Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fudgy Nutella Cookies

Another Pinterest success! I found a recipe for Nutella cookies that is so easy that I decided to make them for both my cookie exchanges as well as for baking gifts. Hazelnut chocolate is my absolute favourite so these cookies are especially nice. The salted tops balance the sweetness of the Nutella and while I won't claim them to be healthy, there is about 1 gram of protein per cookie.


Ingredients:
1 cup Nutella
1 egg
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp flour
sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all of the above ingredients, except salt, in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Place bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes then roll dough in to 1" balls and place at least 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 mins then remove from oven and allow to cool until they just start to set. Gently transfer to a wire cooling rack and sprinkling with sea salt. Cool completely before packaging.

This recipe only yields 12-14 cookies per batch and doesn't double easily (because of the freezer time) but making a couple of batches back-to-back was easy enough - I managed to get some laundry folded while the dough was in the freezer and opened the mail while they were in the oven.

 These cookies pair especially well with some peppermint hot chocolate.


{A note about Nutella versus "Hazelnut Chocolate Spread"}
I tried this recipe with the original Nutella and found the dough quite crumbly. The dough still rolls in to balls nicely but you really have to form them. I also used the generic brand from Walmart and it was much greasier, causing the cookies to turn out like this:
Gross. I had the best luck with the Our Compliments brand from Sobeys and it's a little cheaper too.

What are you baking for the holidays?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Hostess Gift

I discovered these sweet little ornaments on Pinterest a few months back and added them to my "I Wish I Was Craftier" board so that I could continue to admire them. When I was trying to come up with a creative idea for a hostess trinket at the beginning of the month I thought they would be perfect. The recipe is super easy and they smell wonderful - like apple pie, really.

To make them you'll need:

1 cup applesauce
1.5 cups ground cinnamon (plus some for dusting)
cookie cutter in a shape of your choosing
string

Mix the applesauce & cinnamon together in a large bowl. Abandon any attempt to use a spoon and dive in with both hands; you really need to knead the dough to incorporate all the cinnamon. Once the dough is spongy (too sticky? add cinnamon - too dry? add applesauce), roll it out on a flat surface dusted in cinnamon to about 1/4" thick. Cut out your shapes and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. The ornaments will not rise so your shapes can be close together but not touching. Poke holes through each ornament with a skewer. Bake at 200F for 1.5 hours then turn off oven and leave them to sit overnight - the point is to allow all the moisture from the applesauce to evaporate. Remove from oven and thread with string (I used Divine Twine in Cherry from Sweet Social).
I decided to customize some of the ornaments to use as gift tags so before baking them, during the skewer-step, I also pressed a rubber stamp initial in to each 'cookie'.
Note: the ornaments are not edible and should be kept out of reach of little kids and pets.
Our stars look really sweet on our tree and they smell so good as you walk by. They were really quick and cheap to make and so far each hostess we've given them to has been impressed. Thanks for that, Pinterest!

{Original source credit: katyelliot.com}

Follow me on Pinterest! Username erinnwonderland.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dining Table, Before & After

This time last year I took on the project of refinishing a china cabinet & hutch for our living room. I had no prior experience with painting furniture but I read a lot of DIY blogs and figured it should take me a week or two to do - ha ha haaaa! About a month later, this is what we had:
Although the process was time-consuming, laborious, and a tad frustrating I loved the end result. So I set my sights on a 'new' dining table. We've been using a dining set that Kevin's parents had custom made in the 80's. It was expensive and in good shape but I wanted something painted and I couldn't bring myself to tamper with it so we sold it to Kevin's uncle and brought this beauty home:
 Nice, right? I'm sure everyone's grandparents have one of these bad boys. I dismantled it, sanded it down, and painted it a pale beige colour. I then used candle wax & Vaseline around the edges and on a few strategic marks and repainted it a creamy white. When I lightly sanded the whole thing down again, the wax/Vaseline came right off to reveal the first colour underneath, giving it that well-worn look I love so much.
The white really pops out against the darker wood floor and brightens up the room, especially when the sunlight reflects off it. I opted for a semi-gloss finish and applied 6 coats as I anticipate this table getting a lot of use.
A round pedestal table feels so elegant and really opens up the room. It's much easier to move around the breakfast nook now.
We're currently using our upholstered chairs with slipcovers until I'm motivated enough to re-do the four Windsor chairs that came with the table. Another project for another blog post!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Happiness Project: Meal Planning

For the past few years the question of "what should we have for dinner" has reduced me to an anxious, frustrated mess - and I'm being completely serious. When I lived on my own I didn't consider it too much: I would have beans & toast night after night or I would occasionally eat cookies for supper. I wasn't bothered by the lack of diversity - or nutritional value - in my meals, just whatever was easiest. Nowadays it's a real issue. My husband won't buy in to the idea of popcorn for supper, he's a good cook and prefers well-balanced meals, but, like me, is often uninspired. This has led to the dreaded question: 'what should we have for supper?' and the even more infuriating response, 'I dunno, whatever you want'. This would literally make me start to sweat.

Sometimes we would come up with an idea right away and I would run off to the store to grab what we needed then Kevin would cook it. Problem was I was going to the grocery store nearly everyday after work, which is very time consuming. We also ended up throwing out a lot of produce as we never used as much as I bought, which is very expensive and makes me feel guilty. The solution may seem obvious to you but I was a little slower to catch it: plan a week's worth of meals in advance and do ONE big grocery shop.

I was very pleased that this worked in to my Happiness Project goal of being more organized. Every weekend, Kevin & I sit down with our favourite cookbooks and plan what we're making for supper for the next seven days. We then comb our fridge & pantry for ingredients and fill in the gaps on our grocery list. I've started shopping for groceries at some of the Big Box stores and have found that I'm saving anywhere from $30-50 a week - that's HUGE! We're also more efficient at using the food we buy since we can see the big picture on paper.

We've been doing this for over a month now and I can report that it makes me SO HAPPY! It's unreal how something seemingly so simple can have such an impact. The saving money part is awesome too.

We've noticed a trend in the types of meals we choose and have devised a sort of formula, which has made the process even easier. It's kind of cheesy but I'm not too proud to share it with you: each night has a "theme" based on the main ingredient. There is a pasta night, a Mexican night, something with rice, a soup/stew/chili, a casserole, a sandwich-type meal (pitas & burgers fall under this category), and a flex-day. Flex days are sometimes left-overs or sometimes meals out (or ordered-in). This is just a guideline that helps us get started, we've often strayed from the formula, but it really aids in choosing a variety of meals.

I actually look forward to our meal planning and grocery shopping now. It's fun to be creative and we're much more relaxed when we're not hungry and tired. This is a resolution I don't think I'll have trouble keeping.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Candy-Coloured Nails

I am in the middle of a wild love affair with sweet pastel tinted nails - fingers & toes. In my profession we're not allowed to wear nail polish for hygienic reasons and in the early days of motherhood I steered clear of it also as my fingers were often in little W's mouth. In recent months, though, I have bounced from one tasty colour to another, all inspired by some of my favourite treats. Here are a few:

'I Pink I Can' by Sally Hansen
'lilacism' by essie
'office' by American Apparel
'tart deco' by essie


 These colours are playful & subdued, perfect for any season, and the formulas aren't too liquid-y (they go on in one or two thin coats). It's fun changing flavours every week!

{note: all candy images were borrowed from Google Images, the polish pictures are my own}