Thursday, April 29, 2010

Australian Engagement

A friend of mine has a colleague who is taking a leave of absence to travel to Australia to get married! They wanted to have a party for her at the office, to have a wedding shower/farewell party. They requested a quirky kangaroo with the saying "Hoppy Travels" or "Hoppy Engagement." When Mike and I traveled to Australia a few years ago, we fell in love with the Aboriginal dot art. We toured many galleries looking at their work and were able to watch a few woman create this dot art while we were at the visitor centre at Ayres Rock. I found an dot art painting online that depicts kangaroo tracks, and thought it would be the perfect background for the quirky kangaroo. I tried to take a photo of each stage, not the best quality of photo, but it gets the idea across. They loved the cake, had enough for the next day, and successfully surprised and amazed their friend :-)

I had a lot of fun with this cake!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Favourite Sammich

I was out and about getting neccesities this morning, and needed something quick and delicious to send with Mike to work for his lunch. We haven't had 'favourite sammich' in a long time, and the prep is so minimal, I thought this was the perfect choice. Here's what you need:

- foccacia bread (Safeway carries a yummy one that is quite cheap)
- tomato
- hummus
- medium gouda cheese (always delicious from Parthenon)
- sprinkle of salt & pepper

Cut the foccacia into quarters, then cut each quater in half (you can eat the sammich with bread on top and bottom, but it is even better created as an open faced sammich). Spread a nice dollop of hummus on the foccacia, then layer cheese and then tomato on top. Sprinkle some salt on top, maybe some pepper and ENJOY! We ate these sammiches for dinner too and I didn't think to photograph them at the time. I will for sure next time we have it (which will most likely be next week as I am re-hooked on it!).

Maplewood Farm

We ventured out to Maplewood Farm on Sunday morning, thanks to my friend Jessica for loaning us a car. We had heard amazing things about this farm, but the weather was a little grey so we weren't sure how it would go. We dressed for the weather and 5 minutes after we arrived, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. This farm is amazing. It is nestled into a residential neighbourhood, is cute, and is full of amazing animals. Zack & Maggie's favourite site were the baby lambs.

The twin black lambs were born on Saturday and the single baby lamb was born just a few hours before we arrived on Sunday! They asked to go see these baby lambs four times! Let's see, what other animals were there: cows, horses, goats (little ones, pigmy perhaps?), guinea pigs, peacocks, ducks, chickens (running around on their own), bunnies, cockatoos, budgees, turkeys, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

We only have Jessica's car for a couple more days...Maplewood Farm is accessible by transit, and now that we know how amazing it is, we will definitely be back.

Busy week up ahead - a kangaroo cake for a woman who is off to Australia to get married, Dr.Seuss cookies for a Birthday party for twin boys, and I just finished helping my friend Jessica bake and ice 2 dozen cakies for her coworker's birthday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A beautiful day...

I captured some images from our walk to the park this afternoon...what a gorgeous day! I was up late last night finishing a baby shower cake and cookies, and put the finishing touches on the cookies during nap time, which meant that our adventure to the park was relaxing for everyone (yeah!). The kiddies all had a blast at the park, scooping up rocks, sliding down the slides (both Kira and Maggie can go down the big slide all by themselves!), eating snacks, and watching out for Robins - our newest bird in their quickly growing list of known animals.

The cake was for a friend of a friend who just had a baby girl named "Ava." I hope they liked the cake and cookies. It was the first tiered cake I've ever made. It was also the first time I've attempted the 'cornelli lace' style of decoration.

I don't think I executed it very well, but I was happy with the end result...very fancy, exactly what a little girl deserves. The cookie favours were fun to make and I'm so happy I decided to add the white on top of the pink as it really made the details 'pop.' I was able to find some cute ribbon at a local hobby store, which made the cookie favour bags a little more special for event.

Hope you all enjoyed your Friday too!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kitchen sink salad

I love salad! We had the best salad the other night, and I thought I should share with everyone what it entailed, in case you were craving a delicious salad but needed some inspiration:

avocado, sliced & diced
strawberries, sliced
small can of mandarin orange segments, drained
feta (we used the "greek barrel sheeps feta" from Parthenon)
candied walnuts (made up ahead of time - thank you Vicki!)
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds
raspberry vinegrette (we used "raspberry & black pepper vinaigrette" by Okanagan Wineland Dressings)

Sometimes we add apples too. What I've learned is that it is practically impossible to make a bad salad. Just keep adding things you enjoy and almost every time it will be amazing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Whirlwind weekend!

Where to start?? I had 2 cakes, 40 cupcakes, 13 cookie favour bags, a babysitting gig, a Twins Club meeting, and a birthday party to do this weekend! Somehow I managed to get it all done, with a lot of help from Mike.

Let's start with the cookie favour bags. These consisted of 2 sugar cookies/bag, one #2 and then either a chick or a bunny. They were put into clear bags and wrapped up with yellow ribbon. Making these types of sugar cookies is at least a 2 day process because the icing has to dry in between steps.

The cupcakes were chocolate with vanilla buttercream and oodles of colourful sprinkles on top. These were super yummy and I baked a few extra to enjoy throughout the day (I have to seriously cut back on the amount of sugar I am ingesting these days!).

The first cake I made was a sugar-free cake, made for a friend from the Twins Club. It was for her mother-in-law, who is diabetic. Being the sugar fiend that I am, this sugar free cake was not the best item I've ever eaten, but it wasn't bad. It was pretty, and the icing, although a little chunky (pudding chunks) tasted pretty good. I was able to tint some of the icing to make it look pretty. I feel as though the end result was a little child-like, for an 84 year old's birthday cake, but it was cute. Feedback from the client - cake was a big hit, demolished and they are going to send me some photos of the cake being enjoyed by all.

The second cake I made was to go with the cupcakes and cookie favours. It was for a friend's son's second birthday, "other Zach" as Maggie put it today. His Mom dropped off a party plate a week or so ago with their theme, kind of a jungle theme with a lion, giraffe, monkey, zebra, lizard, and snake.

We talked about what animals would be preferred on the cake, but this was before I had tested the new edible ink printer. I was able to take a photo of the party plate and print it onto icing paper...then ice on top of the image to make it really 'pop.' Mike helped me figure out how to border the cake, as we didn't want to use the normal star tip...this cake needed something different. Mike wondered if I could make leaves fall over the side of the cake, to bring the jungle theme in completely. I could and I did, although I might look into purchasing a larger leaf tip sometime in the future. I was really happy with how it turned out, and I think that Zach's family was pleased as well. The Birthday party (we were invited to "other Zach's" party) was awesome. Anna, from Music Together Phoenix Song, ran a jam session and Maggie & Zack loved it. Then we sang Happy Birthday, ate cake, and a million other delicious goodies that Angie had prepared...such great ideas for toddler food - crackers, cheese, fruit, ants on a log, meatballs, veggies & dip, bread & dip...we all ate our fill. Thank you Zach & Angie for inviting us to the party!

I just helped set up for Twins Club and baked mini scones for everyone to enjoy with their coffee. The birthday party was at the same time as the meeting so I had some help from the other volunteers with cleanup and running the meeting - what a great team. We have two more meetings until our summer break. I love being a part of this group and getting to see all the new little babies, as well as how fast everyone else is growing up.

Hmmm, did I cover it all here? Oh yeah, babysitting. I got to play and snuggle with a little tiny named Emma. She was a good girl and I was able to check out a few magazines and watch some tv while she slept - a good deal for everyone involved.

The Long gang ventured down to Granville Island at night tonight, we went down after our afternoon nap as our regularly scheduled G.Island adventure was postponed because of the birthday party. It was neat to go there in the afternoon and we had a lot more time to walk around after our meal...something we cannot normally do because we have to get home for nap. We checked out the houseboats, saw a man paddling on a surfboard, ran up and down a huge grassy hill, threw pinecones in the water (a big hit), and played at the park.

Hope you all had as great a weekend as we did! Love to you all

Friday, April 9, 2010

Scrumptious Pasta

Jessica came over last night to visit, play with babies, and eat dinner. Always such a nice visit with her. I made Giada De Laurentiis' Roman-Style Fettuccine with Chicken. It is Mike's new favourite dinner - we've eaten it about 5 times in the past 3 weeks! It doesn't take that long to make, and makes a big batch so you can have leftovers (and they are just as good as day 1!). It was a bit silly to make this dinner last night b/c we have so many leftovers in the fridge, but I had the prosciutto and the other remaining ingredients, and didn't want Jess to eat pizza leftovers. I'm SO glad I did make it, because I just ate some for lunch and it was tasty. I've tweaked the recipe some, to make just enough for the 4 of us with a few leftovers...and I omitted the capers. I follow the directions and timings exactly and it has turned out great every time. Let me know if you make this and what you think.

Roman-Style Fettuccine with Chicken - Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt & pepper
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced (thinly)
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced (thinly)
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped (it is ok if you have more or less than 3 oz)
2 small garlic cloves, use garlic press
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup dry white wine (or a bit more, or less...)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds fettucine (or similar noodles, whatever you like really)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skilled over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt & pepper. Cook the chicken until brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from teh pan and set aside.

2. Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the bell peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juice, wine, thyme, and oregano. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the broth, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, ~30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

4. REmove the chicken and let it cool slightly on a cutting board. Using two forks, gently shred the chicken (Mike swears that this step makes the chicken better!) Return the chicken to the pan. Stir in the parsley

5. To serve, spoon the pasta into serving dishes and top with the chicken mixture.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cakies in an ice cream cone

I've read about them, seen pictures of them, but never attempted to make my own - cakies in an ice cream cone! I had some leftover chocolate cake mix today so when I was at the grocery store, I bought some flat bottomed ice cream cones. I just put everyone down for their nap so I am going to see if these will turn out. I also have some left over icing so hopefully they bake up nice and easily, and then I can ice them to resemble an ice cream cone.
**Well, besides the fact that I overfilled them, I think they turned out great! I sampled one, (with a tad too much icing!) and they are yummy. I think they would be a huge hit at a birthday party...messy, but a big hit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mike's Birthday dinner

So, Mike has been requesting butter tarts for at least 6 months. I don't know why I had such an aversion to trying to make these, I know you can buy the shells and easily make the filling...but I guess part of me wanted to do it right, from scratch, and have them look rustic and delicious. It scared me. Today was his birthday though, so I thought I would give it a go. I used a recipe I found online which was adapted from the "Best of Bridge" ladies. I didn't have a round cutter as large as directed and thought it wouldn't matter. Turns out it does, in that I made little tiny butter tarts, instead of deep thick butter tarts. I tried 3 different mix-ins - raisins, walnuts (from the Okanagan, Vicki's parents have a tree!), and skor bits. Although they were squat and tiny, they tasted good and I think I have learned enough to make the next batch much better. We put candles on his butter tarts so he could make a wish and he was so pleased with the treat :-)
We also had pizza for dinner, using the new pizza dough recipe from the cookbook "Earth to Table." It has a touch of honey in the dough and is really amazing. When paired with using a stone, the pizza has a crunchy crust and yet is still good. I made 2 batches of dough so we could eat leftovers tomorrow. Zack LOVES pizza and Maggie loves pepperoni, so I think they will be pleased during lunch tomorrow. Happy Birthday to my Love.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Asparagus and shrimp risotto

For Christmas, both Mike and Steve got Vicki and I a cooking class. We were both excited about this and intrigued by their choice - spanish food. It was a participation class (kind of) and we were given the recipes to keep at the end. Vicki and I recreated the entire cooking class for our friends after Christmas, and everyone enjoyed our spanish flair. Since then, I have made the asparagus risotto 3 more times, once with the shrimp, and twice without. It is nice either way. I made it tonight, and enjoyed it with my friend Veronica while our children played. I increased the amount of cheese and ended up with a batch that was super creamy, and super delicious.
The recipe the chef gave us was not the recipe he used while cooking. I frantically took notes during the class, and here is the end result. Enjoy! Risotto is not hard to make, restaurants lead you to believe that it is a difficult item to create. It is a tad hard on the arm, with all that stirring, but super worth it.

Asparagus and shrimp risotto

1/2 pound asparagus, washed, peeled and chopped to 1/4" pieces

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tbsp chopped italian parsley

1 tbsp veg. oil

10-12 large shrimp

4 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cups risotto rice (arborio)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 glass white wine

-- Simmer stock over medium heat

-- In a heavy bottom saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add vegetable oil and chopped onions and cook over medium heat. Cook until light blond in colour. Add rice and mix until clumpy. Add white wine and stir. Ladle boiling stock to cover rice mixture. Stir. Add chopped asparagus. Stir constantly for 20 minutes, ladeling more stock onto rice mixture as it evaporates. Add shrimp in the last 4 minutes.

-- When risotto is done, turn off the heat; add 2 tbsp butter, chopped parsley and parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Turkey

We are cooking up a storm today. We ordered a fresh, free range turkey to cook for our friends Veronica, Kilian and Kevin. Paired with the turkey are cheddar dill scones, fluffy mashed potatoes, lemony brussel sprouts, homemade stuffing and of course, gravy! For dessert Veronica is making a bavarian apple treat...I can't wait. I love it when the house is filled with wonderful smells.

The turkey cooked much quicker than expected - 2 hours! I had to text my friend Vicki to verify this as she is a master at cooking turkey. The thermometre doesn't lie so I crossed my fingers that it would be moist and delicious. (We have since decided that our oven must be hotter than normal). Everything was amazing and I also snuck in a family dinner favourite, orange jello with pineapple chunks...a weird addition to a meal, but always scrumptous.

The bavarian apple treat was AMAZING...large slices of fuji apple dipped in a beer batter, then fried in oil. It was served with ice cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar....we went crazy for these (and so did the babies) and ate at least 4 each. We have decided that this will be the new traditional dessert for turkey dinners - straight up apple pie will never cut it.

I can't believe that I didn't photo-document any of the meal so you will all have to trust that it was beautiful, and delicious.