Sunday, June 21, 2015

k reed

"I believe that what we become depends on what  our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom." 
- Umberto Eco

I remember standing on the edge of the roof of our house when I was a very little girl. My dad was standing just below me with his arms outstretched, telling me to jump. There was no fire, no emergency - just a warm summer evening and for a reason that is long forgotten I had been on the roof, probably with him. From that edge the distance from me to his arms seemed very far and very scary. I was afraid to jump. He prompted me again and I gathered my courage and jumped, never doubting that he would fail to catch me. 

A few years later, at a July 1 celebration in his hometown of Hillspring Alberta I was lined up with all the kids my age to run a foot race. I wanted so badly to run and to win. The starter called "On your marks, get set....GO!" and someone pushed me hard from behind. I veritably exploded off my mark and ran my hardest. I don't remember if I placed (and if I had the start could have been called cheating) but all I knew was that my dad gave me the best start he could.

And that is the way it was all my life. My dad was my safe place - wise, strong, warm, loving - and he was the wind at my back - pushing, encouraging, teaching and when the occasion warranted, demanding. Demanding in the best way that I give my all. He taught me to strive for excellence - that if a thing was worth doing it was worth doing well. He told me that if I wanted something badly enough I could get it - and in my experience he has generally been right. He taught me to read, to play tennis (poorly but that was not his fault), to ride a horse, to weed the garden, to love God, to serve others. He whistled while he worked and loved to work. He had a song for every situation and a smile in his eyes for those he loved. He loved my mom and I knew it through and through. He taught me by his example to be a person of integrity and to live with honour.

I think I must have been a daddy's girl from my first breath. I know others have had and do have fathers as wonderful as mine but none has ever had better. To be told that I in any way am like my father is wonderful. He died long before I wish he had and when he did I thought I wasn't ready to be without him but although I miss him still I realize that I had been well prepared to walk on my own. I love this picture of the two of us - just a snap but when I see it I remember the safe warmth of his hug and love between us. From my earliest memory he called me his Pride and Joy ( being the loving father he was I am guessing he had four others) and I knew I was. I hope I am still. I feel very blessed to have had such a father, one who taught me well in all the odd moments with many little scraps of wisdom that I cherish always.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

olive oil, sea salt & vanilla granola

Turns out everyone is making olive oil granola but I didn't know that when I made this a few months ago. (oh well, she said) This is my take on what it looks like is a trend. Granola is having a moment. Another one. It is cool again after being cool and then not, a bit like Birkenstocks. One cannot really blame the granola for a fall from grace - really I would have to point to the commercialization and mass-production of what really ought to be made in small batches and is best made in home kitchens. Churned out by the ton it loses all the goodness and most of its charm, packaged into cardboard boxes and retaining only convenience. After that batch of blame there is the whole fiasco of low-fat, bad fat and the cascade of misinformation that characterized most nutritional theory for the past generation. I find it refreshing to read the more current (well- researched) thinking - that we need (good) fats, much less sugar, high quality carbs and protein for a healthy life. Go figure, eating whole and entirely satisfying food prepared simply is best. Our grandparents and their parents did it without thinking because that is all there was. Laziness and convenience have opened up a Pandora's box of options for us in recent decades until we have eaten ourselves into a nightmare of ill health and over-weight*. ....  I will climb down off my soap-box now and we can just talk about how much we love granola. 

I do love granola. It is a great hand-snack or breakfast bowl. Fast, easy and infinitely variable to make there is always a large glass canister in our kitchen filled with one flavour  or another. The standard for years and years at our house has been a fabulously fragrant and delicious cinnamon granola loaded with nuts and seeds and all kinds of goodness and health. But I am ever curious and eager for something new so when I recently embarked on an intense affair with olive oil that went beyond the usual pastas and salads and bread dip, granola was only logical. Cinnamon granola will always have a place in my heart and kitchen but you need to know that olive oil, sea salt and vanilla make an absolutely addictive version of the venerable mix. I am quite honestly obsessed and I proselyte my wares to any and all. I have been so eager to share that I have taken small tasting bags of it to social events (questionable behaviour I know but if you tried it you would understand). This granola is salty and chewy and tastes like olive oil, no mild oil wanted here. And clumps and bunches. Chewy salty-sweet bunches. Eat it out of hand, grab a cluster on the way past the jar, sprinkle it over a bowl of pure white, creamy, plain Greek yogurt or load that bowl of yogurt up with diced apples, a generous couple of handfuls of granola and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Grab your Birkenstocks and get your hippie on! 

There is not much that I would even consider retrieving from the '70's but granola? oh ya.

This truly amazing granola (I did say obsessed) fuelled day after day of walking and walking and walking  on a recent and equally amazing trip to Japan - well-worth the bag space and weight.

For this granola you really do want a superior and full-flavoured olive oil, something nice and green. 

olive oil, sea salt & vanilla granola

3 cups large flake rolled oats
3 cups flaked almonds
1 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup hemp seed heart
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 Tbsp flakey sea salt (I used Maldon's)
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix the oats, almonds, pepitas, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, and vanilla powder in a large bowl. Combine the olive oil, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl and pour over the mixture in the large bowl. Mix well - get your hands into it if need be - add the raisins and mix some more.

Spread evenly in the parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes or until nicely toasted. Remove from oven and cool in the pan before transferring to a container to store.

* For an interesting read try The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. Then relax and enjoy your full-fat yogurt and olive oil granola bowl, Birks optional.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Enslaved to Saved : The Metaphor of Christ as our Master

book review

This is an entirely new adventure for me - this writing a book review. I haven't written a book review since I was in school and have no desire to publish how long ago that was. I have read literally a ton of books since then but any reviews have been kept between me and myself. When Reid approached me to participate in the blog tour for his book I was immensely flattered and mildly overwhelmed as scholarly discussion of this type is not my usual day-to-day. I was also intrigued by the opportunity and although book reviews are outside the normal scope of this blog  I am very happy I accepted his invitation. 

This book is not long; it is meaty and not a fast read. I savoured my way through it, pausing to consider and evaluate my response to his thoughts at least once every page. He develops his theme thoroughly and well leaving one satisfied and well-converted to the humble nature of our relationship to Jesus Christ.

I have long been a fan of Neal A. Maxwell's writings and teachings - his turn of phrase and beautiful economy of language - and one thought that I have turned over in my mind often and often is that the only thing we have that is truly ours to offer on the altar is our will, all the rest is the Lord's already and anyway. There is a thoughtful exploration and development of this theme through the theme of slavery and freedom. 

As residents in a modern (western) world with all the emphasis we place on freedom, individuality, personal expression and rights the idea that we have only true freedom through being slaves (total indebtedness to one who has redeemed us from sin) is opposite the norm. Reid convinces his reader that although we can make a personal determination as to whether we will accept or pass on what is offered us by Christ the price has been paid and we are His. Our enslavement to him provides us the ultimate freedom that we enjoy as his heirs and without the bondage that inevitably accompanies sin. The book explores these concepts against a backdrop of the historical context of slavery and manumission; the analogy becomes sharply clear and very important. I would recommend Enslaved to Saved to any student of the New Testament, the life of Christ and the Gospel he proclaimed. It will be a treasured volume in my library - sure to be well-thumbed and dog-eared before long.

W. Reid Litchfield is an intelligent, articulate, accomplished and well-educated individual. A Harvard educated endocrinologist, the recipient of many Top Doctor awards, a wise father and tender husband, he is also my much-loved and admired brother-in-law. Writing a book review for anyone has potential for issues but when that someone is a someone you care about and desire to retain a healthy relationship with ... I am sure it is easy can see the potential for disaster there. Having no desire to perjure myself I am happy to report that I had no need to.

Friday, March 20, 2015

eat cake

raspberry-ricotta cake

And just like that, with no explanation and no apology I am here. I hesitate to say 'back' because I don't want to over-commit. Nevertheless my intention is to be back. I have (quite obviously) seriously considered not returning to this endeavour. There have been all manner of reasons not to but in the final analysis those reasons don't hold quite enough weight and the scale has tipped ever so slightly in the direction of picking up the threads. So here I am holding a few tattered threads that I will attempt to weave into something of a whole cloth again.

This cake, this cake is one of those cakes that does not demand attention. The quiet, elegant beauty standing somewhat aloof and shyly at the side of the room while the sticky, gooey, sparkly (totally unworthy and flashy) upstarts grab the focus. But if you give it even half a chance you will fall in love. Far more interesting in taste and texture than your average unassuming white cake - if you are like me you will be making this cake over and over again because you just can't get enough.

The ricotta adds a moist richness and depth of flavour without making the cake heavy. Fantastic warm with cream straight out of the oven I think it is even better on day two. I initially used some sweet, soft ripe pears as the fruit. Trial two was with apples. Three - frozen sweet cherries. And finally, for the fourth try I resorted to the original recipe as written in Bon Appetit and used frozen raspberries. Don't ask me which is liked best because I can't decide. Today my answer would likely be 'raspberry' because that is what is sitting on my counter right now but a week ago it would have been pears. And two days after that? Why cherries of course!

The changes I made to the recipe are very minor - a little more fruit, a different sugar, a touch more salt.

This cake reminds me a teeny tiny bit of a treat we used to buy from the convenience stores (I know - horrors!!) when we lived in Osaka ages ago. I can't remember what it was called but there is a map of Hokkaido on the wrapper. I loved it then and want to remember it as being wonderful - but I am afraid that if I were to try it now I might wrinkle my nose. For sure this cake is umpteen times better. Make yourself a batch of fresh ricotta - or go buy a tub - but make this cake. Tonight. And eat it all weekend long. You could share it with a friend. Or not :)

raspberry-ricotta cake
(from Bon Appetit - with the most minor of changes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raw cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grey sea salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter - melted
1 1/4 cups frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray or butter a 9" round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. In another smaller bowl combine the ricotta, eggs, and vanilla stirring gently until smooth; fold in dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in melted butter. And finally fold in 1 cup of frozen fruit - being respectful of the delicacy of the berries. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the remaining fruit over the top. No need to press it into the batter as the cake will rise around it while baking.

Bake until golden brown, firm to the touch and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean - about 55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before turning out of the pan.

Friday, July 18, 2014

persian lentils and brown rice with mint

I have been having a bit of a fling with mint recently. I can't believe that I have overlooked what it brings to dishes beyond the obvious combination with chocolate. I have been meaning to share recipes for several salads for (obviously) weeks now. This salad is one that I made three times in 10 days and really didn't bother to take a good pic of any one of those times. I apologize. With all the beautiful food photography scattered all over every site it seems like a mark of disrespect to offer anything less but although I would eat this salad three times a week pretty much all summer, mine is not the only palate to please in our house. David loved it too but he loves variety even more, so I have reluctantly moved on - minus a decent photo - and agreed to rest this salad for at least a bit. Sad really because it is tasty, easy, and has the quiet virtue of being inexpensive. 

The combo of brown rice and lentils creates a complete protein. The addition of greens is obvious but the mint makes the salad much more interesting than one anticipates from the unassuming appearance. It changes character slightly when saved overnight but it is by no means a change for the worse. A big bowl of this nicely feeds a crowd at a BBQ or picnic or waits patiently in the fridge for a few days of lunches for an intimate twosome. 

I found the recipe in a publication that I used to read faithfully when I was young and newly wed but have ignored for years now for publications that are ... shinier. Shame on me for forgetting old friends - I have recently discovered that there is plenty on offer within. 

persian lentils & brown rice with mint
(adapted from Family Circle magazine)

1/2 cup brown jasmine rice (uncooked)
2/3 cup red lentils
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses*
3/4 tsp sea salt
3 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup fresh mint, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Cook rice as per package directions or (if you have one) use your trusty rice cooker on the brown rice setting. While the rice is cooking bring some water to a boil in a medium size pot. Add the lentils, return to a boil and cook for 6 minutes. (This is a good time to use a timer because you don't want mushy overcooked lentils here.) You are also going to want to watch it carefully because it will get foamy and boil over if you take your eye off it for long. When the timer goes off drain the lentils and rinse under cold water for a few minutes until they are cool. Add the cooled lentils and cooked rice to a large bowl.

Whisk the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, and salt together. Pour over lentils and rice, stirring gently to coat. Fold in the spinach, mint, cherries, pecans and feta.

*Pomegranate molasses is likely an ingredient that doesn't lurk in your pantry. It wasn't in mine but this recipe was one too many recipes that I had seen requiring it and pushed me over the edge to buying a bottle. It sounds incredibly exotic and hard to find but you may be lucky enough to find it (as I did) in the foreign foods aisle of a supermarket. If you have no desire to own a bottle you can substitute 2 tsp of honey mixed with 4 tsp of pomegranate juice for the 2 Tbsp of pomegranate molasses.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

rosemary sea salted brownies

gluten-free, refined sugar-free

If I was to worry about posting seasonally appropriate topics and recipes I would probably be looking for .... not this post. I defend my choice thusly: chocolate is never out of season. It is the food equivalent of fashion's black - goes with everything. Should I need to hedge my bet I would point to the rosemary I picked from my garden which must surely confirm seasonal appropriateness. If I was to need to justify myself.

Last spring in Vancouver Jonathon introduced me to the pleasures of Beaucoup Bakery. The very first treat that caught my eye was a beautiful chocolate cookie with rosemary. It was even better than it looked and I mentally filed the concept for future reference. This spring Jonathon has a shop of his own and a few weeks ago he had an order of very special chocolate from Mexico, including this beautiful bar of rosemary dark chocolate. I had been fine-tuning a recipe for spicy brownies when he sent me a bar of the rosemary chocolate and as good as the spicy brownies were I suspected there was a better direction. I was right - the time on the spicy version was not a waste because it simply meant that these were perfect from the first batch. I love the piney, minty-ness of rosemary and it is a perfect partner to good dark chocolate. Toss is a bit of cinnamon and top it with a sprinkle of flakey salt and I dare you to stop at one. I made a batch for last week's Sunday dinner dessert and on Friday Eden told me she couldn't stop thinking about them. Pretty much says it all.

I have made this with butter twice and once with coconut oil replacing the butter. Both versions are very good so if you and dairy do not get along well by all means make it with the coconut oil, but my strong preference is to use good butter. Taste and texture were both superior.

rosemary sea salted brownies

1/2 cup almond flour
3 Tbsp coconut flour
1 Tbsp cacao
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4.5 oz chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary 
leaves stripped from a 3" sprig of rosemary
1 tsp flakey sea salt (such as Malden's)

Line an 8 inch square pan with a parchment paper sling and set aside.

In a bowl combine almond flour, coconut flour, cacao, cinnamon and fine sea salt. Set aside.

Combine the chopped chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until almost melted then remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes - this will finish the melting without burning the chocolate. Add the honey and coconut sugar and stir gently to combine. Gently stir in the eggs being careful not to over-beat. Add the chopped rosemary and stir the mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until everything is incorporated. Push into the parchment lined pan. Sprinkle with the rosemary leaves and sea salt. Bake at 350 degree F for 28 minutes.

Easy and fast - to make and to eat :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

no-bake chocolate cookies : re-invented

gluten-free, refined sugar-free

This story wanders a bit - or maybe a lot. Kind of like a new puppy, easily distracted.

I grew up on no-bake chocolate cookies. No-bakes and chocolate puffed wheat squares were my kryptonite - I could and would eat either one without discipline and to the point of illness. Needless to say the next generation (my children following my shining example) was no different. No-bakes are the obvious answer to every question. Or they were.

Health issues introduced our family to a new eating paradigm and I hadn't even looked at that well-exercised recipe for a good long time, long enough to have forgotten exactly what was in them. A week ago our family grew by one (we now have an adorable grand-dog) an event certainly deserved to  be celebrated. Celebration = food so I offered to bring a treat when we went to meet Mark and Tiffany's puppy. As time was short my mind inevitably went to our fail-safe, no-bake chocolate cookies. Then I looked at the recipe. I may have gulped and certainly grimaced - 2 cups of white sugar!!! 2! I just could not do it. I argued with myself and still couldn't. Really, two cups of white sugar in roughly 30 cookies. That's a lot of sugar. A lot of plain not good sugar. Tasty, easy, gluten-free and full of sugar. Bah! 

Not one to be undone by a couple of cups of sugar I determined that although I may be tempting fate by playing with a recipe as sacred as this one, it had to be done. That or toss the recipe entirely. It seemed a worthy gamble and at the end of the effort all agreed that it was. In fact, the reinvented cookies were universally approved as the preference. Lest anyone be mislead these cookies are not healthy doppelgängers for the originals - they are chewier in texture and deeper in taste. More dark chocolate than milk. But even the littlest of our clan loved them.

I think we should christen them Bailey cookies in honour of the new puppy. They are good enough to have a name of their own (not just 'the healthy no-bakes, you know...') and Bailey (the Brittany) is cute enough to warrant a cookie named after her.

David liked these well enough to stand jealous guard over them. Deacon liked them well enough to request a blog post a week after the fact. The pictures are reflective of no intention to post but I cannot withstand a request from a 10 year old. Really, I cannot :) What grandmother worth her salt could?!

bailey cookies
(adapted from my mom's recipe for no-bake chocolate cookies circa 1960)

3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk of your choice, I used coconut milk
6 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
 3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine the honey, palm sugar, butter, milk of your choice, cocoa, and vanilla in a large heavy saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and immediately add the oats, coconut and chopped pecans. Mix well. Using a 1" cookie scoop drop in mounds onto parchment paper (or foil) to cool and set - about 1 hour. (A brief stint in the fridge will shorten that time somewhat.)