A Batch of Cupcakes for Two

CupcakeFor2

[ Click picture to embiggen. Recipe & picture courtesy @AmberReed. ]

Sometimes I want something baked that’s a bit sweeter than a muffin, but I don’t want to make a full batch or a big production of it because half the time I want to taste test a new flavour combination I’ve thought up or found someone talking about online, and it just happens to be one the husband doesn’t like or isn’t into like Espresso Double Chocolate (for when I’m PMS’ing), so what is a girl supposed to do – park herself in front of a dozen muffins or cupcakes till they’re all disappeared from the house?

Uh, not going to happen!

I figure most of you feel the same way I do about not wanting a bunch of baked goods kicking around in the house, seductively calling out your name in the middle of the night from the kitchen all the way to your bedroom, like so:

“Psst! Hey, you! Oh good, you’re awake. Can’t sleep, eh? Me neither. Remember me? I’m those delicious treats you baked today. Come to the kitchen and visit. C’mon, just a short visit, and then I’ll have you back in bed in no time at all. I promise. I know you can hearrrrrrrr meeeeeee…” <– How many times has this happened to us, right?

Well, it doesn’t have to happen anymore. That’s right, the picture at the top of this post holds the perfect solution to our shared dilema, kids. Give it a go next time you’re craving.

(Don’t lie. We all crave. I know you’re shaking your head right now, but you’re also giggling because you know I know I’m busting you!)

Edit: The second set of increments in the picture are all missing their slashes to turn them into fractions. If you don’t correct your measurements, you’ll have a HUGE mess on your hands. Bake them at 350 degrees for 15-18 mins.

Stress Eating

popcorn

[ Click picture to embiggen ]

While watching the #SavingHope season two opener Tuesday night, this is how I stress ate my  popcorn. Sorta. And I’m not even a stress eater normally.

But, in my defence,  did you freakin’ watch the whole episode from start to finish?! I’m not even kidding when I say I don’t think I can watch next week’s second episode without first borrowing my father-in-law’s portable oxygen tank. (!!!)

I hope #Dexter’s final season opener on Sunday is gentler on my blood pressure, heart, tear ducts, brain and lungs.

Breakfast Pasta Skillet

Pasta-Breakfast-Skillet

[ Breakfast Pasta Skillet recipe and picture courtesy of A Beautiful Bite ]

I feel it’s never too early in the day for pasta, so I like to find ways to make it for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. And I never hear any objections from the spousal unit, so this is one I will be testing this long weekend.

I also want to test this with leftover Jasmine rice. Probably Asian noodles, too. And if we’re going that far, why not leftover bulgur?

‘Mmm… I making myself hungry running down the possibilities. Heh.

To The Birthday Girl

EllenBirthdayFinger

Welcome to the 44 club, Miss Ellen! I’ve been waiting for you. 😀

Now listen, before you get all huffy and upset about your age, check out these fantastic club members. How can you feel bad when you’re in this kind of company?! You can’t!

What are your big plans for your birthday?

I’m jealous that you get a long weekend to celebrate it with!!!
(Winter birthdays without long weekends are cruel!)

I would bake a dozen cream puffs with chocolate sauce for you if you were here, or I was there. I wish I was there. Or you were here.

{sad face}

Tell me everything. I want all the details. Don’t leave anything out!

Returning TV Shows & Popcorn

PopcornBoard

[ Click to go to the Popcorn Party board ]

Some of our favourite tv shows are coming back this week (yah!), so I decided since one of our tv snacks is popcorn, I would make up a compilation of some great popcorn recipe ideas in the form of a Pinterest popcorn board so you can all pop along with us.

Since two of these shows are shot in Toronto, Canada, I thought this Carmel Caribou Munch might fit the bill for one of them, but then I realized it might be too obvious, too schmaltzy, of a choice. Despite its great ingredients. Same goes for this very tempting Bacon Carmel Popcorn. I mean, we don’t want to be obvious about being Canadian, right? Right.

I spent a lot of time internally debating the idea of making a chocolate infused batch like this lovely Fluffernutter Carmel Corn Popcorn, but ultimately decided against it since chocolate and my throat aren’t on speaking terms anymore. (I’m also on the outs with coffee, mint, hot spices and most heavily acidic tomato based sauces.) Getting old blows.

I also really want to try this Cinnamon Bun Popcorn recipe. But it may become something of an addiction after I do, though. I’m a little worried. Nothing good can come of this one. I’m sure of it. I’ll be living in alleyways, begging for spare hits of ground cinnamon in no time. This vision frightens me. A lot.

Anyway, like I was saying, I was hoping to by this point nail down which batch I would make for each season premier night but I got sidetracked with family stuff, so go look at the board and pick out your own, make it, and then let me know what you thought of your selection. I haven’t tried any of these yet, but they all look tasty. In the meantime, I may resort to throwing a dart at my Pinterest board blindfolded and letting fate dictate what I make tomorrow night. 🙂

Can I just say how much I love our few select tv shows? I also love that broadcasters have started running smaller seasons of each show, and now stagger their start dates so some of them return in the summer instead of all of them returning in the Fall at the same time. The worst is when networks stack nights to compete with other networks. That used to make my brain explode. I can’t possibly stay up all night watching everything from our three DVRs just to keep on top of everything. Sorry. Not going to happen. It’s too much.

Saving Hope

A few shows have been main stays in our home while others that started last year have become quick favourites. Luckily a few of those are starting up again starting Tuesday night on CTV. First up – Saving Hope. I love this show. And not just because of the actors, although they’re all freakin’ fantastic in their roles, but because the story lines are interesting and ongoing. It’s a soap. For night time viewers who also happen to love great drama and how messy human interactions can get when egos, emotions and tragedy keeps getting in the way of saving lives. I’m interested to see where they take Charlie this season, and to know if Gavin & Maggie continue furthering their relationship and, I admit it, I’m curious to see if Dr. Zach finally reveals the reason he and his wife split up. I bet it’s juicy; something like Zack’s been faking his love of the bible and has a secret double life retiring to hotel rooms to wear women’s lingerie to unwind after stressful days in the e.r. Hee. 🙂

Dexter Season 8Next up we have the returning for its last season old fave, Dexter, this Sunday night on Showtime. Dexter is a seasoned show, therefore it should probably have a seasoned popcorn like Ina Gartner’s Truffled Popcorn. This may happen. I can’t wait to see how the fallout of Deb’s actions in last season’s finale (which re-aired last night) play out in the final season. I’m fairly strong, but even I have a hard time imagining how I could live with her decision. Yikes. {nail biting} So, yeah… Good times ahead, I’m sure. 🙂 And normally by now I have read a thing of two about Dexter’s main opponent for the upcoming season, but I haven’t come across anything for his final journey foe yet so I can only speculate. We would love to see the character Hanna come back because Dexter genuinely loved her, and Yvonne lights up the screen every time she’s in a scene. Even when she’s not talking. She’s hard not to girl crush on, y’know? 😉

SuitsThe final show that I know of and care about that’s returning this summer is Suits July 16th on a channel we don’t get here in Canada. I have decided to make this Fancy Pants popcorn for this show. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know why. It’s one of those shows that you instantly love. Its immediate appeal, its hot star (I do love me some Gabriel Macht!), and all of its perfectly crafted flawed characters causing all kinds of internal conflict and fighting within the law firm, are top drawer fantastic. The drama, the stories, the cases, the clients, the schemes – sooooo much better than that little LA Law show. Be sure not to miss this one. You’ll thank me. Oh, and since it doesn’t air on a network, the show pushes the envelope of taste where nudity and language are concerned. FYI.

Now back to the popcorn, I’ve been making great use of the Whirly Popper thingy you gave me for Christmas since it arrived, E. What do you make in yours? What’s the weirdest or most decadent batch you, Wendy or Ermine have ever eaten and loved? Hit me in the comments. I really want to get a huge repertoire going for ours. I know you all love popcorn as much as we do, so you have to have some funky ideas for us. Don’t lie. 🙂

PS: Is Ermine still losing popcorn under her boobs? Hee.

 

Cabbage Roll Soup

CabbageRollSoup

I made a huge batch of Suze Muse’s cabbage rolls the other day. Susan’s recipe yielded so much filling, feel like I could have made five to eight more rolls if I had only bought two, not one, head of cabbage. Oh, well. I stuffed the leftovers in the fridge making a mental note to find something clever to do with them.

The next day I was playing around on my Pinterest cabbage board when I found what I was looking for in the form of soup. I don’t get to make or eat soup at home much anymore since someone doesn’t like hot liquids, and since I do all of the cooking, that means I predominately make stuff we can both enjoy. Not soup. Soup is made, maybe, twice a year around here? It’s tragic. Really, it is. I miss my soups.

Since I had all of the meat mixture and the cut up cabbage on hand, all I needed was a damn good broth. But… I didn’t really like any the broth ideas I found so I realized I’d have to make my own. It’s not hard to make a great soup broth as long as you have an idea of what final taste you’re after. In my case, I was after a somewhat spicy, slightly tomato-y base but without actual tomato chunks, and I wanted it to be clear, not creamy. So this is what I came up with:

3-4 C water (bring to a boil)
1 chicken bouillon cube (add to water from the start)
1 carrot, peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise, and then diced up
1 celery, peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise, and then diced up
1 1/2 C cabbage, chopped into small ribbon chunks
1 1/2 C leftover cabbage roll filling (meat and rice, with their seasonings)
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tsp dried oregano
S&P, to taste

Bring the water and bouillon cube to a boil, then add your chopped up carrot and celery.

Cook this over medium-high heat for five minutes before adding the leftover cabbage roll filling, chopped cabbage leaves along with the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste.

Stew all of this in the pot for another ten minutes before adding your seasonings to finish it all off with another three to five minutes of cook time.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream on the side if desired.

Feel free to change this up to your liking as you make this recipe over the years. If I had thought about this properly, I may have added a Bay leaf or two to the pot at the top also.

Yields about 4 servings.

Homemade Roasted Peppers

peppers2[ Roasted Peppers – image from Google Images ]

Bet you didn’t know how easy it is to roast your own peppers at home. It is. And I do this often. I love roasted peppers. They are the perfect burger and sandwich topper in my books. I eat them all year long. Over chicken, over beef, over pork, over turkey — there is nothing that can’t be improved by being topped with roasted peppers. Nothing.

This is my method for roasted peppers done bare bones style, but certainly you can store the finished roasted peppers in a jar with some mild homemade oil-based brine if you like. I wouldn’t fill the jar with the brine until after all the peppers have been placed inside it. And even then, I wouldn’t fill the jar more than a third of the way with the brine because, as the roasted peppers rest in the fridge, they will release liquid from the cooked meal. That typically fills the jar up about half way.

Okay, here’s how I do my roasted peppers:

First turn your oven on to its broiler setting, then wash, dry and cut up the peppers into manageable sections so the peeling stage isn’t a huge mess and risky (since I’m klutzy and have a habit of dropping everything I come into contact with).

From there, I place the peppers flesh down on a lined baking sheet. I use parchment paper, but when I run out, I use tin foil and it works just as well. You’ll want something on the baking pan because the charring goo tends to burn and stick to your pans, and trust me – no one has time for that kind of cleaning nightmare!

When you have all the peppers on your lined baking pan, place it on the middle rack and leave the door ajar about 1-2 inches. Set your oven timer for 15 minutes and wait. And try not to panic when you see the skins turning black. All of them. All over. This is what you’re after. It’s totally normal, and ok.

RoastedPeppers-Broiling[ Click to embiggen ]

RoastedPeppers-Blackened[ Click to embiggen ]

After they’re done broiling, take the baking pan out and immediately move the peppers to a waiting bowl or dish you can cover with plastic wrap. Cover the bowl and let the heat sweat the skin off of the meal for 5-10 minutes. When you can hold them in your hand without needing burn cream, you’re ready to get down to business. 🙂

After 15 minutes, grab a small bowl and pull back the plastic wrap, and prepare to get your hands dirty. And wet, and sorta icky. The fun’s about to get started, kids! 😀

RoastedPeppers-Sweating[ Click to embiggen ]

Holding a section at a time in your hands, start pushing the skin away from the flesh. You should be able to do this with complete ease. If you get a few peppers with some attached skin, put those peppers back on the baking pan and roast them another 5 minutes before sweating them again for five minutes. Don’t panic, this happens to me once in awhile, too. It’s no big deal.

RoastedPeppers-Peeling[ Click to embiggen ]

You should be able to get your thumb or finger under the skin and push, pull or pinch the skin away from the pepper meal when the roasting is completed. Discard the skin into the small bowl before green binning it during your clean up.

When the whole lot has been skinned completely, carefully place them into a glass jar with a tight fitting or sealing lid. Let the full jar rest 10 minutes on your counter until you can hold the jar without it feeling too hot to handle. At that point, you can put it into your fridge to stop the continued cooking process. Ideally you’ll want to place this on a shelf away from any dairy that can curdle for the first 12 hours. After that, I tend to store mine in the fridge door because they never last long enough to spoil anyway.

Pick the peppers out of the jar with tongs or a fork to enjoy without the juice. If the peppers are too wet for your liking, dab them with a paper towel before consuming them. When serving the roasted peppers to a crowd, strain the whole jar into a bowl with a small mesh strainer in it to catch the peppers. Reserve the juices in the jar for the leftovers, if there any.

Enjoy liberally as part of your next antipasto plate, or on top of meat, in and on top of a veggy dip, as part of a rice skillet, or in a deli or panini sandwich!

Oatmeal-French Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich

IceCreamSandwich

 

I made a batch of my Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies last night to use up the rest of the chilled dough I had in the fridge. Today while rummaging through the freezer I found a container of French Vanilla ice cream. You can tell I’m no longer addicted to ice cream when I have to think long and hard about how long it’s been in our freezer and I draw a total blank. I don’t even think about ice cream anymore. Weird, I know.

But, after I spotted it, a devilish idea popped into my head. “I bet this would make a tasty sandwich between two of those cookies I baked last night.”

And I was right. It did. Oh, so good. And because the cookies are small enough {ahem}, I may or may not have had two of them and called that lunch. The cold creamy goodness butted up oh so nicely against the lovely, soft oatmeal cookies was too much for me. It cause orgasmic sensory overload.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

Orange Julius Tweak

OrangeJuliusRedone

So, the other day I blogged about Mel’s lovely Classic Orange Julius, and mentioned in that post that my friend Lisa wondered on Facebook whether she could make this without adding sugar. I said I would play with it and see what’s what.

I am happy to say that taking the sugar and the vanilla out and adding in vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt did the trick. And it also killed a few birds with one stone. It not only pared down the number of ingredients to use, but it also added a great creaminess to the drink that my husband said was missing for him (and I agreed) – all done without any flavour loss or sacrifice!

Here is my version that makes enough to fill two 16 oz tumblers:

Auntie Stacey’s Orange Julius:
1 C Milk
1 C Water
2 Tbsp Vanilla Greek yogurt
4-6 oz Orange Juice concentrate
4-6 Ice Cubes

My Summer Salad & Dressing Love Affair

summersalad

This is going to be my new Summer salad dressing jam this year. It’s a riff on a poppy seed dressing I found online. I added, subtracted, and of course, divided to get to this perfect equation of creamy goodness, and I’m sharing it with all of you.

Creamy Summertime Poppy Seed Dressing:
1/4 C Mayo
1/4 C Sour Cream
1/4 Tsp Sugar
1/4 Tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Vinegar
1 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
Dashes of Salt & Pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid so you can shake it up, or in a small bowl using a whisk. It will yield enough for 4-6 salad servings.

Enjoy this over the following salad I put together tonight. It was so tasty, I couldn’t stop eating it even after I finished everything on my plate and my stomach screamed, “I’m full. You can stop now!!”

Summertime Salad:
1/4 Sm Red Onion (finely diced; tempered in a bowl of water for 15 mins)
1 Med Zucchini, peeled into ribbons (until you see seeds; then dice core into medallions)
Sea Salt
1/4 Yellow Pepper (rough cuts are fine)
1 Med Carrot, peeled into ribbons
6 C Loose Leaf Lettuce (washed 4 times and dried off completely)

Fine dice the red onion and drop it all into a small bowl of water to temper for 15 minutes while you peel the fleshy portion of the zucchini into ribbons. Place the ribbons in a salad spinner basket sitting in its reservoir bowl and sprinkle sea salt all over them to draw out excess moisture; let this stand for 10 minutes. While waiting, dice the pepper and zucchini core, and then peel the carrot into ribbons.

Place the diced pepper, the zucchini medallions, the carrot ribbons and the loose leave lettuce in large salad bowl. When the 15 minutes are up, dump the onions over the zucchini ribbons and rinse them well under the tap. Run them through two passes in the salad spinner to get rid of all the water to avoid diluting the dressing in the final salad presentation.

Add the onions and the zucchini ribbons to the main bowl, top with all of it with the dressing, and toss to coat all of it well. Serve immediately. By the way, I served this salad with baked fish in case you were wondering.

Have fun stuffing your face. I know I did! 🙂