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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

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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…

Here are a couple easy cheesy savoury truffle appetizer recipes I demonstrated at the Thyme to Cook kitchen store in Guelph, Ontario a few weeks ago. Serve these at a party and it’s rather like each guest has their own mini cheese balls!

Ham and Cream Cheese Truffles

(Makes about 2 dozen 1-inch/2.5 cm truffles)

1 (250 g) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Cheddar cheese
½ of a 156 g can of Flakes of Ham or 1/3 cup (75 mL) finely chopped ham
1/4 tsp (1 mL) garlic powder
2 green onions, sliced
Finely chopped walnuts or pecans (about 1 cup/250 mL) for coating truffles, if desired

In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, ham, garlic powder, and green onions until well blended. Cover and refrigerate mixture for several hours until chilled.

Using mini ice cream scoop, melon baller or teaspoon, shape mixture into 24 (1-inch/2.5 cm) balls. Roll balls in nuts until coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tips:
* Cheese truffles can be made any size you wish. You can shape them with your hands if desired but they don’t have to be perfectly round.
* Roll truffles in chopped fresh parsley, shredded cheese, or toasted sesame seeds or fine bread crumbs.
* Poke pretzel sticks into cheese truffles for easy serving.
* Serve with crackers.
* Mixture can be shaped into one large cheese ball, if desired.

Sun-dried Tomato Cream Cheese Truffles

(Makes about 2 dozen 1-inch/2.5 cm truffles)

1 (250 g) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL) minced sun-dried tomatoes in oil (well drained)
1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) chopped fresh basil
Chopped fresh herbs or grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup/250 mL) for coating truffles, if desired

In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and basil until well blended. Cover and refrigerate mixture for several hours until chilled.

Using mini ice cream scoop, melon baller or teaspoon, shape mixture into 24 (1-inch/2.5 cm) balls. Roll the balls in herbs or cheese until coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tips:
* Cheese truffles can be made any size you wish. You can shape them with your hands if desired but they don’t have to be perfectly round.
* Use an herb paste instead of fresh basil, if desired.
* Poke pretzel sticks into cheese truffles for easy serving.
* Serve with crackers.
* Mixture can be shaped into one large cheese ball, 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.

  Chocolate hazelnut ice cream                                                                                                                                                  
I think Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream may be the best ice cream I’ve made so far. If you like Nutella and ice cream, I’m quite sure you’ll like this ice cream too! Seriously. Who wouldn’t??

It’s so easy to make, and it just sings with chocolate hazelnut flavour. It’s texture is more creamy than other ice creams I’ve made. I often find that “ripening” homemade ice cream in the freezer tends to make it harden to an extreme and form large crystals that make for a really granular texture in your mouth. I’ve had this Chocolate Hazelnut ice cream in the freezer for almost 3 days now, and although there’s not much left, what there is is firm, but scoop-able.  So here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream
(Makes 8 cups/2 L)

2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream (35%)
2 cups (500 mL) homogenized milk (3.5%)
1 cup (500 mL) chocolate hazelnut spread
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped dark chocolate* (optional)
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped hazelnuts (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring cream and milk to a simmer.

In a large bowl, combine hazelnut spread and sugar; stir until smooth. Whisk 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the cream mixture into the sugar mixture; whisk until blended. Whisk in remaining cream mixture until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled or overnight.

Stir cream mixture. Transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding chopped chocolate and hazelnuts a few minutes before the ice cream has finished churning.

Recipe Source: 125 Best Ice Cream Recipes by Marilyn Linton and Tanya Linton, Robert Rose Inc., 2003

Tips:
* If you’re adding chopped chocolate, use a good-quality brand. I used Lindt Madagascar (65%) dark chocolate.
* I have a Cuisinart Flavor Duo (two 1 L/1 quart buckets) ice cream maker. This recipe filled both buckets. The mixture had chilled overnight so only took 15 to 18 minutes to process to a soft creamy consistency.
* The recipe can be halved if you can only make 1 L (1 quart) of ice cream at a time.
* If desired, splash a serving of the finished ice cream with hazelnut liqueur and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts (instead of adding the hazelnuts to the ice cream).

bigstockphoto_valentine_2486875

Whether you’re planning to eat out or stay in on Valentine’s Day, end the day with a private, indulgent treat that will guarantee sweet dreams.

All you need is a few pieces of your favorite chocolate. After that, it’s all in the presentation… and this red, gold and brown combination is about as rich and elegant as it gets.

Use a gold plate. You can usually find inexpensive ones at a discount store, or if you want to be resourceful, buy a small can of spray paint and spray a few old plates you don’t use much.  (Gold plates and chargers are great at Christmas parties too).

Stack a few pieces of your favorite chocolate on top of each other – they look great if they’re in random sizes broken off a large bar of chocolate. Lay a short stem fresh red rose on the plate, serve on a red placement or red satin cloth… and indulge with your favorite someone!