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.

The Warm Morning Sun

Wholesome Oatmeal Barley Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Wholesome Oatmeal Barley Chocolate Chunk Cookies

We’ve been spending a lot of time hibernating at our new house, and not simply because of the harsh winter weather we’ve been dealt. We’re so happy and love our new space so much that I find it hard to rip myself away from it some days. Especially after breakfast.Each morning we peel back our heavy grey drapes and watch as the room becomes uncloaked, light crawling from wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling and drenching the room in warmth. Coffee is made, animals are fed and we sit and start our day, feeling thankful for the sun, thankful to have each other and the wee one in my tummy, thankful for our lovely little house and it’s daily offering of sun.

Wholesome Oatmeal Barley Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Wholesome Oatmeal Barley Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These cookies have become one of my favourite post-breakfast treats as we bask in the sunlight. Just the right amount of sweetness to dip in your morning coffee or tea, filled with barley and whole wheat flours, nuts and oats, coconut oil and seeds. I’ve been riding a sugar high the last month or so, an apparent new-found craving, and can’t seem to get enough chocolate/cookies/brownies…anything rich and studded with chocolate. These help by teetering the line between healthy snack and sweet treat. If I’m going to indulge, as least I’ll get some healthy benefits to go along with the chocolate. Though I gather, not from experience or anything (who me?), that they are delicious with a scoop of strawberry ice cream sandwiched between then. If you’re into that sort of thing…..which I’m not. At all. It also doesn’t hurt that they come together in one bowl, in a matter of
minutes.

Wholesome Oatmeal Barley Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Wholesome Oatmeal Barley Chocolate Chunk Cookies
adapted from Half Baked Harvest
makes 1 dozen cookies

Barley flour is a fantastic substitute for All Purpose in this recipe. Fibre-filled, distinctively sweet and toothsome, and keeps cookies incredibly moist. If you can’t find barley flour, all purpose will work well in it’s place.

2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup barley flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pepitas
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup oil (coconut, canola/veg, olive – whatever variation you have works well)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chunks/chips/pieces
1/2 cup pecans/walnuts/almonds, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.In a large bowl whisk together the oats, flours, seeds, baking soda, cinnamon/cardamom and salt until combined.  Add in the brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk gently to combine before folding into the dry ingredients until no flour clumps remain. Fold in your chocolate chunks and nuts, if using, until combined. Form into balls abut the same size as a golf ball and place on your prepared cookie sheet. Give each ball a gentle squish with your thumb. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until edges are starting to turn golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before eating.

A Wee Little Girl

Mostly-Good-For-You Apple Cinnamon Crumble Muffins
mostly-good-for-you apple cinnamon crumble muffins
This past week we found out we’re having a little girl. A wee tiny baby girl. Isn’t that something?Though we’d tried to picture ourselves with a girl or a boy, it didn’t seem real. Like trying to imagine yourself as someone else, plunked in their life. We had been rooting for a boy…. it felt easier to picture us with him somehow and I felt like I might be slightly bummed out if it were a girl (yes, how selfish). But when the ultrasound technician told us it was a little girl, we beamed. At each other, inside, outside…. we beamed. I felt a hot tear burn it’s way down my cheek and into my ear. And then another. The first tears I’ve cried during this journey, which seems odd given I’m an emotional mess at the best of times. She was real now, we could picture it. Our little daughter. The little squirming creature that comes to life around 10pm each night, poking and punching, was our little girl. Life – what a trip!

mostly-good-for-you apple cinnamon crumble muffins

One of the more undesirable parts of this experience has been all the anxious women who couldn’t wait to tell me horror stories about “what it’s like to be pregnant” and “what you can expect in the 9 months ahead”, offering their unasked for advice on what I should be eating, doing, not doing, preparing for, what doctor I should see or how a midwife was the wrong choice etc, etc. I try to shut these women out. Smile and thank them for their advice and commentary, however undesired. Their experience is not mine, and never will be. I love being pregnant. Watching the silhouette of my body change, the lines becoming softer and more rounded, that once small pouch under my belly button rounding out in an effort to house the ever-growing little person we’re so anxiously waiting to meet… it’s all been a joy. From the aches and pains to the tiny kicks, every minute fascinating and wonderful in it’s own way. We want to experience it in our own way, with our own eyes. And I vow, with you all as my witness’, that I will not be that lady who tells other pregnant women, especially the first-timers, how to be and deal with being pregnant.

Raising a little girl has been something I’ve continually questioned if I’m equipped for. Can I instill the type of confidence, strength and empathy that my parents instilled in my sister and I? How do you even do that? Is there a manual somewhere? It’s all a bit overwhelming. But boy, are we anxious to try our hand at it. I’m preparing for motherhood in the best way I know how… with food, of course. Whipping up dinners and snacks that I feel would appeal to a little person, things that taste heavy and rich and delicious, but are sneakily filled with whole wheat and oats and other things I tended away from as a child.

I imagine myself tucking these muffins into her lunch as I pat her bum out the door and onto the school bus. They’re good enough to keep, rather than trade for a fruit-roll-up…. I think. It’s these tiny things that make my gut stir with anxiousness and excitement. And so, I eat a lot. And I was hoping you might eat along with me.mostly-good-for-you apple cinnamon crumble muffins

Mostly-Good-For-You Apple Cinnamon Crumble Muffins
makes 12-15 muffins
adapted from Pinch of Yum

⅓ cup unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped apples (Pink Lady, Gala, Honey Crisp)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used coconut milk)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 tbsp wheat bran, optional
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

In a small pan over med heat, melt the butter and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes. It’ll get frothy and as the froth starts to dissipate, you’ll start to smell a nuttiness and see little flecks of gold in the bottom of the pan. Once those flecks are golden brown, remove the butter from the heat. Add in the milk and vinegar and let sit for a few minutes so the milk can get nice and tangy.

Preheat oven to 350.

To a large bowl, add the milk mixture along with the brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Whisk gently to combine. Pour in the flours, oats, wheat bran, sunflower seeds, baking soda/powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves and mix just until no clumps of flour remain. If you find the mixture a little too dry, add a bit more milk. Fold the apples in the batter.  Spoon into lined muffin trays. If using, sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the muffins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. If it comes out with batter on it, they’ll need a few more minutes.

Crumble Topping
this topping is completely optional but makes the muffins just a wee bit sweeter and of course, much more delicious.

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp old fashioned oats

Melt butter in a pan or in the microwave and stir in the rest of the ingredients until a crumbly mixture forms. Crumble  evenly over the muffin tops before baking.

Doubling Up On Cravings

Smokey Shrimp, Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder

Smokey Shrimp, Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder

Shrimp has been on my mind for two weeks now. Something I rarely eat, if only around the holidays in frozen ring-form (which, if we’re speaking freely here, I love). I held off on the craving just long enough to have it overlap with another – chowder. Creamy and rich, packed with corn and potatoes and yes, much to my heart’s content, shrimp. I decided to make a version off the cuff, tasting as I went and adjusting things to suit exactly what I was in the mood for. And wouldn’t you know it, it was one of the best chowders I’ve ever made, if not eaten. And yes, I am absolutely tooting my own horn. Sometimes it’s OK…under extreme circumstances….no? TOOT TOOT.

This is exactly what every cold day needs. The perfect amount of heat to thaw your bones, a rich and creamy base flecked with smoked paprika and cumin, and big chunks of spicy shrimp, sweet potato and corn to keep your tummy full and happy. If you don’t care much for seafood, chicken or sausage would be a great substitute (especially Chorizo or Andouille Sausage to keep with the Southwest feel of the recipe).

Smokey Shrimp, Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder

Smokey Shrimp, Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder
makes 6-8 mug-sized servings

4 slices bacon (this is optional but the smokiness is wicked good)
veg oil/olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 small sweet potatoes, diced 1″ thick
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 tsp smoked or regular paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups stock
3 cups 2% milk

Shrimp:
10-15 large shrimp (black tiger is great)
1/4 cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
pinch or two red pepper flakes

For the chowder: 
Dice up your bacon and cook in a large heavy soup pot over med-high heat until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon to paper towel.

There should be about 2-3 tbsp rendered bacon fat in the bottom of your pot. If there is less, add a bit of vegetable or olive oil to top it up. Turn heat down to low-medium. Add the diced onion and celery and cook until translucent, 4-5 minutes Add in sweet potato, stir and cover. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until sweet potato is starting to soften. Add thyme and spices and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add in flour and cook, stirring constantly,for another minute. Pour in stock and milk and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly. It should start to thicken. Pour in the corn kernels. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until it’s thick and creamy. If it’s too thick, add in some more milk or stock to thin it out. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

For the shrimp:

While soup simmers and thickens, toss your peeled and de-veined shrimp with the spices. Let rest for 2 minutes. Add vegetable oil to a pan over med-high heat and cook shrimp, one layer at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through and starting to curl and turn golden brown.

At this point, you can leave shrimp whole to top the soup or cut into bite-sized chunks and toss into soup. Top with bacon bits, fresh ground pepper and thyme leaves. Ladle into mugs and enjoy!

IN WHICH LIFE HAPPENS

Blueberry Coconut Ginger Smoothie
 Blueberry Ginger Coconut Smoothie
Almost four months ago now, I laid awake in the gentle morning light and stirred for an impossibly long time in bed. My thoughts whipped around like a wind-blown bag. I waited for Allan to wake up so that I could finally put my thoughts to rest. At least for a few moments.

From the tiny en-suite bathroom attached to the bedroom at our old house, I poked my head out. Allan sat in wait in bed, as anxious as I was. I stared at him right in the eyes, and I knew he knew what I was about to say.

“….I think I’m fucking pregnant”. Those five words changed everything. We stared at each other, not really knowing what to say. Certainly we hadn’t planned it, but we also hadn’t been putting much effort into not getting pregnant, either. We wanted kids and we wanted a life together, though we’d never planned on when. We left the rest to fate, and fate found us easily. We’ve never been good at hiding.

 Blueberry Ginger Coconut Smoothie

We had plans to visit our friends at a beer market, of all the places, on that day. Oh, the temptation. Life sure is a funny little jerk. We didn’t want to tell anyone, fearing the worst might happen or that we might jinx this twist of fate, but seeing our dearest, closest, could-be-family-in-another-life friends made it impossible. The cat came out of the bag almost as effortlessly as we’d got ourselves into this situation in the first place. There were tears (maybe an emotional breakdown of sorts from my best friend, who has never wanted anything but for us to have a little wee one), hugs, and celebrations all around. We beamed at the thought of our new life and the support from our dearest friends. But at the end of the day, when we were left with each other in the silence and thought of what was about to happen, it sunk in. And it was scary.

 Blueberry Ginger Coconut Smoothie

(more…)

Warm and Fluffy [Gluten Free Chai + Oat Flour Waffles]

Gluten Free Chai + Oat Flour Waffles

Chai + Oat Flour Waffles
And so, we moved. Packed our lives into a tower of boxes, which we tripped over, shoved at and cursed repeatedly, and moved them off to our new little life. Our new little home. In our new little neighbourhood.

It never feels like it’s going to be worth it, when you’re in it. Staring at the tower of cursed boxes, and all the bits and pieces of your life scattered about the floors, the photos on the walls that have felt like home for so long. We toiled and sweat and drilled and patched holes, swept, and swept, and swept. Four animals make a whole lot of mess, if you couldn’t imagine. I’m sure we swept up enough to make a full army of cats (which is, of course, my dream).

We’re lucky to have good friends who helped Allan move every box, smiles on their faces the whole damned time, for little more than a few hugs and a couple cheap beers. Lucky doesn’t cover it – we’re blessed to be surrounded by good, kind hearts.

Chai + Oat Flour Waffles

Our new home feels like a dream. No neighbours upstairs or down, our own little home, a finished basement and huge backyard (south facing – oh shiiiiiiit, the gardens we’ll sow…if the jerk squirrels will allow it). Freshly finished floors and a bathtub (I haven’t had one in at least two years and I’ve been in that thing more than I’ve been anywhere else in the house). Close to work, close to cute shops, fish mongers, butchers, bread makers, tiny little grocers and sweet little coffee shop/florist hybrids (I can’t get enough of blumenstudio – their espresso is so good it makes my knees week and Kat makes the most stunning floral arrangements I’ve seen). The neighbourhood has everything we’ve ever wanted, including the house of our dreams. Life couldn’t get much better than it is right now. We’re lucky. And we’re thankful.

These waffles were the first thing I made in my new kitchen (which is itty bitty but functional enough). Wholesome and slightly sweet and full of warmth. Sort of the way my innards are feeling after the move. All warm and fluffy and full of goodness. These tend to be a bit denser than a white-flour waffle but they’re gluten free (assuming you’re careful about what kind of oats/oat flour you’re buying so there isn’t any cross-contamination). I used both chai tea bags and some fresh ground spices to make the warmth really pop. The black cardamom is something I’ve been playing with lately (like in these Dark Chocolate, Sour Cherry and Black Cardamom Biscotti I posted on Baked the Blog). It’s slightly smokey and robust, warm with tingling menthol sensation you might recognize from your green cardamom pods. It’s best when you grind it fresh but if you can only find pre-ground, that will do too.

GLUTEN FREE CHAI + OAT FLOUR WAFFLES

Gluten Free Chai + Oat Flour Waffles
makes 12 square waffles

I wanted these to be sweet so I added two different kinds of sweetners (brown sugar and maple). If you prefer yours less sweet, halve the amounts or use just one of the two.

As I mentioned above, if you’re gluten-intolerant be mindful of the oats and oat flour you’re buying. Depending on the facilty they’re produced/packaged in, there is a good chance for cross-contamination. Buy from a source that states the oats are gluten free.

2 1/2 cups milk (cows, almond, soy)
8 chai tea bags

3 1/2 cups oat flour
4 tsp baking power
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 black cardamom pods, husk removed and seeds ground
Pinch ground clove
Pinch ground allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
4 eggs
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp veg or olive oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a sauce pot, add the milk and chai tea bags and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 6-8 minutes or until milk is fragrant. Remove tea bags and let milk cool. It should reduce a bit and you should have about 2 cups total. If you have more, pour into a mug, add a little sugar and sip until it’s gone.

In a large bowl, mix your oat flour*, baking powder and all the spices and brown sugar. Whisk to combine. In another small bowl, whisk together your maple syrup (or honey), eggs, oil, and vanilla. Once cool, slowly whisk in the chai milk. Pour the wet into the dry and fold together until just combined. A few lumps is perfectly OK (both in food, and in life friends). Let the mixture sit for 10-12 minutes so the oats can absorb the liquids and thicken up. While it sits, preheat your waffle iron. and brush down with a bit of oil.

Pour batter, 1/3 cup at a time, into each waffle mold. Cook according to your waffle iron instructions. I usually pop mine into a 250 oven to keep warm and crisp the edges a bit more. Serve with room temperature butter and warm maple syrup.

*If you don’t have ground oat flour, all you need is a bag of old fashioned oats and a blender/food processor.

Chai + Oat Flour Waffles

Haters Gonna Hate [Caramelized Brussels Sprout + Thyme Mini Scones]

  Caramelized Brussels Sprout + Thyme Mini SconesI never understand the hate for Brussels sprouts. Whether boiled whole with no butter and little salt, or simmered slowly in cream until nutty and fragrant, I can’t get enough. They are little green orbs of happiness and seeing them at the market makes my heart sing.

I’m hoping these scones, with their sweet and earthy flavour, might conform some of you nay-sayers. Help you find the light and return from the dark side, you know? And dang, these guys are so good for you too! Full of vitamin C and vitamin K and an incredibly good source of body-loving nutrients including folate, manganese, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, choline, copper, vitamin B1, potassium, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids. So what’s up now, haters? Eh? Brussels sprouts. That’s whats up.It doesn’t hurt that the sprouts are tucked between flaky layers of buttery scone dough and speckled with earthy thyme and lots of fresh ground pepper. Make up a batch and I swear you’ll be conformed. I SWEAR. And if you decide to stuff them with tangy chevre, you’ll love them even more.

Caramelized Brussels Sprout + Thyme Mini Scones

Caramelized Brussels Sprout + Thyme Mini Scones
makes 15-18 mini scones or 12 regular scones

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts:
2 1/2 cups shredded Brussels sprouts
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch sea salt

Scones:
2 cups All Purpose (unbleached) flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
5 tbsp butter
3/4 cup 10% cream
1 cup caramelized Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, stems removed

Preheat oven to 375. Toss shredded sprouts with olive oil and salt. Place on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet and roast for 8 minutes, stir, and roast for another 6-8 minutes until sprouts are nice and golden brown. Remove and let cool completely (you can put them in the fridge to speed the process up). Leave the oven on.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the pepper and toss to combine. Cut in the cold butter until pieces are no bigger than peas. Place the whole bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove and add the cream, sprouts and thyme in. Stir with a fork until a rough shaggy ball of dough forms. If it’s still a bit dry, add more cream 1 tbsp at a time until it comes together. Dump the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough out into a rectangle and fold over onto itself. Press out again and fold. Repeat 6 times. Finally, pat the dough out to 1/2″ thickness and use a mini circle cutter to cut out as many scones as you can and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the rest of the dough together and cut out as many as you can again. Repeat until no dough remains. Bake in the preheated 375 oven for 10-12 minutes or until tops are light golden brown.

Caramelized Brussels Sprout + Thyme Mini Scones

Blend + Extend Campaign [SPONSORED]

Beef and Mushroom Bolognese Fettucini

BEEF AND MUSHROOM BOLOGNESE

I’ve been working with Mushrooms Canada for a few years now, and every time they approach me with a new campaign, I’m always inspired to get in the kitchen.

Anytime we can save a few dollars in the kitchen I’m thrilled. I love stretching food as far as I can for meals during the week – epseically for lunches (Allan works in landscaping and needs a BIG lunch that fills him up and keeps him going all day). The Blend and Extend campaign stretches your budget by blending ground beef with your mushrooms or vice versa. The first recipe I shared was a Beef and Mushroom Tortiere that stretched out beef budget by doing a 50/50 mix with cremini mushrooms. The beefiness of the mushrooms makes it an easy swap-out that hardly makes a difference in taste, but bumps up nutrition and we really enjoyed the textural change as well. The recipe I’m sharing today is based on my favourite bolognese recipe. It takes a bit of time to come together, but once it does you’ll fall in love with it’s big, rich flavour. It makes a wonderful weekend supper and I tend to make it when I have a day off and can spend some time cleaning, drinking wine and stirring the pot until it’s perfect. And boy, does it make good leftovers. Something magical happens with it sits and soaks in all the flavours overnight. Take it for your lunches, eat it for dinner for the week or freeze half the sauce for a perfect last-minute dinner.

Feel free to play with the mushroom to beef ratio to suit your taste  

BEEF AND MUSHROOM BOLOGNESE

Beef and Mushroom Bolognese Fettucini
serves 6-8

2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 large carrots, peeled and rough chopped
2 celery stalks, cleaned and rough chopped
1 large onion, rough chopped
2 large cloves garlic
1 lbs cremini mushrooms, rough chopped
1 1/2lbs lean ground beef
1 (156mL) can tomato paste
2 cups red wine or beef stock
4 sprigs thyme
500g fettuccini/linguinie/bucatini
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
basil or parsley, to garnish
red pepper flakes, to garnish

Place the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pot/dutch oven over med-high heat. Add the vegetables puree and cook, stirring every so often, until the liquids have reduced and the veggies are starting to brown and dry out. Add in the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquids from the mushrooms has been released and reduced, about 10-15 minutes. Add in the beef and a few generous pinches of salt. Cook until the beef is cooked through and everything is golden brown and fragrant, another 10-15 minutes. Add in the tomato paste and cook until it’s turned a deep brick red, 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer until wine is almost reduced completely. Taste for salt and add a few more pinches if necessary. Add in just enough water to cover the meat/mushrooms by 1/2″ and bring back to a steady simmer. Cook until that water has reduced back down to the sauce line and then add the same amount of water back and let reduce again until sauce is thick and rich. The addition and reduction of the water (x2) should take about 20-30 minutes total. Really let it cook down and reduce each time.

While the sauce cooks, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Strain the pasta and dump into the sauce. Toss with a few tbsp of the reserved pasta water and Parmesan until the sauce is evenly distributed. Add more water if it gets too tight.

Divide among bowls and serve with fresh ground pepper, minced parsley or basil and some red pepper flakes.

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post put on by Mushrooms Canada and Ontario Beef. I was compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend restaurants or products I use/enjoy personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Giving Thanks

Quickie Apple-Sage Sausage, Aged Cheddar and Thyme Cornbread

SAUSAGE, AGED CHEDDAR AND THYME CORNBREAD

We have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Each other, first and foremost. A lot has happened in the last year. Tragedies and celebrations, good times bursting with belly laughs and good cheer, bad times that weighed heavily on us all. Through it all, we had each other. A shoulder to weep on, warm arms to fall into, expectant hands waiting to meet in the air for a celebratory high five, hard-sought advice and long talks over needlessly large glasses of wine. We had each other. And I couldn’t be more thankful for that. For my family, my friends, my coworkers, my peers. They each had a piece that contributed to the sometimes impossible puzzle that made up the majority of this year.

My gift to you, or my offering as it were, is a simple recipe that is as good as it is quick. Spend your time with the ones you love and are thankful for instead of slaving in the kitchen. Sit back, sip some hot cider (bourbon optional), and share a slice of this incredible cornbread with someone wonderful. It requires a measly 10 minutes of hands-on time and then works itself out in the oven.

Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!

SAUSAGE, AGED CHEDDAR AND THYME CORNBREAD

Sausage, Aged Cheddar and Thyme Cornbread
makes 1 loaf

I like to brown up my sausage before putting it in the bread, giving it a ton more flavour. This step is absolutely optional but I do recommend if you have a few extra minutes. 

1 1/2 cups favourite sausage (If you’re in Ottawa, Seed to Sausage makes a mean Apple-Sage Sausage) removed from casing and crumbled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups medium grain cornmeal
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tbsp brown sugar (white is fine in a pinch)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cup good-quality aged cheddar, cubed
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil (the bread won’t be as luscious as it is with butter but it’s still delicious)

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large skillet over med-high heat, add the oil and the sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5-6 minutes. Spoon onto paper towel to drain any excess oil.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, brown sugar and salt. Add in the thyme and cheddar. Pour in the wet ingredients one at a time and fold everything together to combine. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool, slice and serve on its own or with a slather of good quality butter.

SAUSAGE, AGED CHEDDAR AND THYME CORNBREAD

A Warm Hug

Maple + Oatmeal Stout Hot Toddy

Maple + Oatmeal Stout Hot Toddy

Before the cold season sets in, and it always does despite my best efforts and komboucha guzzling, I wanted to create a hot toddy that housed all my favourite things. Succulent, woody maple syrup, oaky and rich rye whiskey, dark and roasty oatmeal stout, bright lemon and ginger to cut all the richness and just a hint of cinnamon. It’s just the thing to sip as you cozy under the blankets in the dead of winter or try to shake that pestery cold away. I realize that drinking alcohol might not be the best way to cure a cold, but the antioxidant rich maple syrup (we’re not talking Aunt Jemina here, guys. The real stuff please!) and powerhouse ginger & cinnamon combo surely can’t hurt. And the stout? Well that’s just damned delicious. Especially if you’re in Eastern Ontario and can get your mitts on the Ships In The Night Stout from Stone City Ales in Kingston. It gives this hot toddy far more depth and complexities than the classic recipe.

Maple + Oatmeal Stout Hot Toddy

Maple + Oatmeal Stout Hot Toddy
makes 2 drinks

I like to use Bulleit Rye in this along with the stout. If you prefer just the stout, that’s OK too. The lemon and maple amounts vary as it all depends on what you like. I prefer less sweet, more tang. But you do whatever works best for your taste.

If you wanted to add an herb to the boiling liquids, thyme would be really lovely. 

3 cups water
1 2-3″ piece of ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cinnamon stick
1″ piece lemon zest
1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like it
juice from 1/2 – 1 whole lemon
2 ounces Rye Whiskey
1 cup Oatmeal Stout

Bring the water, ginger, cinnamon and lemon peel to a boil. Add in 1/4 cup of the maple syrup and a few tbsp of the lemon juice and taste for the right balance. If you like it sweeter, add more maple. If it’s too sweet, add more lemon. Remove from heat and add in the rye. Ladle into heat-resistant glasses and divide the stout between the two glasses. Drink immediately.