Sunday, December 19, 2010

T'Is The Season...

A week before Christmas, Oliver and I bravely ventured out to a mall! I know, I know, I can hear the gasps now, hahaha, why oh why would you try and brave a place of commerce so close to the holidays?! I must say I was thoroughly surprised and pleased that when we arrived (albeit right at opening to avoid such crowds) we found the place very nearly deserted.

With some quick Christmas shopping completed and Oliver happily "zooming" around in his "rocket ship"...AKA the stroller...we came across the Santa Grotto and with the very unusual lack of a 2 hour line up with decided "hey what the heck, let the Little Dude meet the Jolly Old Fat Man in Red!"

Oliver was super and did not play shy (thank goodness that stage is coming to a close!) however, this up close encounter with a strange man with a fluffy white beard was not to be taken lightly, and my 1 year old spent the time looking very pensive and serious and would not crack a smile! hahaha! He made it to Santa's knee without a tear or a whine and the cliche'ed Santa Photo was taken and I couldn't help but feel so proud of my little guy for his bravery and smiled at how cute the photo was! LOL

Recently we have put up our Christmas Tree and it is, to my joy, hilarious watching Oliver and his new love of indoor foliage! He just can't quite grasp what this big green tree with sparklies on it is doing in his house and keeps walking up to it with his arm up in the air pointing at it then looking at Dan and I! Grandma's tree is particularly fun because the baubles hanging down low are reflective so when Oliver looks at the tree he sees lots of "little Oliver's" staring back at him! Confused he tries to kiss them all! hahaha! I am trying to get a photo of this because it's just so precious and priceless.

This Christmas I am so excited for, now that our Little Dude is a year older. Last Christmas was special because it was his first, but being only 8 weeks old Bless him, Oliver slept through the festivities. This year however he seems intrigued with the idea of the tree, has helped with baking, has posted coins into the Salvation Army Kettles and has learned over the weekend how to open prezzies (children don't take long to learn this crucial life skill!! ;) while attending the annual Christmas Party over at our neighbour's house on the weekend, Oliver and the kids did their gift exchange and he meticulously spent ages carefully opening his gifts by shredding small bits of wrapping paper off piece by piece and placing them in a pile as opposed to tearing into the parcel as fast as humanly possible.

It truly makes Christmas more magical when you are seeing it through the eyes of your children!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Despicable Oliver?

This post is for Dad (seeing as the last one was for Mum)

A photo that I had posted on my SkyDrive to share with Mum and Dad made them chuckle and I then received an email from Dad that Oliver in his swim goggles and yellow jammies looked very much like the "minions" from the movie, "Despicable Me"!

So here they are, Oliver and his long lost clan!

Oliver just needs a pair of blue dungarees and he'll be all set! LOL....ideas for next year's Halloween are springing to mind suddenly...hmmmm

Enjoy XOX

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adventures with Caramel

This post is mostly for my Mum. She had passed on a recipe to me that she found, written by Nigella Lawson for Caramel Croissant Pudding. It sounded delicious and I couldn't wait to try it out, Mum had said that she and Dad really enjoy it but that she was having a hard time making the caramel part. Keep thinking that she had made it wrong, Mum was still making a scrummy pudding but with less of the caramel colour and more of a simple syrup (from what I can understand anyways)
Caramel can be a little intimidating to make especially when recipes give you very vague time frames as to how long it takes. In this recipe it states that to acheive a caramel sauce it takes no longer than 3-5 minutes when in fact it can take up to 15!
I definitly do not claim to be an expert in the kitchen! LOL this is just my take on making caramel and what I find works best for me. I've been in the kitchen baking and creating since I was about 12 years old and for the most part was self taught. When I was older my sister and I worked for a Catering/Bakery Company for many years which furthered my culinary knowledge, so all I offer is what I've learned and observed over the years!! :)

So here we adventures in making caramel for pudding.....

First off, have all your ingredients ready by the stove and pre mixed and measured if necessary! The process of caramel making, once it "turns", goes very quickly and if you're spending time measuring your ingredients afterwards you risk burnt sugar on the bottom of your pan (which is no fun to scrub off!! LOL)

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved.

Once the sugar is dissolved and boiling you have a simple syrup thing going on which is super for cocktail recipes but that's not we want here :) So continue boiling and stirring occasionally (because it's a rolling boil you won't have to worry about it sticking to the bottom of the pan and stirring long as you DO NOT use HIGH Heat!!) Keep the stovetop setting at Medium.

After about 5 minutes or so of boiling the mixture will turn white and frothy...this is a GOOD thing :)

As the water in the pan starts to evaporate and boil off, the sugar will re-crystalize causing it to go frothy and then eventually it will look like chunky white sand.

Now here comes the caramel part! These chunks of sugar will start to melt as you continue to keep the pan on medium heat. As they melt they will turn a beautiful amber colour.

Once all the white chunks of sugar have melted you have a pot of caramel! yum yum!

Add the cream and milk mixture to the caramel, keeping the saucepan on the heat (although change it to a low setting now). It's helpful too to bring these ingredients to room temperature before adding them. To add them straight out of the fridge when they are cold can flash set the caramel so you can end up with little chunkies in your sauce. When adding the milk BE CAREFUL!! the caramel will sputter and froth and steam, so watch your hands and only add little volumes at a time and continue to whisk the whole time!!

If you find you do have little pieces of caramel floating in your sauce, continue cooking on low heat and they will eventually melt again. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the eggs. Definately make sure that as the eggs are being added that the mixture is continually whisked. Adding raw egg to a hot sauce can cook the egg which leads to lumpy custard...yuck! Just like the milk, add the eggs slowly and whisk the whole time.

Continue to whisk the sauce and it will start to thicken a little bit. Pour over a baking dish of ripped up croissants then bake in the oven until the custard is set and the croissants are golden brown. Yum!

And here's the recipe!! Enjoy! XOX

Nigella's Caramel Croissant Pudding

2 stale croissants
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp Bourbon (I used Crown and it worked well too...I think Bailey's would also be tasty)
2 Large Eggs

Preheat Oven to 350 C. Rip up croissants into chunks and place them in casserole dish. Combine sugar and water and bring to a rolling boil over Medium Heat. Continue boiling until sugar turns golden brown. Turn heat down to LOW, add milk, cream and bourbon whisking continually. Remove from heat, whisk in eggs, continue whisking until sauce thickens slightly. Pour over croissants. Bake at 350 C for 20 minutes or until custard is set and golden brown. Serve warm!