The culinary adventures of a 20-something woman navigating the wonderful world of food!

The culinary adventures of a 20-something year old woman navigating the wonderful world of food!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Banana Muffins

When my husband and I were married, my mom's 'little sister' through Big Brothers & Sisters gave us a cookbook from the McConnel Club in St.Marys, ON. It was a 95th anniversary cookbook of treasured recipes over the years.
Most of the recipes are very basic, and absolutely amazing. This banana muffin recipe has to be the shortest recipe I've seen, yet it is fantastic. It's original submission was from Barbara Brocklebank (I have no idea who she is). The only thing I changed personally was to add 1 tsp cinnamon as well.




Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup mashed banana (3 frozen, thawed)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg + 1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla


Directions:
1. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and banana and beat till smooth.
2. Add flour and nutmeg.
3. Dissolve soda in hot water and add to mixture. Add vanilla, mix until blended. 
4. Bake in greased muffin tins at 375F for 18-23 minutes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

OREO Cookie Balls

I have seen this recipe make rounds in the blogsphere a number of times; and I've always wanted to make it but never really had the right occasion. I'm starting to bake all of my cookies for the tins I hand out to clients & friends at this time of the year and thought they would be PERFECT to go in.

The first part is really easy, but I will warn you that the dipping in chocolate part can be tricky. I had my sister Tracey, a baking expert with me, and it was still a lot of work! Make sure you have parchment-paper lined baking trays for the balls to chill on and for the extra chocolate to drip off.

We did two variations: OREO, and peanut butter. Just substitute a box of cookies to change the flavour, everything else can stay the same!



Ingredients:
1 pkg (350g) OREO cookies, finely crushed (save 1 tbsp for decoration)
1 pkg (250g) cream cheese, softened (leave out at least a few hours)
1 pkg (8 squares) Bakers semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Directions:
1. Mix cookie crumbs and cream cheese until well blended.
2. Form into small balls (about 1") Should make about 35-45.
3. Place balls in fridge for 1 hour to firm/chill.
4. Melt chocolate squares as directed on package (in microwave)
5. Dip balls in chocolate, place on baking tray lined with parchment paper. Decorate with some reserved crumbs or sprinkles.  Place in fridge for at least 1 hour - preferably 2.

Source: Kraft Canada

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Roll

           The title is a mouthful, and it doesn't even begin to cover the deliciousness that is this dessert. Its the best of rice crispy squares, a childhood favourite. It does take extra time, but it is well worth it because you will be showered with compliments!
          This is often my go-to dessert for potlucks or gatherings with friends. The most important thing to make sure is that no one is allergic to peanuts where you will be going - if there will be, make something more allergy-friendly!
          I included a few pictures of the steps you take so that you can visualize what needs to be done. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to take a pic of the end product - but it does look awesome! It really is quite simple it just takes a few extra minutes above your regular squares. Don't forget to have extra Pam no-stick spray or margarine available to grease your spatulas & hands as needed.




Ingredients:

  • 1 (400g) package marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 6 cups rice krispy cereal
  • 1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream



Directions:


1) Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking sheet with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside.
2) In a large saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter or margarine over low heat. Add the vanilla. Melt the marshmallows into the margarine, stirring frequently with a greased spatula. When marshmallows have almost melted, add the peanut butter and stir until blended and everything is melted. 
3) Remove from heat and add in cereal. Mix well but carefully, until everything is blended.
4) Quickly pour onto baking sheet, and press down firm. Will only be about 1" high (as opposed to normal squares in a smaller pan that will be about 2-3" high). You may need to grease your hands or spatula for this!
5) In a small saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter. Add chocolate & butterscotch chips. Stir frequently until blended, add milk if needed to make a bit easier to pour.
6) Pour chocolate over rice crispy mixture stopping about 1" away from all edges.
7) Roll up jelly-roll style (using the longest side), peeling waxed paper away while rolling. Place seam side down on a serving plate. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set.
8) Cut into 3/4" rolls just before serving and enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Holiday season is approaching!! Most people like this time of the year because they get to give & receive gifts, spend time with loved ones, and have a few extra days off work. Those things are great, but my absolute favourite thing about the Christmas season is the food. Obviously.


The next few weeks I will have a lot of appetizer & main course meals for the holidays. Starting with a fan favourite, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. They are always a hit and require minimal time & effort. If you are taking them somewhere, you can heat them in the microwave for 45 seconds prior to serving to ensure they are hot.







Ingredients:
2 x 8oz can of water chestnuts (whole), drained
1 pkg bacon, cut into 1/3's or 1/2's
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup chili-garlic sauce
good-quality toothpicks


Directions:
1. Cut bacon strips in half (or 1/3's, depending on size of bacon). Wrap slice of bacon around water chestnut & secure with toothpick.
2. Place into ungreased 13x9 baking dish. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Drain fat OR place bacon-wrapped water chestnuts into new 13x9 baking dish (this is what I do).
3. Combine sugar, mayo, and chili-garlic sauce and pour over water chestnuts (try to avoid the top of the toothpicks). Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and bacon is crisp.


Enjoy!
Nutritional Information: I didn't want to know. Its Christmas :)

Is the price of Milk too High?

I just read an interesting article in the Toronto Star. As most of you know, I grew up on a small dairy farm. I support the quota system that is in place for two reasons: 1) To protect local dairy farmers; and 2) to avoid an influx of milk from the U.S., which has the bovine growth hormones we have banned. Contrary to popular opinion, most dairy farmers in Canada are NOT rich. The supply management system allows them to earn a fair living, but it tends to keep them from going bankrupt as opposed to sending them on lavish holidays. Of course, there are a few very large farms that do quite well, but overall, the dairy industry in Ontario & Canada tends to be smaller family farms.

I do understand, however, that for the average consumer, dairy products are quite expensive, especially compared to the U.S. I'm not sure how that could be solved while the supply management system is in effect.  I think ultimately, the consumer will decide by either continuing to purchase dairy at the current prices, or buying less and stocking up cross-border where that is an option. Personally, I will continue to make sure my dairy products have the little blue cow (100% Ontario) when I am shopping.

If you have comments I'd love to hear them!

Here is the full article:
Kenyon WallaceToronto Star
Published On Sun Nov 20 2011

Philip Armstrong walks through one of the spacious barns where his new calves are fed and gestures toward heifer 3097.



Philip Armstrong walks through one of the spacious barns where his new calves are fed and gestures toward heifer 3097.
The 2-week-old black-and-white purebred Holstein stares back and inches forward, as if hoping the dairy farmer might have a bottle of milk at the ready.
Over the course of her production life, this little cow is expected to give about 36,000 litres of milk, representing $29,000 in revenue for Armstrong Manor Farm in Caledon.
And with 270 cows just like number 3097, the future of Armstrong’s dairy operation may seem secure.
But the growing perception that milk is over-priced, combined with shifting trade priorities, is putting unprecedented pressure on the Canadian dairy industry.
Armstrong says he’s worried Canada’s decades-old supply management system, which has allowed farmers like him to make a decent living, is under threat.
The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association recently launched freeyourmilk.ca, urging consumers to demand lower milk prices, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper has hinted that Canada’s protected dairy and poultry farming sectors could be put up for negotiation in the country’s quest to join the Trans Pacific Partnership, a new free-trade agreement. Given the Conservatives’ recent success in killing the Canadian Wheat Board, some are worried the government is turning its sights on the dairy industry.
“If our current supply management system was dismantled, we simply couldn’t compete with the Americans,” says Armstrong, 53, who, along with his brother, Peter, and sister-in-law, Shirley, operates on the same 600-hectare plot of land farmed by his family for more than 150 years. “Some of us would keep trying to farm, but at that point you’d be just at that break-even point, just trying to stay alive.”
The way milk prices are determined in Canada is complicated. First, it’s not up to the free market. Prices are determined by the federal Canadian Dairy Commission and provincial marketing boards based on the cost of producing milk, consumers’ ability to pay and the Consumer Price Index. Farmers must have a quota — essentially a license — to produce milk. And they aren’t paid for the volume of their milk, but rather for the amount of butter fat, protein, lactose and other solids in it, and what it is used for.
On Monday, the Canadian Dairy Commission will begin its annual consultations in Ottawa with the industry as a prelude to setting next year’s target prices for dairy components used to make things like ice cream, yogurt and cheese. This year, prices aren’t expected to change, as a potential economic downturn approaches, another reason for farmers to worry.
But many say farmers’ concerns are overblown and that opening Canada’s dairy market would force producers to become more efficient and competitive, resulting in cheaper prices for consumers.
“The fact is, the price is determined by people in the industry, and as consumers we have to take that given price,” says Garth Whyte, president of the restaurant association. He argues the high tariffs imposed on imported dairy products — anywhere from 200 to 300 per cent — to prevent foreign producers from undercutting domestic prices, means Canadians are overpaying for dairy products.
“This is a 40-year-old system that was written on a typewriter. That typewriter is gone, but the system remains.”
Citing Statistics Canada numbers that show milk consumption in Canada has declined by 18 per cent over the last 20 years, Whyte argues consumers are opting for other beverages because of the price.
A 2009 Conference Board of Canada study found that Canadian farmers consistently receive double or triple the world price for their milk and butter, while consumers regularly pay more than world prices for the same products. For example, the study found that in 2009, a one-litre carton of whole milk cost Canadians 59 cents more on average than the same carton in the United States, and 64 cents more than in Australia.
At the heart of Canada’s dairy pricing structure is the industry’s 40-year-old supply management system, set up to protect farm incomes.
To produce and sell milk, farmers must have a quota, which is purchased on an exchange. A quota gives the farmer the right to produce one kilogram of butter fat every day — roughly 25 litres of milk per day per cow. The Armstrongs, for instance, have 270 cows on their farm, representing about $6,750,000 in quotas accrued over decades. The average price for a quota in Canada is about $27,000, prompting critics to complain of high barriers to entry.
Bill Mitchell, a spokesperson for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, acknowledges that becoming a dairy farmer in Canada is costly, but he says farmers can’t be blamed for the prices that supermarkets and restaurants set. The amount farmers get for their milk is only a small part of the final price of dairy products, he says.
“We have a transparent, regulated price and that’s the part that people can see and focus on. The retailers don’t talk about what they pay versus the price at which they sell.”
For example, for a 250-mL glass of milk at a restaurant that costs $1.95, Mitchell says the dairy farmer’s share would be about 22 cents, with the remainder going to processors and retailers.
He argues that milk prices are set so that only efficient farmers will get a fair return on their investments, and that the current system allows farmers to focus on making high-quality milk rather than spending time looking every day for a buyer. Mitchell says the supply management system also prevents farmers from overproducing and destabilizing milk prices.
Others fear that if the dairy industry is opened up, the collective value of quotas in the country — close to $30 billion — would plummet, leaving farmers with assets worth less than what they paid for them.
Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, says those arguments don’t stand up when one looks at the successes of New Zealand and Australia, both of which operate unregulated dairy industries. He argues that Canada will miss out on a growing world export market, especially in Asia, under the new Trans Pacific Partnership if farmers continue to insist on protection.
New Zealand now exports more than 90 per cent of its dairy products, while Australia exports nearly half of its dairy production. By contrast, Canada’s dairy exports are limited by the World Trade Organization because it views our domestic farm prices as subsidizing our exports.
“The processing industry is becoming increasingly aware that it’s being made uncompetitive in export markets,” Cran says. “Similarly, we should have the choice as consumers whether we want to buy American milk at their price, or our milk. What’s happening here is that 20,000 dairy farmers have a bigger voice than 30 million consumers. We’re too nice in Canada.”
While it’s easy to criticize Canada’s dairy supply management system, fairness is a relative term, says Rakhal Sarker, a professor of food agriculture and resource economics at the University of Guelph.
“If you consider the system from the farmer’s point of view, they tend to think of it as fair — they’re producing only the amount of milk that is needed,” he says. “Dairy products may look cheaper south of the border, but that was not the case when our dollar was worth 80 cents U.S. We are imposing a cost on consumers, but it’s important to remember the benefits in terms of the stability of income of flow of goods, as well as the high quality of Canadian milk.
“As far as gains and losses are concerned, the jury is still out.”
Determining the price of milk
Canada’s dairy supply management system has two classifications for milk: fluid milk (drinking milk and cream) and industrial milk (used to make other dairy products, such as ice cream, cheese and yogurt).
Fluid Milk
Currently, the price of fluid milk is determined by a mathematical formula developed by the National Fluid Milk Price Committee, in consultation with provincial governments and provincial marketing boards. The formula takes into account the cost of producing milk as well as the Consumer Price Index, and the price is set once a year based on these factors. The current price for fluid milk is about 90 cents per litre.
Industrial Milk
This price is set by the provincial marketing boards based on target prices from the Canadian Dairy Commission. The commission determines these target prices on an annual basis, following consultations with farmers, processors, consumers, retailers and restaurant operators. The Consumer Price Index, elasticity of demand for various dairy products and the cost of production at the farm level are also taken into account. Three senior commission executives take this information and decide the target prices for butter and skim milk powder, which are then used to calculate the prices of other dairy components.
How the farmer gets paid
Farmers are paid for the composition of their milk and how it is to be used, rather than its volume. A sample is analyzed for butter fat content, protein and other solids. Based on the results, and whether the milk was used for fluid milk or industrial milk, the farmer is paid a weighted average from a pool of revenue collected on behalf of all farmers by provincial marketing boards.
How milk prices are set in the U.S.
Farm prices for milk in the United States are determined by free-market wholesale prices for cheddar cheese, butter and non-fat dried milk.
These prices are plugged into mathematical formulae, set by federal milk marketing regulations, that calculate the amount dairy farmers are paid for the various components in their milk (butter fat, protein and other solids). There are no quotas for milk production in the United States.
U.S. farmers are also guaranteed a safety net in the form of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) if wholesale prices fall to certain levels. The CCC, a federal agency funded by taxpayers, will offer to buy these products from farmers, essentially becoming the “demander of last resort.”
Such a system means the U.S. dairy market is not entirely free, contrary to what many opposed to Canada’s supply management system say, argues University of Guelph food agriculture professor Rakhal Sarker.
“Most of the time, farmers in the U.S. produce more than the market can absorb, yet they are guaranteed these support prices no matter how much they produce,” Sarker said. “Consumers get to buy at lower prices, but producers get a cheque directly from the government that gives them the difference between the guaranteed price and the sale price. Who pays for this system? The taxpayers.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies


  •        Everyone has an opinion on the 'best' type of cookie - crunchy vs. chewy, undercooked or overdone, etc. I like ALL cookies - I don't discriminate! However, I had a friend who specifically requested 'chewy' oatmeal cookies, so here they are! THere are two tricks: 1) slightly undercook (they will look not done when you take out of oven, thats ok!) and 2) don't completely 'flatten' the cookies on the baking pan - leave them a bit 'higher'.
        If you need a CHEWY oatmeal cookie recipe, this is it! I've already been asked to make them again for an upcoming potluck. I added some chocolate chips to half the batter for some variety and it was excellent too! I'm not sure I would add raisins, or else you'd also have to add more cinnamon & some nutmeg (and you can already find an oatmeal-raisin cookie on this blog). Enjoy!

Please excuse the horrendous photo, I took it with my blackberry - the cookies were getting eaten too fast for a good photo!!!

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats

  • Directions
  1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a small lime, and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Lightly flatten each cookie with a fork.
  3. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: For half the batter, I added 3/4 cup chocolate chips and they were also delicious! I also substituted 1 cup of rice flour for 1 cup of the white flour and it also worked out well - I have a friend who has an intolerance to gluten (she can have small amounts) so I wanted to make these as gluten-friendly as possible. However, if I had taken out ALL the white flour I would have had to make several additional modifications and I didn't want to do that!

Source: Adapted from "Soft Oatmeal Cookies" from AllRecipes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lunchtime Lentil Salad

I few months ago, I hired a personal trainer to help me get back on track with eating right and working out. You have probably noticed a decline in blog posts as a result - I tend to be eating pretty simple - a lot of fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and leaner meats. Most of what I have been eating doesn't really need a blog post (unless of course, you'd like to know that I eat boiled eggs & sliced tomato for breakfast.....)
One of my new lunchtime staples actually does need a recipe, although its quite simple. This lentil & rice salad is gluten-free and dairy-free for those with meal restrictions or allergies. It is refreshing, delicious, and most importantly, nutritious.


Ingredients:
2/3 C brown rice
2/3 C dried green lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 C diced red or white onion
1 C diced celery
1 C diced carrots
1/2 C diced sweet red pepper
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 C chopped fresh parsley
pepper to taste


Directions:
1. Cook rice and lentils until tender, but not mushy; drain and rinse under cold water (I cook them separately - the rice takes about 30 mins, the lentils 20 mins)
2. In skillet, heat 1 tsbp of oil then add onions and saute 3 minutes. Add celery and carrots and saute 2-3 minutes, then add red pepper and saute everything another 2-3 minutes (10 minutes total)
3. Combine veggies/rice/lentils in a large bowl.
4. Add seasonings, lemon juice and 1 tbsp of olive oil, toss and enjoy!


Keeps up to 5 days in fridge.


Source: Adapted from Anne Lindsay's "Lighthearted Everyday Cookbook"

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spicy Basil Cashew Chicken

            A few months ago, the husband and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary. He told me to keep the night clear, but said that I didn't have to dress up. I was both confused AND worried, thinking that a trip to McDonalds and the bowling alley was NOT how I wanted to spend our second anniversary together.
           However, to my delight, he had arranged for a local chef to come to our house for Thai Cooking Classes! Jed came to our house and taught us to cook a 5-course meal, which we got to eat along the way. It was amazing! The best part was that he left us with the recipes to make on our own.
           This spicy basil cashew chicken is absolutely phenomenal - and from my understanding, quite authentic. It was very easy to make when I tried on my own and tasted almost as good as Jed's. I served it with basmati rice. 


Don't be afraid to play around a bit with the ingredients - as Jed says, that is half the fun! 





Ingredients:

3 tbsp oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic

1 pound chicken breast or thighs ,cut into cubes
1 sprig fresh basil
3 thai chilies, seeded & finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced and julienned
1 each red and green pepper, cubed
1 medium onion, cubed
1 medium carrot, cubed
1 cup fresh mushrooms, washed & siced
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp corn starch in 1/3 cup cold water


Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium--high heat. Saute ginger and garlic. Add in basic leaves, nuts and chicken. Stir in chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
2. Add all vegetable and stir well.
3. Add fish sauce and chili garlic sauce, stir well and cover for 3 minutes.
4. Add corn starch water mix to glaze, cook 1 minute and serve.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Can I substitute?

I get a lot of questions about substitutions. "Can I do this? Or that?"is something that I hear a lot. Often times, the answer is "well, you can certainly try and see what happens!" but I realize that for those who don't venture into the wonderful world of food as often as I do, its not that easy. Here is a list of some common substitutions, and also things that should never be replaced. For the most part, this sub list is to make something healthier, but not always.


If the recipe calls for......


Almonds - pecans or walnuts (peanuts don't sub as well)
Apple - Pear is an excellent sub
Butter - margarine or shortening (unless I say NO!)
Buttermilk - 1 tbsp lemon juice + liquid to equal original amount
Bread Crumbs - use plain soda crackers & crush. Sub same amount.
Brown Sugar - use golden or white sugar instead
Canola oil - Can replace with vegetable oil
Cayenne Pepper - use red pepper flakes
Corn Starch - replace with flour - note that it isn't a perfect substitution
Eggs - no substitutions except for egg whites - very important "binder"
Ground Beef - ground chicken or turkey will also work. Increase seasonings slightly.
Honey - molasses, agave nectar, corn syrup
Oil - equal parts applesauce (muffins) or plain yoghurt (muffins, cakes)
Onion - no good sub, but you can use different types of onion
Mayonaise - if replacing to make healthier, try half mayo, half plain yoghurt OR low-fat sour cream
Milk - milk powder + water to equal original amount
Mustard - no good sub. Try another type of mustard (dijon vs. honey)
Parmesan Cheese - use romano instead
Quinoa - Try Couscous or Brown Rice (for a salad)
Red Wine Vinegar - cider vinegar will work
Salt - no replacements - is very important for flavour, especially in baking
Sour Cream - Plain Yoghurt (and vice versa)
Sugar - reduce the amount as desired and replace with another dry ingredient (eg. flour) 
Vanilla Extract - no good substitution
White Flour - 1/2 white flour + 1/2 bran, + 1tbsp extra liquid (ie milk) (to make healthier)
White Sugar - use Golden or Brown Sugar instead
Yeast - no replacements


The biggest thing to remember when replacing is that you need to keep the wet-dry ratio the same; otherwise your recipe may not turn out.
Any other substitutions that you have tried? Send me a comment and let me know!!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

       Its almost nice enough to have barbeques in my neck of the woods, although day after day of rain is certainly not allowing us to jump-start summer. Nevertheless, I have a whole pile of 'summer' recipes I'd like to make this year, so even if the weather won't cooperate, I'm going ahead.
       This recipe is perfect for potlucks or barbeques, as it can easily stay outside without being refrigerated for a few hours without spoiling. You can certainly modify the ingredients a bit to use up what you have, keeping the oil/vinegar base the same. The amount here would easily serve 15+ people and is great for large gatherings.
Ingredients:
  • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 (5 ounce) package baby spinach leaves, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts (these are VERY expensive to buy, omit if on a budget)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (I used black)
  • 1/2 cup high-quality olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

  • Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. 
  2. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, onion, pine nuts, sun-dried tomato, basil and pepper. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate and serve cold. Keeps 3-4 days.

Tip: Make sure you have a fine strainer for orzo as it is quite small, even after cooked. If you don't rinse with cold water, it will clump together so this step is quite important.

Apple-Butterscotch Muffins

Holy crap. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that these are my new favourite muffins. They are just about perfect. Not to sweet, not too fruity - In fact, these may become the all-coveted company muffins, the go-to treat when I am hosting friends and family. They come to me from another Food Blogger, Annie, at Annie's Eats. I highly recommend perusing her website for some great meals.

In this recipe, I would avoid substitutions - sure, you could make them healthier, but just make a different muffin instead if that is your goal. I have several healthy muffin recipes on this site you can use instead.

Bon Appetit!
Muffin Ingredients:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup applesauce
2 large eggs
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
¾ cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped apples



Crump Topping:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, melted.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the wells of two muffin pans with paper liners (about 18 liners total). 
2. Make the Crumb topping first: combine All flour, oats, sugar and cinnamon and then mix with melted butter. Set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix lightly with a fork to blend. Stir in the oats.

4. With a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the applesauce, eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating just until incorporated. 
5. Fold in the butterscotch chips and apples with a spatula.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Top with crumb topping. 
7.  Bake about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: about 18 muffins
Source: Adapted from Annie Eats