Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friends In High Places

Being a Librarian by trade, it's pretty embarrassing to have to slink into your local Library with a plethora of fines and a blocked Library card. A Librarian having an overdue book is the equivalent of a dentist having a cavity! Fortunately for me, my wonderful local Librarians can easily be bribed with baked goods.

This morning I entered the Library and was instantly greeted with warm and friendly smiles.  They weren't treating me like the delinquent I was. I was so relieved! I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that along with my Library bag I was  carrying a just baked, still warm from the oven, loaf of Snicker doodle bread.  Well, it might have influenced them a tiny bit, but I'd like to think that my friends were just happy to see me. 

One of the main reasons I love to bake is to see the simple pleasure it brings to others. Baked goods never fail to brighten some one's day.  I'd like to say that my baking is a selfless act, but that would be a lie.  The very act of baking soothes my mind and warms my soul.  I recently read a magazine article entitled 'Be Happier; 9 surprising strategies to get you there.' Strategy number 8 was "Start baking." The article went on to claim that finding something that occupies 100% of your attention while you are engaged in it will make you more motivated and focused. Both of these feelings are said to promote happiness.  Baking = Happiness. This, I already knew.  The bonus for me is that my baking doesn't just make me happy, it also makes my friends and loved ones happy.

As I write this, the sweet scents of cinnamon and sugar are lingering in my kitchen and  I feel pleasure in knowing that my Librarian friends are enjoying a well deserved coffee break. Making them happy has, in turn, made me happy.  The fact that my Library fines have been pardoned is just icing on the proverbial cake. I feel so lucky to have friends in high places!

Jane Austen's Persuasion Snicker doodle Bread

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup toffee baking bits

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cream butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time and mix well.
  • Add vanilla and sour cream and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder.
  • Add to wet ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Add butterscotch chips and toffee bits and stir into batter. 
  • Spoon batter about 2/3 full into your choice of pan:
  •  4 mini loaf pans = 35 - 40 minutes
  •  2 large loaf pans = 60 - 70 minutes
  •  Muffins (makes about 2 dozen) = 20 minutes
  •  *or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  • For topping mix 3 tsp sugar and 3 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the batter in each pan.
  •  Let cool before removing from pan and set on wire cooling racks.
  • This bread slices much better when cooled, but it is so hard to resist eating it when it is warm!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Food For Thought

Exam time. That stressful time in your life when everything comes down to how hard you studied and how well you retained what you learned all semester (or in the case of some, how well you can BS your way through it and make yourself look like you know what you are talking about). My son is in his first year of high school. He is now writing his final set of exams for this year. Funny thing though, he doesn't seem as stressed about it as I do! I am a worrier, always have been and most likely always will be. When I had to write exams I often lost sleep over them. To this day I still have dreams/nightmares about not waking up in time for an exam. The alarm clock didn't go off, I couldn't find a parking spot, I went to the wrong room; insert any variation of the theme of my not being able to put pen to paper and regurgitate all that I had learned.

So now, as I watch my son casually take his books up to his room, along with a copy of the latest Sports Illustrated and his iPod, I have to wonder... how can the apple fall so far from the tree? Who am I kidding; he is his father's son after all. Perhaps that is where he gets his fly by the seat of his pants confidence. It could also be that he is of the male gender. Males tend to take things more in stride than their female counterparts. Either theory doesn't seem to reduce my stress and I find myself restless and agitated.

Since I can't really help him, nor motivate him, to study, I decided to go to my happy place and bake him some good, old fashioned study food. At least this way I can keep myself busy and concentrate on a recipe rather than what his study notes look like.

Cookies never seem to go wrong, so I made a big batch of brain boosting chocolate chip cookies. Nothing makes studying better than some lovin' from the oven. Good luck Ethan, may your marks turn out to be as good as these cookies. 

When The Chips Are Down Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups oatmeal, blended
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups chocolate chips

~Set oven to 375 degrees

~Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder.
~Cream butter and both sugars together.
~Add eggs and vanilla.
~Mix together flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
~Add chocolate chips and fold in.

~Roll into balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
~Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown.

~Cool on wire baking racks.

Take two and hit the books!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When life gives you bananas...

I seem to have been handed a great deal of things this week that are tempting me to declare myself officially bananas.  Seriously, enough is enough!  To calm my nerves and soothe my mind, I got out my apron and my recipe book. Since going bananas seemed to be a common theme in my life this week the obvious ingredient had to guessed it, BANANAS!

I hope this recipe finds its way into your kitchen. It's an easy one to prepare and comes out just about perfect every time I make it. The best part is, by using only one bowl there is very little clean up!  That leaves you with more time to pour yourself a cup, grab a good book and put your feet up....well, that's the idea anyway. Good luck with that. 

One Bowl Blueberry Banana Bread

Mash 2-3 ripe bananas in a large bowl.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
Mix until combined.

Stir in:
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Add in a handful or two of blueberries and stir until blended.

*Tip: if you lightly toss your blueberries in flour before adding them, they won't sink to the bottom during baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Going Bananas...

Literally and figuratively! I have a love hate relationship with bananas. I love them when they are not quite ripe, still firm and a little on the green side. I hate them when they become too ripe, soft and have brown spots. Since I am the only member of our family who seems to eat the bananas that magically (!) appear in our fruit bowl each week, I am left holding the peel when it comes to making the inevitable decision of what to do with them when they become too ripe. To eat or not to eat, that is the question.

Fortunatley for me, over ripe bananas make wonderful quick breads and muffins. I came across this recipe while shooing away fruit flies and it's a hit with everyone in my family (even those who claim they don't like bananas!).  The secret ingredient makes this recipe very moist and delicious. Who knew that Miracle Whip makes more than just your sandwich taste good?!

When Life Gives You Bananas....

Here's what you'll need:

1 cupMiracle Whip Dressing
1 cup mashed fully ripe bananas (about 3)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp.baking soda
HEAT oven to 350°F.

COMBINE Miracle Whip and bananas in large bowl. Mix flour, sugar and baking soda. Add to Miracle Whip mixture; stir just until moistened. (Batter will be lumpy.)     

POUR into greased 9x5-inch loaf pan.     

BAKE 55 min. to 1 hour or until wooden toothpick inserted in centre comes clean. Cool in pan 10 min.; remove to wire rack. Cool completely.  For easier slicing, wrap bread and store overnight before serving.

 To make muffins, line a muffin tin with paper liners and fill 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 min @ 350.

For a healthier version, add some ground flax seed, and use 1/2 all purpose flour with 1/2 whole wheat flour with same great results!  

For a kid friendly version, add some chocolate chips or chopped walnuts and sprinkle with cinnamon.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Take me out to the Ballpark!

Forget the peanuts and Cracker Jacks, I do care if I never get back!

If you know me, then you know that aside from watching my kids participate in their various activities, I also love to bake. Nothing pleases me more than to bake for others. Yesterday our oldest son started off a weekend long baseball tournament with a triple header. Seeing as his first game was at 8am, and it was a chilly morning,  I decided to bake up a fresh batch of lemon poppy seed muffins for the fans in the stands.  Since Tim Horton's is a staple not only at hockey arenas, but also at ball diamonds, the muffins were the perfect accompaniment to start off our day of watching baseball.

As the muffins were consumed, talk began about what we should bring for the next few games. Of course there would be sunflower seeds, but how could we step it up a notch? Seeing as we are not at Tiger Stadium, and my husband is the convener of the league, libations are frowned upon. Perhaps though, there is another way, albeit at bit bush league.

Since we had just enough time in between games for me to put on my apron, I decided to step up to the plate and volunteered to make a batch of special, adult only cupcakes to bring to the night game.

I came across this recipe quite by accident and loved the idea of booze infused baked goods.Why hadn't I thought of this before?! I got out my mixing bowls, the flour, the sugar and for a change, headed to the liquor cabinet for a very special ingredient.  These are known as "Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes" but after this weekend they became known as "Throw Me A Curve ball Cupcakes." Whip up a batch of these and you've got  a whole new ballgame.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Irish Cream Liqueur (plus more for sipping!)

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
~Line muffin tin with paper liners.
~Sift, or whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
~In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar and mix until light and fluffy.
~Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
~Add a little of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the Irish Cream, mixing well after each addition.
~Beat until smooth.

~Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes.
~Let cool before icing.

Irish Cream Icing:

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp Irish Cream Liqueur (still more for sipping!)
2 cups icing sugar

~To the butter, add a little of the Irish Cream followed by a little of the icing sugar mixing thoroughly after each addition. Continue doing so until you achieve a smooth and creamy texture.

~Ice cupcakes and soon they will be long gone!

These cupcakes bring new meaning to the quote "Let's play two!"

Home run!