Thoughts On: Beauty

Like all Mommies, I think my kids are beautiful. Of course we think our kids are beautiful. And really, they all are. Full of life, full of questions, full of jokes, full of attitude, small, beautiful humans. Since the first moment I walked outside the hospital with little Picky Princess, people have crossed the street to tell me what a beautiful child she is. And while I see what they do in her magical face, the things I find so beautiful about her are the things that come with 6 years of observation. I think the one freckle so perfectly placed under her right eye is so beautiful. I love that she is a wild mess most of the time, crazy haired and rainbow clad. I love how her pristine face stands out as a pocket of white paint on a graffiti’d canvas. I love the moments when she laughs for real. In those moments I find her too beautiful to look directly at. When she sleeps I can hardly tear my eyes away from her little face. It’s so white it glows.

It’s also interesting to me how a child, particularly a girl, processes all this attention. With a big wide world telling her she is so beautiful, she definitely has come to agree. She is quick to comment on being beautiful, yet doesn’t necessarily seem to place a lot of value on it. She will say, Of course I’m beautiful, with the same matter of fact tone of, Of course my socks are blue. She doesn’t seek to enhance it with tiaras and make up and princess dresses. At least not very often.

It’s important, how little girls wade through the beauty topic. It’s important what she sees in the women around her. For every comment I hear someone make to her about her beautiful blue eyes, I try to make my own to her about her incredible creativity, her kindness to her little sister, her willingness to help. The things that make her a Beautiful Soul, not just a Beautiful Face. I think my friends are some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. But even in how I talk about them to my girls, I try to comment on their beautiful character, that they are great listeners and generous friends.

I believe in a family culture of honor. When, God forbid, the meanness of the world creeps in and tells her anything other than that she’s beautiful, my hope is that a lifetime of being honored for the beauty of her soul, will resound louder and longer than the crack of the hurtful.

So tonight we have dinner in honor of our recent Kindergarten Graduate! She has requested sea bass(of course, most random request ever) and caramel cake. So we have fish tacos, salsa verde, watermelon and caramel cake on the menu. I made THIS caramel cake from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and whipped up a twist on salsa verde, recipe below. Tonight our family who are friends and friends who are family will gather and honor the Beautiful: that her teacher said she was kind and inclusive, that she was a strong leader, that she is incredibly artistic, that she worked hard to learn how to read and speak spanish and sing harmonies. A little Beautiful Soul (with incredible beautiful blue eyes).

Salsa Verde:

10 small tomatillos

1/2 jalapeno, most of the seeds removed

juice of 2 limes

large handful of cilantro

1 mango

sea salt to taste

Directions: chop all ingredients very finely. Stir together. Best if left to sit overnight. Serve with tortilla chips or on fish tacos!

Local Fare: Aria’s Save The Lemurs Bake Sale

There are lots of proud moments as a parent. Some of them are skill based, those moments when you realize your kid is the only one who scored a goal in the soccer game, or when you hear your 5 year old sing harmony for the first time. Those are great moments, call the grandparents moments, point your child in that direction moments. Then there are proud moments for character based reasons. These really are the deeply and truly satisfying ones. Like maybe you’ve done something right with your little people. Maybe they get it. Maybe they understand that they are here to contribute to the world and make it better, more than they take from it and hurt each other.

I had such a moment last week. Picky Princess, who just turned 6, learned(via organics kids cereal box) that deforestation is causing lemurs in Madagascar to lose their homes. 22 of the 70 species of lemurs are endangered because of it. She was (rightly) horrified. And determined that she MUST do something to save the lemurs. I told her I would help her in any way and to let me know how she thought we could save them. I even offered suggestions: lemonade stand, benefit concert…But nope, she had already decided, BAKE SALE.

So thanks to social media, and our generous friends at Cornerstone Music Cafe who hosted us, we had to bake about 5 trillion cupcakes this past weekend. Ok it was 600. It was a wonderful day. Picky Princess gave her monologue, over and over, about how we need to save the lemurs. We baked and sold and baked and sold. Thank you to my beautiful friends who supported my beautiful activist child. Between all day friends and family who stopped by with coffee or to lick icing bowls, to late night friends who stopped by to drink wine with me when I was still baking at midnight…it definitely reminded me that…it takes a Village.

All in all, $300 or so was raised to save the lemurs. We will be sending a cheque to the Lemur Conservation Foundation. And I probably won’t bake cupcakes for a while.

Local Fare: Bake Sale!

Hello Friends!

Long time no chat. So much to catch you up on! First of all, I have fig&fennel cookbooks in again finally. They look awesome! If you would like one, email me at alison.leontaridis@gmail.com and I will send you one. They are $30 and you can pay me by paypal or email transfer. There are a few retail outlets in Calgary that will have them as well…Should have a list to you by the end of the week!

In other exciting news…Calgary Food Bloggers are joining forces to put on a bake sale this weekend!!! All proceeds will go to the Brown Bagging project with the Calgary Kids Society. There are going to be amazing, delicious treats, and it’s going to be a lot of fun, SO, you should come and visit me there this weekend! Feb 11 and 12, 10am-5:30pm at Casel Marche at 17th Ave SW and 24th St. I will be there Saturday, Feb 11 from 10-12. I will actually have cookbooks available too if you want to pick one up from me there.

On a personal note: I survived January with nary a scar. It was the most beautiful January ever. Lots on the go: Picky Princess is loving Kindergarten, I have changed Foodie Baby’s name to Baby Light because she lives on about 10 calories a day and no longer loves food. Sexy Husband and I are working on some exciting things including The 1Night Benefit Concert, that we produce every year to raise money for a local charity. This year we are hoping to raise $50,000 for the Calgary Dream Centre. You should come, it’s going to be a great concert. Check it out here!

Hope to see you Saturday!

Recipe: S’more Cookie Bars

heaven

‘Tis the season for Christmas cookie exchanges! Something about Christmas seems to make even the least kitcheny person a little bit more likely to bust out a rolling pin or cookie cutters. I learned a really brilliant lesson this Christmas Cookie Exchange Season, in fact I’m relieved to be learning this now in my early 30s. Ready? Cookie bars. This is the answer to parties where you need to have 9 dozen cookies perfectly packaged. It’s not the mixing that takes long, nor the actual baking time. It’s the rolling/cutting/or even dropping a zillion evenly placed cookies onto rotating baking sheets, parchment, silpat and the like. Cookie bars solve all this. Mix, bake, cut, give. Then instead of cutting the cookie bar into little pieces, I gave them away as a big bar, maybe 6″x6″, wrapped in parchment paper and ribbon. SO EASY.

I came across this recipe from Here . It is so easy, works out great, and pays tribute to (let’s be honest) the most loved confection of all times, the S’more. So Thank you Lovin’ From the Oven for my new absolute favorite cookie bar recipe! (You may also remember my honest and vulnerable confession about my obsession with marshmallows).

I wanted to take a minute to thank the Calgary Herald for listing Fig&Fennel as one of Calgary’s favorite food blogs! And thank YOU for reading! That was a very nice surprise to wake up to yesterday.

S’more Cookie Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)

1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.  Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Makes 16 cookie bars.

graham dough

chocolate layer

Recipe: Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Well Hello!!!

It’s been a long time! I hope you are all warm and well with people you love. I can’t believe fall is gone and Christmas is nearly upon us. I’m finding myself drawn to simpler things this year. Other years I find time and inspiration for decor and crafts and elaborate desserts and dinner parties and new recipes galore. This year I’m happy to read the girls Christmas books, toboggan, and meet friends for a glass of wine. But I am grateful for the season. Grateful for winter magic in little girl eyes.

Mini Cookbook update: I know. I know. I’m working on it. It’s too long and dreary to explain but let’s just summarize: new publisher, new format, first experience outsourcing(amazing), new graphic work, not a lot of free time, setting up online purchasing, soon.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t cooked anything since I last blogged which was…2 months ago. It’s true. Sexy Husband is on tour, Picky Princess and (super picky) Foodie Baby eat about 1 calorie each for supper, so I slice a lot of apples and boil a lot of eggs. I’m unapologetic. It’s the season. And seasons change all the time.

THIS recipe, however, is amazing. It is a no-fail-go-to-every-winter-binge-worthy dessert. It is easy and was handed down to me by a lady named Gail, who is wonderful. Gail is a friend of mine from Saskatoon, where I went to university. I was just there to watch a show Sexy Husband sang in and…she made it again! It brought back the happiest most nostalgic memories, even though I’ve made them myself every winter. Something about Gail making them, reminded me of cold COLD winters in Saskatchewan, surrounded by the warmest people I’ve ever met. I can’t actually find the original recipe she gave me, but it’s one that I can make in my sleep because it’s THAT GOOD. If you have holiday parties, cookie exchanges, or boring lonely nights when your husband is away on tour: this is a great treat. I’ve discovered this year that is pairs nicely with red wine(go figure).

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 can sweet and condensed milk(Eagle Brand)

1 bag(approx) chocolate chips

raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and stir to combine. Press 2/3 of dough into a 8×8 glass baking dish. Bake for 15 mins. Remove from oven and drizzle with Eagle Brand, chocolate chips, small dollops of raspberry jam(try to space evenly for a little on every square) and the rest of the dough. Bake for 20 minutes more until edges are turning golden. Remove and cool completely. Cut into small squares(or large ones, whatever). They are much easier to cut if they’ve been in the freezer for a little bit.

Happy December!

Recipe: Blueberry Thumbprint Cookies

blueberry thumbprint cookies

Oh fall is in the air! I like fall, the crisp air, the warm sun, yellow light, falling leaves. I also like the possibility held in new routines and adventures. Picky Princess started Kindergarten last week, which has led to all sorts of changes in our routine. It also means that I have quiet afternoons with her while Foodie Baby sleeps.

Cookie baking is always a favorite afternoon activity. Usually I make a big batch of healthy cookies so I can pack them as kindergarten garbage-free snacks. This week, however, we had a big box of blueberries to use up. So we made our own blueberry jam and put them in the middle of happy little cookies.

The cookie recipe itself was adapted from Martha Stewarts Cookies cookbook(absolutely the best cookie cookbook on earth). The original recipe is called Chocolate Thumbprints. Here’s our little spin on it:

Blueberry Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 2 dozen approx

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups flour

approx 1 cup blueberries, rinsed

2 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and vanilla on medium until smooth, approx 2 mins. Beat in flour on low until combined. For small balls of dough and place them one inch apart on baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes. Use your thumb to make an indent in the centre of the dough. Return to oven and bake about 5 minutes more, until turning slightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile. In a small saucepan, combine blueberries and sugar. Stir and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Spoon jam into thumbprints in cookies.

Recipe: Saskatoon Berry Muffins

saskatoon berry muffins

The cookbook is in the hands of the editor!!! Yay! I’m so thrilled with it and really happy with how it’s all coming together! But more on that soon. We have had such a beautiful summer. We have picnicked to our hearts content, had many amazing super fresh super easy meals, and eaten plenty of gritty, dirt still on them carrots from the Farmers Market. Love love LOVE summer.

Here’s a healthy and easy muffin recipe the little girls and I whipped up this morning. Enjoy!

muffin batter

Saskatoon Berry Muffins

2 cups spelt flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 brick of cream cheese

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 egg

1 cup plain greek yogurt

1 cup saskatoon berries

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tin with paper(12 large and 12 mini or 18 large). Whisk together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add agave nectar. Scrape down bowl. Add egg and beat until smooth. Stir in yogurt. Stir in dry ingredients until not quite combined. Add berries and stir until barely combined. Scoop into muffin tins. Bake for 10 minutes at 450. Reduce heat to 400 and bake for 5 mins more. Muffins will be golden on top. Serve warm.

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