Monthly Archives: December 2011

Merry Christmas.

Here we are, ’tis the day/night before. Who’s ready?!? I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this holiday season. I’ve decided to write today, a day early, because tomorrow, I’ll be busy. Obviously. πŸ™‚ Today is a day for laundry, last minute prep work, and tidying. I’m also finishing up a few things for my holiday next week so I don’t have to do any of it tomorrow, when I’d rather be eating chocolate and playing games with my family. Of course, this also means I don’t have time to bake for you. Again. Instead, I thought I’d write about my favourite Christmas movies and shows.

We all have them. Some of yours might be new. Maybe they’re old. Maybe they’re not the typical Christmas or holiday movie. Here’s my top five list.

5.) Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The old stop-motion animation one with Burl Ives as Sam the snowman, who narrates. I just love this one. And now, with my nephew of an age to appreciate these shows and traditions, he enjoys it as much as my brother and I did at his age. I have so much fun seeing Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman (or Bominable, as my nephew calls him). And who doesn’t love those misfit toys? Such a classic.

4.) Mickey’s Christmas Carol. I love Disney cartoons, having grown up on the old shorts with Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Then to see this cartoon, with all of them, and all the other stars, it was just so great. Who didn’t enjoy seeing Scrooge McDuck learn about the meaning of Christmas? And how awesome was Goofy as Jacob Marley? I just loved this whole cartoon.

3.) A Muppet Family Christmas. Once again, this is a favourite because of growing up watching all the characters involved. I loved watching Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and most of all, I loved Fraggle Rock. So how could I not love the one Christmas special that brought them all together? AND they added a wise-cracking snowman, just to make it that much better. Really, this is a fun show all about being with those closest to you over the holidays. I can wish for nothing more in my own life, so I can definitely appreciate a show that captures that sentiment.

2.) Love Actually. This movie is a holiday movie wrapped up in a romance and sprinkled with comedy and drama. I love this movie. From the first time I saw it, I was in love. And the movie is all about love, and how many different forms there are of love. From the love between a man and woman, to the love between old and dear friends, to the love between a father and son. It’s such a wonderful movie for the holidays and I’d recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it. You’ll also laugh your ass off over Billy Mack’s antics (He’s played by Bill Nighy, who is a fantastic actor).

1.) Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There isn’t a Christmas or holiday season when I don’t remember watching this cartoon. I love the narration by Boris Karloff, and my family even had a dog named Max – he passed away a year ago but is still missed. The Grinch is such a wonderful show about how Christmas isn’t about shopping and toys and even the bright wrapping and ribbons. It’s about being with those you love and celebrating your gifts in life. Whenever I watch or listen to this one now, I always get choked up.

So I’m going to leave you with these, the beautiful words from the end of The Grinch that remind me of how lucky I am and how wonderful this time of year really is.

Merry Christmas, take care and happy reading.

“Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer, cheer to all Whos, far and near. Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.”

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Sharing Recipes #3 – Not Quite a Recipe

I wanted to bake something new for you this weekend. I really did. But I had two Christmas parties yesterday and no time to bake. Hey, that’s bound to happen to everyone at this time of year, right? I was left wondering what to do or what possible recipe I could share today. As I have no energy today either – yes, it was a late night and I’m not sorry at all, thank you!! – I don’t think I’ll be going on and on about what a wonderful time of year this is. And it really is. πŸ™‚

I woke up this morning, nice and late, for me anyway. I took my time getting dressed and all that, and then I went to a nearby Starbucks. When faced with no time or energy for baking or blogging, you can’t go wrong with caffeine and comfy chairs. And a pastry. Oh, and a new book.

That was my morning. I wanted to let you know that it’s all right sometimes to just have a quiet hour to yourself. If you have kids and/or 60-hour-a-week jobs, obviously spare time is usually reserved for extra sleep. Given the opportunity though, don’t feel guilty about taking off and hiding for a while by yourself. At this time of year, it’s so easy to get stressed and lash out at those close to you. If the difference between a nasty fight and holiday harmony is a venti double-shot of espresso with seven pumps of syrup, then by all means, do it!

I’m aware that not everyone has time or money for this sort of thing, and really, I could have spent my $7 on something more important. But I decided today that I wanted a coffee. I wanted a sweet treat. And I damn sure wanted some quiet time to start reading a new book. So I did it.

When faced with no time for baking, no more energy for family and work obligations, and the need to blog about something, I came up with the following recipe:

Book.

Comfy chair.

Venti Skinny Caramel Macchiato.

Cranberry Bliss Bar.

No phone calls.

No TV.

No stress for half an hour (that’s right, I didn’t even stay for a whole hour!)

It may not seem like a lot, but it works for me. πŸ™‚

Take care and happy reading.

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Sharing Recipes #2 – Chocolate Oh Henry Squares

This week I’m bringing you another old favourite of mine. They’re called Chocolate Oh Henry Squares – no relation to the Oh Henry chocolate bars you find in the stores. πŸ™‚ These are another popular one with friends and family alike. They’re also a non-bake recipe. You do part of it on the stovetop but you don’t have to worry about burning anything in a pan in the oven. It’d be a good one to try for those of you who aren’t all that experienced with baking.

Just like the cookies, I have memories associated with these squares. When I was younger, and learning how to cook and bake different things, my parents would let me try just about anything. My mom always told me that as long as I know how to read, I can bake. So I would. I’d sit in the kitchen on weekends and thumb through the recipe books my parents had. I’d look at the pictures and find the recipes that go with them. Some would have some pretty far out ingredients but every once in a while, I’d find a recipe that we had all the components for.

I still remember the exact day I tried this square recipe for the first time. I think I was about ten or eleven at the time. My dad was home from work, which was a rare treat in those days – he used to work all different shifts. He sat with me at the kitchen table as I flipped through the beat-up old recipe book. I suggested this one and he read the ingredients to make sure we had everything. Then we got it all out and made the squares together. They turned out so well that they became an immediate staple of holiday gatherings and family dinners. And every time I make these squares, or see them on the dessert trays at my family’s house after dinner, I’m reminded of the time my dad spent with me, testing out a new recipe for the very first time.

Even now, as I make these squares, my mother and my nephew – her grandson – have been watching Christmas shows and now they’re decorating the Christmas tree. My nephew is asking ‘why’ about every. Single. Ornament. And yet, I can’t help but smile. It’s all a new memory and I’m going to remember it every time I have these squares. Also, it’s a wonderful time of year and I’m so very lucky to have my family close by.

So I pass this recipe on to all of you, in the hopes that you also get the chance to make some memories with your families this holiday season. And if, at the same time, you manage to make some tasty Chocolate Oh Henry Squares, I hope you can control yourself long enough to share. πŸ˜€

Chocolate Oh Henry Squares

(As a side note, you can easily make this recipe dairy and/or gluten-free. You just need to buy gluten-free graham wafers, and wafer crumbs, and dairy-free chocolate. It’s also made without eggs, and you can choose to leave out the nuts if you really want or need to.)

You will need a 9″x9″ square baking pan. It’s best to use a flat-bottom pan, like Baker’s Secret brand, rather than a glass pan. You need to line the bottom of the pan with graham wafers and the slightly rounded bottom of glass pans won’t work as well.

Ingredients:

Graham wafers – you won’t even need a whole box

Filling:

3/4 cup – butter or margarine

2/3 cup – packed brown sugar

1/2 cup – milk (use almond or soy milk as a substitute if desired)

1/3 cup – chocolate chips

1-1/4 cups – graham wafer crumbs

1 cup – chopped nuts (I prefer pecans, but you can use walnuts, filberts or peanuts if you really wanted.)

Icing:

1-1/4 cups – icing or confectioner’s sugar

3 tbsp – butter or margarine

1/4 cup – cocoa

1 tbsp, plus 2 tsp – hot coffee (for this, I add extra coffee to make the icing more smooth and easier to spread on the squares. When you get to the icing stage, make a pot of coffee and relax for a few minutes, πŸ˜‰ then save at least a cup for this.)

First, cover the bottom of the pan with the whole graham wafer cookies. Cut them to fit where necessary.

Next, measure out each of the first bunch of ingredients before doing anything else. In a medium-sized saucepan, add the butter/margarine, brown sugar and milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, and add the chocolate chips. Stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Use a whisk if needed. I find that the brown sugar doesn’t always melt as easily, especially if it’s lumpy when you measure it out.

Add the nuts and graham wafer crumbs. Mix together.

Pour into the pan, over the graham wafers. Spread evenly, as best as you can. The filling should be relatively runny so you shouldn’t need to spread much. It should just expand on its own.

Now put another layer of the whole graham wafer cookies over the filling, again cutting extra pieces to fit where necessary.

You’ll want to leave the pan to sit for a little bit now. The mixture in the middle needs to cool and harden some before you can spread the icing over the top. So go make that pot of coffee and grab a magazine – or your ereader! – and relax for a while.

For the icing, put the icing sugar, cocoa, butter and first tablespoon of coffee together in a small mixing bowl. Mix together, adding a teaspoon at a time of more coffee until you get the icing to a smooth, spreadable consistency. Don’t add too much coffee at once, or you’ll end up making it too runny. Although, if you do, don’t panic. Just add some more icing sugar back to the mix to thicken it up again.

Spread the icing over the top layer of graham wafers, spreading evenly until every wafer is covered.

Finally, put the pan into the fridge and leave for a couple hours to allow the cookies to soften and the whole thing to set.

And you’re done. Congratulations on another stellar treat. πŸ™‚

Take care and happy reading.

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Sharing Recipes #1 – Chocolate Chip Cookies

As the holiday season gets underway, I’ve decided to do something a little different this week, and maybe for the month. I’m going to share a few of my favourite recipes with all of you. Around this time of year, I always feel like baking. It’s cold and snowy outside, so cranking the oven inside is a kind of comfort. The smells of baking cookies or squares is positively intoxicating. At least, it is to me. πŸ™‚ And I enjoy seeing my family ‘taste-testing’ everything to make sure it turned out all right.

To start things off, I’m going to share a tried-tested-and-true recipe that has never failed to impress. They’re my mother’s old recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Nothing special to be sure, but let me take a moment to tell you a little bit about these cookies.

When we were kids, my brother and I would take two or three of these chocolate chip cookies in our lunches to school every day. I would sometimes share one or two with my friends, who were always very appreciative. My brother, on the other hand, would trade his cookies with other kids. He wouldn’t just trade them cookies for a pudding, or cookies for a bag of chips. Oh no. He would trade them these two or three cookies for entire lunches. I kid you not. Some of his friends wanted these cookies so badly, they would give up everything they had.

When I was old enough, I learned how to make these cookies myself. When I started working full-time at an office, every so often I would bake a batch on the weekend and take in a couple dozen to work to share. Everyone loved them. Even people who claim to never eat sweets or baked goods would indulge. I didn’t mind because if they were eating the cookies, that meant I wasn’t, hence, I was able to control my intake a little better. πŸ™‚

I only make them every once in a while. Last weekend I made an enormous batch to give to my brother for his birthday. It doesn’t seem like a lot but I’ve done the cookies for his last three or four birthdays. He loves it, because his wife and kids aren’t able to eat dairy or gluten, so he never gets these old treats anymore. When I bake him the cookies, they’re all his, which he also loves.

Anyway, after ‘taste-testing’ the cookies last week – I had to make sure they’d pass muster, OK?! – I decided I needed some more. The rest of my family agreed. So, I made some cookies.

Below, you’ll find the recipe and instructions, as well as a few visual aids. Hopefully you give these cookies a shot. You won’t regret it, trust me. πŸ™‚

Chocolate Chip Cookies: (One thing, I usually double this recipe but for your first time, maybe stick with the single. Then again… you might want another batch sooner than you think!)

1/2 cup – butter or margarine (I prefer butter, but depending on your preference, either works fine)

1/4 cup – white or granulated sugar

1/2 cup – brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp – vanilla extract (pure extract is always best for flavour but if you don’t have it, which I never do – too damn expensive – use artificial. It’ll be fine.)

2 cups – all-purpose flour (slightly heaping cups)

1/2 tsp – salt

1/2 tsp – baking soda

1 cup – chocolate chips

1 cup – chopped nuts (optional – I never add nuts, but you could add them if you like walnuts or pecans or anything like that)

(On a side note, I just listed all this from memory. What does that tell you about how often I’ve made these cookies?!)

First, cream the butter with the white and brown sugar. Mix until smooth.

Next, add in the egg and vanilla. Mix together.

In a separate bowl or dish, measure out the flour, salt and baking soda. Mix together and start to add to the sugar/butter mix in small portions. (If you try to dump all the flour in at once, it’ll just burst into a white cloud in your face and you’ll be coughing it up and cleaning it from everywhere for hours.) Keep adding the flour mix until it’s all in, then stir until smooth.

Finally, add in the chocolate chips (and nuts if you have them). Stir until mixed evenly.

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. (You can make them any size you want really, but keep in mind that your baking time will increase the bigger you make the cookie lumps)

Bake in oven for 6-7 minutes at 375F. (Again, the time may vary depending on the size of your cookie drops, or your altitude. Just keep an eye on the cookies from 7 minutes on, and when they look brown around the edges, they’re done.)

Well, now you should have a pile of freshly baked cookies. I prefer to eat them with a glass of cold milk, but that’s just me.

I hope if you try these, that they turn out all right and your families appreciate all the hard work you put in to them. πŸ™‚

Take care and happy reading!

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