Monthly Archives: July 2010

I’ve Got Owls. Yes I Do.

I’ve got owls. Yes I do. I’ve got owls. How ’bout you?

I’m sure you’ve noticed recently that owls are the new trend. Owl earrings. Owl jewelry boxes. Owl cookie jars. Owl hot plates. Owl figurines. Owl everything!

I heart owls. I also sort of hate that they’re so trendy now.

Do you ever really love something then realize it’s so totally in style right now? I hate that! There’s always that little voice taunting me in the back of my head calling me a sheep and inferring awful things about brainwashing and bandwagons. Stupid voice. I wish it would shut up.

Like polka dots. And turquoise. And vests. And damask print. And vintage style. And now owls.

So you can never be sure if your love of said thing is sincere or if you’ve just been made to think it is.

Really though, does it matter? I’m just happy to love stuff. And I do. A lot. Is that bad? Does that make me materialistic? Oh, who cares!

Do you remember my rant about my love of design on a dime schemes? While I very much love stuff, I’m not prepared to pay a lot for said stuff. Instead of shopping to buy things, I shop to get ideas.

So a while ago I saw these adorable and unfortunately a little country owl figurines at the Dollarama. I love their expressions and how each is uniquely cute. But that green is bleh. Just downright awful looking.

I had one of those light-bulb-over-head kind of moments. Instead of buying this sweet little owl lantern or this cooky owl cookie jar I decided to make my own for a fraction of the cost of course. I could spray paint these cheap little cuties whatever colour I wanted to fit into any colour scheme I desired.

So there you have it. Four modern trendy owl figurines for under ten bucks.

DIY Trendy Owl Figurines

A few junky looking owl figurines
1 can of spray paint
A few pieces of scrap wood or firewood
1 piece of wooden dowel
1 hand saw
1 power drill
1 painting tarp or sheet

With your hand saw cut down the dowel to a manageable size that will have enough room to insert into the holes in the bottom of each owl figurine and into the scrap wood.

With your power drill make as many holes as needed the diameter of the dowel in your scrap wood. Insert the dowel into the wood and hang the owls on the other end of the dowels.

Lay down a painting tarp or sheet in a well ventilated area and place your painting contraptions on top.

Evenly spray each owl with a few coats of paint as needed to cover the original colour. Let them dry overnight until the paint is no longer tacky. Enjoy!

PS: Don’t they look great on my shelf next to my vase collection?

PPS: Pardon my plain white walls. They will be light gray in due time. Although I kind of like the white on white colour scheme going on there.

So Next Season.

I know, I know. I’m weird.

Who makes something maple flavoured in the Summer? In case you can’t see, that would be me reluctantly raising my hand.

It’s like I’m just asking for it. I’m tempting the fates. Tomorrow all the leaves are going to turn orange and fall from the trees. And it will be all my fault. If that happens I take full responsibility. And if that happens you’ll at least have some appropriate cookies for the premature Autumn season.

I guess I could have tucked away this little gem and waited patiently for the next season. Do I strike you as a patient person?

Let me explain the method to my madness. Remember when I made these Maple Bacon Oatmeal Muffins? Well I had some maple syrup leftover and I couldn’t see that sugary heaven go to waste so I planned these lovely Maple Banana Whoopie Pies.

I had exactly one cup of maple syrup left. Did I plan it that way or am I just that lucky? Why can’t I be lucky with something useful like the lottery or Kitchen Aid giveaways? Whatever. I’ll take what I can get.

And if licking the measuring cup clean of any maple syrup residue is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

Maple Banana Whoopie Pies
Makes 3 dozen cookies, 18 whoopie pies.

Source: My imagination

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp turbinado sugar

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup until it’s light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat them in until it’s smooth. The mixture might look curdled but don’t worry. All will be well.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine it until it’s incorporated well. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes to stiffen up.

Roll a heaping tbsp of dough into a ball and place onto the prepared baking sheet for each cookie. Pat them down lightly with your fingers and sprinkle them liberally with turbinado sugar. Bake them for 8 – 10 minutes until the edges are light golden brown. Transfer them to a cooking rack to cool completely before frosting.

Banana Frosting

Source: My imagination.

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 bananas, mashed
1/4 tsp salt
3 – 5 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter, mashed banana and salt. Gradually add the powdered sugar until you get your desired consistency. It should be thick enough to spread on the cookies and not ooze out when you make them into sandwiches.

Match up the cookies into pairs according to size and shape. Liberally spread the frosting on the underside of the first cookie then place the second one on top. Keep them refrigerated. Enjoy!

Cupcake Confessional.

I have a confession to make.

Are you ready?

Like really ready?

Ok, here goes.

I’m 41.

Ok no, not really. You should see your face. I couldn’t keep a straight face on that one either.

Let me clarify. According to my Wii I’m 41. My Wii thinks I’m 41. Should this offend me? Because it does. I have been insulted by a tiny white box.

I took the Wii Sports fitness test last night and let’s just say the results were less than desirable. Really though, what does the ability to volley a virtual tennis ball into a target have to do with my level of fitness? Or the talent of dodging virtual training balls being lobbed at me randomly? Or being able to curve a virtual bowling ball? I’m quite good at that one by the way. One of those life skills that will certainly come in handy in the future. There will be a bowling ball curving emergency somewhere someday I’m sure of it.

Basically the Wii is an elaborate game system designed entirely to make you look stupid. Yes, the truth is out folks. Let’s be honest here, it’s not like you were really worried about looking cool while cow racing, swerving around goombas or collecting star bits.

I dare you to try to not wave your arms around like a spazz while boxing and whip someone in the face with the nunchuk cord. Yeah that didn’t happen. I dare you not to get the overwhelming urge to whip the remote at the TV when you miss the tennis ball for the umpteenth time. That may or may not have happened. Tell me you never threw a temper tantrum and blamed the game before. Tell me you were never in a bad mood for half the day because you didn’t round that corner just right to avoid the Shy Guy. You never slung insults at the screen after falling through the same star shaped hole in the Rocky Road?

No? Just me then? Oh.

Maybe I’m bitter because my Wii called me 41. Maybe I’ve been eating too many of these Devil’s Food Cupcakes. Maybe it’s worth it.

Yes. Yes, it definitely is.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Makes about 17 cupcakes.

Source: Adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Triple Layer Devil’s Food Cake.

1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup boiling water
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup cake flour (or substitute)
1 1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a muffin tin with cups and set it aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and boiling water until it’s smooth. Set it aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the eggs, vanilla and about 1/4 of the chocolate mixture.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer stir together the flour, sugar and baking soda. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 of the chocolate mixture. Mix it on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened then increase it to medium speed and beat it for an additional 1 1/2 minutes. This is done to aerate the batter and develop the cake structure.

Add the egg mixture a 1/3 at a time mixing for 20 seconds and scraping down the bowl after each addition.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin filling each cup about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way. Bake them for 15 – 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Almond Buttercream

Source: Adapted from Wilton’s Buttercream Icing.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
3 – 4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the shortening and butter until it’s smooth. Add the almond extract and beat it well. Add the powdered sugar gradually, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. When the icing is ready it will appear dry so mix in the milk and beat it until it’s light a fluffy.

If you’d like to fill your cupcakes with raspberry jam like I did fit your pastry bag with a long filling tip and pipe the jam into the center of each cupcake until the tops bulge ever so slightly.

Colour your icing as desired and pipe it onto your cupcakes as creatively as you’d like. I used a large star tip for white, a small leaf tip for green and a small multi-opening tip for pink. Enjoy!

I’m Cool Like That.

Like most of you out there I’ve been trying to figure out any way possible to avoid turning on the oven in this summer heat. Lots on BBQ pork chops and salads. It’s not enough to avoid heating up the house but I’m also trying to devise ways to cool down too.

Sitting directly in front of the air conditioner is good, if not a little restricting.

Pony tails are nice. Just the act of getting my thick hair off the back of my neck is a relief.

Popsicles help. Yes they do. Especially the orange ones. I think they’re a couple degrees more refreshing.

Ice cream too. Oh my yes. Lots and lots of ice cream.

Have you ever been to a Marble Slab Creamery? If not you need to get yourself to one as soon as humanly possible. You’ll thank me later. It’s custom. It’s fancy. It’s expensive. It makes you feel like you should be clutching your White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl chocolate dipped waffle cone with your pinkies out.

After reading a recent post by Brown Eyed Baker on how you can make ice cream without an ice cream maker it was decided. I needed to do this. There was no way around it. I do still plan on getting an ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but in the mean time I can still live it up in custom made ice cream fabulousness.

But I made it frozen yogurt because I kind of prefer it. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Lemon Blueberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt
Makes 7 – 8 servings.

Source: My imagination

2 750g containers plain whole milk yogurt
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Note: This recipe has been written for those who lack an ice cream maker, like myself. Please follow the manufacture’s instructions if making this recipe with an ice cream maker.

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In a small bowl add the 1/2 cup sugar to the lemon juice and heat it in the microwave until it’s dissolved, about 30 seconds. In a large bowl combine the yogurt, zest and juice mixture until it’s smooth.

Pour the yogurt into a large freezer safe bowl and place it in the freezer. After 30 minutes take it out and stir the partially frozen edges in making sure to break them apart with a fork or whisk. Repeat this step every 30 minutes for about 2 – 3 hours until the yogurt is frozen smoothly and at a soft-serve consistency.

While the yogurt is in the freezer combine the blueberries, water and 1/4 cup sugar in a small sauce pan. Simmer the mixture on medium heat until the blueberries liquify and it reduces to a semi-thick syrup, about 8 – 10 minutes. Take the syrup off the heat and allow it to cool completely. If after the syrup is cooled it’s too thick then just mix in a little bit more water to thin it out.

Once the yogurt is thick enough, layer it with the blueberry syrup in a large bowl alternating between the two. Then take a long knife and pull it lightly through all the layers creating the swirl effect. Don’t over do it though because you’ll make the yogurt completely purple and ruin the swirl effect.

Place it back in the freezer to set for about 4 more hours or overnight. It will become very firm so you might want to let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before scooping and serving. Enjoy!

Love Muffin: Maple Bacon Oatmeal.

Yeah you read that right. Ladies and gentlemen, that was no typo.

For those of us who just can’t make up our minds in the morning. I give you the ultimate breakfast. It’s like four breakfast meals rolled into one. It’s a bowl of oatmeal. It’s a stack of pancakes. It’s a handful of bacon. It’s a muffin… umm obviously.

Breakfast. Of. Champions.

These days we’re discouraged from eating things like greasy bacon and pancakes slathered in syrup and here I am combining them. No, I’m not trying to kill you. There’s some oatmeal in there so that’s got to count for something, right? The healthy power of oatmeal might magically counteract the unhealthy evil of it’s breakfast foes.

You can pretend it’s healthy. Like I do.

Or just shirk the rules and shove them in your mouth. Like I do.

Maple Bacon Oatmeal Muffins
Makes about 17 muffins.

Source: My imagination.

1 1/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 cup milk
2 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
8 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
2 tbsp pure maple syrup for topping

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a muffin tin with muffin cups and set it aside.

In a large bowl combine oats and milk then let it sit for 5 min. In a separate large bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk sugar, maple syrup, egg and butter into milk mixture. Lightly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients along with the bacon.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin until each are about 3/4 of the way filled. Bake them for 20 – 25 minutes until they’re golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer them to a cooling rack and brush the warm tops lightly with the reserved maple syrup using a pastry brush. Enjoy!

Blondies, Who Knew?

So there I was in my kitchen, my mouth hanging open in a frozen gasp and my eyes popping out of my head. It was one of those eureka moments. You know the one. Brownies not made of dark or milk chocolate but white chocolate. I’m clearly a genius.


Then I was left with the difficult task of naming my brain child. Whities was a bad choice for obvious reasons. Plus they wouldn’t really be white. It’s kind of difficult to bake white food. So beigies? No, that’s just lame and rather hard to pronounce.

Naturally I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I googled it like a good obsessive compulsive person and, to my great disappointment, I not only found a name for them but also found they already existed. Blondies. There’s not much left in the world that someone hasn’t already thought of. Silly me. I never would have thought of that.

Blueberries were on sale. I like blueberries. Blueberries and white chocolate go together nicely. So there you have it. Sometimes it’s best you don’t over think dessert.

White Chocolate Blueberry Blondies

Source: My imagination

1 cup white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup blueberries

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a 8 or 9 inch pan with parchment paper with enough overhang to grasp then set it aside.

In a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over simmering water melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Once it’s melted and smooth take the bowl off the heat and stir in the sugar using a whisk. Add the vanilla next then the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Finally whisk in the flour and salt until the mixture is smooth.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the top and cover it with the rest of the batter. Bake it for 25 – 30 minutes until the tops are shiny and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with only a small amount of batter and moist crumbs clinging to it. Let it cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing into squares and slipping it out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang. Enjoy!

Now With Less Yeast and More Expletives.

This is the first time I made bread. Sad, but true. I’ve put it off for far too long and I decided that today was the day. I was full of misplaced optimism and enthusiasm. It was great.

Have you ever thought you followed a recipe to the letter and then you realize that you skipped one crucial step or forgot one key ingredient? Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend you do that with bread. Like I did.

Which ingredient would you say is the most important in bread? That’s right, yeast of course. So here I was covering my freshly kneaded hunk of dough to rise feeling pretty happy with myself. I reread the recipe for about the gazillionth time and I realized to my horror that I didn’t add enough yeast. How could I have missed that? I added 1 1/2 packages of yeast, not the 2 1/2 it called for.

Needless to say there were expletives involved. Birds flew away. Flowers wilted. Squirrels ran for cover.

I half expected my dough not to rise at all and instead be left with a spongy glossy lump of stubborn goo. Either that or there was going to be an explosion of some sort. I don’t know why when anything goes wrong I always brace myself for an explosion. To my surprise and delight I was wrong. So wrong.

French Bread with Brown Butter Spread. Hey that rhymes. And yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

French Bread
Makes two loaves.

Source: Adapted from several different recipes.

6 cup flour
2 1/2 pkg active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cup warm water
1 tbsp cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tbsp water

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Preheat the oven to 175 degrees and position a rack in the center. Once the oven has reached the temperature turn it off. Oil a large bowl and set it aside.

In a large bowl combine 2 cups of flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the warm water then beat it with an electric mixer with the hook attachment until it’s well blended. Mix in 3 more cups of flour as best you can then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

Gradually keep adding the last cup of flour as you knead the dough over 8 – 10 minutes. Stop when the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball and place it in the prepared bowl turning it a few times until all of it is oiled. Cover it with a damp tea towel and place it in the warmed oven until it’s doubled, about an hour.

Punch down the dough and divide it evenly in half. Turn both of them out onto a lightly floured surface and let them rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into a long rectangle then roll them up longways until you have a skinny tube. Moisten the edges with water and seal them then taper the ends.

Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle the cornmeal on it. Place the loaves seam side down on the baking sheet. Cover them with the damp tea towel again and let them rise until they’ve doubled, about 30 – 40 minutes. Whisk together the egg white and water then brush it over the loaves with a pastry brush.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp knife make 4 or 5 diagonal cuts about a ¼ inch thick on the top of each loaf. Brush them with more of the egg white mixture then bake them for 20 minutes. Brush them once again with the egg white mixture and bake them for another 15 – 20 minutes until they’re golden brown.

Brown Butter Spread

Source: As seen on Chef at Home.

1 cup salted butter, room temperature

In a small sauce pan cook 1/2 cup of the butter on medium heat for about 6 – 8 minutes until the foam subsides, the butter turns brown and you smell that delicious caramel scent. Remove it from the heat then allow it to cool and harden slightly in a bowl in the refrigerator for 15 – 30 minutes.

In large bowl with an electric mixer whip both the brown butter and the reserved 1/2 cup of salted butter until it’s light and smooth.

Spread it liberally on your slices of freshly baked French Bread. Enjoy!

A Slice of Happiness.

I made a pie. Can you tell?

Did I bake this pie while dancing around the kitchen to Burn the Witch by Queens of the Stone Age? Why yes. How did you know?

Did I bake a pie while sporting an adorable navy blue apron with little red tomato polka dots? Of course! Seriously, where are you hiding?

It may come as a shock to you that this is the very first pie I’ve ever baked myself. I’ve aided in the baking of pies, oh yes, but that normally consisted of snacking on sugar and cinnamon coated apples or sitting impatiently in front of the oven. I’ve also aided in the consumption of said pies. I’m quite experienced in that area of pie expertise.

I’ve never actually rolled out the dough, filled the shell and covered that sucker up with more dough. I know, it’s blasphemous really.

So I’ve done it. Here’s my proof. It’s scrumptious.

Cherry Pie

Source: Adapted from my family recipe.

Short Crust Pastry:

2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

Cherry Filling:

4 cup sweet cherries, sliced and pitted
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp quick cooking tapioca
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp water
1 tbsp turbinado sugar

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Note: This Short Crust Pastry recipe is flaky and light if made properly. Do not use a food processor as this will over-mix the dough and cause the dough to be tough or rubbery. The chunks of butter create air pockets in the pastry as it bakes so over-mixing and over-handling destroy them.

Butter and flour a 9 inch glass pie pan then set it aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles course crumbs. In a small measuring cup add the vinegar to the milk then drizzle it over top of the flour mixture. Using a spatula lightly stir and fold the liquid into the dry ingredients until it becomes a workable dough.

Using your hands quickly form the dough into two equal balls. Cover one with plastic wrap and place the other on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out using a floured rolling pin into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Roll the circle back onto the rolling pin and use it to transfer the pastry into the prepared pie pan. Smooth it into the corners with your fingers then cut off the excess with a sharp knife.

In another large bowl toss your cherries with lemon juice. In a small bowl mix the sugar and tapioca together then add it to the cherries. Mix that in then let it sit for 15 minutes. Butter the bottom and sides of the bottom pie shell then fill it with the cherries and smooth them out.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees an position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

In a small bowl beat together the egg and water. Roll out the other ball of pastry dough the same way you did before except this time slice it into 12 – 15 strips using a sharp knife of a pizza cutter. With a pastry brush lightly coat the edge of the bottom pie shell with the egg wash. Weave the lattice pattern alternating the strips of dough over and under until the top is covered. Seal the edges of the lattice pattern with the egg wash then press the edge in place with your fingers. Brush more egg wash over the entire top of the pie then sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly.

Place the pie pan on a baking sheet and bake it for about 50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and let it sit for at least 1 or 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!