Scotch Truffles for a Scottish birthday!

ScotchTruffles

Lindsay from Appetite had her birthday yesterday and I had wanted to make her something awesome. She is Scottish and after a little research into what constitutes a Scottish treat, I found that most of the treats sounded like something a grandma would make. They all sounded tasty, but nothing struck me as exciting birthday food. Then I racked my brain for another way to bring Scotland into a birthday treat. With haggis out of the question, only because Robert Burns Day had just passed, my mind went to one of my best friend’s favourite drinks, Scotch. Scotch! Of course!

I remember three years ago at my sister’s wedding my dad had set up a Scotch tasting for anyone willing to try. Jon’s brother and I were two of the few who stepped up to the plate. Brian went first, and trying his best to humour my dad’s enthusiasm tried them all, sputtered and admitted defeat. I was next, I maybe made it through two. And these were great Scotches, some of the best I’ve had since. This past year I got to know my wonderful friend Caelin who got me into Scotch. We did fancy tastings and learned how to appreciate the good stuff. While in the Yukon this fall, I proudly partook in the daily Scotch sipping sessions, again with some of the most delicious Scotches I’ve had. This fall we also learned that Scotch pairs well with Cheetos, who knew! (Though really, what doesn’t go well with Cheetos…)

One of the ways the Caelin eased me into Scotch was with this incredible flourless chocolate cake from Chewies in Kits. We’d sip a little Scotch, eat a bite of the rich dark chocolate cake, and float straight up to flavour heaven. It was this flavour combination that I wanted to recreate with these truffles. Had I been in the Yukon when creating these, I would’ve used one of my dad’s amazing and peat Scotches as the rich flavour is so beautiful with dark chocolate. Sadly, I am here and am looking for a job, so I had to use a much less fancy, but still tasty-enough blend that did the trick. If you do make these gorgeous treats, use a great Scotch. Also, I used a 72% Bittersweet chocolate, I would recommend using something slightly less dark, maybe 65%. These were delicious, but may not be really everyone’s cup of tea.

Scotch Truffles

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g dark chocolate wafers, or roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 4-5 tbsp Scotch
  • cocoa powder or icing sugar for rolling

DIRECTIONS

  1. Dump your chocolate into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a small pot, heat your whipping cream over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, making sure not to scald it.
  3. Pour the simmered cream over the chocolate, stir well until smooth. Add the scotch and stir into the ganache.
  4. Allow the ganache to sit on the counter for 1-2 hours, until hardened enough to scoop.
  5. Use a spoon to carve out quarter-sized balls, roll in your hands to smooth (or don’t… rustic!). Work quickly to avoid melting completely in your hands. Roll each ball in the cocoa powder and set on a plate.
  6. Refrigerate the truffles overnight. These will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 1 week or well wrapped in the freezer for a month. Best eaten at room temperature, so the texture is smooth and luscious.
All the ingredients for delicious truffles.

All the ingredients for delicious truffles.

Simmered and pouring.

Simmered and pouring.

Work station at the ready.

Work station at the ready.

Don't feel bad if you make a mess. Navigating my other hand to work my camera was troublesome.

Don’t feel bad if you make a mess. Navigating my other hand to work my camera was troublesome.

Aftermath.

Aftermath.

I made some nicely rounded ones and some terribly "rustic" ones.

I made some nicely rounded ones and some terribly “rustic” ones.

A reflection on loss

It’s funny how each person processes a devastating loss differently. I get a lot of comments from friends and family about how strong I am in the face of the loss of my father. My husband too has heard this and while we both agree that I have been able to push on despite this gaping hole in my life, we both also know that I too have moments of utter, debilitating sadness. I know that it was my father who gifted me with the ability to approach serious situations with practicality and lightness, but that can only last for so long (generally until I am alone in bed, looking through pictures or listening to music or thinking or desperately trying not to think).

I am not sure if I had mentioned this previously, but the way my dad told me terrible news was always in the form of a joke of sorts. When my mom was in a car accident in 2008, my dad called me late at night, around midnight-1am. I had just returned from a late-night curling game (we are wild!) and was settling into my dorm room with a movie before bed. Dad called and was surprised to find me up, “What are you doing up so late?!” I, not realizing how weird it was for him to be calling so late, decided to sass him back, “Why are you calling so late?!”

“What are you doing up so late?”

“Why are you calling so late?”

And so it went back and forth a few times, each sassing the other. Then, my dad broke the news that mom was in an accident. She’s okay now, but was seriously injured, requiring physio, screws in her hand and foot, and having to suffer under my watchful eye over the Christmas holiday.

In November of 2011 my parents were slated to come for a visit from Friday to Monday. Much to my surprize they arrived on Wednesday afternoon, surprizing me at school. I thought it was another of my family’s surprize visits, this time gift me two extra days with them in the city (later I would get 6 weeks as a result). They found me in the Harbour Centre and asked if I could go for a beer as they had something to talk to me about. My mind raced, what in the world could they be so solemn about. Ridiculously, my mind went to divorce. This is particularly ridiculous if you knew my parents at all. The love between my mother and father could supply a thousand cupids; hand holding, bum pinching, sweet looks and more, were still a daily occurrence 28 years into their marriage. I thought to myself, “Why would they take this trip all the way to Vancouver just to tell me. No, Stacey, that’s crazy.”

Anyway, we made our way to a pub up the street on Granville, them hand-in-hand. We sat down at an awkward little bar-height table, perched on stools and ordered beers and some appetizers. Dad looked at me and said, “Stacey, you were right all along. I have a brain tumour.” I laughed because it was silly. Then I started to cry because I realized that he was being serious. Mom’s eyes were welling up and I sat there, eyes brimming over with tears, trying to comprehend what that meant.

What it meant for my family was having mom and dad return to Vancouver for six weeks of radiation through December and January. It meant a beautiful Christmas, jammed into our tiny little one-bedroom apartment, my youngest niece sleeping in the tub. It meant getting to spend more time with my parents than I’d been able to for a few years. It meant mom, dad, and I getting to know more about the inside of the Vancouver General Hospital than we’ve ever wanted to. It essentially meant that in a years time I was going to lose my father, a man who has shaped who I am: my humour, my patience (and occasional lack-thereof), my interests and talents.

It is nice to look back on the time we spent together here in Vancouver, because despite the terrible circumstances, it was really good to be together. Looking back on my childhood and adolescence growing up with such amazing parents is also so wonderful. Right now though, just months after losing my father, all I can look back to was the time we spent together in the hospital in Whitehorse, leading up to his death. That too was good time, in that we were together. But it was also kind of terrible. My father had to lose his strength, his ability to use his left side, and eventually his ability to speak. He continued to be the funny, kind, loving father and friend that he always was, but it breaks my heart to think of how he suffered. We had to watch this powerful, amazing man have his strength taken.

I am a puddle of tears as I write this, because it is devastating. Thinking about those weeks we spent together and the fact that it culminated in my father’s passing is absolutely devastating. There is a hole in my heart, in my life and the lives of my mom, sister, friends and family, that will never be filled. My dad was only 61 when he passed away. When he first went into the hospital’s palliative care unit, the neurologist told us he had 2 weeks. Four weeks later, his GP told us that because his body was in otherwise great health, it was hard to say when he would pass. The brain tumour was the only thing to take him from us.

My sister and I are going to get scans of our own to set a baseline for our brains. Though the type of tumour that dad had is not supposed to be hereditary, our family has had an unusually high occurrence and we want to be safe rather than sorry, again. Anyway, this is why I am doing the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Spring Sprint. And I am so thankful to all of the incredible people who have decided to join me. Our team, somewhat unofficially, now has abut 15 people coming to Vancouver to walk together in the memory of my dad, my aunt, and in honour of the wonderful Katey Norton. That’s amazing, it is going to be a beautiful walk together, I know dad would love it. I am thrilled to get a chance to support the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and I hope that we continue to work up some wonderful donations so that one day, nobody will have to go through what we have gone through.

Again, if you are interested in donating to the Hook, Line, and Sprinters for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, click the image above. Canadians affected by a brain tumour benefit from your generosity which funds education, information, and support as well as research into the cause and better treatments for brain tumours.

Parmesan Meatloaf

ParmesanMeatloaf

This is a tasty meatloaf with no need for fillers, it has some cheese, some tomato, and a ridiculous amount of flavour.

I am not a huge fan of meatloaf, but have found that when I get a chance to mix things up, I can make it pretty darn tasty. So here we go, meeeaaatttllloooooafffff. Ridiculously flavourful, awesome for dinners and awesome to pack up for lunches galore. Again, this makes a lot so feel free to cut it in half, but I don’t recommend it, meatloaf shrinks down and when things are this tasty, it is a good idea to have enough for more! The parmesan in the name is a replacement for the typical fillers, it adds lots of sharp flavour and bite. Delicious!

Anyway, enjoy it with a heaping serving of Sunday’s Fully-Loaded Cauliflower Bake. Awesome dinner all around!

Parmesan Meatloaf

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup cheddar, shredded
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1 cup low-sugar tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sweetener (sugar, stevia, honey, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp mustard

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine the meat, eggs, cheese, and spices.
  3. In a measuring cup, measure the tomato sauce. Add the apple cider vinegar and sweetener. Stir well to combine. Pour 1/4 cup of the tomato mixture into the meat.
  4. Mix the meat and other ingredients until evenly distributed. Scoop evenly into loaf pans, smooth the top.
  5. Add the mustard to the remaining tomato mixture and stir well to combine. Pour evenly over the loafs.
  6. Cook the two loafs for 15 minutes at 425°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until cooked through.
  7. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Carefully lift out of pan and slice on a plate.
Ready to be loafed up.

Ready to be loafed up.

Ready to be sauced up.

Ready to be sauced up.

Ready to be cooked up.

Ready to be cooked up.

Ready to be eaten up!

Ready to be eaten up!

Fully-Loaded Cauliflower Bake: baked potatoes without the potatoes!

FullyLoadedCauliflower

Like in my Cauliflower Mash, cauliflowers make an excellent substitute for potatoes in this classic-tasting dish. Full of flavour, cheesy and filling, this is an awesome side dish for any day of the week. The tang of the cream cheese and sour cream pair perfectly with the salty bacon and sharp cheddar. Really everything you love about baked potatoes are rolled up in an easy to make casserole. This makes a lot, two medium casserole dishes worth, or on 9 x 13″ pan. Feel free to half the recipe, I am packing the extras up for lunches!

Fully-Loaded Cauliflower Bake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups of chicken broth (or water)
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 slices bacon, roughly chopped and cooked until crisp
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 more green onions to top, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Take out either two medium casserole dishes or one 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
  2. In a large pot, cook the cauliflower in the chicken broth until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside in the strainer to continue to release water.
  3. In the now empty, but still hot pot, melt the cream cheese. Add the drained cauliflower and follow with the rest of the of the ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of the cheddar and 2-strips worth of chopped, cooked bacon.
  4. Smooth the mixture into the casserole dish(es). Sprinkle liberally with cheddar and the leftover bacon.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, serve with a sprinkle of green onions.
Could already pass for potatoes.

Could already pass for potatoes.

Cheesy bacony heaven.

Cheesy bacony heaven.

Pre-serving.

Pre-serving.

Meatballs with Easy Cheesy Sauce

Meatballs

Sometimes I just really get an idea in my head for dinner but I am still at work. Conveniently my husband works a lot later than me, so I can often get him to do some dinner prep for me. Today Gen took out the pork and beef to defrost and they were perfectly ready by the time I got home. Meatballs were on the menu and my goodness I am thrilled with them! I whipped up some cheese sauce, kind of like an alfredo, to top them off and I was in an amazing cheesy dream place come dinner.

On a complete random and mostly unrelated note, I was walking home along Granville when I was a sign advertising “1/2 Pd Wings.” Most creative expression  of pound that I’ve ever seen.

Meatballs

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb minced beef
  • 1 lb minced pork
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp ground sage
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 eggs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 375°F, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet over high heat melt butter and sauté onion for 5 minutes, until just translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, until fragrant.
  4. In a large bowl mash together the two minced meats. Add the sautéed onions and garlic, cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and spices.
  5. Mix well to combine, it will be gooey.
  6. Roll golfball-sized meatballs and line up on the prepared cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

Easy Cheesy Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of water as needed

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream cheese over medium-low, stirring until melted and smooth.
  2. Gradually stir in the whipping cream until smooth.
  3. Add the parmesan and seasonings. It will be very thick at this point.
  4. Cook over low heat until smooth and creamy, adding water until you’ve reached your desired consistency.
  5. Serve over meatballs!
All-in-one ready to mash into glorious meatballs!

All-in-one ready to mash into glorious meatballs!

I pan-fried one as a tester. Works as well as baking, but browner.

I pan-fried one as a tester. Works as well as baking, but browner.

Creamy cheese sauce.

Creamy cheese sauce.

Delicious baked meatballs!

Delicious baked meatballs!

Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Spring Sprint: We are the Hook, Line, and Sprinters

Alright, alright, I promise to you that I will get a recipe post out today, and another 2-3 this week. I know I’ve been slow on posting lately, but trust me it is because it is really busy at my internship and then I come home and feel like a schlump. I will stop schlumping and start posting again!

Also, I am participating in the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s Spring Sprint that is raising money for research for brain tumours, as well as programs to support those and their families who are dealing with this terrible form of cancer.

As you may know, this foundation is close to my heart as we lost my amazing father to brain cancer almost four months ago. His youngest sister died from the same tumour over a decade ago, so this disease has become all too familiar.

If you are interested in supporting our cause, click the link below to donate to our team, the Hook, Line, and Sprinters (named in honour of my Dad and Auntie Barb’s love of fishing).
Anyone from anywhere can donate, and it truly goes to something wonderful.

Donate Here!

Thanks for the support, love, and readership!

I will also include a link to the right of the page that will stay there as this post gets archived.

Make your own Cranberry Sauce!

CranberrySauce

Once again, we’ve come around to making something homemade rather than buying it. The things I prefer to make than buy: Mayo, Eggnog, Taco Spice mix, Dry Rub, Curry blend, Sausage spice, Bacon Jam, Beer Bread, Pita and every baked good ever.

Homemade cranberry sauce can be tweaked to your desire, but really, those freshly burst berries are awesome anyway you go about it. Dollop on a plate piled with Turkey or Tofurkey and your night is set.

Cranberry Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups cranberries (use wild berries if you can, but those gargantuan ones in the store will do too)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar into the orange juice. Heat until the sugar disolves.
  2. Stir in the cranberries, and cook uncovered until they begin to burst, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  4. The sauce will thicken as it cools, if it seems too thin put it back on the heat for 5 minutes and allow to cool again.
  5. Serve!
Giant berries.

Giant berries.

Bursting with deliciousness.

Bursting with deliciousness.

Easy Tomato Pasta

EasyTomatoPasta

This is an incredibly simple family favourite. In fact, it is something I never even considered making for the blog because it is so simple. I remember having this all the time growing up and it was always well loved, whether it was made with sausage or shrimp, heck it would be delicious with both. This recipe is great for busy parents, or for anyone wanting a quick and delicious weeknight meal. It is wonderful served over any kind of pasta, my family prefers penne. I was not a picky kid, but my sister was a little picky (I don’t remember her being particularly picky, but she remembers being a bit) and she still loves this dish. We typically made this with spicy italian sausages but when we whipped up this batch in Fort McMurray over Christmas we only had shrimp on hand and it turned out beautifully.

Easy Tomato Pasta

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 each of red, green, and yellow peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped (*optional)
  • 1 large can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes (*optional but recommended if you aren’t using spicy italian sausage)
  • 1 tsp of garlic (*optional but recommended if you aren’t using spicy italian sausage)
  • 1 bag of peeled and cooked shrimp
    • OR 4-6 spicy italian sausages, sliced into 6-8 pieces each (**if using, add to pan with onions and peppers immediately)
    • OR another awesome protein of your choice
  • 1 cup of parmesan (or other cheese of choice, mozzarella is great here) to sprinkle on top

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large saucepan with high sides, sauté onions, peppers, and mushrooms in olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté until the peppers just begin to brown and the onions start to become translucent, 5-8 minutes. (Include spicy italian sausages at this stage if using)
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, taste for spices and add more as needed. Stir well and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the veggies are just tender.
  3. Meanwhile, boil some water and cook pasta of choice according to package instructions.
  4. Add the shrimp to the tomato mixture and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve sauce over pasta and top with a sprinkle of cheese.
Sautéing some tasty veg.

Sautéing some tasty veg.

Everything cooking down, pre-shrimping.

Everything cooking down, pre-shrimping.

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie

EggnogPumpkinpie

Ahhh all my Christmas food posts are coming in after the holidays, but I firmly believe that holiday food is best eaten year-round. So, dig out your pie plates and whip up this miraculous dish! It was my sister who suggested that we add some of that delicious eggnog to the pumpkin pie, so I looked around to see if it was possible and went ahead with the baking. This pie is incredibly easy and very delicious. I found the eggnog taste present but subtle, Kel didn’t think she could taste it at all. In any case, this pie is pumpkiny goodness, worth a try. For the crust, I used my mom’s Klondike Pastry from the summer, it’s flaky and lightly sweet with a little bit of brown sugar. It browns beautifully with a little bit of milk brushed on (this time we used a little egg nog). Mom cut the holly berries and leaves out of excess pastry dough, wonderful work!

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 batch of Klondike pastry (use one whole egg still), fit into a pie crust, freeze extra dough for future pies
  • 1 large can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cup of eggnog (make it yourself! Totally worth it! And guzzle some while you bake!)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Prepare your crust and lay into a a 9-inch pie plate, jazz up the edges if you so desire.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together all the pie ingredients until smooth. Pour into prepared crust. Top with cut-out shapes if desired (brush with a little milk or eggnog).
  3. Bake pie 60 to 65 minutes or until the centre is just set, and a knife goes in and comes up clean. Cool pie on wire rack and serve with whipped cream.
A one-bowl pie!

A one-bowl pie!

Ready to cook, nicely decorated.

Ready to cook, nicely decorated.

Browned to perfection.

Browned to perfection.

The perfect slice... or two.

The perfect slice… or two.