Foiled Again by Nature

A few days ago I found a pair of robins that decided my solarium makes a good home.  I can understand why they’d think that – it’s sheltered, dry and up high.  I also have a vegetable garden nearby with a thriving colony of worms that I’ve been encouraging for years.

The problem is that I planned on redoing the solarium roof this summer, and I just don’t think Mr. & Mrs. Robin would appreciate that.  I’d been debating whether or not to encourage them to find another home before they get too comfortable and decided to quietly check out their progress.  Turns out I’m  way too late.  Not only are they quite comfortable thank you very much, but so are their three little ones, Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Dang.  It looks like the roof will have to wait a few months until someone’s learned how to leave home.

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Mother’s Day Cake

For Mother’s Day, I made a special cake.  I found a new decorating technique I’ve been itching to try and it worked out really well.  Like all cake decorating, it took a little time, but it’s fairly simple to do and the results were amazing.  The cake itself was also a huge hit, but hey, who doesn’t like sponge cake, whipped cream and fresh strawberries?  🙂

Making a rolled cake is fairly simple.  This site explains how to do it with pictures (but I disagree with step 5 – go ahead right to the edge and trim the sides later).

The decorating part is pretty easy too.  Just mix up a little batter on the side and colour with food colouring or cocoa.  Then draw a pattern on parchment paper and freeze it while you make up the rest of the cake batter.  This site explains it with pictures.

Have fun with this technique.  Vanilla, strawberry and sweetened whipped cream was amazing, but next time I might try something with geometric designs in white vanilla batter, chocolate sponge cake and a whipped white chocolate ganache filling.  I have a choco-holic sister who’d love that…  😉

Happy Insanity

Oh it’s been a busy week!

It’s been raining almost non-stop for weeks, which has caused serious flooding in some parts of the city. They’re calling this a 100 year flood, but weird weather things seem to be happening a lot more frequently lately… Thankfully, we’re not in a flood zone, but I’ve still had to work at keeping the basement dry and the sump pump running. So far, so good, and the forecast is no rain for next week – yay!

And I’m afraid my grandfather-in-law is in the hospital. He too looks like he’s going to be ok, but he has to stay there for a while. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for hospitals, the services they provide and all the dedicated, over-burdened people who work there, but having to stay there still sux, and that goes double for hospital food. Soooo, I might have snuck in a batch each of chocolate chip-pecan and oatmeal-raisin-coconut cookies.

Gardening has been non-existent. It just hasn’t stopped freaking raining long for me to get out there and plant something. Besides, even if I did plant something, it’d probably drown. Well, maybe rice would be ok, but I don’t think it’d like our usual three feet of snow this December.  😉

Between all this happy insanity, I’ve managed to actually cook a few things to supplement what’s already stashed in my freezer.  I know it sounds cliché, but weeks like this make me very grateful for everything I have and remind me that right now, I have everything I need.  Blessings to you and yours.

Individual Beef and Mushroom Pies

This. Was. Delicious.  And since it’s only about 340 calories a serving, it’s definitely on my make again list.  It also freezes well too, so it’s a perfect candidate for weekend make-ahead cooking.

If you’re making this for company, ramekin dishes would look great.  For practical reasons (and the fact that I couldn’t find white ramekins with seal-able lids), I used small glass Pyrex dishes.  Hey, my mother-in-law already likes me, if she comes over for supper, she won’t need the extra presentation.  😉

Goes well with a dinner roll and a side of vegetables. Continue reading “Individual Beef and Mushroom Pies”

Pastry while on a Diet

Maple leaves and acorns

I love pastry!  I love the buttery taste, the flaky texture, and the rich smell of it while it’s cooking in the oven.  Unfortunately, I hate all the calories (and so do my hips).

I’ve tried a few “lower calorie” versions found on the internet, but I don’t like any of them.  Vegetable fillers sound like a good idea, but you lose the taste & texture of real pastry, and low calorie butter substitutes are evil and should be avoided like the chemical loaded fake food plague they are.

So what’s a pastry lover on a diet to do?  I’ve found only one solution – eat the pastry, just less of it.  Instead of making an entire pie with both top and bottom crust, make single serving mini pies in ramekins, and put pastry cut-outs on the top only.  This looks beautiful, avoids trying to serve a piece of pie without a bottom, looks like you did a lot of work (you actually did less – shhhh), and puts the small bit of pastry that you do eat right under your nose where you can see and smell it.

This is the recipe I used for mini beef & mushroom pies (to be posted on Thursday).  As it’s a savoury pie, I didn’t add sugar but if you’re using it for sweet pies, add a tsp or two of sugar in step 1.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Extra pastry freezes well. To thaw, bring it out of the freezer the night before – don’t use the microwave.
  • Use a fine grater (cheese shredder) to cut the butter into the flour.
  • Very cold butter works best. If you have the time, pre-measure and freeze it.
  • Butter gives you a nice buttery flavour, but shortening or lard give the best flaky texture. Margarine never works well.  A mix of half butter / half shortening gives both flavour & texture, but you can decide what you want to use.

Continue reading “Pastry while on a Diet”

A.W.O.L.

Yes, I’ve been AWOL for a while.  Sorry ’bout that – that pesky “life” thing has been more annoying than usual lately.  😉

The good news is that it’s a long weekend soon, and that it’s spring, and that there’s no “bad” news.  Life is sweet – just busy.  I’ve been travelling for work and finishing the basement and just generally trying to keep up.  I’ve run down my stock of freezer meals though, so this weekend will continue to be busy, but at least I’ll have lots to blog about.

So, until next week, stay happy, healthy and enjoy the ride that is your life.  🙂

Maple Glazed Pear Chips

pear-chipsI have a confession: I’m a snack-a-holic. I’m constantly looking for new tasty (and healthy) things to munch on and recently I’ve discovered fruit chips. They’re crispy, slightly sweet and completely customizable. For example, if you don’t have maple syrup, try agave or honey? Maybe a sprinkling of vanilla powder or cardamom?

I used a dehydrator to make these, but an oven on the lowest setting will work just as well. To keep things hassle free in the oven, use a silicon baking sheet or parchment paper. Continue reading “Maple Glazed Pear Chips”