Friday, March 30, 2012

Guest Post – Easy, Cheesy Macaroni

My husband Chris (aka One Hungry Dude) is back again with another delicious recipe. This time it’s his best mac and cheese – and who doesn’t love mac and cheese? This is a great recipe for veggies and meat lovers to share since it’s easy to just add the bacon on at the end for those who want it. I promise that you are going to love this meal!

It's probably no surprise to anyone reading this, but my wife and I are fans of the Food Network. One of my favourite shows is Chef at Home, starring Chef Michael Smith. His show is so appealing, because of its focus on simple, yet delicious meals. It irks me when celebrity chefs stress a recipe as quick and easy to prepare; something that only really holds true when you have a pantry full of ingredients. I've seen macaroni and cheese recipes that call for everything from Cream of Tartar and Mustard Powder to a blend of four or five cheeses that most families simply don't have in stock. But Smith encourages viewers to put their own take on his recipes, while teaching the fundamentals for preparing a tasty meal.

This macaroni and cheese stays true to those ideals, and was inspired by an old family recipe. It uses only a few ingredients, and is incredibly simple to prepare. But I promise, it's packed with flavour. A home cook on a tight budget, with only a few staple ingredients in the cupboard, can prepare this hearty and wholesome meal.

 mac and cheese 2
• 3 cups of macaroni elbows
• 5 large button mushrooms, roughly chopped
• 7 Tbsp margarine
• 1/2 Tsp lemon juice
• Splash of Worcestershire sauce
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Cheddar cheese, cut in enough slices to cover two layers of macaroni
• 2 cups of milk
• 4 slices of bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
• Sprinkle of parsley

Heat oven to 350 F. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring salted water to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce the heat to medium, add the macaroni, and cook until tender.

In a frying pan, melt one tbsp of the margarine over medium heat. Once the margarine is melted, toss the mushrooms in the pan and sauté, with salt, pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce for about five minutes. Drain the macaroni, then mix with the mushrooms.

Add half of the mixture to a greased casserole or CorningWare dish. Place enough cheese slices onto the macaroni to cover, then place half of the remaining margarine on top of the cheese. Repeat this process, using the remaining mixture, cheese and margarine. Pour milk over the macaroni. Cover and place in the oven for about an hour, removing the lid after 30 minutes. After the macaroni has been in the oven for about 40 minutes, check to make sure the milk is bubbling. Run a fork along the edges of the macaroni, to break the bubbles and ensure the mixture doesn't boil over. Remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes, then serve. Add parsley and bacon on top of each helping, for garnish.

mac and cheese 1
This is one of my favourite comfort food recipes. It's easy, and the ingredients utilize a few of the staples in our kitchen. This recipe yields about eight servings.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easy Paint Chip Garland

I collected a ton of paint chips while we were selecting a colour for Nathan’s room so I was super excited when I saw a photo tutorial from grace & light for a simple paint chip garland. I grabbed my heart punch, a needle and some embroidery floss and turned my paint chips into something adorable for the baby’s room.

Paint Chip Garland 

The concept is so simple – punch hearts out of paint chips and then string them together. We knew we were using blue in Nathan’s room so my garland is all shades of one colour but this garland idea is really cute in multi-coloured strands as well.

Paint Chip Garland (1)

You don’t have to use hearts either. I’ve seen this same idea in egg shapes for Easter. I might have to make a trip to the hardware store!


P.S. I strung my garland on the side of the crib for these photos because we haven’t decided where in the room to hang it. It was removed before Nathan’s next nap so no need to worry!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Guest Post - Fully Loaded Cheesy Potato Soup

As I told you last week, my husband is starting his own food blog under the name One Hungry Dude. While he’s getting things ready he’s guest posting here every Friday. Last Friday he shared his recipe for Beef & Guinness Stew and this week he’s keeping with the soup theme. Chris’ potato soup is delicious and he’s adapted the recipe to be vegetarian for me – obviously he leaves the bacon off the top of my bowl! Hope you enjoy.

I was never really a huge fan of potato soup, until recently. Perhaps it's because I had only previously tried versions of the soup that had been left unblended, with big chunks of potato in tact. But after trying this recipe, my attitude towards potato soup has totally changed. It's like eating a creamy, pillowy baked potato, loaded with cheese, onions and a ton of other great flavours.

• 4 tablespoons butter
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 carrot, finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3 cups vegetable stock
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 (12-ounce) bottle light-bodied beer
• 4 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
• 2 cups grated Cheddar
• Dash hot sauce
• Dash Worcestershire
• 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp, for topping
• Sprinkle of parsley, for topping

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and sauté in butter until the vegetables begin to soften, about four minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and continue to stir for two minutes to toast the flour. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Gradually whisk in the stock, then the milk and the beer. Stir in the potatoes and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the potato is tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to low heat. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring until melted and smooth after each addition. Season the soup, to taste, with hot sauce, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper.

Divide the soup among bowls and top with crisp bacon and parsley.


Try to leave enough for a reheated bowl the next day. Once the ingredients have the chance to meld together overnight, the flavours actually seem to become more prominent, and the cheese is definitely sharper tasting. It's almost like eating a completely different soup; just add a splash of vegetable stock to loosen up the leftovers, so they have less of a 'mashed potato' consistency. When serving, my wife also recommends a dollop of sour cream on top, and the original recipe calls for diced chives.

The total time to create this meal is 50 minutes (20 to prep, and 30 to cook). This recipe yields four to six servings.

— Recipe inspired by The Neelys.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest Post – Beef & Guinness Stew

My husband Chris is an awesome cook. He does about 95% of the meal preparation in our house (I make us toast on the weekends haha) and never complains about the fact that he has to prepare me vegetarian meals alongside his meat-filled ones. His food is inventive and creative and it makes perfect sense that he would choose to start his own food blog. He’s decided to go by the name One Hungry Dude but before he launches his own site he’ll be guest posting here at Sugar and Shimmer every Friday. This is his first entry – we hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading my first blog post!
I'm Chris, and over the next while, I'd like to take you on a food odyssey. I'm not a professional chef, though I have worked in a few restaurants over the last 15 years. But if there's a lesson I've learned from eight years in journalism, including the last 4.5 at a weekly community newspaper, it's that you don't need to be an expert to have a productive discussion or valued opinion. The same logic can apply to food; I've been cooking for my family for years, honing kitchen skills and discovering some tasty recipes along the way.

So here's my first meal idea for you, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Beef and Guinness Stew is one of my favourite holiday meals; I look forward to it every time March rolls around.


• 2 pounds stewing beef
• 3 tablespoons oil
• 2 tablespoons flour
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• Pinch of chili powder and paprika
• 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
• 1 large tomato
• 6 mushrooms, stems removed and roughly chopped
• 1 1/4 cups Guinness
• 1/2 cup vegetable stock
• 2 cups largely diced carrots
• Tablespoon of dried thyme
• Teaspoon of sugar
• Chopped parsley, for garnish

Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, and cut into two-inch cubes. Toss beef with one tablespoon of the oil. In a small bowl, season the flour with salt, pepper, chili powder and paprika. Toss meat with seasoned flour. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides.

Meanwhile, set your slow cooker to high heat. Once the meat is brown, transfer it to the slow cooker, and add the onions, garlic, tomato, mushrooms and sugar. Stir, cover and cook gently for five minutes. Pour the Guinness and vegetable stock into the slow cooker. Add the carrots and thyme. Stir the mixture, and adjust the seasonings to taste. Cover and simmer over high heat for at least two hours. If you're planning to leave the stew for longer than that, reduce the heat on the slow cooker after two hours. Garnish the stew with parsley and serve.

While I love the tender chunks of beef, onions, mushrooms and carrots, the broth is what makes this stew special. So give it adequate time to simmer and meld together — if given the choice, I actually prefer reducing the temperature on the slow cooker, as suggested in the recipe, and letting the mixture stew for the entire afternoon — and you won't be disappointed. This is the perfect meal before a night of St. Paddy's celebrations.

Makes 4-6 servings.

— Recipe inspired by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s Beef & Guinness Stew

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DIY Month by Month Baby Pictures

My baby is growing faster than I could have believed. Every day he changes and learns and amazes me. The time is going so quickly and I don’t want to forget how Nathan looked and acted at any given stage so I decided to take monthly pictures that I could put together in an album at the end of his first year. I know lots of people go to professional photographers for these kinds of pictures but, if you’re like me, that option is a bit too expensive. The good news is that there are a couple of easy ways to make these pictures memorable yourself. Here’s my 1 month collage for Nathan.

Nathan - 1 Month

First, I love the idea of including a number in the photo for how many months old your baby is. Parties by Hardie created monthly stickers/iron-ons that you can download for free or you can download cute monthly signs from Mom & Wife to hang in the background of your photos. We don’t have a colour printer so I went even simpler and just cut my number one out of scrapbook paper.

1065-550x713 Niner-563x730 

Second, it’s a great idea to choose a stuffed animal or other object and photograph your baby next to it each month. It’ll provide a sense of perspective so you can truly see how baby has grown. Alternately, you can photograph them on the same piece of furniture each month. Or you can do both like the adorable series over at Bunny and Dolly.


Last, I think it’s a nice idea to do a bit of journaling along with your photos marking some of your baby’s milestones, likes and dislikes. As you can see above, I did mine electronically but you can also print your photos and add some writing to them like in a scrapbooking layout

At the end of a year you’ll have a collection of photos and memories of your child to cherish for years to come!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

By the Batch – Cream Cheese Filled Snicker Doodles

I love Pinterest. I had a 8oz of cream cheese sitting in my fridge, nearing its expiration date and no idea what to make with it. A quick Pinterest search for “cream cheese” and I had tons of recipe ideas to choose from. While it was hard to pick just one I decided to go with these Cream Cheese Filled Snicker Doodles from Cookies & Cups.  I was not disappointed!

Cream Cheese Snicker Doodles


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup room temp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla


Make the cream cheese filling by mixing the cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp vanilla. I used my hand mixer for this. Cover the cream cheese mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°. Cream butter and 1 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix until combined. On low speed mix in your flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set dough to the side.

In a small bowl combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon, set that aside as well. Remove the cream cheese mixture from the refrigerator. For each cookie you will need 2 flattened balls of dough, 1 Tbsp each. (The flattened disk will be approx 2″ in diameter). Place 1 tsp of the cream cheese mixture on top of one of the flattened dough disks. Then place the other flattened dough on top of the cream cheese. Pinch the edges together to seal. Carefully form into a ball and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on a plate as you finish making each and refrigerate. Before baking the cookies they should chill for 15 minutes.

When the dough is chilled bake on a parchment lined baking sheet 2″ apart for 8 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

According to Sarah:

I’ll admit that I was impatient (as was baby Nathan) so I didn’t do all the chilling that this recipe required. My cream cheese mixture only sat for about 15 minutes in the fridge and the completed cookies didn’t chill at all. I don’t think my cookies were any worse for it so if you’re in a hurry then go ahead and skip those steps. My only complaint about this recipe is that I ended up with a lot of cream cheese mixture left over, even though I measured a tsp for each cookie as directed. Now I need to come up with something delicious to make with the excess. So maybe that isn’t a complaint after all ;)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day Decor Inspiration

Last year I went all out decorating for St. Patrick’s Day and created quite a few crafty projects. This year the baby is obviously taking up a lot of my time so I haven’t gotten much past the searching for inspiration stage. If you’d like to check out last year’s projects just click here.
St, Patrick's Wreath
In the meantime, here are a few of the best ideas I’ve seen around the web for this year’s decor.
First, I love this quick and easy St. Patrick’s Day Banner from Rebecca over at Simple As That.  It’s made of things you probably already have around the house like old book pages and buttons. So cute.
St. Patrick's Day Banner
These Shamrock Boutonnieres from Martha Stewart are also really simple to make using the provided template. Martha’s are made of fabric but you could use paper to make this project even easier!
Shamrock Bouts 
Last but not least, I think this Glittered Top Hat created by Cristin at Serendipity is so creative and unique. She started with a hat from the dollar store and dressed it up for St. Patrick’s Day. You could create similar hats for all sorts of occasions and they’d make a great addition to a mantle or shelf.
Glittered Top Hat
I’m hoping to get some time in the next week to at least pull out last year’s creations but my little guy will decide whether or not that will happen! How about you? Do you decorate for St. Patrick’s Day?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Incredibly Late DIY Valentine Cards

Those of you who follow Sugar and Shimmer on Facebook will know that I’ve been MIA for a few weeks because I had a baby boy on February 12! I’m loving being a mommy but I’ve quickly learned that my time is definitely no longer my own and my little guy doesn’t care what my plans are for the day if they don’t coincide with his! For example, today I had intended to blog about Diet Coke Cake but Nathan decided that he was going to forgo his usual naps so that I couldn’t get into the kitchen. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the cake with you later this week but, in the meantime, I’m sharing this year’s DIY Valentine’s Day cards. Obviously they’re a bit late but perhaps you can bookmark them for inspiration next year :)

Valentine Cards

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