Thursday, January 24, 2013

cauliflower soup with toasted garlic



If I had any kind of professional pride I would not be posting these pictures - but there you go, I am most certainly not any kind of professional, so no need for pride! Nevertheless whatever kind of pride I do have is smarting a bit. I don't know what was going on with my camera when I took the pictures - I did it so quickly just before we polished off the soup that I didn't check and now the soup is gone and the pictures are a bit of a mess. I really couldn't not post this recipe for such a small and selfish reason. As it was I felt a bit like I was holding out because this is almost as simple and genius a recipe as last year's broccoli-spinach soupand I had made it 10 whole days ago. Without sharing. 

I didn't expect an awful lot from this soup. It had been one of those days. The day flies by, stomachs are beginning to growl, and there are no plans for what to fill them with. Not a one. And not an awful lot of anything very exciting in the pantry or fridge to get things off to a promising start. Just a pretty head of cauliflower and some fresh thyme. Not expecting much I didn't plan to share the result ... so no pics. But happy surprise! the soup was really good and there was plenty for another day when I could snap a couple of mediocre shots just as the light was fading.

If you find yourself with a pretty head of cauliflower and half an hour until dinner, consider trying this incredibly simple soup. Toss together a salad of greens with a bit of sharp cheese and some bright cherry tomatoes to go along with the soup. A light dinner to warm your body and soul, satisfy tummies and health.

cauliflower soup with toasted garlic
(from RealSimple magazine)

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 head cauliflower, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot, add the sliced garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring, until golden - about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove and reserve the garlic slices.

Add the chopped cauliflower to the pot, give it a quick stir for a minute or so then add the chicken broth, thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the cauliflower is tender (15-20 minutes) then remove the thyme sprigs - by this time most of the leaves will have fallen off and you are just pulling out the twiggy bits. Puree in a blender (I prefer an immersion blender). Top with some slivers of toasted garlic and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

a comment on comments

Jonathon griped to me a bit ago that he avoided making a comment because he had a hard time decoding the whatever it is one had to decode to post a comment. He asked me to remove it, suggesting that perhaps it contributed to the embarrassingly few comments. I thought about it and decided to give it a try. I certainly get more comments now but I suspect that most of them are generated by those 'robots' we are urged to prove we are not and many of them make little or no sense at all. 

I love to get feedback - I feel less like I am talking to the wall that way. I have been tempted to close this book when I evaluate the "success" of the enterprise based on comments and then I remember why I write or I get a comment written from someone's heart and I know that the number of comments does not really equal success.

Thank you for reading and for any comments. I hope it doesn't put too many off but I am going to add the annoying word verification feature back to the comments - most of the new wave of comments kind of freak me out. lol

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

sweet potato salad


I have mentioned a time or two that David tends to be reserved - most times about most things. This can be deflating but I try not to take it personally (which is  usually not terribly difficult since I know it is how he responds generally). So when he very enthusiastically exclaimed  - with the first bite still in his mouth  - "I love this!!" I just about fell off my chair. No joke. 

I almost passed this recipe by just because of the name. To be sure I love the good ol' picnic potato salad but balk at the thought of making one. It is knee-jerk. Potato salad = a lot of work + a mess in the kitchen in my head ... and that is really ridiculous because I regularly make a much bigger mess than a potato salad ever generates just because a recipe tempts me. Something kept pulling me back to the sweet potato salad idea and I am glad it did because like David I think this is really pretty good. It is crazy easy to make and although you probably don't want to advertise it as 'good for you' (since that is a sure way to prejudice anyone against anything) the truth is that it is really good for you. It looks pretty too and sometimes I am (almost) all about the way things look. lol Anyway I thought this needed to be shared.

I played with the proportions a bit- adding a lot more parsley and sweet potatoes than the recipe called for.

sweet potato salad
(adapted ever-so-slightly from Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming)

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup black quinoa
4 cups peeled sweet potato cut into 1/2" chunks
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped pecans
juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sea salt

Bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. At the end of the 15 minutes cooking time, remove the lid, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Put the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook just until tender - don't overcook! Drain and cool completely.

Put the sweet potatoes and quinoa in a large bowl together with the chopped parsley, pecans, lemon zest, and sliced green onion. Whisk the lemon juice (there should be about 1/4 cup juice), olive oil,sea salt, and ginger together to make the dressing. Pour over the quinoa/sweet potato combination and toss gently. Serve immediately.

Keeps well and makes a great next-day lunch. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

coconut-pistachio biscotti




The other day I was asked to answer a short list of questions about myself. Among the list: what do you do when you have 30 minutes of free time? what did you like to do as a child? what did you get in trouble for as a child? The answer to all three of the questions? Read/reading.

I remember very clearly the painful process of learning to read. I didn't begin learning until I was in Grade One at school - six years old. I don't remember much of the in-school process, just stumbling through reading aloud from the Tip and Mitten readers we used (I loved those readers, lol!) The vivid memories I have are of the sessions with my much adored but not-terribly-patient father as he helped me get the basics under my belt. I remember trying hard to do something that felt huge and murky. I don't know what magic wand was waved or when or how but it must have happened because voila! one day, Comprehension. The clouds parted, it all made sense, and my life has never been the same. I love to read. Love, love, love to read. My taste ranges wide and my library is large. I have books in literally every room in the house - except the bathroom (where ironically many people do the only reading of their day. Ha!) I read magazines and cookbooks, novels and history, scripture, biographies, and coffee table books. There are books I have read many times over and books on my shelf that are 'aging' until just the right moment when they will beguile or enlighten.

Once I understood the magic of print on a page books became a constant friend - always there, full of new stories of other lives, places and times. I would read when I should have been practicing the piano, or cleaning my room, or doing homework or chores. I loved to read at night before turning out the light - and often read far too late and into the wee hours. I read and read and read - through school and university and into motherhood. I suspect each of my children has a strong memory of me with a book in hand because I always did. Books by then had become more than entertainment, they were tutors, mentors, resources, as well. 

Of course, I have not lost that love. Curling up in a cozy corner or favorite comfy chair with a good book is a quiet luxury that I hope I can always afford. A cup of herbal tea, a soft throw, and biscotti add layers of lovely luxury. Just thinking about it I unwind, mellow.

Biscotti I realize, draws a mixed reaction. There are lovers and haters. I am a lover - most of the time. Not a big fan of the stuff on the grocery store shelf but then when one compares homemade cookies to the stuff on the shelves at the local grocery market is that any wonder? If you haven't had or made biscotti at home I urge you to try it. Super simple and so very delicious it is well worth the time. This recipe is not only delicious but reasonably healthy. Biscotti has less fat and sugar than a regular cookie so that is a plus right off the bat. This recipe has the added blessings of tart dried cherries, pistachios, and coconut sugar, flour and oil. I love the crunch of the cornmeal combined with the buttery flavour of the nuts all offset against the wonderful tart cherries .... I have a hard time keeping my hand out of the tin - so I don't set it on the table next to my tea and book :)

(Try these after they come out of the oven from the first baking - yummm! Good either way.)

coconut-pistachio biscotti
(adapted from whole living magazine)

1/2 cup unbleached spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
6 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup shelled pistachios

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, coconut, baking powder, and salt. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer mix the eggs, sugar, coconut oil, and lemon zest. Beat until well combined. Reduce mixer speed and ad the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Fold in cherries and pistachios.

Transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using wet hands pat dough into a log about 14" long by 4" wide. Bake until firm and golden, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Transfer the log to a cutting board and using a serrated knife cut diagonally into 1/2" slices. Arrange the slices standing upright on the parchment-lined sheet and bake for an additional 15-18 minutes or until they are golden around the edges and crisp through. Cool completely.


Full disclosure: I used to pay/bribe my kids to play with my hair while I read in the evening after a long day or on summer afternoons when it was just too hot to do anything else. I hope their memories of those times are as golden as mine - me with a book and all my little ones busy around me. Some with toys, some with a book of their own. Sometimes I read aloud to them. unwind.......


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

carrot almond torte







This is a recipe for a lazy afternoon - or the day that you want to make a mess in the kitchen - whichever comes first. I hope you do choose one or the other because in spite of the reality that this is not a quick, slap-it-together-and-throw-it-in-the-oven kind of thing it is really not at all difficult just messy and step-py ... more than one bowl, two appliances, three spatulas, etc. It is not this carrot cake in all its rich deliciousness. It is a wonderful, clean, simple-flavoured torte that deserves to be enjoyed for just what it is. Made of egg whites, almonds, and carrots with a hint of cinnamon and sweetened with coconut palm sugar it is not only not bad for you but actively good. So make a mess in your kitchen, eat your torte, and feel good about yourself - even in mid-January (when we are all still quite committed to our good intentions!)

It is also a gluten free, refined sugar free cake and it is not a brick! My personal holy grail of gluten free/refined sugar free baking and I have sipped from it. Hallelujah!! If you wanted to use regular refined sugar the substitution is straight across one for one but you will cheat yourself. Just sayin' Of course, sometimes that just doesn't matter :)

We had a scoop of superb vanilla ice cream with our torte after Sunday dinner - good. But when we finished the last slice of cake the next day we ate it naked and it was ever-so-much better. It really does shine when it has the spotlight all to itself.

The recipe as written uses whole almonds ground in a food processor; if you wanted to hurry the process up and lose one appliance-use I would recommend using almond meal or flour (7.5 oz weighed on your kitchen scale).

carrot almond torte
(adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich)

1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) unblanched, whole almonds
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 cups (8 oz) lightly packed, finely grated, carrots
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Butter the sides and bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Pulse the almonds with 2 Tbsp of the sugar in a food processor until very finely ground. You will want to watch the process quite closely as there is a fine line between finely ground almonds and almond butter. Set aside.

Stack several paper towels on the counter. Squeeze the grated carrots a handful at a time. (save the juice and have a mid-baking-project sip - or throw it out) You want to extract as much of the juice as possible so squeeze hard. Put the squeezed carrots on the paper towels, gather the edges of the towels together and squeeze again. Set aside.

Put the egg yolks, salt, cinnamon, almond extract, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl. Whisk the mixture until thick and lighter in color. (the palm sugar does not dissolve as quickly or completely at this point as refined sugar but don't worry) Sprinkle the grated, squeezed carrots into the bowl but don't mix them in yet.

Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a separate large bowl until they are white and hold a soft shape. Sprinkle in the last 2 Tbsp of sugar and beat at high speed until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Scrape about a quarter of the egg whites into the bowl with the egg yolk mixture and carrots and fold together using a rubber spatula. Scrape the remaining egg whites into the bowl, pour the ground almonds over them and gently fold everything together. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden and the torte springs back when you press it gently. Cool completely on a wire rack.

This was at least as good the second day. But there wasn't much :)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

a warm bed and a delicious breakfast



At the end of the day there is little that sounds more inviting to me than Bed, at the beginning of the day Breakfast is about the most compelling invitation that can be extended. Where to sleep and eat when one cannot do so in one's own home? I see the appeal of the Five Star hotel but frankly find them more intimidating than welcoming and when I am tired and/or hungry welcome is exactly what I am after.

My brother and his wife have opened the doors of their home as they have welcomed folk to Canterbury Bed and Breakfast here in Calgary. There is always fresh baking and the best warm spirit on offer. I cannot think of anywhere more welcoming than there. Just the place to end a good day and begin the next. They have recently listed the accommodation here. Close to Fish Creek Park with walking paths and wonderful natural beauty, in a quiet neighborhood, it is a lovely place to spend a night or two. (or as many as suits your fancy)

If you are thinking of a trip to this corner of the world....

http://www.bbcanada.com/13734.html?showpage=1

Monday, January 7, 2013

tandoori cauliflower



A few months back I tried a recipe from My New Roots. It was fabulous! So fabulous that I wanted more of the tandoori goodness in every bite, which inspired me to take liberties with Sarah's recipe when I made it a second time. Instead of roasting the cauliflower whole - as beautifully impressive as that is - I chopped the head into florets, tossed them in the marinade, and continued on to roast the fragrant yumminess. I love roasted cauliflower (despite the powerful scent memory it leaves) and this might just be my favorite way to roast it.

Sarah suggests serving it with a wonderful mint chutney, a suggestion I heartily endorse - simple to make it elevates interesting to amazing. The recipe is here. I took big liberties with the tandoori spice blend because I didn't want a batch of the blend hanging around.... plus I didn't have exactly all the bits that were required and a trip to the spice shop was not going to happen before dinner. I may have short-changed us on flavour but it was so delicious that I have a hard time imagining how that could be.

tandoori cauliflower
(adapted from My New Roots)

1 large head cauliflower, washed and chopped into florets

1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

Smash the garlic and ginger together to make a paste. (You can try this in a food processor if you like - I didn't have a lot of success. It was much better when I just smashed them with the flat of my knife.) Add the spices, salt and lemon juice and mix well. Add the yogurt and stir until it is smooth.

Pour the yogurt/spice marinade over the cauliflower florets, toss to mix well, and let sit on the fridge for at least an hour but no more than 12.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast until tender - about 30-45 minutes. Serve with a generous garnish of cilantro, a healthy drizzle of your best olive oil, and of course, the mint chutney.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

where to from here?


I have been thinking about the last post. About having nothing to say - which was not quite true. A more complete truth would be that I had so much tossing around in my head that I was simply too tired and lazy to work it out, to make it at all comprehensible to myself let alone anyone else. Not worn out tired but deliciously limp, satisfied, and happy. It was a very good season of joy for us. Noisy, busy, quiet, full. Everything I needed. So thinking was a bit of a stretch.

One of the things I have been thinking about it is where to go from here. When I started the blog I had (of course) no idea what the future held. We never do but what was in store for us was not something I would have ever imagined. I had wanted to share all kinds of things on this blog and the last thing I intended was a cooking/food blog. I have always enjoyed showing and sharing love with food but I don't consider myself to be a foodie - I just like good, healthy food and get bored with the same old every day so I cook. I have a lot of fun with it and more fun when I share. After Merin died cooking was one of the things I found I had energy for. 

But I want to share other things as well. There are stories that I want to record. Not because I think they will change the world but because they matter to the people that matter to me. I think about the stories my grandfather told me when I was a child about when he was a boy, that if he hadn't told me I wouldn't know, and if I don't retell them perhaps they will be lost. I think about how those stories connect me to him and that I am so lucky to know them. That many people don't have stories that connect them to their forbearers. There are stories about things that connect us to our past. Again, if those stories are not told they will be lost. Will it change the world? No but it might make the world a little poorer for someone I love. 

In this new year I commit to writing the stories of some of the things that I have collected. Many of those things are not of great worth in and of themselves but their story is part of our story. I am fortunate to have some lovely things that came to me with history that is part of my story, others that have histories hidden in unknown pasts, and still others with stories that originate with me. I think what we collect matters and helps us to be known to others. When we are thoughtful and careful about what we choose to surround ourselves with we can arrive at a curated collection that is meaningful. One that tells a story - one that has a story - beyond style, taste, or trends.

While I had not intended writing a blog full of recipes that is where I have mostly gone. Fun for me to share those and I hope good for others. I don't plan to abandon that direction - just to go a bit further and do a bit more of what I wanted when I started. It is good to start, to have a direction. And sometimes it is lovely to follow serendipity into unanticipated paths. 

God is good. I am grateful for every wonderful blessing. For every chance and second chance. I pray for blessings along lovely paths for all of us and the ability to see those blessings and paths every day. Here's to a New Year!

One of the many beautiful and special gifts I was so indulged with on Christmas morning was a collection of photos that Eden took of David and I. In the note she tucked in with them she wrote that she tries to express her love with photography. My response? I feel loved when I see myself through her lens, her eyes. Eden makes everything beautiful. 

I love this photo from that shoot - an early morning, frosty, last minute idea that was perfect. Thanks Eden. You are more dear to me than you can know. I love you.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

foolish

"It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt" - Mark Twain

Mark Twain said it, my father lived by it, and I believe it. After the holiday joy - and all that encompasses - I find myself with nothing to say. Not only nothing to say but thoroughly enjoying the vastness of the nothing. And so lest I remove all doubt, I am going to "shut my mouth" until I find something worth saying.

Mr Twain may have been a curmudgeonly old man but he had a point. Or two.