Thursday, March 31, 2011

recent finds

I've been doing a little more thrifting lately in the hopes of finding some retro furniture pieces, but unfortunately, I've been coming up empty-handed. Do you know what sucks about living in a city that has an IKEA? Every piece of second-hand furniture is from IKEA. It's getting a little irritating. I have been finding a lot of art pieces and tchotchkes (I knew a guy who would refer to tchotchkes as "pretty-pretties" Fitting, right?). Here are some of my recent favourites.

Meet our new extended family! When I saw this picture at Goodwill, I just couldn't leave it behind. It's one of those photos you can always stare at and ponder, you know? Who are they? What are they all there for? Look at their eyebrows! (The ladies and their hair styles, clothes, and, yes, eyebrows are amazing!)

Oh well. I'm starting to break my own rule of not going down the tchotchke aisle. The blue bird was a little overpriced, I'll admit, but it's also a vase! There's a little container on the back with a string so you can put some tiny buds in it and hang it on the wall. The blue jay was part of a set of three. The other two were both hummingbirds and I already have a hummingbird, so I opted to break them up. I don't usually like breaking sets up, but I thought it would look weird to have all three. The plastic resin was a disgusting tobacco smoke yellow when I bought it, and I thought it was supposed to be like that. But when I washed it to get the sticker off, it came out crystal clear!

Do you ever find stuff that's just too weird and mysterious NOT to buy? This piece is all leather. Yup. A black leather landscape. I really stewed on this one. It had dust in every fold and pocket and I had no idea where I'd put it since it's so far removed from anything else I have, but it was just one of those things that I thought I'd never ever see again. I had to have it. (Even if it meant I'd have to give it regular Q-tip dust cleanings.)

At first I thought it would be better if there were a pair of these, but now I really like that there's just one. It's a little treasure on my bookshelf. Besides, OWL. BOOKEND. Who would ever pass that up?!

The Goodwill I was at (the one near West Edmonton Mall) had a TON of fantastic embroidered art pieces. I've really never seen so many in one thrift store at one time. Unfortunately, there was some guy frantically going through the stacks of art grabbing all of the cheaper ones out (like completely dominating the whole section until he was finished -- so annoying). But I managed to get this one of purple thistles because it was up at the front of the store in an inconspicuous place. It's in perfect condition and it's really quite large (mom has the only other embroidered flower piece I've ever seen that matches its size -- gah. I need to get my grubby mitts on that one, too). Yesterday, Idle Husband suggested we put it on the wall opposite the staircase and it's so perfect for that spot, I don't even notice it's there. It was meant to be.

Not related to thrifting at all, I saw the new installations at Anthropology and I was really smitten with these humongous daisies. I want one!
what the heck do they do with all of this cool stuff when they change the store around again?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

vanilla birthday cake with vanilla cream cheese filling and swiss buttercream frosting

I don't really want to talk about birthday stuff. I'm not really that person. And I'm not grumpy at all that I'm 30, so don't think of it that way. I want to say that it feels exactly like all the other birthdays, so I just genuinely don't know what all the fuss is about. And I can't sit here and create fuss when I don't actually feel it, you know?

I'm starting to think this is turning into a real Debbie Downer post.

Ehem. So. (Turn it around already) I finished quite a few things on my 29 list and I'm ok that there are some that aren't crossed off. 29 isn't the last year to do everything ever, but it was fun coming up with stuff in the hopes of challenging myself. And from that perspective, I think the list was a total success.

And since January, I've felt like 2011 was going to be a good year for me, for us, so I feel like 30 is going to be full of new beginnings and that's really what I'm more excited about.

Let's talk about the cake now, shall we? The cake is fluffy, spongy, dense -- it's just a well-rounded basic recipe and my usual default if I want white cake (whatever flavour). This is my first time colouring cake, and I thought I had added enough colour for it not to soften out during baking, but I didn't. I also didn't have time to make more than two colours (since I only have two round cake pans), so I thought to cut each cake in half and then do a sort of stripe, but one cake was thicker than the other and I couldn't cut very straight so that's the extent of my excuses on that one.

This was also the first time I'd ever made swiss buttercream. It's definitely different in process to what I've made before, but it's a lot lighter and less cloyingly sweet. It is very buttery, so if you physically think to yourself about the amount of butter in it, you'll only taste butter. I guess when it comes to buttercream you have two choices: lots of icing sugar or lots of butter. It's kind of hard to find the best of both worlds.

The cream cheese filling came about as I was going to make another batch of Irish potato candies to get rid of the cream cheese. I was just about to add the last of the icing sugar when I realized the mixture was pretty close to a really nice cream cheese icing, so I stopped adding sugar and saved it for filling instead. (I also realized I had absolutely no time to do the cake plus roll out a bunch of cream cheese potatoes.) Lesson learned: had I made each layer's filling a little thicker, I would have had more distinction between layers. Plus I wouldn't have any cream cheese frosting leftover.

As for decoration, I wanted to try piping the ruffle icing that I'd seen around the web and found a tutorial for here. Though, now I link to it just so you can do it yourself if you want to. Truthfully, I only watched the video once a month ago, so my ruffles were completely improvised. I'm glad it worked out that way because I really like my look more than the video's. Did something happen to ruffles since the last time I saw some? Because I've never thought of ruffles as stiff, prissy, and perfect. I think it looks more realistic (and pretty) to have loose, relaxed ruffles.

Despite everything, I'm really happy with how the cake turned out. I'm so glad I didn't use all of the buttercream or cream cheese because this cake is sweet and filling just as it is. Idle Husband couldn't even finish his piece (granted, I gave him a larger slice). If you make it, use your judgement as to how much of the frostings you want in there. Cake is just as delicious with a light smearing of all that creamy stuff, too. It's really up to your tastes.

adapted from here
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

Whisk the buttermilk and egg whites together in a seperate bowl.

In a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract.

Beat in flour mixture alternating with the liquids. Make sure to end with the egg mixture and beat a couple minutes more once everything is combined.

Tint the batter if you like. Pour into two buttered and floured (and parchment papared if you've got it) 9" cake pans (this cake will stick to the bottom -- fair warning!). Tap the pan to smooth the top and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Let sit in the pan for 5-6 minutes before attempting to remove. Cool completely before stacking and frosting.

{cream cheese filling}
adapted from here
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
4 oz of cream cheese at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups powdered (icing) sugar

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add salt, honey, and vanilla. While mixing on low, slowly and carefully add the icing sugar a bit at a time until all is incorporated. Set aside.

{swiss buttercream}
from here
makes 10 cups
10 oz egg whites (I used egg whites from a carton, so I don't know how many eggs this is)
10 oz sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds unsalted butter, cut into smallish chunks, at room temperature
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium sized bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt. Set over a pot of water (as a double boiler) and heat the water until it's steaming and slightly simmering. It doesn't have to be boiling. Whisk until the eggs heat to 150 degrees.

Remove from heat and pour into a mixer bowl. Whisk until the egg whites have lightened and turned white. They get fluffier and lose that loose eggy look. Keep whipping so the mixture has a chance to cool down. I had no idea how cool they were supposed to get so I whipped for a while until they felt warm or about body temperature.

Turn the mixer down and start adding butter a chunk at a time. At one point, the mixture will seperate and look curdled but keep adding butter and it'll all come together again and be perfect. Don't freak out. Whip in vanilla extract to taste.

Assemble the cake with cream cheese filling and frost with the buttercream to your little heart's desire.

Friday, March 25, 2011

friday fixations

{mema's hotcakes}  I haven't wanted to try another pancake recipe for the longest time because I felt like any recipe I made was pretty much exactly like the last. But then I spotted this one on Tasty Kitchen. I was mostly drawn to the name, but the fact that it was also a super easy recipe helped nudge me into trying it. I first made them two weeks ago, and I'm not even kidding when I say that that's all I think about making for our Saturday breakfasts now. They're so delicious, you will eat them like cookies. IHOP pancake recipe in the garbage, MeMa's hotcakes instead.

{pinterest} I requested an invite out of curiosity, but now I find myself getting kind of addicted. This is so much better than saving everything to my computer!

{drop cloth curtains} I've been wanting to get one plain curtain style to go throughout the house, so when this popped into my mind, I thought it might be perfect. I looked at some packages at Home Depot and I really loved the colour and texture. The brand I liked was greyish in colour with little flecks of black and tan. It looked like good quality fabric and, of course, you get a lot at a pretty cheap price. I think they would work perfectly for my quiet curtain scheme (and with the house colours), but I could always print them myself if I got tired of them. I only waiver because the last time I made curtains, I screwed it up royally.

{vertical gardens} Since we moved, I have never been more plant obsessed (which is saying a lot for me). It might be due to the weather, but I think it's something this house is specifically screaming saying to me. So I've been busy collecting ideas for small gardens, and vertical gardens really appeal to me. They address the small yard problem and they look modern and stylish. I love this pallet garden (aka something I'd like to line the entire inside of our fence or deck with) and this idea for using an old picture frame (I kind of want to make a mini version). They're both frickin' genius and gorgeous.

{the awesomehots} They sound like nothing an Edmonton band should sound like (in my mind) which is a good thing. A very good thing. I really like Borda Patro' and you can listen to it here.

{beans} I know it's so weird to say, but I'm really fixated on beans right now! Kidney beans, black beans, white beans, brown beans -- you name it, I want it. Idle Husband decided he'd eat them now since they're healthy (deeelicious -- no; I threw that in) and part of this diet. Now I'm searching for new dinner ideas to incorporate them. I found this post which rounds up a bunch of bean recipes, and this foodie blog is posting lots of delicious looking recipes which focus primarily on the diet concepts. I'm over the moon excited to try some of these out. Oh! I just remembered about chili! Proper beany chili! Oy. I'm crazy excited about beans.

{doodle jump} I'm still sticking behind my motto that the best game concepts are always the simplest and cutest (and cheapest). Doodle Jump scores on all of those. It's insanely addictive (who thought jumping would be such a time-suck?), easy to learn (even I can do it and it's motion-controlled), and hard to master (damn you, black holes!).  Plus I'm a sucker for the doodled graphics and the option to switch between different (equally cute) scenes (I even love the soccer level). (Below, you'll find a Ragetoon that adequately expresses Idle Husband's feelings on the game.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

basic frittata

You know what I really love about frittatas? You can make them to suit whatever it is you have in the fridge. As long as you've got eggs, you've got a meal.

This is the first time I've ever made one, and I can tell you that it won't be my last.

My frittata consisted of mushrooms, fresh spinach, parmasan cheese, roasted purple garlic, and some leftover rotini pasta. It's amazing what a few simple ingredients can accomplish.

This isn't the first time I've seen pasta in egg dishes, but it's the first time I've actually tried it. I happened to have some cooked frozen rotini and based on this recipe, I decided to add a cup. Pasta and egg, where have you been all my life?

based loosely on Martha's
(you can add any vegetables you like, this is just a basic blueprint)

6 eggs
1/4 cup (or more) parmasan cheese
4 sliced mushrooms
4 cloves of roasted purple garlic (or regular garlic roasted or not)
about a handful of chopped fresh spinach
about a cup or more of any cooked pasta, I used multicoloured rotini
salt and pepper to taste
red chili pepper flakes to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together until the eggs are thoroughly combined with everything. Heat a 10" cast-iron pan (or any pan that's oven proof) on medium high heat with a drizzle of oil. Once heated, pour the egg mixture into the pan and gently spread it around so it's a nice even layer in the pan. Cook the eggs, undisturbed, until they look as if the top is just beginning to set and the mixture is pulling away from the sides of the pan a bit. Then transfer the entire pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are completely set, about 10-15 minutes. Test the center with a fork if you're not sure it's done. You can serve it right out of the pan or carefully invert it on to a plate. We had ours with a side salad and extra parmasan cheese.

Monday, March 21, 2011

wish list 2011

do you have to pick out your own birthday gifts, too?

{macarons} I would definitely love them in edible form (of course!), but I also feel like it's the right time to get a book, too. I'm still so obsessed with them and even if it meant not making another batch, these books would make great coffee table fodder. I'm kinda leaning towards Pierre Herme Macaron, I Love Macarons, Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes, and Mad About Macarons.

{picnik subscription} Since we've all determined photoshop is too much money, I'll probably never own it (unless, by some miracle, I go pro). So I've gotten super good at using this site for everything photo related (show me something Doodle can't fix). I don't use as many of the fancy photo processing gimicks as I used to, but I would really like to be able to work with more than five images at a time.

{ceramic cat measuring cups} I can't find them on the Urban Outfitter's website, but they're there. I kind of want them as a cute (and useful) homage to my lovely cat, Lucky.

{marie claire} I've decided I like this magazine. It actually talks to my age while still managing not to fill every page with children and recipes.

{amelie} I swear I ask for this movie every year. It's getting as bad as the time before I had the Pee Wee's Playhouse collection.

{vanilla layer cake with vanilla frosting} Don't worry, I'm totally busting this out for myself. I'm thinking about something kinda like this. (Duh! You'll see the pictures when it's done.)

{some kind of cool watch} I really love the simplicity of this red MUJI bangle watch and the fact that it looks like a bracelet but still has functionality. I also love this similar cling wrap watch for its addition of bracelet like chains. And, on the other hand, I kinda feel like I could also make something with a similar feel to it, so I'm really oddly torn up about it.

{camera lens adapter} I've done a lot of research on this subject and all I got was a lot of varying degrees of advice. I know there's an adapter out there and I'm pretty determined NOT to buy more lenses when I already have two that would be really helpful -- lenses are expensive! So I guess I'm going to have to suck it up and ask a professional.

{super mario 25th anniversary edition} It's no secret I love me some Mario. Even though this is apparently a reissue of an allstar edition they did in '93, I've only ever played one of the games with any frequency. So playing these classic games with cuter graphics and sounds is totally new and awesome for me (Mario lost levels? I've been missing out!). And no; I'm still not going to get rid of my NES.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

COOKIE MELTDOWN: St. Patrick's Day 2011

Have you ever used one of these? Well, don't. Just take this little piece of kitchen history and put it on a shelf as a display. It's much better as a display than a cookie press.

I had this grand idea for little crinkly green shamrock cookies and cutesy-ass photos but like all grand ideas, they never quite work. It's only the ideas where I think, "meh. I guess this might work", that actually work.

So I kept stuffing the dough into the press, then scraping out the dough and softening it up with egg whites then I'd squish it all back in and twist and turn the knob and, let's just say it was nearly impossible to produce uniform results no matter what I did. Only about a quarter of the time, did it produce these (I'm sorry I iced them. They look prettier iced). The other three quarters of the time, it produced three lumps or one large indiscriminate puddle.

Then the pump started getting greasy and my hand was getting sore from twisting that tiny poorly shaped knob (also greasy and impossible to grip), and after I had to redo one cookie about five times so I could actually fill a whole pan, I decided to use a cookie cutter. The dough was not made for cookie cutters, but I did my best.

There's really no reason to give you the recipe cuz it tastes exactly like a plain ol' sugar cookie with about three extra egg whites in it. This cookie has a lot of egg whites in it.

I also wouldn't have tinted the dough had I thought I'd be icing them. I also would have just made a proper sugar cookie recipe. Or shortbread with a green cherry pressed into the top. Or nothing. Cuz those ideas are all much better ones. And just to prove how much I didn't think I'd be icing them, I had exactly 3/4 of a cup of icing sugar in the entire house. So I even had to walk over to save-on to get more just so I could haphazardly do this.

here's the best artistic presentation (of the four better looking cookies) I could muster

here's my actual going-to-work presentation (yup. I let these bad boys out of the house). If you stand up and walk to the far side of the room you're in and squint a bit, they kinda look like clovers. So that's something.

I also made Irish potato candy as a back-up which, incidentally, I think look more like turds than potatoes, so I immediately started imagining scenarios where Idle Husband would have to constantly explain that they're Irish potatoes and not turds. Your wife made us turds?! How... thoughtful?

About the potato candy, it's very hard work and pretty tiring (remember, I'd just baked and iced 50+ shamrock cookies). I know it says it's an easy no-bake recipe, but this is something I'd only be making for special occasions. Trying to stir all of that together is by no means a simple task. I used good ol' arm power (as instructed), but I'll definitely be going with the stand mixer if I do it again. Good thing I have some of that nonslip drawer liner. It helped tremendously by keeping the bowl steady. I'm just really happy the recipe didn't produce very many candies (it probably would have had I not gotten tired of making them small) since the rolling is pretty tedius, too.

I think it's pretty impossible to ever get them looking like potatoes, so I figure you might as well embrace it. I'm thinking about making them as a Christmas gift next year. Reindeer poops or Snowman eyes or some other festive nonsense. If I can find black cocoa, they'd work as coal, too (oh man, cocoa and cinnamon for the win).

The potato candy is so friggin' delicious and amazing and fantastic, so we kept them (but only for the reasons mentioned above -- eh hem). We will properly appreciate their potato-like shape and will modestly enjoy one with a cup of tea after dinner (because that's how we enjoy desserts around here. Yes, sir, I swear).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

if spring won't come to you, you go to it

even if it is just in the greenhouse at Rona

Sunday, March 13, 2011

menu for two

Want to know the funny thing that happened when I started writing about our menu? I stopped being motivated to make a menu! Weird, right? So I've been feeling very stifled and uninspired and disinterested about dinner lately which isn't good for us (this sort of thing eventually evolves into ice cream meals and Greek chips for breakfast).

So this will be my last menu for two. If you're using the menus or finding them helpful and don't want them to go, I could definitely figure out an alternative. Let me know in the comments!

This week was asian-style cuisine week as I was on my own until Friday.

{the menu}
tuesday: vegetable spring rolls with leftover peanut butter dressing for dipping
wednesday: stir-fried chicken with ketchup and quinoa
thursday: mushroom ichiban
friday: ginger beef and rice
saturday: gyros and all the fixings
sunday: baked hotdogs and a salad

what really happened

{monday} This was so good and tasted like the real thing -- only fresher and better cuz it's homemade. The only thing I really did differently was the omission of the sherry and addition of some chopped almonds. I was reading about cashews in the comments, and I thought that would be good, but alas. I only had almonds. I was really worried about the broccoli being undercooked, but it turned out so right. Not raw, not soggy, just right.
{tuesday} I wanted to get some extra vegetables for these, so I walked over to Save-On foods, and got what I needed for veg and then I remembered there was something else I wanted for my wraps. I wandered around trying to think of it, but I just couldn't. Agonizing. I figured it must not have been that important, so I trudged back home. While I was making them, I remembered that it was shrimp or fake crab or some sort of seafood I wanted just to round out the meal. So basically, I had carrot and cucumber sticks wrapped up in rice paper (I even forgot about adding noodles!) for dinner which I dipped into the leftover dressing from Sunday (I prefer this a lot more than the hoisin dipping sauce. Hoisin makes me queasy after a while). And after eating my veggie wraps (I had six of them!) I was still so hungry, I had two bowls of rice krispie cereal and some dates and almonds and then (not surprisingly) I felt completely sick all night. Smooth.
{wednesday} I was originally going to make an orange chicken recipe I found, but I realized I didn't have any oranges or orange juice on account of Idle Husband not being here and me not thinking to buy that stuff cuz he's not here. So I decided to guinea pig myself and go with this strange concoction. For some odd reason, I went into the recipe thinking there would be something more than ketchup to make the ketchup not taste like ketchup and when there was nothing else, I thought I'd ruined some pretty nice looking chicken. But no! Ketchup fried chicken was so. friggin. amazing. If I had more, I would eat it right now while typing this. I would spread the sauce on sandwiches. I would dip chicken fingers into it. I would serve it as a side to steak. The ketchup morphed from that typical ketchup taste and turned into something magical. And don't get me wrong. I love the taste of ketchup. I once had a roommate from the states and that's all she ever joked about. Oh you Canadians and your ketchup. But I don't think I'm as extreme as some. Blech to ketchup chips (yes; those exist) and never to ketchup on chicken. Well. Consider me converted. And did you think the quinoa was a weird addition? So did I while I was making it, but it worked surprisingly well. The quinoa bits coated each chicken piece, making them feel a little more substantial and it tasted great with the sauce mixed in. And since quinoa is so filling, I was really satisfied and full afterwards (and I had less chicken than the recipe called for). I'll definitely make this again especially since this whole meal took about 15 minutes to prepare and would easily make anyone think you'd been marinating and combining ingredients all day.
{thursday} This was good and all, but I probably won't do it again. I just didn't love it. I used dry mushrooms, washed them, and softened them in hot water which gave me a mushroom broth. And I used that along with water to cook the noodles. It was filling, but nothing to write about. Needed more salt.
{friday} Idle Husband's back for dinner. Good thing we've already established that he likes ginger beef! This was actually pretty darned close to real ginger beef. Unfortunately, mine was sweet with no hint of spice like proper ginger beef should have. I guess I really have to buy some chili pepper flakes. It's starting to get desperate. There's also a LOT of sugar in this recipe (I realized as making it), so I probably would cut down on that so it's slightly less sweet and I'd have liked the sauce to be thicker. It was like water which bugged me. Presentation-wise, this looked exactly like ginger beef. And aside for my addition of snow peas instead of peppers and red wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar and optional wine, I followed everything else to the letter and served it over rice. Oh and it took a long time to cook all of the meat, but I was going in with everything partially frozen so that probably had something to do with it.
{saturday} Gyros! God. I made this recipe back on January 30th and we're still eating it. This is the fourth and last meal we'll get. Pretty good, I think.
{sunday} I just wanted to get the last of the hotdogs and buns out of the freezer and gone. The baked hotdog excitement is starting to wear off, honestly. Probably because we never have tried it with proper chili and because last night I realized we didn't have an ounce of cheese in the house. I used Cheez Whiz (we bought a tiny jar one time when I found out Idle Husband had never had it before) and it just wasn't the same. Plus I overcooked them slightly, so the buns were like crunchy croutons.

Friday, March 11, 2011

sugar coated fennel

I was wandering around Save-On Foods the other day trying to get acquainted with their aisles (always a good thing to do when you're going to shop a new store), and I found myself in the ethnic spice section.

Am I the only one who loves spice sections? I love looking at all of the different kinds, some I know and some I don't. I really wish manufacturers would print some information about each spice on the back of their bags. That would be really helpful and would satiate my curiosity without me having to google it (it would also leave me standing in spice sections all day as if they were a library).

So that's where I spotted these colourful little things. Sugar coated fennel seeds, basically whole fennel seeds covered in a candy shell not unlike Smarties or M&Ms.

I was so intrigued, I really had to try them.

They've got a distinct black licorice flavour, so if you don't like black licorice, you should probably back away right now. Personally, I love black licorice. Licorice allsorts? Those are my go-to whenever I get a craving for licorice. Candy coated fennel actually reminds me a lot of those, but instead of being chewy and overly sweet, they're crunchy and taste more refreshing than the candy.

It took a bit of searching, but I learned from these sources that they're called mukhwas and are most commonly served in south asian restaurants as a sort of after-dinner mint. They're supposed to help freshen your breath and aid in digestion after a meal.

I want to add thirst quencher to the list, too. I found that chewing a few of them felt as though I'd taken a few sips of water and that feeling lasted for some time after. I just wasn't as thirsty as I usually am (which is hard to achieve since I'm always thirsty). That's definitely better than gum since gum initially fixes my thirst but it never lasts.

They're also a little healthier than any gum or mint you could buy. And don't even get me started on how pretty and colourful and uplifting they are when it's so grey outside.

Naturally, I wanted to be able to have access to these amazing seeds anywhere I go, so I did what any sane person would do. I bought a TicTac box, dumped out the Tacs and filled it with fennel seeds. And then I peeled off the Tic Tac label and made my own label cuz I'm insane like that.

I really want to say that making the label was a breeze, but it took a lot of figuring for me. You can make your own a lot easier if you start with plain sticker paper. Then all you really need to do is shrink a photo down to the size of a Tic Tac label (I found dimensions here), add some words through Picnik, print, cut out, and stick it on (this project turned out so cutely, it was really hard for me to eventually break the seal).

The only sticky paper I had was in the form of 30 label mailing sheets (the address kind), so I had to use their dimensions and specify where the image had to be printed on the paper in my photo program. I definitely wanted the picture to end up on one whole sticker instead of half of the picture on one and the other half on another.

I didn't realize it as I was doing it, but this project would be really awesome for party favours. Instead of using fennel, you could leave the Tic Tacs in the box or use some other small candy that fits your theme. The Tic Tac label peels off so easily you don't even have to use Goo Gone (that's really the best thing about this whole project. I thought I'd be sitting around all day waiting on the label to come off). The hardest part (aka as the best part cuz you get to be creative and artsy) is making the personalized label -- happy birthday, congratulations, you get the idea.

My little box is just for me and is going to be great in my purse instead of gum.

I got a 100 g bag of candy fennel for $1.59. One 18 g box of Tic Tacs is $1.19. So I could fill approximately three or four Tic Tac boxes with that bag (the size of each candy is obviously quite different). And the best part (I think) is that this really isn't candy. You're only going to need a pinch at a time, so in terms of lasting longer than a conventional mint (we will eat those Tic Tacs like candy), fennel's definitely got a leg up.

If you wanted sugar free, I think it would also be cool to buy plain fennel seeds. They'd taste exactly the same except there'd be no candy crunch or pretty colours. But come on! You can't pass on the pretty colours!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

jumping on the bandwagon

Remember how I wanted to bake donuts as a mini Dragon Age treat for Idle Husband's office? Well, after testing my fifth and final recipe (one that made exactly 3.5 donuts, I kid you not), I decided to scrap that idea altogether and make some generic cookies. At least I'd be able to whip out a large number of them with ease.

And then I saw the oreo baked into a chocolate chip cookie and yes. I had to go to there. Not because we're oreo lovers (if we're buying cookies, we're definitely not buying oreos) but because it was a novelty. See, at first I thought I might do bacon chocolate chip cookies. Just so I could get away with doing something simple while still impressing with crumbled bacon. But then I realized that if I put bacon into a cookie, there was probably a pretty good chance Idle Husband wouldn't even take the cookies to work. He'd squirrel them away all for himself.

The oreo idea seemed like the safe choice since neither of us will dip into the oreo bag unless we're really desperate and the effort to make something for his staff would still remain relatively low. So I thought, yeah. Let's do that.

I spent some time reading a review and comments here, and I learned a couple of things. First, eating the humongous cookie, oreo, cookie cookie was like going into a sugar coma; second, I wasn't really cool with making 24 gigantic super cookies; and finally, the chocolate chips overwhelmed the oreo taste (that wouldn't usually be a bad thing in my book). Someone in the comments suggested mini oreos which made me think mini chocolate chips and so I figured I'd probably be able to get more cookies out of the dough if I did it that way.

I used the original recipe instead of my own perfectly delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe just because I couldn't remember whether my recipe was prone to spreading or not. I found the original recipe to be good. I mean, typically tasting like a chocolate chip cookie. My dough turned out a little dry which made it frustrating to wrap each oreo, but I think that was partly due to my KitchenAid. (I recently discovered you can adjust your mixer head, so I've been fiddling around with it as it's always had a little trouble getting the bottom ingredients mixed in. I last adjusted it for the whisk and I guess I have to do it differently for the paddle.)

I baked them for 15 minutes, but I wish I had underbaked them by a couple minutes or so. Mine are crunchy and equal in crispness to the oreo, so I can't really notice a textural difference between the two.

We discovered that the softness comes back with a quick 5 minute stint in the toaster oven on toast. They are 100% better warm and soft.

I did use the mini oreo idea, so I got 48 perfectly regular sized cookies out of the dough. But now that I've tasted it, I think it's definitely better to use double-stuffed oreos. To keep them regular sized, I would cut them in half or in quarters. Unless there're double-stuffed mini oreos somewhere out there, you're not going to taste the filling at all.

I also reduced the chocolate chips to 1/2 cup and chopped them up a little in my food processor. I get a slightly chocolatey, slightly oreo-y taste to the cookie, neither flavour is overwhelming. (To be honest, to hell with the oreo flavour. I'd rather have more chocolate.)

If you want to do your own experiment (for the good of humanity, of course), check out the original recipe.