Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Perfect Weekend

Saturday morning hiking, the start of fall colours.....

An evening with friends, games, and chocolate hazelnut fondue to celebrate Colin's birthday.....

Warm banana muffins (Ina Garten's Banana Crunch Muffins) on Sunday morning....these were very good! One modification...I was sleepy while making them (at 6am, which is when the boy woke me up) and forgot the sugar, only remembering when they were already in the tins. No big deal, the bananas were sweet enough I figured, so I just sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar, which gave them the nice crackled effect. Yummy and definitely sweet enough, but next time I'll add some just to see.

Followed by a visit to the pumpkin patch and lunch out at a country hotel.

Loaded the trunk full of pumpkins, wheat and mums, and spent Sunday afternoon decorating the house, just in time for Thankgiving!

And to top it all off, a visit from my mom and Colin's parents, and a tasty Sunday dinner- including my "perfect" cheescake (his words....) for Colin's birthday.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Something I’ve been working on this past week, are some cool head coverings for my mom. Friday was her second round of chemo, and she’s pretty much lost her hair at this point. This was the thing that she’d feared most, but now appears to be taking it in stride. A week ago, when it started falling out rapidly, she declared it annoying, said it was messing up her house, and asked me to cut it really short. She’d already bought a wig and was ready to get on with wearing it. So off it came, all over my patio. Ethan had great fun telling me to “cut more Mama, cut more!”, then picked it up and carried chunks of it around with a big hair clip. Even showed his Dad who was working in the garage…those that know Colin can imagine how thrilled he was. So much for Ethan being traumatized by Oma’s hair loss. It is at times like this, I thank God that this family has a very warped and dark sense of humour!

Earlier this week, Mom brought the wig to her hairstylist. After she’d shaved what was left of my mom’s hair, she gave the wig a trim to make it look more like my mom’s. Pretty brave for someone who had earlier declared that she wouldn’t be able to handle the hair loss!

However, a wig is not the most comfortable thing to wear all the time. So, I researched a few patterns, found this one, and this is me in my first creation.

My mom is test driving it now and says it has significantly more style than the freebies the hospital and Hopespring (cancer support centre) give you. I’m on holidays for the early part of this week, so I’ll try another one as well. I’m having fun with this and will also make a couple of hats for myself…nothing better for bad hair days and the winter.


It's that time of year again...or maybe I'm a bit late? We went to the market yesterday morning and there they were, dozens of baskets of perfect little cucumbers, just begging to be made into pickles! I wasn't going to do it this year, what with everything else going on, but the cukes just looked so good, and it was a beautiful day, and I figured that I had a spare couple of hours, and well, that's why I'm always cooking. I get suckered in and things like cucumbers.

Last year I made pickles for the first time- my first attempt at canning. Actually, it was more like pseudo canning since I went the 'refrigerator' pickle route. That means no boiling and sterilizing and sealing, and then worrying about killing someone via botulism everytime you offer up a pickle. Experienced canners might not worry, but I'm not ready to take the chance. I'm still haunted by the scene in Larry's Party where the daughter-in-law accidently kills the mother-in-law with some home canned beans. After that, the marriage was pretty much never the same. Ha ha.

This method means, for the the uninitiated, that you plop the stuff in a clean jar, cover it in brine, screw on the lid and stick it in the fridge. Ready to eat after 4 days, last a long as you store them in the fridge. Easy. I'm no pioneer woman, so this is my idea of canning! Someday I'll attempt the real thing.

So, since the boys in this family are the primary pickle eaters, I put Colin to work scrubbing the cucumbers while Ethan had his afternoon nap. I'd made the brine earlier in the day, so all I had to do was peel dozens of garlic cloves, slice up the onions, wash the dill. We don't often work together in the kitchen, so this was actually chance for real conversation! And now, the man appreciates his pickles even more :)

Refrigerator Dill Pickles (adapted from Maggie Johnson's recipe, from the FoodWine list)
Makes approximately 15 - 500ml jars

12 cups water
4 cups vinegar
1 cup kosher salt
Dill seed
Mustard seed
3 onions, sliced
1 bunch fresh dill
2-3 heads of garlic, separated into cloves & peeled
1 - 4 litre basket of small cucumbers, halved, quartered or sliced

Put water, vinegar and salt into a pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature. Put 1/2 teaspoon dill seed, ½ tsp mustard seed, 1 clove of garlic and a few pieces of fresh dill flower in the bottom of each jar. Pack with onions and cucumbers. Put another clove of garlic, ½ teaspoon dill seed, ½ tsp mustard seed and more fresh dill on top. Add more or less of the garlic and spices according to your taste. Pour vinegar solution over the top. Let sit on counter for a few hours, then refrigerate. The pickles will be ready to eat in four days.

Pickles last one year. Store in refrigerator.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday cooking

In preparation for the work week ahead, and to meet my weeknight "dinner on the table in 30 minutes" goal, I like to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday prepping and cooking. It means less take out (which we're not so fond of anyways!), more nutritous food and an opportunity to try something new. Truthfully, it's for the last reason that I spend Sunday morning, coffee in hand, still wearing pyjamas at 11am, chopping, stirring and mixing. It's why my kid sometimes eats soup for breakfast....he sees it, he wants it, then seats himself at the table and waits. I love that kid. But I digress. The whole ritual is relaxing to me, and it's a little B time.

This morning I woke up around 5:45am, for absolutely no good reason at all. By 6, I figured I wasn't going back to sleep, so I put on a big pot of coffee and made muffins.....banana raisin. They were supposed to be Banana Espresso Muffins with Walnuts, from Super Natural Cooking, but lacking a couple of key ingredients, and a reluctance to use walnuts because of my son's sensitivity to some nuts, I improvised a bit and ended up with just an okay muffin. But I liked the picture, so there you go. I'll have to work on the recipe.

Then E woke up, and after a bit of a chat and a morning cuddle, he took off to play with his trains and trucks for awhile. So then I made the first of what will be several batches of red cabbage this fall. I make huge pots when cabbage is fresh, cheap and in season at the market. It freezes beautifully. E loves it, it's been his favourite since he first started eating solids it seems! This my old family recipe / method.

Braised Red Cabbage


1 whole red cabbage, cored and chopped into 1 inch chunks

1 large onion, cut into eight chiunks

8 whole cloves, stick one clove in each chunk of onion (this makes it easier to find and remove the cloves after cooking)

1 large apple, peeled and cored, chopped

2 heaping tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup red wine vinegar


Lemon juice

Heat oil on medium high heat in a large pot / dutch oven. Dump in cabbage, toss with oil, stir frying for approximately one minute. Add onion, apple, brown sugar and vinegar. Add salt to taste. Toss everything together. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, usually 45-60 minutes. Add lemon juice and/or more vinegar, and salt to taste. Remove cloves.

Next up, the Creamy Cauliflower Soup from Super Natural Cooking, while tripping over trucks and cars which had, at this point, been hauled into the middle of the kitchen. Very, very yummy. I didn't make the pesto part, just used some that I had in the fridge. E had his with cheese and pesto, also good! (He actually had 3 for 'brunch', then another two later on for lunch). My non-vegetable loving husband (I make poor choices sometimes!), had a very small bowl (because I threatened him), and declared it 'not bad', once you got over the cauliflower taste (why me???)....then he filled up on bruschetta and Fruiliano cheese quesadillas (aaahhh, the wonders our fridge yields sometimes!). Anyways, try the soup, it's really really good.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Brazil Nut Pesto from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking

For the Soup:

3 tablespoons clarified butter or extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped (I think I used garlic)

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes (I used half, and it was still pretty spicy)

1 large potato peeled and chopped

1 ½ pounds cauliflower, coarsely chopped

5 cups vegetable stock or water (I used a mixture of chicken stock and water)

1/3 cup heavy cream or Cashew Cream (I didn't have heavy cream so used a combo of sour cream and a little milk)

fine-grain sea salt (I used kosher salt)

For the Pesto:

½ cup toasted Brazil nuts

2 handfuls spinach leaves, stemmed

4 cloves garlic

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

generous pinch of fine-grain sea salt

Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat, add the garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the potato and cauliflower and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the stock, bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and puree thoroughly with a handheld immersion blender. Stir in the cream and season to taste.

To Make the Pesto:Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Ladle the soup into individual bowls, drop a spoonful of pesto in each one, swirl around with a knife or toothpick.

Last on the agenda, a crunchy coleslaw with apples and walnuts with a dressing from, you guessed it, Super Natural Cooking. I'll say, at this point, that this book has been well worth the money!

I cheated and used a pre-packaged coleslaw that I had in the fridge. Added my own apple and walnuts though! The dressing is from Super Natural Cooking, Crunchy Slaw Salad:

Whisk together:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Juice of one lemon

Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Splash of heavy cream (I didn't have any, used a dollop of plain yogurt instead)

Toss cabbage, apples, toasted walnuts and dressing together. Serve immediately. Leave out the walnuts until serving, if you're not eating right away.

So, that was that for Sunday cooking. Washed some fruit, chopped some veggies, cut up a watermelon, cleaned out the fridge. All that and we had burgers for dinner.....go figure! They were good burgers though...all dressed up with good toppings, coleslaw and corn on the cob on the side.