Wednesday, February 29, 2012

the lowly lentil

{Nicholetta's curried lentil and quinoa salad}

As I have mentioned before (here and here) I try to feed my family heathy meals. I feel like I need evidence to support this claim given the volume of refined sugar I have displayed on this little blog. The beginning of the year really is birthday mania in the Pond/Harris clan and despite the fact that my own special day is less than a week away I feel more like cleansing than indulging.

Enter the lowly lentil.

My friend recently connected me with another local blogger Nicholetta at Pepper and Paint. After seeing her site I knew I wanted to try one of her recipes. She is an exceptional photographer so if are interested in step by step instructions accompanied by gorgeous images of how to make the dish above head over to her website. The recipe is her own by the way, as in not from a cookbook. Pretty impressive.

True to form I made a few *slight* errors in the preparation of this dish; I forgot to pick up a red pepper so I grabbed a cuc (good for flavour, not so good for adding colour) and I cut back on the olive oil (not because I wanted to make the dish lighter but because I ran out). Despite my missteps the dish was really yummy. Even Jeffrey liked it (though he did comment it tasted healthy). The only thing I would say is that if you make the dish for a crowd that doesn't like a little spice, maybe cut back in that department.

Violet has a love/hate relationship with spicy food. She normally cries her way through it with a big glass of milk. Before you call CPS she does this of her own accord. She loves the flavour of curries and the like, but the heat makes her weepy. What can I say, she is a piece of work that girl.

In other Violet related news (which is not even tangentially related to the rest of this post), as I pulled her out of the tub tonight she made a couple funny noises and busted a couple really hilarious dance moves.

"What are you doing silly girl" I asked.

She stared me straight in the eye and then burst into song, "Baby I was born this way."

Lady Gaga, from a three year old. Now you can call CPS.



tonight's recipe can be found here:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

one, two, three

{Birthday week closing ceremonies}

Today is Violet's third birthday. I know every parent says this, but I really cannot believe she is three. I love the little person Violet is becoming but I miss my Baby Lady Vi. I love seeing her learn new things,  but part of me wants her to stay my baby. I wonder if this ever changes? I wonder if my mum thinks the same thing about me now?

The last three years have been the most challenging, the most rewarding, the most exciting and perhaps above all the most tiring time in my life. When I look back I literally cannot believe we made it. Of course we had (and have) loads of support from my family and friends and from Jeffrey and from Jeffrey's family, who now are our family.

Our family may not be the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings but Violet is and always has been surrounded by so many people who love her. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that today and I feel so thankful.

Vi and I have always been a good team and now with Jeffrey we are a great one.

{the final cupcakes of our birthday season enjoyed in celebration of Violet by family and friends who are family}

Monday, February 27, 2012

no ants!

{indoor picnics are best - in February that is}
When I left work tonight I had every intention of coming home and making an elaborate dinner. Well maybe not elaborate, but at least warm. That didn't happen. We had to stop at the grocery store on the way home to grab a few essentials and the slight detour coupled with the transit strike (major traffic by Halifax standards) meant that by the time we finally arrived I needed to get dinner on the table pronto.

What can I make quickly, I thought to myself. I did a mental scan through our pantry. Then it dawned on me - an indoor picnic.

Indoor picnics are the perfect antidote for snowy forecasts. Not to mention the fact that the novelty of the endeavour alone is enough to satisfy our littlest family member. Jeff and I quickly put together some sandwiches, cut up some veggies and grabbed an assortment of pickles. I wanted it to really feel like a picnic so we used our stadium blanket and one of my favourite wedding gifts, an insulated picnic basket.

Lounging on a blanket and enjoying a nice cold diet coke actually made it feel a little more like spring even if we were in our basement.  Knowing how thrilled Violet was that we were having an indoor picnic for supper, now that really warmed my heart.



{simple but fun}

Sunday, February 26, 2012

We Are Young*

{pink & pink balloons}
Violet's third birthday party was a success! There were no injuries, few tears and lots of giggles. No one felt like laughing the night before the party at 2:00 am, but that is beside the point.

I think "Emily and her adventures with the compost bin" might be a more fitting title for this blog than Lovely Infelicity. I'll start with the punch line: I had to throw out my first attempt at a cupcake shaped birthday cake. It was 11:30 pm when the cake hit the bin.

On Friday after Violet went to bed Jeff, Julia and I kicked in to party-prep high gear.  We baked Martha Stewart's yellow buttermilk cupcakes (for the kiddos to decorate), we made Magnolia Bakery vanilla buttercream icing (in pink and white), we made banana chocolate chip muffins for the mamas (and made sure to have a healthy amount of Baileys on hand for their coffee), we cut fruit, made bunny shaped sandwiches and organized the food table. Julia also painstakingly strung cupcake holders and doilies to make a beautiful streamer to decorate our dining room window.

As you may recall Violet had a cupcake themed party. A cupcake shaped birthday cake seemed like the obvious choice. We borrowed a mould and I whipped up Beatty's Chocolate Cake. I greased the pan well with butter and popped the cake in the oven. As soon as I pulled it out I knew something was amiss. The bottom of the cupcake had risen well above the top of the cake pan while the top looked rather flat. I didn't think too much of it and put the cake, still in the pan, on a cooling rack.

Removing the cake from the pan was the first debacle. It didn't want to come out. I used a silicone spatula to navigate the ridges of the depths of the pan and eventually I was able to get most of it out. Unfortunately, the cupcake shape was seriously compromised.

One of our party guests was unable to have buttercream (she can't eat dairy) so I decided to substitute margarine in the Magnolia recipe. I have three words for you: it doesn't work. Period. We decided to ice the bottom of the cake with white frosting and the top with a bright pink. I tried to smooth the paste like margarine butter cream over the crumbly surface of the deformed cake. I could feel my face getting red. Calm down, I thought to myself, you'll be able to fix this.

I was wrong.

When I put the cupcake shaped, margarine icing adorned cake on the cake plate and stepped back there was silence from the gallery. Then it hit me: the cake looked a lot like a certain male appendage. You read that correctly. The cake looked like an erotic cake, baked by a lactose intolerant maid of honour planning a bachelorette party. I don't know if was our colour choice or the misshaped cupcake form but this cake was obviously too explicit for a three year old's birthday party.

You can guess what happened next. Into the bin it went. Gone the way of so many baked goods before it.

There is no picture. I was too upset at the time.

11:30: start cake #2. This time I used a bundt cake pan and real chocolate buttercream icing (we made a special cupcake for our lactose intolerant friend). There was no way I was risking another erotic cupcake debacle at that hour!

Enjoy a few pictures from Violet's special day.



{violet tulips}

{round two: a cake appropriate for all ages}

{craft time: decorate cake boxes}

{fishies at the birthday girl's request}

{Julia's fruit rainbow}

{the spread}

{everyone got a prize after pin the cherry on the cupcake!}

* this song captures the chaos of party preparation perfectly ;)

Today's recipes can be found: 

Friday, February 24, 2012

clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

Tomorrow is Violet's birthday party so stay tuned for posts full of balloons and buttercream icing. For now I thought it would be nice to end the week with another grateful list. If it is all the same to you I thought I might make it a weekly exercise. Surely I can think of four things I am grateful for each week.

{weekly dinners with my parents}
Almost every week we head to my parents house for dinner. Last night it was particularly delicious. We had a roasted chicken from the market. My mother even stuffed it, which always make a meal feel festive. We finished the meal with an encore performance by the baked chocolate pudding. You know you have a hit when your husband begs you to make something again within a week!

{fresh starts in the morning}
I love coffee. Do I even need to explain this one? Even more than coffee I love the fresh start that each morning brings. Evenings with kiddos can be less than relaxing and by the end of the night I am often so tired it is hard to be the best version of myself. Mornings are new beginnings. Coffee helps a lot. Lots and lots of coffee.

{birthday weeks}
Why celebrate for a day when you can celebrate for a week? Violet's Aunt Julia (aka Precious Jules) arrived on Wednesday night and this officially opened birthday week. The fun will continue until next Tuesday. I've braced myself for the sugar highs and the accompanying crashes!

{signs of spring}
I know these tulips are from Holland but it is nice to have signs of spring around our apartment. I have a soft spot for tulips so arriving home to two vases full was a wonderful way to end a long day at work.

What are you grateful for this week?

xo em

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


{fruit rainbow: one idea for Violet's party snacks*}

“If throwing a birthday party is this much work imagine what it would be like to organize a really big party…”

“You mean like the wedding I planned…for us…six months ago…”


Oh Jeffrey.

Violet will be three next week. On Saturday we are hosting her first "littles-only" birthday party.  At 9:30 on Saturday morning a dozen three, four and five year-old children will descend on our tiny apartment for two hours of merriment. 

Two hours of chaos? 

I am scared.

Violet wanted a cupcake themed party. Actually, that isn't the whole truth. I may or may not have told her how cool it would be to have a cupcake themed party after I saw one on Pinterest (which I still don’t really know how to navigate). Violet loves to bake (like moi, I know, warm heart) and I thought the theme was cute without being over the top. I wanted a traditional home birthday party – nothing crazy, just some littles, some cake and a few presents.

Last night I bought close to a kilogram of sprinkles. I think I might have gone overboard…

I find myself caught between wanting to have a really fun party for Violet (and not knowing exactly what that would look like) and remembering that she will only be three, and she would likely be happy with a cupcake, a present and a few close friends. 

But, invitations have been sent, balloons have been ordered, tears have been shed about the color of said balloons, the balloon order has been modified – this party is happening.  

The party is in the morning but I want to serve a light lunch to the kids for two reasons. The first reason is so that their parents won’t hate me for filling their offspring up with sugar and then sending them home without anything substantial, and second is because eating will occupy them and I know what happens when littles are left to their own devises.

I’ve got a few ideas for snacks but I would love to have some suggestions. The only caveat is we have one nut allergy – so no peanut butter anything!

Wish me luck!

xo Em

* I will cut the grapes because I am paranoid like that! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baked Chocolate Pudding

{Ina Garten's baked chocolate pudding}

Before I begin it is only right that I should state my bias. When it comes to custard-like desserts I have never met one I didn't love. My love for creamy, “eggy” desserts began when I was a little girl and my Grammy Hope served me a small bowl of warm tapioca pudding with half a maraschino cherry on top. Grammy Hope must have loved creamy, eggy desserts too because in addition to tapioca she also made me rice pudding with piping hot raisins and a simple custard dessert with a delicious layer of cinnamon on top. Each of these desserts was served in a tiny bowl. I have a soft spot for desserts served in individual vessels. It definitely ups the cute quotient.

My Grammy Hope would have been proud of the baked chocolate pudding I made on Sunday night, although I’m not even sure if she liked chocolate. I am confident that the texture of the dessert alone would have won her over.

We were invited over to our friends’ house for dinner and I had volunteered to make dessert. I had never made Baked Chocolate Pudding before but I trust Ina Garten when it comes to dessert. She is a woman who is not afraid to use a little butter and trust me, you can tell when you take a bite of any of her creations - heavenly.

It is always a bit of a gamble making something for the first time when you plan on serving it to friends, but I knew our hosts would be game to try anything and worst case scenario I could have always picked something up on the way. (They live dangerously close to Dee Dee’s!)

Once baked the dish looked quite plain – I was going to use the word rustic but that would be romanticizing a rather ordinary looking dish. So it’s not the most beautiful dessert to look at, but none of my creamy, eggy favorites are – just think of tapioca, rice pudding and custard.  

I stuck a knife in the pudding to see if it was done and the pressure sent a crack flying across the meringue like surface of the dish. Picture putting a knife in a pavlova or better yet picture the bottom of a river that has dried up. Opps. The knife came out gooey, but I went with it, it was after all a pudding of sorts.

We packed up the jeep, Violet and the dessert of unknown quality in tow, ready for a night of relaxation (with two wee ones yeah right) and good conversation (definitely).

We dined on delicious homemade pizza/ calzone. (It was definitely more like pizza Rachel). Then we all tried the pudding – a keeper of a recipe, that is for sure.

Served with vanilla ice cream this dessert would be hard to beat in terms of comfort food. The soft but crunchy meringue gets coated in the gooey innards of the cake. I tried to get a small bite of ice cream with every mouthful of pudding, the cool smooth ice cream melted alongside the warm chocolate.

On a cold Sunday night in February, with my Grammy Hope in mind, the pudding was exactly that the doctor ordered.
{yum yum}
xo  Em

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dear Winter

Dear Winter,

I am officially breaking up with you.  I’ve given this a lot of thought and there is no way I will change my mind. Please don’t send pretty snowflakes. That may have worked on the last girl, but it won’t work on me.

The thing is you pretend to be something that you are not. When I agreed to give you another chance late last fall I envisioned a season of sledding and snow days not drizzle and slushy puddles. I recommitted myself to you for Violet’s sake because I think every little kid should know what a happy winter feels like. I’m talking about a winter complete with skating on frozen ponds and a winter where it makes sense to wear snow pants, not a wet suit. 

I will concede that you haven’t been as cold as some other years but that isn’t enough to make me love you. And fine I'll admit it is sunny today. At least it was this afternoon. But, I’m not falling for these games. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know what happens next: two more months of bad weather. Not happening. I’m over it.

I thought it would be different this time. I tried to make it work. I embraced my winter hat (and the accompanying hat hair), I bought new running mittens , I even gave Violet two sleds for Christmas so I could slide down the hills you coated with fresh white snow. 

Maybe you are thinking I watch too many Christmas movies and that my idea of winter has been distorted by Hollywood. Maybe it has, but is that such a bad thing? I deserve a Hollywood winter. Who says I can’t dream of A White Christmas.

 Maybe I should just move to New Brunswick or Maine. 

All I ask of you is a clean break. This will be so much harder on me if you stick around until the beginning of June. Just leave. Take your sub-zero temperatures, your dry skin, your vitamin D deprivation and scram. 

I never really loved you anyway.


{happier winter days}

Saturday, February 18, 2012

clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

This morning at the market my mum told us about a lecture she heard on her pd day. The talk was about what really makes people happy. One suggestion the speaker had was to remind yourself daily of the things you are grateful for. It is so easy to focus on the negative aspects of the daily grind and overlook all of the things that make us happy. So, in the pursuit of happiness here are a few things I am grateful for today (in no particular order of course):

{the fact we live in Halifax}

We woke up to beautiful snow and by the time we got home from the market it was rainy. Ideal weather? Not by any measure. Yet living in Halifax is something I am truly grateful for. If you are lucky enough to live by the sea you are lucky enough. Right?

{Saturdays at the market}

This morning Violet wore her Christmas dress from two years ago to the market. I have to pick my battles. Going to the market is one of the highlights of our week; we meet my parents, drink great coffee, indulge in a breakfast of our own choosing and Violet plays with the first friend she made herself. Even though it is early and I can't believe we set an alarm on Saturday, I wouldn't change a thing.

{great friends}

Tonight we had lovely friends over for dinner. There were a few meltdowns (kids only) but it was so worth it to share time with a family we all get along with so well. Jeff made awesome pasta and I made lemon loaf (and it worked the first time). It is always worth the planning to get together.

Check out the recipe for the lemon loaf here: 

{my sweet husband}

I may have dropped some major hints that just because we were married it didn't mean we should completely forgo Valentines but in the end Jeff came through! He brought home this beautiful orchid stem along with dinner for our sweet girl and I. It might not be what Hallmark envisioned but it was a day full of love.

What are you grateful for today?


Friday, February 17, 2012

Dee Dee's

{Dee Dee's Classic Burrito with the works}

When I first heard about the concept behind Dee Dee's I thought it was a terrible idea: burritos and ice cream? Seriously? The fact that the burrito and ice cream shop opened in the winter only made matters worse. Who wants ice cream during a Canadian winter?

I give that place less than a year, I thought to myself.

That was before I had a Dee Dee's burrito. It was before I had their ice cream for that matter.

I will now publicly (I used the term loosely since I am pretty sure my parents and a few close friends are the only ones who will read this) admit that I was wrong. I don't say that very often. Ask Jeff.

Dee Dee's is in an old house at the end of my parents' street. I say house but I think that there was probably always a shop on the main floor. The exterior of the building is really cute. I admit it has probably seen better days (probably long long ago) but there is something about the space I really like. I had often thought it would be a good location for a neighbourhood cafe. A neighbourhood cafe owned by me would be best. Obviously.

I admit it, I was a little bitter when I heard the space had been leased. I didn't want someone else to swoop in and run a perfect little neighbour cafe. So when I heard about the burrito/ ice cream shop I felt pretty smug.

The joke is on me.

Dee Dee's ice cream is unbelievably good. I don't like chocolate ice cream (weird, I know) but I could eat a bucket of it from Dee Dees. Maybe it is the organic ingredients, maybe it is the heavy cream, either way they have a winning formula. Visits to Dee Dee's for ice cream are a family favourite, especially in the warmer months.

Burritos on the other hand are great winter fare. They are hearty enough to fill you up and spicy enough to warm you up. You can't beat that, can you?

Turns out Dee Dee's seemingly bizarre combination of specialities keeps our family coming back all year long. Sneaky little devils.

If I can't have my cafe on Bauer St., Dee Dee's is the next best thing.


{You'll want to eat your burrito like this too}

Thursday, February 16, 2012

a step in the right direction

{carrot cupcakes with goat cheese and maple syrup icing}

A friend recently asked me to recommend a healthy, but still tasty cupcake recipe for her son's first birthday. The birthday boy needed a baby friendly amount of sugar, but his big sister had to be into the taste too. I was at a loss. 

Most of (all of) the sweets I make are decidedly unhealthy. Health is something I take seriously; we eat loads of veggies, fruits and fish, I promise. But when it comes to sweets I normally throw caution to the wind.

I read an article by my mentor Nigella (I'm only partially joking) where she explained her philosophy toward eating; there are normal everyday meals where health and moderation ought to be guiding principles and then there is celebration eating, a time of community and indulgence. I am paraphrasing but that was what I took away from the article and I like that approach to eating.

Nonetheless, I couldn't believe I was at a loss for a "healthy" dessert recipe, and then I remembered I had taken part in a recipe exchange a few months ago. It was kind of like a chain letter; I forget the details but the outcome was essentially an inbox full of delicious recipes. One of the recipes I received was for carrot cupcakes with goat cheese icing.

The cupcakes are not healthy like kale is healthy but they are a heck of a lot healthier than the cupcakes I made last weekend. First of all they have two vegetables in them: carrots and zucchini. They also have apples and perhaps most impressively no butter. Even the "icing" is healthy; instead of butter and sugar it is made out of goat cheese and maple syrup.

I couldn't wait to give them a try. The part of the preparation I disliked the most was grating the veggies and the apples. It isn't hard but it is tedious. A food processor would have made short work of the job but Violet was sleeping when I made these and despite the fact we have a state of the art machine I am wary of using it. As I mentioned before I have had a few run ins with small appliances in the past few weeks and I can only imagine the mess I could make with that amount of horse power. The batter wasn't the most appealing thing I've ever laid my eyes on, but that would be asking a lot of most batters. I let it go.

{if it looks like carrot cake and smells like carrot cake...}

The cupcakes smelled awesome while they were baking. Just like carrot cake I dare say (although I am almost embarrassed to admit I have never made carrot cake). When I pulled them out they looked great. I envisioned the cupcakes would look healthy - like little dense muffins. I was wrong.

I waited for the cupcakes to cool and slathered one in the goat cheese icing.

I broke a piece off one and gave some to Jeff.

Goat cheesy was my first thought. Too goat cheesy was my second.

Jeff said, "that isn't a cupcake, that is a muffin."

He had a point. 

I tried another piece with just a little of the "icing"  - delish. My advice is use the goat cheese icing sparingly. It doesn't taste like cream cheese icing on a carrot cake, but your heart will thank you!

I decided to send the remaining eleven muffin/cupcakes to my mum's school. She recently told me they were out of the snacks they give kids who don't have any lunch. I'm sure the kids would prefer a fruit roll-up but my muffin/cupcakes were made with love. The same cannot be said of a fruit roll up.

So what do you think, are these muffin/cupcakes healthy? Do you have any recipes for healthy sweets that are actually yummy? I'd love some suggestions.


Carrot Cupcake Recipe

for the cupcakes:

  - 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  - 3/4 cup white sugar
  - 1/4 cup brown sugar
  - 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  - 2 cups shredded carrots
  - 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
  - 1/2 cup shredded apple
  - 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  - 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  - 1/2 teaspoon salt
  - 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  - 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  - 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

for the frosting:

  - 1 long round of goat cheese at room temperature
  - enough maple syrup to get the consistency you want

Cupcake method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Set the round of goat cheese out to warm up.
  3. Beat together the eggs, white sugar, and brown sugar in a bowl, and
  mix in the oil and vanilla. Fold in carrots, apple and zucchini. In a

  separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and
  ginger. Mix flour mixture into the carrot mixture until evenly moist.
  Transfer to the prepared muffin cups or baking tin.
  4. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted
  in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Let cool before frosting.

Frosting Method
  1. Beat together the goat cheese and one tablespoon of maple syrup until
  2. Check to taste, add more syrup for more flavour. You'll need about a
  quarter cup of syrup for the frosting to have a strong maple flavour. The
  more syrup you add, the more liquid the frosting gets, so you may have to
  chill it or apply the frosting a few times as it tends to drip. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

eating is an agricultural act

The title of this post comes from Wendell Barry's essay The Pleasure of Eating, the song in the video is sung by Willie Nelson, the message is one we should all consider.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dirty Dancing

{my mini-me: Valentine's bedtime snuggles}

So, the good news is I didn't puke (knock wood).

The bad news is we are all a little tired, a little on edge and a lot in need of a glass of wine (Violet excluded).

After a rocky start to the dinner hour which began by Violet saying to me "you make me feel hideous" by which she meant angry (hideous is just one of the worst words that she knows - burn), we pulled ourselves together and managed to enjoy a lovely dinner of take out sushi followed by some sugary chocolate in the shape of hearts. Coupled with a special bottle of wine we were given as a wedding gift, the evening was officially resurrected.

But it was walking into Violet's bedroom and seeing her and Jeff practicing the lift (yes, the dance move from the classic 80's rom com Dirty Dancing) that really made my day. He was actually playing The Time of my Life from his iphone.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

After that, yes -- yes I'll be your Valentine Jeff!

Here are a few snaps of my other Valentine this morning before school.


{contentment (albiet momentary)} 

Monday, February 13, 2012

All you need is love

{gummy hearts remind me of my mum's Valentine's Day warm milk cake}
{Valentine treats for sharing}
{gift bags for Violet's friends at school}
{Be Mine}
I am so glad that Violet and I put together these little gift bags for her friends on the weekend. Jeff has now joined the ranks of the infirm and I am the last man standing. I am trying the mind over matter approach (I will not get sick, I will not get sick). I sure hope it works.

I have had a stomach bug the last two Valentine's Days. This is particularly unfortunate because those are the only two Valentine's I've spent with Jeff. The first year he brought me ginger ale with pink straws. Quite the catch I have!

I guess we'll have to make up for missed Valentine's days the rest of the year; live with a sort of Valentine's state of mind. I'm a big fan of chocolate, flowers and love, so I say bring it on!

Wishing you a barf free Valentine's Day.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red Velvet

{Red Velvet cupcake}

The events of this weekend haven’t really gotten me in the mood for Valentine’s Day. Nothing says I love you like being vomited on. Actually, most things say it better.

Violet, still under the weather, was unable to attend her (my) beloved dance class today. We also had to cancel dinner plans that we had all been looking forward to. I felt really bad for sweet Vi so I decided to bust out a few holiday related activities. Violet’s favourite activity by far was baking red velvet cupcakes. 

I told you I was a cupcake girl and now I will show you.

According to Martha Stewart the origins of the red velvet cake are disputed. Apparently the red color used to be achieved through a chemical reaction that takes place between the cocoa and a vinegar-baking soda mixture. I used all those things, but I think it was the healthy dose of food coloring that put these beauties over the top.

The uncooked batter looked a little unnatural, kind of like ketchup actually, but once they were baked the cupcakes seemed to relax into a more edible hue.  

{uncooked batter - kind of weird}

{baked - now that is better}

As we were baking Violet, the sous chef, said to me, “You be the daughter and I will be the mother.”

“Okay,” I played along.

“Daughter, don’t eat the batter, it is full of rotten eggs.” 

“The eggs aren't rotten sweetie, they are raw” I explained.

“I am not sweetie. I am mum.”

End of conversation.

The cupcakes are really good. Martha knows her stuff. The cream cheese icing balances out the uber-sweetness of the cupcake itself. I normally only associated cream cheese icing with carrot cake - no need for vegetables here (although if you are the sort who opposes mixing red food colouring and children I heard you can add beet juice in lieu of the dye). 

I made these cupcakes for Violet's first birthday; I can't believe she will be three in a couple of weeks. I asked her if she wanted them again for her birthday party. I thought it would be sweet. Maybe red velvet cupcakes could be our thing. She declined. Not enough chocolate, clearly.



You can find the recipe for these cupcakes here:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

these things happen

What a day.

It started like almost any other Saturday; we were up early and went off to the market to meet my parents for breakfast. Coffee, pastries and a special visit from Jeff's sister made for a great start to the day. I noticed that Violet wasn't quite herself but I didn't think much of it. We got our groceries and headed to skating without incident. Violet was totally enamoured by her aunt. So far, so good.

Jeff's sister generously offered to take us out for a bite to eat. We debated between two of our brunch favourites: Jane's and The Coastal. We decided on Jane's because we thought we were more likely to get a table. After a bit of a wait we were finally seated, how relaxing I thought. I am totally enjoying this stage with Violet. She can sit and enjoy a whole meal with us (that is, if the mood strikes her). She was in fine form, maybe a little quieter than usual, but I obviously attributed that to my new parenting savvy. What a well behaved child we have.

I should warn you, if you have a weak stomach you might not want to read on. Things took a turn for the worse and quickly. I will spare you most of the detail but even the highlights are a little off putting.

A little background info: Violet stayed home from school yesterday because her stomach was not quite 100%. She wasn't puking. I'll leave it at that.

After my first cup of coffee Violet asked to go to the bathroom. She had just slammed a blueberry smoothie so I wasn't at all surprised.

Have you seen the movie Bridesmaids? If you have I am sure you remember the scene in the wedding dress shop. Well, Violet and I experienced our own version of that this morning at Jane's. Lovely. I couldn't wait to get back to my fishcakes and baked beans...

After I washed my hands in scalding water we went back to our table. I reminded Violet not to mention any bathroom details to her aunt. She kindly obliged. By the time we got our food my stomach actually felt a little better. I had already blocked what had just happened with Violet out of my mind and I was quite looking forward to my meal. Violet is being so good I mused, especially since her stomach is obviously not feeling right.

I had taken about four bites of my breakfast when I saw Violet stand up in her chair. I was about to remind her to sit on her buns when I saw her turn her head. What in the world is she doing, I thought to myself.

What happened next is a bit of a blur. It seemed to happen in slow motion but when I look back it must have only been seconds. Sweet Violet puked off the back of her chair on to the floor below her. Smack dab in the middle of the restaurant.

She looked at me, "I puked mama."

"Yes, yes you did sweet girl."

Jeff's sister sprang into action. She sweetly cleaned up the mess while I got Violet ready to leave. In her typical fashion Violet was not at all phased by the scene she had caused. She said to our server on the way out, "don't worry, I'll be back soon".

I bet they can't wait.

As we were walking to our car, in the rain, I admit I felt pretty sorry for myself. So much for brunch I thought. So much for our dinner plans too. As I put Violet into her car seat she looked at me and said, "Don't worry mummy, these things happen."

"You're right Violet, these things do happen."

Perspective from a two year old. I love it.


ps - I fully intended to blog about the meal I made for our friends who were supposed to come over tonight. That obviously didn't happen. I'll leave you with a photo of the chilli I made for the event, even though I kind of feel weird about it given the content of this post!

{I can't believe I was able to eat this tonight: turkey chilli}

Friday, February 10, 2012

granola crunch

{there is nothing quite like fresh bread}
I never fancied myself the kind of gal who would make her own bread. I'm more of a cupcake girl I think. I thought that people who made their own bread were the same type of people who made yogurt from homemade cultures and used cloth diapers. Homemade yogurt and cloth diapers are awesome; they are just way too much work for someone like me. Or so I thought.

Over the Christmas holiday I visited a dear friend who was staying with her family in the valley. Her mother sent me home with some of the most delicious brown bread I have ever had. Now, before my own mother disowns me, I want to point out that I said *some of the most delicious* not most delicious brown bread I have ever had. I immediately asked for the recipe. My carbohydrate induced euphoria must have made me forget about my misgivings about bread making.

A few weeks later a hand written recipe arrived in the mail. I decided to give it a try. What the heck. A girl can only eat so many cupcakes...

I have been converted. Making bread is amazing and it is not that hard. My family can't get enough of it and I love knowing exactly what they are eating (in a caring not controlling way of course).

Jeff is out bidding my brother a final adieu Halifax style (read: at the pub) so I decided to try my luck with bread making a second time. I was afraid that last time was beginners luck and never again would I reach such culinary heights.  My first batch was so good I almost wanted to retire as a bread maker while I was at the top of my game. But the requests for more brown bread kept rolling in (okay, all the requests were from Jeff, but he can be very persistent).

Guess what? The bread worked again.

It is official: I, Emily Pond, make my own bread.

If I write a post about using a diva cup you'll know I've truly gone to the dark side. Stage an intervention please.


{Ellen's oatmeal brown bread}

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Potty Mouth Pond

This week has been one of many changes for the Harris clan. First we saw little Lou off to Thailand, and on Saturday Dylan, my baby brother, follows in the footsteps of many Maritimers as he heads to Edmonton for work. As a result we have spent even more time than usual at my parent's place squeezing in every last drop of family time we can.

We schlepped over to their house for a farewell dinner in D’s honour tonight. After we ate, we all sat around the table as we usually do. A calm quiet came over us, the sort of pause that happens after a delicious meal shared between loved ones. 

Out of nowhere Violet looked at my plate and said with disgust in her voice, “What is that crap?”


Did she seriously just say that, I thought to myself? 

What should I do now? I looked around the table; everyone was holding back their laughter. I looked at my plate. There was nothing but a small piece of salmon skin...

I think Jeff was the first to laugh out loud. 

Violet looked confused. She must have wondered what we thought was so funny.

She looked at me again and said, “Mummy, what is that wrap on your plate”. 

We all burst out laughing, because it was funny and also because it was a relief. Sweet girl hadn’t said crap, she said wrap.

Phew. That was a close one.


{"What is that crap?"}

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mais, Bien Sur

{Violet this time last year, not acting very French}

The French do a lot of things right: food, wine, fashion. Now, according to last week's Saturday Essay in the online Wall Street Journal, parenting can be added to that list.

The part of the article that interested me most was about delayed gratification. Basically you want your kid to be able to embody the adage "short term pain, long term gain." If they can do that, they can apply the same self-control in a host of other situations. Heck, I wish I could embody that adage! The article provides an example of French parents who buy their children bonbons but make them wait until a scheduled snack time to eat them.

Wait, does this mean the parents have to wait to have their treat too?

The article suggests little things parents can do that help them raise a child who has the ability to wait. A child who can wait knows they are not the centre of the universe (*she covers Violet's ears at the sound of the words*), and knows a thing or two about boundaries. Those are attributes I can get behind. 

I am going to give this approach to parenting (parenting strategy?) a try. As evidenced in the photo above (and this post) delaying gratification is not Violet's strong suit. She can't really be blamed for this. We rarely ask her to do it; we rarely ask ourselves to either. 

Violet is a woman of action, this lesson will not be an easy one, but I think in the end this will be good for us.

The test will be if I can handle the short term pain (massive temper tantrums, some of which will undoubtedly take place in public) for the long term gain (a child other people can stand to be around).

I'll keep you posed! 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

zuppa di giorno

{Ina's roasted vegetable soup, Ellen's homemade bread}

Jeff and I try to buy most of our meat at the farmer's market. Since we can't dine on nine dollar chicken breasts every night we've introduced lots of veggie options into our weekly menu. I will admit this endeavour has had varying degrees of success. A certain white bean and kale dish is easily the worst meal I have ever made. On the other hand we've found a few gems. Micheal Smith's rice and lentils are a family favourite -- they are filling and cost pennies to make. We've also discovered the joy of a simple soup. Seriously, I am filled with joy when I get home from work and all I have to do is reheat a soup we made on the weekend. So easy, so quick, so little mess.

Last Thursday it took Violet and I forever to get home after work. It was the first day of the transit strike and traffic was a nightmare (I know I risk sounding like a complainer, I am very grateful to have a car I promise). Anyway, when we got home Jeff was making dinner. Sweet husband, I thought.

I noticed that the soup pan was on the burner, and that the burner was on medium high heat. Curious, I thought.

"Hun, why is the burner on with nothing in the pan? " I asked.

"I am heating it up like I always do..." 

Jeff is undoubtedly a better cook than me. I was skeptical about this method but I was tired and Violet was cranky so I took her into the dining to colour while he made dinner.

A few minutes later I saw flames out of the corner of my eye. I heard Jeff scream, "What the cuss!"

"I told you that was I bad idea Jeff!" I yelled to the kitchen, the fact he might have been burned overshadowed by my indignation. 

I went to the kitchen and surveyed the damage - there were chopped vegetables everywhere.

Jeff gave me permission to share this story only if I didn't exaggerate. I want to say, and I truly believe, that there were vegetables all over the kitchen. He says they flew two feet max. Either way, Violet and I had nutella wraps for supper. Jeff had humble pie.

Seeing as he really is a sweet husband, Jeff sought to rectify the soup debacle this weekend. He made two delicious soups and popped them in the freezer. So tonight we enjoyed Ina Garten's roasted vegetable soup, no explosions. 

The soup is so easy. Roast vegetables, puree with warm chicken stock and enjoy. We used carrots, sweet potato and squash. When you buy the squash already cut up this soup takes almost no time. When you buy the whole squash it takes forever and you risk losing a finger - your call. We've made this soup four or five times and every time it tastes a little different. It depends on the ratio of the veggies. I like that it always changes it keeps things interesting - not as interesting as fire balls above the stove, but this is more my pace anyway.


{Simple and delicious}