Category Archives: Food

A non-trifling amount of trifle

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Summer means trifle in our house. I made two huge ones for my grandparents’ 60th anniversary, and also a chocolate and vanilla layer cake with swiss buttercream. I was so delighted by the flowers I put together on the top – phlox, sweet peas, oregano and geranium leaves. Ignore my super crooked writing though! And the little raspberry cake pictured below we ended up eating the next day with some unexpected guests. Always fun to share cake! I used the sour cream chocolate cake from Sky High which you can find on Smitten Kitchen, and then two different vanilla cake recipes also from Sky High. I still prefer the buttermilk one that I’ve posted here. To punch up Smitten’s swiss buttercream I added raspberry jam.

The garden continues to explode with flowers and I’m so excited that the roses have started! All except Poseidon I’ve never seen in person so it’s been fun to study them as they open. Incidentally Poseidon has the most immature buds of the 7 bushes but it’s also the most shaded so perhaps that’s why it’s slower. It’s gotten overwhelmed by the cobea vine which I am contemplating butchering if it doesn’t bloom in the next two weeks.

A good read from Wired on the DNA editing technique Crispr

The best of Poppies and Posies’ bouquets

A review of Hidcote

I always appreciate the sneak peek at Molly’s cookbook shelf

The raspberries are almost done but I might try and make these fresh raspberry scones

Fascinating article on two sets of fraternal twins who were actually identical twins

A quick recipe for zucchini

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Doing summer things

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Summer snowflakes (Leucojum) with summer snowflakes (elm seeds… bane of my existence after thrips, stinkbugs, and drought)

Hard to believe it is already June. Since I’ve gotten back into garden blogging I instinctively want to start each post about the weather, but that’s lame, especially in Alberta. Suffice it to say that the weather gods did not rejoice at my return and grant us a gentle transition from spring to summer.

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The irises were done in 3 days due to the heat

No matter. I have been diligently spraying things with insecticidal soap and patiently spending hours watering. It’s hard to remember what the point of it all is right now, when everything looks kind of small and straggly. What does look good are the older perennials – epimediums, thalictrums, astilbe, etc. A few years of settling and they are starting to increase in size. I’m kind of excited to see how everything looks in another three years after my little seedlings develop and I have a chance to move things around.

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I would like more of these Thalictrum aquilegifolium – only thing really blooming in the border right now and is about 2 1/2 ft tall!

In other news I made several Smitten Kitchen recipes. I would heartily recommend the Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte, but everyone really liked the Key Lime Pie as well. I was less excited about the key lime pie because it required zesting and juicing way more than the suggested one dozen key limes but apparently the recipe also works with regular limes. Other things I have made: microwave oat bars. Breakfast of champions.

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From bottom left: Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte, Key Lime Pie and Best Cocoa Brownies

– an omelette for a crowd

– already ordered Hummelo, the new book by Piet Oudolf, reviewed here

fascinating visit to a historic dock yard

– would have loved to see Dan Pearson’s Chelsea garden – am contemplating buying tickets for next year

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Almond Acorns

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This year we decided not to get a tree, mom donated or threw out most of our Christmas decorations, and for the first time I am not hosting any baking parties as many of my friends are traveling or not coming home for Christmas this year. I’m struggling to find the annual rhythm, but one thing remains the same, Christmas cookies must be made. While Aunty Cathy has me beat currently with her multiple batches of nanaimo bars, and gingerbread cookies, I vowed I will turn it around this week. I made the classic Almond Acorns from Canadian Living this weekend and forced my cousins into dipping them for me. I have fond memories of making these with Monika, likely for the first time in 2001, when this magazine was published. She was a fan of the whimsical shape but I think everyone can get behind their crumbly nuttiness. I would recommend not grinding the almonds too fine (stoneground cornmeal, not flour texture) to get the best out of them.

Other holiday favorites:
Peppermint Sandwich Cookies
Nanaimo Bars
Maple Pecan Cookies
Gooey Butter Cookies
Sugar Cookies

Almond Acorns
Adapted from Canadian Living
Depending on size of cookies makes anywhere from 3 – 5 dozen

1 1/3 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups salted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (preferably dark)
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 0z semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1. Roast almonds at 350F for 10 minutes or until toasty and fragrant. Cool and then grind the almonds with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in a food processor. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter with remaining white and brown sugar. Stir in vanilla.

3. Add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder and mix until just combined, before adding remaining flour. Stir in almond mixture. If dough seems excessively sticky add in more flour or chill for 1 hour.

4. Roll into balls and pinch one end to form a tear drop shape, placing finished cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 1 hour or up to one day.

5. Bake at 350F for 12 min., or until the sides are lightly gold. Ideally bake one pan at a time, but I usually do two at a time, rotating at the 6 minute mark. Let cool on pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a rack. Let cool completely before dipping as cookies are very tender.

6. Melt chocolate (I prefer the microwave at around 70% power for a minute or less at a time, stirring at each interval). Dip the rounded end of each cookie in chocolate to resemble an acorn cap. Place on waxed paper and chill briefly to set the chocolate. I advise storing the cookies between layers of waxed paper to keep them looking their best.

 

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Even better than your favourite Christmas cookies

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The month of Christmas baking is upon us! Our first batch included the stalwart maple pecan cookies (orange zest extremely optional) and, since Jess is on a mission to cook her way through the Duchess Bake Shop book, florentines. My cousin met this combination with “oh $#!&, my favourite cookies and some even better ones!” With near universal accolades, Jess and I still agreed that a pure shortbread or pate sucree base to the florentines may be preferable to the slightly crumbly almond dough used in the Duchess recipe. (Next up on the blog, we report back from our experiments with the near universally acclaimed nanaimo bar recipe! Stand by!) You can find a fairly similar recipe for almond bars here. Or perhaps these salted caramel shortbreads are more your speed?

If you’re also starting to think about holiday baking you can find cookie recipes under the Recipe Recommendations header. I have also put together a quick guide to cookie party hosting, if that’s your jam!

Mom might appreciate this malted chocolate cake recipe
Good dates necessitate sticky toffee pudding or perhaps this smooth date custard tart
I have been enjoying reading Ian Young’s Bulb Log – maybe you would like to consider growing your bulbs from seed too (if you can wait a number of years for a bloom!)
Does anyone have a hardy rose they swear by (other than rosa glauca)?
Love Kelly and this interview!
And, in case you were wondering, at no time has Sarah stopped being inspirational. 
Great gardening, great photography, this blog post is a gem
An interview with Chris Rock which I enjoyed: “When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”

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Graduation Party, etc.

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‘Without punishment, there is no law’

We hosted a graduation party last night. Made a great (and comparatively easy) lasagna and the Boston Cream Pie pictured above. I used this pudding recipe (it was ok?), this cake recipe (quick and pretty good) and a basic ganache made with Callebaut (BEST). All in all a wonderful night with friends, which we topped off by watching a sweet little indie movie, TiMER.

My family arrives tomorrow. I’m counting down the hours!

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Birthday cake from Friday

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Allium time!

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Weekly Links: Ricotta Waffles

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Several of my friends have sworn their allegiance recently to ricotta waffles, belgian-style. I have been using a recipe from In Jennie’s Kitchen and adding half whole wheat flour and vanilla, plus buying ricotta from the market. The first hot waffle you eat of these IS pretty magical, not going to lie. And do eat them piping hot. They’re just a tad too heavy when they’re only warm. Still delicious, but lacking the crisp exterior that gives way to a sweet gooeyness (for lack of a better descriptor) that I suspect is what has drawn my friends in.

Beautiful dessert plate (via Herriott Grace)

Someone should grow all these nicotiana (Aunty Shelley…)

Tips for vegetable seedlings and a primer on seed starting

Dad, please learn how to make this thai noodle dish before I come home

Speckled egg cake

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Hosting a Cookie Party

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I’m a big fan of holiday socializing over baked goods. Some years I book a solid week and a half straight of baking engagements, happily making cookies and bars with anywhere from one or two to twenty people at a time. One of my friends asked for tips on hosting his own cookie party, so I thought I’d write some up in hopes that you also consider hosting one. If you have a lot of friends who never bake then it can be a fun way to get them in the holiday spirit. While it’s doable to host as the only baker, it’s much easier if you have one or two friends who can keep an eye on various activities for you as you ferry things in and out of the oven and ensure everyone has what they need.

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This photo courtesy of the girl who always explodes icing sugar everywhere while making icing

For a large gathering of mostly non-bakers:

Things you need:

– cookie dough
– lots of cookie cutters
– rolling pin
– sanding sugars/sprinkles/other decorating items
royal icing and food colouring
– bags that you can use for piping (I use sandwich bags that don’t have those new folded bottoms but you can use actual piping bags, ziplocks, etc.)
– parchment paper
– at least 4 large cookie sheets
– large cooling racks
– paper plates so people can take home their creations
– vinyl tablecloth for your decorating space
– tea!

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General Instructions:    

1. Make several cookie doughs ahead of time, estimating about 1 1/2 – 2 dozen cookies per person. My traditional choices: sugar, gingerbread and peppermint sandwich cookies. Buy a LOT of sanding sugars and those little metallic balls, plus any other sprinkles that look fun. Have some sandwich bags or ziploc bags you can use as piping bags.

2. Have at least 4 large cookie sheets, lined with parchment. If you have less, pre-bake half your cookies.

3. Set up all your stations ahead of time (cutting, cooling, decorating) and make royal icing just before everyone arrives. Also pre-heat your oven. If you have friends who bake, you can let them make any other icing during the party.

4. Start rolling and cutting cookies at your designated start time, even if no one is there, as long as you have finished your icing and done those dishes. It’s worth it to get some cookies into the oven and cooling.

5. If people seem to be slowing on the decorating front, switch to your sandwich cookie production, or make people switch stations so no one is stuck cutting out cookies the whole evening.

6. Make sure you circulate! Having a friend or two who can watch the oven is so helpful. Provide beverages (I find tea and water to be most appreciated as everyone is consuming so much sugar) and make sure everyone has what they need. As the cutting station wraps up you can begin the process of cleaning up, drafting in people to help as you feel comfortable. I find it’s all in the spirit of the evening and no one minds.

7. Make people take home ALL THE COOKIES.

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Pro-tips:

– Don’t eat any cookies. This seems counter-intuitive, but trust me, the party is much more enjoyable when you aren’t sugar-crashing every 5 minutes. The reality is, this kind of party is quite a bit of work and you need to be on your game to ensure that nothing burns and that you can follow conversations with people you haven’t seen in 12 months. Hydration! That’s what helps.

– Set your oven timer so it beeps when you rotate the trays. Basically every 4 minutes you’re checking the oven.

– If you’re a perfectionist, it’s best not to watch anything too closely. Just make sure the cookies aren’t too close together on the sheets and don’t come out burned and call it a day.

– It can be good to have one or two kinds of cookies pre-made if you want people to take home a nice selection.

– If your guests are all bakers you can make more kinds of cookies, space allowing. Definitely increased chaos but of an entertaining and productive variety.

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