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Chocolate Cherry Cakes with Cinnamon

13 Jun
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Today I have a really fantastic and surprisingly quick and simple cake recipe.  Seeing as it’s full on cherry season over here I thought I’d bake something cherry inspired.
So the other day I donned my latex gloves and got to work pitting the cherries (I have a pretty serious allergy to cherries as you can read about here).  I had even considered wearing goggles but I was expecting the delivery man and just couldn’t imagine what he’d think about the already weird Canadian women once he saw me in a get-up like that.  And I’m happy to report that I got through the entire recipe with zero contact with the cherries and I didn’t end up looking like a monster as I did last year when I attempted the Cherry Lavender Jam.  My kids still have nightmares about that.
These deep chocolate cakes paired with the tartness of the cherries and the delicate spiciness of the cinnamon ended up being a really delicious combination.  I think these would be fantastic with raspberries, blackberries or even chopped peaches.  I made them in individual miniature pans but it would be just as nice baked in a large tart pan as well.

Read on for recipe… Continue reading

Mascarpone Pots with Fresh Berries

7 Jun

IMG_8657Last week-end we had some friends over for a Sunday morning brunch.  Luckily the weather was beautiful so after months of cold and rain we could finally sit outside and eat and chat and enjoy the sunshine.  The little kids frolicked in the garden in Gramma-made princess dresses and the parents drank home-made beer and my famous (well not really) rhubarb, lime and prosecco cocktails with fresh mint (see post about those here).

Besides all the normal brunch fare I made these little pots with a cookie bottom, mascarpone cream and fresh berries.  I actually invented the recipe on the spot not really knowing if they’d be edible or not.  In the end the were definitely edible, I’d even say delicious.  They have a cheesecake feel to them without the heaviness (I did add a little cream cheese to the mixture though).  And there is absolutely no baking involved in this quick and simple recipe making it perfect for hot summers when the last thing you want to do is put the oven on.  I served them in pretty little jam jars with lids and they were devoured within minutes.  I’ll take that as compliment.

Read on for recipe:

Mascarpone Pots with Fresh Berries

250 g mascarpone
75 g cream cheese
200 ml fresh cream
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 Tbsp sugar (depending on taste)
tiny pinch of salt

125 g finally ground digestive biscuits
70-80g butter

1. Mix ground cookie crumbs with melted butter until well blended.  Press into the bottom of little glasses (or as I did glass jars).  You can decide how thick you would like the cookie crumb layer.

2. Whip cream until stiff peaks begin to form.  Set aside.

3. In mixer cream together the mascarpone and cream cheese until smooth.  Add in vanilla, sugar and salt and mix until just combined.  With a spatula gently fold in whipped cream.

4.  Drop the mascarpone mixture on top of the cookie crumb bottom (shake glass or bottom to level it out).  Sprinkle fresh raspberries and blueberries on top (or any other berries).  Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.  Enjoy!

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After our brunch guests left we headed out to watch our twin daughters play Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in their theatre group’s rendition of Alice In Wonderland (Alice Nel Paese delle Meraviglie).  In case you’re wondering, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are translated as Dammelo and Dimmelo in Italian.  Over all a really lovely Sunday.

Wafeltjes

17 May

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Today I have a great recipe for Belgian Waffle Cookies.  These miniature wafeltjes are baked in a waffle iron and are so rich and buttery (the recipe calls for 400g butter!).  My husband grew up eating these cookies (made by his grandparents) and is capable of eating them by the dozen.  And now my kids as well.  While making these our neighbours were calling over the fence to know what the amazing smell was that was coming from our kitchen.  There is nothing quite like the smell of baking waffles (there must be a waffle inspired perfume out there somewhere).    These keep for at least 3-4 days in a closed tin and are great to package up as a gift for someone special.

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We found the recipe for these waffles on the site of Jeroen Meus who is pretty much the Jamie Oliver of Belgium.  Jeroen has his own cooking show, tons of cookbooks and a really great website full of recipes.  Everything I’ve tried of his has turned out to be delicious and simple to make (favorites are Baked Cauliflower with Ground Meat and Bruschetta with Guacamole, Smoked Sprot and Tomato Salsa).

Continue for wafeltjes recipe…

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Sciroppo di Rabarbaro

8 May

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Here in Italy the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and fragrant and I’m blissfully content to be able to get out in my garden and putter around.  I’ve been busy planting all sorts of new plants, trees and bushes.  I expect about 25% of them to survive as I have a pretty bad track record in the gardening department.  My heart is in the right place but I just don’t have that special touch needed to keep my garden alive and thriving.  I’ve been known to even kill lavender which is pretty much impossible in the Italian climate.

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One plant that seems resistant to me and my non existent green thumb is rabarbaro (rhubarb).  Due to the fact you can’t buy rhubarb in any of the grocery shops or vegetable stalls we planted it a few years ago and it is thriving.  I show it off to everyone who comes by our house and apparently it’s known to all to be the fool-proof plant (why didn’t I know this years ago?).  Just in the last three weeks our rhubarb has taken over an entire bed and is threatening our beloved strawberry patch.

So to give our strawberries some room to breathe and grow I decided to cut back the rhubarb a bit and make some of my favourite Rhubarb Syrup.  I’ve always loved the delicate spiciness it brings to cold summer beverages.

But what I love the most about this syrup is the dainty light peachy rose colour it has.  I could design whole summer cottages with that colour as my inspiration and theme.  So lovely and reminiscent of warm breezy summer days in Nova Scotia.

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Read on for the quick and very simple recipe for Rhubarb Syrup and these delicious cocktails above (which I’m contemplating naming “Jillinis“).

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Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Speculaas (Biscoff) Cookies

23 Apr

I love chocolate chip cookies.  I love oatmeal cookies.  And I love speculaas cookies.  So last week-end when I was looking for something to bake I thought making a mix of these three together would probably be the world’s greatest invention ever.

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Last month when my in-laws visited from Belgium they brought me a huge jar of speculaaspasta (or speculoospasta to some) which is pretty much Belgian spice cookies ground into a creamy spread for bread.  It’s a relatively new invention and it has become a staple breakfast item in a lot of Belgian households.  Before the spread was available my husband’s family would eat a piece of bread with butter and the cookies laid on top.  Strange but true.  Belgians have very peculiar breakfast habits that I’ve happily adopted.  Chocolate for breakfast?  I’m not going to reject such a thing.

1-IMG_7706I know this spread’s popularity has reached all corners of the world in the past few years.  In North America it’s usually sold as Biscoff Spread if I’m not mistaken.  In any case, if you ever come across it, grab a few jars.  It’s great for eating on bread, spread on top of cake or simply eaten by the spoonful.  And of course for baking.  Go here to find so many delicious looking recipes using this spread.

Read on for the recipe for these delicious Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Speculaas Cookies. Continue reading

Peanut Butter Cookies

5 Apr

Oh wow.  This has been a week full of white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate with hazelnuts and even 99% cocoa chocolate.  My kids have been eating it on their bread for breakfast (they’re half Belgian), straight up for snacks and even popping a few Easter eggs for bedtime snack.  I’ve declared it “chocolate week” and I want them to enjoy it to its fullest.  Plus, I want it all out of my house by next week when they return to school and I return to my no-sugar lifestyle.

But it’s not all bad.  From what I’ve been reading dark chocolate  is the new super food that can help with everything from depression to anemia (my pharmacist told me that the other day).  And I recently found out dark chocolate can actually prevent tooth decay.

To put a little protein into their chocolate diet I decided to make them some Peanut Butter Cookies with, you guessed it, chocolate.  Usually I don’t make peanut butter cookies due to the extortionate price of peanut butter over here (I pay 6 euro for a tiny jar) but since I was brought a huge jug from America I thought I would use some of it to make these delicious cookies.

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All of my Italian and European friends aren’t familiar with Peanut Butter cookies and even look slightly disturbed by the thought of them.  But once they try them they usually can’t get enough.  These cookies are rich, buttery and have a slight saltiness to them.  I love them to no end.  And you will to.

Read on for recipe… Continue reading

Hot Cross Buns

26 Mar

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It has been pretty silent around here on this blog the last week.  I have my (wonderful) in-laws here at the moment and we’ve been busy doing all sorts of things together.  Lots of walks, trips to Milan, delicious meals together and board game playing.  The kids are in heaven with the non-stop playmates (and chocolate givers).

This past week-end the weather was rainy and miserable so we ended up spending the entire Sunday inside the house.  For vieruurtje (Dutch for afternoon-snack and literally translated as “little 4 o’clock”) I made the clan some good ol’ Easter Hot Cross Buns.

This is a basic recipe and much simpler than the traditional recipes that seem to include a ton of steps.  Usually I would also add some candied citrus peel or currents to the dough but unfortunately my kids would disown me for life and run out the door and never come back if they found such things in their buns.


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I took a basic white bread recipe and added some extra sugar and cinnamon (similar to the Cinnamon Swirl Bread from last week).  These buns come out really soft and spongy and actually keep fresh for a day or two.  Before putting them in the oven I take a sharp knife and slash a cross on the tops.  That way there is a perfect indentation for the ever important icing to settle into (after cooled).

Nothing really gives me that Easter feeling more than a pan of fresh-out-of-the-oven Hot Cross Buns (and a sunny garden full of blooming flowers of course).  Throw in some kids wearing pastel coloured spring dresses and straw hats and it’s absolutely perfect.

Read on for recipe.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

15 Mar

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For ages I’ve been wanting to try and re-create a bread that we ate often when I was little.  Cinnamon Swirl Bread.  I remember my mom used to buy it on the week-ends and I’m pretty sure my brother and I could polish off a whole loaf in one sitting.  If there happened to be some left over (rarely) we ate it the next day toasted with butter (almost better than eating it fresh).

Yesterday when the loaf came out of the oven and I sliced into it so I could take some photos I knew it was not going to be possible to wait until the week-end to give it a try.  This no-sugar-during-the-week thing that I’m doing is great and I admit that I’m feeling much better in general.  Geesh, it has been almost six months that I’ve resisted the urge to eat everything from chocolate cake to fruit pies to bags of my favorite candy.  But the taste of that bread yesterday was probably the best thing I have eaten in my entire  life (have you noticed that I tend to exaggerate slightly sometimes?). No regrets here.

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When my kid’s arrived home from school famished I served them this and they were ecstatic.  “Mama, it’s like a gooey cinnamon bun in the middle of a  loaf of delicious bread!” and “Mama, this is absolutely the best things I’ve ever tasted in my entire life!” (the exaggeration trait was apparently passed on to a few of my kids).

So my advice to you all is to make this bread this week-end and let your families/friends/pets shower you with praise, love and thankfulness.

Read on for recipe…

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Oatmeal Molasses Bread

27 Feb

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Today’s recipe is one that reminds me of my childhood in Nova Scotia and the Saturday Farmer’s Market where we bought it.    It reminds me of drizzly mornings at our kitchen table with thick slices of this bread covered in a layer of butter (and sometimes even some molasses on top of that).  I’ve never found another bread that has the same moist and spongy consistency.  And one that seems to be loved by everyone who tries it.

Yes, I am this bread’s #1 fan.

This past week-end I made one big loaf of this Oatmeal Molasses Bread and two smaller loaves.  The large loaf was scoffed down in no less than 5 minutes and the other two I froze for a lunch with some good friends this week.  And just to let you know, once unfrozen this bread feels just as fresh as when it comes out of the oven.  This bread can do no wrong.

Here in Italy it’s almost impossible to get your hands on molasses so I have to use  my stash sparingly.   And I’m pretty sure there is no real substitute for it as well (if you know one please let me know).  I think it’s the key ingredient to making this bread so moist and…perfect.  Luckily my husband is traveling to America for work next week and molasses is on his grocery list of things to bring home.

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Friday

22 Feb

It’s Friday folks.  And I couldn’t be happier about it.   Getting into the early morning school routine is always so difficult after a vacation.  And the snowy weather the last few days really made me want to cocoon at home with the kids in front of the fire.

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During the snowstorm yesterday I made these Oatmeal Raspberry Squares (raspberry variation of these from The Pioneer Woman).  They are just so amazingly delicious.  And I realize I say that about every recipe I post about on this blog but I just have a talent for finding and trying out recipes that are delectable. Might help that the majority involve large quantities of brown sugar and butter.

These squares are so quick and simple to whip up.  In less than 10 minutes prep time they were in the oven baking.  And I just want to boast about the fact that I didn’t even try one tiny little piece of these bars when I made them yesterday.  My no-sugar-during-the-week rule is still on (5 months) and even though it took every ounce of self-control my body had to offer I made it until today to have a taste (past noon on Friday is considered week-end to me).  Yesterday evening I watched my family devour them and ooh and aah about how yummy they were and I sat there, with my jaw tightly clenched, and resisted the urge to shove my face in the pan and polish off the entire thing.  Round of applause please.

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Another little piece of news is that my Embroidery With Kids craft is on Disney’s Spoonful blog at the moment.  Exciting stuff.

Indian Butter Chicken Meatballs

I also wanted to share the link for this recipe for Indian Butter Chicken Meatballs.  I made it for the family this week and and it was a huge hit,  So much flavour and simple to make up beforehand.  My kids all said it was one of their favorite meals (ALL of them…it’s a miracle).

Besides going to an Irish Dance Show on Saturday evening, we have a very relaxing and low-key week-end planned.  Lots of walks in the woods, pancakes and some puppy-sitting for friends.  Hope you all have a lovely week-end!

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