New Season, New Post.


Hello. Hello?

Is anyone still here? I didn’t abandon you, I swear!
& I wouldn’t blame you if you’d abandoned me.

Between illnesses, traveling, working and life, Visitors have been neglected.

We’ve explored Amsterdam, tiptoed through tulips and back again.
I’ve been getting back into a groove though. The sun is shining, warming our skin and seeds are sprouting. This year’s pending bounty is creating an itch to eat fresh from the Earth and the sap has been running again:

Just before March Break, we were prompted by our bathroom demo and perfect weather to flee our house and go to the cottage. My Grandparents are still up there enjoying the Great White outdoors and thankfully they are more than willing to have us freeload for a few warm meals, which I am more than happy to accommodate for!

My Grandfather, who taught my kids the in’s and outs of winter tree identification and the love of maple syrup, encouraged us to get at it again, tapping the trees for their yearly elixir.

Being up their is just what we all needed. Relaxed, we’ve returned to a dusty house and ready for renewal.

Cooking is what makes me happy, and I’m so ready to start sharing again.

Mulitgrain Waffles


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It was a breakfast built Father’s Day feast. Especially when the kids are making it.
Really super easy, the batter isn’t a whole lot different than my go-to pancake recipe. Of course, you’ll just need the waffle maker for those tell-tale syrup catchers.

VEGAN MULTIGRAIN WAFFLES

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2/3 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Quick-Cooking Oats
1/3 Cup Ground Flax Meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups soy milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
1 tablespoon Sugar

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.
Add the soy milk and oil, blending until the dry is just wet and most of the lumps are gone.
Heat your waffle maker and lightly brush with oil.
Depending on your waffle makers griddle size, pour appropriate amount of batter onto griddle for each waffle.
Close and cook as per your makers directions.
Brush griddle with more oil as needed and repeat.

Makes about 8 waffles.

Meanwhile
Serve with syrup, berries or rhubarb compote.

Maple Syrup


When I was a kid I used to spend every school holiday up with my grandparents. They lived at the “cottage”, but to a kid it was paradise, specially for a city kid. They had killer tobogganing hills, skating, snowmobiles and nature as far as the eye could see. I was allowed to play with fire, build stuff and wander in the woods but best of all, every March Break, my Grampa would tap his maple trees and start collecting sap.

Ever since I’ve been about 10, I’ve wanted to learn the process from start to finish however the call back to school usually had other plans taking me away from the best part, the final product.

Now with years gone by, Grampa had put the maple gear into storage.
I have my own kids, flexibility and a food blog. It may have taken a few years of urging, but Greatest Grampa, how he’s now referred, dusted off the sap buckets and handed down one of the most awesomest candy thermometers I’ve ever seen.

In playing the role of Mom, I was able to take the kids out of school a few days before the break to head up north. The weather was ideal, so after packing too many clothes and boots for the changing of the seasons, we were off for our my long awaited visit with Greatest Nana and Greatest Grampa.

We were eagerly greeted by my Grandparents with scrubbed buckets and boots on. The weather had been cold the night before but was warming up nicely in the soon to be spring sunshine; ideal weather to get the sap running…

Since there aren’t any leaves, we were amazed at the knowledge and accuracy my grandfather, whom I’ve always thought was a genius anyway, was able to identify the Sugar Maples from the at least twenty varieties of trees he has growing in his quite diverse forest. With a drill and a spiel, we tapped the trees and hung the buckets, which were quickly chiming off a delicate symphony of drips into the galvanized pails below.

Next, we had to wait. Greatest Grampa had only brought down ten buckets, but after listening to the rapid drips of sap filling our buckets, we had caught the bug. We found water jugs and ice cream pails, you name it. If we could drill a hole into the side of it, it was soon hanging from a tree. All in all we doubled our collection and headed off to the local Maple Syrup Festival to pass the time. The kids saw, and tasted what was about to come their way.

By the end of the second day we’d collected enough sap to begin our first boil.

Sap is mostly water, so it takes about 40 times the sap to make one part syrup.
Thinking it had to by much more complicated than it was, I was sure that there had to be more to it when we were told that we “Just cook it.” I will cook just about anything and so we continued onward this adventure in syrup making. We were given a large soldered pan, which I’m sure my Grampa must have manufactured himself all those years ago.

When we started the cooking process, we realized we were soon referring to the boiling sap as, “Our Baby”. How precious it became as we watched our heavy sap just evaporate into the air. Slowly but surly it cooked down, only to be replenished by more sap until the last liter of the batch had been added. Shadowed through the bright sunshine we watched as the nearly clear liquid gave way to a light mapley shade of amber. The smell of cooking sap is amazing. The sweet steam warming our chilled cheeks, faintly reminded me of Shrove Tuesdays past. Finally we tasted, pondered and, of course, tasted some more.
Once we had deemed it worthy, we packed a sips worth into a cup and trotted up from the cottage, through the bush to Greatest Grampa’s house in the forest.

Anxious. “Maybe a little underdone.” We were told. But better under than over, as we learned. Apparently syrup is quite forgiving… phew.

Of course, pancakes were made to celebrate. Certainly a sweet success.

Quinoa & Mixed Grain Breakfast


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There’s a way to make oatmeal “healthier”?
It took me a couple of days, but I realized that the rice cooker makes more than, well, rice.

With the cold weather just about everyone’s been having lately, there’s been a lot of oatmeal filling the bowls around here. Since it’s the weekend, to keep things a little different, I tried a combination of quinoa and mixed grains like; cracked rye, flax and Irish oats. Fancied up with maple caramelized banana and it almost made for a showy brunch option instead of a detox meal.

MIXED GRAIN PORRIDGE WITH CARAMELIZED BANANAS

1/2 Cup Red Quinoa, very well rinsed
1/4 Cup Irish Oats, Steel Cut
1/4 Cup Cracked Rye
3 Tablespoons Flax Seed
2 1/3 Cups Water
Pinch Salt

2 Bananas
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup

Rinse the quinoa well and add it along with the other grains to your rice cooker or a large saucepan.
Add the water and the pinch of salt. For the rice cooker, follow the manufacturers directions (which is turn it on) and for the stovetop version, heat to a boil then reduce to a simmer over a low heat.
Stir, then cover until the water has been absorbed and the grains are tender; about 15 minutes. Stir to fluff when done.
Meanwhile, slice the bananas about 1/4″ thick on the diagonal and heat along with the maple syrup in a frying pan, over a medium-high heat.
Maple syrup will reduce and thicken. Flip bananas to cook and coat with the syrup on both sides.

Serve bananas over the prepared porridge with a splash of soy milk.

Brown Sugar Scones


In response to a quick visit from an old friend coming for tea, I naturally made for the kitchen. I’d set aside my quest for a recipe to use up the copious amounts of extra coconut I had from the Perfect Party Cake and thought that the best morning treat with tea would have to be scones.

My friend is a super baker, so as I thought for a bit about tea from porcelain and creative flavour combinations, yet still I settled on simplicity and tradition.

Scones are standard pantry fare using most ingredients typically on hand. One of those ingredients for scones and pastry alike is chilled shortening. For this, I like to keep mine in the freezer, so it’s ready and waiting to keep whatever my cold hands have in mind for it to make light and flaky.

The scones are lightly sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup, making them slightly caramelly. Quick to put together, the batter is easy and forgiving.

BROWN SUGAR SCONES

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, loosely packed + 1 Tablespoon
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Vegetable Shortening
3/4 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and salt.
Add and cut in the shortening with either two knives or a pastry cutter to a coarse crumb texture.
Add the milk and maple syrup and stir well with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together, finishing up by hand if necessary to form a ball.
Transfer the dough ball to the parchment lined baking sheet and flatten to 3/4″.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and sprinke with the 1 tablespoon of remaining brown sugar.
Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until golden.

For something a little extra, you could try a drizzling of maple glaze or for a vegetarian version, a little of my latest addictions, David Lebovitz easy recipe for Dulce de Leche.

Maple Pumpkin Quick Bread


One of the best things about living in Canada in the fall, other than the fabulous hauls from the farmers market, is that other reason why we appreciate the almighty maple tree.
The nectar of nature, maple syrup is truly a spring gift, however delicious, a simple autumn walk can be just as spectacular. The colourful displays the scarlet and rusted orange maple leaves screaming their last vibrant shrieks before plunging to their deaths is always enough to get my heart racing back to life.

When I recently took part in a detox diet, I realized my longing of food. No, I didn’t crave fatty snack food or sugar, per se, it was the bread. Neglected of fruit, sugars and wheat among (many) other things, it was the bread I craved.

Always a creative person, by mid-diet, I was determined to solve my dilemma.
Only restricted by wheat, gluten and yeast, I set out to find any alternative.
Scanning the aisles of the health food store, I found various root and bean flours which met my specific diet requirements. Knowing that some of these new flours would lend an undesired new flavour twist to my creation, I found the most mild; brown rice, cranberry bean, arrowroot and soy flours then set off to work.

Inspired by a dense, sticky snack bread sent to me from my Blogging By Mail partner, Arden. Her Kruidkoek was spiced, but not too sweet, perfect for something like, say, pumpkin.

Next having to go sugar-free, I knew I wouldn’t get the sticky, sweetness of that super Dutch snack, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t looking for cake, I wanted my bread back. Something to clean my plates and dip in my soup. Something just to finally eat and feel satisfied again. The maple syrup was perfect in this regard. Not the same sweetness as sugar and just a hint of smokiness – perfect.

What I ended up with made me feel like I was cheating, isn’t that terrible? Great on it’s own and with the Roasted Vegetable Soup, I finally I felt like this diet was really working for me. I had my bread, I felt whole again.
Continue reading Maple Pumpkin Quick Bread