Sunday, 31 March 2013

Country Mice, City Mice

The Easter long weekend: one of my favourites.
It is very comforting for me: the arrival of spring, the good food, the rituals in church, the hope.  I always leave the weekend feeling refreshed and feeling like I've had an entire week off.  I love that.

The weather was great, so in addition to going to church and eating with family, we had lots of time to go exploring (and really, with pre-schoolers, a 100 foot walk down the street is an adventure, so leaving the neighbourhood is still mind-blowing to them).

Friday, we explored the country.
Murphys Point Collagebranded

Saturday, it was the city.  Actually, it was small town Perth, but we went to the beautiful, rough, city-vibe part of it.
Factory Collagebranded

And don't think we are magic picture takers, either.  (Edit: by picture takers, I meant photographers.)  The reason the portraits are so up-in-their-grills is because the only way we could trick them into getting happy pictures was by either a) convincing them we needed to document the "beautiful" charcoal rocks they kept "finding" or b) challenging them not to show off their bellies.  You should see the out-takes... crushed stone and belly buttons all over the place.

That was our weekend.  And just because I want to someday turn this blog into my coffee table book: here are the money shots.


Kale Salad with apples, cranberried and pecans

Kale Salad by SashaWarner
Kale Salad, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Recently, we were a part of a potluck. A potluck with a bunch of really active, healthy, people. The kind of people that make me think, "I need to cut out desserts and go for a run." The great thing about a potluck with these sorts of people is that it is not your mother's cheesy, gravy-covered, carb-fest of a potluck dinner. The food is flavourful, amazing, and healthy. I was introduced to new recipes that I could indulge in weekly, though really, its not so much an indulgence as it is giant bear hug for my insides.

One of the salads that an attendee brought along was Deb's Kale Salad from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, found via the blog Cookie + Kate. Kale is the the love of my life, and should be yours, too. It is so healthy and, with the right dressing, entirely addictive.

Kale Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Pecans
(from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, via Cookie + Kate)
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 bunch of kale
4 to 5 medium radishes
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 medium Granny Smith apple
2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. If you are fancy, toast the pecans at 350F for 5ish minutes, tossing once to make sure they are cooked evenly. If you are just thrilled that you splurged on pecans instead of walnuts, skip this step.
3. Wash the kale and remove the leaves from the stems. The stems are bitter and tough. Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces and place in a owl large enough to toss the salad.
2. Cut the root off the radishes and use a mandolin to thinly slice them. Chop the apple into bite sized pieces.
3. Add the pecans, radishes, and apples to the kale.
4. Measure the dressing ingredients into a cruet or small jar. Add the lid and shake, until well combined. Pour over the kale salad and toss to coat evenly.
5. Crumble the goat cheese on top and toss lightly.
This salad tastes even better if you let it sit for 10 or so minutes, marinating in the dressing.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Merigue Gelato Cake

MerigueGelatoCake by SashaWarner
MerigueGelatoCake, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Last night we had a few people over for a potluck. One person is gluten-free. If there is one thing our house will never be, barring medical necessity, it is gluten-free. I struggle to imagine delicious desserts sans flour -- I am a cake and pie kind of lady. Lucky for me, Laura Robin of the Ottawa Citizen republished this scrumptious recipe from Nigella Lawson's book, Nigellissima, on Thursday.

I highly recommend it. I'm mostly blogging about it so that if I loose the paper, I can still find the recipe easily.

Merigue Gelato Cake
(from Laura Robin, although originally from Gioacchino Scognamiglio via Nigella Lawson)
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1 oz (25 g) bittersweet chocolate (minimum 62% cocoa)
1 Tbsp. coffee or chocolate liqueur or rum*
2 to 4 oz (50 to 100 g) store-bought meringue cookies**

To serve:
Chocolate sauce

1. Line an 8x4x3 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, making sure you leave enough hanging over the ends to fold up over top of the gelato.
2. Whip the cream until stiff, but still soft.
3. Chop the chocolate very finely, so that you are left with shards of chocolate. At first I tried shaving the chocolate, but chopping ended up being much easier and faster. Fold the chocolate and liqueur into the whipped cream.
4. With your fingers, crumble the meringue into the whipped cream. Fold the meringue crumbs into the whipped cream.
5. Place the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Using your spatula, press the mixture into the pan. Bring the excess plastic wrap up over the mixture to seal it. Freeze until solid (about 8 hours, according to Nigella). I left it over night.
6. To serve, remove from the freeze, use the plastic wrap to lift it of the pan, peel off the plastic wrap, and slice the loaf. Garnish with raspberries and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

*I chose Kahlua, and it was great. There is only a hint of mocha flavour.
**I couldn't find meringue cookies at my local grocer, so I substituted meringue nests. It worked quite well.

Spring is due.

I want to ride my bicycle by SashaWarner
I want to ride my bicycle, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
This is how all the Warners are feeling, except Nevin, who asked to put his bike away because he didn't want to share it with the neighbour boy.

The rest of us, with more expensive bicycles, are hoping March goes out like a fierce rainy lion that wants to wash away all the snow, salt and sand on the roads. Please.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Spice Muffins

Sugar Bears by SashaWarner
Sugar Bears, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

This recipe takes me back to my mother's kitchen.  She made these "muffins" often.  My brother liked them so much that he would easily inhale an entire batch in a day, so I started calling him a "Sugar Bear."  The name eventually migrated over to the muffins and now in my family they are referred to as Sugar BearsThe original name is rather auspicious - there is nothing healthy about these "muffins"; they are more like an easy-to-prepare doughnut.

 Spice Muffins
(a.k.a. Sugar Bears) 
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil

For topping:
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter one muffin tin, or spray with non-stick spray.  You can not use liners for this recipe.
2. Combine the flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat the egg.  Add the sugar, milk and oil, and whisk together.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring only to combine.
5. Fill the muffin pans 3/4 full.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.
6. Have one bowl with 1/2 cup melted butter and a separate bowl with the sugar and cinnamon mixed together, ready for when the muffins come out of the oven.  As soon as the muffins are done, knock them off the pan.  Roll in butter.  Roll in sugar mixture.  

Mixing Things

Scary Dinosaur by SashaWarner
Scary Dinosaur, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

Warner residence, lunchtime.

Nevin: Mommy, you know what I like mixing things with?
Sasha: What?
Nevin:  Saliva.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Gingerbread Popcorn

Gingerbread Popcorn by SashaWarner
Gingerbread Popcorn, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Lately, I have had a few opportunities to spend time with some admirable women. The great advantage of being a very awkward teenager who blossomed into a moderately awkward adult, is that you can really appreciate inclusion. I never expect an invitation, and always find myself awestruck when normal people show the patience and kindness required to include me in a gathering. I hosted one of these gatherings recently, and decided on the classic, casual snack: popcorn. This is the perfect “I-tried-to-keep-calm,-but-I’m-so-happy-you’re-here” recipe.

Gingerbread Popcorn
(edited very slightly from the original at An Edible Mosaic)
12 cups air-popped popcorn (1/2 cup popcorn kernels)
1 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon water
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Get everything prepped. Mix the popcorn and nuts in a very large bowl, and set aside. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Mix together the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Cook the butter, sugar, molasses, water, and salt in a medium-sized, thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it boils, stirring occasionally. Continue to let it boil, stirring constantly, for three minutes. Carefully stir in the vanilla and baking soda/spice mix, and pour over the popcorn/nut mixture.

This is Two Years Old.

Reading by SashaWarner
Reading, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
My daughter at two: full of life, filled to the brim with emotions. She is in the "terrible twos." I've read a couple of very honest accounts this week about two-year old daughters -- one from a friend and one from a highly-regarded stranger. Both women said the same thing, exactly what I needed: its bad, but at the same time, it is so good. The hardest part about being the mother of a two year old can be cherishing the good moments enough to appreciate your child's independence in the difficult times.

Wednesday morning, I got up with Scarlett. Since she is up at 5:15 morning, Shawn and I take turns. She is a delicate girl at that hour. On that particular morning, life seemed alright. But then, as she lifted her toast off the plate to her mouth, it broke into two pieces. She was devastated and irate. She threw the toast across the floor three times before I took it away. Grape jam carnage across my kitchen floor. It was a full 30 minutes of fury. In the end, I asked Shawn to get up, and had a shower.

She can be so difficult. No one gets as low as she does, nor does anyone push my buttons like she does. Yet, no one else has the infectious enthusiasm and pure joy that she does. She can make me belly laugh.

Saturday morning, she single handedly got the entire family up on their feet singing and dancing to "Run-Around Sue." It was spontaneous, joyous, and all thanks to our pint-sized firecracker. We are trying to prepare her for potty training, and have been very encouraging. She now follows me into the bathroom, and cheers for me, hands held high, clapping, beaming, fist pumping.

There is no one else like her in my life and for her, and for that, I am thankful.
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