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Meals have been a bit of a rushed affair around here for the last thirteen months or so but a bit of time has been shaved off my meal prep now that Kate is eating most of the same meals as us.  It takes some careful planning up front but it assures that we’re not eating too many grilled cheese with a side of cookie meals and it’s fun to see her try new things.  Another result of her being ready for more complex meals is that we decided to introduce a little wild salmon and humanely raised chicken back into our diet after six years as vegetarians.  It was a really tough decision and we thought about it for months but in the end I think it was the right one for us.  Neither Chris or I is a fan of seafood but this Thai Salmon was a modest hit with the adults and went over really well with Kate.  My second attempt with some previously frozen fillets from a discount supermarket almost ended with both of us throwing up from the fishy smell but I’m going to keep on trying.  If anyone has any recommendations for non-fishy, mercury free and fish friendly fish recipes I’m all ears.

I’ve also been thinking more about including less refined flours in our diet so before Good to the Grain came in the mail yesterday I thought I would try tweaking a run of the mill blueberry pancake recipe to make it a little more hearty and they were really, really good. I thought I should write it down for easy recall on early Sunday mornings.

Healthier Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

1 large egg

1/2 cup all purpose flour*

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup low fat buttermilk

1 tbsp. white or brown sugar

2 tbsps. vegetable oil

3 tsps. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. ground flax seeds

finely grated zest of one lemon

a splash of pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup fresh blueberries**

Butter, for the pan

 

Beat egg in medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients except butter until smooth. Heat pan or griddle to medium. Grease with butter if desired.  Pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter into hot pan.  Cook pancake until bubbly on top and dry around the edges. Turn and cook the other side until golden.

*You could try using a higher ratio of whole wheat flour if you’re so inclined.

**I usually use frozen and I hate to be a snob about it but these really were way better with the fresh berries.

 

I also made french toast for the first time after a bit of a hiatus because I’m never happy with my results but after reading another great post from Dinner: A Love Story  on the topic I realized what I had been missing all these years was just a teaspoon of sugar in the batter.  It makes a huge difference.  Huge.

Perhaps not the healthiest meal of all time but one of the tastiest is this Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter.  Another Kate favourite.

Any recipes floating your boat lately?

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We hosted an informal baby shower for our friends Adam and Michelle on Saturday. Boys and girls were allowed to mix, there were no games involving chocolate resembling baby poop but there were snacks!  I wasn’t planning on decorating until I found a tutorial for the Martha Stewart paper pompoms that I had been eyeing in kit form for the nursery before Kate came around and put my Costco pack of tissue paper to good use.

I could make these all day. The runner is the old valance from Kate’s room. There was delicious berry lemonade and cake, which appeared briefly here before disappearing:

It’s the Hershey’s cake that Alicia posted about a while back but with whipped cream instead of her Cloud Burst frosting, which is great (although I prefer vanilla to almond extract) but I wanted something lighter and easier.

I also made a tinier, long-sleeved version of Rose.

Now baby girl Wood and Kate can be twinsies while Kate is launching soft toys at her head.

I hope everyone, mothers and sleeper-inners alike, is having a lovely Mother’s Day.  I’ve already lazed in bed reading blogs (including my new favourite) while Chris made blueberry blintzes and Kate made plastic eggs (her specialty) and I’ve gotten some chocolate, flowers, an abstract line drawing and new fancy sunglasses. Chris said he wanted to make up for last year when we were still in the hospital and this was my only gift, from the NICU nurses:

Baby's first mug shot

I appreciate everyone who suffered through my weepy birthday post.  I try to keep the personal personal but it did feel nice to share.

It meant I almost forgot to talk about party food though! For shame! I really reigned in my original, totally insane, list of birthday to-dos but I still put some effort in.  I want Kate’s birthdays to feel special as she’s growing up and not involve the McDonalds Play Place if that’s avoidable.  Most of my efforts were focused on the cake. I originally planned on a tinted six-layer rainbow cake like the ones that’ve been popping up all over but in the end I decided on copying this recipe exactly.  I liked the idea of using a recipe from Food that Really Schmecks a cookbook we had growing up that was written in the area where Chris was born and my grandparents live. Truth be told the cake was a little on the tough side but the icing was yummy.  I also made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the first time and while I appreciated being able to make it a few days ahead of time I wasn’t crazy about the taste. It reminded me too much of pure butter and it didn’t stick to the cake layers resulting in them slipping and sliding all over the plate.  It sure did look pretty though.

I made three eight inch layers and actually did all that fancy trimming stuff to make it nice and even looking though I could definitely use more practice, which is just tragic. I’m in love with the Celebration Candle Kid from The Small Object. I can’t wait to see it every year on her birthday cakes.

For lunch, I decided on making some do-ahead-friendly Southwest foods that included Southwest Pasta Salad from the Rebar cookbook, cornbread muffins with cheddar cheese chunks and green onion, and nacho chips with guacamole, bean dip and store bought Pico de Gallo.  All the hungry officers that Chris works with seemed to like the food and Kate was even able to eat most of it which made things easier all around.

And now, I must go do whatever I feel like because I have earned it.

 

It has been snowing here for at least two weeks straight so I’ve decided to hunker down and make a whack of Christmas gifts and what I can’t make will be delivered to my door by the kind folks at Canada Post.  I’m planning a few things for Kate, one of which is almost done, and since I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this I’ll give a peek soon but for now here are some things I’ve been distracting myself with when I should be sewing / knitting / embroidering / baking / childrearing:

  • I’ve always been dismayed by my lack of snowflake making ability.  Mine always look like some weird Aztec symbol.  So this video on how to properly fold a paper square and these templates opened a whole new world of paper cutting fun for me.
  • I printed this latke recipe over two years ago and finally made them this week and they’re super delicious.
  • This series on modifying a sweater have me itching to go to Value Village.  Maybe in the new year.
  • I have eggnog bars setting in the fridge from a back issue of Living and I think they’re going to be phenomenal.
  • I’ve been really lazy with meal planning these last few months which has resulted in me coming home from the grocery store with a carton of milk, a bunch of bananas and no meal ideas but this little meal planner print out inspired me to sit down and spend literally hours with my cookbooks and plan the next two weeks of dinners.  I think I even saved some money at Sobeys.
  • This handmade nursery totally knocked my socks off.  The rug alone made me feel like such a crafty loser.

It’s possible that the thing I like best about being Canadian is the accessibility of butter tarts.  Sometimes, though, you find yourself living in the middle of nowhere with a hankering and no desire to hand fashion individual tart shells.  In high school my friend Christine Konarski revolutionized butter tart home baking with this one pan recipe. Please enjoy.

BUTTER TART SQUARES

1/2 c. butter

2 tbsp. icing sugar

1 1/2 c. flour

1 1/2 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. melted butter

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tbsp. vinegar

1 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream 1/2 cup butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend in flour. Pat into greased 9 x 9 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile,  beat together brown sugar, eggs, melted butter, vinegar and vanilla. Fold in raisins. Pour over baked crust. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until set.

Same as last year

and just as good.

This has been a doozy of a week.  Kate, it seems, is a teething prodigy at three months and has been miserable.  Chris went back to work Sunday night and Kate decided not to sleep anymore in acknowledgment of his absence.  It may seem crazy but I’ve been trying to keep up with the making of things despite the strong urge to crawl up in bed and sleep whenever I get a minute. I strongly believe the former is the actual path to a modicum of sanity.  I am rewarded by two obscenely good discoveries.

This is the love of my life. Baking wise, at least.  It’s the buttermilk bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and it is the best bread I have ever eaten in my entire life.  The crust tastes like a croissant and the middle is chewy and dense.  This confirms my strong belief that buttermilk makes everything better.

I also finally used the popsicle molds that Chris bought months ago with my own interpretation of these blackberry pops.

Raspberry Yogurt Pops

Makes 7 pops


1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

3 cups fresh or frozen raspberries, thawed (I used frozen)

400 ml (two small containers)  or 1 3/4 cups vanilla yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

juice of half a lime


Make the simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a small pot and bringing to a boil to dissolve the sugar.  Cool to room temperature.

Puree the berries in a food processor or blender.  Press into a medium bowl through a fine mesh sieve until all the juice is extracted. Discard seeds. Stir in remaining ingredients, including simple syrup and pour into seven popsicle molds.  Freeze at least six hours and run under tepid water to loosen popsicles.

May I introduce you to my new special summer lunch:

Pleased to meet you

This has been my mid-day meal of choice for house guests and for a very special Sunday when Kate napped and we we ate it on the front step, followed by a rousing game of ladder ball.

I have also been making batches and batches of my new favourite cookie for a few months now.

It’s the chocolate oatmeal cookie (with raisins!) from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar except that my chocolate chips come from Costco and are not vegan. I don’t recall a dessert I’ve been more obsessed with.  They’re soft and chewy and because they have oats and no egg I like to fool myself into thinking they’re not terrible for you.

********end of food talk********

  • A quick update to the baby review series: back when I posted about making Kate some receiving blankets a helpful reader Melanie directed my attention to the Miracle Blanket.  I ignored her advice until Kate’s squirming was really starting to drive me mental, then I broke down and ponied up for one.  It finally arrived last week and I’m pleased to say that she’s been sleeping one longer block in her baby straight jacket.  She still flops around like a docked fish from three a.m. onward but I’ll take any improvement I can get.
  • Also, I really want this sling because it is gorgeous, not because it is necessary.
  • Alicia is obsessed with Citronille patterns and now so am I.  I need to get Kate into Thadée.
  • We are leaving for Kitchener on Friday where I will be celebrating my 30th birthday by splurging on a new sewing machine.  I am preparing by cutting out all the fabric and patterns I own so that I can sew like crazy when I get it home.  I’m on a jersey dress kick but I am not enjoying cutting out the slinky stuff. The info in this link makes the process a little more bearable.
  • Erin got me a subscription to Frankie magazine.  Seriously.

I’ve been hoarding food like there’s a natural disaster on the horizon.  In this case the looming chaos is bringing home baby and I want to be prepared. I think the only cure for living on three hours sleep while caring for a screaming baby and hosting visitors is the possibility of having baked goods on hand.

In an attempt to not use up organic eggs like they’re going out of style I bought Veganomicon and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and the first recipe I tried from the latter, these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, were successful.

They have a different texture than your standard Oatmeal Raisin cookies, wetter and chewier, which I enjoy.

Right now I’ve got some Strawberry Banana Muffins baking and they smell great.  I’m planning on making lots of muffins because they make a great breakfast, snack or dessert.  If you’ve got some tried and true favourites, vegan or not, lay ’em on me.

Before I started mixing and freezing I did something I’ve dreamed about for months. In perhaps a sad example of how pathetic my life has become it wasn’t a trip to Maui or a spa day but a session of kitchen cupboard cleaning and organizing.  I picked up a pack of Ball jars and a dozen mason jars in the city and I finally got rid of all those unmarked bags of bulk goods that all seem to look like cream of tartar.

So deeply satisfying and yet so economical!

I also have to give a shout out to our new favourite meal.

Wilted Kale and Roasted Winter Potato Salad may not look or sound like much but Chris literally cheered when I made it again this week. It tastes just as good reheated or eaten cold.

I think it may be obvious that the coinciding of my first trimester with the first semester of school left my creative life a vague past memory.  As school and morning all day sickness settled down, however I slowly returned to doing the things I love.  Unfortunately, one of the last pursuits to get any attention from me was cooking and baking.  I always told myself that when I did get pregnant all of my bad eating habits would be a thing of the past and I would be a totally responsible, quinoa-eating, yoga-practising mom to be. What actually happened was I would crawl home from work, collapse on the couch in front of the tv and call Chris at work demanding that he bring me nacho chips and queso for dinner.  Poor, malnourished little fetus.

Over the last few weeks I really feel I’ve gotten back into the swing of things. One major dietary victory was kicking my recent secret shame, a raging Pepsi addiction.  Pepsi is like a religion here on the reserve and I was bowing down to it’s sweet shrine on a much too regular basis.  Then I read in the newspaper about a new study suggesting a link between pop and pancreatic cancer, you know the cancer that kills everyone who gets it, and I finally decided I needed to kick the habit.

I also felt a little more energetic at the end of the day and started making bread again.  I’ve been lazy about finding a better storage method than a Ziploc freezer bag even though I totally know that plastic is not a great choice.  I read Amanda’s post about searching for her own solution and her research suggested fabric was the way to go.  Less that twenty minutes later, even with totally screwing up the drawstring’s buttonholes I had a bag of my own, just like some fancy French lady.

I love it in the towelling that I bought at Fabric Depot when I was in Portland. The twill tie is a lesson in why you should always save everything forever because I believe it came from a pair of my pyjama pants.

I would be lying if I were to say that it stays as fresh as it does in plastic but we tend to cut the loaves in half and freeze one and use a lot of the bread for toast so it’s really not a big deal.

Chris also got me this book for Christmas and when I read it this week I realized I need to stop being so lazy and be a lot more cognisant about where my food is coming from.  I had been pretty vigilant about buying organic dairy from humane farmers in Ottawa when probably the best health food grocery store in the city was two blocks away but there are a lot more food choices in an urban area.  Here I’m lucky to find milk that hasn’t expired already.  But it’s important to me that any farms I support are treating their animals humanely not only for the animal’s sake but because the alternative is making people sick from pollutants they produce and diseases that develop so rapidly in such an unnatural environment.  So, we’ve decided to only buy organic dairy when we have access to it and if we can’t get it we go without.  All of this is a long way of saying that I made a vegan cake for Valentine’s Day that even had whole wheat flour and no refined sugar and it was super delicious and did not turn us into dirty hippies.

The recipe is from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.  A lot of his recipes are actually vegan and they’ve all turned out really well.  This cake had a healthy dose of cinnamon that I think made all the difference.