My Lunchtime Lament

I've been at home taking care of my kids for 6 years. It has flown by, it really has. I've loved it and sometimes I've hated it. I've always been grateful that I've been lucky enough to stay home and give my kids the extra time. Sometimes I'm a fantastic mom and sometimes I'm not.

This Fall all my kids are in school. Reya's in grade one, Wini JK, and Ruby is in preschool a few mornings a week. I've dreamed of the Fall of 2010. In my darkest parenting days, this September has been the light at the end of the tunnel. I have arrived!

Except now I'm not sure I wanted to get here so quickly. I feel a little out of sorts. What do I need all this free time for? Other moms I know are busy with projects and new jobs. They seem to have no problem filling their time. I feel like I'm just wandering the streets buying groceries to occupy myself, or am asking random people to hang out with me. I have projects too, you know. I just don't want to do them.

Now my little almost six year old is eating lunch at school. I don't see her all day. Mostly I'm fine with that. Soon they'll all be eating lunch at school. That I'm not cool with. Who's going to be my baby? I can't believe how fast they are growing up. Maybe I need to get a dog?

Smart Cookies for the Lunchbox
from Honest pretzel by Mollie Katzen

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup oat bran
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven at 375 C. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan, and throw it all in there. Bake for 30 minutes. Take cookies out and cut into squares. Put squares on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes longer. Remove and let cool before serving.


Pie in the Sky

Oh Pie, how I love thee. Yes I do think Pie deserves a capital P. It's that important. I didn't always like Pie but Jess showed me the way. He makes a mean apple Pie. Now that we have a very prolific rhubarb plant in the garden, he makes a very nasty rhubarb Pie as well. The problem with Jess and I is our lack of control when it comes to eating too much Pie. Why oh why does Pie have to make me fat? Can't it be mean and kind to my figure all at the same time?

When Jess and I starting dating we became happy fat. We both enjoyed eating good food and it started to show. We really needed our friends to do an intervention, but it should of been clear to us as well. One obvious sign occurred during a Saturday afternoon. We had been out late the night before and planned to hunker down in our apartment and watch a few movies. We decided to make some hoagie sandwiches for a snack. When we got to the deli and bought our bread, we had a revelation. Instead of making two sandwiches, we could get our loaf of light rye sliced horizontally and make a giant loaf sized hoagie that we could graze on for hours. It was brilliant, and delicious. I think we grew two sizes just from that afternoon.

We've slimmed down slightly since then but Pie keeps calling us back. Even though Jess makes a mean Pie, I'm going to give you my Aunty Sara's pie recipe.

Aunty Sara's Rhubarb Pie

2 cups of self rising flour
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
1/2 cup of margarine
2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup water

4 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

For the crust, combine all ingredients except water in a bowl. Crumble it with your fingers until all the crumbs stick together. My aunt's trick is that you crumble and lift at the same time, so the crumbs fall into the bowl. You want to get the air into the crust so it doesn't taste too heavy when you bake it. Slowly pour in water until your dough starts to form. You may not need as much water as I've listed but it'll be close to it. Form into a ball, and roll out on a floured surface. Try and roll out the dough only once, and handle it as little as possible. Cover a greased pie plate and shave off the extra dough. If you are making a covered pie, roll out another circle from left over dough and set aside.
For the filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Fill pie plate with filling and cover with leftover dough. Pinch sides of plate to keep filling in.
Bake at 400 C for 50 minutes.


Fig This

I am almost too tired to write this. It's not that it's late at night, it's that I haven't slept well for a week and I'm feeling it. I am only getting about 7 hours of sleep. I know most new moms would spit in my face for my last comment and I would gladly deserve it. I'm a nine hour a night kind of girl. All you sleepy people out there know what I'm talking about. I am simply exhausted if I sleep less than that. It took me a long time to figure out my magic number but now I know and I'm sticking to it.

I'm a much nicer person when I'm well rested. When I'm tired I get petty and start to imagine getting into fights with strangers over the pettiest of crimes. I want to yell at the yahoo at the party who double dips, or curse at the person who dares to brush past me on a crowded sidewalk. It's not that I have a whole bunch of pent up rage that needs to be released, I'm just a grump when I'm tired. I'm usually quite easy going, or at least that how I like to perceive myself. It seems I am also unable to write anything interesting when I lack sleep.

You can't win them all. Hopefully you'll come back for a more restful, and entertaining post in a few days.

Here's a delicious fig salad I made weeks ago. As of late, we've been living off of scrambled eggs and melted cheese on toast.

Fig, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

4 fresh figs, cut in quarters
1/2 cup of walnut pieces
1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese
1 tsp of honey
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 pears, cored and thickly sliced
3 cups of mixed greens

In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and pepper. Set aside. Place pears and greens in a large bowl and toss together with the dressing. Divide among four plates and top with figs, walnuts, and goat's cheese.



I love the bounty that my garden and other people's gardens provide me this time of year. A tomato picked right from the vine will never compare with a store bought one. The problem with all this bounty is that I don't want to eat it all. I want to see it grow, and look luscious in my backyard and I even love picking it. It's great when my bowls are overflowing with vegetables, but I want the yucky ones to simply vanish when they start to fade and lose their beauty.

I wish that some of my plants could just produce one or two edible treats. Do I really need a bucket full of chili peppers? I know I can dry them and save them all year, but really will I ever get there. Can't they do that themselves? Haven't I done enough already? I planted them and fed them all season. The least they could do is preserve themselves, jump in an attractive jar and nestle themselves comfortably amongst their alphabetical kin in my pantry. Am I asking too much? Am I the jerk here?

One of the prettiest and most horrid of the vegetables is the eggplant. It sure looks great in it's purple tracksuit getting all fit and fleshy on the vine all summer. Recently I picked a bunch from my front garden, and I've been watching them get a little wrinkly. I kept hoping they'd pass me a note that gave me a secret recipe that made them taste good. A recipe that didn't involve loads of tomato sauce and cheese. They said nothing. Who's the jerk now?

I did find a recipe on my own accord that worked fairly well with my Asian eggplant. It's still eggplant but at least it tastes better. If you have to eat eggplant, this recipe is not a bad one to try.

Asian Eggplant Salsa
from Bonnie Stern's Heart Smart

5 or 6 thin Asian eggplant, trimmed and diced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp hot Asian chili paste
2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, finely chopped
4 green onions, chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Combine soy sauce, sugar, water, vinegar, sesame oil, and chili paste. Set aside.
Heat oil in large pan on medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and cook for 30 seconds, and then add the eggplant. Cook for a few more minutes and then add soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue to cook until mixture is thick. Add green onions and cilantro. Serve cold or room temperature.


Italian Dreams

I had one recurring fantasy when I was growing up. It wasn't to be a princess, or to get married, or own a pony. It was that my dad's job in HR at Sealtest was a sham, and that he was really a mafia kingpin. I know, it's a little weird. We got a fair bit of discounted ice cream when he was working at Sealtest, so in retrospect I'm not sure a job change would of worked out in my favour.

It isn't clear when or why I devised this dream life of living with the head of a mob family. There certainly weren't many indications that that was a reality. My parents were divorced which is usually not allowed, we weren't rich, and my dad own a little townhouse in Scarborough. He could of least moved to Little Italy to be closer to his secret life. My dad is half Italian which is the only thing connecting him to a life of crime.

I think I just wanted to be more Italian. Or more anything. I always found it a little boring to be a Caucasian with an English background. I wanted exotic blood running through my veins. The fact remains you can't pick your heritage. So I am what I am. But there is hope. Maybe Jess has a secret life?

Tomato Crostini with Sardines

can of sardines, well drained
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small avocado, peeled and diced
8 fresh basil leaves, torn
juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 tbsp of toasted pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 baguette, sliced and lightly toasted

In a bowl combine tomatoes, avocado, basil and lemon juice. Toss gently. Rub baguette slices with garlic. Spoon a little of the tomato mixture onto the baguette slices and top with bits of sardine. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.


not pretty.

I recently had one of those epic and bewildering days where nothing (nothing!) really seemed to go my way.

I didn't (thank goodness) have a particularly ambitious agenda, and nothing really disastrous happened, so it's not that things went terribly wrong - but they also didn't go terribly right, and by day's end, even I was tired of hearing my own voice uttering variations on the word "no."

The (not very pretty) quesadillas you see here sum things up:

They were delicious, a hot, quick, and relatively nutritious lunch; but only my husband and I ate them. My kids wouldn't touch them!

And the salsa fresca that I envisioned accompanying them? Mealy and watery, and somehow both tasteless and excessively garlicky all at once.

No tragedy. But an uphill battle all the way.

Still, by day's end, there were sleeping children, wine, a delicious soup (which I forgot to photograph), and some long-overdue adult conversation.

Also, the promise of a better day tomorrow.

And this way of preparing black beans, which was the delightful discovery that would, on a normal day, have turned things around.

Slightly Redeeming Refried Beans

I come from a long line of women who can't stand refried beans, but I love these, and they keep well, so a quick hot lunch can be had in the time it takes to heat a tortilla in a pan.

1/4c olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika (hot or mild)
pinch oregano
2 - 540mL cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2c - 1c chicken or vegetable broth

In a large, shallow saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until golden, 8-10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic; saute another minute or so, then add cumin, coriander, paprika and oregano. Stir well. Add beans, then 1/2c broth, Simmer 5-8 minutes, or until beans are soft (I'd taste a bean at 5 minutes - personally I prefer them not too mushy). If they seems a little dry for your taste, add the remaining 1/2c of broth and cook until heated through.
Remove from heat, and mash as much or as little as you'd like (I used a potato masher).

Makes about 6 cups.


I'm Back

I'm back in town and a little heavier than when I departed. That's what I get for eating pie everyday for a month. It is true, my aunt makes a truly yummy crust, but I'm not ready to divulge her secrets today. That will have to be for another post. It's not that I don't want you to wow your family and friends with a lovely flaky tart. It's just that I feel like everywhere I go I leave a sugary trail scented with English lager. To say the least, August was my month of indulgence.

Now I need to tighten my belt on my indulgences because my belt is getting too tight. Don't worry, that feeling won't last long and I'll soon be making pies for you.

I did have a wonderful vacation visiting family in England and Wales. Thank you so much for asking. It was family for 28 days straight and I loved it. I don't have a large amount of blood relatives in Toronto, so being surrounded by gobs of kin was comforting and enjoyable. So watch out England, I'll be back.

Stuffed Pork Fillet

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots diced
1 celery stick diced
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup prunes diced
1 tap fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup pecans chopped
1 egg beaten
1 - 1 1/2 lb pork fillet

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a pan and fry celery and shallots for 3-4 mins. Remove from heat and mix in breadcrumbs, prunes, thyme, egg and pecans.
Cut pork in half lengthways without cutting through it, then open it up flat. Bash the fillet slightly to flatten it. Lay stuffing along the middle, and roll it back up and secure with string in 3 to 4 places. Place on roasting pan and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Slice pork into 8 pieces and serve.



Promise me you won't laugh out loud when I tell you that we don't often have dessert in our house.

Of course, there are exceptions - when my mom comes to town and bakes us a pie, for example - but generally speaking, the sweet-treat-after-dinner thing is just not our thing.

This is partly because my children, who are very early risers, are usually bundled off to bed mere moments after putting down their forks, so feeding them sugar just prior to that seems a little counter-intuitive (if not slightly masochistic, from the parents' perspective).

It's also partly because I love desserts so much that I'd prefer to have them be the main event, rather than relegate them to the end of the meal, when everyone is already drowsy from the wine and a little full.

There is nothing I like more than having a cupcake or leftover piece of pie first thing in the morning, preferably with coffee (and cake in the afternoon is the perfect way to push through the glassy-eyed no-man's-land that constitutes the hours between three and five o'clock).

The only trouble is, because I avoid making that kind of thing unless it is a special occasion, there is rarely a leftover slice of something yummy to be had in my house in the mornings.

And that, friends, is why I am such an avid fan of the breakfast cake. It is treaty enough that you can fool yourself into thinking that it's an indulgence, and healthy enough that you can fool yourself into thinking you're starting your day with something nutritious.

This particular one came together so simply and quickly this morning that it's going to be on heavy rotation around here until we run out of peaches (and by "we" I mean every fruit stand within a 10-block radius of our house).

Peachy Breakfast Cake

1 1/2c light spelt flour (you could use all-purpose too, or - better still - whole wheat. I am just really enamoured of this spelt flour I discovered recently, so I am using it in everything)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2c frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/2c melted butter or coconut oil
1/4c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 heaping cup diced peaches (I used 3 medium)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a bundt or other tube-shaped pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder and cardamom in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk together apple juice concentrate, butter or coconut oil, buttermilk and eggs in a large measuring cup with a spout.

Gently stir liquids into dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in peaches until evenly distributed through the batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes, until cake is slightly golden on top and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool in pan on rack 10-15 minutes, then run a knife or spatula around the outside of the pan and invert cake onto a plate.

Serve warm.


slightly pickled.

I love the idea of making pickles.

For me, pickling conjures up visions of charming country kitchens, steaming pots, banging screen doors, and faded Liberty print housedresses; row upon row of shiny jars packed with bright, tasty things to spice up the dreary winter ahead.

At this time of year especially, that vision of industry, tradition and simplicity has its appeal.

Of course, it's totally a fantasy: despite my attempts at various other incarnations over the years, I am a city girl through and through, completely and happily entrenched in city life, not bound to tradition, and not terribly industrious either - especially when the task at hand involves the kind of repetition that home canning demands.

I am also not a fan of making things in bulk, so, much like life in that country kitchen, those rows upon rows of jars would drive me a little crazy after a very short time.

(And did I mention that I don't even really love pickles?)

And yet - and yet! - the fantasy remains.

These two (delicious, bright, and easy) salads are the closest I will come this year, but they will, in my mind's eye, almost get me there.

Slightly Pickled Carrot and Peanut Salad

I should warn you that neither of these salads keeps particularly well over night, so don't plan for leftovers.

1/4c white wine vinegar
1/4c olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
6 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3/4c salted peanuts

Whisk together vinegar and oils in the bottom of a large non-reactive bowl (I use a Pyrex mixing bowl).

Add carrots and toss well. Leave 3-4 hours, if you can!

Add peanuts just before serving, and toss well.

Slightly More Pickled Zucchini Salad

4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2c white vinegar
1/4c brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives

Place zucchini in a large non-reactive bowl (I use a Pyrex mixing bowl). Add 1/4c of the vinegar, 2 tbsp of the sugar, and 1 tsp of the salt, and toss well. Let sit at least an hour or two, then turn zucchini out into a colander and drain well.

Return zucchini to bowl and toss with remaining vinegar, sugar, and salt. Add chives and toss well.

Each salad serves 4-6, depending on what else is on offer. Faded housedress optional.