Thursday, March 17, 2016

triple chocolate banana bread





Yesterday  a friend gifted me two large bunches of ripe bananas - perfect for baking. She had bought a full box of bananas, what she thought was 9 bunches but discovered was in fact twice that many when she got home and realized that there were two layers in the box. Her plan was to dehydrate the bananas and it was a good plan. The flaw in the plan was the amount of time it takes to dehydrate bananas and the volume of fruit that she had to process. I was happy to take some of the bananas off her hands. And in my turn I was surprised at how much baking I could get out of two large bunches - two batches of banana bread (coconut banana bread and triple chocolate), one banana cake, and a full 48 mini banana chocolate chip supermuffins. The house smells heavenly, the kitchen was a glorious mess for the better part of the day, and I have banana goodness to share with one and all.

The other banana recipes are in the archives here and I think they are still hard to beat but this triple chocolate banana bread is definitely a contender. Next time you have some nicely freckled bananas wondering when and what you are planning for them, give this recipe a thought. It may not be quite as healthy as a smoothie but oh my, ever so much tastier.*

I used a mix of light and whole grain spelt flours for two reasons - I love the taste of spelt and I am trying to use heritage or ancient grain varieties when I bake as opposed to the more readily available modern strains of wheat. You could of course use regular white flour or a mix of white and whole grain wheat flours. If gluten is a problem for you, a gluten-free flour mix works very well. There are several good options easily available, I prefer to mix my own (referenced in the super muffin recipe).

You will likely figure this next bit out on your own but in case you have amazing self-control and can wait until this bread is absolutely cool, you need to know that it is really very, very good when warm. 

triple chocolate banana bread

3/4 cup light spelt flour 
1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1/4 cup sprouted ground chia seed
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
2 medium ripe bananas
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

Prepare two small (6.75x3") loaf pans or one larger (9x5") pan by oiling the ends of the pans and lining the pans with parchment paper strips, allowing the paper to overhang the sides.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, cacao nibs, and chocolate chips) together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mash the bananas. Whisk in the eggs and add the vanilla, sugar, and cooled melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and stir just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. 

Push the batter into prepared pan (or pans) and bake at 350 for 45- 50 minutes for two small loaves or 60 minutes for one larger loaf - or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. 

*no disrespect intended to smoothies - we drink them daily but seriously, no matter how good they may be they are not this good ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

turkey soup | post-feast or anytime

for Eden





I sincerely believe the best reason to roast a turkey is the soup that follows. I like turkey just fine but turkey soup? I have no words. Not one to really describe how comforting and yet divine a good homemade turkey soup is. From the aroma as the broth cooks to the last sip of that broth when the bowl is empty, there is nothing quite like it.

Posting a recipe for such a humble and beloved bowl of food may not be strictly necessary but sometime a roadmap is helpful. I offer this in that spirit. Turkey soup is never exactly the same from my kitchen; sometimes it is full of noodles, other times barley or rice or potatoes. Often I add broccoli. But always onions, celery, thyme - and usually carrots and parsley. Like I said - a roadmap. A direction to go, a place to start, to gain confidence that you cannot mess up a good pot of fresh turkey broth.

I start of course by making the broth. There are any number of recipes for making broth but this is mine. After the turkey is carved and quite clean I put the carcass in a large pot and cover it with water. Toss in an onion that has been been quartered, 3 or 4 stalks of celery along with some celery leaves, 2 large carrots (scrubbed and quartered), and a few sprigs of thyme. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cover and simmer for at least 3 hours. The longer it simmers the more goodness you get out of the bones - and there is a lot of goodness in there! When you judge that it has simmered enough, remove from the heat and let cool for about 30 minutes. Strain the solids from the broth and discard. At this point unless I am making soup for a large crowd I portion it into quart (4 litre) containers and freeze the broth for use later - other soups and recipes that call for broth, or simply to enjoy as a 'bone broth'.

Don't be afraid to add a little water at the end of the cooking if you feel like quite a bit of the broth has evaporated - just taste and adjust.

basic turkey soup pattern

4 cups turkey broth
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced 
1 Tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup chopped curly parsley
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 cup of dried pasta or noodles (any shape you fancy)
2 cups chopped turkey meat
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pot saute the onions and celery in the butter for a few minutes - just until beginning to be tender. Add the broth and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the carrots, pasta and turkey. Cook until the pasta is done and the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Note: Because the broth is not salted you will want a generous amount of salt (roughly 2 tsp) or the soup will taste really flat. If you are using a good sea salt you needn't be afraid of the salt. (also along that line, if you are not eating a diet of mostly processed and refined foods salt is probably not an issue. Excuse me while I climb off my soap-box and put it away. lol)

If you want to use rice or barley instead of the pasta decrease the amount to 1/2 cup. If broccoli is sounding good to you and you have some in the fridge, about 3 cups chopped is perfect. A drop or two of sriracha sauce makes a nice change on occasion or a grating of good Parmesan. 






Wednesday, November 11, 2015

in Flanders Field...

November 11 | Remembrance Day. As a child in school I made red construction paper poppies with the other children in my class. I went to the school assembly and stood at attention with my classmates at precisely 11:00 AM for one perfect solemn minute. I learned the words to the poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae "In Flanders Field", seeing in my mind a tranquil field of beautiful poppies - knowing that what we were commemorating was solemn, even sacred, but not beginning to understand the depth and breadth of commitment, sacrifice, and love entailed. Even now, decades later I feel I only glimpse fleetingly the honour of those who have served so selflessly throughout history to protect the life, freedom, and liberties of loved ones and beloved country. 
The following letter is a very tender and articulate expression of love, faith, and sacrifice written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah. He died a week later, at the First Battle of Bull Run. He was only 32. As I read it I cannot believe other than that it echoes the feelings, hopes, and thoughts of countless others. I am profoundly grateful that my father, my sons, my husband have not been among those who have written similar letters home, and I am even more humbly grateful for those who have fought (my father-in-law, uncles and great uncles among them) that my close and dearly loved ones have not needed to.
This November 11 I pledge to think more deeply as I remember all the brave men and women who have served and now serve that I may live a life of freedom and plenty in this wonderful land of Canada. I pledge to honour them with the choices I make and the life I live.
BallouPortraitCamp Clark, Washington
My very dear Sarah: 
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


--Sullivan

Saturday, November 7, 2015

sourdough stuffing | post-Thanksgiving






Here in Canada we have celebrated the harvest and given thanks for many and manifest blessings. In our house that celebration demands (a word chosen with deliberation) a fairly strict menu. I sometimes peruse with longing the many offerings for variation on the Thanksgiving feast theme - some verging on exotic, others simply needlessly complicated - but I have stopped suggesting we add anything to the table for that meal. Stopped because the table is full as is with dishes that not one person in our crowd can stand to see replaced or changed. Call it tradition - and happy family. Nothing wrong with any of that. So although in one sense our menu is strict, there is nothing at all austere about it. It is simply very well defined.

One of the dishes that I have played with in the past is the stuffing. Recipes abound that are so enticing to me and I have tried more than a few of those ideas but in the last four or five years I have settled on a simple sourdough stuffing that is universally approved and devoured on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing about it is wild and crazy except the straight-up goodness. Any bread that is a day or two old is very good in this recipe but a nice mild sourdough loaf makes all the difference in the world we think. I cross my fingers every year that I can harvest the fresh herbs from my garden and most years I can - even on the years where we have had more than a few frosts the herbs bravely struggle on to the last. I realize that is not an option for everyone but it is sure fun for me.

We have decided that we all prefer stuffing that is not cooked in the turkey so that is the way I do it but this stuffing works beautifully either way. The huge advantage of not stuffing the bird is that it roasts a lot faster and stays more moist - seems like a win/win to me. Just pop the stuffing into the oven as you pull the turkey out to rest and the timing is perfect.

I offer no picture of the stuffing after baking for the simple reason that at that point there was no waiting for photos to be taken and after the meal there was not a crumb left. It looks pretty much like the first photo but nicely golden.

The celebration of Thanksgiving may be done for this year but truly giving thanks and finding the joy of gratitude daily is always before us. The list of things for which I am grateful is long but among those at the top of that list: faith, hope, family (each and every wonderful, weird, beautiful, strong person from littlest Margo to David), health, friendship, my garden, my home, and the joy of sharing all of that. Thanksgiving may be behind me but Christmas is ahead. I love this season of joy and sharing, of counting blessings and then desiring to share them. Whenever or however you celebrate your gratitude may it be with good food and loved ones - and maybe some sourdough stuffing.

(As I proof-read this I have to wonder why we don't just have stuffing more often? Like right now.)

sourdough stuffing

10 cups sourdough bread, torn into smallish pieces (about 1 1/2 standard size boules)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
4 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups turkey broth*
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

In a large skillet melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook until it is beginning to become tender. Remove from heat.

Put the torn bread 'cubes' into a large bowl. Add the parsley, sage, thyme, cranberries, and pecans. Add the butter, celery, onion mix and toss. Pour the turkey broth over, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Bake (covered) in a buttered 9x13 pan or ceramic ceramic casserole dish for 20 -30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

* I make a broth with the turkey neck, a carrot, 1/4 of an onion and about 3 cups water that I simmer for an hour or so early in the day of the turkey feast. Strain the solids out and it is good to go. If you prefer to use a canned chicken broth, adjust the amount of salt to about 1 tsp.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

garden harvest gnocchetti with fresh corn and tomatoes





It has been a considerable time since I have been excited enough about what was on my plate to jump up from the table and grab the camera mid-meal. Our meal this evening was (as it commonly is) a bit of a gamble. You know, the kind of combination of what is in the larder that should be good but may not be in the end. Happily this was not only okay but pretty amazing. David (religiously underwhelmed and scrupulously reserved with praise) not only commented three times that "this is really...mmmmm, really good!" That may not sound like a high recommendation but trust me, it is :) He followed that with the advice that I should record this one. Combining that with Jonathon's regular complaint that I need to post some simple recipes that everyone can cook (he is "tired of waiting" lol) and I did grab the camera for a mid-meal mini-session. 

One would think with the plethora of recipes so readily accessible in various platforms that gambling with dinner is not only unnecessary but plain dumb. The problem is not a lack but rather a surfeit. I am fatigued by the shear abundance of choice - should I refer to a cookbook, or Pinterest, or one of my many 'favourite' blogs, or even Instagram for inspiration. Perhaps one of the collection of magazines piled in the ceramic hibachi next to the kitchen counter? It is somewhere around this point that I (mentally) throw my hands in the air and decide to make a "big salad" (it is summer after all and who wants to turn on the stove?) or resort to a tried and true and simple option. Or... gamble. With an unknown combination of what is on hand.

As what is on hand is most always a healthy assortment of vegetables and grains it really isn't a big gamble. It is hard to go too wrong. This gamble of garden harvest and gnocchetti paid off in a big way. I think it will slot very nicely into  the regular rotation of tried, true and simple.

I used some heavy cream in this but you could use half and half if you prefer. If you need a dairy-free option substituting reserved water from cooking the gnocchi would be a good bet. Make you own gnocchi if you like or choose a shelf-stable package from the market, include the Italian sausage or skip it for a meat-free meal. I stripped the kernels off fresh corn on the cob but feel free to use frozen if that works better for you. The rest is dead simple.

garden harvest gnocchetti with fresh corn and tomatoes

1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cobs of corn, stripped
1 large sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
500 gm package gnocchetti 
1/2 cup cream
3 good handfuls of baby spinach and arugula
a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan - about 1/3 cup
6-10 fresh basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp butter or ghee

Cook the gnocchetti in salted boiling water until they float. Drain and set aside.

Pour the olive oil and drop the butter or ghee into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until beginning to soften. Add the sausage, crumbling it as it browns. When the sausage is almost cooked add the corn kernels and allow them to brown a bit, then toss in the cherry tomatoes. A few good twists of pepper and a flick or two of salt fits in well about now. Cook for only a couple of minutes then add the gnocchetti, tossing everything together. Drizzle the cream (or reserved pasta water) over the pasta mixture and toss again. Add the greens (spinach + arugula) and turn them into the mixture to wilt. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and some torn fresh basil leaves. Dinner is ready. That easy.





Sunday, August 9, 2015

salted cucumber ice cream


Having gotten out of the groove of blogging on a (semi) regular basis I find overcoming the accumulated inertia requires much more effort than I want to summon most of the time. The good book I am reading, the garden I am tending, the children I am loving, the friend I am with, the simple meal I am enjoying - all extend a much greater pull than getting back to the computer and making myself find the words to articulate thoughts, experiences and yes, even recipes. The instant gratification of Instagram and the over-abundance of newly minted nutritional experts sharing ever more ambitious and exotic recipes - and (semi-suspect) nutritional advice - have each in their own way pulled me further away from this place that I once found such joy in. But the very fact that this has been an endeavour that I did once so love has caused me to reconsider my absence. The original motivation to post here was to record memories, recipes, creations and experiences that were in some way significant to me, to offer those things to anyone who might be interested in sharing them with me but specifically to the people I know and love - those near and dear to me. As I have considered continuing or not, I have realized that my motivation and desire has remained consistent. It is all too easy to become caught up in quantifying who is reading my offerings and to assign value to the whole enterprise (including my thoughts) based on that, to fall prey to the competitive part of my nature and give away the joy of creating, considering and sharing. Although writing again feels an awful lot like trying to push a boulder uphill from a standstill, I find that I have a strong desire to get that boulder rolling. If I am the keeper of my stories, then I must share them or they are nothing but smoke and mirrors - vanishing in the mists of time. Those stories may not be of interest to the world at large but the world at large is not reading them nor I am I writing for that audience. This is for me - for my loved ones. I am not an expert anything, not a professional something-or-other; I do find living well a quest worth engaging in and one that brings me joy and fulfills my life. So take my stories and ideas in that light, understanding that I know that I know only a small part of what there is to know but that the pursuit of excellence and more knowledge is a good reason to push that boulder up the hill. To find joy in every new day, each new taste, and all the good and bad that seasons a life.

All that to explain why it has taken me three months to push the boulder far enough that I am finally sharing this ice cream recipe. As is the case so often when reading a recipe for something outside of the regular box, my initial thought was "huh! weird." But it is that very outside-the-box-ness that makes this ice cream so wonderful. It is intriguing and fresh and begs another taste and then another ten. It is also the most beautiful soft green in colour. If you like salted caramel ice cream then you will love this - it is all that with freshness on top. Persian cucumbers are a must in this recipe.

The original recipe is from Tasting Table. I scaled it down in volume so it will work in my ice cream freezer and changed the method so that it works if you do not have a juicer (as I do not). I have also included an alternative method that works if you have neither a juicer or an ice cream freezer. No excuses ice cream!

*disclaimer - this is neither dairy-free or sugar free, it is not health-food but it is free from preservatives and gluten and any unknown additives, so it is probably an awful to better for you than commercial ice cream. Just saying.

Here's to hoping I can overcome inertia and really get rolling again. This seems like a great place and way to start.

salted cucumber ice cream
(from Tasting Table with a few changes)

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 Persian cucumbers, chopped
sea salt to taste - about 1 1/2 teaspoons

Put the chopped cucumbers into a blender container and process on high speed until liquified. Pour the result through a fine-mess strainer into a bowl. Measure 1/2 cup of the cucumber juice and set the remainder (if there is any) aside for a smoothie or whatever later. (The solids in the strainer can be put to the same purpose or discarded.)

Combine the cucumber juice, condensed milk, milk, cream, and salt in a bowl. Taste as you add the salt, starting with 1 teaspoon and adding more to taste - maybe more than you would initially think. Chill the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight to allow the flavours to mature and to give your ice cream machine a solid chance for success.

Pour the mixture into the previously chilled (actually frozen - as in been in the freezer for a good 24 hours) bowl of your ice cream machine and spin until it looks like a good soft-serve ice cream - about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container (a loaf pan works very well), cover and freeze until the ice cream is firm, 2-3 hours. Serve and enjoy.

There is no reason that you cannot enjoy this straight from the spinning (soft-serve style). I like being able to scoop it into a pretty ball. And it is nice to not have to melt so quickly when served. But either way is fabulous.

Alternative method for no-churn ice cream: Mix the condensed milk, milk, cucumber juice, and sea salt. Chill for 2 hours or overnight. Whip the heavy cream and fold the cucumber mixture and whipped cream together. Pour into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm - about 6 hours or overnight.




Sunday, June 21, 2015

k reed


"I believe that what we become depends on what  our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom." 
- Umberto Eco

I remember standing on the edge of the roof of our house when I was a very little girl. My dad was standing just below me with his arms outstretched, telling me to jump. There was no fire, no emergency - just a warm summer evening and for a reason that is long forgotten I had been on the roof, probably with him. From that edge the distance from me to his arms seemed very far and very scary. I was afraid to jump. He prompted me again and I gathered my courage and jumped, never doubting that he would catch me. 

A few years later, at a July 1 celebration in his hometown of Hillspring Alberta I was lined up with all the kids my age to run a foot race. I wanted so badly to run and to win. The starter called "On your marks, get set....GO!" and someone pushed me hard from behind. I veritably exploded off my mark and ran my hardest. I don't remember if I placed (and if I had the start could have been called cheating) but all I knew was that my dad gave me the best start he could.

And that is the way it was all my life. My dad was my safe place - wise, strong, warm, loving - and he was the wind at my back - pushing, encouraging, teaching and when the occasion warranted, demanding. Demanding in the best way that I give my all. He taught me to strive for excellence - that if a thing was worth doing it was worth doing well. He told me that if I wanted something badly enough I could get it - and in my experience he has generally been right. He taught me to read, to play tennis (poorly but that was not his fault), to ride a horse, to weed the garden, to love God, to serve others. He whistled while he worked and loved to work. He had a song for every situation and a smile in his eyes for those he loved. He loved my mom and I knew it through and through. He taught me by his example to be a person of integrity and to live with honour.

I think I must have been a daddy's girl from my first breath. I know others have had and do have fathers as wonderful as mine but none has ever had better. To be told that I in any way am like my father is wonderful. He died long before I wish he had and when he did I thought I wasn't ready to be without him but although I miss him still I realize that I had been well prepared to walk on my own. I love this picture of the two of us - just a snap but when I see it I remember the safe warmth of his hug and love between us. From my earliest memory he called me his Pride and Joy ( being the loving father he was I am guessing he had four others) and I knew I was. I hope I am still. I feel very blessed to have had such a father, one who taught me well in all the odd moments with many little scraps of wisdom that I cherish always.