Saturday, 16 June 2012

PB cups - my new "fix"

If you are on a "diet" stop reading now.  You don't want to know the rest of this story...

I'll wait while you find something else to read...

This is your last chance to change the page...

Too late now, welcome to my world, you're still reading.


My new crack.  Flavour combination is addictive, texture is fabulous, I almost always have these ingredients on-hand, this is quick to make therefor a good quick "fix", ALL red flags.

You may still stop reading if you so choose, but you'll never know what you're missing.

PB Cups That Rival Reese's
adapted from CheekyKitchen
3/4 cup peanut butter (or almond butter, or sunbutter)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (toasted or not)
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbsp coconut oil or butter
1 cup Rice Krispies (or O's or Corn Flakes)
- mix PB, coconut, icing sugar and vanilla in a small bowl
- melt coconut oil and chocolate chips in a medium bowl in the microwave, add cereal and stir to coat.
- spread about half chocolate cereal mixture onto plastic wrap covered plate, let harden in fridge (or if you're really in a rush pop into the freezer to harden, it's waaaaay faster)
- shape PB mix to cover chocolate cereal bottom and lay on top.  Cover with remaining chocolate cereal and let harden again (freezer?)
- when not frozen but yet hard, cut into pieces to share ideally, or store in the fridge or freezer to eat later tonight, but not all at once.

They can also be made in individual mini cupcake papers for easier sharing and portion control.

These melt very quickly on your fingers, be aware and have a wipe nearby.

Oh, it's good.

Remember the microwave brownie?  I would consider that my first discovery of crack. 

You're welcome.

Table syrup - the best one so far

I love maple syrup.  The real kind that comes from maple trees that gets boiled down to a thick, molten heaven.

But here's the catch, it's pricey like liquid gold.

My family has a few breakfast items on rotation that they love to put syrup on so I just can't keep maple syrup in stock.  Instead, I make our syrup.  I know there's no corn syrup in it; today's news says corn syrup is just way bad for us and should be avoided like trans fats - any amount is bad, BAD.  No artificial colours or flavours, just sugar, water, cinnamon and homemade vanilla.  You can add some maple extract if you want, that's up to you; frankly, this recipe does not need maple extract, it's great without.

I have found the perfect syrup for our French Toast, which is what I served it on this morning.  The Middle Girl was licking her plate, like you'd imagine a cat licking a bowl of milk in the cartoons!  Maybe that's not good manners, but it speaks volumes for the product.

Homemade Table Syrupmakes about 2 ½ cups of syrup

3 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups water
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla
- combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling starts, turn heat to low, and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Can be stored in fridge.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

I'd like an apron

Perhaps in my new house there'll be room for the sewing machine to be set up and perhaps my children will magically morph over the six thousand kilometre drive into calm beings so that I may sew an apron after I settle in.

Nah, not reality.

Maybe I'll just browse for a bit though.

It'll have to not pull down on my neck.  It'll have to accomodate a full bust, ahem.  It will have to cover my hips and a little in the behind 'cuz that's where I wipe my hands.

Here's a cute one.  I love the body design of it.

Here are several really cute ideas!  Love the frilly light pink and white ones with the frilly pockets.

The Triple Layer Cake apron on this page reminds me so much of a skirt I got for Easter many moons ago, my next-younger sister got a matching outfit, we were so cute!  Actually, we still are!

This is pretty much a dress!  Love that idea!

Well, that was fun!  The kids are now asleep and I'm going to go finish my chores and get to bed as well.  Buenos noches amigos!

Packing a lunch - Part 1, Packaging and Containers

Pretty sure I'll come back to this topic at a later date, so today's entry is titled Part 1.  There's so much to say about packing lunches for the people in your life who spend the day away from the house or for yourself.

One of my biggest concerns about all my wees going to school in a couple of years is having to pack ALL those lunches every day for four people.  4!  That's going to take up a whole shelf in my fridge.  But, I can do it!  And I want to do it!  And I'm going help you breathe your way through it too.  Maybe you're doing it now.  I'm currently packing two lunches a day and still find it a tiny bit challenging.  I want to send a bit of love in the yummy foods in the bag.  I want to send enough calories to keep them going until they get home for some more energy.  I want to send tiny treats and a note so they'll remember me all day.  I want it to stay fresh.  I want it to look attractive when it's finally time for them to eat it.  I want lunches to be creative and not just a re-run of supper the night before.  I want everyone else to want to trade with them.  Yeah, baby.

Let's start with packaging.  I'm big on a litterless lunch though not achieving it every day, but almost.

My friend has a Goodbyn that she swears keeps the crackers dry even with strawberries in the next compartment.  Fewer covers and containers means a greater chance they'll come home for another meal.  Every September, I buy a new set of Lock 'n Lock plastic containers.  As much as I'd like to go with glass that's not an option with the school kids (have you seen how they treat their bookbags?!).  A good container to keep warm foods warm is paramount for the Big Kid, he loves warm food in his lunch.  I have a set of these I have no complaints about for a bit of dip, or the granola to go on top of yogurt.  There are lots of neato containers and ideas for containing and carrying your lunches.  I find having a plethora of choices of containers helps me to create a lunch that is appreciated.  I don't have hundreds of plastic containers, just a few of several different shapes and sizes.  It is important to invest in good quality containers though, not the place to go to the local dollar store.  I love The Container Store, there are containers for everything, not just lunches, there.

Sandwiches are not a big hit with me, I have a thing against soggy bread so shy away from packing them in lunches.  I refuse to put butter in a cold sandwich (another textural issue with me) but it is a good idea so please do this if you like it.  I make a bread that is sturdy and with little spread (mayo, mustard) and does very well in a lunch box.  If you do lean toward sandwiches, consider one of these reusable sandwich bags.

The Big Kid has not had luck with juices not pre-packaged in a tetra box.  There was a lot of spillage and mess and he decided he was better off without any juice at all if it wasn't in a box.  I buy them once in a while but mostly he goes without.  Here is a great idea, even once the straw is lost you can replace it with your own cut off or go without and have the kid tip it up to drink.  You can pour a third or half full and freeze it, then add a bit of juice in the morning so it'll be cold at school.  This causes condensation issues, beware.

Love the idea of stackable metal tins, but that's more for me.  Maybe one day I'll need to pack a lunch, hopefully not though.

Must sign out for now. 

Next step: what to pack in the lunches. 

Do you have any ideas for containers and packaging you'd like to share with me?  I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Simple, 3-ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

I made a batch of cookies as a snack-on-the-go for this afternoon.  PB cookies!

I made 16 cookies, I'll create 2 PB&J sandwiches using Nanny's raspberry jam out of some of them and leave the rest as they are - delicious!

I would have made this cookie had I had brown sugar on-hand, but I do not.  Perhaps I'll get to the grocery store this week, we'll see.

Simple PB cookies
from Kraft
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
- mix all in a medium bowl
- shape into tablespoon-size balls, perhaps create classic criss-cross design on top
- bake 325F for 20 minutes
Smooth or crunchy can be used (I prefer crunchy).  I have not tried this recipe with sunbutter or natural PB, if you do please post a comment to let me know how it turns out.  Chocolate chips tend to fall out of the batter but you can smush a few on the top of each cookie before baking them.
A great recipe to get kids in the kitchen too! 

There are some variations and ideas at the Kraft website.

Ricotta cheese

I've been making my own ricotta for a while now using the same recipe and I really enjoy it. 

I look back and realize I haven't shown you how I make it and enjoy it.

This is the inspiration and the recipe. 

I use my ricotta as is on bagels and toast, as an ingredient in muffins, spiced up a bit and as a layer in lasagna.

I honestly use whatever cow's milk product I have in the house.  Combinations of whole milk, skim, 10%, or 5% MF, it always "works out" and is always a treat.

Homemade Ricotta
from GOOP, makes about 2 cups
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
- combine dairy products in a heavy-bottomed pot with salt and bring to a low boil over medium heat (don't turn it up to rush it, it may burn) stirring often, I use a whisk.  Line a colander with dampened cheesecloth and set over a big bowl.
- when it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the vinegar with a quick stir.  Let sit 1 minute to curdle.
- carefully pour into cheesecloth-lined colander and let drain about 20 minutes.

Enjoy right away or store in the fridge for a couple of days.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Going through my file of pictures and doing some general blog maintenance I came across a series of photos for an Armenian Nutmeg Cake that I have, gasp, not shared with you yet!  I've been holding out on you, but rest assured it was not deliberate.

From first cake. Mmmm

I made this one day, ate so much of it myself that I had to make another to save a piece to freeze for feedback and share the rest with friends.

Fresh, this cake rocks my world.  It seriously did.  I called my mother to tell her about it. Uh-huh.

From the second, but not the last, cake.

I found it on mmmisformommy's website and the recipe list was so short and simple, I just had to try it.  Her recipe calls for walnut pieces, but I just wasn't in the mood for nuts - my life is nuts enough to share - so I left them out.  Then, I fell so in love with the velvety rich texture without the nuts that I may forever leave them out.

It is imperative to use fresh nutmeg.  If you are not willing to grate your own or don't own a microplane, just ensure the spice you are using is as pungent and fresh as possible.  Maybe even treat yourself to a new container for this cake.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake
slightly adapted from mmmisformommy

1 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, chilled and cubed
1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg

- combine the milk and the baking soda. Set aside.
- in food processor, add the flour, baking powder and brown sugar and pulse to combine. 
- add the cubed butter on top and pulse until you get tan-coloured crumbs. 
- press half of the crumbs (2 cups) into a greased 9" springform pan.
- add the egg and the nutmeg to the crumbs remaining in the food processor and process until combined.
- add the milk/soda mixture and and continue to mix until a lumpy sand-coloured batter is formed. 
- pour over top of the bottom crumb layer and bake 350F for 50 minutes, or until it tests as done. 
- cool in pan and remove sides and serve.
The second time I made it, I did not use my food processor but rather my pastry cutter which I enjoy cleaning way more than my beast of a machine. 

It's just beautiful as is, could be served at any function, it's gorgeous.
The cake lost some of it's flavour after a brief freeze.  The texture was just fine, but it had lost that over-the-top, lose-yourself-in-it spicy-ness it had fresh and barely warm out of the oven.
This would be great served with coffee or tea to chat with a friend, it also travels well in lunchboxes or on a road trip.  

S'more Brownies

Who wants a brownie?  How about some more brownie?  What about a s'more brownie?  Gotcha!

Want s'more brownie?

I wanted to bring something special to my Tuesday Morning Red-Church Playgroup and tried to figure out a way to make s'mores for them.  It seemed slightly complicated even with only three basic ingredients so then I started looking for s'more alternatives (get it, "some more alternatives" = "s'more alternatives"?!  You can substitute all through this blurb).

There were many choices of cookies, bars, squares and pies.  I had no brown sugar in the house so that eliminated a few right off the bat.  Then, I knew I wanted something easy to transport.

I made s'more squares.

I took my own brownie recipe (well, it's Fry's recipe really) and baked it on top of a graham crumb crust and topped that with mini marshmallows.  At the time of posting, I have not tasted them yet, but how could I have gone wrong?!  REALLY, now?!  As if the brownies aren't bad enough all by themselves.

S'more Squares
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup graham crumbs (pulse about 20 graham wafers in food processor to make 1 cup crumbs)
- combine in a bowl, press into an 8x8" pan lined with foil and well greased
- bake at 350F for 15 minutes

brownie layer
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
- in a big bowl, melt butter in microwave, sift cocoa into butter and whisk well, add eggs one at a time and whisk well, add vanilla and whisk well
- in a small bowl, combine dry ingredients, add to wet and combine, add chocolate chips
- pour over prepared graham crust, even if it's still hot
- 350F for 25 minutes (for a gooey centre, longer if you like them firm in the middle)

1 cup + mini marshmallows
- loosely cover top of brownies with marshmallows
- broil about 2 minutes - watch carefully

Cool brownies on a wire rack by removing brownies from the pan by lifting the foil. Allow to cool and then cut.

AFTER POST EDIT:  I did bring these to playgroup and they were UBER messy!  They were a big hit though, babies were being passed around so mommas could somehow eat the brownie without getting it all over their kids.  It was seriously messy.  I had asked one of the wonderful ladies that host the playgroup at the church if she would please cut them up; she came to me a few minutes later and said she would not, they were too difficult to cut to present, she thought it best if everyone came and took their own.  The general consensus was they were awesome (like, need-a-cigarette-after-awesome) and yes, not first date material but maybe second date if it's okay if things get a little messy ;).  I wonder if they would have been easier to serve if they had cooled completely.  I also wonder if they needed to bake a bit longer (I'm a chronic under-baker, just love stuff that way) so it was still soft in the centre and NO ONE complained about that either!

FIVE OUT OF FIVE but not for formal events!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Rainbows and rain clouds

It's a bit of a gray, dreary day.  Rainy, windy and cool too. 
I made a few batches of rainbow rice and tomorrow morning we will eat rainbow waffles.

Waiting for the cover to come down.

What a blast tomorrow will be!  Sensory play with rainbow rice!  My kids are gonna freak out!  They may even spend time playing with it!  !

I'm going to start us off with rainbow waffles.  I've never done it before and I'm fairly certain they'll be pastels and not nearly as bright as the waffles in this link where I got the idea, I just can't imagine all that food colouring all at once!

Colours are barely discernable when baked toasty brown but I'm not complaining about a
gorgeous brown waffle on my plate!

If you look carefully, you can make out the different colours.

Basic Waffles (rainbows are optional)
from my Cuisinart waffle maker handbook
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
2 large eggs
splash vanilla
liquid food colouring (optional)
- mix dry in big bowl.  Mix wet in small bowl.  Add wet to dry and mix well.
- divide into smaller bowls and to each bowl add food colouring to reach effect desired.
- spread a bit of each colour combo onto your hot waffle iron to fill.  Lower top and cook as directed.

You can make swirls, stripes, zig zags, spirals, let your imagination run wild!  Let your kids tell you what to do with it.  You can even put sprinkles on the batter just before you close the lid if you like.  Or blueberries.

Just a little too full on the first try - but nice and fluffy!

Tell me how it goes if you try it.

Before the attack of the wees.

I messed it up just a bit for this photo, I couldn't resist.

EDIT the next morning: the rice was attacked, played with for a minute and then spread all over the house.  I don't mind so much, it's easy to clean up.  My concern was adding water to the mix with all that food colouring and staining the floor.  Next time, I will just be doling out plain white rice not coloured to play with.  The waffle mixes looked cool, but once cooked were pretty much a uniform toasty brown colour.  You could see the pink and blue if you knew they were there and looked hard.  Once opened to eat though, the colours were obvious and fun.  I'll do it again.

There we are, all four of them still in their pj's. They LOVED it!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Paul Bunyan Cookies

I haven't made these cookies in years.  For some reason, The Man asked for cookies tonight and these seemed like the right ones.

This is taken directly off Martha Stewart's website.

Remember, I round all my spice measurements, I just do.

I used coconut oil instead of shortening.  You may also use Earth Balance, margarine or butter - they will all work.

Martha's Paul Bunyan Cookies
from Martha Stewart
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 bag (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup (5 ounces) chopped walnuts
- small bowl, combine dry
- large bowl, cream shortening and sugar.  Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well.  Add add-ins and dry and combine.
- drop by 2" ice cream scoop (or very full small spoons you serve at the table, commonly referred to as a teaspoon vs a soup spoon)
- 350F for 14 minutes

** you can be very generous with the add-ins as well.