Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Apple Crisp - Win

Apple Season!

I always liked apple picking as a kid and I missed it when we moved away. And now we're back and live in fruit country. AND my family has apple trees in their yard. How cool is that! So one night we all went over and picked apples.

Another favourite of mine growing up was apple crisp. It was always a staple dessert for holidays in our house. So when Thanksgiving rolled around I volunteered to make dessert and Apple Crisp was on the menu!

There are SO many versions and ways to make apple crisp. Or crumble if you prefer. The Apple part is mostly the same, but the topping is the part that differs. Small chunks vs large, oats or no oats. It's a little daunting. I wanted a recipe that would be tasty, easy, and portable since we were traveling for our turkey dinner. Then I came across this recipe from Rock Recipes and really liked the way she laid out all the tips to make the perfect apple crisp.

For my recipe I used Granny Smith apples. They're my go-to apples for the majority of baking (and eating actually). The tart taste balances out the sweet of most desserts and they hold their shape very well during the baking process.

The recipe came together easily. All I did was cover it well and bake it when it was time for desert. You really want to pat down and smooch the topping into the apples, but don't. Doing as recommended and leaving them in chunks like you see below really makes the topping crispy!

It was so tasty that I didn't get a picture after baking but before eating. So I guess it went over well with the family! This recipe and method was a definite win!

Happy Baking!!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

DIY Tutu - Win!

I'm not a girly girl really, but occasionally I like to get my frilly on. And I've tried hard not to pink-wash my daughter as best as I can, making sure she has lots of blues and greens and yellows in her room and wardrobe. It's a hard fight since she's the only girl granddaughter right now. But for her birthday I decided 'what the heck' and made her a tutu.

Yup. A pink full frilly tutu just for her birthday.
It's awesome!

The tutorial found here from The Pinning Momma is fairly simple to follow and is a no sew version. This was the best for me, since a) I can barely sew and b) I don't have a sewing machine. It just required a few stitches to connect the elastic, but you could easily tie them together if you lack needle and thread or like me are prone to poking yourself. A lot.

I picked three colours: white, light pink, and a darker pink. Yah, I know I don't like too much pink, but she only turns one once, right? The best thing about this is you can make it in any colour combo you want. And changing how I layered the tulle changed the colour for each section giving it a really neat effect.

Getting the number of wraps around the cardboard was a tiny bit tricky because I kept loosing count. I found it helpful to make a small pencil mark on the 'top' of the cardboard to help keep track of when I made a full rotation of the tulle. 
Below is a quick video I took to show what a full rotation looks like. From start to finish that's counted as one wrap around.

The whole project maybe took a little over an hour from start to finish because I had to layer all the different colours. If you're doing one colour, it should take less time.

The tutu looked great and had a nice fullness to it and held up well for the party. It can definitely be used again. And I even had someone ask to make them an adult sized one :)

The project cost about $15 total, the tulle was on sale. You can jazz it up as well by adding ribbon or a bow at the back if you'd want something a little flashier or fun.

Overall, a super simple DIY project!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Make Buttercream Icing look like Fondant - Win

It's birthday season in our house! Birthday #1 went off without a hitch, but the chalkboard sadly never recovered and will probably need to be repainted.
On to Birthday #2!
My son is turning 5 and had requested a Spiderman birthday. Easy enough! This time instead of cupcakes, I chose a traditional cake since it's a smaller crowd. When it comes to cakes I tend to half-cheat. The cake comes from a box but the icing I make myself from an awesome recipe I got from a cake decorator friend of mine. I've used it for years and it hasn't failed yet.

I searched all over Pinterest for inspiration for the cake. I wanted to do blue instead of red, and would need a very smooth surface for the decorating. Now I could have gone off and used fondant. However a) I've never used fondant before and b) most people I talk to really dislike the taste or texture of fondant. And I really didn't want to venture into an entirely new icing medium without a little practice.

I had come across this method a while ago when looking for icing techniques for my baby girls birthday. I searched around a little more and found that the method was very similar across the board and the effect was lovely. I won't include a link since there are lots of tutorials and videos.
So I thought "what the heck". If it didn't work, I'd have a bumpy spiderman cake!

I baked two 9" round cakes and made a double batch of buttercream icing. I iced between the cakes, lopped off the top to make it flatter, and did a crumb coat. Then I used almost an entire container of blue food colouring to get the right 'Spiderman blue'. Next time I'd use the gels.

When using buttercream you need to make sure it's at the right temperature to manipulate. Too hot and it'll melt, too cold and it won't spread. Keep this in mind.

Sorry - no in progress pics. Between the icing and the food colouring, my hands and kitchen looked like I beat up a Smurf. 

After my crumb coat had set in the fridge, I did a rough icing around the cake. Use more icing then you think you'll need, you can always work it off later. I used a metal icing spatula to get the cake covered.

Now for the smooth finish. 
Keep very hot water and a clean paper towel near by your cake and icing bowl. The method I tried worked mostly like this:

- Run spatula under hot water for about 10 seconds (until metal becomes hot)
- Quickly wipe with clean paper towel to remove water
- Sweep the spatula over the icing. No need to push or dig the icing, your just smoothing it out, not pushing it around.
- Scrape excess icing off the spatula onto the bowl
- Repeat and continue working around your cake

It's a LOT of steps and extra work, and I found I had to reheat my spatula for every pass on the cake (I had to redo the spot on the right in the pic above) or it would mess it up. So keep your hot water tap running. But I think it turned out pretty well for the first time and it definitely worth the extra work if you want a smooth finish on your cake but don't want to use fondant. 

There is an additional step where you use a Viva paper towel and smooth the icing even further which I skipped. Because it HAS to be this specific brand and no other, and I had just bought a bunch of our regular kind, I passed on this step. But if I really wanted the 'fondant finish', I'd plan ahead and get some. 
I'm pretty impressed with myself and this method.

With the amount of work aside, this is a definite win!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Removing Chalkboard Marker - Fail

I haven't had a fail in a while, especially a DIY fail.

My baby girl turned one a little under a month ago, and for her birthday I made one of those chalkboard signs. I searched on Pinterest for inspiration and text examples and freehanded the full thing. And I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself!

Hey look, I'm crafty!

Michaels was having a BOGO on chalkboards to I bought two, plus some regular chalk and chalkboard markers, which I used on the birthday sign. My plan was to reuse the large board and the markers for other events, like my son going to Kindergarten, Christmas, etc.

Now I fully admit this is partially on me. It could have been a) the markers I bought, even though the Michaels employee told me they were erasable b) the type of chalkboard I bought or c) the length of time I left the original art on the chalkboard. Which was almost a month. 

At least I remembered to prime my chalkboard before I started.
With the first day of school around the corner, I wanted to get on my newest art project and redo the chalkboard for my son. This is the point where I realized that this stuff doesn't come off. It did wipe off with a wet cloth when I was making the chalkboard and made an error, but it's pretty set it now. 

So here is the methods I used to try to remove the chalkboard marker in levels of lack-of-success

Water and a damp cloth
Fail. Made no impact. Don't even bother.

Soap and hot water
See above. Just move right on.

Magic Eraser
Ok so these things are a-maze-ing. They'd clean just about everything and a few Pins said this would solve my chalkboard dilemma. On the plus side it did remove the majority of the marker, however it took almost the whole eraser and a LOT of elbow grease, and there is still a shadow left and even some marker.

Magic Eraser with Vinegar
Slight improvement from just the Magic Eraser with water, but not much.

Well I don't have Windex but I have window cleaner. I tried it and it didn't help.

So after trying ALL of these methods on my chalkboard I'm left with this.

Most of the colour is off, but the shadow is still there. And now it seems that the marker has actually REMOVED the chalkboard paint behind it, exposing the wood board. And it has also puckered in places, probably due to the amount of moisture.

The final product. You can still see a lot of the text, and the most visible parts are where the chalkboard paint has come off

So after a lot of work it looks ok. If I'm mindful of how I use it in future (using regular chalk from now on) I can hopefully cover most of the bad spots. Or I may just go get some chalkboard paint and repaint it. 

I'm glad the chalkboard was cheap.

So learn from me...IF you use Chalkboard Markers, they are NOT for porous surfaces. And if you do use them on standard chalkboard and want to reuse it, wipe off your projects asap or use vinyl chalkboard. Or just use regular chalk.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blueberry Orange Oatmeal Muffins - Win

I do love my muffins!

Now that I'm back to shift work and the kiddos are in daycare, I actually get a bit of time to do some large batch cooking. This time was some home made granola bars and muffins. Instead of going to my usual apple muffins, I decided to try something new. Plus I had an orange sitting around that needed to be used.

This is yet another solid recipe from Damn Delicious. I only made two variations, - using vanilla greek yogurt instead of plain, and I omitted the vanilla extract (mostly cause I didn't have any) and using just regular sugar instead of Turbinado. Just as described these are a hearty and tasty muffin, and the smell simply delicious. I mean who doesn't love the smell of orange zest?

The batch whipped up quickly and the keep very well. The only difference is that the recipe states that it makes 11 muffins but I came out with 14. Maybe I just make mine a bit smaller, but keep that in mind when trying this one out.

These muffins are perfect for breakfast or snacks, and will definitely end up in our lunch bags as a tasty and healthy treat.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Skinny Sofa Table - Win!

We are slowly turning our new house into a home. It seems like it will take forever, especially now since I'm back to work and 12 hour shifts put a damper on getting stuff done around the house. One week in and it looks like a dust bomb went off in here.


Two of our newest acquisitions to our House to Home Project is a fridge and a pull out couch. The fridge was unplanned. The previous one was making horrible banging noises that were so loud my hubby thought someone was breaking into the house, while freezing half my food and rotting the rest. The POS had to go. 
The couch was a necessary purchase. This house is actually a bit of a downsize for us, going from four bedrooms to three, but since we live significantly closer to family now, having an extra bedroom for visits isn't necessary. But having a spare bed where family and friends can crash is always nice.
With the layout of our new living room being smallish and a bit awkward, we needed to get creative with tables and lighting.
Especially with the lighting, since we have no idea what the switch in the living room actually does.

I came across this Pin from Always Never Done while randomly searching for home inspiration. It was the perfect solution for our problem and really cute too! And all for $25!

Uh, yah. Until my hubby got a hold of the project.

He has inherited his father's ability to take a simple and inexpensive project and turn it into a bank breaking monstrosity. Ok, I'm exaggerating. A bit. When the men in his family do this to these previously simple projects, they do turn out well, and maybe better then the original plan.

So I showed this little table to my hubby and said "wouldn't this be great for behind our new couch?" He agreed, and ventured off one day to the local supply store. I'll spare the details, but way too much money later we have an awesome looking table. So this is more of an 'inspired' pin then one we he actually followed to the letter.

Please excuse my horrid walkway and garden. We're getting it replaced next month!


So the plan went off the rails in a few ways.
One - we got stair case spindles instead of legs.
Two - he added additional supports between all four legs so the wobbly concerns from the original pin are not a problem here.
Three - my hubby decided to do a double top where he could build the table then mount the finished top onto the table and not leave any holes or filled marks.
More complicated? Yes. Still looks good? Yes.

Painting the legs was an absolute pain. If you can get them pre-painted, do it. Or buy spray paint. Otherwise don't look to close at the table. We didn't worry too much since no one will really see the white parts. We also copped out on the stain and bought stain cloths. Worked like a charm! A quick coat of spray sealant for protection and it was done!

The whole table went together in an afternoon and was relatively easy according to my hubby, even with all his modifications. If you stuck to the original, it should be a breeze. With a few decorations and accessories, it's the perfect addition to our living room and doesn't take up a lot of space.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oven Bacon - Win!

We have been doing Oven Bacon for so long that I totally forgot it was one of my original pins! I really can't believe it, it was such a good pin that it got integrated into our weekly lives so easily.

We have a tradition in our house that most Sundays my hubby cooks pancakes, bacon, and eggs for breakfast. The process used to take a ridiculous amount of time before a) we got a griddle and b) we discovered oven bacon. 
No more cooking in small batches and dealing with splatters or unevenly cooked bacon! Now your bacon can be cooked with minimal mess and ends up perfect every time!

The original pin was from Here. We've adjusted our method to baking at 425 because we like crispy bacon and it cuts on time a bit. Tinfoil is essential to minimize mess. This can easily be done on a standard cookie plan with a small edge, or anything you have that's similar. Cook time is 15-20 minutes depending on your temp, bacon thickness, and desired crispyness. I start checking it after about 10-12 minutes and monitor closely. 

Each piece is flat, crispy, and cooked evenly. 

Why didn't we think of this earlier!

mmm...now I want more bacon.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Super Easy Pizza Dough - Win!

We had some visitors a few weeks ago and got an amazing housewarming present - a pizza stone!
Now I remember when I was a kid, you used to be able to buy uncooked pizza dough. We loved making pizzas, and the taste never compares to frozen or delivered. Sorry, Panago.
I've told myself for years "I have to make pizza dough" but I've never actually done it. Well, with our new fancy pizza stone, I finally have run out of excuses. PLUS it can go on the BBQ! Seriously, this thing is amazing.

The recipe from Mom's Need to Know was super easy to put together (hence the name) and makes four decent sized thin crust pizzas. If you want thicker crust or larger, split the dough in half instead of in four. Right off the bat I made 3 different pizzas using my stone on the BBQ, and froze the fourth bit of dough. I was cooking for 6 people so there are no pics. Sorry!
My second time was whipping up a pizza in the oven (it was raining) before soccer using the extra dough I had frozen before.

Yes, apparently there is still soccer games when you sink ankle deep into the field because it's so wet.
Good thing tomorrow is laundry day.

The dough comes together easily and is really tasty. It makes a perfect crust, not doughy or chewy, or over cooked. It's a really solid recipe. The recipe suggests flour on the pizza stone / pan which is highly recommended so it doesn't stick. Next time I may get cornmeal which may be a nice touch. I've even doubled this batch and it still worked great. It will be more work if you don't have a stand up mixer, and it'll need more time in the mixer if you do. It was also stickier then the first batch, but it worked out perfectly.

Making a well, as seen above, is the method used to mix the wet ingredients and the yeast. There are other methods around, but this worked fine for me.

Before and after rising of the double batch
Homemade pizza is awesome since you can pick and choose and make what ever you want. This is easily a recipe you can make, then bake a pizza for one or two people. We really enjoy it on the pizza stone, but any baking pan would do! Try and make your own pizza dough, you'll never go back to take out again!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Easy Strawberry Shortcake - Win

It's Father's Day!

And what better gift to give the father of your kids then baked goods. A way to a man is through his stomach, right?
We're heading off to dinner with the inlaws this afternoon and each of the dad's got to pick a course. My husband got to pick desert (yippie!). And one of his all time favs is Strawberry Shortcake.

The timing is perfect for this recipe. Ontario strawberries are coming out and look fantastic, plus this gave me an excuse to pull out my big stand up mixer. I seriously debated pulling out my old recipe using bisquick and cool whip, but decided that a) an entire cake isn't that portable and b) after a recent family health scare, a slightly healthier version might be in order.

A quick search of Pinterest lead to this recipe from Just a Taste. Simple and easy, but looking tasty. Now for the waist-watchers, this recipe does call for heavy cream for the cakes. This could probably be replaces with milk, but I'm not too sure how it would turn out. Also this recipe is egg free, and can easily be made sugar free as well.

The dough is super simple, but REALLY sticky. I have no pictures of the pre-baked dough because it was everywhere! I tried not to over work it, but ended up having to put it all back in the bowl and re-flour my work board and rolling pin. And my rolling pin did jack all. It just kept sticking to the dough. SO learn from my mistakes! Be generous with the flour on your working surface, and butter your hands. I also just used my hands to flatten out the dough instead of my rolling pin, it was much faster. 
After baking the cakes for 15 minutes they came out light and brown and lovely.

I eliminated most of the sugar in the entire recipe, opting for a tiny bit of regular on the scones, in the strawberries, and in the whipped cream. You could really do this to taste, but for health reasons I decided to heavily reduce it. 

One of the best things is I could pre-make everything and assemble it later. It's really easy to transport this way as well.

Don't they look lovely??
Now because I eliminated the sugar they were not sweet at all, which is something that might not be everyones taste. The shortcakes were a bit heavy, but it worked perfectly with a lot of strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

Overall, a perfectly easy summer desert!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta - Win!

Yet another winner from Damn Delicious! Seriously, this girl has a lot of solid recipes.
As the move-in-chaos settles down I'm slowly getting back into cooking. But I'm also very quickly getting uninspired and bored of my recipes. Maybe it's because I have a really bad desire to reno my kitchen, I'm not sure. So once again Pinterest came to save the dinner!

Seriously some of my favourite words in this recipe, one pot, garlic, and pasta. Can't go wrong here! And when I asked my hubby after a few bites what he thought, and the response was "Can't talk - Devouring", I figured this is a good one. The recipe is super easy and involves your every day ingredients. And as advertised, it's an under 30 minute dinner.

I personally had a few hiccups, but that could be because I'm still working out the kinks in my new stove (medium heat is hot, and high heat is 'better call the pizza guy, Mommy just burnt dinner'). Mainly my pot ran out of liquid and I ended up adding about one additional cup of milk while cooking. This could be because a) too much heat or b) too much pasta. SO next time I'll start with a bit more liquid and go from there.

Also, when it says stir...STIR! I had to whip out my wooden spatula and scrape the bottom a few times to keep the pasta from sticking.

I used 1% milk, spaghetti instead of fettuccine, and added a pinch of thyme, and the recipe was amazing. 

Now the pasta alone is obviously vegetarian. It can be served as a side, or you could amp it up with some meat and or veggies and make it a full meal. This time I used grilled chicken and broccoli and it was perfect. Even my son, who has been refusing any dinner that isn't PB&J for about a week, devoured it. The possibilities are endless! Broccoli, asparagus, peas, bean, or even wilt some spinach in there and it would be a lovely addition. And chicken, shrimp, salmon, or lobster if you want to go decadent, for proteins. This can easily go from one pot side to a full balanced meal with a couple additions and still remain an easy week night meal. 

My hubby wanted to lick the bowl. Really. Not kidding. 

This recipe will definitely be in our regular rotation. Check it out for something a little different!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

No Egg Cookie Dough - Win

Oh yet another dessert post. But come on, who doesn't love cookie dough? And here you have the perfect chance to enjoy your raw cookie dough without that pesky salmonella!
Cookie dough without eggs. And yes, it does work. It's really quick to put together and is all from stuff most people have in their pantry.

This tasty treat from Family Fresh Meals is super simple. It's suppose to be for two, but *ahem* you might not want to share. My only note is I found it a tad flour-y, but a touch more vanilla to moisten the mixture and a really good stir should do the trick. 

You could use any type of chocolate chip you want. I used regular and white chocolate, but a peanut butter or butterscotch would be awesome too. Get creative!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Command Center - Pinterest Inspired Win!


Oh how I hate moving. 
Really REALLY hate moving.

So we're finally settled into our new home and are slowly making it our own. It's difficult, especially because before we took possession we had never been inside our new home. A risk of moving across the country is buying a house sight unseen, and well...that was us. But we have lucked out and landed a lovely home. Sadly, this one as a much smaller kitchen and no desk space. As I type I'm using a small couch table as my desk and typing on my lap while sitting on a stool. This also means that all of our mail, cellphones, and other stuff end up in the already packed kitchen. 
Luckily Pinterest is FULL of organization inspiration. I decided on going for a 'command centre' style area since it was the best option for what we needed and it was something I could throw together quickly. It seriously took me 2 days of crafting and shopping and it's done. And the whole thing cost about $100 total!

How to make a command centre?

Pick an area - We chose the hallway leading to the kitchen. It was preferable over the front door since we don't have much of an entry way and it's accessible by all three doors into the house. 

Get an idea - figure out what you need. I needed a space for my son's homework, our mail and other papers, plus a calendar, and a spot for notes and random papers. Figure out your basics and go from there

Get crafty - I enjoyed this part! I got a large letter from Michaels and painted it. I was originally thinking chevrons, but I found stencils in my scrapbook box and used those instead. I also used the scrapbook paper I had stashed away too. 
I dug into my online stash of printables and framed up some of my kid's art work to add a personal touch. 

In addition to my mail slots, I have my calendar which I can fill in every month using dry erase markers, my weekly menu planner, our cleaning schedule, a magnet board, and buckets for the markers, phones and sunglasses, and hooks for backpacks and jackets.

Most of my inspiration for the heart of my command centre came from here at Girl Loves Glam. There are some great ideas and it's very simple. 
The calendar is a 12x12 piece of scrapbook paper with a calendar drawn directly on it with sharpie. I then placed it in a cheap glass picture frame from Michaels. This allows me to change it each month and keep things up to date. The cleaning schedule and menu were also taken from Girl Loves Glam, but I modified them for our own needs. Again, both are on scrapbook paper. Note to self - don't put glitter paper through the printer.
Live and learn.
This is just an early draft. As we update our new home and paint, or as our needs change, I can change out the scrapbook sheets easily. It only took me a few hours to make up everything.

I hope this helps give you some ideas for your own command centre and help you realize it's not as hard as you may think!

Happy Crafting!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Flourless Chocolate Muffins - Win and Update!

Update Below!

Ah, bananas. Always something I have around. But either we eat so many I can barely stay stocked or they sit around for a week until they're all brown and mushy. There is rarely an in-between. Last week I ended up with two lone ripe bananas. So not enough for banana bread. I could freeze them but since we're moving I'm trying to DECREASE my freezer stock, not increase it. So I looked through my pin boards and came across a recipe that just might work.

Flourless Chocolate Muffins.

A perfect excuse to procrastinate on a rainy Tuesday.

Now I'm going to be honest, I totally thought these were going to fail in some way. Nearly no dry ingredients involved, no flour, no sugar, no egg. I thought they were going to be a gooey mess post-baking.

Boy was I wrong!

These muffins are super simple to make and just require four ingredients. FOUR! And nothing nuts that you'd need to run to a health food store for. Yes the batter is sticky as the instructions state. I was unable to find too lazy to use muffin liners, so I was very generous with the cooking spray and the muffins popped out without a problem. And be prepared for a bit of a mess when scooping the batter from your blender/mixer. But it's still tasty raw!

This recipe made about 9 muffins using a regular muffin pan. Since they don't rise, you don't have to follow the usual rule of filling the muffin cups 2/3 full. You can go most of the way up and they won't bake over. And adding a few chocolate chips on top adds a nice touch.

The taste is great, a nice balance between banana, chocolate, and peanut butter. The texture is like a dense cake, very moist, but not overly heavy like a brownie.

As I said, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. These are perfect for a healthy chocolate fix, and I don't feel TOO horrible giving my son a chocolate muffin. And these muffins can be gluten free or even vegan with the right ingredients. 
These are a definite win in my book and I'll be making them again.

Happy Baking!


So I made these a second time. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I have a good idea, however they didn't turn out the same. This time I was SLIGHTLY under the amount of coco powder, and used REALLY ripe bananas when before they were sorta ripe. I may have also over-blended. They still taste fantastic, but after baking for nearly 30 minutes they still are very mushy and aren't holding together.
So learn from my experience! Be precise with your measurements, don't over mix, and use slightly ripe bananas. If I do this again with really ripe ones I would probably increase the coco powder to offset the moisture content.
Good luck!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Panko Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon - Win!

Back from 'vacation'! It's never really a vacation for us. It's flying to yet another snowy cold location and driving around parading my self and kids in front all of the friends and family who refuse to visit us here. It's really not bad, just a very packed in trip so I hardly count it as a vacation. No beach? No vacation.

Moving on...

I'm all about a good salmon recipe. It's not something we buy every week due to price so when I buy it I want a recipe that I know will make it amazing.
I've made this recipe from Cooking Classy twice and it's been a huge hit both time. It's lightly sweet and a little zesty, and perfectly crunchy, even if you only end up crusting one side like I did the first time because my salmon had skin. One inconsistent thing about where I shop, half the time the salmon has skin, half it doesn't. It's a fish gamble.
Also I tend to cook my salmon in one large piece, so adjust your cooking times accordingly. For me it was about 30 min for a good size piece.

The first round of this recipe I followed it exactly with the lemon zest and everything. The second time I lacked a lemon, but replaced some of the oil in the breadcrumbs with lemon juice (from a container - yah yah) and it turned out just as good if not a tiny bit better. Crusting salmon with Panko is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about a salmon recipe, but this one is now a regular in our meal rotation.

Yes, I took a bite before I remembered to take a picture. It's that good.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Just imagine that last part of the title in a megaphone voice. It makes it much more amusing

When we purchased our first home almost 2 years ago we started compiling a list of renovations and updates. Not that the house was bad, it was just very outdated and needed a little love. And needed a lot of corrections from the previous owner who was a REALLY crappy DIY-er. Like baseboards that were just put there, no glue or nails, or gigantic nails running through electrical boxes. Oh the fun! On the list was to update our tiny two piece main floor bath. It's smaller then a closet and was painted a horrible dark brown colour. Ech.

So about 6 months after we moved in I finally got around to painting the bathroom a lovely light green and decided to add in a pallet feature wall from an  idea I found on Pinterest. It was perfect. My hubby has access to pallets galore from work, so it would only cost us time and nails.


Seriously. We just got distracted. We started the wall and it has been half finished for a long time. It got to the point where I started to dislike and question the feature wall, not because it was looking bad, just because I wanted it finished or taken down so I could move on. Recently we have had a fire lit under our butts to get our reno projects completed, so our bathroom is FINALLY DONE! YAY!

So this is actually now two Pinterest ideas. The pallet wall, plus my hubby (who is kind of a genius sometimes) had the idea to paint and distress the wood to tone it down a bit. So we he distressed the wood using the vaseline technique and it worked perfectly. Now I have a lovely feature wall in my tiny bathroom that works so well with the rest of the house.
My hubby working away
The Pallet Feature Wall idea is simple and I got the inspiration from here - collect pallets from wherever you can, clean them up if needed (watch for nails and staples), then attach them to your wall after you've cut them to size. My Hubby used a combination of nails and P90X which is a "I'm never coming off this wall" industrial glue, so we could maintain some of the look by keeping the older nails intact.
The Paint Distressing is also relatively simple and worked perfectly because with a baby we have vaseline in the house - Smear Vaseline on the wood where you want the distressed look to show up, mainly around the edges of the wood piece. Then paint over top. We used an antique white colour. When the paint is tacky but not dry, wipe the edges off with a damp cloth. This should wipe off the paint where the vaseline was applied. Now do note that paint dries relatively fast. My hubby was painting some of these in larger batches and by the time he got to the last one it had completely dried and the paint barely came off. So work with one or two boards at a time so you don't get behind.

All in all, even though it took 18 months for us to finish this project, it looks fantastic. We've added a large framed picture instead of the wreath shown in the original pin, but you could use anything really that fits the theme of your home. And really if you not me, you could easily finish this project in a weekend.
All done! And looking awesome with the big frame! Please excuse the mess
Good luck!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Honey Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken - Fail

I haven't had a food fail in a while! 
Now I admit part of this was my fault. I've never (knowingly) tried Hoisen sauce before. And I also tend to research my recipes by reading comments, etc before trying them. Actually, the comments was one of the things that drove me to start this blog. I mean how many times do you read "Oh that looks tasty" but no one has actually TRIED it!? Yah, so that was a motivator for this, because I actually try it and write about it.

Moving on...

So I'm continuing my love affair with my slow cooker but looking for new recipes to try. We like our Asian style foods, so the recipe for Honey Garlic chicken from InspiredDreamer sounded perfect. A bit more complex then normal since I had to go purchase Hoisen sauce, something I never had on hand but I figured I'd give it a whirl. The recipe sounded solid enough. Results? Not so much.

The chicken was SUPER salty. Like, you can't taste anything but salt. I even went over the recipe again after we at it to make sure I followed it correctly, which I did. I only eliminated the pepper flakes since my boys don't like spicy foods and added a small dash of chilli powder instead. The hoisin sauce plus the soy sauce make a super salty combination. No honey or garlic taste at all, and thats after 5 (large) garlic cloves!

I may try this recipe again, either seriously reducing the hoisin or soy sauce, or both, or eliminating one completely. But if that doesn't work this recipe will definitely not be returning to this house. And it has sadly been labeled a fail. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

DIY Yarn Balls - Win

I have a lot of yarn. A lot! Well, maybe not a lot to some knitters and crocheters, but for me it's a lot. For Christmas my husband bought me this awesome yarn bag that's big enough for all my yarn AND my projects. Plus it's nice looking too!

So with all my projects over the last few months, I had a lot of remnant yarn sitting around making a mess. So I went to Pinterest and found a way to solve my yarn mess problem.

DIY Yarn Balls!

The method is simple. It suggests using a paper towel roll tube, placing about 6 inches of yarn into the tube, and wrap the yarn around the tube. Now the first time I tried this I did use a paper towel tube and after one yarn ball it was all crushed. Not sure if it was me and I was wrapping to tightly, but it pretty much made it unusable. However, I had conveniently finished a roll of aluminum foil, which has a much smaller but also much stronger tube. That is now my yarn ball tube. I've used it many times and it's still holding up. It's nice too because if you have only a small amount of yarn you can make a tiny yarn ball. So if you're looking to reuse your yarn ball tube, look into something stronger like one from a roll of aluminum foil. Paper towel rolls are great, but you might only get one or two uses out of them. I keep mine in my bag with all my yarn. I did say it was a big bag!

This works up really fast. You can do a large amount of yarn in under 30 minutes. Unless, like me, you have a bunch of yarn at the bottom of your bag that looks like you tried to do cats cradle while on LSD. Then it'll take a couple hours. But it's the perfect mindless activity while watching TV if you're not actually up to crocheting or knitting.

Below is the results of a few nights of work, doing one to two balls a night. As you can see some are large and some are quite small.
To use the ball, you just pull the string from the middle and start away! I've used the some of the yarn I've balled up and it comes out smoothly as you work away on your project. A definite DIY winner here!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Keeping Fruit Fresh - The Vinegar Soak Method - Win!

I love fruit, but I hate fruit. 
I love the freshness, but hate the not-so-freshness after a couple of days. Like fuzzy bits on my 3 day old blueberries, or mushy spots on my strawberries.


I found this idea a while ago, but never put it to practice. I've decided 2015 will be a me year. No more kids, time for me to get my health on track. And the Hubby is on board, I even have a contract :D So that means my fridge is stuffed full of fresh fruits and veggies.
Veggies aren't so much of a problem. We're big salad eaters and most of the vegetables we buy are hardy enough to last out the week or even more. Fruit, not so much. By the time I get to it it's gone bad. So here I am trying to salvage my berries. There are a few different versions of this vinegar soak, varying on amount of vinegar and time to soak. I won't post links, since I honestly looked at a few to get the general idea then just winged it.

Day One - Friday
Blueberries and Strawberries - Day One Date of Purchase
Purchased one container of strawberries and one of blueberries, all of which were in good condition when I got them home. No fuzzy or soft spots. I check my containers religiously before I buy them, because I HATE seeing fuzzy fruit in the store. Yuck. If you find any - pitch the fuzzy offenders in the garbage.
I proceeded to do a soak using 10 cups water and 1 cup white vinegar for 10 minutes. If you're doing a larger amount use more water/vinegar, but the 10:1 ratio seems to work. I left the berries on a paper towel for a good couple hours to make sure they were dry. Moisture is not your friend, so spread them out so the berries don't touch and they can dry completely. I did not rinse them after the vinegar soak.

Day Four - Monday

Day Four
So I'm totally a convert already. We only have a few berries left and they are still in perfect condition, as you can see. No fuzzy or soft spots, still taste great. No vinegar flavour after the soak, even without rinsing. I've even had to set aside a few berries that we are not allowed to eat to see how long we can go, but so far, this is a definite winner!

Day Seven - Thursday

Day Seven
Only on day seven the fruit started to look a little peaked. The strawberries (the two that remained) were looking a little dried out and there were two blueberries with fuzz on them. But both tasted fine and made it a whole week compared to just a couple days.

A note on the soaks. On day five of my Berry Soak Experiment I went out and bought another container of strawberries and blueberries and set them to soak in the vinegar solution. And since I'm a busy mom of two, I completely forgot about them. Oops! So instead of 10 minutes they sat in the soak for over and hour. However they seem to have had no ill effects and have no bad smell or taste.
And after a few days the 'extended soak', the berries seem to be fairing well. So length of soak does not seem to harm the berries, but learn from my mistakes and set a timer.

Final opinion?
Total winner. Especially in a time of year where berries are out of season, and therefore expensive and arrive at the store not-so-fresh, taking 10 minutes to soak your berries is a definite food and money saver. There is no vinegar flavour at all left over from the soak. This one extra step in you weekly food prep can be a huge saver!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas Crochet Extravaganza - Wins and Fails

As noted last year, I try to do Christmas on the cheap. Buying for so many people can add up. Since I'm a novice / intermediate crocheter, I decided to make as many presents as I could.

#1 - 6 Hr Afghan

A very simple project using bulky/super bulky yarn and a Q hook. Make the blanket as large or small as you like. Using a V stitch makes it a very open blanket, so be aware of pulls and snags. Add tassels if you like. Did NOT take me 6 hrs, more like 2 weeks, but that was with multiple projects on the go and only a few hours in the evening to crochet. If I had 6 hrs of straight free time to do anything, I probably could have finished it in the allotted time. The colour I used was called Peacock (as seen above, it's the blanket at the bottom of the pile), and the blanket when finished covered me from stomach to toes. I'll definitely use this pattern from Ravelry again. 

#2 - Cow Hat


My dear little nephew loves cows. LOVES COWS. So what did his Auntie make him for Christmas? A cow hat. The pattern from Repeat Crafter Me is really cute and easy to follow. I only had trouble with the cow spots, and no matter how many times I tried they looked weird. So I just made something up - little stitch, big, big, little, big, on and on till it looked like a wonky cow spot. I'll definitely use this hat pattern again, and I used it a lot this year, especially since the poster has adjustments for infant to adult sizes.

#3 - Car seat blanket and matching hat

So I'm getting another nephew in January! Excited Auntie right here! So the new addition gets a present too. The blanket was a combination of two patterns/methods. I used the three-strand single-crochet method for the blanket, and left 2 large gaps to accommodate the carseat straps. This way the straps stay right against baby, but baby remains warm. I got the idea for the pattern from here, but I pretty much winged it.
For the hat I used the Cow Hat pattern again, and added a pompom at the end.

#4 - Tiny TARDIS Ornament


The Hubby is a Whovian. Let's just get that out there. And since I couldn't work on some of the gifts in his presence, I got bored in the evenings and decided to make him a TARDIS. Yes, he knew about it but he loves it. Even though our Christmas stuff is all packed away, the TARDIS still sits on the shelf. 
This was my first 3D project and it turned out ok. Not very square, but I think that is just the pattern. I added on the Snowy Top as well, and used felt and black thread for the windows. It was a bit fiddly making something so small, but for a starter project I think it turned out fine! Pattern from Ravelry

#5  - Jayne Cobb Hat x 2

Win and Fail for this one

My Hubby and I are huge Joss Whedon fans. You know that guy who directed The Avengers movie? Him. But we liked him way before the movie came out. Jayne Cobb is a character from one of his shows Firefly. And this hat is from that show. Look it up. It's awesome.
Years ago I remember my Hubby saying he'd love a Jayne hat one day. So this year I decided to make him one. And just for kicks, make one for my son too. Both hats are pictured above, they are the orange and yellow ones.

For the hat for my son I again used the Cow Hat pattern. See? It's my new fave. It worked great, except I made it too small. But that's my own fault since I underestimated the size of my kid's giant head. Seriously, he's 4 and has the head size of a small adult. 
For my Hubby I used this pattern from Crafting Adventures. Now my husband is the only one in my family with a normal head size. The rest of us are blessed with huge heads. And I will fully admit that since I'm a relatively novice crocheter, one of my huge failings is figuring out gage. But I followed the pattern exactly and the hat is TOO SMALL! How disappointed do you think I was to find that on Christmas morning the hat didn't fit! 
So I have to order more yarn and make both hats bigger. So be cautioned and check measurements before diving into this pattern. Other than the size issue, it turned out great. 

I have a lot more crochet projects on the go. Most patterns I don't have an issue with but if I find a really good one I'll post it here.

Have fun!