the edges are golden brown. Allow the bars to cool before frosting.
5. For the frosting: In a stand mixer, add the cream cheese, about 3/4 cup of the melted white chocolate, the icing sugar and vanilla, and beat on high for 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Ice the top of the bars and then sprinkle the cranberries on top. Then drizzle the bars with the remaining white chocolate. 

White chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies

This recipe was adapted from Averie Cooks. I cut the bars up and then iced them individually instead of icing the whole slab. Alternatively, you could ice the whole slab and then cut the bars up after they have cooled. Another baking success were these white chocolate dipped cranberry oatmeal cookies.


If you feel like there is a common theme with my holiday baking--cranberries, white chocolate and sprinkles--it is merely because I bought way too much of those items at Bulk Barn. Even my husband who does not like white chocolate liked the bliss bars and the white chocolate cookies. Even if there were a few hiccups and shaky starts to December, I still remembered what is important: family. All of the other stuff, although nice to have for that "Christmas feeling" is optional.

Disclosure: I received free samples of Fla-ver candies for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own based on my own experiences.

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