Archive | June, 2011

Saturday Sweets – Chocolate Toffee Squares

25 Jun

Saturday sweets on an actual Saturday!

This recipe is an old favourite in the Kampen family, originally from a little pamphlet you could pick up in the grocery store near the flour.  Now they are a favourite in my own family too.  Carl likes anything with chocolate and Skor bits involved, and sweetened condensed milk is one of my true loves.  This time I made them with whole wheat flour and some chia seeds instead of sliced almonds so we could feel somewhat healthy enjoying them (ok, and I didn’t have white flour left, or sliced almonds…I had a bagful of whole almonds but have you ever tried to slice those things thinly?  Yikes.)  They tasted just as good, if not better, anyway- I think I actually prefer the taste and texture of the whole wheat flour in this crust.

They come together so easily, and freeze really well to have something handy for unexpected company, and the topping ingredients are flexible so if you don’t have all the “right” ingredients you can make them anyway!  I’m posting the traditional recipe to give you an idea, but feel free to adjust to your taste.  Chocolate chips, dried cranberries and sliced almonds makes a delicious alternative topping, as do a combination of white and semi-sweet chocolate chips, and you can add healthy things like whole wheat flour, chia seeds or ground flax without ever tasting a difference.

Chocolate Toffee Squares

1½ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

¾ cup butter or margarine

1½ cups semisweet, milk chocolate or white chocolate chips

¾ cup coconut

¾ cup Skor toffee bits

½ cup sliced almonds

1 can (275 – 300 mL) sweetened condensed milk


Lightly grease a 9×13” pan.  Combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Press firmly into prepared pan.  Bake at 350º for 12 minutes, until light golden.  Meanwhile, combine chocolate chips, coconut, toffee bits and almonds.  Set aside. 

When crust is done, pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crust.  Sprinkle with chocolate chip mixture.  Press down firmly.  Bake another 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.  

Recipe adapted from Robin Hood.

The Wheaties Box Story

24 Jun

One time Carl was on a Wheaties box.

I think this is hilarious.  Look at that cereal box.  Breakfast of champions, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Good story, right?

It gets better. 

He didn’t KNOW he was on a Wheaties box.  You’d think they need permission for this type of thing, but nope.  If you’re handsome enough, and look like a champion, you just might wind up on a Wheaties box one day too.  If it doesn’t happen, chalk it up to mediocre looks and lack of champion potential.  Sorry, truth hurts.  You can’t all be handsome champions like my hubby.

Maybe if you eat more Wheaties?  It is, after all, the breakfast of champions.

Still wondering how all this came about? It’s a story with many twists and turns, but I will try to explain.

My aunt in Ontario, who works at a college, walked into a room where these boxes were in production and said, “Hey, I know that guy! What is he doing on that Wheaties box?”

To appease her they gave her one to take home. (They may have been doing it as part of an upcoming volleyball tournament his team was supposed to be attending, not as official General Mills employees.)

She brought it to my parents’ house (in Ontario) at Christmas to show them. She tucked it in a gift basket that somehow ended up forgotten in the bathroom. They throw rager parties apparently, those parents of mine, where random baskets of things wind up lost in the bathroom.

The next time my mom cleaned the bathroom (could’ve been the next day, could’ve been weeks, no telling :)), she found a mysterious Wheaties box with her son-in-law’s (very handsome) face on it.

You can imagine the confusion that ensued.

She called me, in B.C.

I had no idea what Carl’s face was doing on a Wheaties box in Ontario.  Neither did Carl. She took a picture of the box. I laughed hard.

She had to trace back what might have happened the night of that ca-razy Christmas party, and call her brothers and sisters to find out what shenanigans had caused this cereal box to turn up in her bathroom.  Turns out my aunt brought it, as mentioned, and forgot to show my mom, and somehow the box ended up in the bathroom.

Mystery solved. I think?

Bacon Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

23 Jun

With hot summer weather comes cool summer suppers!

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

I’ve been making this recipe for awhile after having something similar in Mitch Miller’s restaurant in Abbotsford.  I ordered a chicken caesar salad and there were NOODLES in it!  Now, if you know my feelings about pasta you know exactly how I felt about that – GIDDY would not be an overstatement.  Why had I never put pasta in my salad before?  Well, I would make up for it as expediently as possible.

I love pasta salads, Carl won’t touch them with a 10-foot pole.  Cold food makes his heart bleed. But Carl DOES love caesar salad.  And pasta.  Hmmmm.  Do you see where this is going?

YES, this is the perfect compromise for him, and it’s great for kids who aren’t big on lettuce too since there is plenty of substance with the noodles and chicken and bacon to keep them full and happy.  When I brought it to the table and sat down Gemma held up her hands and asked, “But Mom, what about the other supper?”  In other words, “Is this it?”  Obviously we usually have our salads on the side.  But she loved it!  And I just love lettuce and chicken and bacon and cheese and PASTA. I’ve also made this with leftover turkey – a great alternative to typical “leftover turkey” dishes.

If you aren’t like Carl and DO like pasta salads, this is actually a great pasta salad without the lettuce and croutons, as a Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad.  It travels great this way if you have to bring something to a party and don’t feel like bringing lettuce and croutons to add last minute, since if you add them at home you will be known as the one who brought the soggy salad and, as reputations go, yours could be better.

A pretty pasta salad already!

But if you want a full meal of deliciousness, add the lettuce and croutons and serve with a side of fresh crusty bread of some sort.  This recipes serves 2-4, depending if you have bread as well – 3 of us ate only salad and were full to the brim.  

First, one more note – you can use any kind of lettuce for this, and romaine would be the traditional caesar salad choice but I just love the fresh red leaf lettuce that’s out right now.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  Carl bought it for me 🙂  Way better than flowers that die and have to be thrown out – I am all about edible gifts.

A bouquet from my love


1 cup dry pasta, cooked according to package directions (rotini or bowtie pasta holds the dressing nicely)

6 slices bacon, cooked; reserve 1 Tbsp bacon drippings to toss with pasta

1 cup cooked chicken, chopped

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional – definitely use it if you’re making it as a pasta salad)

1/2 a large head of lettuce


Caesar dressing (I really think Renee’s Caesar dressing is the best there is, you can find it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, usually near the lettuce)

Fresh black pepper


Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, cook bacon and prep all other ingredients.  

Drain pasta and rinse under cold water.  Transfer to bowl and toss with 1 tbsp bacon drippings (doesn’t “drippings” sound so much better than “grease”?  But really, this is important to get the best flavour, don’t skip it!  If you’re making this ahead, it also keeps the pasta from sticking together.)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat thoroughly with dressing.  Serve immediately.


*If you’re not serving it immediately, toss all ingredients EXCEPT lettuce and croutons together and store in the fridge.  When ready to serve, add lettuce and croutons and additional dressing and black pepper.

And I just had to share a picture of my mini-me – she always makes “dinner” in her own kitchen while I cook, and invariably makes the same thing I am making, so today she had a big salad.  When I went to take a picture of mine she didn’t want her work of art to be left out, so she grabbed her own “camera” (a block) and followed me outside.  When I exclaimed, “Oh, I forgot the croutons!” she clapped her hands to her cheeks and shouted “Me too!” and we both hurried inside to remedy the situation.  She cracks me up every day.

A food blogger in the making

Hers looks delicious too!


22 Jun


Gemma loves to eat outside (as long as no bugs are in sight), but so far this year it’s been mostly too cold or too hot so a breezy warm day was just what we needed!  There’s something about the excitement of being outside that means she will eat pretty much anything I put in front of her, so I figure this summer this will be a good way to introduce more raw veggies and dip under the guise of “fun”.

She really is lovely company, my little conversationalist, and with Kristopher napping we didn’t have to worry about little fingers snatching the food or little mouths full of grass, which made for a nice relaxing snack time!  Now that she’s given up napping we’ll have to start doing more lunches outside since there won’t be such a rush to get the food down and get her into bed…we’ll save that for dinner time 🙂


Saturday Sweets: Caramilk Cookies

21 Jun

I know, it’s not actually Saturday today but I did MAKE these on Saturday so I figure they count for my haphazard series…or was it Friday?  

Yup, I think it was Friday.  Sorry.  

I think if you make them you’ll forgive me – after all, they are a chewy chocolate cookie wrapped around a piece of Caramilk chocolate bar, so how wrong could they go?  

Carl got this recipe from the chef father of one of the volleyball girls he coached in Ottawa, and I think it is the first time in his life he ever asked for a recipe.  Being a big cookie fan like he is, he had these at a team gathering and immediately knew he wanted me to be able to re-create them for him at home.  While I don’t make them as often as some of my cookie recipes, it has nothing to do with their deliciousness, and everything to do with my laziness.  I tend to like recipes where I can mix everything together in 5 minutes flat, plop ’em onto the cookie sheet and throw ’em in the oven.  Productivity!   Good smells! Snacks!  Hooray!!

This particular dough has to be made ahead and then thoroughly chilled so you can shape it around a Caramilk square (or chunk of Mars bar, or Snickers, or whatever your favourite may be), and then the balls are rolled in sugar, before finally, FINALLY, you can put them in the oven.  Also, to make sure your chocolate bar chunk isn’t too far away from the edges you want to make the cookies as eensy as possible so the first bite reaches the center surprise, and eensy cookies means OODLES of cookies, which means SCADS of time.  

Ok, between making the dough and shaping the cookies maybe you’ll spend half an hour on these cookies.  And you could make the dough a day or two ahead and keep it in the fridge.  So really, ignore my drama.  You can do it.  I’m sure I’d be hard pressed to find others as lazy as me.  Or, you can rush things like me and get your hands covered in sticky chocolate dough and be reminded yet again that patience is indeed a virtue for which to strive.  Or get bored halfway through and throw chocolate chips or chopped oreos into the rest of the batter and proceed as you would for regular cookies…not actually a bad route since then it looks like you took the time to make cookies TWICE since there are two flavours!

The original recipe for these was called “Muriel’s Chocolate Bar Cookies”, but since I altered it slightly and have absolutely no idea who Muriel might be, I have renamed it the rather more self-explanatory Caramilk cookie, but as I mentioned earlier, feel free to use other chocolate bars you might have handy, although Caramilks do break into handy little squares and all the stickiness stays well-contained for the rolling process.  Chilling your chocolate bars is also a good idea to keep them from melting in your warm little hands while shaping the dough around them.


1 cup butter or margarine, softened

¾ cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup white sugar, plus more for rolling cookies in

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

⅓ cup cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

Cubes of Caramilk bar (about 4 bars)


Cream together butter and sugars.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa and baking soda and then mix into the creamed mixture.  Chill mixture until firm – I sometimes make the batter and leave it in the fridge overnight.  It will be all melty in your hands if you don’t chill it.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350º.  Place some dough in your hand (about a teaspoonful) and shape it around a chocolate chunk.  Make them fairly small so the chocolate chunk isn’t too far away from the edges once it bakes.  Roll the ball in a bowl of white sugar and place on greased cookie sheet.  Do not press down, they flatten as they cook.  Bake for 12-13 minutes.

A guest post by the kids

19 Jun

Dear Daddy, we are here today to tell you…

Why you are the best Dad ever: 

You tell us that you love us

Even when we’re bad,

You take the time to talk to us

And find out why we’re sad.


You laugh at every trick we have

And teach us new ones too;

You change our stinky diapers;

Wipe us when we use the loo.


You build the best block people

And treasure chests and trains,

You let us jump in puddles

Every time it rains.


You hold us when we’re cranky

And when mommy needs a break.

You teach us how to exercise

Yet always share your cake.


You try to get some work done

But we always find you there

And you love us all enough

To be distracted from your chair.


We love each moment with you

And that’s why we wake you up

To tell you about piggy

Or to fill our pink juice cup.


We give high fives and sweet kisses

And clap and sing along.

You encourage us to learn and grow,

And show us we belong.


Seeing you’s exciting,

We bounce and jump and giggle

And show how much we love you

By the force of all our wiggles.


You never act too old

To enjoy our childish games

And we love to watch you trying hard

To hide your giant frame.


You spend time with us gladly

And never make a fuss

When mom goes off to school

And leaves you just with us.


You work hard for your family

Where you feel you’re called

And set us the example

That money is not all.


You tell us we can be

Anything that we might choose

And that even if we fail,

Your love we’ll never lose.


You tell us that we’re charming

In our dresses or our jeans

You make us feel self-confident

And foster self-esteem.


You tell us that we’re special

And show us that it’s true

When you shower us with snuggles

And discipline us too.


You show us how to balance

Work and life and love,

And you’re such a special daddy

We give you all our love.


So much love,

Gemma (3) and Kristopher (9 months)

Iced Green Mint Tea

17 Jun

With summer heat comes a craving for summer drinks, and for me the ultimate (non-alcoholic :)) summer drink has to be iced tea.  If I’m going to have something besides water, I generally won’t head to fruit juice since I’d much rather just have fresh fruit, especially while it’s in season.  But there’s something about iced tea that is different and refreshing and good on it’s own, with cookies, with hamburgers…pretty much any time of day.

I’m not a fan of hot drinks, except for the occasional hot chocolate in the dead of winter, but I am always slightly envious of people who can enjoy a good cup of tea, so drinking iced tea makes me feel included with the “hot drinks crowd”, even if I am still the quirky one in the group.

Carl has become a huge fan of green tea, with it’s naturally decaffeinated anti-oxidant powers.  This iced version is something I can definitely get on board with, since it makes great use of all my fresh mint and I’m crazy enough in hot weather to be annoyed if ANYONE drinks hot drinks in my line of vision.  (Side note: only about 3 months till fall!)

Make it tonight and drink it tomorrow since it has to be nice and cold and all the flavours need to meld together into refreshing deliciousness.  Your lemon slices and mint will sink to the bottom overnight and not fall into your cup – if you want your lemon slices floating at the top, add them right before serving.

Iced Green Mint Tea

6 bags green tea

8 cups boiling water

3 lemons

2 bunches fresh mint (10-15 leaves)

1/3 cup sugar (or to taste)

Ice cubes


Boil water, and pour over tea bags.  Let steep for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice 1/2 a lemon to garnish drink, and juice remaining 2 1/2 lemons into a large pitcher, making sure you don’t get any seeds.  Roughly chop mint leaves and throw them in with the lemon juice, along with a bunch of ice cubes. Remove tea bags and dissolve sugar in tea.  Pour tea over ice cubes.  Chill thoroughly (ideally overnight) before serving, and serve over ice.

This is a great drink to make with a little helper – get them to throw in the ice cubes and lemon slices and rip up the mint leaves to throw in – Gemma had so much fun she even braved drinking some!  It really is true what they say – if you get your kid involved in making something they are much more likely to be willing to try it, as I’m finding more and more often these days.

Enjoy, and stay in the shade!

(Drink inspired by and adapted from Lauren at A Full Measure of Happiness)

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

15 Jun

Well, early on in my blogging, which wasn’t really that long ago so I’m not feeling too bad about how long it’s been, someone asked me about a good Raspberry Yogurt muffin recipe (Hi Alanna!).  

Maybe you already found one, but it has been in the back of my mind and, while this recipe doesn’t actually call for raspberries, I assume they would be fabulous with raspberries too as they make a big, perfectly-textured, crisp-topped muffin that could really only be delicious with any fruit combination.  I’ll try it another way as soon as I eat some room into my freezer 🙂


These berry muffins have always been my favourite go-to berry muffin,  but I have to say this recipe is giving them a run for their money.  As soon as I had one I was so excited to blog about them, but I wanted to make them again since I kind of guesstimated and played with my oven temperature the first time around and I wanted to be sure they would turn out equally fabulously for you all.  

I read all kinds of muffin recipes and basically came up with one that used all ingredients I already had…then I liked them so much I made them again 2 days later, a rare occurrence for me – not because I ATE the whole dozen but because I wanted enough in the freezer that even if I DID eat the whole dozen more would be waiting!

I think what really makes these special and delicious is the use of almond flavouring, an idea inspired by Sommer over at  A Spicy Perspective– what a great alternative to the traditional vanilla!  And she has some beautiful pictures too.

Try ’em today, and try ’em again 2 days later.  If you try them with a different fruit, let me know if it works just as well!  Also, if there’s a recipe you’re looking for or would like to see my try feel free to comment and let me know or, if you’re shy, send me an email at…I love a challenge!


Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

1 large piece of rhubarb, sliced lengthwise then diced (about 3/4 cup – 1 cup)

1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

1 tbsp flour to coat berries

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (or more all-purpose, if you must :))

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt

1/2 tsp almond extract

Brown sugar for topping

Sliced almonds for topping (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop rhubarb and strawberries and toss with 1 tbsp flour (this absorbs the liquid a bit and prevents soggy muffins).

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

In separate bowl, cream butter, oil and sugar until very smooth.  Add egg, sour cream or yogurt, and almond extract; blend well.  Gradually beat in dry ingredients until combined.  Gently stir in fruit.

Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and divide batter – a good 1/4 cup per muffin for nice full cups.  Lightly press in some sliced almonds if using (I didn’t have any but they would add a perfect look and crunch), then sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on top.  Bake for 16-20 minutes, until tops are golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

A new addition

15 Jun

Well, our family grew by one more yesterday!  

Everyone, meet PP!

One more piggy, that is.

Gemma got a stuffed piggy as a gift when she was a newborn and latched onto it almost immediately, and along with that came a serious love for all pigs, whether alive, statuesque or stuffed.

This guy was the highlight of our trip to the zoo:

We recently also discovered the EcoDairy near our house, which we’ll certainly be visiting weekly not just because they have amazing fresh local and organic produce and specialty products at great prices, but also because they have a row of animals outside to pet and admire, including two very friendly pigs!  

And yesterday at the store Gemma spotted not one, but TWO new piggies she just HAD to have.  One was a fluffy kids’ stool with a pig face as the seat, but I couldn’t think of a reason I’d want to fill more floor space with that.  The other, however, was a PILLOW pig!  Since Gemma’s well-worn old piggy is in fact what she uses as a pillow, this was too good to be true.  Here was a pig pillow that is actually MEANT to go in the washing machine and dryer!  And he can be velcroed together so he stands up, which is just the cutest thing.  Into the buggy he went, with a very happy Gemma who loudly informed the checkout lady that he was NOT to go in a bag, but right back to her arms.

And I am happy to report that old piggy has been moved to the side of the bed and new piggy (Pillow Piggy, aka PP, as he’s been named) functioned successfully as a pillow.  I don’t expect old gray piggy will be making a disappearance anytime soon but hopefully with a few less washings he will live out his golden years in happy one-piece-ness.  

Gemma spent the afternoon introducing all her pigs to each other and making sure they were all friends, then informed me with great relief that they were all getting along, sharing and taking turns.  

Time for a bigger bed I think!

 These kinds of family additions are really very easy to adapt to.  

Gemma in her glory!


(PS: A very happy milestone birthday to my dear friend Andrea’s lovely mom!! 🙂 )


14 Jun

Our church is hosting a Vacation Bible School this summer, as most do, and to assuage my guilt and feelings of inadequacy at being totally unable to voluntarily choose to spend my time with large collections of other people’s kids, I volunteered to do some of the prep work.  I can cut, I figured – how hard can it be?

I guess I didn’t really know what was involved, and I’m glad I volunteered because no one should be stuck doing that alone, but let me give you a sample of my first cutting project:

-stacks of bristol board starfish and octopi and tentacles

-180 20″ lengths of plastic lacing

-90 5″ lengths of plastic lacing tied in slippery little knots

-180 felt octopus eyes (octopeyes?)

-90 felt octopus mouths

-felt flip-flop straps

-assorted eensy shapes to combine to make eensy balls

That was the first week.

Thankfully Carl was willing to be recruited and rigged up a fancy system to make the lacing spin so he could pull and cut continuously, undoubtedly making it much faster than it would have been if I had done it!  If only his fingers weren’t too big to tie knots, since that is especially not my forte – I’m bad enough I even got out of the job for my own wedding invitations.

It was somewhat rewarding to see my stacks go into neatly shaped bits of crafts, in organized, labelled baggies, and I’ve only got a few things left, and those teeny knots to tie. I’m notorious for leaving the worst jobs for last and putting them off till the last minute, and then when I finally get to them finding they aren’t that bad at all…here’s hoping this is one of those times!

Regardless, feelings of guilt and non-nurturing inadequacy: successfully assuaged.

Mission accomplished!

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