I Am Not A Baker – Coming Soon

As you can well imagine it has been rather difficult to write a shallow blog during this pandemic. Admittedly, the impact of COVID-19 has not (yet) had a major effect on my life. To be brutally honest, it has been frighteningly easy for me to confine myself to my home and to connect with others primarily through Zoom, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype and that old fashioned mode of communication, the telephone. Yes it’s true, I still do have a landline. Sure it’s been hard to give up my grocery shopping habit. Thursday used to be a big day in our house what with the delivery of all the flyers. Now it’s one trip, in and out, sales or no sales, and I thank my lucky stars I am able to continue to stock my pantry with what I need. But I am painfully aware that for many life has taken a dramatic downturn financially, physically and emotionally, and I do not for one minute want to minimize the sadness and suffering our friends, family and those we do not know, are feeling right now. Our world has turned upside down. Everything has changed. The most common and perhaps accurate description I’ve heard is “it’s just weird”. I think there is some consensus that at any moment Mr. Rod Serling will step out of the shadows to pronounce we have now entered “The Twilight Zone”. Unfortunately it seems we are binge watching the episodes. 

The thing is, as a retired shallow person, writing my blog has actually occupied a fair bit of my time. There’s the thinking about what to write, the writing, the procrastinating, more writing, the online Bingo games in the middle of the writing, the editing (yes, I do edit), the searching for and finding an appropriate pic and finally, the putting the whole damn thing into WordPress. And without all of that I have to admit I’m a little lost. Normally I’d manage to wile away a few at the local cafe but in the “new normal” there’s only so much time I can spend encouraging my broccoli and cauliflower seedlings to “keep up the good work” as I sip my tea in my own backyard. Fortunately a couple of years ago I discovered that not only do I like to eat my cherry cheesecake, I like to make it too. Me and Doug Ford. Who would have thought! 

Yep. It’s hard for even me to believe that the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is think about what I might bake. Well that’s not exactly true. The first thing I do is go to the bathroom but you don’t want to hear about that. And now with little else to occupy my time, these days all I want to do is bake. Got a recipe for Beer Bread? I’ll run down to my local speakeasy and grab myself a brew. Morning Glory Muffins made with Red Fife flour? Got a pantry full of that. Cookies? Just give me a sec to source some organic, fair trade semi-sweet, dark chocolate chips. Never mind there’s only two of us to devour all of these goodies. The pandemic has awakened my baker within. There’s only one problem. 

While I love to bake I am the first one to admit that I am not a baker. And I know this because I spend inordinate amounts of time watching real bakers bake on baking shows. The ones where they compete against each other to see who can construct a cake that recreates most of downtown Manhattan, including a proportionately correct replica of the Statue of Liberty, while incorporating chili powder and olives, the “secret” ingredients concocted by their particular panel of sadistic judges. If you have never witnessed this spectacle you must. What you will quickly discover is that these people are master’s of their trade. To say they know what they are doing is tantamount to saying the Pope believes in God. Or Trump lies. But I digress. There are no measuring cups here. No teaspoons. No tablespoons. Not a hint of a written word anywhere. You won’t see these guys checking the old cellphone to decide if it was one egg or two. They just know what they are doing. Or watch Mary crush it in her kitchen. Now I love Mary but I need to know how it is that she can make a three course meal which includes a delectable desert, without ever getting one teeny, tiny speck of oil, or a little smudge of flour on her always fashionable and never protected, frock. For goodness sake. Even her hands stay clean!

As you can guess, nothing like this happens in my kitchen. And I have to think this is the case for many of you, especially those who have recently become part of the pandemic baking craze. So I’m starting a new blog. For people like us. The ones who find themselves wondering how it came to be that there was still an egg on the counter when all things were said and done. Did I take out an extra or just forget to put this one in? Who check our measures not twice but many multiple times. Who follow instructions to a tee. Who know that a 15 minute prep time will somehow mysteriously expand to about an hour and a half. Who didn’t know what the heck Red Fife flour was until last week. It’s the truth about baking. For those of us who bake but are not bakers.

Don’t worry. It’s not the end of the shallow blog just the beginning of something new.

I Am Not A Baker. Coming soon. Watch for it on WordPress.

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This is Not a Baking Blog!

First, let me thank all of you who answered my call for baking recipes. You have no idea how much you have helped me out. It’s not that I plan to bake all of the goodies you sent on. It’s just that you have saved me countless hours of sitting and staring at a blank screen trying to think up something to write about. The thing is, most of my inspiration for the blog comes from my day to day encounters with the world. I never know what might trigger this little brain of mine to come up with an idea. It could be a funny saying on a t-shirt. Or a casual conversation overheard at my local cafe. Perhaps a conversation with my hairstylist which, you will note, I am no longer referring to as my “hairdresser” having been duly corrected for that apparently outdated reference. In the past, even watching deer munch on my tulips could spark my creative juices. 

These days there’s no chance that any of those things are going to happen, although much to my chagrin the deer are still feasting on my flowers. Because it is unlikely that I will be able to read whatever it is you have to say on your t-shirt from six feet away. And it’s pretty hard to eavesdrop when there are no cafes to eavesdrop in. Of course it goes without saying that having a chit chat with my stylist is out of the question, regardless of the fact that both he and I would like nothing better than to get together at this very moment. Nope. These days you’ll find me sitting peacefully in the backyard, waiting for my fine feathered friends to drop by for a little refresher in my recently installed water feature. Or, and I know this will surprise you as much as me, having a few words with the seedlings we have planted, in the likely false hope of one day being able to reap what we have sown. And while watching birdies in the bath is quite lovely, it just doesn’t generate much material for this blog. Which is why I turned to my very kind readers for help.

Now let me just say one thing before I go on to share with the world the wonderful bounty you have bestowed upon me. Make no mistake. This is not a baking blog. Yes, it has recipes. But that’s it. Unlike most of the baking blogs I have happened upon lately there are no heartwarming stories. Not a word about how the smell of cookies wafting from the oven brings back fond memories of coming in from the cold, finding a freshly baked batch cooling on the window sill, enticing little fingers to steal one away even though dinner was just moments away and appetites were going to be spoiled. No recollections of spending countless hours in the kitchen with the young ones, measuring, stirring, offering up big bowls of leftover icing for all to enjoy. No tributes, no histories, no videos and no links to Instagram or Twitter. No scrolling ad infinitum through picture after picture, ad after ad, to finally find the list of ingredients for what you have now forgotten you were going to bake. No tips or tricks. No substitutes. Clearly, this is still just a shallow blog. With recipes. So without any further ado, here they are. Your recipes. In no particular order. Thank you!


Madarin Orange Cake

2 cups flour
1 ¼ cups of sugar
2 ¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cans (11oz) mandarin orange sections. Separate juice from orange sections.

Put all ingredients in bowl and beat well using juice of oranges. Fold in orange sections. Pour in a 9 X 13 greased pan. Bake at 325°for 35 minutes (in my oven it often takes 45 minutes to bake evenly).  The cake should look dark when it comes out of the oven. Cover with a clean dish towel and let cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz of cream cheese
¼ cup of butter
½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup of icing sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter. Add icing sugar. Add vanilla at end.


Passover Cookies (I’m sure they’re good other times too!)

2 egg whites
3 cups of sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
Mix sugar and egg whites.  Add almonds.
Drop by the teaspoonful on parchment covered cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Open oven door.  Shut off oven and let cookies stand in oven for 10 minutes.


Buttermilk Blueberry Lemon Scones (I made these today. They are delish!)


Molasses Crinkle Cookies (Ok, this one looks a little historic)

3/4 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
4 tblsp molasses
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 c flour
2 tsp soda (I’ll assume this is baking soda
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Blend in 1 egg and molasses. Add dry ingredients, mix and chill one hour. Shape into walnut sized balls, dip in water, then sugar. Place sugar side up on greased sheet. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 12-15 minutes. Cool on rack.


Auntie Didi’s Chocolate Cheesecake (This one is also a tad historic and a little less specific than you might be comfortable with. I’ve taken the liberty to share it because it’s sooooooo good!) 

1 package of chocolate wafer cookies (you might find them in the baking section of your grocer)
2 large packages of Philadelphia cream cheese
1 large package of Dream Whip
Icing sugar
Margarine (couple spoons)
1 can of cherry pie filling

Crush wafer cookies (save about 15 of them) and combine with margarine (I bet you can use butter) to make the crust. Cover the bottom of a springform pan with this mixture.
Whip the Dream Whip
Whip the Cream cheese with some icing sugar. You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself.
Fold together the cream cheese and Dream Whip.
Place 13 – 15 wafer cookies around the perimeter of your Springform pan.
Pour in cherry pie filling.
Add cream cheese/Dream Whip mixture
Let sit in fridge overnight.
Crush a few more wafer cookies and sprinkle on top. (Looks like you don’t use them all for the crust) 


This one comes from “down under” notably from one of the best bakers I know. Sorry everyone else!

Orange Meringue Cookies


And of course, the recipe that started it all!

Ina Garten’s Rugelach!


 

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I Finally Figured it Out!

I love baking. I don’t think I have to tell you, at least those of you that know me, that these are  three words I never thought I would utter. And if you don’t believe me, just ask my children. They are the ones who suffered through the late evenings when I was compelled to at least attempt to fulfill my duty as the “muffin mom”. You know. The one who must provide muffins for the entire class on an appointed day which, from what I can recall, was the third Thursday of each month. Honestly, I have tried to block this whole episode from my mind because here’s what would happen on the rare occasion when my husband, who was by any measure a very competent baker, was not available to take on the task. 

First let me explain that the school my children attended was full of men and women whose lives were dedicated to ensuring their families would never be subjected to anything that resembled what we have all come to know and love, junk food. And in this case, you should define “junk” in the broadest sense of the word. Consequently, it meant that muffins entering the classroom were not only to be devoid of common allergens like nuts, or peanut butter (something I could of course understand and get behind) but also had to exclude that most basic of all ingredients, white sugar. In addition oil had to be replaced with something less toxic like homemade applesauce, and it goes without saying that chocolate chips were strictly forboden. All of which were the only fallbacks I could rely on to make something even remotely edible emerge from my oven. So typically I would do my best to put together ingredients that would be acceptable to the most discerning folks, sample the results, and then head to the nearest 24 hour supermarket (the only place that would be open by the time I was done) to pick up a couple dozen of whatever they had left at that time of night. Preferably with bran. At that point, all that was left to do was remove the packaging, place the muffins in a couple of heritage looking tins (a gift from my Mother) and read my kids the riot act should they be foolish enough to breathe a word of this to anyone.

Now my lack of baking prowess comes at no surprise, at least to me. Simply, I wasn’t from a baking family. Perhaps it’s because I have three brothers who were raised in the day and age when boys only entered the kitchen to eat. Or maybe it was because my Mother, who was very good at very many things, was definitely not good at being a baker. My earliest and only memory of baking with my Mom was the one day, a long time ago, we shared space in the kitchen to demonstrate to the rest of the family that, given the chance, we could make a cake and maybe eat it too. We were wrong. I will admit that my Mom’s turned out slightly better than mine but, from what I recall, that wasn’t saying much since I have a vague memory of banging my little cake on the counter in an attempt to break off a slice. But why dwell on the past when the future holds so much promise. 

I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact date and time my metamorphosis took place. Well maybe I can but I’ll save that for later. What I do know is that when we moved to this little Island we now inhabit full-time we were blessed with what by most standards is a fairly large kitchen with ironically, a rather large island and a great big oven. Even I knew that this was every baker’s dream. The only thing missing were the tools required for the job and, of course, the baker. The first was an easy fix as I rushed to my favourite store to purchase what we all know is the quintessential baker’s appliance, the stand mixer. I was pleased to be able to acquire this tool in a lovely blue which matched my colour scheme. Because who was I kidding? I knew this would be a mostly decorative device. And it was, until one day a couple of ladies from my walking group suggested we get together to make some rugellah. At my house. Well why not I thought. I have the space, I can get the ingredients and most importantly, I have a heretofore never used, colour coordinated stand mixer. Let me just say, the rest is history.

To make a rather long story just a tad shorter, from that day forward I never stopped baking. Now I bake muffins and loaves, cookies and brownies and, believe it or not, even bread! (Well to be fair, I’m going to try to bake bread today). Some of what I bake is great, some is ok and some is best delivered to the ducks. But good or bad I just love baking. And apparently, now that we are all responsibly staying in our homes, so does the rest of the world. I know this because a day doesn’t go by when someone I know (or portend to know) doesn’t post a pic of a delectable treat they have spent hours slaving over a hot oven to make. And that gave this shallow gal an idea.

Perhaps at this point I should mention that while I love to bake I’m by no means a baker. What that means is I don’t have a clue about the chemistry of baking. I don’t know what baking soda does, or why I have to add salt, or whether or not I need to bring my eggs to room temperature, and if I do, what difference that might make. Hence the only thing I can do is follow a recipe to the letter. Let me tell you, I’m no Auntie Fanny (get well soon!) when it comes to culinary pursuits. So here’s my idea. Since we are all home and we are all baking maybe you could take some time to share your fav delights with all of us. And since I already have a blog with a small but loyal following, I am more than happy to volunteer my services to compile and post any that you send to me.  If you know my email address send them there. If you don’t, you can post them in the comments here. And if you can figure out any other way to get them to me, well you can do that too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not converting the shallow blog into a baking blog. No way. It just occurred to me that after all this time I have finally figured out a way to get other people to write this thing for me. Come on! You must know by now that even bakers can be shallow.

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Never Hug A Stranger (Revisited)

A rather strange thing has been happening over the past week. Well at first I thought it was strange but now that things have turned a corner in this world I suppose it isn’t. As you may or may not know, WordPress (they are the guys that let me write and publish this blog and to whom, in the next few days, I will once again send my 24 bucks) lets me see how many people are reading my posts and which posts they are reading. Now as you know I have a small but loyal following and I really appreciate that many of you actually click on my posts when I post them. I don’t want to bog you down with technicalities so suffice to say that typically a new post will generate views for about 3 or 4 days, with the majority coming in around 3 to 4 minutes after it goes live (as they say in the biz) and waning fairly significantly thereafter. As time marches on it is not unheard of, but rare for anyone to revisit a post from the past and to be honest, I’m pretty ok with that. I mean I don’t even revisit them so why would anyone else? 

But this week things have been different. This week, much to my surprise, there has been a veritable flurry of visits to a post I wrote quite some time ago. These hits (that’s what we bloggers call them) are coming from all around the world. Now I don’t want to blow my own horn but I’m pretty used to having my posts read by people living in places like Canada, the U.S., Britain, Switzerland and Australia. I mean I even know people in Australia so it’s not too much of a stretch to think they might give me a read once in a while. But when my reader map (yes, WordPress has that too) starts to register hits from countries like Bahrain, South Africa and Iraq well that’s when I take notice. That’s when I think something must be up. And when all of those hits are on the same post I gotta figure it’s more than a coincidence. Especially when that post is titled “Never Hug A Stranger”. If you happen to have a little time on your hands and missed it way back when, or if you just want a little reminder, feel free to take a look. The title speaks for itself. 

Now I’m the last person to indulge in self-aggrandizement because I know that people look for any port in a storm. So I’m pretty sure that my new friends from around this globe are not actually seeking the advice of a shallow person. But indeed, that’s where they landed, albeit through no fault of their own. And while I am wont to ask anyone to heed my advice or to suggest they adopt any of my idiosyncrasies this is the one time I suggest you do. While I’m never one to say “I told you so” and hindsight, as we know, is 20/20 somehow this time I sure seem to have hit the nail directly on its head. One day, if you insist, I’m sure you will be able to hug again but for now your only job is to flatten the curve. If need be send virtual hugs to everyone you know but keep those arms by your side. Chances are they won’t span the six feet you’ll need them to anyway.

There’s just one more thing. When all of this passes, and it will pass, please do me a favour and ignore my advice for just a bit. There are many, many people who are literally risking their lives to save ours. Health care workers, first responders, truck drivers, bus drivers, journalists, government workers, grocers, and a whole host of others. All of them, each and every one, deserve a hug from you, so go ahead and make both your days. With permission of course. And while you are at it, give them one from me too. 

Stay safe and be well!

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Remember the Golden Rule

If I’m going to be honest with you, I must admit I’ve never been much of a risk taker. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t taken a few bold steps in my lifetime. Like traveling 2000 miles (it was miles in those days) from my rather comfortable life in the “big city” to what some would say was a marginally habitable small metropolis (well it was in those days) located in one of the least hospitable climes of this rather large country of ours. Without any solid job prospects. In a very old car. On the cusp of winter. Ok. Now it’s starting to sound a little foolish to me. Or the time I went out on a limb and ordered a size smaller than I rightfully should have from my fav online retailer. In the end both turned out fine despite some moments of doubt and consternation along the way. But the truth is I am likely one of only a few people who resided in the “Gateway to the North” for 38 years and has never actually driven on snow and ice. And to save myself a trip to the mall I now only order what I know to be my tried and true size. Like it or not my inner self knows, and now so do you, that I am confidently risk averse. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially in times like these.

These are difficult times. Shallow as I may be I would never make light of the fact that the world, and hundreds of thousands of people in it, are suffering from what appears to be a disease that, to date, is beyond our control. When entire countries shut down to try to save their citizens we know we are in serious trouble. People are scared. They are scared to travel. Scared to go to a movie theatre. Or a sports event. As of today I’m guessing many people are scared about their financial future. And they have every right to be scared. Financial markets are suffering historic losses. Cruise ships are spending days travelling up and down coastlines waiting for a green light to dock. “Social distancing” has suddenly become part of our everyday vocabulary. People are dying. Most of them our cherished elders. And as if that’s not enough, Trump is still President. If there was ever a time not to take risks this just could be it. But even me, a confirmed non-risk taker, is a little flummoxed about what I see happening around town. 

Now I know it’s important to be prepared. For anything. Let’s face it. I live on an Island that is well known to have one of our earth’s cracks running right smack down the middle. So I have to have a kit for that. As would any reasonable person. It’s nothing over the top. Just a bag with some really important stuff should the lights literally go out. What I don’t have is five years worth of black beans, rice, chocolate chip cookies (even though they are my favourites) or 20 kg bags of flour. I mean how many loaves of bread can one person bake before little crawly things invade? But apparently I must be missing something as the last time I ventured into my local grocers (and I venture in quite a lot) many of the shelves were bare. It seems that people don’t want to risk running out of just about anything. And more than anything else they clearly don’t want to run out of Purell. Or, toilet paper.

I get the reason for wanting to have some Purell on hand. Who doesn’t need a little something to freshen up after touching the ATM or accidentally putting a hand on the escalator railing? Especially now when it is so important to keep one’s hands spotlessly clean. But anyone who has ever used any type of hand sanitizer must know that this is a situation where truly a little dab’ll do ya. One squirt and you can pretty much cover the territory. Those little bottles go a long way. Just imagine what a litre of the stuff will do. So here’s my advice. Next time you are standing in front of the shelf debating whether to empty it of its contents try to remember the golden rule. Because if you leave some for me I’ll be sure to leave some for you. That way, if either one of us happens to be unlucky enough to run out of the stuff, and it is most unlikely that either of us will, we’ll be able to come back and get some more. As for all the hoopla about the toilet paper, let me just say this is a respiratory illness and leave it at that.

Oh yea. Speaking of toilet paper. A couple of weeks ago we discovered we were running low. As is always the case we decided this warranted a trip to our local Costco where we could pick up our favourite brand and a few other items while there. Driving into the parking lot it seemed like just about any other day at the big box store. But as we approached the door I did notice that an extraordinary number of people seemed to have extraordinary amounts of toilet paper in their carts. Wonderful! I thought. There must be a sale on TP right when we need it.  Making our way to the back of the store, all the while succumbing to Costco’s dastardly marketing techniques, we arrived at a rather towering display of the tissues and much to our dismay, discovered there was nothing on sale. Nonetheless, we were in need so tossed a package into our cart.

It wasn’t until later that evening while watching the news that I became aware that I was one of the lucky few who managed to wrangle a pack because apparently everyone and their dog is worried about running out. My first reaction was “OMG! What was I thinking? Why the heck didn’t I pick up a few extra when I had the chance?” Then, as everyone should do at this stage, I sat back and thought about it. That package I managed to corral has 30 hefty roles in it. Should be enough for a good long while. I think I’m just going to risk it. Maybe you should too. 

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