It’s getting a little festive over here. Well, not much more than a tree shaped sticker on the wall.
With some LEDs.
A little cardboard star for the top.
And some gifts from New Zealand.
It’s a stick-on tree for us this year because the logistics of buying a freshly cut tree having just moved to a new city weren’t great (although we just discovered IKEA sells real trees !?) and because our new walls are turquoise. It’s a colour not so fitting for bright red and green, so this year for us it’s white and dark red/orange.
For more Wall Decal Tree ideas check out my Christmas Pinterest board.
Wall Decal Christmas Tree
Makes: at least 1. In fact you could probably make 3 trees with one roll of adhesive.
You will need:
1 roll Contact Adhesive or Adhesive Vinyl in choice of colour (available at Walmart)
ruler (or a long straight object to draw against)
small LED lights
First up, accurately design the tree. Mine is 57inches (140cm) high and 27inches (67cm) at it’s widest point (the bottom strip). Draw it out on paper (to scale) before sketching it on the adhesive paper. Using the grid (0.5 inch squares) on the back of the adhesive paper, draw up and cut out the triangle outline. I cut off three lengths (about 70cm long) of roll and laid one above the other to get a tree that is wider than the roll. Each strip was 5 grid lines high (2.5 inches) with 2 grid lines (1 inch) in between each strip. Don’t forget to cut out a tree trunk!
Stick to wall and peel off the 1 inch strips between each of the main strips. Use a teatowel or slightly damp cloth to press adhesive to the wall and remove bubbles. The adhesive is designed to peel off super-easy so no fear of the wall paint flaking off (I did test it to be sure).
I found some very cheap LED lights at a homeware outlet store that run off battery – perfect when there is not power socket nearby – which I strung up using tape to hold. They also happen to have 6 hour display timing which is all the more festive.
The traditional Dutch Baby takes the hard work out of pancake breakfasts. One giant pancake is baked in a skillet, saving the pouring, flipping, transferring, keeping-warm that makes up the usual pancake fiasco. The best part? The apples which are sauteed in the skillet before pouring over the batter and shoving into the oven, resulting in a sticky apple layer topped with a puffy, fluffy pancake – just waiting for a drizzle of maple syrup!
We have just moved into our new home. Finally, after almost 2 months of upheaval and transience we have settled into our own space, ready to embark on the huge task of setting up home from scratch again. For the last and final time (I kid, I kid.)
Jesse likes to remind me that “Steve Jobs’s Quest For Perfection Could Make Even Buying A Sofa Into A Decade-Long Ordeal“. And Jesse likes Steve Jobs so it seems like we too will continue to eat breakfast on the floor. And mix up batters in pots. And bake in the frying pan. Living simply – ah the joys.
Applesauce & Flaxseed Dutch Baby
Recipe adapted from Family Fresh Cooking
Serves 3 – 4 big eaters
Ever since Smitten Kitchen shared her German Pancakes and her Buckwheat Baby, I’ve been pondering ways to enjoy the thick, baked pancake as a more substantial breakfast. Prior to making a decent shopping trip to begin stocking up the pantry, I have been restricted to the few breakfast ingredients already on hand. And so I was forced to adapt – like making the batter out of oatmeal and flaxseed and using applesauce to sweeten. Of course, this means it won’t be nearly as light and fluffy as a traditional Dutch Baby (and therefore, really, is no Dutch Baby at all). But it is hearty, delicious and most importantly, a superb vehicle for Québécois maple syrup.
3/4 cup ground oats
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
pinch o’ salt
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce
3 large eggs, whisked
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 ripe apple, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a dash maple syrup (optional)
maple syrup, currants, toasted pecans, applesauce and yogurt to serve
Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Heat a cast iron skillet (or ovensafe frying pan) on stovetop over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted coconut oil and arrange apples in a single layer. Cook for 5 minutes until softened and beginning to colour. Flip and repeat to cook other side of apple slices.
Meanwhile, whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl mix together wet ingredients. Whisk all together to make a smooth batter (add a dash more milk if necessary to create a pourable, pancake-like batter). Once apple slices are cooked, pour the batter into the hot pan to cover apple.
Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the pancake is cooked thorough. Do not overcook as the oats will cause the pancake to dry out. Add toppings of choice and slice to serve.
What follows is a recipe for a chocolate cake. A cake that also happens to be paleo (you know, grain-sugar-dairy free), which is said as an aside to the fact that it is a delicious, hearty and decadent chocolate cake topped with dark, rich ganache and tart pomegranate arils.
It was a celebration of Jesse’s return to Calgary – the true beginning of life together in this new city. In one week we move into our new home, setting up all over again (with many trips to the Women in Need Society thrift store) for the third time since we married.
Our first weekend is about exploring the area – visiting the stores on the main street of Inglewood; the Silk Road for the purest, freshest spices, The Uncommons for authentic, innovative, uncommon goods, Gravity for top notch Phil & Seb coffee, finished off with outstanding Bison burgers at Blue Star Diner (Bridgeland). Tomorrow we head towards Banff via Canmore for a day of exploring, snowshoeing and food-ing with some cool folk.
During my week in the kitchen of The Mustard Seed I took home a bag of ‘reject apples’, too bruised and dented to serve to the guests. From this bag of 10 or so I was able to stew 7 cups of applesauce and another cup of apple cider (to make Bircher muesli for the week). With applesauce coming out of my ears I sought out chocolate cake that fit the parameters of “applesauce” “wheat free” “healthful” “decadent”. This was the best I found, with as few variations as I could risk, and it also happens to be considered paleo-friendly. Coconut flour is a tricky one – don’t mess around with it. Being SO high in fiber only a 3/4 cup is necessary (as opposed to the usual 2 cups wheat flour) so even a scant measure more will drastically change the consistency of the cake. Apart from that it’s a super simple cake, requiring little more than a food processor. The mere size of my processor was what inhibited mixing up the whole thing in it – but if yours allows (or you make the original recipe size) I would recommend blending it all in the processor to ensure the coconut flour is well distributed and evenly mixed through.
Chocolate Paleo Layer Cake
Recipe from Paleo Spirit (following recipe is 1.5 x original in order to make a layer cake)
Serves 10 – 12
15 medjool dates, pitted
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch sea salt
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
Place the dates in a food processor and pulse until pureed (add a dash of hot water to loosen if necessary). Add applesauce and continue to pulse until pureed and combined with the dates. Add the eggs, vanilla, coconut oil and coffee and whizz until smooth.
Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour the wet ingredients over and whisk until smooth.
Grease an 8inch cake pan with coconut oil, pour in the batter and smooth it with the back of a spatula (get it pretty smooth as it won’t smooth out on baking). Bake at 350˚C for 45 – 50 minutes or until a cake-tester comes out clean. Slice cake in half horizontally and leave to cool completely.
Avocado Chocolate Ganache
Recipe also from Paleo Spirit
Makes enough for a layer filling and a total covering of a double layer cake
2 medium/large very ripe avocados
3/4 cup dark, natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup maple syrup (or as desired)1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted
Whizz all in food processor, adding a little water if needed, to combine. Let set in fridge to firm up. Frost cake.
It’s slow going these days. Jesse is still in Beech 1900 training in Toronto, and I’m passing time at a wonderful friend’s home in Calgary. Things are a little disjointed while we sort out things like a home, friends, a church, employment, time together in the same city.
In contrast to my thumb-twiddling-first-few-weeks in Calgary, this last week has seen some busy days with early starts (my alarm dings while in the 4 hour). Walking to the bus stop well before dawn has exposed something about the city I hadn’t thought of before: it doesn’t ever get truly dark. The city lights cast an eery pink glow over the entire sky, making it well possible to clearly see the end of the street. 5 o’clock is a morning hour I haven’t given much credit. But instead of cursing lack of sleep (and the fact that it’s -20˚C) I’m enjoying the calm of the morning, the first light (albeit artificial city light), the buzz of workers on the bus while I enjoy my breakfast from a jar, the half hour ride passing flashing billboards and 24/7 drive-thrus. All to arrive at a local shelter, greeted by staff who have worked all night providing a welcoming, comfortable home to those without homes.
After a sometimes hectic (but incredibly satisfying) day in the kitchen volunteering alongside chefs with a heart to feed those without food, I have begun to cherish my down time in the afternoons. A chance to curl up on a cafe’s couch with a good book and a hot Phil & Sebastian Tea…
Or mix it up with a Phil & Sebastian mochaccino (using local Calgarian dark chocolate)..
Sometimes, a sweet treat instead. Cheesecake in a jar with rhubarb raspberry topping.
And a chance to count my blessings. The blessing of a warm comfortable place to come home to, where dear friends welcome us with open arms. Access to excellent, nourishing and fresh food. The option even, to beeline from a homeless shelter to find myself a top quality espresso bar. The blessing of a relationship that withstands, even grows from, such ongoing time apart.
Most importantly, and sadly the one I see lacking in so many of the faces I see each day at the shelter, the blessing of hope and a future – whatever it is that unfolds over this next season.
I’m milking pumpkin season for all it’s worth. You see, us New Zealanders don’t bake with pumpkin. This pumpkin-mad season is all quite foreign, quite exotic, and altogether quite fun.
Also uncommon in New Zealand is pumpkin carving. With Halloween barely celebrated (compared to North America anyway) and giant orange pumpkins near impossible to find, carving is quite a novelty. I may have gotten a little ambitious in my first carving attempt, combining NZ and Canadian culture with a Hei Tiki carving but it turned out alright ; )
To the typical Kiwi, pumpkins are to be diced and roasted until crisp (with a little rosemary), served with aioli alongside Sunday’s roast or tossed through couscous to make a salad. To scoop out, puree and throw in baking seems absurd, most-likely an attempt to fool your offspring into getting their beta-carotene when they won’t touch their dinner plate.
But I took a stab, and replaced banana in a favourite banana loaf with pureed pumpkin, the sugar with maple syrup and the millet with toasted pecans. I also subbed in almond meal, flaxseed and oats for some of the flour to create a truly substantial “morning tea”. This is one moist loaf, perfect for this snowy fall weather and to crank those levels of beta-carotene and the resulting Vitamin A.
Maple Wholewheat Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Cookie & Kate
1/3 cup melted coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon brandy (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more to swirl on top
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup hot water
¼ cup flaxseeds
¼ ground almonds (almond meal)
¾ wholewheat flour
½ cup oat bran (or lightly processed rolled oats)
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Turbinado (raw) sugar for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 325˚ F (165˚C) and grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix together melted coconut oil, maple syrup and eggs. Beat well.
Stir in pumpkin purée and brandy, then the salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix, and then mix briefly into batter until it is evenly distributed. Add flaxseeds, ground almonds, oat bran and flour and mix just until combined. Stir through pecans, reserving some for the top.
Spread batter into the greased loaf pan. Sprinkle over turbinado sugar and remaining chopped pecans.
Bake for 60 to 65 minutes. Insert a cake-tester in the top to check for done-ness – it should come out clean. Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 5 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with cream cheese and brandy butter or enjoy plain with tea.
Toronto is home to diverse people, dogs, foodie spots and sky-scrapers. Spending a week as tourists was the best way to fall in love with a city I once dreaded. The smog and the mad rush we experienced on our first visit was replaced this time with a beautiful multiculturalism, a well-thought-out tour of the best food stops and casual strolls down Queen West, Dupont and Kensington where the organic groceries, classy boutique stores and top notch bakeries are located.
Nadège cafe on Queen West
The Bata shoe museum
Lunch at de Mello Palheta
Taking the subway home from Friday Night Live at the Museum
This weeks recipe was featured on the blog of Homegrown Kitchen. Nicola, based in beautiful sunny Nelson, has a passion for healthy family meals and is the author of Feeding Little Tummies. She asked me to share on her website while she has been busy with overseas travels. This worked well for me while I too have been jetsetting. Check it out here.
New Zealand does the cafe thing very well. Excellent coffee with highly trained baristas and healthy, hearty and varied cabinet food. Calgary has the coffee thing spot on – great baristas (ahem, many of which are kiwis) and excellent locally roasted beans. On the odd occasion we have even been able to order Flat Whites.
But the cafe food is a little lacking. Generally, most of the baking in our favorite cafes is done off site and is pretty limited to a loaf bread (like pumpkin or banana), a scone or a muffin. Sure there are sandwich bars and places to grab a bowl of hot soup, but not the glass-front cabinets overflowing with original, gourmet filos, hearty fruity carrot cake and such.
I soaked up every opportunity during my month in New Zealand to visit the numerous wonderful cafes. In my small hometown with a population of around 60,000 my mother and I enjoyed a cafe date at at least 10 boutique cafes, all with top-notch espresso, made-from-scratch baking and excellent lunch service with a wide variety of nutritious options in the cabinet.
For those visiting New Plymouth, you cannot go past:
Chaos, 36 Brougham Street – for excellent tortilla stacks, stuffed kumara and mile high hearty Carrot Cake. Excellent hot chocolates (served with a Whittakers Sante bar)
Petite Paris, 34 Currie Street – for authentic French cuisine from petite fours and pain au chocolat to crêpes au champignon. Excellent homemade lemon & ginger tea on a rainy day.
The Federal Store, 440 Devon Street West – true Kiwi decor with excellent filos, salads and always a new and original sweet treat. Excellent flat white.
Cafe Govette Brewster, King & Queen St corner – fantastic savoury muffins served with relish. Excellent flat white.
We also popped up to big-city Auckland to ‘cafe crawl’ some of the boutique cafe’s I have been following while running my own in Norman Wells. They all turned out to be as wonderful as the photos depicted – excellent raw treats and crazy healthful smoothies at raw cafe Little Bird Unbakery, a much awaited felafel, beetroot, tabbouleh and tzatziki sandwich and toasted coconut bread with honeyed brown butter at Honeytrap, and a frangipane tart and Flat White at Little & Friday.
Makes 24 slices
From Treats from Little & Friday
Little & Friday has a special place in my heart, having relied on their cookbook throughout my 6 months at my little cafe in the North. I give them full credit for this recipe, they are onto something good. Although this slice (the NZ term for any sort of bar or square) is common at any New Zealand bakery or cafe, Little & Friday gave it a new life it with a chocolate shortcrust base, kept light and fluffy through use of icing sugar rather than granulated, and the mind-blowing addition of roasted hazelnuts to the caramel layer. The caramel calls for golden syrup, a syrup made from sugar cane, which I’m yet to find in Canada. My visit to NZ this last month was the first opportunity to make it with the real thing, rather than maple syrup. Both are excellent but nothing like the true kiwi version.
175g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup dutch cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 150˚C (300˚F). Grease a 25cm square tin and line the bottom and sides with baking paper. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, icing sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Sift cocoa, flour and salt together then mix thoroughly into the butter mixture. Press mixture into base of prepared tin. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes in centre of oven.
2 x 396g tins sweetened condensed milk
200ml golden syrup
100g unsalted butter
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
While base is cooking prepare caramel. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and melt slowly over a low heat. Pour over cooked base. Return to oven for a further 15 minutes or until set.
The recipe calls for 3/4 cup chocolate ganache made by melting 200g dark chocolate with 1/2 cup cream over a pot of simmering water. But I find the following more useful, especially when I am rarely in possession of cream, but also because it creates a firm topping rather than the soft fudge as formed by ganache.
200g dark chocolate (Whittakers Dark Ghana is ideal), roughly chopped
Place chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and heat until almost melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Spoon topping over filling, smoothing surface with back of spoon. Once chocolate is cool, slice using a very sharp knife dipped in boiling water.