Sunday, December 30, 2012

Farewell to 2012

Get yourself a hot drink and snuggle up before you help me say farewell to 2012. This is a long post!

I don't know about you, but I don't officially make New Years Resolutions. However, I do reflect on the past year and think about things I liked, things I didn't like, things that made me happy, and things I've learned . Here's a selection of my thoughts on 2012:

    • Business ownership is not for me, and I'm more than okay with that. After stopping work on my business this year, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. My full time job became more enjoyable and productive, and my home life improved as well. I had time to take part in extracurricular activities, to spend valuable time with friends and family, to read a good book for fun, to take a vacation without constantly thinking about work, and to really appreciate the small things in life. This is the first time in my adult life that I have not felt like a workaholic. I still work very hard at my job, but when work is done, its done. I learned how to let go this year and what an important lesson that is. 
    • Pilates and writing = yes, synchronized swimming =no. These were my new activities for the year, and 2 out of 3 ain't bad. I actually can't believe how much I love writing. What started out as a useful way to keep track of my favorite recipes has become my favorite hobby. I went through my schooling excelling in every subject except English. I didn't like writing at all and was criticized on most of the things I ever produced for English class. After that one mandatory English class at University, I thought it would be the end of my writing (outside of exams and research papers). When people started telling me that they enjoyed reading my blog, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. I've actually began writing a blog at work as well, and I'm toying with the idea of doing some freelance writing sometime in the future. Life is full of surprises. 
    • It's difficult to be both professional and empathetic when dealing with death at work, but I seem to be getting closer to finding the balance. Unfortunately I have had a lot of death at work this year - 5 people I knew well, 2 of them within the last couple of weeks. I'm naturally empathetic, and find it difficult not to be a blubbering idiot in these situations, but I'm getting better while being careful to remain a kind human being. 
    • I am an introvert and proud of it. I have Susan Cain, the author of QUIET, to thank for this. I have been extremely uncomfortable at many parties in my life, but faked my way through them only to arrive home at the end of the night in an exhausted trance.  There were actually several loud exciting parties during which I fell asleep, and now I know why. When I read QUIET, my approach to events and life changed. I realized that there are a lot of people out there like me, and its okay to recharge alone. This has done wonders for me. 
    • Road trips will always be my favorite. Yes, the car seems to be getting a little more uncomfortable as I get older, but nothing beats cruising down the road with my wonderful husband listening to some great music on our way to some new and exciting destination like NYC. 
    • A good friend will always be your friend. I've reconnected with some old friends this year, and we continued from where we left off. I've disconnected with others as I accepted that I didn't mean much to them anymore. It's hard to let go, but sometimes that's the best option. 
    • Although I already knew this, pets make a house a home, and losing a pet is not an easy thing. My precious Molly died yesterday at the age of 17. I remember the day we got Molly. I was in grade 10, and I had just lost my first pet, Spike. Spike and I were good pals. She slept in my room, and I loved her so much. When she died, I was devastated, and although "they" don't recommend replacing lost pets with other ones, that's what we did. My Mom  and I went to pick Molly out. She was a sweet little energetic kitten - exactly what I needed. Although I have not spent much time with her since I was 18, she was always there for a good cuddle when I went home, and I'll miss her. 
    • My brother introduced me to some great radio this year - This American Life and Stuff you Missed in History Class. I've also taken up listening to CBC radio while at work. My favorite shows are White Coat, Black Art, The Current, DNTO, Quirks and Quarks, Q and The Next Chapter. I'd highly recommend heading to the Current's website and listening to their best shows over the past 10 years. Anna Maria Temonti is inspirational. 

 So on that note, I'll say farewell to 2012 and hello to 2013. I'm excited to see what this year will bring. I'd also like to thank you to those people who have read my blog, complemented me and lead me on a new path which I would never have believed possible.

Now, I'm finally going to post the rest of my Christmas baking recipes. I know most of you are probably sick of sweets and may have even put on a few pounds by now, but keep these in mind for next year. They're all approved by both friends and family.

Grammie J's Ginger Snaps

These are really "snappy" snaps. I use them for my gingerbread men at Christmas because I like the thin crisp gingerbread men vs soft and chewy ones.

1/2 C Molasses
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in water
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
3-4 C of whole white flour

1. Mix all ingredients except flour together in a large bowl.
2. Gradually add flour until dough is stiff, but sticky ( I used about 3.5 C)
3. Sprinkle work surface with flour, then knead dough until it is smooth.
4. Although not necessary, I refrigerated the dough at this point for a couple of hours to make it easier to roll and cut.
5. Roll the dough thin (less than 1/4 inch)
6. Cut with cookie cutters of your choice.
7. Bake on parchment paper lined baking sheets at 350F for 8-10 minutes. Cookies should be firm to touch.
8. Decorate once cooled if desired.

Triple Ginger Biscotti
adapted from this recipe at Eat, Live, Run

3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp ground ginger
2/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Gradually stir in molasses, then beat well.
4. Combine the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, and mix well.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.
6. Form 2 logs of dough which are about 8 inches wide and 12-14 inches long. Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing into biscotti. Use a serrated knife for this. The recipe said it makes 12, but I got closer to 24 biscotti.  Turn each biscotti on its side and return to oven for another 10-12 minutes.
8. Enjoy dipped in a nice cuppa java.

Raspberry Coconut Bars
taken from Company's Coming Most Loved Festive Baking by Jean Pare 2008.

1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
1/2 C butter, softened

1 C raspberry jam - I used my homemade jam here. 

2 eggs
2 C shredded coconut
1 C sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder

1.Preheat oven to 350F 
2. Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl. 
3. Cut in the butter until it resembles fine crumbs. 
4. Press firmly in ungreased 9x9 inch pan. 
5. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.
6. Spread jam carefully over the crust, and let sit while making the topping. 
7. Beat eggs until frothy. 
8. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. 
9. Carefully spoon over the jam layer. 
10. Return to oven for about 30 minutes. It should be golden color. 
11. Cool. Makes 36 small bars. 

Chewy Date and Walnut Squares
taken from Company's Coming Most Loved Festive Baking by Jean Pare 2008. 

1 C chopped pitted dates
1 C sugar
3/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Grease a 9x9 inch pan
3. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. 
4. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl until pale. 
5. Mix the eggs with the flour mixture. 
6. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes ( until an inserted toothpick comes out clean)
7. Let stand for 10 minutes, then cut into 36 squares while still warm. 
8. Let cool completely before removing from pan. 

Fruit Mince Spelt Muffins
Inspired by this recipe and this recipe by Teresa Cutter

These would be my favorite new recipe of the year. The smell in the house was delightful when they were cooking, and they are very moist and healthy. 

Fruit mince:
250 g  honey crisp apples, finely diced with the skin 
175 g dates and/or figs finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 C apple cider
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine the apples and dates/figs in a pot. 
2. Add the apple cider, spices, and vanilla.
3. Cover the pot and gently simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. 
4. Add more apple cider if needed  to keep the mixture plump and moist then simmer for another 30 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. 

1  cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
100 g sugar 
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk 
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
All of the Fruit mince from above

1. Preheat oven to 350F 
2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.
3. Add eggs, milk, olive oil, vanilla and mix thoroughly
4. Fold in fruit mince. You may need to add some more flour depending on the consistency of the batter. I added about 1/4 - 1/2 C more spelt flour here. It should be very moist, but thick. 
5. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with baking paper.
6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Toothpick inserted should come out clean

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
adapted from this recipe  at the Galley Gourmet which was adapted from  Will Cook for Smiles

These are best served straight from the oven or heated in the microwave for about 20 seconds. 

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces dark chocolate chopped
3 extra large eggs
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons low fat sour cream
2 cups finely grated zucchini ( I had frozen some grated zucchini in the fall, and it worked perfectly after thawing)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (mixture of white and semi sweet)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Mix together the flour, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. 
3. Melt the chopped chocolate in a pot over lower heat or a double boiler. Set aside. 
4.  Beat the eggs and brown sugar with a mixer on high until light in color. 
5. Gradually mix in the oil, yogurt, zucchini, and vanilla. 
6. Add dry ingredients and mix only until uniform ( do not over mix). 
7. Fold in the melted chocolate, then gently stir in chocolate chips. 
8. Fill lined muffin tins with batter almost to the top. It will make 15 muffins, so I used 3 greased ramekins for the other 3 "muffins". 
9. Bake for 20-22 minutes, then allow to cool for about 10 minutes before enjoying. 

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