Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Hey guys!

Over a month ago, I had a strange craving for fried chicken. I have no idea where it came from. I haven’t eaten KFC in well over a decade and I’ve never made it from scratch until…I found the following recipe.

This recipe is amazing and pairs very well with crunchy pickles. Yep, pickles! Julien suggested it and I didn’t understand the link but he was totally right. They paired so well together since the pickles cut the grease.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

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Ingredients

Marinade

  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 cup of fresh chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon and thyme)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2lbs chicken pieces with skin (we like to use chicken quarters and separate the drumstick from the thigh)

Coating

  • 1 cup of GF flour (or regular flour)
  • 1 tsp each of dried oregano, chili powder, sage, marjoram, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and pepper
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp paprika (or more if you like paprika, like us)
  • 2 eggs

Directions

  1. Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl, adding the chicken last. Pour into a large ziploc bag and refrigerate overnight for a minimum of 12 hrs.
  2. For the delicious coating, mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.
  3. When ready to cook, strain the chicken and marinade into a bowl. Get rid of about 3/4 of the liquid and whisk your eggs in the remaining 1/4.
  4. Coating one piece of chicken at a time, dip your chicken in the marinade and then toss in the coating, making sure to cover the entire piece. 
  5. In a large and deep cast iron dutch oven, slowly heat a couple of inches of peanut or canola oil, over medium heat and bring it to 350 degrees.
  6. Fry a few pieces at a time, for approx. 8 mins per side or until golden.
  7. Once fried, remove chicken pieces one at a time and place on a wire rack over on top of a baking sheet covered with a Silpat.
  8. Then serve with your choice of yummy sides, eat and enjoy!

*Original recipe from glutenfreeclub.com!

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The final product is delicious! It’s crunchy on the outside and SO juicy on the inside. 

 

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I hope that you guys give this one a try and that you enjoy it as much as we do! If you do end up trying it out, please let me know what you think.

For those fried chicken lovers out there, I would love to hear about your favourite fried chicken recipe since we’d love to try a new recipe next time a craving comes along.

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! Talk soon.

Ash

Fun at Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush!

Hey everyone,

Hope you’re all well and trying to stay positive despite the chilly weather we’ve been having here in Ottawa. Can you believe that we’re going to be getting a dump of snow this weekend? When will it end 😉 I’m hopeful that this will be the last of it and, on a more positive note, we will be very thankful for spring/ summer this year.

The last two weeks have been spent enjoying lots of time with family and trying to enjoy the great outdoors 😉 Today, I’ve decided to share with you our recent visit to Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush.

 

Fun at Fultons Pancake House and Sugar Bush

It’s been years since I’ve visited a sugar shack. Maybe even a decade. My mom called us a couple weeks ago and suggested that we take the kids for breakfast and a tour of the sugar shack. Of course, I thought that this was a fabulous suggestion since we hadn’t been in years, since our littles have never been and since the weather was cooperating so we wouldn’t freeze our butts off.

We made sure to arrive for when they opened at 9am so that we could beat the breakfast rush. So happy that we did since although the restaurant was full, it wasn’t filled to capacity so we were able to sit down and enjoy our cafeteria style breakfast. I don’t know what I was expecting but it was a cafeteria style meal. I have to say that this made it even more special 🙂 plus quick and easy for the kids! We were able to see our food options, choose what we wanted, pay for it and eat it right away.

We ended up trying a little bit of almost everything. Julien and the kids shared some pancakes, apple pie, beans, and breakfast sausage and I had their gluten-free (GF) waffles. Like any new GF dish, I didn’t know what to expect but for my GF readers, I’m happy to report that they were DELICIOUS!!! Seriously, they tasted like the real thing. We also had hot coffee and juice for the kids. Felt like we were eating breakfast at a very casual 😉 ski resort.

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Breakfast!

After filling ourselves up with sweets, we toured around the property. First on our to do list was a tour of the Heritage Maple Path which brought us to a cool teepee shelter, which the kids loved, and a cozy fire where an employee was explaining all of the old tools and techniques that were used to tap maple trees.

 

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We continued along the trail and there was a beautiful display of more of the old harvesting tools:

 

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Did you know that according to Iroquois legend, maple syrup was discovered by accident? To find out more, read the sign below.

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The sugar shack also offered a live demo on how they produce their maple syrup, they had a park for kids and sold delicious treats like cotton candy and maple lollipops. They also had a small shop where you could buy all sorts of maple syrup infused items such as bbq sauces, marinades, sweets and beauty products.

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Maple Shoppe!

I have to be honest here. I saw their beauty products but I wasn’t drawn to them until one of the employees recommended that I give their lotion a try. I’m so glad that I did because not only did it smell delicious, it was also super hydrating.  I was sold! I liked it so much that we ended up picking up a bottle of their lotion and a body scrub for my mother-in-law’s birthday.

Overall, our visit to Fultons was so much fun! The kids had a blast and it was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. If you’re looking for something different to do this weekend, I highly recommend that bring your family and/or friends to Fulton’s for breakfast and to tour their properly.

I know that visiting the sugar bush is an annual tradition for some. If you are one of those people, I would love to hear about your favourite spots so please let me know.

That’s all for now! Hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Stay warm 😉 xo

GF Lemon Cake…#yum

Hey everyone,

Can you believe all of the snow that we received this week…What is going on!? I know it was naive of me to think that winter was over but I wasn’t expecting the downpour that we received in the last two days…On a more positive note, the snow is quite beautiful…right ;).

Last Sunday, our son and I tried a new GF cake recipe from this amazing recipe book that a couple of my girlfriends bought me for my birthday last year. It’s called “Gluten-Free Sweet Treat: cakes, brownies, cookies and more” by Emma Goss-Custard. Not sure that that’s her real name but it’s cute either way.

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

I’ve made a few of her recipes and, so far, they’ve been delicious. I find that they take longer to make than non-GF recipes but they’re worth it. This time we tried her Lemon Drizzle Cake and it was #delicious!!!

Today, I’m sharing her recipe with you.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, plus extra for brushing
  • 7.5 tbs GF flour of your choice (Tbs…I know, weird but her recipe uses them or ounces)
  • Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp GF baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I suggest using WAY less as the recipe was very sweet – maybe 1/2c max)
  • 2/3 cup ground almonds
  • 3 tbs polenta
  • 1 tsp lemon oil

Note: Rather than using the drizzle, I sifted icing sugar on top of the cake. I’m happy I did since the cake is pretty sweet.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter your 1lb loaf tin.
  2. Melt butter with the lemon zest, but don’t let it get too hot. I heated it slowly in the microwave. Then add your lemon juice and stir again.
  3. Crack your eggs in a large mixing bowl fitted with an electric mixer. Add your baking powder, sugar, almonds, GF flour, cornflour, polenta and lemon oil.
  4. Add melted butter and zest to the mixture.
  5. Using your electric mixer, beat on low speed and then on high until your mixture is smooth with a rich yellow colour.
  6. Spoon your cake mixture into the buttered tin and tap tin until batter is smooth.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, check and then cover with parchment paper, especially if the cake is getting too dark.
  8. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until springy to the touch.
  9. Remove from oven, let cool completely and then remove from tin.
  10. If you like, sift icing sugar above the cake for a nice touch and added sweetness.

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If you’re looking to try something new, I highly recommend this recipe, however, I would use 1/3-1/2 a cup of sugar rather than 3/4 since it was very sweet. I also suggest that you keep it refrigerated since it was a tad crumbly.

This recipe pairs well with a warm coffee in the morning or with an afternoon tea, which is when I tend to get my sweet craving ;).

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Voila!

For those who eat GF, what’s your favourite cake recipe? I would love to hear about it. Before going GF, I used to do a lot of baking but I haven’t been too interested in trying new recipes since I’m usually missing ingredients or I know that I’ll be the only one eating it.

If you do end up giving this recipe a try, please let me know what you think of it and whether or not you’d be interested in other GF recipes.

On a totally separate but very important note, I’d like to wish everyone a happy international women’s day. Today, I’d like to thank my sister, mother-in-law, female friends, family, role models and most importantly my mom who is truly my BIGGEST role model and inspiration. Mom, you are truly one of a kind and like no other. Since Chels and I were young you taught us the importance of being a feminist, of being kind, accepting and understanding and to stand up for injustice. I thank you today and every day for being the incredible role model and woman that you are!

“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.” A serious quote but one that struck home.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend spent with friends and family, eating great food.

Bon Appetit!

Ash xo

Mom’s 60th Birthday and BRCA results!

Hey everyone,

Hope the first week of February is treating you well? Although we’ve received a couple dumps of snow, here in Ottawa, the weather has been milder and so enjoyable. #grateful for this week’s weather and being able to enjoy some fresh air!

Last weekend, we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday. As most of you now know, it’s been just over a year since she was diagnosed and underwent her debulking surgery 2 days before her 59th birthday. I remember her saying that she just wanted to be able to make it to her 60th. Well, I’m SO happy to report that she did, that she is doing SO well and was eager to celebrate her big day. Her 60th Birthday!

My sister and I decided to throw her a surprise party and invite her childhood friends. Some of whom she sees regularly, others only a few times a year. Little did we know, most of them had already set the day aside for her.

Chels and I made dinner reservations at the Big Rig Brewery, as per her request, and our immediate family kicked-off the evening by doing our first escape room at Jigsaw located in the Byward Market. If you haven’t been to Jigsaw, you totally have to check them out. The venue is really nice offering lots of seating with board games and they even have a bar.

As for dinner with her friends, we had asked her guests to bring an old photo of mom and to let us know which song best reminds them of her so that we could put both in a journal for her to read afterward.

Have you ever thrown a surprise party? If so, you know it presents some challenges but if not, *WARNING* it is not easy to do lol My mom is by nature a total control freak (as are we). She has always been the caregiver, planner, organizer etc and she likes to be kept in the loop about everything…and I mean everything, so planning this party was no easy task. A month before, she started asking a million questions. Are we going to big rig, will it just be the 6 of us, what time should I be ready for etc etc etc She absolutely hated not knowing what the plan was and not being in control.

Before getting into the evening itself, I thought I’d share with you a couple of the gifts we bought for her. As previously mentioned, we bought her this beautiful black Journal from Chapters that says “she was one of the rare ones: so effortlessly herself and the whole world loved her for it.” For those who know mom, you KNOW that she is totally one of a kind. The amount of quality friends that she has and the love that they all have for her is amazing and shows how incredible she is.

I also knew that I wanted to pick up a tacky gift, making fun of the fact that she was turning 60, so when I saw the cane in the picture below, I had to have it lol The cane came equipped with glasses, a horn, fan (for heat flashes), a pill container and a caution old lady crossing sign lol so funny, right!

You’ll also notice that I picked up a small pink book entitled “what I love about you and me.” It’s 50 pages long and you have to fill in the blank spaces and note 50 reasons why you love that person. For example: “I like the way….when you…” or “if we were a ….. we would … ” and “I’d love to … with you.” This was such a fun gift and got me thinking about some of my favorite childhood memories. We also treated her to a beautiful bottle of Cognac, the game, cupcakes, board games (her fav) etc.

As for the evening, it was so much fun. We met downtown in the Ottawa Byward Market and surprised her with an escape room. We choose the cabin and it was amazing. I knew that we had to find our way out but I didn’t think that it would be as hard as it was. These games are clearly well thought out. The cabin was a tough one. We all started in handcuffs and the room was almost pitch black. Although we worked hard and really well together, to bust our way out, we didn’t 😦 Apparently we were very close to winning but unfortunately couldn’t crack the last few clues. For those who are looking for a challenging escape room, I highly recommend this one as it has a 15% success rate.

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Jigsaw

Next up was dinner at the Big Rig. We walked in shortly after 7pm and everyone was already there, waiting for her. Watching mom walk in was priceless. She had no idea that we had planned to have her childhood friends there and, although she was pleasantly surprised, I think she was totally shocked. We spent the evening going through childhood pictures, listening to stories of her in her teens and enjoyed a good meal. Below is a pic of mom and her friends. How lucky is she to have friends that she has known for over 50 years.

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Overall, mom had a wonderful 60th birthday. Not only did she have a great time celebrating with her childhood friends and family, she was and is feeling healthy again. What better gift to receive for her 60th bday than the gift of feeling healthy 🙂 I’m so grateful for this and for her 🙂 Happy birthday Moomoo!

BRCA 2 results:

In a previous post, I shared with you that I would be undergoing BRCA 2 genetic testing for breast/ovarian cancer. After a 3 month wait, I’m happy and relieved to report that I do not carry the genetic mutation and, as a result, neither do my children. This news was and is such a huge relief for my family and I. The results showed that I’m not considered high risk. The general population’s risk of having breast cancer is 11% and mine has been calculated at 18%. As a result, and lucky for me, rather than waiting until the age of 50 to be screened, I will start annual mammography at the age of 37. For this, I’m also grateful.

For anyone with a close family history of breast and ovarian cancer, I highly recommend undergoing genetic testing. It isn’t for everyone but for those who woukd prefer to know and like to have control, like myself, I say go for it. These results have brought me much comfort knowing that my children and I aren’t at high risk and has allowed me to put in place the necessary steps to ensure that I will be properly screened.

For those who have undergone similar testing and would like to share about it, please feel free to leave a comment. Otherwise, I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend and I thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog and read my posts. I truly appreciate your support.

Remember to “look for something positive in every day, even if some days you have to look a little harder.” Life is great :)!!!

Talk soon,

Ash

Tips for fighting stress!

We’re already halfway through the first month of 2018! Along with a new year comes new opportunities as well as the opportunity to look back on the previous year, providing the opportunity to reflect on both all of the good and the bad.

2017 was a fabulous year! Our family of four traveled together, I enjoyed the last 6 months of my last maternity leave, Julien and I had a getaway to Banff, my sister moved home from Vancouver and we spent lots of time with our family and friends.

Like most, 2017 also presented us with some difficult times. Just before Christmas 2016, we lost my grandma. Lucky for me, mom and I were with her when she passed. I’m honoured that I was able to help granny through her last day on earth but this experience was both stressful and heartbreaking. Granny was my only grandparent present in my life and meant so much to my mom, sister and I. I could dedicate many posts to granny and all of the things that we did together and how much I/we loved her. She literally dedicated her entire life to her children and grandchildren and I will forever be grateful to her for that and all of the memories we have.

A few weeks after granny passed, Mom was diagnosed with stage 3B ovarian cancer and less than a week later, underwent major debulking surgery, two days before her 59th birthday. She spent quite literally the rest of 2017 fighting her cancer. For anyone who has had a parent diagnosed with cancer you know how difficult this can be and how helpless it can leave you feeling. For those who know me, you know that my mom is my world and quite literally my first love! She, like granny, has dedicated her entire life to her babies and I’m SO lucky to have such a present, loving and fun mom.

So, now it is 2018 and I’m happy to report that December 2017 was mom’s healthiest month since her diagnosis. She hosted an amazing Christmas dinner as well as NYE with her friends and she’s had more energy than ever. She’s been able to snowshoe, keep up with her grand kids and spend lots of time with family and friends. She’s even been working out. What a champ! She’s a real life superhero :)!

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Three peas in a pod!

Even better, mom had her regular 3-month appointment this week with her oncologist and she received positive feedback 🙂 our family couldn’t have asked for anything better. Her chemo worked really well and her cancer remains in remission. F*uck you cancer, you messed with the wrong mama!

Like most, the love that I have for my family is immense. I wouldn’t be who I am without all of them so when mom was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer, 11 years after she fought breast cancer, I was devastated. I was half-way through my maternity leave and was heartbroken. It was one of my biggest nightmares. Although I had SO much good going on, I felt as though I was drowning in pain over this. As though I couldn’t cope with mom’s diagnosis and our new reality. It just wasn’t fair…of course, like many, I learned that life isn’t always fair.

Lucky for us, mom is strong and recovered from the insanely difficult surgery and recovery, her painful chemo and is living each day to the fullest. She is positive 95% of the time, allowing herself to have the occasional pity party day, understandably. Because of her strength, I try to encourage myself to show the same strength and to focus on all of the good that we have going on in our lives!

Since the end of her chemo, she see’s her oncologist every 3 months at which time they tell her about her markers etc. This process has been quite stressful. The first two months we’re all happy and well 🙂 we focus on all the positive and try not to think about the cancer but as we approach the third month we become more and more anxious. I don’t know about you but I’ve never experienced real anxiety until this year and sometimes it can be quiet overwhelming. I think that it’s directly linked to the lack of control that I have in this situation. So, I’ve decided to share with you some of my tips and tricks for dealing with stress and anxiety 🙂 I’ve only recently (2017 onward) started practicing these activities and although they weren’t easy to do at first, I’ve come to love each of them.

As I’ve noted before, I used to be a major cardio junky. This changed, in the last year, as I really needed to slow down, relax and breathe. Here are my tips for staying calm anytime and especially when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:

Incorporate yoga into your weekly regime, including conscious breathing:

As previously mentioned in my post about our family trip to Florida, yoga really helped reduce the stress that I was feeling at the time. I started practicing with my father-in-law and really helped reduce my anxiety, around mom’s diagnosis, when I was on maternity leave. Being a runner, I loved nothing more than intense workouts. Yoga can be intense but the conscious breathing, holding of poses and reflection at the end are medicinal. I swear tears literally fell, quietly, at the end of many classes as I lay there on my mat, practicing mindfulness and gratitude.

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Yoga taught me that it’s ok to slow things down. That both my mind and body appreciate it and that practicing conscious breathing greatly reduces ones stress/anxiety. For those who feel as though your days are flying by and that you have little down time, I highly recommend that you give yoga a try. Like meditation, it is SO hard to slow your mind and body down, at first, but with time you will reap the benefits.

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Meditation and mindfullness

Do you meditate? If so, I would love to know which apps or books you follow. If not, you should totally try it out 🙂 Why? Why not? Even before mom’s diagnosis, she tried to encourage us to meditate and I’d always say sure mom lol well, like everything else, she was right. Meditation is AWESOME and has helped me get through the difficult times this year and continues to help me daily.

I love to use the apps headspace and calm. At first, it was SOOOO hard to meditate. All I did was think about all I had to do, how weird it was that I was lying on the couch or sitting on a chair trying to focus on nothing when all I could do was focus on all that I had to do. Well, like most activities, meditation takes practice and, if you give yourself time, and practice regularly, your meditation sessions will improve and bring you much joy.

Like yoga, I started practicing meditation last summer, when mom was undergoing chemo. I figured why not try it out. I’d put our daughter down for her afternoon nap, lay down on the couch, plug myself into headspace and do a 10 minute session. For those who use this app, you already know how intoxicating this guys voice is. You can’t help but hold onto it and try hard not to fall asleep. At first, it was hard to make it through 5-10 mins but now I do at least 10 minutes a day and, if I need it, I will do an additional 10 on my way home from work.

 

 

Presently, I use headspace, once and a while, on my commute home from work and I use Calm before bed. Julien probably regrets telling me about Calm lol because I listen to it EVERY SINGLE night before bed and without headphones. It’s amazing. You can listen to meditation for sleep, relaxation, stress etc and to different sounds. My favourite sessions are those for sleep with rain in the background. Amazing! I swear I’m asleep within the first three minutes. I highly recommend adding meditation to your daily routine. Another benefit is that is allows me to practice conscious breathing and gratitude daily. #grateful!

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Dehumidifer and calming scents:

Last, but not least, my parents-in-life bought us a dehumidifer for Christmas and it has also become part of our evening routine. We like to use it with a variety of amazing scents that encourage relaxation. I like to use it when we are watching a show in the living room and then again when we go to bed 🙂 I set it so that its on for two hours, turn my sleppy time meditation on and I am gone lol is there a better way to fall asleep! We have a few scents now but I would love to hear about your favorite ones so please do feel free to leave a comment with your recommendations.

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So, there are a few of my tips for reducing stress. Tomorrow, after waiting 9 weeks, I will be receiving my BRCA results. I can promise you that tonight, like every night ;), I will be going to sleep with my dehumidifier, and calming scents, while listening to my sleepy time meditation and I encourage you to do the same.

For those who try these tips out, I hope that they bring you much joy. As for staying positive, this is just in my nature. I’ve always been and will always be a positive person. Life is good and I encourage everyone to wake up with a grateful heart. Grateful for their life, their children, health, family and friends!

Hope you have a fabulous weekend! Thank you so much for stopping by and for your ongoing support.

Love,

Ash xo

 

 

Our favourite Christmas dessert recipes!

Hi everyone,

Today, I’m going to share with you a few recipes of our favourtie Christmas desserts that we’ve been making annually for about 5 years now.

I’ll start with my favourite recipe, Martha Stewart’s Mint-Chocolate Brownies. OMG this recipe is to die for and they are a chocolate lovers dream. I don’t know what it is about Martha but all of her dessert recipes are the best!

Mint-Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients:

  • One stick of unsalted butter (8 tbs)
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bitter sweet chocolate, whichever you prefer
  • One cup of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 25 small peppermint patties (these MAKE this recipe)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line your 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and then butter the parchment paper.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir for about 4-5 mins until chocolate is melted.
  3. Remove from the heat and whisk in your sugar and salt until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in eggs and then gently whisk in flour and cocoa powder until smooth.
  4. Spread 1/3 of your batter in your pan. Place peppermint patties on top of the batter in a single layer, making sure to leave a border on all sides. Note: I can never find the mini peppermint patties so I use the large ones.
  5. Top the peppermint patties with the remaining batter and smooth the surface.
  6. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Approximately 35-40 minutes.
  7. Cool the brownies completely before cutting brownies.

Yields: 16 delicious brownies

My second favourite recipe is a cookie recipe by Trisha Yearwood that I found on the Food Network’s website. WARNING: they are super sweet so this recipe is good for those who have a real sweet tooth.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate hips
  • 3/4 cup macadamia nuts

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. Using your electric mixer, cream the butter with both sugars until smooth. Add your vanilla and egg, making sure to mix well.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking soda. Spoon the flour mixture into the creamed sugar mixture.
  4. Stir in your cranberries, white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.
  5. Drop large spoonfuls, about 2 tbs, of dough on prepared baking sheets and bake one sheet at a time for 12-15 minutes.
  6. Note: we aren’t the biggest fans of macadamia nuts but they go very well in this recipe.

Yields: 24 cookies

Last, but not least, is a recipe for bark brought to you by the blog browneyedbaker. The fun thing about bark is that you can put whatever ingredients you want in them, so you should totally try modifying this recipe and using your favourite nuts or dried fruit.

 

Pistachio and Cranberry White Chocolate Bark 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2lb white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method:

  1. Line your baking sheet with your silpat or parchment.
  2. Melt your chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwavable bowl for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave.
  3. Once the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add pistachios and cranberries and stir to combine.
  5. Spread the chocolate mixture onto your prepared pan and place in the fridge for at least 20 mins, until set, and then cute into pieces. (Note: I prefer freezing it and then cutting/breaking the bark into pieces).

The great thing about all of these recipes is that you can freeze them and take them out when you feel like a treat or when you’re hosting. We plan on baking each of these this weekend. Make sure to stop by my Instagram account, lovelylife.xo to see pics.

If you decide to try one of these out, please let me know what you think of them by leaving a comment below. I’d also love to hear about your favourite Christmas dessert recipes, if you have any 🙂 .

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Talk soon,

Ash

BRCA 2 Positive – Now what?

Hey everyone,

Today’s post is more serious than the others. As most of you know, the motivation behind this blog is my amazing mom and being able to connect with others who may be going through a similar situation. In addition to this, my goal is to encourage everyone to focus on the positive things in life. We all encounter difficult times throughout our lives and, although we may not want to, we have to find ways to accept them. I have SO much to be thankful and grateful for in my life and I owe a lot of it to my mom.

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Mother and daughter xo

So, let’s get to it. As many of you know, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in February of this year. Since, she has undergone major debulking surgery, recovery, and chemo. Since her last chemo session late spring, she had an amazing and healthy 4 months chemo free AND at her last oncologist appointment, last month, we found out that her cancer is currently dormant. I’m not religious but I thank whatever power is out there watching over her and our family! Her CA125 cancer markers (the marker used to measure ovarian cancer) haven’t increased and remain well under the normal range. This news couldn’t have been better. I can’t describe how it feels to wait for these appointments. Not knowing what the results will be. The anxiety I feel waiting for the news can be awful but we are SO grateful that the news was positive and that her body and cancer responded well to the chemo they gave her 🙂 !!!

When mom was diagnosed in February, we were told that because she had had breast cancer 10 years ago and now ovarian cancer that she could be tested for the BRCA genetic mutation if she wished and free of charge. Testing for this is very expensive therefore it isn’t available to everyone, especially since only 1.2 percent of Canadian women are at risk of getting ovarian cancer and an even smaller percentage of those carry a BRCA genetic mutations.

Do you know what this genetic mutation is? If not, I will explain but maybe you will remember the (what some call) radical surgery Angelina Jolie had after finding out that her mom, who passed away from ovarian cancer, carried this genetic mutation. Angelina decided to have a double mastectomy in response to finding out that her mom carried the BRCA 1 gene. Why, you may ask, well because those who do carry a BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutation have an increased risk of getting both breast and ovarian cancer.

Being the mother of two daughters, my mom decided to follow-through with the genetic testing. We were told that it would take 3 months but it ended up being close to 6. Last Friday, we had her follow-up appointment. I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I was for this appointment. I knew that there was a small chance that she would carry it and, that if that was the case, my sister and I would have some decisions to make but it wasn’t until her genetics doctor actually said the words “you ARE BRCA2 positive” that everything really hit me. I knew this was a real possibility but until it was actually confirmed, I guess I was hoping otherwise. I understandably burst into tears. Mom, however, felt a sense of relief. Now, she knew that her girls would be tested annually (MRI and mammogram) and that we would be provided with surgical options if we wanted to embark on those journeys. She is the most selfless person I know. Always thinking about us before herself.

What do these results mean for mom:

  • The not so great news is that she is 85% likely to have breast cancer. The good news is that now that they know this, they will continue to monitor her annually which is relieving.
  • Other good news is that because she has a BRCA 2 genetic mutation, they are able to offer her additional treatments for her cancer if it awakens. This news couldn’t have made us happier :).
  • Lastly, the results gave mom a sense of relief knowing that she didn’t just have bad luck. Rather, her cancers were/are the result of a genetic mutation.

What do these results mean for my sister and I:

Well, mom’s results mean that we have a 50% chance of carrying the BRCA2 genetic mutation. As a result, we have the choice of being tested ourselves, free of charge. To some, I’m sure that this would be a difficult decision. For myself, it’s a no brainer since messing with ovarian cancer is no joke. I’ve decided to go ahead with the testing, which involves simple blood work, and it will take between 1-2 months for my results.

So what does it mean if the results come back positive for my sister or I? Well, it means that we will have a 50-85% chance of having breast cancer and 10-30% chance of getting ovarian cancer (compared to the general population’s percentage which is 1.2%). Also, we will have the choice of undergoing a double mastectomy and partial or total hysterectomy now or just prior to menopause (which is what is recommended).

Although scary, all of the above is positive news for my sister and I. It means that we will have options and I’m so thankful for that and being able to tackle this decision well informed. I, like Angelina, am approaching this more aggressively. If my results come back positive, I am choosing to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction as soon as possible and a hysterectomy well before menopause. Saying I was going to do this, prior to mom’s results, was one thing, but knowing that this may be a real possibility now makes everything more real. But, if my mom was able to fight and beat breast cancer in 2006 and undergo everything she encountered this year, then I can do this. I owe it to myself and my children who will also have a 50% chance of carrying this genetic mutation if I do. Even our son.

Moving forward, I will keep you guys posted on the results and what happens next. For those of you who out there who are living through a similar situation, know that you are not alone. That you are strong and loved and that no matter what we will get through this. Life is a gift and sometimes we are dealt unexpected cards but we have to be grateful for all that is good in life and enjoy every moment to the fullest.

Today, and every day I am grateful for my amazing life. For my husband and kids. My sister, friends and my mom who made the person that I am today.

 

What are you grateful for? 🙂

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Sending  positive energy and love out to everyone xox

 

 

 

Gluten Free Oatmeal and Raisin Muffins

Happy Friday!

Hope everyone had a great week and an even better Halloween! Just a note that this post is one of two up on the blog today. If you’re interested in knowing what my favorite facial products are, please check out my other post A review of my favourite facial products.

For those who don’t know, I’ve recently been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and then, after running more tests, as either partially treated celiac or Crohns. Unfortunately, my GI doctor wasn’t able to diagnose it as one or the other but highly recommend that I start a gluten-free (GF) diet so I’ve decided to do so. I’ve only recently started going GF and let me tell ya, this is no easy task lol Well, not for me anyway.

I’m happy to report that I have been GF for a little over a week now. Although I’m struggling with not being able to enjoy my Costco size bread for breakfast or my Ace baguette with anything and everything that is spreadable 😉 I’ve found a few tasty GF breakfast options. One of them being a nice GF muffin recipe that I’m going to share with you below. Please note that I was inspired by a recipe I found on the blog Abbey’s Kitchen. I used her recipe for her Ultimate GF oatmeal muffins as inspiration and tweaked it a bit. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup lactose-free milk (we use 3% b/c that’s what our daughter drinks)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or butter
  • 1 cup all purpose gluten free flour mix
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
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Oatmeal and raisin muffins

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with 12 muffin papers.
  2. Slowly melt your coconut oil in the microwave. Once melted, let it cool down before using. Although I enjoy the taste of coconut oil,  I don’t always want to taste it in certain recipes. Next time, I will use butter.
  3. Using a mixer, mix your eggs, brown sugar, and lactose-free (or regular) milk. Once the ingredients are well-mixed, add in your cooled coconut oil.
  4. Then add your flour, oats, raisins, baking powder, baking soda and a pinch of salt to the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin papers and bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes (depending on your oven).
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Oatmeal and raisin muffins

My son and I made these muffins and decided to only make 12 in case we didn’t like the recipe. I’m happy to report that the whole family enjoyed them so I regretted that we hadn’t made more. Also, Julien was working when we made these muffins so he had no idea they were GF. He ate two for breakfast the next day and was surprised to find out that they were. He had no clue.

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Oatmeal and raisin muffins

If you have any favourite GF recipes I would LOVE to hear about them so please do feel free to share them with me.  Finally, another shoutout to Abbey’s Kitchen for sharing her recipe for GF oatmeal muffins. I look forward to discovering more dishes on your blog.

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Bon appétit!

 

 

 

Saunders Farm – An absolute MUST for Halloween lovers!

Hey everyone,

Hope you’re having a great week so far! As you know, Halloween is just around the corner and for us Halloween lovers out there this is exciting. My family and I have always been huge Halloween lovers and lucky for me our son is as well. Rain, shine or snow my mom took my sister and I trick or treating every year. I remember there being a few years where it rained all night but mom never kept us in. Worst case scenario, she drove along the way so that we could jump in and out of the car as need be lol As for my dad, well he is a HUGHalloweenen lover as well. He especially likes to decorate. As kids, he would always set up a strobe light, Halloween music and hand out the best chocolate and candies. To this day, he still calls me if Hocus Pocus (my absolute FAVOURITE halloween movie) is on TV. FYI though Papa G. There’s no need for you to call anymore. We bought it for $14 on the play station this week. I KNOW! You’re probably thinking that we paid way too much lol but it was worth it. Our son was begging us to watch it so we went for it.

As previously mentioned, our son is also a huge Halloween lover. He loves MJs thriller and anything witch or skeleton related so I decided to take him to Saunders Farm this year. He isn’t quite four years old yet so I wasn’t sure if he was too young to go but it turns out he was the perfect age for it.

Lucky for us, my parents-in-law (Mona and Paul) joined us. We planned to go for 10am when it opened and to my surprise, it was already packed. Good news is that despite there being a line-up to get in, the parking lot was very organised and there was a lot of room available. For those who don’t know, you can buy your tickets online and present them once you get there. I’m not sure that it speeds things up but you do get a bit of a discount if you buy them ahead of time.

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Below is a picture of the entrance to Saunders Farm. How stunning are the colours of the leaves? Beautiful aren’t they. Both the drive there and the farm itself were stunning. Fall is such a beautiful season.

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Although it was pretty packed, the farm wasn’t too overcrowded. We could easily walk through and we weren’t bumping into people. Our first stop was, of course, the barn of terror:

At first, I thought that this was a good idea. How scary could it be lol My daughter and I parked the stroller at the exit and waited for my son and in-laws. We must have waited at least 15 minutes for them to make their way through. During this time, I could hear screaming, loud spooky music, and what sounded like banging on the walls. I especially started regretting letting him in once I saw a couple kids crying as they left the barn lol Good news is that most of the kids came out smiling and laughing and our son came out asking to go in again. I guess he enjoyed it 😉 Apparently, they didn’t get through the whole thing though because someone was scared…not sure if it was Noah or Mimi 😉 but Noah surely went back one last time with his Papi before leaving.

Past the Barn of Terror was a kids heaven. We enjoyed the barnyard treehouse, the discovery barn and princess playhouse. This was probably the busiest part of the farm. It was filled with kids running through the treehouses and down the slides.

Then it was off to the ghost town stage. Now this was a tad creepy. A clown greeted us at the entrance. The kids weren’t too sure about her lol but they were happy to go through the exhibit.

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Spoiler alert: to our relief, nothing jumped out at us while walking through the maze. Next on the list of things to do was the haunted hayride and this was by far the most fun and SO worth the wait. I remember going to Saunders when I was in high school and everyone knew that at some point on the hayride a man would run out and chase everyone with a chainsaw. Well, things have improved during the last decade lol this hayride is a lot scarier than I remember and so much fun. There must have been at least three people who ran after us at some point, yelling, zombie walking or chasing us with a chainsaw or shovel. The ride was also a lot faster than I had remembered. I was clinging on to baby girl for dear life lol and Papi had a tight grip on his grandson. I don’t want to give all of their spooky effects but let me tell you there were MANY along the way and I can totally see how this ride would be petrifying at night. I tried convincing Julien to go with me this week but after going to see It with his dad, last week, I think he has reached his limit of creepy events lol.

I spent about an hour and a half there with the kids and Mona and Paul but had to leave early for baby girl’s nap. Lucky for our son, my in-laws stayed with him and he enjoyed the rest of what the farm had to offer as well as some apple pie for lunch ;).

Overall, Saunders Farm was totally worth the visit and $20 each. It was a lot bigger than I had remembered and very organized despite the large crowds. There was a lot to do, festival food throughout and it met my expectations. I would definitely recommend bringing your kids during the day. I think a nighttime visit would be terrifying for kids my age lol but if you are looking for a good scare for yourself and your friends you should totally check it out.

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How will you be celebrating Halloween? Going to any events or parties? Did you make it out to Saunders Farm? If so, what did you think?

Hope you have a fabulous weekend and an even better Halloween.

Happy Halloween!!!

 

With fall comes fall sides!!!

With Thanksgiving just around the corner I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite fall side recipes that we’ve made lately. They are quick, easy and super tasty.

The first recipe is sweet potato puree with maple syrup. I’m sure many of you have already made this recipe but for those who haven’t you should definitely try it out. Especially if you aren’t a fan of sweet potatoes. This recipe might change your mind about them.

I have to say that I’m bad with measurements. I kind of wing it when it comes to cooking but I will do my best to provide you with some direction. I made this sweet potatoe recipe tonight and our daughter loved them. Our son doesn’t seem to enjoy any veggies at this moment (I’m sure you parents out there with toddlers can understand ;)) but he tried them so I was happy about that.

So here’s the recipe for my Maple Syrup Sweet Potato Puree:

Peel and chop 1-2 sweet potatoes (tonight I used one big one). Add them to boiling water and cook until they are soft so for about 10-15 minutes. Once you can easily pierce a knife through the potatoes, strain them and mash with butter (1-2tbs depending on how many you’re making), approximately 1/3 cup of milk and 2 tbs of maple syrup because why not 🙂 Mash and add milk until you achieve the consistency that you like. Oh and don’t forget to add lots of pepper and some salt.

 

The second recipe I would like to share is maple syrup roasted Brussel sprouts. As you can tell, I have a thing for maple! We go through bottles of the stuff. It’s not only great for breakfasts foods but delicious in marinades and sides.

We recently picked up a beautiful bunch of Brussel sprouts from a local market. As a kid, I used to hate Brussel sprouts. My mom has always loved them and like other foods, these have grown on me and I really enjoy them now.

So here’s my “recipe” for the Maple Syrup Brussel sprouts:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and wash the Brussel Sprouts and cut off the ends. Dry them off and toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. You want to use enough oil that they are coated but not drowning it in. Then toss with as much maple as you like 🙂 Drizzle a little at a time, toss and gage whether you have enough by looking at them. Again, you don’t want them to drown in the syrup. Once tossed, place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked and dig in!

Before

 

After

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What are some of your favourite fall recipes/dishes? I’d love to hear about them.

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Bon appetit!

xo