July 24, 2011

Chocolate Mint Pots de Crème

Sometimes I do things backwards.  Instead of seeing a recipe I like and then wondering what I could make it in, I see a beautiful baking tin, pie plate, or in this case ramekin, and then I go looking for a recipe to suit it.

In this case I came across a recipe for these beautiful Pots de Crème in Sunset magazine.  I just loved the sound of chocolate mint and the pretty pale green color of the custard.  Who wouldn't like the idea of a custard that tastes like a peppermint patty?

I had never heard of chocolate mint before but I was lucky enough to find a plant at my local farmers' market.  This amazing herb comes from the spearmint family and has a purple stem with green leaves. You can use it like any mint plant in drinks, salads, desserts, sauces or as a garnish. I have it growing in a big pot and it has taken off like crazy.  I think this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

You need to start this recipe earlier in the day if you plan on serving it on the same day since it needs to steep for two hours to infuse the mint flavor, and then it requires chilling after you have made the custard.  Other than that it is a very simple dessert that will impress everyone after the first bite.


Chocolate Mint Pots de Crème 
(Printer Friendly Recipe)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 ounces (3 big handfuls) chocolate mint sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup chocolate shavings

  1. Heat together cream, milk, and mint in a medium pot over medium heat until mixture starts to simmer. 
  2. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep about 2 hours.  
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F. 
  4. Set 8 ramekins (4 oz. each) in a large roasting pan or baking dish.  
  5. Reheat cream mixture to a simmer; strain into a medium bowl. 
  6. Whisk together sugar and yolks in a large bowl, slowly add cream to yolk mixture, whisking constantly.  
  7. Pour mixture into ramekins, dividing evenly. 
  8. Fill pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up sides of ramekins.  
  9. Cover pan with foil and bake until custards are set and jiggle only slightly in the center, about 30 minutes. 
  10. Remove from oven and let sit in hot water 30 minutes. 
  11. Transfer ramekins to a baking sheet, cover, and chill at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.  
  12. Serve with whipped cream, fresh mint leaves, and chocolate shavings, if desired.
Recipe by Sunset magazine


    July 20, 2011

    The Cake Slice July 2011 - Zebra Cake

    It is Cake Slice Baker's time and this month we are baking a Zebra Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman. We have been baking from this book since October of 2010 and I have to say that I have had so much fun and each of the cakes has been something special, and I have yet to need a cake keeper since they are gone in no time.

    When I heard that this cake had been chosen I was a little nervous.  It is one of those cakes that I have seen in magazines and wondered how did they do that? As the time got closer to making the cake I asked myself if I was up to the challenge? After reading through the recipe I kept thinking can it be that simple?  And before I embarrass myself more by telling you about more of the conversations I have with myself, let me say that this cake could not be any easier and you will wow people with it.

    This cake gets its flavor from a vanilla and a chocolate batter that is intertwined.  To make the chocolate even more intense I used one tablespoon of  Black Cocoa that I purchased from King Arthur Flour, along with one tablespoon of the regular Dutch-process cocoa.  My chocolate batter seemed a little thick so I had to add a little more of the vanilla batter to it because it was not spreading out as it should in the cake pan.

    Once again the Cake Keeper Cake got an excellent rating from my family.  Everyone loved that the cake had both vanilla and chocolate flavors, and it was nice and moist.  I could really see this cake working well with other flavors too.

    Please join me in checking out all of the other Cake Slice Bakers blogs by clicking on this link.

    Zebra Cake
    (Printer Friendly Recipe)

    • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup milk, whole or 2%
    • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
    2. Grease a 9 inch pan, line with a circle of parchment paper, grease the parchment and dust with flour. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. 
    3. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. 
    4. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the milk, butter, oil and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. 
    5. Stir in the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time.  
    6. Transfer a third of the batter into another bowl and whisk in the cocoa powder.  
    7. Place a quarter cup of the vanilla batter into the centre of the pan and let it stand for a few seconds so it spreads out slightly. 
    8. Place 2 tablespoons of the chocolate batter right on top of then vanilla and wait another few seconds until it spreads. 
    9. Continue alternating vanilla and chocolate until you have used up all the batter and it has spread to the edges of the pan.  
    10. Bake until the cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes. 
    11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. 
    12. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a cutting board. Peel away the parchment paper and re-invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slice and serve. 
    13. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 3 days.
    Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman.

    July 14, 2011

    To Try Tuesday - Roasted Banana Bread with Browned Butter and Toffee Topping

    Sometimes I think I want to give up my blog.  I love the cooking part but I just get so frustrated with taking photos.  They just never seem to turn out the way that I would like them to.  I have these beautiful visions in my head but what I see is not what I get.  I really have no one to blame but myself.  I should learn the ins and outs of my camera, I should take a class in photography, I should read more books on food photography, I should buy some proper lighting.  Lots of "shoulds" but not enough time or finances to do so at the moment.  One day.

    Anyway, back to the task at hand.  I had lots of bananas quickly ripening in the fruit basket and I wanted something new to try rather than my go-to recipe for banana bread.  I went through my trusty "To Try" list hoping to find something.  Sure enough there was a great-sounding recipe for Roasted Banana Nut Bread with Browned Butter & Toffee Topping on Karissa's site Baking For Her Soul.

    The only changes I made were to omit the nuts and I did not lay the slices of banana on the sides like she did.  The roasting of the bananas brings out the sweetness and adds such a wonderful flavor to the bread.  The crunchy topping was also good, and I can imagine a few different directions to go in if you did want a different topping - a sprinkle of coconut, a cream cheese and passionfruit frosting, even something with peanut butter would be yummy.  And should the bread last long enough to be re-purposed I think it would make an awesome base for a bread pudding.

    Roasted Banana Bread with Browned Butter and Toffee Topping

    • 3 medium bananas
    • ⅔ cup brown sugar, separated
    • 4 tablespoons butter, separated
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ¼ cup low-fat plain yogurt
    • 2 large eggs, room temperature
    • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
    • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
    • ⅓ cup toffee pieces for sprinkling on top, optional
    • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar for sprinkling on top, optional

    1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.
    3. Peel and slice the bananas into ½-inch pieces and toss them with 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon butter in a foil-lined baking dish.
    4. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring once during baking, until the bananas are browned and cooked through.
    5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
    6. Reduce oven heat to 350°F.
    7. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and set aside. 
    8. On medium heat, brown 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, swirling the pan several times for about 5 minutes until the butter has started to brown.
    9. Remove from heat and add 1/3 cup brown sugar and salt.
    10. Add the bananas to the browned butter and mash into mixture, until just combined.
    11. Add eggs, vanilla extract, oil, and the yogurt to the butter, sugar and bananas, mix until combined.
    12. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and mix to incorporate fully, but don’t mix past the point where it’s just combined.
    13. Pour into prepared pan.
    14. Sprinkle the toffee bits on top, and then sprinkled the entire top with sugar.
    15. Bake at 350°F degrees on center rack for about 40-50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and top is browned.
    16. Remove from oven and allow to cool in loaf pan for about 10-15 minutes before removing the loaf.
    17. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
    Recipe adapted from Baking For Her Soul.

    July 09, 2011

    Tropical White Sangria

    Sangria is a fruit-based wine punch predominately from Spain and Portugal, and it is just the thing on a hot summer's day.  Not only is it very refreshing but there are so many different ways to make it.  Both white and red versions are very popular.

    We decided to go with a white version, or sangria blanca, for our July 4th celebration.  We love sangria because it is not too heavy and you can adapt it to any fruit you may have on hand. You can also add as much, or as little alcohol as you want, and you can vary the soda to make a completely different taste.  We used seltzer water but you could also try club soda, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, a flavored mineral water, or even an orange-based soda.  Like I said, the possibilities are endless.

    After mixing up the basics we placed it in the refrigerator overnight.  You can serve it straight away over ice, but I prefer to let the flavors muddle a little.  Once we were ready to serve we added the additional fruit and the soda.

    Tropical White Sangria

    • 1 x 1.5 liter bottle of white wine - I used a moscato 
    • ½ cup white sugar, dissolved in a little hot water
    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 1 cup pineapple
    • 3 oranges, sliced  
    • 2 lemons, sliced into wedges
    • 2 limes, sliced into wedges
    • 10 strawberries, cut in half
    • 6 lychee, peeled, seeded, and cut in half
    • 3 x 355 ml cans club soda or spritzer water

    1. Pour wine in the pitcher.
    2. Lightly squeeze the juice from the lemon and lime wedges by hand into the pitcher.
    3. Toss in the fruit wedges (leaving out seeds if possible) and orange slices and add sugar.
    4. Add the orange juice and pineapple juice - stir.
    5. Chill overnight.
    6. Add strawberries and lychee.
    7. Add club soda or seltzer just before serving. 
    8. If you'd like to serve right away, use chilled white wine and serve over lots of ice.  
    9. Addition ideas - peaches, handful of fresh blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, a shot of cointreau, brandy or rum, a cup of citrus-flavored soda.

    Recipe adapted from a sangria recipe on About.com

    July 06, 2011

    Cup O'Joe Baked Beans

    I have to say hats off to people like Bush's, Heinz, Van Camp, etc - not because of their beans, but because they can get an appetizing photo of said beans.  Ok, they have a professional staff for things like this but I was really struggling to get something decent.  Don't let this dissuade you from trying these beans as they are so easy to make and pack a wallop of flavor in each mouthful.

    It has been a few years since I last made baked beans.  I remember that I wasn't thrilled with the results last time, and was determined this time to get the flavor I wanted in the beans.  I searched for a few days for the perfect recipe before I decided that it did not exist, well not for me anyway.  Instead I chose to take the flavor profiles I liked from three recipes and reinvent the beans to suit my family's tastes.  I did have a couple of considerations - I wanted the beans to be vegetarian, I wanted to use my slow cooker, and I wanted a sweet BBQ flavor.  The three recipes I chose were Vegetarian Baked Beans (Squawkfox), Crockpot Vegetarian Baked Beans (Blade & Cauldron),  and Barbecued Beans (Slow Cooker Revolution via Cooking Light), and then I went to work choosing what I liked from each recipe.

    I decided to soak my beans over night even though I was using the slow cooker.  Remember to sort through them to pull out any rocks or clumps of dirt that may be hiding, and give them a good rinse.  I covered them with water and then left them until the next morning.  Apparently you don't have to soak the beans if you are using a slow cooker but I didn't want to take any chances of them not being ready in time, and it really isn't that much work to soak them. 

    A few recipes I found mentioned adding barbecue sauce, but I really wanted to add my own ingredients to achieve the flavor of a sweet barbecue sauce.  I went with molasses, honey, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup and a good dose of my favorite Coffee's of Hawaii coffee that had been brewed fresh that morning.  Two of my daughters are vegetarians so I did not want to add bacon, and I found that adding the coffee provided that roasted flavor.  Honestly I did not miss the bacon because the ingredients I added managed to be sweet and smokey by themselves.  Don't get me wrong, I love bacon as much as the next non-vegetarian so add it if you would like too, I just didn't want anyone to wonder if these would still be good without the smokey flavor that bacon can impart to a dish.

    Once they had finished cooking and I was happy with the texture of the beans I found that they were still a little "soupy".  Some people prefer their beans to have a bit of liquid, but I added a corn starch mixture to thicken them up a little.  For those making these beans the day before don't add too much corn starch because they will thicken overnight.  We had some leftovers the next day and I will definitely make them a day or so before next time. The flavors really developed overnight and they tasted amazing after being gently reheated.

    Cup O'Joe Baked Beans

    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 2½ cups dried navy beans, picked over and soaked overnight 
    • 3 cups vegetable stock
    • 1 cup strongly brewed coffee
    • ¼ cup molasses
    • ¼ cup honey
    • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 1 6oz tin tomato paste
    • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
    • ¼ cup ketchup
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in water, if required
    1. Heat oil in pan.
    2. Add onion and cook for two minutes, add garlic and continue cooking until both are soft and golden.
    3. Drain pre-soaked beans and add to the slow cooker insert.
    4. Add cooked onion and garlic to slow cooker insert.
    5. In a separate bowl whisk together the vegetable stock, coffee, molasses, honey, dark brown sugar, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and ketchup - add to slow cooker insert and stir to combine.
    6. Set slow cooker to high and cook for approximately 6 hours.
    7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    8. If there is too much liquid in your bean mixture dissolve 2 tablespoons corn starch in water.  Add to bean mixture and stir until thickened.

    Recipe by All That's Left Are The Crumbs©

    July 04, 2011

    Red, White & Blue Waffles

    Happy 4th of July!  Hope you all have a wonderful day that includes family, friends, fun, fireworks and lots of yummy food.

    We decided to start our morning off with some patriotic red, white and blue waffles.  It was a little bit of a mad rush because I also needed to get the baked beans into the slow cooker (recipe to come a little later). In a very short amount of time I managed to use a good number of bowls, measuring spoons, pots, and utensils.  Usually I try to clean as I go but that wasn't an option this morning.  Luckily for me a magic genie appeared and washed up everything for me.  Well, really it was my wonderful husband, but it was magical.  In between doing this he also whipped up a White Sangria (another recipe to follow soon), and had it in the fridge to chill.

    These waffles were inspired by ones that appeared on Kita's blog, Pass the Sushi.  Her post made me laugh because it was entitled "Blueberry Sour Cream Waffles for When Gerard Butler Visits".  The waffles sounded amazing, and who doesn't want an amazing recipe when someone like Gerard visits?  I mean you have to be ready don't you?

    My refrigerator contained a plethora of berries - blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries - but I decided to use blueberries and raspberries for my waffles.  I used only all-purpose flour, mainly because I did not have any whole wheat pastry flour, and I added some cinnamon to the mix.  A little dusting of powered sugar gave them the red, white, and blue look.  I do agree with Kita that a dollop of cream, or even sour cream, would make an excellent addition but these were gobbled up too quickly to do so today. All that accompanied them was some maple syrup.

    I wanted to pass on a tip for transferring the batter to the waffle maker.  I have always used the little cup that came with the waffle maker.  It holds about one cup, but it is always difficult to get all of the batter out of it.  Previously I have resorted to using a mini spatula to scrape the sides as I pour the batter into the waffle maker.  This morning I decided to grab my largest ice cream scoop and measure how many scoops equaled the amount of batter in the cup.  It worked out to two full scoops.  I cannot tell you how much easier it is to use an ice cream scoop to transfer the batter, and the built in scraper means that all of the batter is transferred with a squeeze of the handle.

    Red, White, & Blue Waffles
    (Printer Friendly Recipe)

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 3 eggs
    • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
    • ¾ cup blueberries
    • ¾ cup raspberries
    1. Preheat your waffle iron on medium-high heat.
    2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk and sour cream, and then whisk in the eggs. 
    4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir just until combined. 
    5. Fold in the butter, and then the blueberries and raspberries, stirring minimally.
    6. Pour 1/4 cup of batter per waffle onto the iron and cook until the waffles are a light golden brown. Keep cooked waffles warm on a platter in the oven.
    7. Serve waffles with a dusting of powdered sugar and maple syrup (a dollop of whipped cream or sour cream would be great too). 
    8. Makes approximately 6 waffles.
    Recipe adapted from Pass the Sushi.

    July 03, 2011

    Roasted Bananas Foster Ice Cream

    Growing up in Australia it was perfectly normal for us to throw whole bananas on the BBQ, and once they were ready we would split them open and enjoy the contents - sometimes with a little ice cream, but mostly just plain.  Roasting them like this brought out all of their sugary goodness and when we BBQ today, I still add some bananas to the grill.

    I always try to have bananas in the house.  They are one of my favorite fruits and I love them in baked goods too.  They are even great in a curry.  Thank goodness they are relatively inexpensive here as I tend to buy the big bag of them from Costco.  My eldest daughter tells me that in Australia they are currently $14.00 per kilo, that is about $7.00 per pound!  This is due to a cyclone which ravaged the trees up north.

    When a recipe for Roasted Banana Ice Cream appeared on Michelle's blog, Brown Eyed Baker, I knew my family would go crazy for it.  I really should have known to double the batch because there were some very sad faces when it was all gone in a few hours.  This is such an easy ice cream to make because it is not custard-based.  The hardest thing you will have to do is roast the bananas and lift your blender and ice cream maker out of the cupboard - if you keep these items on your kitchen counter then you just halved your workload.

    As usual I had trouble sticking to the original recipe.  I wanted to make it a little more like Bananas Foster so I added some Malibu rum to the bananas prior to baking, I used orange juice rather than lemon juice, and I substituted 1/2 a cup of whipping cream for some of the milk.  I think that next time a little toasted coconut would make a nice textural addition too.  The flavor of the blended roasted bananas and the milk/cream base is amazing.  I think that I could have eaten it with a spoon before it was even churned.  I did restrain myself and the reward was definitely worth it.  This ice cream is swoon-worthy.

    Roasted Bananas Foster Ice Cream

    • 4 medium-sized ripe bananas, peeled
    • ⅓ cup brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
    • 2 tablespoons Malibu rum
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • ½ cup whipping cream
    • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1½ teaspoons orange juice
    • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
    • prepared caramel sauce, optional 

    • Preheat oven to 400°F.
    • Slice the bananas into ½-inch pieces and toss them with the brown sugar, butter, and Malibu in a 2-quart baking dish.
    • Bake for 40 minutes, stirring once during baking, until the bananas are browned and cooked through.
    • Scrape the bananas and the thick syrup in the baking dish into a blender or food processor.
    • Add the milk, cream, granulated sugar, vanilla, orange juice and salt, and purée until smooth.
    • Chill the mixture for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight) in the refrigerator.
    • Freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (if the chilled mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it to thin it out).
    • Serve with a drizzle of caramel sauce, optional.

    Recipe by Brown Eyed Baker and adapted from The Perfect Scoop.

    July 02, 2011

    Fruit and Seed Tri Bars

    I just love a recipe that not only tastes great but is good for you too.  I knew as soon as I saw these bars on Roxana's blog, A little bit of Everything, I would have to make them as my Friday treat.

    These bars are so adaptable - follow the basic recipe and add whatever fruits, nuts, and seeds you prefer.   My dried fruit came from a bag of Sunsweet Antioxidant Blend - blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and plums - as well as some raisins that I added to the mix.  My other changes were to add some flax seeds and spelt flour to the mix, and I slightly increased the apple sauce to accommodate this.  I used 2 whole eggs but you can also use 4 eggs whites instead if you want to lower the cholesterol.  Other dried fruits such as apricots, apples, or dates would also make a great addition. After cooling they can be cut into bars, but I decided to cut them into triangles, mainly because I liked the shape.  I didn't think of it any further until my husband said that it made sense because they were for a tri group.  It turned out to be a great play on the shape of the bars and the sport - each side represented a leg - swim, bike, run.

    The bars were super easy to make and everyone in the training group loved them.

    Fruit and Seed Tri Bars

    • 1½ cups unsweetened applesauce
    • 1¼ cup dried fruits, chopped
    • ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
    • ⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
    • 3 tablespoons flax seeds
    • 4 tablespoons chia seeds
    • 1 cup rolled oats (regular-not quick cooking) 
    • ⅔ cup unsweetened coconut 
    • ⅔ cup self-rising flour
    • ½ cup spelt flour
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

    1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Line a 11x9 inch pan with non-stick foil.
    3. In a large bowl add apple sauce and dried fruit and mix to combine.
    4. Add sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, rolled oats, coconut, self-rising and spelt flours, and eggs and stir until well combined.
    5. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread out evenly with a spatula.
    6. Bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown.
    7. Cool in the pan.
    8. Remove from pan onto a cutting board and slice into triangles or bars.
    9. Makes approximately 24.
    Recipe from A little bit of Everything