Black and Yellow Chocolate Mousse Cake

Now that christmas is behind us and the pressure is off I feel like I can think just a little more clearly.  It's all an illusion of course but christmas seems to carry with it some brain cluttering expectations whether or not you embrace them (I'll leave you to guess which category I fall into).  After what felt like a record number of performances this December we really tried to keep expectations low.  Like really low.  We didn't have a big christmas day dinner (decided at about 4pm that we would glaze and bake the ham in the fridge and have it with leftovers) although D made his amazing omelet for breakfast which sustained us through the day.  We didn't go anywhere on christmas day - or boxing day for that matter. We watched movies, movies and more movies. Ate ham and leftovers again.  Two words: Track Pants.  I think that you get the idea.
Even with the aggressive no-christmas-craziness campaign I still found myself making 4 different kinds of cookies.  There was absolutely no reason for these cookies.  No one asked for the cookies and not one single person needs those cookies, especially at this time of year.  This is probably a good time to mention that because I work in a school I receive chocolates in amounts that are crazy - I donate and give to friends.  So why the cookies? It was the sheer guilt of tradition that motivated them.  Once they were done I realized that the blondies I made sucked (they lasted a day before I called it and they met their end) and that clementine/maple and bacon cookies become clementine cookies because clementine is a bully - I will post a recipe for these though.  From there I needed to find homes for the rest of the stuff because it was physically impossible for us to eat them all.  Merry christmas one and all.
Moving on:
These two articles entertained me: One and Two
This is the funniest thing I've discovered recently (trust me: keep going cause each page gets better and better)
I still need to make these for my bestest because she doesn't like chocolate and because I bake for her.
Can we talk for a moment about how much gushing is going on over this man and his music.  The album cannot be over hyped.
If you haven't gotten your fill of movies just yet then this might help you decide on your next rental.

Mousse cake Pre-Ganache
Mousse cake Post-Ganache
Way Way Way back in early December, D had a birthday.  We couldn't have been busier (all of us) but we still managed to squeeze some gifts and a special dinner in there.  I'm not totally confident about this but I think that D requested my own shepherd's pie concoction.  He did not request this cake - it's possible that he requested cheesecake and I didn't quite take it in... but that also might have been another year.  However, knowing that D loves chocolate mousse cake I decided to make something with chocolate mousse.  I liked the idea of the colour contrast between the layers.  The cake turned out to be surprisingly moist and lasted forever (because D ended up being the only one eating it after 2 days and refused to let it go into the green bin... which is fine because it was his birthday cake).

Chocolate Mousse Cake adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 1  9inch round cake

1/2 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup corn starch
pinch cinnamon
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and flour a round cake tin.  Set aside.
Combine the flour, cornstarch and a pinch of cinnamon. Set aside.
Beat together the egg whites and 1/4 cup of sugar until they are stiff and fluffy.
In another bowl combine the egg yolks, vanilla.  Begin to beat together and slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar.  Beat together for about 5 minutes until thick.
Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until incorporated.
Add the flour in 3 stages, thoroughly combining each time.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester comes out of the middle clean.
Cool completely before removing from the pan.

Chocolate Mousse adapted from Epicurious
make about 3 1/2 cups

1 1/4 cups whipping cream, chilled
3/4 cups whipping cream, room temperature
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
7oz chocolate (I used between 50 and 60% cocoa solids)

Heat 3/4 cups whipping cream over medium heat.  Remove just before it begins to boil.  Cool for 2 minutes.  Combine egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a bowl.  Pour the hot cream in a slow, thin, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture. Stir constantly until all the hot cream has been added.
Melt chocolate over a double boiler.  Add to the cream mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.  Set aside to cool until at least room temperature.
Whip the chilled cream until it forms stiff peaks.
Fold little by little into the chocolate mixture until all of the whipped cream has been added.
Pour over completely cooled cake.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Chocolate Ganache adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 cups semi sweet (55%) chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp salted butter

Place the chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl.
Heat the cream until simmering.
Pour hot cream over the chocolate.  Stir until the chips are beginning to melt.
Add the butter while the chocolate is still warm.
Stir until everything is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Cool for a few minutes and pour over cake.

Caramel Apple Ice Cream

We are looking down the barrel of U.S. thanksgiving which is really not a thing at all here in Canada. It's just something we are aware of... and maybe do a little black friday shopping on Amazon.   We are in the dead of winter as far as weather is concerned.  Biking has been off the table this week and temperatures have dipped way below what we are used to.  I'm working really hard at not letting this affect my mood greatly.  I am looking at weeks of crazy christmas concerts and events and things that I have to plan and attend and still get organized for January work... and my family is currently checking out the 2015 potato calendar.  It's a real thing.
Here are some things that I thought were noteworthy over the last month:
1.  The Oatmeal's take on Net Neutrality
2.  Thanks to a Canadian quasi-celebrity we have all been talking a whole lot more about sexual abuse and harassment.  Let's hope that this talking continues and turns into a real change in the way society views the women in it.
3.  I've been geeking out to this song
4.  If I don't make this and this soon I just don't know what I'm going to do.
5.  This blogger beautifully summed up a lot of the food lies that women believe about other women. You know all of those food shots where an incredibly beautiful and thin woman about to eat something big and crazy.

I made this ice cream a good while ago and, in the spirit of not spreading food lies, I didn't eat very much of it.  I tested it and it was good.  Truth is I'm not much of an ice cream person.  In fact, lately food and I haven't been close but that's another story for another time.  Kid #2 won't go near this kind of ice cream if it were the last thing on earth to eat.  D basically won't touch ice cream unless it's chocolate or good quality vanilla (I totally get behind that).  So that left Kid #1.  She dutifully had a bowl or two but let out a sigh of relief when we had guests over because we served this ice cream with apple crisp.  It's pretty rich stuff and the texture and tastes worked well together.  Feel free to adjust the caramel to apple ratio if you think it might be too sweet for your liking.

Caramel Apple Ice Cream
makes 1 litre (or so)

1 1/2 cups whipping cream (the heavy stuff)
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks, whisked together in a bowl
1 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla or vanilla paste

Caramel Apple Sauce

3 - 4 sm/med apples - peeled, cored and diced
2 tbsp brown sugar (optional - depending on the sweetness of the caramel that you are using)
pinch of salt and cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel sauce (I made my own from here but you could even melt in some kraft caramels if it came down to it)

Add the diced apples to a heavy bottomed pan and heat over med/low heat.  As the apples start to cook you might want to add a dash or so of water to prevent sticking.  Add in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Cook until the apples have gotten all mushy and soft and the liquid has cooked down (I simmered mine for about 10 minutes to dry it out a bit)  Remove from the heat, add in the caramel and mix well.  Set aside.

Ice cream:
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the sugar gently over med/low heat for just a minute.  Add in a little of the cream and mix well to dissolve the sugar.  Once dissolved, add in the rest of the cream and all of the milk.  Continue to heat until it almost comes to a boil, turn the heat down to about a half of what you started at and add a little of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks, stirring constantly.  Continue to add the hot cream to the egg yolks in a very small, steady stream until the yolks are warmed up (about a half a cup of the hot cream).  Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the hot cream. Place it back onto the stove and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture heats up enough to coat the wooden spoon (you should be able to run your finger over the back of the spoon and have the mixture remain in place without running).
Remove from heat and run it through a sieve and into a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap (press down so it is right on the warm custard mixture all the way around and even stuck to the sides of the bowl) and cool completely to room temperature.  Place in the fridge overnight.
Once refrigerator cold, pour into an ice cream maker and run for about a half hour or until the mixture reaches a soft serve consistency.  Pour everything into a freezer container and stir in the caramel apple mixture.
Soften for a few minutes before serving.

Sausage, Cauliflower and Fennel Gratin

There are a couple of things that I want to get out to you before the weekend hits.  It's canadian thanksgiving this weekend and it's not so much that I'm looking to give you some great ideas to plot down onto your feast table but more that I've got these things scratching around the back of my head needing to get out.  I want the weekend off.  I want to spend a little time reconnecting with my 13 (!) yr old kid.  I would love to see my husband for a while - we've been texting so I know that he is out there somewhere.  A long weekend really can't go by without a long, enjoyable run in there somewhere.  Maybe a colourful bike ride through the trails.  These things will cause me to 'give thanks'.  Laundry, cooking, baking, cleaning... only by necessity.
I did a weird thing a couple of days ago.  I made ribs.  Ribs are great, awesome even.  Ribs are totally easy and always get gobbled up quickly and.... I NEVER make them.  I'm not sure what exactly possessed me but there I was with two racks of ribs in my hands at the butcher shop and... Oh look, they've come home with me too.  After a few minutes of stupid easy prep and about 3 hours of low heat roasting later I had some happy people around me.

This is not a recipe you want to serve with ribs.  I guess you might want to serve it with turkey but not ribs.  You definitely want to serve it with some crusty, toasted, garlicky buttered bread... but not ribs.  Ribs need to be with ribs.  It's own thing.  Ribs are the thing that wants to take over the world and no matter what you do they will crush you.  They will over power you and they will be better than you ever imagined you could be even in your wildest dreams.  A delicious but subtle, colourful yet meek, meaty but textured dish like this is just destined to sit sad and lonely in the fridge until those damn ribs are gone.  Then, and only then, will this lovely dish get anything close to the recognition it deserves.
I used honey garlic sausages and I used romanescu cauliflower (or broccoli depending on who you talk to.  I like it because it looks like little pine trees but the white fluffy cloud regular cauliflower will do just fine.

If you happen to be someone who likes a little something weird at your thanksgiving table, or you are looking for a non-turkey kind of table, or you are really not observing the whole turkey table, cornucopia thing at all then you might just want to give this recipe a whirl.

Sausage, Cauliflower and Fennel Gratin adapted from

1 lb sausage (I used italian honey garlic), casings removed
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 cup fennel, coarsely chopped
2 - 3 cup cauliflower, broken into medium sized floret pieces (does that make any sense?)
1 cup spinach, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup honey
1 veggie boullion cube
1/4 cup (scant) juice (I used part of a leftover juice box - apple/grape - from my kid's lunch kit)
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper sauce

1/2 - 2/3 cup Bread Crumbs
1/2 - 2/3 cup parmesan, shredded
good dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375° F
Butter a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
Bring a large pot with about 2 cups of water to a boil - add the cauliflower and steam with the lid on for 2 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and set aside.
Heat the same large pot over medium heat.  Add about 2 - 3 tbsp oil and the sausage and onion.  Cook briefly together and then add in the garlic, celery and fennel.  Turn the heat down a bit and cook together for about 10 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are softening.
Add in the tomato and spinach and continue to cook until the spinach becomes wilted.
Add in the honey, bouillon cube, juice, worcestershire sauce, oregano, thyme, cumin, salt and pepper sauce.  Mix well and continue to simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the liquid is about halved.
Add the cauliflower to the sausage.  Mix well and pour into the prepared pan.

Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper together.  Mix and sprinkle over the sausage and vegetables.
Cover and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until the edges are browned and bubbling.
Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Apple Crumb Muffins

It seems fitting that on this last day of summer I post these muffins.  There is just something right about it.  Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg... it's screams 'Fall'.  Otherwise, there isn't a whole lot out there screaming Fall just yet... unless you count the Christmas crap all over the stores.
This weekend happened like many others - me having no plan whatsoever for what I want to accomplish.  I thought about painting a room... didn't happen.  I considered cleaning out the junk drawer... nope.  I did (fortunately) clean some clothes and get the floors swept a couple of times.  We also managed to throw in a play date.  Kid #2 has changed schools and now attends the same school where I teach/work - yes, that is just a little crazy.  Even though his old school is right across the street from us we haven't been able - for one reason or another - to get together with any of his old friends.  This past weekend though he got on the horn and had a friend over for a play date.  Play date sounds weird and formal.  They hung out together.  I don't particularly like play dates.  Mostly because it involves kids.  I don't hate kids or anything, I just don't particularly like them.  When I'm tired and it's been a long week it's even worse.  Kids are loud and messy and sometimes I just can't.  This weekend happened to be one of those times when I just couldn't.  Being a superlative Mom though means that you just suck it up once in a while and take one for the team.  As it turns out, indoor play dates can be wonderful motivation for me to get some much needed yard work done.  I happily spent a couple of hours of said play date outside while they yelled and had fun inside (so long as nothing gets broken I'm cool).  Two bags of clippings later and the yard looks great.  I suspect that if they had come outside my motivation might have disappeared.  It's possible that a mop and bucket might have looked tempting at that point - god knows, I wouldn't be able to turn on a tv screen without the couch magically filling up with kids.

I made these muffins before the play date.  Kid #1 knows now not to make a face when they ask what I'm baking and the answer is something involving fruit.  She knows because she has experienced my response on more than one occasion and she knows because she has tasted the results.  You can't always judge a book by it's humble, fruity cover.  Sometimes it tastes good.  Not every single thing has to have chocolate in it or on it.  She also knows that one bite will usually shut me up if I'm gotten all hissy about it.  Kid #2 - not so smart yet.  Doesn't even try to hide the face.  Won't even give that fruity thing a single bite.  Incurs the wrath of Mom every time.  The plate of muffins stayed on the table for the duration of the play date untouched.  Apparently mine aren't the only kids who believe that anything made without chocolate is probably not edible.  Comforting.

He ate a half a muffin before bed (couldn't stand the Mom attitude any more).  The entire half.

Apple Crumb Muffins adapted from Pip & Ebby

2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg

2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 cup (generous) milk or cream
1 1/2 cups (1 lg) apple, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes


1/2 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup oats (I used quick oats for this one)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a dozen (or so) muffin cups with liners and set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg together.  Mix and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar, sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Beat (or mix) together until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat until well incorporated and fluffy.  Add the milk or cream and mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture.  Using a mixer or a large whisk continue mixing until the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture is thoroughly wet.
Add in the apples and fold until well mixed.
Fill muffin cups just to the upper edge.
Sprinkle each with about 1 1/2 tbsp (I used large spoonfuls) of topping and press it down just a little.
Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until a tester comes out of the middle muffins clean.
Cool before removing

Mix the flour, oats and brown sugar together.
Add the melted butter and mix until it forms little clumps.  Set aside to use on the muffins.

Banana Blondies and my summer vacation

We did not go away anywhere over the summer.  We didn't even attempt to make plans to do anything.  We were renovating and painting and sanding and everything that goes along with that - including waiting much longer than expected for jobs to finish.  We are not bitter.  We understand and it's ok.
I did however, have the opportunity to go away for 24 hrs with my bestest friend KT.  KT is one of those people who are just so amazing that you don't know what to do with her.  Except she is so amazing that she helps you figure even that out.  She is a beautiful person both inside and out.  I have no idea why she is friends with me really.  I'm pretty grouchy, kinda nonchalant, a bad gift giver (negligent) and I'm not even rich to make up for all of that.  KT has recently (coming up on 3 yrs in a few months) started foster parenting babies.  Again, she is amazing at it.  It's a thankless job in many ways but she loves those babies... except for the sleep.  Or lack thereof.  Imagine, if you can, parenting new-borns over and over for 3 years straight.  We don't get to see each other as much as we would like because I am working during the day and she is not coherent after about 7:30 pm.  This made our 24 hr getaway even more special.
Given my last year and a half and her 2 1/2 year sleep deprivation experiment, we were both pretty tired.  I thought that you might find it exciting affirming alarming amusing to have a look at what we did for our 24hrs.
1:00pm - get in car
2:40pm - arrive at destination
3:00pm - sit in hotel room, contemplate a walk
3:15pm - walk around the village (this takes about 7 minutes if you walk very slowly)
3:30pm - order snack/lunch
4:15pm - return to hotel room, put bath robes on over our clothes and watch tv
6:00pm - walk down to pool, sit on loungers and watch people in pool
7:00pm - return to hotel room
7:30pm - walk to village for snacks and magazines
8:00pm - find a place with absolutely no children in it and have drinks
9:15pm - walk back to hotel room
9:30pm - settle into bed with magazines
9:00am - get up
9:45am - get breakfast
11:00am - check out
11:45am - get pedicure
1:00pm - get in car and drive home

For 24 hrs no other human being determined what had to be done, told us what they needed, had to be seen to or otherwise entertained... and that is what we decided to do with the time.  Are either one of us disappointed that we didn't go mountain biking or hiking or kayaking?  Hell no.  Are you kidding.
And that was my summer vacation.

Here is banana cake, blondies that I have made.  It sounds like it shouldn't work because there is no leavening agent in it but somehow it works and the kids loved it.  The Kids.

Banana Blondies adapted from Food52
makes 1 pan of brownies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup melted butter
2 lg eggs,  lightly whisked to break the yolks
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
generous 1/2 cup dark chocolate (about 72%) coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F
Grease and flour (or line with parchment) an 8x8 baking dish and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Set aside.
In  large bowl mix the mashed bananas and melted butter.  Once combined add the eggs and mix well.  Add both sugars and mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture.  Stir to thoroughly mix.
Add the chopped chocolate and stir just until mixed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes or until just browning at the edges and a toothpick comes out mostly clean from the centre.
Cool before cutting.

Fridge Frittata and a Story

It's really quite ridiculous that I'm even posting a recipe like this.  I bet you have thought of making this in some incarnation or another about a million times.  You've probably  gone through with it and actually prepared the thing maybe about a thousand times.  It's so easy and basic that I feel kinda silly but the truth is that it's all I've got.  Another truth is that I really need to break the ice, break the silence, break the break and pump something out.
Our house being in total chaos - and the large part of that chaos being the kitchen - for the entire summer has just derailed me.  My summer was sanding and staining and taping and painting and trying to find some sanity while not being able to make a morning coffee.  The good news is that the kitchen is done.  I can now make my morning coffee.  I only make it on the weekends though because I truly believe that morning coffee is a ritual that is sacred enough not to be rushed.  Rushed is the only way that morning coffee will happen throughout the workweek.

Is there anyone out there without a potato somewhere in their kitchen?
This recipe is easy enough that you can use whatever veggies you have in your house, you will pretty much be guaranteed to have the other ingredients just about all of the time and lastly, you really have to try hard to screw it up.  Even though I'm back in my kitchen it doesn't feel like my kitchen quite yet - although I'm getting there. Generally, I'm going with some easy, quick and comfortable recipes.  When I'm not making this kind of thing, I'm pretty much either snacking on toast, chips or going out for something.
And this brings me to the story portion of this post.  Last week, on labour day monday to be exact, I took the kids out in a fit of starving, exhausted, desperation.  We went to The Wren (a fantastic little spot about 10 min's walk from my front door with great food and a fantastic craft beer selection).  I happen to read this blog on a regular basis and the blogger also frequents The Wren so every time I'm there I always kinda scan the place just out of interest to see if she might be there.  So I'm sitting with my two kids trying to be sane and sip my beer when who sits down at the large table right beside me but the Yum Yum Factor Lady (at least that what I call her in my head).  I tell the kids while trying to be inconspicuous.  Kid #2 is 8 and hungry and couldn't give a rip and probably didn't even hear what I was going on about.  Kid #1 is riveted and tells me I should say something.  She also tells me that if she can text Misha Collins (?) and some other actor guy that is super important to her about something or other.... well then I can certainly walk up to someone (now I did make the point here that in person and on line are two very different things) and tell them that I like their work.  Truthfully, I felt weird about it but I thought about how I would feel if someone walked up to me and told me that they really liked my blog.  I would be thrilled (I think) and flattered (definitely) and not weirded out at all (unless they proceeded to do something weird or confusing).  So I strategized with kid #1.  She took kid #2 outside once we were done and I - very naturally, politely and casually - interrupted the Yum Yum Factor Lady's meal by telling her how much I loved her blog.  I think that she was happy and asked to take a picture with me.  Kids #1 and #2 stared very conspicuously through the front window.  If you want to see the picture go here (she looks sassy and cool in the hat - I'm the other one)
The moral of this story:
1. Tell people when you like them, their work or their hat.
2. Post more shit on the blog so that maybe someday someone out there will feel inspired enough to introduce themselves to me if they see me somewhere.
3. Go to The Wren.

Still playing with (ie. screwing up) a 35mm camera lens which was an Awesome Gift from D.  My pictures are not happy.
Fridge Frittata
serves 4

3 - 4 med potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (very approximate)
1 red or yellow pepper, coarsely diced
1/2 cup onion, coarsely diced
2 lg cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups milk
4 egg whites (you can simply add 3 extra eggs if you don't have egg whites from ice cream hanging around)
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp each - dried basil, marjoram and parsley
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp pepper sauce (optional)
1 1/2 cups cheddar, shredded
1 med tomato, sliced into 1/3 inch slices

Preheat oven to 375°F
Boil potatoes for about 6 minutes, drain and set aside
Heat a large caste iron (i.e. something big that can go straight to the oven) skillet over medium heat.
Add some oil or fat.
Throw in the pepper, onion and garlic.  Cool for about 4 minutes and turn the heat off.
In a large bowl combine the milk, egg whites, egg, salt, herbs, worcestershire, soy sauce and pepper sauce.  Whisk until fully combined and set aside.
Mix the drained potatoes with the cooked vegetables until they are mixed up well.
Sprinkle the cheese over it all.
Pour the milk mixture over that (it should cover everything)
Place the tomato slices on top and push them down just a little.
Bake for about 40 - 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.  The middle should not be liquid.
Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Updates and a DIY

First the good news:
D's cousin is this close to taking over the world (she is number 9).  She is a close friend of mine and I am over the moon with all of the accolades that she is receiving.  I am also a little intimidated and hoping against hope that she takes care of me in my old age.  Very, very proud.

Next the 'not as good' news:
I am not a DIY person.
I typically do not enjoy 'Doing It Yourself'.
I am still not sure what prompted me to take on this project aside from saving money and not knowing anyone who might be stupid enough to do it for me.
I also have a sore throat.
I have not cooked much but just enough to keep everyone alive.  This is still our kitchen...

Please note the big holes where normally the solid surface of a counter top would be.  This also means that we have no sink or drain in which to wash dishes.  Apparently dishes chores are off once the location of the sink changes.
I have distracted myself by stripping, scraping and sanding two sets of stair rails.

This is one of those stair rails
This is what it looks like after one coat of stain.  I am scared and not quite sure what to do next.

In other news, we have raspberries.  This is a big deal for us because the last two years have produced nothing even close to 'bowls full' of raspberries. We are happy.


Summer updates:

This daisy is in my back yard.  It is beautiful.  There are bugs.

This is pretty much what life is looking like here.  Worst part - no breakfast.  I can deal with no food pretty much any other time of day except breakfast.  Day two of finding breakfast elsewhere and I'm a bear... a bear in March.  Kids think that muffins and hot chocolate for breakfast is cool.  They are not having any trouble adjusting.

It's our 'Renovate all the things' project.

Kitchen edition:

Front Hall edition:

Deck and Balcony edition:  No picture available yet because it doesn't start until next week.

Kid #1 is going into high school in approximately 1 1/2 months.  I see her for probably no more than 20 minutes a day between her friends and her bedroom (and what I can only assume is copious amounts of netflix and tumblr)

We have no vacation plans... none... not even one plan.

I have decided to try my hand at making my own pepper sauce.  The bones seem easy but I imagine that it will take a little tweaking to get the recipe to my taste.  At least the basic ingredients are cheap so I won't waste a lot of money if it blows chunks.

Kid #2 has finally mastered biking on two-wheeler.  He hasn't yet mastered the starting and stopping of biking.  He went 'biking' with a friend yesterday.  I stood and watched them.  I became that Mom - the one that stands there and gets super edgy and uptight that her kid is going to fall or get run into or slam into a tree or something.  That Mom.  I had to close my eyes.

I really wish I were posting my rhubarb curd ice cream with white chocolate but can't because I haven't made it yet.  It sounds finicky but the idea occurred while I was trying to sleep and it made sense at the time.  I'm going to try it because I've decided that I need to work harder on my follow through.

I have some lovely little things happening in the garden this year.  Unfortunately, the raspberries have completely taken over the rhubarb and the poppies.  It turns out that tomato plants don't really like me that much and have decided to boycott growing in protest.  Pleasant surprise: I have dill where I planted none.  Nobody here likes dill.

Fennel, pepper and sausage Crostata

It's summer.  I realize that turning on your oven in the middle of the hottest season may not be your thing.  If you have been reading me for a while (say at least as far back as last summer) then you might have gathered that I'm not big on the grilling/bbq thing.  In fact, that is an understatement.  I don't care about it to the point of considering selling my bbq... if it were in decent enough shape to sell that is.  It's not.  There is almost no time that I even consider using my bbq in favour of my stove/oven.  I don't know why.  It's a fault I guess.
It may be one of those nature vs nurture things.  Once the weather got decent enough in southern Ontario, my Dad would unveil the bbq, clean it and get it fired up.  We would bbq on weekly basis for the most part.  Now when it comes to food, my Dad is into simple and honest.  Having said that he's come a long way - he now believes that garlic is something that could conceivably be used in a recipe without wrecking it (I think that he even goes as far as eating garlic bread once in a while), he also has been seen consuming pizza (something that the rest of us had to eat when he had already gone to bed because it was gross) and I have even seen him eat lasagna - stop the presses.  I am told by my Mom (whom I just assume is honest and trustworthy) that Dad ate chicken curry once and although I'm sure it's true I will only fully believe when I see that with my own eyes.  Back then though, Dad was a farmers kid to the bone.  Garlic was something you hang around your neck in case of vampires, pasta may or may not be a real food and only if served with potatoes as well.  BBQ meant meat, on a grill, cooked through (really cooked through) and served... buns optional.  Rubs, sauces and garlic nowhere to be found.  It didn't sell me on grilling and perhaps that is what has stuck through all of these years.  It's a great excuse story and I'm just gonna go with it.
We will fire up the bbq if we are having people over for dinner or a big party or something but it seems like such a bother to do it otherwise.  And we make sauces.  Sauces are essential - D is the sauce man for the most part.  The sauces get put on everything.  Would you like some chicken with your sauce would not be an inappropriate question.  Veggies are also essential.  On a skewer, preferably marinated and when done right might just outshine the burgers and chicken.  It's a production.

No grill was harmed in the making of this recipe. A oven was heated up about it though but unharmed as it turns out.  For those of you who may be hardcore bbq people at this time of year I think that there may be a very good way to make this whole recipe happen on your grill.  You could grill your veggies in the marinade at low heat and then get the grill up just a bit and do the pie itself.
This has nothing to do with anything really but I thought that you all should know that kid #2 has eaten only hotdogs for the last 60 hrs.  Extended 8th birthday celebrations.  I'm not joking... even for breakfast.

Fennel, Pepper and Sausage Crostata
serves 4

2 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 cup ice water

1 lb sausage of choice - whole and uncooked
1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1 inch thick strips
1 lg or 2 sm fennel bulbs, washed and cut into 4 or 5 pieces
1 med/small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch strips
salt and pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup mozzarella
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 300° F
Place all of the cut vegetables on a large baking sheet.  Add the sausage.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle on the brown sugar.
Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Toss everything together and spread out evenly on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool for about 15 - 20 minutes

Combine the flour, salt, sugar and parmesan together in a large bowl.
Add the cold butter.
Cut in the butter with two knives or a pastry cutter until the butter is no bigger than little peas and everything looks kinda of crumbly.
Add enough of the ice water to keep the dough together in a ball but it shouldn't be too wet.
Cover the dough and let it chill for about 30 minutes (you can let the veggies and sausage cool)

Put it all together:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a large baking sheet with parchment, cornmeal or a silicon liner
Slice the cooled sausages into 1 cm thick rounds
Roll out the dough (edges should be rough not even) to about 1 cm thickness and place on the parchment.
Spread the cooled veggies and sliced sausage evenly on the dough leaving about a 3 cm edge around the circumference.
Sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan cheese on the top.
Fold the edges over on to the veggies. Brush the edges with a little olive oil
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown at the edges.
Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Asparagus, Chicken and Potato Lasagna... goodbye asparagus.

We are approaching the end of the school year here.  I really cannot tell whether it's a quick approach or a ploddingly slow one.  It changes each day.  It feels like it's been so long and so much has happened throughout this school year but at the same time it's gone so fast that I haven't had a chance to catch my breath.  My brain is having trouble computing how to figure it out.
I'm not sure how I'm going to wind down from this year or whether or not I can.  It usually takes me the whole month of July to get into a different head space.  This year we've had a grade 8 graduation to prepare for (guess what - they now do a hotel dinner and dance for grade 8 graduations), an 8 year old birthday party to plan (hopefully for the last day of school), 3 major house projects to keep on top of (thank you to D for basically looking after nearly all of that) and four more birthdays to look forward to in July.  My brain is having trouble computing.

Still life with asparagus.  This is the happy graduate.
The funny thing is that you feel at loose ends with yourself for a while.  Don't know what to do next and end up just sitting on the couch for an inexplicable amount of time.  Then you move to the computer and do the same... probably not even touching the keyboard or mouse once.  Just starring at the screen.  This may happen repeatedly before a kid reminds you that they have to consume food to survive.  Damn.  Then back to couch... damn, I have no clean underwear.  Damn.  My brain can think but somehow cannot prompt my muscles to movement.  All of a sudden summer hits and  everything kind of stops and something as simple as going to a doctor appointment means I'm done for the day.  It's weird and terrifying.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING becomes more desirable or important than reading a book and drinking a cold beer in the back yard.
These are the things that happen when summer begins.
Asparagus season is technically done and I'm slow on the draw with this one.  If you happen to live somewhere further north where asparagus is still producing then go nuts.  Otherwise, you could always consider a replacement.  Maybe broccolette or fresh green beans.  Something green though.  It needs to be green for my brain to compute it as correct.

This is definitely asparagus and chicken that you are looking at...
To illustrate how much my brain is not computing - I happily edited through all of my photos for this post until I looked back at the photos I had uploaded last week... yup - I was editing the wrong recipe the whole time. Fortunately, I caught the mistake before I posted a recipe for chicken and asparagus  with pictures of chocolate cookies.
In the meantime, I'm going to claw my way to the last day of school and let myself fall deep into couch mode for a few days.

Asparagus, Chicken and Potato Lasagna adapted from Food52

8 - 9 medium/small potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 lg bunches asparagus, hard ends removed
3 cups cooked chicken, torn into med/small pieces

3 3/4 cup milk, warmed for about 4 minutes in the microwave
6 tbsp butter
6 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt to taste
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup parmesan, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter a 9x13 baking dish.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.
Add the butter and lower the heat to med/low.  Let the butter melt completely.
Whisk in the flour and mix thoroughly with the butter.
Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly.
Once all the milk is added continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken.
Add in the worcestershire, mustard powder and nutmeg.
Mix well.
Add in the cheddar and 1/3 cup parmesan.  Whisk until melted in.
Add salt to taste.

Place a single layer of the sliced potatoes on the bottom of the prepared pan.
Place about half of the asparagus spears on top of the potatoes.
Sprinkle on half of the onion.
Layer about half of the chicken.
Repeat the layering process a second time which should finish everything.
Pour the cheese sauce over everything.
Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Bake covered for about 45 minutes.
Remove the cover and bake for another 35 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly and browning at the edges.

Rhubarb Lemon Cake

And then the World Cup.
I did not grow up in a place that recognized the World Cup.  In my little town about an hour outside of Toronto, soccer was a thing you played after school when the hockey season was over.  Filler I guess.  When I moved to Montreal the World Cup was a thing that was recognized for sure but I was a broke student in the music faculty.  I didn't really give a crap about team sports generally and had no money to go to the pub with my friends to socialize... and watch the game.  Hence, this soccer thing was not at all on my radar.
My subsequent move to Trinidad served to school me in the 'joys' of cricket more than anything else. I thought that all of these people must be talking about croquet.  Never heard of cricket and therefor it can't be that important.  After, I've been around and would have heard about it if it were a big thing.  Yup - it's a big thing... not croquet after all... turns out most of the world knows about a lot of things that I didn't even know existed...imagine.  Cricket and all of it's test match weeks and day long games are huge... HUGE.  Who knew.

We took a trip to London a few years ago.  We wanted to reconnect with some of D's family and to spend time in a place that I had heard so much about.  Our trip just happened to coincide with the World Cup.  Of course this meant nothing to me until I attempted to navigate around Piccadilly Square during an England match (god help us all).  You couldn't so much as buy a cookie that didn't have the white flag with the red cross on it.  I think even vegetables were branded with it.  Tv ads and even a music video - so ghastly that I shudder a bit even remembering it - marketing how well the England team would do.  Of course being the England team (I'm sorry - I really am) meant that they didn't get too far into the tournament.  Imagine my shock when the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, gave a televised statement viewed across the UK expressing his deep disappointment (expressed by him as 'devastation' as I recall) that the team would not be bringing home the cup.  What... the Prime Minister... what's going on here.  I'm sure that all of the cakes and cookies stamped with the flag went on sale the next day.

A very dark picture of two members of my family watching a game.
For D this was a relief because finally I get it.  I understand just how important this world cup thing was.  I understand that this is something entire countries get behind in a way they never do in the Olympics.  I understand that even if you aren't from Brazil you can support them and that you'd better hope if you are in the pub that you aren't the only Brazil supporter present.  I understand that even if you've lived in Canada your entire life that when it comes to the world cup you absolutely become Italian.  I get that it's almost impossible to work at your desk during a game... and why fight it.  I know now that doing something, anything on a day when there are 3 or 4 games happening will be done by me by myself unless it happens in the 60 minutes in between game times.
I understand and I'm ok with it now.  I made rhubarb cake so that I could serve it to the construction guys in our house during the game.  'Cause I know now that they won't be working.

Rhubarb Lemon Cake adapted slightly from 'honey & jam'
makes 1 tube cake

3 cups chopped rhubarb
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 sugar
3 eggs (or 1 egg and 3 egg whites - that's what I used)
zest of 1 lg lemon
3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup icing sugar
cream (if needed to get the right consistency)

Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and flour a tube/bundt pan.  Set aside.  
Combine the chopped rhubarb (I used frozen rhubarb, let it thaw and drain well) and the 2 tbsp flour until the rhubarb is completely coated.  Set aside.
Combine the 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom together.  Mix well and set aside.  

Beat or whisk together the room temperature butter and the sugar for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat or whisk until well combined and fluffy.  Add in the lemon zest and mix thoroughly.  
Continue to beat at low speed or whisk adding about half of the flour mixture.  Combine thoroughly. 
Add in the half of the buttermilk and beat until thoroughly combined. 
Add in about half of the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined. 
Add the rest of the buttermilk and combine.  
Add the rest of the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.  
Gently fold in the coated rhubarb to the cake batter.  
Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bang lightly on the counter to remove air bubbles. 
Bake for about 30 minutes. 
Turn the pan and bake for another 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is pulling away from the edges of the pan. 
Cool completely before removing from the pan. 


Fiddlehead, Asparagus and Sausage Pesto Pasta Bake

I have a few problems with pesto.
I'm a little ashamed to admit it because pesto is decent tasting and it's easy to make.
My first problem is that I never know quite what to do with it.  It's supposed to work with pasta - just tossed in pasta... and not much else.  I'm not a tossed pasta kind of person typically so that's just lost on me.  D is not much of a tossed pasta kind of person either.
I've also seen it used to coat meat.  Usually chicken.  Chicken that I'm going to stick in the oven and bake or that I'm going to cook on the stove top.  Just chicken and pesto.  I'm not much of a 'just chicken' cook.
Pesto works well on bread.  As an appetizer.  With tomato and cheese or something.  I'm not much of an appetizer cook either.
The texture is weird.  It's creamy/goopy but also leafy.  That feels odd on my tongue.
It can also be a pretty intense flavour depending on how you make it - and because I make my own it can get pretty intense.  I use a lot of parmesan.  The intensity can overwhelm easily I find and it has to be well balanced out.  I always reach for cream or a creamy cheese to add in but it does add to the richness.
As you can tell by now, even though I like the idea of making pesto I'm a little lost when it comes to using it.  This means, of course, that the pesto remains in my freezer for undetermined (read: LONG) time.  This is not good for pesto... or pretty much anything.

I'm not exactly sure that pesto and asparagus/fiddleheads are a good combination but somehow this worked.  Considering I found the pesto in the back of the freezer and it had no date on it, it's amazing that this worked at all.  At least it worked the first day.  This is not one of those baked pasta things that gets better the second day.  It gets way too dry for my taste.  I would recommend making this at a time when you have a few hungry friends coming over and maybe not when you are undergoing kitchen and house renovations.
I'm not really selling this recipe I realize but if you have the right situation to serve it in OR like a sane person make about half of the recipe then you will be fine.

Asparagus and Sausage Pesto Pasta Bake
serves 8

1 lg bunch asparagus (about 1 1/2 cups), ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 - 2 cups fiddleheads, stems removed
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 - 4 cups spinach, washed, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 lb sweet sausage (I used honey garlic), casings removed
1 boullion cube
1 1/2 cup pesto (I used homemade but store bought is just fine)
1/2 cup chèvre (soft goat cheese)
1 cup milk or half and half (5%)
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pepper sauce (optional - you know I'm gonna throw in a little half tsp or so)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup parmesan, finely shredded
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
3 cups cooked pasta (rotini, penne), cooked to al dente, drained (save the water though) and set aside

Preheat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
Add in about 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil.
Add the asparagus and onion, turning down the heat to med/low.
Cook together for about 4 minutes.
Add the fiddleheads, red pepper and garlic.  Cook for another 4 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add in the sausage meat and mix well, cooking together just until the meat browns.
Add in the bouillon cube and mix well.
Add in the pesto, chèvre and milk.  Mix well and let everything come back up to temperature.
Add in the worcestershire, honey and balsamic vinegar.
Add in the spinach, parmesan and 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Mix well and cook just until the spinach has wilted and the cheese has melted.
Check tastes and add salt and pepper as necessary.
Add in the cooked pasta.  Mix and add enough of the pasta water to make the mixture reasonably thin (I used probably about a half a cup)
Pour everything into a large baking dish and spread evenly.
Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the mozzarella on top is bubbling and golden brown.
Cool for about 15 minutes before 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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  • Naparima Girls High School 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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