Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Bracelet you can Count On!

An Abacus type of  counter bracelet  for counting knitting rows or crochet rows or for weight watchers points or what ever you please, was one of the more recent swaps I signed up for with Swap-Bot.  I had my beads already picked out before the partners were even assigned........and then I read that my partner had a preference for neutral colours.  I guess the aqua and red beads will be set aside to make one for myself.  No matter....I found this assortment of what I consider to be fairly neutral beads and this pretty rose quartz focal bead and went about my way to plan this counting bracelet.  I decided to make it of flexible jewelry wire and a toggle clasp.  You can also make these out of elastic cord or leather cording....but I think this way looks a little more like jewelry.  I decided to go with a toggle clasp rather than a lobster clasp since I find them much easier to do up by yourself.  I also included a second large ring on the non toggle end to allow for a bit of flexibility in sizing.  If I had known the wrist size of my partner before making this I would not have needed to do this step......but I wasn't thinking very clearly and as I was stringing this together it dawned on me that some adjustment for sizing might be a good thing.  So it was kind of a last minute thing:) 
Want to make one??

You'll need:
  • 40 inches of flexible (accu-flex or other brand) beading wire
  • a clasp of some sort...lobster,  C ring, toggle etc.
  • 9 large beads (8mm)
  • 9 small beads (5mm)
  • 6 tiny beads (2mm)
  • some small coordinating beads (3-6) optional
  • a focal bead
  • 5-8 crimping beads (that includes a few extras)
  • A small (5 inch) piece of beading elastic
  • crimper and wire cutter

Take your beading wire and gently fold it in half.  Don't squeeze the fold don't want to stress the wire. Slide your toggle end over one of the cut ends of the wire and slide it down to the  mid way mark where your fold in the wire will be.  Take the two cut end of the wire and feed them both through a small coordinating bead (I used a 2 mm silver bead in my example)
Next slide on two crimper beads over the two wires as with the previous bead.  Leave enough wire running through the toggle end to have a relaxed loop (don't make the wire loop that holds the toggle too small....the toggle should be able to flop about a bit) . Crimp your crimpers.
Now feed through your focal bead also running the two wires through the bead.  Follow the bead  up with two more crimper beads (also run both wires through) and crimp them.
Next add a coordinating small bead if desired. Now the wires will be beaded separately. String one strand with 10 large beads and the other with 9 small beads. And now it's time to treat them as one wire again and run both wires though a small coordinating bead, then two crimpers, then another coordinating bead and then trough your final toggle fitting.
Adjust the two wires to make sure their lengths are even for both strands, and then make a loop (with both strands) running the two wires back through any coordinating beads and on through the two crimper beads.  This is the time to check you final bracelet length.
Once the length is right, crimp the two crimper beads and trim the two wire ends close to the crimper beads.  So you will have two wires making the loop around the final clasp fitting, and four wires running through the last coordinating beads and into the two crimper beads. You should also make sure that on that final crimping that the double wire loop on the very end (which holds your clasp fitting) is again just loose enough to allow the fitting to flop about.
The last step is to take your length of beading elastic and make your little ring that will mark your place on your counter.  String as many beads as you need (try 5-6) to make a ring that will hold it's place when beads are on either side.  It will need to be small enough to stop one of the single small beads.  Once you have the right number of beads on you elastic...bend it around both wires and tie it off with a square knot.  I also took a hot match and melted the edge of the knot so it couldn't loosen.

Note:  You will want to make certain that your large and small beads can fit on their wires withour being crowded.  For example, when you have counted 9 rows....all the small beads will be on one side of the marking ring  and all the larger beads will be on the other side of the marking ring.  Make sure they all fit without crowding before finishing off.
To use the bracelet:
  • The focal bead marks the start. Bring all beads towards the focal bead with the ring marker at the far end.
  • Move one of the smaller beads (the 1's beads) through the ring each time a row is completed.
  • Once you have moved all nine small beads though  the ring, your next move will be to bring all the 1's beads back to the beginning and slide one of the 10's beads through the ring.
  • Then you continue to move the 1's beads through until all nine are through and your next move will be to return all the 1's to the beginning and move another 10's bead through the ring.....and so on.
  • The bracelet in the photo is showing a count of the beads on the other side of the marking ring and way from the focal bead are the ones in use....this bracelet counts to 99.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tiramisu and the Lonely Trifle Bowl

I have had this pretty trifle bowl waiting in it's box for over 15 years now, and finally it has had its inaugural use!  I was pretty impressed with myself that it only took 10 minutes for me to unearth it  from the basement still in its original packaging no less.
The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.
I was pleased as punch when I read what this month's challenge was to be.  Tiramisu is something I like, but have never made.  There is a restaurant here that makes a most excellent Tiramisu and the DH is sure to ask for it every time we go there.  It is quite popular and can be 'sold out' as has been the case for poor DH many times.  Well lucky him......he's about to enjoy his own personal serving (for 6).  The many components of the recipe proved to be a slight bit tedious, especially when you consider you were to make roughly 1/3 cup  each of marscapone cheese, and zabagloine and 1 cup of pastry cream.  I like the fact that all the components were made from scratch.....but I think I might have had more satisfaction in making it all in larger quantity..........that being said......I had no idea what to do with 3 one would have to do for now.  I flavoured the recipe as suggested with the exception of the zabaglione in which I used a German White wine and orange zest rather than the Marsala and Lemon Zest. To finish the top, I sprinkled with powdered instant coffee and squiggled on some melted chocolate.

I was beginning to wonder if the final recipe size was going to be miniature as well.  Not to sorry though, it all worked out ok....although I did need to make a second batch of lady fingers (which are ridiculously good) to have enough to complete the recipe.  If real 'ladies fingers' tasted this good we'd be in a lot of trouble!  

All in all, this was a most delicious challenge that will most likely be made again.  I think my Trifle Bowl will be very popular now!  I also seriously enjoyed that the challenge prompted me to drive out to the health food store and buy some proper cream.  Wow....what a difference in the cream without all the yucky carrageenan, cellulose gum, and cellulose gel..  Nothing but the fresh clean taste of cream and the added bonus off thickened cream in the cap....OMG how good is that?

Now if only I had company coming for dinner........Wanna come?

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk
For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder
For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.
To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.
(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.
(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,
Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Who Gets a New Pair of Red Olympic Mittens??

Thanks so much to everyone for stopping in and for entering my little give away.  It was fun to do another Giveaway after so long......stay tuned next month for my 2 year Blog anniversary Giveaway!
This morning comment number 64 was selected using Random.orgs random number generator.  Congratulations momtoem your mittens will be leaving in the mail on Monday morning provided I have a mailing address by then.

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2010-02-27 16:49:20 UTC

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ever Root an African Violet?

Friday night we hit up a friend to stay with Ike while DH and I did a few shops and stopped for a bite to eat.  I NEEDED to stop at Michael's to pick up some worsted weight wool yarn......only $3 per 200m ball (who could blame me) and to pick up some new colour of size 3 crochet thread for an up coming swap-bot project.  But I point to share with you is that while stopping at a home reno store, I made a quick stop in the gardening section.  I wanted to see if they had any gloxinias.   (They did not:)  I have not had a gloxinia in over 10 years, but it is a plant that reminds me so very much of my gramma K and I have been feeling the want for one lately.  That's my gramma's farm in the photo above.  Her farm house was filled with plants....when Gramma died, I can even remember some of my cousins while carrying her coffin commenting on how heavy it was and wondering if she had taken all her plants with her.  I totally smile when I think of that comment as she would have loved to take them with her......I'm certain of it.  Gramma loved flowers and there are a few that stand in my memory of her as being  the flowers that defined her.  She loved white flowers and would be drawn to them over other more colourful varieties.  Gloxinias, African violets, ferns, and Christmas cactus is what I remember most about her indoor flowers, and for the outside there were lilacs, peonies, Iceland poppies, Daffodils, Dahlias, Flocs and Sweet Williams. When I was little (and even now) I thought gramma's flower garden was the most beautiful place on earth.  Gramma's farm was filled with lilac bush tunnels, jungles of rhubarb, an interesting huge rain water tank (very fun for paper boats), rows of raspberries, forests of Saskatoons, tempting haylofts sometimes bounding with kittens, implement sheds filled with even then antique farm equipment, and beautiful flowering crabs just bursting with over 50 years of growth.
Well Friday night while in the garden section looking for a gloxinia....I did something that my gramma had done a thousand times.  Don't tell anyone, but I pinched a leaf from an African Violet for a little rooting experiment.  Gramma used to do this all the time.  I remember taking her grocery shopping when she no longer drove her car, and being so embarrassed when she would spot a violet or other plant that tempted her.  She would pick it up and comment on how beautiful or unusual the shade or colour was (and how expensive it was)....then she would quickly pinch a leaf from the bottom and carefully wrap it's stem in a wet tissue and place it in a plastic bag to take home to root.  All the while commenting on how this one little leaf would never be  missed and how it was actually good for the plant.  Then she would take it home and let it set in her window in a small glass or jelly jar of water.....patiently waiting for it to root.  When it did root she would plant it in soil and up onto the window sill it would go in a little pot with a margarine container lid or a jar lid underneath.
 Well my little leaf made it home Friday night and after a rough night of the cat swatting it out of its water drink.....I rescued it this morning and replaced the water that Ginger had drank.  It now sits under a protective cat proof glass on my window sill waiting to root.  So this is a tribute experiment to you Gramma:)....let's hope I don't go to jail!
Anyone know how long this should take?  I have no idea what I'm doing here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

French Onion Soup and Quiche Anyone?

I have made quick versions of French Onion Soup before without even knowing that they were short cuts.  I have not made any in some time, so when I was flipping through the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook  (love this book....can't say enough good things about it) that the DH got for me for Christmas and saw the lengthy preparation for French Onion Soup.......I started to wonder what exactly I might be missing.  So......yesterday I set about to try this simple but time consuming recipe.  I will say that I did enjoy the end result.  It had a very rich flavour and was highly populated with beautifully caramelized onions so much so that the soup was almost thick from them. I ended up making 3/4 of the recipe indicated as I didn't think my son would be liking the whole 'onion' thing and I didn't want to be left with a lot of left overs.  I never thought that I could have frozen some.......maybe next time.  It's actually comical that I would like French Onion Soup as an I can vividly recall being forced to eat a whole bowl as a child which I promptly threw up.  Feeling that French Onion Soup on it's own would not be quite enough for dinner......I pondered a bit to come up with a suitable accompaniment.  I settled on a basic bacon and smokey cheddar Quiche.  Perfect....all ingredients that I had laying need to run to the store:)  I used the basic quiche recipe from the Edmonds Cookery Book given me by my good friend since I've been making my way through that book too......I could kill two birds with one stone.  End of story......perfect meal....I used two strips more bacon than called for in the quiche recipe and used smoked cheddar because that's what I had on hand.  I'd make it again for sure.  I have made quiche few times before and do not recall the roux that this recipe has in it.  I think it must help with the setting of the quiche.  In any event it rose quite high then settled upon cooling. I probably should have even removed it from the oven a minute or two earlier as the center seemed set when I took it out......convection always seem to cook quite a bit faster.  Will most definitely make it again as I was very happy with the result.
If you have an afternoon to kill......why not give this French Onion Soup recipe a try?  It isn't difficult, so you can get house work done while it's in the oven for the first few hours, and during the last simmer time too.
French Onion Soup
3 tbsp butter
4 pounds yellow or cooking onions sliced 1/4 inch thick
salt to taste
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
6 sprigs thyme, tied together
1 bay leaf
ground black pepper

French bread, cut 1/2 inch thick to fit in soup bowls
2 cups shredded greyere cheese

Place sliced onions, butter and pinch of salt into a greased (sprayed) large dutch oven.  Cook covered for 1 hour in a preheated 400 F oven on the rack on lower middle position.  Remove from oven and stir onions scraping and onion stuck on sides or bottom.  Return to oven with lid ajar for up to 1 3/4 hours stirring after 1 more hour.  Remove pot and place over medium high heat for about 15 minutes.  This is to allow a brown crust to form on the bottom of the pot.  Turn heat down if the browning is occurring too quickly. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup of water and repeat this process 3 more times. (each time takes about 15 minutes you don't want it to burn!) Now do an additional deglazing with the sherry, after which you will leave on the heat for 5 minutes or until the sherry has evaporated.  Now add the water, chicken broth, beef broth, thyme and bay leaf.  Increase heat to bring to a simmer then reduce it to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes.   You may add additional beef stock if you find the soup is too thick with my husband did.  Discard spices and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Put bread slices in a 400 F oven to toast on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes or until golden, then remove.
Raise oven rack to 6 inches below broiler and turn on broiler.  Fill broiler safe bowls with soup and top with toasted bread slices and shredded cheese. Broil on a baking sheet until cheese if melted and bubbling, about 3 minutes.  What them carefully and make sure that the bread is covered by cheese as the exposed bread might burn from the high heat.  Cool 5 minutes, then serve.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Red Olympic Mitten Giveaway....yep the real knock offs here

 This contest is now closed and the winning entry will be listed Saturday morning.  Thanks to all who participated:)
It has been quite a while since Bloggy Giveaways stopped their quarterly Bloggy Giveaway Carnival......and I sure have missed it.  I've been mulling this one over for some time now, and decided why not now!  We are in the midst of Olympic excitement here in's the one time every two years that I really WANT to watch sporting events on TV.  We have been so pleased here with the performance of our athletes.  It must be an experience of a lifetime to stand on an Olympic podium, see your flag raised and to hear your national anthem play. It chokes me up to watch it at home, so I don't know how they keep it together on the podium.  I'd a baby.....but that's just me.  Would you??

So in support of these Olympic Games I am offering a giveaway of a pair of those cute as a button red Olympic Souvenir Mittens. (Brand New with Tags) They have become the most popular souvenir of these Olympic Games and it isn't hard to see why.  They are sized adult L-XL and will fit most adult sized hands.  This giveaway will be open for the coming week ending on midnight Friday February 26th.  I will randomly select 1 winner from the comments on this post using, and that winner will receive one pair of mittens.  Should the number of comments exceed 100, I will draw a second winner as well.  Winners will be contacted to acknowledge their prize.  If I do not hear back from them within 5 days time giving me their mailing address, a new winner will be selected.  Good luck and enjoy your Olympic Games!

The Rules
  • This giveaway is open to everyone, so it is international
  • You can enter once by leaving a comment on this post saying what is your favourite Winter Olympic event along with a contact email or blog address so you can be contacted if you win
  • If you are following this blog please leave a second comment letting me know for a second entry
  • Comments may be left until Friday night February 26th at midnight
  • Winners will be posted the morning of Feb 27th on this blog
Thanks for playing!

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Sugar Cookies and Cupcake Walks

    It's been a bit of a baking fury here over the last week. We had the Valentine's cupcake walk which saw volunteer parents bring in over 400 cupcakes to the school for the kids to play for. I had fun whipping up some quick and hopefully cute cupcakes to donate to the walk. I had some white cake mix that needed to be used up and jazzed it up a bit by adding 1 tbsp of coloured sprinkles into the batter. (Well..... I thought it looked more fun that way) I substituted half of the cream in my basic butter cream recipe for 1/4 cup raspberry jam and a few drops of red food colouring to add a little more flavour. (If you use conversation heart to top your cupcakes.....put them on just before you need them because they will absorb moisture from the icing)
    It was the usual cake walk rules where you walk around the numbered spots of the circle to music and stop on the nearest number when the music stops and several winning numbers are pulled. This year we changed it up a bit by letting those whose numbers were not pulled to remain in the circle to play again and again, only filling the spots of the winners who had left the circle. Two years running the DH has insisted on creating a music track for the cupcake walk, starting with the 'Cuppy Cake Song' and including all the newest and hottest music.....all edited for bad language. He is the ultimate Cupcake walk DJ, and the kids seem to like his choices. He is really in tough with 5-10 year old music scene:) Through the lunch break we managed to put through 300 players all happy to claim their cupcake prize at the end. The money raised went back to the school to help purchase food supplies that are kept on hand for children who have not brought enough to eat on any given day. We are very lucky to have a very supportive parent community at our school. I had thought about putting a sugar cookie heart into the top of each cupcake rather that the conversation heart I ended up using........but the cookie dough sat ready and waiting in the fridge after I decided to not make this a more time consuming endeavour than it needed to be.
    After the walk was over, I still had this batch of dough that needed dealing with so I did eventually bake them up. Plus it was a good opportunity to use some new cookie cutters I picked up on my last trip through IKEA. I must say...they are pretty darned adorable...there's a moose, fox, bear, hedgehog, snail, and a sweet little squirrel that I'm nuts about! I'm pretty pleased with this inexpensive purchase. It will be well used I'm sure. I absolutely love this sugar cookie recipe too. It is one that come on a package of cheap dollar store Easter cutters many years ago, and have yet to taste a better one.......dollar store....go figure! It's easy, dependable and delicious if I do say so myself. I have made this recipe for years usually changing the icing flavour to match the colour. For Halloween it is usually anise black bats and black cats, vanilla ghosts, orange pumpkins etc. Christmas is the only time I don't use this sugar at that time I always make Egg Nog flavoured Sugar Cookies from a recipe that my good friend Jeannie gave me some time ago. (Also a really good one) This sugar cookie recipe also keeps extremely well and the cookies are kept somewhat soft by the icing. They will keep very well for a week in a tightly sealed tin.........if you can stop eating them that is... Go on...make some they are really good!
    Sugar Cookie Recipe (Right off the Dollar Store Package of Easter Cutters)

    1 cup butter
    1 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp baking soda
    2 tbsp orange juice (although I used mango this time and I think I liked it better)
    1 tsp almond extract (this time I used orange extract since they were coming to school)
    2 1/2 cups flour

    Mix first six ingredients with electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually stir in flour until well mixed. (I use the stand mixer because I'm lazy but you can do it by hand) Chill 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator (it's quite a soft dough) until firm enough to roll out. Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out half of the dough at a time on a well floured board. (turning and re flouring as needed so it doesn't stick) Roll out to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and cut with cutters and transfer to a non stick baking sheet. Scraps re roll very well, just knead in any flour well before re rolling. Always use a nonstick sheet or use parchment or they will stick badly. Bake 6-10 minutes until the edges of the cookies are beginning to get golden. Remove and let sit on cookie sheet 1 minute before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool. Once cool decorate with Sugar Glaze Recipe.

    Sugar Glaze Recipe for Sugar Cookies
    2 cups confectioners sugar
    4 tsp light corn syrup
    3 tsp milk or cream
    1/2 tsp flavouring (use vanilla, almond, orange, lemon or anisette to compliment the flavouring in your cookie or the colouring of the icing)
    colouring optional

    Mix first 4 ingredients thoroughly and spread onto cooled cookies. It will dry shiny and firm and will help to keep the cookies moist. If you are doing multiple colours separate the icing into separate bowls and colour and flavour the icing appropriately. For Halloween we make orange iced pumpkins, anisette iced bats and black cats, and vanilla ghosts. Cover any icing that you are not using as it will dry out. If it does get to thick....add a few drops of water and stir it up well. This amount should cover 1 batch of sugar cookies. Let icing firm up (maybe an hour) before stacking them in a tin. These keep quite a long time ( a good week for sure) in a tightly sealed tin.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Pepperoni Stick Snacks

    We had had a snack similar to these at my mother in law's house several times in the past. They were purchased from a local grocery store so I am not sure what the recipe was......but this is my best guess.

    I make the dough in my bread machine...because I am they really take no time at all. Once the dough is ready, I let it rise until double in bulk......then punch in it down and divide it into 10 equal pieces. Then I roll each piece between my hands to form a long 'snake' of dough about 2 times the length of the pepperoni stick I want to wrap. This time I purchased a 1.5 kg package of pepperoni sticks that were a bit hotter than Ike would have liked....but he seems to be getting used to them now. Next time I will try and find a less spicy brand or I might try it with the honey garlic flavour. The recipe for the dough is enough to cover 5 long (12 inch long) pepperoni sticks, each cut in it makes 10 (6 inch) sticks. As each piece of dough is rolled, I then spiral the dough around a pepperoni stick and set it on a parchment lined sheet ready to bake. If you like, you can give each one a sprinkle with some grated cheddar cheese before baking. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden.
    They are great for the lunch box, or after school snack. Ike gives them two big thumbs up:)
    Pizza Dough for Pepperoni Stick Snacks

    1 cup warm water
    1 tsp honey
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    2 cups all purpose flour (may substitute up to 1/3 with whole wheat)
    2 tsp instant yeast

    For the bread machine, place ingredients in the bowl of your bread machine in the order given and turn on dough mode. You can also make this without a bread machine as for any bread recipe.

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    A Daring Mezze Plate

    The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.
    For this month's Challenge I decided to serve the compulsory homemade pita and hummus with Pastitsio, dolmathes, black olives, and boiled shrimp. I made a smaller batch of Pastitisio than the recipe shown and it all worked out perfectly fine. The Pastitsio recipe is a dish that my boyfriend's mom used to make many years ago, and is good served warm or at room temperature. I almost forgot how much I liked this recipe as I had not made it in many years. The pita recipe and hummus recipe provided were very similar as ones I have made before (only my usual pita recipe has the addition of honey and my hummus recipe has about 1/3rd the amount of lemon juice). I must confess on the hummus, I only added 1/2 the amount of lemon juice called for and stopped adding right there as think it needed no more. This time I did use part whole wheat flour since I usually do not. They were good although I think I prefer all white flour, and we always reheat the pitas in a pan of hot olive oil before serving. It all ended up being a nice and easy preparation for a relaxing Valentine's Day meal with my two favourite boys:)
    To make your own Mezze spread feel free to try these recipes....and make sure to see some other Daring Cooks for some other ideas.

    Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
    Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

    1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
    2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
    2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    a big pinch of salt
    4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
    additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

    1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
    2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
    3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

    Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
    Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

    2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
    2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
    5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
    1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
    2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)


    1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
    2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
    3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
    4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
    5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

    Pastitsio Macaronia Me Feta

    1 lb macaroni or spaghetti boiled in salted water and drained

    7-9 tbsp butter

    3 eggs lightly beaten

    1/2 cup grated cheese, parmesan or asiago

    1 1/2 cup crumbled feta

    salt and white pepper to taste

    1 tsp nutmeg, ground

    12 sheets of filo

    In a pot used to boil the pasta, combine the pasta, butter eggs, grated cheese, and feta. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg and mix with a wooden spoon. In a buttered 9X12X3 inch pan, spread 6 sheets of filo, brushing butter between each layer with a pastry brush. Spread pasta mixture over the filo layers and press lightly down. Cover with remaining sheets of filo also brushing each layer with melted butter. Brush last sheet with butter and score the top with a sharp knife though 3-4 sheets of filo to indicate 9 to 12 servings as preferred. bake in moderate oven (350F) for 30 minutes, or until the surface is crisp. Remove to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then cut and serve on a warm plate.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    A Felt Coffee Cozy for Valentines........or Whenever

    Here is the Felt Coffee Cozy I made for my son's teacher for Valentine's Day. We paired it up with a Tim Horton's Coffee gift card and a nice little valentine from Ike......We hope she will like it. Again I used the little bird......can't get enough of that little bird! This time I've traced out the shape of a paper coffee cozy for you with a slight increase in height........since I like mine a little taller. One day I picked up about a 1/2 meter of Melton Cloth from a thrift shop and brought it home to felt it in the washer and dryer. Since the fabric is woven it has a bit more structure and less stretch in it than if I had used felted sweater scraps. However you can feel free to use felted sweater scraps it that's what you have available since the lining fabric will keep the cozy from stretching out of shape. You can even use craft felt to make this if you don't intend on washing it........but I cannot speak to the sturdiness of it or how long it might last.
    If you use a sturdy enough the felted wool Melton Cloth that I have used (or a felted wool blanket would work very well as well) you really only need one layer. I have only added the lining layer in this case for a more finished look. If you use a fabric lining and you choose to close your shape with will need to use the button hole attachment on your sewing machine to finish the button holes........if you use a single layer of heavy will not need to finish the button holes. If you do use buttons, make sure to choose ones that are fairly flat so they don't make it uncomfortable to hold. When marking button your shape closed, and place your button where you want them to be. Then mark on edge B of your felt, where the center of each button sits. Your button hole will be start at that very point and will move back towards edge C just until it is large enough to allow the button to pass through. Button hole length should equal button diameter. Also mark the center of each button on the underneath layer on edge C.....this is where you will sew your buttons.
    And here is the pattern I used for making felt cozies, along with some decorative little birds if you'd like. The branches are embroidered with 3 strands of cotton floss in a split stitch while the outlining to attach the bird and wing pieces are done with a blanket stitch. There are many other embroidery stitches you might like to try other than the few I have used, on this project so have a look through and chose some others you like.
    Hopefully the pattern below is clear...feel free to leave any questions here if it is not. This pattern should print to fill a letter sized (8 1/2 X 11) paper. The PDF version is here and it will allow you to print the pattern to its proper size. Hope your Valentine is a cozy one! Looking for another quick Valentine project......this is what we made last year for Ike's teacher.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Yoyo Biscuits

    Poor Ike was the only kid to show up for the Parent Advisory Council meeting at the school last night:( He always wants to go since the kids get to use the computer room during the meeting .......and there are usually lots of kids there= lots of fun. Not so, last night....poor kid. In need of a new bake up for the meeting....I decided to try a recipe suggested by a previous blog visitor. I tried the Yoyo recipe from the Edmonds Cookery Book. After glancing at the recipe....I saw that they are very much looking like a short bread cookie, prettied up a bit by joining two cookies with a bit of butter cream. Both the cookie and the frosting were flavoured with custard powder. The custard powder (1/4 cup of it) also provided the cornstarch to the cookie that made me think of short bread. The cookie is a nice shortbread, and the frosting added a bit of extra interest. I found the single recipe made only 14 completed cookies for me instead of the 20 suggested in the recipe, so I made a double batch. I would definitely make these much smaller next time with about 1 level tsp of dough each, to make them easier to eat. We ended up pulling them apart to eat them like an Oreo. I flavoured half of the frosting with raspberry jam and a pinch of red colouring to pink them up. If you like short bread, you will most likely like these, and they are a nice shortbread.

    If you'd like to give them a go, here is the recipe. New teapot set and cup and saucer set from ebay........... and a new pot holder from the thrift shops.........I know.....I need to stop:) So far the consensus from the short bread likers is two thumbs up!

    175 g butter
    1/4 cup icing sugar
    1/8 tsp vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups four
    1/4 cup custard powder

    Butter Filling
    50g butter , softened
    1/2 cup icing sugar
    2 tbsp custard powder

    Cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Sift flour and custard powder together. Mix sifted ingredients into creamed mixture. Roll teaspoonful of mixture into balls. Place on a cookie sheet and flatten each ball with a fork. Bake 180C for 15-20 minutes. When cold, sandwich together in twos with Butter Filling.

    Butter Filling
    Beat all ingredients together until well blended.

    note: I baked at 350F for about 10 minutes, removing once there was a slight goldening on some of the cookies. Bake too long and they will become sandy and dry, so do remove them at the first signs of browning.