19 September, 2010

Fiffer Feffer Feff

Dessert first.

It's just been one of those days - full of 2 year olds being 2, 35 year olds being pissy, and everyone trying their best to just get along. And stay together.

I indeed started and ended my day with a slice of apple pie. The first of the season. Talk about comfort eating. Just the way the apple peel releases from the flesh under the cut of my paring knife is enough to inspire relief in the heart. Apple pie is comfort cooking. Hmm, maybe I should be making another pie right now?

Why so much stress in my retirement and new career? Well, I've been sick (sniff) and Hubby has been pretty much gone for a week. The first few days actually felt pretty good. I thought I was handling things so well. It certainly makes a huge difference to not be gone for 10 hours a day at a job that crushed me. By now, however, I'm cranky and fuelling myself with tea all day, and a chocolate and scotch once the girls go to bed.

This weekend I thought I better buckle down and be a good mom. I tried. Hey, I only lost Death Wish once at the market today. And I did my best to take responsibility for that one, although we all know that she took off while I dealt with her spazzing sister. But today is Sunday and so rather than heat up leftovers I thought we all deserved a proper dinner.

Enter the roast chicken. Take one chicken, a giant clove of garlic, and a lemon. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Pat the chicken dry, smash the garlic clove, and stuff the lemon and garlic in the cavity of the chicken. Salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil. Place in oven. Cook for an hour or hour and a half (depending on the size of chicken). Eat.

The Monster asked for potatoes and tomatoes to eat with the chicken, so I roasted some potato coins and made a salad. At least I roasted a chicken. And we sat down together, us girls, and ate our Sunday dinner while singing songs about a Fiffer Feffer Feff. And then we ate pie.

15 September, 2010

Peel Me a Grape

There are times in the kitchen where experimentation fails in a colossal way (note to self: stay away from the curry) and other times where a little 'why not?' turns into 'why have I never?' With a pile of Coronation grapes being snubbed by The Monster I needed that why not.

Why not put grapes in muffins? We put raspberries, peaches, apples, and even pineapple in muffins, so why not grapes? You really don't see it much though. And I'm not sure why.

Hopefully, after you see these muffins you will change your mind. There was some Twitter chatter about this a day after I made the muffins, with Jennie going all out to seed her Concord grapes.  I am far too lazy for that, so thank goodness the Coronation grapes are seedless. 

The base for this recipe is my basic muffin recipe (find it here) with some grapes and roasted, skinned, and chopped hazelnuts added in. With the the girls I have much better luck with muffins when I bake the mini kind. Mama doesn't like that because I eat a lot more that way! This recipe will make 12 regular sized muffins or 24 mini muffins.

Grape and Hazelnut Muffins

1 cup hazelnuts
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup small grapes (I used Coronation)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray or grease with butter.
2. Roast the hazelnuts (unless already roasted) in the oven on a cookie sheet.  Roast for 10-15 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. Be careful not to burn them. Pour them into a clean kitchen towel. Wrap it up loosely and rub the nuts with the towel. The skins should come off easily. Don't worry if not every bit of skin comes off. Aim for most of it. Le the hazelnuts cool while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
3. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Combine the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla in another bowl.
4. Chop the hazelnuts coarsely, on the smaller side, but don't worry about any larger chunks.
5. Toss the chopped hazelnuts and grapes with the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
6. Scoop into prepared muffin tin and bake for 15-20 minutes, until tops are rounded and golden.

09 September, 2010

Dirt in my Freezer

It might be the Ukrainian in me, but I am incapable of throwing away good food. And I feel inordinate guilt if I forget about leftovers or a head of lettuce in the fridge. That would also be the Ukrainian in me.

With a really good haul from our CSA this year I've been forced to face these issues head on. It's one thing to throw away grocery store produce that you paid pennies for and was grown and picked by a random stranger in Mexico. It's another thing entirely when you get the lettuce in your hands was placed there by a man with permanent dirt under his fingernails.  The same dirt that still graces your carrots, your onions, your greens.

* Aside - As I read that last paragraph it occurs to me that is just as bad to throw away the grocery store lettuce because there is still a person there with dirt under his fingernails. *

Our farmers, Jon and Andrea are such committed people. We light up when we see them at the market, where we pick up our weekly haul. The girls go running and asking after the horses and roosters, all while ripping greens with their teeth. We shoot the shit about the weather and yuppies and our egg man. And food passes hands.

Then we come home and I am forced to deal all that food. On a day when I'm just so damn tired I really don't feel like finding room in the fridge, grating zucchini, or freezing chard I sometimes leave the bag on the counter for hours, even a day. Then I remember the dirt. The dirt I'm invested in.  The dirt our farmers are invested in.  The dirt this food was grown in. So I sharpen my knives and set too. Far better to have trimmings in the compost pile than real food.

We clean, we store, we cook, we freeze, we eat. And so we will eat for another week, thanks to the phenomenally hard work of Jon, Andrea, their family, and their WOOFers. And in January, I will make another loaf of this zucchini bread, some swiss chard fricos, or a bowl of gingered carrot soup and be thankful for that dirt.

But now? Now I need to head back in the kitchen and make some beet leaf cabbage rolls.

06 September, 2010

Backseat Adventure - Columbia Icefields

It was a day trip turned into overnight. It was a long weekend turned into a very, very long weekend. But the girls are in bed and I can pore over my photos of our trip to the Columbia Icefield.

Can you believe that as a lifelong Alberta girl I've never actually been to the Icefields? Only one drive by as an adult, in the middle of winter, where we were mostly concerned with merely safely arriving at our destination. So when Hubby suggested a road trip I couldn't really say no, could I?

Poor planning on our part led to a frantic search for mittens and boots, a stop at the mall, and not enough snacks. But we grabbed the last Ice Explorer monster bus and got our canned tourist experience. And it was so worth it! The mechanical geek in Hubby was quite enthralled with the monster bus, as was the Monster. (Guess what her new career aspirations are?) And all of us were blown away by the expanse of the glacier. 

All I could think was, "Holy Crap! I'm standing on a glacier!" And it makes me want to reread Icefields by Thomas Wharton. We had the pre-packaged experience, I know, but it was still awesome. And despite my, I'm struggling to describe it any other way.

While I don't think the girls could grasp the immensity of what was in front of us, they could grab the ice, lick it, and ask why the mountains were so big. Soon enough we'll have them hiking and maybe even backcountry skiing to grow up as good mountain girls.

Sunday dinner was at 9:00 pm. After a day of road tripping and exploring we landed in Banff. it was late, we should have grabbed something easy and put the girls to bed.  We should have done that.

Instead, we ventured out to Maple Leaf Grille and Lounge. After a day of nothing but mediocre snacks Hubby and I decided we wanted a good meal. While I'm not sure the late night with the girls was worth it (it was close to midnight when they finally fell asleep), the food was pretty damn good.

But the best thing we ingested all day was the water, running in a stream, over a thousand feet of ice.

01 September, 2010

In My Dreams

When I started blogging I had only in mind a medium in which to practice writing, something I hadn't done regularly since I was a teenager. My on-line presence was a chance to share my creativity, getting it out there in the hopes that someone else was inspired. 

About a year ago, however, things changed for me. Writing, creating, and thinking about those things became a compulsion. I attended the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop last September. And while I was blown away by the food and highly entertained by the company, the experience gave me a clarity and focus to my future. I was driven to find a way to change my life to make this my work, not designing energy efficiency programs. 

Today marks the first day of that life full-time. Over the past 8 months I've been building up a freelance writing base. Have you seen me at What's Up Family yet? Or at Simple Bites?  What about Babble? But it is time to do more, to be more. I've quit my job and my networking chops are already being tested. I will now call myself a freelance writer.

But not only this, I also be home with my girls. You could call me a work at home mom. (In all honesty, I hate that term.) In between bed time and morning, and during the naps that still occur you will find me writing, creating. When my girls are awake you will find us in the kitchen together, or around the table creating, reading, chatting, living.

To celebrate this momentous morning I turned to another of my dreams. Quite literally, this was a dream.  The more I've been on line the more I've found myself dreaming of people I've never met. It seems I'm some sort of unconscious stalker. The last dream I had involved Kim, her in-my-dreams-only rooftop garden in NYC, and these peach basil pancakes.

It seemed only fitting that I pull out everything from my dreams on a day when my dreams are becoming a living reality.

Peach Basil Pancakes
Makes 12 small/medium pancakes

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup corn flour or light corn meal
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped basil
1 peach, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup butter
1 egg

1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss the basil and peaches in with the dry ingredients.
2. Stir together the wet ingredients. Mix the wet into the dry. Stir until just combined.  Let rest while your griddle or frying pan heats up on medium/low heat.
3. Pour the batter into the griddle 1/3 cup at a time. Cook until the bubbles on the surface form and start popping.  Flip and cook on the other side for another minute or so.
4. Serve with cherries or syrup of choice.