Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer Fun!

I'm so excited for summer! It's finally starting to feel like the warm season will actually come this year, and the festivities are already starting. I somewhat gauge when summer has officially started based on the number of fun activities available to me. Each year I look forward to things like local festivals, going on hikes, fishing, farmers markets, and the like.

Tomorrow we're headed out to the local children's festival, which sets up loads of activity booths and performances, all geared towards little ones. The play date group will be headed there and I'm really keen to see what all is there. We've been going to a playground for play date over the last few weeks, but I've also made plans to do some more organized activities, including a nature walk and a water-fun day in our backyard, which will include painting long rolls of paper with dyed water using water guns!
For Gabe I'm going to be working on set up a bit of a 'school' routine with him. He's still a few years out from being enrolled, but I know that whatever I teach him, he'll just absorb, and he loves learning, so I figure why not feed him some knowledge now? About once a week I plan to have a "teaching" day with him, which doesn't necessarily mean he'll be sitting down in a desk for the day, but it will be a day focused on helping him learn new things. One of those days will be a travel day, where we talk about maps, what different countries and languages are, and learn how other cultures add to our lives. Then we'll have a number day, a letter day, nature days, etc. We found very early with Gabe that our teaching methods were actually too slow for him (we'd call a zebra a 'horse' and a pterodactyl a 'dinosaur', and it confused him why so many things were called the same thing - and at 18 months he was more than capable of remembering what a pterodactyl was, and saying it!) So we want to make sure we don't hold him back by not offering up enough information for him.

With the family we always have a list of things we love to do over the summer: vacation in the mountains, fishing, hiking, the local fair... I'm going to make an effort to get the boys out of the house more this summer as well. There's no reason that I can't take them to the beach once a week, or at very least a splash park. We'll also be headed to Calgary ever so often to visit the zoo with my sister and maybe the farmers market with my cousin. I think the boys will have fun with that!

We also have a couple of family reunions coming up this August (on the same weekend, actually) that we're thinking up activities for. For the kiddos, I'm thinking glow in the dark bowling (glow sticks in pop bottles!), and nature scavengers hunts, and for the big people, Matt and I are going to try to make a jumbo lawn-jenga! It was a neat idea I saw on Pinterest and have wanted to do for a while.

For myself, I've got a few projects to do - like refinishing some night stands and painting the fence, that I hope to get to sooner than later! And Matt's biggest goals this summer are to hike, fish and BBQ as much as possible! Admirable goals, if you ask me!

What are you doing this summer??

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Muffin, Muffin?

Care to guess what I made last night? ;)

My husband has this thing... he needs muffins. It's as if he can't function during a normal workday without a muffin. We had bagels and pancake batter in the fridge, breakfast cookies in the freezer, and homemade granola bars on the counter, and he was complaining that there wasn't anything to eat for breakfast. *face palm*

And then I have this thing... I don't like making muffins. It's nothing against muffins as a whole, it's moreso about the recipes. When I worked at a cafe we had the best, fluffiest, most gorgeous muffins in the world, and it seems like I have yet to find a muffin recipe that compares (I hate flat muffins with a passion). So while I occassionally suck it up and make muffins for my beloved, far too often I let him buy them so I don't have to go through the disgrace of making sub-par muffins again. Right now, however, we are keeping funds tight. So when he asked if he could buy muffins last night, and I said no, I felt a little cold-hearted. It wasn't fair to him, who seems to have some sort of a dependancy on the stupid things, to have to go through withdrawl simply because I have high standards for muffin recipes. (As another aside, muffin mixes are banned in my house. Just gross.)

Anyway, I shopped for muffin recipes last night through Pinterest and Google, looking for pictures that recalled all of the wonderful mornings I had of making muffins with ginormous peaks on them. And you know what I found? I found a great start!

I saw a picture of Blueberry Muffins that looked peaked and pretty, and even though I didn't have any blueberries, I decided that I could make it work for chocolate chip muffins, too. I tweaked here and there, and was a little sceptical when I saw the batter, but when they came out of the oven... *sigh!* My heart fluttered! They were perfect! Now, chocolate chip muffins are actually some of my least favorite, but these? These were magnificent! Here's the actual recipe I used for a dozen chocolate chip muffins (and sorry there are no pictures, they got stacked over night so they aren't pretty anymore!)

The Best Chocolate Chip Muffins:
2 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together wet ingredients and sugar. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill 12 greased or lined muffin cups 2/3 - 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle with raw/coarse sugar. Bake at 375 for 20 - 25 minutes!

If you're looking for a bit more of a refined muffin, substitute almond extract for the vanilla and add in 1/3 c. sliced almonds!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Less-productive Crafty Day

Yesterday was a day of great productivity in our house.
I did laundry, I cleaned bedrooms, I swept 3 times, I got the kitchen perfect, I did all of my other 'work' obligations for the week... it was a good day.
Today... less so. It's rainy, and cold, and yucky outside, and the grey skies are not very inspiring, so for most of the day I've merely sat in my chair and tried to be as productive as possible while I remain cuddled up with a constant supply of hot beverages.
Lucky for me, while grey skies may not be very inspiring, Pinterest is!

Not only have I found a recipe for supper (Tuna Noodle Casserole), recipes to try on our family vacation in a few weeks (Vietnamese Noodle Bowls and Coconut Milk Ice Cream), not to mention a whole load of crafty things to try.

I've got a bit of a policy right now: I'm not allowed to bring anything into the house unless we a) need it to improve our daily lives, or b) get rid of something else from our household to compensate. For instance - I was looking on Pinterest at all the cute DIY jewelry hangers and thinking I'd like one, but if I do, I'll need to get rid of my jewelry box. I think I'm okay with that. In my jewelry box my necklaces get tangled, I never know where a favorite piece is, and I even forget about pieces that I still love the look of but haven't worn in a while. I haven't decided on what style of jewelery holder I'll make yet, but I'm thinking of maybe three frames with lace in them, hung in a line up my wall.

I've also been feeling a bit pressed for new clothes lately. It started a couple of months ago when I wore a racing tank and a cuff bracelet and looked, well, a bit more sporty than I've dressed in the past few years - more like how I dressed in high school. Well, it turns out Matt misses that style, though he didn't say it in so many words. So while I've been stockpiling dressier clothes to kind of keep up with the standard the girls I hang out with set, it turns out Matt's been wishing I'd dress a bit spunkier sometimes. Instead of going shopping, since, well, we don't have money right now, I raided my closet. A couple of years ago I bought two shirts that were identical except for the color. They had girly bunched sleeves, a cute pattern with birds and flowers and were a nice thing to wear then. Well, two years of washing has made them shrink in all the wrong places, so while they still fit, the sleeves and the neckline are no longer flattering on me. Enter Pinterest and its wealth of ideas. I took in the sleeves a bit so it pulled the whole front down, then I made a v-neck (almost a sweetheart neckline actually...) in the front. In the back, I cut a slit above the bra-strap line, bunch all of the fabric above the cut to the collar and wrapped a spare piece of fabric around it. Here was my inspiration for the back.

A couple more things then I've got to jet to eat that yummy Tuna Noodle Casserole! (Seriously, one of my favorite meals)

Over the weekend we had Matt's sister and her husband over for a meal. I've been not buying groceries so instead of running to the store for anything I pulled 4 individual pizza doughs out of my freezer and looked through my fridge, cupboards and deep freeze for random toppings. I set out a selection ranging from italian sausage and ham sausage, goat cheese, jalapenos, peppers, asparagus, barbeque sauce, balsamic vinegar, and lots more. I am convinced that I put together the world's greatest pizza that night. I used my high end olive oil and modena balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, apples, italian sausage, parsley and asparagus. WOW. Here's a picture of my reassembled pizza after Matt tipped it over after I had layered everything perfectly.
But seriously, I'm making this every time I have pizza, and I'm going to keep italian sausage in the house for just such an occassion! (Which, how did I have italian sausage in my house in the first place?? I found it in the bottom of my freezer and was quite surprised...)

That's all, that's all!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pancakes and Bread

Have you ever had those days where you were busy from start to finish, and yet, looking back, you feel like you didn't accomplish anything you set out to do? Well then you know exactly how I felt today!

We had our weekly play date in our house today, which meant that the house had to be clean and the kids' rooms ready to receive company in. This morning I had received an email from the guy I'm developing recipes for asking if I could make up a pancake mix recipe, so once our company left I made pancakes for lunch. The recipe worked great, and I nailed it in one try, plus I got lunch out of it, but I hadn't planned on doing that today so it set me back a bit. I whipped up the loaf of soda bread I had intended on making today and just as I threw it in the oven I got a call from a lady asking to check out my wedding dress, which I'm selling. Oh, and she brought her kids over too, so I had to reclean the toys and make sure any smaller ones were picked up since she had a younger little guy. Once that was all done I got to work setting up a blog for my church that I've been asked to start, which took a lot longer than it ought to have (my creativity feels dead this week). By the time I finished that it was getting close to when Matt would be home, so I tried to figure out supper but the kids had other ideas. Poor Gabe has had diarrhea off and on all week and I can't figure out why (I thought chocolate, but he didn't have any today...), and Nathaniel's nap schedule was thrown off by all our company so he was screaming bloody murder and fighting sleep with every ounce of energy he could muster. I finally was ready to give up so I called Matt to ask him to pick something up on his way home... only to find he was a couple of blocks away. SO, once I washed the couch cushions, cleaned up my little boy, washed some poopy clothes and cleaned up myself, I fed the baby (who still is refusing to fall asleep) and threw on some perogies for supper. Win.

While it was a day of reasonable productivity, I still have yet to plan my Sunday School lesson, plants some flowers, make calls for Pampered Chef things that I need to drop off, clean our bedroom and do more laundry.

But hey, at least I made yummy pancakes, right?

Oh, and did I mention that I also whipping up an incredible loaf of Wheat and Honey bread yesterday? Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough gluten to make it rise properly, and I wanted to avoid using white flour or gluten enhancers, so until I get my hands on a Bread Flour, that recipe is on the back burner, but it was so yummy, Matt told me he really liked it 3 times. It will get used eventually, but it might take a couple of months.

well, now I'm off to tackle some of the still-waiting tasks on my To Do list! Tally-ho!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Catching up!

I know, I know, I know... it's been forever since I posted, and I left everyone hanging about that Mac and Cheese I was going to make! I'm a horrible person, I know, but I hope that, in time, you'll forgive me, and we'll be able to move on.

I did get around to making that Mac and Cheese, and it really was epic. I hard to pare down some of the elements of grandeur, but overall, it was a surprisingly elegant meal, considering it was, well, Mac and Cheese.
I used my original Mac and Cheese recipe (you can find in my post "Quarantine") and I stirred in some crab meat that I'd had in the freezer. I reheated the crab in clarified butter first to bring out more of its own distinctive flavor. While I had originally planned on doing a separate cheese sauce of parmesan and goat cheese poured overtop, my parmesan stocks were getting low, so I instead stirred in the goat cheese in place of the sour cream in my recipe. Fantastic results! Actually, I think I might permanently change my recipe to include the goat cheese - the sour cream is a nice touch in a pinch, but the goat cheese is just that much better, you know? Matt was thrilled with the end result and so was I, partly because now I know what to do whenever I have leftover crab in my fridge! (Which happens more often than you might think...)

Besides the Mac and Cheese, I also managed to whip up my first "cake-mix" cake. I experimented in a number of ways (using skim milk powder, fine sugar vs. granulated sugar, etc) and the end result was fine except... I threw in instant coffee to add some flavor to the chocolate cake, and the coffee was so smokey that it made my cake taste burnt. Great. So the cake rose nicely, had a very nice crumb and a deep reddy-brown color, but it tasted like it had smoke in it. Fantastic.

While the cake wasn't perfect, it was a fairly good start, and actually, I had intended on it not being perfect. I'm working on learning the actual effects of ingredients in baking, and so I wanted to see first-hand what certain things would do. While my cake rose nicely, it did sink in the middle. Apparently, that indicates too small of a liquid-to-sugar ratio, so that the sugar couldn't all dissolve. I had tweaked the liquid amounts slightly because I was using skim milk powder instead of milk, but the fine sugar I subbed in was too much for the cake. Actually, fine sugar really shouldn't be used in normal sheet cakes, period. Sugar makes your baking crispy, so the top was too hard instead of light and airy, and the liquid ratio was off so it didn't stay up in the center... just stick with granulated. I was happy with the gluten content, that's the real trick to making mix cakes that you can just throw water, oil and eggs into willy-nilly and still get a good cake. Different fats and different mixing techniques either relax or strengthen glutens, making for either fluffy cakes, or tough and dense cakes. I had to do some special add-ins, but I did pretty well I think.
All in all, it was a fine first attempt, and I'm confident that the second will produce even better results.

I also made eclairs last week! It's been such a long time since I made those! I first made them back in high school and really enjoyed making the pate a choux. There's something so satisfying about stirring eggs in one at a time, and each time you drop one in thinking, "What a goopy mess", but as you stir more you can see it, almost miraculously, transforming into a nice, sticky dough. Funny thing, I made the eclairs because I was low on ingredients in my house and they were an 'easy' plan B. Who doesn't always have flour, eggs, butter and water in the house? True, I needed Matt to pick up whipping cream on the way home so I could fill them (I totally copped out there and didn't make a cream, but they were still yummy!) but the puff itself was simple enough to whip up even though I didn't have a lot of ingredients in the house.

This week I will be developing at least one recipe with the stone ground whole wheat, and I'm still playing in my head with what exactly that recipe will look like. I think a good whole wheat bread will be ideal, but I can't decide if I want to make it a rustic loaf or a sandwich loaf, if I should do exclusively whole wheat flour or throw in a bit of white flour, and whether or not I should make it a plain loaf or an herbed or honeyed loaf. I have yet to see the flour itself, and that may determine alot of those questions for me when I finally do, but until then, I suppose I can just keep tinkering with my regular whole wheat flour here at home and hope for the best - although I just had this beautiful picture in my head of rosemary infusing in a pot of warmed milk with butter melting in it, and now I want to eat that... so I think I'm currently leaning towards an herbed sandwich loaf.

Well, this has been fun catching up, but I really must dash. My crazy-busy life has been the reason that I've been unable to post more frequently, and unfortunately, life still hasn't slowed down that much yet, so back to the grind I guess!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Taco Pie

I've said it before, I'll say it again: When making Mac and Cheese - make sure you have the Mac!!!

Anyone care to guess what I didn't make for supper last night?

But it's all okay - I've got macaroni for dinner tonight and last night we had Taco Pie.
I had tortillas kicking around for some time and I was craving something Taco-ish but I had alot of stuff I wanted to use up in my fridge, so if it sounded Mexican, I threw it in this layered casserole!
I started with a bottom layer of tortilla, topped with a thin layer of hot Taco Sauce. On top went a ground beef mix I had cooked up with red onions and taco seasoning, and then some diced tomatoes and red peppers. On went another tortilla, on which I spread some salsa con queso and threw on some jalapenos. Then I added the rest of the ground beef, followed by some homemade enchilada sauce I'd had in my freezer for a while and some sour cream. One more tortilla and then I topped it with the remaining tomatoes and peppers, some cilantro and a thin layer of grated cheddar. Here are the approximate measurements I used:
2 lbs beef
3 tbsp taco seasoning
1/3 c. diced red onion
1 large tomato
1 red pepper
1 c. enchilada sauce
1 1/2 tbsp hot taco sauce
2 tbsp salsa con queso
1 1/2 tbsp jalapenos
1/4 c. cilantro
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. grated cheddar
3 tortillas

That filled (quite nicely) my 9x9 stone dish and after about 30 minutes in the oven it was hot and bubbly and gorgeous. I totally thought it would last us for a couple of meals, but my husband had different ideas. He was nice enough to leave me a bit for lunch today, but even Gabe ate more than I expected! Don't worry too much about a recipe if you go to make one of these, just throw in whatever you've got kicking around. My only word of caution, be careful about how much moisture is in it - you don't want your pie to be floating in liquids!

As I said, tonight I made sure I had macaroni, so I will definitely be making my uber-awesome Crab + Goat Cheese topped Mac. And again, I'll let you know how it goes!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Culinary Missions

I'm undertaking a number of culinary missions over the next week, and I'm hoping I'm up to the task!

Mission #1: Crazy Mac and Cheese
I really should stop asking my husband what he wants for supper. The answer is always either "Baked Mac and Cheese" or "Pizza". If you remember, a month or two (or three) ago I posted a recipe for some pretty decent Mac and Cheese that I had whipped up. The secret was in the sour cream for some bite and the panko for a really good crust. Well, Matt apparently thought it was pretty great because I've had to make it a few times since just to appease him. Apparently he still had not satisfied his Mac and Cheese cravings because when we were out for dinner last month he ordered a Blue Cheese and Lobster Mac and Cheese. Truth be told, it was a totally basic Mac and Cheese (velveeta-ish), just with chunks of lobster in it and blue cheese on top. I wasn't thrilled, but I was inspired. So tonight when I asked my dearest-darling what he wanted for supper tomorrow ("Taco Pie, Oven Fried Chicken or Mac and Cheese), and he answered the way he always answers, I secretly started scheming to make him the most kick-butt bowl of gourmet Mac he's ever had. I have a bit of crab in my freezer (because who doesn't keep crab in their freezer? It's somewhere buried behind the elk heart, the homemade chorizo and the duck) that I'm going to toss with clarified butter before I mix it in, and then I'm going to put in a layer of a goat cheese-parmesan cream sauce under the panko crusting and top it off with grilled asparagus. This will by no means be a healthy entree, but it will be a good one! Hopefully Matt agrees!

Mission #2: Whole Wheat Baking
I can't remember how much I already said about this, but I'm going to be doing some recipe development for a friend. I'm very excited about this particular mission since it will be my first real-world assignment that I'll get real credit for (I've developed recipes before, but I didn't even get to retain rights to them after I finished them for the cafe I was working at). And no, developing recipes and posting them on my blog (that has a whopping 4 followers) does not count as a real-world application. Anyway, the product I'll be playing Iron Chef with is Stone Ground Whole Wheat, but to be honest, I don't use whole wheat exclusively in, well, anything. Ergo, a week of whole wheat baking is ahead of me! This won't be so much to develop actual recipes - that will wait until I have access to the actual product - but moreso it will be so that I can get used to the flavors and minutiae of whole wheat baking. Hopefully this will make my recipe developing go more smoothly (I've only got 3 shots - max! - per recipe, so I'd better be ready for it!)

Mission #3: Cake Mix
This one may not even be relevant, I'm not sure, but my darling cousin and I had briefly discussed producing cake mixes that would make her cake-making business easier. I was planning to break down some really great recipes into a dry mix that would require the standard egg/oil/water additions and nothing more. Furthermore, I had hoped to do that with cake flavors ranging from Red Velvet to Aztec Chili Chocolate and Chai Spice Cake. I think I had best start with a basic white cake to make sure that I've got all of the measurements and ingredients right (granulated sugar vs. powdered sugar, cake flour vs. all-purpose flour + xanthan gum, etc) and then branch out, but I have a feeling that my poor family is going to be eating a lot of cake!

I'll keep you posted on my triumphs (and any epic failures I may have) so you can learn (or laugh) with me (or at me)!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Grainy-Mustard Maple Pork

What a crazy day! I thought this evening, "Man, I should really blog... it's been a few days..." Nope, just one. I've just been doing do much that it seems like a much longer time!
First off, I just have to say, I made the most fantabulous pork roast tonight that I have ever made! No joke. My pork roasts are usually very lightly seasoned, and focus more on the natural flavor of the pork and the veggies I roast it on, but this was something new... this had maple syrup.
I love maple syrup. Why wouldn't I? It's fantastic! But I rarely have it in my house since it's often quite expensive. A couple of summers ago I made a Blueberry Peach Cobbler with fresh blueberries and peaches, cinnamon sticks and real maple syrup and it was divine, but I've never made it again, because I used the last of my maple syrup making it and I hadn't bought any since - until last week. Walmart had maple syrup on sale, and it was cheap enough that I let myself buy it. I'm so glad!
Tonight I had a Pampered Chef show that I needed to be gone for by 6:15 so I wanted to make sure Matt's evening would be as 'taken care of' as possible, starting with dinner. I prepped all of Nathaniel's dinner (rice, peaches and carrots) but wanted something special for Matt and Gabe. I had pulled a portion of pork loin from the freezer last night and I remembered that gorgeous bottle of thick, bronzy syrup. I looked up a recipe (why do I even bother?) and I decided I was better off winging it. So, into the bowl went syrup - a fair bit, since that's what I was most excited about today. And then I had some grainy mustard that I thought would add a nice touch. And I was thinking about cider vinegar today, so I threw a splash of that in too. The ginger really made those Breakfast Cookies that I had posted about the other day so I thought it might do the same in this, and I figured garlic powder always is a nice way to rub out that fine line between sweet and savory. I sniffed it and thought I was on the right track - but it needed pepper... a few good cranks of it. Then I paused and remembered that I would be baking this for a long time and the high sugar content of the syrup might cause some issues, so I threw in some chicken broth! Lastly, it needed rosemary because, well, pork always needs rosemary. (How's that for a whacked out cooking method?) I baked it for nearly two hours at 350, and I basted it once or twice in between. I pulled the pork out and sliced it and plated it, then I drizzled the remaining juice overtop. I didn't taste it until we were getting the boys up to the table, just as I was realizing that I wouldn't have time to eat dinner myself. Perhaps it would have been better had I not tasted it, because then I wouldn't have known what I was missing. In any event, this was the most fantabulous pork roast I ever made (I already said that, I know, but it needed to be said again) (Seriously.)

So I went off to my Pampered Chef show, had a great time there actually, and now I'm home, writing this, instead of eating my scraps that I insisted Matt leave for me. Why? Because it's 11:00 and my baby is still awake and screams if I leave the room. Ugh. But really, my Pampered Chef show did go really well. It was for a girl who really, really loves the product, which always makes it a better show, and she ended up getting about $200 in free product, so that kind of made her day. I've decided to step up my Pampered Chef attempts. Partly because we could use the extra money, but also because I always intended to do this thing well, and lately I've been coasting through it, but I've decided that if I'm going to do it at all, I might as well try at it! I have a friend in town who sells Arbonne, and my darling sister in Calgary who sells Avon, and we're going to partner and do "Spa Parties" where I bring the food and they do face masks/mini-manis/mini-pedis, etc. It think it will be really fun, and probably the best part - I'll be helping them to meet a whole bunch of potential clients.

I've been busy in other endeavors lately as well, one of which is potentially doing recipe development. A friend is starting a business selling stone ground whole wheat flour, and he and are in talks for me to develop some signature recipes for his product line. I figure I can make a really good bread recipe in about 3 tries, a good muffin in 2 tries, and pancakes in one. He'd get to promote the recipes as his Signature line and use them to help sell his product, and I'd get to retain the recipes as my intellectual property in the future, so if I ever want to publish them or reference them in a portfolio, I can.

But, while that's in the works, I suppose I'll stick with whippinng up my own concoctions for family dinner! I wonder if those would count towards a professional portfolio...

Grainy-Mustard Maple Pork
2 lbs pork loin
3/4 c. maple syrup
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp rosemary
3/4 c. chicken stock
Whisk together, pour over pork and roast at 300-350 for 1.5-2 hours

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not-so-Lazy Day

Do you ever have those days where you feel like being productive inspite of the fact that you're sick? Have you ever felt like getting things accomplished, as if it were an act of defiance against your sucky-feelingness? That was today for me.
Truth be told, I had vowed to not get anything done today - I even warned my husband of this! I've got a sore throat, congested sinuses, and am just feeling crumby - but even though I had resolved to be totally unproductive, Pinterest got the better of me. I ended up making two types of blueberry muffins, Molasses Breakfast Cookies, Honey Mustard Sauce and Pizza Dough to freeze. Pretty lax afternoon, huh?
Matt and I are cutting back on our spending, which includes my grocery budget (okay, which is mostly my grocery budget... apparently I get a bit carried away when I find a new recipe to try!) and Matt's morning coffee-and-a-muffin habit, so I'm back to $300 a month for groceries (I can do it, it's just tough during Farmer's Market season!) and Matt's going to have to grab breakfast at home. To help in his endeavor, I decided to make him up some muffins that we can keep in the freezer and he can pull out the night before. Why two different types of blueberry muffins? Well, if you remember (which I doubt you will), last summer my grocery store had a ridiculously good sale on a whole lot of blueberries - I think it was something like two flats for $8. Anyway, I bought them up, washed them and froze them to use in baking through the winter. Well, I decided to use up the very last bit of it today, as well as 3 ripe bananas I had in my freezer, but the first recipe I found for Banana Blueberry Muffins only used one banana and half the blueberries I had, and the second recipe only used two bananas and the other half of the blueberries - so really, what was I to do? The 2-banana ones may be my favorite, but they're both quite yummy.

Once I had made the muffins I figured I needed some pizza dough in our freezer for those nights when I'm most prone to order in food - you know, the days where nothing goes right, I don't feel imaginative and just plain don't want to make supper. Considering I can throw BBQ sauce and cheese on these and bake them in 10 minutes basically takes away all of my excuses. This recipe is great, either rolled thin, or left with a puffy edge. The Honey Mustard Sauce was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I was deciding what to make my little boy and I for supper (Matt's working late) and I was debating between egg salad sandwiches and salmon sandwiches. I decided against the egg salad sandwiches because I didn't have any of the honey mustard sauce I normally use in my egg salad, so we had salmon, but then I decided it really was a pity I didn't have any honey mustard in the house, so I whipped it up anyway. The Molasses Breakfast Cookies are totally for me. Muffins are actually quite high in fat, even most of the 'healthy' varieties, and if you put too much fruit in a muffin it falls apart. A breakfast cookie is a yummy option that you can fill as full as you want of good-for-you things. I had an idea of what sort of a recipe I wanted, based off of a cookie that I used to make at the cafe I worked at through high school, but I couldn't find a very similar recipe. Finally, I gave up, and made my own! Note, these cookies are big, and they are filling. Seriously, this and a cup of milk = one good-for-you breakfast.
Molasses Breakfast Cookies: Makes 15 cookies
¾ c. vegetable oil
1 c. brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
2 eggs
½ c. skim milk
½ c. whole wheat flour
¾ c. white flour
1 c. oat bran
¼ c. flax seeds
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
2 c. oats
½ c. raisins
¼ c. snipped dates
¼ c. snipped dried apricots
Preheat oven to 375 degrees In a large bowl, stir together the oil, sugar, molasses, eggs and milk. Stir in the bran and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together flours, flax seeds, oats, baking soda, salt and spices. Stir dry ingredients into oil mixture. Stir in fruit. Using a ¼ c. measure, divide batter into mounds on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until firm on top.

So much for my lazy day!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)