Thursday, December 31, 2009

braised vegetables

Thanks to Deb over at smittenkitchen, I am now in love with braised vegetables. She posted a recipe for braised brussel sprouts that I served twice as is (except I omitted the bread crumb topping) and tonight I invented my own spin on. Well, it really came about because I had braised half a green cabbage last week in cream based on Molly Wizenberg's recipe (orangette) and so I had half a green cabbage, some sad brussel sprouts and some pancetta hanging out in my fridge. And it's been rainy and cold today - perfect for some lovely braising action to happen.

1/2 small green cabbage, sliced thinly
~ 1 lb brussel sprouts, ends removed, ragged leaves removed and cut into halves
1/4 onion diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp grated garlic
4 oz diced pancetta
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c vegetable stock

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan. Add the vegetables and cook at medium high heat until there is some colour (browning) - ~ 10 minutes. Add onion and pancetta and cook for another 10 minutes until the pancetta is brown. Lower the heat slightly and add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Then add the balsamic vinegar and stock, turn the heat up to high and braise for ~ 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. This is divine served with oven roasted potatoes.

(I don't have any photos of the finished dish, as it was eaten too quickly!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

not my mum's turkey pot pie

For Christmas dinner for 7, my sister-in-law gave me a brined free-range 14 lb turkey to cook. With all the trimmings, 4 side vegetables, two sauces, gravy, potatoes and 2 kinds of stuffing, there was a lot of turkey left over. I sent some home with my sister-in-law and we still have a giant bag of turkey in the freezer as well as some in the fridge that I’m making my favorite leftover recipe with (turkey sandwiches). So the other night I decided to get a bit creative with a pot pie recipe.

Usually I make it loosely based on my Mum’s way of doing it – cut up turkey mixed with sauteed onions, mushrooms and garlic, leftover vegetables and gravy as the base and here I have always deviated from my mum’s recipe – instead of her pastry topper, I do a mashed potato topper, so it is a turkey pot pie a la shepard!

This year I sautéed the onion, garlic and mushrooms and added the cut up turkey. Then I made a pesto cheese sauce using 2 oz butter, 2 oz flour, 1 c stock (turkey stock), 1 c milk, ½ c homemade basil pesto and about 1 ½ c grated cheddar and gruyere mixed. To this I added ½ head cauliflower and similar amount of broccoli that had been oven roasted. This mix went into the bottom of a casserole and then was topped with puff pastry. I tried to get fancy and make a leaf motif with the leftover pastry.
Baked for 25 minutes at 400 deg. Yum!

And as I was defrosting the puff pastry anyway, I made pesto and goat cheese puff pastry appys - roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle. Spread a thin layer of pesto over the pastry, add a layer of goat cheese over the pesto and roll up from each long side until you have two equal rolls meeting in the middle. Cut into ~10-12 pieces and place onto a baking sheet. Bake at 400 deg for about 10 minutes until lightly browned and puffy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

questions about angels

What wondrous things children say. T came running into our room this morning - "I was scared when I was sleeping". When I asked if he had a bad dream, he didn't answer. So I told him about my silly dream - about seals in someone's big back yard, sleeping in the long grass and me running to the pet store to get them some food. "That's silly", T said, "seals live in the sea." He then went on to tell me about his silly dream, about a peacock swimming in a back yard pool.

The other night - Christmas night actually, I was putting T to bed when he asked me where my mummy lived. I told him she lived in heaven now and that she was an angel watching over us. He replied "how do angels watch over us if we don't have holes in our roof?" Hmmm. The best I could come up with was that angels and fairies aren't bound by physical boundaries like walls, the float through air. "But why isn't grandma here" he asked. "Why is she an angel now?" I told him that she had been very sick for a long time and then she died. But that she didn't want to leave us and that she would love to be here with us and play with him. That she would love him and his cousins, she would be so proud of her grandsons. (So hard as I don't want to freak him out and let him think that anytime mummy gets sick, I could die and leave him. So hard too, as I still miss Mum and she would so love my boy and his cousins - all three are such special boys!).

So at breakfast, T sits up at the breakfast bar and tells me "it's a great morning!" Mummy and Daddy are home today and we're going to ride the train in Stanley Park later today.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

construction equipment and wrapping paper rocks

It was a memorable Christmas at our house. T has been one excited boy all this month, waiting for Santa's visit. By Christmas Eve, he was almost vibrating with excitement. I picked him up from daycare just after lunch and we came home for him to open his last window on his advent calendar. A giant egg with a toy inside (a transformer type robot thingy). Very exciting. Then T played with his trucks for a bit while I made cookies. Mincemeat drops and chocolate chip oatmeal as that is what T told Santa we would leave for him. Auntie K came over with the turkey in it's brine bath.

For dinner I made braised cabbage in cream (from Molly Wizenberg's book - A Homemade Life) to go with cheese and sausage perogies which gave dinner a slightly Ukranian feel. I gave T a quick bath and hustled him into his pjs. We put out the snack for Santa - chocolate chip cookies along with a carrot for the reindeer and T insisted that I make a cup of tea for Santa and we left it all on the hearth beside the tree. Then came our three hours trying to get T to go to sleep. "Is it morning yet?" over and over. I finally had to say "Santa won't come if you aren't asleep. Do you want me to call him and say don't come because T doesn't want to go to sleep?" The answer was an earthshattering "NO", but he did lie down and eventually fell asleep. I did too and when I woke up 20 minutes later, groggy and bleary eyed, I had to start remembering where I'd hidden all the presents - both the stocking gifts and the gifts from family and friends sent in the mail that I've been hiding away for weeks to keep T from opening them. The trucks meant that there was no big assembly project this year but as usual it was after midnight by the time we took our weary selves to bed.

The blessing of the late to sleep meant that T didn't wake up until almost 8. He came out and found his stocking full, he discovered paint, colouring books, chocolate, an orange, a monster truck and a lego truck. Then we made him get dressed before heading downstairs. I went to take some pictures and discovered all my camera batteries were dead - lovely! And my search for new ones was fruitless. Ah well.

T found his Santa presents on the hearth - his bulldozer, a steam shovel and a road grader. Then he opened our presents to find a low loader (red) and a concrete mixer truck. By that point he'd figured out that the blue wrapping paper meant a truck. He opened an earthmover from Grampie and was set to open the other two boxes but we made him wait until Auntie K and Uncle M came later in the day for turkey dinner. He opened other gifts - a big pirate floor puzzle from Auntie S, a furry hat and a pirate treasure book from Auntie A, a kite and backhoe t-shirt and chocolate coins from his cousins, a Cars race car transporter and a fleece hoodie and a book from Auntie M and a hat and book from Mummy's friend PK. And along the way, Mummy and Daddy got some presents as well. T and D played with the trucks while I started cooking - first taking the turkey out of the brine and stuffing it with sausage stuffing. I made a vegetarian mushroom, cranberry, corn stuffing as well. The vegetables were carrot/yam dish from M&B, mashed turnip, maple roasted parsnips, braised pancetta brussel sprouts ( from without the breadcrumb topping), creamy potatoes plus gravy, cranberry sauce (M&B again), and our family traditional bread sauce. Dinner was served around 2:30 once K&T and M&B arrived and more gifts were exchanged. More trucks for T - a quarry truck and a dump truck. After dinner, we had candy cane ice cream from K, mince pie and cookies. T then played trucks while the rest of us rested,

had tea, chatted and Uncle T made hundreds of wrapping paper rocks to load up T's trucks!

Here are 4 of the trucks with the mountain of "rocks".

A lovely day and T learned that it sometimes doesn't snow at Christmas and it happens anyway!

Monday, December 21, 2009

reindeer headbands and candy cane cookies

Last week was T's preschool concert. The kids wore reindeer antler headbands, made from brown paper
each child had traced their hands and those were the antlers. They were decorated by the children, T's antlers were covered in glued on eyes. They sang Rudolph and Jingle Bells, followed by "This Little Light of Mine" which the kids love. Some of them love it so much they continued to sing - "don't let anyone fffffff (blowing sound) it out" long after the song ended! Then came "Slippery Fish", one of T's favorites. In the middle of the song, T turned around and said to the little boy sitting behind him "that's not the way it goes!". I looked over at D and he was burying his head in his hands. Then the children sang "I'm a pizza" which T doesn't like singing so he got up and wandered around! But he was corralled back into his seat for the finale - "we wish you a merry Christmas". Very fun! The singing was followed by a slide show of the children at preschool. Each child yelled "that's me!" whenever their picture came up on the screen! Then came the party. I had made candy cane cookies
and they were quite popular but never as popular as the perenial favorite - mini cupcakes! T had 2 cupcakes and 1 candy cane cookie.
(The candy cane cookies were baked from a recipe for sugar cookies from Martha Stewart Living, sprinkled with white and red sanding sugar).

Friday, December 18, 2009

new (old) additions to my kitchen

I recently acquired a couple of my mum's cookbooks and her recipe box

- on the promise that I will put all mum's recipes into a family recipe book and make copies for my siblings. Added to my shelves are mum's copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking
and Joy of Cooking.
My copy of Joy has now been consigned to the recycling bin as it was in several pieces and held together with elastic bands curtesy of a soaking it received at some point in its storied history.
Mum's recipe box has typewritten and handwritten recipes,
mostly my mum's but also some of my grandmother's (Dad's mum) - a family kitchen history in a box. What a treasure! One of the funniest things about the recipes pictured above is that on the back of the Easy Cheesecake recipe is written R E L A X.
And delving into my own history, I unearthed two egg cups and an egg hat for T to use. As children hard-boiled eggs were a breakfast staple. We would "race" my grandfather, Da and always "won" to which he would say "bother". The poor man always had cold egg and toast for breakfast whenever his grandchildren were visiting.

Monday, December 7, 2009

almost winter garden

Thoughts of my summertime garden swirl in my head. My christmas list is topped with things like gift certificates for seed purchases and cedar planters. This past weekend, the rain stopped and the skies cleared and I peered into my garden. This is what I found:

One rose hanging on. And in the vegetable garden

some tiny cauliflower.

And when I came back inside, there was T's combine harvester ready and waiting for harvest!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

visit with Santa

Today was the big day - T's visit with Santa. I was a bit worried about the weather as throughout the night the wind was howling, sending various items skidding around the backyard. And it was cold enough to snow, if there had been any precipitation. But it didn't. Snow that is. It was a lovely, clear, sunny day once we woke up. "Mummy, it's morning. We have to get up and go visit Santa", was how it was worded today.

It was a smaller party this year, less children as there are fewer employees this year. T had a wonderful time decorating and then eating two gingerbread cookies. He's an equal opportunity boy - he ate one gingerbread boy and then one gingerbread girl.
And in between he had a Christmas truck painted on his face (with sparkles). He played in the wind tunnel and had a few bounces in the bouncy pirate ship but he was waiting for the main event. He sang with the other children to welcome Santa. And when it was his turn to go up and see Santa he rushed up on the stage and then got a bit shy. He sat down on Santa's knee and when Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas he was silent. I whispered "a bulldozer" - T repeated "a bulldozer" in a whisper, I whispered " a track backhoe", he repeated in a slightly louder whisper " track backhoe" and then he almost yelled " a rogater"..."please". He jumped off Santa's knee when the elf came to lead him away and gave Santa and the elf a high five and a wave. He then trotted off and collected his present. The paper and the box were ripped open to reveal a lego car racing kit.
A few minutes later, he came to me all upset (I was on elf photo taking duty). I asked him why he was upset and he said "why didn't Santa get me the construction toys I asked for?" Oh dear. So I told him that Santa was going to go back to his workshop as soon as he had visited with all the children at the party and he was going to tell the elves what all the children wanted for Christmas and they were going to start work on making the toys right away so that Santa could deliver the big toys on Christmas Eve. The lego racer was a special early present from Santa to say thanks for coming to see me today. Fortunately that seemed to mollify T and he mulled it over all the way home. Once the racer was put together
and raced a few times, T was ready to tell everyone that Santa had given him a racer as an early present. Phew!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fruit Dumplings

A while ago I found this recipe What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine: Apple Dumpling Shortcake with Caramel Sauce and made it up as written for some yummy apple dumpling goodness! Perfect for a cold, dark, rainy night which would mean pretty much every night in November and January! But the 6-8 apple requirement means it doesn't get made that often - well, only once so far. And yesterday I used up 4 apples making soup so the apple pile wasn't big enough for apple dumplings. Sigh.

But this weekend, I've been doing my version of eating from the freezer in an effort to try and wittle down the pile so I can get some more things in (ice cream?) and while looking a box of stock in the cupboard I found a big can of canned peaches squirreled away in the back (on one of the higher shelves so I can't see it unless I stand on T's stool). So- how about peach dumplings?

So I skipped over the first part of the recipe (apples and syrup) and instead drained about half of the syrup from a big can of sliced peaches and dumped the rest into a greased baking dish. I made up the dumpling mixture:

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp. soft butter
3 tsp. baking powder

And dropped it in pieces over the peaches. Then I melted together:

3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

and dribbled it over the dumplings. Baked at 400 deg F for 30 minutes and yum!

I made it last night and this morning they are almost gone. D blamed the cat!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the window game

This is what T calls opening the advent calendar windows. "Mummy, can we play the window game when we get home?"

We have two advent calendars. A chocolate one with reindeer, elves, polar bear, penquin and Santa on it and each window reveals a small chocolate. T loves this one! But he also loves the quilted "Santa picture" - an advent quilt - a picture of the jolly elf holding a tree with 24 buttons on it. Each day another fabric tag is hung on a button to count down the days until Christmas - there is a wreath, candy cane, goose, lamb, angel, mitten, tree, gift basket, wrapped present, reindeer, snowman, birdhouse, etc. When I put that one up T wanted to know where the Santa picture had come from. I explained that I made it when he was a baby as I wanted to have a non-chocolate, family advent calendar. He was very excited about putting the tags on to count the days until Christmas. He did try to speed things up by putting up 10 tags on the first day but we explained that even if he hangs all the tags up at once, it still is 24 days to Christmas (23 now). So now he's been hanging the tags up one per day.

dear santa

We went on Santa's website today ( so T could take the naughty or nice quiz and the result is that Santa put T on the nice list (for now). So T dictated a letter to the big man, I transcribed:

Dear Santa,

My name is T.M and I will be 4 in January. I have been a good boy this year. (There was some hemming and hawing about this statement after I wrote it as T was fairly sure he's not always a good boy at daycare - not listening well, etc but in the interest of the letter he left that bit out).
I hope you and the reindeer will come to my house at Christmas and we can look at wheel backhoes (real ones) on the computer. I would like a bulldozer, a track backhoe and a road grader for Christmas, please.
Mummy and I will make cookies for you - chocolate chip ones - so I hope you like chocolate.
Hello to the reindeer.

Your friend,

T decorated the letter with some stickers (fire truck, monster truck, train and 18-wheeler). We are going to mail it on the way to preschool tomorrow.

I don't remember writing to Santa as a child. A family tradition was that on Christmas Eve we would write out a list of wishes and each member of the family would throw the paper on the fire. If the paper flew up the chimney that meant our wish would come true. At least, that is how I remember it. I do remember my mum being nervous about us throwing paper on the fire at my grandparent's as my grandfather (my Da) would encourage us really close to the fire to catch a draft so the wish would fly up.