Apple pie day

Every year, my mom, my sisters and I get together to make massive amounts of apple pie. Apple pie is fall’s most amazing food. I know everyone goes crazy for all the pumpkin flavored goodies out there (including myself), but let’s face it, there’s no better food than apple pie. This year, we made 22 pies. We froze most of them, to be eaten later, but to be honest, they’ll all be gone by Christmas. That’s how amazing they are.

First, you have to buy or pick many, many apples. These are lobo apples. Some apples are too soft, and then you get mushy pie.

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Then, you have to put on a cute apron.

That's my little sister and I. My apron says "Will cook for shoes".

That’s my little sister and I. My apron says “Will cook for shoes”.

You need to peel the many, many apples and make several batches of pie crust.

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Those are my mom's hands. she's the pie crust expert.

Those are my mom’s hands. she’s the pie crust expert.

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After that, you start assembling pies and you don’t stop until you have 22 (or 3 or 14 or 7, whatever your goal is. We don’t usually have a goal, we just keep going until we run out of ingredients.)

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After a while, it’s totally acceptable to stop for wine. We really had to work for it.

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But it was worth it.

This is my sister. She loves wine. So do I. Wine is delicious. Apple pie is also delicious. Good thing I don't have to chose only one.

This is my sister. She loves wine. So do I. Wine is delicious. Apple pie is also delicious. Good thing I don’t have to chose only one.

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Drinking wine really makes for better pies. Just don’t spill any in the pies, that’s wasteful.

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I don’t have a recipe to share because we don’t use one. It’s apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour, then repeat, add butter and that’s it. We don’t measure anything. I’m sure of you google “apple pie recipes” you’ll find some, but whatever you do, please, please, don’t use white sugar in an apple pie. That’s just wrong.

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It was such a great day, and now we have pie! Everyone should celebrate apple pie day.

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My dad is usually there to help. He peels the apples, but he was away this weekend. It’s ok Pop, you can still have pie. We’ll share because we’re nice like that.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!

March break is coming to an end. I go back to work tomorrow. It’s ok. I needed a break, and now I’m going back refreshed and happy.

A lot of teachers and students escape to sunny destinations for March break. I do enjoy a good beach day (or week!) but my travel budget does not permit me to go somewhere warm every year. Not if I want to travel elsewhere during the year, that is. I decided on a staycation this year. The plan was simple: make as little plans as possible! I wanted to relax and enjoy myself. Here are some highlights of my blissful week.

Yoga.

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Yoga in the snow.

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Meeting baby Stella, a.k.a., The mini-muffin

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New books!

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (finished!)

The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman (finished!)

Beautiful Darkness, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Scrabble at the cottage (I won!)

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Watching the X-men trilogy in one day with my sister (number 27)

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Madonna yoga.

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Today I’ve been cooking and baking like a crazy person. I like to have meals prepared for lunches and homemade, gluten free snacks so I’m not tempted to buy any junk food during the week.

How do you enjoy your Spring Break?

Raspberry bites

I’ve been experimenting with gluten free baking for a while now. However, I’m not a the point where I make my own flour blend, or have different kinds of flour. I buy a pre-made blend. I have realized that not all gluten free flour blends are equals. I found one I really like, from the health food store down the street, but last time I was there, they didn’t have my flour! I went to the bulk barn and bought some there, thinking I got a great deal. Yes, it was cheaper, but I like the other one better. I guess I have expensive taste (when it comes to flour).

I wanted to make raspberry muffins, but not with pieces of raspberries. I don’t like cooked, mushy fruit, unless it’s apples. I found a recipe for vanilla zucchini muffins, and played around with it a little. I pureed frozen raspberries with some frozen, grated zucchini. They are good, but not excellent. I’ll have to keep playing with it before I share. Preferably with my favourite flour.

The batter had a nice colour, but it wasn’t as vibrant as I thought it would be.

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Once cooked, the colour wasn’t really noticible. Well, they are kind of purple. But who doesn’t love purple?

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Sorry if you came to this post looking for a recipe. I’ll share as soon as I find a way to make them taste amazing!

Ooh la la!

My best friend Suzanne is going to have a baby. We’ve been friends since the first grade, and now she’s going to be someone’s mom. It’s strange, wonderful and perfect, all at the same time. She’ll be an awesome mom. I can already picture her with her daughter. Of course, in my mind it’s all Hallmark moments, but I’m sure real life will be different! Either way, I hope the next two months go by really fast, because I can’t wait to meet baby Stella.

Suzanne’s mom and sisters hosted a Paris themed baby shower yesterday. I don’t know where they came up with that idea, but it was perfect! They really went all out with the decorations too, with paintbrushes hanging from the ceiling and impressionist-ish paintings done by Suzanne’s two year old nephew. It all felt very artistic and Parisian.

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We all had to wear hats, which was fabulous, because how often do I get to wear a hat that’s not a woolly toque these days? I wore my fascinator and it made me quite happy. I didn’t think I would get the chance to wear it again! Especially not in the winter. I didn’t get a picture though, as I was busy being the photographer with my awesome new camera. I did get Suzanne’s sister to take a picture of the two of us, but I had removed my feathers by then!

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I was asked to make the cake. I wanted to stay with the Paris theme, but not be too tacky. I decided “chic” would be my theme. I bought some edible paper, which I had never worked with before. I liked the design, but I couldn’t cut out shapes like I wanted, it kept cracking. I decided to go with strips instead and this is what I came up with.

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I wanted to take step-by-step photos as I was decorating the cake, but I am way too messy for that to be possible. Making fondant is not difficult, but it requires a very hight tolerance for extreme messiness. Powdered sugar everywhere. And I’m not exaggerating!

I hope baby Stella liked it!

What does a gingerbread man put on his bed?

I once answered this question with “a gingerbread woman?” but the correct answer is… cookie sheets! Ah, cookie jokes.

To add to the four kinds of Christmas cookies I already made, I decided to make gingerbread cookies today. This recipe is easy and makes a lot of cookies. Also, it’s low fat. Not something I usually look for in a cookie recipe, but hey, bonus!

First, I had to go to 3 different stores to find molasses. I’m not sure if the stores are the problem, or if I just couldn’t find it. It might be me.

I mixed all the wet ingredients together, and at this point, I admit it does not look very appetizing. But this soupy mess will become delicious cookies, I promise.

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What I like about this recipe is that it only uses one bowl. I’m a messy baker, so the less dishes to wash, the better! Dump in all the dry ingredients.

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Mix until it looks like graham cracker crumbs.

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Take big handfuls and squeeze into weird, flat, squished ball shapes. Refrigerate while you have a snack of corn chips and guacamole. Well, that’s what I did, but whatever makes you happy.

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Roll out the dough and cut out whatever shapes you like. Keep adding flour so it doesn’t stick.

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I used stars, trees and of course, gingerbread men!

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I made baby gingerbread with the dough I had left and stuck them in with the stars, hoping they wouldn’t burn.

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Bake and decorate! I iced the cookies with a simple frosting of icing sugar and water, to wich I added some meringue powder. I added it so the frosting would set and the cookies wouldn’t all stick together. I tried to keep all the cookies on the trays, but they ran away from me and took over the table!

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Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup shortening or butter

1 1/2 cups dark molasses

2/3 cup cold water

7 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Mix wet ingredients with sugar. Add dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes. Bake at 350 for 6 to 7 minutes.

Enjoy!

C is for Cookie

I’ve just had a weekend that Cookie Monster would approve of. Cookies, cookies and more cookies!

My friend Suzanne and I have a cookie day every year before Christmas. The first time, we really went for it and made tons of cookies. We were also exhausted by the end of the day! Now, we just make one or two batches and enjoy the day. Yesterday was a perfect day for cookies. It was cold and snowing, making it wonderful to be indoors looking out.

We started with some chocolate and vanilla sugar cookies. They turned out pretty, but the dough was horrible to work with. It was sticky and dry at the same time. It tore and stuck to the rolling pin. Not a recipe worth sharing.

Here I am having a moment with my butter, while Suzanne tries to get her chocolate dough to cooperate.

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We also posed with our rolling pins. They kind of look like weapons.

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And here is Suzanne with the final product. Pretty and tasty, but not worth the trouble! If you want to make these, just use your favourite sugar cookie recipe, divide it in half, and add cacao to part of it.

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After that, we made lemon cookies. These are my favourite “cheat” cookies. Super easy and fast, but so delicious! After they cooled, I drizzled them with lemon icing. Little clouds of lemon bliss.

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We then proceeded to eat the cookies we made while watching corny made-for-tv Christmas movies. Perfect day!

Today, after a long-overdue yoga class, I put my apron back on and make two more kinds of cookies.

The first ones were orange cookies. These have a cake-like texture and it is very difficult to eat just one! Once they’ve cooled, I frost them with a melted chocolate orange. Tastes like Christmas to me!

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And finally, I made shortbread cookies. This dough was a dream to work with! The complete opposite of yesterday’s terrible sticky mess. I always make my shortbread cookies small, because they’re so rich. A small bite is perfect. For some reason, they came out yellow-looking in the picture, but they’re nice and white!

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I’m not done with my Christmas baking, but it’s a good start. I like to make several kinds of cookies and give them as gifts. I still want to make sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies and maybe one more kind, if I have time!

Lemon cookies

1 lemon cake mix

1 egg

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 8 ounce package cream cheese

Mix softened cream cheese, butter and egg. Add cake mix. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 6-10 minutes, depending on size. For icing, mix lemon juice with powdered sugar and drizzle over cooled cookies. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Orange cookies

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

Grated rind and juice of two oranges (1/2 cup of juice)

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

5 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, then juice and rinds. Add baking soda to milk. Combine dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to the cream mixture alternately with the milk. Drop on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Shortbread cookies

2 cups flour

1 cup butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg yolk

Mix icing sugar with softened butter. Add egg yolg. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick onto floured surface, adding flour as needed (dough might be sticky). Cut out shapes and place on parchement-lines cookie sheet. Bake 4-8 minutes at 350.

The gluten-free experiment

We all know someone who’s gone gluten-free, for health reasons or maybe because it’s trendy, and it’s completely changed their life! How can, all of a sudden, wheat be responsible for so many problems? I’ve been pretty skeptical about this whole thing.

So I started paying attention to what people around me were saying. There’s the friend who cut out gluten (among other things) to help control her asthma. And it worked. There’s the friend who’s no longer tired. Imagine that! The friend who never felt quite right, and now feels amazing most of the time. These aren’t people trying to sell me something, these are my friends.

It got me thinking I want me some of that. But, there was a small problem. A huge problem, actually. I love cake. And cookies. Also, brownies, muffins, waffles, bread and anything else made with flour. If it’s got gluten in it, chances are, I love it. I asked no-longer-tired-friend Don’t you miss the foods you used to eat? Her answer was pretty clear. No. So many gluten-free options are out there, there’s no need to cut out anything you like.

I decided to try it, but with my own rules. My experiment is not to go completely gluten-free, but more gluten-reduced. I’m not doing this for health reasons, so if I want a scone, then I’ll eat one.

It’s been a week. So far, so good. I’ve cheated, but since I’m allowed, it’s not cheating. I tried to make bread using arrowroot flour. Yeah, that didn’t work. It was like baking glue. It came out of the oven looking good, but then it collapsed onto itself and died. I threw it out and put the garbage bag out on the porch. A squirrel got into the bag and dragged out the loaf, then left it there. He didn’t even take a bite. I don’t blame him.

Today, I tried again. I bought some gluten-free flour and found a recipe for pumpkin muffins. Most baked good made with gluten-free flour have a grainy texture, but these muffins are awesome! I think it helps that there is very little flour in them.

The recipe called for pumpkin pie spice, which I do not have. I used cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. My measuring technique is quite precise: a few shakes of everything, heavy on the cinnamon. Bliss. I also used butter instead of oil. More bliss.

It looks like a muffin, smells like a muffin, and best of all, tastes like a muffin!

I’m very new at this, so if you’re gluten-free, I would love some tips! And recipes. I’ve been eating a lot of salad.

How to say thank you with cookies

For all of September, I had free yoga classes. Everyone who does yoga knows, that while it’s definitely worth it, it’s not usually free. Since the challenge I was participating in was to raise money for charity, Jen and Amber at Pure Yoga Ottawa gave all of us challenge people free yoga for the month. Most people went a few time, some even 10 or 12 times. I went to 30 classes. That’s a lot of free yoga.

I wanted to make something for the girls to say thank you. I decided to make cookies. I love to bake, but I didn’t do it much in September, since I was busy getting blissed out on daily yoga.

I made the sugar cookies from the Five Rose cookbook, since those are the ones my mom always makes, and also because I’ve made them so often, I barely have to look at the recipe!

I like to fill  a cookie sheet with all the same shape of cookie. That way, they bake evenly. Also, I use thin, cheap, aluminum cookie sheets. I have “better” cookie sheets, but these cheap ones make the best cookies!

After they cooled, I covered them in fondant. I make my fondant in large batches and freeze it, so I always have some on hand. This time, I had white and yellow, so that’s what I used!

I made royal icing in two colours to pipe some designs on the cookies. My piping skills are not excellent, I’m much better with fondant, but I think they came out pretty cute!

I put them in a pretty little box with some tissue paper and voilà, a cookie thank you!