Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maizee Nesta Marley

Look it's Maizee getting her Rastafari on! My poor, long suffering Maizee puts up with so much, like wearing my hat and keeping it on until we take pictures of her....I think she looks adorable...Maizee, not so much! Thanks Lorri for the photo - I was too far away, and laughing too hard to get the nice detail you did.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie

Today marks my debut with the Tuesdays With Dorie group. For those of you who are not familiar with the "Dorie" in question - it's Dorie Greenspan - pastry chef/cookbook author extrodinaire. Dorie is an American gal living half the year in the US and the other half in Paris. Dorie came out with a baking book a few years ago called "Baking From My Home to Yours" and what a book it is. It is chock full of over 300 recipes with lots of colour photos , clear instructions and lots of personal stories that make the reader feel like they're having a good friend over for some coffee and baking. A few women got together on the net and decided to work through the book, recipe by recipe and discuss their results. It's a fun group and the different interpretations of one recipe are seemingly endless. Dorie herself has made herself available for questions, checks in the progress and has made some helpful tips. Which I think is really neat. I have loved Dorie's cookbooks since she wrote "Baking With Julia" with none other than the late, great, Julia Child. She has worked with the phenomenal Pierre Herme on 2 of his brilliant cookbooks available in English and has authored other books, articles etc. etc...She is a very busy, in demand woman - but can still find time to help Jane average with her baking. Amazing Indeed!

Anywho - this weeks' recipe is for the chocolate gingerbread cake. (As a group policy we don't print the recipe since we're going through the whole book and you wouldn't have to buy it because it would be provided free to you online which is not a really great way to thank an author. So I would suggest you buy the book - there are really an amazing array of recipes and I can assure it's money well-spent.)

The recipe is very simple and easy to put together. Dorie suggests a 9x9 inch square pan to fit the whole recipe in and you'd think that with the 4 million pans I own, I would have such a thing - but NO. So I used my favourite silicone Le Cruset pans:

I got over 18 little cakes and I think they are a nice size. One is a perfect serving, and when you scarf your second, it doesn't seem too bad, but by the 3rd, well, maybe you're pushing it. But if you spread it out over a day....

Bake the cakes and let them cool.

Make a super shiny, not too sweet chocolate glaze - that's got a bit of coffee, some butter and confectioner's sugar dip them in.

Put on a pretty plate and devour!

I love ginger and chocolate together, especially when there is fresh, ground and candied in the recipe. It was an exceptionally easy, quick recipe to throw together and had a nice depth of flavour. I would make it again.

PS: I'm an idiot - the person who chooses the recipe for the week, posts that recipe on their website. You can find this recipe on here: from Heather, at Sherry Trifle.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Baking for Dogs

This is a blog about my two biggest passions - baking and dogs, hence the name. Occasionally I get to combine the two - NO I DON'T MEAN BAKING DOGS!!! I get to bake FOR dogs. Dog treats, wheat free, decorated dog treats. YAY!

People enjoy my baking, some may even say they love it, but no one ever shamelessly drools as they're looking at the cakes and tarts.

No human ever starts sighing loudly...adding a soft nose whistle...building into off key singing... then outright barking...when they look at my baking...unless they're a be exact.

I guess if humans did that, I'd probably be kind of scared and more than a little uncomfortable, but when dogs do it it makes my spirit soar. They like me, they really like me - or at least my dog treats....

I have the good fortune to supply All Creatures Great and Small stores in Peterborough and Cobourg, with their "dog bakery" items and it's awesome. I get to make products that people are buying for their best friends, to show them how much they love them. What could be better?

I started last fall just before xmas and had NO IDEA how many they would order for xmas. People, I got tendonitis from all the rolling and the cutting and the decorating. I was at them for a week solid - I had to cancel other engagements - because I was doing Doooooog Treatsssssss! I was making them in my sleep and maybe not feeling so much of the love...but now I know the time involved and: Note to self - this year prepare more ahead of time - for the love of gawd!

Any way - they were a hit and I recently got to do some Valentine treats. I was really pleased with the results and would like to share them with you.

I make them wheat free because wheat can be awfully hard on your dog's digestive system and can exacerbate inflammation, just like in humans. ie. if you or your dog has arthritis, wheat may make it worse - so it's probably good to reduce your and your pet's consumption of it. So in the spirit of health, I make these wheat free and sometimes grain free treats and ruin all that goodness by coating them in a sweetened yogurt or peanut butter coating. Ah well they are treats, and like us, treats are only an occasional thing...right????

This is 6 year old Shak - isn't he handsome? He belongs to my friend Crystal and her family in Alberta. Crystal took home some dog treats at xmas for her boy, who is an extremely picky eater. Apparently he loved the treats and Crystal's mom wanted the recipe - "only if you send me a picture of Shak" - and she did and so here he is and the recipes too. Enjoy your treats handsome!Gingerbread Dog Treats

1 C
1/4 C honey
1 C water
1/2 C canola oil

6 C brown rice flour or oat flour or barley flour (the latter two are easier to work with)
2t baking soda
1t cinnamon
1t cloves
1t ginger

Combine the wet ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wet to the dry and mix to form a dough. It will be a softer dough. Divide into 4. Wrap in plastic wrap and set sit for 3-5 hours.
Roll out on a floured surface to desired thickness, cut out shapes place on parchment lines cookie sheets and bake at 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. If they are soft to the touch, turn the heat down to 325 and let go for another 10 minutes. You don't need to bake them until they are hard - they will firm up once they cool - but you do want them to be dried out somewhat.

Apple Cinnamon Dough

unsweetened applesauce
1C water
1/2C canola oil
2 large eggs

5C oat flour
1\2C powdered milk
1t cinnamon
1t ginger

Combine wet ingredients. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the wet to the dry. Mix to form a dough. Roll out on a floured surface, cut and place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Directions from above apply here too about length of time in oven.

You don't want to roll these cookies too thickly, or it will take forever for them to be dry enough to decorate, but if they're too thin, they'll break when you are trying to dip them. 1/4 inch or slightly thicker will work well.
The fun thing about baking for dogs and these recipes is that you can really mix things up. For the second recipe - you could switch the applesauce, for canned pumpkin (NOT pie filling) and the cinnamon and ginger for garlic and parsley to make a savoury treat. Then you wouldn't have to decorate them, unless you threw a little cheese on them for the last 5 minutes - that would be cool...Your dog isn't going to complain - s/he will just love you more for making the effort and taking the time to bake for him/her. Experimenting is fun and you can customize something just for your pooch!

I use a yogurt coating coloured with natural dyes from India Tree to decorate these, but I think Merkins (sold at bulk stores) are probably easier to find. Of course they'd be healthier without the icing, but once in a while treats are OK as long as they're once in a while.

Have fun, be creative and get baking!!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Sad Day

It is with sadness that we decided to have Moses, our 18 year old Siamese, put down. Like everyone else here, he was a rescue....
Around this time 7 years ago, we were living in Ottawa and Doug was the chef at Lapointe Fish in Hull, PQ. He was biking home, took a short cut that he usually didn't take, and lo and behold, as he was going through a field, he spied what looked like a garbage bag. As he got closer, he realized it was a coat with a cat on it. He stopped to investigate and found the cat to be pregnant. Who the hell leaves a cat on a coat in subzero weather in the middle of a field at midnight???? Assholes, that's who! Doug scooped up the cat and coat and tried to bike home. Since the cat was so big, he couldn't get his balance on the bike, so he locked it up and walked 20 minutes home, told me we had a visitor and walked back to get his bike and biked home.
This cat reeked of cigaratte smoke and was HUGE. He was also a he - not pregnant at all. There was a wear mark around his neck where his collar had been removed - I guess so he couldn't be traced, but I could feel a microchip. Bonus - maybe we could find his owners after all. On closer inspection he had been declawed front AND BACK. Who the hell declaws a cat front and back? Assholes, that's who.
We got him scanned at the vet the next day and turns out he was from Cambridge ( a good 5-6 hours away). His original owner didn't remember who she had sold him to and no, she didn't want him back, thanks anyway. So we now had a new/old cat to add to the 2 we already had.
We had also found out his original name was Spike - now highly inappropriate if you ask me. We renamed him Moses and he was all ours - all 21 pounds of him.
It was clear he had been overweight all, or most of his life, as his body had deformed to accommodate the weight - shoulder blades almost 5 inches apart, his back legs severely bowed, two bald patches on his tummy where it dragged on the ground...and the list went on. First thing, put Moses on a diet. Oh he lost weight all right, which made him more agile, so he could eat everyone's food and what good food it was/is. (we do raw food for our pets, but that's a whole other post or two) and so the weight came back - in spite of careful measuring and doing a separate dish for each cat...
There were more health problems and we tried that Prescription crap the vet sells and we got into horrible bowel and urinary tract problems, so back to home made for our boy. He never took off the weight, but he didn't gain any either. As the years have gone by, Moses has become less and less active, so he's only ever had his alloted food for the last 4-5 years and still hasn't managed to lose anything, so we've just kept up with vet check-ups and really didn't expect him to last as long as he has. He was supposed to have a benign bump removed from his nose 6 years ago but the vet said he wouldn't survive the surgery because his kidney values were terrible and indicated the beginnings of failure...little did she know he was planning many more years of eating ahead of him and he wasn't ready to give that up just yet. Yes, Moses was steadfast in his objective to eat and enjoy eating until the end. Which is how we knew it was time to help him pass...he wasn't eating anymore...
Our 7 years with Moses have been uneventful for the most part - he was a gentle soul who loved the very basics of life - food, water, sun and lots of love. He was not overly curious, playful or bold, but just a lovely quiet, wise and beautiful soul. He welcomed newcomers (we've added 3 more cats since moving here) with generous loving baths - filling in for the mothers our new kittens were missing, someone to snuggle up to and gentle guidance on how to be a good boy. Moses has repaid us with constant companionship, few demands, a lovely singing voice and a deep, deep purr. His health has been quite frail lately and I think it was the kindest thing to do for him - we didn't want him to suffer and so we have said goodbye to the wonderful cat that was Moses. Rest well my good friend, I love you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baby Shower Cupcakes

I was asked recently to provide the "cupcake tree" for a baby shower dinner at a local restaurant, for about 30 women, and of course I said yes. It's so much fun to have a bit of freedom to create around a theme and so I decided to top the cupcakes with rolled fondant decorations.
The cupcakes were chocolate and vanilla with a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream tinted in either blue or pink. While the decorations were pink, blue, yellow and green. The technique for the decorations is quite simple. You can buy pre-made rolling fondant at cake supply stores, bulk stores and online, or you can make your own. I had some pre made white on hand, so I used that. Colour it with a paste colour of your choice and roll it out about 1/4" thick. You could just use mini cutters and do only shapes, or you could make a pattern with stamps that you can get at Michael's or craft stores, then cut into desired shapes, which is what I did. Let the fondant shapes dry at least overnight then on to the next step.

Once dry, I added luster dust to the stamped shapes to give them definition and help them stand out more.

I then had some coloured dragees that I scattered around the fondant piece and voila the cupcake is done.

I have to apologize for the final tree picture (and now that I look at them - all of the pictures seem a bit dark, sorry) - I took my point and shoot, but the room was too dark, so the lighting is5 not the best and the details kind of get washed out...but it was cute nonetheless.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Missed Opportunites

So on the coldest day of the year so far, we went for our afternoon walk - everyone, even Maizee the sissy pants. A few friends in the neighbourhood and I tend to go around 4pm daily which gives the people a chance to talk about their days and gives the dogs a chance to catch up on sniffing butts and some good natured wrassling. Today, however, was the walk to end all walks - 13 dogs and 7 people and nary a camera in sight. Kristie and I had both glanced at our cameras on the way out the door and thought, "Naw it's too cold, nothing interesting ever happens when it's this cold." We had a Golden Retriever, Miniature Schnauzers, Corgis, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds and a few rare breeds (dogs of inter-racial descent). What a great time we all had, until we realized it's really freakin' cold out here - dogs started holding paws up and humans started losing feeling in various body parts. The decision was made to come home and so we did. The moral : take your damn camera with you, then you won't be looking through the archives for filler pictures (even though the subject matter is quite pretty)!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


It's 2009 already? Holy crap - what happened to 2008?

After a few days at the in-laws (I had a GREAT time, thank you very much!), we just had a quiet night in with a few margaritas and chicken wings. Yes, we sure do know how to live.
My first wish for everyone is a happy, healthy and a year full of love and fulfillment. Do the things that make you happy and maybe try something you've been putting off because you were afraid to try it. See where it takes you - you never know until you try and you can only put things off for so long, then it's too late, so do it now.

So we were in the Ottawa area at my sister-in-law's home for a few days and we all went to see Marley and Me. Not a movie I had any great desire to see - I've read the book and loved it, knowing the outcome (spoiler alert Marley dies) didn't make me want to see it in a public place. I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. It wasn't sappy or over the top, but just really well done. I am recommending it to all of you - although you may want to wait to see it at home so you can have a really rip-snorting, wail of a good cry at the end. After the movie, all 9 of us trudged red eyed and snotty into McDonald's for lunch - Let's just say the lighting in there is less than flattering...

So what's on tap now? I will be ripping my bakery apart for it's annual down to the bare bones cleaning, re-organization and purging of all the excess crap I don't need. Come to think of it - that's what's in store for the rest of the house too!

Here is what my basement bakery looks like:

Cheers to 2009!