Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fondant Bows

I'm feeling much more zen today than I was when I wrote my last post.

We've had a good couple of days.  

Logan has been relatively calm - a Logan state of calm ;)  But really, that's all I'm ever hoping for.  He's a kid, a boy, and he's two.  Our days have certainly not been tantrum or defiance free, but that would clearly be too much for anyone to hope for for any child.  But he has been happier more often than miserable the last few days and has had many fewer meltdowns than usual.  

It's been a good couple of days.

Chloé is also starting to be happy again here and there, which was also much needed.  

finally, a happy monkey
And my improved state of mind is most certainly also related to the fact that Chloé has *finally* started going to sleep with only a few minutes of crying, following almost 3 straight weeks of crying for almost an hour.  Which completely drained me. 

And wonder of all wonders, she started sleeping through the night two nights ago.  With only an 11 p.m. dream feed, she has slept until 6:45 a.m. two days in a row.  And Logan even teamed up with her this morning and also got up at 6:45.  Plus, Chloé napped in her car seat for an hour and a half today (she usually wakes the instant the car stops).  Which gave me a full hour of time to myself.  Utter bliss. 

It's a simple equation: sleeping kids + much less screaming = incredibly more zen mommy

I wanted to share a few of my projects from the past week or so.  

We've been learning different types of fondant bows in my cake class.  I'll perhaps put up a tutorial at some point, but just don't have the time right now.  It's too nice to be inside blogging.  But here are a few pics of my newly acquired skill:

And here's a sneak preview of the bow pieces that we will learn to assemble next week for our gift box cake.  More on that next week.

I've also been busy learning how to finish up the afghan that we've been making in my knitting class.  Gotta admit I'm kinda proud I managed to do this.  I have yet to completely finish it off, but wanted to share it just the same.  I still have to work in the ends and crochet a border around the entire thing.  But I want to double the size it is so that it's nice and big to snuggle in with the kids.  So it will be awhile before I am ready to completely finish it off.  But here's a preview:

Gosh this year long mat leave and the classes at the Women's Centre are a great way to learn some skills that I likely would never have had the time to learn otherwise.

And there ya have it folks.  This is all why there hasn't been much cooking or baking around here of late.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fabulous New Finds

I wanted to share some of my new grocery store finds over the last couple of months.  They're not all super new finds, as I started writing this post when we got back from Vancouver in February.  So typical of me to get so side-tracked...  


Some are delicious, healthy new finds.  And others are just plain ol' tasty treats.

1.  Kefir

I have purchased kefir before in the past, but it came in a container, like yogurt.  I didn't realize at the time that kefir is apparently always a drink.  And, at the time I tried it, I didn't love it.  When I saw this again in the grocery store, I thought I'd buy it to see if Logan might drink it.  Thinking that it's sort of like a healthy Yop (which he's never had, but I thought he would like, given his addiction to yogurt - definitely inherited from his mother). 

Turns out he didn't like the plain flavour.  So I buy one container of plain and one of strawberry or raspberry.  And I mix about 1/3 of the flavoured one with 2/3 of plain, and he'll drink it like that.  In fact, it turns out he loves it.  And begs "more fefir" all the time.  I think he just really likes that I serve it to him in a real cup with a straw instead of a sippy cup.  I particularly like that this makes for part of a quick and easy breakfast (goes nicely with the cheerios that he eats out of a bowl on the floor of the bathroom while I take my shower!).

Kefir is Logan's new favourite!
(p.s. can you tell how old this photo is already???)

2.  Greek yogurt

I've always been quite addicted to yogurt.  Recently, I've become more specialized in this addiction by focusing on Greek yogurt.  My doctor just coincidentally mentioned to me that the two newest dietary trends these days are gluten-free and Greek yogurt.  And I just had to chuckle because I'm soooooooooo on the Greek yogurt band wagon. 

Jérôme and I quite like the new Oikos Greek yogurt that has recently come out.  We particularly enjoy it with a bit of maple sugar or agave syrup stirred in, for just a little sweetness.  Perfect dessert.  

Logan doesn't like eating plain yogurt anymore.  So I've just stared buying the individual Liberty greek yogurt sold at Costco.  

I then mix one of these containers with an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt, so that the result is not as sweet as the flavoured ones sold in-store.  Since we eat A LOT of yogurt in our house, I usually mix a few of them together at the same time and just keep it in a bigger tub, so that it's readily accessible for a few days.  And when I have a bit more time, I defrost some frozen berries, purée them and stir those into the plain yogurt.  That way, we can avoid the sugar altogether.

Greek yogurt is more pricey than regular yogurt - the larger plain containers are $4 - $5 and the smaller ones come out to about $1/container at Costco.  But I figure that, given the 18g of protein per serving, it's worth the money.

3. Dark chocolate cream cheese (uh... can anyone see a dairy theme going on here yet??).

YUUUUM.  And YUM!!  Did I say yum?

I found this in the States when we were in Seattle.  And couldn't resist buying it.  Even though maybe 2 years ago I didn't even like cream cheese.  But I do now!  And dark chocolate cream cheese?? How can you go wrong with this?  It was exactly as it sounds.  


I sadly ended up having to toss the rest of the container as we headed home, since we didn't manage to quite finish it during our stay.  But it was well worth just being able to try it.  Can't wait 'til this comes out in Canada.  

Imagine cheesecake made with it???

The photos are awful, as I was in a dark hotel room and breastfeeding Chloé at the same time. But I nonetheless had to share this deliciousness with you:

yes, this is the desk at the hotel - shhhhh....

4.  Liberty cream cheese

I was introduced to this by my friend Liz. Who warned me that her family finished the whole tub within a couple of days of opening it.  That is exactly what happened when I bought it as well.  Which is exactly why I don't buy this often.  But it is super yummy for a treat.  This is the light - the regular is even better!!!  But I learned my lesson after buying it once!

5.  Natrel dark chocolate milk

Did I mention dairy theme much??

I am in LOVE with this new dark chocolate milk :)

It's quite rich, so a small glass hits the spot. Y-U-M!!  I just hide from Logan when I'm drinking it, because I don't want him to start begging for chocolate milk - ya know, the whole do as I say, not as I do thing ;)

6.  Silver Hills breads

Katie introduced me to this absolutely fantastic line of bread by Silver Hills while we were out West.  It's a line of super healthy organic sprouted breads that are free of artificial preservatives.  All breads are packed with healthy, hearty ingredients and loaded with both protein and fiber. As an example, the squirrely bread has 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, per slice! (100 calories).  And the bagels have 16g of protein and 10g of fiber per bagel!! 

And not only that, but they also happen to be delicious. 

These breads are obviously super healthy for anyone, but are particularly good for people with diabetes, since they are so high in protein/fiber.  The loaves are a bit pricey, at about $5.50 a loaf, but I figure that it's worth the money for the amount of protein and fiber each slice contains (and it means that Jérôme could actually eat a whole bagel, if he so desired).

These are carried at our local health food store, in the freezer section.  You can find out if they're sold in your area here.  All breads are vegan and the company also carries a few gluten-free options.

7.  Asian pears

These aren't a new, new find to me, as we've probably been buying them on and off for over a year now.  But I really, really like them for a change, when I'm getting sick of the typical winter fruits.  Logan's also just started eating and enjoying them.  He particularly liked dipping them in his blueberry-applesauce.

again, can you see how old this photo now is??

They're super juicy and always nice and crunchy, which I love.  They're a bit pricey, at about $1 or so a pear.  So we don't buy them all the time, but do on occasion as a treat.

8.  Chocolate covered blueberries and açai berries

These were also introduced to me by Katie while in Vancouver.  They're sold at Costco and are delicious.  'Nuff said!

9.  Le Creuset pans

I've been wanting to get these high quality Le Creuset pans for a long time now.  However, they're relatively expensive, so we've always held off.  But when we were driving home from Seattle, we came across a Le Creuset outlet, which was selling the pans much cheaper than they sell in Canada.  And they were also having a scratch and save sale.  And Jérôme snagged a 35% off coupon - the highest you could get.  Who could resist that??  (These deals are, indeed, made for people like me!). 

So we convinced ourselves that we could fit two of these super heavy pans into our suitcases, amongst all of the junk we were traveling with for two little kids.  But soooooo worth it!!!  I've been loving using them ever since.

Do you have any new, delicious grocery store finds you'd like to share??

Friday, May 18, 2012

Felfel: Algerian Roasted Pepper and Tomato Salad

This roasted pepper and tomato salad, known as felfel, is an Algerian classic.  That is, according to our Algerian hostess, Assia, who we stayed with while recently in Paris.  

Both Jérôme and I love this dish.  Assia served it as an appetizer to the meal, which I suspect is probably how it is usually served in Algeria.  Back home, we've been eating it as part of our meal.  This will be a wonderful side-dish to different barbecued dishes come summer.  It can be served either hot or cold and is delicious both ways, though I prefer it hot.

Roasting the peppers is not super complicated, but takes a little bit of time.  You can always double the recipe to have it last a bit longer to make the work of roasting the peppers worth it.

In fact, I think I'm going to start making this in huge batches and freezing it so that it can be my "go to" vegetable staple this summer, in place of my (no) cream of vegetable soup, which I stashed away all winter.

Assia mentioned to me that she prefers the longer green peppers, such as the ones you see in the pictures below, as she finds them more flavourful.  I've never seen this shape of green peppers here, but it could just be because I haven't ever looked for them.  I recently made this recipe with a mix of red and yellow peppers, as that's what I happened to have in my fridge, and that was yummy as well.  Enjoy :)

5 green peppers
1 red pepper
2 tomatoes
good quality olive oil
fresh garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

1.  Roast washed whole peppers at 425 degrees Farenheit for 40 minutes.

2.  In the meantime, dice two tomatoes and crush about 3 cloves of fresh garlic.  Cook in a pan in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked.

 3.  Take peppers out of the oven and let cool.  Once cooled, gently peel off skins, take off stems and scrape out seeds.  Dice peppers.

4.  Drain some of the juices from the tomatoes and peppers.  Mix together and add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot or cold.

Difficulty level: moderate

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May Cake Club: Flower Pots and Cookie Flowers

I wanted to quickly share this month's take home project from cake club.  We made these adorable little flower pots with cookie flowers, a perfect project for spring.  

Chloé started waking up just as we started the project at last night's meeting.  Lucky for me, one of the members, Stephanie, offered to hold Chloé for me while I made this.  Sweeeet!!  There's no saying no to an offer from someone else to hold your baby...

I didn't finish decorating my flower pot with cute little fondant cut-outs.  I didn't have time last night and, quite frankly, just couldn't be bothered getting everything back out again once I got home.  

Annnnd... the whole thing toppled over when I was setting it up, requiring me to re-decorate the cookie... which is part of why it looks so messy (the other part is just me being a beginner and all).  And that's also why the bottom is all smushed in.  

Pluuuuuus, the spearmint candy leaves fell off on the way home without me noticing - guess I didn't heed my own advice about being careful when transporting cakes.  

But here's a peek at what they should sort of look like:

The flower pots were a little cupcake made in a flower pot baking mold.  However, they mentioned that if you don't have such a mold (and I'm sure not many people do) that you can either trim cupcakes to a pot shape or can buy clay flower pots at the dollar store to cook them in (once they're washed and sprayed).


flower pot shaped cupcakes, made using your favourite cupcake recipe
cupcake boards
flower-shaped sugar cookies (see recipe below)
sticks to attach to back of cookies
coloured icing to decorate cookies, plus white buttercream
cut straws
white and coloured fondant and small cutters
chocolate cookie crumbs (such as Oreo crumbs
spearmint leaf candies

To make flower pots:

Cover sides of cake pot with buttercream. Measure pot from bottom to pot rim.  Roll out a long strip of fondant.  Trim to proper height and measure enough width to wrap around pot.  Cut off excess.  Seal and smooth back seam.  Using knife or angled spatula, tuck fondant in at bottom of pot to give a smooth finish.

Roll out strip of coloured fondant about 1/2 inch wide and long enough to wrap around top of pot.  It should stick up about 1/4 inch above the white fondant.  Attach with water and match seams in the back.  Decorate pot with patterns, dots, cutouts, etc.
Attach pot to board with a little icing.  Put a thin layer or icing on the rounded top part of the cake.  Gently sprinkle a layer of chocolate crumbs to cover (not too thick - they will sit in the top fondant wall of the pot).

Sugar cookie recipe:

2 eggs
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C oil
1/4 C orange juice or water
2 tsp. baking powder
3 C flour

In food processor, process eggs with sugar, oil and juice until blended.  Add baking powder and flour and process until just mixed.

Divide dough into 4 pieces.  Roll out on a floured board 1/8 inch thick.  Cut out flowers.  Place stick into cookie and press down gently.  Bake at 375 degrees Farenheit for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. 

Decorate sugar cookie with icing in desired pattern.  Cut spearmint leaf in half.  Cut piece of straw the same height as the cupcake.  Place stick into straw and place cookie into pot.  Position leaf halves on stick near the bottom to balance it.


Note:  If your flower seems to tumble over as mine did, you can use royal icing to solidify the base of the cake to the cake board and/or trim the height of the stick.

Happy Spring everyone!!  Do you have any favourite spring recipes you'd like to share?

Difficulty level: difficult

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

April Cake Club: Fondant Purse Mini-Cakes

No, that is not a typo.  I just came home from the May meeting of the West Island Cake Club, but I want to share today's project with you in detail and don't want to get to bed too late tonight.  

However, I wanted to show you the project that they did at last month's meeting.  The one that I missed while we were in Paris.  Probably a good thing too, since there's not much chance that a beginner like me would have been able to come up with anything like this:

love the zipper detail!

They were throwing these in the garbage (gasp!) as I headed out the door and asked me if I wanted to take any of them.  And when they said I could share them on my blog... well, how could I say no???

now does this look real, or what?


You can see more photos of the members' creations here, from their recent cake show.

Can't wait until I'm good enough to be doing things like this!! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Healthy, Veggie Packed Morning Glory Muffins

Happy Mother's Day to all you mommies out there!!!  I hope that everyone was spoiled and enjoyed a day of relaxation in the sun.

I've had a nice, quiet day.  I woke up this morning to a brand new KitchenAid mixing bowl.  Does my husband know me or does my husband know me?  Or was it just an attempt to get me to make more goodies??  So, I of course had to test run it as soon as I got home from my zumba class

So I made some muffins, as it's been quite awhile since I've made any and Logan has been asking for them lately.  Remember here when I said that I had found a delicious, new, healthy recipe for muffins?  I think I love these ones here even more.  I got this recipe from Katie when we were in Vancouver.  These muffins are packed with vegetables, which as any mom of a toddler knows, are almost impossible to get into most kids.  Logan has no idea that he's eating anything good for him here.

I would usually leave the cranberries and pumpkin seeds out, as Logan doesn't like to mix textures of food together.  But he has recently fallen in love with dried cranberries and cherries - I've convinced him to eat them by telling him they are candy.  I have no idea how he even knows what candy is, as I've certainly never given him any (daycare???), but it was enough to make him try (and love!) these.  We also tried to sell him on some soup by calling it ketchup, but he was a bit too smart for that one ;)

I left the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds in and it seems to be a success, as he ate one and a half of these huge muffins within a few minutes of them coming out of the oven.

Before I get on with the recipe, I wanted to share a few of my favourite moments from this week:

- Logan turning to wave to our family doctor as we were leaving his office and saying "bye Soucie".

- how Chloé has started pulling at her hair and her ear when she is falling asleep.

- watching how Chloé watches Logan's every move, wherever he goes.  She cranes her neck at insane angles to not lose sight of him and he eats it up.  It's so special to get to watch such a bond develop between the two of them.  I think of how close I am with my siblings and realize that it likely started way back in the beginning.

- seeing how excited Logan was when Jérôme took him for his first ride of the season in the bike trailer.   He kept begging "vélo, vélo" (bike) even after returning from an hour long ride.  And refused to take off his helmet for at least an hour afterwards. In true Logan style ;)

- the sound of Chloé starting to babble (what S-LP wouldn't love that??). 

- how when I kissed Logan good night tonight to go put Chloé to bed (unsuccessfully), Logan smiled and said "dance".  I usually only kiss him goodnight before he's in pyjamas on the night I go to zumba.  So much better than the tears we used to get at my departure.

Enjoy your muffins.  And your Mother's Day.  I hope you have something special planned for dinner.

Beat together with a fork:

1 egg
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C plain yogurt
3 tbsp. canola oil

I used plain Greek yogurt, as this is all that I had in my fridge.

Whisk together in another bowl:

1 1/2 C flour (I used whole-wheat)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix wet and dry mixtures until just combined and then add:

1/2 C grated carrot (Katie mentioned she usually puts in a fair amount more, so so did I) 
1/2 C shredded zucchini
3-4 lumps of frozen spinach, defrosted and well drained (pat with a paper towel to dry well)
1/2 C grated apple (I left the skin on for extra nutrients and fiber)
1/4 C cranberries (I used dried cranberries)
1/4 C pumpkin seeds or walnuts
1/4 C shredded unsweetened coconut

I doubled the recipe, and it took me almost an entire bag of mini carrots to get 1 C grated (didn't have any regular carrots in the fridge), about 1 and a half tiny zucchinis and about an apple and a half.  Just to give you an idea on how much to buy.  And it was maybe total 1/4 C of spinach that I put in.

Next time, I'll also throw in some combination of the following: wheat germ, ground flax seed, hemp seed, and/or chia seed.

defrosted spinach

Mix until just combined.  Do not overmix (lumps are fine).

Pour into well-greased muffin tins and bake for 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit.

The recipe says that it makes 6 large muffins, but I got 18 large muffins after doubling the recipe.  Katie always doubles it and makes them in a mini-muffin pan, yielding close to 2 dozen mini muffins. 

Difficulty level: easy to moderate