Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter

   Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.  -  C. S. Lewis
Easter is always a time for memories.  For children it is a magical time. Yes, there is the joy of the chocolate, painting the eggs, and easter baskets...but, when I was young, I did really feel that Easter morning would bring something more...perhaps, it would bring us one step closer to finding joy...and maybe finding peace... 
I still think so today. How about you?
Happy Easter!

My daughter and my nieces showing off their easter creations...

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

So, this is the end (of Winter)

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring? - Neltje Blanchan

My little sister has told me there is something called a runner's high.  I have never experienced it.  Never, Ever.  Unless of course, that runner's high is a cramp in the side.  

But I suppose welcoming spring is similar in is like you have crossed that mile...scaled those hills...survived the cold...and made it through the winter....It is like a badge of honour...or a runner's high....

So the temperature for the past few days have climbed slightly above 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).  And even though it doesn't look like spring outside...somehow it feels like spring.  Garden shops are clearing out the snow from their shelves...sounds of birds, back from their southern holidays, are beginning to fill the air again...people are putting on their mud boots (instead of their snow boots)...and my children thinking it is now sweater weather, have put away their winter jackets...and have begun to roll down the windows in the car as we travel...because it is too hot now. Is it?

My car's shadow cast across a white landscape

Springtime does make me smile, too, and yes I can say we made it through another winter.  
(But, don't be too excited for us is suppose to snow again tonight.)

Here is our world today...

Ice crystals...
Little streams...
Icy Puddles...
Frozen Lake...
Slushy snow...
My little son, sans jacket (without jacket)...
Last glimpses of the day...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Triple Chocolate Fat Pants Cake (or just an ordinary day)

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. - Jimmy Johnson

In my attempts to prepare more healthy foods for my family, a friend recommended the cookbook, Babycakes, by Erin McKenna.  It is a Vegan, Gluten-Free and Refined Sugar Free Recipe Book.  I am not Vegan...I do not need to eat a Gluten Free Diet...but...hmmm...these recipes were REALLY GOOD!
As I Flipped through her book...I was caught by one sentence in particular...
"The greatest misconception about cake is that making them requires an event-a birthday, a wedding, a long-awaited divorce.  But I am a firm believer in the idea that a cake is the occasion..."
Erin continues on to say that cakes can be made on any random day...and why not?

I was sold.

So I commenced to make my first Babycakes Cake...

My daughter made the cookie topping...
                                        My son made the icing...
                                                                I made the cake.
(And did turn a random day...into a bit of an adventure..and an occasion.)
(PS...I have links to more cake ideas at the bottom of this post.)

Erin's Babycakes Book was full of wonderful recipes.  It was nice to enjoy a dessert...and to know that it was healthier for us.

Check out Erin's Website:
Babycakes NYC

Triple Chocolate Fat Pants Cake 
(from Babycakes by Erin McKenna)

Directions in three parts:  cake, frosting, cookie topping

Ingredients for the cake:
3/4 cup Garbanzo-Fava Bean Flour
1 cup Brown Rice Flour
1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 cups Evaporated Cane Juice
1/2 cup Potato Starch
1/4 cup Arrowroot
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
2 teaspoons Salt
1 cup Coconut Oil
1 cup Unsweetened Applesauce
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1 cup Hot Water or Hot Coffee
2 cups Vegan Chocolate Chips
Directions for cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Line bottom of three 9 x 3 inch pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with oil
1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, evaporated cane juice, potato starch, arrowroot, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt.
2.  Add coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla, and hot water to the dry ingredients. Stir until smooth.
3.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
4.  Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
5.  Bake cakes on the centre rack for 24 minutes, rotating 180 degrees after 12 minutes.
(finished cakes will be firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the centre will come out clean)
6.  Let cakes stand in the pans for 20 minutes.  Remove from pan and allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Ingredients for frosting:
1 1/2 cups Unsweetened Soy Milk
3/4 cup Dry Soy Milk Powder
1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour
1/4 Agave Nectar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cups Coconut Oil
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
(plus natural food colouring if desired)
Directions for frosting:
1.  In a blender or food processor, combine soy milk, soy powder, coconut flour, agave nectar, and vanilla.  Blend for 2 minutes.
2. With the machine on low speed, slowly add the coconut oil and the lemon juice, until fully incorporated.
3.  Pour the frosting into an airtight container and refrigerate for 6 hours...or up to 1 month.

Ingredients for cookie topping:
1 cup Coconut Oil
6 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 cups Evaporated Cane Juice
2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
1/4 cup Flax Meal
1 1/2 teaspoons Xanthan Gum
1 cup Vegan Chocolate Chips
Directions for cookie topping:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, salt, vanilla, and evaporated cane juice.  In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda, and xanthan gum.
2.  Using a rubber spatula, carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir unitl a grainy dough is formed.
3.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
4.  Using a melon baller or small spoons, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
5.  Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees after 9 minutes.
6.  Let the cookies stand on the sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
7.  Store any unused cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

If you, too, would like to make any day an extra special day with a homemade cake.  Give the babycakes cake a try....


I have provided links below to some more very delicious (sugar-full and not gluten-free) cakes that would be sure to impress as well.
Happy Baking!

Chocolate Malt Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Ruffled Lemon Cake
Strawberry Charlotte
Hungarian Cake
Raspberry Freeze Cake
Cream Puff Dessert
German Chocolate Cake
Red Velvet Cake
Fresh Strawberry Cake

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Just a little Bit of Green

When beauty is seen, it is difficult to tell the dancer from the dance and the glory from the pain. - W.B. Yeats

I am not really Irish...well, perhaps a little bit, I am.  But, there is somthing about Ireland that always makes me smile.  I have gotten travel books...searched through Google Maps the countryside of Ireland...cooked Irish food....and even tried my hand at writing a Limerick in hopes of winning a trip to Ireland.  I have not made it to Ireland...yet.

Maybe my love of Ireland began when I was small...I remember endless days of searching feilds of green clover in hopes of finding the one with four leaves and the luck it would bring (My mom always assured me I one day would ).
Maybe I was drawn to the stories I had been told...
                                                                      or the music...
                                                                           or the people...

But, I like Ireland.  So today I will put on just a little bit of green.  And dream...

Here are some links to some lovely things Irish
Irish Quotes
National Geographic Photos of Ireland
Ireland's Landscapes
Ashford Castle
Irish Castles

And some nice music too...

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Southern Style Soft Pretzels

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. 
-Maria Robinson
Sunset over our surrounding countryside
Across Ontario, children are on March Break.  When mistakenly calling it spring break, my children quickly corrected me.  It is not springtime yet...we still have lots of snow...and lots of ice...and did I mention lots of mud, too.   Even though the outdoors aren't promising warmer days...I decided to celebrate spring anyway...Canadian Style...indoors (to avoid the snow/ice/mud mix outside).  But again and again I found my mind drifting down to my own "March Breaks" in the south when I was younger...hmm...a bit different. 
 Alright, I have mentioned I miss grits....a very delicious southern food with lots of butter and salt.  And of course biscuits....a very delicious southern food with lots of butter and salt.  But there is a little lesser known southern treat that also has called me  from the land of Spanish moss and oak trees...The Pretzel.  You may not think that pretzels are a southern food.  And yes you can buy pretzels almost any where in the world.  But, a southern style pretzel is not like your ordinary has two very important ingredients...butter and salt.  
Because I can not travel to Florida today...I attempted my own version of a perfect southern pretzel.  My little nephew kept watching me...and repeatedly told me how much he hated pretzels.... I explained that he has never had a southern pretzel.  And when the results were pulled from the oven....and the first bite was had....he was all smiles.  I hope that you, too, will give them a try!

Southern Style Soft Pretzels
(adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

pretzel dough:
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour 
1 package active dry yeast ( or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons salt
pretzel topping:
1/3 cup melted butter (or so)
course salt
(also you will need salted boiling water for cooking the bagels in)

1.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast. 

2.  In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, sugar, oil, and the 1 teaspoon of salt till warm (120 -130 degrees F)

3.  Add the milk mixture to the dry mixture.

4.  Beat with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds.  Then beat on high for 3 minutes.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour that you can.
5.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total).  Shape dough into a ball.

6.  Place dough into a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of the dough.  
7.  Cover and let rise in a warm place till double in size (about 1 1/4 hours).

8.  Punch down dough.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Cover and let rest for ten minutes.
9.  Roll out dough into a 12 by 10 inch rectangle.  
In proper southern style (ie fancy dress) my little niece wanted to help me roll the dough
10.  Cut into about 20 strips.  Gently pull and shape each strip into a pretzel shape. See photos below. (My dough was a bit dry...but the end result was still nice)

11.  Carefully place pretzels on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake in a 475 degree oven for 4 minutes.

12.   Remove from oven.  Lower temperature in oven to 350 degrees F.
13.  Prepare your boiling salt water (ie about 2 Tablespoons of salt).  Lower the pretzels into the boiling water, three to four at a time.  Boil for 2 minutes, turning once.
14.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pretzels from the boiling water.  Drain on paper towels.  Let stand a few are still not done...just a few more steps...but it is worth it!!  

15.  Ok...this is the best part.  Place the pretzels back onto your greased baking sheet.  Brush them with melted butter.  Let rest a few seconds... and why stop there...brush again with butter...just like in the south.

16.  Sprinkle each buttered pretzel with coarse salt.  
17.  Bake again at 350 degrees F.  
18.  Immediately remove from baking sheet and let slightly cool on wire racks.