The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Claudia's Cookbook - Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I loved going to school as a kid knowing it was Valentine’s Day. We would tape our brown paper bags to our desks, walk around the room and hand out little Valentine’s cards to everyone in the class. It was such a fun ‘holiday’ growing up. Not to mention, the abundance of cinnamon hearts and heart shaped foil wrapped chocolates!

As an adult, Valentine’s Day has become just another day for the most part. This year, I was asked to incorporate “love” into a blog post and express what it means to me. After some careful thought and consideration, I figured the best way to speak to this is to create a top 10 list of the things I love in my life. Here is what I came up with (in no particular order):

  1. My beautiful friends and family. That is clearly a given if you read my blog on a regular basis.
  2. My 3 crazy cats that I share my home with. They drive me insane, but they’re amazing.
  3. Sleep. If you know me well, you know I will sleep until Noon every day if given the chance.
  4. Travelling anywhere and everywhere. I am truly obsessed.
  5. Baking on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It is more relaxing than yoga to me.
  6. The smell of hockey rinks. Playing hockey is the most natural feeling I have ever experienced, even after a 15 year hiatus. Amateur hockey rinks have this distinctive smell of frozen ice and hockey equipment. It’s not a particularly amazing smell, but it reminds me of my childhood and I just cannot get enough of it.
  7. Marathons of Dateline on TV. I clearly was a detective in a previous life.
  8. The first 3 Star Wars movies. I’ve seen them all literally over 100 times and I still watch them to this day.
  9. Sharks. Yes, you read that right. I’m fascinated with them and watched Shark Week on Discovery Channel before it become ‘cool’. My dream is to cage dive with Great Whites. I will do this – mark my words.
  10. Chocolate. I’m addicted. I can’t get enough.

Because Valentine’s Day is so synonomous with chocolate, I decided to feature The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake recipe on the blog. It is seriously delicious. It is rich with chocolate flavour and very moist. You also cannot go wrong with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting! It has the perfect amount of sweetness yet doesn’t have that artificial strawberry flavour that most icings have.

Continue reading →

Cadbury Mini Egg Fudge

Claudia's Cookbook - Cadbury Mini Egg Fudge cover

Remember the time I decided to go on a Smoothie Diet? Yeah. Let’s pretend that never happened. I blame drinking smoothies 3 times a day for the lack of posts over the past few weeks. It actually wasn’t all bad. I lost a few pounds and learned that I could drink spinach and not gag. It actually tasted pretty darn good! But boy, did I miss chocolate (and pretty much any food that wasn’t in liquid form). At one point, I was even craving a salad. A SALAD! The world works in mysterious ways, my friends.

Well, I survived and I decided to make my triumphant return to you by featuring the most decadent, rich, chocolaty dessert on the face of the earth. That’s right, screw you smoothies! This recipe is an adaptation from a recipe my future Mother-in-Law gave me over Christmas. It was given to her a few years ago by her friend who sadly is no longer with us. My future Mother-in-Law was nice enough to give us some fudge over the holidays and I quickly fell in love (with the fudge…well, and I guess with her too!). She was kind enough to give me the recipe and I had to adapt it to include one of my favourite candy’s ever – Cadbury Mini Eggs! The original recipe called for chopped nuts, but I figured Mini Eggs were crunchy too – so why the heck not? I cannot begin to describe how unbelievable this fudge is. It’s seriously the best fudge I’ve ever tasted. Like, EVER. And that’s not the 2 week smoothie diet talking. It’s soft, sweet and oh, so rich. A little square goes a long way. Topped with the fact that there are delicious morsels of Mini Eggs inside, well my taste buds simply can’t handle it! I actually went into a mini chocolate coma yesterday. Truth.

Continue reading →

Ukrainian Christmas 2014…And a Tribute to Baba

family

Ukrainian Christmas is just around the corner – January 7 to be exact. My love of cooking, and ultimately this blog, was inspired by the two ladies that are in the photo above with me (I’m the one in the middle). The one on the left is Claudia, and the one on the right is my Baba, Claudia’s Mom. And yes, we’re wearing the same sweater but in different colours. This photo was taken almost 10 years ago on Christmas Eve. It is one of my favourite photos in the world. Claudia and Baba were cooking up a Ukrainian food storm in the kitchen and I was trying my best not to get in their way – hence why they are wearing the aprons and I’m not. Food, especially Ukrainian food, is such a big part of my life. A lot of the memories I have of growing up or the holidays has to do with Claudia and Baba cooking in the kitchen.

It gives me great pleasure that the most popular recipes on this blog are the ones that are Ukrainian. I also love hearing all the stories and comments that you, my followers, post here about your childhoods and how these recipes remind you of your family. It really does bring me to tears at times because this was truly a huge part of why I started this blog.

After a long and tough fight, we lost Baba this week. She was by far the strongest lady I have ever met in my entire life and I will miss her dearly. She left behind a legacy of love, humour, and most of all – zest for life and cooking. This post is dedicated to her and the delicious Ukrainian dishes she passed on to Claudia and to me.

Cabbage-Rolls

Nothing beats Holopchi. I mean, nothing. They are the most amazing comfort food ever. Rice, ground beef, and onions all wrapped up in a cabbage leaf. Cabbage is healthy, right?

Find the recipe on our blog here —–>  Cabbage Rolls

Perogies

My Baba used to stand in her kitchen and make dozens upon dozens of perogies in one day for coworkers, family and friends. Claudia makes a ton of different fillings for perogies. Some of our favourites are potato and cheese, sauerkraut, prune and raisin. Blueberry is also amazing as well.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Perogies

Borscht

I actually eat more Borscht in the summer months than I do any other time of the year. Reason? Garden fresh beets make the most amazing Borscht in the world. I am so thankful for my parents huge garden in Saskatchewan where they plant tons of beets for this delicious soup.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Borscht

Nalysnyky

Dill, cheese and butter. I don’t think I need to say anything else. Nalysnyky is rich, savoury and dreamy. This was my very first recipe post on this blog! Again, total comfort food.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Nalysnyky 

Kutia

The attachment that I have to Kutia is not because I love it. I actually don’t like it at all. It’s because my entire family adore this dish and rub it in my face every Christmas. Guilt trip central. I get such a kick out of it. This dish is very traditional and different. It’s almost like a sweet grain pudding. Tradition is that you eat this first before your other courses on Christmas.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Kutia

Pyrizhky

Pyrizhky are little balls of sunshine to me. The dough is so incredibly soft, and the sauerkraut has just the right amount of tang to cut the richness of the dough. I could eat a plateful of these any day of the week. They’re very addicting.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Pyrizhky

Enjoy and Kristos Razdayetsya!

Beach Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

Claudia's Cookbook - Beach Salad cover

Why, hello 2014. It’s a pleasure to meet your acquaintance. I have big plans for you 2014…big plans. I didn’t really wait for the new year to start cleaning up my diet. I decided to start eating healthier a few weeks before Christmas. Yeah, that was awesome. I wasn’t tempted by luscious Christmas candy and chocolate AT ALL. I figured if I could survive the holidays, I could survive anything. One thing I learned along the way is that healthy food actually tastes pretty darn fantastic. The key is to combine flavourful ingredients. Spices and texture are also extremely important.

One day last week while I was out shopping with a friend, I found myself craving one of my favourite restaurant salads. Yes, you read that right. Not a burger, not a cupcake, but a SALAD. I rushed home and decided to try to recreate it in my kitchen. I was so happy with the results that I had to share it. This salad has the perfect combination of sweet with the juicy strawberries and crunchy candied pecans; and also has awesome creaminess with the avocado and goat cheese. Not to mention, hearty elements like quinoa and grilled chicken. This salad is amazing on its own or tossed with this delicious Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing. I made a big batch of quinoa and candied pecans, grilled up a couple chicken breasts and enjoyed this salad a couple days in a row. It seriously makes clean, healthy eating easy.

Continue reading →

Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies

Claudia's Cookbook - Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies cover

It’s amazing how fast my mind switches from preparing for Christmas to preparing for New Years Eve. I can’t believe 2014 is just around the corner and Christmas is over. It all happened so fast. I mean, I’m still eating leftovers!

We are staying in and hosting a friend for New Years Eve this year. I have already started my mad search on Pinterest for some fun and festive appetizers and treats to ring in 2014. If you haven’t already noticed – I kinda love red velvet. I also really love sandwich cookies. I mean, you really cannot go wrong with slathering cream cheese icing in between two deliciously moist cookies. These are super simple to make and took me no time at all. I thought the sprinkles were also a very cute festive touch as well. I highly recommend you give these a try for your New Years Eve!

Continue reading →

Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls

Claudia's Cookbook - Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls 26

Bring on Christmas! I am ready….I am so ready. Purchase presents for loved ones – check. Spend the last two weeks at the gym to prepare for the carbo-loading onslaught of delicious food – check. Complete all baking to share with others – double check. Purchase the best Christmas sweater ever – triple check with a gold star!

I’ve made so many cookies, bars, and cake balls over the last couple weeks that I wanted to do something different. I’ve seen so many amazing recipes lately of cinnamon buns. Therefore, I figured I’d join the party and bake some too. These are absolutely perfect in every way. They are so easy and require minimal time to make. They also have a delicious hint of gingerbread, which I love this time of year.

Continue reading →

Cousin Linda’s Poppycock

Claudia's Cookbook - Poppycock cover

Soooo….it’s -43 celsius here in Winnipeg. How are you?! Yeah, it’s cold. I know I talk about the weather a lot, but how can’t you with these temperatures? And…it’s not even officially winter yet. To chase away the winter blues, I decided to book a flight to Arizona again this year to visit Claudia and my Dad in February. I figured with this snow and cold, I will be needing warmth and sunshine by then. Here’s hoping I don’t get the flu this time around!

I also cannot believe that Christmas is 2 weeks away. I am really enjoying all the holiday recipes that are floating around out there. A couple weeks ago when I asked what everyone was baking for the holidays on our Facebook Page, I had a request (I love requests!) from a loyal follower (Hi Bon!) for a recipe for Poppycock. I had never made it before, but soon learned that my Cousin Linda had one that she was famous for. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me and I tried it immediately. I can see why it’s so popular in her house – her granddaughter actually sneaks some into her room at night to munch on. This recipe is delicious!

Continue reading →

Butter Tarts

Claudia's Cookbook - Butter Tarts cover

I watched my first Christmas movie of the season today. How the Grinch Stole Christmas was on TV this afternoon. Not the original animated one, but the Jim Carrey/Ron Howard reboot. I’ve actually never seen the original. Or A Christmas Story. I may have seen It’s a Wonderful Life once…but I can’t be 100% sure. Please don’t judge me. As a kid, I grew up watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer during summer vacation – that’s how much I loved that movie. There was really nothing else in my holiday movie repertoire. Well, I guess National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but only because my Dad loved that movie. What are your favourite holiday movies? Feel free to tell me in the comments section!

One thing I am absolutely sure of – I love Claudia’s Butter Tarts at Christmas time! They are seriously delicious. She always makes the dough from scratch, and it’s always flaky and buttery. The filling is sweet and syrupy. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make until Claudia came over a couple weeks ago to show me. I am so glad she did.

Continue reading →

Soft Gingersnap Cookies

Gingersnap Cookies 13

I don’t know if it’s the snow on the ground, the cold temperatures or Target having the cutest holiday items in the entire world in their stores right now, but I am super excited for Christmas this year. I’ve been doing my best not to put on the Christmas tunes, put up my Christmas tree, and watch my favourite Christmas movies like Elf and Home Alone. After all, it’s still only November. I’ve always been a firm traditionalist and start these activities no earlier than December 1. I may have to break my rules this year – starting with featuring my first holiday baking item – these delicious Gingersnap Cookies!

Claudia came over this week to teach me how to make more of her holiday baking family favourites. These Gingersnap Cookies were high on her list to share with me. She actually adapted the recipe from her coworker (Linda), as they were a total hit at their workplace not too long ago. When I told Claudia that I wasn’t a huge Gingersnap cookie fan, she reassured me that these cookies would be worthy of my daily caloric intake. I have to admit Claudia was right (but really, when isn’t she?). These, my friends, are the perfect combination of all my Gingersnap Cookie wishes – chewy, soft, and not too heavy on the ginger or molasses flavour. I highly recommend these delicious beauties for your holiday baking line up.

Continue reading →

Slow Cooker Lasagne

Claudia's Cookbook - Slow Cooker Lasagne 11

Ah, November. It’s a time where I find myself “getting real”. Summer is long gone, Thanksgiving is over (at least here in Canada), and the excitement of Halloween and candy everywhere is slowly fading like my sugar coma. I now start to pay attention to all those Christmas displays that have been slowly popping up since September. Now they are in full force – the holiday season is only a mere 52 days away you know. I get more used to the task of warming up my car and scraping the frost off my windshield every morning, wearing mitts, a scarf, and reluctantly, a winter coat. I find the older I get, the less patient and tolerant I am with winter here. To tell you the truth, it’s a pain in the ass. Shovelling, plugging in my car (for real, we do that here), and layering my clothing so much that at times I feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Winter can be very unattractive and depressing to a lot of people – myself included.

I recall as a kid absolutely loving winter. There was no day too cold, no snow bank too high to climb and no ice rink without kids on it to play a game of hockey. Claudia would spend her days pulling me and my brother in a sled down our back lane to the park on the corner of our street. She would bundle us both up in our ski pants, parka, toque, mitts, scarf and boots – probably a 30 minute ordeal in itself. She would then bundle herself up and pull us both in one sled. We absolutely loved it! It was such a short trek to the park, probably a block in distance. But it felt like forever because it was such an adventure to us. I look back and have no idea how Claudia did it…trek two hyper kids in the freezing cold to go jump into snow piles. She actually probably just wanted us to wear ourselves out so we could crash in the afternoon and she’d have some well-deserved “me” time. But no matter how cold it was outside, I never felt it as a kid. My home was always filled with such warmth and wonder.

I try to recreate that feeling of comfort and warmth that my parents gave to me when I was a kid in a couple different ways. In the plush blankets that I keep close to the couch, to the mugs of hot tea I drink on a nightly basis, to the savoury scented candles I light, and to the comfort food I cook in my kitchen (like this delicious Lasagne dish!). All these things help me get through those tough cold days and allow me to feel more like an adventurous, protected (and spoiled) kid.

How do you create comfort and warmth in your house?

Continue reading →