Sweet Squash Bread

Things I've learned from being a musician:
1.  The gifts you are born with only take you so far.  Hard work and perseverance take you the distance.  Every single time.
2.  Practice is a waste of time if your hearts not in it.  That doesn't mean don't bother, it means collect yourself and get some work done.  Discipline in the deepest way.
3.  It's not getting out there into the 'real world' that's hard.  It's getting off your ass and swallowing your own fears... that's the hardest.  And you don't do that just once, you do it over and over and over.

Sure I could have and probably would have learned those same lessons being a history major or in engineering... but I'm a musician.  I've been one all my life.
All my early music memories are from church.  My first music disaster at the ripe old age of about 6 when I pushed the organ peddle too hard during the offertory and woke the ENTIRE church.  I cried.  My Dad hugged me afterwards and gave me a candy to suck on.
My first singing adventure when during my Sunday School solo my Dad sat at the back of the church and smiled at my whilst simultaneously dropping his denture.  I could never quite figure out why my Dad wanted to make me laugh while I was singing.
I hated having to learn to sing harmonies.  My Mom taught me very early in life so that I could do trio's with her and my Dad.  Now I have a good ear.
Singing and playing in Festivals and doing exams.  Jeez - it never stopped.
I'm still doing it.  Still singing, playing, teaching, passing it on to my own kids, listening to everything I can get my hands on, living music.  Music got me into biking and running oddly enough.  Biking, because I used my bike at university to get around instead of the subway... I was broke.  Running, because practice taught me that something hard could eventually be overcome and even fun.  The biggest thing that music has given me though is my sense of self.  I'm not sure how in a school of neurotic and insecure singers I found myself but I did.  It's taught me to roll with change and to look at my own weaknesses.  Crying in a practice room because I didn't want to do that audition and then going out there and doing it anyway (and sucking BTW) taught me that I can do it and still be me afterwards AND I can always get better (and I did).  When I think about how much fear drives our culture and our 'selves' I feel very thankful for that.
I had a conversation recently with a friend and we were talking about positive and negative experiences in our lives.  About how hard the hard stuff really can be.  What I ended up blurting out was that it's the hard stuff that's given me more and taught me more deeply than the easy stuff or even the happy stuff.  In fact, it's made me appreciate the good times even more.  I think it's partly because it makes us feel so deeply.  It's also made me way more comfortable with making hard decisions that I know are the right thing... even though they're hard.  For all that I'm thankful.  Very thankful.

I'm also deeply thankful for this bread.  And deeply satisfied.  I needed this bread.  After the slew of sweets that I found lacking for me this bread was just what the doctor ordered.  I've already eaten two pieces and it just came out of the oven a little while ago.  No too sweet.  A perfect crumb and a texture hefty enough to stand up to a good cup of tea... before I go and practice.

Sweet Squash Bread adapted from 'Simply in Season'
makes 1 loaf

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch each of ginger, nutmeg and cloves

1 1/4 cup squash puree (I used some frozen butternut squash puree from my freezer)
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
streusel topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a loaf pan.  I have two loaf pan sizes but I don't know what the measurements are for them.  For this recipe I used the smaller of the two pans.
Combine the flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves together in a bowl.  Set aside.
In another bowl combine the squash puree, eggs and oil.  Mix well.
Add the squash mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle with the streusel topping (if you want).  Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing to cool completely.

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) soup with roasted cauliflower

Oh Jeez - me and my soup again.  It's an addiction I think.  I need counselling.  I need rehab.  I need SUMMER.

Peeps, meet my new friend 'Jerusalem Artichoke'.
Jerusalem Artichoke, meet all my reader Peeps.

You'll all become best friends too.  I know it.
You might have heard of these little tubers before.  Possibly under the alias: Sunchoke.  My new friend will happily answer to both.
Pretty much until yesterday I had no clue what the label 'Jerusalem Artichoke' or it's alias meant in real terms.  What the thing was.  What it looked like and certainly no idea what to do with it.
I learned yesterday - thanks to the genius of this thing called the internet - that this weird looking (sorry new friend but if this friendship is going to last then we gotta be real here) little tuber thingy was pretty damn sweet when cooked.
It can be roasted.
It can be braised.
It can be gently and lovingly cooked in some broth until it's all soft and blendable and then made into a soup which blows your socks off.
I choose the soup.

Not being one to know my limits, I threw in some freshly roasted cauliflower and turned the whole thing into a bit of sweet mess but it was a tasty sweet mess and no one complained.  Just make your roasted cauliflower pieces a little more bite sized... trust me on that one.

The pictures of the soup bite.  No pun intended.  I mean they blow chunks.  HARD.
I'm not going to go on about it but this winter/no light/ B.S.  needs to stop soon.  I had to take the pictures at night (which occurs here at the ungodly hour of 5:45 or so when it's cloudy... there, I said I wouldn't go on about it) because I did.  Don't let the sucky pictures deter you from a date with my new friend.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Roasted Cauliflower (optional) adapted from 'Green Market Recipes'
makes about 6 cups.

1 large leek, sliced thin (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cups (about 2 - 3 lbs) jerusalem artichokes
4 tbsp butter
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (add a boullion cube if it's a weak broth)
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 - 4 cups roasted cauliflower broken into med/small pieces (roast the cauliflower by tossing the florets in oil, placing on a baking sheet and baking at 350 for 35 - 40 min)

Peel the jerusalem artichokes and place in a pot of water with 1 1/2 tbsp vinegar if you are not going to be using them right away.  Slice them very thin.
Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.  Melt the butter in the pot.  Turn the heat down just a bit and add in the sliced leeks and the jerusalem artichokes.  Cook together for 7 - 10 minutes.  The veggies should be just a little golden and the leeks will be getting quite wilted.  Add in just enough broth to cover the veggies.  Turn the heat down to low and cover.  Simmer at low heat for about 1 hr.
Once the jerusalem are very soft then pour the whole pot into a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.  Add back to the pot and keep the heat low.
Add the rest of the broth, the cream and the milk.
Add the salt (and a little bit of pepper and pepper sauce if you're so inclined).
Add the cauliflower.
check the tastes and adjust if necessary.
Taste your new friend.

Easy Yeast Rolls

Today I have prepared for you some random ramblings that you might find slightly interesting.  However, due to the vast number of 'random ramblings' that I've been writing though I think that I might just be pushing it a bit to state that you might be interested.  That said,

Just shortly after I finished my post about connecting and needing people and all that crap I spied this article.  Weird.  Coincidence?  See - you can get sick from insolation.
Then my friend flew in from Halifax and she, KT and I had a fabulous night out together.  You know the kind of night when you have really stupid conversations about Charlie's Angels and which one of you is Lucy Liu and which one is Cameron Diaz and which on is Drew Barrymore (which apparently is exactly what I am).  Those nights when you flirt shamelessly with the waiter and giggle about it afterwards.  Those nights when you're so thankful that you have friends you can then flop out on the couch with and be a total bum.  Awesome.

I have a confession to make.  Here it goes.  I didn't watch the Oscars last night.  I didn't even watch the red carpet.  I forgot.  Clean forgot.  Then when I remembered I didn't care.  What does that say about me?  I had a friend over instead and we talked... around the table.  We ate food and talked.  Now to be honest over the last few years I've been finding all these awards things a little tiresome.  It feels disingenuous and
self congratulatory.  I appreciate good movies and great acting, don't get me wrong.  But the thought of spending an evening watching them all award each other just doesn't turn me on anymore.  I don't know if it ever did.  So in the spirit of taking my own advice I spent time with a friend instead.

Now of course I had to feed my friend.  Being Sunday I wasn't going to go all crazy or anything.  Plus, it's winter and stews and soups seem to be what I'm craving these days.  In the end I rolled out a kicking chili and then fixed up these rolls to go along with it.  Please be impressed with how easily I'm churning out the yeast recipes these days.

Yeah, Yeast and I are basically best friends these days.  You know, sharing songs, giggling about guys, discussing hops.  I'm on, I'm jazzed and it's awesome.  Homemade chili and buns to boot.  Hmmm - I'm feeling some kick-ass sloppy joes in my future.

Easy Yeast Rolls adapted from Taste of Home Magazine.
makes about 12 - 15 med/large buns

2 cup all purpose or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat or whole wheat bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried dill
1 cup + 2 tbsp lukewarm water
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 cup melted butter

Combine the lukewarm water with the yeast and half of the sugar.  Mix and set in a draft free place to proof for 10 minutes.
Combine the flours, salt and dill together and set aside.
Once the yeast has proofed add in the rest of the sugar, the egg and the butter.  Mix well.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour.  Mix until it forms a dough ball.
Place the ball onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6 - 8 minutes (add a little extra flour if needed).  The dough should be smooth and silky.
Place the dough in a lightly butter bowl, cover with a clean cloth and set in a draft free place for about 1 hr or until doubled.
Remove the dough from the bowl.  Punch down and then divide into 10 - 12 balls.  Rolls each ball out, using your hands, into a long tube shape.  Tie each into a bow shape and set on a lightly greased or parchment covered baking sheet.  Cover with cloth again and let rise for another 30 - 35 minutes or until almost doubled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the buns for about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown.

When I take a walk....

I live in the city.  It's a choice.  I love being in the city, it's the right place for us at the moment.  Subway is a few minutes walk away.  Libraries, hospitals and food are within walking distance.  The best thing is the access to arts events that we regularly indulge in...  However, I feel the call of the wild sometimes and the need for the quiet of trees, wind and birds.
One of the great things about Canadian cities is that 'country' is never far.  So often when I take longer runs or we all need to get out and go somewhere that's not a store this is the place that we go... Taylor Creek Park.  It runs in the Don Valley here in Toronto and it's wonderful.  There are lots of other places in Toronto as well - High Park is the first one that comes to mind.  We can find ourselves at Taylor Creek in a matter of minutes.

Family Day found us down there milling around and, of course taking some pictures.  It hasn't exactly been a Winter Wonderland this year but there is beauty nonetheless.

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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.

My Favourite Cookbooks

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

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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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