Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Memories

I was looking through pictures just now, and came across my chocolate hazelnut torte (from Wanda's Pie in the Sky cookbook) that I totally forgot to blog about back when I made it a couple of months ago.  Take a look:

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

If I could offer you a slice, I really would, if only to watch your reaction when tasting it.  It was truly over-the-top decadent.  See all those nuts clinging to the icing on the side (and perched on top)? Those aren't regular old hazelnuts, they are chunks of praline, which I baked the day before making the cake.

Hazelnut Praline

Making this dessert was not the easiest task I've taken on.  It was the product of an entire evening's work that made use of almost every single kitchen device and baking sheet that I own.  There might have also been a desperate trip to a bar at 11:30 p.m. upon discovering that I didn't actually have any Frangelico (a hazelnut liqueur) that was called for in the recipe.  The bartender looked at me like I was entirely out of my mind, and reminded me that it was illegal to leave a bar with alcohol.  I pulled out a tiny tupperware and whispered that nobody would ever know.  Shortly thereafter, I skulked out empty-handed, ashamed at the new low to which I descended in the name of baking.  In the end, I used Kahlua instead and it was delicious.

I think the best compliment I got was that it tasted "European".  For some reason, if I've made a dessert taste European, I feel like I've struck gold.  I also learned that shortly after my grandmother and uncle Peter arrived in Canada from the Soviet Union 30 years ago, they almost started a business of their own together whipping up tortes just like this.  Apparently, their version of the torte was so good, friends and neighbors were accosting them to make more for every possible occasion.  Soon, they were receiving orders from strangers, and making a nice buck in the process.  They even went so far as to negotiate a deal with a grocery store chain, which was more than happy to bring them on as clients... but they didn't have the means to invest in a large-scale bakery that would make the project worth their time.  Sad story.  I would have loved to have cake makers in the family.  That's one family business I would gladly take over in a second.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Since becoming a one-income family, certain things have changed around our house.  Going out for dinner, for example, has become a lot more of a luxury (especially sushi… mmm sushi).  Clipping coupons is not unheard of, and I’ve memorized the schedule of low, medium, and peak hydro usage times for each season so as not to throw away dollars unnecessarily by doing laundry in the morning, for example, when I could just as easily do it at night.  There are other things, too, whose value I’ve been surprised to find myself questioning.  While nothing is too good for my baby, I can’t help but wonder if that “Twisting Tots” class at the local parenting centre is worth the steep price tag that comes with it.  Yes, Jacob would get to twist in the company of his little buddies, but can’t I just as easily set something like that up in my living room for free? All I would have to do is invite some of his friends over, turn on some kid-friendly tunes, and lead by example.  I’m learning the hard way that being lazy is not an option for the penny-pincher.

Something else that’s become a luxury is free time.  Yes, Jacob naps for a couple of hours during the day, but that leaves me just enough time to clean up the disaster of all disasters on the main floor of the house, which was created approximately three minutes after Jacob woke up and which had to be stepped over while it grew cancerously in every room, threatening to either trip me or get stuck to me if I wasn’t careful.  My son has a sixth sense for being able to avoid the mess he creates while simultaneously adding to it.  I suppose I could leave the mess and play scrabble online until he wakes up (and I sometimes do), but those aren’t good days.  For so many reasons.

All of this then gets me thinking about the moms out there whose one income is a lot less ample than ours is.  And about those moms out there who are going at it alone, making free time a pipe dream about as likely as a winning lottery ticket.  I have the option of asking Dave to babysit if I want a night out with the girls.  I have the option of hiring a babysitter if there is something that urgently requires my attention outside of the house.  There are others who really aren’t so lucky.  When I wasn’t a parent, I had no idea how insanely expensive childcare is.  Now I get it.

Tracey Cairns (founder of WomenAide – a charity for women who have suffered spousal abuse) has thought about those moms too, and has created a website called, designed to ease the stress associated with finding and paying for childcare.  Essentially, it’s a site that brings together like-minded moms from the neighbourhood so that they can become friends and ultimately swap childcare favours at no cost to each other whenever the need might arise.  It’s one of those ideas that I wish I thought of myself.  More than once, I’ve caught myself sitting on my couch wishing that there was someone out of my mom acquaintances that I wouldn’t feel awkward asking to watch Jacob for a couple of hours while I ….. (fill in the blank) this afternoon.  I know I would be happy to return the favour.   I, for one, am rooting for Tracey and  It’s about time there was a childcare option out there that was dependable and that didn’t cost a small fortune. seems primed to change the landscape of childcare in our province.  I’m sure the rest of the provinces are next in line.  Kudos, Tracey!