Daring Bakers Challenge: I think I have a problem!

For any of you who have been reading my Daring Baker's posts since January, you may have noticed a trend with me. Whenever the new recipe becomes available to us Daring Baker's, I print out the recipe and tape it up to my kitchen cupboard. Usually before wonderful Mary has a chance to make the printable version, I have faked it and taped it. Yes, even when I was the host, I still put it up on the cupboards.

This way it is nice and handy for reference, and it is available for me to jot notes down on it while actually making the recipe. Plus with it being front and center in my kitchen, there is no way I can forget to make it.

So when Marce decided we were making Cinnamon or Sticky Buns for the September challenge, I was thrilled and hit print! The recipe has been up on my doors for several weeks. Which is where I run into a problem. A big one.....

I don't want to take it down!

And if I don't take it down, where will I put the October challenge recipe from Mary?

See? That's a problem.

Marce, I think the recipe you picked was so good that I will be making it on a regular basis. As soon as I pick up some more instant yeast and whole milk. So maybe this afternoon.

Having given us a choice between the cinnamon and sticky bun variations, I decided to start with the sticky buns. I knew I would be making both versions, but wanted to start with the caramel since caramel and I are soul mates together.

OMG was this dough ever a pleasure to work with! Soft and supple, it mixed together much quicker than the recipe said it would, it rose beautifully and it rolled out to a nice rectangle in about 2 rolls of my rolling pin. Heck it took longer to cream the original butter and sugar than it did to roll out this dough!

And if I thought waiting for the second rise to occur was torture, I was wrong. It was smelling the amazing smells from my oven while they cooked that was the real torture. Knowing I would have to wait for the buns to finish cooking, then to let them cool a bit so I wouldn't burn my tongue eating them. Mmmmm and when we could eat them, melt into your mouth softness and caramel! These were so good I instantly decided to banish the families traditional Pillsbury cinnamon buns from our home at Christmas to replace them with these!

A few survived the initial assault of 6 of us on those buns, to be enjoyed the next morning for breakfast. Warmed up quickly in the microwave with a touch of butter, they were still absolutely divine!

With such a roaring success, I had to immediately made the cinnamon buns and see how they compared. And luckily did not have to go far to find the recipe again.

Again, the dough was a pleasure to work with. If every dough was that lovely, I would not be adverse to working with it more often. Yes, like some of the other Daring Baker's, I lost some of the cinnamon to the counter when I picked up the rolls, but having pressed it into the dough a bit, my loss was minimal.

Again the smells from the oven were wonderful and torture at the same time. To distract myself from them, I mixed up the glaze of icing sugar and milk. Holy cow is there alot of glaze for one little batch of rolls! Four cups of icing sugar is waaay too much.

These buns were good, very good, but nothing compared to the sticky buns. But then again, how oh how could a simple cinnamon bun with an icing sugar glaze dare to compare to the sweetness that is a caramel sticky bun? It just can't. Perhaps if the icing had been a cream cheese based version instead of just icing sugar, there might have been a comparison. Afterall, the basic dough and cinnamon sugar is the same, it is just the topping that is different.

Still, these were wonderful as well and will also be made again.

Oh, yes, typical of me, I made yet another batch of the recipe, back to the sticky buns. This time, though, instead of the raisins, I used apple. Chopped fine, I put apple inside the bun, with the cinnamon sugar, as well as sprinkling the tiny pieces all over the caramel before putting the buns on top to rise. Again the flavors were wonderful, but if I were do to the apples again, I would have to leave them in larger pieces as the little ones almost melted into the buns and the glaze, leaving only a hint of apple flavor in the caramel. Still very good, still the same almost divine softness of the buns.

I think I'm getting hungry just thinking about those buns!

By far this has been my favorite recipe that I've done with the Daring Baker's. The first that I made multiple times because I wanted to, rather than because I thought something needed fixing or changing. The first that I will be keeping and making over and over and over and over again. And did I mention I will be making them again?

Thank you so much Marce for your wonderful choice!

Now you have two choices - either go make some now (see Marce's blog for the recipe), or go read about the buns and experiences of the other Daring Baker's by heading on over to the Daring Baker's Blogroll! Then you really will want to run to your kitchen and start baking!

Cupcake Hero to the rescue!

When Laurie announced she wanted to do a cupcake event, I was all for it! I Love cupcakes! And my children Love cupcakes. Yes, that is Love with a capital L. Love. Love. Love.

And what isn't to love. Small sized so you are given instant portion control. Extra icing without having to have the over iced corner piece of a cake. Goodness in a small package.

And when she said the theme would be lime, I had visions of making a key lime cupcake, with graham cracker in a lime flavored cake, lime zest flecked whipped cream topping a lime curd center. Oh how I can just taste it now!

I never found a recipe for it though, and just did not have the time for making it up, not with all the extra things I have signed up for lately (I am now the newly "elected" treasurer of my children's school council.) I thought things would settle down and I would have the time, but I didn't and found myself running out of time. With the deadline tomorrow, I had to resort to drastic measure.

Yes, I made cake from a cake mix. With jello. And pudding. (And whipped topping mix, which I forgot to add to the picture.)

Heck, these cupcakes could probably qualify for the Retro Recipe Challenge, hosted by Delores, but I'm submitting them as my entry to be a Cupcake Hero instead!

I understand this recipe showed up in a woman's magazine sometime in the 50's. Can't say which one (I wasn't born yet,) but my grandmother must have clipped it, made it and her 4 children enjoyed it as she made it from time to time when I was growing up. I remember making it for the first time when I was in high school, as part of an English assignment where we were writing articles for a fake newspaper and I did a culinary review on the cake, plus brought it in to class for all of us to share. It was a huge hit.

These days I rarely use cake mixes anymore, and the jello boxes that are in my pantry have been there for longer than I should admit. But I had to deliver some of these cupcakes across the street to my neighbours because it is so good that I would happily eat several of them without thinking about it. (If I thought about it, I'd probably eat even more!)

So, how to make them....

Make a lemon cake mix according to the box directions. Mine took 3 eggs, 1/3 cup of oil and 1 1/3 cup of water. Put the cupcake batter in 18 - 24 paper lined muffin tins. You need to line these, you can't just spray them. That little paper cup is very important!

Bake them and then let them cool, in the pan.

When they are cool, make the lime jello but only use 1 1/2 cups of water instead of the usual 2 cups. Set the jello aside for a few minutes, and use a fork to poke 3 or 4 holes in each cupcake. You will want to give the fork a little giggle while it is in the cupcake, to make a large enough hole. These holes are the channels for the jello.

Spoon in 1 tablespoon of jello in each cupcake, slowly so you don't spill. When all the cupcakes have jello in them, start over and put in another tablespoon of the liquid. This is where those paper cups are necessary - they catch the jello that sinks down to the bottom of those channels make with the fork.

Chill the cupcakes, still in the pan, for at least 1 hour, but 2 is better.

After they have chilled for awhile, put 2 cups of milk into a large bowl, then add the lemon pudding (instant pudding, not cooked pudding), and a package of whipped topping and whip them together into the milk for 2 minutes. Let the mix sit for five minutes and then spoon or pipe the "icing" onto the cupcakes.

Chill them if you aren't going to eat them right away. Which we did.

Aren't they pretty?

Now you can technically make these cupcakes using any flavor combination, but my personal favorites use either lime jello or cherry jello. I can't see using a different flavor cake or pudding for the icing, but someone else might like it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I should probably put the last few in the fridge, before we eat them all.

September always means "allergy" baking

Every year that my oldest son has been in school, he has come home with a note for signing in regards to a food allergy someone in his class has. How snacks with that food are life threatening and therefore we cannot send in snacks or lunches with that particular item. I think every class gets the note about peanuts and nuts. Which is easy enough to do, even if you don't bake. So many companies are using the peanut and nut free labels on their products.

For the second year in a row, though, my child has come home with a note saying that eggs, in their pure form, could also be life threatening to a child. It is very specific, how even eggs in homemade baked goods could be a problem.

Now my son would rather starve than eat an egg, be it scrambled or hard boiled and in a sandwich. (Meringue he will eat, but then that's mostly sugar.) So not putting eggs in his lunch is not a hardship for either of us. (Though sending in a lunch was going to be. Afterall, it is difficult to find even a commercial bread that does not have egg in it). While it was alright to send in a commercially made and packaged snack food, because it does not use eggs in its pure form, we parents were not allowed to send in a cookie that had been homemade if it had involved an egg in the recipe somewhere. One egg in a batch of cookies that made 36 cookies, and this could still be a problem. A bit of egg wash on the crust of a homemade loaf of bread, also a problem.

(Now we are talking about children in grade 3, who eat at their own desks, do not trade lunches or snacks, and are all old enough that they understand the problems with allergies.)

So "allergy" baking, for me at least, is what I would call baking that is safe to send to school. And having looked and tried a bunch of different recipes last year, I knew this was going to be difficult. Rather than pull my hair out in stress, I went to the Daring Baker's and put out a call for help. And help they did! (Thanks Daring Baker friends!)

They came back to me with a couple of vegan sites and cookbook suggestions, and a few recipes for me to try, among them a blueberry bread and a chocolate cake. Neither of which uses any eggs.

Now I wasn't thrilled with the blueberry bread. The flavor was okay, but the texture was weird. The recipe called for baking it for 45-50 minutes, with all the batter in one pan. I divided mine into two loaf pans and it was in the oven for well over an hour and was still soft in the center and never did brown up. The children enjoyed the flavor of it, but the bread itself went soggy and mushy really fast. Much faster than they could eat it.

If I were to try it again, I think I would try in muffins, maybe even mini muffins, and freeze them. They would fit nicely into a lunch box frozen, and would be ready to eat by lunch time.
I would also try it using the lime zest instead of the lemon - I had only lemon's on hand when I made it.

Now this chocolate cake from my fellow Daring Baker over at Beans and Caviar was great! It whipped up in minutes and baked up very nicely. I've been giving it to the children plain, but for their first slice, and for my picture, I prettied up a slice with an icing sugar glaze and some cocoa sprinkles. Perhaps a bit too much prettying, as it is hard to see the cake itself.

A look at the ingredients list for this shows nothing that is immediately perishable in it, so this cake has had a good shelf life so far. I've kept in the fridge for over a week and it is still moist and tender, no sogginess or odd texture, at all. (I've been slow in cutting it up and putting it into the freezer for future lunches - afterall, I don't want to send in a piece of cake as part of their lunches or snacks every day!)

I still have a few recipes I want to try, including the banana cake one on Beans and Caviar, if I can ever get enough ripe bananas to make up the 4 cups needed, but the urgency is no longer there. I sent in a question to the parents of the young lady with the allergy, through the teacher, and was eventually told that eggs in baked good were not a problem for her. I guess the school has to send out the letters for their own legal protection. While my youngest child is in a class that has the same egg free policy my oldest sons class had, he is only there for half a day and a snack of fruit or vegetables is more than sufficient for him.

And in the meantime, I have joined my children's school council this year and have put forth the suggestion that we create a cookbook as a fundraiser, one that includes a wide variety of different recipes that are egg free, some wheat free, some dairy free, so that next year, parents will know where to turn to when they are in a similar position.

Because not everyone can go running for help to the Daring Bakers!

SHF #35 - Figs! Figs! Figs!

Ivonne said "Figs." And I said "Huh?"

I've only bought a fig once before. I had no idea how to tell if it was ripe or not, and seemed not to be since it did not taste very good.

I admit, I was nervous. Ivonne sent me some information to help me find a good fig, but it didn't help. It didn't help because I could not find a fresh fig to use any of it on.

That's right, it is fig season, but I could not find a fresh fig. Every store said that they were expecting them any time but hadn't received them yet. Every store.

I did manage to find some soft dried figs though, and with those in hand, found a recipe I thought I could slip past my family - Homemade Fig Newtons!

These are not store bought cookies. Heck, I can't say what they taste like cooled completely as they are still warm on my stove and I've already eaten a piece and mmmmm'd through it.

The recipe was lacking a few details, but I managed to get through it. Next time I would reduce the amount of sugar in the filling as it was very sweet.

Now to see if I can get the rest of the family to eat them. Otherwise I will have a full pan to myself.

Homemade Fig Newtons
From Recipezaar.com

1 lb dried figs or 2 lbs fresh figs
1 cup sugar
1 cup water (1 c. for dried figs, 1/2 c. for fresh)
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cream or milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cups flour

  1. Dice figs, soak in water 1 hour.
  2. Add sugar & cook on medium heat until of thin jam consistency.
  3. Beat sugar, butter, egg, milk & vanilla until well blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients.
  5. Mix well and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. Place 1/2 on well floured dough cloth; knead about 6 times.
  7. Roll out to 1/4" thick. Line 13 x 9" glass baking dish; cover with figs.
  8. Roll remaining dough, cover figs. Cook at 350° for 30 minutes.
  9. Let cool and cut into squares. Depending on the size you cut you can get a couple dozen cookies.

I'm late! I'm late!

When Myriam announced she would be hosting the latest installment of Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, I was excited. First, because I actually noticed who was hosting in advance this time, and have wanted to participate. Second because I actually had a recipe to submit, who's pictures were on my camera!

Who's pictures stayed on my camera, along with alot of other pictures, until right before we left for apple picking.

And now I'm late, as entries were due yesterday!

However, better late than never, even if this does not make the round up, I'd still like to post it.

Cheesy Corn Chowder with fresh chives. I made this last weekend when I had the urge for a warming soup for dinner. Despite the fact that it was likely I would be the only one eating it. And eat it I did. I enjoyed a bowl as my dinner, then had it for lunch for the next few days. Sweet corn, both smooth and crunchy at the same time. Slightly rich from the two cheeses, a hearty soup, yet not so hearty that it was heavy to eat.

And yes, I basically ate it by myself. One child wasn't feeling well and didn't eat at all that night. My husband ate a bowl, more out of politeness than anything else. He went looking for something else to eat after he was done his bowl. My youngest tried it, loved it, then hated it, then it was cold, and then when he finally went back to it, inhaled it. But did not ask for more.

Cheesy Corn Chowder
I made this recipe up as I went along. The surprising part is that I remembered to write down what I put into it.

6 cups chicken stock
1 baking potato, peeled and cubed
6 ears of corn, corn cut from the cobbs, cobbs reserved
1 1/2 tablespoons each olive oil and butter
medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch of red pepper
1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
1 1/2 cup sharp white cheddar
4 tablespoons fresh chives, snipped

Place potato cubes and corn cobbs in bottom of a large stock pot. Cover with chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and keep at a gentle boil until potato is tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove cobbs and discard them. Keep stock warm over low heat.

While stock is boiling, heat large non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add oil and butter, melting together. Add onions, stirring to coat with the butter and oil. Add corn and garlic and mix again, sauteing until the corn is cooked slightly through, 5-10 minutes. You still want a tiny bit of crunch. Remove corn from the heat.

Add 3/4 of the corn into the pot with the stock and potato, along with the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Puree everything together using a hand immersion blender. It does not have to be completely smooth. Add remaining corn and both types of cheeses, stirring to combine. Heat until cheese has melted into the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve in warmed bowls, sprinkled with the chives.

When good ideas go bad

Awhile back I made those pistachio macaroons and ended up with a large bowl of left over chocolate ganache. As tempting as it was to just get a spoon and deal with that ganache in a simple way (either by myself, or with child help), I just couldn't do it. I needed to find another way to use that chocolate.

Which is where the good idea came in.

I had been keeping open, on my laptop screen, a recipe for a Caramel Banana Cake from Apartment Therapy. I had been wanting to make it, but had wanted to use the cheat method of jarred caramel sauce instead of homemade and kept either forgetting to pick a jar up, or forgetting I had one in the pantry already and made something else with those ripe bananas.

You can see where I'm going with this now, can't you?

Yes, that ganache would be a lovely substitute for the caramel. Afterall, bananas and chocolate do go well together.

My mind was made up. So made up that I overlooked the two 9 inch round pans I was supposed to use and immediately went for my bundt pan, layering the chocolate in between the cake batter. In my mind I saw the image of a tunnel of chocolate in the middle of each slice of banana cake, oozing slightly out of each piece.

Oh yes, it would be beautiful and oh so tasty! In theory.

In reality, yes, it was tasty. And rich. Very rich.

No, the chocolate did not ooze out of each slice. That would have involved the cake being willing to slice nicely. Which it might have done if the cake hadn't decided it was not going to come out of the pan in one piece to begin with.

I can't say this was a total disaster. The cake was enjoyed, no matter how badly it looked. The chocolate did not go to waste, nor did I have to eat it myself or hand it over to my children to inhale. Instead they balanced out the chocolate with some banana.

And I eventually got to enjoy a jar of caramel sauce on ice cream. Mmmmmm.

How to spend the first day of fall

Go apple picking!

We went to the same place we have gone for the last few years, Mountain Orchards, a short distance outside of Ottawa. They have great apples, and a few other things that my family enjoys.

Spartan apples. We picked half a bag of these, as well as half a bag of MacIntosh apples.

My personal favorites - Honey Gold! These are similar to Golden Delicious, sweet, crisp and juicy. We filled up the bags with these apples.

Okay I also added a couple of Lobo apples into the bags. All together we picked two 20 pound bags of apples. I think we picked 3 bags last year, but it is still early enough that if I have not picked enough, I can easily go back and get more.

One of the bonus things to this orchard is the freshly made hot apple cider donuts, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served in a paper bag. Mmmmmmm. We very quickly went through a dozen donuts between the four of us, licking every last bit of sugar from our fingers. These are best eaten warm.

Before we can leave with all our apples, we have to take a turn in the corn maze. Or maize maze, as someone joked. Afterall, we need to work off a bit of those donuts!

Ack! I am behind on my Meme's and Mentions!

Funny how time slips away from you for the first few weeks of September, when everyone is busy getting their kids back into the routine, while still attempting to do all the things you would have been able to do with all the extra free time you had during the summer. Sooner or later something ends up being missed on your to do list.

For me, it has been my blog.

Back in August, I was tagged by Kellypea, a lovely lady who's blog Sass & Veracity frequently makes me hungry, to take part in a fun meme that had some funky rules. Part of the rules involved posting about the rules before you responded to the meme! (And yes, Kelly, I was one of those people who did a "Huh? Why me?!? Oh, that's why me. Hehehe")

The rules..... (ominous sounding, isn't it?)

  1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.
  2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their middle name. If you don't have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.
  3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.
  4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag.
  5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Doesn't sound too horrible, does it?

I do have one problem though - tagging other people! I don't think I can come up with the 5 people I would need, partially because this meme made the blogosphere world over the summer and alot of the people that I "know" have been tagged already! Or they don't fit in the parameters of my middle name.

M Mom. I am a Mom. Nothing new here. I have 2 boys, one almost 5, another 8. They are the center of my world and pretty well define who I am. Being able to stay home with them has given me lots of different opportunities. I get to be involved in their school and get to know their teachers. I get to greet them after school and find out a tiny bit about their day on the walk home.

A Apples. We are going apple picking this weekend. Going to bring home lots and lots of apples, plus inhale a bag of warm apple cider donuts! (What? That's a relevant fact in my life, isn't it?)

R Rice Krispie Treats - My children loved the cake I made for their aunt lately. They've been thrilled with this months Daring Baker recipe (no, I'm NOT going to tell what it is!) They are happy as can be when I make cookies or brownies or squares of just about any kind. But what are they happiest to see me making this month? Rice Krispie treats. A 9x13 pan's worth, which took me an entire 4 minutes to make, and they are over the moon and happy as can be. Go figure.

I Icing. I don't like butter cream icing anymore. Not since I took up decorating cakes and learned how to make the mountains of butter cream I have used so far in the cakes I have made. I've actually picked the icing off of the cakes I've had pieces of, which is fine for my butt and waist actually.

E EEEK! I can't think of anything food related right now that starts with an E. So I will write something totally not food related. Or that starts with an E.

I am doing Master Swim two mornings a week. I don't swim very well, though I am getting better, and having to be up at 5am twice a week to try and eat a small bit of breakfast before I get into the pool at 6 is very painful. So maybe my E is Early Mornings SUCK!

I'm not going to tag other people with this but if you want to try it, please leave me a comment and let me know!

Now that I've taken care of that old business, on to some newer old business - I've been Schmoozed! No, it didn't hurt. Actually, it was very nice of Elle (from Feeding my Enthusiasms) to schmooze me.

The Schmooze award is given to “recognize people who have a positive influence on the blogging community by developing and nurturing relationships. You know – commenting on other’s blogs, joinin in on and sustaining a “blogversation” - at least that's what Elle wrote about in her blog, and what she used for her criteria for her picks for the award, meaning me! And did you see the company I was picked with! Yahoo! I'm in the same group as Ivonne, Peabody, Morven and Brilynn! Holy cow I've made it to the big time! (insert giggles here, slightly hysterical giggles.)

Well I am honored to have been schmoozed! Thank you very much Elle!

I'm going to give some thought to who I'd like to Schmooze before I put out my own nominations. And give myself time to check to see if who I'd nominate has or hasn't been picked already. Seems likely that they have though.

Now back to cooking!

Does this look like a piece of art you'd like on your wall?

Likely not on the wall of your bathroom. But how about your kitchen?

No, seriously, it isn't art. It's just a picture of some very delicious brownies that I had made as my back-up entry for Browniebabe #3, but did not submit because I didn't know if I could enter two brownies in one month. And since Tartelette won that round of Browniebabe with her marbled brownies, I didn't want to save these for the next round.

For some reason I was in cheesecake mode when it came to making brownies for that round. First I made my mini-brownie cheesecakes, and then I made these cream cheese brownies. Yes, I like cheesecake!

The recipe for this brownie came from the Joy of Baking website. I love this site. I love the pictures, I love the organization, I love the food!

Of course my Cream Cheese Brownies don't look much like those pictured on the site, but I bet they tasted just as good (if not better!) These brownies were amazingly good. They were rich and decadent without being overwhelming. A small bite could melt inside your mouth, with the slight tart of the cream cheese waking up the tastebuds, while the chocolate soothed the tang.

I realize the recipe says the brownies can last several days in the fridge, but it's wrong. They might last several days in the fridge, but that would mean they wouldn't have been devoured before they had the chance. Which is much more likely to happen than there being left over brownies!

Cream Cheese Brownies

from JoyofBaking.com

Brownie Layer:

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 ounces (114 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup (70 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Layer:

8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Have ready a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) square baking pan that has been lined with aluminum foil across the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan. Set aside.

In a stainless steel (heatproof) bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (with a wooden spoon) after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt and beat, with a wooden spoon, until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan (about one minute). Remove 1/2 cup of the brownie batter and set aside. Place the remainder of the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Then in the bowl of your food processor (or with a hand mixer), process the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla, and egg and process until creamy and smooth. Spread the cream cheese filling over the brownie layer. Spoon small dollops of the reserved brownie batter evenly on top of the cream cheese filling. Then with a table knife or wooden skewer, swirl the two batters without mixing them.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges of the brownies are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate the brownies until they are firm enough to cut into squares (at least two hours). Once chilled, remove the brownies from the pan by lifting with the ends of the foil and transfer to a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut into 16 squares. It is a good idea to have a damp cloth nearby to wipe your knife between cuts. These brownies can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Makes about 16 - 2 inch squares.

Belated Happy Birthday to my Sister-in-law!

Her birthday was last month. I didn't miss it. In fact I called her from out of town so the kids and I could wish her a happy birthday.

What I didn't do was make her a cake that she couldn't eat. The cake, made to her request, had to wait until we would actually see her. Which, considering we live in the same time, sometimes can take awhile.

This time it took less than 2 week from the time of her actual birthday.

Good thing I didn't make that cake in advance!

If it weren't a golden cake with chocolate frosting, I would call this a "butcher" cake. Mostly because I felt like I was butchering it making it. I hadn't done one for awhile, so was out of practice, and any cake that starts with a refusal to come out of the very well cake release greased pan without breaking, is not going to be one of my favorite cakes. My sister-in-law, however, who's favorite type of cake is a McCain Deep and Delicious, was thrilled with this cake. She was nearby when I added the finishing touches of milk and white chocolate curls on top and was even able to take home a big piece for later.

I admit, despite the little problems I had making it, it was still a pretty yummy cake. Once I flicked off the milk chocolate curls. (I love milk chocolate, but am still working on that big huge bar from Hershey. Everyone else likes it, it's just me who doesn't.)

Course with all that cake going home with their Aunt, now the kids are after me to make one for them!

Now this was a very yummy disaster

Sometimes I have good ideas that just don't work. Which isn't to say this idea was a complete failure - dinner was mighty tasty, but not what it was supposed to be.

I had two things to try here. First I wanted double baked potatoes, but I wanted them stuffed with not just cheese, but also a veggie. For some reason I wanted spinach. This part of dinner actually worked out very well. The stuffed potatoes were great, creamy and wonderful. I could have had one for breakfast the next morning, had there been any left.

The chicken, on the other hand, had some problems. It was supposed to be almond crusted chicken. Instead it ended up being chicken with pieces of almost overdone almonds piled on top of it. Tasty almonds though.

I can't include a recipe for the chicken, since I messed it up and did not keep my notes. Let's just say there was a lot of time spent hand chopping all those almonds for the crusting. Oh yes, alot of chopping!

Despite the fact that the almonds fell right off the chicken upon turning, and they browned up a bit more than I would have liked, this was very good. Even my 4 year old liked it (my 8 year old, however, was invited to a friends house for peanut butter sandwiches and didn't bother to find out what was for dinner before he accepted.) Next time I'll skip trying to crust the chicken and just pan fry up some chopped almonds on their own, used as a topping. The crunch and saltiness of the almonds worked really well, and added a bit more protein to our day.

Spinach Stuffed Double Baked Potatoes

4 medium sized baking potatoes, well scrubbed, and poked a few times with a fork
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 bunch fresh spinach, well washed and drained
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.
Place potatoes in a large glass or metal bowl. Pour olive oil over the potatoes, then add the salt and pepper. Toss well to coat the potatoes in the oil and seasonings. Bake the potatoes in the oven until they are nearly done, crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside.
Take out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, lengthwise, before cutting off 1/4 of the potato.
Reduce oven temperature to 300F.
Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the insides of the bottom of the potato, putting the scooped out potato in a medium sized bowl. Save the potato skin shells, placing them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the potato in the bowl, then squish it together with a fork. Add the sour cream, 1/2 of the cheese, spinach and onions. Mix well.
Using a spoon, return potato stuffing to the potato skin shells, being careful not to over pack or over fill. You might have some left over stuffing, which is great just fine on it's own.
Sprinkle remaining cheese on the top of the potatoes, then return them to the oven to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. You want the potatoes heated through, and the cheese melted.
Enjoy with additional sour cream!

PS The beauty of seasoning the outside of the baking potato first is that you can also eat the skins, if you happen to enjoy that. Which I do.

Liquid Dreams, the Monthly Mingle

I'm really running late with this one. But I'm sure Meeta understands what life can be like in a household during "Back to School" week. Which I get to repeat again tomorrow when my little guy finally gets to start school on a daily basis, instead of just for an intake day.

I didn't want to not participate in the Mingle, even though I did not have a fancy, homemade drink to bring. I still had a drink, one that soothes and is comforting, even when cold, one of my favorites, an iced green tea latte.

I'm sure I've mentioned them before, back in the winter when I discovered the warm version, at Starbucks. I could have had one of these every morning, the way some people have their daily coffee, and been content. Broke, but content.

A little research into what goes into these, including questioning the Barristas repeatedly, gained me a fair bit of knowledge. Turns out I could recreate my own green tea latte at home using nothing but milk, matcha powder, and melon syrup. And it also turns out that $4 for a grande latte is actually a very reasonable price - especially once you've seen the price of a small can of matcha powder!!!! The best price I found was $33. It all went up from there.

What I also found, however, was a package of matcha latte to go powder, where all you had to do was add your own liquid, milk or water, stir and enjoy. Since I hadn't had any luck with the melon syrup in a regular store (as opposed to the huge bottles available for purchase at some specialty coffee shops, also very expensive,) this seemed like a good compromise. And was "only" $16 for the package. Which so far has yielded about 8-10 good sized cups, and there is still a fair bit left in the package.

Now you didn't think I'd really run out to Starbucks this morning to bring my ice green tea latte to the party, did you? I know, it does look like I did, but I didn't. No, instead I served up my latte in my Starbucks mug, a birthday gift from a friend who went to Seattle this summer, but it looks just like a take out cup, including the little Barrista marking area on the back! Fooled you, didn't I?

Now, to entertain my little guy, who is having to wait one more day before he gets to go to school, and not handling it very well!

Sneaking in something new

I know the boys will eat meatballs. And they love naan bread. Rice is usually okay, if there is some kind of sauce involved. Sugar snap peas are considered fun - they like to squeeze out the peas first.

Knowing all this, I still took the risk of trying yet another new item on the family. Double risk, actually. First I didn't make butter chicken sauce for the meatballs, I used Tika Masala sauce instead. (And sorry but both that sauce and the butter chicken come from a jar, a President's Choice jar, and I'm currently okay with that!)

Then I got really daring and swapped out regular ground beef meatballs or chicken meatballs, both of which are on the good list, for meatballs made from ground lamb. Though I didn't tell them what I'd made the meatballs out of.

My oldest, pickiest eater, actually complimented me on the meatballs! There were no screams later when I told him he'd eaten lamb.

The general feeling on this was that it needed more sauce. Two jars instead of one. There wasn't enough sauce for dipping the naan into. Aside from that, it seems to have made the list of things I am allowed to make in the future.

Lamb and cauliflower curry

1 jar President's Choice Tika Masala sauce
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florettes
1 onion, divided
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 egg
1/3-1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

Chop 1/4 of the onion finely, leaving the rest in big chunks. Combine the finely diced onion with the ground lamb, adding also the egg and 1/3 cup of bread crumbs and a generous pinch of both salt and pepper. Mix gently, hands are best, until well binded. If too sticky, add more breadcrumbs.

Preheat a non-stick skillet and the olive oil over medium high heat. While the pan is heating, form meatballs of the lamb mixture, then brown in the oil, turning to be sure to get all sides. Add the onion chunks and the cauliflower, mixing to combine. Add the jar of sauce to the pan, then rinse the inside of the jar with some water and add that water to the meatballs and sauce, stirring gently to combine. Reduce the heat and simmer gently with a lid on for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with rice and warm naan bread.

If I make this again, not only will I use a second jar of sauce, I will also add some chopped cilantro to the sauce at the last minute. And maybe some green onions.

Updates week 2, 3 and 4

Going away can really mess up a budget plan. Or at least tracking one.

My trip out to PEI and then up to North Bay messed up all my tracking, both for week 2 and for week 3, even though I was only gone for week 3. How, you ask? I'm sure you were asking..... :-)

Well, I got back and went to sit down and figure out what I had spend and what I had left, and started it all by realizing I had accidentally thrown out all my receipts for week 2. I know I had about $20 left from that week, but can't say for sure how much.

As for week 3, well, I was pretty close to within my limit, but almost none of it was spend on groceries for the house. I did use my bank card once, and my credit card once, but those were for Christmas gift items that I have separate accounts for and immediately moved over the money from that account to my credit card.

So week 4 ended at midnight on Wednesday, and I ended up with $7.02 left of my $300 budget that I had alloted myself. Of that, $3 was under the miscellaneous list, for the children's allowance, and the entire rest of it, $289.98, was spend on groceries. Because there was none in my house after being gone for a week. Now it did include buying a huge case of tomatoes for $12.99, which I used to do a bunch of canning, but aside from that, the rest was pretty well daily food items.

So far I am managing to stay within my budget limitations. This week will be an interesting case since the budget started yesterday and with a few items picked up for groceries, a new case of canning jars, and a baby gift, I am already about half way through the money I allotted myself for the week.

Doing things my own way

Now that the sugar-fest that was our Daring Baker's Chocolate Caramel Tart is over, it's time for a bit of freshness. Enter Festa Al Fresco 2007, hosted by my Daring Baker sisters, Lis and Ivonne.

In Lis's own words...

The premise is very simple: prepare a dish using a fresh, seasonal ingredient, and then send it over. Oh and don’t forget to bring yourself as well.

You can prepare any dish you like. It can be an appetizer; a soup; a salad; a meat, fish or vegetarian dish; a dessert or even a beverage. The only rule is that it must feature a fresh, seasonal ingredient, preferably something that grows in your neck of the woods.

But I can't do things normal. Not like other people. I needed to do something fresh and local, but had to have my own twist on it.

And since I am a Daring Baker, one who pushes themselves past their comfort zone to try new things, instead of preparing a lovely dish for all to share, I had to try canning some lovely produce, so help save some of that summer yum for later!

I started with asking the Daring Baker's for advice, then ran out to the book store to purchase their recommended book on canning. Only here in Canada, we don't get the Ball Book of Home Preserves, we get the Bernardin version. Same cover, different name.

I red a few pages, then waited. And waited. I waited until Ontario peaches and pears showed up in my stores.

The result? Six jars each (I only did half batches of each to start) of peaches and pears, neither one of which looks quite right to me, but probably tastes fine. No, I haven't tried them yet. With all this fresh stuff around to eat, why would I want to eat the stuff from the jar!

Does anyone who knows anything about canning know if my peaches and pears were supposed to float like this? Maybe I should have packed more into the jars?

After that "success" I waited anxiously for tomatoes to show up, which only happened last week. Yes, the week I go away, the produce I want finally starts showing up everywhere!

So I buy a huge box of Roma tomatoes, and what do I make with them? No, not tomato sauce. Or salsa, though I plan to make that tomorrow. Or Tuesday.

No, I make ketchup.

Do you know anyone who owns a pot big enough to hold 24 pounds of tomatoes? I'm not sure I do. My biggest pot held 12 pounds, which was what I wanted since I planned again to make half a batch. I didn't really need 7 pint jars of ketchup. Half that would be fine.

I got two and a half.

And the ketchup is very, very liquidy. I don't know what, if anything I did wrong. That ketchup did not want to thicken. Maybe I should have found a pot that could hold 24 pounds of tomatoes. Or not used the Roma tomatoes.

It looks like ketchup though! And yes, it smelled like ketchup. Which means that I have had ketchup smell around me for far too long this weekend, and of course, don't want to touch anything involving ketchup!

So does anyone need any ketchup to dip their appetizer in? Anyone.....