Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holly Jolly Gingerbread Gift Tag Cookies

I am not the present wrapper in our home.

I use too much tape, don't properly crease or tuck corners, and generally end up satisfied as long as the gift is completely covered in paper. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is a present-wrapping perfectionist. He uses neat tape squares, different folding methods, and will redo a present until it's perfect. I'm glad he hasn't caught on to aligning paper patterns, because then Christmas would never come.

But this year I have a secret wrapping weapon: gingerbread gift tag cookies. With a little royal icing, some patience, and some piping gel, my presents might come out on top this year.

Just tie them onto your present ribbon and you have festive edible 2-in-1 gift tags! They also look adorable as edible tree decorations.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hot Chocolate Spoons

Brr! It's getting chilly here, and our first snowfall just cleared in time for the second one tonight. Know what that means?

Well, it doesn't mean we'll have a white Christmas (Vancouver rarely does). But it does mean it's officially hot chocolate season!

These hot chocolate spoons make the perfect decadent treat to dunk into a hot glass of milk to give it a little chocolatey boost, or to use to eat whipped cream off a creamy hot chocolate.

Of course, my favourite way to eat them is in my morning coffee. Wrap them up for a gift or keep them for yourself!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

MacBook Air Giveaway!

'Tis the season to be jolly... and 'tis the season to be giving away lots of free stuff, too! Cupcake With Character has teamed up with over 30 awesome shops and bloggers, including me, to give away a FREE MacBook Air! A complete list of sponsors is in the giveaway tool below. Spread the holiday cheer by taking a minute to drop by and visit our featured sponsors pages and show them some love!

A-Manda Creations, The Pretty Party Shoppe, Petite Bebe, Dinnerella, Six Twelve Boutique, Painting Paris Pink, Small Moments, Totally The Bomb, Beyond Rubies, Whimsy and Wise and Leanne Bakes!

Rules: Contest is open from December 6, 2013 at 11:59 PM PST to December 31, 2013 at 11:59 PM PST. The winner will be chosen randomly through the Giveaway Tools form. Giveaway is open worldwide to all participants 18 years of age and older. Void where prohibited by law. Winner must comply with all laws in their Country. Winner will be asked a skill test question upon claiming prize. The winner will have 24 hours to claim their prize. Should they not claim their prize within this time, another winner will be selected. Please ensure that the email cupcakewithcharacter [at] gmail [dot] com is on your "safe list"!

Disclosure: This is an independent blogger giveaway. It is in no way associated with PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Etsy, or any other social media network. This giveaway is in no way associated with Apple, Inc. or any of its products. Cupcake With Character and participating sponsors are not compensated to promote any Apple products. Sponsors contribute to the prize, taxes, shipping, fees, forms of paid promotion, the time and effort it takes to prepare, launch and promote giveaway. This is not a lottery. A skill test question will be asked of the winner upon claiming their prize. Should you have any questions, please contact Shauna at Cupcake with Character via email at cupcakewithcharacter [at] gmail [dot] com.

Winner outside USA can opt for Paypal cash in USD. Fees may apply. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Spice Granola

This holiday spice granola is perfect for frosty winter mornings.

Or gift giving. Or making just to have the aroma of cinnamon and ginger fill your home to welcome the holidays at last.

I love a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning, but on rushed days (or lazy days) nothing beats granola. Hearty, healthy, and totally filling, it's perfect on the go or in the bowl. This holiday spice version kicks everything up a notch with the perfect hint of gingerbread and sour-sweet dried cranberries.

My version is nut-free, but you can always toss in some almonds or whatever else you nut-eaters like. Whatever you do, just make it, because it tastes like holiday magic and we all need that in our lives. Trust.

You could even leave some out for Santa...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

S'mores Rice Krispie Treats

Want to know something kindamaybe crazy? I have never been camping.

I've slept in a motorhome, a cabin, and some very questionable hotels, but never a tent. Never under the stars, on a bed of lumpy dirt, soothed to sleep by the swish-swishing of sleeping bags.

I'm not completely nature deprived, though. I've been on plenty of hikes, and met my fair share of wild animals (there are lots of cougars, coyotes, and bears that wander our neighbourhood, since Canada),

But lately? Lately I've been having some weird urge to give it a try, but a hip injury from a car accident has made sleeping on the most comfy of beds difficult, so it will have to wait.

In the meantime, tucked between physio, painkillers, and long waits to see specialists, I brought a little bit of camping to me instead. S'mores Rice Krispie Treats, made with browned butter, marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate chips. All melted together in perfect harmony.

It's not the real deal over a campfire, but it's just as fun to share with your family.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sugar Cookie Trees

Sugar cookie trees are a fun and easy winter treat that kids love to stack (and eat).

I love, love, love making elaborate cakes and treats, but sometimes I just want to throw some cookies on a plate and still have it look seriously impressive. These cookies are as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5-6-7-8...), and can be frozen ahead of time and plunked on a dessert table at your big holiday family function.

Ready for the details? I made these with flower shaped cookie cutters, and stacked 1-2 per size to get the shape I wanted. You can use any shape you'd like, from circles to stars, to get other cool looks. For the tree stump, I used a slightly flattened 1/2 inch piece of Tootsie Roll (lifted from my boy's Halloween candy stash, natch), but you can also use a Rolo, or chopped up chocolate bar to get a similar effect. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Vegan Gingerbread Doughnuts with Maple Ginger Glaze

These vegan gingerbread doughnuts are, according to my boyfriend, the best thing I've ever made.

That should mean something because he eats a lot of things. Mostly things I've made, so he's kind of an expert on my kitchen exports. And he's totally right: these are incredible.

(So was the look of shock in his eyes when I told him they're vegan!)

The spice blend gives the perfect hint of gingerbread, and reminds me that Christmas and (hopefully) snow is just around the corner. The glaze sweetens them up just a notch, and really drives home the ginger notes.

All in all? The absolute best way to warm up for the upcoming holiday season.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Movember Moustache Cookies... on a stick!

I may not be able to grow a moustache for Movember, but I can definitely bake one.

Or a dozen. And so can you!

These moustache cookies are a lot easier to make than they look, and just take a batch of sugar cookie dough and some chocolate. You can have a fully grown and groomed 'stache in an hour - way, way less time than it takes to grow one. And you can actually eat these ones.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Maple Apple Pie with Spiced Pastry

You know how you have some rules you just live by in life? 

My rules include:
1. Wear sunscreen if you go outside. Hell, wear sunscreen if you go near windows while indoors.
2. Remember that you don't know how to swim, so stay away from water.
3. You won't be happy that you watched that scary movie, so just don't.
3. You also won't be happy that you said no to having dessert, so just don't do that either. 
4. Actually, just don't say no to food.
5. Always, ALWAYS, cake > pie.

It doesn't really even matter what kind of cake. The worst cake is better than the best pie, in my twisted little world.

Or so I thought. Until this guy (ugh. I really wanted to spell that as 'gie') came along and made me a believer.

Given my life rules, you can imagine that for a pie to take centre stage, be made repeatedly, and - yes - even chosen over cupcakes, cake, and all those other chocolate-centric things I like, well, it must be love.

This pie takes everything good about pie and amplifies it. The cozy apple-loving spices are infused into the crust, making every bite delicious. The filling is warm and gooey with a hint of maple goodness. The topping pattern is fun with a little bit of whimsy. It doesn't even need ice cream to wash it down! (My former go-to pie survival trick. Life can be so hard, non?)

So go ahead. Give this pie a chance.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jack-O'-Lantern Meringues

Phew! We're finally getting into the Halloween spirit around here.

I still need to pull the decorations out of storage (they're trapped underneath a pile of truck tires, Christmas stuff, and old toys, so... it might take a while), but costumes are bought, and a trip to the pumpkin patch is in the works.

But, of course, a holiday isn't a holiday without some themed baking. These little pumpkins are the best because they're fat free, small, and adorable. They only take about 15 minutes of prep, and the baking and cooling time is completely hands-free. And the best part? Kids love to draw on the crazy faces, making it a family activity. We're all about the quality time. (Especially when it involves dessert).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blueberry Dutch Baby Pancake

Out of all the mornings, the one that comes on Sunday is my favourite.

There's no lessons or games to rush off to. There's no work to do. There's just sleeping in, the light peeking in through the blinds, and the pitter patter of they boy's feet as he has free reign over the house before we get up. (I do not want to know how many cartoons are watched before 9am...)

And there's breakfast. Always the best breakfast, finally prepared with enough leisure and time to get it as close to perfect as the sleep in my eyes allows it to be. 

But, of course, having the time doesn't mean I want to spend all the time, and for those Sunday mornings where I don't want to have brunch become lunch, the Dutch baby pancake is the perfect compromise. Quick and easy, this Dutch baby pancake has a hint of cinnamon and lemon and is topped with blueberries. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Best BBQ Pulled Pork

A long, long time ago (think high school) I used to work in a butcher shop. It was owned by my aunt and uncle and, although there were some fantastically disgusting elements to the job, it was actually a pretty decent time. I learned to chop meat, cook animals, and made the best bacon and havarti sandwiches ever - the type of sandwich that can only be consumed during that special period in your life before your metabolism checks out and your ass fat checks in.

While that sandwich will forever hold my heart (in the form of clogged arteries), my favourite part of the job was the Saturday Barbecue. My aunt would cook three delicious, juicy meats looooonnng and slow on the grill. Usually it was turkey, beef, and - the best ever - pulled pork. The smell would waft through the small city streets, and customers would drive hours to come every weekend. The loyalty was well deserved because, god damn, you couldn't find anything else as delicious within a 50km radius.


While the barbecues have long been packed up, and the shop is now closed, I still love to follow in my aunt's footsteps and make the best pulled pork on the grill ever.

I've included her recipe here, along with her famous barbecue sauce to get the authentic Saturday Barbecue experience. The sauce makes about ooohhh a dozen batches, so feel free to scale it down if needed (if you have trouble, email me and I can do it for you! leannebakes [at] gmail [dot] com). The pulled pork recipe uses a honking shoulder, but you can use the same seasonings and method for other cuts, too. If you're a purist, just slap your pork shoulder on the grill with no extra fuss and muss and let it do its thing.

GIVEAWAY: $500 Target Giftcard

Have I told you guys how much I love you lately?

Because I do. Heaps. So I've teamed up with Cupcake With Character and 25 awesome bloggers for a $500 Target Gift Card Giveaway!

Think of all the scented candles, bedding, and charming knick knacks you could get! Or, you can do what I'd do and get all sorts of Halloween decorations and treats to trick your house out for the holidays.

Featured Sponsors: A-Manda Creation, Petite Bebe, Glam Design Studio, The Sugar Confetti Shop, Fancy Cakes, The Elegant Ella, Dinnerella, ItWorks and Six Twelve Boutique!

Rules: Contest is open from September 24, 2013 at 11:00PM PST to October 15, 2013 at 11:00PM PST. The winner will be chosen randomly through the Giveaway Tools form. Giveaway is open worldwide to all participants 18 years of age and older. Void where prohibited by law. Winner must comply with all laws in their Country. Winner will be asked a skill test question upon claiming prize. The winner will have 24 hours to claim their prize. Should they not claim their prize within this time, another winner will be selected. Please ensure that the email cupcakewithcharacter [at] gmail [dot] com is on your "safe list" !

Prize: $500 Target Gift Card. Winner will be announced within 24 hours of giveaway ending. Winner has 24 hours to respond to the email. If winner does not respond with in 24 hours a new winner will be chosen at random. Open worldwide. Winner must abide by their countries laws with regards to sweepstakes and giveaways.

Disclosure: This is an independent blogger giveaway. It is in no way associated with PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Etsy or any other social media network. This giveaway is in no way associated with Target or any of its products. Cupcake With Character and participating sponsors are not compensated to promote any Target products. Sponsors contribute to the prize, taxes, shipping, fees, forms of paid promotion, the time and effort it takes to prepare, launch and promote giveaway. This is not a lottery. A skill test question will be asked of the winner upon claiming their prize. Should you have any questions, please contact Shauna at Cupcake with Character via email at cupcakewithcharacter [at] gmail [dot] com.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Maple Blueberry Apple Crisp

It's raining, it's pouring, my herb garden has completely died from neglect, my allergies are out of control, but I can't help but love this summer slow down.

Because I love the sound of rain (can you tell I'm a Vancouverite?), the return of weather just cool enough to justify turning on the oven, and the last hurrah of fresh, seasonal berries and fruit.

It all makes for a delicious maple blueberry apple crisp that can be eaten with ice cream for dessert, or on its own for breakfast.

This crisp is a spin on one in Canadian Living, but I switched things up to suit the lack of ingredients in my cupboard, and the abundance of fruits in my fridge. I also cut down the sweet, because berries are sweet you guys, and added more topping for extra delicious.

How are you enjoying the last bits of summer? Follow me on Instagram to see more end of summer treats and trips!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Side Dish: Minted

The other day I was at Shopper's Drug Mart, picking up more of my summer essentials of SPF10000 and aloe vera, when I spotted an entire chunk of aisle dedicated to Halloween candy.

Halloween candy. In August. I know.

Since then I've seen it crawl onto the shelves at Superstore, Costco, and a bunch of other places, too.

Don't get me wrong -- any time I can buy bulk Reese Peanut Butter Cups is a happy, happy day, and if I have to pretend I'm stocking up for trick-or-treaters months in advance then so be it. My main issue here is that it's not Christmas stuff. Because if I had my way, Christmas crap would line store shelves year-round.

That's why I was beyond excited to check out the awesome christmas cards at Minted. An excuse to start thinking about my favourite holiday before the other, lesser, ones have had their turn? Sign me up!

Minted makes those awesomely adorable picture Christmas cards you always wish you had the time, patience, and resources to make and personalize, but instead you just stare jealously at the one your sister -- the favourite -- sent out that's stuck on your fridge. Don't be that Bitter Betty this year -- take a cue from Shopper's Drug Mart and start on that stuff now!

If you're not the planning ahead type, and more of the want-lots-of-cute-stuff type, or the omg-check-out-that-adorable-stationary type, Minted still has you covered.

They carry the paper straws I used in my Cherry-Lime Sorbet Coke Float post, and lots of other freaking cute party and kitchen supplies. They even have kid-friendly journals and other back to school supplies that aren't plastered with Dora and Sponge Bob.

Check out Minted's adorable food and party supplies, Christmas cards, and other precious party-perfect stationary and designs over on their website!

*** Disclaimer: I was provided compensation by Minted to write about their products. However, as always, any compensation received doesn't influence my opinion on the products, or the content of this blog.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cherry-Lime Sorbet Coke Floats

There are a lot of things I absolutely love about where I live.

Canada is vast and beautiful, and I love the marriage of the ocean and snow-capped mountains in Vancouver. I grit my teeth through the very high cost of living because it's home, and it's beautiful, and there's no where else I'd want to be.

But for our abundance of cool scenery, fresh air, and Ketchup chips, we're sure lacking in the flavoured Coca Cola category. Cherry Coke is next to impossible to find here, and don't even get me started on Vanilla. 

So when the man and I took a mini roadtrip down to Seattle (post to come!), I came home totally inspired to make my own summer version of Cherry Coke. 

This sweet treat features a sorbet made one of the most iconic summer fruits -- cherries -- and a hint of a lime. When scooped into a tall glass of ice-cold Coca Cola (or Pepsi, no judging) a fun twist on cherry coke is born. And loved. And devoured.

Want a sneak peak at what I'm making? Follow me on Instagram

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Recipe Retake: Blueberry Crumb Muffins

Time can change a lot of things.

Blueberry Crumb Muffins

It can make the people we used to date look like complete fools, it can make our youth look so much sweeter than we ever knew it was, and it can make our former photography skills look, um, less than desirable.

I lovelovelove looking back on my old posts, but I tend to cringe when I see the pictures I took (as I'm sure I'll do in a few years again). So instead of wallowing in my regret, I've decided to remake and retake old recipes. I'll be visiting some of the favourite recipes I've made, snapping new pictures, and updating recipes notes for a new and improved archive.

Oh yeah -- I'll actually be adding them to the recipe catalogue, too!

Blueberry Crumb Muffins

The first recipe is Blueberry Crumb Muffins, originally posted way back in June 2010. I switched up a few things in this recipe, mainly cutting back the sugar and using fresh blueberries from my parents' garden.

Check out the new and improved recipe and photos!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Side Dish: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have a confession.

I kill plants.

Like, all the time. Not for fun, of course, but just because I can't seem to do anything else to them. The lone exception is this one cactus that has kept on trucking for the past few years, despite my sporadic bursts of water and affection. He's a real champ.

Unlike my herb garden here, which was lovingly gifted my way from my mom (thanks, Mom! Sorry, Mom!) in perfect, healthy condition. We lived in harmony for several weeks, until my true plant-slaying nature shone through.

I'm not really sure where things began to take a turn for the worst. Maybe it was the bugs that ate all the basil. Maybe it was the italian parsley that grew at abnormal rates. Or maybe it was that I forgot to water it, because when you live in a climate that snaps from every day rain to every day sun in the blink of an eye, it can be a strange adjustment. Like when I straighten my hair and forget that straight hair needs to be brushed, so it just sort of puffs and tangles from neglect.

Regardless of where I lay the blame (it's on me, hands down), this is the garden now.

I don't even know what I'm forgetting to water anymore. Is it weeds? What's the yellow flower thing wilting alongside the browned parsley? Why did some grow strong while others succumbed? If I eat it will I die? Nature leaves this city girl with so many questions.

So this is the part where I humbly ask for your help... what can I do to get this little herb nest back into shape? More water? More pulling out of the things? I've already started to pluck out some of the brown bits, and although some little spiders were very unhappy with their extreme home makeover, at least it isn't as much of an eye sore.

Want to keep tabs on my garden progress? Join me on Instagram!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nut-free Maple Quinoa Granola with Dried Strawberries and Cocoa Nibs

I want to pretend that this granola is worth getting out of bed for in the morning.

But, frankly, there's not a whole lot that can motivate me to crawl out from under the cool sheets except for summer camp start times and giant cups of coffee. But once that's all said and done, and the boy is off having fun for the day and I'm fully caffeinated, I'm finally able to appreciate this granola in all its glory.

I'm not a huge fan of raisins -- nature's little cavity makers -- so I opted for dried strawberries and cocoa nibs instead, and holy moly, aren't I glad I did. And there are no nuts as per usual since my epi-pen just expired. You can add in all the nuts you'd like, though! The greatest thing about this recipe is how utterly forgiving it is.

This morning I ate the last of it while watching the window washers scale down the high rise next door. Could you do that job? I don't think I could do that job. I've jumped out of airplanes, but something about being suspended at the mercy of potentially incompetent coworkers while I scrub glass clean enough for birds to smush into again five minutes later doesn't appeal much to me. 

I used to live in that building on the 26th floor -- yes, I moved to the low rise next door and if I look way, way up I can see my old apartment. I remember when the window washers would come, bouncing and dripping soap past my window, and how weird it was to see things and people so high up with me. My feet on solid ground and everything else floating or suspended. Like when bees would fly into my suite, and I'd wonder what they were possibly doing there when the plants were about, oh some 20 plus floors down. 

But now I'm back on the ground, in the land of spiders and less adventurous bees and delicious granola that can be eaten while lazing around in my little yard, looking up at a view that I miss.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Apple, Rosemary, and Olive Oil Flatbread

The boy has been watching a lot of Power Rangers lately. Do you know that show? It's the old one from way back in my childhood where teens in colour-coded spandex suits battle poorly designed robots and monsters led by a group of over-acting villains.

When I was just a few years older than the boy, at 9, I had a pretty intense leg operation. My tibia bones were super wonky and had to be smushed up and reshaped so I could keep walking past my teen years. The surgery was a success, I guess, but the recovery was long and painful as my bones regrew and I learned, very slowly, how to walk again.

But you know the one thing I remember the most about that time? Not when the circulation was cut off in one leg and I had days of painful cramping before they nearly had to amputate it. Not having intense and nausea-inducing rehabilitation. And not the humiliation of having to go to the bathroom in a bedpan.

No. I remember my first hospital roommate from after the surgery. I remember her, and I remember hating her, and all because of the Power Rangers.

We shared a two person room, and she was recovering from some sort of kidney operation because, in the words of her mother, she held her pee for too long too often. Her mother would always remind me to go to the bathroom, but I assured her my catheter would take care of everything, but thanks for the concern over any lack of common sense I may possess.

The room was a drab mix of taupe and beige -- a stark contrast to the bright halls of the Children's Hospital, and I was in the furthest bed next to the window. I was stuck in bed on account of having plaster legs, so entertainment and scenery was limited. I got a break a few times a day when I was wheeled around the hospital to chew grape-flavoured Children's Tylenol in excess amounts.

But there was a TV. A glorious, crappy little TV that swung out between the beds to provide fuzzy, discoloured entertainment for the both of us. It only had a few channels, but you know what my pee-holding roomie always managed to find on it? Power Rangers. And no matter how much I complained, begged, and pleaded, or pointed out how I was confined to the bed and maybe, just maybe, she could go for a walk or something, Power Rangers played on.

I didn't understand the appeal of Power Rangers. They literally won every single battle they ever got in. No matter the villain, no matter how evil and weird the space robot was that plotted their destruction, there was no suspense because you knew at the end of the day they'd be back at their clubhouse having snacks. Roomie argued it was about the journey, the excitement of the fights that lured her in. I guess I was more of a big picture kinda kid, because through every episode I prayed for it to end while I tried to squeeze more drugs out of my morphine drip.

We only shared a room for a few days, and soon I was moved to a different one with three girls -- one who's fate completely breaks my heart to this day -- and I never again had to endure another episode of Power Rangers until a few weeks ago. So it goes. 

But life has a funny way of working out sometimes, because as the Power Rangers made a triumphant return to my life, I created one of my favourite recipes to date. This apple, rosemary, and olive oil flatbread has a sourdough base, and a subtly sweet topping. It's a bit crunchy, a bit chewy, and somehow not a gross combination of the two. The base is a bit of effort, but is definitely worth it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Banana Cream Pie(ish) Trifle

This is seven layers of banana cream pie inspired goodness.

Banana Cream Pie(ish) Trifle

We've got pudding, we've got bananas, we've got cake and graham crackers and a whole lotta yeeessss. I let the boy have a taste of this dessert before dinner, and when it was time to bring it out he cuddled up next to the man on the couch and whispered in his best, most serious, most hushed tone (this kid is LOUD) "I have something to tell you about tonight's dessert... it's AMAZING."

He must have been right, because three glasses were eaten by bed.

It's always awesome when people like what you make, and it's even more awesome when you manage to sneak some fruit in there. Okay, I don't actually care about the fruit part. I'm just here for the ego boost.

Banana Cream Pie(ish) Trifle

Now, down to the details. Like I said, this is seven layers of banana cream pie inspired goodness. There's no whipped cream because, in all honesty, I don't like it. But you can add a dollop or ten on top if that's what you're into. I dished this into fairly giant (and cheap) wine glasses, and it made three of them. I then proceeded to break two of those glasses today while cleaning then. BUT if you're using smaller cups/dishes or even a giant trifle bowl, your dessert mileage may vary.

It all comes together to form a delicious banana cream pie trifle, full of different flavours and texture to keep you interested the whole way through.


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