Mini Pumpkin and Oatmeal Muffins

Pumpkin Oatmeal Mini MuffinsToday’s baking project is pumpkin oatmeal mini muffins!  While looking around the cupboard to see ingredients to use, I found pumpkin puree and decided on a recipe for delectable breakfast treats.  The recipe is relatively healthy compared to a few other recipes I have, but still a treat.  Oatmeal mixed into the batter makes these muffins over the top.  I love the grainy texture and dimension it gives the muffins.  I ate at least three when they were warm out of the oven.

One of my younger sisters is at her university convocation today so it is a special day.  We are having a barbecue this evening on the patio to celebrate.  I am making the buns for the hamburgers.  My Mom is making her famous dessert crepes with vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries and a chocolate drizzle.  It is one of my sister’s favourites!

On the wedding planning front things are under control!  Tomorrow I will be taking the church bulletin over to be printed.  An engagement photo of Jonathan and I will be on the cover and I am excited to see it all printed up.  It is going to be a great keepsake.  Tonight Jonathan and I will be going over the list of essential photographs that need to be taken at the wedding.  I am extremely excited for the big day!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Mini MuffinsPumpkin Oatmeal Mini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Instructions

1.     In large mixing bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt.

2.     In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil and vanilla.  Always separate wet and dry ingredients when baking muffins.  Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients.  Add in pumpkin puree and combine thoroughly until all ingredients are moistened. Spoon muffin batter into a greased muffin pan.  Makes approximately 12 muffins or 24 mini muffins.

3.     Bake in centre of oven at 375°F for about 18 minutes (I would recommend to check them at 16 minutes though, no one likes burnt muffins). Let cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely.

4.     Once cooled you can wrap these muffins up individually in a zip-lock bag or with plastic wrap and freeze for two weeks.

Oatmeal Cookies – New Recipe!

One of my favourite cookies is the classic oatmeal cookie.  There are many different variations and ways to modify this recipe, I was browsing through the Martha Stewart website for ideas, but then I decided on my own recipe.  My tips and added touches to the classic oatmeal cookie are to add cinnamon, honey and butter!  The recipe makes about two dozen medium sized cookies or three dozen smaller cookies.  Really, two dozen is a perfect amount, and they will last about a week at room temperature in an air-tight container – if you don’t eat them first.  The best part about baking cookies versus store bought is that there are no preservatives and I know exactly what is in them (which is good when you have severe food allergies).

Freshly baked cookies have given the condo a warm delightful smell.  Baking is really what makes a place home – so now that I have made cookies in this condo, it is officially home.  Jonathan and I have many new kitchen utensils and a fancy toaster from Williams Food Equipment in Windsor.  The sign in front of the store says “The Candy Store for Cooks,” and it really lives up to its name.  I look forward to building a collection of even more kitchen gadgets and utensils.  For now, I have all the cooking tools I need and I am very excited to make Christmas cookies and many more recipes.

Jonathan and I are settled into the new condo and even the mantle is looking more like home, with a Christmas decoration, an engagement gift and some cards.  There are many Christmas decorations out in the stores and it makes it feel like there is not long before Christmas.  Jonathan’s parents gave us the reindeer and sleigh decoration, which is from Timeless Treasures in Windsor, next to Vito’s Pizzeria.  We had a wonderful lunch at Vito’s Pizzeria when my parents and Jonathan’s parents visited last weekend.  It was exciting to show off the new condo and some of the great restaurants in Windsor that we have discovered so far.

*Fun fact: Windsor Table Salt is from Windsor, Ontario (my new home!)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Windsor salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour,
    baking powder, baking soda,
    cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt
    into a bowl. Beat butter and
    sugars until pale and fluffy. Mix
    in egg, vanilla, and honey, then flour
    mixture. Mix in oats.
  2. Using a 1 1/4-inch ice cream
    scoop (or 1 tablespoon), drop
    dough onto parchment-lined
    baking sheets, spacing each
    scoop about 2 inches apart. Bake
    until edges are golden, about
    12-14 minutes. (Mine took 13min)
  3. Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

Strawberry Fields Forever (Strawberry Picking!)

Yesterday, Jonathan and I went strawberry picking at Nauman’s Farm, approximately twenty minutes outside of Waterloo, Ontario.  We picked six litres of delicious, sweet, heavenly strawberries. Over half have since disappeared!  However, there was enough for breakfast this morning and tonight’s dessert.

Strawberry shortcake is one of my favourite types of cake, and will the subject of my next post.  It is best of course when strawberries are in season!  I prefer the short stacks version of strawberry shortcake – perfect little individual cakes loaded up with whipping cream and fresh juicy berries.

When I told Jonathan’s parents that I intended to take him strawberry picking, they warned me he would not go willingly. He agreed with their assessment, saying (light-heartedly) that he preferred to support farm workers instead of putting them out of a job.

Once we were there, however, he actually seemed to enjoy it! Though it was hot, there was a lovely breeze, and with only four of us in the entire field, there was a lot of room to find the best berries.

While six litres is a lot of berries, we didn’t pick enough to make jam. That will be next time, when raspberries come into season.  This was just a warm up, Jonathan!  Homemade raspberry jam is my absolute favourite.  I will need help from my Mom for that foodie endeavor.

Now, I have had a request from one of my sister’s dear friends, Hailey, to make fun food art.  Here is my first attempt.  I used fresh blueberries, strawberries and organic bananas to create this beautiful presentation on top of oatmeal.  Jonathan thinks that the blueberry smiley face was kind of creepy, so maybe I need a bit more practice.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed this fun, filling and delicious breakfast!

Mango Chutney Restaurant and Oatmeal with Fresh Berries

Last week Jonathan took me to the Mango Chutney in Cambridge and it was fantastic.  It serves North Indian cuisine that had just the right amount of spice and flavour.  Jonathan had a small bowl of julienne green chiles to add to his meal as I don’t eat as spicy as him (“..Yet,” he adds.)  We ordered the feast for two, which came with fresh warm naan, basmati rice and three different types of curry.  It was all very flavourful and fresh.  Jonathan mentioned that each of the curry bases were different – which is often not the case at some North Indian restaurants.

The atmosphere was inviting, fresh and expertly decorated.  I loved the intricate, colourful patterns on the throw pillows that were arranged on the bench seating. We will definitely go there again!

Of course, it does not hold a candle to the delicious South Indian cuisine that Jonathan’s Mom and Dad prepare with such love.  Once I learn the art to their expert cooking I will try and share it.  For now I am still a beginner when it comes to making South Indian dishes.  I truly believe that it is an art to get the proper flavours and proportions of each spice.

RAITA
Whipped yogurt with cucumber & green coriander leaves.

BASMATI RICE & WARM NAAN

BUTTER CHICKEN
Clay roasted boneless chicken cooked in tomato sauce – Mango Chutney’s butter chicken is cream free.

LAMB CURRY
Boneless lamb cooked to perfection with special spices.

SHAM SAVERA
Spinach and cheese rolls in a mildly flavoured tomato sauce.

As for my own cooking projects this weekend, I made banana and pineapple muffins that did not turn out very well.  I will have to try again, because I am sure they could be lovely.  My next project was oatmeal with berries on top.  I followed the directions for the oatmeal and then sprinkled beautiful, nourishing, fresh berries on top and let the natural sugars work their magic.  It was a delicious breakfast and the photos turned out so well that I just had to share.  It is an easy and super healthy breakfast – with no sugar added!

Meeting Margaret Atwood + Oatmeal, Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies

I have always wanted to meet Margaret Atwood.  Yesterday, my wonderful fiancé Jonathan made that possible!  He took me to her lecture at the University of Waterloo and I was in awe of how accomplished, well spoken, and wonderful she is in person.

When Jonathan and I first started to become close friends he was living in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.  I always joked with him how maybe walking down the street we might meet her (Ms. Atwood lives in the Annex).  In fact, “The Year of the Flood” was the first book that I lent to Jonathan.  He took great care of the book and returned it to me in perfect condition – so I knew he was a keeper.

Ms. Atwood gave her lecture yesterday as part of the 2012 Congress of the Humanities & Social Sciences, one of North America’s largest academic gatherings.  She outlined her history as an author starting out, but then moved forward to discuss how narrative is an innate human quality.  Then she explained how powerful narrative can be, and how in the digital age more people are self-publishing and writing.  Narrative of course can be political – the stories we tell our children and ourselves about power, empathy and justice have an impact.  Ms. Atwood truly is an advocate for a just society with transparent government – a society that cares about its fellow citizens.  The ability to think beyond ourselves – that is our strength as human beings.  Margaret Atwood is a phenomenal woman, who actively voices her opinions and works towards a better society.  For these reasons I admire her greatly.

When it came to looking for a recipe – I wanted to make something that was elegant, complex and delicious – just like Margaret Atwood’s writing.  The result was oatmeal, cranberry, white chocolate cookies. There are many variations on oatmeal cookies, but these are truly a winner.  These cookies would also be wonderful with the Margaret Atwood blend coffee from Balzac’s.  Enjoy!


Oatmeal, Cranberry, White Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, rolled oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, set aside.

3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy about 3-4 minutes.

4.  Stir in eggs one at a time and vanilla extract.

5.  Add in flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

6.  Add in dried cranberries, white chocolate chips.

7.  Roll cookie dough into balls, about 2 tbsp per ball, and drop onto buttered cookie sheets.

8.  Bake 9 – 10 minutes until lightly golden.

9.  Cool several minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool.  Store cookies in an airtight container.

10.  Enjoy!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal raisin cookies are one of my favourites.  Since I’m allergic to chocolate, it is always disappointing to see oatmeal cookies at a party and find that they are actually oatmeal chocolate chip.  I searched the internet for a new recipe and I found this wonderful one from the blog Smitten Kitchen.

These cookies were nice and chunky and had the perfect amount of raisins.  The recipe makes a half batch, so about 2 dozen small oatmeal cookies, which is perfect for Jonathan and I.  The recipe can be doubled if you need a mountain of cookies or if you are going to freeze half of the dough.  Most cookie dough can be frozen for up to a month.  Should you chose to freeze them, form the dough into cookie sized balls and freeze them in a freezer bag.

Whenever oats are mentioned around Jonathan, he always pipes up that the Quaker Oats factory is located in Peterborough, Ontario – where he is from. He loves to tell people how in the summer, the downtown core always smells quite yummy. Maybe Peterborough is on to something – something delicious!

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (large flake oats, not instant!)
3/4 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together.  Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture.
  4. Then stir in the oats, and raisins.
  5. Chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.  Chilling the cookie dough will ensure the cookies are chunky and don’t turn thin in the oven.
  6. Form the cookies to your desired size, place cookies approximately 2 inches apart, and then bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden around the edges.
  7. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes after they come out of the oven.
  8. Then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

Date Squares

Date Square

Usually these lovely treats are something I indulge in at coffee shops and small bakeries.  However, they are surprisingly easy to make.  What makes things even better was the fact that dates and whole rolled oats were on sale at Bulk Barn.  Dates and oats came to around $3.00.  The recipe I followed comes from the Joy of Baking website.

I made these date squares at my fiancé’s apartment in Waterloo, Ontario, where I do not have a food processor, but the blender worked well to purée the dates.  The power also went out for about 30 minutes due to snow and rain.  Thankfully the date squares were not yet in the oven, I had to wait a few minutes then was able to return to my baking.

Now, I was curious about the name ‘matrimonial bars’ and a quick search of Google led me to a simple and convincing answer.  The explanation was that they are representative of marriage in that there are smooth and rough parts.  In the date squares the purréed dates are smooth in texture in contrast to the rough crumble topping.

Date filling:

Turn on the element to low heat, add the dates and water in a saucepan, stir until the dates are soft and have absorbed most of the water (approximately 5 – 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature and then purée in your food processor or blender until smooth (a few lumps give the date squares texture).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Grease the pan with margarine or a cooking spray.  Use a 9 inch (23 cm) square baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.  (Or grease the pan well so the squares do not stick to the pan.)

Oatmeal Crust:

In a bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Pulse to combine with the food processor.  Or stir if you are doing it the old fashion way. Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and just begins to come together.  If you do not have a food processor cut the butter with two knives into pea sized pieces with the flour and oat mixture. Put about 2/3 of the mixture onto the base of the prepared pan.

Spread the date puree over the oatmeal crust with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining dough over the top of the dates, and press down gently to compact. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on the counter top and once cooled completely, place in the refrigerator so the squares can be sliced easily.

Date Filling:

3 cups pitted dried dates

1 cup water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Oatmeal Crust:

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes