hearty, creamy tomato and chicken soup

What is for dinner when you realize you have an entire package of cherry tomatoes from Costco near the back of the fridge that really need to be eaten now? 

You make a roasted creamy tomato soup. It's even better if you have a couple of chicken breasts on hand, which Saucy did.

Warning: this is a non-recipe type of recipe. You can really wing it. General amounts are given but you can be more or less specific about how you go about this. Saucy was working with what she had on hand.

Step number one: roast the tomatoes.

You will need: 1.5-2 pounds cherry tomatoes, some fresh garlic cloves, olive oil and fresh ground pepper

Cut the tomatoes in half and place them, cut side up, on a baking sheet along with a clove or two of unpeeled garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly grind pepper over all of it. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour, while you put together your chicken and stock.

Step number two: prepare your chicken by poaching it.

You will need: water, some celery stalks, at least a half of an onion, some peppercorns, a bay leaf or some parsley flakes, two skinned/boneless chicken breasts

In a large saucepan, bring four cups of water to a boil along with some chopped onion, celery, peppercorns and a bay leaf or a generous shaking of parsley flakes. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let the flavour blend for about fifteen minutes before adding the chicken breasts. The key point here is to poach the chicken, not boil it. Add the chicken breasts to the saucepan and cover with lid, simmering for 15-20 minutes over medium heat. Remove a breast to check for doneness: cut it open and it should be thoroughly cooked and tender (no pink meat and not overcooked to toughness). If the chicken is ready, remove it from the stock and reserve for the finished soup. Strain the onion and celery mixture from the stock into a large measuring cup. See how some of the water reduced down during cooking? There's just over three cups of stock ready for the soup.

Step number three: prepare the base of the soup.

You will need: olive oil, the roasted tomatoes and garlic, at least half of a finely chopped onion

Over medium-high heat in a large pot, heat about two teaspoons of olive oil. When warm, add the finely chopped onion and cook thoroughly. If they caramelize, that's okay. It's good. Then, add the roasted tomatoes. Peel the garlic cloves and add them too. Cook all of this together for about five minutes.

Remove this cooked tomato mixture from the pot and put it into a blender or food processor. Pulse on medium until blended/pulverized. The more you pulse, the smoother and creamier your soup will be.

Optional step: before returning the mixture to the pot, you may wish to strain for seeds and skin. Saucy found that step to be unnecessary after her aggressive blending and besides, she likes a hearty soup.

Step number four: finish the soup

You will need: the chicken stock, some heavy cream, the diced poached chicken, salt and pepper to taste

Place your blended tomato mixture back into the large pot. Stir in the strained chicken stock. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about thirty minutes. The soup will naturally reduce and thicken due to the starch and sugars in the tomatoes, no need to add flour or any thickening agent. Before serving, stir some heavy cream into the soup. You can add as little as 1/4 cup or as much as 3/4 cup... depending on how creamy you like this soup to be and how many calories you are willing to take in. Saucy was fairly liberal with the cream. You will need to add salt to offset the sweetness of the cream, so season to taste carefully.

Lastly, stir in the diced chicken pieces and ladle into bowls for serving. You can garnish with croutons, grated cheese, a dollop more cream, parsley, or crackers. 

For this meal, garnished with a baked parmesan crisp (how easy are these... pile a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes until crispy and bubbly - they are like insta-crackers).

Serve with homemade biscuits or cheese toast. Yes, you can do this. You can totally do this.

cadbury creme egg cupcakes

It's not too late to whip up some pretty cute cupcakes for Easter. These are a hit because they're bright and fun... and who doesn't enjoy a Cadbury's creme egg? They're a purple, yellow and red staple of spring.

It's impossible to resist the mini versions of these chocolate candy treats. Peel the foil layer off of some of them and use a little knife to gently break them in half to reveal the delicious caramel yolk... or is it custard?

Saucy tinted half a batch of buttercream with violet food colour and to the other half she added a tablespoon of custard powder and a few drops of yellow food colour.  The custard powder gives the frosting a very mellow flavour and almost takes some of the sweet edge off of it.

You'll notice that Saucy isn't normally want to put non-edible decorations on her cupcakes but in this case those fluffy Easter chicks are way too adorable and could not be resisted. 

Saucy's Perfect Cupcake Buttercream (amended 2014)

1 and 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature (Crisco)
4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon clear vanilla (Wilton or other)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt

In large bowl of stand mixer using whisk attachment, beat together butter and shortening at very high speed until well combined and smooth. 

Gradually add the confectioner's sugar, about a cup at a time, scraping well after each addition. Ensure it is well-combined and the mixture is lump-free.

Beat in the vanilla, almond extract and salt. You may still wish to add the dash of salt even if you are using salted butter. It's up to you, it's not a perfect science.

Add the heavy cream gradually while beating at highest speed. The cream will emulsify with the butter mixture, making it light and fluffy. The more cream you add, the smoother the frosting and easier it will be to pipe. 

This frosting can be made ahead up to a week and kept in an airtight container in the fridge until you need to use it. Set out at room temperature for at least one hour before you attempt to decorate with it. 

Happy Spring! Happy Easter.

grilled mac et croque-monsieur sandwiches

Last Saturday was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. It also happened to be The Master's Golf Tournament... and you know what that means. Veto visits the guys over at the Man Shack (the most tricked-out man cave in the world, but that's a whole other story) and they watch the golf action on a movie screen. They sit in lawn chairs. They wear special green shirts. They take it pretty seriously. 

They also take the sandwiches seriously. Every year, Saucy sends over a box of sammies for the guys to chow down while they pretend they're live in the gallery. She's made pressed sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, meatball sub sandwiches, grilled panini sandwiches, and more. This year, she wanted to switch things up just a bit, but she was afraid the guys wouldn't go for it.

This year, Saucy really wanted to send her favourite sandwich, the Croque-monsieur. Realistically, sending a delicate sandwich that originated in the cafes of Paris into the Man Shack presented some unique problems. Would the fellas enjoy the delicate flavours of buttery white bread with the crusts cut off filled with ham and Gruyere cheese? What about the traditional topping of béchamel? How to transport it?

And then, a thought dawned on her. She uses a béchamel to make her famous mac and cheese... so why not put the mac and cheese inside the sandwich, along with the ham, and more cheese? Then grill the whole thing? It would be epic. It would be... the world's first... grilled macaroni et croque-monsieur.

You can make these, too. Start by making your favourite mac and cheese recipe, or you can use Saucy's:

3 cups boiled, drained elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups warm milk 
salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper
3 cups shredded cheese (for these sandwiches, Saucy used a combo of Gruyere, traditional Swiss Emmental, and a mild white cheddar)
600 grams finely shredded, good quality dry smoked ham

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. When completely liquid (don't let it brown), sprinkle the flour into the pan and whisk consistently for about two minutes. This is the roux that will thicken your béchamel beautifully. You really want to ensure that the flour is cooked during this step, otherwise your sauce will taste "pasty." 

Gradually add the warm milk to the roux. This is very gradual at first and if done correctly you will see the béchamel come together as you are whisking. After all of the milk is incorporated bring the mixture over medium-high heat to almost-boil. Remove from the heat and stir in your cheeses and the shredded ham. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the sandwiches, you will need:

64 thick (1 inch) slices of French bread (Saucy chose this because it's sturdy enough to hold the filling and easy to grill)
4 cups shredded cheese (your choice, Swiss and cheddar worked well)
good quality Dijon mustard (or a Dijon-mayo mixture)

Begin by buttering the sliced bread. Butter one side quite heavily. Place the butter sides down and make "pairs" matching your slices by size. This way, the sandwich is buttered and ready for grilling. The macaroni mixture will act like "glue" to hold the sandwich together. At this point, spread some Dijon mustard onto one of the bread slices, as you desire. 

Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to place about a quarter to a third cup of mac and cheese onto one of the slices of each pair. You can make a little assembly line here... you are making thirty-two sandwiches, after all.  After topping a slice of bread with the macaroni, add some more shredded cheese and a dash of fresh pepper to spark it up a bit. Fold the second slice over, butter side out, completing your sandwich construction.  You will also note, that for practicality's sake, Saucy kept the crusts on the bread.

Saucy wrapped each sandwich in parchment paper and sent them to the Man Shack un-grilled. The guys were in charge of their own grilling (partly because guys love to grill anything but also nothing is as amazing as a hot-of-the-grill melted cheese sandwich).

You can see the assembly process over on Instagram. It was late at night and taking step-by-step shots with buttery fingers and her good camera was not an option. 

PS. You don't have to make 32 sandwiches. You can make a few sandwiches and put the rest of the mac and cheese in a buttered casserole dish. Bake it at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, that's a meal right there.  This recipe actually did make 32 hearty sandwiches. 

classic belgian waffles... finally

For a while now, Saucy has been seriously wanting a Belgian waffle iron. She has a nice, regular waffle iron she uses often but the waffles that it makes are on the thin side. To be blunt, they're weak. They aren't Belgian waffles. Saucy was regularly jonesing for luscious, round waffles with deep wells to hold syrup and fruit. Classic Belgian waffles are crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. 

Recently, it was time to cash in some points on the credit card. There wasn't much to choose from for "rewards" on the website... until... there it was... hold the phone... a combo waffle iron/omelette maker. To be honest, the omelette maker doesn't look like a good idea at all. Who can't just make an omelette in a little skillet? And who would serve omelettes and waffles at the same meal? Making proper waffles is already a fair bit of work. It's likely the omelette side of this contraption won't ever get a workout. But the waffles... they were heavenly.

Classic Belgian Waffles

1 1/2 cups water, divided

2 14 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)

1/3 cup sugar

3 cups sifted flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated plus 1 egg white

8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

non-stick cooking spray

Heat 3/4 cup of the water to lukewarm, and dissolve the yeast along with a pinch of the sugar from the recipe; let stand 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, set aside.

Add the egg yolks and one egg white along with the remaining sugar to the yeast mixture; stir to blend.  Add the remaining water, milk, melted butter, oil and vanilla.  Stir until the liquid is smooth.

Stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and beat all together until smooth.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites gently into the the batter. Let the batter stand one hour, stirring every fifteen minutes.

Follow the cooking directions for your waffle maker. For this contraption, Saucy found that setting #4 was just right. Spray the surface area with a short blast of non-stick cooking spray before cooking any waffles. 

Resist the temptation to open your waffle maker before the indicator light tells you they are ready. This sounds easier than it is. They smell pretty delicious while they're cooking away in there. It won't take long, just be patient. About three minutes... then they're ready.  Eat them right away. They get a little soggy if they sit out a while so they're best enjoyed immediately.

Preferably with lots of butter, warmed syrup, whipped cream and fruit. Saucy ate hers with mounds of fresh berries and a good sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.

Here's the best part: if you have extras (this recipe makes about ten waffles) they store nicely in the fridge in a large Ziploc bag. On Monday for lunch, you can throw a cold waffle right back into the iron and warm it for a couple of minutes to crisp it up. Then make a serious sandwich out of it. Like here, a smoked turkey, swiss cheese and spinach sandwich with a mayo/cranberry sauce mix.

That, friends, was the best part of the whole adventure. 

a happy then sad then happy again story

This is a sad story that has a happy beginning and a sad middle and a happy ending. It's still kind of a sad story, though.

Last year, Saucy was scouring the local online classifieds looking for props for a photo shoot. She came upon someone selling their 1928 cast iron claw foot tub. They only wanted one hundred dollars for it... and they only lived a few blocks away. "I'll take it, sight unseen, don't sell it before I get there!" Saucy shrieked into the phone, slammed it down and then literally raced over to the lady's house. The tub was in the backyard, filled with soil and bedding plants. It had been used as a planter for the last ten years or so but the lady was moving and she promised the new owners it would be gone.

Saucy figured she could do something with it for that price. Maybe she could come up with a photo shoot idea for it. Hell, at the very least she could use it as a planter herself... or sell it for profit. She laid down the cash and called her moving guy.

Turns out, it cost twice as much to move this bad boy over to Saucy's yard than she paid for it. No matter. It got plopped down in the yard and sat there. Saucy wasn't even sure about what kind of shape the porcelain was in, there was still dirt in the bottom (plus a very old spoon, some rocks and a very sad rubber duck... yuck).

Who knew what would linger beneath all that guck and muck? Can you say... one perfectly perfect porcelain finish?

Yes reader, the tub interior is in almost pristine condition. The very (very) minimal marks give it that much-desired vintage character. The only thing this tub needed was a visit from The Fan and The Secret Weapon (who wielded fancy turning wire brush tool) in order to make the exterior nice and smooth for repainting. Saucy spent a day or so adding careful layers of rust-prevention paint to the outside of the tub and gave the feet a little cleaning up and a coat of spray paint. Okay, looking at these pictures she kind of wishes she'd painted the feet white.

The tub was painted that funky mauve colour mostly as a nod to the original apron-front tub that was in this bathroom. All of the fixtures in this room were signature 1960's lilac purple. It just seemed to fit - this was and will always be the purple bathroom.

Back to the sad story... this is where the happy part about the condition of the tub gets to the sad part about how when the contractor opened the floor and found there were basically no floor joists left in the room. 

That means there's hardly any strength or support to hold up the walls of the house, let alone add the weight of a cast iron tub, water and Saucy. The contractor said the entire situation needed a structural engineer, STAT. Maybe this room couldn't even be used for a bathroom. Maybe it would have to be converted into the world's tiniest office or most ill-thought-out walk in closet. The possibilities were not endless.

Thankfully - and Saucy cannot stress this enough - THANKFULLY Saucy has a blog reader/friend who she paid a visit to. Again, thankfully, her friend hooked her up big time. An engineer came out for a site visit that week. Saucy dug up the old house plans and everybody had a good head scratch about how much the tub weighed, water displacement, points of contact... it was very interesting. 

Okay, so you know from the stream of photos how the story ended. The engineer said the floor could be braced and supported properly by doing this and that, the contractor said he'd charge lots extra for this and that, and Saucy thought twice about moving that damn tub up the stairs more than once. She really didn't want another acrylic apron tub in the house. And she only paid a hundred dollars (plus moving fees) for it. Nope, she went for it.

And that, Dear Readers and friends, is the story about how Saucy's One Hundred Dollar Internet Bathtub cost Veto fourteen thousand dollars.

Anyone fancy a cocktail after that story? It gets happy again. Happy after Saucy had a drink holder installed on the wall.

Happy when she found the perfect vintage faucet for the tub with a rubber stopper for the drain... because rubber stoppers are awesome and retro.

It's a happy story when she found the world's smallest pedestal sink at 20" wide and it was available through a local distributor. 

It's an unhappy story when the first sink faucet arrived and did not fit properly on the sink even though they were made by the same company.

It's a happy story again when all that got sorted out and the faucets have adorable little vintage details on them.

It's a happy story because also at the bottom of the dirty planter tub Saucy found two original hanging soap racks. They're not in the best of shape but Dear Lord, they are charming.

It's a sad story when Saucy found this amazing little storage cabinet for Veto's new bathroom but it didn't fit. Amazingly, the story gets happy again when it fit right here. It's the perfect spot to organize bath products.

Saucy is happy when she looks up from her bubble bath to see this vintage photo of Elizabeth Taylor looking down. Don't worry, the room has really high ceilings and a fan and a window that opens so it won't get damaged by humidity.

This little chair is also a happy part of the story. It was a five dollar Internet find... it was yellow... and hey, funny twist: Saucy used this little chair to photograph the delightful daughter of the very blog friend who hooked Saucy up with an engineer. You might say that this little chair links everything together nicely. Saucy happily gave it a coat of that delicious Pantone Colour of the Year, Radiant Orchid. 

Saucy was also very happy to have the perfect little spot to hang a very purply watercolour she did in an art class back in 1999. It never really had a home. It's perfect here.

Veto was happy when the original medicine cabinet and window shutters stayed put. Saucy can pretend she did it to cut costs, but she just found them too charming to let go of.  Plus, the wooden shutters have a nice deep ledge to set things on.

And then, every night before bed, this happens. And that is by far the happiest part of the story of all.

emu cupcakes

If there's one thing Saucy learned from making hundreds of cupcakes at a time with The Cheerios, it was how to cut corners. Buying in bulk, stocking up when supplies go on sale, all of it. This is the very best tip she has to share with you and you absolutely must try it: baking cupcakes with emu eggs.

Emu eggs can be difficult to find but if you know a local emu farmer you're set. Sometimes they're available at the farmer's market or local organic shops. They are huge, you cannot miss them. This also makes them very convenient... imagine cracking one single emu egg instead of standing over your mixer cracking multiple chicken eggs.

However, all of your recipes will require adjusting. No worries, Saucy has you covered! She has computed and calculated a cupcake concoction worthy of crack a lackin'.  Here is Saucy's basic new cupcake recipe:

Emu Egg Cupcakes (2014)

4 pounds unsalted butter (emu eggs are salty, so again you save $)
5 cups white granulated sugar
1/4 cup vanilla extract
1 emu egg (room temperature)
3 1/2 cups buttermilk
8 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 cup baking soda

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add vanilla. 

Using a small chisel and hammer, make a crack in the emu egg. Carefully break it open - have a look inside, it's not uncommon to have multiple yolks in emu eggs but that is fine. It will make the cake dense and moist (some might find it a tad "birdy" but that is a matter of taste). 

Whip the emu egg into the butter/sugar mixture as if you were in a frenzy. Emu eggs require quite a bit of beating but the work you are saving cracking all those regular-sized eggs is worth it.

Sift together dry ingredients and gradually blend into the egg mixture. 

Scoop batter into cupcake paper-lined baking trays and bake for 25-28 minutes at 350 degrees. This recipe yields 120-140 emu egg cupcakes. 

Thus, you will only need to procure three or four emu eggs to produce this amount of decadent cupcakes:

sumbitches cookies

Here is a post that will only make sense to 83% of readers. Tonight is a big night for television so Saucy decided to make sumbitch cookies. Sumbitch as in:

They are irresistible and yes, they are the perfect combination of peanut butter, chocolate and caramel. Once you start, you can't stop. You might say they are legen - wait for it! 

Kids, it's time to suit up and make some cookies. Sumbitches cookies.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 bag mini Rolos
sea salt for sprinkling

In large bowl of stand mixer using paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy and light.

Beat in the peanut butter, scraping bowl often.

Whisk together dry ingredients, adding the chocolate chips.  Add to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Cover the bowl and chill dough for one full episode of HIMYM.

Portion the dough into 2 tablespoon scoops. Place a mini Rolo in the centre of the dough and wrap it around the candy. Roll the dough into a tidy ball (ball!) and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. 

You can choose to refrigerate the balls (balls!) before baking.

Leave plenty of space between cookies, they will spread. Sprinkle some sea salt on top of each dough ball (ball!).

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until set. Let baked cookies set for five minutes before removing from pan and transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Last slap delivered.

we're into it for spring... or maybe it's just late winter

Most days, it feels like spring may never arrive. It snowed here this morning. In the meantime, we're making the best of things by planning a few getaways for April and May and finding a few things that make us happy... we hope they make you happy too. 

The first thing Saucy would like to tell you is that she's feeling oily (in a good way) these days. The dry forced air of winter along with the bitter cold made her seek out the healing properties of oil. 

Saucy started taking krill oil supplements twice a day. She thinks this brand doesn't smell to fishy or give her the burps. 

Dry skin from head to toe sent Saucy chasing down her favourite brand of body lotion and she found they make a body oil now. The smell is heavenly and it really sinks in... apply after bath from neck to toes daily.

You may remember that Loopy has a job at Sephora now. This means she gets brand samples and lots of product eduction. She turned Saucy onto using facial oil this winter. After sampling three brands, Saucy chose this one:

She found it to be the most hydrating with leaving the least amount of residue on her skin. Apply to cleansed skin at bedtime, it doesn't even come off on the pillowcase! Plus, it smells so yummy. Things have to smell yummy.

This is Loopy's facial oil of choice. She's younger and needs a different kind of hydration. Saucy thinks that was a nice way of saying she doesn't need anti-aging products. Not yet.

Saucy's stylist sent her home with this hair oil. It's more than just Argan oil, it has tamanu oil in it making it lighter and less likely to weigh hair down. After using three pumps before every blow dry (and also changing the temperature setting on the dryer to low) Saucy has noticed a marked change in the texture of her hair. For the first winter in years, it wasn't breaking off in little pieces. She's trying to grow it really long, just one more time.

Saucy has been trying to Smash book and journal these days instead of traditional scrapbooking. It seems a little quicker and easier. Each book comes with a pen/glue stick attached so it can pretty much tag along wherever you go and is ready for documenting life's little moments.

In a much more boring effort to document things, this Neat Connect scanner is keeping all of Saucy's receipts sorted into the cloud. 

Once... or twice a day... Saucy can be found snacking on these fibre cookies with dark chocolate and cherry. They are divine. The blueberry ones are also delicious. 

Like the Jonas Brothers and One Direction before them, Loopy's current obsession is 5 Seconds of Summer. Unfortunately for Saucy, like the Jo Bros and 1D they have an infectious sound and play constantly in the car and the kitchen. They are not divine, but they're not bad.

We are wearing Victoria's Secret bralettes over our underwear. In tons of colours, they're great for layering and a nice alternative to cotton camis and tanks. They're also super comfy for sleeping in.

And if you couldn't tell from the last post... the Pantone Colour of the Year, Radiant Orchid is happening a lot around here. On cupcakes, in bathrooms, on our nails and lips, scarves and shoes. It might be an entire post on its own.

Reader, Saucy does not get paid for nor does she accept freebies for these posts. She just really, really likes some things she tries and thinks you might, too. If we were having coffee, you'd tell her what you like so she could try. Why don't you let her know? Leave a comment below.