Monday, October 12, 2015

giving thanks

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and normally, I would be in my kitchen prepping vegetables and making stuffing but this year, we are off to have dinner at my lovely sister-in-law's house.

 We took the boys (human and dog) to the park, the boy to do some goalie stuff and the dog to walk, it was pouring rain and all of us came home soaked. So as I add up my thanks this year I am grateful for my people - husband, son, family, our dog and cat that make our house a home,

for a roof over our heads to give us shelter and warmth, for food to nourish us and help us build connections with each other, for friends who guide, inspire, teach and cherish us and for our health which keeps us moving and growing. May all of you be blessed too!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

cauliflower cheese hash brown casserole

About a week ago, we had a lovely sunny day, with just a bit of fall in the breeze and I had a few quiet moments to myself so I curled up on my newish outdoor loveseat under a blanket and read a bit of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries.

I was reading January, February - all about cold, grey, bitter weather and lovely things to cook then. I adore his roasted onion soup and I began to get quite hungry under my blanket out in the sunshine. I did have a strong hankering for mashed potato when I put my book down.

I had a cauliflower hanging out in my veggie drawer for a bit and so I decided to do cauliflower cheese hash brown casserole. As I had a pile of chard from the garden as well,

 I threw that into the mix for a bit of green. To balance out the greens, I added bacon. Actually it was the other way around, I added bacon, because..well, bacon. And then added the greens.

Cauliflower Cheese Hash Brown Casserole
1 head of cauliflower florets, roasted
2 large shallots, sliced
4 rashers thick cut bacon, sliced
1 big pile of chard, cut into ribbons
4 tbsp flour
560 mL milk (or broth and milk combined)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 small package of frozen diced hash brown potatoes
1 1/2 c grated cheddar or other hard cheese (I used a combination of old cheddar and goat)

Preheat your oven to 375 deg F. Add the cauliflower florets to a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes until slightly browned at the edges.

Add the shallots and bacon to a dutch oven over medium heat and cook until the bacon is mostly cooked and the shallots are tender.

Add the chard and saute for a couple of minutes until the chard is wilted. Remove the vegetable mixture from the pan, leaving the bacon fat behind. Add the flour and milk to the pan, stirring until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and the dijon mustard. Add back the vegetable mixture, add in the roasted cauliflower and mix well. Add in the hash brown potatoes and the cheese and mix to blend.

 Bake for 30 minutes at 350 deg F until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the edges of the dish are browing. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

back to the rain

Last week we had a family reunion and of course it rained.

 We've had so many sunny days since the beginning of the year and this summer has been tinder dry.

Water restrictions, etc. So the one day we could have used some lovely warm weather, it rained. We had fun anyway and the rain let up for us to have a trip to the beach - although it was very windy so apart from my nephew throwing himself into the waves, no one went swimming.

 We very much enjoyed the kite surfers in the bay as well.

The huge wind and rain storm seems to have marked the turning of the season - it's been cool and grey since the weekend even though I am loathe to give up my summer wear, I've added big sweaters on top to keep warm and have been snuggling under blankets of an evening while reading. Last night I made this lovely supper thanks to Luisa at Wednesday Chef. It seemed perfect for a cool, rainy evening. And it was.

Baked Sicilian Rice (adapted from the Wednesday Chef)

I used only red peppers as that is what I had, no pepper flakes or basil as my husband can't eat chili and my basil plant didn't survive our vacation. Instead of plum tomatoes, I used a bunch of cherry tomatoes cut up that came from my cousin's garden.

320 gms arborio rice
3 tbsp olive oil, plus some for the dish
150 gm provolone, grated
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 small onions, thinly sliced (I used some red onion and shallot)
2 red peppers, sliced into thin strips
1 large eggplant, halved and sliced
handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced into thin strips (equivalent to 3 plum tomatoes)
2 tbsp salted capers, soaked and rinsed
1/4 c cured black olives, pitted

Boil a large amount of salted water in a saucepan; once boiling add the rice and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain well and add 1 tbsp olive oil and 50 g of cheese and stir, Put aside.

Meanwhile heat the rest of the oil in a saute pan, add the garlic, onion, peppers and eggplant and cook over medium-high for 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, add the tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the capers, olives and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Oil a baking dish. Spread half the rice over the bottom of the dish. Add half the vegetables evenly over the top and sprinkle half of the remaining cheese over the top. Repeat once more. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutees and serve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Where is the summer going? I realized the other day that there was only a month left til the boy begins school again, in Grade 4. Wait, what? It's been a wierd couple of weeks.

 The weather has been more west coasty - cloud, rain, and then sun, sometimes in the same day or same hour but after weeks and weeks of sunshine, it is taking some adjustment. We've still had days at the beach with waves to jump around in and if we stay for supper, glorious sunsets.

 And just because it is summer, doesn't mean that life is all summery. There was some sad news for our school community a few weeks ago and my heart breaks for a family in mourning. And our group of friends are gearing up to say adieu to a family moving away for a couple of years. But on the plus side, we are looking forward to a family reunion at the end of the month and the boy is anxious to play with his cousins.

Amongst the sad news at the end of July, came the good news of a new addition in our extended family which prompted a crafting fever by myself. Out of the craft cupboard came the felt and fabric, cutting mats and cutters and projects that have been sitting in waiting for ages are coming to fruition.
an oops cake - delicious but a bit messy after the layers slipped around in the heat

quilt for a new addition
Of course, my sewing machine has mutinied and is off at the shop being repaired, so I dug a serger out that I got at a huge sale eons ago and never managed to learn how to use, and have been using it. Teaching this old mummy dinosaur new tricks!

 I made a couple of felt friends, altering a pattern to make a lion (finally as I'd been thinking about it for ages) and which I find slightly ironic given the media storm around this story. We had a stuffie lion, with a fabulous mane, when we were children, so stuffie lions have always had a place in my heart. Here's the one I made:

I also made a sheep:

Cooking seems to be (pardon the pun) on the back burner during these summer days but one staple has been these easy summer potatoes.

Easy Summer Roasties
1 lb small new potatoes (halve the bigger ones)
dash of olive oil
sprinkling of onion salt
salt and pepper

Place the potatoes in a baking dish and microwave for 5-7 minutes. Once done, add the oil, onion salt and some salt and pepper and make sure all the potatoes are covered. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375 deg F.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

soft pretzels

orgami tigers
The heat has come back to the PNW which is not the perfect time for me to be on a baking streak. None the less, I have been making dough, in between fixing my KitchenAid mixer, as the head had come completely off the pin so was thunking around while kneading the dough, most alarming. However, we managed to get the pin back where it should be and the mixer head is back in place. Phew.
a goat spied on a local beach...
Also, in the midst of sewing some curtains for our newly painted laundry room (and sewing/craft/cat bedroom) my sewing machine began to sound severly asthmatic, slowed down and finally stopped completely, so it is off being repaired. Of course, I have been struck with quilting fever and want to be making and sewing a couple of projects, once the curtains are finished. Hopefully my old faithful Bernina can be repaired with a bit of TLC and possibly some oil.

In between mornings at drop in soccer camp and afternoons at the park or playing with friends or visiting lemonade stands, I made a couple of batches of these pretzels. The first batch I halved the dough and froze one half and made up the other half. The second batch went into the fridge after raising and was stickier than the first so I recommend based on my experience that if you don't want to make the pretzels right away, freeze the dough and then let it thaw when you want to make them.

I've seen many recipes for pretzels but they always seemed so complicated, what with food safe lye and the twisting etc. But recently I read this post from Things we make and it seemed I should try them. Hot cinnamon sugar baked dough sounded irristible. So I made them.

Hot Soft Pretzels (from Things we Made)
2 1/4 tsp bread yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
4 tbsps butter, melted

Place the yeast, sugar, salt and flour in the bowl of a mixer, keeping the salt away from the yeast. Mix with the dough hook. Mix the melted butter into the milk and add slowly into the flour mix, until a dough forms. Knead for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is soft. Cover the bowl with the dough with plastic film and leave it for 1-2 hours to double in size.
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Take the risen dough and divide into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a long sausage, not using flour so the dough will be easier to roll.
 Roll each dough sausage out evenly until over 12" long or longer. Take the ends of the roll and form a U with the dough. Twist the ends over twice and then pull them towards the bottom of the U and push them into the dough to form the pretzel. Continue with all the dough.
To Dip: Dissolve 2 tbsp baking soda into 2 c hot water in a largish bowl. With a slotted spoon, slip each of the pretzels into the water, lift out and place on a cooling rack to drain slightly. Once all the pretzels are dipped, place them on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 4-5 minutes, turn the sheets and bake for another 4-5 minutes until brown.

Melt 2 tbsp butter. Once the pretzels are out of the oven, brush each with melted butter. Dip into a sugar cinnamon mixture (I've tried savory as well - chive and cheese is lovely). Eat.