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.

29 October, 2010

Doug's Frog Shirt Quilt

Doug's Frog Shirt Quilt
Approximately Twin Sized
August 2004
Stack and Slash, Fusible Applique - Original Design

Considering that I shared my Dad's quilt (Roots) during the last Blogger's Quilt Festival it only seemed appropriate that I share my Father-in-Law's quilt this time around. Sadly, my Father-in-law, Doug, never actually saw this quilt. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 6 weeks later passed away.

As soon as he was diagnosed I pulled the fabric. It was all inspired by t-shirt he had. This pretty ugly batik t-shirt, known as the Frog Shirt. That t-shirt was, as far as I know, the only source of tension between he and I. My teasing was a bit much, but we got past it quickly. So, in homage to that shirt and him I took it as my inspiration.

The top was pieced with the Stack and Slash concept in rectangular blocks. I picked the black sashing for a few reasons. Number 1, the frog shirt was black. Number 2, it went well with the rest of the fabrics, setting them off nicely. And Number 3, it was kind of symbolic. Cancer can be a sentence - as it was for him - so it is rather like bars holding in the chaos of cancer in the blocks.

The frogs, of course, needed to be on there. Each frog represents his wife, my amazing Mother-in-Law, and their three kids. Even the grandkids, of which there were only two at the time, are given their place on the backs of the frogs.

The quilting was an all-over stipple with random fern and plant motifs added in. I used a Sulky variegated on my old 1960s Brother machine.

Sadly, I never got the chance to finish the quilt before he passed. Then the overwhelming world of grief took away my quilting desires. But in time for what would have been his birthday that year I finished the quilt and presented it to the family. Initially I'd hoped it could roam the family and provide some comfort where necessary, but it has always stayed with my Mother-in-Law. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Doug has been gone for over 6 years now and I still miss him terribly. He would have adored his new granddaughters and been proud of his son. He still lives on in his family and in the memories. Those never go away. Neither will the quilt, which I pet every time I visit my Mother-in-Law.

  • Amy's Creative Side - Blogger's Quilt Festival

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.

Conquering my Fear

Handquilting is something I've tried a sum total of three times. The first time was on my third quilt ever. And only because I was terrified of free-motion quilting. The second and third times were earlier this year. That makes a 10 year break between efforts.

I'm trying it again. I would be talking out of my ass if I didn't confront my own fears after that last post on Fear. In my case, I was afraid that I would mess up this project with bad stitching. And the wealth of excellent examples on-line seriously intimidated me. But I can't sit around in fear, I just can't. It isn't my nature, although it is certainly easier. But I would be a hypocrite to you, my faithful readers, if I didn't challenge myself.

I would also be a hypocrite to my kids. You see, The Monster is a very intense child. If she can't do things perfectly the very first time she does something then the world essentially ends for her. Last summer, at 3, she tried her tricycle for the first time. When she couldn't figure out the notion of pedalling in the first 30 seconds she quite promptly got off the bike, picked it up, and threw it.

She gets that from me.

So, if I am working every day with her and her sister to get them to understand the notion of practice, work, and simply trying something even if you aren't perfect at it, then I need to do that myself. Enter handquilting.

Each of the 27 circles on my low-volume circles quilt will be handquilted. This is in contrast with the straight lines I'm doing on the background. It seemed an appropriate approach since the circles were done entirely by hand shortly after I injured my knees in January.

Now, I'm only three circles in. And it certainly isn't pretty. But each one looks progressively better. Seeing improvements certainly helps the confidence level. Regardless, I'm committed to the process and the product.

Full confession though, I'm stabbing these stitches, not using the traditional rocking motion. I know that isn't the correct way, but it is working for me. I believe that counts for a lot. Besides, on my recent trip to Nova Scotia I had the opportunity to snuggle by the fire under an incredible handstitched quilt that was entirely stab stitched. That was enough to motivate me to tackle my quilt. I don't know if I'll ever be as good as the artist, but I won't know if I don't try.

22 October, 2010


Fear holds a lot of people back. Not only in life, but also in quilting. Fear of a new technique, fear of messing up, fear of being less than perfect, even fear of not being liked (the work, that is). I'm here to tell you to stop being afraid.

(I feel evangelical just typing that. Maybe I should be on a stage with a tiny microphone on my face and gesticulating calmly as I speak. You know, projecting a voice of inspired energy and turning you over to my side?)

This is a bee block. Just a simple wonky star with a twist was requested. I can get those directions, play around with the fabric given, and come up with something a bit different from the typical stars seen out there. For another person, those directions can simply stop them in their tracks. For one, saying wonky paralyses many. Must have a straight lines... And two, this begs for improvisation. Must have a pattern... Finally, what if the recipient doesn't like what I do?

For a long time I didn't understand these fears. In my case it was because I happen to like a challenge and actually sewing that way. But then people asked me to sew very precise things in their bees, with very specific instructions. Definitely not my go-to-choice for a project. But I'd made the commitment to the bee and my fellow participants. And I wasn't afraid so much as less than excited. But it's one block, what's the big deal?

But one block can be a big deal to a beginner, or to someone whose never made a triangle or not worked with a pattern. I don't want it to be a big deal though. I want people to look past those fears and relish the challenge. Why not try something new? Do you want to make log cabins or simple patchwork for the rest of your life?

Okay, maybe you do. Maybe you would be really happy churning out those quilts. And that's fine. But then stay away from on-line bees and expect other people to get bored with your work if you choose to share it with a very public audience. That's all good if you are happy doing what you are doing.

Looking for more, though? Feeling inspired by all you see on-line or at guild? Then it is time to set aside some fear. Here are some tips to get you moving past the fear:

- Join an on-line bee. This will force you to try new techniques and meet other quilters. Alternatively, join a round robin or guild bee.

- Play. You can just sew for the sake of sewing, it doesn't have to turn into anything.

- Don't blog about it. If you are worried about what people think, then don't share it.

- Blog about it. Push yourself to put it out there, flaws (perceived or real) and all.

- When in doubt about that one fabric, include it. If it still niggles at you once you've used it, then take it out. It is only fabric.

- Ask for help. Whether from an in-person friend or by posting on-line, seek input from others (like we did with the Workshop in Progress).

- Challenge yourself. Set up regular goals to try new techniques or colours.

- Stop reading blogs and books for a little while. It can be demoralizing for many to see so much inspiring work. That is, we think we can't be good enough or think it is beyond us. So take a little retreat for yourself and turn off the computer and stay away from the stack of books. Fondle your fabric and sew for yourself.

- Colour. Stuck when it comes to fabric? Then pull out the crayons, markers, or pencils and just colour. Even if it is just a colouring book, go for it. Give people blue skin, colour the trees purple, or make polka-dotted dogs.

Keep in mind that if you are stuck there is no need to make an entire quilt to move past the fear. Make one block, just play for a bit. This reduces the commitment and moves your forward one step, one block at a time.

What other tips do you have for facing the fear?

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

Her Name, Big

Please ignore the odd shape of the M. Coming up on 4 weeks of more or less solid single parenting. I get the odd break with a babysitter or Hubby unpredictably arriving home, only to leave again a day or two later. But he's working the whole time he's here too. Needless to say, exhaustion and crankiness are evident.

That being said, it is all the more managed now that I am home with the girls instead of in an office. I had a particularly bad day last week and in between crying and fighting with Hubby on the phone he commented that quitting my job was supposed to make this better. So the wrong thing to say. But I was somehow lucid enough to calmly (or so I think) point out that at least this was only one day. Prior to quitting my job that would have been everyday.

And having the opportunity to quilt nearly everyday during naptime (whether I take it or not) goes a long way towards keeping my mental health in check. A long, long way.

This afternoon saw me finish the main part of one of the girls' quilt tops. Our oldest asked for a quilt with her name on it, all over. Like a good artist who takes every commission with a grain of salt I modified her request. I went for her name once, and made it big! This will cover nearly an entire twin mattress. All that is left is to sew the rest of the top to this.

Oh, and actually get the twin mattress and the bed it is supposed to go on. Pretty sure I'm winning the race.

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.

15 October, 2010

Lovely L

I wanted to photograph some blocks I've made for The Monster's new quilt. It's kind of hard to do that in this weather. And yes, I made my 2 year old hold that up.

In the spirit of Soule Mama's This Moment posts.

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.)

12 October, 2010

A Pretty Thing

Just a scarf.

You've heard me say it before, but I really don't like to sew clothes. There are so many delicious patterns out there and loads of fabric that I do think would make better clothes than quilts, but I can't quite get motivated to break out pattern pieces.

When Jacquie sent me a piece of Anna Maria Horner Good Folks voile I wasn't confident that it would work in a quilt. Yes, all together with a whole bunch of voiles would be fantastic, but I also don't generally do single fabric line quilts. Geez, I really am a picky quilter!

The voile is just too pretty to leave languishing in a stash bin. Unbelievably soft too. Yes, it would make a gorgeous blouse or summer dress. With my clothing sewing skills, however, I also thought it would make a lovely scarf.

Selvage to selvage it is a bit shorter than the conventional 42-44 inches. This makes it too short to be good scarf. When I went searching for a coordinating print I couldn't help but take out an older AMH fabric in that pink. So one side is AMH, the other is grey. A quilter's linen and a Lecien print I picked up in Ontario.

This is ridiculously easy to make. Sew your front pieces together, sew your back pieces together. Then, wrong sides together sew around almost all four sides. Leave a spot to turn it right side out, after clipping the excess fabric from the corners. Top stitch all the way around.

This scarf now goes with me everywhere. I'm not generally a pretty kind of gal when I dress, but I do adore this scarf and even though it is plain jane construction, it makes me feel very pretty to wear it.

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?

08 October, 2010

For the Girls

So I need to start a new quilt, or two, like I need a bad knee. Oh wait, I've already got two of those, so why not start two new quilts?

The girls have shared a room for almost two years. Now that Smilosaurus is out of the crib they've been stuck even sharing a big bed. Truthfully, they seem to love it - choosing it over sleeping separately when presented with an option. It works for them and 95% of the time it works for us.

You see, we put our girls to bed and then pretty much ignore them. They can talk, giggle, fight, or whatever - as long as the lights stay off and they stay in bed. And 95% of the time that works. The other 5% of the time one wants to stay up while the other sleeps or they fight over the covers. That 5% of the time I am desperate for them to have their own beds.

We've been shopping with little success for twin beds we like. Hubby is actually getting them made now off a design we put together. New beds, however, necessitate new quilts. By the time I get these done they might have new beds. Maybe Hubby and I should have a race?

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?

05 October, 2010

Thanks for Swinging By

I suppose you want to know who won the giveaway?

The big winner of the complete set of rulers was Angela. She was a very excited gal when Pat let her know.

And the winner of the Blog Aid cookbook was Debbie from As Busy As Can Be.

I also wanted to answer some of the questions that came up in the comments. Yes, it is indeed real maple syrup. It's the only thing we've got in the house. I am a good Canadian girl and it's the only way to go. I get mine from a maple farm in Ontario. Sadly, sugar maples don't grow out West.

The bean recipe can be kept vegetarian, just skip the bacon. But in this house we adore the bacon. And maple and bacon together? A little bit of heaven.

About that metric and imperial contrast. Another uniquely Canadian conundrum because we have conflicting influences between American and British influences. More than once I've found myself writing a recipe using both grams and cups or milliliters and ounces! But I think only a Canadian would get it.

Someone asked about my time. Well, let's just say I don't watch that much TV and there is little in the way of exercise in my life these days - stupid knees. And the best part about being a food writer is that I get to do research and make dinner at the same time. Even if it means making Christmas cookies in the September sunshine!

And yes, I promise to finish my Mom's quilt and soon!

Thanks for hopping!

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.

01 October, 2010

On the Edge

This giveaway is now closed.

In more ways than one I'm living on the edge this week. I've had what one of you called a reset (love that term!) and have crashed head first into this week. Somewhere in between early mornings, late nights, preschool duties, deadlines, lessons, and single parenting I managed to test out Pat Sloan's new Cutting Edge Rulers.

On what else, but some grey fabric? Yes, I say grey. At least consciously that's what I say and spell, but a look through my archives may reveal lapses in that intent.

I won't lie, these rulers take a bit of getting used to when you start. There is the noise as the rotary cutter blade moves along the carbon sharpening idea. Then there is the different markings. I'm so used to my yellow that the red and black lines were off-putting. But after a few dozen cuts it all made sense.

My only real complaints are that the labelling on the 6.5" by 24.5" ruler wasn't set up the way I normally use. That is, low to high out from one corner. But that might just be me. Oh, and the frosting for non-slip is awesome, but perhaps not well suited when you are cutting nothing but grey fabric!

Way to go Pat for bringing something new, but not too gadgety to the market. Want to win some? Stay tuned for the details.

Pat didn't want a straight review of the rulers. No, not her! She never does anything by the rules anyway! So I'm happily sharing one of my first quilts, and a recipe. This week, it is all about Maple. And I don't mean my dog. (Yes, that is her name.)

This is actually my second quilt. (I have no photos of the first, a single Irish Chain made 12 years ago for my first nephew.) I made this quilt for my Mom. She was living in Texas at the time, so I wanted to give her something to remind her of Canada. And it currently sits in a box in my house, waiting a hanging sleeve. (Sorry Mom.)

I'll admit, I do cringe a little in looking at it. But it is still important to look back at where we came from and remind ourselves of the potential for where we can still go.

What I find interesting in looking at this was my move into a more scrappy look. That is, choosing to use multiple greens instead a single one. I guess I started that early in my career.

And on that theme of Maple, I thought I would share this recipe with you. After all, I'm also a food writer, I should be able to give you a recipe!

(Smilosaurus enjoying her beans last year)

Maple Baked Beans.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t cracked open a can of beans to eat along side a hot dog or roasted potatoes – at home or at the campfire. Walk away from the canned goods, making your own baked beans at home is really easy. Put all the ingredients in the oven to bake then hit the ice rink or toboggan hill. When you come home smell will beg you to tear into a loaf of crusty bread and curl up with a bowl of beans. There is nothing fancy to it. If you want to keep this vegetarian leave out the bacon and fry the onions in a touch of oil.

Makes approximately 4-5 cups

2 cups dried white or kidney beans* OR 2 19 ounce cans white or kidney beans, drained

6 slices bacon

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 small can of tomatoes paste

2 cups water, stock, or bean cooking liquid

¾ cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons Dijon or yellow mustard

*When using dried beans

1. Soak the beans overnight in water with a handful of salt.

2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

3. Drain and rinse the beans well. Cover with fresh water by at least two inches. Add half an onion, peels on, and a couple of unpeeled cloves of garlic. On high heat bring to a boil in an oven proof pot or dutch oven.

4. Once the water is boiling, cover and place in oven to cook. Bake for 1.5-2 hours until beans are tender to the bite. Drain, reserving remaining cooking liquid.

For baked beans:

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Chop the bacon. Fry in a dutch oven or oven-proof dish, with a touch of oil to get it started. When the bacon is cooked but not crispy, add the onions. Cook until the onions are tender and transparent.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Bake, covered for an hour. Season with salt and pepper.

I mentioned the giveaway, right? Well, the kind folks at Sullivan's are offering an entire set of the Cutting Edge rulers for one lucky reader of the Blog Hop. You need to leave a comment at every spot on the hop. Here's the list, make sure you visit them all!

Pat Sloan

Kelly Jackson

Amy Ellis

Jackie Kunkel

Julie Herman

Amanda Jean Nyberg

Monica Solorio-Snow

Amy Lobsiger

Pam Vieira-McGinnis

Carrie Nelson

Polly Minick and Laurie Simpson

Michelle Foster

And Pat Sloan again!

And for one lucky reader here, I'm offering something totally not quilt related. But Pat asked us to share a recipe, so I thought a cookbook would be a good addition to the giveaway. I was thrilled to contribute to this cookbook - Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti - along with a tremendous group of bloggers/writers/chefs. It was a fundraiser for the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Learn more about the project. And all commenters here are eligible to win their own copy!

This giveaway is now closed.