I'm not really here today, so here is a viral video that made me giggle and clap my hands. I have a soft spot for Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks movies. I also really love well executed live performance skits with lots of changes. This was a lot of fun to watch.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, March 30, 2015 8 comments
I met some friends in Midland last week for some late afternoon beverages and treats. We went to Ciboulette Et Cie, which has a wide choice of in-house baked goods to try. This was only my second visit to Ciboulette (I posted about my first visit here), and I have to say I love their food. Plus I always wanted to try a homemade marshmallow (see below) and they had a few on display to choose from.

My friend Jen ordered a chai latte and a single-serving Baileys cheesecake. She commented that the latte was the best one she'd ever had.

Up close Baileys cheesecake. (The Baileys is an Irish cream flavour).

My friend Bobby got a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. It was as big as a small plate, so you know it was good.

I ordered a mint tea (with local mint, apparently), and a homemade mint marshmallow that was dipped in dark chocolate.

The marshmallow was awkward to eat (it was really big!), but don't worry, I managed. I might even try making them at home sometime. Especially love the chocolate dip. Nice touch.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, March 27, 2015 4 comments
Gary has a strong love of sweets. She loves caramel corn, banana bread, muffins, and pancakes, to name just a few. I don't let her have these treats because (a) they're mine, and (b) she doesn't brush her teeth. I have never known a cat to like so many baked goods, and I have a theory that she is actually after the butter contained in them. This week she was very interested in buttercream frosting.

As I frosted my Mint Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes, Gary was sitting close by, eyeing any potential for the buttercream to become hers.

She does this adorable thing where she puts one paw on the table, a clear indicator of her intention, but also a sign of self control, as she holds herself back from getting entirely on the table (she knows she is not allowed on the table). But just her paw? Just a paw is fine, right?

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, March 25, 2015 8 comments

I was craving mint and chocolate so I made some chocolate cupcakes and swirled chocolate and peppermint buttercream for the decoration. I'd heard about the technique a few years ago, but never tried it because it requires three piping bags, and I don't usually have that many on hand. I got an 8-pack of them for Christmas, so now was a great time to give them a go.

I did a Youtube search and found a quick video that shows the basics of how to swirl the icing.

I made a small batch of butter cream frosting and divided it into two bowls, so I could make one half chocolate and the other mint. For the chocolate I added cocoa powder and vanilla, and for the mint I added green food colouring and peppermint extract. I ended up with about a cup of each flavour. The best part about making two kinds of icing is that there are twice as many beaters/bowls/and spoons to lick. I highly recommend swirl cupcakes for this bonus alone.

I put each colour in a piping bag and tied an elastic around the top.

Then I cut off the tips of the piping bags, and placed them side by side in a third piping bag, with a coupler and a 1M tip.

Then I just decorated like normal and got a very fun result.

The mint and the chocolate were amazing in swirl form. One bite was minty chocolate, another bite was chocolatey mint. Really fantastic. I would definitely try the swirl method again and am already thinking about fun flavour/colour combos for next time.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, March 23, 2015 8 comments
I have quite a few contenders for my favourite candy, though I don't think I could ever pick just one, as there are so many candies I enjoy. Red licorice, cherry nibs, sweet tarts, caramels, and suckers (to name a few) are all in my top ten. Chocolate bars are in a different category, as when I think of candy, I think of "penny candy", or what I knew as "nickle candy." Candies you could purchase individually at the corner store and come home with a dollar's worth of goodies in a cute little paper bag. The best.

Edging pretty close to my number one fave (these are in my top three for sure), is sour gummy worms. I love gummy. I love sour. And putting them together brings me a whole lot of joy. There are several varieties of sour gummy worms, of various sizes and colours, but I tend to enjoy them all equally. As long as the gummy isn't too hard to chew, I am in treat paradise.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, March 20, 2015 3 comments
I had leftover chunky yarn from making slippers and wanted something quick and easy to knit. Though a Ravelry search I found the perfect pattern for a quick knit hat. The pattern used chunky yarn (which is thick yarn) and size 15mm needles (which are big needles), so the whole project took less than two hours to make. It is a light winter hat, so perfect for these mild winter days, as we head towards spring.

I used a pom pom maker that my grandma gave me to make the pom pom. It turned out great!

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, March 18, 2015 6 comments
There were two overripe bananas on the table the other day, and my normal practice is to put them in the freezer and save them until there's enough to make a couple loaves of my Mom's banana bread. I hadn't had banana bread in a while and decided I didn't want to wait and converted the recipe amounts in order to make a half dozen muffins.

I've altered Mom's recipe a tiny bit over the years (I use applesauce instead of melted butter), and the following is my version of the recipe.

Banana Bread Muffins (makes approx. 7)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs applesauce
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix all wet ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until mixed. Fill muffin cups to about 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.


Posted by Jen B On Monday, March 16, 2015 6 comments
One of our favourite dishes is curried chick peas and tomatoes served over basmati rice with a dollop of cucumber dressing. If we're in the mood for a complimentary taste, we'll add a side to it. For this meal we served it with pan fried potatoes and onions, which were crispy and delicious.

We use a full can of both chick peas and diced tomatoes in this dish, which makes a lot of amazing food. We have it on rice two nights in a row, and for the third night I'll make up some tortillas to finish them up in wraps. I absolutely love a three day meal, especially when the food is this good.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, March 13, 2015 4 comments
My mom recently reminded me of upside down cake. When we were kids she would make peach or pineapple upside down cake, and the fruit was always surrounded by a generous layer of crispy brown sugar topping. I'm not a fan of a lot of fruits (I have a texture thing) and I'm especially not a fan of fruit in cake (except for banana cake/bread. Don't try to figure me out!). I'm sure assorted fruits in cakes taste wonderful, but I don't like when my cake has things in it. It is silly, but there you go. When mom would make her upside down cakes, I would sneak the brown sugar bits off the top and not actually eat the gross fruit/cake. I was/am picky.

Well, I'm an adult now, and when mom reminded me of fruit upside down cake, I decided I would give it a try, but leave out the fruit. Following this recipe, I added some melted butter to a 9x13 cake pan, covered it in a bunch of brown sugar, and then poured a cake on top of it. I baked it, and flipped it over and out onto a cookie sheet. At this point I realized something was amiss, as the brown sugar wasn't as caramelized and stuck to the cake as I wanted. It's possible the fruit had a purpose that I didn't compensate for (maybe it adds liquid while baking).

So the top of the cake was a little crunchier than I expected, but it tasted pretty great. The nice thing about this cake is the topping replaces having to ice it. Easy.

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, March 11, 2015 6 comments
I recently began playing Skyrim on the Xbox 360, and I'm really, really, enjoying it. It's only been a few days, but I'm already at level eight, I've collected enough gold to buy a house (5000), and I've picked all the mountain thistle I could find. So far it's been a lot of fun.

I didn't know I was going to like Skyrim, as I've watched John play it before, and I didn't think it was the kind of game I'd be interested in. My tastes are more tuned towards cartoony action/adventure games (mainly the Lego series of games), and I was sure the detailed fantasy world just wasn't my style.

But I've been looking for a new game to play and I described what I was looking for to John:
Me: "Basically I like to run around an open world and find stuff. Collect studs (gold). Unlock cool things by collecting other cool things. Not a lot of enemies. When you die you don't have to go back to the beginning."
John: "You're basically describing Skyrim."
Me: "Am I?"
It turns out I was. There are enemies, but they aren't hard to kill (I learned to use my sword and shield no problem). And sometimes the Non-Player-Characters (NPCs) kill the enemies for you. This happened most famously for me when I was supposed to kill a dragon on the main quest. I hid in a watchtower and was going to hit it with my bow, but it never flew past the window I was aiming from. I went up to the roof to get a better shot and "Completed: Kill the dragon" came across my screen. It made me laugh and I didn't mind at all because I still got to search it's body for supplies and I got all the glory.

I am really glad I gave Skyrim a try, as I like it way more than I thought I would. Plus it's been fun to have John help me with things I cannot do very well on my own (yet). The controller is most often handed over for lock picking, swimming, and for quickly finding specific buildings while I'm running through town (I always seem to be going in the opposite direction of where I want to be).

Posted by Jen B On Monday, March 09, 2015 4 comments
When Mom and I go out to eat, we often end up really full (or with lots of leftovers) because we think we can eat an appetizer and a full meal all at once. To be fair, sometimes we can, but it mostly depends on how big the appetizer is (note: nachos are pretty much a full meal on their own).

These are two appetizers from Red Lobster taken from two separate visits. I realize these are presentation photos, and don't really show you what the food actually looked like, but take it from me, they were both really good. The first is Lobster Stuffed Mushrooms and the second is Escargot (they're hiding under the mushrooms and cheese).

Posted by Jen B On Friday, March 06, 2015 8 comments
I keep returning to my Knitted Toy Tales pattern book and having so much fun creating cute things. The pieces for the toys are quick knits, so it's easy to get from start to finish on a project.

Since completing my toy fish, I've started working on a teddy bear and an elephant. I have finished all the knitting work for the teddy bear and just need to stuff him and sew him together.

For the elephant toy, I have completed the knitting for the body, the tusks, and two of the legs. Only a few things left to knit and then I can stuff him and sew him together.
My delay in finishing these toys is my lack of stuffing. I know I had a bag of it a few years ago, but I've hidden it on myself exceptionally well. We did two thorough searches of the house, and eventually found the tote I was sure it was in, and came up empty. I have accepted that my bag of stuffing is lost and that I have to get a new one, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. So these toys are a work in progress, but I'm looking forward to putting them all together soon.

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, March 04, 2015 3 comments
My Mother-in-law had a birthday recently and we celebrated with a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It is her favourite cake and I am always up for making desserts with cream cheese, as I absolutely love how it tastes in sweets. I don't bake with it very often (it can be expensive when not on sale) but other treats I've enjoyed are: pumpkin cream cheese frosting, cream cheese cinnamon buns, Oreo truffles, and peanut butter truffles.

I used a cake mix for the carrot cake, but I put it in three pans instead of two, as multi-layer cakes are so much fun.

There are loads of cream cheese frosting recipes online, all with varying ratios of cream cheese to icing sugar. One recipe suggested 1 package of cream cheese to 4 cups of icing sugar. Another suggested 2 packages of cream cheese to 2 cups of icing sugar. It was really all over the place. I didn't follow any one recipe, I just keep adding icing sugar until I thought it reached peak taste.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package cream cheese (250g), at room temperature for 1 hour
1/2 cup butter (113g), at room temperature
2 1/4 cups icing sugar

Some recipes add vanilla or lemon juice, but I didn't bother adding either, as it tasted so damn good as is. The thing I find deceptive about cream cheese treats, is they don't really taste sweet to me, which makes them incredibly easy to eat. I frequently had to get a new spoon, as I kept licking the one I was working with. With normal buttecream or marshmallow buttercream, I freeze any leftovers and make it into candies. The leftovers for this cream cheese frosting all went into my mouth. I was not shy about eating it at all.

I made some simple carrot decorations for the top of the cake, using ziploc bags to pipe on the frosting.

This cake was very yummy, and I love the three layers. I think it looks lovely.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, March 02, 2015 7 comments
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