Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Remember back in November when I made Obama cupcakes to celebrate the U.S. election? Well, I figured it was only fair that I make some cupcakes to celebrate my own country. Tomorrow is July 1 (a.k.a. Canada Day), and I was immediately drawn to the Maple Cupcakes from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book. What better to bring to a Canada Day family picnic?

Martha's version has marzipan maple leaves on them, which make them even more Canada-y, but I quickly realized that I had neither the time or patience to a) seek out marzipan and maple leaf cookie cutters b) actually make the leaves. So, the patriotism is in the flavour, not the display.

For the cupcakes themselves, I used table syrup with 15 per cent real maple, rather than two cups of real maple syrup, though I did use two cups of the real stuff for the frosting. I love my extended family, but really, I am not spending $30 on maple syrup for cupcakes. We're in a recession, people. As a result, the cupcakes kind of smell (and taste) like pancakes or that sandwich you can get at Denny's where the bread is pre-soaked in syrup. Kind of weird, and not as Canadian as I would have liked.

Also, I'm a little freaked out about the icing -- I've never made a real buttercream with raw eggs before. You do have to dump in mega-hot boiling syrup, so I'm reasonably sure that the eggs are cooked, but still, I get nervous around the raw egg thing. But, a chef friend has assured me that all will be fine, so I'm going with it.

I did eat one cupcake for the purpose of testing, and despite the pancake-ness of the cake, the super fluffy eggy icing (which has a consistency sitting somewhere between mayo and marshmallow) is pretty awesome. I still haven't found a cupcake that has blown me away from this book, but I'm getting there.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cookin' By The Book

As promised, I finished the cover to the family cookbook that I plan to gift to my future sister-in-law at her wedding shower (Erika, on the off chance you're reading this... STOP NOW. TURN OFF THE COMPUTER). Sorry about that.

Anyway, I got the idea for the cover, and the entire book, really from Alicia's book Stitched In Time, which is, of course, totally awesome. I used a tea towel for the cover and some vintage fabrics for the inside lining as well as the flaps. I opted to not do the tie (which I know I would find annoying if it were my own book) or the embroidered pictures, because I think they would have been too cutesy for the bride's taste.

I've already talked about the innards of the books, but I'll revisit: I collected recipes from many of the women in our family, raided my mom's cookbooks (which included some old Grandma-style faves) and added some recipes from my own collection. Then I typed them all into this so-so recipe book software I bought (and I had to do it at my parents, because apparently, the ladies who make recipe book software are not fans of the Mac). I printed out a copy for myself as well (without the fancy cover), and I've already used it plenty of times. In fact, tonight we had a delicious salmon dish, courtesy of my Aunt Shelley. Thanks, Shelley.

So yes, much hard work yields a really great shower present. I truly hope the bride loves it and uses it often. For my brothers' sake at least -- there are some pretty fantastic recipes within these pages, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tea and Cupcakes

I'm trying to switch from coffee to tea. Or, at the very least, substitute all but one of my three to four cups a day (mind you, they're vintage coffee cups, which are waaaay smaller than modern mugs). I've long been attracted to tea, and often impulse buy fancy and yummy looking flavours. As you can see, as a result, I have way too much tea. What you see here is mostly green tea, in various flavours and levels of caffeination. I pretty much stopped drinking any tea with a herbal component when I was breastfeeding Henry, because I was paranoid that it would decrease my milk production (I'm looking at you, jasmine).

So, I have a ton of tea, and even with the new kitchen, precious little cabinet space. Hence, I'm on a serious mission to drink all of this stuff. Hear me? No tea purchases (even if I happen to be in the same neighbourhood as the awesome loose tea cafe near Aaron's work) until all this stuff is gone. I'll have more cupboard space and I'll be full of antioxidants.

Oh, and on the cupcake front, I made the Chocolate Ginger cupcakes from the Martha Stewart book. A little too much gingerbread and too little chocolate for my taste, plus I think I overcooked them a tiny bit (still getting used to my new oven). Still, they were well received by guests and were even better heated up just a little bit and served with ice cream the next day. Hooray!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weekend Thrift

Corn on the cob set! I've been looking for a decent set like this for ages. This one has never been used and includes a warming dish, four corn plates, a salt and pepper shaker, and a bowl for corn holders. I'm mildly obsessed with corn on the cob accessories (or any accessories that are this food specific) so I freaked out over this one, even though I'm pretty sure you can easily buy stuff like this brand new. Still, it seems to be made of a nice thin bone china rather than thick old modern ceramics, which makes me feel it may be vintage. $10.

A celery salt and pepper shaker. Very summery. $1

A Fire King baking dish. I believe the pattern is called Diamond Burst or Candleglow (it goes both ways). I have a burning desire to use this to make meatloaf. It's so atomic. 50 cents.

I didn't go thrifting too hard this weekend, so I think my mojo is still strong. Honestly, last summer I'd be out for hours at the garage sales and come home empty handed, but this year I've been doing well. Perhaps too well, as I think we'll be having a sale of our own pretty soon. But I'm not complaining.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review: Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

Okay, it will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, that I shed a little tear of excitement when I caught wind of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. Her Cookies book is probably the most used cookbook on my shelf -- it's design is a work of genius and the recipes are beyond delicious. Cupcakes sticks to the same basic formula -- big pictures, one recipe per page, and a smart breakdown of sections. I have yet to try any recipes, but I think it's a reasonable assumption that they're all going to be amazing. I don't always trust the MS people on entrees (Everyday Cooking has steered me wrong plenty of times), but when it comes to baked goods, they're pretty consistent.

So. Cupcakes don't take to this particular book form ask well as cookies do, but this book is still pretty awesome. Since there's only so much you can do with a cupcake (unlike cookies, which can take many forms, these are all essentially tiny cakes in cups, right? So, the latter sections in the book, the special occasion cupcakes, are basically just decorating variations (which I can't really be bothered with), but there are still more cupcake varieties in here than I could ever dream up.

The recipes start off with your classic cake with buttercream frosting jobs (why mess with perfection?), but the MS team get really creative from there. There are loads of non-frosted cupcakes for those of us who don't want to get fussy, plus some really fun filled and layered cakes for those of us who do. I'm particularly interested in things like Tiramisu Cupcakes, Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes, Stout Cupcakes, and Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes. Oh, and Mint-Filled Brownie Cupcakes. And Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. And Chocolate Salted-Caramel Mini Cupcakes.

So, you get the point. I can't see myself jumping in to this the same way I did with cookies, because how many cupcakes can a girl eat (especially when, like me, she's trying to lose a few pounds)? Plus they are a bit of a pain to make, compared to cookies at least. But you can expect to see a few cakes on these pages soon. Mmmm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weekend Thrift

Spring Blossom Pyrex -- $5 for three. Great condition, a nice small size, and with lids! There's a third (green on white), but it's in use as we speak.

A pretty pink lady -- $1. I've been quietly collecting pretty figurines for Ruby's room (to be presented once there's less danger of them being destroyed). This lady is particularly lovely.

Pretty birds. $1 each.

And, a couple of teacups, gifted by Aaron's great aunt, Betty. I have a small, but beloved collection of china teacups. I don't buy them, but willingly accept them from relatives and close family friends. These ones will be treasured.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I've been working hard hard hard at a project for a few weeks now -- but unfortunately, at this point at least -- it is hardly photogenic. My brother is getting married in a few months and I knew I wanted to make something from Alicia's book for the newest member of our family. One that jumped out at me is the cute cover for a family recipe book she has in there. I thought of making one for myself (and I probably will), but in the name of being unselfish, I thought it would also make a great gift for my almost sister-in-law. Plus, she likes to cook, so I thought a family recipe book would be perfecto.

Of course, while the cover is genius, I also had to go about making a book to put inside. So, over the last month or so I've been pestering family members to submit recipes that would be appropriate for a new bride. I also went through all my mother's old cookbooks to find some childhood favourites and added a bunch of things that I tend to cook all the time. I typed everything into some cookbook software I bought (and I'm not going to link to it, because I don't think I'd recommend the particular program I chose) and ended up with a few over 100 recipes.

I've always kind of fancied myself a bit of an archivist -- in fact, earlier this evening I stuck a bunch of prints (yes, paper prints from a photomat) in the seventh volume of our family photo albums (which only started four years ago when Ruby was born). So, it was really amazing to go through all the family favourites and put them together. And yes, I did end up printing one up for myself. And my mother. And my other sister-in-law. As for now, though, only the new bride will get a fancy cover (which I have to start... only three weeks until the shower).

So, in the spirit of women sharing with other women (I'm assuming, I don't think a dude has ever commented on this blog), here's one from the vaults. My Grandmother, who was never much of a cook, if I may say (and I may, since she doesn't know how to use a computer, so this won't get back to her), did make a really yummy cookie when I was a kid. She always refused to share the recipe when my mom asked her for it. When she moved into an assisted living home a few years ago, she gave me her recipe box and guess what was inside? I present to you:

Nellie's Delicious Cookies (my Grandma is not named Nellie, by the way)

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cream of tarter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 cup Rice Krispies
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup sunflower seeds

Blend first set of ingredients. Mix in remaining. Drop by tsp on cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Weekend Thrift

My first pieces of Butterprint! Not in perfect shape, but $3 each.

I have no use for this, but could not resist. $2.

Bad weather this weekend, so not much thrifting. And I'm starting to realize that my new kitchen does not have 4000 cupboards ready to be filled with stuff. I've got to devise a plan...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Kitchen To Dream In


And after:

Our kitchen is 95 per cent done. I know those of you who have had work done on your house know that that extra 5 per cent could take forever to finally be completed, but our guys swear that all loose ends will be tied by the end of the week. Either way, what you see here is more or less the final product. So, what do you think?

I love it. I know that the colour scheme, particularly the counter, is a bit of a bold choice, and believe me, it did keep Aaron up some nights. But I do love the look of it, and I also really love the functionality. I haven't quite figured out how to organize all the cupboards yet, but I have done a fair amount of cooking and cleaning and the set-up works amazingly. And I have to say, not only do I love having a dishwasher, but who knew how much fun a garborator could be? Between that and our city's new curbside recycling program (finally!), we barely have any landfill garbage.

We also got a tonne of work done on our living room, and in some ways that has made a bigger difference in our house, but it's far less dramatic, so I'm not going to post photos. It has been a really difficult three months and we're going to be in debt for the rest of our living days, but so far, I think it's worth it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Weekend Thrift

Rounds (green Pyrex -- $1, plain Fire KIng -- $2)

Amber Glass (nesting chicken -- $6, chip and dip -- $4)

Pretty mugs (10 cents each)

I actually had a really depressing weekend at the garage sales. You know, the kind of day where you're forcing yourself to drive around, dragging the kids with you, desperately trying to find some good stuff, but mostly stumbling upon crap. Buying stuff you don't need or even really want (I just can't put down anything that says "Fire King"). No magic this weekend, friends. I promised myself that I would let the garage sale mojo find me this season, rather than trying to chase it. I broke my own rule and I suffered the consequences. Still, a few nice things above, plus a few little (overpriced) Golden Books for Ruby and a small bag of (also overpriced) Little People. Overpriced, but appreciated.