Latest @Pinterest #DIY (hint: not food-related)

Okay, this may not have anything to do with food, but it’s still kind of cool…

This is one of the many Pinterest projects I have saved to do on a rainy day: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/370772981799442870/

My lovely partner in crime managed to salvage an old, five-panel solid wood door from an old job site, and it’s been sitting in the garage for, oh… probably two years now, collecting dust and waiting for me to get off my butt.

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Well, Kevin is currently destroying finishing his garage/workshop, which means that there’s a whole lotta junk in there that’s gotta go… like the old door that I’ve been dreaming of turning into a headboard (as well as a few pallets, but I think he actually has plans for those).

So, on Canada Day, I finally dragged that old door out into the yard, and gave it a good cleaning. I scraped off a lot of the loose paint, and give it a really light sanding, but I didn’t bother stripping it down to the wood: I figured it would look more authentic with some texture under the paint.

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After letting it dry for a while, I busted out the paint spray gun and gave it a few light coats of a pretty light yellow cabinet paint I’ve had lying around for a while (originally purchased for this desk project).

A few days later, I made a trip to the local hardware store, where I snagged some crown moulding offcuts ($1 each!) and a piece of 1×6 pine, so Kevin could add a shelf to the edge of the door/headboard for me! Then I caulked all the joints and filled the nail holes he made, and give it a light sanding.

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The Pinterest link above suggested a more ornate piece of trim, but Kevin suggested the crown would look a bit more polished, and less antique-y… I agree:

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A few more coats of paint, and it was done! I let it fully dry in the garage for a few days, then Kevin mounted it on the wall for me!

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All told, this project probably only cost about $13 (for the crown and pine)… But that was because we had a lot of the materials we needed at home already.

God, I love Pinterest… and Kevin, of course, for helping out with all my ridiculous DIY projects! 🙂

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Well, hello there! I made a red curry with haddock for dinner… (version of @RealSimple recipe)

I won’t bore you with the myriad of reasons/excuses I have for not posting for months (hint: engagement, work, general life…), but I’ve been feeling rather guilty about it as of late…

I’m making more of a conscious effort to cook at home, rather than eat out at restaurants (see earlier mention of upcoming wedding to understand the need to fit into a wedding dress and save some cash). Now, I love to cook, but I’m the first to admit that I can get stuck in a culinary rut. So, I’ve resolved to try at least one new recipe each week, to try and keep things interesting!

This week, I was inspired by a recipe featured in the June issue of Real Simple magazine: Green curry with halibut and corn.

Real Simple Green Curry recipe

One slight problem: there was no green curry paste at my local grocery store. Just red. Rather than scrap the whole recipe, I decided to just substitute… I also opted for haddock rather than halibut (it was on special).

This was actually a really easy recipe to pull together: minimal prep work and cook time. I also cut the fat a bit by substituting the coconut milk with light coconut milk… The red curry added some heat to the dish, but that was balanced out nicely by the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and the corn. It also looked pretty appetizing:

IMG_20150614_172322I found it needed a bit more salt added (and I’m not someone who tends to add salt to my food), but once it’d sprinkled on a bit of extra seasoning, it was perfect! Kevin also really enjoyed it, so based on the ease of prep, I’ll definitely be adding this one to the recipe collection. 🙂

We also had plenty left over for lunch (bonus!)

OH, and for anyone out there who has dietary restrictions, this recipe is also gluten-free.

 

The @HFXFoodBloggers create something sweet for #DoughBall 2014

If you were one of the lucky folks who snagged a ticket to The Coast’s inaugural Dough Ball (basically a giant bake sale, where you pay admission and get to try all the sweet samples!), you likely had quite the sugar high on Saturday afternoon.

While I wasn’t able to attend (I’m simultaneously sad and grateful that I missed out, because I’m fairly certain my pants would be feeling a bit snugger this morning), I was able to send along a treat for attendees to try out.

My peeps at Halifax Food Bloggers were invited to host a table at Dough Ball, and a few of us sent our sweet concoctions along to be sampled by the crowds (I saw photos of the event and our table on Twitter, and it looked AMAZING).

I decided to try my hand at making homemade caramels. A coworker of mine makes them every Christmas, and while I was slightly intimidated to try and make them (hers are delicious, and frankly, making caramel just seemed like a messy proposition), it was surprisingly simple.

I used a recipe/great step-by-step instructions I found on The Kitchn. You don’t really need any special equipment, aside from a candy thermometer, which I got at Bulk Barn for $4.

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The real trick to making lovely caramels is making sure you get the right texture. And that’s pretty subjective (I don’t like hard, uber-chewy caramels. Soft, smooth and creamy is how I prefer mine!) To control the softness of your caramels, you need to control the amount of dairy you add in (more dairy = softer, creamier caramels) AND bring your caramels to a lower temperature. If you’re going to try your hand at making caramels, I really do recommend you read The Kitchn post I mentioned earlier to get all the details!

I followed their recipe/directions, and was very pleased with how my two versions of caramels turned out. I made sea salt and peppermint caramels:

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Wrap in wax paper, twist on both ends, and package in mason jars, and behold:

IMG_20140913_100517Wouldn’t they make a nice hostess gift?

Anyhow, here’s what you’ll need if you’re going to try this at home:

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or, if you’re making mint caramels, substitute with mint extract)

Equipment

  • Square baking dish
  • Parchment paper
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • 4-quart saucepan (make sure you use a big pot!)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Wax paper

Have fun, and try not to eat too many! (you’ll end up with a bellyache, and maybe even a cavity or two!)

Lime Margarita Cupcakes for Bachelorette Celebrations (complete with tequila buttercream icing; no joke)

In case you missed the memo, it’s WEDDING SEASON!!! Of course, before the wedding itself, there is the inevitable bachelorette/bachelor party.

A very good friend of mine is tying the knot next weekend, so we hosted a bachelorette party for her last night… Since I love to bake, I was charged with the cake. Now, I’m not a big fan of phallic baked goods, so we skipped the penis-shaped cake. Instead, I found this recipe for lime margarita cupcakes.

Still fun, but more importantly, yummy (especially the tequila lime buttercream icing).

You need kinda a lot of limes (like, a lot: six or seven). And butter. Lots of butter.

Marg Cupcake Ingredients

It also involves candying lime peels (that’s an optional step: just a garnish, really):

Blanching Limes

But the end result is worth it: a beautiful, zesty little cake topped with a not-too-sweet tequila lime buttercream icing:

Lime Margarita Cupcakes!

What a gorgeous group of ladies, right?! (Note: this was taken before we started drinking or consumed any of the tequila lime buttercream icing)… 🙂

Bridal Party!end

 

Back with a bang: Flourless espresso chocolate cake

Yeah, I suck. No posts in months… What can I say? It’s been busy in my world for the past little while.

BUT, I’m on vacation now, and I have some making up to do in the blog department.

So, by way of an apology, please feast your eyes on this incredible creation:

Flourless chocolate espresso cake

Okay, it may kinda look like a collapsed cake, but it’s actually Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cake with Espresso Glaze (and it’s supposed to look like that!)

It was Kevin’s birthday yesterday, and I try and bake his cake every year (I don’t think I’ve bought one yet!). As you can see from previous years’ creations (last year and the year before), he kinda has a thing for chocolate. I tried to persuade him to let me make something lighter/fruity this year, but he was having no part of it.

So, after a bit of time with my good friend Google, I found a recipe that was simple, but classic: a decadent chocolate dessert, which used coffee to temper some of the sweetness.

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The recipe was easy to follow and really didn’t feature any odd ingredients (you can find everything you need at your local grocery store). Since there’s no flour in this recipe (NO, I am not gluten-intolerant, or gluten-free, or whatever you frigging call it these days), the cake’s volume comes from a meringue that you fold into the chocolate/espresso batter. I had a moment during this part of the baking process where I lost faith and started to panic, thinking that it wasn’t going to turn out properly, but I soldiered on (planning to go to Dairy Queen and get an ice cream cake, if all else failed).

Thankfully, it turned out perfectly! Well, aside from my terrible writing on top (it’s really hard to write on a cake, okay?!) I actually had these cool chocolate scribbler things from Laura Secord (thanks, Mom!) but even with those handy little things, my writing was pretty messy.

Anyways, topped with a drizzle of warm espresso glaze, we quickly forgot about my poor icing-penmanship. 🙂

TIP: If you make this recipe, I’d serve it warm, with French Vanilla ice cream.

Mini carrot cake + cream cheese frosting = Happy Valentine’s Day!

Screw the Valentine’s Day cards… skip straight to the sweets, please!Roses, just for you!

I know that Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday designed to make money… and I don’t normally buy into it, much. But this year, I came across some adorable Valentine’s Day-themed cupcake accessories at the grocery store, and remembered a recipe I came across in a new cookbook I received from a good friend for Christmas.

Before I knew it, the kitschy cupcake paraphernalia was in my shopping cart.

Cupcake Accessories

The recipe I was using was actually for mini cupcakes, but I decided to make full size ones (because, let’s face it, who wants JUST ONE BITE of carrot cake?!) I rather liked how the recipe turned out — fluffy and flavourful, with just a hint of orange and spice), but I prefer my carrot cake to be a bit juicier (with raisins or pineapple). I also added some cinnamon to my cream cheese frosting, which worked nicely with the flavour of the cake).

Spiced Mini Carrot Cupcakes

They turned out quite well, I think! (Kevin ate NINE. NINE!) I wish I could eat nine cupcakes without gaining 40 pounds. Life isn’t fair. Just sayin’.

...With Cream cheese frosting

Storm snacks, anyone? Sorry, but #stormchips ain’t gonna cut it on a #snowday

Well, here we go again: another blizzard is headed our way. *sigh*

As we ready to hunker down and weather the storm, one of the most important things to consider are our provisions. I’m not talking bottled water here (that would be far too practical). Nope. I’m talking delicious, hearty, warm-you-to-the-bones grub that will make you perfectly content to go into full hermit mode.

My suggested pantry items/meals/snacks to help you survive any storm:

BOOZE

My elixir of choice is wine: I picked up a bottle of red (Trapiche Broquel Malbec) and white (Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay) on my way home the night before the blizzard. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on drinking both. If the storm isn’t too bad, the white will suffice. If I need to shovel 40 centimetres out of my driveway, well, the Malbec may be in order.

CAFFEINE

I stock up on espresso and made sure my tea selection hadn’t dwindled too badly… warm drinks are a must. Bailey’s isn’t a bad idea, either.

SOUPS & STEWS

Bust out the slowcooker, chuck in some root veg (I had onion, turnip, mini potatoes, carrots and parsnips on-hand), chunks of browned stewing beef, seasoning and some liquid, and you’ll have a warm, hearty dish to dig into for lunch and dinner (no need to make multiple meals). Best served with baguette and butter, of course:

Beef stew

If you’re a vegetarian, I suggest curry sweet potato soup, instead: roast 3-4 sweet potatoes in the oven and scoop out the insides. Set aside. In a large pot, saute a diced onion and two cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of melted butter, then add in 2 tbsp.of curry powder and 1 tsp. cumin. Stir until the spices are mixed in, then add your sweet potato and mix well. Add 4 cups of veggie stock and 1 cup of milk (I like the creaminess), plus salt and pepper to taste. Again, best served with baguette and butter (most things in life are).

SNACKS

Forget chips, give me cheese. After you’ve shoveled out the driveway, you’ll want something warm, gooey and delicious. My suggestion is cheese fondue. It isn’t hard to make (really) and you can even invite the neighbours over to share (especially if they’ve helped you shovel). I always use this recipe (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cheese_fondue/) minus the kirsch (because what the fuck is that anyways, and who actually has it in their kitchen?)

Cheese Fondue

Anyways, those are just my personal tips for surviving a blizzard. I’m sure you have your own suggestions! What are your favourite #stormsnacks?