Macadamia and WHITE CHOCOLATE????????!!!!!!

My friends, things are so good right now. It's pay week this week which means a little loosening of the purse strings. Which also means that over the next few weeks you will be seeing some posts featuring the fruits of the purse string loosening. This weekend's purchases are (get ready for it - last of the big time spenders here!) a new whisk, spatula and pastry brush. They were not expensive but let me tell you the excitement that they have brought into my kitchen. I've also had a quick visit to the St Lawrence Market and picked up a couple of gems.

I feel inspired, itching to try some of the recipes that I've been eyeing for a while and haven't taken the time for yet. I'm just not sure where to start. First of all, my friend KT gave me some awesome granola that I've been chewing on for a day or so - chock full of honey, nuts and dried cranberries - and everytime it goes in my mouth I think of something new to do with it. Then there are the great organic blueberries that I found at the market. Then... there's the Fleur de sel that I couldn't resist. AND finally... at the health food store (yes! I do shop at those places too!) I found these inspiring little bags of organic macadamia nuts. Who can resist macadamia nuts. Instantly, visions of white chocolate (Me! White chocolate! Go figure!) macadamia nut cookies danced before my eyes. I've got to try this! The bad news is that the granola, blueberries and fleur de sel won't be used in this post but I can, however, use the utensils!!!!

This is pretty much the recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook - minus the shredded coconut though because after living in the Caribbean anything involving shredded coconut is an abomination, vile, ghastly... the list goes on (for me at least. If you LOVE shredded coconut please do not take any personal offence, I would not hold it against you)

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (unbleached)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar (it says to firmly pack but I didn't)
1 lg egg
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup white chocolate coarsely chopped (I used Lindt)
1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth (about 3 min. or so). Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix well. It should be quite fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir in the white chocolate and the nuts and mix thoroughly again.

Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet in rounded teaspoon size (I used slightly bigger probably and it turned out quite well).

Bake for 10 - 12 min. until lightly golden.
Cool on wire rack.

Inspired Conversations

The conversation goes something like this each Sunday.

'What should I make for this week?' - Me

'Noodles!' - kid #2

'Sausage Sauce!' - kid #1

Why do I even ask? It's always the same answer from each of them (admittedly, kid #1 ocassionally requests Lasagna. I must be fair). It's this endless struggle to have good food around as opposed to the easy stuff (you all know what stuff I'm talkin' 'bout). Even though I know that 'stuff' isn't easier at the end of the day somehow (absurdly successful marketing schemes over the last 50 years or so, maybe?!) the message is in there that it is easier and that it won't be bad for us after all.


This Sunday's conversation changed slightly. I already had an agenda - some leftover chicken
and a block of cream cheese. As soon as kid #1 sees the cream cheese it's hard to keep her away from it but I managed to keep it safe. She was quite happy with the conversation today when I suggested Chicken in Cream Sauce with Baby Spinach though. No arguments whatsoever.

Doing chicken like this is really just a form of Tetrazzini. Whatever, I don't need to be creating original works of art ... do I? This would really fall into my 'trashy' classification b/c of the cream cheese. Any kind of pre-processed, big label stuff qualifies. However, at least this one has spinach in it. That somehow redeems it completely... right?!

So, without further ado (?) here is what I made for dinner this week...

Leftover chicken in cream cheese sauce with Spinach

3 - 4 cups of leftover chicken cut into smallish pieces
2 - 3 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 an onion diced
1 - 2 ribs of celery diced
6 button or cremini (my favourite for this recipe) mushrooms sliced a little on the chunky side
3 cloves of garlic crushed
2 cups of chicken broth or bouillion
2 cups of milk or cream
1 4oz package of cream cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
pepper sauce (to taste)
salt (to taste)
nice assortment of herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano), fresh basil and chives would be da bomb!
1 small package of baby spinach

Dice or slice the chicken and set aside. Heat a large Dutch oven and add oil once pan is hot.

Throw in the onion, celery and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes until they get kind of soft. Add in the garlic and saute another 3 minutes or so. Once the veggies are ready add in the chicken and pepper sauce, a dash of salt and the herbs and mix well.

Add about 1/2 cup of the broth and let the stuff stuck on the bottom of the pan lift or de-glaze using a utensil to help the process along (that gets the really tasty stuff off the pan and into the food). Add in the rest of the broth and all the cream cheese. Let the cream cheese melt down into the sauce and then add the parmesan cheese. Once everything is blended it should be pretty thick. At this point add in the milk or cream and get the sauce to whatever consistency you prefer (Note: if you will be keeping the sauce refrigerated for a couple of days it will thicken up so you might want it a bit thinner at the outset). Add Pepper Sauce and salt to taste.
This can serve well with rice or pasta. In fact, if I were really feeling fancy I would do crepes or a Phyllo Pastry Strudel... Hmmm, that sounds kind of inspiring!!

From the top down.

It's all about the Icing today. I'm excited because I've just picked up The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook (I actually visited the bakery when last in NYC and had their famous red velvet cupcakes!). I so seldom purchase these things that it's a huge deal when I actually go through to the other side of the checkout with something in my bag (if you could actually see the number of times that I fill my cart and then chicken out and empty it and leave the site! A little embarrassing actually)

As You all know, we love chocolate (sorry KT - don't worry, I've got something brewing just for you... Soon to come!) and I very much love having homemade treats for my kids to eat instead of a bunch of stuff with multiple ingredients that I can't pronounce. I figure that this way I know exactly how much salt and sugar they are ingesting (well... who am I kidding, I eat the stuff too! Trust me, way better than Starbucks). Today, after some consultation, I decided that it would be chocolate cupcakes.

I got this cupcake recipe from one of my university roomies and I honestly haven't a clue where she got it BUT, it's been my go to chocolate cupcake recipe ever since. Up to know, I have only ever used regular milk for this recipe but today I've got some buttermilk in the Frigo that needs to get used up before it dies (hmmmm, maybe some fried chicken too???). So, I'm going to give the buttermilk a go instead of the 2% - can't be that bad... right???

Now about the Icing - the Magnolia cookbook has some fantastic looking recipes that I'm already bursting to try (just got it yesterday but the pages are already all marked up) however there is a whole section devoted to icing. I may not make the recipe exactly as written but I think that I'm going to give the Vanilla Buttercream a whirl... I've just got to run out and get some butter!!!

Chocolate Cupcakes (from my friend Hiroko)

1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp bk powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk (like I said, I have been using regular old milk up to now with great success)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set the bowl aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add the dry ingredients in small portions, mixing well and alternate adding some of the flour and some of the buttermilk. Begin and end with the flour.

Place dough into prepared cupcake tin and bake for about 20 minutes. Makes about 12 medium sized cupcakes.
Cool completely before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream icing (inspired by Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

I cup of butter, softened to room temperature
5 cups of SIFTED icing sugar
1/4 cup of milk or cream
3 tsp good quality vanilla

I actually changed this up a little from the recipe in the book. Same ingredients, different proportions. I lowered the sugar and milk and upped the vanilla. What I got was a smooth, creamy icing. I think that the trick to the smoothness here is mixing the icing sugar and butter well before adding any wet ingredients.
I mashed up the butter quite well but not until it was super liquidy and then added in 4 cups of icing sugar. I got that all mixed together and then added the vanilla (not the cream yet), mixed that together and then added the last cup of icing sugar. Once that was quite smooth and creamy but still a little stiff I added the cream. Add it little by little so that you can see just how much you need.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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