December 24, 2009

Smells like Christmas!

It smells delicious in my home today! I am baking coffee cake for Christmas morning and big, soft ginger cookies for gifts. The tree is lit, the carols are on, and this is what my boys are doing while I'm slaving away in the kitchen:

(yes, there is a dog in there, and yes, he's snoring)

Coffee cake was one of the very first things I learned how to make. This recipe is simple, delicious, and smells absolutely amazing.


  • 1/2 pound of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp baking soda (be sure to add this WITH the sour cream and vanilla, not before them)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


1. Cream butter and 3/4 of the sugar together (set the other 1/4 aside)
2. Add eggs
3. Add flour, salt and baking POWDER
4. THEN add sour cream, baking soda and vanilla
5. Place half the batter in a tube pan
6. Mix the quarter cup of sugar you set aside with the tsp of cinnamon and sprinkle half of it on the batter

7. Cover this with the other half of the batter, and then sprinkle with the other half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

Eggplant Parmesan

We eat a tonne of vegetables and I'm always looking to try new things so when we are at the grocery store the other day, I picked up an eggplant. This is usually the kind of item I would pick up and would rot in the back of our fridge for a few months because I had no idea what to do with it, but on Sunday night, I had a revelation and I whipped up some eggplant parmesan.

I had never cooked an eggplant before so I turned to trusty to learn how to make a veggie parmesan. It took longer than I thought, but it tasted pretty good and I think this is a new weeknight dish for us.

Ingredients (makes four servings)
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (I added dried basil and oregano to mine)
  • spaghetti sauce
  • mozzerella cheese
**you may note that there is no parmesan in my parmesan, I didn't have any on hand and it turned out ok


  1. Cut off top and bottom of eggplant and peel (I just used a knife and cut off the peel)

2. Slice your eggplant into rounds (we did about a 1/4 inch, but next time I would probably do a little thicker)

3. Sweat your eggplant for about 15 minutes. I read different feedback about why you do this -- one said it's because there's so much water in eggplant, while another said you do it to release the bitter oils in it. Either way, I did it by pouring salt all over the eggplant. Within minutes, oils start to release and then you rinse it off and pat it dry.

4. Dip each piece of eggplant in egg then in the bread crumbs. Put onto cookie sheet
5. Bake your eggplant for 10 minutes on each side at 350 degrees

6. Pour spaghetti sauce over large pan, then put your eggplant in in a single layer, cover with more sauce and finally with mozzerella cheese

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

    December 16, 2009

    Big, Soft Ginger Cookies

    My girlfriend Lindsey came over last night with a mission: she needed 24 cookies to take to a cookie exchange. We needed to find a good recipe to match our skills and palettes. We wanted something slightly festive, not too challenging and I wanted something with little decorating (as we have recently seen my success with that).

    The recipe I found met all our criteria. With a title like Big, Soft Ginger Cookies, how could you go wrong? I found them on, my favourite place for recipes because you can read feedback from real people and how they fared with the recipe and what changes they made. More than 2,000 people gave it five stars. They can add two more to the list!

    We doubled the recipe and it made 52 cookies. Below is the regular recipe (which will yield about 26 delicious cookies)


    • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 3/4 cup butter, softened
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tbsp orange juice (the recipe called for water but a reader said oj was the way)
    • 1/4 cup molasses
    • 2 tbsp white sugar

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    • Sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside
    • In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg. Stir in OJ and molasses
    • Gradually stir in dry ingredients into molasses mixture

    • Leave mixture in fridge for about 30 minutes to cool
    • Shape dough into Timbit sized balls and roll them in the remaining sugar (this will make them all sparkly and festive)

    • Put cookies on sheet two inches apart and flatten slightly
    • Bake for 8 - 10 minutes
    • Eat!

    (please note beloved mixer in the background)

    December 8, 2009

    Sunday Brunch

    Sunday morning I had my girls over for our annual Favourite Things gift exchange. We each buy four of our favourite things and then each girl takes home four presents. It's a great way to find new products and we all love it!

    I hosted brunch and last year it was a disaster (think brioche soaked in eggs, cream and vanilla, that didn't fully cook after an hour of baking, then burning and sticking to tin foil). So this year I played it safe and stuck with what I knew: scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, turkey bacon, fruit and blueberry pancakes. The pancakes are my favourite part and come from a vintage milk calendar. They're made with yogurt so they're light and fluffy.

    Here's the recipe for Blueberry Pancakes:

    • 3 cups of flour
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 1/2 cups milk
    • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (you could use any kind)
    • 1/4 cup butter melted
    • blueberries

    1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, yogurt and butter. I also added a tsp of crazy-expensive Mexican vanilla my sister gave me for an extra flavour punch.

    (yes, that vanilla has three digits before the decimal!)

    2. Pour wet ingredients over dry ones and stir until combined.

    3. In a large skillet, melt some butter at medium heat and ladle about a 1/4 cup batter for each pancake into the skillet.

    4. Add blueberries to each pancake (adding them now ensures your batter doesn't turn blue)

    5. Cook until bubbles form, then flip over for another minute

    Tip: Put your leftover pancakes in the fridge and heat them up in the toaster the next day. Delicious!

    December 2, 2009

    Icing Update

    Oh, and last night, T mentioned that the icing tasted "a little too buttery." Well, that's because all it is is butter.

    December 1, 2009

    Icing Worms

    I have four cupcake cookbooks and they all make icing look so easy. So easy, in fact, that no one actually tells you how to ice. How hard could it be?

    I attempted Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing for cupcakes for a potluck. All that's in this icing is five egg whites, one POUND of butter and one cup of sugar. The icing turned out ok, but when I added colour, it all went downhill. I'm told that you should always add gel paste as colouring because the colour takes better. I didn't have it, so I added regular red food colouring and the best colour I could make was like a skin tone. Gross.

    Then I whipped out my new icing tip -- a Wilton 21, a nice star tip. This is what happened:

    My icing didn't even cover the cupcake and it certainly didn't come out in a smooth flow like I expected it. It came out clumpy and inconsistent.

    After a number of failed attempts, I switched icing tips to a Wilton 12, which is a large, round tip. It pretty much looked like there were skin coloured worms on my cupcakes.

    Here, in all their glory, are my cupcakes, which will not be making it to the potluck on Thursday. Sigh.

    Lessons learned:

    • gel food paste is essential for colouring icing

    • never use a pound of butter, ever

    • cupcake decorating lessons might be a good idea 

    November 16, 2009

    Third Time's A Charm

    Last night, I started to make whole wheat bread. I found a recipe that you put in the fridge overnight once you made the dough. It was one of the most basic whole wheat recipes I had found and it explained the process pretty well, which is important to me.

    I think what happened with my last loaves, was that in my rush to get it done, I didn't let it rise enough, leaving it really dense. We did finish both loaves and it was amazing with grilled cheese, but it just seemed heavy.

    From the get-go, this recipe was different. I let it rise for the full time required (3 hours once I took it out of the fridge) and the texture was light and airy (not so with the last recipe). Then I cut it, put it in two loaf pans and left for a walk with my sister. I came back to a nice smelling home and HUGE loaves, still unbaked.

    Once I put them in the oven they already smelled delicious and I just took them out and everything about them feels light and spongy to the touch. Making bread really is quite the learning process and if nothing else, it's teaching me patience!

    Lessons learned:

    • Patience
    • The texture of the bread (at least white and whole wheat) should be light and spongy to the touch)
    • My oven seems to be a little hot and while this recipe said 30 minutes, it was done in 27

    November 9, 2009

    Granola Bars

    T and I eat a lot of granola bars. Every day for work, we take salads for lunch so granola bars are the only carb we eat during the day. I decided a few weeks ago to try and make these tasty treats myself and found a pretty basic recipe on my favourite site -- I've made these a few times now and they always turn out great, and the best part is that you can totally customize them.

    The base is:

    • 3 cups instant rolled oats
    • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 tbsp butter melted
    After that, you can add just about anything. This week, I added:
    • 1 cup mixed nuts (I pounded these a little to break them up)
    • 1/2 cup craisins
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (mmm!)
    Then bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. I've also learned it's much easier to cut when they're warm. Then I wrap them individually in wax paper and voila, a perfect and healthy snack for work!

    November 8, 2009

    Squash Soup with Bacon and Asiago Crumpets

    On Sundays I feel that we should be having a full "Sunday night" dinner. But even though I took out a roast out of the freezer yesterday, it still wasn't defrosted in time to make dinner tonight, so we came up with Plan B: Butternut Squash Soup and Bacon and Asiago Crumpets.

    Butternut Squash Soup
    I didn't have a recipe so I used my basic Leek and Potato recipe and modified it slightly. Here's what I did:

    1. Cut one medium butternut squash down the middle and roasted in the oven for one hour.
    2. Melted two teaspoons of butter in a large pot and added one diced onion. Let cook for five minutes.
    3. Add two diced up potatoes and one and a half cartons of chicken stock. Let boil until potatoes cook.
    4. Cut up squash and add to the soup. 
    5. Puree with immersion blender.
    6. Add 1/2 cup of cream and 1/2 cup of white wine. 
    7. Add salt, pepper and splash of nutmeg.
    8. Serve in bowls and add a dollop of sour cream.
    Overall, a pretty basic recipe and it turned out pretty well. I think this will be a winter favourite.

    Bacon and Asiago Crumpets
    These were delish! I got this recipe from the Mildred Pierce Restaurant brunch cookbook. They were good and pretty easy to make, but I certainly don't need 12 of them. My husband, T, really liked these though and maybe they won't be around that long.
    They had a nice flavour and had a bit of a bite to them with the asiago cheese and the scallions. I think they might be nice in the toaster too for enjoyment throughout the week.

    Lessons learned:
    • I can make soup without a recipe
    • If a recipe calls for crumpet rings, if you don't mind a messy border, you don't need them
    • Hillebrand Riesling is our new favourite wine and it went really well with the mild soup

    Bread -- Take Two

    I made bread once before. It came out like a football and was heavy and dense. Eating it as toast was palpable, but I don't think ACE bakery will be looking for my recipes any time soon.

    I bought a new book called the Mixer Bible. It specifically tells you how to use your mixer for recipes, which is great because I'm not knowledgeable enough to know how to adapt a recipe, quite yet.

    Last night, at about 8 p.m., I decided to make bread. First rule of thumb: always read the WHOLE recipe before you start. Had I done that, I wouldn't have been up until midnight waiting for my bread to rise.

    Overall, it came out pretty well. It was way better than my first attempt, but I wish someone could taste it and tell me how to make it better. It still feels heavy and I don't know if that's from too much flour?

    This is how it turned out:

    Lessons learned:

    • I can't say this enough: read the whole recipe before starting
    • The pouring shield for the mixer is my new best friend. This allowed me to put flour into the mixer without stopping it
    • I let the yeast foam for 10 minutes, even though it said it would take only five
    • The oven with the oven light on is a good spot to let the dough rise (note: the oven is off)
    • I enjoyed making it but I have a lot to learn!

    November 4, 2009

    It Started With the Mixer

    It all started with the mixer. The coveted Kitchen Aid stand mixer, so beautiful in design that you almost didn't want to use it. Just having it sit on the countertop made me feel like a professional cook, but then, I realized I wanted to use it. Constantly. I started clipping recipes and thinking about how I could use them with the mixer. Then, I bought icing tips and icing bags, I got cupcake cookbooks and recipe books and started reading other bloggers and getting ideas from them. The snowball just wouldn't stop, and then, I made hamburger cupcakes.

    I admit, it was the praise that got me. People oohed and ahhed and I was smitten with the new found attention I was receiving.

    Who knew that turning into a housewife was something to be so proud of and so admired? What should I make this weekend?

    November 3, 2009

    I was a housewife for Halloween...

    This year, I was a housewife for Halloween. That wasn't too far off the mark for me lately as for the past year, I have been channeling my inner June Cleaver. Since moving to a new home, getting engaged and now married, all I have wanted to do is bake and cook and I aspire to be crafty. I'd love to learn how to sew and knit and be that girl that people ooh and ahh over with her homemade goodies. I'm not her -- yet. But I'm trying. Stay tuned for goodies and crafts and decorating as I learn by trial and error.


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