Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not Guilty

Congratulations to:

Christophers Heart

You have all won a copy of Not Guilty - My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos by Debbie Travis. Be sure to shoot an e-mail to with your address and I'll make sure they're sent off to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mickey knows cake

(posted by LeeAnne)

Remember when I went to Disney world and brought back that fabulous soup recipe from Boma?

Well, that's not the only great recipe I managed to get their chefs to reveal. While I was there I got to wondering how a visitor with allergies would survive at Walt Disney World: it turns out very well, thank you very much.

The chefs at Boma are allergy savvy and know the scoop. While there, the flourless chocolate cake caught my eye. Although our dairy-free readers may want to make some substitutions, I recommend anyone who is gluten-free check this one out.

It is not too sweet and ever so moist (I know, how could it not be with 9 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of butter!!!!) without any frosting. It's also simple: other than almond flour (ground almonds) most ingredients are probably already in your pantry

Boma’s Flourless Chocolate Cake (adapted)

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
9 eggs
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 lb almond flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Cream butter and sugar together.
2. Beat in eggs one at a time.
3. Melt chocolate and add to mixture.
4. Mix in almond flour and baking powder.
5. Grease a 10” square baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated 300F oven for 70 minutes.
6. Let cool completely in pan before unmolding.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not Guilty!

(by LeeAnne)

Women spend so much of their lives feeling guilty.

Guilty about working outside the house, guilty about not working outside the house. Over scheduling, under scheduling. It just doesn’t matter: we feel guilty.

But Debbie Travis, star and creator of The Painted House, a 14-season, 200- episode, world-wide phenomenon has a new book that advises women to cut out the guilt.

Not Guilty - My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos is part memoir and part how to succeed in business, but mostly just Travis relaying how she made it through with lots of chutzpah, tantrums (hers) and laughter.

Travis tells how, as a bored young mother, she started decorative painting, a trend that was popular in the UK but hadn’t yet hit North American soil. Her home became her canvas and clients start to ask for her services. Travis loved it but her husband wasn’t so sure. “Can’t you just buy wall paper like some normal person?” he pleads in frustration.

But continue she did. Painting led to workshops, then to video and, her biggest leap, to television. Working with her husband she created The Painted House and spun off books, newspaper columns and eventually, a product line.

Not Guilty is full of self-depreciating stories about Travis, her husband and two boys. Full of sage advice and always told for maximum humour, Travis is like your hilarious best friend regaling you with stories, such as the time she came home from work and found her boys sending their two miniature rabbits down the stairs in frying pans as if they were going down a toboggan run.

Never one to mince words, even with her kids, she screams, “What the hell are you doing!?”

“Mom, they’re happy, look at their little mouths,” they replied.

“That’s not a smile, that’s gravity!”

After declaring her sons will never, ever have another pet, Travis puts the miniature rabbits on the deck in a laundry basket.

Within five minutes, raccoons had eaten them.

Stories about her kids and her business ventures are woven together throughout the book. One of my favourites involves her sitting on the edge of a boardroom table with her team discussing a successful design event the previous night, only to look down and see a bulge in her right pant leg.

As she talks, she reaches down and pulls out the offending lump, which turns out to be her “knickers” from the last time she wore the pants. She laughs, but recalls her style interns could barely contain their absolute horror.

Unfortunately I can relate!

I was heading into a fancy restaurant to meet a client once when a sock somehow worked its way out of my pant leg. Just as I approached the table to shake hands with my client, the host came running up to me and handed me the dirty sock.

Great! I laughed (sort of) and tucked the offender in my purse as the client eyed me with suspicion and chose to wave hello instead of shake my hand. Opps. Guilty. Again.

I also enjoyed reading about the time Travis finds out her son has paid someone in his class to do his homework. When busted, her son declares, “But you said, “Hire the best.” So I hired Charles Wong, He’s the best. He even goes to school on weekends.”

Although she gave her son a stern glare Travis reveals that she and her husband privately laughed their heads off later that night.

If you have kids and are trying desperately to achieve that elusive life/work balance, thumbing through Not Guilty is a welcome respite. Travis ends the book with a top ten list for avoiding guilt. Number one is to treat you kids like a paint job. It’s all in the preparation. Take the time to sand and prime well and results will be as good as perfect. Don’t worry about the cracks or blotches-they will just add character.

These days the only thing that Travis feels guilty about is the amount of energy she spent feeling free-floating maternal guilt.

And I couldn’t agree more: what a waste of time.

Don Mills Diva is giving away a copy of Debbie Travis’s Not Guilty-My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos to three lucky Canadian (only, sorry!) readers. Leave a comment below to win. Comments will be closed Friday January 23rd at midnight and the winners announced shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day After New Year's Day Dinner

(by LeeAnne)

As many faithful readers will know, my mother-in-law left my house on Christmas Day and went directly to the hospital. My parents and brother were also there that night. I had told them Henny hadn’t been feeling well lately, but they immediately were alarmed by her loss of weight and, more importantly, her loss of zeal.

Gradual decline is much more difficult to see, but that night they helped us all see clearly that we needed to act.

And so we acted.

Henny was discharged on New Year's Eve and I started the new year by bringing her a big pot of homemade chicken soup and her favourite gluten-free grain loaf (I will post that recipe soon!). With a grim diagnosis and more questions than answers, I wasn’t sure what other way I could nourish her.

And you know how I love to make soup. My husband, daughter and I ate soup and bread around the table together with Henny and Karl. After dinner, I cleaned out the fridge and noticed a pair of cryovaced Brome Lake duck legs were sitting all alone on a shelf in the fridge. Henny had picked them up on Christmas Eve, never had a chance to cook them and now didn’t feel like duck. I gladly took them home and this is what I made the next day.

Braised Duck Legs with Baby Mixed Potatoes

2 duck legs
11/2 cups chicken stock
1 lb baby potatoes
Salt and pepper

Season duck legs well with salt and pepper. Using a fork pierce the skin of the legs to help release fat and make the skin crispy.

In a cast iron skillet over high heat sear duck legs skin side down for 5 minutes or until nicely golden brown and fat has been rendered. Turn and brown over side for another 3 minutes. Although you can drain the rendered fat at this point, I like to keep it in because it adds incredible flavour to the potatoes.

Add potatoes and enough chicken stock until the duck legs are half submerged in stock. Bring to a boil and transfer to preheated 350F oven and bake for 40 minutes or until legs are crispy brown, potatoes are soft and internal temperature reaches 170F.

I served this with steamed broccoli although spinach would be great with this dish as well.