Ho Ho Ho, Holiday Treats!

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It’s that time of the year again – cookie madness! My little tin above features gingerbread people, red velvet whoopie pies with peppermint cream cheese filling, ginger chews, peanut butter and shortbread (two kind: regular and cranberry lemon zest. Most of the above recipes can be found on my last year’s post with the exception of a few new ones. This year I tried a few new recipes and they are cookie-monster-approved! How do I know? I live with one 😉
Here’s a few for now, more to come.

1. Almond Snowballs
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Word of warning, these delicate cuties are a little hard to form – will require some patience and finesse. Be gentle with them while handing the balls, prior to putting them in the oven – they may crumble easily. Having said that, the same crumbly-ness helps to make it more delicious!

Snowball Recipe

2. Soft Snickerdoodles
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Fresh out of the over, they guys remind me of mini cinnamon sugar donuts from the fair! Nice and chewy as promised!
Snickerdoodles Recipe

3. Sugar cookies
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This makes a pretty large batch. I decorated half with sugar sprinkles and saved half to decorate with icing sugar.
Sugar Cookies Recipe

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Vietnamese Style Salad Rolls

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I’ve been meaning to try these for awhile now and here they are! Super easy to prepare, just requires a little love and care for forming/rolling.

I filled mine with: (made two rolls)
– blanched vietnamese noodles (I think they’re called ‘bun’), takes about 5-7mins to cook then rinse with cold water for 1-2mins
– 1/2 avacado, sliced
– 8-10 shrimps – cooked cocktail style, for a minute and ran under cold water to stop cooking,
– some spring greens

I couldn’t wait to try them so for dipping sauce, I used bottled Thai chili chicken sauce. They were delicious as expected, no need for seasoning. The shrimp was slightly salted as is (I bought mine frozen), and the chili sauce was sweet and tangy – so good!

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Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

Yum! I’ve used this recipe a few times (all with diff mods of course) and it’s been fantastic. Super easy, the key is to keep it marinating overnight to let the flavour absorb and keep juicy. Here’s . I’ve been replacing the peppers with two dried chili’s (seeds, stems and all) and it’s still not spicy (will have to bump it up for more heat). I used my own all spice mix as well.

Last few times cooking, I’ve baked them at 300 for 1.5-2 hours for 8-12 drumsticks, pulled them out and covered them in aluminum foil, letting the meat rest for about 15-20mins so the juices don’t run out. When we were just about to serve, we crisp them up on the BBQ for a little smoke and crunch on top – fantastic.

For this, I served it with kale chips. Super easy, 1 bunch of kale + 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cut them in 3″x2″ pcs and lay them out on a baking sheet (don’t crowd them). Bake at 350deg F for 10-15mins until crisp. Salt and season (I used cayenne) as you’d like. Ta da!

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12 Days of Christmas Cookies

ONE. Gingersnaps2012-12-03_10.23.50
Another favourite recorded in grandma wood’s recipe book from aunt Karla

TWO. Cranberry Lemon Shortbread2012-12-06_20.27.01
Original recipe calls for orange zest but I used lemon instead.

In addition, I also formed them into three 1″ diameter logs of 6-10″ length. After which, I froze them for about an hour before slicing them into <1/4" thins. For these bite size pieces, they were ready in 8-10 mins. Keep a close eye on them, they overbake easily – don't wait for them to brown to take them out of the oven.

THREE. Chocolate Crinkles2012-12-07_14.41.49
Recipe from Joy of Baking

For the chocolate lovers! I used Baker’s semi-sweet chocolates and medium amount of icing sugar to coat. Don’t be shy with the icing sugar, the ‘cookie’ itself is not very sweet. I would describe this as a brownie-cookie, soft on the inside; best eaten first out of the oven just because they’re nice and warm. This was the first time I’ve tried these cookies and I didn’t get around to forming and baking them until the next night but they have quickily become one of my favourites – for taste, ease and looks!

FOUR. Ranger Cookies20121209_124414
Recipe and tips found here

FIVE. Gingerbread20121209124902657

For houses and men decorating – great fun and yummy cookies too!

SIX. Sugar cookies2012-12-09 14.04.57
I can’t remember which recipe I used for this particular batch but this one looks pretty reputable. Again, these don’t require browning and bake quickily, be careful not to overbake.

SEVEN. Peanut Butter cookies
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I reduced the recipe in half and still managed to make 4 batches ~ 40 rounded teaspoonsfulls (which baked and ended up being ~2″ diameter cookies). These guys took exactly 10 minutes, came up puffy (like the photo) but deflats into your regular looking peanut butter cookies. Super moist and chewy, delish!

EIGHT. Chocolate Filled Pecan Thumbprints
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NINE. Almond Dark Chocolate Toffee
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TEN. Lavender Macarons with Chocolate Filling
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ELEVEN. Cornbread
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TWELVE. Banana Loaf

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Recipes and more cookies to come!

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Boy Oh Boy!

For a baby boy shower…

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Fondant decorations of feeties, safety pins, pacifiers…

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diapers…


bibs and so much more!

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finished blue velvet cupcakes

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and mini mocha cupcakes ❤

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Recipes to come soon!

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Chalkboard

This has been in the works for some time now (without any progress), but finally this weekend we completed our modern twist on an antique frame we bought at a second hand store. We took out the original backing; cut, sanded, painted (with chalk board paint) and framed in the new board into the newly painted frame. It current sits in the kitchen along with our “highschool clock.” With the two pieces sitting on the same wall, it really feels like school. The dimensions of the frame is about 2.5′ x 4′. Minimal effort with great reward, definitely a gem!

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Thanksgiving Bonanza

For thanksgiving this year, we hosted our first family gathering at the Leung-Wood house. A total attendence of 14 people (plus left overs for a some who couldn’t attend), it was daunting. After weeks of prep, I was proud to present a menu aimed to satisfy all my guests. Everything from chicken stock for mash potatoes to bread for stuffing and biscuits was homemade.

No need for appies when you have a full entree and dessert lined up, so let’s get to it.

Menu items included:
1. Biscuits with gravy
2. Cornbread with honey butter*
3. Pan fried brussel sprouts with bacan and garlic*
4. Mushroom gravy green bean casserole
5. Candied yam topped with marshmallows
6. Roasted garlic mash potatos with bacon and cheddar
7. Cranberry apple stuffing with english sausage (ok, you got me, I didn’t stuff my own sausage; but I did bake my own cranberry walnut bread and stew my own chicken stock)
8. Brown sugar maple honey glazed ham with bone in
9. 18lbs turkey*
10. Fresh cranberry sauce
11. Gravy
12. Pumpkin pie
13. Pecan pie*
14. Pumpkin coffee cake
15. Cranberry Orange short bread

*I was particularly please with these dishes!

Biscuits
Recipe was from Joy of Baking website. Easy to follow and came out great. I ended up with about 16 biscuits, 2″ diameter cookies, 1/2″ in height before baking. I baked a batch a week or so ahead of time, let them cool for about 2 hours and threw them in a ziplock before they were stored in the freezer. The morning of, I pulled them out of the freezer to defrost. Just before dinner I heat them up on the top rack for ~5mins at 400F to warm and brown the crust a touch.

Cornbread with honey butter*

Pan fried brussel sprouts
The recipe from Epicurious was fantastic as is. The only change I would have made was to make more, the dish ran out after the first plating! I didn’t add in pine nuts in mine though.

Roasted garlic (for mash potatos)
The secret to my garlicy mash was to roast whole garlic and make garlic butter out of it ahead of time to let the garlic infuse with the butter (then potatoes). To roast the garlic butter, chop off the head of the garlic, leaving skin on, pour 1 tablespoon of grape seed oil (grape seed oil has a higher smoking point), and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil before baking it at 400F for 45 mins. Let them cool down before squishing them out of their pods – ready for butter!

Cranberry apple stuffing with english sausage
For cranberry walnut bread recipe, visit my previous blog.
1. Toast ~ 10 slices of bread in toaster or oven until crisp on both sides. Cut into cubes.
2. Dice 1.5 cups yellow onions. Brown onions and 1 lbs of pork sausage links (casing removed). Breaking up big chunks into bite size pieces.
3. Add 1 stalk of diced celery, 3-1/2 tablespoon sage, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon thyme and 2 cups of peeled and diced apples. Cook for 5-10mins until well mixed.
4. Mix in 1 cup of dried rough chopped cranberries with two cups of chicken stock. Place into roasting pan and wrap with aluminum foil.
5. Bake in oven at 300F for 1-1/2 hours. Add more stock as necessary (until desired tenderness).

Brown sugar maple honey glazed ham with bone-in
With one oven and over 10 dishes to cook and/or reheat, I knew I had to purchase a precooked ham. This was actually just half a ham.
To prepare, I pulled it out of the fridge an hour ahead to let it set to room temp. So by the time it got it’s turn in the oven, it didn’t have to heat up as much (good way of saving yourself a few extra minutes – oven space is precious during big feasts). Before going in the oven, I covered it was brown sugar and wrapped it tightly with aluminum foil to reheat @ 325 ~ 15-20mins. Then, I uncovered it, made slits of cross hatching and smouldered it with maple syrup and honey. Put it back in the oven @ 400 for another ~ 20mins to broil. Tender and flavourful. Yum!

18lbs turkey
Original method of cooking came from my aunt, who taught my mom, who taught me. (It’s that good!) Bathed it with 3 pots of boiling water (outside and inside the cavity, after removing giblets and such). Lightly pat it dry with a paper towel. Lathered it in butter (brought to room temperature to ease greasification process. Toss it in the oven @ 325F for 8-10mins/lb. When ready, insert chopstick into thickest part of turkey (breast and drumstick); juices run clear, you’re golden. Cover with aluminum foil and cloth to let the moisture settle and run back into the meat; otherwise, all the juices will leak as soon as you make your first cut. I let mine sat for 2 hours. It was the juicest turkey I’ve ever had and still hot!

Fresh cranberry sauce
Dissolve 1 cup white sugar into 1 cup orange juice. (I used orange juice to add some sweetness and cut the tart with some tang). Add 12oz (1 bag) of fresh cranberries, cook & stir until cranberries begin to break down. Voila!

Pecan pie
I made this a couple days ahead of time. After cooling it completely for a few hours, I popped it in the freezer until the morning of. The day of, I pulled it out of the freezer and let it defrost at room temp while tightly wrapped in Suran. By dessert time, it was ready for us to devour.
I was actually told this was the best pecan pie he/she (can’t remember) has ever had!
Refer to previous blog for crust recipe

Pumpkin coffee cake

Cranberry Orange short bread

More to come…

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Diaper cakes for expecting mommies

The year of babies. Atleast that’s what it seems like for people around me. You may know, I like to build cakes. So it was quite fitting to build diaper cakes when I got invited to my first and second babyshower of my life! I must say, they are a little tricky to build, but are sure fun and cute.

For the first cake, I didn’t prepare and shopped last minute. The shapes were odd and difficult to fit in, especially because I wanted to keep everything in it’s original packaging in case they change their minds (though I always follow the gift registry to a tee). As you can see, the pacifiers barely fit and are not very well hidden. That wasn’t the only thing that did’t fit very well. In fact, I had a set of toys that didn’t fit at all, had to put it in a bad on the side! Not bad for first try.

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Gender neutral diaper cake #1 – for baby [Sam] Dieleman

For the second one, I learned and went shopping early. Bought a bunch of goodies based on shape, colour and weight. To build this, I sneakily removed the packaging from most items, but to ensure they wouldn’t have (too much) trouble returning/refunding, I put all the original packaging in a separate baggie. This worked quite well in the end!


Items I bought for cake #2 (I think it’s a boy!)


Sock monkey card


Diaper cake for baby Lee ❤

Birthdays and Birthdays!

Twas a busy busy week of baking and decorating. I had an order of 4 dozen cupcakes for a 3 year old boy’s birthday due Thursday night and my nieces’ 3rd birthday on Saturday! Tried all new recipes but luckily to say, they turned out better than expected 🙂

For Zach’s cupcakes, I used a orange cake with white icing decorated with a mish mosh of shavings and crumbs.
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Some of Zach’s birthday cupcakes

After the warm up, came the real challenge. Every year (for the past few years), I’ve been making birthday cakes for the twins. And after every year, I try to top my last. This year, the theme was ‘Minnie Mouse Boutique.’ So at least that’s all figured out. But even then, I was struggling between making the face of minnie as the cake, a mini minnie sitting on top of the cake, or a minnie cake. After looking through ideas online, nothing sparked my interested. Then finally, I decided to go for the gusto.
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I’ve worked with fondant before, but this was my first attempt for making a large scale doll. I knew fondant wouldn’t be stiff enough, so to make the head and body, I knew I needed something stiff. So I tried using rice krispie & special k mixed with marshmallow for the first time.

Recipe for the head and body:
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
32 large marshmallows (~ half the bag)
1 teaspoon of water
6-1/2 cups of rice krispie/special k
Crisco

Use oil to line bottom of microwavable bowl, add marshmallows and water then microwave for 20-30seconds. Stir and repeat until melted. Add 6 cups of cereal and mix until desired texture (add another 1/2 cup if needed).

Cover hands with crisco to keep it from sticking. Form balls, lightly wrap it with suran wrap and let it sit to cool before moulding further.

After resting, mould until desired!

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After shaping, I covered the head with modeling chocolate.

Recipe Chocolate clay:
~10oz chocolate (coarsely chopped chunks or chips)
1/3 cup light corn syrup

In a microwavable bowl, heat the chocolate in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until melted, not bubbly (~ 3 to 4 times).

Stir syrup in until mixed (do not over mix). Place a 1″ thick layer on parchment paper to cool ~ 1 hour. Then, mould as you wish!

The clay is quite soft, so for the clothes, I used fondant for some structure.

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After making the head and body, I put them together for a quick check for proportions – perfect.

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Then I made the cake. I used a lemon pound cake. I wanted 4 layers, so I used pound cake for it’s density. Covered with fondant… ready for tomorrow’s final assembly!

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Final touches on minnie including lashes, doka dots on her clothes, trimming and cuffs.

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Ta da!

Fresh Blueberry Pie

After picking 14lbs of fresh blueberrys at the farm yesterday, a blueberry pie was requested. I’ve watched enough cooking shows to understand the process, but tackling a flakey homemade pie like grandma used to make (well, someone’s, not mine – neither of my grandmas made pies) was daunting, but I was up to the challenge!

After looking through grandma Wood’s cookbook recipes, I wasn’t sure which pie shell to use (she had about 3). So the search for the perfect recipe continued. After about an hour of internet browsing, I finally settled for one for the sake of getting on with it.

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Fresh out of the oven!

We didn’t have enough lemon juice nor zest. Instead, I used 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, a 1/4 teaspoon of zest with 1 tablespoon of water. However, even at that, we found the pie to be too lemony at the end – not overwhelming, just different (perhaps we are just not lemony people). Instead of cutting out stars, I rolled out another 12″ diameter circle and tucked the edges before pinching it to close. To release steam, I used a pair of snippers and cut 1″ slits on top before putting it in the oven; worked like a charm and used everybit of pie crust. To top, I used brown sugar and some cinnimon over the egg wash before baking. To bake, I didn’t have a proper pie dish and used a cake pan (made it slightly difficult to take out, with the right angle edges), but reduced the baking time to 17 minutes @ 400F, then 30mins @ 350F (glass dishes typically take another 5 minutes). After cutting into it, 12 hours later, found the filling to be runnier than expected, darn those juicy rype berries. I may look into tweaking the fruit filling with some kind of starch next time.

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12 hours later, our first slice 😀

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Delicious!

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