Thursday, February 28, 2013

jet lag.tokyo


7:00 pm - I feel more affinity for an overtired toddler than I ever previously thought to. An overwrought melt-down feels like a real possibility if I don't find a bed and sweet sleep.

10:00 pm - finally! Bed time. Hallelujah. Sleep is immediate and so simple. Bliss....

2:00 am - gahhhhhhhh!!!!! Eyes wide and stubbornly open. My mind is so busy that I can't hold a thought long enough to complete it. I want to sleep but it evades me completely. How can it have been so simple four short hours ago?

I know this drill. I know that it just takes time for my body to catch up, that I simply must be patient. But I guess I am more like a two year old than I would like to think. Sadly, I am only like the less adorable parts of a two year old :) - trust me on that, I know a couple of seriously adorable two year olds very well.

Jet lag aside I am so happy to back in Tokyo. To ride the subways and walk the streets of my favourite neighbourhoods. Yesterday: Amayoko market in Ueno. Kappabashi. The temple compounds of Asakusa. Walking from one to the other, stopping for the best food in the tiniest, little corners, finding treasures in other tiny corners. People-watching on the train. I am surprised to find Merin is very much in my thoughts here. I miss her like crazy - not sadly but intensely. So many memories of her here.

During the sleeplessness of my night I wondered how time travel (were it a reality) would affect our circadian rhythms, considering how I can't keep up with hopping across the globe faster than my body would like. Never mind, I love being in Tokyo. Jet lag and all.

Monday, February 25, 2013

honey lemon tart

gluten-free, refined sugar free




This is the tart that consumed me. The one I shelved in favour of a cherub with a braided crown. It is simple, simple, simple. Straight up fresh Meyer lemon fragrant wonderfulness.  The sunshine we crave at (what we hope is) the tail-end of winter ... although that is serious wishful thinking considering this is Calgary and it is still February. It has happened. Maybe once. I think.... 

But back to the tart. I adjusted the recipe to be refined sugar-free for the first try - we loved it with our whole hearts! I determined that I needed to make a gluten-free version so that Eden could share the delight. Turns out a good gluten-free tart shell is not as easy as one would hope. Part of the problem was that the first not-gluten-free tart shell was so very, very good - the bar was pretty high. Eden requested that I try a grain-free tart shell. That was try #2 and was super yummy but a bit .... ahhhmmm, not crisp. I used almond flour and coconut flour and those flours combined with the lemon made for tropical heaven. But not quite what I was hoping for in terms of bite. Nevertheless it was so good that I offer a coconut tart shell option in case you want to go that direction. The whole grain gluten-free tart shell is better in terms of texture and allows the lemon to really shine. Choose whichever you think you will prefer but seriously choose to make one. You will not regret the teeny, tiny bit of time and effort it takes. This is a really good return on investment.

I used coconut palm sugar along with the honey to sweeten the lemon filling. The only downside to that choice is it darkens the filling so it is not the bright, sunny yellow one expects. I also tried using only honey - delicious but the texture was not as smooth as I wanted so for the next and last try I went back to using a bit of coconut palm sugar. You will want to make absolutely certain that you have chased down every single lemon seed - one rogue seed will ruin this (bitter, bitter - in every sense).

honey lemon tart
(inspired by the Lazy Mary's Lemon tart from Food52)

1 large Meyer lemon (peel included), cut into eight pieces (check carefully for seeds)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1/8 tsp sea salt

Put all ingredients into a blender and process on high until smooth. Pour into prepared tart shell. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.

gluten-free tart shell

1 cup whole grain gluten-free
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 Tbsp ice water

In a food processor pulse flour, salt and butter until mixture resembles fine meal. Whisk egg and water to combine and add to mixture in the food processor, then pulse until mixture holds together. If necessary add more water 1/2 tbsp at a time.

Press dough into greased tart shell.

coconut-almond flour tart shell

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp coconut palm sugar
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 egg
1 Tbsp ice water

In a food processor pulse flours, salt, and coconut palm sugar a few times to combine. Add the unsalted butter and coconut oil pulsing until mixture is rough and pieces are irregular pea-sized clumps. Stir egg and water together. Add to mixture in food processor and pulse just until mixture holds together.

Press dough into greased tart shell.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

distractions



I had absolutely planned to sit down this evening and write a post to share a lemon tart that I have been consumed with this week. I was going to do that but there was a sweet distraction this afternoon and in keeping with the "so fly away cobwebs and dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep" line of thought I have shelved the lemon tart for another day. Some things are simply more important than even delicious lemon tarts.

I was sewing again today - creating a skirt for Eden from a beautiful piece of wool we bought on our trip to Vancouver. Of course, that meant Eden and Ysa were here for the process. Often when I sew Eden sits on the floor of the 'atelier' and we enjoy the time together; collaborating on creative ideas, solving problems of epic proportions (like what to make for dinner or how to referee siblings), discussing issues that are of current interest to us and listening to our favourite tunes. Today Ysa was snuggled on her momma's lap for a sweet minute, relaxed as Eden played idly with her hair. In that quiet moment Eden realized that Ysa's hair was long enough to be braided into a "crown".  

I remember so clearly the day Eden's hair was long enough to braid. She was about Ysa's age and I was shocked that she would sit patiently while I fumbled through learning but she did and I did learn. She loved to wear it braided into a crown. A few years later I had two heads of long hair to take care of in the mornings; I added braiding Merin's long platinum blonde hair every day - it was the only way to keep the silky strands from becoming an impossible tangle. In my mind and in my heart there are so many pictures and memories of braiding their beautiful hair - for ballet classes and exams, for school days and special days, and sometimes just because it felt good to be together getting pretty.

These days I love to braid Aubrie's, Jane's, and Ysa's hair - to see their moms do the same. It is a small link in the generations but every link is precious. We need to be bound together as girls, as women. To make memories together, to know that some things stay the same even as others change.

Ysa is so sweet and soft and round - no longer a baby but only just not, aware enough to feel special and pretty. I found a bag of hairpins that had been Merin's and she chose one for her hair and one for Aubrie's. Eden used my camera to snap some pictures - because this sweet soft roundness will be gone next time we look. I was tempted to post the lot. lol. Wisdom prevailed.

I do love my girls. Every one of them. With an intensity that fills my bones. I am very, very blessed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

dressing stones








My Grandma Bradshaw was a country woman. My mother's mother, she was (to me) everything a grandmother should be. She was loving and gentle, warm and good. She milked the cows and gathered the eggs, baked the bread, made root beer and hand-dipped chocolates. She cooked huge meals for even huge-r crowds. She grew and harvested her own vegetables and then canned them for the winter. She snuggled me in her soft and comfortable lap and taught me to love to knit and crochet. It was under her patient tutelage that I learned to work the magic that happens with sticks and strings. 

When I first saw pictures of crochet covered stones last spring I was hooked (ha! I know but how could I not?) Beautiful and unusual, I felt drawn to the challenge of dressing some myself. My own form of mental exercise, I was addicted to dressing stones - figuring the pattern, finding the perfect stone, choosing a lovely silk or cotton thread. I gathered stones on walks and trips and with every stitch remembered my grandma.

One day as he watched me covering a stone Jonathon laughed at me gently and said of all the enthusiasms I have had, making clothes for stones was probably the strangest. That may be but I argue that it has to be one of the prettiest. At any rate, it is much more fun for me than sudoku.

In answer to the inevitable question of what they are for - to admire, silly!


Friday, February 15, 2013

salted caramel cinnamon brownies

free of: grains, refined sugars, dairy




The day after Valentine's Day is probably not the day that anyone is looking for yet more chocolate. Then again, is there such a day? 

I have an absolute 'thing' for caramel. Add a little sprinkle of salt and I have perilously close to zero control. So it was a touchy situation in our local natural foods store yesterday when I came across a taste test for these salted caramel brownies. I generally steer wide of the taste tests at this store - having learned from experience that most of what the venders there are trying to convince me is good is a far cry from what I consider edible - but I was hungry and it was salted caramel for goodness sake!!! I really just had to have a little taste... and then a few minutes later I had to take another pass down the same aisle for just one more. After that I couldn't get home fast enough to make a pan just for me. (I was good enough to share most of it - sometimes I amaze myself - but it was Valentine's Day.) 

I am sooooo glad that along with the taste test there was a printout of the recipe because I could never have guessed the recipe. Never. Ever. Not a single grain of refined sugar, smidge of butter, eggs, or flour. Honestly, nothing that isn't good for you. It was a near miss  - but I think it was fate that I went to the store, hungry, and walked down that aisle.

These are not the most frugal brownies I have ever made but they are among the best. On the plus side there is enough of the caramel sauce to make two batches - which is probably good because one batch doesn't last long.

salted caramel brownies
(from baker bettie)

1 cup almond butter
1 1/4 cups maple syrup
3/4 cup solid (as in not melted) coconut oil
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups almond flour


To make the salted caramel sauce: combine the almond butter, maple syrup, coconut butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt in a food processor or blender and process on high for 2 minutes, scraping the sides from time to time. DO NOT skimp on the time here. At first it looks like almond butter and syrup mixing up but after a bit it gets thicker and stickier and looks and tastes just like salted caramel sauce - maybe even better.

In a separate bowl whisk together the almond flour and cocoa powder. Add 1 1/2 cups of the salted caramel sauce and stir until combined. Push the batter into a lightly oiled 8x8 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. As soon as it comes out of the oven drizzle a few tablespoons of the remaining caramel sauce over the brownies and sprinkle with a few pinches of good flaky sea salt (like Malden's). Let cool completely before cutting (possibly the most difficult part the whole process).

Thank you so much Baker Bettie :) - this is genius. Seriously.

I apologize for all the italics in this post but really, they were essential. This is italics worthy. When Eden had her share she spoke in italics too. Really. You should have been there.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

lentils & roasted radishes with meyer lemon vinaigrette


Winter eating and roasted root vegetables; it hardly seems right to have one without the other. Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, beets, fennel.... every one a root vegetable and all sweeter by far when roasted. Although radishes must be classed as a root vegetable I had never before had even a whiff of a thought of roasting them. Radishes are for eating fresh, crisp, and spicy with a sprinkle of salt or sliced into a salad - or so I thought. Last night I learned that a roasted radish mellows in taste and colour becoming far more exotic than I had ever imagined a humble radish could. (a tiny bit of an exciting discovery - you can't imagine what we get up to around here!) 

The idea for this salad belongs to something I saw over on Food52. I read the 'recipe' (really just a paragraph of an idea) and the thought of roasting radishes so intrigued me that I bought some of the beautiful bright red orbs, tossed them with olive oil and salt, and popped them in the oven the first chance I had. The salad that I put on the table elicited a more enthusiastic response than I am used to. First bite, even better. David urged me (yes, urged) to take a picture and share this recipe. More, he requested that it be put into "frequent rotation". Make what you will of that :)  For my part, I say it is hearty, healthy, and delicious.

I used the sprouted bean trio (Tru Roots brand - Costco) but any lentils would work. I simply used what was on the shelf in my pantry.

lentils & roasted radishes with meyer lemon vinaigrette
(adapted from Food52)

8 radishes, washed and quartered
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup lentils
2 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt
pumpkin seed
ricotta cheese

Toss the radishes, sweet potatoes, and shallots with a tablespoon of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and a grind of pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and sweet.

Meanwhile combine the lentils with 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for a further 10 minutes. Drain and rinse.

In a large bowl combine the roasted radishes, sweet potatoes, and shallots with the cooked lentils. In a small bowl whisk together the meyer lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and garlic. Pour over the vegetables and lentils, toss to combine. 

To serve: top with ricotta to taste and sprinkle with green pumpkin seeds.

Friday, February 8, 2013

livin' the life




Long silence I know but I have been swanning around Rocky Mountain ski resorts with handsome men and adorable children. I offer no other explanation. I figure that says it all. Little ones bundled up, rosy cheeked and shiny eyed as they learn to navigate the slopes absolutely break my heart. Top that with a two year old crowing with delight "the mountain wake up!!!" as the sun crested - life just doesn't get much better.

After we finished with that indulgence we were off to Vancouver to catch a glimpse of our eldest son and hit many - but alas not all - of my favorite spots (while David drudged away in meetings and work). 

Both weeks were full of loved ones, an abundance of good food, doing more or less just what we wanted to, and fun. Really truly livin' the life.