Category Archives: Food

chocolate covered peanut butter balls

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

So, I was rushing to get it all done and I missed reading all of the instructions. Ooops.

Sometimes, that can be a problem. Turns out it wasn’t in this case. So I’m here to tell you to just throw it all in together and save yourself the time so you can bank a little of it for snuggle time with your kids or an extra few minutes with the hubby (or…some time ALONE).

chocolate covered peanut butter balls

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1/2 C creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp salted butter, softened
1C+ powdered sugar (icing sugar)
chocolate to melt for coating (I use Merckens chocolate wafers. You could also use chocolate chips.)

Instructions

(What the recipe said to do…)

Mix peanut butter and butter together in a mixing bowl. Gradually stir in powdered sugar until combined well into a dough ball. If needed, add more powdered sugar a little at a time until mixture holds together in a large ball.

Cover and refrigerate to let peanut butter dough firm up, about 15 minutes. (You can also cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to form balls.)

With cold hands, shape dough into small balls and place on a baking sheet; refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow to firm up again. (The heat from your hands will make them soft.)

Melt chocolate and dip cold peanut butter balls, one at a time, into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper or parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate until set and ready to serve.

chocolate covered peanut butter balls

chocolate covered peanut butter balls

chocolate covered peanut butter balls

chocolate covered peanut butter balls

chocolate covered peanut butter balls

(What I did…)

Mix peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl until combined well into a dough ball. If needed, add more powdered sugar a little at a time until mixture holds together in a large ball.

Cover and refrigerate to let peanut butter dough firm up, about 15 minutes. (You can also cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to form balls.)

Shape dough into small balls and place on a baking sheet; refrigerate some more to allow to firm up again. (The heat from your hands will make them soft.)

Melt chocolate and dip cold peanut butter balls, one at a time, into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper or parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate until set and ready to serve. I used a wooden skewer to dip them (actually, I also used a spoon and dripped the chocolate over the peanut butter balls) and touch them up.

These were a hit with everyone this Christmas. I added them to my Christmas goody trays and put out platters of them with other chocolate goodies. It’s pretty hard to beat chocolate and peanut butter together.

Stovetop Beef Stew

One Pot Stove-top Beef Stew

Dinner this time of year can be challenging. There are a lot of things to do as we prepare for Christmas.

Some of those things even involve slowing down and enjoying the season as it happens.

But to do that slowing down thing, and to get all the other things done, meal planning and prep sometimes takes a backseat.

Basically, we gotta get fed to keep moving. But time is of the essence.

Not knowing what to do with it, I took a pound of cubed beef out of the freezer this morning. I figured inspiration would hit me sometime around 4:15pm—an hour and 15 minutes before we had to leave the house for the kids’ school Christmas concert (or Winter Concert as the school calls it, because, apparently, they aren’t even supposed to say “holiday” concert anymore).

I wouldn’t exactly call it inspiration, but it did hit me that the day was quickly approaching the four o’clock hour and I hadn’t done anything with that beef.

Christmas concert nights are always pretty late nights, so I wanted something that left minimal clean-up.

Here it is…beef stew on the stove in one pan. I didn’t even use a cutting board to cut up the vegetables. I cut them up over the pot.

Stovetop Beef Stew

Super easy to make, and not just because it had minimal ingredients and cooked up fast. But because it required very little thinking and almost no planning (except that the meat had to be defrosted).

Ingredients

1 lb cubed beef or stewing beef
1/2 a medium onion cut into large pieces
1 large potato cut into large cubes
2 medium carrots peeled and cut into one inch pieces
2 celery stalks cut into one inch pieces
1 and 3/4 cups of beef stock (or two cups depending on how thick you want it to turn out)
Corn starch
Oil

Directions

Add a splash of oil to the pot, toss in the beef and a couple of tablespoons of corn starch. Stir to coat the beef. Let the beef cook for a couple of minutes until brown.

Add the onion and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the carrots, celery and potato and another tablespoon of cornstarch. Stir to coat the veggies, then add the beef broth. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat, stirring occasionally. Cooking time is roughly 20 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to cook for a few more minutes until it thickens. Stir occasionally. (I added a sprinkle of oregano at this point.)

Serves four.

As beef stews go, I was told at the dinner table by several members of my family that this is the beef stew they like the best. I’m glad, because it’s easy and clean-up was a cinch!

Homemade oat milk with honey

Vanilla Oat Milk with Honey

I was back at the blender this morning.

We ran out of almond milk last week and the weekend got away on me, so there was no almond milk for breakfast Monday morning. Sad.

Luckily, it only takes a few turns of the blender and we had delicious vanilla almond milk once again.

It was also time for more oat milk—this time with honey as a sweetner.

All the steps were the same, except instead of adding medjool dates, I added two tablespoons of honey.

Oat milk with honey

Super easy to make. Very yummy. Try it! And let me know what you think!

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Ingredients

1 Cup of Old-fashioned Rolled Oats
3 Cups of water
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
2 Tablespoons of Honey

Instructions

Add first two ingredients to blender and blend. I have a Blendtec, so I use the Whole Juice setting (and I don’t strain my milk).

Once blended, you can strain the oats out using cheesecloth. (I skip this step because I like the creaminess that the blended oats give the milk. Plus it’s easier and less messy—huge benefits in my house.)

Add the vanilla and honey to the milk in the blender (if you’ve strained it, pour it back in the blender) and pulse 2-4 times to mix together.

Chill and serve.

Cheers!

Nancy

Oat Milk

I’ve been experimenting with my Blendtec lately; trying new milks and breads.

I’m always looking for simple and delicious. I’ve got kids, so I need to save time and make things that my kids will eat.

Almond milk was a hit with the over-four-feet-tall crowd in my house. The under-four-feet not so much. They’ll grow into it.

Peanut butter bread was a hit with everyone.

After I wrote about making almond milk, a blogger friend of mine mentioned oat milk. It certainly peaked my curiosity. It has never been on my radar before. In fact, I can’t say outright that I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m sure I had, but I just never really paid attention. All sorts of nut milks are on my list of things to make (I love nuts), but oat milk?

I do love a lot of things that are made with oats, though, like oatmeal, oatmeal cookies (my mom’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are the best!), homemade granola bars, oat crusted fish, oat crusted chicken and so on. But I’d never really considered oat milk before.

I’m always up for something new, though. So today, oat milk was it.

My friend sent me a link to a blog that had a recipe for it. I followed the recipe and it turned out great.

It meets all my criteria: simple, delicious, minimal fuss. There’s no planning ahead with this except that it’s better cold, so you have to refrigerate it once it’s made and waiting for it to get cold takes some patience. But to make it, you don’t have to remember to soak the oats like you do when you make almond milk.

You can drink this sweetened or not. Since oats are kind of sweet once soaked in liquid, I wasn’t planning on sweetening the milk, but I thought I should give it a try just to see what it was like.

I bought some old fashioned rolled oats at the Bulk Barn (I only had quick oats at home to make breakfast in a flash for me and the kids). I also picked up the pitted and dried medjool dates at the Bulk Barn. (Thought I’d use what was called for in the recipe rather than honey or agave syrup, which are my two go-to liquid sweeteners.) (I’ll try it with honey next time I make it…because there will be a next time.)

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The easy part comes next:

Pour the three cups of water and the one cup of oats into the Blendtec and hit Whole Juice.

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It blends up nicely. It looks very creamy.

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I then poured the liquefied oats through my cloth strainer. (I will try using cheesecloth next time. The oats got so well-blended in the Blendtec that the liquid just wouldn’t strain through my cloth the way it does with almond milk.)

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The recipe suggested you could drink the oat milk unstrained if you like it thicker. I was pretty sure that a thicker milk wouldn’t bother me, but I like to try recipes exactly as written the first time, then the next time I will stray from the prescribed method. Anyway, what happened was I couldn’t squeeze the liquid through the cloth with all those finely ground oats in the bottom of the cloth, so I just dumped it all back into the blender and added the dates and vanilla and blended it again on the Whole Juice setting. (You can kind of see the film of blended oats in the cloth. It took a good five minutes of rinsing the cloth under hot water to get rid of the oatmeal paste. Not a bit deal…just saying.)

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It turned out great. Rich, thick, creamy, not too sweet.

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With a less powerful blender, you probably would want to strain it a bit. And next time I make it, I will strain it using cheesecloth to see what the difference is.

I make our breakfast oatmeal using milk, not water. I can see this oat milk being a great liquid to use in place of milk for making oatmeal because it’s all the same flavour and oh so creamy.

Thanks to Being Mummy at elskenewman.com for the suggested recipe! It was simple and cheap to make. You should give it a try!

Cheers!

Nancy

Peanut Butter Bread

I made almond milk again yesterday. My process is improving; not so much mess. And I have a much better system for straining the almond meal. So simple and easy to manage. It’s a real treat to make almond milk now.

And how did making almond milk lead to peanut butter bread you may ask?

Well, they are both Blendtec recipes. I went to my recipe book to get the quantities for my almond milk and when I opened the book it opened to the Peanut Butter Bread recipe.

Peanut Butter Bread

It looked so simple and straightforward (and I was having one of those days where I really couldn’t get out of my own way, so simple and straightforward was definitely right up my ally). I thought I might try my hand at it later on in the day. (Well, it never happened. Call it the blahs, depression, laziness, tiredness; whatever it was, it was standing in my way and I didn’t have the strength to move it.)

So, I set my mind to it this morning, gathered the ingredients, and leaned in to make a peanut butter bread.

So simple.

I love my Blendtec for this very reason. It takes the hard work out of so many things, and leaves me feeling like I’ve accomplished something in a very short period of time.

In all it’s simplicity…

Start by greasing the loaf pan. I use coconut oil for this because it is by far the best oil to use if you don’t want your baking to stick to the pan. (It’s also pretty great for a lot of other things.) Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peanut Butter Bread

Add the first four ingredients to the WildSide Jar and blend using the batter setting.

Peanut Butter Bread

Add the last three ingredients and pulse 4-6 times. I had my doubts that blending the flour into the batter was going to work with only 4-6 pulse hits, but it did, and it worked magically.

Then I scraped the batter into the greased loaf pan and put it in the oven for 50 minutes.

Peanut Butter Bread

Peanut Butter Bread

When the timer beeped, I tested it with a toothpick and it came out a bit wet, so I put it back in for another 10 minutes and I lowered the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

And here it is…

Peanut Butter Bread

Mmm, mmm, good.

The only trouble is, the Blendtec doesn’t do dishes…

PeanutButterBread6

Almond Milk

Note: I have made a promise to myself to stop making life look so neat and tidy (without falling into the trap of being a slob). I’m going to post only pictures in my blog posts that are real life. Food pics with dirty dishes in the background, kids who are not perfect or perfectly happy. It’s time to get real. I live In Real Life and my blog should reflect that. I’m starting with this post…because making Almond Milk was messy the first time…and if it’s your first time doing something, you’re not good at it yet and it’s going to be messy, so why not show it IRL?

I’ve wanted to make almond milk for a while. A carton of it is on our grocery list every week (and it’s not cheap). Plus, I read recently that there are very few almonds in store-bought almond milk—less than 2%, based on data from a brand that is sold in the U.K. So really, what’s the point of drinking it? It’s not really almond milk anyway…and I don’t like all the other additives that give it it’s milky consistency and longer shelf-life.

So it led me to wonder, if I got off my butt and made it myself with my own almonds (raw almonds are also on our weekly grocery list), would it be milky like the stuff we get at the store and would it taste good? Also, would it be reasonably convenient to make it instead of buying it?

I’d love to say that I make everything myself and don’t eat or drink processed foods and beverages, but I have two young kids and a full-time job and there are times when I have to weigh the convenience with the health benefits. It’s called realism. I lean toward homemade, but it’s not always possible.

Time to try it.

I found the recipe for almond milk in my Blendtec book, poured one cup of almonds into a small bowl and filled the bowl with water. I let that rest overnight, eagerly anticipating a cold glass of yummy homemade almond milk.

image of a book with an almond milk recipe

The instructions are pretty straightforward. Add soaked almonds and water to Blendtec then blend.

almonds in a blender with vanilla and honey

Strain the almonds using a nut bag (or cheesecloth, which is what I used because I had some on hand and didn’t want to make the nut bag investment until I was sure this was an activity that I would do consistently).

blended almond milk

Pour the liquid back into the Blendtec and add the sweetner (the recipe called for agave nectar; I used honey because it’s what I had in the pantry), the vanilla and salt and blend for a few seconds. Pour into a cup and enjoy. You may want to pour the milk into a jug and refrigerate it for a bit before drinking if you like your milk cold. The action of the blender will heat it up a bit to slightly warmer than room temperature.

The milk was creamy, yummy and deliciously sweet (I would actually reduce whatever sweetner I use next time to about half).

Almond milk with recipe book

As predicted, my first time was messy (using cheesecloth didn’t help the mess). But I’m showing it all in its messy glory. It was easy to clean up and the cold glass of almond milk I had after, which contained a good serving of almonds and no unknown ingredients, was totally worth it.

strained almond milk in a bowl

The Blendtec recipe says the almond milk will last up to 3 days in the fridge. I think we were nearing day 5 when I drank the last glass from the jug and it was still fine.

But what to do with all that almond meal that you strain out of the milk? This had always been my main reason for not making almond milk. It seemed to me to be such a waste of a good part of the almond.

But I learned that you can dry the almond meal out and roast it in your oven the way that you do breadcrumbs and then put it back in the Blendtec to pulverize it into almond flour. So, no excuses now. Almond milk is easy to make and almond flour is easy to make, so all parts are used and all parts are enjoyed.

I decided to skip buying a nut milk bag, though. The idea of scraping almond meal out of the seams of the bag really didn’t appeal to me. I found this idea over at EastingVibrantly.com. Easy Breezy.

Do you make any kind of nut milk? What do you do with the leftover almond meal?

**Update: After publishing this post, I was browsing around the Internet and found this post about maximizing the cup of almonds in the almond milk recipe and getting the most bang for your almond buck. Anything you can do to stretch that dollar.

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Homemade Cookies

I’m always on the lookout for a good recipe. To qualify as “good” in my books a recipe needs to be easy enough (I’m no slouch, but I hate slaving over a recipe or trekking all over the city hunting down ingredients) and very tasty. Not a lot to qualify for the status of “good”.

If I’m cooking a meal, I also want it to be healthy. If it’s a dessert, well, we all need to treat ourselves, so I don’t go overboard on the “healthy” qualification for dessert. Bonus if it is, but it doesn’t have to be. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and if everything is good for you but tastes like cardboard, where’s the enjoyment in that?

I’ve made tons of chocolate chip cookie recipes. Some have been super easy but not so tasty. Others have been a ton of work and pretty tasty, but I chucked those recipes because I knew I would never make them again.

However, I think I have hit on my “go-to” chocolate chip cookie recipe from this day forward.

I found it on Allrecipes.com (a favourite site of mine for great cooking and baking ideas). The cookie recipe is aptly named Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. (I can be a sucker for good marketing and a simple message.)

There’s a little bit of elbow grease needed if you’re hand mixing the ingredients like I did, but you could probably do this recipe in a stand mixer or food processor (just not the chocolate chip part—fold in the chocolate chips after you mix the dough).

besteverchocchipcookies2

There’s a fair bit of sugar (2 cups), but worth it in the taste; and not just sweetness, but molassesy flavour from the brown sugar. (Remember; everything in moderation. If you think you might sit down and a eat a whole plate of these, reduce the sugar—I recommend reducing the white. You won’t see much difference in flavour or texture. I do this often with cookie and cake recipes so that my kids—who consume most of my baked goods—don’t bounce off the walls from sugar highs.)

besteverchocchipcookies

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (I skipped this because my kids don’t like nuts)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.

I baked them for 8 minutes because my oven runs really hot. They came out slightly crispy around the edges and soft and chewy in the middle. So good.

If you make them, come back and tell me how they turned out!

Happy baking!