Monday, October 31, 2011

Pizza Dough Breadsticks

So a while ago we somehow ended up with absolutely nothing that we could have for lunch. We were busy working and cleaning and hadn't planned on doing groceries until the next day. We did have food but it consisted of mostly frozen meat, cereal and a couple of apples. There was no cheese, bread, deli meat or pasta. No potatoes for a quick batch of fries. What we did have was baking supplies, a bit of butter, garlic, a teeny bit of Italian seasoning and about a tablespoon of Parmesan stuck to the bottom of the tub.

We were pretty hungry (and also busy) so I didn't take any photos of the process and as you can see we already ate a bunch of what was there on the pan! These were easy to make, not much work at all, just a bit of waiting so we had some apples with almond butter while we waited and cleaned.
Just start by mixing up a batch of pizza dough. No need to let it sit and rise before you work with it this time though. I did mine 2 different ways. Jon wanted breadsticks and I wanted garlic bread so I cut the dough into 2 pieces, I half I flattened into a pie plate, the other half I rolled into sticks. Then I covered them with a clean tea towel and let them sit to rise for about 45 minutes or so.
When the time was up I turned my oven on to 400 and made my garlic butter. I just finely chopped a large garlic clove and microwaved it in about 2 tablespoons of butter. I brushed a bit over the breadsticks and then cut some grooves into the loaf of garlic bread and poured the rest over the top. Then everything got a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, Parmesan and sea salt. I popped them into the oven for about 20 minutes, the garlic bread needed an additional 5 due to the thickness.

These were sooo good even though we didn't have anything to use for a dipping sauce. We ate all of the garlic bread right away since it was so moist and garlicky, the breadsticks went with chili that we had for dinner.

I can't wait to try making these again, I'll probably just use a half batch of dough to do the garlic bread and add some cheddar on top to make garlic cheese bread.

Free Coffee at McDonald's in Canada Oct.31-Nov.6

Free small coffee all this week from McDonalds! 

No purchase or coupon necessary,  just go up and ask for a small coffee however you happen to take it.

We'll probably go every day this week since we have a McD's just a block away instead of making coffee at home in the afternoon, it will also be a nice treat when we go to pick up groceries tomorrow. Their coffee is surprisingly decent and you can't beat free!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

Lady LaLa (Alice) just turned a year old. Of course I made her a cake, I wasn't about to go out and buy her something from the store. I find that store bought cakes tend to have a way too sweet, greasy feeling frosting that seems like it's made with lard instead of real butter and usually only come in 2 flavors: white or brown. Not to mention the preservatives and whatnot they may contain, not something I want to give to a one year old. I could have made her a cake from a box but I wanted something with real veggies in it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Baked Mac and Cheese

Baked mac and cheese is something we have for dinner fairly often, it's quick, easy, filling and an ultimate comfort food. It's also a pretty cheap meal. You can add leftover ham, bacon or veggies to it and it makes enough for leftovers for lunch the next day.

Here's what you need:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of grated cheese (whatever kind you like, I usually use cheddar)
  • 1 bag of pasta (my bag is 500g)
  • about a quarter of a regular sized onion (or half of a small onion)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • a handful of crackers, whatever kind you like ( I stole some of Alice's Goldfish crackers), you can also use breadcrumbs 
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon oil
Start by getting the pasta on to cook, the sauce part won't take very long at all and it's easier if everything is ready at the same time.  You want the pasta a bit firm because it's going into the oven covered in sauce and it will finish cooking in there.


Finely dice the garlic and onion and fry in the oil until golden. Just a minute on medium heat should do it.

Onion and garlic frying up
Pour in the milk and continue cooking on medium.  I go ahead and give it a generous salt and peppering at this point, not sure why. Most people would wait until the sauce was done but I would probably forget if I waited I guess.

Add zee malk
When the milk is hot and starting to bubble mix the flour with about a quarter cup of water and stir it really well. This is used to thicken the sauce and you don't want chunks of flour. Blech. I realize that most people prefer to mix flour right into butter to make a roux but I find this way easier. Plus I don't want to fry the onion and garlic in a separate pan, the less dishes the better.  I've tried adding the flour first but it sticks to the onions and makes them weird and clumpy.
Flour and water
Dump the flour mix into the hot milk and get stirring! You will need to whisk constantly because this stuff thickens up super fast! When it seems like it's as thick as it's going to get turn the burner off and add all but a handful of cheese.
Creamy cheese sauce
So at this point my camera battery dies and needs to be charged.

Pretend you see me stirring the sauce into the drained mostly cooked pasta, pouring it into a baking dish, crumbling some crackers over the top and sprinkling the last of the cheese on. Also pretend you see the dish going into the oven at 350 for 10 minutes.

This was the aftermath of dinner when the battery was just charged enough to get a photo. It's supposed to be 6 servings but we were pretty hungry.

Mostly eated

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Freebies: P&G Brand Sampler Oct 2011

A new P&G Brand Sampler promotion was launched today. Usually you can get some good stuff for filling out a short survey.

Today we ordered Pantene shampoo, Dawn dish soap, Gain laundry detergent, Crest mouthwash, and Gilette Proglide Razor. All free!
A sample size shampoo is like hotel-size, you can get 3-4 uses out of them usually. The razor lasts me about 4 months, I've got 2 of them in the past year already and just threw the last one out on Monday.

Go here:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Red Velvet Brownies with Buttercream Frosting

I've been spending an obscene amount of time on Pinterest lately, mostly just drooling over food and bookmarking recipes. I noticed that a lot of people are apparently obsessed with red velvet things and these brownies kept popping up over and over again. I figured I would give it a try, something a bit different than the usual brownies and blondies and whatnot. It was originally with white chocolate buttercream but I substituted it with the buttercream recipe that I've always used. I don't like white chocolate so I don't have any around.

Pardon the lack of pictures of the process, we had an early start to the day, I already had them out of the oven before I realized I should have taken pictures of what I was doing

Here's what you need:

For the brownies
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the buttercream
  • 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 1 small bag of powdered sugar ( about 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cream ( I used the 18% that we have for coffee)
I started by making the frosting first so that I didn't have to clean my mixing bowl (and so that I could eat some while the brownies were mixing!) The frosting is the easiest part anyway. Just put everything in the mixing bowl and whisk until it's fluffy! That's it, it's done. I put mine in the fridge because I wasn't sure when I would get around to frosting the brownies.

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease and flour a pan, a smallish one, 8x8, 6x10, whatever you have. I used my springform pan because it's easier to get stuff out of.

Start the brownies off by mixing together the butter, sugar and vanilla until it's creamy. Then add the cocoa powder and food coloring, when that is combined beat in the egg and salt. Now you can add the flour, you're going to have to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl a couple times to make sure everything is red. Pour into your pan, my batter was pretty thick and I had to use a spatula to spread it around.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, a toothpick or knife should come out clean when you stab the brownies. I think mine went for about 45 minutes due to baby shenanigans and were too dry and a bit too dark on the bottom. 35 minutes probably would have been perfect.

Let the brownies cool completely before attempting to remove them from the pan, about an hour should do it. If you put the frosting in the fridge then take it out and let it sit for the hour as well and it should be ready to use. Frost, slice and serve!

*I only used about half the frosting, the rest went into the fridge for a carrot cake that I'm making soon.

The verdict on these brownies? Eh. Not great, I don't really see what the fuss is, is it just because they are red? I know I overcooked mine but the flavor really wasn't anything special, just very mildly chocolatey. Maybe I'm just used to more chocolate in my desserts?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies!

It's true, these really are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. I was pretty sick of the recipe I had for chocolate chip cookies, they never turned out the same and most of the time they were all thin and spread out and weird. I Googled and this recipe kept popping up over and over again. So I made it and it was awesome and made really soft, chewy cookies.  I will use this one forever. I've even cheated and made it with margarine when butter wasn't a decent price and it was still pretty good. I recommend using real butter though, they just taste better!

Start by preheating the oven to 325 and gathering your ingredients:

Stuff you need

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup melted unsalted butter (if all you have is salted butter or margarine skip the salt in the recipe!)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 egg
  • 1egg yolk
  • an entire bag of chocolate chips (I used this bag of Caramilk thingies I had in the freezer)
Butter, sugar, vanilla and egg
Start by melting the butter and mixing it with the sugar and vanilla for a few minutes until it's nice and fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to the mixer. Mix until just combined ( it should look pebbley) and then add the chocolate chips and give it another quick mix. You don't want to overmix it, the dough will be tough and the cookies will be hard.

Dry ingredients added and just barely mixed
Your finished dough
Chopped Frozen Tiny Caramilks

Grab a good sized handful of dough and lightly flatten it into a "cookie patty", no need to roll it into a ball or anything.  Bake at 325 for 16-20 minutes.  Make as many as you want and freeze the rest of the patties for whenever you get a cookie craving.

Handful of dough


4 cookies for us to nom right away about to go in the oven

The rest can go in the fridge or freezer

Hot cookies!



    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Vanilla Soy Mocha

    Bleh. It's dreary and rainy and chilly and I want a mocha. Starbucks is too far away especially since it's pouring out and spending the $4+ for a tall mocha with soy and added vanilla syrup isn't really within the budget right now. I'm reserving my Starbucks treat for when they have Gingerbread again closer to Christmas.

    So I'm going to try this DIY style and hopefully it's good. I have vanilla soy, I have chocolate syrup and I have coffee concentrate normally used for iced coffee. Sadly I do not have whipped cream or chocolate shavings. Boo.

    So I'm starting by microwaving 1/3 cup coffee concentrate and 2/3 cup vanilla soy milk until it's nice and hot. I left just a bit of room for the chocolate sauce and a dab of cream. I also had to add a bit of simple syrup because I like my stuff super sweet.

    Holy crap, I just remembered we have these! Mmmmm, sprinkles!

    The verdict: Not quite Starbucks quality, maybe because I'm not normal and always get a ton of whipped cream on my drink, even if it's made with soy. That may be the problem, it just doesn't taste creamy or vanilla-ey enough, it's still quite enjoyable and better than a lot of other coffee shop drinks I've had.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Jon's Goals For October

    In October, I'm going to experiment with adding 2x20min naps and getting up a little earlier, instead of fighting Alice's natural wake up time. I re-read the section on sleep in The 4-Hour Body a couple days ago and the concept of polyphasic sleep appeals to me. I often want to work on projects at night but I'm too fatigued or lose attention too quickly to use my time effectively.

    I plan to finish a few of the books I have started by committing an hour or more to reading each day, likely first thing in the morning or when I'm bored during the day instead of watching videos.

    I plan to reduce non-work related, non-research related video watching to just 2 hours each day. This means I won't be taking full advantage to my Netflix trial I have going now but I'm not going to miss anything.

    I'm going to track my wasteful internet time using RescueTimer for Firefox. I'm going to track it for a couple weeks, which will likely result in an immediate behavior change, then I may even go as far as blocking certain sites during the day, or after X visits each day. If I only check Facebook and Twitter twice a day my life isn't going to get worse, but I'm sure to gain at least an extra hour of free time each day.

    I'm going to record and complete another sample pack to sell. For the product I have in mind it will take 5 hours to complete. I just have to get started.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    30DC2 - the end

    The end of the second round of our 30 day challenge ended.
    It wasn't really successful in terms of accomplishing the goals and following the rules but we did reduce our spending on groceries. Compared to a few months ago, we're eating better, spending less, earning and saving more and paying off debt.
    Overall it's good that we did this, but it wasn't as successful as the first round.

    Grocery budget = $240. Actual = $284.02 (we did have an extra adult to feed for 7 days)
    Daily exercise = hell no haha
    No takeout = pizza and several shwarmas. Only about $30, less than usual and we walked to get it.
    Indulgent purchases = 27" iMac. (it was refurbished at least!)

    We both feel like we didn't get much accomplished, even if we did. Our energy levels have been low from crappy sleep for the last two weeks. During the day we can't focus on any chore or project without constant harassment from Alice and when she actually sleeps we can't do anything because we have to be quiet.
    That tiny jerk.