Saturday, April 23, 2011


Awwww, I love my boys. We just had a wonderful birthday celebration, drinking wine, and eating fondue. They made me a Tiramisu birthday cake, and I just finished eating two pieces. It was an interesting combination of me having to purchase ingredients when I was in town today, and Scott and Faegan baking the first part of the cake while I was out. You see, having kids, you have to share the duties, even when it comes to your own birthday cake. It was up to me to come home with cream cheese and whipping cream. But, it being Easter weekend, I couldn't find organic whipping cream for the life of me. I am embarrassed to admit, I went to 5 Superstores looking for some. I am so stubborn, I just couldn't break down and buy the conventional stuff that is full of God only knows what, and polysorbate. After the last stop, I thought I'd try out sour cream and see how that does as a substitute. From the taste of things, it did a good job!

2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder - GMO free and aluminum free
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
10 Tbps organic unsalted butter
1 cup organic coconut sugar
3 organic eggs
1 organic egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp boiling water
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup local maple syrup
1 Tbsp Kahlua 
8 oz organic cream cheese
1/2 cup organic icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Kahlua
1 cup cold organic whipping cream (or in our case, sour cream)
2 21/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

Method: Preheat the oven to 350* F. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.
Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.
Stir the water and maple syrup together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.
Put the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.
Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the cream cheese. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

To assemble the cake:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – user about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining cream cheese filling. 
With an icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. 
Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving.
Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa.

Friday, April 22, 2011

HOT CROSS BUNS- The Easter Rituals continue....

Hot Cross buns! Hot Cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot Cross buns!
If your daughters won’t eat them,
Give them to your sons;
But if you have none of those little elves,
Then you must eat them all yourselves!

I love it that each holiday has delicious baking associated with it.  Take today for instance - all over the place, especially England, people bake and eat delicious sweet breads called Hot Cross buns on Good Friday.  I have never made Hot Cross Buns before, so this year I decided to go for it.  I have vague memories of having consumed store bought varieties at some point, but I am pretty sure they weren't as wholesome and delicious as this recipe.  Now, as you probably know, most Hot Cross Buns have an icing sugar cross painted on them.....not these.  I am not a huge fan of icing sugar, so I opted to omit the cross painting, but by all means, if you really like sugar, paint away!  (I just discovered a new way to ice your buns!  Mix cream cheese with a little honey, and pipe onto each bun!  Yay!)  I also meant to glaze the buns with warm apricot jam but forgot to pick some up, and all the stores are closed.  So sad.   I just baked a new batch and took a picture of the apricot glazed buns......shiny happy hot cross buns holding hands!


¾ cup organic unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup organic whole milk
3/4 cup local honey
4 1/2 tsp (2 packages) active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sea salt
Zest of 1 organic lemon
Zest of 1 organic orange
4 organic eggs, lightly beaten
5 ½-6  cups organic flour
2 Tbsp organic cinnamon, ground
1 tsp organic nutmeg, ground
1 1/3 cups organic currants, raisins, or dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup apricot jam
Optional Icing: ½ cup organic cream cheese
2 Tbsp local honey

Method:  Grease a large bowl and set aside. Place  the milk in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Heat until milk is warm or reaches 110*. Pour milk into a large mixing bowl.  Add the yeast and a tablespoon of the sweetener.  Let the yeast awaken and start to foam and then stir in the rest of the honey, salt, lemon zest, and orange zest.
In a large bowl, blend together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Whisk together the yeast mixture, butter, and egg; pour into well. With wooden spoon, stir until soft dough forms.  Knead until smooth.  Then knead in the dried fruit.
Place dough in prepared bowl. Turn to coat with oil. Cover with a pot lid or overturned bowl or plate and let rise in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours.  Don't be alarmed if it doesn't expand very much.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Turn dough out onto work surface. Knead briefly and roll dough into a log. Cut the log into 12 pieces the size of an egg.  Shape into smooth balls.  Place close together on the baking sheet and brush the tops with butter.  Cover well with a floured dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about half an hour.  When half risen in the pan, cut two gashes at right angles across top of buns.  Continue to let them rise for another half hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Transfer buns to oven and bake until golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes, rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes.   
Meanwhile, place apricot jam in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until heated through; strain through a mesh sieve set over a bowl. Brush heated jam over warm buns.
 Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Icing: Mix the cream cheese and honey together. Usinga piping bag fitted with round tip, pipe cross on top of each cooled bun.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The Easter bunny has been seen lurking around the forest in our backyard.  He was happily hopping about in the fog and mist, secretly hiding Easter eggs for all the little girls and boys.  Inside, we too were happily hopping about dying eggs for Sunday.  
Dyeing eggs with a three year old is tricky business, but we managed to salvage about 9 eggs after dying them using homemade vegetable dyes.  I was quite impressed with the cabbage dyed ones that resulted in brilliant blue hues.  As if doing all this egg dying wasn't enough, I decided to make homemade pita bread for our falafel supper tonight.  (Note to self, keep it to one project a day with a small baby and young child at the helm.)  I was going to save the L'Acadie Vineyards Organic (hard) Cider that I bought at the market last weekend for my birthday tomorrow, but I REALLY needed it tonight!  So, as I write this I am enjoying it's bubbly goodness.......cheers!

     Growing up my family always dyed Easter eggs.  We’d boil at least a dozen vibrant red ones, which are traditional in Greek families.  I always ended up dying some multicoloured pastel ones too, because I think those colours really embody the essence of spring.  The dyed red eggs signify the blood of Christ to Greek Orthodox Christians. 
     Another Greek tradition is playing a game with the eggs called tsougrisma.  This game involves two players and Easter eggs.  Players hold an egg in their hand, and the first person taps the end of her egg lightly against the end of the other player's egg. The goal is to crack the opponent's egg. When one end is cracked, the winner uses the same end of her egg to try to crack the other end of the opponent's egg.  The player who successfully cracks the eggs of the other players is declared the winner and, it is said, will have good luck during the year.
     To avoid artificial food dyes that are in Easter egg colouring kits, try experimenting with different ingredients found in your kitchen.  It is a fun activity to do with your kids to celebrate this festive season!

What you need:
* Hard boiled organic white eggs (they take on the dyes better than brown eggs, but brown eggs will work as well)
* 4 cups of fruit/vegetable solids, mashed and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart of water
* 2 Tbsp local organic apple cider vinegar for every quart of water
* Several pots and bowls
* Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
* Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs

Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients:
Organic beets in cranberry juice (instead of water)
Frozen cherries
Organic tumeric powder
Wild blueberries and their juice mixed with a few tablespoons of organic tumeric
Shredded organic red cabbage
Method 1—Hot (for eggs that won’t be consumed)

Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice.  Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.

Method 2—Cold (for eggs that will be consumed)
Simmer the dyeing ingredients of your choice in a large, non-aluminum pan for 20–30 minutes.  Lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature.  Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.  The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be.
     If your house is anything like mine, you will have so many boiled eggs leftover from easter eggs, that you won’t know what to do with them.  So here are some potato salad recipes to help you out.

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds organic Yukin gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 ½ cups organic hard boiled eggs, diced

(1/4 cup organic white wine vinegar
2 organic scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup organic mayonnaise
1 stalk organic celery, sliced
2-3 Tbsp homemade organic relish
3 Tbsp organic parsley, chopped
2-3 organic eggs, hard boiled and chopped
sea salt and organic pepper)

Method:  Set a bamboo steamer basket over a large pot of simmering water.
Place potatoes in basket, cover basket, and steam potatoes, tossing
occasionally, until tender, 15 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine vinegar, scallions, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add hot potatoes to vinegar mixture; toss to combine. Cool to room temperature.  Add mayonnaise to cooled potatoes; mix gently to combine. Serve, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Variation #1

¼ cup organic mayonaise
1/3 cup organic yogurt
3 Tbsp organic red wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp organic black pepper, ground
1 cup organic celery, thinly sliced
¼ cup organic red onion, diced
1 cup organic apple, diced
¼ organic walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup organic blue cheese, crumbled

Method:  Prepare potatoes as described in master recipe.   Substitute the white vinegar for the red and toss.   Let the potatoes cool to room temperature then gently fold in all ingredients.

Variation #2

1 cup organic cooked chickpeas
½ cup organic cilantro, chopped
¼ organic lime juice
1 Tbsp organic grainy mustard
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp organic black pepper, ground
½ cup e.v olive oil
2 cloves organic garlic, mashed to a paste
1 tsp organic ginger, finely grated
1 tsp local honey
1 ½ tsp organic cumin, ground
1 ½ tsp organic coriander, ground
½ tsp organic turmeric, ground

Method:  Prepare potatoes as described above in master recipe.  Substitute the white vinegar for lime juice and toss.  Fold in the remaining ingredients.


1/3 cup organic mayonnaise
1/3 cup organic buttermilk
2 Tbsp organic lemon juice
2 tsp organic Dijon mustard
2 cloves organic garlic, mashed
½ tsp organic red pepper flakes, crushed
2 tsp fresh organic marjoram, chopped
2 cups organic artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup Greek Kalamata black olives, chopped
½ cup fresh organic mint, chopped

Method:  Prepare potatoes as described in master recipe.  Substitute the vinegar with the lemon juice and toss.  Fold in the remaining ingredients. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The last few days I have been daydreaming and planning special Easter rituals and activities for the family.  We headed into the city this morning to pick up some special supplies for our Easter crafting and baking.  Faegan had fun spotting the Easter Bunny all along our journey, even in some unexpected places. The poor stuffed bunny we saw propped up at the end of someone's driveway is probably soaked by now from all the rain!  It is so special to slow down for awhile and spend time in the kitchen with a child, baking.  He loved dumping the cupfuls of flour into the bowl, measuring out the teaspoons of soda and salt, and then stirring it all together.  The best part, of course, was using the fancy Easter shaped cookie cutters to make the biscuits.  We chose an oatcake recipe to use for these treats, because they do require cookie cutters, but also because they are healthier than anything else.  (Plus I really like them!)

1 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 cup organic all purpose flour
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup organic butter
1/2 cup organic whole milk

Method:  Preheat oven to 375*.  Mix together the dry ingredients.  With a pastry blender, cut in the butter.  With a fork, stir in the milk.  Dough should just cling together.  Divide the dough into 3 parts and roll out on a lightly floured board.  Cut with cookie cutters and bake on an ungreased sheet for 10-12 minutes.
We have also been eating a little simpler around here while we do a fast for the last week before Easter. This is a tradition my family used to do when I was growing up, and it brings back fond memories for me.  So no meat, dairy or eggs for me until Sunday.  This means lots of beans at meals, including this traditional Greek black eyed pea soup.  

1/2 pound organic black eyed peas, soaked overnight
8 cups water
1/2 cup organic celery, chopped
2 cloves organic garlic, sliced
2 cups organic onion, diced
1 can pureed organic tomatoes
1/4 cup e.v olive oil
3 Tbsp organic parsley, minced (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp organic pepper

Method:  Place the beans in a large soup pot and cover with the water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for about one hour, or until they are tender.  Then, add the remaining ingredients and cook, covered for 1 1/2 hours.  Season to taste.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


      After a morning spent playing outside in the foggy rain, and crafting "Little Red Riding Hood" puppets, my little boy was hungry!  My favorite food to make lately when I want a fast, nutritious lunch is alphabet pasta with vegetables and browned butter.  Who says you can only use vegetable alphabets in soup?  This dish actually reminds me of hilopites, a greek square shaped pasta.  Every now and then my family in Greece sends a batch of homemade hilopites to my mother, and if I am really lucky, she shares her stash with me.  As a nutritious substitute, we love to use Vegetable Alphabets pasta from Eden Organic.  They are made from 60% organic whole grains and are vegetable dyed lovely hues with beets, spinach, carrots and annatto.  The trick to this meal is chopping or grating whatever vegetables you have on hand, so they are in easy to eat little bits.  The "sauce" is simply butter that is melted to the point of just browning, which give this pasta a lovely nutty, buttery flavour.  We can't get enough of this dish in us, so be sure to make lots...we always do!


1/2 pound Eden Organc vegetable alphabets
1/4-1/2 cup organic butter
1 cup organic butternut squash, grated
1 organic carrot, grated
3 handfuls organic spinach, torn
Other great additions:  peas, broccoli, rutabaga, red peppers
freshly grated romano cheese
sea salt

Method:  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Stir in 1/2 Tbsp sea salt into the water, along with the pasta.  While it cooks, heat a small saucepan over medium low heat and heat the butter until it starts to brown slightly, about 5 minutes.  When the pasta is almost ready, stir in the veggies.  Strain the pasta when it is tender and pour the browned butter over top.  Top with lots of cheese.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Owning an ice cream maker doesn't necessarily mean you will make ice cream that often.  It is one of those appliances that seems like a great idea when you are in the store, you buy it and bring it home, and then rarely ever use.  I own alot of kitchen appliances and gadgets like that, but I refuse to give them away because when I do want to make __________ (fill in the blank - ice cream, popcorn, pasta, peel apples, core apples, juice, etc)  then I have the tool to do the job.  Unfortunately this means my basement is FULL of kitchen equipment.  Ah well, that's the beauty of having a basement.  A friend recently told me that Gandhi once said to only own as much "stuff" as you can fit into a chest.  HMMMMMMMM I am way past that point.  Though it is comforting to think that I am not a fear based person when it comes to the thought of my house being broken into and all my stuff stolen.  I mean I like my stuff, but I can live without all of it.  Anyway, so the point of this story is that I have been making ice cream a lot lately.  I can't help it.  I see organic dairy products on sale and I keep bringing home whipping cream and milk that needs to be used STAT!  My favorite thus far has been last night's treat of Peanut Butter Chocolate ice cream.


3 organic eggs
1 cup organic sugar
250 g organic chocolate chips
2 1/4 cup organic half and half
1 cup organic whole milk
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
3/4 cup organic natural peanut butter

Method:  Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.  In a medium saucepan, combine the chocolate and cream.  Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until chocolate is melted.  Whisk into the egg mixture.  Return entire mixture back to the pan and cook over low heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Strain into a large bowl.  Let cool to room temperature.  Then stir in the vanilla and milk.  Cover and refrigerate until cold.
Transfer one cup of the cream mixture to a blender and blend in the peanut butter.  Stir peanut butter mixture into remaining cream mixture.  Transfer to an ice cream maker.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


     Just winding down from a day of lots of busy excitement as my little boy turns 3.  His birthday isn't actually until Thursday, but we celebrated it today with lots of fun and friends.  I look back at last year's birthday party and wonder how  I managed to do it all!  I pared down the extravagance big time this year due to the fact that we now have two little ones to tend to, but I tried to still keep it special and delicious. 
     As you may remember, I have committed to striving to live as plastic-free a life as possible, which means not buying products packaged in plastic or made of plastic.  So last year at birthday time I bought Chinese paper lanterns instead of balloons.  The beauty of these lanterns is that they can be used over and over again, and they add a nice festive touch to parties.  The paper theme continued over to the corner where we hung a pinata shaped like a sun wearing sunglasses.  I stuffed this sucker full of little wooden toys, chocolate coins, and fruit sticks.  I had an uneasy feeling this "pull ribbon" variety of pinata was a dud.  I was right, after pulling off all the ribbons the darn thing didn't open.  I had to seriously put a lot of effort into busting the thing open to get the candies out....oh well.
     Since Faegan is now three, I thought we could try letting the little ones make their own pizzas.  The dough and toppings were made in advance and ready to go for when the guests arrived.  After some outdoor play and a snack of popcorn with (unintentional) burnt butter, they went to work creating their very own pies.  My favorite was the pizza face, made by chewing away bits of pepperoni to make a smile and pupils.  
     The sweetest part of the party of course was dessert.  Today was a great opportunity to try making super large cupcakes with the pan I've had kicking around since last years aborted baking idea.  I thought it would be neat to give each kid their very own cake to eat instead of cutting into a traditional birthday cake.  My favorite maple chocolate cake recipe translated fairly well over to cupcakes, except they sort of sunk in the middle.  No matter though, they still tasted great, especially when served with a side of homemade honey ice cream.  
(makes one 6” layer cake or 9 large cupcakes)

¾ cup organic whole wheat flour
1 cup organic unbleached white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup organic cocoa powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup organic whole milk
½ cup organic vegetable oil (sunflower or safflower)
1 ½ cups local maple syrup
1 tsp organic apple cider vinegar
2 tsp pure organic vanilla

Method: Preheat oven to 350*.  Prepare two 6” round cake pans by greasing them with some oil and then lining with parchment paper cut into rounds.  Sift all dry ingredients together into a bowl.  Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, and then stir in the cocoa powder until dissolved.  Whisk the oil, maple syrup, vinegar and vanilla into the cocoa mixture.  Stir the wet ingredients into to the dry.  Pour into prepared cake pans and bake in 350* oven for 45-60 minutes in cake pans and for 22 minutes in the cupcake pan.  Allow to cool on a  baking rack for 10 minutes before removing cakes from pans.  Cool completely before icing.


1/2 cup organic cocoa powder, sifted
100 g organic unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp pure organic vanilla extract
1/2 cup local maple syrup

Method:  Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Add the vanilla and maple syrup.  Slowly stir in the cocoa powder.

4 organic egg yolks
1/2 cup local honey
1 cups organic cream
1 cups organic whole milk
1 tsp organic vanilla

Method:  Whisk the egg yolks with the honey.  Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium low heat, bring cream and milk to a simmer and then gradually whisk into the egg mixture.
Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Stir in vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold.  Stir and transfer into an ice cream maker.