Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gingerbread and Poached Pears Christmas Trifle

Gingerbread and Poached Pears Christmas Trifle

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a little place where all the kitchen adventures I want to have live.  One of those adventures has always been to make a trifle and have a lovely trifle bowl.  Its kind of an impractical kitchen item (the trifle bowl) but I DO love to entertain and bake so when I stumbled across one that was on clearance for just $8 (I know!!) I could not pass it up :)

So my first trip into making trifle was pure experimentation. And SO fun.  I cruised the internet for ideas and then came up with my own that I feel has a nice Christmasy feel.  I used this as an opportunity to try poaching pears and making syrup (another couple of kitchen adventures that were living back there in my mind). 

Gingerbread and Poached Pears Christmas Trifle
1 box spice cake mix (baked according to directions on the box)
4 pears
2 cups port wine
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsps lemon juice
ground cloves
1 8oz brick neufchatel cheese (or light cream cheese)
3/4 cup icing sugar
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 container cool whip

Bake spice cake and let cool.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.

Meanwhile in a large saucepan bring to a low boil the Port wine, brown sugar, lemon juice and a couple dashes of cinnamon and a dash of ground cloves (or more to taste)

Peel pears, slice in half and de-seed.  Place in saucepan and bring down to a simmer.  Simmer for 20mins turning once.  Remove pears and let cool.  Once they are cool slice pears.

Reserve poaching liquids and return to low boil. Continue at low boil stirring often until liquid reduces by more than half and has a nice syrupy quality.  Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl beat cheese, icing sugar and heavy cream until fluffy.  Set aside.


1)Place half of cake pieces in bottom of trifle bowl (like a jigsaw puzzle) to fill part way.  2)Top with a layer of pear slices.  Drizzle half of pear-wine-syrup reduction over pears.  (this will most likely run down into cake - perfect!)  3)Top pears with half of the creamed sweet cheese fluff and spread it evenly.  4) Top the creamed sweet cheese layer with half the container of cool whip - spread evenly.

Repeat 1-4 saving a few of the poached pear slices for decorating the top. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours before serving.

I drizzled the top of mine with the last tablespoon of syrup and sprinkled the top with a bit more cinnamon and ground cloves.  Pictures to follow :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

vegan hot chcolate

I love hot chocolate but since I've been cutting drastically back on dairy and sugar the regular powdered stuff makes my tummy hurt.

I fiddled around with this this morning and cant believe I didnt do this sooner.  its stupid easy and so, so good!  Reminds me of the 'real' hot chocolate my mom used to make on the stove for us to have coming in from playing in the snow or skating.

Here's what I did:

11/2 teas dark unsweetened cocoa
3 teas splenda (you could use stevia or agave if you are anti-sweeteners)
1 cup almond milk

I mixed the dry ingredients with just a touch of the milk first to get the lumps out and then added the rest and warmed it up in the microwave until hot and steamy.

TRY this.  You could always use soy but the subtle nutty flavour of the almond milk is devine with chocolate.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chana Masala with spinach

Recently I had the BEST, best chana masala I've ever had at a local Indian restaurant while out with some girlfriends.  It was so good - that I had to bring my hubby and kids back to try it (and other delicious things on the menu).

Since eating out every time I have an craving is out of the question - I wanted to try my hand at making my own.  If you've never had it I urge you to try it!  Its a lovely combination of warm and spicy and tangy and just perfect on a cold rainy (or snowy) day.

This is what I came up with.  I based this on a few recipes that I could find and what I had on hand. 

Chana Masala with Spinach:
1 red onion diced
3 garlic cloves pressed and minced
1 large tomato diced
2 teas grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
1/2 cup water
 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
 2 cups chopped spinach

In a large pan saute onion, garlic, ginger and diced tomato until soft.  add spices and stir well.  add chickpeas, canned tomatoes and lemon juice.  stir in chopped spinach.  simmer on stovetop on low-med for about an hour or until everything is soft and flavours are well developed.

Serve with rice or naan.