Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lentil Moussaka

It would appear that I'm officially in the dog house.  Why you may ask?  Well favourite son in law has been cooking up a storm over the past while and I've become the designated blogger for his creations.  "R" has been "gently" reminding me that he's not seeing enough blogging happening.  He's right - we've been either busy for real or procrastinating.  At least Psychgrad has an excuse - between sleep deprivation, a toddler and a newborn, having a shower is a luxury.  

This time when "R" gave me one of his "gentle" reminders, the tone had changed somewhat.  He compared my not posting his cooking to continuously withdrawing from your bank account.  Eventually you're in the red.  Ugh!!!

With Christmas around the corner and Hanukkah in full swing, one might think that we'd be making lavish meals and incredible desserts.   Not so much.  Truth be told, I'd rather have a vegetarian moussaka than cheesecake anyway.   This dish is the full Canada Food Guide all in one dish.  Although a tad time consuming, the result is just so satisfying that it pays to take your time enjoying it.

*** Did I mention that "R" couldn't remember where he got the recipe from so if we've insulted anyone by not giving them credit for their recipe - my humble apologies,

3/4 cup whole green lentils
1 eggplant sliced
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
4 sticks celery, finely chopped
1-2 Tbsp dried mixed herbs
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp soya sauce
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium potatoes, cooked and sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced


2 Tbsp vegetable margarine
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp nutmeg
fresh herb sprigs to garnish

  • In a saucepan, cook the lentils until soft but not mushy.  Drain reserving the liquid in a separate bowl.
  • Fry the eggplant until lightly browned, drain on a paper towel
  • Saute the onion, garlic, carrot and celery with a little of the lentil liquid.
  • Simmer with the lid on , stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften.
  • Add lentils, herbs and diced tomatoes simmering for 4-5 minutes.  Add the soya sauce and ground pepper.
  • Place a layer of the lentils in a large casserole dish and cover with half of the eggplant.
  • Cover the eggplant with half the potato slices and all of the tomato slices,
  • Repeat with the rest of the lentils and the other half of both eggplant and potatoes.

For the sauce:

  • Melt margarine and add flour.  Lift the pan from the heat stirring vigorously to create a roux while making sure the flour is well incorporated.  Slowly add milk, stirring constantly to make sure you achieve a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to add the egg yolk and nutmeg.  If you don't cool the sauce, you'll have cooked egg - not pretty.
  • Whisk the egg white until still and fold into the sauce.
  • Pour the sauce over the moussaka covering the whole surface.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.   Garnish with herbs and serve.

Chef's notes:
Don't overcook the potatoes otherwise they'll just fall apart.
Use a large enough casserole that's reasonably deep to avoid spill overs


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Welcoming K

This post is really overdue.  Ironic, since K wasn't   I expected to be post date with the birth, since E was 10 days overdue.  But, K (the new little man in my life) came on his due date.  That's why I got to experience, first hand, labour denial: I am not in labour...these contractions are going to stop...don't get the look on your face (I said this to R when he looked excited about our baby's impending arrival)...

After irregular, mild contractions that started around 10pm, I figured I should get back to the computer and try to finish some work.  Eventually, I went to sleep and slept through mild contractions throughout the night.  The next morning, I debated calling in sick (I was already working from home) -- so I just sent an email saying that I wasn't feeling great and would work as possible.  I also debated whether to cancel the cleaning lady that I had arranged (we don't have a regular cleaning lady, but I decided to splurge twice to get the house fully clean before baby arrived).  Even with contractions getting stronger, I was still skeptical and didn't want to change my plans.  Babies know not to come before you're ready, right?   I was semi-convinced that if I wasn't ready, my body wouldn't let me go into labour.  Plus, I wasn't feeling the urge to nest.  No water breaking (as it had to start my labour with E).  None of the other signs that you learn about.  Just contractions.  OK....maybe that's a big sign.  But, maybe it's just Braxton-Hicks.

Still not committing, I asked R to go into work late so that he could take E to daycare.  Then, I figured I would just set up the birth pool.  If anything, it wouldn't hurt to try it out.

As I was doing that and R was dropping E off at daycare, contractions got stronger.  So I figured that maybe it was the real thing.  Crap!  My house is a mess and I have two projects to finish still.  To add a little bit of a stress to the mix, the adapter that I have bought to hook up the hose for the birth pool to the sink wasn't connecting properly.  WTF?!?  I had tested it earlier in the week and it went on easily.  Images of filling buckets up with water were running through my mind.  This is not the home birth I had envisioned!!!

The urge to clean everything was in full force since I knew I was too far along to have the house cleaner come in a couple of hours.  I debated it, but decided it wouldn't be fair to her to have to listen to me in labour.  Gotta say, it's still easier to clean a house in labour than it is to clean a house with a toddler.  We got the place in acceptable condition pretty quickly and R finally got the hose hooked up.   I was able to relax a bit.  Thankfully this coincided with contractions getting increasingly stronger.  Among the contractions that still sticks out is one I had on my yoga/labour ball.  First and only contraction on there -- man that hurt.  

At R's suggestion, we asked the doula to come over.  I didn't want to waste her time in early labour.  But, R's arms were getting tired from the hip squeezes (I think I told him to "suck it up" a few times).  Shortly after my doula arrived, I got into the birth pool.  It felt good to be in there.  I had a small fan on me, along with a cold cloth on my forehead.  I spent pretty much the entire time leaning forward over the edge of the pool.  

Unlike last birth, I felt pretty aware of what was going on.  I could tell that I wasn't in transition yet.  I  knew immediately when my water broke.  We called the midwife at that point.  My doula asked about how I felt about the pain level and I said it was manageable, but not fun.  She and R squeezed my hips from alternate sides, which brought the pain level down by a lot.

Shortly after telling my doula that I wasn't in transition, I'm pretty sure transition started.  That phase was quick too.  I told when her I felt the baby drop lower.  My midwife arrived somewhere around that time.  About ten minutes later, I felt the urge to push.  With E, I was too freaked out to feel the baby's head coming out.  But, this time I needed to guide my pushing.  The second midwife hadn't arrived yet and my midwife started to get a bit concerned about that.  I didn't care.  After about 5 minutes of pushing, K was out.  It was all kind of surreal.  I wasn't even in labour -- why is there a baby in my arms?!

OK -- so I guess I was in labour.  It all went really quickly.  I'd estimate about 2 hours of active labour.  Born at 7 lbs, 6 oz, K was quite a bit smaller than E.  

A couple hours after K was born, R picked E up from daycare.  Originally, we weren't sure if we would keep her home for the birth.  But, it became clear to me that having her there was going to be too difficult.  She was being whiny and was starting to get upset with my condition.  She came home and was very excited to meet her new little brother.  Some of her thoughts were that he was hungry (for chocolate...according to E), that he was going to roll over (because his arms were flailing around) 

All in all, a really good experience.  Having a baby at home was so much easier than going to the hospital mid-labour.  After delivery, I was able to just walk down the hall and sit in my bed while my doula and midwives emptied the pool and cleaned up.  Of course, there's always a risk of a hospital transfer.  But, research shows that outcomes for home births are comparable to hospital births.  I was also really happy with the level of intervention -- no medications, no checking for dilation, no one counting while I pushed, immediate skin-to-skin and continued skin-to-skin for a lengthy period afterwards.  I also decided to have my placenta encapsulated (making it into a pill) this time, which I think contributed to avoiding baby blues all together.  It seemed a bit "out there" for me first time around, but I figured I'd give it a try.  The pills have no taste, no smell, etc.

Fast forward two (and a bit) months later, we're settling into being a family of four.  It's all encompassing, but very rewarding to see them grow and thrive.  Now, I'm looking forward to watching them interact as K becomes more aware of his surroundings.  So far, E has not shown any jealousy and, without any prompting, she is very protective of her baby brother around other kids.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

E's Second Birthday

When E turned one, I had debated throwing a birthday party for her.  It would be high on the cuteness factor, but primarily an event for the enjoyment of the parents, since she was still a bit young to play with other kids and understand the idea of a birthday.

Instead, we let her destroy a cake (something I wanted pictures of) and Skyped with family in other parts of the country.

Over the past twelve months, E has developed a lot socially (as would be expected).  She enjoys playing with other kids, talks about wanting to play with her friends and is a big fan of birthday cake (her daycare provider makes cupcakes for each child's birthday).  In fact, "birthday cake" is synonymous with anything birthday related (birthday cards, birthday parties, presents, etc.).  So, we decided to throw E a 2nd birthday party.

I wanted to keep the party low key, so we invited friends with kids around the same age to join us for snacks and cake at a splash pad.  I spent some time looking on Pinterest for ideas for toddler birthday parties (note to self: do not look at Pinterest for inspiration when planning a low key party).

I decided to make chocolate cupcakes (E loves chocolate) with sprinkles.  She was very eager to help.  At one point, before starting to bake, E starting crying about wanting "bacon", so I put my recipe search on hold to make us some eggs and bacon for dinner.   I later realized, after she finished dinner and still wanted "bacon" that she was actually saying she wanted "baking".

Sure, it was messy, including when I spilled a bowlful of ingredients on the ground (and E said, "Oh...that's too bad" -- not sure where she picked that up from) and when E turned the mixed on full blast on the liquid ingredients (still finding random chocolate splatters to this day).  But, it was fun.

Chocolate Lovers Cake
3/4 cup butter
2 eggs
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup boiling water
2/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup g

Directions ( for cake - see link for instructions on making this into cupcakes)
  1. Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla; set aside. In medium bowl stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars; beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Beat in one-third of the flour mixture on low speed just until combined after each addition. Beat in half of buttermilk mixture. Mixture may look curdled. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally, the remaining flour mixture.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans, spread evenly. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans. Let cool on wire rack. To assemble, place first cake layer on a serving plate. Spread 1-1/2 cups frosting over the top of the layer. Top frosted first layer with second cake layer, top side up. Frost top and sides of entire cake with remaining Chocolate Butter Frosting.

Chocolate Frosting


cup milk
teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. In a very large mixing bowl, beat butter, softened, and unsweetened cocoa powder with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in 2 cups powdered sugar until well combined. Gradually beat in milk and vanilla until well combined. Gradually beat in 6 cups powdered sugar. If necessary, beat in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach spreading consistency.

We had the party at a the splash park, which is great because it's free and doesn't require cleaning up my home (before and after the party).  Now, almost two months later, E is just understanding that every birthday is not a party for her birthday.