Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!

Photo of Dry Brine Thanksgiving Turkey that we had for Christmas this year too!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

We just finished enjoying one of these! Hope your day was full of food, family and fun!

Love, Kaitlyn.

PS: A lot of changes lately...stay tuned for more posts in the future!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and a Solution to Spreading Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Here's my second Christmas cookie selection and recipe. Oatmeal raisin was requested by my father-in-law Roger, and so I had to oblige. I used my recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and altered the oven temperature and baking time slightly. I think these turned out awesome so I've adapted the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe to account for those changes I made.

Over time and a lot of trial and error, I learned that some of the tricks to baking cookies at elevation and avoiding that inevitable spread involve:

  • Adding an extra tbsp of flour
  • Chilling the dough
  • Heating up the oven 25 degrees hotter than the recipe calls for and baking the cookies for a shorter amount of time. 

While literally living at sea level I baked the best cookies at 350F from room temperature dough. Now those same recipes end up perfect when chilled dough is baked at 375F for 2-3 minutes less. 

So if you are having problems with your cookies spreading than I recommend giving these tips a try even if you don't live above 3000 feet. Let me know how it goes!

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup 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 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (375F when above 3000 feet or if you have problems with your cookies spreading).
  2. In a large bowl cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. 
  3. Chill the dough for an hour or so and then form the dough into tablespoon sized balls. 
  4. Bake for 10 minutes on a lined cookie sheet until the edges are browned but the tops still look soft or undercooked. 
  5. Let the cookies sit on the warm baking sheet for 5 minutes to set and then remove them to cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ginger Cardamom Cookies

Ginger Cardamom Cookies
It's Christmas cookie time in the McFadden household! Tomorrow we are heading south for a quick trip to visit the in-laws. I wanted to give them an assortment of cookies to enjoy over the holidays so I spent all day today baking 4 batches. I would have made more but I ran out of butter, brown sugar and eggs! So fortunately for me I get to spend another day more baking cookies so they will last us through Christmas on the Washington coast with my parents. 

This year I made Double Chocolate Peppermint, Oatmeal Raisin (for my father-in-law) and my new favourite Ginger Cardamom. I'll be posting the recipes for each over the next few days and today I'm starting with the Ginger Cardamom cookies.

This recipe was an awesome find and I'm so excited to share it with you. The dough comes together really easy and when they come out of the oven they almost look like little macarons. They have a crisp crust and a soft tender crumb inside. The blend of spices is perfect, not too overpowering, and sugar coating makes them sparkle and look oh so festive! The recipe will also make your home smell amazing! Enjoy!

Ginger Cardamom Cookies

Ginger Cardamom Cookies
from SPCookieQueen - lovely site

Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp  nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 cups light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (375F for higher elevations or if you have problems with your cookies spreading)
  2. Mix the flour, baking soda, and spices together in a large bowl. In another large bowl beat the oil and brown sugar together adding the eggs one by one. 
  3. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the flour mixture and stir together. The dough will be stiff and may also be crumbly; this is the consistency it should be. Once combined you might need to lightly knead the dough by hand to absorb any remaining flour. Chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  4. Form into balls the size of a tablespoon and roll each ball in the sugar/cardamom mixture. Bake for 9-10 minutes on a lined cookie sheet. Let rest on the warm cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing. 
Ginger Cardamom Cookies

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tips to Staying Fit over the Holidays

Tuna Meatballs are a healthy alternative to fat laden Swedish Meatballs
I'm sure most of you have heard these tips before but I think its helpful to reinforce these ideas frequently. I believe that when you regularly practice healthy habits, you turn a 'diet' into a healthy lifestyle. These tips are easy and will relieve the stress that the holidays can have on people with special diets or those just trying to eat healthier.

  1. Cook and Bake! Cooking and baking both burn calories, just ensure that you are cooking healthy dishes to serve and share with guests. Scratch Swedish meatballs off the menu and serve up some delicious tuna meatballs. Serve low-cal high veggie Vietnamese spring rolls as a healthy appetizer. Serve spaghetti squash casserole instead of creamed spinach, green bean casserole or any other casserole you would normally serve that is loaded with cream and/or cheese. Mash sweet potatoes with spices like ginger instead of mashed potatoes with butter. Bake up some healthy carrot bread, applesauce cake or healthy chocolate carrot cake. Make a low sugar crisp instead of a pie and serve it with TruWhip instead of ice cream. And skip the buns!  There are so many things to eat during the holidays! Don't load up on empty carbs!
  2. Eat before you head out to a party or dinner. Never go to a party starving as you tend to overeat on unhealthy things once you get there. Make a healthy high fiber fruit and spinach smoothie. Enjoy a slice of whole wheat bread with a high protein nut butter. Make a fabulous salad loaded with veggies and tofu that will keep you full enough to not over-eat but still enjoy smaller amounts of food at the party. 
  3. Bring something to share. If you are unsure if there will be good choices at a party bring food that you enjoy to eat. But bring enough to share with everyone. You don't what to be that 'weird diet person' that brings their own food in Tupperware and eats it alone sitting in the corner. 
  4. Continue with your workouts and adapt to guests. If you are staying at home this should be easy as you just continue with your regular routine. If you are staying in a hotel make use of the gym or pool or go on walks/runs to explore. If you are staying somewhere tropical, lucky you! You can go for runs outside in the morning, or swim, kayak and snorkel in the ocean. Family or guests may be disruptive to your regular routine. Family is your #1 priority but you should be at least #2. A 30 minute workout can be done while guests are in the shower or while the turkey is in the oven. You can also include your family too. Ask your sibling to join you! Most families will be very supportive of you, just don't use the gym as an excuse to get away for hours at a time ;-)
  5. Choose well. Fill your plate with lean proteins and loads of vegetables. These will fill you up and keep you full throughout the evening. Avoid gravy and limit the stuffing especially if it is loaded with sausage and cooked in the bird. Limit your alcohol intake and make sure you are well hydrated with lots of water. Most importantly: choose fun and a healthy lifestyle over food-guilt and diets.
Applesauce Cake is a healthier alternative to other seasonal desserts

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Willamette Valley Vineyards - 2008 Estate Pinot Noir

WVV - 2008 Estate Pinot Noir
As the holidays are here I thought it was time for a wine review. While Barefoot Merlot may be perfectly party neutral I understand that it might not hit the mark for more experienced wine drinkers or 'wow' as a gift.

The best way to pick a special wine for a gift or gathering is to speak to a wine shop owner or employee. They taste all the time and know what's new, unique and quality. If you tend to shop at supermarkets or online like me then I would suggest that you pay close attention to the varietal and where it is grown. New Zealand's Marlborough County is known for their Sauvignon Blancs. Hunter Valley in Australia is known for their Verdelhos and Semillons. Spain produces fabulous Tempranillos. British Columbia produces the best ice wine. And California's Sonoma Valley and Oregon's Willamette Valley produce award winning Pinots.

Using that information I've felt confidant purchasing unknown wines. I've found that a Sauv-Blanc from Marlborough NZ is always very good and Pinot Noirs from Willamette are usually excellent.

I recently had the pleasure of trying a bottle of Willamette Valley Vineyards 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. This wine was perfect with our roast beef dinner and would be an excellent gift as it would cellar well. Here are my thoughts:

Willamette Valley Vineyards
-2008 Estate Pinot Noir-

Colour: Garnet, Ruby


Bouquet: Oaky, red berries (strawberry, raspberry, black cherry), anise


Taste: Smooth, average acidity. Has a classic Pinot Noir flavour with red berries and medium to soft tannins. Hints of vanilla from the oak.


Comments: This is a very drinkable gorgeous full bodied Pinot Noir. It is more fruit forward than traditional Willamette floral Pinots. Slightly akin to a California Pinot Noir.


Price: between $20 and $40 depending on where you purchase


Score: 86% - I think another year of cellaring would mellow the tannins and enhance the flavours.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

National Cookie Day!

Hello! I've been wanting to post for days but my computer came down with the flu and was slow as molasses, making it impossible to do anything on it. After a couple days of virus scans, defrags, malware scans and system restores I solved the problem...I think, let's just see how it does this week. The problem was that my system registry was a complete disorganized disaster. I purchased software to fix it and everything seems to be running smoothly for now. Very frustrating especially when my computer is only 20 months old and cost me $1000!

While surfing the net today on my Kindle Fire (thank goodness for that cheap virus free device!) I discovered that today is National Cookie Day! I was going to make a batch of healthy vegan cookies but when Shawn found out he wasn't pleased. He wanted buttery, soft, chocolate chip cookies...made with butter and eggs not peanut butter and bananas! So I caved and made a batch of my Big Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now I'm off to the gym to burn off the two I ate ;-)

What kind of cookie did you enjoy on National Cookie Day?

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Shawn and National Cookie Day