So, I recently left a job after more than two-and-a-half years for greener pastures.  I’m excited about the type of work, pay scale, etc. – but am I ever going to miss the people at my old job!  Everybody was so sweet to me on my last day: one girl brought me a cinnamon roll/croissant hybrid from Starbucks to have with my morning coffee, and later that afternoon my boss took me out for a donut glut (lookin’ at you, root beer glaze!).  By the end of the day, I felt admittedly a little unwell and rather full of pastry, but also loved.  And so because food obviously equals love, I wanted to bake a little something over the weekend and do a desk-drop Monday morning for some of my nearest and dearest.  (This isn’t quite as creepy and stalker-ish as it sounds; I’m still working in the same building, so no security guards had to be alerted to escort me from the premises.)  I had mulled over margarita cupcakes, or faux-Hostess cupcakes, but didn’t want to lug six individual cupcake boxes around.  But ah, the Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars from the Brown Eyed Baker sounded like a winner.

I did have my reservations, as I’ve had mixed results with some of her recipes in the past.  My solution?  I used my own fail-proof brownie recipe for the base before proceeding as directed.

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(Hot tip, kids: always, always line bar-cookie pans with aluminum foil before greasing, and cleanup will be a snap.)

After all, if I could nail the brownie part, how hard could it be to sprinkle marshmallows and melt some chocolate and peanut butter together?

The answer: just a little harder than I thought.  I had expected the marshmallows to melt into an even layer rather than just puff up (it’s been a long time since I’ve microwaved a Peep, okay?), and they created a bit of a retaining wall for my crispy chocolate mixture.  My test audience was obviously going to be sampling squares from the centre.

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I didn’t get quite the perfectly delineated layers seen in her photos, but aesthetics aside, it’s not a big deal.  These are moist and fudgy, and surprisingly neat to eat.  (And trust me on that.  I hate getting my fingers sticky, so if I can eat these and not immediately freak out, anyone can.)

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All packaged up and ready to go!

These are seriously easy and tasty, and would make a wonderful addition to a potluck or bake sale.  My afternoon was filled with IMs from my peeps squealing over the fudginess.

Happy Monday, and thanks for looking! 🙂

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…or maybe just sleeping.

October 5, 2016

It’s October, and you know what that means!  Pumpkin spice season?  No!  Well, yes, but…  Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that I love (love!) Halloween.  I don’t think a more perfect holiday exists.  Need reasons to love it?

  • No matter how old you are, you get to dress up in an awesome costume, without judgement or being deemed “eccentric”
  • It’s kind of all about the candy.  And not that gritty, aimed-at-kids stuff that populates the shelves around Easter!  No, you get miniature versions of your favourite chocolate bars, plus lots of spooky, seasonal goodies.
  • There’s no pressure to spend face time with weird relatives, or buy gifts for everyone, or fill your calendar to capacity with boring dinners and pageants.
  • There is no better excuse to rewatch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! or any of the umpteen Treehouse of Horror episodes (with I through VI being preferred).

Yep, I love Halloween.  Know what I’m less fond of?

Stitching on black aida.

But I made an exception (had to, really) when I saw the “Sorry We’re Dead” design on Satsuma Street’s Etsy shop.

 

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Honestly?  Stitching on dark fabric isn’t quite as wretched as I remember it being.  A bit challenging, sure, but no way would this have looked 1/10 as good on white.

Me being me, I couldn’t be bothered with following the instructions to a T; I left off a skull and some arrows along the bottom of the design (partly as a time-saver, and partly because skulls just aren’t my thing).  I also chose to ignore the colour key, and instead substituted in my own choices: the orange and pale yellow (chartreuse?) are from a super-cheap package of Day-Glo polyester threads I bought at Michaels and which heretofore had only been used in friendship bracelets.  The white “We’re” and the stars are done in DMC E940, which looks like regular white floss but which glows in the dark.  It’s a shame no one will get to appreciate it, as the finished product is currently hanging in my cubicle at work.

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Look at that back!  This is probably a more accurate representation of the colours.

Thanks for looking!

P.S. I have some limited-edition kitchen towels up on my Etsy shop…once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Urban Wildlife

April 5, 2015

I rarely stitch for myself, but when Cross Stitcher included cover kits of a fox and a raccoon a couple of years back, I held onto them, planning to do them “someday”.  These were bold, simple patterns that used only a handful of colours, meaning they’d be the perfect intermission stitch when large projects were making me crazy.  And – and this may be what promoted them from “maybe” to “yes!” – they came with a precut felt frame right in the kit, making the whole affair rather self-contained and all the more appealing.  All I’d have to do is add a hanger of some sort, and heaven knows I have enough different ribbons in my stash.

And so, eventually…in between large projects, Christmas gifts, quick cards…they somehow got finished.  The completed stitching was tucked away along with the frame inside the original packaging until I had a reason to assemble them.  Wonder of wonders, my cubicle wall (fun fact: the proper term for “cubicle wall” is “baffle”.  Who knew?) was painfully bare and in desperate need of a little brightening up!

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To add some interest to the frames, I added a bit of decorative running stitch with my sewing machine.  This wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had; felt does not pivot as nicely as normal fabric does to ensure a smooth curve, and I had to keep stopping to defuzz my needle and bobbin area.  But they’re done, and give my cube a much-needed splash of colour.

Happy Easter!

Hello, dear readers and crafters, and let me be the first (probably) to wish you a very Happy Grammar Day!

Having a fairly relaxed dress code, I wanted to do something wearable to mark the big day this year.  I saw a t-shirt eerily similar (ahem) to the one below on a website, and knew it was perfect.  They had a little blurb asking customers to contact them regarding international shipping rates, so I sent a very polite message doing just that…and never heard back.  (Still haven’t.)  Either they’re extremely skittish about shipping to Canada (“But the dollar is so low!  How will she afford it?  How will she afford it?”), or they’re now completely defunct.  In either case, when it became readily apparent I wasn’t going to be finding a parcel in my mailbox in time for March 4, I took matters into my own hands.  I’m crafty like that.

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Yes!  Something to combine my love of The Simpsons (as it used to be, anyway) with my inherent grammar geekiness!  The shirt is just a standard men’s crewneck from Old Navy, and I used Tulip soft fabric paint for the logo.  I would love to learn how to screen print to get cleaner lines, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how this turned out.

Fun fact: although the purely fictitious National Grammar Rodeo from the episode “Bart on the Road” was to be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto, the original artist apparently decided this needed more of a Calgary vibe.

And because I know you’re all dying to know: yes, Andy Williams was on heavy constant rotation while I painted this. 🙂

Whenever I have to deal with carrots (peeling, grating, chopping…anything that ensures my hands will be fairly covered in their juices) and am left to marvel at my Oompa Loompa palms, I’m reminded of the story of how Susan Dey ate so many carrots that her skin turned orange, creating problems during filming of The Partridge Family.

Another coworker is moving on to bigger and better things, and somehow I determined that his lovely parting box o’ cupcakes should be of the carrot variety.  How is it that I’ve had Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for years, but always bypassed that particular recipe?  Time to change that!

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Just look at that dense, raisin-y, carrot-y goodness…mmm…..

These turned out really well for a first attempt, and gave us an answer to that ubiquitous question: “What’s your idea of a hot Saturday night?”

“Standing in the kitchen with the oven on during a heat wave.”

Go ahead – tell me I’m wrong! 🙂

Lemon + Raspberry = Yum!

December 31, 2012

Wouldn’t you know it, I’ve got myself a little tradition at work.  I’m not sure how this went from being a one-off to a regular occurrence, but it seems now that whenever someone leaves (because of retirement or whatnot), they get sent on their way with a lovely gift-box of cupcakes from me.

I made lemon cupcakes with a raspberry-cream cheese frosting for my boss, whose last day before maternity leave was technically today.  Since the office was closed for New Year’s Eve, though, I brought them in for her last week.

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I was really happy with how they turned out…the flavours pair together very well, and they were such a nice change from the standard Christmas sweets that had been everywhere for the last month.

Evidently, I have a reputation as the Cupcake Girl, because I don’t even have to be present when the cupcakes are discovered.  She showed up at my cube a half-hour after I had arrived and deposited my package: “Did you leave cupcakes on my desk?”  Of course I did…who else would it be? 😉

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Or so says comedian John Pinette.  I generally try to not take standup comedy as gospel, but I’m kind of inclined to agree with him on that count.  If you read this blog with any regularity, you know my feelings on gluten-free baking.  I’m certain that if I had to go gluten-free, I’d lose 20 pounds within the first month, easy.

But…remember the coworker who asked if I could find a good gluten-free corn bread recipe for her? (“A very corn-y joke“)  Evidently my baking didn’t kill her, and she decided she had to get more of what I had to offer.  *snerk*  “Here’s my Christmas wish,” she began as she appeared at my desk one morning, and spread out a recipe clipped from the newspaper.

“Pumpkin-almond cookies?” I read.  The ingredient list seemed fairly straightforward, except for the almond butter and – oh, crap! – having to spend an hour reducing pumpkin purée before baking.

“But gluten-free.”  Of course.  She went on to say that she had a big jar of almond butter at home, all-natural, from Costco, that she wasn’t using, and I could have the whole thing.  How can you refuse an offer/request like that?

When I went to the bulk store for gluten-free flour, the little information slips attached to the bin recommended adding xanthan gum for best results.  Of course, they didn’t sell xanthan gum in bulk, only in huge bags, so that necessitated a trip to another store to get a smaller package.  (At 1/4 tsp per cup of flour for cookies, a 100 gram bag will last me forever.)  Ingredients procured, I got a-baking yesterday:

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I have to say, they’re not half-bad.  Maybe adding xanthan gum really does make a difference!  I think part of the reason these worked is because the moisture in the pumpkin helps counteract the dry crumbliness that usually befalls GF baking…that hour spent reducing it was worth it, by the way.

My mom says that it’s the best gluten-free baking she’s ever had, and certainly the best that I’ve ever made – high praise, from someone who can eat the plain old glutenous version with impunity.

Now I just have to wait and see if my coworker thinks they were worth the wait.  I’ll be bringing a tin of them in for her tomorrow for a Monday surprise!

A very corn-y joke

September 24, 2012

Why don’t soldiers like to march through cornfields?  Because they might step on a kernel!  (Colonel?  That one really works better spoken instead of read.  Go on, read it out loud.)

My coworker, all too aware that flattery will get her everywhere, sighed recently and said that since I was such a good baker, maybe I’d have a good recipe for gluten-free corn bread.  Normally the answer would have been a resounding no.  I can digest gluten without a problem, and since most gluten-free baking I’ve tried has been on the nasty side, I don’t see much point in trying.  But…I had ripped a recipe out of the newspaper this spring for gluten-free corn muffins that seemed simple enough, so….challenge accepted!

The recipe was really very simple – seven ingredients, no waiting – and only made six muffins, so I wasn’t going to feel too bad if they didn’t turn out.  I mixed, spooned, baked, and waited….

….they looked good.

….they smelled good.

….they released neatly from their papers.

….they tasted good, but whoa, were they crumbly!

They were still more palatable than most store-bought gluten-free baking I’ve tried, so I brought them in for her anyway.  I apologized meekly for the crumbliness (I love it when food comes with disclaimers!) when I presented them, but she told me that tends to be a “thing” with GF baking, and that these were actually really good.  Who knew?

I think I may well stick with glutenous baking in the future, though…I know the territory and tend to stress less!  🙂

…you definitely need to loosen up a bit.

Okay, so my job has a lot going for it.  It has a comprehensive benefits package.  There is room for advancement for motivated employees.  It’s in a well-maintained building that is close to my bank, dentist, favourite restaurants, shopping, foxy former co-workers, etc.  They’re also remarkably understanding and accommodating at office functions re: my strictly voluntary dietary restrictions.  I am deeply grateful for that.

But…they don’t like people eating lunch at their desks.  The girl who trained me explained the philosophy thusly: “Nothing that requires a utensil!  If you’re fiddling with utensils, you’re not working.”  O…kay.  Yet Bake Club members are free to use forks to eat cake at their desks.  Bizarre.

So covert finger-food it was!  I’ve spent the past two years surreptitiously nibbling a PB&J at my desk.  Yes!  I became a walking vegan stereotype, and decided it was high time for a change.  (By now you might be wondering why I don’t just eat in the lunch room.  I tried that for a while, but prefer actually leaving the office to stretch my legs, run errands, etc.  Not unreasonable after a morning in front of the computer.)  I decided that tofu sandwiches were the way to go: whole grain and fibre from the bread, plus protein and calcium from the tofu, with only a fraction of the sugar of a PB&J.

A couple of weeks ago I made the Sweet Chili Lime Tofu from Vegan Yum Yum.  A little mustard, some lettuce, and it was delicious.  Last week, I was lazy and made Southern Fried Shake n’ Bake tofu.  I still had a package of the coating left and could have done it again this week, but I wanted something a little different.

I used the basic bread-and-bake method for the Cornmeal Crusted Chili Lime Tofu from Veganomicon, but made my own coating of panko crumbs and a Roasted Chili and Tamarind/Roasted Garlic and Peppers mix (both by Clubhouse seasonings).  It’s got just the right amount of kick, and a wonderfully crispy finish – and the only way it could be even easier to make is if it breaded and baked itself.  Seriously.

Behold, the healthy-eating rebel!

Son of Cookie Monster

August 19, 2012

Last week, I celebrated my two-year anniversary at my job.  That’s right: for 731 days, give or take, I’ve been delighting and entertaining my coworkers with my very presence in the office.  Okay, maybe not.  And not that anyone else would have remembered the date, but I wanted to do something just a little festive.  I had some extra time one evening and decided that mini cupcakes were in order.

The conversation went something like this:

“I thought I’d do vanilla cupcakes with a pink frosting.  Maybe I can use some maraschino cherry juice for flavour.  Ooh, or that Dr. Pepper stuff I got!”  (At this point, I was picturing something all princess-y.)

“Oh.  But your chocolate ones are so good, have such a nice flavour.”

“Okay.  Sure.  I can do chocolate with a cherry or Dr. Pepper frosting.”

“Why don’t you do blue raspberry frosting again?  It tasted really nice.”

Okay, so I did the blue raspberry frosting again.  (It worked so nicely with the pale blue liners you can’t really see for the chocolate cake.)  I thought I was smart by dissolving my drink crystals in the almond milk before adding it to the frosting, but they didn’t provide me with a sufficiently intense flavour or colour, so I added a smidge of raspberry extract and some blue food colouring.  Maybe it was the addition of the extract, but it had almost a blue-bubblegum flavour this time.  They might lack the characterization of their Cookie Monster predecessors, but they hold a certain charm nonetheless.

My coworkers loved them!  Between 8:00 and 10:00, they managed to polish off 30 of the little suckers.

I still have to try Dr. Pepper frosting, though…