Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cocktail Party Final

Well, my party is over and I am exhausted from cleaning and cooking all day, however, I felt the need to blog while the details were still fresh in my head. The finalized menu for the party was Watermelon, Mint and Feta cubes, Chips and Salsa, Strawberry Rhubarb pie, Affogato, Rum Soaked Peach Phyllo cups, Phyllo Antojitos, Cucumber and Mango Maki, Mee Krob, Corn bread with Sweet Pepper Jelly, Cheese and Bread and Lychee Martinis. The Margarita Soaked Watermelon slices was a no go simply because it would've been too much alcohol with not enough food. The Maki rolls were lacking avocado because my avocado didn't ripen in time. The peach phyllo cups happened because I had planned on making the ricotta and cream cheese mix that I normally do but my ricotta was past its prime. So I cut up the peaches anyway and soaked them in aged rum and coated them with nutmeg and cinnamon, put them in the phyllo cups and brushed them with butter before I sprinkled sugar over them. I was debating whether I should put whipped cream or cream cheese on top and then I tasted one and decided they were perfect as is! The Mee Krob was fun to make. Apparently when you deep fry Rice Vermicelli noodles the puff up into little styrofoam-esque pieces. The Antojitos were the highlight of my evening I think. My sister really wanted me to make these so I had to figure out a recipe. At first I proposed mixing taco seasoning into cream cheese but she said that it wasn't a taco taste she was looking for as much as a spicy, tex-mex taste. So I improvised completely. I whipped the cream cheese before I added cumin and chili powder. I kept adding and tasting but it probably worked out to be 6 ounces of cream cheese, 1 tbsp cumin and 1 tsp chili powder. Then I added 3 minced jalapenos and stirred it all together. I layered four strips of buttered phyllo on top of eachother and then cut the layered piece into two. I put on the cream cheese mix, then some red onion, red peppers and a bit of cheddar. I folded the phyllo in half so it made a little pocket and baked them at 375 for 10 minutes. They were absolutely perfect.
The Lychee Martinis were my sister's concoction. 1 Shot Orchid Lychee liquer, 1 shot pineapple juice, 1 tbsp lychee syrup from can, three cubes ice and 1 lychee. Those were a really big hit too. I'm having one right now actually!
Well, I'm really tired and I have to be at the church at 7:30 tomorrow so I'd best get to sleep now!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cocktail Party Menu

Woohoo! I've finally finished planning my menu for my party tomorrow! I think I'm slipping though because I'm usually done planning menus for parties at least a week in advance - usually no more than a week after I initially conceive the idea. In any event, it is done.
Margarita Mix Frozen Watermelon Slices, Affogato, Corn bread with sweet pepper jelly, Watermelon cubes with Feta and Mint, Cucumber, Mango and Avocado Maki Rolls, Mee Krob (cripsy asian noodles), Warm peach and ricotta phyllo cups, Antojito phyllo rolls, an assortment of cheeses and chips with pico de gaillo. We may not be able to have Lychee Martinis since I could not find any lychees - canned or fresh. However, I'm sure I'll figure out something or other.
Most of the menu are things I've never made before, such as the Mee Krob. You have to deep fry rice vermicelli noodles and then coat them, usually, in sweet and sour sauce. I'll mix in some sweet chili sauce with the sweet and sour sauce and then add green onions and shredded carrot. The Antojito phyllo rolls will be cream cheese mixed with cumin, chili powder and minced jalapeno and then red peppers and onions. The maki rolls are a modification of what I've made before, as are the warm peach and ricotta phyllo cups, obviously, since I've been making my stuffed grilled peaches every chance I get. I've still yet to figure out one more dish however. I have those gorgeous new amuse bouche cups and I haven't got a thing to go in them! Something savoury of course... Maybe something layered with pesto and sundried tomatoes.
Well, I'm sure I'll have it all figured out by the time the party starts tomorrow!
I tested the espresso machine at the church yesterday while my sister-in-law wrote out the new menu boards. The machine is great, but I had some issues with the grinder. The grind was much too coarse, which is an easy fix, but the tamper that they use is attached to the grinder and its diameter is too small for the gruppa heads. Instead of applying even pressure across the whole surface of the grinds, it leaves a quarter inch ring of space, letting the grinds put up and out as you tamp. Makes for crummy shots. So I've got to find a new tamper as well as some other small things like long handled metal spoons to use as a catalyst in the milk. When you steam milk it can get hot spots and boil in some areas but not heat in others. Using a spoon inside the steam pot helps.
I'm really excited to be starting up the cafe in two weeks. It's going to be awesome.
Anyway, my sister and her family are in town so I'd best get off and be social! I'll post how the menu items went and what I ended up putting in my amuse bouche cups!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Birthday and Verrine Glasses

Yesterday was my birthday and in all the excitement of the day I didn't have a chance to post. It was a very good birthday too. At first I was rather worried that it wouldn't feel like my birthday at all - Matt bought me my present a month ago, we didn't have any special evening plans and my only plan for the day was to paint. Well, fortunately my sister-in-law just got home from a trip to Costa Rica the night before and was eager to see Gabe. I let Gabe sleep in until almost noon and stayed in bed myself reading the whole time. Once we got up I fed Gabe and decided that I did not want to cook for myself so I called my sister-in-law and booked her for the day. We went out for brunch at Phils and then went shopping to Homesense! I've been looking around for verrine cups a lot lately (slightly bigger than shot glasses and preferably prettier) however the ones at Pier1 were too expensive and the ones at Ikea were cheaper but not as cute. And yet again, Homesense came through for me. Within 3 minutes I had found a box of what they called 'amuse bouche glasses'. There were 12 in the box, 3 different styles and all for $13! The ones at Pier1 were nearly $4 apiece and the ones at Ikea were $2.50 apiece! The only slight issue I had with the ones at Homesense was that I didn't like one of the styles as much and the first box I opened of them had only that style. The second box I opened had the other styles in it and I thought, "it hardly matters, they are still cute and cheap and will work perfectly," so I bought them. Later when we got home I opened them up to show Matt who had been aware of my hunt for cute little glasses and I realized why the first box I opened had only that one style: someone had taken out that style from other boxes and replaced it with some of the other two styles. So I had none of the ugly glasses! And honestly, they weren't really ugly, they just didn't seem very special to me since my parents had water glasses in that style when I was growing up. Anyway, we got home and I was debating painting some more (I had done a little bit in the morning before brunch) but Matt came home in good time and banished all my thoughts of being productive. He came in carrying a small gift bag and a large bouquet of flowers! He was also worried that it wouldn't feel like my birthday apparently. After he showered we dropped Gabe off at my parents' house, grabbed dinner at Timmy's (upon my request) and went to Auxano. I love going to that. The guys who lead that are wise, godly men and the teaching times are great. Well, once Auxano was done and we had chatted with some friends we went to my parents' house to pick up Gabe and we ended up staying until 11! My mom wanted us to see some of Big Bang Theory, which she apparently just discovered. It was quite cute. I could see myself watching the series on DVD.
Today is going to be a more productive day. I'm going to finish painting the china cabinet, the banister and some baseboards, I need to go grocery shopping, make phone calls and I spent about an hour already working on memorizing James 1. But tonight I get a birthday dinner with my parents, complete with jello salad and my favorite honey garlic chicken wings!
My backyard party this weekend is still happening and I have to plan the menu still. So far all I've got planned are Lychee martinis, cucumber, avocado and mango maki rolls and margarita soaked frozen watermelon slices. I might do watermelon, feta and mint cubes and I may also pick up some cheese but I'll definitely be adding to that menu before the party.
Well, Gabe just fell asleep and I think now would be a good time to finish painting!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Camping trip

We are home from camping! Yay! It was a great trip that had some curveballs but everyone had great attitudes about it so it was still low-stress and super fun. On Friday we packed the van up and hit Timmy's on our way out of town. We were going out to Nordegg so we left fairly early considering check in wasn't until 4. As we were driving out we noticed that the smoke started getting thicker and thicker... Matt's sister was right behind us and we had planned to meet in Rocky Mountain House for more Timmy's but before we even reached Rocky we made some phone calls between cars and decided to turn around. The smoke was so thick that we could barely see a kilometer down the road. We had already been concerned about the smoke for Gabe's sake, but seeing that much smoke we became concerned for our sakes! So, 20 km outside of Rocky we turned around and went to the Timmy's in Sylvan Lake. While we stopped we schemed and opted to try our the Brewer's campground at Gull Lake. The smoke was barely noticeable there and they let us check in early and we were able to get campsites right by the bathrooms and directly across from each other. It wasn't our first choice but for this trip I think it was the best choice. We would've spent all our time in our tents and wouldn't have even been able to see the mountains had we gone to Nordegg. Plus, all of the wildlife that would have gone further down the mountains and towards the water sources because of the fire would have meant even more cougars and bears in the area.
Friday night we had a heck of a time starting the fire. The two bundles of wood we bought were both fairly fresh and damp wood which made it pretty hard. Eventually, after camping fuel, fire starters and my own pyrotechnic abilities failed us, Matt drove into town and bought more wood - dry wood, specifically. Once the fire was finally going we were able to start dinner: perogies, smokies and bannock. It was so yummy! Just the thing after a lot of traveling and only snacking through the day. That night we sat around the fire for a fair while talking and playing guitar and went to bed after it was good and dark. Unfortunately for us, we were by no means the last people to go to sleep. Apparently our sidd of the campground was the rowdy side. Lots of people were talking and singing and laughing long after the 11:00 Quiet Time. Oh, and it was freezing in the tent. Matt and I had our two sleeping bags opened up and laid flat and we were sleeping between them but by about 11:30 Matt decided that wasn't warm enough so we had to get up to zip up the bags and each get our own. Then the people across from us started singing. The guy who was leading them was actually a fantastic musician and had a great voice, but it kept me awake - partly because I was listening and partly because they were singing some songs that they didn't know the words to and I did. At some point I fell asleep but I quickly woke up again because the rain and thunder started. The people that had been singing were still at it so I couldn't have slept long. I started counting the seconds between the flash of lightening and the thunder to tell how far away the storm was. It started at 9 seconds apart and I was starting to get slightly nervous. Gabe is horrified of thunder ever since he heard a particularly loud one and sleeping outside in a tent with a thunderstorm directly overtop of you is never a fun thing. Fortunately however, the storm moved further away instead of getting closer. The rain on the tent was so loud that the thunder didn't even wake up Cash who was sleeping on the floor of the tent next to our mattress. Matt expressed a concern about Gabe's warmth at about this point so I pulled him into bed with us and tucked him into my sleeping bag. Shortly after I fell asleep again only to be waken up by another burst of the storm. The seconds between lightening and thunder were now 19 and I fell back asleep after they hit 30. Then at about 5 in the morning I heard that Cash was awake and needed to go out so I tied I'm up to his chain that was right outside the tent door and tried to get back to sleep. Unfortunately, Cash was lonely and I didn't want him back in the tent while he was awake so I got up at 5. Fortunately, my brother in law had a similar circumstance wake him up so I at least had company. We started the fire and sat around talking until Matt got up at around 7. We whipped up breakfast using the fire and he camping stove we brought (bacon, sausage, eggs and toast) and then spent the rest of the day lounging, playing games and eating. Dinner that night was interesting... I realized the reason that when you cook pasta you need to turn down the temperature after you add the pasta to the water. We cooked ours over the fire which meant one cooking temperature, but when I went to scoop out the vermicelli from the pot it quickly became very creamy and mushy. Evidently, the starches cook and release too much if you leave the temperature on high! It still made a decent pasta primavera with roasted tomatoes, snow peas, shredded carrot and green onion. Oh, and we made very good garlic toast overe the fire too! The rest of the night was spent eating. We had jiffy pop, pie irons, smores and my roasted peaches stuffed with the ricotta cream cheese mix. All of the partiers from the night before had left so we all had a great sleep, save the fact that I had the zipper on the wrong side last night so I was freezing. This morning we all slept in until around 7 and then whipped up pancakes and leftover sausages for breakfast. After sitting around a bit we decided to pack up and I was thrilled to find it didn't take very long at all! I had packed everything of ours in rubber maid containers so all weekend I had been putting things away and keeping things reasonably contained. I had all the dishes, food and supplies packed up before Matt even had the fly off the tent! We picked up coffee on our way home and got back to town by 12:40. As soon as we got home I set to work unpacking- first from the car, then from the rubbermaid containers. Since we're going camping again in a couple of weeks I left all the supplies packed and stored in the basement so that made for a fairly quick job. Then came the grooming portion of my weekend. First I gave Gabe a bath, and then, with the help of Matt's diversionary tactics, I gave him a haircut, then I went outside and gave Cash a bath in the kiddie pool. Then I gave Matt a haircut and while he showered I went downstairs and brushed Cash out. Finally, I got to take a bath. Man it feels great getting clean after a weekend of filth. Gabe was perhaps the messiest of us all and he was the only one who bathed all weekend. We really enjoyed playing in the dirt at the campsite so the first night I had to wash him in one of the sinks in the wash house. I suppose Cash bathed too... He had never been to a lake or river before so we took him and Matt's sister's dog - Indy - to the boat launch to let them run around off leash and play in the water. Well Indy already loved the water so he was right in there. Cash took a bit more coaxing. He'd dip his paws in and follow Indy a little ways but always chickened out before the water got up to his body. Eventually we resorted to throwing things for him into the water. The first time worked great! He took off after it, right into the water. And then he got wet and apparently very heavy. He had been bounding through the water at first and by the time he got back to us he was dragging himself through the water because his coat was so heavy with water.
Anyway, I'm now home, I'm clean, my baby, my husband and my dog are all clean and my house doesn't look half bad! I think we'll order in tonight and spent the rest of the night sitting around reading!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, August 19, 2010


My goodness! We are going camping in the morning and I'm not even finished packing! I used to pack a week in advance for any big trips! What happened to me??
Well, I suppose I did have other things going on this week anyway... And today we even had company over for dinner which didn't go quite like I had planned either. Yesterday when I was out getting groceries I picked up a warehouse pack of ribs and that was basically as far as my planning took me. This afternoon I pulled out an old church cook book and looked up a recipe for oven roasted ribs in there and planned to use that. So I got the ribs cut and boiling and didn't think about them again for another hour or so when I went to make the sauce for them and I realized I didn't have some of the ingredients! I was far too stressed about camping to care so I pulled a bottle of Diane's BBQ sauce out of the fridge and poured it over the ribs, then I slow roasted them for two hours. They were amazing!
Anyway, after our company left I finished digging out all our camping cookware and took a break. I figure I can finish in the morning since we don't have to leave until 10 and frankly, my brain just isn't working right now! I'm sure I'd forget half the things if I tried to finish packing tonight. As it stands I have three lists sitting around the house of things I should pack and in the morning I'll have to refer to all three lists because each of them have things that I forgot to put on the others. It's amazing the scope of things you need to pack for camping... Hand sanitizer, a broom and dustpan for the tent, flashlights and dish soap and tarps...
Well perhaps it would be best if I just went to sleep. The more coherent I am in the morning, the better my odds of remembering to pack everything important!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Broken Nose

Well, I woke up this morning and Matt rolled over to kiss me and it hurt my nose. So I knew it was still tender. And then I got up and looked in the mirror and realized that I had a black eye. Not a huge one, it kinda just looks like I'm tired, with some broken blood vessels. And then I looked closer in the mirror and saw that my nose was really swollen in parts and that one of my nostrils was bigger than the other. And I've always prided myself on having very symmetrical nostrils (seriously. I'm not kidding about that.). Anyway, based on the tenderness, the swollenness, the black eye and the lopsided nostrils, we have decided that Gabriel did, in fact, break my nose last night when he head butted me. I might go see a doctor tomorrow to get it reset but honestly that idea doesn't appeal to me. I may just hope that it's a small crack and trust that my nostrils will again be symmetrical once the swelling goes down (again, I am quite serious.)
In spite of that minor hindrance I did manage to have a fairly good and productive day. I got up with Matt this morning and when he left I started painting the china cabinet. That involved a bit more than I had anticipated since I had to remove the doors, the hinges and the knobs before I even got started, but thankfully Matt taped all the glass and the walls around the cabinet last night otherwise the prep would have taken me even longer. I finished the prep and just started painting when Gabe woke up but fortunately he's a happy boy when he wakes up so I set him up with some cheerios in his high chair and he jabbered away while I kept working. Then at around 10:00 the doorbell rang. I decided against answering it since I was decent but by no means presentable and I assumed it would just be someone trying to sell me something. Then the phone rang - a sure sign that it was someone I actually knew at the door. Sure enough it was my mom! She had the day off and wanted to stop by and say hi. So I put her to work feeding Gabe while I finished up with painting the cabinet. After she left I finally grabbed some breakfast for myself and played with Gabe for a little bit. I wanted Gabe to nap but he was really fighting it. Finally at around 2 he fell asleep and I was able to go back to painting. I still had all the doors to do so I set up drop cloths on our old dining room set and on the floor and got to work again. By 3 I got all of the doors painted except for the undersides which I left until the tops dried. When I finally cleaned up the paint and brushes I sat down to write out a shopping list. I knew that I needed to get in a Walmart trip today as well as a grocery trip and I wanted to make sure I got everything we would need for camping so that I wouldn't have to go back. It was a little chilly in my living room so I went upstairs to the guest room and laid on the futon while I wrote. At some point I pulled the big comforter over me... And then laid my head down while I wrote... And then closed my eyes for just a minute... And then woke up at 4:30. Whoops!
Well, both Gabe and I got our nap in but because Gabe fell asleep before he had lunch he was pretty hungry. So I set him up with food while I finished my shopping lists - this time I was sitting upright, my eyes wide open and slightly chilly. I got Gabe and myself ready and we took off for Walmart first. That was a fairly big trip considering my list only had 5 things on it and they didn't have two of those things! Then we ran over to Co-op for another big spending trip. Although I was delighted to see that they had 4 different varieties of plums in stock this time. That's really for my Co-op! We left the store and I remembered that I had not eaten much today and still had not had dinner so I drove to McDonalds. Yep. I did. Anyway, it was nearly 8:00 by the time I got home and had unloaded the van. I got Gabe set up with some dinner, I got my dog set up with some dinner and eventually, after a few phone calls and putting away groceries, I ate dinner myself. It was at about this point that I looked around my house and was appalled to see the state it was in. This feeling was increased by remembering that we are having a friend over for dinner tomorrow! So I set about tidying, finishing painting the undersides of the cabinet doors and organizing all the supplies I had just bought for camping. By 9:30 I was feeling pretty good about things. Sure my house still looks awful, but once we move all the stuff I pack for camping downstairs and when I finish painting the cabinet and rehang the doors tomorrow it will look great!
But now my husband is home from doing a side job and we have a date to clean the kitchen!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quick recap

Just a quick run over of what I did today and then I have got to get to sleep!
I hardly slept at all last night due to the stupid thunder which wasn't all that loud but I kept expecting one of those super loud sonic boom ones so I was actually laying in my bed with my ears plug until about 2 a.m. when I finally fell asleep - and then I woke up at 3. The rest of the night went the same way. I got up, got ready, got Gabe ready and then headed downtown to have coffee with a friend that I really enjoy hanging out with but that I never really get to. Actually, today was the first time we've ever got together by ourselves! Weird... Well, when I got home Gabe had fallen asleep in the car and since it was a late nap for him I figured it would be a long nap as well. I decided to finish sanding the banister and to start painting it! I got the first coat of primer on it and tomorrow I'll do the top coat! At around 5 I started getting things ready for my cafe meeting tonight and then made sure there was dinner for Matt and Gabe. Somehow I forgot that I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and I failed to make food for myself. Whoops. Well Matt got home just in time for me to take off for my meeting which went awesome. I've got a much clearer picture of what the fall is going to look like and I'm even more excited for the cafe than I was before! One of the things I'm going to do is to go into the church every Tuesday to do my ordering and since that is staff meeting day for the church staff I think I'll show up around lunch time and make some lattes for them! I think that will go over well!
Anyway, I got home from my meeting just before 9 to find that Gabe had been a little poop for Matt while I was gone and refused to eat the dinner I'd made for him (orzo pasta, steamed broccoli and cottage cheese). So I took over, Gabe ate his dinner without any complaint and I sent out an email to all the cafe volunteers and organized my contact book before finally eating dinner. Matt started taping around the built in cabinet for me to paint tomorrow so I took Gabe upstairs to the office with me while I tried to do more work on the IPad. At one point Gabe managed to get into a sitting position on my head and I was so helpless I had to call Matt to come get him off me. Not even two minutes later Gabe head butted me in the nose so bad that I thought it was broken. Only the absence of blood could have convinced me that it wasn't. That happened over an hour ago and it's still throbbing. And now the baby is in bed, my tummy is full, my mind is at ease about the upcoming month and I think I am going to sleep well tonight. At least, I'd better.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sanding and Painting

It was brought to my attention that I failed to indicate what an affogato was on my blog post yesterday, so, before I officially start today's post, allow me to specify: an affogato is a shot espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream. It is wonderful.
Now on to the show.
Today was one of those days that felt more productive than it actually was due to the nature of the tasks I completed. I sat around most of the morning and cuddled my uber clingy baby and then after he had a nap and woke up from it I began to sand our banister going upstairs from our living room. We had decided against painting the banister and our built in china cabinet white originally because it matched our dining room set so well so we were going to leave it, but now that we are getting rid of old dining room set we've decided to paint them both white like our trim and baseboards. It will definitely make them look more modern, but I need to sand them before I actually get around to painting them. I decided randomly to get started today. Once I got about half way done the banister and my arm felt as though it was going to fall off I took Gabe outside for some splash time in his pool. Then I came in and did some laundry and baked some Chocolate Zucchini muffins. I'm not thrilled with the recipe though... They taste too loafy and not chocolatey enough. Matt however loves them so he'll eat them up and I can try again in a few days. For dinner I made linguini Alfredo with steak strips and sun dried tomatoes and I plated it so that it looked fantastic. I even added a sprig of lemon basil on top!
We had Auxano tonight which was sweet and after hanging around and talking with a bunch of people at the end we went over to some friends' house for a quick visit and some home made root beer!
It was a good day overall but I'm already looking forward to the productivity of tomorrow. In the morning I'm hoping to finish sanding the banister and the china cabinet and then in the afternoon I'm going downtown to pick up some coffees and if the weather is good I'll be taking Gabe to a splash park. If I have time in the afternoon I'm going to paint and then in the evening I have my training for the church cafe where I'll be finalizing the new drinks menu for September.
I'm also thinking of taking up a new hobby: refinishing furniture. Old tables and desks need only a little elbow grease and paint to look like new shabby-chic creations and I've always wanted to do stuff like that, so maybe I'll convince Matt to let me use the newly freed up so ace in the garage for a new hobby. My hobbies already take up the majority of the house: the crawl space is full of my decorations, the basement is packed with my crafts and the kitchen is overflowing with fancy dishes and pots and pans. He just may be persuaded though!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kitchen compression

My goodness I'm tired! Deservedly so, but tired nonetheless. Friday Matt was supposed to have a golf tournament with his work so he was only booked for a short day and then was supposed to golf in the afternoon and I was supposed to join him in the evening for dinner. Well, at around noon Matt called me to say that due to crappy weather the tournament was canceled and he asked if I would instead like to go to Edmonton for the night! His sister had asked if we could go up to help them Reno a bathroom and initially we had said no because of Matt's work thing but we felt bad about not being able to help. Well, by 5:00 we were in town and started helping. Well, Matt did at least. I sat around and talked with my sister-in-law which was just as rewarding. At 7:30 we went for dinner at OPM again. That place is awesome. This time we had the Mongolian beef, the sweet and sour chicken, a yellow curry prawn bowl, a coconut curry chicken bowl and Ginger beef. The Mongolian beef was still my favorite but the rest were all fantastic. After dinner there was little time left for anything but bed. Unfortunately, sleep did not come too easily for me. A car alarm went off 4 times throughout the night, someone lit of fire crackers, people kept talking in the alley and eventually, after probably only 3 hours of sleep, I got up at 5:30. I made myself some coffee and read a magazine I had brought until people started getting up around 7. Then I made everyone breakfast and Matt and I zipped off the the Old Strathcona farmers market. We got there just before it opened at 8 and were able to get an awesome parking spot, there were no crowds and all the best product was still there! We got some snow peas, golden plums, cherries, cheese bagels, creamed honey and a zucchini the size of my arm (which only cost a dollar!). We picked up Timmy's for everyone on our way home and were back by 8:30. Matt hadn't eaten yet so I whipped up some breakfast for him and Gabe and then the boys went to pick up some supplies for the Reno. My sister in law was working so I was home alone with Gabe and the dogs and I decided that I wanted to contribute to the cause. The Reno was going on because my sister in law and her husband were moving upstairs in their house after having lived in the basement for a year. The upstairs was a bit of a mess when they moved up and some things had been left uncleaned for a long while. So, I finished up the breakfast dishes and set out to clean the things that no one notices when they are done but everyone notices when they aren't done: light switch plates, baseboards, window sills, walls, etc. It felt good getting that taken care of for them. The boys got back from their supply run and set to work while I watched Gabe and finished reading my magazine. Matt and I had to be back for dinner with my parents so around 2:00 we set off to IKEA. We grabbed lunch there (I had the roast chicken and it was surprisingly good and Gabe had the macaroni and cheese and burned his mouth in spite of all my testing) and then did a quick run through the store. We found a large kitchen drawer organizer which was just what I needed, two side tables for ten bucks apiece, a potty for Gabe for my mom's house, a warm weather duvet for $15 and a French press coffee maker! They make such good coffee... Well, we got home with enough time for me to change the sheets and the comforter on the bed, to reorganize our kitchen (I compressed our knife drawer and our gadget drawer and made a drawer for trivets and coffee accessories!) before we went to dinner at my parents' place. After dinner my mom and I played a game of crib and then we had a bonfire while we drank coffee, reading trivial pursuit cards and watched the meteor shower. Today Matt and I were in infant care at the church and we've never had that many screaming babies at one time. Then Matt took me to Earl's for lunch because I've been craving their chili chicken and Gabe made such a fuss we actually had to pack our food up and go home. This afternoon I got in a much needed nap and then went out and weeded my front garden which had been left for far too long. Oh, and I made Matt and I some affogato. Then I made dinner while Matt moved tables around in our house. Once dinner was done I ran to the grocery store, made Matt his lunch for tomorrow, did a little more yard work and sorted through some papers. I'm feeling so tired from not getting enough sleep and being so busy. The sleep will get better but the busyness won't. This week I have some training for the cafe at church and then we've got to get ready for the camping trip this weekend. We've also decided to host a big backyard party the weekend after that so I've got to do some menu planning. I'm thinking signature cocktails, margarita mix watermelon slices, home made ice cream and assorted phyllo cups.
Well my baby finally fell asleep and it might be a good idea for me to follow suit!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fudge Marble Cake

Well I had a moderately productive day!
After getting up early and starting my day off well I was amazed to see how much time I had nice I was done my normal duties (feeding Gabe, changing Gabe, feeding Gabe again, playing with Gabe, more feeding...). Anyway, the weather was wretched today so I didn't get to take Gabe swimming, but at around 3:00, after I had done some laundry, cleaned the bathroom and trimmed the dog's nails, I decided to bake something. My first idea was to make some pretzels but I couldn't find my recipe. Then I remembered that I had wanted to make up my own marble cake recipe for a while now. And by for a while I mean years. When I was growing up we always had Archie comics in the house and in one comic Jughead bet the girls that he could bake an amazing marble cake. Well, at the end of the story Archie and Jughead are eating this cake that they describe as "light as a feather". From the very first time I read that story I had an idea in my head of what a marble cake should taste like: creamy and fluffy at the same time... Well I was disappointed to find that marble cakes are usually little more than a plain cake with some chocolate mixed into half the batter. I never bothered making one because I had never found a recipe that measured up. So I gave up looking and today I finally made one! It isn't perfect yet because I used a base cake recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and it wasn't airy enough to match the rest of the recipe, so I won't post the full recipe yet, but I will say what I did! First off, the Marble Cake recipe in the cookbook called for chocolate syrup to mix into half the batter for the chocolate portion. Well I decided that Nestle chocolate syrup was not befitting the high notions I had for my cake, so I had about a cup worth of semi-sweet chocolate chips that sat on the counter and melted down into chunks one day so I melted that down in a double boiler. I made the batter and spread a little more than half into the pan. Then I stirred the rerst into the melted chocolate. Next, I whipped about 3 ounces of cream cheese until it was fairly smooth and dropped it by little chunks all over the bottom layer of batter. I put in half the cream cheese first and then folded it in and then put the rest on top so that it was all spread out. Then I threw the extra chocolatey batter on top and dragged a butter knife through to make sure that it swirled all pretty like. The verdict is that it's the best marble cake I've ever had! One more try and it will be perfect I think.
I got the latest Martha Stewart magazine today too. I think they were making up for all the other ones being so late lately. I love Martha Stewart Living. The tips they give are fantastic and while I definitely do not share their taste or style, I can appreciate what they are doing for sure. My favorite article in this magazine was about Martha's kitchen. I almost had to stop reading it I was getting so jealous. I will be saving that article for ever and eventually building and organizing a kitchen almost identical to hers. That, of course, will be years and years and tens of thousands of dollars down the road. And I probably will never keep a drawer for dog clothes in my kitchen, but everything down to her two islands, her mortar and pestle display and her tea drawer is perfect. I dream of being that organized.
Anyway, it is now time for us to turn on the fire and cuddle up with Gabe on the couch! Ta ta!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Camping Menu

Well, this is the last month of summer and I'm planning to milk it for all it's worth!
This week already Matt and I had a picnic dinner with my parents out at a pond and after we finished eating we went fishing. The dinner was a quick and easy one but still quite nice. My parents picked up some KFC chicken, fries and gravy and I made some pasta and potato salads and brought a thermos of nice hot coffee, some cookies and my leftover Blueberry Brunch Cake. Then we drove into Sylvan Lake for some ice cream! Last night we joined Matt's parents for a bonfire in their backyard and we made some bannock!
Today I am menu planning for our camping trip with Matt's sister and her husband that we'll be taking in a week or so. Perogies, pancakes, pasta primavera and those ricotta stuffed grilled peaches! Not bad for roughing it, eh? Of course we'll have hot dogs too, but I find all too often people underestimate what meals can easily be made while out camping. If it can cook in boiling water, it can be made while camping. The only reason I wouldn't try to make lobster this trip is a) it's kinda overkill for what we are doing and b) we are driving a fair ways and I don't know that I could keep the lobster cold enough on the drive out for it to still taste fresh. Anyway, I am super excited for this first camping trip to take place. Other things that Matt and I will be doing this summer include watching the meteor shower on the 15th, going to the beach a lot and throwing some super backyard parties. We have a massive yard and hardly ever have people in it. I'd love to have a verrine themed party with tonnes of different foods for people to taste.
Well, I really ought to go and finish menu planning. If the weather gets better this afternoon I might take Gabe to a splash park!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Catch up

Wow, it's been quite a few days since I've blogged, eh? I have been keeping fairly busy lately, which I guess can be my only excuse. This weekend I went to Calgary with my mom for an overnighter to go see my Grandpa in hospital. He was glad to see us and I was glad to see that he was doing better than I was expecting. We got home early Saturday afternoon and Matt and I got in some shopping. We went to a local garden center to find some rose bushes for our front garden, but they didn't have any species that I was crazy about so maybe I'll wait a month or so and put in some hyacinth. Yesterday we had Matt's parents over for dinner so I made some lasagna, proscuitto wrapped apples, tomatoes in a pesto Parmesan dressing, garlic toast and a Peach Blueberry salad with a yogurt honey dressing. For dessert I pulled out a loaf of my Blueberry Brunch Cake from the freezer, heated it up and served it with ice cream. Today was a mildly slow day. Mostly I just cleaned up from the dinner guests last night, but tomorrow I'll be going full tilt again.
One of the first things one my schedule is to go down to the old cafe I used to work in and start negotiating on espresso prices for the church cafe. While I'm down there I need to pick up some more coffee for our house since we just ran out. I'll probably try and pick a type to test drive for the church cafe too. Then I need to go and find a training potty for Gabe! He's been giving us signs that he's ready to potty train, such as hiding when he poops and saying "bum" to be changed before he's even gone. It'll be nice to not change poopy diapers anymore. Then I need to pick up some groceries, do some yard work and cleaning and get ready for a picnic dinner with my parents. KFC and homemade salads! Then we are going fishing with them!
Oh, and another thing I need to do is to touch base with all my cafe volunteers! We had a volunteer push yesterday and today the office sent me about ten more names of people who want to help! This is great news for me because then I can focus more on my regular duties than on filling in for people!
Well, hubby is home and we need to get the baby to bed. I'll try and post more regularly again!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Grilled Peaches with Ricotta Cream Cheese Stuffing

I don't have a heck of a lot of time since I need to clean the kitchen before bed, but I wanted to post what happened with dinner. I decided on shiskabobs! I was going to be grilling veggies anyway so I figured I might as well put them on skewers. I picked up most of my groceries this morning (two bigs slabs of sirloin tip marinating steak for $7 - enough to feed all six of us) and then went home to get my bread rising. The baguettes are a fairly easy and hands off bread so I wasn't stressing about those. I needed to run out to another grocery store in the afternoon to pick up some cheeses. I wanted to get my hands on that Cranberry Cinnamon goats cheese that we had last month and I also bought the same brand's Fine Herb goat cheese. Oh, and the store I went to this morning has the awful habit of cutting the fronds. Off their fennel, which is really what I buy it for, so I picked some of that up this afternoon too. Anyway, once I got home I laid Gabe down for a nap and I was lucky enough that he slept until I had finished all my prep, the bread was out of the oven, and we were all ready to go. I cut up the veggies for the skewers (onions, peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and pineapple) and got the meat cut up and marinating. I also had the lettuce mostly made (lettuce, red peppers, cucumbers and fennel) save the apples so that they didn't brown. The bread took 15 minutes to bake after a few hours of rising and 30 minutes of resting, and it came out gorgeous. Oh and I concocted a ricotta and cream cheese filling for the grilled peaches. I used about half a cup each of ricotta and cream cheese, 2 tsp of vanilla and 2 tbsp of icing sugar. It tasted amazing with the peaches, which I grilled over medium after I spread butter and brown sugar on the halves.
Oh yah, and I got tzatziki for the grilled veggies. That was a nice touch. I still have some of that cream cheese filling so I think tomorrow night we'll try it in grilled pears!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Grilled Stuffed Peaches

My goodness! I was so into talking about this past weekend that I forgot to talk about this coming week!
Tomorrow I am making dinner for a family meal with my inlaws. It will kind of be a welcome home party for my mother-in-law, as well as a going away party for my sister-in-law who is going to Costa Rica for a few weeks. I've been told not to make too big of a fuss about the food, but what's the fun in that? I do plan on keeping things simple, but the presentation will be immaculate. First off, I will be baking some baguettes tomorrow and we'll serve those with some cheese and cherries. I'm still unsure about what the entree will be, but we'll have grilled veggies and my fennel apple salad with it. For dessert I'm doing grilled peach halves stuffed with cream cheese with honey syrup and mint sprigs. Nice, eh? I was thinking about doing a chilled melon soup as well, but we'll have to see how long the bread takes me.
The rest of this week I shall be weeding my garden, putting in some rose bushes, taking Gabe to the splash park, recalculating costs for the cafe and planning the Auxano campout! Busy, busy! But it will be nive being productive again after an extra long weekend.
We've already cleaned up most of our things that we brought on holidays but tomorrow I'll finish up the laundry and get the house looking perfect again. I'm actually eager to go do a lot of these things right now but to be honest, my body is quite worn from this weekend. It's more likely that I'll end the weekend by having a nice hot bath and reading some more of my Harry Potter book. By the way, I read the first three in four days last week and then got held up on this current one since I get carsick if I read in the car. I'll probably get it done by tomorrow though. I'm excited to get through this series so that I can get back to my Austens!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Panorama trip

We are home! Finally! Friday morning we ran some errands, packed the car and hit the road. Our first stop was in Calgary to welcome home Matt's mom who spent two weeks in Uganda. Her flight got in just before some severe weather warnings came into the area so there wasn't much of a delay, which was good for us. After a few hugs we got back on the road. It took us a while to get out of Calgary but it turns out we just missed a multi-vehicle pile up and a tornado or two. We pulled over in Canmore for a quick dinner and then finished our drive out to Panorama. It was a very long drive. Especially for Gabe. We left our house at 1:00 and got to our hotel in Panorama at 9:00 with only a couple hours out of the car in between. We were however well rewarded for our long drive. The room we were staying in was gorgeous! It was a two-bedroom condo that we shared with my parents. We stayed up fairly late the first night to give Gabe some time to play before he had to go to bed and got up nice and early Saturday morning to get as much into the day as possible. First off, we walked down to the cafe in Panorama Village and got some drinks before we headed back down the mountain into Invermere to pick up some groceries. Luckily, we went on the day of their local Farmers Market! I bought corn on the cob, golden plums, peaches, cherries, blackberries, tomatoes and cucumbers. The produce was all so beautiful! We had to run into the grocery store to pick up some more things and then we went back into Panorama to meet my parents who had just drove out that morning. After a quick lunch and a change of clothes, it was back down the mountain and into Invermere for my cousin's wedding on the Eagle Ranch golf course. The ceremony was amazing! The gazebo they stood on was on top of a hill that overlooked Windermere Lake. My niece was the flower girl and it was so cute when she stopped halfway down the aisle to say hello to her Grandpa and her little cousin Gabe! After the ceremony we took my parents into town to check out the best gelato store in Canada - Gerry's Gelati! Fantastic! Fresh ingredients, real fruit, and they make it all themselves in small batches so that it's always fresh tasting. I believe I had White Chocolate Raspberry and Chocolate Cheesecake that time. We also hopped across the street to the River Gems rock store where I bought a super cute pearl ring. Then it was back on up the mountain into Panorama for the reception at the Heliski Lodge. It was quite the party! Great food, awesome speeches, and for dessert, gelati from Gerry's! That time I had a bit of chocolate and a bit of vanilla. When dinner was over and the dance started my mom took Gabe back up to our room, as well as our niece, so Matt, my sister, her husband and I got a rare night off! We finally left the party at 12:20 and we were by no means the last people to leave. The next morning we again got up early and drove out to Fairmont where they have this great Par 3 course called Coy's. We had a 9:45 tee time but we also booked for breakfast before our game. Apparently on weekends they offer a $4 breakfast with your game! Bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns, and coffee - not bad for $4, eh? Well, we teed off and all did fairly poorly the first hole and just assumed we needed to warm up. Unfortunately, I never did. I played the worst game of my life. The last time I played the course I was driving onto the green and making par on a bunch of holes. My average score per hole this time around was 7. On a Par 3. Well, I'd had enough of sucking so I sat out the last two holes in the attempt to salvage what good mood I had left. In the end Matt golfed a 49, and so did I, but since I sat out the last two holes they gave me a 1 for both of those. Le suck. We got back to Panorama and relieved my parents from babysitting so that they could go catch their tee time. We had planned on going swimming when we got back, but it was absolutely pouring at the mountain village. So instead I set out a light lunch for everyone: blueberry muffins, cherries, those gorgeous golden plums, cantaloupe, blackberries and some lychee nuts that I had picked up at the grocery store. The babies had a nap before the rain let up so my sister and I braved the downpour and visited some shops in the village. Eventually the babes woke up and the rain let up enough that we decided to go swimming. Once we got back from the pool I had just enough time to hang up our wet things and think about starting dinner before my parents got back when they walked in the door! So my dad started barbqueing while I threw on some yellow beans, mini potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic toast and pork and beans. Matt ran down to the general store and picked up some white wine too. We ate a lot, although Gabe ate the most, and then we decided to have some gelati for dessert. The cafe in the village sells Gerry's too so we got some there and that time I had Raspberry Cheesecake. We pretty much sat around all night but it was a nice, easy pace. This morning I let Matt sleep in while I got up early and packed up all our stuff. By the time everyone else was awake, all of our stuff was packed and Gabe was fed and ready to go too! Matt and I left Panorama by 9:30 and event into Invermere to do some shopping. First we hit up the bakery where we bought some treats, and then we ended up at Gerry's for some coffee and some more gelati (Coconut and Strawberry Banana this time). I bought some wax beads from another store and then we started our trek home. Thanks to extremely busy highways, very bad drivers and a motorcycle in the ditch (the biker was okay) we didn't get very far very fast. We finally hit Canmore where we had planned to stop for lunch, but the line ups at every fast food place in town were crazy. Apparently everyone else had the same idea as us! So we stopped for gas (we weren't going to fill up in B.C. when gas prices were at least 10 cents higher than in Alberta, and 30 cents more at some places!) and then headed for Cochrane. By this time Gabe was very unimpressed with the amount of time he had spent in the car. We were all happy when we hit Cochrane, but Gabe perhaps was the most happy. In light of this attitude of his we decided to forego fast food and ate at Boston Pizza. After Gabe was fed, watered and changed, we didn't hear a peep out of him the rest of the way home. We got back to town by 4:45 and were all extremely glad to be done the trip. As nice as it was to go away, it's even nicer to be home!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)