Monday, September 27, 2010

Cake Pops for October

If you love baking, especially cute baking, and you love blogs, then you've probably heard of Bakerella.
Check out her site to learn more about her and see all of the fun things she bakes!
What she's most famous for, though, are her
Cake Pops

(Photo from

The cupcake cake pops were the first ones she made and started the craze.

I want to make some of my own for Thanksgiving and for Halloween. Stealing ideas straight from the Queen of cake pops herself, I want to attempt these:

(Photo from
They look to me what I imagine a love child between Mike and Sully from Monsters, Inc would look like.
(Photo from
These look complicated though and I have a different way I want to make turkey cupcakes - from my Costco cupcake book.

(Photo from
Any one of these cute Halloween characters would make me happy!
Maybe not the werewolf (aka Chewy) or the witch as they look like they require a bit more skill than the others.

That's it!
I hope these give you some ideas for your own October holiday baking - they certainly gave me some inspiration to head into the kitchen in the next few weeks!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Official: I'm a (Half) Marathon Runner!

After a very un-restful night's sleep (nerves), I woke up this morning at 5:35 am with an entire conservatory of butterflies in my stomach.
Leaving the house with my mom at 6:15, we parked and made our way to the starting corrals of the
Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon!
I ran the half in 2 hours and 11 minutes!
It was brutal at times, exhilarating at others.
I was nervous I would go too fast and not pace myself, leaving me too fatigued to finish strong or finish at all. I followed behind the 2:15 pace bunny for awhile...until I witnessed him blow a snot rocket onto the side of the road. At that point I figured I'd make my own pace and go at a speed I was comfortable maintaining.
Since the course was a loop out west and then back east along lakeshore (and then continuing east and looping back west again for the marathoners), I was curious as to how far I would get before the uber-marathoners started coming back east.
I saw the first runner as I hit the 7 k marker.
Which was also located very close to the 17 k marker on the other side.
The man ran 17 k in the time it took me to run 7!
I got goosebumps watching them run by. Their paces are ridiculous! I'm pretty sure their comfortable pace is my sprint.
There were a few times too when the road curved just right, and all you could see ahead was a road full of runners. Almost 22,000 people ran this morning. Insane!
I didn't hit a wall (I was convinced I would), but there were a few times I shot some envious looks at the people walking. I refused to stop running even at the water stations. I slowed down, sure, but not enough to prevent me from spilling more on myself than I drank. I also nearly choked myself at one water station, trying to take a bigger gulp than I should have while maintaining my pace. Oops.
My body held up pretty well through to the 12 k turn-around and then it was a mental fight to stop thinking about how much my feet, ankles, knees, and hips ached. They seemed to cycle through, pain wise, so I survived. Now though is another story. I look like a hobbled old woman when I walk.
The last km was the hardest. It felt the longest and I was very aware of how tired I was. I pushed through and even managed to speed up through the last 500 m. I saw my mom screaming my name and it gave me the boost I needed to boot it into high gear and cross the finish line.

Then I grabbed my finisher's medal, a stylish emergency blanket (which was actually very appreciated as I was freeeeeeezing afterward), and went to meet up with my mom, dad, and sister.
I feel amazing. Apart from the stiff joints.
I accomplished something I have always wanted to do and can cross it off my list of things to do before I die.
I can't wait to do it again!
I got an email from my beloved Williams-Sonoma and have found a covet-worthy thanksgiving baking item:

It's a mold for little cakes in the shape of (I think...) pumpkins, acorns, etc. Adorable.

I also want to buy pie weights (but from Winners cause they're a bit cheaper) so I can experiment with making mittens that you warm up in the microwave.

Well, I have to stop procrastinating and get back to the two assignments I have due this week.

I ran a half-marathon !!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bacon-wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Apples & Sage

Appologies for the lack of posts recently...I'm back in school and placement full time so my time is unfortunately not as free as it once was. And it's only going to get worse because I haven't even started back to my fall work schedule yet.
My placement is going really well so far. I'm in a social services office (social assistance, employment placement and referals, job training workshops, etc) and I've discovered that it's something that really appeals to me.
I got to sit in on an employment placement workshops, I sat in on an info session facilitated by a public health nurse for an amazing initiative called Investing in Families, and today I sat in on an initial intake interview for social assistance. It's amazing that there actually are systems in place to provide resources to the people in our communities who need it.
I can definitely see myself becoming a part of this field later on.
John and I, after an entire weekend apart and a less-than-pleasant Monday night (due to stupid stupid circumstances), went out for dinner last night. Nothing fancy - Jack Astor's - but a much needed date night. It's easy to forget what a great partner you've got when you forget to do fun and exciting things together.
If I can offer up any advice to keeping a long-term relationship fun it is this: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF DATES!
As promised, I will do my review of this month's Martha (LOTS of great Halloween ideas!) but I've been slowly going through it while mainly focusing on finishing all those pesky nursing readings for my classes.
Never fear, I've got tomorrow eeeevening and the weekend to write it up and also to pre-write some posts for the week!
As I mentioned previously, I made a pork-on-pork dream come true at my parents place last weekend.
It was delicious.
Bacon makes the meat so tender and bacon in and of itself is so good.
Here's the recipe from the Autumn 2010 Food & Drink from the LCBO
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin with Apples & Sage

(photo from LCBO website, recipe by Marilyn Bentz-Crowley)


2 large pork tenderloins,total about 2 lbs (about 1 kg)
10 fresh sage leaves, very finely chopped,or 1 tsp (5 mL) dried rubbed sage
2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly groundblack pepper
9 to 10 slices thick-cut bacon
Kitchen twine
3 to 4 large apples such asCortland or Spy
1 large cooking onion
2 tbsp (25 mL) all-purpose flour
1½ cups (375 mL) chicken broth or stock

1. If any silver skin on loins is present, cut away and discard. Sprinkle sage, garlic, salt and pepper all over loins. Place loins closely together lengthwise, with thick ends meeting thin ends, to even out roast thickness.
2. Lay out slices of bacon snugly together on a cutting board, forming a rectangle. Place loins across bacon so bacon ends emerge from each side. Beginning at one end, lift a bacon end up over loins at a 45° angle. Then, alternating sides, continue lifting bacon ends down the length of roast forming a chevron pattern of bacon on top.
3. Cut five 12-inch (30-cm) lengths of twine and one 30-inch (75-cm) length. Place 5 shorter lengths of twine under loins widthwise. Working out from roast centre, firmly (but not causing deep indents to form) tie up each piece of twine, spacing evenly apart. Then tie up roast lengthwise with longer piece of twine. Trim twine ends; discard. (Roast can be prepared, covered and refrigerated for up to half a day. Add 10 to 15 minutes to roasting time.)
4. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Lightly brown roast on all sides, about 15 minutes in total. Transfer to a baking pan lined with a rack. Place in oven; set time for 30 minutes. Check and continue roasting until a meat thermometer reads 145°F (63°C). Remove from oven: transfer to cutting board. Cover roast with foil; let rest 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, peel core and slice apples. Thinly slice onion.
6. Drain most of fat from frying pan; place back over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth; add apple slices. Bring to a boil; simmer, covered, 5 to 10 minutes or until apples are tender and sauce is lightly thickened. Add more broth if too thick; keep covered and hot.
7. To slice pork roast, snip off lengthwise string. Then slice about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick, removing crosswise strings as they are encountered. Place a few saucy apples on each warm serving plate, top with a couple of slices of roast and drizzle with more sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes and a steamed julienne of carrot and kohlrabi.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Molasses Spiced Apple Loaf

I mentioned yesterday that I was going to try experimenting with the apples I bought rather than go the route of the standard (but delicious) apple pie.
I remembered that I'd made a batch of Martha's chewy molasses cookies last autumn and those delectable cookies kept creeping back into my thoughts.
I wondered if it would work if I used the recipe but turned it into a loaf and added some of the freshly picked apples.
Verdict? Delicious.
If you like gingerbread, this is a perfect autumn recipe to enjoy with a mug of hot apple cider.
Jamie (and Martha)'s Molasses Spiced Apple Loaf

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Skin 1 large apple and cut into 2-3 cm thick slices. In a bowl, beat 3/4 cup butter (softened) with 1 cup sugar. Add 1 egg and 1/4 cup molasses, stirring to combine after each addition.
2. Add in 2 cups flour, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp nutmeg, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix until combined.
3. Pour half of the batter into a greased loaf pan and with wet fingers press down. Place the slices of apple all over the batter then add the remaining batter, pressing down with wet fingers. Sprinkle 4 tbsp sugar over the surface.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and using a knife, poke holes in the loaf lengthwise where you expect to make cuts later on. Put back in the oven and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes until the top is firm and a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean (almost clean is acceptable too as the loaf will firm up as it cools). Let loaf cool and then cut using the knife holes as a guide. Serve and enjoy!

If you're looking for another recipe to use your apples is, I'll have a great dinner one for you tomorrow.
Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with apples
Pork on pork. Proof that everything really does taste better wrapped in bacon.

P.S. The October issue of MSL is here so expect a review soon!

AND I've subscribed to Everyday Food so I may have some extra recipe recommendations :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Perfect Day at Chudleigh's Apple Farm

I woke up early (too early, actually) this morning and headed over to my Terry Fox Run location. After some group stretching we headed out on the course for the 10 k. There was also a 5 k course and it was kind of confusing when we came to the turn off for the 5 k. The whole run, being a community event, wasn't very well marked in terms of where to turn, etc so I had to keep pace with at least one other person who looked like they knew where they were going. The course was uphill, downhill, across busy streets, and through beautiful shaded paths. It was a nice run, all in all, until I hit that 9th km.
For at least 500 m.
Or it felt like it was uphill for much longer than it should have been!
Hills are not what you want to see when you've been running for the better part of an hour and can't wait to see the finish line.
Hills or not, it was a perfect day for an early morning run and I hope we get similar conditions next Sunday for the half marathon.
My mom and sister came out to the finish to cheer me on and snap some flattering pictures:

"You looked like a beautiful and sweaty gazelle." - My mom.
It makes me feel like I can run another full race when I see your face in the crowd mom :) Thanks for coming out for the last 3 races!
Please be ready to piggy-back me home next Sunday. Or hire a big goon to drag me off the streets of Toronto.
After breakfast and a shower I got together with some friends and headed out to Chudleigh's Apple Farm!
We were supposed to go yesterday but thank goodness we waited until today! The weather was amazing and the apple's were ripe for the picking.

I like my friends because even when I'm the 5th wheel they never make me feel that way :)

Hay ride passed the revered Honeycrisp apples (tasty and humongous!)

Late summer sunlight through the apple trees.

Corn roast!
How could we pass it up?

Probably the best corn I've had in awhile.
Slathered with butter and sprinkled with a hint of salt, it was well worth the line up and the $2.36.

I also bought a bag of apples (gala, honeycrisp, macintosh, spartan, and kerr - which may be the CUTEST apples I've ever seen. They look like plums on the trees) and a jug of apple cider for John who's been working all weekend.

I think tomorrow I'm going to experiment with an apple loaf-bread.....
it could be disasterous or it could be amazing.
One week until the half marathon!
Very excited and very very nervous......

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Apple Picking

Here's a quick photo recap of the Pumpkin Fudge that you should all make at some point this fall.
In the past I've found fudge to be tricky - probably because I tend to be impatient and also because for many years I lacked that all important tool, the candy thermometer.
I never seemed to get the hard ball stage quite right.
This time though it all worked out.

Mmmmm fudge.
And the pumpkin flavour in it is kind of subtle. When you know that it's pumpkin fudge you can taste it but I gave John a blind taste test and he couldn't quite put his finger on what the extra flavour was.
If you've got a candy thermometer USE IT!
Not stirring the bubbling fudge and waiting for the temperature to get up to where you need it to be is definitely a lesson in patience but it's fun to watch the mercury rise
Side note: I hope it's not mercury in my thermometer. Don't they have safer stuff they use nowadays?
Here I am patiently waiting for the candy to hit 235 degrees.
Why am I holding the thermometer like a baster, you ask?
Well, my thermometer is broken. The end of it broke, I'm not quite sure how.
This might be the perfect time to mention that I'm in the market for a new candy thermometer seeing as Christmas is approaching and gift ideas for the cousin gift exchange are useful. Plus you can get a candy thermometer at Kitchen Stuff Plus for under $10.

If you don't have a candy thermometer, you obey the hard ball rule. Dip a spoon into the bubbley-goo that will eventually be fudge and add a drop or two to a glass of cold water. Once the fudge retains it's drop-shape in the water (therefore attaining the much sought after 'hard ball' stage) you are ready to turn off the heat and beat the gloss out of that fudge.

Then you can pour it into a greased pan and wait for it to set so that you can cut yourself a piece and sample your hard work.

In other news, I'm going apple picking today at Chudleighs Apple Farm!
I'm going to need to find a Longos supermarket soon though because while browsing through the flyer that came with my free LCBO Food & Drink magazine, I found this advertisement:

Hidden Rose Apples, sold exclusively at Longos.
They are freakin' red on the inside and 'taste remarkably like strawberry lemonade'.
I want.

I don't think I will find these babies at Chudleighs today but you know what I will find?
Free lunch, straigh outta the trees.
It's frowned upon, yes, but nuts to that. You gotta know you're picking a delicious type of apple right?

I'm off to make some tea as I seem to have lost my voice from singing at the top of my lungs for several hours at the bar last night.
And then to read another 100 pages of Jane Eyre to catch up for my Women's writing class.

P.S. My friends just bought a house!!! Now I have extra motivation to finish the blanket I'm knitting before Nov. 22 so I can give it to them as a house-warming gift.

So exciting! We're already planning a swanky black-tie affair New Years Party there also.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pulled Pork Done 2 Ways

Feeling like I hadn't seen my friends in awhile, and having not been allowed to go into placement this week, I invited my neighbours over for dinner on Wednesday night.
And I was craving pulled pork.
John picked up a pork tenderloin. Then on Wednesday I went for a walk to run a few errands and stopped into the grocery store. Thinking it wouldn't hurt to grab another tenderloin to make sure we had enough and maybe some extra for lunches, I wandered into the meat section. Lo and behold, I found the elusive shoulder/picnic cut of pork that is recommended for making pulled pork! And it was only $7!
So I snatched it up quickly and headed home with my treasured find.
I've made pulled pork before with tenderloin but I'd never done it with pork shoulder.
Martha, as always, led me down the right path. The right and very delicious path. I did add more ingredients than her recipe called for (taking my cues from Mike & Andrea who made it 2 summers ago at the Cottage Cook-0ff).
So whether you're using a leaner (therefore healthier) tenderloin or a slightly more fatty shoulder, I've got you covered. Here's what you'll need to do to make delicious pulled pork!
Pulled Pork: Tenderloin
[click here if you want to compare Martha's recipe to my version]

(Appologies because I didn't have time to take a nice picture that would do it justice - the guests had arrived and I didn't want to taunt them by artfully arranging the serving bowl and taking multiple photos of it while their stomachs were rumbling)

1. In a large pot, add 1 container of halved cherry tomatoes (probably about 30 of them), 1 diced red onion, 3 cloves of garlic (finely diced or if you're like me just thinly slice it so you can still see the peices of garlic), 2 tbsp spicy mustard, 1/4 cup barbeque sauce, 1/4 cup ketchup, 3 tbsp worcestshire sauce, 3 tbsp brown sugar, and 1/4 cup molasses. Add tenderloin. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the pork is cooked.
2. Once pork is cooked, remove from the pot and allow to cool for several minutes. Using 2 forks, shred the tenderloin (see photo below)

3. Return the shredded pork to the pot and mix back into the sauce. Heat and serve!
Pulled Pork: Shoulder
*This method requires significantly more time than the tenderloin but if you've got the time it's SO worth it.

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Make cuts in the fat (on the top) of the shoulder, scoring to make diamonds. Season the meat with salt and black pepper. Put the shoulder into a roasting pan with 1/2 cup water. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes until browned.
2. Remove pan from oven and turn heat down to 350 degrees. Tightly cover the roasting pan with tin foil and return to the oven. Allow the shoulder to cook at 350 degrees for 4 hours.
3. Remove pan from oven, remove tin foil, and allow meat to cool slightly. Using two forks, shred the meat. The meat should literally fall off the bone - you almost don't even need to shred it yourself.

4. Add the shredded pork to a pot filled with the ingredients for the sauce described in the first recipe and mix to coat all of the pork.

The combination of the tenderloin and the shoulder made for pulled pork that was a bit healthier but with forkfuls of melt-in-your-mouth tender meat. I served it with ciabatta bread that I baked about 10 minutes before the guests arrived and with green and yellow zucchini that I roasted with about 2 tbsp of butter. We made open-faced sandwiches and ohhhhh man they were good.

If you've got a lazy weekend coming up and want to try something new for dinner, go find a pork shoulder and cook that bad boy for 5 hours. If you've got a busier weekend planned, grab a tenderloin and enjoy healthier pulled pork!

P.S. I made the pumpkin fudge - to rave reviews - so I will post some pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This & That & Pumpkin Fudge

I've had a very limbo-esque day.
I'm supposed to be in clinical this week but because my police check hasn't come back yet I'm unable to attend as technically I work with the vulnerable population. I emailed my preceptor, no response. I called the police (not 911) and checked the status of my police check - at least another week, possible 2 or 3. That makes me very very nervous.
Went for a run this morning as I've been super lazy the last week and a bit and need to really crack down as I've only got a week and a bit before the half marthon comes around.
Then I did the laundry (took my aunt's wise advice and went down before the dryer finished), hung the laundry out to actually dry (because without fail I always put too much in the dryer), did the dishes, started another roud of ciabatta bread, and watched the season finale of True Blood. So good.
I've got another day in limbo tomorrow but I've invited friends over for dinner so at least I can spend the day cooking and tidying up. Anything that gives me a purpose, really.
On Sunday night I gave John's sister her birthday gift basket and she loved it. She was impressed that everything was homemade and that there was a nice variety of things.
I also artsy-fartsied up a neat birthday card:

It's the comedy/tradgedy mask which I thought might be appropriate as she is a lighting designer and works on a lot of plays.
Yesterday I went out to grab a few things for dinner and in what I like to call the "odds and ends" section I found some pumpkin. Figuring it was much cheaper to buy this than a whole squash (I did though, I bought a spaghetti squash cause I looooove them), I bought it and brought it home to roast it with butter, cinnamon, and a (generous) drizzle of maple syrup.

I posted this picture because there is a recipe where the ingredients would normally go!
Crazy eh?
What's even crazier is that the directions do not specify how much of any ingredient you need!
So this could be a fun game of trial-by-error.
I'm posting an alternate recipe in case anyone buys a chunk of pumpkin and doesn't know what to do with it. Or wants a new pumpkin desert idea for the aproaching Thanksgiving holiday.
Pumpkin Fudge

1. Grease a pan (8x8 or whatever you've got handy) and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, combine 3 cups sugar, 3 tbsp light corn syrup, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling but do not stir.

3. When the mixture reaches 234 degrees F (if you don't have a candy thermometer, get a glass of cold water. Drop a bit off of a spoon into the water. If the mixture remains in a ball shape then you're done) remove from the heat. Stir in 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 cup butter. Let cool until it is lukewarm, or about 43 degrees F on the candy thermometer.

4. Beat the mixture until it is very thick and starts to lose some of it's shiny glossy quality. Quickly pour into the greased pan and allow it to set until firm. Once it is firm, cut into individual pieces and enjoy!

Aside from roasting the pumpkin, I also bought figs and cooked them with chicken. Oh man I love figs. I drizzled them with balsamic vinegar and with some honey and just let them go.
'Twas a thing of beauty, those figs.
Finally (before I go and ruin one of John's lovely pots in an attempt to make this pumpkin fudge), I also baked up some red velvet mini-cakes last night.

As much as it worries me that I'm home right now, I'm going to be ticked off when I have to go back to school full time and can no longer spend my days in the kitchen.
C'est la vie.

Better go see if any of the laundry items are dry yet.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Marathon of Hope: 30 Years Later

If you are Canadian, then you most likely know the powerful significance behind words like Marathon of Hope and Terry Fox.
Terry Fox was a young man from Port Coquitlam, B.C. who was diagnosed with cancer at age 18 and as a result lost his right leg. Angered by how little money was being channeled into cancer research, Terry, an athlete all his life, decided to do something to change this.
30 Years ago, on April 12, 1980, Terry Fox dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean off of St. John's Newfoundland and began running across Canada to his intended finish line in Victoria, B.C.
Averaging about 30 miles a day (keep in mind a marathon is just over 26 miles), Terry ran over 5000 miles before he found out that the cancer had returned and had spread to his lungs.
Terry Fox died on June 28th, 1981.
His run ended after 143 days, just outside of Thunder Bay on September 2, 1980.
Every September since, Canadians have taken it upon themselves to honour Terry Fox's spirit, determination, and his goal of raising money and awareness for cancer research. The Terry Fox run has also become an international event, involving over a million people in 60 countries.
Since Terry began his historic run, over $500 million dollars has been raised in his name worldwide.
I remember participating in the Terry Fox run every year at my high school. It was an annual event that I took part in but never really fully understood how significant an event it was.
That most schools give students the afternoon off to be able to participate is phenomenal.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope and this time I am proud and honoured to be a part of it.
Terry Fox was an inspirational human being who, at only 21 years old, became a hero and a legend. Though he died before I was born, his story reminds me that the human spirit is a force to be reckoned with.
Please donate if you can.
You can sponsor me here or sign up to find out where there is a run near you!
(Donations are also tax deductable so give give give if you can!)
For any of you living in or close to Toronto I'm doing the UCC locations so if you're interested sign up and we can run together!
It's a 10 km loop but it's not important whether or not you cross the finish line, rather that you came to support an amazing cause.
30th Anniversary of the Marathon of Hope, Sunday September 19th, 2010.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peanut-free PB & J Thumprint Cookies

I mentioned awhile back, when I first posted about the faux-nut butter slash soy butter product that I bought, that the first time I bought fake peanut butter I had been let down.
The first time I tried it was heaven but any time after that it just had this weird taste and it made me feel a bit queasy.
This time around it's all good.
Better than all good, even.
I've had it a number of times (on bread, with banana, with jam, with honey, etc) and used it in baking (granola bars, now cookies) and I haven't gotten anything but good results from it.
So obviously since I've found a suitable replacement for the love I lost from my life at 9 years old, I've been looking around for recipes to use it in.
I wanted to make some peaNOT butter cookies and remembered seeing these:

PB & J Thumprint Cookies
(peanut free!)

You will need:
  • 3/4 cup soy butter (or peanut butter if you're allowed the real stuff)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar PLUS another 1/4 cup for rolling
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup jam (I used black current jam that John's mother made)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper (or tinfoil).
  2. In a bowl mix together soy butter, butter (softened), sugars and vanilla. Beat in the egg. In a seperate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to the soy butter mixture and mix until well combined.
  3. Place 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Using a spoon or your hands, take about a 1 tbsp amount of dough and roll it into a ball using the palms of your hand. Roll the ball in the bowl of sugar to coat the outside then place on the baking sheet. Repeat until the baking sheet is full or you're out of dough.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes until the tops start to puff up. Remove from the oven and gently push your thumb into the tops of each cookie to make the indentation for the jam. Return the cookies to the oven for another 5-7 minutes.
  5. Remove cookies and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Spoon enough jam into the thumprint to fill it. If you're finding the jam/jelly hard to work with you can heat it gently over medium-low heat in a saucepan to loosen it up.

Very easy and so satisfying when you've been denied that peanut butter taste for almost 14 years.

Here's a quick little Sunday morning story for you.

One day, when I was 9 years old, I was sitting in my grade 4 classroom - music, I believe it was - when I started to notice that my hands and feet were very itchy. I looked down and saw that my hands were red, swollen, and splotchy with hives. I noticed too that the skin on my face felt stretched to it's limit, like my cheeks and nose were trying to break free and make a run for it. The teacher asked if I was alright and I excused myself to the washroom where I finally saw how very swollen I looked. I went to the office, my mom was called, and shortly thereafter an appointment was made to go and see my doctor.

Thankfully I've never had an anaphylactic reaction and my breathing wasn't compromised.

At the doctors office, she told us that it had likely been an allergic reaction to something I had eaten and that for the next few days I would likely have small reactions as my body worked to get rid of the unwanted allergen from my system.

"I had a chocolate chip cookie at recess." I volunteered.

"What did you have yesterday? Any eggs, nuts, shellfish...?"

Now here's where this makes me look less like a poor scared child and more like a kid abusing their sick day-off from school.

The day before I had stayed home sick from school. That or it was a Sunday though I distinctly remember being alone in the living room and I'm pretty sure that if it were a Sunday at least one parent would have been around to stop me.

Having likely planned out my day in TV shows (yep, I did that. Cartoons at 10, Price is Right at 11....), I saddled up to the tv and got cozy on the carpet with my two companions: a jar of peanut butter and a spoon.

You can guess the rest.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jamie's M.A.P. Salsa

In addition to the 2 loaves of pumpkin seed ciabatta bread I made this afternoon, one for us and one for Siobhan's gift basket (see below)

(P.S. Suuuuuuuper psyched at how well this ciabatta came out! Look at all them air pockets!)
I also created a recipe for the best fruity salsa you will ever have in your entire life.
I take full credit for this recipe because it's delicious!
I think it's a perfect companion to tortilla chips, toasted pita or naan wedges, atop toasted baguette rounds, or on hamburgers. Heck this salsa would even go well as a side salad all on it's own!
I also have decided to abbreviate it and call it M.A.P. Salsa rather than Mango-Avocado-Peach salsa. And I like MAP better than PAM because, like a map, the fruits represent different areas of the world.
So deep, I know.
Jamie's M.A.P. Salsa

This recipe is very simple, involving 2 steps, 10 ingredients, 1 bowl, and 5 minutes of your time.
You'll need:
  • 1 Avocado (to tell if you're buying a ripe one, give it a squeeze. The firmer it feels the less ripe it is).
  • 1 Peach
  • 1 Mango
  • 1/2 Red Pepper
  • 1/4 Red Onion
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp lime zest
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped (fresh or frozen cubes will work better than dried cilantro here)
  • 1 tsp each of salt and ground black pepper
1. Cut avocado, peach, and mango into bite sized cubes. Finely dice the onion and dice the red pepper. Toss all into a bowl.
2. Zest the lime and add to the bowl. Squeeze the juice of half of one lemon and half of one lime into the mix. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and mix in the cilantro. Toss to coat. Serve or store in an airtight container until ready to serve!
If you aren't good with knife skills or hate cutting slimy slippery avocados, let me show you an easy way to cut avocado into perfect sized pieces fast.
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and twist in the sides in opposite directions until you end up with two halves.
Carefully (!) chop the knife into the avocado pit with a bit of force. The knife will stick into it and will pull it right out of the other half of the avocado.
Without removing the outer skin, make vertical and horizontal cuts in the avocado to give you the desired sized cubes.
Push on the skin to fan out the cubes. Some will fall out on their own. For the rest, gently run your knife under the skin to free the remaining cubes.
See Below...
The M.A.P. Salsa (all but the one spoonful I saved for myself) is now jarred up and in the fridge, ready to go into the gift basket tomorrow.
I'll jazz up the jar a bit in the morning.

The gift basket so far is really coming along.
I was browsing through the online LCBO magazine and found a bottle of wine called "Life is Good". I knew I had to find it - and I did! I hope she opens it tomorrow so I can try it (ha-ha-ha only I'm not really kidding). I'm a sucker for an interesting label and this wine's got one. Also, with every purchase, the wine company donates a percentage to an organization that works to make the cities greener, more liveable places.
So cool label and good cause.

Quick side note: if you like the LCBO's free Food & Drink magazine I strongly suggest you go pick one up asap. They come with a free sample of popcorn!
I made my sister get a copy of the magazine too just to have two popcorn samples.
One bag is gone. Verdict? Delicious.

Here's how my gift baske is shaping up thus far:

Former Tiffany & Co. bag, now housing meringues of a similar colour.
Under the Tiffany bag we've got Soy Butter jam thumprint cookies (recipe & pictures tomorrow).
The 'S' jar is the oven dried tomatoes.
And the wine is hiding in there behind the pumpkin seed ciabatta.
I heard once that pumpkin seeds are also called pepitas. Can anyone verify this for me?

Slash I'll wikipedia it in a few.

Nice quiet night, just me, my hot chocolate, baked goods all around, and many more episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Craft Fever

One thing about myself that I should confess: I might be the world's best procrastinator.
Like, we're talking OF ALL TIME.
Not that I necessarily have a lot of stuff to do just yet, but school officially recommenced for the year and I have so far only put together one binder for the 6 classes I'm taking.
Rather than organize all of my things yesterday, I spent the better part of my day in the kitchen. And in bed.
I didn't have class until 4 so here was the breakdown of my day
(Get ready to either be super jealous or super disappointed by my activities):
8-10 am : in bed, under covers, cozy on memory foam, in PJs watching first 5 episodes of 1st season of How I Met Your Mother on my computer.
10-12 am: Moved to living room couch, still in PJs, watched Martha then Rachel Ray, drank copious amounts of coffee.
12-2 pm : Put first round of oven-dried tomatoes in oven, browsed through various craft blogs and websites, saved and printed a number of templates, made Tiffany-blue meringues

(they look closer to the colour of Tiffany boxes in real life)
2-3 pm : made lunch, got dressed, went to school.
4-5: class - got to introduce ourselves using magazine cutouts. Chose a picture of a woman running (deep thought: "I set challenges for myself and then work to accomplish them - this picture represents the run-a-half-marathon-challenge that I set for myself"), chose the words 'family', 'friends', and 'gives encourgement and support', and also chose a picture of cupcakes, for obvious reasons.
5-6: Headed home, stopped into Metro to get stuff to make a peach-mango-avocado salsa tomorrow, also got a bottle of wine for the gift basket.
6-10 pm : Made monkey bread. Ate most of monkey bread.
Fresh out of the oven, still in the bundt pan.
Turned proper side up, you can see the individual balls of dough that practically beg you to rip them off and eat them.

So far this morning I've done no better.
Watched another 2 or 3 episodes of How I Met Your Mother in bed this morning.
Then I spent a good 3 hours scouring two new blogs/websites that I am officially obsessed with.

They both have AMAZING templates for boxes, labels, and everything else under the sun.
I've been printing them out, assembling boxes, and saving them for future crafts.
Here's a few of the templates I've been loving:

Monogram template is a Martha Stewart one (all letters are available for download, though the ampersand they feature in the picture is not. False advertising). I printed 'S' for John's sister Siobhan and glued one onto the top of the jar of oven-dried tomatoes.
The small blue box was a link from one of my new favourite craft sites (forget which)
The open box template is for a mini popcorn box
The standing box is one for 'Goodies'
The white paper is 2 recipe cards. The light coming in from the door kind of washes out the printing but these recipe cards are my new favourite thing.
If you want the template let me know and I can either email it to you or post it up here tomorrow.
It's a PDF file that you can input your recipes into and print or just print the card and handwrite what you want on it.
Perfect gift idea!

Okay all this procrastination-craft stuff has left me with 30 minutes to get dressed, print out my school stuff and organize my work stuff for tonight.