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Taking a Wellness Day

You know those days when you just feel like your get up and go got up and went? Today was like that for me. 

I got up this morning early  to a dark sky.  We were out of yogurt, my best morning energy boost. Ella and I walked in the rain, muck up to our ankles and clouds around our ears. Even the tulips were on strike. 


As the day wore on, I just seemed to get colder even though I was inside. (It was supposed to be a day working on garden projects but pouring rain doesn’t make for good digging weather.) I needed to focus on my wellness, as it was suffering 

 I decided about mid-afternoon that my best chance for a pick-me-up lay in the remainder of the Chocolate Pudding Cake on the counter. I set my sights on dessert to heal my spirit. (Not the most healthy option, I’ll admit; but sometimes instant gratification offers the energy for the next step.)


Thankfully, Wednesdays have a built-in bonus for me – it’s the night I volunteer with Girl Guides. Our Sparks troop, a wonderfully rambunctious bunch of 5 and 6 year olds, is the best remedy for low energy or feeling down.  After a very bouncy Easter egg hunt, ribbon dancing and a parachute game, they all went home smiling, and just a bit more tired.  I felt much better. 

Now that I’ve had my tea and dessert, I feel prepared to tackle the world again tomorrow. I’m so thankful I got a chance to soak in some positive energy today (and a bit of chocolate). 

Start the week with a bang!

We are rebuilding our front deck. Yesterday was demolition day, and today we loaded all the wood and other debris into a trailer for the landfill. And it’s Monday. There are always loose ends, and surprises, and a big to-do list on Mondays. So I decided we needed a boost.

One of my favourite desserts as a kid was my mom’s Chocolate Pudding Cake. I have spoken of Mom’s Lemon Pudding Cake before; it is a delicate, tangy soufflé. The chocolate version is on the other end of the scale – rich with oozing decadence, the original lava cake.


The good news is, pudding cake is easier to manage than lava cake, being a bigger entity. It’s a straightforward recipe to assemble. The trickiest part is planning to have the first portion warm, but to wait long enough so you don’t burn your tongue. 

As I finish this last paragraph, my tummy is all warm inside. I feel a bit like Winnie the Pooh after polishing off a pot of honey. The muscles I worked out lifting boards and branches feel a bit better. I am sure I will have pleasant dreams.

I hope you do too. If not, try making Chocolate Pudding Cake tomorrow.

 

I Feel Like a Million Bucks!

This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.

Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids.  Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread  is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…

Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March img_4806and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)

We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) img_4807Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.

 

I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.img_4811-copy

I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait  I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.

Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?

By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.

 

Serious Food and Drink shouldn’t be taken too seriously

Here we are at the start of a new year, and everywhere there are earnest reminders that we should be striving for more, improving, setting goals, accomplishing new things…. it’s exhausting, isn’t it? How about we start by maintaining the good we’ve already done, and celebrate that little victory? After all, we deserve a pat on the back for showing up, don’t we??

With that attitude in mind, my post today is about keeping one’s sense of humour. I don’t know about you, but I have been known to get all fired up about new things (like trying recipes, for example), only to discover that success was not as obvious as expected. I just deleted a draft of a recipe I had written here and wanted to post: “Banana Coconut Cream Pie with a Chocolate Crust”. Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, well, it didn’t look awesome when I made it. It looked like something my dog might have well, put back in the bowl, if you know what I mean. And it didn’t taste all that great either. Not only did the custard not set, but the bananas went brown almost immediately, and the crust was soggy in some spots and like cardboard in others. So much for sharing that Pinterest find. We did have a good laugh about how awful it was, though, as we substituted homemade sundaes for dessert that night. What else could I do?

ice-cream-sundae

So, I am not making any resolutions to go on a diet, or eat gluten free, or start up longer work outs or lift more weight. I’m working on keeping up with my efforts from last year. Thankfully, being married to a chef and interested in good food, I eat pretty healthy most of the time. I also treat myself often (my workout schedule is a combination of vanity and a calculation that accounts for regular chocolate, ice cream and alcohol consumption). Don’t look here for any recipes that feature restrictions – look for dishes that feature interesting tastes and combinations of flavours. They might be extra-healthy, they might be gluten-free or Paleo, but most importantly I think they are delicious.

Alright, enough said for today. (I don’t want to seem preachy.) Get out there and have fun – eat something interesting! And then congratulate yourself for living life to the fullest. If you’d like a relatively healthy recipe idea, how about Chicken with Cinnamon and Dates ?  It’s one of my favourite chicken recipes.

If you need more inspiration, the wonderfully funny folks at Urban Daddy came up with a great New Years list for the first month of the year: 31 Reasons to Have a Drink. Since I’ve managed to stick to my 2017 plan for two days in a row, I think I’ll toast my small success with a glass of wine 🙂

Cheers!

To Mumsy

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Today is my mom’s 70th birthday. This is the lady who first got me cooking in the kitchen and digging in the garden. I am proud to say that she is now enjoying her own adventures, having raised a family and made a career and created beautiful artistic environments in her many homes and gardens. She has travelled through much of Europe now, and the west coast of  America and Mexico. I’d like to go back to particular culinary memory though, that may have started it all.

Many years ago, my brother and I created a dessert for her birthday dinner. We wanted something that represented how elegant and classy we thought she was. It took more than a few magazines and cookbooks to find the right recipe (this is well before the internet, you see). Finally we decided on a Decadent Chocolate Mousse. My dad whisked her away for the day so that we could prepare. It took us many hours and almost every bowl and utensil she had, but we did it. The special glasses were filled with this wonderful concoction and we awaited the time to present dessert to the birthday girl.

My dad had made a lovely dinner, and after the dishes were cleared it was time. With as much pomp and ceremony as we could muster, we carried the glasses to the table and presented the mousse. I think there may have even been a sparkler. She oohed and aahed – we were pleased. So far, so good. Then came the tasting…. she took a bite and tasted, and I could see her thinking. She smiled at us and said it was delicious. Then she took another bite and began to chew. Chewing? Yes… “What are the crunchy bits in it?,” she said. “They’re really good,” she added (the sign of a great mom). I answered with utter confidence: “Oh, those are the coffee grounds. I’m glad you like it!” My dad chuckled. coffee and beans

It wasn’t until much later that it dawned on me – the recipe called for “2 tbsp strong coffee” but they meant brewed coffee, not coffee grounds. Well, I was only 12 years old, I didn’t drink coffee. My dad wasn’t home so my brother and I figured that “strong” meant heaping tablespoons. (Remember, there was no such thing as a Google search back then.) My mother, bless her heart, was not discouraging but rather adventurous even then. She appreciated our efforts and soldiered on to enjoy the dessert. She has said in later years that she really did enjoy it, and in fact has never had a mousse that she remembers as being as good. I love you, Mom.

The recipe we used has long since been lost in the many moves and purges of cooking magazines, but I have found a chocolate moussesuitable replacement which does still include the coffee: Decadent Chocolate Mousse. Both Julia Child and David Lebovitz have apparently used this recipe. Feel free to think outside the box and add something crunchy if you like! I’m going to make it for my mom the next time she comes to visit, as a belated birthday present.

 

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