Sunday, October 31, 2010

happy Halloween!

Today is Halloween so I thought I'd share some of the humour I've come across in the last few weeks.

You know you are too old to Trick or Treat when:
10. You get winded from knocking on the door.
9. You have to have another kid chew the candy for you.
8. You ask for high fiber candy only.
7. When someone drops a candy bar in your bag, you lose your balance and fall over.
6. People say: 'Great Boris Karloff Mask,' And you're not wearing a mask.
5. When the door opens you yell, 'Trick or...' And can't remember the rest.
4. By the end of the night, you have a bag full of restraining orders.
3. You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hairpiece.
2. You're the only Power Ranger in the neighbourhood with a walker.
And the number one reason Seniors should not go Trick Or Treating...
1. You keep having to go home to pee.

10 Things That Sound Dirty On Halloween, But Aren't...
1. So...What'd you get in the sack?
2. Once you get under the sheet, start moaning and groaning!!!
3. Just hop on that broomstick and ride it!
4. Those small suckers are gone in a few licks!
5. I got the best piece from that house.
6. Quit screwing around on the porch!!!
7. Stick your hand in and guess what you're feeling....
8. It was so filled and heavy, I had to use TWO hands!!
9. They'll suck you dry if they get their teeth in you.
10. I bobbed and bobbed, but couldn't get my mouth around it!

Why Pumpkins Are Better Than Men
1. Every year you get a brand new crop to choose from.
2. No matter what your mood is, pumpkins are always ready to greet you with a smile.
3. One usually makes a better pie.
4. They are always on the doorstep there waiting for you!
5. If you don't like the way he looks, you just carve up another face.
6. If he starts smelling up your place, you can just throw him out.
7. From the start you know a pumpkin has an empty, mush filled head to begin with.
8. A pumpkin is turned on (lit-up) only when you want him to be.

I hope you have a safe yet spooky Halloween with more treats than tricks!!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

dn's Carrot Cake

Every once in a while, I get really hungry for carrot cake - usually in the fall. I hadn’t made one in at least a couple of years but a few weeks ago, I got a five pound bag of carrots at a really good price so started looking for ideas of things to make.

Now I didn’t have to find recipes as I love carrots and could easily go through a big bag like that in a few weeks as long as I keep them in the crisper of the fridge.

It just happened that I was hungry for carrot cake this time. It had been quite a while since I’d made one and I really didn’t recall what recipe I had used. I knew that once upon a time, I had regularly used a recipe from an old Five Roses cookbook. I’d also tried a few others over the years.

I decided to look on line and was shocked to realize the calorie count in the average slice of carrot cake is between 750 and 800 calories! That is 1/18 of the standard 9”X13” pan. Most of that comes from the 1 1/2 cups of oil in the cake and the 16 ounces or more of cream cheese and 2 1/2-3 cups of confectioners’ sugar in the icing! Yikes!! That is crazy! I knew there had to be better alternatives out there! And there are!

I found some that sounded pretty good on line but the one that I chose to play with is called Must Bake Carrot Cake on page 155 of "Crazy Plates" by Janet and Greta Podleski. Their version makes 24 servings at 235 calories/slice.

I’ve tried this one before and it was very good but this time I decided to “tweak” it and make it MY way! Now, I don’t know how to calculate calories in a recipe, but even with all the changes I made and cutting the cake into 18 rather than 24 pieces, there is NO WAY that my version would come close to the 750-800 calories of most other cakes.

Here’s what I did: I used a combination of all purpose and whole wheat flour. I’ve never been a fan of walnuts so substituted almonds. I also added raisins and .... drum roll please ..... chocolate chips! (That really shouldn’t surprise anyone who actually knows me!) Instead of their Cheater Icing, I used a variation of an old family favorite for icing cakes. My mom got the recipe for this icing from the old Winnipeg Tribune newspaper sometime during the 1950’s and we’ve all loved it ever since! I think the original name of it was “New Type Frosting”. To top of the cake I toasted some more almonds to sprinkle on top.

The only other thing I did was to make it in two 8 inch square pans rather than the 9”X13” pan. Generally, I tend to find that the center always takes too long to bake thoroughly using the bigger pan. By doing it in two pans, it also spreads the cake more evenly and you get a more even consistency in texture.

Well I took pieces of my carrot cake to several friends and all thought it was one of the most sinful carrot cakes they had ever tried! I had left a piece with a friend (at their office) who said they would take it home to have that evening. I got an email from my friend about 5:30 that afternoon called “Oh, my God”. The message was: “I convinced myself I'd have just a little bite of cake before heading home. It is so GOOD. I've just about finished the whole damn piece.”

So, mine isn’t completely guilt free, but I believe that you’ll love this lower cal version as much as my friends and I did!

dn's Carrot Cake


• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
• 1 cup drained, crushed pineapple*
• 3/4 cup fat-free egg substitute, or 3 whole eggs
• 3/4 cup buttermilk**
• 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 3 cups grated carrots
• 1/2 cup chopped almonds
• 1/2 cup raisins
• 1 1/2 cups mini dark chocolate chips

• 2 1/2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup block margarine, softened
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange peel
• 2/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray two 8 inch square baking pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the almonds, raisins and chips with about 1 Tablespoon of the flour mixture and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pineapple, egg substitute, buttermilk, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Stir in grated carrots. Add flour mixture to carrot mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in almonds, raisins and chips.

Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Set pan on a wire rack and cool cake completely before icing.

Before turning off the oven, place the 2/3 cup chopped almonds in a single layer on an oven safe dish. Toast in oven for about 4-5 minutes or till nicely browned. Stir every couple of minutes to avoid burning. Set dish on wire rack to cool completely.

While cake is cooling, prepare icing. In a small pan combine the flour and milk till smooth. Stirring constantly, cook over medium low heat until a very thick paste is formed. Remove from heat and transfer paste to a small glass dish. Cover with saran or a plate and allow to cool completely – at least 20 minutes.

Combine the margarine, sugar and salt with an electric mixer until well mixed. Add in the vanilla, almond extract and orange peel then mix thoroughly. Add in the cooled paste and then beat on medium high speed until very light and fluffy. (This takes about 10-15 minutes on about level 5 or 6 of a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.)

Divide icing over the two cooled cakes and spread evenly. Garnish with the toasted almonds.

Chill cake until serving. Makes 18 servings (9 per pan). Cover leftovers with saran and store in fridge.

* A 540ml/19ounce can of crushed pineapple will yield about 1 cup after you drain it well. Empty the can into a strainer, and press down on the pineapple to remove the juice. (Save the juice for drinking!)
** To make buttermilk, place 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice in a 1 cup measure then add enough milk to make 3/4 cup. Stir to mix then let stand 5 minutes before adding to recipe.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Autumn Leaves

I’ve always loved the beauty that Mother Nature creates in autumn. The crispness of the air. The bounty of produce and the aromas of autumn cooking. The smell of wood fires and the crunch of leaves under your feet as you walk. To top it all off is the brilliance of colours of changing leaves. A feast for the senses!

The journey from summer to winter often results in being short-changed for our fall season. It never seems to last long enough to suit me.

This year we’ve been a bit luckier. The leaves were starting to get that hint of colour change in the second week of September. By the first day of fall on the 22nd, the beauty of the season was in full swing!

Until about a week ago, we actually had temperatures well above the seasonal norms – several days in the 20C range or even higher! It was windy on several days - which took the leaves down a little faster than most of us would prefer, but it certainly didn’t stop many of us from getting out and enjoying Mother Nature’s handiwork.

Sunday, September 26, the temperature rose to 23C here in Winnipeg - which was well above the seasonal norm of 16.8C. It was a VERY windy day with gusts at 40-50km but I decided to take a walk with my camera and check out Mother Nature’s latest artwork. The leaves were blowing off the trees quickly – some even blew in my face as I walked - but it was surprising at how much was still hanging on.

My photo skills aren't the greatest - especially when you factor in my sight (or lack thereof!) but I really enjoy taking and sharing these pics! I never know how good the shots are until I actually upload them to my PC and see them on a full screen. Sometimes they are too blurry to use and other times I am delighted with what I have captured! I took a LOT of pictures as I walked and created two slideshows from that day.

This first one is all pictures from the walk to and from a nearby park.

Once I was inside the park, the wind seemed to disappear in the shelter of the trees. I could hear it in the distance and above me in the upper branches of the trees, but overall it felt more like a light breeze on a very warm afternoon. In other words, it was a perfect time for a walk in the leaves!

All the pics in this second slideshow are from a park that is about a mile or so from me. I hadn’t been to this park in years. I’d forgotten how beautiful it can be – especially off the paved paths. The views along the dirt paths that run parallel to the river were beautiful. I took far more photos than I planned but was quite pleased with what I found when I uploaded them to my PC and viewed them on a full screen.

I was actually surprised by how much green was still on some of the trees in the park on that first walk, so decided to go back again on the following Sunday - October 3. A lot of leaves had gone down in the previous few days, but it was still a beautiful walk with much to see and enjoy.

What a great way to spend the beautiful autumn days!

Here in Winnipeg, the leaves are pretty much gone from the trees now and the temps have cooled down to more seasonal norms. It was beautiful while it lasted and I look forward to Mother Nature’s colourful display next year.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gobble, Gobble Gobble!!!

This Monday, October 11, is Thanksgiving here in Canada. So, today I thought I'd share some humour to celebrate the holiday!

A Dozen Things you can say at Thanksgiving and get away with!!!
1. Talk about huge breasts !
2. Tying the legs together keeps the inside moist.
3. It's cool whip time!
4. If I don't undo my pants, I'll burst!
5. Whew, that's one terrific spread!
6. I'm in the mood for a little dark meat.
7. Are you ready for seconds yet?
8. It's a little dry, do you still want to eat it?
9. Don't play with your meat.
10. Just spread the legs open and stuff it in.
11. I didn't expect everyone to come at once!
12. You still have a little bit on your chin.

Q: Why should you keep your eye off the turkey dressing?
A: Because it makes him blush!

Q: Why do turkeys always go "gobble, gobble"?
A: Because they never learned good table manners!

Q: How do you keep a turkey in suspense?
A: I'll tell you at Christmas.

Q: Why did the turkey cross the road?
A: It was the chicken's day off.

Q: What happened when the turkey met the axe?
A: He lost his head!

Q: If the Pilgrims were alive today, what would they be most famous for?
A: Their AGE!

Q: How can you tell a male turkey from a female turkey?
A: The male is the one holding the remote control.

Q: What did the mother turkey say to her disobedient children?
A: If your father could see you now, he'd turn over in his gravy!

Q: Why didn't the turkey eat dessert?
A: He was stuffed!

Q: What's the best way to stuff a turkey?
A: Take him out for pizza and ice cream!

Teacher: "Why did the Pilgrims sail to America?"
Student: "Maybe they missed their plane."

Teacher: "Why do we have a Thanksgiving holiday?"
Student: "So we know when to start Christmas shopping!"

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Arthur who?
Arthur any leftovers?

"May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!"
- Anonymous

Okay, some of these were better than others, but you should have seen the turkeys I DIDN'T add to this post!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autumn Skillet Dinner

A couple of weeks ago I was debating what to make for supper. I was looking for something I’d never made before yet simple - but also knew I had to use up a couple of small apples and I’d already set out pork chops. I checked out a number of my cookbooks and a couple of recipe sites on the web. There were lots of recipes to choose from, but nothing seemed to jump out and say “Make Me!!”

Then I recalled seeing a recipe for a “Stuffing-Topped Pork & Apple Skillet” in a recent Kraft What’s Cooking email. I checked out the recipe on line and it sounded interesting but it called for a Kraft Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fig Balsamic Dressing. I’m not a fan of figs so would never buy that type but I did have several other dressings in the fridge and knew that at least one of them would work! As usual, I made several other changes to the recipe and came up with my own version!

So here is what I came up with:

Autumn Skillet Dinner

1/4 cup Kraft Sweet Onion Vinaigrette or Italian dressing, divided
4 boneless pork chops (1 lb./450 g), 1/2 inch thick*
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet red bell pepper
2/3 cup fresh mushrooms, diced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (bottled type found in produce section)
1 1/2 cups unpeeled, diced apple (2 small or 1 large)
1/4 cup Water
1 Tablespoons margarine (plus some water – see directions for details)
1 pkg. (120 g) Stove Top Lower Sodium Stuffing Mix for Chicken

Heat large skillet on high heat. Add 2 Tablespoons Dressing and chops cook 3 min. Turn the chops and add the onion, red pepper and mushrooms, stirring veggies occasionally until chops are almost done.

Add garlic and apples to skillet. Combine the remaining 2 Tablespoons dressing with 1/4 cup water and add to skillet; stir. Cook on medium-low heat 3 min., stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, melt the margarine on medium heat in the microwave then add enough water to make ¾ cup. Add the liquid to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the stuffing mix. Stir into the apple/veggie mixture until stuffing is coated with liquid. Turn off the heat and cover skillet with lid. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir to fluff stuffing/apple/veggie mix. Serve with the pork chops and a green vegetable or tossed salad.

Serves 4

*This could also be made with Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts