Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Halloween is finally here! Ike was so excited....when he woke up he said 'It's time to get's a big day today' Ike waits all year for Halloween with just as much anticipation as Christmas. Last night was the big Kids Halloween party put on for children of the Pulp Mill employees. There are always carnival type games to play, inflatables to jump in, and treats and drinks to be had. Each year one of the most exciting carnival games for Ike is a chance to win a pumpkin. Each child takes a seat on one of 16 numbered chairs....and a wheel of fortune is spun to see which chair is the winning chair. Ike spent an excessive amount of time trying to win a pumpkin this year and finally got one to take home:) He is carving it up with dad right now.....picture to follow.

Well Ike was is a big day with lots to do. After pumpkin carving, there will be some baking to do, supper to make, a big clean up from sewing and cooking projects, house and yard decorating, dressing up time, trick or treating with friends in a new neighbourhood this year.......followed up by fireworks at another friends home. Good thing it's on a weekend this year! Happy Halloween everyone:)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pilaf, Pork Chops and Snow

When I got up this morning....I was in for a bit of a surprise! There was snow.......falling.......and the clusters of snow flakes (snowballs if you will) that were falling were 1/2 inch across. At that rate we'd have 6 inches of snow by noon. It is unusual here to have snow here on the ground on Halloween. Some years we do.....but most years we don't. Our snow doesn't tend to come to stay until much later though and I am hopeful that this crop will melt off before we are fully committed to winter.
The snowy walk into school with Ike this morning was gorgeous....I should have brought my camera and you could see that all the kids were super excited to be playing in the snow. Halfway there I called back to Ike...."Do you think the snow is damp enough to be good for snowballs???" My answer grazed off my shoulder and rolled to the ground in front of me. Perfect snow for snowballs!
It has been a busy time here getting Ike's costume ready, finishing swaps, and keeping up with the usual home and school commitments. Last night had to be a quick supper and I decided to make the America's test kitchen pork chop recipe I posted about here. Again they turned out fabulously and are now a family favourite. To go along with them I made auntie Lucille's Rice Pilaf and although I thought that I had previously posted the recipe......I could not find it here it is in case you'd like to try it.

Aunt Lucille's Rice Pilaf

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 envelope (about 2 tsp) of chicken soup base
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme
1 cup rice (uncle Ben's Converted)

Melt butter over medium heat and cook onions, celery until translucent. You may also add in chopped peppers and mushrooms as I did this time if you like. Add all remaining ingredients except the rice. Bring to a boil. Add rice, stir and turn down to a simmer and cook with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove lid, stir and cook about 3 minutes further with the lid off.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Halloween is sneaking up on me again......Just like it does every year. Today I simply must finish sewing my son's top and bottom for his Halloween costume in order to not get too stressed out over the whole thing. He has instructions to give me hell if it's not done when he comes home from school.....which is appropriate since he will be a little devil this year:)
Yesterday, I finished up the Baker's Challenge just in the nick of time so at least that is out of the way. Now, two more quick swaps to get in the mail and I'm done for a bit. Anyway, here is a photo of the Annie doll......well part of her anyway. She has now arrived to my partner in Brasil just in time for Halloween! She is dressed up for Halloween this year as a black cat. She has a warm fleece black top and bottom with tail attached....because Halloween is a bit chilly here. Hmmm she may be a bit over dressed for Halloween in Brasil.
The Halloween apron swap arrived back in Ontario for my partner as if I can only figure out how to turn the photo right side up........I'll have to come back and fix this.....but you get the picture!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


When I quickly glanced earlier this month and saw that Macaroons were on the agenda..... I said 'Yum...nothing wrong with that' . Some time after, I purchased a big bag of coconut in anticipation of the challenge. A little after that, I sat down to read through the instructions and discovered that the recipe this month was actually for French Macaroons which contain no coconut, but instead contain powdered almonds. After looking at the photos as well, it dawned on me that I had just seen these pretty little cookies on someones blog just a few weeks ago in beautiful tinted shades filled with delicious looking filling. Now I wish I could just find that blog again. Oh well, I'm sure in a few days I'll find it again. Well, now I am really intrigued to try these cookies which according to the ingredients seem to be a version of an Italian wedding cookie or Ameretti cookie a little more leaning towards the meringue though. Since I love almond flavours and especially Ameretti cookies (it's the best part of an Italian wedding in my books) I was very much looking forward to this challenge, I was not disappointed......not at all:)
Without more delay......The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe. Have a look here to view other challenge results......and yes that is a new cup and saucer.....I realize I have a problem:(
My attempts yielded some experimental mishaps and unintentional snacks as I figured out the proper size and spacing required for the given baking times. The time required until beginning to become golden was a little more difficult to judge as I had added cocoa and vanilla bean sugar to the batter. A quick filling with some milk chocolate ganache and they were complete. In the end it was not as time consuming as I has thought it would be, but for the next go around, will definitely get the proper size piping tip and go with parchment over silpat. After several batches....some of which had a bit of sticking issues, I discovered that it was the undercooked batch that stuck, and that the silpat offered no real advantage over the parchment in this application. I eventually did learn to identify the slight browning called for as a signal that they were done....and at this point in sticking issues. After all that trial and error...and eating my mistakes....I can say that I enjoyed each and every degree of doneness.....whether over or under baked....and with all the limitless flavouring options....I will most certainly be trying these again. Next time I may look for the almond flour rather than processing my own as it might just give them more height. The recipe that follows is quite simple and really worth giving a try!


Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t over fold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Vintage Teacup and the Texas Sheet Cake

Things have been busy...yes they have. But not so busy that there is no time for Ebay, Etsy, and baking. Yesterday I got a sweet package in the mail. It was a lovely cup and saucer I purchased to give to a friend. This friend likes black cup and saucer sets and when I spied this one on Ebay I knew it would be perfect for her. And if it isn't....then it's perfect for me. There is always a moment of trepidation when you unwrap china that has come by post. You have to hope that the seller has truly inspected the item for damage before shipping, and that Canada Post has not dropped the item 16 times on the way to the door. As I pulled the cup from it's bubble wrap coat, and gave the edge a little made a beautiful pinging sound telling me that it was perfectly fine. Sadly the saucer made a dull thud when I tapped it..... Well.....I spent the better part of 30 minutes trying to find the crack that I knew must be there.......and eventually I found it. The seller refunded me 50% of the sale price of the set....and none of the shipping. I'm not certain how I am supposed to feel about that, as I would not have bought the item if it was described as having a crack.....but from the sellers perspective, he is taking my word that the crack exists, and it is better than nothing. Now I have another set to add to my damaged collection which is good for kids tea parties at least.......or it could become a pin cushion like this one:) I really wish sellers would take the second it takes to ping their china before wrapping it up to send. It would save everyone a lot of grief:(

As I mentioned, I also made time for some baking as well. I had received a recipe from a recipe swap that I wanted to give a try and last night was the night. I found it to be an interesting method, and really liked the cake it produced. Very moist and fairly dense cake. Very delicious with a glass of cold milk or a cup of hot tea.....or even coffee if that's your thing. Give it a try....I think you'll like it!

Texas Sheet Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda

Sift all the above together and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan place:
1 cup water
1 cup butter or margarine

Bring water and butter to a boil and remove from heat. Add the sifted flour mixture to the pot and stir well.

Add to the pot:
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour cream
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat thoroughly and bake in a greased sheet cake pan (10" X 15") for about 25 minutes at 350 F. (Until toothpick in center comes out clean)


1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup cocoa
6 tbsp cream or milk

Heat above icing ingredients in a saucepan to simmer. Remove from heat and add 1 lb of icing sugar (confectioners sugar or powdered sugar). Beat smooth with mixer. Spread on hot cake and sprinkle with 3/4-1 cup crushed pecans if you like. My husband won't eat them so I didn't put them on...but I would like them I think.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mom & Dad Make Sauerkraut

The fall is one of my very favourite times of the year for many reasons.........................and one of those reasons is Sauerkraut. Mom and dad were busy making a big batch which they will freeze up in margarine containers or freezer bags to put up Sauerkraut for the year to come. Home made Sauerkraut has to be one of the very easiest things to make so it should not intimidate you at all. And if you like Sauerkraut................home made is miles and miles better that anything you'll find in the grocery store. I'm looking very forward to a few bags of Mom and Dad's best.......making it out this way on Dad's visit next month. There always seems to be food in dad's suitcase on every visit. It must be a mom thing:)
Very few simple ingredients make it nice and easy and of course it's nice to have someone to help and make it. Having a proper slicer makes the work a little quicker.....but it isn't absolutely necessary.
Once the cabbage and onion are grated, it's a simple process to layer them up the crock with some salt and seasonings. Give it a little pressing and continue on.
Once you've finished you'll need a small plate and a heavy weight to keep it all submerged. Then it needs to rest and work its magic. See....easy as Sauerkraut........which is much much easier than pie:) If you'd like to give it a try you can try the recipe below which was graciously provided by mom and dad. Once this is done, it makes a fabulously easy meal baked in the oven with pork chops or sausages buried in Sauerkraut.....Yum! Thanks for the recipe MOM!

Mom's Sauerkraut

1 4 gallon crock, rinsed carefully in warm water and dried, must be clear of any soap residue
1 sturdy glass pint or preserving jar for pressing kraut
10 lbs mature, firm cabbage (winter or summer) fine shred (about 8 med solid heads)
8 medium size cooking onions, fine slice
1/2 cup coarse pickling salt
2 tablespoons pickling spice in cheese cloth pouch, prep, set aside
2 tablespoons whole allspice in cheese cloth pouch, prep, set aside
3 whole bay leaves, interspersed through crock


Choose mature, firm heads of cabbage. Remove two/three outer layer of leaves down to a clean cabbage head. Quarter cabbages and cut out core. Shred cabbage finely on a large old style grater (see photo) or put through processor if you have the kitchenaid (fine) shredding disc. This disc is a separate purchase and does not come with the appliance. You will be shredding cabbage intermittently as you layer it in the crock.
Fine slice the onions, set aside on a tray.

Begin by putting down a 3 inch layer of shredded cabbage. Place both pouches of pickling spice and whole allspice on top. Sprinkle sliced onion, add a three inch layer of cabbage, sprinkle a tablespoon of salt over top, then apply pressure and twist the bottom of your jar on the cabbage to create moisture (see photo) you will see the cabbage is moist on the surface.

Repeat this process with sliced onion, another 3 inch layer shredded cabbage, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, and then firm pressure on the cabbage, push and twist the bottom of the jar. You may have about 7 to 8 layers which should end at about 4 inches from the top of the crock. (be careful with the salt as it has to last through all layers. Lay the bay leaves randomly at different levels as you fill the crock.

When crock has been filled, invert a heavy plate over the cabbage and fill and cap a gallon glass jar with water to be placed over the plate. Cover with a clean tea towel over top. The water jar will hold the cabbage down and allow the fermentation process to release water up and over the cabbage. For safety, place the crock into a large tray to catch any spill (which is not too likely). The water may climb close to 1 inch from the top but at this point will begin to recede down slowly until you do not see liquid from the top at all. The crock should be kept in a room at about 60 degrees F. or even a few degrees lower. At a higher temperature the sauerkraut will ferment sooner, but the quality will be inferior.

During the fermentation process, residue will form on the surface for the first week. It should be removed with a clean spoon every other day as needed. Gradually there will be less and less residue. The cabbage will require 2 to 4 weeks for fermentation depending on room temp. When fermentation has ceased (approx 3 weeks) you will notice that the liquid has descended down below the cabbage. This sauerkraut can now be consumed. Even though it is very fresh, it makes a nice side salad with a few drops of oil and a splash of vinegar.
To store simply fill a plastic container (e.g. clean margarine container) fit securely with lid, label the year and keep in the freezer. Stored this way, they have have kept very well for four years without any appearance of freezer burn.

Hint: when using one container from this batch, place it in the saucepan, cover kraut with water and bring to a boil. Drain off this water which will remove any excess salt and it is ready for preparing a meal.

As sauerkraut is so complementing to pork, you can brown up a few fresh pork chops or some smoked spareribs, lay the meat singly over oblong bake ware, spread the sauerkraut over the top of the meat, sprinkle two/three tablespoon water over, cover with foil. Bake 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs. till fork tender. This is delicious comfort food along with some crusty fresh bread. I can almost taste it as this was a family favourite as a child growing up.

Also forgot to mention that a tried and true tradition in the Ukraine is to put about 7 whole apples randomly through out the layering. I wish I had remembered in time. Maybe I can sneak a couple carefully in. The apples pick up amazing flavour and are used as a side with the sauerkraut meal. I neglected to do this. I remembered as an after thought.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Sewing Projects

These are two of the crafting projects that left house this week. Being out of commission for a week sort of created a bit of a panic as many project deadlines were coming up......but I managed to get them out in the mail....just on time....I think. Above is a felt ornament for an outdoor themed swap, and below is a peak at a Halloween Apron swap that should now be at it's new home.

The Halloween apron swap turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated as we have no more major fabric store in town. In the end I had to go with Halloween colours and a little applique to convey the Halloween theme. I also got to use my A is for Apron pattern book one more time. So now I've tried two aprons from the book. I really liked this particular pattern and really liked it in these Halloween much so that I may make just one more:) There is also a Halloween themed Raggedy Ann doll on it's way to Brasil now which was more fun than I'd thought it would's been pretty busy here....that's for sure!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicken Pho Challenge

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. I ended up running late on this month's challenge mostly because of an terrible sinus infection that is now considerably better, and then might have just squeaked the challenge through on time were it not for the fact that I could not find star anise seed here in any of the grocery stores. It took a trip to the Chinese Store to accomplish that here we a little late....but better late than never. Please take a moment to check out some other Daring Cooks.

I was interested by this month's challenge as I really like Vietnamese food. I liked the idea of the 'noodle bowl' assembly of the soup, and liked all of the ingredients. In the end I will say that it was OK...but not my favourite soup. I found it to be not as flavourful as I had hoped....and this may be due to the fact that I did not start from scratch to make my own chicken stock. I also could not find the wider rice noodle that was called for in the recipe, which would have given the soup more bite, and I may have added too much cilantro. Although I love cilantro, I even found the flavour too overpowering. Now I am curious to try this soup in the Vietnamese restaurant so I can figure out what went wrong for me so I can try it again.


For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)


2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


  1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
  2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
  4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
  5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
  7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
  8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

To Get to the Other Side of Course!

Yesterday was a busy day here as I had some errands to run down town and a school assembly to attend after lunch. As I scurried to finish my errands to be back in time for school, I did stop here and there to admire the scenery on the way. This little fellow was on the side of the road....patiently waiting to cross. I pulled over, backed up and snapped a photo from the safety of my car. He had a bit of purpose to his gate, so this was the best I could do.
A few minutes later, quick walk into the school yard showed more evidence of fall in the air. The leaves are turning and beginning to pepper the ground.
Kids are still out enjoying the fall play time...but it is getting close to the time to haul out the winter wear. My next project on the list is to knit Ike some mittens. He has requested some wool ones as his winter ones are a bit too heavy for this time of year.
I found Ike and some friends gathered around this brash little guy who was pecking at all the dandelion seed left on the ground. They have named him Boo.......I think because all the kids have Halloween on the brain now. Now I need to seriously begin thinking about Halloween too........lots to do....lots to do!