Sunday, June 24, 2012

meatloaf muffins

This recipe comes from a book I don't look at often enough, More Six O'Clock Solutions by Ruth Phelan and Brenda Thompson from the Vancouver Sun Test Kitchen. The recipe is actually called mini meat loaves but at our house they are called meatloaf muffins because they are baked in muffin tins. It's a great idea and really speeds up supper prep.

I've swap in ground turkey for the ground beef in the original and I usually put pesto on my husband's "muffins" instead of the chili sauce as his stomach prefers non-tomato options.

Mini Meat Loaves (from More Six O'Clock Solutions)
1 lb ground turkey
1 large egg
1/2 c  bread crumbs (dry)
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
6 tbsp chili sauce (the Heinz variety, not the asian type)
1 heaping tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, egg, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, 2 tbsps of chili sauce, mustard, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Press or scoop an equal portion of meat mixture into each of 8 greased muffin pans. Brush the tops with the remaining chili sauce. Bake at 400 deg F for 20 minutes, or until the edges are browned.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

strawberry pie

This week was the start of strawberry season here. The strawberries are late because of all the rain and not much sunshine or heat. The first small pint I purchased at the market. The berries were juicy but not very sweet. My husband brought a pile home from work and I picked up some from the fruit stand on the first day it was open this year. So we've eaten quite a few strawberries this week. But this morning I had a half basket of ones that were getting a bit past being eaten as is and I wanted to try making a strawberry pie.

It's true that I was using the pie as a procrastination and I could have spent the time getting prepped for the chair recovering project which might have been finished by now except for all my time wasting - pie baking, "the Sweet Life in Paris" reading for next month's book club over at Tea and Cookies and constant checking over at the Wednesday Chef to see if Luisa has had her baby yet. (For her sake, I hope she has and that she hasn't posted because she and Max and the baby are all in the early foggy, little sleep days and having too much fun as a new family to let us know. I feel a tiny bit stalkeresque for caring so much about the birth of a baby to someone I only know from reading her lovely blog).

So I made pastry and baked a pie. For the pastry I used some of my locally milled flour, which I am so excited about. As I type this, the pie is all gone. I had a tiny sliver to taste it and the rest has been eaten by my husband. Next time I need to add something to soak up the strawberry juice, because there was so much of it, I ended up draining some of it off before popping the pie back in the oven to brown.

Pastry (from Laura Calder)1/2 c + 2 tbsp unbleached flour
1/2 c organic red wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 c butter, diced
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp cold water

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flours, salt and sugar and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is distributed through the flour but still remains in crumb sized pieces. Add the vanilla and the water, 1 tbsp at a time until the dough starts to come together. Dump the dough into some plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll out onto a piece of parchment.

1 pint of strawberries, hulled and quartered
25 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla
(1 tsp tapioca - I should have added this to soak up the juices)

Preheat the over to 400 deg F. In a bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, vanilla and tapioca and mix together. Dump the fruit onto the middle of the pie dough and spread out across the dough, leaving 1-2" border all the way around the dough. Fold the dough over the fruit, pleating as necessary. Sprinkle the dough edges with sanding sugar. Bake at 375 deg F for 50 minutes or until the crust is brown.

(I did get some of the chair recovered today so all is not lost. And the pie was definitely worth the time.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

we said goodbye

This week we said goodbye to our long time companion and furry pal, Gretel the cat. She was weeks away from turning 19 in people years which made her about 94 in cat years so a good old life. She was, in recent months, having more difficulty moving around and was growing increasingly deaf. Occasionally she showed the odd moment of her old self, like a couple of weeks ago when she came upstairs to our bedroom, mewing loudly. It was her way of letting me know I’d left the oven on.

She was kind enough to give us notice that she was fading. On Saturday she barely moved, choosing to lie either on the tile floor in the kitchen or laundry room, or on the mat just inside the back door. When stroked she purred as usual, but it was barely audible. We half expected her to die overnight but come morning she still mewed weekly from her basket when we went in to say good morning. We sat beside her, on and off all day, she didn’t move from her basket and in the morning she was gone. We held a burial service for her in the backyard and now all we have are a few cat toys, traces of cat fur and years of memories. She was a peaceable cat, she didn’t chase anything except toy mice, she just would bat at or meow at mice, rats, birds and squirrels in the back yard. Like other cats she would race around the house as if possessed,stand right behind me when I was cooking but then be outraged if I took a step back and tripped over her, mew loudly to go outside and then refuse to go outside once the door was open and sleep in places she wasn't supposed to, leaving cat shaped depressions and fur on the duvet. She would try to steal sips of wine from our glasses, and lick my legs and feet while trying to pin them down to stop me moving every time I shaved my legs. I'll miss that. We will miss her.

It’s hard to stay maudlin with a 6 year old in the house. When it became evident that Gretel was fading fast, we let our boy know he should say goodbye.

B: “Is she going to die now?”
Me: “Well, not right this minute but soon.”
B: “We’ll be so sad. I’ll cry millions of tears. I better go get some flowers for her right now so she knows we love her.”

He proceeded to run out into the garden and a few minutes later came back in with some zinnias pulled off their stems, a couple of globe allium flowers and a poppy trailing their long stems. He tried to lay the flowers on the cat but we managed to stop him.

B: “Is she dead yet?”
Me: “No.”
B: leaning over and petting the cat “ bye bye Gretel, we love you”.

On hearing the news that the cat had died, he wanted to see her. We told him he couldn’t, as she was already wrapped up. At the burial “service” he sang a song for the cat, based on the national anthem which went something like “we stand on guard for you, we love you every day.” And he wants to make a marker so we don’t forget where she is buried. He was a bit concerned as we didn’t bury Gretel with any of her toys but was mollified by the thought that we will give the toys to his aunt’s newish kitten, Fred.

All the same, he’s already asking when he can get his dog. Gretel disliked dogs so we would not entertain the idea of a dog while she was still alive. So now I will have pressure from both of my guys, one for his two beagles and the other for whatever dog he can think of to play with. In the meantime, we have the goldfish to keep us company – George V, Herschel, Marg, Blackie and the others.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

chard, ricotta and mushroom lasagna

The other night there wasn’t anything on TV that grabbed my attention, so I picked up some back issues of Bon Appetit magazine that were sitting beside me in my catch all basket. I came across a recipe for Ginger cookies which I earmarked to make. But while in the kitchen the other day to make the cookies, I realized the recipe called for vegetable shortening which I don’t normally have in my cupboards so I put that to one side. But I did see this recipe in the same issue. And as we love chard and mushrooms in this house, and I had some lasagna sheets, I made this for supper the other night. I was a bit concerned it was going to taste very similar to this which features a chard and mushroom mixture as well, but it was quite different and just as lovely.


Swiss Chard Lasagna with Mushrooms and Ricotta (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 ½ c milk and vegetable stock mixed
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter
¼ c all purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 large bunch Swiss chard, center rib and stem cut from each leaf
250g frozen mixed greens (chopped kale, mustard greens and collard greens)
2 tbsp olive oil
½ large red onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 lb crimini and button mushrooms, sliced
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
fresh lasagna noodles
500 g container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 c grated soft farmers cheese
8 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and milk and whisk to blend. Cook for about 5 minutes, whisking until the flour and butter are completely blended. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper and bring to simmer. Cook until the sauce is thickened.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and remaining garlic and saute until the mushrooms are brown and tender. Add in the sliced chard and the rest of the greens and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Spread about 3 tbsp of sauce into the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish. Lay one layer of noodles over the sauce. Spread half of chard/mushroom mixture over the pasta. Drop half of the ricotta over in dollops and spread in even layer. Sprinkle with half of farmers cheese, then 4 tablespoons Parmesan and then spread 3/4 cup of béchamel over. Repeat layering with the noodles, remaining chard and mushrooms, ricotta, farmers cheese, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup béchamel. Cover with noodles and remaining béchamel.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake lasagna covered 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until heated through and top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes longer (I turned the broiler on for a couple of minutes to get the top brown). Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the way it is

We all want everything to go well for our kids. And as they grow in the world, you run into preconceived ideas you have as a parent and about your child which are somewhat surprising. We thought our child was pretty easy going and had excellent social skills (far more advanced than either of his parents) so it came as a surprise when he got into trouble at school. He was reacting in ways we’d never seen before and getting physical with other children. That was embarrassing to us as his parents, and troublesome. We tried coaching and discipline and things got better for a while and then suddenly, we were back at square one again. We tried other things, invoking consequences and quickly learned that taking things away only made matters worse. Is he spoilt? Immature? A bully? Well, no at least to the last one, it seems he is reactive and gets in trouble when someone bugs him. How could our lovely child be causing this trouble? We are told that apart from these rare outbursts he is a lovely, caring, funny, and social child. Puzzling.

And the child that we think is so smart, who carries on conversations about the physical characteristics of sharks, or the deck and radar configurations on warships, who learned his letters at 2, has been labelled as likely to have a problem learning to read and so requires extra coaching with letter sounds and syllables. He has trouble copying letters from the blackboard to the paper, has trouble holding a pencil and struggles with his letter sizes. Some letters are tiny and some are huge. Sometimes within the same word.

And then there are our big 2. Eating and sleeping. The boy is a picky eater and in his short life, I’ve had many conversations about what he eats or doesn’t eat with many people and been given the same advice over and over. He’ll eat if he gets hungry enough. Have him cook and grow things and then he’ll eat them. You have to offer a food 20 times sometimes before a child will eat it. So we tried. He won’t eat even if he’s hungry, if he doesn’t like what is on his plate. We tried this and all of us ended up in tears. We regularly cook and bake together and he only eats what he likes. We grow vegetables in our garden and he only eats what he likes. He goes to the market with me weekly in the summer and knows all the vendors and they give him things to eat all the time and he only eats what he likes. He won’t try things unless they have chocolate in them or on them. He doesn’t like hot food – temperature and spice. Everything is too spicy except for what he likes. Some things like rice and pancakes make him gag. But he is healthy (seemingly) and active. And no he doesn’t eat pizza or spaghetti or mac and cheese or hamburgers or chicken nuggets. He does eat French fries but only if they are colder than lukewarm and not too crispy or brown. I’m at a loss. I read this book and it became my bible but it didn’t help except that the dinner table became a calmer place. And I know if the boy doesn’t eat, it affects his behaviour at school. But we work along, trying to get our boy to eat, thinking that he will grow out of it. Suddenly I noticed him chewing on his clothes and his Lego tires. This isn’t right I think. I made an appointment with our doctor and then he starts biting foam blocks at school and foam out of the chair I’m recovering. Our doctor thought he may be deficient in some essential nutrient – iron possibly as he doesn’t eat meat beyond the occasional bite of all beef hot dog. Our doctor booked us in with a specialist, a paediatrician who specializes in childhood eating. And after a 2 minute conversation with our boy and me he changes our world.

“Of course this boy has trouble with eating”, he says to me. “Let me show you why.” And he shows me something no-one has noticed before. Our boy’s tongue doesn’t move up. If you ask him to touch his tongue to his nose, he can’t; his tongue sticks straight out but not up. His palate is very elevated so his mouth is like a cave and with his tongue, he can’t chase food around his mouth. So rice is a nightmare for him to eat. Then the doctor says “your boy doesn’t experience food the same way most people do. He decides what is ok for him to eat based on past experience, visually, so if it doesn’t look like something he can eat safely, he won’t touch it”. He writes down for me, sensory regulatory disorder.
And suggests we try food based on sight, texture. “If he’s chewing Lego tires and foam, try foods with those textures.”

With my mind reeling, we go home after stopping at the bookstore to buy a treat for the boy. He chooses a book on the Titanic. I buy him a book called “Just go to Bed” which has quickly become a favourite. And after swimming, I Google sensory regulatory disorder. I know I have to filter what I read as not all of it may be real or factual but what I find is astonishing. I feel like I’ve been given the key to my child. Sensory processing disorder or sensory integration disorder websites come up, with case studies of children whose behaviour is eerily similar to some situations we have. I go through a checklist, some things, no issues, others, lots. My husband, the family sceptic, reads some of the material and comes into our bedroom, stunned. I start to cry. I can’t help thinking of all the times we’ve been mad at our boy, when we’ve thought he was being disobedient, not listening, careless, and wilful and much of it has been down to the way he is wired. My husband says, “We can’t change what has happened, we didn’t know. Now we know.” I go down the hall, to where our boy is sleeping. I stroke his hair and whisper that we love him. I tell him we are so sorry, we didn’t know.

In the weeks since that night, I’ve been in a fog. Wanting more information, treatment options, wondering how we fix this. We don’t fix it. We learn to live with and cope with it and learn to help our boy cope with it. First things first. A blood test reveals that our boy has a zinc deficiency so for 6 weeks we are to give him zinc supplements and see what happens with eating as a result and then go back to the paediatrician. From there we will develop a food plan to widen the variety of food our boy will eat, to help desensitize his palate. For the rest, I have a list of names of OT’s in our area who deal with this issue. Our boy needs to be evaluated and assessed and then we decide a course of action. In the meantime, I take mental notes of the situations where our boy gets overwhelmed and over stimulated. I still don’t know really how to help him with this, but recognizing it and helping him recognize it is surely a start.

What have I learned so far? That our boy has adapted quickly. When we were out at a birthday party the other day and he was offered pizza, he told me to tell them about his “special mouth”. No to pizza, yes to cake, yes to apple juice. The other day he had a meltdown during a scavenger (scabenger) hunt, the second time at a birthday party that this has been an issue. Both times we were outside. So I asked him what was hard for him. He said the outside is too big to look in for one thing. So next time, I need to help him break it down, and encourage him and hopefully it will be better. We’ve had some wobblies, as our boy realizes that he doesn’t process things the way his friends do, that he feels differently inside than most people do. He described it to me the other day as buzzing inside all the time. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. But not everything is due to the sensory thing – some of his issues are because he’s 6, because he’s spoilt and sometimes he’s a bit annoying. That’s ok too.

So we are starting a new journey, together. Me, my lovely man and our boy with the “special” mouth.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

strawberry rhubarb galette

I've been meaning to make this for a while. The stalks of rhubarb stuck out at me this morning from the fridge reminding me that I needed to do something with them, so I cut them into 1 inch pieces and along with some halved strawberries, sugar and vanilla, put them in a saucepan on the stove and let them turn jammy. And after my pedicure this afternoon (!!) I whipped up some pastry and made this and we had it for dessert. Yum.
Strawberry Rhubarb Galette
3 long stalks of rhubarb, sliced into 1" pieces
10 medium sized strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the fruit starts to break down and liquid is released. Turn the heat down to simmer and let the mixture cook away until jammy - about 45 minutes.
1 c plus 2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 c butter, diced
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and whiz briefly to mix. Add the diced butter and whiz until the mixture is a mealy consistency. Add the vanilla and then add the water 1 tbsp at a time, whizzing after each addition. Keep adding water by the tablespoon until the dough starts to hold together. Dump the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or put in the freezer for a few minutes). Once cooled, place the dough between wax paper or parchment paper and roll out. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper, scrap the strawberry rhubarb mixture into the middle of the dough and spread out to about 2" from the edge. Fold over the edges of dough, pleating so the dough fits over the filling. Sprinkle the dough with turbinado sugar.
Bake the tart for 10 minutes at 425 deg F and then turn down the heat to 375 deg F and bake for another 40 minutes. Remove the galette from the oven.