Friday, June 26, 2015

hazy days

Today was the boy's last day of Grade 3 and over the course of this week, he's been toting things home so our counters are overflowing with drawings (Jurassic World),

filled and unfilled exercise books and sketch books and seemingly endless glue sticks, crayons, colouring pencils, sharpeners and folders. Going the other way were our thank you gifts which were based on lemon and raspberry curd 

I made recently so I baked up batches of raspberry curd muffins which I boxed up and presented along with some ceramic things I painted a couple of weeks ago.

The boy has had a good year thanks to the many helpers he has, not the least of which have been his amazing EA and his lovely Grade 3 teacher, who also taught him in Grade 1. See, we are blessed. Now it is full on summer and we start next week with kayak camp and yesterday we met with the access team at the rec center and his camp buddies to guide him through his camp experience. Again, so blessed.

So for now we look forward to a bit of sleep, some lazy beach days with some picnics, camp and lots of fun with friends and by the end of summer we hope to have lots of lovely memories to go along with the boy's summer blond hair and his long(er) brown legs.

The last few weeks have been busy, with end of year parties and BBQs, along with the usual birthday parties and activities. Soccer, field hockey, swimming and Cubs all wound up but there will be more soccer games on street cul-de-sacs and deserted tennis courts and park fields as the boys are still as mad about soccer as ever. This week we took in a FIFA Women's World Cup match, Japan v Netherlands.

 Great fun with noisy fans and lots of missed goal opportunities and a chance to see the women play at the highest level. Our boy has been plotting the best path for Canada to do really well in the tournament.

Raspberry Curd muffins (adapted from River Cafe)

225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
A good pinch of sea salt
100g sugar
1 medium egg
125g plain yogurt
125ml milk
75g butter, melted and slightly cooled
150g raspberry curd (or 6 tsp)

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Measure flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl and whisk to blend. In a glass measuring cup or jar, add the egg, yogurt, milk and butter together and mix. Pour into the dry ingredients and gently mix until you see no flour. Do not overmix.

Scoop batter into greased muffin tins, lined with paper cups, until each cup is about half full. Add 1/2 tsp of curd to each cup and top with enough batter to fill the cups up about 3/4 full.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown. Serve warm, if possible.

Lemon Curd (adapted from Fine Cooking)
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolks until well blended and then add in the lemon juice and mix until combined. Don't worry if it looks curdled (mine didn't, it just looked very foamy.) Pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat, and cook until the mixture combines and thickens to coat the back of spoon. Take off the heat and add in the lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap over the top of the curd and refrigerate or place in small jars for gifts. Will keep refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few months.

Raspberry Curd (adapted from Tea and Cookies)
9 oz raspberries
3/4 c sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp butter
3 eggs

In a medium saucepan, add the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice. Heat on medium until the raspberries break down. Pour the mixture through a sieve, to remove all the seeds but capturing all the juice.

In a bowl, cream the butter with a mixer and then beat in the eggs until blended and creamy and then add the fruit mixture and blend. Pour into the saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Take off the heat. Cover with plastic wrap over the top of the curd and refrigerate or place in small jars for gifts. Will keep refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few months.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

marshmallow cookies

A couple of weekends ago, I whipped up some meringue nests with the idea of using them to make Eton Mess or mini pavlovas with the strawberries and lemon curd I had. The boy, who was at loose ends having had his i-pad privileges taken away, was hanging around the garden and came in to investigate what was cooking. "What are these?" he asked. "I'm starving" and he took a big bite of one and promptly announced it was the most delicious thing ever. "Like a marshmallow cookie, Mum". He ran outside again and I bagged up the rest of the nests to keep for dessert. Later in the day, after hanging around on our back fence, chatting up the diagonal neighbours kids, he disappeared with the bag in tow, to share with his new friends. "Can you please make some more?"

I defrosted some egg whites left in the freezer from making yellow sauce, aka hollandaise, but while they were defrosting, I left to deposit the boy at a birthday party and came home to find the egg whites missing in action. "They looked gloppy" said my husband by way of explanation as to why he had tossed them. Apparently not everyone is up on how egg whites look.

I tried again, only mixing in some toffee chips into the mixture but the whole thing went horribly wrong and liquidy instead of the stiff peaks I was looking for. Sadly that batch went into the compost using the last of my freezer egg white stash.  Fresh eggs now, saving the egg yolks for custard. I did toffee chip meringues, folding in the toffee chips after the meringue reached stiff peaks and it worked a treat.

I dolloped out little kisses of meringue and before I could take pictures or give them out as treats, they were all gone (this time my  husband was the culprit, although I had a few, for taste testing purposes you understand). The boy was holding out for chocolate chip marshmallow cookies but I'd used up our entire stash making the best chocolate chip cookies ever, so those had to wait until I went grocery shopping.

So this week, with chocolate chips in the drawer, and some egg whites left over from making a custard, I made more meringues. Half a plain batch and half with chocolate chips, making sure to spread out the chocolate chip ones so they weren't like little kisses, as the boy said that shape had too much air in them, not enough marshmallow-y-ness. OK. I made them yesterday and they are gone now, as 2 of the boy's pals came over for a play date. Apparently their mums will be requesting the recipe soon. I still have a couple of the plain ones left, to eat with lemon curd, which is my favourite.

Chocolate Chip Meringues (or chocolate chip marshmallow cookies)
3 egg whites
1/2 c + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
few drops vanilla
1/2 bag bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 275 deg F.

Slide your egg whites into a clean mixing bowl and whip on high until white and stiff peaks are forming. Sprinkle in the sugar while beating and continue beating until all the sugar is incorporated. Add in the vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form (lift the beater out of the mixture, and if the peak stays firm, you are done). Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Using two teaspoons drop about one teaspoon of batter at a time on a parchment lined baking sheet, spreading out the mixture with a spoon to flatten if desired. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are very slightly brown and then turn off the oven and let the meringues dry out in the oven for a couple of hours (or overnight if you can). Peel the meringues off the paper and store in an airtight container (if you can keep them that long.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

what i was looking for

Our local grocery store was bought by a larger chain last year and recently changes have been happening. New store brands and products have been appearing on the shelves and other products that have graced our cupboard for years have disappeared. And at the cheerily empty question during the checkout I've taken to voice what I am missing from my search. These buns, this tea, etc. Upsetting to me but in the grand scheme of things, a mere blip. Well sometimes, when it was something my boy would eat and now I can no longer find, slightly more aggravating. But still. Recently what disappeared was a cheese thing - spreadable old cheddar to be precise which I had discovered and was my new breakfast go to in my new not working full-time outside the home life. I had it for a few weeks and then it was gone. I asked around the store and no-one knew what I was talking about and no one really cared. Frustrating. Annoying. But going back to peanut butter bagel was not going to cut it because it represents my past life and not my new one. Silly but there it is. So this week I gave it one last try. I looked in two stores and asked and it was not to be found. So I made one myself. And it was so simple. And it makes me so happy. Silly again.

Spreadable Cheddar
1 small block aged cheddar, grated
1 block cream cheese
milk to thin

Add the grated cheddar and cream cheese together in a food processor and pulse until blended, adding dribbles of milk as required to achieve a spreadable consistency (I used about 2 tbsp). Scoop into a container and keep in the fridge. Spread on crackers, bagels, or veggies and enjoy.

Friday, March 27, 2015

sticky chicken with bacon and leek

Something I used to make my family growing up we called sticky tuna. It remains one of my dad's favourite things to eat when he visits. Basically it is tuna and noodles with some peas, sauted onions and cheese all blended together. I don't make it much any more as neither of my guys will eat tuna but the other week I had some leftover chicken from a slow roasted bird and thought of making a sticky version with chicken. Et voila. My husband loved it. The boy still hasn't warmed up to the idea of noodles yet so he had just chicken and cheese. Meanwhile I'm kicking myself that this never occurred to me before so we could have been eating this all along.

Sticky Chicken with Bacon and Leek
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 medium leek, halved and sliced into half moons, washed well
2 rashers bacons, sliced
3 tbsp butter
10 mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp flour
1 3/4 c milk
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 c of leftover chicken, diced
1 package egg noodles
1 c frozen peas
1 c medium cheddar, grated

Saute the onion, leek and bacon in the butter in a largish saucepan over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Add the flour and milk and stir until blended. Add the mustard powder and chicken and heat for a couple of minutes. Add the noodles and cover. Stir every couple of minutes or so, adding more milk or some water if the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. As the noodles approach al dente, add in the peas and the cheese, stirring to mix.

 Keep cooking until the noodles are completely cooked and the mixture starts to brown on the bottom (that's the sticky part). Serve warm.

Friday, March 13, 2015


Hello again. It may seem like I've turned over a new leaf with two posts within days of each other but this is the beginning of a new chapter for me. I've left my full time job after many, many years of commuting and working and have started on a new adventure as a work from home, part time consultant and full time advocate for my boy. Whether he will think this is a good idea remains to be seen. So far my first week has been all about our other boy, the furry one.

 He's been to the vet twice and to the groomer and looks a lot different than he did when the week started
all groomed and trimmed

after surgery he is so quiet the cat is quite worried about him

 and he may or may not be my friend after his vet visit yesterday. I have to remind myself it is the best thing for him as a male dog but my boy is still a bit groggy and finding his feet. I'm sure he'll be back to his terrier ways soon.
someone's been digging in the garden

Early spring still continues here and yesterday it was so warm and lovely after a soft rainfall the day before.
our two tone camelia

The cherry trees are out, the magnolia are blooming, the daffs are out and waving in the park and I can feel the green about to burst forth on the trees.

 It makes the scenes on the weather reports back east seem rather surreal. We've had a couple of stellar Saturdays which made the last day of winter soccer season an excellent day

 and then we had an even better day for the end of season celebration, which turned out to be a pick up soccer game, boys vs dads with snacks and water at the park.

 It was a fabulous day and we hope to do it again tomorrow if the rain holds off. And it makes for lovely days for spring break adventures at home which is where we are this year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Skittles cake 2 ways

The boy turned 9 a few weeks ago

and as one of his besties has a birthday just 2 days later the boys decided to have a joint birthday bash. So we mums got together in front of their Christmas tree and planned with the boys. They settled on a party at the climbing centre and our boy convinced his pal they should have a Godzilla cake (Godzilla is a newish obsession). But a few days later as I was musing on how to make a Godzilla cake, the boy arrived with another plan and showed me this awesome video. Everyone else agreed and as one of their other pals is celiac, I did a gluten-free version. The cake was a big hit and there was enough left after the party for the parents to sample as well.

gluten-free Skittles cake for a party (adapted from here)

2 packages of gluten free vanilla cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
2 bags of Skittles, sorted into colours
1/2 c ground red skittles
1/2 c butter
3 c icing sugar
4 tbsp milk
3 packages of  Glutino chocolate wafers

Prepare one big 9x13 cake using 2 boxes of cake mix, following the directions. Once cool, square off the sides and put it on a foil or paper surface suitable for display.

While the cake cools or a day or so in advance make Skittles syrups of various colours. For each colour of syrup, place 1/4 cup of Skittles in a small pan with 1/4 c of water and heat until the Skittles are all melted and incorporated into the syrup. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a clean glass or jar to cool. Repeat with other colours to get a variety of syrups.

When your cake has cooled, poke holes at 1" intervals around the cake with a chopstick or large skewer to create holes in which to pour the syrup. Once the holes are done spoon the syrups over the cake and let them soak in. Try and alternate the syrups over all the cake so each piece will have a variety of flavours.

Grind 1/2 c of skittles in a food processor or blender until finely ground. If you want a fine powder with no chunks, pass through a sieve. Blend the Skittles powder, butter and 2 cups of icing sugar together until fluffy and well mixed. Add in a couple tablespoons of milk and the remaining cup of icing sugar and beat for a couple of minutes. Add in the remaining amount of milk slowly until the frosting has reached your desired consistency. (Try and keep any children in your kitchen from eating all the Skittles frosting). Frost the cake sides and top.

Size the wafers so they are just a bit higher than the sides of your cake and press them into the frosting all around the sides of the cake.

Decorate the top of the cake with the Skittles. Take pictures to share your triumph on social media and then eat.

A couple of weeks ago we went to a potluck Scouting dinner and my boy requested I do another Skittles cake. For this one I passed on making the syrup, instead I ground up orange, yellow and green Skittles into powder, and sprinkled the green and some of the orange powder into the cake batter and swirled it through the batter in a marbled fashion prior to baking. I used yellow and orange powder in the frosting and left the red and purple Skittles for decoration, and skipped the chocolate wafers on the sides of the cake.

Both cakes were a big hit although the syrup one is a bit moister.