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The big day is here.  The day I could not even conjure up in my head 10 months ago.  You know, when a baby is 2 months old and she can’t do anything but eat, cry and sleep and cry and cry….And now the day is upon us and how she has changed!  Smiles that melt your heart, laughter that makes you warm all over, physical abilities that make me burst with pride.  Nothing is better than my Little Pea.

This carrot cake placed right up there though.  Moist as all get out, quite spicy and that icing!  That icing is the icing that I have been waiting all my life for.  Smooth, cool, creamy, sweet and tangy.

I went for The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.  I saw this cake/cupcakes made up on Pinterest.  I had it bookmarked for months.  I must say that I am very pleased with how it turned out.  I used marzipan instead of fondant for the head with a thin layer of the cream cheese icing underneath.  I thought the taste was great! A little wobbly for my first time using a piping bag with the star nozzle, though.*  My friend Patty once told me a Japanese saying – imperfect art has it’s own character.  I think I’m going to go with that!

And of course LP inhaled it.  I picked carrot cake because it is healthier than just regular cake, right?  Because of all the carrots. So, if you just wanted to bake yourself up some healthy cake, this is the one for you.  And go ahead and eat a whole bunch.  All that beta carotene is good for your eye sight – wink wink.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Icing – via smittenkitchen.com

The recipe makes 24 cupcakes or two 9″ cakes.  Just like Smitten Kitchen, I grated the carrots on the fine grater.  I loved this since there were no thick strands of carrot, but grating was……..a pain.  I made 1.5 batches of this recipe for the cupcakes and one 9″ cake.

Carrot Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees celcius).  Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.  Mix the oil and sugar together and then add one egg at a time and incorporate.  Now add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix.  Lastly, add the grated carrots and stir until just combined.  Spoon into cupcake tins lined with paper cups 3/4 full.  Bake for 14-18 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  OR half of the batter into a 9″ buttered and floured pan and bake for 40 mins and repeat.

Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (I used Mon Chou cream cheese)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Slice the butter and cream cheese into 1″cubes and put everything into a mixing bowl.  Use a hand held mixer to combine until whipped and smooth.  Add food colouring of your choice.

*Here is a handy tip for using a piping bag.  It made my life soooo much easier.

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Hello? Are you there?  Well, I’m here.  Yes, for real!  I have been on a long journey.  Across the ocean and a vast land.  Strong winds and snow have kept me…..ok, well, I just went home to Canada for the holidays.  Aaannnndd, who has time for the computer when there are kids running about, gifts to be wrapped, alcohol to be drunk and Christmas goodies to be eaten?  Oh, and we visited a few people (understatement) too.  When we got home, back to Delft, we were plagued with sore throats and were heavily depleated on sleep.  But, isn’t that how the holidays go?  It’s all worth it!  We made so many memories.  Even Santa showed up at the house for the kiddies.  Little Pea was showered with gifts that we had to stuff into our luggage to trek home.  Don’t worry, it all made it.  Lucky little girl.

So, now we are January.  Already.  Are you on a diet?  I’m not a big resolutions person, but after all that eating, who isn’t up for a little pull-back.  Time to bring things back to the everyday normal.  Get our bodies back into routine.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  None of this breakfast, second breakfast, cookies, lunch, drinks, snacks, appys, dinner, drinks, snacks….. Here’s a cozy, hearty, healthy dinner just for you.  It is actually one of my top faves of 2011.  It’s so good.  Every time we have it I say, “we should eat this every week.”  We really should.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry – Albert Heijn

There are a few possibly hard to find ingredients on this list.  I was skeptical and thought it would be to hard, but it is truly worth it.  Way better than any curry I have ever made.  Of course you can leave out the cardamon pods, mustard seeds and lemongrass, but please try to find it if you can.  Remember to pick out the cardamom pods before serving.  Biting into one of those babies can be a big surprise!

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp yellow Thai curry paste (red works too)

2 small or 1 large onion, finely chopped

3 lemongrass stalks, bashed with the back of a knife

6 cardamom seeds

1 tbsp mustard seeds (tiny black seeds)

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks

1 cup chicken stock

400ml can of coconut milk

400g can chickpeas, rinsed

Rice, cooked according to package (I use 1.5 cups of dry Pandan rice)

You need a pretty big pan for this.  Start by heating the oil then gently frying the curry paste, onions, lemon grass,cardamon pods and mustard seeds for 2-3 mins until fragrant.  Next stir in the squash and coat with the paste.  Pour in the stock and coconut milk.  Bring everything to a simmer.  Add the chickpeas.  Cook until the squash is tender – about 10 minutes.  Serve over rice.  Enjoy the fragrant warmth of this dish!

Things around our parts these days have been blustering.  In case one, I mean windy.  If any of you are reading this post from the European coast, then you know what I am talking about.  It is darn windy.  Crazy windy.  I’m scared it’s going to blow down our building windy.  Mr. F says I should be used to it since I am from Saskatchewan.  Yes, I will not deny that it gets windy there, but this has gone on for days.  3 days and nights to be exact.  It’s an ocean wind and that, my friends, I am not used to.  We have seen some pretty funny stuff though.  Umbrella’s popping the wrong way, people being blown off their bikes, grandpa’s holding on to railings so that they won’t get blown away and waves actually crashing on the sides of the canals.  It is out of control.

Other things blustering lately is the feelings of getting closer to the birth of the baby.  I am excited all over!  Just over 2 weeks until the due date.  We can basically count days now, people.  Days until we are holding the new baby Danks.  All these Braxton Hicks contractions are getting my hopes up and getting me ready for the big day.

Finally in case #3, our housing situation.  The wind has been blowing us in all directions around our great city of Delft.  Looking at new apartments, old apartments, row houses, semi-furnished, unfurnished, furnished, ished, ished, yeesh… One weird thing that I can share with you is that unfurnished here does not mean no furniture like the Canadian standard.  Unfurnished here means, no lighting, no drapes, no paint and no flooring.  Yup, people strip up their flooring when they leave and bring it to their next house.  Because they have to!  So strange – to us anyways.

With all this blustering happening, doesn’t the kitchen just need to help us bring it all down to a calm level?  I say yes!  And this level I am talking about is a warm bowl of fragrant soup, well stoup, in this case.  I first heard this mashed-word on the Rachel Ray Show.  It has quickly entered by vocabulary because this is the type of “soup” thatI love.  More stuff, less broth.  Yes, I like broth just as much as the other guy, but when I am eating soup as a main course, I need some substance.  That is why I love stewy soups.  Get it – stoup.

This stoup could also be called a chili, but call it as you must, it is delicious and satisfying and calming.  I was going to write this post all about how I am intrigued by lentils and how a large portion of the world eats them as a staple and I never ate them until I was an adult, but now I guess I just did.  And kale is super good.  Kale, lentils, ground meat, fresh thyme and rosemary.  This is a good one.  It makes the house smell like Provence (or the spice mix anyways) and fills your belly with warmth and takes you to the exotic with the lentils aspect.  Make it on one of your blustering days to warm you up and calm you down.

Kale and Lentil Stoup – adapted from the Rachel Ray Show

200g sausage or ground pork (you could go ground turkey or chicken here too)

a couple handfuls of mushrooms, sliced (cremini are good)

1 bunch kale

o.25 cup tomato paste

1 onion

a palmfull of destemed chopped leaves of fresh thyme and rosemary (you can substitute this with Herbs de Provence)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 box of chicken stock (4 cups or 500ml) + 2 cups of water

1 cup of green lentils (I only had red and it was just fine!)

Start by browning the meat and the diced onion.  quickly rinse and slice up the mushrooms.  Toss these in for some browning along with the garlic and herbs when the meat is nearing the end and the onions are not translucent yet.  When the onions go translucent, stir in the tomato paste until everything is covered.  Let is cook for about a minute.  Finally, pour in the broth, water, kale and lentils.  Stir until well combined and let simmer for 45 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and then fill up some big bowls.

Hail Caesar, I mean “Hail Kale!”  The vegetable of course.  Sorry about that.  I have been watching a lot of tv series on DVD lately, since we are sans an actual TV, and Rome season 1 and 2 have been the most recent.  We would normally be watching episodes of Lost or How I Met Your Mother, but alas, the video rental shops feature slim pickings when it comes to tv series.  It has broadened our horizons, though.  Now I know more about Henry VIII from The Tudors (we checked out the story line on wiki and it was pretty bang on) and I know more about how people in California live (Californication season 1).  Turns out that basically people were just doing a lot of hanky-panky.  Back in the day in Britain and recently in California.  Who knew?

Back from the gutter people, let’s get down to business.  Salad.  Kale.  Who even knows what kale is?  It is a leafy green veg similar to swiss chard.  It’s quite firm and on the bitter side.  It is nice as a side, steamed and slathered with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.  A very nice change from spinach.  Sorry to all you spinach lovers, but I just don’t like how it gets so soggy when steamed.  Kale retains its bite and it a stunning green.

I guess I first encountered kale during my second year of university.  The first 2 years I lived in a house that rotated people through five rooms.  I was a regular and so was the owner’s daughter.  It was good times, good time I say!  In those days I relied on a stirfry mix that came in a red box and included the sauce.  How many times did I make that?  Now I know how to make a stirfry out of fresh vegetables, but how fun to look back on my so-called “home-cooking.”  At least I wasn’t spending my dinners at MicDics!

Anyways, in the second year I had a roommate that was Dutch.  One day he mixed kale with mashed potatoes and called it delicious.  It was a Dutch delicacy.  Little did I know that it would be the favorite dish of my future husband or that I would be living the Boerenkool life on a daily basis in the actual country, but I digress.  I soon found myself checking out this mystery vegetable.  It was touted as a superfood.  Extremely healthy for the body.  How could an athlete pass that up?

Years later, an organic store in Calgary popped up and offered a cookbook – Planet Organic Market.  This is a cookbook basically every Canadian speed skater owns because we are all about the nutritious and delicious.   Gotta fuel the body, you know?  It just so happens that this salad is a fave of these skater cookbook owners.  This is a virtual superfood feast!  Not only that, it has wonderful colour, crunch and an unexpected taste.  This salad is dinner party worthy.  Think slaw with a kale base.  It especially looks great on a plate in the fall with its deep saturated hues.  Try it this autumn, you will “fall” for it just like the rest of us!  Oh that was bad…

Hail to the Kale Salad – adapted from Planet Organic Market Cookbook

1 bunch (about 5-6 leaves) chopped

3 cups grated carrots

Half a head of purple cabbage, thinly sliced

0.5 cup each of pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Vinaigrette:

0.5 cup oil (I use veg oil, but hemp or flax oil bumps up the nutrition)

0.33 cup soya sauce (the recipe calls for Braggs Liquid Aminos which I also use, but soya sauce is just more readily available)

5 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tp dried oregano

Start but washing the kale.  You need to de-stem these babies and here is the easiest way.  Grab the end of the stem with one hand.  With the other hand make a claw and run your fingers on either side of the stem.  This will pull all of the leaf off of the stem.  Discard the stems and chop the leaves.  Shred the carrots on a box grater and thinly slice the cabbage.  Throw it all into a huge bowl. 

Mix up the vinaigrette in a trusty jar and pour over the kale mixture immediately.  Stir and coat everything. 

Now here is where I digress from the original recipe.  They want you to roast the seeds in a pan and then coat them in tamari.  You can definitely do this step, but turns out the coating just comes off once the seeds hit the vinaigrette in the salad.  I usually just buy salted seeds and roast them and then toss them in with the salad.  The roasting brings out their flavour and their saltedness is basically what you are going for with the tamari. 

Toss it all together and let sit for 30 minutes (they say 2 hours! Who can wait that long?).  This gives the leaves a chance to soak up all that good vinaigrette.  You can leave it for longer or if you just can’t wait, like you just got home from training and are about to parish from hunger, then dig immediately! 

 This is a massive salad (serves 4-6 hungry athletes) so you can half it or it keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Y’all, my Mom is here visiting (hence the massive breaks between posts!).  Awesome for me and Mr. Foodlova, but lucky for you because you will also reap the benefits here.  Yup, she’s been cooking for us all week.  I just smile writing that.  Home cookin’.  It feels so warm and comforting like a big hug over here in rainy and foreign Delft, Netherlands.  Not to mention, I get to sit around and watch her cook.  She has been taking care of me for a whole ten days and letting me just put my feet up since I have been so tired.  Why am tired, you might ask?  Well, I am expecting – that’s why!  Yay!

Since I told you all about all the great cheese and wine (no more!) and pannekoeken and appeltaart, and Belgian beer (no more either 😦 ) here, now I can tell you that I have been missing some of the old Canadian favourites – or craving them?  Sometimes a girl just needs to eat a little puffed wheat cake or Rice Krispie cake for that matter.  And can I get a hell-ya for an occasional KD?  Hell-ya! Yes, I know these are not to the calibre of what I normally put on this blog, but there are just some good-old crap treats that just feel like back home.

Anyways, that was a little bit of a side bar, back to Mom’s cooking….  It is that time of year when all the garden veggies are being harvested (I checked with Mom on it this time).  Seriously, it is one of my favorite times of the year.  Fresh garden vegetables – peas, beans, corn, beets, potatoes, onions, carrots, dill.  You can’t go wrong.  It all tastes so sweet, so fresh, so not like cardboard (winter anyone?).  It’s the time of year for corn shucking, pea shelling and eating carrots right out of the ground, soil and all.  Or you could rinse them off with the garden hose if you’d like.

When I was young, every year, mom would chop carrots, shell peas and break up green beans, blanch the whole batch and pack them up in the freezer for winter eating.  All that work, but the taste in the dead of Saskatchewan winter was all worth it.  She would also make pre-made kits of borscht.  My favorite all time soup.  I bet you guys could guess that I love beets, so hopefully you do too.

Borscht is basically the Eastern european essential winter dish.  There are several ways to make it.  Some cabbage based, some potato based, but all it really is is a pot full of veggies.  I guess my fam bastardized it a bit with ham, but it’s for the flavour, people, and that is what food is all about.

This is an easy recipe, on the heels of another easy recipe.  All you do is chop up beets, beet leaves (or kale), green beans, carrots, add corn, peas, cubed ham and you could even throw in some turnip or potato.  Cover it with water, add some s+p and boil it.  You won’t believe the flavour.  The finishing touch is a dollop of sour cream and some chopped dill.  This is a nice rustic soup, with a full fresh flavour (alliteration – woop woop), deep burgundy colour and creamy broth (due to the sour cream).  Thanks Mom!  you can leave a thank you note in the comments for my Mom, I’ll make sure she gets it 🙂

*don’t add rhubarb pictured on the side – that was just from the same harvest…

Borscht Soup – My Version based on Mom’s version based on Granny’s version, etc

3 large beets peeled and cubed (include washed and chopped leaves if you have ’em)

Fresh kale or swiss chard, chopped (only if you don’t have the beet leaves)

3 largish carrots, chopped

a handful of fresh green beans, broken into bite size pieces

1 cup corn

1 cup peas

1 cup ham, diced (get the real ham, not the pressed – it makes a world of difference!)

salt and pepper (salt is majorly important here since we are not using a broth, taste the soup before serving to check the salt, add if needed, makes you feel like a real chef anyways!)

optional: onions, potatoes, turnip, anything that grows in your garden…

250 ml sour cream

1 bunch fresh dill

OK, throw all the veggies (not the dill) into a big soup pot.  Cover the veggies with water.  I usually put enough water so that the veggies are floating.  If you like more broth, put more water.

Get that on the stove boiling and add in the cubed ham.  Boil until the beet cubes can be pierced easily with a fork and everything is a rich burgundy colour. You can really boil the crap out of this soup unless you added potatoes or turnip because they tend to go soft and mealy. 

Taste soup broth now – did you add enough salt and pepper?  The flavours should be bold and not bland – enhanced by the salt.  You put a lot of water and no broth, so you’ll need quite a bit of salt.  Taste it again….

Serve in deep soup bowls with a dollop of sour creme and a sprinkle of chopped fresh dill on top.  Stir the sour creme in and slurp it up.  It keeps amazingly in the fridge and tastes even better the next day.

Foodlova

I'm an ex-Olympian and I have a serious passion for food. I guess you could call me a food lova! What about you?

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