100th Post = New Blog!

17 Aug

Come check out the new look and 100th post over at our very own domain!  Looking forward to seeing you back there often, and thanks so much for reading the first 99 posts!!

hiddenponies.com

Saturday Sweets: Chocolate Soufflés

13 Aug Chocolate Souffle

Happy Saturday!

Welcome to the 99th post, the one before the much anticipated 100th post!! Oh boy, I can hardly wait :)

Over here the sun is shining, the kids are finally healthy again, the airplanes are rattling the roof thanks to the nearby Airshow, and we’re about to get another look at our new house to take some measurements so I can start planning how to maximize work space and functionality in my new (still fairly small) kitchen!  A good day all ’round, and made even better by these chocolate soufflés.

I made these as part of  the blitz when my family was here, yet another delicious gluten-free dessert to add to the repertoire. This recipe came to me via my friend Kate, who is an amazing cook.  She made these with a delicious coconut cream topping for a Mexican-themed dinner night, after which I could not stop thinking about them and had to have the recipe.  Thanks for sharing Kate!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great picture to show you since it was later in the evening when I made them and I was barely containing my desire to delve in long enough for one quick picture, let alone a variety.  I do apologize.

If you’ve been intimidated by soufflés (which I was), it’s time to take the plunge.  This recipe takes a few steps and a few bowls, but it is SO WORTH IT.  They can also be prepped ahead, refrigerated, and thrown in the oven when your guests are over so it will look really effortless :)  This is one of the chocolatey-est, richest, most decadent things you could imagine, but somehow totally avoids being overly sweet or cloying.  This is something you would order in a restaurant to share and then regret the fact that you hadn’t ordered two. If you eat it immediately out of the oven it will have a soft mousse texture throughout, and if you let it sit 10-20 minutes to cool it will set a bit more and just have a gooey, mousse-like centre. Either way, amazing.

This recipe makes 8, but it could easily be halved. Either way, this was one of the best things I’d ever eaten and I was so glad I was able to reproduce it with much less stress than I thought a soufflé would bring! Try ‘em soon.

Chocolate Soufflés

 

 

(Gluten-free) 

1/2 cup butter
8 oz semi sweet chocolate (8 squares)
3 whole eggs plus 4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Grease 8 custard cups with some melted butter, stroking upwards with pastry brush to help soufflés rise high. Then coat with thin layer of sugar. Set in freezer to cool.

In a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, melt chocolate with 1/2 cup butter. Remove from the heat.

In separate bowl, beat whole eggs with 1/2 cup sugar. Whisk slowly into chocolate and add vanilla.

In another bowl, beat egg whites. Add remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, until stiff peaks form.  Fold slowly and gently into chocolate mix.

Spoon into custard cups (I used ramekins and only filled them half full so the soufflés rose only just above the high edges of the dish, which looked a little less impressive than in low custard cups where they can rise way above the dish, but the taste was the same :)). Level them off and make sure rims are clean. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 min. DO NOT open oven while baking or the soufflés will fall!

You can make them ahead and refrigerate for up to 2 days if they are covered, then bake when needed. 

Thanks again for the recipe, Kate!


When did Trouble get so big?

9 Aug

Someone should tell this guy that he can’t get into everything until he can walk for real.

Maybe someone should also stop letting his dad dress him :) Or are polo onesies and athletic shorts an acceptable combo?

Poor Gemma…wherever she goes, there he is a moment later, wanting what she has, whacking at her toys, pulling on her ponytails, anything to get her attention and her things. His interest in anything remotely resembling a baby toy is long gone, and his favorite pastime is emptying…toy baskets, bookshelves, blocks, dishwashers, crayon boxes, puzzles, etc.

His being able to reach into the toy box brought a whole new world to empty – at least the whole top layer within reach of those adorable little dimpled hands.  Cupboard locks have been reinstalled and I am readjusting to having my doors slam shut every time I pull them open an inch and forget about that little catch needing to be pushed down.

I can’t say I really blame Gemma for getting frustrated – I get a little frustrated myself when I’m working in the kitchen and he is pulling himself up with his fingernails by the sensitive skin of my calves, slamming the oven drawer into my shins, showing up inside my fridge the second I open it, pulling the sharpest knives out of the dishwasher, and opening and closing the pantry door with his body blocking entry or exit.

But we are all adjusting quickly since I’m sure it’ll only get busier from here!  We just try to think of any possible distraction that might keep him busy for a minute or three.

Until he realizes there is grass to eat, throws up, and moves on to taste the dirt and flowers.

I am beginning to realize how true a line I read recently is: when you have boys you spend their lives trying to prevent them for killing themselves.  I can’t even count how many times each day I pull something out of this guy’s mouth or pick him up after a crash down from a chair or coffee table whose distance he misjudged. He sometimes thinks he knows how to walk and turns away from whatever he’s holding onto so he can gracefully fall face-first into/onto the nearest hard surface.

I don’t plan to get anything done, besides keeping him alive, until he’s at least 26.

Unless he is safely strapped in somewhere, busy just oozing cuteness!

Blinded by the lights

8 Aug

With my kids being under the weather for the past week or three, I’m reminded of just how much I hate having to turn on lights in the middle of the night.

I don’t mind getting up in the middle of the night to soothe away bad dreams, re-insert a soother, remove a pudgy leg from where it’s wedged between crib bars, or wipe a small bottom.  All these things can be (and are) done by the soft glow of the hall nightlight.

When, as a parent, you have to turn on a light at night, you know there’s trouble.  If I have to also find my glasses, the trouble is epic. It means I am doing laundry (which means something aimed at my gag reflex is on sheets and/or children), or giving up entirely on the night’s sleep, or looking for a missing limb, or piggy, or blanket.

Or possibly I am just trying to annoy Carl/let him know I have been up for QUITE SOME TIME.

Recently this problem was made worse by the installation of “energy efficient” light bulbs.  They started out in the bathroom, but if you have ever tried to do your makeup in a Walmart and hoped you would look ok in any other lighting, you know how badly that worked out.

Not to mention, when the bathroom light was left on and I looked down the hall, a “Twilight Zone” pool of glow emerged from the bathroom door. I was spooked.

So the lightbulbs moved into our walk-in closet, because, Carl reasoned, it would be nice to be able to see our clothes clearly and there are no mirrors around.  Unfortunately, this is still the light I turn on if a certain little one needs to use the bathroom at night, which means I feel like I am being woken up to take her to the bathroom in Walmart.

Unlike a lot of people, I actually have nothing against Walmart.  I frequent their stores and take full advantage of their big-box prices.  I believe they have things figured out when it comes to mass selling, even it is does kick small businesses where they notice.

However, the lighting makes my eyelids squinch in on themselves, my lashes stand on end, and my cerebrum curl into a quivering ball of discomfort.  I do not loiter in Walmart.  You may have noticed similar lighting in dollar stores, or, as they are more commonly called these days, Dollar Plus stores.  AKA…stores like any other? Yes, I think so. Stop trying to be special, dollar stores where I need many dollars.

Anyway, this is obviously not the feeling I want to create in my home. Not in the daytime, and definitely not at night.

Energy efficiency be darned, if this is how it’s gonna be. Earth, your sun is lovely and I use it often for light. I won’t shower daily or drink bottled water.  I will bring reusable bags to the grocery store and I will use my glass bottles as vases. Please don’t ask more of me than that.

Don’t even talk to me about cloth diapers.

*Interesting note: I learned that Walmart is in fact actively committed to trying to get these more energy efficient fluorescent bulbs into all homes, and being lauded for their “green” efforts! I guess they practice what they preach and are using these bulbs in their stores as well. Little did I know my comparison to Walmart lighting was indeed so accurate.

Saturday Sweets: Strawberry Chocolate Meringue Torte

6 Aug Strawberry Choc Meringue Torte 2

I’ve been a little heavy on the recipes lately, but I have quite a backlog to get through of things I feel I just HAVE to tell you about!  And I’ve missed TWO weeks of Saturday Sweets installments and want to make it up to you.

Also, my family left today to go back to the faraway land of O-Ville, Ontario, so I don’t have the cheeriest of stories to share with you.

Unless you’re interested in the fact that we bought a house?

Well, technically that is largely untrue.  My in-laws bought the house, really, but we have our small share which allows us to live in a rather palatially large share.  Sounds fair, right?  For the first time I actually get to put my Interior Decorating diploma to good use on a home I can actually make decisions about!  I don’t have to confirm with a landlord if I want to paint a wall (which I ALWAYS do), I don’t have to hope no one will notice we screwed a planter box onto the side of the house, I don’t have to pay someone else’s mortgage for them, I don’t have to cram 4 people’s lives into less than 900 square feet…

On the other hand, I do have to care if my appliances break down or my roof leaks. I do have to clean like I might be there in two years facing the same (no doubt morphed) dirt if I don’t deal with it now.  I do have to commit to staying in one place for a reasonable amount of time.

I figure I can handle one big commitment per 5 year span, and between getting married and having 2 children over the past 5 odd years I’m just hoping the time frames don’t overlap anywhere, prompting a return to my post-wedding sleeptalking and day visions which made Carl (and my mother) question my sanity.

(Now you are probably questioning my sanity.  Don’t worry, I’m quite harmless.)

I don’t even know where to begin – probably largely due to the fact that my budget is about $12.  If I had unlimited money I think I know exactly where I would start – hire an interior decorator ;)  But seriously, we’re very excited about it, as it will give the kids lots of room to play, both inside and out, and with all that kitchen space just THINK how many recipes I can test and create!

In the meantime, before said O-Ville family left, I made this delicious gluten-free dessert for us all!

I inherited a daunting stack of old Cooking Light magazines from my aunt, via my mom, and thoroughly enjoyed going through each one and ripping out recipes to try at a later date.  As I work my way through them, I have to say I have yet to be disappointed by one, and since the magazine is called Cooking Light I feel like they must be healthy…and actually, a serving (an eighth) of this dessert comes in at less than 200 calories, according to the nutritional info provided in the magazine.  This torte was a big hit with adults and kids alike; I could easily have made two as it’s really light and fresh and inherently eatable.  And we all like our dessert.

My meringue could’ve used an extra 15 minutes since it was a muggy day, making it a bit harder to remove it from the parchment paper, but it didn’t affect the overall taste at all.  I’d actually never made meringue till recently and then I’ve made it several times in the last month after realizing how easy it is, so if you haven’t tried it this is a great recipe to start with!  If you’ve had pavlova, this is basically fruit pavlova in cake form, which looks impressive, even if it is hopelessly, deliciously messy to serve.  I wish I could’ve taken a picture of that for you but since this dessert traveled, and I have yet to become crazy/patient/bold enough to photograph food at other people’s homes (it’ll come), you can click here to see what the inside looks like.  Honestly, mine didn’t look nearly that perfect anyway.  Nobody complained.

Aside from making the meringue this is actually a very low-effort dessert, even if you make your own whipping cream instead of using store-bought “whipped topping”.  I think I would do that next time since I’m not the biggest fan of the special flavor those “edible oil products” impart, although I know that would really negate the light factor. But it is dessert, after all.  And it’s gluten free, and we all know gluten is what makes us chubby anyway, right?

Right.

P.S. This would be amazing with a combo of berries too, or just raspberries. Everything is good with just raspberries.

Raspberries, raspberries, you sweet red delights

I could eat you all morning, noon, eve and night.

You’re tart and you’re sweet (I know what that’s like)

We’re two peas in a pod, we’re that much alike.

Ahem. Focus.

Strawberry Chocolate Meringue Torte 

4 large egg whites

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

2 cups (about 1 lb) sliced strawberries

1 tsp sugar

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250.

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and draw 2 8″ circles on the paper (I trace around a cake pan or put my handily-marked silicone pie mat under the paper to trace).  Turn paper over and secure with masking tape.

Beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar at high speed of a mixer until foamy.  Gradually add the 1 cup of sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.  Divide the mixture over the 2 8″ circles, spreading with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 1 – 1 1/4 hours or until meringues are crisp.  Sprinkle each meringue with 3 Tbsp chocolate chips and return to oven.  Turn off oven and let meringues stand for 5 minutes to soften chocolate.  Remove from oven and spread softened chocolate with a spatula.  Cool meringues to room temperature. Meanwhile, sprinkle strawberries with remaining 1 tsp sugar; cover and set aside.

To assemble, place 1 meringue on a serving platter, spread 1 cup whipped topping over it and top with half the strawberries.  Repeat with second meringue, second cup of whipped topping, and remaining strawberries.  Melt 1 Tbsp of chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle over top.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Recipe barely adapted from Cooking Light magazine.

Nectarine and Cherry Cobbler

4 Aug Imported Photos 00406

A couple weeks ago my lovely mother-in-law gave me a huge bowl of fresh Okanagan cherries, the best cherries around.  They needed to be used promptly due to ripeness, and thankfully this coincided with me needing to make dessert for 10ish people.

At my current rate of 5 lbs of lower-body weight gain per week, I couldn’t justify eating an entire dessert by myself this time.  Or really any dessert.  Ok, I can always justify eating some dessert, let’s be serious.  But the end of calorie-burning breastfeeding is always such a sharp reality check around here.  On the bright side though, it means back to the mall as, yet again, it seems nothing in my wardrobe fits just right.  I think Carl is starting to believe I do this on purpose, having my body change size and shape every 6 months or so, but I think men will just never understand the many stages of body shape that accompany the before-during-after-even later after of procreating.

I had seen a recipe for Peach and Cherry Skillet Cobbler on Diethood that got me thinking about that combo.  I knew my skillet wasn’t going to be big enough and the recipe looked a little time-consuming given my last-minute nature, but the combination wouldn’t get out of my head.

Being averse to peeling peaches, again due to time constraints, I went with nectarines and left the skin on – they aren’t quite as sweet and delicious as fresh peaches but I love them nonetheless.  As we all know, smooth skin makes up for a lot of other shortfalls.

I highly recommend buying a cherry pitter if you’re going to be making anything with any amount of cherries (like, more than 2), or if you have children who can’t (or won’t) spit out pits.  I had to search good and hard to find said pitter, so if you’re looking, just start in a specialty kitchen store, skip the whole Walmart or Canadian Tire route since they may have everything under the sun but they do not have cherry pitters.  Cherry pitters have come a long way from the spring-loaded contraption I remember in my mom’s kitchen – they now come equipped with comfort grips, locking mechanisms, and handy clear splash guards!  I grabbed a new pair of tongs while I was at it which is equally exciting, since using full-length barbecue tongs in a little frying pan in a narrow kitchen is more than a little awkward.

Anyways, the cobbler!

There are apparently many ways to make cobbler, and people have strong feelings about what constitutes a “true” cobbler.  This version is the type with a biscuit top, and, while I liked it, I prefer the kind that are more like a cake with fruit all throughout.  Much as I love piles of fresh fruit, I also love my carbs – the same reason I always cut back the fruit in fruit crisps and double the amount of crumble topping.  Fruit to topping ratio is very important to me.  If fruit is your favorite part of a cobbler, this will be right up your alley!  

I also used the same fruit mixture, thickened with 1 Tbsp cornstarch in place of the flour, to make a couple gluten-free crumbles to accommodate food intolerances. (In case you’re interested, my gluten-free crisp for the two individual servings was just 2 Tbsp melted butter, 1/3 cup quick oats, and 1/3 cup brown sugar).

Nectarine and Cherry Cobbler

Fruit mixture:

4 cups sliced nectarines (about 4 nectarines)

3 cups cherries, pitted and chopped

1/3 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla

Biscuit topping:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

1/2 cup milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Toss fruit mixture ingredients gently and dump into a 9×9″ or 8×11″ baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes.  

Meanwhile, make biscuit topping. Whisk together dry ingredients, including lemon zest.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  With fork, stir in milk to make a soft, ragged dough.  Drop dough onto fruit mixture in about 9 heaping tablespoons, and sprinkle the whole top with an additional tablespoon or two of sugar.  Return to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until biscuits are golden and not wet underneath and fruit is bubbly.  Serve warm, ideally with ice cream :)

 

 

 

Biscuit recipe adapted from Canadian Living, fruit mixture is my own.

Hazelnut Mousse

1 Aug Hazelnut Nutella Mousse

I’ve been a little lax in the posting department lately since things have been busy around here!  My whole family is around since a new baby joined the family and my parents are here from Ontario and also celebrating 30 years of marriage, so we’re enjoying copious amounts of far-too-rare family time!

Naturally, this means lots of fabulous food, as I come from a family of great cooks, but far too little time spent photographing said food, or using real, shareable recipes to tell you about.  But I did recently make this mousse, which was too easy and delicious (if you like Nutella) not to share.

Also, I’m up to 94 posts now (can you believe it??) so I’m pacing myself before the 100th rolls around, since big, exciting changes are in store here at hiddenponies that I can’t wait to share with you all, and we (hint!) want to have things all lined up before the big reveal, and what better occasion than the hundredth post? Keep your eyes peeled :)

For now, calm your suspense and gather the whole 4 ingredients you need to whip up a batch of this light, fluffy mousse!  Carl figures he will never be able to eat Nutella on toast again after enjoying it in mousse texture. I’m not so easily thrown off my breakfast chocolate, but I do think I’ll have to make this again with plain dark chocolate spread since, good as this was, I’m not as much a Nutella fanatic as some people.  And really, dark chocolate mousse can only be an improvement on pretty much anything.

Hazelnut Mousse

1/2 cup hazelnut chocolate spread, such as nutella

2 tbsp water 

1 tbsp butter, softened

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

12 toasted hazelnuts, halved (optional)

Directions:

In heatproof bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate spread with 2 tbsp water until smooth; stir in butter. Keep warm. (I’m lazy and did this step in the microwave and it made no difference).
 
In separate bowl, whip cream; fold one-third into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining cream. Divide among four small serving bowls. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Garnish with hazelnuts if using, or a dollop of whipped cream…or a piece of toast, and call it breakfast!
Recipe barely adapted from Canadian Living.
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