Thursday, April 19, 2012

Homemade Ginger-ale

You may not know this about me, but I am not a big pop fan. Check that. I love the taste of pop, but I don't like the affects of pop, and so I don't indulge very often. I get headaches and dry mouth from it, and I'm always so very aware of the sugar content whenever I take a sip, that it really ruins the experience for me. But if I AM going to indulge in some pop, it's going to be some really good root beer, but better yet, ginger-ale. Nothing beats are really good can of ginger-ale. I don't know if it's because my dad likes it so much and so that was the most common pop in our house (not that pop was common), or what, but I love it. My dad always pours himself a glass, and then takes a fork and stirs it, to get rid of the majority of the carbonation. But I like to savour the stinging, biting sensation of the carbonation on my tongue and the back of my throat. Mixed with the spicy ginger's just awesome.

My sous-chef came home from a business trip one day and said, "I just had the most amazing drink ever. Homemade ginger-ale. It was WAY better than the bottled stuff." He likes to indulge my ginger-ale senses.

So, I set about trying to replicate this 'amazing' drink. I decided his birthday was a good day to attempt it. Although, I'm not sure why I would try a new recipe on such a big day...when we had company over. But I didn't think about those details until after. I made the simple ginger syrup the night before and mixed up the drinks in time for our BBQ dinner (it was exceptionally warm here in March - probably the first time that we've sat on the patio in shorts, having a BBQ on March 20th!). There was only one problem with the drinks...I didn't make enough. There was just enough syrup to make one cup for each adult guest, and it just left us teased and wanting more! I guess that's the measure of a good recipe!

So here are the seats:

Ingredients 2 cups (about 10 ounces) coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger. (we're talking about two BIG roots at the grocery store)
3 strips lemon peel (about 4 inches each), yellow part only
1 1/2 cups of sugar
4 cups water
3 quarts chilled club soda
ice cubes
lemon slices

Directions: Place ginger, lemon peel and water in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer at a low boil, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

Add sugar, stirring constantly, and continue to boil until reduced to about 3 cups, another 15 minutes. 

Place a fine wire strainer over a large bowl. Pour in ginger mixture to separate solids from liquid. Discard the lemon peel and ginger (or save ginger to be used on ice-cream or yogurt).

Cool the syrup, pour into a glass container, seal tightly and chill for at least 1 hour until cold or up to 1 week. 

For each 16-oz serving, mix 1/4 cup ginger syrup with 1 cup cold club soda and pour over ice. Garnish cup with lemon slice. I like it with the lemon slice IN the ginger ale.

Tastes like summer!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pixie Surprise

So a few weeks ago I saw a cookie recipe on one of my favourite recipe blogs, Our Best Bites, that I really wanted to try. I printed the recipe, bought the ingredients, and then didn't do anything. I was so busy with birthday planning, and cleaning, and dealing with some weird shoulder pain, that the cookies just got pushed further and further down the priority list. But they were constantly nagging at my brain. So yesterday, with the two bigger ones at school, and the Sous-Chef at work, the littlest critic and I decided to give them a whirl.

Super delicious! They were a great after dinner treat. But let me warn you, these babies are SICKLY sweet. Like burn the back of your throat sweet. So now I had made 2 dozen cookies, gotten my fill of them from just one cookie, and had so many more left. I tried to convince the Sous-Chef to take some with him to his Young Men's activity. He didn't want to bother. Seriously, the amount of sugar contained in these leads me to not wanting to let my kids indulge in too many. What am I going to do with nearly 2 dozen cookies?

And then a beautiful plan was born. It was pixie time. Dad was gone to Young Men's. With the car. So that left us the only choice of pixie-ing someone within walking distance. We had pixied our next door neighbour just last week with Valentine Sugar Cookies, so it was someone else's turn for some treats. There's a family down the street with 2 little kids close to our critics ages, and they ride the bus together. Super nice. Super welcoming. We figured they were the perfect prey.

So everyone got bundled, and headed outside in the cover of night. The plan was for the littlest critic and I to hang back with the stroller, so we wouldn't be seen, and the bigger two would sneak up, leave the cookies, ring the bell and run. The biggest critic said, "But Chef, I'm not quick on stairs!" So a new plan was devised. She would leave the cookies, and hurry down the steps. Once she was down, the middle-critic would ring the bell and we'd all run.

They were so excited and it was fabulous. We ran home and hid in the cover of our garage and played hockey. Then, about 10 minutes later, we went for another walk to make sure the cookies had been snatched up.

It was fun to act all innocent at the bus-stop this morning when we saw them.


1 chocolate cake mix (we prefer Duncan Hines)
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
2 eggs
12 large marshmallows
1/2 c. melted butter
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c. evaporated milk
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350. Combine cake mix, eggs, and shortening in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and mix until well combined. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the cookies appear done but are still soft in the center.

While the cookies are baking, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut each marshmallow in half. When the cookies have baked, remove the pan from the oven and place a marshmallow half on each cookie, cut side down. Return the pan to the oven for about 2 minutes. Remove from oven and very gently push each marshmallow down. Allow to cool completely and repeat with remaining cookie dough.

When the cookies have cooled completely, combine the powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Add melted butter, vanilla, and evaporated milk and beat on high until smooth, light, and fluffy. Transfer the frosting to an icing bag fitted with a large tip and swirl onto the cookies. Makes 24 cookies.

Be prepared...sickly sweet, but OH SO GOOD.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not really big into SuperBowl Sunday. It's just another Sunday to me. The Sous-Chef likes football, but he doesn't watch it very often. And I'm always at odds about watching the SuperBowl simply because it's on a Sunday. I mean, we don't PLAY sports on Sunday, so why do we watch other people PLAY sports on Sunday...especially people who are paid to do it. Of course, it's not that big of a dilemma for me, because I don't really care to watch it. Except for the commercials. I usually perk up when those come on, because let's face it, SuperBowl commercials are the best.

Needless to say, I was somewhat aware that SuperBowl was coming up, because I'm not dead, but I hadn't planned anything. Then, I was catching up on some of my favourite blogs, when I noticed a friend of mine had posted some healthy snack choices for a SuperBowl party. Amongst those was a recipe for Guacamole, that she touted as "The Best On The Planet". Although I am not a huge fan of SuperBowl, I AM a huge fan of snacks...and especially Guacamole. So I figured I'd give the recipe a try.

When the Sous-Chef found out that I bought ingredients for Guacamole, he suggested we invite some friends over a make it a SuperBowl party. So somehow, even though I don't like the SuperBowl, a Guacamole recipe launched a SuperBowl party that I wasn't planning on having.

We invited a family over who has kids similar ages to our kids, and who we get a long with GREAT. And a feast ensued!

The evening started with the Guacamole and chips, and let me just say, it did not disappoint. I have had some pretty awesome Guacamole in my day, but I'd say that this is the best "Home-Kitchen recipe on the planet". Well, unless I was at my friend Roberto's house, which is somewhere in Mexico, and that's just not happening any time soon, so this will have to do!

We cooked up a few smokies and sliced them up for a little appetizer action too.

Then, the main event - A Schwack of Chili, and Pizza Buns - because we both have critics who are pretty critical of Chili, and it's a party, so no one should go home hungry, or disappointed.

We finished the night off allowing the little critics to make a big mess of my kitchen decorating cupcakes and eating Ice-cream Sundaes.

It has been YEARS since I had a full-blown ice-cream Sundae, and I LOVED it. Vanilla ice-cream, caramel AND chocolate sauce, strawberries, bananas and honey-roasted peanuts. Oh, that was good!

So, although I didn't watch much football, besides the Madonna half-time show and the commercials, I had a great time hosting my own SuperBowl party!

PS. There is a link to the guacamole recipe, but people seem to be having a hard time finding it, so I'll just post it here. Credit goes to my friend Estelle at

3 avocados
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-1/2 tbsp Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp seasoning salt

Mash avocados and mix with other ingredients, or if you like it creamier (like me) the throw it all in the blender or food processor until well combined. Seriously delicious! We ate the leftovers last night while watching garbage tv. It was great.

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Pizza Bun, Mama?"

So a few weeks ago, the Sous Chef made a suggestion. "Hey, do you think it would be possible to make pizza in a bun?" We were driving to the airport in Ottawa, on our way to Alberta for Christmas. The kids were munching on leftover pizza from the night before, and it was a bit messy.

"You know, your bun recipe? Could you just somehow stick pizza ingredients into the centre of the bun before you bake it?"

So I mulled this idea over for a while. I wasn't sure how to stuff pizza ingredients into the centre of the bun and still ensure that it would turn out...but then I thought, I make cinnamon buns out of that dough and they're great...I bet I can use pizza ingredients instead of cinnamon bun ingredients and have the same effect. And the idea came to life.

So on Wednesday, it was time to break it out. Dough was made, pizza ingredients added, and into the oven with fingers crossed.

Everyone was excited for the result. Pressure was on, because I didn't have a fall-back plan for dinner. was a hit! Seriously, the Sous-chef responded by asking if there was going to be enough, and how easy would it be to double the recipe.

I thought it was 'ok'...but I'd like to perfect the dough...see if I can add some flavour to it to make it taste more like pizza dough, rather than just bun dough.

So here's what I did:

Basic 2-hour bread/bun dough recipe...which is your favourite.

Instead of forming it into buns, roll it out into a large rectangular as possible, but obviously perfection isn't necessary.

Spread pizza sauce over, and sprinkle with diced pepperoni. I made the pieces really small.

Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Roll up, the same way you would with cinnamon buns. Slice into even portions. I can usually get 12-equal portions out of this recipe.

Put on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise for 45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degree for 22 minutes.

Yummy goodness!

The two male critics and I had the leftovers for lunch the next day. They were equally delicious cooled down and not fresh from the oven. Now, every time we get in the car, I hear the littlest guy asking, "Mama, a pizza bun!"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Noodle Stir-Fry

Sometimes I just get tired of the same-old recipes. We love stir-fry, but haven't had it for a long time because I used to buy a stir-fry sauce that is no longer available. And I've looked. It was Thai flavoured. The company still makes sauces...they're pretty well known. I even contacted the company to find out about the sauce and they told me it just wasn't that popular so they discontinued it. So we discontinued stir-fry for a while.

I've tried a few recipes, but nothing ever tastes as good. Thai always has a bit of a peanut undertone, and anytime I found a recipes for thai sauce, it always tasted more like peanut butter, than a lick-your-lips, crave some stir-fry, kind of sauce. Until now! (Drama!)

This one is amazing. I'll just say that. The recipe is vegetarian, but I've served it with cooked chicken one time, and salmon another time. Totally good. Easy-peasy. And it has the proper peanut - to - spice ratio. No thoughts of PB&J here...only thoughts like, "I wish my mouth was bigger!"


Quick & Easy Noodle Stir-Fry
Recipe by Our Best Bites


1 12-oz. package linguine (whole wheat or regular)
1-2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Asian sweet red chili sauce (Thai Kitchen makes one that’s great and easy to find; this is not the chili sauce you find near the ketchup)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 small red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced or pressed
1 large or 2 small orange, red, and/or yellow bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen green sugar snap peas, snow peas, edamame, or green beans
1 medium zucchini, julienned or chopped
Optional: Grilled chicken, shrimp, or steak, black sesame seeds, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When it is boiling, add the noodles and cook al dente. When the noodles are done, drain them and toss in 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil.

Whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, sweet chili sauce, and dark sesame oil. Set aside.

While the noodles are cooking, heat a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir fry 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, but the garlic isn’t burning. Add the peas (or beans or edamame) and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and peppers and stir fry for another 30 seconds or until the veggies are crisp-tender. Add the noodles and stir fry until the noodles are well-combined with the vegetables. Give the sauce a quick whisk and then drizzle it evenly over the noodles and stir fry the entire mixture for about 30-60 seconds or until everything is well-coated in the sauce. Serve immediately–if you want, you can garnish individual servings with chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and black sesame seeds. Serves 6-8.

Tips: I skipped the onion and it was still fantastic. Have all your stuff ready to go before you start to stir-fry, because this recipe moves quick.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Raise your hands for Chicken!

I've had a revelation. An apostrophe. Lightening has just struck my brain. (I think you mean an epiphany).

Please don't mock me if this revelation seems like old news to you. I'm standing in the grocery store deli department looking at meat. I had already determined before I came to the grocery store what meals we were having that week and so I knew exactly what I wanted to get. Ground beef for spaghetti and chili - check. Burger patties for burgers - check. Chicken breast, for our weekly chicken dinner - it seriously going to cost me $13 for 2 chicken breasts? And that's not enough to feed my family of 5, so I'll have to buy TWO packages? Umm..hello chicken people, what's with the raise in prices? How am I supposed to feed my family? Do I need to get food stamps? No seriously. $26 for the meat portion of my meal is not in my budget. My eyes dart back and forth as I try to decide what else we could possibly have when I notice a whole chicken sitting there, nicely packaged and ready for me to take home.


Wait a minute. It's going to cost me $13 for two pieces of a chicken, but I can buy the whole thing for $7.50? Is it just me, or does this seem a little silly to you. I mean, I understand that I'm paying to have them cut it for me...but really? Whole chicken it is. Decision made. I put it in my cart and off I go.

So today is chicken day. I was going to go with my usual - chicken, rice and veggies. But if I'm going to go to the effort of cooking a whole chicken, I might as well make a feast of it. So we go with roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding and veggies. And juice instead of water.

Wowza! What a mom!

The chicken turned out so beautiful moist and flavourful...not to toot my own horn, but: TOOT! TOOT! It was awesome! And my children gobbled it up!

Critic # 1 said, "MOM! I can't wait to eat!" And she wasn't kidding. Normally the chicken is the last thing she eats and it takes some convincing. She ate it up first and fast!

Critic #2 said, "I get to eat meat off the bone! Awesome!" That's his inner cave-man talking.

Critic #3 said, "Bun!"

I will definitely be doing the whole roast chicken again. It wasn't hard. It makes me look like an awesome cook. And they ate it up. Plates clean in less than half an hour is a win in my house.

Chicken Recipe:
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 onion, quartered
1 whole chicken (3 pounds)

Mix together spices and rub entire chicken. I didn't have the onion, so I used 3 cloves of garlic and 1/4 of a lemon. Put the onion (or garlic and lemon in my case) inside the chicken. Put the entire chicken in a food storage bag and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight.
Place in roasting pan. Roast at 375 degrees, basting every half hour or so. Cover with foil if the chicken is browning too quickly. (Roast for 20 minutes per pound). Raise temperature to 425 degrees for the last 15 minutes. Let chicken stand 10 minutes before carving.

Raising the temperature for the last 15 minutes worked perfectly for me to make some yorkshires at the same time.

Juicy, Juicy, Juicy.

Potato Recipe
1 package, Little Gems potatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ranch dressing
paprika and cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until fork tender. Drain.
Mince garlic. Mix Garlic, oil, ranch dressing and spices in a bowl. Add potatoes and stir until coated. Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees until golden and crispy. My kids don't like it too spicy, so I hold off a bit on the paprika and cayenne.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Alison Has The Best Buns!

That title gets your attention!

What is it with Kingston, or this new house that gives me the incredible desire to bake constantly? Seriously, I make cookies, or buns, or something similar multiple times a week. I'm going to be one chunky-monkey if I don't slow down.

Maybe it's the excitement of an organized kitchen with plenty of room in it that has me wanting to pull out my kitchen-aide every day. Or maybe it's because no one here knows me, so I can get to know them over a batch of cookies. Or maybe I'm trying to fill this void with sugar. (Probably not a good plan).

Well, it is a good plan if I don't do a good job. Because then I don't feel much like eating it. I made homemade buns yesterday (my sister's recipe which are so incredibly awesome that you eat WAY more than you should) and they did not turn out. Didn't rise. Were really thick and dense. Not appetizing. Usually they're devoured. Not this time. I also made cookies on Saturday, but something went wrong there too and they ended up like cookie pancakes on the cookie sheet. Maybe that's what you get when you rush baking.

So with that track record, I decided to attempt a recipe that I have NEVER done on my own and one that carries with it A LOT of hype and tradition. Smart idea, hey? Grandma Maurine's Potato Donuts. I've heard rumour around the Branch that Tyler has been bragging that I make awesome donuts...The Relief Society has decided to have a Potato Donut cook-off in September for our Cooking Class. Me vs. Corliss. Nice. I've never ACTUALLY made them. I've eaten them...OH I've eaten them. And Tyler's Grandma gave us the recipe and a tutorial the week before we left in case we were ever craving donuts and were too far away to have hers. So today was the test run.

Seriously, donuts take a long time! I called Grandma one time to double-check something, and then I was flying. Started at 11am and was finally icing the last donut at 3:00pm. Of course, I was being a mom too, so that may have slowed me down.

Now I have 75 delicious donuts waiting to be consumed. Good thing the missionaries are coming for dinner tonight...and we're going to a friend's house for dinner tomorrow...75 donuts is WAY too much for this little family.

I'll share pictures, but I haven't asked permission to share the you'll just have to drool. (Don't count the donuts, there are already a few missing!)

I was thinking these would be good dusted with icing sugar right after they come out of the hot oil. More like a beignet. Maybe next time. I have to recover for a few weeks.

I'm also making Bean Dip, Chimichungas and Spicy Rice today. I guess I feel like hanging out in the kitchen. I'll post those recipes (with pictures) tomorrow.