Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moroccan Flavours

Welcome to your two-for-one deal, and my last post of November!

This weekend, Kat came over (with an AMAZING fruitcake recipe that I'll share with you tomorrow) and I whipped up (read: spent an hour and a half preparing) Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas with bulgur and Moroccan Carrot Salad.

I almost forgot to take a picture... so this was hastily done!

Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas

(Cooking Light)


1/4  cup  extra-virgin olive oil
3  large garlic cloves, peeled
2  cups  thinly sliced red onion
1/2  cup  dried apricots, sliced
1  tablespoon  ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend) or garam masala
1  teaspoon  salt
3/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
1  (3-inch) cinnamon stick

1/2  cup  water
1 1/2  teaspoons  grated lemon rind
1 1/2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
2  (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1  (28-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
6  cups  escarole, torn into 1-inch pieces

1  cup  cilantro leaves
1/4  cup  mint leaves
1/2  cup  roasted whole almonds, coarsely chopped
4  cups  hot cooked bulgur or couscous


1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove garlic from pan using a slotted spoon; discard or reserve for another use. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through cinnamon stick) to pan; sauté for 7 minutes or until the onion is lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup water, rind, juice, chickpeas, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in escarole; simmer for 1 minute or until escarole wilts. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with cilantro and mint; top with almonds. Serve over couscous.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

(Bon Appetit)


1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 pound carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
4 cups mixed baby greens
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

Whisk first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk in oil, lemon juice, orange juice, and mint. Add carrots and baby greens; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Top with onion and serve. Adapted from Taste.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Sponge Toffee

    When I was younger, I went to a lovely church in Ottawa that had the best annual Bazaar on the planet. On the candy and sweets table, there would always be bags huge hunks of sponge toffee on sale for 50 cents. I would inevitably buy several and gorge myself on the burnt sugary goodness.

    You know what I mean by sponge toffee, right?

    If not, you definitely know it as the sweet honeycomb filling of a Crunchie Bar.

    The real question is did you know how insanely easy it is to make it yourself?


    Well, it's insanely easy. You do need a thermometer for this, but I promise you, it's money well spent.

    Canadian Living's Sponge Toffee


      2-1/2 cups (625 mL) granulated sugar 2/3 cup (150 mL) white corn syrup 1/3 cup (75 mL) water 4 tsp (18 mL) baking soda 2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla


    In 12-cup (3 L) saucepan, stir together sugar, corn syrup and water over medium heat just until sugar dissolves. 

    Bring to boil; cook, without stirring but brushing down side of pan occasionally with pastry brush dipped in cold water, until candy thermometer reaches hard-crack stage of 300°F (149°C), or when 1 tsp (5 mL) hot syrup dropped into cold water forms hard brittle threads, about 10 minutes. 

    Remove from heat. Standing back and averting face, whisk in baking soda. (Caramel will bubble and sputter and increase in volume.) Whisk in vanilla.
    This is why you need a very large pot!
    Pour into greased foil-lined 13- x 9-inch (3.5 L) metal cake pan. Let cool in pan on rack without disturbing, about 2 hours. Break into 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) pieces. (Make-ahead: Store layered between waxed paper in airtight container for up to 1 month.)

    Now you could just stop there, but like most candies, this one really benefits from a good dunking in tempered chocolate (another occasion to use your thermometer!). Tempered chocolate is chocolate that has been melted, cooled and reheated to specific temperatures. By going through this process, when the chocolate cools it develops that crisp snap that we associate with chocolate bars.

    Or, if you only have a little chocolate, do a half dunk.

    The recipe makes 48 pieces (or so), but really that depends on how you break them up. However many you make, do try to restrain yourself from eating them all!

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Sausage and Lentil Simmer

    This morning, we were met by the first round of flurries to hit Toronto this winter. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I was going to want dinner to be something warming.

    Inspired by the picture on the cover of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries (one of my all time favourite cookbooks - the man clearly has a love affair going on with food), I decided the theme of tonight's dinner was going to be sausages.

    More specifically, these gorgeous farmer's sausages from St. Lawrence Market.

    You can't see it, but the sausages are all linked together!
    This is a haphazard affair; a rustic dinner perfect for those cozy nights in with a bottle of red wine.


    1 tbsp olive oil
    some sausages (really, as many as you want - I used 2 sets of 6 small links)
     ½ large onion, roughly chopped
    2 cloves garlic, sliced
    1 cup dried brown lentils
    2 14oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
    2 cups water
    2 bay leaves
    pepper to taste.


    Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Brown sausages on all sides. It's not important to cook them through, as they'll do that in the process of cooking the lentils. Remove sausages from pan.

    My first batch of sausages I forgot to add the oil. Big mistake. The casing split.
    Sauté onion and garlic until tender. Add lentils, tomatoes (with their juices), water and bay leaves to the pan and bring to a boil. Nestle sausages into the pot, cover and reduce heat. Let simmer on low for 45 minutes - an hour until lentils are tender.

    Ready to be served.

    Season with freshly ground pepper. You shouldn't need salt with all those sausages!

    And there you have it, an easy, comforting weekend meal. I recommend it for your next apres-ski!

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    Happy Saturday

    To me, there is nothing more sublime than a lunch composed of preserves, meat and bread. Today saw thinly sliced roast pork, with just a gossamer whisper of soft fat, slivers of crisp honeycrisp apple and Scottish caramelized onion chutney top several plain crackers. The crackers were the perfect foil to all the sweet, spicy and rich flavours.

    I only wish I'd remembered about the small wedge of Bleu de la Moutonniere cheese tucked away in the corner of the fridge before I'd eaten.

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    A Video After My Own Heart

    Sometimes, when I see cookies, I stuff them in my mouth a la Cookie Monster.

    True story.

    Butternut Squash Hummus

    I've had a butternut squash languishing in my cupboard for ages now. So long so that I've developed a guilt complex every time I leave him untouched.

    "Don't worry. I'll find a use for you." I'd say to it.

    Okay, that's silly. I don't usually talk to my vegetables.

    I did find a use for it though thanks to my theme-of-the-week cookbook! I swear, this'll be my last one out of here for a while.


    1 small butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and fibres removed
    ½ head of garlic, papery layer removed, but the rest unpeeled
    1 tbsp olive oil
    ¼ large onion, finely chopped
    2½ tbsp curry paste
    2 15oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    ¼ cup tahini
    2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
    ¼ cup beer (something bitter, like Anchor Liberty Ale, is a great choice as you want to counteract the sweetness of the squash)
    1 tbsp olive oil
    ½ lemon
    ¼ tsp srircha
    salt and pepper to taste


    Preheat oven to 325ºF.

    See? I told you I'd find a use for you!
    Wrap unpeeled garlic in foil and place on a baking sheet with squash halves. Roast in oven until garlic is buttery soft and squash is cooked through. Depending on your oven (and mine's a wonky one) this could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

    Heat 1 tbsp oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and curry paste and sauté until just soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

    When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor. Add chickpeas and process until just about smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until desired consistency.

    Who knew beer + hummus would be such a winning combination?
    Serve with pita, vegetables or use as a sandwich spread. I'm currently eating it with leftover roast pork on some amazing multi-grain loaf from Future Bakery.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    My cupcakes bring all the boys to the yard...

    The teacher in charge totally should have charged 2$ for these bad boys instead of 1$. They were awesome and sold out in 2 minutes. Literally.


    Because they're Cookies'n'Cream Cupcakes.

    You can't see it, but there's an oreo cookie half on the bottom!
    Cream cheese frosting! Chopped oreos in the batter! Sweet vanilla cake! You can't go wrong.

    I got the recipe off of Annie's Eats and adapted it to suit my purposes (did a half recipe, using 2 egg whites for the 3 called for and made 16 cupcakes instead of 12). My icing did NOT, in any way, shape or form, whip up as hers does in her pictures, but...meh! (I guess that means you could go wrong) They were still very tasty.

    And 13 year olds don't have the most sophisticated palettes.

    Mmm. Nom. Nom. Nom.
    You know you want one!

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Marroni al Liquore

    I wish I had better pictures of this, but frankly, the liqueur is sitting in my cupboard in a glass container. It's not exactly photogenic. But, once it has finished curing on December 5th, I'll be sure to post a few shots.

    Italian Chestnut (left) and a Korean Chestnut (right)
    The Korean chestnuts turned out to be a bit of a dud. I just couldn't get them to peel correctly. They were too moist, really.
    Peeling an Italian Chestnut
    Right now, I can tell you that I'm loving the vanilla beans suspended in the liquid! Pure heaven, I tells you.
    Liquid Gold!
    I should warn you, this isn't a full strength liqueur - you do simmer the brandy with the spices for 1 minute.

    Marroni al Liquore

    (Canadian Living)


    1-1/2 1-1/2cups cups(375 mL) (375 mL) granulated sugar  
    1cup cup(250 mL) (250 mL) water  
    4whole allspice  
    2bay leafbay leaves  
    1half halfvanilla beanvanilla beans, split lengthwise
    2-1/2 2-1/2cups cups(625 mL) (625 mL) prepared chestnuts  
    1bottle bottlebrandy (750 mls)


    In wide saucepan, bring sugar, water, allspice, cloves, bay leaves and vanilla bean to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Stir in chestnuts; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

    Stir in brandy and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Skim off any foam. Discard allspice, cloves, bay leaves and vanilla bean. Using slotted spoon, divide chestnuts among six 1-cup (250 mL) canning jars. Pour syrup over top. Seal jars with lids; let stand in cool dark place for 2 weeks before using. (Make-ahead: Store for up to 2 months.)

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Potato-Beer Bread

    Moist, hearty and a great accompaniment for soup. This is another Beerbistro recipe, but let me tell you, the writers of the cookbook made some serious mistakes with this one. I'm a pretty decent bread maker (I do it a few times a month), so I could tell when things weren't going right. So, here's their ingredients with my instructions.


    16 oz flour
    1 tbsp sugar
    ½ tbsp salt
    2¼ tsp active yeast (one package)
    ½ lb potato, cooked and mashed (about two small-medium sized ones)
    2 tbsp softened butter
    2/3 cup beer
    ½ cup buttermilk


    In the bowl of an electric mixer with the dough hook attachment on, mix together flour through yeast. Keep mixing on low and add in the butter and the potato.

    Add the beer and buttermilk to the bowl, turn the speed up to high and let it do its thing for 7 minutes. Over this time, I added about a ½ cup more flour to the dough to keep it from sticking. It should form an elastic ball that comes away from the sides of the bowl.

    Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let it stand in a warm, draft-free location for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

    Punch the dough down. Remove from bowl, shape as desired and place on a greased baking pan. Let sit for another 15-20 minutes.

    Preheat your oven to 350º. Bake loaf for 45-55 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 190º (use an instant read thermometer for this).

    Let cool on rack.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Third time is the charm, right?

    My first attempt at making liqueurs was actually a few years ago. While living in Japan, I attempted to make limoncello. I don't remember why I decided to do this (boredom maybe), but it was an unmitigated disaster. Really. Both overly bitter and too sweet, it marks as one of my great culinary failures. And, for a dish that just involved vodka, sugar and lemons, that's saying something.

    Two summers ago, I decided to try my hand at liqueur making again. This time it was sweet cherries and vodka. I still have a mason jar of it sitting in my cupboard. Again, it's too sweet to drink, but works really well for soaking cakes.

    Yesterday, I made a chestnut liqueur, which involved infusing a sugar syrup with chestnuts, vanilla, bay, allspice and clove and then mixing in a copious amount of brandy.

    It's got to sit for two more weeks, but if it tastes better then than it does now (and liqueurs usually do), I may just have hit on a winner. I'll be posting the recipe this week (along with my pain and anguish at roasting my own chestnuts), so stayed tuned for that little number. Christmas is coming, and you know you love giving homemade gifts!

    My first attempt with mussels

    Until this past year, I haven't been a shellfish person (shrimp and scallops were okay, but anything clammy or mussely were no goes). And, although I enjoy eating dishes with shellfish in them now, my love affair has more to do with the sauce on the dish rather than the shellfish itself.

    But, over the past while, whenever we've been going out, Phil has ordered mussels - usually ones in the most gloriously flavourful broth.

    My love of the broth is what's turned me on to eating mussels myself. Truthfully, you could probably just give me a hunk of bread and a bowl of the sweet liquid (and give all the actual mussels to my husband) and I'd be happy.

    We were resolved to try cooking mussels at home, and so selected the easiest looking recipe in the Beerbistro cookbook.

    I hit up the St. Lawrence Market for mussels. You know how much they cost me? 6$ for 2lbs (which amounted to two very generous servings). We'd probably pay 2.5 times that amount per person if we were eating out.

    Mussels. They're my new favourite cheap protein.

    They also make for a delicious and quick dinner.

    Today's recipe!

    How to Store Mussels

    Interesting fact: mussels can stay alive out of water for several days. They abhor plastic wrap and stagnant water. In fact, they'd rather be stored dry, sitting in a strainer over a bowl in the fridge, covered with a damp tea towel and ice.

    True story.

    When I first read that, I was convinced that I'd read something wrong, but a trip to google taught me otherwise.

    In a strainer. Covered with damp tea towel and ice. No water. Got it?

    Preparing Mussels

    I wish I'd taken a picture of this process! Our mussels were already gorgeous and cleaned, but if yours aren't, you need to do a few things.

    Debeard the mussels. That means, pull the vegetal fibre that is dangling off on side towards the hinge of the mussel. It should come right off.

    Remove any barnacles with a sharp pairing knife.

    Discard any cracked mussels or ones that don't close all the way when sharply tapped with a knife. No one wants food poisoning, right?

    Okay. You're ready to go.

    Mussels with Beer and Cream


    2 tbsp butter
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 lbs mussels, cleaned
    ½ lemon
    6 tbsp beer (preferably a Belgian White)
    ¼ cup whipping cream
    3 tbsp parsley


    In a large, shallow skillet, melt butter (do this over as high a heat as the butter can handle). Throw in the garlic and sauté for about a minute until soft and gloriously fragrant.

    Add the cleaned mussels to the pan and toss around to coat with all the delicious garlic butter.

    Squeeze the lemon half over the mussels (be careful to do this onto your palm, so you can catch any seeds) and cook for 30 seconds.

    Add the beer and cream. Shake the pan again. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until the mussels start to open.

    Remove the lid, add the parsley and let boil for another minute, in order to reduce the sauce.
    This pan is probably too small for the purposes, but you make do with what you've got!

    Discard any shells that have not fully opened.

    Divide mussels between bowls, and pour the broth over top. Be careful when you get to the last ¼ cup or so. I used a spoon at this point so as to avoid the little bit of grit the mussels had expelled when they opened.

    Serve with lots of crusty bread.

    Insert one happy husband here:

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Beer Ice Cream

    It's basically ice cream. Except, with beer.

    Okay, so for this recipe, you'll need an ice cream machine. Buy yourself a cheap one. It's worth it for this recipe alone! I've adapted this recipe from the Beerbistro cookbook.


    1¼ cups whipping cream
    5 egg yolks
    ½ cup granulated sugar (approximately - I used about 2.5 oz)
    ½ cup + 2 tbsp beer* (see note)
    5 skor bars, crushed

    **note** You cannot just use any old beer here. If you use a Keith's or Budweiser, you might as well just throw the whole recipe in the garbage. You need something like a stout, with a sweet, almost banana-y profile. A doppelbock would be perfect here. I used Aventinus Weizen Eisbock. In spite of that being an extra strong beer (12%), the ice cream set perfectly.


    In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. They should go from bright yellow to a pale yellow as you whisk them.

    See? Different colour. Now, set those aside, while you pour the cream into the saucepan and heat over medium high heat until boiling.

    Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot cream into the egg mixture. You HAVE to do this slowly. If you don't, you'll end up with scrambled eggs. 

    Return the mixture to the pan and, stirring constantly, heat until it's thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

    Remove from heat and stir in beer. 

    Now, according to my ice cream maker's directions, you're supposed to put the whole thing the fridge to cool before adding it to the ice cream machine.

    I'm an impatient person. I dumped the whole thing in still warm and let the machine go to work.

    It took about a ½ hour for the ice cream to set up to about a soft serve consistency. At this point, turn off the machine (taste for awesomeness) and dump in the skor bits.

    YUM. I was so impatient, I didn't even bother to get better light for this shot!
    Stir together until the chocolate is incorporated into the mixture, but do it quickly! You don't want it to melt!

    Dump the whole thing in a container, and put in the freezer for 3 hours to firm up. Because of the alcohol content, this won't be as solid as a regular ice cream.

    That's right, beer & skor ice cream

    Eat and be amazed. Serves... well... I guess that depends. I'd say it makes enough for 6-8 small servings. This is quite rich, so you don't need tons of it.

    It's been a long week

    Parent teacher interviews. Report cards. Meetings...

    Let's just say I'm exhausted.

    But, I have a series of exciting posts I'm working on for this week! Let's just say there's a booze theme.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Oh my lord...

    Phil and I often (read: maybe once every two months) go to this great little patisserie, Frangipane, near us on Dupont.

    They do great French macarons (including my two favourite flavours: salted caramel and passion fruit). But, on our last trip there this past weekend, we picked up a few of their tarts.

    Fig and Raspberry with Frangipane
    Now, I love a good frangipane tart as much as the next person, but the real star of the show was this little number:

    White Chocolate Cheesecake Tart with Vanilla Caramel
    I thought it was pumpkin at first. Oh, but I was so wrong. The Caramel had flecks of vanilla seeds floating in it and teetered perfectly on the slightly bitter side, perfectly complementing the white chocolate cheesecake filling.

    To. Die. For.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Market Find of the Week.

    I've got brandy and picked up a bag of these:

    I also picked up some Korean chestnuts as well. The plan? Marroni al Liquore.

    Chestnuts in brandy with spices.


    Except, I know nothing about chestnuts (other than the fact that they're notoriously difficult to peel)... Anyone know the difference between Italian and Korean varieties? All I've got at this point is the Italian ones are darker and larger than the Korean ones.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Mystery Revealed!

    Remember that post I did this week with the apples and berries? Wanna see how that turned out?

    I thought so.

    See, I have an obsession. I love candy. Chocolate. Jujubes. Wine Gums. Fruit Pastilles.

    Did someone say fruit pastilles? Homemade fruit pastilles?

    Let the angels sing!

    Why, yes! Yes, they did.

    Yep, it took 4 days to complete the recipe, but that's only because the pastilles had to dry out on the counter for most of that time.

    They're delicious! Bursting with fruity goodness and waaaaaaay better than any packaged fruit pastilles... except maybe M&S ones. I do love those.

    Berry Gelées (Canadian Living)


      3 cups (750 mL) frozen mixed berries 
      1/2 cup (125 mL) water  
      2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar  
      1 pouch (85 g) liquid pectin  
      Topping: 1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar


    Line bottom and sides of 8-inch (2 L) square metal cake pan with parchment paper; set aside.

    Coarsely chop apples, including peels and cores but discarding seeds. In saucepan, cook apples, berries and water over medium heat, until apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.

    In processor, purée apple mixture until almost smooth. Press through fine sieve to make 2 cups (500 mL) purée.

    In clean saucepan, bring purée with sugar to boil over medium heat; boil, stirring often, until candy thermometer reaches gel point stage of 218°F (103°C), or when spoonful cooled on cold plate wrinkles and does not run together when separated with finger, 20 to 30 minutes.

    Remove from heat. Immediately whisk in pectin. Pour into prepared pan. Let stand at room temperature, without disturbing, until set, 18 to 24 hours.

    Turn out onto parchment paper–lined cutting board. Using greased sharp knife, trim edges to straighten. Cut into 42 cubes, cleaning and greasing knife after each cut.

    All ready to sit and dry out!
    Topping: Place sugar in dish. Coat jellies in sugar. Let dry on rack for 3 days. (Make ahead: Store layered between waxed paper in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.)

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Dark Chocolate Cake

    And vegan to boot.

    But don't let the vegan part scare you off. This is delicious! For the record, I did a half recipe. Kat, Phil and I enjoyed it immensely.

    There were no leftovers. We destroyed this thing.

    Moosewood's Deep Chocolate Cake

    1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
    1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used earth balance vegan buttery spread)
    1 cup cold water or chilled brewed coffee
    2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    2 Tbs. cider vinegar

    1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously oil 8-inch square or round baking pan. Dust with sifted cocoa, or line bottom of baking pan with parchment paper.

    2. Sift flour, cocoa, soda, salt and sugar. In another bowl, combine oil, water or coffee and vanilla. Pour liquid into dry, and mix until smooth.

    3. Add vinegar and stir briefly; baking soda will begin to react with vinegar, leaving pale swirls in batter. Without wasting time, pour batter into prepared pan.

    4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve cake from pan, or, when cool, transfer to plate.

    Chocolate Raspberry Glaze

    1/3 cup raspberry fruit spread or jam
    two small handfuls semi-sweet chocolate chips

    In a double boiler or small heavy saucepan on medium heat, melt jam with chocolate chips, blend and pour over cooled cake.

    If you happen to have old, homemade cherry liquor (as I do), soak the chocolate cake before glazing it.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    It's taken me a while to write about this, as I didn't have the words when this happened over the weekend. Even as I write this now, I'm crying onto the keyboard.

    The short version of this is: I have a group of friends I met on the Internet. I met them on my club board (Aug '09!) on theknot.com. They're amazing women, and although I've never met most of them, over the years (most of us got to know each other in 2008) we've become a closeknit group. If you've ever checked out the August Cooks blog, you'll have met some of them yourself.

    Over the weekend, one of our own suffered a terrible loss. And with her, we, from our different corners of the world, wept too. Emily and her husband have both had amazing strength and courage in the face of all the unfairness the universe could throw at them. Even in what must surely be the darkest hours in any parent's life, they found joy, laughter and happiness. Well into her second trimester, Emily went into early labour and gave birth to her triplets. None of them survived.

    I don't know if I would be able to find such strength in that situation. Emily truly represents the best humanity has to offer.

    Out of our little group - once strangers, now good friends - have managed to raise close to 600$ in support of Emily and Sean, and in memory of their triplets: Avery, Trinity and Langston.

    It's not enough. Nothing we could ever do will be enough. Enough would bring the family back together again. We don't have that power.

    But I'd like to think that, perhaps, our March of Dimes donation will help another family come through their darkest hour.

    If you have time, please read Emily's story. If you have children, hold them close. If you have neither, please walk away from this post knowing that, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, there is great love in the world.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    ZOMG. More Coralie Bickford Smith

    I love you Penguin!

    The Mahabhrata

    And I'm still waiting on my copy of the Ramayana:
    Not even listed on her website! It's probably because, although the cover design is hers, the illustrations are someone else's.

    Regardless, linen-covered books + me = happy.

    Monday, November 08, 2010


    This is, by far, one of my favourite quick dinner recipes of all times. I eat way too much of it each time we have it, but it's SO good, and SO ridiculously easy to make.

    Phil even made the sauce from scratch because he forgot we had a bottle of it in the fridge.

    The finished product.
    So, okonomiyaki is a Japanese dish that's essentially a pancake batter mixed with cabbage, pickled ginger and other vegetables and meats. It's a very customizable dish! At okonomiyaki restaurants in Japan, the okonomiyaki is cooked on huge griddles in front of you. Some will have you do the cooking at low tables.

    This recipe is based on one from The Japanese Kitchen, which was my first Japanese cookbook.


    ¼ cup ketchup
    1½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    ¼ tsp smooth Dijon mustard
    2 tbsp mirin
    1 tbsp sugar
    1 tsp soy sauce

    In small saucepan, mix all sauce ingredients together. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.


    1 cup flour
    2 tbsp potato starch
    1 cup water (or dashi, if you have it)
    ½ tsp salt

    Sift the flour together with the potato starch into a bowl. Add water and salt and mix. Divide the batter between two bowls.

    Remaining ingredients

    ¼ large head shredded cabbage
    ¼ cup benishoga (pickled red ginger)
    ¼ cup sliced green onions
    3 sliced bacon, chopped (set one piece aside)

    2 eggs

    Put half the cabbage, ginger, green onions and one piece chopped bacon into each bowl of batter. Press the center of each bowl to make a small depression. Break the eggs, and drop one into the center depression of each bowl.

    Heat a large skillet, add 2-3 tbsp neutral flavoured oil and swirl to coat. When the oil is hot, dump out the excess. Reduce heat to low.

    With a spoon, mix the batter and the other ingredients in one of the bowls. Raise the heat under the skillet to medium and pour all of the batter from the first bowl into the skillet. Spread the batter into a disk, about 6-7" in diameter. Top with half of the remaining chopped bacon, pressing it into the surface of the pancake. Cook the pancake over medium heat until the bottom is golden.

    Now comes the fun part: the flipping. This is a two spatula job. Be quick and decisive. If the bottom is cooked enough, the whole thing shouldn't fall apart.

    Once you've flipped it, press to flatten the bottom and cook until the other side is golden. While it's doing that, brush the top with the sauce. Transfer to a plate to keep warm in the over while you repeat the directions with the second bowl of ingredients.

    Cut each pancake into six pieces, like a pizza, and serve hot. Phil and I just tend to cut it with our chopsticks and serve ourselves from the middle of the table.

    The last piece of bacon shall be mine!
    Just for the record, I don't really use my chopsticks like that.

    Sunday, November 07, 2010

    What do you get...

    ... when you combine these ingredients with sugar?

    The answer, I hope, will be revealed by Thursday...

    Bulghur Salad with Cranberries and Cucumbers.

    This was my first time using bulgur, and it's something I definitely plan to use again in the future. I brought this salad for lunch twice this week, and I really found that it gave me a lot of energy throughout the day... so if you're brown bagging things as I do, but haven't cooked with bulgur before, this is a great intro recipe to a really tasty grain.

    Day three in the fridge, just as tasty as day one!
    Bulgur is a wheat cereal - though different kinds of wheat can be used to make it. Most commonly, durum semolina seems to be the wheat of choice.

    A close up
     I've based this recipe on one from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry called Grainman. My measurements are usually pretty loose... so although I've given exact ones here, you should feel more than free to play around with them.


    1 cup orange juice
    1 cup bulgur
    ½ cup cranberries
    ½ cup each diced celery and diced cucumber (I used a baby cuke)
    ¼ cup chopped almonds
    2 tbsp chopped chives
    one handful chopped fresh parsley
    half a handful chopped fresh mint

    1 tbsp walnut oil
    2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
    zest from one lemon
    ¼ tsp each salt and pepper


    Combine orange juice and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and add bulgur. Simmer, covered for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes or until bulgur has absorbed all that delicious liquid.

    While the bulgur is doing its thing, mix cranberries through nuts in a large bowl.

    Once the bulgur has absorbed everything, add it, along with the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Stir well. Taste and check seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Salad will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3 days.

    Saturday, November 06, 2010

    A Recent Find

    Many of you know that I collected Japanese pottery while I was living in Japan. Our area, Gifu, was pretty rich with the most amazing potters! So, when I came back to Canada with this new found love of all things clay, I was so disappointed in what the artisans here were doing (and still are). There's just something so clunky and generic about North American pottery.

    I suppose that has something to do with Japanese notion of finding perfection in imperfections. I like that.

    So, when I found Analogue Life one day, I nearly died from joy.

    Plate by Yasko Ozeki (Seto)
    Nanbu Iron Trivet
    Bud Vase by Shoji Morinaga
    Chopstick Rest by Masanori Oji
    Nabe pot by Azmaya
    Tea leaf box by Tatsuyu Aida
    Nanbu Iron Bell
    Ceramic Bottles by Sゝゝ
    I don't even know what I'd do with this stuff. But I love it.
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