Sunday, 24 April 2011

And The Winner Is....

I have a clear winner in the Macadamia Crazy challenge. 

Macadamia Cookies B is definitely the best of the two.

A was baked on Monday, B was baked on Tuesday - and on Wednesday (and Thursday) B was still softer and not as sweet as A.  A was also a little crunchier (more crunchy?) than B.

So B it is, and as soon as I get an opportunity to do so, it will take up permanent residence in my cookbook (or collection of recipes if you want to call it that).  Turns out I CAN choose between things!

*I apologise for my minor freakout the other day about my blog format.  I realise it's my own and that only I can dictate the format and what I put in it - I was just feeling inadequate and I hate that feeling.  Ick.*

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Confusing Myself

As I've been going along in the blogging world - other people's blogs are a WONDERFUL wealth of recipes and I'm very thankful that I can copy and paste and give credit where it's due - I've realised that maybe/perhaps I've been attacking my blogs in the wrong way???

How should my blog be?  What should it look like.  How much to talk about in one blog?  And because I have a tendency to veer completely off topic in order to come back to my original point, and that's completely a "Heather-thing", do I try to avoid that?  

I've noticed that the majority of people (with the exception of my most favorite Life in An RV blog) focus on one "creation" at a time - with lots of pictures, or a few pictures or whatever.  And I admire these folks that take the time to take pictures of each step, because it REALLY helps me learn what consistencies to look for and helps me to be more brave in the kitchen.

I suppose there's no actual "proper" way to blog - to each their own and I can stick to my mantra "just let me do whatever I want".  But I really want this to be somewhat entertaining and interesting so reading it isn't like watching paint dry.

I started taking pictures of my final products (I always remember to take pictures of the baked goods!), but regularly forget to take pictures during the process or pictures of the finished product of a "regular" meal.  I generally blog throughout the week, saving drafts so that I can add to them and edit them at the end of the week.  But I haven't taken the time to figure out how to post pictures, mostly that's why there aren't any.... 

So - with that in mind - I'm making myself a promise.  Be more diligent about taking pictures and downloading them to the PC (which I'm a total slacker about) and loading them into the blog before I publish. 

I suppose that this blog will grow and evolve into a format that I like at some point, although I'm comfortable with the way it's done now....  So we'll see.

That's my random thought for today.

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Macadamia Crazy

I love macadamia nuts.  Like.  LOOOOOVE.  But they're hard to get here in the Great White North.  Trust me - I look all the time.  And they're VERY expensive. 

So when a co-worker was heading to Montana for the weekend, I put a bug in his ear about bringing me some baking nuts.  I will admit that my Parental Units brought me whole macadamia nuts from Hawaii, and I could chop them up and use them.  To be perfectly honest - my opinion is that these few precious cans of nuts are pretty much gold and only to be enjoyed whole and on their own.  Yum.

When my co-worker showed up to work the following week, he pulled out a bag and inside there were THREE bags of baking macadamias inside!  YAAAAY!!!!  He also brought me a little box of Crystal Light Raspberry Lemonade - which you cannot get here at all, and is so delicious.  (I will definitely be picking up a whole bunch of that when I'm on vacation!)  I was so thrilled I could hardly wait to come home.

Now - the last post was about my "Uninteresting Recipes" and the crappy weather and the headaches that are pretty much strapping me to the couch.  But I talked myself into the kitchen and decided to make some cookies - because I COULD NOT WAIT!!!  Also - I promised cookies to my co-worker.

I tried two different recipes.  Let's call them Macadamia Nut Cookies A and Macadamia Nut Cookies B.

Macadamia Nut Cookies A. This one has only white sugar in it - and I thought that the ratios were a little off....  And I was worried because I thought the dough was really grainy and it would show up in the final product.  But it didn't and they were delicious!!!!

Macadamia Nut Cookies B.  This one has both brown and white sugar in it - the ratios seemed a little bit more on par....  If that makes sense.  The dough texture was much less worrisome.  These ALSO were delicious!!! 

The problem becomes - I ONLY need ONE recipe.  There's no point in having two recipes.  And I have no idea which one it should be - because they are both wonderful.

You may notice this tends to be a problem for me.  I can never decide things like that.  Good grief.  I hope I don't run into this problem with EVERYTHING.

So - a couple of cookies from each batch are going to my co-worker and he will help me pick.  I hope.

I've never frozen fresh cookies before.  Have you???  I can't just leave them in a container on the counter and go back to work tomorrow - so they are in the freezer - hopefully they will come out of the freezer and not be destroyed.  It would be a sad sad day.

I'm sure I'll have an update later on about which recipe was chosen and how the cookies came out of the freezer.

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

A Lackluster Week of Uninteresting Recipes and Dreary Weather

Well, my big exciting dream of Spring kicked the bucket upon awakening Thursday morning.  The snow started early and made getting around a big pain in the you-know-whater.  It's a sad sad thing when one day you're starting your lawn prep, and the next you're shovelling the sidewalk just so you can leave your house.  And by Tuesday - things had started to smarten up - even though it snowed off and on all week.

I had appointments all this week which kept me pretty busy and having headaches everyday makes having any energy to get my booty in the kitchen pretty hard to drum up. But the recipes for the week were easy - so I talked myself into it.

Apple & Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Yum.  A Fuji apple, goat cheese, oregano, thyme, and a little black pepper broiled on french bread.  I thought it was a good and easy snack. 

And I got the most impressive loaf of french bread that I've EVER HAD!!!  It was fresh and the crust was soft and chewy.  Oh.  My.  Yum.  Usually the bakery I got it from is usually not that impressive.

Cara's Creamy Stuffed Shells
Honestly? Yuck and BOOOORING and not creamy whatsoever.  I had much higher expectations and was totally let down.  Maybe it was the substitute of Italian Seasonings for the Parsley that did me in.  Who knows.  Contents - garlic salt, fresh garlic, pasta sauce, cream cheese - stuffed in shells, baked with more pasta sauce and topped with Romano cheese.  Sounds pretty good?  Nope.  Blech.  Did I do something wrong?  Who knows.

Amazing Chicken
I'm not sure why it's called this - it just is.  I personally didn't think it was that amazing.  Take a chicken breast, cover it in mayo, coat with Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and bake.  Not terribly difficult.  Or amazing.  I couldn't actually buy Italian seasoned breadcrumbs - so I googled it and found a pretty easy recipe to make on my own.  So, I rinsed my chicken breast, dried it, covered it with mayo, and rolled it in the breadcrumbs.  To be frank - I wouldn't make it again, however, I was surprised at how tender and juicy the chicken was when I cut into it.  I couldn't even taste the mayo - which is apparently the point.

To go with my "Amazing Chicken" I made mashed potatoes and made yet another attempt to make gravy.  For whatever reason I simply CANNOT make gravy!!!  Grrrr....  Just to practice I used a carton of chicken broth - made my flour/water slurry thing and TRIED.  I think I came pretty close, but yet again I got over-excited with the flour/water and ruined it.  Not as bad as last time - but darn close.  Mom tells me that it takes time and practice to made perfect gravy.  It's just so frustrating that I can make beautiful Red Velvet Cupcakes and perfect icing - but not gravy.  ACK!!!

I have many many recipes to try - so I'm not terribly concerned about a few not so great recipes.  It happens.

That's all for this show - see you next week.
This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A Week of Pizza..... The Best of the Best

This week has been all about pizza.  Well - the sauce anyway. 

I have found the most perfect dough recipe.  I like a full-bodied thick crust and this dough is exactly what I love.  Lots of people I know prefer a thin crust.  But I prefer it thick. 

I think pizza is a combination of all the elements, the crust, the sauce, and the toppings.  I am a straight-forward cheese girl.  I DO like other toppings, but I could eat a cheese pizza every single day and be happy.

Thursday night, my Parental Units came for an overnight visit.  Generally, I pick some new recipe and prep it for their visit.  But when I spoke to my Dad and asked him what he thought he'd like to have, he turned around and said.  Pizza.  From the box.  And he would take care of making it.  Yay me!

Now.  I know you're probably freaking out and saying "Ew.  Pizza from the BOX?!?!?!"  But trust me, if you've never tried it, you absolutely cannot turn your nose up at it.  There is a reason that the grocery store has stocked this particular item for longer than I've been alive.  The dough does leave something to be desired, but the sauce and the spice packet that are included in the box are postively delightful and absolutely make the pizza complete.  When I was a little girl and my Mom worked late, my Dad, brother and I would stand together at the kitchen counter and make this pizza.  My brother and I would fight about the toppings - even though he would get one side and I would get the other.  Second to none, whenever this item comes home in my grocery bags, my mind turns to my Dad and I think about him.  As it turns out, when my Dad was much younger, he would make this for my Grandma on Friday nights so they could spend time together.  I think that endeared this product to me a little more.

Since I have a thing about making stuff from scratch - and I have a thing about trying different recipes until I find that one that is just right (more on that another time) - I went on to try 5 different sauces and figure out which one was best in my book. 

I made my dough and split it into three parts (how in the world am I going to eat 5 huge pizzas? But an individual size - sure).  Just FYI.  The dough rose perfectly and I saran-wrapped and refrigerated the other two pieces before their second rise started.
It turned out alright I think - I'm not sure if I'd do that very often.  I've read that refrigerating pizza dough improves the taste and whatnot - but I'm not necessarily convinced it makes that much difference.

"Easy Pizza Sauce"
The first sauce I tried was "Easy Pizza Sauce", with four ingredients.  15oz jar of tomato sauce, 6 oz can of tomato paste, garlic, and a whole bunch of oregano.  I made it and let it sit overnight.  Easy to throw together in a pinch.

My thoughts on the sauce?  Thick, tomatoey - not bad - but lacked something, some punch, some scent or flavour to make it really good.  Next please.

"Exquisite Pizza Sauce"
Sweet and spicy - this actually turned out very well.  It is definitely a contender for my favorite sauce recipe.  It was easy to make - I like the idea of not having to cook anything... 

 "Pizza Sauce & Dough"
Okay - I didn't make the dough, but I did make the sauce.  I admit, I'm somewhat hesitant about the can of whole tomatoes that were supposed to be "crushed".  I don't like a chunky sauce - that's what the toppings are for.  But - ya gotta try a little bit of everything I suppose.  I will admit - I thought it smelled like Marinara sauce.  But it smelled quite divine while it was cooking.  Yum.  The recipe calls for fresh basil and oregano - however - I live in Canada.  I have to cheat sometimes or pay exhorbitant amounts of money for fresh herbs.  I have a hard time with this at the best of times. 

I was only somewhat impressed, but definitely would puree the tomatoes if I made it again.

"Mike's Homemade Pizza"
This recipe is for both a dough and a sauce, but since I've already found the perfect dough recipe, I only made the sauce.  The truth is - I didn't really like it.  I'm not sure why...  I definitely wouldn't make it again.  Too bad.

And the last....

"Pizza Hut Pizza Sauce" - Clone by Todd Wilbur
I wasn't sure about this one - but it's actually pretty good!  Easy and yummy!  Tomato sauce, water, spices, etc.  Easy to throw together and not a lot of effort - I like that.

I most definitely have a top two.  The Todd Wilbur Sauce and the Exquisite Pizza Sauce....  I think at some point in the future I'll make them again and pick one for sure.

Kind of anti-climactic, I know.  Grrrr.  I think that my tastebuds might be dulled from all the tomato sauces - they're all starting to taste the same. 

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Signs of Spring

With the long, cold, and hard Canadian winter behind us, I couldn't hardly wait for the spring to come which will also ring in the long summer days.

But looking outside at ALL the snow that is still in the yard, you'd hardly think it was April.  All that snow.  I did think that I saw it melting, but I also thought it was my imagination.

And then.  I was outside in the yard on Friday and heard a sound that was familiar, but something I hadn't heard in ages.  Then I recognized it.  A Canadian Goose.  Nothing hints at the return of Spring like the return of the Geese.  Then I finally saw it fly over my head and it was beautiful!

And yesterday.  Yesterday again I was outside and something flittered by that caught my eye.  Can you guess?  Not a bird, not a bee - a little butterfly!  I was thrilled, but I also actually felt kind of sorry for it.  There are no flowers for it to get food from!  It's a little too early.  Poor little guy.

In the little tree in my front yard, I have solar-powered lights hanging.  Coming home from the movie (which I will comment on next), as I was approaching the house, I thought I saw something strange - I realized the lights in the tree were on!  I looked and there was a tiny little bit of solar panel sticking out of the snow - enough to power the lights I guess.  It did make me notice how much the snow is melting!!!

And today - I noticed the snow mold.  Ick.  Can't wait to bring out the hose and blast that crap away from my lawn!  Maybe a couple of weeks from now....

On the news this morning, they were talking about streets that were flooded!  I'm actually not surprised.  Just a little way up the street from my house, the water has completely filled the ditch and is level with the street.  It's AMAZING.  Apparently the drainage is plugged somewhere!!!

Last night Dee and I went to see Red Riding Hood.  I was actually surprised because I did enjoy it!!!  Now - anyone who knows me, knows that going to the theater is always an adventure for me.  Whether it's a creepy little kid chewing on the back of my chair, or some dumb teeny-bopper talking and laughing the whole way through the show, or a "security guard" opening and closing the exit door throughout the show - there's always something to talk about.  It's a huge part of why I avoid the theater like the plague.  But sometimes I forget all that stuff and really want to go!!!

So - Dee and I are plopped down in our seats and having a little visit before the show, and these two girls come in.  They climb the stairs and pull up behind us - and suddenly a shower of popcorn rains down on Dee.  ?!??!?!  The girl (well - she was a grown woman) proceeded to laugh her head off and sort of apologise - and then turned to her friend and said "hee hee hee!  At least it wasn't pop this time!!!"  WHAT?????  You spilled POP on someone???  I'm sorry, if you are unable to control your snackage, perhaps you shouldn't get any.  Unless it's in a snap-lid container and you have a sippy cup.  Then maybe. 

The theater was actually pretty busy considering Red Riding Hood has been in for a while now.

A few minutes into the movie - a horrible smell wafted down to us.  Like.  Fishy smell.  Like unclean nether-regions smell.  Ugh.  Dee looked at me and I looked at her and went - "OH MY GOD.  Is that ME???"  Dee replied, "Uh, NO.  You smell fine and it started long after we'd gotten here."  She motioned down the row and there was a young couple, dressed in grunge fashion and both with fantastic dreads in their hair.  No really - the dreads were really impressive.  And the smell was definitely coming from them.  Now.  Everyone knows that I appreciate all styles of fashion.  High fashion, grunge, goth, sporty, business, etc. etc.  I appreciate the beauty and individualness in it.  I encourage a personal and unique style.  But.  There is NO NEED to be dirty.  I know plenty of dreadheads (my word for it) that smell just fine.  It's called soap.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Ick.

See what I mean?  Blech.  I'm still grossed out.

So - with another theater adventure behind me and the most definite arrival of spring, I leave you with thoughts of the sun warm on the back of your neck, and the smell of fresh clean rain.

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.