Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cookies, Baking and Scribble Picnic

This week's Scribble Picnic theme is "Generous". I was out in the woods the other day and thought about how generous nature is, in every season that we have here in the mountains. It's all so beautiful, it's really a gift! Then I saw a deer, I love those critters! The deer is an animal that reminds us to be gracious, yet aware of our surroundings. These days I've felt like a deer in the headlights though, zoning out a lot. I have never seen a buck in the forest, but I decided to do a watercolour of one because I find them so majestic-looking. Nature has been good to this fella, look at those noble antlers! :) (To see other scribbles, please check out this link).

The migraine has now traveled to the left side, so I know I still have a day or so to go before it's gone, sigh. I smell like a black jelly bean from all the fennel tea I'm drinking, but it is helping with the pain I have to say! Here is my first ever attempt at decorating cookies. I used the decorating set that Alex got me, it was fun to do!

With 30 different decorating tips, I could only get one effect with this cookie icing. But I'm looking forward to the cake decorating soon! :) We can't handle food colouring, makes us both sick, so I stuck to plain white icing with a few bits of chocolate and some sprinkles. It's basically all sugar, which I'm not too keen on, but once a year is acceptable!

My artsy cookie photo! These happy little snowmen are cute and delicious! :) I made some "Soft Gingerbread Cookies" this time around. They were good, but I still haven't found the perfect recipe yet!

Whenever I try a new recipe, I tend to make two different cookies, just in case we don't like one of them. Not the case this week! These Jam Thumbprint Cookies were so easy to make and yummy. I used apricot and raspberry jam for them. 

I couldn't forget the dogs of course, They got their Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Biscuits. I'm still on the lookout for an easy cookie type treat I can make for the cats - that they won't turn their noses at, but everything I find is tuna or something smelly and fishy! I tried chicken bites once, but they were so hard to make...the cats now get an organic chicken treat from the vet, so they're just as spoiled as the dogs! :) So that's it for the cookies! I did some more baking though.

Soft Pretzels. I only make these rarely because they are ultra-filling and a *bleep* to make. They stick to the pan, no matter what I grease it with or line it with...I pretty much need a chisel to take them can't see it, but these pretzels don't have a bottom. I chose to just slice them off the pan rather than fight with the spatula, my energy wasn't there lol...they are delicious though!

The latest Camemberts are wrapped and will be ready for Christmas!! :)

Love them or hate them? While we were out shopping last week, we saw silicone baking liners on sale from $10 to $2. I thought it would be a nice way to save on parchment paper and foil since our pans are well-worn and we can't really put anything directly on them. HATE THEM!!! Firstly it takes 3 times as long to bake something and when I made more tortilla chips...guess what they tasted like...silicone, YUUUUUUUUUUCK! I soaked them in baking soda and vinegar and tried again...same taste. They will make good pot holders, but that is about it! Could be the brand I bought, "Master Chef", but what a disappointment! Does anyone use these and like them?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Accidental Migraine Relief

Hello my friends :)

I was going to write a nice post about my latest baking and Christmas cookies...but I have been completely conquered by a migraine. Those who have this affliction know how overwhelming the pain robs you of your time, your appetite, your sleep and your precious moments with your family! That's the part I hate the most. It hit me last night around 9pm. I was so desperate to feel better, I took a long hot shower at 2am. Alex massaged my neck and head. Still though, that I decided to just stay awake and wait it out. I did some research and did a few things that seemed to help me:

Firstly, knitting. Some very easy light knitting helps to keep me in the moment so I'm not focusing completely on the pain and blurred vision. I've often read that migraine sufferers do find relief doing hand crafts, something about hand to eye coordination...I know it helped to distract me and I got another pet stocking done! I hope it looks okay once I have the lights back on lol...

Pressure on the head is another one. I wasn't sure about it because anything touching my head, neck and face hurts, but this actually did help. I put my tighter hat on and within a few minutes, I felt a little better.

A long time ago, I went to a neurologist. All he did was whip out the prescription pad for some really heavy pain meds, morphine to be precise. I just can't take the side effects so I've been trying a safe combination of Tylenol and Advil. The pain seems to ease for about 15 minutes then comes back with a bang. Plus the Advil makes me sick to my stomach so...

I made myself a fennel tea, it always helps me with indigestion and nausea. We try to have this tea after our heavier meals and it's very good for the digestion. I was amazed though...not only was my nausea gone, but poof! Instant relief from my migraine! I was SHOCKED. The migraine is not gone by a long shot, but I can actually look at my computer screen without wincing now. The anise flavour isn't my favourite to have as a constant aftertaste, but I would do anything to ease this pain! Heck, if you told me to eat magic beans, I'd give it a whirl lol...Now I'm going back to bed, maybe I can lie down without the freight train banging on my skull and get some sleep!

I really wanted to share this because it works so well for me. Does anyone else suffer migraines and do you have any kind of relief measures that work for you?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I'm Feeling Cheesy...

So I've teased you all a bit, calling my next endeavor The Great Cream Cheese Experiment of 2017!! Well, it was and continues to be an experiment...could roll over to 2018 in fact. Some of you may know that I made a batch of cream cheese earlier this month and it tasted like sour cream, not cream cheese...very GOOD sour cream mind you! But my love for cream cheese was calling I tried again. 

I was slightly discouraged, but as usual Alex lifted my motivation. He suggested we make two different recipes together. Our first cheese making as a couple! :) The recipes are basically similar, but we used different cultures: buttermilk and mesophilic. (More on Rainy Day Cheese Making).

The cat barrier while we slept. It actually worked, we figured if anything, a loud bang would alert us to feline sneaky behaviour! Cream cheese is easy to make, it just takes a lot of ripening time and "hanging" time to release the whey - a good few days. My big problem is that I LOVE Philadelphia cream cheese a lot. I can't recreate it with just a cream cheese recipe. Both cream cheeses still tasted like sour cream, although the buttermilk version was creamier and less tangy. So I went online to see what I could do about it.

I started with the buttermilk cream cheese. I whisked together the cream cheese (which was 3 1/2 cups), 1 cup of vanilla yogurt and 2 tsp of salt (I found this recipe on several sites). 

I let it drain about an hour, hanging as above, then let it sit in the fridge overnight. Verdict? Sweeter, but not Philadelphia by any means...and too creamy for a hard cream cheese that I can spread a little thickly on a bagel. It had the consistency of a dip rather than a cream cheese.

But I'm making lemonade out of lemons again! My friend Tammie Lee suggested Boursin type cheeses to me. Here is a nice recipe for those herbed/flavoured cheeses, but you can basically add anything you want to it. I decided to make a Chive "Boursin" and a Sweet Cranberry "Boursin". Oooooooooooooooooooh! Success! They were SO GOOD!

I made an event out of it! Homemade bread, the home baked pita chips and some breaded shrimp made the meal very special! You can see what the Boursins look like before I mixed them all up.

We also opened the last Camembert that has been aging 6 weeks. We honestly didn't taste a difference between the 4-week and the 6-week, they were both delicious!

My latest bloomy whites are a week away from being wrapped and aged. They are forming some beautiful white fuzzy mould, it's glorious! :) Two new Cams, ready for Christmas!

With ups come downs. :(  This is what's left of my Baby Swiss. The mould problem was so bad that I made the decision to cut it all out. I lost about half the wheel...but...I remind myself that cheese making is a learning curve and an art. I realize I don't have a proper mold for this type of cheese nor a cheese press, so this is an experiment. This will be sealed on December 10th and aged about 3 months then we'll see!

I got some more Yogurt done today. I found a much simpler recipe that requires no bacteria culture other than some leftover yogurt you have in the fridge. One liter of milk makes one liter of yogurt or so, I'm making one of these a week now so they don't spoil. 

Are you wondering what I did with the mesophilic cream cheese? Well...I'll be honest, I had no clue what to do with it! Three and a half more cups of "sour cream" to use up...Sandi asked if my experiment had to do with cheesecake, so she motivated me to make one! I did the same thing as I did with the other cream cheese...added yogurt and salt and it sweetened it up. Then I made a Cranberry Cheesecake.  Lemonade out of lemons again! I admit I haven't tried this yet, but it looks and smells delicious, we'll be tasting it tonight after dinner. If I don't stop baking we won't fit through the door that a good excuse to stay home?  :)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

First Blizzard! I've Been Baking!

It's such a nice quiet Sunday, NO tourists around! How about that huh? :) I woke up to our first little blizzard this morning, it's so beautiful.

For those who have snowy you take down your laundry line in the winter? I never even think of doing that. The dogs are having a blast in the snow, they just love it!


Well, except for grumpy old Jack...I don't blame him though lol!




The dog walking had to stop, sigh. Since Alex and I are on different schedules, we're finding it hard to find a time to walk them all together. I tried to do two walks each morning, three dogs, then two dogs. Morning is when I have my energy...but I'm finding that my leg and knee ache a little too much these days. Five dogs is a lot of work. So, now I take the "day shift" and try to play with them in the yard. Alex takes the "night shift" with some before dinner playtime. We're committed to caring for Pavlov and Stella until the summer...but if their owner doesn't come back, we will find them new homes. 😩

I'm sad about it, but we have to be realistic. And I accept that my walks in the woods are just on hold for the next 6-8 months. Some comfort food always helps! It's really nice having two slow cookers! Last night I made myself a Harvest Time Chicken and Apple Stew; and for Alex, I made a Cottage Beef Stew. Just a reminder, on my sidebar, I have a link to all of my recipes and I always try to remember to add the links in my posts as well! These stews were perfect with some bread and butter for dipping! And we have meals for a few more days.

This week's Christmas cookies are Gingerbread Cookies. Hmmm...they look a little naked don't they??? Well, as I took them out of the oven, I said to Alex "I really wish I had a cake decorating set so I can decorate my cookies!". He disappeared upstairs and came down with something hidden under his shirt. He said "come hug me" and I felt some kind of box there...this is what it was:

A cake decorating set!!! Talk about being on the same wave length...that's why we are soul mates! 😊😊 This is an early Christmas gift. He figured I'd get more use of it before Christmas so he wanted me to have it. Now I just have to figure out how to use each of these tips...this is my first set, how fun!!

The baking didn't stop there...I've often said that baking can be therapeutic for me and when I start, sometimes I can't stop!!! In an effort to clean out the fridge and freezer a little, I made a variety of chips. Pita, Tortilla and Potato. The potato chips, we could take them or leave them, they just never cook evenly in the oven, but they were okay. Alex loves the pita chips and I love the tortilla chips. How much do you pay for a mediocre bag of chips at the store? Here a bag of Ruffles is $3.50 plus taxes ON SALE, and that's the standard bag. The "family size" (which is what the standard size USED to be) is $7.50. The pitas cost me $1.25 for the same amount. The tortillas are a little more and came to double that, but still much cheaper than the crap at the grocery store that's filled with mysterious ingredients! They're a snap to make too.

Can't make chips without a dip though! 😋 This is my homemade Nacho Cheese Dip. Everything is from scratch...I love how far I've come with my kitchen skills! And again, this is so much more delicious than any store bought dip out there! It's such a simple recipe and I added some of my Homemade Salsa to it as well. Again...affordable and delicious...and I know what's in it.

What on earth am I doing now? The Great Cream Cheese Experiment of 2017...stay tuned for that! Are you in suspense???  :)

The snow is falling, the pets are all snoring, the fragrance of homemade bread should wake Alex up very shortly :), and I'm spending the day budgeting to ease my mind; and then knitting some more Christmas stockings for the dogs! How is your Sunday going?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fondue Night! Scribble Picnic and Winter Garden

This week's Scribble Picnic theme is "Gift Wrapped/Unwrapped". Since Christmas is coming up, I'm sure everyone is on their best behaviour to be on Santa's "Nice List". If you are on the Nice List, you may want to check out other artist's versions of this theme - and why not join in yourself? :)  If you are on the "Naughty List", and I know some of you are 😏, you're in the right place! That gift is for YOU. Go ahead...go get your gift. 😱 You just have to be quicker than the monsters lurking in the dark! Oh, and you have to make it to the end of the tunnel...but who knows what's on the other side...

The Winter Garden:  The cold frames that I made are doing their job so far! I have greens and roots...some have stalled, some are still growing, despite the deep freeze. The garlic patch is snowed in and I'll have to see if I have success in the spring. Tomorrow there is a break in the weather and it'll be above zero. This may be my last chance to water the winter garden before next year. I have a feeling the only veggies I'll be harvesting will be the winter lettuces and the carrots/beets that I'd started in the summer. Still though, this is a fun experiment!

By pure chance, Alex was looking out the window yesterday morning at the lilac tree and saw a cardinal couple! We rarely see those birds in this area, he managed to get one photo from the cell phone before they took off. That was a nice bit of luck! Native lore says that if you see a cardinal, then a romantic encounter is imminent. :) Another bit of lore is that if a cardinal visits you, he's telling you to start that project that you've been putting off!

How time flies, it was fondue night again last night! That means another milestone celebration. :) Alex and I have 4 years and 8 months under our belts. :) As corny as it may be, I love to celebrate our monthly "anniversary"! I made a Roasted Garlic, Cheddar and Zinfandel Fondue last night...holy garlic, it calls for two entire roasted garlic bulbs....and this one uses red wine. I used to be an old school fondue type of gal: Swiss, white wine, bread cubes. I'm happy that I'm branching out now, the red wine gave the cheese such a nice flavour! If I make this again though, I'll cut the garlic WAY down!

I used a bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel that I found by coincidence here in Quebec in August. I first tasted it at a wine show in 2013 and we finally have it on the shelves! Delish! If you are a red wine drinker, do you have a favourite type of wine, a favourite country? Italian Primitivo is my absolute favourite red...did you know that Zinfandel is the same grape as Primitivo? When it was brought overseas to the States, the name changed, so if you love California Zinfandel, you'll love Italian Primitivo too. :)

Alex made us some Irish coffees for dessert too, it was such a nice meal!

My "boys" on my lap...Jack and Pavlov. They are like velcro on me wherever I go. Last night we watched a great movie called The Lodger based on the Jack the Ripper story. There have been many versions made over the years, including a 1927 silent by Alfred Hitchcock, one of his first movies. Here is the You Tube link, I don't know how long it'll be up there, but I highly recommend that movie. It was made in 1944 and stars Laird Cregar, a pretty unknown actor who died way too young with so much potential. The last half hour is pretty suspenseful, turn the lights off for this movie! :)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

It's Cookie Season! :)

'Tis the season to bake cookies! For three years now, I've held up a very delicious tradition. From about mid-November, I make a different cookie each week in preparation for the Christmas eating frenzy that will definitely happen around here! :) Today I baked Alex's favourite Cherry Icebox Cookies. I'll probably ramp things up in December and bake two different cookies each week. I'll do some of our favourites, but each year I like to try a few new cookies. 

Also, based on the success of my recently devoured Camemberts, I made two more wheels, they'll be ready in time for Christmas!! :)

We are currently in a deep freeze. The other morning I woke up to -22C and it was so windy...that wind was devilish, it felt like it went right through my bones. Am I the only one who grows physically intolerant of cold as each year passes??? I've decided no dog walks under -5C from now lungs were aching when I came home!

I was sure the snow would melt by now, but no such luck. I think winter has hit the Laurentian mountains! The huskies and Pavlov have thick coats and it doesn't bother them a bit, but Stella (in the middle) has a thin coat like Jack and she was shivering...I will have to knit her a sweater too. :)

Speaking of knitting, I found some time again! I love knitting, it's so relaxing and very therapeutic if you ask me! I found a very easy pattern for Little Christmas Stockings (6" version). Aren't they cute? I have two done and now I have six more to go for the pets. If I have enough yarn, I'll triple up the pattern and make two bigger ones for Alex and me. And if I have time, I may embroider names in them too. Does this count as my very first ever pair of knitted socks??? :) Just for fun, I timed myself. With some canine, feline and cheese-related distractions, each stocking took me just over 2 hours to do. I'm feeling normal again now that I have time for my hobbies! It's hard to believe we've had the two new dogs about 2 months now...that's how long it took for life to get back to somewhat normal!

Look what Alex got for me this month! He orders me a new cookbook each month, usually from Amazon or Thriftbooks. This is more of a joke book than a cookbook, with recipes like "Rotten Eggs" and "Burnt Toast"...but there are excerpts from the shorts and movies, and fun pictures to see. It's a collector's item that's for sure! So what are you all up to these days? I know my American friends have Thanksgiving coming up. I'm in Christmas and Yuletide prep-mode right now.