Thursday, July 30, 2009

My favourite puppy...

Well, Cronos has had a bit of a tough go lately. He has had a growth on the side of his leg for a year now. We always refer to it as his extra toe. It has never bothered him or been an issue until a couple weeks ago, when it got irritated and opened up. Well, since then, it got worse. He was definitely uncomfortable and we took him to the vet. They gave him some antibiotics and scheduled him in for surgery a week later.

By that night, he was bleeding a lot from the injury and despite the fact that the vet had said to leave it open and have him wear a cone, he was bleeding lots and we really didn't want blood all over our rugs, so we covered it with gauze, wrapped a tensor bandage around it and put a sock on his foot. That way, he didn't lick it and bother it, and it wasn't bleeding everywhere. The next day we went back to the vet, and got some pain meds and the surgery moved up to Wednesday. We spent the next few days changing his bandage once or twice a day. This was terrible. The sounds a dog can make when they are hurting are just awful. I felt so bad. His wound was raw and it was bleeding a lot. By Tuesday though, the wound had settled down a lot and was no longer as big as it had ballooned to.

Yesterday was his surgery. He did great and is now at home recovering. He won't be playing for two weeks though because he has an incision and we need that to heal up properly. It will be a long two weeks for him, but at least he's on the mend now. It is so tough watching him not be himself and whining lots. I miss the high energy over the top dog that he usually is!! But, I know that dog will be back soon enough!!

I'm especially impressed with the Harvest Hills Vet Clinic though. They have been fantastic. As a matter of fact, they just called to see how Cronos was doing. I have a great vibe from that place and it truly feels like the animals are cared about there. That is so important to me. So, if you are in the Calgary area, it's a great place to take your animal!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cookies and the kidlets...

I have to say, I just loved the Daring Bakers challenge this month. The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Cindy and I decided on a black forest themed Marshmallow Cookie. We cheated a little because we used Oreo cookies as the base. We topped those with Cherry Jam, then piped on our homemade marshmallows, before dipping them in chocolate. For the chocolate, I ran out of vegetable oil, so we used peanut oil instead. We made these in particularly hot weather and needed the fridge to have them set properly. But, anytime we chose to take them out of the fridge, they melted almost instantly, so they only came out when we ate them.

The Milan Cookies were excellent. The only change we had was cutting back the lemon and vanilla and making up the difference with coconut extract. It made for a citrus coconut taste that was simply heavenly. In following the recipe, our initial sheet of cookies were very tiny and for the next sheet, we were a little more generous in the amount of piping we did, so the cookies took on a better size. By the end, these cookies looked exactly like I would have expected them to size wise.

Our cookies were taste tested by the biggest cookie monsters we know, our children, and as you can see from Sebastian's smile, they were definitely given two very chocolately thumbs up. Our adult testers also loved the cookies. Check out the recipes at the above links if you want to try them yourself. It was a lot of fun and I would highly recommend both recipes!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My big baby...

Sullivan had his six month old shots on Friday, so we finally got him weighed again and he was a whopping 21 pounds 6 1/2 ounces (9.7kg) of hugeness. And I know that's big because my friend's little guy who is 14 months old was also weighed that day and was hovering just below twenty pounds). I don't remember the exact length he was, but I do know it was at the 75th percentile, so he's definitely getting longer since the last time he was at the 50th.

He's a little sweetheart. He's eating up a storm now too. Bananas, avocados, rice cereal (spiced with cinnamon today!!), oatmeal, apple sauce and I bought a squash and a sweet potato, so he'll have a couple new things to try in the next few days as well.

Sebastian is a busy little guy. He's had all sorts of playdates lately, and is just loving summer!! He's been in his pool several times now, loves being outside, loves playgrounds, loves just about everything (except apparently ham pizza tonight, but whatever!!).

And Sullivan is becoming such a little person now too!! He's just curious about everything, and puts pretty much everything in his mouth, including his own feet, which is pretty cute to watch. He is a determined boy and will move all over the place to get to toys and things that are out of his reach. And Sebastian is so cute telling us how he's going to play with Sullivan when he gets a bit bigger.

They are fantastic. I am so lucky!! I love my boys!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The ultimate burger and fries...

On Friday night, we had a barbeque. The reason we were having a barbeque was to raise money for Ronald McDonald House to buy them a hospital grade breast pump and although we didn't have very many people in the end, it was still a nice evening and I think we rocked the food. In particular, I have to highlight the burger and fries. It was my goal to try and make an excellent burger and fries, and I think we succeeded. Of course I had the assistance of my husband and my friend, but together, we pulled off a great barbeque. If you want, you can still donate to our cause by clicking here.

So what exactly was our burger and fries? Well, the burger was made of lean ground beef, eggs, salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce. I made them from scratch and Jeremy cooked them up. We served them with an avocado relish that Cindy threw together for me. The recipe was from Bobby Flay's Burger Fries and Shakes and it was fantastic. We served up the burgers with tomatoes, lettuce and also a homemade Basil Chive Mayo with chives fresh from our yard. The mayo got great reviews. Basically we mixed up a package of basil, about 1/4 cup of chives (I'm guessing here as I just chopped up a bunch and added them), and about 1 1/2 cups of Miracle Whip. And all I can say is yum.

As for the fries, I again referred to the Bobby Flay book following the perfect fry recipe. I used Russett Potatoes just like he suggests. To season them, I made a seasoning of smoked paprika, ground cumin, roasted garlic powder, salt, pepper and brown sugar. I was going to try making the barbeque seasoning in the Bobby Flay book, but didn't quite have all the ingredients. We double fried the fries, and I have to say, they are the best fries I have ever made. Of course, it was the first time I actually read up on making them, but it was worth the time because the taste was excellent. Thank goodness for our local Asian supermarket T&T because they sold peanut oil in bulk!!

We served the fries with the mayo dip and your traditional Heinz ketchup. Both were good, but I have to say that I was mostly using the mayo dip myself!! Yum!!

Cindy made a peach cheesecake for dessert and it was fantastic as well. And then we offered the kids some homemade cookies, but more on those another day...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Skate fish times two...

The Challenge: Skate, traditional flavors powdered (slightly altered) as presented by Sketchy of Sketchy's Kitchen. This is a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook - page 230.

As part of the Daring Kitchen, and the Daring Cooks specifically, we got to make skate fish this month, with a bunch of different powders (basically dehydrated foods). I have to give almost all the credit to Jeremy. He made all the fancy powders. He got the Alinea cookbook for Christmas and has yet to use it, so he was very excited to finally give it a try. He basically followed the recipe as it was presented except the parsley powder was just parsley, no cilantro. He plated it as was suggested as well. He rocked the dinner and it was neat. Very different, and very unlike anything I've had before. I mean, we were eating fish with bananas and green beans, along with all the powders of course. And, we only had the two of us, so there were leftovers.

Now what to do with the leftovers... why, make skate fish salad sandwiches!! I thought this was genius of me!! I took the leftover skate fish, and the leftover green beans, added some of the caper powder, parsley powder, lemon powder, a bit of miracle whip and some pepper and made my sandwich filler. Then, this morning I went and got a fresh baguette (I know, a REAL chef would probably have whipped up her own bread, but no time for that!!), and then this afternoon had a picnic lunch at a park in town. And, it was great in a sandwich too. Jeremy refused to try it, but my friend Cindy had it, and said it tasted fine. And, I liked it so much I might have it again for lunch tomorrow!!

So, without further delay, here is what we did...

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered - with changes
4 skate wings
* Beurre monte
* 300g fresh green beans
sea salt/kosher salt
1 banana
454g butter - 4 sticks
300g lemons
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
150g cilantro
150g parsley
100g dried banana chips
300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
100g cup minced red onion
200g capers (brined, not oil)

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)

* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small
saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a
time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion
will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

Powders - prepare ahead of time
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
'brown butter' powder

once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then
passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

citrus powder
300g lemons
1000g simple syrup
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup
three times. dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray. 130 for 12 hours. pulse the
zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.
If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder.
Once dried, follow the other instructions.

cilantro/parsley powder
150g cilantro
150g parsley

blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3
minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray. 130 for 12 hours. grind and pass
through chinois.
If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and
microwave for another thirty seconds. They should be dry by now, pulse in coffee grinder, pass
through chinois and reserve.

onion powder
100g cup minced red onions

dehydrator - 130 for 12 hours
microwave at medium power for 20 minutes.
pulse in grinder, pass through chinois

Caper powder
200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees.
microwave instructions are unclear. Dry them as much a possible with paper towels, the
microwave on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir them. repeat for 30
second intervals until they are dry. If you use this method, pleas post the time needed to dry
the capers.
Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix it with the onion powder.

Brown Butter powder
100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible - many are coated in honey - the freeze
dried ones would be brilliant)

300g spray dried cream powder
If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob's red mill non fat dry milk
powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little,
but you will still get the general idea.
preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on
parchment. bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be
very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few
grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this
through a chinois and reserve.

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)

* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small
saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a
time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion
will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

Prepare the skate - 50G v shaped cuts are recommended
Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook
until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from
heat and season with 3g salt
bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and
simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for
two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of
fine sea salt.

Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion-caper
powder, and the cilantro parsley-powder. Swirl these around in a hurricane type pattern. I
found that it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the
mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.

peel the remaining banana into very thick slices (3mm) fan three slices on the plate, place
green beans on top and place skate wing portion on top. On the tall edge, sprinkle the brown
butter powder.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An ode to Sullivan

I have the cutest little baby
He makes me laugh a lot
He's always smiling, having fun
He gives it all he's got.

He is a happy baby
Nearly all the time
I can't help but be grateful
That he is all mine

His eyes are always watching
And taking everything in
He looks so cute and happy
Even with bananas on his chin

He makes the cutest sounds
And little giggles too
He is so easy to please
No matter what you do

He loves to watch his puppy
And big brother of course
He has a healthy appetite
And is growing like a horse

He makes me smile lots
Several times a day
And always seems so interested
In what I have to say

So thank you little Sullivan
For everything you do
Thanks for being in our family
I really do love you!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wedding Cake Characters

Life has been busy lately. For some reason, it always seems to be busy, but lately for sure. I was so lucky to go on a road trip with my mom and my boys and it was great. I'll write more about that another day. However, as soon as we got back, we had a wedding cake to make. This was for Jeremy's friend and coworker. I love making cakes, but feel so much pressure when I am making them. It's a good pressure, but pressure never the less. I want to do a good job. I want the people I make them for to be happy with them. I want them to be perfect. They never are perfect, but I try my best to do the best I can on them.

This time around, we tried completely new recipes. I was inspired by and used recipes from Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. We used the basic yellow cake recipe and the chocolate fudge cake. The yellow cake turned out fine and tasted good. The chocolate fudge cake though, made more batter than just two cakes. I ended up having it boil over and made a huge mess of the oven. However, it tasted fantastic. We made them a second time, and they turned out great, although they did fall a little after taking them out of the oven. The taste however, more than made up for that.

My signature item is the little people I make, to look like the people the cake is for. In this instance, I had three people to make: the bride, the groom and their little son. I tried something new this time that I haven't done before with the people. I made them out of rice krispie squares. This worked out great, requiring way less fondant and getting the people dry in a more reasonable amount of time.

My husband helped me assemble the tiers of the cake and made the icings. We used scotch mints to clean up the edges. We assembled the cake at the location of the wedding reception.

The cake went over well, and the photographer was especially impressed and took our name and number. I was so excited by this. Who knows, maybe there is more cake making in my future. I would love that, because anytime I have the opportunity to make a cake, I love everything about it. We've made cakes in the past for birthdays, retirements, anniversaries, even a bachelorette party, but always, the wedding cakes seem to be the most fun.

So, if you ever need a cake, keep us in mind...