Ramps and Stinging Nettle 'Weird' Pesto

It's been a week in which some very nice and kind things happened to me.
My favourite crossing guard lady told me I was beautiful.  Again.  Heart.
I volunteer to do cooking club at school and two of my Gr 12 helpers told me to that they would take care of all the clean up so that I could head home.  Kind and adorable.  Heart.
My Best Friend brought me some green sprout kinda things and dropped them for me at school.  Heart.
One of the same Gr 12 boys heard that I had forgotten to bring my lunch and brought me some of his homemade potato cakes... with sour cream on the side.  Yup.  Heart.

These are a couple of the things that we made during last week's Cooking Club Course.  It's real.
I felt cared about and that's cool because it helps balance out all of the crap.
I read this and laughed out loud BTW.  Don't even need to read the article because just the Title and Picture sew it all up.
I realised that I haven't baked since Easter.  EASTER.  Unprecedented for me I know and it's probably got something to do with the fact that I've been off sweets.  I have, for the record, made a lot of ice cream.  Leftover cravings from Italy perhaps?  The upside for all of you is that ice cream leaves me with a butt load of egg whites... angel food cake anyone?  It's coming.  I promise.
Michael Pollan again.  I kinda feel like this weird attraction thing with him.  It's cool that he finds a way to say knowledgeable and intelligent things in a very accessible way.  It's also cool that he learns - like really learns - his stuff.
Statistically it looks like work/life balance has been working out pretty well for you if you are a dude... surprise, surprise.  Unfortunately, if you are a single-parent, educated (or not), working female the stats aren't looking nearly as rosy.  Surprise, Surprise.  Makes you wonder (again) about how things generally are working out for women in North America especially considering the kind of economy we've been dealing with over the last 10 (or 30) years.
It's almost impossible to imagine but this used to be 'Black Eyed Peas'.  Ummmm - WOW.
Also, just in case you ever need such thing, it's good to know that there is a company looking out for you.  But why should I believe them??????

I have been absolutely negligent in providing you with recipes using spring season ingredients.  They've been in my fridge - in fact, some are still there right now.  Asparagus, stinging nettles, ramps, rhubarb ('cause I had to order it this year... remember), fiddleheads, etc (can't think of any more).  I just feel like I haven't been doing anything life changing with them.  My general malaise combined with my lack of work/life balance (see above - without the single parenting part) has left me more than a little lazy in the kitchen.  I did however come up with this pesto thing.  It's not really pesto but calling it 'pesto' felt right and I'm just going to go with it.  I had cream cheese in the fridge and so it got added too.  It's a kitchen sink kind of recipe.  I later cooked up some honey garlic sausages and mushrooms and made a pasta sauce with the whole lot.  It came off well - even kid #2 ate it without complaining.

Ramps and Stinging Nettle 'Weird' Pesto
makes about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of sauce

8 ramps (or so) coarsely chopped
3 cups Stinging Nettle leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cups cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
juice of a lemon (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cups cream cheese or goat cheese
1/2 cup pasta water

Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
Add about 2 tbsp olive oil or grease.
Throw in the ramps and stinging nettle leaves.  Stir for 1 minutes and immediately remove from the heat.
Add the olive oil and cream.
Place mixture in a blender or use an hand blender.  Blend until the mixture is an even paste.
Add the salt, honey, lemon, parmesan and cream cheese.  Mix until blended.
Check the taste and adjust if necessary.
Add pasta water just before using the pesto to get it to the desired consistency.

Drunken Cherry and Vanilla Ice Cream

It's high time that something sweet and indulgent showed it's face here.  You deserve it.  You've endures so much from me over the past weeks.  Rants about Italy - blah blah blah we're all so happy that you went to Italy.  Lists about surviving with 180 boys for weeks on end - Boo, poor You having teaching at an all boys school.  Going on about the weather and when will it finally be spring anyway.  Blubbering about my home life and giving recipe upon recipe of things that have nothing to do with treating yourself.  Whining about how busy things have been and chiming on about how excited I am about getting some rhubarb this year.
Last weekend we had an extra day off.  D completed a fantastic DIY project with our neighbour in the backyard.  They fixed the fence.  It was in a state.  Falling over, you know how it goes.

All finished, it looks great and now my raspberries are not getting crushed by a falling fence.  However, my rhubarb took a hit.  A bad hit.  A deadly hit.  It's over.  No rhubarb this year.

My heart broke a little on one side - chipped right off.  I've ordered some for my food box and I'm not going to say any more about it.
I decided to let it go and drown some cherries in vodka because somehow I knew that would help me feel better.  So that totally happened.  Cherries left the freezer.  They got drowned in vodka and maple syrup and they were very very happy about it.  Drunk with happiness.  Then those gorgeous, drunk, bad boys got roasted.  Slowly and lovingly roasted.  The cherries were then chopped in their beautiful juice and thrown into the best vanilla ice cream I've ever made.

Ice cream is something I really need to indulge in more.  Homemade ice cream is possibly one of the very best things going.  The simplicity of making something with so few ingredients - cream, milk, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla - is more than comforting, it's sheer beauty.  I needed beauty in my life this week.  There is so much going on.  So much sadness and sickness and hurt and busy that needs balancing out.  I got told earlier in the week that I'm mean.  Maybe it was one of my kids or somebody at work, I can't even remember.  It was probably a joke but it got me thinking.  I am mean sometimes.  It's weird - when I like you I hurl insults at you.  I'm joking of course when I do it - it's all in good fun, right?  Sarcastic and funny.  I thought about how my sarcasm was kinda like those boys in Gr 1 who liked me.  How did I know they liked me?  They bit me... or maybe just punched me in the arm or something.  Their hurting me was actually them 'liking' me except how am I supposed to know that because I'm at school in the nurses office getting a plaster and hoping that I don't have to get sent in for a tetanus shot.  Yup - that's me sometimes only I use my words (isn't that what we're supposed to do) instead of my hands (or teeth as the case may be).  Blech.  Sometimes introspection sucks.  What am I going to do about it now that I know?  For now I'm going to eat ice cream because the fat will help me feel better about myself - I'm not even kidding about that.

I'm going to go and get together a list of some kind of crap that you could probably not care less about for my next post.

Drunken Cherry and Vanilla Ice Cream adapted from epicurious.com
makes about 750ml or serves 6 - 8

1 2/3 cup cherries (I used frozen from last year's harvest) halved
3 tbsp rum/vodka or vanilla
3 tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla seeds scooped out of 2 pods
4 egg yolks, placed together in a bowl

Combine the cherries, alcohol and maple syrup together.  Stir and set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300°F
Pour the cherries and liquid onto a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes.
Cool the cherries completely and then chop then in their juice.

Combine the cream, milk and sugar in a heavy bottomed pan.  Heat over med/low heat until just barely beginning to simmer.  Turn the heat down to low immediately.  Add the vanilla seeds.  Stir well.
Pour some of the heated cream/milk into the egg yolks, stirring constantly.
Pour the egg yolk mixture slowly back into the cream mixture until it's all added.  Stir constantly (the mixture shouldn't come to a simmer again).  You should feel the mixture thickening somewhat.  You can test that the custard is ready by checking the back of a wooden spoon - dip it into the custard, run your finger across the back of the spoon and if the cream doesn't run back together and fill in the gap then it's ready.
Run the mixture through a sieve and into a bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap, placing the plastic wrap right on the custard (that way no crust forms on the top of the custard).  Cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 4 hrs.
Place the custard into an ice cream maker and run according to the specifications.
At the end of the run, as the ice cream is nearly set, add in the chopped cherries.  Run for another 5 minutes.
Scoop into a freezable container to firm up.

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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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