Monday, 13 February 2012

Mac & Cheese Mondays

Welcome to the first installment of the newest segment at Adventures of The Cane Girl! 

A few weeks ago, I picked up my friend Marcella's daughter Neeysa from school and made them homemade mac & cheese.  Of course, I decided that night - it also happened to be a Monday - that this should be a new segment for us.  But I was so busy running between the stove top and the kitchen table where Neeysa was doing her homework and totally forgot to take pictures or be prepared in any way to write a post about it.

So tonight, I'm writing to you from my Grandma's kitchen!  Say HI to my Grandma!!!

It's strange (and a little difficult) to cook in a new kitchen.  But Grandma had everything I needed to make her a homemade mac & cheese.  I had to hunt for a whisk for a little while and I had to google how many cups of dry macaroni was in a pound of pasta.

But it all worked out in the end.

Here's how it goes....

In a pot, melt the butter and add the flour until it's smooth.

Then add in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  The recipe says add salt and pepper to taste.  And while I can appreciate that everyone is different, I kind of wish that there were amounts listed.  I halved the recipe, so I would guess that about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper should do.  Of course, I didn't put nearly that much in.

After your spices are added, slowly add in the milk.

Stir constantly until thickened.  You'll be able to tell when it's right....  Don't ask me how - I just waited until I thought it looked right.

You can tell when it's thickened up because it'll kind of look like this

Look at how it coats the whisk

Then you add shredded cheddar a bit at a time and stir until it's all melted together. 

It's actually kind of glorious.

Ahhhh - glorious cheese sauce.  I could put you on pasta, toast, potatoes - straight into my mouth

Add in some cooked macaroni and stir until it's all coated. 

Oh - and PS.  I bought the cheap no-name brand of macaroni and I'll NEVER do it again.  Ever.  It all stuck together in a clump and made me mad.

After the glorious cheese sauce and pasta are all mixed together, pour it into a oven-safe dish.

Crush up some Ritz crackers into crumbs (I used Grandma's handy little mini-chopper.  I have one of these at home and was delighted when I found hers!).  Then add in one tablespoon of butter and mix until combined.

Top the cheesy pasta with the Ritz cracker and butter mixture.

Pop it in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the topping is browned and the cheese is bubbling.

Our thoughts?  It was really good!  Quick and easy and not overly complicated.  The cheese sauce was smooth and creamy.  Although it did need more salt (but keep in mind I only threw in a dash or so).

It was a perfect way to kick of the segment and is the very first mac and cheese I've ever made from scratch!  (Did I mention that?)

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Cupcakes A to Z: Bailey's Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Yep - another boozy cupcake.

You'd think I'd have given up after my little revelation (and it took me a while to figure it out - I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes) that booze can't be tasted in cupcakes.  At least to me.  Maybe there's something wrong with my tastebuds....  Probably they need to see a doctor.

And here I am, hoping this one will be different.

Okay - sorry about the pictures, or lack thereof.  You know all my excuses, but perhaps my New Year's resolution should be to remember to take pictures for the blog.

Except I'm the worst at resolutions.  My resolve tends to fizzle out.  It's a lot of work to keep a fire under your own butt and follow through on your resolutions!

The recipe calls for mint Bailey's, except I didn't have any and luckily Nicole over at Baking Bites suggests just using the original stuff with a little mint extract.

I was really excited to see how they'd come out because the Bailey's is thick and creamy and is pretty much substituted for milk in the recipe.  I think.  I have no idea.

The cupcakes smelled heavenly while they were baking.

As I "patiently" waited for the cupcakes to cool, I went ahead and made the frosting.  Nicole says that it's potent stuff and that's absolutely true!  Whew!  But the unsweetened chocolate topping should cut down the sweetness and the strength of the mint flavour.

The recipe for the frosting doesn't make a lot, but you probably don't need a lot.  And it's supposed to split between 16 cupcakes, but I only got 12 - so I ended up having a little extra on each cupcake.

I also found it hard to spread in a pretty way - but I just made it work.

Then came the chocolate glaze.  I was melting it in the microwave and almost accidentally burned it because I was getting impatient.

A special note from me to you.  Don't - I repeat - DON'T taste it!  It's terrible.  Terrrrrible.  Blech.

I put it in a ziploc bag and clipped a corner.

And proceeded to - I don't know what it would be called - "pool" the chocolate on the top of the frosted cupcakes. 

Except I wasn't really prepared for how FAST it would come out of the bag!  And how it would go everywhere!  And all down the SIDES of the cupcakes! 

And I didn't have a plan - always have a PLAN for melted chocolate.  Are you going to drizzle it in lines?  Are you going to do shapes?  Are you going to "pool" it on the top?  (Then you probably need to make a very shallow well in the frosting - which is what I should have done).

So basically I poured the chocolate all over the cupcakes with no regards for looks. 

And I'm kind of embarrassed.

Ugly cupcakes?  Not really the point of this project.

The results?

The frosting and the chocolate glaze together was like a Junior Mint - and I thought it overpowered the flavour of the cupcake.  The cupcake itself was chewy and dense and perfectly cooked.

If I made these again - I would probably leave out the chocolate chips and switch up the frosting...  But then they wouldn't be Bailey's Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes.  They'd be something different.

But that is neither here nor there.

I don't know why I just said that.

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Out With The Old, In With The New: Cups and Spoons

A few years ago - well, maybe more than a few, more like eons - my Mom stuffed a new set of measuring spoons and cups under the Christmas tree for me.  I think she bought the sets for me because she had bought them for herself and really liked them.

And I ended up really liking them.  Until a little while had passed and something happened.

The SIZES started washing off!!!!!

And what resulted was me standing there eyeballing my spoons to figure out which one was which and then HOPING it was the right spoon and making things took FOR.EV.ER.


It was only recently (October or November *ahem*) that I decided that I needed NEW spoons and cups before I went crazy and threw out every kitchen tool I own.  My disdain of my measuring utensils was THAT intense.

MONTHS before this revelation I had fondled a set of stainless steel measuring cups in a kitchen store in a store in the city where my Mom and Dad live.  I had been thinking about them ever since. 

I went hunting where I live, but no-one CARRIED the set of cups that I wanted, needed, dreamed of.  So I sent my Mom!  And then she called and teased me by fondling and banging around my new set of stainless steel cups and telling me how pretty they are.  It was super-mean.

Thankfully, because I could NOT handle her doing the same thing with my new set of spoons, I found them in my local kitchen supply store.  Which I LOVE and won't share. 

I love these measuring spoons.  I love that they're stainless steel and I love that the measure is engraved into the handle.  And I love that they're square - they fit into spice jars (which is AWE.SOME!), 'cept for the Tablespoon.

The only thing I can say is that the set didn't have a 1/2 tablespoon measure, so I kept that one out of the old set.

On to the measuring cups.  Remember how I said that the measure washed off the old set of spoons?

It happened with the CUPS TOO!  *sniff*

And that made me crazy also.

Here's my NEW set!

LOVE!  Love, love, love

I kept the egg separator from the old set.  Mostly because I think it's genius and I can't seem to separate an egg without breaking the yolk.

For whatever reason.

So, yeah - I love my new tools LOADS AND LOADS. 

I even bought my Mom her own set of spoons and cups.  So she'd have her OWN to fondle and leave my stuff alone.

Love in the kitchen, this is the Cane Girl - signing off.