So many ways to eat CAULIFLOWER!

These days you can make anything from cauliflower. Gone are the days of steaming vegetables for your evening dinner, now cauliflower is roasted with garlic, or disguised as buffalo chicken. It can be made into rice, breadsticks, bagels, fritters, and even pizza crust.

With the trend for healthy eating, plant-based diets, cauliflower makes a good medium for bread substitution. Most recipes start with cooking fresh cauliflower and then “ricing” the florets into small rice-sized pieces. I was thrilled to find “riced” cauliflower ready-made in the grocery freezer. Thank you Jolly Green Giant!

In preparing last weeks’ post on the Yum and Yummer cookbook, one recipe that stood out was a mushroom and spinach quiche with a cauliflower crust. Trying to incorporate a meatless recipe once a week for dinner, I thought this would be a great recipe to try.

Although I started with the pre-made riced cauliflower from the freezer, I have made cauliflower rice from a head of cauliflower, and it can be made quickly if you use a food processor. Adding an egg and parmesan cheese, the cauliflower crust came together well and held its’ shape in the pie plate. Baking in the oven for 15 mins while I prepared the quiche filling, dried out the cauliflower and assisted the egg mixture in sitting on top of the crust.  

I am a fan of using cauliflower as a base for pizza, and I was thrilled with how the quiche turned out and would add this recipe back into the rotation for another evening meal.

DID you know .. 

  • Cauliflowers are not just white. This vegetable has several varieties, including purple cauliflower, orange cauliflower and even a broccoli-cauliflower hybrid called “broccoflower.”
  • peak seasons for cauliflower are in the spring and fall

Tips from the Pro …

  • When buying cauliflower, look for compact white florets. The head of the cauliflower should be heavy for its size and the leaves should be bright green and not wilted. If the bottom of the head is soft, the cauliflower is no longer fresh.
  • To keep your cauliflower as fresh as possible, store them unwashed in the refrigerator with the stem side down in an open plastic bag.
  • When steaming cauliflower, add the juice of ½ lemon to the water.  The lemon juice will help keep the florets whiter

Cauliflower Crusted Quiche

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup grated, parmesan cheese

Filling:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cup baby spinach
  • 1 cup diced, red onion
  • 1 cup diced, red pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded, sharpe cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
  • Add the cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely crumbled.
  • Place in microwave-safe dish and microwave for 5 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
  • Place cooked cauliflower into a towel and squeeze out as much water as possible. Discard liquid.
  • Add the cauliflower to a bowl with 1 egg, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl.
  • Press crust mixture evenly into 9” plate, making sure to go up the sides of the plate.
  •  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden. Set aside to cool.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 375°F (190°C).
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together 5 eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.
  • In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and red peppers, cook until slightly tender.
  • Add the spinach and cook until wilted
  • Place spinach mixture on the bottom of the cooked cauliflower crust. 
  • Place shredded cheese on top of spinach mixture
  • Pour egg mixture over the top
  • Bake for 45 minutes, or until quiche is set and slightly golden.
  • Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Christmas Morning ~ Hot Chocolate & Marshmallows

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is waking up Christmas morning with the excitement that Santa had arrived. While sitting around the tree opening gifts, my mother would make us hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. I loved the festive shapes my mom would cut the marshmallows into, especially the snowflakes that almost filled the top of the mug.

This holiday season, I would love to share with you our family’s hot chocolate and homemade marshmallow recipe. 

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups 10% cream
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  • Combine milk with half-and-half in a small saucepan.
  • Warm over medium-low heat, then stir in chocolate chips and vanilla.
  • If it's not quite sweet enough for you, add 1 teaspoon sugar.

Snowflake Marshmallows

adapted from Martha Stewart.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp unflavored gelatin (2 envelopes)
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup clear corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  • Coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; line with parchment paper. Spray parchment; set aside.
  • Pour 1/3 cup cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin; let mixture soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Place sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover; bring to a boil.
  • Remove lid; cook, swirling pan occasionally until syrup reaches 238 degrees (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.
  • With the mixer on low speed, whisk gelatin mixture, and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (to avoid splattering). Gradually raise the speed to high; beat until mixture is thick, white, and has almost tripled in volume, about 12 minutes.
  • Add vanilla, and beat 30 seconds to combine.
  • Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet; smooth with an offset spatula. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • Coat a 1- or 2-inch snowflake-shaped cookie cutter with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking. Cut out as many individual marshmallows as possible; coat cutter with more spray as needed.
  • Use marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Bundt .. what is a Bundt Cake?

November 15th is National Bundt (pan) Day. Created in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Bundt pan, by Nordic Ware.

The Bundt cake gets its name from the pan it uses, not a specific recipe. The traditional pan is round with a fluted hole in the middle, giving the cake a distinctive ring shape. Nordic Ware trademarked the Bundt pan in the early 1950s, giving us the classic pan, we typically think of.

Most commonly a pound cake recipe is used with a Bundt pan, but many coffee cake recipes can be adapted to fit a Bundt pan.  The decorative shapes of the Bundt pan limit the need for icing and decoration, giving you more time to sit and enjoy your sweet labour.

Nordic Ware has created a beautiful line of Bundt pans; the perfect gift this holiday season for the baker on your list.  https://www.nordicware.com 

One of my favourite recipes in a Bundt pan is a hummingbird cake.  A moist cake filled with bananas, pineapple, coconut and pecans.  Finished of course, with a cream cheese icing, drizzled over the edges.  Or, if you are like my husband, he prefers his Bundt cakes spread thick with a layer of butter.   

DID you know ..

  • The hole in the middle of the pan helps bake the dense cake evenly
  • The Bundt pan was inspired by the German kuglehoupf pan
  • Check out nationaldaycalendar.com for more national food dates

The Perfect Sugar Cookie

Does the thought of baking Christmas cookies leave you in a sugar rush? Do you make the same cookies each year, following family traditions or try a new recipe featured in one of the pretty holiday magazines?

I love hosting a cookie exchange with friends. It is the perfect way to spend one afternoon baking your favourite cookie recipe and finish with a freezer filled with dozens of cookies in a variety of flavours.

Where does one start in choosing a cookie recipe to share with friends? Something quick and easy, like a drop cookie or maybe a refrigerated cookie that can be sliced and baked. A bar cookie that is pressed into a pan and cut into squares. Maybe a pressed cookie, that one time a year that you can dust off your cookie press.

One of my favourite cookie recipes is the classic sugar cookie. Truth – I have accumulated quite a few cookie cutters over the years. Christmas cookies are a wonderful way to use a variety of these cookie cutters in shapes and sizes. These cookies can then be decorated with a simple line of royal icing or full-on sprinkles.  

DID you know ..

  • There are actually eight (8) types of cookies:  Bar, Drop, Molded, No-Bake, Pressed, Refrigerator, Rolled & Sandwich
  • When making cookies, don’t overmix the dough, mix in the flour only until incorporated
  • Silicone Baking mats are excellent for even colour cookies and easy cleanup

Sugar Cookies

recipe adapted Robin Hood Flour
Course: Snack
Keyword: Christmas Cookies
Servings: 3 Dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well.
  • Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl, on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy in texture. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  • Stir flour mixture into creamed mixture. Mix well. Form dough into three balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill about 2 hours for easy handling.
  • Roll dough out, one ball at a time, on a floured surface to 1/4" (0.4cm) thickness. Cut with floured cookie cutters. Place on baking sheets. Sprinkle on coloured sugar before baking or leave plain and decorate later.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Baking time will depend on the shape of cookies. Cool on sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Decorate with icing and candies when completely cooled.

Cookbook Review: On Boards

Tired of always putting out the same boring cheese board when entertaining for friends. Thinking one day, you will create one of those beautifully styled charcuterie boards that you see on Pinterest!

As a baker of sweets, and not many savoury dishes, the cookbook ON BOARDS, by Lisa Dawn Bolton, made me excited to get into the kitchen.  

A cookbook filled with delicious ideas in creating charcuterie boards for any occasion, big or small. Organized into three sections; Getting Started, outlines the various boards, dishes, tools needed to prepare and create the board recipes in the book. The second section, The Boards, showcases various themes and occasions to create a charcuterie board; including holidays, special occasions and international foods. The third section, Recipes, detail each of the dips, sauces, relishes, jams, savoury and sweet additions added to the boards.

Ever wonder how much to serve? Will it be enough? One doesn’t want an empty board, but what about all the leftovers. The author outlines each of the board layouts noting the number of people the board will serve, then approximate quantities for each item in the list of ingredients. There is even a tip noted on each board about what type of beverage will complement it.

Have you considered making your own dips, or hummus for your board? The recipes included in this cookbook are straightforward and made with ingredients you will find in your local grocery store. I was pleased to find a recipe for mushroom pâté, as a traditional pâté isn’t always enjoyed by everyone.

The photos in this cookbook are beautiful, the author is a food stylist and blogger, and her photos in this book don’t disappoint. Each board theme is showcased with a styled photo, and being a visual person, I love to see what the finished recipe should look like.

TIPS from the Pro:

  • Boards are not only great as an appetizer but can be perfect for a casual meal with friends, most of the items can be made ahead of time, so less time in the kitchen and spent with your friends.
  • If using a slate board, you can pop the board into the fridge/freezer first.  The slate will stay cool, which works well if you are taking the board outdoors.
  • Did you know the cheese knife with the holes in the blade is used with soft cheese? The blade cuts through the cheese, and the holes doesn’t let the cheese stick to the blade. Genious!

Would you love to know more about this cookbook, and how to make an amazing charcuterie board during the holidays?

Join us at our Cookbook Club, Wednesday, November 27th, 2019
more details https://muskokasweets.com/classes/

Enjoying Afternoon Tea!

Did you see it? Couldn’t you just sit and watch all day? Premiered on September 20th, the much-anticipated release of the Downton Abbey movie. And it didn’t disappoint. I just love the Victorian era, the large stately homes, the formal dress, family hierarchy, meals served with such etiquette, most of all afternoon tea.

Served late afternoon, typically 4pm, where you can sit, relax and enjoy a pot of tea, finger sandwiches, bite-size sweets, and scones smothered in jam. Many consider this “high” tea, which is actually more of a supper, served around 6pm with a light hot meal being served.

Starting with the perfect pot of tea. Loose leaf tea is best, as you will get the full flavour out of the tea leaves, instead of processed grounded tea in a tea bag. Heat the water in an electric kettle to a full rolling boil, warming up your porcelain teapot with hot water first. prior to making the tea.

Offer a selection of finger sandwiches first, then a selection of bite-size sweets, followed by scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Scones should be broken in half, not cut, and the jam spread on first, then the cream.

DID you know ..

  • Afternoon Tea was introduced in Britain in the early 1840s (www.afternoontea.co.uk)
  • Scones are not biscuits, typically have sugar in the dough, and would only have currents added in or served plain.
  • Black tea should be made with full rolling-boiling water, then steeped for 5mins for optimum flavour.

One of my favourite afternoon tea experiences was at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Have you enjoyed afternoon tea while travelling, or at a local restaurant? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

It’s Cranberry Season!

October in Canada brings to mind Thanksgiving, turkey dinner and pumpkin pie. BUT in Ontario, October is Cranberry season, and the Bala Cranberry Festival.  

Did you go? Did you try all things cranberry? Cranberry Crepes, candied cranberries, and even cranberry wine.  

Cranberries are native to North America, growing on low shrubs in marsh-like soil. Harvesting happens in the fall when the berries are bright red. Wet harvesting involves flooding the marsh with water, and the cranberries float to the surface waiting to be collected. It is quite a sight to see, a pond with hundreds of floating cranberries. If you have a chance to visit a cranberry marsh, I highly recommend the experience. 

Fresh cranberry sauce is a perfect accompaniment to turkey dinner. Fresh cranberries added to muffin batter, or scones are a sweet way to enjoy these red berries. My favourite way is to mix berries with fresh apples in a flakey pie shell. 

Tips from the Pro …

  • To plump dried cranberries before adding them to a recipe, Soak dried cranberries in boiling water for about 10-20 minutes.
  • Substitute dried for fresh cranberries; ¾ cup of dried cranberries to 1 cup fresh, and reduce water by ¼ cup


DID you know .. 

  • Muskoka Cranberry Route runs September 21st to October 27th  www.muskokacranberryroute.ca
  • It was the early German and Dutch settlers who started calling it the “crane berry” because of the flower’s resemblance to the head and bill of a crane. Oceanspray.com
  • In 2016, 98% of world production of cranberries resulted from the United States, Canada, and Chile. Most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, jam, and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder, sold fresh to consumers. Wikipedia.com

Apple Cranberry Crumble

Course: Dessert
Keyword: apple, cranberry, crumble, pie

Ingredients

PIE CRUST:

  • 6 cups cake & pastry flour
  • 1 lb vegetable shortening
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • ice water

FRUIT FILLING:

  • 6 cup apples, peeled & sliced
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

CRUMBLE:

  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

Instructions

PIE CRUST

  • Whisk together the flour and salt.
  • Cut in the shortening, working it in until the mixture is evenly crumbly.
  • In a 1 cup measure, combine vinegar and egg, Add water to 1 cup.
  • Gradually stir liquid into mixture. Add only enough water to make dough cling together. I should hold together when you gather it up and squeeze it in your hand.
  • Divide the dough into a ball and divide into 6 portions, and gather each half into a rough disk. Smooth the disks
  • Wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
  • When you’re ready to make pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator or freezer, leaving it wrapped. Allow it to thaw (if it’s frozen) or warm a bit (if it’s been chilled longer than 30 minutes), until it’s softened enough to roll, but still feels cold to the touch.
  • Next, measure the bottom diameter, and up the sides of your pie pan. If your pan is 7″ across the bottom, and 1 ½” up each side, that’s a total of 10″. This means you should roll your bottom crust to a diameter between 11″ and 12″, which gives you enough extra for crimping the edges.
  • Place the crust on a floured work surface; Roll it to the desired width
  • Place the crust in the pan by folding in quarters and placing in the pan.
  • For a single-crust pie, fold the edges of the crust under, and gently squeeze them together. Crimp as desired.

Pie Filling Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Combine apples & cranberries into a large bowl.
  • Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  • Combine sugar mixture with apples and cranberries.
  • Place fruit into the pie shell.
  • Distribute butter pieces over pie filling.
  • Place remaining crust over filling, crimp both crusts together, and cut several slits into top crust to vent steam.
  • Crumble Topping: In small bowl, whisk together oats, brown sugar, flour and nutmeg; stir in butter until combined. Sprinkle over apple filling.


  • Bake until pie is browned and fruit filling is bubbling, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Drinking Chocolate in Peru!

On a recent adventure to Peru, to climb the Inca Trail, we stumbled upon The Choco Museo, a chocolate museum in Cusco. We were exploring the main square in need of some lunch, thinking we should enjoy the local cuisine, we searched for a tasty Spanish influenced option. Many suggestions ended with let’s stop for ice cream. Little did we know, this amazing ice cream is actually scooped in a cute café within a chocolate museum.

In a quick review of the café dessert menu, we quickly realized chocolate, chocolate, chocolate is the main feature. We decided to forgo the ice cream for now and go with Churros that are dipped in chocolate, and, why not, some hot chocolate too. 

Cusco, Peru
Choco Museo
christinekropp.com

Churros are yummy fried sticks of dough, almost like a choux pastry (the dough in cream puffs) than sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.  Perfect when served warm and dipped in chocolate. 

The hot chocolate is served the same. Can’t you just taste it?  Chocolate is melted and mixed with steamed cream, so creamy and velvety smooth.

Definitely the right chocolate choice from the menu, as we jump into local cuisine. Not sure Churros and hot chocolate count for lunch, but a sweet treat to start our adventure in Peru.

TIPS from the PRO..

  • Hot Chocolate is best made with chopped chunks of chocolate, melted, not cocoa powder which can cause clumps
  • Use REAL dark chocolate for the best flavour, as milk chocolate will be too sweet
  • Heat the milk/cream just until small bubbles start to form, don’t scald the milk.

DID you know ..

  • Churros are traditional in Spain and Portugal and brought to Peru during the early 19thcentury
  • Cacao is a superfood:  full of antioxidants. BUT during the roasting process cacao loses 75% of its nutrients, so Chocolate is not nearly as good for your health.
  • To be RAW Cacao, it cannot be heated over 60C.

The Joy of Finding a Flakey Pie Crust

If I could only keep one cookbook, it would be the JOY OF COOKING .. the JOY of finding the perfect recipe for a flaky pie crust!

Amazing to have a cookbook published in 1936 endure eight different revisions and still be the go to cookbook over 80 years  later.  Makes me believe that “Grandma’s” pie dough recipe must have come from this same cookbook!

Pie dough seems to be a challenge for most cooks including bakers.  We tend to shy away from making a crust from scratch as it will be too tough, or like cement.   Technique will take a few times to achieve a flaky crust .. but who doesn’t mind some extra pie after dinner for dessert.

Tips from the Pro …

  • Keep your butter or shortening in the FREEZER and cut into the flour in the frozen state.
  • Add ice cubes to your measuring cup of cold water .. or keep in the fridge until ready to add to your recipe.
  • Don’t over mix the dough!   Mix to combine the flour, but you should still see butter/shortening pieces in the dough.  This is what makes the “flaky” crust.

This cookbook also has an amazing reference section, know your ingredients, featuring equivalents and conversions of measurements.   

DID you know ..

  • that 4 tablespoons equals ¼ cup or 2 ounces
  • 1 ounce equals 28.35 grams.  

Pie Pastry

Course: Dessert
Keyword: pie
Servings: 3 double crusts

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cake & pastry flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb lard or vegetable shortening; COLD
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 egg, large beaten

Instructions

  • MIX together flour and salt in a large bowl.
  • Cut in lard with a pastry cutter or gently with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.
  • Gradually add enough water to make dough cling together.
  • Gather into a ball and divide in half. Shape each ball into a flattened round on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
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The Sweet Life

Welcome to my blog, where I will share with you my experience as a hotelier, a baker, a hospitality expert, and a traveller to help curate a life you don’t need a vacation from. I help my blog readers and workshop attendees to navigate their life journeys when they are seeking gracious living both at home and abroad.