Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alex's birthday

My little girl is 14 and.....not so little anymore. I won't go into the bizarreness of having a 14 year old all of a sudden but I will go into the horror of making birthday cakes. I made my first cake when Alex was 1 year old and it was very ridiculous and took me approx 5 hrs. I still have the cake pan and I am going to scan a pic on here as soon as I get organized. It was one of those pans from the bulk barn with Happy Birthday engraved bubble style on the bottom of the pan. I made the batter from scratch and then for the first time learned how to pipe a cake on that very cake. I did about 4-5 different colors which also means 4-5 different piping bags. I invited my best friend and her 6 month old over for the occasion and even let Alex dive right in while sitting in her highchair (this wasn't easy since I wanted to frame the cake and save forever). The cake was actually really impressive - meaning I was impressed with myself. This was the beginning of a bad habit and I still to this day insist on making both my kids a cake on their day. I always curse myself halfway through and can't believe I'm doing this again but they are always somehow impressed and foolishly think that I'm kinda talented at this. I'm not but still I can't help it.
This was a 3 layer chocolate cake I made for Jo's 8th birthday....tasted great but looked like a big pile of elephant poop!

Because Josee' bday is Oct 14th, I often make her something to take to school with a Halloween theme. The cookies were for her 10th and the muffins were for her 11th with 'lollies' on top in Australia.

These were for her class this year - her 12th

Not impressive looking but sinful pumpkin cheesecake that the boy always requests

A half chocolate and half vanilla cake for Alexs 9th

This cake was a 3 layered chocolate cake with each section decorated in colored chocolate candies usually used for moulds for Alex' 10th. The kids loved it because it was crunchy on top.

Alex 13th balloon cake

Since Alex' birthday fell on the weekend before she was to have her friend over I made her 2 cakes. The first one was a layer of oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate icecream, vanilla cake and candy icing, it was so good. The 2nd was the guitar cake she asked for which I simply cut out from a large sheet cake baked on a cookie sheet. The strings are licorice and the tuners are large fishies and rolos crackers. The cake looked cool was yucky. I ended up throwing most of it out. It's ok though, Alex was happy.

Yogurt making 101

I make my own yogurt and have done so for about 5 years now so I've pretty much mastered it. Just recently after making a trip to North Carolina the boy and I picked up some 2% fage nonfat greek yogurt and it was amazing. Thick and creamy and very dessert like so I was determined to do the same with my own recipe. I eat a lot of yogurt and I think a lot more than most people, I could be wrong but I really think so. I remember mentioning this to my mother and her telling me that she had recently read that people who eat a lot of yogurt appear to stop having certain allergies due to the live cultures called Lactobacillus (probiotics). I believe this because all of my life I have been allergic to metals touching my skin meaning any jewelry that is not gold or pure silver (the boy still thinks this is a ploy for real gems) but I can remember my poor ears oozing from infection only hours after wearing cheap earrings out for the night or my neck breaking out in itchy hives from a necklace. I would even break out from a metal belt touching my stomach which my youngest has been lucky enough to inherit. My mother handed it down to me. Well I no longer have any aversion to metal which is probably why I am a now a costume jewelry freak and no outfit is complete without lots of bling, the gaudier the better. I believe it is the yogurt and I truly know that my past digestive problems have been taken care of as well by my homemade yogurt.
People find the prospect of making their own yogurt daunting but it's surprisingly easy and really just takes a bit of experimenting with your microwave and yogurt maker to get it perfect. You will get instructions in your maker which can be purchased in either 1 or 2 L containers and then you can make a few changes on your own from there. Most will tell you that it is crucial to get the temp right and how important it is that all utensils that touch it are sterilized but this isn't true. No biggie and once you try your own you will not buy the store stuff again not to mention how much cheaper it is. I estimate that it's a 1/4 the price.

Measure out either 2 cups for 1L or 4 cups seen here for 2L in a microwave safe measuring glass container and microwave to the temperature your maker tells you.

Once your milk has heated to the right temp you can add approx 2/3 cup dried skim milk powder along with about 1/2 cup of of your last homemade yogurt or a store bought brand as long as it has live culture. Stir until dissolved.

Now add mixture to your yogurt maker and let sit for 8-10 hrs after which you will refrigerate until cooled.

If after your yogurt is chilled you would like to make greek yogurt which is simply removing the liquid whey to make a yogurt of 'cream cheese' consistency, just put a coffee filter into a strainer and let your yogurt drain for about 3-4 hrs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

pork loin

In my quest to empty 2 deep freezers, 2 refrigerators and 1 pantry I have decided on pork loin for dinner tonight. My family is not big on pork but once in a while I can't help but buy the Costco super pack which can easily feed 10 people. I love the Costco butcher because you just can't beat the freshness due to the constant turnover. They offer prime cuts at the best prices and now I sound like a commercial again. It's true though. Problem is, you have to buy huge quantities and we eat meat in small quantities and pork in even smaller quantities. Not that I have anything against pork but meat in general I try to keep to a minimum. Pork loins are sold 5 or 6 at a time so I individually wrapped 2 loins and froze them. Tonight I pounded 2 loins to about a 1/2 inch thickness and marinaded each one separately, one for the boy and I and one for the girls. Ours had lemon juice, worchestershire, salt, dried garlic and dried oregano. The girls had lemon juice, honey, salt and mustard. I then then coated the girls pork in crushed saltines after it was finished marinating and baked it at 450 degrees until no longer pink. Our pork was roasted at 500 degrees after marinating. I served it with roasted baby potatoes, broccoli and applesauce. The girls both finished theirs so this is always a good thing......the boy even finished his so I would say that feeding my picky family tonight was a success with a tricky ingredient. Patting myself on the back :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Curry tonight

Indian is my favorite ethnic food for sure. In 2000 my family and I moved to Hoboken NJ for the boys work and I credit NY for my new obsession with almost anything ethnic. NY being probably the largest ethnic melting pot in the world (I could be wrong) this was the prime spot for me to start experimenting. What I quickly realized is that I could literally get anything I could ever want within minutes of my apartment and if it wasn't there then I could order it online and have it the next day. That's the very awesome part of living in the big apple and I loved it. After eating out Indian a few times with the boy I decided that I could do it almost as well minus all of the oil and cream and minus the tandoori oven in my tiny NY apartment so the first thing I did was order 3 simple Indian cookbooks and study them as if for the an exam.

 Next...I ordered all of the essential Indian spices and dahls online and got busy.

 Tandoori chicken, basmati rice, dahl and homemade naan was my first dish and I was hooked. Over the years I've continued to experiment and we continue to enjoy some kind of curry probably once every 1 or 2 weeks. Which brings me to tonight....we're having tandoori chicken and with my goal of emptying the pantry....I've used up all of my dried chick peas to make a chickpea and cauliflower curry. The chickpeas have a lot of 'gravy' so a dollop of thick yogurt and a piece of naan make it perfect.......and it was yummy if I do say so myself :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010


We have a specialty grocery store here in Montreal called Adonis. There are only 2 locations both around 30-40 min from me. One small store started out as a Greek grocer and grew into huge European grocers. I made the drive today in the pouring rain because it's Sunday and hopefully no traffic. There was traffic because of the rain and when I got there finally they turned off the lights so that we would all know it was time to get the hell out. I was so disappointed because not only had I driven 45 min to get there but I like nothing better than wandering around an ethnic grocers searching out anything new or different. Instead I literally jogged around the stored picking up a few items without much thought. I did however make it to the butcher and picked up 2lbs of shish tahouk (their specialty) and sliced marinaded filet mignon. I completely suck at cooking beef so I am really hoping at $10 a lb I can do something with the filet. I'm thinking of copying the sirloin salad at Baton rouge which happens to be my favorite. For dinner I had left over quinoa so I added some frozen peas and left over pesto cream sauce. I baked the shish tahouk and added a piece of spiced pita with it. It was a a good quick dinner.

Cooking Light

Today I decided to start going through my cookbooks and saved Cooking Light magazines.

 The girls school raise money each Christmas by selling used cookbooks donated by the parents and this is where about 80% of mine have ended up this week. I thought it would be harder because my collection was fairly large but I really feel as if they've served me well and taught me most of what I know today. There was a time that I would sit for hours many nights simply looking over recipes and bookmarking what I would try in the following weeks. Trial and error were probably my best lessons. I'm happy to have someone else enjoy these books like I did. As far as the magazines go, well I'm not even sure why I held on to these for so long except that I always thought each one had a recipe that I would want to go back and get....but never did. Now I have about 100 for recycling. I don't do magazines anymore and I can't remember the last cookbook I bought because there are so many fun and well done websites for anything your heart desires about food and cooking. Would I buy another cookbook....definitely! but only if it was really pretty and looked good on the shelf in my kitchen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I could talk cookin forever.....but this is cookin and movin so lets talk movin. I try to move every day but I haven't always. As a kid and a teen I was very inactive. It took 2 pregnancies 17 months apart and 60lbs with each one enough to convince me that a little activity might help with the weight gain and body changes happening. My first gym membership that I actually used was when Josee was 3 months old and I did some research on the best centers with daycares. I ended up at a very small and very old YMCA in Oakville, Ontario. The main level had 1 small room for the daycare which I was initially worried about but there were 2 sisters running it who were great with the girls. The gym was deep in the basement and had 3 treadmills, 2 stair steppers and 2 recumbent bikes. The weight room was tiny with only a few machines and a set of bars and dumbbells. That didn't matter though because I had no idea what to do with free weights and spent about 10 min in total on weight training any ways. My goal was to do as much cardio as I could to lose the baby fat. I went every single day during the week and this where I began to run. I remember the pain and the discomfort most, 5 min of straight jogging was my goal and it took months for even that (seriously). I would have quit the whole idea of running altogether if it wasn't for this older couple who were there every morning with me. They were about 60-65 years old and both of them would run at what I thought was lightening speed for what I thought was 2 hours, but it was about 20-30 min. Then they would get on the stair stepper for another 20-30 min. I was in awe of them but they also shamed me into not giving up. I was 28 and pathetically out of shape. I think of them all the time and wander if all that exercise has kept them healthy now 12 years later putting them at around 75 years old. I hope so. I'm still not a good runner but I'm consistently not a good runner and that's better than not running at all as far as I am concerned.

Left alone

Today was the first day in weeks that I was all alone at home (except for Daisy). The kids are back to school after March break and Steve was in NY on a business trip. I liked it. It was nice. I especially love my morning coffee and protein bar. I watch Good morning America and get caught up on U.S. news. Not really sure what's going on in Canada but only because our morning show Canada A.M. is well....lame and right now most of our news is lame. Apparently some cabinet minister has spent $3100 of our tax money last year at Tim Hortons. As infuriating as that's not newsworthy and it's laughable how ridiculous our Gov't is.

I had to pick up the girls and some of their friends for an overnight retreat in leadership and on the way I was listening to XM satellite radio Fox news. Just to be clear....I am not a fan of Fox anything but ended up here for some reason. It caught my attention because it was a story on a law trying to be passed by some member of Gov't regarding salt use in the restaurant industry. this guy is trying to get a bill passed in order to prohibit NY chefs from adding salt to their dishes. I had to keep listening because whenever I start yelling at radios and other electronics then it means I have a problem with something I'm hearing. This guy Oritz wants it banned in NY restaurants. Here's an article

This could be a really really long blog but I'll make it short, how ridiculous to to tell some of the top food artists in the world how to cook their food! We drive to the restaurant, we order at the restaurant and we eat at the restaurant. None of this is done under duress so give me a break and let people decide what they want to order, eat and pay for. I could go on but I won't.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

The girls are going on an over night trip tomorrow and needed a treat to take and share with their roomates. Snacks I can do, no problem. Problem comes when they ask me for potato chips or chocolate bars, these are not snacks for school so I offered the peanut butter and jelly muffins but then realized that peanut butter anything might cause a complete shutdown of the highschool..and that would be very embarrassing. So what about good ole chocolate chip cookies? josee was in agreement with this but only if I made them real. Real? as if I fake bake all the time? no real means not healthy. Ok so I understand that the kid who brings the best snack gets points towards cooldom but store bought junkfood as a rule I don't do. I bet they will like my cookies much more than a store bought bag .......we'll see.
The cookies turned out super good, Alex and jo had one for dessert and couldn't tell that I had added 1/2 whole wheat flour and some splenda. It wasn't much but I feel better for at least trying.

Toll House Cookies

I used this original recipe and then changed it up a bit

2 1/4 cups flour   (1 1/4 cups whole wheat, 1 cup white)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar (splenda)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs (1 egg white, 1 egg)
1 - 12 ounce package (or 2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips (dark chocolate)

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside for a minute.

In a large bowl, combine butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is creamy. Beat in the eggs. Gradually add in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop the cookie mixture by the tablespoonful on an ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen 2 1/4" cookies.  (I made them really big)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

peanut butter and strawberry jam muffins

After stressing all week about where to even begin packing my kitchen, I began yesterday. My dilemma is what to bring to Edmonton and what to move to storage. Since our move is once again not permanent I can't bring everything which I am finding very hard this time. What I do know is that I refuse to buy new kitchen stuff this time around and I am also completely against renting cheap crap when we get there - been there, done that. Besides, I have an attachment to my gadgets and even to my serving platters so this time they will not be left behind. I'm a firm believer that the kitchen is the centre piece of the home so lugging my kitchenaide across Canada seems right to me.
Now back to cookin. As I mentioned before, I'm on a mission to use as much of my pantry and freezer items as possible before we leave. yesterday I cooked up a big pot of whole spelt and barley to eat as porridge for the next few days.

I love the chewy texture with cinnamon, stevia, chopped almonds blueberries and greek yogurt. I gave it to Steve last night instead of rice with his meatballs and beans but I don't think he was too impressed as barley isn't his favorite. Now I have the super huge natural peanut butter from Costco to work with because like all natural pb's the bottom has started getting cement like. I'm addicted to pb and especially natural pb, I'd be happy to get a really strong spoon and just chip away at the bottom while watching Oprah like some people do popcorn but instead I think I'll make some pb muffins for the kids lunch boxes. My muffins are always a hit and miss with the kids because they think I make then too healthy and the problem is, I refuse not to try and make them 'healthier' than normal muffins. My muffins are always a hit though with Steve so if they don't like's no problem. I have a ton of left over jam and jellies from the summer jarring as well so I will add a bit to 1/2 of the muffins and leave the rest 'fruit free' for picky Alex. I also found 2 frozen trout filets deep in my 'meat' freezer for Steve tonight...I don't like trout so more pulled pork for me!

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 1/4 cup Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 cup splenda (or sugar)
  • 1/4 cup Wheat bran
  • 4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 cup nonfat cottage cheese blended until smooth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp or more of strawberry jam for each muffin
Preheat oven to 375F.  Spray muffin tin with pam
In a large bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, wheat bran, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl whisk together eggs, cottage cheese, milk, lemon juice, peanut butter, oil and vanilla until smooth.
Pour into flour mixture and stir just until blended.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, dig in a little hole in the centre of each muffin and add as much am as you like and bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pulled pork

I've skipped a few days. So many things seems to be happening at the same time. Why that surprises me is well...surprising. Our house is sold and we are to be out as of Apr 29th. Today I had the movers come over to give us an estimate and I am hoping above all that we can afford to send our vehicles and not have to drive the 3 days to Edmonton. That sounds like complete hell. Moving is hell though and I need to get it going. In the meantime....I'm still cookin and movin. yesterday I ran 2.5 miles at 6.5-8 mph and then did back. This was my 4th day of workouts with no break. We went to see Shutter Island last night (ugh) and then Baton Rouge for dinner, I had lots of protein and 1 glass of shiraz but when we got home I literally passed out feeling almost drugged I was so tired. I think a clear sign of over training so today I decided to take it easy and do some cookin. I'm making a pulled pork butt in the crockpot which will be cooking all night long. I really should have measured ingredients but when I started to de-fat the butt pork I realized that there was way more fat to cut off and way less meat and so the liquid marinade needed to be reduced. It's cooking right now so here is what I added
2 cans of diet root beer
2 medium chopped onions
5 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbsp dried mustard
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp worcheshire
5 pickled jalapenos or 2 fresh
1/2 cup of lime juice
1 tbsp sea salt
1/4 cup splenda

We'll see early this morning it being 10 p.m. right now and I just turned it after 2 hrs. I'm worried there is too much liquid but I'm thinking I can make it into a yummy sauce tomorrow.

Fast forward and it turned out great!!     We've eaten it 2 nights in a row on buns with coleslaw and even Josee loved it - yay.

Ok so now my goal in the next month is to use up everything in my pantry and freezer. This may sound simple but this is no joke, I take my food storage very seriously meaning I have arranged both my pantry and cold room to be stocked in case of an ice storm, alien invasion , or a State of emergency. I think my family will survive it.

I've learned this food hoarding habit from my mother. I remember growing up and each Sunday dinner wandering which soccer team was showing up there was so much food. My mother had a good excuse for this because she came from a family of 14 and very little food ..... dinner was first come first served when there actually was dinner so she understandably overcompensated when she had her family. I simply copy what I know and what I know is that the more the better. A group of 40 roaming gypsies could show up hungry at my house on any given night and I would be able to throw together a 5 course meal in less that an hour. Of this I am proud. A funny moment on a visit to my moms home this christmas was when I was making Steve breakfast of poached eggs and toast. I decided to see if there was a can of baked beans to add as well and went downstairs to look in her 2nd set of pantries and I couldn't find any. I made the mistake of asking her and she proceeded to scour the cupboards and finally gave up in disbelief of there being no beans. I could tell she had let herself down because any good grocery store - or pantry would have this simple staple. The funny thing is, I am almost positive that she would have made a trip to costco for the pack of 12 cans as soon as we left, just in case......

Monday, March 1, 2010

sourdough attempt

Well I've finally decided to finally give it a go and make some sour dough bread. Every so often I look up how to make the starter and then the bread and each time I decide it's too much work and too complicated but now that I have this blog it's a good chance for me to give it a try and show each step along the way. So for the starter or 'sponge' I am letting 1 cup of white all purpose flour and 1 cup of water sit in a large jar for 24 hrs after which time I will throw out 1/2 cup of the starter only to add another 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. I will do this every 24 hrs until I see some bubbling action. I should consider the starter my 'pet' as one site explained and regularly feed it and love it. They say that a well treated starter can last for years in the fridge - hard to believe. I'm on day 2 now but the only thing that concerns me is the temp. I'm supposed to keep the sponge at 80 degrees in the dark but I don't think there's a spot in my chilly house warmer than 60 from September to June. I've got it wrapped up tonight in a towel next to the fireplace hoping it's nice and cozy. This should take about 4-7 days after which I can put it in the fridge and continue to feed it only once per week.

Jump to Mar 8th and I finally decided to throw in the towel.....and throw out my starter. I can't say for sure why it didn't work but I'm almost positive it was the temp. I was a bit confused at the beginning because on the 2nd day it was actually bubbly and yeasty smelling but I just assumed that it was too early for that because from everything I've read it says 4-7 days. Maybe I should have considered it done then. I am definitely going to try this again but for now I think I'll wait until May when we get to Edmonton. Hopefully we'll find a warm house to live in :)
no bubbles - no action - no starter

Turkey soup

The day after our turkey dinner in March, I've made the stock and decided to just make a very simple Mexican turkey soup. Here is the stock that has been sitting in my cold garage in order for the fat to float to the top.

Now the stock with fat removed.

Remember my stock will have the hint of sage and orange from the turkey but that's ok because I think that the smoky cumin in the soup will go nicely with it. This ended up being a very dark and rich colored stock. For the soup I sauteed 2 chopped onions, 4 cloves of garlic and 1 jalapeno pepper until soft. Then add 2 tsp cumin (depending on your taste) salt and pepper, 2 tsp oregano, 2 tsp chili powder and as much hot pepper sauce as you can tolerate. Add as much chopped leftover turkey as you like. Add 1 large can of diced tomatoes.

Now add 8 cups of your stock and simmer for about 1/2 hr. That's it, you can't get an easier soup than that. I might add some frozen corn to it and when it's dinner time I'll put out chopped avocado, greek yogurt, fresh cilantro and grated cheese for garnish. Some sliced baguette with garlic and cheese, a side of already prepared salad and Voila! dinner is done. Oh and don't forget a splash of lime juice on top of everything.

Egg white pumpkin pancake

This blogging thing is starting to consume a lot of time, I've spent most of today either blogging, taking pics or thinking of my next blog. I can see this getting addictive and I'm going to have to becareful not to ramble about nothing too much although dh keeps telling me that's what I'm supposed to do. Since he's working from home for the next few weeks and I'm scheduling appts for moving estimates and house repairs before the new owners move in my gym schedule is a bit wacky. I'm not going until the boy finishes work this afternoon so I also have to change up my eating times which I'm really not good at, I'm definitely a routine type of girl. Today I'll try and run 3 miles on the treadmill and then do chest. I tried something different for lunch today (mostly because I need some recipes for this blog) but also because I need to start getting more protein. I made an eggwhite pancake.

First I whipped 8 egg whites with 1/2 tsp cream of tartar until thick and frothy. Add 1 tsp pumpkin spice, 1/4 cup canned pumpkin and 1/4 cup wheat bran. Then I put this mixture in a greased nonstick frying pan until browned on the bottom.

Next I baked the pancake at 350 until browned and slightly firm.

I added some 1/4 cup nonfat greek yogurt (recipe to follow soon), 1/4 cup blueberries and 4 whole walnuts chopped. The cup has a bit of sugar free syrup in it. I worked the calorie count out to be 355 calories, 10.5g fat, 29g carbs and 41g protein. Next time I would use 6 egg whites as it was a bit much. It was really good though and very filling.

Roll up the rim

Today is the first day of March break. Lord help me. It's 10:41 a.m. and my two girls, Alex and Josee have not come downstairs yet mainly because I told them not to until they've cleaned their room. Not rooms, just 1 room because I've agreed to let them sleep together during the break. The cleaning of 1 bedroom has now taken over 1 hour and my bet is, they are not even half done. Lord help me. I'm doing my best to help keep them busy this week since as a family we were unable to to take a vacation (which btw every single one of their friends is doing apparently). Today is also the first day of dh's last 2 weeks of work in Charlotte NC. Our house is sold and we're supposed to be out of here by Apr 29th so he is hoping his next contract will come through for Edmonton. Edmonton.....we'll see. All I know is that it's 4 degrees today and I can finally see an end to yet another winter. The snow is melting and the sun was coming up this morning at 6 a.m. which is very cool because for me the very worst part of winter is waking up in the dark...ugh. Another good sign spring is on it's way? tulips my all time favorite flower, this time of year I will have some color of tulip on my kitchen table at all times.

But the very best sign that spring is just around the corner??? It's roll up the rim time of course at Tim Hortons. Now my husband Steve and I will begin to donate about $3.40 a day to Canadians favorite coffee shop in hope of at least winning a free muffin for the next days visit. We probably spend about $100 during the month and maybe win 4 coffees and 3 donuts. I'm feelin the new car this year though.