31 December, 2009
23 December, 2009
20 December, 2009
You would think that after a trip where we got lost in the forest and ran out of gas on the way home in minus 30 I would be smart enough not to want to ever chop down my own Christmas tree ever again. You would think that after not checking the Junior Forest Warden's site and mistakenly assuming that the chopping spot was in the same location you've been to three times to discover it is an hour away we would take the girls and dogs back home. That would be a safe conclusion, but our annual Christmas tree chop is the one holiday tradition that I simply can’t do without.
The tradition is an inherited one from my husband’s family. They would load everyone into the classic Aspen Wagon and trek out to the forest on the last weekend before Christmas. Following a romp through the woods there was the inevitable debate over just the right tree. Was it full enough? Were the branches strong enough for all the lights and ornaments? And, most importantly, was it tall enough?
With more than a few years experience of tree chopping under my belt, and subsequent decorating, I can safely tell you that the answer to those questions in the forest always seem to be no, but they are a resounding yes once you get home.
Your first clue that the tree is just a bit too big is when the branches hang over the sides of the car when you strap it down and you are required to put a fluorescent orange strap to the end of the truck so the cars behind don’t hit it. Oversize Load.
Then you get it home. And it’s at least 6 feet too tall for your living room and you have to remove more than the side table to just find a spot for all the branches. So you cut off about half of what you brought home (from the bottom so you preserve the integral shape of the tree) and plunge into decorating. And if it’s my house you eat cookies and watch Will Ferrell in Elf while you do it.
Even if you do run out of gas and are left running from farm house to farm house to call the other party – hey, this was a few years before everyone had a cell phone – the exuberance of running through the forest on a single-minded mission is worth it. It is worth it for the long-standing and memorable family tradition. It is worth it for the freshest and most local tree you can get. And it is worth it for the hot chocolate and cookies that come at the end of the journey.
14 December, 2009
The cake itself isn't the last recipe in the book, it is the chocolate butter icing. Officially, this might be my new favourite icing. It isn't sweet or terribly rich. Good butter makes this icing because all it really is is melted chocolate with butter whipped in. Not much fancier than that. Of course, the recipe makes it seem a lot fancier, but don't be fooled. And don't get lost in the instructions.
Cake decorating is not my forte. I sincerely hope that my girls NEVER ask for a themed cake because it will be a sad, sad birthday for them. I can, however, hold a cake and press ground almonds in to the side. That is not difficult at all, but worth the mess. I strongly recommend that you do not skip this step.
If I drank espresso it would have been a nice accompaniment. My mind went to scotch. But after more than a few glasses of wine that night, all I could think about was whether it would be rude or not to take one of the last pieces and skip making my souffle. Alas, Pierre and Gail's husband made the decision for me. The souffle was good, but I am still thinking about the cake. I just might open the book to the last page and make it again for Christmas dinner.
08 December, 2009
04 December, 2009
While the girls napped I set to making the icing. I'll be honest, it was a bit of a challenge because it turns out I need a few groceries. Did I mention there was a blizzard going on? So I hoped for the best with the bit of peanut butter and icing sugar I had. I had my fears, but damn, it is good icing! Not at all sweet and as creamy as it can be when you only have natural peanut butter in the house. And just the right amount for a sheet cake.
This is the kind of cake you want after trudging home from a day at school (or work). It is a cake that makes you feel loved. It is a cake that mom can feel pretty good serving and also enjoy with a cup of tea. Ahem, let me refresh my cup.
Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Icing