Monday, November 26, 2012

My First American Thanksgiving

 Hip-hip-hooray!  It's Friday!  I have been trying to post about last week's Thanksgiving for several days now.  After tackling with some Blogger issues, I am finally able to share my photos with you.  I'm happy to announce that I have since acquired my own domain:  It is powered by Blogger so I can still use the same format and won't lose any of my old posts. Thankfully, all issues have been sorted out and I can commence my blogging once again; although I have noticed one change - it seems I can't post pictures as large as I used to.   Oh well, it isn't a big deal. 
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you will know that I live in Canada and we Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday last month; in mid October.  I shared some of the highlights and pictures in a recent post.  In our family, my Mom roasts the turkey every year and we always celebrate Thanksgiving at my parents' house.  It is tradition and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving day in the United States.  I decided to celebrate the day again with my American friends.  Why you may ask?  Well, for several reasons.  First of all, because I love the Thanksgiving holiday so much; next to Christmas, it's my favourite holiday.  It was a great excuse for me to cook a feast!  Also, it was my chance to roast and stuff a turkey...for the first time ever! 

The first thing I did was plan out the menu...

roast turkey
stuffing  (Susan Branch's Grandma's Stuffing)
cranberry sauce
sweet potato balls (my friend Nancy's recipe; her mother used to make them)
pumpkin cheesecake (recipe by Susan Branch)

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I baked the cheesecake, made the cranberry sauce and roasted the potatoes for the sweet potato balls.  The cheesecake had to be refrigerated overnight and the cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes needed chilling.  I got a few things out of the way so I wouldn't be overwhelmed on Thanksgiving day. 

On the morning of, Nuno went to work as usual and the girls went to school.  Unfortunately, they couldn't do the holiday, stay-at-home thing, so I stayed home taking care of the details.  I ironed the tablecloth and napkins while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade on television. 
Here are some photos from our Thanksgiving feast...

The place settings
I decorated the plates with dried maple leaves we
had gathered on our fall walks.
The pumpkin cheesecake
The cranberry sauce
The three day old bread drying out to prepare 
for the stuffing (just the way Susan's
grandmother used to do it).
Susan Branch's Grandma's Stuffing
 The aroma in the kitchen was to die for! 
 The girls came home from school in time to help too!
Here is Anita shaping a sweet potato ball
(tucked inside is a large marshmallow)
Annabel wants to help too!  She did such a great job!
 The star of the show - the roasted, stuffed turkey
The sweet potato balls
A little bit of everything on my plate!
And for dessert, a slice of pumpkin cheesecake.  I made
a caramel sauce to go with it and topped it with whipped
cream and ground cinnamon. 
When Nuno returned from work in the evening, we gathered at the table and enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner together.  Annabel said a prayer and we took turns telling all the things we were grateful for.  Everything was delicious.  After we ate and sat with our bellies full, it was decided (by Nuno and the girls) that our American Thanksgiving was a success and that yes, we should celebrate with our American friends every year.  This may very well be the beginning of a new tradition!  Like my husband says, "You can never give enough thanks and you can never eat too much turkey!".

I hope my American friends who are reading this, also had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  You all provided the inspiration for me to do this.  Thank you!  I am grateful for each one of you. 

Tomorrow we welcome the month of December! Nuno, the girls and I are visiting a local tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree!  I am so excited.  Have you put up your tree yet?  It's such a magical time of year!  Thank you for stopping in and taking the time to read my post! Have a wonderful weekend! xoxo

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cavacas, Fond Memories, And The Recipe!

Hello dear friends,

Thank you for stopping in.  I love when you come to visit!  Yesterday afternoon, I posted a photo of the "cavacas" I made on my facebook page. I was so overwhelmed with comments, questions, and requests for the recipe, I wanted to share it with all of you. 

First of all, for those of you who don't know, what is a cavaca? It's a traditional Portuguese confection whose origins date back as far as anyone can remember, but there is no documented proof of where or when it originated. 

Cavacas are simple to make and require very few ingredients, usually only eggs, flour and oil, as well as a rich sugar coating.  You can find these popular sweets all over Portugal in bakeries and markets. Although the ingredients don't vary much from one recipe to another, the baking technique, shapes and sizes can vary from one village to the next. 

Outside of Portugal, cavacas are sometimes called Portuguese popovers, as they are somewhat similar in texture.  Cavacas, however, are drier, contain oil and are much sweeter.   Yes, they are similar, but still very different. 

The recipe I used to make my cavacas comes from the facebook page Azorean Green Bean.  You can find the recipe there on her page.  I saw the photo she posted; they looked so yummy, I had to try them for myself.  Indeed they were delicious!   Thank you to Azorean Green Bean for the inspiration!

My husband has enjoyed cavacas since his childhood days in Portugal. I was introduced to them many years ago, when his grandmother, Avo Emilia, brought them over from Portugal to Canada on her yearly visits.  She also adored them.  I vividly remember her thorough enjoyment of the sugary confection!  Baking these brought back memories of those days long ago.  I miss her and think of her often.  Most times, memories of Avo Emilia come to me when I eat foods that she enjoyed, like leafy greens, fish, potatoes, salad, and homemade bread.  One thing she couldn't stand was reheated potatoes.  I will never forget that.  She is dearly missed and thought of often. 

Here she is displaying her homemade bread.
I took this photo of her.  She loved taking pictures!

Here is Azorean Green Bean's recipe including my changes/additions/comments in red


2 cups of flour *all-purpose
1 cup of oil  * I used olive oil
½ cup of whole milk *I used milk, but can be replaced with oil/olive oil
8 eggs at room temp
Sugar Glaze:

 2 cups of Confectioner’s Sugar
 zest of one lemon
 2 tablespoons of milk (more or less depending on the thickness you like)  * I used 1/4 cup of milk as I prefer the glaze thinner. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease regular size muffin tins or popover tins. *I used butter to grease. I tried the recipe twice, first using popover pan, second using muffin tins.  I preferred the muffin tins.
Using an electric mixer beat all ingredients for at least 20 minutes without stopping.
I highly recommend using a stand mixer on this recipe with the mixer set on level 6.
Fill the muffin or popover tins no more then half way.  *I filled mine using a 1/4 measuring cup, which was less than half way.  These really rise!  Be careful not to overfill them!
Bake on the middle rack; for moist Cavacas, bake for about 45 minutes; but if you like them on the dry side, bake for 1 hour. They will get to a nice golden color and “popover“ the pans.
While they are still warm, spoon the glaze over each one or just submerge each one in the glaze. Either way you can’t go wrong.
Serve on the same day, since it will dry even more for the following day.  Mine are on day 2 and tasting fabulous still!
If any of you decide to make the recipe.  Please let me know how they turned out!  Maybe you can send me a photo and I can share it here on my blog!   Wouldn't that be wonderful?!
Wishing everyone a happy November.  Santa Claus is coming to town this weekend.  Can you believe there are only 39 days, 12 hours, 58 minutes until Christmas.  Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?  I haven't!  EEK!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

vintage Halloween post card

Getting ready for the big day...

 I-N-H-A-L-E.  The smell of pumpkin fills the kitchen. We love squishing the stringy pulp in our hands and scooping out the seeds! 

Ahem, a little assistance from Daddy for the polka-dots!
The pumpkin seeds are rinsed, dried and seasoned for roasting...
Hot and ready to eat!

Annabel's polka-dot jack-o-lantern

Anita's ghostly jack-o-lantern, designed by her!

 My heart-o-lantern
And last but not least, my cat Buddy, "dressed up" for Halloween...

I can't show you the girls' costumes yet, as children are not allowed to dress up at their school.  I find it silly, but anyhow, they will have all day to anticipate dressing up after school! 

It continues to rain this morning, as it has been for the past few days.  Hopefully, we will see a reprieve for the  trick-or-treaters tonight.  How is the weather behaving where you are?  Are any of you dressing up today?  Are you doing anything special tonight?  I would love to know how you are celebrating today.   

Happy Halloween, dear friends!  I hope you all enjoy a safe, fun night!  xo

Friday, October 19, 2012

On Fall Decorating, Food, Recipes and Inspiration!

Happy Friday, dear friends!  Can you believe there are only 12 more sleeps left until Halloween?  It feels like the month of October is fleeing as quickly as the leaves are flying off the trees!  The days are getting shorter, there is a nip in the air, and I've been keeping fall-busy. 

I've been decorating indoors.  These are the leaves my girls and I gathered on our little foliage tour a couple of weeks ago.  I put them in the pages of a heavy book to flatten and dry.  The acorns were  found by Annabel in her school yard.  Every time she finds a "perfect" one, she brings it home for me.  The Autumn banner was hand-made by my dear friend, Janie.  Since she gave it to me, it always has a special place in my fall decorating!
I put our pumpkins out on the porch steps along with Mr. Scarecrow and our little welcome flag.
The light colored pumpkin is a "pink pumpkin".  For every pumpkin sold, a percentage is donated to breast cancer research.  You can visit the website if you'd like to learn more.
 Our smiling pumpkin lights decorating our front porch
The season of autumn, including this month of October, brings about in me a craving for what I call "cozy cooking".  The recent chilly and blustery weather has me thinking of things like hearty bowls of soup, warm breakfast cereals, and cheesy, grilled sandwiches.  Although I have substantially lowered my daily carb consumption, I do allow myself occasional treats! 
My dear friend, Morwenna, posted about her yummy breakfast in one of her recent blog posts.  If you haven't already, you simply must visit her lovely blog -  She is an English cutie and a fabulous baker who always provides me with inspiration! 
Morwenna's recipe for her organic porridge looked and sounded so good, that I too, had to run out (the very same day) and buy ingredients to make my own.
I emptied one packet of regular whole grain oatmeal into my bowl, added 2/3 cup of hot milk and stirred in one tablespoon of maple syrup.  A few banana slices, chopped walnuts, raisins and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon made an otherwise regular, boring oatmeal an over-the-top bowl of morning cozy!  Thank you, Morwenna, for your inspiration! 
Another source of food inspiration came to me just a few days ago.  I was flipping through the pages of "Our Homes" (a free, local magazine) while in the waiting room at my orthodontist's office when I came across an article about grilled cheese.  There was a lovely recipe and a photo of the most delicious looking grilled cheese sandwich. 
For lunch yesterday,  I recreated a similar grilled cheese sandwich, inspired by the magazine recipe.
If you want to recreate this sandwich yourself, you will need:

2 slices of hearty whole grain bread
1 small onion, thinly sliced, caramelized in a bit of butter
3-4 slices of cooked bacon
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
butter for spreading
First, I caramelized the onion and fried the bacon.  I set those aside and added approximately half of a cup of shredded mozzarella cheese to one slice of bread, covered it with the caramelized onions and topped it with the bacon slices.  I placed the other slice of bread on top and then buttered the top and bottom slices. 
Next, I heated a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  When the pan was nice and hot,  I put the grilled cheese sandwich in it, pressing it down every so often with a spatula until the under side of the bread was golden brown and the cheese began to melt.  Then, I flipped over the sandwich and did the same thing to the other side. And ta-da...
It was so good!  The flavours really complemented eachother!  I will definitely be making this again!  I think next time, I'll try omitting the bacon and making it with caramelized onion and cheese only, maybe even cheddar cheese. 
I hope you are all enjoying the month of October and the days leading up to Halloween.  It's such a fun time of year!  I can't wait to see children and adults dressed in their costumes on Halloween.  I already bought one BIG box of treats, but I have to buy more. Last year, we had so many children coming to our door.  Halloween night is so much more festive when there are lots of children
Thanks so much for stopping by.  I always love hearing from you and appreciate your comments!  Have a wonderful fall weekend! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Blessed & Thankful Weekend

It is the day after Thanksgiving holiday (for those of us who live in Canada).  Nearly one month has passed since my last post and of course, so much has happened since then!  The fleeting fall season is upon us and the autumnal trees are boasting their magnificent hues.  The girls have been in school for over one month now and our family has settled back into the daily routines and orderly schedules of the school year. 
On a less pleasant note, our little Annabel broke her arm over a week ago.  I can't tell you how awful it was for me the first couple of days.  But because Annabel is so strong and brave, she keeps me focusing on the positive.  With all the extra love and attention she's getting; fingers crossed, by Halloween, her cast will come off, and she will be good as new again! 
Aside from that bit of sad news, everything else is great!  We had such a glorious holiday weekend; filled with so many good things, I just can't wait to share it with all of you!
On Saturday, we went on our annual fall drive to see the changing leaves at their peak.  A mere thirty minute drive from our home, in the city of Orillia, we saw this spectacular scenery!
Autumn is my favourite season and these photos are proof of it.  Can you see the vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves?  It is breathtaking to see the trees on a sunny fall day; they radiate such a soft, warm glow this time of year.  It is M-A-G-I-C! 
The girls and I picked pretty fallen leaves and stuffed them in a book to take home and dry. 
We stopped for lunch and then went for afternoon tea at this quaint and cozy tea house in Orillia.
Click on the photo for a link to the website!
At the White Lions Tea House we enjoyed freshly brewed tea and scones!  If you are ever in the area, you must stop in and visit.  Laurie, the owner, is so warm and welcoming, and her freshly baked scones are delicious! 
Here is Laurie's selection of loose-leaf tea.  I love how she stores them in clear glass jars.  Even the drawers are smiling!

On Sunday afternoon, I made pumpkin pie to take to my parents' home for Thanksgiving the next day.

Here is the pie dough.  It's the first time I ever made this type of pie edge.  I notice that the more pies I make, the better I become at playing with the dough. 

I also made half a dozen mini pies, to be on the safe side.  Our house is full of pumpkin pie lovers and it would be very dangerous to have a whole pie out on the counter, for all to see. We wouldn't want anything happening to the Thanksgiving pie, now would we?

And finally, the much anticipated day arrived - Thanksgiving day - at my parents' house.

Here is the famous 24 pound turkey, after five hours roasting in the oven.
 For some reason, the turkey keeps getting tastier and tastier as the years go by!

Thanksgiving is about tradition.  Here are a few of ours:

My mom always makes the turkey, stuffing and potatoes
We always celebrate at my parents' house
I always bake the pumpkin pie
My dad always sets the table
Nuno (my husband) always carves and serves the turkey
We always eat too much!

I love this picture!  I was taking a photo of Nuno carving the turkey, when I noticed Anita unaware and staring at the turkey, licking her lips.  Simply priceless!

My plate - turkey breast, stuffing, potatoes and gravy - YUM!

And lastly, our dessert...

a slice of homemade pumpkin pie! 

This year we added something new to our Thanksgiving celebration.  Annabel and I wrote a Thanksgiving prayer together.  Annabel read it at the table yesterday before we carved the turkey.  From now on, the prayer will be read every year at our Thanksgiving dinner. 

I hope that my fellow Canadian friends enjoyed yesterday's Thanksgiving holiday. I hope it was filled with lots of love and gratitude.  I am thankful every day, but particularly on Thanksgiving day, for my wonderful family, my dear friends, my loving husband, and precious daughters. 

I am glad that a holiday like Thanksgiving exists; reminding us to take time out from our busy lives to fully appreciate all of our blessings.  Because no matter where we are in this life, no matter what the circumstances, there is always something to be thankful for.

Many blessing to you all!  Have a wonderful week and continue to enjoy the autumn leaves, while they're still here!  xo

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fall-ing For A New Season...

Hello, dear friends!  Happy September!  I can hardly believe that an entire month has passed since my last post!  I have so much to tell you and so much has happened since then! For one thing, my girls are back at school...

Here we are on the first day, getting ready for school

New clothes, new shoes, new backpacks, new notebooks, sharpened pencils and lots of excitement! It was a bittersweet day for me, marking the end of yet another summer at home with my girls.  They are growing up so fast and I treasure these years, more than they will ever know. 

I am happy to report that Anita and Annabel really enjoyed their first week of school and are loving their new teachers.  That, in turn, makes me one happy mommy!

Here in Barrie, the return of a new school year, often means cooler weather.  And we've been having lots of those days.  We've been enjoying sunny and breezy days - a delightful combination! 

The leaves know autumn is coming too.  At about this time, every year, I anticipate spotting the first leaves changing colour! Here they is such a special time of year! 

And of course, the cooler weather has prompted me to start the fall decorating...

Autumn wreath on my front door

Fall flag hanging in front of our garage

Our chrysanthemums are blooming, our scarecrow is tucked into the garden and it is looking mighty fall-y at our house. 

I've been baking too (of course).  I've made a carrot cake loaf and also a couple of banana-chocolate-chip loaves.  It is a perfect fall treat and the girls love taking a slice to school for their afternoon snack.

Although it isn't officially fall, it certainly feels like it.  Autumn is my absolute favourite season and the signs of it arriving are everywhere! 
Like this morning...
I went out to our front porch (in my pyjamas) to take a picture of the beautiful sky as the sun was rising.  The pink and orange streaks were breathtaking and the air was crisp and warning of colder days to come. 
Then, I went inside and watched from my kitchen window; drinking my morning coffee... my pretty new mug!

Oh, and I want to show you our new church.  It isn't complete yet.  The builders are still working on the exterior and the interior is far from finished, but just look how beautiful it looks already...

One day soon, this will be our church and it is only a ten minute walk from our home!

And finally, I will leave you with this little video of our latest backyard visitor - Chippy.

Happy September and almost autumn!  I hope you have a wonderful week and enjoy all the splendours of the coming season! xoxo


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Kempenfest, A Special Find, And A Yummy Recipe!

Last weekend, Nuno, the girls, and I attended Kempenfest, the annual arts and crafts show located on the edge of Barrie's waterfront.  The festival, now in its 42nd year, is one of the largest arts and crafts shows in all of Canada!  We have visited every summer since our move to Barrie. 

There were over 350 artisans selling arts, crafts, antiques and one-of-a-kind items!  The festival also included a midway, food vendors, and a live music stage with ample space for dancing.  We took a break to watch couples dance to music from the fifties and sixties.  It was so much fun watching them; even I found my feet tapping! 

I enjoyed walking through the almost never ending maze of vendors and seeing the myriad of handmade, unique items available for sale.  It was great to see so many talented individuals all gathered together in one place.

I took some photos to share with you...

This is one of many antique exhibits at the festival.  Can you see the waters of Kempenfelt Bay, just behind the tent?

We arrived early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun.
By lunch hour, you could hardly squeeze by this path!

Here are more exhibits down another path along the water.  I saw lots of happy people carrying their new found treasures! 

Look how crowded it is now!

This is a photo of my girls and I posing for a picture by the rows of pink petunias.  I brought along a bag to carry around my purchases.  Can you guess what I have inside?

I'll give you ten guesses, but I still don't think you'll guess.  Hmm...maybe if I give you a couple of clues.  It's brown and breakable. It's used for baking cookies, a special type of cookie.  Do you know now?


It's a vintage shortbread cookie mold!

When I saw it at the festival, it said "BUY ME" all over it.  I found it at a booth where the vendor was selling antique and vintage items.  Isn't it precious? 

Now, I know it isn't Christmas, and shortbread is usually reserved for holiday indulgence, BUT... 

...I just had to try it out!  I mean, wouldn't you?

I went online and looked for a recipe for Scottish Shortbread.  I went on to learn that traditional Scottish shortbread is made with only three ingredients:

butter, sugar, and flour

Traditionally, it is made with 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour. 

I used the recipe from this website:

The only change I made, was to eliminate the vanilla.  I wanted to taste the full flavor of the butter without the influence of vanilla.  I also added a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor of the unsalted butter I used.  I must say, it was the most delicious shortbread I have ever tasted!

Needless to say, the shortbread did not last very long.  Nine cookies divided by four shortbread-loving persons, equals less than twenty-four hours before they were all gobbled up. 

You can use this same recipe to make your own shortbread.  You don't need a shortbread mold.  Instead of spreading the shortbread in a pan, roll the dough into a log, freeze it until firm and then slice with a sharp knife into equal rounds.  Place on a cookie sheet, bake and enjoy! 

Thank you for stopping in.  I love sharing my world with you! 
Have a wonderful, happy Sunday! xoxo