Friday, 30 December 2011

Catching Up With You!

I know it's been a while since I've posted....  December 11th was a loooong, looong time ago.

So you want to know what I've been doing?  Maybe you don't, but this blog is about me.  So deal.

The first couple of weeks of December were spent doing the following:

1.  Working.  Blech.  Boring.

This was taken on a "good, not busy" day.
2.  Meeting new people (now that our Winter Road is in) and seeing crazy stuff like this thing:
I have no idea what this thing is, but it's freakin' cool.  And it's pulling a trailer which is just the box of a pickup truck on skis.
 This is what it looks like from the front:

3.  Watching gorgeous sunsets: (just so you know, I had to practically HANG UP on my boss so I could run outside and take these - and the pictures don't do it justice - and I missed the best part of this sunset by a couple of minutes.  Because my boss was busy yakking at me about work stuff.  The AUDACITY.)

4.  Watching gorgeous moonsets.  Yes, moonsets.

And after I "worked", I arrived at home and realized I had less than 10 days until Christmas.  And I had nothing done.  Well - not true, I had most of my gifts purchased, and only a few were last minute.

Then I proceeded to spend the next two weeks running around like a maniac.  Like, from the minute I got up in the morning until the minute I laid down in my bed at night.  Every day.  All day. 

I didn't get anywhere near finished the stuff I normally do before Christmas.  And I didn't do hardly any special wrapping (I like to make my own bows and co-ordinate those with wrapping paper and be artistic and junk), this year it was just a wrap-and-slap-finished job.  Sorry everyone.  I didn't do hardly any baking compared to last year.

I won't brag to you about the fabulous meals that my Mom cooked for me when I was visiting!  She made my favorites!!!  Canneloni (and not just plain cheese, those are boring, these ones have MEAT), Chicken & Dumplings, Seafood Lasagna, Joyce's Hot Crab Dip.  Yum.  We went to a family friend's house for turkey on Christmas Day and I made a pig of myself (yet again.  For the fourth day in a row).

I won't brag to you (today) about all the fabulous stuff I got spoiled with this year.  But I did.  Oh MAN did I get spoiled!!! 

I also won't brag to you about how disgustingly cute my nieces are.  Seriously.  The amount of cuteness is obscene.  OB.SCENE.

And just when I couldn't hardly stand it anymore and I thought I was going to drop dead of exhaustion, I got to come back to work!  Yay! 

I thought about doing a simple post reflecting on 2011 and the highlights that have been mine.  But I haven't had time to think about it at all, and can only dredge up what's happened in the last few weeks.  You're lucky, sometimes I don't remember what I did four days ago.

So for today - let me say this.  I've been so excited about sharing my kitchen and my world with you.  I wish I had time for more!  I can't wait to see what 2012 brings you and me! 

All the best to you and yours in the coming New Year!

Brimming with anticipation, this is The Cane Girl - signing off.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cupcakes A to Z: Apple Spice Cupcakes

This was another big day of baking.  I pulled six (yep - that's 6) recipes from my folder to test out. 

It wasn't until much later that I realized that one of them actually didn't fit under this name.  There was no apple flavour to found!  So I'll move that to another post.  So there's only 5 that fit in this category.

Back to the Apple Spice. 

Remember when I did the Almond Cupcakes test day?  Well, I thought about it afterwards and tried to figure out what would be the fastest way to do a test day.

Here's what I did.

I cleared off my kitchen table and went through each recipe and pulled out everything I was going to need.  I measured out each recipe one at a time and then carried it over to the counter on a cutting board.

Okay - that's kind of vague.  What I mean is - measured out the first recipe, put it all together, stuck it in the oven, washed the dishes, and back to the kitchen table for the second recipe.  And on and on until I was done. 

I only made four cupcakes from each recipe.  And while I do feel kind of bad throwing out all that batter (I hate being a waster) - what would I do with a zillion cupcakes?  For real.  Have you seen my butt lately?  It's HU.MON.GOUS.

I also decided not to frost them.  Not because I'm lazy.  Okay, I'm kinda lazy.  But after I did the Almond Cupcakes and frosted all of them with that decadent Almond Buttercream, I kind of think I was somewhat distracted by the frosting.  And because this is really a test day for a base cupcake recipe, I left them naked.

Surprisingly - I think to do all 6 recipes it took me about 5 hours.  Well, that's including pulling everything out, doing all the dishes, and cleaning up the kitchen, and putting everything away.  I'm not sure if that's better than before, but it felt more organised.

My house smelled amazing.  I really do love the smell of these when they're baking.

And now I'm sure you want to hear the results.

Here they are.  Oh, and if the sight of a naked cupcake freaks you out - you may want to look away.

A.  This is the one that I made previously, okay - like ages ago, and it was fluffy and light and had great flavour!  Now I remember why I liked it so much!

B.  This one was definitely my second runner up.  Very yummy, was a little bit more sturdy than E - I guess I would say that because it didn't stick to the wrapper.

C.  This one was quite moist, but I thought it lacked a flavour that the other ones had.  So this one is a pass for me.

D.  I wasn't in love with this one - it was light and fluffy, but somewhat dry.  I also thought they were kind of ugly.

E. This one was very moist and had terrific flavour, my only complaint is that it stuck to the wrapper, although that was not an issue the day after.  And I thought they didn't have as much of a rise as they should have.  If I did make them again I would put more batter in the liners.  I used the same 1/4 cup scoop on all the recipes, but these ones weren't as tall as the others.

One of these is not like the other....  That would be the cupcake with the crack in the top.  It's icky, don't pick that one.

I bet you're wondering how I kept track of which one is which - since I was lazy and didn't make a frosting and couldn't pipe letters on the cupcakes for you to point and laugh at?  I used labels.  Like, those return address labels.  You know the ones?  I just wrote a letter on and stuck 'em on to the bottoms.  But they didn't stick terribly well.  So I'm trying to figure out what to try for next time.

It came down to three.  A, B, and E.  They were each of them wonderful.  They all tasted the same.  A was the most dry of all three.  Okay - when I say "dry" it's a real stretch, because all three were nice and moist, but out of the three this one was less than the others.  E didn't have as much of a rise as the other two and was a little more dense, but was also fantastic.  But for me - it was definitely B.  By a hair.

So there you have it.  Decision made.  I'll be adding this to my recipe book tonight!

Oh - and Mom, if I went on dates with six different GUYS to find the RIGHT ONE you wouldn't think I'm crazy.  So why does making six different cupcake recipes make me a nut?

A.  Um - sorry, I can't remember where I got this...
B.  Baking Bites
C.  Bourbonna Trix Bakes
D.  Sweet Revelations
E.  Baking With Basil

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Crab & Artichoke Pizza

If you know me - you know I LOOOOOOVE pizza.  No really.  If I was on a deserted island and I could have one type of food forever, it would be pizza.  I eat it no less than at least ONCE during my six days off.  And if I miss out - I'm kinda sad.

I like it fresh, I like it leftover, then only stipulation I have is that it has to be heated up. 

Now.  I was a particularly picky child.  I hated almost everything.  EV.RY.THING.

But pizza I liked.  Only cheese though.  Plain cheese.  Well, with the sauce.  Sauce and cheese.  I still like to order it like that - and the people taking my order always go "uh, is that it?".  Yeah.  That's it.  Just do it.

And now, I have expanded my horizons a little.  I do like pepperoni.  I LOVE the Bruschetta Pizza at Pizza Hut.  I had a goat cheese pizza the other day - it was heaven.

I keep wanting to expand my horizon even farther.  You know - just in case I'm missing something fabulous.

There are rules though - no pineapple, no mushrooms, no chicken.  I have a firm belief that chicken doesn't belong on pizza.

And you might say "crab doesn't belong on pizza either", but I've never had it on pizza and I may land on the side of Crab Belongs on Pizza.  Who knows.

So tonight, I halved my oh so wonderful pizza crust recipe and when it was ready to go, I topped with the called for toppings.

I didn't use as much garlic as the recipe called for, and I didn't use all the crab or artichokes, and I thought it could have used a little more cheese.

It smelled SO SO good when it was cooking.  I could hardly wait for it to come out of the oven.

Even though it didn't rock my world, it was preTTy darn good.  Although I was right it - could have used more cheese.

I don't know if I would add it to a regular rotation or not, but it was great for something different.

Be warned - it doesn't reheat well.

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Corn Chowder

My favorite kind of soups are chowders.  Thick and creamy, they're best when they stick to your ribs and keep you warm for hours.

I've been looking for an excellent corn chowder to have in my personal recipe book.  I have a Poblano Corn Chowder, but something different would be nice.  I have a few corn chowders saved in my online recipe box and I figure I'll just run through them and when I find one I'll know.

I halved this recipe just in case I didn't love it, and I'm kind of glad I did.  It's definitely not a contender to make my personal recipe book.

So you take a couple of potatoes, and cut 'em up and boil them. 

When they're done, smash half of them.

At the same time, fry bacon until it's crisp.
Oh bacon - how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

Then cook the onions in the bacon grease until translucent.
PS - this smelled really really good.  Would it have been weird if THAT was my dinner?  Well, with the rest of the bacon.  Honestly - I seriously considered it.

Put the onions in a pot and add some flour.  Add in the milk and bring to a boil.  Add in the creamed corn, potatoes, salt, pepper, and bacon.  Heat through and top with a little cheddar cheese and paprika.

And serve with a sprinkle of cheddar and a slight dash of paprika.

I mean, it's not horrible, but the best thing about it is the bacon.  It's not as thick as I prefer and the creamed corn taste was really prominent. 

So, in my opinion, it wasn't really that great.

I'm glad I have chips!

Oh - and before I forget.  I think I know the reason why produce is suddenly more expensive.  They have to pay that guy.  You know - that GUY.  The one who stamps a sticker showing the "best before date" on every single piece of produce in the store?  Him.  Or her.  I'm PC that way.  And maybe it's just on the potatoes.  You know, cause the freshness factor on those rascally potatoes is tricky to figure out.
Every single potato I brought home had one of these stickers.  That's weird right?
This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Happy Birthday Dee!!!!

Today is Dee's birthday!

I made her a batch of these...
Oreo Cupcake with Oreo Frosting.  Yum.  Uh - we call it the Dirty Oreo.  We're sickos.

Dee and I have known each other for ages and ages.  I actually went to school with her brother, and Dee and MY brother were two years behind us.  Dee's brother and I met in Grade 8.  So.  Um.  Yeah.  We're all old.

It wasn't until Dee moved to the big city a block and a half from my old apartment that we started hanging out together.

That was 11 years ago.

And she has since become one of my most nearest and dearest friends.  She is always willing to be my guinea pig and never worries when I say "Here, try this".  She is always there to listen when I need her and she does her best to make me smile when I'm sad.  She is always there to share a joke and a laugh.

She knows my secrets and has seen many of my flaws, but she obviously still likes me - she's still taking my phone calls.

To my Dee Dee.  I know that sometimes you think that things aren't the way they should be at this point in your life - but you and I both know that there are likely reasons for that.  But for today, and every day after that, just ENJOY what the world and the universe throws your way.  I believe completely that you will wind up getting EVERYTHING you have ever dreamed of.  I'm so proud to call you my friend and I look forward to sharing many MANY more birthdays (and just regular old days) with you.

Wishing you the happiest of happiest - the Cane Girl.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


No really - this post is about garbage.  My garbage situation.  My ABUNDANT garbage situation.

Let's set the record straight.  I'm am NOT a dirty person.  Nor is my HOME dirty.  Everything has a place and when things are not in their places it makes me crazy.  See a speck of fluff on the carpet?  The vacuum comes out.  A little flour falls on the floor in the kitchen?  The Swiffer vac (I love that thing) comes out and the whole floor gets done.

Moving on.  I've always heard that two things are certain in life.  Death and taxes.  But I propose that GARBAGE be added to that list.  I don't care WHO YOU ARE, you will in some way create garbage.

I heard about this couple who are completely garbage free.  They compost and recycle and use cloth diapers and all that other junk.  And while I applaud them and completely believe that you can greatly reduce the amount of garbage coming out of your home, I have a seriously hard time believing that you can be COMPLETELY garbage free.

Trust me - I'm the crazy woman who forces you to recycle the cardboard roll at the end of your toilet paper.  Right Dee?

With my schedule, I'm often not home on garbage day.

And you might say "well, Heather, just put your garbage out the night before!  Duh."  But that doesn't work either.  Because if garbage days happen on a day that I'm not home, I'm generally not home the night before.  Therein creating my problem.

Where I live, if you put your garbage out more than 24 hours before pickup, the "ruling factions" of my community get real ornery.  And they have spies everywhere.  Trust me I know.

Also - the varmints (magpies, cats, etc.) get into the bags if they're left out too long.

In the summer it's not much of a problem, because pickup is every week, but once the city switches to their fall program, sometimes I miss two, or three, or FOUR pickups because of the days they fall.  And to be perfectly honest, sometimes I only have one or two small garbage bags and I don't feel that it constitutes putting out a big bag to be picked up.

But then I forget actually how much I have and this happens...

That was at Halloween.

This is what I've resorted to since coming home on the 16th.
Yes - that's garbage on the left, recycling on the right.  My pantry couldn't hold it any more.
Gross - but necessary.  And I've been putting stinky scraps (like garlic) into Ziploc bags.  It totally works.

Last year, I went through drive-throughs just so I could stick garbage in their cans.  I got into crap once or twice because I got caught, but then I learned to be sneaky.

This year - I'm staving off the midnight McDonald's trips.  Also because the only time you should eat McD's at midnight is after you've been having wobbly pops.

I'm also kind of freaked out because the LAST time (this was this past summer) I had an over-abundance of garbage and the day finally came, I pulled out the "kitchen" bags to put in a big black bag and heard a weird squishy noise on the front step outside.  There were MAGGOTS!!!  YES.  MAGGOTS.

Just FYI.  To kill a maggot, pour boiling water on them.  I also proceeded to scour my house for hours and hours for intruders of the maggot variety.  Thankfully, no-one else alive was in the house but me.  I also spent the entire next morning cleaning out the can.  With boiling water.  And bleach.  And then scoured my house for an hour.  (Don't worry, it was maggot-free) 

But to be honest?  I really just wanted to set the can on fire and get a new one.

Why am I telling you this?  Because that's my world.  Welcome to it.

I'm so glad garbage day is tomorrow.

This is the Cane Girl, soon to be garbage free - signing off.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

I Totally Scored.....

On this sweet purse.  Sicko.....

30% off at the "Black Friday in Canada" sale.

Check out the gorgeous lining.

I'm kind of jealous of myself.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cupcakes A to Z: Apple Pie Cupcakes

They say there is nothing as American as apple pie.  And even though I'm a Canadian, I still love apple pie. 

The same day as the Lobster Soup, I made Apple Pie Cupcakes.  And I couldn't decide so I made two versions.

Let me start by saying that I HATE peeling apples.  Especially after I proceeding to ram a serrated paring knife into my palm, which was really fun by the way.  If, in the future, I'm ever making apple pie and applesauce in large quantities, I'm totally getting one of those do-hickeys that you stick the apple on a skewer and turn a handle and there's a little peeler thingy.  Totally getting one of those.

Apple Peeler - Gardening
Yeah - one of these.  I love tools.  Especially funky ones that have only one use.  But maybe one that peels only.
My Dad says that "it's not a project until someone bleeds".  Yeah - I bled for these cupcakes - that's how committed I am people.  I'm seriously not messing around here.


So the first version is a cupcake with cinnamon in it, cooked apples baked onto the top, and a cinnamon buttercream.

The second version is a vanilla cupcake with cooked apples in a cut-out and a vanilla buttercream.  I was really excited about this one because it was my very first "cored" cupcake.

I started out by doing both sets of apples so they'd be just ready to go as soon as the cupcake were.

Peeled and blood free.

Apples for Version 1
Apples for Version 2

All the junk for Version 1.  Um.  I kinda noticed that the yolks were two different colors.  I'm sure they're fine.  But that's weird right?  I'm not the only one thinking that?
 During the first version of these cupcakes, I accidentally sifted the sugar with the flour and the cinnamon.  I knew something was weird, but didn't discover what I'd done until I put the butter in the mixer.  Oops.  And it totally didn't help that my Mom called and I was busy talking to her instead of paying attention to what I was doing.  After I stuck the cupcakes in the oven I turned around and realized I forgot to put the apples on top.  But the cupcakes had only been in for like 30 seconds, so I ripped them out and topped them with the apples and put them back in.

Rescued from the oven and properly topped.

The recipe says to bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes, but they were in for quite a bit longer than that (like 25 minutes or so), and I'm slightly concerned that there's one floating around that's not totally cooked.  Gak.

Version 1 "baked"

Then top with a smooth and decadent cinnamon buttercream.  I kind of loved the cinnamon buttercream.  It tasted great, but the little flecks of cinnamon upped the cute quotient a whole bunch.

See the cinnamon speckles?  Cute right?

I did think that the cupcake was a little dry - but that's to be expected because it was in the oven for so freaking long.  And the frosting kind of slid around on the apples when I bit into them so I had to be a little careful to not drop it all over myself.

In the second version, you bake a vanilla cupcake and then cut a core out of it.
All the fixin's to make Version 2.  At least those two egg yolks are the same color.  Freak out factor is much smaller.

After the cupcakes are cored, you fill those empty wells with apples that were cooked in cinnamon and sugar.

Coring the cupcakes.  That's the dirty rotten scoundrel knife that "got" me earlier.  I'm keeping my eyes on that one.
All the cupcakes cored and filled.

Then you top with a vanilla buttercream.  I wanted to hide the apples so it was kind of like getting a little surprise!

What's with the weird lighting in this picture?  Oh well - here's a yummy treat.  Try not to jam it down your throat all at once.

And it was really delicious - you got all the lovely vanilla and the you got the burst of apple and cinnamon.  Yum, yum, yum.

So I was wondering, what if I put the cinnamon frosting on the version two cupcake?  But, I do think it might be a little too much cinnamon.

I guess if I had to choose, I would choose version two.

Once I had an apple pie that had maple syrup baked into the crust.  It was dang delightful.  I bet the apple filling would be awesome baked into a maple cupcake and topped with vanilla frosting.

Oh - and just so you know.  Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 was SO FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Lobster Soup

On a very, very cold (-25 degrees C) Sunday, my Dad stopped by before heading back to Calgary.  I knew he would be coming, so I planned to make a lobster soup.

The stars of the show - 'cept for the cream because apparently he partied all night long and could not be reached.  And never mind the dirty dishcloths.  And the two apples peeking out from behind the milk - they were for later.

The only thing I have to say is that I was completely distracted with trying to entertain him, and there are only a couple of pictures.  And I forgot one of the ingredients....  I had hoped he would show up a little later than he actually did and that the soup would be simmering by the time he got to my house, but - the best laid plans never work out the way they should.

But before I start, I need to backtrack a little bit.  This recipe calls for celery flakes.  And I SCOURED my grocery store looking for celery flakes.  I know that McCormick's carries it cause I saw it on their website, and I'm sure it's available in the States, but not here in Canada.  And I didn't want to leave it out or substitute, so I googled celery flakes when I got home.

Turns out, it's pretty simple to do.  Strip some of the leaves of a bunch of celery, rinse them up, pat dry, and toss on a baking sheet and into the oven at 180 degrees F for a few hours or until the leaves are crispy.  I'm not gonna lie - they smelled GREAT!  And it's just CELERY.  The leaves smelled earthy and peppery and I was really excited to use them.
Fresh and ready to go in the oven.
Dried and crushed celery leaves.  Now - celery flakes!

Have you ever made a roux?  Just flour and butter and cook it a little while, and mix in milk or whatever and it helps the soup (or whatever) thicken.  And I think the "make a roux" - if you don't know how - can really freak a person out.  You'll see that in the recipe, it doesn't SAY "make a roux with the flour and butter".  Which I think in some small way helped me because I wasn't intimidated, I didn't think about it, I just did it.  And it WORKED.
The makings of a roux.  How fancy schmancy am I?

So you melt the butter, stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and celery flakes into the butter until well mixed.  I used about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper.  Or maybe it was an 1/8.  Now I can't remember, because the recipe just said to taste - so I just eyeballed it.  I actually thought I'd wrecked it, but I knew there was still a lot of liquid to go in, so I didn't worry about it.

Then you slowly pour in the milk and chicken broth.  I let this heat up a little bit until it started to steam and then added the lobster, onion, and parsley.  The instructions are to let it cook for about 10 minutes, but I let it lightly simmer for about 1/2 an hour - I would have liked to let it go longer, but I really didn't have time. 

I'm calling this picture "Distracted".  Because that's what I was.

After it had simmered for a little while, I took out a whole bunch of it and pureed it in the blender.  The recipe doesn't say to do this, but I thought it would be fun.  Now, I kinda wish that I had pureed a lot less - maybe less than half of the batch.  Then I added it backed to the pot and let it come to heat again.

Just before you serve, you're supposed to add cream and reheat - but I forgot.  And it was still REALLY good!

My Dad proceeded to have two bowls, even though he "ate a whole bunch of fruit at Cora's at breakfast and was stuffed".  And after he took one bite, he looked at me and said - "do you know what we're missing?"  And I knew exactly what he was going to say.  Buns.  Actually, this would be awesome in a bread bowl.
A scraped clean bowl for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy.

I have just enough for dinner tonight, so if you're feeding a few people I would make the whole recipe as it states.  As it was I halved this recipe.

Also, the recipe says to cook everything over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  If you like crunchy onions that's fine, but if you want soft onions you might want to cook them in a little butter for a few minutes and then add them to the soup.

And I have a confession - I used FAKE lobster.  Real lobster is EXPENSIVE as all get out in the Prairies and usually frozen (ick).  So fake it had to be.  Don't judge me.

As written - the recipe is really great - the celery flakes imparted that earthy peppery flavour without being too much. 

Who's scoffing NOW Mom?

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.