Sunday, March 29, 2009

Homemade Lasagna Challenge

Another month.......another Daring Baker's Challenge. This month was homemade pasta....more specifically lasagna. I chose to follow the provided recipe very closely for all components, although you were allowed some flexibility with the sauce used in the layers. Since I know my sauce pretty well already, I wanted to try something new. Making fresh pasta is something I've only done a few times, so this was a pretty exciting challenge for me. It also prompted me to pull out my pasta machine for rolling the pasta. I made the full recipe of pasta even though I'd heard that the whole recipe would not be required. I have a ravioli attachment which will be hopefully anticipating the arrival of any left over dough.

As with other Daring Baker's in this particular challenge, I also found that I needed more eggs than were called for by the recipe. About double in fact. I added 5 eggs (large ones weighing 62g each) before the dough came together well. Kneading also took me longer than the time specified by the recipe. I made a slight change with the Bechamel Sauce and omitted the nutmeg and replaced it with a little garlic. The DH is not fond of nutmeg in pasta and a hint of garlic added some nice flavour to the sauce. I used exactly 1/2 of the dough, and every last bit of both the meat sauce and the white sauce, and used an extra 1/4 cup of cheese.

The recipe fit nicely in my Emile Henry lasagna pan, and I found it to be a totally different lasagna experience than what we are used to. The noodle is much thinner. I rolled down to a 7 on the pasta machine dial which made a sheet thin enough to see your hand through when back lit. It sliced very nicely without making a big sloppy mess in the pan. It was a very nice change of pace and it was well liked in this family.

So here is the pertinent information regarding the challenge.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:


A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hello Spring:)

Doesn't it just look like spring?? Well I didn't think so either as I took my camera with me on the morning walk to school. Would you believe it snowed again....Not much mind you....BUT REALLY!....It's supposed to be melting....not making more......we already have enough.......
Snowbanks like that are not going anywhere very quickly. I have chuckled at people who have taken the time to use their snow blowers on their yard in an attempt to get rid of the snow quicker....but this year.....I'm a little tempted myself. I have never been one to get cabin fever....I enjoy the winter......Christmas for me would be very wrong without snow.....but this one is trying even my patience.
The kids are enjoying the mild temperatures! Warm enough to enjoy the snow play at recess time. And the kids that play soccer and ball hockey on the streets have already been out in shorts. Actually, on this walk to school I spied a kid wearing a hoody and shorts....I should have snapped a photo. But we are all waiting for the big melt! And the signs of it are coming! Doesn't this just look like fun:)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Disappearing Afghan Biscuits

I finally got some corn flakes and was able to try the Afghan Biscuit recipe from the Edmonds Cookery Book last night. It would appear that they are a New Zealand and Australia staple cookie....kind of like chocolate chip over in North America. I had heard of them many years ago, but had never seen a picture of them so I had no idea what they looked like or what they contained for ingredients. The name had never appealed to me as something I never looked any further into it. Well lucky me that my good friend got me this cook book because Afghans are YUMMY! They are an easy, quick bake up too! After making the dough and reading the next direction to fold in the corn flakes.....I was a little bewildered as to how one would fold delicate and breakable corn flakes into a fairly stiff cookie dough. I was extremely careful not to break any more flakes than I absolutely needed to to distribute them into the dough. Perhaps my dough was too stiff?? No idea.....but I will definitely be making these again.....maybe for the next PAC meeting? The little bit of frosting dressed them up just enough to be a presentable baked good too! End of the story is ....loved them....will make them again ....and probably again..... and maybe even again. The batch made 30 cookies as promised by the recipe when using a rounded teaspoonful of dough and when made without the nut topping is suitable for my kid's nut free school:)


200 g butter (about 1 cup), softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups corn flakes
walnuts, optional for topping
Chocolate Icing (See Below)

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and cocoa. Stir into creamed mixture. Fold in cornflakes. Spoon mounds of mixture onto a greased cookie sheet, gently pressing together. Bake 180 C (325 F) or until set. When cool, ice with chocolate icing and top with walnuts if desired.

Afghan Slice

In a hurry??? Press the afghan mixture into a 20X30 cm baking tin. Bake at 180C for 25 minutes or until set. When cool, ice with Chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 tsp butter, softened
2 tbsp water, (approximately)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp cocoa

Sift icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add butter. Add sufficient water to mix to a spreadable consistency. Flavour with vanilla essence.

Update! These cookies disappeared so fast that another batch has been requested...and I've just set out the butter to soften now!
Tried the recipe adding a little more butter. It did make the corn flakes easier to fold into the batter, but I did not like how it made the cookie more crumbly like a short bread. I will stick with 1 cup of butter which made a more brownie like texture. Can't stop eating these:(

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

America's Test Kitchen Apple Glazed Pork Chops

The DH is more than capable of cooking........I know this because he used to cook for me....back when he was trying to impress me that is. Now, apparently...... those skills have atrophied but I think he must be thinking about it (cooking that is) since he records most episodes of America's Test Kitchen and saves ones with recipes he would like me to try. Today was one of those days.......while in the meat department at Costco I got the request to make those good looking pork chops from America's Test Kitchen....You know.......the one with the apple cider reduction. So we picked up a pack of rib chops and went home to see what else we might need. Although the recipe does not say on the show....I assume the vinegar they used was cider vinegar based on the colour of it....although I suppose it might have been malt vinegar too......but we went with the cider vinegar as it really seemed the more logical choice. The recipe got thumbs up from everyone at our house for taste and even an extra thumbs up from me for being a very quick supper fix up indeed. We will most definitely be making these again. Although the original recipe used boneless loin cut by the looks of it....we chose to use rib chops as we felt they would be more tender. I also did not have apple I reduced 2/3 cup apple juice down to 1/3 cup over medium heat.

Apple Glazed Pork Chops

5 pork loin chops (1/2- 3/4 inch thick)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup apple cider
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
pinch cayenne pepper

Rest chops on paper towel to remove all surface moisture on both sides. Cut just through the silver skin in 2 or 3 places to stop the chops from curling up when cooking. Season each side with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium high heat in a 12 inch skillet until the oil just begins to smoke. needs to be smoking hot! Place chops in pan in a single layer. Seat first side 4-6 minutes to get some nice browning on it. Flip chops and brown second sided of chops for only 1-2 minutes on the second side. Remove chops to a plate and cover with a tent of foil for 5 minutes. While chops are resting, mix all glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Pour glaze ingredients into pan over medium heat and give it a little stir to mix ingredients well. Add chops and any liquid from the plate back into the pan with the glaze ingredients. Cook in the glaze and turn to coat chops. This cooking time will only be about 2-4 minutes in order for the chops to reach an internal temperature of 140F. Remove chops from the glaze to rest again tented in foil to keep them warm. Bring glaze to boil and reduce to thicken the sauce. It will become quite syrupy boiling with big bubbles, and the pan will remain visible for a short time after dragging a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. Once thickened, return the chops to the pan and turn to coat with sauce. And you're done. Move to a serving tray and pour sauce over.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Delicious Belgium Biscuits

Another Edmonds Cookery Book Challenge completed! I sat down to find the recipe for Afghans, found that I did not have one of the main ingredients on hand, and switched my plan to making Belgium Biscuits instead. I do want to try the Afghans, but I will need to make a run to the grocery store to pick up some corn flakes first. Until's how the Belgium Biscuits turned out.
They were a rolled mild spice cookie sandwiched together with a bit of raspberry jam and topped with a bit of plain icing....the kind that will firm up and get glassy and hard....yum! The recipe called for mixed spice or pudding spice which I did not have on hand....but I looked up a recipe for that and made some of my own. I found the dough a little too crumbly going by the recipe and ended up adding about 2 tsp of milk to get the dough to hold together well. After that, it handled quite easily. I didn't have any raspberry essence....I'm going to have to look for some now because I do really like the instead, I added a generous spoon of Heather and Andrew's raspberry jam (made with love with my neighbours own raspberries) to the frosting. So far, I am happy with this recipe and I am curious to see what sitting over night does to their texture...that is assuming there will be any left to make it through the night......Well, I know what I'll be having with tea tonight:)
Update: After typing out the recipe I notice that when I made the recipe I glanced up to the recipe above and added the amount and type of sugar called for in the 'basic biscuit' recipe. Oops, this meant I added 3/4 cup of white sugar to the recipe rather than the 1/4 cup brown sugar called for. I will have to try them again now to see what difference it will make. I would expect the brown sugar to make a difference in texture. But.....I will say that after a night in the cookie tin all filled and frosted, I thought these cookies were just perfect. They softened up just enough to not be crumbley when eating them. They were a bit of work, but I will definitely make them again.
Belgium Biscuits

125 g (about 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp) butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cocoa

3/4 to 1 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp raspberry or vanilla essence
a few drops of red food colouring


1/2 cup raspberry jam, approximately

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice, and cocoa together. Mix into creamed mixture to make a firm dough. On a lightly floured board roll the dough out to 3 mm thick. Cut out rounds using a 6.5cm cuter. Bake at 180 C (350F) for 15 minutes or until golden. When cold, ice half of the biscuits. Spread the remaining biscuits with raspberry jam and place iced biscuits on top.

Mix icing sugar with flavouring and colouring. Add sufficient water to make a pink icing of spreading consistency.

If you do not have Mixed Spice, but would like to make your own...try this recipe...

Mixed Spice
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp allspice
2 tsp mace
1 tsp ground cloves

Mix all together and store in a sealed container.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thrift Store Refashioning is a Cool Idea!

From my likeable links menu you can see than Grosgrain is one of the places I like to stop by just to see what is new. I really liked this idea......and since I do like to frequent the thrift shops....and I do mean frequently.......I am feeling a little challenged to give a little project like this a go. I think I might need to go .....right now! Click on the link below to have a look at the lovely job she did with the thrifted dress she found and see the 'before' picture. Absolutely least I think so!
Summer of 69 Thrift Store Refashion Frock GIVEAWAY!!!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yummy Vegan Fudge Brownies

Here is a recipe for brownies that is a little different. It is from the Rebar Cookbook which is a popular Fresh Food restaurant in Victoria. The restaurant offers a variety of healthy fresh choices including soups, salads, and baking which can be vegan, vegetarian...or not... plus they sell some ultra healthy wheat grass drinks which you could not pay me enough to finish. Although extremely healthy, wheat least to extremely unpalatable. While I have eaten at this restaurant, I had not tried these particular brownies. I was actually intrigued by the glaze recipe more than anything and decided to give the brownie recipe a try as well. These brownies are a moist cakey brownie and are very fact I might be tempted to classify them as a snack cake rather than a brownie. They are however, NOT a fudgy brownie (which is my preference)....but that being said.....I would still definitely make them again. I made the recipe using regular margarine and chocolate chips rather than vegan margarine and carob chips, because I was not about to go and buy vegan margarine and I forgot to pick up carob chips. I did pick up some unsweetened soy milk though, and actually did not mind it's flavour at all. Next time I make the recipe I will increase the amount of margarine in the glaze by another 25% so as to come out with a more liquid glaze.
Vegan Fudge Brownies

1 1/2 cups (360 mL) unbleached flour
1/2 cup (120 mL) cocoa
1 1/2 cups (360 mL) brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp (7.5 mL) baking soda
3/4 tsp (4 mL) baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup (180 mL) coffee
3/4 cup (180mL) soy milk
1/3 cup (80mL) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (120mL) walnuts, roasted and chopped
1/2 cup (120mL) carob chips

7 oz (210g) dark, Belgian Chocolate
5 oz (150g) vegan margarine

Preheat oven to 325 F. Prepare a 9" X 9" pan by greasing it and lining it with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together the coffee, soy milk, and vegetable oil. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir to mix well. Stir walnuts into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle the top with carob chips, and bake for 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake on a wire rack.
When the cake is cool, prepare the glaze. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and vegan margarine. Whisk together very thoroughly to get a smooth, rather than a streaky finish. Pour the warm glaze over the cake, smoothing it out over the surface. Place the pan in the fridge to set. Divide the pan of brownies into 12 squares and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Felt Coffee Cozy for a Nice Friend:)

Sometimes friends surprise us in the nicest of ways:) And surprises are just the best....aren't they?? I do get packages in the mail fairly often from taking part in craft swaps. But I didn't expect to get a nice little package from a co-worker after I got let go from work. This lady knows that I collect teacups and saucers and was kind enough to package up one and send it to me. I've had her address under a magnet on my fridge for over a month now....wanting to send her a little thank you note and little something back.......and finally I figured out what I would make for her. I took some of my felted red Melton cloth and made a template from an old Starbucks disposable coffee cozy. I made my template a bit bigger (one inch taller and one inch longer) and went from there. Go to this post for a link to a printable template if you need one.
My first test used needle felting and embroidery to decorate the cozy and finished the top and bottom edge with double fold bias tape. Because I used felt, it was not actually necessary to finish the top and bottom edge, but I thought it added a little contrast. The seam at the back is covered in some embroidered ribbon before applying the bias tape. An even simpler approach would have been to trim all edges with pinking sheers....but that is for another time.
My second attempt was decorated with felt applique (always a favourite for me) and edged with a blanket stitch in a contrasting colour embroidery thread. Rather than sewing the back edge closed this time, I sewed on two buttons which also added some decorative appeal.

This of course started a button hunt to find two matching buttons that were appropriately sized and coloured for this particular cozy. Ike loves the button jar just about as much as I do and the final decision was his. We wanted the buttons to be rather flat so as not to be too obtrusive when holding the cup and when I could not decide between the blue or yellow....Ike decided that they were both good there you have it...all buttoned up and ready to go. Now I just need to write up a little thank you note and I'm done:)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tea and Toast

What do you have when you wake up at 3am and are feeling restless and a little peckish?? Well, for me it was a pot of tea and a piece of toast......cinnamon toast that is. Does anyone make cinnamon toast any more? It was the snack of choice at my gramma's house when I was a little girl. At both gramma's come to think of it. Gramma K would make it with lots of butter melted into hot toast and a good sprinkle of cinnamon and white sugar that would soak right into the buttery toast and turn a delicious shade of cocoa brown. Gramma B would make it also with lots of butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a decadent layer of brown sugar to top it off. I went for years without having a slice of cinnamon toast and just recently have got back into it as one day I was trying to think of a quick snack to make for Ike....... and I realized that Ike had never had a slice of cinnamon toast. (at least not at home) Of course Ike liked it....because...well...who doesn't like cinnamon toast???
And just in case you're interested.....I enjoyed a cuppa tea along with it in my new (new to me that is) cup and saucer compliments of Value Village. Well not complementary mind you....I did pay for it. But a good price ($10), and although I'm not looking to expand my collection at this time I felt the need to own it as it matches this tea set that my mom bought for my birthday while on a trip through Victoria several years back. It is my most often used teapot because it is the perfect size for one or two and I like that the spout does not drip. While the pattern of the teas set is Camellia and Bows by St George China, and the new cup and saucer is Camilla (Yuck) by Royal Albert, the decal is identical (mind you without the bows). I also bought another cup and saucer that was so very pretty but obviously had a severe issue as when I pinged just went thud. On very close inspection there was in fact a very long hairline crack. End of the story is, after much discussion with the store manager who was not satisfied that there was anything wrong with the cup and saucer until he could see the crack, he sold it to me for $2 instead of $20. You'll be seeing that cup and saucer shortly in another post.....I hope.

Well it's morning now and breakfast was a toasted Bacon, Tomato, and Cheese sandwich for Ike (with a bit of Miracle Whip and salt and pepper) and a toasted English Muffin sandwich with cheese and bacon for me. Yum! We ate our breakfast at the table and looked out at this. Doesn't it just look like spring??? Oh it's coming!.....There are buds on the trees already.(really!, enlarge the photo and you'll see) we have 7 more days to get rid of this snow....easy peasy:0 As a point of reference regarding snow depth.....the small circle directly in front of the long line of cedars is our bird bath.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Moist Carrot Muffins

It's time for another PAC meeting ALREADY!....and that means more baking! As I already said, I've pretty much reached the end of my rope at coming up with something new to bring....or at least things I really like. And then I remembered this recipe. My uncle Kenny in Victoria makes these and they are very good. He serves them as a plain muffin, and they are very good on their own......but what carrot cake couldn't be improved by a little dollop of cream cheese icing....I just knew you'd agree:) So here's the recipe if you'd like try it or if you find yourself with a few extra carrots. The recipe for the frosting is coincidentally from uncle Kenny's Auntie it's kind of a family effort. I almost made Auntie Pat's Pumpkin bars (as muffins) instead....but I think I'll save that for another meeting.

Uncle Kenny's Famous Carrot Pineapple Muffins

2 cups crushed pineapple with juice (not drained)
2 cups grated carrot (about 4 carrots grated on the small holes)
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all of these ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

In another large bowl mix all dry ingredients together. Dump in the previously mixed wet ingredients into the dry, and mix just until more. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter and bake 25-30 minutes at 350 F. Makes 30 muffins. I made this batch using 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour and it turned out fine.

Auntie Pat's Yummy Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz package of cream cheese softened
3/4 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp light cream

Cream the cheese and butter. Whip in the sugar, vanilla, and cream. Spread on cooled baking.

So here they are all ready to go and will a few extra that wouldn't fit into the container to leave at home too:)

Monday, March 9, 2009

It was a Lovely Lellow Weekend

We had a lovely (although mostly indoor) weekend....partly due to the fact that Ike is suffering from a bit of a cold, which we are slowly succumbing to....and partly due to the little cold snap we are experiencing here. It gave us time to work on some model building, and some pizza making...both things that Ike likes! I took the opportunity on Saturday to go into town for some groceries and made a quick stop into the thrift it happened...there were a few things with my name on them....and they all seemed to be yellow (or lellow as Ike said back when he was 1 1/2 years old). The yellow sheet is brand new and has been added to my vintage sheet pile. I have a project in mind for them and have been collecting them for a few months now....more on that a little later! I was also pretty pleased with the little yellow Royal Albert Pin dish and........ well, all of it actually....or I guess I would have left it in the store:) Later on we juiced some fruit (another one of Ike favourite activities) because we had a mango which was getting too soft to eat......and it was lellow too...well kind of anyway! Yummy mango, strawberry, pear and apple juice.......Ike figured it was just the right combination to fight off those pesky cold germs!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Valentine Apron Swap...Vintage Style

I have now taken part in two crafting swaps organized by Aunt Pitty Pat over here. This was for a Valentine Themed apron swap. Since my apron...(I'm hoping has arrived at it's destination by now) I can post a picture of the one I made. I used the pattern from the book A is for Apron of this vintage style "Lorelei" apron. I have always been intrigued by vintage apron patterns, and there are quite a few vintage knock offs in this as I was buying groceries one day......the book just leaped into my cart.....and I didn't kick it out. I have found the lack of proper patterns in the book to be quite frustrating to say the least. It is not an easy task to enlarge a standard book page by 400%, and at least with this pattern there were no alternate suggestions to otherwise size alter the apron. I was so looking forward to this swap because I like apron making....but never imagined it would be difficult to find seasonal prints. Now why this should have come a shock to me is surprising really since our only fabric (chain) store closed in January due to leasing issues. I would have also thought that Walmart....which usually has a pretty good selection of cottons would have brought in some valentine such luck. As a last resort I tried the mildly over priced quilting shop in town to find out that they had only one Valentine print in.....and I didn't care for it at all:( So I was forced to go with Valentine colours alone. I ended up with a very cute rosebud print and a coordinating pink fabric.....but finding suitable binding and rick rack also proved to be somewhat of a problem. I ended up with some that worked out OK and ahead I went. Only to experience a jam in the sewing machine the likes of which I have not encountered in quite a long time...thank goodness! I ALMOST thought I had to buy a new machine. It took about an hour of frustration to be able to figure out the problem I had changed the needle after the jam and put in the wrong kind of needle!!! I changed the needle again and all was right:) ..............and I got it done and in the mail just in the nick of time. On the positive side of things.....I have enough left over fabric to make the apron again using the fabrics in the opposite it will be pretty darned pink.....and maybe that's OK too??? It might be perfect to match these little cuties.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chai Tea Latte at Home

Hard to believe it's March already:0 but here we are! It really feels like all my recent posts have been predominantly about food... so I will make a conscious effort to post some more crafty things over the next few posts. But until then, have a drink on me.

I have been known at times to appreciate the pretentious atmosphere of the local Starbucks certainly just as well as the next sheep. But not being a coffee drinker limited me to steamed milk for quite some time....but after a while they offered (or at least I noticed that they offered) the tea lattes. I had been served chai tea many years ago when visiting the home of one of my university professors. They steeped regular Tetley Orange Pekoe teas along with one cinnamon stick, 5 green cardammom pods, and 3 whole cloves. It made a nice lightly spiced Chai which was as close to how tea was made 'back home' for them. I found it quite enjoyable as it was not overly spiced as many Chai Teas available here can be. At the time I did not realize that this was Chai Tea as Chai Tea was not being sold here is as much variety as it is today. Every now and again I will make a pot just as my professor did.........but now I've been turned on to the Chai Tea Latte, and the Matcha Tea Latte, and the London Fog....all of which can be easily and much more cost effectively made at home. Today I made myself a Chai Tea Latte....and it was equally as good as Starbucks if I do say so myself and $4 cheaper. I used the grocery store brand which I happen to like as it's a bit chocolaty and not overly spicy. It's absolutely amazing to me the amount of money people will deem to be 2 visits a week that's $440 per year for one person....yikes! Compared to the one I can make at home for less that $0.50 and all those paper cups and sleeves not going to landfill.....I think I'll make my own. Don't get me wrong......a few times each year I do enjoy the chance to soak up the atmosphere with a friend....but I'd have to have more money than brains to do it regularly........

Chai Tea Latte

6 oz skim milk
1 bag chai tea
1 tsp vanilla syrup

Heat milk and tea bag in a small sauce pan over medium heat just until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat, remove bag and pour steeped milk into your cup. (My china mug is from a local thrift store) Add vanilla syrup and enjoy:)

If you don't happen to have vanilla syrup around.....and it's actually quite weird that I had some, you could make you own simple syrup solution and throw a vanilla bean in it to steep and make enough to use in the future, or just sweeten the tea with a tsp of sugar (to taste) and a splash of vanilla extract.