Monday, October 31, 2011

Meal Plan #7

Happy Hallowe'en!

I hope you're finished handing loads of candy to all of the little ghouls and monsters that came knocking at your door.  Around the Bookworm house we children dressed up as a large box of Smarties (made by Cub himself), a Mad Hatter and a witch. :)  Now that Hallowe'en is pretty much over (I say this as I munch on some mini chocolate bars) it's time to think about what we're making for suppers this week.

Tonight I tried a recipe called Slow Cooker Orange Chicken from one of my favourite blogs called "This Woman Cooks".  If you haven't checked out Christina's blog please go over, say 'hi' and check out all of her amazing recipes.  Not only does she have some mighty fine recipes but she's great to chat with on Twitter. :)

This week I'm trying quite a few new recipes.  As you may have guessed from previous posts, me 'of little attention span' gets bored easily and therefore likes to jazz up supper by trying new recipes.   Here's what I have on the menu:

Sunday
Breaded Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Pesto
Boiled Potatoes
Carrots

Monday - Hallowe'en
Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
'Frexican' Roasted Potatoes (NEW RECIPE - to be posted very soon!)
Green Peas

Tuesday
Homemade Pizza
Caesar Salad

Wednesday
Corn and Cheese Chowder (NEW RECIPE)
Quick Sour Dough Bread (NEW RECIPE)
Simple Veggie Tray

Thursday
Tortellini Spinach Bake (NEW RECIPE)
Cheesy Garlic Bread
Salad

Friday
Saucy Meatloaf
Mashed Spuds
Honey-Orange Glazed Carrots (NEW RECIPE)

Saturday
Crispy Parmesan Breaded Tilapia
Basmati Rice
Green Beans Sauteed in Garlic Oil

What do you have planned for suppers this week??  Something ghoulishly good, I hope!  Happy Hallowe'en!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Caramel Corn


This afternoon the Bookworm family had our annual jaunt at the local pumpkin patch.  We got lost in the corn maze, saw some knarly squash and picked out a few mighty fine specimens of pumpkin to carve up for Monday night!  Get out the power tools, honey!  It's pumpkin carvin' time!  {Yes, Brad is known for his aptitude in pumpkin carving using various power tools.  He's Picasso with a power drill.  He's Michaelangelo with a mitre saw (truth be told he uses a hack saw not a mitre saw but I couldn't think of a famous artist that started with 'H').  Either way you say it he has a gift for power pumpkin carvin'.  It's a gift, what can I say?}.

When we got home after all that outdoor family fun time I went in the kitchen and had the urge to make something.  A sweet treat for my family that we could snack on for our movie night.  This is when I remembered that I'd recently seen a tasty looking recipe for Caramel Corn.  The recipe comes from one of my favourite blogs, "Made in Melissa's Kitchen" {take a peek at her blog here} and is the tastiest caramel corn I've ever had.  It's sweet with a hint of saltiness.  It has a light crunch and is ever so slightly spongy inside.  In other words, perfect. 

I must admit that caramel corn is a treat that I've never made before.  I quite enjoy eating it but just haven't made it at home.  Perhaps it's because of the sticky factor?  {Goodness knows that's why I don't love making Rice Krispie Squares}.  Who knows.  What I do know is that I should have made caramel corn a LONG, LONG time ago!

Not only was this treat really easy (and not nearly as sticky as Rice Krispie Squares) but it ... is ... AWESOME and totally addicting!!  Just ask my family who ate almost half of it this afternoon.  It tastes like you've melted bags of Werther's Original butterscotch candies over popcorn.   While this treat is really easy to make the only downside it has is that it takes about an hour to make.  But when you see how my family schnorffed this treat down, it's probably just as well since if it was easy and quick my family and I would cease to have 20 teeth in each of our heads!

It's for that reason that I sent Karate Guy on his bike to deliver a bag of caramel corn to our friends a few blocks away.  I had a couple reasons for sharing our treat.  First, two big containers of caramel corn is a lot for 5 people plus I wanted to see what other people thought of this yummy treat .  It was that good!   I hope you and yours enjoy this treat as much as we did!

Caramel Corn

Yield: 6 quarts

1 cup unpopped popping kernels (approx. 6 quarts of popped popcorn)
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda

Pop popcorn (I used an air popper) and place in a really BIG bowl (or use two big bowls to make stirring easier).  Set popcorn aside.

Preheat oven to 250F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted add the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt.  Mix well.   Increase temperature to medium-high and bring butter mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Allow mixture to continue boiling for 5 minutes - do not stir.

Remove saucepan from heat and add vanilla and baking soda.  The mixture will bubble up and froth a fair bit.

Pour butter mixture over popcorn and stir until well combined.   Pour popcorn onto the two prepared baking sheets and spread out the popcorn as much as possible.  Don't worry if not all of the popcorn is covered in the caramel.  As you mix it while it bakes the caramel will coat the bare popcorn.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or until popcorn mixture is crispy.  Wait until popcorn has cooled completely before breaking caramel corn into pieces (caramel stays hot for quite awhile). 

Source: Inspired by madeinmelskitchen.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baked Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze

                                

One of the things you should know about the Bookworm Family is that we love to eat and adore cooking together.  The other evening my 12 year old and my 8 year old decided it was a good night to bake donuts.  I couldn't think of a reason to not bake donuts ... so we did.  Can I just say that I LOVE baking with my kids!?!!

One of the gifts I received last week for my birthday was a set of Wilton donut pans from my mother-in-law (she found them on Amazon.ca if you're interested).  I've been hunting for these pans for awhile now and I'm thrilled to finally have them in my kitchen arsenal.  I have a pan that makes 6 large donuts and a pan which makes 12 mini donuts.  Oh the fun that the Bookworm family is going to have!

As I've said before, one of my kids has a severe peanut allergy which means that he's never really had a fresh donut.  There are some safe packaged donuts that you can buy in a food store but they're never that fresh.  I wanted to give m' boy a fresh donut dipped in a wonderful glaze!

Now you might be asking why I wouldn't just buy a deep fryer and get my donut groove on!  I don't have a deep fryer for one simple reason ... I don't trust myself.  Nope.  Not one bit.  If I had a deep fryer the Bookworm Family would be trying all sorts of goodies in the fryer from dill pickes to gummy worms to marshmallows and Captain Crunch.  We are a curious bunch and we ... have ... no ... will power!  So ixnay on the deep fryer.

This is where these donut pans come in.  Not only do they make cute, easy donuts but they're a healthier option.  They're still not up there in healthiness with broccoli and kale but they're better than their deep fried cousin.

These donuts have a cake-like texture (like the chocolate glazed donuts at Tim Horton's) and went over REALLY well with my Little Bookworms who were vying for the last few mini donuts.   Our mini donuts were on the plump side so they lost their hole and looked more like mini muffins.  Don't get me wrong, we ATE them, they just looked a little different.  

The original recipe is from Shugary Sweets which is a blog that is filled with delicious recipes that I can't wait to try.   If you have a chance go on over and check out Aimee's blog!

Needless to say we're already in talks about making a vanilla version this weekend.  Let's just say that with a rainy cold day in the forecast tomorrow it's lookin' like there'll be vanilla donuts baking in my house tomorrow.  Donuts in about 40 minutes = happy Bookworm Family.  Enjoy!

Baked Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze
Yield: approximately 10 large donuts & 12 mini donuts 

DONUTS
2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp milk
2 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled

CHOCOLATE GLAZE
1 Tbsp half and half creamer
1 Tbsp milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp corn syrup
1 oz bittersweet baking chocolate
1 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

GARNISH IDEAS: Coloured sprinkles, shredded coconut

Prepare Donuts:

Preheat oven to 325F.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Beat in the eggs, milk, vanilla and melted butter. Mix until just blended.

Spray donut pan with cooking spray. Cut a small hole in one corner of a large Ziploc bag.  Fill the Ziploc with your batter then squeeze the batter out through the hole into each donut cup, filling approximately 1/2 to 3/4 full.  Filling 1/2 full with give you thin donuts.  Filling 3/4 full with give you Bookworm Family-sized donuts (the donuts in the picture above were filled 3/4 full).  Using the Ziploc makes filling the pan much easier and a whole lot less messy! 

Bake donuts for about 10 minutes. If a toothpick inserted into one of the donuts (not the middle, ha ha!) comes out clean the donuts are done.  Allow to cool slightly then remove from pan.

MAKE CHOCOLATE GLAZE: While the donuts are baking, prepare the chocolate glaze.  In small saucepan on medium-low heat, mix together the creamer, milk, butter, vanilla and corn syrup. When butter is completely melted, turn heat to low and add in the chocolate and chocolate chips. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar.

Dip each donut into glaze (I dipped a donut in then gave my wrist a twist to get the glaze to sit properly and neatly).  If the glaze starts to cool off and thicken heat it up a bit.  Sprinkle with garnish, if desired.  Place donuts on a wire rack to continue cooling.  Allow chocolate to set for approximately 15 minutes.  

Last but not least .... try not to eat them all in one sitting.  I dare you!  If you happen to have more will power than we do keep in an air-tight container.

Warning:  If you so happen to take your already glazed donut and dip it into the leftover glaze so that it's more glaze than donut you 'may' experience an unhappy tummy from the excessive sweetness.  The research I conducted was pretty conclusive. 

Inspired by: http://www.shugarysweets.com/2011/10/chocolate-donuts-baked.html?showComment=1319373358792&m=1#c2317954885716964799

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

'Whatcha Reading?' Wednesday!


I realize that I took last week off from 'Whatcha Reading?' Wednesday but I have two good reasons.  The first being that it was my birthday and I was focused on basking in my extra year on this earth.  The second reason was that I just didn't feel like it.  Yup.  I was plum tuckered out and took the week off.  So with an extra week I'm sure you all have LOADS of new reads to share, right??

So here's what I was up to last week ....

I finished "The Swan House" by Elizabeth Musser.  I wasn't really thrilled with this book but eventually finished it.   It was one of those books that I had to push myself to finish.

Earlier today I finished "I'll Walk Alone" by Mary Higgins Clark.  I will be reviewing this read very soon!!

Now I'm reading "Bad Boy Jack" by Josephine Cox.   Cox is one of my 'go to' authors when I need an easy, enjoyable read.  She bases most, if not all, off her books in England.  She is a prolific writer and I haven't read all her many books yet.  I received this book from a cereal company that was offering a free book a couple of years ago.  Free book you say??  Sign me up!!

I have no idea what I'll read next.  I have several Jodi Picoult books that I haven't read yet as well many contemporary fiction reads.  What are all of you reading?  Can you suggest a great mystery author?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meal Plan #6

Another week, another meal plan!  I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend!  Missy Moo and I had an all-girls weekend filled with loads of crafts, 'bad for us' treats and shopping!  Girly bliss!  At least one of our crafts will be posted on the blog at a later date!

This week I've planned a few new recipes and have brought out some of my 'must have kitchen appliances' to do some of the meal cookin' too.  The mighty crockpot/slow cooker is a 'must-have' in my book.  Another must have is a breadmaker -- of which I own two!  My breadmakers are making quite a showing this week with two breads and homemade pizza dough!

Not only are we getting our carb fill with breads and pizza dough but tonight we're making baked chocolate donuts!!  Oh YA!  Total "Awesome Mom Points" will be given to yours truly!  We'll be feasting on said treat while watching the Amazing Race episode that we PVR'd last night. :)  Bliss!

I hope everyone has a great and tasty week.  Currently my home is smelling mighty great due to the Chicken and Sausage Cacciatore and Crusty Rosemary Bread that my crock pot and bread machine have made for me.  Who doesn't like to come home from a hard day and have supper already cooking and smelling great?!?

Here's my meal plan for the week!

SUNDAY
Roast Beef
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Carrots

MONDAY
Crockpot Chicken and Sausage Cacciatore (NEW RECIPE!)
Crusty Rosemary Bread (bread machine)
Baked Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze (NEW RECIPE!)

TUESDAY
Cheddar Broccoli Soup (I'm using my Cheddar Cauliflower Soup and substituting broccoli)
Homemade Whole Wheat Bread (bread machine)
Caesar Salad

WEDNESDAY
Meatball Casserole (NEW RECIPE)
Green Salad

THURSDAY
Homemade Pizza
Gooey Warm Apples over Vanilla Ice Cream

FRIDAY
Balsamic Marmelade Glazed Chicken
Roasted Potatoes
Corn

SATURDAY
Leftovers!!

What do you have planned for suppers this week??

Sunday, October 23, 2011

DIY Mod Podge Coasters


A few weeks ago Missy Moo and I had an all-girls weekend.  We're talking Barbie movies, loads of sweet treats, shopping and .... we got our craft on!!  Oh yes we did! Our men folk were busy being all manly and buff at a Cub camp together so we took advantage of the testosterone-free weekend.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a Type A kind of person which means it's hard for me to do something and not feel let down when it doesn't turn out perfectly.  I have the unique ability to pick apart what should be a relaxing and fun endeavour and overthink it within an inch of it's life and make it stressful event.  It's a gift, what can I say?  Do I do this to crafts that other people make?  No.  I'm just hard on myself.  This is perhaps why I don't often get my craft on.

But when I saw these coasters all over the net and read about how simple and cheap they were to make I decided to give it a go.  I'm in desperate need of large coasters for my family room.  The mug I drink tea out of pretty much every evening is not what you'd consider a delicate china tea cup.  Not for this girl!  Go big or go home.  I use a not-so-delicate mug I procured at the very ritzy ... Disney World.  Yup.  Has a big old picture of Goofy (my fav character) on it and can hold enough cups of tea that I have to get up twice during the night.  Nice mental picture, eh?

Not only is this craft pretty easy but it's also really inexpensive.  The four wall tiles that I picked up at Home Depot cost me a whopping .... 28 cents each.   Not exactly going to break the bank.  This in and of itself made me get more brave about doing the craft. If I mess up who cares?? It only cost me 28 cents plus a little Mod Podge and scrapbook paper scraps.
One of the best things about this craft is that Missy Moo (who is only 8 years old) made a prettier coaster than me!! How cool is it that she out crafted her dear old Mom?? She made the coaster with the stripes and the star in the middle.  I loved that she cut out the extra white square, distressed the edges and added the star!  My first coaster was the one with the big green block on it (I thought I'd be 'crafty' and unique by using a free green paint chip card from Home Depot ... but it would have been nice if I had centred it on the tile.  There's that Type A monster peaking it's head out!).  But I digress ....

These coasters were, quite honestly, extremely simple to make and a great way to spend some mother-daughter time.  Here's how you do it ....
Get all of your items together.  You'll need:
  • Mod Podge (Matte finish)
  • foam brush
  • 4 white wall tiles (mine were 4 1/4 inches square)
  • coordinating scrapbook papers (I chose papers with brown and asparagus green to go in my family room)
  • felt
  • scissors
  • craft glue
  • glue stick
  • Distressing Ink (if you want to add a little pow to your coasters) 
  • a spray can of Varathane (a clear coat to protect from water damage)
  • don't forget to include a really cheap and ugly pink Dollar Store table cloth to catch any Mod Podge or glue drips.  That's essential.

Wipe the wall tiles to remove any dirt.

Cut scrapbook paper to fit the tile.  I cut mine paper a little smaller than the tile so that I'd be left with a nice white edge.  If you'd like to distress the edges of your paper, have at it!  Using the foam brush, brush a thin layer of Mod Podge onto the tile.  Flip the paper over and brush some Mod Podge onto the back of the paper.  Quickly place the paper onto the tile making sure it's centred.  Brush Mod Podge over the entire top of the tile.  The Mod Podge will appear milky but don't worry because it will dry clear.  Allow the Mod Podge to dry for 20 minutes. 

If you'd like to add some paper embellishments (like Missy Moo did) this is where you'd glue them on (we just used a glue stick).  Smoothly brush on one to two more layers of Mod Podge over the top of the tile and allow to dry in between coats.

Repeat with other tiles and paper.  Beware of adding too many layers of paper so that the top of your tile won't be flat.  You don't want a drink getting tipsy on your coaster!

It's at this point in the process where I added two coats of Varathane spray to make sure that sweating glasses didn't ruin my crafty creations.

When the tiles are totally dry from all the Mod Podge and Varathane (wait at least an hour -- I waited 2 days before I had time to get back at it) it's time to put the felt on the back so they don't scratch your tables.  Simply cut out four squares of felt slightly smaller than your tile (you don't want the felt showing, do you?). 

Using craft glue (not the glue stick), glue the felt to the backs of the tiles and lay the tiles face down (the glue may seep up through the felt like mine did and try to adhere to my buffet.  Note: not a good thing).  Allow glue to dry.  Flip over and make yourself a cuppa and enjoy!

I think these would make great teacher gifts.  I'm looking forward to making more using my Silhouette machine to cut out cool shapes.

Linked to:
http://www.momontimeout.com/2011/10/taking-timeout-thursday-link-party-no-1.html


beneath my heart

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Swan House


Author: Elizabeth Musser
Genre: Christian/ Historial Fiction
Type: ebook (Kindle)
Series: First book in The Swan House series
First Line: "Abby moved down to Grant Park today, and of course I helped her."

Synopsis:  Mary Swan is a sheltered well-to-do teenager who has been raised in a "fine Atlanta family".  When her mother is suddenly killed in a plane crash Mary Swan's world is shattered and she's left with several unanswered questions regarding her mother's life.  As she spirals deeper into her grief her African-American maid takes Mary Swan to help in a poorer section of Atlanta to give her something else to do besides grieve.

It's while helping to serve food to the poor that Mary Swan begins to see the vast differences in her life compared to the African-American people she helps.  After becoming friends with a black youth she begins to see how prevalent prejudice is in Atlanta and she vows to make a difference.  Along the way she learns about Faith and how it can help her heal.

My Thoughts:  Going into this book, which I bought for my Kindle, I was expecting a historical fiction read based in the Civil Rights era of the south that dealt with a teenage girl finding some haunting family secrets in an old mansion called The Swan House.   Unfortunately the write up on the book was very misleading. 

The majority of the book dealt with Mary Swan's burgeoning faith and had a very strong Christian focus.  I'm a Christian myself but have never read any Christian fiction before -- it's just not a genre that has intrigued me.   Unfortunately, towards the end of the book it felt like the Christian aspect was being forced on the main storyline and honestly took over.  I admit that it was touching seeing Mary Swan's burgeoning faith but I think the author overindulged in that part of the book (especially when the write up didn't mention anything about this book being Christian literature).  There were other themes in the book (prejudice, mental health) that were sidelined and not explored as much as I would have liked.

Overall, it was just OK.  The writing wasn't inspiring and it really lagged in the middle and towards the end.  I found myself speed reading several sections because the author tended to  be very verbose in her descriptions and added a lot of extraneous information.  For example, including multiple newspaper clippings that described over and over the plane crash that killed Mary Swan's mother.  Why does the reader have to read the articles?  Wouldn't it have been better to summarize the information for the reader?  It happened a few times in the book and felt like the author was trying to fill pages rather than progress the storyline.

The prologue and the epilogue were also superfluous and didn't add to the story.  The book begins with Mary Swan describing to her grown daughter what her life was like when she was a teen the year her mother died.  Unfortunately by the end of the book I had forgotten that the prologue even happened so I was a little confused when I started to read the epilogue until I reread the beginning (which shows how unmemorable the prologue was to the storyline).
 
Unfortunately this was an overly long book that, quite honestly, I forced myself to finish.  It just didn't captivate me.

My Rating: 2/5 stars

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meal Plan Monday #5 & My 600th POST!!

This is going to be a very busy and slightly crazy week for the Bookworm family because we're not celebrating just one but TWO birthdays (two days apart no less!).  Cub turned 12 years old today (how did that happen when it feels like he was a chunky little toddler just a couple of years ago??) and I'm turning "one year better" on Wednesday. :) 

I even got a birthday gift early (I accidentally -- really, it was an accident -- found the receipt for my gift)!  It's a new camera thanks to my parents, my sister and Brad and the kids.  It's 'epic' (as Karate Guy would say) and I can't wait to take a course to learn how to use all of it's bells and whistles.  Here's hoping I can take some great food shots (and pics of my kids). :)

Here's what I have planned to make for suppers this week.  I'm having a really hard time thinking of a meal to make on my birthday.  I'm thinking something with bacon, or goat cheese, or root veggies ...  I have no idea and I'm up for anything frankly.  Maybe even a 'breakfast for supper' kind of deal.   It's my day off so I have more prep time but it's also my birthday so I want to take it easy and bask in the wonder that is ME!  Any ideas??   

Sunday
Greek Pork Chops (a la Costco)
Dijon Lime Oven Roasted Potatoes (NEW RECIPE)
Cauliflower with Creamy Goat Cheese, Rosemary and Garlic Sauce (NEW RECIPE)

Monday -- Cub's 12th birthday!!  His pick.
Chicken Wings
Fries
Birthday Cake

Tuesday
Rich and Creamy Tomato Soup and Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Wednesday -- My Birthday!!!
?????

Thursday
Greek Quiche
Salad

Friday
Creamy Cauliflower Cheddar Soup
Homemade bread
Caesar Salad
Saturday
Ladies night out!  Missy Moo have a date night!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin 'n' Spice Cream Cheese Muffins

Have you looked outside lately?? In my part of the world the leaves are starting to change and fall, the mornings are crisp and cool (if not utterly chilly!) and I'm getting the urge to change my closet over from tank tops, sundresses and flip flops to fall sweaters, jeans and hoodies. You know what that means!?!?! Fall is here!! Soon I'll be raking piles of leaves so my kids can jump in them, going on loads of hikes to see the leaves, making stews and soups galore as well as baked goods with apples, pumpkins, cinnamon and cider .... oh, MY! Can you tell that Fall is my favourite season!?!?

With all this Fall love going on I was hankerin' to bake some muffins last week. If I don't bake every few days I feel out of sorts and, quite honestly, get kind of grumpy. To me, baking is cathartic and creative ... plus you get the added benefit of eating your creations! The same cannot be said for crafty creations that use Mod Podge, glue, felt and sparkles ... I'm guessing. ;)

I knew that I wanted to bake something. But what? I had some pumpkin in my freezer but didn't get the urge to specifically bake a pumpkin muffin until my friend Allison told me she was baking some. I know, I know. Just because my friends want to bake pumpkin muffins doesn't mean I have to -- but after she mentioned the words 'pumpkin' and 'muffin' in the same sentence it was all I could think about!!

These muffins are so good that I've made them twice in the past week. They are not only low in fat (without losing flavour!) but they're also moist and they taste like a pumpkin spice latte!! Some 'spice muffins' out there say they're spicy and smell really spicy but when push comes to shove (or muffin touches tongue) they taste pretty blaw and that is such a let-down to me! Not this muffin! Oh no, my friends, this muffin tastes as good as it smells!! Even my 10 year old (who isn't a fan of pumpkin pie was inhaling these -- so much so that I had to limit him before they all but disappeared!).

Not only are these a nice, spicy treat but you also have the added benefit of the creamy texture that the cream cheese gives this muffin too! Plus, the fact that the cream cheese is inside the muffin makes them 'school lunch worthy' (which means it's a less messy option compared to putting the cream cheese on top of the muffin where either my kids or their lunch bags - or both - would be covered in cream cheese by the end of the day!).

If you don't think that you need 12 pumpkin spice muffins in the next few days, don't fret! These muffins freeze like a dream! Just make sure that you defrost them in the fridge because of the cream cheese filling. If you choose to thaw them on the counter you may forget about the muffins for a LONG time because you're busy planning your next blog post cleaning and organizing your house which will result in you having to either throw out said muffins or risk some major food poisoning. I'm, of course, just guessing that that's what would happen (perhaps).

I hope you enjoy this little taste of Fall!

Pumpkin n' Spice Cream Cheese Muffins



1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce (I used an individual cinnamon applesauce)
3 tbsp grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)

Cream Cheese Filling
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
dash of salt

Topping
2 tbsp butter, melted
Cinnamon sugar (2 tbsp sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon)

Prepare the filling --- Combine cream cheese, icing sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well until blended and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours or until slightly firm.

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with papers or grease well. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda. Mix on slow speed just until combined.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Add pumpkin, applesauce and oil. Mix well. Add to dry ingredients and gently mix just until combined. Don't overmix! Fill muffin cups half full.

Place approximately 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture on the batter in each muffin cup. Cover the cream cheese filling with additional batter.



Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the muffin part (try to not let your toothpick touch the cream cheese). Let cool in pans for 5 minutes then brush each muffin with the melted butter and dip in cinnamon sugar. Place muffins on a rack to cool completely. Try to wait a bit before eating these muffins. The cream cheese filling is H-O-T ... HOT!!

Yield: 12 muffins

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Source: Allrecipes.com (Pumpkin Pie Spice II)

I NEVER buy pumpkin pie spice because I always have its ingredients on hand. It's so easy to whip up!

2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger (ground, not fresh)
1/4 tsp cloves, ground

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Place extra in a covered container.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

'Whatcha Reading?' Wednesday



I hope everyone had a great week filled with lots of wonderful new reads!

This past week I started reading "Sister" by Rosamund Lupton but had to put it down. It was too slow and the author's method of having the older sister talk, journal style, to her missing younger sister was confusing at times. Was the older sister 'talking' to her sister or the police inspector who was standing right in front of her? It wasn't holding my interest so I moved on. C'est la vie!

Currently I'm reading a book on my Kindle called "The Swan House" by Elizabeth Musser. It's been on my Kindle for a few weeks now and I'm not sure who recommended it to me but so far it's good (I'm 20% in). It's much more subdued and a little less vibrant than I was expecting but still a good read. It's set in Atlanta during the 1960's.

Next up? I may re-read "The Winter Sea" by one of my favourite Canadian authors, Susanna Kearsley. This book is also known as "Sophia's Secret" in the USA. Kearsley is one of my top 'historical fiction with a twist' authors.

So what books have you been reading this past week? Did my fellow Canucks get some down time over the long weekend to pick up a book?? The weather was perfect for sittin' in a hammock with a book!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Is there a real malady called a Thanksgiving Weekend Hangover? I'm not talking about imbibing too much alcohol with family and friends over the holiday weekend. I'm referring to the behaviour of sucking back too much turkey, mashed potatoes, casseroles, homemade bread and desserts PLUS being utterly exhausted by all the family time (which was amazing and wonderful but still utterly exhausting)? If there isn't such a term then there ought to be because I have it b-a-d.

I'm such a wimp, I know! A few days schnorfing down all manner of goodies and fowl, time with my family and a hike and it totally kicked my butt! Speaking of goodies (smooth segue Laurie. So smooth), one of my all-time favourite desserts is pumpkin pie. All those spices, the smooth texture and homemade pie crust?? Perfection! But my nephew's health is more important than any pie and due to his egg allergy a traditional pumpkin pie wasn't in the cards. Without eggs to hold the filling together the pumpkin pie would just be a big sloppy mess. No worries! I'm enough of a pumpkin pie addict that I scoured the net to find a safe substitute and found this pumpkin dip by 'Not Rachael Ray'. I have found a new pumpkin bliss and her name is pumpkin DIP!

Picture it if you will -- the flavour of pumpkin pie, the richness of cream cheese ..... and you get to eat it with apples and COOKIES!! Plus it's really, really tasty. So good in fact that my sister, her husband and I were trying to figure out other ways to get this dip in our bellies! We came up all sorts of ideas from drizzling it over pancakes and vanilla ice cream, making it into an ice cream cake to just eating it by spooning it directly into our mouths. So many options!! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Note to my family who may read this blog post -- you may have noticed that I took my pumpkin dip leftovers home. All I can say is that I plead a severe case of Pumpkin Addiction. I couldn't leave without it! But I will use those leftovers to test out some new uses for this truly addicting dip! :)

Pumpkin Pie Dip
Inspired by: http://www.notrachaelray.com/2011/10/07/pumpkin-pie-dip-naughty-and-nice/



8oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below)
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups icing sugar, SIFTED
2 tbsp brown sugar
Garnish -- nutmeg (optional)
Serve with -- apple slices, graham crackers, gingersnap cookies, your fingers, spoonfuls dropping into your mouth

Using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.

Add icing sugar, a half cup at a time, and blend until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl if necessary. Add in brown sugar and stir.

Store in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Serve chilled with slices of apple, pear, animal crackers, graham crackers or gingersnaps.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Source: Allrecipes.com (Pumpkin Pie Spice II)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Combine above ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meal Plan Monday #4

I hope all of my fellow Canadians had a truly wonderful Thanksgiving! We had absolutely the best weather that I can remember for Thanksgiving. A high of 27C and sun, sun, SUN! Today we spent the day on a great hike at one of our favourite conservation areas for some truly stellar fall pictures and a wonderful way to end a great weekend.





We spent the first part of the weekend at my parents' cottage with my family which included my parents, my sisters and their families (which included all 10 grandchildren), my mother-in-law and 4 dogs. Let me tell you it was a fun and tiring weekend and as you may have guessed it was not a quiet weekend!

One of the things our family is known for is making a tonne of food. No one ever leaves our social gatherings hungry and this weekend was no exception! We had everything from huge breakfasts, goat cheese topped with balsamic glaze and tomatoes, bruschetta, turkey with all the fixin's, apple crisp, cookies, ice cream and a pumpkin dip that I made. I'll post that recipe tomorrow!

Here is what I have planned for suppers in my household this week. I'm trying out a few new recipes to spice things up a bit.

Monday -- Canadian Thanksgiving/Exhaustion-Induced Post-Hike Easy Meal
- pancakes
- fruit
- yogurt

Tuesday
- Kitchen Sink Chili This meal is from my freezer stash -- from a double batch that I had made a few weeks ago -- and is a sanity saver considering that all food stores are closed for the holiday and I had no forethought to shop before today! Gotta love that I was on the ball .... a few weeks ago anyway!
- Salad

Wednesday
- Baked Pasta Casserole with Ricotta and Tomatoes
(note: I am adamant that I'm going to make this dish this week! It's been on my meal plan for two weeks now but somehow always gets substituted for something else)

Thursday
- Southwest Skillet Patties (NEW RECIPE)
- Mexican Potatoes (NEW RECIPE)

Friday "Fend For Yourself Friday"
- I'm so excited to be going out for supper with one of my best friends from college who I haven't seen in a long time. Missy Moo is with my parents and the menfolk are doing Scout/Cub stuff so they're on their own!

Saturday
- Speedy Sausage Skillet (NEW RECIPE)
- Yogurt Fruit Smoothies

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Library of the Dead



Author: Glenn Cooper
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Type: Paperback
Pages: 410
First published: 2009
First Line: "David Swisher spun the track ball of his BlackBerry until he found the e-mail from the CFO of one of his clients."

Synopsis: On the seventh day of the seventh month in the year 777, the seventh son of a seventh son is born on the Isle of Wight which puts in motion an age-old prophecy.

Centuries later, in 1940's England Winston Churchill calls in a favour to his American counterpart. He needs help dealing with a rare and potentially huge archaeological discovery which, if put in the wrong hands, could spell disaster.

In present day New York, Will Piper's career as a one of the FBI's top agents who investigate serial killers is on a downward spiral and he's only killing time before he can retire with his pension. Unexpectedly, his superiors assigned to the very high-profile Doomsday Murder case. With no clues to link the numerous victims except for a postcard that was delivered to each person stating the date of their death Will does not have much to go on. Suddenly Will gets an amazing lead ... only to be yanked off the case by his superiors. Will is determined to find the killer before he or she strikes again even if it means going against the FBI.

My Thoughts: I'm having a hard time rating this book. On the one hand it was an engaging read. While not quite as 'hard to put down' as I was hoping it was still interesting read and kept me intrigued. The author dealt with combining the back and forth between eras well and the pace was decent. The conspiracy was interesting but wasn't as shocking or had as many twists as I was hoping for.

All I can say is that this book was just lacking something and I can't quite put my finger on exactly what that was. It kind of had all the right things but it just didn't deliver it as well as I was hoping. When I first started reading this book it felt like what the literary love child of James Patterson (Alex Cross series) and Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) would be like. It had the ancient conspiracy with the modern day mystery and a very interesting premise.

I think that there were just too many things that niggled and bothered me. Things that I found hard to believe and had a hard time forgetting so that I could enjoy the book. The first being that I couldn't imagine England, specifically the mighty Winston Churchill, giving the USA such a powerful tool. England was a power in its own right. Why did England feel they couldn't handle it and felt like they had to give this 'weapon' to the US?? It just made the Brits come off as wimpy and felt like the author was belittling England. That probably wasn't the author's intention but that's what it felt like to me.

The second was the 'romance' angle which I just didn't buy. First of all, I didn't find much about Will that was attractive so I had a hard time believing that a young FBI agent would find him attractive either. Will was portrayed as very negative with not many redeeming qualities and I'm not sure why. One would think that an author would want readers to root for the hero but Will did everything possible to be the cad, bad father, drunkard and all around misogynist. He only becomes interested in his young partner when she makes herself prettier and loses weight. Really? I'm supposed to root for this guy?? Overall the romance part of the storyline could have been deleted. It didn't add to the story and felt awkward.

I also want to warn readers that there is a very graphically violent scene involving a child that was really hard to stomach and shocked me. It felt gratuitously sadistic and put in for shock value alone.

Overall, it was a decent read. It was lacking some intensity and twists but was still intriguing enough for me to stick with it.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Marinated Zucchini, Olive & Artichoke Salad

Last weekend Missy Moo, my parents and I made the two hour trip to my sister's house to celebrate my 5 year old niece's birthday. It was a great day! Not only did we get to spend the day with family (my men folk were busy being manly at yet another Cub camp) but my sister sent me home with a HUGE zucchini from her garden. SCORE!!

This lovely zucchini sat on my counter and in my fridge for ..... a week. Yah. I kind of forgot about it and then I was just too busy to deal with it. Zucchini neglect. It happens. Sad but true. Originally I just thought I'd shred it and freeze it for muffins later on. But that was kind of boring and obvious. I wanted to use this gifted zucc for something special!

Since I'm not a big sandwich eater I decided to make a marinated salad to take for lunch at work. Normally I'd whip one up using tomatoes, onion and cucumber but sadly I was all out of cucs ... but I did have my monster zucchini!

So onto the net I went in search for a marinated zucchini salad and I found a wonderful recipe by Kalyn of "Kalyn's Kitchen"! It had a lot of my favourite flavours including black olives and my new love ... artichokes! Kalyn has a wonderful blog filled with amazing recipes so go check her out!

While I could have used Kalyn's dressing I didn't have any of the bottled dressing she suggested (by Mr Paul Newman) so back on the net I went. It was on yet another blog that I found what I was looking for! With a few small tweaks I had a delicious yet simple oil and vinegar dressing (that claims to be very close to Paul Newman's "Newman's Own" oil and vinegar dressing!). Perfect!!

Combine the salad with the homemade dressing and I got myself a spectacular salad for my lunch for the past few days! The dressing was the perfect balance of tangy and sweet and really complimented the artichokes, zucchini, olives and fresh Parmesan.

So if you are inundated with massive zucchinis (or have neighbours and family members pawning them off on you) give this recipe a try!

Marinated Zucchini, Olive & Artichoke Salad
Salad Inspired by: Kalyn's Kitchen



3 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small jar of artichoke hearts, drained & cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 red onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 (15oz) can black olives, drained
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper & salt

Dressing
Inspired by: http://thebigdunk.blogspot.com/2007/05/salad-dressing.html)

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp very finely chopped red onion
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon (approximately 2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive or grapeseed oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper -- to taste

Steam zucchini pieces until just tender/crisp in texture, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately remove zucchini from the steamer and place in a large bowl of ice water (this stops the zucchini from continuing to cook). Drain well and place zucchini in another large bowl. Add yellow pepper, artichokes, red onion and black olives. Toss well.

Prepare dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl; whisk well to combine.

Pour dressing over zucchini mixture and gently stir to ensure that all of the veggies are coated in the dressing. Allow mixture to marinate for 6-8 hours (or more) in the fridge.

Before serving, stir salad to recoat the veggies. Sprinkle fresh Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper according to your tastes. Personally I follow the adage 'go big or go home' when it comes to fresh Parm and fresh black pepper. :)

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Fall is here and I'm so excited!!! Ok, so Ontario is having unseasonably warm and sunny weather lately (20C/68F!!) but when I made this dish last week it was lovely and cool and totally Autumn-y!! Not only does the cool, crispness of Fall days make me want to cook up pots of beef stew, soups and apple crisp but it apparently also makes me get the urge to make up such words as 'autumn-y' and pass it off as real vocabulary. I don't question the power of Fall I just go with it!

When I came across this delicious recipe on a wonderful blog called The Hungry Housewife I knew I had to make it. Pumpkin, spices AND oatmeal all together in one bowl!?! That's a perfect bowl of autumnal bliss right there!

Yes, homemade oatmeal may not be known for its glam and glitz. It may not be an overly pretty dish but it is definitely right up there as one of my top comfort foods. I do admit to getting odd looks from my husband and kids (we'll henceforth refer to them as 'Non-Homemade Oatmeal Lovers') when I settle in with a huge bowl of homemade oatmeal in the morning, at lunch (or sometimes in the evenings) but I don't care! I love it! Sticks to the ribs and keeps me warm for hours!

I hope you enjoy this taste of Fall as much as I did!

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
Inspired by: The Hungry Housewife

Yield: 1 serving



1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oats
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp 100% pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I like mine a little spicy so I used 1/2 tsp)
2 tbsp half and half cream
Garnish -- brown sugar, nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, combine milk and water and bring to a boil. Add oats and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and let it sit for 1 minute. Stir in the brown sugar, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Pour into a bowl and pour half and half around the outer edge of the oatmeal. Sprinkle lightly with extra brown sugar and nutmeg.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

'Whatcha Reading?' Wednesday!



I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Fall day!! Here in Ontario we are experiencing gloriously warm, sunny weather. I'm talking 20C (68F) and totally sunny! This is going to be one amazing Thanksgiving weekend for me and my fellow Canucks!!

I do hope that on this long weekend you get loads of down time (after stuffing yourselves with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, of course) to read, read, READ!! Here's what I've been reading lately ...

I finished "Library of the Dead" by Glenn Cooper and will be reviewing it as soon as possible. I cannot remember who recommended the book to me (it may have been someone on Twitter) but I really enjoyed it. As I mentioned before it felt like a DaVinci Code meets Alex Cross (of James Patterson fame) that spanned thousands of years.

I just picked up "Sister" by Rosamund Lupton. From the book jacket it sounds like a great read. So far, I'm just a mere 30 pages into it so I don't have a solid idea of whether or not I like it so far.

Next? Probably one of the books my Fairy Bookmother gave me (specifically "One Day" by David Nicholls) or a Kindle read called "The Swan House" by Elizabeth Musser.

What have you been reading this past week? What do you have in your ever growing 'to be read' pile???


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Darkness Exposed (5th book in the Mary O'Reilly series)

Author: Terri Reid
Genre: Supernatural
Type: Ebook (Kindle)
Series: 5th book in the Mary O'Reilly paranormal series
Series Order: Loose Ends, Good Tidings, Never Forgotten, Final Call (READ IN ORDER)
First Published: September 2011
First Line: "Jeannine Alden wiped the counter in the kitchen for the fourth time."

Synopsis: After reading the first four books in the series readers finally get to learn what happened to Bradley's wife when she mysteriously and suddenly disappeared 8 years ago. With the help of her friends Rosie, Stanley, Ian as well as Fireman Mike the ghost, Mary helps Jeannine figure out what happened to her so many years ago in the hopes that Jeannine will finally be able to move on.

My Thoughts: If you've been reading my blog for the past 6 months you know that I adore the Mary O'Reilly series. It's a great combination of paranormal, romance (sans fromage), humour and suspense. Over the past 4 books Ms Reid has kept her readers on pins and needles wanting and needing to know what happened to Police Chief Bradley Alden's wife. This is the book where all is revealed!

This is a wonderfully engaging and easy read where the reader gets a good dose of suspense and also gets to see some of our favourite characters (my favs are Fireman Mike the ghost as well as the burly Scot, Ian and his delicious brogue). I will admit that I found Rosie and Stanley (the octogenarians) a little much this time around. I think they were meant to lighten the somewhat dark storyline but I found them too cutsie and distracting.

Without giving anything away, one of my favourite parts in the book consisted of a hilarious "Three's Company" type misunderstanding between Mary and Bradley. Let's just say it had me giggling to myself. While this book does have some giggles it also has some very creepy parts that were dark and disturbing. Not in a gratuitous way, they fit within the storyline, but creepy nonetheless.

Bradley and Mary's relationship continues in this book but I was really hoping for some kind of a love triangle. With the addition of Ian I was truly hoping that he'd add some spice to the romantic portion of the series. Maybe in future books???

I only have one beef with this book simply because while reading it I just couldn't imagine the scene happening in real life. In the scene the culprit puts his head down on a woman's stomach. At the same time the woman picks up a cinder block, unbeknownst to the man, and swings it at the man and hits him. Not sure how realistically a person can quietly and easily pick up a cinderblock while sitting down with a man's head on her stomach. See, it was but a wee beef, a miniscule moo.

Overall, this is a good continuation of one of my favourite series. I look forward to seeing where the on-going storylines go from here.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meal Plan Monday #3

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! I spent Sunday in the kitchen. It was wet and cold here in Bookwormville so I hunkered down and baked and cooked my heart out! I baked a batch of my Double Berry Bran Muffins as well as a HUGE pot of Kitchen Sink Chili. I have already frozen half of the muffins and half of the chili for future snacks/meals to help ease the stress of week night suppers. That being said, it's that time again! Meal Plan Monday!!

Before I tell you what I'm making for my loved ones suppers this week I just want to say that I will be the first to admit that I don't always cook from scratch. Sometimes I just don't have the energy but there are other times when I admit to having cravings for preservative laden, tritrate marinated foods. Hello Twinkie, bonjour Joe Louis half moons, good evening kettle chips, good morning Fruit Loops, well hello Mr Pogo and your fry sidekicks. My stomach sometimes has a mind of it's own and craves 'bad for me' treats ... and sometimes I give in to it!! :)

With that said I will admit that tonight I took the easy way out. Even though my kids were shouting my praises I wasn't thrilled with feeding them PC White Cheddar Macaroni (from a box) and hot dogs for their supper. There were some carrot sticks on the table as well to offset the preservative filled delicacies that I served so that helped me feel better about it. :)

I'm not going to feel too bad about serving up tube steaks and KD because I have an awesome week of homemade meals ahead of me ... including TWO turkey dinners! Oh ya, baby!!! And who can forget all the wonderful side dishes and desserts that go along with my favourite poultry?!?! Yes, it's going to be a week of good eats around here!!

Here's what I have planned for this week ----

Tuesday
Bubble Up Pizza Casserole (NEW recipe!)
Caesar Salad

Wednesday
Beef Pie
Mashed Potatoes
Carrots

Thursday
Easy Marinated Pork Loin Chops
Baked Potatoes
Corn

Friday
Baked Pasta Casserole with Ricotta and Tomato
Salad

Saturday -- Thanksgiving Dinner #1
Turkey & all the fixin's!

Sunday -- Thanksgiving Dinner #2!
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Turnip Casserole for Picky Eaters, Cauliflower & Brocoli Casserole, various desserts including my MIL's famous Apple Pie (hint, hint to my MIL).

So what do you have planned this week for supper?? Are you using some 'tried and true' recipes or trying out something new??

Wishing all of my fellow Canadians a very happy Thanksgiving!!

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