Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Oaxaca Fudge Bars with Cashew Crumb Topping That Made My Weekend

I've stumbled upon something I have to share. See my earlier post about my renewed interest in baking that explains all my time in the kitchen lately.

On Friday night, we had just finished watching an episode of Burn Notice (love), and when we turned it off, the Food Network channel happened to be on the TV (Colin & I actually watch this channel lots... Bobby Flay, Diners Drive-Ins & Dives... quality stuff).

The show that was on was a FN rerun of a 'Best Dessert Showdown'. So, of course we watched. Well, my mom fell asleep, but C & I were very interested.
There were some serious cookie-baking competitors, but the shining star who took the grand prize (a cool 25,000 bucks), was a lady from Texas who created a spicy treat she called Oaxaca Fudge Bars (Oaxaca - pronounced "wo-hah-ka" - is considered the culinary capital of Mexico).
These little treats caught my eye for one big reason... one of the key ingredients was actually chipotle chili powder.
Of course I had to make them. C has a new favorite treat, I think.

So, yesterday I gathered all my ingredients after a quick Google to get the winning recipe, and went to town.

And, they were surprisingly easy to make.

Warm fudgey goodness with a zing of pepper and espresso... add the salty and crunchy topping and you pretty much have baked perfection, Mexican style.

Not for everyone, and probably best served as an adult dessert, but I know what I will be adding to the menu next time we make enchiladas for dinner or host a Cinco de Mayo party.

Click here for the FN recipe... enjoy!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Well Worth The Money...Twice

Our tickets - and we even showed up on the right night!

 We actually got to see him! (Big Sigh of contented relief...)
It took two tries with a few years in between, but last Friday night, along with 15,000 or so other adoring fans, we witnessed some real Eric Clapton magic happen.

pre-EC Mojitos

Can't believe I waited so long to use this!

Abu Dhabi Airport

The Quick-n-Dirty On Our EC Night...
We had a smooth flight over (where I discovered the pure JOY of my Kindle... amazing how a flight without a squirming kid can be downright enjoyable!)...
Checked into a very cool hotel room...
Had a scrumptious dinner just before sun set on an outdoor patio facing the water (with a minty mojito in hand)...
Then off to the concert with a fun group of new friends...


EC sang and played his heart out, and I said a silent prayer of thanks to the Big Guy, as my husband happily bopped to the beat next to me, that neither EC nor C & I had any 'incidents' that prevented us from finally being in the same place at the same time. Completely awesome show on a warm moonlit night in Abu Dhabi...Yay!
Great night. Really, really great night.

Abu Dhabi was a whirlwind trip for us, but we liked what we saw. The process to let us crazy Canadians in through customs & immigration wasn't even that bad. I think we will go back - perhaps a shopping weekend?

PS - Ella survived her first night away from me very nicely, thanks to my mama. Thanks Mum! 

A most excellent weekend.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Story of Eric

Get comfy, 'cause this one is a going to be a bit wordy.

It began in the fall of 2006, when the Toyota Center in Houston, TX, announced that Eric Clapton was going to be performing for one night only early the following March. So, I got an idea. I was for sure winning the award for best wife of the year, as I was going to get my husband (a huge Clapton fan) not just tickets, but GREAT tickets to the concert.
They go on sale early in December, and being Wife Extraordinaire, I am ready with AMEX in hand, and proceed to book not just fine, but super fine VIP tickets to Eric Clapton with a gold parking pass to boot (I clearly went all out).
I stash the goods where I put all important stash-worthy little things - in my underwear drawer - and, get them out on Christmas Eve and stuff them in C's stocking. He finds them and, yep, I was right. I feel fantastic as he is thrilled. He was very merry.
Insert my m-i-l-k here (m-i-l-k = mother-in-law-kim). She gets wind of the pending concert and wants to join in on the fun. We manage to finagle a third ticket (a nose bleed, but still cost a ton as the concert was sold out & we had to bid online), and m-i-l-k arrives the week of EC.
On Friday, we have an early evening, in anticipation of the next night. We plan a nice dinner in downtown Houston before the concert. I am psyched. C & m-i-l-k are super-psyched.
Now, picture it: Saturday afternoon. Getting ready. Clapton tunes playing on the stereo. C says  "T, go get our tickets (from my drawer stash) and check on the back to see if we can bring a camera."
So I go. I start to check. And, yes, I know you have guessed it by now. It is so obvious. But it still hurts to write.  Salt on wound.
I see the date on the tickets. FRIDAY NIGHT.
I couldn't be consoled. Was I sad to have missed Eric? Yes. But I was devastated to have basically flushed hundreds of dollars down the toilet. Right down the sh*tt*r!
The family jokes were relentless, as were the spontaneous EC tunes that were sung when we would enter a room at a friendly gathering. We/I have never quite gotten over it.
Now, on to take two.
We have, in our possession, stashed neatly in amongst my intimates, our verification for two tickets to see Eric himself at Yas Arena in Abu Dhabi this week (the real tickets are to be picked up at box office day of event).
The date says February 11, 2011. This Friday. FRIDAY
My very first overnight ever without my little peanut. This better happen. And EC better give the performance of a lifetime.

C is stoked. I am cautiously optimistic we will get to see EC actually play. Maybe EC will take the 'big one' tomorrow. Maybe he'll get the flu. Maybe he will miss his flight. Maybe we'll miss our flight. Maybe I'll get the flu. Maybe we'll be denied entry at immigration due to the current diplomatic tensions between Canada and the UAE. I could go on.
Fingers and toes are crossed. I may finally be able to move on from the ticket tragedy of '07. We will see. And, of course, I will tell you...

Sweet Treats

Just a quick thought & a big thank you...

Myla, my sweet friend: I want you to know that you have seriously inspired me. Why you all ask?

My ever-so-thoughtful girlfriend Myla is one of the best gift givers in my life. She always remembers occasions special to me/us (big bonus for me/us!) and ALWAYS finds some fantastic thing to send along in the mail that undoubtedly makes my heart all warm and fuzzy every time.
She's sent me handmade baby clothes (made by HER OWN hand), a funky knitted scarf in the winter time, fancy kitchen gadgets, sexy undies, sparkly jewels... just real great stuff. And know what else always accompanies these little packages? A handwritten letter. Yes folks - the real deal. Pen to paper with your thoughts and feelings. Anyone out there that knows me, also knows I am almost fanatical about checking the mail.** Can't be helped - I don't even try to fight it. I just love getting mail. Myla somehow knows this, and honestly, when I receive a hand written letter just sitting in my mail hole here in our dusty ol' compound, waiting to make my day...well... it makes my day! Imagine how I feel with presents and a hand written letter! Score!
Anyhow, here I go wandering away from my point yet again... My point is this: Myla's latest box to us included one especially awesome gift.
To say Myla is a 'cook' doesn't do her justice. She's one of those people who is truly at home in the kitchen, and when we all lived in Texas, Good God, the meals she would prepare. She & her hubby would come over and we would all just sit and watch as she dashed around our kitchen making some magnificent mouth-watering recipe from memory. I think even my pots and pans had a crush on her. YUMMY!

So, yeah... my inspirational gift: Myla has begun a cook book for me from an empty journal, and she had filled the first thirty or so pages with some of her very favorite recipes. She also included colorful tips and little notes to me along the way. SO FREAKIN' GREAT!
So lately - I have been experimenting. I have to say that I have only ventured into the desserts she wrote me so far, but OMG! So yum.
So, I am taking up a new hobby. A renewed hobby? I have actually always enjoyed cooking, but the last year has forced me to spend less time creating yumminess and more time on, well... mumminess. This new book & my new enthusiasm may or may not affect all the work I am currently doing in the gym (hope not - see my last post), but this month, I am seriously taking up BAKING. Seriously. I am really into it.
I have treated the folks on Colin's floor at work with treats three times in the last two weeks. Who doesn't like surprise sweets at work? I am going to stock up on baking supplies this week and try some more new ideas - I found a few recipes online that look change-your-life good.
My mom is here this week for a visit, so perfect timing, as she has a very sweet tooth. (Added bonus: she can keep the little rascal out of the kitchen while I get my bake on.)

So thanks, Myla. Your thoughtful gift has left me feeling kitchen creative again! Bring on the cooking... well, baking first - to get my feet wet again... gotta start off with what I love the most & expand from there, right?

A big hug and kiss to you tonight, Myla. You rock!
PS - Anyone have a fun recipe I need to try? Please send! Nothing too complicated...and sadly, no pork : (        I miss you bacon!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Made it!

Here I am at Day 30, and, I must say, I am feelin' pretty damn good. Not lookin' too shabby either!  I have met and  passed my weight goal (applause heard in the background here), and I am starting to see signs of some muscles in places where I haven't seen them in a long while. Three cheers for me!!!
I still Hate the gym (note the capital H), but there is not much that can be done about that. I realize that as long as we live here & I can't get outside to do the things I used to love doing outdoors, that the gym will be a necessary reality for me if I want to keep fit. So, I am now committed.
And May, when you read this, thank you for coaching me through not only the last thirty days, but the last several months. You have been an awesome friend and a great motivator. I know I am not the easiest client you have (insert groans, swear words and constant complaints here), but I think  you  have a soft spot for me.
So friends, please hold me accountable. I love all the love.