Archives for May 2009

Celebrating 10 Years in Québec

Poutine at La Banquise. Photo by Rob Ireton

There comes a point in all of our lives when we have to make a decision that ultimately shapes our future. For me that choice came ten years ago when I decided to move from Western Canada to the French-speaking province of Québec.

At the wise age of twenty, after a lengthy tromp around the globe, this country girl bought a one-way plane ticket to Montréal for a most honourable reason: to catch a certain man I had been dating long-distance. Bringing only an old army bag, my trusty MEC backpack and zero sense of style, I arrived in the city with no job security, no place to call my own, and about as much understanding of the French language as I had style-sense.

I had traded my home, family and mountains for the city life and a chance at true happiness with the geeky engineer with the bright eyes.

You know what happened after that, right? There’s a happy ending, but first there was culinary school, many jobs, an engagement, a stage-turned-three-year-job at Toqué!, a wedding, a European honeymoon, a house purchase, other jobs, a baby boy, a blog, and another baby boy. That about sums up the last ten years and I’m pretty happy with the outcome. Gosh darn, I feel like the luckiest girl around.

So, I’m celebrating a milestone this month, I have now lived in La Belle Province for a whole decade. A decade.

Here is where you can help me out, please. I’m trying to decide how to celebrate.
I’ve already determined that I’m going to fête (party) for the month of June, maybe even the whole summer, but I need some good suggestions. Sure, I could just go get a poutine (and be sure that I will. Several, in fact) as has been suggested to me numerous times, but what else? It has to be something bigger. I mean, I’m in one of the best cities in the world to party!
(Please, no Club 281 suggestions; I don’t mean that kind of party. I’d rather get my kicks on the Monster at La Ronde!)

Cirque Tents in Montreal’s Old Port. Photo by Rob Ireton

Actually, I’m secretly hoping my hubby will surprise me with tickets to Cirque du Soleil–fitting, no? Their tents are set up in the Old Port right now; their bright colours calling to me.

No more cupcake tastings, though, I’m done! That was so last year…and the year before that.
Anyway, it’s going to involve a lot of eating no matter how I celebrate, starting with that poutine

Twitterpated over Roast Broccoli with Lemon


It’s no secret that I *heart* Twitter.

I mean, where else can you ask a vague question such as “Anyone remember that broccoli recipe that was making the rounds on blogs a while ago?” and have an answer, THE answer, in less than a minute?
Twitter beats Google that’s for sure! Try Googling ‘that broccoli recipe’ and see if you get any luck. Instead of searching through hundreds of recipes looking for a specific one, a friend on Twitter immediately sent me a link to the one I was thinking of and offered a tip on preparing it as well. Sweet!
Ah, what a great group are those Tweeple.


So this recipe
is a little far off from my usual repertoire of desserts and all things rich, but when Adam of The Amateur Gourmet called Ina Garten‘s recipe the ‘best broccoli of your life‘, I knew I would have to give it a go. I changed it up a bit by tossing in some red peppers just because I had a bunch, and omitted the Parmesan cheese. Not that I don’t think Parmesan isn’t good on pretty much anything but I was temporarily out.
Guess what? The broccoli was still terrific. Meaty, tangy–it certainly had some soul to it, which made up for what it lacked in the looks department. It ain’t pretty!
Looks aside, this just might be my new favorite vegetable side dish. Move over asparagus.

Did I really just say that?

Roasted Broccoli and Red Peppers with Lemon

Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics”
Serves 6 as a side dish

Ingredients:
4 to 5 pounds broccoli

2 red peppers

4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

Good olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Halve and seed peppers and cut into 1-inch chunks.
Place the broccoli florets and red pepper on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.
Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest and lemon juice.
Serve hot.

May Showers & Wedding Cake


Ever feel like you are living under the Big Top and your life is a three ring circus? Uh-huh. Last Saturday was Project Wedding Cake day and we could have charged admission to the circus that was our home in the morning–all we needed was a trapeze artist or two. We had the rest of the show: clowns (the boys of course), monkeys (yep, boys again), elephant (me after all the cake scraps I ate), gravity-defying acts (4 tiers of cake) and so on.

It wasn’t lively only because I had a wedding cake to pull together on a standard rowdy Saturday morning, but the fact that we were all attending the wedding too; that added a challenging element. (Wait, who’s idea it was to bring the kids anyway?) So of course that meant there were babies to bathe, tiny shirts and pants to iron, and many bags to be packed with activities, sippy cups and the appropriate stuffed animal.
Do NOT ask me how Brangelina do it–I only have two and it’s work. Oh right, they have like 6 nannies.

All day I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did and the four of us plus four cakes made it to the ceremony and reception without incident. Oh, did I mention that it was pouring rain? Like the kind of intense downpour that hits the ground so hard it splashes up under your dress.Yeah, not nice.


I assembled the cake from the bottom up at the reception hall and decorated it with simple purple ribbon and fresh daisies. The bride’s colors were purple and yellow and we worked together to incorporated them into the cakes design. She also had picked a cute Precious Moment’s cake topper which suited her to a tee, and I think both the bride and groom were happy with the final result.

Later on that evening, as he busily snapped photos of the cake cutting, the wedding photographer asked me how I felt about my creation and the fact that it was about to be destroyed, ie: consumed. I assured him that unlike some wedding cakes, mine focused first on taste and second on appearances, meaning that it’s ideal destiny was to be consumed down to the last crumb, not just to sit pretty. I would be ten times more upset if it was only for show and never got eaten and enjoyed!


That said, here’s the lowdown on what went into the cake with recipes at the bottom. Hope you weren’t expecting a DIY wedding cake tutorial, because frankly I am not the patissiere for the job! This is my sixth wedding cake over the last 10 years, not a very good ratio. I should probably decide soon if I’m serious about this wedding cake calling or not.

Alright, there was both One-Bowl Chocolate Cake and Yellow Butter Cake in the cake layers, with the exception of the second layer, which was double chocolate. After all, chocolate is a more popular flavor and I wanted extra. Cakes were filled with Chocolate Frosting and covered with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Rolled fondant covered the cakes for the final touch.


Feel free to shoot
me an email if you have any questions about making these recipes in large quantities.

Recipes:

Yellow Butter Cake
Chocolate Frosting
Swiss Meringue Buttercream

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

From Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two round 9-inch cake pans or one 9×13 pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; mix batter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.
Divide batter evenly among pans. (If I have any extra batter I like to make a few mini cupcakes.) Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed.

Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Frost as desired.

Chocolate Banana Pancakes and Signs of Hope.


Dear Noah.

I’m confused. I’ve had you pegged as a picky eater for some time now, but it seems like lately you’re toying with the idea of becoming a foodie.

What is up? Is this a ploy to give me false hope or are you really tuning over a new leaf?

Tonight at dinner, you devoured two shrimp and avocado summer rolls like a seasoned eater (peanut sauce included) and not at all like the finicky three-year-old of the past. Sure, you suspiciously inspected the mango and cilantro inside, but they didn’t seem to deter you and you asked for thirds–a request that made my heart beat a little faster, I have to admit.

Now that I think about it, you’ve been slowly evolving in the food department; I’m remembering that entire chef’s salad you ate recently. Salad!

“Look, Mom, I’m just like Benjamin Bunny!”

you said, as a bowl full of lettuce disappeared down the hatch.

Oh, and don’t think that we haven’t noticed that you are calling us “Mom” and ‘Dad” now, instead of mommy and daddy. Humph.

Yes, I know, you’re getting to be a big boy now. You can count to a hundred, write your name and do simple math, so have you also decided not to be picky anymore and eat your dinners like a man?

I’ve always told you, life can’t be all-pancakes-all-the-time, but just in case this recent progress doesn’t last, I’ll keep this recipe handy.

Love Mom(my)
xoxoxo


Chocolate Banana Pancakes with Nutella and Fresh Banana Slices

1 cup sour cream or yogourt
1 ripe banana

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup milk
or buttermilk
2 eggs

pinch of salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tablespoons cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 Tablespoons coconut (optional)

2 Tablespoons wheat germ

1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine sour cream, banana and vanilla in a large bowl and pulverize with a hand blender until smooth. Add milk and blend some more. Crack in the eggs, add a pinch of salt and mix thoroughly.

In another bowl, sift together flours, cocoa, and baking soda. With a wooden spoon, stir in coconut and wheat germ, if desired, then add entire dry mixture to the sour cream wet mixture. Fold gently together. Pour in melted butter and mix just to combine.

Heat a cast iron pan and grease with vegetable oil. Ladle a few tablespoons of batter onto the pan to make several small, round pancakes. Add a slice of banana in the middle if you like, but be sure to dab more batter on top so they don’t stick to the pan when you flip the pancakes. Cook on even medium heat until bubbles start to form. Flip pancakes and continue cooking.

Remove from pan and layer with Nutella and fresh banana slices. Serve!

Happy Mother’s Day and Giveaway Winners!


Happy Mother’s Day to all! I hope it was special. I can’t believe it was my fourth Mother’s Day already, I still feel like a new mom.
By now your little ones are probably tuckered out and fast asleep in bed–I know mine are! We tired them out tromping around Mount Royal, hunting the first wildflowers of the season. Hey, we had to work off our lobster lunch somehow. We found some flowers.


Oh, would you look at that! A lovely glass of chilled Mission Hill Pinot Blanc has just appeared at my elbow–it appears there’s still a few hours of pampering left for this mother! OK, I won’t keep you for long, but we have some winners to announce!
Did you forget? My giveaway ended last night and three lucky commenters are going to win a copy of “The Day My Baby Was Born” by LaNita McMeekan-Cates.

Ready? Thanks to selection by random.org our winners are…

Kim McKee

Sofie

Tania

Congratulations, Ladies!! Please contact me ASAP with your mailing addresses and we’ll get those books shipped out to you soon.
A big thank you to everyone who entered, and for your super sweet comments and words of congratulations. They mean so much. I wish I could sit down with each one of you over a cup of coffee and hear your birth stories!

Remember, if you still would like a copy of the birth stories collection, it is conveniently available to order on my sidebar!!

I leave you with these photos that keep cracking me up of Noah holding the lobsters we cooked up today. We dined in for Mother’s Day lunch, creating a vibrant spring warm lobster salad with poached rhubarb and fiddleheads. You must try this recipe, seriously.
Anyway, after much begging on my part, Noah got up the nerve to pick up first one and then two live lobsters. That is no easy feat for a three-year-old, I mean, those things thrash around something fierce and they are heavy–and slippery. For those of you who don’t know him, he may look like he is smiling, but these are expressions of sheer trepidation.


What an awesome kid. I’m one proud mama this Mother’s Day.
Good night all!