Saturday, December 03, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

That's probably the most overused blog post title in December, but since this quick update is really just a handful of iPhone photos strung together, it IS all about the visuals of the season.

Above is our buffet, with a few Pinterest-inspired centerpieces that were easy and affordable. How awesome is Pinterest for party planning and inspiration?!

And I love our simple twig tree, bare except for a few felt ornaments courtesy of Ikea.

Tourtiere happened this week, many of them. I even turned some of the pie crust and filling into hand pies for party appetizers. They also work pretty great for Noah's school lunches.

I got my Christmas present early. Ahh. A fantastic new Le Creuset flagship store opened at my local shopping mall. It's the first of its kind in Quebec and I was fortunate enough to be invited to the press opening.

Thanks to a gift certificate, I choose a new kettle - the 1.7L Whistling Tea Kettle in Cherry red, to leave with me. It already looks right at home in my kitchen. Then again, most anything from that store would...

Homemade mincemeat also was chopped, simmered, and jarred this week. Tarts soon followed and it finally feels like Christmas.

This year my annual cookie swap may have topped all proceeding events, with sponsors, press, a successful fundraiser, and, of course, stacks of beautiful homemade cookies. Here's the recap on Simple Bites, and if you're in the Montreal area, watch CTV news at 6 on Sunday, December 11 for the story.

The first snow came and went, and hasn't been seen since. If feels a little odd as we're December already, but getting into the winter coat and boots isn't so easy with a six-month-pregnant belly, so I'm not wishing for snow just yet.

One of the most fun holiday treats this year has to be these Peppermint Marshmallow Kisses. We've been popping them into hot cocoa and our mouths! Come to think of it, there isn't a single one left.

To make them for yourself, take my basic marshmallow recipe and replace the vanilla with 1 teaspoon peppermint extract. Add a few drops of red food coloring but do not mix it in. Fill a pipping bag with a #12 tip (or your favorite) and pipe kisses onto a greased parchment paper. Sprinkle with crushed candy cane and allow to set for at least 6 hours. Dust with powdered sugar and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

It just wouldn't be Christmas without gingerbread. We devoted a recent PED day of Noah's to making, rolling and baking nearly 10 dozen cookies. It was epic fun and they did a great job.

Noah (now 6) and Mateo (4 in Feb) are both such pros in the kitchen now. I actually really relied on them for cutting and rolling the dough while I took care of baking and cooling the cookies.

The next day we worked on frosting, that sweet, sticky task. My basic recipe for both dough and royal icing can be found here. Shaina's also just posed a fun tutorial on the many variations of the gingerbread cookie.

Snow falling on trees; these won't last long.

Stockings have been hung, and my current obsession with cardinals leaked onto our personalized felt Christmas stockings. Notice the pink one for Baby Girl?

Lastly, Pumpkin Challah has been made and frozen for toasting on Christmas morning or perhaps lending itself to French Toast.

What is Christmas looking like in your home?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe to Riches)

Getting the winning recipe from Recipe to Riches in my inbox on Monday mornings is always a fun little secret between me and a few other food bloggers. (Last time it was the Chicken & Bacon Skewers, remember?)

The show doesn't air until Wednesday, so as tempted as I am to tweet of photo of the baking process or the finished product, I have to sit on it for a few days.

It wasn't easy to keep quiet over this weeks winning recipe: Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. Created by Recipe to Riches contestant Sonya Walos, they took me out of my baking comfort zone with their preparation, but brought me right back as soon as I tasted them.

First up, a confession: these are my first ever gluten-free cookies, both to make or eat. They certainly won't be my last, and not just because I've got scads of potato starch and tapioca flour (say what?) kicking around now, but because they are genuinely delicious!

Sonya's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies won me over with their contrasting crunchy and soft textures, rich butterscotch flavor, and milk chocolate chips. The addition of coconut also gave them a lovely chewy texture. The best part? My kids loved them, so SCORE.

Want to make Sonya's cookies yourself? You can head over to the FN website to get the recipe (it should be posted soon!). Sure they required lots of unique ingredients, especially to one unfamiliar with GF baking, but it's always fun to expand one's horizons.

If you're not a baker but still want to taste these gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, the product should also be on shelves this weekend at Loblaws across Canada, so you can pick up a box and see what a winning cookie tastes like.

The popular Food Network Canada show is over halfway finished, with the grand finale coming up soon, where Canada will vote and the winner will receive a whopping $250,000.

I think these Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies could have had a shot at the big prize, unfortunately Sonya has been disqualified from the competition. Get the full scoop on the Recipe to Riches Facebook page.

Missed the episode? It will be available online soon on the R to R video page.

Disclosure: Recipe to Riches is giving their official bloggers a $100 Loblaws gift cards to offset the time and money spent making the winning recipe and writing a blog post. The opinions expressed here are my own, of course!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

More Business of Being Born (Giveaway!)

**This giveaway has ended. Thank you to all who entered -nearly 100 of you!- and I really hope you all get to see the film at some point.
Congratulations to the winner, Amber! Woot! Amber please contact me with your mailing address and we'll get your prize shipped out.**

I'm six months into my third pregnancy and at this point, 'baby talk' is an equally passionate subject as food. My girlfriends can attest to the fact that I could talk birth and babies for hours at a time.

The third time around is every bit as exciting for me as the first pregnancy and although I have less (far less) time for reading and research, it is still a priority.

Imagine my delight when a PR rep for Ricki Lake contacted me recently and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her latest documentary series, More Business of Being Born.

Like millions of other women, I had watched The Business of Being Born, Ricki's breakout documentary on the birthing crisis in America, and really enjoyed it. In fact, Danny and I had just recently watched it together and I gleaned even more from the film the second time around.

The timing couldn't have been better for me to be introduced to the film's follow-up series. It was as if all the research I was wishing I had time to do was already done for me and condensed into a tidy 4-DVD package. All I had to do was pop the corn and put my feet up.

I watched all four DVD's last weekend. I cried. I laughed. I took notes. I formulated questions for my doctor. I booked an appointment to interview a doula.

This film touched on so many topics that I needed to learn about. For the first time, the term VBAC is in my vocabulary, as Mateo (my second) was a breech baby and delivered by scheduled C-section. I am an advocate of natural birth (Noah was an all-natural, drug-free delivery) and sincerely hope to avoid surgery this time around. MBOBB answered a lot of my questions regarding VBAC's.

I'm incredibly thankful for this new, eye opening documentary on modern birth made by women for women.

Mateo and I, 2008.

Today 'More Business of Being Born' premieres in L.A. and around North America (
find a screening) and I'm here to tell you that it is a MUST SEE for expecting parents or future parents.

I'm giving away More Business of Being Born: The Complete Box Set at the bottom of the post, but first, read a little about what each film contains!

DVD #1: Down on The Farm: Conversations with Legendary Midwife Ina May Gaskin

Follow Executive Producer Ricki Lake and Director Abby Epstein to The Farm Community in Summertown, Tennessee, where pioneer midwife Ina May Gaskin talks candidly about the latest birth trends and the art of midwifery. Gaskin, who was featured in the original The Business of Being Born, sparked Lake’s initial interest in natural birth and has continued to inspire the filmmaking duo’s advocacy efforts.

DVD #2 - Special Deliveries: Celebrity Mothers Talk Straight on Birth

Featuring celebrity moms Laila Ali, Gisele Bundchen, Cindy Crawford, Alyson Hannigan, Melissa Joan Hart, Kellie Martin, Alanis Morissette, Christy Turlington-Burns and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Special Deliveries is a collection of intimate birth stories from a diverse group of mothers. Whether they chose to deliver at a hospital, home or birthing center, these heartfelt and humorous testimonies speak to the lasting power of the birth experience.

True inspiration for any mother-to-be, this group of women trusted their bodies and intuitions, taking responsibility for their birth decisions even when things didn’t go according to plan. None of these courageous women has ever spoken on the record in such compelling detail, and, on this DVD, the filmmakers weave together their passionate narratives as a celebration of the journey to motherhood that will leave viewers with a renewed sense of amazement about the power of women. 

DVD # 3 - Explore Your Options: Doulas, Birth Centers & C-Sections

The most comprehensive and educational DVD in the series, Explore Your Options offers birth-planning guidance around key topics such as the role of doulas (labor support specialists,) the advantages of birth centers and the alarming escalation of cesarean sections in the United States and Brazil.

Epstein and Lake talk to doulas about why their profession is currently booming and uncover why having a good doula can make-or-break the entire birth experience. They look at the ever-growing rates of inductions and c-sections, which have reached 50% in many US hospitals and more than 99% in some private hospitals in Brazil.

How “safe” are these cesarean surgeries, and what are the health implications for the mothers and babies? Explore Your Options examines the pros and cons of birth centers, described as a perfect middle ground between home and hospital.

DVD #4 - The VBAC Dilemma: What Your Options Really Are

The VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) has become a hot-button issue in the modern maternity care system, as one in three new mothers will give birth via cesarean section. Are all of these mothers then forced to undergo a repeat cesarean the next time around? Epstein and Lake posed that question to dozens of experts, determining the surprising truth about VBACs.


Thanks to our friends at MBOBB, I have the complete DVD set to giveaway.

Giveaway Prize: 1 copy of More Business of Being Born: The Complete Box Set (4 DVD's) Value: $59.99

To Enter the Giveaway: Leave a comment on this post. That's it.

** This giveaway is now closed. A big thank you to all who entered!**

Giveaway will end in one week, on November 15 at 11:59. Good luck to all!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Roasted Chicken & Bacon Skewers (Recipe to Riches feature)

Food-themed TV is the only television I tune in for, and even then, it's mostly watched online, commercial free. Last winter I gave 44 minutes of my week to Top Chef Canada and this fall it is Food Network Canada's fun new reality show, Recipe to Riches that's got me hooked.

In full disclosure*, my friend, the always-inspiring, Dana McCauley, is a judge on the show, so I'm not tuning in just to watch the hunky host Jesse Palmer. Honest!

While in Toronto recently for the Blissdom conference, I had dinner with Dana (at Pangaea, no less!) and she regaled us all with behind-the-scenes gossip from Recipe to Riches.

When the show aired three days later, of course I tuned in and a new weekly ritual was born. (Tip: If you want to catch up on Episodes 1 & 2 you can find them online.)

This week on Recipe to Riches, three contestants prepared appetizers and competed for the prize of $25K. New Brunswick native, John Grass swept the challenge with his Grilled Chicken Skewers.

I like to call them Spicy Chicken, Bacon and Havarti Skewers, and mine were roasted, not grilled. Basically, they rocked.

Bacon (I used thick-cut), Havarti cheese and thin slices of chicken are rolled up together, dusted with a sassy Cajun-like spice mix, and baked to a crisp. Talk about addicting.

These chicken skewers were created by a man, but hold plenty of appeal for all, especially this always-hungry pregnant mama. I can totally see them making an appearance over the upcoming holidays.

Noah even gave them the ultimate complement: "Mama, may I have these for my lunch tomorrow?" John Grass, I bet you weren't thinking 'school lunch' when you created these!

Head over to the Food Network's official Recipe to Riches recipe page to get the recipe for John Grass's winning appetizer recipe.

* Even fuller disclosure: Recipe to Riches is giving their official bloggers a $100 Loblaws gift cards to offset the time and money spent making the winning recipe and writing a blog post. The opinions expressed here are my own, of course!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Signs of Fall

I know that one of these mornings, very soon, I'm going to wake up and look out the window to see my raised garden beds dusted with snow, the tire swing hanging stiffly in the cold, and a quiet in the forest that only winter can bring.

It seems like just yesterday we were licking popsicles and tossing a Frisbee while barefoot in the grass, yet Fall has been sending her signals that summer has gone.

Here are a few of the signs from the past few weeks that clearly show Autumn is indeed here to stay.

This was the first sign. A new uniform, a new grade (1), and my heart broken all over again at loosing him every day.

An entire shelf in the refrigerator became devoted to homemade pickles. Pickles with garlic, with lemon, and a particularly successful batch of Bread & Butter.

Thanksgiving came and went, with its seasonal pies, turkey dinner and family-centered focus.

Fall produce and foliage made it's way to the sideboard in the dining room, replacing the summer flowers and bowl of tomatoes.

Apple picking - in shorts, no less. That may have been the last really warm day we had.

And after apple picking, then apple pie, this one made of entirely all-natural ingredients, conforming to our October Unprocessed eating exercise.

Pumpkins, all of them.

And finally, the beautiful changing color of the leaves in our back yard, and the crunchy carpet on the forest floor.

I'm ready to welcome winter, and hopefully usher in a quieter season for our household. It's been a busy summer.

Perhaps I'm looking forward to winter because I know it will bring me closer to meeting our little girl, due in March. Seems like the perfect motivation to help get through the colder days of the year.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Third Time's a Charm

Yesterday brought about the sweet, sweet discovery that I'm carrying a baby girl. She'll be joining big brothers, Noah and Mateo, in our growing brood and will probably rule the roost someday if she's half as charming as most little girls I know. I hope she likes cars and Legos, otherwise, we've got some catching up to do around the home as far as little girls are concerned.

When the technician gently shared the news with all of us - yes, my 20 week ultrasound was a family outing - an incredulous "Really?" exploded out of me in a sob that seemed to stem from my long past days as a six-year-old doll-loving girl. Although a healthy baby was our main desire, apparently, deep down, I ardently wanted a little girl. I was weeping on and off for at least an hour afterward.

We never expected a girl. A family of strapping boys was predicted and presumed as there hadn't been a girl fathered by a Bourque in over 4o years. Danny has seven brothers. They just don't do girls. Until now.

So Danny is walking very tall; I'm emotional, yet at peace; the boys are delighted. Noah reached for his sketchbook the minute we got home and documented the family news in the artwork photographed above.

We're feeling incredibly blessed, and are tremendously excited to meet this little flower.

Monday, October 17, 2011


This photo puts both a smile on my face and a weight on my heart at the same time. It's my mother's Thanksgiving table set from last Monday. She told me she spent an hour putting it together.

I love the mismatched chairs, the light coming in, the antique water glasses, and colorful Denby dishes. Most of all I love that she is there in the kitchen, slicing homemade pies (made with fruit from her own plum tree) before the guests arrive.

I'm sad that I wasn't there. I can't remember the last time we celebrated Thanksgiving together. It's easily been ten years. Sure we celebrated the holiday here in Montreal (twice, actually), but there is nothing like being with your own family and knowing you are loved. Despite everything.

I love you, Mom. Don't ever change.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Five Years

The children have been asleep for a few hours, all the house lights are dark save for a lamp by my bed. My body has turned in for the night (this happens a lot earlier since I'm pregnant again), but I couldn't go to sleep without giving this date a nod.

Five years ago, with absolutely no idea what I was getting into, I started this blog. With a batch of (horribly photographed) mini lemon tarts, I began this journey as a food blogger.

Ironically, today Simple Bites subscribers topped 10,000 and monthly pageviews tipped 300,000. I don't often share hard and fast numbers, but both of those milestones - on today of all days - are rather pretty.

This won't be a long trip down memory lane recounting all the places food blogging has brought me and wonderful people I have met, because, well, although they are many, it really would take me all night.

Instead, I'd love to look ahead. What will the next five years hold? Well, we know there's a baby in there, right around March. A third child to toss my cooking under the high chair. Ah well, it was getting a little too clean under there.

There are also things that I'm not at liberty do discuss - don't you just hate that? I do. That small TV thing, which I've signed all sorts of NDA's for and we won't hear about until spring...There's also that somewhat larger print project-thing, which is still in progress and more or less 'hush-hush'... An upcoming, but-not-yet-announced speaking engagement at a pretty legit blogging conference...

Gee, what can we talk about? Bloggers without Borders. Now there's a blogging related project I'm proud about. My fantastic contributors on Simple Bites; love those ladies (and one man, obvi, as I'm married to him).

Well, public knowledge or not, there's plenty of exciting things happening, and they all stem from this little space that I started five years ago. I couldn't be happier.

Thank you to each and every one for reading, for following on Twitter, for joining me over at Simple Bites...FOR YOUR SUPPORT. A blog is nothing without readers, so the full credit, the true acknowledgment, goes out to you.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Bloggers without Borders: A Beginning

UPDATE: I now have a BwoB fundraiser of my own! Head over to Simple Bites for a chance to win some gorgeous items from Le Creuset and help a good cause.

After months of dreaming, weeks of planning, days of coordinating, and hours upon hours of work, the vision of a non-profit organization for bloggers, by bloggers has become a reality for Bloggers without Borders founders, Maggy Keet and Erika Pineda-Ghanny.

You have to see it for yourself; go visit the beautiful new website, read about how the non-profit was started, and find out how you can help.

It is an honour to be working with Maggy and Erika in their endeavors to harness the good will of the blogging community for charity. You'll see the words 'Social Media Manager' next to my photo on the About Us page, which I think means -- I like to talk? Or something.

It also means I'm the voice behind our Twitter and Facebook accounts, so please, go give us some love and spread the word!

Now, our kick-off project is near and dear to my heart. You remember my post on A Pie for Mikey? Well, spearheaded by Shauna and supported by Bloggers without Borders, A Fund for Jennie has been launched.

Please take a moment to read about the project, and then either donate by clicking the button below, or from the options on the BwoB website.

Donate to Bloggers Without Borders

Thank you! Don't forget to subscribe to the BwoB blog feed for regular updates!


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