Category Archives: personal

Bella Italia

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There are certain images of Italy that everyone is familiar with, mostly involving Tuscan villas. What I am sharing here is NOT quite so stereotypical.  We spent this past weekend in Trento, a city so far north it approaches the border with Austria. The first time we visited Trento a year ago we were not even sure we were still in Italy. Many signs were in both Italian and German, we couldn’t recognise half of the food items in local restaurants, while beer drinkers seemed to outnumber wine drinkers. And yet there remains something distinctly Italian, and the area itself is out of this world gorgeous. The mountains, the lakes, the rugged outdoors reminded us so much of our beautiful home in British Columbia. The centuries old architecture made it unmistakingly clear we were in Europe.
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Thai Noodle Bowl

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Thai Noodle Bowl
“I would kill!!!! for a noodle bowl but the broth would probably kill me with salt”, my sister Lydia texted me about a week ago. Looks like a text of an overly dramatic girl except that Lydia’s health condition is so serious that every single word in that text is pretty darn close to truth. Due to Type I diabetes her kidneys failed a year before she turned 30 leaving her first, fighting for her life,  then being put on a waiting list for a transplant,  then waiting.  Waiting is a tough business but what makes it even worse is her incredibly restrictive diet, sodium being her mortal nemesis.  Asian food, of course, comes to mind immediately when you think of ‘high sodium” offenders, especially if cooked in a restaurant.

As soon as Lydia mentioned her craving, I had a recipe in mind and I was determined to make it delicious and guilt-free! Thai Noodle Bowl is basically a Chicken Noodle Soup with a Thai twist. It takes 20 minutes to prepare and it gets all the flavour from spices and not MSG. If you are an Asian food lover chances are you have all the ingredients in your fridge already. I certainly did but I am also told by my friends my condiment section is out of control.

Thai Noodle Bowl
Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Sesame Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Onion, diced- 1 medium
  • Celery, diced- 2 ribs
  • Garlic, minced- 4 cloves
  • Lemon grass (I used a pre-made paste from a tube)- 1 tbsp.
  • Chilli powder- 1 tbsp.
  • Dried Chilli flakes- 1/8-1/4 tsp. (to taste)
  • Low-sodium Chicken Broth, pre-made or your own- 6 cups/1.5 litre
  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes- 1 cup
  • Chicken Breast, diced into bite size pieces- 2
  • Fish Sauce (Nam Pla or Nuoc Mam)- 3 tbsp.
  • Cilantro/Coriander leaves- 1 cup
  • Chow Mein Noodles or any other Asian noodles or even spaghettini- 125 gr.
  • Spinach- 150 gr
  • Lime juice- from 1 lime

Method:

  1. In a large pot heat both oils, then add diced onions, celery, minced garlic, lemon grass paste, chilli powder and red chilli flakes and cook until soft over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the broth, tomatoes, chicken, fish sauce, cilantro leaves and bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the noodles to the pot and cook according to package directions, mine took 5 minutes.
  4. Once the noodles are done, stir in spinach leaves and lime juice and take off the heat.

If you think chicken noodle soup is boring and reserved for sick days you will change your mind after trying my recipe.  Thai Noodle Bowl is a vibrant with a hint of spice dish that tastes even better than your favourite restaurant can deliver while you know all the ingredients that went into it.

Thai Noodle Bowl
{Note} The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine Magazine “Quick from scratch one-dish meals”cookbook.

Sun and Sea

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There are not too many things more calming and definitely only a handful as majestic as the sea. Just having returned from our family holiday in Spain a couple of days ago naturally I am going through a major withdrawal.
Plenty of fun times with my littles ones while jumping through waves, playing UNO and devouring inordinate amount of delicious food… hot and beautiful evenings with my love… the feeling of warm sunshine on my skin and the taste of salt water on my lips… images of peaceful retirement in a warm, sunshiny paradise.  Happy memories and even better dreams.
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Fiesta-My Travels in Spain

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Valencia
I read “Fiesta, The Sun also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway in my early teens and it was my first introduction to the charm, beauty and mystery of Spain. For a couple of decades I could only dream and imagine what it would be like to spend some time immersed in the magic like Hemingway did and get inspired…

Dreams do come come true. I am so happy I can share with you the visual account of the four of us walking the endless cobblestones of Valencia.

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Although my little travellers got tired I couldn’t help thinking how will these early experiences shape their life and worldview, what will they be inspired to create?_MG_2183-3
P.S. One of the highlights was spotting a young backpacker sitting on steps leading to the city square and reading “Fiesta”. In Spain.

Mega Chocolate Cake and a Summer Picnic

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Mega Chocolate Cake
What do children of a food blogger want to do with their mom? They want to bake! Sounds simple , right, except that I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen and seeing flour, sugar and eggs being flung about is not an easy task for me to endure. 🙂 Well, one overcast afternoon we were running out of things to do and baking a cake seemed like a great plan. I am not going to lie, things were no less messy than I expected. There are no pictures of the process because I was too scared to bring my camera into the kitchen, but the end result exceeded everybody’s expectations. Hours of fun together and the most delicious, chocolaty fudgy cake to show for it baked entirely by Mitchell and Vika. This momma was so proud! I am going to shut up now and let the pictures tell the story of what went on after the cake came out of the oven.

PicnicMega Chocolate CakePicnic Mega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate Cake and a Summer PicnicSummer PicnicMega Chocolate CakeSummer picnicSummer PicnicSummer PicnicSummer Picnic
I am sure I don’t need to convince you how simple this recipe is since my 7 and 9 year olds mastered it. The entire cake is made in the food processor, poured into a pan and then baked. The most straightforward recipe ever, which is why the stellar results completely astounded me! This just goes to prove food doesn’t have to be complex to be delicious.
Ingredients:

  • Bitter-sweet Chocolate-7 oz/ 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • Butter-3/4 cup plus extra for greasing
  • Soft Brown Sugar-2/3 cup
  • Skinned Almonds (I used ground almonds)-2/3 cup
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt- a pinch
  • Eggs- 4 large
  • Flour- 1 1/3 cup
  • Baking Powder- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • White Chocolate (roughly chopped)- 1/2 cup
  • Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice cream for serving

Method:

Preheat your oven to 325F/160C

Break up your chocolate into squares and put it in the food processor along with butter, sugar, almonds, cocoa powder and salt. Pulse until smooth. With the motor still running crack one egg at a time, then add flour and baking powder. Done!! Just make sure the batter is smooth.

Grease a rectangular 9×13 baking dish and dust it with a bit of cocoa powder. Pour the cake batter into the pan and scatter the white chocolate chunks over it (The original recipe by Jamie Oliver called for soft fudge pieces but I didn’t have any.) Bake for 18-20 minutes. Serve warm with a bit of whipped cream or ice-cream. The warm cake was incredibly fudgy and gooey – as you can see on the picture below – so after being prim and proper and eating it from our own plates, we abandoned that boring business and dove right into the cake pan!

Mega Chocolate Cake
Note: The recipe was slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Food Revolution”.

Quick, Take a picture before they grow up!

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Here is my confession: I am obsessed with my camera and I am even more obsessed with taking pictures of my kids. Brad puts on an expression of slight annoyance whenever I point my lens at him but I don’t mind-if anything it makes him look even hotter-but the kids run away and hide. I just got a Canon 5D. It’s not new but it’s new to me and I can barely contain my excitement. Every time I take a shot I think, “I wonder what this camera can do?” I’ve taken pictures of flowers, food, inanimate objects in my house and outside but…come on… I want to take pictures of people! My family is not moved by my plea. So I bribed my children to pose for me. And I paid them with a cup of cocoa. Yes, you heard me right. If only all models were this affordable. Here I present to you Mitchell and Vika. They are growing up so quickly!

Mitchell Vika

My little Amazon.
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And a little helper.
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She is a sweet little thing.
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And he is the coolest guy around. It’s impossible to take a bad picture of him-as gorgeous as his dad!
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Wild Things Cupcakes or Happy Birthday Vika!

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting I am so excited to finally being able to blog about the cupcakes that made my little girl’s birthday extra special.
Creating something new for my children every year on their birthday is not just fun for them but also an enjoyable challenge for me. Every year when they present me with a request (like a Sonic the Hedgehog or Hello Kitty cake) I am never sure if I can pull it off but after a little bit of research and trial and error I seem to end up with something we all love.

This year was no different except that Vika couldn’t settle on ONE cake  she wanted. I also lacked the inspiration and skill to deliver on her requests until I stumbled upon something very special by Sweetapolita who is my number one stop for anything cake and confection related. Vika is a huge animal lover and has a really soft spot for puppies so when I saw these hand stamped cupcakes by Rosie of Sweetapolita I knew exactly what I needed. Rubber stamps! The great thing about these cupcakes is that depending on a stamp you can create a great variety of cupcakes toppers. You never have to repeat yourself.Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions
I was delighted with how they turned out. All my hard work paid off when I saw the excitement and joy in my daughter’s eyes! These cupcakes were just perfect for a little girl’s birthday party as the cake toppers themselves evoked images of a child’s drawings. Don’t you think? And the tea towel that served as a back drop was made using the “self-portraits” of  the children in Vika’s class! Here is one done by Vika.:-)

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions

You can use any cake recipe and any frosting recipe but you do need fondant, never used rubber stamps, paste food colours and a small brush to make these. Here is what I did.

A day (or a week ahead) ahead:

Roll out fondant as thin as you can on an icing sugar dusted surface and cut out medallions to fit the diameter of your cupcakes. Make sure you dust your surface well with icing sugar as fondant tends to be pretty sticky. Lay them out and dry overnight. I live in England where it’s often rainy so I really struggled to get my toppers very dry, and at one point I had a humidifier going for a while to draw all the moisture out!

As soon as your fondant toppers are dry you can stamp them. I used paste food colour (Dusky Pink by Sugarflair) with just a drop of water in it, then I painted each stamp with a small paint brush and stamped the toppers. Rosie of Sweetapolita made a great tutorial on her website if you would like more details. If you have ever used a rubber stamp before you can quickly master this technique.

Ingredients for the cupcakes {Makes 24}:

  • Cake Flour- 2 1/2 cups/275 gr
  • Baking powder- 1tbsp.
  • Salt- 1/2 tsp.
  • Kefir or Buttermilk (I used Kefir)- 1 cup
  • Eggs-1 large at room temperature
  • Egg whites- 2 large at rooms temperature
  • Vanilla Bean (seeds scraped out)- 1
  • Sugar- 1 1/2 cups
  • Butter- 8 tbsp/115 gr at room temperature

Note: Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita

The wild things cupcakesThe Wild Things Cupcakes

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 F/160 C. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, in a separate bowl mix together the egg, egg whites, kefir or buttermilk and vanilla seeds.

In a large bowl whip together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. To the bowl with butter mixture add flour mixture and egg mixture in 2 or 3 additions alternating them, starting with the flour mixture and finishing with the flour mixture.

Fill your 2 lined muffin tins with cupcake batter about 2/3 full and bake for 15-17 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients for Frosting:

  • Mascarpone (chilled)- 8 oz/250 gr
  • Cream Cheese(chilled)- 8 oz/250 gr
  • Butter(at room temperature)- 1/2 cup/125 gr
  • Icing sugar- 1 1/2 cups
  • Vanilla- 2 tsp.
  • Paste food colour (Dusky Pink by Sugarflair)

Method: 

Combine mascarpone, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, sugar and food colouring if using in a food processor and pulse just until smooth and creamy. Do not overprocess. It’s important that your mascarpone and cream cheese are cold from the fridge and butter is at room temperature, this way you will have nice and stiff frosting that is easy to pipe. (This frosting could also be made using a hand mixer or a stand mixer.)

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions

Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes using a star tip and place your stamped medallions on top.

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions