This Too Shall Pass [on bringing home baby]

tumblr_nr2iis3X311uaricco4_1280…or so I’ve been told.

We were thrilled to billions of tiny pieces to welcome our daughter, Ruthie Mae Viola, into the world on July 3rd weighing in at a booming 10lbs1oz. After worrying relentlessly that I would need to have a c-section after carrying for 42 weeks, we were also quite thrilled to be able to have that chunker in the comfort of our own home, as we planned.

She came in 12 hours, which I hear is not so bad for a first-timer, but it certainly felt like forever when I was in it. After labour, when that little lump of a human was placed on my belly, I felt like a warrior. I felt proud of my body for allowing me to do what I’d so badly wanted. I felt proud of my support group for helping me through those long hours where I spoke to no one and expected them to read my mind. Especially my Allan, who was the first hands to welcome to our girl into the world. He placed her on my tummy and we gazed at her, awed by the fact that she had literally moments before been in my stomach. It was magic. Absolutely, no question about it, magic. A miracle, for those who might believe in such things.

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The first few days were bliss and I wondered why anyone would ever complain about the “newborn days”. She slept peacefully in our arms, in her bassinet, in our bed… it was so easy. And then day 5 came. And along with the hormones literally oozing from my body came real life. The crying, the fussiness, the difficulty breastfeeding, and the realization that this was actually our life now. What in the HELL had we gone and done? I hear that’s a common thought in those first days. I didn’t know what to do with myself or her. And I certainly didn’t feel bonded to this tiny human. Where was that instantaneous love that everyone talked about? Where was my blissful mother-earth experience? All I felt was exhausted, resentful and sore. And anxious. So very anxious ALL THE TIME. When she would finally sleep, in our bed with us at this point, I would lay awake panicking that she was going to wake up. I wouldn’t sleep, I would just wait. Listening to her grunts, sighs and other plethora of newborn baby noises. And she would want to breastfeed ALL NIGHT LONG.

How in the hell did other mothers do this? Was it normal? Was I all alone? I certainly felt like it. My heart was so heavy with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and guilt for not feeling that bond with this incredible miracle I had waited so, so long to meet. And it became obvious very quickly that she felt my anxiety and it was causing us a disconnect. I repeatedly told people I was OK, and that I didn’t need them to come over and help. I didn’t want anyone to see me struggle. I had had such a beautiful pregnancy and was able to do it all. But this was different. I was drowning. With no sleep and the black sheet of anxiety slowly covering me over, I melted. Talk of medication came up and that scared me. Luckily, my mom recognized that I had hit rock bottom almost immediately when she came over one day to help. Intervention was coming whether I wanted it or not. She slept over and gave us a full night of sleep and I made the hard decision to purchase and give my mom formula to feed Ruthie over night as I just couldn’t bring myself to wake up and breastfeed her. And of course, that brought a whole other type of anxiety and guilt. But I woke feeling more confident and better able to look after this child of mine. But when my support left, I felt lost all over again. This back-and-forth still continues. The feeling of loneliness and helplessness when people leave our house is intense. No one ever told me how lonely and isolating motherhood can be at the beginning. How your bedroom and home can feel like a prison and your tiny innocent baby like a cruel warden.

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The last few weeks have been the most trying of my life. We’re sitting here at almost 4 weeks and I can’t believe that it’s passed so quickly and so slowly. After weeks of guilt and stress, I made the decision that I wouldn’t breastfeed any longer. It wasn’t working for me and it was causing so much extra stress. And I’ve heard from so many moms that a happy mom = happy baby. And clearly, I was not happy and neither was she. So we adjust and go with the flow. She will survive and thrive despite my not breastfeeding, this I know. And I can handle the judgement with a smile knowing that this is the best option for us. Not for my doctor or midwife or friends or well-meaning strangers. (New moms: please take this advice. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY. You will feel such relief from going with what works and not forcing things on yourself). Every day is a struggle but we’re still so early in our relationship. We will grow together and find our routine and harmony. And this too shall pass.

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I decided to share this in hopes that new moms might not feel so alone in their early days of motherhood. It is not a walk in the park for us all. It is more work than you could ever imagine and only made more intense by the sleepless days and nights, inability to look after yourself some days, and hormones slowly spewing from your body. I could never have been prepared but I wish someone had told me more about their struggle and journey. We are amazing creatures, us women. To endure the growth of a human in our bodies, to somehow manage to get them out of our bodies, and then to learn how to keep them alive and thriving is the most unimaginably powerful experience. I’m lucky to have an amazing man by my side to champion for me, push me to keep pushing on and support my decisions. I know not all are so lucky.  But if you’re struggling through it, I’m here. Struggling along with you and sending you all my support and love. I know it’s not easy. And at the top of the page here, there is a “contact” button. Use it! Let me be your support if you’re feeling lost and alone and drowning in these most intense days. Believe me, I understand and you are certainly not alone.

Things will get easier, this I know. We will find our groove and start kicking ass together. But we have to struggle and learn to get there and that’s OK.

Sending you all love until I can get back to the kitchen and start feeding my soul again.

xxx

Everything is OK

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

My life is a living version of Groundhog Day. Each day inevitably starts at 3am, as I stir myself awake and realize all over again that a) there is a 400lb child in my stomach (ok, I have no idea what she weighs…but I’m certain it’s a lot) and b) she doesn’t want to come out. I get up and drag myself to the living room for a snack and watch something on Netflix until Allan gets up around 5am – at least one of us deserves to get a good sleep. I go back to bed around 5am and get up at 9 to the sun hot on my face. Coffee, smoothie, check emails and make a goal for the day. Typically, that goal is to clean [insert room in house] or work on a recipe, get laundry done and try to keep my mind occupied on something other than this pending labour. I water the garden, and usually myself while I’m at it, and go for a walk. Make dinner, greet Allan after work and spend the evening together. Sleep. Repeat. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette
Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

Waiting for our baby to actually arrive brings a whole other set of emotions I hadn’t intended on feeling. I wasn’t prepared for the mental game of being overdue. Discouragement, disappointment and frustration. Those feelings are new to this journey that’s otherwise been so positive and joy-filled. I’ve learned so much about my body and how incredible it is during these nine months. I’ve learned to love the hell out of my nooks and crannies, curves and lines. I’ve prepared and planned, researched and spent time with other moms I love and admire. But what I hadn’t worked on was the trust part of pregnancy and labour. To trust that my body will make things happen when it’s ready and to not feel discouraged or frustrated with it’s disinterest in my own timeline. “Are you still pregnant?!” “Is she here yet?!” “Wow – she just doesn’t want to come out, eh?!” These questions, though asked with good intention, are the bane of my existence these days. It’s hard to answer them every day and not feel like I’m doing something wrong. An influx of “Have you tried this?!” “My friend said you should do this” “We did this – it worked right away!” flood my phone and email. We’ve tried it. She’s not here yet. And that’s OK. I’ve decided to stop panicking, stop pressuring myself and start trusting my body. She will come when she’s ready. I would love to have her naturally and at home, as planned. But maybe that won’t happen… and that’s OK too. It’s all OK. My body is OK and doing what it needs to to ensure a healthy baby comes out. I trust that the decisions I’ve made over the last 9 months will lead us into a healthy labour and delivery. And so my groundhog day(s) continues as I wait. And set small goals for myself to accomplish each day as mundane as they may be. And yes, I’ll let you know when she’s here. Believe me. You won’t have to ask.

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

This was a “whatever you got in the fridge” salad that came together beautifully. Hearty and packed with a multitude of textures, flavours and colours. The cherries gave it such a welcome pop of sweetness against the tangy lemon dressing and crunchy fennel and celery. It’s easily adaptable to what you have on hand, too. Swap out the grains, the greens, the nuts. Maybe you prefer a creamier yogurt-based dressing. If you love cheese, some feta or bocconcini would be delicious. It’s all good here, go with your gut.

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

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Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette
makes 6-8 servings

Salad
2 cups cooked grains*
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 small bulb fennel, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 cups spinach, chopped
1/4 cup basil, chopped
2 tbsp fennel fronds (optional)

In a large salad bowl, toss all the ingredients together.

Vinaigrette
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp ground toasted cumin
1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a mason jar (start with 1/2 cup olive oil) with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Shake vigorously until combined. Taste and add more olive oil, lemon or salt, if needed. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

*I used spelt berries and barley but one or the other would be lovely. Alternatively, brown rice or Bulgar would work!

Guadalajara, Dawgs!

Hot Dogs with Chili-Lime Sour Cream, Roasted Tomatoes and Onions

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I have a lot to be thankful for when Father’s Day rolls around. Between my Dad, Allan’s Dad, my Step-Father and soon enough (!!!) Allan, there is certainly no shortage of fatherly love, advice, caring and support.

To my dad, the man who taught me to be brave and kind, get dirty (as long as you get clean afterwards and don’t drag it through the house), to stay true to my word and to always work hard and to appreciate good music (especially if that music is Joe Cocker’s With a Little Help From My Friends) I am eternally grateful. And anxious beyond anything to watch you become a grandfather to our little girl. To watch her fall in love with her silly Pop-Pop and gain the wisdom we’ve been lucky enough to have him bestow on us. Like: Mold can be cut off of everything and expiry dates are merely a suggestion. Try everything once. Be on time – always. Get on all the scary roller coasters even if they make you barf. If you find yourself near an ocean, you’re never too old to jump and laugh hysterically in the waves. You don’t have to boil the pre-cooked lasagna noodles (haaaa!). Your time is the best gift you can give someone, especially your dear old dad.

Guadalajara Dogs

Hug your pops, or your fatherly figure, tight and tell him you love him tomorrow. Life would be a lot less filled with bear hugs, bedtime stories, piggy back rides, delicious spaghetti dinners, good music, belly laughs and fun without you, D-Money. I love you dearly (and I know I’m not exactly sharing these dogs with you tomorrow, but I will soon. I promise). 

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Guadalajara Dogs

Guadalajara Dogs
makes 6 dogs

While this would still be super tasty on a grocery store hot dog, if you can find some homemade dogs they will be that much better. If you’re in Ottawa, Hintonburg Market sells some really delicious ones made in-house.

Traditionally, Guadalajara Dogs are made with plain sour cream, diced tomatoes and onions. I thought we could do a bit better for Dad so I mixed things up a bit. The sweet roasted tomatoes with the creamy spicy sauce and biting onions is a killer pairing if you have a bit of extra time to put into them (and doesn’t your dad deserve that much after dealing with you all these years? I think so).

2 cups cherry/grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup sour cream (full fat is best, of course)
1 tbsp spicy chili oil* (more if you like it hot)
1/4 tsp lime zest
1 tsp fresh lime juice
salt
1/2 cup raw onion, diced fine
6 hot dogs
6 hot dog buns
cilantro, to garnish
lime wedges, to garnish

For the tomatoes:
Preheat oven to 350. Toss the halved tomatoes with the garlic and olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes or until soft and oozy.

For the Chili-Lime Sour Cream
Mix the sour cream, chili oil, lime zest and juice and a pinch of salt. This is best if it has time to chill for a bit, 20-30 minutes up to 1 day in the fridge.

For the Dogs:
Cook hot dogs and buns however you like them – I lean towards roasting or BBQ’ing them. Toast or grill up your buns. Top each dog with a spoonful of the roasted tomatoes, some diced onion, a drizzle of the chili-lime sour cream and some lime and cilantro to garnish. And don’t forget to toast to your awesome Dad before you chow down!

*I use a chili oil from our Asian market. It’s fresh red chili in oil and it is HOT. You can always make your own if you’ve got a little bit of time. Sriracha would be good, too, but would alter the flavour slightly.

Guadalajara Dogs

Eviction Notice

Caramelized Pineapple & Chili Lassi
Caramelized Pineapple & Chili LassiThis lassi had a job. It didn’t do it very well.

After hearing from so many people that a natural labour inducer was, among other things (shwing!), plenty of spicy food and pineapple, I decided I would combine the two and cross my fingers and wait. And wait. For something to happen. Nothing happened. Like her mother, I think this wee girl has a timeline of her own that she’s following and she’ll come around on her own time. When she’s ready and we’re not. When we head out for our last dinner as two, dressed in our best, most likely. I suppose it won’t be the last time I’ll ruin an outfit at the hand of this baby, right parents?

Caramelized Pineapple & Chili Lassi

Caramelized Pineapple & Chili Lassi

Job failure aside, this lassi was so tasty. So so very tasty. Creamy and decadent from the coconut milk and yogurt with a zingy golden sweetness from the caramelized pineapple and a spicy snap that finishes in the back of your throat. I was impatient and enjoyed the first one at room temperature, but the second, third and fourth were ice cold and even better if you can wait that long. It makes a lovely refreshing snack or even a light breakfast and if you double the batch it keeps well for up to 4 days in the fridge or in individual frozen portions!

Caramelized Pineapple & Chili Lassi

Caramelized Pineapple & Chili Lassi
adapted from How Sweet Eats
makes about 4 servings

1 1/2 cups cubed pineapple
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
1 (14oz) can coconut milk
1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (plain)
cinnamon, to garnish

Place cubed pineapple in a sealable bag or container and toss with the brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Let marinate for 20-30 minutes. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour in the marinated pineapple and cook, turning after 4-5 minutes to give it time to caramelize, until deep golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes.

Pour marinated pineapple, reserving a few cubes to garnish your lassi, into the blender with the coconut milk and yogurt. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and enjoy immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes so it’s cold and refreshing. Garish each glass with a few cubes of caramelized pineapple and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

GO TIME.

Zucchini & Oat Bread

 

Zucchini & Oat Bread

MATERNITY LEAVE. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. I think it might be the first time in my life where I don’t have a schedule of sorts to follow. Typically, I thrive on a routine and schedule but knowing that this is likely the last time I’ll have to myself for a very long time, I am trying hard to just let go and bask in it. Really hard. My only real goal for each day right now is to stock our freezer with as many easy-to-grab-and-eat-with-one-hand snacks and meals as possible before she comes. It seems like the most productive way to spend my time and gives me a bit of routine/a goal to work towards when I’m feeling a bit chaotic and life feels somewhat out of control… something that can be difficult for someone with anxiety (like me!).

Zucchini & Oat Bread

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the two of us will be three of us soon. And that I won’t be pregnant forever, because currently it feels like I might be. And I have been for so long. Imagining myself without this hefty belly attached to my mid section is a bit surreal…and a bit heart wrenching. I have so enjoyed every minute, even the tough ones, of pregnancy. The fascination of watching your body change as a real-live human being grows inside has been the most incredible, awe-inducing experience. I can’t imagine what it’s like to actually meet that human being. I’m sure the moms/dads out there can relate to that feeling of “HOLY SHIT I GET TO MEET THE HUMAN WE CREATED ANY MINUTE NOW!” Absolutely effing bananas.

Zucchini & Oat Bread

This zucchini oat loaf is incredibly good; dense and moist and full of flavour and texture. If I had had carrots on hand, I might have added a bit of both since I love the combination of the two in a sweet quick bread. But the zucchini on it’s own was lovely. Once the loaf cooled, I sliced it up, wrapped each slice in saran wrap and froze them all in a freezer bag so I can grab one at a time, pop in the oven, slather in butter (maybe that’s expecting too much) and enjoy. Even if you’re not expecting a baby, this makes for an excellent grab-and-go breakfast, especially if you double the batch. It’s so nice to have healthy options available whenever you need a little something.

Zucchini & Oat Bread

Zucchini-Oat Bread
adapted from Bon Appetit
makes 1
9×5″ loaf

For something extra, feel free to add your favourite toasted nuts ( 1/4 cup chopped) or some raisins or other dried fruit (1/4 cup). I didn’t have these on hand so I left them out however I would have loved to add cranberries and pecans.

3 large eggs
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed (freshly ground is best)
teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
cups coarsely grated zucchini (approx 1 large or 2 small zucchini)

1 1/2
cups old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9×5″ loaf pan with parchment, leaving a good amount of overhang so you can pop the loaf out easily.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, yogurt, oil, sugar and vanilla until well combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the flours, flax, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and powder, and 1 cup of the oats.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Use a fork to slowly incorporate the two being sure not to overmix. Add in the zucchini and fold everything together so there are no pockets of dry ingredients left. It’s absolutely OK if it’s still a bit lumpy. Pour mixture into your prepared loaf pan and top with the remaining oats and brown sugar. Bake for 1 hour, 20 minutes or until a clean toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. If you find the top is browning too much before the middle is cooked, tent some foil over it. 

Cake for Breakfast

Maple Rhubarb & Rye Skillet Cake

Maple Rhubarb & Rye Skillet Cake

The idea of a “breakfast cake” has been sounding most ideal to me these days as my cravings lean heavily to the sweeter side of things. When I spotted rhubarb in the market, I could almost taste the sweet and tangy flavours of a rhubarb breakfast cake. But what else? Whole wheat flour didn’t seem exciting enough, and all-purpose didn’t feel hearty enough for what I’d been imagining. I consulted my baking cupboard and locked eyes on a bag of earthy rye flour. Bingo!

Rhubarb + Online Recipe Photos4

I did a little research and found a recipe for a “Rye Rhubarb Anytime Cake” from the masters over at Food52. It seemed like exactly what I wanted so off I went, with a few tweaks here and there, on my quest for the perfect breakfast cake. And it didn’t disappoint. Just barely sweet with a puckering tang from the compote, an earthiness from the rye flour and maple syrup, and just the right amount of spice from some added cinnamon and cardamom, my favourite sidekicks to anything with rhubarb.

The compote recipe makes enough to use half in the cake, and half as a garnish for an extra bit of decadence on top of the cake with a creamy Greek yogurt. If you prefer the cake without it, swirl it into your morning oats, smoothie or yogurt instead.

Maple Rhubarb & Rye Skillet Cake

Maple Rhubarb & Rye Skillet Cake
adapted from Food52

Ok, so this cake has probably a bit more butter and sugar that one should indulge in for breakfast, I admit it. But I’ve found that a thin slice along with my morning smoothie or yogurt is just what I need to get over that craving for something sweet. AND it keeps me away from the sugary morning buns or chocolate-hazelnut croissants at my coffee shop stop on the way to work.

Maple-Rhubarb Compote
4 large stalks of rhubarb, diced
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup 100% orange juice or equivalent of fresh squeezed juice
Zest of 1 orange

For the cake
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 
cup rye flour
1 
teaspoon baking powder
3/4 
teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 
teaspoon salt
3/4 
cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 
cup cane sugar
1/3 
cup packed brown sugar
2 
large eggs
1/2 
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup Coconut Milk*

To Serve:
Greek Yogurt (I use unsweetened, you can use whatever you like best)

For the compote: Add the chopped rhubarb, maple syrup, orange juice and zest to a 9″ cast iron skillet over medium heat. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. It will cook down slowly and you want most of the liquids to reduce. Cook for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a saucy/jammy compote remains. Remove the compote from the skillet and set aside while you put the cake batter together. Clean skillet and give it a quick rub down with some oil.

For the cake: In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder + soda, spices and salt until combined. In a smaller bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugars together. Whisk in one egg at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between. Add the vanilla and milk and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a wooden spoon to vigorously beat together for at least 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are picked up. The batter should be nice and smooth.

Preheat oven to 350. Scrape the cake batter into the lightly oiled skillet. Swirl half the compote into the cake batter – no need to be too fussy as clumps of compote are delicious! Pop the skillet into your preheated oven and bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve with a dollop of yogurt and some of the remaining compote.

*Not the canned variety, rather the carton of milk you’d use for coffee/cereal. Feel free to swap for your favourite unsweetened non-dairy milk or cows milk, whatever you like.

Maple Rhubarb & Rye Skillet Cake

Turkey For Every Occasion

Baharat Turkey, Zucchini & Hazelnut Salad with Feta

Baharat Turkey, Zucchini & Hazelnut Salad with Feta

Someone told me that Spring was here….but I’m not so sure I believe them just yet. We had snow last week in Ottawa. Not a lot, but enough to make your heart sink a little deeper in your chest. Especially after a few days of stunning, sunny weather had us believing that it had finally arrived.

Though the weather isn’t screaming spring, I’ve been cooking lighter and fresher fare in hopes that it might will it to come back to us. This salad was made for Turkey Farmers of Canada. I’ve worked with them for a couple years now and am so happy to be a contributor to their campaigns and website. Before I started with TFC, I hardly ate turkey (save for the holidays). It’s given me every excuse to use more turkey in our day-to-day meals and even when I’m not working on projects for them, I find myself reaching for turkey instead of my previous chicken go-to. Versatile, healthy and easily sourced.

This salad combines boneless/skinless turkey breast with a savory crust of my favourite spice blend, baharat, with salty goat feta, raw crunchy strips of zucchini, roasted hazelnuts and lots of bright zing from a lemon-mint vinaigrette. The flavors were stuck in my head for a few days before it all came together and I’ve been obsessed ever since. This would be even better if you did the turkey on the grill.

Head on over to the Tasty Turkey website for the full recipe!

Baharat Turkey, Zucchini & Hazelnut Salad with Feta

On Oats and Mush

Overnight Coconut Cardamom Steel Cut Oats with Honey-Mashed Raspberries
Overnight Coconut Cardamom Steel Cut Oats with Honey Mashed Raspberries
Oatmeal and I don’t much get along. I’m not usually bothered by textures; I love all the slimeys and the crunchys, the gritty and the smooth. But rolled oatmeal? Come on. You guys aren’t really serious about that stuff are you? YOU CAN’T BE. It looks like someone who has been sworn to a bland diet due to illness threw up in a bowl. I apologize for that graphic material this early in the day. BUT COME ON. Oatmeal is kinda gross. And I’m sticking to my guns on that one.

So let’s talk about steel cut oatmeal instead. HELLO STEEL CUT OATS YOU BRILLIANT LITTLE NUBBIES! Now that’s what I’m talking about. A good, firm chewy texture that might take just a wee bit longer than your regular rolled oats but the payoff is something magical. Especially if you take 10 minutes in the evening to boil some coconut milk and mix your oats up so it can sit overnight and transform into chubby little nubs of chewy oats swimming in a sea of rich coconut milk and studded with flax and warm spices. Doesn’t that sound like a better idea? Be kind to yourself – choose steel cut oats. Rolled oats have their place in baking and granola, in flour and muesli but they don’t belong boiled in a bowl of mush {I’ll wait for the backlash on that one}.

Overnight Coconut Cardamom Steel Cut Oats with Honey Mashed Raspberries
Overnight Coconut Cardamom Steel Cut Oats with Honey Mashed Raspberries

Overnight Coconut Cardamom Steel Cut Oats with Honey-Mashed Raspberries
makes 8 single servings

This recipe came about after trying the magnificent overnight oats at Red Door Provisions, a cafe east of downtown Ottawa that makes brilliant sandwiches, baked goods and snacks. The oats are creamy and topped with nuts and fresh fruit. The addition of red grapes to the topping is the money-maker and the reason I added some to mine here. If you’re ever in the area, please stop in and stay a while. Lauren and Greg will make you feel right at home from the second you walk in and when that expertly pulled espresso hits your lips, you might never leave.

Here I’ve added wheatbran and flax to the oats. This is unnecessary for delicious oats, but I’ve just been cramming both those things in everywhere I can during my pregnancy. Feel free to leave them out if you’re not into it.

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups unsweetened milk (coconut is my favourite, but use whatever you like best)
1 cup coconut greek yogurt (vanilla will do, too)
1 2/3 cups steel cut oats
1/4 cup wheatbran
2 tbsp freshly ground flax seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 – 4 tbsp brown or cane sugar

1 pint raspberries
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1/4 tsp cardamom

Topping Suggestions:
toasted coconut flake
fresh blueberries
toasted almond chunks/slivers
red grapes (try to get nice firm ones)
brown sugar
cinnamon
honey

The night before you want to eat these, generally Sundays for us, bring the milk to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, remove from heat and whisk in the oats, yogurt, wheatbran, flax, cinnamon and cardamom. Taste the liquids for sweetness and add your sugar based on that. I generally add between 2-3 tbsp sugar to sweeten it up a bit but you can leave it out all together and add in the topping as well. Once you’re happy with the flavour of the milk, cover it and place in the fridge overnight.

In a small bowl, mash the raspberries with the honey or maple syrup and cardamom. Mash them together until a loose jam forms. Let rest in the fridge overnight.

When you wake up in the morning, give it a good whisk to incorporate the liquid that may have accumulated on top into the oats. It should be smooth and creamy and the oats should be softened but still have a nice chewy mouthfeel to them.

Spoon some of the raspberries into a small serving dish and top with a few big spoonfuls of oats. Finish with toppings of your choice {here I used: red grapes, blueberries, toasted almonds, toasted coconut flakes, honey & cinnamon}. These will keep in the fridge all week for quick and easy breakfasts and snacks. If you prefer your oats warm, you can microwave or heat on the stove before serving.

 Overnight Coconut Cardamom Steel Cut Oats with Honey Mashed Raspberries

Sunday Rolling

Apple Leek & Feta Brioche Rolls

Apple Leek Feta Brioche Rolls

I was going to start this post off by apologizing for being gone for so long after that last intense entry, but in the spirit of going easy on myself (which I gather is important during pregnancy and first-time motherhood), I think I’ll bite my tongue. And who wants to hear excuses anyways? Not me. Probably not you. So let’s just agree that it’s nice to be back in this space, take a deep breath and start back at it.

I haven’t had a lot of time in the kitchen these days as work has been busy and I’ve been taking on a lot more freelance work than normal, but a gloriously slow Sunday dropped into my lap last week and I decided to take advantage by pulling the little jar of yeast and the giant sack of flour from the cupboard and seeing what happened. I started off with two batches of brioche dough, kneaded it until supple and springy and as it rest, I decided what it’s fate would be in a god-like fashion. The first batch, destined for a side project I work on with some other terribly talented Canadians (BAKED – the blog) would be rolled out, stuffed with a vanilla bean and hazelnut filling and rolled up into a loaf of babka. You can find that recipe here. The second one took a decidedly more savory approach. I had some beautiful apples and a fresh batch of feta from a local fromagerie in Quebec that I thought would be lovely in the rich and eggy dough. Add in some leeks and you’ve got a batch of these insanely delicious rolls. I was thrilled with them and am anxious to start playing with more savory brioche stuffed breads. I thought a spicy eggplant babka would be interesting and delicious…but I’ll report back on that one when it happens….or if I remember to ever make it. Memory isn’t my strong point these days, it seems.

Apple Leek Feta Brioche Rolls

Apple Leek & Feta Brioche Rolls
makes 12-15 rolls

Brioche Dough
1/3 cup warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
2  cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing on top
1 egg, lightly beaten

Filling:
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
2 medium apples (gala/honey crisp), diced small
2 leeks (light green/white parts only) sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/3-1/2 cup feta cheese

In a small bowl, stir together the milk, yeast and sugar. Let sit 5-10 minutes until frothy and fragrant.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Pour in the yeast/milk mixture and stir to form a craggy, dry dough. Add in the egg and stir. Add the butter, a little at a time, and start folding the dough together with your {clean} hands in the bowl. Once a moist dough has formed, dump onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl in a warm, draft-free spot until double in size, 1-2 hours.

While the dough rises you can start the filling. Heat olive oil (or butter) in a pan over medium heat. Add in the apples and leeks and cook until they’re starting to turn golden brown and caramelize, around 8-10 minutes. Add in the garlic along with salt and pepper to taste and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Let cool completely. Stir in crumbled feta, reserving a little bit to top the rolls.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, pressing gently to remove any air. Roll into a 1’4″ thick rectangle. When filling has cooled, spread over the dough leaving 1’2″ around the edges clear. Roll up, starting from the long end, tucking it as you go so it’s nice and tight. If you feel it’s too soft to slice properly, pop it in the fridge/freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm up. Using a sharp serrated blade to cut rolls into 1″ discs. Lightly oil or line two 9″ square baking or pie dishes and place rolls in them. Let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350.  Once they’ve done their final rise, brush them with melted butter or oil and sprinkle with remaining feta and fresh ground pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked-through.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy!

Apple Leek Feta Brioche Rolls

Goodbye, My Friend.

Brown Butter Labneh Colcannon
Brown Butter Labneh Colcannon

Today we said goodbye. Goodbye to a best friend, constant companion and the greatest pal I’ll ever know. To the most constant thing I’ve ever had in my life. My girl, Ryder.

When I was 18, dumb and impulsive, I moved to Fernie, BC. I didn’t have much of a reason, but I wanted to get away and make a life for myself away from home. I wanted to be able to make decisions without anyone there to “save” me. I wanted to start over. We got in a car, all our clothing pulled over the front seats of my grandmother’s Toyota Tercel and we left Ottawa behind. I was fresh out of high school and imagined a life in BC, me in the mountains with all my cool, outdoorsy mountain friends in a little mountain house. Imagined being the key word.

Ryder Brauthier

Three and a half months in, I saw an ad in the free paper for chocolate lab puppies and I decided I needed one. Again, 18, dumb and impulsive. I didn’t research the owner, the breed, the cost of food or vet care…. once again, we took off in the car to Jaffrey, BC to pick one up. We arrived to a farm house late in the afternoon. It smelled like fresh, cool air and burning wood. There sat 3 four month old chocolate labs. One covered in shit, a definite no, one covered in her own drool, and her. Sitting at the back of the run, alone and stoic. She was clean and calm. The breeder told us that she was her favourite and that she slept inside with them at night. We wanted her and I wasn’t leaving without her. I should have gathered from her lack of dirt/drool/signs of playfulness that she was shy. So shy that we needed to carry her from room to room, and in and outside to pee. She was terrified of us. Terrified of anyone, really. I took her for long walks along the creek at the base of the mountain near our house. Played fetched on the ice, her legs slipping out from under her like a newborn fawn.

Four months into my time in BC, I found heartbreak. It was time to go home, back into the arms of everyone I loved and missed so dearly in Ottawa. I felt like I was giving up, but I had no choice. I wasn’t strong enough on my own and I missed the support system. It was time. Once again I loaded my life up, now complete with 4 month old puppy, and headed across the country, back home to my family.

Ryder Brauthier

Ryder was difficult from the beginning. Always sick, or broken, or limping, or barfing… it was always something. From a $4000 vet trip due to pancreatitis to every stomach bug from tearing through the garbage, broken tooth, allergic reaction (to grass!), heart conditions, liver concerns and eventually, kidney disease.  She kept us on our toes. We joked that every time we had enough money saved up for a vacation or to finally do something nice together, she would get wind of it and find a way to hurt herself enough that we would have to tap into or more likely, use up, that money. It happened at least 4 times in the last few years. We just told ourselves it was because she didn’t want to be without us, didn’t want us to have fun without her. She was, after all, our life. Our joy, our reason to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air during hard times.

I’ve moved around a lot. Two times I’ve moved across the country with her in tow. And in Ottawa, we’ve lived in about 9 different apartments together. No matter where I went, she was home. It didn’t matter where it was, if she was there I felt at ease. And as someone who suffers from anxiety, having that constant to remind me that everything was normal and OK couldn’t have been more valuable in my life. She was my home and I was hers. Every heartbreak, every joy, every failure and success, she was there. Every tear I cried, she was there to listen quietly and provide the silent support I so badly needed. She was, in every sense of the word, my best friend. From dumb and 18 to 29 and having a baby. The years that shaped me the most, she was there.

Ryder XoX

She loved Allan. When we started dating, she was a shy and terrified dog. Much like I was a shy and terrified person, we were one in the same. Introverted and reluctant about strangers and the unknown. I told him that she was the way she was and that was that. As usual, he didn’t take that for truth. His confidence and kindness changed her. Made her a more confident dog who could walk down the street without hiding behind my legs. She loved him. Oh my god she loved him. I’d never seen her get so animated or excited to see anyone, even me, like she did Allan. They had the type of relationship I hope he and our daughter will have. The most uncontrollable, undeniable love. If he was sleeping, she was sleeping beside him. If he was watching hockey, she was watching hockey. if he was sick, she stayed by his side the whole time. No matter what or where, she just wanted to be beside him. And he her.

It feels impossible to imagine a life without her. To come in our front door without her wagging tail or stupid face staring back at me, wondering where I’d been all day and why I’d left her home and when we could go to the park and play fetch. She had more personality than most people I’d met, and a lot of the time I’d prefer her company to human companions. She was everything I couldn’t find in people, the type of friend who just understood with a look and didn’t ask me for anything in return. Just a kiss between the eyes and a pat on her wrinkly, bare tummy

Ryder XoX1

She loved potatoes. We used to come home to find her in her bed with a few raw potatoes in there with her. She’d help herself from the potato bin and spend her afternoon gnawing through them. She also had a penchant for kale stems. Never the leaves, just the stems. She would sit, tail whipping furiously, and wait while I pulled the leaves from the stems. I’d hand it to her like a stick and she’d take it in her mouth, head tossed back maniacally, and crunch as audibly as possible on them. It made me laugh every single time. And yogurt. Oh, the many times she had to eat yogurt to help her ailing gut. This colcannon is for her. I made it on Saturday as a last meal of sorts but she was having too tough a time getting it down. She did manage, however, to eat half of my filet mignon (which I should mention was for a magazine shoot…we certainly don’t eat that often). It was always her way, never wanted what she had and I always ended up giving her everything I had. And I would have done it for a lifetime more.

I’ll miss you so much, my little Zucchini. My truest, most steadfast friend. I’ll love you forever and a day.

Brown Butter Labneh Colcannon

Brown Butter Labneh Colcannon

serves 4-6

Labneh is a strained yogurt “cheese” made by straining the whey out of plain yogurt over a day or two. It’s tangy, creamy and perfect on sandwiches or bagels, with fresh tomatoes and pita bread, or rolled into tiny cheeseballs and marinated in oil and herbs, like this. It gives these potatoes a tang that might remind you of buttermilk mashed potatoes, but it’s slightly more intense.

4-5 large golden potatoes
Salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk or light cream

1/4 cup labneh*
3 cups baby kale
sumac, for garnish (optional)
fresh ground pepper, for garnish

Cut potatoes into 1-2″ chunks and place in a pot of cold water with a generous tbsp of sea salt. Bring the pot to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. While the potatoes cook, melt butter in a skillet over low-med heat. Swirling the pan every minute or two, cook butter until golden brown flecks start to appear, about 6-8 minutes. Poor into a glass cup or bowl until potatoes are ready.

Once potatoes are cooked, mash with a fork until you have a chunky looking mashes potato. Add in half the brown butter, the labneh and the kale. Fold everything together until the cheese is blended and the kale has started to wilt. Spoon into a serving dish or onto individual serving dishes and top with the remaining brown butter, sumac and black pepper.

*To make labneh:

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
pinch salt
cheese cloth or coffee filter

Place a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl, the strainer should be about 1-2″ away from the bottom of the bowl. Mix yogurt and a pinch of salt together and scrape into the cheesecloth. Let sit, covered lightly with a clean towel, in the fridge overnight up to 3 days. The longer it sits, the firmer it will be. It should be similar in texture to cream cheese.