15 April 2014

Foodie Tuesday | 'Old Timey' Bran Muffins

Sometimes healthy eating is a tough sell. If you're under the age of 25 or my mother, outright rejection of all that is good and healthy in the world of food is the norm. Which is why when I strike on a recipe that have the kids coming back for more (and then back again... and AGAIN), I stick with it.

Such is the case with these bran muffins. Granted, there's a ton of sugar, and probably more fat (in the butter, and buttermilk) than *technically* constitutes "super-healthy."

But dudes... it's BRAN.

As in, FIBRE.

We're talking good ol' fashioned regularity here, folks. Not a topic kids (or parents, for that matter) are super-chuffed to chitchat about, let alone actively manage.

So bran muffins that kids race - literally, race - home to eat? Amazeballs, in my book. And in theirs, too. Doesn't hurt that it's my Nanny's recipe, too. Keeping good health in the family, one muffin at a time.

Preparation: 40 minutes + 24 hours| Cooking Time: 35 minutes | Makes: approximately 50 muffins
  • 2/3 cup wheat germ
  • 3 cups natural bran
  • 3 cups All Bran
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt
Optional -
  • 2 cups raisins OR chopped dates
Cooking Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix together wheat germ, natural bran and All Bran. Add boiling water. Mix and set aside.
  2. In a second bowl (medium-sized) combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the largest bowl you can possibly find, cream together butter and sugar (brown and white) using an electric mixer on low. Add molasses and mix until thoroughly combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add buttermilk and blend thoroughly until a little frothy.
    Side Note | I'm concerned what you heard me say here was "In a large bowl..." when what I really mean is: the LARGEST bowl. As in, like, EVER. You're going to end up with 15 cups of batter, so plan accordingly.
  4. If you're adding raisins or dates, now's the time to toss them in the bowl.
    Personal tip: I like to make a batch of all three (I figure if I'm committing to 50 muffins in one go, I might as well mix it up a bit with flavours.) With 15 cups of batter, I divide it evenly into three bowls and add 2/3 cup raisins to one, and 2/3 cup chopped dates to the second. I leave one plain. If making all one flavor, add 2 cups of your dried fruit of choice.
  5. To the liquid mixture, gradually beat in flour mixture (I generally add 1/4 of the bowl at a time, then beat until thoroughly combined before adding more.) Stir in bran-water mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Cover batter bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
    Rumour has it the batter will keep for up to six weeks in the fridge, but I haven't tested it. Except maybe mustard and maple syrup, I wouldn't trust anything in my fridge after 6 weeks, but you're free to try if you want. Bottom line is: chill for 24 hours and then you're good to go.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray generously with cooking spray. Fill each cup 3/4 full with batter.
  8. Bake 25-35 minutes or until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Now might be a good time to crack open one of those bad boys and slather it with butter, before inhaling it in 2.4 seconds... but maybe that's just me. 
In case you thought I was kidding when I said "lots" of batter (and hence you need "the LARGEST bowl", this is how much batter you'll wind up with.

Also? These little babies are completely, totally nut-free, so they're the perfect sweet'n'healthy snack for kids' lunchboxes (which, if you're having the same experience I am, are growing increasingly difficult to fill with accepted foods.) These muffins = problem solved!
Other Foodie Tuesday baking recipes you might like:

09 April 2014

Home Depot Spring 2014 Preview | Coming Up Roses! (and Petunias, and Rosemary)

So way, way back, before we jetted off to Arizona and before the One of a Kind Show rolled into town, and before I got all caught up in life outside the blog (is there such a thing??), I was very kindly invited to - and was super-chuffed to attend - the Home Depot Spring 2014 Preview.

First, a word about the Depot: contractor central, mecca of DIYers, our weekend home-away-from-home. Over the years I've built some very important relationships with my friends in orange smocks. They've helped me select sinks, paint colours, appliances, tile, lighting and countertop materials- just about every home-related fixture and/or accoutrement you can think of, really. We're homeowners, so naturally hardly a weekend goes by that we're not popping into the Depot for something or other and dropping $100 or two. This past weekend, for example? Lighting for our office makeover - photos coming soon!

Anyhoodle, given our intense, ongoing relationship with the guys and gals in orange, you can imagine how excited I was to be invited to the 2014 spring preview. (Like, SUPER excited, if you're not very imaginative.) And then, of course, I promptly left town for a week, and have been running full tilt since we got back. But enough of this nonsense! Now that the awful, horrible winter weather has finally broken and spring is here, Home Depot has a metric ton of fabooshness that you NEED if your summer is going to be any kind of summer at all.

Doesn't this look like fun? Hint: It was.

My faves:

The Highland Collection = totes lovely. This collection is probably my favourite of all. The dark weave lends itself to a masculine, solid appearance: each piece looks like it can really hold you, you know? Some patio furniture looks rickety, like it'll collapse underneath you the moment you park your butt in it. Not this suite. Solidly constructed, solid-looking, yet quite feminine and graceful thanks to the curving lines and deep, plush pillows.

Want to know what comfort looks like in the Highlands? The lovely, incomparable Virginie Martoqc, Home Depot affiliate, spokeswoman and enthusiast, demonstrates below.

Yeah. It's that comfy.

My next fave:

The Hampton Bay Blue Hill resin wicker "chat" set. At home in a contemporary or traditional setting, on a condo balcony or a cottage dock, Blue Hill is a decorative workhorse. It works in tight settings, too: the footstool tucks right underneath the chair, to save on floor space. Also terrific? The striped outdoor carpet (visible beneath the chair.) Nice enough to work inside as well as out (just sayin').

I'd love to put a pair of these on our small patio off the kitchen. It catches the morning sunlight and would be a lovely spot for Daryn and I to enjoy weekend tea. A girl can dream...

Let's not forget the barbecues... OH! the barbecues. The Cadillac of grillers is the Brinkmann 5-Burner Gas Grill, pictured above. Comes with its own smoker... a smoker, people. That's the good stuff, right there.

That's not the only BBQ on the market, though. There's a perfect match for every grill-master out there; visit your local HD for more options.

Like this one, maybe? Good choice.

Random side note: I was obsessed with this girl's dress for, like, the WHOLE morning. Seriously, obsessed with it, and like a weirdo I skulked around all morning, admiring it. If this is your dress and you happen to be reading this post, a) I'm not a stalker, I'm just a horrible combination of enthusiastic and shy, and b) hit me up in the comments section to let me know where you got it! I totally love it.

What makes spring really feel like spring, though, are the flowers. Can we agree on that? Let's agree. I've got big plans for the aforementioned little patio, and they include a boatload of these pretty babies:

We're making a point to eat a little more "cleanly" these days, and I love the idea of a potted herb garden on the deck that I can snip from whenever needed. We used to have a huge garden in the old house, and I miss it. It's great for fragrance, too. Lemon basil has the most delicious perfume, and I love fresh rosemary and mint. A collection of bright pots with flowers and greenery will go a long way to making our poor, bare little deck a much more homey place to hang out.

To cap off a wonderful morning, HD created a take-away box for each of us.

Cute, no?

Inside were several pieces of copper piping, two taper candles and some crazy glue. Can you guess what we were supposed to create? Hint: it's this:

How cool is THAT? I completely love it.

I was hoping to get my craft on with the other bloggers, but turns out it was a take-home gift. So that's cool. Mine has been painted and is currently drying in the garage- yay! I'll share a snapshot once it's ready and installed on the mantel. Because that's where it's going, folks. Front-and-centre on the fireplace. It's just that cool.

Thank you to all the good folks at the Home Depot for hosting such a fab and fun preview events, and to Candace Beres of Environics Communications for being so lovely. I can't wait for the fall and winter lines to come out!

08 April 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Banoffee

So... your dentist will hate this dessert. Let's just get that out of the way straight off. Like, H-A-T-E I-T. I don't know why, considering this pie basically pays his mortgage, but dentists can be a little sanctimonious when it comes to the obnoxious sugar consumption (no offence, dentists) and this pie is sugar on sugar on sugar.

You've been warned.

The good news? It's freaking delicious. Like, ridiculously so. It has been said by some people that they would run over their own mother to get a slice of ooey-gooey goodness (not by me, of course - hi, Mom! - but a few others I know.) So, any pie that's reason enough to commit matricide is damn good, in my book. How about yours?

Preparation: 50 minutes | Cooking Time: 30 minutes | Chilling Time: 30 minutes - 1 hour | Serves: 8
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • cooking spray
  • 2 (300mL) cans sweetened condensed milk* (we use Eagle brand)
  • 2 large, very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 oz. (1 square) semi-sweet baker's chocolate
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a medium-sized mixing bowl in your freezer to chill.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, melt butter in the microwave for 45 seconds, or until fully liquefied. Whisk briskly to eliminate separation. Add graham cracker crumbs and stir (with a whisk, or a fork) to combine thoroughly.
  3. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate with cooking spray. Press graham cracker mixture in an even layer along the bottom and sides, to form your crust. If you have little ceramic pie balls, go ahead and be a little showy-offy by placing a layer of parchment paper into the centre of your crust, then filling with balls. If you don't have them, your crust can go in the oven as-is.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is baked through and a deep golden brown. (If you are using baking balls, allow to bake for 15 minutes then remove parchment paper and balls, and continue cooking the remaining 15 minutes.) Remove from oven and set aside; allow to cool.
  5. Peel and slice bananas into a small bowl. Toss with a splash of lemon juice to prevent browning.
  6. Meanwhile, pour the condensed milk in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Gently bring the milk to a rolling boil, stirring nearly constantly (I stir less frequently while it's cool and heating up, and more frequently as it approaches boiling.) Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring constantly for 15 or so minutes, or until milk caramelizes: it will become thick and darken to a deep golden brown colour.
    Be sure to take it off the heat while it's still soft and pourable; if you continue cooking, it will solidify and become an actual caramel candy. Which is good, too, and super delicious, but won't work for your purposes right now.
    Note: There are some varieties of condensed milk that you can caramelize in the can by placing them in a deep pot of boiling water and cooking for 2-2 1/2 hours. Once caramelized, the milk will last for weeks - even months. Eagle brand does not recommend cooking in the can so I don't, but if you have one that does and find that easier, by all means go for it.
    Another Note: Some also say that condensed milk should be caramelizes in a double boiler, or at the very least in a metal mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water. I've never done it this way and mine always works out fine, but basically however you want to caramelize your milk, is totally fine. Do what works best for you.
  7. Pour half the caramel mixture into the bottom of your crust. Carefully - moving in a fan pattern, by starting in the centre and making a sweeping, continuous "C" motion - spread the caramel with a spatula or the back of a soup spoon (I always use the spoon; easier to handle.)
  8. Spread the bananas in an even layer on top of the caramel. Top with the remaining half of caramel, then place in the fridge to cool.
  9. While the pie is cooling, remove the bowl you placed in the freezer earlier. Combine whipping cream, vanilla and granulated sugar in the bowl, then whip until light and stiff. Spread the whipped cream over the pie - go ahead: be fancy with it. Make it swirly, or gloopy, or smooth... whatever you like. Just use it all, even if it looks like too much. You really want it.
  10. Finally, grate some chocolate on top of the whipped cream. I use a lemon zester so the flakes are little, but you can put as much - or as little - chocolate on top as you'd like.
For inspiration (and to show you what it should look like, approximately) here are some "in process" shots.

So the next time you feel like getting your sugar-high on, and you've got an extra hour or so, give it a whirl. Your taste buds will thank you (even if your dentist won't.)


01 April 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Spicy Peanut Sauce

For years now, Daryn's and my solution to vegetables going justthisside of rotten in the fridge has been to stir-fry the crap out of them.

Stir-fries are totally undemanding, and very forgiving. Less-than-fresh veggies get a little perk-up; a little love. And it doesn't matter which veggies you use - one time carrots, peppers and broccoli, another time snap peas, zucchini and mushrooms - it all ends up tasting delicious.

The trick to every great stir-fry, we've discovered, is to find a really great sauce.

Like, really great.

Because it's the sauce that makes it. That's a scientific fact.


In a pinch we're perfectly happy to use ready-made sauces (PC Memories of Shanghai is pretty great, actually) but homemade is always (always) best, and this delicious, nutritious, foolproof, super-easy peanut sauce (that you can throw together using ingredients you mostly likely already have in your pantry) makes every stir-fry a perfect stir-fry.

Preparation: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: N/A | Makes: enough to coat 7-10 cups of stir-fry
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce (we use sushi soy because it has less sugar, but you can use whatever brand/type soy sauce you prefer)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. grated or minced ginger (we used fresh because we happened to have a piece of ginger root on hand from another recipe, but jarred will work just as well)
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (lime would work, too)
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes OR 1 tsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
Cooking Directions:
  1. Combine peanut sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Add to any stir fry (2-3 cups protein + 5-7 cups vegetables) or rice noodles, or use as a fab & tasty dipping sauce for satay.
The only thing left for you to do is revel in the deliciousness, and pat yourself on the back for 1) cleaning out your pantry of nearly rotten veggies, and 2) taking good care of your taste buds at the same time.

Good work, soldier. Well done.


27 March 2014

OOAK Spring 2014 & Why I'm the WORST

First, a note about why I'm the worst (and I am, folks: the absolute PITS):

Picture it: December, 2013. The One of a Kind Christmas Craft Show back in town for two weeks, jam-packed with fabulous artists, beautiful and unique products, and amazing gift ideas for the holiday season. Me, intrepid blogger, making the rounds, oohing and ahhing and generally admiring the merchandise, introducing myself and the Money Pit, snapping photos like crazy and MAKING PROMISES I FULLY INTENDED TO KEEP and then DIDN'T.

For the first time in the history of ever, I arrived home from the OOAK show, downloaded my photos onto my laptop... AND DECIDED I'D WRITE THE POST LATER. And as we all know, later - especially around the holidays - never happens. I didn't write the post. Daryn has long since thrown out all the business cards, and I'm intimidated by the prospect of trying to sort through the photos and guess about which shot belonged to which vendor. I'm wracked - actually wracked - with guilt, so much so that I considered not attending the media preview for the spring show, such is my shame.

Thus, I. AM. THE. WORST. And I'm sorry.

But in an attempt to redeem myself, I DID attend the opening day media preview, and I outlined the arc of my post IN ADVANCE (so I'd have a better, and more directed idea, of what I was looking for), and I downloaded the pics, edited them and wrote this post IMMEDIATELY upon arriving home. Acceptable restitution? Especially if I promise to write a OOAK Christmas Show better-late-than-never-(maybe) post? You decide.

But let's celebrate the show at hand, shall we?

(well, well, Radiant Orchid. So we meet again.)

We can agree my love for the OOAK shows is no big secret: you can read about it here and here and here if you disagree. It's love to the max: I {heart} OOAK times a bajillion. We're kind of a couple. A handmade-in-the-stars kind of couple. Maybe it's all the fairy lights and glitter and shiny things... I don't know. How can you explain love?

The One of a Kind Spring 2014 Show (#ooaks14, if you'd like to tweet and Facebook the crap out of it, and really: who doesn't?) was top notch this year; an embarrassment of creative riches. I have a boatload of must-visit artisans I want to share with you, which I've neatly divided into five individual categories (whoa! is that a little OCD coming to the forefront? maybe... there's much you don't know about me, people. much.)

Anyhoodle, let's cut the chitchat and jump right into the category that's closest to everybody's heart, the raison d'etre for events like these: MY WISH LIST. Do I need to spell it out for you? These are the things I want. Take note, family. I have a birthday coming up.




JACQUELINE POIRIER (resident artist at the Ritz Carlton, y'all) | BOOTH A-38

All of it. Every last bit. Which makes me greedy but also very, very easy to buy for.

Also, this little lighting vignette at Missy Industry's booth caught my eye.

So gorgeous, right??! I know. I died.

One thing that OOAK always does amazingly right is market up-and-coming talents. I have my tried-and-true favourites, of course, but it's particularly exciting to hit up all the NEW ARTISTS to see what they're about. This season appears to be a banner one; I narrowed my top picks down to seven, but I could have easily doubled it and still not captured the full extent of awesomesauciness. But I won't blabber on about it... have a look for yourself.








Honestly, so great.

I was also surprised - and delighted - to note how many Milton, Ontario (read: my 'hood!) artists were in attendance. Milton represent, yo!






They're kind of awesome. You should check them out.

I think I'll stop here and save the final two categories - my fave booth design, and OOAK theme - for another post. Lets me spread the love over a few days and saves you guys from slogging through a 5,000-word post!

In the meantime, whether you're a veteran show-goer (I first spelled that "shower" and then "show-er" but it didn't feel right) or a newbie, get your butt out to OOAK this weekend!! And don't forget to bring your wallet. If you don't find at least one item that just needs to come home with you, I'll eat my hat.*

Thanks all around to the OOAK team for inviting me to the media preview: much appreciated! And apologies again for being the worst blogger ever. I'm fixing that. *Toot sweet*

*Kidding - my hats are filthy and that would be disgusting. Instead of "hat" let's say "Timbits" and then it's win-win.