Daring Bakers: Yule be impressed

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. Take a jump over to either of their sites for the original recipe. But be warned. It is looooooooooong.

This log is very different from the Yule Log we made last December, but no less a show-stopper in appearance.

And unlike last year, I did not make this several times. Actually, I have only just finished making it today, and my piece is sitting at the table while I write this post.

Rather than write a long and detailed post about the various components of this cake, I'll let some of my pictures do most of the talking for me.

I had to make my own praline, having not thought to buy some. This is almond praline.

(I should add that I did not even bat an eyelash at the idea of making a praline, which goes to show how far I've come when it comes to hot sugar.)

Assembly station. I'm still working on the best place for light and pictures in my kitchen. This is my baking corner, but does not seem to be great for light.

I decided to make two mini's instead of one large. I think I should have smoothed down the mousse on this - or followed the instructions and banged the tins on the counter a few times. You are about to see why....

Hmmm how to cover up those lovely sides. One batch of icing is not going to be enough.

Ah, left over praline!

Leftover ganache and praline crisp insert! You have saved me from ugly logs. Sorta.

I had enough cake for a top and a bottom, so my layers, from the bottom up, are:

Dacquoise biscuit - simply almond.
White chocolate ganache, which looks like caramel and tastes pretty close to it.
Vanilla mousse, with very obvious vanilla beans in it.
Milk chocolate praline crisp - almond praline and cereal.
More mousse.
Vanilla creme brulee, again, lots of vanilla beans there.
More mousse.
Another layer of Dacquoise.
Milk chocolate icing. A double batch actually.

Yes, it is impressive to look at.

I'm getting this in right under the wire. Lots of things delayed me, including the flu on Christmas day, but am pleased to say that I did not miss this month's challenge.

Now I really, really hope we do something a little less time consuming and sweet next month.

Thanks to Hilda and Marion for hosting this month. And ongoing thanks to Lis and Ivonne for being our leaders and letting us be their followers.

Sunburst Lemon Bars: Breakfast fruit bars?

I was fortunate to come across some Meyer lemons when doing my pre-Christmas grocery shopping. They were just quietly sitting next to the regular lemons, which I was getting to make lemon squares. Faced with the choice between regular, tart lemons, and sweet Meyer lemons, there really was no choice to be made.

These bars have not lasted long, but instead have been eaten for breakfast and "I need some fruit" moments by my husband.

Sunburst Lemon Bars
from Pillsbury The Complete Book of Baking

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup lemon juice (preferably from Meyer lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup icing sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably from Meyer lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Heat oven to 350F.

In large bowl, combine all the crust ingredients together until crumbly. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 pan (line the pan with foil for easier removal - I learned this the hard way.) Bake for 20-30 minutes or until light golden brown.

When the crust is golden, combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl, except the lemon juice and zest, if using. Blend well. Stir in the juice and zest. Pour over the warm crust.

Put back in the oven and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the 1 cup icing sugar and just enough lemon juice to get a nice spreading consistency for the icing. Mix until very smooth, then add the zest, if using. Spread over the cooled squares. Cut into squares.

Makes about 36 bars.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

It is Christmas Eve and the children are in bed, finally.

Important advice for everyone out there - do not wait until Christmas Eve day to do your baking! Even if you have everything else done, this is not good planning!

This is what I spent today doing. My baking. I had to, or we'd have had nothing to put out for Santa tonight. Not even a box of Oreos. I probably could have found him some chocolates. I do have left over cake. But Santa deserves baked goods that were made just for him. Left over cake won't cut it.

From left, around, are Gooey Coconut Dream Bars (from Phe/om/enon Holly,) Meyer Lemon Squares (recipe later), Raisin Oatmeal Cookies (Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, minus the pecans), and Spicy Ginger Cookies (from The Canadian Baker, not my usual recipe since I would have had to look for mine.)

In addition to these items, I also "threw together" our Chritmas Eve dinner, a broth fondue with fresh veggies, a bit of this and a bit of that. The children loved being able to pick at what they wanted to eat, but spent a good chunk of dinner running back to my laptop, conveniently found on the kitchen counter, so they could see just where in the world Santa was right then! (And for the record, at 10:17 pm, he was in San Juan, Puerto Rico.)

(In retrospect, maybe the last minute baking was a good idea - I didn't make nearly as much as I might have otherwise, if I'd been doing so well in advance and freezing as I went.)

Dinner was followed by a walk around the block, to see the lights. Unusual that we needed umbrellas and snow jackets to do so, though. Rain is melting the snow, but also making things very slippery around here. So if you are driving, be careful!

Before getting the boys off to bed, we had to assemble our tray for Santa and the reindeer. We break with some traditions, providing the reindeer with apples instead of carrots, and normally we leave him chocolate milk, something he rarely gets. This year, with the cold and the rain, we decided to leave him hot chocolate milk instead, kept warm in a thermos, with a mug nearby. The children chose what to leave him for cookies (the ones they themselves had just been sampling.)

The kitchen is cleaned, the dishwasher is running, the Christmas lights are on. I think it is time to curl up and enjoy a few minutes of quiet before the chaos that is Christmas morning comes.

May you and your family have a wonderful day, filled with love and happiness. And a good cookie or two.

Back in the swing, but starting simple

The pile of boxes is getting smaller, at least in the kitchen area. And a month of take-out and frozen foods has made us all long to get back to home cooking. Even though there is more clean up involved in that.

Having a grill in my kitchen is great so far, even though it tends to set off the smoke detector at odd times.

Homemade hamburgers are superior to the take-out kind, and cost a fraction to make. For my children, the downside is no surprise toy with the burger.

Simple Burgers

1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
scant 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, just enough to help the mixture bind

Mix everything, gently, together in a bowl. Do not squish the meat.

Preheat grill to medium high heat.

Form meat into 6 equal portions, gently rounding the portions into a patty that is a touch thinner in the middle than on the edge.

Grill, turning as necessary, until the burgers are cooked through, but not dry, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Serve on toasted buns with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.

The new kitchen!

What a weekend!

I don't ever want to move again.

Alot of cleaning, boxes, and more cleaning, but we got here, finally.

Fancy stemware present and accounted for, my boys and I, all three, husband included, toasted our first night in our new home with some de-alcoholized bubbly. Pink bubbly. Then we set up air mattresses and sleeping bags and camped out for the night.

Did you know that every house has noises? And when you aren't familiar with those noises, everyone of them is very loud. Especially at 2 am. And 5 am.

This is my new kitchen, pre cleaning, pre influx of boxes and furniture, and devoid of real dishes and food. Unless chocolate counts, in which case, I had lots of food.

Don't you love my pretty pointsetta on my island? That was part of our first housewarming gift, from our agent.

For a quick tour: the window is over the sink, a large sink with a little vegetable sink as part of it. There are lights underneath all the counters, which run around the room. On the island, right behind the plant, is my cooktop, a Jenn-air which has two induction burners and then the other side converts. Included in my gadgets is a griddle, a grill, some coil burners, a deepfryer and a rotissary. On the other side of the island, oposite the window, is the wall oven, again a Jenn-air, with a convection setting. It sits beside the fridge, which was absent at the time this was taken but has since been installed, hooked up to the water line and filled with stuff. Above the oven sits an alcove for a microwave, and above that, a cabinet built specfically to hold baking pans, with racks to hold them up.

I have alot of counter space and cabinet space, which has quickly been filled up with the contents of 73 boxes, at least. In addition to this, though, I have a little bonus room near my kitchen:

The previous owners use this as a sound booth for his music, and built in the shelves. I saw it and thought, "PANTRY!!!" I've since done some grocery shopping and unpacked boxes that had pantry items in it, so it isn't so bared and empty anymore.

This house has required alot of cleaning, even before anything came through the door. I had some help from family, but also had some help from a great Daring Baker, BC, who in addition to scrubbing out my stove and all its parts (isn't she amazing to do that for me!?!) brought me a cooler full of goodies to eat. Some store bought goodies were topped off with even better homemade goodies, such as a glutten free cake (you were right, I could not tell it was glutten free), an apple compote to go with the cake, and a jar full of salsa, which was inhaled by everyone around, it was so good!

Oh, and she also brought me a very important, but necessary ingredient, to this months Daring Baker challenge - and no I'm not going to tell you what it is!

Our first night in the house, we stood around the island and ate roasted chicken from the grocery store, with wedge fries and salad. Our second night, surrounded by boxes, things everywhere, I managed to find enough dishes and pots to make dinner. Unsurprising to anyone who knows our family, it was pasta, whole wheat spaghetti with a meat sauce (made up from equal parts ground beef and hot Italian sausage meat, sauted onions, canned tomatoes and crushed tomatoes) and a whole wheat baguette (part of our present from BC.) I didn't find the Parmessan cheese, but did find the cheddar and a box grater.

Unpacking and organizing is coming along way too slowly for my liking, but like any sensible Mom, Cook and Baker, I started with the kitchen. With a bit more time, and alot more hard work, I hope to be able to get back to baking very soon, and provide alot more pictures of my new kitchen.

When you are a kid, one of the bonuses to moving is the boxes you get to play with after. Especially if your mother orders an appliance and salvages the box for you.

It's almost time

Moving day.

After all this time preparing, we are ready to go. Wish I could say the same for the weather.

Mother Nature has a nasty sense of humor - just look what she brought us!

No matter, we will get this done.

My pantry is down to a bit of cereal, some popcorn and the peanut butter. My freezer has ice pops in it, and not much more of anything else. There hasn't been much cooking done around here lately, unless you count big pots of cream of wheat in the morning for breakfast (now gone, I am eating the last of it this morning.)

Ever notice how the less time you have, the busier to you are?

Monday had my boys eating the last of the bacon from the freezer for dinner, with eggs and toast, while I was out with my co-workers for a little end of year celebration. Our program is done for the year, we go back in January. Reason to celebrate?

Relaxed among the ladies, I tried something new and different. I ordered a drink. One with alcohol in it. I know, shocking. And I drank the entire thing. Even more shocking. (For those of you who do like to have the occasional drink, don't take offense - I tend to not like the taste of most alcohol, a big factor to why I don't drink, not a moral decision or anything.) I even took a picture on my cell phone, my Absolute Cosmo.

Can anyone tell me - it is supposed to be raspberry vodka in a Cosmopolitan? It seemed a little out of place to me, and while the drink was tasty, I think I'd have preferred being able to taste
the cranberry and not have it overwhelmed by the raspberry flavoring.

Oh, and the buffet at the Rideau Carleton Race Track is not bad, especially for $9.99 on a Monday night, but their desserts and dessert attendant are sorely lacking.

Last night the snow storm blew through. A perfect night to stay safe at home. Which we didn't do. We had to be out doing some final paperwork for the house, and I had been itching to try a new restaurant that just happened to be very near by, the Grand Central New York Deli. I had read about it awhile ago on a Ron Eade's Omnivore's Ottawa, a writer for the Ottawa citizen who maintains a blog about the food scene in Ottawa, and he had updated on Sunday that the Deli was finally going to open on Monday.

Woohoo! Smoked meat piled high for me! Not just any smoked meat, but a dry-rubbed smoked meat that was flavorful, moist, but not greasy or fall apart. On bread make from a local bakery. With coleslaw made on site that was creamy and flavorful and oh so good. I had mine with the sweet potato fries and ate every single one of those fries, the only fries I have eaten in years.

I should have taken a picture, even though it would be another terrible one on my cell phone, of the cheesecake they serve. Go look at Ron's site, see what I mean about the cheesecake. The four of us shared a piece and it was plenty for us!

Next time we try the deep fried pickles.

Today was another busy day, a pot luck lunch with all the play leaders that work in my program. No homemade goodies from me, but at least I was able to attend and contribute something (crackers, cheese, dips and veggies for those curious.) And I came home with a box full of chocolates.

Now to figure out what to feed my children for dinner tonight, using my fancy china. Isn't it lovely?

With luck in the paperwork, at this time tomorrow I will be standing in my new kitchen, ready to scrub every surface before I bring out my dishes and start figuring out how I want to arrange things.

And if I never move again, it will probably be too soon!

Hugs and kisses everyone - talk to you soon from the new house!

Daring Bakers: Sweet tooth beware!

We were back to baking with butter and sugar this month, something I have no complaints about (and have plenty of on hand still.)

I mean, really, how horrible can it be to be making a Caramel cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting? And having the option of making homemade caramels, which, I admit, I opted to not make (not when there were two different bags of yummy caramels in my baking pantry for chewing away at.)

This months challenge came to us courtesy of Dolores, Alex, and Jenny, who chose this recipe from Shuna of Eggbeater.

Writing this now, and finally following the link to Shuna's original recipe, I realize I should have followed that link on the first day, rather than just printing the recipe, reading the recipe several times, and then making the recipe. I might have been a bit less disappointed with the final results. Now, looking at the pictures there, I see I was indeed supposed to have a fairly dense, one layer only, cake with a thick icing on top. Which is what I had. I simply think I had something else in mind when I read the words "caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting." Something with layers. And lighter.

Not to say the cake wasn't good. It was tasty. But sweeeeeeeeeeet! Actually, no, the cake wasn't overly sweet. It was just the frosting. Make your teeth ache, give your kids a sugar high, send a diabetic into shock, kind of sweet.

For a change, I had no problems at all with making the caramel for this. I have been known, in the past, for burning my first batch of caramel since it had this nasty habit of going from light color to black and billowy in an instant. This time, I stood on guard, I watched, I showed patience I was not feeling, and I was rewarded with a nice amber colored syrup that made the house smell sweet (instead of the usual burnt sugar smell) And it was nice making a caramel without the sound of the smoke detector going off.

Now that this challenge is done, I'm anxious to find out what next month's challenge will be, the December challenge. Will the DB's be making something sweet, or savory? Will I need to wait until I can unpack my baking pans, or is the one flat pan I left out going to be enough? Will I need to replenish my spice cabinet, which I took the opportunity to clean out while packing up all but my most frequently used spices? I may have been patient making the caramel for this months ultra sweet confection, but I'm certainly not feeling patient about next month's challenge!

So while I wait, I will be attempting to read some of the 1000+ other posts about this months cake, though please don't take it personally if I don't leave a comment on yours. With that many cakes, and my limited free time right now, comments will be few this month. So in case I can't comment on your challenge.... "Your cake looks amazing, I can't believe what you've managed to do with it! Did we make the same recipe?!?!"

Making bread for homework (and butter too)

With the move now only two weeks away, and last weekend's out of town trip changed to this weekend, now is the time to start packing up what is left of my baking pantry and start on the rest of my kitchen. For the next two weeks, we are going to be having the minimum in kitchen items to work with.

This could be both a good and bad thing. Good because if I do bake something, I will have the chance to see what tools I really can't live without. And bad because the chances are my children will be getting store bought baked goods in their lunches for the next few weeks.

So if you are in Ottawa and see a twitching lady walking around with a purple hat on her head, don't worry, it is probably me going through baking withdraw.

In the meantime, here is something from my archives to keep you entertained while you wait anxiously to see what the Daring Baker's challenge for this month is.

One of the school projects my oldest son had to work on last semester was about the pioneers. The kids had to pick something about the pioneers and make a model, if they could. Some chose log homes, making them from sticks, others chose toys and tried to reproduce the kinds of toys pioneer children might have had. My son, doing me so proud, chose bread. He wanted to show how the pioneers had to make their own bread, that it didn't come in a bag, presliced, with colorful dots all over the outside. And that butter did not come in a foil wrapped block.

We could have gone to the library or searched the internet for pioneer style recipes, but he was lucky. His cookbook-a-holic mother happened to have a reproduction copy of the 1904 Good Housekeeping Cookbook, that she had picked up for $3.99 one day when bored and needing something to read. I doubt he knew I had that when he chose his project.

With Mom on standby to help with the bread, just in case, he set out to gather his ingredients, mixed his yeast and flour and liquid, checked with me to be sure it was working (it was, lots of bubbles in the rise), until he was finally able to take a turn at kneading, the old fashion way. Without a stand mixer or a bread machine. A messy task, one requiring lots of muscle, but a worthwhile task. The dough was tougher to knead than he thought it would be, so I did have to step in to help with that, but he did show a very good understanding of how you do it, and with a bit more practice at it, could probably do it completely on his own.

He was a very proud young man, with his 3 loaves of whole wheat bread, each a different size, but obviously hand made. What is fresh bread, though, without butter?

So he made some butter too, putting whipping cream into a container, making sure the lid was tight and got another arm work out. Sure, it looks rather ugh, but after he poured off the buttermilk and mixed in a bit of salt, he had very nice butter for his bread.

His classmates loved it, one even asked for the recipe so his mother could make it for him at home.

While he did very well, markwise, on this project, and raved to me how good the bread was, how easy it was to make, I've noticed that he never did ask if he could make it again. Maybe if the pioneers had also make home made peanut butter, he'd have come back asking to make that again.

Still working on pantry clean up menu plan

This isn't my regular pantry. Normally I have a much larger area, with big wooden shelves and alot more space. Instead we moved on of our bookshelves out into the hallway and I tried to organize it as a temporary pantry. The amount of items in it has gone down significantly lately.

Looking at the contents now, it doesn't look like I'm using too much from the pantry this week for dinners. Of course it is meager pickings there anyways.

Monday: Roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes and carrots and bean mix (yes, I know this was supposed to be yesterday's meal, but yesterday was very busy and turned into the kids eating hot dogs and pizza they received free at the Santa Claus parade, the hubby eating left overs and my making alfredo with salmon and shrimp late at night.)

Tuesday: spaghetti with homemade sauce, made using the oven roasted tomatoes from the freezer, augmented with a can or two of tomatoes from the pantry

Wednesday: Roast chicken with roasted potatoes and broccoli

Thursday: turkey meatballs with pineapple sauce and rice

Friday: we are away for the next two nights

In the meantime, today I am working on the November baking challenge recipe, and in a few days expect to be working on a special birthday cake. As I still have several pounds of butter in my other freezers (along with waffles, frozen bananas, hamburgers and a mountain of freezies), making cake still counts towards cleaning up the pantry and freezer.

You know it is good when you can't get a picture

White chocolate, raspberries and a sprinkling of sugar on top. How bad could that be?

Let me tell you, bad is not a word you can use to describe these blondies. They were so good I actually had to wrap up and hide the last piece so I could take a picture of them before they were gone.

I picked this recipe up awhile ago from Jenny over at Picky Palate, who was celebrating her blogaverssary with these amazing blondies, topped with ice cream. Thank goodness I did not have any ice cream in the house or I might have been tempted to try that!

The only change I made to the recipe was omitting the nuts. Oh, and I didn't have sour cream, so used a splash of buttermilk instead. Divine!

Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies

recipe from Picky Palate

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons sanding sugar (I had Turbano)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a 8x8 baking dish with tin foil, so the edges hang over the sides, and coat the foil with cooking spray. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in the ¾ cup white chips until melted and smooth.

In a large bowl add the sugar, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and the ½ cup of white chips. In a small bowl whisk the eggs and sour cream (or a splash of buttermilk). Pour into the dry ingredient bowl along with the melted white chip mixture. Mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and top evenly with the raspberries. Sprinkle the sanding sugar over the top before baking for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean from center.

Makes 9 really good brownies.

Cleaning out my freezer and a dinner plan

As we are getting closer and closer to our moving date, I'm being forced to look into things I might generally prefer not to. The hidden depths of the storage space, or the children's closets. Boxes are piled up everywhere, some full, some empty, some in between full and empty. And I am running out of things I feel I simply cannot pack when we are 4 weeks away from moving.

One thing I can do, however, is clear out my freezer and my pantry. Since my new home will also be coming with a nice shiny new stand up freezer, clearing out and defrosting my tiny little chest freezer is now a priority.

With that thought in mind, I dove right in and found out exactly what I had hidden in there.

No surprises really. I'd forgotten about the flank steak, but aside from that, I knew what was in there.

And now that I have it officially written down, I'll use it to help me in my menu plan:

Monday: Butter chicken with rice and naan bread (the chicken is already defrosting, hence not on the list)

Tuesday: Baked pasta with baguette (sauce also defrosting, again, not on the list because it isn't currently in the freezer.)

Wednesday: steak fajitas

Thursday: Balsamic chicken with California mix veggies

Friday: pancakes with mixed berry smoothies

Saturday: Husband's night for dinner, he gets to figure it out.

Sunday: Roast beef with mashed potatoes, bean and carrot mix

That takes care of a few things in my chest freezer, at least. (I've highlighted everything from the freezer in this lovely blue color.) Did I mention I also have 2 fridge freezer's to go through and clean out?

All Things Edible Pizza....May I take your order please?

Hello? Is anyone out there? I know I'm late, but I brought pizza! And not just any pizza, homemade pizza, with Daring Baker Challenge Dough!

Last month Rosa, from Rosa's Yummy Yums chose pizza dough for us to make, in memory of Sher, who was to be one of her co-hosts for the month. And I missed the party. Actually, I missed most of the month due to illness, so did not get my dough made in time to join the 1000+ other Daring Baker's who brought pizza to the party.

Now I have a pizza dough I am pretty happy with, nothing fancy, but it comes together in a jiffy, and rises in about an hour. It works for us. Which doesn't mean I'm not willing to try other recipes, I'm open to them. Maybe one of them will be even better and come together even quicker than my current recipe.

The challenge was to make pizza dough using the recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, easy enough to do. Oh wait, there was a twist - we had to try and toss at least 2 balls of the dough, and try and get a picture of us doing so.

Do you see a picture of me tossing dough anywhere? Don't go straining your eyes, it isn't there. I tried, I really did. Several times. But this dough is soft! And very pliable. So soft and pliable that picking it up off the counter usually resulted in it being stretched very thin, ready to be topped.

Oh, did I mention I had cleaned up my pantry recently, and had thrown out my cornmeal? It was a surprise to me as well, and a bit of a pain for transferring pizza, ultra thin, pizza too. By the 4th pizza, I gave up trying and simply pressed the pizza out onto a pan instead.

Homemade pizza in my home is usually "make your own pizza" night. I set out toppings that the children will eat, and they each make their own. My youngest always makes a face on his (which did not survive the transfer to the oven, but was still eaten.) I have found I usually go vegetarian on my pizza's when we do this, but went a little different to try out this dough: On half of my pizza I brushed garlic butter, generously, then topped it with marble cheddar, mozzarella and parmessan cheese. On the other half I spread homemade tomato sauce, then used crumbles of a medium Italian sausage and a generous amount of mushroom slices, which I had sauted in garlic and butter, before I put on both mozzarella and parmessan cheese.

It was yummy, though not exactly pretty.

Now this dough did come together quickly in the mixer, though it required the advanced planning of being made a day ahead. It was soft, almost too soft, and while I like thin crust pizza, I like to have the option of a thicker crust, which I really didn't have. It also didn't have much flavor to it, not even the slight yeasty aftertaste which most dough has.

So while it might be good for an ocassional change, it won't replace my regular dough.

Normally about now I'd suggest you get out there and read all kinds of other Daring Baker post about this month's challenge, but I suspect everyone but me has done that already. Personally, I am far behind on my reading, but at least I finally caught up on making the challenge.

Oh and I'm really looking forward to this month's challenge, probably making it this weekend, so no worries about being late with that one!

Happy Halloween!

My boys have just headed out a few minutes ago with their Dad, while I man the door. But before leaving they posed for a picture or two for me.

Oh you thought those pumpkins were my boys?


Actually the pumpkin on the right is my son's first ever pumpkin that he carved himself. I chopped off the top, but he emptied it and made the face and cut out all the pieces. I'm quite proud of how well he did, so wanted to show it off.

Here you go, here is my boys, getting ready to go out and see all their friends. They will likely get enough junk to make up for their mother not making them Halloween cookies or funky cupcakes this year. Oh well, there is always Christmas. Or New Years. Or maybe Groundhogs day.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Yes, I know there is supposed to be pizza here somewhere....

but not in my house right now.

No, Bob has not yet been packed up, nor has the yeast or the flour.

Instead it is just the cold from _________________ (fill in the blank with whatever nasty description you'd like.) I've lost my voice several times, I cough, I choke, I snorkle trying to breath, I am best friends with a box of kleenex, and cherry koolaid is about the most challenging thing I have managed to make all week. Even the caramels for the caramel apples have stayed, closed up, in the pantry, waiting for me to feel better and want to make them.

If anyone has a surefire way to get rid of this cold, before it turns into something nastier, please, leave a comment, drop me a line. But if it involves cooking or eating, chances are I'll read it and then go and try and take a nap.

I'll be back later, when I'm feeling better and up to eating, hopefully with some homemade pizza.

Goodbye Hershey, stockpiling, and the rain

Saturday's have been about family and little outings lately. Spending time together, exploring around us, doing something a bit different.

Today was no different. We took the day off of our normally scheduled activities, I took some cold medication, and off we went to Smith Falls and the Hershey Factory, which closes in December of this year.

The factory does not seem to be producing anything right now, so there was nothing to see on the tour except a vat of chocolate being mixed, but we've seen the tour before. We were there for the chocolate shop, some snacks and for me to stockpile for some baking.

This picture does not do my stash justice. And I certainly didn't arrange it so it would look "pretty". All total, I bought cocoa, milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips. And the a set of nesting cookie cutters, Hershey's Kisses. I could have bought so much more but decided to stick with "the basics."

We took the scenic route back, while rain poured down around us. We explored a little town on our way home, which looked like it was trying to host an outdoor Halloween festival, with little red tents set up on the street corners of down town. At one tent I saw several men bundled, cold and wet, but manning their crock pots for a chili cookoff, as the handmade sign said. Nothing, however, was happening, due to the rain.

On one corner was a group of kids, in their hockey jersey's, part of the event, but also trying to raise some money by selling candy apples. As we drove by, we could see no one was out, no one was stopping, no one was buying. So despite the 4 bags of chocolate and treats in our trunk, we stopped.

Does a blue candy apple taste any different than a red candy apple?

Speaking of pumpkins

It was time to make a change from our usual pumpkin picking place. Not that they don't have good pumpkins or service, but I wanted some place were you went out to the field and picked your pumpkin there instead of from a pile that were pre-picked.

So we loaded up our pickers and head out to Miller's while the sun was shining and the weather was still reasonably warm.

We don't have a preset limit on our children for their yearly pumpkins. Instead the rule is: If you can't carry it yourself, you can't have it. And every year they try for bigger and bigger pumpkins!

They are always allowed to pick a gourd or two, but surprisingly this year, neither wanted one.

One did come home with one of these pretty squash, but don't count on it being eaten.

On Monday I spent the day with my co-workers on a preschool course. Our key speaker at the beginning of the day was Suzi Sauvé, a laughter and happiness coach, who was the highlight of the day. Part of her talk involved finding a happy thought, a time when you were relaxed and feeling good and training yourself to think of it when you need to de-stress. I think pumpkin picking with my boys, enjoying the warmth and colors and laughter, plus Miller's hand made butter tarts, are my happy thought.