“Wisdom says I am nothing. Love says I am everything. Between the two my life flows” Nisargadatta Maharaj
The holiday season is such a wonderful time of the year. Bing Crosby songs, parties, the first snow and much needed time away from the insanity of our daily lives. Baked good & family time fill the air with familiar smells and sounds.
Anyone who knows us, knows that we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas in this house. The lighting of the candles leading to the celebration of baby Jesus being born. While I tentatively call myself a Christian – more importantly I’m a spiritual human being that believes all the great religions teach the same simple lessons.
Did you know that in December:
Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of lights
Christians celebrate Christmas
Muslims celebrate Milad un Nabi, the birth of Muhammed
Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day honouring the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautam
Religious? Non religious? It matters not – we are all connected, inseparable in our life experience. So much is made of our differences in the media. Whether it be financial, racial, religious or sexual issues. It never ceases to amaze me that we allow the rhetoric to overcome common sense. The majority of people want love, security & peace. Our oneness is undeniable and beauty lies in the cultural differences we have. A few bad apples unfortunately dominate the headlines – because let’s face it. Crap sells.
So this holiday we are going to concentrate on quality time with one another, appreciating what we have been given in this beautiful world. The marketing of the holidays sometimes makes us all forget that the true gift is right in front of us and doesn’t cost a damn thing.
Wishing you and yours the BEST holiday season ever. Turn off the TV, radio – make a meal and ring in the new year. 2015 is going to be the best yet, I have faith!
How often have you seen a chocolate cake and thought – I HAVE to have a piece – only to be disappointed by the frosting or the texture? It’s gotten to the point for me – that I almost never order chocolate layer cake because it’s a let down.
For me a truly awesome chocolate layer cake – is deep, dark, moist (but not too heavy) and covered by chocolate fudge frosting. Frosting that doesn’t get crusty or lose its sheen. A truly good chocolate fudge frosting can go in the fridge overnight taste silky smooth the next day or possibly even two!! later.
Hey I LOVE Italian and French butter creams but when I was a little girl my Grandma would make the BEST fudge frosting and this made a serious imprint on what I look for in a cake. Her frosting was dark and gooey. I suspect corn syrup was involved in some shape or form – and I can assure you we will not be using that here.
Her cake was so amazing that my brother peeled it off and devoured it from not one but TWO of her cakes. A memory like that creates a pretty high bar. So commenced my journey to find the perfect fudge frosting. The funny part about this story is – in the end – creating the frosting of my dreams was the result of a mistake.
I did not have enough powdered sugar for a cocoa frosting I was making – so to thicken in up I whipped up some chocolate ganache and voila! An absolutely delicious chocolate fudge frosting was born.
I paired my fudge frosting with this absolutely TASTY chocolate cake from Add A Pinch. It’s an adaptation of the Hershey Cake recipe and you will love it! You can click the link above to check it out!
My Momma’s Hands Fudge Frosting
1 cup cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
2/3 cup butter room temperature (I used salted whey butter and loved the results)
1 tsp of vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chopped
3 Tbsp half & half
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Mix powdered sugar, butter and cocoa – then pour boiling water over the top. Whip slowly until combined, then increase speed to high and whip for at least 5 minutes. The consistency will thicken with the whipping. Set to the side.
Warm bittersweet chocolate until melted on double boiler. Slowly add half & half, whisking as you go (yes, yes I know this is not the purist way of making ganache – I did not have whipping cream – and the amount used was so little I decided to melt chocolate instead of heating the cream). Whisk until thickened. The mixture should resemble the texture of Nutella. Scrape the bittersweet ganache into the bowl with cocoa mixture. Whip again for 2 minutes. Add 2/3 cup of powdered sugar and whip for another 5 minutes. You should have a light and spreadable fudge frosting.
***Okay so disclaimer here – I am still working on the exact amounts for the ganache. I started out w. 1/3 cup of half and half and found it too thin so I reduced it to approximately 3 Tablespoons and that seemed to hit the nail on the head, although I do have a tendency to cook by feel. I am also considering upping the bittersweet chocolate to 1 1/2 cups. More testing ahead, this is a work in progress (which will never end!).
….and a little bit from the beater sure makes some of us VERY happy~
My son has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and I felt, up until now, it was his story and his alone to tell. Most of our friends and family are aware of his diagnosis but I have steered clear from sharing too much publicly about the road we travel. His privacy has been and continues to be of the utmost importance. That being said, if our experiences can help others I want to reach out and let people know – you are NOT alone – even if it feels like you are.
I hate the word disorder and disability. They are limiting and useless, but in a world bound by classification we have had no choice but to label away – even celebrate official documents that give us access to assistance. No label no help – so this is our story….
Over the past 5 years we have seen doctors & therapists – convened with teachers, principals, special education facilitators and committees. We have been added to wait lists and considered for placements in schools that specialize in learning disabilities. I have read multiple books, addressed diet and exercise – combed through legal documents and drafted letters.
The financial cost has been prohibitive:
ADHD Assessments: $2,000 – 3,000 in Canada – and as an aside I think that this is the only way to truly diagnose ADHD. Would you go to anyone besides a cardiologist to assess the health of your heart?
Therapy: $100 – $200 per hour if you opt for a psychologist
Tutoring: $50 – 75 per hour, while you wait for accommodations
Time Off of Work: Incalculable…..and the list goes on and on.
We are not rich people, but we want to support our child. My question is – why does the system make this such a difficult task?
The first solution we were offered were meds. A “dime store” remedy that would “solve” our problems. Leaving the pro/anti medication arguments aside…why can I medicate my kid with ease but am unable to find affordable academic and/or therapeutic support for our family? When does he learn techniques to thrive in his own skin? He processes life differently, is uniquely gifted and much of that is due to his ADHD. Quite frankly, the positive side of this “disorder” is grossly overlooked.
We now know more about what to do and how to approach these matters – but you need a degree in bureaucracy to plow through the obstacles blocking your way. What if you don’t have the time, means or knowledge? Then what? Your kid falls through the cracks? That is completely unacceptable answer.
ADHD is a growing issue. In the States as much as 10%! of the population has been diagnosed. The standard educational system is simply not equipped to deal with the needs of kids with ADHD. Self esteem suffers not only as a result of the disorder but as a result of the way children with differences are treated in a highly structured system geared towards educating a specific kind of child. Why are alternative options so damned expensive and sparse?
We would give anything to send our son to the Dunblaine or Arrowsmith Schools, where they use cognitive training programs based on the principles of neuroplasticity - but with a price tag of over 20k per year, we simply cannot afford this kind of help. The answer? The Canadian government offers a tax credit for children with disabilities to assist with the costs. No one tells you how hard it is to actually get this credit. ADHD qualifies but it is very difficult to get approval. We are now in the appeal process.
We all read about disenfranchised youth and shake our heads – where are their parents? Why didn’t they get help? How come people rarely address the lack of support? The lack of understanding of what it takes to raise a child with needs that differ from the norm?
We throw money into a broken penal system and the military, but decrease funds available to schools, the mental health system and organizations such as Integra - lifelines that actually attempt to help families navigate a crappy system.
Children, simply put, are our future and the ones that see things in a different light are quite often our brightest innovators. The next time you read a paper or judge someone from afar and wonder where the parents are – maybe a better question to ask would be – where have our priorities gone?
If you are in Canada and need help navigating the system you can contact me. Happy to connect and share our experiences: email@example.com
* It’s been tough to get the time to blog these days but I am recommitting – soooo back to the food! Join me this weekend for the perfect bittersweet chocolate fudge frosting. After years and years of searching for a replacement from my grandma’s super delish icing – I’ve finally done it!
This Orange, Feta, Olive & Arugula salad with Cherry Vinaigrette was inspired by a resolution to eat my greens. This unfortunately, can be a challenge – at least for me (hahaha and most people under the age of 15). Love roasted root veg, bring on the Brussels sprouts, peas, corn, avocados and tomatoes. But leaves, for whatever reason, are a struggle. Recently we purchased a Vitamix, this has been a great help (more on that soon)! Whipping up smoothies with spinach, kale and sorts of greenery happens daily, but I want to develop salad recipes that inspire. So keep your eyes peeled we have some super tasty delights coming your way.
So here goes. The idea behind this salad is to create something that hits the sweet, salty and bitter buttons. A lot of salads that I personally like have a tendency to be of questionable nutritional value – think blue cheese dressing, Caesar salad and greens studded with fried goodies. Mmmmmm fried food! This salad will excite your taste buds while maintaining its integrity health wise.
Someone in the food planning department failed miserably. Sugar and grease should be good for you darn it!
Orange, Feta, Olive & Arugula Salad with Sour Cherry Vinaigrette
3 oranges peeled and segmented
3/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
6 cups arugula (loosely packed – I never measure, just guess based on taste)
1/2 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
Sour Cherry Vinaigrette
3 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp sour cherry concentrated juice or if you can’t find it try sour cherry syrup (Great recipe to be found on Epicurious)
2 tsp of Red wine vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
dash of salt
Peel and Segment oranges. Pit and roughly chop olives. Mix arugula together in large bowl, spike with crumbled feta cheese, olives and oranges. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and toss over greens lightly. So tasty – so lovely and super quick. I’ve been trying to find ways to integrate sour cherries into my cooking. Love ‘em and they are good for you. We used Cherry Lane Concentrated Tart Cherry Juice – made with local love. If you can’t find something like this you could experiment with cherry preserves or make the cherry syrup I mentioned above. Epicurious has a great recipe. *** PS I added radicchio to the salad pictured. I loved it – family not so much. If you like bitter then add some!
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”
Have a good day, damn it! I love music, food, flowers, sunrises, horses and clean tidy children pictured in the wilderness…grrrrr I am boring myself and others to death. This is me on social media of late.
Social media – is there an unwritten gag order implicit in the end user licensing agreements? I get it, some things are personal. Things we choose not to share because we just don’t want to. BUT – choosing not to share and being afraid are two different things. Who knew self censorship would replace big brother in terms of freedom to speak one’s own mind.
So I wanted to take a moment to get real: Hi I’m Kym – an opinionated supporter of local, seasonal food and farmers – who is frustrated that more people don’t realize the amount fakery (wanted to use another word) that goes on in our food system and would like to know why it’s easier to score illicit drugs than it is raw milk. I can be an earnest, self righteous know it all who over posts about things I am passionate about. In fact I know some of my friends and family have put me on ignore because they wonder why the hell I share pictures of my dinner or are super tired of articles regarding the preservation of seeds & the fight to rid our world of GMOs – but it comes from the heart.
As for social media, connecting with people that I don’t regularly see is awesome, but honestly it’s a love/hate relationship. Narcissistic three paragraph postings and food pictures that are overly stylized – think raffia, bows and props – drive me to drink. No offense but I think food is meant to be eaten. I am mommy to two amazing kids that both enthrall and drive me up a wall – am frazzled to a crisp – but still find time to write and share on a blog that very few people actually read and is unlikely to make money. Let’s face facts MMH will never be sponsored by Kraft, Coca-Cola or General Mills
* Oh yeah and screw Google for handing over personal information to anyone without a court order. I am one of those boring, old fashioned sticks in the mud who thinks we should all be concerned about that “privacy stuff”.
So there it is. Off w. the self imposed gag and on with the show. Recipe coming tomorrow.
Eye spy with my little eye Ontario Tomatoes and Strawberries! This is the best time of the year for such things. Lovely to taste and behold. Sigh…as a visual person I am constantly on the lookout for eye porn This leads me to a topic so important that I feel compelled to share. Over the years I have neglected my eyes, taking their health for granted. Near-sighted with a marginal need for glasses while driving, I let eye appointments lapse, assuming this was a cost I could afford to put on the back burner.
This year all of that changed. The optometrist performed an eye pressure test, you know the one with the puff of air? The results determined mine was elevated, which can be an indicator of the onset of glaucoma. With a history of eye issues in my family, this hit like a ton of bricks. The doctor recommended having digital retinal imaging to provide a baseline to make sure there was no deterioration of the optic nerve.
Preserving my eyesight is the goal. He said had I waited years to come in, they would not have had the opportunity to get a baseline and it would be difficult to pinpoint the progression of any damage. So, while this was not amazing news – I am happy to report that today my eyes are healthy and I am in a great position to target any future changes and undergo treatment before loss of sight becomes an issue.
We live in a world of such beauty and magnificence I don’t want to miss a minute of it. Don’t skip your eye appointments and get baseline retinal imaging of your eyes. We all hear about heart disease, cancer and strokes – but eye health is sadly under represented. Wish more people were aware of the importance of this issue. Over 2.3 million Americans have glaucoma! Sight loss is preventable with treatment. Live each moment with awareness and appreciation for the many gifts we have and don’t forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
With that being said, I am sharing my all time favourite sannie. The one and only BLT. A feast for all of the senses. A good BLT uses tomatoes – A GREAT BLT uses seasonal, local tomatoes. I don’t eat BLTs in the winter. They are simply not the same.
Secrets for a Simply Great BLT:
* Use good quality bread – some of my favourite choices are: seeded flat bagels, challah or pumpernickel. I love it lightly toasted.
* Use good quality double thick bacon and don’t skimp. Nothing worse than a BLT that runs out of bacon crunch! We are lucky to have access to Perth Pork Products. They raise Tamworth pigs which are particularly tasty for smoked meat. Fry bacon until it’s super crisp. No chewy bits for me!
* Use room temperature, thick cut, local, seasonal tomatoes – I love the worn looking heirlooms. There’s nothin’ better.
* Use iceberg lettuce. I’m super old fashioned – the taste – crunch and resilience of iceberg can’t be beat
* Use lots and lots of homemade mayo. Epicurious has a terrific recipe here. If you must use store bought – nothing better than Hellmann’s IMHO.
The buzz – you know that warm feeling you get when something is just too good and your senses are overwhelmed. Maybe it was your first crush or the day you tried something so scrumptious that you were lost of words…or possibly it was that moment when you heard your first opera and the hair stood up on the back of your arms because the beauty of it all was just so….so…….indescribable. Physical reactions where there are plain just no words. These occasions are addictive, so much so that we seek fixes through love, food, music, art, booze and many other means. The irony is – you can’t manufacture those feelings. They are elusive – the perfect storm of emotions and personal experience. It’s hard to believe that these fleeting impulses may have even played a part in altering the course of your life! I know they have mine.
There are little ways we chase the buzz. You know what I mean…you’re out with friends and have two glasses of that fantastic Amarone. Your feeling toasty and loved. The server comes back and asks “Mam, would you like another glass of wine?” You brain quickly flips through your options – whose he calling mam??!! Hmmm…..Mmmmm more wine, more buzz…no more wine, no more buzz. “More wine please!” Well, we all know how this story ends. There is no getting that initial warm feeling back, yet we will endure the hangover the next day chasing the buzz.
In our family the buzz quite often comes in the form of food, and boy do we have food stories that have reached mythical proportions! Every Sunday my Dad would bring home a selection of danishes from the Viking Bakery in Denville, New Jersey. Oh how I loved that square cardboard box tied up with a red and white string. We all knew that the Cherry Danish was in there somewhere and my brother and I would hover over the top waiting to indulge.
The question I pose – was it the cherry danish or the memory? Sundays were the best and my Dad sure loved those pastries, so I would say it is all about the experience.
In keeping with my predilection for chasing the buzz, I’m baking Ontario Cherry Cheese Danishes. It may not be the Viking Bakery in the late 70′s, but they sure are amazing!
Rough Puff Pastry Ingredients Per BBC Good Food, Gordon Ramsay:
2 cups white flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup butter (just over) cool to the tough.
1/2 cup ice cold water (just over) – this is an approximate measurement
You can use store bought (in fact that is exactly what I did this weekend! – see below) although I firmly believe that from scratch is almost always superior. Admittedly, this is one of the only areas that I will buy something from the store rather than make my own if pinched for time (the only other exception is phyllo dough). A great way to make your own is to stick to rough puff pastry a la Gordon Ramsay. It’s a great compromise between time consuming puff pastry and store bought sheets.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Break the butter up into small chunks, toss them into the dry ingredients and cut them in. You should see sizable pieces of butter that have not been incorporated.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour 2/3 of the cold water in (add more only if necessary). The dough will be firm and rough. Do not overwork and don’t be fooled. Crumbly is where it’s at! Adding more water will only make it tough. The dough should barely come together. Cover with saran wrap and leave to chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Turn the dough out on a floured board and form into a rectangle. Roll put the dough (in one direction only) until it measures approx. 8 x 20 inches. The rolling and folding process will help the dough come together and become smooth (the dough should be marbled and streaked with the butter pieces). Fold the top 1/3 down to the centre and the bottom third up over that like an envelope, it still might be a bit crumbly don’t worry! Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll out to 8 x 20 once again (keeping edges as straight and even as possible and fold once again. Chill for 30 minutes and roll out to use. You could repeat this process with another period of chilling if you want it to be more layered.
1/2 lb softened cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the egg wash)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth.
No Recipe Cherry Jam Per David Lebovitz
3 lbs Cherries pitted (cut some and leave some whole)
2 lemons juiced and zested
I love this jam recipe, but you will only you a fraction of it for these danishes if you opt for 3 pounds of cherries. Having cherry jam on hand is well worth the extra pitting. BTW invest in a pitter! It makes life so much easier.
In a large non reactive pan add the cherries, lemon juice and zest and cook over medium heat until they are soft. This process may take up to 20 minutes. Add the sugar (3/4 of the amount of cherries you have in the pan). So if you have 4 cups of wilted cherries add 3 cups of sugar. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook until jam thickens. If your spatula is coated it means you are getting close. David recommends freezing a white plate and when you think the jam is done spoon on some of the juice, return the freezer. A few minutes later if the juice wrinkles the jam is done.
Putting together the Danishes:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface (I used two sheets of store bought). You can make any number of shapes. Use your imagination. For me, a simple square cut pastry with the edges brought into centre worked best. I was left with 8 largish Danishes after using two sheets of puff pastry. Before you bring the corners into the middle add a dallop of cream cheese filling and followed by a dallop of cherry preserves. How much you use really depends on taste and the size of the danish. Bring the corners of pastry in. Wash with reserved egg white and cook for about 20 – 25 minutes or until pastry is light golden brown.
What is normal anyway? “Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”. Uhrm well can’t say I have ever fit into those 8 words. In fact challenging norms has been the name of the game for decades. I always held the belief that lurking somewhere in the dark recesses of every town there lies some sort undiscovered perfection. Families that thrive in the world of light. You know the ones where the Mom and Dad speak softly with authority and the pristine children glow with inner warmth and understanding that there are lessons to be learned through the utterance of pearls of wisdom. The house sparkles, you can eat off the floors and of course guests are always welcome, treated to home cooked meals and lilting conversations that inevitably end in peals of laughter.
Road to Normal
Well THIS is most definitely not my area of expertise. For many years I have tried to figure out how my own twisted path through the woods would dovetail into the Road to Normal. Hey don’t get me wrong, I love a challenging hike, but I kinda think I missed something along the way looking for that damned mythical road. The holy gosh darned grail. When you get there you will of course just know. Happily freaking ever after. Oh yeah, and then you actually live a real life full of love, hate, kindness, brutality, fidelity, infidelity, balance and imbalance, black, white, yin & yang. The summits we climb are death defying, literally and figuratively. The valleys we fall into can be full of thorny brush or fragrant flowers, but through it all we live an incredible life that has nothing to with fairy tales.
I am pissed at Walt Disney, the after school specials and Julia Roberts. Hey man, this is a hell of a lot harder than I was led to believe and I want my money back All joking aside, if I accomplish one thing in my life it will be to let my kids know that you don’t need fairy tales or the Road to Normal to be happy. Life is meant to be unreasonable and we are meant to grab it by the bollocks. It’s the only way to squeeze out every last drop of your all too short experience.
Peace, love and good food.
PS: Let’s get unreasonable with some seasonal Rhubarb and Strawberry Tarta
Rhubarb, Strawberry & Red Wine Marang Tarta
Compote Ingredients inspired by David Lebovitz
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups full bodied red wine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 lbs rhubarb
1 lb strawberries quartered
This will provide way too much compote for your purposes but I highly suggest making the whole batch and indulging in this wonderful treat throughout the week. Spread it on toast, swirl it into yogurt….it’s one of those things that is too good not to make too much. Prepare your rhubarb by trimming and cutting into 3 inch long pieces. The width should relatively uniform and is suggested at 1/2 inch.
Strawberries, Rhubarb, Red Wine & Marang
Bring the water, wine, sugar and honey to a simmer in a large saucepan, then add the rhubarb and cook until just softened. Mine too about 12 minutes (this can vary – so eep an eye on it). I then add the strawberries – stir until all of the fruit is covered in syrup. Put the compote in the fridge overnight to chill. If you find the compote is too runny – which I did (but only just slightly) you can drain a bit of the fluid off.
Marang Tarta as inspired by the Swede and Sour Kitchen
Yellow Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup of butter (just shy), softened
1/2 cup of sugar (just over)
5 egg yolks
1/4 scant cup milk
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
5 egg whites
1 cup (just shy) sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 cups heavy organic cream
Rhubarb & Strawberry Red Wine Compote to taste
Prepare a cookie sheet by buttering and lining with parchment paper. Be sure to do this in advance as you don’t want this cake to stick. It will never come out. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Yellow Cake Instructions:
In a medium bowl cream the butter and sugar until light. Add yolks one at a time beating well after each addition and then add milk and almond extract. Sift flour baking powder and salt together. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Spread the batter even over the cookie sheet. I found this to be a little tough as the batter is super thin. Be sure to spread it as evenly as possible – going to the edges of the pan.
Cake in a Sea of Marang
In a clean metal bowl (I like to wipe mine out with lemon juice to make sure there is no residual oil) whip eggs whites 1/2 of the sugar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the rest of the sugar as you beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form. Smooth the marang on the top of yellow cake batter and top with the flaked almonds. I love to make it swirly but don’t go too crazy because the layers will have to be stacked. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Be careful where you place the rack. You don’t want to burn the bottom so I chose a higher placement. Cool the Marang on a wire rack and cut in half. Tae first layer and place it marang side down and spread with the whipped cream and strawberry, rhubarb & red wine compote. Cover with second layer marang side up. Serve immediately.
Slice of Marang Tarta
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
It’s a beautifully brutal world. I hesitated before writing this post. Our dog Stella died this week and it sucked. There seems to be an unspoken aversion to dealing with sadness in our society. It’s bizarre because we are immersed and steeped in unspeakable images and news. Bombarded with stories of tragedy, war, hunger and global warming. Yet in our daily lives we are awash with sanitized gestures and pictures. “Have a nice day!” is uttered almost mindlessly and the question “how are you?” is answered with an pre-programmed “Fine”, “Good” or “Great”. I always wondered what people would do if you answered honesty – “Well I actually my day sucked, my dog died.”…or… “I am so incredibly bored by this conversation and just want to go home and have a glass of that wine you just sold me…so hurry up with that receipt.”
magnolia leaves on grass
These interactions are indicative of the overriding fact our society is becoming increasingly unwoven. The threads picked apart by our dependence on social media and handheld devices instead of community. One of the most wonderful things that happened to our family all week came from neighbors we hardly knew. Upon finding out about Stella’s death they sent my kids a poem on loss. A beautiful, simple acknowledgment of our sadness.
When did happiness become so gosh darned important? Success! Love! Smiles and kittens! I call BS. Life is so much more complicated, thank God. Surrounding those momentary glimpses of happiness is real life. Monotony, indifference, exhaustion, sadness, depression, insecurity, frailty, frustration and anger. All valid and important ingredients. Without these feelings there would be no poetry, art, music, food, introspection or forward momentum. Just a world of automatic responses, photoshopped images, happy tweets and vapid Facebook postings covering up a world of alienation .
Why are we encouraged to share only the sweetest moments? Births are celebrated, beginnings and youth. What about the endings, aging and **gasp** sadness? No one wants to be Debbie Downer – but why is this something that even occurred to me? My dog died this week and our hearts are broken. The end of a 12 year life that added so much more to our family than we could ever acknowledge and the loss of her is a painful and difficult thing. The world is peppered and punctuated by such endings. By far the hardest part of a life well lived is allowing yourself the freedom to love with total abandon with full disclosure that one day you will have to say “Good-Bye”. Everyone leaves in the end. Is this such a bad thing? If nothing else it’s real.
So in a nutshell I’m super sad. So what to do? Make pancakes. It’s as simple as that. I will drown my sadness in maple syrup goodness.
Some with Buckwheat some without
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c buckwheat flour
2 cups milk (just over)
3 Tbsp butter (melted and cooled)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 free range egg
Sift together dry ingredients. In a cast iron pan on medium heat melt some additional butter. When it starts to sizzle just a bit you are ready to mix the wet ingredients together with a whisk and then quickly combine with the dry ingredients. I try to stir the batter minimally – and I don’t mind if there are a few lumps. Ladle into the waiting pan. When bubbles rise and break the surface you are read to flip the pancakes. I personally add a bit of butter to the pan each time I make a pancake. This may not be the healthiest option but it gives the exterior of the pancake a nice crisp buttery flavor. Serve immediately with pure maple syrup – or if you are Simon add some chocolate chips (I personally like fruit).
I make these pancakes without a recipe so this is me trying to put it together for the internet. We play with combinations of flours and thickness, you should do the same! It’s fun to experiment. Frankly we like ours on the flatter side and I have a tendency to add more milk depending on the feel of the batter. I used to associate fluffy pancakes with success but my son Simon told me quite frankly that he prefers the thinner lighter version. Anyway in my house these equal love. Plus Stella enjoyed getting the scraps Jack would jettison from his highchair.
High Park In the Spring
CHOKE. We’ve all done it. That moment in time when you’re struggling with an uphill battle and there are no guarantees. Suddenly it hits you like a ton of bricks…you are taking on a nearly impossible task. Obstacles to be transcended, burning muscles to work through – insecurities to absorb, accept and free. Yet deep in your heart you know you can’t get to the good stuff by skipping the hard work.
Ugh. Many moons ago I was a singer in a band. Singing was a lifelong dream and it seemed finally I had overcome the fears that had held me back from belting it out on stage. After months of practice, song writing and sweat…and with the aid of a couple of pints downed moments before a gig (??) I was perfectly fine….ummmm yeah that’s it…puuuurrrrfectly fine…or not! My last gig was at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco. It was the largest venue I had ever played and quite simply I CHOKED. Yup. Just stopped singing and stood gaping at the crowd. Luckily that second pint set in and I managed to limp through the rest of the show. But that was it, I quit singing then and there. Sigh.
My biggest hurdle was comparison. There are singers out there who can blow your socks off without a second thought. Sound and soul that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. My point of reference was always Mahalia Jackson. Surely if you cannot evoke that sort of reaction in people you don’t belong up on a stage. Well let me tell you that is complete and utter bollocks! After 44 years I finally know and accept that my gifts are completely unique and cannot be replicated or offered by anyone other than me! Which is super special. The good news is I’ve gotten back to my music and have decided to share it on MMH this year. It’s never too late
This revelation took a long time but accepting the fact that there is no such thing as perfection has taken the pressure off nearly everything. Am I the best singer, photographer, baker, writer, mom, friend, partner, sister or daughter? Nope. Not possible – and you know what those sure are a lot of hats to wear. It would be exhausting to even try. I’ve just accepted that the best things in life are hard to get to and very far from what your expectations might be.
Artichokes – case in point. They are a pain in the arse. We are in the middle of artichoke season right now. Is it worthwhile to take the choke out of the artichoke? It sure is. Those prickly tough little suckers offer up one of the seasons finest flavours. Do the work and don’t let the choke stop ya!
How to Take the Choke Outta the Artichoke
Artichokes are delicate little creatures. After you bring them home they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Taking the choke out of the artichoke and trimming them takes quite a bit of work, but it’s worth it. Make sure you have a large bowl filled with cold water and the juice of a lemon next to you before embarking on this process. Artichokes turn brown at record speed. As soon as you start to peel them they will start to change colour. In order to avoid this you need to put the artichoke hearts in water as soon as possible.
Start this process by pulling off the green spiny outer leaves to expose the paler yellow leaves. Then take a sharp knife and cut the top off the artichoke (about one inch in). Trim the end off the stem and with a paring knife trim the tough outside layer off the stem and underside of the artichoke heart. For this recipe I did not use the leaves, only the heart so it was easier for me to take the choke out (you can just cut it off with a knife). If you prefer to use the tender leaves cut the artichoke in half and scoop the choke out with a melon baller or spoon. There are some terrific illustrated directions on BonAppetit.com
Creamed Artichoke Hearts and Potato with Tarragon
4 large artichokes
1/4 C fresh tarragon leaves (you can use dried)
1 large onion sliced chopped
2 cups white potatoes cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces
2 cloves garlic
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
3 Tbsp chicken schmaltz (fat) – You can substitute butter but it’s not as good
Preheat oven to 425F.
Taking the Choke Out of the Artichoke
Prepare the artichoke as I direct above.
In a cast iron pan heat chicken schmaltz. When fat is shimmering add the onions, garlic, sliced artichokes and potatoes. Saute on medium heat until the onions and artichokes are lightly golden or about 10-15 minutes. Set the artichokes mixture aside and deglaze the pan with white wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Then add the cream, stock, tarragon and salt. Add the artichoke mixture and and roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until the potatoes and artichokes are golden and liquid has been mostly absorbed.
Creamed Artichoke Hearts and Potatoes with Tarragon
Do you guys watch Orange is the New Black? There are only a few made for TV shows I like: Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. I love that show and can’t wait for Season 2! It’s a little confection that spins very human stories in a jailhouse setting. It’s uber compulsive watching. Anyway I diverge as usual from the food at hand. For MMH this spring season – sugar is the new Stevia. Sugar is ubiquitous. Even if you think you are not indulging you may be surprised by the unexpected Trojan horses that carry that little bugger.
Spring is Here!
For the past month and two weeks I have been completely sugar free, although fruit sources have not been eliminated entirely. This is the first time I have managed to do this for such a prolonged period and to be completely honest with you…falling off the wagon became a reality whilst creating a passover dessert. I cut a small slice of a dark chocolate ganache tart and quickly devoured it. The next day after a raging headache I decided that going back to my evil ways is most definitely not an option.
Chocolate Tart Hell
Over the past few weeks I have been experimenting to see if it is possible to make super tasty desserts without my friend “Mr. White’. Eating clean does not have to be boring, bland or lacking. Unfortunately it’s been pounded into our heads that sugar, dairy and refined flours need to be part of an exciting and thrilling menu. Cookies, cakes cheeses cream sauces the list goes on. So far I have managed to develop six weeks of amazingly diverse dinner, lunch and brekkie recipes without using any of these things. Do I miss sugar, dairy, coffee and refined flours? Sure. Do I feel better after not having them for prolonged period – a resounding yes!
Over the past year I suffered from headaches, bloating and joint pain that inspired this decision – most of these symptoms are now gone. I am fitter and have more energy. This period has permanently changed my culinary leanings. Does that mean no more chocolate fudge? Certainly not, all work and no play makes MMH dull. But it becomes more and more difficult to promote a lifestyle that makes many people, including myself, feel less than well.
Here is my first attempt at creating a dessert where refined sugar is absolutely NOT missed. If you have friends or family members that have diabetes, autoimmune issues, gluten egg and/or dairy sensitivity this may be a go to dessert for you. It does have a nut topping that contains coconut nectar that can eliminated, although it does add something special to this dessert as a whole. I am interested in your input. Let me know what you think about sugar and its prevalence in our culture. I personally think it needs to be put in its place and Stevia is a great start.
Aduki Bean Brownies with Cashew Coconut Fondant
1 can Eden Brand Organic Azkui Beans
drained and rinsed (this saves making bean paste from scratch)
2 ripe bananas
4 sachets of organic non bitter stevia (you could use up to 6)
1/3 cup cocoa
5 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup of gluten free oat flour
3/4 cup dairy free dark chocolate chips
If you have been following MMH you know there is already a bean brownie recipe. This is an improvement on the original. I wanted something without refined sugar that was super chocolatey and moist. The original recipe was developed because my son has a dairy sensitivity. Over the past month I got to thinking – what about a recipe that contains minimal sugar….is it possible to make something that the kids will adore? Over the past year I have tried this recipe with eggs, without eggs, switching flour and sweetening methods. As you can see down below on test recipes one and two two the results varies considerably in terms of taste and texture. After a few misstep we finally have a winner. Stevia does not suit everything and I have found it tastes much better if supported by a natural sugar like banana. This recipe is super quick and easy and the results are magic.
We just got a vitamix but you can use a standard blender. Add beans, bananas, coconut oil, cocoa, salt and vanilla. Whip until uniform and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and fold in oat flour, baking powder and chocolate chips. Scoop into an 8 x 8 pan lined with parchment and bake at 350 degrees until the batter looks dry (about 20 – 25 minutes). Do not over cook. Cool and remove parchment.
Cashew and Coconut Fondant inspired by Detoxinista
1/2 cup cashew nut butter
1/2 cup coconut butter
5 tbsp coconut nectar
I got this recipe from a friend on the internet for faux cadbury cream eggs (Detoxinista used maple syrup). It was soooo delicious that I knew it would make the perfect frosting for these brownies. Coconut nectar is amazing it has a glycemic index value of of 35 (low) as opposed to sugar at 60 , Agave at 42 and honey at 55. It retains much of its nutritional value. It is high in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron and is a natural source of the vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. Sugar is sugar and I wanted to minimize it period – so I kept it light. Whip the ingredients together with an immersion blender. Spread on top of the brownies. You may have to pat the fondant down a bit to achieve a smooth look. Cut and serve knowing you have done your best to provide a healthy and nutritious treat. xo mmh
Cashew Butter Coconut Fondant Made w. Coconut Nectar
Jesus, Mary & Joseph. You are probably scratching your heads and wondering what’s up with the title to this post. Well I am officially a bitch – and I kinda like it – dare I say it aloud? Meredith Brooks said it best in “Nothing in Between”:
I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
After feeling sluggish, run down and basically gray after a very long and stressful winter I opted to do a cleanse. This diet eliminates all the fun in life: no coffee, no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, no potatoes NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOO!!!! It’s all for the greater good but right now it feels like a bit of a slog to be frank.
Being a foodie this is extraordinarily difficult. Organic, local, sustainable are all buzzwords – and we do our best to eat healthy but the ugly truth is I love gluten, dairy, sugar and coffee. Giving up these aspects of food has been crazy hard. Headaches, exhaustion and cravings for the first week. Not to mention becoming a crazy beeeyotch. Have sympathy for anyone living under this roof. However I found some solace in raging moodiness. Being a bitch isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are positives that come with the territory. You will NOT cut in front of me in line! Oh no you won’t! and I will let you know what I think, whether you like it or not! Bwhahahahaha. It’s been just a wee bit liberating
So this bitch is bringing you Farinata with Olives, Onions & Sage. Gluten and Dairy free but full of taste. Cleanse or no cleanse this is on my permanent menu.
Farinata with Sage Olives and Onions
Farinata with Olives, Sage & Onions
adapted from David Lebovitz Socca Recipe
with inspiration from the Rose Pistola’s Farinata Recipe
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil,batter
1 tablespoon olive oil, onions
2 tablespoons olive oil, frying
1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
30 pitted Niçoise olives
30 sage leaves
Additional sea salt and olive oil for serving
In a medium bowl whisk together the chickpea flower, water, salt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Let batter rest for 2 hours. Do not refrigerate – best to keep the bowl covered at room temperature.
Thinly slice onion. Bring a cast iron pan to medium heat and fry until lightly golden and tender. Halve the olives. When you are ready to make the farinata turn the broiler on with a 10 inch cast iron pan inside. Use about 1 tablespoon of oil to grease the pan. When the pan is sizzling hot take it out of the oven and ladle enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Quickly toss on about 1/2 the onions olives and sage (1/3 if you can make thin pancakes). Return to the oven and cook for about 5 minutes or until the farinata starts to blister and brown. I was only able to get 2, 10 inch slightly thicker pancakes but I imagine if you were good at making them you would get more. Toss w. salt and a sprinkling of olive oil. Serve immediately.
Farinata with Olives, Sage & Onions
Cherry Blossom Weather
I love old things – wine, cheese, pictures, houses etc. Nothing in this abode is new except a couch…oh yes and a coffee table that sits upended in my bedroom because dangerous edges and 2 year olds don’t mix. Anywho, “old” and I get along famously, and at 44 that’s a good thing;) Consider but for a moment Julia Child – she was in her late 40’s??! when a lifetime of food, recipes and personality hit the world stage. She changed the face of food in North America forever. In 1949 she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu. Oh yes, she was 37 back in the days when that was ancient. Oh how I love to page through From Julia Child’s Kitchen and actually see her lovely strong, weathered hands on the pages. No models, no photoshop, just the lady and her food.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961 making her nearly 50. Go Julia!
Julia Child’s Hands – Via Julia Child’s Kitchen $%^# Photoshop
Love that fact. Truly. Bah humbug to those of you who say one should age gracefully. What the hell does that mean anyway? Anyone who says that clearly doesn’t understand the art of staying young. You are what you think. If you think you are old and mid life is a time for winding down then you will do just that. Throw out those sensible shoes (unless you truly need ‘em), outdated ideas and embrace that inner kid.
Not Quite There Yet
My Grandma once said that she passed by her hall mirror and wondered who the hell that old lady was in her house – upon second glance she realized it was her. Ahaha. Grandma being Grandma said “Well I always feel 20 something so it was a bit if a shock.” It is my full intention to remain responsibly immature. Pay yer bills, floss yer teeth (and yes keeping your teeth helps) and take care of yer business but NEVER, EVER grow up. You never know what amazing things are just around the corner.
In light of all that is spring and in honour of all that ageless MMH is making Julia’s Asparagus and Lemon Zest. Bon Appetit!
Aspargus, EVOO & Lemon Zest
Asparagus, EVOO and Lemon Zest – Adapted from “From Julia Child’s Kitchen”
24 thin asparagus spears
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
1 zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon peppercorn
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh minced parsley
The original recipe is much more complicated and requires marination and substantial cooking. I wanted to keep this super simple and springy – I also really like my asparagus quite firm. In a large cast iron skillet add olive oil and bring heat to medium. You do not want to cook olive oil on high heat. Place asparagus spears in pan and lightly sautee for 5 – 7 minutes. Salt, pepper and then sprinkle on lemon juice, lemon zest and parsley. Easy, healthy and very tasty.
Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/julia-childs-asparagus-simmered-in-onions-garlic-and-lemon-403650?oc=linkback
Ice n’ Stuff
Grrrrrr! As a devoted winter lovin’ gal – I’ve hit a wall. Another -15C day here in Toronto and our icy sidewalk is once again in need of a shoveling. It’s been one of those strange winters. Colds, flu, croup, ice storms, power outages, burst water tanks, sick pets, exploding engines and windshields. Not necessarily a period in time that will be missed here on Beresford Avenue. Maybe things would be different if we had access to powdery slopes and expendable money to enjoy some serious apres ski. The reality – there is white as far as the eyes can see and cabin fever has set in – along with a serious hankerin’ for the deliciously succulent fresh fruit and veg delivered courtesy of Ontario’s sultry summers. I’m dreaming of a ripe heirloom tomata’….Do you think a song has ever been written about that? Hmmmmm
This brings me to hibernation and the heavy fare winter brings. Not sure about you – but when the cold weather arrives the first thing I do is reach for a glass of red wine, rich stew and a quilt. What’s more romantic that snuggling in front of a wood burning stove and watching the snow fall outside the window? Hell, it’s March and that time has passed – although you wouldn’t know it.
Cold has a way of seeping into ‘yer bones. To warm up – many of us opt for all those yummy things that may not be so healthy. Spring is a natural time for cleansing – preparation for those sleeveless – bathing suited summers. Ayurveda encourages one to embark on cleansing eating and living when the seasons change – so Spring is the ideal time for a healthy switch. Over the next few months MMH will be delivering some lighter options that don’t include my little white demons – refined sugar and flour. In fact I am banning all sugar items for one full month
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate of balance. There will be no juice fasting on these pages! Frankly I don’t believe in them. Just some good old fashioned healthy eating. I could go on about the dangers of sugar – and I for one am guilty of pushing it, being foodblogger with a propensity to whip up little confections that are in no way. shape or form good for you. **Sigh** Food. It’s my weakness. As Grandmaster Flash would say:
“Twice as sweet as sugar, twice as bitter as salt
And if you get hooked, baby, it’s nobody else’s fault, so don’t do it!”
But let’s include one last white dish as an ode to the Winter of 2014 – and guess what? It’s healthy so not all white food is bad!:
Cottage Cheese and Flax Oil
Budwig Cottage Cheese Flax Seed Oil Cream
6 Tbsp Lowfat Organic Cottage Cheese (I prefer pressed)
3 Tbsp Flax Seed Oil (Cold Pressed Organic)
1 Tbsp Organic Flax Seeds Ground
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Tsp Raw Local Honey
Handful of fruit
With an immersion blender emulsify the cottage cheese and flax oil. Add banana, honey and vanilla. The result will be a lovely rich cream. It truly is deeeeelicious. Warning: if you use regular cottage cheese it will be thinner and saltier. Pressed cottage cheese is divine and will look like the cream below. You can play around with this recipe. Sometimes I add blueberries or strawberries instead of banana. You could also try almond extract or any number of other ingredients. Then top with freshly ground flax seed. One thing to remember – flax seeds when ground retain their positive attributes for a very short time. Do not pre-grind them and try to eat within 10 minutes of grinding them for optimum results. This emulsion allows the flax seed to be easily absorbed by your system. The Budwig protocol is said to be an anti-cancer diet. Dr. Budwig, a German biochemist, found that the blood of cancer patients was deficient in phosphatides and lipoproteins. She created a diet that included this cream to address this issue. No matter what you believe Budwig Cottage Cheese Flax Seed Oil Cream is a wonderful way to incorporate flax seed oil into your diet.
Pressed Cottage Cheese Budwig Cream
Magic – it’s everywhere. Those moments that cannot be captured with words, food, photographs or paint. The things that just are. For me it’s all too easy to rush through mornings overlooking the twinkle of golden that is over almost as quickly as it began. With a million little fires to put out, slowing down can seem like a pain in the arse. BUT – there is nothing quite like becoming part of this beautiful – rugged – messy – tough old world.
Recently my momma and I compiled all of my old addresses for a Canadian citizenship application. It’s hard to believe but I resided in over 30 various houses, apartments and couches in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Indiana, California, London – England and Toronto – Ontario?! hahahaha I was wondering what the hell the government employee that got my application thought?? Maybe I don’t want to know…as a matter of fact I still have not heard from them…hmmmm. Gypsy life is instinctive as I have no idea what it would be like to have a hometown. It must be nice to have that security, a high school reunion that is unmissable and local spots you can call your own. For me new places – the taste of the water and the smell of the air is addictive. To this day MLS holds the key to treasures and possibilities yet unexplored.
Finding magic in each and every new place helps make big transitions easier. Kids get that in a way that adults unfortunately “unlearn” over the years. They live in a world where everything is possible. We all need a dose of that! Toronto holds many such treasures for me and the Harbord Bakery is particularly golden. It was established in 1945 by the Kosower family who run it as a family business to this day. Rafi and Susan still adhere to the original recipes and welcome each and every customer like a member of their own family. When we lived on Borden Street, my son Simon and I would grab a loaf of Challah, a cherry danish, a tuna sandwich and if we were very, very lucky – and it ’twas the season – a Toronto blueberry bun. We still trek all the way to the Annex to catch up with them. Here is my ode the Harbord Bakery. If you are ever in the area it’s not to be missed.
The Harbord Bakery
Toronto Blueberry Buns (schritzlach) with Frangelico adapted from the Joy of Kosher by Jamie Geller
Toronto Wild Blueberry Buns With Frangelico
1 (1 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour (the original recipe calls for 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 wheat – I did not do this)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter (the original asked for margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups frozen wild blueberries (we are out of season and I am not a fan of the blueberries that resemble grapes!)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water (I preferred my filling thicker than the original recipe)
2 Tbsp of Frangelico
1/4 teaspoon salt
Bun Glaze Ingredients
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup maple sugar
* Preheat oven to 375 degrees
The key to these buns is thinly rolled out dough. If you don’t take time with this – they will turn out “bready”. Also, just to warn you – the directions make more blueberry filling that you will need. This is NOT a bad thing as it tastes great on toast! I prepared the filling first so it is cooled and ready for the dough.
In a medium saucepan bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and add the sugar, dissolved corn starch, Frangelico, salt and blueberries. Simmer on a medium low heat until the mixture thickens. Let cool before you fill the buns. The Frangelico adds a subtle toasted hazelnut flavour that goes really well with the blueberries in my humble opinion.
Toronto Blueberry Buns
In a small bowl mix the yeast and water together, wait until the mixture activates (or bubbles). This should take about 5 minutes. In a Kitchenaid mixer add the sifted dry ingredient, then add the butter, yeast/water mixture, eggs and vanilla. Beat the dough until it is satiny. Let the dough stand for about 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Turn the dough out on to a well floured area and roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. NO THICKER! The dough should be cut into 5 inch squares. Put 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of each square. Warning – do not overfill no matter how tempted you may be. The buns will split open and make a burned mess. Fold the squares in half and pinch closed with the tines of a fork. Be diligent when you do this – again this will seal the filling in to prevent spillage. Cover the buns with a tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
Before you bake them – brush with the egg glaze and sprinkle with maple sugar. Bake until golden about 15 minutes.
Toronto Blueberry Buns