Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Liebster Award

I'm a little bit tardy in following up on this.  As in several weeks tardy.  But a big thanks nonetheless to Lyndsay from Who wants to be Martha when you can be ME? who nominated me for a Liebster award.  Lyndsay has a mostly crochet blog.  Absolutely fantastic, trendy, beautiful crochet.  Makes ya wish you could crochet yourself kinda crochet.  

In fact, reading Lyndsay's blog inspired me to take up crocheting myself.  Until the Women's Centre offered knitting last session.  So I just took that up instead.  Guess I'm a little fickle.  Meh!  I just figured it'd be easier than self-teaching crochet with screaming kids at my feet.  But the minute the WIWC offers crochet again (hopefully in September!!) I'll be there with bells on, inspired by all of Lyndsay's projects I have pinned, in hopes of one day being able to make them.  

If you happen to be as inspired by Lyndsay's projects as I am, and are also unable to reproduce them yourself, you can check out her Etsy store here.  Great prices for bee-oo-ti-ful stuff.

The deal with the Liebster award is that I can now nominate up to five other blogs.  So here we go:

1.  First of all, I want to second Lyndsay's nomination of my sister, Ashley, who started a blog this past year.  Her blog, Sewrite, originated as a sewing tutorial blog from a newbie sewer's point of view.  It has turned into a combination of sewing and other crafting, such as knitting and crocheting, as well as a recounting of her daughter Maddy's journey through sensory processing disorder. 

2.  My friend Val has recently started a DIY home reno blog, Zen Shmen.  I am constantly amazed by how she can turn the ugliest of ugly into the most funky, amazing pieces.  And by how she can even see the potential in some of the things she finds.  And really, by how she can find the time to do this with an adorable little one underfoot!!  Anyone interested in home renos and DIY refurbishing should definitely check this out.

3.  Donna over at BookBound writes a book review blog.  Now, I must admit that I haven't been reading much these days, other than books on sensory processing disorder.  But I love checking this out from time to time to whet my reading appetite, as there are a variety of books to pick from, if you're looking for a good new read.

4.  Lee-Ann's Crazy Life chronicles her life as a mom of three little ones.  Her kids are absolutely adorable and she also frequently does give aways of all sorts of fun stuff.  And with 191 followers, she just meets the "no more than 200 followers" critera for this award.

As with Lyndsay, I am stopping at four blogs, as I also tend to follow mostly blogs with more than 200 followers. 

About the Liebster scoop
The Liebster is an award presented to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. It’s about spreading some love to the little guys in blogland. The name means 'the dearest' in German. The rules are quite simple:
1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or fewer who you feel deserve to be noticed.
5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Health-Packed Pumpkin Bran Muffins

Before I get going with my recipe, I wanted to quickly share this week's favourite moments with the kids:

- Logan came up with the nickname "babykins" for Chloé, a mixture of "Chloékins", which we call her, and "baby", which he almost always calls her.  I LOVE her new nickname!!

- ever since we finally got around to opening up our pool, Logan has been running around the house shrieking "Logan in a pool" non-stop.

- when I had to brake quickly the other day, Logan told me "whoa! careful car".  God that kid makes me laugh.  When he isn't making me pull my hair out.

Now onto the good stuff.

Today's recipe comes from the amazing cookbook Simply Great Food.  In my quest to empty my freezer as quickly as possible, I whipped up these muffins this weekend with some leftover canned pumpkin I had frozen awhile back.  The thing with this freezer challenge is that you take out a small bag of pumpkin, only to transform it into a mountain of muffins, which can't possibly be eaten before they go bad.  And back in the freezer these bad boys go, only now, taking up 20 times more space than the pumpkin originally did.  I don't think I'll ever see the end of it!

I made half of these into mini-muffins and the other half into regular sized ones.  Logan liked them almost as much as he liked these muffins here and scarfed down 4 of the mini muffins as soon as they came out of the oven.  Guess I could have made them all just regular sized and saved myself the headache of washing those tricky mini-muffin pans!

I made my muffins with 3/4 C of pumpkin and 1/4 C of unsweetened applesauce, only because I didn't have quite enough pumpkin (just an idea, for when you get to the bottom of your canned pumpkin).  I also made them entirely with whole-wheat flour instead of a mixture and they turned out fine.

I like these muffins because they're full of all things healthy: whole-wheat flour, flax seed, sesame seeds, wheat germ... and even some sneaky vegetables!

2 C bran cereal (I used All-Bran) or 1 C natural bran
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C whole-wheat flour
1 C raisins
1/2 C sesame seeds
1/2 C ground flaxseed
1/4 C wheat germ
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 C buttermilk or sour milk (1 tbsp. lemon juice/vinegar added to each cup of milk)
1 1/2 C lightly packed brown sugar
1 C mashed cooked pumpkin or canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 C vegetable oil

1.  In a large bowl, combine bran cereal, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, raisins, sesame seeds, flaxseed, wheat germ, baking soda and salt.

As you can see, I cheated, and mixed the wet ingredients in first

2.  In a very large bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, brown sugar, pumpkin and oil.  Gradually fold in bran mixture until well combined.  Bake immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

3.  Scoop about 1/3 C batter per muffin into prepared muffin cups.

4.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until tops are firm to the touch and a tester inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Let cool in tins for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 muffins.

Difficulty level: easy to moderate

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lil' Miss Maddykins Turns One!

Remember this post from last year, when I was visiting my teeny, tiny, newborn niece when she was only 5 weeks old? 

Well, lil' Miss Maddykins turns one today.  Can you believe it?? 

Happy birthday to my favourite niece!!   

I swear, you can tell me all sorts of dirt about your life as you get older and I PROMISE, I won't tell your mom ;)

Maddy's birthday celebration was the weekend before last.  My sister Ashley did a luau theme for her party.

LOVE the colour scheme!

even Chloé got into the leis

best picture of Maddy EVER!

Even Logan got into the grass skirt theme!

Maddy wasn't terribly interested in either the presents or the cake, but she had a blast, playing with her bff Evan.

I undertook the task of putting my newly learned cake decorating skills to use.  We were also celebrating Logan's 2nd birthday at the same time, so I ended up making two cakes. 

I made a quatre-quarts cake for Maddy's cake, which is a bit like a French version of pound cake.  But soooo much better than regular old pound cake.  I'll post the recipe for this shortly.

On a friend's mom's suggestion, I filled the cake using Shirriff brand coconut pudding, which I had never used before.  But it worked quite nicely in this cake.  On her suggestion, I mixed the pudding with 1 C homogenized milk, 1 C evaporated milk and 1 C table cream instead of the suggested 3 C of milk.  I also stirred in 1/2 C of finely shredded, unsweetened coconut while cooking.  She suggested I stir in 1 tsp. of vanilla, but I used pina colada flavouring instead, to stick with the luau theme.  And she stirs in 2 tbsp. of butter once the pudding is cooked, but I didn't, only because I didn't have any.

Here's a peek at Maddy's cake:

all crumb coated and ready to go

sparkly bow

didn't get a picture until the very last slice, so it's a bit of a mess...

Despite my best efforts, Maddy didn't seem too impressed with her cake...

For Logan's cake, I used the regular recipe for Katie's chocolate sour cream cake (the one with the baking soda).  I split it between three cake pans and used my chocolate peanut butter (soy butter) ganache to fill them.  And, of course, they needed to be decorated in a Cars theme for Mr. Logan.

a mountain of gooey deliciousness
And, again, despite my best efforts, Logan didn't appear to be overly impressed with his cake either.

C'mon kid!  It's McQueen.  And Mater.  And cake!

One little baking lesson that I learned while making Logan's cake that I feel the need to share:  you should not, ever, try to break an egg into a KitchenAid mixer while it is mixing.  Now, you'd think this should maybe be written somewhere in the instruction manual.  Alas, it is not.  I guess KitchenAid figured that no one would ever be quite stupid enough to attempt such a feat.  They did, however, underestimate just how many corners a mom may try to cut when scrambling to make cakes and pack for a road trip with two little ones.

You guessed it... the whole egg got mixed into the batter.  Shell and all.

But this did not deter me on my birthday cake baking mission!  I just washed my hands and picked that little broken egg shell outta there.  I mean, I had no more butter.  And it was 10pm.  What's a girl to do??  I hope no one noticed that the cake had a little crunch to it!!

Maddy was a trooper through the long day.  And, despite being sick, she even helped clean up after the party:

Some other random photos I wanted to share from our weekend with family:

one of my faves - great-grammy with 2 of the 3 great-grandkids

I also want to wish Ella, Logan's first love, a very special 2nd birthday today.

Super, super long post...  However, last, but not least, I wanted to share a couple of my proud mama moments from that weekend:

- Logan was soooo extremely calm on our way to my sister's (on a 7 hour drive!!).  I couldn't even recognize him as my own child.  On Logan's Occupational Therapist's recommendations, we packed a bag full of sensory tools: relaxing music, both crunchy and chewy snacks, drinks with straws, a vibrating toy, a wide-brimmed sun hat, a weighted toy and a heavy blanket that could be tucked in tight all around him.  Oh - and let's not forget the portable DVD player!  And it worked!!!  He was even quieter than a mouse.  That was not so much the case on the way back, but it was nice that we didn't all have to suffer both ways.

- watching Logan learn to not be afraid of going down Maddy's slide.  We have learned from Logan's Occupational Therapist that he is hyper sensitive to movement.  Which basically means that he is more afraid of movement than most kids and also, that he gets dizzy more quickly than others.  This means that he tends to be quite afraid of heights, slides, swings, etc.  While at my sister's, he climbed up to the top of the slide, but then didn't want to go down.  Advantage of having such a big family?? Everyone started cheering together  "go Logan go" and Logan took a big breath and pushed himself off.  And he looked terrified.  And when he got to the bottom, everyone burst into huge cheers.  And off he went.  

Logan is also a sensory seeker for movement.  Which means that once he's comfortable with a movement, he wants to do it non-stop.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around how you can be both hyper-sensitive to, and also crave, the same thing.  Yet I can see by observing Logan that this is true.  I was so proud to see my little guy learn to tolerate something he is terrified by.  This encourages me that, over time, and with therapy, he will learn to be able to deal with more and more of the sensations he cannot currently tolerate.

- watching Chloé attempt sitting alone for the first time at Maddy's party.

All in all, it was a great party and was wonderful to see my whole family again.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day Cake

Happy Father's Day to all the men in our lives who are a daddy!!!  And a special Happy Father's Day to my own dad.  

And to my husband, Jérôme.  Thanks for being such a wonderful husband and father. 

I made a cake for Jérôme to celebrate the occasion.  


It had to be something relatively quick, as we were away last weekend, I had a million and one appointments last week and Logan woke up sick yesterday.  Good thing with fondant is that you can start making many of the decorations far in advance.

I used an altered cake mix recipe for this cake that I got from my cake decorating teacher.  To my recollection, I have never, EVER made a cake from a box before.  But someone in my cake class told me how good this recipe was, so I figured I had to give it a try.  And this was the perfect chance to do so, as I was pressed for time.  She told me that the vanilla version was better than the chocolate, so that's what I chose.  And it turned out to be pretty good.  I still prefer more dense cakes, but if you want to make a boxed cake, I'd recommend this.

1 box cake mix (no pudding in the mix)
1 small box instant pudding in coordinating flavour
1 C sour cream
1 whole large egg
3 large egg whites
1/2 C water
1/3 C oil (add one more tbsp. with chocolate)

1 tsp. vanilla flavouring
1 tsp. almond flavouring
1 tsp. butter flavouring

I used a tsp. of pina colada flavouring, which I purchased from my teacher

1.  Mix all ingredients in mixer at speed one or two, scraping down sides, until just incorporated.  Batter will be very thick.  Fill pans just a little over half full.

2.  Bake at 325 degrees Fareneheit until centre bounces back and toothpick is clean.  Be careful not to underbake.  This will take longer to bake than an undoctored mix due to the added ingredients.

Note: cheesecake flavoured pudding will keep the batter more white in colour and vanilla will make it more yellow.

Due to my current freezer challenge, I am trying to not only empty the freezer, but also, to not stock it with anything new.  So this was a bit of a cake of leftovers (sorry honey...).  A cake of leftovers right down to using the remaining green buttercream icing from Logan's birthday cake (which I will post shortly).  I used this to crumb coat the cake.  I figured that it was only for us, so it didn't matter and it was better than throwing all of the green stuff in the garbage.

As you can tell from the picture, I found it more difficult to crumb coat this cake than the ones I made for Maddy and Logan's birthday (to come shortly).  Probably partly because this cake wasn't as dense.  And partly because I was in a huge rush.

I used leftover cream cheese icing (from my lemon curd filled lemon cupcakes with lemon icing) as filling.  Not on purpose, as Jérôme doesn't like lemon.  I didn't notice it was lemon until I had it defrosted.  And then I just hoped that he wouldn't notice... And he didn't ;P  

Now you'd think this would not taste good at all with the pina colada flavouring I had put into the cake.  But I just wanted to get rid of everything, so I charged ahead even after I realized the cream cheese icing was lemon.  And you couldn't even tell.  In fact, the whole thing tasted pretty darned good.

the green buttercream makes it look a bit odd, but it was delicious! 
I used a bit of shimmer on the white fondant