Wednesday, February 27, 2013

a sweet deal

As parents, sometimes I'm not quite sure whether the every day things we do for our kids are appreciated or taken for granted.  The little things that sometimes even adults don't notice. Clean, folded clothes.  Warm healthy meals.  A long ride in the snow to a friends house.  Helping with homework.  And sometimes in the midst of folding five baskets of laundry, I often ask...what kind of deal did I make?

Well, this past weekend, after a long (and somewhat frustrating) afternoon helping my daughter assemble her animal project for her class presentation, she disappeared into the kitchen.  When she came back she said:

"Thanks Mom.  You worked hard. I want you to have this".  It was a butterscotch lollipop.

For most people, this would be thought of as a sweet, fair exchange coming from a little girl.  But I thought it was even sweeter given the circumstances surrounding that lollipop.  You see, earlier that morning, her brother wanted to borrow her game console to bring to a friends house to play, and negotiated a deal to go to the store with her and BUY her any candy she wanted with his allowance that week.  Because we don't allow candy except for special occasions (and we just had Valentine's Day a few weeks ago!), she jumped at the opportunity, and he bought her a special variety pack of Laura Secord lollipops.

When we brought those lollipops home, I briefly mentioned to her that I used to love that particular kind of candy when I was a little girl, and I had to work hard and save my allowance to go to the candy store to get one.  And just like my daughter, butterscotch was one of my favourites.  We put the lollipops on the kitchen counter, and she was instructed that she was only allowed to have one on the condition that she complete the assembly of her animal project.  Five hours of typing, cutting, pasting, printing, gluing...we were both getting tired and frustrated.  With the lollipops sitting on the counter, her tempted and anxious glances towards those coveted treats were often times a distraction with the task at hand ("just ONE lollipop now, Mom?).  Much to my dismay.

When her brother came home, he thanked her again for letting him use her game console.  He told her that he wanted to make his "deal" even sweeter for her, and earned extra points on one of her games on her behalf (sorry, I'm not up to game lingo...something about diamonds?),  and she smiled with glee.  Both kids were happy and it was a very sweet moment between them.

So after she finally completed her presentation, she ran into the kitchen and I could hear her tearing the wrapper apart to get at the sweet prize.  Finally!  But before getting a lollipop for herself, she came up to me and gave me the one and only butterscotch flavour from the pack.  And I could see the sweetest look in her eyes...she was grateful for my help.  It made the five hours of cutting, pasting and glue in my hair all worthwhile.

If you were to ask me...are those fleeting, brief moments of pure joy from our kids...that smile, a hug or just "that look" worth the daily parenting struggles, frustrations and cumbersome tasks of managing a household?

Yes.  Yes it is.  I think parents have the sweetest deal ever.

Chocolate Caramel Trifle with Almond Whipped Cream
(serves 8-12)

I usually like to bake brownies in mini muffin tins so they look like those two-bite brownies that you buy at the market, and is easier to pack in lunches (instead of trying to cut them into squares...which can be a little messy!).  Unfortunately I baked the brownies too long, and they became hard as rock.  Instead of throwing them out, I used them in this trifle recipe instead.  What started as a sweet treat became an even sweeter treat!

  • 1- 8x8 pan of brownies (or about 20 two-bite brownies)
Pudding layer:
  • 2 cups of chocolate pudding (I used the Belsoy Organic pudding, but any pudding would do).
  • 1/4 cup of milk or sweetened condensed milk.
Whipping cream layer
  • 1 (8 ounce) container of heavy cream (for whipping)
  • 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. of almond extract
Caramel sauce layer
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (you can use icing or brown...I had icing on hand)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used homogenized milk...which works too!).
  • Prepare brownie mix according to package directions and cool completely. 
  • While the brownies are cooling, make the other layers.
For the Caramel sauce:
  • Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.
  • Stir in sugar until it is melted and turns to a caramel colour.  Slowly stir in the cream or milk (it will bubble up!) and continuing stirring until it's has a sauce-like consistency.
  • Remove from heat.
For the pudding:
  • Mix the chocolate pudding in a bowl with 1/4 cup of milk or sweetened condensed milk until slightly runny in texture.
For the almond whipping cream:
  • In a mixing bowl, mix the cream, sugar and the almond extract, on high until fluffy.
Now for the layers:
  • Cut the brownies into 1 inch chunks, and layer half of the amount at the bottom of a trifle or glass serving bowl.
  • Pour half of the caramel sauce on top of the brownies.
  • Pour half of the pudding mixture on top of the caramel covered brownies.
  • Top with half of the almond whipping cream.
  • Repeat layers.

If desired, shave chocolate onto top layer for garnish. Refrigerate 8 hours before serving.  Enjoy this decadent and oh so sweet treat!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

being reliable

Sometimes I struggle with the notion that as a Mom, my world revolves around my kids.  So of course, my world gets rocked when something either positive or negative is done or said towards my kids, like teasing or bullying, or comments on how beautiful and happy they look.

Last Sunday, I was listening to someone speak about how our world views are sometimes shaped based on experiences and impressions at a young age.

He then asked, when you do something that's either out of the ordinary or out of your comfort zone, what voices do you hear in your heads?  Do you hear your parents tell you to "proceed with caution"?  Do you hear your friends say "go for it"?  Or do you imagine that judgemental person in your life shaking their head in disapproval?  When we hear these voices, do we rebel against it like stubborn warriors with a purpose and something to prove?  Or do we come to a realization that sometimes maybe the truth does hurt a little.

It then struck me.   When my kids grow up...what voices will they hear?  What will we say or do that will contribute to their own paranoias, fears or even joy and happiness?  Will they always hear their nagging mother tell them to go to bed early because"the early bird gets the worm"?  Will they resent the story told to them that "eating past 8pm will give you nightmares at night"?  Or will they always know that no matter what, even if it's their mother's favourite chocolate, that when there are only three chocolates left, each of them get exactly one...and a half.  Or that no matter what time it is in the night (like 2am!), I will answer that phone call, get dressed and drive 30 minutes in the cold weather because you didn't feel comfortable at that sleepover party.

I'm not sure what kind of impression we as parents will have on our kids.  I guess all I can hope is that they will always feel secure and happy knowing that their parents love them both very much, and can always rely on us to always be there for them, no matter what.

Herb Roasted Pork

This roast is as reliable as it is tasty. It can be altered with more or less spices to taste, and is often a family staple especially on cold winter nights.


  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 (5 pound) boneless pork loin

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F 
  • In a bowl, combine sage, salt, pepper, and garlic. Rub thoroughly all over pork. Place pork in an uncovered roasting pan on the middle oven rack.
  • Bake in the preheated oven approximately 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees F (63 degrees C), depending upon your desired doneness.
  • Meanwhile, place sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, water, and soy sauce in a small saucepan. 
  • Heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to bubble and thicken slightly. 
  • Brush roast with glaze 3 or 4 times during the last 1/2 hour of cooking. 
  • Pour remaining glaze over roast, and serve.
Enjoy this comforting dish.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

traditional love

As I watch my children grow and mature into precarious individuals with thought provoking questions about people and history, I start to appreciate more and more, the various traditions we had growing up.  The traditions which shaped the history and memories of our family.

My childhood was filled with celebrations of both Chinese and Western traditions....on New Year's Eve, we would dress up and go to parties with friends, enjoying the spirits while counting down the clock to midnight.  A few months later (depending on the lunar calendar), we would celebrate Chinese New Year, enjoying a traditional feast of fish, vegetables and noodles.

My parents were very good at balancing both the traditions they grew up with, along with new ones they adapted when they moved to this country, so my brother and I would have a great understanding of both cultures.  It was their way of keeping a tie to the past while creating new traditions for the future.

This past Sunday, we celebrated Chinese New Year with my brother and parents, and I love that my children get to experience some of the same traditions I had growing up.  I often wonder if their love for seafood stems from being introduced to fish, lobster and crab at an early age during Chinese New Year. And with tomorrow being Valentine's Day, the kids will equally enjoy all the love notes, classroom cards and chocolate that go with that tradition (and I wonder if their love for chocolate stemmed from this tradition!).

While thinking of a dessert to bring for Chinese New Year, I wanted to ensure that it met the requirements of being sweet, round and/or gold (bringing something sweet is often viewed as a wish that someone will have a sweet future, round in shape symbolizes giving someone a fulfilling and complete life and gold is the colour of luck and lavishness).  However, with Valentine's Day shortly thereafter, I didn't necessarily want to bake again, so I wanted something that could potentially work double duty (if we had any left over!) as a Valentine's Day treat.

These Chinese egg tarts were not only the dessert to bring on Sunday (Sweet, check! Round, check! Somewhat golden in colour, check!), ironically, it is also a dessert that crosses over to many cultures (it's similar to the English custard tart and the Portuguese egg tart ), which is similar to what we are doing in our household this week...celebrating two very different cultural traditions.

And although these egg tarts aren't exactly the most traditional food when it comes to Chinese New Year or Valentine's Day celebrations, this might be my little way of starting a new tradition.  And at the heart of all these celebrations which helped define who I am is the love and spending time with family.  And it's that celebration of love that I hope my children will grow up and one day, recollect as the most important part of their own family tradition.

Chinese Egg Tarts
Adapted from Allrecipes:
(Makes 24 tarts)

I adapted and used my pie crust recipe for the tart shells (instead of making a sugar cookie/phyllo pastry that the original recipe calls for).  I also varied the egg custard to make it more creamy and sweet.  This recipe is easily adaptable, and the almond extract in the egg custard gives this a special taste.


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter (or 1/2 vegetable shortening, 1/2 butter)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)
Egg Custard
  • 1/2-1 cup white sugar (depending on how sweet you like your custard)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and flour. Cut in the butter/vegetable shortening with a pastry cutter until it is in small crumbs. 
  • Slowly add the vanilla and water until the mixture forms a dough. 
  • Roll out and cut into circle shapes (I used a cookie can just make into balls and press into circle shapes).
  • Line a muffin tin with liners, and gently press circles of dough into the liners, so that it covers the the liner and goes up fairly high on the sides.
  • Bake the tart shells for about 8 minutes.
In the meantime, make the egg custard.
  • Beat the eggs, then add vanilla and milk.  
  • Warm the water in a microwavable cup and dissolve sugar into the water.  Add the sugar syrup to the egg mixture.
  • Remove partially baked tart shells, and pour 2-4 tbsp. of egg mixture in each tart until filled.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, and the filling is firm (but not too puffy)
  • Serve.
Love to all!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

stuffed up

We're definitely in the middle of the winter blues.  For the past little while, our family has enjoyed giving each other the common cold.  And since I'm at the end of the chain, through teary eyes, runny noses and raw throats, I am particularly dreaming of warmer temperatures...and beaches.

It's been commonly joked that women can handle pain and illnesses much better than their male counterparts. Sometimes no matter how we feel, we suffer through it as we have to "keep the machine" moving.  Make sure everyone is fed, cleaned, happy.  It doesn't matter if you can't breathe...keep moving, keep working!

The other day, I stumbled upon a funny video of two male television hosts who, for an experiment, decided to find out if giving birth is as painful as women say it is.

I don't have an answer to the debate of who really handles pain better, but I think the most important thing is to have support around you to help you get through it.  What I found most interesting about the video was, in lieu of having spouses, the two hosts had the nurses to help them work through the pain.  I think we all need that "pain coach"...the one that is there to help, support or just be there to pick up a few chores while you're resting.

And while I may be feeling a little stuffed up right now, with my own "pain coach" (or three), along with a little comfort food, it won't be as difficult to keep moving, keep working.  And I'll also keep dreaming of warmer temperatures...and the beach.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf
(Serves 6)

Inspired by a sushi roll.  By rolling the ground meat around  layer of goat cheese like a jelly roll, the cheese is layered into the centre of the meatloaf.

  • 1 lb. ground beef (500g)
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp. worchestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 pkg. (100g) goat cheese round, plain (I used herbed)
  • 1 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup or tomato paste

  • Preheat oven to 350degrees.  Prepare a 9x5 loaf pan (I used my stoneware pan).
  • Mix all the ingredients except for the last three above, and pat the meat mixture into a rectangle (about 10” square) on a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • One the side, prepare goat cheese.  Put into a small bowl and mix with 1 tbsp of butter until a smooth paste. 
  • Spread the coat cheese mixture across the top of the meat in a neat stripe. (about 3” from the top.
  • Roll like a giant sushi roll .  Gently place in loaf pan.  Mix butter and ketchup or tomato paste together and spread a thin layer on the top of the loaf. 
  • Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until done