Archive | July, 2011

Good for a chuckle

31 Jul

Best caption ever.

Pinterest, you are addicting – if you aren’t pinning, you should be. ¬†Then you can see things like this anytime you choose…or just don’t get addicted and, instead, stop by here for regular doses ūüôā

Anniversary Gotaway

28 Jul

We just got back yesterday from a fabulous little belated 5th anniversary getaway…now that it’s in the past I’m presuming it’s no longer a getaway, but a gotaway?

A minor technicality.

My parents were kind enough to stay with the kidlets while Carl and I zoomed off to Whistler for a couple nights, and it was blissful. ¬†We spent tons of time walking hand-in-hand (since no one had to push a stroller), didn’t have to cut anyone’s food into itty bits, slept in ’til 10:00 without the slightest feeling of guilt, ate amazing food, watched TV in bed, snacked on gelato and fudge,¬†and even got lots of exercise!¬†

No, no, I’m not talking about¬†that¬†kind of exercise you scallawags…there are some things I don’t share on my blog ūüôā ¬†I mean actual, hiking exercise! And since my camera batteries died rather quickly pictures of the hike are all I have to share with you, although I wish I could show you pictures of delicious mile-high burgers, strawberry chocolate crepes and grilled salmon, not to mention Olympic rings and stunning mountains, but alas.

We originally planned a brief 6 km hike to Cheakamous Lake and back, but after reaching our destination over fairly level ground with neither of us feeling the slightest fatigue (much to my surprise, and, as Carl later admitted, his, as he expected me to tire out rather quickly) we decided to carry on to Singing Creek, making for a beautiful 14km hike over small rolling hills in the middle of the forest. ¬†It was so peaceful and smelled so good, and the weather, in my opinion, couldn’t have been better – cool, crisp air and a light breeze. ¬†My kind of hiking weather, as it means the bugs lay low and you don’t have to drink tons of water, which means you don’t have to take bathroom breaks in the woods. ¬†Ideal all ’round.

We saw the bear on the drive, not the hike…isn’t he sweet looking, grazing in the meadow?

Effusive thanks to my parents who took good care of the kids, as they seem none the worse for wear, but were suitably thrilled to see us when we came home. ¬†It’s always good to be home, but at the same time holidays never seem quite long enough. I’m already looking forward to our 10 year getaway ūüôā

Daddy’s girls vs. Mama’s boys

25 Jul

Why does “Mama’s boy” have such a negative connotation, while “Daddy’s girl” is considered sweet and acceptable?

I think both are sweet and should be encouraged, maybe not for all of life, but certainly for the childhood years. ¬†Kids should be attached to both parents in this way, preferring them over any other adult or peer influence…the time this lasts is all too short as it is, and boys no more than girls should not be expected to start life with an independent, emotionally closed off, self-sufficient approach.

Personally, I would be offended if my baby boy wasn’t a mama’s boy. ¬†Really, I carried him for 9 months, brought him into the world with gritted teeth, fed, bathed, clothed, entertained, and comforted him, and am one of only a handful of people he sees on a regular basis and knows by voice, smell and touch.

He sure as the seasons better love the stuffing out of me.

Let me go to my mama.

I am going to be thankful for and enjoy the snuggles now and¬†hope to be the kind of mother who can accept it and assist him when one day that love and devotion transfers to a new lucky lady. For now I’ll take my cuddles and chuckle inwardly (and outwardly) when he clings to me with a big goofy grin when someone else offers outstretched arms.

Lemon Rhubarb Streusel Scones

22 Jul

Yumyumyum. This was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. ¬†I threw together a variety of recipe ideas/measurements/ oven temperatures with a few ideas of my own based on what was in the fridge and hoped for the best. I should really do that more often if it’s going to work out like this. ¬†Of course, I know it can’t always work out as beautifully as this, so I should really quit while I’m ahead. ¬†Because I feel very, very much ahead after this.

All I knew going in was that I wanted a sweet scone with a streusel topping since I love streusel toppings almost as much as I love my children. ¬†And I had rhubarb in my fridge that needed using. ¬†And on the back of that wildly delicious Raspberry Lemon Cake I couldn’t wait to use some more lemon zest. ¬†

These would be so perfect with tea or coffee, if you’re into that kind of thing, and they make a perfect breakfast, lunch, or snack. ¬†They are low fat and low sugar and still deliciously sweet and soft with a perfect crunch in the topping, which is then further topped with a little icing glaze. ¬†To top all that off, they’re super easy and can be made with whatever fruit you have in the house! ¬†Blueberries or strawberries would be fantastic with the lemon zest, but really, so would cranberries, or raspberries, or even dried fruit! ¬†I love flexible recipes. And I love these scones.

Carl, after being talked into trying one, declared them a “flavour sensation” and considered them worthy of afternoon tea and¬†evening snacking, a category usually reserved for ice cream and chocolate. ¬†These are one of those recipes I’ll be making again as soon as I run out, and possibly before. ¬†While I don’t munch rhubarb stalks like celery the way my mom does, I sure am enjoying experimenting with it this summer and can’t wait ’til Sunday now that I know even more fresh rhubarb is finding it’s way into my church mailbox – you know who you are, lovely rhubarb gifter, and you are awesome!! ¬†Maybe some scones will have to find their way into your mailbox ūüėČ

Lemon Rhubarb Streusel Scones

Scones:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or all purpose)

4 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold butter or margarine, cubed

1 cup chopped rhubarb

1 tsp lemon zest

1 cup (250 mL) low-fat sour cream

1 beaten egg yolk

Streusel:

1/4 cup quick cooking oats

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted

1 Tbsp all purpose flour

Glaze:

1/2 cup icing sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla

2 tsp milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

For scones, in large mixing bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter (with pastry blender or your hands) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Toss rhubarb and lemon zest with flour mixture.

Whisk together egg yolk and sour cream, make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add sour cream and egg all at once. ¬†Stir with a fork until combined (dough may seem dry). ¬†Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently about 10 times, until fairly smooth. ¬†Pat dough into a 9″ circle and transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

For streusel, combine all ingredients.  Gently pat streusel into surface of dough and cut circle into 12 wedges.  Do not separate the wedges.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through and topping is lightly browned and crisp.

For glaze, combine all ingredients and drizzle over scones.

Unbaked scones (above): score into wedges but do not separate.  After baking (below), let scones cool slightly before drizzling with glaze and cutting into wedges.

Store scones in airtight container for 2-3 days at room temperature or in the fridge.  For best storage, freeze scones and reheat individually for 30 seconds for a fresh-tasting treat anytime.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Scone recipe adapted mainly from Canadian Living, streusel recipe from an old Cooking Light magazine.

I like morning people

21 Jul

I feel like there is a lot of disdain for people brave enough to announce they are a “morning person”. ¬†People sigh, roll their eyes and inform such people they’re crazy, then whisper behind their backs about how annoyingly perky these morning people are first thing in the morning while coworkers or spouses are still nursing coffees and fighting contact lenses into gluey eyes. ¬†This can be seen in the sheer number of cartoons/expressions about being a morning person.

Why don’t we have this same reaction when people announce “I’m a night owl”? Somehow no one holds any bitterness towards these people, who are most productive at night and stay up ’til all hours, eliminating any possibility of becoming a “morning person”.

Really, the whole term “morning person” is kind of ridiculous – we’re all designed to need sleep and to get up in the morning, so really, we’re all “morning people”, whether we like it or not. ¬†Not “doing” mornings really isn’t an option, folks.

I think these disdainful night people just secretly wish they were morning people.  Morning people seem to genuinely look forward to a new day or week and are happy to see people and ready to interact the moment they make contact.  These people seem to have a jump on the day ahead, have better hair days, more coordinated clothes, dinner in the slow cooker before they leave for work, and fresh breath, all things non-morning people wish they had.

I don’t hate morning people. ¬†Maybe because some days I am that morning person, who is just thankful to be alive and healthy, enjoying the fresh morning air that not too many people are breathing yet. I love that feeling. ¬†Other days I am definitely that night person, grumbling jealously about morning people but also gloating in my late-night productivity and taking gloomy pride in the bags under my eyes. ¬†But if I could choose one, I would definitely opt to be a morning person every single day.

Maybe having kids causes you to look at it differently – kids are the most enthusiastic “morning people” you will ever meet, and they can also be pretty determined night owls. ¬†If you have a baby and a toddler, you know exactly what I mean – a fresh little face with wide eyes stares you awake, wanting you to play at 6 a.m., oblivious to the fact that another fresh little face wanted to eat at 3 a.m. and play at 4:30 a.m. ¬†Time to become a morning person and a night person, and fast, if you want to survive.

I like morning people and night people. ¬†The ones I can’t stand are “midday people”. ¬†Really? ¬†Who has energy at midday? ¬†I would happily sleep through the 12:30-2:30 portion of every day, regrouping from my morning person enthusiasm and winding up for some serious night owl productivity. ¬†Siestas really are the way to go. ¬†If you’re going to sneer at anybody, leave the morning people alone and save it for the midday people – then again, maybe that has to do with having kids who nap at midday…

Either way, morning people are good people.  Let them brighten your day!

Raspberry Lemon Layer Cake

19 Jul

Raspberry and lemon has to be one of the best combinations out there, and this cake is no exception.  

Every now and then I see something or think of something ¬†that I just know will be perfect and delicious and exactly what I feel like eating when the moment arrives to eat it. ¬†This was definitely one of those times and this cake is firmly filed under “make again, and make often“. ¬†I highly recommend giving it a try while all those gorgeous fresh raspberries are still around! ¬†I only wish I had gotten a better picture of the whole cake, but it was raining and dark when it was done and I couldn’t wait to cut into it – my guests may have mutinied, and mutinous parents are bad news for bloggers.¬†

And, which is unlike me and is taking great restraint for my rambly nature, we’re going straight to the recipe, because this cake is really so good I don’t want to distract you with anything else that might slow your immediate run to your kitchen or grocery list to get this cake into production.

Raspberry Lemon Layer Cake

CAKE:

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp each vanilla and coconut extract (almond extract would also be delicious if you don’t have coconut)

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk 

FROSTING:

2 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup icing sugar

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 tsp vanilla OR coconut extract (use coconut if garnishing with coconut, otherwise stick with vanilla)

GARNISH:

Lots of fresh raspberries! I used about 2 pints.

Optional: additional lemon zest and/or plain sweetened shredded coconut or lightly toasted coconut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut a circle out of parchment paper to line the bottom of an 8″ or 9″ round cake pan. ¬†Lightly grease pan, set parchment paper in bottom and set aside.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, extracts and lemon zest and mix well. Alternate mixing in flour and milk, making two additions of each.  Beat until smooth, then pour into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan, then let cool completely on rack before frosting.

For frosting, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Slowly add whipping cream while mixing and mix well to eliminate lumps. Add all remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.  When smooth, turn mixer to high and whip for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy and light, like a thick whipped cream.  

Slice cake horizontally in half and spread half the frosting on the bottom layer (I’m terrible at cutting things horizontally anywhere near the center, as you can see in the picture. I’ve pretty much given up buying unsliced bagels for the same reason.) ¬†Set top layer on bottom and cover with remaining frosting, making it heavier in the center as the raspberries will push it further to the edge. ¬†Top frosting with a pile of fresh raspberries, and garnish with additional lemon zest and/or coconut, if desired.

Yum, yum, yum. ¬†Moist, fresh cake, tart, sweet frosting and one of nature’s miracles:¬†razzzzzberries. ¬†Downright zingy.

Recipe adapted from Lauren’s Latest, where you can also find fabulous pictures and a beautiful story!

Milestones

18 Jul

About a week ago K-fer reached what is, in my mind, a pretty big milestone. ¬†I know crawling, walking and talking are some of the biggest, but I’d say this ranks in the top 5 along with those. ¬†He mastered fork skills! ¬†I’m a proud mama, and he’s a proud, adorable boy.

Now, I know the big trend these days is to let babies feed themselves, so they can experience texture and improve their motor skills and be more willing to eat different foods and blabbity blah blah. ¬†And I also know I have many negative personality traits that could use some work, and one of those is saying “blabbity blah blah” about things people do that I don’t agree with – I’ve been told it’s a little bit less than nice. ¬†I’m sorry. ¬†That area clearly needs a bit more work, and I really will try. ¬†And I truly don’t judge you if you do it, I am just secure in the fact that it is not for me.

One of my traits that may be seen as negative that may or may not be related to my baby-feeding methods is my slight (maybe more-than-slight) tendency to OCD. ¬†I like piles straight, I like my kids’ toys put away exactly as they arrived from the store, lined up in their dishrack or stacked from biggest to smallest, I like symmetrical lamps, and yes, I like my kids’ meals to land up at least 90% in their mouths.

Really, I’m pretty sure this trait is the only thing that keeps me cleaning bathrooms and washing dishes, so I won’t be trying to improve that area anytime soon.

This is why it’s a good thing I’m married.

I tend to think a child probably shouldn’t be allowed to feed themselves until around age 2, when motor skills are reasonably developed and they also have the mental capacity to understand where food belongs and that trouble will ensure if food starts making appearances on the wall across the table.

Carl, thankfully, gives kids a little more credit. ¬†While I was happy to continue inserting food into K-fer’s compliant 10-month-old mouth, Carl quickly grew bored with this tedium and, while I wasn’t watching, showed the little guy how to use a fork! ¬†What a good man.

In other news, over the past couple days both at home and in my sister’s kitchen with the help of my beautiful sister and mother, I’ve made 7 new recipes I can’t wait to share with you! ¬†Once I emerge, hopefully unscathed, from the resulting pile of dishes and scribbled recipe notes, there’ll be a bunch of goodness coming your way ūüôā

Happy Monday!

Saturday Sweets: Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

16 Jul

Granola bars that aren’t really all that healthy are one of my favourite things. ¬†In highschool I ate so many chocolate-covered granola bars that I started having a Pavlovian-type response to the end-of-day bell; it rang, I craved a chocolate granola bar. There is something so wonderfully sneaky about those chocolate-covered granola bars: because you know there are oats in there, you can completely avoid the guilt that comes with chowing down on a regular old chocolate bar.

This homemade version is kind of like that – it has a lot of healthy stuff involved, but also a fair share of unhealthy ingredients. ¬†Good thing all the healthy things remove any potential guilt, not to mention the fact that homemade is BOUND to be healthier because you aren’t using chemicals (right?).

Pop quiz: What is gooey and chewy and deliciously salty-sweet and still totally healthy?

Answer: Nothing.

I know, some of you were thinking fresh caramel corn, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just because it is popcorn based and popcorn is low-fat, caramel corn is not healthy.

But these granola bars are DEFINITELY worth making, totally healthy or not! ¬†They are not the kind of granola bar you want to take hiking, because their chewy gooey-ness makes them slightly fall-apart-y. ¬†Clearly this is a post full of my best vocabulary. ¬†It’s hard to find words to properly describe the sweet, salty, chewy, oat-y goodness of these bars – I suppose that’s why I never made it as a food critic.

I’ve made these with any number of ingredient combinations depending what’s around, and they always turn out delicious, so feel free to throw in your favourite dried fruit, nuts and seeds to up the health factor even more, but don’t skip that corn syrup even if it is the devil in liquid sugar disguise. ¬†It is yuummmmmmmy, and makes everything stick together, and since we all know cooked honey is more than kinda awful, don’t even think about substituting it – if you’re using honey, make a different recipe ūüėČ

If you need them gluten free, just make sure you have gluten-free oats and don’t throw in the wheat germ. ¬†Obv ūüôā

Chewy Gooey Peanut Butter Granola Bars

1 cup brown sugar, packed

‚ÖĒ cup peanut butter

¬Ĺ cup corn syrup

¬Ĺ cup butter or margarine, melted

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups quick cooking oats

‚Öď cup wheat germ or ground flax seed

Options (Use all, some or none):

2 tbsp sesame seeds or sunflower seeds

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 cup chocolate chips

¬Ĺ cup raisins or dried cranberries

¬Ĺ cup coconut

¬Ĺ cup chopped nuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, corn syrup, butter and vanilla.¬† Stir in oats and wheat germ.¬† Fold in any other options you have chosen.¬† Press evenly into lightly greased 9×13‚ÄĚ pan.¬† Bake for 18-20 minutes or until light brown, but still gooey-chewy looking.¬† Cool completely before cutting into bars or squares.

A day at the beach

14 Jul

I love White Rock, even if it is named after a giant, imported, painted rock.  I am a fan of kitsch.

Since it’s not the shortest jaunt from our house we don’t make the trip too often, so I take any opportunity/excuse to go there, which just so happened to happen twice in one week! ¬†Hooray for visitors from Ottawa ūüôā ¬†Even if my favourite ice cream/cookie sandwiches were nowhere to be found and the shop employees didn’t even seem to CARE. ¬†For shame.

Gemma was pretty uncertain at first about the whole seaweedy sand and encroaching water thing, so she alternated between holding on for dear life and running away, amidst screechy squeals.

But she warmed up quickly at the sight of a couple purple shells.

The men really love posing for pictures.

We had some lovely company, who should really visit at least monthly.  If not more.

I never get tired of being near the ocean, and I never cease to be amazed at how quickly the tide comes in once it gets going.  God is certainly great.

When life gives you lemons, make Lemon Bars

13 Jul

I thought we could all use a bit of a break from peanut butter, and the freshness of lemon is the perfect antidote to an overdose of rich, peanut butter chocolate treats.

But, I made some peanut butter granola bars today that will be making an appearance soon…and I have enough of that never-ending tub of expiring peanut butter for at least another recipe or two, so we’re not out of the woods yet.

For now, let’s focus on lemon freshness, and not the cleaning kind – I think my cleaning prowess was called into question today when I had this conversation with my 3-year-old:

Me: Time to clean up the toys.

G: Whhhyyyyyyy?

Me: I have to vacuum.

G: Who’s coming over?

Hmmm. 

I’d rather make my house smell like lemons in other ways.

Lemon bar ways.

Don’t make these unless you have fresh lemons – when you use 1/2 a cup of lemon juice, you will definitely notice if the lemon juice is not up to par.

So get fresh lemons (about 4) and make these. They’re a perfect combination of shortbread-y crust in equal amount with tart, creamy lemon. Perfect with tea, if you’re into that kind of thing. My mom is, and it’s her recipe, so I should mention the tea. ¬†And thanks for letting me scam your recipes Mom, even if they do have pretty boring names ūüôā

LEMON BARS

Crust:                                                                                                           

1 cup flour                                                                                                      

1/4 cup sugar                                                                                               

1/2 cup butter or margarine                                                                   

Topping:                                                                                                                    

1 cup sugar   

3 Tbsp flour

3 eggs

1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (1 lemon)                            

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For crust, combine flour and sugar, then cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. ¬†Press mixture into lightly greased 8″ square baking dish. ¬†Bake for 15-20 minutes, until very light golden.

For topping, whisk sugar, flour, eggs and lemon zest in a small bowl just until smooth.  Pour over warm crust.  Bake 25-30 minutes longer, or until set.  Cool completely in pan on rack before cutting into bars.  

These taste delicious room temperature or chilled…if your kitchen is as warm as mine, I’d recommend keeping them in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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