Monday, 3 December 2012

Mac & Cheese Mondays: Herbed Mac & Cheese

Soooooo - I have something to tell you.  I'm not ACCURATELY reviewing this recipe from Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker.

The reason I'm not accurately reviewing this recipe is - because - well.....  One of the major components is mushrooms.

BEFORE you start telling me about how wonderful and delicious mushrooms are and how their awesome flavour creates magical happenings in all your dishes, I want to you to understand something.

I LOATHE mushrooms in a way that cannot be described.  I believe they have their own special circle in hell.  The second - no - in the MILIsecond that I know I have a mushroom in my mouth, I am forced to completely eject everything in my mouth into a napkin or a garbage can.

Picture this, if you will - a lovely, sunny summer afternoon.  A little girl of about 6 and her brother of 4 are outside in the backyard playing when their mother calls them in.  They both come in chewing away in delight.  The mother proceeds to tell them to open their mouths when they refuse to tell her what they are eating.  They finally oblige and the mother finds their mouths chock full of backyard mushrooms. 

The mother FREAKS and rushes the little children to the emergency room.  The little brother of 4 is promptly given ipecac and smartly does what the ipecac is designed to make him do.  The little girl, however, after seeing what happens to her brother, promptly develops an iron stomach and somehow HOLDS BACK.  Ipecac will not work on this little girl.  So the doctor, in a worried fit, gives the little girl activated charcoal. 

Yep - you read that right, ACTIVATED CHARCOAL.  The little girl with the iron stomach finally relinquishes her overwhelming plethora of backyard mushrooms and they are both sent home safe and sound. 

No mushroom poisoning for those two.

It wasn't until I was 30 or so that I discovered that most varieties of mushrooms that grow in our backyards are actually edible and WON'T poison you, and that if you have an abundance of mushrooms in your backyard, you should get out there with a mushroom field guide and harvest away!

In one serving of activated charcoal, this little girl went from swiping and chowing down on mushrooms off the grocery store shelf when her mother wasn't looking, to a grown-up girl who will spit and gag in a public place if even the tiniest of morsels of mushrooms get into her mouth.


Clearly my hand is being forced in this situation.

Let's move on to this recipe.  You don't really want to hear about any more of my childhood trauma.

Originally, I was going to opt out of using fresh herbs and just use dried in this recipe.  But because I was taking out a major flavour component, I needed to do something else. 

So fresh herbs it had to be - even though I now owe the grocery store my first born child because fresh herbs cost, like, a zillion dollars in Canada.

Here's all the stuff.

To start off with, melt some butter in a pot.

Then add the flour and whisk to combine.

Then add the chopped fresh herbs.

Then slowly add the milk and stir constantly until thickened.

Once the milk has thickened, add the cheeses and salt and pepper.  Stir until all the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened up even more.

Then add the cooked pasta and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Pour the pasta and sauce into a casserole dish and top with some extra cheese.

In a separate bowl, melt butter and mix with any type of breadcrumb, I used Panko - because they were in my pantry.

Bake in a preheated oven until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce bubbles - mine took about 20 minutes.

Let stand for about 5 minutes and then serve.

I liked that I'd get a little bit of each different herb in each bite.  The Tarragon really stood out the most overall in the dish.

This mac and cheese was great as is, and if you're brave enough to make it with the mushrooms I think it would be just fine too!

Just leave out the activated charcoal.

This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Winter's Here In Canada!

Well - Winter's been here in Canada for a while now.  The snow at least.  Winter doesn't officially start until December 21st.

Here's what you may or may not know about the Great White North. 

It's darn cold.

Darn TOOTIN' it's cold!

The temperature as of 6:45am on November 28th, 2012 in my little world....

Was this.......

And we're not anticipating a warm-up of any kind over the next few days.

One of the guys I work with - we call him "Killer" (I have no idea why) - says that whatever the temperature/weather pattern is like on the day of the full moon, we can expect that type of weather for some time.

So according to Killer's theory, it's going to be cold and clear for a couple of weeks.

Does anyone in the world know if this is true, or if he's feeding me LIES. 

(I'm kind of gullible)

I look forward to your pity!  Cause I'm having a pity party of my very own!

The frozen Cane girl.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Mac & Cheese Mondays: Grown Up Mac & Cheese

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Aaaahh yes - FINALLY.  Mac and Cheese Mondays is back.

I can make all kinds of excuses for myself, but honestly - things have been TOTALLY nuts over the last couple of months.

And suddenly it's November.

Please forgive me!  *sniff*

When Michelle's recipe for Grown Up Mac & Cheese came into my rotation, I was so excited.

Cause something with the words "Grown Up" in the title has GOTTA make me sound all mature and crap. 

Also, it gave me an opportunity to delve into the realm of new cheeses.  Like blue cheese.  I've never been sure that I would like blue cheese - since I tend to prefer things a little more on the sweet side. 

Not that cheese is sweet.

Turns out - I don't like sharp cheese. 

But since I promised Victoria that she would read all about it on the blog - here it is!

First, cook your pasta of choice to al dente, drain, and set aside.

Then, fry up some bacon until it's crispy.

In a pot, melt some butter.

Add some flour and stir until smooth and combined.

In a separate pot, heat some milk.

Add the hot milk to the butter mixture and heat until thickened.

Then add in the Gruyere, sharp cheddar, and blue cheese.

Stir until melted.

Add the pasta and the bacon and stir until well combined.

Pour the pasta mixture into a casserole dish and top with bread crumbs then bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden and the pasta is bubbling.

I actually pulled mine out at about 30 minutes.

So, this little girl that I adore completely - my niece Dannika - scarfed down her whole helping (and all her asparagus!) without having to be coaxed or bribed at all. 

Now, I'm not sure if she scarfed the whole thing down because she LIKED it - or simply because it was macaroni and cheese - which she loves.

Who knows.

As for me?  I'm going to stick with the medium flavoured cheeses.  Sharps are just not my thing.

This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Fall Maple Mania: Maple Stout Bread

I realised today that I have done only TWO posts for Fall Maple Mania.  And I'm not going to make any excuses except for the fact that I totally had the flu plague and spent my whole one week off laying on the couch trying not to die.

Well, that's a little extreme.  Although at one point I convinced myself that I had pneumonia.  And then later on I convinced myself I had meningitis.  I didn't Google my symptoms because I didn't want to freak myself out. 

I eventually got better just in time to go back to work.  Blech.

And even though it looks like THIS outside.....

The calendar still says it's "Fall" so I can still post Fall Maple Mania recipes!

On with the show....

My Aunty Linda and Edward came to visit me!

Well - not really to visit ME, they came for an anniversary party and I just happened to be the icing on the cake and they stayed with me for a couple of nights.

Free lodging and all that.

JUUUUST kidding!

For me, Guinness beer is synonymous with Aunty Linda and Edward.  Not only because Edward LIKES Guinness beer, but also because their crazy little dog's name is Guinness.

And when I stumbled across this Maple Stout Bread from Girl Versus Dough I figured I could kill two birds with one stone.

Here's what you'll need to make this.

Make sure you butter and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Start out by whisking together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Then beat together brown sugar and butter until combined.

Add the eggs one at a time.

Then add vanilla to the beaten mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix together the beer, sour cream, and maple syrup.

Add one third of the flour to the butter mixture.  Then half of the beer mixture.  Another third of the flour, the rest of the beer, and then the last bit of the flour.

Pour into the pan that was buttered and floured.

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes.  Mine wasn't ready at 45 minutes and I think I left it in the oven for another 10....

Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

While the loaf is cooling, make a glaze with maple syrup, icing sugar, and milk.

I thought this would be thick enough as written, but I actually ended up adding way more icing sugar to make it to the consistency I wanted.  Then I added TOO much and had to add a little maple syrup to thin it out.

Once it's the consistency I wanted I poured it over the loaf.  With a bit of parchment to catch the excess - which I went ahead and poured back on top of the loaf.

And then I left it to sit to firm up.

The flavour of this bread-cake was, what I could only describe as, deep and sultry.  It was completely decadent, moist and tender.  The taste of the beer was definitely there, and it had undertones of maple.

It was a completely divine, easy bread-cake that I would serve at morning coffee, afternoon tea, or as an after-dinner treat.

And, if you'll pardon me - I need to run off and add this to my personal files immediately.


This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Fall Maple Mania: Maple Dijon Chicken

I keep telling you about how Pinterest is ruining my life in the best way...  This is yet another recipe that was splashed all over the main page of Pinterest really regularly.

After looking at it a little more closely, I found that people fell into two camps.  Those who loved it and those who hated it.

It seriously piqued my interest.

I decided to switch out the chicken thighs for chicken breasts - because of my own personal preference.

You know how I feel about chicken thighs.

In order to figure out how I would need to change the cooking temp and cooking time to accommodate the chicken breasts, I read through a ton of reviews and here's a little summary of what I would need to do.

Reduce the temperature by 50 degrees F.  Cook for less time.  Double the sauce.  Possibly reduce the amount of Dijon to make sure it's not too heavy.

Here's what I did.

To a bowl add the Dijon mustard.

Then add the maple syrup.

Then the rice wine vinegar.

And whisk until smooth and combined.

Line an appropriately-sized baking dish with aluminum foil.  PS - I'm so glad I did this because it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to clean after the fact.

You will also notice that I do NOT own a baking dish smaller than 9x13.  So I made my own with foil.

Salt and pepper the chicken and add to dish.

Pour the sauce over the chicken.

And bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Then up the temp to 450 degrees F for the last 5 minutes.

Let's start off by saying this.  I doubled the glaze/sauce and I'm glad I did.  When the chicken was done, the glaze/sauce was nearly completely boiled off.

Nextly, I personally didn't enjoy this - but my Aunty and Uncle said they did.  If they liked it I'm happy.  If they were stroking my ego (which I need to have done regularly) - well.  The truth shall set you FREE.  I found it to be far to tart & mustardy for my tastes.

My recommendations?  Reduce the amount of Dijon to 1/3 cup and the vinegar to 1/2 Tablespoon.  Double the glaze/sauce.  Bake at a lower temperature for longer to keep the glaze/sauce from boiling off.  Maybe 350 degrees for 40 minutes?

Another edition of Fall Maple Mania - in the bag.  This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

How to Clean Weatherseal from Vinyl Siding

I know that this is kind of out of the normal "realm" of things - but this created a lot of frustration for me over the last few months.

Back in July, I cleaned and weathersealed my wood deck.  I used a tinted Thompson's Weatherseal.  I was very happy with how it looked once it was finished being applied.

Of course, true to fashion, the week I decided that this needed to get done, it was 35 degrees C everyday.  Which meant that I had a time frame of only a few hours in the morning to apply the weatherseal when it was semi-cool in order for the weatherseal to spread on the wood nicely and when I wasn't bound to DIE of heat exhaustion. 

5am to 10am.  That was it. 

Any other time and it was too hot or I didn't have enough light.

So with no rain in the forecast, I would get up at the crack of insane and start weathersealing the deck.  I think it took me about 3 or 4 mornings.

I have a big deck!  Also, I did my front step.

When it came time to do the outside of the lower deck, it never occurred to me to put painter's tape on the vinyl siding.  Maybe because it was the crack of crazy and all my poor brain could conceive was "weatherseal the deck, weatherseal the deck".

And I made a MESS.  While the deck looks fantastic - the vinyl siding was a colorful array of white and the brown weatherseal.

Lovely right?  And that spot wasn't too bad....

I had no idea how to clean it off when I was done. 

Clearly, water wouldn't work.  Considering it's a WATER SEALANT.

I snooped around and snooped around on the Internet.  No one seemed to have any answers. 

I was completely terrified to use a paint thinner because I didn't want to strip the colour off the vinyl siding.

I did find a video on You Tube where this guy used Fast Orange with pumice and cleaned up his siding - I tried that, but it didn't work.

Then, a light bulb went off over my head.  Seriously, if I'd run to the mirror in that instant I could have seen it.  Like in a cartoon.

Clearly, an acetone like paint thinner was not an option....  But what about NON-acetone nail polish remover???? 

As luck would have it - I had some from 800 years ago hiding under my bathroom sink.  (I'm pretty sure almost EVERYONE has nail polish remover under their sinks that they don't use because they're like me and don't bother with their nails - but they still have the remover....  It's a fact - run and check under your bathroom sink - there's a big chance that there's some under there.)

I tried it out on a small bit of vinyl siding in the back of the deck where you wouldn't see if the colour was stripped from the siding.

You know what?  It WORKS.

So I wanted to share it with you here today, just in case someone out there in the big wide web needs help cleaning weatherseal from vinyl siding.

Here's what you're going to need.

Cotton pads (I use these ones to remove make-up), non-acetone nail polish remover, a scrub brush, a soft cloth, a bucket of warm, soapy water, the hose to rinse, and a heck of a lot of elbow grease and time.

Here's the method that I found works the best.  Lightly saturate the cotton pads with non-acetone nail polish remover and press them onto the spots where the weatherseal is.  I found that mine actually stuck to the siding - which is great because the next step is to let those cotton pads with the non-acetone nail polish remover sit and soak for 20 minutes to half an hour.

After soaking, use those little pads to rub, rub, rub as much of the weatherseal off as you can.  Then, use the nail scrub brush to get in the grooves of the siding - if your siding is textured.  I found that if you dip the brush into a bowl with non-acetone nail polish remover in it, it's much more efficient.

Wipe down the now clean area with the warm, soapy water and spray down with clean water from the hose.

Those heavy spots will require a second treatment, or you could try and scrape them off with your nail.


Et voila!  Be prepared - depending on the amount of weatherseal you have to clean this could take quite some time.  My deck is 26 feet x 12 feet and it took me 6 hours to do 40% of the deck (that's my best guesstimate).

Always remember to test a small area in an inconspicuous spot to make sure that this procedure is appropriate for your situation.

Also, always remember to wear the proper safety equipment.  Gloves, safety glasses, and clothing you wouldn't mind getting destroyed (it could happen).

*I am not a professional.  This is just what worked for me.  If you are unsure, consult your local hardware store or paint specialist professional.*

I hope this is helpful to someone out there and that you'll be able to take advantage of my light bulb moment!!!

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.