30 July, 2010

Season by Season

It's been a rough, rough couple of weeks in the Arkison household. Give us a few more weeks and we should be back on track.

This week, however, as been for snuggles, rest, and comfort. But a family can't live on ice cream alone. Is there any other summer comfort food? The other day I was desperate for a peach, I wanted the juice to drip off my chin and the scent to tickle my nose with summer pleasure. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that we were driving through Peachland on our way home from a funeral.

In sharing with a friend she mentioned that the only way to get through times like this is day by day, then season by season. As a food obsessed kind of gal, seasons are a strong marker in our lives. We eat by the seasons, therefore we live by the seasons. And I'm someone who is hard pressed to actually pick a favourite season (although I usually answer winter, when asked.) So as we recover from the latest round of flurries to the solar plexus I sought comfort in summer.

This is my Baba's raspberries and cream. Smilosaurus called it ice cream and The Monster declared she didn't like it. To me it was my Baba's old people smelling hug in a stifling house, arms covered in scratches from the raspberry canes. It was the weeks in the summer we were sent to Saskatchewan, which we hated at the time, but now I cherish. It was family, it was generations, it was summer treats.

Oddly, I used frozen raspberries for this. It was what I had. And, to be honest, it was what we usually used if it wasn't that exact berry season.  Strawberries work equally well. If you are using frozen berries, thaw first and drain off excess juice. Baba usually used regular white sugar, but I like mine with brown for that punch of extra flavour.

Berries and Cream

Equal parts mashed berries and sour cream or farm cream
Sugar to taste.

1. Stir together. Eat. Be comforted.

18 July, 2010

Summer Sunday Dinner

After a weekend of landscaping - well, a weekend of mostly providing snacks, lemonade, and advice while Hubby did some landscaping - I thought I should treat the man with a good dinner. Steak was too obvious. Then I remembered that our old summer ritual has been neglected since the girls arrived. Time to bring out the lobster.

Back story:

Hubby and I met 15 years ago. We started dating once I finished undergrad a year later. He came to visit me in Halifax. See, I was going to keep working at my organic vegetarian bakery cafe job and save money to go to Europe. Then he decided to visit. After spending a week driving around Nova Scotia, eating lobster along the way, I knew there was no way I would get to Europe. 

So, a few days after he left and more than a few boxes of Kleenex later I booked myself a plane ticket West, packed up all my University belongings, and called him. We chatted for a bit, then I asked him what he was doing the next night. When he replied that he had nothing going on I suggested me might want to pick me up at the airport. Like a good man he asked why I was coming to Edmonton. And like a brave, slightly stupid 21 year old I simply answered, "You."

One plane ride, a short soap opera, 14 years, and 2 kids later I still say it was the dumbest and best thing I ever did.

And every summer since we've treated ourselves to a lobster dinner. Indeed, this is more of an anniversary than our actual wedding anniversary. Tonight we brought the girls into our tradition.

That may have been a very, very bad idea. The Monster was all excited to buy the lobsters with me, happily carrying them and showing them off to Daddy. The girls are quite fascinated with the lobsters at the market and are wickedly curious about them. This fact alone could not prepare me for the abject terror Smilosaurus had when actually face to face with a lobster.

I should have been sympathetic to her tears, but I was only reminded of her Dad, on that first trip to Nova Scotia. The last night of his visit we decided to buy lobsters and cook them at home. I pulled them out of the box and held them out for Hubby to inspect. The guy seriously jumped and ran away, screaming, "Get it away! Get it away!" I, being the little snot that I am, then chased him with the lobsters while he threw anything available in my direction. And that was the week I discovered about the only thing Hubby is afraid of - live lobsters (he blames his mother). All I could do was giggle with memory as my baby girl cried and cowered in fear.

Yes, I'm still a little snot.

We thought everything would be fine once the lobsters were cooked. I steamed them (do not ever boil your lobsters) for about 12 minutes. The same amount of time the corn was on the grill. I made a salad of green and baby beets from our CSA delivery, with some peaches, basil, and toasted pecans. We sat down to eat and the terror re-emerged. She couldn't stop screaming. Even when we told her she didn't have to have any and that the lobsters were dead. Terrified was the word of dinner. 

Rather than have her tears destroy what should have been a fantastic dinner we put her in her bed and let her read books while the rest of us ate a very lovely, yummy meal. She joined us for a bit of corn and salad. Lucky girl, because then it meant she was allowed dessert. And that was worth setting the fear aside. Ice cream sandwiches made with this lime ice cream and Digestive biscuits. 

Oh, I guess I should clarify that Hubby is no longer afraid of live lobsters, but he would still prefer I don't hold them anywhere near him.

16 July, 2010

No line-ups

It's Stampede Week in Calgary. That means the locals and tourists alike are dressed in their ugliest Western wear and worn once a year cowboy boots. If you are under the drinking age you've eaten too much sugar. If you are close to or over the drinking age you've likely drank far too much. Maybe you actually went to the Rodeo or the Chuckwagon Races. Maybe. But most definitely you've eaten pancakes at some point this week.

A long standing Stampede tradition  is the pancake breakfast. Nearly every church, business, mall, and charity seems to have a pancake breakfast during the 10 days of Stampede. You could literally eat your way across the city in carbs. You might be lucky and get a strip of bacon embedded in your pancake, but no syrup. Or you might get fantastic Indian food on the side. But 99% of the time you are going to get a flat, insipid pancake. And only after standing in line being jostled by the impatient and hungover.

It is my personal mission to keep the girls from knowing Stampede even exists for as long as possible. This means I can avoid early mornings to beat the crowds at the Parade, the expense and crowds of the midway, the crowds of people dressed badly, and the inevitable questions about why that girl has no shirt on and can I take mine off too?

Call me a spoil sport. Tell me I have bad civic pride (I wasn't raised here, I'm allowed to judge - I'm from Edmonton after all). Heck, you can even call me a mean mom. I'll take it. And then I will turn around and make my girls pancakes at home - with real maple syrup and no crowds.

There is a mystique around pancakes. It is quite easy to make them well, yet there is a proliferation of bad pancakes in the world. This is the basic recipe, the one you make for dinner when you have no energy, the one you make for a weekday breakfast, the one you dress up with blueberries and rainbow sprinkles for Sunday brunch. You can easily swap out half the flour with whole wheat, change the sugar to brown, and use whatever kind of milk you have on hand. They will be golden and fluffy every time.

Easiest Pancakes Ever

Makes 1 dozen medium sized pancakes

1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 heaping tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
1 cup milk

1. Mix together dry ingredients.
2. Mix together melted butter with milk and egg. Add to dry ingredients and whisk well. Let it sit while you heat up your frying pan.
3. Heat frying pan on medium-low heat. You should be able to hold your hand over the pan for at least 5 seconds without it being too hot. Spray the pan with oil, non-stick spray, or melt some butter. 
4. Spoon batter into hot pan into desired pancake size. Then leave them alone until the bubbles that form on the surface start to pop. Flip them over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
5. Serve with soft butter and maple syrup. Or jam, or fruit, or any syrup of choice.

11 July, 2010


Well, this was no leisurely Sunday dinner. When Hubby got out of bed this morning he suggested a little day trip to Banff. His aching bones and sore neck were calling for a soak in the Hot Springs. And his tummy was calling for his favourite eggs benny at Bison. So I put my massive Sunday to do list aside and we loaded up.

Just one quick stop at the market for my special order Tonka Beans from Silk Road Spice Merchants! Oh, and mango lassi for the girls and coffee for him.

We had a great time! Brunch on the upstairs patio, a walk along the Bow River (and partially in it), and a not very leisurely soak in the pool. Hmm, the girls don't quite get the soak concept yet. It was a great day and certainly worth the frantic evening upon our return.

Thankfully, I did think ahead and took out some fish to defrost before we left the house. We picked up a box of fish from Dor-Bel Fine Foods when we went to the inaugural Kingsland Farmers Market. They sell all Ocean Wise fish from the West Coast. I didn't have a clue what Hubby actually took out this morning, so it was all a surprise. As we drove into town I took a mental inventory of the remaining groceries in the house to come up with something.

Hubby told me that it didn't have to be fancy. In my world this doesn't qualify because it took about 10 minutes, but it sure sounds fancy.  

Roasted Sablefish with Cherry Tomatoes.

Chop a clove of garlic, pick some oregano from the garden. Turn on oven to broil. Take a hot pan. Add a bit of olive oil. When the oil is hot add your fish, flesh side down. Leave it for a minute or two until it is sealed and you can easily flip it without sticking. Toss in the garlic, add the dregs of a bottle of white wine. Once that has reduced a bit toss in a pint of cherry tomatoes, the oregano, and season. Place it in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Serve with linguini.

Oh, and the rest of the family had some fresh peas with feta and mint, but I did not touch those. We know how I feel about peas.

06 July, 2010

Cross Country Preserving

It was supposed to be a vacation. Hubby and I travelled, sans kids, to Ontario this past weekend. We attended the wedding of a very special friend in a ridiculously gorgeous location. The weekend also afforded us the time to take leisurely drives, naps, and meals.

I promised myself that I wouldn't worry about capturing every little food related tidbit along the way. A difficult thing when you spend 3 days in the Niagara Greenbelt. So, my camera hardly came out of the bag, I didn't take a single note, and I even left both my laptop and crackberry at home. This girl needed a vacation from it all - kids, the full time job, the part time job, cooking, cleaning, and simply doing for everyone else but me.

So I read a novel, I ate more than I should have, I slept at many points in the day, I cuddled with my Hubby, and even took a spontaneous helicopter ride over Niagara Falls. It is, however, impossible for me to resist a farm stand. Especially a farm stand that declares the sale of sour cherries.

Remember, it was only last year that I discovered the truth about sour cherries. And I only found them that one time. I promised myself that if I ever discovered them again I would buy in bulk and preserve the bounty.

So I made Hubby reverse the rental car in someone's driveway and pull out his cash. After our day trip the cherries were carefully stored in the hotel mini bar. Then packed in a plastic bin, surrounded by gifted books and craft paper. The bin was taped up and made the journey back West in the cargo hold of the Airbus 320.

When we finally arrived home last night I pulled them out and despite my desire to sleep I spent an hour and a half pitting cherries. But when I make that first cherry pie the effort will be worth it. Sadly, the journey resulted in more than a few casualties. But I still got 11 cups of cherries, enough for 2 quart jars and 2 250 mL jars. I figure that is at least 3 whole pies or more than a small army's supply of cherry hand pies.

Cherry Pie Filling
Makes 1 quart

4-5 cups pitted sour cherries
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsps cornstarch

1. Clean and sterilize jar and lid - if you intend to can and not use right away. Keep hot
2. Bring water and sugar to a boil.  Add cherries all at once and let cook for 5 minutes.
3. Combine cornstarch and a few tablespoons of the liquid from cooking cherries. Stir until smooth. Add to cherries and return to the boil. Let boil 30 seconds.
4. Immediately pour into the hot jar. Seal with clean and sterilized lid. 
5. Process for 30 minutes in a boiling water canner.

* Scale up this recipe depending on your total amount of sour pitted cherries.  

02 July, 2010


There are people who cannot start their day without a fresh cup of coffee. In my Hubby's case, it is a Venti Americano from Starbucks. (Oddly, he is too lazy to make a pot of coffee at home, but not too lazy to get in the car and drive to Starbucks or go for a walk with the girls.)

Me, I can't stand coffee. Hate it, hate anything that tastes like it. No mocha, no tiramisu, no chocolate covered coffee beans. And no amount of convincing or tastes of supposedly the best-cup-of-coffee-ever will make me change my mind.

But pour me a boiling hot cup of strong black tea, maybe with a touch of honey, and I am a happy girl. Generally, I have a pot in the morning, and maybe one in the afternoon.  Of late, however, my stomach hasn't been so happy with all that tea. So I have a cup, maybe two, and that's it. I can't break the habit of making an entire pot though.

So I do what any sane Ukrainian girl/miser would do. I pour the leftover tea in a jar and place it in the fridge. With a splash of lemonade or a bit of simple syrup I now have iced tea for an afternoon treat or with dinner.

You could cold brew your iced tea, sure, but frankly, I find that takes too long and uses more tea bags than necessary. And I already have the tea made and it would otherwise go to waste. It is perfect for a picnic or a hot afternoon.