Birthday Cake Popcorn: An Alternative to Cake!

I love popcorn! It’s such an easy, light snack. Since I got rid of my microwave 2 years ago, I avoided making it, thinking it would be a big “to do” in a pot. I soon realized that it’s really the simplest, most delicious way to make popcorn and it is way more fun than doing it in the microwave!

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I use coconut oil, and a dash of salt on most days, but when there is a special occasion, I have a lot of fun with it. There are so many delicious ways to turn your everyday popcorn into a party in your mouth (check out this post), and this birthday cake popcorn is no exception!

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I recently found myself in need of a lighter, and somewhat healthier alternative to cake, but I still wanted it to be fun and special. So, when I came across this post about birthday cake popcorn, I was really excited to give it a try. It was a huge (addictive) success with the masses, and took me no more than 15 minutes to put together!pop3

Here is what you need:

• 1 1/2 cup white chocolate chopped

• 1 1/2 cups classic white cake mix of your choice.

• 2/3 cup kernels

• 1/2 cup coconut oil for chocolate and popcorn

• A sprinkle of sea salt

• 1/4 cup sprinkles

Step 1: Pop your kernels

In a large pot with a lid, over medium high heat, add 1/4 cup of coconut oil and 3 kernels. Wait until the 3 little kernels pop (these are your testers). Remove them from the pot, add the kernels to the oil with a sprinkle of sea salt and shake it up. Cover and let that pop, while shaking regularly to ensure every little kernel gets a chance to pop. This should take about 2 min. When you start to hear the popping slow down, take off the heat and let it rest.

Step 2: Melt the Chocolate

You can do this in the microwave, but since I don’t have one, I boil a little bit of water in a pot and put a glass bowl overtop. Mix the white chocolate and the remaining 1/4 cup of coconut oil to the bowl, and stir with a spatula until nice and smooth.

Step 3: Make the Batter

Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and add to it the 1 1/2 cups of cake mix. Stir well until there are no lumps left.

Step 4: Assemble

Pour this cake batter, chocolate mixture all over the popcorn that has been resting in the pot. Add the 1/4 cup of sprinkles and fold over until well combined.

Step 5: chill out

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spread the popcorn out evenly and let it chill for at least an hour. You may need 2 baking sheets for this recipe.

Step 6: Try your best not to eat it all!

Do you have any fun popcorn recipes to share?

Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes

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It’s Valentines Day on Saturday and while i’ll be the first to say I am not a big fan of this “holiday” – since it puts a ton of pressure on people in and out of relationships, and makes Hallmark a lot of money – I still think it’s fun to do a little (no pressure) something! Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about romantic love either, if you are single you could celebrate it with anyone you care about in your life, ever heard of Galentines Day?! Food is a great way to say “I love you” or “I care about you” (check out this post for awesome foodie V-Day cards), especially if it is made by you! I thought it would be nice to put together a Valentine’s Day breakfast instead of the traditional dinner. Warm sweet strawberries hidden inside delicious buttermilk pancakes with powdered sugar and sweet pure maple syrup poured on top is a delicious way to celebrate with your significant other or galfriends!

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I’ve been making the same pancake recipe for a long time. It’s really simple and delicious and will forever be my favourite (you can find the recipe here) but for today’s post, I wanted to do something a little different. I also happened to have a huge bottle of buttermilk in the fridge that I needed to finish off so I decided, what the hell, I’ll get crazy and change it up completely, and I am so glad I did.

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I really like using buttermilk instead of regular milk. Buttermilk reacts with the baking powder to create very light and fluffy pancakes. To ensure the lightest, most fluffiest results, make sure to not overmix your batter. The batter should not be beaten smooth; it should have small to medium lumps.
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Happy love day everyone, hope you have a nice Saturday celebrating with whoever makes you happy!

Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes Recipe (Makes about 9 6-inch pancakes)

What you will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or slightly less table salt
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted, plus 2 tablespoons extra for brushing griddle or pan
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen and thawed (optional) sliced thinly

What you need to do:

1. Preheat pan or griddle. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, maple syrup, buttermilk, and 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil, and whisk to combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps.

2. Test the pan or griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, then its ready. Add some oil to the pan.

3. Using a 4-oz. ladle, about 1/2 cup (for a 6-inch pancake), pour the batter in pools 2 inches apart. Add some thinly sliced strawberry pieces on top, pressing them in slightly. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. If any batter oozes or blueberries roll out, push them back under with your spatula. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

4. Repeat with the remaining batter. You can keep the finished pancakes on a heat-proof plate in the oven at 175°F. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Cupcakes with a Vanilla Swirl Icing

I am a sucker when it comes to a good chocolate cupcake, I find there is something nostalgic about them, and this recipe does the trick! It really brings me back to my childhood when there would be a birthday party to go to every other weekend. I love this recipe for its simplicity, and since the cupcakes are not overly sweet, the fluffy vanilla icing on top ends up becoming the perfect sugary balance. I found the recipe on Sweetapolita, a baking blog that I can look at for days! Check out this amazing cake! Inspiring right?
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This weekend was a big one for us. We hosted a Super Bowl party at our place and went all out with the food. I think there will be leftovers for weeks! It was really the first time we entertained for that many people and it definitely won’t be the last.  I was going to get all creative with the dessert, seeing so many great ideas on Pinterest that blew me away, but I decided to stick to simplicity with a swirled blue frosting to go with the team colours. The blue should have been darker, but nobody complained. I also added some red sprinkles on top at the last minute for the Patriot fans in the room.
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This is no healthy dessert like my last delicious recipe I posted here, I won’t lie, but I don’t mess around when it comes to nostalgia. And lets be honest, it was the Super Bowl and I wasn’t about to introduce some healthy dessert to a room full of hungry men.

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I decided to do a swirled icing on top so it was a little more interesting and I think it turned out pretty nicely despite my lack of piping skills, don’t you think?  It’s definitely something I want to practice. There are so many amazing things you can do with a piping bag! Next time I make these, i’ll use a wider tip so the three colours can be better defined and maybe add more icing per cupcake for height and drama. All in all I was really happy with the flavour and look of these little guys and I think everyone at the party was too.

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If you’ve been looking for a classic chocolate cupcake/frosting combo, this is one to bookmark. Whether you know someone with a birthday coming up or you are hosting a party like I did, or even just looking for an excuse to bake cupcakes (you can always find an excuse to bake cupcakes), you have to give this one a try!

The Nostalgic Chocolate Cupcake Adapted from Sweetapolita

(makes 12)

  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract

Fluffy Vanilla Swirl Frosting adapted from Sweetapolita

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (375 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops of food colouring in colours of your choice

Heres what you need to do: 

For the Cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/cupcake pan with cupcake liners
2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt
3. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix them for 2 minutes on medium speed carefully because it tends to splash. Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it’s hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.

For the Frosting 

1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Try not to eat too much of it in the process.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low speed until well combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy once again, about 6 more minutes.

To decorate the cupcakes
1. Divide the frosting into 3 parts. Tint 2 of them in shades of your choice and leave the last one white.
2. Into a medium or large pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip, add a spatula-full of each frosting colour I used this tutorial to help me out. Twist the top of the bag and pipe a generous swirl on each cupcake, working in a circular motion from the outside in.
Note: The cupcakes will keep at room temperature in a container with some airflow for up to 3 days.
Enjoy!

Homemade Oreos

Growing up, my mom held strict rules about what we had in our kitchen and junk food was limited. No yummy sugary cereals, cookies, soft drinks or TV dinners. I grew up on delicious home cooked meals, lots of salads and fruit. Of course I had junk food from time to time, my mom wasn’t that strict, but it was never really kept in the house. At the time, I didn’t understand how wonderful this was and how lucky I was, but I thank her now for instilling healthy habits in me from a young age. I now appreciate cooking and baking. I love bold flavours, spices, experimenting with new foods from different cultures, making things from scratch and sitting down for a good meal with family. At the time though, all I wanted was a bowl of delicious fruit loops, these Trixx yogurts with a pack of sprinkles you mixed in before eating, Michelina’s tortellini and broccoli frozen dinners, soda and Oreos! Anyways now that I’m all grown up I tend to steer away from packaged foods, sodas and junk foods. I do eat them on occasion, but I rarely keep them in the house. So when I saw this recipe I screeched! Homemade Oreos, it’s the best of both worlds!

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This recipe is extremely simple. It took about 10 minutes to prepare and about the same to assemble. I won’t call it healthy but it’s not processed (it will keep for a week in a well sealed container) and you know exactly what you’re eating… except for the vegetable shortening, I am not sure about that, but it is essential for keeping the filling from melting and turning into a gooey mess. I want to find an alternative (anyone have any suggestions?)
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My boyfriend took a bite and was disappointed that it wasn’t soft and fluffy. I guess he was expecting a whoopee pie from the way it looked (which is a great idea – Oreo whoopee pies? yum!) but this is no whoopee pie, it’s an Oreo cookie, and they are crunchy and slightly bitter to counter the sweet, creamy centre! I really liked the way they turned out, and urge you to try it!
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Homemade Oreo Recipe (from Smitten Kitchen, my favourite source for baked goods)
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies

Chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (this will give it that bitter and sweet balance. Add 1/2 cup more if you want a sweeter wafer)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

Creamy Filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Here’s what you need to do:
First, set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

To make the wafers:
1. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar well. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the room temperature butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

2. There are two ways to do this.
– You can take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart and with moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough.

or

– You can divide the dough into 2 pieces, wrap with plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator at least 1 hour. Then, knead the dough slightly to help soften it and avoid cracks when rolling. Place one piece between 2 lightly floured sheets of parchment paper and roll into a ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Any scraps will have to be re-chilled before you can re-roll it.

3. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the creamy filling:
1. Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.
2. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To put it all together:
1. In a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie.
2. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie.
3. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

**If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can easily use a zip lock bag with the corner cut off.

Enjoy them with a glass of milk and share them with all your friends and family!

Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie

I am not one to write down my smoothie recipes, because most of the time I wing it depending on what I have in my freezer, fridge and pantry. The one thing I never let myself run out of is frozen bananas. It’s the perfect way to save those bananas that you buy that go brown before you can enjoy them. I peel them up, cut them in half and keep them in freezer bags ready to use for baking and… smoothies! I wrote this one down because it was just so delicious, and I ended up drinking it for breakfast for 4 days straight. It’s packed with delicious things, and uses the bananas and dates for a natural sweetness.

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Photo: Jessica Pevzner

 

Ingredients
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup of loosely chopped kale
3 Ice cubes
1 cup of nut milk or rice milk or any kind of milk you love
1/2 frozen banana
2 pitted dates
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
1/4 cup of rolled oats

Directions:
Always put the liquid in first and then add the rest of your ingredients. Pulse slowly to break up the chunks and then blend until smooth and enjoy!

What is your favourite smoothie recipe?

Boozy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

It’s saturday morning and I have the option of sleeping in, but around 8:00 am my eyes are wide open and I am unable to go back to sleep, instead all I can think about is what can I bake? It’s a serious obsession, not only do I enjoy it but it really relaxes me. I also love baking in the mornings because the natural light is awesome in my kitchen, so my photo’s really come out beautifully without much editing. I have been experimenting with my new 50mm lens and I am having so much fun doing it!

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I had a bunch of ripe banana’s in my freezer because we love banana’s in my home, but they seem to go from green to brown these days, so every time a banana starts to brown and I have no intention of eating it, I throw it in the freezer. I figured, tons of ripe banana’s means only one thing: a boozy banana bread! I have been making this recipe for a while now,found on Smitten Kitchen. At first I wasn’t so sure about adding the optional bourban to the mix, but I have to say it really makes a difference. The chocolate chips are also a good addition because they add that extra level of sweetness. Hello decadence! This banana bread is a family favourite and often doesn’t last more than a couple of days but since it’s so easy to make I don’t mind!

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Here is what you need:

4 ripe bananas smashed up with a fork
1/3 cup of melted unsalted butter
1 cup of light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of cherry bourbon (or any bourbon for that matter)
1 teaspoon of baking soda
A Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. First off, you are going to want to mash up the bananas in a large bowl and with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula add the melted butter to them. Add to that the sugar, egg, vanilla and cherry bourbon and combine. then add the spices, baking soda and salt. Add the flour and gently stir until well combined then finally stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into a well buttered bread pan and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or until a knife comes out clean. Let it cool for a bit in the pan and then transfer to a cooling rack to finish off the process.

Enjoy!

Easy Home Made Biscuits on a Saturday Morning

Saturday mornings are my favourite. It feels like the reward after a long week. I can wake up a little later and go through my day at my own speed. I decided that I wanted to bake something warm and comforting to enjoy with a hot cup of tea for breakfast. So I pulled out one of my favourite cookbooks; Home Made by Yvette van Boven and decided on biscuits (a.k.a scones).

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Photo Credit: Jessica Pevzner

Biscuits are easy to make, delicious, and can be enjoyed with many different meals. They aren’t just reserved for breakfast. They are buttery, flakey and totally addictive and the ingredients are often already in your home which is so convenient. All you need is flour, salt, baking soda, confectioners sugar, butter and milk. Throw everything, except the milk, into a bowl or mixer, and mix until combined but still course and granular. Then add the milk and work it into a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough and make the butter melt, you want to keep the butter at a chilled temperature, so move fast! Once you have formed a nice ball of dough, sprinkle your work surface with flour and begin to roll it out until it is 3/4 of an inch thick.

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Photo Credit: Jessica Pevzner

I then used a drinking glass to cut the dough with. If you have a cookie cutter, that would work too. Once you have cut out all your biscuits, lay them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently brush each biscuit with milk. Then pop them in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees! That is it my friends!

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Photo Credit: Jessica Pevzner

How easy is that? I cut them in half as soon as they were hot out of the oven, slathered them with lightly salted butter and a spoonful of Tiptree raspberry seedless conserve, which happens to be my favourite jam, and enjoyed. I seriously could have eaten them all in one sitting but I stopped myself and shared them with my family, who helped me finish them all off in one day!  We loved them so much and since they are so simple to make, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be making more of these soon!

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Photo Credit: Jessica Pevzner

“Biscuits” adapted from Home Made:

(For 8 to 10 People)

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flower
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
1 stick cold butter, cubed
2/3 cup milk or buttermilk, plus more for tops

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients minus the milk and mix until butter and flour turn into coarse grains. Work fast so as not to melt that cold butter! Add the milk and work into a smooth ball. Prepare your countertop with a sprinkling of flour and roll the ball of dough out until it is 3/4 of an inch thick. Use a drinking glass (like I did) or a cookie cutter and cut out your biscuits. Keep reworking the dough and rolling it out until you have used up the majority of it. Place them on your lined, or greased cookie sheet and bake until done and golden brown (around 15 min.) Serve with salted butter, jam, whipped cream or clotted cream.

Enjoy!