Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chan Luu Bracelet

What's a girl to do when the world is filled with pretty, expensive jewellery but she doesn't have a money tree in her backyard?

Make it.

I have never been one for making jewellery. Back at summer camps when all the girls would make bracelets from strands of string in their craft class, I was taking a class on starting fires. I was a tomboy in a lot of ways and my aversion to making dainty string bracelets was definitely one of those ways.
However, things have changed a fair bit in the years between. Don't get me wrong, I still like burning things, but I also have embraced the concept of looking good while lighting things on fire.

A couple years ago I was lamenting my lack of great jewellery. I had a few key pieces that I loved wearing, but I was getting into event planning, at which time my motto was, "A long as you look like you know what you're doing, people will believe you." My plan was to buy a skin-tight, hotter-than-heck red dress to wear to some fundraisers I was helping to put on, and to wear bold statement pieces to every meeting I attended ('power' jewellery, if you will). The issue was, I didn't have any bold statement pieces. I had some rustic looking necklaces that I had picked up from the west coast (my tastes still rest frequently in the more boy-ish look), I had some earrings from Italy that a friend brought home for me, and I had a few costume jewellery rings that I got as hand-me-downs from my Grandma when I was in middle school. None of those really scream, "Look at me! Look at me!"

Slowly I started adding to my collection through jewellery parties that friends have hosted; Stella and Dot and Lia Sophia now make up a fair chunk of my jewellery repertoire. I've learned that if I'm going to spend any money on jewellery, I might as well save my pennies and buy a couple pieces that I really love, rather than a few cheaper pieces that will wear out or cease to thrill me in a short time. But in all of my searching for some gorgeous pieces, I have come across some things that struck me as far too expensive considering I could very well make them myself.
If you saw my last post you'll know that I have been making bird nest necklaces from wire and beads. I got the wire from the Dollar Store for dirt cheap and I've been using spare beads leftover from other projects. I've seen these adorable little wire nests on Etsy for anywhere from $5 - $40 (and up, but those ones tend to have more expensive materials). How much did it cost to make them myself? I'd have to guess about 10 cents. And that's being generous. Oh, and my Dad thought they were cute so he took some into his work to sell for me and now I've had to make more because I'm going to run out. (I'm selling them for $5 to $8 each - not a bad profit margin).

But as I alluded to in my previous post, the big thing I've been excited about making is a Chan Luu inspired wrap bracelet. I've got ugly wrists and man-hands, which means that dainty little bracelets make me feel butch. But since I've discovered the world of wrap bracelets, I'm absolutely sold. I've bought two in the last month from Stella and Dot (their Luna and their Pyramid Double Wrap bracelets, neither of which I would recommend attempting to make yourself), but when I saw a picture of this gorgeous Chan Luu bracelet I knew instantly that this was something I wouldn't have to buy.
Now granted, I'm sure Chan Luu's have something of product differentiation - their materials are probably very high end, their method is probably flawless, their name is a lot catchier than mine... but I personally don't see that the difference in the end product is worth the $195 difference between how much it cost me to make one, and how much it would cost to buy one.

I ordered 4 strands of turquoise beads online, and 10 m of brown leather cord, for a total of about $9 (free shipping, too!). I made a triple wrap bracelet (instead of 5 loops) last night, which I did while Matt's dad was over for a visit, and the end result is that I only used, at most, a third of my beads and even less of my cord.

The bracelet?

Pretty nice, don't you think? It's a poor quality picture, but I must confess, I'm thrilled about the outcome. So, for about $3, and an evening of work, I've got myself a Chan Luu inspired triple wrap bracelet.

The technique was pretty simple, too. Anchor the leather cord on a button or large bead that will be used to fasten the bracelet (I used a nut - classy, hey?) The beads are actually held on with a separate string, or, in my case, fishing line. Lay the center of a very long strand of fishing line under the cord. Wrap each end around the cord and thread the ends through the bead (the ends of the line should go in opposite ends of the bead. Pull the line through until it is tight around the bead, push the bead to the top of the cord. Now, make sure the fishing line strands are on top of the cord. Wrap each strand around the cord until the line lays under the cord. Thread a bead again, with the ends of the line entering on opposite ends of the bead. Continue down for as long as you'd like it to be. Remember to make sure the line is on top of the cord after each bead, and that it's wrapped around and under the cord before each bead. To finish, I just knotted the fishing line after double wrapping the last bead, and then I tied three spaced out running knots on the cord - one at the base of the beads, one at the end of the length, and one in between the two. That's all!

I wonder what I should make next...

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bird's Nest Wire Pendant

I am pleased, and very much relieved, to say that my youngest son does not have pneumonia.
Which, incidentally, is not something you want your 1 year old to get.

After three weeks of coughing (first croup, then a chest infection), and an apparent lack of improvement after a full round of antibiotics, we took the little guy in for more testing and the outcome was that the xrays of his chest were clear, it's likely just bronchial inflammation still, and he should have it cleared out over the next few days.

Poor baby.

While it's not pneumonia, for which we are very grateful, he still is feeling crummy. Which means I can't leave the room without him screaming at me.

So once we got home from the doctor's office and the medical imaging office, we had a pretty laid back day (given that I couldn't even go change laundry loads or do dishes).

To fill my time, I did a wee bit of crafting!

On Pinterest a few weeks ago I saw a gorgeous Chan Luu triple wrap, leather-strapped, beaded bracelet. Unfortunately, I don't have a couple hundred dollars to buy such a beautiful thing. I do, however, have Pinterest. And Pinterest has tutorials for nearly everything (it can tell me how to make gorgeous wallart out of toilet paper rolls, so I think it can figure out how to make a bracelet).
I had the tutorial, but next I needed the materials: Enter Ebay. I found enough small turquoise beads to make two bracelets ($5 plus free shipping), and I found enough dark brown leather cord to make 5 bracelets ($4 plus free shipping).

Unfortunately, I did not make my bracelet today (I know... I got your hopes up), since I am still waiting for my leather cord, but I did get the beads last week and since I've got more than I'll need, I figured to use a few for another project: bird's nest wire pendants!

I've seen these things on Etsy, at Farmer's Markets, on Pinterest (of course), and even in high end artisian stores. The concept seems simple enough - put some beads on the wire, wrap the wire around and around, and you're done! I figured I'd give it a try.
So last week I stopped by the dollar store and I picked up some wire. I actually picked up 30 meters of wire for $1. And today I sat down and gave it a try.

Surprisingly - it was just as easy as they made it sound. The tutorial I followed basically covered everything I needed to know. My first try didn't come out perfect, but really, I never expected it to. I wrapped something funny, let the beads sink instead of keeping them raised up, and I didn't hold everything as tight as I ought to have. But still - it's cute!

The second one I made is good enough to give away. And I have a feeling that the third one I'll make will be good enough to sell.

Check out the tutorial and give it a try! You won't be disappointed!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wedding Bar

A dear friend of ours is getting married and when we heard the great news we offered to help in any way he could think of. And now, to my great delight, he has proposed a task for myself and a couple of the other girls in our church: We're going to help him make a wicked awesome Cupcake and Smores Bar!
Everyone can decorate their own cupcakes with their own frosting, and everyone can roast their own marshmallows and wedge them between a variety of cookies! Starting in September (the wedding is in December) we will begin making the cookies and cupcakes (I think we'll probably do 5 varieties of cupcakes and 4 of cookies - 200 cupcakes in total and 400 cookies total!) since we can freeze those.
I also proposed that instead of everyone using plain old boring marshmallows, that we make those too! We'll also be making the frostings and I think I'm making up coffee syrups for the shindig as well!

Here's some of the fun things I'm thinking of so far:
Jim Beam Buttercream (The groom's favorite drink!)
Chai cupcakes
Cinnamon Roll Coffee Syrup
Gingerbread cookies for the smores
Strawberry pop rock marshmallows

About that last one, does anyone know if the pop rocks will hold off from popping in marshmallow before it sets? And if it does, is there anyway to cook the marshmallows without them blowing up???

Do you have any more ideas for me?

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sea Glass

Did you know you can make your own sea glass?

Apparently all you need to do is put a broken bit of glass in a container with sand and shake it! Might I add, I suspect you need to shake it quite a bit before the whole piece is smooth...

Now, I haven't tried this method, partly because it sounds like a lot of shaking, and partly because I have an aversion to breaking glass bottles (weird, I know.) But I still love the look of sea glass, and since I am woefully land-locked here in the prairies, I went a-looking for another method.

I stumbled across this one a week ago and decided to give it a try today:
You mix some white glue with some food coloring and you paint it onto glass and when it dries, it should dry transparent! Neat, hey?

Well, those are about the only instructions that were available on the tutorial I was hitting up so I blindly went in thinking, "it must be as easy as it sounds!"

Honestly, I think people in general are just a lot more talented at crafting than I am.

Round 1: My first vase started globbing, and streaking, and running, and then gumming up.
Round 2: I tried glass ornaments and it was basically the same deal - I just perfected a bit more of a long brush stroke so they turned out slightly better
Round 3: I finally realized that the paintbrush I was using was not the wisest thing in the world (a dollar store special I stole from Gabe's craft bucket), so I upgraded to a sponge brush. It took waaaaaay less time, went on much more evenly, and I didn't have to do as many touchups, which helped with the gumming problem

I let them dry, awkwardly propped on glue bottles and funnels, and then was surprised to see how the more they dried, the better they looked. Really, I had done an awful, terrible job, and they were starting to look nearly presentable!

I decided to do a second coat to see if I couldn't cover up the earlier flaws. My other sponge brush was still wet so I got an inferior one - this made a difference, and not a good one. While an inferior sponge brush is better than a crummy paint brush, and good sponge brush is best.
Second coats go on much easier and so far they appear to be covering up all of my goofs. Time will tell I suppose, but a third (maybe even fourth?) coat may be in order.

A few tips if you attempt to try this yourself:
These will not be waterproof, nor is there really a good way to make them so. Glue is water soluble. End of story. So if you want to do a vase, only do the outside and be careful not to get it wet.
Don't try fixing globs when it's mostly dried. The globs dry surprisingly evenly, but the gumming does not. As long as there's nothing too massive, it should be fine.
For a ratio of color to glue, I did about 1 - 2 tbsp of glue and 3 - 5 drops of dye. I did three different colors: 1 blue + 2 green, 1 green + 2 blue, and 5 blue.
As you can see in the picture, I didn't feel the need to spend good money on the dye - just regular food coloring will work.
You may also notice, I didn't feel the need to spend good money on the glue either. This was a 3-pack that I bought at the dollar store for a buck. It seems to be doing the trick.
Be warned, if you are doing something that light can enter and fill (like a vase), the streaks will be more visible. But then again, you may be a better crafter than I am and entirely avoid streaks. If you doubt your abilities however, stick with something that will be entirely covered with the glue-paint wherever the light will break through.
Lastly, as I mentioned above, the glue is water soluble, so what that really means is that if you are having troubles and mess up horribly, you can wash it off and try again.
Or, you can wash it off and say, "Well that was dumb!" and find something else to do.
Either works.

You can find the original source for these here. There is a bit more information in the comments section, but I think this is all you really need to know.

Sorry that the pictures are sucky! There's no natural light at 1 a.m. (go figure!) and they aren't finished anyway! I'll post a better picture when they are good and ready!

OH! One more thing: I've seen other posts where you use modge podge and gel food coloring and then bake them, or ones that call for dish soap in the with glue and dye... truth be told, they don't look much different, and bake them or not, the color will still come off if you wash them. This is one of those cases where the easiest way possible is probably the best.

Good luck!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Christmas is coming!

...Well, in a fashion...

It may be far too early to think about Christmas for some people, but I can't help it. Since we started doing almost exclusively hand-made presents for people, I need to start thinking about Christmas a few months in advance. But the amount of money that I save is well worth the extra time that I put into it.

If you have any amount of creativity, at all, there is a whole world of ideas out there to get you started in the home-made gift realm. Some of my first home-made gifts were simple bath products: bath bombs and salts. I found the instructions at and it took a mere afternoon to put them together. While these were nice for my sister and Matt's sisters, they didn't quite cover over my whole list. I moved on to pillows and then I settled into food. For the past couple years my presents have primarily been sugar syrups and canned goods (two years ago I made sweet pepper jelly and this past year I made thai chili sauce, mango chutney, crabapple jelly and raspberry jam), but this year I think I'm going to break away from the food category a bit. But that's why I have Pinterest.

From handmade jewellery tutorials, to coasters (here or here), lots of things with chalkboard paint (this or this), or even transfering pictures onto wood, you can find a tonne of ideas.

If you would prefer to go the food route (which is great for neighbour gifts, btw) again, a little bit of creativity goes a long way. Instead of giving people cookies, give them cookie dough that they can store in their freezer and pull-out after the Christmas goodie rush has ended. Give them jars of jelly or savory sauces that they can open through the year. Dry mixes for cakes, soups, breads or cookies are always welcome, and if you feel particularly adventurous, try making a dry tea blend.

If your talents lie in the realm of sewing, consider throws, pillows, dogbeds or baby clothes. If you are a crocheter, maybe make some reusable produce bags. If you are handy with tools, how about a bookcase dollhouse for your niece, or an upcycled bench or ottoman?

Once you get into wall-hangings the flood gates really open up!
DIY Letter Transfer
Crayon Art

Fabric hangings
Door Mat wall art

What will you make this Christmas?

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sick kids... surprised?

Well, we're back in the sick-household rut.
Last week little Nathaniel developed croup, and while his croup cough only lasted three days, it was quickly followed by a new, raspier cough. During his one-year checkup yesterday the doctor informed me that this cough was an entirely different illness from the croup. In fact, he has a bacterial respiratory infection. So, my poor little boy is now on antibiotics and will hopefully start feeling better, and hopefully Gabe won't catch it too!

At first, yesterday was a horrible day. The above-mentioned appointment was one that I didn't remember until 8:30 that morning when I happened to glance at the calendar and see something marked down for 10:30 - something that I had to book 2 months in advance so I definitely didn't want to miss it. While we were waiting to see the doctor, the boys got restless - which is understandable since we waited about an hour and a half. Once we got home I was bummed for my little sick guy and more than a little sleep deprived since he hasn't been sleeping well for over a week now. But there was no time for rest - I had a lady coming over for a meeting that I was dreading at 1:30. Instead of cleaning the house and such, at 12:30 Gabe threw a fit - a big one. We had a half hour fight before he finally got tucked into bed and down for a much needed fight. The meeting came and went, I cut my finger on an apple wedger (badly.), both of the kids were grumpy all afternoon, and while I was making dinner (which didn't turn out how I hoped), I burned my stomach (now that's talent.) Gabe threw another fit before we ate, and I needed to run out afterwards to pick up Nathaniel's prescription which took half an hour to get ready. When I got home I was boiling hot, Gabe had since thrown another fit, Matt had company and my house was filthy and smelled like garlic, onions and korean BBQ sauce.

By about this point I was drowning in self-pity. I kept trying to brush it off, and anytime Matt would ask what he could do to help I'd say, "Nothing, I'll be fine." But inside I wanted the world to know how sucky I was feeling.

Lately I've been trying to make my whole life align with glorifying God. And the funny thing is, I knew that my weepy, whiney, pouty self-pity wasn't glorifying Him. Was it justified that I felt down? Totally. No one likes a bad day. Was how I dealing with it God-honoring? Nope. I wasn't freaking out at people, I was checking my anger, I was trying to serve my family, but I was doing it all selfishly.

Once I clued in to that, my day got better. One gentle rebuke from the Holy Spirit and my attitude turned around. I spent time with Gabe to get him worn out so he'd have a good sleep. I was grateful to have medication for Nathaniel. I had time to clean my kitchen because Matt and his buddy watched the kids for a bit. Oh, and this time, I tried to do it all to God's glory!

At one point in the evening I even had a chance to make up some Christmas presents! It's a handmade Christmas again this year, and a couple people on my list are going to be getting wine cork and bottle cap magnets! It's a simple dollar store craft, just glue gunning magnetic strips to corks cut lengthwise, but it sure looks cute! For the Grandma's (don't tell them if you know them!) I got the boys to make handprints on oven mitts (not as easy as that just made it sound...) and I wrote "Helping Hands 2012" on them! They turned out really great!

Today, I'm hoping to keep my attitude better, and to accomplish more, all to the glory of God. And with His grace, I will!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What if...?

What if we weren't selfish anymore? Can you imagine what it would be like?

What if, for a month - even for a week - the whole world wasn't selfish?

What if we committed a week to not spending any money on anything frivilous? What if instead of paying money to go see a movie, we donated it? What if instead of buying Timmy's or dinner out or going to a game or getting new clothes, we threw all of that money into a pot to be evenly shared between charities?

Do you know how much money that would be?

Well, if we cut out spending on the porn industry alone, that would be around $1.8 billion. In one week. Do you think that would make a dent on the famines ravaging Africa?

If no one bought alcohol for a whole week, and instead donated that money, that would bring in around $22 billion for charities. Do you think we could cure cancer then?

If Hollywood shut down production for a week, and no one went to the movies, that would be another $3.5 billion. What do you want to cure next? MS? AIDS? Heart Disease?

What if we weren't selfish, all of us, for even one week? Wouldn't that be great?

*Statistics are derived from the Morss Global Finance Economics of the Global Entertainment Industry. Information is a few years old already.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Last night I was sitting around thinking, "What on earth am I going to use all this delicious homemade ricotta that I just whipped up for?"

If you saw my last post you'll know that the ricotta I made, while initially it tasted a bit salty, ended up with a fantastic mellow flavor that I could have easily used interchangeably with a store bought variety. This gave me the issue of having too many options! I know, boo hoo, such a big issue... but I started to narrow my options down when I remembered we were supposed to have company over today so I wanted something that I could prepare ahead for everyone to enjoy as soon as we got home from church, and I wanted to give them the best chance to enjoy it, even if they weren't whey-cheese lovers. Pasta!

As I mentioned previously, I bought a ravioli stamp while we were on vacation last month, and a pasta maker from the charity garage sale I was working at a few weeks ago. And this was clearly the chance I was waiting for to try them out! Any time previously that I've thought about making up pasta, I didn't have what I needed to make a yummy filling (which sounds ridiculous given the wide range of things you can stuff in there, but honest! I didn't!). This time I had no excuse. There was a delectable bowl of fresh cheese sitting on my counter begging me to wrap it up in fresh dough, newly rolled out.

Care to hear some wisdom I garnered from last night?

Rolling out pasta with a pasta bike is not something one masters on their first try. Like, not even close. I knew I was supposed to 'catch' the dough on the underside of the bike, but between rolling too slow, my dough perhaps being a bit too sticky, and just not bothering, I very often got my dough torn up from wrapping around the rollers. The worst part was the number of times I did this when I was almost completely done rolling a piece. You start a pasta bike on the #1 setting, gently feeding through a slightly flattened lump of dough. You continue to feed it through #1 for a few turns, folding it in half each time, before you progress to #2, then #3, then #4 and #5 and, finally, #6 (there are more numbers but I was pushing my luck getting to #6!) Each number goes a bit thinner until you have a sheet resembling phyllo on your last crank. And about 4 times I got up between #4 and #6, and halfway down my sheet something would snag and tear a big line down the center. ARGH!

Which brings me to garnered wisdom point #2:
Rolling pasta is a two person job.

That's not a strict rule. I successfully finished 2 out of my 4 lumps of dough all by myself (after a couple tries). But there's just no denying how much quicker everything went when I fed it through the machine and caught it, while Matt turned the crank.

Point #3: Don't be a chicken - turn that crank like you mean it!
I started getting skittish about having my pasta snag, and so I started turning the crank slower to make sure I had the bottom, but somehow, that just made it worse. Turning the crank at a nice, even clip helped push the bottom clear.

Point #4: Don't start making homemade pasta for the first time at 8:20 at night.
Yikes. This is a pretty big one. If I were more skilled with a pasta bike, this might not have been an issue, but for a newbie who had to continually redo some pieces, this was rough. My children were tired. My husband was exhausted. I was beat! But I couldn't stop and come back to it later because the dough would dry up, so I had to keep going. I was done by 10:30, and if I had more skill it would have been sooner, but as a reward for their patience (??!?!) I let the boys sample some of the finished product (which I overboiled so it was rubbery - whoops!) But note the mess in the picture? I still had to clean that up before bed!

The verdict? That was some flipping delicious pasta filling!

Ricotta Ravioli Filling:
1 c. fresh ricotta
1/4 c. grated parmesan
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
zest of a lemon
1 egg

Oh, and it sounds fabulous and all to make homemade ricotta and fresh handmade pasta, but if you judged kitchen skills by how well you make Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, I'd get a failing grade. Half of them were burnt and the ones that didn't burn were squished, and somehow when I was flipping one, the top came off and the cheese folded in half (yah, I really don't know...)

A sure sign that I should stick to cheese and pasta.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Homemade Ricotta!

While the cat's away the mice do play! And by play, I obviously mean make cheese! (and I actually just got how appropriate of an analogy that was to use...) (And I also just now got a vague memory of my cousin and I dressed up as lumberjack wives with giant wooden spoons giggling, "While the husbands are away the wives do play!"... but I digress.)


That's right! I finally got my big-girl panties on and braved up enough to attempt to make cheese in my own house!

How did it go??

Well, the first tip I have to offer is this: when relying on a candy thermometer, make sure it works first! That's right - my candy thermometer is not working. Which I didn't find out until I was fairly certain my milk was about to boil and the thermometer was still reading 50 degrees - fairenheit. Right... So I abandoned my attempt with a thermometer and did a rough guess of 190 degrees (which, incidentally, I'm much better at doing when you're steaming milk - you can tell how hot it is by the sound of the air moving through it... not so much on a stove top.)

Second tip: make sure your children are happy before you start. They were, kind of, and then I had a minor interruption in the form of a vehicle swap, and then they weren't happy anymore, but the milk had already started cooking, so I was kind of stuck. By the end they were both screaming at me.

At the end of the labour intensive portion (which is really not that intensive), my ricotta was draining happily on a few layers of cheesecloth and it actually smelled like ricotta! Go figure! Apparently I'm using an impure recipe - it professes to not be a real ricotta a) because you start with regular milk instead of whey, while even the name "ricotta" means "to cook again", so you would normally make something like mozzarella and then use the leftover whey to make ricotta and b) because it uses whole milk, while ricotta is typically made from skim or 2% milk. Oh, and the recipe advises you to add some cream, which worked just fine for me since I had about a cup of half-and-half sitting in my fridge needing to be used up.
However, despite the impurities, Smitten Kitchen claims that this will make a fantastic tasting cheese.

In the end, after an hour and a half of straining in cheesecloth, I was left with a soft cheese that had an almost identical texture to the remnant of store-bought ricotta in my fridge, and the taste was a bit saltier, and not as rich, but it was still yummy! Next time I think I'd cut the salt down a bit, maybe by a third even. While this recipe is too salty to adapt for my ricotta-stuffed grilled peaches, it would be a perfect filling for homemade ravioli, which I am dying to make now that I've got this in my fridge! I think next week I'm going to try a homemade marscapone and see how they compare!

Now, what to do with that leftover whey??? I'm hesitant to use it to water my plants since I added salt to the ricotta... salt isn't good for plants, in case you were wondering :) Maybe, just maybe, I'll make more ricotta with it??

OH! And how do you like my chalkboard table that I displayed these on?? We have about 3 of those little Ikea LACK tables in the house so I painted one with homemade chalkboard paint to put up in Gabe's room! Cute, hey?

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

*UPDATE* - Once I let the ricotta cool completely, the flavors married even more to the point where the saltiness barely stood out. It has a 'fresher' taste than the store bought, and has become so mild that I might just be making those grilled peaches after all!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Whole Wheat and Honey Loaf

I did it! I finished my recipe development assignment! Well... for now.
As a refresher, a friend started a business selling his own stone-ground Whole Wheat flour and I offered to develop some signature recipes for him. I'd never worked with stone ground flour before but felt I was up to the challenge.
Now, sometime after I received my first bag of flour, I have developed his Pancake mix recipe, a Whole Wheat and Honey Loaf recipe and a Cinnamon Raisin Whole Wheat Soda Bread recipe! The latter two will be available with his products, and possibly on his Facebook page, shortly!
I had him over for a tasting today and he loved the soda bread and was surprised by the nice texture and rise of the Whole Wheat and Honey Loaf (I'm glad too, because it took a fair bit of ingenuity on my part to get it there!)
I've still got a bit of flour left, so I think I'm going to whip up some Coffee Date Muffins next week and do one more recipe for him right now, but until that happens, care for a preview??

Redstone Mills' Whole Wheat and Honey Loaf:

3 ¼ c. Redstone Mills Stone Ground Whole-Wheat Flour
½ c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. wheat bran
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp yeast
1 ½ c. milk
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
Combine milk, butter and honey in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until the butter has melted.
Combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix with dough-hook attachment on a standing mixer. Pour in warm milk mixture and mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. On a lightly floured surface, kneed by hand for 8 minutes. Do not skip this step!
Once the dough is shaped into a ball, place it in a liberally oiled mixing bowl, turn it over once so all sides are oiled, and let it rise, covered, in a warm, dry place for 1 ½ - 2 hours. Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down and gently shape it into a loaf – don’t push all the air pockets out! Let rise in a greased loaf pan for another 1 ½ - 2 hours.
Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.
Slice and serve while still warm with creamed honey, butter, jam, or plain! It tastes great the next day too (if it lasts that long)!

Check out his Facebook page, too! He currently only sells at local Farmer's Markets, but his stuff may get stocked in a local store soon! (P.S. the pancake mix is to die for, if I do say so myself!)

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Did you know that I can see the google search keywords that people type in to end up at my blog? Well, I can. And through seeing how many people read specific posts, I found out that 7 people this week read a post I did a couple of years ago. What, pray tell, is so intruiging about this one post? Well, it's nothing I did, but rather something that I ate. The google search keyword that all of those people typed in was "Glamorgan bakery florentines". And I don't blame them.
That specific blog post from 2010 talked about how Matt was down in Calgary dropping off his motorbike that he just sold, and he and a friend stopped by the bakery I used to live across the street from and bought me my favorite treat from there: their rolled florentines, filled with hazelnut cream and with the ends dipped in chocolate.
Florentines go by a few other names, specifically tuiles or lace cookies. There are traditionally subtle differences between each of these: florentines have a coarser texture and traditionally have chocolate on them, tuiles are typically finer and can mean a cookie, a wafer, or even cheese, and lace cookies are the lazy cousin of florentines that have never been as stringent on absolutes! One thing all of these varieties have in common is the thin, lacey look.
When I first had the Rolled Florentines at Glamorgan Bakery in Calgary, I thought, "I can't be in Alberta anymore... they just don't make things like this in Alberta!" It was like someone had hand delivered a beautiful, tasty trinket directly from Europe. It was caramelly, it was crispy, it had this hazelnut cream that I would sell my dog for (sorry Cash)... it was divine.
I had to make one.
But I had no idea where to start.

This post, two years later, is a snapshot of my unfinished quest as I try to replicate the most perfect Rolled Florentine. If you live in Calgary, AB, I highly suggest that you have a standing order of Rolled Florentines from the Glamorgan Bakery on Richmond Road at least once a week. Preferrably once a day (maybe twice, but that might be crazy). For those of us who are unfortunately not within a reasonable distance of this shop of wonders, we shall have to make do with making our own.

While I have yet to attempt to replicate the hazelnut cream, I have successfully made a reasonable knock-off of a good florentine. My recipe is a bit chewier, and slightly more buttery than the Glamorgan one, but they definitely fill the craving. Oh, and they are addictive (just ask Matt.) This recipe is taken from Pampered Chef's cookbook Cooking for Two or More and is actually used to make 'cookie towers' to wrap around ice cream. I have tweeked the process a little bit, but the amounts are all theirs. One more note: they recommend cooking these on stoneware, and I second that. Part of the wonderfulness of florentines is their crispiness, and that will be achieved more easily with stoneware than a metal cookie sheet. If you don't have stoneware however, metal will still work.

Florentine Cookie Towers
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp finely chopped almonds

Whisk together first 4 ingredients. Divide into 4 circles on a parchment lined stoneware sheet, at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle circles with almonds. (If you are having troubles making nice circles, dip a round cookie cutter in flour, tap it off, and use the cookie cutter as a mold). Bake at 350 for 13 - 15 minutes (8 - 11 if you're using a metal sheet) on the lowest rack of your oven, or until deep golden. Remove from oven, gently lift each circle and quickly roll over a small cup, chopstick or roll like paper (each will yield a slightly different shape - if you're looking to fill them with cream or something, try the chopstick)
Sometimes the cookies will all run across the sheet and will just make one large blob of cookie (typically if your pan was hot before you baked them, if they were too close together, or if your measurements were slightly off). No worries. Just use a flour dipped cookie cutter to cut the circles out afterwards.

If you want to take a stab at a hazelnut flavoured cream, I recommend heating cream and a bit of nutella in a saucepan, just until the two are combined, chilling the mixture, and then whipping it. Then to fill, dip one end of the florentine in chocolate, let set, pipe the cream in, and then dip the other end in more chocolate to seal the cream in!

Bear in mind, this is halfway through the process of discovering the perfect florentine recipe, so I promise to one day post a perfected recipe, but for now, enjoy this one! I know I do!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Corn Muffins

I must apologize for how lazy I have been lately. It's not that I haven't done anything - I just haven't taken any pictures! So, I formally apologize, and I plan to make it up to you today by not only posting pictures, but also posting a fantastically yummy recipe!
We had some company over after church today, and since they were bringing the main course (two yummy homemade pizzas!) I made some side dishes: santa fe salad and corn bread muffins! The Santa Fe Salad is a blatant steal from Earl's. Their Santa Fe Chicken Salad is fantabulous and quite easy to make a reasonable facimile: greens, black beans, cajun seasoned chicken, avocado, feta, corn, dates, crispy tortilla strips, and lime vinaigrette. Today I didn't have the chicken or feta, so I cooked up the black beans with some cajun seasoning and lime juice instead. It was yum!
And for the corn bread muffins... well, that's something special :)
I've always adored corn bread, and perhaps that's because I never had it in my house. My mom was never a fan so the only time I got it was at restaurants, or at a friend's house. When I was working at the cafe through high school I made up their corn bread recipe one day and was delighted by a few important ingredients: a can of creamed corn, chili powder, and green chiles. I knew those were the things that made a dry, ordinary piece of corn bread moist and delectable! About three or four years ago I decided to make corn bread at home for the first time, and I opted to try a recipe I had as it was - no tweaking. And boy, was I disappointed. It was more dry than not, mealy, it didn't bind very well, and the flavor was less than enthusing. Round two I tweaked a few things and the flavor got better, but the texture was still a bit off. But by round three - I knew I had it. It was the perfect corn bread recipe. And I'm going to share it with you :) Oh, and I'm not going to reference the original recipe since a) after all this smack talk about it, it would hardly be fair to associate them with the unimpressive recipe, and b) all that 'tweaking' I did? The recipe isn't even recognizable anymore.
My Perfect Corn Bread Muffins:
2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
a dash of chipotle powder
2 eggs
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
1 can creamed corn
1/2 c. shredded cheddar

Mix together first 7 ingredients in a large bowl - set aside. Whisk together eggs, milk and oil in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients and corn to dry mix all at once - stir until just moistened. Fold in cheddar.
Divide between 18 greased muffin cups and bake at 400 for 15 minutes.
*Tip - don't start preheating the oven until after all the ingredients are combined, and then wait to divide between the muffin cups until the oven is ready - this will give you nice, fluffy muffins!

They look good, no? Oh, and if you're not into the whole tex-mex realm, try putting dill in, instead of the chili powder and chipotle, swap out the cheddar for gouda or gruyere, and serve them with chowder!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)