Late Summer Veggie Torte

I'm sure that there are many reasons that someone might decide to make a food blog.  I can think of a few:
1.  Sister lives far away and wanted recipes on a regular basis.  A food blog is a great way to make that happen easily.
2.  You really want a cooking show ('cause you think you're hilarious) but since that's never going to happen a food blog seemed like the next best thing.
3.  You take great pictures and you got sick of nobody noticing how awesome your pictures are so you thought if you threw some great pictures in with some of your stupid thoughts and a recipe that more people might care.
4.  You're a good cook.  Let's get out there and get it recognized.
5.  You write well and food blogs get more traffic than writing blogs do.
6.  You're looking for a way to add a part-time job to your week... with no pay.
7.  You're looking for a way to escape from the chaos that is your life.  When you are blogging nobody bothers you.
8.  You are tired of hauling your ass off to some job in a big building somewhere and would love to create work for yourself that you could do at home and that would still include a 'community' feel.
8.  You are somebody who loves cooking and taking pictures and you totally plan ahead.  You've got recipes planned into the next month and a grocery list to boot.  You've thought of all kinds of witty-awesome things to say and your pictures are thoughtful and beautiful.  Congrats,  You are Perfect.

The possibilities are endless.  I'm not going to tell you which ones of the above are me and which ones aren't.  I probably don't need to.  I'm sure that you've already guessed and that your guesses are mostly right.  The honest truth is that I plan almost nothing.  That's probably why I don't have thousands of people checking me out and/or offering me tv show and cookbook opportunities.  That's ok with me.  I cook for my fam and friends and rarely do I think beyond the necessity in front of me.  I hope that I get good light for pictures but I don't always.  Sometimes I don't get to cooking anything at all.  Those are the weeks where you get my garden pictures or some adventure we went on.  Sometimes I forget to take a picture at the right time.  I really should plan more.  I know that.  Sometimes I don't even plan what I'm going to write (ahem...) and just sit down at the keyboard and will my fingers into action.  Mostly, we need to eat and I want to eat good, interesting food.  That's my planning in a nutshell.

This recipe was not planned.  I literally looked at what had just come in with the food box and from the garden (my eggplant - !), typed those ingredients in and looked at what recipes came up.  This epicurious one popped up and within minutes I got it started.  It happened fast.  And it was good.  It's a little fuss - some pots and putting together and all - but it's not difficult at all.  In fact it was pretty easy and it made a lot.

Random Silly Shot - If you are looking for something to do with all of  those fennel fronds...

Late Summer Veggie Torte adapted from Epicurious
serves 6 - 8

2 medium (fat preferably) eggplants
2 lg red pepper, thickly sliced
2 lg zucchini, thickly sliced lengthwise
olive oil
1 cup soft goat cheese

Tomato Sauce
1 lg leek, thinly sliced
3 med garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
3 - 1/2 cups fresh tomato, chopped
1 veggie boullion cube
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp italian seasoning
dash of pepper sauce

2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk, warmed
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups parmesan freshly grated
1 tbsp Worcestershire
sprinkle of lemon zest
dash of pepper sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon liner.
Place the eggplant slices on the parchment and then brush the eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.
Roast for about 20 - 25 minutes or until the eggplant looks just browned and is soft.
Remove the eggplant and replace with the zucchini and red pepper.  Brush those with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast for about 25 minutes or until the red pepper looks soft and just browned.  Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile for the sauce:
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the leeks and the garlic and cook together just until the leek is just beginning to brown.
Add in the chopped tomatoes.  Turn down the heat to med/low but keep the tomatoes just simmering.  Add in the boullion cube, salt and italian seasoning (a mix of parsley, basil, oregano and rosemary which you could just as easily add in individually).  Stir and let simmer for another 20 - 30 minutes.

Meanwhile for the Bechamel:
Heat a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.  Add in the butter until melted.  Add in the flour and mix together until it forms a paste.  Turn the heat down to low and slowly add the milk and cream, whisking steadily throughout.  Once all of the liquid is added then continue whisking slowly until the mixture begins to thicken.  You should feel a noticeable thickening.
Add the parmesan, Worcestershire and lemon zest and set aside to cool slightly.
After a few minutes, once the mixture has cooled a bit, whisk in each egg slowly.  Add the pepper sauce if you opt for that.

Line a lg 9x13 baking dish with the eggplant (I made mine squish into one bottom layer).  Sprinkle half of the goat cheese over that in spoonfuls.  Pour half of the tomato sauce over that.
Layer the zucchini and red pepper over that.  Sprinkle the rest of the goat cheese over that.  Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over that.
Pour the b├ęchamel/egg sauce over everything.  Sprinkle with a little extra parmesan.
Bake for about 30 - 35 minutes or until everything is bubbly and golden on top.
Cool for about 20 minutes before serving (I'm not kidding - it's gets so much better)

Red Fife, Oat and Honey Buns... and Bread

You might have noticed that I haven't been posting a lot of baked goods around here lately.  This is a relatively new thing.  In the past I've done my best to keep things as balanced as possible between the sweet and savoury.  The thing is that I'm kind of experimenting.  I'm trying to use less sugar.  I think that you all deserve an explanation and it involves some true confessions.  Have a seat, grab a carrot stick and a beer and settle in for the story.

Last school year (and maybe a bit longer than that) I would frequent a well known coffee chain.  I wouldn't order coffee.  I don't drink coffee and don't plan on starting back full time at any point in the near future.  I wouldn't order tea because it seems to me and abomination to pay that much $$ for hot water and a tea bag.  I would order hot chocolate.  It was an awesome treat.  I would have my 'treat' almost every day I'm embarrassed to admit.  Thanks to KT my order was perfected to 'half sweet/no whip'.  Honestly even the half sweet was a little on the sweet side for me.  Thing is though that sometimes when you are in these places you walk out with other things too.  A cookie, a piece of lemon-raspberry loaf with some kind of chemical ridden addictive substance on top called 'icing' (god... yum).  You know how it is.  I know you do.  I got so many hot chocolates from this place that I would get free drinks all the time.  Unfortunately, I started noticing that my brain felt fuzzy all the time.  I had to work harder to focus (it could be age, who am I kidding) and to stay focussed.  In other words, my energy levels were... weird.
Derek decided in about January or February to cut way back on his sugar intake (which I honestly thought was hardly worth cutting back on all things considered) because of some reading that he was doing around sugar and it's effects on the brain and body.  Hmmmm.  I wasn't convinced.  We've been eating refined sugar for a long long time.  Wait really?  How long really have we been eating it like this.  So often and so heavily.  I read some things too.  It was compelling.  The real clincher for me was summer.  I have no 'well-known coffee chain' in my hood.  Dear me, no.  I would need to make an effort to get that hot chocolate.  Plus it was summer... hot chocolate?  Not really.  I stopped.  Cold turkey done.  I started noticing a few things.  I did feel more energized.  I didn't crave the sweets after a few days.  Then school started again.  This time I bought some tea bags and boiled my own damn water.  No sugar in my drink and no temptation to come back to work with a cookie or cake in my hand.  Yup.  For sure a difference.  Even with my sinus cold brain last week my focus and my energy was better and it was easier to stay focussed than it had been before.  At the moment, I don't even care about the longer term effects on my body.  I'll take the short term energy and focus and pass GO for $200.  That's fine with me.  I could pass all this off as seasonal, or sleep related or stress.  Sure.  The fact is though that less sugar is better for me.  It's undeniable so I'm not going to fight it.
Does this mean that I'm never baking cookies or making a cake again?  NO.  I still think that a celebrations deserves to be celebrated with a dessert.  My kids will still have homemade goodies at home sometimes.  And sometimes you just need a chocolate snacking cake (my favourite) or a red velvet cupcake to make it to the next day.  What I will do though is use honey and maple syrup a lot more often because, let's face it, we've been using those as sweeteners a hell of a lot longer than sugar.  In fact, I've been searching for recipes using honey or maple syrup a lot more.  There are plenty.  Please note though that both honey and maple syrup are not sugar.  They don't act like sugar and can't be treated like sugar.  They sure as hell don't taste like sugar either.  They do have traces of good stuff in them.  They don't seem to drain me of all sense and I don't want to find my bed an hour after ingesting them either.  But if you're looking for a bona fide treat then you won't exactly get the same punch if you use honey or maple syrup in your baking.

This bread is a great example of my new replacement strategy.  I used a pinch of sugar to feed the yeast and that was it.  These look like an artisanal kind of thing which is boosting my ego big time and the crumb is fantastic.  The buns were made because both kids requested buns for school lunches this week.  I have listed every option in the recipe below.  And BTW - I managed to get everything done with a Ninja in my house.  It was quite a day.  Just for the record, this is a 'REAL' Ninja outfit - it's what they really wear.

Red Fife, Oat and Honey Buns adapted from Canadian Living
makes 1 small loaf and 4 buns OR 12 buns OR 2 small loaves

1 1/2 cups Red Fife (or whole wheat) flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
1 cup oats (not quick)
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup warm milk (I used 2% but you could use Homogenized - not skim)
pinch of sugar
2 1/4 tsp (one package) dry yeast

In a bowl combine the boiling water and oats together.  Stir just to mix and set aside for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the warm milk and the pinch of sugar together.  Sprinkle with the yeast and stir just to get the yeast moist.  Cover with a clean cloth and set aside in a draft free spot to proof for about 10 minutes - it should get frothy and smell 'yeasty'.
Combine the Red Fife flour with 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.  Add in the salt and stir to mix.
Once the oats have soaked add in the honey and butter.  Mix well and add to the flour.  Add the yeast mixture to the flour.  Mix everything until it forms a sticky dough.
Turn onto a lightly flour surface and knead - adding as much of the left back all purpose flour as needed - until the dough is silky, smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a buttered bowl (I turn my dough in the bowl so that it's buttered on all sides), cover with a clean cloth and place in a warm, draft free spot to rise until doubled (1 - 1 1/2 hrs)
Remove the dough from the bowl and punch down.  Knead just a little and form into your choice of 1 small loaf and 4 buns (the size of a small fist) OR 12 buns OR 2 small loaves.  For loaves: place into a greased loaf pan.  Cover with a clean cloth.  For Buns:  Place buns on a cookie sheet covered in parchment and then greased.  Cover with a clean cloth.
Place everything in a draft free spot and leave to rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake the buns for 20 - 25 minutes.
Bake the bread for about 40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you knock on it.
Cool before slicing.

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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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