I realized that I haven’t posted anything about the finished Plain Spoken quilt that I made. I actually finished it before leaving Vancouver and, thankfully, remembered to take some pictures before giving it away. It was a labor of love and long one at that but I am really happy with how it turned out. I think the next quilting project I take on will be decidedly smaller though. I was daydreaming about a beautiful tea cozy yesterday and that’s about the size of project I can handle.

Here it is. To give you an idea of the size, that’s my 5’10″ Man of all Men modeling the quilt for us. I quilted it in a sort of wave or cloud pattern (depending on which way you look at it). I love the end result but it was a lot of work using a straight-stitch walking foot system.

It’s the Canada Day long weekend and local strawberries have, appropriately made their way onto the scene. The weather is supposed to cooperate beautifully and at brunch this morning the waitress informed us that only 1 in 3 Torontonians remain in the city this weekend. We are in that minority staying in town but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a relaxing, celebratory weekend.

But back to the real stars of the weekend…strawberries. I’m not Canada’s biggest strawberry fan, there are other fruits that I prefer, but the other week when local strawberries started appearing in the grocery stores I actually gasped and made this “ooooOOoooo” sound. (As an aside, I have no ability to stop myself from making this sound when I see something I like. It’s proved to be a helpful tool for my Man of all Men who uses it to track me down in a store if he’s wandered off…though he would probably argue that I am the one that wanders, lured by shiny things, cleaning supplies, and plants.)

So we bought the strawberries and, even though eating them on their own would have been enough to honour their existence, I wanted to do something more. So I did what any girl would do, I scoured my favourite blogs and epicurious to find a recipe that would take these berries to another level. I narrowed down my search to a strawberry-shortcake-esque dessert and finally decided on this shortcake recipe with a few changes. It was everything a tribute to strawberries should be and tasted like summer. I ate it for 3 meals straight.

Strawberry Shortcake (adapted from epicurious.com)

Shortcakes ~

2 cups less 2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp pecan flour/meal (of course you can just use all regular flour like the original recipe asks for)
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp sugar

  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • Mix flour, pecan flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the butter, quickly crumbling it in with your fingers until it all looks like fine bread crumbs. (Before doing steps like this where you don’t want the butter melting, I usually wash my hands with cold water to bring down their temperature. I am cold blooded so often this isn’t necessary but it can’t hurt.)
  • In a different bowl mix the cream, yogurt, and yolks. Add to the dry mix using a fork. Stir “until the dough just holds together”.
  • On a floured surface (otherwise known as a countertop), knead the dough until it is smooth. Do not overwork.
  • Roll out your dough until it is around 3/4 inch thick. Using a glass or cookie cutter of the size you desire cut out as many rounds as your dough will allow. Briefly knead together any scraps and roll out again before cutting as many more rounds as you can.
  • Put the rounds on a baking sheet with a bit of space, as they will puff up and out. Brush them with the melted butter and sprinkle with the last tbsp of sugar.
  • Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until the biscuits are slightly browned.

Filling ~

1 small green basket of strawberries
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
~1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp icing sugar

  • Mix together and let macerate for about an hour at room temperature

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
drizzle of honey (depending on how sweet you want it)

  • Mix together!
  • Finally, halve a shortcake and spoon strawberries onto the bottom half. Top with vanilla yogurt and sandwich together with the top of the shortcake.
  • Devour in much less time than it took to make these, but enjoy enough to make it well worth the effort!

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

This is one of the easiest tricks in my preserving tool box. It’s a strategy that my family learned from our neighbours when I was in high school and I am still delighted by the fabulous simplicity and usefulness of the results. Your Corona’s never need to go lime-less again!

Quite simply, you take lemons and/or limes and cut them up in slices or segments laying them on a cookie sheet or other flat surface that you can fit in your freezer. Obviously, you then put these trays into the freezer. Once the lemon/lime pieces are frozen you can transfer them to a suitable storage container.

Now you will always have lemon and lime on hand. The slices and segments don’t take very long to defrost if you need fresh juice and they make a wonderful alternative to ice cubes. I am particularly fond of a splash of red vermouth with a frozen lemon slice before supper, but I can be lured into enjoying a gin and tonic with a lime segment too. A jug of plain tap water is dressed up in no time with a few slices of citrus added. While they don’t make very good ice cubes, I include the end pieces of the lemons/limes when I am freezing them so that I always have zest on hand.

I am finding it a bit strange adjusting to the weather patterns of Toronto when I am so used to the predictable rain of Vancouver. It’s been sunny for what feels like forever; while part of me is rejoicing over this fact, another part of me feels a bit suspicious of this lack of rain. It has however been getting a bit chilly, perfect weather to curl up with a bowl of soup and some reading (though I do wish it wasn’t Economics for Business, especially when I have Nigella Lawson’s new cookbook Kitchen sitting, temptingly on my desk).

Last week I came across this recipe for tomato soup on deliciousdays.com and while I’ve changed it slightly based on what I have on hand, it is everything I want a soup to be on a chilly evening. You know a recipe is fabulously easy and the results are delicious when I make it twice in one week. Astounding really when you consider that these days I am only cooking for me, myself, and I.

2 tbsp butter (the original recipe uses ghee, but I didn’t have any so I substituted)
1/4 tsp cumin
a dash of cayenne and 1/4 tsp chile flakes (the original recipe uses 2 chiles, freshly ground but again I think this is flexible)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 garlic clove, finely diced
1/3 cup red lentils
15oz. can of diced tomatoes, including juice
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt
fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional garnish)
plain yogurt or sour cream (optional garnish)

1. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add cumin, cayenne or chiles, garam masala, and diced garlic. Let this cook about a minute, the spices will start transferring to the butter, making it change color.

2. Add the lentils, tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a boil before adding the turmeric and salt.

3. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, this isn’t a very fussy recipe so if you get tied up doing something else for a few minutes it’s fine. Test to make sure the lentils aren’t hard and see if the seasoning needs adjustment.

4. Ladle into bowls and, if desired, garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley and yogurt or sour cream.

I did not make, invent or preserve this wonderful beverage but I am totally convinced imbiber of Granville Island Brewing’s Ginger Beer. It combines the flavour of good sugary pop style ginger beer with good light beer. In my opinion it smells like ginger, tastes like beer, and then returns to a lingering taste of ginger. It’s a limited release so you really must get some before I buy the whole lot…erm, I mean, track some down and enjoy it before it’s gone. To put you on the right trail: the brewery’s store on Granville Island is the obvious choice, it also seems to be stocked at select BC Liquor Stores, and it comes in larger 650mL bottles with an orange label. Cheers!

My blog has started like most projects; off in a blaze of glory and excitement only to be trampled and quashed by the vagaries of life. Between moving, applying for business school (yes, I have a much more prosaic side to me that is not apparent in my love for preserving and pretty things), and madly attempting to finish my first real quilt.

I’m a do-er and the result of this is that I often have piles of unfinished projects lurking. It weighs on me and this spring I had to put aside the blog and get some things done. Who wants to complete their taxes and filing when there’s so much fun all around?

Today is the summer solstice and, as such, a perfect milestone to circle back to my blogging with renewed vigor. As a teaser, here is a picture of the quilt I am making. It’s still not complete but it’s much closer.

The pattern of this quilt is Plain Spoken, from the book “The Modern Quilt Workshop” by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. It’s a great book with some wonderful, modern quilt patterns and lots of advice for new quilters.

And so the citrus obsession continues. I am just so thrilled to have found out that citrus has a season. Ridiculous, I know, but it’s true. It had probably never occurred to me because I’ve never lived anywhere suited to growing citrus. Instead, I’ve lived in the northern reaches where lemons, limes and oranges are available year-round at the supermarket.

We’re January babies, most of the citrus family and me. Given how much I love my birthday and try to stretch it to an entire season, usually only achieving a couple weeks before some other tangelo has a turn, it seems right for citrus and I to be kindred spirits. Citrus season is my new favorite birthday event and I’m already planning to have something involving Meyer lemon curd for my birthday cake (tart? pie?) next year.

After tracking down some Meyer lemon’s this week, couldn’t wait to make this lemon curd from Epicurious. It had numerous rave reviews and I agree completely. It was easy to make, beautiful and delicious! So good I am saving some of the remaining Meyer’s to make more.

3-4 Meyer lemons (enough to get 2 tsp. of zest and 1/2 c. of juice, it only took me 2 1/2 lemons to achieve this)
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick of butter cut into 4 pieces
(I had to look up how much is in a “stick”, turns out it’s about 1/2 c.)

1. Whisk: zest, juice, sugar, & eggs in a metal bowl.
You will be heating this double boiler style so if you don’t seem to have a metal bowl…ahem, Bree…then just use a pot that will fit into another one to simulate the bowl. This is also a good time to start that water simmering in the bottom pot. 

2. Add butter.

3. Put your bowl/pot over the simmering water and begin whisking.

4. Continue whisking until the curd is thick, smooth, and around 160 degrees F on a thermometer.

The next step was to push the curd through a sieve to remove the zest bits but I like their flecks of dark yellow so I didn’t bother with this. Besides who wants to waste all that curd on the sieve! If you can stop yourself from eating it all by the spoonful, straight from the pot, you should apparently cover it with wax paper, presumably to stop it from forming a yucky skin on the top.

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