Monday, October 31, 2011

Recipe to Riches and Lemon Pudding Cakes

Recipe to Riches is a new reality series airing on Food Network Canada.  Each week a Canadian home cook's recipe is chosen to become a President's Choice product.  The product is sold in stores, the following weekend, wherever President's Choice products are sold.  The weekly winner receives $25, 000 and is eligible to win the grand prize of $250, 000!

I was flipping through the channels and unknowingly came across the first episode on Wednesday evening, October 19th.  I thought it would be fun to watch the Canadian home cooks, similar to myself, battling for the coveted winning spot.  The first week's category was Pies and Puddings and the winner was Glo McNeill.  Her recipe for Luscious Lemon Pudding won first prize.  I had never seen anything like it, so I wanted to try it for myself!  What's different about it, is that the batter separates into 2 parts, while it's baking.  The bottom turns into a pudding consistency, and the top, into a sponge-type cake.  I went online to do some research, studied several recipes, and came up with my own version. 

Here is a photo of Glo, herself, posing with her winning recipe, turned PC product!

A day or two after I saw the episode, I tried making my own lemon pudding cake.  I baked it in a square, glass dish, in a water bath.  It tasted absolutely delicious, but didn't look very appealing, once it was scooped onto a plate.  It didn't look as pretty as I wanted it to.  I decided that next time, I would try baking the cake in individual ramekins. 

The weekend came around, and I couldn't resist.  Grandma Glow's pudding cakes were being sold in freezer sections at our local supermarkets.  I went to purchase the frozen cakes and baked them for an after-dinner treat.  To be honest, they weren't nearly as good as the home-made one I had baked a couple days before.  The lemon pudding was okay, but the top sponge cake tasted so "fake".  It tasted as though the pudding was placed on the bottom of the oven-safe ramekin, and then a factory made sponge cake round was placed on top.  It was just okay for me.  I'm sure Glo McNeill's original home-made recipe, the one that won over the judges, tasted much better than that.  

Here was my second attempt at the lemon pudding cakes:

Ramekins, in a water bath, hot out of the oven.

 Lemon pudding cake served warm, on a plate, dusted with icing sugar

The perfect balance of lemon, pudding, and cake! 

I am thankful for the inspiration Grandma Glow's recipe has given me.  I will definitely be making these lemon pudding cakes again.  No doubt about it! 

Of course, now I'm hooked on the show.  Last week's category was "Cakes".  I didn't feel particularly moved by any of the three finalist's recipes.  I'm looking forward to this week's category - "Appetizers".  Hopefully, I'll  get some new ideas for my own home cooking! 

Have a happy and safe Halloween!  Thank you for stopping by my kitchen! xo

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

So, What's Cooking?

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  It's a chilly autumn day in my neighbourhood, with pops of sun, here and there.  I always love it when the sun is out - it lifts my spirits and makes my day cheerier.  Today's post is a picture post, so you can see some of the things I've been cooking this past week. 

 Easy like Sunday morning...

Sliced baguette dipped in milk, eggs, cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, and vanilla

 Can you smell the cinnamon aroma?

"Come and get it!"

Warm french toast drizzled with maple syrup and fresh berries.  Perfect way to start a Sunday morning!

Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor - Marge Kennedy

This is the shrimp bisque I made last week.  I'm very proud of it.  This one's going in my cook book!

 I also made this rosemary top sirloin roast, with new potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms.

Here it is on a plate, with gravy made from pan drippings.

These are some of the things cooking over here at our house.  What about you?  How has the Autumn season affected your cooking?  The cool, blustery weather has been perfect for soup-making, casseroles, and hot and bubbly things, hasn't it?  I love Fall and everything that comes with it!  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Little Post

I thought I would share this with you.  Just a few minutes ago, I went down the stairs, to my basement, to collect a pile of socks from the dryer, and look what I found - a note from my ten year old daughter.  She placed it on her sweater, laying flat to dry, on top of our washing machine.  Anita knows that on most school days, I do laundry, so she put the note in a place where she knew I would find it later in the day.   

When I picked up the note, the paper felt a bit soggy, and it brought tears to my eyes.  How thoughtful of her to send me a "fabulous day" wish.  And so it was.  This little note has brightened my day so much.  It's always the little things, isn't it?

I hope you find something "little" in your day to bring you happiness!  Wishing you all have a fabulous day!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pie Dough, Mini Pies and Hunter's Moon

On Tuesday morning, I brought the girls to school, as usual.  I was standing outside the fenced-in yard talking to one of the other moms, discussing Thanksgiving weekend...things like, "Where did you spend Thanksgiving? Who cooked the meal?  What did you eat?".  When I mentioned that I baked a pumpkin pie for dessert, she said, "Oh, wow, I haven't had a pumpkin pie fix in such a long time!" (I hope I'm quoting her correctly).  She went on to tell me she's the only one in her home who likes pumpkin pie, so she never buys a whole pie, or she would have to eat it all herself!  We eventually said goodbye and wished each other a good day.  As I walked home, I kept thinking I couldn't allow this poor soul to be deprived of pumpkin pie!  Everything in me was telling me to bake a pumpkin pie for this woman.  Was I crazy?  I didn't even know her name!  Then it hit me! 

I remembered I had bought a set of mini pie tins at a garage sale this past summer. I still hadn't used them, so I figured I could make mini pies.  The tins would have come in handy the other day, when I baked the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  I wanted to bake two pies, one for us, and one for my brother-in-law, who loves pumpkin pie.  Unfortunately, after I had rolled out the dough, I noticed my only other pumpkin pie dish was missing.  I ended up baking just the one, not remembering that I had the mini pie tins tucked away in a drawer.

Anyways,  I thought I would show you how I make the pie crust, since many people are "afraid", just as I was, before I first started making it from scratch.  I find it gets easier and easier, the more you practice, like most things. 

In a bowl, whisk 2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 tsp salt. Add 3/4 cup of chilled shortening (cut into 1/2 inch size cubes).  It's very important that the shortening be well chilled.  You can even chill the bowl and pastry blender in the refrigerator, to keep the dough as cool as possible.

Using a pastry blender (as seen in previous photo), cut the shortening into the flour until you're left with crumbly pieces,  the largest being the size of peas.

To the crumbly mixture, add approximately 6-8 tablespoons of ice cold water (I put cold water in a cup in the freezer before I begin).  By the time I'm ready, the water is ice cold.  Make sure to add water, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Use a fork to incorporate the flour and water, bringing the dry flour on the bottom of your bowl to the top, each time.  You'll know the dough is perfect when it holds together when pressed between your fingers.  It has to be just right, not too dry, not too wet.  I ended up using 7 tablespoons of water.

To a clean counter top, sprinkle some flour, gather and press dough to form a ball.  Divide ball in half and into two identical disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  You have enough dough to make one 9 inch double crust pie or two 9 inch single crust pies!

This is my pie crust after rolling it out on my floured counter top, using a floured rolling pin.  Make sure the dough extends 1 inch from the edge of the plate.  I cut around the excess and then tuck in the overhang to rest on the edge of the pan.

Believe me, I am no professional when it comes to baking pies.  I'm just trying to show you how simple this can really be.  I remember being scared of attempting a home-made pie crust, and I want you know it's not that difficult!  

Crimping the pie dough is new to me.  I need more practice, but I'll get there. 

Whisking the pumpkin pie filling

Filled and ready to go in the oven

In the meantime, I rolled out the other disk of dough and cut out six circles to fit into my mini pie tins.  I filled them with pumpkin filling and put them in the oven when the large pie was done.

Large pie cooling on a rack

Filling mini pies

Using the dough scraps, I cut out some tiny leaves to decorate the tops.  Don't they look cute?

I ended up keeping the large pie for ourselves to feed our pumpkin pie loving family.  Not only do I love pumpkin pie, but so do Nuno and the girls.  We've been savoring a slice of pie after every dinner. 

Full Moon
This is a photo of the Hunter's Moon on Tuesday evening.  I took this photo on my walk to our local community centre.
 This photo was taken on my way back home.  Isn't it beautiful? 

The mini pies were sent off to pumpkin pie lovers.  The mom at the school was so happy with her pumpkin pie!  I only gave it to her this morning because the kindergarten students have school every other day. She said she will enjoy it for dessert, after she eats her lunch.  I sent the last mini pie to school with my niece this morning.  She was one happy camper!  

This morning, in my neighbourhood, it is grey, rainy and blustery - a typical Fall day!  I hope you are enjoying the Fall season, no matter what the weather!  Happy Thursday!  xoxo

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Gift of Thanksgiving Tradition

From our house to yours...

This past weekend, Canadians celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday .  Our country has been celebrating Thanksgiving yearly, since 1879.  It used to be held in November, but in 1957, it was proclaimed that Thanksgiving would occur every second Monday in October.  And so it has been...

On Thursday, January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed:

"A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October."

I am the daughter of immigrant parents.  I came to Canada, from Portugal, with my parents, in 1978.  I was a little over one year old.  My parents came to this country in search of a better life for themselves and to give me the opportunities that they never had.  One of the first "gifts" they gave me, was the gift of "Thanksgiving". Although it is not a holiday celebrated in Portugal, my parents took on their new role as "Canadians" and celebrated by making Thanksgiving day special.  Every year, my Mom cooked a turkey lunch or dinner for us.  This soon became our tradition.  When I started dated Nuno, back in 1992, he too, became part of the tradition, and every year since, we have been celebrating Thanksgiving at my parents' home.  That's 20 turkeys, since we met! 

This year, of course, was no exception!  When Fall arrives, we begin to anticipate the coming of Thanksgiving and the delicious turkey feast.  My mom is always the chef that day.  She makes the turkey, potatoes, and stuffing.  I am the pie baker.  I bring along the whipped cream and pumpkin pie!

I made a pumpkin pie on Saturday evening.  It was the first time I made a crimped edge with the pie dough.  I was quite pleased with the way it turned out.

On the morning of our Thanksgiving feast, I made popovers...

So simple to make these.  Only four ingredients - eggs, flour, milk and salt!

And 30 minutes later, Ta-da! 

Pumpkin pie and popovers!

While I was making popovers, our 20 lb turkey was already cooking in my Mom's oven, since 7:30 that morning!  Lunch was for 1 pm.  We got ourselves dressed and ready for the one hour drive to Toronto.  

And this is what we saw on our drive to my parents' house.  This photo was taken by me, while driving along the highway.  The fall colors are stunning!  And I forgot to add how beautiful the weather was.  It was so warm, people were wearing shorts and flip flops.  It was quite an unusual weather weekend for October!  I don't remember ever celebrating Thanksgiving in such summer-like weather! 

And here it is...the moment we had all been waiting for...

...the star of the show - the 20 pound turkey!

Here is my plate - sliced turkey breast, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and a popover to dip in the gravy!

This year, we were happy to welcome a new face to our table, a friend of my Mom's who hadn't any family or friends to celebrate with.  We all ate, enjoyed, laughed, talked, and felt thankful and blessed to be gathered here together, another year.  We let our stomachs settle a bit before we had dessert.  

A slice of pumpkin pie, with whipped cream on top - the perfect end to a delicious Thanksgiving feast!

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I give thanks for my family (parents, grandparents, in-laws, nieces, cousins, aunts, uncles) my friends, my husband, my daughters, all of the special people in my life.  I live in a world, full of life, beauty, and wonder.  I am thankful to wake up to it each morning and celebrate it with YOU!  

I thank the universe for all the blessings it has bestowed upon me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  

I hope all my Canadian friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Our American neighbours will soon be celebrating theirs!  And I know one of my English friends will be celebrating a special Thanksgiving in America this year.  Not everyone celebrates  "Thanksgiving" as a holiday.  We don't need it to be thankful.  It is a wonderful reminder, however, to be thankful, always.  

Have a wonderful week everyone!  Thank you for stopping by.  If you enjoy reading my posts, please follow my blog!  It would mean so very much to me.  xoxo

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Last Day in Paris

All good things must come to an end.  I didn't take very many photos this day, as we didn't see or visit any new places.  We basically enjoyed our day at a slower pace.  We went for breakfast, walked to Ile St. Louis,  enjoyed the famous berthillon ice cream, took in the beautiful scenery, and soaked up every last moment in the beautiful city of Paris!

I will leave you with some morning photos...

The "pigeon man" feeding the birds

Our favourite neighbourhood boulangerie, where we enjoyed our cafe au lait and warm butter croissants.  This is the bakery that delivers the bread to the school children!

See the delivery bicycle?  I wish we had one of these in my neighbourhood!

Anita and Annabel sitting outside, enjoying warm butter croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast

Parisian "croissant au beurre" from Boulangerie Beatrix
The best way I can describe it is: light and flaky on the outside, and inside it is buttery and doughy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  Oh, and of course, they were always warm from the oven.   

This trip To Paris was an incredible journey for me, for all of us!  Even after being back at home for nearly 3 weeks, and having time to look back and process everything, it still feels like a dream - almost like it was too good to be true.  But I tell myself, it wasn't a dream, it was all real and it was more than I could have ever dreamed or imagined it to be.  

For me, this trip symbolized that any dream is possible, if you just put your mind to it.  Up until recently, I used to think, maybe one day I'll go to Paris.  Maybe when the kids are older, maybe for our 25th wedding anniversary, maybe, maybe, maybe.  Then I thought, why not now?  Why NOT live our dreams in the now?  So, we did it!  It was one of the best things we have ever done!  Precious memories were made, our lives were enriched, and my dreams came true.  The sky's the limit!  

Thanks for following me along on my journey and thank you for all your comments and support.  I hope I gave you a good sense of what Paris is all about.  Everyone's idea of Paris is different.  This is mine!  If you have never visited, maybe this little travel blog has set your mind to thinking about it.  Paris has truly captured my heart and I will love to visit again one day.  There are still so many things we haven't discovered.  And that's just in Paris, let alone the rest of France!  ...And then there's Italy!  

"Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true" - Lyman Frank Baum, writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

With Love, From Paris, Day 6 Continued

Unfortunately, the ending of my last blog post didn't get published, so I am going to continue on from where I left off...the merry-go-round.

Have you ever seen a merry-go-round with two floors?  

Anita and Annabel riding on the top level

I loved riding on this merry-go-round.  It was so special!  When we got off the ride, a bride and groom came on to have their wedding photos taken!  Isn't that romantic?

I will never forget this special night!

An incredible, unforgettable view!

At approximately 9:20 pm, we walked over to the tower to meet my friend Lurdes and her family!  Lurdes moved to France a few years ago. She and her family drove from near Versaille to come meet with us.

Lurdes and I

Just the girls ( Annabel, Anita, Ana Teresa, Me, Lurdes and Cindy)

The whole gang (except Cindy, who took the photo)

It was wonderful seeing Lurdes and her family.  They invited us to a nearby cafe and we sat, chatted, and drank our coffee. I really appreciate them coming all the way to meet with us, especially after a long day at work. 

Eventually, we said our goodbyes and took a cab back to the apartment.  It was the end of another fabulous day.  I do hope you enjoyed coming along with us on day 6.  Oh goodness, there's only one day left!