Saturday, February 27, 2010

2 in 1 day!

Well, a couple things. First off, we have a skunk living in our neighbourhood. Very likely our yard actually. We've been smelling skunk around our house alot lately and tonight Cash, our dog, kept barking at the door while we were downstairs. We'd let him outside and he kept barking while he was out there. Finally I stepped outside to untangle his rope and I could smell skunk. Fortunately Cash doesn't smell like skunk but we'll be calling people tomorrow about it.
Secondly, I went upstairs and I got my banana bread recipe!

Banana Bread (best in the world):
1/4 c margarine
1 c sugar
2 eggs
3 mashed (brown) bananas

In a separate bowl mix:
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine both mixtures and let sit for 20 minutes

Bake in a large, greased loaf pan at 350 for about one hour. Make sure you do the toothpick test!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)


I slipped! Stupid ice! I was just getting out of my car and walking around it to get Gabe out of his car seat when I totally biffed it! I fell right on my hip... and then I still had to climb into the back seat to get Gabe out! And my butt hurts! I'm not even sure it will bruise my hip, but it feels like I jarred my tailbone! Stupid ice!
Anyway. That was my rant. I hope you enjoyed it.
Today wasn't really a bad day - just that fall sucked. Today was actually quite a nice day. We slept in this morning because we've been super tired all week and Matt's feeling sick. When we finally got up we had some of the banana bread that I made last night (mmmm) and then we went shopping. Not conventional shopping either. First we went to a bike shop in town and checked out leathers for Matt. (Incidentally, he's actually going to buy them online from They've got an awesome Alpinestar selection) Then we stopped off at a liquor store and picked up a bottle of our favorite sparkling wine - Beni de Batasiolo's Bosc Mascato D'Asti - It's hard to find, but sooooo worth it! After that we went to Glenn's Family Restaurant for some tea. They have a huge selection of loose leaf teas and they have one in particular that is a huge hit in our household. Cream Earl Grey. It is fantastic! Matt's a huge Earl Grey fan and the "cream" part is great. We also tried the Dutch Licorice Rooibos tea and the Vanilla Chai Black Tea. Both were nice. The chai tasted more of Rooibos than chai. The Licorice I'd say the same about, but it had a nice licorice undertone still.
When we got home Matt had a nap while I went over to his parents' place and hung out there for the evening. I got to see my sister-in-law and her husband (brother-in-law x2? I don't know. He's just Andrew) They live in another city so we don't get to see them as often as we'd like (and my sister-in-law doesn't get to see Gabe as often as she'd like). My in-laws had an older gentleman over for dinner too and he was a really nice guy; very interesting. We watched the curling game with him and later I watched him and my father-in-law play crib. Then I came home and slipped.
Stupid ice!
Now, I could post my banana bread recipe (best in the world, I swear) but the recipe is all the way upstairs and I'm holding my baby, so it makes things rather complicated. I remember some of it... 1/4 c. margarine, 2 eggs, 3 bananas... something about lemon juice... unfortunately, you'll have to wait for another day for that recipe.
Oh and kudos to the Canadian Men's Curling team! Fantastic win!
That's all for today! Tomorrow Matt and I are volunteering at a sportsman's show, so we've gotta get to bed!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Marshmallow Icing

Do you ever have those times when you're out shopping for one thing and you see it in a package with a whole bunch of other things that you don't even need but because it's such a good price you want to buy it anyway? Yah, well Matt and I were in that situation last night, except we were looking to buy furniture.
Our basement has a very awkward layout. It's a very long, narrow room with a fireplace in the middle of the room. So since this is our TV room we've tried probably 10 different furniture arrangements to make it work for us by now, including getting rid of my sectional (mine because Matt hated it) and getting another couch from Matt's parents. Well, the way we have it arranged right now works really well except for one thing: the way the couch sits it actually divides the room, which wouldn't be so bad, except that it's so long you can hardly walk past it. So last night Matt and I went to a furniture store in town that had a good sale on so that we could look into buying a loveseat. A loveseat. So $400-$600 for an average one, $700 - $900 for leather, etc. Well, while we were in this store we found a full three piece sofa set (sofa, loveseat and chair) for $1000. It was the floor model of a discontinued set and it was gorgeous. It was microsuede but it was made to look like worn leather. Matt and I had actually checked out that style almost 2 years ago when we bought Matt his recliner. Anyway, the only problem with us buying that set would have been that we only really have room in our house for a loveseat. That is, unless you like furniture lining every inch of your walls, which we don't. We went home, talked it over, even considered just giving the sofa to someone else and storing the chair, but at last we finally decided against it. We hadn't been thinking long about getting a loveseat - it was a spur of the moment shopping trip to be honest, and to come home with a full living room set when we already have a house full of gorgeous couches seemed silly. I'm proud to say that we resisted the temptation of a good price and walked away.
There, I got that off my chest. Now I can tell you about my cake!
Well, I did get around to making Matt's belated birthday cake yesterday and since it was so very late I wanted it to be more grand than just a 9x13 pan cake. So I decided on a devil's food layer cake. 4 layers actually. And two different types of icing. And chocolate curls on top (I always keep some in my freezer for just such an occassion). The first icing was for between the layers and it's my mom's coffee icing, except I tweeked it with chocolate (all the girls in my family are allergic to chocolate, including myself, however my mom's allergy is much more severe than mine) The icing I made is simply 6 parts icing sugar and 1 part cocoa, 1 tsp margarine mixed in and then the liquid is 2 parts coffee and 1 part milk. It's really very yummy. The second icing I made was my Grandmother's Marshmallow Icing. I messed this one up though. The part I messed up about it was what I did with the cake after I iced it - I covered it. The marshmallow icing is made with stiff egg whites and like a meringue it needs to dry to get good and sticky. Well, I tried doing one layer of this marshmallow icing inside the cake but because the cake still had some warmth to it, that pretty much melted into goop (yummy goop, but goop all the same) and then I iced the entire exterior of the cake with the marshmallow icing and covered it, so instead of it being this gummy, sticky, beautifully fluffy icing, it lost its texture, it deflated and basically just didn't look as good. However, as I mentioned before, it was still yummy. Well, since Matt is the type to appreciate food for the fact that it is food, (he can't identify individual flavors in foods such as salsa. He doesn't taste the tomatoes, the peppers, the onions and the cilantro, he just tastes salsa) Matt just loved that it was cake. Big cake at that. And it was yummy. And since it was his birthday cake and I made it specifically for him, that's the best that I could hope for :)
Have you ever had Grape Nuts? You know, that small box of cereal that sits in your grandparent's cupboard? I love 'em! And no, they don't really have grapes in them and when I found that out at the age of 7 I was sorely dissappointed. They do however have that lovely malted flavor that I find so good. I highly recommend trying some, particularly if you enjoy those healthy flavored cereals.
Oooh! Going back to furniture now! So Matt and I went to Fairmont Hot Springs for our honeymoon a year and 10 months ago and we drove there in our little 2 door Chevy Cobalt. We brought skis and golf clubs (because who knows what the weather will be like in April) as well as a weeks worth of luggage. On our way home from Fairmont we stopped over in Canmore for the night and since we got to town before our hotel room was ready we went shopping down the mainstreet. We came across this adorable little shop called Barnyard Sticks that sells barnwood furniture. They were just moving to a bigger location down the street so they were having a clearance sale. Matt, in a moment of excitement and over-confidence, decided that we'd be able to fit a side table into our car somewhere between the skis and the golfclubs. So we bought it, and we did fit it eventually, and now that's one of our favorite stores to shop at. This year for our anniversary we're getting a joint gift for eachother. We did this at Christmas too and we ended up buying a numbered print of our favorite painting (Ocean View by Fred Buchwitz). So this anniversary we have two ideas for what to buy: a frame for that painting, or more barnwood furniture. To be honest, I think it will end up being the frame. We just redid our living room and with the more simple and clean design in that room a frame would really make the picture stand out. Having it unframed right now, the picture that looks most spectacular in our house is the framed mountainscape that my dad bought for us for $5 at a garage sale. Hopefully though, we'll find it in our budget (somewhere between buying frames, replacing flooring and putting in new countertops) to buy more barnwood furniture this year :)
Well, now to close off and leave a recipe (which I haven't done in quite some time)

Grandma Chapman's Marshmallow Icing:

3 egg whites
6 tbsp sugar
1/8 c corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla

Beat the egg whites till they are stiff. Gradually beat in the sugar, one tbsp at a time. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat till fully blended. Ice your cake and let sit UNCOVERED ;) Even better the next day FYI

That's all for now! TTFN

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sick Baby = Tired Mommy

Well, our son Gabriel is sick - again. He's hardly been healthy 2 days in a row since Christmas! This time it's just a cold, but it still keeps him from falling asleep at night. Which, in turn, keeps me from falling asleep. So, he won't let me set him down at all throughout the day which means I hardly get anything done around the house. I have designated today to be my marathon laundry day. Blue is in now, next black, then red, then white, then towels, then baby clothes. Sounds fun, eh? Well if you honestly think so then I invite you to come over and do it for me :)
I have another project today: baking a cake. My poor husband did not actually have a birthday cake yet this year. He had a birthday creme brulee and a birthday cupcake and a birthday lemon meringue pie... But no birthday cake. So, hopefully he doesn't pop home in the middle of the day and ruin the surprise, but I'm going to bake him a gorgeous chocolate layer cake with my mom's coffee icing in between the layers and my grandma's marshmallow icing on top.
As a quick aside, I love my baby. He's sitting next to me and he had picked up one of Matt's birthday cards that had money in it. He opened the card, took all the money out and tossed it over his shoulder and then started playing with the card! So Cute!
By the way, I love everybody's national pride. On Facebook last night only two of the status updates I saw didn't have something to do with our bobsled or hockey wins.
Well, I supposed I'd best get going. My baby is yelling, my dog has wrapped his rope around a tree again and my laundry is ready to be switched out. Ode to Joy.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Birthday Dinner

Yesterday was my husband's birthday and I had been preparing for it for a month - at least. I knew what he wanted for his birthday was money to spend on motorcycle gear (he's an avid biker and actually owns three bikes: two crotch rockets and one 1975 Honda 550cc that he's almost completely restored) Well, I didn't want my only gift to him to be money so I made reservations at the newer and nicer restaurant in town - Restaurant 27 - and I did some scheming with my parents. I told Matt that we would be going for his birthday dinner at my parents' house the night of his birthday, I asked his mom to say that they were busy that night anyway, and made plans for my parents to babysit our son while we were out. I dropped off our best clothes at my parents' house in advance and hoped he wouldn't figure it out! We got to my parents' place and Matt was just getting settled down to watch the hockey game when I made him follow me into the bedroom that our clothes were in. We got dressed and we got to the restaurant just in time. I ordered the calamari to start and the cornish hen for my entree while Matt ordered the proscuitto wrapped prawns to start and the swordfish for his entree. When they came to take our drink orders I asked the waitress if they made Italian Sodas. She didn't actually know what they were so I explained it to her (a shot of flavoured syrup topped up with club soda) and then she told me what flavours of syrups they had: white chocolate, vanilla and gingerbread. Not exactly typical for an Italian Soda. But I went with the gingerbread anyway :) It was actually really good. It was really spicy and refreshing. Well, the waitress went and told her boss what she made me and made one for her to try. She came by our table later to tell us that he boss loved it and that she wants to list it as a feature drink now!
We finished off the meal with apple fritters (for me) and maple creme brulee (for Matt).
I also gave Matt another small present for his birthday. We collectively have a fair number of hockey cards and even some pretty special ones. Matt also has alot of Detroit Red Wings items around the house (they're his team) So I went and got a shadow box and arranged some of our nicer memorabilia in there. Now we can actually display it instead of keeping it scattered throughout the house. Next year I'm going to try and tackle his model bike collection!

Well, just before I came on to write this I saw an article on MSN about single celebrity chefs and the meals they would cook on a first date. Almost every single one of them said they would make chocolate lava cakes (except the guy who said he'd make chocolate pots de creme). Seriously though, overrated much? You want to make me a romantic dessert how about some cream cheese stuffed poached pears? Or maybe some homemade strawberry sorbet? Or how about some Montana's Mile High Mud Pie? Okay, maybe that last one wasn't really romantic, but it sure is yummy :)
I have hardly cooked all week thanks to social engagements and that's going to be the trend for the rest of the week too. Tomorrow I might get to make dinner - we'll see!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pitas and pasta

I have my kitchen back! Yay!! Well, for now that is. We just renovated our living room - new flooring and paint. During the course of these renos we moved all of our living room furniture into our kitchen. Just two days ago we finally cleared the last of the furniture out. The only downside about my small victory is that we renovate the kitchen next. New floors, paint and maybe countertops in there.
All this to say that for the first time in a week I'll be making our first meal other than pasta tonight. I really hit a slump when I don't have adequate space. I actually get overwhelmed when too much is out of place and I procrastinate doing anything about it simply because I can't figure out where to start. It applies to cleaning and cooking. I can make a full meal using just my fridge, my stove and my sink, which is all I had access to. However, with the overwhelmed feeling, I just couldn't think of anything other than pasta! Fortunately you can do alot with pasta.
Anyway, tomorrow is my husband's birthday and I'm not even cooking dinner for him myself! So instead, tonight I'm making him pizza (he's always in the mood for pizza) and on Wednesday I'd better figure out something special to make him as well. I'd made jokes about duck confit, bison medalions with a cassis reduction and Asparagus risotto but honestly he'd rather have baked mac and cheese.
On other news, I had a pita for the first time since Grade 10. It was the day before Chamber Choir recording and for the past two months some of us choir kids had gone for pitas almost every day. Well, we made a trip for pitas after school one day and I got food poisoning. The funny thing was that I had a ham pita. Ya, I got food poisoning from a ham pita. I figure cross contamination, but whatever it was I was violently ill all night and the whole next day. I started running a fever in the morning too. I dragged myself out of bed at 3:30 and went in for our choir recording. There's more to that story but that's all you need to know. Anyway, I tried eating pitas a couple weeks after and I gagged every time one got too close to my mouth. Odd, eh? So yesterday we had lunch with the inlaws and we got pitas from the same place that gave me food poisoning all those years ago (under new management since). MMM it was tasty. And I have overcome my very severe aversion to pitas! Yay!
Anyway, it's 2 pm and I still haven't finished my lunch. Adios!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Long Time No Blog!

Well, thanks to a faulty touch pad on our laptop, Matt and I had been sans computer for 3 weeks. This meant no blogging, no searching recipes and no research for my company. Fantastic.
In any event, we got our laptop back and now life can get back to normal!
Let's see... what happened in those weeks...
Well to start, Chef Michael Smith competed in Kitchen Stadium and the judges couldn't have been more ridiculous. Honestly, who says they don't like a guacamole dish because it's not what they are used to when they think of guacamole? And how on earth did he not get the highest points ever awarded for plating from his Avocado on the half shell dish? The most beautiful thing ever! Anyway, Bobby Flay won. He did well, but the judges didn't give Michael Smith a fair shot. Next time, get some real judges on there.
That was a minor rant. Moving on. For the past month I have been planning a "Lonely Husbands Valentines Dinner" Unfortunately, my Lonely Husbands were not able to attend so all the groceries I bought will be put towards something else I guess. We did do sushi night at my parents' house and the panko crusted chicken tenders were a big hit. The fried rice was pretty good but due to an absence of proper equipment, the rice wasn't rinsed sufficiently and so it tasted a bit starchy and was very sticky, but since it was everyone else's first time making sushi, they didn't notice (or care, rather). Oh, and because of the botched Valentines dinner I brought the proscuitto over to my parents' house and introduced my family to it!
Matt and I are renovating our house again. This time it's our living room and kitchen. Over the weekend we painted our living room and Matt laid out new laminate in it. The only thing we have to do for the living room is to paint our accent wall, build a bench seat, and paint and install new base boards. Then we'll paint the kitchen and eventually replace the vinyl in there as well as the countertops.
Our house is going to look so pretty! For all of Saturday we had no access to our kitchen or our basement thanks to all the furniture in the way. But that's okay.
Anyways, this week will be full of cleaning, painting and catching up on emails.
All this to say... I'm back baby!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)