Happy New Year!

…just a week late, but nevertheless… I hope you had a lovely holiday. πŸ™‚

Mine was OK. My sisters came for a two-week visit, which was lovely – I hadn’t seen them in about a year and a half. The downside was that we were all sick. Little J had a high fever on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and he spent the days sleeping. He opened some of his presents on Christmas Eve, as is the Finnish custom, and the rest on the 27th when he finally felt better…

But we did get to do some fun stuff too. We drove up to Whistler for a day, and the best part of the trip really is the scenery…. The highway runs between the mountains and the sea, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and we stopped at few different viewing spots to take photos.

Photo credit: my sister Anna

Photo credit: my sister Anna

On New Year’s Day I remembered a package of puff pastry in the fridge. I had bought it frozen for some Christmas pastries, and hadn’t used it… We also had some apples that were getting old, so I made a quick apple pie that turned out great!

First, layer the pastry into a pie dish. Peel and slice the apples, approx. three of them, and spread the slices on the pastry. Sprinkle cardamom and cinnamon powder on the apples, and add a dash of salt. Really.

Then the secret ingredient…

secret ingredient

Take about half a dozen of these little treats, cut them up into little pieces and spread over the apples.

Fold the edges of the pastry on top of the apples if needed, and brush with egg wash. Bake in 175C / 350F for about 20 min until the edges are golden brown.

And voila!

It was really simple, and really tasty. πŸ™‚ Another good Indian custom is to start a New Year off by eating something sweet – as in, it should be the first thing in your mouth after midnight. πŸ™‚

Oh, talking about Indian customs… I sorted out the new clothing thing by buying a pair of socks and a pair of tights. I needed the socks anyway, and I’ve come to a conclusion that I’ll never manage to make a pair of decent leggings (since I can’t seem to manage a decent t-shirt, and that’s just so much easier…) so I might as well buy a pair since I really need one. I also had a skirt I had knitted last fall but hadn’t worn at all, so that rounded up my three new things to wear on Christmas, birthday and New Year. It’s a bit of a cop-out since it wasn’t three new outfits but it’ll have to do.

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Orange Butterscotch Muffins

Shortly after J was born a lady from our church brought us a bag of lovely orange and date muffins. She shared the recipe with me. Couple of weeks ago I really wanted to make some muffins but I didn’t have all the ingredients at home. I played around with the recipe a little, and here is the result.

Orange Butterscotch Muffins

1/2 cup orange juice (preferably fresh)
1 orange, peeled and cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F.

Puree the orange juice and pieces in a food processor or blender. Add egg and butter, and blend until smooth. Add sugar and blend to combine.

Mix flours, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl, and make a well in the middle. Pour in the orange mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in butterscotch chips.

Scoop the batter into lined or greased muffin tin. Bake for 15-20 min until golden on top, and thoroughly done (use the toothpick test). Cool on a wire rack.

This batch makes 12 muffins – unless you’re baking with a toddler, in which case it makes 11. And in that case you’ll also have to wash the kitchen floors and walls afterward.

If you’re not a fan of butterscotch chips I think chocolate chips or chopped pecans might be nice. But I haven’t actually tried the recipe with those… If you do, please let me know the results.

Orange butterscotch muffins

The Best Gingerbread Cookies

Sorry I’ve been so silent. Life has been busy, and I just haven’t had much to say.

Here’s something, though… My friend and I have spent two days this week baking cookies. This gingerbread cookie recipe is my mom’s, and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s a bit of work but so worth it!

Gingies

Gingies

150 ml molasses
200 g sugar (approx. 250 ml)
250 g butter
2 tsp each, cinnamon, cloves and ginger
1 tbsp powdered orange peel (I haven’t been able to find this anywhere! The recipe works well without)
2 eggs
500 g all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking soda

Melt the butter in a kettle. Add in molasses, sugar, and spices, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool down for 10 min.

Add eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour and baking soda. Let the dough chill until the next day.

Cut the dough in four or five parts (depending on your counter space). Roll it out to approx. 2 mm for crispy, thin cookies or 5 mm for thicker, chewier cookies. Cut out shapes and bake them in 175C / 350F for 5-8 min, depending on the thickness.

Decorate the cooled down cookies with royal icing (blend of icing sugar and water, with food colouring if desired). This recipe makes about 100 thin cookies. You can also use the dough for a gingerbread house – in that case roll the dough thicker.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Apple Chips

I made some lovely spicy apple chips last week! Here’s how – try it. It’s easy and delicious!

First, take two or three apples, and core and slice them. Peeling is optional – but I’d recommend it if you’re using wax-covered apples. Firm, slightly tart apples work best for this job. I’m using Royal Gala because that’s what we had at home.

Next, lay the apple slices on a baking sheet, as tight as you can. Sprinkle the spice of your choice over the slices. Cinnamon and cardamom go well with apples but you can always experiment. I used Garam Masala, an Indian spice mix, and it was great! Don’t add sugar, the drying process will bring out the sweetness even from the most tart of apples.

Next, turn your oven on to the lowest possible setting. Put the pan in the oven and leave it overnight. Since the whole point of the process is to get rid of all the moisture, leave a spatula or something in between the over door to keep it open and let the moisture escape.

And that’s how easy it is! Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the finished apple chips… They vanished quickly. I’ll add a photo when I make them again.

If you try some unique flavouring on your apple chips, please share it on the comments below. We’d all love to hear it! πŸ™‚

Chocolate Chip Cookies – finally!

This one is long overdue – but here it is! The recipe for my friend Alaina’s chocolate chip cookies. And yes, I do have her permission to share it with you!

She actually had the recipe printed on the thank you card she sent out when her son was born. Such a brilliant idea!

Alaina’s Chocolate Chip CookiesΒ 

225g butter
125g caster sugar
200g light brown / golden brown sugar
345g flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
350g chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 190C (375F).

Combine butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla, mix until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, mix until well combined.

Roll dough into balls. For large cookies, approx. 90g per ball – flatten the balls to about 1cm thick. For small cookies, approx. 30g per ball. Place the cookies on a lined cookie sheet, well spread out. Bake until golden brown.

Our baking day edition: We replaced some of the chocolate with toffee chips (oh yes, we use those on everything…). The cookies were almost too sweet – but oh so delicious anyway… πŸ™‚

Also, when we weighed one of our cookies it was about 60g, and it was a good size. So just make the cookies the size you like and it should be good… You don’t need a scale. πŸ™‚

White Chocolate + Toffee = Sweet Goodness

I really, really wanted to bake cookies last Saturday night. The only problem was that I didn’t have the necessary ingredients for anything except shortbread, and I don’t like shortbread. No point in baking something I don’t like (especially because the main reason I wanted to bake cookies was that I just wanted to eat some cookie dough… But don’t tell anyone, that’s a secret.) And it was already past 9pm so there was really no point in going to the store either.

But then hubby said he wanted to go for a little walk before bed time. Sometimes it helps him sleep better. So I asked if he could go by Safeway and pick up some chocolate chips, any kind… And some toffee bits wouldn’t do any harm either… He said he would, and I went to bed.

On Sunday morning we felt lazy and didn’t go to church. So I baked cookies (happy mother’s day to me!). Hubby had brought white chocolate chips (he doesn’t really care about chocolate that much) and so here’s what I made (adapting from here and there, so I believe I can call the recipe my own at this point):

White Chocolate Vanishing Acts

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup backed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp garam masala (if you don’t have any, use equal parts of cinnamon, cardamom and allspice)
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup toffee bits

Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until smooth.

Mix together flour, baking soda and spices. Add into the butter mixture. Finally, fold in white chocolate and toffee.

Let the cookies cool down on the baking sheet for a few minutes, and then transfer on a cooling rack. Try to wait until they’re completely cooled down until performing the quality control test – they really taste better when they’re colder…Drop tablespoonfuls of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or greased, whichever you prefer). Leave about 2″ of space in between. Bake in 180C / 375F for 8-10min, depending on your oven. The cookies are just right when they’re browning on the edges but look like they’re still undone in the middle. Don’t worry, they aren’t…

The name was suggested by hubby. There’s a reason for it… We just did the dishes from the past couple of days, and decided there’s something wrong when the cookies are eaten before the cookie-making dishes are washed… Gluttony and sloth, that’s two out of seven deadly sins covered in one day.

What to do when you run out of spinach filling…

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up… Well, OK, it hasn’t been months but it sure feels like it. Last week was rough, with the little one teething A LOT and none of us getting much sleep…

Anyhooooow…

We did manage to bake last week. (I was really tired that day and could have used a nap but I think it was good for my sanity, actually… Those baking days usually are. It’s good to talk to another adult during the day, and it feels good to accomplish something tangible i.e. edible… But I digress…) Channing wanted to try out spanakopita, and I was totally game. I’ve never made it before, she had made it once, but we followed this recipe and they were great! πŸ™‚

Except for the fact that we ran out of the spinach and feta filling before we ran out of pastry. And you can’t really store phyllo pastry until next time, it’ll just dry and crumble. So we improvised a sweet filling with ground nuts and almonds, brown sugar, raisins and spices. I’m not going to write it down for you; it needs some work. It was quite dry so we’re thinking of adding fruit or something… But it was very, very tasty!