Ingredients for a Chill Sesh

It’s funny that we all do the same thing. We get busy and stressed, feeling isolated as life and our silly first world problems take over, and wishing that someone would reach out – but completely forgetting that the others are all feeling the same way.

Yesterday morning was the punctuation of that feeling, as I stood atop the regional landfill, swarmed by 100s of seagulls and silently cursing other people’s issues with cleanliness.

But, it just made the evening plans even more enjoyable and necessary. As Ben was away on a daddy-and-daughter trip, us gals reached out to get together and organize a home spa and treats night.

One brought all the fixings to make homemade face wash, body butter and masks. Another brought the wine, essential to any good spa activity, in my books. And I was in charge of noms.

Of course, if you’ve been reading this little blog at all, you know that I served carrot sticks and hummus.

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Donuts. Not these silly baked ones that make your brain pretend that it’s being healthy – cake mix spiked with nutmeg and sadness. The kind my momma made in the 80s, when I sat at a healthy distance from the bubbling vat on the stove, watching the fluffiest pastries emerge from the pot.

untitled-1137But I did do mini-ones, to offer the appearance of health. Some tossed in sugar and cinnamon immediately after removing from the stove.

untitled-1160Other cooled and then dipped in chocolate.

untitled-1170The truly unfortunate thing is that it was really easy to make. Too easy.

And then I did a few others snacks.

Popcorn cooked up in brown butter and seasoned with sugar, cinnamon, cumin and chili, tasting like something delicious but nothing specific so you had to keep having more to get a sense of what the heck you were eating.

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A dip that tastes just like raw brownie batter, minus the egg threat, and served up with kettle chips and pretzels.

untitled-1188And despite our best efforts, there are leftovers – food, pumpkin pie glow mask, orange chocolate body butter, tea tree oil face wash. Perfect tools to tackle the next week!

Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

 

One of my work colleagues just successfully defended her PhD dissertation last week, so the office organized a little celebratory coffee break for her on Monday. My contribution: salted caramel and chocolate mini cupcakes.

IMG_0463I found this awesome, fudgy, caramel frosting recipe here: Sally’s Baking Addiction Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting. The only change I made was to add more cream to get the consistency I wanted. (The drizzle is the caramel from the first steps of that same recipe.)

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This used my trusty chocolate cake recipe from this post. I bought a couple mini muffin tins, something that I’ve wanted for awhile. They’re great for making snacks for a break or potluck, because everyone in the world, except me and my close friends, will take a knife to a cupcake and halve it or – worse – quarter it. No one had to feel guilty here, though.

They’re like muffin vitamins, in the words of Jim Gaffigan.

la cuisine, pt. 1 (ideas)

After many months, we finally sold Ben’s house, and found “our” house. Having moved about 12-13 times in the last 15 years, saying that I’m excited is a rather gross understatement. I know some people who love setting up shop again and again – I am not one of them. Love love love travelling – HATE moving. Each move has been purely out of necessity rather than want, so to finally have something that we can call ours and make it a home, is awesome.

It’ll be full throttle once we take possession in a few weeks, and while we’ll be painting the whole house in general, we’re going to focus mainly on four rooms to start: the 3 kids’ bedrooms, and the kitchen. I wanted to focus on the kitchen, as it’s such a focal point. Maybe it’s the Maritime kitchen party in us, but the kitchen is so much more than cooking – it’s entertaining and sharing meals. And with the layout being fairly open, it will be the focus from the adjacent dining and living rooms.

There’s won’t be a lot of food posts from my own hands in the next few weeks, but I will share the kitchen journey. Here’s two photos I took with my phone of the “blank canvas”:

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In terms of design style that I like in general, I think it’s an eclectic, warm space – lots of textures, with some cool art work and a laid-back, cozy feeling. A place where people can just walk in and have a cup of tea and feel at home themselves. In my head, this is where we’re going to start:

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Overall, the game plan is to paint the walls the robin’s egg blue (for a great post on matching different paint chips to an actual robin’s egg, check out CobiStyle.) The cupboards are going to get redone with a Cabinet Transformations Kit, going as light as possible to brighten up the space. From there, new lights, hardware (including a pot rack! Whee!) and some neat design things I’ve been coveting on Pinterest, such as framed coffee sacks and a wall-mounted herb garden using pallets and mason jars. For now, we’ll keep the countertops, white tile backsplash, appliances and floor untouched.

The proof, of course, is in the proverbial pudding. (And for an amazing chocolate pudding recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate Pudding by the Kitchen Paper.)

Stay tuned.

The Ninth Birthday Cake

After a number of years of relying on a trusty wooden spoon to make baked goods, Santa was very kind to me this past Christmas.

Of course, I had to name it.

Gandalf the Grey

This week, the reason to crack out Gandalf was a birthday supper for a fellow sugar lover. Living in a house where the majority have no sweet tooth, this cake was always going to be some kind of overload. After browsing Pinterest one night (and successfully avoiding requests for a character cake from “Dog with a Blog” or “Jessie”), we settled on the Kit Kat cake.

You know, the crazy one surrounded by Kit Kat bars and topped with candies.

The cakes ready for the oven

To make this cake, I went with my favourite, fail-safe chocolate cake recipe: Double Chocolate Cake

It’s so easy – mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet, and beat together. The only change is that I substitute the coffee with hot water when I’m making it for kiddies (they can taste it and aren’t really fans).

It smells just like Fudgee-O cookies.

For the frosting, I went with a chocolate buttercream icing – and the difference that using a mixer makes was unbelievable. I suppose that’s obvious, but having made it before with just plain elbow grease, I was pretty surprised.

Crazy difference using a mixer to make buttercream frosting than by hand – so much fluffier!

I’m not much of a cake decorator – a class is something that I’d like to try at some point, but until then, I wield a somewhat sharp carving knife and attack my cakes with enthusiasm to make up for it.

The tops of each layer shaved off, filled with icing and carved around the edges to (kind of) make it round.

The birthday girl loves pink, so Bulk Barn near Valentine’s Day always has the answer.

The finished birthday cake!

Yup, she was a happy chick. Makes me a happy chick.

Just a few Smarties on the cake. And I’m not shy with frosting.

Half-Baked

Today was a day that screamed sugar.

Perhaps it was all the attempts I had been making at healthier eating as of late. As the family attacked a Super Bowl-themed bucket of chicken and tots for supper, I chewed on a pile of spinach and chicken. And low fat Caesar dressing. And multi-grain croutons.

(“Pigs wouldn’t eat multi-grain croutons!”, I hear my grandfather say. He’d say that about anything lacking in taste. Usually, a much maligned cucumber.)

So I was owlly. At myself. I’m happy that I’m trying to make better choices. But for whatever reason, today was not to be that day.

It was a day for a brownie.

So I unearthed my grandmother’s recipe (herein known as Poppins). Usually it’s half English, then dissolves into shorthand.

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It’s pretty simple yet deadly. Four eggs, a cup of this and that…and a can of chocolate syrup.

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The frosting usually used is an basic chocolate chip, sugar and butter in a saucepan deal. No, that wouldn’t do…but I had seen this cookie dough frosting on Pinterest. It can’t be that good, can it?

It can. It is.

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(Sally’s Baking Addiction: Cookie Dough Frosting)

The fact that I have a container of that frosting now makes me a happy camper. Maybe it’ll make the spinach taste better, too.

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The finished half-baked brownie.