Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Warm Maple, Bacon, and Cheddar Dip

In addition to the spinach and feta puff pastry cups I made for my girls night, I also made this decadent dip. I was really counting on there being leftovers for me to enjoy the next day but the entire dish was cleaned out by the time everyone left. I think most people (that I know anyway) would agree that you can never go wrong when there's bacon involved.

Warm Maple, Bacon, and Cheddar Dip
modified from
serves a crowd
  • 1 package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 8 to 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used extra old)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
Combine the cream cheese, mayo, and maple syrup. I would recommend a hand mixer or stand mixer for this. I did it by hand and it took forever to get everything incorporated.

Mix in the bacon, shredded cheese, and green onions. Smooth into an oven safe baking dish. Top with a bit more cheddar if you'd like.

Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until it's hot, golden, and bubbling. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, veggies, or all of the above.

This was absolutely delicious. If you like bacon, cheese, or creamy dips, you have to try this. Something to consider if you're looking for something to bring to a New Year's party this week.

If you're worried about the calorie content you can certainly lighten it up a bit by using light cream cheese, light mayo, and reduced fat cheddar and serving it with veggies. I don't think I'd go as far as substituting turkey bacon, but I guess you could always give it a shot. I will certainly be making this again in the not to distant future. Imagine this in the puff pastry cups!

What's your favorite decadent dip or spread to eat around the holidays?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Spinach and Feta Puff Pastry Bites

I had friends over for a little festive gathering a few weeks ago and I was trying to come up with some appetizers that I hadn't made a million times before. I had some frozen spinach in the freezer and a three pack of cream cheese in the fridge so I came up with this tasty treat. I just kind of made it up based on what I had on hand.

Spinach and Feta Puff Pastry Bites
makes 24
preheat oven to 425F
  • 1/2 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 package chopped fozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
Combine the cream cheese and mayo in a large bowl. Add the spinach and garlic and stir to combine. Stir in feta and pepper. Set aside while you prepare the puff pastry.

Unroll thawed pastry and cut into 25 2x2 inch squares. The pastry I buy (President's Choice) is usually 10x10 so it's quite easy. I always pull out the tape measure just in case. If you can't get the pastry into a square, just cut into 25 relatively even pieces.

Put each square into one well of a mini muffin tin. You'll have one square of pastry leftover. I find I always manage to mangle at least one in the process anyway.

Fill each cup with about a tablespoon of the spinach mixture. I used my trusty tablespoon scoop once again and it made the whole process really quick. At this point you can put them in the fridge until your guests arrive or throw them straight into the oven.

Bake at 425 for about 10-15 minutes until the pastry puffs and is lightly golden. Cool for a few minutes in the pan and enjoy!

This also works really well with prepared dips. I've done it with artichoke dip topped with a little mozzarella cheese. You could also use prepared spinach dip or any other dip you like and would normally serve warm. This technique is one of my go-to, super easy appetizers.

What kind of dip would you bake up in puff pastry?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chocolate Mint Crackles

These are one of my favorite holiday cookies. I discovered this chocolate mint concoction in a Better Homes and Gardens "best of" cookie book that I bought at Costco a few years ago.

For those of you familiar with Tim Horton's, I would describe these as tasting like a chocolate glaze timbit if you were to add mint to it. There's almost a cakey texture to the cookie which is what I love about them. They're crisp on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside, full of chocolate, and delicious all around.

Chocolate Mint Crackles
from the Better Homes and Gardens' The Ultimate Cookie Book
makes 36 to 48 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
  • 1 to 2 cups icing sugar for rolling

Stir together dry ingredients and set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt one cup of chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat at 30 second intervals until the chips are melted. Set aside.

With a stand mixer (or hand mixer) beat butter until fluffy. Add sugar and mix until combined. Add eggs, vanilla, and mint. Combine the melted chocolate into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix on low speed. When incorporated, add the remaining ½ cup of chocolate chips. The dough gets pretty stiff so I recommend you use a stand mixer if you've got one.
Chill the dough for an hour or more until it firms up a bit. Using a tablespoon scoop (or a spoon) roll dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Toss dough balls in icing sugar and place about 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake at 350F for about 10 to 12 minutes until the tops are cracked. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I find the easiest way to coat the cookies in the icing sugar is to put about a cup or so of sugar into a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Add the dough balls, secure the lid, and shake. You can also just put the sugar into a bowl and toss the dough around with a spoon or your hands until coated.

The finished product is best eaten within a day or two. They don't freeze particulary well because of the icing sugar, but you can make the dough balls in advance and freeze those. Thaw for a few hours in the fridge, roll in sugar, and you're good to go.

Chocolate and mint can be a polarizing combination. Do you love it or loathe it?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eggnog Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I had a few friends over last weekend and I knew I wanted to make cupcakes. The chocolate mint cupcakes from a couple of weeks ago had already been requested but I wanted to add something different, but equally Christmasy to the mix. I had noticed a link to eggnog cupcakes on Twitter so I decided to take a closer look at the recipe. Here is what I ended up with.

I modified the recipe for the cupcake from Bakers Royale and used my standby cream cheese frosting and added cinnamon and nutmeg.

Eggnog Cupcakes
modified from Eggnog Cupcakes with Spiced Rum from Bakers Royale
makes 12 cupcakes
  • 1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • splash of rum (optional)
Measure out flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside.

Combine eggnog, vanilla, and rum in a measuring cup or small bowl.

Add sugar and butter in a bowl and cream on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs in 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the eggnog and vanilla. Mix after each addition until just incorporated.

Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes from tins to cooling rack. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
modified from Martha Stewart
makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes
  • 1/2 package cream cheese (4 ounces), room temperature
  • 1/4 butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy. Mix the cinnamon and nutmeg with the icing sugar. With the mixer on low, slowly add the sugar 1/2 a cup at a time. Increase speed to high for 10 seconds after each addition has been incorporated. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated.

And here is the finished product...

I was a little heavy handed with the frosting on the first few so I had to spread the icing on the last four. I topped them off with some gingerbread man sprinkles to try and hide the messy spreading job but they didn't look quite as good as I'd hoped. All in all, I think these were pretty good. I'm not super familiar with what eggnog even tastes like on its own but these just tasted like mildly spiced vanilla cupcakes. If I were to make them again, I'd go a little heavier on the spice in the cake and definitely add more spice in the frosting. Something to consider if you take these on for yourself.   

Apologies for the lack of a staged final picture. You'll notice in the next few posts from my holiday party that I got caught up in the baking and cooking and totally forgot to properly photograph the final products. I think you can get the gist of things regardless. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

A big thank you to the ladies who sent me their cookies as part of the first annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I look forward to participating again next year!

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies from Sarah at West Wellington Veggie
Sugar Swirl Cookies from Laura at Food. Love. Happiness.

Toasted Sesame Tahini Cookies from Calantha at piecurious

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

A few months ago I came across a link for a blogger event that looked like it had the potential to be pretty interesting...

The cookie swap called for bloggers from all across the world to sign up for a holiday cookie exchange. Bloggers were matched up with three other participants in their country. We received the addresses of our matches a few weeks ago and cookies were sent out last week. 

The cookies I decided to send out to my matches (Alyssa, Liliana, and Carole) were Toblerone Shortbreads. There's a bakery here in Ottawa, Simply Biscotti, that makes a sugar/shortbread cookie with a giant Toblerone triangle in it and it's delicious. This was my attempt to recreate that cookie. I thought they would be a nice option that would probably hold up pretty well to being shipped across the country. I used the same shortbread base that I used for the cranberry shortbread last week.

Toblerone Shortbread
adapted from Martha Stewart's Icebox Shortbread
makes 48+ cookies
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 Toblerone bars, cut into triangles
With an electric or stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour, mixing just until a dough forms. 

Divide dough in half; place each half on a piece plastic wrap. Gently roll each into a 1 1/2-inch-diameter log about 12 inches long. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I sometimes shape my cookies in an empty parchment paper box to make rectangular instead of round cookies which is what I did here.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap logs; with a serrated knife, slice dough 1/4 inch thick Arrange slices, about 1 inch apart, on baking sheets. Bake 6 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and gently press a Toblerone triangle onto the top of each cookie and return to the oven for another 2 minutes until slightly golden at the edges.

Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I thought these turned out really well. The chocolate stayed slightly soft even after the cookies cooled down. Hopefully they survived the the shipping process alright. 

I thought this was a great event. The organizers did a great job and kept us all updated and  the process moving smoothly. I plan on posting later this week about the cookies I received as part of the swap. To those who received my cookies, I hope you liked them! 

If you're interested in updates about next year's cookie swap, you can go here to sign up for the mailing list.

Have you ever tried to recreate a treat from a bakery or restaurant? How did it work out?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Bark

This delicious treat is also known across the internet as "chocolate crack". I had a friend visiting from out of town this weekend and I wanted to pull together something pretty quick and delicious to share with her and this is what I chose. 

This is one of those recipes that is in SO MANY different places on the internet that it's impossible to know where it started out. This is my version of the classic recipe.

Chocolate Toffee Bark
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • one package chocolate chips
  • one box of graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped nuts
Line a large cookie sheet with foil and parchment. This makes cleaning up so much easier. Fill the sheet with graham crackers (or saltine/soda crackers) to cover the whole bottom.

Mix the butter and sugar together over medium heat until the butter melts and starts to bubble. The mixture won't really combine and come together until it starts to boil. Once it comes to a boil mix constantly for about five minutes and pour over the crackers.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 5 to 8 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let sit for a few minutes until the chocolate melts. You'll see the color change from chalky to shiny. When the chocolate's melted, spread across the top of the toffee.

Sprinkle with whatever toppings you'd like. I used chopped nuts and sea salt. I read a version of the recipe today that used crushed candy canes. Totally up to you.

Let the toffee cool a bit and then put it in the fridge until solid, about an hour. Break it up into smaller pieces and you're ready to go. I usually keep this in a large cookie tin in the fridge to keep the chocolate and toffee solid. The upside is that this stuff is delicious. The downside is that this stuff is so delicious that I can't stop eating it when it's in the house. As soon as the weekend was over I was forced to take the leftovers to work and keep them there so I wouldn't finish off the batch by myself. This is a great, easy treat to take to any holiday gathering.

Have you ever made a batch of chocolate "crack"?

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