I Have a Baking Problem

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The first step is to admit you have a problem. Deep breath.

I’m sure I’ve made this clear already but I really love baking. Something about the process is very satisfying for me. I like to please people, and making delicious treats is a good way to do so. I like work that has a clear and tangible result at the end. So much of parenting consists of never-ending tasks that are undone the second you think you are finished (E.g. laundry!) I’m also a bit of a praise junkie, so that must be part of it.

Regardless, this has to stop. Or, at least, I need to figure out a way to get my fix while making healthier treats. You see, I’m good about staying out of my baked goods. I’m able to bake cupcakes or cookies and then not eat them.* But Pete gets into them, and although he is very lean and athletic and in good health, I want everyone in this house to stay healthy. I want my kids to grow up with wholesome, homemade food in the house. I think that’s the best example to set and I want to do it early.

So I’ve decided to start baking healthier. I’ll try to document my adventures here, along with Pete’s reactions. You see, he is a bit of a sugar addict at the moment. When I told him that I wanted to start baking with less sugar and white flour, he seemed supportive but said “can you just try to wean me off slowly?”

So that’s what I’m going to try to do. Wish me luck, it’s going to be a tough habit to break!

*Exception to this rule: homemade Crunch N’ Munch. I can’t not eat homemade Crunch N’ Munch.

Here is the recipe, for old times’ sake:

Crunch N’ Munch

1 cup pecan halves
8 cups popped corn
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup blanched almonds
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F

Spread almonds and pecans on cookie sheet and toast lightly. Cool and mix with popcorn in large buttered bowl.

Combine sugar, butter, syrup, and cream of tartar in small, heavy saucepan. Cook until it forms a hard ball in cold water (I use a candy thermometer for this).

Remove from heat.

Stir in soda and add vanilla.

Pour over popcorn and nuts and mix with 2 buttered forks until all are well-coated. Turn into large buttered cookie sheet and press into an even layer.

Chill until hard and break into pieces.

Baking Weird ’70s Pudding with my Toddler

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I was reading a blog post the other day about gross recipes from the ’50s (Jell-O and mayonnaise, together at last) that inspired me to whip out my favourite vintage cookbook.

I stole Cookbook ’78 from my mother, because I felt she didn’t properly appreciate it. Check out the font:

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It actually has some really yummy dessert recipes, and some of them are classics around these parts. I haven’t used it much for main course recipes, and it turns out that was probably wise of me. After reading about those ’50s recipes (and visiting the Gallery of Regrettable Foods), I checked out some of the mains in my favourite cookbook. There were tons of “congealed salads” and recipes involving bizarre flavour combinations. But I stopped when I found a casserole combining oysters and creamed corn.* I wasn’t going to be able to find anything to top that.

Anyway, I decided to bake something from Cookbook ’78 with C today, because we needed an afternoon activity.

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I chose a recipe called “Busy Day Pudding” because it seemed appropriate on a day when I had both kids at home. I put the baby in his chair in the kitchen so he could watch us cooking, and got started.

I’ve realized that in addition to letting C put in the ingredients, it really helps if I let her count out measurements. She learns her numbers and it keeps her busy enough that I can (mostly) keep her from throwing non-ingredients into the batter. Win-win.

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The pudding was really quick to make, and the clean-up was easy, too. It’s a good one on that front.

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The pudding is a thick batter in a “sauce” of hot water and brown sugar. This is what it looked like uncooked:

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Once it was cooked, it was still a bit weird, texture-wise. Pete and I both agreed that it had a slightly disagreeable gooeyness to it. Were you the kid in school who liked to eat paste? Then this recipe is for you.

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So, the Busy Day Pudding was a success in the sense that it kept my toddler busy and let her practice her numbers. Would I make it again? Probably not. But at least it was free of creamed corn.

*Someday, and you can mark my words, I am going to make this. I won’t eat it, but I HAVE to make it. Just out of curiosity. I’ll be sure to document it here.

Recipe: Busy Day Pudding

Put 1 cup of brown sugar in casserole. Add 1 cup of boiling water and let stand while mixing the following ingredients.

1 cup flour sifted with 2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped dates
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soft butter
1/2 cup milk

Drop batter in syrup and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Homemade Italian Wedding Soup

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One of my friends worked in Calgary, Alberta for a few years.  She gave me a cookbook from the Municipal District of Rocky View, with recipes contributed by municipal staff and local politicians.  I use it all the time, and it has some hidden gems inside.  It has an incredibly delicious cheesecake recipe submitted by the Honourable Ralph Klein.  The thought of King Ralph slaving over chocolate marble cheesecake amuses me for some reason.  Also, did you know that Stephen and Laureen Harper love Mexican food so much that they modify regular recipes, like lasagna, to make them more “Mexican”?  It’s true.

I adapted this recipe from the Rocky View cookbook is the latest big hit in our house.  Pete likes it, C enjoys the meatballs (the spinach, however, is thrown onto the floor) and I could probably eat it every day.  And who doesn’t love a hearty soup when it’s cold outside?

For the meatballs:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of pepper

For the soup:

  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup miniature pasta
  • 1 cup chopped frozen spinach (thawed and drained)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, beat the egg.  Add ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and mix.

Form the mixture into small meatballs (roughly the size of a marble).  Place meatballs on a baking sheet covered in tin foil.  Bake for 25 minutes.

In a large pot, bring the broth to a boil and add pasta.  Cook for five minutes at a low boil.  Add thawed and drained spinach and cook for another five minutes.  Add the meatballs and bring to a simmer.  Serve and enjoy!

Old Fashioned Bread Pudding

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This isn’t going to turn into a food blog, mostly because I’m not a very good cook and though I’m an enthusiastic baker, I’m far from a pro.  But I got a lot of great feedback from my homemade granola bars post, so I thought I would share one of my favourite recipes.  Bread pudding is simple but delicious, unassuming but comforting.  Whenever I bake it my relatives seem to come out of the woodwork.

This recipe is one I’ve adapted from my favourite cookbook, the unimaginatively yet aptly titled Cookbook ’78.  It’s one of those cookbooks compiled by a volunteer association.  This one from my hometown of Penetanguishene, Ontario.  I borrowed (or stole) it from my mom, and I use it all the time.  It’s a gem.  I’m being serious when I say this, because I love tons of recipes in this cookbook.  It also functions as a fun little time capsule.  I had no idea how much people loved to cook with Velveeta in the ’70s.

So here is the recipe:

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsps vanilla
  • 8 slices white bread heavily buttered
  • 3 cups milk (the creamier the better)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Pack brown sugar in bottom of a baking dish, cut or break buttered bread into small pieces and place buttered side down on sugar.  Mix eggs, milk and vanilla.  Pour over bread.  Sprinkle raisins and cinnamon (optional) over bread pudding.  Place in preheated oven (300 degrees F) for 40 minutes or until puffy and light golden colour.  Serve warm.

Homemade Granola Bars

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I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately and my homemade granola bars have been a big hit.  A few people have asked me to share the recipe so I’m posting it here.  I’m sharing it despite Pete’s protests.  I’m not sure why he wants me to keep my recipes a secret.  He’s a pretty generous person in general, so why he wants my recipes to remain as shrouded in secrecy as Dick Cheney’s undisclosed location, I do not know.  Men are mysterious.

Here it is.  It’s simple, but very delicious.

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use crunchy)
  • 1 tbsp butter (melted)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • Dates, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or whatever ingredient you like

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In another bowl, blend peanut butter, honey, melted butter and vanilla and then add to the dry mixture.  Stir in dates or chocolate chips.  Press into a greased pan and bake at 325 for 20 minutes.  Take out and let cool before cutting into strips or squares.  Enjoy!