Saturday, 27 July 2013

Breakfast Bars (or how to feed a crowd of people for breakfast, and still be smiling)

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - Leo Tolstoy

I remember when I first met my husband he asked me what I thought Heaven was like.  I believe I described a very detailed image of a quiet, peaceful nature scene...something with a stream...mountains...trees...and solitude.  He said, "That's funny." He continued on to say that he had thought of heaven as a big house with lots of people and lots of noise...all the people you have missed and gone before you...and they are welcoming you ...
My husband does love people...(so do my children).  Already, this summer I have cooked consecutive days for over 30 people (yes, I am talking ...breakfast lunch and dinner).  And they are still wondering when more people can come to visit. I am beginning to think I have gone into the wrong profession.  I think I should have been a party planner...or been perhaps in catering. (But my family is lucky...I do love people, too.)
One thing I have learned is that cooking for a crowd does take technique if you hope to survive.  This is one recipe I have already repeated three times this past feed a crowd...and every time it has been a hit.  It is easy to prepare...looks a bit fancy...and can even be made the evening before.

In my house...I either triple or quadruple the following recipe.  I have also substituted the butter with coconut oil at times...also, I have used half whole wheat flour instead of all white flour. The substitutions all worked great.

Breakfast Bars(from Smitten Kitchen)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Lightly butter a 9 x 12 inch baking pan

for the crusts:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter

for the filling:
1/4 brown sugar
1 T lemon zest
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons flour
3 cups berries (I have used both raspberry and sour cherry...both were good)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Crusts:
1.  Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon in a bowl.  Combine with a pastry blender until mixture resembles loose crumbs.

2.  Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. (reserve the remaining crumb to use for the topping.)

3.  Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool as you continue the other preparations.

For the filling:
4.a. If using raspberries (fresh or frozen):  Combine in a medium bowl sugar, lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, berries, lemon juice and butter.  Set aside.  (no need to cook)
    b.  If using fresh sour cherries, with pits removed:  repeat the above step...then transfer to a saucepan and bring the mixture to a light boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat, a continuing cooking at a low heat  for about 5 minutes.

Assemble the bars:
5.  Spread the berry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust.

6.  Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.
7.  Bake for 35- 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling beings to bubble around the edges.
8.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Then cut and serve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Piece of Glass

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of words being there, written in invisible ink and clamouring to become visible.   - Vladamir Nabakov

Not too long ago, when my children were smaller, I took a walk along the shore with a friend, my children and my nieces.  As we walked, my children kept running to show me the treasures they had found.  But to my friend's surprise, what they hunted the most was the sea glass (or perhaps I should correctly call it lake glass).  My children and my nieces found beautiful bits in all colours...clear, red, blue, brown, ceramic...
With each piece of glass that they brought before me, they asked for the story of where it came from and how it arrived at the shore.  Examining each piece carefully, I would find it's story.  "For sure", I would say, "this one came from the telescope used by the captain.  There was a terrible storm, the captain was frantically searching for the lights of the shore, when his telescope dropped into the churning sea..."
"And this one came from the jewel of a necklace worn by a very fancy lady.  She was standing on the deck one windy night admiring the beautiful starry sky, when suddenly, the necklace came unclasped and slipped off into the dark water..."
As all the children dashed up and down the shoreline trying to find more and more pieces.  My friend turned to me and said, "I have never heard such things...where did you come up with these ideas?"
Surprised that she had never seen the same in the glass, too, I had to think.  Where did I come up with these ideas?  As I thought...I began to remember walking down the beaches of my own childhood...searching for pieces of glass. Then I remembered running to my mom to hear the story of the glass...
      that moment...I began to wondered if perhaps she had run to her mother for the story of the glass, too?...

Next time you walk along the shore...if you find a piece of glass...look inside...and try to find it's story ...and see just that little bit more...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

My Daughter's World

If you don't get lost, there is a chance that you may never be found. - Author Unknown

I think life is a matter of perspective.  Really and truly.  Some of my favourite things are children's handwriting and children's artwork.  Perhaps some people would see the imperfections...the handwriting slanting crookedly across a page or the inconsistent sizes and shapes of the figures.  And perhaps, immediately, they might point out how the child needs to improve and correct and conform to the proper standards.
I have never felt the need to hurry my children fix their mistakes.  But instead, I smile.  It is not the crookedness I notice, It is their discovery of the world...their discovery of forming letters, words, drawings.  It is but a fleeting moment in time.
I like the perspective of how children see the world.  Many times I just shake my head and say.  Wow!  I didn't see that.  I enjoy their point of view of the world...and smile...
Here is my daughter's view of her world.  I hope you enjoy!

The End!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Ricotta and Sour Cherry Crepes

A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs.  It's jolted by every pebble on the road. - Henry Ward Beecher

Our front yard sour cheery trees are currently overflowing with the most beautiful, bright red cherries.  We have never had such a large harvest as this year.  Last year... we had a total of one cherry... and that's it.

But now, everything has changed. What can you do with about 1 million cherries? All day I pondered this deep question.  I know there is cherry pie...but what else can you make with sour cherries?  Then I got an idea....
First thing in the morning I dressed, quietly went out of the house and in the early morning sunshine I began picking cherries for my creation...

And Here it is...
a version of my husband's (and children's) favourite breakfast food...
This is what I did...

Ricotta and Sour Cherry Crepes
A recipe in three parts-yielding about 8 crepes

Part 1:  The Cherry Syrup
Ingredients: (double or triple for a greater yield)
2 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon Tapioca or Cornstarch

1.  Put cherries, sugar and Tapioca into a pot.  Let rest for 15 minutes before adding to heat source.
2. After the cherries have rested in the sugar for 15 minutes.  Transfer the pot to low heat and cook for about 7-10 minutes or until the flesh of the fresh sour cherries is no longer yellow, but red.
3. Once cooked through, set aside to use when the crepes are finished.

Part 2:  The Ricotta
Ingredients: (yields about 1-2 cups...double recipe for greater yield)
6 cups milk
2 cups cream
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (or vinegar)
1 teaspoon salt

1.  Heat milk, cream and salt in a saucepan over low heat until bubbles start to form. (be careful not to let the milk boil over the pot)
2.  Add lemon juice to bubbling milk.
3.  Continue to stir until curds start to form in the hot milk and the remaining liquid begins to turn more opaque.
4.  Remove from heat source.
5.  Prepare a colander lined with a damp light weight kitchen towel.
6.  Pour the curdled milk into the prepared colander.
7.  Gather the ends of the cloth and tie closed.
8.  Hang the Ricotta to remove the excess liquid.

Part 3:  The Crepe
(This recipe was taught to me by a French Canadian...whose mother had eleven children...her general rule of thumb was...per person add..1 egg, 1 cup of flour, and 1 cup of milk...I have varied that recipe slightly...)
For every 1-2 people, prepare:  
(To serve a larger crowd double the suggested amounts as required)
3/4 cup flour
1 cup milk 
1 egg
pinch of salt

1.  Add 3/4 cup flour, 1 cup flour, and 1 egg and pinch of salt to bowl.  Whisk.  (Remember: If you are making for more than two people...repeat with the above amounts in the same order...until you get the desired quantity of batter...for example...flour,milk, egg, salt, mix. Flour, milk, egg, salt,  mix. etc...) 
2.  Heat up a medium sized frying pan over low heat.
3.  Prepare a small bowl with a small amount of oil.  From the bowl, take 1 spoonful of oil and pour  onto the hot pan. Tilting the pan, swirl the oil around.

4.  Ladle about a half cup of batter onto the oiled hot skillet.  Tilt the pan to swirl the batter around to evenly cover the entire bottom of the pan.
5.  Fry for about 30sec - 1 minute per side, depending on the skillet temperature.  Then flip gently with spatula. Lightly fry the reverse side.  The crepe should look like this:

8.  Continue frying the batter in portions, until you have the desired amount of Crepes.
9.  Then begin to assemble your finished crepes for serving.
Lay crepe flat on plate:
Put about 3 -4 Tablespoons of Ricotta Cheese down the middle of the crepe:
Put desired amount of Cherry syrup over the top of the ricotta Cheese. (I used about 3-4 Tablespoons):
Fold the edges over the filling, like you are folding a business letter....Now serve and enjoy!

Friday, 12 July 2013

July at Dusk

The reason birds fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings. - J.M.Barrie

Here is our world today...