Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

100_2977Tis the season when there are a LOT of recipes floating around the Internet which contain mainly sugar. I’ve been resisting and trying to eat lots of veggies, but sometimes a recipe comes along that is just too tempting…

It was also one of my best friend’s birthdays a couple weeks ago. When we were in high school, I made her fudge every year for her birthday. We live in different cities now so that’s harder to do these days, but I knew we were going to cross paths this weekend so I gave in to temptation and made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough fudge for her. She doesn’t eat dairy, so I replaced the butter with vegan margarine and the cream with almond milk. The substitutions worked out taste-wise, but the fudge is quite soft, perhaps because of the lower fat content. In the future, I might add more icing sugar if I’m sticking with the vegan version of this recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge
Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Ingredients

For the Fudge Base:

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half, milk or cream (I used almond milk)
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar (I used five and could have used more)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (for topping the fudge)

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half, cream or milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Line a 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. To make the fudge base: combine the brown sugar, butter, salt and cream/milk in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Stir until the everything is combined and smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Add the icing sugar one cup at a time, sifting it first, until the mixture is very thick. Set aside.
  3. To make the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, combine butter/margarine and sugars, whisking them until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla, salt and cream/milk. Mix in the flour until just combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  4. Once the fudge base and cookie dough are made, mix them together to combine. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining mini chocolate chips on top and press them into the batter. Chill until set, 3-4 hours, before cutting into pieces.
  5. The fudge can be made ahead and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  6. Serve and enjoy!
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Quarter Century Party

DSC00643I turned 25 on Friday. Twenty-five! One of my friends jokes that I go through an “annual aging crisis”, and it’s completely true. This year it wasn’t too bad, and we had a great party to celebrate. When I was planning my wedding, I found this wonderful idea for a cupcake topping bar. It was too complicated to plan for the wedding but this weekend… it finally happened!

I made three different types of cupcakes (mint chocolate, cookies and cream and apple cider, all from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), peppermint chocolate sauce, and butterscotch sauce, and laid out M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, berries, chocolate cookie crumbs and rainbow sprinkles. It was all delicious. I also served a bunch of savory treats, all of which will make an appearance on this blog soon; they deserve their own posts.

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I adapted the directions from Joy the Baker’s cake banner tutorial to make a larger banner for the cupcake topping bar. It’s super easy to do!

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Finally, I made tissue paper flowers to decorate the table and the hallway. I used this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess, and once you figure out what you’re doing, they’re easy to make as well! I attached the twine to chopsticks to make little stems to put in vases, but you could also hang them or place them wherever you like.

It was a beautiful party with so many lovely friends. And now for Christmas!

For Kay

DSC00620Yesterday marked three years since my friend Kay died. I met her when I volunteered/she worked at the courthouse supporting criminalized women. She was so lovely and cheerful, and everyone who walked into our office was greeted with a smile and a sing-song “hello!” My favourite thing was that, no matter the weather, she always matched her shoes to her dress. She was an unwavering support to me through every part of my life when I knew her, and is the reason I went to grad school and studied social work.

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Kay was sick for awhile but by the time her cancer was discovered, it had progressed too far to be treated and she went into palliative care. My apartment was very close to the hospital, and in the short time she was there, I went and visited her a few times a week. I’d stay for hours at a time, bringing muffins and soup for her family, and flowers and music for her (she was too weak to read). I grew up listening to the Three Musical Fables in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and she loved John Rutter so I brought her a copy and we listened to it too. I still listen to it at this time of year, and now it reminds me of Kay.

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After she died, there was both a funeral and then a celebration of Kay’s life. She delighted in fancy, frilly, beautiful things, and so a hall was rented and decorated for a tea party. Anybody who wanted to could get up and talk about Kay, or share something she liked (like a song or a piece of writing). I learned as much about her at this celebration as I did over the course of our relationship; she did so many things I didn’t know about! She sang in choirs, took line-dancing classes, and had old and new friends all over the world. She lived her life with joy, light, and so much care for both herself and those around her.

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I learned a lot from Kay, and although it doesn’t come naturally, she has inspired me to push myself to be joyous and celebrate everything. When she learned she was going to die, she let go of her anger very quickly. “I have very little time left, so I might as well enjoy it!” she told us. And she did. She had visitors around the clock, so many flowers and plants she could have started a green house, a birthday party with her entire family, and even a spa night in her hospital room with her close friends. And the more I learned about Kay, the more I realized that this celebration of life and relationships was not a reaction to the prospect of death, but a continuation of how she had lived for years. Kay died two days before her birthday, and a group of us who worked with her gather every year to celebrate it.

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I made these cookies with Kay in mind. They require great care and concentration to make, and are so beautiful and dainty. Enjoy them with loved ones, bring them to a holiday cookie exchange (as I am!), or curl up with one and a cup of tea if you need a moment to just breathe and be still. They’ll help, I promise.

Linzer Cookies
Source: the back of the package of the Wilton Linzer Cut-Outs that I used to make these!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup finely ground almonds (I ground mine in my small food processor)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • Icing sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, almonds and cinnamon and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix only until incorporated. Divide the dough into two pieces and press into small disks (about 1 inch thick). Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or until firm enough to roll.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the disks of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut an equal number of rounds with a linzer cutter* with an insert and without one (ie. You need a solid cookie – no shape cut in the centre of it – for the bottom of the cookie sandwich. You then need a cookie with a shape cut in the centre of it to put on top).
  4. Carefully transfer cookies to parchment paper covered baking sheets (I had to use a knife to slide under them to unstick them from the counter; the lesson here is to flour your surface well enough.) and bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are light golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for a couple minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
  5. Once the cookies are completely cooled, flip the “bottom” cookies over and spread about a teaspoon of jam on the centre of each cookie. Dust the “top” cookies with icing sugar (I used a tea sieve) and gently sandwich cookies together.

*I don’t think you actually need a linzer press. You could use a regular cookie cutter and then a smaller cookie cutter to cut small shapes in half of them.

Wedding Cupcakes!

Hannah_Nina_WeddingIt sometimes hard to believe our wedding had come and gone. All that baking! All those cupcakes! There was something for everyone, and it was all delicious. Our cake was a chocolate champagne cake with pink buttercream, and the source was Booze Cakes, which I can’t recommend enough!

100_2759For our vegan guests, we had a couple options. The first was lime margarita cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I omitted the tequila in the frosting because it was just too much, but it’s great in the cupcakes, cooked off a bit but still giving it a bite.

100_2761We also had vegan lemon raspberry cupcakes, inspired by the lemon gem cupcakes in Vegan with a Vengeance.

100_2758For our gluten-free guests, we had strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I’ve had a lot of gluten-free baking in my time, and no one does it better than Joy the Baker.

100_2760Finally, our favourite: Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream cupcakes from Annie’s Eats! You start by adding Guinness to the chocolate cupcake batter. Bake ’em, hollow out the tops, and add a little scoop of ganache filling made with Bailey’s. Top them with Bailey’s buttercream frosting and WOW. I’ve also a full cake with this recipe, and it’s amazing!

Apple and Spinach Salad + Green Bean, Red Quinoa and Hazelnut Salad

100_2948I’m still in the throes of my detox diet; I’m in the “food reintegration” stage now, where I reintroduce foods one by one and eat as much of them as possible for one day, and then go back to the detox diet for another day or two, watching for reactions the whole time. So far, soy and eggs are not my friends.¬† I’ve settled into a rhythm of detox diet cooking, and reintegration days keep me from getting bored (I struggled with this earlier). I have 16 more days of this, and then my food life returns to normal, hopefully with few intolerances!

In the meantime, I have two delicious salads for you! I think both are perfect for any season, and they both have a boost of protein with nuts and quinoa. The original recipe for the spinach one calls for sugar and feta, neither of which I can eat right now, so I just omitted them and it was still delicious. I know from past experience with this recipe that the feta is delicious, and goat cheese is quite a wonderful substitution…

Pictured above with these salads is caramelized cauliflower, which has been my saving grace over the detox.

Apple and Spinach Salad
Source: Annie’s Eats

Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar (I used the former)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • A pinch of paprika

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the salad:

  • 3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 10 oz baby spinach, washed and dried
  • 2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced

Directions

  1. For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together. You can make this in advance and store it in the fridge, but don’t forget to remove it from the fridge about 20 minutes before you’d like to serve it (the oil will solidify a bit in the cold).
  2. Toss the salad ingredients together and add the dressing, tossing again to coat everything evenly.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

 

Green Bean, Red Quinoa and Hazelnut SaladSource: Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (I only had regular red balsamic vinegar, so I used it and it was just fine)
  • 2 tsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa (any colour works – this just looked prettiest!), rinsed in a sieve
  • 1 lb green beans, ends trimmed
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. For the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small food processor or blender and whirl to combine. Set aside.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a small pot, and add the quinoa. Cover and turn the heat down to a low simmer. Let it sit like this for about 20 minutes; all the water should be absorbed and the quinoa should be light and fluffy. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  3. Blanch or steam the green beans until just barely softened. Drain and add the beans to the quinoa. Add the green onions, hazelnuts and as much dressing you’d like. Toss to combine, and serve at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!