Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Bestie: A Round up of Birthday Cakes

Today is my best friends Birthday. I wanted to honor her special day by making her the most amazing birthday cake ever. Something composed of an impossible number of layers and unspeakable amounts of sugar, something coated in sky high swirls of butter cream and speckled with colorful sprinkles. A cake so perfectly moist and rich, yes light and airy at the same time. A cake as wonderful as she is. 

But, obviously... this didn't happen. Time has escaped me lately. A lack of planning has meant that I have spent far too much time doing the things I have to do, and far too little time doing the things I want to do. But we won't dwell on this. Instead, we celebrated her special day at a restaurant last night, with a heavenly steak dinner,  strawberry short cake, champagne, and copious amounts of vino. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

So, in lieu of an original cake recipe, here is a round up of beautiful cakes I am in awe of. I dream of creating cakes as magnificent as these. Maybe next year, darling.


 5 Layer Neapolitan Cake with Strawberry Frosting by the oh so talented (and fellow Canadian!) Sweetapolita

Whenever we go to the movies, Nicola always gets Maltesers.I know she would love this Chocolate Malteser Cake by Oven Haven.


  Just Wow. Fourteen Layer Cake by Bakerella. All individually baked layers!

The girliest one of them all, this might be the cake of my dreams.  Ruffle Tower Cake by Martha Stewart.


Oh fluffy golden swirls of meringue, how I love you. Also, anything that requires a torch is automatically awesome. Lemon Curd Cake by Just Love Cookin.

You don't need to be a kid to love rainbows. You do, however, need to be extremely talented (not to mention patient!) to make this 6 Layer Rainbow Cake by Whisk Kid.

Happy Birthday Nicola! I hope you have the wonderful day you deserve! 

Up Next: Thanksgiving Desserts! 



Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Waffles & A Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

My friends and I went to the pumpkin patch last weekend!

It was a perfect fall day for a trip to the farm! The day was full of childhood nostalgia for me - there was a corn maze, hay bales, and even a petting zoo! Too bad I'm too big to take part in most of it now :(  Oh well, we still enjoyed ourselves gallivanting amongst the gourds and petting the ponies. And we brought home lots of these guys for our Thanksgiving table.

   The only disappointment was the lack of hot apple cider! Am I the only one who remembers sipping cups of hot sweet apple cider in the pumpkin fields on school trips?

But all was redeemed when on the way back we made a pit stop at Golden Ears Cheeseworks in maple ridge, and discovered that they have PUMPKIN PIE GELATO!

Listen. Seriously. This was pretty much the most amazing thing ever. It tasted a bit more like eggnog than pumpkin to me, very cinnamon-y and nutmeg-y. But it was so good. So good that I intended to share with Henry, but I didn't end up giving him more than a bite or two. I couldn't part with it. And I was SO sad when it was gone. Now I'm wondering if I can find it in Vancouver. I might go on a Gelato hunt this weekend if I can find the time.

Speaking of this weekend. You should make these. Why wait until after Thanksgiving dinner to have pumpkin pie when you can have it for breakfast?  Until this year, I kind of thought I didn't like pumpkin. But it turns out I just don't like pumpkin pie. I find it far too dense and heavy. But when I discovered pumpkin in baked goods: muffins, cakes, and oatmeal, I was hooked. I especially love it in breakfasty things. And those pumpkin pie spices are just the epitome of fall!

Make these on Saturday morning to really get you in the Thanksgiving mood!

Pumpkin Pie Waffles

Adapted from Williams Sonoma

This is a half recipe, which makes about six waffles.  We had two each and saved the extras for a snack later on. I would double this recipe for a larger group. My waffles were hot off the waffle iron and unfortunately that made my whipped cream melt into a little puddle, so it's not as pretty a picture as I'd hoped. Sorry guys! It was still delicious though.


2 Tbsp. melted butter, plus extra for griddle
1/2 Cup pumpkin puree
1/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1 Tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or combine ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove to make your own)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 Tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
 1 Tsp. vanilla extract

Optional: Toasted pecans, whipped cream, pure maple syrup and cinnamon to top the waffles

1. Preheat waffle iron. If you want to keep your waffles warm until serving time, preheat your oven to 150 F. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan or bowl in the microwave and set aside.

2. In a bowl combine the pumpkin puree with the sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix well.

3. Beat in the egg. Add the milk, yogurt and vanilla and stir with a spatula to combine. It is OK if the mixture is lumpy.

4. Combine the flour with the baking powder and baking soda. I do this right in the measuring cup and give it a little stir. Then add the dry ingredients into the liquid and stir until combined. Fold in the melted butter.

5. I do recommend lightly greasing the plates of your waffle iron with some melted butter. I have never before done this with any other waffle recipe, but these ones are really sticky!  Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to spoon the batter onto your iron, and spread them with a spatula a bit to even them out. They are usually done when the iron stops steaming.

Top with whipped cream, toasted nuts and lots of 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup! Or whatever toppings you prefer.  They are lovely with a cup of Chai tea too.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. This year, I am thankful for the good friends in my life. The kind who support you through thick and thin. The ones who make me laugh when I feel like crying. I love you guys!



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hello, Fall: Spicy Chicken Stew and GRAINSTORM Chocolate Chip Cookies

My perfect fall afternoon: Coming home from a long, gray, dreary day and curling up on the couch with my coziest blanket and a cup of tea. Soaking up a few rays of surprise sunshine and devouring a good book. Then, when hunger creeps up... going to the kitchen and reheating a bowl of this soup.

 This soup will warm your soul. It is hearty and filling and was even more delicious on the second and third days than it was the first. I know I have said it before, but nothing cheers me up at the end of the day than a big bowl of soup. The only thing better is if there is a cute boy at home to help warm me up!

And if there are cookies.

I didn’t make this cookie recipe. The cookies are made with a fabulous baking mix by Grainstorm. I did bake them though. And I am so glad I did. They take five whole minutes to throw together and not much longer to bake and they are SO yummy. Seriously. I want to have these cookies in the house forever and always. I never want to be without one. But that won’t happen if I keep eating them like I have been.

Fresh from the oven.

With Tea.

Without Tea.

Before breakfast, after dinner, after lunch - wrapped in saran wrap, crumbly and squished at the bottom of my backpack... basically anytime and place I can get my hands on them. I can't resist them.

And it doesn't help that they are "healthy". It really just gives me another excuse to eat them without hesitation!

I first heard about Grainstorm when I bought a Groupon from them last year. I have since ordered from them twice more.  They are a great little company; "a small family artisan food enterprise in Toronto, Canada dedicated to the idea that baked goods can actually be wholesome, real food". I love it! I only wish their products were available in B.C. stores.  The baking mixes are all whole grain/stone ground and are quite healthy (compared to what I usually bake). You might not be able to tell by the recipes on this blog, but I have been making an effort to cut out a lot of the white processed flours from my diet, and Grainstorm has made me feel that it is possible to enjoy yummy treats while doing this. Thanks Grainstorm! If you want to try their products check out their website here! I also LOVE the pancake mix for Sunday morning. And shipping within Canada is only $5!

For this Recipe I used the All Oatmeal Rustic Cookie Base

Package Ingredients: Organic whole ground and flaked oat groats, organic unrefined cane sugar, organic unrefined cane juice, baking soda, sea salt.

What you add: 2 Eggs, 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tsp. Vanilla

My additions: 1 Cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup slivered almonds, 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, 2 Tbs. sunflower seeds, 1 Tsp. cinnamon. 

Here's the soup recipe. Enjoy your Thursday!

Spicy Chicken Stew with Potatoes, White Beans, and Kale

This is a riff on a recipe I made quite a lot last winter, often with Italian sausage and spices like fennel and thyme. I swapped the sausage for chicken and mixed it up a bit with the chillies and cumin, and it was really good. I also had lots of beautiful farmers market produce on hand so I used whatever felt right. Feel free to mix it up according to what you have in your crisper drawer. 


2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cut into 1 Inch cubes
1 Medium onion, diced
2 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Green chilies, seeded and diced very small
1 1/2 Tsp. cumin
1 Tsp. Mexican oregano
½ Tsp. smoked paprika
¼ Tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Carrots
1 Red pepper (I used 1 small blue jay pepper and ½ sweet banana pepper, from our farmers market)
About 4 cups small red potatoes quartered (or any potato cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 bunch kale
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 Cans canellini or white kidney beans
1 Cup heavy cream or half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Drizzle about 1 Tbsp. of oil and add the chicken. When chicken is lightly browned on both sides, about 5 minutes, remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

2. Add more oil to the pan if needed. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the garlic, chili, and spices and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the rest of the vegetables, except the kale, to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes more.

4. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

5. When the potatoes and carrots are cooked through, add the beans and kale to the pot. Add the chicken back in. Cover and continue to let the soup simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

6. Slowly stir the heavy cream into the pot. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. 

Henry likes his with melty cheese. I enjoy mine with some warm buttered bread. And some Grey's Anatomy.

I hope your Thursday night is delightful!



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chocolate Yogurt Zucchini Cake

I had a different recipe planned for today (okay, yesterday. Fine. Thursday). But it has been a hell of a week: sickness, eye infections, and birthday festivities have left me more than a little tired. Writing out a new recipe + editing pics just wasn't in the cards. This fall has been so busy! And it will not be letting up for the weekend. No rest for the wicked. 

This recipe and its accompanying post were scheduled for my very first week of blogging, but they were pushed aside and forgotten. I am so happy I remembered it, because it sure is a yummy recipe. In the first weeks of September, zucchini and summer squash were over flowing the farmers markets. At one point they were going for 0.70 cents per pound…. Never one to resist a deal, I packed my reusable shopping bags to the brim and lugged my bounty home on the sky train. Probably getting strange looks the whole way.  

But I didn’t care, I was the proud owner of 12 Zucchini. Which I’d acquired for under $10! What a bargain! But wait…. Twelve? Did I really just buy twelve zucchini? For two of us? TWELVE? What on earth am I going to do with TWELVE zucchini?

I had a some muffins in mind for a friend. And I knew a great deal of it was destined for soups and curries. But I wanted to find something delicious and snackable that we could indulge in throughout the first weeks of fall. When I returned home I scoured my recipe folders and came across this recipe, which I had bookmarked a couple of weeks before. Chocolatey-walnutty-yumminess, with the added bonus of vegetables. Perfect! 

But more trouble came when I realized that twelve zucchini do not just turn themselves into zucchini bread. How was I – a girl without a food processor – going to break down this abundance of vegetables into something more manageable?  This was surely no job for the magic bullet.  I lost hope for a moment before I decided to take advantage of my resources. My aunt loaned me her trusty food processor, and I spent an hour or so in a zucchini shredding frenzy. Disaster aborted.

Almost. Disaster Part II came about when I realized I only own ONE loaf pan. This recipe makes two loaf cakes. And although I could have baked one at a time, it was a busy day and I needed to get the baking in and out of the oven quickly. So I filled one loaf pan, and divided the remaining batter across 12 muffin tins. This worked out okay, although next time I would adjust the cooking temperature/ time for the muffins, as they were a bit drier than the cake.

It all worked out in the end. And the week that followed was a celebration of the end of summer harvest.  There was a plethora of zucchini creations: Vegan Zucchini Date Muffins, Curried Summer Squash Soup, Ratatouille, and grilled zucchini thrown into everything from pastas to grilled vegetable salads and sandwiches with smoked tofu. That was a good week.

Chocolate Yogurt Zucchini Cake

Adapted from Seven Spoons

Makes 2 loaves or many, many muffins (at least 2 dozen)

I adapted this recipe according to what I had on hand, and also reduced the sugar a bit, but the changes are subtle. If you are looking for something just slightly sweet to snack on for dessert, afternoon tea, or even a portable breakfast, this is just the thing. If zucchini has already disappeared from your local markets, try swapping them for bananas or even carrot. Adjust the recipe accordingly, and be sure to let me know how it goes.


Softened butter, for pans

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup plain yogurt (full fat or Greek are best)

2 eggs, lightly scrambled

1 cups dark brown sugar (I used Demerera)

2 tsp.  vanilla extract

4 cups shredded zucchini

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease two loaf pans with softened butter and line with parchment paper. Leave an inch or two of parchment paper overhanging on each side, this will help you lift the cake out of the pan when it is done.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate and set aside.

3. In another bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the olive oil, yogurt, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

4. Add the dry ingredients 1 cup at a time while mixing on low (with paddle attachment if using your mixer) until just combined.

5. Gently fold in the Zucchini, being careful not to over mix.

6.Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 40-50 minutes, or  until a cake tester or tooth pick comes out almost clean. There will be bits of gooey chocolate or zucchini on your tester, and this may fool you into thinking it it not done. Don’t be fooled. Baking too long can result in a dry loaf. This was my mistake with the muffins, but I took the cake out when I still had doubts it was under done, and it was perfectly moist.

Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then grasp the edges of the parchment to lift the cake out.

I have lots of cozy fall comfort food recipes in the works for you for next week. It was also a very special boy's birthday yesterday, and the celebrations seem to be spanning Saturday to Saturday. I'll have recipes for some of his favorite treats plus pictures and restaurant reviews from our many recent outings. 

Happy October! Have a lovely weekend.