Thursday, March 31, 2011

Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan

A lot of opportunities and projects come through my inbox these days, but none as exciting as those that announce intentions of helping others. They are the ones that are easy to say "yes" too, even when I really shouldn't be saying yes to anything except a mop and a pail. (oh my poor neglected house.)

You can probably see where this is going. Yes, I’m very excited to announce a wonderful new fundraising project I’m participating in.

Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan is spearheaded by three very talented food bloggers (Stacie of One Hungry Mama, Rachael of La Fuji Mama, and Marc of No Recipes) and a collaboration of work from about fifty food bloggers. There is an exceptional line-up of contributors to Peko Peko, including several of my food blog crushes like Sara and Amanda, as well as good friends Shaina, Maggy, Julie and many more.

One hundred percent of the profits will go toward relief efforts in Japan, though the charitable organization is to be determined. It is truly an honor and a delight to participate in this project.

The book is still in development, but the finished product is sure to be outstanding. A professional designer is on board, Marc is photographing many of the dishes, and every detail is being carefully considered.

The recipes are best described as family-friendly Japanese and Japanese-inspired food. I created an appetizer exclusively for the book, so you'll have to purchase one to get the recipe for my Roasted Shiitake Parmesan Pops!

In the coming weeks, I’ll provide more information on where you can purchase the book, as well as an official update of the charity it will benefit. In the meantime, please check out the website, and follow @PekoPekoCharity on Twitter for more information.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sour Cream Snickerdoodles and the Latest News

Trying to remember the order in which recent events took place is about as futile as attempting to list all of Liz Taylor's husbands - in order. So I'll just relate the happenings as they come to mind, and that will have to do. It's been a Monday, and this week looks busy, again.

Sugaring Off.
This has been the sole thing keeping me from joining the ranks of all other Montrealers in their pining for spring. March has been cold and snowy, warming up only in the afternoons. Fortunately this fickle weather is good for something: sugaring off.

Once again we spent the day in the forest of our uncle's maple farm, collecting sap, hanging out by the fire and eating. The blueberry cornbread pictured above stayed warm on the wood stove alongside a pot of lentil stew, and they both nourished us for lunch.

I managed to shoot a bit of video, so if you want to see a super cute recap of Noah's day in the sugar bush, head over to Simple Bites for the vlog.

Photos and Portraits.

Good friends and superstar Montreal photographers, Tim & Angela, stopped by recently for lunch and to take a few shots of me in my kitchen. I needed some professional portraits for a few things coming up and they were so kind to turn it into a full-on photo shoot.

They're quite the professionals, and had this frumpy WAHM feeling like a star in no time. The boys and I broke out the wooden rolling pins and tart dough and proceeded to get flour everywhere - except on the cameras, thankfully.

Tim & Angela captured the sweetest images of the boys and I, which I'm going to treasure for a long time. You can check a few of their favorites out on their blog.

Urban Expressions.
The main English paper in town featured Mateo and I in their quarterly magazine, Urban Expressions. Subscribers to The Gazette who received the mag at home can read the article on my blogging career and family life.

Gazette columnist, Susan Schwartz, aptly captured the simple joys of my work-at-home existence and my journey to get where I am now.

Virtual Baby Shower
Spring seems like a natural time to celebrate a birth, and that's just what I did recently with a group of talented food bloggers when we threw a virtual baby shower for a dear friend.

If you're planning a shower -wedding or baby- soon and are looking for menu ideas, here's the round-up of recipes. Be warned. You WILL leave hungry.

Babble Top 100
Last but not least, included Under the High Chair in their Top 100 Mom Food Blogs of 2011. I have no idea what the numbering means, but I'm #42.

Thanks Babble! I'm honored to make the list, again. And thank you to the sweetie who wrote up 'Why we love her' in the profile. She knows how to get a girl choked up!

PS. Can I steal that part about 'lyrical' for my About page?

Check out the complete list of food blogs from other mama's in the trenches. You'll probably recognize a lot of names.

Recipe: Sour Cream Snickerdoodles

Apparently running out of chocolate chip can be a good thing, because it forces one to be creative when cookie baking with two little helpers.

We loved these sour cream snickerdoodles from Julie's cookbook, One Smart Cookie. She's right to say that sometimes the simplest things can be the most delicious. These are soft, with a tender biscuit-like crumb, and completely addicting.


  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used fresh ground)
  • 1/4 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until soft and well combined. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Add half the flour to the butter mixture, stirring gently to combine. Add the sour cream, stirring slowly, and then the rest of the flour. Combine only until just blended.

Stir together remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of sugar. Drop teaspoonfuls of cookie dough into the sugar and lightly roll into balls with your hands.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes until set, but not golden.

Cool on a wire rack. Makes 24 cookies.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate ganache for the feeble minded

Cupcakes have been on the agenda quite a few times over the past few months. An engagement party, a birthday celebration, a welcome home fête, and a few other special occasions have all required chocolate cupcakes.

Of course they have.

As circumstance would have it, I'm nearly always getting started on decorating the cupcakes at about ten in the evening. Sure I've managed to get them baked off in the afternoon with two eager boys as helpers, but dressing up the cupcakes sometimes requires all helping hands to be tucked into bed.

So there I find myself, bleary eyed, measuring cream and weighing chocolate in the kitchen when my mushy brain should probably be vegging out with a Netflix pick. (Side note: have really enjoyed Whip It, Date Night, and Starter for 10 recently)

Fortunately, I've got the perfect recipe for chocolate ganache that can be made with half a brain.

It hails from Gourmet Today (love it, love it, and oh look, it's on a crazy sale right now) and it is sublime - and simple enough to be successfully executed under extreme fatigue.

I've got the recipe memorized by now; isn't it about time I shared?

Rich Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate (cacao content no higher than 60%), chopped roughly
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  1. Whisk together cream, sugar and corn syrup in a medium, heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a gentle boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove pot from heat and whisk in chocolate, a handful at a time, until fully melted and incorporated.
  4. Add butter cubes, whisking until melted and ganache is smooth.
  5. With a soup spoon, drizzle over cupcakes and tap the bottom of the cupcake gently on the counter so the ganache spreads evenly. Garnish as desired.
  6. Let stand until ganache is set. Serve at room temperature or wrap and chill for up to three days.
Note: You can also let ganache cool until it stiffens, and then layer between cakes. Depending on type of chocolate used, it maybe necessary to chill frosting to reach a spreadable consistency.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Project Simplify

Tomorrow I'm joining Project Simplify on Simple Mom. Only Tsh could inspire me to tackle a declutering project with enthusiasm and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and clear the clutter from five different “hot spots” around the home.

I'll admit, I need help. Serious help. It's embarrassing, really. Behold, our office/library:

Holy Cow
. I know. Those cardboard boxes on the floor? They've been there since we moved fourteen months ago. (oh the shame) My plant is even wilting, it is so depressed.

Our main floor is pretty clutter-free, and we've put some effort into making that part of our home a haven, but the office is a sadly neglected area. Located at the top of our main staircase, it's an easy dumping ground for anything and everything that is uncluttered from downstairs.

Tsh calls this default catch-all area a 'hot spot' -- and boy oh boy, is my home office ever sizzling.

Anyway, I've had it. The office is a spacious, well lit room with a view out over our maple woods. It deserves better. I may not get around to organizing five hot spots, but I am determined to spruce up this one room.

Care to join Project Simplify? Head here for details. Your home will thank you.

Oh, and be sure to check back in a few days (weeks?) to see the grand transformation of my home office.

PS. Did I mention there are going to be giveaways?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What's for Dinner? Risotto, step-by-step.

Pantry meals have been saving the day around here as recent snowstorms (and a good dose of laziness) have kept us from venturing out to the market. We've covered comfort foods from the pantry such as pancakes with homemade syrup, as well as winter pizza, and today I'm sharing another staple: risotto.

Chicken stock in the freezer, butter and cheese in the fridge, and rice, onions, and vermouth in the pantry, this is one dish I always have all the components for. And on blustery February days, risotto is the perfect one-pot dinner to stir together.

Add-ins always vary based on what I have or don't have on hand. Frozen peas make a frequent appearance, as do leeks, butternut squash, and the occasional handful of dehydrated morel mushrooms. My mother brings me a few jars every time she visits; they've been picked from her Northern BC acreage and are truly a taste of home.

Basic Risotto, with a few favorite add-ins.

Recipes, methods and ingredients all vary for risotto, and I won't go all Gordon Ramsay on you and curse if you don't make risotto exactly my way. I would give you a warm squeeze, however, and encourage you to try my recipe, down to the last drop of vermouth.

It's bloody good.

Staple Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup vermouth, or white wine
  • 1.5 litres (6 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dried morel mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • Grate Parmesan cheese.
  • Finely chop red onion.
  • Heat chicken stock to a simmer and locate a ladle.
  • Pour a bit of hot stock over morels and let stand 10 minutes. Then drain, reserving the liquid, and set aside. Liquid can be returned to the chicken stock.
  • Rehydrate saffron threads in a little hot stock, if using.


1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 3T of butter and olive oil together over medium heat.

2. When butter is bubbling, add onion and stir to combine. Sauté onions for about ten minutes until soft and translucent. Stir occasionally, and do not allow onions to brown.

3. Add rice all at once and stir thoroughly. You want rice to be completely coated in butter and give each grain a chance to be toasted. This takes about one minute.

4. Add vermouth and stir well. Cook for another minute or two until most of the liquid evaporates.

5. Add several ladlefuls of hot stock to the rice. Be careful, as it will steam viciously. Stir well. Add saffron threads and liquid. Keep heat on medium and continue adding stock slowly and stirring thoroughly. Risotto will take about 15 minutes to cook. You may need more liquid, in which case, just add more hot water.

6. Taste risotto grains as you go along. When they are tender, but still with a slight bite to them, you can add the rest of the ingredients. Stir in morel mushrooms and most of the Parmesan. Stir gently to combine. Do NOT over stir, as risotto will become gummy instead of creamy.

7. Taste risotto and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. This is important to do after the cheese has been added, as it will contribute significantly to the saltiness of the dish.

8. Finish risotto with the last tablespoon of butter. Transfer to a serving bowl, if using, and top with remaining Parmesan. Dig in with a spoon and enjoy.


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