Thursday, December 31, 2009

braised vegetables

Thanks to Deb over at smittenkitchen, I am now in love with braised vegetables. She posted a recipe for braised brussel sprouts that I served twice as is (except I omitted the bread crumb topping) and tonight I invented my own spin on. Well, it really came about because I had braised half a green cabbage last week in cream based on Molly Wizenberg's recipe (orangette) and so I had half a green cabbage, some sad brussel sprouts and some pancetta hanging out in my fridge. And it's been rainy and cold today - perfect for some lovely braising action to happen.

1/2 small green cabbage, sliced thinly
~ 1 lb brussel sprouts, ends removed, ragged leaves removed and cut into halves
1/4 onion diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp grated garlic
4 oz diced pancetta
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c vegetable stock

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan. Add the vegetables and cook at medium high heat until there is some colour (browning) - ~ 10 minutes. Add onion and pancetta and cook for another 10 minutes until the pancetta is brown. Lower the heat slightly and add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Then add the balsamic vinegar and stock, turn the heat up to high and braise for ~ 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. This is divine served with oven roasted potatoes.

(I don't have any photos of the finished dish, as it was eaten too quickly!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

not my mum's turkey pot pie

For Christmas dinner for 7, my sister-in-law gave me a brined free-range 14 lb turkey to cook. With all the trimmings, 4 side vegetables, two sauces, gravy, potatoes and 2 kinds of stuffing, there was a lot of turkey left over. I sent some home with my sister-in-law and we still have a giant bag of turkey in the freezer as well as some in the fridge that I’m making my favorite leftover recipe with (turkey sandwiches). So the other night I decided to get a bit creative with a pot pie recipe.

Usually I make it loosely based on my Mum’s way of doing it – cut up turkey mixed with sauteed onions, mushrooms and garlic, leftover vegetables and gravy as the base and here I have always deviated from my mum’s recipe – instead of her pastry topper, I do a mashed potato topper, so it is a turkey pot pie a la shepard!

This year I sautéed the onion, garlic and mushrooms and added the cut up turkey. Then I made a pesto cheese sauce using 2 oz butter, 2 oz flour, 1 c stock (turkey stock), 1 c milk, ½ c homemade basil pesto and about 1 ½ c grated cheddar and gruyere mixed. To this I added ½ head cauliflower and similar amount of broccoli that had been oven roasted. This mix went into the bottom of a casserole and then was topped with puff pastry. I tried to get fancy and make a leaf motif with the leftover pastry.
Baked for 25 minutes at 400 deg. Yum!

And as I was defrosting the puff pastry anyway, I made pesto and goat cheese puff pastry appys - roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle. Spread a thin layer of pesto over the pastry, add a layer of goat cheese over the pesto and roll up from each long side until you have two equal rolls meeting in the middle. Cut into ~10-12 pieces and place onto a baking sheet. Bake at 400 deg for about 10 minutes until lightly browned and puffy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

questions about angels

What wondrous things children say. T came running into our room this morning - "I was scared when I was sleeping". When I asked if he had a bad dream, he didn't answer. So I told him about my silly dream - about seals in someone's big back yard, sleeping in the long grass and me running to the pet store to get them some food. "That's silly", T said, "seals live in the sea." He then went on to tell me about his silly dream, about a peacock swimming in a back yard pool.

The other night - Christmas night actually, I was putting T to bed when he asked me where my mummy lived. I told him she lived in heaven now and that she was an angel watching over us. He replied "how do angels watch over us if we don't have holes in our roof?" Hmmm. The best I could come up with was that angels and fairies aren't bound by physical boundaries like walls, the float through air. "But why isn't grandma here" he asked. "Why is she an angel now?" I told him that she had been very sick for a long time and then she died. But that she didn't want to leave us and that she would love to be here with us and play with him. That she would love him and his cousins, she would be so proud of her grandsons. (So hard as I don't want to freak him out and let him think that anytime mummy gets sick, I could die and leave him. So hard too, as I still miss Mum and she would so love my boy and his cousins - all three are such special boys!).

So at breakfast, T sits up at the breakfast bar and tells me "it's a great morning!" Mummy and Daddy are home today and we're going to ride the train in Stanley Park later today.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

construction equipment and wrapping paper rocks

It was a memorable Christmas at our house. T has been one excited boy all this month, waiting for Santa's visit. By Christmas Eve, he was almost vibrating with excitement. I picked him up from daycare just after lunch and we came home for him to open his last window on his advent calendar. A giant egg with a toy inside (a transformer type robot thingy). Very exciting. Then T played with his trucks for a bit while I made cookies. Mincemeat drops and chocolate chip oatmeal as that is what T told Santa we would leave for him. Auntie K came over with the turkey in it's brine bath.

For dinner I made braised cabbage in cream (from Molly Wizenberg's book - A Homemade Life) to go with cheese and sausage perogies which gave dinner a slightly Ukranian feel. I gave T a quick bath and hustled him into his pjs. We put out the snack for Santa - chocolate chip cookies along with a carrot for the reindeer and T insisted that I make a cup of tea for Santa and we left it all on the hearth beside the tree. Then came our three hours trying to get T to go to sleep. "Is it morning yet?" over and over. I finally had to say "Santa won't come if you aren't asleep. Do you want me to call him and say don't come because T doesn't want to go to sleep?" The answer was an earthshattering "NO", but he did lie down and eventually fell asleep. I did too and when I woke up 20 minutes later, groggy and bleary eyed, I had to start remembering where I'd hidden all the presents - both the stocking gifts and the gifts from family and friends sent in the mail that I've been hiding away for weeks to keep T from opening them. The trucks meant that there was no big assembly project this year but as usual it was after midnight by the time we took our weary selves to bed.

The blessing of the late to sleep meant that T didn't wake up until almost 8. He came out and found his stocking full, he discovered paint, colouring books, chocolate, an orange, a monster truck and a lego truck. Then we made him get dressed before heading downstairs. I went to take some pictures and discovered all my camera batteries were dead - lovely! And my search for new ones was fruitless. Ah well.

T found his Santa presents on the hearth - his bulldozer, a steam shovel and a road grader. Then he opened our presents to find a low loader (red) and a concrete mixer truck. By that point he'd figured out that the blue wrapping paper meant a truck. He opened an earthmover from Grampie and was set to open the other two boxes but we made him wait until Auntie K and Uncle M came later in the day for turkey dinner. He opened other gifts - a big pirate floor puzzle from Auntie S, a furry hat and a pirate treasure book from Auntie A, a kite and backhoe t-shirt and chocolate coins from his cousins, a Cars race car transporter and a fleece hoodie and a book from Auntie M and a hat and book from Mummy's friend PK. And along the way, Mummy and Daddy got some presents as well. T and D played with the trucks while I started cooking - first taking the turkey out of the brine and stuffing it with sausage stuffing. I made a vegetarian mushroom, cranberry, corn stuffing as well. The vegetables were carrot/yam dish from M&B, mashed turnip, maple roasted parsnips, braised pancetta brussel sprouts ( from without the breadcrumb topping), creamy potatoes plus gravy, cranberry sauce (M&B again), and our family traditional bread sauce. Dinner was served around 2:30 once K&T and M&B arrived and more gifts were exchanged. More trucks for T - a quarry truck and a dump truck. After dinner, we had candy cane ice cream from K, mince pie and cookies. T then played trucks while the rest of us rested,

had tea, chatted and Uncle T made hundreds of wrapping paper rocks to load up T's trucks!

Here are 4 of the trucks with the mountain of "rocks".

A lovely day and T learned that it sometimes doesn't snow at Christmas and it happens anyway!

Monday, December 21, 2009

reindeer headbands and candy cane cookies

Last week was T's preschool concert. The kids wore reindeer antler headbands, made from brown paper
each child had traced their hands and those were the antlers. They were decorated by the children, T's antlers were covered in glued on eyes. They sang Rudolph and Jingle Bells, followed by "This Little Light of Mine" which the kids love. Some of them love it so much they continued to sing - "don't let anyone fffffff (blowing sound) it out" long after the song ended! Then came "Slippery Fish", one of T's favorites. In the middle of the song, T turned around and said to the little boy sitting behind him "that's not the way it goes!". I looked over at D and he was burying his head in his hands. Then the children sang "I'm a pizza" which T doesn't like singing so he got up and wandered around! But he was corralled back into his seat for the finale - "we wish you a merry Christmas". Very fun! The singing was followed by a slide show of the children at preschool. Each child yelled "that's me!" whenever their picture came up on the screen! Then came the party. I had made candy cane cookies
and they were quite popular but never as popular as the perenial favorite - mini cupcakes! T had 2 cupcakes and 1 candy cane cookie.
(The candy cane cookies were baked from a recipe for sugar cookies from Martha Stewart Living, sprinkled with white and red sanding sugar).

Friday, December 18, 2009

new (old) additions to my kitchen

I recently acquired a couple of my mum's cookbooks and her recipe box

- on the promise that I will put all mum's recipes into a family recipe book and make copies for my siblings. Added to my shelves are mum's copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking
and Joy of Cooking.
My copy of Joy has now been consigned to the recycling bin as it was in several pieces and held together with elastic bands curtesy of a soaking it received at some point in its storied history.
Mum's recipe box has typewritten and handwritten recipes,
mostly my mum's but also some of my grandmother's (Dad's mum) - a family kitchen history in a box. What a treasure! One of the funniest things about the recipes pictured above is that on the back of the Easy Cheesecake recipe is written R E L A X.
And delving into my own history, I unearthed two egg cups and an egg hat for T to use. As children hard-boiled eggs were a breakfast staple. We would "race" my grandfather, Da and always "won" to which he would say "bother". The poor man always had cold egg and toast for breakfast whenever his grandchildren were visiting.

Monday, December 7, 2009

almost winter garden

Thoughts of my summertime garden swirl in my head. My christmas list is topped with things like gift certificates for seed purchases and cedar planters. This past weekend, the rain stopped and the skies cleared and I peered into my garden. This is what I found:

One rose hanging on. And in the vegetable garden

some tiny cauliflower.

And when I came back inside, there was T's combine harvester ready and waiting for harvest!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

visit with Santa

Today was the big day - T's visit with Santa. I was a bit worried about the weather as throughout the night the wind was howling, sending various items skidding around the backyard. And it was cold enough to snow, if there had been any precipitation. But it didn't. Snow that is. It was a lovely, clear, sunny day once we woke up. "Mummy, it's morning. We have to get up and go visit Santa", was how it was worded today.

It was a smaller party this year, less children as there are fewer employees this year. T had a wonderful time decorating and then eating two gingerbread cookies. He's an equal opportunity boy - he ate one gingerbread boy and then one gingerbread girl.
And in between he had a Christmas truck painted on his face (with sparkles). He played in the wind tunnel and had a few bounces in the bouncy pirate ship but he was waiting for the main event. He sang with the other children to welcome Santa. And when it was his turn to go up and see Santa he rushed up on the stage and then got a bit shy. He sat down on Santa's knee and when Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas he was silent. I whispered "a bulldozer" - T repeated "a bulldozer" in a whisper, I whispered " a track backhoe", he repeated in a slightly louder whisper " track backhoe" and then he almost yelled " a rogater"..."please". He jumped off Santa's knee when the elf came to lead him away and gave Santa and the elf a high five and a wave. He then trotted off and collected his present. The paper and the box were ripped open to reveal a lego car racing kit.
A few minutes later, he came to me all upset (I was on elf photo taking duty). I asked him why he was upset and he said "why didn't Santa get me the construction toys I asked for?" Oh dear. So I told him that Santa was going to go back to his workshop as soon as he had visited with all the children at the party and he was going to tell the elves what all the children wanted for Christmas and they were going to start work on making the toys right away so that Santa could deliver the big toys on Christmas Eve. The lego racer was a special early present from Santa to say thanks for coming to see me today. Fortunately that seemed to mollify T and he mulled it over all the way home. Once the racer was put together
and raced a few times, T was ready to tell everyone that Santa had given him a racer as an early present. Phew!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fruit Dumplings

A while ago I found this recipe What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine: Apple Dumpling Shortcake with Caramel Sauce and made it up as written for some yummy apple dumpling goodness! Perfect for a cold, dark, rainy night which would mean pretty much every night in November and January! But the 6-8 apple requirement means it doesn't get made that often - well, only once so far. And yesterday I used up 4 apples making soup so the apple pile wasn't big enough for apple dumplings. Sigh.

But this weekend, I've been doing my version of eating from the freezer in an effort to try and wittle down the pile so I can get some more things in (ice cream?) and while looking a box of stock in the cupboard I found a big can of canned peaches squirreled away in the back (on one of the higher shelves so I can't see it unless I stand on T's stool). So- how about peach dumplings?

So I skipped over the first part of the recipe (apples and syrup) and instead drained about half of the syrup from a big can of sliced peaches and dumped the rest into a greased baking dish. I made up the dumpling mixture:

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp. soft butter
3 tsp. baking powder

And dropped it in pieces over the peaches. Then I melted together:

3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

and dribbled it over the dumplings. Baked at 400 deg F for 30 minutes and yum!

I made it last night and this morning they are almost gone. D blamed the cat!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the window game

This is what T calls opening the advent calendar windows. "Mummy, can we play the window game when we get home?"

We have two advent calendars. A chocolate one with reindeer, elves, polar bear, penquin and Santa on it and each window reveals a small chocolate. T loves this one! But he also loves the quilted "Santa picture" - an advent quilt - a picture of the jolly elf holding a tree with 24 buttons on it. Each day another fabric tag is hung on a button to count down the days until Christmas - there is a wreath, candy cane, goose, lamb, angel, mitten, tree, gift basket, wrapped present, reindeer, snowman, birdhouse, etc. When I put that one up T wanted to know where the Santa picture had come from. I explained that I made it when he was a baby as I wanted to have a non-chocolate, family advent calendar. He was very excited about putting the tags on to count the days until Christmas. He did try to speed things up by putting up 10 tags on the first day but we explained that even if he hangs all the tags up at once, it still is 24 days to Christmas (23 now). So now he's been hanging the tags up one per day.

dear santa

We went on Santa's website today ( so T could take the naughty or nice quiz and the result is that Santa put T on the nice list (for now). So T dictated a letter to the big man, I transcribed:

Dear Santa,

My name is T.M and I will be 4 in January. I have been a good boy this year. (There was some hemming and hawing about this statement after I wrote it as T was fairly sure he's not always a good boy at daycare - not listening well, etc but in the interest of the letter he left that bit out).
I hope you and the reindeer will come to my house at Christmas and we can look at wheel backhoes (real ones) on the computer. I would like a bulldozer, a track backhoe and a road grader for Christmas, please.
Mummy and I will make cookies for you - chocolate chip ones - so I hope you like chocolate.
Hello to the reindeer.

Your friend,

T decorated the letter with some stickers (fire truck, monster truck, train and 18-wheeler). We are going to mail it on the way to preschool tomorrow.

I don't remember writing to Santa as a child. A family tradition was that on Christmas Eve we would write out a list of wishes and each member of the family would throw the paper on the fire. If the paper flew up the chimney that meant our wish would come true. At least, that is how I remember it. I do remember my mum being nervous about us throwing paper on the fire at my grandparent's as my grandfather (my Da) would encourage us really close to the fire to catch a draft so the wish would fly up.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

comfort food: toad in the hole

The other day, I was mulling over what to make for dinner. Ingredients on hand - sausages, carrots, turnip so I was thinking of baked sausages with veggies on the side when I remembered Toad in the hole. My mum used to make it for us when we were kids. Her version was sausages baked in yorkshire pudding batter with gravy on the side. I saw Jason Parsons make an updated version on CityLine (CityTV) with root vegetables so that is my version now. Adding the vegetables to the mix satisfies my casserole desires and the toad in the hole idea takes me back to my mum's kitchen, always a good place in my memory.

Toad in the hole from Jason Parsons as prepared on CityLine, adapted by me.

1 package sausages (I used 6 skinless cheddar Mitchell's sausages)
2 carrots peeled and thickly julienned
1 small turnip peeled and thickly julienned
sprinkle of sage, salt and pepper

I sliced the sausages and tossed them and the vegetables in a roasting pan with the spices and roasted for ~ 30 minutes at 375 deg.

Yorkshire pudding mixture
7 large eggs
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c milk

(Note match the volume of eggs with equal volumes of milk and flour. In this case my eggs measured 1 1/2 cups.) Beat eggs. Add flour and whisk until the lumps are gone. Add the milk and beat together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the vegetables and sausages into a greased casserole dish (9x13 or equivalent). Pour the yorkshire pudding mix over the top. Push the veggies into the batter. Bake at 375 for ~ 35 minutes or until the pudding is set all the way through. Serve with gravy, if desired.

Friday, November 27, 2009

the santa list

Every year we are fortunate to be able to take T to my work's Christmas party for employees's children and grandchildren. Held early in December, there are gingerbread cookies to decorate, a bouncy castle, face painting and food (glow-in-the-dark mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, carrot sticks and potato chips). But of course, the main attraction is Santa. The children line up in age and get to sit on Santa's knee for a photo op and then they are hustled off and given a present from Santa's elves. Two year's ago, my photo's feature a screaming, stiff T. He wouldn't go anywhere near Santa that year. Last year, T sat on my lap, while I perched on the arm of Santa's chair but he leaned as far away from Santa as possible but still managed to put in a request for "Thomas videos and trains".

What a difference a year makes. T has been waiting for this for months. He's had his list since August and regularly drags it out and shows it to everyone (at church, at school, anywhere he has a chance to ). D printed out the list, after T wore out his small catalog that came with a toy tractor he got last Christmas. So this year's wish list includes

- earthmover
-dumptruck with long dump body
-concrete mixing truck
- paver
- road grader
-steam roller
-quarry truck
-low bed with a track backhoe

Lately he has added
- logging truck with grapple hook
-two black racing cars with batteries

Last week, I asked him if he wanted to go to my work Christmas party and his yelled answer was "is SANTA going to be there?"

When I said I thought Santa was going to drop in, he said "I'm going to bring my list!!". Oh dear. This should be interesting. I've already talked to Santa and told him how excited T was to see Santa and show him his list. I'm still trying to get T to give me his top 3 picks to get from Santa because the elves at the North Pole are so busy making toys for all the boys and girls everywhere around the world and Santa has to fit all the toys in the sled to go around the whole world so probably Santa will only be able to deliver 3 construction trucks.

At this point, thankfully, T doesn't seem to be remembering the bulk of his previous presents from Santa, last year's big art easel and spider web bean bag chair and the previous year's big train table.

Meantime, I played Santa's helper today by wrapping gifts for the party. As it is less than a month to the big day, I'm easing myself into getting into the spirit. A christmas CD in the car, this week. Next week the advent calendars come out - T's chocolate one and a quilted one I made when T was a baby. When I get that out, I might start with the door hangers as well. Have to do it slowly so as not to trigger D's Scrooge reflex!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

roller coaster artist

This month, the children are learning about artists at T’s preschool. So yesterday, T 's response to “what did you do at school today” was to tell me he painted under the table. Hmmm. So I asked him to show me what he meant. He promptly lay down on his back on the floor and reached his arms in the air and waved them around (simulating the painting bit.)

“Which artist were you learning about?” I asked.
“Mickeangelo” came his answer.
“Was there paper on the bottom of the table?”, I said, just wanting clarification that he wasn’t painting on the actual table.
“What did you paint?”
“Roller coaster!”
Of course, almost every painting T has done lately is a roller coaster.
He wants to ride on one. I don’t know where this comes from – as far as I know he’s never been near a roller coaster and hasn’t even seen video of one.
But they are easy for a 3 year old to paint, lot of loops!

(this one is apparently in the style of Emily Carr)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

little boy hugs

So I just realized that my little boy will be 4 in less than two months. Argh! How did that happen? He's such a funny little boo - he is into telling jokes now. Last week he told D, as they were cuddled up under the covers during the power failure, that he had three jokes. The first one involved lunch boxes in the mud (more and more lunchboxes in the mud) and D forgot the second one and they never got around to the third. D didn't get the jokes but that isn't really the point. T loves telling them and does the hearty preschooler fake laugh after he tells you the "punch line" - just so you know....As he says " it's soooo funny!"
He's also into hugs - and thankfully he has expanded my repetoire of hugs to include tall ones (standing up), short ones, tight ones, squishy ones, nose hugs, head hugs, feet hugs....well, you get the picture. The best are the T hugs that Mummy gets! Or the sandwich hugs - mummy and her two guys!

Thought I would finally get around to writing about one of my go to recipes for T's lunchbox - spiced pumpkin bread, adapted from Windjammer Cooking by Dee Carstarphen (recipes from the Maine windjammers). I reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe and upped the wheat flour content. It has veggies, eggs, whole wheat flour and my version isn't too sweet and T loves it (calls it cake!).
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 c. pumpkin puree (or banana/squash/apple)
1/3 c. water (or applesauce)
1 tsp vanilla

Blend sugar and oil together until well mixed. Beat in eggs, pumpkin, water and vanilla. In a separate bowl blend together

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, all spice, cloves and nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients into the sugar blend and then add 1 c. raisins.
Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 deg for 50-60 minutes or until the loaf bounces back when pressed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

musings from the laundry room

How is it that laundry accumulates so fast? And how does one small boy go through so many clothes? And get them so dirty? And I thought I still had a few years before I had to check through the pockets but tonight I found a stash of pennies in a small boy's jeans pocket, so I stashed them away in his penny jar. T is doing a great job of finding and collecting pennies; his penny jar is almost full!
T's new favorite videos are from the library and they need to be returned (3 videos to the library, 1 book to daycare, 1 sweatshirt to preschool - all to be done tomorrow). Our boy loves to borrow things! Anyway - new favorite videos - Mighty Machine series. He loves these machine stories.
D finds the voices hokey, especially the Newfoundland accent on the log skidder! But they are great for T to watch on rainy evenings while I make supper. When he's not helping me that is. His tasks today were looking for the carrots in the stew and putting the unused carrots back in the fridge for me. Then it was back to playing with his backhoe and waiting for the earthmover to be fixed (the earthmover's bucket came off in transit and has to be glued on, but unfortunately a small boy is so anxious to play earthmover and backhoe that the glue hasn't had a chance to set and the repair isn't holding...)

And now it's quiet. There is the drip, drip, drip of the rain on the drainpipe outside, the hum from the laundry in the dryer, a small boy curled up in his bed, sound asleep, the aroma of stew cooking for tomorrow night's supper and a mug of hot tea next to my computer. Life is good.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

planes, trains and boats

Today I took T on a local adventure. First stop, the SeaBus. T was fascinated by the "ferry". He loved the big boats in the harbour and watching the seagulls take off in front of the hovercraft.
Then we took the SkyTrain, the new Canada line out to the airport. On the walkway between the SeaBus and the Skytrain we passed over the train tracks for the cross country freight trains and the WestCoast Express commuter train. And along the way, lots of escalators which T loves to ride on. The SkyTrain wasn't very full but we ended up facing the wrong way. T didn't think we were going very fast and got a bit cross as we kept stopping (at the stations along the way). He was very excited when we came out of the tunnel and went over the river. He could see a lot of trucks and construction trucks. We had a bite to eat at the airport and headed up to the public viewing area. T gazed at the planes taking off and coming into the terminal.
We saw a plane taxi up to the gate and watched the "tunnel" drive up to the plane (to disembark passengers). Then the baggage was unloaded with a conveyor truck and the baggage carts and the plane was refueled by one of the orange tanker trucks. In the meantime other planes were taking off in clouds of spray (from the past days of rain) and other trucks were zooming around picking up parcels, delivering suitcases and food and pulling or pushing planes in and out of the gates. After about an hour, we left. I managed to dodge the request for a stuffed orca at the Aquarium gift shop, although T really, really wanted the giant plush orca at the front of the store. We walked up to the SkyTrain station and while waiting, T asked me why a man was standing on the yellow line (I had told him we had to wait for the train behind the yellow line). We managed to get a seat at the front of the train so we could see all along the tunnel, realizing that the train squeals as it goes around big bends in the tunnel.
Then back on the SeaBus. At the SeaBus terminus we stopped to look back at the city skyline from the sailboat fountain
and a quick stop to look at the tug boats anchored at the dock.
Then back to where we left the car and home to tell Daddy all about our adventure.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

casserole queen

I love casseroles. No - really love them. I love the idea of one dish serving and making. And I know that usually a casserole involves many pots besides the casserole dish. But still. I love them. So this week it was casserole week at our house.

Sunday night I made Mushroom Spinach Lasagna - a recipe I've been tweaking for ages trying to eliminate the oily film that I had the past couple of times. And I think this version worked really well.

Fresh lasagna sheets (I made mine using a breadmaker pasta recipe and my pasta machine)

Ricotta spinach mixture (adapted from a Delia Smith recipe in Basic of Cooking One)
1 tub of ricotta
1 bag of spinach, cooked with a bit of butter until wilted, drained, chopped
70 g gorgonzola cheese
70 g mozarella grated
grating of nutmeg
2-3 tbsp milk
Mix all ingredients together until well blended.

Mushroom mixture
Half a medium onion, chopped, sauted
1 leek, green part only, sliced and rinsed well, sauted
1 c. sliced mushrooms (I used cremini and button), sauted
1 tub of Safeway Gourmet mushroom soup
2 tbsp flour
Saute the vegetables until soft, add the soup and flour and mix well. Heat through for 5-10 minutes.

In a greased 9x13 pan, spoon 1/3 of the mushroom mix and spread over the bottom. Fit one layer of noodles over the mix. Pour over 1/3 of the ricotta mix, and 1/3 of the mushroom mix and spread over and cover the noodles. Create another layer of noodles. Sprinkle some grated mozarella over the noodles and follow with 1/3 of the ricotta mix, spread and then 1/3 of the mushroom mix. Add the final layer of noodles, cover with the last of the ricotta mix. Top with a layer of grated mozarella and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 deg for about an hour.

Monday night I made another casserole - broccoli, cauliflower and rice with ham from Delia Smith's book Basics of Cooking One:
1 1/2 c brown rice
1 small onion sliced
3 c. vegetable or chicken stock
Saute the onion in ~ 1 tsp oil until soft. Add the rice and turn. Add the stock and cover, bring to a boil and then simmer for 50 minutes.

Meanwhile steam 1 head of cauliflower and 1 crown of broccoli florets.

Make the blue cheese sauce:
1 1/2 oz butter
1 1/2 oz flour
500 ml milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 c chopped ham
120 g blue cheese, crumbled
In a saucepan, add the milk, butter and flour. Whisk together and cook for 5 minutes. Add mustard, ham and blue cheese.

Once the rice is done, spread it into a greased 9x13 pan. Layer the cauliflower and broccoli florets over the rice. Pour the sauce over the vegetables, covering them as much as possible. Combine one handful of bread crumbs and some grated parmesan cheese in a small bowl and mix. Sprinkle over the dish and put into a 350 deg oven for 20 minutes, then put under the broiler for a couple of minutes until browned and bubbly.

I went away for a couple of days (to the spa for some relaxation) with my pal. I had a wonderful time despite the crazy, stormy, windy, wet weather and the guys had lots of leftovers to eat in my absence!

Monday, November 16, 2009


My problem is (big confession here!) that once I start something, I get a bit carried away. Okay - a lot carried away. So, I've got a couple of projects already on the go - a red snowflake sweater for T that I just have to block and put together. Another sweater for T that is half knit. So what do I do? I go off to the craft store and get more wool to do other projects - mittens for Christmas for children.

This pair is for T's little friend C - who came over for a playdate this week. She's such a sweetie and so different from my wild child. She was wearing her new fairy shirt and got right into painting. The two of them have wonderful conversations - one about Auntie's dog by T was riveting. Not so much for the dog (poor Allie) but in the telling of the torn cruciate ligament tale by T. " My Auntie's doggie fell down the stairs and hurt her leg and so she had to go to the animal hospital for an operation and get a big, big bandaid on her leg". C was enthralled. I wonder what his take on Allie's post-surgical hydrotherapy treatments would be!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

kid's games

T's new favorite thing to do if both D and I are home is to play "hide and seek". He also plays with anyone who comes over - so consider this a warning! The way he loves to play it is that we count and he hides. He usually tells us where he is going to hide but if we cut him off and say he isn't supposed to tell us he's easy to find. Just follow the giggling. If we don't find him fast enough, as we usually try to stretch out the finding bit (Is he in behind the door? Is he under the table?) we get "I'm in here, guys". Not hard for us and endlessly entertaining for T.

I got him a preschool version of the old snakes and ladders game a few weeks ago after we played a few rounds at the kid's stall at the market. This version is really chutes and ladders - I guess snakes are too scary. And there is a spinner instead of a dice. T cheats - he moves the spinner to whatever number he wants it to be but not with any game advantage in mind - just because he likes certain numbers better than others. He loves going down the slides even when he doesn't have to, in fact, he gets annoyed if I "get to go down a slide" and he hasn't yet. He loves to win but wants me to win as well. Not quite clear on the concept which is ok with me.

We also play a card matching game with Thomas the Tank Engine cards - in our house called the Thomas matching game. I've taken to carrying the cards around in my purse as we can play a smaller version of it while waiting for shots for instance. (This week we waited for over an hour for T's H1N1 shot). T is extraordinarily lucky at this game - D thinks he's marked the cards as I think he's only lost one game so far (to Uncle M after 3 wins and a tie).

Yesterday the puppets came out of the hiding bag (hide some of the toys so we aren't overwhelmed)
and the crayfish and the lobster spent some time finding and eating all the toy ducks and octopus they could find!

more knitting

More knitting this week. I love the mittens and the beanies as they are portable and good to work on while watching swimming lessons or waiting at the doctor's office.

I made a pair of kid's mittens

And another baby beanie.

I have a couple of bigger projects I'd like to do. I found some great patterns over at A boy's sweater and a sweater for me (using wool I've had for ages).

christmas cake part 2

Yesterday, after swimming and grocery shopping, etc I decided to get to work on our Christmas cake for 2009. Out came the raisins, currants, dried cranberries and apricots and the candied peel. So here is how I adapted the recipe:
Dark Fruit Cake (adapted from the Canadian Living Cookbook)
1 c. candied peel
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. dried apricots
Place all these into a food processor and grind until finely chopped.
1 c. currants
2 c. sultanas
2 c. raisins
Add all the fruit together and add
1/2 c. brandy or rum
Let sit for a couple of hours or overnight. Grease cake pans, line with waxed paper and grease the paper. Preheat the oven to 275 deg F.
2 c. almonds finely chopped
1/2 c. flour
Mix these into the fruit mixture
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Cream together the butter and white sugar. Add the brown sugar and keep mixing. Add the eggs into the mixture, 1 at a time. Add vanilla.
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, allspice and mace

Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and incorporate well. Then fold the fruit mixture into the batter. Pat into the prepared pans.
Bake for ~ 3 1/2 hours or until the cake is brown and bounces back when poked. Wrap the cakes well when cooled and they will keep for at least 6 weeks.

The whole house will smell cakey and spicey. Yum!