The Great Canadian Baking Show and a Mini Photo Journal

I’ve always had this dream of starting my own bakery/coffee shop/ cafe and it feels like it gets larger and more realistic some days and then others it seems completely off in the distance – hardly on the horizon. I’ve baked for a few weddings and plenty of birthdays.  I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a blog but shied away – who would actually read it? Do I even want people to read it? Would it be good enough to read? What would I talk about? We’ll finally this summer after coming back from an amazing summer adventure on the west coast of British Columbia we decided it was time. I was so excited when John suggested it. He was suggesting it for our travel pictures – any easier way to keep our family up to date. But secretly I knew it was also going to be my baking/cooking/crafting blog that I’d always wanted!  Little did I know how much time it takes to keep a blog up to date. Not only do you spend time thinking up fun/new/yummy/appealing recipes, but then you have to make sure you took pictures at just the right time and place (not so good at this yet), then you have to remember all the tweaks you made to the recipe (I’m always bad with this and kicking myself when something turns out perfectly and I can’t quite remember every little adjustment I made) and then you have to write it all down (before you forget and/or delete your pictures…)

So all this to say that I haven’t been the most diligent blogger since starting this fall. However, as I was browsing Facebook last week I saw that a friend had shared a link from CBC advertising a casting call for a new reality show called… The Great Canadian Baking Show!! This was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. Without a second thought I clicked on the link, read the article to see that they were still accepting applicants and immediately started filling out the application. This was so exciting and would be a dream come true! Not to mention a great challenge and soooo fun!! When I got to the end I hummed and hawed over the photo submissions – only one picture of a baked item? What are they looking for?! I don’t even have that many pictures! Why didn’t I have better close ups from the wedding baking or some artsy shots of all the cupcakes I’ve done over the years.. I went with a picture of the bagels I’d made last week thinking that a good bread would show skill and promise. Then after clicking submit I was instantly regretting it thinking they probably wanted cupcakes or pastries or macarons or anything other than bread. I finally managed to convince myself that if it wasn’t meant to be it wasn’t meant to be.

Until today. This afternoon, during lunch, when I got a phone call. From a Toronto number which I almost didn’t answer because I didn’t know who could possibly be calling me. Well The Great Canadian Baking Show it turns out!! For my first round interview! Which was quite similar to the application questions. Here’s to hoping it went well and I receive another phone call in 2 weeks for the second round of interviews!! And in the mean time, a little collage of the photos I managed to scrounge up of some recent baking.

Notice how most of them have candles in them?

Chocolate Coffee cupcake with coffee buttercream icing.
Banana blueberry cheesecake for John’s birthday.
Gingerbread and vanilla sugar Christmas cookies.
Coconut cream cheese mini cupcakes for Sarah’s 30th
A Chocolate Dragon Cake for Soren’s 4th birthday.
img_3085
A chocolate T-Rex cake for Dane’s 3rd birthday!
img_3091
Red velvet layer cake with cream cheese icing and assorted cupcakes for Elaine and Bertin’s wedding. 

 

Advertisements

Mushroom, kale and pecan stuffed acorn squash

img_2787

Not only was this recipe simple and delicious, but the acorn squash is from our garden – bonus! We didn’t actually plant any acorn squash this year, so were pleasantly surprised and intrigued when we found a rogue squash plant growing this spring. I could tell it wasn’t a zucchini or cucumber which were the only squashes we’d planted, but I didn’t know what it was so I left it, excited to wait and find out. When we got back from our vacation, we discovered it was a hardy acorn squash that was taking over the garden and alley! We cut it back quite a bit to let the other plants have some space (and give the neighbours some room to drive by ) but it had already grown 10 little acorn squashes which was really exciting so of course we let those stay and ripen.  And, ta-da!

img_2786

I was looking for an easy and yummy recipe to use up our squashes, and I came across this one on pinterest.  This was one of the only recipes that featured savoury stuffing – most had a sausage, apple and cranberry type combo which just wasn’t particularly appealing to me, so I decided to give it a try! I swapped out the rice for quinoa because I prefer it over rice (plus some extra protein!) and they tend to substitute pretty well.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Mushroom, kale and pecan stuffed acorn squash

Ingredients (serves 4):        Total time: ~ 1 h 

  • 2 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds scraped out
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch of kale, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup of pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of fresh shredded Parmesan

 

Turn oven to 425F.

Place cut squash halves on roasting pan and lightly drizzle with oil. Roast for 30 – 40 minutes till tender.

Cook quinoa in chicken broth. Start this after you put the squash in the oven so it will be done when the squash is ready for stuffing.

IMG_2782.JPG

Saute mushrooms, garlic and onion in large frying pan with oil. When onion is clear, about 5 minutes, add in chopped kale and chopped pecans and continue to saute for another 5 minutes or so.

img_2780

When kale has wilted slightly, remove from heat and add grated parmesan. When quinoa has cooked, add to pan and mix thoroughly. Remove squash from oven and stuff. Return to oven for 5 – 10 minutes to melt cheese. Serve warm and enjoy!

img_2787

 

 

 

Replacing the prong on a belt buckle

img_0827
John’s favourite belt (fixed!) – a Great Glebe Garage Sale discovery from his Carleton days!

The prong had come loose and fallen off John’s favourite belt (a Great Glebe Garage Sale find from our Ottawa days!), but because it was the favourite belt we couldn’t just throw it out, but it was also not usable anymore, so it was relegated to the dresser where it sat. And sat. And sat.. until I got annoyed that it was still there and decided to deal with it. I thought for sure Fabricland would have a replacement prong or some nifty trinket that would do the trick, but to my dismay they did not. Nor did they have anything even remotely close. So luckily Fabricland is right next to Home Depot so I just headed over there thinking I could find some sort of nail or screw that I could tweak into a belt prong. I was naively thinking I could bend the end of a nail into a loop and then just cut the rest of the nail to length… Luckily I didn’t have to resort to that!  It turns out the belt buckle was the exact length of this  $2.00 latch hook  from Home Depot.  I was pretty excited to get home and start working.

belt-buckle-latch
With some needle nose pliers I managed to prise open the loop just wide enough to take out the screw and put the belt buckle in. And with the same pliers I squeezed the loop shut again. Then using a hack saw I cut off the hook end of latch to fit the buckle length. This took two tries to get right. Then using a hammer I flattened out the latch end and tried to get it to bend slightly to conform to the buckle. This part was pretty tedious and it took both John and I holding and pounding the latch on various curved surfaces with mostly no success.  Eventually we gave up and after filing down the end to make it smooth and flattening it a bit more to make it more belt like, it was done! All in all, a pretty simple and relatively quick project.

belt-close-up
As good as new! (Or used 🙂 )

Replacing a zipper in pants

img_0765

After putting this project off for the better part of a year, I finally decided to do some Googling / Pinterest searching to see if this was a project worth undertaking or not. Turns out it’s a pretty simple and quick fix!  These are John’s favourite work pants and clearly go through a lot more wear and tear than the rest. They’d been sitting in our closet for quite a while so I thought it would be a nice surprise if I could fix them one weekend while John was gone.  Less than an hour later and for about $2.00, the pants were ready for work again!

Measure zipper length and buy a replacement zipper. The replacement zipper options weren’t quite the same colour or length as the original, but since it’s not visible, as long as it is long enough and strong enough it will work. I used a 7″ zipper from Fabricland that cost about $1.79.

Cut out the old zipper.  Pull out all the stitches for the old zipper, then cut the old zipper off at the top where it disappears into the waist band of the pants.  I decided to not take apart the waistband in order to minimize the amount of visible stitching required to sew everything back up. Much less pressure this way!!  You will need to rip out some stitches at the bottom of the fly to get the zipper through (the two pieces of fabric that hold the front and back of the fly together).

zipper-example
Another pair of pants showing which stitches will need to be taken out (plus all of the stitches holding the other (left) half of the zipper.

Cut the new zipper to length and pin in place.  Make sure to not cut the new zipper below the metal stopper otherwise the zipper head will just zip off when doing up the zipper.

IMG_0769.JPG
Pinning the new zipper in place.

Sew the new zipper in place!  This was my first time using a zipper foot attachment on my sewing machine so I was pretty excited to try it out. It also made it so easy to sew the zipper on – who would’ve thought?!

Note – for the side of the pants that will be the front (your left when wearing the pants), you won’t be able to sew all the way to the top of the zipper before hitting the waistband with the machine. You will need to finish sewing this part by hand (see below).

Sew the top of the zipper by hand.  

img_0770

Finish with the top stitching. This is the one seam that is visible so it needs to be smooth and the thread colour should match (or contrast appropriately) the fabric. You may have the imprint of the previous stitching still in the fabric, but I could hardly see it let alone follow it while sewing, so I just took this seam slowly and hoped for the best!

img_0771
Not quite perfect, but definitely good enough to wear again!

Our garden

We’ve been a little busy since we got back from vacation…

IMG_0792.JPG

On our drive home from Vancouver Island we stopped in Vancouver for a few days to visit with friends and family. Then we took the Trans Canada highway back to Calgary via the Okanagan so John could experience the warm lakes and fruit stands that I’d been telling him about since moving out west! We stopped in Peachland for an afternoon swim/play session at the lake side water park which was a ton of fun in and of itself. Road trips in Alberta just don’t involve impromptu lake swim stops which is something I remember a lot of from my childhood and was so excited to share with John.

After we tired of the zipline and rope swing we dried off and decided to drive a bit further south to find some fruit stands. We were set on buying boxes and boxes of fruit to preserve for the winter. After about 5 minutes of driving we found a fruit stand AND a winery side by side – bonus!  A quick wine tasting later we headed across the road to the fruit stand with a few bottles of wine in the back seat. A few minutes after that we’d managed to cram 2 – 20 lb boxes of peaches, a 40 lb box of pears and some plums for snacking in the car (barely). Now we could finally continue on home with a car full of fruit, wine and wet bathing suits.  Our little stopover in the Okanagan was complete though a little too short for our liking but hopefully we’ll be back soon.

When we arrived home that night we found our garden completely overgrown. Literally. Our mystery plant (which turned out to be an acorn squash) had spread out into the middle of the alley way and the neighbours had been carefully driving around it for the past few weeks. This was so cool! We’d half been expecting to come home to a mess of hail damaged plants but instead there were massive zucchinis and cucumbers growing through the fencing, tomatoes loaded with fruit turning red and the sunflowers were in bloom!

We spent that whole weekend and the next few weeks dealing with the garden. John made a big batch of delicious salsa, and I made zucchini everything – zucchini chocolate chip cookies, zucchini cheddar chive bread and of course zucchini loaf. We also found out our neighbour had a crabapple tree that was overloaded and she didn’t want to deal with them. So we did. Over the next few weeks we preserved 27 litres of peaches, 20 litres of pears, 16 litres of crabapple sauce and 3.5 litres of salsa. I think we’re ready for that long, cold winter that’s being predicted!