Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mrs C's Garlic Toast Spread

Hopefully everyone had a nice relaxing Christmas!  We sure did here.  This is only the second time that we have elected to stay home for the holidays in may years.  We spent a nice Christmas Eve over visiting with neighbours, and had our own quiet Christmas at home...just the three of us.  I managed to find quite a small turkey......small enough for one turkey dinner....plenty of toasted turkey sandwiches....turkey soup.....turkey pot pie....and even a smidge left over yet.  Today I made the soup and pie to use up the bulk of the meat (and my 4th batch of ginger sparkles this holiday....don't know where they all keep disappearing to??).  Along with the soup....while there was not enough time to make buns by the time I thought about it....I did run to the store to grab some nice fresh Scotch Baps to turn into garlic toast.  This garlic spread is from a family friend (Mrs C) who has since passed away.  Many times during the year I find myself pulling out my notebook and making one or another of her recipes.....she was always such a good cook, and a good person.  
Mrs C's Garlic Toast Spread
4 oz softened cream cheese
2 oz softened butter
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3-4 shakes of garlic powder
1 tsp sour cream
pinch of pepper and salt

Mix all together and spread on split buns.  Toast in oven until topping begins to turn golden.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Never too Late for Candy

Last day of work today before the holidays begin:)  And I tried a new candy for this holiday season for Apple Cider Caramels.  They did not disappoint!  They were pretty straight forward to make and are really quite delicious.  I came across the recipe (over at Our Best Bites) while looking for ways to use up the abundance of apples that I had been gifted with. With only a day or two before Christmas there is still time to try out a batch of these may even have all the ingredients waiting in your kitchen??  I'm about to make my second batch today....
Cider Apple Caramels
2 cups apple cider (or good quality apple juice)
1 cup whipping cream, divided
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup corn or cane syrup
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
Simmer 2 cups of apple cider on the stove until the volume is reduced to 1/3 cup.  I measured periodically with glass measuring cup. Set aside to cool.
Line a 8 inch square pan with parchment and grease very lighlty to prevent sticking. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine 2/3 cup of the cream, 1 1/4  tsp cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp allspice and reduced apple cider. Set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/3 cup syrup and cook over low heat to dissolve the sugar, simmer at medium heat until it reaches 234 F.  Remove from heat.
Slowly whisk in cream mixture and 1/2 cup cubed butter stirring until incorporated.
Return to heat and cook to 248F.
Remove and pour immediately into the prepared pan.
Cool completely and cut into 1/2 inch wide logs.  Slice each log into the desired size and wrap in waxed paper.  Keep in a air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Retro Marshmallow Roll

Only a few more days left until Christmas......I can hardly wait for the break.  Although work has been a little less busy due to the fact that most of my customers are winding down and taking holidays spare time has been filled with baking and knitting.  I just finished making my third batch of Ginger Sparkles, a batch of Buckwheat Cocoa Nib Shortbread cookies and also a batch of chocolate cheesecake cupcakes. (All of these I highly recommend as some of my favourites!!)  Last night to add some variety to the baking assortment, I made a marshmallow roll that my mom and grandmother used to make each and every Christmas.  It is unbaked and all is held together with a can of sweetened condensed milk.  I really loved this slice as a kid and it tastes exactly like I remember it.  The original recipe was printed on the back of the Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk label back in the 1940's. (The original recipe called for dates rather than festive cherries....but I like the colour that the cherries bring.)  I was prompted to make it after finding recipes online for Lolly Slice which is very much along the same lines with only very minor differences.  So if you've made Lolly Slice and like that sort of may like this as well.  Go ahead and try'll take you 10 minutes:)  Feel free to make a 1/2 a batch if it seems like too much....that's what I did....but I think I'll be making the other half quite soon.
Marshmallow Roll
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup water
400g package of graham wafer crumbs (malt biscuits would be a very close substitute)
400g package of mini marshmallows
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cups glaced cherries red or green or both
1/2 cup dessicated coconut (optional)
Mix all except the coconut in a mixing bowl until well mixed.  (The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of water to be added in with the milk, but my mother has never made it that way, so I add the water as I am mixing if it needs it.....and this time I did add about 1/4 cup)  Mix with your hands, wetting your hands frequently to stop it from sticking too much to them.   Divide the mixture into five equal amounts and shape into rolls or logs about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  I then rolled mine in the coconut because I think it looks prettier, and wrap in wax paper.  Keep in the fridge for several hour so that they firm up.  Unwrap and slice in 1/4 inch slices as you need them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Need to Make Last Minute Gifts??

Christmas is approaching fast.  It is hard to believe that November is over.  Where did it go in such a hurry???  When December hits......the panic to finish my Christmas shopping always sets in.  If you are like me and like to make at least some of your Christmas presents.....................have a look at this list of links to handmade gift giving ideas.  There is still time!  Most of the things listed below are pretty darned quick....although if I'm in a pinch....not much is quicker than candy.  Above are the cookies for my son's teacher who has her last day this morning......A bit of information my son was kind enough to share with me last night before bed.  Baking is fast.....and when it comes to teachers gifts......a reliable source tells me.....with so many students each year bringing small gifts......consumables are most appreciated. Oh and if you are in Canada....take a minute to stop over at Merry with Children and check out her blog......and her Presidents Choice Gift Card Giveaway.  Thanks for stopping by:)

Knitted Gifts

Sewing Gifts
Crafty Gifts
     -These are all great gifts for teachers, neighbours, or thoughtful hostess gifts.
Gifts from the Kitchen
Favourite Handmade Gifts from Etsy

      Monday, December 5, 2011

      Porcelain Graffiti

      With Christmas coming up, I've been on the lookout for gifting ideas.....and I wanted to give porcelain painting a little try.  While I was in the thrift shops......I picked up a few things to play with.  I figured that the plain white diner mugs at 50 cents a piece were an inexpensive way to give this porcelain painting a try.  Worst case......I've only wasted a dollar.  And quite honestly, I would have a difficult time painting up china of any real value.  I washed them up...good as new... and wiped down the painting area with rubbing alcohol to remove any grease that might stop the paint from sticking.
      And then..............
      • I went to my computer and printed out some words in a font I liked in a size appropriate for the mugs......
      • Then I cut out the words with a 1/2 inch border around then.....
      • scribbled soft lead pencil over the back side of the lettering and taped the wording where I wanted it centered on each mug......
      • And finally traced around each letter with a ball point pen to transfer the pencil lead onto the mugs.  
      • Then, I painted in the lettering with ceramic paint. (I used Deco Art Americana Gloss Enamels) although my preference would have been Pebeo 150....but it is more difficult for me to get.
      • After letting the painted item sit for 48 hours.... it needs to be placed into a cool oven...let the oven heat with the item in it to 325F and bake for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the item cool in the oven.
      Soon we shall see how well the paint adheres to the mug.....and I'll let yo know. Coming up with things to write....seems to be the most challenging part.  Let me know if you have any good ideas.  If you'd like to purchase ready painted china go and have a look at Vandalized Vintage on Etsy...Be warned, that her brand of humor will most certainly be offensive to some, as many of her personalizations are rude, but are meant to be humorous. Keep in mind that porcelain paints should only be used on surfaces not meant to come in contact with food.

      Tuesday, November 29, 2011

      The Mouse Trap

      Making the fruit chutney in my previous post was all so I could try the Edmonds Mousetrap recipe.  For those of you not familiar with I was not.  A mousetrap is a snack composed of some type of spread on bread covered with cheese which may or may not be toasted.  In the case of the Edmonds recipe....the spread was of course chutney, and the snack was in fact toasted....twice.  As per the Edmonds should:
      1. toast one side of your bread
      2. spread the untoasted side of the bread with chutney
      3. top with shredded cheese and minced onion
      4. pop it all back in the toaster oven to melt the cheese
      5. garnish with chopped parsley
      6. salt and pepper to taste
      Now, after trying this....I would recommend using chopped onion greens rather than minced onion as you would get a bit of colour for garnish and a milder onion flavour as well.  All and all, a nice little snack....This is based on the fact that I alone have almost finished my first jar of chutney filling myself with these tasty little snacks.  Ike however does not share my fondness for these.......he's not quite sure of what he thinks of the chutney I think.....perhaps a different spread for him then....

      Saturday, November 26, 2011

      Making a Better Mousetrap

      I was sitting and flipping through my Edmonds Cookery Book wondering what might next be of interest for me to try......when the recipe for mousetraps caught my eye.  I have heard of these......but had no real  clue what they were about.  The recipe called for chutney, of which I had none.......Hmmm....but I did still have 10 pounds of  apples left to do something with....A few more pages flipped and there was the recipe I was looking for.  So......I actually made a chutney recipe just so I'd have a jar to try the recipe for mouse traps.  The chutney recipe was nice though, and made quite a few jars.  Maybe enough to share with the neighbours or for Christmas giving.  More on the mouse traps later......
      Edmonds Fruit Chutney
      2 kg apples peeled, cored and chopped
      500g onion diced
      2 cloves garlic, minced
      2 cups raisins
      4 cups brown sugar
      1 tsp mixed spice or cloves
      2 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
      4 cups (or there abouts) Malt vinegar

      Put apples, onions,  garlic,raisins, sugar, salt, and spices into a large pot.  Add enough vinegar to not cover but leave some fruit above the vinegar.  Cook at a simmer for about two hours, frequently stirring to achieve the consistency of a jam. Bottle and seal.

      Sunday, November 20, 2011

      Chocolate Macaroon and Lemon Cake

      One of my souvenirs from New Zealand was a cookbook.  Books are extremely expensive over there and I had the good fortune to find this book (A Second Helping....More from Ladies a Plate) on sale which brought the price down to a level that was a little more easy for me to swallow.  I will admit to a bit of a cookbook addition.  I sit and read through them over and over again, cup of tea in hand, just staring at the pictures and considering the ingredient combinations.  Regional cookbooks are especially interesting to me.  It is curious how years of regional isolation created and maintained pockets of cultural uniqueness and in turn their regional menus.   So when I found this compilation of New Zealand favourites......I just had to have it.  Here is a recipe that I gave a try.  It turned out quite nice and moist......and I will at some point, make it again.  The yellow layer is noticeably lemon and the dark layer is macaroonish.  Yum!
      Chocaroon Cake
      (slightly adapted from A Second Helping...More from Ladies a Plate)

      Cake Layer
      85 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp) butter (room temperature)
      115g (1/2 cup) sugar
      Zest of 1/2 lemon
      1/2 tsp vanilla
      2 egg yolks (room temperature)
      170 grams (1 1/4 cup) flour
      1 1/2 tsp baking powder
      1 cup milk (room temperature)
      2 tbsp syrup

      Macaroon Layer
      2 egg whites
      2tbsp sugar
      1/2 cup desiccated coconut
      1 tbsp cocoa powder
      icing sugar for dusting top of loaf
      Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a 8 1/2" by 4 1/2" loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment.  Start by making the macaroon mixture first.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gradually beat in the sugar.  Fold in the coconut and sifted cocoa and set aside.
      Cream the butter and sugar til soft, then beat in the lemon zest and vanilla.  Add the egg yolks one at a time beating between additions.  Fold in the dry ingredients (flour and baking powder) and milk alternately to make a soft batter.  Spoon half of the cake batter into the pan followed by half of the macaroon mixture spreading as evenly as possible. Top with the remaining cake batter.  Brush the top of the last cake layer with melted jelly, fruit syrup or corn syrup (any syrup) to help the last macaroon layer stick.  Top with remaining macaroon layer.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cool in tin, then turn out carefully so as not to lose the top macaroon layer.  Sift the top with icing sugar, cut into slices and serve.

      Saturday, November 12, 2011

      Sauced Butterscotch Pudding

      Where I live, the rule of thumb for the first snow fall......seems to be right around Halloween.  Most often, there is not snow on the ground for Halloween, but there can be.  Any time between Halloween and the start of December......we will get snow that stays.  We were quite lucky this year as Halloween night was a beautiful night for trick or treating.  Remembrance Day seemed to bring on the snow and rain.  It really was quite damp and cold....all that slushy snow!  This morning the snow continues and it looks as though the snow may stay.  That will please Ike as construction of the first snow fort of the year is under way.
      The change in temperature brings about a new direction in cooking.  More stews and oven baked dishes......and warm desserts.  I had been thinking lately of baked puddings.....and this recipe has sat untried in my recipe binder for at least 5 years.  Finally last night at 10:00pm I decided I must give it a try.  My suggestion was met with some grumbling as the Chocolate Sauce N Cake version of this pudding is so popular in this house, that replacing it with a new and untried recipe was met with a lot of scepticism.  However since I wanted to try this recipe.....after all of these years.....and since no one else was going to get off the couch to help with it....I made the executive decision to try something new!  It was very good!  It makes a Butterscotchy raisin dotted cake with sauce all in one dish.  Very yummy, served with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream or a splash of pouring cream.  I am expecting the delivery of a large box of apples this morning and I think they might make a nice addition the next time around??  Sort of caramel apple-ish?? A very nice last minute recipe as it uses things you probably have on hand is super quick and easy:)
      If you'd like to give it a try, here it is.....
      Sauced Butterscotch Pudding
      1 cup flour
      1/2 cup sugar
      2 tsp baking powder
      1/8 tsp salt
      1/2 cup milk
      2 Tbsp butter, softened
      1/2 cup raisins

      1 cup packed brown sugar
      1 Tbsp butter or margarine
      1 tsp vanilla
      2 cups hot water
      Measure first 7 ingredients into a bowl and mix.  Turn into a greased 8 " casserole.  In the empty mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, butter, vanilla and hot water until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour over the batter gently, and do not stir it in.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes until sauce is on the bottom and a top crust has formed which is firm to the touch and a bit golden.
      Variations: add 1/2 tsp cinnamon to sauce before pouring over the batter.  Or for a Mocha Sauce: Omit last 4 ingredients for sauce mix.  Mix 2 Tbsp cocoa and 1 cup brown sugar.  Stir 2 tsp instant coffee into 2 cups hot water.  Add to cocoa sugar mixture.  Pour over batter and bake as usual.

      Friday, November 4, 2011

      Dark Mocha Cake- A One Bowl Wonder

      Always on the lookout for something new to try........I found this recipe in an old Fine Cooking magazine.  It promised to be quick, easy, and delicious.  And it kept its promise.  It also stays nice and moist for up to 5 days when wrapped in plastic wrap.  I'll be making this one again.  It's nice on its own.....sprinkled with icing sugar.....with a bit of pouring cream......or warmed with a scoop of icecream.  It's very versatile! 
      Dark Mocha Cake
      10 Tbsp butter, soft
      1 2/3 cups sugar
      2 large eggs, room temperature
      1 tsp vanilla
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
      1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup cocoa powder
      1 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp baking powder
      1 1/2 cups coffee, cooled
      Preheat oven to 350F.  Line bottom of a 9 inch square pan with parchment, and grease and flour pan.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together for 1-2 minutes.  Whisk in 2 eggs, one at a time until sugar begins to dissolve. (about 1 minute of whisking)  Mix in the vanilla and salt and then sift and mix in the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder.  Pour in the coffee and gently whisk until smooth and free of most, but not all of the lumps.  Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth batter with spatula.  Bake until cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs....about 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool 20 minutes.  Run knife around edges of pan and invert onto cake rack, and remove the pan.  Invert again onto a second rack so it is now right side up and cool until just warm.  Serve warm, or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

      Sunday, October 30, 2011

      Finished Object- Leaf Lace Hat

      I don't think that I'm getting nearly as much done this weekend as I'd hoped:(  ....but, my bathrooms are clean, floors mopped, dinner's in the slow cooker, and dough for Halloween party snacks is in the bread machine......and I managed to complete a little knitting project that was hanging around.  This is my second attempt at the 'Foliage Pattern' from this time using Cascade 220 in colour 8908.... a nice aqua.  I was pretty happy with it.....and it seems my neighbour was too.  It now has a new home.  It is a nice little project for gift giving.....there may be more of these on my needles.  Hope your weekend is wonderful and productive!

      Wednesday, October 26, 2011

      Nice & Easy Cookies

      Now here is a quick and easy cookie recipe for when time short.  It's quick, easy, made with ingredients you probably have on hand, and really quite yummy!  I had been thinking the last few days about what kind of cookie I could make that I had not made in a long time. This fit the bill and was pretty quick to boot.  It is a little different, but not so much so that you'll have to worry if some kids won't like them. They are pretty mainstream yummy....and the coffee flavour in them is really very subtle.  It makes a nice soft almost 'cake' like cookie.
      Coffee N Chip Pan Cookies
      1/2 cup butter or margarine
      1 cup brown sugar
      1 egg
      1/2 cup coffee, (cold)
      1 tsp vanilla
      1/2 tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp baking soda
      1/4 salt
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1 1/2 cups flour
      1 cup chocolate chips
      1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
      Preheat oven to 350F  Line 11X17 inch pan with foil and spray with PAM.  Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, vanilla and cold coffee. Next beat in baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and finally the flour.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts if desired.  Spread dough evenly in pan.  Bake 15 minutes until cookie springs back when touched in the center of the pan.  Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.  Slice when cool and store in sealed container.

      Sunday, October 23, 2011

      BBQ Sauce for Gift Giving or Keeping

      Last weekend.....I think I mentioned....we had our neighbourhood pot luck BBQ and I brought over slow cooker BBQ brisket.  It is so easy I am embarrassed to tell you just how certainly does not warrant a recipe.  Take (1) 4 lb brisket and toss it in the slow cooker.  Pour over a half bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce and let it cook for 8 hours on low heat.  (I let mine cook over night while we were sleeping....I'm so lazy) Remove the cooked brisket and shred the meat.  Clean out the slow cooker and pitch out the liquid....there will be a lot of fat released from the cooking and you probably would like to get rid of that....I know I would.  Toss the shredded meat back into the slow cooker along with the remaining half bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce and let sit in the slow cooker on low or a keep warm setting if you have it.  You can add more BBQ sauce if you like it to be more saucy.  Serve on a split roll with coleslaw.  YUM.
      Now this is the BBQ sauce we used.  I have made it in larger batches and canned it along with a few other different flavours to give away for Christmas gifts.  It's a nice gift for someone that you know who likes to grill!  The year we did this for gifts, DH made little wooden crates to hold a row of the four different flavours we made and we printed labels for the tops of each jar with the names of the flavours on it.  This time I just poured the batch into a recycled BBQ sauce bottle and threw it in the fridge.  Oh, and we added a 'saucy' little label....just for kicks.
       Smokey BBQ Sauce 
      (Adapted from a copy cat recipe found on the internet many years ago)

      1 cup ketchup
      1 cup red wine vinegar
      1/2 cup brown sugar
      1/2 cup molasses
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp black pepper
      1/2 tsp garlic powder
      1/2 tsp onion powder
      3/4 tsp liquid smoke
      Add all ingredients to a pot except the liquid smoke.  Bring to bubble and lower heat to simmer for 30 - 40 minutes to thicken the sauce.  If it become to thick, you can thin is out with a splash of red wine vinegar. Once it has been cooked down, stir in the liquid smoke.   Seal while hot in canning jars with the boiling water batch method to keep for long periods or for gift giving......or keep bottled in fridge for immediate use.

      Monday, October 17, 2011

      Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

      The chill is in the air now, although the sky is bright and clear, and leaves are falling without the assistance of the breeze.  It has been beautiful autumn weather for long walks, mugs of hot chocolate, sweaters and scarves, and warming fires.  This weekend, we did all of these......I only wish that the weekend could be longer!  
      To finish out the weekend, we had our annual outdoor pot luck block party.  We had a good turn out with good food and drinks, and best of all....a warm fire.  It was a good opportunity to use up the huge beef brisket in my freezer and I pulled out a recipe that I had not made in quite a few years.  Pumpkin Cake....from my Auntie Pat.  I made them as cupcakes.....and they were OMG good if I do say so myself.  They are a nice seasonally appropriate cake for autumn.......I kept 8 for our house and brought the remaining over to share at the pot luck.  They would be adorable in mini muffin tins....Maybe next time:)  If you'd like to try they are.  They are light and moist and topped with a yummy cream cheese topping. 
      Pumpkin Bars.......or Cupcakes
      2 cups pumpkin
      4 eggs beaten
      1 cup vegetable oil
      2 cups flour
      1 cup brown sugar
      1 cup white sugar
      1/4 tsp salt
      1 1/2 tsp baking powder
      1 tsp baking soda
      2 tsp cinnamon
      3/4 tsp cloves
      1/2 tsp nutmeg
      Blend the pumpkin, beaten eggs, and oil in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the two sugars, the salt, baking powder, soda, and spices.  Fold in the sifted flour and pour into a greased 9X13 inch pan or into 24 cup muffin pan fitted with paper liners.  Bake at 375F for about 25-30 minutes for the cake or 15-20 minutes for cupcakes.  Check with a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake or cup cakes.  They are done when the toothpick pulls out clean.  Remove from oven and cool to room temperature before frosting.

      Cream Cheese Icing
      8 oz brick of cream cheese, softened
      2/3 cup butter, softened
      1 1/2 cup icing sugar
      1 tsp vanilla
      1-2 tsp light cream if needed
      Cream the cheese with the butter.  Whip in the sugar and vanilla and thin with a bit of cream if necessary. Tint with colouring if desired and spread or pipe onto cake or cupcakes.  If icing gets to soft for piping, put it in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up and try again.  Store frosted cake in the fridge.

      Tuesday, October 11, 2011

      I'm Back....with Chewy Marshmallow Blondies

      Well......I just spent 2 weeks away in Chicago that were an absolute test of my fortitude.  Now I am back.....sanity nearly in tact, and try to fix all the issues that accumulated in my absence.  I did manage to spend an entire long weekend doing very nearly nothing.....well nothing very was nice!  
      I took some nice walks in the autumn air, and tried to remind myself of all the little things that I should be very thankful for......(It was Thanksgiving this past in Canada).  I came up with quite a few...enough to confirm that my glass is really half full:)
      While I had brought along a small knitting project to work on that would be easily finished on my two weeks away.....the schedule was so horrific, that I didn't even get to start it.  Well this weekend......I started it and got a good way through it as well:)  I'm starting to think about making Christmas presents now.....before it's too late!
      And......back to making school lunches after a two week break!  I decided to try this recipe for the lunch box.  It is nut free (which is good for Ike's school) but would only benefit from the addition of nuts if desired.  It's sweet and chewy goodness and sure to be a favourite with the kids......with a nice glass of cold milk!
      Sweet and Chewy Blondie Squares
      1/2 cup butter
      1 cup butterscotch chips
      2/3 cup brown sugar
      2 eggs
      1 tsp vanilla
      1 1/2 cup flour
      2 tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp salt
      2 cups marshmallow (mini)
      1 cup chocolate chips
      Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 8 inch square pan with foil or parchment. Melt together the butter and butterscotch chips and set aside to cool.  Beat eggs, vanilla and brown sugar and stir in the butter mixture together with it.  Stir the flour, salt, and baking powder in to the wet ingredients until well mixed.  Stir in the marshmallows and chocolate chips....and any nuts it you'd like.  Spread into prepared pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes until top becomes golden, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and slice when cool.

      Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      More Muffins- Blueberry

      I've been making mom has been making muffins.......hmmm it must be muffin season or something!  Well, it is back to school season here and it is a nice little lunch snack to have ready.......or to have with a cup of your favourite hot drink.  This is the third batch of muffins that my mom has made from this recipe in the last two weeks.  If you have some fresh or frozen blueberries lying might want to give these a try!
      Blueberry Muffins
      1/3 cup white sugar
      1/4 cup butter, softened
      1 cup + 2 heaping tbsp sour cream
      2 tbsp lemon juice
      2 tbsp yoghurt or milk kefir
      1 tsp lemon zest
      1 egg
      1 1/2 cup flour
      1 tsp baking soda
      1 cup blueberries
      Preheat oven to 425F.
      Cream butter and sugar until creamy.  Add sour cream, yoghurt, lemon juice, zest and egg.  Beat well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and berries.  Add dry ingredients to wet gently mixing in by hand in 3-4 increments.  Mix only to combine and take care not to over mix.  Batter will be lumpy.  Spoon into 12 lined muffin cups and sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 8 minutes at 425F, then reduce heat to 350F and bake a further 10-12 minutes.  Bake  until tops spring back when lightly touched.

      Sunday, September 25, 2011

      Repurposed Sweater Project #2- Felted Kitty for Kitty

      As eluded to on an earlier is the second small project from my sad shrunken sweater. 
      Our cat 'Ginger' has this cute, yet annoying habit of stealing pairs of socks from the laundry and from unguarded cupboards.  Often you could hear her muffled meows as she called for her kittens with one such 'sock kitten' already being carried in her mouth.   She would line them up in a row somewhere safe and get ready to feed them.  I thought maybe she would prefer her own dedicated kitten to some of my sock pairs.......we shall see......I suppose.
      I find Ginger likes her soft toys a little squidgy so I don't stuff them very firmly at all.  You could easily increase the size of the pattern to make a nice pillow for yourself as well:)  Go here for the PDF pattern and make yourself a litter.

      Friday, September 23, 2011

      Zucchini Chocolate Cake

      A few weekends ago, my trip to the farmer's market which had my family crazy for Bannock.......prompted me to buy a huge zucchini.  There are lots of things I like to make with zucchini, and I had not made a zucchini chocolate cake in a few years.  So I grated up my jumbo zucchini and froze it in 2 cup amounts....ready to make Zucchini Chocolate Cake or a delicious Zucchini Loaf......It is difficult to choose which one I like the best.  I might just have to make the Zucchini Loaf again to see if I can decide:)  What do you like to make with Zucchini???  A large zucchini such as this one is better suited to baking with rather than grilling or making fritters which is what I would do with smaller, more tender zucchini.
      Chocolate Zucchini Cake
      2 1/2 cups flour
      1/2 cup cocoa powder
      2 1/2 tsp baking powder
      1 1/2 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1 tsp salt
      1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
      3/4 cup butter, softened
      1 cup sugar
      3 eggs
      3 tsp vanilla
      2 cup grated zucchini, grated on the small holes
      1/2 cup milk
      1/4 cup chocolate chips

      Preheat oven to 350F and grease a bunt ring pan.  Combine and sift dry ingredients together and set aside.  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla and zucchini. Mix in 1/3 dry ingredients, then 1/2 milk alternately ending with the addition of the last of the dry ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts if desired.  Pour batter into pan and bake until cake tester comes out clean....about 50 minutes.  Sprinkle with a bit of icing sugar and enjoy.

      Sunday, September 18, 2011

      Repurposed Sweater Project #1- Felted Fish for Kitty

      I have a little collection of wool sweaters which I gathered through thrift store shopping over the past year or so.  I've got a number of small projects in my head that will use up my sweater stash and this was my first easy and quick little project to get it started.  Since I had the sewing machine out to work on my fitted sheet for the 3/4 bed....I thought I'd better also tackle this small project as well.  It took only 20 minutes to complete.  I did not even take the time to make a pattern piece for this.....I just started cutting out the shape of a fish with a folded piece of sweater fabric.  The fold is at the tail end.  
      Then I stitched around the shape, (wrong sides together) leaving a 1 1/2 inch opening to turn it.  I chose to make it wrong sides together so that the purl side of the knit would be on the outside when finished.  After turning the fishy purl side out........I filled a little scrap of fabric (from my sheet project) with cat nip and stuffed it inside the little fishy.  
      I then made two french knots with 6 strands of embroidery thread for eyes and secured the thread inside onto the catnip bag.  I then closed the opening and secured the thread.  All ready for kitty....

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      Chocolate Banana Muffins

      After we polished off a batch of refrigerator muffins.....I was looking for a new muffin recipe to try.  I had the Nigella Lawson cookbook 'Kitchen' out on loan from the library and was interested by her recipe for Chocolate Banana Muffins.  I gave it a go and was fairly pleased with the result.  It's just a little more interesting than banana really can't go wrong with chocolate, now can you.  
      Chocolate Banana Muffins
      makes 12
      3 ripe bananas
      1/2 cup vegetable oil
      2 eggs
      1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
      1 1/2 cups flour
      3 Tbsp cocoa powder
      1 tsp baking soda

      Preheat oven to 400F and line a muffin pan with paper liners.  Mash bananas and mix in oil, sugar, and eggs.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda into a small bowl.  Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.  Spoon into 12 prepared muffin cups.  Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until tops spring back when lightly touched.  Cool slightly and move to wire rack to finish cooling.

      Tuesday, September 13, 2011

      Adventures in Making 3/4 Fitted Sheets

      That little 3/4 brass bed that we set up in the spare room in our basement has been somewhat 'problemsome'.  Having no 3/4 sheet sets for it (which you can purchase from the Sears Catalogue or from other sources online), not enough time to order some, and lacking the interest to spend over $90 on a set.......left me in a bit of a pinch.  But, in that pinch I decided to use an extra set of sheets I had for the double bed upstairs in our other spare room.  Since the length of the bed is the same, I figured that I would just tuck in all the extra fitted sheet on the back side of the bed so no one would see.  This worked fine for the few nights that company used the room.  But.......I really would like to have a properly fitted set of sheets for the bed now wouldn't I???  And alas, I am much too cheap to pay the required $90+.......So I decided to retrofit the extra double size set that I had on the bed.  Easy right?  Just need to open up the corners at the top and bottom of one side and resew them a bit narrower to fit the 48 inch width of the mattress.  Unfortunately for me with all the gathering from the elastic in the fitted was very difficult to see what was going on.  So in the end I decided to cut away the elastic, cut out the corner seams and start with a flat and more manageable piece of fabric.  The sheet was much more cooperative in this form. 
      I knew exactly how I wanted to shape the corners and felt reassured by the thorough instructions at this site that I was on the right track.  Well I was a little surprised when I folded the sheet in neat quarters and prepared to trim it to size and cut out my nice square corners....only to find that I could not.  The manufacturer had made a similar corner cut, but not at all in the same orientation as I had expected.  After a bit of thought, I measured out from both folded edges to locate the intersection of the width and height of the mattress.  This point would mark the corners on the top of the fitted sheet.  I decided I would still cut out my squares of fabric, but I positioned the corner of my quilting square just outside of the intersection I had marked the corner and tilted the square to more match the angle of the manufacturers cuts.  
      The angle of placement of the square to be removed only affected the direction that the corner seam would take.  So instead of the seam running vertically from the top corner of the mattress to the bottom, it starts at the top corner of the mattress and runs down at an angle.  The more you tilt the square, the sharper the angle will be.  Mine was only slightly angled towards the foot of the bed.
      The formulas for measurement and directions from the link above are very useful, and I will not bother restating them here.  
      Additionally I would add:
      • Measure your mattress for length and width very accurately and do not add any ease to the measurement as it will be better for the corner points to be a bit inside the top of the mattress than sliding down the side because the measurement was too big.  Mine were a little low but I'm not about to change it now.
      • Using a flat sheet to start with will eliminate the potential to have to deal with the angle of the corner cut although if you do need to angle it the important thing to note is the location of the where the points of the corners will be on the top surface of the mattress.
      • Once you have cut out your shape, it is the easiest to serge or zigzag all edges before sewing your corners closed.  It will be less bulky, the edges will be protected, and no one will see them as they will be under the mattress.
      • Your least expensive option will likely be finding a nice double (full) sheet set to work with.  Buying separates is usually more expensive.
      • I used 22 inch lengths of thin elastic for each corner. 
      • Cats are counter productive when it come to making the bed.
      I have a wool blanket wrapped around the mattress as a mattress protector since the mattress is original and it kind of creeps me out.

      Saturday, September 10, 2011

      Brass Beds and Bannock

      Just in case you didn't know it.....we've had a pretty lackluster summer here. Below seasonal temperatures and lots of rain through the bulk of the summer.  The last two weeks of August did provide a few excellent days of summer weather, but for the most part summer was a bust here.  Now we are hoping for a lovely fall which can be a gorgeous season here.......and based on the last few's looking pretty good:)
      We are back to school after a very busy few weeks of travel and having house guests.  Three house guests in three weeks has to be some kind of record for us!  When we moved to Prince George and eventually bought a house......we were told that a spare room was unnecessary as no one ever comes here to visit.  For our last visitors we even needed to finish up a bit of work on our other spare room in the basement to accommodate our guests.  It was lots of fun filling the room with the odds and ends of furniture we had tucked away. All pieces with sentimental value and good memories attached to them.  It's coming along now and perhaps we will feel more inclined to finish up the window trim, plug ins and ceiling, now that it has had it's first use.
      The old brass  3/4 bed that DH grew up sleeping on came from his grandmother's house.  The brass head and foot boards and exposed box spring are very interesting.  Laying on it is rather more like floating as it is quite wiggly.  I like it!  The pretty triangles quilt and crocheted log cabin throw are from his paternal and maternal grandmothers respectively.  Some day I will dig into my mountain of vintage sheets and make a copy of this quilt.  I think the muted tones of some of them might duplicate the aged look better than new fabrics.  And then on the other side of the room is a little something from my grandmother's farm.....her dresser.  All good and interesting things with stories to tell......if only they could talk.
      In order to entertain my MIL and SIL, we took them to the farmers market on the Saturday morning and had the most delicious Bannock melt there.  Ike was so enjoying his that we decided to make some at home.  Home made bannock is very easy and pretty quick to make and this savory version can be pretty addictive.  In Canada, the flour version of bannock is believed to have been introduced to the Canadian native population by European fur traders.  Now bannock is synonymous with Canadian native culture.  It can be baked (if you are a purist) or fried, and I would encourage you to try the fried version only because it is ten times more delicious than the baked variety and perhaps a few times less healthy. A trip to a local pow wow might present the opportunity to try bannock burgers, bannock tacos, bannock with jams or honey.  There are many possibilities!  All delicious.  This recipe has worked well for us.....although there are many out there to try.
      3 cups flour
      1 tsp salt
      3 tsp baking powder
      3 Tbsp sugar
      4 Tbsp powdered milk
      2 Tbsp melted butter
      about 1 1/2 cups water

      Mix all dry ingredients well in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the melted butter and most of the water.  Gently mix the flour into the center working in all the flour to a firm dough. Use additional water if necessary.  Pat the dough into a flat disc about 2 inches thick.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.  Heat 2-3 inches in depth of oil to 330F.  I use an electric wok to minimize the amount of oil needed and can only cook one at a time.  An electric fry pan also works well but will require more oil to get a good depth of oil.   When you are ready, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Take one piece with oiled hands and shape it into a flat circle about 5-6 inches across.  It should be fairly thin especially in the center as it will puff up a lot as it fries.  Gently place one bannock into the oil and fry gently for 2 minutes per side.  Bannock should be a nice golden colour when done.  You can serve with cinnamon and sugar, with butter and jam or any way you can think of.
      The Bannock melt we made was split in half, filled with a thick slice of jalapeno havarti and a very liberal sprinkling of Garlic Plus seasoning.  We kept the dough wrapped in plastic wrap for 3 days while we made a few each day.  They are best eaten while still hot.

      Saturday, September 3, 2011

      Slice and Bake Oatmeal Cookies

      Some time ago now, I purchased Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies for next to nothing at a thrift shop.  I have been wanting to try a few recipes from it for the longest time......but there are no pictures in the book to aid me in making my choice.  Finally I decided to go just pick one and opted to go with convenience and try the Oatmeal Icebox recipe since it will be a busy weekend, and I love the concept of the nice uniform size and shape and quite honesty the ease of having a roll of dough in the fridge that I can easily slice off some fresh baked cookies with little effort.  Less time cooking....more time visiting.  They turned out to be crisp on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside since I only baked them for about 10 minutes just until the cookies were nicely browned.  The instructions called for a 12 to 14 minute bake time.  Maybe I'll try the last roll of dough at the longer bake time and see if I like the difference.  Maybe they will be even better??  I pressed my dough into a wax paper lined loaf pan and once chilled cut the loaf into three long rows.  To bake I sliced 1/4 inch slices and placed them on a foil lined cookie sheet and cooled the cookies on the sheet after baking.  Before baking the slices were 2 inches by 2 inches.
      Oatmeal Icebox Cookies
      1 1/2 cups sifted flour
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp ginger
      1/2 pound  butter
      1 tsp vanilla
      1 cup sugar
      1 cup dark brown sugar
      2 eggs
      3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
      1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

      Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and ginger and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, both sugars, and the vanilla and beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Gradually add in the sifted ingredients.  Stir in nuts if using.  Shape dough into logs or as desired and refrigerate over night or until firm enough to slice cleanly with a sharp knife. 
      When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F.  Slice dough into 1/4 inch thick slices and lay them with 2 inches between each cookie on foil lined cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes until browned and remove from oven to cool.  Once cool store in tightly sealed container.

      Monday, August 29, 2011

      Saskatoon Rhubarb Pie

      Another that is very strange for me.  I probably only make a few pies each year........I'm just not a big fan of pies I guess.  And when it comes to berry pies, for which I have painstakingly picked and cleaned all the berries myself......I am a bit reluctant to experiment with all my hard work.  This recipe appealed to me because it has some of the Saskatoons replaced by a bit of rhubarb.....which is very easy picking.  The thought behind this inclusion is that Sakatoons are often a bit dry while rhubarb adds quite a bit of moisture to the filling.  I was really quite happy with the end result which was indeed moist and still allowed the Saskatoons to be the predominant flavour.  I find Saskatoon Pie to be a bit on the sweet side of things too so the rhubarb added a little punch of tartness which I love.  The filling held together beautifully as you can see.....although this time I baked the pie at night and waited until morning to take the first slice.  Pie for breakfast.  Personally I think eating baking for breakfast is just gross, but I REALLY wanted to try this pie before I headed out for a little business trip. 
      While I cannot endorse eating sweets like this for was a pretty darned good pie.  If you find yourself with an over abundance of Saskatoons and Rhubarb......You might like to try this:)
      Saskatoon Rhubarb Pie
      for a 9 inch pie
      your favourite double crust pie shell
      1 1/2 cups rhubarb
      1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
      3 Tbsp cornstarch
      1 tbsp lemon juice
      3/4 cup sugar
      3 1/2 cups Saskatoons
      Preheat oven to 400F
      Mix rhubarb with first amount of sugar and microwave to warm enough to allow the juices to release from the rhubarb.  Drain and collect this rhubarb juice and add enough cold water to it to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid.
      Put the 1 1/2 cups of liquid into a pot and dissolve the cornstarch into it.  Add in the lemon juice, remaining sugar, and rhubarb (that you had drained the liquid from) and stir over medium heat unitl bubbling.  Once it begins to bubble add half of the saskatoon berries and gently bubble for 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining saskatoons.  Set aside while you roll your pastry.
      Roll pastry and line a 9 inch pie plate with bottom crust.  Pierce pie shell all over with a fork.  Roll top pie crust and set aside.  Pour filling into bottom shell and top with prepared top pastry.  Seal and brush top with egg wash.  Bake for 15 minutes at 400F and reduce heat to 350F and bake a further 20-30 minutes until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.  Make sure to wait until the pie is cool before cutting into it!

      Saturday, August 27, 2011

      Huckleberry Pie

      If you had been at my house last might have had a nice piece of Huckleberry Pie.  I did not grow up picking huckleberries, and in fact until I met my DH, I was blissfully unaware of their existence.   See a picture of the little devils at the bottom of this post.  After living in Northern British Columbia for 13 years I accidentally discovered the seething underbelly world of Huckleberry picking.  Berry pickers are a curious lot who covet their knowledge of the mother load location and keep it a closely guarded secret right up to their death bed.  So I'm not kidding about the accidentally part.  After three years of a bit of trial and error......I think I have the time and places nailed down. Next year I am totally ready for you!  
      If you find yourself in need of a Huckleberry Pie......This recipe turned out beautifully.  It's nice to settle down after an afternoon of braving black bears and large mosquitoes a nice pie of Huckleberry Pie!
      Huckleberry Pie

      one double crust pie shell pastry for 9 inch pie
      4 1/2 cups huckleberries
      2/3 cup sugar
      1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca
      2 T lemon juice
      1/4 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp cinnamon
      2 T butter
      2 T cream
      2 tsp sugar
      Preheat oven to 425F.
      Line 9 inch pie plate with pie dough.  Combine and mix berries, sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, salt, & cinnamon.  Dump into pie shell, dot with butter and top with top pastry.  Crimp edges of pie dough, slit top and brush with cream and sprinkle with 2 tsp of sugar.  Bake in 425 F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F and bake a further 20 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.  (Protect edges of pie crust with foil if they are browning too quickly)  It is most important to let the pie cool completely before slicing or the filling will run!  It's true.....I tested the theory and I won't be doing that again:)

      Thursday, August 11, 2011

      Black Bottom Cupcakes- with Raspberries

      With all the raspberries in season now I've been looking for something to do with them.  I picked not quite enough for jam or syrup....maybe just a cup or so from the canes in my back yard.  I had intended to make a batch of those delicious Chocolate Cheese Cake Cupcakes......AKA Black Bottom Cupcakes, and decided to throw in some fresh raspberries as well.  They turned out fabulously I must say, and I will be making them again before the season is over.  I love this cupcake recipe and make it at least 10 times each year, because it is very easy, very forgiving, very fast, and very addictive......even without the added raspberries.  But if you have some extra raspberries sitting around......try this one......If this flavour combination sounds like something you'd like......I can almost guarantee you will be the next addict.

      Black Bottom Cupcakes with Raspberries

      1 1/2 cups flour
      1 cup sugar
      1/4 cup cocoa
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp vanilla
      1 tsp vinegar
      1/3 cup oil
      1 cup water
      raspberries (about 4 per cupcake) (set aside)

      Dump all of the above (except the berries) into a large bowl and whisk together, set aside while making topping.  Don't worry about getting every little lump out.

      1 ( 8 oz pkg) of cream cheese at room temperature
      1 egg
      1/3 cup sugar
      1 cup chocolate chips
      pinch of salt

      Cream together the cream cheese and sugar, add egg and salt and combine till smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.

      Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 18 muffin tins with paper liners.  Divide chocolate batter equally into each of the 18 muffin cups.  About a rounded tbsp for each.  Divided any extra batter evenly between the cups.  Drop 4 fresh raspberries on top of the chocolate batter.  Top with a rounded tsp of cream cheese topping. Again, divide any remaining cheesecake batter between all cups.  Bake for about 18 minutes or until the cream cheese topping begins to brown in a few spots.
      Note:  You can also make these in lined mini muffin tins and they are equally delicious and even more adorable.  If adding raspberries, one per mini muffin would be appropriate.

      Sunday, August 7, 2011

      Twisted Delight- Sweet Chilli Flavour

      While on vacation this summer......we made several stops at Cobs Bread in Victoria.  We don't have any in town at home, so I do take the opportunity to shop there when the opportunity presents itself.  Cobs is the North American branch of the Australian and New Zealand bake shop chain called Bakers Delight.  They make fresh artisan breads in both sweet and savoury flavours.  Since my aunt and uncle who we were staying with like the store as well, we took the opportunity to pick up a few different flavours of their 'Twisted Delight' loaves to have along with supper.  One of the flavours was Sweet Chilli, and we were so liking the loaf that I decided to try one at home.  And this is what we did.......

      Sweet Chilli Twisted Delight
      • 1 1/2 cup warm water
      • 1/4 cup lard or shortening, melted
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
      • 4 cups flour
      • 2 teaspoons instant yeast 
      • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
      • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
      • a few onion greens or chives
       Add first 7 ingredients into bread machine pan in the order listed.  Choose dough cycle, and let it do it's thing.  Remove dough, punch down and divide dough in half.  Roll each half out to a 14"X10" rectangle with a long edge towards you.  The filling amounts are for one half of the dough recipe.  You can put the other half of the dough in the fridge until the next day, or make two loaves.
      On the rectangle, spread about  2 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce ( or more to your taste) The more you use, the hotter the loaf will be.  I used about 3 tbsp and you could taste the heat a little more than the loaf from the store so I am guessing about 2 tbsp is what they might be using.  Sprinkle on the cheese and onion greens and roll up, rolling away from yourself as if to make a cinnamon roll.  Pinch the seam closed and move the whole roll onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
      Now the shaping of the loaf is what I liked about the twisted delight and this is what I think they have done. I used scissors, or you could use a knife, to cut down across the cylinder at 2-3 inch intervals, making sure not to cut all the way through the dough.  Leave it attached together by the last layer of dough resting against the pan.  Now, my rolled cylinder was quite long with about 12 slices, so I cut it in half and made two smaller (6 slice) loaves.  Then turn the cookie sheet so that the cylinder of sliced dough has one end of the dough pointing towards you and the other away.  Then roll the top slice to the left and the next to the right, back and forth, all the way to the bottom of the cylinder. Now take each slice and try to lay them a little more like cut side down.  They don't need to be laying with the cut side flat....just leaning back is fine.  Set aside in a warm spot to rise for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle with a bit more shredded cheddar.  Bake for about 20 minutes on 350F until golden.  Remove from oven and brush loaf with a little melted butter.  We really liked these a lot.  We made the second batch today, and they are all gone now!  I would recommend baking up the whole batch of dough if you are making this to share with company.  With just DH and myself at home we managed to snack through the first (half batch) one night and the second (half batch) the following afternoon.  Enjoy!

      Saturday, August 6, 2011

      The Calm Before the Crazy

      It's the weekend!!  Finally....with so many things running through my head for what I would like to do on the's hard for me to sort it all out.  So many things that need to be done, should be done, and I'd really just like to do.  Often the last option wins out for me and thus the explanation of why my house continually looks as though it's been ransacked.  Maybe this weekend will be different.....and I'll choose to do the important things like clean up, and organize??  Right now, I have a dining room table disassembled on my living room floor, loads of laundry to do, a kitchen counter that is so covered in miscellaneous stuff that you cannot see the counter top....(just as needs a scrubbing too) not to mention a mountain of laundry to wash, fold and put away.  Also need to pick up some primer and paint and do a little painting before the cabinet makers come back to finish up a little job in my laundry room.......which I must say I am enjoying immensely.........although the down side is that it makes me feel like redoing my whole house.  Hmmmmm I think I may need to make a list....I find this usually makes me feel a little more in control.  
      Before the craziness begins.....I'm having a calming morning moment with my little cuppa chocolate Ovaltine, a coddled egg, toast and some fresh fruit. That was nice. Let the craziness begin.....

      Sunday, July 31, 2011

      Perhaps the Easiest Socks Ever

      I finally finished up the socks I started while on holiday.  I've been wearing them around..... trying to decide what I think of them.  I think I will knit another pair...the pattern was very, very easy....the perfect nearly mindless knitting for traveling.  Next time though, I will use a smaller needle as these feel a little looser than I'd like.  Knit with Berroco Vintage in Colour Way 5192 'Chana Dal' with 4.5mm dpns, and pattern from Ann Budd from the2009  Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts Magazine.  
      If you only buy one issue of Interweave Knits during the course of a year....the Holiday Gifts Issue is The One To Buy!  The recommended yarn for the project was Louet Gems Worsted which I was not interested in as it had no nylon content.  Who wants a pair of hand knit socks that aren't going to last.   And if you are gifting them....chance are not good that the receiver will be interested in darning them if they get a hole in them.  One skein of Berroco Vintage made with only inches of yarn left to spare.
      This is really a great pattern for the first time sock knitter.  It knits up quickly, is a fairly easy pattern and they have a bit more interest than a very basic plain knit sock.

      Friday, July 29, 2011

      A Frasier- Too much cake for Two

      This month, the baker's challenge took me longer than I'd's always such a chore to begin....with so much going on around the house.  We it is.......It's a good one I think!
      Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
      I chose to keep it simple and stick with the classic vanilla cake and strawberry fruit filling.  They are in season here and easy to come by.....and cheap right now.....let's not forget cheap.  Sadly for me I could not find marzipan in any of the grocery stores here......seems to be a seasonal I have seen it I found a recipe off the internet and gave it a go.  I decorated minimally to cover my less than perfect cake.....Did the chocolate squiggles avert your attention from the less than perfect details??
      With DH away and 3 of our nearest neighbours all gone on holiday.........the remainder found a new home with some friends of Ike.
      Basic Chiffon Cake:

      1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
      1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
      3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
      1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
      1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
      3 large egg yolks
      ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
      1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
      3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
      5 large egg whites
      ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar
      1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
      2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
      3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
      4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
      5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
      6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
      7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
      8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
      9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
      10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

      Pastry Cream Filling:

      Gluten Free! Vegans see the links at the end!
      1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
      1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
      1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
      2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
      1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
      1 large egg
      2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
      3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
      1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
      1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream
      1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
      2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
      3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
      4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
      5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
      6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
      7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
      8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
      9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
      10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
      11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
      12. Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
      13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

      Simple Syrup:

      gluten free and vegan!
      You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.
      1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
      1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water
      1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
      2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
      3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
      4. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

      Fraisier Assembly:

      1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
      1 recipe pastry cream filling
      ⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
      2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
      confectioners’ sugar for dusting
      ½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste
      1. Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
      2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
      3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
      4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
      5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
      6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
      7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
      8. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
      9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
      10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
      11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.