Holiday weekend

Sunday, May 21, 2017

It's our holiday weekend in Canada, the long weekend in May that's the unofficial kickoff to summer. And the weather is ... not so great. Although yesterday was cool and sunny, it's downright cold today, and it's been raining off and on all day. It's less of a "burgers in the backyard" kind of day than a "nourishing bowl at the kitchen table" moment.

Well, I'm happy to oblige. This vegetable fried rice kept me toasty warm as I watched the rain pelting on the barbecue cover, from inside the house. The recipe isn't difficult, although you'll want to have all the ingredients chopped and ready to go before you get started, because the recipe moves quickly once you begin.

I also wrote about the cold, wet weather in my last post; it seems to be the theme of the month. Looking at the weather forecast, I see they're calling for sun tomorrow, followed by another week of rain. So I'd better get that "burgers in the backyard" day in fast!

Vegetable Fried Rice
(adapted from Cookie and Kate)

Note: I halved the original recipe, and got 2+ servings. If you're cooking for a bigger group, check out the original recipe which would serve 4-5 people.


3/4 tsp safflower oil (first amount)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp safflower oil (second amount)
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced carrots
1 cup additional vegetables, cut into very small pieces for quick cooking (see photo above for size reference) - could include asparagus, cabbage, bell pepper, fresh or frozen peas, snow peas or broccoli)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp safflower oil (third amount)
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked brown rice  (note: if you cook the rice especially for the recipe rather than using leftovers, you'll need about 1/2 cup dry rice. Cook the rice before you start the recipe.)
1/2 cup greens
2 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil


This recipe comes together quickly, so make sure you've chopped all the vegetables and set all the ingredients in a convenient spot.

Warm a large skillet over medium high heat, then add 3/4 tsp safflower owl and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the egg and cook until lightly set, stirring along the way. Transfer the eggs to a bowl and wipe out the pan with a spatula.

Return pan to heat and add 1 1/2 tsp oil. Add onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, about 3 - 5 minutes.

Add remaining vegetables and salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally (not too often or the edges won't turn golden), about 3 - 5 more minutes.

In the meantime, use the spatula to break up the scrambled eggs into smaller pieces.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to the pan with the cooked eggs.

Return the pan to the heat, and add the remaining 1 1/2 tsp oil. Add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Add the rice and mix it all together. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot and starting to turn golden on the edges, about 3 - 5 minutes.

Add greens and green onions, and stir to combine.  (Greens should be just starting to wilt.) Add cooked vegetables and eggs, and stir again to combine. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste, and add extra salt if necessary.

Divide into bowls and serve immediately. Leftovers store well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

Early Bird

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping,

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-pulley notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy
bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.

-Ted Kooser, "The Early Bird"

The first week of May in Toronto was very cold ... and very wet. We got more rain in four days than we usually do all month. And although I didn't pull my winter coat out again (it's May, for heaven's sake!) I saw more than a few of them on the streets this week.

When I heard the weather forecast for the weekend was more rain, I knew comfort food was in the offing. Apple recipes are usually the domain of the fall, but a cold, wet spring demands the reassurance only a spiced applesauce cake can bring.

In the end, the weather forecast was wrong (insert your favourite weatherman joke here), and we enjoyed sun most of the day. But this lovely cake is a treat no matter what the weather.

Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
(slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

For frosting

5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup conectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a non-stick 8” or 9” square cake pan.

Make cake: Whisk together flour, baking pwder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed for 2 – 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. Mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Cool completely before frosting.

Make frosting: Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add butter and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon, then beat at medium speed until incorporated.

Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.