Saturday, 28 May 2011

The quest continues

The perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe is out there somewhere, I'm sure of it.  I may have found it today. I have spent a great deal of time over the last two weeks trying to decide what makes a really good chocolate chip cookie?  I think the answer is different for everyone.  Some people are into thin, crispy ones. I like those, don't get me wrong, I would eat them if they were put in front of me.

But for me, I like a chewy, doughy center and a little bit of a crisp outside.  It has to have lots of chocolate chips, but not too much that it overpowers the dough and it has to have a good salt to sweetness ratio.  Not too salty but I want to know there is a pinch in there.  I think I need to make a spreadsheet so I can accurately rate these recipes before I start getting confused about which was which.

I am registered for a research methods course in the winter session at MSVU this year as part of my Masters degree and I'm hoping I can use this "research" as part of any project I have to do.... kidding, sort of.  Research methods would be so much more interesting if it was totally focused on cookies or other baked goods!  Either way, for scientific purposes or not, I need to keep track so that when I do find that perfect recipe I can make it again and again!  Anyone have any suggestions of what criteria should be included in a perfect cookie rating scale?  Now is the time to weigh in!

I made this recipe today. Big Chocolate Chip Cookies, another recipe from the blog My Baking Addiction (SO GOOD!).  I used these ingredients (except the coffee in the picture.... I did use that to function today, just not in the cookies).

I creamed together the butter (I used margarine, I can only imagine what these would be like with real butter..... oh my) white and brown sugar. Then added the eggs and vanilla. Then the dry ingredients to make the dough.

I rolled the dough into balls.  The recipe calls for 4 oz. balls, I have no idea how big that would be, nor do I have a scale to weigh each ball, so I just made them "cookie sized".

I didn't have any parchment paper, that is a luxury that people on parental leave cannot afford.  So I used some Pam from my giant can of it that I bought at Costco.  Nothing like spray grease in bulk!
 Again, the pan is clean, just ruined!

A little sampling.....


Jason's brother was here helping to work on our deck. Judging by the number cookies to two of them ingested in a ten minute time period, I would say they were a hit!  I know I like them!

Blueberry Muffins

I went on a search for a good muffin recipe because I was craving something delicious for a quick and easy   breakfast treat, something that butter would taste nice melted on!  I took to my favorite food blogs and found this recipe for the Awesomest Blueberry Muffins from the Pioneer Woman Cooks.  These muffins did not were truly terrific.  I didn't make the blueberry yogurt sauce to go with them but I still have a dozen of them in the freezer so when they come out I might make the sauce to go with them because it also looks super tasty.  Maybe a girly brunch date is in my future! Any takers?

I mixed together the wet ingredients. My favorite part of this recipe was that it contains yogurt!  I used Stoneyfield Original Organic. Yum!

Then added the dry ingredients and mixed! (Very scientific, I know).
I folded in the blueberries and spooned the mixture into the pan.  The recipe calls for fresh blueberries but I used frozen ones, they still taste great. I realized while making these that I only own one muffin pan.  I guess I'll add that to the Christmas list along with cookie pans that aren't black, new running shoes (to help work off all these delicious treats) and I'm sure the list will continue!

I baked them in our volcano.... I mean oven...  at 350 degrees for 18 minutes.

They look a little crispy in the picture but they turned out nicely.  Kind of crunchy on top and moist and soft and delicious inside!!!  I will definitely make these again!

Plus Lila loves when I bake with blueberries because she gets to munch while I work!

She REALLY likes frozen blueberries!

The Awesome-est Blueberry Muffins
3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch of salt
Dash of Nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 generous cup plain, unflavored yogurt (throw in extra if you want)
2 cups fresh blueberries
Vanilla Extract
Softened Butter, for muffin tins
Turbinado sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 385 degrees.
In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, cap-ful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of 10.
Add blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and stir 3 times.
Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans. Sprinkle remaining berries on top and press down lightly. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top. (Brown sugar can be used instead.)
Bake 20 to 25 minutes and allow to cool completely.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Chocolate chip cookies - Take One

I love chocolate chip cookies (as I have mentioned before).  However, I have not been able to find the perfect recipe, yet.  I'm on a quest to find the chocolate chip cookie recipe that I just simply cannot live without.

Starting with this one:
"Must Make Chocolate Chip Cookies" from the blog My Baking Addiction

originally from
My dough

Check out all the chocolatey goodness! 

Little gooey balls of deliciousness.

Please don't judge my nasty looking pans.... maybe someday I will get some new ones that I'm not embarrassed of!

There are 4 cups of chocolate chips in this recipe.  Yes, you read that correctly, 4 cups!!!!

The finished product!

My Review:
These cookies really are delicious! Judging by how many disappeared from the cookie jar over the past few days, I would say J likes them too!
I think I would add a little more salt next time.  Also, there is almost too much chocolate in these cookies.  I know, I never thought I would say it either..... I just feel like with a little less chocolate and a little more salt the cookies would be more balanced.
Here is the recipe:
1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag (24 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (4 cups)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed or with spoon until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt (dough will be stiff). Stir in chocolate chips.
2. On ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by tablespoonfuls or #40 cookie/ice cream scoop 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly.
3. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until light brown (centers will be soft). Cool 1 to 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

The makings of a date night

So I purchased a voucher from Deal Find for $65 at the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant in Halifax and J and I decided Saturday night would be a great time to use it. Back before the baby we were able to just jump in the car and head out for a date night whenever we pleased.  Now it is a little more complicated.

Step 1: Secure a babysitter.
Because we live about 40 minutes away from the restaurant it was just easiest to deliver miss Lila to J's mother who lives 10 minutes from the restaurant than to have her come to our house.

Step 2: Make a reservation.
Normal people go out to dinner around 7:00 or 8:00pm.  In our past life this would have been our choice as well.  We opted however to make a 5:30pm reservation so that we would be able to pick Lila up after she ate her supper and she would fall asleep on the way home.

Step 3:
Pump.... pump... pump.... pump..... For anyone who has breastfed you know the joys of sitting for hours hooked up to a breast pump.  I, for some reason, am only able to pump about 1oz. per 30 minutes.  Lila drinks about a 5oz. bottle... so lets see, that is 2 and 1/2 hours of pumping for one bottle. Yup.  No wonder we don't go out for more date nights!  Oh, and she is still nursing every 2 hours. So it usually takes me two to three days to pump enough for one evening out and this is if I can pump more than a couple of times a day which would require Lila to sleep or entertain herself for these periods of time which doesn't usually happen.

Step 4:
Pack up Lila's stuff.  I used to laugh at my friends who had babies and would arrive at parties with huge bags of stuff, bouncy chairs, booster seats, you name it.  Now I understand their pain!  So for a 2-3 hour stretch at Nanny's house I packed:
- A change of clothes (pants and shirt)
- An extra sweater
- A hat
- Two sleepers (one to change into before heading for home and an extra incase something unfortunate happens to the first one).
- A bib
- Toys
- A booster chair
- Stroller (always in the trunk)

Step 5:
Pack Lila's supper :
- Peas and corn
- Ground beef and black beans
- Cup of water
- 1 bottle of breast milk

Step 6:
Shower, dry hair and attempt to apply makeup, all while Lila is sitting in her bouncy chair in the bathroom with me either looking very unimpressed or screaming in my arms. It is very challenging to apply mascara with one hand and a kicking, screaming baby in the other!

Step 7:
Get dressed.  Easy enough right? Well..... I can't wear yoga pants and a sweatshirt to the restaurant so maybe this process isn't so easy.  Most of my pre-pregnancy clothes do not fit even though I weigh at least 10 pounds less than I did when these clothes did fit..... and the ones that do fit are just ugly and unappealing to me.  Finally I settled on a pair of jeans and a black shirt.  Fancy.

Step 8:
Change a diaper, dress Lila in something that is not stained and prepare to pack the car. I put all of the items that need to go in the car out on the deck by the stairs.  Take Lila down to the car and buckle her in.  Run back up for all the stuff and load it in the car.  This takes 2-3 trips. I think I should be much skinnier than I am with all the running up and down stairs that I do! Perhaps in another month my wardrobe choices will be much greater.

Step 9:
Drive to the babysitters.  As we are driving, realize we are 30 minutes late.

Step 10: Call the restaurant and push the reservation back by half an hour.

After all this we did end up at the restaurant where we had a lovely dinner.  Maybe we should do this more often!!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes

This is what happens when you have no groceries and need to use up some of the odds and ends in the cupboard and freezer.  Because I am home on parental leave and money is a little tighter than normal we seem o be doing this a lot lately as we try to stretch the time between our grocery trips further and further!

So, I had blueberries and oatmeal and I wanted something I could give to Lila so it had to be easy to chew with not much sugar or salt in it... so I went to the internet!

I typed "Oatmeal Pancakes" into Google and found a recipe that sounded easy at the Western Gazette.

Oatmeal Pancakes
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
  1. Soak rolled oats in milk for approximately 10 minutes
  2. Mix dry ingredients
  3. Add wet ingredients and mix with a fork until ingredients are mixed through
  4. Let batter stand for five minutes before cooking
  5. Serve with butter and maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon for extra flavour
— Nicole Gibillini

I used Whole wheat flour instead of white, half the amount of salt the recipe called for and I used maple syrup instead of brown sugar.

 Mixed the ingredients together....
Put them in the pan and put some frozen blueberries on top.  I did it this way because when I mix the blueberries into the batter, it turns it blue, or sometimes a greenish blue, and that just doesn't appeal to me.  
Yum!  Mommy got to have butter and maple syrup on hers! Lila did not.
But that didn't stop her!  She devoured two of these delicious morsels in one sitting!  I think they were a success!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The quest has begun....

So I have been talking for weeks about wanting to begin a quest to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever.  I LOVE chocolate chip cookies, they are an addiction really. A serious problem.

I went to Costco on the weekend and purchased a 2.4kg bag of chocolate chips to begin the quest. 

I found a recipe today that I just had to try!  It was from the How Sweet It Is Blog.  I love this blog, I would be huge, HUGE, if I ate half the stuff she bakes but anything I have ever tried from this site has been delicious!  

Today I made Triple Threat Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter Cookies.  I am not just a sucker for chocolate chip cookies but also for any form of chocolate and peanut butter mixed together.  These cookies pretty much encompass everything I dream of at night!  

Here are the ingredients I used.

I creamed together the butter, sugar, eggs, peanut butter and vanilla.

Then added the flour and mixed until the batter was sort of fluffy.

Then added in the cocoa and other dry ingredients.

Then I melted half a cup of chocolate chips (the recipe calls for some milk chocolate chips but I used all semi-sweet because, lets face it, I have lots of them!).

Then I stirred the melted chocolate as well as the other chocolate chips into the batter.

I put the dough in the fridge for a couple of hours and then threw them onto cookie sheets in little balls and baked them for 10 minutes at 325 (because our over is like an indoor volcano we usually set the heat about 25 degrees less than any recipe calls for).  

The result was pure chocolate and peanut butter bliss! Highly recommended and though these are not traditional chocolate chip cookies I think they were a fantastic way to kick off the quest!!!  

Tomorrow I should probably spend less time baking and more time exercising....

Here is the recipe:

Triple Threat Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter Cookies
makes 30-40 cookies
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 heaping teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 cup milk chocolate chips
Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix until combined. Add in melted semi-sweet chocolate and mix until just combined.
Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 4-6 hours. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop large mounds of dough (about 2 tablespoons worth) and place on a cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Chicken Soup

We had roasted chicken and veggies for supper last night so I decided I would make chicken broth and then chicken soup. I have a new found love for soup.  I think it is because I am getting frugal in my old age and would rather spend hours boiling bones and then scraping fat off the top of homemade broth than being wasteful, throwing out the bones and then buying Campbell's Chicken Stock at $2.99 a box (though I do enjoy the Campbell's as well, I'm just cheap).

So, I dug out some veggies.

And diced them up.

I used the same knife to chop all of the veggies (carrots, celery, onion, green onion, garlic) and it probably wasn't a "chopping knife" to begin with.  J nearly has a stroke when I do this.  He thinks certain things should be cut with certain knives.  He is probably right but I just grab something that cuts.  Maybe  I will learn more about appropriate cutting instruments as I continue on my culinary adventures, but probably not.

Who knew chopped veggies could look so lovely!

Lila helped.  She loves to watch me cook.  She can be fussing or crying and if I say something along the lines of "We need to stir the (insert food related word here) she stops and becomes mesmerized by the mixing of various textures and colors. I think I'm either creating an artist, a chef or just a regular old food addict (lie her Mom!).  She likes to munch while she watches so I peeled some carrot (after it was washed and already peeled once, so no dirt).

We washed the veggies.

Threw them in a big pot with some olive oil and simmered for a few minutes to soften them up a bit.

Added the leftover chicken (white and dark meat).

Then added the broth.

Simmered on medium heat for about 45 minutes or so and served!

J was working late but Lila and I enjoyed the soup and I'm sure we will continue to enjoy it for the next few days.  Perhaps some of this will make it to the freezer for future meals as well!

Friday, 13 May 2011

The rain stopped!

Well, it has been raining here for something like 23 days and finally today the rain stopped.  The clouds are still here but at least it is not as wet.

I took the opportunity to do my favorite household chore (really the only one I actually like).  I hung some clothes on the line, OUTSIDE!
Until today, I was doing this...

Diapers, liners and wipes air drying in the living room.
I think this really adds to the decor of our living room.

Also today, Lila and I ventured out to take a peek at the few signs of spring we have in our yard.  Someone please remind me in the fall that I really want to plant some spring bulbs so that our yard doesn't look so sad this time next year!
These appeared in our front garden but we didn't plant them.  What a fun surprise!

German mayflowers.  Didn't plant these either but am glad they popped up!
This is our project for the next sunny day.  Mom dug up some rhubarb for us to transplant in our yard.  Its been raining since she brought it over so it is still in the box.  Hopefully we can get it in the ground over the weekend. 

I found these on my counter today and decided that it was time to use them or compost them and I do hate to be wasteful....
So I made something delicious. It is Honey Raisin Banana Pumpkin bread.... all wonderful things in one tasty loaf pan!  This recipe came from Oh She Glows (one of my favorite "healthy" blogs).

These are the ingredients I used.

So, I mashed the bananas which basically disintegrated in my hands anyway.
Then I mixed all the wet ingredients in one bowl and all the dry ingredients in another. Then I mixed them together and folded in the raisins (I use PC Organics raisins because they are huge and moist and delicious!) I forgot I was supposed to be documenting each step.  I'm new at this remember?  

Ready for the oven.
I decided to use two smaller pans instead of one larger one so I can freeze one and have it for later.  I love to freeze things, but then I forget I have them and end up making more..... I guess there are worse things you could have more of than baked goods. 

When they came out of the oven they looked like this....

Honey Banana Pumpkin Raisin Loaf
 YUM!  And fairly healthy too! I highly recommend it and I fear the second loaf may not quite make it to the freezer!