Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TA DA!

I'm SO excited to reveal my totally re-done blog.

I can't praise h. rae enough for her great work in doing this entire design for me. She even came up with the new title!

So welcome to the new and improved Gourmet Mommy. I'm looking forward to sharing more recipes and more photos with everyone, and Cory's been encouraging me to start doing some vlogs or video recipes and uploading them here. We'll see what happens with that and I won't make any promises I can't keep, but it would be fun!

Heather is still accepting FREE custom blog design requests for a few more days, so head over to An Original Belle if you are interested. She's great to work with, and does designs that range from elegant and flowery to clean and modern. You should definitely check out her work.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Few Recipes and Some Changes

We've been eating some yummy food around here of late, so I thought I'd share. A few days ago with virtually no food in the house I was scraping around to try to come up with something for lunch, since we had just arrived back from vacation, I hadn't had a chance to get groceries yet and it was pouring SHEETS of rain and I didn't want to get drenched walking to the farmers market (across the street...).

So I threw together a quick, delicious pantry meal of Mexican Black Beans and Quinoa. At least that's what I'm calling it.

In a medium sized pot, heat 2 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock to boiling. Add 1 cup quinoa, put the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes. 


While that's simmering, in a medium or large cast iron pan heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced, and one can of black beans, drained and rinsed (or the equivalent of dry beans, soaked and cooked). Add sea salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Saute until it's all heated through. 


When the timer goes for the quinoa, dump it into the skillet with the beans and add 1/3 cup of your favourite salsa. Stir around until everything is warm and delicious. Check for salt, then serve it up. Yum!

Another delicious supper was this Chow Mein recipe from Rightthinker. It was really, super, fantastically yummy. I will be making this over and over again. What a great way to get coconut oil and cabbage - two super-good-for-you foods - into your diet.

Last night we had Potato Leek Pizza from the Pioneer Woman cookbook. It sounds weird, but thinly sliced potato makes a surprisingly delicious pizza topping. Add bacon and sauteed leeks and mozzarella on a homemade whole wheat crust and you're in pizza heaven.

Last but not least was lunch today. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I had to restrain myself in order to snap this picture.


Cold Cucumber Soup! Now before you run screaming away from your computer screen, give it a chance. It's cool, refreshing, very simple to make and a great way to use up some of those cucumbers that are so cheap right now. I got three HUGE local cucumbers across the road today for only a dollar. Can't beat that price!

Inspiration came from this youtube video from Working Class Foodies. I watched the video, blog-hopped a bit to see what other people have done, and came up with my own version (of course!). Here's my recipe:

Cucumber Gazpacho

Into the pitcher of your blender, add:

3 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped (6-7 cups)
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbps fresh dill weed
1 tbps fresh parsley
1 large avacado, pitted, skinned and chopped
1 cup homemade chicken stock (or vegetable for vegetarian)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
4-5 drops Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

Blend until smooth, then chill for an hour before serving. Drizzle bowls with olive oil, eat with crackers or toast.

Eli kept complaining that it was "hot" (spicy) but don't listen to him, he's a wimp. He ate his whole bowl anyway, so it can't have been too hot. I love tzatziki sauce, so this was kind of like tzatziki in soup form. It doesn't have a ton of protein though, and I'm kind of a protein junky so I'm having some cheese and crackers right now to round off my lunch.

In other news, I'm currently working with the wonderful h. rae from An Original Belle on a new custom blog design. She does great work and I'm thrilled with what she's come up with so far. She's fast too, so I don't imagine it will be too much longer before everything is ready and up (though I am going to be gone for the weekend, so probably not until next week). Keep your eyes open for a totally new design and even a new blog title! I've always hated "The Vail Family" because it's pretty lame, but I'm terrible at coming up with something else. She even helped me with that process and I'm so excited to introduce it to you all. She just sent me a sneak peek and I couldn't be happier with her design. I can't wait for you all to see it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Favourite Cookies


Not a great picture, but these are the cookies I made myself for my birthday this year instead of a cake. They are my favourite cookies of all time. My younger sister makes them for me whenever we come visit and I eat WAY too many of them. Please note that these are not healthy whatsoever. They have no redeeming qualities. If you've followed my blog for any length of time you'll know that I absolutely love taking unhealthy recipes and tweaking them to make them reasonably healthy - replacing sugar with natural sweeteners, using whole wheat flour etc., but not these. These cookies I love in all their terrible unhealthiness. That being said I did use organic sugar and unbleached, organic flour - but that doesn't really help much when using such large quantities of them!

At any rate, here's the recipe. I hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws by posting it here, but it's just too good not to share.

Chocolate Eclipse Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and creamy.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture, beating until blended. Divide dough in half.


Stir melted chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips into one portion of dough. Stir white chocolate chips into other portion.

Take a small spoonful of each dough and roll together into a 1-inch ball. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.


Bake at 375 for 8 to 12 minutes or until set. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to rack and cool completely.
Makes about 5 dozen.
And oh man are they ever good. Here's my favourite cookie tip: use parchment paper. I know it can be expensive, but it is completely and totally worth it. The parchment seems to absorb any excess oil from the cookies and leaves you with perfectly chewy crisp cookies every time. 
I had a bit of trouble getting the two doughs to work out evenly, I ended up with 8 or 10 all dark chocolate cookies at the end because I used more of the dark dough than the white. But that's not really a problem. My sister gets it perfect every time. Honestly, her cookies are even better than mine, but mine were pretty good too! 

For a special (special!) treat, these cookies are the best. Hope you give it a try, let me know if you do!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Profile Pics

Sometimes it's funny to look back at old pictures and see how much you've changed. Since Facebook hit while I was in Grade 12, I can look back and see all my old profile pictures right from when I first created my account. The past 5 years have seen more changes in my life than at any other time, so here is a small sampling. My life, in Facebook profile pictures.

My grad photo. I'm 17 years old and had absolutely no appreciation for how skinny I was. Oh Grade 12 Emily... enjoy that 120lbs. And don't cut that lovely hair, you'll regret it a week later. 


Ah, prom. It's not as exciting as you think it's going to be. Still a fun night though, no regrets there!

Now, 18-year-old Emily, who is that fellow you're sitting quite close to after only 2 months of university? (Note: it's a Halloween Party. He really didn't dress like that in university! I on the other hand, actually did wear those earrings quite often...)

Only been dating a few months but had pictures done at Walmart for Christmas. How presumptuous of us. 

His graduation, right before he left to plant trees all summer while I worked at a remote tourist destination. We wrote letters. I didn't know it, but at the time this photo was taken he had already bought me a ring. Just took another three months to get it!

Both tanned from the summer spent working outdoors. So excited to be starting our life together!

Two months later. Married to the most wonderful man alive. Also, check out that waistline! Haven't seen that in a while...
Almost a year later. I'm 37 weeks pregnant with our first, our sweet Eli Allen. 

And there he is outside of my body. What an amazing experience to become a mother for the first time!

 And here he is turning one! An entire year shot by while I wasn't paying attention.

Pregnant again! Here's our little family, five weeks before number two.

And even though it seemed like he would NEVER come out, he finally did. Another precious boy, my little Theophilus Ian.

And lastly, a picture from just over a month ago. Our family of four. 

Even since the last picture was taken things have changed. Theo ditched the soother and almost doubled his weight. Eli started potty training, I've slimmed down (a little!) and Cory... well, actually he still looks the same!

I had no idea when I first created my Facebook account over 5 years ago what my life was going to have in store so very quickly, but I like that I can look back and remember. I wouldn't have chosen any other path, God's way was the best!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Camping

The view from the front window

This weekend we took a trip to Cory's dad's Camp. If you are like me and don't know what I'm referring to when I say a "camp," I mean a cabin, or cottage. I think it's a New Brunswick thing to call it a "Camp," because growing up in Nova Scotia I had never heard of the expression. We always took trips to the Cabin. But around here, we go to the Camp.

 Theo loves the wrap, asleep almost before I finish tying it!

It's beautiful there. It's a (heart pounding) 20 minute drive in from the road by ATV, over terrain that I had no idea an ATV could go over. There's no electricity, but there's a propane run stove and fridge, gas lights, a chemical toilet and running water from the rain barrels. There's even a battery run TV, and they get better reception than we do! This is good for me, since I'm really not into going without the modern comforts of life. I like the peace and quiet and remoteness of the camp, but I'm not a fan of outhouses.

Cory's Dad manning the grill

Even though we were only there for two nights, we made the most of it. Swimming, a short hike, relaxing, an evening around the bonfire, it was wonderful!

  Eli roasting his first ever marshmallow

Hopefully we'll be able to go back sometime this fall, maybe for Thanksgiving.  In the meantime, I have to unpack everything from our weekend away, wash all our clothes, and re-pack for our trip to Nova Scotia on Wednesday. We'll get back from NS just in time for me to unpack, wash, and re-pack for our trip to PEI. We're going to a Bible conference to see Joshua Harris speak. We're very excited since we probably won't get a chance like this again any time soon - "famous" speakers don't frequent the Maritimes - but Cory is trying to convince me that we should leave Eli with his mother. I'm torn. Part of me knows that if we bring Eli along, I will spend the sessions in the church nursery with him instead of getting to hear the speaker, and he would probably be happier spending a couple days with his Nanny rather than driving 5 hours and going to a conference, but my emotions balk at the thought of my little boy being so far away from me for two days. Nothing is decided yet, we still don't even know if Lynn can take him, but it's going to be hard if we decide to leave him here. I will miss him so very much.

My cool dude, sans pants because he took a dive into the lake fully clothed!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Thrift

Just a quick post to get this off my mind - my latest thrifty endeavor for using the trimmings from preparing vegetables. Ever get tired of the waste when you're chopping veggies for a meal? I do. So I've started keeping a bag full of vegetable trimmings in the freezer, then when I make stock I can add it all in for a much more flavourful, nutritious stock. Honestly I could never stand putting whole carrots and onions in a chicken stock because it seemed like such a waste when you don't end up eating them. So now, when I cut up an onion for dinner I put the tops into the freezer bag. Same with carrot ends, celery, even the little woody part you cut off the end of a clove of garlic.

We love asparagus in this house but it hurts me to have to break off almost a third of the stalk because it's too woody. Now I can use it for stock! Same with leeks, you only use about half of a leek but the rest is great in vegetable stock. How about green onions, potato peelings, zucchini ends, kale stems - the possibilities are as numerous as the vegetables you use. And as yummy!

I had to leave you with this mental image - Eli is in full potty training mode (and doing quite well!) so he's trotting around the house naked from the waist down. I'm packing for our weekend at the camp, so I've been digging through closets for camping gear and he discovered my old stash of high-heeled shoes from my university days (needless to say these do not see any use anymore, I really must get around to giving them to someone who will wear them!). He's a little shoe obsessed right now, so he's doing his best to wobble around in mismatched heels in nothing but a t-shirt. It's so funny to watch! For modesty's sake I will refrain from posting a picture, and instead leave you with this image of the two brothers. They are so sweet together!


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Home Again


We're back from our vacation! Waterski Camp was great. We're tired, tanned, and happy. Our camera remained in the bottom of our suitcase all week and never saw the light of day, so this is a photo I nabbed from Facebook. This is Eli learning to drive the "boop," as he called it. I think this was his favourite part of the entire week, that and the kiddy pool. He also went for a ride in the tube with Daddy, his face very serious the whole time. I couldn't tell whether he was having fun or was terrified, but when we stopped after about 10 minutes and pulled the tube back to the boat he started babbling excitedly and laughing. I think he liked it.

Cory volunteered as a counselor for the week, while my role was purely taking care of our kids. It was a busy week with staff kids, I think there were 14 in total, from little Theo up to the almost-twelve year olds who will get to be campers next year.

Waterski Camp is a really great ministry. It's run entirely by volunteers, mostly family units. Parents work driving boats, doing property maintenance, working in the kitchen etc., older kids are campers and younger ones play, swim, and have a little Bible time of their own. Even though it's hard work, it's a great way to vacation. I think that serving together as a family is such a great way to spend our vacation time.

We came back just in time for a busy, hectic weekend. We went straight from camp to a funeral of a friend's mom (praise God we know where she is!), and Cory had to fill in on Sunday morning for a local pastor on vacation.

Monday was... Monday. It was New Brunswick Day, a holiday, so Cory didn't have to work. This was a blessing since he was so exhausted from camp and the weekend, but I tried to take the boys into Saint John to get some food to restock our empty fridge. The city is 45 minutes from our home. I drove 25 minutes only to have Eli throw up his breakfast all over himself. I really think we're starting to deal with carsickness here. It was a huge, disgusting mess and all I had to clean it up was baby wipes. We pulled over, I got Eli out of the car and stripped his clothes off and tried to wipe up him and the carseat as best I could. Of course there was vomit all over the carseat buckles, making it necessary for me to get it all over my hands in order to get him out. Not pleasant. We turned around and drove the 25 minutes back home, left Eli with Cory, then drove all the way into town with just Theo this time. Got some food, came home, ate some lunch, got back in the car and drove an hour and a half to a friend's house for a family gathering. Not our family - theirs - but they are like family to us! That little get-together was a huge blessing to Cory and I. So thankful for good friends.

Yesterday was groceries, I didn't even risk taking Eli with me this time, I left him at his Nanny's! I still always feel a bit guilty leaving him behind, but I need to get over it. At this point in his life he has much more fun playing at Nanny's than he would driving in the car (potentially throwing up!) and shopping for groceries, and besides which my mother-in-law loves to spend time with him. This visit he fell off a chair and got his first black eye!



He's fine though, it had to happen sometime.  He is a boy after all! You can see it's not very bad.

And today? As if I didn't have enough busyness in my life, today I decided to start potty training a little more intensively. And we had our first pee in the potty! HOORAY! I've never been so excited about someone else's pee before in my life. It's only been the morning, and we had one pee in the potty and three on the floor. Thankfully none were on carpet - yet. I put a diaper on him for naptime, and after his nap we'll tackle it again. We're going the totally naked route, just to make things easier. We'll transition to underwear after he gets a little better at figuring out what he's supposed to do. According to my friend Google, three days of total nudity is the best way to kickstart potty training. So I'm going to try it for three days. If we don't seem to make any progress then maybe I'll try again in a few months, but I remain hopeful. Since it's such a battle to make him keep diapers on I'm eager to just eliminate the need for them.

I didn't talk much about Theo in this post, but Theo is just... Theo. He doesn't do much yet except hang out and look totally adorable!