Archive | February, 2011

Sweet Treats

21 Feb

I love this recipe because it is an easy one to pretend is healthy.

Let me convince you.

It has peanut butter, rice krispies, and peanuts.  And wheat germ and/or oats and/or coconut.  And if you use dark chocolate it’s good for your heart and your happiness.  Really, all I had to say was cereal.  This is practically a breakfast power bar.


Ok, maybe if you have a peanut allergy these aren’t all that healthy.

But for the rest of you, you don’t even need to turn on your oven.  And you can leave out the peanuts and use crunchy peanut butter, or both if you really like peanuts.


1 tbsp margarine or butter

1/2 cup corn syrup or liquid honey

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

3/4 cup chopped peanuts

1/3 cup wheat germ, wheat bran, oats or coconut, whatever you have handy (optional)


3 tbsp peanut butter

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Lightly grease 9×13″ pan.

In saucepan, heat corn syrup, margarine, brown sugar, peanut butter and chocolate chips.  Remove from heat and stir in cereal, nuts and any additions.

Using lightly buttered spatula, press mixture into pan. Spraying your spatula with a blast of cooking spray makes all the difference in this step – so easy and non-sticky!

Topping:  Gently heat peanut butter and chocolate chips in a saucepan or the microwave.  When melted, blend well and spread over base.  Refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares.

Adapted from a recipe by Snap, Crackle and Pop themselves (the Rice Krispies website :))

Twice Faked Potatoes

19 Feb

I always have trouble with twice-baked potatoes.

Usually I am too impatient on the first bake, or decide too late in the day that I want to make them, and try to scoop potatoes out of shells that are either too hot to handle or not quite baked enough and still determined to hang on to their shell.  Either way, I’ve yet to nicely scoop out all my potato, mix it with the fixings and get it nicely back into the shell in any way that looks like something you might want to eat.  On top of that, I hate washing potatoes and don’t really like eating the skin anyways.



Twice-baked potatoes that are not ACTUALLY twice-baked! (These are not actually even ONCE-baked, hence the as-yet-unmelted cheese).

I made them in individual ramekins because it was a romantic birthday dinner for two (ooh la la), but these would be great in a large casserole too as a potluck or Thanksgiving/Christmas dish.

Simply peel potatoes and boil for 10-12 minutes, till fork tender.  Mash with a fork or potato masher and stir in chopped cooked bacon, green onion, cheese, enough butter to make a nice consistency in your quantity of potatoes (approx 1 tbsp butter  per large potato) and a couple tablespoons of sour cream.  Top potatoes with extras of all the fixings, adding the cheese in the last 10 minutes of baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted.

These can also be made ahead: boil and mash the potatoes with the fixings, then store them in the fridge until you want to bake them.

So really, they’re boiled-and-baked instead of twice-baked but I guarantee no one will ever know the difference…aside from the fact that they aren’t in their skins anymore, but who wants that wrinkly brown wrapping paper anyways?

Serve with an extra dollop of sour cream if you love it as much as I do!

We had these with this Steak au Poivre, Caesar salad and popovers, with this Skillet Cookie for dessert…I think I may make that cookie every week, it was so easy and one of the best things I have ever eaten, and was just as good reheated in the microwave today.  Dangerous business.

Back to the potatoes….throw in a little extra bacon and those could be a meal in themselves with a side salad, and I bet you wouldn’t get a single complaint!

Happy supping 🙂

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough High

17 Feb

In which I feel bad for my gluten-free sister.

This past weekend we celebrated, in true close-together birthday style, the birthdays of my oldest nephew on my side (4 already!!) and my dear hubby (27 already!!)

I love these family dinners with two of my four fabulous sisters, especially after a couple years away from them, even if we do spend a good part of the time refereeing as my sharing-challenged daughter pushes the boys around.

I had the pleasure of making dessert, and having to please both the kid crowd and the adult contingent, and having recently printed a must-try recipe for cupcakes, and picked up some adorable little cupcake papers, I got to work.

These. are. ridiculous.

Innocent looking enough, right?  But little do you know…the cupcake is cookie dough flavoured, the center is ooey-gooey cookie dough, and even the ICING is cookie dough flavoured!  In fact, aside from my favourite brownie icing ever, this is probably the best icing I have ever tasted.  But then, I love cookie dough, and if I can have my cookie dough and no raw eggs too, I am in.  Really, who am I kidding, I was in raw eggs or not.

The recipe looks long but I promise every step is extremely easy and well worth the effort.  Having said that, the cupcake itself was not my very favourite, only because it was a little dense and “muffin-y” for my liking – in fact, I plan to make them as muffins for breakfast.  What better way to start your day than with cookie dough?  Really any plain cupcake, vanilla or chocolate, with a few chocolate chips thrown in, would be delicious with this filling and icing, but I’ll include the original in case you want the full cookie dough experience.

Looks like breakfast to me!

Also, a word of warning before you get started: when you take out the centers of the cupcakes and it looks like just a little bit to pop into your mouth, have some water handy, because by the time you pop that 24th center into your mouth you are THIRSTY.  And your brain is starting to catch up to your stomach and tastebuds, and you are starting to feel a little comatose.  Still, it’s important for quality control purposes to test each one, so don’t give up on me!


Cupcakes: (makes 24 cupcakes…can easily be halved).

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ cups light brown sugar, packed

4 eggs

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

6 tbsp packed brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

7 oz sweetened condensed milk (approx 12 tbsp)

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips


1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

3 ½ cups icing sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ tsp salt

3 tbsp milk

2 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.  Beat butter and brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 min.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to wet ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, mixing each addition until just incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla and fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Divide batter evenly between cupcakes and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to rack to cool completely.

Filling: Combine butter and sugar; cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour to let it firm up a bit.

To fill the cooled cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake and eat the resulting crumbs J  Fill each hole with a chunk of the cookie dough filling mixture.

Frosting: Beat together butter and brown sugar until creamy.  Mix in icing sugar until smooth.  Beat in flour and salt, then add milk and vanilla and beat until very smooth.  Frost and decorate as desired.

Cupcake casserole anyone?

Aw, hello little reject plate. I promise to love you as much as your better-looking siblings.

I found this recipe on Annie’s Eats (Check out her blog for much nicer pictures – I wasn’t ambitious enough to make the tiny chocolate chip cookies to perch on top!)  Don’t wait for a birthday to make these, whip some up for breakfast.  Just go easy on the icing and have a good side of fruit or something 🙂

I have a dream…

15 Feb

I think if I was getting married again I would do a couple things differently.

No, I wouldn’t change the guy (Hi Carl!).

And I wouldn’t change the minister (Hi Dad!)

But the gift situation.  Don’t get me wrong, we got some fabulous gifts and I loved everything, and I plan to use my toaster and knives forever and always, but this time around, this is all I’d put on the list.

Isn’t that a beauty?  The clear bowl is what convinced me I need to break down and buy one of these things.  I love my clear mixing bowls, and this one has measurement markings and a pour spoutWhat more could a girl ask for?

I bake a lot, and believe me, those hand mixers are not designed for daily use.  I think I’m on my third or fourth one, and I’m only on my third or fourth year of marriage (No, maybe fifth?  Anyways, however many there have been, they’ve been fabulous.)

Back to the issue at hand, my mom’s Most Amazing Shortbread recipe, my favorite Christmas cookie of all time (possibly my VERY favorite cookie of all time), requires 10 minutes of beating butter on high, and I just have not yet bothered to stand holding my hand mixer for that long.  It makes the carpal-tunnel-in-training flare up.

So I try other shortbreads whenever I see them.  I made an acceptable Cranberry White Chocolate one this Christmas, but it was not the same.  None ever is.  None ever will be.

Maybe I will work in into my mortgage.

One day when I get a mortgage.

Like I said, I have a dream.


Sleep deprivation

13 Feb

It’s been a crazy couple weeks…first I was sicker than I’ve ever been since having kids, then little Gemma got her first real flu, then last night sweet K-fer was up for 3 hours happy as a clam due to my forgetting to inform him that it was nighttime.

I also don’t think Gemma has slept through the night more than once since before we had Kristopher…she has adapted without a hitch in any other way and loves her little brother to pieces, but her sleep patterns seem irreparably damaged.  Being a big fan of my previous 8-10-hours-per-night-plus-naps, this has wreaked havoc on my functioning ability.

Short nights catch up on us all!

In honor of my beautiful little blessings, here is a little list for you all:

You know you’re tired when

… you fill up your contact case with solution and shut it but forget to take out your contacts before bed.  The next morning you think there has been a miracle and your vision is 20/20 (I actually uttered the words, “It’s a miracle!” and shook Carl awake).  Then you rub your eyes in amazement and realize there is something glued to your eyeball.  A little disappointing.

… you remember to take our your contacts before bed but forget you remembered and poke around in your eye for a good minute before realizing there’s nothing in there but eyeball.

… you take your 3 week old (or 4 month old…oops) baby out to the store and when someone stops you you cannot for the life of you remember what you named him (this is very embarrassing, because the first time you just stutter out the first thing you see (Dorito?  How unique…) and the next time (yes, this happened more than once), you remember how that went and instead you stand there and think about it and look just as completely crazy.  Lose lose).

… you put your potty-trained child on the toilet with her underwear still on and are even more confused than her about how it ended up wet.

… you memorize all your kids’ story books (I have about 35 down pat) so you can read them with your eyes closed and pretend to yourself that you’re resting.

… you cannot remember when you last showered or washed your sheets…if you’re going to do one you have to do the other, so you decide against doing either.

… you cannot remember your phone number, address, or worse still, email password you’ve have since the seventh grade (yes, I know I should change it more often, but really, if I can’t even remember it this way, that would just be asking for trouble).

… you know your mother/mother-in-law is coming over and you don’t even dust.

I’m sure you can all add so many more and I’d love to hear them! 🙂

Obviously, I wouldn’t trade having my kids for the world, and I find the effects of extreme sleep deprivation quite entertaining (especially after a good nap).

Who can resist this?

Really, when you’re running on 3-4 hours sleep for a couple consecutive weeks, I certainly hope you can laugh at the effects, or you better sit down and have yourself a good cry and a good nap, and leave things in the hands of a good husband, friend or family member.

Tomorrow is another day, and I laugh in the face of sleep – HA, WHO NEEDS YOU!?!!!

Ok, clearly I do.  Ah well, maybe next year 🙂


11 Feb

I love muffins.

I am considering buying a toaster oven JUST to reheat muffins, since the microwave isn’t quite cutting it for me.  The last place I worked at had a toaster oven, and reheating muffins in there restored them in seconds to their perfect, warm, crisp-topped, soft-bottomed fresh-out-of-the-oven deliciousness that I love so much.

I love muffins because they are super fast to put together, and don’t require rising time when you suddenly get the urge to have some (rising time being my saving grace deterring me from making homemade cinnamon buns whenever the urge hits).  They come in endless flavour/texture combinations, and can be made as healthy or unhealthy (aka cupcakes) as you like.  They are quick to grab for breakfast when you’re running out the door late, and if you throw them in your purse frozen they don’t get squished and are perfectly thawed and ready to eat an hour or two later.

After reading that, how can you NOT love muffins??

I have learned to never leave my muffins at room temperature.  I now always eat as many I as I want off the cooling racks and then freeze the rest as soon as they are cool.  Leaving them on the counter in their container resulted in too many softened, sticky tops, especially on moister muffins with lots of apple or anything in them.  Freeze ’em, and reheat ’em for 30 seconds in the microwave and it’s almost like you just made fresh muffins.  Almost.  With a toaster oven the deception is REALLY good.

This recipe is one of the ones I use ALL the time…it is light and fluffy and always turns out perfectly, whether you make it with raspberries and white chocolate, raspberries and blueberries, blueberries and cranberries, fresh fruit or frozen fruit…you get the picture!  And then there are the icing options!  Drizzle on some melted white chocolate, plain icing sugar and milk, or whip up a lemon or orange icing by adding a bit of juice to the icing sugar.  Because everyone should have icing for breakfast.  Really.  Especially if your muffin does not contain chocolate chips.

You can also substitute the milk with fruit juice – I have done orange juice as well as one of those SunRype or V8 Fruit/Veggie mixes that taste like fruit juice but have veggie servings in them – I can’t mentally get myself to actually drink a glass of the stuff, but I love mixing them in things in place of just plain fruit juice.  I am a heavy water drinker and anything with more than water’s amount of thickness veers me into the unpleasant realm of launched leftovers.

On that appetizing note, here’s the recipe:


1/2 cup margarine, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup milk (or fruit juice – makes the texture slightly less moist/rich)

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

2 1/4 cups flour (all-purpose or whole wheat, or a combination of the two)

1 cup sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup raspberries

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup white chocolate chips (totally optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 12 muffins cups with paper lines or spray with cooking spray.

In small bowl, whisk together melted margarine, milk, vanilla and eggs.  In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Blend wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.  Gently fold in berries and chocolate chips, if using.  Divide over 12 muffins and bake for 18-20 minutes, until light brown and toothpick comes out clean (tops should feel fairly firm and bounce back when pressed lightly).  Let sit in muffin pan for 10 minutes before removing to rack to cool completely.

Once cool, add a drizzle of icing if it floats your boat as much as it does mine 🙂


I also contributed these to “Jubilicious”, our Ottawa church cookbook, which I believe is still available for purchase if anyone wants one, and I’m so happy to see lots of you Jubilites have tried and loved them too!!

(Adapted from a recipe by Imperial Margarine)

Cookie Monsters

9 Feb

Around here, we go through cookies like water, which is saying something considering I am an “8 glasses a day” kind of water drinker.

I make cookies at least once a week, 4 or 5 dozen at a time, and they NEVER last the whole week.  As you can see, I make them small; we like to eat 3 or 4 at a time, and small ones make that more acceptable and leave some room for things like dinner.

These are super simple, delicious, chewy cookies adapted from a recipe on the back of a Chipits package.  I love chewy cookies. I know you crunchy cookie lovers are out there, and I must say, I will never understand you!  If I can hear a cracking sound when I bend my cookie it is not the cookie for me.

I tend to prefer semi-sweet or dark chocolate, but Carl loves milk chocolate.  He is always planning to eat more healthy snacks and I am always making new cookies to prove that snacks should really taste like snacks, and meals are where we worry about both taste AND health factor.  He hasn’t been able to resist my bad influence yet and I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

If you like chewy chocolately cookies too, try these out!

Milk Chocolate Chewies

2/3 cup melted butter

2 cups lightly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tbsp hot water

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (or another cup of all-purpose)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 package (270 g) milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, hot water and vanilla until very smooth. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and add to butter mixture.  Mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips and drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased (or parchment paper-lined) cookies sheet.

Bake for 8-9 minutes.  Makes about 5 dozen smallish cookies.

Enjoy by the handful, or have more self-restraint than me and freeze some for another day 🙂

Lurker Love

7 Feb

Blogs are a funny thing.

People want you to read their blog.  You want to read their blog.  But you don’t want to comment because you don’t want them to KNOW you read their blog.

What is going on??

Why are we blog-shy?  Why do I run into someone I know everything about and then act surprised and excited for them when they tell me they are pregnant, or just back from Europe?  I KNOW these things about them from their blog!  They would LOVE to know people enjoy reading their blog!  WHY don’t I tell them?

Well, I have a theory.  Blog-readers feel like they are wasting their time reading blogs and fear people will think they are snoopy or voyeuristic, or have too much time on their hands.  Only men who don’t understand the full-disclosure agreement of females think this. If I am writing about something on the INTERNET (aka Noprivacyland), then clearly I do not care if you know about it.  It is not a dark family secret or where to find the body of that poor sod who was tailgating me, and I would tell you about it in person too if we happened to be chatting.

I was thinking about this because I was a little embarrassed to start a blog, at least one that I let people I know find out about – Would people think I was over-sharing?  Would people think I have too much time on my hands?  Would people be offended by what I said or didn’t say?

Then I thought, “Who cares?  If it’s fun and I enjoy it, why not just do it?”

So if you read someone’s blog, don’t be embarrassed to tell them!  And bloggers who post links to blogs on facebook – guess what, I probably read your blog.  I love hearing people’s takes on daily life, what brings them up, what brings them down, what they made for supper, what their kids are up to, etc.  It’s fun!  And the internet has opened this whole new opportunity to share ideas and find support and meet and interact with like-minded people, so why not take advantage of it?  I will never think it is weird for you to have read my blog.  I will be honoured and flattered that you spent some of your day with me, and I hope you’ll also post a link to your blog in the comments section so I can spend some of my day with you too!

Win-win! Happy blogging to all 🙂


Couch configurations

3 Feb

I need help. Not mental help.  I don’t think.  Well, I do think.  I don’t think I need mental help.  Yet.

Anyways. Since moving back to BC we bought a very comfy sectional, something we always wanted and a big improvement in looks from inherited green and cream plaid, but I’m just not sure which way I prefer it in our space.

Since I am actually a certified Interior Decorator, I feel a little silly putting this out there, but it’s hard to be objective in your own space!  I have enough trouble choosing my own paint colours, something that will take me minutes to form hard and fast opinions about in other people’s homes when they’re paying me!  Furniture is a whole other beast.

So here’s the trouble with the couch.  I like it this first way because it’s so open and gives the kidlets lots of play space and leaves room to get around the exersaucer and such… (the little table isn’t there anymore, it’s on the other side)

But then, it has its problems.  In the evenings I have to sit in a very specific place to see the TV or work on the computer, or even do homework, since that’s where the lamp is.  Also, it gives me a mild case of agoraphobia after living for 2 years in our teeny tiny cozy Ottawa apartment.

So we flipped it like this:

This is much cozier, and provides ideal TV-viewing-while-lying-down opportunity, as well as more room to come in the patio door without tramping on my carpet. But company kind of has to cuddle.

Then I got claustrophobic.

Poor Carl.  Little does he know I am just executing a master plan to tone his arms to bulge out of his shirtsleeves.

Actually, this configuration would be perfect if it was just Carl and me living here.  Very cozy indeed.  However, toys tend to get stockpiled in moat formation around the ottoman/coffee table (which I know, should be squarer and not the same colour as the couch but I was vetoed on buying a new one just because we bought a new couch. Boo.)

Anyways, what do you think?  Open, and easy to pull in extra chairs for guests?  Or cozyand ideal for TV viewing and preventing me from spending the evening staring at my kitchen, which inevitably needs work and distracts me from doing nothing?

At least we have no toys or food accumulating under our furniture!

We have since switched back a third time to the open plan since we’re hosting about 20 people this weekend…but aren’t sure where to go from here. Thoughts?

First Date Squares

2 Feb

Well, since I’m currently studying linguistics, I can tell you  that the title of this post is what is known as an “ambiguous sentence”…there’s your fun fact for today!  Use it to impress your friends and neighbours.

This is the first time I have made date squares, after a long love affair with them on baking platters at weddings, paint conferences, and other gatherings where you can find me loitering at the dessert table.  Why I waited this long to make them is beyond me, as is why my first baking post is not devoted entirely to something chocolatey.  (Don’t worry, those will come.)  I figure this is acceptable only because these squares contain a healthy dose of brown sugar and butter, a combination I would bathe in if social mores allowed.

Also, I bought dates in Ottawa and forgot about them and they were expiring.  I recommend not using expired dates, although I am living proof that they won’t kill ya.

So, this is what I made, and they are delicious room temperature or frozen, but in my opinion best chilled from the fridge.  (This is going to be hard on my waistline, testing all these options for you folks, especially since they need to be tested in quick succession for a fair comparison!)

The resulting recipe is a loose adaptation from ones by the amazing Anna Olson and from “The Best of” cookbook.  These recipes called for a 9″ square pan but I like my dates on the thinner side, (HA) so I used a 9×13″…make ’em how you like ’em.



2 1/2 cups pitted dates

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2  tbsp fresh lemon juice


1 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup cold butter, cubed

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 9×13″ baking dish and set aside.

For filling: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook for 2-3 minutes to soften dates, then remove from heat and let cool.  Once cool, puree in food processor until quite smooth.

For crust: Combine all ingredients except butter in food processor and pulse to combine.  Add butter and pulse until crumbly (without a food processor, just use your hands to mix in the butter until pea-sized crumbs form).  Pat 2/3 of the mixture into prepared pan.  Spread date filling evenly on top and sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over dates.  Press down lightly.

Place the pan on a large baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden brown.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.  (To get the nicest squares, refrigerate them for an hour before cutting.)

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