> Verses from my Kitchen: March 2011

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Verses from my Kitchen: March 2011

March 31, 2011

Lemon, Blueberry & Coconut Cupcakes

The breath of spring's arrival brushes my skin in the afternoon these days, reminding me of her impending visit. The signs are there, albeit hidden most days. The lighter evenings and longer days remind me of a story I've read a few times before. Although the usual tell tale signs are hibernating, it's obvious to me that she stands among us. And it's a beautiful sight.

I see people smiling longer than usual. Smiling at all. The grass is stretching in my backyard and fighting for the rays of sun that touch down for hours upon hours. I'm noticing neighbours who have all but disappeared for four to five months leaving their houses and walking their dogs. Cute little dogs. And I feel that breath. Warm breath.
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March 28, 2011

Sunday Mornings and Blueberry Pancakes

Sunday morning is our favourite day of the week. The alarm clock takes the day off and we sink into our covers and each other a little bit longer than the other days. It has a completely different feeling than the rest of the week, slightly lazy and relaxed and warm. If I had a day to call my own, it would be Sunday.

When I was a kid I despised Sundays. Friday was the day to stay up late because Saturday was the day to sleep in my house. I never did though. Yet Sunday seemed to be on a clock that moved in double time and I could see the second hand moving two by two. Dinner would hit the table before I had time to breathe and I was getting ready for bed and school before I could blink.
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March 26, 2011

Lime Cheesecake Tartlets

The temperature outside has been flirting with us for days now. This winter has been particularly long and rough and my wife and I are are clinging to memories and pictures from last spring to remind us of the potential in store. Fresh flowers, herb gardens and picnics in the backyard with seasonal finds that have hibernated since the end of last spring. Like us.

The snow outside melts just long enough to give us a glimpse of the green grass beneath it when another wave hits down and smothers all hope of an early spring. One storm after another that does more than paint the yard white, it muffles our energy and affects our spirit. Temporarily.
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March 23, 2011

Strawberry & Plum Crumble

Winter is knocking. The first day of spring has officially come and gone and yet the threat of one last winter storm lingers. After celebrating the dawn of a new season with warm air pushing past our faces and the birds regaining their rightful place on the branches of the nearby trees, we're now left bracing for another snowstorm that threatens to keep us locked inside our homes. Again.

We've been playing with the thermostat in our house the last few days, shifting it back and forth from on to off to on like a teeter-totter. And the recipes that drift from the kitchen have turned to lighter fare and away from the foods that have warmed us and kept us company for the last few months. Spring has arrived but for one more day at least I'll be turning to an old friend.
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March 20, 2011

Homemade Pizza Two Ways

Childhood memories follow me wherever I go. It doesn't take much for something to trigger a flashback to quieter days, easier days. It could be as simple as a song that transports me back to a school dance or it could be something I ate that takes me back to the kitchen I grew up in. The memories come flooding back. I live in the present while my mind drifts back and forth.

I remember moments from my childhood like it was yesterday. Some things are more vivid than others but the ones that stand out play like a movie in my head. I can see the reel spinning and I sit and watch the story unfold, only I know what happens because I lived it.

Like most kids, there was always one night of the week that was reserved for takeout. My mom would pull out the restaurant flyers from a drawer and scatter them on the table and we'd take aim at them. It was usually pizza or Chinese or something else that was easy and inexpensive and in fashion.
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March 17, 2011

Australian Anzac Cookies

There is something unique and rewarding about making food for people you care about. I love sneaking away and escaping to the kitchen to work on recipes to share with family and friends. When I'm jotting down notes or chopping food I can almost see the second hand on the clock slow down and freeze in mid-motion. Time stands still whenever I'm alone with my thoughts and the food I'm working with.

Last night was a normal night in my household. We were finishing up dinner and my wife reminded me that her mom and aunt were coming for a visit today around lunch. My wife has many talents but cooking isn't one of them. Don't get me wrong, she can cook but she doesn't enjoy it. That's my role. Since I'm away during the day I asked her what she wanted for lunch and decided on a few simple recipes.

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March 14, 2011

Spring Forward Sunday: Poached Egg on a Sweet Potato Cake

We entertain quite a bit. Saturday night at our house is often filled with good friends and good food. It usually starts off with conversation and drinks in and around the kitchen before we make our way to the dining room. We sit down, sit back and sink in. And the night usually flows.

Each Saturday when we have guests over it takes on the same attire as most others. Conversation, dinner, drinks and more conversation. Times is lost living in the here and now and it seem to shift from early evening to late night in the blink of an eye. And the later the night goes, the later the next morning starts.

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March 12, 2011

Molten Chocolate Cupcakes

Each day when the sun breaks through and the temperature begins to flirt with us, we momentarily escape from winter's grasp and envision the beauty and charm that accompany spring-like weather. We head to bed at night with promise that tomorrow will be just as tantalizing and bring even more hope. That's when winter gathers all her energy and power and reminds us that we're not in charge. 

Today was one of those days. We woke up to the sounds of mother nature beating on our windows and the snow blowing fast and hard. The coffee that usually warms us from the inside out was no match for the fury outside. It was cold and blustery and everything I didn't want to face today. I felt like crawling back to bed and tucking the duvet under my feet and pulling the covers as tight as possible. 

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March 9, 2011

Pasta & Lentil Soup

My wife and I were sitting around the other day and talking about new ways to introduce healthier foods in our routine. It's always a great idea supplementing your daily meals with healthy, fresh ingredients, especially when you're induldging in baked goods made for the house and put on the blog. So we talked about our favourite ingredients that we don't use as often as we should. Things like legumes and root vegetables.

I love legumes. I especially like lentils and yet I've completely neglected them recently. It wasn't that long ago when I first fell in love with them and seemed to be experimenting with them all the time. I used them as a side dish with herbs and a yogurt sauce to accompany salmon. I've made them with chorizo in soups and added them in salads. It's time to bring it back again.

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March 7, 2011

Salted Fudge Brownies

I was about six years old when my parents bought their first home. We were on a major street in Toronto, one house in from the corner. The moving truck filled the driveway and the movers were working feverishly to unload the truck and all of its contents. Our contents. I spent the first hour hanging out in the backyard trying to stay out of their way. That's when I noticed them first.

A group of kids came strolling up the driveway. One by one they introduced themselves to me and welcomed me to the neighbourhood. They asked me if I wanted to play and before I could utter a single word my parents gave me the go ahead and I was running down the side street with my new friends. A bunch of kids I didn't know an hour earlier or at any other point in my young life. Five kids that would be soon become the fabric of my life for years to come.
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March 5, 2011

Lemony Eggs Benedict with Arugula

There was this fantastic spot for brunch in Toronto a few blocks from where I grew up.  It landed a couple of blocks from uptown, where money flows like water. We lived nearby, partly due to luck and part circumstance. Either way, we were surrounded by more options than one really needs. And every time a place lay claim to being the "in" spot, a new one appeared and took the title with a flurry. 

Oliver's, if the story is correct, was started by a man who used to deliver quality food to local businesses at lunch and his food was such a hit that he decided to open up a restaurant in the same area. Lucky us. The one downside of growing up in an area where people are seen to be seen, are the lineups that form outside one of these new hot spots. Nobody stood a chance with the aroma drifting from the front windows, which were usually swung open during the spring and summer. Any passerby was stopped dead in his tracks as soon as the scent of fresh baked goods hit them. 

Growing up I used to follow my parents whenever they went out for breakfast, brunch or lunch. This was one of the perks of being a kid. And when my parents said they were heading over to Oliver's for breakfast, I was at the door and ready in a flash. This wasn't the kind of breakfast I had at the local greasy spoon, this was elegance on a plate.

I remember the first time I slid into a booth and followed my mom's order with, "I'll have what she's having." It came out of my mouth fast and hard and for a moment I felt all grown up. The standard bacon and eggs, forever the heavyweight breakfast in my house, was about to be replaced. The "in" breakfast was about to have a new contender for the title. 

Eggs Benedict was delivered to our table and I probably stared at it for a good minute or two. It almost looked too pretty. The eggs sat atop the English muffins like a bird in his nest. Besides, poached eggs were new to me and I had never tasted real hollandaise sauce before.  After another moment or two I cut into the eggs with my knife and as soon as the yolk released all of its charm, I knew things were going to change. Move over standard breakfast fare.

The sauce was hypnotizing. The bacon crisp and salty and the eggs perfectly done. It was just the right combination of flavours all in one beautifully presented package. I probably ate it in record time and I could tell from my parents face that their brunch bill was about to be a bit more expensive each week. Another perk for the kid.

I must have ordered Eggs Benedict every time I followed my parents out for breakfast after that moment. And that has followed me long since that restaurant closed down. Eggs Benedict is sinfully good and one my most cherished ways to spend a weekend morning. I make it slightly different than the one I first tasted, but the feeling that sweeps up over me is the same every time. 


From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!

Lemony Eggs Benedict with Arugula

The Goods:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • kosher salt and cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • small handful fresh arugula
  • 4 thick slices of bacon, cut in half
  • 2 English muffins, split in half
  • 4 poached eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the bacon on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for about 6 minutes a side, until slightly crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Using a blender, make the hollandaise sauce first. Combine the egg yolks, water, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. In a small saucepan or microwave, melted the butter. Start up the blender and while it's running, slowly add the butter through the vent at the top and continue to blend until the sauce is thick. Season to taste. Pour the sauce into a bowl and cover and set aside.
  3. Poach the eggs and keep them warm in hot water.
  4. Toast your English muffins and then place 2 halves on a plate. Top each with some fresh arugula, 4 bacon halves and a poached egg. Spoon a couple tablespoons of hollandaise sauce on each and serve.
  5. Serves 2.

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March 2, 2011

Memories in Every Bite: Glazed Lemon Loaf

When I was a little kid I used to frequently see a loaf of banana bread sitting on the kitchen counter, just out of my grasp. To me, banana bread was like candy and I would eat the entire pan if I could only touch it. We didn't have step stools, at least not to my recognition, so I would gather as much steam as possible and try a running jump onto the counter. On the rare times it worked, my fingers would slip off the counter as quickly as they grabbed it. I was going to have to wait until I was handed a slice.

After dinner, or before if I was extremely lucky, my parents would heat a slice of the light, fluffy loaf and slather on a bit of butter and hand it to me. After a few bites I would ditch the fork for my hands. It was much quicker that way and I wasn't born with patience. I'd finish the slice before my mom was finished wrapping the loaf back up and I would stare at the few crumbs left behind on the plate. Those too were gone in a manner of seconds.
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