Oh Ginger!

Okay, I’m finally getting back in the saddle and writing a post after a ridiculously long hiatus–and after I got my oven fixed. 

I love my range. It’s a Viking Professional. We had it installed when we renovated the house and I couldn’t bear to part with it, even if it has had to be repaired twice now. It’s kind of like a favourite blanket or pair of shoes. It’s comfortable and familiar and I can’t imagine any other range living up to it. It’s simple. No fancy knobs or bells or electronics. Straight up gas. But it was not baking evenly. I’d get a mixture of under done to slightly burnt depending on where the pan was located in the oven. It was a true range inside the range. Ha!

Now that Joe the Appliance Guy came and fixed the oven, my motivation to cook and bake has been reinvigorated.

Since it is the season for pumpkin and spice and all things hearty and warm, I copied my mom and baked a double batch of Evelyn Raab’s soft ginger cookies. My three-year-old could eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which I sometimes let him do. They came out perfectly and have a nice sparkly sheen of sugar coating their little brown selves.

Evelyn Raab's Soft Ginger Cookies
Evelyn Raab’s Soft Ginger Cookies

Maybe it’s because these cookies are relatively unassuming and they have a healthy *look* to them, but you kind of feel like you’re eating something healthy, which is probably why it’s so easy to convince yourself to eat more (than one). Key ingredients to these tasty morsels is molasses and of course, powdered ginger. I can’t imagine adding anything to them, but let me know if you have experimented with ginger cookies and what combos work for you.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg, water and molasses and continue mixing until smooth. In another bowl stir flour, ginger, baking soda and cinnamon together (I’m so lazy I actually skip this and mix it all together–but I digress). Add dry mixture to wet mixture and beat until everything is combined into a soft dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge while you tidy up and preheat oven to 350 F. Pour some sugar onto a plate–I used fine granulated sugar– Pull the dough out of the fridge and start rolling the dough into 1-1.5 inch little balls. Roll the dough balls in the sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. They will look soft and like they’re not finished but really they are. Let them cool for a couple of minutes and then move them to a plate. This recipe makes 4 dozen.

 

The Art of Pumpkin Carving

 

Tonight was family pumpkin carving night. This year we have a total of nine–count ’em–NINE pumpkins! Whew!
Mind you, two of those were carved up at a workshop at Lee Valley, my husband’s favourite store. It’s a wonder I let him go in there–he’s like a kid in a candy store.
This time, though, he was there with my dad, who had signed them up for a pumpkin carving workshop with the boys.
The cost of the workshop included a fantastic little set of serrated carving knives.
Take it from me: my world changed tonight after I used this little set. I will never, I repeat, NEVER, go back to carving pumpkins with a standard knife or those cheap-o sets that are sold at this time of the year.

carving set

In my last post I showcased some Halloween pumpkins that were my “Pinspiration” for my pumpkin. So I pretty much copied my favourite (the Tim Burton-esque one) by drawing the image freehand on a piece of paper. Then I sprayed the pumpkin with water, “glued” on the piece of paper, traced out the image with a fabric marker thingamabobby and then went to work with the best serrated knife EVER. Here’s how that whole process unfolded…

And here’s Jack, all lit up!

lantern

Other than having to pull all the guts out of the gourd, this year’s carving experience could actually be described as pleasant.
So to all my friends, have a safe, candy-filled Halloween and hopefully Environment Canada gets it wrong for Thursday night.

 

Halloween Pinspiration

I know, I know, I know. I have this fair-weather relationship with my blog. I haven’t been all that involved with it these days months. And I have no excuse other than Life. Yes, Life. So without further ado, I decided to do a quick post with some of my favourite Pins of Halloween decor.

The house is mostly decorated now, but I can’t photograph it very well because contrary to what some might think, I don’t know how to take a good exterior shot of the front of my house. It just ends up looking, well, bad. And definitely not Pin-worthy. Because we all know what makes the cut.

I dig Ghost pumpkins–those are the white pumpkins. And anything a little different from the predictable. Although I love simple, old-school Jack O’ Lanterns too. So I’m leaving you with a few pictures to give you some unattainable inspiration when carving up those ghoulish gourds in the next few days.


I call these Tim Burton style pumpkins


These are beautiful Ghost pumpkins.


And now I’ll just get out my handy, dandy drill!

This is my Pinspiration for now…what are your Halloween Pinspirations?

Polka Dot Party

I wish I had more energy to put into this post but the truth is I’m pooped. So I’m going to keep it short and sweet.

I made yet another birthday party for my middle child–having all three kids with birthdays in the first quarter of the year is both a blessing and a curse. By the time this birthday rolls around every year I always say to myself and whoever will listen, “this is the time I do one of these.” Bu then of course next year arrives and I start planning out the cake, the decorations, the loot bags, the entertainment, the meal….

This year I combined the family and friends parties to kill two birds with one stone however this makes for a rather large and unwieldy party. We had a company that brings exotic animals to the house to teach the kids about the animals; where they are from, what they eat, etc. This kept the kids occupied for one hour. That only left one more hour of the party to survive  feed the kids, do the birthday cake and usher them out the door.

My middle guy wanted a Smartie number cake just like his big brother so I baked a few vanilla cakes, got out the big serrated knife and got to carving. Then I slathered on some yummy creamy cheese icing and embarked on the painstakingly long task of doing a chevron patterned decoration on the cake with Smarties (or chocolate gems as they are referred to at the bulk food store).

Picking up on the Smarties I decided to go with a polka dot theme for the table settings found at none other than Dollarama.

And this was all completed by polka dot and chevron printed loot bags that I scored at Creative Bag (that place is dangerous–I could spend a lot of money there). I kept it simple for the loot: Kinder Eggs bought in large quantity from Costco and a $5 gift card to Indigo. I figured this was both easy and pleasing loot for both parent and child.

Here are a few snaps of the big day.

I made two 9# rounds and used a giant cookie cutter to cut out the centre to form the bottom of the number 6.
I made two 9# rounds and used a giant cookie cutter to cut out the centre to form the bottom of the number 6.
Here is the number 6 cake "in the raw" before applying icing.
Here is the number 6 cake “in the raw” before applying icing.

 

Here's the six cake with a thick coat of cream cheese icing.
Here’s the six cake with a thick coat of cream cheese icing.
And here is the coolest every chevron smartie six cake!
And here is the coolest every chevron smartie six cake!
A view of the polka dot plates I scored Dollarama
A view of the polka dot plates I scored Dollarama
And to cap it all off: polka dot and chevron loot bags!
And to cap it all off: polka dot and chevron loot bags!

 

 

 

 

What To Do With Leftovers: Rice

How many times have you found yourself transferring all the little bits and bites left canada cialis online over after a meal (in my case, and probably most cases it’s dinner) into various sizes of plastic containers?

And while you’re doing this you’ve got a little angel sitting on one shoulder saying, “you are for sure going to find a way to use these leftovers and not let them go to waste. You will incorporate them into a future meal some time in the next 48 to 72 hours.”

Meanwhile on the other shoulder is perched a little devil saying, “Why bother? It’s just going to end up in the back of the fridge, also known as the wasteland of lost and forgotten food that is sure to become a science experiment utterly unrecognizable to any food group.”

Well if you’re anything like me your intentions are always noble but getting to those poor leftovers when there are fifty million other items on my daily to-do list doesn’t always happen. Not to mention coming up with a creative way to incorporate the leftovers into a meal that won’t have my kids groaning or turning their noses up.  Sometimes the mental exertion required to do this is just too much.

But there are some leftovers that are just too good to go to waste and I have resolved to make an effort to reinvent them into scrumptious dishes that will have my kids–and hubby–asking for seconds only to find it is all gone.

My mother was particularly good at upcycling our leftovers, although I wasn’t always that enthusiastic about eating them. I recall one time cutting into a piece of lasagna and looking at the filling, when I turned to my mom and said, “Wait a minute, isn’t this chicken from last night’s dinner?” She started out with a slightly sheepish look on her face mixed with a little giggle followed by an indignant glare (does that course of emotions make any sense to you?). I can’t remember what she said but it was a bit of a running joke with us because we could always count on my mom not to let good food go to waste. So I’m taking a page out of her book.

We had a couple of cups of basmati rice left over from dinner tonight, which got put into a container and shoved in the fridge. Feeling slightly more energetic than I have been in the last week because of a terrible cold, I decided to make rice pudding, which is one of my favourite comfort foods and the perfect antidote to winter.

The lowly leftovers
The lowly leftovers

 

My grandmother used to make a baked rice pudding that ended up with a thin layer of custard on top, but I have yet to find the recipe. Until then I’ve been playing around with recipes that I’ve found online.

I had roughly 2 cups of cooked rice so here’s my adaptation on a number of stove top rice pudding recipes I have found:

In a large sauce pan combine 2 cups of cooked rice with 1 1/2 cups of milk (I mixed skim and whole milk), reserving another 1/2 cup of milk for later. Add 3/4 cups of sugar and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken.

Mix the rice, milk, sugar and pinch of salt
Mix the rice, milk, sugar and pinch of salt

Beat 2 eggs and set aside. Turn down the heat and to the rice and milk mixture add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, beaten eggs (make sure they don’t cook when you add them otherwise you end up with scrambled eggs a la rice pudding). Stir for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat.

Add 2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of raisins to the mixture. Stir until thoroughly combined. You can serve this warm or cold and even divide it into individual cups. I prefer putting it in one big serving bowl and letting it cool a bit.

Butter, cinnamon, vanilla and raisins
Butter, cinnamon, vanilla and raisins

I could seriously eat this morning, noon and night it’s that yummy. Let me know if you have a much loved rice pudding recipe. Better yet: if you have a much loved leftover recipe let me know and I’d be happy to feature it!

Rice pudding: the ultimate comfort food
Rice pudding: the ultimate comfort food

Sweet Hearts

You know me: I’m an easy target when it comes to finding an excuse to bake for an occasion and what better occasion than Valentine’s Day? So I got out the trusty ol’ sugar cookie recipe care of Martha Stewart and dug out my heart shaped cookie cutter and got to work.

Heart shaped sugar cookies
Heart shaped sugar cookies

I whipped up some royal icing, also care of Martha Stewart, tinted it with a dash of pink gel to get a nice baby pink and got to work icing them.

Pale pink royal icing
Pale pink royal icing

I sampled a cookie–which I don’t normally do because I want to make sure there are enough for the kids to give out to all their classmates, but we had plenty. I was pleasantly surprised…it had a nice crispy outside and soft and moist inside. And the icing was sweet but it didn’t overwhelm the cookie. Now I remember why this is always my go to cookie recipe.

Sweet Heart cookies
Sweet Heart cookies

 

 

 

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Everything in its place

I have dreams of a palatial mudroom where I can consolidate the dog shower, laundry room, coat closet, boot and shoe racks, washer and dryer, drying rack….you get the point. I am fortunate that I already have many of these things in my lovely home, but a girl likes to dream. And the fact that I dream about storage space isn’t really that uncommon.I knew that I needed to come up with a small space solution for my kids’ coats, boots and bags when they began to drop these things the minute they walked in the front door and it felt as though I had to climb cialis through a tangled mess to get to the kitchen. It also didn’t look very neat and tidy, which are my middle names.

So once again I enlisted my handy and good looking husband’s help to transform an unused corner of the landing between the main floor and the basement into a mini mudroom for the kids’ jackets, backpacks, boots and other miscellaneous items that needed a home.

Voila–the side door mini mudroom

In terms of the aesthetic I wanted to achieve a modern rustic look that was simple, durable and overall functional. I gave my husband creative licence after we settled on the general idea. I really didn’t have the mental capacity to figure it all out–I just wanted to clutter to be organized. I got to pick the paint colour and Dave picked the lumber and the hardware.

Very cool antique-look cast iron hardware

I picked a durable high-gloss greenish-blue from Martha Stewart at Home Depot. I think it was called “Blue Fern.”

Dave got 2 x 6 lumber and made me a sawtooth bench along with a board covered in cast iron hooks for backpacks and he made a shelf with really cool antique-looking brackets and  curled hooks for hats and coats. He found the hardware at The Door Store in the design district. It’s such a fun store I’m glad I didn’t go otherwise he never would have got me out of the store.

Cast iron hook

I also needed a boot tray and I wasn’t about to buy an ugly plastic one (heaven forbid!) and I became fixated on this very stylish metal boot tray from Crate and Barrel. The only problem was they were online only and cost about as much to ship to Canada as the boot tray itself. So I had it shipped to my in-laws on one of their southern vacations. It was a bit of circus (and a costly one at that) getting it back here but there it sits perfectly under the bench holding boots and shoes.

This project really did end up being the perfect marriage of function and form. I love the way my paint job came out and the scale of the pieces doesn’t overwhelm the space and make it difficult to move from the main floor to the basement and vice versa. 

And of course it hides the every day stuff from the main entrance of the house. Now I’ve just got to get my kids to remember to hang everything up there instead of dropping it at the front door! 

Crafty DIY Valentines

Inspired by my friend Alex over at NorthStory, I decided this year was the year for DIY valentines. Sure, I could have gone over to Dollarama and found some super hero themed package of valentines for a buck that came from some factory way over there but I decided NOT to choose the path of least resistance. This year, Valentine’s Day was going to be personal. So I rummaged through my craft cabinet and there among all the forgotten crafts purchased years ago when I was an eager and enthusiastic first time mom I found a bag full of foamies brimming with hearts in a rainbow of colours and sizes.

A rainbow of foamy hearts

 

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With the little spare time that I have (read: none) I decided to make my kids’ valentines for school and daycare. I know, I know, I know: THEY should make them. Not me. And they did help me–for about a nanosecond. So I enlisted my oh-so-willing husband to help cut the card stock (who are we kidding? I gave him my best puppy dog eyes and begged) and got creative with some glitter glue and colour play.

Colourful hearts

I draw the line at filling in the cards for the kids but it’s fun to *be* a kid again making the cards. Maybe I’m being too sentimental or ideal but I really believe teachers, parents and kids not only appreciate the homemade valentines but they remember them and the people who made them.

monochromatic valentine

Well time’s awasting–eight down, forty to go.

Mmm….garlic dills!

Until today the only canning I had done was making jam. As of today I can add pickling to my repertoire. On a whim I bought a batch of mini pickling cucumbers. I knew time was working against me so while the baby was napping this morning I got to work. Sterilizing, boiling, brining, cutting, pouring, processing and voila, pickles!!!!

I found the recipe on a fabulous site called Food In Jars, which was fairly simple to follow. The only deviation was the pickling spices. Rather than make my own I bought a pickling spice mix at the grocers–much easier and less time consuming. Oh yes, and I didn’t have cider vinegar so I went with straight white vinegar.

Now comes the hard part: waiting. The recipe says they can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year but it doesn’t say when I can dig into them….maybe 3 months? 3 weeks? 3 days? 3 minutes? I’m not sure I can wait!!!