Think Fresh: Spring Clean

No sweeter words ring through Sexy Husband’s ears than when I say, “Love! Let’s do some spring cleaning this weekend!” Seriously. It’s therapy to him, he’s the cleanest most organized man alive. Or perhaps it’s pure shock when I suggest such a thing because I’m a little bit oblivious. I like it clean. I like it tidy. But I also don’t seem to notice things like the laundry basket overflowing, and honestly I don’t even know WHERE he takes the recycling to. But it’s true, there is something therapeutic about reordering closets, removing clutter, examining processes and finding ways to move through our very full lives smoothly and with as little tripping up as possible.

This week, however, we thought we’d do a little INSIDE spring cleaning. We had a weekend of total indulgence. Sexy Husband wanted pub food for date night, and while I initially thought…ugh, I happily dove into the pulled pork and caramelized onion poutine and peanut buster parfaits of the evening. It tasted great. For 3 minutes. The over indulgence coupled with the realization that my jeans aren’t doing up quite as easily led to a conversation where we decided it was time to refocus on the food we put in our bodies and how much control we have over our health. Here we have all this knowledge and all these resources and even a little bit of talent when it comes to kitcheny things…there really is no excuse for tight jeans and gut rot. So we’re spring cleaning. Our insides.

The plan is simple. One week of ultra clean eating, mostly fruits and vegetables and protein in the form of nuts, seeds and beans. Another week of adding in a few organic animal based proteins, fish or dairy, and then onto a long term (re)commitment to general clean eating. Treats are treats.

I’m only 3 days in but am feeling great(probably because I’m still drinking coffee). (ok, and yesterday I drank a beer). And obviously not everyone is interested in or inclined to eat healthy all the time. But whatever little adjustments you can do, cutting out sugar, not drinking pop, packing a lunch…do it! It’s spring. Time for new habits!

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!

Cookbook: Release Party

amazing and beautiful friends and family

prepping in the kitchen

 

 

seriously beautiful friends

I can’t believe it’s come and gone! We had such a great night. A deep and heartfelt thank you to all of you who came out to the Fig & Fennel Cookbook Release Party. I had such a beautiful night and feel deeply loved and supported! Cookbooks are sold out but I have another order in and will get an online order system set up soon! In time for Christmas orders!

A few things:

Thank you to Phil&Sebastian Marda Loop who were the most incredible and gracious hosts. It was a crammed full coffee shop and they made latte after latte, friendly as can be. Warren, gave up lots of space in his kitchen for us and was about the sweetest guy in the world. Brodie at Phil&Seb’s was so great to work with, and Kate who ran the night was sweet and lovely. I seriously couldn’t be more grateful.

Thank you to my amazing family for all the support. Jacquelyn who like the beaters, my Dad who stayed up way later than normal, my Mom and Auntie Rosie who ran the kitchen, my cousin Alex who came all the way from Toronto. They delivered sample after sample, and made sure it was a happy party. I couldn’t have had better help. I know they were prepared to buy my entire stock of books too, in case I needed them to step in.

Thank you to Leon and Graham for organizing music and sound. What’s a party without music? All week they worked for me, instead of the other way around. So grateful. And to the beautiful and talented Sarah Vann who came and sang and played and lit the room up with her incredible smile.

Thank you to the most supportive group of friends I have ever had. You have all treated me like the cookbook was equivalent to a Nobel Peace Prize. I was overwhelmed by one friendly face after another. It was honestly one of the most beautiful nights of my life.

Cookbook: Announcement

 

This morning I made my muffins, from my own cookbook. I can hardly believe it. After a year and a bit of cooking, writing, editing, cooking, cooking cooking, editing, crying….it’s done! I received the sample copy earlier this week and last night in the wee hours, I ordered my first batch of fig & fennel Cookbooks! Yay!

I’m figuring out order options etc, so stay tuned, but I will tell you that we are having a Cookbook Release Party on October 22 7-9pm at Phil & Sebastian‘s in Marda Loop (for you Calgary friends and foodies). There is going to be live music (obviously) and lots and lots of samples of food from the cookbook. Plus, as always, amazing coffee from P&S! Come buy a latte and a cookbook!

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: Mini Frittatas

mini frittatas

 

It has been a BIG week around here. Picky Princess started Kindergarten today. I felt like maybe I should be teary about it, but honestly she’s so ready and so excited about life and wants it so badly, it’s hard to be anything but excited for her. Foodie Baby did not agree and cried her heart out saying goodbye to big sister. Apparently I’m not a fun alternative.

IronSister also had her baby! I think I’m going to refer to him as baby Braveheart until I come up with something better. IronSister asked me to be with her when she had the baby, which was an incredible honor, and also the most terrifying experience of my life. In the fastest lightning few hours, tiny Braveheart joined us, 6lbs 2oz of perfection. I have been desperate to cuddle him as much as possible so I keep cooking and baking so I can call and say, oh I’m just going to drop off some muffins…be right over. She’s happy. I’m happy. My kids seem like teenagers compared to him.

All this excitement led to one of the yummiest kitchen inventions ever created in my kitchen! They are easy, healthy, delicious. So basically: check check check. If you need ideas for dinner, give this a try.

Mini Frittatas

2 large potatoes, shredded

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for muffin tins

4 eggs

2 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1/2 orange pepper, finely chopped

sea salt

Directions: Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Preheat oven to 350. Saute potatoes in oil until soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often. In a separate bowl, mix all other ingredients(just a bit of sea salt, the feta and sundried tomatoes add lots of flavor). Dump potatoes into other ingredients and stir to combine. Grease 2 muffin tins with olive oil. Scoop potato/egg mixture into muffin tins, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes until eggs are cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes and loosen edges to scoop out. Serve at any temperature!

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.

Think Fresh: Infused Vodka

home-infused vodka

Ok, this turned out better than I’d even hoped!! I noticed in Bon Appetit a month or two ago a comment on infusing your own vodka. I thought that sounded like a fun idea and happened to have 2 almost full bottles of vodka in the freezer for some random reason. I think they were left over from IronSister’s Dirty Martini lingerie shower a looooong time ago. So two weeks ago I pulled them out and poured them into jars and added several blood oranges(pith completely removed to avoid bitterness) to one jar, several sour cherries to another, and a whole bunch of blackberries to a jar of vanilla vodka. I left them in the fridge for 2 weeks, shaking them up from time to time.

With Sexy Husband’s line of work, we have no end of musicians around. I was looking for a particular kind of guest for the vodka sampling occasion. The type of guest who isn’t burdened at my demands to sample my various cocktail creations at 5:30pm.  And I had my dreams come true when a good friend, who I will call Rockstar Scotty, joined us for dinner. We came up with the following combinations. I highly recommend them all!

Creamy Cherry – sour cherry vodka with old fashioned cream soda (I used 1 oz of vodka per drink because we obviously had to have a few)

Bloody Fizz – blood orange vodka with mango soda

Black Vanilla – blackberry infused vanilla vodka with a splash of blueberry juice

I served these all over ice, in martini glasses. Rockstar Scotty liked the Black Vanilla best, Sexy Husband and I both thought the Creamy Cherry was pretty amazing. All were great and a lot of fun!

I’m definitely going to try some other ones: watermelon and nectarine seem like a good place to start. I also have some lychees that might make for some nice drinks. If you get creative and infuse your own booze, let me know what combos you try!

Creamy Cherry

Think Fresh: Salsa

Picky Princess eating fruit salsa and crackers

I cannot BELIEVE it! There’s this big yellow ball glowing in the sky and the world feels…warm! Amazing! Summer is upon us and I’m desperately hoping for long sunny days and all the fun they bring with them! Summer food is my favorite. Winter comforty food is great, fresh green veggies of early spring, also wonderful, fall smells of cinnamon and pumpkin pie, always sensual. But summer food: summer food seems to be alive! We eat a lot of raw food in the summer and my food processor is busy busy busy chopping up vegetables and fruit for salsas! I put salsa on bbq’d meat, on crackers or tortilla chips, on salads, on anything! Here are three variations to try this summer. The process is the same for all of them, chop up ingredients nice and small and stir together. I usually use a food processor, but be careful to pulse slowly and stop before everything combines into mush. Usually the flavors blend together nicely after sitting for a while. Which is perfect. Make your salsa early in the day and you’ll be ready for supper that much faster!

1. Every day go-to Salsa: 4 tomatoes, half a sweet onion, little bit of hot pepper, handful of cilantro, dash of sea salt, juice of 1 lime.

2. Tex Mex salsa: 4 tomatoes, 1/2 cup corn kernels, 1/2 can black beans, 1 avocado, handful of cilantro, dash of sea salt, juice of 1 lime.

3. Fruit salsa: 2 nectarines, handful of ripe strawberries, 1/4 of a purple onion, handful of fresh mint, juice of 1 lime.

These are my favorites but there really are no limits! Try a melon salsa! Salsa is a great way to top salad instead of salad dressing, a great condiment for bbq’d chicken, and a great way to eat lots of fruits and veggies.

Recipe: Rhubarb Shortbread

Rhubarb Shortbread

…brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things…particularly if the brown paper package is filled with rhubarb straight from the garden, delivered by a friend, and still with the slightest bit of dirt on the stalks.  Just such a package arrived for me this week from a Beautiful Soul and I’ve had a great time making rhubarb inspired meals. We had rhubarb compote on chicken breasts, strawberry rhubarb crumble, and tonight’s experiment: rhubarb shortbread. This recipe is loosely taken from a Smitten Kitchen recipe that is one of my summer favorites. A few changes and voila. The sweet and nutty brown sugar spelt shortbread with the tang of the rhubarb is absolutely delicious. It all tastes a bit like…summer!

Rhubarb Shortbread

makes a lot

3 cups spelt flour(or regular unbleached flour)

1 cup brown or raw sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups thinly chopped rhubarb

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 and butter a 9×13 baking dish. Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add butter and egg and work together with a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Tightly press 3/4 of mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the rhubarb over the shortbread. Top with remaining shortbread mixture. Bake for about 30 mins until edges are turning golden. Cool completely in pan and cut into squares.

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