A Canadian gal living in Britain with 3 men and a dog. Wine helps.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Since we were last there...

A rundown of events since the last time we all together in Nova Scotia (2009):

My sister Tawny gave birth to our beautiful Clara.  The last time we were all together she was only a few months pregnant.

(Can't wait for to create more memories like these...)

Stacy has gone from this:

to this:

  (How awesome is she?)

Our sister from another mister (Dawn, aka Longbottom) has moved into her own home and gotten engaged to the love of her life;

My brother John has written and recorded an album - can't wait to go and listen to him debut it next Friday night.

Alex has made Andy and I grandparents, something we were not best pleased about at first but you get over a shock pretty quickly when this is the gorgeous result:  

And how could we all have had any inkling that early the following year my mother would have to face the greatest obstacle of her life? We all had no idea of the mountain she was going to have to climb, or how absolutely frightening it would be, but climb it she did.  My mother faced down cancer and came out on top - and we hope with all our hearts she stays there.

A lot has happened since the last time we were all home together in 2009 (much that I haven't mentioned but that doesn't mean I'm not thinking of you...) 

Alex now has a family of his own he so he won't be joining us this time and we will miss him - perhaps just a little, but we will. To make up for his absence we have the added joy of bringing our good friends with us and we are so looking forward to showing off my homeland, family and friends. 

We want more good time photos like this:

 Sunday morning can't come soon enough

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I don't think even Gina has baked a vegan cake

I haven't been doing much baking lately because I'm trying to monitor my intake of unhealthy treats. Over the past few years I have grown to love pottering about in my bright, sunny kitchen and even find it quite therapeutic. I will never have a food blog or aspire to invent new recipes, but I love to try out different recipes and I'm not afraid to switch it up a bit.  I even have a few staple dishes of my own that the kids love such as Beef Wellington (ground beef style), Beef & Ale Stew, Various Pasta's and Green Thai Chicken Curry. As far as cooking goes, I think I've nailed it.

Yet baking is another story. As much as I enjoy cooking, I also love to bake;  My mother and her sisters are a deft hand in the kitchen when it comes to their baking skills.  My mom's cookies are to die for and two of my aunts make a superb apricot pound cake.  I believe my Aunt Shirley will be making one especially for Andy upon our arrival because it's one of his absolute favourites.  Yet no matter how hard I've tried, I can't make it to quite the same standard. In all honesty, I've only tried twice and although it was ok, it wasn't anything close to my Aunt Nita's or Shirley's.  And because my mom says she can't even get that cake right, I'm not going to bother. If mom can't do it, I don't think I will ever be able to master it.  Event though I might not have the baking skills that my elders do, I'm not giving up in the baking department.   The kids constantly request my Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing and I can't say I blame them - those things are like crack for chocolate cake addicts... and I even managed to get it right without even really trying.  I've only ever messed up one batch, which says enough.

On Sunday we were getting together for a little pre-Canada celebration with the Gallivan's and because Cameron is lactose intolerant I thought I'd try out the chocolate Guinness bunt cake I'd found on-line that just happens to be dairy free.


It crumbled as soon as Connor and I tried to remove it from the pan and ended up in the bin (after Connor had left the kitchen of course). The number one rule of baking should be: never offer to bake a cake for a party that one has never made before...always have a trial run.  Always.

So... after an afternoon of picking up a few holiday clothes for Connor, I came home and tried to make the cake again, thinking maybe I hadn't baked the first one long enough.  I should have worked out as planned  because the second one flopped as well. Worse than the first.  Connor was appalled when he realised I'd thrown this one out too(we'd even had the icing pre-made this time).  Now here is the proof that I'm just a an amateur in the kitchen:  If I was a properly experienced hand at baking I would have used the cake as a base for a chocolate trifle or whatnot, as Dawn later explained her Mum used to do, when Connor was relaying why we had the gall to show up without dessert and only a salad.  (Dawn had made a beautiful lasagna.)

After listening to Connor bemoan the binning of the cake for the 100th time as well as my having apologised for not bringing the promised cake (it would have been more embarrassing to turn up with it than not, despite Connor's opinion) I told everyone not to be too bothered about not having the cake, as they will get their fair share once we are in Canada and before I could say anything more Connor piped in with 'yeah, because our Gina is proper good at baking, the best'. What more need I say?  The kids love my cooking, and they (and their friends) even enjoy a lot of my baking (especially the Christmas cookies that naturally, Mom gave me the recipes for) but I know that in their eyes I have a long way to go before I live up to Gina's standard.  And that's perfectly OK by me, I get it.  My Mom can bake and maybe, just maybe, I will have gotten as good as her by the time Jayden is old enough to brag about it.  

(In my somewhat novice defence: I think if the cake had called for eggs I might have stood a better chance; if I've learned anything from my experiences in the kitchen it's that eggs are a good binding agent.  Also, I probably should have whipped the batter a lot longer. I know that a lot of vegan's bake successfully without the use of eggs, so if you have any suggestions feel free to share.) 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Summer Cravings

Lately I have been eating a lot of hummus. A LOT.... I love it.  If you asked me what my favourite food was at the moment it would be hummus; I've been making my own and buying all sorts of different flavours.  Roasted red pepper still seems to be my flavour of choice, and I like it chunky.  I would say the healthiest way to eat hummus is on celery (shame I didn't know this as a kid - it kicks Cheese Whiz's ass), or any other type of vegetable, but I've been really enjoying it on corn or rice cakes.  Scrumptious - and so filling. 

I have also been eating a lot of salads and vegetables; if you were to give me a choice between a plate of fish and chips or roasted vegetable salad, I'd likely pick the vegetables.  Don't get me wrong I love fries, I really do.  I love chips (or crisps as they are called in England), especially cheese and onion or the sweet chili flavour. However I rarely feel good after eating heavy meals.  Sure it tastes great while I'm actually eating, but afterwards I'm often left feeling very bloated and uncomfortable... not always, but sometimes.  On Monday night Andy and I went to the Royal Oak Pub (aka The Splash) and I indulged in scampi and home-cut chips.   It was a real treat and I only thought about it for a moment before digging in and clearing my whole plate (including the peas).  We then went for a lovely walk through Hubbard's Hills with Molly and sure, I know it didn't burn off all the calories I'd consumed but I wasn't making it an issue.  It's rare that I eat such stodgy food these days...  

Like I said, I've been eating a lot of healthy grub lately, but more so because it's what I've been craving, not just because I'm trying to keep my weight down.  In the last few weeks I've also had this for lunch more than once: 

Sure it's store-bought and not what I would call 'authentic' sushi, but boy how I do it enjoy it. So much so, that I had it for my lunch today and I will be eating it again tomorrow.  I could have easily eaten both boxes today but that's just greedy (not that I'm a stranger to greed; greed and I go back a long way). Tesco have been doing these new boxes and I love them,  especially the piece of smoked mackerel, but even more so for the pickled ginger and wasabi.  I adore wasabi.  Usually you just get a squeezy tube of soy sauce. But this box has wasabi... not nearly enough, but enough to count.  

Of course I could just by my own tube of wasabi right?