Friday, October 17, 2008

Not Just for Christmas!

We were invited to a friend's house for some food and fun while we watch a hockey game. We were asked to bring something for dessert, so I thought long and hard about what would be a good dessert. Rum balls came to mind. They're normally a treat enjoyed during the Christmas season, but I don't see why we shouldn't have them whenever we want! This is an easy recipe to follow and is a lot of fun to make. You can even substitute any kind of nuts or alcohol that you like, or you can leave out the nuts for those with allergies. Play with the recipe and make it your own!

Rum Balls

3 cups crushed vanilla wafers
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 1/2 finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup rum

  1. Using a blender or a food processor, crush the vanilla wafers into a powder like bread crumbs. You can use vanilla wafers with the creme filling if you like your rum balls a bit sweeter, otherwise you can use plain vanilla wafers without the filling. These can be found at your local bulk food store. You can even experiment with different flavors of wafers like chocolate or strawberry.
  2. Using the blender or food processor, finely chop the walnuts (or whatever nuts you choose to use). If you like a bit of crunch in your rum balls, leave the nuts a bit chunkier. If you like them smooth, then chop them until they turn to a powder.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the crushed wafers, icing sugar, cocoa powder and nuts. Then blend in the corn syrup and rum.
  4. Using about 1 teaspoonful of the mixture, shape it into 1-inch balls. You can roll the balls in sweetened cocoa powder or icing sugar. I learned the hard way that coconut and sprinkles don't stick very well unless you dip the balls in more alcohol or cover them in melted sugar first.
  5. Store the balls, refrigerated, in an airtight container for several days to develop the flavor. Roll again in icing sugar or cocoa powder before serving. Makes approximately 30 balls.
This is a versatile recipe and you can change the ingredients around to suit your tastes. I divided up the recipe into thirds and made two of the batches with almonds and the other with walnuts. I used rum in the walnut batch, triple sec (orange flavored liqueur) with one of the almond batches and amaretto (almond flavored liqueur) with the other. But you can use anything you like. Try it with pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, or whatever you like. You can even make the balls a bit more exotic by using alcohol like Bailey's or Kahlua. Have fun playing with the recipe!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quick and Easy Chili

Fall is in the air and it's time to start making some hearty dishes again. With the house for sale, we're cooking things that can last a few meals and can be done relatively quickly. Here's a quick and easy chili that tastes pretty good. You can experiment with the type of pasta sauce that you use to achieve different flavors.

Quick and Easy Chili

1 to 1-1/2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 medium sized onion, diced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 bottle pasta sauce, e.g. Ragu
1 chipotle pepper, chopped (optional)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (optional)

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the meat, onions and chili powder and cook until the meat it is no longer pink. If using ground beef, you will want to drain the liquid once it is cooked. If using turkey, there is no need to drain since it is leaner than beef.
  2. Add the beans and the pasta sauce. If you are using a chipotle pepper, add it now. Stir together and bring to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Serve in bowls and sprinkle grated cheddar on top if desired. I usually serve the chili with garlic bread made from my own baguettes. This recipe makes 4 large servings or 6 small servings.

Monday, October 13, 2008


The smell of freshly baked bread is absolutely irresistible. Today, I decided to make some multigrain baguettes for us to enjoy. The recipe below is for regular baguettes, but you can substitute some or all of the flour for different kinds depending on what kind of baguette you want to make. For my multigrain baguettes, I substituted 1 cup of multigrain bread flour for the white flour. You can also use an egg wash instead of the milk for a harder, crispier crust. To make the egg wash, mix 1 egg or 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon of water.

Baguette Recipe

1 cup very warm water
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons milk

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the bread flour and mix together to form dough. Then add the salt and knead in. Knead dough for a few minutes until it forms a ball of dough. It should still be slightly sticky. Once kneaded, cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  3. Once the dough has risen, punch it down. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle. Cut the dough in half, forming two 8x12 inch rectangles. Beginning from the 12 inch side, roll each half of dough up tightly, then gently pinch in the ends and fold over to seal. Turn the roll over and pinch the seam shut. Gently roll it back and forth to smooth out the seam. Cover and allow to rise for another 35 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If you have a baking stone, preheat the stone in the oven. If not, you may transfer the baguettes to a cookie sheet for baking.
  5. Once the baguettes have doubled in size, gently brush the milk over the tops of the loaves. Then, with a very sharp knife, make deep diagonal slashes across each loaf about 2 inches apart. 
  6. If using a baking stone, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. If using a cookie sheet, bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a rack.