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Cookbook Challenge #1 – Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men

September 23, 2014

I adore cookbooks. The pictures are enticing, the text is poetic and the possibilities are endless. I’ve built a nice collection over the years of books both new and old. But I have so many books that I’ve never actually used!
In an effort to do more things for me, I’m challenging myself to choose one of my cookbooks each week, make something from it and blog about it.
My rules:
1. Use ingredients I have on hand if possible
2. Must be cow-dairy free or able to be substituted with a non-cow dairy product.
If I was really on the ball I would set up one of those link lists and ask you all to join me, but let’s just take what we can get for now, ok?

The first cookbook I chose is one I bought on our first wedding anniversary trip to Niagara-On-The-Lake, at the Peller Estates Winery. The recipes in this book are amazing, the kind you would find in an upscale restaurant. It’s called Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men by chefs Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons.

I ended up choosing elements from two dishes to create a yummy lunch. I was initially drawn to the Puréed Squash and Apple Soup because I bought a butternut squash at the store recently and the temperatures have been very fall-like, so a soup sounded warm and cozy. Then, a few pages down, I discovered the Baby Spinach, Spiced Pecans and Crunchy Mustard Dressing salad and was intrigued. I love nuts in salads! Unfortunately this one would have required a trip to the store. I was sad about not making this salad right away until I came up with an ingenious plan. The garnishes suggested for the soup were sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds. I can’t have sour cream right now and didn’t have pumpkin seeds on hand. I did however have goat cheese in the fridge and some pecans in the pantry. I could make the candied pecans from the salad recipe and garnish the soup with those and some goat cheese. Goat cheese and pecans are a lovely combo and would work well with the squash in the soup.

Sold!

A few adjustments were made to both recipes. The original soup recipe called for a specific kind of apple but I only had Gala on hand so I used that. I was also a bit lax on measurements, using half a butternut squash, one apple and one onion rather than measuring one cup of each. I also substituted olive oil for the butter, since I’m dairy free. For the pecans, I only had pecan pieces on hand as opposed to whole nuts, so I used those, and since I was hoping Molly would enjoy them, I omitted the cayenne pepper. I also didn’t have pumpkin pie spice mix, so I made my own using cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Spiced Candied Pecans
Adapted from Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men

For the Soup:
1/2 butternut squash, chopped
1 apple, chopped (I used Gala)
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable stock

Mix the squash, apple and onion in a bowl. Add enough olive oil to coat the mixture, then add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Spread over a baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes or until very soft.

Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add cooked squash mixture. Using an immersion blender, standing blender or food processor, purée the stock and squash mixture until smooth. Season to taste and garnish with goat cheese (or sour cream if you’re able to have dairy) and candied pecans (see below)!

Candied pecans:
1/2 cup pecan pieces
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine honey and spices. Add pecans and stir to coat. Spread mixture over baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 min at 350 degrees F.
Allow to cool, then break apart as necessary.

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Five Years!

September 19, 2014

My blog is five years old! I can’t believe it’s been that long and I can’t believe what’s happened in that span of time. When I started blogging here I had just gone through a difficult break up. That was followed by 18 months of dating hoopla. Lots of first dates, a few that were a tad more than that but nothing significant. And then one snowy January, I met A and life forever changed. We blossomed quickly and by the time our one year anniversary rolled around we were about to be married and were expecting our first child. Flash forward to today and we’ve been happily married for 2.5 years and have completed our family with the arrival of our second baby.
Some of you have been around since the beginning and some of you are newer to this space. Regardless, I’m thankful for you all. Writing here helped me grow and develop beyond expectation and it was knowing that you were all reading that gave me the gumption to keep going sometimes. Thank you!

Happy blogiversary to me!

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Ramblings

September 17, 2014

Greetings friends! I know it’s been awhile since I last checked in. A lot is happening…where to start?

On Molly…

We are a full month and more into miss Molly turning two and boy oh boy are we ever feeling it! Within seconds she can go from being adorable and sweet to throwing a ‘toss herself down on the floor’ tantrum because we won’t let her do something that could cause bodily harm. She’s testing us from all angles. Sometimes we pass and sometimes we fail. I guess that’s parenting!
Tantrums aside though, she’s amazing. Despite the frustration of her behaviour sometimes, we’re exceedingly proud to call her our daughter.

On Oliver…

Our little mister is getting bigger every day! He’ll be six months in a few days. We haven’t had his 6 month check up yet, so I don’t have any stats but he’s currently wearing 12 month size sleepers and tops and 9 month size pants. He’s interested in everything he can get his hands on, enough that he’s developed some crawling moves that are part commando and part inch worm. It’s slow going but any day now I expect him to figure it out and really start moving!
We started him on solids this week, following the baby led weaning principles that we did for Molly. I had intended to start with avocado, as we did with her, but in a state of frustration the other day when he wouldn’t let me put him down at dinner (I think meal interruption bothers me more than lack of sleep), we gave him banana. We’ve since moved onto squash. So far so good!

On Me…

I’ve been sick. Like ‘101 degree F fever for five days’ kind of sick. No other real symptoms other than aches and chills and almost passing out at the bank (that was fun), so the doctor diagnosed it as a virus. Molly and Oliver both had milder versions of it over the past week. Of course being the mom and not being able to rest like I should, mine was worse and lasted longer. I’ve never been the type to push through when I’m sick, generally giving in to the malaise and letting my body recover as it’s supposed to, so it’s especially hard for me to be sick with kids and still be on the go.
But I’m on the mend now and feeling great! Part of that too is that I hit my pre-pregnant with Oliver weight! Yahoo! And I’m only 7 lb away from my pre-Molly weight, so I’m feeling happy.
I’m hoping to get a lot of walking in until the weather turns. That’s should be relatively easy because….

On Our Car Situation…

A’s beloved 2000 Honda Accord passed last week. At 14 years old, it was on it’s last legs and we knew it wouldn’t be long until the cost to keep it running would be too much but we didn’t quite expect it so soon. With A just starting his new job, we’re not going to over extend ourselves with a new car loan or add to our line of credit, so for now a single car family we will be! My Nissan Sentra is only 5 years old and in good shape. I can drive him to work when necessary and I’m lucky that my mom is retired and lives very close by. We can use her truck whenever we need to or tag along with her to run errands. And when the weather is nice, there’s a grocery store, drug store, heck, even a liquor store, only a 15 minute walk away! In a few months we might consider buying or leasing something else, but I’m curious to see how we can manage with just one. It would certainly make a difference as far as saving money!

On The Change…

I suppose the biggest change right now is that A started his new job on Monday. He seems to be enjoying himself as he gets the lay of the land. There are actually several people from his previous employer working there now (they transitioned before him), so he already knows people! That’s a huge comfort when starting somewhere new.
I will admit I’ve been apprehensive over the past couple of weeks knowing I would be taking care of the kids solo now during the weekdays. I’ve treasured having A’s help over the past six months and really relied on him to get through the days. Even with the two of is it was a challenge. How would I do it on my own? I was especially concerned when I got sick last Thursday. As I mentioned, I’m not a good sick person.
It’s only been a few days but so far it’s been not terrible! I’ve had my moments, particularly when trying to get the baby down for a nap with Molly underfoot (why do they make so much noise??), but nothing a little Bubble Guppies couldn’t fix! Almost as if they wanted to ease me into my new role, they napped at the same time for a couple of hours the first two days!

On a New Blog Challenge…

I’m creating a new blog challenge for myself I’m hoping to reveal in a few days, if not sooner assuming I can pull myself together. I really want to get back to blogging more. It’s truly a part of who I am and I miss it terribly. Stay tuned and thanks for being patient :-)

And that’s all for now folks. Have a great weekend!

Great News!

September 4, 2014

I have fantastic news to share! My darling hubby has landed himself a brand new job! It’s been a challenging search over the past 8 months but it was worth the wait. It’s with a fantastic company and the position very much suits him. There’s loads of potential for advancement as well, so that’s a huge plus. I’m so happy and proud of him!
He starts on the 15th. This means a lot of change is coming my way. I’ve gotten quite used to having him around, not just for help with the kids but for adult companionship. I know not everyone would be able to spend as much time with their spouse as we have, but I’ve quite enjoyed it. That being said, I look forward to missing him, if that makes any sense. And to having stuff to talk about at the end of the day.
And so I’m in planning mode, thinking about how various things will work with a 2 year old and an almost 6 month old. We will find our groove, I have no doubt.
Exciting times are afoot!

Homemade Cheese Crackers

September 3, 2014
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Cheesy goodness, all 8 oz of it!

Molly is very much into crackers right now, particularly those lovely fish-shaped treats that come in a variety of flavours. While buying them isn’t a huge deal for me (I’m all about quick and easy right now), I came across a recipe a while back for a homemade version on the Tasty Kitchen website that looked like a lot of fun to make with my daughter. I’m not going to lie: given that I’m dairy free right at the moment, this was slightly torturous for me. Just look at all that cheesy goodness I couldn’t eat! I do confess though to tasting the finished product (what if they were bad? I can’t feed my child bad snacks) and are they ever delicious!! I particularly love the flavour of the old cheddar I used and knowing that there are only five ingredients makes me happy :-)

Molly and I got to work (she stood on her ‘stoo’) and mixed everything in the food processor. Her favourite part was pressing the start button.

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Once the dough was in the fridge setting, as per the instructions, Molly kind of lost interest. It was up to me to finish up, so when it was ready I rolled out the dough and used my adorable new mini cookie cutters I picked up at our local bulk foods store a few weeks ago. Funny story, I actually bought a set once before but they’re so small I tossed them out with the what I thought was empty bag (I know, I know, I should be saving and reusing my plastic bags. Sue me. There’s only so much I can focus on at one time right now! Things easily slip through the cracks.).

Aren’t they cute? That’s a hippo in case you couldn’t tell. DSC_7980 copy (1280x1024)

The original recipe contains a tutorial for making your own fish-shaped cutter, but I’m lucky I had enough time to do the actual baking!  The dough was easy to roll out (I only used half to start; the other half is in the fridge still) and the shapes easily came free of the cutter. I placed them on parchment and put them in the oven.

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And this is the result! DSC_7992 copy (1280x848)

Because my dough was probably a little thicker than what was done for the recipe, it took an extra 10 minutes in the oven to get them nice and crispy. Molly loves the final result and so do I! The flavour of the cheese explodes in your mouth. If only I could have more…DSC_7996 copy (1280x1024)

DIY Hand Towel With Handle

September 2, 2014

There’s a lot of hand washing around these parts. I’m no germophobe but raising a toddler means you’re dealing with a variety of  known and unknown sticky substances on a regular basis. Not to mention that said toddler is obsessed with the sink and wants to wash her hands a million times a day. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve added “wash” to the list of words we spell so she won’t hear it!
When we do wash our hands, we’re inevitably searching for a towel with which to dry them, particularly in the kitchen. They get taken from their usual spot, hanging on the stove handle, and are used for any number of purposes. These days it’s a blanket for her buddy.
A while ago, A asked if we could get something that we could attach to the stove and my mind instantly popped to a link I’d pinned on Pinterest! It’s a pattern to adapt a normal hand towel into one that has a handle that loops over the oven handle and fastens.
I had fabric leftover from cushions I’d made for the living room.  I picked up a hand towel for only a few dollars at Walmart in a vibrant yellow that coordinated with my fabric. It took me a few days to make it, as I had to work around the kids napping schedules, but I’m really pleased with the results! My 30 year old Singer had some trouble with the final stitching that attached the towel to the handle, since it ended up being quite thick with all the layers (flannelette is used to add a bit of stiffness to the outside layers) and yo can see it’s a bit wonky where it was trying to get a grip, but I went slow and didn’t push the machine. I’m not the best seamstress in the world but I can hold my own I think. DSC_8007 copy (848x1280)
The button I chose was one from the box of buttons I have that holds the extra buttons, threads etc from clothes I buy that come with extras. It’s from a coat I bought years ago and don’t wear much anymore….I probably need a good closet overhaul but that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open right now.  DSC_8006 copy (1280x848) (2)

“Is Better”

August 25, 2014

I think we have emerged from the fog that was the four month sleep regression/major developmental leap/transitioning both kids into new beds/everyone had colds (me the worst, of course) era. Those were a rough few weeks, but as Molly says: “is better”.

Molly has made the adjustment to sleeping in her big girl bed quite well. We’re still fine tuning the routine a bit, but after appeasing most of her ‘needs’, we can leave her fussing a bit and she’ll stay in bed and go to sleep within a few minutes. Yay!

When we made the switch with Molly, I jumped on moving Oliver into his own room. Despite the fact that he was still waking several times a night at that point, it was time. I needed what little sleep I was getting to be quality sleep and that just wasn’t happening with him in our room where I could hear every little sound he made. It was tough for a bit but he is sleeping much better now. His naps still need some work as far as length (though yesterday he gave me a two hour stretch!) but it’s his nights that have drastically improved. He’s only been waking once after I go to bed, which is a dream for me. I’m completely ok with him getting up to nurse once in the night. It’s usually only a half hour max that I’m awake. He’s five months now and past the four month developmental leap so we’re in the clear. Until the next one that is…

Health wise we are all in a better place. None of us seemed to get better after the hand foot and mouth debacle, which is probably why we all ended up with head colds at the end of July. I was the last to get it and of course mine turned into a sinus infection. Goody! But antibiotics cleared me up and I haven’t felt this good in a long time.
Part of that though is that I’ve been consciously increasing my level of activity. I bought a fitbit to give me the encouragement I need to get moving. I love monitoring my steps and striving towards my daily goal. A week or so ago I was only a few hundred steps from 10,000 so I jogged in place until I reached it. Little bits count!
I’ve been making sure to get as many walks in with the kids that I can, since that’s my best option for working out right now. I’ve also created a little routine when I’m rocking Oliver to sleep. He loves to bounce and since my fitbit records my steps even when I’m just bopping back and forth, I decided to start doing kick-backs and side-kicks with my legs. It gets my heart pumping and the baby loves it!
It all seems to be working because I’ve lost another 5 lbs! I’m just one pound shy of my pre-pregnant with Oliver weight. Some of that I attribute to cutting out dairy but moving more is key. I’m still 10 away from my pre-Molly weight but it’s looking more attainable every day.
Speaking of cutting dairy, that’s going well too! I miss cow cheese the most but am finding great alternatives to use. We visited a local cheese shop recently where I picked up a sheep cheese similar to mozzarella (for pizza) and two goat cheddars (for mac and cheese). The pizza turned out really well!
I’m using coconut oil A LOT in place of butter. I get the Carrington Farms brand from Costco. My favourite way to use it right now is to smear it on my morning toast and then drizzle it with honey. Yum!

In other areas of life, A has a few leads on potential jobs, so things are looking good there. We’ve been taking family walks and visiting the various parks around our town for Molly to play. Lots of time has been spent with my sister and her kids. The two of us and our kids headed to her husband’s family cottage for a couple of days last week. Not exactly a relaxing getaway for us but it was scenic at least! I’m sad she’s back to school this week (she’s a teacher).

And that’s as much of an update as I can do right now. Looking back through it seems like enough :-)

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