Monday, October 31, 2011

Haunted Greetings!

There is ONLY 54 more days until Christmas.  Aisles in just about every shopping store have been committed to Red & Gold and all things sparkly.  As a matter of fact, this has been the case for several weeks already.  The Black and Orange and all things spooky are already collecting real cobwebs in crushed cardboard boxes shoved onto a clearance table.  How sad it is, that as a society, we seem to race through all the different holidays and changing seasons.   When it’s all said and done, another year has passed, chocolate has been consumed, spiders, cobwebs, and ghouls are tucked back into storage boxes and crammed back into storage all just to quickly move on to the next big occasion.  That is - IF you even bothered to get them all out and on display in the first place.
This year was a little different than previous years.  I BLINKED and it was the weekend of Halloween.  Seems like just last week we were floating on a turquoise lake, baking underneath the hot sun. **sigh** There are no eerie displays of graveyards or giants spider webs consuming the outside of our house.  There were no elaborate outfits and oily face paint.  That being said, we couldn’t just let this haunted season past by without a little participation…..
Instead of “spooking” out our full-sized house, We decided to scale it down a little, and I had the brilliant idea of purchasing a “cute” project for Jason and I to do together, thought why not, it has to be good for at least a laugh….and best of all - looks easy.  Boy was I wrong.
Whoever thinks that building a Haunted Gingerbread House is for just for kids is very mistaken.  It is a complex –patience testing project that should only be attempted by those who either have a lot of time on their hands, or vast amounts of beer and wine to give you the endurance required for project like this. OH, don't forget enough self control to not consume the glue (frosting) and decorations before completing the project. (the pre-packaged “kit” is portioned controlled!)  Black tongues (we had to make sure the glue tasted correctly), several hours of holding the walls up…and even an overnight drying session before we could be assured the house would even continue to stand, turned into a morning decorating session… carefully watching as the jelly beans slowly drooped off the roof until the glue (frosting) dried enough to hold….whew.   All said and done, we conquered that stubborn Haunted Gingerbread House  kit finally.  In my opinion - I don’t think our little “fun” project turned out THAT bad:

Our Spooky Home

Even though our “full sized” house didn’t get all decked out, we just couldn't over look the traditional pumpkin carving.  An evening trip to the local grocery store had us digging through the “leftover” pumpkins(as of course we left the pumpkin hunt to the weekend of Halloween), searching for the perfect additions.  The intent was to get 1 “each”, doing the complicated math long hand; that would mean 2 pumpkins total.  What came home in the trunk of the car was double.  I mean, really, we couldn’t just leave one (or two) behind, how would you feel if you were the LAST one.  The one sitting in the crushed cardboard bin, all lonely…knowing you were the one no one wanted….   The only right thing to do, was bring all 4 home.
Living up to some of the names people call me…(Martha)… I couldn’t just carve out a simple toothless grin and dorky eyes.  I had to challenge myself.  I HAD to choose the carvings that would test my skills using the “pumpkin master’s tools” that I just HAD to have last year…. 
Our Pumpkin "Family"
Even my honey was a ROCKSTAR this year!!
Hopefully these will show the neighborhood kids, we aren’t looking for an “egging”, we are just a little more....ummm…subdued… this year…  There’s still candy to be handed out, and I promise, not ALL the good stuff has been eaten yet... 
The fact that we are lacking in the “trick-or-treating-kids” department didn't stop us this year from some halloween festivities.  We have our beloved Duke, who is a very forgiving, always wanting to please Border Collie.  May as well throw in  “Dog Snob” to the list of names, and yesterday, after dressing Duke into his own Dragon costume, I believe I’ve earned my right to be said “Dog Snob”.Duke was fantastic amongist a  chaotic scene of pets and their human owners alike, at one point even played a little shy, trying to give me hugs and cuddle in close.   I have to give huge props to our local Bosleys Pet Food Plus store ( ) as they do throw a cute little “Yappy Hallowe'en Event”, which pet owners where invited to dress up their beloved pet and take them to the store where they were able to socialize a little, try several “cookies” and take home their own trick-or-treat bag of sample goodies.  All this after having their pictures taken by Now there is a women with patience and obviously a love for animals, even those dressed as dragons, devils and pumpkins!  I can’t wait to see how Duke’s portrait turned out!  (yes...*eyerolls* I am one of THOSE pet owners)  When all was said and done, we had one pooped lil’ dragon, and a couple good giggles of the outfits that some people made their dogs (and even a tuxedo wearing cat) parade out in public with. 

Duke in Dragon costume, enroute to Bosley's!

The last bit of celebrating comes in the form of the annual company potluck.  The one where you are supposed to be a little bit more creative than normal, and come up with a “spooktacularly scrumptious”item to share…. Being that I had committed myself to several hours of sawing and carving out of pumpkins, I had little time left of the weekend to prepare a truly unique snack.  During a mad-dash grocery shop post Yappy Halloween Event, leaving an exhausted Duke Dog and a hungry man waiting in the car with pizza ready for pick up….  I came up with these:
Lazy-Girl Dirt-n-Worms Cupcakes
·         Butter Pecan Cake Mix (yes yes I know I cheated)
·         3 eggs / milk / oil  (all the requirements on the back of cake box above)
·         Mini cupcake pans
·         1 prepared batch of Cookies&Cream Pudding (YES, another boxed item in the baking supplies aisle)
·         Chocolate cookie crumbs
·         Bag of sugared gummy worms
·         Halloween cupcake liners
Mix up cake batter per directions on the box
Fill mini-cupcake pans ¾ of way with batter
Bake until toothpick comes out clean
Place 1 mini cupcake into each cupcake liner (I used full sized liners so I’d have room for the worm and pudding)
Dollop of pudding onto each cupcake, sprinkle the chocolate crumbs on top of cupcake/pudding. 
Decorate with sugared worms.  POOF – in less than 20 minutes, you’ve got yourself a spooky snack to share.
To all of those who will be out haunting the streets this evening; enjoy.  I hope you bring home pillow cases stuffed of “full sized” yummy treats.  To those of us who do not have the pleasure escorting the various lil’ goblins around… make sure before you pack away the spiders, webs and gravestones to haul out the decorations for the next upcoming holiday season, take a moment to stop and enjoy something SPOOKTACULAR.  Time flies fast enough on its own.  It doesn’t need our help.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Italian Ukie

I’m in LOVE.  YUP.. I said it… L-O-V-E.   Last Christmas.. my special someone…  purchased me the perfect accessory for "my" kitchen….  Kitchenaid’s – 90th Anniversary Edition – CANDY APPLE RED – with a GLASS BOWL - Stand mixer… **sigh**  At the time.. I was like.. could it get any better?!  WELL.. it did.  That same special someone.. bought me the pasta maker attachment package!  -dough roller, fettuccini, and spaghetti  cutters.  **sigh**


Of Course, I have to play.  At first – your basic fettuccini. If you’ve never had fresh made pasta, you have got to try this!! Using the mixer, and the pasta roller / cutter attachments, in about the time it takes to make the sauce, boil the water, and toss a salad... you can have fresh pasta all ready to toss into the pot.   Any extra cut pasta noodles, wrap into loose “nests” and freeze.  1 batch of dough made enough fettuchini for about 4 healthy servings and then some.  Of course, I had to take it to the next level, and ravioli was the next logical step.  Digging through the fridge and freezer, I ended up with 2 fillings.  Spinach and Ricotta as well as Spicy Italian Sausage – YUM YUM … 
Basic Dough Recipe (gotta love google & Masterchef!) 
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Using a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, place all flour into the bowl, and pour eggs in slowly why the hook was on the low speed.  Increase to a medium speed for a few minutes, until all combined, and dough ball forms on the hook.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead dough until most of the “crumbly” dough is incorporated into a smooth mound.  (don't get frustrated... I find pasta dough to be quite stubborn and tough) Wet your hand with a little bit of water to help with forming the dough from the crumb balls if required. 
Dough can/will be stiff – and can be difficult to knead. 
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for at least 20 minutes.  This allows the gluten to form.
From there… use your imagination!

New favorite kitchen gadget!
If you are proceeding to roll by hand be prepared for an arm workout. Make sure to roll it as thin as possible!  Using the pasta roller attachment, and working with small disks of dough, knead your way through the roller settings to prep for cutting pasta into noodles – or, working through the roller settings to desired thickness– I made ravioli. (Use egg whites as your “glue” for the ravioli layers)

yes yes.. little "rough" round the edges.. but it was my first shot at it!
mmmmmmmmm YUM YUM
Keep the dough covered when not in use – and whatever left over pasta you make… cover and freeze – use cookie sheets and lay flat until frozen (then you can transfer to ziplock freezer bags).  Once you have the homemade stuff – it’ll be difficult to go back to “store made”!    Enjoy!
Spinach & Ricotta Filling
  • Medium container of ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 1lb fresh, chopped spinach
  • ½ cup finely diced onions
  • 2 cloves, minced garlic (fresh is best!)
  • 1 egg
  • Salt / pepper to taste
In a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add onion, garlic with a tablespoon olive oil to pan.  Stir frequently for about 2-3 mins, or until onion is almost clear in colour.  

In a medium sized bowl, add ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, 1 egg, and mix.  Pour in cooked onion / garlic.
In same frying pan, add 2 tablespoons water, as well as chopped spinach, wilt spinach over medium heat stirring frequently.
Remove wilted spinach, place on chopping board and let cool. Using a clean kitchen towel, dab out as much water as possible from spinach.
Add cooled, drained, chopped spinach to cheese mixture and give it a good stir – filling is ready for the ravioli!

A Walk in the Park

Since I relocated to the West Coast, one of the things I have always made sure to never take for granted, is the beautiful natural surroundings.  It is often too easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day activities of a full time, Monday-Friday working life.  Weekends can all too easily be spent trying to catch up with the famously evasive dust bunny, or the over flowing basket of the week’s past fashion attempts.  Even worse, they can be spent trying to “catch up” with whatever “work” wasn’t completed within said “Monday to Friday" work week.

A few weekends ago, on a we’re staying “in-town”, have “too much chores to do”, “best of intentions” kind of weekend something happened.  OK… sadly… about 4-5ish “somethings” followed by several “shots of somethings” which was after the debut of my homemade ravioli (YUM), and a FAILED attempt of pairing red wine with red velvet mousse cake  AND technology showed us a forecast that included “Sun, warmth, and zero chance of precipitation”.  Dust Bunnies…what dust bunnies?!?!  VIOLA, we were spending our Sunday hiking the trails – destination Alder Flats in Golden Ears Provincial Park.
If you were to “google” the Hike to Alder Flats, you would find “West Canyon Trail (Golden Ears Trail): West Canyon parking lot to Alder Flats. Hiking trail only (5 kilometres; suggested time: 2 1/2 hours (one way); elevation change: 250 metres). Trail follows an old logging grade for 3.2 kilometres then swings uphill”

After spending a summer enjoying “bubbly drinks”, vitamin D sessions underneath the Okanagan sun and purely just being lazy, it was an eye opener.  Doable yes.  Record breaking return trip – not-so-much.    That being said, in the words of my dad, it was absolutely a “Chamber of Commerce” kind of day.  The sun was shining, no hungry bears were to be seen, and as we approached the flats, the crisp mountain air seemed to refresh and revive the soul. 
hmmm...  5km marker, yet we were not at our destination...

As the part of the trail that "swings uphill" one has to switch it into Mountain Goat Drive and proceed up steep rocky creek beds, and navigate over the numerous and slippery natural bridges.  Quite the sight to see knowing that "someone" actually took the effort to create this pathway up to the Summit. 

Wooden pathway

Lesson learned…
  • Always carry your “cougar rock” – NO, not THOSE kind of cougars…. 
  • I live with a mountain goat  (a cute one though)  xor
  • Trail markers are there for a reason
  • There are a BILLION types of mushrooms out there, just waiting to be photographed using digital macro
  • Hiking to Alder Flats leaves you craving the need to continue the hike up to the summitt
  • My knees act like I'm 100 years old when climbing down the rocky slope (apparently I do not naturally have mountain goat tendencies)
  • Starting to hike in mid-October, is just a tease.  Mountain trails turn to ice & snow all too quickly     
Roundtrip – just under 4 hours.  Not too shabby, if my opinion counts....even if it was "only a walk in the park".

View from Alder Flats - Golden Ears Summit

Had to add this picture in...this little tree found on a huge crater, on Alder Flats, literally growing on a thin bed of moss....