Sunday, December 30, 2012

I had high hopes for something good but .... no pretty pictures today. Just the sad tale of two disappointments. Two! It is not often* that I am really unhappy with the outcome in the kitchen but I must freely confess that I was sadly disappointed today. First I tried this recipe for chocolate muffins - mostly because the recipe made me think of these muffins that I have been making for the last few years and we love! I thought today's effort might be a nice addition to the repertoire but although they are nice enough muffins they don't hold a candle to the banana, chocolate, and pecan muffins. (I am now more than a bit embarrassed by the pic accompanying that post but I stand by the recipe. It remains one of our very favourites.)

The second disappointment was really a failure - not merely a disappointment. Some very promising sounding dark chocolate coconut popovers that resembled rubbery pucks more than anything. NOT what I was expecting. Oh well. Onward and forward. It's not like we haven't eaten ourselves silly in the last week. But don't you hate it when things go sideways like that?!

On the plus side? the coconut hockey pucks are pretty yummy :)

* which is not to imply that everything is amazing by any means!

Sunday, December 23, 2012



In my misguided and greedy childhood the days of December were carefully counted down to  the magical December 25th on a hand-drawn grid, each square marked off with a decided X. I spent hours with the Sear's "Wish Book" and other catalogues imagining how wonderful my world would be if I was the lucky recipient of every item on my list for Santa. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around - about a thousand years after December began - I had worked myself into such a frenzy that I could not sleep. (I learned to stock up on reading material at the library so that the long night would be bearable - reading several books each year.) I thought the excitement of Christmas was that final moment, the big reveal. All that getting! I had so much to learn.

Getting is pretty fun. I have to admit that. I love presents. I love to get them, I love to give them. I think one of the big drivers of my joy in receiving is the joy I find in giving. The planning and preparing I pour into each gift results (I hope) in a tangible evidence of the love that I have for the recipient. So as I receive I anticipate the same. It is not the actual gift, as perfect as it may be, that fills me with delight but the awareness that I am known and loved.

We try hard to teach the concept that it is more blessed to give than to receive and I think that often that precept is interpreted not as intended but as the concept that if giving is 'better' then getting must be less worthy, maybe even a bit shameful. And we become ungracious receivers. How sad..... it seems to me when we are inhibited in receiving gifts we rob the giver of so much joy - and ourselves as well. Gifts are intended to enrich but that doesn't happen when we don't receive them with open hearts and delight.

I watched a dear friends at a party a few weeks ago and thought she has mastered the art of getting. Her delight was abundant and contagious. She delighted as much in the gifts of others as her own. It was childlike and open. Delightful to others because it was absolutely generous. Unselfish and un-self conscious. 

Watching her I knew getting is as much an art as giving. Art takes time and effort to develop. Watching her I realized it is not less good to receive because if it were, if none of us were able to receive with joy, giving would be a chore; perhaps still an act of love but sucked of much of the joy. I resolved to give joy by receiving with delight; to find the love, thought, and effort behind the gift and so realize that although it may not be a perfectly hoped for item it is without a doubt the perfect gift. It is not (after all) what is wrapped up in the box that fills our hearts on Christmas morning but the love.

It has been many years since I counted the days to opening my own gifts having long since learned to find real joy and honest excitement in giving. I know too that receiving with sincere delight is gracious, honest, and kind. Loving. It enhances relationships and opens our eyes helping us see in one another's heart. May we each give and get with delight. The best gifts just don't wrap.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

mini pumpkin cheesecakes




In some families pumpkin pie is reserved, with love, for the Thanksgiving meal dessert. On the other end of the spectrum you have those who eat pumpkin pie nightly - or would - as long as long as it is 'in season'. My dad abominated pumpkin pie (I don't know!?) so I grew up in a family that absolutely never ate it. I married into a family that adores pumpkin pie. I guess my household falls somewhere in what I like to think of as a healthy middle ground. We enjoy a slice of the pie - or the many offspring and relatives of it - over much of the fall and winter, paying special attention at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This sweet little dessert is not a pumpkin pie. But it is undeniably related. Served in mini portions it is just perfect for filling up that empty spot that begs to be filled after a good meal leaving you comfortable but not tipped over into too full. You can feel reasonably noble as well - if you ignore the cream cheese and whipped cream - eating pumpkin and the healthy spices that dress it up. And it is just a little bite.

To make these gluten-free use a gluten-free ginger cookie for the crumb 'crust'. When I make it for our family I make some portions gf and the rest not. To distinguish one from the other I sprinkle a bit of the reserved crumbs on the top of the gf servings. This trick was born after I had made these and thought I would be able to tell the difference from the look of the crumbs. Couldn't really. 

mini pumpkin cheesecakes

16 ginger thins, crushed (I use Anna's)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup canned pumpkin 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
scant 1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
1 cup whipping cream 

In a small bowl combine the melted butter with the crushed ginger thins. Divide the crumbs into the bottom of whatever you are using as serving 'dishes'. (I used tiny glasses this time and have used the 4 oz canning jars also - both look really sweet.) Set aside.

In another bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, honey and spices. Beat until creamy and smooth. Drop the mixture carefully on top of the crumbs, dividing evenly among the glasses.

Whip the cream and dress your little cheesecakes with a dollop of it. Refrigerate for a couple of hours (at least) before serving.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

fruit cake








I do realize that fruitcake is a bit of a joke. It seems to be somewhere on most people's list of dislikes - sadly usually quite high up the list. I may be putting myself up for more than a little ridicule but I hold my head up and proudly say ... I like it. I even like it a lot. That was not always the case, I hated it when I was a child. It was none of the things that qualified anything as a treat nor was it any of the things that qualified as legitimate food. It was just ..... not good. So I avoided it (easy enough to do) and that was that. Then  one day I was visiting a new friend and she offered me a piece of fruitcake -  made from a recipe that was a family favorite. It was one of those awkward situations; I didn't know her well and I certainly did not want to offend her in any way but I really didn't want to even nibble the fruitcake. I could have declined but she was so eager that I try it that I would have felt small if I hadn't. Gracious manners won out and my life was changed in a tiny way. I joined the small (by comparison) number of fruitcake fans. I may not be the head of the fan club but I am a card-carrying member for sure. I remember that December afternoon in Kobe eating my Australian friend's family favorite fruitcake every year when I pull out the recipe for what is now our family favourite fruitcake. I have lost track of the friend but send out a little thankful thought to her as the aroma of the baking cake fills the house.

My mom loves fruitcake and David claims it is his favorite Christmas treat. I like this fruitcake because it is many of the things that make a treat - buttery, tender, toasty, a little bit sweet but not too, filled with wonderful dried fruits and nuts. Light not dark. Fresh with a bit of lemon. Perfect with a cup of tea or a glass of eggnog. Might be you would like it too.

Like everything else this is as good as what you put in it. So use the best butter you can. It really is worth it. Same goes for the dried fruits and almonds. I dislike candied pineapple so you won't find it in my fruitcake. I like the pretty shades of brown in the raisins, almonds and ginger with the bright red cherries. I think it is pretty - in a soft and modest way.

fruitcake
(from a lost friend's recipe file)

1 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sultana raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup mixed peel
1/2 cup crystalized ginger, chopped
2/3 cup glace cherries
1/2 cup glace fruit mix
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups flour

Prepare a round 8" baking pan by cutting a parchment circle to fit the bottom of the pan and buttering the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Cream butter, lemon zest, and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Stir in fruits and almonds, then flour. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 3 hours. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

cinnamon popcorn





I cannot learn moderation when it comes to cinnamon popcorn. Not that I have tried so very hard. I like chocolate but I love cinnamon, caramel, and salt. (My commitment to salty is beyond reason.) Stir the flavours together in a big hot kettle, toss in popping corn and you have some addictive magic.

I learned to make cinnamon popcorn when we were living in Tokyo a few years ago. Merin was with us and doing her last year of high school by distance ed. She was a good sport about being in Japan but the truth is that it was hard for her. She missed her focused ballet life. She missed speaking the language. She missed her sister. On the plus side, she didn't have to miss me, got to go to Thailand, and enjoyed some seriously great shopping. Maybe not compensation for the things she missed but on the whole I think she would say she was happy she went with us. Evenings were a lot more quiet than any of us were used to - again good and less good - but we quickly learned to love a quiet night with a big bowl of popcorn and a season of Jennifer Garner and alias. When we experienced cinnamon popcorn our lives were changed. Seriously. Maybe it won't save the world but then again, who knows how it might impact the state of things if everyone had a bowl tonight?

This is essentially kettle corn. With cinnamon. There is no real need for anymore words.

I use a 'Whirlypop' popper but this will work in many of the electric corn poppers that are on the market (Cuisinart for one). It just needs to be stirred as it pops to keep the sugar from burning.

cinnamon popcorn

4 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp popping corn

1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt

In a small bowl mix together the 1 Tbsp sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt. Set aside. (It is important to do this first because you need to add it to the hot popped corn immediately and if it isn't mixed up you will miss an important window of opportunity.)

Put the coconut oil into the popper along with the sugar and popping corn. Pop according to directions. Immediately after the popping stops, open the lid and add the cinnamon/sugar/salt mixture. Stir or toss to coat the hot popcorn.

Done! And I dare you to be moderate in your consumption. Double dare even.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

chocolate raspberry clafouti


I am taking a moment away from my Christmas making (back in my atelier and having a blast) because you need this pure and simple, fast and easy road to chocolate bliss. Add raspberries and freshly whipped cream. Sigh and eye-roll. Purrfect. 

This is easily made gluten-free by subbing gluten-free flour. It works equally well. Because I try to stay away from refined sugars I used demerara and muscovado sugars in place of granulated white and dark brown sugars. If raspberries are hard to find (or looking sad at the market) cranberries are an easy, yummy, seasonal substitution.

chocolate raspberry clafouti
(adapted from Gourmet)

3 cups fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp demerara sugar
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Toss the washed berries with demerara sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.

Combine the milk, melted butter, eggs, muscovado sugar, flour, cocoa powder, sea salt, and vanilla extract in a blender and process until smooth. Scatter the berries evenly in the buttered baking dish and pour the batter over top.

Bake until slightly puffed and firm to the touch - about 35 minutes. Immediately after removing from the oven sprinkle with chopped chocolate. Cool to warm and serve with a generous dollop of freshly whipped heavy cream.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The beginning of December marks the legitimate start of the festive frenzy. Magazines and blogs have been encouraging us for weeks in order that we can be 'ready'. Decorating, baking, gifting, entertaining, dressing - the guides abound for every area. It is easy to get totally sucked in and whirled around, then spit out the other side .... exhausted and unfulfilled, wondering what happened and why.

A good friend suggested that it would be a good exercise to think back to last year - to remember how we felt at the end of the season and on what we wish we had spent our precious resource of effort. The thought really resonated with me and has been constantly at the back of my mind ever since. I know that I don't wish I had baked more cookies or wrapped a few more presents. I don't regret that I didn't buy new Christmas decorations or have Christmas in Hawaii. I am not sure that I do have any significant regrets but the things that I remember and treasure are snuggling with a child and a book in a quiet corner, the mess (and satisfaction) of baking simple cookies with my daughters and grandkids, the joys of being together.

The beautiful trimmings are just that - beautiful trimmings. And I like them. But they are not what make Christmas work for me. All the trimming in the world - be that trimming food, or a pile of gifts beautifully wrapped (or not), or an exquisitely decorated home - doesn't create the love and warmth that happy memories are made of. It is the mindful living of each moment. The knowledge that those moments cannot be recalled and lived again but are precious motivates me to take the time to really connect with the people I love. To snuggle a little longer with a sweet two year old. To take the minutes it takes to teach a six year old to crochet. To listen to a wish list or not mind that things aren't perfectly arranged but are perfectly perfect because we are happy and warm and there is love.

Our Christmas tree is decorated and prettily so but it was not until this evening when our grandchildren looked at it with shining eyes that it became magical. It is that sharing that makes the whole of December so blessed. Perfect doesn't matter - doesn't even exist. Together does.

So I will bake cookies and make candies, sew pajamas and Christmas dresses, shop and primp and wrap. But under and over it all I want to be very careful and sure that at the end of the day the people I love really feel the love I have for them. That I am not so busy with the unimportant that I am drained of the important. No one will be aware of the gift I don't make or the cookie not baked but the memory of warmth and love and closeness will never be forgotten. To make those memories is my Christmas wish.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

gluten-free buckwheat pancakes


December! Time for celebrating and feasting - we could start with buckwheat pancakes. Despite the many pancake recipes on this blog that would argue the contrary, I don't really like* pancakes all that much. But David likes variety and the weekend usually demands a change from the regular breakfast fare so I make pancakes. Because I don't like them all that much I am always looking for ways to make them more worthwhile. And so you end up with quite a few offerings here. Besides all that Eden and her kids like pancakes a lot. So what can I do? I make pancakes. Of course.

The options for gluten-free pancakes range from the sublime to the ridiculous and there are times when I swear to never try another one. Then I see an interesting recipe and ... here we go again.

These pancakes are so incredibly simple and delicious I was honestly excited. Whole grain and gluten-free and yummy, yummy, yummy. They are light and fluffy with more worth than your average empty pancake. Run out and get yourself some buckwheat flour, then make a hot stack of deliciousness.

I increased the buckwheat flour, decreased the brown rice flour, and didn't separate the egg as the author suggests you do. My pancakes were still very light. I say do it the easy way.

gluten-free buckwheat pancakes 
(from Whole Grains for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff)

3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 large egg
about 3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted - or olive oil
1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Crack the egg into a measuring cup and add milk to make 1 cup, add the butter and maple syrup. Whisk together and add to the dry ingredients. Pour the egg/milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a spatula just until combined.

Cook in a lightly buttered skillet by scan 1/4 cupfuls until dry at the edges and browned on the bottom, then flip and cook until done.

Serve with your favorite maple syrup and fresh berries. 

*I do like all the pancake recipes I have posted. Just to be clear. In fact, I like them a lot. Is that self-serving?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

peanut butter & honey energy bites


Some people grow up on peanut butter and jelly (pb&j). For me growing up, the staple sandwich for lunches at home or elsewhere was peanut butter and honey. Several times on this blog I have bemoaned the loss of pb&h as I have made an effort to include healthier choices. Peanut butter and honey is not really a healthy lunch - pretty much everyone would be compelled to admit that there is a world of better choices waiting to be had - but as a treat!? Well! I think it is a fine treat. Especially if you add sunflower seeds, hemp seed, and flaxseed along with coconut and rolled oats.

The idea is not my own, just a few of the twists. To give credit where credit is due I was introduced to the recipe on a blog written by a good friend of my son's -  allie is always hungry. (Allie calls them no bake peanut butter oatmeal balls.) Allie saw a pic on pinterest and traced it to gimme some oven, a fun little blog. I was sold pretty quickly on trying this treat with the aforementioned minor tweaks and two days have seen two batches disappear entirely. No bake, gluten-free, all pantry item, 10 minute start-to-finish treats. Do it!

Allie recommends using a regular (read: not natural, organic) brand of peanut butter. I have only the natural, no added sugar or salt organic type in my pantry so that is what I used. Worked for me. Making these was a scoop of goodness for the 'bite' count, a pinch for me kind of exercise.

The very comfortable peanut butter and honey combo is entirely welcome in my tummy.

peanut butter and honey energy bites
(adapted ever so slightly from gimme some oven)

1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped kind of fine
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup hempseed hearts
2 Tbsp milled flaxseed
2 Tbsp shelled sunflower seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt

Dump every single ingredient into a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. 

Using a 1" cookie scoop make balls that you set on a piece of parchment paper. If you want, you can stop here. If you want perfectly round and smooth balls, give each scoop of peanut butter and honey goodness a roll between your palms and voila! Fini. 

That's it. really.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

nikujaga


Way back in the olden days when we lived in Osaka and our children were small we lived in a lovely 900 sq ft apartment (it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be with 5 kids - in fact it was quite liberating). We lived on the third level of the building, the Harada family lived two floors directly below us. Harada-san was the perfect practical older sister that I very much needed. She helped me with the daily demands of our children's school and taught me to make many of the Japanese dishes that we ate regularly and are now comfort food for our family. I have fond memories of our tiny identical kitchens and the time we spent talking and cooking together. Her patient, gentle approach was so perfect for me right then. 

One of the very first dishes we made together was nikujaga. Literally meat potatoes. Everything Harada-san made was a no-recipe affair. Just some of this, some of that, and taste, smell, taste. When I decided to make a pot of nikujaga to share here I thought perhaps I would check some formal recipes just because and to my great surprise not a single one of them was quite like the dish I had been taught. To be fair, nikujaga is kind of like making chicken noodle soup in that every cook has their own particular version. But the big shock was that in many (if not most) versions the meat and potatoes are served on a plate without the wonderful broth they are braised in. Such a shame! Made with miso and soy sauce the broth is rich and interesting with that nifty umami thing going on - to be honest the meat and potatoes are pretty bland without it. Harada-san served hers more like a soup or perhaps stew and that is the way we have always had it in our house. So that is the recipe you get today. 

When we lived in Osaka I was told that the people in Tokyo are very fashionable but Osakans are the better cooks. It is certainly true that Tokyoites are very fashionable but I don't know about the cooking. All I know for sure is that there are definitely regional variations in traditional dishes. That difference may account for the broth-less nikujaga or maybe I just learned it the way that Harada-san liked to serve it. It certainly accounts for the use of pork as opposed to beef - pork being the Kansai preference. My own contribution is one that no self-respecting Japanese cook would countenance - I never peel the potatoes!


It is perfect winter food. Warm and richly flavourful without being heavy. Fragrant. Comforting and comfortable. I cannot even smell this without remembering Harada-san and feeling a wave of gratitude for her firendship.

nikujaga

8 0z pork shoulder cut into 1" cubes
6 small red potatoes, quartered
2 medium onions, chopped
4 carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
6 cups dashi*
6 Tbsp mirin
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
sea salt to taste

Heat the grapeseed oil in a large heavy pot and saute the meat on high until it is beginning to brown. Add the potatoes, onions, and carrots and cook together for two or three minutes. Pour the dashi into the pot and bring everything to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer. Add the mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Just before serving stir in the roasted sesame oil. Add salt to taste.

This is even better with a sprinkle of shichimi - a mix of dried peppers and sea weed. You may need to go to an Asian market to find it but it is so good and you will like it on lots of dishes so it is worth the looking.

*The easiest way to make the dashi is with Hon dashi granules from Ajinomoto. Again look for that in an Asian market. But to be honest making it from scratch is pretty fast and easy too. Google it if you want to give that a go ... or find your own Harada-san :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

multigrain extravaganza waffles



There are people of substance - they have solid worth and real staying power. Quality over flash. From the first firm handshake and warm hello some are instantly recognizable as such and with others it becomes evident only upon closer acquaintance. That substance is so very attractive to me; I value quality. 

The last time I made waffles I met with instantly recognizable quality - a waffle of true substance. I do not jest. This is serious stuff. I have met many a yummy waffle but without exception every one was a light-weight - no substance at all. Some are crispy, many are deliciously addictive but until now, I can honestly say that I had not met a waffle with any serious merit. This waffle of substance is delicious (as any waffle worth eating must be), has serious nutritional heft, and an incredible crunchy texture. Way more than I expected. 

Serve them with whatever toppings you most love - we liked them very best with maple syrup mixed with plain Greek yogurt (roughly 1/2 cup of syrup to 3 Tbsp yogurt. Whisk until smooth.)

David may be treated to the waffles he loves a lot more frequently from here on :)

multigrain extravaganza waffles
(adapted from Waffles by Betty Rosbottom)

1/2 cup sprouted whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup milled flaxseed
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp muscovado sugar
2 Tbsp millet seeds
2 Tbsp sprouted ground chia seed
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat your waffle iron and if you are holding the waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.

In a large bowl mix together the flours, seeds, rolled oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and milk. Pour the eggs and milk mixture into the dry ingredients and blend gently only until the ingredients are combined. Add the butter and mix until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the waffle iron and spread to within 1/2" of the edge, close the cover and cook until crisp and golden brown - about 3 minutes.

Note: the recipe suggests that this will feed 4-6 people. I feel like it is only fair to let you know that the two of us ate 3/4 of what I made. We are not big eaters BUT these are really good waffles. And in fairness, if you tried to stretch this to 6 or even 4 people, I think there might be mutiny. Just sayin' ....

Monday, November 19, 2012

almond chocolate chunk cookies with cocoa nibs



If I was to bake a cookie simply to suit my preference I would most likely make a batch of snickerdoodles or maybe cry baby cookies. When I am baking cookies for David's delight I know without a doubt his first choice will be chocolate chip. Don't get me wrong - I am a big fan of a superior chocolate chip cookie but they are still not my first choice. Because of that, in my mind at least, chocolate chip cookies are 'I love you cookies'.

These cookies are not your typical thick and chunky chocolate chip marvels. Rather, they are thin and crispy with the perfect chewy texture - a chewiness that makes them particularly irresistible to me. Although probably not the first morsel you would select from the cookie plate at the church social (they are just not flashy attention grabbers) if you were clever enough to pick one my bet is that you would go back for at least one more.

Made with far more almond meal than wheat flour they are healthier than most cookies. Of course there is still butter and sugar but never mind, just don't eat the whole batch by yourself in one sitting. At least that is my justification. That and the cocoa nibs.

almond chocolate chip cookies with cocoa nibs
(adapted from the fabulous Not Without Salt)

1/2 cup butter
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup almond meal
1/2 cup sprouted whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa nibs

Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl mix together the almond meal, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture and mix gently. Add the chocolate chunks, cranberries and cocoa nibs, stirring until everything is evenly distributed.

Using an ice cream or cookie scoop, form 1 1/4" dough balls and set well apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (These cookies really spread - be warned.)

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 13 minutes or until just turning golden on the edges and still soft in the middle. Let cool for a minute or two on the baking before moving to a wire rack to cool.

Note: If you wanted to make these gluten-free simply substitute your favourite gf flour mix for the sprouted whole wheat flour. (My personal recommendation is to make your own mix using whole grain gluten free options. That way you get the goodness of whole grains that you often miss in commercial offerings. There are lots of good mixes to be found on various blogs or you can try the mix I like - you can find it at the bottom of this post.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

sweet potato hummus


A hummus intervention may be in order here because this recipe brings the total of hummus posts to five. Five!  But it is good and variety is the spice of life they say, so I vary my lunch by varying my hummus. Aaanyway, hummus is one of my favourite fast and easy lunch/snack fixes (just use the handy dandy search bar on the right and google hummus). Does the world need another recipe for hummus? Maybe not, but I think it would be a sadder place without. When I shared a portion of this recipe with Eden her reaction was totally satisfactory. She, in fact, declares that she is addicted to it.

I baked my sweet potatoes in the oven alongside a batch of cookies but if you wanted to hurry things along you could certainly "bake" a couple in the microwave. I like the caramel-ly goodness that happens when sweet potatoes are slowly roasted in the oven but sweet potatoes are so good and good for you that it is hard to find a way to cook them that is not good. Either way is same/same. So bake your potatoes, pull out your food processor and whirl up a batch of goodness to scoop up with some crunchy celery sticks and pita bread. Lunch break doesn't get a whole lot better.

sweet potato hummus

2 medium sweet potatoes, baked 
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup tahini
4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp  toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp Louisiana hot sauce
1 (19 oz) can chick peas, drained and rinsed

Put the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, sesame oil, salt, hot sauce, and chick peas in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Cut the sweet potatoes into rough chunks and toss into the food processor as well. Process again until smooth. 

Serve with your favourite dippers - I think it is very best with a fresh, crisp celery stick (or two or three...)

Just for the record? I do eat more than hummus for lunch. Sometimes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

cygnets


Backstage before performance. Stretching. Made up. In costume. Ready to dance. This image was captured early in Eden's career as a photographer, well before the ten thousand hour mark that is reputedly the magic point at which mastery occurs in any field of endeavor. I loved the photo when it was taken and it remains a favourite out of all the beautiful work that Eden has done over the years. It hangs, blown up to poster size in our home. The graphic quality, the subject, the mood - it touches me in a way that I find difficult to articulate.

Merin was 13 and totally in love with classical ballet. I wasn't in the audience the night that she danced the pas de quatre from Swan Lake. I have always wished I had been. I don't know where I was or why I wasn't there but I  love these images from that night - I can feel like I was almost there.





They were such adorable little cygnets and good friends. I have lost track of two of the girls but Merin and Alex were close friends always. Never ugly ducklings - although perhaps coltish - they grew into beautiful women. Talented, confident, and happy. Elegant even. Both of them swans in the very best way.

Eden, Merin, and Alex have met and surpassed the ten thousand hours - each of them true artists. I am proud of them and feel it a privilege to have been there for at least some of those hours. We seldom see where the road ends when we set out on it and motherhood is no different than any other occupation in that. Many hours were committed to nurturing this talent and love. I am content with the destination.


Alexandra MacDonald is currently dancing as second soloist with The National Ballet of Canada. Eden's photography speaks for itself and her talent. Merin achieved her desires.

Friday, November 9, 2012

chocolate pots

a la Meinhardt's




I have obsessed over the chocolate pots from Meinhardt's in Vancouver for a couple of years. When I am in Vancouver I always, always plan a visit (quick though it may be) to Meinhardt's and rarely leave the shop without a little chocolate pot in my bag. I have tried a number of times to make my own chocolate pots but although I have made some yummy chocolate stuff nothing has been quite right. Not, that is, until a couple of weeks ago. And having cracked the code it is crazy easy. I laugh at myself for all the involved and chocolate-rich options I tried. (To be honest I haven't compared the original to the reinvention, bite side-by bite but I am happy with this.)

A few good eggs, a touch of sweet, some good bittersweet chocolate - but not a lot - a dash of cream plus a little bit of time. mmmmmmmmmm

I have made this a number of times. It is equally good made with honey or sugar for sweetening. The honey is recognizable as such in the finished pudding but that's not a bad thing. Try it either way or both.

Since Jonathon first introduced me to the seduction of Meinhardt's little chocolate pots and then pushed me to try to "make it at home", this one is for him.

chocolate pots

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (or 2 Tbsp honey)
a pinch of sea salt
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped very fine
1/2 cup heavy cream,whipped

Combine the egg yolks, sugar (or honey), and pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Whisk together over very low heat. VERY low heat because you don't want to cook the eggs, just warm things up enough to melt the chocolate that you have chopped very fine so that it will melt without requiring a lot of heat. Check the temp frequently to make sure that you are not, in fact, cooking anything and when it is just warm remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature - which won't take very long since it was never all that warm to begin with.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy to soft peaks. When the chocolate mixture has cooled sufficiently, add about half of the whipped cream and whisk to combine. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spoon into 4 small cups or bowls. Refrigerate until firm.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

cinnamon breakfast quinoa


No story today - just this bowl of wonderful, healthy breakfast. So, sooo good that I am a little bit sad when I have chased the last grain of quinoa onto my spoon and into my mouth.

This recipe is generous; there is plenty to have a couple of large bowlfuls for breakfast one day and enough to save in the fridge and reheat for another day or even two. You could make more or less depending on how many are eating but do make enough for more than a single day - saves time and encourages eating a healthier breakfast than Captain Crunch (or whatever .... shudder). I particularly love the pecans, pears, and quinoa together but a good apple is pretty delicious too.

I used a combination of red and black quinoa. For this bowlful I prefer the chewier texture of the colourful quinoas as opposed to the more readily available white but any colour of quinoa is good.

cinnamon breakfast quinoa
(adapted from Gourmet)

1/2 cup red quinoa
1/2 cup black quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 tsp cinnamon
chopped pecans
1 ripe pear
maple syrup

Combine the quinoa, salt, cinnamon sticks, and raisins with the water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook (covered) for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat under the pan and let sit (still covered) for a further 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and remove the cinnamon sticks. Stir in the ground cinnamon. 

To serve: divide into bowls and top each serving with a small handful of chopped pecans, a generous amount of diced pear, milk of your choice (nut or other), and a drizzle of maple syrup to taste.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

tomato chowder with quinoa



I am relieved that it is finally November because perhaps now we can justify the snow and cold! It was really hard to get into the spirit of Halloween when it just felt more like January. (I know that is a bit of an exaggeration - when January is truly here this weather will seem downright lovely but I don't have my thick Canadian-winter-blood running yet.) At any rate, between the snow and cold and a sore throat/cough thing soup was all I wanted to eat this week. It was the perfect chance to try something that had been  rattling around in my mind for a few weeks.

Jonathon has recently started a new job (as President of Martha Sturdy - and yes, I am proud!!!) and as part of team-building had a retreat to Martha's beautiful ranch in Pemberton, BC. When Jonathon was telling me about the event he waxed slightly poetic about a tomato soup that Martha had made. It sounded so delicious that I was determined to give it a try. A rich, thick tomato soup with vegetables. This is not Martha's recipe - just a soup I made inspired by Jonathon's ode to Martha's soup. I would love to try her soup but have to say that we thoroughly enjoyed what was in our own soup pot. As an endorsement I offer this: David quite dislikes eating the same thing in close succession but we had this soup for our evening meal one day and for lunch the three days following and he mentioned that the soup was so good that he was really enjoying it - even three days running for lunch. That may not seem like much to anyone else but it is high praise indeed!

This soup is almost as easy as opening a can and so much better. It is tangy with the tomatoes and herbs, full of vegetables and smoothed out with just a tiny bit of cream. The quinoa adds more fiber, additional protein, and nice body. 

The last day we had this for lunch I added a few drops of Louisiana hot sauce just to change it up a tiny bit. 

And as for Halloween? We did something we had never done before - filled a huge bowl with treats, put them on the doorstep with a sign, and retreated to watch Snow White and the Huntsman - which ended up being a pretty good Halloween movie.  The sign recommended taking a couple of treats but since the bowl was empty by 7:30 and it was awfully cold for trick-or-treating, my guess is that the little ghouls took by the armfuls. lol

p.s. you should really check out Martha's house. Well, one of them - it was featured this last summer in Canadian House and Home magazine. Martha is an iconic artist and her favoured medium is resin. From housewares to furniture to canvases and sculpture - all very cool and beautiful.

tomato chowder with quinoa

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic,  minced
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1 Tbsp dried)
2 mild Italian sausages, cut into 'coins'
1 lb yellow fleshed 'baby' potatoes - halved if small, quartered for the larger ones
2 stalks celery, diced
3 medium carrots, cut into half moons
1/3 cup quinoa
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring,  until translucent. Add the sausage, celery, potatoes, and carrots and cook for a minute or two, stirring to coat the vegetables and let things begin to get carmel-y edges. Add the chicken stock, quinoa, and oregano. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer (covered) until the vegetables are tender - about 20 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and bring back to a simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and add the salt and pepper to taste.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

roasted squash with quinoa and sausage




Often when I come across a recipe that intrigues me I have a pretty good idea of what it will taste like. Sometimes I am disappointed (the chocolate compost cookies that I tried this week were hugely disappointing - I love the original compost cookies and so had high hopes but .... blehhhh! They seriously tasted like the cookies that I used to find in my grandma's cookie jar along with various other odds and ends - compost for sure) and other times I am euphorically surprised. This meal in a dish is for sure in the latter category. I thought it would be really good but it is so much more than that. I try to keep the bar* high on the blog here regarding what I share. I have to be pretty excited about whatever I share because I know that everybody has so many options and only so much time. This I am super excited about - healthy, easy, and fantastically delicious. I was filled with evangelical zeal when I made it; something this great needs to be shared. Good food isn't really all that hard to find but sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort. Or a long list of ingredients. Or time. Or a toll on one's health. To find an option that hits the trifecta of simple, healthy, and incredibly good is uncommon; adding kid-friendly makes it rare as hen's teeth.

The recipe is from a cookbook that is my newest enthusiasm -  Whole Grains for A New Generation by Liana Krissoff. (Although it is currently slightly out of vogue to be excited about eating whole grains - or any grains at all - I am a fan and think they can have a place in most diets.) I used a pretty little Carnival squash instead of the more common butternut that was called for and didn't peel it because (this is old I know) I don't believe in peeling much of anything with the exception of beets. Aside from adding a tiny bit of fennel seed, those are the only very minor tweaks I made to the recipe.

Make this. Soon.

roasted squash with quinoa and sausage
(from Whole Grains for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff)

1 small Carnival or butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 shallot
1 small onion
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
225 gm mild Italian sausage
1 tsp dried sage leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scrape the seeds out of the squash and cut it into 1-inch chunks. Chop the onion into large chunks. Put the onion, peeled shallot, and squash chunks into a 9x11 inch baking dish and drizzle with  1 Tbsp olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat. Roast until tender - about 30-40 minutes. Give the vegetables a stir about half way through.

Meanwhile remove the sausage from the casings and brown in a 2-quart saucepan with the remaining olive oil. Add the sage and fennel seed, 1/2 tsp of sea salt and 1 1/2 cups water. Stir and scrape up any brown bits. Add the quinoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn off the heat but leave covered and on the burner for another 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and add the mixture to the roasted tender vegetables. Gently fold to combine.

*my bar you understand - everyone has a unique idea of what is yummy. One of my dear ones is probably busy pitying David every time he eats with us; his idea of good food is quite different from mine.