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

Ingredients

3/4
8
1/2
cup milk
2
teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  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.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Potato and Spring Onion Soup


Life has been incredibly busy in so many good ways.  The only problem with being so involved in many things is that making meals sometimes just takes a back seat.

We spent this past Thanksgiving long weekend at the cottage.  This was our second annual effort at the cottage and it was incredible.  The leaves are in full colour and temperatures are changing  A 20 lb turkey had hardly any leftovers and the whole family togetherness was so meaningful.  We laughed alot this past weekend.  My sister makes her own wine so needless to say wine was in great supply.

As the weather changes we tend to get these little chills that reminds us that winter is coming and cool evenings make you want to have warm comforting meals and particularly soups.

My son in law "R" always seems to come to the rescue with new soup recipes.  He loves the hearty and thick soups that are a meal in a bowl.  R's new recipe came from Saveur ; Potato and Spring Onion Soup and it looks like a keeper.

A thick slice of fresh rye bread and this soup for dinner would for sure do it for me.  Tell me you wouldn't want a bowl?


 

2 bunches spring onions (scallions), trimmed
4 tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

1. Cut scallions in half crosswise, dividing white and green parts. Coarsely chop white parts and set aside. Finely chop green parts and set aside separately.

2. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and chopped white parts of scallions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until soft, 8–10 minutes. Add potatoes and stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, 30–35 minutes.

3. Allow vegetables and stock to cool slightly; then, working in batches, purée them together in the jar of a blender or the work bowl of a food processor until very smooth. Return purée to pot and cook over medium heat until hot. Adjust seasonings. Garnish soup with reserved scallion greens.







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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sawata



Actor Boy has this idea that doing a theatrical piece with his mother is an interesting work to create.  We started this voyage with a simple improvised stage piece that we (he did most of it) performed for small theater festivals locally and on the west coast.  It was reasonably successful and we had alot of fun comments about how cool for a mother and son to go on stage together.

Not enough.  Actor Boy decided we should do another piece.  Our ancestry is from Poland so his idea was to travel back to Poland and research our geneology and find our Polish roots.  It's been quite a ride and I just returned from our second trip to Poland.  The first trip in November 2013 was about research.  We drove all around Poland's countryside, went to both my parents' home towns, were able to find documents and history, met alot of people and ate alot of Polish food.  It was good.  This trip was slightly different.  We spent 2 weeks in a theatre that was entirely black (they call it a black box theatre - imagine that), working on creating a piece of work, or part of it and then performing for a couple of audiences who would give us feedback and suggestions.  We would start early in the morning and work until about 8 p.m. and start all over again the next morning.  That shattered any notion of this being a trip to a foreign country being even remotely romantic.

The one thing I managed to salvage for my own interests was learning more about Polish food.  Most local food is heavily meat laden but since I was travelling with 6 other people, most of whom were either vegetarian or vegan we didn't spend much time sampling local meat meals.  I did learn to take some meat meals and adjust them and learned a whole lot about salads.

My favourite salad, a potato type salad is called Sawata.  I had to come home and make it right away.  It's a little time consuming with all the tiny chopping but so worth it and I even found some shortcuts.




Ingredients

3-4 potatoes boiled in their jackets and cooled
3-4 hard boiled eggs
2-3 dill pickles, diced small (I used Vlasic pickles)
peas and carrots - I used 1/2 bag of frozen peas and carrots - worked great
(if you prefer you can boil 4 carrots with the potatoes, dice small and add canned,drained peas at the end)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 heaping Tbsp dijon mustard
3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise

Directions

1.  Boil potatoes and cool before peeling
2.  Dice potatoes, eggs, dill pickles really small and add to bowl
3.  Add 1/2 bag or more (1 1/2 cups) frozen peas and carrots
4.  Add mustard and mayo and gently combine all finishing with the chopped parsley.

So so good.  This salad is a staple for all Polish celebrations.  There's really no set way to make it and I've seen it with boiled parsnip in it as well - equally as good.
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