Pool Party Cake (!!!!!!!)

Before I begin this post, I feel it is important to note the following:

What you will see below is the cake of my childhood dreams.  When I was young, my mom had a copy of Canadian Living’s “Kids in the Kitchencookbookwhich I would flip through occasionally, wondering how in the world one was able to cook.  Now, a decade later, I return to my humble beginnings to complete the pièce de résistance of all Canadian Living cakes: The Pool Party Cake(each word deserves a capital letter because, to me, it is a holy entity of awesome). To be honest, I’m a little surprised my mom didn’t make me this cake as a child; I guess there were very few pool parties to go to in Northern Ontario and my birthday was in winter…

When I first heard back in June that we were planning to have a potluck at work, I very nearly had a happiness heart attack.  I KNEW that the time had finally come for me to make this cake, and that the world was finally prepared to be exposed to its sheer wonder.  Also, the cake kind of doubled as a surprise birthday cake for one of my wonderful work supervisors, Jeremy, who was (against his will) getting a belated birthday celebration at lunch.

Let the cake-making begin: Buying all the candy supplies was the hard part – I spent a solid half hour in the Bulk Barn, carefully measuring out gummy candies and determinedly marching up and down the aisles in search of the elusive vanilla wafer cookie (turns out I needed to get them at Walmart).  A short time later, my shopping was complete, and with my new 9×13 glass cake pan filled with goodies, I waltzed (bused) home, anxiously wondering what the results of my cake attempt would be.  Due to some sort of miracle, the cake turned out perfectly.  Despite a minor meltdown that occurred when a deep crack developed through the middle of the cake, the process was rather uneventful and my neuroses was kept at bay for the most part…

Of course, my adventure to deliver cake to potluck continued this morning when I had to find a way to transport said item to school.  Normally I would just ride my bike, however, I had invested too much time and emotion in this cake to see it slide off my handlebars and run over by my Schwinn bicycle.  And so, my worried ass took a cab to school and, in an attempt to pay the driver with my debit card, almost granted the cake a death-by-debit-console-falling-in-pool disaster.  Luckily, everything except my sanity made it to work in one piece.

I would also like to note one final thing: if someone on Ace of Cakes somehow stumbles on this post, please give me a job and/or let me tour your shop.  I promise I would only freak out a little.

Hilary and Cake: an intimate moment. Also, note the wafer cookie entering my mouth…this was because of a failure in cake architecture that caused several half-wafer pieces to come unattached from their other sides.  Beware future cake-makers.

Some happy potluck-ers/amazing co-workers, pre-cake arrival, pre-food coma.

Arrival of cake for the birthday boy!

Happy Belated Jeremy!

(Thank you Iman and your ever-speedy facebook uploads for these last two pictures)

END OF STORY? I am addicted to making cakes.  Next time, I try conquering fondant.

Thai Mango Salad (and a short vacation hiatus)

With my mangoes finally having ripened, I decided to hurriedly prepare a delicious and nutritious meal for today’s lunch.  I say hurriedly because I started making this salad at exactly 11:34 a.m., a short 26 minutes before my family was due to pick me up for my first family vacation in three years.  Summer salads with no cooked ingredients actually make the fastest meal ever- gotta love ’em!  Gord, if you are reading this right now and wondering why the hell I made this salad without you, fret not, I will find something equally (if not more) scrumptious to make for your challenge prize as soon as I get back from vacation.  I promise.

This salad turned out brilliantly, and I got rave reviews from my mom who decided to pack up my leftovers for a picnic lunch later in the day.  Bestowing the ultimate honour on my cooking skills, she even asked me for the recipe (which can be found on the Canadian Living website here) so she could make her own version at home.  PS: mangoes are the best, most tender fruit ever.

So how is my vacation, you ask?  It is quite enjoyable, thank you for wondering!  I am currently typing this from inside a gorgeous Mont Tremblant hotel, nestled at the bottom of a group of seemingly endless mountains.  Arriving late this afternoon after getting lost several times in and around the Tremblant area (trying to navigate our way using my mom’s iPad = unsuccessful), we finally got to our hotel and quickly began exploring the village.

So far I have been on a handful of gondola rides (see above: I giggle like a child from sheer excitement every time I get on one) and have strolled around the vibrant streets of the village with the famjam.  I am proud to say that in true Duff-family fashion, several embarrassing touristy pictures have already been taken:

My favourite part of the day?  Going down a steep slope on a luge track, and waiting at the bottom for my mom who abused the brakes on her cart and arrived a complete five minutes after my brother, dad and I.

See you after my vacation hiatus, Blogosphere!

Mediterranean Barley Rice Salad

Is it sad that I start brainstorming what I am going to say for these posts before I even return home from the grocery store?

Since it is absolutely scorching here in Ottawa, and because of the fact that I am sitting in a giant house-sauna, it is not necessary to explain why I decided to stay away from any baked/oven-prepared meal today.  Since even just starting to type this very small segment of text, my fingertips and palms have begun to sweat (how ladylike of me), and I find myself wondering how in the world it is that I have not yet passed out due to heat stroke.  This week at work has been incredibly insane so far – we have officially finished 1/3 of the Summer O marathon, with every upcoming session making me fear I may go hysterical.  I know I am whining; please forgive me, I love my job, I really do!!  </whining> Let the positivity and tales of salad cooking begin! ……….

Through today’s cooking adventure, I have discovered several things about myself:

ONE. I adore cucumber, especially that of the English variety.  Cucumber is also incredibly fun to slice (I got a similar satisfaction when I sliced tofu for the first time).
TWO. If planning on using mangoes, said fruit must be bought days in advance, to allow sufficient time for ripening.  I discovered this during a phone call to my mom whilst in the grocery store today (“mom, when they say ‘firm mangoes’ what do they mean?”)
THREE. When your dinner plans for the evening have been completely thrown off by non-ripe mangoes, the best you can do is locate the nearest copy of a Canadian Living magazine and run around the grocery store hysterically trying to collect ingredients for a new meal.
THREE A. This meal is the result of this hysteria.

On that note, this salad could not have turned out any better!  The recipe was from the June issue of Canadian Living, and the recipe can be found right here.  The dish had a perfect balance of grain and vegetables, and the spinach made a really great base for the rest of the salad.  The dressing was light and lemon-flavoured, and was a perfect cool down after a tiring, hot day.  The salad was also super colourful, which I obviously LOVE, so the pictures turned out magnificently!  Even the name sounds exotic!  What more can a little food blogger ask for?  I definitely recommend this salad to anyone and everyone.  Mom, if you’re reading this post, let me tell you that I am making this salad next time I come home.

Thanks again Canadian Living, you’re a lifesaver!

Gord makes dinner (and gets challenged)

I’ll keep this relatively short and simple: my awesomely talented friendGordmade me dinner as a reward for successfully completing his tofu challenge.  Here are a few pictures of the wonderful meal he made (super impressive)…

Gazpacho (I still have a hard time saying it, I’ll admit)

Quinoa Salad (also can’t pronounce that properly)

And le pièce de résistance?  Crème brûlée…because of course Gord just has a blowtorch casually sitting around in his kitchen (seriously, I laughed so hard).  YUM.

Also, I am going to use this post to announce Gord’s FIRST blog challenge: he has requested that I challenge him to make pie from scratch, a thing he apparently has always wanted to do.  So there you have it Gord…a little less terrifying than death-by-tofu, but what can you do?  Make it photogenic, make it delicious and, most importantly, make it for me!!!!