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Get right in it!

One of the things I love about cooking is the hands-on approach. You have to touch the food, feel how it behaves as you mix it, taste it as you transform it. Cooking is a never-ending discovery of sensations.

As I was making Peanut Butter Criss Cross Cookies this afternoon it occurred to me that Spring Break started this weekend in the Okanagan. With apologies to anyone allergic to nuts, I thought what a great recipe this would be for kids to make.


Cookies are always a good thing to start with for a young cook and who doesn’t want to get their hands right in the bowl?! Squishing the dough between my hands as I made balls to be “criss-crossed” with a fork took me back to my childhood. There was a delicious sense of abandon at being able to get messy on purpose.

Okay, the secret is out – I live a double life. I love to be a girl, dressing up and being feminine and soft and delicate; I also love getting down and dirty in the kitchen and the garden. Is that bad? I don’t think so – the opposite nature of the two sides has helped me find a balance in my life, and feeling food and the earth it grows in keeps me connected to the universe.

So I suppose as much as the big kid in me just thinks kids would love messing around, I also believe it gives them roots in the world and connects them to something bigger than just us.

It’s not quite warm enough to muck in the dirt yet (although jumping in puddles is a highly underrated activity, especially with good gumboots). But at least you can get in a bowl of cookie dough and feel the inner peace that comes from creating something.

Happy Spring Break!

I Had a Hankering

Sunday is a day meant for tinkering. I like to do my tinkering in the kitchen. Sometimes it is more like work (ok, actually it is work – especially during wedding season). Thankfully I love what I do. But sometimes it’s just nice to kick around on one’s own, isn’t it?

My problem was, I had almost not energy. We just returned from our yearly winter break in Mexico, and both of us left fine but woke up at home sick the next day. I have been dragging my butt around for a few days now trying to get back up to speed. An easy recipe seemed like the thing to help. 

My mom used to say there isn’t much a cookie can’t cure. I had a hankering for a chocolate cookie, and found a tantalizing recipe through Yummly. I got to work right away….

 These kitchen-sink delights contain three of my favourite baking ingredients – browned butter, chocolate and dried cherries. And since they are made with whole wheat flour and oatmeal, they could be considered guilt-free, if not healthy. 

I will offer this counsel: Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies are so full of goodies they are hard to form into a cookie. Do use the recommended ice cream scoop to get them on the pan.  I also used a scraper to flatten them out a bit and corral the few chocolate chips that rolled away from the masses. I got 14 large cookies from one recipe. 

It has taken me two days and a few cookies to get back to full strength but I feel like I’m close to being my normal energetic self again. As usual, Mom was right. 

Watch for more updates from our Mexico travels soon. 

A Taste of Nostalgia

Today was one full of old food memories, every one of them delicious. And so, I thought I would share them with you; even though you likely don’t share the same memories I’m sure you have your own nostalgic foods to enjoy. Perhaps this post will spark an old flame or spur you on to dig up a forgotten taste…

My mom was one of the people who inspired me to start cooking; she was a great cook, even though she had hardly any experience when she started to cook for our family. Her sense of adventure, and the electric frying pan, were the secret to many a wonderful meal. As such, I find it a particular compliment that she now asks me for recipes. The internet is the biggest cookbook in the world, and she is on her computer all the time… and yet, when she is looking for a remembered taste she sends me an email. I have taken to posting the recipes she requests here on the blog, so that they are in one place for posterity. After all, I started out with all my favourite recipes of hers in one place – I bought the same black notebook she had and copied out everything (shortbread cookies,  lemon loaflemon pudding cakebutter-tarts … you get the idea). Today she asked me for shortcake biscuits . I had to chuckle when I pulled the recipe with my notes to post it, as it’s one of the first ones I ever cooked.strawberry-shortcake I’m excited to find out what exotic fruit she puts in the shortcake, being in Mexico for the winter 🙂

Just to top the day off, we got to enjoy some of my husband’s Québécois nostalgia as well. He made tourtière over the Christmas break and froze it for us to enjoy – tonight is the night! I must say, simple comfort food is something at which the Québécois excel.

So, amidst the guilt of having to start new things for a new year and the pressure of having to live up to all the inspirational quotes that get posted everywhere, how about a taste of days gone by? Familiar tastes are what comfort food is all about.

Not to mention, it’s cold and snowy here, so this really hit the spot.

Stay warm!

More Shades of Grey than I can count

I couldn’t help it, the urge was too great. The range of emotions I have felt over the last few weeks has been a roller coaster ride of epic proportions, encompassing passion, melancholy, lust and even anger. I had to share my experience.

I am speaking of course about the wonder of our autumn season this year, the ever-changing colours of the foliage spanning more than two glorious months with each day showcased under a new variation of grey. I feel as though I have been watIMG_4058ching a symphony being composed.IMG_3752

016e3521d3983acedf1539c2b208982ac2560217ddIMG_2369In honour of the allusion I put in my title, I wanted to suggest a tribute to this spectacular season. So, I am offering 50 ways we can appreciate the wonder of autumn, and the passing of life in general. I’ve started my list in my Happy Gourmand Castanet column and I listed more suggestions on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page. I include ten below, and I’ll wrap up with my last 10 on Remembrance Day on Facebook.

1. Take a walk in the morning and start your day with a dose of appreciation for the fresh air and all of Mother Nature’s fine work, including the shade of grey.

2. Spend a quality moment with your kids (if you don’t have kids or can’t borrow some, a pet will do just fine.) Enjoy their company, listen to what they have to say. They might surprise you with their honest view on things. It might show you a new shade 🙂

3. Perform a random act of kindness and watch the grey lift away.

4. Bake some cookies and taste a little sweetness to lighten a particularly dark day. Might I suggest my Tropical Delight cookies?

5. Listen to music and tap your toes to something that will make you see all the colours of the rainbow.   

6. Take a yoga class. Stretch, relax, and maybe make a new friend.

7. Invite friends over for dinner. Even if it’s a potluck, the shared company will brighten the greyness.

8. Go see a movie with a friend. Share your popcorn, laugh afterwards about the funny parts, or share a meaningful look if it was sad. The grey will be forgotten for at least a moment.

9. Send a card to a faraway friend and tell them how much you miss them. You will brighten your day and theirs!

10. Simply take a moment and breathe deep. Feel grateful. That’s all.

foggy winter morning Rabbit Hollow

Mondays are easier with cookies

Mondays can be tough. I wouldn’t say I hate them, but they can sometimes be harder than other days of the week. And as much as it’s been proven that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I much prefer my Mom’s old adage as something to live by:

There’s not much a cookie can’t cure.

Being a foodie, I love all kinds of cookies, but the best element is having it be homemade. While the occasional Oreo or Girl Guide cookie is certainly something I enjoy, I would have to say the nuances of a “hand-crafted” cookie are sublime by comparison. There are many types of cookies, but for a regular Monday I like the “kitchen sink” variety – something that can cover a range of cravings and touch my heartstrings. Friends are great at helping out when things get tough, but if they are not at hand or if like me, your best pals live in different time zones, then cookies can keep your morale up quite nicely 🙂

I have a few cookie recipes already listed, but I have just posted a recipe that is the poster child for the kitchen sink variety. I love classic compilation books and Caren McSherry has written a couple over the years from her time in the Vancouver food scene. When I went looking for something to whip up tonight, a recipe that was called “Absolutely D’licious Cookies” seemed like just the thing! Having eaten a few with my cup of tea, I can now proclaim they do the trick. I am entirely ready to face not only Tuesday, but the rest of the week with vim and vigour!

cookie monster in bed happiness

 

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