Campfire Bars – Butter Baked Goods

My mom’s 60th birthday was yesterday, December 21st and we kicked it off (and her time in Vancouver) with a surprize visit from my sister, a trip to Cavalia’s Odysseo and dinner at Sula. It was an incredible day, and truly it was also a celebration of my mom’s retirement which began on Thursday! Odysseo was incredible, the horses were beautiful and so well trained. There were often 20 horses on the stage and as many people, moving around without problem. The acrobatics were incredible, as is to be expected from a Cirque du Soliel show. The set was incredible, with a hill climbing up the back, the set was like a real field. It’s hard to describe the vastness of the set, but trust me, it was amazing and I would recommend anyone to go.

Also, and probably most importantly, after my sister, mom, and I finished our dinner, Kellie went up to pay for her part while I went to the washroom. Kellie mentioned that I, her sister, would be paying the other half. The cashier said, “Oh nice, are you all sisters?” Well my mom was just tickled! She does look young for 60, and clearly they thought she was young enough to be a sister to us, her daughters in their 20’s! There mom, now EVERYONE knows!

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Family Classic: Cherry Surprizes

Oh goodness, it has been a long time since I’ve posted! Not for lack of baking, it’s been a busy baking season, so I have loads of posts coming up. I love the Christmas season, I’ve had a lot of stuff going on, including going to the Stuart McLean Christmas show last weekend, which was absolutely lovely. At work we’ve implemented an awesome Christmas Calendar of fun. Last week I was responsible for Cookie Wednesday, my offerings are pictured below the recipe (the other cookies and bars picture will come up later this week) and on friday, Kat and Kathryn brought in hot chocolate and Baileys which made for an indulgent morning. To add to my Christmas joy, we had a Christmas/winter-themed trivia night with the NFB-Bads at Teri and Brian’s apartment which was incredibly fun. And finally, to make the week full of joy, Karen, Kat and myself lunched at the Vancouver Christmas Market, which is a German market. Awesome!

Also, I rearranged our tiny little living room to accommodate the Christmas tree, and it makes the space look huge! Huzzah!

CherrySurprizes

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Magic Bars… Double Brown Sugar Cookie Bars

Honestly, I am in a bit of a state. I cannot believe that we are a week away from December and just over a month from Christmas. Oy, this fall has flown by. I need to finish getting Christmas presents. I need to tell people what I want for Christmas. I need to make stacks and stacks of gingerbread houses for my gingerbread house party. I need to make my Food Blogger Cookie Exchange cookies and send those out. I need to do SO MANY THINGS.

At least it is sunny, my paper is coming along nicely, and I live in a city I love. Mom gets here for a visit in less than a month, and I am going to do some awesome tub renoing (redoing the caulking) next weekend, which I am strangely excited for. So things are moving quickly, but stuff is happening and that is great. Also, I had my contract extend at the NFB for another session, so that’s great news as well, and I am happy to get to stick around.

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Almond Puff

Oh sunshine and daylight savings, I love you both. Waking up this morning at 7:45am to sunshine and feeling well-rested was GLORIOUS. I’ve been happily working away at my thesis, and pondering a trip to Fort McMurray to visit my sister and her family. Hopefully I will get to go this coming weekend, in lieu of my trip for Thanksgiving. It would be so nice to see my sweet little nieces in person again, as well as meet my new dog niece and of course see my sister and my brother-in-law.

As I sit here, typing up this beloved recipe, smelling the ham and black beans Gen has cooking on the stove, and anticipating my piece of almond puff after dinner, I feel so crazy lucky to be living in Vancouver, doing something I enjoy. I mean, I’d feel luckier if all the people I love were in the immediate vicinity, but as it is, life is good.

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Decadent Granola Bars

Well my goodness, the winter light has already started to sink me down into snoozy mode. I am wearing fleece socks, making lots of tea, cozying up with scarves. Today the sun is shining but the air is crisp, this is my favourite type of weather. Our office is also crazily hot when you first enter it and then it cools off as you sit around on your tuchus all day, so it gives me a chance to warm up from my walk in and then cool off as the day grows longer.

Oh, one of our projects just went live! The Last Hunt is a gorgeous interactive story experience that is available as a free app for your tablet devices (iPad and Android). You can also view it online in a browser here (also click there for a link to download the app). The story is described below:

“Equal parts tenderness, brutality, love and death, The Last Hunt dives deep into the motivations that led Montreal photographer Alex Hobbs to photograph his grandfather’s last hunting expedition, exposing both the strength of family bonds, and the implicit spirituality within the endlessly pragmatic act of hunting.”

So, turn your sound on, and go check it out.

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Baked Coconut Rum Balls with Kraken Rum

I am just terribly embarrassed, wouldn’t you know it, I fell again. These boots, that I love so much, will be the death of me. My knee that had just recovered is now bloodied and bruised. Ooph, what a day! The funny thing is, these aren’t boots with any real heel, they are just out to get me.

In less terrible and embarrassing news, I’ve been asked to be the media representative for the Vancouver Spring Sprint for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. I am pretty thrilled about the opportunity, and am still not sure what it will involve. So far, I know that I will be doing some interviews, and I’ve had to answer some questions, so there is that. And, I made rum balls with my favourite spiced rum, The Kraken Black Spiced Rum.

 BakedCoconutRumBalls

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Lemon Poppy Seed Scones with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze

Ugh this is terribly embarrassing, so prepare! I took yet another spill in the EXACT SAME SPOT across the street from my apartment. This time though, I was holding my umbrella and bashed in my other knee. I am thrilled to have a fresh wound on my right knee to distract from the furiously itchy scabbing happening on my left. If I fall another time in that spot, I am certain they are going to erect a plaque in my honour. Genesis thinks this whole thing is hilarious, and really, so do I. There are no real defects in that stretch of sidewalk that I am getting caught up on, it is just me, the corner, and clumsiness.

I went to a beautiful brunch/lunch that lasted 5 hours yesterday. It was a partial reunion of MPubbers, and it was so wonderful to see some of my favourite ladies again. On the way back from brunch, around 5:00pm, my friend Heather and I emerged from the train station to an immense crowd of people, at first we brushed it off as a Saturday crowd, excited about the weather. But we quickly realized that we were in the middle of the MASSIVE 420 celebrations in downtown Vancouver. As we hustled through the throngs of people, I couldn’t help but wonder what the poor tourists wandering this area must have thought. The smell of weed followed me all the way down to my apartment, where I ran into the purple teletubby cruising with some friends, looking for a bite to eat. In all, it was an interesting Saturday.

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Hot Cross Buns! (Yes, I chocolated these, you can go the traditional route!)

One of my favourite things about Easter was searching for treats with my sister. We established our own rules: no looking for eggs when you came out of your bedroom, you bee-line for the kitchen;  when the hunt was underway, you stick together, entering rooms and searching areas at the same time; no sampling the winnings during the hunt; when we finally felt like everything was found (to the best of our hunting abilities… apparently we often missed ones, much to the joy of our parents) we counted every last egg, bunny, marshmallow figure, and split it evenly. We took this fairness in hunting very seriously. We were serious about splitsies.

Our awesome mom kept hiding chocolate for us every Easter, straight through our teens. When my sister (who is three years older than I) moved away for school at 18, I was worried that my hunting days were over. Fortunately, dad got on board for Easter egg hunting… fortunately may not be the best word. Dad was ruthless! He was not part of the very structured system that Kellie and I had established. He was a competitive, chocolate-crazed Easter monster! He snacked on the ones he spotted on his way out of bed in the morning, then we ran from room to room, dad shoved me out of the way, stole candy from my basket, and gorged himself throughout the hunt. I remember at the end of that first year of hunting with dad I was defeated and bewildered, and I came away with a very dismal haul. I tried to explain to dad the “proper” way to conduct yourself at Easter but it was clear, the rules had changed! The next year I was much more prepared. I scouted chocolates on the bookshelves in front of my bedroom, snagged a couple in the bathroom and was much more aggressive as we made our way around the house. We had a lot of fun.

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Scotch Truffles for a Scottish birthday!

ScotchTruffles

Lindsay from Appetite had her birthday yesterday and I had wanted to make her something awesome. She is Scottish and after a little research into what constitutes a Scottish treat, I found that most of the treats sounded like something a grandma would make. They all sounded tasty, but nothing struck me as exciting birthday food. Then I racked my brain for another way to bring Scotland into a birthday treat. With haggis out of the question, only because Robert Burns Day had just passed, my mind went to one of my best friend’s favourite drinks, Scotch. Scotch! Of course!

I remember three years ago at my sister’s wedding my dad had set up a Scotch tasting for anyone willing to try. Jon’s brother and I were two of the few who stepped up to the plate. Brian went first, and trying his best to humour my dad’s enthusiasm tried them all, sputtered and admitted defeat. I was next, I maybe made it through two. And these were great Scotches, some of the best I’ve had since. This past year I got to know my wonderful friend Caelin who got me into Scotch. We did fancy tastings and learned how to appreciate the good stuff. While in the Yukon this fall, I proudly partook in the daily Scotch sipping sessions, again with some of the most delicious Scotches I’ve had. This fall we also learned that Scotch pairs well with Cheetos, who knew! (Though really, what doesn’t go well with Cheetos…)

One of the ways the Caelin eased me into Scotch was with this incredible flourless chocolate cake from Chewies in Kits. We’d sip a little Scotch, eat a bite of the rich dark chocolate cake, and float straight up to flavour heaven. It was this flavour combination that I wanted to recreate with these truffles. Had I been in the Yukon when creating these, I would’ve used one of my dad’s amazing and peat Scotches as the rich flavour is so beautiful with dark chocolate. Sadly, I am here and am looking for a job, so I had to use a much less fancy, but still tasty-enough blend that did the trick. If you do make these gorgeous treats, use a great Scotch. Also, I used a 72% Bittersweet chocolate, I would recommend using something slightly less dark, maybe 65%. These were delicious, but may not be really everyone’s cup of tea.

Scotch Truffles

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g dark chocolate wafers, or roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 4-5 tbsp Scotch
  • cocoa powder or icing sugar for rolling

DIRECTIONS

  1. Dump your chocolate into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a small pot, heat your whipping cream over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, making sure not to scald it.
  3. Pour the simmered cream over the chocolate, stir well until smooth. Add the scotch and stir into the ganache.
  4. Allow the ganache to sit on the counter for 1-2 hours, until hardened enough to scoop.
  5. Use a spoon to carve out quarter-sized balls, roll in your hands to smooth (or don’t… rustic!). Work quickly to avoid melting completely in your hands. Roll each ball in the cocoa powder and set on a plate.
  6. Refrigerate the truffles overnight. These will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 1 week or well wrapped in the freezer for a month. Best eaten at room temperature, so the texture is smooth and luscious.
All the ingredients for delicious truffles.

All the ingredients for delicious truffles.

Simmered and pouring.

Simmered and pouring.

Work station at the ready.

Work station at the ready.

Don't feel bad if you make a mess. Navigating my other hand to work my camera was troublesome.

Don’t feel bad if you make a mess. Navigating my other hand to work my camera was troublesome.

Aftermath.

Aftermath.

I made some nicely rounded ones and some terribly "rustic" ones.

I made some nicely rounded ones and some terribly “rustic” ones.

Rich Walnut Brownies

Another brownie post, I know, I’ve made one before. These are delicious and they are on the road to a flourless cake that I keep meaning to get to. These only have 1/2 cup of flour, and really, could probably have done without any at all, with a few adjustments. We’ve been making a lot of brownies around Mom’s house lately, with a house full of women, chocolate is a necessity. I love walnuts in brownies, I feel they add some awesome texture, but also take away any overdose of sweetness, they balance them out. This recipe is Alton Brown’s. I love that man and his recipes are always great, this one is no exception. These are pretty dark-chocolate tasting, so if that’s not your cup of tea, try the other recipe.

Rich Walnut Brownies

Adapted from Alton Brown’s.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups cocoa
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup broken walnuts

INGREDIENTS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 13 x 9-inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow.
  3. Add both sugars, beat well.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine, making sure to have a smooth batter (except for the walnuts).
  5. Pour the batter into your pan, smoothing the top.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  7. Let cool before eating.

Whisking by hand and butter for melting.

Two sugars worth of tastiness.