Shortbread Cookies with Cherries and Pecans

I hope that you've had a wonderful Christmas if you celebrate that.  I hope that you've had a wonderful rest otherwise.  My rest is truly beginning now that all of the Christmas obligations are done.  Christmas itself was wonderful - lots of food, lots of laughs, lots of family.  Exactly what it should be I guess.  The kids are happy, we haven't had any returns to make, we had power outside of the 36 hrs that we didn't and in general we are thankful and content.  My uniform for the next week will be yoga pants and tee shirt - when I choose to change out of my pj's.
I made my traditional 'Cappuccino Flats' for the holidays which we hoard selfishly as a family because they are amazing.  I decided to make peanut butter balls with rice crispies, icing sugar and chocolate... nasty.  Nobody wanted to eat them.  Totally disgusting.  They are going in the bin and I won't be sorry about it.

Then I made these cookies.  I made them really because they are the only thing that I remember my Grandma making.  Well, she also made christmas pudding.  I can't tell you exactly what it was because I never ate it.  As a kid it sounded disgusting.  It was brown, it was steamed, it had carrot in it.  Probably contained dates and molasses too.  Either way, as a kid not even caramel sauce could entice me to eat it.  So I didn't ever eat any of it.  The honest truth is that I never ate these cookies either.  Maybe a couple.  They weren't my favourite because they didn't contain chocolate.  I don't know why kids are so hooked on chocolate.  It's weird.  I'm sure that if only she had thrown in 3 tbsp of cocoa powder I would have downed them like there was no tomorrow.  So I had a few cookies and left the rest to my brother and sister to eat.  Each year my Grandma made them.  Always at Christmas.  Sometimes she used green cherries and sometimes red - sometimes both.  They look 'festive'

So after making these cookies in honour of my Grandma and just because I felt nostalgic, I realized that I had no interest in eating them.  Seems that I'm a stickler for tradition after all.  This left me relying on the other three people living in the house. D? Nope.  He's about as interested in sweets as I am.  The kids?... ummm, where's the chocolate?  Not touching them.  I should have known.  Fortunately, I was able to take them to our Christmas dinners (we did have more than one).
As a result, I can't tell you whether the cookies taste good but they sure do look festive.

Shortbread Cookies with Cherries and Pecans adapted from my Grandma and Kuntal's Kitchen
makes about 2 dozen medium sized cookies

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup maraschino cherries, quartered
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

Combine the flour and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl beat or mix the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy (I used a hand mixer here).  Add the vanilla and mix until well combined.
By hand, add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
Add the cherries and pecans and mix.
Form two logs (about 3 inches round each) cover each log with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon liner
Remove the logs from the fridge.
Slice one log into about 12 cookie rounds and place on the cookie sheet - leave a little space for them to spread.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges are just barely turning brown.
Remove and cool on a wire rack.

The Christmas Update

Dear Friends:
I was all set to make cookies.  I had all of my ingredients (except for the maraschino cherries which Kid #1 was going to pick up for me).

This might be an excessive amount of chocolate.  Might.
I got as far as one batch of cappuccino flats rolled and in the fridge waiting to be baked the next day. When the next day came, this happened.

We woke to an icy wonderland in which about an inch of ice covered everything and made some things (like tree branches for instance) so heavy that they broke off of their tree trunk and fell to the ground.  Often they took wires down with them.  Oops.  Then there was the lovely green lightning that we thought was beautiful but ended up being transformers blowing out.  Long story short, we had an icy wonderland to look at but no power.
We got through it of course.  In these kinds of situations you realize quickly just how many options you do truly have in an emergency.  How many friends you can count on, how family checks in with you, how your amazing kids don't complain about the cold at all and roll with the punches.  You realize that even though you're not rich, you really are.  If you thought about it long enough it might even bring a tear to your eye... but you don't think about it long enough.
36 hours later I woke up at 7a.m. to a bright light in my face and Kid #2 telling me that the power was back and that his second front tooth had finally decided to leave his head.  A Christmas Miracle.

Large, gaping hold where two front teeth used to reside.
What I've decided to do is give you Christmas cookies after Christmas because who has time to bake Christmas cookies now?  I guess they'll be New Years cookies or something.  It'll be the gift that keeps on giving.

My Wishes for you this holiday:

Please keep your teeth (unless you are 7)
Eat lots of turkey (unless you've already gotten through 18lbs of thanksgiving stuff and never want to see a turkey again.  In which case, please eat something else)
Stay warm (with friends or family - use a blanket or alcohol or both)
Enjoy a cookie or two (even if it's from a box)
Hug a few family members
Have a drink with a friend (please KT?)

This is apparently what two kids get up to with christmas tree lights if you leave to room for a minute .

Merry 'Christmas/Holiday/Fill in the Blank' to you all.
Peace and Joy


BBQ Turkey Buns - Leftover Turkey #6

I am typing furiously in a desperate attempt to ignore the panic that is slowly but steadily rising in my soul.  Snow.  We have snow and copious amounts of it.  It has been falling since the morning and although it is now later afternoon, has not abated.  I'm guessing 8cm so far.  D has a gig tonight out of town and I have to head with kid #2 to a concert being given by kid #1's choir.  I want to curl up in a blanket and watch a movie, allowing me to look at the falling and blowing white stuff safe and snug inside my house.  The true source of my panic however is the immediate change in lifestyle that will begin now and extend probably into the end of February - if I'm lucky.  I am watching my biking days go bye bye and I won't be running for a few days until this snow gets cleared.  Wait just a second, I need to go and breath into a paper bag.
It's not that I'm addicted but I'm addicted.  It feels good to be active.  Really really good.  It feels like I've got some control over my life and that's because it probably releases some endorphins or some kind of crap that makes me feel like everything is awesome.  Running and biking also gives me a precious few minutes all by my little lonesome.  Something that is a rare commodity for me.  When it is gone it feels like something has been stolen and I'm a little emptier for it.  The good news is that the temps are supposed to have risen above freezing in a few days so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this snow will pass if only for a little while... it is December after all.  I'm supposing that makes me some kind of grinch or something.  Who doesn't want snow at Christmas?
Speaking of Christmas... it's coming soon so I'm told.  One of my co-workers (who obviously doesn't read my blog!) asked me whether I had my turkey.  I told her that if I didn't see a turkey for an undetermined - but long - period of time that it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all.  Turkey for Christmas?  No way.  We are so sick of turkey thanks to the 18lbs of it that I can now proudly tell you, we have eaten our way through.  This recipe marked the last bag of turkey in the freezer.  Somehow we made our way through 6 bags of the stuff.  I've forgotten exactly how we whittled our way through and much of it I have chronicled here.  Truth is that even though I've marked this as 'leftover #6' this is really about number nine or ten.  Some of my leftover use-ups were really not good at all and I didn't have to heart to bother with them here.

Good news, these turkey buns didn't suck.  In fact, I'm told that they were good.  Really good.  D told me that they were amazing.  The kids didn't even care that they were turkey.  Didn't even ask.  Eight or nine or ten leftover recipes later and I have finally hit the jackpot.  Originally, I wanted to make a sweet and sour pulled pork kind of thing with the turkey but that would have required making something else to go with it.  You know a bun or noodles or whatever.  For one reason or another, I just couldn't bring myself to do it and started to concentrate intently on what a solution could be.
I made these things called beef margaritas a million years ago and posted the recipe here.  They were a huge hit and I haven't made them since.  I thought it would be worth giving them a whirl with bbq'd turkey and decided to take the leap.  Paid off.
Yay for big jumps, paper bags and no more turkey.

BBQ Turkey Buns
serves 4 - 6
makes about 10 buns

Use the dough recipe from this post

1/2 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery, diced
2/3 cup (about 1) red pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms, stalks removed and diced
2 1/2 cups cooked turkey, diced
1 bouillion cube, crushed up (I used a veggie one)
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mixed herbs (parsley, marjoram, oregano, rosemary)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 heaping tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup bbq sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
pepper sauce (optional)

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
Add some oil or grease (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
Add the onion and celery.  Saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper and mushrooms.  Add another 1 1/2 tbsp of oil or grease and turn the heat down to med/low.
Cook together, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes or until the pepper and mushrooms begin to soften and caramelize.
Add in the diced turkey and stir to mix.
Add the bouillon cube, worcestershire, soy sauce and mixed herbs.  Stir and cook together for a few minutes.
Add the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar and cook together for another 2 minutes.
Add the ketchup, bbq sauce, mustard, salt and pepper sauce.
Cook together for about 7 minutes at low heat but the mixture should still be simmering to allow it to thicken up a bit.  If it's too thick then add a couple of tbsp's of water.
Check the taste and adjust if necessary.  Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon liner.
Prepare the dough and then roll it out in a rectangle shape to about a 1/2 inch thickness.
Spread the meat mixture over the rectangle of dough.
Roll up the dough from long edge to long edge.
Slice the log about 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick and place each roll sideways on the baking pan leaving some room in between each roll.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until the rolls have risen and spread out and the edges have browned nicely.
Remove and cool for about 10 minutes before breaking them apart and serving.

Molasses and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's officially winter and two weeks away from Christmas.  Two out of three December birthdays have passed and I have a total of 5 events left until I can breath a sigh of relief.  I've 'stretched' myself in new directions at work more than I ever thought I could.  I'm still biking and running out there in the cold (but I won't tell you I like it) and generally keeping active.  My kids are happy and doing well.  I should be contented and happy about all of this and I suppose that somewhere deep down I really am.  The problem is, I haven't been able to take it all in yet.  At least that's how it feels.  The pace just hasn't let up enough for me to absorb it.
Happily, the pace did not prevent me from making chocolate mousse cake for D's birthday.  Add to that the sweet and sour meatballs meal that was requested (we do that for birthdays - favourite meal kinda thing)  It also did not keep us from ordering a lovely flower arrangement for my Mom's birthday... but that was thanks to D.  In fact, D is doing a lot of things right now while I learn how to stage manage concerts and organize events and get Cantors ready for Christmas Masses.  D is getting the tree (and possibly trimming it).  D has ordered the Ham (and will probably be picking it up too).  D has organized our Christmas Day family get together.  Guess who's going to be doing the bulk of the christmas shopping?  If it weren't for D then I would be treeless, presentless, hamless mess on December 20th.  As we slowly approach the 20th, I try not to dwell too much on how awesome that first sleep in and morning coffee is going to feel because then I get more depressed.
One of the things that I'm looking forward to most is being able to take a day or two (or four) and bake.  I don't want to eat the baking.  Couldn't care less - I just want to bake and for some reason the thought of baking cookies holds the most anticipation.  I can't wait to make my traditional christmas cookies and this year I want to add my Grandmother's shortbread to the list.  I want to have the ingredients surrounding me and be stirring and mixing and breaking eggs.  I want to feel the warmth of the oven and hear the comforting tick of the timer.  I want to see all of those cookies piled up into containers and enjoy how lovely they all look together.

Just a part of the cookie carnage.
I made these cookies in a one hour window on a Sunday afternoon where I had both time and light on my side.  Barely though and in my haste to get a photo of the cookies I dumped a few on the floor... it happens.  These will be a lovely addition to anyone's christmas cookie party and I might even make them again before the year is out.  However, I will make sure that when I carry them out to take pictures that I walk carefully.  Also, kids will eat molasses cookies when you put white chocolate in them.  FYI.

Molasses and White Chocolate Cookies adapted (slightly) from Peabody
makes about 3 dozen med/small cookies

2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 cup oats (old fashioned)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger (I used fresh but ground is fine)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of cloves
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 lg egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup (scant) white chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar - the coarser the better (mix with a little cinnamon)

Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together.  Mix and set aside.
Beat together the butter and brown sugar for about 3 - 4 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add the molasses and continue to beat for another 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined (about 1 1/2 minutes)
Add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and stir/mix to combine completely.  Add in the white chocolate chips and mix evenly.  Cover completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours (or overnight)
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon liner.
Scoop spoonfuls (I used about a tbsp and a half) of dough onto the cookie sheet.  Press each cookie down a little and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar
Bake for about 10 minutes - cookies may be a little softish in the centre but the edges should be just turning brown.
Remove and cool.
Store in a airtight container.

Roasted Celeriac, Fennel with Kale and White Bean Soup

It seems like yesterday that I was running around Italy with 180 boys.  It wasn't yesterday though, it was last April.  Seven whole months ago.  It seems like yesterday though because I've been running around small town Ontario for the last two days with 180 boys.  Italy vs Small Town Ontario?  I won't comment.
We just finished a very short, whirl-wind tour to kick off our 2013 Christmas Concert Season.  You forget the pain of tour so quickly when it's over and then it hits you so quickly once you are back in the saddle again.  The exhaustion.  The lack of food.  The constant running.  The long hours.  The stress of concert after concert.  The tour becomes your life for that period of time.  You forget that you used to like breakfast and reading the paper.  You forget that eating could be a pleasant experience.  You forget that the internet is a real thing and that news is still happening somewhere.
In the 48 hours while I was away Kid #1 got her first 'Will you go out with me' request (which she declined but they are still friends apparently) and handed in her high school applications, Kid #2 had a play date and skipped Karate class and D played a dance class for a Canadian dance Icon.  That's just the news at our address - the stuff I missed within the walls of the little place we call home.  Just imagine what else happened out there.
When it comes to food on tour it's usually pretty depressing and the last 48 hours have done nothing to lift my mood.  Day one presented pizza, apples and granola bars for lunch and dinner was lasagna, salad and a bun.  Day two brought us pizza for lunch (no apple, no granola bar) and lasagna, salad and a bun for dinner.  I'm sensing a theme here.  I know that it's hard to successfully feed 200 people on a budget but it's like the two churches (in different towns no less) got the same deal or something.  Day one I ate 4 apples and two cartons of chocolate milk, 1 salad and half a bun with two bites of lasagna thrown in there before I gave up.  Day two: 1 salad and a bun with two bites of lasagna before giving up.
Lessons learned from this tour:
1. Most boys under the age of 30 are more concerned with how much food there is rather than what that food tastes like.
2. If given the choice between church coffee and church tea, always choose tea.

This soup is neither pizza nor lasagna and although it tasted great nobody was jazzed about eating it except kid #2 (oddly) I think that a couple of days alone with my tour menu would fix them all right up.

Roasted Celeriac and Fennel with Kale and White Beans Soup
serves 8

1 med sized celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 small fennel bulbs, thickly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, whole and still in the skin
grease or oil to coat
1 leek, washed and thinly sliced
2 cups kale (I used lacinato/black kale), torn or sliced into rough slices
1 can (about 1 cup) white beans (cannellini or navy bean), drained and rinsed
4 cups good broth (I used leftover turkey broth - surprise surprise)
1 tbsp parsley, oregano, marjoram
1 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F
On a baking sheet, spread out the celeriac chunks, fennel and garlic.  Toss everything in some oil or grease.  Spread out evenly on the baking sheet and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Roast for about 35 - 40 min or until everything is soft and golden brown.
Remove from oven and set aside.
Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over med/low heat.  Add a little oil or butter (about 1-2 tbsp) and the leeks.  Let them cook over low heat for about 7 - 8 minutes.  Remove the casing from the roasted garlic and add the roasted veggies to the leeks.  Stir to mix.  Add about half of the broth and heat through.
In a blender or using an immersion blender, blitz everything until it is a smooth consistency.  (Pour back into the pot if you took it out to blend) Add the rest of the broth and stir to heat through.  Add the herbs, nutmeg and salt.  Mix well.  Check the taste.
Add in the kale, beans and parmesan and heat through until the parmesan has melted in.
Add about 1/2 cup of milk - more if you would like it a little thinner.
Check the taste and adjust (like by adding pepper sauce) if necessary.

Chocolate Carrot Cupcakes

You decide to take a day off (in lieu of all the over time that you've been putting in because it's the most wonderful time of the year and all of that) and it becomes this magical, mystical thing.  You anticipate all of the things you can do on your day off.  You relish the thought of sleeping in, even though kids need to get to school so realistically you still need to get up with them.  You think about all of the things you can do tomorrow instead of today because you have tomorrow off.  You can't wait to watch daytime tv with nobody else around.  Space in your own house, lying on the couch - the whole couch - and not having to share.
Then the day off happens.  You send an email to work and tell everybody that you are working from home.  Then you get 3 emails that need to be responded to immediately.  Then you get a phone call from work.  Got a message and need to call them back ASAP.  You go for a run because that just has to happen.  You throw in that laundry that you could have done yesterday.  You water all the plants and turn the tv on while doing all of it because you feel like if you don't you will miss that stupid show you never get to watch.  You go out and catch up on the errands that (again) you could have done yesterday but didn't because you had this 'day off' coming up.
You start putting things together to bake those awesome cupcakes that you wanted to make for the last few days.  You've run out of baking powder.  Baking powder?  Who runs out of baking powder.  It's so weird that you realize you've run out of baking powder on your one day off.  It's so random that  you've now discovered you can't make those cupcakes and you've already run your errands.  Now you don't have time to get more baking powder before picking Kid #2 up from school.  You still haven't returned that work message - Oh yeah, and gotten on top of those ten other messages that came into your work account over the last hour.
And just like that, your day off is gone.  It's the past.  I'm not even going to talk about what the next day at work is like because you took that one day to work at home.  You tell yourself that you won't make the mistake of trying to accomplish too much if you take a day 'off' again but you know that you will do it all again the next time it rolls around.

That brings me to these muffins.  I had too many carrots. I think that I got mixed up with my food order.  I usually order my food box stuff online and my computer is in the kitchen... right next to the fridge in fact.  There is no excuse.  I should have just opened the fridge door and looked.  Whatever, I had two bags of carrots... but no baking powder.  That required a second trip to the store.

The moral of this story is: Whatever is on your list will eventually get done but not all on your day off... well, unless the only thing on your list is 'do nothing'.  Then your chances of getting through the list is probably pretty good.

Chocolate Carrot Cupcakes adapted from Heather Cristo
makes 1 dozen big cupcakes

1 cup carrots (about 3 medium), thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp water

3/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used some dark stuff - 'Cocoa Camino' is really good)
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp espresso powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk or 10% cream

Put the carrots, 1 tbsp butter and 3 tbsp water into a small pot.  Bring to a boil and then simmer at med/low heat for about 7 min or until the carrots are soft.  Mash and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F
Line a cupcake tin with liners or whatever you usually use (butter and flour them all if you want)
Sift together the flour and cocoa powder.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder and set aside.
Mix or whisk together the butter and both sugar's until light and fluffy - about 3 minutes.  Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
Add the carrot mixture to the egg mixture and mix until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the carrot mixture and gently whisk until combined.
Add enough milk or cream to get the batter to an almost pourable consistency.
Fill each cupcake cup to the brim.
Bake for about 22 minutes or until a tester comes out of the middle cupcake clean.
Cool for about 12 - 15 minutes.

Turkey and Roasted Butternut Squash Orzo... Leftover Turkey #5

I'm all in.  It's been one week.  I am 1/6th through and I'm all in - I've bought the farm so to speak.  Jumped into the deep end.  I've decided to stop thinking about how hard it will be and just do it.  However, that gets difficult when there is no beer at home to dull the senses.  I've learned my lesson and am working to correct the situation.

A friend put some comic thing from bitstrips on FB about me.  I hate bitstrips.  I don't feel the need to be in my own personal comic strip.  I don't find them entertaining.  In this case, it's fine.  I swallowed my hate.  I smiled.  I left a nice, if slightly strange, comment and have moved on.  I love my friend.  She's a real friend and not just a FB friend.

Our Mayor is still the Mayor which is weird because nothing else seems to be happening in this city but figuring out what to do with the Mayor.  I wish that we all got this upset about his governing (or lack thereof) and not just the crack smoking, constant inebriation, domestic issues and alleged criminal connections - although all of those things add up to quite an impressive resume to discuss.  All of this has come out over the last two weeks.  Imagine where we'll be by the end of November.  I was going to link you all to some Rob Ford article or other but there are so many.  Just google him and you can check out all of the tawdry details yourself.

I am conducting one of our choirs at Mass tomorrow.  I don't really know what I'm doing.  I'm not really a conductor.  I fake it.  The boys do this every Sunday from September through June.  They know what to do.  If I forget to tell them to stand it's ok - they remember and do it themselves.  If I forget which way the go to line up for the Eucharist, it's ok - they line up on their own.  Tomorrow happens to be the one Sunday when we are being taped by a tv station.  The Sunday I am subbing and trying not to look like I don't know what I'm doing.  Oh.

I forget that this time of year sucks.  I forget that it's really hard to get out of bed.  I totally forget that I always feel like I can't move out into that dark space outside of my door past 7pm.  I went for a long run today and remembered that when I don't run it's ten times worse.  Biking is great.  Biking gets me to work and it helps me feel like I've accomplished something good.  However, running is my happy drug.  Especially in the winter.  There is no replacement for it and I need it like I need medication.  I cannot go for five days without my medication.  I started to feel like a human being again.

This recipe leaves me with one 3 lb bag of turkey left in my freezer.  I will pull that bag out week after next.  I don't yet know what I will do with that turkey.  The second to last bag in the freezer turned into Turkey Paprikash - which turned out well and I wish that I had written the recipe down so that I could share it - and this orzo thing with butternut squash.  I guess the Paprikash thing really makes this 'Leftover Turkey #6'  The squash really needs to be roasted.  It just does.  The recipe is tasty and although it didn't get gobbled, it did get mostly eaten entirely.  A month of turkey later that is saying something.

Turkey and Roasted Butternut Squash Orzo
serves 6

1 med butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
4 tbsp oil or grease
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 1/2 cups leftover turkey or chicken, cut into big chunks
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups chard, thickly sliced
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mixed herbs (parsley, oregano, rosemary, marjoram is a nice mix)
pinch of cayenne, chipotle powder or pepper sauce
pinch of saffron
pinch of cumin
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp honey
3/4 cup orzo (cooked for 3 minutes in boiling water, drained and set aside)
1/2 - 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine the butternut squash chunks and the oil or grease of your choice.  Mix to coat and place the chunks onto a baking sheet in 1 layer.  Bake for 45 minutes, tossing half way through.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a large dutch oven over low heat.
Add a little oil and add the sliced onion.  Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
Add the garlic and turkey or chicken.  Cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the Worcestershire, soy sauce and herbs.  Mix to combine.
Add the turkey or chicken broth.
Bring to a simmer and add the saffron, cumin, salt and honey.  Stir to mix and add in the orzo.
Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the chard and mix.
Cook for another 5 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low and add the roasted butternut squash and the parmesan cheese.  Mix to melt the cheese.
Add the cream and stir to mix.  Check the taste and adjust if necessary.

Banana, Chocolate Chip Cake

The reason that you are getting a third banana recipe in a row is two fold.  Please understand that I am not offering these reasons as an apology but merely as an explanation.  No apology for cake should ever be offered - ever.  The first reason is that I had just about a bakers dozen overripe bananas in the freezer.  I now have a total of two.  That's better.  The second reason is that I forgot to take pictures of the fifth leftover turkey dish (with roasted butternut squash no less) and now that it's dark pictures will have to wait until tomorrow.  I am not going to number the banana recipes because I'm already doing it with the leftover turkey madness and more than one number system at a time feels kinda lame.
There is nothing especially spectacular about this cake which is probably why it feels so approachable.  It comes together fast and looks big but it has a short, simple ingredients list.  It does use egg whites instead of yolks.  This is something that suits me just fine because I use truckloads of egg yolks in my ice cream.
Speaking of ice cream, I believe that I have recently perfected chocolate ice cream.  This elevates my chocolate ice cream to a level that I believe could be used for leveraging.  Things I could possibly leverage with my ice cream:
 - marriage proposals (a little late there)
 - purchasing property
 - keeping my kids in line (you won't get any ice cream if you keep on....)
 - work promotions
You get the idea.  What was my problem with chocolate ice cream you ask?  Well, I had problems getting the graininess out of the cocoa powder and sugar first.  I learned that slow, low heat whisking can solve that problem.  The second problem was then getting the graininess out of the chocolate when adding it to the custard.  The first thing I tried was pre-melting the chocolate.  That achieved a degree of success but I had to be careful when adding it to the warm custard as it could easily seize up.  Once I got that figured out, I had to make sure that the chocolate didn't become little chocolate shards in the ice cream... solution: cool it slowly and on refrigerate once completely room temperature.  The last thing I did was add a little salt and a little instant coffee powder to the whole thing.  Result:  Perfection.  Smooth.  Chocolatey.  Bliss.

Compared to 'Smooth. Chocolately. Bliss' this cake is a bit underwhelming but these things can often just be a matter of expectations.  Banana cake is great thing to have with tea or something.  I wouldn't make it for someone's birthday or anything but if someone showed up at my door unexpectedly (like that ever happens) I could throw this together quickly and easily.  Fortunately, I found some leftover vanilla buttercream icing in the freezer that I thawed and added some more vanilla and cream to.  I spread it over half of the cake and Kid #2 nearly died.  Icing.

Banana, Chocolate Chip Cake adapted from 'Simply in Season'
makes 1 9x9 cake

2 1/4 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
pinch cardamom and nutmeg

3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
4 egg whites
2/3 - 3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

3 oz dark chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F
Butter and flour a 9x9 inch baking pan.  Set aside.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cardamom and nutmeg together.  Mix to combine and set aside.
In another bowl beat together the butter and bananas until combined.  Add the egg whites and beat for about 2 minutes.  Add 2/3 cup of milk (reserve the rest) and the vanilla and beat together for another minute.
Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and fold until flour is completely mixed in.  Add the remaining milk if the batter is too thick to spread easily.  Stir to combine.
Fold in the chocolate chips until incorporated.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean from the middle.
Cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Banana Brownies

The level of un-inspired today is epic.  Oh it's not that I haven't done what's needed to be done.  It's just that it got done without any emotional connection.  I guess it's what you call 'going through the motions'.  I discovered that it's possible to laugh during small talk and then 15 seconds later forget that your facial muscles even moved.  It's the kind of day where you forget whether you had breakfast and absentmindedly drink 3 coffee's.  It's the kind of day where I know that I'm supposed to say something intelligent and inspired but nothing comes out or that question that you asked me really needs to have an answer with a little more detail than 'ummm - I'll check'.
Kid #1 is cleaning her room - an epic manoeuvre in and of itself.  She has currently been working for 30 minutes at putting sheets on her bed and cleaning the floor under it.  Good thing she's not responsible for cleaning the whole house.  I haven't heard movement in about 12 minutes so I'm guessing that she either forgot what she was supposed to do or she fell asleep.  Kid #2 is at karate hopefully undergoing grading for his yellow belt.  I have to say hopefully because it's hard to get a straight answer out of him sometimes even when the questions are yes or no answers - Did you hand in your form for grading?  So I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and try not to think about what might happen if he doesn't get graded.
The good news is that for almost two days I can forget that I am approaching the worst 5 weeks of the year.  I can turn off my alarm and snuggle under the covers until I decide that I don't want to anymore.  I can make a morning coffee and sit down at the table with the newspaper, taking my time to read it.  Even the 'life' section.  I can roll out the yoga mat whenever I want and do it for a whole 1 1/2 hrs if I like.  I can see D - maybe even go out with him.  We might be able to have a coherent conversation that lasts for more than 15 minutes.  It might even be a conversation that doesn't include information about scheduling. It almost makes you giddy or it would if I could feel my soul right now.  I'm sure that by about 2:20 tomorrow afternoon I will be able to sense where it is.

Then there are brownies.  I'm sure you must be wondering why the two banana recipes in a row.  The bananas were just there.  Sitting on the counter and I really couldn't be bothered to put them in the freezer with the 6 lbs of turkey from thanksgiving and the other 9 overripe bananas in there.  It seemed a little less soul destroying to just go ahead and use them in some baking one time.  Then there is the stick-something-healthy-into-something-that-normally-isn't thing. So, when kid #2 pushes the green and red stuff around on his plate but gulps these down like there's no tomorrow then I feel a little less worried and also like I won the Sneaky Mom award (it's not a real thing BTW).  I suppose this means that I'm one step away from making chocolate cake with beets in it or quinoa cookies or something.  Somehow though, banana just doesn't feel as granola as all that.
I don't know what things are like around your place on friday night and fingers crossed that it's wonderful and you feel profoundly fulfilled.  If that is the case then you might just want to cap off that beautiful feeling with the deeply comforting smell of brownies baking in the oven.  If your friday night is a little more like mine - the socks you are wearing don't match and your yoga pants are a little dirty and you can't hear your phone ring because the lego is making too much noise - then you might need this easy to make ending to kick start you into the land of weekend.... with my blessings.

Banana Brownies adapted from Taste of Home
makes 1 square pan of brownies

1/2 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 overripe banana's, mashed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 scant cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350° F
Grease and flour a square 9x9 baking dish and set aside.
Add the chopped chocolate to the melted butter and set aside while the chocolate melts.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and nutmeg together.  Mix to combine and set aside.
Add the sugar to the butter, chocolate mixture and mix well.
Add the eggs and whisk until incorporated.
Add the vanilla and mix well.
Add the flour to the chocolate mixture.  Mix or whisk until combined and there is no dry flour left.
Pour into the prepared pan and distribute evenly.
Bake for about 30 minutes (they should still be just a little gooey when tested in the middle... every so slightly gooey)

Cool completely before cutting.

Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

It seems odd that with all of the baking that I haven't been doing, the one night of the year that I stress myself out just a little by baking is Hallowe'en.  The very night that my kids get more candy and chocolate than they could possibly deserve and most definitely more than they can get through.  And there I am, baking chocolate banana bread.
I'm sure that you've heard of my bah-humbug sort of attitude towards most holidays and hallowe'en is no exception.  I'm not anti-hallowe'en by any means either.  It's an odd sort of balance that I manage to strike where I kind of care about some details and absolutely don't care about others.  I don't think that hallowe'en is something to be afraid of and avoided.  I only wish that maybe it was seen in a more traditionally mystical and creepy whole.  The coolest thing about Hallowe'en is that it's really about protecting yourself from evil spirits.  Warding them off by dressing as them.  Hallowe'en is followed directly by All Saints in which the saints and even saintly are remembered and sometimes venerated.  All Saints is followed on November 2nd by All Soul's Day where those gone before are remembered - in some countries candles are laid by their graves and an extra place is set at the table for them.  I suppose it birthed from ancestor worship but it's kind of creepy, weird and cool.  Hallowe'en would make a whole lot more sense if it were widely considered part of the trilogy of Oct 31/Nov 1/Nov 2.  But, it's not.  Probably because some retailer couldn't think of a way to make enough money off of candles to push a serious marketing campaign.  Now hallowe'en has been reduced to kids going from door to door holding out a bag to get candy dumped into and naughty nurse costumes.

Really.  This is as creepy as it gets. 
We take Kid #2 out for his jaunt up and down our street.  Kid #1 is old enough now that she is doing her thing with her friends and has a curfew of 9pm (!)  We've always been the kind of couple who needs full support for each other in these situations so we don't go in for one of us sitting at home sipping mulled wine and handing out chocolate while the other wades through the trenches of the populated sidewalks.  Nope - we do it together.  The lights at our house go out and we leave, taking out Kid #2 and having each other to lean on.  Once kid #2 gets bored (which thankfully seems to occur after about 45 min) we head back home.  Kid #2 sorts and counts the candy, D takes his coffee crisp tax from each bag and we sit back and have a beer (or two) while we wait for Kid #1 to come home and start the sorting and tax taking process all over again.  Beer helps.

The next day (All Saints), Kid #2 was heading off with his class to The Royal Winter Fair and Kid #1 was just going to school.  My kids were probably the only ones that day who showed up with homemade banana bread for lunch instead of 4 crispy crunch's, 2 cheesy goldfish pkg's and 1 jolly rancher but they didn't complain.  I went out and bought some candles.

Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread adapted only a little from Joy of Baking

1 3/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 - 4 (about 1 1/4 cups or so) overripe banana, mashed
1 cup sugar
2 lg eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks (white chocolate is an option here)

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and flour a large loaf pan and set aside. 
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a bowl and set aside.  
In another bowl, combine the mashed banana and sugar.  Mix well so that the sugar disintegrates into the banana.  Add the eggs and whisk together until well combined.  Add in the butter and vanilla and mix to combine.  
Add the flour mixture and whisk until the flour is completely mixed in.  
Fold in the chocolate chunks.  
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  
Bake for about 55 - 60 min or until a cake tester comes out of the middle clean.  
Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a cooling rack.  
Slice and feed to your kids.  

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce - Leftover Turkey #4

Trust me, we are not even close to the end of our turkey leftover adventures but from here on out I'm going to have to space things out a bit because we're all getting a little edgy about it.  There's more grumbling and whining happening for sure and now that there is also hallowe'en candy to sneak attack, we're eating more of that than the healthy stuff.  Who can blame all of us really.  I cringe a little every time I look at those bags in the freezer.  My brain hurts when I try to think of some new and wonderful thing to make with the stuff.  I made cauliflower, broccoli soup with some of the turkey broth but held myself back from throwing in some shredded turkey as well.  I feared absolute mutiny.

Last weekend I made these meatballs because I thought - Who is going to turn their nose up at meatballs.  Nobody did.  They gobbled - I had to hold them back... until I put them in the sauce.  The sauce for me was the best part but for the rest (especially Kid#1 and #2) these meatballs were much more enjoyable on their own.  What would that make them?  Appetizer.  How do you make plain meatballs part of a meal?  I'm not sure if that even registers for me.  I don't understand it.  I need sauce to feel like a whole person.  Without the sauce each kid ate at least 5 meatballs as soon as they were cool enough not to burn their mouths.  They didn't eat any dinner after that.  I guess that you could try these without the sauce and see if you like it enough to eat them all (it makes a lot) without any help OR you could also make the sauce and add only if necessary.  The sauce was nice enough for me to eat on it's own but whatever, kids have a weird sense of taste... or else I do.

The Meatballs free of any 'icky' sauce
In other news, I tried curling yesterday.  Curling is weird.  A weird Canadian sporting activity that originated in Scotland.  Not as weird as Cricket however.  Considering you have to slide a 40 lb granite ball along pebbly ice and hope to god that it lands somewhere in the vicinity of the bulls-eye at the other end of the rink and doesn't hit someone's foot or make it's way into someone else's game along the way, it's a pretty uptight sport.  Again, embarrassment has never phased me much so a couple of full on face plants on the ice didn't deter me.  After figuring out that my butt needs to stick up in the air more things generally got a whole lot better.  Any game that requires such vigorous butt raising can't be all bad.  I would do it again but only if there was the promise of an evening of alcohol in a very warm place afterwards... and I could play with some interesting butts.
I'm trying very very hard not to get all out of joint with our current Mayoral Bull*&%t but I'm finding it hard not to feel a little depressed about it.  If you haven't heard about it then count yourself lucky and I'm not going to fill you in on the details.  Besides, you can get the basics here.  Have a Happy Weekend.

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
serves 6

3 - 4 cup cooked turkey, diced small (I used the giblets too)
3 small cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced small
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp italian seasoning
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp pepper sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 veggie bouillon cube
3/4 cup ricotta
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 lg egg
2 tbsp oil

Tomato Sauce
1 med leek, sliced
2 red or green peppers, thinly sliced
2 med cloves garlic
5 - 6 leaves lacinato kale (or any green really)
3 cups tomato, diced
2 tbsp worcestershire
1/2 cup red wine or water
1 tbsp italian seasoning (or a mix of dried herbs)
1 heaping tbsp brown sugar or honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup tomato paste
dash of pepper
dash of pepper sauce (optional)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon liner and set aside.
Use a blender or a food processor (much easier - I had to stop the blender every few seconds, stir everything and pulse again.  Stop. Repeat. Bored) pulse the turkey until it resembles the texture of mush.  Add the garlic, onion, salt, italian seasoning, worcestershire, pepper sauce, soy sauce, dijon mustard and bouillon cube to the mixture and pulse again and again until it's all mixed in.
Pour into a bowl.
Add the ricotta, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, egg and oil.
Get your fingers in there and finger it all together, through your fingers and mix it all together.  Mix until everything is well blended.
Shape a large spoonful into a meatball and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Once all of the meatballs are ready, bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and the bottoms are brown.
Remove the oven and set aside.

Tomato Sauce:
Heat a heavy bottomed pot over med heat.
Add about 3 tbsp of grease or oil.  Heat it for a minute.
Add the leeks, peppers and garlic.  Turn the heat down to med/low and let it sweat together for about 12 minutes or so.
Add in the diced tomato, worcestershire, wine, brown sugar, salt and tomato paste.
Simmer over med/low heat for another 15 minutes.  It will cook down quite a bit.
Add the kale, pepper, pepper sauce and parmesan.
Let it cook for about 5 minutes or until the kale is wilted.
Add in the meatballs and remove from heat.

Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes or regular pasta.

Turkey and Ricotta Pizza - Leftover Turkey #3

I am happy to report that I had one person on Facebook co-bitch with me regarding the abundance of pumpkin themed food and food products.  I feel vindicated and thoroughly supported.  This person later sent me a picture of on of our local spot's advertising their homemade pumpkin pie yogurt.  We both had a good laugh about it and my friend told me that pumpkin kefir is probably making it's way to store shelves as we speak.  Yeah - totally vindicated.  All of the rest of you probably think that I'm nuts or you are so busy sipping your pumpkin latte and eating your pumpkin pancakes that you haven't had a chance to tell me off.  I'm sorry for 'not loving' pumpkin.
Of course, the reason for all of the pumpkin crazy is because it's squash season and squash season ends up being Thanksgiving season.  Canada has already had it's Thanksgiving.  I don't know why we have it early and I know that a quick jaunt over to wikipedia would fill me in but the truth is that I simply don't care enough to make the trip.  Whatever the reason, Canada observes Thanksgiving a month and a half before the U.S.  This means that we've got turkey to deal with long before Americans even have to think about it.  At our house this year, it means that if we can get away with it we will not have to think about turkey for a very very long time... well beyond christmas.
Turkey has a reputation for being dry - not entirely unfounded.  I've had some nasty, dry birds at my table.  This year we bought ours from a Mennonite shop where the birds are looked after well and have a happy life and all of that crap.  I think it made a difference.  In addition to that, D painstakingly marinated the turkey with his home concoction of deliciousness that made a huge difference.  He was setting his timer throughout the entire day, taking it out, pouring more sauce over it, sticking it back in the oven.  Painstaking.
My issue with turkeys isn't just the dry texture though, it's also the size.  They're big.  I've seen some at the Mennonite shop that took two people to carry out which I don't quite understand.  Either way, it's hard to get a truly small turkey and no matter, you're still looking at some hefty leftovers.  D took care of the turkey purchasing and I guess decided that 18 lbs sounded like a good idea.  I know what it can be like when you are there in the store.  You kind of get caught up in the moment.  All those other people lining up to pick up their turkey and you want a turkey and you're all celebrating something and it feels all holiday like.  I get it.  However, we are a family of 4.  One of those 4 people is 7 yrs old.  Another one of those 4 people (me) had a stomach bug the entire weekend and could barely stand up for two days let alone eat.  18 lbs of turkey takes a little while to get through for 4 people.

Our very big thanksgiving dinner used up about a half of a turkey breast between the four of us which left us with roughly 17 1/2 lbs of turkey to get through.  We ate leftover thanksgiving dinner - that took up two days.  I decided that I needed to clear out the fridge a bit so I made broth with the bones and all of that stuff - there are now 3 large containers of broth in the freezer.  I made turkey lasagna (Leftover Turkey #1) to mixed reviews but it mostly got eaten - that used up about 3 cups of turkey.  I made Turkey Orzo with cheese and crap (Leftover Turkey #2) to decidedly poor reviews - kind of got eaten - used up about 2 cups of turkey.  I had to get smart.  What are things that kids will eat almost no matter what?  Meatballs - coming in my next post, Pizza - Yes,  Pizza.  So I give you turkey pizza. I don't know what I'm going to do with the 6 1/2 lbs of turkey still in the freezer or or the 4 litres of turkey broth.  I honestly don't know how much more turkey any of us can face.  This pizza helped the cause along a little and I think may have kept my kids from divorcing me.  I would caution that the tomato and goat cheese are essential because turkey quite honestly needs all the help it can get.
For Christmas this year we are having lamb.

Turkey and Ricotta Pizza (my recipe)
Makes 2 medium pizza's

1 batch pizza dough (I used this recipe)
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp each, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
3 lg cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups ricotta
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp italian seasoning (or a mix of basil, oregano, marjoram)
1 cup chard or kale, finely chopped
1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
2 - 3 cups mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Preheat oven to 300°F
Combine the cherry tomatoes, balsamic and olive oil.  Place on a lined baking sheet, spreading them out so that they make one layer.  Sprinkle with a little salt.  Roast for about 45 minutes turning down to 250°F for the last 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool a little.

Preheat oven to 475°F
Prepare baking sheets or pizza stones (for baking sheets, I coat them with a little cornmeal to that the crust doesn't stick) and set aside.
Combine the ricotta, Worcestershire, salt, italian seasoning.  Mix well.  Add the chopped kale and mix well.
Roll out pizza dough into the shape of your pan or stone and place the dough onto the prepared pans.
Divide the ricotta evenly between the pizza's and spread evenly around each pizza crust.
Sprinkle each pizza with roasted tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese, shredded turkey pieces evenly around.
Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and parmesan.
Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes or until each pizza is bubbly, golden and the crust is crusty on the bottom.
Remove and cool for a few minutes 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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  • Naparima Girls High School Cookbook
  • The Silver Palate Cookbook
  • More-with-Less Cookbook
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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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