Saturday, February 13, 2010

The World's Best Cookies and the Olympics

After watching last night's opening ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympics (more on that later), I had a hankering to make Gold Medal Cookies. But - alas - I couldn't find the recipe. The recipe I remember had a ridiculous number of ingredients, including golden raisins, nuts, flax and other seeds, other dried fruit - it was a doozy. I can't find a like one online.

Not to be deterred from cookie baking, I decided to whip up a batch of the World's Best Cookies. I have no idea where this recipe came from, other than my mother made these often when I was a kid. These are chocolate chip, nut and oatmeal - a classic. This is the first cookie recipe I've baked without eggs. And guess what - it turned out great! I don't know why I'm surprised - so far, eggless baking has been a huge success.I did a new egg substitute (new to me), using chia seeds. Chia seeds, if you don't know, are full of anti-oxidants and omega fatty acids. They are so good for you! You may have heard of them as "Salba", which you can pick up at grocery and health food stores (I've seen it at Shoppers Drug Mart, too), or you can buy them at bulk food stores for a little less money. The seeds are tiny and crunchy (great sprinkled on breakfast cereal, oatmeal or yogourt). When they're wet, the seeds develop a gel as they absorb liquid. So, for each egg in a recipe, whisk 1 tsp of chia seeds into 1/4 cup of warm water. Let it sit for a while as you assemble the rest of the recipe, whisking occasionally. You will see the chia seeds in the product; for these it doesn't really matter, I used dark seeds whole. But you can, if you like, use white seeds and grind them in a clean spice mill to powder before mixing them into the water, for recipes that you don't want dark flecks in.

World's Best Cookies (eggless version)

2 tsp chia seeds + 1/2 c warm water
1 c butter (softened) or shortening
3/4 c white sugar
3/4 c brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 c chocolate chips
2 c quick-cooking oatmeal
1 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Whisk the chia seeds and water together and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine flour, soda and salt in a medium bowl.
Cream butter and sugars. Add chia gel and vanilla, mix well. Add in the flour mixture, stir to combine, then add the remaining ingredients.
Scoop tablespoons of dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheets (or well-greased - I like parchment), with an inch between each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing to cooling racks.
Makes about 5 dozen.

(If you eat eggs, you can substitute 2 eggs for the chia and water.)

Try these! Really.

I found there is no difference in flavour using the chia gel; the only difference I have noticed with eggless baking is that things take just a few minutes longer. With eggs this recipe bakes in 8-10 minutes; with the chia gel it's more like 12. Muffins take about 5 minutes longer using a ground flax & water egg substitute.


Okay, about the Olympics. I am a proud Canadian. And I loved that everyone in the ceremony seemed proud and humble as well.

But the ceremony itself was a little bit of a wet blanket, to my eyes. We watched it with friends and found ourselves groaning (with boredom, with agony, with embarrassment) at different points.

The MC (Lloyd Robertson, right?) didn't sound excited, and I felt like his having to - or at least, feeling the need to - explain what was happening on stage was so didactic.

The First Nations dancers were pretty neat but had to keep dancing and dancing while country after country's athletes arrived. By the end the dancing was kind of an exhausted flailing. And at the beginning, when they first came out and the four giant dildoes totem poles rose out of the stage... Yeah. Someone didn't think that through.

The music was simply awful. Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams had no chemistry on stage at all, and looked like they were lip-syncing. The opera singer at the end was cringe-worthy. k.d.lang has a brilliant voice, but the song choice - Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah - didn't feel appropriate. The token francophone soft-rocker? Ugh.

The choreography was brutal; the only segment that I really enjoyed was the ski- and snowboarders on wires. That fiddling thing was painful to watch! My friend said it best - they had kind of a badass punk thing going on, and I can't think of anything less Canadian than "badass" and "punk".

They kept panning the officiants, and between Michaelle Jean sitting with her eyes closed half the time, other guys with their heads down on their crackberries, all-around glazed looks of boredom, and people running up and down the stairs in the background, it was an embarrassing showing. Seeing Harper there just made me mad again about him proroguing parliament.

The cross-country representation (the west coast First Nations/salmon/whales, the prairie grass business with the W.O.Mitchell quote and that kid floating around, the east coast fiddly thing, the francophone singer as a tenuous Quebec reference, the ice floes) left out Ontario completely from what I saw. And felt less like a tribute than a cliche.

The Olympic flag was brought in by the seniors' brigade - all accomplished and respected Canadians, but it seemed weird to watch them all dressed in white, smiling bravely as they carried the flag across the stage.

Then the debacle as the torch-bearers stood there with frozen smiles, waiting for the faulty hydraulics to lift the crystal things... And Gretsky's interminable, wet ride through Vancouver streets to the waterfront torch, with hooligans running alongside... *sigh*

I did like that the audience was all in white ponchos, it made a nice backdrop. And the stage lighting was neat, especially that part with the whales. Loved that. I liked the slam poet (and I wasn't expecting to).

Overall, decent effort, but I really felt they could have cut the program in half, ditched the singing, improved the stage, given everyone some coffee or something to perk them up, and spent more time on the choreography.

Like I said, I am a proud Canadian. I love my country and think it's pretty cool that we're hosting the winter Olympics this year. I guess I was just expecting more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday catch-up

Well, I'm going to try. I've been a little slow with the giveaway lists lately, I know. And they're piling up. We'll see how far I get. I have LOTS of cloth diaper giveaways to share with you today! Yay :)

For baby:
For the ladies:
For anyone:
And there's my little giveaway as well, two winners for a butterfly decal (Canada only).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wilson Graphics Review (and a little giveaway!)

*** This giveaway is closed! ***
*** Winners: Josie and Robyn ***

Something fun :)

I recently received a prize of a vinyl wall decal from Wilson Graphics (I won this over at Project Nursery late last year). Thinking of the future nursery, I picked out a pretty decal of a bird feeder on a branch. We have a wall between the bathroom door and closet door that is about 4' wide and blank. I think it's where a changing table would go. I chose the Jade colour; the room is painted in Tiddley Pom from Behr's Disney line - a very soft and neutral pale greenish yellow. It's hard to tell from the photos but it's a really lovely, calm colour. On receiving the decal I must say it was more turquoise than I was expecting (of course, colours are not always accurate on computer monitors). Still fairly gender neutral, though, so it works for me.

So here is the wall before applying the decal. You can see the decal on the dresser with my painter's tape and the instructions.

Next step is to tape up the decal. I used a long level to get it even with the top of the closet door (my husband chose the height - I probably would have gone a little lower, but I'm still happy with the result). I wouldn't recommend painter's tape for this, by the way - I had it on hand, but really a tackier masking tape would be better. I found the painter's tape, being low-tack, wanted to lift off when I folded the decal upwards to remove the backing paper.

A few minutes of smoothing and pressing it down with one of those mud trowels... you know, the ones for drywall mud, they're flat and broad (they must have a name), and then a few minutes more of gently and slowly peeling off the transparent overlay and ta-da!All in all, it took maybe 20-25 minutes to do this by myself. The longest part was peeling off the overlay - with all those fine branches, I had to be really careful that they were not lifting off with the overlay. That's just the way this design is. With a little patience, I had no rips or bubbles in the decal. I like it!

With the decal I received, Paul from Wilson Graphics also sent me two butterfly decals to pass on to friends. Who do I love? (raise your hand!) I'm going to give these away to two of my readers (one decal each) :) I think they're very cute for a little girl's room or would be fun for a bug-collecting nature boy as well. You can click on the pictures to be taken to the Etsy shop for more info on sizing or to purchase if you just can't wait!
The Giveaway:
Two winners will each receive one butterfly decal by Wilson Graphics

The first winner has first pick!
There is no mandatory entry; do any of these things for an entry:
  • follow my blog
  • let me know where you think you'd put a butterfly decal if you win
  • add my button to your blog and leave me the link
  • blog about this giveaway and leave me the link (it doesn't have to be a full-out post, a mention in a list is fine :) ) - 2 entries, leave 2 comments
  • follow me on Twitter (let me know and leave your Twitter name in your comment)
  • Tweet this giveaway and post a comment with the link to your tweet. You can copy this, if you like: "Canadians: enter to #win a butterfly decal at Emily's Latest!" - 1 entry (this isn't a daily!)
Please be sure to include your email if it’s not public in your blogger profile! Anonymous comments without a way to contact you will be rejected. Canadian mailing addresses only, please. Giveaway ends February 23rd at 11:59 EST. A winner will be drawn the next day, announced here, in a separate post and emailed! This isn't a sponsored post - I'll be mailing these myself & while I was sent the samples to pass on, there was no mention of a blog review/giveaway. Just FYI.