turkey soup | post-feast or anytime

for Eden

I sincerely believe the best reason to roast a turkey is the soup that follows. I like turkey just fine but turkey soup? I have no words. Not one to really describe how comforting and yet divine a good homemade turkey soup is. From the aroma as the broth cooks to the last sip of that broth when the bowl is empty, there is nothing quite like it.

Posting a recipe for such a humble and beloved bowl of food may not be strictly necessary but sometime a roadmap is helpful. I offer this in that spirit. Turkey soup is never exactly the same from my kitchen; sometimes it is full of noodles, other times barley or rice or potatoes. Often I add broccoli. But always onions, celery, thyme - and usually carrots and parsley. Like I said - a roadmap. A direction to go, a place to start, to gain confidence that you cannot mess up a good pot of fresh turkey broth.

I start of course by making the broth. There are any number of recipes for making broth but this is mine. After the turkey is carved and quite clean I put the carcass in a large pot and cover it with water. Toss in an onion that has been been quartered, 3 or 4 stalks of celery along with some celery leaves, 2 large carrots (scrubbed and quartered), and a few sprigs of thyme. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cover and simmer for at least 3 hours. The longer it simmers the more goodness you get out of the bones - and there is a lot of goodness in there! When you judge that it has simmered enough, remove from the heat and let cool for about 30 minutes. Strain the solids from the broth and discard. At this point unless I am making soup for a large crowd I portion it into quart (4 litre) containers and freeze the broth for use later - other soups and recipes that call for broth, or simply to enjoy as a 'bone broth'.

Don't be afraid to add a little water at the end of the cooking if you feel like quite a bit of the broth has evaporated - just taste and adjust.

basic turkey soup pattern

4 cups turkey broth
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced 
1 Tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup chopped curly parsley
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 cup of dried pasta or noodles (any shape you fancy)
2 cups chopped turkey meat
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pot saute the onions and celery in the butter for a few minutes - just until beginning to be tender. Add the broth and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the carrots, pasta and turkey. Cook until the pasta is done and the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Note: Because the broth is not salted you will want a generous amount of salt (roughly 2 tsp) or the soup will taste really flat. If you are using a good sea salt you needn't be afraid of the salt. (also along that line, if you are not eating a diet of mostly processed and refined foods salt is probably not an issue. Excuse me while I climb off my soap-box and put it away. lol)

If you want to use rice or barley instead of the pasta decrease the amount to 1/2 cup. If broccoli is sounding good to you and you have some in the fridge, about 3 cups chopped is perfect. A drop or two of sriracha sauce makes a nice change on occasion or a grating of good Parmesan. 


in Flanders Field...

November 11 | Remembrance Day. As a child in school I made red construction paper poppies with the other children in my class. I went to the school assembly and stood at attention with my classmates at precisely 11:00 AM for one perfect solemn minute. I learned the words to the poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae "In Flanders Field", seeing in my mind a tranquil field of beautiful poppies - knowing that what we were commemorating was solemn, even sacred, but not beginning to understand the depth and breadth of commitment, sacrifice, and love entailed. Even now, decades later I feel I only glimpse fleetingly the honour of those who have served so selflessly throughout history to protect the life, freedom, and liberties of loved ones and beloved country. 
The following letter is a very tender and articulate expression of love, faith, and sacrifice written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah. He died a week later, at the First Battle of Bull Run. He was only 32. As I read it I cannot believe other than that it echoes the feelings, hopes, and thoughts of countless others. I am profoundly grateful that my father, my sons, my husband have not been among those who have written similar letters home, and I am even more humbly grateful for those who have fought (my father-in-law, uncles and great uncles among them) that my close and dearly loved ones have not needed to.
This November 11 I pledge to think more deeply as I remember all the brave men and women who have served and now serve that I may live a life of freedom and plenty in this wonderful land of Canada. I pledge to honour them with the choices I make and the life I live.
BallouPortraitCamp Clark, Washington
My very dear Sarah: 
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.



sourdough stuffing | post-Thanksgiving

Here in Canada we have celebrated the harvest and given thanks for many and manifest blessings. In our house that celebration demands (a word chosen with deliberation) a fairly strict menu. I sometimes peruse with longing the many offerings for variation on the Thanksgiving feast theme - some verging on exotic, others simply needlessly complicated - but I have stopped suggesting we add anything to the table for that meal. Stopped because the table is full as is with dishes that not one person in our crowd can stand to see replaced or changed. Call it tradition - and happy family. Nothing wrong with any of that. So although in one sense our menu is strict, there is nothing at all austere about it. It is simply very well defined.

One of the dishes that I have played with in the past is the stuffing. Recipes abound that are so enticing to me and I have tried more than a few of those ideas but in the last four or five years I have settled on a simple sourdough stuffing that is universally approved and devoured on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing about it is wild and crazy except the straight-up goodness. Any bread that is a day or two old is very good in this recipe but a nice mild sourdough loaf makes all the difference in the world we think. I cross my fingers every year that I can harvest the fresh herbs from my garden and most years I can - even on the years where we have had more than a few frosts the herbs bravely struggle on to the last. I realize that is not an option for everyone but it is sure fun for me.

We have decided that we all prefer stuffing that is not cooked in the turkey so that is the way I do it but this stuffing works beautifully either way. The huge advantage of not stuffing the bird is that it roasts a lot faster and stays more moist - seems like a win/win to me. Just pop the stuffing into the oven as you pull the turkey out to rest and the timing is perfect.

I offer no picture of the stuffing after baking for the simple reason that at that point there was no waiting for photos to be taken and after the meal there was not a crumb left. It looks pretty much like the first photo but nicely golden.

The celebration of Thanksgiving may be done for this year but truly giving thanks and finding the joy of gratitude daily is always before us. The list of things for which I am grateful is long but among those at the top of that list: faith, hope, family (each and every wonderful, weird, beautiful, strong person from littlest Margo to David), health, friendship, my garden, my home, and the joy of sharing all of that. Thanksgiving may be behind me but Christmas is ahead. I love this season of joy and sharing, of counting blessings and then desiring to share them. Whenever or however you celebrate your gratitude may it be with good food and loved ones - and maybe some sourdough stuffing.

(As I proof-read this I have to wonder why we don't just have stuffing more often? Like right now.)

sourdough stuffing

10 cups sourdough bread, torn into smallish pieces (about 1 1/2 standard size boules)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
4 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups turkey broth*
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

In a large skillet melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook until it is beginning to become tender. Remove from heat.

Put the torn bread 'cubes' into a large bowl. Add the parsley, sage, thyme, cranberries, and pecans. Add the butter, celery, onion mix and toss. Pour the turkey broth over, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Bake (covered) in a buttered 9x13 pan or ceramic ceramic casserole dish for 20 -30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

* I make a broth with the turkey neck, a carrot, 1/4 of an onion and about 3 cups water that I simmer for an hour or so early in the day of the turkey feast. Strain the solids out and it is good to go. If you prefer to use a canned chicken broth, adjust the amount of salt to about 1 tsp.


garden harvest gnocchetti with fresh corn and tomatoes

It has been a considerable time since I have been excited enough about what was on my plate to jump up from the table and grab the camera mid-meal. Our meal this evening was (as it commonly is) a bit of a gamble. You know, the kind of combination of what is in the larder that should be good but may not be in the end. Happily this was not only okay but pretty amazing. David (religiously underwhelmed and scrupulously reserved with praise) not only commented three times that "this is really...mmmmm, really good!" That may not sound like a high recommendation but trust me, it is :) He followed that with the advice that I should record this one. Combining that with Jonathon's regular complaint that I need to post some simple recipes that everyone can cook (he is "tired of waiting" lol) and I did grab the camera for a mid-meal mini-session. 

One would think with the plethora of recipes so readily accessible in various platforms that gambling with dinner is not only unnecessary but plain dumb. The problem is not a lack but rather a surfeit. I am fatigued by the shear abundance of choice - should I refer to a cookbook, or Pinterest, or one of my many 'favourite' blogs, or even Instagram for inspiration. Perhaps one of the collection of magazines piled in the ceramic hibachi next to the kitchen counter? It is somewhere around this point that I (mentally) throw my hands in the air and decide to make a "big salad" (it is summer after all and who wants to turn on the stove?) or resort to a tried and true and simple option. Or... gamble. With an unknown combination of what is on hand.

As what is on hand is most always a healthy assortment of vegetables and grains it really isn't a big gamble. It is hard to go too wrong. This gamble of garden harvest and gnocchetti paid off in a big way. I think it will slot very nicely into  the regular rotation of tried, true and simple.

I used some heavy cream in this but you could use half and half if you prefer. If you need a dairy-free option substituting reserved water from cooking the gnocchi would be a good bet. Make you own gnocchi if you like or choose a shelf-stable package from the market, include the Italian sausage or skip it for a meat-free meal. I stripped the kernels off fresh corn on the cob but feel free to use frozen if that works better for you. The rest is dead simple.

garden harvest gnocchetti with fresh corn and tomatoes

1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cobs of corn, stripped
1 large sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
500 gm package gnocchetti 
1/2 cup cream
3 good handfuls of baby spinach and arugula
a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan - about 1/3 cup
6-10 fresh basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp butter or ghee

Cook the gnocchetti in salted boiling water until they float. Drain and set aside.

Pour the olive oil and drop the butter or ghee into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until beginning to soften. Add the sausage, crumbling it as it browns. When the sausage is almost cooked add the corn kernels and allow them to brown a bit, then toss in the cherry tomatoes. A few good twists of pepper and a flick or two of salt fits in well about now. Cook for only a couple of minutes then add the gnocchetti, tossing everything together. Drizzle the cream (or reserved pasta water) over the pasta mixture and toss again. Add the greens (spinach + arugula) and turn them into the mixture to wilt. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and some torn fresh basil leaves. Dinner is ready. That easy.


salted cucumber ice cream

Having gotten out of the groove of blogging on a (semi) regular basis I find overcoming the accumulated inertia requires much more effort than I want to summon most of the time. The good book I am reading, the garden I am tending, the children I am loving, the friend I am with, the simple meal I am enjoying - all extend a much greater pull than getting back to the computer and making myself find the words to articulate thoughts, experiences and yes, even recipes. The instant gratification of Instagram and the over-abundance of newly minted nutritional experts sharing ever more ambitious and exotic recipes - and (semi-suspect) nutritional advice - have each in their own way pulled me further away from this place that I once found such joy in. But the very fact that this has been an endeavour that I did once so love has caused me to reconsider my absence. The original motivation to post here was to record memories, recipes, creations and experiences that were in some way significant to me, to offer those things to anyone who might be interested in sharing them with me but specifically to the people I know and love - those near and dear to me. As I have considered continuing or not, I have realized that my motivation and desire has remained consistent. It is all too easy to become caught up in quantifying who is reading my offerings and to assign value to the whole enterprise (including my thoughts) based on that, to fall prey to the competitive part of my nature and give away the joy of creating, considering and sharing. Although writing again feels an awful lot like trying to push a boulder uphill from a standstill, I find that I have a strong desire to get that boulder rolling. If I am the keeper of my stories, then I must share them or they are nothing but smoke and mirrors - vanishing in the mists of time. Those stories may not be of interest to the world at large but the world at large is not reading them nor I am I writing for that audience. This is for me - for my loved ones. I am not an expert anything, not a professional something-or-other; I do find living well a quest worth engaging in and one that brings me joy and fulfills my life. So take my stories and ideas in that light, understanding that I know that I know only a small part of what there is to know but that the pursuit of excellence and more knowledge is a good reason to push that boulder up the hill. To find joy in every new day, each new taste, and all the good and bad that seasons a life.

All that to explain why it has taken me three months to push the boulder far enough that I am finally sharing this ice cream recipe. As is the case so often when reading a recipe for something outside of the regular box, my initial thought was "huh! weird." But it is that very outside-the-box-ness that makes this ice cream so wonderful. It is intriguing and fresh and begs another taste and then another ten. It is also the most beautiful soft green in colour. If you like salted caramel ice cream then you will love this - it is all that with freshness on top. Persian cucumbers are a must in this recipe.

The original recipe is from Tasting Table. I scaled it down in volume so it will work in my ice cream freezer and changed the method so that it works if you do not have a juicer (as I do not). I have also included an alternative method that works if you have neither a juicer or an ice cream freezer. No excuses ice cream!

*disclaimer - this is neither dairy-free or sugar free, it is not health-food but it is free from preservatives and gluten and any unknown additives, so it is probably an awful to better for you than commercial ice cream. Just saying.

Here's to hoping I can overcome inertia and really get rolling again. This seems like a great place and way to start.

salted cucumber ice cream
(from Tasting Table with a few changes)

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 Persian cucumbers, chopped
sea salt to taste - about 1 1/2 teaspoons

Put the chopped cucumbers into a blender container and process on high speed until liquified. Pour the result through a fine-mess strainer into a bowl. Measure 1/2 cup of the cucumber juice and set the remainder (if there is any) aside for a smoothie or whatever later. (The solids in the strainer can be put to the same purpose or discarded.)

Combine the cucumber juice, condensed milk, milk, cream, and salt in a bowl. Taste as you add the salt, starting with 1 teaspoon and adding more to taste - maybe more than you would initially think. Chill the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight to allow the flavours to mature and to give your ice cream machine a solid chance for success.

Pour the mixture into the previously chilled (actually frozen - as in been in the freezer for a good 24 hours) bowl of your ice cream machine and spin until it looks like a good soft-serve ice cream - about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container (a loaf pan works very well), cover and freeze until the ice cream is firm, 2-3 hours. Serve and enjoy.

There is no reason that you cannot enjoy this straight from the spinning (soft-serve style). I like being able to scoop it into a pretty ball. And it is nice to not have to melt so quickly when served. But either way is fabulous.

Alternative method for no-churn ice cream: Mix the condensed milk, milk, cucumber juice, and sea salt. Chill for 2 hours or overnight. Whip the heavy cream and fold the cucumber mixture and whipped cream together. Pour into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm - about 6 hours or overnight.


k reed

"I believe that what we become depends on what  our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom." 
- Umberto Eco

I remember standing on the edge of the roof of our house when I was a very little girl. My dad was standing just below me with his arms outstretched, telling me to jump. There was no fire, no emergency - just a warm summer evening and for a reason that is long forgotten I had been on the roof, probably with him. From that edge the distance from me to his arms seemed very far and very scary. I was afraid to jump. He prompted me again and I gathered my courage and jumped, never doubting that he would catch me. 

A few years later, at a July 1 celebration in his hometown of Hillspring Alberta I was lined up with all the kids my age to run a foot race. I wanted so badly to run and to win. The starter called "On your marks, get set....GO!" and someone pushed me hard from behind. I veritably exploded off my mark and ran my hardest. I don't remember if I placed (and if I had the start could have been called cheating) but all I knew was that my dad gave me the best start he could.

And that is the way it was all my life. My dad was my safe place - wise, strong, warm, loving - and he was the wind at my back - pushing, encouraging, teaching and when the occasion warranted, demanding. Demanding in the best way that I give my all. He taught me to strive for excellence - that if a thing was worth doing it was worth doing well. He told me that if I wanted something badly enough I could get it - and in my experience he has generally been right. He taught me to read, to play tennis (poorly but that was not his fault), to ride a horse, to weed the garden, to love God, to serve others. He whistled while he worked and loved to work. He had a song for every situation and a smile in his eyes for those he loved. He loved my mom and I knew it through and through. He taught me by his example to be a person of integrity and to live with honour.

I think I must have been a daddy's girl from my first breath. I know others have had and do have fathers as wonderful as mine but none has ever had better. To be told that I in any way am like my father is wonderful. He died long before I wish he had and when he did I thought I wasn't ready to be without him but although I miss him still I realize that I had been well prepared to walk on my own. I love this picture of the two of us - just a snap but when I see it I remember the safe warmth of his hug and love between us. From my earliest memory he called me his Pride and Joy ( being the loving father he was I am guessing he had four others) and I knew I was. I hope I am still. I feel very blessed to have had such a father, one who taught me well in all the odd moments with many little scraps of wisdom that I cherish always.


olive oil, sea salt & vanilla granola

Turns out everyone is making olive oil granola but I didn't know that when I made this a few months ago. (oh well, she said) This is my take on what it looks like is a trend. Granola is having a moment. Another one. It is cool again after being cool and then not, a bit like Birkenstocks. One cannot really blame the granola for a fall from grace - really I would have to point to the commercialization and mass-production of what really ought to be made in small batches and is best made in home kitchens. Churned out by the ton it loses all the goodness and most of its charm, packaged into cardboard boxes and retaining only convenience. After that batch of blame there is the whole fiasco of low-fat, bad fat and the cascade of misinformation that characterized most nutritional theory for the past generation. I find it refreshing to read the more current (well- researched) thinking - that we need (good) fats, much less sugar, high quality carbs and protein for a healthy life. Go figure, eating whole and entirely satisfying food prepared simply is best. Our grandparents and their parents did it without thinking because that is all there was. Laziness and convenience have opened up a Pandora's box of options for us in recent decades until we have eaten ourselves into a nightmare of ill health and over-weight*. ....  I will climb down off my soap-box now and we can just talk about how much we love granola. 

I do love granola. It is a great hand-snack or breakfast bowl. Fast, easy and infinitely variable to make there is always a large glass canister in our kitchen filled with one flavour  or another. The standard for years and years at our house has been a fabulously fragrant and delicious cinnamon granola loaded with nuts and seeds and all kinds of goodness and health. But I am ever curious and eager for something new so when I recently embarked on an intense affair with olive oil that went beyond the usual pastas and salads and bread dip, granola was only logical. Cinnamon granola will always have a place in my heart and kitchen but you need to know that olive oil, sea salt and vanilla make an absolutely addictive version of the venerable mix. I am quite honestly obsessed and I proselyte my wares to any and all. I have been so eager to share that I have taken small tasting bags of it to social events (questionable behaviour I know but if you tried it you would understand). This granola is salty and chewy and tastes like olive oil, no mild oil wanted here. And clumps and bunches. Chewy salty-sweet bunches. Eat it out of hand, grab a cluster on the way past the jar, sprinkle it over a bowl of pure white, creamy, plain Greek yogurt or load that bowl of yogurt up with diced apples, a generous couple of handfuls of granola and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Grab your Birkenstocks and get your hippie on! 

There is not much that I would even consider retrieving from the '70's but granola? oh ya.

This truly amazing granola (I did say obsessed) fuelled day after day of walking and walking and walking  on a recent and equally amazing trip to Japan - well-worth the bag space and weight.

For this granola you really do want a superior and full-flavoured olive oil, something nice and green. 

olive oil, sea salt & vanilla granola

3 cups large flake rolled oats
3 cups flaked almonds
1 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup hemp seed heart
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 Tbsp flakey sea salt (I used Maldon's)
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix the oats, almonds, pepitas, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, and vanilla powder in a large bowl. Combine the olive oil, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl and pour over the mixture in the large bowl. Mix well - get your hands into it if need be - add the raisins and mix some more.

Spread evenly in the parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes or until nicely toasted. Remove from oven and cool in the pan before transferring to a container to store.

* For an interesting read try The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. Then relax and enjoy your full-fat yogurt and olive oil granola bowl, Birks optional.


Enslaved to Saved : The Metaphor of Christ as our Master

book review

This is an entirely new adventure for me - this writing a book review. I haven't written a book review since I was in school and have no desire to publish how long ago that was. I have read literally a ton of books since then but any reviews have been kept between me and myself. When Reid approached me to participate in the blog tour for his book I was immensely flattered and mildly overwhelmed as scholarly discussion of this type is not my usual day-to-day. I was also intrigued by the opportunity and although book reviews are outside the normal scope of this blog  I am very happy I accepted his invitation. 

This book is not long; it is meaty and not a fast read. I savoured my way through it, pausing to consider and evaluate my response to his thoughts at least once every page. He develops his theme thoroughly and well leaving one satisfied and well-converted to the humble nature of our relationship to Jesus Christ.

I have long been a fan of Neal A. Maxwell's writings and teachings - his turn of phrase and beautiful economy of language - and one thought that I have turned over in my mind often and often is that the only thing we have that is truly ours to offer on the altar is our will, all the rest is the Lord's already and anyway. There is a thoughtful exploration and development of this theme through the theme of slavery and freedom. 

As residents in a modern (western) world with all the emphasis we place on freedom, individuality, personal expression and rights the idea that we have only true freedom through being slaves (total indebtedness to one who has redeemed us from sin) is opposite the norm. Reid convinces his reader that although we can make a personal determination as to whether we will accept or pass on what is offered us by Christ the price has been paid and we are His. Our enslavement to him provides us the ultimate freedom that we enjoy as his heirs and without the bondage that inevitably accompanies sin. The book explores these concepts against a backdrop of the historical context of slavery and manumission; the analogy becomes sharply clear and very important. I would recommend Enslaved to Saved to any student of the New Testament, the life of Christ and the Gospel he proclaimed. It will be a treasured volume in my library - sure to be well-thumbed and dog-eared before long.

W. Reid Litchfield is an intelligent, articulate, accomplished and well-educated individual. A Harvard educated endocrinologist, the recipient of many Top Doctor awards, a wise father and tender husband, he is also my much-loved and admired brother-in-law. Writing a book review for anyone has potential for issues but when that someone is a someone you care about and desire to retain a healthy relationship with ... I am sure it is easy can see the potential for disaster there. Having no desire to perjure myself I am happy to report that I had no need to.


eat cake

raspberry-ricotta cake

And just like that, with no explanation and no apology I am here. I hesitate to say 'back' because I don't want to over-commit. Nevertheless my intention is to be back. I have (quite obviously) seriously considered not returning to this endeavour. There have been all manner of reasons not to but in the final analysis those reasons don't hold quite enough weight and the scale has tipped ever so slightly in the direction of picking up the threads. So here I am holding a few tattered threads that I will attempt to weave into something of a whole cloth again.

This cake, this cake is one of those cakes that does not demand attention. The quiet, elegant beauty standing somewhat aloof and shyly at the side of the room while the sticky, gooey, sparkly (totally unworthy and flashy) upstarts grab the focus. But if you give it even half a chance you will fall in love. Far more interesting in taste and texture than your average unassuming white cake - if you are like me you will be making this cake over and over again because you just can't get enough.

The ricotta adds a moist richness and depth of flavour without making the cake heavy. Fantastic warm with cream straight out of the oven I think it is even better on day two. I initially used some sweet, soft ripe pears as the fruit. Trial two was with apples. Three - frozen sweet cherries. And finally, for the fourth try I resorted to the original recipe as written in Bon Appetit and used frozen raspberries. Don't ask me which is liked best because I can't decide. Today my answer would likely be 'raspberry' because that is what is sitting on my counter right now but a week ago it would have been pears. And two days after that? Why cherries of course!

The changes I made to the recipe are very minor - a little more fruit, a different sugar, a touch more salt.

This cake reminds me a teeny tiny bit of a treat we used to buy from the convenience stores (I know - horrors!!) when we lived in Osaka ages ago. I can't remember what it was called but there is a map of Hokkaido on the wrapper. I loved it then and want to remember it as being wonderful - but I am afraid that if I were to try it now I might wrinkle my nose. For sure this cake is umpteen times better. Make yourself a batch of fresh ricotta - or go buy a tub - but make this cake. Tonight. And eat it all weekend long. You could share it with a friend. Or not :)

raspberry-ricotta cake
(from Bon Appetit - with the most minor of changes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raw cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grey sea salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter - melted
1 1/4 cups frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray or butter a 9" round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. In another smaller bowl combine the ricotta, eggs, and vanilla stirring gently until smooth; fold in dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in melted butter. And finally fold in 1 cup of frozen fruit - being respectful of the delicacy of the berries. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the remaining fruit over the top. No need to press it into the batter as the cake will rise around it while baking.

Bake until golden brown, firm to the touch and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean - about 55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before turning out of the pan.