Monday, April 28, 2014

Orange Ginger Cauliflower

Inspired as always by Pinterest, I decided to try to make one of the recipes I'd seen recently: Crispy Orange Cauliflower.

I ended up putting a different spin on it as I found the batter to be gross. It could have been because I neglected to fry it in a ton of oil but ... I was trying to make something healthier and frying it didn't seem like the best way to do that.
The original recipe is here if you want to give that a go.
My version is below (and much simpler in my opinion).

  • Cut up 1 head of cauliflower into florets.
  • Over medium heat, toss cauliflower in 2 tbsp. of oil and cook until browned.
  • Stir in 1 chopped green onion, 2 tbsp. orange juice concentrate (from the can you'd normally freeze and then mix with water), 1 tbsp. soy sauce, and 2 tbsp. grated ginger
  • Mix well to coat each floret then cook until warm. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

100 Happy Days: Week 8

Week 8 over already!
My apologies for posting late - I couldn't get the computer to connect to the internet yesterday to finish editing pictures and to post it... 
then today I realized I was turning off & on John's external hard-drive and not, in fact, the modem. 

Day 50: Friday.
The half way point! John and I went out for dinner & a movie - to Milestone's and then to see The Grand Budapest Hotel (which is fantastic). A much needed and lovely date night.

Day 51: Saturday.
We went over to my parents' house for an Easter celebration with turkey and all the fixings. Plus loaded goody bags from my mom - I mean the Easter Bunny. It was lovely as always.

Day 52: Sunday.
I worked all day then made my way to John's family's Easter celebration. John was kind enough to save me a plate so I could feast when I arrived. I came home knowing I got to sleep in the next day and couldn't help but want to snuggle in with this big bug.

Day 53: Monday.
I'm in the process of getting back in shape. John and I took the dog for a run through the park on Saturday and it was the first run I've been on in I don't know how many years where I didn't time it or track it in any way. It was just a no-obligations jog. I did have to stop a few times as the trail is very hilly and I'm out of practice, having been on exactly 4 runs so far in 2014. I went back out on Monday to redo the route and finished it without stopping. I even ran back up the awful hill at the end. It was a slow, slow 5 k run but the weather was gorgeous and it felt good to get back into it.

Day 54: Tuesday
Is there anything more refreshing?

Day 55: Wednesday
I had tested out a new recipe the night before so I brought the leftovers with me to work. It was nice to bring healthy foods and not just a bag full of snacks. Look for this recipe later this week.

Day 56: Thursday
After checking out a house to rent (pros: 3 bedrooms! Huge living room! Cons: not a great backyard, not connected to the house so we can't just let doggie out, also kind of far) we made our way back home to indulge in pizza and frozen yogurt (with all the toppings, I have a problem with limits) and Anchorman 2.

We're beyond the half way mark now in these 100 days - crazy how fast time flies by.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Light, Sweet & Airy Pavlovas

A few weeks ago we had dinner at our friends' place and they made a delicious dinner for us.
Crepes with asparagus, mushrooms, raisins, and goat cheese. They were different from what we normally have and oh no good.
I don't know why we don't make savoury crepes more often.

We brought the desert to be good dinner guests.
Having made brownies the night before to satisfy my own craving, I decided to make something very different.
Both were somewhat soft and gooey in the middle with crispy shells.
Where the brownies were decadent and chocolatey, this second recent foray into baking was light, sweet and airy.

 The Pavlova.

Simple and easy with only a few ingredients.
They look much more elegant and time consuming then they actually are.

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Using an electric mixer, whip 4 egg whites with 1 tsp salt until stiff peaks form.
  • Add in 1 cup sugar in 3 stages and continue to whip until glossy. With the mixer still running, add in 1 tsp corn starch, 2 tsp vinegar, and 1 tbsp vanilla extract. Gently fold together.
  • Turn oven down to 250 degrees. On parchment paper, spread meringue out into 6 circles (or any other type of shape you want). Bake for 1 hour and 15 mins, then turn off oven and allow the meringues to dry out.
  • Serve with whipped cream and fruit. We served ours with fruit (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, mango, peach slices, and purple grapes) that we soaked in a mix of peach shnapps and riesling. 

Keep these in mind next time you want to impress your guests with desert.
You can find the Martha Stewart recipe that I used here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Balcony Project

As we start the hunt for a bigger place (our place is too cluttered and we really need a yard for the dog), I've been thinking up ways to make our balcony more liveable.
Last spring/summer our building was undergoing construction, which meant we didn't have access to our balcony from early in May until sometime in September.
It also meant I had to be more careful about lounging around in my bath robe since construction workers could pop up on their platform at any time.
I finally got around to getting rid of the box of empties that we store on our balcony and I swept up the debris left over from the fall. 
I want a place we can entertain or sit with a good book and feel more outside. 
I came across this picture on Pinterest and wanted to recreate something like this.

If I could afford to spring for some new furniture I'd look into this storage bench from Pottery Barn.

Here's what I've done with the balcony so far.
I moved one of our shelving units outside (which uncluttered our living room area a bit) and plan to use it to show off some plants. I'm thinking a herb garden and maybe a few flowers. We had lots of dogwood left over from our wreath decorating party in December so I used what was left to decorate the side of the shelf.
Expect more updates as this project moves along!

Friday, April 18, 2014

100 Happy Days: Week 7

And just like that it's Friday again!
This week has been busy and exciting so I apologize for the lack of posts between the weekly happy days updates. I promise to start blogging more!
But here is week 7 - almost at the half-way point!

Day 43: Friday.
Last day of work before the weekend. I had set out my outfit for a wedding the next day and found my little guy was quite fond of my heels.

Day 44: Saturday.
A beautiful wedding at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto. I was admiring (confession: trying to steal some of) the flowers when a bridesmaid handed me her bouquet. White roses & hydrangeas. Smelled so lovely.

Day 45: Sunday.
After a late night of dancing, I was happy to get to sleep in without a care in the world. And for cuddles with my main man.

Day 46: Monday.
A really great day, having gotten some very exciting news at work that evening. John and I had planned to have our very own film fest week in which we would watch a different movie every night and plan snacks to go with each movie. Night one was 'Unforgiven' and nachos. John made guacamole for the first time and holy moly that was good guacamole!

Day 47: Tuesday.
Despite being exhausted at work (my second 12 hour shift in a row), and being depressed about the snow/freezing rain, getting this picture from John made me smile. 

Day 48: Wednesday.
Another wonderfully happy day. I was off to have some blood work done which normally I dread because I had one bad experience where I almost fainted afterward! The tech was fantastic though, as per usualy, and it was not painful at all. As a nurse who now takes blood, I pride myself on my accessible veins. I went for two park walks with the pooch in the (cold) sunshine. This picture is of a poppyseed because today I was happy for the little things like my health, my veins (braggart alert), and the sunshine.

Day 49: Thursday.
I set a goal for myself to try to drink 1 L of water everyday because I don't drink nearly enough. So far so good! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

100 Happy Days: Week 6

Week 6 already!
I feel like Fridays come around very quickly. 
Hard to believe week 6 is over and week 7 is beginning. I'll be half way through in only a few short days.
Day 36: Friday.
We drove to Ottawa to celebrate my cousin's wedding. We arrived late on Friday night but stayed up to chat and have a little party in my parent's hotel room. Luckily my mom never goes anywhere unprepared: cheese & crackers, grapes, chocolate chip cookies, and party mix (plus wine).

Day 37: Saturday.
The wedding. What a fantastic night. It was amazing to spend time with my family and to get this wonderful group shot of almost everyone.

Day 38: Sunday.
After a relatively easy drive back home, I had a little bit of time to kill before I went into work for a night shift. This giant pickle made that time much more relaxing.

Day 39: Monday.
My dad's birthday. My sister and I took him to pick out a bicycle and for lunch, then in the evening we celebrated with the Guinness cake (which has gotten rave reviews from everyone who's tried it). A happy day with a wonderful guy! 

Day 40: Tuesday.
Out for a walk in lovely weather with the pooch when I was finally able to capture her holding a distinguished point (she's a pointer so she does this quite often but rarely long enough for me to grab and unlock my phone).

Day 41: Wednesday.
After a long day at work (where I fell asleep on my evening break - oops!) there is nothing quite like a glass of wine on the couch.

Day 42: Thursday.
You may recall last week I posted a picture of her finally walking in the water. Well this week she went right in! Short of actually swimming, this is the deepest she's gone and she's gotten way more comfortable in the water. I'm so proud of my little pooch! Plus it was 18 degrees and sunny with a beautiful breeze so... it was hard not to be happy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Cream Cheese Icing

Yesterday was my dad's birthday. My sister and I took him out for lunch (the ever glamorous Harvey's but seriously those burgers are amazing) and then with a surprise trip to Canadian Tire for my dad to pick out a bicycle.
He was an avid runner for many years and recently due to knee troubles has had to stop. He's taken up cycling on a stationary bike in the basement but we figured this was a great way for him to take his new hobby back outside to the trails.
We celebrated later on at the pub where he plays and I baked him a cake that I had been eyeing on Pinterest.
It's one of the best chocolate cake recipes I've ever made.  The batter is delicious and the cake bakes up quite dense and moist. You can't really taste the Guinness but you can tell there's an extra ingredient in there.

  1. Preheat oven the 350 degrees.
  2. Grease cake pan (I used a deep bundt cake pan but the recipe suggests using 3 round pans) and line with parchment paper or dust with icing sugar.
  3. In a large saucepan (trust me, use a very large one), combine 2 cups Guinness (1 tall can) and 1 1/4 cup sticks butter over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Remove from heat.
  4. Add 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 4 cups sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 1/2 tbsp molasses and whisk.
  5. In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup sour cream with 4 eggs and 2 tbsp vanilla extract. Whisk together then add to the Guinness.
  6. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups flour with 5 tsp baking soda. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in increments, mixing well each time to prevent lumpy batter.
  7. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake for 90 mins for a deep bundt pan or about 45 minutes for 3 round cake pans - or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  8. Allow cake to cool before removing from pan and allow for cake to be completely cooled before adding the icing.
To complement the Guinness I used Baileys Cream Cheese icing to top the cake.
I also cut my cake into two halves midway so that I could add in more icing. If you're using 3 cake pans you won't need to do that.
This icing isn't as thick as others so this is better used for more of a drizzle. But I still managed to cover the sides of the cake with it.

Baileys Cream Cheese Icing
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend 1 pkg cream cheese (softened), 1/4 cup butter (softened), and 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream. 
  2. Add in 3 tbsp Baileys. Continue to mix together until very smooth.
  3. Slowly add 2 - 2 1/2 cups icing sugar, adding until your icing has reached the desired consistency. Drizzle or frost your cake as desired.
Happy birthday Dad 

Monday, April 7, 2014

100 Happy Days: Week Five

My apologies for being late in posting this.
I was in the Ottawa area over the weekend for my cousin's wedding so I didn't get a chance to post this on Friday!
But the 100 Happy Days challenge continues with days 29 - 35 in Week 5.

Day 29: Friday.
My best friend and her husband came over for dinner. I blatantly stole the idea from our friends who had us over for dinner last week and made crepes. Gluten free crepes! That post to come.
It was delicious and a fun evening spent catching up.

Day 30: Saturday.
Dinner at my parents' place to celebrate my sister's graduation from her Recreation Therapy program.
We may drive each other crazy but we stick together in hard times.
I love these people.

Day 31: Sunday.
I spent a bit of time with my mom shopping and scored these new running shoes from Winner's for $49.99! If that doesn't make someone happy I don't know what could.
I love the colours.

Day 32: Monday.
After running home from work, post night shift, in my new shoes, I was happy to snuggle into bed with this bug.
She's too cute for words sometimes.

Day 33: Tuesday.
Nerd night + husband + glass of merlot = happiness.

Day 34: Wednesday.
The cutest selfie I've ever seen. Someone's beard is really coming in. Sorry John, looks like Reese has you beat.

Day 35: Thursday.
The weather was warm and wonderful and the water in the stream was low. I waded out into the middle in my rainboots and the pup followed. She is normally very hesitant around water so watching her first few timid steps turn into comfortable strides was awesome. She'll be a water dog yet!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Macarons, Macaruined

Last week on one of my days off I made the most of my down time by reading through a few back issues of Martha.
One of which was the issue with macarons on the cover.
My two friends (who conveniently share the name Danielle) have both been making these aesthetically pleasing cookies for a little while and I've always been tempted to try.
The only negative being that the recipe calls for ground almonds which I can't eat.
So, my readiness to get into the kitchen emboldened by the Martha recipe, I gave it a whirl, substituting ground almond for ground coconut as my friend had once suggested I try.
Where Martha's macarons looked perfect, mine....were another story.

(Recpipe from Martha Stewart)
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a food processor or a blender, ground 2/3 cup coconut very finely. 
  • Add in 1 cup of confectioners/icing sugar and ground again until very fine.
  • Pass the mixture through a sieve, put remaining mixture back into processor until no more than 2 tbsp remain left behind in the sieve.
  • Whisk by hand 2 large egg whites with 1/4 cup granulated sugar to combine.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, then medium-high for 2 minutes, then on high for 2 minutes. The egg whites should hold stiff glossy peaks.
  • Add in colouring or flavouring (I added in a few drops of cherry flavouring) then beat on highest speed for 30 seconds.
  • Add dry ingredients all at once, folding from bottom of bowl upward with a spatula until the mixture flows like lava (about 35-40 complete strokes).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer batter into a piping bag with a 3/8-inch round tip.
  • With piping tip 1/2 inch above sheet, pipe batter into a 3/4-inch round, then swirl tip off to one side. Repeat, spacing rounds 1 inch apart. Tap sheets firmly against counter 2 or 3 times to release air bubbles.
  • Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until risen and just set, 13 minutes. Let cool. Pipe or spread filling on flat sides of half of cookies; top with remaining half. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

This was the one macaron that almost was. 
Mine were macaruined appearance-wise. They still tasted amazing. 
The cherry-coconut flavour was wonderful.
If you want to try making your own, be ready for disappointment. Cause they are a notoriously tricky cookie to master.
My advice is to try one of these tested and approved recipes from either of the Danielles:
One can be found here at the Sweet & Splendid Bakeshop
The other can be found here at This is Ginger Rose.