Hogswatch 2012

We did Hogswatch without you…  Happy Belated Hogswatch!  It’s taken me a while to get ahold of pictures, and recover from eating enough to actually write about, well, eating.

What is it?  Check HERE.  Or just know that, in my family, it involves food.  LOTS of food.

and funny hats. Yes, it's a duck-shaped tea-cosy. This is our ode to the duckman. Underneath the ode is K, my partner in Hogswatch crime.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of your house shrinking as the number of people in it doubles for a long weekend.

Considering I spent two days cooking and eating nearly non-stop, I actually got a lot of exercise.  By the time we were done cooking on Sunday night, most of the main floor kitchen had been moved to the basement kitchen, one desperately-needed item at a time.  That’s a lot of stair-sprints.

I am not a food blogger.  I just don’t have the patience or memory to not-eat-right-away, make things pretty, or take pictures along the way.  What we produced was not restaurant-pretty, but it was delicious.  Today I’m giving you the rundown of recipes I can link to actual food-bloggers’ sites.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll give you some recipes.


We have a slow cooker.  I’m not honestly sure if it’s ever been used.  My parents have a tendency to buy things in a “OH WOW, how did we live without this thing?  We were practically savages!” kind of way, and then they disappear into the bowels of the house, only to reappear years later as a “What. The. Hell?!  Was this a gift?  From someone who doesn’t like us?  Who would buy this?!”

More to the point, we did a little chicken, carrots and potatoes in the slow cooker, using this recipe from the Crockin Girls.

It’s the first time I’ve ‘crocked’ anything, but it turned out fabulously.  SO tasty, tender, juicy and delicious.  The potatoes didn’t cook as well as everything else, so I’d probably skip them next time.  We  used baby potatoes, and chopped heirloom carrots instead of the vegetables they list.  The other change I made is that I slid slices of lemon and lime (and the spice mixture they use) under the skin of the chicken.  It’s pretty easy to do, and is great for flavoring the meat, rather than flavoring the outside of the skin (which no-one in my family eats, especially not after it was steamed into a kind of mushy meh-ness).

I am SO stalking their site for more crock pot recipes.

Figgy Pudding

FIIIIGS. They are not the most attractive of dried fruits, but oh-so-delicious. Nearly 24 hours into Hogswatch at this point, you can probably see the cracks in my mental stability spreading across my face. Duck? What duck?
When I mentioned that I was making this as part of the dessert, my mum’s response was, “What?  That’s a real thing?  I didn’t think it was a thing!”

bucket o' dried fruit and alcohol. Yummmmmmmm
The alcohol in it gives it a kind of bitter-sweet taste, and it is so full of dried fruit that you could almost pretend that it’s healthy.  It’s spongy and moist and full of tart pieces of fruit.  The part where you flame it at the end wasn’t exactly successful for us, but I’ll be trying it again next time.

With that many people eating, someone’s not going to like something.  C tried it and disliked it because of the background taste of alcohol.  Peanut refused on the grounds of it being contaminated with both alcohol (sometime I’ll tell you about the one and only time she came to the liquor store with me) and dried fruit.  I’d classify it as a ‘grown-up dessert’.

We didn’t change the recipe at all, being kind of unsure about what it was meant to be.  it’s from here.

Key Lime Cupcakes

We used this recipe, and it was delicious.  We decorated them in our own special way, with home-made elephant ears and noses for some, and turtle legs for others.  I swear, the elephant and turtle theme makes sense – you should go read a Discworld novel.

Yes, one elephant has three eyes. That's not really part of pratchett. We formed the little green legs and the elephant ears/nose out of dyed white melting chocolate that we poured into shapes on parchment paper.
In addition to all this, we also had roast duck (from a mishmash of food network recipes), roasted potatoes and beets, spinach and feta tarts, veggie casserole, Wassail Punch, mulled wine, home-made chocolate rats and skeletons onna stick (seriously, it makes sense!), a cheese platter, salad, and cold borscht.  Some recipes will follow.

I beg your pardon, did you just ask me about a duck? preposterous

Apples with cake in

This isn’t a big post.  Or even a recipe post.  It is, in fact, a redirect.

Look at what I made:

it's a cake!

It’s Apple Sharlotka, and it is delicious.  The recipe is over at Smitten Kitchen, along with considerably more talented and artistic photos.

I don’t see any reason why I should go over the instructions for it, since they dit it first, and better, over at Smitten Kitchen.  I’ll leave it at this:

you cut up a whole lot of apples into a cake pan, and then pour a small amount of cake batter over top of them.  Magic happens in the oven, producing a slice of Heaven.

And now for the reviews:

Peanut – “Dad can have that piece – I’ll get the next one.” (translation: I want a bigger piece than that, and think I stand a chance of possibly getting one if I appear generous).  She then proceeded to have another piece later that evening, and then another the next day… there is a reason there was no more Apple Sharlotka in the kitchen two days after I made it.

Mom – “This is a keeper.”, “We could make it in a muffin tin!”, “You have to make this again.”

Dad (aka the man who doesn’t eat or like most dessert) – “Wow – this is actually really good!”, and “next time we make this, we should try doing it in a square glass pan, it would be easier to clean afterwards” (that might not sound like a good review, but when you consider the fact that he said next time we make this, you know it’s a winner.  Also, bear in mind how terrible he is at reviews)

It’s tart, it’s sweet (but not overly sweet), it turned out pretty without any effort to make it look pretty, and it is, at the end of the day, mostly apple.  How bad could it be, really?


On a completely different note – today you might notice that an awful lot of sites are… black.  Black in the ‘my daily dose of bloggy humor is covered in black, and unreadable’ way.  US Congress – please don’t go forward with SOPA/PIPA.  It really isn’t likely to help in the long run, or the short run.  Nathan Badley has a good explanation of things here.

The Prettiest Thing

I found myself at the christmas party night at a country bar recently.  We went for line-dancing and had a blast.  Apart from establishing that, yes, I line-dance with the grace of a giraffe on a unicycle wearing one lead boot, I also got handed a chocolate covered marshmallow on a stick.

I managed to avoid maiming anyone with it while dancing, and even managed to keep my marshmallow-onna-stick and eat it.  It was delicious!  I didn’t hold high hopes for it, since generally such treats are made with ‘chocolate flavoured plastic coating’ and 30 year old marshmallows.  Instead, it was a light and fluffy fresh marshmallow coated in rich dark chocolate, with some candycane crumbles on the top.  It was cute, delicious and an ‘adult’ version of itself.

I wanted to make one!  I wanted to make many!  For a potluck!

I don’t have a recipe or quantities.  The project started at 9:30 on a thursday night, and apart from “i bought wayyy tooo much chocolate” I don’t have any measurements.  This is not the ‘recipe’ kind of project.

What you’ll need, should you choose to make Chocolate Covered Marshmallow-onna-stick:

  • Melting chocolate (I chose the dark belgian chocolate available in neat little rounds at Bulk Barn, but if you don’t like dark chocolate, pick something else.) – I’m guessing I probably used about a cup and a half of them for the 30 marshmallows I coated.
  • sticks – bulkbarn sells actual sucker-type-sticks relatively inexpensively.  Or, for that matter, you could use toothpicks, or shish-kebab skewers.
  • Regular sized marshmallows.  Or you could be super fancy and home-make your marshmallows.  Here’s a recipe for it … but I used store-bought)
  • White chocolate – only if you want to make the pretty swirly additions to the final product.  You won’t need a lot – probably half a cup, if even that much.
  • Sprinkles of some sort – I found the tiny dot type sprinkles worked the best out of what I had available.  You could also use crumbled candycane, or graham cracker crumbs (s’mores onna-stick!), or really anything that would taste good with marshmallows and chocolate.
  • Something to hold them upright to cool – I found that taking an old shoebox and poking small holes in it worked quite well. Alternately, you could use the fancy stand you already have for displaying cake pops.
... because some people make pretty things all the time!


Melt dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl:  put it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until it reaches a good consistency.  Alternately, you can do a double boiler.

Put sprinkles in a small bowl, and load your marshmallow onto a stick.

Dip your marshmallow into the melted chocolate, and hold it over the chocolate bowl (shaking it lightly) to let the excess chocolate drip off.

Dip the top (or the top and sides, if you want) in the sprinkles.

Stick the marshmallow stick upright into your stand.  Just make sure there’s space between them so that if they do tip, they are unlikely to hit each other.

Move the full stand somewhere cold.  My plan was to put it on the back deck, since it’s a bit warmer than fridge-temperature out there.  It was raining when I tried to go out to our back yard, so I put them on my front deck, because the front deck has a small awning over the door.  My neighbours might think I’m crazy.  I was concerned about squirrels, but apparently they are either sleeping by 10pm, or just not as interested in marshmallows as they would be if they were sugar-high 5-year-olds roaming the streets.  I wouldn’t suggest this technique on, say, Halloween night.

Once the chocolate is cooled enough that you can lay them on their sides, do so, on wax or parchment paper, to prevent too much cleanup-mess.

Melt your small amount of white chocolate (see above options).

With a spoon, or your choice of implement, drizzle small amounts of white chocolate on the side of the marshmallow.  I found putting a bit of the chocolate on a small spoon and then flicking it violently back and forth over the marshmallows made it look artistic and surprisingly professional.

Return to the cool place of your choice until the white chocolate cools and you can flip them over.  Repeat the white chocolate process.

Store in the refrigerator, to ensure that they don’t melt all over and ruin the ‘look’.

Bask in the glow of the praise and disbelief of your friends and family as they gape in astonishment at how that weird thing you’d been working on quietly in the kitchen for the past hour actually turned out looking like something they might buy at that cute little bakery (you know… that one with the adorable cupcakes?) for $7.99.

the prettiest thign I have ever made.
wax paper between layers... and the urge to open my own bakery... I am impressed at myself!

Back UP

Friday,  I explained my Debbie-Downer spiral into guilty dog owner misery.  Wednesday was NOT a good day, and I was  feeling like a failure at dog-training, and like I wanted to hunt down that  awful Dog Whisperer wannabe and smack him upside the head.  I also mentioned the up-swinging mood that I planned to post, and then failed to actually post it.  I figured I ought to get it together while the timeline still makes sense.

I  bounced back from my bad mood, and armed myself for WAR before heading out to take  Gwynn and Sadie for a walk on Thursday last week.  I would not  give in to this doggy failureness, despite being lacking in walk-buddy Doodle (she’s having a blast up north, by the way).  I would overcome.

I  would be triumphant.

So  I raided the fridge.  The big container  of treats I brought with me had small, easily torn up pieces of:

  • Cooked  Chicken
  • Cooked  Ham
  • And…  secret weapon… salmon skin.  Also cooked.  This is gold.  Gwynn gets crazy-eyed at this, and so does Sadie.  Gwynn does a run-through of  anything he can think of – sit, down, wave, other paw, both paws, roll, attempt to use the Force and take fish skin using the power of his mind.  The other dogs in Gwynn’s obedience class try to get close enough to grab the baggie of fish-skins, confusing their owners to no end as to why I’m suddenly awesome.  Once I realized how effective this treat was, I started freezing it every time we make salmon for dinner.  A slab of salmon is considerably less expensive with the skin on, and it isn’t that hard to cut it off before prepping your salmon.  We could eat it ourselves, and I realise that there isn’t anything bad about it, but… it’s shiny and odd, and I’d much prefer to not eat it.

How to Make Fish-Skin Snacks for Your Dog:

Cut the skin off the raw fish – use a large, sharp knife for this, and take your time.  Put it on a baking tray with parchment paper on it (to prevent the skin from sticking to the tray), and stick it in the oven (375 Fahrenheit) until it is crispy.

Break it into pieces (I cut them to about 1”x 1”) and store in the fridge (short term) or freezer (long term).
I break it up in my hand when using it in training, so if you don’t want to have to do this, cut it into smaller pieces.

Be warned… your hands will be kind of greasy and smell like fish after you start serving out fishy treats to your dog. Putting hand sanitizer on your fishy hands will make them smell like vodka-soaked fish.

these... are much prettier than what I make... BUT... fish skin treats for dogs all have the same effect, regardless of prettiness. Click on the pic to go to a website that sells these dog-tasty morsels.

I loaded my nerdy fanny pack with the Tupperware full of weapons of mass obedience (WMO’s), water, and a ball.

I kept Gwynn and Sadie on-leash, walking nicely, for the first 20 minutes in the park (this is after a 20 minute-ish walk to get to the park), and every few steps, I practiced the command that I KNEW they know… but on-leash.


Sit.  Wait. Retreat a few paces, making them wait. Come. Reward.  WMO and affection and verbal praise… I threw everything in my arsenal at them.

like that...but twice the dog! It was like practicing a command with a built-in distraction in place.

And repeat… many times in a 20 minute period, interspersed with actual walking down the path, and with random sit commands.  Basically, my goal was to show them that ‘to come when called is to fill their mouths with morsels of awesome’.  I am the candyman, and the pied piper – follow my lead, dogs.

I do realise that this should have been followed by working with them like this for a few days, then working like this, but on a long line, then working off-leash and in an enclosed area, then working off-leash in a very distraction-free area.  And also, training two dogs at once is not necessarily a wise choice.  BUT I knew that they both know this command, and that Sadie always stays quite close to me (and Gwynn stays close to Sadie, because he loves her), and I also knew that if I didn’t let Sadie run at all on this walk, she’d be a hyperactive mess until our next walk, next Tuesday.

They were also just about cross-eyed with glee at the WMO’s, so I was hopeful about off-leash training, and thoroughly ignoring the inner voice.  The inner voice was describing what happened every single time for the past three weeks that I have let Gwynn off-leash.  He left the school-yard, ran across a street and into someone’s back yard.  He ate a large portion of a very old-dead-seagull, he ate A LOT of goose-poop and crawled under a picnic table that had two women sitting at it.  He ran into someone’s yard while trying to make friends with a cat.  He ran into that person’s yard again, a week later, trying to find that cat.

Luckily, the inner voice failed to consider the WMOs… the WMOs were a much greater lure than any sane, food-oriented dog could resist.  They were better than:

  • Running through the woods to the creek
  • Sniffing a girl on a bike (even before actually getting a sniff in… they were less than 5 ft from the girl)
  • A stroller (and Gwynn LOVES strollers, though I’m not sure why)
  • Sniffing trees off in the woods
  • Standing on a big rock
  • And… chasing Sadie.  Obviously this one doesn’t apply to Sadie… but Gwynn, mid-chase, stopped… and returned to me.

What they weren’t better than?

Kitty looked down at Gwynn from his perch of safety, and said "HELL NO, we can't be friends!"

There was a black cat in the woods, and it climbed a tree to avoid meeting Gwynn and Sadie.  While Sadie considered the WMOs to be better than a cat up a tree (she has kitty friends at home, so they aren’t as exciting), Gwynn was determined to get a kitty friend.  I have NEVER seen a cat down in the creek valley before Thursday.  Ever.

I even had them doing the Sit… wait while I back up… come practice while they were off-leash.  Every time they brought the ball back, in fact. Then they got the double-treat of getting a WMO, and getting the ball thrown again.  One woman walking down the path asked me if I was a dog trainer.  While I realize I’m nowhere near that good… it was such a morale booster, especially on top of all the successful training practice we were doing.

What I learned from all this mood-swinging activity:

  • Practice.  It needs to happen, or all the success goes away, leaving me wallowing in unhappiness and guilt at my dog-fail-ness.
  • The right treat – find that thing that the dog loves even more than animal carcasses and feces.  That is what you should be doing your high-distraction training with.  At home, anything I give him seems to count as awesome treat.
  • Positivity – Mr. Snark crushed me with his scorn and derision… why? Because I let a random stranger with no knowledge of how awesome and generally good Gwynn is tell me how sucky I am at life.  And I believed him.  The positive side of this, though, is that it was enough of a kick-start to make me more focused on doing the necessary steps to work through the training issues we’ve run into.  I was still dead-tired, but I was reminded of how much more than just exercise and fun Gwynn needs.  I went to sleep early… and will continue to do so while I’ve got all this extra time on my hands (dogless for a week).

The Prickliest of the Vegetables, but it’s got Layers, like an Onion… or an Ogre

I am so lucky to have found a food buddy.  If you have one, or want one, you know what this is.  If you don’t, then you might just not be ‘food buddy material’.  A FB is someone you can email or phone or randomly interrupt the flow of conversation with, in order to say something like, “I made a soufflé!  It was awesome!”, and who will give you an excited response to that statement.  For example… I emailed M, my FB, and, when thinking of things to add into the ‘things that are new with me’ part of the email, added “Oh! And I made artichokes for the first time this weekend, and they were tasty!”

If I had sent this random tidbit to almost any of my other friends, it is likely that they either would have made a general statement about their dislike of artichokes, or would have completely tuned out that one part of my email, and pretended it doesn’t exist at all. 

M’s response to my email was this, and only this: “Stuffed Artichokes?!!!”

Well, no… but this did lead to me explaining my recipe and dip, and then asking for her explanation of how one stuffs a tiny porcupine-like vegetable thing, her explaining that it’s less of a hollow-out, and more of a stuff-things in amongst the spiky leaf things, and then both of us moving on to recipes we were planning to send each other that we had previously discussed.

See… Food Buddy.  My other friends like to eat the food (though perhaps not the vegetables that look like green alien porcupines), but they don’t like to talk about it nearly as much as I do.  That’s what a food buddy is for.

I know, all you non food-obsessed people are reading this in bafflement, wondering why on earth this type of conversation could possibly be interesting.  All you food obsessed people are thinking of the people in your group of friends/family who would qualify as FBs.  Oooor, you’re thinking, “Stuffed Artichokes?!!!”

Well, I don’t have the stuffed artichoke recipe yet, but I am going to give you the steamed artichoke recipe, though I use the term recipe loosely… there are alot of variables that you can make your own, and I mixed and matched through a few recipes to get my final recipe. I jumbled together both my dipping sauce and my artichokes from a recipe on the food network site and one on Simply Recipes.  The Simply Recipes site gives great pictures of the steps to preparing and eating the artichoke as well, for those of you (like me) who had never eaten a steamed artichoke before.  That site also shows you what the ‘choke’ looks like, and shows you how to eat the bit of the artichoke under the choke, which is very tasty.

Steamed Artichokes

Ingredients (comments)

Artichokes (I made enough for everyone to have one… and by ‘everyone’, I mean, everyone living in my house… so, 5)

1 lemon and 1 lime, sliced thin (or enough sliced citrus to coat the bottom of your steamer basket)

Fresh Herbs (I scattered whole mint, basil and parsley leaves on the bottom of my steamer basket, but that’s because we had those on-hand.  Tarragon, Sage, thyme… anything that smells nice will work)

Bay Leaf

1 clove garlic, sliced thin (I’ll admit, I forgot this… but it would definitely add to the flavour of the artichoke, so add it, but if you forget, don’t stress, it’ll still taste good)


Cut the top half-inch or so of your artichoke off, and cut off the tips of all your leaves.  Cutting off the tips of the leaves is more aesthetic than anything, because the prickly bits stop being prickly once you steam it.  Cut off the stem, and pull off any small or not-nice looking leaves near the stem.  Rub some lemon over all the parts that you cut, to prevent it from turning black at those points during the steaming process.
my pretty artichokes, after they got all cut up. If you want to see the process to get to here, check out the Simply Recipes Site

Put your bay leaf into the bottom of a pot and put in your steamer basket.  Check to ensure that all your artichokes will fit into the steamer basket when it is in a pot that size.  If not, shift to a wider based pot.  Line your steamer basket with slices of your citrus fruit, garlic and the herbs you’ve chosen. 

herbs and citrus into the steamer basket

Place your artichokes stem-side up in the pot, and heat on the stove.  At this point, it really depends on the size of your artichoke.  Mine were tiny, a bit bigger than my fist, and at the half-hour mark, they were very definitely ready to eat.  It could be more or less time for yours, depending on variables.  You know they’re done when the base can be readily pierced by a knife, and the outer leaves can be easily removed.

stem-side up in the pot... notice that I've changed pots since the last photo... I underestimated the space that 5 artichokes take up

Dipping Sauce

The suggestions for dipping sauces that I came across include the following

Mayonnaise dip

Fruity extra virgin olive oil

Melted butter

I went with a version of a mayonnaise dip, and it is even less recipe-like than the previous.  The quantity I made lasted for 5 artichokes worth of dipping, just to give you an idea.

The measuring spoon I used was a tablespoon.  As in, the standard type of spoon used for eating soup or rice or whatever at the table, heaping.

2 spoons mayonnaise

2 spoons sour cream

About a spoonful (or 5 or 6 leaves, if it’s a big-leafed herb) of each of each type of fresh herb used in the steamer basket, chopped fine. 

The zest of one lemon

A dash of balsamic vinegar

This dip was very tasty, though I found it kind of overwhelmed the taste of the artichoke.  The artichoke itself had a great lemony flavour to it, though, being fairly small, didn’t have a whole lot of edible flesh on it.  I have a feeling that this recipe might become a snack-with-movie type of thing at my house.

It's kind of like chips and dip, only with more fibre...

It’s not Delivery, OR Delicio!

I have an admission to make.  I ruthlessly hunt through this vegan recipe site, and then heartlessly butcher the recipes to suit my own culinary pleasure.  It’s not that the recipes aren’t amazing as-is, it’s just that I eat meat… and cheese… and real butter… and honey.  I try to incorporate vegetarian meals on a regular basis, but vegan and raw-foodist just take it a bit too far.  I eat tofu (and enjoy it!), but the soy-butter and soy-cheese and other faux-dairy products aren’t something I’m interested in.  For one thing – they are very very processed, and I would rather eat animal products than heavily processed foods full of chemicals and preservatives.  I’m pretty sure it isn’t possible to make a pizza crust like I’m used to with raw foods, so I won’t even get into that.  So, when I mention a recipe from this site, it either means that the recipe never had non-vegan ingredients in it, or it means that I ignored all the vegan butter, soy-cheese and soy-milk, and substituted butter, cheese and milk. 

This pizza crust recipe comes from the vegweb site, but it is one of the few recipes I’ve tried from there that doesn’t have any ingredients I needed to modify into less vegan things.  It is such an easy recipe, and lets you make some amazing home-made pizza with a nice thin crust.  A friend of mine recently explained to me that pizza is supposed to be healthy – a nice thin crust, tomato sauce, lots of vegetables, some meat, and a bit of cheese on top.  I can’t deny my love-affair with cheese, so my version of this healthy meal is pretty heavy on the cheese.  But I do agree with her that the crust shouldn’t be an inch thick, and greasy enough to soak through a phonebook. 

Easy Pizza Crust

Ingredients (comments!)

1 (1/4 ounce) package yeast

½ tsp honey (nope, not vegan, and not in the original recipe, but I like to add something sugary to the yeast mixture.)

1/3 cup lukewarm water

3 cups flour (I use 2 cups whole wheat, and 1 cup white – the more whole wheat you add, the more water you will need to get the right consistency)

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup lukewarm water (or as much as is necessary to get a good consistency)

Instructions (comments!)

Dissolve the yeast and honey into 1/3 cup lukewarm water and let stand 10 minutes (or until foamy on top). 

Mix flour and salt in a big bowl, add the yeast mixture, blend, then add 2/3 cup lukewarm water, to make a pliable, elastic dough. 

Form into a ball, cover with a clean damp cloth (soak the cloth in hot water, then squeeze it out), and let rise until doubled in a warm place (20 to 30 minutes).  I use the ‘bread proof’ setting on my oven.  There’s a similar setting on some dehydrators as well.  The main goal is to make sure that it’s a warm place, and that the bread won’t be exposed to too much air-movement.  If you’re looking for a warm place, the top of a fridge is surprisingly toasty.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Roll out dough (put down flour before you start rolling it out), leave lip around the edge (I don’t… but I like my pizza really thin-crusted).  Spread sauce (leave space between the edge of crust and the edge of sauce), and top as desired.  Note:  for cheese, Mozzarella will bubble less than cheddar, which is why it is usually used on pizza.  Soy cheese will melt in ways unknown to me.

Lay out on a pizza stone or a flat pan.  Putting down cornmeal under the pizza will help prevent it from sticking, as well as adding a bit of crunch.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is crisp, and the toppings are sufficiently heated through.

A variation you can include is to add herbs to the crust.

Pizza was a huge success, despite the fact that we ended up eating a bit later than expected.  We made two batches of crust to feed 7 people, with less than half a pizza left-over.  Each batch makes two thin-crust pizzas about 12 inches in diameter. 

Pictures?  Not a chance!  The genteel, well-brought up ladies I invited over for dinner ate like starved feral dogs.  I think I’d have lost the camera if I’d put it between them and the next pie out of the oven!