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 voilà! 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!

Spring has stung, I mean, sprung

Whenever I tell someone about our fall mushroom foraging adventures I get this wide-eyed look of bewilderment and a guaranteed, “Really? Weren’t you afraid of getting poisoned?”

I get a similar response when I mention that we’ve been eating nettles, “Really? You mean the stinging kind?”

I suppose eating off the beaten path has never made me nervous. Besides, nettles and wild mushrooms aren’t exactly as risky as eating fugu or scorpions.

So when my foraging friend Carol brought nettles to work last Spring I was game at giving them a try. She put on a kettle of water to boil, reached for a pair of tongs and gingerly transferred the tender hairy leaves into the teapot. After dousing the leaves with scalding water and steeping for a few minutes, we sipped on a deliciously green, grassy, nutty elixir. I managed to get my hands on some more and made an emerald green nettle risotto and delicate risotto pasta.

Chock full of nutrients (Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium), nettles are just too healthy to pass by. Especially if you forage, because then they’re nutritious AND free.

Now that Spring is once again upon us, the boy and I are looking forward to gathering our own nettles for some more springtime feasting from the forest floor. Don’t worry, we’ll wear gloves.

Field Notes: San Francisco

Once upon a time, in the days of unbridled free time, less financial demands and long before parenthood, I traveled to eat. Many of my travel decisions were based on where I could satisfy my epicurean curiosities and find interesting tastes and culinary inspiration.

Those days, needless to say, are long gone. Travel has become more about visiting family and discovering experiences that are more inclusive to our family’s interests. Luckily, food exploration is now becoming a family past time.

We recently had the opportunity to visit one of my favourite cities, San Francisco. I was delighted to show our almost 9 year old some of my favourite neighbourhoods and places including some old and new favourite food destinations.

My favourite souvenir to take home from any trip is culinary inspiration. Here’s a list of some from this visit:

  • cook more Mexican food: time to brine and simmer that le8582019122_a9db87b528_nngua that’s languishing in the freezer
  • baked egg breakfast sandwich from Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick in the Ferry Building
  • gnocchi with mustard greens and grainy mustard from Cotogna: perfect balance of richness, bite from the mustard greens and tang and texture from the large grains of mustard.
  • moussaka and melitzanosalata (because the boy finally decided that he likes eggplant)
  • nettle pizza: Spring is calling!
  • intense ma po tofu √† la Mission Street Chinese: best ma po tofu I’ve ever had!
  • lemon meringue pie. Because I was able to make a gorgeous one on the fly while visiting friends and realize I ought to be making more pies.
  • more support of the local food movement. CUESA has a huge presence in SF, so would love to see broader support of the food system in BC. One of the ways to make this happen is to shop at the markets more.
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Any favourite food and travel destinations?