Friday, December 21, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had this idea that being on parental leave would give me a lot of time to clean up at home and make nice meals that were well on their way to being ready when R got home.  In reality, getting the previous night's dishes done is about the extent of my household chore productivity (yeah - we're not the type that can't go to bed with dirty dishes - sorry Giz). 

Since I often nap at the same time as Ms. E (to catch up on the previous night's insomnia), getting chores done means that I have to use the bouncer/playmat/swing/etc. to "babysit" longer than what I'd like.   

In the case of these cookies, I almost made it through completing them during naptime.  But, the last couple of trays were the most memorable.  Imagine me yelling to Ms. E from the kitchen -- "hang on sweetie -- I just have to finish putting these cookies on the tray and then I'll be right there!"  Of course, my four month old was very understanding of this, which she demonstrated by crying louder.   

If it's any consolation -- they are really tasty!  Kudos goes to R's mom for sending the recipe.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup melted margarine
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin filling (I was generous and added closer to 2 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tsps. baking powder
1 1/2 baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 bag of choc. chips
3 cups flour
Mix ingredients in order given (mixed the wet and dry ingredients separately, first and then added the dry to the wet). Drop by tsp. on greased cookie sheet. Bake 350 for 10 minutes.

I made these cookies for a playgroup I held at my house.  They were so delicious and soft.   Sometimes I find that pumpkin affects the smell and colour of a dessert more than flavour.  But, this is not the case for these cookies!

Along with the cookies, I served a small cheese platter and some fruit. 


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mandarin Vanilla Jam

I often find this time of year to be difficult.  The days are so short (it's pretty much dark by 4:30pm) and the weather alternates between rain, snow, freezing rain and cold (or a combination).  Possibly the hardest thing about this is that I know it's just the beginning.  It's not even winter yet, technically.  

Mandarins are one of the few redeeming things about this time of year.  We've already gone through about four 5 kg boxes.  One of those went to making mandarin jam.  I have been wanting to make mandarin jam for a couple of years now.  Last year, the time got away from me and before I knew it, the grocery store stopped carrying mandarins.  

After spending some time scouring the internet for recipes, I came across this post.  I made a variation of the recipe, using more oranges and adding two vanilla beans.

Mandarin Vanilla Jam


1 kilo (generous 2 lbs) mandarins, any variety: clementines, tangerines, satsumas, etc., preferably organic
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar, or more to taste
juice of 2-3 lemons
2 sticks of vanilla, split down the middle
Wash 2-3 of your mandarins and zest them, carefully avoiding the white pith underneath. You should have about a tablespoon. Peel all of your fruit, removing as much of the pith and filaments as possible. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, cut each mandarin in half around its equator, and pick out any seeds (I didn't bother doing this since they didn't have seeds). Place the halves along with any juice they've expelled in a food processor and process for about a minute (careful not to fill too much because the juice will leak out the top), until you have a more or less smooth puree.

Combine the mandarin puree, tablespoon of zest, sugar and lemon juice in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat so it continues to boil gently. Allow the mixture to cook, stirring occasionally, until it sets, about 25-30 minutes (I left it on closer to 45 minutes and still found that it wasn't that thick -- possible because I used more oranges. 

To test the set, place a small saucer in the freezer for a couple of minutes, then drizzle a teaspoon of hot jam on it. Allow to cool, then run your finger through it. If it holds the trough, it's set. Also taste for sweetness at this point - if you think it could use more, add a bit more sugar and cook another minute or two; do the same with lemon juice if the acidity needs some perking up.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal tightly and turn upside down until cool. Or use your tried-and-true canning method. Or simply keep in a closed container in the fridge for up to a month.

Verdict:  So far, so good.  It's a lighter flavour than my berry jams.  For example, I tried the mandarin jam with peanut butter and the flavour didn't come through very much.  I'm going to try it as a topping on ice cream or with pancakes.  But, I'm quite happy that it turned out!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Today is the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012.  So I'm going to try to post one photo per hour for every hour.  This may just turn into 12 pictures of Ms. E (my four month old). The twelve photos event is being hosted by Miss Fish.  This is the second time I'm participating in an hourly photo event (here's the first time). 

5:30 am - managed to get Ms. E to go to sleep early yesterday.  In turn, she woke up at I'm hoping she'll tire herself out on the playmat.

9:00 am -The mat worked.  We got another couple hours of sleep.  Here Ms. E was nursing until she saw my smartphone - a distracting device for sure.  

10:00am - catching up on dishes while baby "naps" -- turns out she wasn't in a deep enough sleep to stay asleep after being put down in crib.  So, she spent time looking around her crib and sucking on a blanket. 
11:00am - Visit to Milkface -- a local store that sells babywearing and nursing attire.

12:00ish - returned books to the library and picked out 6 new baby books.  This is mostly for us since we get bored of the same books.  I don't know if Ms. E even notices -- she's more interested in scratching, shutting and trying to eat the books.  

1:00ish - looking at the "to do" list.  Yes, "put old hockey back in the garbage" is on the list.  Gotta have items that are easy to accomplish (and that get R to part with his ratty old bag that is sitting on the floor of our garage).

2:00ish - reviewing a report. Got 2 pages in before E woke up. No idea how ppl work from home with a baby. (image deleted -- turned out clear enough to read when it's not a final draft)
3:00ish - love when my cloth diapers are all clean.  I always thought a wipe warmer was frivilous.  But, I've come to love mine because it allows me to easily use little washable "face" cloths instead of disposable wipes.
5:00ish - stack of baby clothes to be sorted.  Need to come to terms with the outfits that no longer fit. 
6:00ish - R is home and is reading one of the books from the library to Ms. E. 
7:00ish -- clothes shuffled and back in closet -- out with the newborn-3 month, in with the 12 month sizes. 
8:00ish -- looking for something interesting to take a picture of.  So tired -- only interested in this:


Friday, December 7, 2012

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

First - let me start by announcing the winner of Lidia's Favourite Recipes!   

suburban prep

Congratulations!  I'll be contacting you right away.


Today's post is also about an Italian recipe: minestrone soup.  All it took was seeing minestrone soup a couple of times on various blogs and some cold weather and I found myself with a serious craving.  I decided to make it when my parents came for a visit, last week.  

Thinking about this soup and having to make several meals for 6+ people (Actor Boy and his friend were in town too) inspired me to menu plan for the whole week.  I knew organization would be critical since making quick trips to the grocery store can be a big production with a baby in the winter (or any time of year).  I was so proud of myself, I even e-mailed this photo to Giz with the caption: Guess who is finished grocery shopping at 9am on a Saturday!

Okay -- maybe it's not that miraculous.  But we're usually Sunday night shoppers, just before the store closes, when the shelves are getting sparse.   Plus, I get excited about being able to do chores since most of my time goes to Ms. E.  Yup -- you know you're the life of the party when you get excited about being able to do household chores.

Anyway -- all that to say.  This recipe was a hit!  I'm already planning to make it again.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 cups water (I used 1L of vegetable broth)
2 cups diced zucchini (I used 3 medium)
1 cup diced carrot, peeled
1 cup canned cannellini beans or 1 cup you may use other white beans
3/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
28 fluid ounces canned plum tomatoes, dice and include liquid
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup uncooked ditalini or 1/4 cup elbow macaroni (used 1/2 of ditalini and may use more in the future)


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add chopped onion, carrots and celery and sauté for 4 minutes or until just lightly browned.  

Add water/broth, zucchini, canellini beans, celery, basil, oregano salt, pepper, tomatoes and garlic. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add macaroni, cover and cook an additional 10 minutes.

Adjust spices to suit your taste.

I also served with parmesan cheese, for people to add as desired.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Favourites with the Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club

One of my fondest Christmas memories takes me back to a Christmas Eve dinner I was invited to share with Italian friends.  I never refuse an invitation that gives me an opportunity to share cultural traditions that are foreign to me.  I was invited to a Feast of the Seven Fishes, the typical meatless meal served by many Christian cultures.  I was fascinated - by the symbolism of the seven sacraments and also the care with which this fish and seafood dinner is prepared and presented.

Cioppino is a wonderful seafood dish often associated with San Francisco and has as many variations as it does cooks who prepare it. Dead simple to make, cioppino is both impressive and delicious and needs only a slice of good sourdough bread to help sop up the sauce.


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup prechopped onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 8 ounces sea scallops
  • 8 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained


Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper to pan; sauté for 2 minutes. Add mussels, scallops, and shrimp to pan; sauté for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup clam juice, parsley, and diced tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until mussels open, and discard any unopened shells.

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