Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

We had a fun day today. Started out the day carving pumpkins, then driving around the city to take the kids to their uncles and grandma's house. And then finished the day with some trick or treating. Loved it!! Sebastian did all sorts of costumes this week. He was Peter Pan at preschool and this afternoon. He was Goofy on the dayhome and then for Halloween night he was Ratatouille. And Sullivan played the role of a skunk, or when with his brother, one of Peter Pan's lost boys. Too cute!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Macarons anyone?

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I was very excited about this challenge and had even mentioned to Jeremy that I really wanted to try making macarons. After being in France earlier in the year, and trying these up close and personal from Fachon, I was anxious to give them a shot. They are known to be somewhat difficult at times and after trying to make them, I totally get that.

The first set I made were flavoured with lime zest and that was it. I had some leftover coconut cream pudding and used that as the filler. They were unbelievably good. I loved them. I gobbled them up. Unfortunately I didn't have much of that, so I decided to make a white chocolate ganache infused with pina colada tea. I simmered the cream with a couple spoonfuls of the loose tea, then strained it and poured it over the chocolate. Although it was sort of a pink colour originally, once it was poured onto the white chocolate and mixed in, it became more of a purple colour. It tasted okay, but I think I might added a bit more tea than I should have because it was a strong floral type taste, and slightly stronger than I might have liked. And, although the macarons turned out okay, I wasn't as happy with them as I wanted to be. They had their "feet" but they seemed a little more hollow than I think is ideal.

The second set we made, we did half vanilla and half chocolate. We baked two trays at a time, and in the future, I think I would only do one tray at a time, because the chocolate ones, although they seemed to have feet and look good, upon removing from the oven, and sitting for a few minutes no longer looked as good as they originally had. The vanilla ones seemed to look worse so I baked them a lot longer and that seemed to help. They were very fragile. This time around, we filled them with coconut buttercream. We also had a little bit of chocolate truffle ganache and tried that as well. The coconut buttercream was good, but I liked the coconut cream pudding better (basically the same thing without the butter).

I'm so glad I got to make these although I found them a bit frustrating. Some of them stuck to the silpat and others broke really easy while still others seemed just fine. It was a great challenge and I look forward to making them again sometime and perhaps trying other flavours or other recipes just to see if I find something that let's me feel confident in what I am doing because at no time did I ever feel 100% confident with making these (of course was 100% confident eating them!!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

PJ day...

So, last night had a few wakeups that I didn't really need. I know it's par for the course and we've always had issues with Sebastian waking, but every now and then, the two boys trade off their waking times so well that the poor parents don't get much sleep. Oh well, it's all good and today we've decided to just be in our pj's for the day (mom included at the moment). Sebastian loves wearing his pyjamas and would wear them all day every day if he had anything to say about it!! We've been playing piano, playing trains, building blocks. I love it!!

Sullivan is busy these days trying to stand up on anything that he can grab. He likes this being vertical stuff and it is so much fun to watch although not so much when he tumbles. And, that brings me to the stairs. He thinks he's fine to climb the stairs, but not so much. He can climb up a stair or two, but then in typical baby fashion, has his mind on something else and forgets that he's only half way up the stairs and will fall without someone there. So, the baby gate is up a lot more these days. Maybe a helmet would help keep him safe...

We spent our Thanksgiving weekend in Kelowna. It was fantastic!! We went there with two other families and the moms all ran the Okanagan Half Marathon while the kids ran the kids race. Everyone finished their races and did great.

Sebastian had been running all summer to finish 41km ahead of race day, so that when he ran the kids race, he would have completed a full 42km. We had a lot of fun with his runs during the summer. He usually wore the Garmin and loved that!! So, it was especially fun to see him finish the kids race, at three years old. He wasn't the fastest (actually I think only two kids were behind him), but we did stop halfway through for a potty break. And, he did run most of his race. I was so proud of him!!

On a personal note, this was my first big race since having Sullivan. I started training in March and have been working hard on the running ever since. I completed several races this year, and for the first time ever finished a 10km race in under an hour. And, just in case that was a fluke (at 59:53 at Melissa's Road Race in Banff), I also did it again the next week at the Ambulance Chasers 10km with a time of 57:29. It was fantastic to finally reach this milestone. And it really made me excited for the half marathon. I had no idea what my pace or time might be and was hoping to finish around 2:15. However, shock of the century, I actually finished in 2:04:44. That meant that my pace was 10km/hr. I was shocked. The downside however, is that since completing the half marathon, my heel has been hurting to the point that I actually went to the doctor, and am now not running for the next month. It is not fun going from my best ever running to not allowed to run at all. Oh well, I will get better and get past this and move onto the next race...

But I'm ignoring the kids and it's almost lunchtime, so really, I must attend to that!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vietnamese Pho...

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

This was a great challenge. My husband and I love trying foods from various places and we absolutely love Vietnamese food, so this one was a natural for us. I made the basic chicken version. On the same day we had the soup, I had also made coconut cream filled vol au vents (the September challenge from The Daring Bakers), so it was a good day of cooking full of new recipes all around. The soup turned out fantastic and I was very happy with it. It amazes me how such a simple fresh soup can taste so amazingly good! It is definitely a recipe worth trying.

Here is the recipe and we pretty much followed it exactly. Enjoy!!


For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)


2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vols-Au-Vents Sharon style

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

It took me forever to get to this challenge. In part because we had the warmest September in quite sometime and partly because September was just a really busy month. But, I was very excited to try puff pastry so I didn't want to let this challenge pass me by. So, I got to it, and here I am, one week late, posting about it.

I made the full recipe of puff pastry and it was great. Making the pastry itself was actually quite fun. You put the flour and water together in a food processor, and then once you have a workable dough, you put your flattened pound of butter inside it and wrap it up. Then, you get to do several turns of the dough where you roll it out, fold it up, turn it and roll it out, fold it up again. In between it goes into the fridge. I have never made dough like this before so it was a complete new experience but one that I would definitely repeat again. It was fun and it actually worked!! Then, when it's time to cut out your pastry it's quite fun building the little vols-au-vents. Here is the pastries after baking but before filling...

The recipe makes quite a bit and I used it three different times, with three different fillings:

Filling #1 is what I like to call, shrimp sensation. It was made up of shrimp, green onions, corn, cheddar, cream cheese, pepper and salt. It worked out really nice and we were blown away with how buttery and lovely the pastry worked. I didn't know for sure if it would but it was fun watching it grow in the oven. This filling was tasty and we enjoyed it, even though it was a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Filling #2 was a sausage dip. We used hot Italian sausages (2), and fried them up without the casings, then added cream cheese, sour cream, diced green peppers, cheddar cheese, paprika, pepper and salt. Again, they were tasty. This time around we made big ones and little small appetizer sized ones. They got excellent reviews from our samplers.

Filling #3 was a coconut cream custard made of coconut milk, cream, whole milk, vanilla bean, toasted coconut, egg yolks, a whole egg and sugar. It was fantastic. I drizzled chocolate over them to give them a finished look. Our taste testers once again approved with how they turned out.

It was a lot of fun playing with this dough and trying both sweet and savoury options. And now, I am no longer afraid of puff pastry and look forward to making it again someday. Or maybe I'll my phyllo pastry, or croissants, or something else. Bring it on I tell you, bring it on...