My Birthday Boy: What it Takes to Make a Cake

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Today is March 5, 2018. It’s my son’s eleventh birthday today. For the past few days I have been thinking about what I wanted to write on this day.  I’m a proud mother, and like all mothers across the world I love to boast about how great my child is. If you have met Matthew (or read my blog!), you know he’s a great kid. So, I’m not going to write about Matthew today. I’m going to write about cake.

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My eleven year-old

Writing about cake on my eldest child’s birthday makes a lot of sense if you know a little bit about me. First of all, Matthew’s nickname, that I gave him when he was a baby, is Cake. He loved a particular patty cake book, so I of course changed the words to Matty Cake. And it stuck. Or at least for me it did. I still call him Cake. I can’t help it.

But that’s not the only reason that I’m writing about cake today. I love to bake. I’m not a professional and I often skim over recipes and do my own thing. My baking works out, most of the time. And each year, on each of my children’s birthdays from age one and on, I bake a cake. And we’re not talking about just any old chocolate or vanilla slab number with icing. I’m talking about an elaborate theme, with designs, cut-outs, colours and shapes.

I will admit that the finished product usually tastes better than it looks. Again, I am really not a professional. I would barely even call myself an amateur. I guess I’m just passionate. Fun. Creative. And definitely a bit crazy.

My first adventure into crazy cakes was on Matthew’s first birthday, back in 2008. I had a son. He loved everything boy. So, I made him a car cake. By age two he was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. My husband challenged me that he could bake a better cake. He baked Thomas and I baked Percy. Mine was better. Much better.

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I made Percy and David make Thomas. Percy tasted better.

As Matthew has grown up I have made a spaceship cake, a volcano, snowboarder on a. mountain and last year it was a basketball net. Some cakes have gone according to plan and others, well, not so much. His Boots cake when he turned three (yep, from Dora the Explorer) looked a bit funky, but the kids liked it!

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My strange attempt at Boots the Monkey
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He asked for a flying saucer and that what’s I did in my own special way.
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It was his first year of snowboarding so I had to do it.
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He loved basketball when he turned 10, so that’s what he got

I didn’t slow down when Julia came along. I did the tea party theme when she turned one and made a dollhouse when she turned two. During the Frozen craze, I put together Elsa’s castle. Last year she asked for a butterfly. And of course, I came through.

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I tried to make a teapot when Julia turned one.
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Julia’s second birthday: the dollhouse
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She wanted a butterfly and Julia got one

For Nessa’s first birthday last year I will admit I was a bit boring with a simple, though multi-layered, circular chocolate cake. But I cut out nice letters and made a special mini one for her to smush into her face.

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One for us and one just for Nessa on the day she turned one.

Matthew asked for cupcakes this year and no big elaborate cake. I was a bit disappointed, but I dove into my cupcake making this weekend. I produced 60 cupcakes, half white and half chocolate, with icing, sprinkles and a blue icing birthday message. He enjoyed them with his snowboard team and was quite satisfied with my effort.

Julia is still asking for an original and creative cake for her birthday in a couple of months, and I have years to go with Nessa. No matter how crazy the idea is, I’m up for it. Sometimes, the crazier the better.

So, a big happy birthday to Matthew. When he was born, he was the original inspiration for this blog. It only took me ten years to actually do it, and I don’t regret it at all. His love of sports, travel and all things intellectual continue to inspire me every day.

I Watch the Super Bowl for the Food and Commercials

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I made pizza for my daughters last night and buffalo chicken wings for my son. I also chopped up a bunch of vegetables and prepared a zesty and creamy and yet non-dairy ranch dipping sauce. The TV popped on at 5:59 pm and we watched sports. Sounds like a typical Sunday night in my house, with different people eating different food and sports on TV. But it wasn’t just any Sunday – it was the Super Bowl.

Like I wrote back in November after the Grey Cup, I am not much of a football fan. I love sports but have never fully grasped the concept of North American football – a bunch of grown men running up and down a field, throwing a ball and smashing each other to the ground. I know there are hundreds of more rules in baseball, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t fully understand football (the Canadian or American version). It’s not that complicated, I know, but it’s just not for me.

Unless it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

I will openly admit, that for the most part, I love to watch the game to catch the commercials, the half-time show and to eat some traditional and fun football food. As my son’s interest in sports has developed, this event is definitely a must-watch on our calendar. Matthew even knows who many of the players are, many of the rules and the kinds of plays the athletes make. I follow the score and look up when there’s a great run, catch or turnover, but for the most part I’m barely aware of the game until play is called and the network goes to a break. With commercials, of course.

Put your hand up if you yell at the TV sometimes when you are watching a live show or you quickly press fast forward when watching something you recorded earlier. In 2018, we try our best to avoid commercials when we can and become infuriated when we are forced to watch them. But not during the Super Bowl.

Now that Canadians can watch the commercials live on the US networks during the game, Super Bowl is really fun. While most of the commercials aren’t exactly earth shattering, many of them do give me a good chuckle. We decided that this year or favourite was not a beer company, or for a new luxury car or soda pop, but Tide. Ya, the laundry detergent people:

 

Now back to the food. Last year, on Sunday, February 5, 2017 to be exact,  my family of five and I were driving back from our usual weekend of skiing at the cottage. I announced that it was Super Bowl that night, and I suddenly had a craving for chicken wings. So did everyone else in the car (okay maybe not the baby who was 8 months old at the time though already a good eater). I explained the popularity of the common chicken wing to my family, and we decided we just had to have them.

So, in the car we devised a plan to stop at a grocery store in the city to pick up the ingredients to prepare our chicken wings. This is not necessarily an easy task as we are kosher (to be explained further in a future post). I had to find a store in Toronto that had kosher chicken wings in stock, on Super Bowl Sunday. It took a few stops, but I found them. We feasted on chicken wings that night, watched some of the game (including the incredible New England Patriots’ comeback) and decided we had to do this again next year.

I was more organized this year and actually bought the chicken wings in advance as well as all the ingredients I needed to prepare our festive meal. My daughter threw me the loop in the car when she demanded pizza, but because of the fact that I am a mostly organized mother, I always have pizza ingredients on hand.

We arrived home from the cottage yesterday at 5:55 pm, and my TV was on by 5:59. The girls had their hot and freshly prepared pizza by 6:15, and the chicken wings were cooking for the rest of us (in my Instant Pot, of course!) before kick-off a few minutes later.

I am not a football expert, but I know that it was a great game. The score was close, there were some incredible plays and tense moments. The commercials were entertaining, and my chicken wings…. Yummy. The baby dipped her whole fist into the ranch dressing and enjoyed licking it off her hands, and Matthew finally learned how to properly eat a chicken wing.

And the Philadelphia Eagles beat the mighty New England Patriots and won their first ever Super Bowl. Congratulations to them!

What I Learned about the Coffeehouse

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My family did not engage in any particularly interesting conversations during our car rides this weekend to and from the country house. At times people said a few lively things, but overall, we just passed from topic to topic. I did toss out a few mentions of stories from a book I am reading, which is the direction I am going to go for today’s post. In a recent chapter of my book, which is a historical fiction about the city of London, England, I learned all about the significance of the coffeehouse.

With great confidence, I would say that the majority of the population in Canada (and probably England too) has visited a modern-day coffeehouse, like Starbucks, Second Cup or Tim Horton’s. It sometimes seems to me that there is at least one establishment every few blocks in the city where I live. The coffeehouse, whether it’s an independent business, a franchise or a chain, plays an important role in the community. It is most definitely a gathering place, where people meet to catch up, relax or work.

The coffeehouse sells a variety of consumables, but at its core it sells coffee. I have personally observed (though I have a feeling that I’m not alone) that over the past decade the number of such establishments has grown exponentially, and they play a significant role in our culture and society.

Is this a new phenomenon, something that can be remembered as a key moment in the 21st century?

Absolutely not.

My book covers a two-thousand-year history of London, and I recently read the chapter that focused on the second half of the 17th century. The face of London changed dramatically during this time, as it became a monarchy again, faced a massive plague and then a fire, which destroyed much of the city. These were all significant events during the late 17th century, and the book carefully documented all this, with its fictional characters.

And in the middle of this chapter, after the plague and fire, it mentions, in passing, the plethora of choices one of the main characters has about which coffeehouse to visit on a given day. He ends up at Lloyd’s, where he could sip coffee (“which was usually served black, though usually with sugar”) all day.

The author writes, “Of all the many conveniences of the new city since the fire, none had pleased Meredith more than the institution of the coffee house. There seemed to be a new one every month…” He goes on to say that these coffeehouses were open all day and served a variety of food and drink. They were meeting places, and certain establishments attracted a particular kind of person.

Lloyd’s for example, attracted merchants associated with shipping, and it was a well-known gathering spot for men to discuss their business.

I’m not going to go into the details of the direction that coffee houses like Lloyd’s eventually went (think about the insurance industry). I just find it fascinating that over 300 years ago London experienced a coffeehouse craze not unlike the one we have today. How many of you have met a potential employer at Starbucks? Did you sign a contract for a business transaction at your local Tim Hortons? Did you catch up with a former colleague over a latte at Second Cup?

We often say that history repeats itself, and in the case of the coffeehouse, that’s definitely the case.

The Food Network Makes Me Hungry

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I like to watch HGTV when I have the chance, and I enjoy every version of House Hunters that has been created. I don’t have a lot of time to watch television, but I am also partial to the Food Network. I am not a professional chef (not at all, I have never even attended a real cooking class), but I love to cook and bake. There’s only one big problem with every show on the Food Network: they make me hungry.

The best way to watch any show on the Food Network is with a snack in one hand and the remote control in the other hand. No matter what show it is, as soon as I turn it on, I am hungry. Somehow on TV everything just looks so tasty.

It can be 11:00 at night, 9:00 am or noon, and no matter what they are cooking or baking on any show, I start to crave it. Meat and potatoes, fresh fish, vegetables or a decadent dessert, I want it.

As I write, I am watching Top Chef, a show that’s been on the Food Network for 15 seasons. It brings together some of the greatest chefs. The show is a mix of big egos, competition and great food. Sometimes the food they cook looks so good on my TV screen that I just want to reach in and grab it. I can’t get through an episode without heading to the kitchen to grab a snack, usually a big snack.

I went through a phase when I wanted to watch Chopped all the time, but I have little patience for that one anymore. Four chefs are given a basket of ingredients that they must include in a dish they are cooking for a panel of three judges. By the end of the third round, the final person is chopped and a winner is declared. Sometimes they cook scrumptious looking dishes, but they often run out of time and throw a mess onto the plate. That doesn’t make me quite as hungry.

Then there is Master Chef. This show doesn’t actually air on the Food Network, but hey, it’s a show about food so it fits in here. While I often watch Food Network shows on my own, my whole family joins me for Master Chef. And we have learned that the only way to watch this show is while we eat dinner.

When this show’s main host, Gordon Ramsay, holds a master class for the group of amateur chefs, I watch in fascination then can’t wait to cook the dishes myself. I literally can feel myself (and David) salivating as we watch the master of all master chefs himself cook anything. He could probably make stale bread taste good.

The Food Network has shown me that cooking is not just about eating, it’s also about creating incredible works of art. It’s about bringing flavours and aromas together with design and flair. Today’s professional chefs need to cook food that tastes good and looks great. Not an easy task. And if they are really talented, they have stage presence as well and can snag a TV deal.

But at its core, the Food Network is about eating. You can do all kinds of crazy things with food but at the end of the day, what we all want to do is just eat it. And the best shows on this channel make me want to eat immediately. Just writing about food makes me hungry, I need a snack. Now.

17 Potatoes Makes 95 Latkes

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I have seen dozens of posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the last few days that have featured groups of people standing in front of a lit nine-branch menorah, wishing me a Happy Chanukah. Those are all nice photos, as we celebrate our festival of lights. But for me, it’s the festival of oil. Or fried oil to be more exact. Okay, for me it’s all about my latkes.

I don’t often boast like this, but I think I make the best latkes. For those of you who don’t know what latkes are (first of all, shame on you), I will briefly explain. The essence of the latke is the story of the great miracle that is at the heart of the story of Chanukah. The quick version goes back over 2,100 years ago, when a small but brave group of Jews living in Jerusalem, led by the Maccabees, defeated the Syrian forces, led by King Antiochus IV. As they cleaned up their desecrated temple, the Jews found only enough oil to light the lamps for one night.

But a great miracle happened, and the oil lasted for 8 nights! So, while there is much to celebrate during the holiday of Chanukah, we always remember the oil. And what better way to celebrate oil then to heat a ton of it up in a fry pan and cook some delectable food?

Take a potato, shred it (with a hand shredder of course), mix in eggs, onion, a bit of flour, baking powder, salt and pepper, and you have the ingredients of a latke. Or in my case, 17 potatoes, and you get 95 latkes. I take latke-making very seriously, and a big reason for why mine are so good is that I have the spirit and strength of my grandmothers with me as I cook.

First of all, I wear my Nanny’s apron. It’s not gorgeous, but it protects me from oil splatters and keeps me relatively clean. Second, I use my Bubby’s electric fry pan, which is definitely older than I am. Maybe it’s built-in grime from decades ago is what makes my latkes extra tasty.

I jumped into my annual latke-making on Tuesday night, the first night of Chanukah. With my range hood fan set to high and electric fry pan powered up, I got to work. My parents, uncle, children and husband were on hand to test and taste, and we ate through a few dozen latkes in no time.

Yesterday I brought in a bunch of latkes from the Tuesday night batch to work. I enjoyed watching my colleagues dive in. For one person, it was her first ever latke. She timidly asked me, with her latke on her plate, what exactly is a latke, and I proudly explained. Then she tasted it and was hooked. I really felt like a proud mother at that moment, when I saw my colleague enjoy her first latke. It made my day.

So, you ask, what makes MY latke so good? Well, I think it’s many things. Good, quality potatoes (I like Yukon Gold), parboil the potatoes and hand shred them. Gently mix the batter of course. Piping hot oil in my Bubby’s electric fry pan of course. And I form my potato mixture into a slightly flattened ball. I immerse the latkes in hot oil just long enough so that they are golden brown and crispy on the outside but perfectly soft on the inside.

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Beautiful Yukon gold potatoes

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The shredded potato mixture is ready to jump into the fry pan – note newspaper set up to protect my countertops from the flying grease.
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Don’t the latkes look happy in there?
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Look at that bubbling oil. Scrumptious.

Is your mouth watering now? Are you craving a hot, greasy, crispy one right now? I’d share a few more from my batch, but I only have a few left. We can’t stop eating them!

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Close up of the golden crispy latkes

And while I admit that I was more focused on my latkes than my family on Tuesday night, and took many more photos of my kitchen than my children, I did snap a family selfie last night, on the second night of the holiday. What would Chanukah be without a photo of children and a lit Chanukiah? And latkes of course!

Happy Chanukah!

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Yes our token sweet family with the lit Chanukah photo. We had to do it.

It’s High Time for some Holidays

 It’s that time of year again. As the evenings grow cooler (or are supposed to) and the leaves start falling from the trees, it means another year on the Jewish calendar is coming to a close. Tomorrow is the final day of the year 5777, and in the evening, we will ring in the new year with family festivities and a whole lot of food. That’s right, it’s High time for some Holidays.

Different religions and nationalities celebrate the New Year at a different time of year. Chinese New Year typically falls between January 21 and February 20, during the coldest part of the winter in Canada. Hindus don’t actually have one common day and instead have at least three different New Year’s days on the calendar. From what I read, “the celebration of the new year has more to do with community, language and region, than with religious affiliation.”

For Judaism, while some feel like the spring, during the month of Nissan, when Passover falls, is the new year, the Holiday in fact happens when summer turns to fall, in the Jewish month of Tishrei. The Holiday that many of you have heard of is called Rosh Hashanah, which directly translated from Hebrew is head (Rosh) of the year (Hashanah).  Simply put, it’s Jewish New Years.

There are no street parties, fireworks, or counting down to midnight beside a dropping ball. Rosh Hashanah, like all Jewish Holidays, begins at sundown, and  people celebrate in different ways. But one common thread through all celebrations, like so many other Jewish Holidays, is food and family. What would a holiday be without this pairing?

Not to minimize the role that synagogue, prayer and the blowing of the shofar (the traditional ram’s horn) play on this most important Holiday, but today I am focusing mainly on food and family.

David and I both come from large families (David is the youngest of five kids and I’m in the middle of three), all of our siblings are married, each with at least two children. If you put our two immediate families together you have more than enough people to play a baseball game, with extra pitchers in the bullpen and players on the bench. So, when it’s Holidays time, we draw on a large group with whom to celebrate.

Our wider family circle is just too big to celebrate together (and members of the family live all over the world), so we don’t see everyone in one evening. Whether it’s a large group of 25-30 people, with tables lined up across the back of my house, or a more intimate crowd of 10-12 in my dining room, I always look forward to the Holidays.

The emails about menu planning and food combinations start swirling around weeks (sometimes months!) in advance. Who’s making the soup? How many proteins do we need? Are five kinds of dessert enough? Will the children eat any of the food we are preparing? Do we care if the children eat, as they will behave so badly anyway and probably won’t eat anything, no matter what it is….

As the days draw closer to Rosh Hashanah, I suddenly realize that Matthew grew two inches over the summer and his only nice pants look more like capris. Julia’s feet are suddenly two sizes larger and running shoes really don’t go with her beautiful new puffy pink dress. Should Nessa wear tights with her dress, as she most definitely will bum walk all over the floor.

Do I throw disposables on the table and make it easy or do I dress up my dining room table for once and pull out the fine china? Do I dare try to host an elegant evening? Okay, forget that thought – elegant and High Holidays meals don’t go together.

Will I get the annual Rosh Hashanah photo of the kids? I have been successful a few times, but usually someone misbehaves and the resulting picture is too embarrassing to share publicly. I have included just a few here, as really most are not acceptable for public consumption.

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Matthew’s first Rosh Hashanah, from September 2007
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The kids actually cooperated for a fun Rosh Hashanah photo last year
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They behaved for a nice picture on the eve of the Holiday last year

And since the Holidays begins tomorrow, I had better get cooking. To all my readers, whether you celebrate or not, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Let the celebrations for 5778 begin!

Quest to Find the Best French Fries

French Fries

Over the Labour Day weekend my family spent a wonderful few days at my uncle’s cottage in Minden Hills in Ontario. But this post is not about enjoying a cottage or Labour Day weekend. This post is about French Fries.

What does a visit to a cottage in the countryside have to do with French Fries, you wonder? Everything, I say. You see, I love French Fries. I don’t just love any variety. They have to come from good potatoes and must be cooked with care. Let me explain.

If I had my way, a well-balanced meal would be French Fries and ice cream, my two loves. My ice cream post will come another day, as today is all about the fried potato.

People around the world love to fry and eat potatoes. I believe both the Belgians and the French claim to have invented this delicacy, which has roots all the way back to the 17th century. Fries, frites, chips, whatever you want to call them, I am not the only person to love this fried goodness.

The best way, in my opinion, to eat French Fries, is from a truck or stand that lives on the side of a road or highway. Chip wagon. Shack. Fry stand. Whatever you want to call it, this is where to find the best eats. I am not a fan of the places that make a variety of foods and claim to have great fries but, in reality, have bags of pre-cut potatoes in a vast freezer in the back. I don’t care how much oil you use to fry them up, those are not French Fries.

My first favourite fry shack on the side of the road belonged to “Fry Guy.” To this day, I don’t know his name, but wow did he make them well. He built a small shed beside a gas station on the way up to our family’s country house, and it was hard for us to pass that place without stopping for a snack. Fry Guy was a retired history teacher who had a knack for making great fries and great conversation. His shack wasn’t so clean and he was eventually shut down. Maybe it was the dirt that made his food taste so good?

Fry Guy was replaced by Fry Girls, and up the road we also discovered Fry People. And I have tried so many more, most of whom were not honoured by a special name from me.

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A look at the Fry Girls shack
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A partially eaten serving of Fry Girls fries earlier this summer
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Fry Girls fries are often demolished quickly

So, what makes a roadside French Fry just so tasty and enticing to the palette? First of all, as I mentioned above, it has to start with a good potato. Then the potato must be hand cut, with the skin left on. It has to be fried in very hot oil, to make it soft in the inside and crispy on the outside. A bit of salt to finish it off is key.

I believe all good fry stands follow this basic formula, and of course they all make it theirs in their own way. For example, in Quebec, I enjoy frites, which are much thinner and stringier. I find them, for the most part, much greasier, but that’s okay. Also, in Quebec, frites are typically served in a paper bag. My favourite frites stand is on highway 329, deep in the Laurentians, between the towns of Ste Agathe and Saint Donat. Yum. Yes, I enjoyed my fill a couple of weeks ago while we visited the area.

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They were served in a paper bag but I admit I dumped my frites into a box so I could eat them faster

I found a fry stand this past weekend on the way to my uncle’s cottage that I simply adored. The Queen of Fries Chip Truck is located in the village of Norland, and I give them permission to include the word “Queen” in their name. The potatoes they use are local, they are hand cut, with skin on, and their oil was super-hot to produce a perfectly cooked fry. We devoured the family size.

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David ordering at Queen of Fries this weekend

No matter how many French Fries I eat I can never get my fill. Which is why I am on a quest to find the best French Fries.  Maybe I need to go on a road trip across Canada, or North America, or do I have to jump over to Europe? I could travel for days, weeks or maybe even months, testing out the best there is from Vancouver Island to Eastern Newfoundland, from Northern Ontario down into Texas. Or maybe a hop over to the back roads in England, over the Channel and through French and Belgian villages?

Tell me where your favourite French Fries, frites or chips place is, no matter where you live. I hope to visit them all. Post me a note on Facebook, leave a comment here, or Tweet me @AliciaRichler. This is going to be fun!

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This is what I like to see by the side of the road

Sometimes I Need a Shot of Chocolate

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Parents pass down many genetic traits to their children. It’s everything from hair and eye colour to height and hand dominance. I also believe that other traits are shared, such as athleticism and the size of their nose. Oh yeah, one more thing – the love of chocolate.

Some people are proud to come from a long line of famous rabbis or writers or doctors. For me, I come from a long line of chocolate lovers. My father loves it and my grandfather loves it. I don’t doubt his father (or mother?) before him loved this delectable treat too.

For me I don’t love just any chocolate. I am not a fan of cheap stuff with low-end ingredients. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a particular soft spot for Cadbury. But I don’t go for just any Cadbury product in the grocery aisle. It has to be made in Great Britain, where they clearly have a special recipe with a wonderful mix of cocoa, cream and sugar.

Cadbury’s best and simplest product is Dairy Milk, which is full of rich creamy chocolatey goodness. Thanks to my Aunt Jo, who lives in Manchester, my addiction is satisfied every few months when she visits us in Toronto. Once in a while she arrives with something new and exciting, like a new flavour (like caramel or mint, wow) or a new shape or size. My mother-in-law also discovered a few years ago that British Cadbury chocolate can be secured at Duty-Free at various international airports. So, I never go long without my Dairy Milk fix.

For my father, it’s all about high quality dark chocolate. It has to have a high cocoa count (preferably 72% or higher, like even over 90%) and must be fresh. My mother always carries a small cooler bag around when they drive up to the country house or on longer road trips. She fills it with loads of dark chocolate. She feeds my father if fatigue or a snack attack sets in.

And speaking of snack attacks…do not ever get in the middle between my father and some quality chocolate when he is having a snack attack. It’s like being on a hiking trail and discovering that you are on the path between a mother bear and her cub. Dangerous.

As children, my brother, sister and I always wondered where my father stashed his “good stuff,” that really good chocolate that appeared once in a while but usually was hidden away. One day we learned the truth behind the hidden chocolate – he stashed it under his bed. It was conveniently stored so that he could easily access it at night if he needed a quick snack, and it was kept far away from the kitchen so that we couldn’t find it. Now that’s dedication (or addiction?).

The first taste of chocolate is a rite of passage in my family. I saved the first sweet bite for my children until their first birthday, and each enjoyed in their own special way. Chocolate is something to be savoured, and it takes a certain level of maturity – like turning one – to consume it.

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Matthew’s first birthday
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Julia’s first birthday
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Nessa’s first birthday a few months ago

Sometimes I just NEED some chocolate. A glass of wine or a cup of coffee just doesn’t do it for me. Give me a square of Dairy Milk or a rich piece of chocolate cake and I’m happy. And now that I have written today’s post guess what I’m about to do? You got it, I’m off to grab some chocolate.

The Wonders of the Hotel Breakfast Buffet

breakfast buffet

I traveled back from Halifax on Monday, and Tuesday was so busy that I did not have a chance to write and post. My apologies to anyone who was looking forward to Sports Wednesday today, which will not happen this week. Instead I have a few more thoughts from my trip to the Maritimes. As you can imagine from the title of today’s post, it’s about the wonders of the hotel breakfast buffet.

As I ate breakfast on Monday morning, with an overflowing plate of delicious goodies in front of me I started to think about the various hotel breakfast buffets I have enjoyed over the years. When I travel, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when I stay at a hotel which rolls out a vast breakfast buffet.

When I am at home breakfast often consists of a bagel with cream cheese, yoghurt with fruit and granola, or if I am in a rush sometimes it’s just a banana. I’m really not much of a breakfast eater, mainly because of laziness. But when I stay at a hotel that offers a breakfast buffet suddenly I become an eager breakfast eater and dive right in.

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me to take photos of the various hotel breakfast buffets I have enjoyed over the years, but I will describe some of my favourites here to create a written picture.

Israeli hotels are known for their spectacular breakfast buffet. I remember the first time I laid eyes on one, back in 1988. My family traveled to Israel, and on our first morning in Jerusalem, at the Moriah Hotel, we came upon a breakfast buffet that seemed a mile long. Chocolate pudding for breakfast?! I was in love. Over the years, as I stayed in numerous hotels across Israel I became an expert in cruising through the selection. One will find a vegetable area, with a choice of every kind of local produce, and of course a variety of fresh fruit too. Don’t miss the endless selection of dairy offerings, such as cheeses, yoghurts and creams. There is fish for those who enjoy it and various kinds of pastry and cakes.

I also recall the English hotel breakfast buffet that I enjoyed in London over ten years ago. When my husband and I arrived on a cold December day our hotel realized it had made an error and did not have a room for us for the first night. They moved us to another establishment nearby which was huge and basic but did offer a breakfast buffet. I remember how heavy the food was, with a lot of eggs and meat choices. That was the first time I saw (but did not eat!) Black Pudding. Not for me.

Then there’s the beautiful breakfast buffet offered at the Westin Nova Scotian in downtown Halifax, where we stayed this past weekend. We stay here every summer and always look forward to breakfast. It is elegant and tasty, with many choices for adults and children. It offers many of the typical foods one would see at any North American hotel like scrambled eggs and bacon, pastries, fruit, cheeses and cereal. But what puts this one over the top is the chef who makes made-to-order omelettes and waffles (with whipped cream and chocolate sauce if you want to indulge). Yes, we indulged.

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Julia shows off her chocolate muffin at breakfast this weekend
breakfast buffet
Nessa sampled everything at this weekend’s breakfast buffet

My mother-in-law can’t stop raving about a hotel breakfast buffet she enjoyed in Paris this past winter. It even had fresh Japanese food. Our hotel in Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands ten years ago also had some unique food, with plates of local pineapple and avocado. I am getting hungry just thinking about all these delicious hotel breakfast buffets!

breakfast buffet
Thanks to my mother-in-law, Barbara, for taking photos of breakfast in Paris.
breakfast buffet
More from the Paris breakfast

As I do not have any photos of my favourite hotel breakfast buffet locations, please send me your photos and I will add them to this blog post. Post them to me on Facebook, tweet me @AliciaRichler or send an email to kineticmotions17@gmail.com. I look forward to seeing photos from your favourite hotel breakfast buffet.

My Husband David Usually Cooks and Bakes Great Food But….

David

 My husband, David, loves to cook and bake. He does not cook and bake often, but when he does the food usually tastes really good. He always comes up with interesting and adventurous ideas for meals, and usually the result is delicious. I commend David for being enthusiastic about cooking and baking and helping out in the kitchen. I encourage him to keep experimenting with recipes. But… sometimes the food tastes a bit funky, or it looks strange or it takes David so long to make the food that I quietly grab a snack or two while he cooks and I don’t have the opportunity to eat his food.

David makes the BEST pie I have ever tasted. His two specialties are sour cherry and blueberry. I don’t know how to make pie so I have no idea what he does to make the crust perfectly flakey and the filling a perfect balance of sweet and tart. I have learned to never actually watch him prepare his pies as he manages to turn the kitchen into a space that looks like a hurricane blew through. Flour covers all surfaces; the floor is sticky and every bowl and utensil in the kitchen is utilized. He cleans up after the baking is complete, but the process is painful to watch.

David
David taught Matthew how to make blueberry pie last summer in the country house in St. Donat

Some of David’s baking experiments have not gone as well. The one I remember best was his version of Black Forest Chocolate Cake. My poor sister joined us when David presented this abomination, which definitely did not look or taste like a cake at all. Kudos to him for trying.

Barbecuing is not his forte either, as the food often comes off the grill either burnt or dry. Most men, in their macho way, see themselves as King of the Grill, but from my experience women are much better at grilling up perfect cuts of meat than men. Yes, I do the barbecuing in our house!

I don’t know what it is about males and eggs, but I have met many a Dad who can’t cook much but can make great eggs. Scrambled, sunny-side up or over-easy, David makes great eggs. He usually makes use of every fry pan and pot in the house when he cooks those eggs, but they taste great. It took him a while to figure out how to make pancakes, and his first try was rather unsuccessful. He has learned from his errors, and I know our children love his pancakes.

David
I think these are pancakes

Speaking of eggs, David’s best dish is an egg-based middle eastern delicacy called Shakshuka. Simply put, it consists of eggs poached in a sauce comprised of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions, and it is spiced with cumin and black pepper. David cooked this dish for dinner last night, and it was the inspiration for today’s post.

David offered to cook this dish for dinner last night, even though he only started the prep well after 7:00 pm. He was slow moving and messy as usual, but wow, it was delicious! I cleaned my plate and even our seven-year-old polished off her portion.

So indeed, my husband David usually cooks and bakes great food. He is slow and messy and sometimes does not quite read the recipe correctly. But… I love that he cooks and I hope he keeps rolling out great food.