Sunday, March 29, 2015
Andrew's out of town for a few days, so my youngest daughter and I have been on our own. With just the two of us, our meals have been a little more relaxed than usual.

Because Andrew took the camera with him (he's at his cousin's wedding, in England) I asked my daughter to take a picture of lunch on her phone to post here. And she obliged:

Should I have been more specific?

Yes, my fabulous lunch of sweet potatoes appealed to her so much, she opted for leftover takeout pizza rather than share my delicious homemade meal. (I'm still working hard, trying to convince her how awesome sweet potatoes are.) But with a little coaxing, she did indeed photograph my lunch, so I could share this wonderful recipe with you:

It doesn't make up for missing a wedding, but it's a start.

Congratulations to Sarah and Matt, the happy newlyweds. Hope to see you soon! xo

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Gingery Sweet Potato and Apple Saute with Toasted Almonds
(from Fast, Fresh and Green, by Susie Middleton)

1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp unsalted butter (first amount)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 medium sweet potatoes (12 to 13 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2” dice (about 2 3/4 cups)
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2” dice
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Golden Delicious apple (6 to 7 ounces), unpeeled, cored and cut into 1/2” dice
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 Tbsp butter (second amount)
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp roughly chopped toasted sliced almonds

Combine the cider vinegar and chicken broth in a small bowl and set aside.

In a 10” sauté pan, melt 1 Tbsp of the butter with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes, onion, and salt. Turn the heat down to medium-low. (The pan should still sizzle; if your stove is less powerful, you can stay on medium and lower the heat later if needed.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned and the sweet potatoes have turned bright orange and are starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (The bottom of the pan will be lightly browned, and the sweet potatoes will have started to soften.)

Add the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil and the apple. Turn the heat down just a tiny bit more and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sweet potatoes are tender (test with a paring knife) and the apple and onion are browned, 8 to 12 minutes.

Add the ginger and stir to incorporate. Remove the pan from the heat, clear a small spot in the pan, and add the vinegar-broth mixture (it will sizzle) and the remaining 1/2 Tbsp butter. Stir well immediately to incorporate the butter and any browned bits loosened from the bottom of the pan (most will remain). Add the parsley and almonds, stir, and transfer to a serving dish.

Thursday's Child: Silent Witness Memorial

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Silent Witness Memorial near Gander, Newfoundland, was erected to commemorate the deaths of 256 people in the Arrow Air crash of December 12, 1985. Victims included 248 U.S. troops returning from a peacekeeping mission in the Middle East, and eight crew members. The flight had stopped in Gander for refuelling before leaving for its final destination in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. When the plane took off again, it struggled to gain altitude and eventually crashed about 3000 feet from the runway, killing everyone aboard.

The crash occurred in the dark hours of the early morning. The site this memorial was built on, a rocky, wooded area, was the Silent Witness to the tragic crash.

With prayers for the family and friends of the victims of Flight 4U9525, on March 24, 2015.

Dinner in 15 Minutes

Sunday, March 22, 2015

If you're like me, sometimes you like spending time preparing a thoughtful dinner. And sometimes life is such a whirlwind, you're challenged to get anything on the table before everyone gives up and eats cheese and crackers.

This recipe is so simple, it's barely a recipe at all. When I say you can have dinner on the table in fifteen minutes, I mean it - start the countdown when you put the pasta water on the boil. If you don't have leftover cooked chicken in the fridge, it'll take a little longer, but if you cut the breasts in quarters and cook them while the pasta is cooking, it won't be much longer. And you can save the cheese and crackers for another occasion.

Fusilli with chicken, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 1/2 cups dry fusilli (if you’re using a larger pasta, you’ll need more)
1/3 cup basil pesto
6 Tbsp diced oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, drained
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of boiling water to a boil, and cook the fusilli for 8 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.

Add cubed chicken, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir and serve. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Season to taste.

Thursday's Child: How to raise a family that travels

Thursday, March 19, 2015
Start with two people who love to travel. (Pictured above: my mom and dad on their honeymoon, in New York State.)

Add a three year old about to take her first big trip. My Aunt Lois gave me a nifty suitcase/umbrella combo for Christmas that year. Not only did I feel like a big girl on the airplane, I played with the suitcase for years.

Be lucky enough to have relatives who live in California. And when you and your mom fly there for your cousin's baptism, you get to visit Disneyland.

True story: when I was two-and-a-half, and my sister was six weeks old, my parents took us camping. The campground was only twenty miles from home. What could possibly go wrong?

Some time after we reached the campground, the car keys went missing. My parents searched the campsite but eventually realized they were irretrievably lost. So my dad hitchhiked back to the farm and got a spare set from my grandfather, while my mom waited with the toddler and the newborn at the campground.

You'd think after an experience like that, they'd give travelling a miss for a while. But they didn't, and we kept travelling every summer. To the best of my knowledge, we never lost the car keys again. (Although they probably started taking a spare set.)

And if that isn't enough to keep you from taking a trip every year, you just might end up with a family that loves to travel.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

"last night before
I fell asleep
I put the book
on the floor
looking down
I see its spine
with the golden
simple name
of the old
poet who might
already be dead
somehow he used
ancient magic
everyone says
we don't need anymore
to place inside
me that perfect

- from "Aubergine", by Matthew Zapruder

This is a lovely dish, regardless of whether you call the vegetable "eggplant" or "aubergine". Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests two ways of serving it - with a dollop of yogurt and shredded mint, or with a bit of pesto. It's great both ways.

Roasted Eggplant Boats
(from River Cottage Veg Everyday, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)


2 large eggplants
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 – 3 pinches crushed red pepper flakes
4 – 5 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

2 – 3 Tbsp pesto
4 – 6 Tbsp plain, full-fat yogurt and 8 mint leaves, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut eggplants in half lengthways. Using a small, sharp knife, make a series of deep slashes diagonally across the flesh, going about two-thirds of the way into the flesh but not right through to the skin. You want to end up with 6 – 10 slashes, depending on the size of your eggplants.

Mix the garlic and red pepper flakes with 3 Tbsp of the olive oil. Hold one eggplant half in your hand and squeeze it from side to side so the slashes open up a little. Spoon some of the garlic- and red-pepper-oil over the top with a teaspoon, using the back of the spoon to work the oil down into the slashes. Repeat with the other halves.

Put the eggplant halves, flesh side up, in a roasting dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then trickle over a little more olive oil – there should be little or no unoiled flesh showing. Roast in the oven for about 50 minutes or until a deep golden brown.

Let eggplants cool slightly. Serve hot or warm, either smeared with a little pesto, or dabbed with yogurt and sprinkled with mint and a little more salt.

Brussels Sprouts: The Sequel

Sunday, March 8, 2015
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say: “I should make this Brussels sprouts recipe – I’ve got all the ingredients I need in my fridge.”

In my old life, I thought I hated Brussels sprouts. I didn’t grow up eating them, and had never even tried them until I started to date Andrew. His mother was a wonderful cook: she had a way with shepherd’s pie and Christmas trifle that only someone born and raised in Great Britain could have. But she had an inexplicable weakness for Brussels sprouts.  I was dubious from the moment I smelled them boiling, wasn’t reassured when I saw the gray-green lumps on my plate, and definitely didn’t relish the overpowering flavour. I compensated by eating them first so I could mask their taste with everything else on my plate. In retrospect, I realize she may have thought I ate them first because I liked them.

But that’s in the past. My recent sprouts awakening meant that I bought more last week, looking for an excuse to make them again. So when I came across this recipe – and had all the ingredients on hand – I knew I had to try it. Guess what? I like this recipe even better than the one that precipitated my conversion.

I can’t over-emphasize how easy and how delicious these sprouts are. And in case you’re wondering, I have a bag of Brussels sprouts sitting in my fridge right now. I know what I’m making for dinner.

Gingery Braised Brussels Sprouts
(from Fast,Fresh and Green, by Susie Middleton)

1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter (first amount)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
12 to 13 ounces (340 to 370 grams) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp unsalted butter (second amount)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 small lime

In a 10” sauté pan, melt 1 1/2 Tbsp butter with olive oil over medium heat. Arrange Brussels sprouts, cut side down, in one layer in the pan. (You’ll have to tuck them in snugly.) Season with the salt. Cook the sprouts until bottoms are nicely browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour the broth into the pan and cover, leaving the lid slightly askew so that some steam escapes. Turn the heat down if necessary so the broth is just gently simmering.

Cook until the broth is reduced to about 2 Tbsp, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove lid and add 1 Tbsp butter, ginger, and garlic. Toss well and stir just until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir gently until the ginger and garlic are well incorporated and slightly softened. Gently squeeze the lime half over all, toss, and serve.

Thursday's Child: The Isle of Skye

Thursday, March 5, 2015
There isn't any obvious reason why I'm writing about the Isle of Skye today: no particular news connections, and the weather isn't reminding me of anywhere other than the Antarctic, or perhaps the north of Siberia. But earlier this week, I had some old photo albums out and realized I'd never posted about our trip to this beautiful island when we visited Scotland in 2005.

Our day began with more interest for the adults than the children, as our first stop was at the Talisker Distillery. Andrew and I loved the tour, as well as the free sample we received on arrival. The girls were less enthusiastic, coming along on the tour but declining the dram of 10-year-old scotch eagerly offered by the proprietor. 

Facts about this distillery: at the time we visited, there were only six employees; the distillery was founded in 1830, meaning we visited during its 175th anniversary year; Talisker was reportedly Robert Louis Stevenson's favourite drink, and he mentioned it in his poem "The Scotsman's Return From Abroad."

Scotch tasting behind us, we set off for the real treat of the day - a seal-watching adventure. We put on protective rain gear supplied by the company and took off for a two-hour tour of the Sound of Sleat. 

Skye's Cuillin Mountains were beautiful, as were the myriad of inlets along the coast. We saw multitudes of seals and flocks of seabirds - and a single basking shark. But the highlight of the trip, according to the girls, was getting drenched in the sea spray, and arriving back at the dock soaking wet, despite all that protective gear!

Winter soup

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Like Brooms of Steel
The Snow and Wind
Had swept the Winter Street -
The House was hooked,
The Sun sent out
Faint Deputies of Heat - "

- from "Like Brooms of Steel", Emily Dickinson

Is the beginning of March too late to post a soup recipe? I feel like I've made more soup this winter than ever before, and with good reason. February 2015 was officially the coldest month in Toronto history. I spent most of the month looking for food that might warm me from the inside out.

I think I've made this soup every winter since I've been married. Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and bean soup) is comfort food at its easiest and most warming. I don't know where I got the recipe, but I urge you to try it. Because from the sound of the weather forecast, we've still got a few weeks of winter yet to come.

Pasta e Fagioli

5 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
19 ounce can white beans, rinsed well and drained
2 cups drained canned tomatoes (drain before measuring)
1/2 cup dried macaroni

In a heavy saucepan, cook the bacon until browned and beginning to crisp. Add onion and stir until golden brown. Add garlic, celery and carrot and stir for 2 – 3 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat and drain fat. Return to heat and add chicken broth, stirring to combine.

In a bowl, mash about a third of the white beans. Add mashed and whole beans to the soup, along with the tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add macaroni and simmer until al dente, about 6 – 8 minutes or according to directions on the package.

Add chicken broth as required (soup will thicken as it stands).