soupy.

Both of my children suffer from nightmares.

They wake up terrified, crying out for help. When I wrap my arms around my trembling son he struggles, still in the grip of the bad dream, unable to recognize me; I have to wait for him to surface, to stop thrashing and take what comfort I can offer with hugs and soothing sounds.

My daughter, once her tears have subsided, is more analytical. Mournful and perplexed, she won’t rest until she finds out why she’s been dreaming about such unhappy-making things.

I wish I had an answer for her.

Instead, I hold her close and we talk about all of the things that bring her joy: our recent trip to Mexico; riding her scooter; my parents’ dog; the bunk beds at the cottage last summer; waking up early enough to see the sun come up.

We hold each other tight in the dark and whisper about all of these things, and I tell her that enough happy thoughts will push the dark ones aside, at least temporarily, long enough for her to get back to sleep.

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I realized the other morning, as I ran through the park on yet another dull, chilly uninspiring day, that I would do well to take my own advice.

The ponds and puddles were all soupy, filled with icy slush that leaked into my shoes, and the swans wouldn’t lift their heads from under their wings. Nary a bud nor a sliver of spring green was in sight. It was windy, and the forecast was for flurries.

To say that I am sick of this weather would be understating the case enormously.

And yet.

We just celebrated seven years in this city, and things are getting better all the time. It feels like only moments ago that I was, literally, sitting on my empty kitchen floor on a March day, dreaming about the future.

I have work that is thrilling and a business that keeps both my husband and me inspired and involved in our amazing community.

I’ve begun driving, and loving every minute of it.

I have friends who are there for me whether I am seized with despair or not, a small posse of caring, fierce, intelligent women who will shop or run or drink with me, and who will listen while I rattle on about paint chips and food and shoes and furniture.

So really, this is the life.

And these endless, not-yet-spring doldrums? It’s time to shake them off.

Onward!

 
Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Soup

What to cook when the need for hibernation-friendly (read: hot and comforting) foods has passed, but not the desire? This soup. Hearty, rich, and healthy, I have been eating more than my fair share of it lately.

5 cups chicken broth
2 whole star anise
a 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and smashed with a heavy knife
1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets (to make about 8 cups)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp olive oil
sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine broth, anise, and ginger in a large pot; bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer.

In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower pieces, garlic, and olive oil. Place on one or two metal baking pans, whatever you need to ensure that there is just one layer of veggies and that they are not too crowded.

Roast in middle of oven until golden, 20-25 minutes – don’t let the garlic burn!

Remove baking pan (s) and use a rubber spatula to tip vegetables and oil into the pot of simmering broth. Simmer until cauliflower is very tender, about 20 minutes. Fish out star anise and ginger.

Puree soup in batches in a blender until very smooth and velvety, then return to the pot and reheat over moderate heat until piping hot. Taste for seasoning and add sea salt, if desired.

Makes about 8 cups.

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consumed.

The past two weeks have been almost embarrassingly full of indulgence for me.

My birthday celebrations started several days early and did not finish until a full week of epic good times had been had.

There was Thanksgiving, the best holiday of the whole year.

An evening out with old and new friends that was so much fun that I still smile at the thought of it, an entire week later.

And an incredible run of sunny days and balmy temperatures that just ended a few nights ago.

I was also undeservedly showered with gifts – some of them in the form of gift certificates to a few of my favourite places – an occurrence that then prompted a little shopping of my own.

I do love to shop, and always have, and I am past the point of apologizing for it (in the words of the divine Rufus Wainwright, “so what if I like pretty things?”) and the flush of joy that finding a new and lovely thing brings.

As I am always quick to protest (perhaps I am not quite so unapologetic as I’d like to think?), the object in question doesn’t have to be expensive, or even unused; it just has to strike some chord in my admittedly quirky aesthetic.

Most recently, it was a fur coat that hinted of the glamourous life of its former owner and a vintage lamp that casts the most glorious shadows in my dining room. Neither cost me a thing, and the beauty that they have brought to my daily life is indescribable.

Still, negligible impact on my pocketbook notwithstanding, I think it may be time to take a short break on the shopping, lest the bringing home of pretty things turn into an all-consuming fixation

(I remember overhearing, years ago, a conversation between two women in a shoe store in which one said to the other, “if I buy them, I will have to feed my kids oatmeal for dinner for at least a month. Would that be terrible?” I am not that woman, but that’s not to say I don’t have her in me).

I fear that it may be a bit like trying to coax a genie back into her bottle, this not-shopping thing, and if I am unsuccessful, I am determined not to panic.

But either way, I will be making more of this soup, and I suggest you do the same. Warming, delicious, simple, and marvelously indulgent, it hints of the glamour of lives past.

And not that it matters, but it will barely cost you a thing.


French Onion Soup

This recipe makes a lot of soup, but it freezes and reheats well. Still, it’s easily halved for a more manageable amount.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 kg onions, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
5-6 sprigs thyme (optional)
2c red wine
8c beef stock, or rich vegetable stock
stale baguette slices (two per person)
several slices of gruyere (a generous amount per baguette slice)

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil and butter together over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring fairly regularly, until onions have taken on a fair amount of colour – they should be a deep golden-brown (this is the crucial part of making French onion soup, so take your time with this step).

Throw in thyme, if you have some, then red wine. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until you are ready to serve – I’d say a minimum of 20 minutes or so.

When ready to serve, arrange baguette slices on a baking tray and preheat broiler. Cover each piece of bread with a generous amount of cheese, and cook under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and golden in spots.

Ladle soup into bowls, and add a couple of pieces of cheese toast to each bowl.

Serves 8-10 (large glass of wine optional).


a bright, clear day.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but this feels like the week things are beginning to take a turn for the better around here.

The weather, for one, is looking much more promising; the sun bursting through the clouds this afternoon had jangly summertime song lyrics bouncing through my head.

Sticking to my Lenten resolution has not been as painful as I might have thought (possibly because I have been compensating for the lack of baked goods with sushi and potato chips in equal measure), and I have found that going largely, although unscientifically, gluten-free has made me feel more clear-headed and slightly less fatigued.

My children and I are all germ-free for the moment, and my husband and I have been spending what feels like a gluttonous amount of time together.

As the kids say, it’s all good.

My week so far has also included a couple of bits and pieces of good news, which I will have to keep under my hat for the time being, but we are celebrating around here nonetheless with (what else? )cake: this flourless cake.

And this pale green soup, which will counteract the cake and put a little virtuous spring in your step.

Simple Broccoli Soup

This is adapted from a great basic cookbook called Whining and Dining, by Emma Waverman (yes, that Waverman!) and Eshun Mott. I can never bring myself not to fiddle with their recipes, but my husband follows them to the letter and the results are always perfectly good.

1/4c unsalted butter

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4c (a one-litre carton) low-sodium chicken broth

1c diced peeled russet potatoes

4c broccoli florets

1 – 400 mL can coconut milk

In a large pot set over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to colour. Add broth and potatoes and bring just to a boil; then simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes. Add broccoli and return to a simmer. Continue to simmer 8-10 minutes, until vegetables are very tender. Add coconut milk to pot, and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Serves four.


conventions.


Like many aspects of our life, my family’s weekday mealtime routine is a bit unconventional.

My husband works in the late afternoon and late into the evening, so breakfast is an extremely leisurely affair, involving baking, cocoa-drinking, story-reading, music-making, and, in good weather, a trip to the park or another outing of some kind to blow off some steam and get everyone stoked for lunch.

Lunch is the main meal of our day, and it happens in the early afternoon. The spouse who has not taken the kids out in the morning is usually the one who prepares the food, and once we’ve finished eating and cleaning up, and the kids and I have begun to shamble through the remainder of our day, my husband goes to work.

I relish our days together as a family, and I recognize that they are a luxury that not many families are able to enjoy, particularly in the fast-paced and expensive city where we live.

The corollary, that we worry about our finances perhaps a little more than some of our friends and neighbours, feels like a small price to pay for all of this time with our babies. They are growing at lightning speed, and soon enough (sooner than I care to acknowledge), the demands of a more conventional schedule will impose themselves.

The only slight drawback of our daily routine is that the evening meal my children and I have together tends to be a touch on the uninspired side: these days I rely heavily on French toast and cheese omelettes, roasted vegetables, and – more often than I care to admit – granola with applesauce.

This soup is one that is currently in heavy rotation on weeknights. It’s not overly glamourous, but it covers all of the basics; and it’s dead easy to make, which has its advantages at the time of day that every mother I know refers to affectionately as ‘the witching hour.’

Day’s End Alphabet Soup

I chop all of my vegetables in the food processor, and I aim for two cups of each. I always have carrots, onions, and celery on hand, which is why they are specified here, but I encourage you to be creative!

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4-5 carrots, finely chopped
6-7 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely ground
1 tsp celery salt
6 c low sodium chicken broth
3/4 c alphabet noodles

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute 5 minutes, then add remaining vegetables, cumin, and celery salt. Saute until veggies are tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a fast simmer. Add noodles and simmer 6-8 minutes, until noodles are cooked.

Makes easily a couple of dinners’ worth.