Deadly Mashed Potatoes

Last Friday was Mrs. Nice’s birthday, and so yesterday, once Mags and the Dutchman had returned from their honeymoon, we had a little lunch party to celebrate. I have tons of great recipes to show you from that lunch, but I’m going to start with the basics here. Now, you KNOW how to make mashed potatoes. And I KNOW that you know now to make mashed potatoes.

Deadly Mashed Potatoes 2

Bu there are a million ways to add a little bit of extra WOW to your mashed potatoes. And here’s one of them. Once you’ve got your potatoes peeled (optional), cut, and boiled, start your mashing. Tip in a bit of milk and some plain yogurt (or cream cheese, or sour cream), and give it a whaz with the hand mixer to make them extra smooth.

Deadly Mashed Potatoes 3

For presentation, smooth them into a large bowl and form a depression in the middle. Add a generous hunk of butter and a dash of pepper and let that butter melt absolutely everywhere. If you put it in the oven to keep warm at this point the butter will ooze all down the sides (best seen in a glass dish like this one) and everyone will be clamouring for seconds. I rarely end up with leftovers. Today was no exception.

Deadly Mashed Potatoes 1

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 10

I’m always looking for new ways to put more fibre into my baking that don’t necessarily involve bran (I feel like that sentence alone puts me in the “grown-up” category.  And you know what’s good for you if you’re not getting enough fibre? APRICOTS. So I made an apricot loaf. And if you like apricots you can make one too.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 1

Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter a loaf pan in preparation. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. I don’t even have a picture of it because it’s just a bowl of white (and because maybe I forgot). Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg for colour (and flavour).

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 3
Because I forgot, you get a slightly more interesting picture of chopped apricots instead.

In a small bowl, scramble together 2 large eggs.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 4

Then tip in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or fruity yogurt, maybe apricot yogurt, it’s up to you), 1/3-1/2 cup apricot jam, and 1/2 cup milk.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 5

Pour that wet stuff into the dry stuff and stir until combined. Then pour in 1 cup oats and 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots. Stir stir stir!

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 7

Smooth that into your pan and then bake for about 1 hour, until a deep caramel brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let it mostly cool in the pan and tip it out onto a rack to cool completely.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 8

I’m really enjoying it toasted, with butter, for breakfast.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 12

Wingin’ It Wednesday: Experiments in Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese 13

I’m trying to change up the way that I make food that I know is crappy for me. I figure if I make it well, with conscious effort to be precise, then it somehow makes it less crappy. Early on in our relationship, the Pie schooled me on the correct way to make a grilled cheese sandwich, and today I’m going to start playing with it to see if I can’t jazz it up a little bit. Today I’m going to add some tomatoes to the mix. Because tomato/cheese sandwiches are a favourite of mine.

Grilled Cheese 1

So we start with our bread. The Pie prefers a solid white Texas toast or thick-sliced sandwich bread to be his base. Everyone has their own preferences of course, but I do like how light and crispy white bread gets when you grill it, and it’s pretty much the only time we eat white bread so we figure that’s okay. Next, sparingly cover one side of each slice of your bread with margarine. This is the only time (aside from making those margarine cookies) that we use oleo in the house. Normally it’s butter, but we find the butter tends to burn too quickly in this particular case.

Grilled Cheese 2

Make sure to go right to the edges with your margarine. And don’t add too much – this is already a grease pile of a snack so you don’t want to overdo it. This is also why you don’t put margarine on BOTH sides of the bread. That’s too much.

Grilled Cheese 3

Now you can plop one of the slices of bread, spread-side down, on your warm griddle (medium heat is best), and add your cheese slices. We like to use high quality old Canadian cheddar. Because really it’s the best.

Grilled Cheese 4

I also had some cheese curds in the fridge so I added those as an experiment.

Grilled Cheese 5

Then I added on my slices of tomato. I think it helps if your tomato is at room temperature so it doesn’t interfere with the melting of the cheese.

Grilled Cheese 6

Then my second slice of bread and more cheese. I need the cheese on the second slice to melt enough to stay in place when I flip it down over the tomatoes.

Grilled Cheese 7

Of course when I flipped all the cheese curds fell out into the pan. But then I got some warm fried cheese curds, which were great. Like mini haloumi.

Grilled Cheese 8

And now you cook it long enough for everything inside to get gooey. Some people like their cheese only lightly grilled.

Grilled Cheese 9

Others, like myself, prefer a tougher exterior.

Grilled Cheese 10

Serve with a glass of milk and some pickles on the side. Always. How do you do YOUR grilled cheese? Next time, I’m going to try avocados!

Grilled Cheese 11

Made for Love, with Love

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 13

On Friday, my beautiful amazing baby sister-in-law Mags married the Dutchman, AKA The Nicest Man Alive and the whole day was absolutely delightful. You may remember that last year I made some cupcakes for Mags’ birthday. Well she liked them so much she’s been talking about them ever since and asked me to make them for her wedding – I was more than happy to oblige. We all knew that the results wouldn’t be picture perfect but when things taste absolutely amazing nobody really cares. And these were a big hit.

I leave the wedding photography to the professionals, but I snapped this one on my phone so you could share in the joy of the day – what a beautiful happy couple!

A few tips if you ever want to take on one of these projects for yourself: preparation is key. Anything that can be made ahead of time should be done to give you plenty of time to spare. That meant that the Pie and I sat down for three hours one night and chocolate-dipped over 120 individual maraschino cherries, but that was fine. It was a good togetherness moment. Our marriage became stronger as a result of our struggle.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 2

Icings and ganaches can also be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge. Even the cupcakes can be made up to two or three days beforehand. Just make sure that if this is the case you use a recipe that contains a good amount of fat to keep them moist, like sour cream or butter. When you’re ready to assemble make sure your icings and ganaches are at room temperature and everything is super handy for you to reach when you need it.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 3

I also made a wee cake topper for Mags and the Dutchman to cut at the reception, and to match the glittery winter theme I added edible pearls for gloss.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 5

And this cool sparkly snow-like sugar.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 6

When you’re putting together 120 cupcakes, do things in stages. That means do all the ganache layers first, for example, before working on piping on the icing.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 4

Then when you’re doing the icing you can just power through and do it all in one fluid movement.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 9

These plastic carrying containers saved my life this time around. They cost me $6.25 each at the cake store but they are worth their weight in gold. Though they’re not very heavy. So they’re probably worth about $6.25 in gold.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 8

I sprinkled on some pearls and snow on the cupcakes as well to match the topper.

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 10

And the finished arrangement, using the cupcake stands I made this summer. Apparently as people were leaving they searched for carry-out cases to try to steal as many as they could!

Meg's Wedding Cupcakes 11

Fast Tip Friday: Hooks and Organizational Hacks

When it comes to home organization, I’m kind of lazy. I don’t like to go out and buy super expensive specialty organizational items unless I absolutely have to. For my pot cupboard, I could have gotten one of those fancy lid separators to keep all my pot lids organized, but I had just finished a project where I had a dozen mug hooks left over so I figured I’d just go with what I had and I think the custom sizing I did on this makes everything much more convenient for me.

Home Org. Hack Hooks 2

To hold my small lids in place I needed only two strategically placed hooks. The tiny lid on top was an exception just because of its shape. But not everything you have is going to fit handily into whatever it is you buy, either, so it’s nice that I had room to improvise.

Home Org. Hack Hooks 1

The larger ones needed another hook at the back to keep them contained, but overall I’m very pleased with how this worked out!

Home Org. Hack Hooks 3

Jammy Bran Muffins

These muffins are a little bit different from your usually brown bran muffins. As you may know, I have a love/hate relationship with bran, so I’m always looking for new ways to ingest fibre without feeling like I’m eating sawdust. It’s a never-ending challenge. The additional challenge of these is that for some reason I have four jars of jam in my fridge and neither the Pie nor I is eating a lot of toast at the moment. So I decided to use it as my sweetener in this shindig.

Jammy Bran Muffins 2

Start by setting your oven to preheat at 350°F and spray a muffin tin or rub it with butter. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, feel free to sour some milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to every cup of regular milk. Give that a stir and leave it for 5 minutes.

Jammy Bran Muffins 1

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 cup bran, 1/4 cup ground flax (because it’s good for you – make sure it’s partially ground before you add it in), and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

Jammy Bran Muffins 3

Jammy Bran Muffins 4

In a smaller bowl, scramble together 4 tablespoons melted butter3/4 cup of your favourite jam (this one is serviceberry), 1 large egg, and 2 cups buttermilk (or alternative).

Jammy Bran Muffins 6

Now pour the liquids into the solids and gently whisk until only just combined.

Jammy Bran Muffins 7

Dump in 1 cup raisins (or not, if you’re not a fan of raisins) and whisk until just combined again – never over-mix muffins. If you do they end up flat. And that’s lame.

Jammy Bran Muffins 8

Divide the batter in your tin. Bake those puppies for 20-25 minutes, until the centre muffin tests clean when stabbed with a toothpick.

Jammy Bran Muffins 9

Leave them in the pan for about 5 minutes to cool a little bit before digging them out and eating them or letting them cool completely.

Jammy Bran Muffins 11

We always like our muffins hot, with butter. Because, well, butter.

Jammy Bran Muffins 14

Amaryllis Adventures

Amaryllis 7

For as long as I can remember, all the womenfolk in my family have harboured a deep distrust of poinsettias, and refuse to have them in the house around the holidays. They just don’t like ’em. I have learned this dislike over the years, so I tend to avoid having them around myself. So what do we do instead? We grow amaryllis. This is something that I thought was a thing only grown-ups did, because my grandparents and parents always had a ton of amaryllis bulbs in various stages of bloom all over the house at this time of year. And yesterday, before she left for Florida, my mother gave me an amaryllis of my own. I guess that means I’m a grown-up now.

Amaryllis 6

Amaryllis are super easy to grow. They’re the ideal indoor flowering plant for people who suck at gardening. For one thing, they pretty much always come in a handy kit that contains everything you need to get started: soil, a pot, and a bulb. And you can buy them at the grocery store. And they’re cheap. It’s the best of all the worlds, really.

Amaryllis 5

Amaryllis 4

Planting is easy. Add soil to the pot until it’s half full.

Amaryllis 3

Insert bulb, roots facing down (that is key).

Amaryllis 2
Fill the remaining space with soil and pat down so that the top 1/3 of the bulb is exposed. Water it sparingly and leave it somewhere sunny. Or even somewhere somewhat sunny. You can even forget about it for a while. In about six weeks, just in time for Christmas, this puppy will grow a long thick stem and spew out anywhere between 1 and 6 flowers. At this point I will likely pop it in a slightly heavier pot as those tall fully-grown amaryllis tend to get a bit top-heavy and are prone to falling over. BOOM. I will keep you updated as to its progress. I figure if it doesn’t bloom then I’m probably not quite a grown-up yet.

Amaryllis 1

adventures in grown-up living


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 20,089 other followers

%d bloggers like this: