Monday, July 30, 2012

ewan's nursery








Thomas and Hannah have a knack for creating super-great rooms for their kids. Ewan's nursery is the fourth space they have customized and each room has been cool, unique, creative, and totally 'them'. It's a tough trick to pull off - to put your own stamp on a space like that. If that's not enough, they manage to do it without spending a fortune. Part of that of course, is the diy factor. But their creativity and attention to quality just wrap it all in a practically perfect package. I wish you could stand in the room - it is just so cool. Please pardon the pics. I did my best :) but I really haven't done the room justice.

One wall is painted with black chalkboard paint, the others are perfectly white. Thomas doodled the graffiti-esque street scene and they hung one of Mark's paintings in the middle of the scene. Supa-cool. The dresser (IKEA) previously lived in Theo's nursery where it wore a natural raw wood finish that was perfect for the outdoor/mountain theme. Now just the drawers are painted a fantastic yellow that 'makes' the room. There is a comfy black wool-covered chair in the corner for middle of the night feeds with a wire basket of diaper changing essentials close at hand. Hannah's clever sister Beth embroidered the amazing-cool Northern hemisphere sky chart that records the stars for the month Ewan was born. (That may be my favourite personal touch - I wish I had one for each of my own kids!) Jonathon sent the wooden caterpillar from Vancouver. Hannah made the nifty mobile out of twigs that she collected, painted, and balanced - her own brilliant idea. (If you have never tried to balance a mobile you will not appreciate how tricky and potentially hair-pulling a feat that can be.) Although the mobile is simple it is the perfect touch of colour and movement. The submarine print is an etsy find that suggested the color direction for the room. And finally, Thomas repurposed and retrofitted the light fixture. It was a find from the demo of  a local high school. So clever. And all so cool.



Friday, July 27, 2012

another rhubarb muffin



As promised, the second of two rhubarb muffin recipes. This was born out of a desire to make muffins that both Aubrie and Eden could enjoy. It's hard to not feel a bit sad when everyone else is moaning about the deliciousness of baking and you can only remember the experience. I hate that for them. So. A totally yummy, gluten-free muffin made without refined sugars. 

Coconut oil could be used in place of the butter; it would increase the good-for-you-ness. I simply wanted the flavour of butter the day I made these :)  Another option in this recipe is to use brown sugar in place of the coconut palm sugar.

rhubarb buckwheat muffins

1 1/2 cups whole grain gluten free flour mix
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp sprouted ground chia seed
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or soured milk, any type)
2 1/2 cup thinly sliced rhubarb
1 cup coconut palm sugar

Combine the flours, chia seed, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl  whisk together the egg, vanilla, melted butter, yogurt, buttermilk, and palm sugar. Toss the rhubarb in the flour mixture to coat it. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter into 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.



Monday, July 23, 2012

rhubarb muffins




In the first flush of rhubarb growth this year I had the ambition to post a week's worth of recipes using rhubarb. A rhubarb recipe a day. That may have been a great idea but  it was waaay too ambitious! I did the experimenting, the rhubarb harvesting and chopping, the tasting, the photographing, but the posting? Just didn't get to it. What can I say? There were little ones to watch and wedding dresses to sew. Gardens to plant and weed. Walks to be taken and books to read.

I know that rhubarb is less plentiful than it was (my plants have slowed down but are still thriving) and maybe everyone else's rhubarb enthusiasm has waned but the recipes are too good not to share. At least we thought so. And so - today - the first of two rhubarb muffin recipes. These muffins are pretty straight-forward, healthy but not packed. A good snack, not a power muffin - but still a long way from a piece of cake called a muffin.

If you haven't discovered the trick of using a large trigger-type scoop for loading your muffin tins - try it. It's the smoothest way to do the job. Evenly sized muffins and no messy drips :) 

rhubarb muffins

1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup sprouted whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup milled flaxseed
1/4 cup almond flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp chia seed
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or soured milk of any type)
2 1/2 cups finely chopped rhubarb

In a large bowl mix together the flours (white, whole wheat, almond), oatmeal, flaxseed, chia seed, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Add the chopped rhubarb and toss to coat.

In another smaller bowl mix the egg, vanilla, melted coconut oil, yogurt, and buttermilk. Add to the mixture of dry ingredients and rhubarb. Stir only until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the batter into paper-lined muffin tins and bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes or until golden.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

crepe paper beauties





I admire poppies. The way they wear color - boldly and with total confidence. I love their breezy, carefree femininity. The papery petals that surround the luscious, soft velvet center. Exotic and a tiny bit mysterious but ever so approachable. Eye-catching but unselfconscious; graceful as they sway on twirly, slender stems. And with age, a little gold  (and softer) around the edges, they become ... even more tender and beautiful.

If I was a flower I would like to be a poppy - I'm not but I would like to be.  I do admire them.  I wonder what flower I would be......?





Friday, July 20, 2012

rhubarb scones





I really do love breakfast. Of course, there is the simple pleasure of breaking the fast - I'm just plain hungry when I get up. But more than that I enjoy the making of the meal. Summer mornings add an element of special pleasure - the particular light in my garden, the quiet, the green everywhere. To wander through the backyard to the rhubarb, all in the quiet gentleness of the morning to pull the few stalks that I need for the scones I have been wanting to make for far too long. Back into the kitchen to the solitary pleasure of making a special meal to share with loved family that is visiting. Quiet. Quiet and peaceful while the rest of the house sleeps.


Rhubarb may seem an unlikely choice to add to scones. It is an amazing addition. If you can still find rhubarb at your farmer's market, give these a try. We all loved them - every single lovely crumb. 


To go along with the scones we had some fluffy scrambled eggs.  Since there is no such thing as too much rhubarb in my opinion, we rounded out the meal with plain Greek yogurt topped with a vanilla rhubarb compote.


If you wanted to make these scones GF, just substitute your favorite gluten-free flour mix for the flour. As always, I think it is worth the effort to make your own mix * - the texture of the flour is less gritty for one thing and you can customize it with the flours you prefer. But there are also many good blends on the market.


rhubarb scones
(from Food 52)


3 stalks rhubarb, sliced thinly
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp  sea salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 - 1 cup heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. I proceeded from this point mixing by hand - so empty the mixture into another mixing bowl and add the rhubarb. Toss gently to mix.  Mix the vanilla into the cream, then blend in the cream until a soft dough forms - you may need more or less cream depending on the humidity. You want a soft, rough dough. Be careful not to over-mix.


Transfer the dough to a floured surface, divide it into two balls. Flatten each dough-ball into a 6" disk and cut each circle into 6-8 scones. Sprinkle with sugar.


Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 20 minute or until lightly browned.


*The recipe for the mix that I like can be found at the bottom of this post.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

summer reading

There are lists abounding for summer reading. Of course, reading preferences are entirely personal but here is a short list of some of my own favorites.


The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - Old and classic. If you haven't read it yet, read it now. I highly recommend it. Although it was written mid- 19th century it reads easy and current. A real page-turner.


Passion by Jude Morgan - I had this on my shelf for eight!!! years before pulling it down. And then I found I couldn't put it down. Extremely well-written, I frequently found myself marking passages to return to and reflect on the ideas.


The William Monk series by Anne Perry - starting with The Face of the Stranger - I have read the entire series (detective, set in Victorian London) and loved each book. William Monk is a wonderful character - although not entirely likeable.


Anything (and I mean it) written by Georgette Heyer. My aunt - a woman of intellect and class - introduced me to the novels of Georgette Heyer when I was in my late teens. I have read, reread, and re-reread every book that I could get my hands on; I find them easily as enjoyable when familiar. Witty and sharp, full of fun and a great turn of phrase, these books are what I turn to when I want (or need) to escape from the cares of life or simply to let go and relax. They are laugh-out-loud enjoyable. Perhaps not high-brow but in no way trash.


The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge (biography) - read this first if you haven't read any of the novels. You will appreciate Heyer more for it. It is an easy biography - but maybe that's because I am such a huge Heyer fan.


That's just a corner of what I like but it's a good summer list.



Sunday, July 15, 2012

weeds


One of the better parts of summer is working in my garden and perhaps my favorite garden chore is weeding. Solitary, quiet, simple - it is both rewarding and soothing. Requiring no tremendous mental focus on the task at hand it allows for mind-wandering and reflection, and results in beauty and order. Often and often it occurs to me that there are wonderful life lessons to be learned in the garden. Simple little analogies and metaphors occur to me as I work away - thoughts that I find meaningful. So today ... a few life lessons from my garden:


Every garden has weeds. Every life has problems, everyone does things they shouldn't. Some gardens are neglected and the weeds overtake the beauty. Other gardens are tended and the weeds are small but every garden has weeds. 


It is a lot easier to pull weeds right after a good hard rain. Wait for the hot sun and the ground is so hard, the weeds so strong and firmly rooted that removing them is hard, hard work. Overwhelming. Almost defeating.


It is a lot easier to pull small weeds than large ones.


Procrastinating is usually not the best option when dealing with weeds. Things tend to get out of hand quickly.


Although rain is essential for a healthy garden most of us - even gardeners - would prefer a forecast of eternal sunshine (or maybe only Camelot-like nightly rains that don't impact our personal plans for pleasure). Who wants a picnic in the rain anyway? But a good rain makes the weeds grow as well as the flowers - often making them not only easier to pull but easier to find.


In my life as in all lives, there have been periods with heavy rain. Times when the sunshine of life seems a distant memory and I have wondered if it would shine again. But at those times if my heart is right, I can see the 'weeds' and they are so much easier to pull. When the sun comes out again - as it always does - my 'garden' is more beautiful and I love it more. If there were no weeds, no rain, no effort, would there be joy and satisfaction? Would I even recognize that there was beauty?



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

rhubarb italian soda syrup



Most of the time an air-conditioned house is ridiculous in Calgary. Generally speaking there are only two or three days in our summer when air conditioning would be really welcome. Today is one of those days. Even our house with its wonderfully placed windows and fantastic cross-draft is hot.


In the summer days of my childhood memories the weather was always hot and sunny. My parents built an in-ground pool in our large backyard when I was four. It was a great pool. Big enough to swim laps and deep enough to dive. Every day was a party in the pool. Cousins came often. I remember my mom and aunts sunning themselves on loungers on the pool deck while we splashed and shrieked - having the most wonderful fun. The roof of our garage was flat and overhung one corner of the pool, making a perfect platform for daring leaps into the water. Other days were more quiet - no friends or cousins - just my parents and siblings but just as much fun, still a party. We never went away in the summer because nowhere was better. And always, in my memory, the days were hot and sunny. The water welcoming and cool. Even in Calgary. 


We have no backyard pool now. But we still need to cool off on days like today. This rhubarb soda syrup is a nice change of pace. Not strongly rhubarb in taste but still a bit tart, the syrup is the most lovely soft pink colour. I added a sniff of vanilla because I love vanilla with rhubarb and used honey instead of sugar. Added to sparkling water it makes a refreshing soda. My personal preference is to mix it with still water - not too strong. Just a refreshing wisp of flavour on a hot day.


The hardest part of making this is finding a bottle pretty enough for the pink to keep it in :) In the end I used a vinegar bottle that I had saved for its very prettiness. Of course, a mason jar would store it just as well - but where's the fun in that?


rhubarb italian soda
(from Chatelaine - adapted)


1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 tsp vanilla (optional)


Combine the water and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the chopped rhubarb and allow to come back to a boil. Turn the heat off under the pan but leave the pan on the burner. Cover and let steep for an hour. Add the lemon juice (and vanilla if you wish). Pour the resulting syrup through a sieve into whatever container you have chosen. Store in the fridge.


To use: mix in proportions of 1 Tbsp syrup to 1 cup water (still or sparkling) or to taste. As noted above, I like it a bit weak. David prefers it stronger.

Monday, July 9, 2012

raw chocolate macaroons






During my April visit to Vancouver Jonathon told me about some chocolate macaroons. He said they were amazing and I had to have some. uhummmmm. I must admit that although I love a good treat they just didn't sound that compelling. Not compelling enough to drive across town for one little cookie. I was sooooooo wrong! Last week we made that drive over a bridge or two and bought a macaroon for me and another for him and.... tada! first-bite quick trip to another dimension. I am publicly repenting my ridiculous judgement. The first thought I had after the 'oh my this is incredibly good' thought was that I would need to learn to make raw chocolate macaroons myself as the distance between Calgary and Vancouver is indeed prohibitive - at least when one is considering a single macaroon. Happily, they are about the easiest treat under the sun. Happier still there is a lot of merit in a single cookie. 

I chose to make my macaroons mini-sized. I was feeding some mini-sized people for one thing and for another, I feel more decadently indulged when I can have more than one. 

The macaroons were an unqualified success. Not too sweet but sweet enough. Richly, intensely, darkly chocolate. Absolutely satisfying. The perfect punctuation to a happy Sunday supper.

*update: upon reflection I figured that these would be better with more coconut oil - creamier -and a little less coconut. So I tried it and they are much better.  The changes are reflected below. The bonus is that you get more of the MCTs now! In order to form the cookies you will need to let the 'dough' firm up a little - about 30 minutes in the fridge should do the trick.

raw chocolate macaroons

1 3/4 cups fine flake unsweetened raw organic dried coconut
3/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp Himalayan sea salt

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until combined. (Or simply beat together in a bowl.) Using a scoop, form balls and put on a parchment lined tray. Freeze for about 15 minutes before serving. After the initial freezing, these can be kept in the fridge.

Note: I happened to have some exotic sounding coconut so I used it in an effort to duplicate as closely as possible the deliriously delicious treat I had in Vancouver. I also had the cacao so I used it. That said - these would be ridiculously amazing even made with cocoa and any unsweetened coconut. If  you can't find fine flake (and it can be a bit hard to source - and really isn't worth the effort) just process regular flaked coconut in your food processor until it is quite finely ground. The regular shreds wouldn't produce as pleasant a texture in the resulting cookie. I wouldn't use sweetened coconut though as the extra sugar would be too much.

And just so you know? the whole first batch was gone last night so I had to make another today. Of course.


Friday, July 6, 2012

black bean hummus


When I had a houseful of little kids I thought I was pretty busy but I was content with 24 hours in a day. Recently I find myself wishing for a few more hours per day. There simply isn't time for all the sewing, gardening, helping, playing, sharing, reading, walking, cooking, consulting, decorating, designing, and travelling on my want-to-do. And that list doesn't even touch the cleaning and laundry that are necessary on the to-do list. I have been flat out busy for the last few weeks. Actually for the last month. Good busy, fun busy - hello a week in Vancouver among other great stuff - but not a minute not full. I have a (long) list of things planned to share but no time to sit down and share. It was causing me a tiny bit of anxiety but really, the important part of life is the doing not the telling about it. I reminded myself of that and presto! the little anxiety wrinkle smoothed out. I may be sharing the full-week's worth of rhubarb delights that I had planned (in my ever ambitious mind planner) for the middle of June in mid-summer when all the rhubarb is over and done, or the iced tea when hot chocolate would be more welcome, but this is only a forum for sharing stuff  not a formula for world peace. I just wish I could figure out exactly what it is that I do!


Anywho... having a minute I want to introduce my latest obsession. I know it is homely but, my word! this stuff is super-fantastic-good. I Love this - with a capital 'L'. The pepper and lime add a nice zip of heat that is nicely balanced by the warmth of the cumin and the freshness of the cilantro. Good with veggies, some yummy sprouted mixed grain chips, or baked pita wedges. Healthy and whole. Pretty perfect, I'd say. 


If you don't like cilantro (hard for me to understand but I believe it's true that some don't) you can either entirely forego the herb or better, replace it with parsley. The jalapeno pepper can be nicely replaced with 1/2 tsp of dried chipotle pepper.


black bean hummus
(from Cooking Light)


1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp grey sea salt*
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeded


Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth. 


*Grey (or red) sea salt has important trace minerals - I believe it is worth using.