Bobbette & Belle Cookbook Review

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I am absolutely dessert obsessed. When this gorgeous cookbook arrived at my doorstep, (Thank you Penguin Random House for generously sending it over in exchange for a review!) I was absolutely thrilled! Needless to say I had it all tabbed up with my favourites within minutes.

French-inspired pastry shop Bobbette & Belle based in Toronto, Ontario released this beauty late last year. This cookbook features a collection of over 100 recipes and variations of desserts all of which they sell in their pastry shop. While I have not had the opportunity to visit the shop (new mom problems), they have a line of treats they sell at The Bay Eaton Centre. Whenever I feel sorry for myself I will purchase a pack of their Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. They definitely aren’t cheap so I consider it an absolute treat and let me tell you….they are soooo worth the price. I was head over heels when I discovered this cookie recipe was revealed in the cookbook and yes they do taste almost the same!

The beginning of the book takes us to the Bobbette & Belle Story, essential tools and ingredients, general baking tips, tips for specific pastries and alternative baking & dietary restrictions. The sections are brief and not overwhelming (thank you!)

Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Classic Cookies and Bars
  • Cupcakes
  • Layer Cakes
  • Loaves, Scones, Bundts and Tortes
  • Crumbles, Tarts and Pies
  • French Macarons
  • Chilled Crème Desserts
  • Confections and Sweets
  • Buttercreams, Frostings, and Fillings

Also included at the end: A source guide, conversion chart and a cross-referenced index.

The Recipes

Recipes are fairly easy to follow. Ingredients are listed in order of use and each recipe begins with a story, which I love. Ingredients are basic and most can be found at your local grocery store. All recipes have little tips at the bottom to help you through your baking. Hands on and total time are not included in the recipes however you will find the amount each recipe yields. The photography is GORGEOUS and each recipe has a picture.

Some of the recipes I have tabbed up:

  • Double Chocolate Fleur De Sel Cookies
  • Shortbread Cookies
  • Amaretti Cookies
  • Death by Chocolate Brownies
  • Pecan Caramel Churchill Squares
  • Cinnamon Pinwheels
  • Double Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Dark Chocolate Brownie Fudge Cake
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Gianduja Cake
  • “No Raisin” Carrot Cake (and may I add no pineapple too! Yay!)
  • Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake
  • Blueberry Scones
  • Sharp Cheddar and Chive Scones
  • Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
  • Apple Crumble
  • Apple Galettes
  • Salted Caramel Tart with Dark Chocolate Glaze

I managed to recreate the Amaretti Cookies as well as the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I didn’t have much success with the Amaretti and I am reluctant to blame the recipe for being poorly written until I reattempt it. I would like to give it the benefit of the doubt and hope that I made an error somewhere along the way! The Chocolate Chip Cookies are amazing and I have made 3 batches of them with pure success every time! Find the recipe and pictures below.

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Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24 Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature but not soft
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups large-flake rolled oats
  • ¾ cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Put oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat just to combine.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture, mixing until just combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once. Add the oats and chocolate chips and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Spoon 12 heaping tablespoons of cookie dough onto each lined baking sheet, leaving ample space between them.
  6. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown on the bottom. For even baking, rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Bobbette & Belle Tip: This recipe is particularly sensitive to the temperature of the butter. It needs to be room temperature but not too soft. If your kitchen is warm, use the butter before it reaches room temperature.

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Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Overall I am in love with this cookbook and it is most definitely one that I will be baking from often!

A big thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me this cookbook in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are 100% my own.

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars with Sprinkles

IMG_3788.JPGI made these on a whim today with my 3 year old. Everything has to have sprinkles on it so of course…sprinkles it is all over these tasty bars! I used PC brand Natural Smooth Peanut Butter but you can use any kind of peanut butter you like. Comment below if you try them out!

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars with Sprinkles

  • Makes about 20 bars (depending on how big you cut them)
  • Active time: 20 min
  • Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup peanut or almond butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup nuts (pecans, cashews or almonds)- I used cashews
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan melt together the coconut oil, honey, peanut or almond butter, salt and ginger stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the oats, coconut, nuts and chocolate chips. Pour the warm coconut oil mixture over the oats and stir together to combine.
  3. Pour mixture into a parchment-lined 9 x 13 inch baking dish and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with extra coconut, mini chocolate chips and sprinkles if desired. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
  4. Use the parchment to remove the bar from the dish and cut into squares or bars. Store bars, separated with parchment, in the fridge. Can be stored for up to 2 weeks.

Enjoy!

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“2016 Christmas with Southern Living” Book Review

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With tips on entertaining, decorating ideas for the home and tons of super tasty recipes for the holiday season, this book is truly for the Christmas lover.

If your stuck on ideas on how to adorn your home with everything Christmas, this book has you covered. A fireside forest theme for your living room or a woodland mantel for your fireplace, each page is filled with beautiful Christmasy pictures on ideas for your home. Don’t know what to cook for your holiday feast? Full menus complete with recipes and pictures have you all set. My favourite part…the desserts of course! A huge bonus collection of all sorts of truffle recipes. A “Bake-and-Take Cookie Party” is a perfect activity to do with the kids with recipes for pecan linzer cookies, chai-spiced spritz cookies, dark chocolate crinkles and many more! Need some gifting ideas that don’t break the bank? A recipe for homemade all purpose biscuit, pancake, and waffle mix all in this 2016 collection complete with time-saving tips. Love it!

Short Rib and Stout Pies, Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Ricotta-Pecorino Crust,Amaretti-Chocolate Tart…yes this book is awesome! I am also loving the Cinnamon-Apple-Bourbon Bread Pudding that uses a package of frozen cinnamon rolls. I am usually a homemade everything kind of home cook but with a toddler and now a newborn, convenience recipes are becoming increasingly more appealing!

Pick and choose your favourites and make something unique and delicious for the holidays. The recipes included are super easy to follow and if you are familiar with recipes from Southern Living you will be well aware that they are SUPER delicious!

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One of my favourite parts of this book is the 2016 Holiday Planner included at the end of the book. How adorable is this; documenting everything you do for the holiday season including a calendar for November and December, a decorating planner, Holiday meal prep planning and tips and so much more. Areas to write your Christmas dinner plan, gifts and greetings checklist and holiday memories, notes for next year, absolutely perfection! I love it!

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I managed to recreate the Pear Salad and oh my goodness was it ever a hit with the family! We actually ended up eating this salad as a full meal for dinner one night (hence the picture below of the massive salad!) and it was absolutely to die for. Both my husband and I agree it will become a staple recipe in our cooking. I’ve included the recipe and picture below so you can taste for yourself. I can’t even imagine how tasty the rest of the recipes are!

Baby Kale and Pears with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette

Serves:8   Hands-on: 15 minutes  Total: 45 minutes

Tender baby kale leaves dressed in a savoury, rich roasted shallot dressing are enhanced by the sweetness of fall pears in this festive first course. Use a vegetable peeler to get pretty curls of cheese to garnish each plate of dressed salad.

  • 4 large shallots, halved
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large fresh thyme sprig
  • 1/4 cup high quality sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 medium-size, ripe Bosc pears, thinly sliced
  • 2 (5-oz) packages mixed greens with baby kale (*I just used mixed greens as I could not find a mix with baby kale)
  • 4 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the shallots, oil, and thyme sprig in a small baking dish. Cover loosely with aluminium foil. Bake 30 min or until shallots are light golden brown and very tender, Discard thyme sprig.
  2. Pulse roasted shallot mixture, vinegar, chopped thyme, mustard, honey, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper in a blender until shallots are mashed. Process until blended, scraping down sides as needed.
  3. Toss pears with 1/4 cup dressing in a bowl.
  4. Toss mixed greens with 1/4 cup dressing in a large bowl, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer greens to a large platter, top with pears, and sprinkle with pecans and cheese.

NOTE: To make ahead, prepare recipe as directed through Step 3 up to 1 hour ahead. Store pears and dressing in refrigerator. Proceed with recipe as directed in Step 4 when ready to serve.

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This 2016 Complete Guide to Holiday Cooking and Decorating is definitely a keeper. I am absolutely thrilled to have discovered this annual book and I now look forward to it picking up a copy each year!

A special thanks to Oxmoor House (Time Inc Books) for sending over this wonderful book for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are 100% my own. “2016 Christmas with Southern Living: The Complete Guide to Holiday Cooking and Decorating” is available at amazon.ca for the current price of $30.63. Price is subject to change.

“Ciao Biscotti” by Domenica Marchetti Cookbook Review

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Being of Italian decent, I’ve made it a personal mission recently to make the perfect biscotti. So I went on a hunt to find the best biscotti cookbooks and stumbled upon “Ciao Biscotti” by Domenica Marchetti. This book is filled with a wonderful collection of sweet and savory biscotti recipes. Did I just say savory? I don’t know if I have been in the dark or what but I have never ever heard of savory biscotti before! This to me sounds delicious with a warm plate of brodo (Italian chicken soup)!

This cookbook begins with a section on biscotti basics. I found this section to be very helpful as making biscotti aren’t quite the same as making say, drop cookies or cookies that are rolled out and baked. So if you are truly dedicated to creating the most perfect biscotti, I would recommend reading this section! One thing I would have to disagree with is her storage suggestions. She says that she does not recommend freezing biscotti, as they tend to lose their crunch. My Nonna ALWAYS froze her homemade biscotti and let me tell you…they were definitely crunchy after defrosting! However, this could also be a result of certain ingredients and/or the way it was stored.

The Recipes

Each recipe begins with a little description of the particular biscotti recipe. Every recipe name is an indication as to what is in the biscotti (love that may I add). Ingredients are listed in order of use and directions are quite simple to follow. Ingredient list is not overwhelming and the recipes in general I would say are appropriate for the moderately advanced baker. (may possibly be a bit of a challenge for the beginner baker) Keep in mind that practice makes perfect and reading the biscotti basics in the beginning is essential in creating the most perfect biscotti!

Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Classic Flavors
  • Chocolate and Spice
  • Biscotti with Fruit
  • Fantasy Flavors
  • The Savory Side
  • Beyond Biscotti

Some of the tasty recipes that caught my eye: Hazelnut, Chocolate Kisses, Chocolate-Ginger, Chocolate Studded, Chocolate-Dipped Toasted Coconut, Cappuccino Dunkers, Green Tea with White Chocolate Glaze, Spiced and Iced Ginger, Pistachio Amaretti , Cornmeal with Rosemary & Parmigiano, Sun-Dried Tomato & Fennel.

I decided to recreate the Browned Butter & Toblerone Biscotti. These looked absolutely delicious and I really wanted to win my Dad over with these…he LOVES Toblerone! These turned out delicious however I do wish I was able to taste more of the Toblerone. The flavour was very subtle. To compensate for it, I drizzled double the chocolate on top, just cause… well that’s what I do!! Read below to find pictures of my experience making it along with the full recipe! If you get the chance to make them, comment below!

 

BROWNED BUTTER & TOBLERONE BISCOTTI

Makes about 32 large biscotti

Ingredients

  • 2 ¾ cups/340 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ Tsp baking powder
  • ½ Tsp fine sea salt
  • 8 Tbsp/115g unsalted Butter
  • ¾ cup/150g sugar
  • 1 Tbsp brandy
  • 2 Tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tsp pure almond extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • One 3.52-oz/100g Toblerone bar, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 oz/115g semisweet chocolate, melted

Directions

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Set aside.
  1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Continue to cook the butter, stirring continuously, until it foams, turns clear, and then turns a deep brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let the butter cool for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is no longer hot.
  1. Pour the sugar, brandy, vanilla, and almond extract into the bowl and beat on low speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Dump in the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a soft, sticky dough has formed (it will be very soft).
  1. Toss in the chopped Toblerone bar and mix on low just until incorporated. Using a spatula, scrape the dough onto a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap. Pat it into a disk, wrap, and set in the refrigerator to chill for 30 to 60 minutes.
  1. Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly coat an 11-by-17-in/ 28-by-43-cm baking sheet with the oil.
  1. Cut the chilled dough in half. Place one portion on one half of the baking sheet and use your hands and fingers to roll, stretch , and pat the dough into a log about 4 in/10cm wide and 10 in/25 cm long. Shape the second piece of dough in the same way. Press down on the logs to flatten them out a bit and make the tops even.
  1. Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until they are just set- they should be springy to the touch and there should be cracks on the surface. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Gently slide an offset spatula under each log to loosen it from the baking sheet. Let the logs cool for 5 minutes, and then transfer them to the rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 F (165 C).
  1. Transfer the cooled logs to a cutting board and, using a Santoku knife or a serrated bread knife, cut them on a diagonal into ½- in-/12-mm-thick slices. Arrange the slices, cut-side up, on the baking sheet (in batches if necessary) and bake for 8 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 8 minutes, until they are crisp and golden brown. Transfer the slices to the rack to cool completely.
  1. Arrange the slices cut-side up on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Dip a fork into the melted chocolate and wave it back and forth over the biscotti to create drizzles and droplets (you may not use all the melted chocolate, depending on how much drizzle you want). *Melissa’s NOTE: I drizzled quite a bit of chocolate and still had lots of chocolate left over. Enough to dip about 10 strawberries…which is exactly what I did! J
  1. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for the chocolate to set. Let the biscotti return to room temperature before serving. The biscotti will keep for up to 10 days in an airtight container stored at room temperature.

WHAT TO DRINK: Perfect with a shot of espresso on a cold afternoon.

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Biscotti dough
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Cut biscotti after first bake
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Cut biscotti after first bake
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Biscotti after second bake
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Tasty chocolate drizzle over biscotti

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Brown Butter Toblerone Biscotti completed

I loved this cookbook on biscotti. There are very few if any out there and this book is most definitely a keeper for me. I really look forward to making some of the other recipes mentioned above!

“Ciao Biscotti: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Celebrating Italy’s Favorite Cookie” by Domenica Marchetti can be purchased on Amazon.ca for the current price of $19.42. Price is subject to change.

“Fish & Seafood” By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen Cookbook Review

 

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I was super thrilled when I was asked to participate in the “On The Table” Blog Tour from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen (Simon & Schuster Canada). If you read my blog post on Canadian Living’s “The Ultimate Cookbook”, you know how much of a fan I am of The Canadian Living Magazine!

Canadian Living recently released a series of Cookbooks all highlighting various themes including the following:

  • Essential Salads
  • Pasta & Noodles
  • Make it Ahead
  • 400 Calorie Dinners
  • Sweet & Simple
  • Fish & Seafood

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Canadian Living recipes, let me tell you they are some of the absolute best! Each recipe is Tested-Till-Perfect, which means little to no errors when you reproduce it in your own kitchen with zero professionals around you. Each recipe is tested using the same ingredients you find in the grocery store yourself and the same household appliances you use at home. This is precisely why I love Canadian Living recipes. The Canadian Living test kitchen puts us readers first and thinks about convenience, availability, and practicality for the average person at home.

I have been fortunate enough to review the “Fish & Seafood” Cookbook, which features 110 of the tastiest recipes in this category. The beginning of the book takes us to some Fish and Seafood Basics then jumps right into to recipes with the following categories:

  • Appetizers
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches & Wraps
  • Pastas & Noodles
  • Rice Dishes
  • Fried & Seared
  • Broiled & Grilled
  • Steamed & Boiled
  • Stews & Curries
  • Baked Dishes

The Recipes

Recipes in this book are super easy to follow with most recipes having a decent and doable amount of ingredients. Directions are simple to follow and appropriate for the beginner home cook. Each recipe includes hands-on time, total time, amount the recipe produces, nutritional information, tips from the test kitchen as well as serving recommendations. Recipes in the index at the back of the book are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourite recipe. If you can’t remember the name, just look up a main ingredient. Perfect!

I managed to recreate the Cioppino Soup recipe on page 34. I can’t lie, I called my mother over to help me out a bit with this one as I am 9 months pregnant and was afraid the scent might have bothered me. To my surprise, it smelled AMAZING as it was simmering away on the stove! My husband absolutely went nuts for it and the recipe was ridiculously simple to make. It has already become a staple recipe and thanks to its simplicity, I have made it twice! Scroll below to find the recipe and pictures from my experience recreating it. I think the only tweaks I would have made would be to add a bit more salt and pepper. I ended up using Haddock as my white fish. Be sure not to skip or replace the clam juice. This gives the dish A LOT of flavour.

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CIOPPINO SOUP

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Makes: 4 servings. (or if your husband or yourself or anyone you are making this for is anything like my own husband the serving is probably for 2….or 1)

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup bottled strained tomatoes (passata)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 225 g jumbo shrimp (21 to 24 count), peeled and deveined
  • 225 g skinless firm white fish fillet (such as cod or halibut), cut crosswise in strips

How to make it:

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Pour in wine; cook, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, oregano, pepper and clam juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in shrimp, scallops and fish; cover and cook over medium heat until shrimp are pink, and fish and scallops are opaque throughout, about 5 minutes.

TIP FROM THE TEST KITCHEN

If your scallops are more than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick, halve them horizontally to ensure they cook in the same amount of time as the shrimp and fish.

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Cioppino Soup cooking
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Cioppino Soup completed

Overall this book was fantastic as are the rest of the books in the newly released series mentioned above. You may purchase Fish & Seafood” By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen at Amazon.ca for the current price of $19.73 CAN (price is subject to change). But better yet, you could win all the books in this series thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada!! Click on the link below to enter!

CONTEST LINK:   http://www.simonandschuster.ca/pages/on-the-table

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A huge thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending over this fantastic cookbook in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own.

“Sugar” By Anna Olson Cookbook Review

I absolutely love Anna Olson. I used to watch her religiously prior to Food Network changing the programming. She used to be on regularly in the mornings and I would always be looking up the recipes she recreated on her shows. I also was lucky enough to meet her in person a couple years back at a Food show in Toronto and she is one of the most down to earth, friendly chefs I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

“Sugar” is one of Olson’s older books but I have to say it is definitely a keeper. The beginning of the book takes us to a variety of baking basics including ingredients, tools and techniques. If you’re a frequent baker, stuff you likely already know. Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Fruit
  • Citrus
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Other Flavours

Each chapter includes subheadings with various ingredients from that particular chapter making it simple to locate a particular recipe you may be interested in.

The Recipes

The recipes are simple enough for the beginner baker. Ingredients are listed in order of use and are not overly long. Directions are easy to follow and for some recipes, variations are also included. Most recipes include side notes with tips and tricks that I found to be very helpful and super interesting. Also included are storage guidelines for some recipes. The only downside is lack of pictures throughout the book. I love pictures of every recipe. For me, pictures are what inspire me to recreate the recipe. She does include a few but definitely not enough in my opinion.

I managed to recreate the Mocha Bites on page 174. Lets just say I have already made them twice! These cookies are perfect with coffee and are SO EASY to make on a whim. I have a 2 year old at home and currently 9 months pregnant and let me tell you…anyone can quickly whip these up if company is coming last minute! They have a similar texture and taste to shortbread and a good amount of coffee in each bite.

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Mocha Bites

Makes 2 to 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup/ 250mL unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup/ 125mL icing sugar, sifted
  • ¼ cup/ 50mL espresso
  • 4 tsp/ 20mL vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups/ 550mL all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup/ 50 mL cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp/ 1mL salt
  • Sugar for coating

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (160 C). Cream together butter and icing sugar until smooth. Stir in espresso and vanilla. Sift in all purpose flour, cocoa and salt and mix until dough comes together. Turn dough onto a board lightly dusted with icing sugar. Divide dough in half and shape into logs. Slice dough on an angle in ½-inch (1-cm) slices. Place cookies upright on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 min.
  2. While warm, toss cookies gently, two at a time, in sugar and allow to cool.

NOTES:

  • If you don’t have an espresso maker at home, purchase a shot of espresso at your neighbourhood coffee shop.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook and it will definitely be one I go back to often. I do wish there were more pictures but..I guess that means we have to use our imagination!

A big thank you to Whitecap books for generously sending over a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. You can purchase “Sugar” by Anna Olson at Amazon.ca for the current price of $20.86 CAN (Price is subject to change)

Launch of My Sweetie Pie Pyjamas!

Hello dedicated followers!

I am super thrilled to announce the launch of my pyjama company, My Sweetie Pie PJs! As you all know I am a stay at home mother of a 2 year old with another on the way (coming very soon!) I have been working very hard on this project for the past couple months and I am super excited to provide Mamas with super comfy jammies to match their little one. I decided to start this company after searching online and in my community for cute matching pjs for myself and my little girl. I couldn’t find anything! When I did find something I liked, it would be coming from the United States and the shipping costs would be outrageous and downright unaffordable.

I am proud to say that these pjs are 100% Made in Canada and designed by myself.  Currently I ship to the United States and Canada but will most definitely expand to international in the future. They are made of 100% cotton flannelette and are SUPER COMFY!! I carry women’s sizes small, medium and large and baby sizes newborn to 12 months. There are plans in the near future for toddler and children sizes as well. (yay!)

Please feel free to check out my Etsy Store!

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MySweetiePiePJS

**MY SWEETIE PIE PJS SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS. Kindly follow and support! xo**

INSTAGRAM:

https://www.instagram.com/mysweetiepiepjs/

TWITTER:

https://mobile.twitter.com/mysweetiepiepjs

FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/My-Sweetie-Pie-Pyjamas-1680648062146967/

E-MAIL: mysweetiepiepjs@yahoo.com

Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me any questions you may have! I’m super friendly..promise! 🙂

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Cookbook Review: Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook

I’ve had a subscription to The Canadian Living Magazine for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my mother always had a subscription and I would pour over her magazines staring at all the pictures of food, dreaming of the day that I would be able to make them all in my own kitchen. Each month when a new issue arrives at my door, I read every article (yes I’m that dedicated!) and tear out my favourite recipes.

I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly thrilled I was when I started to see advertisements in the magazine that a cookbook filled with the ultimate recipes would be hitting the bookshelves. As I flipped through the book, I started recognizing recipes that I have seen in the magazine that I kept (bye bye tear outs!) all neatly laid out in this perfect cookbook!

For those of you who are not familiar with Canadian Living recipes, let me tell you…they all turn out amazing. The Canadian Living Test Kitchen is composed of industry professionals, food experts, home economists, recipe developers, and food writers. I have been recreating their recipes for years and there is not one recipe that has gone wrong. As a busy mom who cannot afford to lose time, I can trust that each recipe will go right without any errors. Every recipe is tested till perfect, which means they have tested every recipe using the same grocery store ingredients and regular household appliances as we do. No surprises, no strange “where in the world do I find this??” ingredient. Perfect for the everyday cook and busy parent.

The collection of recipes you will find in this cookbook are the ultimates of everything. The ultimate appetizers, the ultimate fish and seafood, the ultimate sauces, seasonings and preserves, and so much more. This means you are getting the best recipes of everything. I have this book tabbed to the max and my dinners planned out for the next couple weeks (no word of a lie!).

I love that this cookbook bypasses most of the usual do’s and don’ts, techniques and ingredients that are typically located in the beginning and cuts right to the recipes. The recipes are so simple you don’t even really need anything else.

The Recipes

The recipes are categorized with symbols above each recipe into the following categories:

  • 30 minutes or less
  • Canadian classic
  • Vegetarian
  • Complete meal (balanced meals containing protein, starch and vegetables)

Recipes are super easy to follow with ingredients listed in order of use. Directions are also simple and uncomplicated. Each recipe lists hands on time, total time and how much the recipe yields. Also included at the end of most recipes are storage directions, any make-ahead steps that can be done ahead of time (thank you Canadian Living, all busy parents are thanking you!), any variations of the particular recipe and nutritional information per serving. Recipes are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourite. (yes…perfection!)

Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Appetizers, dips, & spreads
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Side dishes
  • Poultry
  • Beef & Lamb
  • Pork
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Pasta, Noodles & Dumplings
  • Eggs & Breakfasts
  • Quick Breads
  • Yeast Breads
  • Sauces, Seasonings & Preserves
  • Pies & Tarts
  • Cakes
  • Desserts
  • Kitchen Reference

I have created several of the recipes in this book thanks to my monthly subscription of The Canadian Living Magazine. For the purpose of this blog post, I recreated my favourite Hazelnut Moose Cake that has become a staple for birthdays in my family. Every one loves it! I get compliments every time I make it and the best part…it contains one of my favourite ingredients, Nutella! This would also be a perfect cake to make for your significant other for Valentine’s Day, I promise you will not be disappointed! (Recipe & pictures below) I also recreated (for the first time) a super tasty and healthy Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup that was a hit in my family as well.

Chocolate Hazelnut Moose Cake (pictures below)

Prep Time: 1 hr       Total Time: 4 ½ hr       Portion Size: 16 to 18 servings

Ingredients

  • 175 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) whipping cream 35%

 Chocolate Cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 4 tsp (18 mL) cider vinegar

 Hazelnut Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) ground roasted skinned hazelnuts, (about 1/2 cup whole)
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla

 Mousse:

  • 1 pkg gelatin
  • 1 cup (250 mL) hazelnut chocolate spread
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) whipping cream 35%

 Candied Hazelnuts:

  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) roasted skinned hazelnuts

Preparation

Chocolate Cake: Grease 10-inch (3 L) springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Set aside. In bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Whisk in 1 cup water, oil and vanilla; stir in vinegar. Scrape into prepared pan.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Run sharp knife around edge. Remove from pan; let cool completely on rack.

Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 24 hours.

Cut cake in half horizontally to make 2 layers.

Hazelnut Meringue: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using 10-inch (3 L) springform pan as guide, trace circle onto paper. Turn paper over. In bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form. Fold in hazelnuts and vanilla. Spoon onto circle, smoothing top.

Bake on bottom rack in 225 F (110 C) oven until dry and crisp, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off oven; let cool in oven for 2 hours. 

Make-ahead: Store in airtight container in cool dry place for up to 5 days.

Mousse: Meanwhile, in small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tbsp water; set aside. In heatproof bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt hazelnut spread with 3 tbsp water until smooth; stir in butter.

In microwave, warm gelatin on high until dissolved, about 20 seconds; whisk into hazelnut spread mixture. Set aside and keep warm. (Mixture may separate while standing; whisk to combine.) Whip cream; whisk one-third into hazelnut spread mixture. Fold inremaining whipped cream.

Line bottom of 10-inch (3 L) greased springform pan with parchment paper. Place bottom cake layer in pan; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Place meringue layer in pan, trimming to fit if necessary; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Top with remaining cake layer; top with remaining mousse. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and overwrap in foil. Freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw overnight in refrigerator; continue with recipe.

Meanwhile, place chocolate in bowl.In small saucepan, bring cream to boil; pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until ganache is thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Run sharp knife around cake; remove from pan and set on rack over parchment paper.

Pour ganache over top, smoothing top and sides with palette knife. Refrigerate until almost set and ganache is still shiny yet no longer jiggles, about 30 minutes.

Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Candied Hazelnuts: Meanwhile, in shallow saucepan, dissolve sugar and salt in 3 tbsp water over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is light golden, about 8 minutes. Spread nut mixture on parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Let cool. Coarsely chop; sprinkle over top of cake.

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I had to show this picture first to entice you to make this gorgeous cake! This is the finished product. Hazelnut Moose Cake topped with a Ganache frosting and caramelized Hazelnuts.
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Making the meringue
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Candied Hazelnuts
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Spreading the moose over each layer of cake
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The assembled cake pre-ganache

 

The end of the book takes us to the Ultimate Kitchen Reference including a table of equivalents (measurments), cooking equipment, baking equipment, an extensive and most useful list of ingredient substitutions, food safety, meat doneness temperatures & visual cues, and a fruit & vegetable buying guide.

I loved this cookbook and it just might be the cookbook of the year for me. It includes anything and everything and would make the most perfect Valentines gift for your loved one (or for yourself of course) I know that in the next couple of years the pages will get stained with sauce and oil and may get a little dog-earred but I can’t wait to place this ultimate collection on my bookshelf and eventually share these classic recipes with my kids.

** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. I received a copy of Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook from the most generous Simon & Schuster Canada to give an honest review. You may purchase this cookbook through Chapters.Indigo.ca for $40.00. Price is subject to change.

Join myself with Simon & Schuster Canada on Valentine’s Day and cuddle up with your favourite book!

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“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” Review

I am a lover of all things Disney. I have a massive cabinet filled with Disney snow globes of all characters and every Disney DVD that has ever been released. When I noticed this adorable cookbook combined with the classic literature of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland I knew I had to get my hands on it!

In “Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook”, Julie Van Rosendaal creates the most sumptuous Wonderland delicacies based on the storyline. Pierre Lamielle creates modern, whimsical and beautiful illustrations that are unlike any other interpretation of Alice that I have ever seen (and probably one of my favourite parts of the book, other than the recipes themselves!)

It never occurred to me how many references there are to food items throughout the story, despite reading and watching the movies several times. What a brilliant idea to create this most adorable keepsake book. Something that I look forward to passing on to my daughter once she’s old enough (and passes the “ripping pages out of books” stage)

With recipes like Alice’s “Eat Me” Cakes with Blackcurrant Icing, The Queen of Hearts’ Red Velvet Cupcakes with Regal Cream-Cheese Frosting, and the Milky Mystic Matcha we can bring ourselves and our imaginations deep into Alice’s Wonderland and feel like we are there right beside her sharing the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Speaking of which, there is an adorable Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Section that outlines each of the following 4 characters: the Dormouse, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and Alice and their own versions of a scone, a savory, a sweet and a unique tea concoction. How sweet!

Included is a section on brewing a proper pot of tea; assembling your cups and saucers, stirring your tea “never clanging the sides of the cup or spilling over the sides”. Another cute little section on tea sandwiches including a visual guide of different kinds.

Another notable (and adorable may I add) 2 pages on Tasseography. I actually had to Google this when I was reading it as I wasn’t sure if it was made up or actually real! For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tasseography is the ancient art of reading your fortune in tea leaves. “The finer the tea, the more detail you will find in the images.” Instructions on how exactly to do it are included along with the creative illustrations with Alice characters on interpreting your fortune wherever the tea leaves may land. Loved it and it is something I would definitely incorporate at my next tea party/brunch with the girls!

It was nice for a change to open a cookbook and not have a thousand pages on equipment and ingredients, etc. Not that I don’t appreciate what authors write (I actually do learn a lot despite being an avid cook and baker myself) but just nice to cut to the chase and see simple recipes that anyone can recreate without a boat load of Do’s and Don’ts.

The Recipes

Each recipe begins with an adorable little “Alice in Wonderland” description of what is to come. The recipes range from savory to sweet including specialty drinks. They are easy to follow and are appropriate for the beginner cook/baker. Ingredients are listed in order of use and instructions are simple, organized and well laid out.

The book is divided into the same chapters you will see in the classic story as told by Carol Lewis. Under each chapter you will find a collection ranging from 1-5 recipes that reflect that particular chapter. Here is an example:

Chapter 4: Rabbit sends in a Little Bill

White Rabbits Cucumber Frames with Three Fillings

Bill’s Brandy Snap-to-Its

Alice’s Little Cake Pebbles

I managed to recreate the Mock Turtles Chocolates, which consisted of pecan halves topped with square caramels and a piece of dark chocolate. They were ridiculously easy to make despite the fact that I left them in the oven too long (opps!) This is a perfect quick dessert to make if you have last minute guests coming over. I didn’t have pecan halves at home but rather pecan pieces that were already chopped so I tried my best to recreate what I saw in the picture.  My picture below isn’t the greatest but hey..they tasted awesome regardless and I can’t complain. For presentation purposes, buy pecan halves!

Mock Turtle’s Mock Turtle Chocolates

Makes about 2 dozen tasty turtles

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (250 mL) pecan halves
  • 24 individually wrapped square caramels
  • 1 bar (3 oz/90g) dark chocolate, broken into about 24 pieces

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees (180 C).
  • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the pecan halves in groups of four, all pointing away from eachother, like the legs of a turtle. Unwrap the caramels and place one on top of each cluster, right in the middle.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the caramel softens and starts to melt. Remove from the oven and place a square of chocolate on top of each caramel, pressing lightly so that the caramel oozes out a bit on the sides. If the turtles have spread out too much, you can push the pecans back together while the caramel is still soft.
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Topping the pecans with carmel squares. Please don’t mind my not-so pecan halves!

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This picture doesn’t do justice! They were so so good! This picture comes from the second batch I made. Can you tell I was running out of good looking pecans? Ha!

Tips from Melissa’s Kitchen:

Use the cooking times above as simply a guideline and not an exact duration to bake/melt. Each oven varies in temperature so it is best to keep your eye on these turtles very often as the carmel melts. I had expected that the carmel was supposed to be oozing in the oven prior to taking them out but I was wrong! I ended up making 2 batches of these because I I had waited for the oozing and by then it was too late…they had started to burn. They only need to be slightly softened when you top them with the chocolate, otherwise the carmel will harden too much causing a much difficult dessert to eat and possibly some broken teeth!

Comment below if you try these out, I would love to know!

** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. A big thank you to White Cap Books for sending over this gorgeous cookbook!

“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” may be purchased at http://www.whitecap.ca for $34.95. For more information on this cookbook, click on the following link: http://www.whitecap.ca/Detail/1770501916

Social Media-White Cap Books:

Social Media-Julie Van Rosendaal:

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“Per la famiglia” Cookbook Review

 

“The recipes in this book represent a love of food and family”, author Emily Richards writes in her new cookbook “Per la famiglia” and I couldn’t agree more. In this cookbook, Emily lets us into her heart and her home and shares with us her most treasured family recipes. I come from a Southern Italian family myself and as I was reading through the recipes and short stories, it brought back so many memories of my own life growing up in an Italian-Canadian family. I’ll admit I shed a tear or two looking at the food pictures. Yes…food pictures! Food is more than just food. Food represents memories, good times and big celebrations shared with family. As I read the recipe for Cudduri, I thought of my Zia Rina. I would walk into her home at Christmas Eve and the smell of fried goodness would fill our noses (and our clothes) and all the good times that came along with sharing this food. Beautiful! I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the food photography that accompanied almost every recipe in this cookbook. As I’ve said in other blog posts, I’m a huge fan of great food pics! Pictures are what entice me to recreate a recipe. This cookbook is not short on pictures and I think it’s great that Emily styled her own. It shows how talented she is in addition to creating this beautiful book.

In the beginning of this book you will find a food glossary that includes bread, cheese, cured Italian deli meats, peppers and more. This is a great guide for those who are not of Italian decent, not familiar with Italian culture, and who would like to pick up a few Italian staples. She also has a section on kitchen staples. Foods you should have stocked away, ready to eat at any given time. This section is particularly helpful for the busy Mama or Papa. If your ever in a pinch and need a quick meal, you have a perfect tasty homemade meal ready at your fingertips. These meals are easy to make and can be made in large quantites to freeze or jar for a later date.

Another notable section in this cookbook is the outlined menus for Italian celebrations. Here she goes over some popular celebrations for Italians including St. Joseph’s Feast, Easter, Baptism/First Communion/Confirmation, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day and sample menus you might have on each of these occasions. The rest of the book is divided into the following chapters with recipes included in each: Easter, Christmas, Antipasti, Pizza e Pane, First Courses and Light Meals, Main Courses, Vegetables and Salads, Desserts, and Cookies. Everything you need to know food-wise if you want to celebrate Italian-style.

The first recipe I was inspired to make was the brodo (chicken soup). No pictures beside this one but it didn’t need any. I know exactly what brodo looks and tastes like. This was something I ate at least a couple times a week growing up as I was a super picky eater and my poor mother struggled to find a meal I would like every day. When I first got married, as good Italian mothers do, my mother would pack us frozen homemade brodo for myself and my husband. I don’t know why but I never asked her for the recipe. I remember attempting a Martha Stewart vegetable broth in the early years of marriage that turned out absolutely tasteless. Since then, I had no motivation to make brodo until now. This recipe was ridiculously easy and I am so happy that I made it….well I should actually credit the husband for this one. Sadly as I was cutting a leek, my knife slipped and I sliced 3 fingers. As I was at the hospital, my hubby gladly finished the rest of the soup for me and he did a fine job! When I walked back into my condo, the smell of brodo filled my home and a flood of memories went through my head. I was thrilled that it smelled EXACTLY like my mamas and almost (almost) shed another tear!

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Homemade Chicken Soup (Brodo)

The second recipe I was inspired to recreate were the arancini (rice balls). It is something I’ve also never attempted to make but absolutely love eating. These were also very easy and completely doable for the beginner cook. I found the arancini must tastier in a homemade tomato sauce but completely up to you how you would like to eat them. Here’s the recipe:

Arancini (Cheese-Filled Rice Balls)

Filling

2 ½ cups water

1 tsp saffron threads

1 ½ cups Arboro rice

½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

2 tbsp butter

1 egg

 

Coating

6 oz Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago or Havarti cheese

2 eggs

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs

4-6 cups canola oil for deep frying

Filling: In a large saucepan, bring water and saffron to boil. Add rice; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add cheese and butter. Let cool completely.

Coating: Meanwhile, cut cheese into 16-18 cubes; set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk eggs; set aside. Divide rice mixture into 16-18 balls. With fingers make indentation into each ball and fill with a cheese cube. Seal indentation. Roll balls in flour; then egg; then in breadcrumbs. Set aside on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a large deep saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. Fry balls, in batches, about 2-3 minutes or until golden crispy. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Makes 16-18 balls.

Make ahead: You can make the arancini up to the point of frying them; cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Let come to room temperature before frying in oil.

A couple notes on my experience making these: 

I did not have saffron so I obmitted it completely. I couldn’t find any at my local Longos grocery store and I don’t keep it at home as it is quite expensive.

I made the mistake of not boiling the rice at a lower heat setting for a longer time. The problem with this is that the rice had too much moisture in it therefore making it difficult to roll the rice into balls. I countered this problem by adding a little extra flour to my hands when rolling in order for the balls to stay in place and it worked out perfectly. I also made the mistake of putting the balls in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap prior to rolling them in the coating. This did something to my mozzarella cheese filling…it stayed quite solid even after frying. Note: I have a toddler running around me during the day and for those who do not have children, this translates to unfinished work all the time! Things that are completely out of my control. I also did not have 4-6 cups of canola oil. I had maybe 2 cups or so and used this amount to fry the balls. This required turning them once throughout the frying time. I would recommend either making or buying a tasty tomato sauce to accompany the arancini. All in all, these were amazing! They will definitely become a regular recipe in my family and my toddler and husband loved them!

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Arboro rice after adding cheese & butter.
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Cutting the Mozzarella in cubes..It was a challenge to cut them evenly into 16-18 cubes. I realized I didn’t cut them big enough when I had a lot left over! (Thus doubling up!)
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Flour, eggs, breadcrumbs. My little coating assembly line. These onion soup bowls were perfect for dipping the arancini in to coat.
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Ta-da! The tastiest arancini you will ever have over a homemade tomato sauce.
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Pardon the quality of this picture. These are the eggplant meatballs that were super delicious. I also put these in my homemade tomato sauce as I would regular meatballs.

 

I really wish I could have tried the super tasty looking Nutella Pizzelles! I have yet to purchase a pizzelle maker…it’s on my Christmas wish list this year.

Some other great recipes you will find in this cookbook: Homemade Tomato Sauce, Fresh Creamy Ricotta Cheese, Ricotta Ball Soup, Cream-Filled Doughnuts, Cheese-Filled Sicilian Cake, Genetti Cookies, Mussel Soup, Fried Mixed Fish, Tiramisu Trifle,  Panettone Bread Pudding, Christmas Cookies, Balsamic Glaze, Grilled Sausage Pizza, Fried Calzones, Olive and Rosemary Bread, Roasted Squash Agnolotti,  Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi, Spaggetti Carbonara, Easy Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni, Slow Cooker Lasagne, Nonna’s Meat Sauce with Polenta, Fresh Pork Sausages, Roast Pork, Pickled Hot Peppers, Garlicky Green Beans, Tomato Cucumber Salad, Ice Cream Roll Cake, Celebration Custard Cake, Amaretti Cookies, Nutella Tie Plates (Pizzelle), almond biscotti and many, many more!!

The only thing I would have liked to see that wasn’t there were subtitles under the family pictures! I would look at them and smile and think to myself “wow this is such a great picture, this reminds me of so and so..I wonder who this is!” It was truly heartwarming to see Emily’s family pictures throughout the book and made it all that more personal.

Reading this beautiful cookbook reminds me of how important it is to keep culture and family traditions and pass them on to my children. Italian or not, traditions help to keep certain things that are important to you, in your family. Every family has their own and will create new ones as the years go by. A big thanks to Emily for reigniting the passion in me to recreate, keep, and pass on some recipes that are familiar to my upbringing. The recipes that remind me of big family get-togethers, intimate weeknight dinners, warmth, love, and compassion.

**I received this book from the generous Whitecap Books to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts on this blog post are 100% my own. You may purchase “Per la famiglia” from chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca for $18.77 (price subject to change)