Search with Google


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Element of Surprise

The great thing about blogging is that I learn from so many other blogs. In turn, I'd like to pass on some hard won knowledge.

I was unaware that some manufacturers state to not put aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven but why? Gather around and I’ll tell you a story about one reason why.

Yesterday, I was cooking corn bread at a ridiculously high heat when….

…a zapping sound and bright light emitted from the oven. The light wasn’t the oven light... as that had conked out long ago. I opened the oven door to see a geyser of sparks shooting up from the element and a billow of smoke wafting out of the oven. I yelled for my hubby as I shut off the oven, turned on the exhaust fan and prayed that nothing would catch fire forcing me to use the extinguisher.

(An extinguisher used on an oven renders it completely unusable. There is nothing you can do but replace the oven. A small price to pay for not burning down the house but I prefer to avoid the whole scenario. How do I know this? I have a good friend with experience in this area and I benefit from her experience.)

We looked at each other with eyes as round as saucers. Holy moly, that was scary. Then I asked my husband, Is it dead? Will it spark again if I try to use it?

My husband, being of a curious scientific nature said, Let’s see. The worse that can happen is that the circuit breaker will trip or the oven fuse will blow.

We turned the oven back on and it was dead.

Now I know that if tinfoil in the bottom of the oven touches the element, it can cause a short. A short can cause a fire and ruin your food, your oven and your whole day.

On the bright side, my hubby replaced the element right away and even put in a working oven light.

I’m back in business.


Sparky the Electric Element

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Smokin' in the Baker's Hood

It's another fabulous challenge in the Daring Baker's hood and things were smokin' at my house.

This month's challenge was hosted by the amazing Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups. You can check out the recipe here of Tender Potato Bread. She also has a short clip of kneading the dough which is a great guide for bread baking newbies.

Round 1
I love these challenges and I play with them, much much more than is really wise. The first time I made the potato bread, I absolutely loved it. My downfall was my over confident attitude. Since I make a lot of bread I was very laid back.

The cooked potatoes were put through a ricer and immediately mixed with the hot cooking water. They dissolved to make a smooth consistent loaf. I flavoured the loaf with about two teaspoons of dried dill. The dough was quite sticky so I kneaded the dough directly in my huge stainless steel bowl until it was more firm, then I tranferred it to the counter top.

The rising, falling and shaping of the dough went without a hitch. Then I cooked it.

The top of the focaccia wasn’t very brown so I decided to play with my blowtorch. This is a new toy and oh so impressive in the eyes of my teenage son...

You can see this going wrong on so many levels…

The blowtorch took forever so I put it back in the oven to grill the top for a few minutes. Fast forward a few minutes and I’m yakking on the phone with a friend, my kitchen is full of kids and … is that burning I smell?!

I snatched the bread from the maw of my smokin’ hot oven and sent some over to my friend. Just so she could appreciate the depth and meaning of my shrieking at her over the phone.Round 2
I flavoured the bread with dill and caraway. The riced potatoes were mixed with the cooking water when it was cooler so there were little potato chunks in the bread. No problems. I stayed away from the phone.Round 3
Flavoured with just dill, used riced potatoes and rutabaga. No problems. I stayed away from the phone and watched Desperate Housewives instead.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pumpkin Muffin

These muffins were dense, tasty and flavourful. There are many variations that you can try with the spices. Ginger, cloves, allspice and cinnamon are all great choices for experimentation.

Pumpkin Muffin

2&1/2 cups all purpose flour (625 mL)
1 cup whole wheat flour (250 mL)
1 tsp salt (5 mL)
1 cup sugar (250 mL)
2 tsp cinnamon (10 mL)
1/2 tsp allspice (3 mL)
1/2 tsp nutmeg (3 mL)

3 cups pureed pumpkin (750 mL)
3/4 cup canola oil (180 mL)
2 Tbsp vinegar (30 mL)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. Line muffin cups or grease with canola oil.

Sift together flours, baking soda, salt, sugar and spices in a large bowl. A sifter will give lighter muffins and these muffins are pretty hearty. If you would like to lighten the texture, add a bit of water. Add combined pureed pumpkin, oil, and vinegar.

Cook for approximately 20 minutes.

Makes about 18 muffins.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chocolate Muffins

I hesitate to underline the fact that this is another vegan recipe. It's a reflection of a terrible attitude because I assume vegan recipes won't be successful or taste good. A vegan labelled recipe is not a selling point for this carnivore because something that virtuous couldn't be good, could it?

So I welcomed the challenge to create good vegan muffins. My family didn't know that the muffins were vegan and they didn't care as they inhaled them. The batters were simple and the ingredients are easily available. I thought I would have to apologize for the quality of the muffins because they were vegan. I was wrong.

I'm stretching the meaning of muffin a bit with this recipe since it has quite a bit of sugar in it. But the whole wheat cancels out a bit of the sugar and it's a bit of wickedness in an otherwise virtuous muffin.

Chocolate Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour (625 mL)
1 cup whole wheat flour (250 mL)
1/2 cup cocoa (125 mL)
2 cups sugar (500 mL)
2 tsp baking soda (10 mL)
1 tsp salt (5 mL)

2 cups water (500 mL)
3/4 cup canola oil (180 mL)
2 Tbsp white vinegar (30 mL)
2 tsp vanilla (10 mL)

1 cup dark chocolate chips (250 mL)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 Celsius. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners or grease with canola oil.

Sift together all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add combined water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly blended and add chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared muffin tins and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Makes 24 muffins.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vegan Muffin Madness

Along came a challenge to bake some vegan muffins and I love a challenge...

Since our family is not vegan, we don't have ingredients that are often substituted for milk and eggs in vegan baking. This recipe requires only the ingredients that I commonly have on hand.

The rum can be substituted with vanilla but the rum gives the muffins an echo of Bananas Foster.

Banana Rum Raisin Muffins

2&1/2 cups all purpose flour (625 mL)
1 cup whole wheat flour (250 mL)
2 tsp baking soda (10 mL)
1 tsp salt (5 mL)
1 cup sugar (250 mL)

2&1/2 cups mashed bananas (625 mL)
3/4 cup canola oil (185 mL)
2 tbsp vinegar (30 mL)
3 tbsp dark rum (45 mL)

1 cup raisins (250 mL)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. Line muffin cups or grease with canola oil.

Sift together flours, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl. A sifter will give a lighter muffins and these muffins are pretty hearty. Add combined mashed bananas, oil, vinegar and rum.

Mix just until combined and add raisins.

Cook for approximately 20 minutes but check after 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shoo Fly Muffins

My father in law is from the Pennsylvania Dutch area of the United States and he has a few great recipes up his sleeve. The first time I tried shoo fly cake I fell in love with its moist dark flavourful feel. I love molasses and this recipe highlights the molasses flavour.

I've modified the recipe to be vegan but the original requires salted butter instead of shortening and salt. The crumbs are supposed to be put directly into a 9x13 inch pan and the hot liquid added. If you make muffins, you must mix it first then quickly fill the muffin tins.

Shoo Fly Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour (500 mL)
2 cups whole wheat flour (500 mL)
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar (500 mL)
1 cup shortening (250 mL)
1/2 tsp salt (3 mL)
2 cups boiling water (500 mL)
2 tsp baking soda (10 mL)
1 cup fancy molasses (250 mL)
1 tsp vanilla (5 mL)

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease with shortening.

Mix together all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, shortening and salt to make cake crumbs. Reserve 1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbs for topping.

Mix together boiling water, baking soda, molasses and vanilla. Add to cake crumbs - the mixture will fizz and foam. Quickly fill muffin cups. Sprinkle with reserved cake crumbs. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Makes 24 muffins.

Creative Process

In art school we all agonized over our creative process.

A group of students built a sculpture out of chicken wire, plaster and various odds and sods from the studio. We weren’t quite sure what it was supposed to be. Neither were the creators very sure about this assignment. They decided to push forward and record their creative process. The students loaded their hefty piece of work onto a truck and drove it to an open field, filming all the way.

Once they unloaded the sculpture, they placed it carefully on the ground. Then they set it on fire.

At the film premiere to the class the teacher optimistically highlighted their creative process.

We all had a good laugh.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


We attended the funeral of a favourite uncle recently.

Unfortunately, cancer had claimed another victim. There have been too many funerals, too many cases of bad news broken over the telephone followed by shocked silence.

This blog was actually inspired by a more serious blog of a friend. She is far away and is also struggling with cancer. Her family had moved just before she was diagnosed. They were in a new country, new city and new community. In order to keep up with family and friends all over the world, her husband started a blog. It was not possible to speak with everyone who cared and concentrate on their struggle.

Because of the wonderful energy my friends give, the new community embraced them and surrounded their family with support. They are so grateful for the love that surrounds them.

In this blog, I am blessed to be able to goof around, burn my buns and laugh at my mistakes. When small things go wrong, I love the laughter it generates. When big things go wrong, I am so very very grateful for the love and support of family and friends.

One of my cousins stated at my uncle’s funeral. This cancer is like French kissing the grim reaper. You’re irresistibly drawn towards him but you just don’t want to go all the way.

We will never stop laughing and loving.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bodice Rippers

Years ago, I was invited by a friend to join a book club.

We gathered at a lovely home and were introduced to each other. Everyone was highly educated, well travelled with demanding careers... I was the only stay at home Mom among them.

We went through suggestions for various books. Some of the titles vetted were A Year in Provence, On Foot Through Africa etc. All interesting books. Our lovely hostess looked around and tentatively suggested that we choose a romance novel or a bodice ripper as we like to call them in our house.

A chorus of boos and nos followed her suggestion.

When my friend and I walked out of the meeting we talked about the books we had been reading. We were catching up on our lives. I had been in Italy for a month and read Italian books voraciously when I was there. In the past month I had read about 30 books. My friends jaw dropped... and then I added... and 28 of them were Harlequin.

She burst out laughing.

Really easy books in Italian are perfect on vacation. I can brush up on my Italian with phrases to my husband like...

Your eyes are green like a stormy sea...(I actually said mould.)

You get the picture. I may not say it perfectly but he's not complaining. These educational aids were surreptitiously tucked into serious literature to avoid teasing from my in laws.

I revealed this secret to my friend, trusting she would understand or at least think it was entertaining. Little did I know, she had her own secret. It turned out that her neighbour had given her old Harlequin novels. My friend had been cracking them open just before bedtime and she stated I've never slept so well.

Other people can say what they like.

I understand.