Monday, December 24, 2012

1 Day Til Christmas: Gingerbread Cake Pops

Merry Christmas Eve!
My favourite night of the year, hands down.
Spending the night with my family, engaging in traditions we've followed for years, and the anticipation of the morning to come.

Last night at work was a bit busy (a patient fell out of bed and broke his leg. I heard it snap) and I was tired but I didn't want to sleep in too late this morning.
I had Christmas things to do!

I fell asleep watching Home Alone, then woke up, showered, and got started on some Gingerbread Cake Pops.

Step one is to make the Gingerbread cake.
(recipe from Martha Stewart)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the lower third of oven. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper, then spray the paper. Dust the entire pan with flour and shake out the excess.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup turbinado sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup molasses, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup canola oil, and 1/2 cup buttermilk.
  4. Dissolve 2 tsp baking soda in 1 cup of boiling water. Fold the baking soda and molasses mixtures into dry ingredients until combined. (Do not overmix.) Fold in the minced ginger.
  5. Scrape batter into the prepared baking pan; bake until cake is set around edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack.

The next step is to make Cream Cheese Icing

1. Mix together 1 pkg cream cheese and 3/4 cup icing sugar. 
2. Crumble the gingerbread cake into pieces and mix into the icing, then roll the mixture into bite sized balls.
3. Melt molding chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and dip each ball into the chocolate. Allow the chocolate shell to harden, a few minutes. Decorate as desired if you want to before the chocolate hardens.

That's it!
Easy & delicious!

I hope everyone sleeps well tonight and wakes up to a beautiful Christmas morning!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2 Days Til Christmas: Gift Ideas for Any Occasion

My good (and multi-talented) friend Danielle over at the Sweet & Splendid Bakeshop has a new hobby: soap making.
She seems to have found a perfect way to expand her desert empire.
When I saw these soaps for the first time my initial reaction was to want to lick them.
Not only do they look exactly like the real thing, but they smell pretty darn delectable as well.
Wanting to share these incredible soaps, I purchased a nice variety of them.
Currently, they are packaged up in Martha Stewart Cupcake gift boxes that I bought from Winners, ready to be given to their intended giftees (who shall all remain nameless for the time being).
Check out her Bakeshop here
And check out her incredible soap shop on Etsy here
*The Strawberry Shortcake soap and the Sweethearts Valentine soaps are brand spanking new and I want like 25 of them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

3 Days Til Christmas: Sugar Cookies Galore!

It's a bit ridiculous how quickly Christmas has snuck up on us this year. For me anyway it feels like just yesterday I was walking down the aisle in the hot humid August air.
But here we are!
It's been raining for most of the week in Toronto but there was some hail coming down this evening on my drive into work.
Perhaps we'll have at least a white pre-Christmas.
The holidays are going to be a busy time - especially since I'm working every night this wekeend, off for the 24th, then back for nights on the 25th and 26th, then driving (correction: John is driving while I pass out in the passenger seat) to the Ottawa area on the morning of the 27th to visit with my family for a few days.
I was scheduled to work the night of the 28th which was going to make for a lot of driving in 2 days but one of my wonderful co-workers agreed to work for me so I have a whole bunch of days off which excites me to no end.
I'm off from the 26th until Jan 2nd!
I'm giving away a lot here - apologies to those involved.
Every year we do a secret Santa-esque gift exchange among my cousins.
For part of my gift I'm going to get busy in the kitchen as this person is a big fan of a particular type of cookie.
I'm going to give him/her a selection of sugar cookies!
Here are the recipes I plan to use:
(all pictures and recipes are from
4. Basic Vanilla Sugar Cookies (followed up with instructions here)
I also still have some of the poppyseed sugar cookies I made previously so if those are still good I'll put some of those into the mix!


Friday, December 21, 2012

4 Days Til Christmas: (Super Easy) Marshmallow Fudge

We're in the home stretch now!
Christmas is literally only sleeps away now. 
I work tonight, tomorrow and Sunday then wake up ready to celebrate on Monday!

To add to my cookie assortment I made some super easy (and almost foolproof) fudge.
I made 2 batche: one wit regular chocolate and one itch orange chocolate. 

I used Martha's recipe for Peppermint fudge, just omitted the peppermint.

You'll need:

Nonstick spray, for baking pan

  • 2 1/4 cups (16 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup round peppermint candies, plus 18 for garnish
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

    1. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. Line pan with two pieces parchment paper in both directions, leaving 2 inches of overhang on all sides; spray parchment. Place chocolate in a bowl. In a food processor, pulse candies until finely chopped. In a medium saucepan, combine candies, cream, marshmallows, butter, sugar, and salt over medium-high. Whisk until smooth, 5 minutes.
    2. Pour mixture through a strainer into bowl with chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then stir until smooth.

    3. Pour into baking pan and refrigerate until set, 3 hours. Cut fudge into 1 1/2-inch squares. With a sharp knife, cut 18 candies in half; press a candy half into each square before serving or packing.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    5 Days Til Christmas: Cheesy Cornread

    It's practically here.
    5 days?
    They're going to fly by.
    I'm starting to feel like an excited kid.
    I love cornbread.
    I love snacking on it and I love using it to dip into soups or to sandwich pulled pork in between.
    This recipe is my favourite so far.
    (From Allrecipes)
    1 cupcornmeal

     Hope everyone's gotten their Christmas shopping done!

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012

    6 Days Til Christmas: Ricotta Cookies

    Less than a week to go!
    It really feels like time has sped up this month.
    Today's recipe is another one for a cookie that I found in the Toronto Star.
    Having eaten one (or two) earlier, I can attest that these are very good (soft in the middle with a slightly crunchy outer shell depending on how long you bake them for) and their different shape makes them a nice addition to any gift of assorted cookies.

    1-2/3 cup (410 mL) ricotta cheese
    2 large eggs
    1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
    1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
    1 tbsp (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
    4 cups (1L) all-purpose flour
    4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder

    1. In large bowl using wooden spoon, mix ricotta, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla until well-blended. Stir in butter. Gradually mix in flour and baking powder to form dough. Separate dough into 4 balls.
    2. On lightly floured surface, roll each ball into 10-inch (25-cm) circle. Cut each circle into 8 triangular wedges. From the thicker, outer edge to the thinner, inner edge, roll each triangle into a mini croissant.

    3. Place 1 inch (2.5-cm) apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake in preheated 350F (180C) oven until cookies are firm and just hinting at golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Using fine-mesh sieve, dust with icing sugar.
    Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    7th Annual Bad Sweater Party: Quick Recap

    Days til Christmas:
    This year's Sweater Party didn't disappoint.
    There was an abundance of food (especially cheese), a good turn out of guests, and the Christmas carols were put on pause for a bit to pump Pirate Metal.
    Not a typo.
    Before the bad sweaters made their debuts, John's friends from work joined us for a 'Wild Game Feast', something that they have done for at least two years now.
    We feasted on duck, goose (both hunted and prepared by one of our groomsmen), moose sausage, black eyed pea fritters (delicious), and roasted root vegetables.
    I made cornbread (I'll post the recipe later, it was the best cornbread recipe I've used to date), and ciabatta.
    John bought an ostrich egg.
    It required a power drill to break the shell.

    The end result was a delicious frittata which John added elk summer sausage to as well.
    It was really good and there was more than enough egg to feed all of us plus leftovers.
    My cake-expert friend Danielle provided the cake - a sinfully good 5 layer red velvet and mascarpone cake, designed to look like Santa very ungracefully coming down the chimney.

    And of course, being so crafty, my sister and I both made our own sweaters.
    By cutting out felt, and in her case, attaching lights for added effect.

    Another successful party!
    Now only one week to Christmas Eve!

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Days Til Christmas: 10! Time to Bake Bread

    Hard to believe Christmas is now only 10 days away!
    I didn't post yesterday because I slept longer than expected after work and had to make a trip to Costco to buy a gift and some party supplies for the 7th Annual Bad Christmas Sweater Party tonight.
    And by supplies I mean a gargantuan wheel of brie, 3 logs of goat cheese, and a near life time supply of both salsa and tortilla chips.
    *None of these items will survive to see the end of the night. My friends love chips & dip and cheese. Especially cheese.
    I decided this year to skip on baking cookies etc. So many of my wonderful friends bring delicious goodies. I'm opting to supply the less sweet treats.
    Such as cheese.
    I also want to cook up some pulled pork but that will depend on whether I can find the necessary cut of meat on my quick stop into Metro on my way home from work.
    I did make two loaves of ciabatta bread though.
    The recipe is the one I always use, courtesy of Trini Gourmet (found here)
    I started yesterday with the sponge.

    Mix 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast with 2 tablespoons warm water and let stand for 5 minutes until foamy. Then add 1/3 cup warm water and 1 cup bread flour. Mix and fold until combined.
    Then cover this sponge and let it sit tight for 24 hours.
    Follow the rest of the recipe on the website (or search ciabatta on this blog) for the rest of the how-to.
    For holiday variation I kneaded half of the dough with dried cranberries.

    While I can't quite chew yet (I'm getting pretty sick of soup and oatmeal), I managed to eat a small piece of the bread and it was delicious. Straight outta the oven is how all bread should be devoured.
    I was also busy getting creative with extra cardboard from a wine box.
    One year to raise money I made a 'stripping Santa' whereby we'd remove an article of clothing every time we hit a dollar amount.
    This year I've done something similar but less scandalous to mark our donation progress:

    Santa's in his sleigh full of gifts on a giant reindeer. His sleigh will move to the appropriate dollar amount as we get there! There are also reigns that you can't see in this picture.
    I went to town.
    More to come on the Bad Sweater Party!

    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    12 Days til Christmas! And Banana Gingerbread Cake House

    Countdown photos courtesy of the 12 days of christmas ornaments on my tree.
     And your festive song of the day is a long time favourite.
    After a night and morning of absolute agony thanks to that troublesome tooth (even Tylenol 3 didn't provide any relief) my wonderful sister took me to my appointment to have my last two wisdom teeth extracted.
    After waiting and holding back tears for almost an hour, the surgeon agreed to put me under and to remove both wisdom teeth and I didn't even have to argue for either. He was wonderful.
    Also, he might have been Santa, granting me my ultimate Christmas wish: pain relief.
    I woke up in the recovery room with no recollection of how I got there (and no recollection of hanging my head down, tongue out when my sister came in then saying, "I was pretending to be dead!") (I'm a great comedian when not in my right mind).
    The best news of all?
    I haven't even had a glimmer of pain since.
    Not when the freezing wore off, not when I took my amoxicillin in delicious chocolate pudding, not when I had hot soup, not when I accidently touched the gaping hole in my mouth with my tongue.
    How is this possible!?
    I suspect it doesn't hurt because they pulled both teeth rather than dug around in the gum to remove them, and also they didn't need to stitch the area up.
    No one really needed to nurse me.
    Robin was kind enough to go and pick up all of my perscription meds (ibuprofen which I already have and should have told her not to bother with, percocet, a chlorhexidine mouth rinse, and the amox) so I snuck in a quick nap while she was gone.
    Then John came home and I was up baking.
    I finally used my new pan!

    *I doubled the recipe to ensure I'd have enough batter to fill the pan.
    I also used 1 cup all purpose flour and 3 cups rice flour because I ran out of flour.*
    Banana Gingerbread

    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp ground ginger
    1 tsp ground cinnamon (sub for 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice)
    1/2 tsp ground allspice
    1/2 tsp ground cloves
    1/4 tsp ground cardamom
    pinch freshly ground nutmeg
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 cup banana, mashed (about 2 large)
    1/2 cup molasses
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    4 tbsp vegetable oil
    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, banana, molasses, buttermilk and vegetable oil.
    3. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just ombined. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.
    4. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

    * I also brushed the roof with milk and then dusted with silve-white sprinkles to look like snow.

    Tomorrow won't be spent on the couch - I'm going to go out on the town and finish up my christmas shopping (hopefully!)

    Poppyseed Sugar Cookies

    A few hours from now I will ... still be in a considerable amount of pain but at least I'll be short one or two teeth and hopefully that pain will be relieved with painkillers because this pain has progressed to the point where NOTHING relieves it.
    Not the T3 I took last night, not the orajel I rubbed all over my gums, not the Motrin I took this morning.
    John had to come hold me while I cried in the bathroom last night.
    I'm clearly not good with pain.
    It's time for me to go put on some comfy sweat clothes for my appointment with the oral surgeon but here's a recipe for the cookies I whipped up last night.

    1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 1/4 cup (310 mL) granulated sugar
    2 large eggs, beaten
    1/4 cup (60 mL) poppy seeds
    4 cups flour (1 L) all-purpose flour, sifted
    2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
    1/4 tsp table salt

    • In large mixing bowl using electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and poppy seeds.
    • In another mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Sift into sugar mixture in several batches. Stir with spatula until dough forms.
    • Roll dough until thin, about 0.6 inch (1/2 cm), on lightly floured board and cut into shapes, if desired. Place on ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Bake in preheated 375F (190C) oven until puffed but firm, about 10 to 12 minutes.
    • Cool 5 minutes on baking sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.

    Today: Christmas movies in my jammies with my sister and hubby. And soup. Lots of soup.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Mint Double Chocolate Cookies

    About a month, maybe two months, ago I chipped my wisdom tooth.
    My bottom 2 were extracted when I was 14 and my top 2 grew in a few years ago.
    I ignored it until little by little more of my tooth started to chip away.
    A week or so ago a huge chunk of it fell off and I've been covering it with wax to keep the jagged edges from cutting up my cheek. It wasn't sore, so I made an appointment with my dentist for the 17th.
    On Sunday night at work it started to ache a bit, but nothing that an extra strength tylenol couldn't fix.
    It was sore again yesterday and got worse as the day wore on.
    Last night at work I was so overcome with pain I thought I was going to throw up. The pain radiated all across my jaw and up into my ears.
    Tylenol didn't work, so I ended up taking 1500 mg (bad, I know but there were no other painkillers on hand and no lidocaine or numbing agents anywhere!) of tylenol within about 3 hours.
    The 2 tabs brought the pain down to an acceptable level but I was in agony.
    This morning I hopped into bed to sleep off a terrible night, only to wake at 11 in agony again.
    I popped a motrin (worked MUCH better) and called my dentist.
    He saw me today and now I have an appointment to extract this troublesome wisdom tooth tomorrow at noon!
    I'm going to push for 2 things to happen:
    1. Get both of those wisdom teeth out in one go. I don't want to have to deal with the same thing again in a few months or years.
    2. Put me under. Put me in a pleasant state of unconscious nothingness. Then when I wake up, pump me full of T3s or percs.
    I'm a big baby and don't like painful things.
    Although I was awake for my dental implant surgery and it wasn't so bad.
    But in my twisted mind, drilling into the jawbone and putting something IN isn't as bad as yanking and cutting something out.
    Anyway, I'll be a chipmunk this week.
    All swollen and bruised and sore.
    Which leads me to today's christmas song.
    (even though everyone knows the best chipmunk song involves wanting a hulla hoop)
    Yesterday I got busy in the kitchen in what I hope is the start to a week of cookies and cakes.
    I came across this recipe in the Toronto Star and, being a lover of the combination of mint and chocolate, knew I had to make these.
    If you like the mint girl guide cookies you will LOVE these.
    The mint isn't overwhelming, it just adds such a nice kick to the cookie.
    1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    3/4 cup (185 mL) dark brown sugar
    1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
    1 large egg
    1 tsp (5 mL) mint and peppermint extract
    1-2/3 (410 mL) cup all-purpose white flour
    1/2 (125 mL) cup cocoa
    1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
    1/2 tsp (2 mL) table salt
    1 cup (250 mL) package Hershey's mini kisses chocolate chips (*what I used)
    • In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in egg and extract.
    • In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Using spatula, add to sugar mixture in several batches. Stir in chocolate chips.
    • Bake in preheated 375F (190C) oven until puffed but firm, about 8 to 10 minutes.
    • Cool 5 minutes on baking sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.

    Monday, December 10, 2012

    Christmas: 15 days to go!

    First things first, here's your christmas song for the day.
    We made the journey to Ikea yesterday to (finally!) pick up our tree.
    2 things:
    1. We literally just missed THIS. Seeing this made me the most disappointed I've been in a long time. You may have seen this on the news. If only I'd parked in the upper parking lot.
    2. I think this might be the best tree we've ever picked. It's so full and green and smells like the stuff that dreams are made of.
    I compiled a few cookie recipes last night that I will be baking up this week.
    Most of them are classics or takes on the classics but....
    one of them sounds a bit ...different.
    Tomorrow: Mint double chocolate cookies

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    A Different Spin On Gingerbread Houses

    I love the countdown to Christmas. Almost more than I love Christmas.
    I wake up on December 1st almost as excited as when I wake up on the morning of the 25th.
    This year was extra exciting as I went to the Bieber concert on the 1st.
    But I digress.
    Last year I counted down the final days by sharing some of my favourite scenes from holiday movies.
    This year I thought I'd start the Christmas Countdown with some of my favourite Christmas songs.
    Enjoy some Buble while you read the rest of this post.
     I did some Christmas shopping today and, as is wont to happen, I bought a few little trinkets for myself.
    One being a new cake pan!
    I went a little crazy editing it with picmonkey's holiday themed overlays.
    I plan to make a gingerbread CAKE house rather than the cookie houses I attempt only to have the walls or roof inevitably collapse in on themselves.
    Here's a recipe for Gingerbread from Martha that I plan to use:

    Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup light molasses
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed minced fresh ginger
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting



    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the lower third of oven. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper, then spray the paper. Dust the entire pan with flour and shake out the excess.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, turbinado sugar, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together molasses, eggs, oil, and buttermilk.
    4. Dissolve baking soda in the cup of boiling water. Fold the baking soda and molasses mixtures into dry ingredients until combined. (Do not overmix.) Fold in the minced ginger.
    5. Scrape batter into the prepared baking pan; bake until cake is set around edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    Restaurant Review: The Burger Cellar

    A little more than a week ago John and I went out for dinner to celebrate the end of my 8-shifts-in-a-row.
    We decided to try The Burger Cellar, a restaurant in the neighbourhood that we'd been meaning to check out for awhile.
    After making the waiter come back several times we finally decided on a wine. We went with a pinot noir from Kacaba.
    The selling point was the winery - it was one of the ones that we visited during our Niagara honeymoon weekend.
    It wasn't the Cab Franc that we spent $45 on but this bottle was still good (and about the same price, thank you restaurant mark-ups). 

    Feeling like I needed to live large with my upcoming big pay cheque, we ordered the Duck Poutine ($11) to start.
    It was, in a word, phenomenal.
    The duck was tender, the cheese curds and the gravy were both amazing.
    The dish didn't last too long once it hit the table.
    Having checked out the menu earlier, I was tempted by the write-up for the vegetarian option ($11):
    "panko breaded golden fried patty of roasted red peppers, grilled zucchini, red onions, baby spinach, pumpkin, cream cheese, chick peas and kidney beans, topped with avocado and tomato relish and Woolwich Farm goat cheese"
    It was really really good and very filling.
    John opted for the meatier Burger Cellar Burger ($12):
    "two-year old Bothwell smoked cheddar, apple cider bacon, sauteed mushrooms, chipotle BBQ sauce and a beer-battered onion ring"
    And having taken a few bites from his I can confirm it was also delicious.
    The place is lovely (we were seated right next to a fireplace) and the service was good.
    I'd go back!