Archive | February 2012

Two-Ingredient Lemon Bars…Sort Of!

This post is not how I plan for my baking posts to go.  This is a good recipe that needed tweaking so when you get to the end you can read my ideas of what I would/will do differently.

This recipe jumped out at me for two reasons when I first found it on Pinterest: it was lemon flavoured and it only took two ingredients.  (Two ingredients I didn’t have mind you!).  I used two sites for this recipe.  The Pinterest link took me to an altered version of the recipe (here) but I wanted to start with true original (here).

It took me all of about five minutes to decide to make this recipe.  I needed two ingredients: angel food cake mix and canned lemon pie filling.  I have NEVER seen canned lemon pie filling but I know how to make it from a mix (that we likely had in the house) so all I needed was an angel food cake mix.  Well we definitely didn’t have any, but would a white cake mix suffice?…Sure it would!  Off I went!

My Cast of Characters

Obviously because I was making the lemon pie filling my recipe was a tad longer than two ingredients.  My recipe was more like 5 ingredients (white cake mix, lemon pie filling powder, egg yolks, water and butter).   I simply followed the instructions on the pie filling box.

Once the pie filling was finished cooking I placed it on the deck (the natural refrigerator) to cool.  While it was cooling I greased and floured my 9″ x 13″ pan.  The recipe didn’t call for this but I know how well cakes release from un-greased cake pans and I wasn’t willing to let this experiment go down in a crumbly mess.

This is the point where the recipe matches up with the original.  I opened the cake mix and poured it into a large bowl, followed by the lemon pie filling.  The original recipe asked for one can of pie filling while the second recipe added two cans.  I figured I was adding what amounted to about two cans of pie filling (I was okay with more lemon flavour).

Pie Filling/Cake Mix

My oven was preheating to 350 degrees as I stirred the cake mix and pie filling together.  I was a little sceptical about how it was going to come together but there seemed to be a perfect amount of liquid to dry ingredients.

I poured the batter into the pan and spread it out to all corners (the mixture was quiet thick and sticky) and slid it into the oven for the recommended 20 minute bake time.

Cake in the Oven

After about 20 minutes I checked on the cake and it was still quite glossy looking on top and an inserted toothpick came out quite moist.  I added an additional 5 minutes and was pleased with how it looked and removed it to the counter to cool.

Cooling Cake

After a few minutes of cooling I sifted icing sugar (oops…ingredient number 6) over the top (to pretty it up) as recommended in the original recipe.  It sure stepped up the visual appeal and I must say the aroma was to die for!

Icing Sugar Decorations

As soon as I could, I cut a few squares to taste test and to model.  Taste testing went swimmingly – YUM!  Artsy photography not so much (I’m working on it – natural light is difficult to locate).

I chose to place these delicately lemon treats on my good set of dishes.  This is the first time I have broken out my set of good China and I am pleased to see I love it as much now as I did when I picked it out at 16.

Set for Tea

I debated whether or not to post this recipe as it didn’t 100% win me over but I need the practice writing so here we are.  Please bear with me while I nit-pick for a moment.

I deviated from the recipe by choosing white cake mix rather than angel food cake (which could be the main problem).  I imagine the angel food cake would lighten up the consistency of the recipe but not overly change in entirely.  The cake ended up quite moist and dense which I can tolerate but resulted in me not really wanting to make this recipe again.  I believe by adding the entire lemon pie filling it overwhelmed the cake and resulted in a dense cake that was almost too moist.  The title of this post and of the original recipe refer to the resulting lemon concoction as a square.  The fact that I cut this into square pieces is about all that makes it a square to me versus a lemon cake.

What would I do differently next time?  I would cut the amount of pie filling down by about a half.  I would be tempted to use the white cake mix still as the flavour combinations seemed to work.  I would consider making a Graham Cracker crust and using the same amount of batter but spreading it over two 9″ x 13″ pans to create two thinner cake.  I think the thinner profile and crust would make this into a perfect dessert square.   I also considered mixing in poppy seeds which would give it a little more visual appeal.  (I haven’t had any outsider feedback so this could just be me being overly critical.)

This recipe is tasty and I think would venture to try it again with some minor adjustments!

If you have tried this recipe please leave me a message and let me know how it turned out.

Jewels, My Baking Assistant...Being Very Helpful! Zzzz...

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I tend to flip-flop on whether or not I want to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  It’s great to have an excuse to fancy yourself up, go out for dinner and focus on the love between two people (which can so often be placed on the back burner).  But when it falls so closely to my Birthday I don’t really NEED the extra fuss and there is a special group of people who claim it is a Hallmark holiday so really, why bother?!  This year I have decided it is a great idea but have chosen to make it a do-it-yourself celebration (on my end).

On Saturday I was inspired by some of the “100 Reasons I Love You” lists I came across on the web.   I figured I could come up with some neat way to present the list but first issue first: I needed to come up with my reasons.  I love my boyfriend CB for so many reasons but how on earth would I put all those mushy feelings into words let alone come up with 100 reasons.  I wanted the reasons to be personal and meaningful.  Instead of stressing myself and scrapping the project I told myself to record as many as I could and see where I ended up.  On my first attempt I came up with eight.  Well eight wasn’t going to suffice to I thought about a few of the things we do together and what makes those times special and the ideas started flowing.  I kept the idea in my mind as I continued to browse the web for presentation ideas and kept adding to my list.  By the time I found a perfect way to present the reasons to CB I was well over 50 reasons.  That would be enough for now!

At first I figured I could decorate a Mason jar and cut the reasons into strips on pretty paper which CB could draw out to read.  This idea was simple and would do the trick but it just didn’t feel right.  I finally remembered seeing this neat idea on Pinterest which was a toy for kids but could be altered.  This idea luckily came with a great how-to on Instructables to make the Low Tech Cardboard TV Toy.   This was it!  The perfect idea!

I wasn’t making mine into a toy TV but more of  a Love Box with a scrolling list of things I love about CB.  I decided I would place the words “I love…” directly onto the box and would have the list of reasons scroll through the cut-out in the box.

I started by finding a cracker box and an empty wrapping paper tube (to use as the handles).  I formatted my list into two columns, printed and cut them out.  Once I had my list prepared I followed the instructions on the Instructables page to create the scroll.  Once I had all the holes cut in the box I decided I wanted to cover the Love Box in an old Valentine’s Day bag that I cut to match the outline of the box and taped it into place.

I was almost giddy when it was finally assembled and it actually worked!  The reasons scrolled properly, the box looked fabulous in the V-Day paper and it only took a few hours to get it together.  After a quick break for dinner I labelled the box and set a time to meet up with CB.  He insisted I was not allowed to give it to him yet (this was only February 11) but I was WAY to excited to hold on to it any longer!

The Love Box

I showed up to his house and forced it into his hands and taught him how to scroll through and I was so pleased to see the small grin creep across his face as he read through my reasons.  He loved reading the reasons and I loved seeing the smiles and laughs I created.   Definitely one of the most heartfelt gifts I think I have ever given and I love that he can keep it around to scroll through when you sometimes need a reminder of how much you’re loved.

Now that isn’t the end quite yet.  It’s tough for me to pass up the opportunity to bake and a holiday like Valentine’s Day is much too perfect.  So I threw together some cookies to give out to those I love.

I whipped up my favourite Peanut Butter Blossom recipe (I use peanut butter).  This recipe was initially made up for Halloween but I usually substitute plain Hershey Kisses or Hugs to make them more universal.  For Valentine’s Day I wanted to love them up a little bit so I found heart-shaped chocolates at Wal-Mart (not hard to come by at this time of year).  These are the ones I picked up:

Chocolate Hearts

I baked off the cookies as instructed in the recipe and pressed the un-wrapped chocolate hearts onto the tops of the cookies when they were still warm.

Just Placed the Chocolate Hearts

The finished product is pretty and delicious!

Valentine's Day Blossoms

Please feel free to try this recipe!  It is easy and yummy to the max.

Have a safe and happy Valentine’s Day.  And for those anti-Valentine’s Day people, you should still make these cookies, they are reason enough to be happy!

Leave me a comment below telling me what you do to make Valentine’s Day special.

A Side Note – Don’t Go Shooting Your Quills At Me

While out for my walk earlier today I had a hard time ridding my brain of the weekly tweets of @brontecreekpp regarding finding shed White Tailed Deer antlers.  My eyes were peeled and while I was reminiscing at the location of my brothers’ old fort I noticed an area of bare bark…(GASP…Oh excuse me for looking!) on one of the large trees nearby.

Bare Naked Bark

My initial reaction was deer rubs left behind prior to and/or during the annual rut (or fall mating season of our local White Tails).

Deer Rubbing

 

Deer Rub Scar

I was feeling pretty impressed by my nature knowledge and interesting find even though it wasn’t the highly sought after deer antler.  Well that was until I looked up…

More 'Scrapings'

Well I’ll be damned, there are some tall deer around here!

Not quite.  So the gears started turning.

There is a hollow in the tree and just so happens that most of the other bare bark occurs right around this natural nesting spot.  Who likes to sleep in trees and possibly chew or scrape at them?  Perhaps these scrapings are more likely to be feast scars of our dear prickly friend the North American porcupine who happens to LOVE the delectable flavour of tree bark.  Well it sure isn’t my cup of tea but maybe that’s because I don’t have a coat of soft fur and barb-ended quills!

I took a quick look around to see if I could find any other signs of a porcupine being in the area (I looked for a large brown lump in the branches) but nothing really presented itself so a quick Google image search when I got home confirmed the markings were porcupine gnaw marks.

No deer antler but still a find I am proud to share.

If you are interested in learning more about our dear friend the porcupine please check out the link for National Geographic below and be sure to listen to the sound clip!

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/porcupine/

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you’ve ever come across a nature mystery while on a walk.

(@adrianp_james maybe a deer leg in a tree?!)

A Sunny February Adventure

After spending three days staring out the window at the beautiful sunny weather I decided to kick my butt into gear and get outside.  I am lucky enough to have what seems like endless woodland bordering my parents property.  I have wandered these woods my entire life.  Certain locations bring back fun memories while in others I am creating new memories.

As a kid you wandered with little purpose other than to be away from the house and out in the sunshine.   My desire to wander these days is more a way to clear my head, bring myself back to what I really enjoy, seeing nature in its most basic setting, and reliving my park naturalist side.

Being located where I am in Ontario we are cursed fortunate enough to have a good coating of snow on the ground.  So this morning I put on my boots, old coat, hat and mitts and ventured out into the yard.

Dressed for the Stroll (serious business!)

As I started to walk I was immediately flooded with memories and certain places I wanted to cover while out for my walk.   Should I go see if by some chance there is ice in the quarry?  Take a walk by the stone where my most precious childhood pet is buried?  Check out the old mill silo that we were certain as kids was part of  a rocket ship?  Or, as I did today, just meander around searching for signs of life in the winter wonderland that is ‘our’ back yard.

I made sure to take my phone with me, for two reasons:  emergency purposes (certain people in my life worry that I will get eaten by coyotes or fall in the swamp), and also my iPhone has a wonderfully handy camera to take pictures of the dorky things I love about the outdoors.

The ground was scattered with what I believe to be coyote tracks, rabbit tracks and grouse tracks as well as many yellowed snow patches (we all have to go sometime, somewhere – I hold no judgement!).  My curiosity would get the better of me and as I noticed animal tracks headed under a juniper bush I would peer underneath hoping to find a cosy, snoozing creature – not this time!

Beyond the cedar trees there is a wonderful marshland that is always exciting to explore in the wintertime.  The past couple winters we have been able to head out onto the ice to explore beaver lodges up close and personal as well taking a look back at the shoreline from a new perspective.  Today, because it has been so mild and I was alone on my journey I did not head out onto the ice.  I love a nature adventure as much as the next guy, but not willing to be knee-deep in freezing cold water with no hope of being found.

I headed to my favourite spot along the shoreline where a natural spring enters the marsh.  The water is almost always free of ice in this spot and it creates a hub of activity for the busy beavers that live nearby.

Winters' Lifeline

I didn’t see any beavers milling around but lots of evidence that they have been working on some major construction projects.

The Latest Beaver Construction Project

Lots of trees large and small had been trimmed in the area.  I found myself standing under a precariously hanging tree swinging in the breeze.  I took a few steps away.  It was fascinating to me to see two main transportation routes established up the bank.  The paths were icy and could imagine just a few damp webbed feet had helped to establish these routes up and down the bank.

A Well Worn Path to Water

After exploring along the shoreline for a little while I decided to visit one more place before trekking back to the house.  Growing up with two older brothers there were many adventures and projects that occurred in this forest.  My brothers and a few co-conspirators decided to make an elaborate tree fort as teens.  They somehow managed to make the trek with the family lawnmower and trailer back into the bush with wood scraps, a generator and power tools to start this adventure.  I did had very little to do with this project but was on occasion present (invited or otherwise) to see how work was coming along.  It was excellent place to spend summer days as the tree fort was definitely a summer project.   The fort consisted of two platforms that connected two separate trees as well as a zip line from one tree to yet another tree.   As with many projects the fun wears off just as quickly as the plan came together.  The fort was never formally removed but nature has done its’ part to restore the natural setting with some minor remnants left behind.

Forest Fortress

It was now time for me to head back to the house.  The snow seemed to get twice as deep and difficult to trudge through on my walk home but I realized the heaviness in my feet was a result of the adventure being over… but luckily, only for today!