Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Snack time! (Puffed Rice)

This recipe came from Karen Solomon's fantastic book, "Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It." I'm a trifle obsessed with it right now; there are some truly amazing recipes in there. Plus so many "holy crap that's so easy, why am I not doing that every day??" recipes, which are my favourite kind. This one is great, it uses up leftover rice and is insanely delicious.

I think she sums it up really well in the intro to the recipe for corn flakes (the page before the puffed rice): "There come moments in kitchen projectry when one has to ask oneself, "Is this insane? Have I crossed the line from food-craftiness into utter madness, making my own cornflakes?" Search inside your gut and you will find the answer to that question yourself."

Yes, I am mad. But it's a pretty awesome madness, and my family seems to enjoy reaping the benefits.

Puffed rice

Cooked rice (long grain is better, but I've used short as well)

Once you've eaten whatever meal the rice was for, spread the leftover rice on a baking sheet. You can either leave it out for as long as it takes to dry completely, or put it in the oven at 180 with the door cracked. Stir it occasionally, breaking up clumps, until it is totally dry.

Line a baking sheet with paper towel and prepare your seasonings. We prefer cinnamon and sugar. 

Looks like it's uncooked again!

Heat a couple of inches of oil in a round-bottomed skillet (a wok is perfect) until smoking hot. Pour the rice in in no more than 1/2 batches and stir. Use a skimmer to scoop them out as they start to get brown, onto the paper towels to drain. 

Season. Eat!

A note on oil: I usually use peanut oil for these. It's a nice, light oil that leaves the rice fluffy. Tonight I discovered to my chagrin that I was out of peanut and I had to substitute canola. Though still good, I find them to be not AS good. The canola oil seems to have made the rice much crisper; almost to the point of painfully so. Also, I don't like the way it makes my house smell and the smoke from canola oil really bugs my eyes. I conclusion, not using that again. Definitely going back to peanut.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Meeting Noms (lime-coconut cupcakes)

We're having a production meeting at our house tonight and so, as I am wont to do, I did some baking. Astro makes this to-die-for lime yoghurt that I'm kind of obsessed with right now and I really wanted to try baking with it, so I decided to make up something that (in my head, at least) sounds divine: lime cupcakes with coconut frosting. All it needs is tequila, right?

I'm really into texture (fabric, food, anything) and I have to say the batter for these was possibly the sexiest cake batter I've ever seen. Like, wow. So excited to eat these!


I adapted a recipe from this awesome KitchenAid cookbook I have and the only problem I ran into is that the recipe yields 24 cupcakes but I only have tins for 18. This is only sort of a problem. See photo:

Oops. Oh well. 

The frosting was made using flour, which I've never tried before. It's delicious, but more of an icing. The coconut oil has such a low melting point that it's keeping the frosting rather liquid-ey. I put it in the fridge for a while before putting it on the cupcakes, then only frosted what we were going to eat right away.  The original recipe used butter and shortening; I think I'd like to try it that way next time, but this was still so good!

Recipe (adapted from KitchenAid's The Cakes & Cupcakes Book)

Lime Cupcakes

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup Astro Lime yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 tbsp lime juice or to taste
3 eggs

1) preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper liners
2) mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in electric mixer until well-blended. Add butter, beat at medium speed for 30 seconds. Add yoghurt, vanilla and lime juice; beat for 2 mins. Add eggs; beat 2 minutes. 
3) divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
4) bake 20 or until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 5 mins; remove to wire racks and cool completely.

Coconut Creamy Frosting

1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Dash salt
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar

1) combine flour and salt in medium saucepan. Gradually stir in coconut milk until well-blended. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, cool. 
2) beat coconut oil and butter with electric mixer at high speed until creamy. Add sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Add cooled flour mixture, beat till smooth. 
3) ice cupcakes, eat!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Free furniture rehab

When we took possession of our house, we discovered that the previous owners had left us a bunch of furniture. Thankfully, mostly nice stuff, but there were a few questionable pieces. This double deck chair, though useful, was badly painted and peeling, matched nothing an had two cushions that were probably made when I was 10.

We did not have a ton of money to spend on this project, so after sanding and scrubbing, I painted it using leftover paint from our bedroom topped with several coats of outdoor varathane. The cushions we found in the superstore end-of-season sale; don't you just love the colour?

Funny story: we went for a walk the other night and discovered that a house two blocks from us has a similar piece of outdoor furniture painted the same colour and with the same cushion. Great minds, amirite?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sneaky veggies (Coconut-carrot oatmeal cookies)

I have small children. This means I am forever trying to find ways that they will eat vegetables. I try not to be too sneaky, I want them to realize what they are eating when they enjoy it. Sometimes, though, I just want to be able to feed them something I know they will eat (i.e., cookies) and be happy in the knowledge that they are also eating something healthy (i.e., carrots). 

I toasted the coconut before putting it in. It makes my house smell so good and adds a nice nuttiness to the cookie.

tried to make the recipe as healthy as I could (cutting most of the sugar, swapping out most of the butter for applesauce...) but they are still cookies. 

They aren't a meal, but they're a reasonable snack. 


They would probably also be good spread in a 9" square baking pan and cut into bars, too....

Recipe: (adapted from Joy of Cooking oatmeal raisin cookies)

Preheat oven to 350, grease or line two cookie sheets.
Whisk together
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated or ground nutmeg

Beat together until well-blended
1 cup applesauce and butter (about 1-2 tblsp butter, the rest applesauce)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla

Add flour mixture, stir. Mix in:
2 cups finely grated carrots
1 1/2 cups toasted unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Drop by tablespoon fulls about 2" apart on cookie sheets. Flatten to about 1/2" thickness. Bake until lightly browned, 12-14 minutes. Let stand briefly, then move to wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I'm Really Rather Proud (recycling bag)

We have two cupboards for recycling, one for deposit returnables and one for regular recycling picked up by the city. For the last two years, we've been trying to decide how to contain the mass of paper and plastic in the regular cupboard. Particularly in the winter, we're not the best at taking it all out as often as we really should and so end up with a cupboard so full that you have to open the door, toss whatever you have in and slam it closed as fast as you can to avoid an avalanche. 

We've discussed boxes, sub-doors and all manner of hard-sided solutions, but the shape of the cupboard makes all those awkward. The best solution came down to a bag of some sort, so the other day I decided to just go for it.


I made the bag out of some light canvas that has been sitting around for years, and bound the top edge with some green bias tape.

I made a cutout in one side of the top edge as an opening for the recycling to go in, then added four webbing loops at the corners. 

I bought four heavy-duty cup hooks from Canadian Tire and screwed them into the corners of the cupboard. And viola! No more avalanches!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Found Fabrics - hiding from the heat vol. 2 (crib sheets)

Today, I decided to make some of my favourite things: crib sheets. I don't know why, but I just love making crib sheets. They're simple, pretty quick, and so weirdly rewarding. Ok,  guess I do know why. Anyway, I don't get to make them very often as they take a fair amount of fabric so they aren't really cost-effective to sell; I made so many when Rowan was born that I haven't needed to make more; and there are only so many you can give as gifts....

That being said, today I got to make a set. See, although we have a stack of fitted sheets for the crib, I only ever made one flat sheet and it's flannel. And it's hot here right now. Very hot. And poor Willow, who (like her mum) loves being tucked in at night, has been melting under a blanket. Poor wee thing. So, today, she got a nice set of cotton sheets so I can tuck her in!

No credit to me for the pillowcase (bought) or the quilt (a gift from a wonderful friend)

Tutorial Time!

You will need 3.6m (3.9 yards) of fabric, 1.2m (4') narrow elastic. 

Fitted Sheet:
Take a piece of fabric 70"x45". 45" is a pretty standard width for many fabrics, especially cottons, so this means you don't have to cut the long sides. Huzzah.
Cut 9" squares out of each corner. I do this by folding it in half and in half again, then cutting all the corners at once. 
New cutting mat! Thank you Fabricland Ultimate Sale!

Next, sew the two cut edges together with a 1/4" seam, creating a box corner

I serge my edges; you can zigzag them, pink them or leave them raw.

Finish the raw edges of the sheet. This should only be the two short sides, the long sides (if you had 45" fabric) are selvages and so don't really need to be finished.

Now cut 4 pieces of elastic at 1' each. Put the middle of each piece on the seam in each corner. Sew it down, stretching the elastic fully. 

I like to do this by sewing out from the centre of the elastic, but this means that you do have to sew one side of the elastic blind.


 You can also stretch the elastic out fully, then pin it in place.

And there you have it! A fitted sheet!
Because my elastic had no guts (it was crazy soft and stretchy),  I did my 2' on each end as one piece. If you are using regular braided elastic, you'll need to do the 1' pieces

Flat sheet:

Start with another piece of fabric 70"x45" 

Hem one end at 1" (folded in half)

Hem the other end at 3" (fold under 1/2")

And you're done!

Update: Willow is sleeping well tonight! Cotton is a wonderful thing...

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Adventures in Preservation (Cherry jam)

We have a cherry tree in our yard. It produces lovely little cherries, tart but not sour, and seemingly mountains of them. Last year I made a couple of pies and froze the rest. There are still several big freezer bags that I need to get through and it's already producing more! I needed to pick the first crop and I wanted to do something with them. I've been really interested in trying canning and found some great information and instructions so I felt ready. I bought my funnel, lifter, de-bubbler and magnetic lid wand and a dozen pint jars and figured cherries were the way to go.

I decided to make jelly, so I wouldn't have to deal with pitting and all that, but I kept running across this recipe for pectin-free jam. I had neglected to buy pectin, so I saw it as a sign. So I got out my new cherry pitter (which beats the pants off my old one) and spent two hours pitting cherries last night. I was worried I didn't have enough fruit as the recipe called for 2lbs, but once I was all done pitting I discovered that I had just over 2lbs. Meant to be!

I added the sugar and left them in the fridge to macerate. I really like that word....


Today, while my jars were in the dishwasher, I cooked the cherries till they were soft, but not falling apart.

After. This look about half an hour

Then, I added 1tblsp fresh lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and cooked it a bit more. I used my immersion blender to roughly mash the cherries as they were too small for my potato masher. I tasted the jam at this point and found it still quite tart, so I added close to 1/2 cup more sugar.


I tested the jam on a plate I had put in the freezer, putting a dollop of jam on the plate and letting it sit a few seconds. Then I drew my finger through it. The line didn't fill in, so it was good! I added 1 tblsp. amaretto and cooked it a little more, then filled two jars (well, almost). 
They look lonely. Must make more next time

I processed the two jars for 10 mins and they seem to have sealed! I'm pretty excited about this. The blog (Northwest Edible Life) I got this from had a link to an amazing canning resource put out by Virginia Tech. Link to pdf or epub download here


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Found fabrics - hiding from the heat version

Today was hot. Really hot. Like, my thermometer said 39 degrees hot. I do not like the heat. I am a spring and fall sort of person. I like sweaters and long skirts and being, you know, cozy. I do not like sweltering. It just doesn't work for me.

As such, today the kids and I took refuge in the basement, where it stayed pretty cool all day. I decided to use up some fabric lying around.

First up, a very nice salmon jersey. I think it's a modal blend, but I could be wrong. I've had it for a while. Given the weather, I decided to make a sundress.

I'm not too certain how I feel about it, but Ryan laughed at me when I said that since I always hate everything I make for myself at first. After wearing it all evening, I've noticed that I need to alter it a little. Not hugely, but just a couple of fixes due to the way the fabric wears.

Then I decided to make a new travel change pad for my diaper bag. The one we have is cheap vinyl and came with a different bag and is straight-up falling apart. So I dove into my PUL stash and came up with this:

Folded along stitched fold lines! I know, I'm so clever...
I like it a lot.. It's a top layer of waterproof PUL, with two layers of a heavy cotton underneath. I'm not too worried about making it fully waterproof as we're past the peeing-on-the-change-table phase (I hope). I was going to bind it, but decided to just serge the edges instead. I'm on this kick right now of using four different colors of small spools of thread in my serger, and although it means I have to change the spools every five minutes, I think it looks fun. As a bonus, I'm slowly using up my huge collection of half-used spools of thread!

I also started on a shirt for my dad and some diapers for the wee one. I'll post those when they're done!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

My Father's Hands

My father is a super-hero. Possibly wolverine, but if he hadn't had the adamantium thing. Or the claws. Okay, mostly I'm referring to his unbreakability. 

Dad has been in car accidents, he was hit by a train, he's fallen through ice more than once, survived a plane crash up north, and just generally rocked more situations I can count that literally had other people panicking and mentally saying goodbye to their loved ones. Dad is amazingly unflappable. He stays calm, does what needs to be done to make sure that he and everyone else in his care stay safe and unharmed. 

One of my favourite Dad-survival stories is the one about how he lost his pinkie finger. 

When I was about 7, we lived on a cattle ranch in the absolute middle of nowhere in Manitoba. One day, Dad was out in one of the back paddocks dealing with a bull. Said bull was not being co-operative in the slightest, but Dad managed to get a rope on him. He had the rope wrapped around his hand, which he later said he knew was a damnfool thing to do, but seemed to make sense at the time. Unfortunately, the damn thing then ran around a pole, creating a very useful pulley effect. One more heave from the bull and pop! off came Dad's pinkie. 

Of course, he was way far out in the paddocks and then had to drive himself all the way back to the house, with his hand out the window to keep it above his head and also to keep from bleeding all over the truck. 

I don't actually remember this day, but I do remember when he came back from the hospital and I saw that his finger was half-gone. I remember seeing his stitches and hearing the story and thinking "Wow. My dad's a super-hero."

And that's never changed. Dad recently had his shoulder replaced and my husband was way more worried about the surgery than I was. When he asked my why I wasn't worried about my dad having this fairly significant surgery, I stopped to really examine my feelings. They boiled down to this: I truly believe that my father is invincible. And I was pretty much proved right when the surgery went perfectly and, at his first recovery check-in, Dad was healing much faster and much better than the doctors were expecting (despite another run-in with a bloody cow, this one involving a wall). 

So there you have it.  Happy Father's Day, Dad. You're my hero.

Friday, 14 June 2013

From the Ashes of Disaster (Gluten-Free Bread)

Today (yesterday, actually) I decided to try making gluten-free bread. I'm not celiac, nor do I have any allergy, but I do have some health issues my doctor thinks might be helped by cutting back on gluten. And being an obsessive baker, I've been wanting to try making it for a while.

I decided to simply convert my favourite bread recipe, which may not have been the best idea. I realize now that most of what makes this bread awesome comes directly from the gluten, but hey! I love experimental baking. 

It started off well enough, the flour looked nice. 

Mmm, yeast....

The resulting dough was much more cake-like than bread-like, but I figured I'd just go with it. Into the oven (with just the light on) overnight with you!

Next morning it looked... Exactly the same. This does not bode well.


Oh well. I'll just bake it anyway! What's the worst that could happen? ....time to take the lid off, let's see what mess I've got here. What's this?

It worked! It puffed up! I appear to have achieved bread! Fantastic!

Final verdict: I'm not impressed. I'm not really keen on the flavor. Or the texture. This gluten-free thing is going to be really difficult.... I think I'll definitely try another, actual, from-someone-who-knows-what-they're-doing recipe before I give up, though. And the kids seem to like it, so there's that. 

3 cups all-purpose GF flour
3 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp yeast
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 cups water

Mix flour, xanthan gum, yeast and salt in a medium sized bowl.

Add flour, mix well. 

Cover bowl with Saran Wrap and leave in a warm place for 12-18 hours. (Note: this had virtually no effect on the dough, so may not be necessary. But it was in the original, so I've kept it here)

Scrape dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, knead gently a few times and then shape into a round. Lift the dough and parchment into a clean bowl, let sit for 1.5 hrs. 

After 1hr, place a clean Dutch oven in the oven and start preheating to 500 degrees. After half an hour, move the dough and parchment paper to the Dutch oven. Cover with the lid and return to the oven. 

Bake at 500 degrees for half an hour. Remove lid, reduce oven to 450 and bake for another 15-25 mins. 

Remove from oven, remove from Dutch oven and cool on a wire rack.