Monthly Archives: December 2012

The best things to put in your mouth, by j

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As our second week of vacation draws to an end it’s time for me to dump all the photos I took while I was Christmas baking. I went a little nuts.

First up? Cookies and biscotti.

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I’ve memorized this recipe when I was about 11 years old. Do not try and substitute the margarine for butter. This recipe requires the chemicals of the margarine.

Then I started on the fruitcake biscotti.

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What really made it this was the booze.

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It calls for a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier. But that was no where near enough. I dumped a whole bunch in there.

And voila:

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The trick is to under cook the cookies. I HATE crunchy cookies.

Then I wanted to try my hand at truffle making, so I made two.

First with these:

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Then with these:

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And then they turned out like this:

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And this:

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Sidenote: would not recommend the peppermint chards. Even after about 15 minutes the peppermint candy got a weird texture. I rolled the rest in cocoa. The lemon ones just kind of made weird blobs.

And then the most important candy making: the crack (aka peanut butter cups).

Let’s start with this stuff (also go to your gramma’s because A is deadly allergic to nuts. She ruins everything).

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Oh yes. That’s some fleur de sel. I didn’t use a recipe- just my own brand of awesomeness.

Melt your chocolate (I used semi sweet for the tiny cups and milk for the big ones). And paint some muffin liners. Most recipes I found said that you should use a pastry brush. I just used a spoon.

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The do the first freeze.

Ta da.

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Then mix some peanut butter and icing sugar and put a layer in the frozen cups. Put that in the freezer for another 20 minutes.

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Then pick your second filling. Because if your making these you may as well go full out. I chose strawberry jelly for half, dulce de leche for the other half. Freeze that too.

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Then put a final layer of chocolate on top, and sprinkle with some fleur de sel. And freeze one. Last. Time.

Package them up, give them away.

Be warned, they might send you into a sugar induced coma. But they are awesome. They are also huge. So share them. Or don’t. No judgement.

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My Christmas Shame, by j

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I thought I had inherited a skill from my mom.  She does this AMAZING thing, where she makes a recipe once and it turns out fabulous.

Or she tries a recipe for the first time and makes it better.  And then, as if to give a giant swear finger to any nervousness she might have, she makes these first time recipes for dinner parties.

I thought I had developed this skill.  And so I approached a rather tricky and temperamental recipe with my mother’s bravado.  Salted caramels.  I decided to go with Ina Garten’s recipe.  She usually solid when it comes to butter/cream concoctions.  Here’s what happened:

First, I gathered everything.

caramel ingre

Then I put the corn syrup, sugar and a bit of water into the pan, thusly:

hot ingr in pot

And I turned on the heat.  First it starts to look like this.  It should be said I did NOT stir this pan- at all.

boiling 1

Here’s where it gets funny.  You have to watch this like a baby.  It needs to get some colour.  I read several recipes before trying this, and no one was able to give definitive explanation of when it’s time to turn off the heat.  Some described at “golden” others preferred the term “warm”.  It was difficult.  So, here is where I decided it was good enough:

sugar boiling light

I left it for a couple more seconds/minute and pulled it off the heat.  Then I added the cream and butter (which I had melted and heated through).  Every recipe I read that when you pour in the cream it will react “violently”.  Seriously.  We couldn’t decide on a term for the colour we want the sugar, but we all called this reaction violent:

cream in sugar boiling up

Yes.  So very violent.  Then I followed directions at this point and put it back on the heat and used the candy thermometer.  According to directions I needed to cook this to 248 degrees.

140 degrees

140 degrees

 

200 degrees

200 degrees

240 degrees

240 degrees

Then it was time to pull this stuff off.  And put it into a pan to cool, then I would cut it up, sprinkle some fleur de sel and impress everyone.

This is what ended up happening:

hand holdingknife caramel

I was not impressed.

But I would not be defeated.  This time I turned to Jacques Pepin’s recipe for caramel sauce (maybe if I was going for sauce it would be better?).

I thought wrong.  Here is my second attempt:

second attempt

One friend told me it looked like beef tenderloin.

My father told me he “knew I had messed it up” and proceeded to give me tips on how to make it the next time.

I have been momentarily defeated.

I will try again.

My Christmas List, by a

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” It’s the holiday season once again (not soon enough, in my opinion) and as I’m sitting here watching Christmas movies, I thought I would compile a list of my very favourite things that make Christmas my absolute favourite time of the year. So here it goes, in no particular order..

1) The Santa Clause-

This Tim Allen classic makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. The story is realistic and heart warming, and the humour still cracks me up to this day. I love when you watch movies as an adult and you catch all the jokes that you never understood as a kid. Case in point, “Dad, you’re flying!”…”It’s okay, I lived through the 60’s”.

2) Shortbread

This is probably one of my favourite holiday treats, aside from peppermint hot chocolate and frozen After Eights. I even honour my Mother’s absurd claim that shortbread needs to “rest” for a period of a few weeks before they’re ready to enjoy. It’s a cruel joke, I say!

3) The (Real) Christmas Tree

This might be obvious, as something that I really enjoy about Christmas but honestly, the season would not be the same without a real tree. I love dragging it in the house and struggling to erect it on the tree stand. I love getting a tree branch to the eye every time I hunker down to water it, too. I also silently judge the other houses who have trees prominently displayed in their picture windows on November 25th. YOU ARE NOT REALLLL!

4) Elf

Ever since I saw this (now) holiday classic in theatres 3 times back in 2003, it has become one of my favourites. It’s Will Ferrell + Zooey Deschanel +Christmas, what could be better?

5)Snow

Nope, not the beloved 90s white reggae artist, but the white fluffy stuff that is supposed to come around Christmas. Although we haven’t had snow at Christmas for the past few years, I seem to keep developing a mental block about it and therefore always get upset when there is still nothing, come Christmas morn.

I also love love the cold- my family thinks it’s weird, but I LOVE it.

6) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Despite the fact that I’ve heard all the horrible things about Chevy Chase in real life, this movie still remains one of favourites.

7) Family

I’m pretty lucky to have a family that’s nice to each other and to have siblings who love each other, so I always look forward to spending time with them at Christmas- a time when they can’t moan and groan about snuggling and watching movies because we only HAVE A LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME TOGETHER, PEOPLE.

So Merry Christmas, one and all!!

 

AODA Chai Concentrate, by j

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I just finished my final assignment for the Fall semester…a twenty page policy paper on the Accessibility for Ontarians Disability Act.

It was a dismal affair.  And I’m so glad it’s over.

But during the researching and writing I needed a break.  So I made some Chai Concentrate.

I love chai.  Love it.  It’s my go-to beverage, but I’m starting to get wary of the full fat version I get from Starbucks.

I love chai when it’s hot and when it’s cold- and I’m always mystified by the spices.  Let’s break it down.

chai - ingredients

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups water
8 bags black tea – I used orange pekoe
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split in half (or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract added at the very end)
1/2 cup coconut sugar, date sugar or raw cane sugar (you can add more or less depending on how sweet you like your chai)
1 – 3-inch section of fresh ginger, cut into pieces
10 whole cloves
8 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 whole star anise pods (I only used 1)
1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon raw honey

First start off by boiling the water and the sugar:

chai - boiling water

After the sugar dissolves, it should look like this.  Only this was not an awesome pic. But you get the idea.

And then, add in all the spices and the cinnamon sticks and zest.  And simmer that spicy stuff for 20 minutes.

chai - boiling ingredients

Get ready.  It will smell AMAZING.  The original recipe calls for you to wrap all the spices in cheese cloth for easy removal.  I just used a strainer:

chai - sieve

AHHHH!

Let it all cool and try not to drink it all up.  Then put it into an awesome jar and take it to your BFF as a thank you for her letting you sleep on her floor.

chai - jar

To drink this stuff, just add 1/2 chai concentrate to 1/2 milk.  When I tried it at Shannon’s we used soy milk.  It was my first attempt at soy milk since “Holly Nog-Gate 2007”.  It was not half bad.

Couple of things:

It was waaaay too sweet.  I added 3 parts soy milk to 1 part chai.  Reducing the sugar content next time I make this stuff.

I only used one star anise- but next time I may not use any.  Not a big fan of the licorice flavour, but I will add in more orange next time!

chai - cup

And it’s even more delicious when you have someone prepare this to go with it:

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And then because you’re so happy that you finished the semester (relatively) unscathed, you take a picture of your friend’s cat like this:

chai - cat

And then celebrate that the semester is done:

Hello December! By j

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Hello December!!

Yesterday I finished my fourth semester- one more to go before I have fancy letters after my name.

And December is quickly passing- but not without lots of business to attend to.

We all know December arrives when we see this on the door:

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And when the park looks like this:

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Sidenote: I went to the lighting of the lights (on work business) and got into the VIP lounge, stocked with hot chocolate, cookies and heaters. At one point I was alone in this room with our esteemed mayor and two of the loudest city councillors and all their bad Movember ‘staches. I high tailed it out of there for fear of commiserating with them.

During the last week of my internship (done-yay!) we did some decorating. We all did a Christmas wish list. Here’s what I want:

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And it was such good decorating that I won these:

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But before this I lent a hand to a friend who was throwing a baby shower. Check out this spread:

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To bad the woman of honour didn’t get to see it since her little one decided to arrive 12 hours before the baby shower.

So this month will bring a few more exciting things to come: visits from family, seeing friends and hopefully some snow!