Monday, August 16, 2010

Gymnastics, Princess, Castle and Jungle Cakes!

I love baking children's birthday cakes - yes, they can be stressful and time consuming but there is nothing better than seeing a child's face light up at the sight of the "perfect" cake. Here are a few photos of some I have done for my kids. None are really hard to copy -they just take a little planning and practicing. For instance, I try not to bake and frost a cake on the same day because something will go wrong - the cake won't rise, it will burn, an ingredient for the frosting will disappear or power will go out! I've experienced them all! I usually pre-bake the cakes a day in advanced or earlier (and then freeze them).

I try to keep the decorating simple. I also make fondant figurines at least a week in advance so they can dry and I'll have a chance to redo any that may break or fall apart.

If you have any questions just send me an email and I'll be happy to answer them!

This one was for my daughter's 6th birthday. It was at a gymnastics centre so, of course, a gymnastics cake was perfect.

Her 5th was a princess castle:

This one was for her 4th birthday - fitting a princess such as she is!

And my son requested a jungle cake for his third birthday!

Please vote for me! Rum scented blueberry pork

Would you mind voting for my Rum scented blueberry pork recipe? This is the blog post with instructions to vote!!

Or this takes you right to the Maple Leaf voting page! Thanks!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rum Scented Blueberry Pork Loin

I need your help! Maple Leaf is hosting a new contest for its new Prime Pork - every cut I have tried - chops, loin, roast has been delcious and juicy! Many bloggers have been chosen to participate - and I am one of them! You can vote for me here.

Pork has been a staple in my life since I was a little kid. I remember my Dad frying up yummy pork chops for us as kids (pork chops and fried bolongna are his specialties!) and my Mom makes a great one-dish casserole  of rice, pork and mushroom soup. One of my own favorite go to recipes is a pulled pork butt (OMG - "pulled pork butt" makes me laugh every time I say it!) dish done in my slow cooker.

For the contest, I wanted to create something that drew from all parts of Canada. Growing up in Nova Scotia, blueberries were on our table every summer - big, plump and juicy ones...I'm drooling now. Today, we always have Quebec maple syrup in our house for pancakes, baking and marinades. And now that I live on the Westcoast, we, like all Vancouverites, BBQ in all seasons - regardless of weather - rain, sun, rain, snow, rain and well rain. So I created a delicious marinade with all of these things in mind. I call it Rum Scented, Blueberry Pork Loin. It's slightly sweet with just the right amount of bite - even our young kids who are picky eaters (and who have no trouble telling me if something is "icky" or my fave - "disgusting") love it.

I hope you try it and love it as much as we do!

Please take a look at all the great recipes and take the time to vote for me on the Maple Leaf Foods Facebook page. Also, Western Canadians can receive a coupon worth HALF off their next purchase of Maple Leaf Prime Pork (limited # of coupons so act fast!).

Pointers for recipe success:
  • Watch your meat! Because there is sugar in this marinade, it can burn if your heat is too high or you don't turn often enough.
  • This marinade is very adaptable - feel free to substitute one ingredient for something else you prefer.
  • Flavours and foods that go especially well with pork - lime, cilantro, ginger, garlic, molasses, potatoes, cabbage, corn, soy, paprika, beans, yams (see below), and apples.
  • You can bake this at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, if you don't have a grill.
  • A little pink is OK in pork as long as it reaches the minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees.
2 tbsp rum
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 limes, juiced
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp dijon grainy mustard (or other fave mustard)
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
pinch of cinnamon

1 Maple Leaf Prime Pork Loin 1.5 - 2lbs

What to do:
1. Mix all ingredients in medium sized bowl.
2. Add pork, cover and refrigerate.  Alternately, pour all ingredients into food storage pastic bag, add pork and seal bag.
3. Marinate for 24-36 hours.Turn pork as least twice if in bowl.
4. Heat BBQ grill to medium high.
5. Wipe marinade off pork otherwise the cilantro and blueberries will burn.
6. Discard marinade.
7. Place pork on grill, turning every 5 minutes.
8. Grill until internal temperature of Maple Leaf Prime pork reaches 160 degrees, about 20 minutes.
9. Remove pork from grill and place on plate.
10. Tent with foil for 10 minutes to let pork rest and juices redistribute through meat.
11. Slice loin into medallions.

Yam Fries
4 medium sized yams
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cloves

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Peel and slice yams to desired thickness (about 1 to 1.5 cm) and length (cut yam in half).
3. Place yams in large bowl.
4. Add oil and salt to taste.
5. Mix yams, oil and salt until well coated.
6. Distribute in single layer on large baking sheet (use 2 pans if required).
7. Bake for 15 minutes.
8. Turn yams.
9. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until browned and crispy.
10. Sprinkle with additional salt and cloves.

Red Peppers, sliced

Please vote!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to Make Butter

For someone who loves butter as much as I do, you'd think I would know more about it. Who knew people other than farmers could make butter? I honestly never thought about making butter until I saw an article in a local paper. But it looked so beautiful and fresh and mother-earth like that I had to try it.

It's an amazingly short process and so much fun to watch the cream do it's thing - thick, thicker, thickest!!

And if I was going to make my own butter, I had to make homemade buns to go with it. (I'll post the recipe for those next another time.)

Even store bought butter and fresh bread is my personal version of heaven. And the only thing I can say about the first bite of homemade rolls slathered in melting homemade butter is... Hallelujah.


2 cups heavy cream (whipping or heavier)
pinch or two of salt, optional

What to do:
1. Pour 2 cups of heavy cream into a food processor.
2. Put on high.
3. After about 2 minutes you will see that the cream has separated into butter milk and curds.
4. Pour off the liquid.
5. Add 1/8 cup of ice water.
6. Replace lid and turn pulse 4 times.
7. Pour out liquid.
8. Again add 1/8 cup ice water, replace lid and pulse 4 times.
9. Pour off any remaining liquid.
10.Place butter into strainer.
11. Gently press butter down with a spoon and stir it to get any excess liquid out.
12. Put in a bowl.
13. Add salt, if desired, and stir until well incorporated.
14. You can also add any flavourings desired - try chives, garlic, thyme, chillies, fruit zest etc.

By "rinsing" the curd with ice water, the butter may last up to 3 days.
I also recommend making only small batches to keep this delight at its freshest.
Wrap your freshly made butter in plastic wrap and roll into a log shape.
Refrigerate until firm.