Lucky Dip Produce Project

It’s been a long time since I’ve been here and it has only solidified the fact that I just don’t have writing stick-to-it. I’ve seen myself notoriously start and stop on far too many of these kind of projects. It seems that if I don’t have a reason to blog, I just won’t.

Not only am I notorious for dropping the blogging ball, I’m embarrassed to say that I am also notorious for letting produce sit in the fridge and rot. I will buy, pick or receive vegetables, lose track of them and when I dig them out of the depths of the fridge, they’re too far gone to salvage and eat.

So this poses a challenge for the next while. We have signed up for a weekly winter CSA through Cropthorne Farm in Delta, BC. We participated in the farm’s CSA’s last winter and summer and we split the share so we received produce every other week. This season we’re taking on the whole share and we’ll be receiving a lucky dip of produce every week for 8 weeks. This is going to be quite the commitment because it’s a substantial amount of veggies and we usually end up buying others that are appealing.

So I’m going to tackle these two notorious traits (haha…I’m notorious for many more things, but here’s not the place to discuss them): I’m going to embark on an 8-week project where I’ll write about our winter CSA adventures. I’ll include what we receive, what I’ve done with the produce, recipes, impressions and hopefully, many other tasty morsels.

What am I trying to get out of this? I hope that the Lucky Dip Produce Project will inspire me to:

  • use up all my produce before it goes bad
  • share new and interesting recipes and resources
  • commit to blogging for 8 weeks

I’ll also get to expand my repertoire of vegetable cookery, have a dialogue with you about eating seasonally, eat more vegetables and feel good about decreasing wastage. And if I should get myself motivated to blog on a regular basis on the long term, I will be the more pleased.

That sounds like a delicious reason to blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Reverence and pork pies

It had already been a long and grueling day. Saying our final good-byes to Dad in a drawn out morning of prayers and mass, supporting Mom among the many mourners and hosting the post-funeral luncheon. The long drive to the Catholic cemetery and the promise of being outdoors didn’t seem so bad.

It was a beautiful Fall day, not something you’d expect in late November. The clouds were high and the sun poked through just enough to take the chilly edge off our shoulders. Not a drop of rain.

We arrived at the cemetery, rested. We had had some much needed time to ourselves away from people and attention. When we stepped outside again I could sense a renewed energy and hope that the day was finally drawing to a close.

For a nine year old, this kind of day can be excruciating. Having to follow the unfamiliar “stand up, sit down, bow, kneel, genuflect” of churchgoing is daunting. And to be patted on the head, hugged and touched by throngs of strangers, even more so. But the boy was a trooper and behaved well beyond his tender years. Perhaps because his mother had struck a deal with him.

I had packed provisions for the day: water, fruit, crackers, cheese and the ultimate treat–melton mowbray pork pies. Our deal was that when our business at the cemetery was done, the boy would get to snack on a piece of coveted pork pie.

So after Dad’s casket was lowered and we bowed three times in reverence, the boy gleefully ran off to retrieve his pork pie reward.

The mourners began to drift away from the graveside when one of Dad’s closest church friends reined us in again for one final round of bows. I craned my neck and looked around for the boy. I waved and motioned for him to come back and he came scurrying just in time for the traditional three bows. First bow. Second bow. Third bow. And there stood the boy, clutching in each fist a massive chunk of pork pie.

13656705095_8db613fbb5_zWe couldn’t help but laugh and know that Dad was laughing with us. One piece of pork pie for him and one for the boy. All in great reverence.

Pistachio Apricot Teacakes

Pistachio Apricot TeacakesOnce upon a time, there lived a Holiday Cookie Queen. Every holiday season she would select 8 or 10 different cookie recipes and bake dozens upon dozens of each to festively package and give to the townsfolk. Seeing how joyful the townsfolk were to receive these holiday treats, she and her trusted friend, the Duchess of Cookie, decided to share the cookie joy all year long and they made and sold cookie dough for the masses to take home and bake for themselves.

As the years passed, the Holiday Cookie Queen gradually ran out of her magical cookie touch. She had instilled her love of cookies in the many, many folks who enjoyed baking her cookie dough. She had simply given away all her cookie zen. She could bake not a single cookie.

Time passed and the Holiday Cookie Queen ever so slowly regained her cookie baking energy and zeal. She baked a few dozen here and there. She sampled the cookie delights of others and found great inspiration. Finally she began to bake holiday cookies again and found renewed joy in sharing them with her closest kinfolk.

The holidays have come and gone and the Holiday Cookie Queen is now resting up. And baking pies. She did, however, leave me with the recipe for her favourite cookie of the season, pistachio apricot teacakes. She wanted me to let you know that these would be delightful to share with your closest kinfolk any time of the year.

Pistachio Apricot Teacakes

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled raw, unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, minced
Additional icing sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well.
Meanwhile, sift together flour, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until all the flour is incorporated.
Stir in pistachios and apricots.
Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and form into balls. Place one-inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake at 300 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes until the cookies feel firm and just begin to take on some colour.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets. Roll in extra icing sugar then place on cooling racks and cool completely.
Store between sheets of waxed or parchment paper in airtight container. Roll again in icing sugar just before serving, if desired.

Makes 3 dozen

Sorry-for-myself Cake

I am going to apologize right now. Sorry. Sorry for wingeing. Due to a seemingly endless string of energy-sapping life incidences, I am tired and cranky. And tonight, in particular, I am feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I’ve been neglecting my sourdough starter. Sorry that I haven’t written thank you notes and letters. Sorry that I’m so unorganized. Sorry that I can’t get things done in a timely manner. Sorry that I’m running out of steam.

I was feeling so sorry for myself that I baked myself a cake, (yes, I was feeling sorry that no one bakes me cakes). I didn’t need anything fancy, just something flavourful and simple and that didn’t require me to run out and buy anything.

French-style yogurt cakeI settled on a French-style yogurt cake. The recipe called for lemon zest and juice but I didn’t have the energy to zest and juice so I threw in a dash of vanilla. I did remember (and being able to remember anything these days is a major accomplishment) that I had some leftover homemade mincemeat in the fridge. I poured in half the batter, dotted it generously with the mincemeat and smoothed the rest of the batter over.

A quick cooling on the balcony on this unusually frigid night and voilĂ ! Cake for a sorry Ms. Crankypants.

OK, I’m done with feeling cranky and sorry for myself now. Thanks for listening. I hope you bake a cake for yourself the next time you find yourself weary, tired or cranky.

One day

It’s been a while. The unavoidable and inevitable has happened. Dad died 2 months ago. He slipped away peacefully with us around him. The extinguishing of a bright light that illuminated our lives with integrity, generosity and gratitude. A Dad-shaped void will always be in my life but slowly that space is being filled with memories and stories of a genteel man who lived a full life.

I’ve felt compelled to write a food tribute to Dad. So much of his essence involved food, the celebration of food and the magic of how food draws us together as a community. The ideas swirl around as I replay stories and meals shared with Dad. I find myself cooking the dishes he used to cook and ones that I used to cook for him. And I think of him at almost every meal.

But I’m not there yet. One day I will be.

birthday cake

Bittersweet

So much of life revolves around food: basic nourishment, health, celebrations, art, community. Tonight we gathered at the table for a timely, albeit somewhat uncomfortable meal. My dad gathered six of his closest church friends, my mom and my brother and I for dinner to discuss his final wishes. Dad is dying.

My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this spring, just about the time my mom-in-law died of the very same disease. Nasty, nasty cancer that it is. To date there are no reliable early detection methods for pancreatic cancer and survival rates are unfortunately low. In my mom-in-law’s case, it had metastasized so much that by the time she was diagnosed, she only had a few days to live.

Dad’s tumour, although not large, is inoperable and there are no treatment options. His health is declining and we’re noticing how cancer is slowly taking over and how Dad is slowly slipping away.

But true to Dad’s wise and practical nature, he’s taking care of business. As hard as it may be, he’s thought through endless details and has made his final arrangements. And of course he would share these with the ones he trusts most at his favourite place, the dinner table. So tonight we feasted on platters of Chinese food and talked and reassured Dad that things will be the way he wishes. We also laughed and joked and listened to Dad’s always eloquent stories of life, politics and travels.

Life is uncertain these days. But the table is where we can always find some comfort, solace and love.

Electronics Ban Solidarity

After a brief reappearance here, I’m taking off for a while again.

Last week the Kid’s teacher proposed a 10 day ban on electronic devices for the class. Those items include iPads, computers, mp3 players, TV, video games, etc. The Kid started his ban today and I will be joining him in solidarity! So starting at midnight, I am taking a break from the ‘net. Other than checking e-mails and using the computer for work purposes, I won’t have extraneous online presence.

So no texting, skyping, googling, surfing, youtubing. No Etsy, Ravelry, Pinterest, Epicurious. No photos taken on my iPhone.

I’m looking forward to the fast. There’s plenty to do now that it’s warm enough to work in the garden and there are plenty of cookbooks for me to read, reread and use to cook.

See you in a while! Cook and eat well!