Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

I can't believe this year has spun by so fast!! Hopefully next year will bring great things! Tonight, my city will ring in the new year with a huge outdoor concert, and fireworks at midnight, of course! Here are a few pictures from the fireworks in August, to mark the 225th birthday of Saint John.

My beau took some friends and I to the top of a building where we could see the entire Uptown area, it is a beautiful view! 

Maybe tonight we will go up to the top of the world again and watch the fireworks, the city is saying they are to be the best they have ever fired off! Other than maybe the fireworks (if i can stay up until Midnight, i have been up since 6 AM) we have no plans for tonight set in stone. Maybe dinner, or the concert; me may even attend a house party.

As for 2011? So far things are looking up! My baby sister is getting married in early March, so the next two months are to be a flurry of showers and meetings with seamstresses and the new in-laws, as well as other duties that fall to the bridesmaids.

After that? I am not ad on Kijiji for Christmas baking as a success, so i am thinking of trying to go into the cookie business. A first step towards someday owning my own bakery. Maybe some business courses to help me along the way? I could use a course in French, to!

But, most of all i would like to continue along with my baking and cooking blog. I have 12 followers now, by the end of next year i would like to double that, the more the merrier!!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pear Spice Cookies

This morning i got up planning on spending the day in the kitchen. My beau is working all day, i already made 2 trips to the country this weekend, everyone else seemed to be spending time with someone else, and we are supposed to get a huge storm. So, what better day to spend in the kitchen? Plus i have an excuse...i got some nice new baking equipment yesterday, gotta try it out!! I had been asked by my beau's parents to bake them some sweets so they would have something to offer guests this week. I decided to make that list today. Here are pictures of my goodies; the links to the recipes within my blog are the titles below.

Last time i made it, i used 80/20 butter; this time i used half a stick of real butter and a spoonful of margarine. It was a bit greasier during the first few stirs, but otherwise turned out the same. 

Again, last time i made them i used 80/20, this time i used a full stick of butter (about 1/2 cup) and a bit of margarine to fill it out. 

Mmm, yummy. Can't change this one, it is perfect!

I only added half a cup of almonds, because a full cup seemed like way to many!! I also managed to toast the almonds better this time, and without a mess!! 

And finally, a new recipe for my blog, but one i have made many times, Pear Spice cookies. 

I got this recipe from another blog i follow, called Anecdotes and Apple Cores. I have changed it a bit, and everyone who has tried them has fallen in love, myself included!!

Pear Spice Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened.
1 + 1/2 cups brown sugar.
1 egg.
1 tsp vanilla.
2 cups flour.
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder.
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and ginger.
1 pear, peeled, cored and diced.
1/2 cup chopped walnuts. 
1 + 1/2 cups icing sugar.
1 + 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice.

Cream butter and brown sugar; add egg and vanilla, blend well. Mix flour, spices and baking powder. Blend flour mixture into sugar mixture. Add pears and walnuts, mix well. Drop onto prepared cookie sheet; bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. 
When cooled, mix lemon juice and icing sugar. Drizzle over cookies. 

First off, you can see i did not bother with the glaze. They are great without it, very sweet with a mild spicy flavour. I also omitted the nuts, i usually do not keep any on hand because they are not cheap! So i only buy them as necessary. 

As for my new Christmas baking toys, i got this super cool cookie dropper from a friend. Apparently it is only good for soft, light batters, though. You scoop the batter with the spoon, give it a squeeze and the metal slider pushes the batter off the spoon. Isn't it neat?

Also in this picture, although difficult to see due to the parchment, is my new cookie sheet. I also got two gift cards, one for the Paderno store and one for the Bulk Barn, so i can get more baking equipment or ingredients! 

My favorite gift was from my beau's parents. A little Hallmark ornament named Cookie Doe, the reindeer. It is made up of kitchen tools, potato mashers for antlers, whisks for legs, a box grater for a head, etc. I have a picture of the box below because every one i took of the actual ornament was either unfocused, to bright or to dark. 

Santa also brought me a new crock pot, can't wait to crack that one out of the box!! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and were able to visit family and friends. Stay safe if you are on the roads!! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I have no recipe today, i am working from 9 am until 5 pm and then heading out to my parents' house for the evening. Lobster rolls and pizza, and many yummy baked goods!! And my nephew is going to make some cookies for you-know-who!! K is so excited for Santa! And why not? Every child should experience the magic of Santa Clause. Someone here is hoping for a new crock-pot ;-)

My workplace is seldom busy on a good day, and Christmas Eve? It is killer just sitting here, no book to read because the library is closed. So i went online and found this cute coloring page!

This is what i have been doing for the last hour and a half! Now i have to find something else to do for the next 5 hours...

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, good food, good people and a joyous time! Merry Christmas from Canada!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Melted Snowman Cookies

I found this about a week ago on one of the Blogs i follow, Moogie & Pap. I thought they were absolutely adorable and just had to try it. So tonight, i decided i was going to make a batch for my co-workers. We all have to work on Christmas Eve, so it will be a little treat. Well, after coming home at 6, having company till seven, getting dinner, and cleaning the kitchen, i said screw the baking and pulled a batch of fudge from the freezer; it will be appreciated just as much. But i still wanted to make these cute cookies!! So, looking around, i discovered i still had a half dozen shortbread cookies from last week's adventures (here), so i decided to go with them.

All you need for this recipe is a batch of baked sugar or shortbread cookies, some icing, food colors and large marshmallows. Any other decorations are up to you.

I cheated and used a container of store bought icing, it was sitting in the fridge anyway. I put about a quarter teaspoon into a ramekin and mixed it with red and yellow food colors for carrot noses, and then i put a dollop of red food gel on the other side of the ramekin and mixed in a bit of blue for eyes and buttons. When i was done with those colors, i mixed the two together and made a funky brown color, which i used arms and mouths. I used toothpicks for paintbrushes.

So basically all you need to do is ice the cookie, microwave the marshmallows 15 seconds (just enough to get a melted look), stick them to the icing, and decorate.

And then you have adorable melted snowman cookies.  I am kinda glad i did not make a whole huge batch, it took me almost 20 minutes just to do these six! But, they are cute, and look delicious, and i am sure they will be gobbled up quickly!

Merry last two days before Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gingerbread Men

I have not made gingerbread cookies since i was a kid. I never really knew anyone that liked them. Yes, they are traditional Christmas, but why make them if no one is going to eat them? This year, i placed an ad on Kijiji for baked goods for Christmas, and one of the things i had posted was gingerbread men for decorating. When i got an order, i searched online for a recipe and found this one. It was a couple weeks ago, so i can't really remember where i got it, but i believe it was at All Recipes.

Gingerbread Men

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Cream margarine and sugar, Stir in molasses and egg. Combine flour, soda, powder and spices. Blend into molasses mixture.
Cover, chill for 1 hour or overnight. Roll and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 F for 8 to 10 minutes.

The recipe made only 11 large gingerbread men, approximately 5 inches high. Since i needed 24, i ended up making 3 batches of dough. The second and third i made at the same time and cooled/cut/baked together. When i was making the third batch, i ran out of molasses, so i had to run down to the store to get another container. It was a different brand than the first, and therefore the third batch of batter turned out darker.

In the end, i had a bit of extra dough, not enough for a big cookie, but enough for some small ones! I cut out about 6 small gingerbread men to. I also ended up with some leftovers, and because i was watching K that night and we had my friend and her 4 year old son over, i took cookies along to decorate. 

These were done by Jethro and his Mommy

And these were decorated by K and I.

It ended up being a fun night, since we also traded gifts, took the kids for pizza and they helped us make some oatmeal-cinnamon-chocolate chip cookies as well. Then we sent the kiddies off to K's room and while they made a mess, we talked, as girls are apt to do :-) 

Hope everyone is ready for Christmas, only 4 more days to go!! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shortbread Cookies

This is another traditional Christmas cookie my mom makes every year; one that i am not crazy about the taste of. But, i usually eat at least one a Christmas season. I made shortbread for the first time last year as a gift, this year i had someone order a batch from my advertisement.

Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour.

Cream butter and sugar. Slowly add flour until incorporated. Wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Roll out to desired thickness and cut. Bake at 325 F for about 8 minutes.

I don't recall having so many issues with this dough last year. This time, the dough was extremely crumbly. I had to press it together into the ball and it barely stayed there. When i started to roll it, the dough crumbled again, but i as able to press it together with the rolling pin. I had to use a knife to carefully lift the cookies onto the sheet. I ended up rolling and cutting twice as many because they kept crumbling between the board and the pan; and so i ended up rolling and re-rolling.

Instead of full butter, i used 80/20, which is basically butter and margarine mixed together. After measuring it, i took the picture at the top. That is a lot of butter. Even though i had so many issues, they seemed to have turned out alright and taste like shortbread should. Also, this recipe cooks fast, so you have to keep a close eye on them.

While they were baking, i was toasting some almonds for my white fudge. Last time, i tried toasting them in the oven, this time i tried the pan and they turned out much better. Although i ended up sweeping directly afterwards...turns out i am not so hot at doing the flip and toss with the pan.

So with the almonds toasted and shortbread baked, i am one step closer to having my orders filled. More recipes from the Christmas bake-a-thon to come! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sugar Cookies

This is a recipe that we have been making for Santa since we were kids. Well, on the years we would leave Santa cookies. Rumor was, Santa likes home made pizza better ;-)

I only have one picture of my sugar cookies because i was in such a rush tonight. I needed to get the cookies done as quick as i could, because my sister needed help doing her Christmas shopping; my brother-in-law unexpectedly got sent away for work this week, and they had planned to do it all this week. So, off to the malls we went in the rain, dragging poor K along for the ride. This is a plate of sugar cookies he made last year for Santa, using the same recipe and cookie cutters at Nannie's house that we had used when we were children.

1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
Enough flour to roll out (about 4 cups)

Cream sugar, shortening, egg, salt , nutmeg and vanilla together. Add milk then flour slowly. Roll to desired thickness, cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes.

I usually end up mixing in about 2 +1/2 to 3 cups of flour, then kneading another 1/2 cup in. The last 1/2 cup i use to dust my rolling surface. This recipe makes oodles of cookies, i think i got about 36 or more, and they are not tiny. The big heart is for K, i am going to let him ice it when i watch him Thursday night. 

This is a simple recipe that any child can help with, a perfect project to kill an hour on Christmas Eve; "The Longest Day of the Year", as my Mom calls it :-) 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Brown Sugar Fudge

What a weekend! And it is only half over. It is 8 AM Sunday morning, i have a cherry bread in the oven and a batch of chocolate fudge in the fridge, setting. I still have to make some cookies today and at least one more batch of fudge. And this afternoon, i am going to a Mary Kay party at 2 and a hockey game at 4(Go Seadogs!), I also have to run to the dollar store to get tins for all my baking!

Yesterday was also a full day. I made 2 banana breads, 2 lemon breads, an eggnog bread and my new recipe for brown sugar fudge. Also... because that does not make a full day, i managed 2 runs to Wal-Mart, lunch in the City Market, a walk to the arena 30 minutes away to get my hockey ticket, and i attended a Christmas party for work with my nephew and brother-in-law (we work for the same company). Here are some beautiful cookies decorated by my little man K. Below, pictures of my baking yesterday. Links for the recipes are below each picture.

Had to have a bit of help with the green tube of icing, but it was either concentrate on squeezing it hard enough to come out of the tube, or to guide it, so K squeezed while Daddy helped guide the icing. 

We both agreed that if K does not become a hockey player or speed skater, he will be on the Food Network someday...and then my baking:

And my new recipe, brown sugar fudge, it makes 64 one inch squares (as seen in the picture above where i have left my recipes under my plate). So before i serve, i will be cutting each of these in half. I go the recipe from the Eagle Brand website. 

Can of sweetened condensed milk (300 mL)
2 cups brown sugar, tightly packed.
1/2 Lb butter.

Microwave on high 10 minutes, stirring every two minutes Let cool slightly. 
Beat with mixer 5 minutes. Spread into prepared 8 X 8 inch pan. Chill to set.

This stuff is beyond sweet! I used margarine instead of butter, maybe next time i will use butter to see if it cuts the sweetness of it a bit. Here is the concoction after the final microwaving. 

After, i believe, the third 2 minutes, i had to start using oven mitts to take the bowl out of the microwave to stir. It was HOT. I stirred the bubbles down and let it sit about 10 minutes while i lined the pan, did some dishes and pulled the egg nog bread from the oven. Carefully, i put it into my mixer, since i do not have a hand mixer and my luck i would have splashed it all over myself. I set a timer for five minutes and let it spin.

I have recipes everywhere on all kinds of spare pieces of paper. Here you see to the left, the recipe for pumpkin pie filling. 

So this mixed for five minutes, and when it was done it was very smooth. And HOT. The bowl, the paddle, even the mixer above the bowl. I had to use oven mitts again to take it off the mixer and scrape it into the pan, not an easy task; metal bowls are slick when clutching them with fabric and not being able to lean the bowl on your body for support.

It was a very sticky concoction, and appeared to be setting even before it got into the fridge. I forgot to take a picture of it in the pan. Either way, about 2 hours later (after a dinner of delivery and a break to read the paper and do nothing for a few minutes)  it was good to go to cut into pieces like this.

I found it to sweet, my beau liked it but admitted it is very sweet (something he will seldom admit). 

So why am i doing so much baking all of a sudden, besides that it is Christmas? I put an ad on a free site called Kijiji, and i got two replies from people around town that would like me to do their Christmas baking this week. So, before the end of the week, i am making the following:

2 Banana Breads, 2 lemon breads, a cherry bread, an egg nog bread, 2 dozen each gingerbread, shortbread, sugar cookies and 4 dozen other cookies, 2 batches of chocolate fudge, 2 batches of white fudge, a dozen peanut butter balls and a dozen cherry winks. One of the ladies had asked me if i made brown sugar fudge. I have never tried it, but decided to and if it turned out, i planned on giving her some complimentary. It seems to have turned out, so she will be getting some :-) 

So, Merry Christmas, Happy baking. I have never made ginger bread before either, so that adventure will be posted here. I have not posted shortbread or sugar cookies yet, either. So if i have time to write in the next week, may Christmassy recipes are coming your way!! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stir Fry Wanna-Be

All week i have been working the early shift, 7 AM until 3 PM. It is nice to get off work early, but it makes for a long evening. I have been home over two hours, and it is only 5:30. Usually by this time, i would be getting ready for bed or reading...but it is much to early. Another thing about being off so early is i actually am able to take the time to cook dinner.

A couple weeks ago, i was out with a friend. We were in a cooking store, pots and pans, cookie cutters, utensils, all around. I found some chopsticks, a set for thirty cents, so i bought 2 sets. Last night, i decided it was time to break them out.

I started my stir-fry wanna be with a chicken breast chopped up. Into my frying pan it went, until cooked. By this time, i realized i did not have much by way of veggies. So i went with what i had. I chopped a carrot, and a bit of onion and threw them in. While this was cooking, i measured about half a cup of frozen peas and thawed them in some warm water. When the carrots were softened, i drained and threw in the peas. Finally, i added about a quarter cup of VH sweet & sour sauce, and i just stirred it around to let it warm up a bit. Actually, it was then that i realized i forgot the rice, so while it 'warmed' i rushed to get some Minute Rice going.

It was really good and quite filling, but i did not have enough for leftovers for lunch today, next time i will make sure i have more veggies and maybe add another chicken breast so i can have those leftovers. 

Since I have to be at work for 7 AM, i have to get up super early. As mentioned before, i am NOT an early morning person. Usually, i get up at least 2 hours before i have to be at my desk, since i only live a ten minute walk away, this gives me plenty of time to get ready and have a good breakfast. There is no way i am getting up any earlier than 6 AM, so this week has been a rush. Up at 6, dive into the shower and get ready, pull lunch from the fridge, make tea while brushing my teeth, and out the door. So, breakfast has been eaten at my desk. All week, before going to bed i have been putting 1/2 cup of minute oatmeal into a plastic container and sticking into my lunch bag. I have also been making a smaller container of homemade applesauce to go with it, but it stays in the fridge with my lunch. Wednesday, i decided to mix it up a bit and put some raisins and cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg into my oatmeal. 

When i get to work, i just half fill the container with water and microwave it for a minute and a half. Stir in the apple sauce, and i have breakfast! I have been arriving to work super hungry because of this, but the oatmeal has been lasting me until 10 AM or later, so i have been eating less snacks in the daytime, i find. Perfect for trying to lose weight! 

It's been a crazy week, and next week only gets crazier. I have tonnes of baking to do for two orders i have to fill from my ad on Kijiji. Lately, it seems i have not been putting up new recipes, just stuff i have been throwing together or repeats of old ones; have no fear, this weekend i am trying something new, and i can't wait to see if it will turn out!! 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Home Fries

With a bit of planning ahead, this can be a super simple and delicious dinner, or breakfast! Home fries are my favorite, but when ordered at a restaurant, I find they are usually greasy or deep fried, yuck. 

Since i worked a 12 hour shift today, and had an hour lunch, I ran home to peel, chop and boil two large potatoes; I also threw a package of sausages into my slow cooker. After the potatoes were cooked, i stuck them in the fridge for after work. When i got home, all i had to do was heat about a tsp butter in a large frying pan and throw them in!

I let them crisp up, tossing occasionally, i checked the sausages. They were not cooked, so i pulled two out and nuked them for a minute and a half. The rest, i fried after i was done eating. 

I served with the sausages, a bit of ketchup, a bit of honey mustard and a slice of corn bread. Yummy! This would go well with eggs, toast, bacon, or anything else your heart desires!

Home fries, the perfect breakfast/dinner. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sweet Breads for the Soup Kitchen

I can't believe it has been almost a week since i posted. The week just spun by, it was crazy busy! I worked noon until 8 Monday through Wednesday, a shift which really does not allow much to be done before or after. Meanwhile, i was trying to catch up on the Harry Potter movies, since i missed the last couple and a friend wanted me to go see the newest one with her.

Yesterday i was off, but got up super early to make the 45 minute drive to my parents in order to do laundry. The laundry room here is closed due to flooding and i do not want to go to a more expensive laundromat. When i got back to town at one, i had to clean house since i had company coming at four, and then last night we went to the movies.

This morning i got up and found 4 bananas in the cupboard ready for bread. I already have enough in the freezer to make about 3 loaves and another 2 banana breads already baked and frozen. I am getting an overflow of bananas!! So i decided to call the soup kitchen and ask if they take donations of baked goods. In this day of fear from attacks, you never know if they still take fresh goods or just canned. The gentleman i spoke with seemed excited by the idea, saying it would be a treat, so into the kitchen i went!

I pulled the two breads out of the freezer to thaw, i will take them down to. Then i proceeded to use up the bananas in the cupboard. The recipe for my banana bread is here.

I used three of the bananas and stuck the forth in the freezer. Then i decided to use up one of the oranges i had in the fridge (i don't eat oranges, i don't like the taste). I had bought them for a recipe and did not have the chance to make it. Since 1 orange can make 2 breads, this is what i did. Recipe for Orange bread is here

So now i am just waiting for them all to cool so i can bag them and walk them to the soup kitchen, it is only about 3 blocks away. I still have oodles of bananas left in the freezer, so i might be making a few more next weekend, when i can get more flour and time. I am working between 8 and 12 hours each of the next 7 days, it is going to be another busy week!! 

Have a good weekend!