Our tummies have been craving warmth lately. Bowls of soup so scorching the billowing steam is almost opaque, cups of coffee that turn the tough skin of our fingers pink while cradling the mug from table to lips, spoon-hugging chili with a heavy-handed spatter of spice that causes the skin of my eyelids to sweat and this, pear and apple sauce. Right off the stove, foolishly, so it sears the skin of our throats as it goes down.
This is the stuff of dreams. The type of treat you wait until no one is looking and lick the sides of the bowl. It has a texture similar to the Mott’s Applesauce of my childhood, but boasts a flavour far more mature. The fruit, roasted in a mixture of brown sugar and warm spices, develops a nutty caramelization around the edges that gives the sauce such a brilliant richness. Of course, the addition of fragrant brown butter and smooth, woodsy whiskey doesn’t hurt either. A hit of lemon balances everything out so it isn’t so rich you can only handle one bite.
Using a mixture of pears and apples, especially the sad bruised ones you won’t eat, ensures a nice round flavor. I used gala, macintosh, and empire apples and d’anjou and bosc pears. Feel free to use whatever you have so long as it’s good and (borderline over) ripe.
Roasted Pear and Apple Sauce with Whiskey and Brown Butter
makes about 5-6 cups
I like adding milk to my sauce because it makes it tastes richer and lingers a bit on the tongue. Feel free to use cider or water in it’s place if you’d like.
3lbs mixed apples and pears, sliced in half + cored
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp Canadian whiskey
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch sea salt
1/3 cup 2% milk
Preheat oven to 375. Place sliced + cored pears/apples on a high-sided baking sheet or roasting pan cut side up. Sprinkle with brown sugar and spices and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until a knife goes easily through the center of the fruit.
While the apples and pears roast, place the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Let cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until butter is brown and nutty. Pay close attention so it doesn’t burn. There should be golden flecks of milk solids - that’s where all the flavour lives! Once it’s golden brown and fragrant, pour in the whiskey, lemon juice and salt and swirl everything around a bit to combine.
Place the roasted fruit (skins and all), the butter/whiskey mixture and the milk into the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth (or less if you prefer it chunky). Serve with toasted pepitas and extra cinnamon/brown sugar if you’d like.
I’ve had my fingers in a lot of bowls this week. Experimenting, creating and cleaning. Experimenting, eating, cleaning. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Eating, eating, eating.
I’ve been unduly fortunate to have a week to myself, to do with what I please. And what I please usually involves making a mess. Especially in the case of these gnocchi. I don’t know about your gnocchi process, but mine always creates a lot of mess. Mess that is, without any question, worth it once your teeth descend into the pillowy little bundles of savory joy. These are worth it. Worth a mess, worth the time, worth finding the perfect hiding space so your boyfriend can’t find them. That last one is important if you’re a jerk like me. But in that case, a jerk with lots of gnocchi, you’ll be. And ask yourself, is that really so bad?
Broccoli-Lemon Gnocchi with Chili Brown Butter
adapted from Local Kitchen Blog
makes 40-50 gnocchi
1 1/2 cups good-quality Ricotta (strain if it’s got excess moisture)
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 heaping cup finely diced broccoli florets
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
whole broccoli florets
Parmesan, for garnish
lemon wedges, for garnish
In a bowl, vigorously whisk together the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper until shiny and smooth. Add in the nutmeg, lemon zest, broccoli florets and Parmesan and whisk to combine. Add in half the flour and fold together. Add the rest, slowly, while mixing and folding, until a sticky dough forms. Dump onto a well-floured surface and knead gently until dough is uniform. It should still be a bit sticky. Divide dough into 4 portions and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove 1 portion at a time and use your finger tips to roll the dough portion into a finger-width rope. Use a light touch and encourage the dough to lengthen by spreading your fingers as you’re rolling it out. Use a very gentle touch as you don’t want to squish the dough, you want pillowy gnocchi. Once finger-width, cut the rope into 1” sections. Place on a parchment-lined, flour-dusted baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Repeat with remaining sections. Shape by quickly pressing against a gnocchi board or the back of a fork. Good gnocchi groves means more potential to catch sauce - something worth noting!
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add about 8-10 (one layer) gnocchi at a time. They will sink to the bottom. When they rise to the top, they are ready. Place on a paper towel lined baking sheet and cover with damp towel. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked.
Add butter, pinch salt and chili flakes to a large skillet over med-high heat. Melt, swirling the pan until foam subsides and there are golden flecks in the butter (5-6 minutes). Add in the broccoli florets and 1/4-1/2 of the gnocchi and cook, tossing occasionally, until gnocchi are golden brown in spots and broccoli is cooked but still bright green. Serve with extra Parmesan and lemon wedges.
I can be difficult. Frequently moody, sour and callous. I can be anti-social (read: crusty), nit-picky, sharp-tongued and straight up cold at times. I would have to think twice about dating myself, let’s be clear on that.
Despite those flaws, I managed to find a man who loves me. He is the sunniest part of my day, continuing to smile when I have nothing but a frown to offer. He let’s me be. Allows me to sit in the silence I hunger for so often while he sits, silent, by my side. I can ask him for anything at any time, anything, knowing he won’t sigh or roll his eyes at the idiocy of my requests. He simply smiles and says, "of course". When I feel dark, he’s the light. In every sadness, he’s my joy. His love is everything and I’m so lucky to know him, to have the gift of his friendship, and to call him mine. Olive you, my Ally.
I realize It’s not Valentines Day yet, but I wanted to get these out sooner than later so you could whip them up for the person(s) you love most.
Chocolate Chip Brownie Pancakes
adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
makes 6-8 mini pancakes
These are decadent, rich and delicious. Pass up the box of chocolates and head for a plate of these instead - I promise your valentine will be thrilled with your brilliance and adeptness in the kitchen and you might even get to steal a bite.
Use spelt flour in place of AP flour to make these gluten free.
1/2 cup whole wheat or AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cane or brown sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder (I use Camino Natural Cocoa Powder)
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp milk of your choice
handful dark or semisweet chocolate chips
vegetable oil, for frying
There has been a hefty amount of luxuriating and reveling in our apartment the last month. First we were in a pre-vacation state of mine, assuring each other that it was totally OK to be checked-out [“we’re already on vacation!”]. Next, we were in Puerto Rico lazing about by the ocean, sipping white wine and reading [Dear Diary - go read it NOW], hurling our bodies around a tiny foam orb over epic games of paddle ball (as athletic as we got), eating whatever-we-damned-well-pleased whenever-we-damned-well-pleased and slothing-out to the best of our capabilities. And then we came home. Back to the real life, we said. Back to stress and deadlines and business and no sleep. And yet, somethings haven’t quite come full circle.
My body is here in Ottawa. I’m sure of this by the layers of cotton and wool wrapped around me and the ever-ebbing flakes outside my window. Though it’s become apparent, still, that my mind has taken a sabbatical. Ground hog day comes to mind. Each day the same. A ceaseless string of extended sleeping hours, cotton accouterments, woolen blankets, cocktails at 2, dog walks at 3, dinners with friends, movies on the couch, slow-cooked meals and wine to end the evening. It sounds horrible, right? I know. I’m enjoying it while I can.
Real life, the real-real life, should be picking up again in the next couple weeks. I’ve been in an unfamiliar limbo that’s about to end as I start my new job and finally make that big uncomfortable leap that’s been creeping about in my gut for the last few weeks. I’m really looking forward to finding that routine and anchoring my life again. It’s lovely to be fancy free (/day drunk on a Tuesday in pajamas) and watch 4 movies a day, but a girl can get a bit stir crazy after a few weeks of that. Winter or not.
This was one of our “cocktails at 2” from last week. It started as an experiment with the peach bitters I’d picked up but we were so smitten from the first sip that I decided I’d better make it again and write it down. It’s herbal and just barely sweet to balance the grapefruit with a rumble of throaty spice from the peppercorns, and just a bit of smokey caramel from the bourbon. Get it in you!
I used bourbon here, but I can’t help but wonder what they would be taste like with some Canadian whiskey. If you experiment, I’d love to hear about it! I also feel fairly confident that this would taste pretty killer blended up/frozen. Once the weather warms a little, we’ll give that a go.
Grapefruit Peppercorn Simple Syrup
2 2” strips of grapefruit zest
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp peppercorns, crushed gently
For the cocktail:
4 oz good quality bourbon
peach bitters (I purchased Fee Brothers from Red Apron in Ottawa)
juice from 2 whole grapefruits
Pour the sugar, water, peppercorn and grapefruit zest into a saucepan over med-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool completely so the flavours can hang out a bit.
Fill 4 rocks glasses with crushed ice and pour 1oz of bourbon into each. Add a dash (1-2 drops) of peach bitters and 1-2 tbsp of the simple syrup into each glass. Divide the grapefruit juice evenly into the glasses and top with soda water. Stir and garnish with a brûléed grapefruit slice (or a regular grapefruit slice).
Brûléed Grapefruit (for garnish - optional)
4 rounds of grapefruit (1/3” thick)
Turn oven on to broil and place a rack in the top third of the oven. Arrange grapefruit slices on a wire rack over a cookie-sheet and sprinkle each with about 1 tsp of sugar. Place rack into the oven under the broiler for 5-7 minutes or until charred and fragrant. You could also torch your grapefruit if you happen to have a torch laying around (please, for the love of god, be careful). I do, but don’t trust myself to use it without adult supervision.
You may think to yourself, while sifting through these pages, that I probably fancy my health a whole lot and go to great lengths keeping my body filled with whole grains and healthy fats and proteins and vitamins and all those wonderful things.
That’s half true. The whole truth is that when things appear moderately healthy around here, it’s more than likely because I haven’t been to the store for butter or all purpose flour or cream or oil and need to find a way to make-do with what I have in the house. I’m a bit of a sham, I’m sorry to say. Such was the case with these muffins. They are better-for-you because I’m lazy, a sort of counterproductive situation.
Thankfully, in my sloth-like state, I managed to pump out a really tasty muffin that’s butter free and better for you than most muffins you can buy out and about. The cane sugar could definitely be replaced with agave or maple syrup if you want to try and make these even healthier. As they are, these make for a moist and chocolatey muffin that you can feel better about cramming in your gob as you run out the door or enjoy your evening cup of tea.
Whole Wheat Double-Chocolate Avocado Muffins
adapted from Call Me Cupcake
makes 12-15 muffins
The oats should be quick-cooking in these as they keep the mouthfeel more consistent with just a bit of chewiness. If you don’t have quick cooking oats, you can pulse whole oats in the blender/food processor a few times to break them down slightly.
The chocolate square on top is optional, but it gives the muffin a sort of “icing” feel and the salt sticks really well to it. I would suggest if you want something a little more decadent.
1 cup WW flour
1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large avocado
1 1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
1 cup 70% dark chocolate (chips or chopped)
1 tbsp grapefruit zest, optional
12 small squares of chocolate, to garnish (I used Green & Blacks because the squares are tiny)
sea salt, for garnish
I really love a snack. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, midnight. The time matters little, I’m always fixed for a bite or two.
Having a couple of nutritious options around the house helps me make better decisions and get the most from my pecking, since it is so frequent. I spotted the recipe for these bars in the current (January 2014) Bon Appetit Magazine and was certain they would make for a killer snack on their own, with granola or milk, an afternoon coffee or on the run any time of the day. Especially if I packed them with a few extra items (cashews! flax! chia seeds!). Unfortunately, likely due to my impatience and using a different sized pan than called for, they were less bars, more clusters. And whoaaaa-so-good no matter the shape they happen to take.
These clusters have everything you want. Including a healthy (or not so) amount of sticky maple syrup blended with sweet, plump Mejool dates and tart cranberries, crunchy amaranth (excellent source of protein, calcium/iron/magnesium), chia seeds (fiber, Omega3s, Phosphorus, stabilizes blood sugar), flax seeds (Lignans, fiber, Omega3s), a mixture of crunchy nuts (Vitamin A+E+B, selenium, cholesterol reduction) and a couple other tasty morsels thrown in for crunch and flavour.
If you tend to get a bit peckish or find yourself fighting through afternoon energy lulls or hunger pangs, these are the perfect snack to get you back on track while still feeling satisfied. They are just sweet enough to feel like a treat.
Seed and Nut Granola Clusters
Adapted from Bon Appetit
makes approx. 6 cups of clusters
If you cook these for longer and let them cool COMPLETELY, you might have better luck than I did slicing bars. I left the recipe I used as-is because I actually like them in clusters instead of bars. Either way is delicious.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume, perhaps presumptuously, that you’re bundled under 20 blankets/3 layers of clothing/2 pairs of socks, gripping tight to your tenth mug of tea, and dreaming of taking your 4th hot bath of the day. Was I close? That’s how I’m feeling (minus the bath thing – apparently our apartment doesn’t need one of those). Cold. Just damned cold. With an unwavering desire to stay planted in my indentation on the couch, layered in flannel jammies and thick, wooly blankets. Alas, we must make a living. We must run errands, drive children around, walk dogs, visit friends and generally, keep on living. So how does one warm themselves enough to brave this “polar vortex”?
A vibrant yellow, velvety smooth, chili-flecked bowl of curry soup certainly gets things off on the right foot. Especially when it’s teeming with chunks of turkey so tender they can barely hold themselves together, slurpy ramen noodles sodden with the rich, spicy broth and piled high with an array of bright, crunchy toppings sure to get your salivary glands weeping. That is how you flip winter the bird and get back to business.
I shared this recipe with Turkey Farmers of Canada as a part of their Comfort Food Makeover campaign not knowing at the time just how badly I’d need this and just how comforting it would be. If you’re in need of comfort, I highly suggest throwing a bowl of Northern Thai Turkey Curry (Turkey Khao Soi) together immediately. It will warm the depths of your soul from the inside out and hopefully, with any luck, get you out of those blankets and back to real life.
Head over to Turkey Farmers of Canada website for the recipe and for god sakes, stay warm out there!
Doesn’t the idea of making your own cheese make you all sweaty and agitated and overwhelmed? No? Maybe it’s just me.
I’m planning to set aside more time to experiment this year. With any luck, I’ll be a seasoned vet in the art of Burrata, Curds, Mozzarella and maybe another few. I’m starting off simple, giving myself some time to ease into the process before going balls (pun intended?) out.
This marinated labneh is EASY but god damn it’s delicious, too. I consider it a gateway cheese, if such a thing exists. I’ve made it once before and it was a success from the get-go so please don’t be intimidated by it in the slightest.
We ate this cheese on top of warm black kale with roasted garlic dressing, wholegrain croutons and spicy baked chicken - a new favourite - but I’ve suggested some uses at the bottom of the page if that doesn’t sound quite right for you.
We’re off for a week to Puerto Rico tomorrow so with any luck, I won’t be around these parts much but hopefully by the time I’m back, you’ll have a jar of this ready to go so we can virtually high five at your great success!
We’ll do our best to bring some warmth home with us!
Marinated Lemon-Za’atar Labneh
makes approx. 10-12 balls of cheese
If you can find za’atar at your Middle Eastern market, feel free to use that. I make mine at home because I usually have all the ingredients on hand. I’ve shared a recipe in case you’d like to make this spice blend from scratch.
2-3 coffee filters or layers of cheese cloth
1 4-cup or 2 2-cup seal-able jars
500g tub Greek yogurt (plain, unsweetened)
zest from 1/2 large lemon (about 1/2 tbsp)
1 tbsp za’atar, recipe to follow
2 cups good quality olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch's Arbequina)
2-4 bird chilies
2 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Place your coffee filter or cheese cloth in a fine mesh sieve and place the sieve in a bowl deep enough to catch about 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Stir the yogurt, lemon zest, za’atar and a pinch or two of salt together until combined. Pour into the lined-sieve. Place in the fridge, covered if you prefer, and let drain for 2 days. It should be slightly looser than a cream cheese consistency.
Take the strained yogurt from the fridge and roll into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball (wetting your fingers/hands makes this somewhat less messy). Place cheese-balls into the jar(s) and add in the chilies, oregano, thyme, garlic, peppercorns and salt. Top with enough olive oil to submerge everything. Place in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours. The olive oil might solidify and that’s ok. Place the jar on the fridge door so it’s not as cold. Remove the jar a few hours before you plan to eat the cheese.
spread on baguette
a few balls and some oil spooned over greens
with a cheese plate
served with pickles and smoked meats for sandwiches
The New Year. A speckless slate untarnished by bad decisions and weighing feelings. Our chance to start fresh and make the changes we didn’t get around to last year. Or maybe the new ones we’ve only just taken back to the drawing board.
I’ve decided, not that it’s a far stretch from years before, that I’m dropping food-related guilt off at the door this year. I don’t like hearing the term “guilty pleasure” when we’re talking about food. Food and guilt don’t belong together. It shouldn’t be your first reaction upon biting into a greasy slice of pizza. YOU SHOULD BE THRILLED. Relishing that delicious moment in time and letting yourself be fully there while you do. Not thinking about how many miles you’re going to have to run to make up for it, or how many meals you’ll have to skip because of it. Indulging should feel good and if it doesn’t, it’s not worth it. Be wise when spoiling yourself. If you’re going to indulge, make sure it’s something real. Real chocolate, real butter, real meat, REAL ingredients. Don’t waste your time on these 100-calorie snacks you don’t really want. Have that slice of chocolate cake…but make it yourself and make it with wholesome ingredients.
I know that I have to eat well to feel good. And I do just that. So when the occasional (or often, as of late) indulgence comes up, I don’t feel the slightest tinge of anxiety. I’m going to relish that moment knowing that I eat real, whole food and while I may not be 130 pounds to my 5”8, I’m healthy. And happy. And kind (to myself, most importantly). I know that I put 80% whole food in my body; that’s what I’m choosing to put my focus on this year. If I feel good, I look good. Depriving myself of what I want makes me an irritable, miserable asshole. That’s not who I want to be.
This sloppy, greasy-looking patty melt was the first dish I made this year. It wasn’t the healthiest option and it was heavy and rich, but it was real. Made from ingredients in their purest form. Locally made rye bread, gifted pickles from a friend, local beef (freshly ground), caramelized onions, high quality Swiss cheese and a good, spicy mustard. That’s it. No 40 what-the-F-is-that ingredients that promise to make you thin. Six ingredients that taste amazing and feel good in your body.
I hope you’ll join me in a guilt-free year of real food. Eat what feels good, eat what’s real and be happy with the choices you’re making.
makes 4 sandwiches
I used Swiss cheese here and it melted wonderfully. You can use any type that melts well, but the flavour of the Swiss is what really makes this melt taste as wonderful as it does.
I love pickles with my patty melt so I just added them to the beef. The sweet, briny kick helps cut the fat/richness of the sandwich. If you prefer it without, simply leave them out.
2 lbs freshly ground beef
1/4 cup - 1/3 cup diced sweet pickle (bread and butter)
salt and pepper
2 large yellow/brown onions, thinly sliced
8 slices good rye bread (light or dark)
10-12 slices Swiss cheese
4 tbsp spicy yellow mustard (Keen’s is my choice)
Using your hands, mix together the beef, pickles and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper and mix gently until combined. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and shape to the size of your rye bread. It will shrink slightly making it the perfect size for a meat-in-every-bite sandwich. When you’re ready to cook them, sprinkle each patty with a little more salt and pepper on each side.
Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over med-high heat. When sizzling, add the patties, 2 at a time depending on pan size, and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a deep golden crust forms. Flip and cook the other side. Remove to paper towels to absorb excess fat.
In the same pan, add a few more tablespoons of oil and add the onions. Cook, stirring up any brown bits left behind from the meat, until deep golden brown, 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400.
Toast all the bread in a dry skillet until charred slightly, 4-5 minutes over med-high heat. You can toast in a toaster if you’d like, but I love the flavour a skillet-toasted rye gets.
Place 4 slices of the rye bread down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Coat each slice with 1 tbsp of mustard. Top with the patty, then the onions and finally with the Swiss cheese. Place pan in the oven (without the second slice of toasted rye on top) for 10 minutes or until cheese is melting and bubbly. Remove from oven and top with second slice of bread. Cut on the diagonal and enjoy!