Monthly Archives

December 2015

Food Inspiration Michelle's Favourite Recipes

ELLEN’S DECADENT BROWNIES

GOOEY….FUDGY, and DENSE is the best way to describe these delicious brownies

When the brownies come out of the oven, the bubbly crust where the marshmallows have settled is like a lunar moonscape of heavenly chocolate decadence. 

IMG_3695

This is one of the only dessert recipes that I have consistently made for my family for years.  My lovely former neighbour, Ellen Schwartz made them for us one day a long time ago. From that day on, I was hooked! Here’s how easy they are to make:IMG_3738

4 oz unsweetened chocolate      2 tsp vanilla

1 cup butter                                    1 cup flour

1 cup chocolate chips                    ½ tsp salt

4 eggs                                               2 cups mini marshmallows

2 cups sugar                                    1 tsp baking powder

Melt butter and chocolate over a double boiler or melt in microwave. Use a mixer to beat eggs, sugar and vanilla and then add melted chocolate and butter mixture. Once combined, add flour, salt and baking powder.  Finally, stir in marshmallows.  Pour batter into a 9 x 13 parchment lined pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 37 minutes.  Watch it carefully, you don’t want to overbake it.

Not only are they scrumptious, making them reminds me of Ellen.   Food is love and Ellen is famous for expressing her affection by surprising people with her yummy baked goods.  But, her kindness, compassion, and love have all been most abundantly expressed by the example she sets as a nurturer.  Her ability to turn the tragedy of a fatal neurodegenerative diagnosis of Jakey, her first born child, into an opportunity to shine the light on courage, hope and the joy of living each day to the fullest is extraordinary.  Jakey is everyone’s hero.  Miraculously, he recently celebrated his 18th birthday!

Ellen and Jeff Schwartz with kids Bevvy, Jackey, & Ben

Ellen and Jeff Schwartz with kids Bevvy, Jakey, & Ben

Ellen is a mother of 3, teacher, author, inspirational public speaker, and fundraiser.  She and her husband Jeff (who is also AMAZING) founded the charity “Jacob’s Ladder”, which has raised 2.5 million dollars toward research to discover and develop therapy and diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases among many other efforts. It’s that time of year for giving.  If you would like to make a donation to this amazing cause, here is the website:   www.jacobsladder.ca

P.S. when I asked if she’d mind me sharing this recipe, she confessed that she got the recipe from a friend and in true loving generous fashion that embodies who Ellen is, she said: “they really aren’t my brownies – they are yours xo”

IMG_3722

 

 

Design fun stuff

PRETTY WINTER CONTAINERS

Winters are endless. The cold weather is BRUTAL

And that’s why THIS is the season to go all out on your containers with something pretty

They really do bring a little warmth and sunshine your way every time you walk in and out of your home during the frigid months.  Or, at least they do for me.

IMG_3886 IMG_3893

 

So, if you haven’t already got your outdoor pots planted, then rush out this weekend while the weather is still mild!

 

 

We are all busy, especially at this time of year, but since there are so many options, there’s no excuse!  The easiest, (but not necessarily the cheapest OR most attractive option) is obviously to pick up a pot that has already been arranged. BUT, if you want to enjoy a creative and meditative exercise, why not try making your own pots the old fashioned way!   Creating something beautiful is fun, easy and so satisfying.  I like to do something more elaborate for the front door and something simple in the back.

SIMPLE 5 MINUTE BACKYARD CONTAINER (easy peasy!)

IMG_4153 IMG_4157 IMG_4161Materials list:

Large Leaf Boxwood 26 inch round wreath

Grapevine sphere

Copper LED bundle Lights

 

For this traditional cast iron pot, you don’t even need soil!  Place the wreath around the circumference of the planter.  It literally took me 5 minutes to wrap the lights around the sphere.  Then, place the sphere on top of the wreath and voila! Done!

I didn’t want to go to the expense of buying outdoor lights, so instead I got the indoor battery powered variety. To protect it against the elements, I placed the battery pack in a Ziploc baggie and then placed it in a plastic container so no moisture can get in.  I just turn it on manually when I want to light it up.  So pretty at night!

 

IMG_4171 IMG_4172 Tip: Save your grapevine sphere, pine cones, logs, coconut shells etc. They are expensive and should be recycled every year.  You can add new things to your collection slowly.

 

DECADENT FRONT DOOR CONTAINERS

Materials List:

Triple Mix                                                           BC Cedar stems

Square boxwood wreath                                  Pine cones

Magnolia Tips                                                    Tall branches or birch logs

Leyland Cypress stems                                     Coconut shells

IMG_3523Fill your container with Triple Mix, place the wreath around the circumference of the container and start by placing your tall branches or birch logs in the centre to anchor the arrangement and give it height.  It’s good to use an odd number of branches or logs.  Since logs are big, I’d use 3, but since my branches were thin, I used 5. IMG_3526

 

 

Then start filling above and below the wreath.  Use, the taller, sturdier BC Cedar and Cypress stems in the centre around the tall branches(or birch logs), and use the smaller droopier stems below the wreath so they drape down.  Be sure that everything you place in the pot is     firmly planted in the soil.

IMG_3535

 

Then, take the magnolia tips and place them at the base of the tall branches and fill in the gaps around the wreath.  I like to showcase the brown part of the leaf instead of the green part for contrast.   Then fill in any remaining gaps with more greenery.

IMG_3894Finally place the pine cones and coconut shells at strategic points in the corners and centre.  Once the arrangement is full and you are satisfied, spray it with Wilt Pruf which reduces the loss of moisture and will enable the greenery to last until the end of winter.  (although don’t use it on silver fir and juniper berries because they will lose their colour). It’s crucial to water your pots well until the temperatures dip and the earth freezes.  Once it freezes you don’t have to water it anymore.   That’s it!

IMG_3900

As we get further into the deep freeze, with snow and icicles forming, the plant material in your containers take on a different look and shape.

It’s just another way to embrace and celebrate the beauty of those winter months.

For more ideas on how to create beautiful winter containers see my post and video demo called Front Door Winter Planters here.