Fridge Pasta

I saw this posted by a friend on FB. The article managed to almost capture a conversation that I've had over and over since getting back from our trip. In fact, D and I were discussing this very thing just yesterday over a well-deserved, relaxed and very enjoyable beer. When you go away with kids it is a trip. A trip is not necessarily a vacation. There are times when an event can be both a trip and a vacation... I guess, if that's your thing. I'm beginning to think though that travelling to a place you've never been before and staying in a wonderful new city or town or villa or whatever may never mean that I am having a vacation. If vacation means relax, read endlessly at breakfast with my coffee in hand, not have to think about food for even a second, stare contentedly at my umbrella topped drink, not even once have to read something in a language other than my mother tongue... then yeah, why would I travel somewhere wonderful for that. I can do that at home... mostly. If I'm in a new place then I want to see it and be a part of it. Walking around is my favourite way to do that cause I really do think that on foot you have a chance to take a place in... wander a bit. Weaving through streets and parks and taking turns that you might never consider in a car or be able to get to on a bus.
Nope, we took a trip. With our two kids on an overnight flight (they did better than we did with that), our destination in a 6 hr ahead time zone, got through customs, rented a car and drove about 45 minutes away from the airport to a place we'd never been to before. We stayed for a few days about 45 minutes outside of Amsterdam in a lovely, quiet 'trailer park' - these are not the north american trailer parks... think small cottages (2 bedrooms or more) on a compound and all with boat access to a lake. We travelled to the North Sea for a friends wedding. We hopped on a plane and spent a weekend in London whooping it up with family. Saw as much of downtown London that we could in 3 hours. Hopped on another plane 72 hrs after arriving and found our way back to Amsterdam. Stayed in Amsterdam for another 3 days before plopping onto a big plane and landing back in Toronto.
One of our rare family shots with D's wonderful university buddy on my right... the best host ever!
Just outside the only museum we dragged our kids to.
The small row boat on the left was used to completely embarrass my children when I took them out in it... and rowed terribly of course
It was wonderful. It was exciting. It was not frenetic but it was NOT doing nothing.
We still cooked. We walked through markets. We searched for ice cream. We made sure that a nose piercing happened. We kept kids happy, healthy and entertained (which isn't really much of a chore with our kids) and it was amazing but make no mistake... it's not a vacation. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
One of the few indulgences... 
My morning coffee oasis
Did I mention that we threw in a weekend in London... family reunion and all
St Paul's just in case you needed further proof

On one deliciously hot, steamy night with jet lag throwing us all off our game and not really knowing what the hell was in the fridge of the cottage, this is what I found and threw together. Everyone was very happy.

Fridge Pasta 
serves 4 (maybe)

2 cups dry pasta - rotini, spaghetti, fusilli, whatever - boiled to al dente, drained (reserve pasta water) and set aside
1/2 cup onion (or green onion, leek... whatever) diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red pepper, thinly sliced - or green pepper or eggplant or sausage or mushroom or whatever
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken diced - or cooked hamburgers, or hotdog sausages or whatever
1/2 cup tomato, finely diced with juice
1 peach - or nectarine or plum or whatever - peeled, diced and crushed
1/2 cup beer or stock or wine or milk
1/3 cup pasta water
1/4 cup cream
2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
- optional - pinch of pepper sauce (cause I never leave that)
1 tbsp lemon zest or orange zest or lime zest
1/2-3/4 cup cheese (any cheese) diced
1/2 cup fresh herbs - parsley, chive, oregano, whatever - coarsely chopped

Heat a large skillet over medium heat
Add about 3 tbsp olive oil.
Throw in the onion, garlic, red pepper and zucchini. Cook over med/low heat for about 7-10 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown nicely.
Add in the chicken and heat for another 4 minutes.
Add in the tomato and peach. Mix well
Add in the beer/stock/whatever and pasta water. Stir for two minutes.
Add the cream, salt, pepper, lemon zest and pepper sauce (optional)
Mix well and heat through (about 4 minutes)
Check the taste and adjust if necessary
Turn heat off and add in the pasta. Mix well
Take the whole skillet to the table and sprinkle the diced cheese and the fresh herbs over everything.

Asparagus and Pork stir fry

We have just arrived back in Canada after a 10 day jaunt to Amsterdam and London. The trip was wonderful and crazy and deserves it's own post. It will be given what it deserves but for now I will tell you that generally kids above the age of 4 are probably more flexible than we give them credit for  and specifically that D and I have the best kids to travel with.
Among some of the people that I had the privilege of meeting was a beautiful woman at a party. She is bright, articulate, full of personality and crazy fun - generally one of those salt of the earth types that you feel grateful for having in your life. During the course of our conversation (during a big party, over the course of many hours and just as many drinks BTW) she began to talk about how lucky she felt to be with her partner whom she feared was out of her league in both looks and physique. I of course told her that was ridiculous and rhymed off some of those easy to see attributes that I've written above. It made me sad though. Sad because she was so clearly so open and loving, smart, capable, funny, mischievous, fiercely loyal... need I go on? Sad because I highly doubt that her partner was wandering around the party hand wringing about how beautiful and out of his league she was. Sad because we so quickly get caught comparing and judging ourselves against an impossibly limited physical standard. Sad because that no matter what anyone says to us, we all know that we will have to wrestle with the same inner dialogue when we wake up tomorrow. Sad because I'm there too. If she is reading - you never know - I want her to know how lucky I feel having had the opportunity to meet her and how truly beautiful I (and many others) think that she is. I have no solution.

Every once in a while you make something that everybody asks for once it's gone. In my family this usually does not include anything with visible vegetables in it. In fact, I can't remember either one of my kids asking for a repeat of something without adding 'but without the ________' to the request.
Then I made this.
The heavens have opened. The gods have heard my cries and have granted me 3 wishes - or whatever. They liked this. They all liked this. I think that kid#1 was setting up for a 'but without the asparagus' adendum but when the recipe is pretty much half asparagus and your parent is giving you a look that means internet privileges might be on the table if she doesn't like your answer, you think hard before uttering sound.
With the exception of mirin and/or sesame oil you should everything for this recipe on hand (any med/lg supermarket should carry them though and they are worth having)

Asparagus and pork stir fry   adapted from bon appetit
serves 3 - 4

1 lb ground pork (I used honey garlic sausage, casing removed)
1 bunch (med/small) asparagus, ends removed and cut into 2 inch strips
1 1/2 cups broccoli or brocolette using mostly the flowerettes
3 tbps sesame oil
1 tbsp lard or other oil
6 - 7 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
3 tbsp mirin (fish sauce)
3 tbsp sherry or red wine
3 heaping tbsp honey
1 veggie boullion cube
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
3 tsp corn starch
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or finely grated
dash of pepper sauce or red pepper flakes
a little water in case the corn starch does it's job a little too well

In a bowl mix together the soy sauce, mirin, sherry, honey, bullion cube, worcestershire sauce, and corn starch. Whisk together and then add the crushed garlic, minced ginger and pepper sauce. mix well and set aside.
Heat a wok over medium/high heat. Add the sesame oil and other oil to the wok.
Add the ground pork to the wok breaking the meat apart as you go.
Cook for about 4 minutes
Add the asparagus and broccoli. Mix and continue to cook together for 5 minutes (turn the heat down a little if necessary)
Turn the heat down to medium and add the soy sauce mixture. Mix and continue to simmer for about 4 minutes.
Check the taste and adjust if necessary
Cool just a little before serving - goes great with rice.

Peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate bars

I need to take a moment here to talk about gif's. That's right - gif's.
gif's were this entity that I barely registered before a few months ago. I'm not on tumblr or twitter (no plans to either... yet... whatever) so these moving picture thingy's were usually part of replies/comments to articles that I read online. I barely ever looked at them really. And then I began to realize that they were pretty funny... sometimes really funny. Closely follow that with Kid #1 joining to bottomless hole that is tumblr which as far as I can tell is just a whole lot of young people having gif conversations, only occasionally accentuated with written language. I am taking more notice of these gif's. I realize that they are quite funny and smart-ass-like... right up my alley.
Recently, I had a conversation with a colleague in which she lamented that she couldn't easily text gif's from her phone. This was an epiphany moment for me.
I have never considered myself much of a computer/technology person - spreadsheets are still a source of endless frustration for me (why can't it fit on the computer screen properly or why aren't computer screens longer? why do the templates never work... you get the idea) The popularity of the internet though changed my interest in technology slowly but surely. I've learned to embrace the changes that technology offers - as much as I can - and am committed to continuing to learn despite my refusal to tumblr or tweet (really - I'm not a celebrity or business or whatever) The realization that I could now text my own gif's to friends or colleagues opened a whole new world of possibilities for me.
What if I could text and entire conversation of back and forth gif's
What if I could have an in-person conversation enhanced by the use of appropriate gif's
What if I could represent each of my student's mark with a gif instead of a mark

So far I am adding gif's to my texts as much as possible and only one person has texted me back in gif... it's a start
It's so obvious to me now that emoji's were really just a step along the road to conversing in gif. Emoji's are so cute. I read this article recently and I have to admit that it's gif is pretty awesome AND that D and I have totally had that argument about how to pronounce gif. If you have lots of time on your hands then scroll through the reply threads and enjoy the ensuing gif-storm.

As you all know well, Kid #1 and #2 were well disposed to eating these bars. The bars have all of the requisite sweetness and chocolate and none of the disgusting fruit and/or non-chocolate that send out the 'don't eat me' vibe.

Peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate bars
adapted slightly from Crazy for Crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup peanut butter (smooth preferably but doesn't really matter)
3/4 cup (scant) brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 - 2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups dark and milk chocolate mix

Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a ..... baking pan and and set aside.
Cream together the butter and both sugars until smooth and creamy.
Add in the egg and milk, salt and baking soda and mix well.
Add the flour and mix until it forms dough
Press about 1/2 - 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan
Sprinkle the chocolate on top of the pressed dough
Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the chocolate without getting it too close to the edges of the pan
Sprinkle the rest of the dough on top of the chocolate mixture (only press the dough in very lightly)
Bake for about 30 min (a little more depending on your oven)
Cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

Sour cream coffee cake with chocolate

I have just returned from a work trip to Newfoundland. Newfoundland is a wonderful place... that I do not want to ever permanently inhabit. Beautiful, expansive, sparse, rugged and ceaselessly windy - it's no wonder the people are so wonderful. When I say wonderful I really do mean wonderful. Warm, open and friendly to a fault. So much so that I almost got tired of saying hello or good day to passersby. Fortunately, I didn't have much time to interact with locals due to the fact that I was in St John's with about 140 of my favourite students - singing in St John's and many more remote locales on the island.

Some of my favourites
Some more of my favourites
Lighthouse at the eastern edge of north america
Beautiful window
My brain is still in the tour bubble a little - such a hard thing to describe. Let's just say that going home after a long day at work seems like a faraway luxury when you are on tour. Going back to a room that is not your home, taping kids in each night, getting woken up by a sick kid (homesick or otherwise), waking them all up the next morning, dealing with spats and drama, organizing rehearsals and concerts, getting back on the bus... again and getting left behind, soaking wet, when the ferry rolls out... is all nothing like going home after a hard, long day at work (please don't feel for one second that I am minimizing a long, hard day at work) It was wonderful and terrible and I am happy I was there and so happy that it's over.

Basilica of St John the Baptist
Gotta get some 5 pin bowling in... cause bowling
Signal Hill - cause you have to do Signal Hill
Here are a few of the 400 kids assembled for one of our concert rehearsals
Who doesn't love a selfie - some of the fantastic kids that we performed with in St John's
Soaking wet and left behind - we were obviously the best chaperones.
I'm back in Toronto now where it's relatively warm and essentially gust free (my hair is thankful). My kids are thankful and we've fallen immediately back into our routine. Even though it's in desperate need of a cleaning (aren't we all really?) I love my couch to bits. I love being able to drink a beer on that same couch and I love being in contact with the actual skin of another human being.
I made this cake before I left to mediocre fanfare. I'm not sure what to feed everyone at home anymore. D is not a big sweets person outside of ice cream. I have perfected my chocolate ice cream recipe just for him but now he seems to be getting more and more lactose intolerant - lactaid to the rescue I guess. Kids seem to be favouring anything that is either all chocolate - entirely 120% chocolate, all nutella (isn't that really just chocolate?) or not made by me. I think that microwave popcorn is at the top of the most-eaten list these days.
I want to care but really don't.
That said, this cake had a lovely crumb and both of my parents enjoyed it - at least that's what they said but it's possible they were just being nice cause they knew I made it.

Sour cream coffee cake with chocolate adapted from food52

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp (heaping) sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
3/4 cup (approx) walnuts, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 egg whites or two lg eggs

1 cup sour cream
1 cup dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F
Butter and flour a bundt or angel food cake pan and set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
Combine the 2 tbsp sugar, cinnamon and nuts together. Mix and set aside.
Combine the 1 1/2 cups sugar and butter. Beat together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until fluffy and/or frothy and liquid.
Add the flour and sour cream alternately in three additions - begin and end with the flour. The batter should be smooth and easy to stir.
Sprinkle half of the walnut mixture into the bottom of the baking pan. Add half of the cake batter to the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the walnut mixture over the batter. Sprinkle all of the chocolate evenly over the batter. Add the remaining cake batter to the pan and spread evenly.
Bake for about 40 min. or until the cake is golden on top and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Cool for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a serving dish.

Pizza Pinwheel's

Most of the time I just order pizza. I got it into my head that I wanted to do something new, something different but with components of things I had already done. I was also feeling tired, stressed and maybe a little more tired. D and I go out together sometimes. We try once a week but often it's more like every two (or three). Work doesn't always agree with our date night and kicks up a fuss. This was also a night when D and I were about to go out. Most of the time I just order pizza.
I soldiered on. Slapped the dough together and stuck it in the fridge. Got the filling stuff together. The kids were getting hungry but that's ok. I'm really tired. Kid #1 gives up trying to talk to me because I'm distracted, grumpy and probably a little incoherent. Kid #1 leaves, escapes to room and closes the door. She hadn't stopped texting through the entire 'conversation' so I'm sure she is fine.
Kid #2 asks what's we are having for dinner. Daddy and I are going out. Can I come? No. Kid #2 groans and then sighs deeply when I tell him about the exciting thing he is about to eat for dinner. I might not have been coherent but I think that I was. Kid #2 stomps upstairs, goes to room, reads on my kindle... my kindle.

I have way more filling for this than dough. What else could I possibly do with all of that filling. I'm putting it all in. I don't care. It will taste better. Everybody is gonna love this and it's gonna be amazing. Both kids need to clean the lunch containers out of the backpacks incidentally.
Determined. All the filling goes on top of the rolled out dough. All the pepperoni. All the cheese. All the sauce. I start rolling up the dough. This is dumb because the filling is everywhere. I really want to go out. My head hurts. I think that Kid #1 just yelled down to me but I'm not sure. Probably talking on the phone... wait, nobody does that anymore.
I start to slice the bulbous, red blob that is waiting to become my masterpiece. I'm elbow deep in more filling than I can manage. I bet you didn't know this - because I didn't - pepperoni doesn't slice well. There are big slices of pepperoni falling out of everything everywhere. I'm really frustrated now. Kid #2 is practicing piano which means he races through his two beginner pieces at break neck speed despite about a thousand mistakes. 3 minutes later he is done and I am hacking the pepperoni slice dough log, slapping the 'pinwheels' onto a cookie sheet and stuffing filling into every crevice I can. I need a shower.
They bake, I clean up.
They are done. This is not as exciting as it should be.

Kid #1 eats one and says it tastes good. She doesn't have another.
Kid #2 stares at plate and sighs. He eats two bites under duress but I'm pretty sure that as soon as we close the door he's got cheetos and rice crispies on standby.
Usually I just order pizza.
Make this at your peril.

Pizza Margarita's adapted from Here
makes 9 - 10 medium sized buns

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Dash basil, oregano
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup shortening or lard
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup milk (approx)

1 1/2 cups (approx) pepperoni, thinly sliced
1/4 cup zucchini, thinly sliced (or something like mushrooms would work well too)
1 cup greens (spinach, kale, chard), thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups (approx) tomato/pizza sauce
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp worcestershire
1 1/2 tsp salt and a dash of pepper
1 1/2 cups mozzarella, grated
1/4 cup (approx) parmesan, finely grated

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, basil and oregano together. Mix well.
Add in the parmesan and mix
Add the shortening or lard and cut it into the flour until it forms a loose crumbly mess (pebble sized balls)
Add the olive oil and about half of the milk. Mix until the liquid is incorporated. Add just enough more milk for the flour to form a cohesive dough ball.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about a minute or two - until the dough is fairly smooth and soft (not tacky), add a little more flour as you knead if necessary.
Wrap in plastic and set aside in the fridge (about 10 minutes is all that is needed)
Preheat oven to 400°F
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon liner.

Combine the pizza or tomato sauce, basil, sugar, worcestershire, salt and pepper together. Check the tastes and adjust if necessary.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface until you have formed a rectangle shape 20 - 25cm by 35 - 40 cm. Dough should be about 2 - 3 cm thick.
Spread the tomato sauce over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the greens and the zucchini slices. Place the pepperoni slices over that. Sprinkle with the grated mozzarella and finish with the parmesan.
Carefully roll the dough up long side to long side.
Carefully slice the roll into about 9 or 10 thick slices and place each on the prepared baking sheet leaving space for expansion.
Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and bubbling like a crazy hot mess.
Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to eat.

My roast pork with white beans

This is time. Not coming up to Christmas. Certainly not January through March. It's this time of year. From the end of March until the end of the school year is the time that seems to slip through my fingers. I can't keep up with the date or which weekend is which because they are flying by so quickly. Before I know it the end of March has turned into the first week of June and spring has gone bye bye and I've somehow missed it all. The seasonal garden centre near my house is closing up shop and I haven't even gotten a chance to get in there let along put as much as a trowel into the ground. The rhubarb is as good as gone and I think that there might have been a long weekend and a wedding anniversary tucked in there but I can't quite remember.
I'm not sure why it happens. Could be in part due to the time change that we are forced to participate in twice a year (One guess as to which side of that argument I fall on) Might be that the days are getting longer - but one would think that might cause time to slow down a bit. Could also be that just when I want more time to stop and smell the roses that aren't quite out yet that's when everything else kicks into high gear. Concert season looms. The yearly concert tour is imminent. Events and gala appearances are piling up. Kids are gearing up for the end of the school year (and this will be our first  set of high school exams!) And let's not forget the many shows on netflix that I have waiting in my cue - haven't even touched those yet. Kid #1 and I are still working through season two of Gilmore Girls and it's taken us months to get that far.

Then there is this recipe. I was so happy that for one evening I had the house to myself. By 'evening' I mean two hours after 7pm. In that time I got the recipe out of the oven, seasoned properly, adequately photo'd and entire recipe entered as a draft. So much accomplished... and that was three weeks ago. THREE. I cringe and whither a little on the inside when I think about it for long.
As such, I've decided that Easter weekend will also be a second thanksgiving weekend for me because I need to remind myself of the things that are good and that will sustain me through the frenetic pace of the next 8 weeks.
1. Winter is gone. Even though it doesn't exactly always feel like it, it is gone. The temperatures will get better and better.
2. After months of mourning I have discovered (to quote the title here) that there is a god who cares about humanity. Here is my proof
3. Music still inspires me. Thank you D'Angelo, Kendrick Lamar, Hey Rosetta, SIA, Die Antwoord and Mafikizolo.
4. Cadbury mini eggs are no longer seasonal.
5. Nickel Brook Headstock IPA exists and is a beautiful thing.  Best part: it is available near me at a place that also serves great food.
6. I can run outside again without four layers on.
7. It is virtually impossible to destroy pork and beans.
What more can be said? I'm sure I will think of other things to be thankful for but the general theme will be unchanged. Happy Eastergiving.

My version of Pork and Beans
serves 6 - 8

2 - 3 lb pork roast
1 medium onion
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 med fennel bulb
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/4 cup navy beans, dry
2 boullion cubes
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp worcestershire
2 - 3 tbsp soy sauce
2 - 3 cups water
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp molasses
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
pepper sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F
Heat a heavy bottomed/oven friendly dutch oven over medium/low heat.
Add about 3 tbsp of oil.
Add the veggies (except for the garlic) and turn the heat down a little. Heat for about 10 min, stirring to keep from sticking. add in the garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the boullion cubes, salt, bay leaf, brown sugar, worcestershire, soy sauce and water. Mix well.
Add the navy beans and mix, making sure that the water completely covers the beans with about a half inch of liquid extra.
Add the pork roast.
Roast covered for about 3 hours, checking every hour that the water is good and it's not going dry.
After 3 hours remove from oven and check the beans for doneness (are they soft) and the pork as well (it should be more than enough time). If it needs more time then put it back in for another 30 minutes at 250°F and check again.
Once everything is done, remove the pork from the bean mixture.
Add the tomato paste, molasses and apple cider vinegar to the beans and mix well. Check taste and add salt or more molasses if necessary (and a little pepper sauce in there as well ;-)
Cut the pork roast into large pieces (or large chunks if it is just falling apart like mine) and place back in with the beans.
Serve with mashed potato, crusty break or nothing at all.

Savoury Oat and Parmesan Cookies

I celebrated christmas again recently with my best friend.
It was February and we had not seen each other since December 14th.
We got about an hour and forty five minutes together.
We live about 15 minutes away from each other.
This is sad.
I totally understand it and then I kind of don't. We are busy. We are so busy. There is always something. Even meeting up with my best friend I squished it in between going to the running track and a family movie night (to be fair, it was family day weekend so what's a girl to do?) We work. We parent. We hustle home. Then there is winter. And I remember how the same thing happened last winter. We got a nasty ice storm just a couple of days before christmas and that set the tone for the entire 80 days to follow. Cold, icy, snow and more snow... and nobody wanted to do anything because it just felt so hard to get anywhere. You really do feel like hibernating. The bare essentials - get to work - get food - and that is it. This year the winter hasn't been quite as brutal but it hasn't exactly been easy. The cold has been relentless this year. This has taken it's toll.
Here we are looking down the barrel of March. The calendar has just as many events on it as it did throughout February, maybe even more. And yet something feels just a little bit different in my soul. I've noticed that night time is not chasing my back on the way home from work. I looked at the forecast for this week and it looks like we have a couple of days that are sitting right around the 0C mark. We've got a tidy little week off nestled in about two weeks before easter long weekend. If I had to put a word on that barrel that I'm looking down right now (the one for March - remember?) it would be 'Promise'. Promise is a funny word because it is not a definite. March might not bring me everything that I am hoping it can but at least there is the hope.
Back to our hour and forty five minutes christmas celebration. My best friends gift had been sitting, ready and waiting for months... except for this. Her cookies. These I made on the day that we met. I made sure that they were just cooled enough that I could put them into little freezer bags - 3 to a bag, the perfect portion amount - so that she could take them home and freeze away. She loves this kind of thing and I love doing it for her.

I can tell you that these come together easily and would be great for a party when they would all get scarfed up. I wouldn't bother with them if it was a dinner party thing and there were lots of other courses that could over shadow these little delicacies though - plus who wants to bake cracker cookies when you have a whole dinner party to get ready for? Serve these cookies with some Boursin, Blue Cheese (if that's your thing) or a spreadable something or other. As part of an appetizer or tasting party  - olives, grapes, cheeses, meats, spreads - Lovely.

Oat and Parmesan Cookies adapted from thekitchn

1 cup old fashioned oats (I used quick oats BTW and it was fine)
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 lg eggs (or two egg whites if you've just made ice cream and you've got extra whites hanging around looking for something to do)
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch black pepper
1 cup parmesan cheese grated (if you happen to throw in a little cheddar by accident I wouldn't be too upset)
coarse salt (maldon or sea salt)

Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon liner.
Combine the flour, salt, basil, baking soda, paprika and pepper together. Mix well and set aside.
Combine the oats and warm water and mix well.
Add in the olive oil and brown sugar and mix thoroughly until the brown sugar has dissolved.
Add in the egg and mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the oat mixture and mix until combined.
Add in the parmesan cheese and mix to combine.
Form into balls of about 1 1/2 tbsp or so then squish down into a cookie shape. Place on the baking sheet (they don't spread very much so they can be within an inch of each other) topping each with a little bit of coarse salt (might need to press it in a little)
Bake for about 15 - 17 minutes turning half way through baking. Cookies should be just turning golden brown at the edges.
Cool completely.

Chocolate Pudding and a slew of other things not remotely related to Valentine's Day

I wonder what cruel god or energy force thought that putting holidays which could involve doing things outside (As far as I'm concerned walking to somewhere inside falls into that category) in February was a good idea... in Canada. Yes, let's definitely put family day in February. Just happens to be one of the coldest weekends to date this year. Let's go family day skating... nope. Let's go family day hiking... nope. Let's go family day skiing... nope. Can't even go somewhere on a plane to a place where I can forget that it's beyond freezing back home because it's only a long weekend. This couldn't have been in May? July?
Thank you. Rant is now over.

I will instead bore you with a myriad of things that I have found interesting over the past little while

This movie was fun
And I'm looking forward to this one
Enjoying this tune
LOVING this tune
There is just no excuse for this.
I want this
I really want this
Argh Let's all take a moment here... let people live their lives and get over our own issues/obsession with how celebrities look.
I am learning to perfect my weekend morning cup of coffee. Happier and happier.

My Mom knocked christmas gifts out of the park this year:

And Pudding:

Chocolate Pudding adapted from the kitchen

1 cup whipping cream
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup sugar
1 scant tsp instant coffee granules
4 oz dark chocolate (I used 72%), finely chopped
3 tbsp dark cocoa powder
3 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp salt
pinch of cinnamon
3 egg yolks

In a heat proof bowl mix together the cocoa powder, corn starch and salt. Whisk in the cream until completely blended. Whisk in the egg yolks until completely blended. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed pot heat the milk, coffee granules, cinnamon and sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat up and heat until the milk begins to simmer.
Gradually and slowly pour the heated milk mixture into the cream mixture whisking constantly until it's all mixed together.
Pour the whole mixture back into the heavy bottomed pot and heat until it starts to bubble. Let it bubble for two minutes whisking constantly to keep it from sticking. Remove from heat and cool slightly whisking every minute or so to keep it from forming a skin on the top.
Once it cools to almost room temperature place in a large bowl or into individual bowls. Cover with plastic wrap, placing the plastic wrap right onto the pudding and sealing up the sides as well (this way it won't form a skin). Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
*** If you put yours into a big bowl like I did, don't be afraid to whip or whisk it up a little before serving. It lightened it up a lot.

This was supposed to be Banana Oat Snacking Cake but ended up being Pretzel Chocolate Brownies

I have to start this post by stating that I have decided to experiment with using only 1 space after a period. This decision has been made in an attempt at hiding my age.
Looking back over my last few posts I have realised that there are only baked goods and sweets showing up here. It's given me pause to think about why that might be. Obviously we have cooked more than our fair share of meals and we have not been eating cookies and ice cream for dinner every night. Not any night in fact. I think that recently I have felt completely uninspired at best and disengaged at worst. The odd thing is that I have made some really good stuff. In the fall I let myself experiment with lamb by making a roast leg of lamb which turned out beautifully. A pork dish seasoned with a generous marinate of worcestershire and soy sauce, garlic, ginger and pepper sauce. Rave review. Recently I threw together some leftover roast chicken and slow cooked vegetables to make a pasta sauce. Beautiful. So why do I feel uninspired and apathetic about what I have churned out? And why don't I post about them even when they turn out well. Here are some of my ideas:
1. I don't feel like the pictures will turn out well. It is kinda hard to take an inspiring shot of sauce on pasta (am I wrong here?) or a hunk of meat on a plate... or in a roast pan. Perhaps I need to expand my photographic horizons or just start taking pictures of vegetables and leave it at that
2. I'm tired from making all the damn food (I don't actually think this is true) but I am tired
3. I don't even feel like eating the food myself (this is true unfortunately. Hummus and toast usually wins... and have I told any of you about my new obsession with grapes and cherry tomatoes?)
4. I am feeling uninspired and apathetic about life and I can't even blame winter for that one - although it certainly is not helping
5. My kids are using the computer too much. Perhaps I need to have my very own computer - one of these will do fine, thanks for asking
6. There is not enough room in my brain. I need an upgrade to get more space... or something needs to go to clear some space... no kids... no job... just tossing around some ideas. In truth, I think that this is probably the best answer so far.  It's not that there is no down time it's that the down time is still parenting and all the taxiing to this, that and the other in addition to the chores that need to get done - well that's not really head clearing time is it

These are some classy ass measuring cups that my Mom got me for Christmas.  Awesomest.
So there it is.  Mystery solved. Here is the funniest part - my kids don't even really like the stuff I'm baking. At least they are not terribly interested in eating it. I think they've grown totally accustomed to it and would much rather have a snickers bar than home baked cookies. I had to send about 80% of this snacking cake to school with kid #1. Her friends at school probably think that home baked stuff is a novelty and that it tastes much better than the orea cookies my kids are constantly begging for. She is 14 so after sharing with all of her friends I have some new love interests and someone else wants to make me a superhero costume... my super power being doing shit with bananas and chocolate - meh, could be worse.
For the record - I had to go back through this post and erase an extra space after almost every single period. Including the one in the first paragraph.

This was my original post idea... then I discovered that every single solitary photo I took blew huge chunks.
Banana oat snacking cake adapted form Bon Appetit
makes 1 8x8 square cake

1 1/2 cups oats (I used a combo of quick and classic rolled oats)
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg

1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs (I used 1 egg and 2 egg whites)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (or use chips)

Grease and flour an 8x8 square baking dish. Set aside
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.  Mix until combined and set aside.
In a large bowl beat together the brown sugar and eggs until they are a creamy caramel colour and smooth.  About 2 minutes.
Add in the melted butter and beat together for another minutes.
Fold in the flour mixture just until all the ingredients are wet.
Gently fold in the chopped banana and chocolate.  Fold in just until mixed.
Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake for about 35 minutes, turning half way through baking.
Cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing.  Cool a little longer before eating or don't... eat it warm... with ice cream... thank me later.

This is the recipe that goes with the photos you are seeing...
Pretzel, milk chocolate brownies adapted from Alice Medrich via Sassy Radish

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
pinch of cayenne and a larger pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp dark cocoa
2 lg eggs cold
1 cup large chunks of milk chocolate
3/4 cup (or so) broken bits of pretzels

Preheat oven to 325°F
Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment or butter and flour it and set it aside.
Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon together and set aside
Combine the butter, sugar and cocoa together in a heat proof bowl. Place over lightly simmering water and stir until butter is melted and everything is combined. It shouldn't be too hot and will be gritty looking.
Add the eggs one at a time whisking well after each addition. Once the mixture looks silky add in the flour mixture and whisk just until it's mixed in and you can't see flour anymore.
Poor the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks and the pretzels on top of the batter.
Bake for about 28 - 33 minutes (mine was done around 28 minutes) depending on how gooey you want your brownies.
Cool before removing from the pan - unless you think it's cool that they break apart like mine did.

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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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  • 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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