Monthly Archives: March 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

I meant to add some whipped cream on top for extra flair but forgot.

You can tell that my husband’s favourite flavours are chocolate and peanut butter. Ever since being bitten by the baking bug, I’m constantly looking up new recipes that combine these two flavours. This pie that I tried recently was such a hit, hubby immediately went back for seconds which he never does.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie*

Ingredients
2 graham cracker crust (I went with a chocolate flavoured one but regular is ok)**
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tub Cool Whip, divided
12 Reese Peanut Butter Cups, frozen and chopped
1 110g package of instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup milk
1/2 cup of confectioners sugar
2 chocolate squares

1) In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 1 cup confectioners and peanut butter until fully combined. With a spatula, gradually fold in 1/2 the Cool Whip. Spread onto graham cracker crusts.

2) Spread the chopped Reese Peanut Butter cups on top.

3) In another bowl, lightly whisk together the pudding mix & milk for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes until thickened. With a spatula, gradually fold in 1/2 the Cool Whip. Spread over the peanut butter cups.

4) Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or overnight).

5) Microwave on high 2 chocolate squares for 1 minute. Stir chocolate squares. Microwave another minute and stir. If chocolate is not fully melted, microwave for another 15 seconds. With a fork, drizzle chocolate on top of pies.

Yields: 2 pies (or 16 servings)

*adapted from Let’s Dish Recipes: Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Dessert

**I haven’t figured out how to divide this recipe in half without leaving me with, essentially, half the ingredients (eg: half a package of cream cheese) so I just made this for two pies.

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Review: Fire Pots Restaurant

I’ve been eagerly awaiting for Fire Pots, a hot pot restaurant, to open in Burnaby ever since I drove past their sign a couple of months ago announcing their imminent (and much need, IMO) arrival to the Brentwood area. This past week, Fire Pots has finally opened up to the public with their Grand Opening on Friday. A few friends & I ventured down the day after to try it out. Continue reading

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Macarons

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Forgot to post yesterday.
Macarons for lunch? Oh yes please.

Strawberry and mint flavoured macarons from Swiss Bakery

Swiss Bakery
143 East 3rd Ave in Vancouver
604-736-8785

Review: Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter

I originally picked up Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda to read for this new chick lit book club I recently joined. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward reading it as it seemed a heavier tone than “chick lit” normally is. (Think: Shopaholic novels) I wasn’t sure I would be into the weight subject material.

But after reading the first couple of chapters, I realized I was about to read not only a good book but what would turn out to be one of my favourite books. I ended up reading the whole thing within a day losing a lot of much-needed sleep.

Secret Daughter follows the interconnected lives of three women: Kavita, an Indian woman who gives away her newborn baby girl in order to save her life and is haunted by that decision. Somer, an American doctor who, with her husband, adopts the little girl after finding out they are infertile. And Asha, the little girl born in India and raised in America who tries to understand where she comes from and how she fits into it now.

Gowda’s writing is intense and emotional, particularly when telling Kavita’s story as she describes her longing for her daughter, even after she has her prized son. The emotional depth with which she writes about relationships, between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives resonated with me in a very real way.

I also quite enjoyed her imagery of Mumbai, India where you can see the best of mankind and worst of mankind all in one city. The colours, the smells and the tastes of India were so evocative that I really felt like I was there, even though I’ve only known India from a handful of movies and photographs.

I also enjoyed the culture clash sensitively described not only between India and America, but also between the old world and the new. Tradition vs modernization. In this way, I am reminded of one of my other favourite books, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which also navigates the same waters in a similarly touching manner.

I encourage everyone to go read this book immediately. I’m so glad I read this book for a book club so I can discuss with people all the thoughts I have running through the head.

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Winter is back

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I take it back. Spring is not here. Holy blizzard Batman!

Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Warning: This review contains possible spoilers.

This morning I finally finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Since closing the book in my Kobo reader, I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about it.

From the publisher:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Before buying this book, I read reviews claiming Morgenstern’s book to be the next Harry Potter: taking up the Fantasy genre mantle that Harry Potter left behind. I have to admit, with such heavy expectations, I was hesitant to read it for fear of disappointment. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is one of my favourites and I am hard-pressed to believe something else so great could come along so readily. Thus, The Night Circus stood on my Kobo shelf for four months before I decided to finally open it.

Morgenstern does a great job describing the circus. I could easily imagine the black and white striped tents which are deceptively larger inside than they appear. I could almost smell the caramel and hot chocolate. The reveurs with the red scarves so bright against their black & white attire. I could almost believe the circus was real, much like how I could also believe Hogwarts was real. And I wanted to visit, or felt like I had visited it but a long time ago that it’s just a faint memory.

The book starts off a bit slow and I had trouble caring for the main characters, Celia & Marco. In particular Marco who seemed cold, arrogant and distant. It’s not until halfway when Celia  & Marco discover each other as their respective opponents does the book pick up steam. Suddenly, the rivalry holds more weight as more lives are involved and thus, more consequences.

Morgenstern creates full characters out of Celia and Marco, but at times, I could only see them as characters written in a book rather than living, breathing souls. Their courtship and eventual relationship don’t feel as real or profound to me as I would have liked. Thus, the climax wasn’t as monumental and all-consuming to me. I didn’t care whether or not they ended up together or were separated forever. Instead I found myself more drawn to Bailey’s parallel story. His life, his friendship with Poppet and Widget and what the circus meant to him.

Nevertheless, by the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading more, even though the ending was perfect. I still want to know more about what happened to each character and how they and the circus lived on. I want more circus tales, about other people we didn’t meet or only briefly met. I want to read more of Morgenstern’s book, if only The Night Circus wasn’t her first book.

I’d still definitely recommend this book, especially since I want to discuss it with someone and flesh out everything I’ve been thinking.

Have you read The Night Circus? If so, what did you think about it? Impressed? Less than?

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Spring is here

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Saw some lovely flowers while out for a walk today. Yay Spring!

Things I Hate: March Edition

1) Cyclists who, rather than sharing the road, demand the road. They swerve right in front of you, ignoring all other cars, pedestrians and even buses. They glare at you as you carefully drive past them. They take traffic lights as suggestions rather than laws that need to be obeyed.You are not anymore entitled to the road than anyone else. We all pay taxes. We all have as much right to the road as each other.

2) Rain. I know we live in Vancouver so it comes with the territory. I know it’s March so technically still winter. But damn, it’s been raining for like 7 days straight and I’ve really had enough. I hate rain. I hate carrying around a soggy umbrella. I hate when my socks get wet because of a previously unknown hole in my shoe. I hate that I walk in such a way where I end up kicking water up the back of my calves.

3) Daylight Savings. I know that by now everyone else is used to it. But waking up 1 hour earlier is seriously killing me. I feel like the walking dead until at least two hours and copious amounts of coffee. All this week, I’ve been coming to work looking like crap because I’ve been desperately trying to catch a few last z’s before I really really need to wake up.

4) Ingrown hairs in places that are hard to see. Then it’s just blindly poking around hoping for the best. I had an ugly one last week that took a lot of perseverance and determination to get at because it was an *oh so sensitive* spot. I had to angle around with little compact mirrors, directed lighting and zero sense of pride. And that spot was sore for like two days afterwards too.

5) The price of gas is currently 140.8 at my current Esso/PetroCan. Holy crap, I didn’t think we’d be getting to a buck fifty so soon. At this rate, I’ll have to start busing to work which sucks because it rains so much in Vancouver (see rant #2 above). On top of that commuters are smelly and vicious: a deadly combination.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is currently my favourite cookie recipe. Mainly because it’s so simple that I can whip up a batch in no time. Also because it always generates satisfying “yums” from my family, friends and coworkers who bite into one. Especially my husband who’s two favourite flavours are peanut butter & chocolate chip. Also because it makes people believe I know what I’m doing in the kitchen when in reality, I’m just flailing about.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies*

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth, not chunky and definitely NOT natural)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1-1/4 cup flour (I use white but you can also use whole wheat)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 pkg chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate but semi-sweet is traditional)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a couple of cookie sheets with aluminum foil or, if you have it, parchment paper.

2) In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter, white sugar, brown sugar & egg until smooth and creamy. Basically, so until the ingredients not longer look like separate ingredients but a creamy light brown goo. Like 2-3 minutes with the electric beater. Don’t bother doing it by hand because you can’t get it smooth enough. I like to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula.

3) In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder & baking soda. Do it for like a minute so all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and there are no lumps in the flour.

4) Add the dry ingredients into the large bowl with the wet ingredients and again, mix it together. I use my electric beater a bit here til I can’t see the flour anymore. At this point, throw in the package of chocolate chips and use a spatula to mix it together with the cookie dough.

5) Using your hands, roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place them on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

6) Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until very slightly brown around the edges. Let cool on sheets for 3-5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack for 10 more minutes.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Yum!

*adapted from Evelyn Rabb’s Basic Cooking (also known as Clueless in the Kitchen).

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Books I’m reading: March 2012

I’ve got the following books currently loaded on my Kobo ereader:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
As an avid Harry Potter fan, this book has been recommended as the next Harry Potter. Currently about 20% of the way through it, I found it doesn’t quite pull me in the same way as Harry Potter does. I will give it to the author though that she creates a vivid picture of the circus and definitely makes me want to go. I suppose to main thing right now is that I’m not really that invested in the characters yet.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
Thanks to my friend Jennifer who gave me The Outliers in November (which I’ve since given to my husband to read), I’ve been lapping up all of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing. I’ve since read The Tipping Point and am reading What the Dog Saw as soon as I’m done The Night Circus. If Blink was available on the Kobo I’d also read this asap.

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
Not 100% sure of what the heck it’s about but I’ve been intrigued by the book and her previous book The Birth House. I figured I’d download this one first and see how it goes.

Also thinking about getting:
Your Voice in my Head by Emma Forrest
Bossypants by Tina Fey
White Girl Problems by Babe Walker

Also need to start reading Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda for my Chicklit Reading Group before April. Yikes!

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