A Taste of Nostalgia

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Yesterday I had a little afternoon snack, and as I took my first bite I was inadvertently thrown back in time to my childhood. Suddenly I wasn’t eating a delightful nibble of pâté and crackers… I was in my school lunchroom, eating what was then known to me as a meatspread sandwich. It was completely humbling.

As a child I really disliked meatspread. Little did I know then that it was a grocery store version of what I would covet as an adult, under the name of goose liver pâté.  meat spread liverwurstIt was an inexpensive sandwich filling, a change-up from canned tuna or egg salad. My mom did her best to make it appealing: she put it on fresh French bread and added sliced sweet pickles.

The problem was, in those days “French bread” was in the shape of a fat baguette but it was still soft bread. The meat spread was rather firm stuff, and by the time it got distributed across a slice of bread, there could be squished places or even worse, holes, where the pickle juice would seep through and give the  sandwich a soggy spot by lunchtime.

I ate my meatspread sandwiches anyway. They were certainly my least favourite, but I was a growing girl who was perpetually hungry so I wasn’t going to not eat. I saw other kids that had lunches with less appealing ingredients than meat spread, in my opinion. wrapped sandwich old fashioned style I was lucky my mom was a good cook, and a crafty packer of a bag lunch. (Her best trick was to take a piece of Chocolate Wacky Cake and pull the bottom half away, sticking it on top of the icing. Then you didn’t lose any icing when you unwrapped it from the waxed paper!)

I had a rueful smile yesterday as the memory of pickles and meatspread washed over me. It didn’t taste that bad at all, on one of my sourdough crackers. But then, I’m a much wiser foodie now, aren’t I?

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It’s good to have a cardigan when it’s cold – or a mug of hot cocoa

I believe a cardigan sweater is the adult version of a teddy bear. It’s warm and snuggly, giving one that warm-fuzzy feeling we all crave from time to time. Cozy but not overbearing, if you’ll pardon the pun. On a cold grey day, I love wearing a cardigan.

Of course most things we love have to do with memories. I suppose my love for cardigans goes back to my teen years.

I grew up with a fascination for the 50’s, it having been the decade when my parents were kids. I heard all kinds of stories and saw all the old movies about bobby-socks-ers and their letter-sweater boyfriends. Girls either wore these cute finely knit cardigans that were part of a sweater set, or they wore the over-sized chunky cardigan given to them by an athlete wooing them. My first impression of sexy was the coquettish look those pony-tailed teens had in these outfits.

sweater set crowd

I was always torn between trying to fit in and wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t figure out until my 30’s that I’m one of those people who was not meant to fit in, but rather to stand out. (You’d think the horizontally striped socks I wore would have clued me in, but no.) There was one place I knew I could find comfort though – the kitchen.

Cooking has always warmed my heart and my soul as well as my tummy. But sometimes you need a quick fix rather than hours of putzing around. A mug of hot cocoa is the best quick fix I know.

Nestle Quik chocolate drinkAs a kid, warming up a bit of milk with a heaping spoonful of Kwik was good enough, but then I developed my palate and became a gourmand. I travelled to Europe and discovered steamed hot cocoa in Paris. Then I found nirvana at breakfast one morning in Barcelona when I sipped on an elixir that was akin to warm chocolate pudding. Needless to say, my Quik days were over.

When I returned from Europe and got ready for university away from home, I wanted to be independent but still feel connected to home. My Dad gave me one of his cardigans to keep warm in the damp Vancouver climate. It was a bit like having a teddy bear, or a cape with super powers that made me feel safe.

Nowadays you can buy mixes that have definitely stepped up a notch or two from the Quik of my childhood. And artisan hot cocoa from chocolatiers is a popular take-home item.

I like to buy chocolate from Thomas Haas in Vancouver. When I get to the city his cafes are at the top of the list of places to stop. There is nothing like dunking one of his flaky croissants in a mug of his deliciously rich hot chocolate. But there is something wonderfully decadent about being able to make this kind of hot chocolate at home.

Homemade authentic hot cocoa is very simple. Here are my proportions for 1 cup (250 mL). I like to use whole milk. Please just don’t try this with water.

Spanish hot cocoa

Method 1 – with chocolate

  • Heat milk in a pot, or steamer. Measure 5 tablespoons (2-1/2 oz or 70 g) of dark chocolate (55-70% cacao) into your cup, in small pieces or grated. Whisk chocolate and milk until blended. If desired, add a sprinkle of cinnamon or a bit more grated chocolate on top.

Method 2 – with cocoa

  • Rinse a small pot with cold water (this helps keep the milk from scalding in the pot).
  • Sift together 2 tablespoons cocoa, 1/4 teaspoon corn starch and if desired, 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon or ginger.
  • Pour 1 cup of milk into the pot, and stir in 1 tablespoon honey. Stir in the cocoa mix and heat to medium-high, stirring constantly until bubbles form and a gentle boil starts. (you have to get the liquid to a boil for the cornstarch to react.)

Either way, I like to top my homemade hot cocoa with vanilla ice cream, not marshmallows. You know how they say, “Go big or go home”? Well, why not go big at home?!

I have had a few sweater sets in my day, although I discovered the matching type of look was not really me (it’s more for those who really do fit in). But I do still have Daddy’s wool sweater, which I wear every so often with a jaunty scarf and sometimes a hat. It still makes me feel special, and a smile comes over my face every time as old memories come back. The same thing happens when I sip a good cup of hot cocoa.

KPL with Daddy's sweater

Promote your blog here; Blog Party #3!!

I got the invitation to this blogging party on my birthday – how cool is that?! There are lots of cool folks here, and if you would like to be one, you can visit Bernadine’s blog and post too. Happy blogging and reading !

Bernadine’s Bakery

Hello everybody! I recently got back into blogging so I thought what better way to promote this blog and help others than a blog party?

Here are the rules:

1. Choose any one of your favorite blog posts from your own blog, all kinds of posts are welcome. (Anything inappropriate will be removed). You can share up to three links each day, but it’s best to wait some time between each one.

2. Paste your link in the comment section of this post and tell a little bit about yourself and/or your blog.

3. REBLOG this post to let everyone know!!

4. Now grab a fuzzy blanket and get ready to read more blogs and meet new bloggers!!

This blog party will run from today until Friday at 12:00 am EST. I look forward to reading all your comments and meeting new blogs! Have fun and be sure to follow…

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Share kindness with a cookie

sharing a cookie

Today is World Kindness Day. I think every day should be World Kindness Day, but we have to start somewhere, right. One step at a time. So, I propose we start by sharing.

One of the easiest things to share is food. I know that in today’s world even that can be complicated, what with all the dietary restrictions and allergies. But the gesture of sharing is still a kind one, even if the recipient has to refuse the token. They don’t have to refuse the smile that goes with it.

My Mom used to say there wasn’t much a cookie couldn’t cure. Technology will argue that point; but if I have a bad day, I still feel better after I take the time to enjoy a cookie. If I can find someone to share the moment and maybe another cookie, so much the better.

Are you like me – certain kinds of cookies fit certain moods?

peanut butter criss cross cookies

 PEANUT BUTTER CRISS CROSS – for days when I feel like a dose of kid magic, that beautiful feeling of freedom and wonder you have when you’re a kid. There is something simple and nourishing about these squished rounds that make my soul sing.

 

cookie monster in bed happiness

TROPICAL DELIGHT – for when I want to “Sail Away” like in that old song, imagining that I’m at the beach or on the water, in holiday mode. These are particularly welcome in the dead of winter.

 

 

Dave Zen cookies

CHOCOLATE COOKIES – you know those days when you just don’t think you can get to the end unless you have a bit of chocolate? These are like a friend made into cookie dough. When your best bud isn’t available, these come to the rescue.

 

 

Maybe you aren’t so much of a sweets person? Not to worry, I have something for that savoury shortbread The Chef Insteadtoo. I always lean towards sweet treats for sharing a morsel, but SAVOURY SHORTBREAD that my hubbie, The Chef Instead makes is a perfect grown-up treat that’s good for one friend or many.

 

 

If, God forbid, you’re not into any kind of biscuit or cookie (it’s okay, we could still be friends) then how about sharing a pot of coffee or a bottle of wine? You can even “pay it forward” in the queue at Starbucks or Timmy’s. You could put something in the Food Bank donation box at your local grocery store.

Even if you’re reading this at the end of the day, you can still be a part of all this wonderful-ness. There is no expiry date on kindness. What do you say?

(I’m heading out to share my birthday cake from yesterday. I’m baking cookies tomorrow. I’ll report back on how they turn out!)

Abundance of Apples

Paynters Market fall apple bins

You know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” ? I’m not sure you can rely on that one thing to keep yourself healthy, but then I don’t need excuses to eat apples. This time of year it’s a good thing there are so many ways to use them, though.

We live in orchard country, where fruit of all kinds is available, each in its turn. By late autumn, the last of the pears and apples are on offer at fruit stands by the bag. There are eating apples like Spartans and Macintosh, winter keepers like Empires and Pink Ladys. My mind is awhirl with ideas of how to use them: pies, compote, dried chips, chutneys, roasted with meat or baked whole with spices.

I walk through a neighbouring orchard every morning with my trusty companion and fellow foodie, Ella – someone who has honed her skills to expert level in gleaning fruit. She likes her fruit more crunchy (read slightly green)

but I love it when the smell of the season is in the air. In the summer, the perfume of apricots, peaches and plums is intoxicating; once autumn begins there is a cozy aroma of apples and pears that helps warm me on those frosty morning strolls.

I was raised by parents from prairie roots with a combination of Scandinavian practicality and Scottish thrift, so I blame my heritage on my insatiable need to do something with all the bounty that literally falls at our feet. I know that what the fruit stand doesn’t sell will go back to the fields as compost to fuel the next season, but I still feel the need not to waste the harvest. (It’s that old litany, “Can’t be wasting!” )  I will admit, though, I am happily exhausted by the time the larder is full and friends have all been offered care packages.

As I get older, it dawns on me that I can’t possibly keep up this pace. Even if I opened up a shop full of jars of my wares, I don’t think I’d sell it all. I guess that’s where this blog comes in- it’s my virtual way of sharing, hopefully with kindred souls. Even if we are more often armchair eaters, our shared appreciation keeps the passion alive.

So, I’m going to give my  fave 5 ideas for the fall fruit, and I’m hoping anyone out there with another idea will share it, too. I’m particularly interested in a coffee cake recipe – you know, the kind with the crumble on top?

  1. Apple chips – 5 hours at 125F in my Excalibur dehydrator makes apple slices a whole new treat. They can be added to morning yogurt with nuts and honey, or added to muffins or bread. They can even be added to loose tea for a bit of fruity flavour.
  2. Apple pie – lots of apples inside, and a generous amount of spice is what I like. Thanks to Deb at Smitten Kitchen for her updated classic as it provides the perfect proportions. I like the first piece with ice cream, and then the next piece the following day with cheddar cheese.
  3. Apple Brown Betty – this old-fashioned recipe used bread crumbs with apples to create a cross between bread pudding and crisp. I have never been able to find the recipe my Mom used, and she doesn’t remember it (probably because she made it for my Dad, but never liked it herself). My closest success is using apples with my Bread Pudding
  4. Roasted Rosemary Apple Slices with Pork Tenderloin – this dead-of-winter effort to add some brightness into dinner on a dark day was a real winner. Toss the apples in a bit of olive oil and rosemary and roast the last 30 minutes or so with your meat, or even with roasted veggies if you are making them (squash and/or carrots make nice bedfellows with apples).
  5. Baked Apples – My all-time  favourite way of cooking apples, this takes me back to childhood. The secret here is using the right kind of apple: you need a variety that cooks/stores well. My best results have come with Braeburns. The other thing to remember is to not be stingy with the stuffing. As much mixed brown sugar and spices as you can manage in the hole where the core was, that’s what you want. Create a bain-marie by putting the apples in a roasting pan, stuff them and add boiling water about 1/3 of the way up the apples. Roast at 375F for about 45 minutes or until just soft. Serve warm, with a  bit of whipped cream  or crème fraîche if you want to be decadent.

Those of you who are counting calories can keep your cravings virtual; I plan on just working out harder so I can try a bite of everything.

Here’s to your good health!

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