The Ninth Birthday Cake

After a number of years of relying on a trusty wooden spoon to make baked goods, Santa was very kind to me this past Christmas.

Of course, I had to name it.

Gandalf the Grey

This week, the reason to crack out Gandalf was a birthday supper for a fellow sugar lover. Living in a house where the majority have no sweet tooth, this cake was always going to be some kind of overload. After browsing Pinterest one night (and successfully avoiding requests for a character cake from “Dog with a Blog” or “Jessie”), we settled on the Kit Kat cake.

You know, the crazy one surrounded by Kit Kat bars and topped with candies.

The cakes ready for the oven

To make this cake, I went with my favourite, fail-safe chocolate cake recipe: Double Chocolate Cake

It’s so easy – mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet, and beat together. The only change is that I substitute the coffee with hot water when I’m making it for kiddies (they can taste it and aren’t really fans).

It smells just like Fudgee-O cookies.

For the frosting, I went with a chocolate buttercream icing – and the difference that using a mixer makes was unbelievable. I suppose that’s obvious, but having made it before with just plain elbow grease, I was pretty surprised.

Crazy difference using a mixer to make buttercream frosting than by hand – so much fluffier!

I’m not much of a cake decorator – a class is something that I’d like to try at some point, but until then, I wield a somewhat sharp carving knife and attack my cakes with enthusiasm to make up for it.

The tops of each layer shaved off, filled with icing and carved around the edges to (kind of) make it round.

The birthday girl loves pink, so Bulk Barn near Valentine’s Day always has the answer.

The finished birthday cake!

Yup, she was a happy chick. Makes me a happy chick.

Just a few Smarties on the cake. And I’m not shy with frosting.

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Chinese Stay-In Night

One of the hardest people to cook for is my dad. Because he rarely lets anyone.

Even after a long day working, he likes to come home and cook. When he has time on weekends, it’s really off the chain, and usually in quantities for a small army. Even on Fathers’ Day or his birthday, he’s cooking. Just his nature, I suppose.

We ambushed him yesterday, though.

Detained at the office for 10 hours on a workplace first aid course being taught by T, we had a great excuse to have supper waiting for everyone.

(Mostly) homemade Chinese food

The chicken is killer. We’ve made it a couple times now and gets the kid stamp of approval, so if you’re looking to have Chinese food but aren’t feeling the MSG and the giant hunks of fried dough, this is a winner. Just a quick fry in a pan and bake for an hour in an easy-to-make homemade sweet and sour sauce. 

The chicken, dredged in cornstarch and egg, then quickly browned. Ready for sauce and the oven.

The finished baked sweet and sour chicken

The veggies were a hit, too. No recipe – we used baby bok choy, broccoli and mushrooms (ugh, I was in the minority), stir fried for a few minutes in sesame oil.

The veggies ready for the wok

The beef was good, but I think it needs something more? I posted the recipe because I think it’s worth trying again – perhaps in the slow cooker, with more spice.

We broke into Dad’s tinfoil pan collection, to create an impromptu buffet. Guess he’ll have to go buy more, or hope that he gets some for Father’s Day.

Ginger beef and sweet and sour chicken

Fried rice and veggies

Great afternoon and evening cooking and hanging out with family!

(Though, after I told Dad that I jump-balled and punched the smoke detector out of the ceiling mid-chicken-browning, he might not relinquish more access to his kitchen. Whoops.)

Chop Chop: Saint John Alehouse

Chop Chop is the twice-a-year restaurant week in uptown Saint John. While we usually brown bag our lunches, it’s a great chance to try out new places or visit old favourites.

The menus for Chop Chop Winter 2014

Our Superbowl Monday took on the latter, and we got to enjoy a nice, leisurely lunch at the Saint John Alehouse. It sounded interesting enough on paper, but was seriosily , seriously tasty and rich. Would order it again in a heartbeat!

Hipster photos of our meals, begin!

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Smelt escabeche

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Roots and shoots salad with sweet potato steamed bun, pork belly and smoked tomato jam.

Superbowl Sunday

I love me some football. The sport itself is fun to watch – the intensity, the athleticism, the personalities on the field.

And then there’s the pre-game festivities – the tailgating culture, full of newfound friends in the parking lot, sharing drink and breaking bread and having laughs.

The bread that’s broken, of course, famously includes everything buttery and oozing with cheese and subjected to charcoals fuelled flames. Amazing.

I try to incorporate a little tailgate whenever we watch games at home. A great reference point for your own tailgate menu is this food blog: How Sweet It Is – 135 Football Recipes

For our Superbowl Sunday, we decided on a couple things, as it was only a few of us.

Snack to have at hand: Chicago Mix Popcorn

I used a recipe, but found it was pretty off in some key areas. So, just pop 2 cups of kernels and divide in half. Toss one half with cheese powder (I used a nacho cheese dip mix, found with the taco stuff) and 1/2 cup melted butter. The other half, make a caramel on the stove and toss with the remaining popcorn. I had to bake mine once coated.

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Pre-game supper: Chili in Bread Bowls

The bread bowl recipe worked wonderfully: Baker Bettie – Homemade Bread Bowls

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Bread bowls shaped and ready for the oven

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Finished bread bowls

The chili was an improv piece: we browned 1/2lb each of ground beef and stewing beef, and threw it in the slow cooker for 4-5 hours with four small bell peppers and two small yellow onions, all chopped; a can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, a can each of rinsed red kidney beans and black beans; a small tin of tomato paste; about 1/2 cup each of beer and water; and half a jar of spaghetti sauce (because when ready to serve, we realized it was too watery – but the only store open then had sauce). Salt, pepper, chili powder all to taste.

It was still awesome possums.

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Halftime show: Korean fried chicken wings

If you’re ever in Toronto, visit the Gabardine restaurant. The BEST Korean fried chicken wings – or any kind of chicken wing, period. Crunchy, just enough sauce with a little spice, tang, and Asian flavour.

Don’t know why my mind went back to that great meal last July, but decided our wings would try to mimic them. This recipe was our recipe, and while not taking the Gabardine’s crown, still crazy good – Korean Fried Chicken Wings

Even though we weren’t starving post-chili, we couldn’t help ourselves with these and essentially polished off the whole lot.

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Korean Fried Chicken Wings