Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, and a Ford Focus Winnipeg Bakery Tour!

Claudia's Cookbook - Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins 12

I had the pleasure of participating in Ford Canada’s ‘Focus on My City’ promotion, where Ford was gracious enough to provide me with a brand new Ford Focus to test drive all over the city. Of course, I had to use this to my advantage. So I decided to do a bakery tour of Winnipeg! The bakery scene in the city is incredible. We have so many insanely talented bakers and chefs in Winnipeg that I felt I needed to draw some attention to them…by eating all their food. Life is tough sometimes. 

Before I get into the bakery tour and the awesome car I had the pleasure of driving, I wanted to tell you a bit about these Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins that we are featuring today. They are delicious. They are the best banana chocolate chip muffins you will eat. And, they are super easy to make. I brought these into work a couple weeks ago and all my coworkers deemed them the best banana chocolate chip muffins they have ever had (hence the second statement above). If I owned a bakery, they would be on the menu every day. Nice segway into the tour, hey? :) 

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Protein-Packed Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Milkshakes

Claudia's Cookbook - Protein-Packed Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Milkshake 2

“Summer, summer, summertime!” I love me some DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. You know, that time (1991 to be exact) when Will Smith was actually famous for being in a rap duo and not for being a major action movie star? I miss Junior High. 

My blender has been in overdrive these last couple months. Not only have I kept my habit of having a smoothie every morning for breakfast, rather than those delicious Starbucks spinach, egg white and feta wraps, I’ve also tackled my ridiculous chocolate ice cream cravings after dinnertime with these insanely good (and healthy!) Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Milkshakes. Yep, it is healthy, vegan (see, I like you people!), and packed with protein to curb your appetite and build muscle. If you’re into that sort of thing. 

The frozen banana gives it such a wonderful creamy texture that you don’t even miss the ice cream in this milkshake. Also, I’m a little obsessed with Silk’s Dark Chocolate Almondmilk, that they didn’t even pay me to mention it here in this post. I use any excuse to incorporate it into my smoothie recipes. 

The one thing with this recipe is that you definitely need a high-powered blender. Make this recipe your reason to treat yo’self and purchase one. I have a KitchenAid blender that we were lucky enough to receive as a wedding gift, and I have never looked back. Makes such a huge difference. If you have a favourite blender and recommend it, please feel free to share by leaving a comment after this post! I always love learning about your favourite kitchen gadgets. Gives me an excuse to go out and spend money!  

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Brown Sugar Streusel Rhubarb Muffins

Claudia's Cookbook - Brown Sugar Streusel Rhubarb Muffins cover

My favourite time of year to bake is early summer, when rhubarb and all kinds of berries are fresh and in season. I have so many sticks of rhubarb that I don’t know what to do with it. I often make crisps or crumbles, but this time I wanted to adapt an awesome cake recipe that my Mother-in-Law gave me into muffins. I say “adapt”, but the only thing I did differently was put the batter into muffin tins, as opposed to spreading it out on a 9 x 13 inch pan. So whether you are entertaining and need a great cake for dessert, or need a quick snack for breakfast, this recipe is perfect for you. The sweetness from the brown sugar, paired with the tartness of the rhubarb makes the flavour of these muffins so perfect. Not to mention, this recipe is so easy and takes no time at all. 

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Mini Strawberry Key Lime Pies

Claudia's Cookbook - Mini Strawberry Key Lime Pie cover

The last time I posted a recipe I was celebrating Ukrainian Christmas, it was the dead of winter, I was in a different job, and I hadn’t yet travelled to New York City, Miami, Arizona, and Las Vegas. Wow, a lot sure has happened in 4 months!

Time sure does fly when you are busy. We all lead insanely busy lives these days, so I won’t even begin to bore you with all the details of my life during the last few months. Let’s just say, I missed you! And I missed baking terribly.  

I have been meaning to make a key lime pie in months. I can’t even say that it’s spring here in Winnipeg because the weather over the last few weeks has been reminiscent of summer. Which makes me crave all things citrus and neon. Yes, neon. So glad it’s still in style this summer. There is nothing like a cute hot pink purse to complete an outfit. But I digress….citrus! Yes, citrus. I wanted to do a bit of a spin on the traditional key lime pie. Also, there are a million key lime pie recipes out there but not a lot of strawberry key lime pie recipes. I also love berries in summer so I felt this was a fantastic combination. I can never come close to finishing an entire pie by myself, so I wanted to make individual ones that I can enjoy and freeze for when my sweet cravings really hit me. If you cannot find key limes, whether your grocery store simply doesn’t carry them or they are out of season, you can also substitute for regular fresh lime juice instead. Perfectly fine. I do want to stress *fresh*, because there is simply nothing better. 

These mini strawberry key lime pies are absolutely delicious. The crust is buttery and crunchy, and the filling is sweet and tart all at the same time. This recipe is also beyond simple. I know we are all busy, but you can fit in 25 minutes to make these. I know you can. 

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Khrustyky (Ukrainian Fried Cookies)

Claudia's Cookbook - Khrustyky cover

 Merry Ukrainian Christmas Eve! Just when you thought Christmas was long behind us, up pops the Orthodox celebration. We typically do not celebrate Christmas twice in our household. The standard one in December is what we celebrate. Although I would love to celebrate and eat all the delicious Ukrainian food again tomorrow, I think the 10 pounds I gained in December is reason enough to enjoy photos and blog more delicious recipes rather than consume. 

This recipe for Khrustyky, or Ukrainian fried cookies, is the perfect dessert for Ukrainian Christmas, or any day. They are super light and crispy with a hint of sweetness from the icing sugar. They are also fairly simple to make, and don’t require a ton of time. Unlike a lot of other dough in Ukrainian cooking, this dough only rises for about 30 minutes and doesn’t require a ton of kneading.  Some people like to add bourbon to their recipes. I didn’t have any on hand, nor did my Baba put any in her recipe (this one below!), so I decided to use a bourbon vanilla extract instead. This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so it is best to fry, cool and freeze them in plastic bags until you want to eat them. You can then thaw them and dust with icing sugar. I don’t recommend dusting with icing sugar and then freezing. 

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White Chocolate Cranberry Almond Biscotti

Claudia's Cookbook - White Chocolate Cranberry Almond Biscotti cover

I have almost fully recovered from my food coma of Christmas 2014. I had 3 family dinners in the span of 4 days. All of them were filled with Ukrainian food that consisted of dough, butter, onions, more butter and the odd slice of turkey. Don’t even get me started on the sheer volume of chocolate that was also consumed. It was all worth it. But, I am already dreading my triumphant return to the gym next week. 

I’ve been meaning to feature this biscotti recipe on the blog for some time now. It has been a cookie staple in my house for a few years. I really got into biscotti while I worked at Starbucks throughout university. Before that, I had never even heard of it. Biscotti is a twice-baked cookie originating from Italy. They are crunchy and known for their oblong shape. They are also seriously addicting. This is one of my favourite recipes. The combination of orange, cranberry and almond flavours are so delicious. I eat my biscotti with a little drizzle of semi-sweet chocolate and also plain. The recipe is also super simple and worth the calories. 

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Pampushky (Ukrainian Doughnuts)

Claudia's Cookbook - Pampushky cover

I deemed this past Saturday “Deep Frying Day”. Claudia came over early, as we had a lot of Ukrainian cooking to do. All of which consisted of frying dough in hot oil. All of which was absolutely delicious. It had been quite a few years since I have had Pampushky. They are Ukrainian style doughnuts that are traditionally filled with either poppy seeds or prunes. They are little bites of heaven. The dough is sweet, amazingly soft, light and flaky. We make ours on the smaller, bite-sized side, but you can make them larger, like traditional doughnuts. People also tend to dust them with icing sugar for added decadence. My family prefer these au naturale, but there is truly no right or wrong way to enjoy them. They are the perfect dessert for Christmas Eve, which is coming up a lot faster than I’d like it. The dough requires a bit of time – 2 hours in fact. But it’s so worth it. This recipe makes a lot of Pampushky – 12-13 dozen or so. They freeze exceptionally well if you can’t consume all 145 within a 3 day period. I wouldn’t judge you if you did though. They are delicious! ‘Tis the season, am I right?! 

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Melt-In-Your-Mouth Boozy Chocolate Egg Nog Fudge

Claudia's Cookbook - Melt in your Mouth Boozy Chocolate Egg Nog Fudge cover

We never really had Egg Nog in our house growing up. I think one of the first times I ever had Egg Nog was when I worked at Starbucks during university and had to try some in their Egg Nog Latte. It was that Christmas that I had the bright idea to throw a holiday party at my house and make Egg Nog from scratch. I figured it couldn’t be THAT hard, and homemade Egg Nog would be pretty decadent. So, I searched the Internet for a recipe. It was then and there that I was introduced to Martha Stewart and her Classic Eggnog recipe. It was also then that I came to the conclusion that Martha also must have been a raging alcoholic. 

I was so excited when I went to the liquor store and bought all these “adult” liquors, like dark (not light!) rum, cognac and bourbon that was in the recipe. I mean, I was a university student, so my booze selections back in the day mainly consisted of cheap beer and terrible wine coolers. $70 later, I was pumped to begin my egg nog making journey. I hurried home and began making my homemade egg nog that I was certain would catapult me into ‘amazing hostess’ status in the eyes of my friends. After a day of refrigeration, the egg nog was now ready to be tasted and served. I took a sip of the creamy liquid and paused. It took a few seconds for me to realize that my throat was burning and that my breath could cause a fire if exposed to an open flame. Either Martha likes her egg nog STRONG, I couldn’t handle the ‘adult’ liquors, or I did something horribly wrong to the recipe. I quickly called my Dad into the kitchen. I mean, he of all people would be able to tell me if I screwed up the recipe or if his adult tastebuds found the egg nog delectable. He took one sip and couldn’t drink anymore. I think his exact words were “Holy god, what did you put in that?!”

I panicked. Not only did I spend $70 on alcohol that smelt like something you would put on open wounds, but I had guests who I had to dazzle with my homemaking skills. I called in my Grandmother. Surely, she could tell me what I did wrong? She came into the kitchen and took a small sip. I stared at her nervously. She paused, then said “It’s not bad actually”, continued to pour herself a mug and left the room. It was then that I had a new appreciation for my Grandmother’s love of strong liquor, and perplexed ideas of what made Martha Stewart queen of the kitchen. I served the egg nog, and it went over fairly well with my friends. But not as well as Martha’s cupcakes a few years later. 

I still enjoy experimenting with egg nog and alcohol. In small doses, they go together rather nicely. This fudge recipe incorporates my favourite holiday items: booze (bourbon), dark chocolate and egg nog – store-bought of course…I learned my lesson the hard way! This fudge is extremely decadent and soft. Much softer than typical varieties and definitely does melt in your mouth. It is important to keep this fudge in the refrigerator until you want to serve it. The egg nog gives a nice nutmeg hint to the chocolate. The bourbon is very mild in this recipe, and gives the fudge a nice warmth. This recipe is also super easy to make. The hardest part is waiting a few hours before you can dig in. 

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The Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Claudia's Cookbook - The Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies cover

I am a chocolate chip cookie fanatic. I knew this early on as a child. Whenever Claudia would bake cookies with me growing up, they were always chocolate chip. I think it’s because I would demand this for the sole purpose of eating the cookie dough when she was not looking. I got caught once and there is photographic evidence. If you’ve browsed this blog, you’ve probably seen it.

Until recently, I never gave other cookies much of a chance. So when I went over to Claudia’s a couple months ago and was offered some homemade Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that were on the counter, I hesitated. Oatmeal Raisin has never been a favourite of mine. I’m not entirely sure why. Probably because they sound healthy. If I’m going to have a cookie, I’m going all out! I mean, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies I would probably entertain and just pretend they were real chocolate chip cookies. But Claudia insisted I try these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that were staring at me. And at that moment, my world according to disliking Oatmeal Raisin Cookies was destroyed. I took one bite and was in heaven.

These cookies are, without a doubt, the best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies you will ever have. At least in my opinion. They are so soft, chewy and decadent. The key to making these cookies so amazing? Soaking the raisins in an egg and vanilla mixture. The raisins plump up nicely and absorb a delicious vanilla flavour. When Claudia wasn’t looking, I sneaked a plastic bag and took 10 cookies home with me. Some things never change. Hey, at least I never ate the cookie dough…..that time. 

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Pumpkin Donuts with Browned Butter Maple Frosting

Claudia's Cookbook - Pumpkin Donuts with Browned Butter Maple Frosting Cover

There are two things my hockey team is passionate about: playing hockey (obvs) and donuts. When I mention that I am bringing donuts to the game, I become somewhat of a hero. Our message board gets extremely animated. I’ve made these donuts for them a few times now and they are always gobbled up in mere minutes. And for good reason. They are seriously one of the most delicious baked donuts I have ever had. They are extremely soft. The flavour combination of pumpkin and maple is decadent. Not to mention, these donuts incorporate my favourite obsession: browned butter! 

A lot of people have asked me where to buy donut pans. I bought mine on Amazon. They are Wilton brand and are wonderful and extremely inexpensive. I enjoy baked donuts way more than fried. So these pans have come in handy for all my sweet cravings. 

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