Friday, July 29, 2016

The Circle of Life

I am faced with the decision to euthanize or not to euthanize my Miss Sugar. She has been my constant companion for the past 13 years. Good and bad we have been through it together. Her first trip was to Nova Scotia. A semi-truck passing me on the highway terrified her. It took all of those two weeks across the continent for her to be comfortable in the car.

We have been down to Tennessee and that's where she picked up the Miss in Miss Sugar. She is a true belle. Today I found her a baby mouse in my garden and she turned her nose up at it. Only the healthiest cat kibbles for her. 

And at this same time we are moving my 90 year old father back to Saskatchewan. Juxtapose my ailing cat with my ailing father gives an interesting image. I wonder if my father wants to choose death? I watch my dear Sugar wither away and her spirit is broken. She is putting in time. I wonder if my father feels he is putting in time.

One difference is that I can communicate more effectively with my father than my kitten. I can ask and be answered in a language I understand.

Perhaps. I had a conversation with Sugar last night while I was uncontrollably sobbing. We have this way of having a chat. After she stops her throaty discourse I begin telling her my problems. When she is ready to talk again, I stop. And so it goes, back and forth. Forth and back. Until we have had our say. Last night as I sobbed her voice was strong and the more I sobbed the stronger her voice became. There was nothing more for me to say so I had to stop sobbing. She stopped talking, too. We sat there cuddling without words for a good length of time. Call me crazy but I think she was telling me to buck up. It isn't the end of my world, only hers. My life will go on without her.

The only way I can connect this to food is to channel comfort food. What is more comforting than cinnamon buns. I rarely divulge my market recipes but I am doing it today. These are the absolute best cinnamon buns.

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls
  • 4 c. whole milk
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 8 c. (plus 1 c. reserved) all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping tsp. baking powder
  • 1 scant tsp. baking soda
  • 1 heaping tbsp. salt
  • 1 c. melted butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • cinnamon
  • Maple Frosting
  • approx. 8 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. maple flavoring
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. melted butter
  • 1/4 c. brewed coffee
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Set aside and cool to warm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.

Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away, or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it’s been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

To assemble the rolls, remove half the dough from the pan/bowl. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.

To make the filling, pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar.
Beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Cut into 1-inch slices. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter onto the bottom of a sheet pan. Place the sliced rolls in the pan, being careful not to overcrowd.
This will make about 30 rolls and can be made in disposable foil pans or a large sheet pan.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cover pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t allow the rolls to become overly brown.

While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing. In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, maple flavouring, and salt. Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter, or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be somewhat thick but still very pourable.

Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top. As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing’s moisture and flavor.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One Never Knows Who Their Friends Are

Yesterday was the first market of the season. It was a great day only clouded by an inexperienced and overly self-important health inspector. Her very late approval of my Vendor Permit meant that I was not able to offer my full menu. I don't just pull all this food out of my back pocket, after all. Does she really think I can purchase many of my amazing ingredients here in this 'three hours from anywhere' prairie town? I think it was her attitude that punctuated my lack-lustre winter.

There were two of us early to set up our market stalls. So, Marion asks, how have you been? I don't know why but I told her the truth. Perhaps it was because it was only the two of us. Or that I had reached the limit of my patience with this place. But I honestly told her I had a difficult winter. I had depression. That simple confession and her heartfelt response seemed to lift a weight off my body. I held back tears (until now) and chatted a little about how unfriendly (albeit nice) people really are. How absorbed in their lives that they cannot actually find it in themselves to accept someone new. She agreed and added her two cents worth about her little village.

Retirement can be like this. At least it has been for me. I grew up in this province but people are extremely local in mindset. Five hours away may as well be across the ocean. There is very little to link us other than politics.

But five hours away can bring a whole new menu. Last night I celebrated by playing with the food that arrived in my monthly Foraging Box from northern Saskatchewan.

Burn Morel Risotto with Dandelion Greens

1 c. arborio rice
1 small shallot
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 c. parmesan stock
1/2 c. fresh morels, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. grated parmesan and more to garnish
a few dandelion greens
more butter
quail eggs

Saute shallots and morels in butter and olive oil. Add rice and coat with oil. Add wine and simmer until almost completely reduced.

Warm the parmesan stock and gradually add, one ladle at a time to the rice. Then continue the same with water until the rice is cooked to al dente. Stir in grated parmesan. Set aside.

Steam dandelion greens in a little water until tender. Add a little butter to coat. Season with sea salt.

To poach eggs, bring a small pot of water to the simmer. You can add a tablespoon of vinegar if you wish. This will make the egg coagulate faster. Break the eggs into separate bowls. When the water is simmering, slip each egg into it and maintain the slow simmer. It will only take about a minute or two to cook. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

To serve, place risotto in the bowl. Top with dandelion greens and finally the poached quail eggs. Garnish with more grated parmesan. Bon Appetito.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A New Day, A New Year

There will never be a New Year’s Eve to eclipse the epic December 31, 1999. The sense of anticipation was palpable. For heaven’s sake, computers had not been programmed to turn over to the new millennium, we were told. The fear of havoc for mankind as we knew it was pervasive. I had my emergency preparedness kit at the ready.

I had a dinner party that night and remember a friend came with a magnum of unchilled Baby Duck. I stuck in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator and forgot about it. Good news. It froze and burst! I didn't have to drink it!

Every New Year’s Eve since has been anti-climactic. I am now back to mundane resolutions and dreams of a new life miraculously appearing before me when the last page of the calendar is ripped off and tossed.

As the new year blossoms I regret not being better at staying in touch with old friends. Old friends are the best friends. We pick up where we left off as if time stood still. Old friends seldom let you down.  Now I feel I am letting them down.

It happens. You move. Get busy. Don’t call. Lose touch.

Another interesting piece with retirement is the reconnection with people from the past who actually are not friends. It goes like this, “So I see you have retired. What are you doing?” Me, naïve and one who always thinks the best of people answers in vivid detail and with questions about their life. Waiting. For. Communication.

There is something about being retired that brings similarly positioned people to call. They want to talk about themselves. They want to brag. They tell me about vacation homes and moving to a warmer climate. But they never continue the conversation. Interesting.

Pomegranates represent good luck in Turkey for many reasons: Their red color, which represents the human heart, denotes life and fertility; their medicinal properties represent health; and their abundant, round seeds represent prosperity — all things everyone hopes for in any fresh start. (

Chocolate Pomegranate Torte
from Fine Cooking

This is not local food in any way but what a nice way to ring in the new year. As if chocolate wasn’t healthy enough it is combined with superfood pomegranate. There is a double dose of antioxidants in this. You won’t age a bit this year. Promise.

Serves 12 to 14
  • 1/4 c. softened unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces; more for the pan
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% or 72% cacao)
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Pomegranate Jelly:
  • 1 medium cooking apple
  • 1 1/2 c. pure unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 12 fresh or frozen cranberries
For the Glaze:
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% or 72% cacao), chopped medium fine
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 tbsp. honey or light corn syrup
  • Pinch table salt
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)

Make the Cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the sides of a 9x2-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment.
Finely grate 2 oz. of the chocolate and set aside. Coarsely chop the remaining chocolate and combine with the butter and 3 Tbs. water in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt until thick and lightened in color.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed to soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With the motor running, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating to stiff peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Whisk the warm chocolate and the flour into the yolk mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold one-quarter of the whites into the chocolate batter. Scrape the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture and sprinkle the grated chocolate on top. Fold together. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out smudged with a few moist crumbs, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto another rack. Remove the pan and parchment and invert the cake onto the first rack (it's normal for the cake to have a crusty exterior that may crack with handling). Let cool completely.

Make the Pomegranate Jelly:
Grate enough of the apple (including the peel) to yield 3/4 cup. In a medium saucepan, bring the grated apple, pomegranate juice, sugar, and cranberries to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, covered, until the apple is softened and the mixture has thickened a little, about 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally at first and then constantly towards the end, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes.
With a rubber spatula, press the pulp through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl until you can't get any more juice out of the pulp. Scrape all of the juice clinging to the bottom of the strainer into the bowl and discard the pulp in the strainer.
Brush away any loose crumbs and easily detachable crusty pieces from the sides and top of the cake. Transfer the cake to a cardboard circle or tart pan bottom.
Stir the jelly to blend it, scrape it onto the cake, and spread it evenly over the top. Let the jelly cool until it's set, about 1 hour. At this point, the cake may be covered with an inverted cake pan, wrapped in plastic (the pan keeps the plastic from touching the cake), and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Make the Glaze:
Put the chocolate, butter, honey, and salt in a heatproof bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water. Stir gently until the chocolate melts and the mixture is perfectly smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 Tbs. cool water. Let cool to room temperature without stirring. If not using right away, cover and store at room temperature. 

Set the cake on a rack set over a baking sheet. With an offset spatula, spread 1/3 cup of the glaze around the sides of the cake and on top of the gel (be careful not to disturb the gel) to smooth the surfaces and glue on any crumbs. Re-warm the remaining glaze gently to 90°F in a skillet of barely simmering water—the glaze should have the consistency of thick, pourable cream.
Scrape all of the glaze onto the top of the cake. Spread the glaze over the top and all around the sides. For the shiniest glaze, work quickly and use as few strokes as possible. Scoop up any excess glaze from the baking sheet and use it to cover bare spots.
Garnish with pomegranate seeds and let the cake rest on the rack for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cake plate and let sit at room temperature until set, 15 to 30 minutes, or up to several hours before serving.