Lemon Loaf with Red Fife and Random Shots of my last few days.

I realize, with a little embarrassment, that this is my fourth or fifth recipe in a row laden with sugar.  I realize that I've announced quite freely that I'm doing my best to cut down on sugar.  I'm not sure exactly how to apologize.  I thought that a lemon loaf might do the trick.  In my defence, I  have added a nice bit of whole wheat flour to this recipe.  It produced a slightly more dense cake but was well worth it.  I found that my cake didn't rise quite as high as it might have without the whole wheat flour but the combination of the baking powder/soda and the lemon juice can produce unpredictable results.  Either way, lemon loaf it is.
I went a little crazy with the lemons before christmas.  I ordered about 10 in my food box.  Once I got them I then realized that my lemon curd recipe only used about 3 lemons... oops.  So I've been adding lemon to everything... worse things could happen.  I've made salad dressing with lemons.  I've added lemons to my pesto pasta dish. (You see, we have been eating more than cookies)  I just couldn't think of a better or more satisfying thing to finish off the lemons with.  They are lemons after all and that sweet and sour combination is just amazing.

Our sweet Kid#1 is celebrating a birthday tomorrow so there may just be more sweets to come.  I do promise that I will get better with this whole sugar thing.  I love what Peabody said about it here.  I too think that this whole January-get-fit-thing is blown wildly out of proportion and fuelled by retailers who want to sell off over-priced exercise equipment, magazine and cookbooks touting low-fat, clean diets - Suzie the Foodie has some cool things to say about 'clean' eating.  I'm not worried about things myself. Christmas doesn't find me going completely overboard.  I don't radically change my eating habits over the holidays.  Admittedly, I've been finding it difficult to get out for a run with the snow we've been getting lately and biking is out of the question at the moment.  I still do stuff at home - I don't own a treadmill - but I do my thing.  It's possible to lead a normal life over the holidays so that in January I'm not allowing my guilt to pull my into the marketing mayhem.  I will eat something sweet if it's what I like and what I want.  I won't waste my time on something I don't want.  I do eat something sweet everyday... usually dark salted chocolate.

Aside from usual Christmas stuff and the imminent birthday prep, we've been laying low and enjoying some much needed quiet time.  Here are a few snaps from our life:

Lemon Loaf with Red Fife Flour adapted from 'Jenn's Random Scraps'
makes 1 loaf

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup red Fife or whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs room temperature
4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/3 cup oil

Lemon Sugar (optional)
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 - 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease and flour a loaf pan (9x5) and set aside.
Combine both flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
Beat together the sugar, eggs, butter, lemon juice and lemon zest until all the ingredients are incorporated and nothing stands out.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just until the flour is incorporated.  Add the oil and continue to mix just until the mixture is no longer lumpy.
Sprinkle with Lemon sugar (optional).
Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool the loaf in the pan for about 15 minutes then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Combine the sifted icing sugar and lemon juice until the mixture is a pouring consistency.  Pour over the completely cooled loaf.

Frosted Nutmeg Log Cookies

It's been quite a week:
1. We all seem to have survived the end of the world with little or no bruises.
2.  Christmas Eve brought Santa to most of my friends houses.
3.  Christmas Day saw me still in my bed at 8 in the morning.
4.  I've had a few good sleeps under my belt now.
5.  We've survived a little stomach bug that took me out for a little while.
6.  The Christmas Ham is FANNNNNTASTIC this year.  Cooked slowly in coke then placed in a roasting pan, smothered in maple, mustard glaze and roasted until done.  Perfection.
Now that the big stuff is all done and behind me I really feel like I can be on vacation.  I've got a birthday coming up in a few days (not mine - kid #1) but that's kinda fun.  For now it's all 'sleep in/work-out/figure out what to eat/go see a movie/stay in a watch a movie/see best friends... and all that kind of thing.  Thank goodness because this semester was quickly approaching the tipping point into crazy.

What did I do on my first full day off?  I baked.  Who wouldn't.  I made the lemon curd dream cookies in the previous post.  I also made these nutmeg logs.  I've been wanting to make them for quite a while and since they really seemed like a Christmas kind of thing I decided to wait.  Kinda wish I hadn't.  These bad boys needed a little tweaking to get the flavours to work well in balance.  Everything needed to be turned up.  These cookies get a little dwarfed by all the other beautiful, sweet, colourful things around it.  They need a little more 'Stand Out' in my humble opinion.  I was going to put them in the 'disasters' file but they weren't complete disasters.  Not at all.  They just got a little lost is all.  I've adjusted the spices now and the rum too.  I think that maple would work well in this recipe too.  Again though, to juice up the flavour a bit you might want to use a little maple extract and not just the real thing.  This made me a lot of cookies for sharing and I might actually make mine a little thicker next time as well.  I did not sprinkle mine with additional nutmeg but that might up the flavour factor a bit too.  So in the end I liked these cookies now that I've adjusted my expectations.  I think if you keep your expectations realistic you'll find some enjoyment from these guys.  They're great for sharing too 'cause they make quite a bit.

I've been reading quite a bit on my 'off' time.  I've been thinking about our world of illusion - especially at Christmas when I think the illusion is so much at the forefront of what we do.  The illusion of presents making us feel better about ourselves (that big sigh of relief that we can keep up with the Jones's - the feeling that as long as we can keep up with the gifts that we are doing the right thing), the illusion that we are happy (if we fake it long enough we'll forget to ask ourselves if this is all working)... you know lighthearted things like that.
In other news we've just gotten our first real snowfall in Toronto.  Now this was no snowmageddon which you might have thought if you'd listened to any tv news networks.  It's just a normal winter snowfall.  It means though that I'm saying bye bye to my bike for a while.  I'm the weird person hoping that the snow melts so that she can continue biking through the winter.  The snow is my cut-off point for the bike.
For now I'm staying pretty close to home (more like close to my bed) and doing my best to enjoy the quiet simplicity of winter down time.  I wish that for you - a true break from the mundane of our everyday, a reason to find true joy and peace, moments of quiet beauty and reflection...

Frosted Nutmeg Log Cookies adapted from Taste of Home Magazine
makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp rum or rum extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tbsp nutmeg (freshly ground if you can)
1 tsp cinnamon
generous dash of salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp rum or rum extract
2 - 3 tbsp milk if needed

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon liner.
In a bowl combine the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.  Mix well and set aside.
In another bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and the rum.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Mix until everything is well incorporated.
Divide the dough into 3 equal portions.  Place each portion between two sheets of parchment and roll out to about 1 inch thickness.  Cut each portion into 2 inch log pieces.  Place the pieces on the cookie sheets and bake for about 12 - 15 minutes or until just turning golden on the bottom.  Remove from the oven and cool completely before icing.

In a bowl beat together the butter and icing sugar add the extract and enough milk to get the icing to a spreadable consistency.
Spread each cookie with the icing.
Sprinkle the top with a little additional nutmeg.  

Lemon Curd Thumbprint Cookies

Lemon Curd is awesome but it can also be a little weird and definitely frustrating.  It's awesome because it tastes like heaven, sunshine, sugar and a fierce left hook all got mashed together, pureed and then poured into a jar.  Lemon Curd is a little weird because it's called 'curd' and it's this in between consistency.  If it's too thick then it's like creamy coloured lemon jello if it's too runny then it's lemon sauce.  The word 'curd' is a word that would not think to use in reference to anything creamy, smooth and liquid.  I just think of cheese.  Finally lemon curd is frustrating because it's like a 'make-work' project.  You can't just have lemon curd.  It's always made to go with something.  You can serve it on the side.  You can make ice cream out of it (so I'm told).  You can bake it into something.  But you just don't eat it plain right off the spoon.  It's simply not done.

This is why it makes perfect sense that I made lemon curd all by it's little lonesome on a school night.  It's completely logical that I would make lemon curd before I made anything else for the Christmas holidays.  Bad enough it was already the 20th of December but now I'm making lemon curd which only means that on another day I've got to make something else to go with it.  And a huge FYI for you: make sure that you check a lemon curd recipe before you go purchasing lemons by the case.  I now have 6 lemons (and big ones too) that will need to be used up over the next few days.
The up side is that lemon curd is easy to make.  Super easy.  So easy it's dumb.  So easy I could run on the spot and still make lemon curd.  The other upside (because there must be two upsides) is that I did make it just before the last day of school.  That means that time was on my side in terms of getting some lemon curd side dishes going.  This recipe for thumbprint cookies used up almost half of the recipe but that still leaves me with 1 jar and a little in another still to go.  So if you don't want lemon curd clanging around in your fridge then you could try halving the recipe.  I, for one don't mind the lemon stuff clanging around.  I might even make up another batch and give some away for gifts.  I also have a lemon curd pound cake idea eating a hole in my brain.
You might have noted that I've not said much of anything in this post.  Where, you might ask, are all of your witty anecdotes.  Where are all of your socially poignant comments.  What has happened to the sarcastic commentary.  When will we see another post of substance from you.  I know, I'm thinking the same thing.  I'm a little challenged in the getting enough sleep department.  And that coupled with wondering whether I should change my home address to work has made me a little dry in the coming up with awesome post ideas department.  Am I upset by the happenings of the last 2 weeks... Yup.  More than I care to admit.  I'm also frustrated.  So frustrated that although these incidents keep happening over and over that nothing and I mean absolutely nothing gets done.  Nothing gets changed. All anyone seems to do is argue their point.  The same points they've had since forever. Sometimes you gotta review a situation and realize that even though you thought that your original choice was good you've brought things home and lived with it for a while and you realize that your choice actually sucks.  Then you change your mind and hopefully you can do something about altering your original choice.  Doesn't mean you're a bad person just means that you're an honest one.  Change isn't always bad and in my experience it's usually just what the Doctor ordered.

I'm at home today with my family.  I'm so happy to be in the country that I live in.  I'm so happy that I'm not afraid of what lies outside my door and that I don't feel like I need to take defence into my own hands.  I'm so thankful.  I'm getting ready to sleep again because I'm officially on break and I might have a cookie or two while I'm on my way...

Lemon Curd Thumbprint Cookies adapted from Martha Stewart 'Cookies'
makes about 2 dozen

Lemon Curd:
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs at room temperature
3 egg yolks at room temperature
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
generous pinch of salt
2 tbsp corn starch

Combine the sugar, butter, eggs, egg yolk and salt together.  Beat for about 1 minute until creamy and smooth.  Add in the lemon juice (if it curdles don't worry it will smooth out when it's heated) and continue beating for another minute or so.
Pour into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over med/low heat.  Once the mixture heats up turn it down to low.  Mixture should thicken well but add a little corn starch if you would like it thicker.  Mixture is ready when it can evenly coat the back of a wooden spoon and hold a line when you run your finger across it.
Remove from heat and cool completely.

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
icing sugar

Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light, creamy and fluffy.  Add in the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well incorporated.  Add the flour/salt mixture and mix just until combined.  Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
After 2 hours remove the dough from the fridge.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon liner.
Form the dough into balls about 1 1/2 - 2 inches in diameter.  Place them on the cookie sheet and press a little well into the centre of each.  You can use a finger or an implement (Martha suggests the handle end of a wooden spoon).
Bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and press the cookies down in the middle once more and then bake again for another 5 - 6 minutes or until the cookies are only just turning golden on the bottom.
Remove from the oven and cool completely (press into the well a little if you need to).
Sprinkle the completely cooled cookies with a little sifted icing sugar and then spoon about a tbsp of lemon curd into the well of each cookie.

Cranberry Swirl Bread

Even though it feels like spring here in Toronto it really is just a few days away from Christmas and only a couple of days from the winter solstice aka the end of the world as we know it.  Cool.  I'm biking to and from work consistently and I'm contemplating planting the garlic cloves that I forgot about earlier in the fall.  It's that warm.
Still, it's the holiday season.  I know that because I feel like I haven't come up for air in a very long time.  I've lost what feels like days and days inside of concert halls.  Concert halls are weird places.  You lose track of everything in concert halls.  There are usually very few if any windows.  Most have none.  It's like time stands still in those places.  It's like a time vacuum.  It's weird.  I know it's the holidays because The Mall near my work is oozing with people carrying bag after bag.  I know it's nearing Christmas because there are little presents sitting on my desk each day at work from one of the boys that I teach.  I know it's the holidays because I'm going to pick up my christmas ham in a couple of days.
Up to a couple of days ago I hadn't baked anything Christmas like at all.  Nothing.  No white chocolate (a near abomination at any time of year anyway).  No cranberries.  No red or green sprinkles. (which are surprisingly hard to find BTW) However, I had a couple of spare hours in between sleeping and concerts so I decided to get creative.

This recipe didn't quite turn out the way I had imagined.  It's a little more brown than I might have liked but that's due to the whole wheat flour.  It's a little less sweet than I might have liked but that's due to the fact that I halved the sugar content - you could change that if you feel so inclined.  It's got no lemon juice in it due to the fact that I had no lemons only some zest that I had frozen a little while ago.  It has no topping, no glaze, no streusel.  I did mention earlier that I only had a couple of spare hours and the topping was the first thing to go.  So given the fact that the whole thing turned out so differently than expected I'm happy with it.  It's a brown, not too sweet way to add some cranberry to your christmas diet.  If you don't have cranberry and would prefer to use jam instead then go for it.  If jam is not your thing than throw in some frozen blueberries or even dried cranberries.  That would be fine.  Toasted nuts of some kind or even candied nuts.  Yup.  That would be fine too.  I would stay away from the white chocolate on this one.  That would not be fine at all.

Cranberry Swirl Bread generously adapted from 'In Praise of Leftovers'
makes 1 large loaf

2 cups cranberries, quartered
1/4 cup + 2 heaping tbsp sugar
3 tbsp water
dash of salt
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon
1 star anise
1 clove
1 tsp lemon zest

Combine all ingredients and simmer down for about 15 minutes or until the mixture is quite thick but still spreadable/pourable.  Set aside to cool slightly.


1 cup whole wheat flour or red fife
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs (use 3 eggs if you are skipping the egg white option)
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour a large loaf pan (don't use a smallish/med one like I did and then have a bunch spill over into your oven) and set aside.
Combine the whole wheat and all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix together and set aside.
Combine the melted butter, eggs, lemon zest, honey, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined and set aside.
Whip the egg whites (I used a hand mixer) until fairly stiff and can hold a peak.  Set aside.
Add the butter and egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk together until they're fully incorporated.  Add in the egg whites and continue to whisk gently until they're fully incorporated into the batter.
Pour a third of the batter into the prepared tin.
Add about 6 tbsp of the cranberry jam on top.  Gently spread it evenly.  Pour another third of the batter on top and then another 6 tbsp of the jam spread evenly over that.  Finally pour the last bit of batter over the jam.  Take a chop stick or knife and stick it into the batter top to bottom and run it end to end once.
Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then finish cooling on a rack.

Red Fife, Banana Snacking Cake

It's the sun. We've gotten sunshine today.  It has lasted through the duration of the whole, entire day.  It's staggering the difference a little sun can make. Just like that it didn't seem too cold to run out this morning and grab a cup of coffee from down the block.  All of a sudden my butt wants to go out for that afternoon run instead of needing to be dragged out the door whilst kicking and screaming.  All it takes is a little sunshine and winter doesn't feel like a black hole anymore.  The world is a better place all 'round.
The appearance of Mr. Sun beyond generally boosting my morale has also meant that I've had a chance to take some decent pictures.  The yellow-light-kitchen-in-the-dark pictures have been truly bumming me out.  It happens every year.  I make this bad-ass, awesome food and the pictures are just disappointing and frustrating.  It's dark by 4:30 and pitch black by 4:45.  By 3:30 or so using natural light for a picture is not really possible. Sure I could set up some kind of light box configuration or ask Santa for some kind of awesome photography light that makes everything look normal but who's got the space or the time or the money for all of that.  So I wait, most impatiently, for the days when it stays light beyond 4 in the afternoon.  I long for it.  It becomes an obsession, I can taste it.  Today... well, today's gift of sunshine was a little bit of heaven.
And this is the crux of the thing really.  It's not the cold that gets us.  Cold we can deal with.  We bundle up.  We layer.  We're great at layering.  We heat our homes and drink hot toddy's.  It's the dark that really eats away at us.  It's the dark that makes this time of year so difficult to deal with.  I always thought that people had trouble with Christmas.  It's so demanding, so intense, there are so many expectations and it's overwhelming.  But now I think it's the dark that is really the problem.  If Canadians held Christmas in July it would be totally different.

If winter got you where it hurts and you're having trouble dealing with all the stress of the season then it sounds to me like you need some additional potassium in your life.  Potassium is good for you.  Potassium helps your heart and your nerves.  Bananas contain lots of potassium.  Dark chocolate is good for you too.  It has anti-oxidants which help you do stuff better (I don't know - I'm just making it up) and think like a super hero.  And that is why I made this cake.  Mostly.  I also made this cake because I'm working on whittling down the  myriad of frozen egg whites clogging up my freezer and the large bag of over-ripe bananas taking up valuable freezer space.  Now if you want to leave out the chocolate because it just turns it into the equivalent of one of those nasty after-school-specials they used to replace my real after school tv viewing with then I completely understand.  By all means do go ahead but I would highly recommend toasting a few walnuts or pecans and adding them in instead.  The whole thing will be a little ho-hum without a little additional assistance.

Red Fife, Banana Snacking Cake adapted from Canadian Living and an old recipe that I got from a friend.
Makes 1 8x8 cake

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Red Fife or Whole Wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (approx. 3) banana, mashed
6 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp buttermilk
1 egg (+1 more if not using the optional egg whites
3/4 cup sugar (can use half and half brown and granulated sugar if you wish)
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites (optional), beaten until frothy, doubled in volume and peaked
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks (or toasted walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour an 8x8 cake pan.  Set aside.
In a large bowl combine both flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
Combine the mashed banana, melted butter, buttermilk, egg, sugar and vanilla.  Whisk together until blended.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and whisk or stir to combine.  This mixture will be quite thick if you are using the egg white option.  Gently fold in the beaten egg whites until completely incorporated into the batter.  The batter will be much thinner now.
Add in the chocolate chips and stir gently just to mix.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for   min.  or until cake tester comes out of the middle clean.
Cool for about 15 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Pulled Pork without the slow cooker

Logical, Rational thought is hurting my brain at the moment.  As a result, I offer you random thoughts straight from my brain to your eyes:

- I got my first Christmas gift tonight.  Eeek
- I don't have a Christmas tree yet which is because I think it's a lot more fun to drag my two kids out of their warm beds at 5:30 in the morning and drive down to the centre of the city where we can donate $10 to the Daily Bread Food Bank and get a tree in return.  Bad Mom.  That whole donation thing doesn't happen until the middle of December.  Further to my defence, there are many whose tradition it is to only get their tree on Christmas Eve.  However, I've only ever known of one family who followed that tradition.
- We watched 'The Grinch' last night and I let Kid #2 stay up late just so he could watch it.  Bad Mom.  We didn't eat dinner in front of the tv though.  Good Mom.
- If you are somebody who likes to peel skin (In a good way, you know, from your toes or from a sunburn) then be sure to get a tattoo at some point in your life.  Awesome.   It's been worth the price for me just to have the peeling experience.
- I've been seeing a lot of these weird blue LED christmas lights.  They're like the 'un'light.  You have to keep looking at them because it's like looking at some kind of weird optical illusion - lights that aren't. Plus they make my stomach feel funny.  I hope that you don't have them where you live.
- Is it weird that I worry about being able to carry on conversations with close friends and family? That  I wonder if Facebook and texting will render long, thoughtful conversations an impossibility.  I was texting just the other day and thought about how weird the words looked.  I marvelled at how little space I took to tell my BFF that things were crazy and I was collapsing.  Four words in total.  It looks bizarre.  I think about these things seriously.  They keep me up at night.
- I'm afraid to go and see The Hobbit.  Afraid.  Not because it's a scary movie but because I'm afraid it's going to suck.  Blow chunks.  I like Martin Freeman.  I 78% loved the 3 Lord of the Rings movies and I'm totally scared to go and see this one because if Martin Freeman bites I may never be able to watch Sherlock again.
- Tip of the Day: If your best friend takes you on a spa day and you both get a pedicure together, don't choose the dark blue nail polish because you read in a magazine somewhere that it's the new 'black'.  Here's the real 'tip' part... it is black.  Choose what your BFF chooses which is 'Slate Grey'.
- Fun Fact:  Concerts Halls only look good from the seats in the house.  Once you go backstage they all look awful.  They're actually the worst looking places ever.
- I've had two amazing cooking days in a row.  Two.  My kids are in shock just a little.  I guess I am too kinda.  Last night:  Tuna casserole with homemade 'canned' mushroom soup.  I had to make it with rice instead of pasta thought because I didn't realize I was totally out of pasta.  It still totally worked.

Tonight:  Pulled Pork.  I know, right.  Pulled Pork.  Serve this stuff with buttered egg noodles and the world will pretty much give you whatever you ask it for.  This isn't the fanciest pulled pork recipe.  It's not even 'authentic' but to be fair I don't even know what that means when it comes to 'authentic' pulled pork.  It's just pork cooked in a tasty sauce at low heat for a long time so that when it's done I can pull it all apart with a couple of forks and it looks almost like sloppy joes except it's pork.  I ate mine served hot over chard greens which sounds kinda gross but my stomach will thank me for it later.

Pulled Pork in the Oven and without a Crock Pot.  
serves 6

2 lbs pork roast or butt (haha - I wrote 'butt')
1/2 - 3/4 cup onion, sliced - diced... whatever, it won't matter
4 med. carrots, sliced - diced... same as above
lard/butter - at will
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp worcestershire
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp lemon juice (half a lemon)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup bbq sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 heaping tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

Use a heavy, oven proof casserole dish with a lid - (I used my Le Creuset that I picked up at a yard sale(!) a about 16 years ago).
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Paint the bottom and sides of the pot with lard or butter.  Paint the pork with butter or lard.  Place the pork in the pot.  Surround the pork with the onion, carrots and garlic.
In a bowl, combine the worcestershire, soy sauce, lemon juice, ketchup, bbq sauce, honey, mustard and water.  Mix until everything is combined.  Pour over the pork and vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover the pot and place in the oven.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300° and bake for another 1 1/2 hrs.  Reduce the heat to 200° and bake for another 1 hr.
Remove from the oven.  Remove the lid and any string that might be tying the meat together.  Use two forks to separate the pork until it's all in strands.  Add a little extra water if it's dry but not more than a half cup.
Serve with buttered egg noodles or in tortilla shells or in egg buns.

Cabbage and Squash Curry

I have amended my Christmas wish list.  'Time' is now officially the first item on the list. I know that it makes no real sense to have 'Time' as part of my wish list because once Christmas is here I'll have lots of time.  Let's look at it as 'At least I know that I'm going to get what I want for Christmas' - oozing positivity.
I have so many recipes ready to go.
I have cookies to bake.
I have lemon curd to whip up.
I have chex mex to make.  This is important for the Christmas Eve movie that we will go to and sneak in our own snacks.
Although most things of worth have gone by the wayside lately, here are some of the things that I've managed to keep up with:
1.  Bathing and teeth brushing
2.  Birthday cake making
3.  Clothes washing... almost
4.  Breakfast
5.  Biking to work
6.  Letters to Santa (Kid #2 wrote a letter that went like this: Dear Santa - I want....... signed Kid #2.  Kid #1 got really upset and told him that if he didn't write some nice things to Santa first that he wouldn't get anything on his list.  You can't just send Santa a list!  He was confused and more than a little frustrated but wrote the letter anyway)
7.  An early gift to myself.  This took a little more of that precious time than I had anticipated but it was so worth it and I'm thrilled and a little itchy.

So I'm keeping up in a manner of speaking.  However, when it comes to food I'm falling way way way behind.  It's pathetic.  And then there is the whole 'dark-in-the-middle-of-the-day' thing that is just totally wrecking photos for me.  It's bumming me out.  Curry helps.  Curry feels warm and sunny.  It reminds me that there are many places in the world that aren't dark, damp and cold.  If you find the curry powder amount sounds a little rash then by all means start with half the amount and ramp it up from there.  We prefer our curry kickin'.

I truly hope that you are finding some time for reflection and quiet.  I hope that you are making all the cookies and curds that your little heart desires.  I hope that your Chex Mex making schedule is right on target... and if it's not just know that you are not alone.

Cabbage and Squash Curry adapted from Simply in Season
serves 8

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3- 4 cups butternut squash (or other winter squash), peeled, de-seeded and cut into 2 inch cubes
3 - 4 cups cabbage
2 lg potatoes, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 cup frozen peas or green beans

Curry seasoning:
2 bouillion cubes
1 full cup mild curry seasoning (I used west indian curry)
4 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
1 tsp pepper sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 - 3 tbsp tomato sauce or paste
1 can (400 ml) chick peas
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Coat the squash cubes in oil and spread onto a baking sheet.  Roast for about 35 minutes or until turning golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside.  Remove from oven and set aside.
Heat a heavy bottomed soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
Add about 4 tbsp of oil or butter and then add in the onion and cubes potatoes.  Cook together for about 10 minutes (turning the heat down if necessary).  The potato should be browning on the outsides.  Add in the garlic and cabbage.  Turn the heat down to medium/low.  Make sure that the cabbage is coated in oil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.  Stir when necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking.
In another bowl combine the boullion cubes (crushed up with your fingers), curry seasoning, garam masala, ginger, cumin and salt.  Add just enough water to form a paste.  Add in the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce.  Stir well.
Add the paste to the cooking vegetables.  Stir well.  Add the chickpeas, coconut milk and honey.  Stir well.  Add in the roasted squash and the frozen beans.  Mix well.  Check the tastes and adjust if necessary.
Cover and simmer about 15 minutes on low heat.
Serve with rice.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

What do you want for Christmas?
It's not a question that I particularly savour.  I don't need much and I certainly don't want to spend time thinking about it.  However, I have kids and family members who aren't quite ready to let go of the whole 'gift thing'.  As a result, I'm obliged to think about what I do want for Christmas.  So here's the start of my Christmas list.
1.  A lego finder/extractor/exterminator.  'Nuff said.
2.  A day with my BFF just us, no restrictions.
3.  A day with my other BFF just us, no restrictions.
4.  Weather that allows me to bike all year but does not indicate the onset of global climate meltdown.
5.  The ability to see through B.S. quickly, easily and without holding a grudge.
6.  The recipes that I asked for last year but didn't get.
7.  Champagne
8.  Non Cable TV that's even remotely worth watching.
9.  A new cookbook that incorporates everything I love about cooking - seasonal vegetables (heavy emphasis on the winter ones that get ignored most of the time), honey, whole wheat, humanely raised animals, locally made cheese, wine and chocolate.
Hmmm - it seems that once I got started things flowed a lot more easily than I expected.  I don't expect to get any of the things on the list with the exception of #7 and the remote possibility of #'s 2 and 3.  And that's all fine with me.

December isn't all about Christmas and concerts and gigs and running to rehearsals and moping around about the baking that hasn't happened yet and making a list of presents to buy that probably won't ever get done.  December is also about birthdays in our house.  The celebrations begin on the 2nd and don't end until the 31st.  That's right.  December 31st.  Most people I meet with a birthday in December (and I've met many many many) are resentful about it.  It's busy and birthday inevitably get overshadowed by those dang holidays.
Defying the odds, we managed to get a slice of cake down D's gullet in between gigs and we were only missing one of the fam.  This cake has made up for absolutely everything.  Everything that makes having a birthday in December frustrating.  I took a chance.  I tried a new recipe that I'd had my eye on for a while.  I adapted and swapped and added.  And it worked.  It worked beautifully, exceptionally, thrillingly.  There is absolutely nothing Christmassy about this cake and I promise that you won't care one single bit.

Chocolate Birthday Cake adapted from Marcus Samuelsson and Alexandra's Kitchen

1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 lg eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
3 egg whites (optional, but it worked out nicely)
3/4 cup boiling water


1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 - 4 tbsp cream
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp espresso powder

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and flour 2 round baking pans and set aside.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, espresso powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda together.  Mix well and set aside.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside.
Combine the eggs, buttermilk and canola oil.  Whip together until the eggs are completely mixed in.  The mixture should feel just a little thick.
Mix the egg mixture into the flour mixture by hand or using a mixer until the liquid is incorporated.  Add the boiling water and continue to mix well until the water is evenly mixed in.
Gently fold in the egg whites until they have completely mixed into the batter.
Pour the batter evenly between the two baking pans.  Drop the baking pans onto the counter once or twice to let some of the air bubbles escape.
Bake for about 30 - 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with crumbs and not liquid.
Cool for about 10 minutes in the pans and then remove to a cooling rack.
Cool completely before icing.
Mix together the icing sugar and butter until it begins to get cream slowly add the cream by a tbsp at a time.  Save 1 tbsp of cream and mix it with the espresso powder. Add the espresso cream just before the icing reaches the consistency that you are looking for - spreadable but not runny.  Add the espresso cream and mix until incorporated.  Spread over the first layer of cake on the top and sides.  Add the second layer and finish icing the top and sides.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas... or dumb dumb fast food.

I meant to give you an update a couple of days ago.  Then things got crazy and by the end of the day I was so bagged that I couldn't think.
I wanted to give you a fantastic recipe for some of the fantastic food that I made this week... except I didn't make any.
I had thought that I could give you an entire post on planting garlic cloves in the fall and how they would turn into awesome garlic scapes and whole cloves of garlic next spring... but I didn't actually plant any.
The real kicker here is that I can't really figure out what I did.  I know what I didn't do but what the hell did I do?  Here's the rundown.  I met this wonderful lady this week.  She is fantastic and being able to work so closely with a Canadian Icon is an honour.  (I'm using present tense because I get to see her again this week)  She is coaching two of our boys who are soloing with the TSP next weekend.  I'm in the thick of that.  The concerts are piling up thick and fast over here.  Advent season is in full swing.
Truth is, as much as my heart was in the right place,  I wouldn't have known what to cook because my head was drowning in a sea of work.  I did manage to keep biking to work all week.  It's the time of year when each week that goes by and I'm still biking feels like a gift.  First of December and still going strong.
One of my friends and colleagues and I are going on a little adventure late next week.  We've decided to finally do something we've always wanted to do.  We've researched, we've sought out a venue and we've booked our time.  It's going to hurt a little but we'll be able to hold each others hand and eat chocolate together to dull the sting.  So that was a big part of my week too.
I've been fuelling my runs with this music... and some of this too.  It's amazing how some good music gets you through a hard-to-get-motivated run.  These guys came and did a workshop at our school a week or so ago and they totally got me into piano trios.  Especially this one.  BTW - they are the most generous people - the cellist stayed back after the school show and coached some of our gr 12 boys who have formed a string trio.  Genuine.

It's amazing how quickly one's brain can get sidelined.  I've been so focussed on how busy things are that I've talked myself out of making food.  It's too time consuming.  I don't have the ingredients.  I have no inspiration.  Screw it.  This took me about 15 minutes tonight.  It's tasty.  It's good for me and it's a hell of a lot cheaper than going out.  This isn't so much a recipe for you as an inspiration.  Add and subtract at will.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadilla's
serves 4(ish)

2 med sweet potato's, partially peeled and cubed into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (400ml) 1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed and set aside
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
pinch of salt and pepper
shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, whatever you've got)
sour cream
greens (again, whatever you've got: spinach, lettuce, chard, etc) broken into small pieces
soft tortilla shells

Boil the sweet potato cubes in a small amount of water for about 5 minutes or just until soft but not mushy.  Drain and set aside.
Heat a large pot or skillet over medium heat.  Add a little oil or lard if you have.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring frequently.  Once the onion is softened add in the garlic.  Cook for about a minute and then add in the drained beans.  Stir constantly.  Add in the sweet potatoes and the spices.  Stir until everything is mixed well and things are pretty dry.
Remove from the heat.
Heat a heavy bottomed skillet (caste iron works really well here) over medium heat.  Add a little lard or oil but just a little.
Place 1 tortilla shell on the heated skillet.  Add about a half a cup of the bean/sweet potato mixture and spread it out evenly.  Add a good sprinkling of cheese and place another tortilla shell on the top.  Turn over once the bottomed looks slightly browned.  Heat until the cheese has melted.
Remove from heat.  Cut into quarters and add some sour cream and a generous tbsp of salsa on top of each piece.

Apple Spice Bread with Egg Whites

It has come to my attention that there are a few of you out there who actually suspend your lives for a few minutes to look at my blog.  This is awesome and I love and appreciate you.
I have learned recently that there are others from this same group who not only stop on this blog for a few minutes to scroll through the pictures and see if sugar and chocolate are involved in the recipe but who take the time to read what I spew out in these paragraphs.  Just knowing this scares me.  You are the people who send shivers down my spine.
You see, I don't think about who is going to read any of this while I'm typing.  I'm not typing to a demographic.  I'm not typing in response to an expectation.  The way it usually works is that I think something and then start writing not.  I'm not even joking.  This post is a great example of my lack of planning.  I didn't even know what I was going to write literally as I started typing.  The first sentance just sounded good to me and I went with it.
I'm sure that this knowledge explains a lot about my writing to you.  It might explain the typo's (maybe - that's just not re-reading though).  It might explain the rambling.  It might help you understand why my paragraphs are so bloody short.  It doesn't, however,  explain why I keep doing it and this is the embarrassing part for me. I don't even know why I keep doing it.  Why does anyone keep doing something that they don't really want to do and think is lame?  Why do I keep telling myself that I can book that night out with a friend and then have to cancel every single time?  Why do I tell myself that I'll totally get to folding the laundry that's hanging on my hall railing this week and it still hangs there until Thursday or Friday... every single week.  Why do I keep ordering apples, telling myself that this week I will take them for lunch,  when I know that none of us really really like eating them and that they will probably go soft before we remember that they are there.
And that my friends is the real point of this post.

I know it took a while and I bet your head is still spinning a little.  Don't try to figure it out just accept it.   Don't sit back and wonder why I wrote 4 paragraphs just to get to apples.  It's fruitless.  I couldn't give you a decent reason but either way apples were the point all along.  I buy them and them we both look at each other and think 'later'.  And then they're soft.  So last week I made apple crisp with honey and I felt so awesome for being all 'whole wheat and honey'.  This week I've added egg whites because when you make your own ice cream (and yeah, apple crisp  absolutely does NEED vanilla ice cream) you have a lot of egg whites slowly getting freezer burn.  So it's begun.  The mission to empty my freezer of egg whites and to use up this week's apples.
Just for the record, apples are coming with my food box again tomorrow.

Apple Spice Bread with Egg Whites adapted from 'Great Good Food' by Julee Rosso
makes 1 lg sized loaf

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat or red fife flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg, cardamom
zest of 1 small lemon
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tbsp plain yogurt or sour cream
juice half a small lemon (probably about 1 tbsp)
1 egg
2 - 3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups apples coarsely chopped but not necessarily peeled

Preheat oven to 350°
Grease and flour a loaf pan (I used a smaller one but should have used a large one) and set aside.
Combine both flours, the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and lemon zest together.  Mix and set aside.
Combine the buttermilk, yogurt and lemon juice together and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk or beat the brown sugar together with the melted butter until there are no lumps and the butter is completely incorporated into the sugar.  Add in the egg and the egg whites.  Beat at a slightly higher speed until the mixture has increased in volume just a little.  It should feel like one big combined light paste.  Add in a bit of the flour and continue beating or whisking until it's all mixed in.  Add a little of the buttermilk mixture and beat until it's all mixed in.  Continue to alternate the two until everything is used up.  Try to end with the flour mixture.
Gently fold in the apple pieces and stir until they are well mixed into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool completely before cutting - although I couldn't quite accomplish this... Kid #1 and I shared a piece quite a bit sooner than 20 minutes... totally worth it.

Powered by Blogger.

Archivo del blog

About Me

My photo
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.

My Favourite Cookbooks

  • Naparima Girls High School Cookbook
  • The Silver Palate Cookbook
  • More-with-Less Cookbook
  • Moosewood Cookbook

About Me

My Photo
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.
View my complete profile



Blog Archive



FBC Member