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Friday, November 12, 2010

Chocolate and Caramel Oatmeal Bars

E2 and I made these this week.  In preparation for Christmas, of course.  We had to leave a few out to sample, just to ensure a quality product for the upcoming holiday season.

Here is the link to the original recipe.  It's a Betty Crocker.  It's hard to go wrong with Betty

Betty Crocker Chocolate and Caramel Oatmeal Bars

These weren't bad, but I think I'd change things up a bit. They start out with a yellow cake mix and quick rolled oats.  You add butter, chopped pecans, chocolate chips, and some thickened caramel topping.  Predictable and consistent, to be sure.  But maybe lacking a little something. 

If I were to make them again, I'd probably add something else to the cake mix mixture.  Cinnamon, perhaps?  A little less butter or more oatmeal may have made for a more crumbly mixture.  Mine turned out very wet.  A more of a streusel topping would have made my heart sing a little louder.

All in all, a dependable, quick to whip together concoction.  It'll be in my recipe file, but maybe not for super special events where I'd like to wow someone. 1. 2.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cookie Press Shortbread

I am not sure if these actually qualify as 'true' shortbread, in the Scottish sense of the word.  But this is what we grew up calling them and this is what I and my children shall call them to the third and fourth generation, amen.

The recipe is about as simple as it gets, as shortbread usually is.  The trick lies in the technique.  No overmixing.  Make sure the ingredients are at the right temperature.  Butter must be soft but not oily.

These are the cookies from one batch of dough.  I just split it and added the colour in two separate lots.  The end cookies always end up having a rainbow effect.  My sister and I used to look for these ones especially.

It's important to add just enough dough.  For any of the cookie presses I've used, 2 'shots' were needed to get enough dough onto the cookie tray.  One squeeze of the trigger ended up with separate, tiny bits of dough.  Three squeezes ended up with an indecipherable blob.

The cooking time is approximate, although pretty close.  Don't attempt to adjust the temperature to shorten the time.  It won't work.  These cookies do not have the same affect or taste when browned.  And given the amount of butter in them, that happens easily.  Nor have I found that using parchment to be very effective.  These cookies need to stick directly to an ungreased cookie sheet.

Cookie Press Shortbread
2 1/2 c    pastry flour
1/4 t        salt
1/2 c       icing sugar
1 c          softened butter

Mix all ingredients together, using a stand mixer works best.  Add food colouring if desired.

Bake at 275 for 45 minutes.  Do not allow to brown
These can be decorated with coloured sugar before baking.
Do not refrigerate dough 1. 2.
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Friday, November 5, 2010


Here are my cuties, all set to go trick or treating. 

Not to be fooled.  E3 did have a costume.  Only he outgrew it.  Outgrew it so fast, in fact, we don't have any photos of him wearing it. It was that painful for him.

 Everybody carved a pumpkin.
 By 6 pm, the fearsome twosome was ready to take to the streets.  Who could deny these adorable faces?

Clearly, no one could.  This is the haul from our street alone.  Please keep in mind that all the houses are not here yet.

Here is a slightly more A-type rendition of their candy stash.  And this week, we won't be baking much... 1. 2.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apple Dumplings!

My grandmother used to make these for me, individually freeze them in foil, and bring them to me at university.  I always loved them when she made them fresh at her house, and tasting them while I was away was an incredibly sweet reminder of home.  And again, it was a great way to use up left over pastry

After coring and peeling the apple, you essentially wrap or mould pastry around it.  Very simple.  These little French onion soup bowls work perfect for baking them.  If you want to get creative, roll the apple in cinnamon and brown sugar before wrapping them in pastry.  Stuff the middle with little gobs of butter (no margarine, please), brown sugar, and cinnamon, until full.  At this point, they can be wrapped in foil and frozen  When you are ready to bake them, mix together 2/3 corn syrup to 1/3 water and liberally pour over each one.  Bake at 350 until cooked.  Cooked varies with the size of apple.  When the pastry is nice and golden brown, it is ready.  My grandmother allowed them to cool before serving - I prefer still warm.  Add some nice heavy cream over top, just before serving.

 No, it should be pointed out that, while this is THE superior methodology, my mother-in-law likes to make a caramel sauce (or store bought) sauce after baking, and skips the corn syrup step.  To each their own.  However, I won't be messing with grandma's recipe, and certainly won't be the one to tell her that someone else has either. 1. 2.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Hundred Uses for Pastry

Pastry, even the world's best pastry, will only last so long in the fridge.  Eventually, one must bring oneself to part with the temptation of flaky, crumbly, melt in your mouth deliciousness.  More pie?  Not always the answer, my dear friend.

These are Oma's Leftover cookies.  Great-oma, as you may have guessed, was Dutch.  And not terribly well off.  And had a small brood of children to raise.  Even if she had been well to do, her wooden shoes would have surely overridden any flirtations with frivolity.

This is her method for using up pastry scraps.  I can hardly imagine there were many scraps, but what there was, she used.  I say it's a method, rather than a recipe, since no one has ever seen this really written down.  In fact, today may be the first time in our family's history it has been done.

Great-Oma's Leftover Cookies

Roll out pastry into a rectangle.  Spread liberally with butter.  Cover completely with brown sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Roll into a tube.  If the tube appears to be getting to thick (more than four or five full turns) cut the rectangle lengthwise and use two rolls.  Cut into 1/2" wide pieces and set on cookie tray.  Bake at 350 F until done.

This is the delicious result

Don't worry if a few fall over.  They will be equally edible.  Of course, to keep up appearances, you may want to taste test those 'seconds'
I'd love to tell you how long they will keep.  Around here, it's only a few hours.  My best guess would be a few days.  Let me know how they work out at your house. 1. 2.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Perfect Sugar Cookie - Or Not

I have found the world's most delicious sugar cookie.  It isn't a sugar cookie in the conventional sense that you whip up butter and sugar, etc. and then chill it and attempt to work with cold dough that invariably falls apart and you have to re-chill in order to make it bake up properly.  Or that you have to ice it in order for it to taste like much of anything.  No, these little wonders escape that fate.

Here they are, ostensibly shaped like oak leaves. Use your imagination, OK?  At any rate, E2 was helping and having a fantastic time, so it doesn't really matter what shape they came out as.  I didn't ice this batch, having used up my maternal patience for the day.  They still tasted absolutely delicious.

Light, flaky, buttery, flavourful.  Don't let the colouring fool you - that's a bit of a blunder on my part.  These are to die for.

Roll-Out Cookies

1 cup          unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups  white sugar
1                egg
2 t              vanilla extract and/or almond extract combination
2 3/4 cups  all purpose flour
2 t              baking powder
1 t              salt

cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and extract(s).  Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.  Slowly add to butter mixture.  Knead in a small amount of colouring, if desired.  DO NOT CHILL DOUGH.  Roll out onto floured surface, to approximately 1/8 inch thick, working in batches as necessary.  Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet at 400 F for 6-7 minutes or until slightly browned

Makes several cookies, perhaps 2 dozen, if you can keep from eating them along the way. 1. 2.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cake

In the original recipe, the word 'luscious' is used.  And they couldn't be more correct.  This is originally a Kraft Cooking recipe.  It is the best magazine I don't pay for.  Anything that begins with a cake mix and four eggs, how can you go wrong.
I did make a few modifications for the sake of my sanity.  I didn't have any Cool Whip in the house, so I used some whipping cream instead.  And I was too lazy to use pecans on the top, so I omitted them.  Ditto with making four layers instead of just two.  It was a huge hit at Saturday night's food fest.

Here is the link to the Kraft site where the recipe is house ('cause I'm still too lazy to type it out here)

Luscious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake 1. 2.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010


E2 is really enjoying her brother being away at school during the day.  She also has moments where she would probably enjoy it if her little brother would go away, too, but he's a little young for college just yet.

In preparation for some company tonight, we were baking and cooking fiends yesterday.  Helping in the kitchen is perhaps her favourite activity in the whole world.  Aside from maybe driving her brothers crazy.

My aunt offered us a plethora of blackberries from her property this year.  Being good and frugal (cheap?) like we are, we accepted.  I have no idea what to do with blackberries, really.  But given the shortage of cherries in our area this year, I figured maybe I could make them stand in.  And stand in they have

This is my version of blackberry pie.  Please ignore the small drip.  I should have taken a photo from the other side and then you would have never known.  But here I am, warts, pie drips and all

Elyza also made a pie:
It had to be EXACTLY like mommy's pie.  Criss-cross top and everything.  They devoured it last night with the babysitters.

What, we left the house unaccompanied by children?  Is that possible?  A story for another day.

Here is the recipe my family uses for pie crust.  It is unique in the it uses milk instead of water.  And that it makes about 600 lbs of pie crust.  And that we have no idea who Margaret is.  Rumour has it she was a neighbour, but only my grandmother might know and that is a three house conversation I am just not prepared to have today

Margaret's Pie Crust

5 cups   all purpose flour
1 t         baking powder
1 lb       lard (chilled is best, cut into small pieces)
1 T       salt

1 egg     beaten
1 T        white vinegar
enough milk to make one cup

Start with only 4 cups of the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.  I am lazy and put it in my stand mixer.  Gradually add the cut up pieces of lard.  You can use vegetable shortening if you must, I won't tell.  But I think the lard gives it a better texture.  Slowly pour in the milk mixture.  Then add as much of the last cup of flour as needed to make the dough the right consistency.  That is, moist, stuck together, but not sticky.  Be careful not to overmix.  That is the death of pie crust.

Chill before using.  It will keep up to two weeks in the fridge if you keep it in a tightly sealed bag or container.  Let it sit on the counter ten minutes or so before attempting to roll out on a well floured surface.

This is E2's take on the whole experience:

Maybe just on life period.  She is a little bit different 1. 2.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bacon Cheddar Chive Breakfast Muffins

Need I say more?  Seriously, these smell so good I nearly ate the entire batch.

 Here is the recipe for anyone who's interested

Savoury Bacon & Cheese Muffins

2 c        flour
1 T       Baking Powder
2 t        white sugar
1 t        mustard powder
3/4 t     salt
1 1/4 c  cheese - Italiano blend is suggested, but I had cheddar in the house
1/3 c     crumbled bacon

1 c        milk
3/4 c     oil
1/2 c     chives or green onion, finely chopped
2          eggs
1 t        corn syrup

Combine first group of ingredients, minus 1/4 c of cheese, in one bowl.
Combine second group of ingredients in a second bowl
Pour second mixture into first mixture and stir until just combined
Divide mixture evenly into paper lined muffin cups
Bake for approx. 20 minutes in a 400 F oven
Immediately sprinkle with remaining cheese when they are removed from oven

Best served warm 1. 2.
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Midnight Rainbow

OK, so it wasn't exactly midnight.  More like seven.  But close, right?  I'm sure it was midnight somewhere.  At any rate, it was time for bed for E3s.  This little beauty appeared in the sky, for ever so brief a moment.

Here is the other end.  No sign of a pot of gold or anything.  Just  few, brief shining moments.  The kids alerted us to its existence, actually.  Perhaps in an attempt to further their scientific understanding of the world around them.  Or maybe just to delay bedtime. Hard to say.  It appeared the next evening as well.  I don't have any shots of that one.  I wouldn't want to appear redundant. 1. 2.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nativity Scene

I sewed this over the past weekend, for Goose's nephew, Josh's, birthday.  We will be celebrating over Thanksgiving weekend.  The eight little figurines and the creche were actually pretty simple to construct and sew.

It even has "Away In A Manger" printed on the back, which I think is very cute.  I decided to machine sew the openings closed, for durability.  And because my hands were just about done by the time this was finished.  Next time, I think I'll take longer to finish and hand stitch the openings closed.  It will give my slip stitch some much needed practise. 1. 2.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Quick but Chilly

I have been promising my girl for a few days now that I would take her to the park.  Today, when it is a mere 11 C outside, we went.  I bundled the two of them up and away we went.  Across the crazy busy road.  To the park that boasts exactly one slide, one dirty little play house, one teeter totter, two swings, and one weird little dinosaur thingy.  And lots of dirty, wet sandy underneath.

They had a blast

First, we went on the one of two swings that are there

E3 loved it

Here he is, contemplating his options at this wee park.

E2 loves the slide.  She picks out her own outfits, yes.  Why do you ask?

When they started huddling together for warmth (after about 10 minutes) I made an executive decision to head home.  And make hot chocolate.  With marshmallows.

And thus, mama has kept her word.  And her sanity. 1. 2.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Boomerang Lunch

So, my first baby started school this fall.  Right after Labour Day.  Bam.  All day.  Every day.  Suddenly, we're rushing through supper to get everybody to  bed by 7 pm.  If not, E1 can barely make it through the next day.  Naps are now a no-no at this school.  Once in a while, some students get super duper quiet time, where they sit and read books by themselves.  But that's about it.

This is not the our biggest concern.  We are dealing.  We have adjusted (almost).  The boomerang lunch is truly the bane of my existence. 

The premise has some merit, I suppose.  Reduce garbage by returning it all to the parent who sent it.  Make sure everyone knows how much garbage they have really produced.  But that's not all that's to it.  The reality is that the school board needs to find a way to make cuts to its budget.  Hence, reduce the garbage/janitorial costs.  Shift it instead to our house.  Even apple cores come home.  If this is a green project, perhaps a composter could be in order?  Really

So,  you will have to excuse me now, while I go and get out the second of two lunch bags we keep for E1.  The first one is bound to come home in need of a deep power clean. 1. 2.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Out of Nowhere

So, while walking around the side of our house today, cleaning up after the mutt, I found these.  Where had they come from?  No, really.  I remember planting three little chrysanthemum plants there this spring.  If I recall correctly, they were labeled as being three different colours.

Today, I find this.  Wow, I love the colours, but what happened to the white one?  Could have sworn I bought a white one.  Ah, well.  They were an incredibly pleasant surprise after all of my other plantings have lost their summer glory.  Except my dahlias.  They're a little confused.  But that's another story. 1. 2.
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

So, I've been sewing again. Dangerous, I know. This time, a set of growth charts. Boy colours and girl colours. Tied with a pretty matching grosgrain ribbon on a dowel. I'm not sure what to do with them exactly. Sell them? Give them away as baby gifts? I'm not sure

One of these days, maybe I will get brave and open an etsy shop of my own... 1. 2.
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Monday, September 20, 2010