a dress for Frances

This is the wedding dress - the one I was busy making early this month. The one I didn't take any pictures of. The one that Eden did. 

Frances knew she wanted a dress that was all lace. So we embraced that and made her a dress out of the most gorgeous, rich lace - one with a lovely hand and soft sheen. Draped and softly gathered, with pretty little details like the 'diamond' button followed by a row of silk-covered buttons, the dress is romantic and pretty with a nod to wedding dresses of another era. Making the soft, cathedral-length veil was a last-minute decision but it was a very good one and lots of fun, both to make and (apparently) to wear - Frances ended up keeping it on all day. Her mother's string of pearls added another layer of soft glow and kept that memory close. 

Soft, pretty, glowing -  Frances. 

photos courtesy of Eden Lang Pictures. Thanks Eden!!! 

p.s. if you want to see some incredible photos of the beautiful bride in the other dress I had a hand in (alterations only - lol) check out Eden's most recent post


crunchy sprouts & seeds with chive vinaigrette

A while ago - several months probably - I bought something called 'Sprouted Bean Trio' with the tag "a colorful, quick-cooking, and nutritious blend of lentils, adzuki, and mung beans". Who could blame me?! And then the bag of colorful nutrition sat on the pantry shelf, lonely and forgotten, until I tried a recipe from Bon Appetit a couple of weeks ago. That recipe was not nearly as delicious as I wanted it to be but there was potential for greatness. I mulled it over for a week or so and gave it another try early this week. Fresh chives from the garden, a bed of arugula and spinach, tart blueberries. This salad I love. Love! I really think I could eat it every day. It's... interesting. Try it.

crunchy sprouts & seeds with chive vinaigrette
(inspired by Bon Appetit)

1 cup mixed dried sprouted legumes*
1 cup cooked sprouted brown rice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup hemp seed hearts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup finely chopped curly parsley
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups fresh blueberries
fresh greens - arugula and spinach

Combine the mixed dried legumes and a pinch of sea salt with 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl combine the cooked legumes, rice, green onions, the seeds, raisins, and chopped parsley. Toss with about half the vinaigrette. Arrange on a generous bed of greens, with a handful of blueberries on top. Pass the vinaigrette at the table in case someone wants a bit more :)

chive vinaigrette 

1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grey sea salt
2 tsp honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup chives (not chopped but just kind of squished into the cup)

Put all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. 

* The brand I used is truRoots. Costco carries it.

What I arrived at after the mulling over is something that ticks all the boxes I like ticked - maybe another person would prefer the first recipe. But this is my blog so I get to share according to my taste. I just don't want to come across as thinking I'm all that - 'cause I don't :)


wasabi-edamame dip

Ever since making the choice to leave peanut butter sandwiches off my personal lunch menu that meal has been a bit problematic. For most of my life, lunch = sandwiches  (peanut butter or other). Sandwiches are portable, fast, easy, brainless. The default choice. I don't believe that gluten is the enemy for most people. It isn't for me. The problem with a  daily sandwich is not so much what it is but more what it is not. When one eats a lot of one thing there isn't as much desire for another. In other words, when I fill up on a peanut butter and honey sandwich I really don't much care to eat three servings of vegetables and another one or two of fruit. And the fruit and vegetables should be the foundation not the flourish of any meal. So I am always looking for simple, interesting options to make and have on hand to help me make better lunch-time choices - since simply skipping the meal because I have decided not to go for the pb&j is an even unhealthier choice but one I used to make too often.

This dip falls into the 'interesting and easy' category very nicely and has the added benefits of healthy and yummy. We loved the dip with raw asparagus or celery sticks; rated it good with the carrots. Unless you plan on eating the whole recipe solo, you might want to add a smoothie or - for a fun tagalong to the Japanese tastes - some simple onigiri (rice balls) would be perfect.

Of course it would make an awesome appetizer .... but that's just obvious :)

wasabi-edamame dip
(from Chatelaine)

1 1/4 cups shelled edamame
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tsp Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp wasabi paste (or to taste)

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add edamame and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Rinse the edamame with cold water to cool.

Puree the edamame, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and wasabi in a blender or food processor. Add reserved liquid while processing until mixture is smooth and creamy.


buckwheat pancakes with cardamom honey cream syrup

I really didn't plan to post this - at all - because I have already posted a number of pancake recipes (here and here and here). So we had already made pretty good inroads on the syrup before David said something about had I got my picture? This has become his code for 'post this' and as he doesn't recommend posting everything by any means I usually give the idea serious consideration. Anyway, today is totally unstyled - even more than usual. This is what breakfast looked like, messy syrup pitcher, third-helping-of-pancake-plate and all. But he was right - these pancakes and this syrup needed to be shared. In fact, if you haven't got some buckwheat flour in the house I think you should run out and get some today just so that you are ready for tomorrow morning, or tonight, or whenever.

The buckwheat pancakes are healthy and satisfying but lovely and light. The syrup is to die for. Add a generous sprinkle of fresh, slightly tart blueberries and it's pretty hard to stop. If we had been eating breakfast at 5:30 this morning the sun was shining and the sky was clear (sadly I was awake so I know!), by 8:00 it was grey and cool. Either way, this breakfast was just perfect.

If you want to make these gluten-free just swap out the sprouted whole wheat flour and unbleached white flour for 1 cup of my whole grain gluten-free flour mix. Or a commercial gf flour mix - may not be quite as 'whole grain' but if gluten makes you sick....

cardamom honey cream syrup
(adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark)

1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of good sea salt

Combine the honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let bubble softly for a minute or so. Stir in the cream, salt, and cardamom. Let it bubble a minute or so more. Remove from heat and let cool.

buckwheat pancakes
(barely tweaked from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark)

1/4 cup unbleached white four
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup sprouted whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp honey
2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt or soured milk, as needed
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt). Add the eggs, honey, buttermilk (or whatever your choice is), and butter. Stir just until combined. You may need to add a bit more 'milk' if the batter is too thick - I added another 1/8 cup or so.

Cook on a lightly buttered griddle. (In case of need ... by dropping 1/4 cup dollops onto the griddle or frying pan, cooking until bubbles form on the surface of the pancake and flipping it.)

Serve hot with (or without) fresh fruit and syrup.

Note: for the 'buttermilk' I use whatever  I might have in the fridge at the time - buttermilk, plain yogurt, sour cream mixed with milk, soured milk (milk with a bit of lemon juice) or sometimes a mixture of any of these. 


slow roasted asparagus with miso dressing

I made this as a side for the salmon we had on Sunday for Thomas's birthday dinner. The recipe looked interesting and as Thomas loves all things with even a hint of miso (and salmon and miso do get along so very well) it seemed like a natural choice. We love asparagus here but I was still surprised by how much everyone liked this; it was the run-away favourite dish of the day - aside from the cake :) Inspired by a recipe from Nobu's Vegetarian Cookbook, Nobu  recommends dipping the asparagus in hot oil for a minute or two (deep-frying in other words?) but I don't deep-fry ... well, almost never anyway. Too messy and just not a healthy choice. Slow roasting the asparagus is perfect, resulting in a beautifully tender, bright green stalk and slightly crisped tips.  While this method is not in any way a new idea it is close to my favourite way to cook the vegetable.  Fast. Easy. Dependably delicious. 

One of the happiest (unplanned) parts of this recipe is that the dressing makes a totally perfect accompaniment to slow roasted salmon. In fact if you don't make the dressing for the asparagus you really need to try it for the salmon. It comes pretty close to this recipe for salmon amazingness.

All miso is not created equal. The darker the miso, the saltier it generally is. Lighter - sweeter. For an all-purpose choice my favourite 'colour' of miso is a light red and South River is a brand that I really like. For this recipe I used their 'Sweet-tasting Brown Rice Miso'. It's a bit hard to find but totally worth the effort. Or just order online.

To be honest I am not sure how much asparagus to suggest you buy. I used the better part of two large bunches and had more than enough dressing - in fact enough dressing for all of us to have some with our salmon as well. There were eight adults and six hungry kids at the table. Judge from there :)

slow roasted asparagus with miso dressing
(adapted from Nobu's Vegetarian Cookbook)

To slow roast the asparagus:

Wash and trim the hard ends off the bottom of each stalk of asparagus. In a large bowl toss stalks gently with 1 tbsp of olive oil until coated. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 25 minutes, watching closely for the last 5 minutes to be sure not to over do.

miso dressing:

3 Tbsp miso
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp rice vinegar

Combine the miso with garlic, soy sauce, oil, and vinegar.

Spoon the dressing over the roasted asparagus. Or over some salmon....you won't regret it.


intense chocolate cake

Saturday was Thomas's birthday so yesterday we celebrated. It is our custom to have a family birthday dinner on the Sunday that is closest to the birth date. The birthday 'celebrity' has the option as to what is on the menu. Sometimes the requests are very specific and detailed, others rather general. This year Thomas asked for salmon (general) and an intense chocolate cake "maybe that flour-less one you make" (specific). 

This cake is fantastically, intensely chocolate. Not sweet, not bitter. Just fantastic. And chocolate. It is a special occasion cake - at least at our house - because although it isn't precisely difficult it requires chopping a lot of chocolate, (a task I find tedious), cutting up butter (messy and tedious), and several steps. I generally stick to fast and easy and this is neither. It is however pretty simple. Please read all the directions through first - much simpler in the end and a better outcome. You'll understand.

Other than chopping three-quarters of a pound of chocolate and cutting up half a pound of butter (no, this is not diet food Virginia) the trickiest part of the whole deal yesterday was turning the cake out of the pan. It very nearly ended up in a smushed mess on the floor - very, very nearly. As it was it left a good smudge across the counter (yummy to clean up) and had a bit of a blemish on one side. Still tasted amazing just not quite as pretty. 

The recipe is more or less straight out of my well-loved New York Times Essential Cookbook where it is listed as Lora Brody's Bete Noire - who would not want to try that?!! Really. And it is really that good. Well worth the chopping. The only change I made was to use coconut palm sugar in place of regular granulated sugar, in respect of Eden staying away from refined sugars. 

And Thomas? He is certainly worth chopping chocolate for. He always was and always will be. He is a most wonderful son and an intensely amazing man. I just can't wrap my head around him being 30! How did that happen!?

intense chocolate cake (flourless)
(from The New York Times Essential Cookbook by Amanda Hesser)

1/2 cup water
1 1/3 cups coconut palm sugar
1/2 pound unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
5 extra-large free range eggs, at room temperature

Heat oven to 350 Degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9" round cake pan and coever the bottom with a neat circle of parchment paper.

Combine the water with 1 cup of the sugar in a 2 quart saucepan with a candy thermometer attached. Bring to a boil and cook to 220 degrees F - about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add the chopped chocolate, stirring until it is melted and smooth. Immediately start adding the butter, stirring gently until all of it is used and the mixture is smooth.

Put the eggs and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk attachment (stand or hand mixer) start beating on high speed and continue until the mixture is quite thick, pale, and tripled in volume - up to 15 minutes.  Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, stirring carefully until fully blended.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a slightly larger pan (I use a roasting pan) and pour boiling (don't cheat and try to get away with hot tap water - doesn't work very well. I know) water around it. Don't let the sides of the pans touch. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Insert the sharp point of a knife into the middle of the cake; if it comes out clean it is done. If it is not clean, continue baking for another 10 minutes. To be honest, although the recipe says "Do not cook longer than a total of 35 minutes", I have not even once had the cake be 'done' at the 35 minute mark. I have followed the recipe and taken it out at that point but it was a pretty sticky mess even cooled. So I routinely bake this cake for about 42 minutes. I would recommend checking at the 25 and 35 minute marks and then deciding from there. Even at 42 minutes the knife is not entirely clean for me but once the cake has cooled it is perfect. Cool in the pan (out of the water bath) for 10 minutes.

Run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake and unmold onto a cookie sheet, remove the paper. Invert a serving plate over the cake and turn it right side up onto the serving plate. (This is where I almost met my Waterloo yesterday. It's tricky because the cake is still very soft, so it is hard to turn it without squishing it. At least it makes me nervous.) Serve warm or at room temperature with unsweetened whipped cream ... and fresh berries.



I'm free!!! Unchained. Finished the dress. And I can breath. It feels so good to have that project complete. Although I have made other wedding dresses, with the exception of the first  (made when I was a tender 19 and pretty clueless about how important an item it was) they have all been for for near and dear. Someone that I have loved to the moon and back. Although I think the world of the bride for whom I made this last wedding dress, she is a friend not family. Strangely that made the creation of this dress considerably more stressful - intimidating even. As I worked on the other dresses I imagined them as heirlooms, something to be a reminder of the relationship, the hope, and the love - not only of the wedding couple but between myself and the bride. Those thoughts made the tediously careful work that I consider an essential part of such a special garment seem light work. Ridiculously this time I fretted over what others would think of my effort - was it good enough, should I have done this or that in a different way? - and fretted enough that I spent several night dreaming uncomfortably about the silly thing. In many ways I ventured well beyond my comfort zone and often had to spin the mental wheels pretty hard to figure out what or how to do. In the end, the dress is beautiful and the bride thrilled. The wedding was yesterday. The atelier is in order once more. All is well. 

I meant to take some pics of the finished 'creation' but didn't. Bah! Wishing I had.


blueberry cornmeal muffins


While I remain chained to my sewing machine David and Thomas are having fun with Deacon, Aubrie, Jane, and Theo in Waterton. A stop at Uncle Dean's to ride the horses and then on to eat, sleep, and play in the mountains. Throwing rocks in the lake (endlessly entertaining), bike-riding, hiking, picnics, swimming. 

A weekend in Waterton needed some yummy 'vittles' to keep the troops happy. Since neither of the men wanted to be in the kitchen much (who would when Waterton is on the other side of the door?!) and it was a good idea for the food to be easily grabbed and absolutely portable (four kids between the ages of 2 and 8) I made a batch of muffins for them to take along. The qualifiers also included  gluten-free, major kid-appeal, and at least semi-healthy. I had a big box of perfect fresh blueberries in the fridge so that factored into the choice as well. Usually I class blueberry muffins in the cake category as far as nutrition goes and to be honest these are not terribly far off that mark but they are made with a gluten-free whole grain mix, no refined sugars, and coconut oil. And of course, blueberries! So although these are not loaded like my favourite (or these) muffins they are a pretty good compromise. Plus they have the obvious advantage of appealing to people who really have no appreciation for the virtues of hempseed hearts, flax, and dates.

These came out of the oven and went straight into the food bag (aside from the one that I wolfed on the spot) so I have no reports yet from my small taste-testers but the one muffin I ate was pretty yummy and I wish I had been a little more selfish.

If you don't have buttermilk just sour fresh milk by adding a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. You can also use any other oil of your choice but I like the health advantages as well as the taste of the coconut oil - butter is always a yummy choice. I used coconut palm sugar because it is an unrefined sugar - if you wanted to use regular sugar instead 3/4 cup would be the amount. Or 1/2 cup of honey and decrease the milk to 1 1/8 cups. And finally, although I haven't tried it yet I am confident that you could substitute regular flour for the gluten-free blend cup for cup with good results.

gluten-free blueberry cornmeal muffins

2 cups (275 gm) whole grain gluten-free flour mix ( or your favourite commercial blend)
 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp (75 gm) cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups (180 gm) coconut palm sugar
1 1/3 cups buttermilk 
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with parchment cupcake papers or grease thoroughly.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and melted coconut oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until all the flour is mixed in.  Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Fill the muffin cups evenly and bake until the muffins are nicely golden and the top springs back when touched - about 25-30 minutes.