love is all you need.

Love, and waffles. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

 

Red Velvet Waffles

I was given a waffle iron for Christmas and I can officially say I am obsessed. This particular recipe came together this past weekend and these have already become a new household favourite – which is exactly what you’ll be, if you can pull it together to make them tomorrow morning…

1 1/2c light spelt (or regular all-purpose) flour

1/4c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp coarse sea salt (I like the crunch of the sea salt here; if you don’t have any, I’d dial it back to about a half tsp regular salt)

1 tbsp baking powder

3 eggs

1 1/2c buttermilk

1 small glob of red food colouring paste, or about a tbsp of liquid food colouring

1 tbsp vanilla

6 tbsp melted coconut oil (or unsalted butter)

1c chocolate chips

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a second bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, food colouring, vanilla, and oil (or butter).

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.

When waffle iron is ready, combine wet ingredients into dry, stirring gently until batter just comes together. It will lumpy. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Using about a cup of batter per waffle, cook according to manufacturer’s instructions (mine took just shy of four minutes per waffle).

Makes four waffles.

So, so yummy.

 

 

 


on the first day.

I have attempted several times to write about our holidays thus far, and each time it’s been a struggle to express the balance of joy and relief and heart-filling happiness and exhaustion – and also the sense that memories are being made every second, and the need to document them while still being fully present in the moment – that is Christmas time with young children.

It’s been wonderful, and zany, and at points overwhelmingly emotional.

We have missed family, and shed tears for lost loved ones. We have ached for friends who are enveloped in grief.

We have celebrated our good health and our good life and our great good fortune, to have all that we do.

And today – blessed first of January! – we cracked into a brand new year.

 

I got out first thing, before it started to rain, and when I got home we drank the last of the bubbly and said a fond farewell to our Christmas tree.

 

 

 

And we ate an enormous breakfast, which we all enjoyed…

 

 

 

…very much.

 

 

And then there was dancing.

 


Happy New Year, friends!

 

Giant Baked Blueberry Pancake for Auspicious Beginnings

4 eggs

3/4c whole milk

3/4c light spelt (or all purpose) flour

1 tbsp plus 1/4c granulated sugar

1/4c (packed) dark brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4c soft unsalted butter

scant 3/4c frozen blueberries

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and milk together, then add flour and 1 tbsp granulated sugar. Whisk to combine (batter will be slightly lumpy). In a small bowl, stir together remaining granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pour batter into pan and scatter blueberries over top.

Bake 8-10 minutes, until edges of pancake are puffed and golden but centre is still slightly runny. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Dot with remaining 2 tbsp butter, and carefully turn the pancake over in the pan. Return pan to oven and cook a further 3-5 minutes, until pancake is risen and golden and sugar has turned to syrup.

Remove from oven and invert pancake onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.


it’s a start.

I have spent the last two years grappling with a particular fear.

You could argue (and you wouldn’t be the first) that my fear is essentially unfounded, and that the odds of the thing that I dread actually coming to pass are so minimal that what I am feeling could more accurately be described as paranoia; but nevertheless, it’s there:

I am afraid of being attacked by predators in our local park.

The park is vast and beautiful, and I used to spend hours upon hours there. From the time of my first pregnancy, I have run through it, walked around it, thrown sticks for the dog, eaten ice cream, fed ducks, visited the zoo, gone sledding, and all around revelled in that park.

It’s part of the reason that we chose to live in this neighbourhood, and it’s full to bursting with memories of happy moments.

I could not have imagined a time when my children and I would not while away a large part of our days there, until two years ago, when a dear friend was attacked and killed by predators in the kind of freak encounter that makes international headlines. It didn’t happen in our park, but, to my mind, it could have.

So, to keep myself safe, I have skirted around it – the park, the grief, the horror. I just don’t go there. My running route takes me well around it, and I visit smaller playgrounds with my kids. Instead of the zoo, we take the car to a farm across town.

I don’t think it’s been so bad. But I have been feeling, lately, that something has to give.

So this morning, I met up with another dear friend of mine who has been grappling with some rather weighty concerns of her own. It was pitch dark and pouring rain, and we walked her dog all through that park, chatting all the while. It was wet and muddy and intense, and I was afraid, but mostly it was great.

I loved reconnecting with her, and getting back to a place that has meant so much to me.

It was a start.

I slipped in the door to the sound of my children laughing and the smell of cookies baking in the oven, and not long after that, the sun came out on the most glorious fall day we’ve had yet.

I can’t wait to do it again.

 

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

1c light spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
6 tbsp. melted coconut oil – or other light-tasting vegetable oil
1 1/2c unsweetened apple sauce
1/2c brown sugar
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 tbsp vanilla
3c large flake oats
1c craisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, oil apple sauce, and brown sugar. Stir in zest, vanilla, oats, and craisins. Add flour mixture and stir well to combine.

Drop heaping quarter cupfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, and flatten cookies slightly with a fork. Bake, one sheet at a time, about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Makes 16-18 cookies.


of sweethearts and stars.


Well, hello there!

I can scarcely believe that, in effect, an entire season has just passed without my contributing a thing around here.

I have been trying to figure out how to address this last epic silence from my end; as these things go, the longer I thought about it, the more ambivalent I was about addressing it at all, and then the silence itself started to feel so insurmountable that I nearly gave up on the idea of blogging altogether.

But then, December arrived, and my husband returned home after months of (more and less) lengthy absences.

And, just like that, the festive season began around here.

My children woke up this morning to the first real snow of the season, and I woke up to the promise of a long bath, a new magazine, and coffee drunk while it is still hot.

Friends, we have so much to catch up on!

Sunday Stars
Even while single-parenting, I can’t resist the outlook-changing lure of a fresh-baked breakfast. I have been using spelt or light spelt flour of late, but for these I tried a combination of light spelt, coconut, and whole wheat flours, because that is all I had on hand!

1c large flake oats
3/4c buttermilk
1 1/2c flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick (1/2c) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4c brown sugar
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1/4c chocolate chips
1/4c craisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine oats and buttermilk in a glass measuring cup, stir well, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and a pinch of salt, if desired. Cut in butter and brown sugar until mixture is fairly uniform and resembles small peas.

Add oat mixture, banana, chocolate chips and craisins to bowl and stir just to combine into a sloppy dough. Turn out onto a well-floured piece of parchment and knead 3-4 times to help the dough come together a bit.

Roll (using a well-floured rolling pin) or pat dough into a round about an inch thick. Cut out shapes using an approximately 3″ cookie or biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet; re-roll or pat the dough and cut out more shapes, until you’ve filled the baking sheet – I usually get somewhere in the neighbourhood of 16-18 biscuits.

Bake 18-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Cool a few minutes on pan, then transfer to a rack and serve very warm, while the chocolate is still gooey.


peachy.


Promise me you won’t laugh out loud when I tell you that we don’t often have dessert in our house.

Of course, there are exceptions – when my mom comes to town and bakes us a pie, for example – but generally speaking, the sweet-treat-after-dinner thing is just not our thing.

This is partly because my children, who are very early risers, are usually bundled off to bed mere moments after putting down their forks, so feeding them sugar just prior to that seems a little counter-intuitive (if not slightly masochistic, from the parents’ perspective).

It’s also partly because I love desserts so much that I’d prefer to have them be the main event, rather than relegate them to the end of the meal, when everyone is already drowsy from the wine and a little full.

There is nothing I like more than having a cupcake or leftover piece of pie first thing in the morning, preferably with coffee (and cake in the afternoon is the perfect way to push through the glassy-eyed no-man’s-land that constitutes the hours between three and five o’clock).

The only trouble is, because I avoid making that kind of thing unless it is a special occasion, there is rarely a leftover slice of something yummy to be had in my house in the mornings.

And that, friends, is why I am such an avid fan of the breakfast cake. It is treaty enough that you can fool yourself into thinking that it’s an indulgence, and healthy enough that you can fool yourself into thinking you’re starting your day with something nutritious.

This particular one came together so simply and quickly this morning that it’s going to be on heavy rotation around here until we run out of peaches (and by “we” I mean every fruit stand within a 10-block radius of our house).

Peachy Breakfast Cake

1 1/2c light spelt flour (you could use all-purpose too, or – better still – whole wheat. I am just really enamoured of this spelt flour I discovered recently, so I am using it in everything)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2c frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/2c melted butter or coconut oil
1/4c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 heaping cup diced peaches (I used 3 medium)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a bundt or other tube-shaped pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder and cardamom in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk together apple juice concentrate, butter or coconut oil, buttermilk and eggs in a large measuring cup with a spout.

Gently stir liquids into dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in peaches until evenly distributed through the batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes, until cake is slightly golden on top and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool in pan on rack 10-15 minutes, then run a knife or spatula around the outside of the pan and invert cake onto a plate.

Serve warm.


the most important meal.


If you were under the impression that my family and I are subsisting on breakfast foods and baked goods these days, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

I have been managing to cobble together some decent – even inspired – dinners, which isn’t hard to do given the bounty of seasonal produce; and I have banished the cereal supper for the time being, which makes me disproportionately pleased with myself.

But on full, full days like the ones I’ve been having (and will continue to have for the next couple of weeks, I expect), the evening meal isn’t what keeps me going.

Most of my good times in the kitchen have been happening in the earliest part of the day, before it gets too hot and muggy and while what is required of me for the next twelve or so hours seems almost reasonable.

I have been using the fact that my baby is still nursing as an excuse for waking and baking relentlessly, and I have also been getting a lot of mileage out of these pancakes – wonderful for breakfast, a decent mid-morning snack, and not bad slathered with peanut butter for lunch or late at night, either.

Oatmeal Pancakes
adapted from Orangette
You must start these the night before, which I find more thrilling than onerous, but I recognize that not everyone may feel that way…

1 1/2c whole oats
2 1/4c buttermilk
1/2c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2c butter OR coconut oil, melted and cooled

Combine oats and buttermilk in a mixing bowl; stir well, so that all of the oatmeal is submerged in the buttermilk, then cover and refrigerate over night.

The next day, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.

Whisk together brown sugar, eggs, and melted butter (or coconut oil) in a small bowl. Add egg mixture to buttermilk mixture, and stir well to combine.

Fold flour mixture into wet ingredients – do this gently, but make sure everything is well combined.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Brush lightly with a little oil, and then, when the pan is hot enough, add the batter by 1/4 cupsful (I get two pancakes per batch in my pan). Flip pancakes when they are looking dry around the edges, after 3 minutes or so. Cook a further few minutes, until golden, then transfer to a plate and place in the warm oven while you get on with the rest.

Makes 14 pancakes.


special delivery.


I have begun having my groceries delivered.

The passing mention of this new habit in a recent post did nothing to reveal how momentous a difference ordering food online, and its subsequent delivery, has wrought; so let me just say, unequivocally and on the record:

It has changed my life.

I have always loved shopping for food (and most other things, too), but lately it had been starting to feel like a bit of a chore.

We have several big household expenditures coming up, so we have been making an effort to be more frugal – which has meant less shopping at the pretty little jewel box-like shops along our strip in favour of trips to the vast, faceless and uninspiring (but ultimately more economical) supermarket at the outer fringe of our neighbourhood.

Because I find going to that store the worst kind of drudgery, my husband has been doing the grocery shopping of late – and although his is an errand of mercy and I should be grateful that he does it at all (and I am grateful, really!), I am not always pleased with what he comes home with.

It’s not that he’s a bad shopper – I’d just prefer to do it myself.

(For a while there, because of my control issues, we were making our trips to said giant grocery store en famille, and that was the worst kind of gong show:

Picture the four of us, largely disgruntled and at least one of us hungry, hurtling through the aisles in an attempt to make good choices and buy everything on our list before someone had a major meltdown and we were forced to leave without anything.)

Enter the life-altering on-line supermarket, where the aisles are empty, there is never a line at the checkout, and you don’t have to pay in cash or bag your own groceries.

Yesterday, I ordered everything on my list while nursing my baby and watching my daughter do a 300-piece puzzle.

And then this morning, before I had even finished making my coffee, there was a man at the door with four boxes of fresh food for my family and me.

I was so delighted by the whole thing, I made us a cake for breakfast to celebrate.

Spiced Carrot Breakfast Cake

The disadvantage of this over, say, muffins, is that it takes considerably more time to cook. That said, it also seems to go a lot further (don’t ask me why, since the ingredients are virtually the same), and the presentation is awfully pleasing. Besides, who can resist the notion of cake for breakfast?

1c wheat germ
1c buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2c applesauce (unsweetened)
1/3c oil (once again, I use coconut, but any vegetable oil will do)
1/2c agave nectar OR thawed apple juice concentrate
1 2/3c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
about 2c grated carrots (I grate 2 fairly big carrots – not enormous, but not medium-sized either)
1/2c chopped pitted dates
1/2c chopped almonds
1/2c craisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a tube pan.

Place wheat germ in a large mixing bowl.

Combine buttermilk, eggs, apple sauce, oil, and agave nectar in a large glass measuring cup and whisk until smooth. Pour over wheat germ in bowl and stir to combine.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Stir in carrots, dates, almonds, and craisins.

Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes (check after 35), or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool 10-15 minutes in pan, then run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake and invert it onto a wire rack.

Serve immediately, or let it cool a little longer before serving.

Makes at least a dozen slices.


separation (anxiety).


When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I thought I’d be a capable-but-remote mother. I have never particularly liked children, and had never intended to have any of my own; but I was prepared to take the responsibility seriously and try to do well at my job.

I couldn’t have imagined, then, the rabbit-hole that is falling messily and helplessly in love with your babies.

As it turns out, far from being remote (or, some days, even very capable), I am a mother who actually can’t stand being away from her kids.

I can’t describe the mixture of anxiety and guilt and mild heartbreak that I feel when I have to do something without them for more than an hour. Of course, I can function without having them with me constantly, but I don’t like it one bit.

But yesterday morning, by the time my children and I had hobbled through several hours of games and puzzles and baking and bathing and breakfast, and it was not even 8:00, I was looking for something much stronger than milk to add to my insultingly decaffeinated coffee.

And I also felt an unfamiliar sensation.

I couldn’t put my finger on it until my husband, bless him, offered to take the kids out, and I realized that what I was feeling was the need to not see them for a little while.

That feeling didn’t last long, but while it lasted I took advantage: I pulled a chair out onto the back deck, put my feet up on the railing, and gobbled up this last breakfast bar in blissful silence.

Breakfast Bars

These are a great breakfast, eaten slightly warm with a bit of yogurt drizzled on top. They are also an excellent take-along snack, treaty but healthy and yummier than store-bought granola bars.

1c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2c oil (I use melted coconut oil, but any vegetable oil would do)
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2c oats
1c whole wheat flour
1/4c wheat germ
1/4c unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
1c chopped dried apricots
1/4c craisins
1/4c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment.

In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in oats.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, coconut, baking powder, and cardamom. Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir to combine. Stir in apricots, craisins, and chocolate chips.

Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over mixture and, using the plastic wrap as an aid, press batter very firmly and evenly into the pan.

Remove plastic wrap, and bake 35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool in pan, on a rack, for as long as you can stand it before cutting into squares.


mama down.




Is there anything worse than the flu bugs you get from a baby?

I know, I know, of course there is.

But at this moment, eyes and nose streaming, ears clogged, throat raw, sleep-deprived and generally miserable as I am, I am finding it hard to keep some perspective.

In fact, I am so miserable that there is really only one thing I am willing to eat – and it is pictured above.

This silken, soothing custard is the ultimate comfort food to me, and my childhood dish of choice when anything really unbearable came my way.

Give me this, and some hot water with lemon and lots of honey (no whiskey, I promise), and I may live to see another day.

Baked Vanilla Custard
adapted from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook

2c milk
1/2c sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
a sprinkling of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil a kettleful of water. Lightly grease a one-litre ovenproof dish.

Combine milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk until milk is very warm (do not bring to a boil, or you will have a curdled mess rather than a silken dreamy thing to eat) and sugar dissolved.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs an vanilla. Pour milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Pour custard into prepared dish, and sprinkle with nutmeg. Place dish in a roasting pan and place in the oven; pour boiled water into the roasting pan, until it reaches half way up the sides of the custard dish.

Bake 25-35 minutes, until almost set. Remove custard from roasting pan and leave it to cool, in its dish, as long as you can. It might be marginally better cold, but I never get that far.

Serves two greedy people.


gratitude.


My baby has been unwell for a couple of days now.

I’m grateful that it seems to be nothing serious, just a bad cold and a bit of a fever; and although it has resulted in such an astonishing lack of sleep at night (even for us) that I have been stumbling through my days woozy and disoriented, I’m less bothered about that than one might expect.

I am actually a little bit grateful, because in the long nights and (even longer, frankly) days that he’s not been feeling well, he and I have been stuck together like glue.

I love everything about holding him so close, constantly – and it’s a rare treat given that he is my second child and my affections, considerable though they are, are (necessarily) usually divided between him and his sweet sister.

I’m grateful to have had some extra moments to inhale his sweet-apple scent and wonder that he won’t take a soother – so unlike his sister! – and that he gets panicky, just like I do, if he doesn’t have one foot uncovered in bed.

I am also grateful because as I write this, he is asleep.

He stayed asleep (mercy!) when I slipped out of bed.

And the rest of my family is still sleeping, too, giving me an unfettered moment to enjoy a luxuriously hot cup of coffee (I’m on decaf these days, but the placebo effect is remarkable) and make everyone pinwheels for breakfast.


Cinnamon Pinwheels

When I was growing up, we had pinwheels for breakfast when we were out of eggs so pancakes or muffins were not an option – because we never knew when they were coming, these resonate in my memory as the best kind of treat. The recipe, of course, is Gwenn’s.

1c milk
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1c all purpose flour
1c whole what pastry flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2c + 2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp soft brown sugar
cinnamon, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine milk and vinegar and let stand while you get on with the making the dough:

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in 1/2 c butter until it is the size of peas and dough is crumbly.

Pour in soured milk and mix just until it clumps together. Turn out onto a floured board and knead gently 11 times (not more, not less. Seriously! This is the key to the success of your pinwheels!). Add more flour if the dough seems excessively sticky.

Roll dough into a rectangle about 14″x10″. Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter and brush evenly onto dough. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, and dust with cinnamon.

Roll dough up longwise, to form a cylinder, and pinch along long edge to seal. Cut crosswise into slices about 1″ thick.

Place pinwheels on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes, until golden.

Makes 16-18.


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