Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Cupcakes Of Pure Evil

I've decided that Pinterest is an evil evil site. I mean, really. I'm on Weight Watchers right now, and I'm baking these things.   I saw them, and I knew that I just HAD to make them.

The Moneyshot

They're just so easy, and that's mostly why they're evil. All you need to make these are:  cookie dough (I used chocolate chip), a bunch of Reese peanut butter cups, and brownie mix.

That's it.  Spooooooky......

The instructions from the original post state,

"Preheat oven to 350, smoosh 1.5 squares of break-apart refrigerated cookie dough into the bottom of each well.  Place Reese cup (or an Oreo!) upside down on top of the cookie dough.  Top with prepared box brownie mix, filling 3/4 full.  Bake for 18 minutes."

OK, so here's what I did.

I mixed up a batch of my own chocolate chip cookie dough (from my Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie post here, but without the bacon), bought 24 snack-sized peanut butter cups (which are a little smaller than regular ones) and prepared two boxes of chocolate fudge brownie mix.

**NOTE TO SELF:  Do a better job of spraying the pans with cooking spray.  More on that later.

The picture above says it all, really.  Cookie dough, then peanut butter cup, then brownie mix.  It's really as simple as that.  I ended up baking them for more like 22 minutes, because the brownies on top weren't quite set at the 18 minute mark.

When I removed them from the oven, I decided to let them cool for a while before attempting an extraction from the muffin pans.  Good thought, but a better thought would have been to do a better job greasing those suckers up first.  Oopsie.

Extricating the yummy cupcakes from the pans was arduous, to say the least.  The first one I took out looked like I'd sat on it (I hadn't, in case you were wondering).  Still tasted amazing, but not so much with the pretty.  The picture at the top of this post was my third attempt.  I had to gently saw up and and down around the edge of each one with a wet knife to get them all out.  Took a while, but it was worth it.  Yummy, but they're just so darn rich.  I challenge anyone to eat more than one of these at a time. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Little Sauce on the Side (Ribs), or, Taking a Bit of a Ribbing

One night a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at home reading when Dar came home from doing the grocery shopping. After taking her coat and boots off, she looked at me and said, "I bought some presents for you..."

"For me???? You shouldn't have..."

Dar then rummaged around in one of the grocery bags and proceeded to pull out a package of pork tenderloin, and a rack of pork side ribs.

My baby loves me.

Now, as incredible as it may sound, I had never cooked ribs before. I don't think that there's a specific reason for this, but I think that the lack of a BBQ grill is one of the factors. Turns out, the oven is fine place to cook your ribs. As with most things in life, it's not the equipment that matters, it's what you do with it.


Since I have spent a serious amount of time watching the Food Network, I have come to believe that the best way to cook ribs is 'low and slow'. This means that the ribs should be cooked at a low temperature for a longer period of time. This method results in very tender, fall-off-the-bone meat which, really, is what I look for when I order ribs at a restaurant.

The cooking instructions on the package said to cook the ribs at 375°F (190°C) for about 75 minutes. Hmmm... no. If I wanted pork chops, I would cook pork chops. SO, I did a little research online and decided to go with the slower route and try cooking them at about 250°F (135°C) for closer to three hours.

But first... the marinade. Oh yes. Since I was completely winging this anyway, I decided to marinate the ribs overnight with a dry rub first, then baste with a smoky BBQ sauce while they cooked.

The dry rub I used was as follows:

GG's Wonderful Rib Rub

Mix together in a medium-sized bowl -
About 10 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely diced
Equal measures (around 2 tbsp each) of:
- freshly ground black pepper
- kosher salt
- brown sugar
- cumin
- chili flakes
- cayenne
- paprika


I cut the rack into two pieces, rubbed this wonderful stuff well into the meaty side of both pieces and placed them, meat to meat, in a Ziploc baggie. I let them sit in the fridge overnight so the flavours could marinate and co-mingle and stuff.

Cooking them was pretty simple, really. I put them on a Pampered Chef stoneware pan (love the stoneware) and covered them with some smoky BBQ sauce I picked up at the One-Of-A-Kind Show in Toronto back before Christmas. Into the oven they went at 250°F (135°C) and I just let them cook, checking them every 30 minutes or so to make sure they hadn't dried out and to baste them with some more sauce.

We actually popped out to run a few errands while they were cooking and when we got back the whole apartment (and most of the hallway) smelled AMAZING. At about three hours of cooking time I took them out and tested the meat with a fork. Not quite fall-off-the-bone, but pretty close. The meat was cooked all the way through, was very tender and smelled wonderful. Close enough for rock-n-roll as far as I was concerned.

The hardest part was letting them cool down a bit before getting right in there. The first half rack disappeared pretty quickly and I had the other half for dinner the following night, much to the chagrin of my Facebook friends after I posted the pictures.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking Some Pizza For a Spin

In July we had our annual family BBQ party at my parents' cottage. It being a potluck affair, I was expected to bring some sort of food item. They didn't have to twist my arm. However, I was faced with the problem of cooking something that was different than my previous summer offerings. I talked it over with Dar, and originally thought about making some sort of pinwheel sandwich but wasn't terrifically enthused until I thought about making pinwheel PIZZA sammies. I checked the internet for recipes, but was only really concerned about how hot to have the oven and how long to cook the little suckers. Turns out, the general consensus is 400F (205C) for 15 minutes. OK.

Now for the toppings. I decided to keep them vegetarian as I have some family members who are veggie, and it just makes it simpler. This of course meant - no bacon. Oh well, there'll be other times and other pizzas...

...what was I saying? Oh yeah, the toppings.

I first sauteed some sweet red peppers and red onions in some olive oil and crushed garlic. Gotta have the garlic. While they were cooling, I tackled the pizza dough.

I actually went to the trouble of buying a couple of balls of pizza dough instead of going with my first instinct - easy-peasy Pillsbury all-you've-gotta-do-is-unroll-it pizza dough. But NOOOOOOO.... I had to get 'authentic'. Not a mistake I'll make again. If I ever use real spin-it-around-your-head-while-trying-not-to-hit-yourself-in-the-face pizza dough, it'll be because I made it from scratch.


I mixed the two balls of dough together, and finally wrestled them into some semblage of a pizza crust and placed it on my plastic wrap-covered upside-down baking sheet. The plastic wrap is supposed to make the rolling up part 'easier'. We'll see.

After spreading a mixture of cream cheese and pesto on the pizza crust, I added some nice black olive tapenade, and then the cooled veggies.

On top of that, I added (as it turned out, not quite enough) shredded cheese then took a step back and thought over how I was going to tackle rolling up this squidgy, gooey yummy thing.

Turns out, it's a lot like rolling up a sleeping bag. You've got to keep tucking in the middle of the roll to keep it aligned with the outside edges as you roll the thing up. Plus, you've got to be careful that you don't tear the dough. D'oh!

So, OK. I got it rolled up and fully wrapped in the plastic, and it looked like this:

Nice, right? I thought so. In to the freezer it went, and there it stayed overnight. Why, you ask? Well, let me ask you this - have you ever tried to slice room-temperature raw pizza dough? I bet you haven't, or if you have you know that you just end up with a pile of yucchh on the table. Slicing it when frozen is so much easier.

After that, it was into the 450F oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese started to bubble. These can be served hot or cold, and they taste fantastic. Next time though, I'll use a lot more cheese, because they tended to fall apart pretty easily.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bacon Makes The World Go 'Round

So I've had this particular recipe burning a hole in my consciousness for about a year now, and this past weekend I finally got around to it. Those of you who are familiar with this blog will know about my views on bacon as the perfect food and of my efforts to use it in my cooking in as many ways as possible.

Here's one for ya - Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies.

There's really only one thing to say to that: "Ooooohhhh yeahhhh...."

Now, I know that I am not the first to discover these gems of chocolate porkulence, but I just may be their biggest fan. Yes, I just may...

The first step in this endeavour was, of course, to make the bacon bits. This was my favourite part, but you knew that didn't you? I had two frying pans going at the same time with a growing mound of crispy bacon piling up on the table. Not too shabby. 'Course, it made the entire apartment smell like bacon for about three days afterward. Normally this would be a good thing, but Darlene and I have both been trying to watch what we eat just lately and there's nothing that kills your resolve like a bacon-flavoured apartment. heh.

So that was my task for Friday night. We were heading to Niagara Falls the following day to hang out with some friends and I'd promised to bring a batch of these cookies with us. I figured that it wouldn't take very long to put everything together on Saturday morning as long as the bacon was ready to go.

Other than the bacon bits, this is yer basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, so it was pretty straightforward. The cookies came out smelling WONDERFUL, and were cooled and ready to go by the time we were ready to hit the road.

Now, the recipe for the glaze calls for Maple Extract. I looked, but the grocery store I was in wasn't very good, and they didn't have any. Being pressed for time, I improvised. I figured that since the bacon I bought was already maple-flavoured (Oh yes. This is a good thing.) that maybe it wasn't so important to have maple flavouring in the glaze, too. So, I just used a full tablespoon of the vanilla extract instead.

OK. Now we come to the good part - tasting the little suckers. We each tried one, and although I really liked them Dar wasn't sold. She didn't actively DISlike them, but it was more of a 'meh' thing. I decided I needed to try a second one just to verify my findings. You will like them. I promise you.

The thing is, you can't taste the bacon specifically. You get a sense of the saltiness of the bacon, which nicely balances the sweetness of the chocolate. And of course the cinnamon glaze on the top adds an extra 'oomph' to the cookie.

We had to stop on the way to Niagara at my cousins Ted and Sue's place to drop off a saxophone I'd borrowed. That's a story for another day, but suffice it to say we brought the cookies in and had them try one. After the initial, "Bacon? And chocolate? Really?", they both tried one and seemed to really like them. I was feeling optimistic, as so far three outta four ain't bad.

When we got to Eliot and Claudia's place in Niagara Falls, the first thing we did (after cracking a beer of course) was to bring out the cookies and let everyone try one. It was pretty much unanimous. Bacon cookies good. GOOOOOD....

Now, a word about the rest of the food. The first thing we noticed when we pulled into the driveway was a medium-sized smoker sitting in front of the garage. We had been told that (six pounds of) pulled pork was on the menu for that night, but what we didn't realize was that Eliot had also prepared a brisket for the smoker as well. Damn. It was difficult waiting for the meat to be ready, because we could smell it cooking from the back yard.

Here's Eliot sampling his masterpiece. Diet? What diet? We're talking PULLED PORK here, people.

With the oven-baked potatoes and the best gol-durn brisket I've ever tasted AND salads and bread, we really didn't do a whole lot of moving after dinner. It was great.

Oh yeah, the cookies. Here's the recipe. Once again, I don't remember where I got it, so if you recognize it let me know and I'll credit you.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Cookies
1 C butter, softened
2/3 C packed brown sugar
2/3 C granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2½ C all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 C semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (or whatever kind you like)
2 C bacon bits
*NOTE* If you want to make your own bacon bits (which I recommend), it takes approximately 2 lbs. of bacon to make 2 C of bacon bits.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4.
Beat together the butter, the sugars and the vanilla until smooth.
Beat in eggs one at a time, until the mixture is creamy.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, the baking soda and the salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir together. The dough will be slightly soft.
*ANOTHER NOTE* The recipe I used suggests that for a 'cakier' cookie, you should add another ½C of flour, but the ones I made (with 2½ C of flour) were nice and light, so govern yourselves accordingly.
Add in the chocolate chips and bacon bits and stir to combine.
*YET ANOTHER NOTE* The recipe suggests putting the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, but I didn't 'cause we were in a hurry. Didn't seem to affect them.
Place parchment paper on the cookie sheet.
Roll a walnut-sized ball of dough in your hands, place on the parchment paper and flatten slightly with two fingers.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough starts to turn golden brown.
*AND STILL ONE MORE NOTE* For soft chewy cookies, it is very important that the cookies NOT look completely done when you pull them from the oven. If they look golden brown all over, those cookies will be crunchy when they cool. I'm speaking from experience here.
Allow cookies to cool on a rack while you ready the glaze.

The Maple-Cinnamon Glaze
2 C powdered (icing) sugar
1 tbsp maple extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
enough water to make a thick glaze (I used about 3 tbsp)

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. If lumpy, use a whisk.
Spread a small amount of the glaze on the top of each cookie.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cross-Border Holiday Weekend

So about a month ago, we here in Canada celebrated Victoria Day weekend. Or, as it's commonly called - May Two-Four. Some would say that this is because Victoria Day is traditionally observed on or about the 24th of May, but we all know the truth, don't we? Yes we do - a 'two-four' is a case of twenty-four bottles of beer. 'Nuff said about that.

So, we finally have some beautiful weather, it's a holiday weekend, and what do I do? That's right - I go to Michigan.


Y'see, Darlene's great-aunt just turned 90 and there was a big birthday blow-out, so we went to where the party was. Just so happened it was in Pontiac. Hmmm... it's always the last place you look.

Well, after the party, a stay in a pretty nice Best Western just off the interstate and a trip to the Detroit Zoo, we headed home. On the way home, Dar suggested stopping to eat at a little place in Mexicantown right near the Ambassador Bridge call Xochimilco. For those at home, that's pronounced "so-she-MIL-co".

Xochimilco is a cool little Mexican restaurant that was absolutely packed when we got there. So much so that we had to wait in the lounge and have a few drinks before a table was available. Not really a hardship, as we'd spent the day wandering through the Zoo, so we were ready for some cold ones.

We were seated at a long table, and chips and salsa were dropped on the table immediately. Yummy. Of course, the whole point behind the 'free' chips and salsa is to make you thirsty and thus buy beer, so we did. They really didn't have to twist our arms. I ordered a Negra Modelo beer (hey, when in Rome and all that) and surveyed the substantial menu.

We started with some guacamole, because it's one of my favourite things. It was pretty close to the best guac I had ever eaten. That title goes to El Sol Restaurant on The Danforth in Toronto. It's our favourite Mexican restaurant in the city. This stuff was still fantastic, though. Since I was feeling ravenously hungry after our busy day and because everything on the menu looked great, I ordered a combo plate. Combination Plate #3, to be exact.

"And what exactly is Combination Plate #3?", I hear you ask... well I'll tell you.

THIS is Combination Plate #3. Ohhh yeahhh....

The plate had one soft beef taco, a steak burrito and a cheesy chicken enchilada along with rice and refried beans. Everything a growing boy needs. It was yummy, but damn was it a lot of food.

Having said that, I still wanted dessert so I ordered a cherry empanada. I guess I was picturing yer basic fruit pie that you can get in a corner store, but what I got was the behemoth of empanadas. Feast your eyes...

I tell ya, after polishing off that bad boy, I was well and truly full. It was a good thing we still had an hour in the car, because I needed a nap. Sadly, that was not to be as I was the one doing the driving. Ah well. It was a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finally Back At It.

Ok, so I've been neglecting the blog. Certain contributing factors including, but not limited to, Facebook, apathy, moving to a new apartment, have resulted in me not posting anything since back in September.

I have now remedied the Facebook part of the equation by recently ditching all of those stupid time-sucking 'social networking'-type games and by removing all of the people on my friends list who I had added for no other reason that to increase my crew or mafia or clan or whatever. So, if you're still on my Facebook friends list, there's a good chance I've either actually met you or have had at least several conversations with you via e-mail or telephone.

As a result of all of this, I'm seriously backlogged with stuff I'd like to post, and with folders full of pictures from things I've done over the last six months. I will now be getting to these things so please stay tuned.

Things to watch for over the next little while:

* Our recent Victoria Day weekend excursion to Michigan
* Gallumphing Around China (yes, THAT China)
* A new contributor to the Blog - my fiancée Darlene.
* And hey, I might even cook something...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Weekend From Hell, or The Worst. Move. Ever.

Well, the move happened. Eventually. Turns out we hired the worst moving company in the city. Who knew.

Buckle up, it's going to be quite a ride.

First of all, because of a family emergency out of town, the move had to be pushed back from September 13/14 to September 27/28. No problem, as we both still had our old places until the end of the month. Dar called the moving company and made all the arrangements, and was told that two guys in a big truck would arrive at her place on Saturday morning at 8:00am. Sounded good to me.

The plan was for them to pack the remainder of her kitchen stuff, load the truck with her stuff and then come to my place. They would then load my stuff, proceed to the new apartment and unload everything into the new place. Done and done. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

That's not exactly how it happened.

Naturally, when moving out of a high-rise apartment building (as Dar was doing), arrangements have to be made to reserve an elevator so that your stuff can be loaded out as quickly as possible. Of course, being the end of the month, there were others moving out on the same day who had also reserved an elevator and consequently, the elevator was booked solid.

They didn't show up at 8.

At about 8:45am, I was still at my place frantically throwing the last of my stuff into garbage bags and anticipating the arrival of the truck for about 10am. I got a call from Dar to tell me that they hadn't arrived yet, and that she had called the moving company to investigate. Apparently, the boss had no idea where they were, but assured her that they would be there soon. Uh huh.

Dar had reserved the elevators for 8:00am - 10:00am, and the window was rapidly closing. Another phone call at about 9:30 reveals that the boss still doesn't know where the guys are, but assures us they'll be there soon. Are you sensing a theme here?

They didn't show up at 10.

The elevator reservation time has now passed, and Dar is on the phone to the super, trying to make alternate arragements about the elevator. Turns out, the people who have reserved the elevator from 10:00am - noon had their truck arrive early, so they were done already. As long as our guys arrived fairly soon, it would still be OK.

They didn't show up at 11, and this is the point where the day started seriously to go downhill.

In addition to getting stuff ready for the moving truck, I had been loading my car with things that I didn't trust them to move. Things like my bass and my electric piano, the remainder of my hockey card collection that hadn't already gone to my brother's place for safekeeping. Y'know, stuff like that. To do this, I had to pull the car up in front of the house and park it with the four-way flashers on while I loaded it. Somewhere around 11:30am, I come outside with an armload of stuff to find the neighbours across the street standing beside their car and staring at mine.

I was greeted with, "Is that your car? I've just run into it, and we need to exchange information."


I walked around to the other side of the car, and sure enough, she'd backed the SUV out of her driveway, failed to see my car, dented the hell out of the front passenger-side door and broken the side mirror. The only damage to the SUV was a broken tail-light.

If this is starting to sound like a rant, I apologize, but there's still more. Oh yes. Please bear with me.

So, fine, we exchanged information, I used some packing tape to re-affix the side mirror, finished packing the car and drove to Dar's to see what the hell was going on there.

I arrived at her building at about 12:30, and on my way in I meet her with the movers (let's call them Lenny and Squiggy) in tow, who had only just arrived themselves. Their excuse for showing up four and a half hours late? "We couldn't find the place."

Right. In this day and age is this still a viable excuse? I don't think so.

Anyway, the entire day's schedule was now completely out the window. The move that we thought was going to be over and done with by 4pm, is just getting started at 1pm.

But wait, there's more.

As the guys were finishing loading Dar's stuff into the truck, we're told that there's not enough room for all of my stuff, and that we're going to have to stop at the new place and offload some of it BEFORE going to my place. When asked why, they responded, "We didn't expect so much stuff, and we packed the truck wrong." Lenny and Squiggy had now become Lloyd and Harry.

What could we do? We went to the new place and dropped some stuff off. We had to sweet-talk the super at the new place, because we'd now missed our window there as well. AND, we had to tell him that we'd be making another trip in a few hours. He wasn't pleased, but said no problem.

So, instead of unloading everything from the truck like a normal person, they unloaded what they figured was just enough stuff to make room for my stuff. Turns out, they along with us were watching the day slide slowly south, and didn't want to lose the little leverage they had against us finally losing it and refusing to pay. This wasn't going to happen, but they didn't know that.

So it's now getting on for 6pm, and we're at my place loading my stuff. We'd already missed the technician who was supposed to set up our phone/cable/internet at the new place, and we're really starting to get pissed now. About halfway through the load-out, we're told that again, there's not enough room in the truck for all of my stuff and we're going to have to come back for the rest of it.


Now Dar's on the phone to the company demanding a refund or discount or something, because of course we're paying these guys by the hour, and this will mean three extra trips that we shouldn't have had to make. The boss is now seriously cheesed with Lloyd and Harry and tells us that he's willing to work something out.

The night dragged on, and included such highlights as a yelling match between our guys and some other people who were also moving in to our building, and who we apologized to afterwards. On top of that, as 10pm rolled around, Lloyd actually had the balls to start whining about how late it was getting, and that they had a one-hour drive ahead of them after they were done.

By 11:30pm, we just wanted them out of our place. They finished shortly afterwards, and the deal we worked out with their boss had us paying for 7.5 hours on a twelve hour move. It was the only bright spot in the day.