Banana Blondies and my summer vacation

We did not go away anywhere over the summer.  We didn't even attempt to make plans to do anything.  We were renovating and painting and sanding and everything that goes along with that - including waiting much longer than expected for jobs to finish.  We are not bitter.  We understand and it's ok.
I did however, have the opportunity to go away for 24 hrs with my bestest friend KT.  KT is one of those people who are just so amazing that you don't know what to do with her.  Except she is so amazing that she helps you figure even that out.  She is a beautiful person both inside and out.  I have no idea why she is friends with me really.  I'm pretty grouchy, kinda nonchalant, a bad gift giver (negligent) and I'm not even rich to make up for all of that.  KT has recently (coming up on 3 yrs in a few months) started foster parenting babies.  Again, she is amazing at it.  It's a thankless job in many ways but she loves those babies... except for the sleep.  Or lack thereof.  Imagine, if you can, parenting new-borns over and over for 3 years straight.  We don't get to see each other as much as we would like because I am working during the day and she is not coherent after about 7:30 pm.  This made our 24 hr getaway even more special.
Given my last year and a half and her 2 1/2 year sleep deprivation experiment, we were both pretty tired.  I thought that you might find it exciting affirming alarming amusing to have a look at what we did for our 24hrs.
1:00pm - get in car
2:40pm - arrive at destination
3:00pm - sit in hotel room, contemplate a walk
3:15pm - walk around the village (this takes about 7 minutes if you walk very slowly)
3:30pm - order snack/lunch
4:15pm - return to hotel room, put bath robes on over our clothes and watch tv
6:00pm - walk down to pool, sit on loungers and watch people in pool
7:00pm - return to hotel room
7:30pm - walk to village for snacks and magazines
8:00pm - find a place with absolutely no children in it and have drinks
9:15pm - walk back to hotel room
9:30pm - settle into bed with magazines
9:00am - get up
9:45am - get breakfast
11:00am - check out
11:45am - get pedicure
1:00pm - get in car and drive home

For 24 hrs no other human being determined what had to be done, told us what they needed, had to be seen to or otherwise entertained... and that is what we decided to do with the time.  Are either one of us disappointed that we didn't go mountain biking or hiking or kayaking?  Hell no.  Are you kidding.
And that was my summer vacation.

Here is banana cake, blondies that I have made.  It sounds like it shouldn't work because there is no leavening agent in it but somehow it works and the kids loved it.  The Kids.

Banana Blondies adapted from Food52
makes 1 pan of brownies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup melted butter
2 lg eggs,  lightly whisked to break the yolks
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
generous 1/2 cup dark chocolate (about 72%) coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F
Grease and flour (or line with parchment) an 8x8 baking dish and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Set aside.
In  large bowl mix the mashed bananas and melted butter.  Once combined add the eggs and mix well.  Add both sugars and mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture.  Stir to thoroughly mix.
Add the chopped chocolate and stir just until mixed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes or until just browning at the edges and a toothpick comes out mostly clean from the centre.
Cool before cutting.

Fridge Frittata and a Story

It's really quite ridiculous that I'm even posting a recipe like this.  I bet you have thought of making this in some incarnation or another about a million times.  You've probably  gone through with it and actually prepared the thing maybe about a thousand times.  It's so easy and basic that I feel kinda silly but the truth is that it's all I've got.  Another truth is that I really need to break the ice, break the silence, break the break and pump something out.
Our house being in total chaos - and the large part of that chaos being the kitchen - for the entire summer has just derailed me.  My summer was sanding and staining and taping and painting and trying to find some sanity while not being able to make a morning coffee.  The good news is that the kitchen is done.  I can now make my morning coffee.  I only make it on the weekends though because I truly believe that morning coffee is a ritual that is sacred enough not to be rushed.  Rushed is the only way that morning coffee will happen throughout the workweek.

Is there anyone out there without a potato somewhere in their kitchen?
This recipe is easy enough that you can use whatever veggies you have in your house, you will pretty much be guaranteed to have the other ingredients just about all of the time and lastly, you really have to try hard to screw it up.  Even though I'm back in my kitchen it doesn't feel like my kitchen quite yet - although I'm getting there. Generally, I'm going with some easy, quick and comfortable recipes.  When I'm not making this kind of thing, I'm pretty much either snacking on toast, chips or going out for something.
And this brings me to the story portion of this post.  Last week, on labour day monday to be exact, I took the kids out in a fit of starving, exhausted, desperation.  We went to The Wren (a fantastic little spot about 10 min's walk from my front door with great food and a fantastic craft beer selection).  I happen to read this blog on a regular basis and the blogger also frequents The Wren so every time I'm there I always kinda scan the place just out of interest to see if she might be there.  So I'm sitting with my two kids trying to be sane and sip my beer when who sits down at the large table right beside me but the Yum Yum Factor Lady (at least that what I call her in my head).  I tell the kids while trying to be inconspicuous.  Kid #2 is 8 and hungry and couldn't give a rip and probably didn't even hear what I was going on about.  Kid #1 is riveted and tells me I should say something.  She also tells me that if she can text Misha Collins (?) and some other actor guy that is super important to her about something or other.... well then I can certainly walk up to someone (now I did make the point here that in person and on line are two very different things) and tell them that I like their work.  Truthfully, I felt weird about it but I thought about how I would feel if someone walked up to me and told me that they really liked my blog.  I would be thrilled (I think) and flattered (definitely) and not weirded out at all (unless they proceeded to do something weird or confusing).  So I strategized with kid #1.  She took kid #2 outside once we were done and I - very naturally, politely and casually - interrupted the Yum Yum Factor Lady's meal by telling her how much I loved her blog.  I think that she was happy and asked to take a picture with me.  Kids #1 and #2 stared very conspicuously through the front window.  If you want to see the picture go here (she looks sassy and cool in the hat - I'm the other one)
The moral of this story:
1. Tell people when you like them, their work or their hat.
2. Post more shit on the blog so that maybe someday someone out there will feel inspired enough to introduce themselves to me if they see me somewhere.
3. Go to The Wren.

Still playing with (ie. screwing up) a 35mm camera lens which was an Awesome Gift from D.  My pictures are not happy.
Fridge Frittata
serves 4

3 - 4 med potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (very approximate)
1 red or yellow pepper, coarsely diced
1/2 cup onion, coarsely diced
2 lg cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups milk
4 egg whites (you can simply add 3 extra eggs if you don't have egg whites from ice cream hanging around)
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp each - dried basil, marjoram and parsley
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp pepper sauce (optional)
1 1/2 cups cheddar, shredded
1 med tomato, sliced into 1/3 inch slices

Preheat oven to 375°F
Boil potatoes for about 6 minutes, drain and set aside
Heat a large caste iron (i.e. something big that can go straight to the oven) skillet over medium heat.
Add some oil or fat.
Throw in the pepper, onion and garlic.  Cool for about 4 minutes and turn the heat off.
In a large bowl combine the milk, egg whites, egg, salt, herbs, worcestershire, soy sauce and pepper sauce.  Whisk until fully combined and set aside.
Mix the drained potatoes with the cooked vegetables until they are mixed up well.
Sprinkle the cheese over it all.
Pour the milk mixture over that (it should cover everything)
Place the tomato slices on top and push them down just a little.
Bake for about 40 - 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.  The middle should not be liquid.
Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Updates and a DIY

First the good news:
D's cousin is this close to taking over the world (she is number 9).  She is a close friend of mine and I am over the moon with all of the accolades that she is receiving.  I am also a little intimidated and hoping against hope that she takes care of me in my old age.  Very, very proud.

Next the 'not as good' news:
I am not a DIY person.
I typically do not enjoy 'Doing It Yourself'.
I am still not sure what prompted me to take on this project aside from saving money and not knowing anyone who might be stupid enough to do it for me.
I also have a sore throat.
I have not cooked much but just enough to keep everyone alive.  This is still our kitchen...

Please note the big holes where normally the solid surface of a counter top would be.  This also means that we have no sink or drain in which to wash dishes.  Apparently dishes chores are off once the location of the sink changes.
I have distracted myself by stripping, scraping and sanding two sets of stair rails.

This is one of those stair rails
This is what it looks like after one coat of stain.  I am scared and not quite sure what to do next.

In other news, we have raspberries.  This is a big deal for us because the last two years have produced nothing even close to 'bowls full' of raspberries. We are happy.


Summer updates:

This daisy is in my back yard.  It is beautiful.  There are bugs.

This is pretty much what life is looking like here.  Worst part - no breakfast.  I can deal with no food pretty much any other time of day except breakfast.  Day two of finding breakfast elsewhere and I'm a bear... a bear in March.  Kids think that muffins and hot chocolate for breakfast is cool.  They are not having any trouble adjusting.

It's our 'Renovate all the things' project.

Kitchen edition:

Front Hall edition:

Deck and Balcony edition:  No picture available yet because it doesn't start until next week.

Kid #1 is going into high school in approximately 1 1/2 months.  I see her for probably no more than 20 minutes a day between her friends and her bedroom (and what I can only assume is copious amounts of netflix and tumblr)

We have no vacation plans... none... not even one plan.

I have decided to try my hand at making my own pepper sauce.  The bones seem easy but I imagine that it will take a little tweaking to get the recipe to my taste.  At least the basic ingredients are cheap so I won't waste a lot of money if it blows chunks.

Kid #2 has finally mastered biking on two-wheeler.  He hasn't yet mastered the starting and stopping of biking.  He went 'biking' with a friend yesterday.  I stood and watched them.  I became that Mom - the one that stands there and gets super edgy and uptight that her kid is going to fall or get run into or slam into a tree or something.  That Mom.  I had to close my eyes.

I really wish I were posting my rhubarb curd ice cream with white chocolate but can't because I haven't made it yet.  It sounds finicky but the idea occurred while I was trying to sleep and it made sense at the time.  I'm going to try it because I've decided that I need to work harder on my follow through.

I have some lovely little things happening in the garden this year.  Unfortunately, the raspberries have completely taken over the rhubarb and the poppies.  It turns out that tomato plants don't really like me that much and have decided to boycott growing in protest.  Pleasant surprise: I have dill where I planted none.  Nobody here likes dill.

Fennel, pepper and sausage Crostata

It's summer.  I realize that turning on your oven in the middle of the hottest season may not be your thing.  If you have been reading me for a while (say at least as far back as last summer) then you might have gathered that I'm not big on the grilling/bbq thing.  In fact, that is an understatement.  I don't care about it to the point of considering selling my bbq... if it were in decent enough shape to sell that is.  It's not.  There is almost no time that I even consider using my bbq in favour of my stove/oven.  I don't know why.  It's a fault I guess.
It may be one of those nature vs nurture things.  Once the weather got decent enough in southern Ontario, my Dad would unveil the bbq, clean it and get it fired up.  We would bbq on weekly basis for the most part.  Now when it comes to food, my Dad is into simple and honest.  Having said that he's come a long way - he now believes that garlic is something that could conceivably be used in a recipe without wrecking it (I think that he even goes as far as eating garlic bread once in a while), he also has been seen consuming pizza (something that the rest of us had to eat when he had already gone to bed because it was gross) and I have even seen him eat lasagna - stop the presses.  I am told by my Mom (whom I just assume is honest and trustworthy) that Dad ate chicken curry once and although I'm sure it's true I will only fully believe when I see that with my own eyes.  Back then though, Dad was a farmers kid to the bone.  Garlic was something you hang around your neck in case of vampires, pasta may or may not be a real food and only if served with potatoes as well.  BBQ meant meat, on a grill, cooked through (really cooked through) and served... buns optional.  Rubs, sauces and garlic nowhere to be found.  It didn't sell me on grilling and perhaps that is what has stuck through all of these years.  It's a great excuse story and I'm just gonna go with it.
We will fire up the bbq if we are having people over for dinner or a big party or something but it seems like such a bother to do it otherwise.  And we make sauces.  Sauces are essential - D is the sauce man for the most part.  The sauces get put on everything.  Would you like some chicken with your sauce would not be an inappropriate question.  Veggies are also essential.  On a skewer, preferably marinated and when done right might just outshine the burgers and chicken.  It's a production.

No grill was harmed in the making of this recipe. A oven was heated up about it though but unharmed as it turns out.  For those of you who may be hardcore bbq people at this time of year I think that there may be a very good way to make this whole recipe happen on your grill.  You could grill your veggies in the marinade at low heat and then get the grill up just a bit and do the pie itself.
This has nothing to do with anything really but I thought that you all should know that kid #2 has eaten only hotdogs for the last 60 hrs.  Extended 8th birthday celebrations.  I'm not joking... even for breakfast.

Fennel, Pepper and Sausage Crostata
serves 4

2 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 cup ice water

1 lb sausage of choice - whole and uncooked
1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1 inch thick strips
1 lg or 2 sm fennel bulbs, washed and cut into 4 or 5 pieces
1 med/small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch strips
salt and pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup mozzarella
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 300° F
Place all of the cut vegetables on a large baking sheet.  Add the sausage.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle on the brown sugar.
Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Toss everything together and spread out evenly on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool for about 15 - 20 minutes

Combine the flour, salt, sugar and parmesan together in a large bowl.
Add the cold butter.
Cut in the butter with two knives or a pastry cutter until the butter is no bigger than little peas and everything looks kinda of crumbly.
Add enough of the ice water to keep the dough together in a ball but it shouldn't be too wet.
Cover the dough and let it chill for about 30 minutes (you can let the veggies and sausage cool)

Put it all together:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a large baking sheet with parchment, cornmeal or a silicon liner
Slice the cooled sausages into 1 cm thick rounds
Roll out the dough (edges should be rough not even) to about 1 cm thickness and place on the parchment.
Spread the cooled veggies and sliced sausage evenly on the dough leaving about a 3 cm edge around the circumference.
Sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan cheese on the top.
Fold the edges over on to the veggies. Brush the edges with a little olive oil
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown at the edges.
Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Asparagus, Chicken and Potato Lasagna... goodbye asparagus.

We are approaching the end of the school year here.  I really cannot tell whether it's a quick approach or a ploddingly slow one.  It changes each day.  It feels like it's been so long and so much has happened throughout this school year but at the same time it's gone so fast that I haven't had a chance to catch my breath.  My brain is having trouble computing how to figure it out.
I'm not sure how I'm going to wind down from this year or whether or not I can.  It usually takes me the whole month of July to get into a different head space.  This year we've had a grade 8 graduation to prepare for (guess what - they now do a hotel dinner and dance for grade 8 graduations), an 8 year old birthday party to plan (hopefully for the last day of school), 3 major house projects to keep on top of (thank you to D for basically looking after nearly all of that) and four more birthdays to look forward to in July.  My brain is having trouble computing.

Still life with asparagus.  This is the happy graduate.
The funny thing is that you feel at loose ends with yourself for a while.  Don't know what to do next and end up just sitting on the couch for an inexplicable amount of time.  Then you move to the computer and do the same... probably not even touching the keyboard or mouse once.  Just starring at the screen.  This may happen repeatedly before a kid reminds you that they have to consume food to survive.  Damn.  Then back to couch... damn, I have no clean underwear.  Damn.  My brain can think but somehow cannot prompt my muscles to movement.  All of a sudden summer hits and  everything kind of stops and something as simple as going to a doctor appointment means I'm done for the day.  It's weird and terrifying.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING becomes more desirable or important than reading a book and drinking a cold beer in the back yard.
These are the things that happen when summer begins.
Asparagus season is technically done and I'm slow on the draw with this one.  If you happen to live somewhere further north where asparagus is still producing then go nuts.  Otherwise, you could always consider a replacement.  Maybe broccolette or fresh green beans.  Something green though.  It needs to be green for my brain to compute it as correct.

This is definitely asparagus and chicken that you are looking at...
To illustrate how much my brain is not computing - I happily edited through all of my photos for this post until I looked back at the photos I had uploaded last week... yup - I was editing the wrong recipe the whole time. Fortunately, I caught the mistake before I posted a recipe for chicken and asparagus  with pictures of chocolate cookies.
In the meantime, I'm going to claw my way to the last day of school and let myself fall deep into couch mode for a few days.

Asparagus, Chicken and Potato Lasagna adapted from Food52

8 - 9 medium/small potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 lg bunches asparagus, hard ends removed
3 cups cooked chicken, torn into med/small pieces

3 3/4 cup milk, warmed for about 4 minutes in the microwave
6 tbsp butter
6 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt to taste
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup parmesan, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter a 9x13 baking dish.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.
Add the butter and lower the heat to med/low.  Let the butter melt completely.
Whisk in the flour and mix thoroughly with the butter.
Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly.
Once all the milk is added continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken.
Add in the worcestershire, mustard powder and nutmeg.
Mix well.
Add in the cheddar and 1/3 cup parmesan.  Whisk until melted in.
Add salt to taste.

Place a single layer of the sliced potatoes on the bottom of the prepared pan.
Place about half of the asparagus spears on top of the potatoes.
Sprinkle on half of the onion.
Layer about half of the chicken.
Repeat the layering process a second time which should finish everything.
Pour the cheese sauce over everything.
Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Bake covered for about 45 minutes.
Remove the cover and bake for another 35 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly and browning at the edges.

Rhubarb Lemon Cake

And then the World Cup.
I did not grow up in a place that recognized the World Cup.  In my little town about an hour outside of Toronto, soccer was a thing you played after school when the hockey season was over.  Filler I guess.  When I moved to Montreal the World Cup was a thing that was recognized for sure but I was a broke student in the music faculty.  I didn't really give a crap about team sports generally and had no money to go to the pub with my friends to socialize... and watch the game.  Hence, this soccer thing was not at all on my radar.
My subsequent move to Trinidad served to school me in the 'joys' of cricket more than anything else. I thought that all of these people must be talking about croquet.  Never heard of cricket and therefor it can't be that important.  After, I've been around and would have heard about it if it were a big thing.  Yup - it's a big thing... not croquet after all... turns out most of the world knows about a lot of things that I didn't even know existed...imagine.  Cricket and all of it's test match weeks and day long games are huge... HUGE.  Who knew.

We took a trip to London a few years ago.  We wanted to reconnect with some of D's family and to spend time in a place that I had heard so much about.  Our trip just happened to coincide with the World Cup.  Of course this meant nothing to me until I attempted to navigate around Piccadilly Square during an England match (god help us all).  You couldn't so much as buy a cookie that didn't have the white flag with the red cross on it.  I think even vegetables were branded with it.  Tv ads and even a music video - so ghastly that I shudder a bit even remembering it - marketing how well the England team would do.  Of course being the England team (I'm sorry - I really am) meant that they didn't get too far into the tournament.  Imagine my shock when the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, gave a televised statement viewed across the UK expressing his deep disappointment (expressed by him as 'devastation' as I recall) that the team would not be bringing home the cup.  What... the Prime Minister... what's going on here.  I'm sure that all of the cakes and cookies stamped with the flag went on sale the next day.

A very dark picture of two members of my family watching a game.
For D this was a relief because finally I get it.  I understand just how important this world cup thing was.  I understand that this is something entire countries get behind in a way they never do in the Olympics.  I understand that even if you aren't from Brazil you can support them and that you'd better hope if you are in the pub that you aren't the only Brazil supporter present.  I understand that even if you've lived in Canada your entire life that when it comes to the world cup you absolutely become Italian.  I get that it's almost impossible to work at your desk during a game... and why fight it.  I know now that doing something, anything on a day when there are 3 or 4 games happening will be done by me by myself unless it happens in the 60 minutes in between game times.
I understand and I'm ok with it now.  I made rhubarb cake so that I could serve it to the construction guys in our house during the game.  'Cause I know now that they won't be working.

Rhubarb Lemon Cake adapted slightly from 'honey & jam'
makes 1 tube cake

3 cups chopped rhubarb
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 sugar
3 eggs (or 1 egg and 3 egg whites - that's what I used)
zest of 1 lg lemon
3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup icing sugar
cream (if needed to get the right consistency)

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and flour a tube/bundt pan.  Set aside.  
Combine the chopped rhubarb (I used frozen rhubarb, let it thaw and drain well) and the 2 tbsp flour until the rhubarb is completely coated.  Set aside.
Combine the 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom together.  Mix well and set aside.  

Beat or whisk together the room temperature butter and the sugar for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat or whisk until well combined and fluffy.  Add in the lemon zest and mix thoroughly.  
Continue to beat at low speed or whisk adding about half of the flour mixture.  Combine thoroughly. 
Add in the half of the buttermilk and beat until thoroughly combined. 
Add in about half of the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined. 
Add the rest of the buttermilk and combine.  
Add the rest of the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.  
Gently fold in the coated rhubarb to the cake batter.  
Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bang lightly on the counter to remove air bubbles. 
Bake for about 30 minutes. 
Turn the pan and bake for another 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is pulling away from the edges of the pan. 
Cool completely before removing from the pan. 


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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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