Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Disastrous Cakes

Before I get into this post, just a little FYI. My home computer is currently down, which is why my blog is lacking these days. And will be for a while. I may be able to do some posts, sans pictures though. Which means the posts I do put up will probably mostly be me ranting about one thing or another....but I tend to enjoy a good rant now and then, so that might be fun.

Now for the meat...cake...something...of this post.

I have come to the conclusion that I hate baking cakes. At least...I hate baking cakes in my oven...

It is an apartment sized oven, so two round cake pans do not fit side by side, and apparently said oven is not level either, so that means that my round cakes are uneven, which makes everything just that much more difficult to work with.

Let me tell you about the last two cakes I tried to make made (or..almost made - see Cake Disaster #2).

The first was my sister's birthday cake. I was really excited (yet also very nervous) about this one! White cake, with each layer cut in half, lemon butter in between each layer, and white icing. Doesn't sound so difficult, right? The main thing I was worried about while making this cake was cutting each layer in half, so I (since I was being marginally lazy, and didn't want to ruin a from-scratch cake), bought two cake mixes...JUST IN CASE. And good thing, too.

So, I bake my first cake...and after trying to fit both pans in the oven at the same time, ending with them being diagonal to each other, and having to turn them when they partially cooked, they came out of the pans easily, and were set on the cooling rack to cool before I sliced them in half. One of the rounds was uneven...but I could deal with that.

And then, after about an hour of cooling, I picked up one of the rounds, oh so carefully, to put it on a plate and into the fridge for 15 minutes so it was even easier to cut in half...and it broke. Yep, it broke. Boy did that make me unhappy.

Good thing I had another cake mix, right?

So I started baking that one. Again, everything came out fine, other than being a little uneven, it cooled, I put it in the fridge, and then began the slicing. A little uneven, since I can't cut anything in a straight line, but, whatever! It worked! So, I started putting the lemon butter in between the layers....and then I let it sit on the table for 5 minutes. Oops. Bad idea. When I came back into the kitchen, the entire thing had slid off. Thanks, lemon butter. So, I tried to make it stand upright again, and put it in the fridge so it set a little, and got to making the icing.

This is when disaster number 438729432 of the day came about. I start mixing up the icing with my trusty hand mixer, mixing, mixing, mixing....and then not mixing anymore. Oh, yes, I burned the motor out in that hand mixer of mine....halfway through making the icing. Deep breaths ensued. Luckily my sister said that I could come down to her place early and finish it off there. So I start packing everything up, open the fridge to take the cake out and......it slid some more and the layer of cake broke. Good thing my sister just wanted to eat the cake and didn't really care how it looked...right?

More sliding occured during my half hour drive down south to her house. Once I was there, I finished making the icing, and started icing the cake. I randomly decided to plop that third extra layer of cake on top so that maybe the top of the cake wouldn't look so disastrous. And it didn't! The top looked really pretty. Thanks to my sister-in-law, who told me how to make nice looking roses on top with a decorating tip. But the sides? Oh boy. The sides of the cake looked like they were decorated by a 3 year old. *facepalm*

My sister got a good laugh out of it, and at least it tasted good.

Cake baking disaster #2.

A friend came over a couple of weeks ago, because we decided we wanted to bake a cake, and I found what I thought was a really good recipe. So, we mix up the cake (with a whisk since, well, my hand mixer's motor blew during the last cake disaster), and stick it in the oven diagonally. It's baking...and baking...and...why does it smell like it's burning? Crap. I open the oven door, and the cake has overflowed onto the bottom of the oven, cooking onto the burner, and smoking like crazy. Sigh. We take the cakes (not anywhere near cooked, mind you), out of the oven, open windows, leave the oven door open, and toss the cakes. Now my entire apartment smells like fire. Including me, and my hair. I hate when that happens. How freaking annoying. Then, I had to scrape partially cooked/burnt/raw cake from the bottom of my oven. Ew. Good thing I apparently always have backup cake mixes? After venturing out at midnight to try to find some eggs since we used all of what I had, we came back and successfully made cupcakes. Because,  yes, cupcakes I can do. Even if they were in halloween cupcake papers.

Moral of the story? ...I should only bake cupcakes or 9x13 cakes in my oven. Nothing else will do...at least not until my sister's birthday next year, since I will always make a cake for her if we live in the same city, no matter what I have to go through!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Granola, specifically Love Crunch

Hi, I've recently jumped on the granola in the yogurt bandwagon, and I wanted to tell you about it. You can read my Yogurt Parfait post, where I show you how I make my extremely simple yogurt parfait, but I wanted to tell you a little bit more about granola. Especially this new granola I found...thanks to one of the blogs I read!

So, when I first started making the yogurt parfaits, I just used this granola that a friend gave me, because, um, the textures were weird? I don't know. I had it in my cupboard, so I thought I'd use it up. It was just a box of some random Organic granola with raisins and almonds in it. It was good! I enjoyed it. But then I ran out of it. I thought I'd try a different kind of granola, because, why not? I really didn't have any other reason for trying something new, except that I felt like it. Nothing wrong with that!

And then I came across something that might cause death by granola over-dose.

It's called Love Crunch, and it's made by Nature's Path. I don't generally go out hunting for organic things, but this granola, talked about in this blog post, made me want to try it SO BAD. I even entered the giveaway she was having. Alas, I didn't win. I wasn't sure if this stuff was sold in Canada, but I HAD to figure it out. I did some quick searching, and found out that it was sold at Loblaws (Superstore), a bunch of other places, and London Drugs. On Monday, I went to Superstore at lunch to see if they had it there, because I thought it would probably be the best price there, but sadly they didn't have any. At least no where that I could see. Back to the office with me. I couldn't get it off my mind for the rest of the day, so Monday after dinner/living room yoga/lazy time, I decided to get off my butt and go to the closest London Drugs to see if they had it.

Drum roll please.....

They did! Oh boy I was excited. But, what kind was I supposed to choose? There are four, the Aloha Blend, which has coconut, white chocolate and pineapple; Apple Crumble has cinnamon, green apples, and pecans; Dark Chocolate and Red berries has, well, dark chocolate and red berries; and the Carrot Cake which has carrots, pineapples, cinnamon, raisins and pecans.

I ended up going with the Carrot Cake flavour. My goodness it did not disappoint. I ripped into the bag when I get home and had a handful. And then maybe another handful. This was going to be great in my yogurt parfaits! Lunch on Tuesday was just that. Vanilla 0% Fat Greek Yogurt, strawberries, and Carrot Cake granola. Filling and so so good!

[Picture Source here]
I am so very excited to try the different flavours of Love Crunch once I run out of this kind. And I'm pretty sure that isn't going to take very long. It's dangerously good. I'll let you know what my favourite ends up being once I try them all.

I think that you should find it if you can. Or let me know if you have any other kinds of granolas that you really like, because I'd love to try out some others! I bet this would be good with milk too, but since I'm on my yogurt and granola kick, I think I'll stick with that for now.

At some point I'd really like to try making my own granola. I don't think it would be that difficult? I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Does anyone have any good recipes for homemade granola? Share them with me!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Upcoming Easter Weekend Shenanigans

I am SO excited for Easter. I like turkey dinner, I like  love chocolate, and long weekends are awesome. Especially long weekends where I get to go home! Home is where my parents live, and where I grew up. A small town in BC, that you've probably never heard of. Two of my brothers also live in our around the same town, so that means I get to see them and their wonderful babies/kids too! Yay for nieces and a nephew! I'm taking an extra day off of work, and making Easter weekend a 4 day weekend, rather than just 3, because I have to drive six seven and a half hours to get home, and having only one day there makes for a lot of time spent in the car, and not enough time to visit, and do fun things LIKE BAKE WITH MY DAD.

Ok, so everytime I go home, I do my best to bake something. Usually I find something bread-like, since I'm not very good at it yet, and my dad is, so I get him to help/do it for me, and then I take it home. Haha! Sometimes my mom sister-in-law and I bake cupcakes too! Maybe we'll get to do some of that as well.

This Easter weekend though, we have so many things planned. And by so many I mean a few, but since I'm only there for two full days, it will probably take up a lot of time. First, both my parents want to see The Hunger Games, so we're going to go to the theatre to see it! I've seen it already, but I was really impressed, and so I'm looking forward to going again, especially with them! Family movie night! Maybe some of the other family members will come too. Who else is coming? Brother? Next, my dad and I are going to make bagels. Home made bagels are where its at. And my dad is like, the master. He made these bagels for my sister last time he came to town, and I stole one from the batch. Best. Bagel. Ever. Not even joking a little bit. So, we're going to make the same kind (cheddar and onion) as well as brown sugar maple pear. Doesn't that sound just absolutely amazing? I can't wait. After that, my dad and I are going to attempt to make turkey dinner while my mom directs. Usually she makes this big dinner, but this year I want to, and my dad will help, and she will tell us how to do things properly. Sounds like fun. :D Oh, and obviously I will have to make dessert for that dinner too. I haven't figured out what yet, but does anyone have any suggestions? I don't know if Pumpkin Pie is an easter type dessert, but not that. I don't really like pumpkin pie. Hopefully I get to make some cupcakes in there at some point too. We'll see how that goes!

You better believe that I will be posting recipes for most/all of the things we make that weekend.. Though the turkey dinner post may just be one big post, and not each separate dish.

OH, and! My dad is going to BBQ me stuff while I'm home, since I don't have a BBQ here, and I feel BBQ deprived. (Yes, I realize I just said BBQ three times in that one sentence). I am really very excited for that as well.

Overall, I think the weekend will be a blast. Too bad the rest of my siblings won't be able to make it. That would be fun, and a full-house! Fuller than the Full House TV show. Ha ha ha..Ok that was lame.

Now I'm going to go finish planning what else I'm going to do while I'm home, and bug my dad about what kind of stuff he's going to BBQ for me!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

I have a thing for burgers. There, I said it. Burgers are my favourite meal, and I tend to be that annoying person who gets burgers no matter what restaurant I go to. Boring, original, why don't I try something new? Well, because I like burgers, ok? I don't actually make burgers all that often at home, so it's nice to get some once in a while. Though, I have to admit, no burger will ever compare to my dad's homemade burgers. Hear me? Never. I know exactly what he does to them, and I try to replicate this, but mine don't taste the same. That might have something to do with the fact that when he says "this, OR this" I hear..."this AND this" and just tend to throw in a bunch of things into my hamburger meat. What can I say, I guess I don't listen very well.

Anyway, that up there was all about beef burgers. But I made buffalo chicken burgers! They were really really good! I usually go for beef burgers (clearly), but I thought I'd try something new. I hunted around the internet for a bit to see if I could find any good recipes, but in the end I just used the amount of Buffalo Wing sauce that someone had suggested, and then the spices I used were just whatever I found in my cupboard that I thought might be tasty in a burger. Oh, and cheese. Yep, took someone elses advice and put cheese in there, too. It was a good idea.

Unfortunately I'm bad at measuring spices. I tend to just sprinkle some in until it looks good, and then I hope for the best. Safe, right? Maybe I should start measuring so that I can actually tell you how much to put in, instead "A little of this, and a little of that". Anyway, they turned out really well. The only thing I'll do differently next time is add more buffalo sauce into the meat. There was only a hint of buffalo in the burger once it was cooked, and sometimes I like burning my face off a little bit. Ok ok, that was somewhat of an exaggeration, but I do like it to have a little bit of  heat. If I have milk near by so that i can counteract it, and have my tongue only burn a little bit. I don't like it so hot that I sweat though. You're supposed to sweat at the gym, or playing sports, or doing some sort of activity, NOT when you eat.

Ok, tired of my rambling yet? Let's get to the recipe.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

1 egg, beaten
Half a package of ground chicken
Some oats (uh, yeah, I didn't measure these either...add enough to make sure that it isn't too wet, and the meat sticks together. 1/4 - 1/2 cup I think. I also ended up adding some bread crumbs. No need to add both, I just did)
Garlic Powder (minced garlic of the fresh or jarred variety would work too, I just didn't have any)
Celery Salt (oops. Double dose on the salt here, but I didn't use that much regular salt)
Grated cheddar cheese (or any other kind of cheese you desire)
1/8 cup Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce (I actually measured this! If you like a bit more kick, add more!)

Mix all these things up together, until you are able to form them into patties without them falling apart. If they seem like they are going to, add some more bread crumbs or oats.

Form into patties, and either BBQ, or place in a hot frying pan (I think I cooked these at about 4), with a thin thin layer of oil covering the bottom. Cook 8-10 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked through FULLY. Don't leave any pink in there, people. That's how you get sick.

While these are cooking, sautee some onions. I chose red, because that's what I had.

Melt some more cheese on top of the burgers!

Stick in a whole wheat bun, with toppings of your choice, and voila. Dinner.

If you pair these with something like sweet potato fries, you'll have a heck of a good meal. I'll tell you how I learned to make sweet potato fries another day. Delicious!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

BBQ Carmelized Onion Cheddar Chicken

I'm always trying to find new and exciting ways to spice up chicken. Sometimes it just gets boring to put salt, pepper, and garlic on a chicken breast and bake it in the oven.

As I was driving home one night, I was trying to decide what I could do with chicken for dinner. Then it hit me! I could carmelize some red onion, and then stuff the chicken with that, bbq sauce and cheddar cheese! All of those flavours are pretty tasty together, so it's a great idea, right?


Well, the stuffing of the chicken breast makes it a bad idea. Not the flavour combination. That was still pretty great. But, uh, I apparently can't cut the chicken just enough to stuff it. Nope. I either cut the entire way through, or just cut off a hunk of chicken from the whole breast, because I so cannot cut evenly.

Instead, I just put a layer of bbq sauce, the onions, then the cheese on top of the chicken, and baked it that way. It turned out really well! Though I still think stuffing it would have been more fun.

Ready for a super simple recipe?

BBQ Carmelized Onion Cheddar Chicken

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small frying pan, sautee red onions until they are nice and carmelized.

Place chicken onto a cookie sheet, and season with salt and pepper.

Squirt on some of your favourite BBQ sauce.

Put a layer of sauteed onions.

Top with cheese of your choice. I ended up using both cheddar and mozzarella, because that's what I had!

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

I had this chicken with asparagus and broccoli. Yum!

Hooray for quick and easy dinners!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Yogurt parfait

I have a new favourite breakfast. It's quick, and delicious, and can be changed up, mixed up, whatever way you like it!

AND it has a lot of protein in it, which keeps you full for hours! That is probably the best part, or maybe it's how tasty it is. Or, maybe how fast it is...I don't know. Everything about it is amazing!

And there is really no rhyme or reason to it, so you can make this parfait however you like. You could make it fancy, and dessert like if you wanted even.

But here is what I do.

I put some fruit in the bottom of a bowl. I like  blueberries! And strawberries! Any fruit will do though. Mine has been starting out frozen, so I thaw it out a little bit first.

Then, add a couple heaping spoonfuls of 0% fat greek yogurt (yes, greek yogurt, because that's where all the protein comes from!).

Finally, add a handful of your favourite granola.

Mix it all together, and enjoy! See, wasn't that easy?

Oh!! And sometimes I add a little squirt of honey, just for some extra sweetness.

If you want to make it a pretty little dessert, you could take a fancy glass, and do some layers. Berries, yogurt, berries, yogurt, and sprinkle granola on top. Or maybe you don't need granola on a dessert. Make sure the layers look nice in the glass! Good presentation, and yummy. Or use 0% Fat Vanilla greek yogurt for extra flavour. There are so many options. Play around with it, and make something delicious!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made cookies.

I shouldn't have, because cookies will be the death of me. If I make pretty much anything else, cupcakes, pie, cake, etc. I won't get the urge to eat them. But cookies? Oh man. I will devour them. And that's obviously not a good thing. Good while I'm doing it, but not good afterwards if you know what I mean.

These, I think, are my favourite cookies. These are my Grandma Marilyn's recipe,  even called "Grandma Marilyn Cookies" in my recipe book. There isn't anything extravagant about them, but they are just so good. The more chocolate chips the better.

This time, I wasn't sure if I had enough chocolate chips, so I actually cut up a couple chunks of baking chocolate (of the dark variety), and threw that into the cookie dough as well. If you're going to do this, I suggest making sure that they aren't stuck on the outside of the cookie dough ball when you put it on your cookie sheet. Or this will happen:

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing! But, they just look a little different.

I'm currently trying to hide them in my cookie jar (AKA a bean pot, but I'll tell you about that another time), so that they aren't sitting out on my counter where I can see them, and where I just want to eat them. But they are just SO TEMPTING.

Anyway, make these, and try not to eat them. I dare you.

Grandma Marilyn Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees

In a bowl mix:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In another bowl, with either a hand beater or stand mixer, beat:
1 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

Then add:
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the wet and the dry ingredients together, either with a wooden spoon, or in a stand mixer, and then fold in:
1 bag (or about 2 cups) of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Once this is done, you may want to test out some of the cookie dough (I don't REALLY recommend this because there are raw eggs so you might get sick, but I do actually think you should, because it's delicious. But don't blame me if you get sick).

Spray a cookie sheet with pam, and plop on some spoonfuls of the cookie dough, spreading them out evenly on the sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges turn slightly golden. I had mine in for about 11 minutes. I like my cookies lighter, so this worked out well.

Which one of these is not like the other?