Family Christmas Party aka Holiday Potluck II

Since it’s been awhile since I posted about my last potluck, I figured a new cheerful holiday post was in order.  Just as an update on my life for anyone who teensy bit cares: classes have now officially ended and I am half terrified, half excited that my second last year of university is halfway over.  Seriously!  My actual life starts so soon, I can’t wait.  Also, my first exam isn’t until the 17th, so I have spent the last couple of days doing the following: drinking beer, eating chicken wings, playing Mario Kart, eating (inhaling) sushi, and watching Mean Girls.  As you can see, my life involved quite a bit of eating and not much studying.  As of tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. that will most certainly change.  Exams, you are going down.

The charming Christmas ornament my mom sent us last year. The blacked out section is our address, which I feel should not be mentioned over the realms of the Internet.

Okay, so ever since we moved into our house, it has become a tradition to have a “Christmas family potluck.”  And by tradition, I mean we had a dinner last year and decided that we needed another excuse to decorate the house for the 2010 festivities.  Since there are six of us in the house plus two boyfriends and a boyfriend roommate, we ended up with quite a bit of food.  There was chicken, ham, potatoes (sweet and normal ones!), stuffing, brussel sprouts (which I wasn’t brave enough to try, I blame my dad for not liking them!) and MORE (if you can believe it).  Finally, there was dessert, which I was obviously responsible for making.  On the menu this year was a double-layered chocolate cake with peppermint white chocolate buttercream icing.  I seriously ate so much for dinner that by the time people came over for our actual party, I just wanted to go down to my room and put on my stretchy pants.  Thank god I resisted.

Regretfully, I did not get a nice picture of my cake since I didn’t finish icing it until well into the depths of 6 p.m. light.  The picture you see below was taken under the lamp Ariel bought at a yard sale.  ‘Nuff said.  I’ll tell you this, however…  It was yummy!  I finally managed to use some of the ridiculous amount of white chocolate that I have and used the rest of my homemade Christmas tree chocolates to decorate the sides.  IT WAS Christmas in a cake.

Christmas dinner as seen from my iPhone

This year’s family get-together also involved a “fancy” holiday party afterwards, at which time we proceeded to drink spiked egg nog and revel in the glow of our sparkling Christmas tree.

We also had our Secret Santa gift exchange.  There are six of us in our house and this year we PROMISED not to try and sneakily match the gift givers with their recipients.  This, however, failed greatly, and after two revealing bus conversations with Ariel and Amanda, I had the entire web of gifting deciphered.  Amanda was my Secret Santa and she got me…wait for it…A COOKIE PRESS!  That’s right, I can now make spritz cookies and pipe icing to my heart’s content.  Best. gift. ever.  I was Ariel’s Secret Santa, and got her the cute polar bear sweater you see below, Christmas tea and a cookie like the one we had from Le Moulin de Provence in first year.  Cute, right?

ALSO, one more thing.  I wore this wicked dress I bought at the Ottawa Vintage Sale a few weeks ago and was DEVASTATED when I got some sort of water stain on the front of it.  Seriously, you can’t take me anywhere!  Hillary’s Cleaners will be having a visit from me very shortly…

The pictures below are just a few more images from my fun night…






My wonderful Secret Santa







Family picture where we all look a little bit crazy (especially Britt)...
Mass chaos in the kitchen
New favourite channel: The Fireplace Network
Our Christmas tree as seen from my Hipstamatic iPhone app
Family picture 2010



S’mores Cake

As far as desserts go, I’m pretty sure this cake represents me completing a s’mores hat trick.  Earlier this week I was feeling a little glum; I had so much school work to do, I hadn’t been home except to sleep for a few days straight and I was just overly frustrated at the lack of blogging and delicious food eating I had been doing lately.  In true Hilary fashion I went upstairs, turned on some Taylor Swift and started singing at the top of my lungs.  The combination of baking and singing (poorly) were the only two things that could cure my slump.

I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to make when I first went upstairs, however I very quickly decided that s’more-ing it up was the absolute only thing to do.  I originally wanted to have chocolate cookie crumbs on the bottom of the dessert with a graham cracker cake on top of that, but I was faced with an obstacle of terrible proportions.  Did you know that chocolate crumbs go bad?  Me neither, but for some reason these smelled really sweet and tasted chalky.  I’ve had them since the summer, but I thought that stuff was sort of non-perishable.  Apparently not.  Thank god my roommate Alex came up and insisted on eating the crumbs, otherwise I wouldn’t have found out about the mystery flavour until post-baking.  Not good.

So in the end, here was the anatomy of the cake:
– Graham cracker cake (recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats)
– Melted marshmallow*
– Chocolate glaze
– Graham cracker crumbs

*HOLY melted marshmallows have the sticking power of Krazy Glue.  I almost permanently pasted several kitchen utensils to the counter.  Once I melted the little buggers and tried to spread out the marshy layers with my fingers, I very quickly learned that I either had to find some way to (pardon my language) lubricate my fingers otherwise suffer a sudden tragic death from marshmallow stickyness.  For said lubrication, margarine was very handy.  Thank you greasy fats.

PS: Halloween wrap-up post to come tomorrow!

Chocolate Brownie Turtle Cake

Mom: if you’re worried as to why I’m posting this at 11:30 at night, it’s because this is the only free second I have had today.  As much as you say blogging should not be my priority, I can’t help it, and this cake needed to be shared with the world.  I will sleep soon, green tea is making me drowsy.

This past Sunday night I was all prepared to make a nice end-of-the-weekend dinner for myself, and was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Natalie’s dad was in town and was making all the roomies supper!  Seeing that I could no longer make dinner, and obviously wanting to show off my culinary skills to an outside audience, I knew I had no choice but to make dessert.

I had post-it noted this recipe from way back in the summer.  It is from my 1980’s Canadian Living family cookbook and is so old that it can’t even be found on the website’s recipe index.  With no picture to go off of and the request for loads of chocolate, I went into this one blind-sighted, on nothing but a wing and a prayer.  I don’t think I’ve ever bought so many packages of Baker’s chocolate squares (two boxes of semi-sweet and an unsweetened box).  The amount of chocolate I had at my check-out could only be matched by the amount I once bought to make my gluten-free chocolate cake. Mind blowing.  This recipe also incorporated a beloved Duff family chocolate: the turtle.  For as long as I can remember my parents have shipped over boxes of turtles to my relatives in Ireland for Christmas (can you believe they don’t have them?!), and this cake was just like a walk down memory lane.

Now I don’t know why, but I always seem to insist on making some sort of complicated layer cake, which requires baking, chilling, heating and freezing.  This being said, this cake was under progress the entire day.

Anatomy of the Cake:
Layer 1: delicious brownie
Layer 2: crushed pecans (only because I totally forgot to mix them in with the brownies, my bad!)
Layer 3: melted caramels
Layer 4: chocolate glaze garnished with pecan halves

The result of this dessert was chocolate comas all around the table and an overall hyper state of mind.  To put things into perspective, this is how high on sugar some of us were:

Overall rating: delicious, but in SMALL quantities.  I could take the chocolate rush because I am used to frequent sugar fixes, but poor Brittany (amateur!) was suffering from a chocolate hangover for a full day.  Be wary, non-chocoholics.

Sour Cream Chocolate Crumb Cake

Pre-blog post statement: My roommate Ariel and I just finished a glorious afternoon of “shaking it like a polaroid,” Outkast style.  If anyone is ever looking for some sort of rainy afternoon activity, I highly suggest a dance off.

Okay, cake post…

I must admit, it is certainly nice to have 4 out of my 5 roommates back in the house.  Their arrival meant that I did not have to carry this cake on my bicycle to work nor did I have to sit in my pjs watching Rogers on Demand and eating the entire thing myself.  I made this cake on Friday afternoon and, by the time Saturday morning rolled around, there was hardly any cake left in sight.  Turns out a few of my roommates get quite ravenous after a night out and speedy cake ingestion is the result.

Now, for some inexplicable reason I appear to be drawn to two types of cakes.  Inadvertently, my past two cakes have both involved sour cream and chocolate, ingredients which one would think would be fairly easy to avoid while baking.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not falling into some sort of rut…it’s just that sour cream chocolate cakes happen to be ridiculously delicious!!  In all fairness, I very easily could have left the chocolate out of this one since it was just mixed in at the last minute (keep that in mind if you’re not a huge chocoholic like myself!).  Also, anything that has “crumb” in the title always seems to attract me, so perhaps that is another thing that drew me to this dessert.  The only thing that potentially could have been improved on this cake was the moistness level – I am a huge fan of moist and undercooked things, so that was my only issue.  No big deal though!

Oh, PS this cake was from the September issue of Canadian Living and, once again, the recipe isn’t yet posted on their website, so I’ll post it on my recipes page as soon as I get a second to breath (school = slightly overwhelming already).

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake

For as long as I can remember my mom has been making this cake.  This was the dessert that, when I was young, kept me sneaking into the kitchen to trim the slightest of pieces off the cake, hoping she wouldn’t notice and somehow punish me with her evil dietician ways (kind of like this time I tried to masking tape shut a bag of chocolates, but that’s a whole other story…).

For any students who may read my blog, this chocolate chip cake is actually the most easy dessert in the world.  If you’re ever having any sort of guests over, or just wanting to plain out spoil yourself, this cake is decadent, moist and delicious – the perfect fix for both chocolate and cake cravings alike.  As an added bonus, any leftovers (hmmph, yeah right) also freeze wonderfully, and can be pulled out of the freezer last minute to stifle any midnight sugar cravings.

The three pictures you see below were again taken on the deck of my Sudbury home.  It’s quite different than taking pictures on my shaded Ottawa patio, and I was happy to have the bright evening light photograph in my favour.

Since this is a recipe that requires typing, I’ll post it right under the pictures!  Also, wondering where the hell you’re going to get a bundt pan?  Try rummage sales (where I got my vintage forrest green one) or Value Village.  Always an adventure.

– 1 cup melted butter (or half butter, half margarine)
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar

1 cup of sour cream
– 2 tablespoons of milk
– 1 tablespoon of vanilla
– 2 cups of flour
– 2 teaspoons of baking powder
– 1 teaspoon of baking soda
– 1 cup of chocolate chips

Blend ingredients together well.  Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean and cake springs back when touched.

Voila (wasn’t that easy?)… bon appetit!