Broccoli and Lemon Pasta

It's been a big week in our house, in our family and in the community at large.
We have lost someone and the loss has left a vacuum.
I knew, 10 years ago when D's Mom re-married, that this new guy was something special.  When we first met he was warm, inviting, open and deeply connected to himself and his roots.  I had no idea just who this man was.  Charlie came to Canada at 14 from Trinidad and Tobago.  He didn't get into law right away but decided instead to study for the priesthood.  There are 2 reasons that he didn't stay with the church.  I can't remember them both at the moment but 'science' was the first reason.  He instead went into law.  I don't know if he was born for law or not.  I'm sure that he was a brilliant lawyer.  But the thing that made him stand out was his incredible passion for people and for representing those who couldn't represent themselves... for whatever reason.  That injustice was intolerable for him and as a result he began making his mark in the city of Toronto as a civil rights activist in the seventies when a series of shootings by police of black men were creating an uproar.  Charlie was at the helm of that both legally and socially.
You might have heard of Caribana.  It's this festival held in August here in Toronto which was born out of the Trinidad 'Carnival' tradition but has come to celebrate black and west-indian culture in all of it's forms.  Charlie was one of the founders of Caribana.  For a long time I didn't know.  He remained active in Caribana even up to this past August when he had to be driven through the parade route (he was so happy for that though).
Charlie died as a permanent resident of Canada and not a citizen.  He declined citizenship because he refused to take an oath to the Queen.  Right up to the end.  He fought it hard too.  There are many still working on that case and they will carry it on for him, of that I'm confident.  I heard a lawyer being interviewed yesterday and that lawyer got into law because of Charlie's mentorship.  It was during the interview when the lawyer said that Charlie's contribution to civil rights puts him at the table with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. that it hit me just what this man was who came to our summer BBQ's.

Many many people love him.  Everyone feels that they know him and that's what he would have wanted.  For us... well he was just 'Babu'.  He played with my kids.  He encouraged them to be the best that they are and I think he saw things in them that no one else might have seen.  They debated with him and they drew protest pictures of the G8 summit and they went to the ROM.  At the end of the day, I'm thankful that we knew him not just as the public figure but as Babu... as Charlie.  He'll be missed by us all for the public contributions that he made but for us, we'll be missing 'Babu'.

As we've been juggling life and loss this week I've been craving some good food that makes me feel warm, loved and nourished.  This has helped a lot.

Broccoli and Lemon Pasta adapted from 'Bon Appetit'
Serves 4 - 6

5 slices of bacon cut into coarse pieces
1 cup leek, thinly sliced
1 cup green beans (ends cut off and then cut into bite sized lengths) or green peas
2 1/2 - 3 cups of broccoli, cut into bite sized chunks
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh herbs (a mixture of parsley,basil, oregano)
11/2 tbsp honey
11/2 tsp salt
11/2 tsp pepper sauce or a dash of cayenne
1 tbsp lemon zest.       
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
4 cups spaghetti cooked to al dente (reserve a little of the pasta water)

Heat a large pot and add in the bacon chunks.  Brown for a few minutes and then turn the heat down to med/low.  Add in the sliced leeks and cook together for about 3 minutes.  Add in the beans, broccoli and garlic.  Cook for another 5-7 minutes.  Add in the herbs, honey, salt, pepper sauce, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix well and cook together for about 2 minutes.  Add in the goat cheese and stir to melt in slightly.  Add in the cream and milk.  Mix well and turn the heat down to low.  Add in the parmesan cheese and continue to cook until the cheese begins to melt into the cream.  Toss with the pasta and a little of the reserved pasta water.  Serve with a little more fresh parmesan on top.

Red Fife, Chicken Pot Pie

I kicked things off well by declaring that I was on a mission to cut down on sugar.  There are lots of reasons but health, energy and vitality are right at the top of the list.  But it seems that in the midst of my sugar cut down a lot of other things have been going on and it feels like I haven't really been cooking at all.
A close family member is terminally ill and we are all... waiting.  It's a very very sad time.  We are all feeling it.  How can you not.  We are each dealing with it in our own ways.  My daughter likes to just sit beside his bed and hold his hand.  She cries.  It's a beautiful, sad picture.  So many things occur to you when you are in that place - that space in your head.  Here are some of the things that have been rolling around:
The moments feel so large and long.  Like they last forever... yet it's only been an hour.
Here, at the end of it all, it's still hard to imagine that we will soon be without this person.  Through illness, pain and however dreadful things are at the moment it's still damn near impossible to think of the world without them.
It doesn't matter how perfectly I can rationalize the beauty of the circle of life or what my religious beliefs might be regarding the afterlife.  There is still the sadness of loss.  No matter what happens later on the fact remains that for now they are no longer here with us.
Even watching someone else slowly pass from life to death doesn't make it any easier to comprehend your own mortality.  Nope.  Not at all.

Kid #1 and I had a beautiful conversation about the trees and how beautiful they are looking.  We were noting what a beautiful, blow out ending the leaves give before they go.  It's like their swan song - those beautiful colours....

Kid #1... and then they drop and die.
Me... Well, not die really.  They change.  They become something other than a leaf but they still have an existence and in becoming that compost they feed new life.

I've made chicken pot pie.  There is something in the tradition and simplicity of it that appeals to me at the moment.  If you are wondering what to do with a leftover chicken carcass take my word for it and boil it down with some peppercorns, a bay leaf, a dash of Worcestershire, salt... boil it down for a good long time - an hour like.  Remove the bones but make sure that you take all the little pieces of chicken off first.  I got enough meat off of that (including the neck, liver, kidney and all of that) to make a fully decent pot pie once the veggies were added.  It's comfort food that reminds you of your Granny or Great Granny.  You feel all loved and warm inside... and possibly a little lonesome.

Red Fife Pie Crust adapted only slightly from 'Simply in Season'
makes enough for about 2 - 3 pies (depending on the size of your baking dish)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup red fife or whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 egg
1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Combine the egg, water and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl and set aside in the fridge to keep it cold.
Combine the flours and salt.  Drop in the butter and cut the butter into the flour (use a pastry cutter or two knives or even your fingers  - squish the butter pieces, don't use your fingers for long though because it will warm the butter which is not what you want to have happen) and continue until it looks like crumbly, pea sized pieces.
Add the egg and water mixture until it forms a ball (I used all of mine).  If you need a little more than add more cold water.  Cover the dough ball in plastic and rest it in the fridge for about 20 - 30 minutes.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface - I divided mine in half here, you could make 3 pieces if it suites your sizes better.  Or you can freeze some for a later date.
Roll out with a rolling pin until it's between 1/4 and 1/8 of an inch thick.
Gently fold the pie crust in half and then once again so that it's easier to place on the pie...

Chicken Pot Pie

2 cups potato, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups carrot, cut into chunks
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 cup green beans
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp butter or oil
3 - 4 cups leftover chicken (diced) in it's broth or gravy
1 boullion cube
1 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1 tsp pepper sauce
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Get a large baking dish (I used a large 9x13'ish' oval one) out and set aside.
Heat a heavy bottomed pot (big enough to fit everything) over medium heat.  Add in the butter and then the veggies.  Cook the veggies together for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes begin to soften.  Add in the chicken with liquid, bouillon cube, salt, honey and pepper sauce.  Cook together for another 10 minutes.  Add in the flour and stir to mix.  If it's not thick enough then feel free to add in a little more flour.
Pour into the baking dish.
Cover with the pie crust.  Press down gently and let the crust run up the sides of the pot a bit.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is turning golden brown on the edges.
Cool for a good 15 minutes before cutting into it and serving.

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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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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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