Cookie Jam, Toronto?

Remember this? CupcakeCamp in Ottawa, two years ago, was phenomenally successful and raised boatloads of money for charities. Since then, one of the winners – Karen Foster – has planned a similar concept with equal success. Cookie Jam in Dartmouth is happening on April 20.

This is a placeholder post, because I miss baking, I miss community organizing, and gosh-darn-it… I want to plan something like this in Toronto. So, who’s with me?

Spicy Carrot Salad

Do you remember how I swooned over this recipe? How I swore up and down, side to side, and round and round that I would never get tired of it? That’ll learn me. It took me a week of eating it for lunches, plus two days as a soup (with veggie stock and coconut milk added in) for my body to shout “ENOUGH!” Unfortunately, that point came last night, in a fit of exhaustion, while I was beginning to pack my lunch. Doubly unfortunate was the fact that I only bought for this week the groceries that we needed for meals. I had everything I needed in the house to make smoothies for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner, and nothing to make lunch. Go figure.

So, I grabbed a couple (4) carrots and sliced them into chunks. I grabbed an apple (Pink Lady, if you must know) that would have otherwise found its way into my lunch whole, and sliced it. I tossed both generously with cardamom, salt and black pepper and dobbed them with leftover bacon fat (the merit of a huge brunch is leftover bacon fat to cook vegetables in) and roasted them at 450F for 25 minutes. It’s all the energy that I had in me.

This morning, I topped them with leftover sunflower seeds (which aren’t that good in smoothies anyhow), dried cranberries from my baking stash, and an ounce of leftover goat cheese that a lovely friend brought for brunch to have with bagels.

I really don’t understand why my husband suggests that I take a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

Pancakes.

Cherry Beach

I had planned to write about Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Loaf, the best of summer breakfast treats, easy to take with you, full of chocolate, and yet not unhealthy. And, I’ll probably write about it one day, because every time I make it, I’m reminded that zucchini isn’t limited to morning glory muffins in baked goods.* But, this week we have guests. We have Saturday-Sunday guests and then we have guests Wednesday-Monday. We are a small apartment, so it’ll be squishy, but I don’t mind. It just means that I have cause to cook inordinate amounts of food and don’t have to worry about scaling recipes that feed 4-6 down to 2 (or eating the leftovers of them for days on end). The week after, we are going to a friend’s cottage, which is not unlike camping, and which always involves an inordinate amount of bacon, eggs, and pancakes.

Our Saturday-Sunday guests this week, one of them, doesn’t eat eggs. So, breakfast is always pancakes and bacon, and maybe some fruit if we have it. Despite having lived down the street from these guests for four years, and feeding them regularly on Saturday or Sunday mornings, I never found a consistent pancake recipe to fall back on. I never gave much thought to pancakes, because I didn’t think to give much thought to them. I would usually google a recipe while the bacon cooked and go with whatever seemed easiest. Yet, whenever my husband orders pancakes in Ottawa, at Stonefaced Dolly’s, I steal a bit and wonder why I didn’t order them myself. Their fluffiness is something to be sought after in pancake making, and it seems that this take on Martha Stewart’s fluffy pancakes is the start of a beautiful relationship with the fluffiest of them.

(Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you’re serving them with wild blueberries, local raspberries, and freshly whipped cream.)

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Fluffiest Pancakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s The New Classics

Martha notes that you can prep the dry mix in advance and add the wet ingredients whenever you’re ready to make the batter, storing them in a plastic ziplock until ready to use. I might take it a step further and use said plastic bag to produce evenly sized pancakes. If you use water and oil (instead of milk and eggs), they won’t be as rich tasting, but you can take them camping!

2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons skim milk powder
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/4 cups milk (or water, if camping)
2 large eggs (or 1/4 cup vegetable oil, if camping)

Mix the dry ingredients (the first six) in a medium bowl and set aside, or shake them together in a tightly sealed ziplock.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
Mix the dry ingredients with 4 tablespoons butter.
Mix in the eggs and the milk and stir until just combined. Don’t be afraid of a few clumps
Add the remaining tablespoon butter to the cast-iron skillet and swirl to coat evenly.
Pour about a 1/4 cup of batter on to the hot pan and cook until the surface bubbles and the edges are slightly crisp, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the underside is brown. Repeat as needed.
Serve with berries, syrup, whipped cream, and whatever else you like to have with fluffy pancakes.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with morning glory muffins, but I’m pretty sure they were the only kind my mother baked as a child. Some adults won’t touch peanut butter sandwiches for having had too many as a child. That’s how I am with morning glory. (Though, I might consider a fantastic recipe for one.)

Summer Succotash Salad

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Andrew & I visited the Ontario Museum of Archaeology a few weeks ago, so a recipe with its linguistic roots in the Algonquin nation seems entirely fair. I’d never made succotash before and didn’t even entirely realize that it’s what I made until after the fact. My boss made a comment about a fantastic salad of corn and hot peppers and avocadoes. So, I took that, I tweaked it, and we ate it in the park last week on a picnic.

In Toronto, you can find Hostess potato chips. This is the stuff that my husband’s childhood was made of. They don’t come in dill pickle anymore, but the barbeque is sufficient. It’s a little sweet, a little spicy, salty, and light. You don’t walk away from oil on your fingers. Hostess chips, succotash salad, and sandwiches thick with prosciutto and eggplant. And a dog who doesn’t beg when you’re picnicking. It’s shaping up to be not such a bad summer after all.

Succotash Salad

Succotash Salad
serves 4

4 ears of corn, cooked, cooled, and kernels removed
1 avocado, diced
1 fat beefsteak tomato, diced
2 zucchinis, in the colour of your choice, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
A pinch each of dried marjoram and thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Hullo, there.

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I’ve been stuck in a sort of whirlwind. I did promise that it would be quiet around here, while I’m in the eye of the storm. And it has been. But of course, the outside of the storm has been unruly, taking things down in its path. That sounds rather vicious, but it’s sort of how new beginnings are, aren’t they?

I toyed with the idea of abandoning this blog completely. Terrible thing to say, isn’t it? Who would want to read the words of someone who isn’t committed to her work, right? The fact is, life is in full swing and life gets in the way of life when it’s like that. But maybe that’s why it needs to be recorded. There is beauty in the banal, but that’s not all that I want to remember and record to be sure.

I hope to be here more often. To write more words. To take more photos. To share a bit.

I sent my husband this link earlier this week, with a note: “Should we train for this next year?” Added to the life list, which is a revised and ongoing version of the resolutions. For all that I hated the distance of the half-marathon, I really like being outside and exercising and pushing myself. It’s just that 21.1 km of running is about 6 more than my body ever wants to do.

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Meanwhile, summer is here. This tart is the best it has to offer. I made it for a going away party. I made it for my birthday. And to take to a friend’s house the day after my birthday. It is so delicious that I made it twice in one weekend, even though I could have made anything else. Because I couldn’t have made anything else. It is summer at its finest.

This is she. I didn’t change a damn thing. Except for the occassion when I doubled the marscapone cream filling and the berries for my birthday. It’s worth doubling up on occassion.

P.S. I promise to come back with recipes and other stories soon, but for whatever reason, the interface where the writing part of this takes place is being naughty. It makes it unejoyable to say the least.

A better cake

Birthday Cake and Cheesecake Ice Cream

I think I may have found a better cake. A better cake than what, you ask? A better cake than the chocolate cake recipe that I’ve used for the past four years. Before I wrote over here, I wrote on another blog, and this was one of the few recipes that I posted there. It’s also the cake that Rachel refers to as “THE CAKE,” which one could either read as “the cake to end all cakes,” or as “the cake that causes me much trouble each year.” That cake–the Joy of Cooking’s Devil’s Food Cake Cockaigne–is as delicious as it is time consuming.

Frankly, I’m not a chocolate person. Before I met Andrew, I rarely ate candy bars, never ate chocolate doughnuts, and was the first to gobble up the jellybeans at Easter. There are a small handful of things involving chocolate that I will indulge in now and again, such as chocolate covered pretzels, handmade peanut butter cups, and chocolate-orange ice cream. But for me, chocolate is meant to go with things, and in small amounts, to balance the salty, the nutty, the tart flavours of a something.

Andrew loves chocolate the same way that I love cheese. He could, would, and sometimes does have it in all three meals. So of course, at his birthday, I indulge him in that. (For the record, I think I’m going to ask for someone to make this tart with Marscapone cheese and blackberries for my birthday.)

This cake is a very serious cake. Do you see the 1491 reviews on Epicurious? People talk about this cake, apparently. It is three layers of dark chocolate cake–the dark chocolate emphasized by espresso–with thick chocolate ganache frosting spread between the layers. I followed the recipe to the T, but I baked it in 2 9-inch pans, filled 2/3 of the way full, rather than 2 deep 10-inch pans. Watch your cooking time and you will be fine. (It was about 45 minutes rather than the hour the recipe requires for the larger cakes.) The rest of the batter made for a loaf that will be turned into cake pops.

A cake this serious requires a far less serous ice cream. Cheesecake ice cream, based on Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar recipe. I tried making a blueberry cheesecake ice cream to go with my sister-in-law’s cake, but it wasn’t really up to snuff. It was frostier, icier in texture, and it lacked the tang of cheesecake. Christina Tosi knows what she’s doing.

For the Love of Food

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I adore food. So many of my memories are based around food. I keep a diary of things that I’ve done and things that I need to be doing, and inevitably food is a thread throughout them. For example- April 17: Make brioche and magic sauce. Get an email. Get jeans hemmed. Groceries. Run 8K. Relax. Pasta for dinner. Buy pens. Do taxes. This is a running list – not chronological by any means.

The thing is, as much as I adore food, it is not the first thing I think about when I wake up, nor the last thing that I think about before going to bed. Unless I’m really hungry. I think that’s a bit what I’m trying to reconcile in my writing at the moment: I can’t write about food all the time, because frankly I don’t want to think about food all the time.

So instead, please allow me the pleasure and privilege of introducing you to two fantastic bloggers who are more passionate about food than pretty-much-anyone-I-know. Both of them deserve all the success in the world in their food writing efforts, and both of them are on the cusp of getting it.

Lynne is responsible for a lot of good things that have come into my life. Like chocolate crack bars. A friend recently tried a batch of these ridiculous easy bars and was floored. I’ve never seen someone’s knees actually buckle under the taste of a pastry.

Lynne writes with sincerity and the authenticity of someone who loves to be in the kitchen, and especially be in front of the oven baking up something sweet. I would liken her to Christina Tosi, in that there’s no amount of sugar and butter that is too much for Lynne. Oreo frosting? Check. She’s not just hot for chocolate. No. Lynne has a deep love for lemon, so of course she and I would get along.

Lynne is also a marvelous person in-person: Bright and bubbly, and sweet as can be. She’s really good at connecting with people. She’s also very chatty. Which suits her really well, given that she’s the new presenter for Rogers TV’s Must. Love. Food. According to Rogers, every week, Must.Love.Food. will feature different local guests preparing their favourite recipes, plus food preparation segments with local ingredients and ideas. From the best in pies to the
most delectable cakes and spicy dishes that will leave you wanting more, Must.Love.Food. is the new TV destination for Ottawa’s best-kept recipes.

Kelly is the perfect compliment to Lynne, the more that I think about it. Her wit is a bit drier, her dishes a bit saltier, her words are more seasoned as it were. That said, I think if I could have any two ladies cooking for me, it would be these two. Also – truth be told – Kelly and I have a similar palate in terms of what we like (everything and anything that’s a bit salty, savoury) and what our partners don’t like. I go to Kelly when I want something that’s delicious, hearty, and feels right at the moment. As a mutual friend has said, she knows what I want to eat before I even open the fridge. If you haven’t been to her blog, The Gouda Life, you should. No, really. Now.

Kelly has the chance to do what she dreams of: Tourism Richmond is hiring a food blogger and they’re doing it by consensus. Kelly was one of 12 finalists, from over 1500 applications, in the competition to write for Tourism Richmond for one year. She would be undertaking the daunting task of eating out everyday for 365 days and writing about all of her experiences. Like I said, I’m not cut out to do that. But Kelly is. She is all kinds of cut-out. (Except for the cardboard cut-out.) There’s some amazing talent that made the cut, but I’m rooting for Ms. Kelly. The next stage is voting: Between now and May 1st, you can vote for Kelly daily here.

Please do. She’s a very talented food writer, as is Lynne. Watching them succeed in their passions has been an absolutely lovely, exciting, tasty process.

Peanut Butter Oreos

I’m terribly grateful to have both of these ladies in my life, and truly I’m so excited about their future successes. My sacrificial offering for your support? Why, peanut butter oreos of course. The perfect combination of salty and sweet, gooey, deliciousness.

Peanut Butter Oreos
Adapted from Flour

Icebox cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and the sugar until combined.
Whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate. add the egg and stir until well blended.
In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. The finished dough should feel like Play-Doh.
Place the dough on a long sheet of parchment paper. use your hands to shape it into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
Place the log at the edge of the parchment and roll the parchment around the log completely.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or until it is firm enough to slice without crumbling.
Set the oven at 325 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the paper. Cut the log into slices, each a quarter-inch. set them on the baking sheets 1 inch apart.
Bake the cookies for ~20 minutes, or until they are firm when touched in the center. (My oven runs a bit hot, so this is usually closer to 15 minutes.)
Remove from the oven and allow them to cool slightly, but not completely.

Peanut butter filling

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
pinch salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on low speed for half a minute.
Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. beat in the milk and salt.
Once the cookies have cooled, place a heaping 1 tablespoon of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies.
Gently press the remaining cookies on the filling, flat sides against the cream, to evenly distribute the filling.
Eat.
Alternatively, store in an airtight container until your cravings can’t take it any longer.