Monday, December 31, 2012

So long, 2012!

How do I pick my favourite recipes out of a pile of my already favourite recipes? It isn't easy. But as we turn a new leaf into 2013, I've been - dare I say it? - a little nostalgic over the food and memories shared over the past year. From cookies, to chicken, to little men made from fruit, these are some of the best of Leanne Bakes from 2012.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Oat Bars

Sriracha and Garlic Chicken Wings

Spiced Apple Chips

15 Minute Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

The Best Crockpot Chicken Ever

Santa Strawberries

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

If I spent nearly as much time wrapping presents and organizing as I do baking, I'd be ready for Christmas by now.

Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

But I don't - so here we are with more cookies, regardless of the giant mess in my apartment. These pinwheel cookies are gifts though (well, half of them are...), so that counts at least a little bit.

Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

And nothing makes a home more in the holiday spirit than the smell of freshly baked anything, especially chocolate and vanilla pinwheel cookies.

Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

This recipe is definitely a keeper, too. I added a bit more chocolate to the dough, and made the pinwheel pattern thinner than most, which reminds me of those thin-layered zebra cakes and makes me unreasonably happy.

Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

Are you a little more ahead than I am for the holidays? If yes (and even if no!) try a batch of these cookies to help get in the spirit!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Spiced Rum Caramel Croissant Pudding

This croissant pudding is is completely knee-buckling. (And the perfect Christmas brunch recipe).

A mix of spiced rum, warm caramel, and buttery croissants, I couldn't resist eating it straight out of the pan with a fork when it came out of the oven.

The recipe and inspiration comes from Nigella Lawson, but I lightened it up a bit with a lower fat cream and milk, and one less egg. Okay, not a huge difference in fat, but every little bit counts, no?

What's going to be on your table Christmas morning?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread

There's only two ingredients and five minutes between you and a better breakfast.

easy chocolate peanut butter spread

This easy chocolate peanut butter spread goes on pretty much everything breakfast, from toast to croissants to pancakes. And without the hydrogenated oils and excess sugar found in processed versions, it's almostmaybesorta healthy. Well, healthier at least.

Plus how long have those of us with tree nut allergies been waiting for an alternative to Nutella? Too damn long. Let the breakfast revolution begin!

easy chocolate peanut butter spread

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winter Wonderland Meringue Christmas Trees (and the giveaway winner!)

There's no snow in sight for Vancouver, so I made my own little winter wonderland with meringue trees.

Meringue Christmas Trees

I don't really know if meringues count as a cookie or a confection, but whatever they are, I need a constant supply of them in my life. Consider that a New Years Resolution: I want to be at least 50% meringue by next Christmas.

Easy to make, bake, and even easier to eat, these little crunchy pillows of sweetness are perfect for the holidays. A hint of peppermint adds a little extra holiday charm.

Meringue Christmas Trees

They turned out so cute, this LEGO family stopped by to snatch one up for Christmas! ...Okay, my son left his toys out and I got bored.

Meringue Christmas Trees

But enough about meringues - let's find out who won the Suzie's Sourdough Circus giveaway!

The first winner is Kesha Gooding!  The second winner is, well, you didn't leave a name but your email leads me to believe it might be Anne :). I've emailed both the winners, but if they don't reply within 5 days, I'll pick a new one (or two).

Thanks for entering everyone! I can't wait to start the next giveaway.

Read on for the meringue tree recipe...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Wreath Doughnuts

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.

christmas wreath donuts

Our tree will be going up this weekend, letters to Santa are being scribed, and even the doughnuts are a little more festive.

christmas wreath donuts

I made these Christmas Wreath Doughnuts by baking a batch of chocolate cake in a doughnut pan, then decorating them with Wilton's leaf tip #352, and piping the berries and ribbons on with a #4 tip. Keep your icing soft, because you'll need your hands to still work when it comes to eating one when you're done decorating.

How's your holiday planning coming along?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Santa Strawberries

These little Santas are almost too cute to eat.

santa strawberries

But we ate them all anyway. And then made more, and ate them, too.

I was sent the inspiration from these about a week ago from a friend, and couldn't wait to make them. So yesterday I whipped up a few and surprised the boy when he came home from school with some long-anticipated holiday spirit. They were a hit! 

The best part is they're SO easy to make that he made about a dozen himself later on for our dessert. If a 6-year-old can do it, you definitely can. 

I filled the little guys with whipped creamed, but you can use icing, cream cheese, or anything else on hand that may do. They aren't picky. My only regret is not having fresh, local strawberries to make them with. 

PS. On Facebook? Get sneak peaks at upcoming posts and giveaways over here! OnTwitter? Tweet with me here!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Apple Hand Pies and Suzie's Sourdough Circus Giveaway

It's safe to say that we discovered a new favourite treat this week.

Completely addictive, these pies were gone by dinner, mere hours after I made them. The buttery crust contains no shortening, and the apple filling slightly caramelized with a hint of spice. My only regret is not making a double batch. I'm looking forward to trying again with different fillings, too. (I've got my eyes on you, blueberries...)

But you probably didn't come here for pie, because I have a giveaway for you! 

Starting today and ending next week, I'm giving away TWO copies of Suzie's Sourdough Circus. A perfect holiday present for the bread fan or little one in your life, Suzie's Sourdough Circus follows a young girl whose wild imagination takes us into the crazy world of sourdough starter. I'll let Kathy Sagar, the author, break it down for you:

In rhyming prose, sure to appeal to both children and their grown-up sous-chefs, this story is both informative and fun. Young readers spend a snowy northern afternoon in the warm kitchen with little Suzie, her dad and their zany sourdough circus, learning a simple method to bake wholesome and tangy sourdough bread.

Kids will be asking their parents for their very own sourdough starters once they see Eliska Liska's bright and playful sourdough creatures cavort, frolic, sing and dance, blow bubbles and get up to all kinds of trouble in order to make the bread rise.

Amazing illustrations and recipes are in the book, too. Want to learn more? Check out Kathy's website! She also has a worldwide Sourdough Share going on, where you can sign up to give and receive some sourdough starter.

Here's how to enter. You get one entry per item:

1. Leave a comment telling me your favourite way to cook with sourdough. Bread? Biscuits? Something totally awesome I've never heard of? Spill! Be sure to heave a way I can contact you.

2. Become a fan of Leanne Bakes on Facebook, and leave me a comment to let me know (or leave a comment if you're already a fan!).

3. Become a fan of Suzie's Sourdough Circus on Facebook, and leave a comment here to let me know (or leave a comment if you're already a fan!).

4. Follow Leanne Bakes on Twitter (again, comment to let me know).

5. Share the giveaway, either on Facebook or on Twitter. Leave a link to said share in the comments.

Good luck! The winner will be drawn on December 5th.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Honey Ginger Chicken Wings

I might have gone a little bit wing crazy this weekend. But you know what Costco does to people.

While the Sriracha Garlic Wings reign supreme, I wanted to try a different type of sauce because a) variety, b) my poor man's tastebuds, and c) Costco portions. I went for a bit of an Asian vibe with this Honey Ginger sauce, and it's not only really easy to make, but tastes incredible, too.

Honestly, I'm lazy as hell so I just put the ingredients in my blender and let it go to town mixing everything up instead of chopping and mincing. But you can do it by hand, if you so desire. The wings don't need to be marinated, so you can make the sauce a few days ahead, or as they bake.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sriracha and Garlic Chicken Wings

These wings are the best wings. Trust.

Dubbed “Crack Wings” for how amazingly addictive they are, they also mark my first foray back into the kitchen after a car accident last weekend. A cab I was in was hit by a car running a light, and the ordeal has left my right hip in a lot of pain. I’ve fought hard enough to walk already (my tibia bones were reconstructed when I was 9) and feeling this way again seems almost cruel while bringing back some rather shitty memories. So I’ve had a bit of the recovery blues, needless to say.

But baking and cooking always helps me relax and process whatever is on my mind. And these wings are awesome. Like, the most awesome. They aren’t nearly as hot as the 1/3 cup of Sriracha implies. Even my man, who can’t handle a 1/4 tsp of cayenne at the best of times, loved them.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

I love having pre-made muffins or loaves on hand for lazy morning breakfasts or snacks.

I've developed this recipe based off of a couple I've found, and I think I've finally hit the jackpot. It's moist and has the perfect banana taste, and the chocolate chips lend a great sweetness. If I don't add the chocolate chips, then I mix in about 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg instead.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

When it comes to pumpkin seeds, there's no need to get all fancy.

Okay, so there are actually plenty of reasons to get all fancy, but when you're elbow deep in squishy pumpkin guts, sometimes you just want to get things over with quickly.

That's why I usually choose the incredibly quick and incredibly easy option of roasting pumpkin seeds in a little olive oil and sea salt. They're just as delicious as other varieties, and you can always add more seasoning to them afterwards. Plus, they suit all palates -- especially my man's spicephobic tastebuds.

This recipe is as basic as it gets, so feel free to follow it exactly or add your own spices to suit your tastes!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Canadian Kitchen: Nanaimo Bars

This is the first post in a series highlighting classic Canadian dishes. Yes, they do exist. 

Nanaimo Bars are, perhaps, Canada’s most famous dessert. The legend goes that they originated in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island (which, while not Nanaimo, is very close). Mabel Jenkens submitted the recipe to a bake sale, and the bars rapidly gained notoriety from there.

Nanaimo Bars are recognizable for their chocolate, coconut, and walnut base, custardy buttercream filling, and chocolate topping. I miss them very much now that I’m deathy allergic to coconut and nuts. So it goes. 

But our family obsession with Nanaimo Bars reaches much further than the Island where they originated, and the country where they became popular.

In a time before the Internet, digital recipe collections, and the easy jet-set traveling we’re used to today, my mom packed a book with her favourite recipes and set off halfway across the world. In 1972, her travels took her to a city in New Zealand called Timaru, where she entered one of her go-to recipes from back home into a radio contest.

The bake-free bars became a huge hit and quickly spread over the town and beyond. My mom now thanks herself for bringing Nanaimo Bars down under, where you can still find them today.

I've seen a lot of misleading recipes for Nanaimo Bars around (ahem, SAVEUR), but this one is the real deal. Trust.

Want to try your hand at this Canadian Kitchen classic? The recipe is below, and if you send me a picture of your Nanaimo Bars, I’ll post it on my blog!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

For someone who isn't that into Halloween, I'm sure getting into decorating for it. 

Or at least baking for it. And let's be honest, I can get behind baking for just about anything. These cupcakes weren't for me though; I made them for the Annual Fall Bazaar at the Banfield Pavillion at Vancouver General Hospital, home to 200 adults who need life-long medical care. I hope they were a hit with all who attended!

Want to learn how to make these little gumpaste pumpkins? It's way easier than it looks (unless you think it looks easy, then it's exactly how easy you think it is).

Dye some gumpaste orange and some more gumpaste green. Roll a small amount of the orange gumpaste into a ball, squishing it slightly so it gets a pumpkin shape. Using the dull side of a knife, or the edge of a skewer, indent lines into the sides so they meet at the top. It will look a little like a basketball; this is fine. Indent a small (3-5 mm) dent into the top of the pumpkin -- this is where the stem will sit.

Take a very small bit of green gumpaste and roll it into a cone. Wet the indent of the pumpkin with water, gumpaste glue, or egg white, and stick in the stem. You can create a little vine, too, if you're feeling fancy.

See? Not so scary! Go give it a try.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Cupcakes

Are you ready for Halloween?

I am nowhere close to being prepared. It's probably because -- brace yourselves -- I'm kind of indifferent about Halloween. I hate it because it's just an obstacle in the way of Christmas, but I love it because it's the catalyst for Half Price Candy Day (my all time fave holiday celebrated on November 1st)

But I love an excuse to bake cupcakes, and Halloween offers up some pretty cool decorating options, like these chocolate spider webs and pumpkins.

So how do you make them? Simply melt chocolate and pipe it onto a sheet of parchment or tin foil, then pop the designs into the freezer for a few minutes. If your kitchen is as warm as mine, the webs will soften over the top of the cupcakes and create a cool effect. The recipe for the cupcakes and frosting are below the cut!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Swirl Buns

Sometimes breakfast needs to be turned into dessert.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Swirl Buns

Okay, around here breakfast pretty much always needs to be turned into dessert, usually just with maple syrup, though. But these Chocolate Swirl Buns are the perfect combination of a no-yeast whole wheat bun dough and a sweet chocolate filling, and they're completely irresistible whether it's morning or late at night.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Swirl Buns

Of course the boy rejects them for a poached egg on toast with a smoothie, and judges me silently while I have my early AM sugar fix.

There are downsides to teaching your children about proper nutrition, and I have found them.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Swirl Buns

That aside, these buns take under 15 minutes to prepare, and just 20 or so minutes to bake, giving you chocolatey heaven in under an hour. And whether you'll eat them for a snack, dessert, or breakfast, I won't judge you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Birthday Cake Pancakes

I'm not sure about at your house, but in mine we don't just celebrate birthdays with cake.

birthday cake pancakes

We celebrate them with breakfast, too, turning pancakes into mini birthday cakes full of sprinkles and vanilla. And real maple syrup. Because this is Canada, after all.

birthday cake pancakes

Of course, it doesn't have to be someone's birthday to whip up a batch of these. These birthday pancakes make every morning worth celebrating.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lego Birthday Cake

What's the quickest way to a 6-year-old's heart? A lego cake, of course.

lego cake

The boy turned 6 on Saturday, and my Friday night was spent putting together this Lego-inspired cake for his party. Or rather, these Lego men are working hard to put together the cake, which is vanilla with a classic chocolate buttercream icing (because fondant is disgusting and I'm allergic to it).

lego cake

This smug guy is the foreman. We all know his type...

lego cake

And these bad dudes are the work of my man, who added a bit of drama to the scene with goal-stealing thugs.

lego cake

Happy birthday, Hayden! 

PS. On Facebook? Get sneak peaks at upcoming posts and giveaways over here! OnTwitter? Tweet with me here!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Baked Lemon Donuts with Lemon Glaze

What do you do when life gives you lemons? You make baked lemon donuts with lemon glaze.

Baked Lemon Donuts

And you also use cliched introductions. But it's early and I've just started caffeinating, okay?

I just bought a brand new kitchen toy: a donut pan! It makes baking donuts as easy and as accessible as baking cupcakes or cake. You just make the batter, drop it into the pan, and voila -- donuts in 10 or so minutes. 

Baked Lemon Donuts

These lemon donuts are the first to be made, and ended up light, fluffy, and the perfect mix of tartness and sweetness. I'm sure the recipe would work just as well as cupcakes, if you haven't gotten your hands on a donut pan yet. But you should, because baked donuts.

On Facebook? Get sneak peaks at upcoming posts and giveaways over here! On Twitter? Tweet with me here!

Ps. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baked Pretzel Bites

Soft pretzels always deceive me with how simple they are to make.

pretzel bites

Even though I've made pretzels countless times, I always find myself curling my lip in disdain when I replay the process in my head. Then halfway through I realize I'm being whiny and that the dough really only takes a handful of minutes to prepare. It's the rising time, people. It gets me every time. 

Anyway, this time I thought I'd simplify the process even more and make soft pretzel bites, a recipe I adapted from an Alton Brown classic that yields crispy, soft, golden brown pretzels every time. They make a perfect snack for Football Sunday, after school, or late-night carb cravings.

Go ahead and try 'em! I guarantee you'll be surprised with how simple the process really is. Also, dip them in chocolate sauce. Seriously.

On Facebook? Come discuss Nanaimo Bars and get sneak peaks at upcoming posts over here!


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