Sunday, January 29, 2012

making it green

For our boy's 6th birthday party, he'd originally requested a locomotive cake. I do have a book on making kid cakes but it didn't have a locomotive cake that he was happy having, so I went over to youtube for some help. And while scrolling through several videos of train cakes (mostly Thomas the Tank Engine), up popped a tank cake on the side bar. Well, he was enchanted. "I want that", he said. And it looked easier than a locomotive cake, especially the way our boy was thinking it should be. And actually assembling the tank cake is easy. I'm here to tell you that the hardest part is getting the frosting the colour you want it, at least it was for me.

Now I took the easy way out with the cakes. As a couple of the crowd have wheat issues, I went with Glutino's Gluten Free Chocolate Cake mix - 3 of them. I whipped them up and baked 2 cakes, 1 in a 9x13 pan and 1 in an 8x8 pan. In retrospect I could have made the tank using just the 9x13 cake, making it a bit smaller.

Once baked, I cut a round out of the large cake and evened off the edge. I placed this cake on a foil covered stiff cardboard I used for the cake board. I trimmed the 8x8 cake and placed it on top of the larger rectangle and the round cut out went on the top.

 To glue everything together, I used a crumb coat of frosting. I made the crumb coat using food colouring in liquid drops and even using all the green I had, I still only got a bright shamrock green. I set up the layers and covered the cake with this frosting and put it in the fridge to set up.

And then went off to the craft store for gel food colouring - in Moss Green. I had to use quite a bit of gel to get the olive green colour I was going for, but it worked! I frosted the entire cake in the olive green frosting, then added a chocolate roll wafer cookie for the gun, and used chocolate buttons (large) for the wheel rollers with a bit of black frosting gel to outline for the treads.

 Add candles and lego people and the cake was ready for the party. It was a hit and fed a lot of kids and adults.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

lego and a tank cake

If you'd looked up the word apprehension in the dictionnary last week, there might have been a photo of myself and my husband. We were building up to panic through the week, at the prospect of 18 of our boy's 5 and 6 year old friends invading our house for a couple of hours. Yes, we'd invited them, but still, the prospect was daunting. We kept saying "it is only for 2 hours". It seems that kindergarden is a big year for birthdays and a few of our boy's friends have had parties for the whole class. Our boy really wanted to do that as well. I looked into various options for entertainment and venues but in the end I came up with this - a party at our house with entertainment for the children. I hired a fantastic guy who came with a ton of lego and a friend to help him to play with the kids for most of the time. (I'm not linking to his site mainly because he isn't currently booking parties but if you live in the Vancouver, BC area and are interested just leave me a comment and I can forward you details.) I also begged some mum friends to stay while their kids played (ok, I also plied them with wine to make it more palatable).

So, the party has come and gone. Everyone seemed to have fun, no-one got hurt and my husband only had to use a bit of carpet cleaner solution afterwards. I think it also helped that I've learned a few things and applied them to this party. When I started planning the party, I was initially only going to ask the boys. But in speaking to a few mums about the idea of a lego party, they all seemed enthusiastic and it did seem a bit mean to not ask the girls in our boy's class as well. Especially, as my husband pointed out, that our boy had been to several of their parties. But I did think that I would set up a place where the girls could go if they go legoed out, with a roll of art paper and crayons. And as we moved the furniture in the living room mostly into the dining room to make a clear space for the lego to be, we had a big seating area in the dining room - very squashed but cosy. I kept it simple with the party food with things that had worked well at other kid parties - crackers (I went with the ever popular Cheese Bunnies), a veggie tray with dip, sliced fruit (melon, apple, strawberries and grapes), homemade bagel bites and a bowlful of yogurt tubes. I'd never seen yogurt served at a kids party before but it is one of our boy's favorite foods and I thought it might be a good idea as it is a self contained serving. They were very popular, especially with kids who'd never had them before.

The lego guys arrived early, and set up quickly with all kinds of fantastic lego creations - I'd requested the City set with airport and space add ons. They had lego apartment building, hospital, bank, police station, pizzeria, airport, airplanes, stations, a huge crane as well as all kinds of lego vehicles, people and an array of space plants, stations and robots. They also set up a lego train set with a set of controls and had trays of block for the children to build things with. It was quite an impressive set up.

 I did wonder how all the children would fit in but they all did. And after the initial excitement on seeing it all, the kids settled down to a dull roar. They played with the lego, some came and snacked and some made their way upstairs. The girls did a giant birthday card for our boy with the paper and crayons and some found a game to play.

The parents who stayed perched around and had wine and snacks and chatted. It was great. When the lego time was up, the kids moved to wash their hands and then onto the snacks. It was very crowded in our dining room but no-one seemd to mind. Once everyone was done with hand washing, I lit the cake candles and our boy (with the help of some of his friends) blew them out and the kids had cake.

And then it was time to go. They all got a balloon and a goodie bag and off they went.

Afterwards, we cleaned up, moved the furniture back to where it normally is and had a supper of mostly leftover veggies and fruit. One of our favorite moments from the party was when some of the boys (including mine) decided to put all the Lego girls in jail and one of the girls found out about it. "We have to rescue them!" and the girls all banded together and trooped in to rescue the Lego girls from the police jail.

Friday, January 20, 2012

now we are six

Our boy is six today. He isn't very excited as he only spent about 30 minutes yesterday bouncing on his bed, yelling, tomorrow is my birthday, tomorrow is my birthday. And it snowed overnight so he is just in heaven. All week there has been snow in the forecast and we (thankfully from my perspective) have only had the merest dusting but for a boy who longs to be able to clear the driveway of snow with his trucks, it has been very disappointing. So today, at kid's club, he'll get to play in snow and play hockey with his pals until the rain kicks in later on today. And there will be chocolate cupcakes for supper. And his party tomorrow.

It's hard to believe that six years ago right now, I was in labour and starting to wonder if this boy would ever be born. I'd been induced on the Wednesday evening and as the contractions that started were only baby ones, they sent me home to sleep. I returned the next morning and was hooked up to a pitocin drop to try and move things along. Things didn't progress so I had another round of induction medication and more pitocin and laboured along all afternoon and evening with no progress. Around 11 pm they sent my husband and support friend home. I woke up in heavy labour around 5 am and paced the hallways of the labour and delivery ward until my husband arrived after 8, after which I either paced the hallways or perched on a birthing ball in the hallway outside my cubicle in the antenatal area. As I never progressed to 4cm dilated, I was never moved inside Labour and Delivery. My little cubby was so small, when my husband sat in the visitor's chair his knees threatened to take out the side of the bed. And a birthing ball definitely wasn't going to fit in that space so we parked it at the end of the bed, in the hallway and I perched on it while my husband and friend E took turns massaging my back. Periodically I would have to move to the bed so the fetal monitors could be read (he's doing fabulously well) but my back labour rarely registered on the contraction monitor which was pissing me off and I found lying down agony. At 10:30AM the OB came and checked my progress and we talked about options. I was in increasing distress, and making no progress. I could either have one more round of induction meds or proceed to the OR for a c-section. I went with the OR option and I'm glad I did. While I was being prepped, my blood pressure spiked and I needed a quick dose of hypertension meds and my bronchitis kicked in causing me to cough and cough so I was put on an inhaler as well. Then I was moved to the OR, given an epidural (oh the relief) and then draped. A few tugs later and there was our boy - with a chin just like his dad's. The OB told me later that our boy was so comfy inside me, that she really had to tug to get him out! He and I were moved to recovery where he told me all about his journey - he "talked" non-stop the whole time I was in recovery "ack, ack, ack...ack, ack". My nurse was laughing, saying "wow, you've got a talker there!"

And now he is six! Our funny, smart, social, lego loving, truck loving boy. He's the best thing I've ever done and I can't imagine my life without him. I look at him now and he seems so grown up. He's lean and lanky like his dad (my husband's mini me) and there are no signs of the baby he was except when he is sleeping. Happy Birthday, my dear boy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

stuffing acorns

Is it my imagination or are the squirrels absolutely huge this winter? I know our fence is in rough shape but when some of the neighbourhood squirrels run along it lately it seems to bend. I guess it really is time to get a new fence. And the construction project would maybe distract our boy from his current obsession – the Titanic. He built a lego version of it last week, has been reading one of my husband’s books on the ship and been talking about it non-stop. Last night he was in tears because he “missed the Titanic and will never see it ‘cause it sank”. Oh dear. Never mind that he wants to listen to the “Titanic song” – My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion over and over and then sing it with me when I put him in bed.

But onto something else – I really came here to tell you about a stuffed squash recipe I came up with. I do have to say that I was watching a cooking show on our local PBS station a few weeks ago and a woman did something similar to this although I didn’t get the recipe or really pay attention to what she put in hers. My version is vegetarian but you could make it vegan by leaving out the butter and cheese or add some chopped leftover ham or bacon if you have a die-hard meat eater in the house. You can either stuff halved squash and bake them or peel the squash and mash it into the bottom of a casserole dish and layer the stuffing over the top and bake.

Baked Stuffed Squash
2 acorn squash
1 c cooked brown rice (I used a brown rice/wild rice blend)
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, sliced (optional, I didn't use it the second time I made this)
8-10 mushrooms, sliced
1-1 /2 apples, peeled, cored, diced
1 big handful toasted pinenuts
¼ tsp sage
Grating of fresh nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c grated cheese (choices are gruyere, sharp cheddar, smoked cheddar, etc)

Microwave the squash for about 10 minutes. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and place in a baking dish.

Meantime, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions (if using), mushrooms and apples and cook until tender and slightly brown, ~ 10 minutes adding the sage, some salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg about halfway through the cooking time. When tender, add the pinenuts and rice and stir well to blend. Add most of the grated cheese and mix again.

Season the squash with pepper and a grating of nutmeg, then stuff the rice mixture into the squash centers, mounding the filling. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Bake at 350 deg for 40-60 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.


Baked Squash and Rice Casserole

Prepare the squash and filling as above. Scrape the squash pulp off the squash peel and mash into the bottom of a 9x13 greased casserole dish and season with pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Layer the stuffing over the squash and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top of the dish.

Bake at 350 deg for 40-60 minutes.

unbaked casserole

Saturday, January 7, 2012

green potatoes and ham

Green potatoes and ham is what I came up with for dinner last night. And apologies to Dr. Sueuss for the name, which came to me while I mixed everything up. Friday night supper is always a bit of a minefield as the end of the week usually finds me tired and not inspired to cook and on the night prior to our weekly shop, somewhat lacking in ingredients or imagination. So faced with making a dinner out of some leftover ham, a couple of leeks, some mushrooms and a bag of spinach, I did this. If I'd had the time, it would have been stuffed baked potatoes but I was hungry. So I boiled the potatoes, made a spinach pesto just using spinach, a bit of minced garlic and enough olive oil to whiz the spinach into a pesto.

While the potatoes drained, I sauted the mushrooms and leeks until tender, add the ham and potatoes.

Then I mashed the potatoes into the vegetables and mixed in the spinach pesto and a bit of sour cream to blend. And recalling this recipe, added a dollop of dijon mustard and parmesan cheese. Dinner done. And it was good. And gave my guys time after dinner to complete the lego destroyer they were working on.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Welcome new year and all the best to all of you in this new year. I have been accumulating pictures and recipes to share but for now I'll just do a quick list of things that have become favorites around here.

Cookies from here, gingerbread shorties and thumbprints

Yogurt biscuits from Heidi Swanson's book, Super Natural Every Day (I must bake a batch at least once every two weeks, they are easy, adaptable, quick and everyone loves them)

Our boy is currently in love with this

Reading about all the books Tea chose for her 10 days of books

leftover sausage stuffing from Christmas (all gone now, sniff)

That we can find snow very close to where we live here, where there is sledding and tubing!

here is our boy climbing up after a wild ride down
Cheers to all!