Cocoa veggie chilli and the truth about birthday cake

This past week has been quite hectic. I had to re-question myself as a mother and wife and Eric and I decided that we needed to stop trying to be perfect and just be ourselves...listen to our gut feeling instead of what internet or friends might say... No question that friends give opinions when we ask about what worked for them, but the issue is that all children are different. What works for one does not necessarily work for another. The issue started when Arielle's sleeping routine went out of whack over a couple of days. I thought she may have been waking up during the night because she was sleeping around supper time, which in turn made her go to bed late. I thought it be better for everyone if she slept during the day, so when she fell asleep in my arms at lunch time, I put her in her crib. As per usual she woke up upon contact with the matress and looked up at me rubbing her eyes. We decided we would let her cry it out - for the first time - so we kept each other company as our hearts were wrenched with our baby's cries. After 5 mins or so, Eric went to comfort her a bit, and then after 10mins and so on. However, when the 15mins were up, Eric yelled at me to come help - Arielle had vomitted all over herself. The poor darling was so upset she had emptied the contents of her stomach. I never felt so guilty in my life. NEVER AGAIN. If she doesn't want to sleep during the day, then so be it, and they will just have to deal when she goes to daycare! I felt better after taking the decision to let my gut decide how to raise my child and a whole bunch of stress lifted off my shoulders. Call it coincidence, or a higher power, the rest of my day (mother's day at that!) went really well - Starbucks frappucino half price in a new mocha coconut flavor, great supper with my family and Arielle slept early and through the night. She has been sleeping soundly again ever since and even napped for a full 1.5 hours this lunchtime! Things are settling back down...

CHILLI! I wanted something vegetarian and easy for when my parents were coming to visit, so I thought I would make this awesome recipe once again. It was a hit last time and after a meat-filled week-end, it is just what the doctor ordered! It is a recipe from a crockpot recipe book I have: squash, corn, peppers, tomatoes...COCOA and BALSAMIC !!! Sounds weird, but those last two ingredients are what makes the chilli so rich and fantastic. Topped with sour cream and some cheese, enjoyed with whole wheat pita... YUM!

And now for the truth about cake... To put it simply - the cake is NOT a lie! HA!

For those of you who just don't get it - this cake is a representation of the cake in a video game my husband plays: Portal. It was his birthday on may 9th and I made him this cake from scratch as a special gift. I used the recipes for both the chocolate cake and chocolate frosting from the cook book that came with my kitchenaid mixer and i topped it with chocolate rolls, whipped cream and cherries. He was really happy and it was SUPER GOOD... Not so healthy though! The cake required melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder and the chocolate hardened upon contact with the cold eggs in the batter. Fortunately, I passed it off as a "chocolate chip" cake and everybody loved it!

Last saturday we had a get together for all the family members with a birthday in May. I made this amazing cake for a second time: a chocolate ganache covered orange cake! Everybody loved it...not too sweet, orangey enough yet chocolatey all at the same time. Unfortunately, I realized I hadn't taken a photo when the cake was mostly eaten! NOM NOM... I really need to figure out how to eat more healthy things to balance out all that cake!

But you just keep on trying 'till you run out of cake...lalala...

The little things...

I have been following a new blog lately (well it's new to me!) called Savy Eats which, like most blogs I follow, focuses on yummy healthy eating. She also has this thing called "The little things" where she posts the small everyday things that make her happy and I figured that It was time that I do the same. It is time that I focus on the good things right now, because the bad seem to take over. My fibro is not getting much better, the baby is no longer sleeping as much, I am haunted by the idea that I may not have a job to go to after Mat leave... So anyway... the little things!

...Arielle smiling up at me every morning from her crib...she is 7 months old already, dear girl is
rolling around and trying to crawl!

...Burny flipping onto his back to get some loving...loyal puppy for 2yrs already!

...Eric comming home from work and uttering "Maow Maow"!

...My family and all the wonderful people around me complimenting me on my is nice to be appreciated for what I love doing!

...The sheer exhaustion I feel after working out...knowing that I have done my best to be in better health.

I think we all need to be grateful for what we have, even if it is not always easy...

Desserts, desserts, desserts!

I don't know what is making crave so much sweets but there has always been some kind of baked good in the house in the last month. About 3-4 weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe on the food network for a Banoffee Mess, or as I am used to hearing, a Banoffee Smash Pie. YUM! I used to eat this a lot when I was living in England and the shear memory made me run to the store to buy what I needed.

I made it for my parents, brother and sister in law and all of them ate it up like a piece of heaven. I was proud, though I must say I have very little merit! OK so it was pretty long to make, but it couldn't have been easier. A layer of homemade Dulce de Leche (condensed milk boiled for 3hrs) over top a graham cracker crust, topped with slices of fresh banana (fair trade and organic!) and slightly sweetened whipped cream. OH...MY...GOD! YUM. No picture yet again, but you will have to trust me on this... Get the recipe here and whip it up like...yesterday!

Two weeks ago I finally baked those spice cupcakes I had been meaning to make from the Red Velvet recipe. I simply replaced the 2tbsp of cocoa with 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cloves..oh and 1 tsp ginger. I also added grated candied ginger and iced them with an almond scented butter cream. YUM! I ran out of icing, but I have 4 cupcakes left in my freezer!

Finally, last Tuesday I decided to bake (again with the Red velvet recipe) some black forest inspired cupcakes. I added 1/2 cup of Cocoa to the cupcakes instead of the 2 tsp, which made them denser as I didn't want to cut down on the flour. It may also have been because of the half butter and half margarine mixture... I guess you shouldn't play with a good recipe! For the cherries I re hydrated these tart cherries my mom found at Costco (see right)... they are awesome!
I simply simmered them on low heat in a simply syrup scented with vanilla. When the cupcakes were baked I cut out a hole, poured 2 tsp worth of syrup and packed in three cherries. They were iced with whipped cream and grated chocolate. Very good, but not worthy of great. I'm still looking for a variation of that Red Velvet that will blow my mom's socks off just as much without being so... dull to the rest of us. Nothing wrong with Red velvet, but I like a little more exotic :P

I'm thinking of making Easter basket cupcakes for next Saturday. My family is coming over for the traditional pineapple ham and cupcakes are still omnipresent in my mind for dessert. Maybe I will whip up that lovely pumpkin-carrot cake mix in cupcake form... What dessert is traditional for Easter in your household?

Happy Egg Hunting!

Spring Cleansing - Eating well with Fibromyalgia

I finally got an appointment with a Registered Dietitian (RD) about my Fibromyalgia...and I must admit, about my lack of much weight loss! I have been following Weight Watcher's new system (it is the only system that involves more calories for breastfeeding mothers)and haven't had much luck. mother believes that 4 pounds in 6 weeks is better than nothing, not to mention healthy, since I AM breastfeeding, but I am already fed up with counting and writing things down.

The RD wrote down what I ate on a normal day, what foods I have in my house, what my life goals nutritionally were... It was all good and dandy but lasted a whopping 1.5hrs and my mum was waiting for me with a hungry Arielle! Basically, I could have figured MOST of what she said on my own.

Fibromyalgia is not a disease that can rightfully be cured by cutting out food groups. It is more of a "eat better - feel better" type of thing. Primo: Eating more fruit and veg for example, packed with antioxidants can help: Fibro patients are thought to have more "free radicals" running through their bodies, so blueberry smoothies and kale chips lurk in my immediate future! I personally thought I was eating enough greens, but seems like the recommended 5-7 should be more of a 7-8 daily portions.
Secondo: More soluble fiber versus insoluble fiber when the old Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms appear. IBS is another "symptom" of Fibro, and though ALL fiber is good, intake of water soluble fiber like Oats, legumes and barley can be "upped" when stress hits and visits to the toilet increase...ahem... Therefore, the fact that I eat whole wheat everything is GREAT, but variety is good too (yay for KERF Oats!).

Tertio: Supposedly I have to watch out for anemia because I don't eat enough red meat? Okay so I don't, but because I choose NOT to! RD says you need something "bloody" for good absorption of Iron (bloody not in the way it is cooked but the fact that it once came from a warm blooded animal!). I somewhat have my doubts bout this, but spinach doesn't seem to be fer-ocious (haha get it?) enough for her liking. Eric will be happy...
Quatro: OMEGA FATTY ACIDS! yes, they are good for brain development and a bunch of other things. Supposedly they help with inflammation of the muscles too, something we Fibro-affected people know very well about. So TWO portions a week MINIMUM of something rich in these and preferably FISH! I'm down with that, but eating salmon twice a week doesn't sound so awesome. She suggested Mackerel and Sardines, but those don't sound appealing either. I love I shall have to try and be creative.

Thats pretty much it as Fibromyalgia is concerned... She did mention I should eat more protein if I wanted to lose weight thought. At each meal... even if the Canadian food guide only says 2 a day. Otherwise I wouldn't feel full and I would snack and snack. Fiber keeps you full too... Finally: DRINK MILK. Yeah, HUGE debate, I know. But our milk has vitamin D added and its one of the ONLY sources. And Calcium is up the roof and yadda yadda. I also thought I got enough, but those small yogurts are 1/2 a portion! She did not mention that dairy could worsen pain. My Rhumatologist told me SOME people have successfully decreased their pains from cutting dairy...but what about calcium and vit D?

All in all she found that I was feeding myself quite well, I was making the right choices, but that some things were lacking. Guess no one is perfect. I am trying very hard to deal with my fibro without medication, and pairing these new eating habits with my exercise plan should help me out. Anyone have good mackerel or sardine recipes?

Bon Appetit!

Crimson and Cocoa

Well, winter is still raging here and not much is up. Arielle is starting solid food and Im spending more and more time in the kitchen... Although not only for baby food!

I have really been craving baked goodies and cupcakes seem to hit the spot. Red Velvet to be more precise! They are not very popular here in Canada, in fact, I only know of them because I watch the Food Network. In any case, we picked a recipe (this one) and opted for the cream cheese icing that came with.I did make some modifications... I am not a fan of chemical additions, so I cut the amount of red food coloring by half. For the icing, a half recipe was more than enough and I replaced the vanilla with orange extract. I used an ice cream scoop to spoon the batter into the paper cups but only got 15 cupcakes... far from the 2.5 dozen! They were pretty huge - they rise tremendously!

The results

At first I was not impressed... I ate one warm, the sides were crunchy and the chocolate taste so very subtle. Leaving them overnight softened them to an amazingly airy, spongey, delicately chocolatey goodness. They were a complete sucess with everybody, my mother even asking me for the recipe. It is partly because of my Kitchenaid mixer I'm sure :)

This week-end I will repeat the recipe but with more cocoa to make them extra chocolatey and add a twist by smothering them in "Fleur de Sel" salty caramel. Can't wait! Will let you know how it goes!

Winter blues

These last few weeks have been harsh. It is cold out, my daughter is fussy and we are all very tired. I lack the motivation to cook these days, especially since I have started a Weight Watchers program. No more cupcakes ! I have even had to cut down on KERF style oats, or at least how much topping I put on it! Having seen my Rhumatologist in January, I decided to ask him about changing my diet towards making my symptoms better. He said I could give cutting out milk products a go, but since I am breastfeeding, I should see a dietitian. I took an appointment -got one in late march - which I am looking forward to. I love my yogurt and cheese, but lately the fatigue, the pain and grumpiness has just been awful.

Food-wise, we are going to slowly introduce solids to Arielle who is now 4 months old. She tries to steal food away from me, gawks at us eating, and when given a spoon of something, grabs it and swallows at least half of it! I bought a book - Planing meals for babies and toddlers by Annabel Karmel - and am planning on making all baby foods myself. We also chose to use the organic fruits and veggies we get every week, and buying organic cereals. It is daunting, feels like she is growing way too fast!

Valentine's day is coming next week, plan on making something sweet - weight watchers or not! Chocolate or flowers guys?

Christmas Traditions old and New!

The holidays are near erm..past (took me a while to finish this post up!) and I love this time of year! I must say most foodies MUST love christmas... Maybe all foodies except the ones trying to lose weight! *Grumble grumble* hihi! Holiday food is just as wonderful as autumn food - rich, flavorful, comforting...YUMMY. Speaking of which, I tried Kath's sugar plum oats the other day and I must say that I am in love! I modified it slightly (I always do) and I got this:

Some Sugar Plum Oats in a nice bowl...

A creamy bowl of oatmeal made from oats, ground up flax, oat bran, milk and water as well as a sincerely over ripe banana. The banana mushed up really well in the oatmeal, giving it a perfect marshmallow texture... or really, like I exclaimed on the spot; fried banana texture (the battered ones you get in Asian restaurants). As for the plums... I quartered them and fried them in some butter with of course brown sugar until the whole thing became a goey red caramel of plum goodness. The syrup actually caramelized upon cooling - a chewy soft "Kraft" like caramel! Mis-a-part pumpkin-butterscotch-almond-butter oats, these are a definitive fave!

OH! I almost forgot! I got the cutest oatmeal bowls for my birthday EVAR! We nicknamed them BOO and LOO (Bowl Of Oats and Lots Of Oats)!

BOO and LOO, from the best hubby in the world

I wanted to talk about my new tradition for christmas, that of making gift baskets out of homemade treats. It is getting more and more popular and I have an aunt and uncle in my family who especially appreciate that sort of thing. You know... the type that never eat at home and have pretty much everything they could ever want... My sweet grandma also loves these because she cannot cook as much as she used to. Enough said, they all rant and rave when I make my dear baskets! The ones I made this year included:
  • Gingerbread cut-outs
  • Fleur de sel Caramels
  • Orange flavoured Chocolate Truffles
  • Cranberry Chutney
  • Cinnamon pecans
  • Crunchy Buckwheat Granola
I would be happy to share recipes! Anyone else make baskets? What do you guys bake?

I was exceptionally spoiled this christmas as a foodie goes... A new more powerful laptop for blogging and a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer!!!! I was so excited! Unfortunately, I have not have had much time to use them - my baby girl has been extra fussy and we think she may be starting to teeth! I HAVE however made delicious chai flavoured cupcakes with chocolate icing... Unfortunately my hubby lost the pictures he took of them :(. For those of you who read French, I modified the recipe from Rose Madeleine's Lemon Grand Earl Grey Cupcakes. Everything she does looks sooo goood! . I want to try to flavor cupcakes with a coconut pepper chai I have on hand and will probably ice them with a coconut butter icing! Look for my comments about it later...

Anyway, I will try and blog more often now that the crazy holidays are gone. Hopefully my daughter's teething will come to pass and mommy won't be so busy anymore! Happy baking and happy New Year!!
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