Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Short Love Affairs & Awkward Dances

The Christmas bug bit me. My tree is up, the Christmas plant that I talked about recently is still standing (it's a Christmas miracle!), little red bows and colorful ornaments are hanging from light fixtures and festive centrepieces are carefully placed on the dinner and coffee table.

To bring it all together, I decided to make our home smell festive too. I went to Bath and Body Works and decided to stock up on the season's "wallflowers". I smelled them one by one and finally chose THE perfect Christmas smell (did you know Christmas had a smell?). It's called Champagne Toast and not only did I fall in love with the smell, I fell in love with the name as well.


I returned home and quickly plugged it into the wall of our kitchen. I could suddenly picture merry Christmas and New Year parties in our house surrounded by happy people and overall jubilance.
My love affair with my "wallflower" was coming to an end faster than I thought. The smell wasn't enchantingly taking over the house as I wished it would and I felt like I had to practically stick my nose to the diffuser in order to smell my Champagne Toast.

I returned everything back to the store today (they have excellent customer satisfaction policies!) and got a Champagne Toast fragrance oil instead (the one under which you have to light a candle to warm it so the smell diffuses).


I came home, lit a candle under the oil, lit up my tree and started to cook surrounded by merriment. Perfect, comforting winter food was on the menu: Cauliflower Potpie! Long story short, as I sit here and blog, I can't smell my Champagne Toast... I can't smell potpie either... I can smell burnt food. 

Not long after I put the food in the oven, smoke started to come out of its narrow openings. I quickly opened the oven door and suddenly, the whole room filled with smoke. I must have looked like I was doing an awkward rain dance as I frantically waved a kitchen towel under the ringing smoke detector (it rang twice!). I thought "why is this happening? I'm no chef but I know how to cook!" Turns out, some sauce had dripped in the oven and the drippings were burning.

I don't want to be the type of (prep) wife who burns food! I was disappointed and was getting angry at myself. I then saw the upside of this situation.... I'll blog and laugh about it (and perhaps I should have a "smoke" dance choreographed for next time something like this happens... because we all know it will!)

Luckily, dinner wasn't burnt at all and it was very tasty! (P.S. The smell of the oil filled our home delightfully).
Cauliflower Potpie


- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1  medium yellow onion, diced small
- 4 medium carrots, diced small
- 1 head cauliflower cut into florets and boiled (about 3-4 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup milk (or cream)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Salt and ground pepper
- 1 sheet puff pastry
1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion and carrots and cook until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir to coat vegetables.
3. Slowly add broth, whisking constantly until sauce is smooth. Add the milk (or cream). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened (about 6-7 minutes). Stir in the frozen peas. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the boiled cauliflower florets. Pour filling into a baking dish or a dutch oven.
4. On a floured work surface, roll out puff pastry dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Place the dough over the dish and fold the overhanging parts inward while pinching to crimp edges. Cut a few slits in the dough. Place it on a baking sheet (to avoid doing the "smoke dance" like I did!) and bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling around edge (approximately 40 minutes). Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

One More Candle

A few days ago, I blew out the candles of my birthday cake. This year, with one more candle, I went from the "early to mid twenties" bracket to the "mid to late twenties" bracket. 26!

I often hear the story of my 4th birthday. I was all grown up and for the first time, a big bunch of tiny people were going to come and celebrate with me. My friends were coming and we were going to party like they did in 1991! The party probably unfolded the way any 4 year old's birthday party would. Hyper kids running around, some would scream, some would laugh, some wouldn't eat and one kid would cry because s/he would want to open the gift s/he brought instead of letting the birthday girl (or boy) open it.

But the hours leading up to my party had been a lot more dramatic than the party. I had had the scare of my life at the tender age of 3 and 360-something days. (because of course, at that age, you're not just 3; you're 3 1/4, 3 1/2, 3 3/4, and so on.)

Apparently, I was not being a very nice girl the morning of the party. After several warnings, my mother (who was probably up to her ears in mini pizza and alphabet Jell-O preparations) told me that she called all my friends and that my party is cancelled because I was misbehaving. The second I heard that, I started to cry hysterically. You can just imagine the heartbreak I endured trying to come to terms with the fact that my first big girl party was cancelled!

Still crying and trying to be a very good girl, my parents told me that they called my friends again and that the big party was back on! Everything was back to normal. Relieved, I wiped away my tears, sat down and impatiently waited for my friends to come with a nice big smile on my face. 

All of a sudden, I started to cry again. Big tears started to run down my chubby, little cheeks. My eyes must have been as red as the big bow I had in my hair. Perplexed, my father asked me why I was crying. I was crying because I was scared. What was I scared of? The thought of not having a birthday scared me. Why? Young and naïve, I was scared that I wouldn't be able to blow out my candles to be 4 years old and that I would be 3 years old for the rest of my life. (because the only way to get older is by blowing out birthday cake candles.)

Wouldn't it be a nicer world if some of that innocence stayed in us as we got older? 

Today, 22 years later and slightly less clueless, I choose to concentrate more on the birthday cake instead of the number of candles on it. 

Here's the recipe of a "grown up" birthday cake: Goat Cheese Cheesecake. I made it for
Mr. A's birthday a few years ago. It was delicious (and not too goat-y for the one's who are not a big fan of goat cheese).
Goat Cheese Cheesecake
                                     recipe from Anne Burrell
- 2 cups gingersnap crumbs
- 6 tablespoons melted butter, plus extra butter for pan
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 (12-ounce) log goat cheese
- 12 ounces creme fraiche or sour cream
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the crust:
Stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and about halfway up the sides of the pan.

To make the filling:
Beat the cream and goat cheeses in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the creme fraiche (or sour cream) and beat to combine. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each egg is added, until thoroughly combined. Beat in the sugar and vanilla until just combined.
Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Put on a baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through the cooking process. If the cheesecake starts to color, tent the springform pan with aluminum foil.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool completely before serving, as it continues to set as it cools. It is best to refrigerate overnight before serving. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with Vanilla Pineapple Compote.