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.
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.
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.
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.
I could get used to this weather.
I love the cool breeze coming through the window, the need for a duvet at night, and pulling out a beloved old cashmere cardigan to walk my daughter to school in the mornings.
I love that this feels like the beginning of autumn, which is my favourite season for a number of reasons, not least of which is the sense of redemption and renewal I feel at this time of year. When the sky is this particular shade of blue, the one that I see looking out my kitchen window right this minute, I feel like I can do anything.
And I am especially excited to get my running shoes on and hit the road.
Although my plan to literally run my ass off this summer was derailed by extreme heat, too many parties and far too much wine, the temperatures in our city these days have lent themselves quite nicely to exercising outdoors. In weather like this, I feel like I could run and run and run.
Not that I am doing that, exactly.
Among other things, I am working on a recipe for homemade poutine.
And watching these girls, whom I find inspiring on so many levels, over and over and over:
And just this morning, while my daughter was at school I could have been running, I made this cake with my son. It was our first time baking just the two of us, and it was delightful. It felt like the two of us could do anything together.
It felt like the beginning of something wonderful and new.
Pear and Gingerbread Cake for New Beginnings
adapted from Gourmet magazine
Thank heavens for my back-issues of Gourmet, which are endlessly inspiring. Although I should warn you, this came from the “Quick Kitchen” section, and grating enough fresh ginger to get a quarter of a cup is anything but quick. I’m just saying.
1 1/2c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg
1/2c unsalted butter
1/2c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4c grated peeled ginger root
2 medium pears
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Melt butter and water together over low heat.
Using an electric mixer, beat together brown sugar and molasses. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in flour mixture at low speed until just combined. Stir in vanilla and ginger.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Peel pears if desired (I didn’t) and cut into small pieces. Scatter over batter.
Bake in centre of the oven until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.
Cool slightly before turning out onto a rack to cool some more.
May be served warm, with whipped cream, or cold, in the early morning, with a hot cup of coffee.