Coconut Macaroons – Chewy, Not too Sweet, and Quite Addictive!

I almost gave up on making coconut macaroons.  No matter what recipe I tried, they always came out flat, with a bump in the middle.  They never looked like the pictures in food magazines or the Internet.

I came across this recipe a while ago, and was hesitant because I had a ton of flaked coconut in my pantry, but not desiccated coconut.  I had a difficult time finding it at my local grocery store, and had to Google for an alternative right there and then while standing in the baking aisle!  Another name for desiccated coconut is unsweetened coconut.  It comes in fine or medium shreds, and judging from the picture of the finished macaroon, I made a judgement call and bought the medium shreds.

When you are finished making the batter, it will be thick, but you definitely need to use baking cups to hold the macaroon’s shape.

I was so excited to see how nicely rounded they came out!  Of course, I couldn’t wait for the macaroons to cool completely, and neither could H.  I did find it difficult to peel the liner off, but hey, H had no problem whatsoever!  Nevertheless, by the next day when the macaroons had developed their flavor and softened a bit, they were much easier to peel off.

This recipe is definitely a keeper … and they look so cute!

Coconut Macaroons

Adapted from KawalingPinoy.com

Makes 3 ½ -4 dozen minis

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • ⅓ – ½ cup granulated sugar (I used ⅓ cup but if you have a real sweet tooth, use ½ cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups unsweetened medium coconut (desiccated coconut)
  1. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat butter and sugar together for a few minutes.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one
  3. Add condensed milk and pure vanilla extract until well combined, again scraping down the side of the bowl
  4. With a spatula, fold in flour, baking powder, and coconut until well mixed
  5. Scoop into mini cupcake liners using a medium size cookie scoop.  If you don’t have one, the equivalent is 1 tablespoon.
  6. Bake for 12-16 minutes (depending on your oven).  When a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, they’re done. Do not over bake.
  7. Let cool for several minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Kitchen notes:

  • This is quite annoying, but some condensed milk are manufactured in 300 ml cans.  Most recipes call for 14 ounces.  I buy a lot of baking products in the U.S. so if you can’t find a 14 ounce can, here are two options: divide this recipe in half, or open up a second can (sorry).  Either way, you can use the extra condensed milk for making iced coffee … delicious!
  • If you wish to divide this recipe in half, I would suggest using approximately 3 tbsp butter and 3 or 4 tbsp sugar.  The rest of the ingredients can easily be halved
  • Macaroons will keep in a tight-fitting container at room temperature for a few days

Enjoy!

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Oven Baked BBQ Ribs and all the Fixin’s

Oven-baked ribs

It’s summertime and being foodies, we absolutely crave anything to do with BBQ!

But what do you do if it’s raining, and you don’t want to fire up the grill, or you don’t have a bbq?  How about oven-baked ribs!  We normally just use our favorite store bought bbq sauce but for an extra kick, I love this simple recipe with additional spices.  The result is the perfect blend of sweet and tangy, with a bit of heat.

Getting to all the fixin’s … our favorites are potato salad, baked beans and cornbread.  I switched it up this time with creamy mac and cheese, slices of baguette with butter and of course, pickles.  We’ve dined at Famous Dave’s a few times, and they serve these awesome pickles with their bbq platters.  Their Signature Spicy Pickle Chips are addictive and available for $3.99.  You can also find them at Costco.  They’re crunchy, sweet, sour and a bit spicy.  I absolutely hated pickles for most of my life, and now I can’t believe how much I like them.

Are you craving BBQ?

Delicious Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs

Adapted from food.com

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs pork ribs
  • 2-4 tbsp light or dark brown sugar (use less if your favorite bbq sauce is already sweet)
  • 1 tsp hickory smoke salt (or smoked paprika)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup of your favorite bbq sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Peel off tough membrane that covers the bony side of the ribs
  3. Mix together the sugar and spices to make the rub
  4. Apply rub to ribs on all sides
  5. Lay ribs on two layers of non-stick foil, meaty side up (so they don’t burn)
  6. Lay two layers of foil on top of ribs and roll and crimp edges tightly, edges facing up to seal
  7. Place on baking sheet and bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours or until meat is starting to shrink away from the ends of the bone.
  8. Remove from oven
  9. Heat broiler
  10. Cut ribs into serving sized portions of 2 or 3 ribs
  11. Arrange on broiler pan, meat side up and brush with bbq sauce
  12. Broil for 1 or 2 minutes until sauce is bubbly
  13. Turn ribs over and repeat
  14. You can also finish them off on a grill

Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching; will you be making Irish soda bread?

Traditional Irish soda bread is made with flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk. There are strong debates on adding anything else! Surprisingly in Ireland, the bread is referred to as brown bread, and doesn’t resemble any of the recipes in North America.

Nowadays, you’ll find sugar and butter added, as well as caraway seeds and/or raisins. There is no yeast or kneading involved, and the bread relies on baking soda as a leavener. The bread is rustic, typically round in shape, dense and slightly chewy.

Whichever recipe you choose, Irish soda bread is very easy to make and will keep for several days at room temperature. The flavor improves with age, and it’s best made several hours in advance, or even overnight.

We like ours toasted and spread with butter and jam! To serve with savory foods, you can omit or reduce the sugar.

Irish Soda Bread

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup sugar (adjust to your taste or optional to leave out)
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk (you can make your own by adding 2 tbsp vinegar to a measuring cup, then add milk to equal 2 cups, stir and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Butter a 9×5” loaf pan and set aside
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients
  4. Add egg to buttermilk and whisk to combine, then add to dry ingredients and combine until moistened
  5. Add melted butter and stir until well distributed
  6. Spoon into prepared pan
  7. Bake for 60-70 minutes, checking near the 60 minute mark. When a toothpick inserted comes out clean, the bread is done!
  8. Let cool completely on a wire rack

Kitchen notes:

  • This recipe yields a very soft dough and requires a loaf pan to hold its shape
  • When bread is cooled completely, wrap in foil and keep at room temperature for several days

 

Godiva Truffles for Valentine’s Day

Godiva

I’m not a huge fan of chocolates, but H is!   I took him to Godiva and when we got to the counter, he was waiting for me to choose the flavors.  I told him it was his treat for a change, and to pick the ones he liked.  Of course he resisted, but after some prodding … Birthday Cake, Key Lime, Tiramisu, Chocolate Lava, Champagne, Smooth Coconut, Salted Almond and Hazelnut Crunch.  Mmm!

Godiva Truffles

Do You Crave Fudgy Brownies or Cake-Like Brownies?

Mmm … a decadent, chocolaty, chewy and moist brownie – are you craving this?

Fudgy Brownies or Cake-Like Brownies

I tested more than 6 recipes before I was ready to share the results! The ingredients are so simple: melted butter, sugar, eggs, pure vanilla extract, cocoa, salt and flour. Surprisingly, I found a basic recipe works best. I’ve tried others that call for melted unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate, but I personally found them underwhelming.

I baked batch after batch until I didn’t want to see another brownie again. I tweaked 2 recipes that are now my tried and true favourites!

Most of my friends prefer a fudgy brownie, while in our household, we like a cross between fudgy and cake-like. What we don’t crave are the gooey, wet-like brownies that leave a chocolaty layer on the roof of our mouths :(

Both recipes are not only easy, but super-fast. You can whip up a batch before your oven heats up! And, you don’t need a stand mixer, just one bowl, a whisk and a wooden spoon!

Bake some today, and don’t forget to let me know which one you prefer.

Fudgy Chocolaty Brownies

Makes 9 squares
Adapted from bonappetit.com

* Fudgy, deep chocolate flavor, chewy but won’t stick to the roof of your mouth!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch-processed)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup unbleached flour
  1. Preheat oven to 325°
  2. Line an 8×8” square pan with:
    Foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2” overhang. Coat foil with non-stick spray
    OR
    Parchment paper and secure with binder clips. You just need to fold the edges down (I prefer to use parchment paper)
  3. Melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, watch carefully. Let cool slightly
  4. Whisk in sugar, cocoa, and salt to combine, and then add vanilla extract
  5. Switch to a wooden spoon and add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously after each addition (the batter will be very thick)
  6. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overmix). It will be difficult as the mixture will look like one big lump and you’ll need to use some muscle – don’t worry
  7. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula.  Remove binder clips if using
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Do not over bake
  9. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan
  10. Using foil or parchment overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board
  11. Cut into squares.  The original recipe states 16 squares, but you are not going to want tiny squares!!

Fudgy and Cake-Like Brownies

Makes 9 squares
Adapted from allrecipes.com

* Best of both worlds: fudgy and cake-like

Ingredients 

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch-processed)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup unbleached flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line an 8×8” square pan with:
    Foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2” overhang. Coat foil with non-stick spray
    OR
    Parchment paper and secure with binder clips. You just need to fold the edges down (I prefer to use parchment paper)
  3. Melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, watch carefully. Let cool slightly
  4. Whisk in sugar, cocoa, salt and baking powder to combine, and then add vanilla extract
  5. Add eggs one at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition (the batter will not be as thick as the above recipe)
  6. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overmix)
  7. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula.  Remove binder clips if using
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Do not over bake
  9. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan
  10. Using foil or parchment overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board
  11. Cut into squares.  The original recipe states 16 squares, but you are not going to want tiny squares!!

Baking tip:

  • For an extra boost of intense chocolate flavor, add ½ -1 tsp espresso powder to the flour step

Kitchen notes:

  • Wrap each square in plastic wrap and place squares in a freezer-safe bag.  Freeze and take out whenever you have a craving
  • For an easy dessert, cut each square into small chunks, serve with vanilla ice cream and chocolate or caramel sauce. Don’t forget the whipped cream!

Have You Tried Dragon Fruit?


Dragon Fruit is a beautiful type of cactus also referred to as Pitaya. Its origin is unknown, but believed to be from Mexico and cultivated around the world.  It is more commonly found in Thailand and Vietnam.  The color can be a vibrant red or yellow with layers of leaves.

A dragon fruit is ready to eat when you press on the outside flesh and it gives slightly.  Any softer than this and it will be too ripe.  After washing the fruit, simply cut in half.  The flesh is easy to scoop out and contains black edible seeds, similar to kiwi (the skin is very bitter and inedible).

The taste is very mild and refreshing, slightly crunchy but not as tart as kiwis.  While dragon fruits are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, they are also high in fructose and should be enjoyed in moderation.

The shell of the fruit is so pretty you can even use it to serve ice cream, yogurt or sherbet or sorbets. The fruit itself is best eaten cold.

Seasons at the Prince – Sunday Brunch Review

H and I love to indulge in Sunday brunch, so I can’t believe we have never tried Seasons at the Prince, located inside the Westin Prince Hotel.

Upon entering the hotel, we were greeted with an impressive waterfall, as well as a towering Christmas tree and fireplace. Seasons at the Prince is casual, yet elegant at the same time.  The decor is very clean, modern and minimalist, with more sleek fireplaces.

Seating is spaced well and very comfortable, with a lot of options for privacy.  The semi-circular booths looked very cozy, and we loved our table for 2 which offered a beautiful view of the parklands.

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We arrived early and Aladdin was gracious in allowing me to take pictures before the brunch started. He was “very” attentive throughout our stay, making sure we were well taken care of!

A unique selection of hot and cold buffet items were available, and on our visit we enjoyed the stuffed lobster shells, oysters, mussels and shrimp, salads, danishes, croissants, the omelet and carving station, chocolate waffles, and so much more. The food was very fresh and nicely presented, and I noticed dishes were replenished very quickly.

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Smoked Salmon, Assorted Deli

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Stuffed Lobster Shells, Oysters, Mussels

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Omelet Station

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Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella with Balsamic Vinegar Drizzle

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Roasted Red Skin Potatoes with Lemon and Garlic, Seasonal Garden Vegetables

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Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pearl Onions and Sun Dried Tomatoes

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Butter Chicken

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Tri-color Tortellini with Spinach and Artichokes

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Herb Crusted Barramundi with Citrus Salsa

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Chicken Apple Sausages

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Chocolate Waffles

Fresh juices, smoothies and fruit balanced out an indulgent brunch, but of course my mind was on the dessert table!  Being a dessert lover, I noticed a beautifully displayed dessert table and was tempted to start there first! 

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Desserts

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What’s On Our Plates

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My favorite desserts were the chocolate mousse cake which was not too sweet, Tiramisu and Chocolate Pots de Crème.

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Jolanta, our server, suggested we make room for the bread pudding, but to honest, it looked quite plain to me.  As they say, “looks can be deceiving.” I’m so glad we gave it a try … the bread pudding was pure decadence!  The addition of a very light, yet creamy and thick vanilla sauce was amazing.

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Most surprising was the coffee, as I prefer tea. When we asked Jolanta, she informed us it was Starbucks. While we love Starbucks lattes, H does not like their coffee, but this particular blend was mild and smooth, with no bitter aftertaste. Of course H enjoyed the pot that was left on our table, and I helped myself to several cups as well!

While the restaurant was booked solid, we never felt rushed to finish our brunch. We lingered long after everyone had left, and I was impressed that food was still being served, fresh as when we first arrived.

We were having such a relaxing afternoon, looking out at the beautiful grounds when Jamy and Jolanta brought out yet another piece of dessert while singing Happy Birthday. It was very nice that they took the time to chat with us! Most often, servers are in a hurry to clean up and usher guests out, but this was not the case at Seasons at the Prince!

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We had a very enjoyable brunch, the service was amazing, and we’re already looking forward to returning soon!

Note:

  • Sunday brunch is currently $44/person, which includes coffee or tea, juices and smoothies, as well as parking

Disclosure:
This is not a paid advertisement.