Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I feel elegant and cool and lucky and loved. Totally spoiled and happy about that for sure. I am up to my ears in new love. Real, total, forever love.




I knew I was a goner as soon as I clapped eyes in these babies. So totally what I love - a cool twist on a classic. Rough black diamond studs. Handmade. Gorgeous.


I think I will never take these off. 


Unless I was to get their white diamond twins


earrings made by Alexis Russell - LexLuxe


Thanks Jonathon and Eden!

Monday, February 27, 2012

quadruple coconut muffins with dark chocolate


 


Quadruple coconut? Coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut milk/yogurt, and shredded coconut. Four different ways to get your coconut goodness. Just imagine all the yumminess to say nothing of all those medium chain triglycerides making you so healthy and smart .... or whatever they do :)


These are not beauty pageant muffins BUT .... if you could smell them? and then taste them? No contest! Absolute winners. They are richly, wonderfully, (healthfully), coconut-y. I made two versions; one gluten-free (because some people I know and love are living that way now), the second with a bit of wheat flour (because I know not everyone needs to live gluten-free and they deserve coconut goodness too). Which version is better? It's a tough choice. Both are moist and dense and totally addictive. I think I prefer the gluten-free - it is macaroon-ish (new word, yup) in texture - David thinks he likes the second try. But as you can see, neither of us is very sure which we prefer just that they are very worth eating. 


 gluten-free quadruple coconut muffins with dark chocolate
( adapted from Smitten Kitchen)


1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups Liberte brand full fat coconut yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup whole grain gluten-free flour blend
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup sugar*
1/2 cup dried, shredded coconut
1 cup good quality dark chocolate (chopped or chips)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with papers. 


Warm the coconut oil over low heat in a small saucepan (or in the microwave for about 1 minute) just until it melts. You don't want it hot. Combine the vanilla, egg, and yogurt.


Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in the chocolate. Add the yogurt/egg mixture and the coconut oil. Stir to combine. The batter is very thick - more like cookie dough than batter (as you can see in the picture). That's just the nature of using coconut oil. It all works out. When you fill the lined muffin cups you have to kind of push the dough into the cups.


Bake for 20 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean when they are done. Cool on a wire rack.





quadruple coconut muffins with dark chocolate



1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
1 large egg
1 cup coconut milk (from the dairy case)
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sprouted whole wheat flour**
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup sugar*
1/2 cup dried, shredded coconut
1 cup good quality dark chocolate (chopped or chips)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with papers. 

Warm the coconut oil over low heat in a small saucepan (or in the microwave for about 1 minute) just until it melts. You don't want it hot. Add the lemon juice to the coconut milk and let set for a few minutes, then add the egg and vanilla and stir.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in the chocolate. Add the milk/egg mixture and the coconut oil. Stir to combine. The batter is very thick - more like cookie dough than batter (as you can see in the picture). That's just the nature of using coconut oil. It all works out. When you fill the lined muffin cups you have to kind of push the dough into the cups.

Bake for 20 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean when they are done. Cool on a wire rack.



Note: I make my own blend of flours. This is the mix I used. It can be substituted cup for cup for all purpose flour.


whole grain gluten-free flour mixture
200 gm brown rice flour
150 gm sorghum flour
50 gm almond flour
50 gm potato flour
250 gm sweet rice flour
150 gm arrowroot
150 gm potato  starch


*You can use an equal amount of coconut palm sugar for a lower GI sweetener that is un refined, or an equal amount of honey if you prefer. Either will work. 


**I recently found this flour and was pretty excited about it. It is delicious and a very healthy alternative but you could easily use regular whole wheat flour or even plain old all-purpose flour if that's what you have or prefer.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

kitchen scale



I am a reasonably recent convert to the concept that a kitchen scale is something every well-equipped kitchen needs. I have had mine for just over a year now and while I initially used it infrequently, I pull it out pretty much every day now. It is just the handiest little thing! All those recipes from the U.K. are now accessible. Baking is much more reliable since measuring flours by weight is simply the most accurate way to go (and if one is doing gluten-free baking and mixing flours - essential!!). And sometimes things just need to be weighed. You know.

To be sure, I am not any kind of a kitchen-scale-expert. I have only ever had the one I currently have. I cannot claim to have any real hands-on experience in using the many models that are on the market but (since my one outstanding talent - according to a dear friend - is shopping. Sad, I know) I carefully compared what I had to choose from and think that this model from Superstore is the clear and easy winner in all categories that mattered to me. It is compact, sleek, easy to clean (a simple quick swipe suffices - no grooves or buttons), and accurate. It easily weighs items in grams, pounds or mls. Zeroes out. Looks cool. All that for less than 25.00!!!!! Most reliable scales start at close to 50.00 and many are more like 100.00, so I was almost sceptical that this scale could/would deliver but once again the President's Choice label at Superstore has a winner. The products available at Superstore are pretty changeable but I happen to know that they still carry this scale - might be your new best friend in the kitchen :)

Superstore and I have no relationship aside from the fact that I shop there. Just so you know.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Love, love, loved!!! Anonymous. If you haven't seen it yet, do. One of my all-time favorite books (and one of the few I recommend freely) is Chasing Shakespeares by Sarah Smith. Same theme - the authorship of the writing attributed to William Shakespeare. Absolutely fascinating and a ton of fun... the movie and the book. (Although movie and book address the same question, the movie is not based on the book - just to be clear.) I think I know what I believe but I know I wish I could know for sure. It has been teasing me ever since I read the book eight years ago. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

together

David returned on Saturday from a short trip to Japan. He was gone 11 days. Over the course of our marriage he has travelled or worked away from home - not frequently, but a fair bit.  A couple of times he has worked abroad for months at a time. At any rate I have some practise with him being gone. So it is with interest that I have noticed (the last few times he has travelled) that I long for him now in a way that is different than it was before.

One would think that with a houseful of busy children - with lessons and homework, bedtimes and mealtimes - the missing would have been so much more insistent. The work load was certainly demanding. I went to bed every night exhausted and missed curling into him. One could perhaps think that that very busyness lessened the missing - perhaps it did. But I stay very busy now when he is gone. No longer with a houseful of little ones or crazy teenagers even, but every day is fuller than the one before. And every night I am worn out.

In years past I missed his support and physical help, his half of our team. Now I just miss him. When he is here I feel stronger, better, more whole. The difficulties of life are easier to face and the joys are sweeter when we share them. It is something that is hard to find words for. But the missing becomes longing and is very insistent.

I read this post on Friday and thought "Dream hubby!!! What woman doesn't dream of a response like that?!" I doubt it is one that I will ever hear from David's lips. That's okay though because he takes a whole day out of his very busy schedule while in Japan for a trip that isn't quite long enough anyway to take the train 500 km each way to buy me some beautiful pans that can only be purchased at the factory. Isn't that dreamy? Sure is to me. It isn't the gift of the pans (although two NakedPans for Valentine's Day is pretty cool) but the doing something for me, that is not easy or convenient for him, just because he knows I would like it. It is that he knows me - that we know each other. That we are really, really together.




Monday, February 13, 2012

naked pans




David returned from Japan on Saturday evening and in his suitcase - not one but two NakedPans! Sensually beautiful in form - naked seems appropriate. The 'naked' however actually refers to the fact that the pan is indeed naked. As in no coatings or chemical treatment. They are made of cast iron following an ancient tradition by skilled craftsmen in an area that has produced cast iron wares for centuries. Oigen, the company that makes NakedPan, has patented a process that creates an iron-oxide film on the surface of the pans. This surface makes the cast iron rust resistant. It also creates a natural non-stick surface. Very simply explained, small batches of the cast iron is heated to 900 degrees C for a very specific amount of time. Craftsmen have been producing beautiful rust-resistant Japanese tea kettles using a similar process for centuries. Oigen has perfected and applied the process to make some truly elegant pans. And of course, being cast iron, the cooking qualities are first rate.

The shapes are simple with details (like the hobnail - or arare - pattern on the underside of the handles) that nod to traditional Japanese design. I have spent the day admiring their beauty. They really deserve a haiku in their honor but another caress will have to do.

Desire fulfilled, I have my own NakedPans. Tomorrow I cook!


(Top three pictures show my pans beautifully naked - straight out of the box. The last picture is after a light seasoning.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

goma sauce with asparagus fried rice


This is a very considered choice - putting the sauce before the dish. You need to know right from the start that this sauce is no supporting actor but indeed has the starring role. The asparagus fried rice is good and fine but when the sauce is added? mmmwhaw! This virtuosity owes everything to the fine flavour of goma aka sesame seed. Simple and fast to make this sauce improves salad as well as fried rice.

Sesame seeds are more than simply tasty - they are loaded with minerals (primarily calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc) as well as Vit B1 and some good ol' fiber. Amazing fact: 1/4 cup of raw sesame seed provides more calcium than 1 cup of milk. While I know that it is unlikely you will be eating even 1/4 cup of sesame seed a day, it still shows that this seed is pretty loaded with calcium, and getting these important minerals is critical to good health. So eat your minerals!


goma sauce
1/4 cup tahini
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp hot water
Combine all the ingredients in a small-ish bowl and whisk together. Serve drizzled over asparagus fried rice. Saves well for a week in the fridge.


asparagus fried rice
(adapted from Spilling the Beans)

1 (19 oz) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1" pieces (roughly 1/2 lb)
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 tsp sea salt
 1/4 cup chopped almonds (for topping)
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan often, until the chickpeas are golden. Add the garlic and salt and continue to cook until the chickpeas are becoming crispy. Remove from pan and put aside.

Add the onion to the pan (with a bit more coconut oil if needed). Cook until golden. Add the asparagus, cover and cook for a couple of minutes - until the asparagus is bright green and just softened. Remove from the pan and add to the chickpeas.

Add another tsp or so of coconut oil to the pan and then add the rice. (You can use leftover rice if you have it but we never have enough rice leftover to make a decent sized batch of fried rice so now I just always use freshly cooked rice. Nobody has complained yet.) Toss the rice around a bit for a minute or two, so it starts to brown. Add the chickpeas, onions, and asparagus. When everything is well mixed and warmed through, you're ready to serve.

Divide the fried rice into bowls, drizzle with the goma sauce, and top with a sprinkle of chopped almonds. Pass more sauce at the table.

One of the things I like best about fried rice is having enough left for a bowl for my lunch the next day. A bowl of rice, some quiet, and a good book to enjoy while I munch. Heaven.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

walking

I used to walk every day. Summer, winter, rain, sleet, or snow. Okay, not sleet but everything else as long as the temperature was above -14 degrees C (my own arbitrary cut-off). I walked for miles each day and I loved it. I loved the fresh air filling my lungs and cooling my cheeks, the slight burn in my muscles, the way the knots in my mind worked loose and I could figure out what it was that I was thinking. Somehow after Merin died I lost track of that. I stopped walking and forgot to start again. Then the sand of life just sifted into the void that was left where I used to walk. Pretty soon it was filled up and I didn't even notice that there had been a spot for that in my life. Sometimes I would look out the window and think about a walk but the time and the inclination just....well, not there. But in the last few days, with our unseasonably spring-like weather, my walking shoes have been whispering to me again and I heard them. I went for a walk on Monday and the tips of my ears were hurting with the cold wind that blew but it felt so good - to walk. I was out again today. It felt so good again.


I walked by a few women and said hello and we smiled. They each looked like they would be lovely. I had a fleeting thought that it might be nice to walk with someone - to have a walking buddy. Then I thought about how I treasure the time I have with myself when I walk and I know I probably won't look for a walking buddy. I kind of need the time to remember who I am, to figure stuff out. I walk fast - just like my dad - but my mind slows down so that things seem much clearer. I come home feeling smooth and mellow. 


It is good. To go walking again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

hazelnut hot chocolate



When you make your own homemade 'nutella' you can use some of the delicious stuff to make a cup of amazing hazelnut hot chocolate. Just heat a cup of milk and stir in a generous spoonful of the nutella. Voila! Easier than a mix. Smells like heaven. Tastes even better than that. I used coconut milk (my fav 'So Delicious' from the dairy case) but you could use whatever milk you like to drink. It simply can't be less than wonderfully decadent.

Monday, February 6, 2012

homemade 'nutella'



To be 100% honest I am not a true Nutella aficionado. To be sure, I like it - but I have never been able to really get into eating it straight from the jar by the spoonful. And don't get me started on those ridiculous tv commercials that claim it is a nutritious breakfast. pshaw! But still, I do like it. 

We have crepes for breakfast every Christmas morning. This last year I thought (being intrigued by the many recipes offered online) that I should try making a homemade version of Nutella to fill some of our crepes. As the recipes all looked dead simple I was not concerned about the outcome. Turns out I should have been. It was not a success. Disappointed but not beaten I was determined to make my own and finally got back to the project. This time it was not simply successful but wonderful. I figured a few things out that I must admit I wish had been spelled out and were not - not in even one of the recipes I read. 

The first thing (and this I must admit was written into the recipes but I just didn't really believe it) is when the directions say to process the nuts until they 'liquify' they really mean liquid - not paste, not runny paste, but actually liquid. It is pretty cool to watch it happen, and it is critical to let it get to that point.

The second thing I learned is that when the honey is added to the nut 'liquid' DO NOT over-process. You will be sorry if you do because what you will get is a stiff quasi-fudge. Totally un-spreadable and very disappointing.

Aside from those two important points, making 'nutella'  really is dead simple. It is delicious and, without the additives in the commercial spread, it may even make (part of) a nutritious breakfast. Certainly a reasonable treat. I must confess I am now absolutely converted to eating it straight-from-the-jar-by-the-spoonful. Anything else seems kind of silly. Really.

homemade 'nutella'
(adapted from the Encyclopedie du Chocolat by way of David Lebovitz)

1 1/2 cups whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup skim milk powder
1 1/2 Tbsp mild honey
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate

Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast them at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes, giving the pan a shake two or three times. You want nice golden, very fragrant nuts. Transfer the nuts to a damp tea towel, gather into a bundle, and rub together to remove the skins. While still warm, put the nuts into the bowl of a food processor and process until they are very runny - liquid. Be patient, it happens.

Meanwhile combine the milk, milk powder, honey and salt in a small saucepan over gentle heat and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat. Melt the chopped chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. (It shouldn't take much more than a minute and a half - just keep stirring.)

Now it's time to add the milk and the chocolate to the nuts - and time to be a tiny bit careful. Don't just let the food processor run. You want to simply pulse the chocolate and milk into the nuts. If you over-process you will end up disappointed, with something that tastes good but is nothing like Nutella in texture. The more you process, the harder it seizes. Trust me on this. To be safe, one could simply stir the milk mixture and melted chocolate into the nuts.

This makes about 2 cups of 'nutella'. Initially I wondered how we would eat it all. Silly me.



Friday, February 3, 2012

spelt porridge with blueberries and almond butter


Because I just know that everybody is going to wake up and want porridge for breakfast this weekend. If you don't, you would if you knew about this porridge. It is kind of like peanut butter and jelly - but way better.


Easy, healthy, yummy. Try it with a splash of coconut milk.


spelt porridge with blueberries and almond butter


3/4 cup spelt flakes*
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup shelled hemp seed
1 Tbsp honey
1 cup fresh blueberries
almond butter


Combine the spelt flakes, water, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the water has been absorbed - you want the mixture to be a bit creamy like oatmeal. Stir in the honey and hemp seed. Divide between two bowls, drizzle a healthy tablespoon or two (depending on your taste) over each bowlful and top each bowl with 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries.


*you could just about any other type of flakes for this - oats, quinoa, barley - whatever you like or have on hand.


And have a wonderful weekend :)