31 October, 2010

Go! And Stop

"Can I have some candy? I don't care, I'm going to pull down your underwear!"

"Trick or Treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat. Not too big, not too small. Just the size of Montreal!"

These and the the screams of More Candy! More Candy! are echoing in my ear. The girls are off, speeding through the neighbourhod as fast as their costumes and legs will let them, trick-or-treating their hearts out. It may seem a little young at 2 and 4 to let them go. If you've got a problem with that, keep it to yourself.

Besides, who do you think gets all the candy?

Before I sent them out they were fed with a proper dinner. I'd love to say it was quick but, despite their impatience they still spent a half hour chatting and practicing their Halloween chants. This wasn't the night for a huge Sunday dinner. Roast, potatoes, and cake for dessert? Not going to hold the attention of my girls. Or frankly me, after a 10 day stint on single parenting.

Instead, I pulled out a weekday favourite: calzones. With a puffy, light dough that comes together quickly I can make dinner in about 20 minutes of active effort. It only needs an hour to rise and about 10 minutes to bake. The hardest part is waiting for them to cool so you don't burn your tongue on the fillings.

The recipe was developed for an article on after-school snacks for What's Up Families. Since then it's become our go-to pizza crust recipe in addition to the calzones. For pizza, stretch out the dough, top with sauce, tomato marmalade, garlic oil, or pesto and all your favourite toppings.

Makes 8 hearty calzones

Tomato Sauce
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Toppings - peppers, ham, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes, onions, olives, pepperoni

1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. One section at a time roll into a rectangle about 8 inches by 6 inches. Cut in half at the 4 inch mark.
2. Top each half with a tablespoon of tomato sauce, leaving a half inch without sauce around all the edges. Add a half cup of shredded cheese and toppings of choice.
3. Fold each calzone in half, pinching and rolling over the edges to seal. Brush each calzone with the beaten egg.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely before eating as fillings will be very, very hot.

27 October, 2010

Hot Cocoa for Brett

Not surprisingly, it snowed in Alberta this week. Saskatchewan too. (Hubby is snowed in there right now.) For all the grumbling of my mom and mother-in-law, it is actually expected. I remember more Halloween's with snow than without.

Snow means snowsuits, snow forts, snowball fights, wet mittens, and hot cocoa upon re-entry to the centrally heated house. Most kids these days are quite used to the package of hot chocolate, full of sugar and preservatives. Well, they don't know the last part, but they are used to the packaged taste.

I was watching some of my nephews and niece yesterday. All five kids ventured into the snow as soon as school was out. When the four youngest came in I set to making them a little treat. It was all for them, I swear. My 6 year old niece and Smilosaurus were keen on helping. I hope my brother doesn't mind them sitting on the counter. But they were quite into the whole process. I'm writing this post so my niece has the recipe for cocoa, she was trying really hard to memorize it yesterday.

Hot Cocoa - The Basics
1 serving

1 cup milk
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Heat the milk in a pot on the stove (ask Mom or Dad to help if Auntie isn't around)
2. In a small bowl, stir together the cocoa and sugar. Add a few tablespoons of warm milk. Stir well to make a runny paste.
3. Stir the cocoa and sugar paste into the hot milk. Add vanilla. Serve with marshmallows.

If you want to make this a little fancy, try some garam masala, chai spices, peppermint extract, orange zest, or raspberry syrup. And definitely add marshmallows. Personally, I am a huge fan of these ones from Aimee.

22 October, 2010

Friday Favourites - Channeling Baba

As I learn to embrace my domesticity I find myself clinging to objects that celebrate my Baba. She was the stereotypical Baba - tiny, barely spoke a word of English, a garden the envy of Martha Stewart, and she thought everyone was too skinny. All summer she gardened and put food up for winter. All winter she cross-stitched and cooked. I'll never live up to her gardening, but I can embrace her other domestics arts.

This was her apron, just a cheap, commercial thing probably purchased at the Nu-Way store in tiny Hafford, Saskatchewan. Maybe she made it from material from the store? It's machine stitched, though, so I doubt it. She added her own flare with the extra large cross-stitch. I have two of these and I wear one every day. I would probably wear it all day but it is quite likely that I would forget I had it on when I went to pick up The Monster at preschool.

And the measuring cups are a new addition to the kitchen, purchased by a dear friend to celebrate my recent domesticity. They are such a fun treat in the kitchen and using them does indeed make me think of my Baba. With three dolls in the Matryoshka set I like to think it is three generations cooking together.

19 October, 2010

Backseat Adventure - Halifax Seaport Market

Scaling the steps and the crowds of the Halifax Farmers' Market in the Alexander Keith's Brewery is where I turned into a farmers' market regular. The stone hallways, dark corridors, over-crowded landing spaces, the cacophony of vendors and buyers, and the refuge of steps where I ate my noodles at the end of the trip combined to make a comforting and chaotic shopping experience.

Every Saturday in University I would empty my forest green Eddie Bauer backpack, leftover from high school, and make my way from one end of the peninsula that is Halifax to the other. I could only fill that backpack, using student transportation - my feet - as I was. Except in the fall when a pumpkin was in order. On those days I would carry my pumpkin in front of me, a harbinger of pregnancy much later in life.

There was the Polish spot where I could get some garlic sausage and a pretty passable pyrohy. One man selling mushrooms from his dark barns. The 50 cent piece of maple fudge I got every week. My loaf of bread, always purchased last, even though it meant backtracking. (Walking the market was like walking in IKEA, minus the arrows on the floor.) And I always ended where I could buy brioche and apples. The eggiest of brioche and the most wonderful apples that 14 years after leaving Halifax I desperately miss.

It was with more than a little nostalgia that I planned a market visit on our recent trip to Nova Scotia. We were staying at the Westin, right across from the recently redeveloped Seaport area. I thought it was just the cruise ship terminal and Pier 21. The signs for the farmers' market thoroughly confused me.

Halifax Farmers' Market is the oldest market in North America. And these signs were proclaiming that. But it was for the Seaport market. What about the Brewery? A little digging turns out that the new market is the old market, just moved, but the Brewery Market is still open. Confused? I was, so I committed to checking out the new market.

The completely updated Pier 20, located right next to the cruise ship terminal, housing the Halifax Seaport Market is a green building. Solar panels, windmills, and a garden on the roof And a living wall inside plus geothermal heat make it a very green building. A large open space, divided into the main floor and a second floor loft make up one immense shopping area.

There is still the cacophony of sound, and the crowds were even more ridiculous than in the Brewery, but the energy was not lacking. Nor were the vendors. Four long rows of vendors selling seafood, meat, fruit, cheese, tea, crafts, coffee, wool, jam, bread, vegetables nearly to the rafters, and a unique Nova Scotia kindness as you walked by. Not a single fruit reseller to be seen, and a lot of dirty fingernails on the folks passing you your change.

I spoke to a few of the vendors about the move, the ones I can remember from 14 years ago or from more recent trips to Halifax. They said it was certainly an adjustment, but they were happy with the move. They were already seeing more sales at the new market because there were bigger crowds and accessibility was easier. Some maintained a presence at both markets - the Brewery Market is still open and now competing with the Seaport market, only blocks away. One vendor, though, confided that the new market was better and they were going to give up the old one.

It will take some time to settle into the new space. They need another ATM or two, better power hook-ups for vendors, and eventually they will be open more days of the week (only Saturday for now). Judging from the crowds, however, Halifax has already warmly welcomed the new space.

As for me, I was sad to miss my beloved russet apples (too early in the season). A few samples of wine and scotch from Nova Scotia made up for that. So did people watching from the second story loft while I munched on the best dolmades I've ever had and a fine baklava from competing Lebanese and Egyptian vendors. Then there was the delicate seaglass necklace I found and the aptly names Dragon's Breath blue cheese I carried home on the plane. I'll admit that did miss the mysterious corridors of the Brewery, but not enough to complain. And the new market was enough to make me renew my fantasies of moving back to Halifax.

17 October, 2010

More Pyrohy

Pyrohy, I've decided, are a perfect Sunday dinner. The main reason for this is because Sunday morning many of us think to make bacon. Then we are too lazy to do the dishes before the birthday parties and errands so that pan with bacon grease is still sitting on the stove when the pyrohy are ready. And that pan is begging to be reheated and filled with just-boiled pyrohy for dinner. Yeah, Sunday.

Of course, I had to make the pyrohy first. Thankfully today I had company and a really well-timed nap from the girls. Andree and Gwendolyn came over for a little, old fashioned pyrohy bee. Well, really, I got the games started by making the dough then put them to work making pyrohy. And they were stellar for their first time ever!

We stuck with traditional fillings of mashed potato with cheese and bacon, plain mashed potato, and sauerkraut. Potatoes from our CSA and sauerkraut courtesy of my parent's suburban kitchen. I prepped it all this morning. And taking a cue from the lady's at my parent's church - home of a ridiculously large bimonthly pyrohy supper - we scooped and rolled our mashed potatoes ahead of time. Makes for faster and easier folding of the pyrohy.

Andree said that my babbling and instructions was like watching a cooking show. Minus the couch and red wine! I was a little chatty with pyrohy stories, who knew I had so much to say? Of course, that may have more to due with being surrounded by the kids for weeks now with little adult company than my extensive knowledge of pyrohy.

Did I mention the single parenting? That would also be why I needed pyrohy for dinner, with kale on the side, roasted carrots, kubasa, and the cookies both Gwendolyn and Andree brought us (chocolate chip with bacon and shortbread). And now I shall sit on the couch and drink my wine, with or without a cooking show.

13 October, 2010


Kale chips not potato chips. Let's just get that out of the way. But they are better. But sometimes they are worse, way worse.

An old boss of mine had a heart transplant a little over a year ago. He was sick, very sick, for a young man. For awhile he was attached, and essentially kept alive by an obtrusive, loud, cranky machine. An external pump, if you will, that he carried around behind him like a business traveller and his carry-on through the airport.

Kale is one of the dark green, leafy vegetables that 'they' like to tell us to eat, and eat often. Nothing but good stuff in them. Loads of vitamins, beta-carotene, and even calcium. One of the key vitamins in kale is Vitamin K, very good for blood coagulation.

And blood coagulation is very bad for men with external heart pumps.

But now, with a new heart pumping and no carry-on luggage, those dark green, leafy vegetables are back on his plate. And because potato chips are supposed to be off that same plate I am offering up this recipe.

Kale chips are an addiction in this house; a favourite way to use up the abundance from our CSA. Yes, the girls like them too. Kale chips have a crunch that disintegrates as soon as you bite into them. They do taste green (which is a good thing) but they also carry the taste of the salt and spices you toss them with as soon as they come out of the oven.

So, if you are a salty snacker, try adding kale chips to your bowl. Ridiculously easy to make, fast, and full of real flavour that you control. Snacking at its best. And new heart approved.

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale - purple, green, or lacinato (or a combination
Olive oil
Seasonings (smoked paprika, truffle oil, seasoned salts, cumin, black pepper, chili powder...)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Wash and dry the kale very well. Cut out the stiff rib and cut the leaves into 1-2 inch pieces.
3. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the kale with a light drizzle of olive oil. Go easy on the olive oil to have crisper chips.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Give the kale a gentle toss halfway through.
5. Remove from the oven and toss with a generous sprinkle of salt and seasonings of choice. (Smoked Paprika is our favourite.)

11 October, 2010


I am thankful for:

... A family who loves me even when my crazy comes out.
... Farmers who works hard.

... My new career.
... Knees that still walk for me, even if I can't ski, skate, or run anymore.
... Curious, feral daughters.
... Friends that stick with you.

... Indian Summer
... Our kids being at an age where they will disappear and leave you to have adult conversations with wine.

... Scotch and fat pants.

What about you? What are you thankful for this year?

07 October, 2010


Brussels Sprouts. There I said it. The big, ugly, cruciferous vegetable. And one of my favourites.

The only thing that makes me more excited than the arrival of Honeycrisp apples in the fall is the arrival of those thick stalks, heavy with their tiny cabbages.

Truthfully, I'd never had a brussels sprout until I was an adult. What my mom didn't like, we didn't eat. Not so for my girls. They don't start salivating at the sight of green, but they will eat a nicely roasted sprout topped with hazelnuts. And what they don't eat Hubby and I will gladly devour.

With Thanksgiving coming I have a proliferation of CSA veggies to use for dinner. I won't be shopping for any specific dish, just using what my farmer has so carefully grown for us. So I'll pick up my turkey at the market, maybe grabbing some sausage for stuffing. But I cannot, will not, forego my brussels sprouts at dinner.

Our favourite way to cook the sprouts is roasted. Simply cut them off the stalk, trim any errant leaves, and toss with a bit of olive oil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size. When they are done drizzle with a bit of good balsamic and sprinkle on some toasted hazelnuts or pecans. Even better when you throw some pancetta in the mix.

Here are some other good brussels sprouts recipes to share. Some I've made, others I just want to get to, maybe this weekend?

Cream Braised Brussels Sprouts (oh wow! these are good)

And speaking of Thanksgiving, I had two other posts this week talking about my favourite holiday. One on survival tips for the big dinner, and another on the second most important side dish (after brussels sprouts, of course), mashed potatoes. Seriously, it is my absolute favourite. What's your favourite holiday?

04 October, 2010

Browned Butter Sunday

After finishing 5 articles in a week (recipe testing included) and single parenting for most of that time, frankly, I didn't care much for Sunday dinner. The fridge was full of food, the girls spent the afternoon munching on late season strawberries, cheese, and a cantaloupe, and we were all getting downright cranky.

That left only one option for dinner - popcorn.

When I told the Monster that we were having popcorn and I would find us a movie to watch she got so excited that she literally burst into song. Then, on her own volition, she start cleaning up the living room to make it ready for dinner at the coffee table. Hell, if that's what it takes I'm thinking dinner like this everyday!

Not all was lost when it comes to a good Sunday dinner though. When we returned from the market and I went to refresh the fruit bowl I had some mealy peaches and sad looking apples and pears to contend with. Then there were the ripe peaches that didn't make it home intact from the market and a few half eaten apples courtesy of the girls. The only option was to make a fruit crisp.

The girls got grains and fruit for dinner. I am not a bad mom.

While cutting up the fruit (just a pile of what we had, peels and all) I had this notion to try browning the butter to the crisp first. I guess some part of me was still able to be creative. The butter melted and crackled away on the stove. Then it occurred to me that I never really know how brown is technically browned butter. Turns out I've not been browning enough all along. So I kept it on the stove and got to the lovely browned bits.

In the end, I could have left it a bit longer, I think, but it had that rich, nutty smell and some good colour. Even though I was making crisp, I must confess that the smell only made me think of lobster. I must still have Nova Scotia on the brain.

Once the butter cooled a bit I made up my regular crisp topping. Frankly, I could have eaten it straight, and did so for a few nibbles. It was rich with a butterscotch goodness and with a slightly lighter texture from using melted butter. I am never making crisp any other way, ever again.

And I refuse to feel bad about taking the time to treat the girls and sit quietly in front of the TV. Roasts and veggies are nice and all, but Sunday is also about family. After such a hectic and trying week sitting down together, this time with snuggles, was a much better option.

Browned Butter Fruit Crisp

4 cups fruit
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 Tonka Bean/1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats

1. Chop the fruit into 1/2 inch chunks. Peeling is optional. Gently toss with flour, brown sugar, and spice. Pour into an 8 by 8 baking dish.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. In a small, stainless steel pot on medium low heat melt the butter. Then let it cook , swirling the pot every now and then, until it turns brown. As the colour starts to come to it, watch it closely. It can burn quickly.
4. Once the butter is browned nicely, pour it into your mixing bowl and let cool a few minutes. Admire the colour and dream of lobster. Then add in the brown sugar and stir. Once combined add the flour and oats.
5. Crumble on top of your prepared fruit, trying not to snitch too much along the way.
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the topping is crisp and more than golden and filling is bubbling.