Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Devil Made Me Do It (Mile High Devil's Food Cake for Susan G)

Next up in birthday month was the day of Susan G. Susan loves chocolate but has a hard time with milk, so I went in search of something chocolately that didn't call for milk or cream. And of course, the bible of all cake books, Mile High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, once again saved the day. Can you guess how old she is? (We DID think about jokin' around and inverting the numbers...)

Mile High Devil's Food Cake
(though I suppose in Canada, it really should be 1.6 Kilometer High Devil's Food Cake)

1 cup of unsweetened cocoa (NOT Dutch processed)
1 and ¼ cups of hot water
3 cups of light brown sugar; packed
2 and 2/3 cups cake flour
1 and ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon of salt
9 ounces of unsalted butter at room temperature [2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons]
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
¾ cup of cold water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and grease the paper as well.Place the cocoa in a medium bowl and add the hot water. Whisk until smooth and let it cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low blend to combine. Add the butter and the dissolved cocoa. Then raise the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and cold water until combined. Add this liquid to the batter in three additions scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Divide the batter among the three pans. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cakes tester inserted into the almost comes out clean. There should be a few crumbs attached still. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes. Then invert and remove parchment paper and cool completely on a wire rack.

Simple Chocolate Butter Icing

The icing was based on a recipe I learned from The Mums, who was amazing at whipping an icing up without even cracking a cookbook.

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups icing sugar
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/2 teaspoon hot water

Blend butter and icing sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth and pale. Melt 3 oz of unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl sitting in a pot over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Dissolve espresso in water. When chocolate is cool enough to touch, blend the espresso and chocolate thoroughly with the butter mixture.

Enjoy. As we did:

Here's the birthday girl looking absolutely adorable after blowing out her candles.

Here's the birthday gal cutting the cake (while making a wish) under the watchful eye of her dearly beloved.

Here's the birthday gal now demoted from cutting the cake, but taking the all important job of holding the plate while her dearly beloved neatly turns that cake into multiple slices!

Here's Vanessa holding up the uber nifty IPhone carved wooden sleeve that was a coveted gift!

Here's Wee Sarah sampling the bacon-chocolate (also a coveted gift).

Here's a photo I loved because of the composition. It ALMOST looks staged (or like a Gap Ad), but I guess the world is just full of photogenic people!

It was a lovely gathering.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vroom Vroom: The Motorcycle Show

Last weekend, Mister Man and I, along with his oldest buddies Stacy and Mark, went to the big motorcycle show in Abbotsford. The b'yes love their bikes, and while I prefer 2 wheeled cycles of the motor-less variety, I thought there might be plenty of photo fodder. I was right.

The day started with a quintessential Canadian experience - a stop at the Tim Horton's drive through window for a classic "double double" and a breakfast sammich. Here's an image that is recognizable from stem to stern of our country.

And then it was off to the main event.

We hooked up with Stacy and Mark.

I snapped this photo of Mister Man asking Stacy if he would stand up for him at the big event (the pending nuptials of moi and he). I thought there might be tears and such, but then I realized where we were. There was far too much leather in that place for big ol' man-tears!!

Then it was off to put our tushies on the seats of as MANY motorcycles as possible.

Mister Man challenged me to see if I could get Stacy to sit on one of the "junior" bikes. When I leaned over and said "Stacy, can you help me win a bet?"... well, let's just say he was a sport.

While MOST folks wanted everyone to sit on their bikes, there was the odd contradictory message.

And there were some pretty nifty duds for sale too.

As well as some fine home decor ideas.

And would you call this a motorcycle? A fashion accessory?? Or a life sized candy?

There were some pretty bold fashion statements elsewhere too.

Friendly faces could even be found in the packaging.

Mister Man had him SOME fun. I believe here he is saying "Vroom Vroom".

He was clearly in his happy place.

And this is the part where he looked longingly at me and tried to explain how this particular motorcycle might be a really great investment..... or a birthday gift.

And me? I ALMOST fell for it....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Briefly (Floating)

Oh, it has been busy, busy, busy. January, being the month in which almost everyone I know was born, is chock full o' fun (and busy-ness). And fun leads to lack of blogging. While there are images galore sitting in my FLICKR account, and stories and recipes burning a hole in my pocket, I am going to have to settle for a brief post tonight, and a single image.

Every week day, I head down over the hill towards Lonsdale Quay with an audio book playing on my MP3 player. I make my way to the Seabus, (which is indeed a bus on the water). Let me tell you that it's pretty hard to be in a bad mood if you start your day floating for 13 minutes, watching the city sky line majestically creep towards you. So I thought I'd share that experience.

Without further ado, here's a little sliver of my morning:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dinner of Childhood Memories

When I was a tyke, we spent 3 years in the States when my father was going to Ohio State University. One of the things I remember most clearly about our time in Columbus, were some of the American-style meals The Mums would whip up for us on the weekend. Those memories still fill me with comfort and warm fuzzy feelings.

The Mums is a pretty spectacular mother. When we moved back to St. John's after being in Columbus, she dealt with mondo eating weirdness from all of us: my father only wanted traditional Newfoundland food (jigg's dinner, fish and brewis, etc. etc.). In fact, the thought of eating pasta, rice, or any sort of international or spicy cuisine would cause my father to burst into an anxiety ridden sweat. My brother Paully had a rather limited palette and would only eat about 5 things: beef, potatoes, pasta, bread and sweets. Anything spicy or green (unless it were a frozen pea) would cause him to become apoplectic. Meanwhile, my mother and I liked trying different things like homemade curry, moussaka, and tofu. When we moved back to St. John's after our time in the States, my mother not only held down a full time job, but she frequently came home and cooked three (yup you read correctly - that is 3) DIFFERENT suppers. Is it any wonder that the prospect of cooking now fills her with less than enthusiasm?

So on Saturday, after we had done our errands, gone to see a fantastic new play called "The Edward Curtis Project", we both decided we had a hankerin' for something neither of us had eaten in decades: Sloppy Joes. Mister Man had recently seen an episode of Tyler's Ultimate on The Food Network that featured exactly that. And while we weren't able to get ground turkey, we made them with ultra lean ground beef. And you know what? They were JUST as delicious as I remembered them to be. The only thing missing from this meal was Tang and a Space Food Stick or Shake-A-Puddin' for dessert. Oh - and an episode of Sonny and Cher on the television set..... oh - and we wouldn't have had beer back then either. We'd probably be drinking a glass of delicious, cold homo milk. And following supper, we wouldn't have cracked into a game of cribbage, we'd probably roll up our sleeves and dived into a game of OPERATION.

Sloppy Joes (a la Tyler's Ultimate)
(this recipe feeds a bunch of hungry folks - we cut the recipe waaaaaay back, but if you need to feed the masses, here's the full meal deal)

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 12 soft rolls


Set a heavy-based pot over medium-high heat and add a 3-count of olive oil. Add onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add ground turkey, season well with salt and pepper and brown well all over, breaking it up with a wooden spoon - about 7 to 10 minutes. Add ketchup, mustard, cayenne, brown sugar and tomato paste. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.

May you enjoy this flash from the past as much as we did.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hanging out in the Canadian North

Last night we went to Nunavut for the evening. Okay, we didn't actually get on a plane and physically GO there, but we DID go to the opening of Canada's Northern House, where a little slice of Nunavut came to us. Canada's Northern House will open it's doors during the Olympics and will shed a little light on life in the Canadian arctic. By some stroke of good fortune, we managed to get on the guest list!

It was pretty amazing - from the delicious appetizers (hello venison, muskox, arctic char) to the stunning artwork (soapstone and traditional bone carving) to the exhibits featuring slides and video of daily life in various parts of Nunavut. And as I looked around, I was completely gobsmacked by the vastness of Canada.

How is it possible that we live in a country where, on the exact same day you can go for a run in the lush rain forest of Stanley Park where the temperature is 10 degrees Celsius, drive for a couple of hours and go downhill skiing in Whistler, dog sled in Yukon, ice fish in the Northwest Territories, watch the northern lights in Nunavut, hunt seals in Northern Newfoundland, surf in Tofino, have a Quebec City carriage ride in the daylight, and a sleigh ride by the light of the moon, go skidooing in Labrador and much, much more? For the time it takes us to cross Canada from west to east, we could zig-zag across Europe a bunch of times (particularly through Germany on the autobahn - ZOOM ZOOM...). And with that kind of vast distance, comes such a range of geography, weather and culture. How excellent it was to glimpse the slice of geography known as Nunavut.

Here Mister Man lurks between "industry" and "culture", clutching an espresso stout ale from a northern micro brewery.

Look at this amazing face and body carved in the pelvis of a whale. Beautiful.

I loved the simulated northern lights undulating on the ceiling.

And I was moved by this beautiful traditional lamp, in which a wick is set aflame in seal oil. And that's kind of how I felt last night as I wandered around the exhibit - all warm on the inside, as I contemplated life in the Canadian arctic.

P.S. The last couple o' photos were taken by Mister Man. Not only is he one amazing person and possibly the best man on earth, but he's got some photographer chops too!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vanilla Bean Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream Icing. Oh Yeah...

I asked Miss Annie what she had a hankerin' for in the cake department for her birthday, and she allowed as how she'd always liked a vanilla cake. And so I turned, yet again, to that cake book that never lets me down, Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes. And look what I found. (and perhaps I went a little kooky with all the photos in this post, but I just loved the white against the periwinkle(ish) blue and became completely indecisive.

Vanilla Bean Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
(makes one 8 inch, deluxe tripe layer cake)

3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I found a delightful Tahitian Vanilla Bean at Lonsdale Quay)
2 sticks, plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup milk
5 egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of 3 8" pans. Line each with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend well. With the tip of a small knife, scrape out the seeds from inside the vanilla bean into the bowl. Add the butter and 1 cup of milk and mix to blend. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until batter is light and fluffy, about 2 mins. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites with the vanilla extract and the remaining 1/3 cup of milk. Add this to the batter in 2 to 3 additions, scraping down the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate. Divide among your pans. If you're a big ol' control freak like some people who write blogs, you can actually weigh your pans (as long as all three pans are identical of course).

Bake for about 30 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Remove the paper and cool completely, about an hour.

White Chocolate Buttercream
3 egg whites
4 ounces good quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp

Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Melt the white chocolate about halfway in a double boiler. Remove from heat , stir until smooth , and set aside to cool.

Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage 238 degree F on a candy thermometer.

Immediately start beating the egg whites on medium low speed. Slowly add the syrup in a thin stream, taking care not to hit the beaters. Continue to whip until the mixture is body temperature and stuff meringue has formed.

Reduced the speed to low and add the butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time. When the butter is incorporated, beat on medium speed until the frosting appears to curdle. Continue to whip and it will suddenly come together. And it does come together!! Like magic. Add the white chocolate and mix well.

Oh yeah.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The January Birthday Blitz Begins

I know a lot of wonderful women who were born in January: The Mums, Annie, Susan, AJ, Karen, Aileen. That is 6 amazing women who landed on this planet after the festive season had bid adieu for another year.

And so the birthday blitz began last weekend when Mister Man and I honoured Annie (with the help of Diyan and Susan).

Mister Man made an entrance with the tenderloin that he was sweet-talkin' into some kind of crazy submission

Anticipation abounded as incredible smells started wafting into the living room.

(Note Mister Man makin' like Frank Sinatra in the background)

And rightly so. It was a wonderful meal featuring a heap of brown butter garlic mashed all nestled up to that delightful beef. And broccolini. And mushroom ragout. Oh my.

And then, it was time for fun and games.

And some fightin' words.

And the contemplating. That's what birthday girls do.

And then came the cake. Oh the cake. But THAT'S another story. Stay tuned....