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Need a frightfully good idea for Halloween this year? Try this one!

SHRUNKEN APPLE HEAD DESSERT
(Makes 6 servings)

3 medium baking apples (e.g. Empire, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Ida Red, Honeycrisp)
Lemon juice
5 tbsp (75 mL) packed brown sugar
3 tbsp (45 mL) butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream
Chopped nuts (optional)

Wash apples. Cut in half lengthwise; remove cores. Brush cut sides of apples with lemon juice. Carve eyes, nose and mouth on peel side of apple halves.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Brush mixture over face sides of apples.

In a greased or sprayed baking dish, place apples, cut side down. Pour any remaining brown sugar/butter mixture over apples.

Bake in a preheated 400F (200C) oven for 10 minutes. Spoon sauce in bottom of baking dish over apples. Continue baking until apples are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes longer.

To serve, place one or two scoops of ice cream in 6 dessert bowls. Drizzle sauce over top. Place a warm apple head in each bowl. Sprinkle chopped nuts over ice cream, if desired.

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Not much beats milk and cookies at the end of a long day. The combination is a favorite for kids (and adults who want to be kids again!)

Try these easy-to make cookies; they’ve got the ingredients to promote a good night’s rest.

Nutri Cookies
(Makes 5 dozen cookies)

½ cup (125 mL) butter or margarine, softened
½ cup (125 mL) peanut butter
1 cup (250 mL) liquid honey
2 large eggs
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
3 cups (750 mL) quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup (250 mL) medium unsweetened coconut
¾ cup (175 mL) natural bran
½ cup (125 mL) sunflower seeds or wheat germ
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) raisins
½ cup (125 mL) chopped nuts

Beat butter and peanut butter in a large bowl until blended. Add honey, eggs and vanilla. Beat slowly until blended. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well.

For each cookie, scoop a heaping tablespoon (about 20 mL) batter onto a cookie sheet. Flatten slightly.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes on cookie sheet before removing cookies to a cooling rack.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Timeless Recipes for All Occasions by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2006

For more information about food and sleep, tips on how to sleep better and a look at our favorite new sleep products, click on the magazine (left).

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Chocolate cake got big exposure (along with a funny story) in the recent movie, It’s Complicated when Jane (Meryl Streep), a bakery owner in Santa Barbara, crafted a beautiful one for a dinner that never happened.

If you need a delicious homemade chocolate cake recipe, try this one… it’s worthy of being put on a platter (or an elegant glass cake stand, like Streep did in the movie). 

Chocolate Cake

2 cups (500 mL) sugar
1-3/4 cups (425 mL) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (175 mL) cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
2 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) milk
½ cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) boiling water

Makes 8-10 servings

Grease and flour two 9” (23 cm) round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. (The batter will be thin.) Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in the centre of both cakes comes out clean, about 30 – 35 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with Chocolate Icing.

Chocolate Icing:
Melt ½ cup (125 mL) butter or margarine. Stir in 2/3 cup (150 mL) cocoa. Alternately add 3 cups (750 mL) icing sugar and 1/3 cup (75 mL) milk, beating with electric mixer on medium speed until spreading consistency. If needed, add more milk. Stir in 1 tsp (6 ml) vanilla.

Recipe Source: Hershey’s

 

Cranberry Cereal Crisps 

If you didn’t OD on baking or eating sweets over the holidays, or you just like to keep your cookie jar full, here’s a great cookie recipe that can be made easily and is really tasty.

(It’s also a good way to use up the last couple servings of crisp rice cereal (i.e. Rice Krispies) languishing in the bottom of the box!).

The texture of these cookies is also really pleasing: melt-in-your-mouth tender, yet crisp – all at the same time! 

This recipe makes a big batch (about 5 dozen), so to be fair to your waist, hips, thighs, and all those other body parts where excess weight tends to migrate, enjoy a few, then freeze the rest to eat over the next while! 

Cranberry Cereal Crisps
(Makes about 60 cookies) 

1 cup (250 mL) butter, softened
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
3-1/2 cups (875 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) large flake oats
2 cups (500 mL) crisp rice cereal
1 cup (250 mL) dried cranberries (or chopped dried apricots) 

Beat butter, sugars and egg on medium speed of electric mixer until light and creamy. Stir in oil and vanilla. 

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture along with oats, mixing on low speed until well blended. Stir in cereal and cranberries or apricots. 

Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls (about 20 mL), about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto an ungreased cookie sheet. 

 
I like to use this handy cookie batter scoop. (It’s the clear acrylic utensil with blue-bottomed scoop.) It allows you to easily measure out a specific quantity of batter.  When you push down on the silicone section in the middle of the scoop, the batter will plop out. The scoop works best with not too sticky batters such as this one.  The scoop was a gift so I’m not sure where you can pick one up, but check kitchen shops and stores that sell kitchen and bakeware. 
Bake cookies in a preheated 325F (160C) oven until golden, 13 to 18 minutes. (Cookies should not appear completely set as they will continue to bake when you take them out of the oven. For best results, underbake rather than overbake them.) 

Cool cookies for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Recipe Source: Robin Hood Home Baking by Robin Hood Multifoods Inc, Robert Rose Inc., 2004

I didn’t see the Dec 15 /2009 episode of The View, but caught it on a re-run today. How fun are these cupcake hats that Snoop Dog gave the hosts! (…fast forward if you like –  it’s about 50 seconds into the video).

Meat buns make a great choice for lunches, snacks and Super Bowl parties. They’re also a favorite in our family (especially among the guys!) during Christmas holidays.

Given everyone’s busy schedule this year, we took a shortcut and made them with refrigerated dough found at the grocery store. We also got representatives of each of the three generations in our family together and made a fun afternoon of it. This is a very quick recipe to make – making the meat buns took less les than an hour (…making the video below took a little longer!)

 

Meat Buns (80 buns)

1.5 – 2.0 lbs lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 can mushroom soup
1 package onion soup mix
2 tbsp dried parsley
3/4 cup dried bread crumbs

8 cans (80 biscuits) of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 egg

Mix together the first 5 ingredients. Open the refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (Pillsbury dough is always good, but a generic store brand works just as well and costs less) and place them on an oiled cookie sheet. Flatten them with the palm of your hand so they spread to 2.5 – 3″ in diameter. Spoon a generous teaspoon of the meat mixture into the center of each biscuit. Pull the sides together, form together in an oblong shape and turn the biscuit over so the seams face the pan. Place the buns about 2″ apart on the cookie sheet and coat each with a mixture of 1 beaten egg with a tablespoon of water.

Bake for 13-15 minutes at 400 degrees… and enjoy!

Here’s the step-by-step video, complete with a few bloopers and mishaps…

This was just one of the amazing trays of Christmas squares and cookies at our family gatherings this year.

From left to right…. Christmas fruit cake… date squares (a.k.a. matrimonial cake)… coconut with glace fruit and nut cookie (grandpa’s favorite)… Russian tea cakes… Ghirradelli chocolate brownies… shortbread with rhubarb jam centers.

It was tough to know what to eat first! Thanks to my mom and sisters for another great Christmas slaving over the hot stove so the family could eat non-stop for 3 days in a row.  (I just blew in from out-of-town to enjoy their superb menus and recipes!)

chocolate-toffee-crunch.jpg

Yes, this crunchy chocolatey toffee treat is full of sugar and highly addictive, but it’s so easy to make, and it will bring a smile to your face after one bite. And it will win you rave reviews. It’s a recipe that has been around for years and it goes by a few different names. I’m not sure where it originated. I’ve made pans of it over the years and often use it for gifting. It’s a perfect sweet treat to present to someone you want to give a little something to, like a co-worker, teacher or the host/hostess at the next dinner party you go to.

To give, break up the crunchy brittle and layer it in a pretty tin or a cellophane bag. If you wish, first line the tin with tissue or parchment paper. You’ll likely be asked for a copy of the recipe so why not give it as part of the gift!

Chocolate Toffee Crunch
(Makes one 10 x 15-inch (25 x 30 cm) baking pan)

Approximately 40 soda crackers (about 1 sleeve of crackers)
1 cup (250 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1-1/2 to 2 cups (375 to 500 mL) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 to 1 cup (175 to 250 mL) chopped nuts (optional)

Line a 10 x 15-inch (25 x 30 cm) baking pan with aluminum foil so the foil extends up the sides up the pan slightly; wrap excess foil over edges. Cover pan completely with crackers, trimming to fit if necessary. You should have 5 rows of about 8 crackers each.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add brown sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil; boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Carefully pour hot mixture over crackers. Tilt pan (again, carefully!) to spread mixture evenly over all the crackers.

Bake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 15 minutes (mixture will be bubbling all over). Carefully remove pan from oven. If crackers have shifted a little, use a fork to quickly poke them back into position.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let stand for a few minutes until the chips are shiny and look soft, then gently spread melted chips over entire surface with the back of a spoon. If desired, sprinkle nuts over chocolate and press down lightly.

Let stand or chill until firm. Cut or break into pieces and store in a covered container. Can be frozen.

TIPS: I’ve also baked this at 375F (190C) for 5 or 6 minutes with great results. The butter/sugar mixture should be bubbling all over.

VARIATION: Graham crackers can be substituted for soda crackers. You will need about 4 rows of 6 (square) crackers or 12 double crackers. Top with mini marshmallows instead of or in addition to nuts, if you wish. After sprinkling marshmallows on top, pop the pan into the oven for 30 seconds to a minute to soften marshmallows. Then lightly spread with the back of a spoon creating a marbled effect. Top with nuts, if desired.

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars

Here’s the recipe for Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars which I mentioned recently. It’s from Anna Olson, Food Network TV chef and cookbook author.

No doubt Anna’s original recipe is great, and I’ll have to try the recipe as written some time. When I wanted to make it recently, I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand and didn’t have time to go to the store to get what I was missing. Thankfully, my modifications worked out just fine.

 Here are my substitutions:

  • quick oats instead of rolled oats
  • salted butter instead of salt and unsalted butter
  • 4 well-crushed Skor bars instead of Skor toffee bits
  • chopped walnuts instead of almonds
  • aluminum foil instead of parchment paper

These CAT Bars are good. No, very good! And, they make a great gift. If you’re giving them away, don’t forget to keep back a few pieces to enjoy yourself!

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars
(Makes 25 to 36 squares – depending how big you cut them!)

1-1/2 cups (375 mL) rolled oats
1/2 cup (125 mL) graham cracker crumbs
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (250 mL) Skor toffee bits
1 cup (250 mL) chocolate chips
1 cup (250 mL) sliced almonds
1 can (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease and line an 8-inch (2 L) square pan with parchment paper so the paper hangs over the sides of the pan.

Stir oats, graham cracker crumbs and salt in a bowl to combine, then stir in melted butter. Press crumbly oat mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle Skor bits evenly on top, followed by chocolate chips and sliced almonds. Pour condensed milk evenly over top (it will sink as it bakes).

Bake until top is golden brown and the edges are bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool to room temperature in the pan, then chill for at least 4 hours before slicing into squares.

https://i1.wp.com/www.thekneadforbread.com/wp-content/uploads/banana_choc_crunch_top.jpg

Chocolate Banana Crunch Bread. Photo from http://www.thekneadforbread.com blog

                                             

I enjoy The Knead for Bread blog for its great bread recipes and scrumptious-looking photography.

A couple recipes on the site caught my attention when I visited the blog recently. They work great for breakfast, brunch, snacks or with tea. For those who agree that chocolate is its own food group, you’ll be happy to know that chocolate features prominently in both recipes.

* Chocolate Banana Crunch Bread – There’s no doubt that chocolate and banana pair well. Adding toffee bits makes this bread a sure winner!

* Triple Chocolate Scones – If one kind of chocolate is good, three kinds will be very, very, very good!

Hmmmm….I think I know what my weekend baking projects will be!