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Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Cookies

I am not a baker.  I'm an amateur cook, but not much of a baker.  However, a few years ago, some girls at work had a recipe-swap on the go.  I was the lucky recipient of the recipe for the best ginger spice cookies known to man!  These cookies have been shared, gifted, and bake-saled innumerable times in the past few years.  And now the recipe will be shared with you all.


Warning:  These cookies are pretty spicy.  Do not attempt to eat without a full glass of milk at the ready, or - as I prefer - orange juice.

Ginger Spice Cookies
Makes ~ 36 cookies

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/3 cup white sugar for decoration

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients and mix until blended.  In another bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix until blended.  Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture in thirds.  Mix dough until uniform. 

3.  Using your hands, form dough into ~ 1 1/4 inch balls.  Roll lightly in white sugar and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. 

4.  Bake for 10 minutes, until underside of cookie is just golden brown, and the top of the cookie has a cracked look.  They will be pretty soft at this point (i.e. you won't think they're cooked) but do firm up once cooled. 
Do not overcook or they turn into hockey pucks!  I usually cool them on a plate/solid flat surface.  It may take a while to get the cooking temp/time right depending on your oven and whether it runs hot or cold.  You could always cook a dozen at a time, using different temps and cook times.  Good luck!


Just look at the crackly tops of those delicious little morsels!  They are especially attractive if you can find a nice coarse, granulated sugar for the topping.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday supper

Sunday supper this week was Nat's sweet potato and carrot soup with James' bacon, scallion, and cheddar cornbread muffins.  Two great recipes from two great friends.  The homebrew credit goes to Mike, brewer extraordinaire.

Sunday supper

Nat's Sweet Potato Soup

This soup can be made more or less spicy.  Today's batch had double the ginger, an extra clove of garlic, fresh ground black pepper and a 1/4 tsp cayenne instead of a pinch.  It had a nice kick to it.

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1 cm)
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced or crushed
1 tbsp ginger, minced or grated
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin

pinch cayenne pepper
4 cups veggie or chicken stock


Prepare veggies.  Heat some olive oil in your soup pot.  Saute the onion til softened and translucent; add garlic, ginger and spices and stir for 1-2 min to release flavours.

Add sweet potato and carrot; stir to coat.  Add 4 cups of stock.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce and simmer 20 minutes.  Puree in batches in a food processor or (I prefer) with an immersion blender.

Cornbread, Bacon, Cheddar and Scallion Corn Muffins
(from America's Test Kitchen cookbook via James)

Cheddar, bacon and scallion corn muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup partly skimmed milk
3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
bunch green onions/scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups old cheddar, grated (reserve 3/4 cup for topping)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Adjust oven rack to middle.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Coat 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

Fry bacon until crisp.  Blot.  Crumble.  Saute scallions with pepper to taste. Combine with bacon.  Transfer to a plate to cool.

Whisk first five ingredients in a large bowl until homogenous.  In a medium bowl, combine eggs and sugar.  Whisk in melted butter, sour cream, and milk until smooth.  Gently fold egg mixture into flour mixture with rubber spatula just until combined.  When almost combined, mix in cheddar and bacon-scallion mixture.  Be careful to not overmix.

Divide batter evenly into measuring cups using a scoop.  Top muffins with remaining cheddar. 

Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean, or with crumbs on it, but not sticky batter (approx. 18 minutes).  Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes, then cool for 10 min on a rack before serving.  Best served warm.  Store leftovers in refrigerator and rewarm before eating.

This makes a hearty meal for a snowy November night.  I think the muffins will make for a hearty breakfast tomorrow morning as well...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday night

Saturday night

House update

I'm back!  Sorry for the ridiculous hiatus.  School got a little hectic there for awhile, but now I have a free weekend.  I'm very glad to have time to sleep in, catch up with people, clean my house, and blog!

So I made a previous post about our bare living room with some ideas to liven it up a bit.  Three months later, I have a response.  We did use most of those ideas and now have a very homey, cozy living room.

This is the before:


...and the after:

Living room

My favorite part of the room is the wall art.  It took the better part of six months to get the posters, find a frame (from Ikea in Ottawa thanks to some work by tidyowl), modify the mats and upgrade some of the frame materials.  Finally, they are finished!  Eye candy for the living room.

Concert posters

Finally, here is the part of the house I've been spending the most time in:  the study nook.  You can probably see my butt print in the chair. 

Study corner

I'm hoping to move back to the kitchen tomorrow - so watch for new posts!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I recently spent several days in the lovely city of Calgary, Alberta. 


I was there for an amazing conference, but I did have a few free hours to get out and see the city and some ex-pat Maritimers who live there.  Had a great visit with my old friend Adam (the above photo credit goes to him), and my pals Charlee and Will (below).

Calgary friends

Calgary is a very new city.  St. John's is considered the oldest city in North America.  I would like to take this opportunity to contrast the two - I think you'll agree that they are basically the Yin and Yang of Canadian cities.

  • In Calgary, all the streets are at right angles to one another.  In St. John's, the streets look like something out of a Tim Burton movie.
  • In St. John's, there is a dearth of attractive, eligible men.  In Calgary, the ratio of men to women is approximately 17.5:1.  To all the single ladies:  there are many fish in the sea, but there's nothing wrong with fishing in a stocked pond once in awhile. 
  • In St. John's, there are streets like Monkstown, or Carpasian, or Duckworth.  In Calgary, the streets were named by Donkey Decimal, Dewey Decimal's younger, more boring cousin.
  • In Calgary, you can see for miles around.  The Rockies are off to the west, Edmonton is a faint shadow to the north, and it's so flat you can even see the farmers waving at you from the Saskatchewan border.  In St. John's, you can see fog.
  • In Calgary, no one uses studded tires or a parking brake.  If you don't use those things in St. John's, your car will end up at the bottom of the harbour.
Calgary is just a great spot.  I can really see myself going back to visit some day.  I will now leave you with a glimpse of the most delicious part of my trip.  It was invented in Calgary, and Calgarian bartenders know how to do it right:  the mighty Caesar.

Mighty caesar

This little beauty was a mind-blowing blend of clamato and vodka, spiced with Tabasco and Worchestershire, topped with a hot pickled bean, a pickled asparagus shoot,  a wedge of lime and a dollop of horseradish, rimmed with steak spice...  Yep, definitely going back to visit some day!