Sunday, December 21, 2008

I broke the blender!!! :o(

Don't try to grate chocolate in a blender.

Edit: Awesomeness that is Dan....

Dan got home just now from a quick trip to the store - diapers etc. 
Me: "I broke the blender"
Dan: "You didn't try to grate chocolate in it did you?"
Me: "Maybe..."
Dan: *goes to the car to bring in stuff that was purchased, comes back and hands me a chocolate grater*
Me: *handface*

Time Passed - a look back in pictures

We won't lament over my lack of posting lately... instead, I'll take a moment to show you what you've been missing, through photographs!

Banana chocolate chip muffins

3/4 c cake flour
3/4 c all purpose flour
3 large bananas
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 c butter
2 eggs
1/2 c pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup white chocolate chips

Oven 375
prepare a muffin tin or bread loaf pan
Sift dry ingredients
Beat in wet ingredients
Pour into pan
Bake 15 min or till passes done test

Bake and Craft Sale at work
Erin and I somehow were convinced to make cupcakes for the work bake sale - and we went crazy. 80 cupcakes - Ginger Bread with Vanilla Cream Frosting, Mocha Cocoa with Vanilla Cream Frosting, and Erin's Red Velvet with White Chocolate Cream cheese frosting. 

Also, many loaves of various sizes of cake breads. My Mom's Apple Spice, the Pumpkin Zucchini of previous posts, Erin's Peanutbutter Chocolate Banana, and Lemon Almond.
Madness I tell you.

We make cupcake toppers, and Dan designed a logo. It was fun, stressful and whatnot though.

In the end, we sold everything but what you see here...

and then a few people came by and bought all but 4 cakes!

Snowman Cake
The evening before his work holiday party - Dan mentioned that there was a desert contest. Damnit. He hada good idea too - a snowman cake! And so it goes.

Sadly, he did not fare the car trip well - and started to melt.

He did win me 20 bucks though.
Cocoa and Marshmallows

I made a test batch of marshmallows today. As well as developed a recipe for hot cocoa - christmas gifts! (more when they're done)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I LOVE the holidays. Love love love. 

There are so many birthdays, so many holidays, days off, excuses to make and eat baked goods galore. One of my very favorite baked goods is still a mystery to me. 

(just imagine it drizzled with a sugar glaze, that's how it will be served tomorrow)

My father always obsessed about Krantz. A Polish pastry he had as a child. My Mom procured the recipe (from my Dad's mother, I believe), and handed it on to me when I decided I'd make it a few years back for Daddy for Christmas morning breakfast. Since then I've decided that it shall be a tradition. I also brought this bread over to Dan's family dinner for Christmas, and was told that it will be expected from now on! This year I'm going to bring it to two separate potlucks at work - partly because I want to expose the world to it's wonderfulness, and partly because I have a Polish co-worker, and I want to share the love.

I've done some (admittedly half-hearted) Googles on Krantz, and really not made much progress on what it exactly is. A Polish/German braided or knotted egg bread. Often includes poppy seeds - however, none of the recipies (as few as there are) that I have found have looked anything like our family's Krantz. It's buttery, it's eggy, it's got nuts and cinnamon and sugar and poppy seeds, it's doughy and flakey, rich and light, sweet and decadent. 

Thing is, this recipe is quite unique on it's own. It's descriptive, yet leaves out many details. It's the sort of recipe that should be learned at Grandmother's side, measurements done by feel and eye, kneading just so to get the dough texture just right. Problem is, all I have to go on is my Father's description of the pastry he grew up with, and this curtly written recipe.

And so, it's never ended up the same, I'm always experimenting with the leeway the recipe gives me. And so far, it's never ended up anything but irresistible

Sadly for you, I will not share the recipe - I feel it should remain a family secret. So you'll just have to come over to my place around Christmas time and hope we haven't eaten it all! 

Crayon Cake

While she was learning her colours, Des would default everything to green if she didn't know what the color was, hence the green crayon! Des painted the Pooh Bear colouring page with dyed royal icing. 

The cake itself was Green Velvet (read: Red Velvet, but.. green!) and baked in a large can. I must say, I do not recommend baking cakes in tin cans - the heat distribution is all wrong and ends up producing not-so-leavened cakes. The tip was baked in an aluminum disposable pan which I molded into the shape I wanted. Again, not suggested - that part of the cake was a solid mass.
Somehow, the part of the cake served was actually good, lucky me!  
While I was assembling before the party, there was a big moment of "I can't do this. This sucks. $*@()!! Daaaann.. is it too late to go pick up some cakes from the store?" Dan, being excellent, promptly went out and procured some cakes. While he was gone I started to get very angry with myself for giving up and decided that there was no way Des's birthday cake would be from a store! Not after I've come so far!
So I finished it! BWAHAHAHAHA.. yeeeah...

Also, I made blue peanut butter ice cream and red mint fudge ice cream to be served with it - obviously a colour theme! I also wouldn't really suggest the heavily dyed ice cream...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The yard has been blessed!

Maybe it really won't die this time! Des and I were out planting out rosemary and heather plants in the *new* backyard, when, as I leveled out the last of the soil, the heavens opened and rain poured down!
I'd take that as a sign. And, water was saved! All good.

In other news.. Des was working on her cake pan. I gave her some thinned icing and a paintbrush, and let her colour in the Pooh Bear background I made earlier this week.

Go Diego Go!

Here he is! 

He's a shortbread-ish vanilla cake filled with sliced strawberries and Swiss Buttercream. 
It took eons to do the buttercream colours for Diego - he was one of those Wilton pans with specific colouring directions. I think it was around 12 different colours - meaning 12 little bowls of buttercream individually dyed. Pain-in-the-butt. 
Anyway. He's hanging from a fondant vine with some accenting leaves - Baby jaguar is in the corner, made of colorfill, as is the entire background done on the back of a large plastic serving tray. I think I really like the diea of doing cake boards this way.. adds another dimention to decorate and develop the cake's environment

Monday, November 3, 2008

Corn Starch - wierd, useful

Here's that piece you saw yesterday, with the airbrushing and detailing. Not entirely what I wanted, but better than I thought I would get.. it was still wet when I took the photo, hence the shine.

So on a whim, I mixed the dye and water for the airbrush with corn starch, to make it thicker and hopefully cover better - and it really really did! It didn't pool on top of the surface nearly as much, and seemed much easier to control in general. 

Also note the frosting butterfly in the corner! I have a jaguar to go with it, it's drying now... this is all for the Diego cake, apparently the jaguar is a main character in the show (I've never seen it, this is what google image searching has taught me)

Weird stuff, corn starch.

(I love love love to mix it with water and just play with it)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Time, Capes, Cakes, Grass, and Goodbye

I gained an hour today (did you?), and oh boy is it awesome. It's only 7 pm!! OMG!
Love it.

Halloween was wonderfully fun. We all dressed up and had a good time. Trick or Treating was adorable, not to mention the capes! Oh the capes.. I can't wait until Erin gets her pictures up, because she has the ones of Brianna and Des together.

My Mom made the green dress, and I made the cape and aprons. It all came together so very well, I'm thrilled. And according to Erin, when she presented Brianna with her cape, Liam, in dismay asked "Where's my cape surprise??" - so another cape will be started soon, I'm sure!

I am currently working on both Des's cake, and a co-worker's daughter's cake. One is due Saturday, and one due Sunday - so already I'm busy-busy! A sneak peak that will make little sense, I'm sure... lots of outlining, airbrushing .. and of course actual cake to work on.

Dan and I have been wanting to get something decent going on in our backyard, and finally got going today. We were just going to clear ground and put down bricks - but when Dan went out to get a new rake - he came back with rolls of sod and bags of dirt, so now there's grass! Here's hoping it lives this time !!!!

Finally, this morning, after a rather drawn out period of looking not-so-well, Hitler departed. He was about 7. RIP Hitler.

Get your ass out and vote this Tuesday!

I hate politics.

I'll just remind you that whatever you do or do not vote for or against might effect someone's life. Think about your vote, and make sure that you do vote.

Please. It's important.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkin Apple Pie - Oh my!!

You heard that right - Pumpkin AND Apple in one pie.

Randomly thinking this would be good, I did some net sleuthing and came across a few recipes. Turns out it really is just pumpkin pie + apple pie.

The combination brings about various contradictions though...

Pumpkin pie is best cold... apple is best warm!
Pumpkin is eaten with whipped cream... apple best with ice cream!
Pumpkin pie is single crust... apple pie is double-crusted!

What better way to solve all of these issues than by making one? And so I made two.

I used this recipe - except for the pumpkin pie part, I made half of the Libby's recipe - because in my family, pumpkin pie ain't pumpkin pie unless it's Libby's.

The recipe does not call for a top crust, but the conflict between pumpkin and apple pie bothered me enough that I was forced to make a compromise with the crust cutouts which I placed on top after the 20 twenty minutes of baking, when I removed the foil.

Not surprisingly, this was a very very tasty pie. Strangely though, it didn't taste anything like I thought it would. Certainly there was apple pie and pumpkin pie, and all the flavors you'd expect, but the textures were different, and the flavors melded in the most wonderful way.. Dan described it as a sort of apple cobbler.

Either way, I am very much making this again. It doesn't replace a pumpkin pie in any way, but it may be my new favorite over pumpkin pie.
Oh, and I served it warm, with whipped cream.
I was exceptionally please by the results.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Velvet Capes

Finally - DONE!

Taking on both Des and Brianna's capes (and aprons, I'll do those tomorrow) for Halloween was more work than I anticipated. I'm a novice sewer, so hemming etc. took much seam-ripping - often on the longer seams in the garments (AUGH!) ... but now they are done!

Trying to hem a garment meant for a toddler - that I was making too tall for the toddler is silly-hard. Toddler isn't going to stay still, and besides, since I was making both capes too big (so they'll fit later) the hem line was hard to measure. So, I improvised - I mounted a doll on top of the vacuum

Hey, it worked. Lol.

The capes are red velvet, lined with satin. They have tassels on the tips of the hoods (white for Brianna, black for Des) and frog closures in the front (white for Brianna, red for Des).

They have buttons on the inside to fold up the hem until the girls get taller, at which time the hem can be let down an additional 4 inches. 

I had to rip out a total of 6 seams, and re-cut one large piece. I'm too impatient for this sewing stuff, I make mistakes too easily because of it.

'Tis the Season for Pumpkins!

Tonight was a night of pumpkin happiness! Gem came over and we all carved pumpkins.

Gem brought along an electric carver - which we all decided was totally awesome, despite how completely cheap it was to use such a cheater device!

Des decorated her pumpkins with finger paints...

During all this, I was baking pumpkin butterscotch cookies! 

Yummers. Yet another winning recipe from Big Fat Cookies (at Dan's suggestion, I threw in some oatmeal, and it added some great texture to these very light, cakey cookies)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies, Snickerdoodles, and PUPPIES!

Chris and Brandy came over last night, in desperate want of cookies. I promised the making of cookies.. but it was soon discovered that I didn't have the necessary supplies, and we were all quite saddened.

So today, I went to the store and got stuff. And then made Oatmeal Cookies and Snickerdoodles! I shall bring some over to C&B later tonight.

The oatmeal cookies didn't turn out as well as the recipe usually does, which was sad. But they're still oatmeal cookies!

The snickerdoodles, however are AWESOME. I have had this great book, Big Fat Cookies from my Mom for probably more than a year now and only cracked it a few times to drool over the recipes, never to make any.. but now that I've tried one, I'm going to try them all, as soon as possible!

What are the rules about posting recipes from cookbooks on a blog? Can I do that? I dunno...

Anywho... what's been keeping me out of the kitchen lately?
The hunt for a dog! Finally, our family was ready to bring a dog back into our lives, and so we have been going to the local shelters quite frequently, looking for the right dog for us. Yesterday, we brought that dog home, and named her Gabby.

She's of unknown breed (likely Dachshund, maybe terrier or chihuahua as well), and unknown age (totally seems to be a puppy, has her adult teeth, maybe 1?).
She's fun, she's energetic, she's *houstrained*, she's extremely tolerant of toddler antics, and she's cuddly!

So yes. Happy happy happy happy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Bread!!

I baked some more Pumpkin Zucchini Bread - same recipe as before but a slight modification - half the eggs, and replace with equal volume pumpkin!

Well, I think it is at least.

And I'm bringing it home to Mommy and Daddy.

They'd better love it, 'cause I got a booboo making it :( Stupid hot oven.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There's Red Thread and Fuzz Everywhere!

Who has time? Everyone seems to think that I do - since I bake and do crafty whatever whenever I can, but that's not because I have time, for sure.

If I want to bake - Des either has to be napping or helping - or I run back and forth from the kitchen to the living room - putting in a cup of flour, running to colour with Des, cracking an egg, running to get Des off the table.. etc.

If I want to do cake decorating, after the baking fiasco above, I must wait until Des is asleep, or Dan is home to watch her as I craft in the dining room/office - which is a dark lonely, messy room.

If I want to sew, I have to wait until Des is in bed, at night. I can't do it while she naps, because her naps aren't long enough to warrant taking out the sewing machine and all the items I need and then cleaning up and checking for needles before she gets up again.

That means that sewing eats into sleep time. Des goes to be around 9. I go to work around 7. You do the math.

So lately, I've been sewing. Costumes for Des and Briana, they are going to both be Little Red!! Oh the cuteness possibilities.. well I didn't want to make just a felt cape and buy a plastic dress, I wanted to make a cape she could dress up in for some time now - so I'm using velvet, which is expensive (nerve racking, don't make a mistake!) and I am lining the capes (which is apparently tricky). Much learning to be done here - many seams to be painstakingly ripped out (Mom, you know how I told you I sewed the front closed on the lining? Well guess what I did to the velvet yesterday? @#$%@!!!!)

Later I'll be making dresses, but for now, I've got one cape just about done...

oh and I'll hopefully do pumpkin seeds tomorrow. Hopefully - but I have to finish two capes and two dresses in .. what.. less than two weeks? EEEEKK!!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Preparing Fresh Pumpkin for Baking

The other day, we had 12 pumpkins in the house. 4 were for carving/painting from the pumpkin patch, 8 were pumpkin pie pumpkins - because when I saw "2 for $3" I thought "OH hey! Now that seems like a deal... lets buy 500!"

So anyway. Since first baking with fresh pumpkin last year, I'm now a total advocate. It's cheaper, and really not difficult - also, for a little extra work you get pumpkin seeds out of the deal as well!

With my bounty of squash, I made Pumpkin Zucchini Bread. This is a *most excellent* recipe, not only was it a huge hit at work, but we've all been gobbling it up at home too!

Making Pumpkin Puree

Preparing pumpkin mash is easy (time consuming, but easy). Buy yourself some pumpkin pie pumpkins - yes, this is a specific kind, and not the huge ones they sell for carving. They might be sold as "sweet pumpkins" as well. These little guys will yield around 1 1/2 cup pumpkin mush each, so purchase accordingly. Wash the pumpkin, get a big knife and split it in half - if you cut everything but the stem, you can pull the sides apart and it'll pop in half pretty easily.

Next, get a sharp edged spoon and scoop out all the mush. If you want to save the seeds - do yourself a favor and try to scoop it all out such that it stays in a few big lumps - that means scraping into the walls of the pumpkins just a bit. This way separating the seeds from the goop will be a little easier.

Now, turn the oven on 350, and get a pan with edges (not a cookie sheet) and lay down a sheet of tin foil. Pour in about an inch of water, and place the pumpkin halves each cut side down. Stick them in the oven and let them cook until they give easily when touched - this is anywhere from 30 minus to an hour.

If your house starts to smell like Halloween (that wonderful cooking/burning pumpkin smell - I really do love it) check and make sure that the water hasn't all evaporated out of the pan, and replace if necessary - it keeps the pumpkin from drying out.

Now that your pumpkins are cooked, take out of the even and turn over to let the steam escape - let them cool. Now you need to remove the flesh from the skin. Either scrape it all out with a spoon, or, if cooked enough, you might be able to just peel the skin away. At this point, all you need to do is puree the pumpkin flesh with an immersion blender, stand blender, or food processor.

You can use it right away, or do like I did with what turned out to be 11 cups of pumpkin, and scoop 1/2 cups of it into a muffin tin and freeze.

Once solid, stick those pumpkin puree cubes in a zip lock bag and you have it for later!

I've read (but so far not experienced) that you really need to strain the puree well, get the extra liquid out, since some recipes don't do well with it - so keep that in mind. I've made pies and breads without bothering with the straining, and been fine.

Saving the Seeds

If you'd like to salvage the seeds from your pumpkins (this is good for while the pumpkins are cooking) get a bowl, a strainer and a cookie sheet, and put the pumpkin guts in the bowl, in the sink. If you scraped so that you have a few large lumps of guts, pick up a lump and just kinda squeeze the seeds out, throw away the guts. Once you've separated all the pumpkin from the seeds, fill the bowl with water, and stir the seeds up a bit to rinse and get the extra pumpkin goo off of them. Strain. Pour the seeds evenly over the cookie sheet. At this point you can either cook them straight away or just let them dry and cook later.

I'll post later my recipe for candied pumpkin seeds!

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