Friday, December 31, 2010

My Cupcakes are Famous!

I am a faithful reader (viewer?) of The Lunch Box Project, a very cute food blog dedicated to not making, but painting, food. At the beginning of December, Lisa Orgler, of The Lunch Box Project, requested cupcake submissions for a cupcake poster she was planning on producing. I submitted my sweet little Spring Blossom Babycakes and, low and behold, they got selected!

My cupcakes in their original sweet glory.

My cupcakes are famous! And still looking very sweet.

The final, deliciously delightful, poster: Let Them Eat {Cup}cakes!

The poster is for sale on Etsy, a zero calorie treat for cupcake lovers everywhere.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

May visions of sugarplums be dancing in your head tonight! Happy holidays from me (and Ollie) to you!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Outrageous Chocolate

So far, I've made my "must have Christmas cookie" and I've made my "most fun to make Christmas cookie". And now, I have also made my "absolute all-time-favourite cookie" - the Outrageous Chocolate Cookie. This cookie contains more chocolate than any other ingredient and you can taste it! They are chewy, dense treats and are basically brownies masquerading as cookies.

I made one regular batch and added crushed candy canes to a second batch (which are pictured here, but you can hardly tell that they contain candy cane pieces). And, almost impossibly, the Outrageous Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies are even better than the original! Yum!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Food Box Chronicles

I forgot to take pictures of my most recent food box creations. Between the baking and wrapping and cleaning and shopping . . . it's been a whirlwind of a week.

I made:

* African Yam Peanut soup (from the Rebar cookbook)
* Mashed potatoes and turnips
* Balsamic Spinach
* Roasted Squash and Blueberry Muffins
* Lemon Cashew Dip (omit garlic and add lemon zest)
* Blueberry Pancakes

I am now on a food box "break" for a couple of weeks over the Christmas holidays, a very good thing considering the amount of soup I have in my freezer!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cookies - White Chocolate Candy Cane Drops

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that I put candy canes in cookies, but cookie + peppermint candy is a delicious combination. Plus, candy cane pounding can be an excellent stress reliever!

I usually make Candy Cane Shortbread, but decided to try something new this year when I found a recipe for White Chocolate Candy Cane Drops in Better Homes and Gardens' 100 Best Cookies issue. Very minty and very festive!

My one caution about the recipe is that it says it makes 50 cookies while my batch only made 22. I did make them larger than the recipe called for, but they were not huge and, even at half the size, 50 would be stretching it.

Stay tuned for my next minty recipe!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Classic Sugar, Take Two

After my first attempt at sugar cookies did not quite work out, I decided to go for it one more time.

And, it worked! Yay! No icing troubles here!

I cut my second batch as snowflakes and I must say that I love the white on white. I need to track down a more interesting snowflake cutter, but I think that snowflake sugar cookies will be a tradition from here on out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Weekend Homemaker

I spent almost all of last weekend in the kitchen, cooking and baking my way through my last food box. I know that some people think that spending a weekend in the kitchen is ridiculous, but making food is very relaxing for me. It helps me to reconnect with myself and I eat so much healthier when I give myself this time. Also, a weekend in the kitchen means almost no cooking during the week! Lunches are a snap to prepare and I can get dinner on the table in under 15 minutes.

In my last food box, I received: pears, asian pears, apples, a lemon, carrots, a squash, a pomegranate, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes and onions.

An onion, some carrots and some potatoes were used along with leftover thanksgiving turkey, lentils, peas and barley to make a turkey soup.

I roasted the squash . . .

And baked it into these lovely squash and pumpkin seed muffins.

I had a delicious snack of pomegranate and asian pear. I love pomegranates! They are a pain to eat, but worth the trouble.

I roasted tomatos. They will be used next weekend in another soup.

I made broccoli soup with the broccoli, an onion and potatoes. This recipe is so easy and dairy free!

Broccoli Soup

1. caramelize one chopped onion in olive oil
2. add one large thinly sliced potato and fry with onions and oil until soft
3. add 8 cups vegetable stock
4. add broccoli (I would say about 4 cups chopped) and bring to a boil
5. simmer until broccoli is soft and then puree with a hand blender
6. season with salt and pepper as desired

So good and so easy!

Lastly, I made my favourite vanilla roasted pears, using up the pears and the lemon. So good with yogurt or oatmeal!

My food boxes have gotten out of sync due to the upcoming Christmas holiday and another box has already arrived. It will be another weekend in the kitchen!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Classic Sugar

Last weekend was sugar cookie weekend! Sugar cookies are my favourite to make; they are practically edible art.

I used my regular Martha Stewart recipe.

I cut out many mittens, bows and trees.

I piped.

I flooded.

And I sprinkled.

Unfortunately, something went wrong with my Royal Icing (likely a speck of grease on a spoon or bowl) and it did not set properly. The cookies still taste good and look pretty (though not as pretty as I had planned), but they are bit too sticky to send to my parents and, as such, will be potluck cookies.

A vinegar bath awaits my baking supplies as I prepare for sugar cookie round two!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Shortbread

I can't believe another year has passed! I feel like 2010 has just begun and yet I began my Christmas baking last weekend. I plan to bake at least one cookie recipe per week for the next four weeks. Most of these goodies will go to my parents, but there will be plenty of leftovers for every visitor, work gathering and party over the next month.

I began with Basic Shortbread. While shortbread is not my favourite eating cookie, it is one treat that the Christmas season isn't complete without. Yum!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Gift of Giving

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children . . . to leave the world a better place . . . to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
~ one of my favourites, Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am a big fan of giving donations as Christmas gifts and, in past years, I have tended to donate to large NGOs such as Unicef, Oxfam and Plan Canada. But, over time, my desire to help the most vulnerable has led me to streamline my giving. I work with children with developmental disabilities and significant medical challenges and my heart belongs to these beautiful beings. Life can be hard for children with special needs here in Canada, where social, medical and therapeutic supports are available. Children in other countries are not always so lucky. Not only do many of these children lack access to appropriate therapies and medical support, they may be abandoned by their parents due to a disability or orphaned due to a terrible disease that they also carry.

You can spread a little love to the world's most vulnerable children this Christmas season by supporting the following organizations:

ChinaKidz - A Children's Hospice and Palliative Care Service for abandoned children. This hospice gives dying children comfort and love and helps to provide medical support for children with correctable medical conditions and non-life-threatening developmental conditions. You can sponsor a room, a cot or give a single donation.

Reece's Rainbow - Reece's Rainbow is an advocacy network and sponsorship program that promotes the adoption of children with Down syndrome. In some countries, children with Down syndrome are abandoned or relinquished at birth and institutionalized for life if not adopted. On Reece's Rainbow, you can donate money to sponsor the adoption of a particular child and, at Christmas time, you receive a Christmas tree decoration in exchange. The average cost to complete an international adoption of one of "Reece's angels" is $25,000 and every penny donated makes a difference to a waiting family and child!

Vulnerable Children's Society - VCS is new society that has recently taken over fundraising for Faya Orphanage in Ethiopia. Faya provides a permanent home for children living with and without HIV/AIDS in Adama, Ethiopia. In addition to orphans living at Faya, VCS also provides opportunities for you to sponsor HIV+ children and families living in Adama. At Faya, vulnerable children are fed, loved and cared for. In the community, vulnerable children and families are provided with basic necessities, health care and school supplies. These sponsorships allow children to remain with their families rather than being relinquished to an orphanage.

Even a small gift can make life easier for those living with nothing. Let's give these children some hope this December.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Weekend Homemaker

So, I was back in business last weekend, attempting to cook up all of the fruits and veggies in my food box. I think that I spent at least half the weekend in the kitchen while listening to the newest Elizabeth George novel on audiobook (I love audiobooks!).

The gnocchi with kale was delicious although the frozen leftovers don't cook up as nicely as the freshly made pasta.

The vanilla roasted pears, as usual, were fantastic. My dad was visiting and I served them to him for breakfast, on top of some Scottish oatmeal. It was an excellent combination.

The banana chocolate chip muffins turned out well and made yummy workday breakfasts that my coworkers greatly admired.

And lastly, the Apple Parsnip Soup was the perfect meal during a very wintry week. It made 10 servings and I have them all doled out here, ready to be popped in a lunch bag or warmed up for a quick dinner.

It was a great weekend's work and made my work nights very easy. This weekend I will be focusing on making some curtains, cleaning, and perhaps, starting my Christmas baking.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Food Box Chronicles

After a 6 month hiatus from my organic food box delivery as a result of a move and a lovely summer and fall spent purchasing my goods from my neighbourhood farmer's market, I have finally resumed purchasing food boxes. My first one arrived on Thursday and I am so excited to see what new meals I will discover as I try to eat through each box!

This week I received: apples, onions, parsnip, pears, sunchokes, bananas, celery, kale and salad mix. My plans for all of these lovely fruits and veggies?

The sunchokes? I have no idea . . . even after searching google for recipes, nothing appeals. I think that this vegetable may be going the way of the kiwi and the avocado (which reside on my "never send" list). If you are familiar with this tuber, please advise.

I love my root veggies, but what the heck?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Like Bread and Butter

Have you ever asked yourself silly food questions? You know, what would I eat for my last meal? What meal could I eat every day for the rest of my life if I had to pick just one?

Well, for me, it would be bread. I love bread in every shape and flavour. I especially love homemade bread and, in my effort to follow my food rules, I have been baking my own more regularly. I am not quite sure if this leads to healthier eating or not, but the process makes me value every slice.

For a long time, my favourite recipe has been Simple Whole Wheat Bread. It makes a lot of bread and is very tasty. Last weekend, I made a regular loaf, 12 buns and a small loaf of cinnamon raisin bread all with one recipe (pictured). However, I recently discovered a recipe I like even better: French Bread (Rolls). They stay lovely and soft for days after baking and are delicious, even with 50% whole wheat flour.

Of course, bread wouldn't be my winning meal without butter and homemade strawberry jam or butter and cheese (and maybe pickles). Mmmm.

What meal could you eat every day for the rest of your life?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Milk Glass

I love milk glass. Some of the styles are a little "much" for my taste, but the cool white simplicity of pressed glass is right up my alley. And while milk glass has increased in price as it becomes a collectors item, it is still fairly inexpensive. I have been admiring several pieces of milk glass on Ebay and Etsy for the past few months, but couldn't quite justify the shipping costs, which were usually more than the glass itself. Happily for me, my favourite consignment shop, Good Things, has just reopened after a long (very long) closure for renovations. And, they usually have a nice little selection of milk glass. My recent purchases included:

This sweet little creamer and sugar bowl set.

Aren't they cute?

And this little vase.

I think the vase would look lovely with some very full tea roses or a couple of peonies. Unfortunately, I am allergic to pretty much every plant on the planet and cannot tolerate flowers inside, but I feel that just having a few vases around gives the suggestion of flowers, which I love.

I can't wait to expand my collection!

Friday, November 5, 2010


After about 4 hours of some serious picking and choosing and rearranging, I have managed to renovate my blog! Yay!

I had loved my old template, designed by Gisele Jaquenod, but I was ready for something new and she is no longer designing free templates. So, I decided to go it alone this time and used the new blogger template designer along with some personalizing modifications.

I am sure that there are more changes to come, but I'm glad that I've made it through the "messy" stage of the clean up.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Orange and Black Cupcakes

It has been a big week of Halloween Festivities! It all began with "Gouls Night Out" at a house of a coworker. We got our palms read (very cool) and I made my favourite spooky martini, the Dark Night (see recipe below). The next day, I joined some friends and their families for some pumpkin carving fun. I brought my Orange and Black cupcakes. They have a brownie bottom and are toped with orange flavoured (and coloured) buttercream. Yum! And finally, we dressed up at work on Wednesday for a costume competition between teams. My team got together to make our own fascinator hats and we went as "mad hatters". We didn't win, but I loved our team craftiness!

Dark Night Martinis

- Shake just over 1 oz Black Sambuca
- With just under 1 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
- And 4-6 ice cubes
- Pur into a martini glass and add two maraschino cherries

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles

I do not care for the texture of squash, but I love the flavour of pumpkin and mix it in to anything from muffins and cupcakes to pancakes and oatmeal. A few weeks ago, I made my first attempt at pumpkin waffles. I would have liked a stronger pumpkin flavour, but they are definitely worth a repeat! Any type of squash or sweet potato could be used in place of the pumpkin.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I (heart) Leftovers!

What more could you ask for than creamed onions, turkey, stuffing, pickles and orange cranberry sauce all piled on freshly baked buns?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving: One week later

My Thanksgiving dinner went off without a hitch. After spending most of last Saturday and Sunday cooking, I had almost everything prepared before my brother and his girlfriend arrived. I even pulled out my turkey napkins!

The brined turkey was lovely, I will certainly try that again, despite the fact that hauling around an 18 pound turkey and several litters of brine is no easy task!

Items slowly piled up on the counter as my brother carved the turkey - stuffing, mashed potatoes (with and without dairy), gravy, cranberry sauce, rosemary carrots . . .

. . . buns, creamed onions and sweet potato casserole.

Finally, it was all laid out on my counter and stove for serving (my table is too small for more than two people, never mind all the food). We heaped our plates and even went back for seconds. It was all delicious! I have now eaten turkey soup for a week and have my freezer stocked to the brim with leftovers. Plenty for a Thanksgiving redux in November :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

I can't remember the last time I made cupcakes, it seems that I have been on some sort of unintentional cupcake hiatus. But, that has ended and cupcake season has arrived! One potluck down, one potluck and two halloween parties to go! I don't think I will make cupcakes for each gathering, but you never know.

In any case, I started off cupcake season with these delicious beauties, Brown Butter and Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing. The brown butter added a lovely fall toastyness and cream cheese icing is always a winner in my book. They were a hit!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The 0.001 Mile Diet

I grew this lettuce right on my very own balcony!