We’re a batch made in heaven…

Red Velvet. Chocolate. Cheesecake. All in one cookie? What the heck – yes please!

Every year around Christmas time, my kitchen is filled with yummy smells, and my scale gets a workout.

I usually make around 10-15 different types of cookies, bars, cakes, etc.. and this year I was looking to change up my tried and true. I tried a couple different recipes, and I found that the below worked best.

One who is always up to test my baking is my brother Adam, Adam is also one of the pickiest eaters I have ever met – like painfully picky – so when he asked for seconds, and thirds, I knew I found a winner.

This is a cookie that takes time, you need to make ahead the cheesecake centers so they can freeze, as well as the dough needs to time to chill in the fridge – so either take a couple days to make, or throw on a few tunes, and move around in between (like I said my scale gets a workout this time of year)

I hope you love these as much as we did (especially my brother) and you know what… truly enjoy every last bite – the scale can wait another day….

What do you call it when two coconuts get into an accident?

A pina – Collid-a!!

Took the pooch for a walk this morning – starting to get a chill in the air so I wanted something warm for lunch! @mingtsai Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Soup was exactly what I needed!! If you can only smell and taste this soup! 30 minutes and I’m in food heaven!

Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Soup (serves 4)

1 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil

4 lemongrass stalks, pale parts only, crushed with flat side of the knife

2 medium onions, sliced

2 thai chiles, stemmed but not seeded

2 boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into strips

3 tbsp fish sauce

6 cups chicken broth, aim for low sodium

1/2 cup coconut milk

juice of 2 lemons

salt and pepper to taste

green scallions for garnish

How to make soup for you!

Heat saucepan over medium – high heat, add oil and swirl to coat

Add lemongrass, stir and sweat it uncovered for 2min

Add onion and chiles, stir for 1 min

Add the chicken and saute until opaque, about 1-2 min

Add the fish sauce and broth, stir, bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced slightly (15-20min)

Whisk in the coconut milk and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper

Why the heck and what the heck is sweating the vegetables? The word sweating in food is meant to describe the way aromatic vegetables (onions, garlic, peppers) are cooked before adding in other ingredients. The goal is to soften them, and release their moisture.

Did you also know – that lemongrass is considered a diuretic, tonic and stimulant. It promotes good digestion, and a preparation of lemongrass with pepper has been used for relief of menstrual troubles and nausea. It induces perspiration, to cool the body and reduce a fever. It is well known a mild insect repellent (citronella) and the essential oil is used in perfumery.

Have you used lemongrass in a recipe? I am always looking for new way to try to incorporate lemongrass, so share away!

Oh My gourd … I love this Salad

Only in the past few months or so I have been navigating through the vegetarian/vegan/plant based world of food – and I have come across some great recipes – and some not so great recipes.

I love food. My work life and real life revolves around food. I get to experiment with different flavors, different styles, and different cultures. Every town I visit, every event I am part of, there is commonality – you will always find people enjoying food. James Beard said it best “Food is our common ground, a universal experience”.

Growing up – my family was not the most adventurous when it came to food. My mom thought salt and pepper was too spicy. Seriously. We were the typical meat and potatoes type of family. I remember meatloaf was a regular at our table; smothered in ketchup. Don’t get me wrong vegetables were always included, but they were never the main attraction.

I first fell in love with “Oh she glows everyday” by Angela Liddon – her recipes were delicious, easy to follow, and opened my eyes to more plant based options. That cookbook has a TON of recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts. I can honestly say I probably have 5 or 6 of her recipes in heavy rotation at any given time.

I was in Costco in early November when I came across her latest book – “Oh she glows for dinner”. Did not hesitate. I bought it. Actually come to think about it – pretty sure I may have a grabbed my copy while someone was reaching for the same book. But I got it first that’s all that matters.

For every cookbook I crack open – I make sure to make at least 7 recipes. This recipe here is for what seems like an easy salad but let me tell you – the smell of the pumpkin spice and maple is ridonkulous! The roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas with the tahini based kale salad was so scrumptious!

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Salad (Served 4)

For the Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas

3 Medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes

1 can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/2 tsp fine Sea Salt

For the Marinated Kale Salad

1 bunch of curly Kale , rinsed, stemmed and chopped

1 medium Garlic clove, finely grated

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp pure Maple Syrup

1/4 tsp fine Sea Salt

3 tbsp fresh Lemon juice

1 tbsp Tahini

1/2 cup roasted Salted Pumpkin Seeds

How to make friends with Salad

Preheat the oven to 400F – Line an extra large baking sheet with parchment paper

Drizzle the chopped sweet potatoes and chickpeas with oil, toss until coasted. Slather on half of that maple syrup and toss again to coat. Spread into a single layer on the pan, sprinkle on the salt and the pumpkin spice

Roast – Uncovered for 36 minutes – Sweet potatoes should be fork tender. Do not flip or rotate the pan during cooking.

While your kitchen is getting busy with all those yummy smells, you want to start preparing the salad. Place the kale in a large bowl.

ln a small bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, salt, lemon juice, and tahini until smooth. Pour over your kale. Massage with your hands until fully coated. The point of massaging is to help break down some of the tough, fibrous characteristics of kale. This makes it easier to chew and digest!

When chickpeas and sweet potatoes are finished roasting, remove, drizzle the second half of maple syrup – also add a little extra pumpkin spice …why? because you can and its tasty.

Portion the kale into bowls, top with the warm roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas, and garnish with the roasted pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

2 tbsp cinnamon

1tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp all spice

1 tsp ground cloves

Grab a jar – Put all the spices in – Give it a shake

Want to purchase Oh She Glows Everyday ? Click here

Want to purchase Oh she glows for dinner? Right now it’s on sales for $25! Click here

I love to drink tea each day because it brings out my inner tranquili-TEA…

It was my husband’s turn to pick the Cookbook for My Cookbook Challenge – and he chose Simply Ming. I am pretty sure I bought this book for him over 12 years ago, and I kid you not when I went to peruse the recipes – I realized the book had yet to be opened.

In this book, Ming presents multiple techniques for bringing his east/west flair to everyday cooking. One of the things I liked most about this book is that he suggests a drink (wine, tea, soda) with every dish, along with easy tips to make this daunting challenge alot more easier!

The first recipe I chose was Tea Braised Lamb Stew using his Five Spice Chile Tea Rub – I have been wanting to find a recipe that used tea in its recipe – I could not wait to smell the aroma wafting through the kitchen and the smoky depth it would add. See below for the recipe for his rub, and the Tea Braised Lamb Stew Recipe

First and foremost – I need to warn you – this rub packs a punch and by bunch I mean a pure sucker punch to the nose and the back of your throat! But it will keep you coming back for more!

Five Spice Chile Tea Rub (Makes about 6 cups & last 3 weeks in the refrigerator)

3 cups Lapsang Souchong Tea Leaves

1/2 cup seal salt or kosher salt

1/3 cup red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chipotle chile powder

1/2 cup dehydrated garlic

1/4 cup cayenne pepper

1/4 cup dried chives or onions

1/4 cup five-spice powder

Combine all the ingredients

I found the Lapsang Souching Tea Leaves really hard to find locally, I went to quite a few grocery stores as well as some local asian grocery stores and had no luck. I ultimately had to purchase off of Amazon (link below).

Couple things about Lapsang – there is a pretty significant amount of caffeine, so if you get the jitters like me – this will put a little kick in your step. The smoky tea also has some awesome benefits on its own; helps increase blood flow for your cardiovascular health, and also a great antioxidant!

The stew was a hit in our household – but like I said – it packs a sucker punch of smoke and heat – if I were to make it next time, I would limit the rub on the pieces of meat by 1/2 – but then again I am a baby when it comes to spice.

Tea Braised Lam Stew (serves 4)

1 1/2 lbs lamb stew meat

1 cup Five Spice Chile Tea Rub

3 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil

2 large onions, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 cups dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon is my fave)

Salt & Pepper

2 russet potatoes, 1 inch dice

2 sweet potatoes, 1 inch dice

How to:

In a large bowl, combine the lamb and the rub, allow to coat for 15min

Heat a small crockpot or saucepot over high heat, add 2 tbsp of oil and swirl to coat the pot

Add the lamb and brown, remove and set aside

Add last tbsp of oil, scrape the bits, add the onions, carrots and celery and sweat for 5 minutes

Add the wine and cook for 6-8 min; liquid should be reduced in half

Return the lamb to the pot, add enough water to cook the lamb (The smells’ are INCREDIBLE)

Season with salt and pepper

Continue to simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding the potatoes in the last 30 minutes

Want to enjoy to enjoy with a glass of wine? The grapes in Genache/Syrah pairs well with Spicy food, and gamy meats. If you go into the Vintages sections of your local LCBO, we found the Saint – Roch Vielles Vignes Syrah/Grenache and it was delicious! (https://www.lcbo.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/lcbo/saint-roch-vieilles-vignes-syrah-grenache-2017-195107#.X_okFthKiUk)

Wanting to check out more recipes in this great Cookbook –https://www.amazon.ca/Simply-Ming-Techniques-East-Meets-West-Meals/dp/0609610678/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=simply+ming&qid=1610229363&sr=8-1

Cancel all my plans, I just wanna sit here and watch hot cocoa bombs explode. . .

After eight days straight of scrolling through Tik Tok – I decided that was it. I must go in my kitchen and make hot cocoa bombs. I don’t even particularly like hot cocoa – yet I was compelled to start – why because Tik Tok made me do it.

In case you have been living under a rock for the entire holiday season hot cocoa bombs are cute little balls of chocolate that you throw into your fave mug and when you pour hot milk into the mug, the chocolate melts and magically releases the marshmallows and cocoa hiding inside. Sounds amazing. I know.

I start rummaging through my baking pantry – seemed simple enough, Chocolate, Cocoa and Marshmallows – how hard could this be? I should be sippin’ in no time… Wrong. Do not pass go. Fail.

The hardest part was not the ingredients – it was trying to find the molds. Not only did Tik Tok make me do it – but also thousands of others…. every local craft/food store in the area were sold out. I had to scour Amazon for some in stock and was finally able to order some (see link below)

After quite a few tries – I finally found a method/recipe that worked best for me:

Chocolate.  Do not use the candy melts – they tend to leave a waxy residue in your cup. Also no need for the high end Calebut wafers, regular ol’ milk or dark chocolate chips works!

Microwave on high in 20 seconds bursts to melt the chocolate stirring in between. I know its a pain in the butt but trust me, the chocolate will be much smoother and pourable.

Fill the molds. Scoop about a tbsp of chocolate into the molds and use a pastry brush to push the chocolate around the mold, making sure it reaches right up to the edges. Throw those suckers in the freezer for about 10 min to set.

Repeat. Scoop about a 1/2 tbsp of chocolate into the molds and use a pastry brush to cover any spots that may have been missed the first time. Throw those suckers back in the freezer for another 10 min to set.

Remove the chocolate from the molds. Be careful – and wear gloves if you have sweaty ol’ palms like me. Gently push the half spheres out of the mold. If you are doing multiple at a time, I put the in the freezer on a baking tray until ready to melt.

Melt the edges. I used a frying pan on a low, you want it hot enough to melt the chocolate. Pick up one empty half of the chocolate bomb and place it on the pan for a couple of seconds, just until it melts

Fill. Add 1 tablespoon hot cocoa powder and marshmallows to the empty half you just melted. Pick up another half and melt that edge as well, then push the two sides together to seal.

Decorate.  Drizzle some extra chocolate and decorate with crushed candy canes, sprinkles or mini chips. Make sure your drizzle is not too hot or it will melt your bomb and you’ll be sad.

Want to really kick it up a notch? Trying using my recipe for homemade Champagne marshmallows (link here) or add some boozy goodness Bailey’s, Peppermint Schnapps or Whiskey

Amazon Links https://www.amazon.ca/Baking-Chocolate-Mousse%EF%BC%8CExtra-5-Cavity-Silicone/dp/B088BK9LXB/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=sphere+mold&qid=1610244962&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFURFkxNDRIWlRaWkcmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTA2MDIzMTcxWUhSRVBERFdWVzNQJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTAzMTQ2MzIyVkhRM1FGRk0zUTRPJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==