Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baking & Relaxing

I've got the baking bug!
It's been awhile since I last baked anything ... I think the last was an apple coffee cake a few weeks back when I found myself with almost 20 apples and nothing to do with them. I made some "apple sauce" (not so much sauce as just very pureed apples) and used that in the cake. I also improvised and made sort of an apple-caramel bottom which went over well.
I'm currently letting my challah dough rise and have oatmeal-coffee cookies* in the oven.

I went to Sugar Mountain on my way home from work and after eating half of the bag I decided I should use up the rest of the chocolate before I gave myself an aching rounded tummy.
I also bought Chocolate (!) Lucky Charms because I'm going to make "rice krispy" squares with it. Should be delicious. But I need more butter/margarine...hmmm...better text the roommate so he can pick some up for me on his way home from work.

Tomorrow after work I'm headed up to Algonquin park with some friends for a weekend of camping, canoeing, and good times. I bought my box of wine today (4 L of an autumn blush that should last the 3 days and then some) and will pack up tonight! Quite excited. There really is something to be said for losing track of time in the great outdoors.

The Apple & Honey Challah Loaf

*Oatmeal-Coffee Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup each all purpose flour & Whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tbsp bran
1 tbsp strong coffee
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips (I omitted this and instead put dark chocolate covered espresso beans on top)
  • Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) and grease 2 large cookies sheets (I prefer to use parchment paper).
  • Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl then add the egg, beating well.
  • Sift in a seperate bowl: flour, baking soda, salt and bran. Mix into the egg mixture then add chocolate chips, oats and coffee.
  • Drop a tbsp of dough onto cookie sheet, leaving room in between cookies.
  • Bake for 16-18 minutes ir until golden brown.

Since I will be on a lake/in the bush this weekend I won't be able to post again until Monday. If you're looking for something to do this weekend I highly recommend picking this book up and giving it a read.

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak.

Definitely the best book I've read so far this year. It's a story about a girl named Leisel in Nazi Germany, told from the perspective of Death. It centers around her relationship with her foster parents, her best friend Rudy, the other families on her street, and a Jewish man named Max. I finished the last few pages last night and sobbed for about half an hour. It's a story about beauty where you wouldn't expect to find it and it is AMAZING. It's Jamie's Book Club pick for September.

And if you're looking for something sweet to accompany your reading I suggest you try out the oatmeal-coffee cookie recipe!

When I return on Monday I'll post all about the camping trip and put up the recipe for the Chocolate Lucky Charm Squares - assuming they taste as good as I'm expecting them too.

Have a wonderful weekend :)

J, Martha-in-Training

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Dream in Stratford

Stratford, as promised.

Last weekend I accompanied my boyfriend, his brother and his girlfriend, and his brother's friend and girlfriend (still with me?) to Stratford Ontario for the festival. Since my fella's older sister is working at the festival she was able to get us free tickets to the opening night of Midsummer as well as provide us with a place to sleep.

We headed out on Friday afternoon and, after a long drive due to traffic, we arrived with just time to grab dinner. At the suggestion of one of the girls we hit a delicious Italian restaurant called Pazzo Pizzeria* and speedily ate before hoping in cabs to take us to the theatre.

The play was well done and humourous. Our group agreed it ran a little long towards the end but other than that we were all entertained. The actor playing Puck was fantastic and I am in awe of Ms. Yanna McIntosh who played the fairy queen and also Lady Macbeth! I thought memorizing lines, cues, etc for one play would be more than enough to occupy all available space in my memory.

The next day the roomate and I did a hurried bit of sight seeing around town and bought some gifts at the fudge store and the candy store (Rheo Thompson). We stopped off in Shakespeare, ON on the way home to browse the antique stores. I got a cookie tin for my mom, a jewelery box for rings, and a cake pan.

That beauty above only cost me $4! What a steal. I almost bought a wedgewood teapot ($190 - gasp!) and then talked myself down to the plate ($65) and managed to walk out with nothing. I wish I'd gotten the plate in green as it was only $25. Next time.
FYI - the teapot I saw is that one in the middle. Also available for purchase was the sugar bowl (I'm assuming that's what the item on the far left is) and the creamer. So beautiful. If ever I find myself in Shakespeare Ontario again I'm bringing big bucks.

The fish are alive and swimming around in their new home. Kingsley seems to prefer floating in the current from the filter. J, my boyfriend/roomate suggested this could be because he's trying to get more oxygen out of the water. Smart guy. I thought Kingsley was just a surfer slash too lazy to swim on his own.
I was cleaning through some stuff last night and pulled out my knitting project that I abandoned several months ago. I didn't like the first white trim I put on it so I sewed up the ends and cut off the bad part. Looks better now. I'm making a blanket but I won't say for what/who. As far as I know she doesn't even have a name yet ;) I'll explain in December.
***Important Note: I'm not pregnant.***

I may do some baking tonight but I forgot to pick up milk on the way home so it'll have to be something dairy-free.
I've also been brainstorming ideas for this cottage cook-off and I have soooo many. Right now here's the menu I have in mind:
  • Starter: round loaf of pumpernickle bread hollowed out with dip - something spinach-y probably.
  • Main: chicken, with a buttermilk-cornmeal breading, maybe some jalapeno havarti melted inside, maybe not, maybe with some kind of buttermilk/cream sauce.
  • Side 1: Potato salad with bacon, chives, and blue cheese (A Martha recipe)
  • Side 2: Zucchini and summer squash tart (A Martha recipe)
  • Side 3: Bacon-wrapped corn on the cob, done on the BBQ.
  • Desert.....TBA!
  • I was also toying with the idea of doing roasted red peppers stuffed with rizotto but I think this might be too much....

Let me know what you think of these options and I'll tinker with them in the next few days to make a final game plan for next weekend!

I'm off to have a bath, finish a few more rows of knitting and curl up on the couch with tea and maybe indulge in some True Blood!

Enjoy your evening :)

J, Martha-In-Training

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Two New Additions to the Family and....A Challenge!

Big News!
I have pets!

After almost a full year of living sans-cats, and after much unsuccessful persuading of the roommate to get either a kitten or puppy, I have finally taken matters into my own hands and brought two new friends to live with me!

It was between them and a hamster but - as awful as I feel admitting to this - I couldn't give up hope that one day I will get a cat/dog so I just couldn't commit to the 2-3 year lifespan of a hamster.

So -
A big welcome to my first independently purchased pets
Voldemort (the algae eater) and Kingsley Shacklebolt (the chocolate-chip mollie) !!!

Is it obvious that I'm a Harry Potter fan?

There they are, my little wizard fish.

In other news I've just been issued a challenge by my cousin's wife. First a little background: this pretty lady and I are more alike than my sister and I are. The similarities are sometimes shocking. But back to the story...

For the labour day weekend we are heading up to the family cottage for a fun filled weekend. As my aunt is a wonderful hostess I was warned that she will likely be purchasing and planning all of the meals for all of us. My cousin decided that the best way to keep her from over-buying would be to tell her that we're having a challenge/contest.

What kind of contest, you ask?


The Martha Cottage Challenge, 2009. Two nights. Two dinners. Four cooks.

One night M&A take over the kitchen and prepare dinner, and the other night the roommate and I take culinary control. Menus will stay moderately secret but we will decide upon a main meat to avoid doing a dish twice.

The ideas! The research! The ingredient possibilities! My mind is literally running at about 100 miles a minute. And I've got the Food Network on to inspire me. Ohhhhhh this is going to be good!

I have just under two weeks to make a final menu plan so I will be posting some ideas for you all to praise or veto.
Anyway, I'll leave you with that for today. I want to post about my weekend trip to Stratford for the festival, the play I saw, and the antiquing I got to do ...but I will save that for tomorrow.

I'm off to make dinner for my roomie slash get my creative culinary juices flowing. The lucky bum is getting a meal in honour of my new fish friends. On the menu: spaghetti in a rose sauce with shrimp and bacon wrapped scallops.

Enjoy :)

J, Martha-In-Training

Monday, August 24, 2009

My 24th Birthday

Earlier this month I turned 24 -
one more year before I have to grow up and deal with a quarter life crisis.
But birthdays mean cake and this year was a bountiful one.

I made what I've called "sunshine" cupcakes for my guests. They are lemon based and came complete with Martha's seven minute frosting adhering the sugar cookies and sour candies to the tops. They were tasty.

My best friend, knowing that Angel food is one of my all time favourites, baked up this delicious masterpeice and topped it with a splash of liquer, strawberries, raspberries and mint. I was impressed as were my tastebuds. The cake vanished from the party very soon after its arrival.

My other friend who is quickly turning into a Cake Boss brought these creative cupcakes to the party. She's a wiz with fondant and I won't lie, I was very tempted to say that I had made these. Also - I ate the remainder of these the next day - once I recovered from my hangover, obviously.

So that was 24.

25 is going to be a year of fantastic cakes but for the next 11 months I'll enjoy my last year of young adulthood and all of the holiday crafts and baked goods that fall between now and next August.

Till next time

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So the documentation begins...

If you know me you know that I adore the woman, the legend, the domestic diva herself, Ms. Martha Stewart.
The woman has it all: several magazines, a TV show, a line of crafts and household items at K-Mart, a criminal record, in short she has a supremely successful empire.
I once bought a biographical novel about her on ebay titled "Just Desserts" but it didn't cast her in a nice light so I stopped reading it. Propaganda.
I did, however, buy more favourable books of hers on ebay such as her Martha Stewart Living's Christmas Cookbook and Menus for Entertaining. Lovely.

So -
Because I admire this woman I have been expanding my baking, cooking, and crafting expertise and I wanted to share it with friends and family.
Welcome Blog!
Please join me in my quest to fulfill the Martha-in-training title

Enjoy :)