Pumpkin Pie Cake Extraordinaire!

Pumpkin Pie Cake DessertA colleague brought this yummy cake like dessert to share with our staff and it was stop in your tracks deeelicious! I love pumpkin and although this is somewhat similar to a traditional pumpkin pie it is also like nothing I’d ever tasted before. It is super easy to make and my neighbour said it might seriously be the best dessert she ever tasted! I’m not sure about that, but I guarantee it will please any pumpkin loving guest.

Pumpkin Pie Cake:


  • 1 – 28 oz. can of pumpkin purée
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can of evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 white cake mix
  • 1 cup butter – melted
  • 1 cup of pecans
  • whipping cream (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a bowl and pour into a greased 9 X 13″ cake pan.
  3. Sprinkle the dry cake mix on top of the batter.
  4. Pour melted butter over the cake and then sprinkle with the pecans.
  5. Bake for 60 minutes.
  6. Cool and serve with whipping cream.

*Although I didn’t do this, my friend suggested adding the nuts about half way through the baking time, so that they don’t get too brown. I put mine in the whole time and they seemed fine, but I may try it the other way next time just to compare.

Printable Pumpkin Pie Cake recipe

Sip and Sooth: The Ultimate Coffee Experience

I’ve loved coffee for most of my adult life. For many of those years, I drank my coffee with both cream and sugar. In fact, my son Shay used to believe that Tim Horton’s was actually called “double, double”. When he was little, he would often ask if we could go to “double, double.”  Too funny!

I eventually traded in the cream for milk, but needed the sugar to balance out the bitterness. A few years ago, I attempted to restrict my sugar intake and one of the things I focussed on was eliminating sugar from my coffee. At first, I hated it, but in my research I also learned the benefits of cream (and the extra fat) over that of milk. So, I was successful in eliminating the sugar, but to compensate began drinking my coffee with cream only (not milk).  Today, I can’t even drink a coffee with sugar in it as it is so sweet it disgusts me. If I order specialty drinks at Starbucks, I always request half the syrup, as the drinks are now way too sweet for me. It is so funny how your taste buds change when given the chance.

Coconut Oil in Coffee:

Recently, my  chiropractor recommended putting coconut oil in my coffee in lieu of the cream. He talked about he benefits of the fat, especially first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. The fat also helps with the absorption of some vitamins and other supplements such as vitamin D.  I had heard of people putting butter in their coffee as well, but both seemed a bit weird to me.  However, I’m pretty open-minded and already knowing the fabulous benefits of coconut oil was willing to give it a try.  The Alternative Daily states:

Healthy saturated fat is not only good for us, but essential for numerous bodily functions. Coconut oil is described as one of the healthiest saturated fats on the earth.

Of course, I have coconut oil at home and so I put it to the test the following morning. I simply added a teaspoon to my hot coffee and stirred it in until it melted. This was the result:

Sip and Sooth:

I did not take the time to do anything fancy, as that would require extra time in the morning that I just don’t have. Despite the simplicity, I really enjoyed the flavour and surprisingly, didn’t miss my cream. Aside from the incredible medicinal properties of coconut oil, the oil in my morning coffee also serves as an incredible “spa” treatment for my lips.  With each sip, your lips automatically receive a coating of oil and living through our bitter cold/dry winters my lips need all the help they can get. Think of it as a two for one: you get the great medicinal properties of coconut oil that your consuming coupled with an incredible lip moisturizer. Gotta love it!

If you are not yet hooked on coconut oil, you really should take a few minutes to read about its great properties and benefits. Well-Being Secrets recently published a very comprehensive blog post on 28 Science-Backed Benefits of Coconut Oil. The article is extremely well written and packed with valuable information on how coconut oil can aid in the combat against numerous ailments as well as its benefits in weight loss. I love how the article includes a table of contents to easily navigate through the article and find exactly what you’re looking for. Check it out! 

Coconut oil really is a product everyone should be trying to infuse into their diet. Adding it to your coffee is such a simple way to incorporate coconut oil into your daily diet….give it a try!

Pan Seared Steak with Caramelized Onions

I’m not sure if you are a collector of the annual “milk calendars” or not, but we have found that the recipes in them are really great. One of our favourites is their recipe for pan seared steak which was included in the 2005 calendar.  This makes a great winter meal for those days when you don’t feel like braving the elements and putting your steak on the grill. I also love this recipe because you can get away with a less expensive cut of meat and it still tastes tender and delicious.

Pan Seared Steak with Caramelized


  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb beef sirloin or other grilling steak, (about 3/4-inch/2 cm thick)
  • 2 tbsp  butter
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Cooking Instructions:

Rub 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper over both sides of steak. In large skillet, melt half of butter over high heat. Add the steak and brown it on both sides (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer to plate.

Reduce heat to medium-low; add remaining butter to skillet. Stir in onions, garlic and rosemary.  Cover and cook, stirring often, for 10 min or until onions are very soft and caramelized. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Gradually stir in milk, then soy sauce and mustard.

Increase heat to medium and simmer while stirring, for about 5 min or until sauce is thickened. Return the steak and accumulated juices to pan; spoon sauce over top. Simmer, turning steak once and stirring sauce, for about 5 to 10 min or until steak is desired doneness. Remove from heat. Transfer steak to cutting board; let rest for 5 min. Season sauce to taste with additional salt and pepper. Slice steak thinly across the grain and serve with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.


This steak is delicious and not only good as a regular menu item for your family, but also makes a great dish to serve to guests. Enjoy!

Just Like My Mom Used to Make: Peanut Butter Bars

These peanut butter bars were one of my favourite treats when I was growing up. My mom never used to put anything on top, but who can resist a layer of chocolate or caramel frosting? I love the taste of chocolate and peanut butter and knew this would be awesome, but I’d never thought of a caramel frosting. I haven’t made these since I was a kid because it was a recipe my mom kept in her head and thus I never got it from her before she passed away. I kind of forgot about it, but when I came across something similar it brought back memories from my childhood. I was on staff room duty and had to bring a treat in, so thought I would try out this recipe and see how it measured up to my memories! It was very yummy! I had to make a double batch, so I decided to make half with melted chocolate on top and the other batch with the caramel frosting recipe I found on Now You’re Cooking (by Joan Donogh).

Peanut Butter Bars

 These are quick and easy and can be completed within 20 minutes easily!


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup Corn Flakes
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies


  1. Place brown sugar and corn syrup in a microwave safe dish. Microwave until the sugar is melted. Stir well.
  2. Add the peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until peanut butter is melted and ingredients are well combined. (Mic a few extra seconds, if necessary.)
  3. Fold in the cereal.
  4. Line an 8 inch square pan with foil. Press the mixture into the pan.

Optional Toppings:


How boring!

Chocolate Topping:

  •     1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish and heat to melt. My microwave has a “melt chocolate” setting, so I’m not exactly sure how long, but I would only do about 15 seconds at a time and then stop to stir after each interval of heat, if you’re not sure how long to put them on for. Stir melted chocolate until smooth and then spread evenly over the surface. Place in fridge to set.

Caramel Frosting:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or milk)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Add brown sugar and stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Add milk and cook and stir until it comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add icing sugar. Beat until creamy. Stir in vanilla.  Spread icing on top of the peanut butter square base. Refrigerate to set. Cut into squares. Can be stored at room temperature.


*I like to line my “squares” with foil. It is generally really easy to lift out the entire square when its set/ready. This makes for easy, even cutting. I much prefer this than trying to dig pieces out of a pan.
*When melting chocolate in the microwave, you do not need to heat it to the point of it all being melted. Stop and stir often and you will find that even when it is still quite lumpy, it often only needs to be stirred in order to melt the remaining pieces. Be careful not to over heat or scorch it.
*When covering a square with melted chocolate, I always set my timer for 10 minutes immediately after placing it in the fridge. When the timer goes check and see if the surface has solidified. If it still appears “melted”, give it only a couple of more minutes before checking on it again. You want to remove it from the fridge and “score” the top with a knife. If you score the surface of the chocolate before the entire surface has hardened, you can avoid breakage during cutting. It is so frustrating when you go to cut a dainty and the chocolate breaks while cutting. Scoring really helps to eliminate this problem.

Industrial Style Kitchen Table

Our kitchen isn’t exactly a galley style kitchen, but there is a portion of it that is definitely more long and narrow than square in design. When we moved in, we bought an inexpensive narrow table and stools, so that we had some place to sit for breakfast and lunch. The table was okay at best. It was too small to sit all four of us comfortably and was starting to show signs of wear and tear. The stool joints were loosening and hardly safe to sit in any longer. We had been looking for something new to fit in our space, and having lived in our home for 6 1/2 years now, knew exactly what we wanted. Of course, we were unable to find anything that met our criteria. This got us thinking about something custom. For us, that generally means custom built for us, by us and such was the case with our new “industrial decor” style table. We decided to go with same look as the canister shelf Tim belt a few years ago.industrial decor

Industrial Style Kitchen Table:

We measured out the space and decided that our new table would extend most of the wall and measure 78″ X 22″. This newer and bigger table would certainly meet our needs better as our previous table was quite a bit smaller at  39″ X 18 1/2″. We priced out black steel pipe and fittings from the plumbing departments at both Rona and Home Depot. The pipe isn’t cheap, but it was quite easy to work with, stable and gave us the look we were striving to achieve.  The prices were comparable at both stores and we ended up having to shop at both to find all the pieces we needed.


1. Measure out the size of the finished table top and allow for the extra inch that the flanges extend out from the pipe.  That is, the table top will need to over lap the pipes by at least 1 inch or more to compensate for the flanges that attached the poles to the bottom of the table top. At this point, you will also need to decide on the height of the table. We wanted ours to be “bar” height, so our table legs are 38 3/4″ plus the 1 1/2″ table top. It is high, but it is what we wanted.

2. Calculate the piping and fittings you’ll need to achieve the desired height. The pipes come in various lengths, so you have to play with the numbers a bit to figure out what combinations will work for you. You also need to add in horizontal support bars to make the table stable and keep it squared.

3. Shop. You’ll need to pick-up the pipe/fittings and wood for your table top. We wanted an industrial/rustic sort of a look, so we bought plain old 2″ X 8″ planks for the top.

4.  Once you get all of the black steel pieces home, you will need to wash off the oil finish and dry them thoroughly to avoid rusting. (I think Tim actually sprayed them with WD-40 once they were assembled (and then wiped it off with a paper towel) to keep them from rusting.)

5. Assemble the legs and horizontal supports.

6. Prepare the table top. This will depend on what you are using and the look you are going for. It could be anything from an old door to painted wood or stained planks like we used. Because we used planks, Tim had to brace them together on the underside with three pieces of wood (one at each end and one in the middle). He simply attached the wood pieces across the planks to hold them securely together. He then proceeded to do a combination of sanding and beating of the wood (literally). He placed old nuts, nails and bolts in an old sock and beat the wood so that it appeared aged and worn. He also applies some random burn marks with a blow torch and left it coated in a homemade concoction of coffee grounds for several hours. Once it was cleaned up and the rough edges sanded for safety, he applied a few coats of stain. We chose to make ours quite dark to match the existing shelf and the colour of our cupboards. I think it would look awesome with a lighter stain, but it wouldn’t really be great in our space.

7. Urethane the table top with at least 3 coats for protection and durability.

8. Attach the top to legs.

Tim and I decided not to exchange gifts this year, but having this table done is better than any I might have received. This industrial decor style table looks great and after spending several hours hunting for the perfect bar stools, he is now in the midst of putting the finishing touches on bar stools. Thanks honey!

Vitamin B12: I Wish I’d Known

After feeling increasingly yucky for months on end, I finally sought the help and advice of my doctor. I’m not typically one to leave things for a long time without looking into them, but my symptoms seemed so vague and almost bizzare, that I felt stupid trying to explain how I felt. For about 2 years, I have felt like my eyes are always tired and puffy….almost like I’m wearing some sort of a mask that makes the simple task of opening and closing my eyes seem like hard work. Some days the visible pockets of fluid under my eyes were alarming and yet I could never seem to trace the fluid retention to a food I’d eaten or a change in routine. Over time, I felt like more and more like I was under this constant cloud that resulted in low energy and lack of motivation . (This of course, is completely opposite of my personality. In fact, I have often been the brunt of jokes and remarks because I’m generally known for juggling many things at once and always being “on the go”.)

Of course, hitting my head and suffering a concussion only compounded my frustration of not feeling well. My summers are generally packed full of DIY projects and I thrive on getting things done around the house. For me, the measure of a good holiday or weekend is often summed up by what I accomplished, so having a summer in which I achieved little was not easy for me. During the school year life is very busy and I just don’t have the time to do all the things that need to get done to maintain the house or give it the little extras I love to do. Despite the head injury, I was feeling better when I stepped onto the court for my first Thursday night volleyball game in September. It was on this evening that I would suffer a shoulder injury that still has me sidelined and using heat/ice when I take on too much. The two injuries have forced me to take it easy and I couldn’t help but wonder how much the injuries were impacting my overall attitude and lack of motivation. None the less, my symptoms seemed to be heightening and by the time I finally went to the doctor in early December, I was “fit to be tied” as my mom would have said.

My Symptoms:

  • Daily swollen, puffy eyes (some days worse than others).  I feel like I’m wearing a mask and just can’t ever get it off.
  • Low energy and no motivation which is very out of character for me.
  • Memory loss – I was seriously feeling like I was in such a brain fog that I could barely remember my name sometimes. I just couldn’t seem to “hang on to things” as I should, and my family was even beginning to get frustrated….I was hearing a lot of “I already told you that!”.
  • Lack of strength. I’m generally a pretty tough cookie. I generally don’t ask for help unless it’s absolutely necessary, but I noticed that I was lacking the strength to do simple tasks like open jars.
  • I became increasingly concerned when my limbs would fall asleep several times per day. It seemed like whenever I was in a sitting position for more than a couple of minutes, something would fall asleep. On more than one occasion, I stumbled when my ankle/foot gave out when I stood up without realizing it had fallen asleep.

It was at this point, that I went to my doctor and she ordered a full blood panel. I met with her before Christmas and she told me that the only thing that really showed up was that my B12 was low. Although no one ever wants bad news, I have to admit that I was hoping for some answers. To me having low B12 seemed quite insignificant. However, she went on to explain the levels and that my counts could actually be having a huge impact on my over all health. She also encouraged me to “google it”.  Here’s what I learned from my own doctor about the counts and ranges followed in Canada:

  • Below 148 is considered a deficiency
  • 148 to 220 is considered to be in the insufficient range
  • Over 220 is sufficient

My count was 152, so according to the above scale, I am just shy of what is considered to be a deficiency and at the very bottom of the insufficient zone. However, in doing some research, what I learned was that this scale varies greatly from country to country. According to Chris Kresser, many people go undiagnosed because their levels are deemed to be in the “normal range” for that particular country. Here are some of the ranges that were shared in his article:

Yet it is well-established in the scientific literature that people with B12 levels between 200 pg/mL and 350 pg/mL – levels considered “normal” in the U.S. – have clear B12 deficiency symptoms. Experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of B12 deficiency, like Sally Pacholok R.N. and Jeffery Stewart D.O., suggest treating all patients that are symptomatic and have B12 levels less than 450 pg/mL.

In Japan and Europe, the lower limit for B12 is between 500-550 pg/mL, the level associated with psychological and behavioral manifestations such as cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss. Some experts have speculated that the acceptance of higher levels as normal in Japan and the willingness to treat levels considered “normal” in the U.S. explain the low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia in that country.

Interestingly, I also read that people deficient in vitamin D often have a B12 deficiency as well. I have been taking 10,000 IU’s of D for several years now, but was unaware of my vitamin B12 issue until now. I started taking a “sublingual” tablet that dissolves under your tongue for improved absorption. My doctor recommended 1000 MCG, but I opted for 5000. I go back for another blood test in March and will adjust my supplement dosage accordingly.  The one thing that seems very clear from my research is that some individuals can suffer from symptoms even when they are told their levels are within the normal range. Based on how I have been feeling and the symptoms I’ve read about, this is not something to mess around with. If left untreated, the result can be severe permanent damage. The lists of symptoms seem to vary depending on the source and I obviously did not have all of the symptoms. However, some of the things I was experiencing indicate that it probably had been left untreated for some time. I’m just so thankful that I finally got it checked-out and am hopefully on the road to feeling better. Of course, I will also be mindful of including B12 rich foods in my diet. B12 comes from animals and animal by products, so diet can be a strong predictor of deficiencies, although there are other possible causes as well. I do eat meat, but eat very little dairy and get most of my protein from eggs, nuts and seeds.

Some of the Symptoms that May Indicate a B12 Deficiency:

  • strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
  • difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
  • anemia
  • a swollen, inflamed and/or sore tongue
  • yellowed skin (jaundice)
  • difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
  • dry and/or itchy skin
  • weakness and fatigue
  • rapid heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • easy bruising or bleeding, including bleeding gums
  • stomach upset and weight loss
  • diarrhea or constipation

I’m actually overwhelmed by the research and especially by the broad range of symptoms that can result for inadequate B12 levels. The scariest part is that many people are being misdiagnosed or getting no answers at all. Remember, you know yourself best. If you are feeling “off” get it checked out. I take several supplements every day and would have never imagined that I could be suffering from a deficiency. I just wish I’d known as I’m sure I would have gone and got my blood checked long before the symptoms got so bad. Trust yourself and your own judgement.

There are many great articles, but here are a few I found to be very good and they have links to other great sources as well. If you suspect you may be deficient, the first step is to get a blood test and find out exactly what your levels are at.

Could it be b12?

Do you suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency?  (this site actually has a little quiz with a long list of symptoms)

Six Commonly Missed Diagnoses: B12 Deficiency

Can’t Beat Fatigue? You May Be Low in B12