Thursday, 30 October 2014

Cake #4 (Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake)


Well here is cake number 4! I almost didn't want to post this one because it's not the prettiest cake in the world, and I may have slightly over-baked it, but I figured this whole project wasn't about making 20 perfect cakes (although that would be pretty great, right?).  This one I adapted from the old-school "Best of Pilsbury Bake-Off" book. It was supposed to just make a boring sheet cake, but I made it into 2 layers and added some chocolate cream-cheese frosting. And then added some Halloween candy (that I should be saving for the children on Friday) on top. I may have been starving when I made this, hence all the chocolate. 


Although it tasted pretty good, it was a bit too rich. I probably won't make this one again if I had to be honest. Oh well, on to the next cake!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Baby Safe Pumpkins


When I was working in the baby room at the Early Years Centre we were big on letting babies explore real things. I'm still confused why we buy our kids plastic Fischer Price kitchen sets when you can easily just give the kid a real pot and whisk from Value Village. Maybe it's just me? Anyway we (like most parents I'm sure) have a lot of "baby toys" around here, it's unavoidable. But there's something really neat about giving Iris real things to explore.  


Last week we went to the pumpkin patch and they had a sweet deal on mini pumpkins and gourds, something like 10 for $2. So we grabbed a whole bunch! When we got home we picked out a few for Iris and using some pliers removed the stems on top, which can poke an eye out (!). Then using some sandpaper, Dave just sanded the stump a bit so there were no sharp edges left. After a quick wash to get rid of the mud, they were good to go!

These mini pumpkins and gourds are great because they are super dense and are pretty impossible to chomp a bite off, even with little teeth coming in (at least that's what we've found). They also last a looong time so you don't have to worry about them starting to rot for at least a week or two.


Iris was totally into these! She happily sat on the floor exploring them for a good half hour. When she was done, I just threw them into her little toy basket for another time. 

:) 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Fall Weekend


One of the things on our fall to-do lists was to get the 3 of us out to a pumpkin patch. We made the rather sudden realization this year that we both actually hate carving pumpkins, which is strange because it's something I've always made us do every year. But when we stopped to think about it, carving pumpkins is a pain in the butt! The design you pick never really turns out the way you'd imagined, and as you try to "carve" it, the pumpkin skin is always way thicker than you remember it being. 

Funny pumpkin story:

When Dave was 16 he was carving a pumpkin and his mom asked him "Dave, are you sure you know how to use that knife for a pumpkin...?" to which he angst-ly replied "MOM OF COURSE I DO" and promptly sliced his entire thumb open. He now has a large scar on his thumb that serves as a constant "I told you so!" from his mother, Ha! 

Anyway here are a few photos from our lazy Sunday morning at the pumpkin patch. We kept Iris bundled up in Dave's coat, ate some squash soup and butter tarts, and brought home a wheelbarrow of squash.  


A lovely Sunday indeed!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Cake # 3 (Yellow Roses)


Dave's school was having a cake drive this week so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try out a new decorating technique. I figure kids don't care if something is iced in chocolate ganache with a salted caramel filling. They want PIZAZE! They want COLOUR! So I got out my collection of decorating tips and decided to try out some buttercream roses. Every tutorial ensured me that they were very very simple to do and I can now say, yes! They are simple! 


I just used a vanilla cake mix and added some turquoise food colouring to the batter to make 2 round pans. When they were cooled, I sawed off the domed tops with a bread knife to make them more flat to ice.  One thing I've learned when icing a cake is to do a "crumb coat". Basically you ice the cake in a thin (and kinda messy) layer to seal in all the crumbs. Then you pop the cake in the fridge so it hardens a bit, then go ahead and frost it. You'd be surprised how big of a difference this makes! 

I had a few vintage plastic ballerinas lying around so I added one on top to make it even more girly ;) 

I was really quite surprised at how easy this was, and how great it makes a simple cake look! I will definitely be using this technique again in the future! 

Notes:
I used this icing recipe but added 1/2 cup butter. 
I followed this tutorial for making the roses. 
I used a 1M decorating tip for the roses (bought at bulk barn)

Happy baking! 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Easy Baby Water Play (without the mess!)


Recently a friend and I traded a family photo shoot (me) for a jolly-jumper thingy (her). A pretty sweet deal if you ask me! We've only had it a few days but Iris loves this thing. She bounces around like a maniac and sometimes loses her footing and proceeds to spin around in circles with a dazed look on her face, it's hilarious!

The other day we were stuck inside with no car and rainy weather outside. Boooo. I don't know about you, but that combo can make for a very long day at home with a baby, and it makes mama a bit loco. So for awhile in the afternoon I plunked her in the trusty jumper and placed a tupperwear of water under her feet to splash around in. Not only did she splash around for a good 15-20 minutes, it was super easy to clean up. I just moved the bin and let her jump around on the towel to dry her feet off. I didn't even have to dry her feet. I'm kinda lazy sometimes.



Simple right? I love to have a few activities like this in my back pocket for days when we're stuck inside and I need a break. Don't get me wrong, I'm not above plunking her in her playpen for a half hour (happy or crying!) so I can have some time to myself, but it's nice to have something fun for her to do too while I'm getting things done.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Happy Mail


Did you ever have a pen pal when you were little? I remember having a friend who moved away when I was small and we promised to be pen pals forever. We would send each other handwritten letters and drawings every month or so, but sadly we lost touch shortly after (hey, we were 7! Our best friends changed daily!). 

A few months ago I stumbled upon a creative pen pal site and was instantly intrigued. It was almost like personal ads for people looking for a creative correspondence. I casually looked through them and found a girl who sounded like someone I could be really good friends with.; we were close in age, had similar interests and she lived in the UK. I sent her an email to see if she wanted to be my pen pal and she said yes! (I tried to find a less cheesy way of saying that, but there you have it.)


Now every month or so I can look forward to a lovely handwritten letter from Frankie. Usually she'll tell me about how she's feeling (she's expecting a baby girl in the new year!), let me know what she's been up to, and sends me a small little gift, either something she's made or bought. And I do the same for her. You have no idea how happy these little packages make me!

Would you ever get a pen pal as an adult? 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Cake #2 (Chocolate Covered Oreo Cake)


Dang I'm on a roll! Cake number 2 dooooone! Alright, it may be a bit too early to pat myself on the back yet, especially since this cake was kinda, almost, a cheater cake. A cheater cake you ask? Well it contains two things I try really hard not to use: a cake mix and cool whip. Now I'm not gonna hate on cake mixes, but I almost feel guilty when I use one. But hey, that's my hangup. This cake is amazing and ridiculously easy. You should make it. 




Here's the recipe (courtesy of Dine&Dish which I slightly adapted)...

Chocolate Covered Oreo Cake 

Ingredients

  • chocolate cake mix (plus whatever the mix calls for)
  • 4 squares of bakers semi-sweet chocolate chopped
  • about 1/2 cup of whipping cream
  • 1 brick of cream cheese softened
  • 20 oreos chopped (or more! or less!)
  • 3 cups cool whip
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Make It!

  1. Make your cake according to the package. Make 2 round pans and let them cool.
  2. Whip cream cheese and sugar then add cool whip and add just over half of the oreos.
  3. Lay one layer of chocolate cake on a flat plate. Scoop all of the cream cheese filling on to the first layer, spreading it out into an even layer. Top with the second layer of cake.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a small pot (I never do that hot water bath thing, I know I know!) once it's melted, whisk in the cream. You're looking for a thick but pourable consistency. 
  5. Pour all the chocolate ganache in the middle of the top layer of the cake. Using a butter knife, gently spread the ganache to the sides of the cake until it spills over the sides. 
  6. Top with the rest of the chopped oreos

Done! Easy right?



On another note, please come by for cake! I've been giving most of the leftovers to my neighbour every week and I think he's starting to think I have a problem.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Cabin in the Woods


Recently Dave, Iris and I took a trip up to Scugog to stay in a semi-remote treehouse/cabin. It was by far my favourite trip so far with the 3 of us. Again, we found out about the cabin through airbnb and were intrigued by the description and how the hosts who owned the land lived in an underground house (!) and were established artists. When we arrived at the property there were metal sculptures everywhere. Literally everywhere. Most of them were of people in really dynamic poses, they almost looked like they were moving, very eerie and beautiful at the same time. The guy who met us there (Alex- he lives in another house on the property too) asked us if we wanted a tour of the underground house (um, yes!) and then told us the host was actually none other than Bill Lishman. AKA the real life dude who they made the movie Fly Away Home about. Say what?! Apparently Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin lived on the property for awhile while filming the movie there. Crazy right?
Anyway his house was crazy amazing. It reminded me a modern hobbit house. Here are a few photos I took of it...




The cabin was a short golf-cart trip and hill climb into the forest. It was pretty much just a one room apartment with a screened in deck outside that was right in the tree canopy. Compost toilet (really not as bad as it sounds, I swear), wood burning stove, futon couch, antique armoir with dishes and tea, a copper covered sink that drained into a bucket underneath, a single butane stovetop, and a small wooden table and chairs. The deck outside had a hammock, a rocking chair and a coffee table. Can you picture it? It was perfect.





We spent the days stoking the woodstove, chopping wood, reading out on the deck, napping, teaching myself to knit, playing on the floor with Iris, making friends with a little bird, and eating a lot of cheese and bread. Oh man. Heaven!


My favourite memory will definitely be of Iris snuggled up in her bearsuit having her naps in the hammock outside. Every day when she got sleepy, we would dress her up in her warm clothes, put her quilt down in the hammock and snuggle her right in. It was super adorable. She would sleep for hours out in the cool fresh air gently swinging in that hammock. We joked that we need to instal one in our place! 


I think this will be the last big trip we do for awhile. When I look back at all the trips we've done since Iris has been here I feel rather spoiled! Time to stick closer to home and hopefully save some more money for a little house. But what a lovely trip to end on! We will definitely be going back again. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Cake #1 (Green Velvet Cheesecake)


Recap: I am a woman on a mission. That mission: make 20 different cakes. And hopefully learn a few tricks along the way.

First off, I know what you must be thinking, "why green?!"  Well the truth is I set off to make a red velvet layer cheesecake from here and I quickly realized two things. The first, my springform pan is much larger than the one the recipe used, therefore it made a single thin cake, which I definitely could not cut into two layers. Secondly, I did not have red food colouring, but I did have a lot of teal which turned the cake a really dark mossy blue green. Ha!


So this cake pretty much has three layers: cake, cheesecake, and cream cheese frosting. Oh man. What I love about this cake is that it uses gelatine to set the cheesecake layer, which is something I've never tried before. To be honest, I almost prefer the texture than that of a traditional baked cheesecake. And can we just take a moment to notice my crumbled cake bits on top?! I actually squealed with delight I was so excited. It looks like a totally legit cake.



I think this cake project is off to a good start. 1 down, 19 to go. Oh boy.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

20 Cakes Project


So when I started my mat leave I envisioned myself being totally consumed by baby things, with no free time. This is what they tell you, no? I guess the first few months were like that, but lately I've been finding myself having a lot of free time during the day, whether Iris is napping or just playing by herself on the floor. And I hate to say it but I've been feeling rather bored.  And as Betty Draper says "only boring people are bored" so I needed to come up with something to remedy this, STAT.

Recently I read about Elise's 40 loaves project where she baked 40 different types of bread to overcome her bread baking fear. I immediately told Dave I too was going to bake 40 loaves of bread (!!) but he gently pointed out that that may be a bit too ambitious, and could I even think of 10 different types of bread? Hmm.

I have been on a bread making kick lately but I thought I'd tackle something that has always been super difficult for me: cakes. Cupcakes I feel totally comfortable with, but a whole cake, with layers and frosting? Gaaaah! It's so much harder! I have yet to make a cake that I was satisfied with. This will change! So hear me as I declare by the end of this project I will OWN this cake making business!

I'm not going to put a deadline on this because, well I do have a baby guys, and they don't always allow for strict plans. But I do hope to bake one every week/two weeks. I can totally do this!

So stay tuned for the first cake: Red Velvet Cheesecake!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Easy Braided Egg Bread


I don't mean to brag, but I JUST MADE THIS. Whoa right? I used to be totally envious of people who would make their own bread, thinking they must have so much extra time on their hands to do so. But I am here to tell you it's actually super easy! And there is nothing more satisfying than eating bread that you baked yourself. I feel like some sort of new-age-type-pioneer lady now. Next thing you know I'll be churning my own butter. Ok enough bragging, here's how I made it.





Easy Braided Egg Bread (via roxanashomebaking.com)


So I just followed this blog's recipe exactly, (if it ain't broken!) so I've just copied it here:


Ingredients
  • 4 cups bread flour 
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast 
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs + 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Topping
  • 1 egg yolked mixed with few drops of milk
  • *more flour for dusting the working area
Make It!
  1. In a mixing bowl add 2 cups of flour, sugar and yeast. Whisk to combine.
  2. In a small saucepan, add the water, milk and butter and heat until lukewarm (~ 110F). Pour over the flour mixture, stir to combine and let it rest for about 10 minutes until the sticky dough starts to rise and gets a spongy texture.
  3. To the yeast mixture, add the lightly beaten eggs, salt and, with the dough hook on, start kneading, slowly adding the remaining 2 cups of bread flour.
  4. When all the flour is added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and let it knead for about 3-4 minutes or until the dough cleans itself from the sides of the bowl.
  5. If it's still sticky add just a little bit more flour. The dough should be soft and elastic and just a wee bit sticky to your fingers.
  6. With the help of a spatula, place the dough into a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in volume. It should take little over an hour.
  7. When the dough is risen, place it on a lightly floured surface, divide into 3 and roll each piece into a 15 inch rope.
  8. Braid the ropes, pinching the ends and tuck them under to seal.
  9. Gently place the braid on a cookie sheet. If it's easier for you, you can braid it directly on the cookie sheet.
  10. Cover with plastic wrap again and let it rest for the second time for about half an hour.
  11. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400F.
  12. Just before placing the bread into the oven, brush it with the egg was (1 egg yolked mixed with few drops of milk).
  13. Bake for 30 minutes or until nice and golden.
  14. Let it cool before slicing.



I'm curious to try some other bread recipes now, maybe a focaccia or something? Oh the possibilities!

Happy Baking :)
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