December 25, 2008

merry christmas!

merry christmas everyone!
we're spending the day at home enjoying hot chocolate, eggnog lattes, fresh scones and opening presents from santa... as well as the most awesome turkey dinner (i hope)!

December 21, 2008

gingerbread village

we spent a good 3 hours last night building our gingerbread houses to give away. it was a lot of fun with all 4 of us making the 6 houses (including one for us). we got pretty inventive with the candies making trees, logs, and even a sled!

check out last year's houses... and here's the link to the recipe.

snow day

this is our third snowfall and it's been going steady since last night. it's not supposed to snow and stick here, but the kids sure do have fun in it!



December 19, 2008

it's cold in here!

it's a crazy time of year and we just got whallopped with some snow. if you don't already know, the lower-mainland of BC (or pacific north-west if you're south of the 49th) is a rainforest and if it snows, it usually doesn't stay for very long. i think it's been 4 days now that we haven't seen the green grass and "they" are calling for more on sunday. i've also been very busy with work and our kids' school and trying to find time to get all the shopping done without having to go to when everyone and their aunt harriett is there, too. o yeah, and both kids have been sick or grounded at some point this week. not fun.
last night derek helped me make these lovely peppermint icicles (found in december's issue of MS living). they were very easy to make, look good and they definetly stick to your teeth! we didn't have the proper gloves, which i'm sure would have made all the differnce since it was so freakin' hot to handle! whew!

Ingredients

Makes about 16 icicles

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 1 drop blue gel-paste food coloring
  • 1 drop violet gel-paste food coloring

Directions

  1. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Bring su gar, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves. Cook, undisturbed, until mixture registers 305 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and stir in lemon juice and peppermint extract. Working quickly, pour hot sugar mixture onto prepared sheet. (Be careful not to touch hot mixture.) Let cool until bubbles subside, about 30 seconds.
  2. Coat a metal spatula with cooking spray, then fold 2 edges of mixture inward, toward center (pictured, above left). Continuously fold candy in half on itself with spatula until it is cool enough to handle, about 1 minute (it will still be very hot).
  3. Wearing rubber gloves and working quickly, pull candy to a length of 1 foot, then fold in half on itself. Repeat, twisting and pulling until candy starts to turn white. Remove a golf-ball-sized piece, and add food colorings to the smaller piece. Continue to stretch and fold both pieces separately. When candy is almost cool, and the uncolored piece is white, pull each piece into a 12-inch-long rope.
  4. Place ropes side by side, and fold in half together to layer colors. Twist pieces together. Starting at 1 end, pull and twist until rope is 1/2 inch thick. Working quickly, twist and pull end to taper slightly, and cut off a 6-inch length with scissors. Continue twisting, pulling, and cutting icicles until candy becomes too hard and can no longer be pulled. (There will be some left over. Reserve for another use, such as crushing over ice cream or cookies; see Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies, recipe page 240.) Transfer icicles to a baking sheet to harden. Store, covered, for up to 4 days.

Helpful Hint

The peppermint candy is very hot initially, so be sure to work quickly wearing protective rubber gloves. For the best results, at the beginning of the pulling stage in step three (pictured, above), two people should divide the candy between them. Use any color you prefer to tint these minty sticks.

November 23, 2008

long, long ago...

...in a land not too far away (in both space and time)...
...i was born.

November 21, 2008

puppycam

look at these cute long lost cousins of sawyer!

November 20, 2008

o so pretty

i look forward to the delivery of my canadian house and home magasine each and every month. even though most of the houses featred are in and around toronto, which kinda pisses me off. i mean, come on! there's more to canada than just toronto. yeah, i know i'm originally from there, but vancouver is now my home... sorry, rant. anyway, i usually flip right to the back to have a quick peek at their trend watch- this month's theme is fairy tale. my favourite!
the most beautiful thing they had in their collage was this chandelier (above). i looked it up and you can see the dimentions and price here.
the picture below is the detail and how amazing is that... they're not butterflies as i first thought...
...they're fairies!!!

November 15, 2008

happy birthday buddy!

today my favourite little boy turned 5! we got him the tower of doom! and had his party at the local gymnastics club...
everyone had a great time! a big thank you to everyone that came out!
the cake is made from a williams-sonoma "easter octopus" cake mold. i didn't know octopus was a traditional shape at easter... lol... i made dorie's perfect party cake and used orange juice and zest instead of the lemon 'cause that's what i had. i coloured half of the batter blue and put that in first so when we cut the cake the octopus was blue and the sand was white. since i didn't need much buttercream, i just made a very simple american buttercream. after all, most 5 year olds don't appreciate the texture and effort put into a swiss meringue buttercream- they just want the sugar!
i'm still getting used to our new camera- our older trusty olympus point and shoot (yes, all the other pics were taken with a cheap point and shoot!) died a terrible and sudden death (soon i'll post the last pics it took), and unfortunately this new one (nikon coolpix) doesn't have as good of a macro :( but that's okay since hopefully soonish we'll be gettin' one of them fancy shmancy digital SLRs...

November 12, 2008

school pics

man, my kids are gorgeous!

November 03, 2008

black and white

i've been pretty busy these days, and i made these little pound cakes quite some time ago and never got around to posting them. they are very tasty, and very simple to make. i thought with the election coming up tomorrow, i'd post it now. since i'm a dual citizen (canada-us) i can vote in both countries, and did... i sent in my absentee ballot over 2 weeks ago! go democracy! i'll be glued to CNN tomorrow.
and in two weeks... another vote- this time for mayor of vancouver!

Ingredients

Marble Cake (martha stewart baking handbook)

Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour. Set aside 1/3 of the batter.
  3. In a bowl, mix cocoa and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the reserved cake batter; stir until well combined.
  4. Spoon batters into the prepared pan in 2 layers, alternating spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate to simulate a checkerboard. To create marbling, run a table knife (or wooden skewer) through the batters in a swirling motion.
  5. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake from pan and cool completely on the rack. Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

November 01, 2008

October 31, 2008

all hallow's eve

just when you thought the living room was safe... in walks the "grim rapper"
zombie girl is in trouble!!!
"what?!?! it's just popcorn! where's the brains i ordered?!?"
watch out grim rapper-zombie girl is on the attack! slice'r up with your mad rhymes!
i hope the mail carrier isn't afraid of spiders! eeek!

happy hallowe'en


October 29, 2008

o sole mio

i must admit i haven't been happy with the choices the hosts have made these last few months, but that's part of being a daring baker. you can't please everyone, after all, and no one should try. just because i've made something what feels like a million times, doesn't mean i shouldn't give this one a try. the recipe for this month's challenge was chosen by rosa. maybe it's because i make pizza on a regular basis, but i did NOT like this recipe. the dough i found was very fragile and 2 of them even ended up with holes. i also didn't follow the instructions and add cold water. no, i've learned from my mistakes in challenges before and used warm water with a little sugar to activate the yeast. the dough rose beautifully and was silky smooth, but there was just something i didn't like about it. i know i'm in the minority, but i'm going back to my old standby pizza dough- it's much simpler and yields a better dough, although not as much, but that's fine by me- who can eat 6 pizzas anyway?
don't forget to check out the other daring bakers here~!

one of the criteria was to have a pic of you tossing the dough.
i made buffalo chicken (buffalo sauce, chicken, red onion, green peppers, pineapple, mozzarella and cheddar), pesto (basil pesto, tomato slices, boconccini and mozzarella), pepperoni, and spinach and feta.




BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

“The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn

flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method:
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead

for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra

water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the

bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and

dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make

pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the

dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle

with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the

dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded

outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then

try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough

semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you

will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

October 17, 2008

oh, l'horreur!

seeing as it's getting close to hallowe'en, i thought i'd post another favourite avez vous... enjoy!

October 14, 2008

i want you...!


it's voting day today for our next prime minister!
go out and vote, dammit!

October 12, 2008

gobble! gobble!

i spent the afternoon baking pies with my baker boy seth. this is his pie. he opened the can (no time to roast our own pumpkin... next time! (at least it was organic puree)), added the cream, cracked the eggs, mixed and poured it into the pie shell. and the best part is his turkey hand.
personally, i don't like pumpkin, but i loved the look on his face when it came out of the oven!

September 28, 2008

lavish lavash


this month's daring baker challenge was definetly a challenge for me- with time. school started for both the kids this month and i'm working constantly and volunteering at school. something had to give and unfortunately it was these lavash crackers. shelleyfish was this month's host, and being an alternative db, this was to be vegan. for me, not much of a stretch since we pretty much eat vegetarian all the time and at one point i was a very good lacto-ovo veggie girl.
i had no problems with the crackers... except when it came time to get pictures. sometime between taking pictures of seth dressed in a cardboard rocket box and the crackers this morning, our trusty point and shoot olympus died. it's not totally dead, yet, but it has a bubble of liquid under the lens and the pictures are black, red, and blue. i took these pics with one of the kids' vtech cameras.
i made just a very simple apple chutney to compliment the cinnamon-sugar crackers: apples, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, brown sugar and butter.
thanks to shelleyfish for a nice challenge, and don't forget to check out the other thousand daring bakers!
The key to a crisp lavash,...is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

September 27, 2008

I'm late! I'm late!


if you're reading this then i didn't get this month's challenge finished in time to photograph and post... check back again soon- i haven't missed a challenge yet, and i don't plan on starting with this one!

September 19, 2008

september song



"Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I'll spend with you
These precious days I'll spend with you"

the words to this song has been in my head for... 19 days, and i suspect they'll be there for 11 more. things has been very busy around here and unfortunatly my poor blog has suffered. the kids are back to school, and back to their after school activities. as i said before, for our labour day family bbq, i made disaster cupcakes. i didn't intend to make "disaster" cupcakes, but i think that's what happened. i was pretty rushed for time and as i woke up the next morning, i realized what went wrong: i forgot to add the warm water! OMG! not since my salt cookies when i was a new teenager did i make such a mistake. o, wait... i take that back... i forgot to add the eggs in my danish braid... and a couple weeks ago i forgot to add the oil in the pizza dough. i really should start wearing my glasses when i bake.
once i realized what happened, it made so much more sense. they smelled good, tasted okay,but baked in less than half the specified time and were very dense. i may try it again one day.
one bowl chocolate cupcakes
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; mix batter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about one-third full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.a little buttercream and sprinkles, meh, i served them anyway...