Tuesday, November 30, 2010

i love bark

I am always on the lookout for child friendly recipes because I love bringing my daughter into the kitchen with me. There is nothing better than watching her little face light up as she experiences a new taste, or seeing the satisfaction that washes over her as she stirs the bowl. We all know how cramped everyone's schedules can get over the holiday season, so I pulled out my no-fuss chocolate bark recipes. They are an incredibly tasty treat, easy to make and ideal for those of you who are busy, busy, busy. For you non-bakers out there, this is the perfect recipe for you! I love candy canes, so there was no question about it-peppermint crunch all the way! On the other hand, my better half  loves nuts and chocolate, so I decided I would make chocolate pecan bark for the hubby. Here's how it all went down in my kitchen...

Peppermint Crunch Bark

  • 2 pounds white chocolate, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (went to Bulk Barn and bought white chocolate squares)
  • 8 squares Bakker's White chocolate (can find at local grocery store)
  • 1 1/2 cups round peppermints, crushed up
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil (optional, I opted not to because I like to add more crushed peppermint)
  • Line an 11-by-17 inch baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
  • Break up peppermint candy into little pieces. I like to pound them in a plastic bag using a hard object.

  • Melt chocolate. I usually melt mine using the microwave on medium heat, stir every couple of minutes until chocolate is melted. Stir pieces of peppermint into the melted chocolate, set aside 1/2 cup for the topping.
  • Pour mixture onto to cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Spread mixture evenly with spatula or wooden spoon. You can then sprinkle remaining peppermint over the top of mixture.
  • Chill for 1 hour or until hardened. Break into pieces, and serve. You can also store in an airtight container in the fridge up to one week. I love the idea of putting the bark in plastic gift bags, and handing the sweet gifts out for the holidays. 

Chocolate Pecan Bark
  • 12 squares Bakker's Semi-Sweet chocolate 
  • 12 squares Bakker's White chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans (keep 1/2 cup for topping) 
  • Follow above preparation, substituting peppermints for pecans.
  • Melt white and semi-sweet chocolate in seperate bowls.
  • Pour onto parchment paper, and then swirl with a knife.
The finished product, Enjoy!
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    Monday, November 29, 2010

    weekend fun

    Winter has finally arrived and that means finding things to do indoors when we don't want to brave the -30 something weather. This weekend we woke up to this...
    Which meant little Miss L, did a lot of this...
    Little Miss L. also enjoyed her new boots. She didn't want to take them off. 
    She also enjoyed a play date with her cousin. There was laughter, tears, and a whole lot of screaming that went on...

    I hope everyone had a great weekend!

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    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    it's all about the small things

    I love my mother for many reasons but it is the small things she does that I admire the most. When we are in the midst of the storm we call life, with the thunder booming and the wind blowing, it is easy to forget about the small things. I admire my mother because she chooses not to allow the noisiness of life to rob her of the time and energy to be mindful of herself and those she loves. She always seems to be able to recognize the beauty that exists in the small things.
    The other night was a prime example of how the small things are never forgotten. As my family and I arrived for dinner, we were not asked to join my parents at the kitchen table. Instead we walked into the dining room, to see a beautifully set table. As I looked around the room, I noticed all the details that were carefully thought out. The plates had not just been thrown on the table, they were carefully placed, the cutlery had been placed perfectly on matching napkins, and the blue candles placed in the centerpiece matched the flowers on the plates. Some people might think, really, who cares but to me I see someone who puts her best effort into every situation no matter how small it may be. I have learned many things from my mother, such as making time for what is important while each day passes by so quickly.  I've also learned that you don't need to spend money or schedule an elaborate event to enjoy yourself; you don't need a special occasion to pull out your fine china, because everyday is special! 
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    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    cracked and sore?

    The other day I was approached by a friend who is soon excepting her first child. We were discussing the fears and joys of becoming a first time parent. One of her major fears about becoming a mother to a newborn was breastfeeding, and all the side affects that come along with it. As most mothers-to-be, she is an avid reader and searches the Internet on a daily basis. Her main goal has been to stay up-to-date with the latest information regarding breastfeeding, safety and other baby-related topics. Many of us are aware that in the first few days of breastfeeding, many women experience sore nipples. Breastfeeding with sore or cracked nipples can be very painful, and I can vouch from experience. I truly wanted to breastfeed my daughter but after a few days of breastfeeding, I was in such pain that I thought I would have to give it up. I was desperate for relief and would do anything to get rid of the pain. Then a little purple tube of Lansinoh lanolin cream came into my life, and changed everything for me. I know there are many products out there but this by far worked the best for me. I found that it was easy to apply, hypoallergenic, and completely natural. My daughter never seemed to notice that I was even using it and I did not have to wipe it off before feeding. Without it, I would have not been able to breastfeed my daughter for as long as I did. So, for you mothers-to-be or the mommies who are out there suffering, please give it a try! 

    You can find Lansinoh lanolin cream at your local pharmacy, Babies'R'Us or online here:
    Lansinoh Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers 2 oz (56 g) Pin It

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    great party favour idea

    This past weekend, I had the honour of making the favours for my girlfriend's baby shower. I have an incredible sweet tooth and love, love, love to eat baked goods. I thought cookies would be the perfect gift of appreciation for coming to the party, and really, who doesn't want to leave with a tasty treat in their hand? Cookies are great to use as a party favour because you can custom make them to fit the theme of any party. So, if you are looking for a unique party favour for any occasion, look no further...get your cookie cutters out!

    Here's how it all went down in my kitchen.
    First I prepared my sugar cookie dough. I let the dough sit overnight and then rolled it out the next day. I decided, seeing as how it was a baby shower, that cute little feet would be appropriate.
    After cutting out 40 little feet, they were off to the oven. Nine minutes later, I was in heaven as I opened the oven to the sweet smell of sugar cookies. Once the cookies were baked, they made their way to the fridge to cool down before I could start the decorating process.
    After the cookies had cooled, I prepared the royal icing. Remember when using royal icing, to cover your containers with a damp paper towel to ensure the icing does not dry out. I then outlined the cookies. Once all cookies were outlined, I let them sit for about 30 minutes before moving onto the next step of flooding the cookies.
    Once all cookies were flooded, I had to let them sit for another 2 hours to make sure they were completely dry before moving onto the piped design I wanted to create.
    I thought it would be cute if I added a little white flower to each cookie (as you can see I am not great at the little designs but I am working on it).
    And there you have it, the finished product. By no means am I a professional, this was actually the first time I attempted to make cookies using royal icing. With a little practice, I think this might just become a new obsession of mine. After the cookies were completed, I packed them in a clear bag which I tied shut with cute ribbon. Let me know if the guests at your next party appreciated the unique, edible favour.
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    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    sandpaper hands

    Winter is harsh and that means one thing to me, sandpaper hands. If you are anything like me, your skin becomes severely cracked and sometimes bleeds. Every year, I am faced with a desert for hands and an empty wallet. This year, it has intensified to the point where it's unbearable at times! Now being a parent to a toddler, I am constantly over the sink washing my hands. I have tried everything from ditching any harsh soaps, cleaners, or detergents I might have been using that would irritate the skin. I have even tried to avoid hot water (it is not easy to turn down a piping hot shower in the middle of a Canadian winter!) because I know hot water strips away the protective oil in the skin which can lead to dryness and moisture loss. I've slathered on every kind of lotion/moisturizer imaginable. As you can see, I am gathering quite the collection of products. I have tried medicated creams, a trillion different products, and have even tried natural alternatives like olive oil, butter and coconut oil. So, if anyone out there knows of a great way to solve my problem please, pretty please, let me in on your secret!
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    Monday, November 22, 2010

    it's time to start baking!

    We all know what time it is! We're just starting to get ready for the holidays in our house. The cards have been purchased, the shopping has begun, and the holiday baking rush is now upon us. As I walked into the grocery store the other day, I noticed a huge bin of lemons on sale. As soon as I saw them, my mouth started to water. You might be saying to yourself, 'that's odd, lemons really do that to you?' This is because it reminded me of how every year for the holidays my mother bakes her famous lemon squares. So, I filled my cart full of lemons and rushed over to my mother's house in hopes that she would pull out that old famous recipe. I was in luck that day because not only did she pull out the recipe, she decided to show me step-by-step how to make them. I can't wait to share it with you!

    Lemon Squares
    This recipe has been around awhile!

    • 2 cups flour
    • 1/2 cup icing sugar
    • 1 cup butter (softened)
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 cup coconut
    Start by mixing the icing sugar and the 2 cups of flour together. Cream butter into flour and sugar until mixture clings together. Pack firmly into a lightly buttered 9" x 13" glass pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Mix dry ingredients
    Prepare crust
    Bake crust before adding liquid
    Beat the four eggs, then add remaining ingredients. Pour this mixture on top of baked crust. Bake in 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 30 minutes until set. Coconut will rise to the top and become brown. I check mine after 25 minutes because they are usually done by then (depends on the oven).
    Mix wet ingredients
    Pour onto baked crust
    And there you have it, these are great for the holidays because you can bake them a head of time and then freeze them in an air tight container until you need them. Enjoy!
    The finished product!
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    Friday, November 19, 2010

    spruce it up

    Have you ever awakened one day and had the urge to spruce up a room in your home? The holiday season is upon us, I cannot think of a better time to make a beautiful floral arrangement without breaking the bank. Fresh flowers and live plants always add a nice touch to any room in your home. My mother-in-law went to our local grocery store and found a beautiful bouquet for only $7.99. This is a simple, quick, and easy way to spruce-up your home for those unexpected holiday visitors. Seriously, this process only took me ten minutes to complete from start to finish!

    Making A Grocery Store Bouquet Into A Beautiful Centerpiece

    1. First I gathered a clean vase and brown coloured marbles( marbles can be purchased at the Dollar store.) I had all of these items already in our home.
    2. Then I cut the stems, making sure the stems could reach the water and the flowers could keep their head above it.
    3. The next step was to arrange a circle of flowers around the edge of the vase.
    4. Then insert the rest of the flowers in the center, creating a domed effect.
    5. The last step is to add greens between main flowers. This is important because it helps keep blooms separated so they do not crush one another and helps to provide good air circulation to keep blooms fresh longer.
    6. Depending on where you are placing your flowers, you can always add extra colour by adding holiday inspired ribbon around the vase.

    The finished product

    Remember you don't have to break the bank to add a little spice to your home! 

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    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    a toasty little treat

    Yesterday I decided that I needed a pick-me-up. It was cold and raining outside, so I put on the tea kettle and curled up on the couch. My family and I have recently moved back from Portugal after living there for three years. I was kind of down thinking about the balmy weather they are likely having, so I pulled out my photo album and started flipping through the pages. I stopped dead in my tracks when I came across the above photo. As I looked at it, I was reminded of the unmistakable smell of roasted chestnuts running through the streets of Lisbon. Vendors can easily be found around Portugal with their stacks of smoke, engulfing their surroundings with the aroma of these savory, smokey flavoured treats. I decided to bring a little bit of Portugal into my own kitchen. If you are looking for a unique treat for the winter months, give them a try. Just remember when you crack open one of these pleasantly warm nuts, you might not be able to stop at just one! They also go great with a nice glass of wine.

    Roasted Chestnuts

    1. Preheat oven to 220 C (425 F).
    2. Find the flat side of each chestnut and cut a large X with a sharpe knife, ensuring to pierce the skin.
    3. Place chestnuts on a shallow baking pan and place in the oven to roast for 35 to 45 minutes depending on the size of nuts. Shake pan several times throughout the cooking process to make sure the nuts cook evenly. You can add salt if you would like. (I opted for no salt)
    4. Chestnuts are usually ready when the X has started to fold out. Peel roasted chestnuts once they are cool enough to handle.
    *Note; Make sure an incision is made before roasting the chestnuts. If not, they may explode causing harm.

    The finished product

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