birch & maple

I've prepared a little printable with a blueberry jam recipe from Wild Berries and a couple of labels for a jar, in case you want to give a gift to your neighbour, or something. The recipe is in English and in Swampy Cree, also known as n-dialect Cree from the Cross Lake, Norway House area. Illustrations by Julie Flett. Translation by Jennifer Thomas. This printable is here with permission from the author.

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citrus & candy

This is a family portrait ( a portrait of toy animals, not of us!) I'm really just posting to remind myself of an accidentally good dinner we made last night with leftovers, and we want to remember the recipe. The base was Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Speck from citrus and candy.

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Our Greek version: Sauteé a handful of cherry tomatoes with basil & oregano and generous olive oil until softened and just beginning to blacken. Set aside with a few handfuls of fresh spinach. In the same pan, crisp up some pancetta, speck or serrano ham in more olive oil. Add in a few cloves thinly sliced garlic + zest of one lemon + chili oil + a handful of kalamata olives, roughly chopped. Deglaze with white wine. Return tomatoes to pan with fresh spinach + chopped parsley. Mix in pan. Squeeze half a lemon over the top. When the spinach is wilted, crumble some feta on top. Season generously with black pepper. Serve on top of pasta.

Our soundtrack to spring seems to be hannah georges.

coco love

This little pin floated past me on pinterest and has set me into a coconut love week. 

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Firtsly, coconut milk and cacao powder with coffee in the morning instead of dairy milk. This makes you feel so good (and this is the first time I've been able to get milk out of my diet). I do: 1/8 cup coconut milk, I heaping teaspoon cacao powder and 3/4 cup iced coffe + a tiny squeeze of honey. Shake, pour over ice. Hot version is at modern parents, messy kids. Time to make: about 3 minutes.

Secondly, coconut cosmetics — I bought some extra virgin coconut oil for cooking and baking. I mixed a little bit with some vitamin e oil, put it in a little empty tea tin, and now I have eye cream. And I didn't test it on any animals. Time to make: about 2 minutes.

Thirdly, I tried this lime-coconut marinade. Super, super good. Time to make: about 20 minutes.

Updated: fourthly! You can make magic shell (you know, that chocolate that you squeeze onto ice cream and it immediately hardens into a shell) out of chocolate and coconut oil. And you can make a nice ice cream from coconut milk, strawberries & honey...on and on.

flatbread & egg pizza



This is an idea taken from the kitchen counter cooking school: flatbread and egg pizza. Spread olive oil on flatbread, crack an egg on top. Add in leftovers. Top with a little cheese, salt and pepper + any herbs or spices. Bake at 350 C until the egg is set. We're going to keep some frozen flatbread in the freezer from now on for this. I think it's about 3 minutes of prep + 10–20 minutes cook time.




One of the themes I really enjoyed in the kitchen counter cooking school was avoiding food waste. I always feel badly throwing out food. I find it helps to buy less food so I can see what I have in the fridge. But then, there's also finding ways to use up leftovers. Doing up a kitchen-sink omelette is ok, but I really only need a few omelettes and frittata a year — I'm not crazy about them.

For this pizza I baked a couple of slices of bacon and some plain broccoli in the oven until the bacon was golden brown — then I stirred it up to coat the broccoli. I put a little olive oil on 2 pieces of frozen naan, cracked an egg on top of each one. Added in the baked broccoli and bacon on top and a little parmesan, coarse salt and pepper.  I think this would be amazing with fresh mozzarella or feta and leftover pasta sauce — I love tomatoes and eggs.

brown butter & sage



In my ongoing search for very quick recipes which don't really require me to look at a recipe: Pumpkin ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce (^ these are leftovers for lunch). This would be good with any squash pasta.

Recipe: Chop up handful of fresh sage. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a heavy pan — melt. When the butter is just turning golden drop in sage (+ 1 thinly slice clove garlic, optional) and let it crisp for a minute. Toss in cooked, drained pasta.



Serve with green salad with lemon & olive oil (I added in candied nuts and goat cheese to the salad and it was pretty good). Season generously with course salt and fresh pepper. Top with parmesan or goat cheese if you like.

Time: about 5 minutes prep, 2 minutes for sauce + pasta cooking time.


kitchen counter cooking school


I picked this up last month and have been reading bits and pieces when I have a few minutes. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn is sort of a book version of what I wish Top Chef was. It's a book about cooking, but not so much about recipes, but just how to actually cook and become the type of person that can glance in the fridge and whip something up.

The book is structured around a series of free workshops and cooking classes that Kathleen gave to 9 women.
She profiles their personalities, their home life, what's in their cupboards and why, their emotions about cooking,  and follows them shopping. It's working, because (I am halfway through the book) and one of her students is refusing to hold a knife with the proper technique. I am on the edge of my seat to find out why she won't hold it correctly. That's good storytelling. But after all, I sometimes refuse to hold my knife properly, metaphorically speaking. I dislike new software, for example. Sometimes, I don't want to meet a new person or go to a new place. When I was teaching there was a student like this in most classes. It's interesting to me why we resist change sometimes.

OK, anyway, I've been trying it out: free cooking instead of recipe following. It is faster, it is better, it is cheaper. I want to go on about the other things in this book that I like, for example she looks at how advertising has impacted the average American's confidence in being able to cook, or the issue of food waste, sustainable and humane farming and the cultural implications of fast food, but I must get back to work.

So, two things I've picked so far:

— make a big batch of caramelized onions, like this recipe, and freeze in 1/2 cup portions. You can add them to soups or stews later for quick flavour

— don't buy the boxes of macaroni and cheese for your children (not the "healthy" types either) except for emergency pantry supplies. Boil up some pasta and add in grated cheese, olive oil and milk in the pot. The preservatives in the powder are very bad for children and the product is designed to simulate the taste of grated parmesan and olive oil on pasta anyway, so why use the powder. It's just as fast to grate some cheese. You can sneak in flax seed oil, too.

yellow is magic




 This morning, Auggie told us that yellow is magic. I think he's right.

Some notes on thanksgiving menus to my future self:



I am still on the hunt for the right Thanksgiving tradition for our family — it's too warm on the west coast at this time of year for a heavy turkey dinner. I like the idea of a Harvest Festival sort of supper, fresh produce, mushrooms, chestnuts, corn and that sort of thing. Ideally, a mostly vegetarian menu. These are some ideas I've collected this year: chestnut & pear and/or pumpkin & goat cheese ravioli with a basil cream sauce and a fennel orange salad; homemade pirogues; dim sum at a restaurant.

I tried a vegetarian shepherd's pie this year, but despite putting a bottle and a half of wine in it, I found it only medium good. Try, try again.

Also: pickled beetroot is really good with turkey in a bread and butter sandwich. Maybe better than cranberry sauce or at least a nice change.

More ideas for thanksgiving: thanksgiving brunch since there are loads of berries and fruits at this time of year. Pumpkin waffles, whipped cream, warm berry syrup. Humm.

spinach walnut pesto

This is a nice early fall dish — easy. It's really good with a crunchy salad that has a little bitterness, acid or spice (like cucumber salad with lemon and chili oil). Also really good with butternut squash pasta or grilled salmon. I started making this for my son as a break from noodles and cheese, so I've been making it a lot.

This pesto needs a generous hand with the salt and pepper. Course salt on the table is a good idea, it's easy to over- or under-season. Try not to put too in much spinach or it will lose its delicate flavour.


Spinach walnut pesto
serves 4 – 6

Ingredients 

Cooked pasta

1 clove garlic (maybe more if serving to cool hippie children or adults)
3/4 cup walnuts
3 oz spinach (about 3 handfuls)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 – 4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons cold water
bunch fresh basil, stems removed
1/2 lemon:  juice + zest
1/2 teaspoon sea salt + more for the table
pepper





Then

1. Toast the walnuts in a pan or the stove until they smell toasty. Set aside to cool.

2. Boil, drain and set aside pasta, reserving 1/2 cup water before draining.

3. Put everything else in a blender or food processor and let it blend until it is a very creamy paste. If you are serving to a picky little person make sure you give it an extra stir and an extra blend here or they will find a tiny piece of whole spinach and have a breakdown.

4. Toss together pasta, reserved water and pasta.

Unused pesto will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple of days.

I like to put this on the table because it's something Auggie will eat and it has protein and vegetables in it. I also like it because it's a fast vegetarian dish which has protein and isn't just cheesy pasta. Leftovers go well with everything.

mint ricotta frittata




You know when you have a handful of things in your fridge and you google them to see if there's a good recipe to use them up? I did that yesterday and found: baked ricotta frittata with fresh mint. I had 7 eggs, and exactly 1 cup of ricotta and 3 tablespoons worth of fresh mint. It was like winning a tiny little lottery. I put in some purple potatoes we had leftover from some salad, too.  I used up all the odds and ends in the fridge! It's so, so satisfying to use up things. 

We had it with spinach and tarragon salad and chili oil. Auggie helped me make it — it's a good kid recipe. But he didn't want to try eating it. Oh well. 

I'm a bit crazy about purple potatoes and a bit less crazy about tarragon. We've had it four times this week and that's really enough. Although it's good with mint, actually.

Homemade cheese crackers


I tried making these cheese straw-ish crackers for a little party (our tiny moomin birthday), and I think it's a good back-pocket recipe. It's a nice healthy snack that holds a cookie cutter shape well, so it's nice for lunchboxes or party plates. The original recipe is here at 101cookbooks. I don't have much to add, other than: roll the dough as thin as you can. If these were for adults, I would add in a ton of cracked pepper and some rosemary. (The shapes are snufkin & moomintroll — our moomin cookie cutters are half gifted and half from ebay).




mix mix rice





We took home a book from the library recently that really caught Auggie's imagination, which was Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park. The story is about making bibimbap (which she calls mix mix rice because you mix everything up at the end) for dinner. At the end of the book is Linda's family's recipe, split into tasks for a child and an adult. We copied the steps in the book, going shopping for the ingredients and making the dish together. Auggie was really enthusiatic for all the steps, especially mixing up the ingredients at the end in his dinner plate. He wasn't so interested in really eating much of it. However, that is true of all non-noodle food and he has been more into rice, since. It was fun and maybe another little step towards being a less picky eater (sheesh). I found a simplified vegetarian recipe, Vegetable Bibimbap, via pinterest as well.