Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chocolate Chip Coffee Muffins with Cinnamon Toffee Crunch Streusel

I think I've become a guinea pig. My friend Michelle has been emailing me recipes for the past few months. I assume she wants me to try them out before she gives them a whirl. Luckily, she has good taste and most of what she sends me has me wiping drool of my iMac screen.

I've been meaning to whip up these muffins for a while now but with the heat wave we've been having turning to oven on hasn't been a good idea. The heat broke yesterday and today I finally got a chance to make them!

They incorporate a lot of my very favourite ingredients, coffee, chocolate, brown sugar, cinnamon and now, toffee. The original recipe didn't have toffee in the streusel but as I was mixing it I couldn't help myself and threw some in!

These are going to go perfectly with my Iced Coffee tomorrow morning for breakfast... and as a mid-afternoon snack... and as dessert... oi, there goes the scale again!

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Chocolate Chip Coffee Muffins with Cinnamon Toffee Crunch Steusel
*Adapted from

1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/4 c toffee bits

2 ½ c all purpose flour
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
3/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/3 c vegetable or canola Oil
1 egg
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.
2. Topping: combine brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and toffee bits in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Muffins: combine flour, instant coffee powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, brown sugar, oil and egg.
5. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients and add in chocolate chips.
6. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan.
7. Sprinkle muffins with reserved topping.
8. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baked Gnocchi

We're in the middle of one heck of a heat wave. 38-40˚C (that's 100.4-104˚F for my American readers) everyday now for a week. The humidity is wilting, the heat, oppressive. Thankfully my darling husband, foreseeing me being super uncomfortable this summer should the temperature skyrocket (I'm in my 3rd trimester now), bought me central air 3 weeks ago. He really does love me. So I've been coping with the heat fairly well. But the temperature certainly changes how we eat. As it gets hotter you tend to want to eat lighter. Simple salads and cold dishes tend to be what we all crave when the mercury rises... unless you're a pregnant gal and you have A/C. Then you want crazy things like baked pastas.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been trying to cook better for my hubby, really watching every single ingredient I cook with for cholesterol, sodium and fat. I love Gnocchi, as does he, so when I found myself craving pasta this week I headed to the refrigerated section of the grocery store (it's too hot to make gnocchi from scratch!) and picked up a package of gnocchi to read the label. 0 mg cholesterol, low in sodium, low in fat, low in calories... I was thrilled!

In 40˚ weather I made my Baked Gnocchi. I'm crazy, I know. But really it's quite a light dish (as gnocchi goes) and served with a generous side salad we felt satisfied and not like we had eaten a big heavy meal. You could certainly just make this stove top and not turn on your oven, or "bake" it on your BBQ, any way you choose to make it I hope you give it a try cause it's incredibly tasty!

Look at all those Bocconcini pearls. Little balls of cheesy goodness.

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Baked Gnocchi

2 pkgs of premade Gnocchi (I use Maestro but any will do)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
5 fresh basil leaves, jullienned
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 500ml container Bocconcini Pearls*
2 c baby spinach
1/4 c shaved parmesan cheese


1. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent.
2. Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt & pepper. Continue to simmer over med-low heat while you cook the gnocchi.
3. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the gnocchi. Cook just until the gnocchi rise to the surface of the water and drain immediately.
4. Add the gnocchi, bocconcini and spinach to the tomato sauce and stir to incorporate. (you can continue on the stove top here if you wish heating over low until the bocconcini pearls melt.)
5. Pour pasta into a greased (Pam) casserole dish and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.
6. Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes or until the bocconcini melts.
7. Serve alongside a salad for a light and healthy meal!

* If you're unfamiliar with Bocconcini it's just small balls of fresh mozzarella. I've tried using shredded mozzarella and the larger Baby Bocconcini but I find the pearls to be best because they don't overpower the gnocchi or make it too chewy. Bocconcini Pearls can be found in the deli section with the other specialty cheeses.

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Big Changes at the Best Mom House

If you follow my blog you know I love food. I love chocolate, butter, cheese, peanut butter... you get the picture. My family eats well. I offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, meats and pastas. I try to keep it as healthy as I can but when a recipe calls for a cup of butter I don't shy away.

My wonderful husband had a physical for the first time in years (since I met him I think!) and his blood work came back with bad news. He has really high cholesterol. High enough that our doctor wanted him on Crestor® immediately. I felt terrible. Did I do this to my husband? Did I force him onto a medication that he has to take for the rest of his life so that his arteries don't block, so that he doesn't develop heart disease, so that he doesn't die of a massive heart attack or stroke? Turns out high cholesterol is hereditary and his mom had it, but what I was doing in the kitchen certainly didn't help.

This is why I've been MIA from posting for the past few weeks. As soon as we got the call I was online researching what he couldn't have anymore and what foods would help his medication reverse the damage we'd done to his arteries. All his favourites had to go: chips, peanuts, bologna, butter, hot dogs; others we had to cut way back on: red meat, cheese; and some we were able to find substitutions for that he found to be just as good: switching from 2% milk to 1%, almonds instead of peanuts. I've become a pro at reading labels, scouring the contents for the amounts of cholesterol, calories, fat and the biggie, sodium. I've incorporated cranberry, flax seed and pomegranate into his everyday diet. His daily veggie/fruit intake has quadrupled. And the best part: our whole family is eating better.

I know what you're thinking... "oh no! This blog is going all health nut!". Not quite. My dear husband is not a dessert guy, opting to have seconds instead of cake since he was a kid. So desserts were never an issue (except for cookie dough, the guy can eat a whole bowl of it!) so desserts are staying! Also, I plan to work a monthly "treat" food into our dinner rotation once we get the okay that his numbers have come down. Something that might be a bit decadent, like something made with real butter perhaps. But for the most part I'll be making meals that are good for you AND extremely tasty!

I hope you take this opportunity to follow along and make some changes in your family as well so that one day you don't get a call like we got, or worse. Happy healthy eating!