Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trying apple strudel...

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Time for our next challenge, and challenge it was. We got to make and stretch dough for strudel. My friend Cindy and I made apple strudel together. We had a busy month, so it was tough finding the time to fit it in. As a result, we didn't really stray too far from the recipe. Stretching the dough was tough, but we managed to get it about 2 feet by 18 inches before it started ripping. We served it with hot vanilla sauce.

It was fun to make, and as a matter of fact, the very next day I made it again to serve to my family, this time however, a few changes were made. The second time, I basted the strudel several times while it was baking with butter and brown sugar. This made all the difference in the world to the taste of the dough. Also, I used only brown sugar for the filling the second time. And again, yum yum yum. I liked it the first time, but the changes I made the second time, definitely enhanced it. And, it was nice to be able to feel comfortable with what I was doing so I could make those changes. This time it was served with ice cream.

I loved this challenge and hope that I'll make another strudel sometime, maybe savoury. It was fun working with a dough I never have before and appreciated that I got to try making something I might not have otherwise.

Here is the recipe we used:

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Disney and me...

So, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I am somewhat of a Disney fan. I have liked Disney my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are of the movies like Mary Poppins, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, etc. And, I have a piggy bank of a Mickey from someone who made a trip to Disneyland. And, my grandparents gave me a book about Disneyland. I remember going through it and being most excited about the Small World and the Haunted House. I knew someday I would get there, I just wasn't sure when. And eventually I did. It was our Christmas present in December of 1985. My brother and I were both so excited. Needless to say, in the early part of 1986 we were off to Florida, and it was great.

Disney continued to play a role in my life and in the fall of 1990, I was able to go to Disneyland for the first time in California. It was on this trip that I acquired my favourite stuffed animal, Brer Bear. To this day, Brer Bear keeps me company at night, and even my oldest son knows that Brer Bear is mommy's special bear.

After graduating high school, I was somewhat lost as to where I wanted to end up. I soon decided I'd like to work at Disney World, and knew they hired Canadians. I took a travel program with hopes that it would help me, and after two more trips to Disney, I got myself a job there. I was going to represent Canada at the Canada pavilion selling authentic Canadian food and drinks. It was the best job ever. I will perhaps write a bit more about that job another day, but it kept my love of Disney going.

After unsuccessfully trying to get into an out of province art school, I headed back to university. This time I got a part time job at the Disney Store. While working there, I went to Disney two more times and this was my first chance to experience the Disney Cruise Line. Let's just say, we were hooked!! As well, my husband and I ran the Disney Marathon on our honeymoon. It was the coolest way to see all the parks, and something I had wanted to do since I had worked at Disney. And what better marathon to do as my first marathon than the Disney Marathon. And, it was worth every training run. To this day, it is my favourite marathon destination!!

Eventually the Disney Store was left behind, but this would not be the end of Disney. Before I had my first son, we did a quick trip to Disneyland, yay!! And then in 2007, my husband gave me an entry to the Goofy race and a half challenge. I became a mentor with Team In Training, with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society helping other people train for and run their first marathon, while helping them raise money for this very worthy cause. On that trip (in January 2008), we took our almost two year old at the time, and got to see Disney through his eyes, which was totally cool.

In the fall that year, I was pregnant, but was lucky enough to be able to go to Disneyland with a brother and sister. I didn't grow up with them, so it was really nice having a chance to get to know them better while also doing the Disneyland half marathon. I ended up finishing that race with only 18 seconds to spare, to be a legal finisher under the cut off time of 3 and a half hours (being pregnant made me end up walking a lot of it to keep my heartrate in check). And because I did the races in Florida earlier that year, I got the special Coast to Coast medal.

This spring, I was fortunate that I got to go to Disneyland Paris. I was super excited and it was so neat to see the differences at this park compared to Florida and California. It was a super fun day and so glad I had the opportunity to share it with my mom.

We're going to Florida again this year, and we get to go with friends. It will be lots of fun and we'll see everything all done up for Christmas since we'll be there in early December. And, we also get to do the cruise again. I couldn't be more excited.

Through the years, I have acquired various Disney items, my favourite being a set of dishes that we use when company visits. I also love the movies and my favourites are Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Monsters Inc, Toy Story & Toy Story 2 and, well, pretty much all of them. I love many of the songs from the movies as well.

Disney will always be part of my life, and I look forward to sharing that love with my children!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First ever daring cook challenge...

So, I joined the daring bakers and also the daring cooks. The daring cooks are a brand new group, and this is the first ever challenge they've done, so it was fun to be part of it. Sullivan helped by holding the recipe and instructions...

So to do away with the suspense, we're happy to announce that the very first Daring Cooks' challenge is ... Ricotta Gnocchi!

We have chosen a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook.

So, there you have it. I made gnocchi with my husband. We hung the ricotta in the fridge the night before, then proceeded to make the gnocchi the next day.

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

We made the gnocchi and ended up needing to add extra egg white to keep it from falling apart. Probably, the ricotta was not dry enough when we used it, but we were on a bit of a timeline, so went with it anyways.

For our sauce, we made a tomato pesto cream sauce. It consisted of crushed tomatoes, cream, and the pesto was basil, olive oil, and pinenuts. It was super tasty and very rich. We added shrimp to the gnocchi as well. We served it with bacon wrapped asparagus and zucchinis.

It was a lot of fun, but a little time consuming. I quite enjoyed it, and would make it again, but next time I think I'd try making my own ricotta since it sounds like that is simple enough. All in all, it was a fun challenge and I look forward to the next daring cooks challenge!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Case of the exploding diaper...

I am in Germany right now. I came here with my mom. It was a very long day of travelling to get here. We are staying in Prien in Bavaria. It is very exciting because I get to visit with my friend Christl whom I was once roommates with, back when I worked at Disney World. Today, we rode the train to Munich to do a little bit of shopping.

After visiting a neat toy store, where I found a fun engine for Sebastian's trains, we went for lunch. We were eating outside at a table, enjoying traditional Bavarian sausages, spatzl, and schnitzel. Sullivan was a bit fussy at one point so I fed him. A little while after, I heard him making little farting noises, which really are only cute when you are small like he is. Anyhow, next up came the dreaded pooh. It made that squishy sound and soon began to smell like he had filled his pants. So, I reached into the bag and got a spare diaper, the wipes and a little mat. Keep in mind Sullivan is wearing disposibles for the trip, but normally at home, is in cloth FuzziBunz diapers. Well, as I stood up, we realized that the pooh had dripped onto the ground making a huge pile of fairly liquid baby mess. So, realizing that he had likely soaked his clothes, I grabbed the spare sleeper in the bag and headed inside to use the washroom.

Well, somehow, and I have no idea how, Sullivan managed to only make a mess on the streets of Munich. There was not one bit of pooh on any of his clothes. He was wearing a tshirt and pants, and somehow, the exploding diaper only exploded onto the ground, and not onto his clothes, or my clothes either for that matter. He did have a messy diaper, and had he been wearing a onesie or sleeper or anything else, he likelz would have made a mess all over his clothes, but somehow, I managed to escape that all together this time around. I was thankful for that as I really did not bring a whole lot for clothes!!

Needless to say, it was a fantastic day. I also found the German equivilant to MEC. It was awesome. It was about 6 floors of sports and camping. Really it was more like MEC and Sport Check all rolled together, but amazing. So many neat things there. I could have spent hours going through everything. We also found a neat toy store. And, it was fun seeing the city hall with all the statues in a sort of gothic looking structure,along with the famous church, which is, at the moment, under restoration.

This evening we hung out with Christine and her family for dinner. It was great. We had a nice meal of soup, fresh pretzels, meats, cheeses etc. She even made us dessert. It has been so nice seeing her again and meeting her kids. It is funny though trying to communicate since I do not know much for German and they and her husband do not speak English. Oh well, it makes for good use of my phrase book and dictionary.

Tomorrow we are exploring this area, and hopefully finding a hardware store (just for Jeremy!!).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day...

I am so lucky that I am a mom. I have two amazing boys. Sebastian is 3 years old and every year on Mother's Day, I have been reminded of just how precious he is. You see, he was born at 28 weeks, with fetal hydrops. Most babies with hydrops don't do well, but for whatever reason, Sebastian did good. The first few weeks were a bit rough, and there was a code blue and emergency surgery etc, but he made it. Not only did he make it, but he is now this amazing little toddler, complete with opinions and personality. Every day I see him, and I am in awe at what he overcame to be with us. The road hasn't been perfect for him, he's had to have a couple more surgeries, and he wears glasses now, but in the grand scheme of things, it's all quite minor. I'm just so grateful to be his mom. Even in the midst of potty training, with accidents here and there, he's doing great. He says some really profound things and makes me feel loved every day.

And, now, I am also mom to Sullivan. He was born in January, and the whole pregnancy was followed very closely. From the beginning though, he's been a big boy, born at 8 pounds 13 ounces. He's only 4 months old, so really, I'm only just getting to know him, but already he's setting a completely different course than Sebastian did. To start with, he's huge. I mean really, he is a large baby (17 pounds 7 1/2 ounces) and growing very well. He just turned four months old, and already he's starting to wear 9 and 12 month clothes. He's about to outgrow his carseat (which Sebastian lasted in until he was a year old, and even then was still rear facing for another 6 months after that!!). He laughs now, and is rolling over and he loves watching tv. It doesn't matter what's on, if he can hear it, he'll turn himself around so he can see it. Silly kid!! He's got a great smile and he's a cutie. He spits up a lot though, which is quite different from his brother, but then again he eats really well, also quite different than his brother. He sleeps well at night most nights, lasting about 7 hours, so I certainly can't complain about that. It's not every night, but most nights.

I'm also lucky to have a fantastic mom. She's been amazing with the boys, despite all the battles she's dealing with. My mom has lupus, and a whole bunch of other diagnoses as well. They have slowed her down a lot, but I still love hanging out with her and visiting. Our visits have certainly changed over the years. No more bowling or golf, or walks. Now, mostly, it's sitting and chatting, but it's still always nice. She's great. She's funny, she's interesting, and she makes me feel loved. She's one of the best friends I have. Thanks mom, for being you, and being wonderful.

For Mother's Day, we're doing the Mother's Day Run. This will be our fourth year participating. All the money raised is being used to buy equipment for the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). They saved Sebastian, so I will forever be in debt to the doctors and nurses that looked after him. The first year we did the run, Sebastian was still in the hospital. The last two years, he's done it with us. And this year, Sullivan will be coming as well. It's funny, I find this run very emotional. Partly because I'm a mom now, and partly because of the fact that the run benefits the very place that let me be a mom in the first place. Last year, I ran the 10km, and Jeremy and Sebastian were at the finish line to cheer me on. I had my ipod with me, and listened to all the songs that I have on Sebatian's True List (the songs I listened to back and forth from the hospital and songs that remind me of him and what he went through). I'm still deciding if I'll take my ipod this year or not. I just want those songs in the background so I never forget how lucky I am to be a mom!!

Thanks Sebastian. Thanks Sullivan. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be your mom. I hope I make you proud. I will do the best I can to be a good mom to you both. I know I'll make mistakes along the way, but hey, I'm pretty new at this whole mom thing, and really, we can learn together. I love spending time with both of you and look forward to the years we have ahead of us. You are wonderful boys and I'm so lucky to have you!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Five Minutes...

So, this morning, I needed just five minutes to get dressed and get my hair put into a ponytail. Nothing fancy, just a quick change etc. So, why is it, in that five minutes, my son decides to fill his pants. Seriously, he'd been on the toilet a handful of times already that morning. I just had to shake my head!! Oh well, that's what you do when you are three I suppose.

On a more positive note, however, I've had a great week when it comes to exercising. I went to the trainer Monday. Ran on Tuesday on the treadmill doing intervals. Wednesday I went running with my friend, and finished my arm/core workout. Thursday I did the leg workout, and went walking, in the rain for 6.63km and included two hills in that, pushing the stroller and walking the dog. I really didn't allow myself to have any excuses. And really, there are not many that justify putting off exercise all together. Now I just need to continue on this band wagon...

And, in 3 more sleeps, I am going to Europe. I think I am in total disbelief that I am actually going. I am so super excited. I get to spend just over a week with my mom. I haven't done that in forever!! So, that will be a nice treat. Not to mention I get to see my friend in Germany, that I haven't seen in almost eight years. And, among other things, I get to go to Disneyland Paris. It will be a lot of fun, but I still can't believe it's happening. I am also going to miss my husband and son immensely. I can't even imagine being away from Sebastian for that long!! I will have Sullivan with me, but still, it will be tough being on the other side of the world when my little buddy and husband are still here. But hey, I know I can manage, and wow, will it ever feel nice to hug those guys when I get back!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another marathon maybe...

So, I watched the Biggest Loser tonight and absolutely loved it. It was so inspiring to watch the final four complete a marathon. It was impressive. Even Ron, who probably shouldn't have finished, pushed through and now the world knows that he could do it. I mean, anyone can run a marathon. Truly. I have mentored in the past, with Team In Training, and I love watching people go through the training and emotions of distance running. It's so neat to see people who really aren't sure they can, succeed at running races. Just like the people on the show. Anyone can complete a marathon. I've seen it happen, and it's great.

With all of this, I feel inspired to run another marathon. I'm not sure when or where though. Likely in the fall, maybe the winter or maybe the spring. I have to balance life with long distance training because it is a lot of work. But, the time has come to figure out which race it is going to be. Or maybe this is when I should start considering a triathlon. I was thinking of waiting until my kids were in school, but really, why not now?

Life is busy, but I won't keep making excuses for not getting out there and exercising. Because, if I'm training for a goal, then I have something to look forward to. Maybe that's been my problem... I don't have a goal race yet... time to figure out what the next goal race will be!! Suggestions are appreciated!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Excuses, excuses...

Today I met with my trainer again. It was one of the toughest workouts yet. I left there already feeling sore. It was good, in that pain you want to feel because you know it was a good workout sort of way. Yet, I couldn't help but feel angry at myself for the complete lack of effort when I'm at home lately. I always seem to have an excuse that prevents me from getting my workouts in. It's terrible!!

-have to feed the baby
-need to spend time with Sebastian
-can't run with both boys until Sullivan is 6 months old
-should spend more time with my husband
-I want to watch a show on tv
-need to send an email
-should fold laundry
-have to check facebook
-need to follow my blogs
-want to read a book
-tomorrow I'll start
-I'd rather eat some ice cream
-we should eat first, and then I'll work out
-I just ate, so I can't work out
-I just want cookies
-want to work on pictures
-should do some stuff around the yard
-want to organize our papers
-decluttering is more important
-don't want to have to shower again
-there isn't enough time
-insert another stupid reason here

Really, as I look over this list, all I see is that I am willing to devote time to almost anything except exercise. The sad part is, I really love exercise. I love running. I love listening to my ipod running list and just enjoying the run. I love preparing for races. I love feeling my heart working hard. Every single time I finish a workout, I'm so glad I did it, that I am absolutely amazed that I work so hard finding excuses why I shouldn't bother. So, I need to start putting exercise on the list. If I have a to do list with only 3 things on it each day, one of them should be exercise. Even if it is only a walk. Something. But I can't keep letting stupid mundane tasks take over from making my health and fitness a priority. It's not just for me, it's setting an example for my sons.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

He didn't stop smiling...

I had such a fun day today. I had a date with Sebastian. Yes, just me and Sebastian. The two of us. And it wasn't at skating lessons (which he hated). It was Sebastian and me at that went to Heritage Park together to spend a day with Thomas. We met up with another friend and her youngest guy. For both of them, it was a day with just mom, and no brothers around. It was fantastic. Sebastian loved it. He did so many neat things, including the merry go round, a ferris wheel (just him and his friend, alone, with the moms watching from the ground... and he didn't even freak out!!). We rode on the train, three laps. Sebastian was just amazed. On the merry go round, he almost freaked out when it started moving, but quickly realized it was fun (kept talking to his horse "old pete" (which he knows from Backyardigans of course). And once he started smiling, it didn't stop. He was so happy. Sir Topham Hatt was perhaps his least favourite part. He liked looking at him from a distance, but didn't really want to get that close to him when suddenly it was our turn. Oh well. I'm still so amazed at how good he did today, but also at how grown up he has become. In a million years, I never imagined he'd do the ferris wheel without me and I was so proud of him for doing it. It made me realize though, that he's growing up so fast. Before long he'll be doing all kinds of things on his own. Like swimming lessons that start this week, the transition class from parented to unparented. I think though, in the end he'll do better without one of us hovering over his every move (goodness knows it's not skating, so there might be hope!!). He's cute though, and growing up faster than I ever could have imagined!!