Sunday, November 29, 2009

comfort food: toad in the hole

The other day, I was mulling over what to make for dinner. Ingredients on hand - sausages, carrots, turnip so I was thinking of baked sausages with veggies on the side when I remembered Toad in the hole. My mum used to make it for us when we were kids. Her version was sausages baked in yorkshire pudding batter with gravy on the side. I saw Jason Parsons make an updated version on CityLine (CityTV) with root vegetables so that is my version now. Adding the vegetables to the mix satisfies my casserole desires and the toad in the hole idea takes me back to my mum's kitchen, always a good place in my memory.

Toad in the hole from Jason Parsons as prepared on CityLine, adapted by me.

1 package sausages (I used 6 skinless cheddar Mitchell's sausages)
2 carrots peeled and thickly julienned
1 small turnip peeled and thickly julienned
sprinkle of sage, salt and pepper

I sliced the sausages and tossed them and the vegetables in a roasting pan with the spices and roasted for ~ 30 minutes at 375 deg.

Yorkshire pudding mixture
7 large eggs
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c milk

(Note match the volume of eggs with equal volumes of milk and flour. In this case my eggs measured 1 1/2 cups.) Beat eggs. Add flour and whisk until the lumps are gone. Add the milk and beat together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the vegetables and sausages into a greased casserole dish (9x13 or equivalent). Pour the yorkshire pudding mix over the top. Push the veggies into the batter. Bake at 375 for ~ 35 minutes or until the pudding is set all the way through. Serve with gravy, if desired.

Friday, November 27, 2009

the santa list

Every year we are fortunate to be able to take T to my work's Christmas party for employees's children and grandchildren. Held early in December, there are gingerbread cookies to decorate, a bouncy castle, face painting and food (glow-in-the-dark mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, carrot sticks and potato chips). But of course, the main attraction is Santa. The children line up in age and get to sit on Santa's knee for a photo op and then they are hustled off and given a present from Santa's elves. Two year's ago, my photo's feature a screaming, stiff T. He wouldn't go anywhere near Santa that year. Last year, T sat on my lap, while I perched on the arm of Santa's chair but he leaned as far away from Santa as possible but still managed to put in a request for "Thomas videos and trains".

What a difference a year makes. T has been waiting for this for months. He's had his list since August and regularly drags it out and shows it to everyone (at church, at school, anywhere he has a chance to ). D printed out the list, after T wore out his small catalog that came with a toy tractor he got last Christmas. So this year's wish list includes

- earthmover
-dumptruck with long dump body
-concrete mixing truck
- paver
- road grader
-steam roller
-quarry truck
-low bed with a track backhoe

Lately he has added
- logging truck with grapple hook
-two black racing cars with batteries

Last week, I asked him if he wanted to go to my work Christmas party and his yelled answer was "is SANTA going to be there?"

When I said I thought Santa was going to drop in, he said "I'm going to bring my list!!". Oh dear. This should be interesting. I've already talked to Santa and told him how excited T was to see Santa and show him his list. I'm still trying to get T to give me his top 3 picks to get from Santa because the elves at the North Pole are so busy making toys for all the boys and girls everywhere around the world and Santa has to fit all the toys in the sled to go around the whole world so probably Santa will only be able to deliver 3 construction trucks.

At this point, thankfully, T doesn't seem to be remembering the bulk of his previous presents from Santa, last year's big art easel and spider web bean bag chair and the previous year's big train table.

Meantime, I played Santa's helper today by wrapping gifts for the party. As it is less than a month to the big day, I'm easing myself into getting into the spirit. A christmas CD in the car, this week. Next week the advent calendars come out - T's chocolate one and a quilted one I made when T was a baby. When I get that out, I might start with the door hangers as well. Have to do it slowly so as not to trigger D's Scrooge reflex!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

roller coaster artist

This month, the children are learning about artists at T’s preschool. So yesterday, T 's response to “what did you do at school today” was to tell me he painted under the table. Hmmm. So I asked him to show me what he meant. He promptly lay down on his back on the floor and reached his arms in the air and waved them around (simulating the painting bit.)

“Which artist were you learning about?” I asked.
“Mickeangelo” came his answer.
“Was there paper on the bottom of the table?”, I said, just wanting clarification that he wasn’t painting on the actual table.
“What did you paint?”
“Roller coaster!”
Of course, almost every painting T has done lately is a roller coaster.
He wants to ride on one. I don’t know where this comes from – as far as I know he’s never been near a roller coaster and hasn’t even seen video of one.
But they are easy for a 3 year old to paint, lot of loops!

(this one is apparently in the style of Emily Carr)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

little boy hugs

So I just realized that my little boy will be 4 in less than two months. Argh! How did that happen? He's such a funny little boo - he is into telling jokes now. Last week he told D, as they were cuddled up under the covers during the power failure, that he had three jokes. The first one involved lunch boxes in the mud (more and more lunchboxes in the mud) and D forgot the second one and they never got around to the third. D didn't get the jokes but that isn't really the point. T loves telling them and does the hearty preschooler fake laugh after he tells you the "punch line" - just so you know....As he says " it's soooo funny!"
He's also into hugs - and thankfully he has expanded my repetoire of hugs to include tall ones (standing up), short ones, tight ones, squishy ones, nose hugs, head hugs, feet hugs....well, you get the picture. The best are the T hugs that Mummy gets! Or the sandwich hugs - mummy and her two guys!

Thought I would finally get around to writing about one of my go to recipes for T's lunchbox - spiced pumpkin bread, adapted from Windjammer Cooking by Dee Carstarphen (recipes from the Maine windjammers). I reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe and upped the wheat flour content. It has veggies, eggs, whole wheat flour and my version isn't too sweet and T loves it (calls it cake!).
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 c. pumpkin puree (or banana/squash/apple)
1/3 c. water (or applesauce)
1 tsp vanilla

Blend sugar and oil together until well mixed. Beat in eggs, pumpkin, water and vanilla. In a separate bowl blend together

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, all spice, cloves and nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients into the sugar blend and then add 1 c. raisins.
Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 deg for 50-60 minutes or until the loaf bounces back when pressed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

musings from the laundry room

How is it that laundry accumulates so fast? And how does one small boy go through so many clothes? And get them so dirty? And I thought I still had a few years before I had to check through the pockets but tonight I found a stash of pennies in a small boy's jeans pocket, so I stashed them away in his penny jar. T is doing a great job of finding and collecting pennies; his penny jar is almost full!
T's new favorite videos are from the library and they need to be returned (3 videos to the library, 1 book to daycare, 1 sweatshirt to preschool - all to be done tomorrow). Our boy loves to borrow things! Anyway - new favorite videos - Mighty Machine series. He loves these machine stories.
D finds the voices hokey, especially the Newfoundland accent on the log skidder! But they are great for T to watch on rainy evenings while I make supper. When he's not helping me that is. His tasks today were looking for the carrots in the stew and putting the unused carrots back in the fridge for me. Then it was back to playing with his backhoe and waiting for the earthmover to be fixed (the earthmover's bucket came off in transit and has to be glued on, but unfortunately a small boy is so anxious to play earthmover and backhoe that the glue hasn't had a chance to set and the repair isn't holding...)

And now it's quiet. There is the drip, drip, drip of the rain on the drainpipe outside, the hum from the laundry in the dryer, a small boy curled up in his bed, sound asleep, the aroma of stew cooking for tomorrow night's supper and a mug of hot tea next to my computer. Life is good.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

planes, trains and boats

Today I took T on a local adventure. First stop, the SeaBus. T was fascinated by the "ferry". He loved the big boats in the harbour and watching the seagulls take off in front of the hovercraft.
Then we took the SkyTrain, the new Canada line out to the airport. On the walkway between the SeaBus and the Skytrain we passed over the train tracks for the cross country freight trains and the WestCoast Express commuter train. And along the way, lots of escalators which T loves to ride on. The SkyTrain wasn't very full but we ended up facing the wrong way. T didn't think we were going very fast and got a bit cross as we kept stopping (at the stations along the way). He was very excited when we came out of the tunnel and went over the river. He could see a lot of trucks and construction trucks. We had a bite to eat at the airport and headed up to the public viewing area. T gazed at the planes taking off and coming into the terminal.
We saw a plane taxi up to the gate and watched the "tunnel" drive up to the plane (to disembark passengers). Then the baggage was unloaded with a conveyor truck and the baggage carts and the plane was refueled by one of the orange tanker trucks. In the meantime other planes were taking off in clouds of spray (from the past days of rain) and other trucks were zooming around picking up parcels, delivering suitcases and food and pulling or pushing planes in and out of the gates. After about an hour, we left. I managed to dodge the request for a stuffed orca at the Aquarium gift shop, although T really, really wanted the giant plush orca at the front of the store. We walked up to the SkyTrain station and while waiting, T asked me why a man was standing on the yellow line (I had told him we had to wait for the train behind the yellow line). We managed to get a seat at the front of the train so we could see all along the tunnel, realizing that the train squeals as it goes around big bends in the tunnel.
Then back on the SeaBus. At the SeaBus terminus we stopped to look back at the city skyline from the sailboat fountain
and a quick stop to look at the tug boats anchored at the dock.
Then back to where we left the car and home to tell Daddy all about our adventure.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

casserole queen

I love casseroles. No - really love them. I love the idea of one dish serving and making. And I know that usually a casserole involves many pots besides the casserole dish. But still. I love them. So this week it was casserole week at our house.

Sunday night I made Mushroom Spinach Lasagna - a recipe I've been tweaking for ages trying to eliminate the oily film that I had the past couple of times. And I think this version worked really well.

Fresh lasagna sheets (I made mine using a breadmaker pasta recipe and my pasta machine)

Ricotta spinach mixture (adapted from a Delia Smith recipe in Basic of Cooking One)
1 tub of ricotta
1 bag of spinach, cooked with a bit of butter until wilted, drained, chopped
70 g gorgonzola cheese
70 g mozarella grated
grating of nutmeg
2-3 tbsp milk
Mix all ingredients together until well blended.

Mushroom mixture
Half a medium onion, chopped, sauted
1 leek, green part only, sliced and rinsed well, sauted
1 c. sliced mushrooms (I used cremini and button), sauted
1 tub of Safeway Gourmet mushroom soup
2 tbsp flour
Saute the vegetables until soft, add the soup and flour and mix well. Heat through for 5-10 minutes.

In a greased 9x13 pan, spoon 1/3 of the mushroom mix and spread over the bottom. Fit one layer of noodles over the mix. Pour over 1/3 of the ricotta mix, and 1/3 of the mushroom mix and spread over and cover the noodles. Create another layer of noodles. Sprinkle some grated mozarella over the noodles and follow with 1/3 of the ricotta mix, spread and then 1/3 of the mushroom mix. Add the final layer of noodles, cover with the last of the ricotta mix. Top with a layer of grated mozarella and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 deg for about an hour.

Monday night I made another casserole - broccoli, cauliflower and rice with ham from Delia Smith's book Basics of Cooking One:
1 1/2 c brown rice
1 small onion sliced
3 c. vegetable or chicken stock
Saute the onion in ~ 1 tsp oil until soft. Add the rice and turn. Add the stock and cover, bring to a boil and then simmer for 50 minutes.

Meanwhile steam 1 head of cauliflower and 1 crown of broccoli florets.

Make the blue cheese sauce:
1 1/2 oz butter
1 1/2 oz flour
500 ml milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 c chopped ham
120 g blue cheese, crumbled
In a saucepan, add the milk, butter and flour. Whisk together and cook for 5 minutes. Add mustard, ham and blue cheese.

Once the rice is done, spread it into a greased 9x13 pan. Layer the cauliflower and broccoli florets over the rice. Pour the sauce over the vegetables, covering them as much as possible. Combine one handful of bread crumbs and some grated parmesan cheese in a small bowl and mix. Sprinkle over the dish and put into a 350 deg oven for 20 minutes, then put under the broiler for a couple of minutes until browned and bubbly.

I went away for a couple of days (to the spa for some relaxation) with my pal. I had a wonderful time despite the crazy, stormy, windy, wet weather and the guys had lots of leftovers to eat in my absence!

Monday, November 16, 2009


My problem is (big confession here!) that once I start something, I get a bit carried away. Okay - a lot carried away. So, I've got a couple of projects already on the go - a red snowflake sweater for T that I just have to block and put together. Another sweater for T that is half knit. So what do I do? I go off to the craft store and get more wool to do other projects - mittens for Christmas for children.

This pair is for T's little friend C - who came over for a playdate this week. She's such a sweetie and so different from my wild child. She was wearing her new fairy shirt and got right into painting. The two of them have wonderful conversations - one about Auntie's dog by T was riveting. Not so much for the dog (poor Allie) but in the telling of the torn cruciate ligament tale by T. " My Auntie's doggie fell down the stairs and hurt her leg and so she had to go to the animal hospital for an operation and get a big, big bandaid on her leg". C was enthralled. I wonder what his take on Allie's post-surgical hydrotherapy treatments would be!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

kid's games

T's new favorite thing to do if both D and I are home is to play "hide and seek". He also plays with anyone who comes over - so consider this a warning! The way he loves to play it is that we count and he hides. He usually tells us where he is going to hide but if we cut him off and say he isn't supposed to tell us he's easy to find. Just follow the giggling. If we don't find him fast enough, as we usually try to stretch out the finding bit (Is he in behind the door? Is he under the table?) we get "I'm in here, guys". Not hard for us and endlessly entertaining for T.

I got him a preschool version of the old snakes and ladders game a few weeks ago after we played a few rounds at the kid's stall at the market. This version is really chutes and ladders - I guess snakes are too scary. And there is a spinner instead of a dice. T cheats - he moves the spinner to whatever number he wants it to be but not with any game advantage in mind - just because he likes certain numbers better than others. He loves going down the slides even when he doesn't have to, in fact, he gets annoyed if I "get to go down a slide" and he hasn't yet. He loves to win but wants me to win as well. Not quite clear on the concept which is ok with me.

We also play a card matching game with Thomas the Tank Engine cards - in our house called the Thomas matching game. I've taken to carrying the cards around in my purse as we can play a smaller version of it while waiting for shots for instance. (This week we waited for over an hour for T's H1N1 shot). T is extraordinarily lucky at this game - D thinks he's marked the cards as I think he's only lost one game so far (to Uncle M after 3 wins and a tie).

Yesterday the puppets came out of the hiding bag (hide some of the toys so we aren't overwhelmed)
and the crayfish and the lobster spent some time finding and eating all the toy ducks and octopus they could find!

more knitting

More knitting this week. I love the mittens and the beanies as they are portable and good to work on while watching swimming lessons or waiting at the doctor's office.

I made a pair of kid's mittens

And another baby beanie.

I have a couple of bigger projects I'd like to do. I found some great patterns over at A boy's sweater and a sweater for me (using wool I've had for ages).

christmas cake part 2

Yesterday, after swimming and grocery shopping, etc I decided to get to work on our Christmas cake for 2009. Out came the raisins, currants, dried cranberries and apricots and the candied peel. So here is how I adapted the recipe:
Dark Fruit Cake (adapted from the Canadian Living Cookbook)
1 c. candied peel
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. dried apricots
Place all these into a food processor and grind until finely chopped.
1 c. currants
2 c. sultanas
2 c. raisins
Add all the fruit together and add
1/2 c. brandy or rum
Let sit for a couple of hours or overnight. Grease cake pans, line with waxed paper and grease the paper. Preheat the oven to 275 deg F.
2 c. almonds finely chopped
1/2 c. flour
Mix these into the fruit mixture
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Cream together the butter and white sugar. Add the brown sugar and keep mixing. Add the eggs into the mixture, 1 at a time. Add vanilla.
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, allspice and mace

Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and incorporate well. Then fold the fruit mixture into the batter. Pat into the prepared pans.
Bake for ~ 3 1/2 hours or until the cake is brown and bounces back when poked. Wrap the cakes well when cooled and they will keep for at least 6 weeks.

The whole house will smell cakey and spicey. Yum!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

knitting projects

While going through my craft box the other day, I found a pattern for knitted mittens. I've knit socks for ages (although it has to be said, not lately) from a great pattern I found in a wonderful knitting store somewhere in Vermont, but I've never knit mittens. So using some leftover wool from a sock project, I tried the first one. And once you have one, you have to knit the second one. So here is my first knit pair of mittens.

My other use for leftover wool is baby beanies. A group of north shore churches started a project to knit or crochet 10,000 baby beanies for distribution to local and global hospitals, etc. I love these - the beanies are easy to knit, use up leftover wool and I get a feeling of accomplishment with each completed beanie. So far I've done about 15. Here's the latest one.

monster truck hallowe'en

Ok - so I wanted to make a really amazing costume for my little guy for Hallowe'en. He came home over a month ago from daycare telling me he wanted to be a backhoe for Hallowe'en. And just when I'd figured out how I was going to do that he changed his mind and now wanted to be a monster truck. The challenges - it had to be a costume he could wear at preschool and that would stand up to rain (you know - rainy west coast weather!). Everyone's suggestion started with a cardboard box but I thought that the preschool element eliminated that as a possibility. So I went with foam sheeting. And being a monster truck, it had to have big, big tires (to roll over and smash the cars!). So I started with the tires. Two foam sheet circles and a cushion foam circle cut out and covered with black duct tape - times four.

I put chrome duct tape in the middle of the tires to simulate the center of a real tire.

Then I attached the tires onto another foam circle to attach them to the truck body (in hindsight I wouldn't do this again - just tack the tires onto the foam). Then I cut out the truck bodies, and painted them.

I googled a flame template to copy onto the truck body - as T wanted flames on his truck.

I discovered, by accident, (D dripped water onto the truck body and it ran) that the paint wasn't waterproof. So then I covered the truck body with clear packing tape. I sewed shoulder straps and side straps onto the foam body. And then came the attaching the tires to the foam body. I tried sewing through the center
but T ripped off the first tire in about 2 seconds (leading to a regrettable mummy moment of yelling at T but midway through the yelling I realized that if T could rip off the tire that quickly, the design was flawed and would not work in the preschool setting. I put T in his room until I calmed down and then apologized to T. I was haunted by the possibility that I had wrecked T's enthusiasm for Hallowe'en and his costume but he bounces back so much faster than me.) So I tried velcro and glue (here is the costume covered in books trying to get the glue to stick)
and in the end the tires were glued, velcroed and tacked onto the foam body and they held. T loved being the only monster truck that we saw trick-or-treating and lots of people loved his costume. It didn't match the picture I had in my head of how I wanted it to look but it worked for him so I guess it was a success. Next year he wants to be Batman!