If you find yourself craving those large, decorated chocolate chip cookie cakes you can get at the mall, then you’ll love this post about making one for a celebratory occasion or as a gift for someone special.
I love classic-sized chocolate chip cookies as much as anyone else, but making a huge chocolate chip as a cookie cake is truly something fun and different. I can thank the Covid-19 pandemic for inspiring me to make chocolate chip cookie cakes as gifts. My daughter and I have made them for Canada Day, as graduation gifts, and as hostess gifts. You can check out my last post (click here) on making graduation day memorable with lots of desserts, including this cookie cake.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been bittersweet celebrating my daughter’s graduation from high school, but we’ve done our best to celebrate in many ways, including making as many sweet treats as possible!
We love dessert in our family and, yes, we understand the need to balance healthy food with yummy treats. But, what I”m sharing today is purely sugar based! The best part about making these celebratory desserts was searching for some of the ideas, choosing a theme (pink and blue), and decorating the house.
We received a lawn banner from the school and bought and received balloons as gifts. We decorated inside with balloons, garland, and streamers on archways in the house. And, one night I spent quite a bit of time going through old photos of the first day of school, group school photos, and other fun school and family moments. I put these on poster boards in the hallway and put up a long ‘congratulations’ banner underneath the boards. She absolutely loved this idea and the photos and boards are still up!
We were still in the ‘shelter at home’ phase when my daughter had her virtual graduation, so it was a nuclear family celebration. My daughter helped me make and decorate these dessert menu items, and we had a lot of fun decorating and catching up together.
I always have energy balls or squares on hand because they’re the perfect snack right before a workout! Sometimes you don’t have time to eat something that takes a lot of prep time before you go for a run or before you head out the door. These chocolate almond bites are perfect as a grab-and-go healthy option.
BTW, you can also check out my recipe for Vegan Chocolate Fudge that I have shared in the past. The ‘fudge’ recipe is date-based whereas the recipe I’m sharing today is made with almond flour.
I’ve tried making energy balls with almond flour in the past and I love the texture and taste of almond flour, so I was very pleased when I came up with this recipe with the addition of cocoa powder.
What I like about making energy balls is the different ways you can ‘dress’ up these treats. Here, I’ve topped them with sea salt, peanuts, and slivered almonds. I highly recommend topping them with either peanuts or almonds so everyone knows that these energy balls contain nuts! Plus, it’s a fun way to decorate these bites and to make them presentable for gifting.
Eid Mubarak to all of my friends and followers celebrating this week! Today marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. And, it’s time to celebrate with lots of traditional desserts, like Qatayef!
I grew up in Saudi Arabia where I was lucky enough to experience all of the activities, sights, sounds, and tastes of Ramadan. The night life in the souks was incredible, full of music, open shops, lots of fun foods, and lots of staying up late. One Ramadan night my brother was invited to hang out in a tent under the stars in the desert and I will always remember his description of how magical that experience was.
When I was a kid, Ramadan fell during the hottest months of the year but, because it’s a lunar holiday, it moves back about 11 days a year. That means that it takes about 33 years for Ramadan to complete its cycle and that some years it’s easier to fast than others. For example, the winter months are easier in that the days are shorter, and the summer months are the hardest.
There are many traditions around Ramadan, including the daily Iftar, which is the meal eaten after sunset when breaking the fast for the day. Iftar is a meal often shared with family and friends and there is always lots of food. I loved being invited to my friends’ homes for Iftar and just hanging out. In the Middle East, it’s very common to be invited to business Iftar meals as well. You always wonder what the host will serve and you almost always hope it includes qatayef!
Qatayef are similar to a pancake stuffed with cheese or nuts or ashta (a type of cream). Qatayef are traditionally fried and served with simple syrup and a sprinkling of nuts on top. The qatayef I’m sharing here are not fried because I wanted to keep things light. If you want them fried, shallow fry them in a pan or bake them in the oven after brushing them with some oil. I stuffed these qatayef with a mixture of crushed walnuts, sugar, and orange blossom water.
One of my favorite salads is kale salad: it’s versatile, healthy, and delicious. As someone who has a salad for dinner almost every night, I have to say that kale salad is at the top of my list. I like it on its own, with added protein, or as a side salad.
Kale is high in antioxidants and full of nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K. In the last few years, kale has been a popular addition to many menus and vegan diets. It’s perfect in salads as well as in soups and other cooked meals.
I love kale because it’s a heartier and a ‘darker greens’ option. It offers a change from romaine, arugula, and spinach salads. When I make kale salad, my husband and kids always like the different ingredient add-ins. I almost always include grated carrots, red peppers, and cucumbers. I add whatever fruits I have on hand, which is great in the spring and summer. And, I have been adding mint and basil, which truly elevates the flavors in the salad.
Guacamole has got to be one dish we can all agree on! It’s a great snack and the perfect appetizer for any gathering. It’s also the star of any Mexican-themed dinner: without guacamole, it’s just not the same.
The recipe I’m sharing here is inspired by the guacamole served at Chipotle Restaurants. I used to make guacamole by smashing avocados, adding salt, pepper, dried basil, and some lemon juice. That wasn’t good enough for my kids and husband. They kept talking about the Chipotle recipe. Of course, everything tastes better when it’s made my someone else…I get it! But, I really wanted to understand how Chipotle made their guacamole.
For some time, Chipotle had their recipe on their website. But, lately I can’t find it. If you search for the recipe online, there are several blogs that reference the original recipe, which means it was posted somewhere, at some time in the past. The tastiest ingredient in this guacamole is the fresh cilantro. It gives this dip its signature taste. Of course, the red onion and lime add their own flavors for an overall delicious and tasty dip.
Caramel popcorn is my favorite way to eat popcorn and, thank goodness, it’s very easy to make at home! As you know, I have a very sweet tooth, and this popcorn makes it to the top of the list for many reasons.
Caramel corn takes me right back to my childhood when one of my friend’s moms used to make it and sell it out of their house. I would treat myself to it after school on many occasions. Of course, caramel corn also has a nostalgic place in my heart because it reminds me of street fairs and festivals.
To make this caramel corn, I have to admit that I cheat a little bit with the recipe: I use micro-waved popcorn. It’s just easier and you get to the end result quicker. Of course, it’s healthier and more economical to make it with fresh popcorn that you make in a pot or in a popcorn maker or air popper. But, microwaved popcorn works just as well.
The secret to making this recipe is the baking soda. It makes the caramel sauce foam up and that’s how it becomes easier to spread over more of the popcorn. It ‘grows’ in volume with the soda.
I’m kind of a plain Jane person with my caramel corn, adding sprinkles to it occasionally. You can add many other toppings like candy, pretzels, peanuts, chocolate chips, chocolate drizzle, etc. You decide!
Here’s how I made the Caramel Corn in these photos:
8 cups of popped popcorn (or one 85g or 3 oz package of micro-wave popcorn)
1/4 c butter (salted or unsalted)
1/2 c dark brown sugar
2 T white corn syrup
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T sprinkles
Prepare popcorn and place it in a large mixing bowl, leaving plenty of room to toss the popcorn with the caramel sauce. Make sure you remove any kernels.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and stir until everything is melted together and combined well. It will start to bubble slightly on the sides.
Add the soda and vanilla and keep stirring until the mixture foams up. Stir and let it cook for another 30 seconds.
Quickly spread the caramel over the popcorn and toss with a spoon until all the popcorn is coated.
Add the sprinkles after the popcorn is fully coated and toss again.
To ensure you separate all the kernels out, I recommend you place the micro-wave popcorn in a bowl and give the bowl a few light tosses so that the kernels settle at the bottom. Use your hands to carefully lift out the popped corn, without any kernels, and place them in your large mixing bowl.
Do NOT leave the caramel on the stove while you go do other things. It will burn. And, once you add the vanilla and soda, the mixture may splatter from the vanilla, and it will foam from the soda. You cannot walk away!
Work quickly to spread the caramel over the big bowl of popcorn.
Do NOT use your hands to toss the caramel and popcorn together – the caramel mixture is super hot!
What have you added to your caramel corn? Comment below!
Hello Dollies are the one dessert we can all agree on…as long as I make two flavors!!
You may also know Hello Dollies as Magic Layer Bars or 7 Layer Magic Cookie Bars. The Hello Dolly name seems to be a reference to a scene from Hello Dolly on Broadway. You can read more in this article here.
The classic Hello Dollies recipe includes a graham cracker crust layered with chocolate chips, coconut flakes, nuts, and condensed milk. Eagle Brand shares their recipe on their site but I’m sharing a few twists here. These bars are absolutely delicious, decadent, and soo easy to make!!
It’s BBQ season in most parts of North America, so I’m sharing one of our favorite meals: curry grilled shrimp!
Shrimp is one of the fastest cooking protein sources, it’s low calorie, and makes great leftovers for salads and wraps. (It is high in cholesterol, however, so please note this fact if you are watching your diet for cholesterol intake.)
I usually buy raw, frozen shrimp in the shell. I like them in the shell because I feel that the shell protects them in the freezer. When I make this meal, I take the shrimp out about an hour before I marinate them.
Banana Bread recipes have got to be some of the most popular breads circulating on social media right now! Spending time at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic means that many of us are cooking and baking more. I have seen many versions and recipes of banana bread, but the one I’m sharing here is truly delicious!
I have no idea what recipe I followed prior to this one – that’s how good this recipe is. My dear friend made this banana bread for me one day when I went over to have coffee with her. It’s her mom’s recipe and I had to have it right away. It’s got 1/2 a cup of oil in it and uses no butter. I have to say that I’m not a fan of cakes that uses butter because I prefer the lightness and airiness of oil-based cakes.
It’s optional to add the walnuts, but I find it tastes that much better when you do add the nuts. Feel free to add a handful of mini chocolate chips into the batter. You can also add a sprinkle of coconut flakes or banana chips on top.