Monday, June 29, 2009

To-Die-For Blueberry Muffins



So, it wasn't even quite 10 am this morning and we rolled out a couple of batches of doggy biscuits and a couple of batches of yummy blueberry muffins. With the abundance of berries at every grocery store and market and the prices so low, this is the perfect time to turn out a batch with fresh blueberries. Last week, in my inbox from allrecipes.com, there came an entry for this To-Die-For Blueberry muffin. I have been looking for a muffin recipe that isn't dense and like a lot of the close to 3000 reviews from people like me, our search for the perfect muffin had arrived in my in-boxes!



While stirring this batch up, I was a bit skeptical. The batter was quite thick and heavy. It also says to fill the muffin cups to the top, which I only filled to 4/5 and it was only enough batter to fill 21 cups. Perhaps my muffin cups were a little larger than normal. I went ahead and baked them anyway with water in the empty tins.

I was pleasantly surprised, as were all my kids at how scumptious these are! They were light and fluffy, almost like a muffin mix, but without the full sweetness of a packaged mix. The crunchy crumb topping was delicious and was the perfect combination for this muffin.


I will use this muffin recipe as a base for muffins and try adding different fruits or frozen berries when they aren't in season. The crumb topping would also be the perfect addition to any muffin, but I think it would be even better with brown sugar, or just plain sugar crystals, which I'm going to try next time

MUFFIN MIX

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk (approx.)
1 cup fresh blueberries

CRUMB TOPPING

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

TO MAKE MUFFINS:

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease muffin cups or line with paper liners.

2. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Measure out 1/3 cup of oil into a 1 cup measuring cup and add an egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture, stir until combined. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups to the top and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

TO MAKE CRUMB TOPPING:

3. Mix together all 4 ingredients with a fork until combined, and sprinkle over muffins.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven or until done.

**This is enough crumb for a double batch of muffins.

Mix egg, oil and top with milk to equal 1 cup..

Mix dry ingredients together.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly.

Batter's consistency is very thick. Hard to imagine this can turn out fluffy!

Add fresh or frozen blueberries and gently stir.

If you have a large scoop, put one scoop into each muffin cup.

Combine ingredients for crumb topping and stir.

Sprinkle each muffin with a bit of crumb.

Bake at 400 F (I set it at 390F on convection) and baked for 30 minutes.
Enjoy!

Treats for Bailey



A double batch turned out about 90- 2" scrumptious doggy bones.

It's only the second day of their summer holidays and not even 9 am and look what we've already turned out! A double batch of homemade Garlick & Cheddar dog biscuits but the thing is, there's no garlic in the ingredients! I got this cute little Dog Biscuit cookbook with a removable built-in bone-shaped cookie cutter from a garage sale a few weeks ago and have been promising the kids that we'd make a batch soon. Well, now that summer vacation has begun, we have more than a few moments to hone their math skills and cooking skills at the same time.


This dough is amazingly easily to roll out and cut. Whether or not Bailey really likes them or not, we'll never know because as like most dogs, they devour anything like it's the best thing in the world or they've not eaten for days. I'm almost embarrassed to say that I actually tried one but I did. Well, they are made from wholesome first quality ingredients, just not enough or lacking a few key ingredients we would put into our treats, that's all. Okay, the whole family tried them. Lauren actually spit hers out onto the floor and Bailey cleaned up after her! I thought it tasted like cardboard. Nothing much too these biscuits. Not much flavour, no salt, no nothing, including moisture! But with the stupid kid tricks, which my husband thinks all good dads should teach their kids, I feel a bit better about the kids putting these in their mouths than Milk Bone dog biscuits from the store.

Look how much fun your hubby can have teaching your kids thing you can do with Milk Bone dog treats!


This recipe is adapted from The Doggy Bone Cookbook.

1/3 cup of shredded cheese such as mozarella or cheddar
3 tablespoon of margarine or butter, softened
1-2/3 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix cheese and margarine/butter, add milk and flour and knead until combined. Roll out into about 1/4" thickness and cut into desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet or parchment paper and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Makes approximately 50 bones.



Don't these look good enough for anyone to eat?

Bailey thinks they smell delectable!Bailey would do anything for these cheddar crisps!Lauren tried one too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Today the Beasts Were Released for Summer Holidays!

Thursday June 25, 2009.

Oh, look what I found in my drafts...


Standing here patiently waiting.A Deep Blue Sea - As each of their names were called, I wondered where each of these kids will be in 20 years . It's incredible how many Ontario Scholars there were in this graduating class - almost half!

Today was the last day of school for my boys. It started out a very nice morning, with the kids going swimming at 7:30 am before heading off to school but by lunch time, instead of the kids kicking up their heals and screaming, they were all huddled in the school worried about how awful the weather was and how they were going to get home without getting drenched. The good mother that I am : ), I drove around the corner and parked the car to find my boys inside the office waiting patiently for me, looking kind of glum.

Oh dear, what am I going to do with them this summer besides going on a couple of short weekend road trips and hanging out by the backyard pool and having a some friends over? Unfortunately, these kids are a hard bunch to entertain and please. Each summer, they are usually enrolled in a few weeks of camp but this year, they aren't enrolled in anything as yet. They HATE going to camp and they complain that they're bored at home as well. What to do??

They were actually kind of sad that they weren't going to see many of their friends very much over the summer holidays. I remember growing up, summer holidays seemed SO long. By the time August rolled around, I was looking forward to the new school year which always starts on the Tuesday after Labour Day here in Ontario.


Terrilyn on her way to graduating!

It was also the graduation ceremony for Terrilyn. Today, she is officially no longer in high school! She's on her way to being a full-fledged grown-up! I told her and her friends that some of the best times of their lives is now, while they're still in school. Especially for these bunch of spoiled brats. They get their tuitions and boarding paid for so they don't need to get a part-time job unless they need beer money or fashion money.Waiting patiently for the ceremony to finish!

I attended the ceremony with Lauren and Nicholas. There was a limit of only 3 tickets per family and since William had a soccer game in the rain, it was decided that I take Nicholas and Lauren along with me. What a mistake that was! With program in hand and nothing better to do, Nicholas did exactly what I would've done - added up the number of grads listed in the evening's program book. 248! Two hundred and forty eight! Who was I trying to kid when I thought they would be fine to sit through the entire ceremony?

Before the principal's address begun, Lauren was already bored out of her mind. She was mimicking the guys who were testing the mics. When the guy spoke into the mic with "testing testing", she would repeat after him. It was quite funny actually listening to her. Then she would start asking a million questions and rocking back and forth standing on the chair, etc. Not to mention Nicholas's persistent "How much longer?" So, I text messaged my hubby and asked him to drive over to pick them up after the soccer game. He arrived an hour and twenty minutes after the ceremony started and Lauren had actually gotten SO bored, she climbed into my lap and fell asleep! Gosh! To think....I have four more of these high school graduations to go to!

I teared up at the ceremony just thinking about how my first baby will be going away in a couple of months and starting a new chapter in her life. A road that she will travel to find her dreams. She was a very difficult teen, but normal nonetheless. Very strong headed and strong willed. She showed signs of this from a very young age. Peer pressure was a very big part of it. At one point, we thought she was heading down the wrong path. We tried steering her back with all our might and I guess it must've worked because she has truly turned into a gracious young lady who I am very proud of.



One day, in four years, I will be looking back and hear myself repeating this over again once more for her.Jessica & Terrilyn

Monday, June 22, 2009

Beer Can Chicken...Beer Butt Chicken


Two birds awaiting to be eaten. I was too keen on getting the flavour under the skin and I tore one of the breasts. It pulled back during cooking, but was still tender and flavourful.


The $1 deal.

Or whatever you want to call it...I've been seeing so much about beer can chicken lately that I thought I should try it one day. Everyone says how great it is and moist and delicious. My aunt even sent me a (note I say "a" because I need TWO! I always cook TWO for my huge family!), but I'm thankful to her for thinking of me and taking the time and money. We were at Home Depot on Saturday morning and I came across the exact same chicken holder for C$1 (that's like $1.95 US - just kidding it's only about US$1.15), but she did pay US$3 on sale for it in L.A. There are fancier, much more expensive chicken holders out there where you just pour all your ingredients into the built in cup, which look like a plate with a cup in the middle, in case you don't want to take the chance and get poisoned by the chemicals that haven't been associated with any diseases they haven't discovered yet. I'm just waiting for the day when CNN reports that people who used beer cans in their chicken recipes more than once a week are now developing mysterious skin lesions or alzheimers, cancer, etc. Well, I'll take the chance.

Then I made my husband stop by the grocery store to get two 3-1/2 lbs. air chilled chickens so I could go home and start my new experiment finally.
All dressed up and no place to go.


I'm not a beer drinker or a wine drinker, or a drinker for that matter. My boss way back when I was just a cute little young thing, use to say I was such a cheap date! LOL! Guess what? I still AM?! But hubby does drink on occasion when we have company who want free alcohol! Normally, we don't buy canned beer, but when we were driving over the Detroit/Windsor border crossing, my husband came out with a case of canned Bud Light. Now, 9 months later, guess what? There's still 18/24 cans left! Well, 16 now. He had to drink 1/2 from each can so that I had a can to put the chicken on. Hmm...if I had thought a little harder, I could have just opened one can, and emptied half into a Coca Cola can which we have plenty of.

If you google "BEER CAN CHICKEN", you will find so many different versions of it. Everyone has their own seasoning combination, method of preparing the chicken and basting the chicken. Butt, I think that no matter how you do it, it will always be a juicy and deliciously awesome!


For two whole air-chilled chickens:

2 whole 3-1/2 to 4 lbs. air chilled chickens
1 cup butter
2 cloves fresh crushed garlic
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp Montreal Steak Spice
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 cans of beer (drink or discard half from each) or use gingerale if you don't have any beer on hand
Butter mixture. I'm probably doing it all wrong but if you know me, I don't follow directions very well and have a poor memory.
Directions:

1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with a bit of water for gravy.

1. In a medium bowl, melt butter in microwave. Add spices and mix to combine.

2. Separate skin of the chicken breast as much as you can down into the legs and spoon 1/4 of butter mixture under skin of each chicken and add a sprig of rosemary. Pour the remaining butter mixture into the beer can with the beer. If it starts bubbling over, just pour the rest into the chicken cavities, divided evenly between the two. Or spread some salt and pepper into the cavity of each chicken.

3. Let it marinade in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight if possible.

4. When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 F or your BBQ on low. Place the beer can with beer/butter mixture into the chicken holder in a large roasting pan and place the chicken onto the holder.

5. Cook until internal temperature reaches 180F (about 1-1/2 hours), use a basting brush to brush juices from the bottom of the pan every 1/2 hour. When it is cooked, remove from oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes before cutting.

For gravy:

6. pour into a small pot and skim off as much fat as possible. Bring to a boil, add a bit of cornstarch slurry and return to a boil. Add more or less cornstarch for desired thickness.

Leftovers make great sandwiches as well.

I served this with broccoli and mashed potatoes. It is very tender and juicy. I'm sure the type of chicken that you use does impact the flavour and the texture of the meat. I think that air chilled chicken and turkey are the best for roasting because even if it is overcooked, the white meat is still juicy, of course unless you REALLY overcook it.
Beer volcano after adding butter to beer. I didn't do well in chemistry.

Mess all over the counter and floor. Maybe if I spent the extra money on the fancy one, I wouldn't have this problem.
Twins awaiting.
Peekaboo -see how juicy it is? Pour it out for the delicious gravy.

Happy Father's Day!

A Starfish in our garden - I love starfish!




What a Sunday! It seems summer has finally arrived here in southern Ontario! Beautiful weather, great family and great food. Problem was, food was coming all day long! We went to dim sum with all my siblings and nieces and nephews and then my cousins came over to celebrate Father's Day with us. We spent the afternoon in the pool (not me - I haven't been looking too good in my bathing suit these days - still trying to shed those 15 lbs. of hibernation fat buildup). Our dinner was complete with a baby spinach salad, prime rib steaks, premarinaded rosemary lamb chops, cheese sausages, grilled veggies (peppers and zucchini), grilled fish balls, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. It was a hot day so nothing was to be made in the oven or cooked indoor for that matter.Enjoying a lovely sunny day in the pool!
Our feast - how do you know we're not vegetarians?

Veggies seasoned with Montreal Steak Spice & Seasoning Salt.Ughhh! Rosemary Lamb chops!

I have to say, I DO NOT like lamb. It just is too gamey for me. Even if the lamb touches my meat, I find it difficult to palate what it's touched. I've tried it several times starting from my youth and even recently I've tried to enjoy it, but I just can't. It's the same with sushi and smoked salmon. I guess it's for the better since all of the above are expensive. I do cook it for my kids and especially my hubby, but not too often. When we were in Greece a few years ago, I told my hubby that he'd better eat up because I won't be cooking it as good as they do and only on occasion. So what did he do? He had at least one meal with lamb everyday to get his fix. Did he ever think that he could buy it and cook it for himself? Guess not.

To be honest, when we put the pool in a few years ago, I knew I wouldn't be going in much. We had a pool at our last house, and in two years, I might have gone in no more than 5 times, 1 of which I was thrown. I love the aesthetics of the pool. It was either a pool or a nice grassy backyard with a hot tub. We decided to go with the former since I knew the kids would get more use out of a pool. My husband would have used the hot tub all year round. That just means that in a couple of years, we may just end up with a hot tub too, I guess.

Baby Cole had a blast in the pool! He really LOVES water!

Happy father's day, Hunny! Hope you had a great day!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Is this what you call a seedless watermelon??


I hate it when this happens. It's the second time in the last month it's happened to me! Don't you hate it?! I cut it open and look what I saw! A ton of black seeds! I haven't intentionally bought a seed-more watermelon in years. I always thought it was worth paying the little extra to get seedless. Then you have the kids asking, "If it's seedless, then how do they make more?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dumplings & Green Onion Patty

Pork Filled dumplings.

Being that I had a busy day again, not to mention that I had a HUGE breakfast (Theo's), skillet of veggies, egg and fruit at Cora's, I didn't feel like cooking a huge meal. Something quick and simple would do.

Frozen Pork Filled Dumplings.

You can purchase these northern Chinese style dumplings at most western large chain grocery stores now but I think that there are too many fillers apart from the meat. I had ordered a two hundred pork dumplings (4 bags) from Shanghai Dim Sum in Scarborough. Can you imagine wrapping dumplings all day long, 7 days a week?This little mom and pop shop supplies to restaurants and has a small storefront made up of a few deep freezers. Nothing fancy - no fancy signs or packaging - they just package each pack into plain plastic vegetable bag that you get at the grocery store scrawled with a single Chinese character with a plain old Sharpie on the outside of the bag, indicating the type of dumpling . No directions as to what the heck to do with them when you bring them home! Simple enough though, once you're told.
Dumplings being browned to crisp bottoms.

Pork dumplings are my family's favorite (except Ryan's). These little dumplings have a slight hint of ginger, and are so tasty and juicy. You have to be careful when biting into one of these as they do have a tendency to be so juicy that they squirt hot liquids across the table or onto yourself. It's happened many times and can be funny and painful at the same time, not to mention the much-needed heavy use of Spray-and-Wash on your tops afterwards.

A pretty nice box for green onion patties. Very interesting poem on packaging.Very interesting cooking instructions, too.Frozen Green Onion PattiesFlaky green onion patties.


He makes several different items other than the many types of dumplings, such as green onion patties, and red bean paste patties. I'm not a big fan of his green onion patties as I think they aren't flaky/layered enough, but too much of a doughy texture. He must be doing something right, because this little joint must be a little gold mine, as my friend who owns the place often makes his deliveries in his sparkling yellow Porshe 911. I guess I'm contributing to his wealth. My friends and family will place their orders through me. Maybe, I should be asking for a discount, shouldn't I?

Dipping Sauce

How could I deny myself the pleasure of standing there and wrapping these dumplings for my loving family? Well, at 50 dumplings for $10 for the plain pork filled dumplings, it's a lot easier to buy than to make. Time is money, isn't that how the saying goes??

There are many ways that I cook my dumplings:

**DO NOT DEFROST BEFORE COOKING**

Way #1: To cook these delicious dumplings the faster way, just drop these suckers into a huge pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes and serve in chicken broth.

Way #2: Boil a large pot of water. Drop the dumplings in until they are done, around 10 minutes. Heat a frying pan and coat pan with cooking oil. Place dumplings on pan to brown one side and serve.

Way #3: Arrange dumplings neatly with the pinched side up in a large skillet with lid. Add about a 1/2" of water and cover. Turn to medium high heat and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until all the water has evaporated being careful not to burn the dumplings. Remove when bottoms of dumplings are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Dipping sauce:

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp chili paste
1 close minced garlic
a dash of sesame oil

Mix and stir together all ingredients in a small bowl and serve.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy 40th Linda!!







It was one of my best-friend cousin's milestone 40th birthday on Thursday and a few of us gathered for lunch to ring in the new decade with her! She'd been celebrating for the last 2 weeks with her other friends already so we thought why not jump on the bandwagon? I thought since she's been continually celebrating, she's probably had so much cake that she wouldn't want another bite. This is why I decided that cookies would be a nice change.

It was also Lauren's last day at preschool so I doubled the batch, and with the help of the kids, we rolled and baked the cookies. I decorated them using a #8 round tip for the spirals and a #4 tip for the writing. Now that I'm looking at the pictures, maybe I should have done pink instead of orange icing. They still were very pretty and these were a hit!

For the recipe, follow this link:
http://chiccookiekits.blogspot.com/2008/11/cookie-dough-and-frosting-recipes.html