12.31.2009

the last recipe-a-week 2009 #40: poppy seed dressing

Happy New Year! I hope that 2010 brings you plenty of joy and health. Thinking ahead, I expect that Son #2's arrival in March will be the big highlight of the year (do you realize how close that is?) and that there will be a foggy blur for a couple of months immediately following. We are so very, very excited for the new addition to our family! 2009 has been quite good to us in so many ways, and it was a fun and busy year. So long, 2009!

Along with 2009, my recipe-a-week for 2009 project is wrapping up today. I didn't quite make it through 52 recipes, but I'm okay with that if you are. I'll blame it on the whole being-pregnant-and-not wanting-to-eat-or-look-at-food-for-three-months-or-so thing.

The first 15 recipes are at the former blog home, over here, and the remainder are (or should be) here. Some of my favourites are the slow cooker chicken with tarragon and leeks, the best bread, ever, and spaghetti with tomatoes and peppers. A lot of the best ones that I've made again came from Great Food Fast, which I highly recommend. The search feature at the top left of the blog doesn't seem to function very well, and I still don't know why, but I'll put up a couple of links in the sidebar which should hopefully take you to the groups of recipes.

The last recipe-a-week 2009 recipe is:

We bought a lovely new blender a couple of weeks ago, and I borrowed The Blender Bible from the library for some ideas of how to use it for more than smoothies (which we make very often). Last night we ran out of salad dressing, so the stars aligned for me to try a new recipe from the book, and this was the one I chose. It's delicious drizzled on a crispy salad, and now I'm excited to try out more of the rest of the recipes in the book.

Poppy Seed Dressing
from The Blender Bible
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

1 small clove garlic, smashed
1/4 sweet onion, chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp cider or white vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. In blender, on low speed, blend garlic, onion, honey, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, and hot pepper sauce until onion and garlic are finely chopped. Add poppy seeds. With motor running, through hole in top, gradually pour in oil in a thin stream until blended. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Enjoy!

12.30.2009

pruning a play-doh man

What Phillip said immediately before I started recording:

"I'm pruning his arms, Mama."

My little gardener. video

12.29.2009

cozy

In his snazzy new cozy Christmas sweater, enjoying a civilized hot chocolate treat with me.

12.27.2009

holidays

After losing many of his teeth as well as his nose, he fell over on Christmas Eve.
I'm trying to talk the overachieving bulb into slowing down so the others can catch up.
It's a candle. Wearing a hat. I love it.

12.23.2009

homemade marshmallows

So - I finally made the homemade marshmallows, and here are the details! They were really easy (with a stand mixer), and are delicious. I stuck with vanilla for my first try and used this recipe; it was a bit vague in spots (I'm not used to making candy or using gelatin and wanted a bit more information), and made a LOT of marshmallows. The mixture completely filled the mixer bowl when it was finished. It filled a 9x13 pan full and then another big blob, too. I'm planning to try a smaller recipe next time. There's a similar recipe of Martha's vanilla marshmallows here, and one here. And lots more out there, too.
I used my homemade vanilla, which you can see sitting on top of the corn syrup in the measuring cup. Aren't vanilla seeds the prettiest?
One thing I wasn't sure of was exactly what to do with the gelatin. The recipe said to sprinkle it on top of some of the water, which I did. I wasn't sure if mixing it would just create giant clumps at that point, and since it didn't tell me to in the recipe, I didn't. But as you can see in the above picture (along with the Christmas lights reflected in the burner guard) it clumped when I was mixing it on the stove. I just heated it more and whisked, and between that and the mixer time, it seems to have gotten rid of the majority of the clumps.

Two important things to take note of:
1. One packet of gelatin = 1 tbsp. I bought mine in bulk at Yarmouth Natural.
2. Another thing to make note of is that my cousin (hi, B!) burned out the motor on her mixer while making marshmallows. So there's probably a good reason why in the recipe I used they suggest a KitchenAid or other kind of industrial-strength mixer. It needs to mix for about 10-13 minutes at high speed, which is a lot for a mixer to handle, especially as the marshmallow mixture thickens.
I used tonnes of icing sugar on the pans I poured the mixture into, and tonnes more in the bags I shook the marshmallows in after they were done. And they're still a bit sticky, as marshmallows are wont to be.


I am definitely trying these again, with a smaller recipe, and maybe some peppermint extract. Maybe shaken in cocoa powder, or rolled in toasted coconut? Coated in chocolate? So many possibilities!

12.22.2009

marshmallows... check!

I made the marshmallows today. Aren't they adorable? I have more pictures of the process to share later - they're really very easy. Next time I'll experiment with other flavourings and rolling them in deliciousness like toasted coconut. Mmmm.
This guy has been peeking in our window since we made him yesterday. Isn't that the sweetest smile? It's made from black-eyed susan centres which were in the garden. His nose (a chinese lantern) fell off tonight, but other than that, he remains intact.

12.21.2009

it's a marshmallow world

The snowfall yesterday and today was perfect. This morning, we all went out and did some serious sliding and snowman-building, which was also perfect. Some long-anticipated company arrived safely today, spreading the niceness around, well, nicely.

My mind always works on a list system - what I have left to do. It does make for lots of productivity, but also a constant sense of things I should be doing. I think it's somewhat worse with impending Son #2, since I feel a sort of countdown looming overhead - I need to get everything I will ever want to get done for the rest of my life done before he arrives. And it's almost the end of the year, when we assess what we have and haven't done over the past 12 months. I have things nagging at me that I've said here that I plan to try, but haven't. Like homemade marshmallows. Perhaps this is the week, since all I want to do is bake and be cozy. But really, I don't think that any of you are sitting at your computers with bated breath, waiting to see how the marshmallows turned out. I need to relax. (Speaking of which, my blood pressure has been better and I'm feeling well - thanks so much for your concern! Son #2 is kicking up a storm as I type, so I think he's happy, too.) All this to say that I'll try to get around to it. How's that for commitment?

I bought these from this Etsy shop, and am using them to tie paper bags with soap for friends and family. Cute, no?

Since we've stayed home this year instead of traveling over the holidays, we've seen lots of our friends over the past little while, which has been fantastic. Although I love my bloggy friends and inspiration, there's nothing like having a wonderful time getting to know new friends or having old ones stop by.

Happy Solstice!

12.20.2009

snow, snow, snow, snow!

We're in the midst of a 15-25 cm snowstorm today, complete with a blowing snow warning. A full woodbox (well, trunk), tidy house, playing with play-doh, cuddling and reading books cozily by the fire, and finally figuring out how to download podcasts I enjoy now that I don't have to share my iPod - I could not ask for a nicer day.

12.19.2009

naiad goodies

Quite possibly the last thing on earth I need are more soaps and bath goodies. But sometimes I just can't help myself! I saw these Vanilla Chai Body Sugar Cubes in Erin Pikor's shop, Naiad Soap Arts, and really, really wanted to try them.
They're lovely - very rough and scrubby, so I used them mostly on feet, hands, knees, ankles, and elbows. They're cut into single-serving sizes, so you can just take one into the shower at a time. They kind of lather a bit, scrub beautifully, and wash away cleanly. I'm a fan!
These are the soaps I also bought, just for me. The French Macaron soap is adorable. (I picked lemon creme.) Banana Brulee smells just like banana-flavoured liquid penicillin, which I had often as a kid and love the smell of. (Adam's not such a fan.) And the layering is so pretty! The Cardamom Vanilla smells great, too. The Banana Brulee is the only soap I've tried washing with so far, and it's what I would have expected from a melt and pour soap - it just doesn't have that same richness and lather of from-scratch soaps. But definitely fun to try, smell, and look at!

Hope you're having a lovely weekend!

12.18.2009

i dreamed about poppies


Last night I dreamed that I was walking along a sun-soaked road lined with thousands of peachy-pink poppies. I picked, and picked, and picked them until my hands were full. I wondered if anyone would mind, but decided that it didn't matter.

12.16.2009

recipe-a-week #38: Molly's banana bread

Since I've been instructed to relax, I have been.
This banana bread is fantastic. I'm re-reading A Homemade Life, and this is the banana bread recipe, minus the ginger and chocolate. For banana bread, I like it straight and cold, with a generous slather of butter (what isn't better with butter?). And this one is amazing - I think the yogourt helps the texture; and the crust is lovely straight out of the oven. The recipe is in this post; I made it almost as is, except I omitted the ginger and chocolate, and I doubled the recipe, too. One entire loaf was gone within a day (entirely consumed by us, mostly me), and the other one is in the freezer for when company's here over the holidays.

Happy Wednesday!

12.15.2009

glee and other goodies and why I'm blogging mid-morning


Have you seen Glee? (The show, not the gum below.) We are big fans, and I understand that the next episode won't air until April. This doesn't look promising for the show's future. Definitely watch if you have the chance - it's hilarious, clever, and did I mention hilarious?
Have you seen Glee? (The gum, not the show.) We are not gum people (it drives Adam crazy if I chew gum near him, so I try not to), but sometimes I like to have something more than a mint handy in my purse when needed. But I don't go for sugar-free gums with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, so I was pleased to find this gum at Yarmouth Natural last week. It's tasty, but the flavour doesn't last nearly as long as 'regular' gums. Good for freshening breath in a hurry, though, which is what I was looking for. And really, with packaging like that, who cares what it tastes like?
I ordered some soaps (I know - the last thing I need is soap, but I love it!) from fantastic Amber. I blogged about them over here. Mmmm!
And this is one of our two Advent calendars (and by far Phillip's favourite). I bought it last year at Chapters after Christmas, for maybe $10. It's made of wood, and I love that it's reusable and should be with us through lots of Christmases to come. Adam discovered that Laura Secord milk chocolates wrapped like little presents fit perfectly in each door.

Lastly, I'm home from work this week, since my blood pressure was up yesterday at my prenatal appointment. I have all of my Christmas soap orders done, gifts purchased and wrapped, and now that work's done, it is my full-time job to relax. I go back in a couple of weeks for a follow-up, and I'm keeping track of my pressure here at home. Happy relaxing to me!

12.14.2009

forced quince and Christmas menu planning

This picture doesn't exactly scream Christmas, does it? I took it yesterday. For the past few years, I've brought in some quince branches to force, and much to my delight, they never fail to bloom. In a gorgeous pale pink, rather the usual orange-y red colour. Really, this couldn't be any easier - choose a blooming shrub or tree, snip a branch or two, and plunk it into a vessel with some water. I usually snip a little bit into the end of the branch where I've made the cut, so it's able to absorb more water. Wait awhile, and see what happens!

I had a lovely weekend, doing nothing in particular, but getting lots done, and having lots of time with the boy. I think all of my pre-Christmas soaping and wrapping and packing is done! Phew! It always takes longer than I plan on. I've been thinking about Christmas food since I woke up with that bee in my bonnet yesterday. I just borrowed Nigella's Christmas from the library, and it's fantastic. She seems to be popping up everywhere in my travels lately, and I think she's delightful. If we had a TV, I would be in serious trouble with the Food Network. Anyway, we won't have any guests until after Christmas day, and we will be having a turkey dinner at my Mom and Dad's. Also, I'm still turkeyed out from our Thanksgiving (and ours was in October - we had a big turkey!) so I don't think I'll roast a whole one. But I think a roulade would be fun to try. This one looks amazing (you can't go wrong with bacon), but some guests can't eat mushrooms, so I'll need to find an alternate stuffing recipe. But maybe Nigella's ham would be perfect? (I think I could eat ham every single day. Salt and fat with a little bit of meat thrown in? Yum.) I'll keep pondering - the planning is the most fun. For one dessert, I think I'm going to make this, or something very similar. (Just so that I don't eat the whole thing. Because I'm sure that Son #2 and I could.)

Do you have any fantastic Christmas recipes I should try? Please share! Happy Monday!

12.11.2009

victorian trading co.

I received a catalogue in the mail recently for the Victorian Trading Co. Along with some (okay, primarily) decidedly strange items which aren't to my taste, there are a few things that I really, really like. Like the cast iron match striker pictured above. And this trundle bed - a bit pricey (and I can't imagine how much shipping would be!) - but isn't it great?

tinder.ca

Tinder.ca is a fantastic new online shop with an assortment of "general household & sundry goods for urban & rural dwelling". This assortment happens to include a couple of my soaps! Along with some fantastic hot water bottle covers that I love , as well as these beautiful beeswax candles (I love burning pure beeswax candles, especially in the kitchen) and these sweet pixie boots! Have a peek - isn't the splash page picture (above) fantastic? I loooove it.

Have a great weekend!

12.10.2009

frenchy's dream day and 24 weeks

This was my belly when I was 24 weeks along with P. This time I'm quite a bit rounder, and I'm taking far fewer pictures. Son #2 was extremely active today, and is kicking heartily as I type. I love it.

Since Adam looks after P most days, he's often on the computer in the evenings, working away at his photography. Leaving me with less posting time - but tonight I have time to babble.

I had some major Frenchy's success last weekend, that I am still grinning about. Minor things, but they just made me feel so satisfied that I wanted to share.

1. Microwave plate: not long after we bought our current microwave (more than a year ago), P managed to open the door and tip out the glass plate. It fell on the floor and broke cleanly into two pieces, thankfully not injuring him. But leaving us without a plate in the microwave, and resorting to balancing items on the little knob in the middle. I found a couple of microwave plates at thrift stores over the course of the year, but none of them fit perfectly, so we were in the same silly (and sometimes messy) predicament. Until I found one that fits - it is so nice to be able to put something in there and not worry that it's going to tip over. It's the small things.

2. Winter boots: last year for Christmas, one of the things my parents bought for P was a pair of lovely Kamik winter boots. They were so fantastic for keeping P's feet dry and warm in our wet winter weather that I requested another pair for this winter. There was a sale at the store in Saulnierville that sells them, and since I was going to be driving by, my mother asked me to pick them up. They didn't have the navy I was looking for, only red, but I bought them anyway. Then I decided to quickly pop into Smitty's (not a restaurant - another thrift store) literally across the street. I found a pair of almost-new, identical-but-navy Kamik toddler boots in the same size size. $5. Score! So I returned the new ones and went merrily on my way. Technically, I guess it was a deal for someone else, but it still counts. Oh, I also found a new Land's End winter coat for P, which is fantastic.

There were a few other little things, like some great Pottery Barn vases (sorry, couldn't find a picture) and a copy of Animalia in perfect shape (it's wrapped and under the tree for P as I type). I really didn't pick much up, but the things I did get were things I really loved or needed. We've been purging some more lately, in preparation for Son #2. It is so satisfying, and such a good deterrent for getting more stuff.

12.09.2009

recipe-a-week #37: cranberry shortbreads (yes, more cookies!) and free Sirius 30-day trial!


Thanks to Adam for taking those first two pictures - by the time I get home from work, it's getting dark. I've done my own take on Martha's Rum-Raisin Shortbread cookie recipe and modified it so I could use up some dried cranberries I had on hand, and avoid killing a friend with a citrus allergy (the original calls for orange zest). Firstly, (and of course, most importantly) they're extremely pretty - the cranberries make these look like the holidays. They also have a perfect crumbly texture, they're super easy, they're delicious, and best of all, you can make the dough ahead of time! I think I'm going to try modifying them a bit more, so I can leave out the coconut. But since I participated in a lovely cookie exchange last night and came home with 5 dozen cookies, I really don't need to make any more cookies in the near future.

Cranberry Shortbreads

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (I had and used salted and omitted the extra salt)
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon + 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  1. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, coconut, and salt, and beat for 3 minutes. Stir in cranberries by hand.
  2. Form dough into 2 logs, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
  3. Preheat oven to 325. Remove parchment. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and space about 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Enjoy!

Speaking of Martha, I keep forgetting to tell you that before December 15, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of online Sirius radio listening! I have a Sirius radio in the car, and since I drive so much for work, I really appreciate it. I almost always have the Martha channel (112) on, and now is a perfect time for a free trial - you can get good holiday recipe and decorating ideas, and when you're not listening to one of the shows on Martha, you can listen to one of the many holiday music channels - my favourite is channel 4 - it makes nice background music for holiday puttering or entertaining. And if you like news, sports, international stuff, or just about anything else you can think of, you have 120 channels to choose from. Okay, have I talked it up enough? Go here to take advantage, and enjoy!

12.05.2009

recipe-a-week #36: pecan logs and christmas cookies

It's 5:30 am, and I'm wide awake. I have been for over an hour, so I've given up and started the day. For the past few nights when I've woken up around that time (to pee, of course - thanks, Baby#2) there's been a strange, low kind of humming or rumbling sound outside that's kept me awake. Kind of like a transport truck idling on the street, or an alien spaceship waiting outside on the roof to come and whisk us away. So when I got up this morning, I went downstairs and opened a window to see if I could figure out what it is. Lobster fishing season started on Monday, and since it sounds a lot like a helicopter, I'm wondering if it might be the Coast Guard or something. That's my best guess. Or it could be a truck idling on the street, but it goes on for a few hours, so I can't see that making any sense. Either way, here I am.

Above is the recipe from Martha's Cookies book for Pecan Logs. I made a batch a few weeks ago, and froze half of the log-shaped dough to use over the holidays when cookies are called for. (I did the same with the dough for the delicious molasses cookies I made last weekend. Thanks to Ingrid for directing me to the recipe - they're yummy!) My mother-in-law makes a similar pecan cookie at Christmas most years, and it was at her house that I first tried them. They promptly made it to the top of my list of favourites. Martha's recipe has more pecans per cookie (I think they're fine with fewer, too), and sooo much butter that I can sense my arteries clogging just looking at them - so they're melt-in-your-mouth amazing. The original recipe is here, which I followed almost exactly, and it follows below. I think that toasting the pecans really does make the cookie 88% better, so don't be tempted to skip that step.

Pecan Logs

Makes about 4 dozen.

  • 2 cups pecans (about 5 1/4 ounces), toasted (I think you could easily use 1 1/2 cups and they would still be delicious)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process pecans in a food processor until finely ground; set aside.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and confectioners sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; mix until well combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture and half of the ground pecans; mix until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic; refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
  3. Roll tablespoons of dough into 2-inch-long logs. Roll logs in remaining pecans. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until pale golden and slightly cracked, 14 to 15 minutes. Transfer logs to wire racks to cool, about 5 minutes. Sift confectioners' sugar over cookies before serving, if desired. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.
I've only ever participated in one cookie exchange before, and I'm excited to be invited to another one this week. I don't know what kind of cookies to make, though! There are so very many options. I want ones that are Christmas-y, that other participants aren't likely to have made, and ones which freeze well once baked. I think some serious perusing of Cookies is in order. Since the guys won't be up for another hour or so, I think I'll make myself a cup of tea and do just that. Have a great weekend!

12.04.2009

friday fun

I usually try to pick up something new when we're at the grocery store. A few weeks ago, it was this pomelo, which P and I enjoyed. It's very similar to a grapefruit, as you might imagine, but the size and outer green colour made it kind of fun. It was delicious, too - a bit sweeter than a grapefruit and a slightly different flavour. Yum. Come to think of it, I picked up a persimmon last week, too, and didn't even take a picture. It tastes like jam, already jammed. A very neat texture.

This place looks amazing.

This made my morning 78% more pleasant.

And a quick story about why I love living in a small town. After I got home from work the other day, we all needed some fresh air, as well as to take some things to the post office. So out we went for a walk. We were on out way home and had just turned on to our street, and saw a Purolator delicery truck coming our way. I joked that maybe it was going to stop and deliver a package. Much to my surprise, the driver did! "Hey, you guys live at the end of the street, right?" (You can tell that we order lots of parcels; also, she and Adam both worked in close proximity for awhile.) So we signed and she gave us our parcel, saving us a trip to pick it up. How's that for service?

I hope that you have a lovely Friday and a great weekend!

12.03.2009

warm and fuzzy

The very best news possible has me feeling warm and fuzzy today - two of my best friends have had healthy babies, within a few days of each other. Congratulations a million times over - there really is nothing on the planet as miraculous as a fresh little person to love.