Chocolate Chunk Macadamia and Browned Butter Cookies

I thought that it would take a little longer, that it might not be this early on but it's undeniable... it's noticeable, it's real and it's happening.... the days here in Canada are beginning to get longer.
This is good.
This means that soon I'll be able to run again, even in the rain, without feeling totally frozen.  It means that I'll be getting out the bike and tuning her up for our first ride of the year.  It means that someday soon it might not take 5 minutes just to get dressed to go outside (double that if you have kids, at least).  It means that soon I might actually entertain the thought of going out to do something fun after I've come home from work rather than staying home and curling up on the couch (although, that's really fun too).  In short, it's the first sign that we get here in T.O. that winter just might not last forever.
As you can tell, I'm feeling more upbeat than I have in a long time.  The fact that we've gotten more sunshine in the last three days than we did throughout the entire month of January is contributing significantly to my mood.  Also a big contributor: February is a blessedly short month and we're almost halfway through.  It also means that Valentine's day is almost over with...
I'm going out this weekend to purchase Valentine's day cards for Kid #1 and #2 to take to their class on Monday.  Thankfully, their teachers are not holding any big party or anything.  I haven't made anything special for the day and I don't plan to.  You won't find any heart shaped cookie, cake or confection here. I'm not making a special dinner for D or anybody else.  We aren't buying flowers or chocolate or motorcycles for each either, in case you were wondering.  And really, I'm totally fine with that.

I did, however, see this recipe posted on a site that did more than catch my eye.  It caught both of them and a couple of limbs too.  I had to make this cookie.  Aimee's cookies look awesome... perfect... mine don't.  The taste though made me forget about how they don't look perfect and once they're in your belly you won't remember either.  In the post, Aimee told us to try hard not to eat all of the dough.  Let me qualify here that I'm not a 'dough-eater' at the best of times... like never.  This dough?  Well, it was all I could do to keep it from walking into my mouth... I'm already thinking about cookie dough ice cream with this one.  It takes a little while for the cookie dough to set... think, 24 - 36 hrs!  Totally worth it though.  Even though every time I opened the fridge the dough was begging for me to take a little taste, just to see if it had totally set yet...

Chocolate, White Chocolate, Macadamia nuts, Browned Butter Cookies... adapted from Under the High Chair (thanks Aimee!)

1 cups unsalted butter
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp vanilla (YES!)
2 tbsp milk
100g milk chocolate, in chunks
100g dark chocolate, in chunks
100g white chocolate, in chunks
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, crushed into small bits

On the stove top, melt and cook the butter over med/low heat until it turns golden brown - will take about 7 minutes or so.  Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.
In another bowl, cream together the cooled butter, brown sugar and sugar until it's well mixed and the sugar is dissolving just a little.  Add in the egg and egg yolk and mix till it's nice and frothy.  Add in the vanilla and the milk and mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix just until everything is incorporated.

Stir in the dark, milk and white chocolate and the nuts.  mix well.

Observe said irrisistible dough

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs.  36 hrs is best though (don't be disappointed though if, like me, you couldn't wait that long)
Preheat the oven to 375.  Spoon out the cookies and form them into balls which could be challenging with the choco chunks.  Place on a greased or lined cookie sheet.
Bake for about 10 minutes but check things after 9 - just in case.
Remove from the oven and cool for a little on the cookie sheet.  Remove to cooling rack and cool completely.
Here you are, putting one into your mouth.  

Kale and Rice Casserole

I needed something interesting to go with my beans, that's where this started...
I've been reading and hearing lately a lot about rising food prices worldwide.  Earlier this year I read a book called 'Empires of Food'.  The book follows the history of many major world civilizations and the congruence of their demise with the failure to keep up with food demand.  I know it makes me sound a bit like a geek but it was a really interesting book and one that keeps popping back into my mind as I'm reading and hearing about our own looming food problems.  The difference this time, as I read in the book as well, is that we are affected worldwide because of the intricate web of import/export.  Can we afford it?  Most of us probably can, especially in the western world.  However, not all of us can.  Many of us are already spending a large percentage of their income on food and in non-western economies (ie. not friggin' rich) the percentage of income spent on food is significantly larger again.
As I've been reading and hearing this stuff, I've been thinking again about the things that we can do to help change the system... all Matrix style.
There is still so much that I can do.  For example, I don't can my own food (except for the occasional jam and the two baskets of peaches that I did last summer), I don't buy organic milk and eggs (because - I tell myself - it's expensive and we use a lot of it right now), I still don't buy local bacon (yeah, I buy bacon) for the same reason.  There is a lot that has changed over the past two years but still so far to go.  Rather than feeling depressed at the thought of food costing more, I feel challenged and even inspired by it.  For me personally, it inspired to eat and prepare more meatless meals, to take more care about where I purchase my food - especially meat - and to take more advantage of seasonal foods.  I HOPE that we as a society can learn to use our food dollars to purchase whole foods that truly FEED us rather than fill a hole and that we can get even better about donating that healthy food to food banks or places that need healthy food to feed and support people that live in our own communities.  I'm always looking for new ideas and adaptations that I can make practically that will impact the way that we all eat... if you have some cool ideas then I would LOVE to hear them.

So... I made bean stew.  Then, I needed rice to go with the bean stew.  I also needed to use some things up so that they wouldn't go bad and subsequently go to waste (that's another thing I'm working on).  So, I gathered up some ingredients and tried my hand at 'throwing' something together.  It worked... I think.  Simple, healthy and tasty... yeah, it worked.

Kale and Rice Casserole
serves 6

2 - 2 1/2 cups rice cooked al dente (just under-cooked)
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 rib of celery, diced
1 lg bunch of kale (about 4 cups) or spinach or mix it up
1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt or ricotta or... you get it)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used medium cheddar)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
3 good dashes of nutmeg

Get a big, oven-proof pot heated up on the stove-top.
Put some oil or grease or something in the pot.  Add in the onion, garlic and celery and swoosh it around in the pot until the onions get clear and wilty looking.  Add in the kale and let the kale cook down for a couple of minutes (might need to turn the heat down just a bit).
Turn the heat down to low.
Add in the sour cream and milk.  Let that heat up a little bit.
Add in most of the cheddar and the parmesan.  Add the salt and the nutmeg (throw just a little pepper sauce in there if you like as well).
Add in the cooked rice and mix it all up.
Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar on top.
Bake it for about 25 minutes.
Serve... maybe with some beans....

I have resolved... Bean Stew

I still haven't seen it.  This is terrible because I should see it.  I care about food a lot and I'm passionate about not just eating healthier for our bodies but for our planet as well...  but I'm afraid to watch it.  'Food inc.'  I've heard great things about it and I will watch it.  I guess that I feel like I already know a lot of the information that I'm going to hear and I'm not quite sure if I want to SEE that information in front of me... you feel me?
I have already resolved to make an even stronger effort to make the greater majority of our meals vegetarian.

I already buy as local as I can and make every effort to support farmer's markets and to also eat more responsibly grown food.

Food box contents this week

I already believe that the food industry is jacked up beyond belief and that more than any 'fat' we can put in our mouths it's all the chemical crap in the prepared stuff that's really killing us.  But still... I need to watch it.
What I've discovered recently though is that it's one thing finding vegetarian recipes.  They are pretty easy to find and there is lots of creativity out there.  Bean recipes though, well that's a little bit harder to find.  A lot of bean recipes are the same.  A lot of them are based on a mexican tortilla filling kind of theme.  To be honest, I don't know exactly what I'm looking for but if you've got some awesome recipes involving beans that are gonna blow my mind then please, let me know about it.  Around here, D is not a fan of chickpeas (channa if you are west indian) in the least.  So, I tend to stay away from it because the rest of us just can't eat it all.
This bean stuff just came about because I really wanted some beans.

I didn't want chili, I didn't want something that would feel somehow incomplete without salsa and tortilla's.  I just wanted beans.  Beans complete all on their own.  Beans that make me feel warm and yummy.

Black Bean Stew
serves 6

2 cans black beans (I used organic/low salt) only half the liquid drained
1 - 1 1/2 cups diced tomato (can use fresh or canned)
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 cups green pepper, diced (can use red or whatever if you've got it)
3/4 cup zucchini, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
3 lg cloves of garlic
2 bouillion cubes (I used vegetable ones)
chipotle powder

Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Saute the onion, pepper, zucchini and celery in oil of some kind for a few minutes.  Once the onions begin to wilt a bit, add in the garlic and continue to saute.  After about 4 - 5 minutes, add in the beans and cook with the vegetables until the beans (and about half of the bean liquid) are heated through.  Add in the bouillion cubes and the tomatoes.  Bring to a low simmer.
Add in the salt, sugar or honey and all the spices.  Simmer at low heat for about 20 minutes.  Check the tastes and adjust as necessary.  Simmer for another 20 minutes or so.
Serve over rice.

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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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