Monday, April 14, 2014

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

A few moths ago I posted this tried-and true recipe when I was guest posting, but I wanted to make sure I don't lose track of it and the safest way to do that is to post it on my blog.  Do you use the search button on your blog to find some of the great recipes you have made in the past?  I love that about blogging.  

So if any of you missed this recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding, here it is.   It is a great combination of healthy because of all the pumpkin in it and practical because it uses up all your leftover crusts.  Or is that just me who has leftover crusts?


I love this bread pudding recipe.  I have tweaked and perfected it by reducing the sugar, eliminating the butter, and using skim milk instead of cream to make it healthier than the original.  I have made it with raisins or dried cranberries and they both are great.  I use any kind of bread/bun/crust that is in my freezer and needing to be eaten.  You should see how nice and neat my freezer looks now.  Just kidding - it's still a mess.  But I'm not kidding about how great this bread pudding is!

8 cups bread, cubed
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
3 cups milk (I used skim milk)
5 eggs
1/2 can (796 ml or 28 fl oz) pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1.  In a large bowl, cover the bread and cranberries/raisins with the milk and set aside.
2.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, and spices.
3.  Add to the bread mixture and stir to blend
4.  Put bread mixture into a greased 9 x 13 or large casserole dish 
5.  Bake uncovered at 350F for 45-60 minutes or until the centre has set (test with a knife)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blue is the New Black

I'm embracing the new blue trend.  

Last summer I painted our banker's chair in the family room a light navy shade (see photo below).  I love the colour and decided to paint the dining room chairs in it as well since they are in an adjoining room.

The blue is a bit lighter than a navy and not exactly royal blue.  It is sort of a marine blue.  And sort of like the centre of a blueberry. It's a really livable shade of blue - not too dark or light or bright.

We usually use a mix of chairs around the table which I wanted to unify by painting them a single colour.  Also our dining room chairs get heavy use so they were chipped around the edges and in need of a new paint.  The black of the IKEA chairs looked a bit dark with all the greens and blues and grays in the rest of the kitchen-dining-family room so I thought it would be nice to introduce the blue to the dining end of the room. 

I painted some of the IKEA chairs and one other blond wood chair in the navy.  Although I liked the light wood, we didn't have any other wood that colour and the chair had paint splotches and signs of wear on it.  So paint it, I did.  I love its lines and love how it looks in blue.

How do you feel about the blue trend?  Navy especially is all over the place these days - everything from clothes to interiors. I have always loved blue so this is a trend I love!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Alice's First Apartment

My friend's daughter, Alice, also happens to be my daughter's friend.  Don't you love when things like that happen.  The four of us share an interest in decorating and interior design. Back before our daughters went off to university we would go and visit Designer Showhomes together.  It was always fun to see who liked which rooms best and what features appealed to each of us.  Now that my daughter is studying in Halifax on the east coast and her daughter is studying in Vancouver on the west coast we can no longer go on outings like these, ... sigh ... but we still indulge our hobby in different ways.  

Alice recently sent me some photos of her first apartment which she has been decorating and I loved them so much I wanted to share them with you.  She lives in a little bachelor apartment in a building that is almost 100 years old so it is an apartment with lots of character and charm.  Alice is still in university so decorating her flat is a work in progress and everything so far has been a combination of DIY, Craiglist, thrifting, and bartering, which, frankly, makes me love it all the more.

So let's have a tour, shall we.

The kitchen is simple with white cabinets and pale blue walls, but Alice injected her own personality by adding touches of red in the art, tea towels, accessories, and mismatched door knobs which she is replacing one-by-one as she finds pretty red ones on sale.

The tall skinny area by the wall in the photo below was really an unused cupboard because of the awkward shape.  Alice removed the door and added shelves so that it could be used to display cookbooks and bring in a few touches of red.

The bird silhouettes are wall decals that have been on Alice's walls in different bedrooms and apartments for years.  She carefully applies them and then removes them again when she moves so she can add them to the next house.

The built-in bookshelves between the kitchen and the rest of the flat are the perfect place to display favourite items like skull vases and candles and lollipops - all necessary items for a university student.

Since it is a bachelor apartment the space had to be used very efficiently.  The area that was originally designed to be the eating area was better suited to being a study area given that Alice is a student.  

The living room has an L-shaped sectional that Alice got by trading a chair for it with a friend.  All I can say is that she is a mean barterer. The sofa makes into a bed so it is good for when she has guests. Two IKEA bookshelves - one placed vertically and one horizontally - are the perfect place to store books, the stereo, and the TV.

Alice and her family have traveled extensively and little touches of her interests and travels are found around the apartment.  The brass tray in the living room was Alice's grandmother's and she uses it to display meaningful items, like a rock from the base camp at Mount Everest (dark gray rock in the centre), the key to her flat in Switzerland when she went to school there, a sand dollar from Vancouver Island, a camel bone box from Qatar, a camel from Oman, a gun shaped piece of coral from Curacao, and a silver acorn from her father.

The living room has a fireplace which, although it doesn't work, provides a wonderful focal point and is used for displaying more treasures - the most important being her two black goldfish!

Alice's bed is right beside the fireplace so she uses a stack of large-sized books as a bedside table.  She covered the bed in a black duvet so that it won't show the dirt if anyone sits on it.  Alice's mother is the friend I went to Bangladesh and India with and I remember buying the embroidered cloth Alice has on her wall when we were in Dhaka.  The cloth helps make the bed appear more couch-like, but also helps conceal an unused door.

You have to walk through Alice's closet to get to the bathroom so she has worked to make it not only functional, but attractive as well.  Alice added a row of hooks to hang her extensive scarf collection on, which adds a nice rainbow effect along the wall.  

The dress, in the photo below, was hung on hooks from the closet doors to decorate the hallway.  The dress was given to Alice and doesn't actually fit her, but she liked the design of dancing girls so hung it in her hallway.  Note the shoes along the top of the cupboard to make good use of the space and add a little interest. 

And finally, the round chalkboard was one that we brought back from Bangladesh.  It originally had a mirror in it, but when the mirror broke my friend painted the back with chalkboard paint and it is now part of Alice's closet surrounded by mini mirrors from Bangladesh.  That wall is the perfect place for the most frequently worn shoes and boots - I love how they are all black and grow in size from one end to the other.

And finally, the shower curtain in the bathroom was fabric bought from a vendor on a popular beach in Vancouver and Alice turned it into a shower curtain.

I love all the personal touches and the can-do attitude that has gone into decorating Alice's apartment.  Way to go girl!  

Do you remember decorating your first apartment?  I don't think it was as easy to find good second-hand deals back in the day because thrift stores weren't as popular and it was long before Craigslist and Kijiji.  What do you think?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Goodbye Winter!

Phew, we've made it!  It seemed like a long haul getting through this winter and we haven't exactly got spring temps outside yet, but at least the worst of the minus-double-digits are over (I hope).  This winter, here in Toronto, was the tenth coldest in the past 100 years and we broke records for having more than 100 consecutive days with snow on the ground.  The advantage of having a prolonged snow cover is that it always looks pretty when you look out the window, as opposed to frozen dirt which we often have (how's that for looking on the bright side of things).

There is still lots of snow around, but I have faith that within the next few weeks it will be gone and the gardens will start to grow.

Last week was the March Break so I had the week off work.  One of the things I did was to go to the cottage for a few days with my mother.  There was tons of snow up there so we had lots of winter fun - a right and proper goodbye to winter.  

We went snow-shoeing

and out onto the frozen lake 

and we walked along the cottage road in softly falling snow. 

It was a very relaxing time at the cottage and I even got a book read.  Yay me!  Have you read anything by Andrea Barrett?  Dear husband-and-chief-book-buyer, gave me four of her books for my birthday.  Ship Fever is a book of short stories all with a historical science connection.  I thought they were terrific, being a science person myself.

I'm keeping a keen eye out for any signs of spring.  Here's my list so far:
-  the pussy willows in our backyard are beginning to bloom
- the springtails or snow fleas (tiny tiny bugs that are all over the depressions in the snow at springtime) were out on our last day at the cottage
- the days are getting longer and the sun actually feels warm now
- I've been planning our summer vacation which has entailed dreaming about Ireland (not likely due to lack of funds) and now Newfoundland.  I love planning our vacations.
- I couldn't resist making some art using the springiest colours I could find in art class last week.

Okay, winter - take the hint.  I've officially said goodbye to you, so you can disappear for another year.  In the meantime I will just have to content myself with the indoor flowers that dear husband-and-chief-gardener, has a way with.

I'm wishing you all a happy first day of spring tomorrow!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's Eat Pie

Today is March 14th.  You know what that is, right?  3.14!  Yep, pi which means it is Pi Day.  And Pi Day means you eat pie.  Makes sense?

I got together with My son and his wife to celebrate a pre-Pi-Day Pi-Day since I knew I would be busy on the actual day.  We all worked together to make a savoury pie, aka a quiche, and a sweet apple pie for dessert.  They worked out so well and tasted fantastic.

My daughter-in-law is the master of the crust so she worked her charms for all the pies and even wove a fancy lattice crust for the apple pie.  My son and I chopped and mixed and cooked.  Good times!

The quiche was the best I have ever had.  It was loaded with veggies which is my favourite kind.  You could add different veggies than the ones we used if you prefer, like mushrooms or zucchini, as long as you keep the proportions approximately the same.

Here is the recipe for the vegetable quiche we used (makes two quiches).

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 red bell pepper,diced
1 tbsp olive oil
8 eggs
2 cups low fat milk
2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or white flour or brown rice flour)

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare crust for two 9-inch pie pans or spray pans with cooking oil if making crustless quiches.
2.  In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook the onion for about 3 minutes.  Then add the broccoli and red peppers and cook for about 5 more minutes until just tender.  Stir in the spinach and transfer the vegetables to the prepared pans.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, cheeses, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Whisk in the flour and pour evenly over the vegetables.
4.  Bake until set, about 45 minutes.  Cool quiche about 10 minutes before serving.

Apple pie is always a favourite so that is what we had for dessert, after our quiche ... and a walk.

Ingredients for one pie:
7 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored,and thinly sliced (about 7 cups in total)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
pie crusts for top and bottom of a 9-inch pie pan

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.   Prepare the dough for the pie pan.
2.  In a large bowl, combine the apple and all the other ingredients, except the butter.  Mound the apple mixture in the prepared pan making the centre higher than the sides.  Dot the top evenly with pieces of butter.  Cover the top with a crust, press the top and bottom crusts together to seal, trim the excess dough, and cut vents.
3.  Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour or until the top crust is golden brown and the apples feel tender when pierced with a knife.  Let the pie rest for 20 minutes before serving.

There is nothing like an excuse to eat pie.  I'm totally on-board any celebration this delicious.  Do you celebrate Pi Day?  It is a new-to-me-tradition, but one that I will be repeating.