Applesauce oatmeal muffins 

  

A quick, easy kid-friendly muffin. I’ve made these a few times now and they’ve been a big hit with our one year old. 

My three year old nephew helped make the latest batch. He rejected them at first, but took a tentative bite today and I think we’d have him by tomorrow if they weren’t already all gone. That is the thing I like most about this recipe – the flavours are really simple, but these muffins seem to disappear very quickly.

Applesauce oatmeal muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 cup flour (all purpose or spelt flour both work great)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup applesauce
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine egg, applesauce and oil in another bowl, and then add to dry mixture. Stir gently until just combined. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.

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January 27, 2016 at 6:55 am Leave a comment

Almond pear cake

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I tore this recipe out of a magazine a few years ago. The increasingly tattered page has been stuck to the side of not one, but two fridges (the one in our Vancouver apartment, and then at our house in Victoria), and now it has earned a place of honour in the pine recipe box my grandfather made for me when I was about 15.

I made the cake early in December with some D’Anjou pears that took forever to ripen, and then got too ripe too quickly. It was amazing that such an elegant and delicious cake could emerge from those pears, which were mottled with brown spots and mushy parts. I planned to serve it for a dinner we were having with an old friend until I remembered his nut allergy, so I put it in the freezer and then brought it out on Christmas morning to munch on as “pre-breakfast” while we opened gifts.

Last summer we pre-ordered two pear trees from Fruit Trees and More, a nursery in North Saanich  (a truly inspiring place that deserves a post all on its own). This weekend’s project is to prepare space for them in our yard, so it seems like a fitting time to share the recipe for this lovely cake. It is perfect in so many ways: gluten free, so easy to make, stores well in the freezer, and it’s a little bit healthier than the average dessert thanks to almond meal and the fruit. I hope in a few years once our new pear trees are established that I’ll be able to go on a baking frenzy like I’ve done in the past the harvest from our other fruit trees, which gave us delicious plum cakes and apple pies.

Almond pear cake (adapted from Style at Home’s recipe for Almond Pear Tart)
Makes 1 cake (6-8 servings)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/3 cups almond meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Zest of 2 lemons
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
Raw sugar and cinnamon for dusting
Plain yogurt for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a round springform pan. Cream the butter and sugar in a mix master until just combined. Add the eggs, almond meal, flour, baking powder and lemon zest and process until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the springform pan. Arrange the pears on top of the tart mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the tart comes out clean. Sprinkle the tart with the raw sugar and cinnamon and allow to cool in the pan. Serve with yogurt.

January 21, 2016 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

A visit to the duck pond

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the gardens at Government House, which are a short walk away from our house. They were a main stay of my walking regime during the new mama survival challenge this time last year, and I have to say it is such a joy (and relief) to be visiting the gardens with a much greater sense of ease.

As usual, spring arrives astonishing fast in Victoria. Snowdrops, irises, hellebores, primulas, cyclamen and more, all in bloom already. Little man was oh-so-patient while I took a few photos, but the real attraction of our walk yesterday was the visit to the duck pond. We’ve been there before, but this was the first time we were really there. All these months I’ve been singing a song about ducks and yesterday was the big click: ok, those are ducks! And then at home, pointing out everything with a picture of a duck on it with a huge smile. So neat to see the connections happening. Just like little flowers blooming.




January 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

Learning to love winter

I struggle with this one, even living in Victoria, which is by far the most humane city in Canada as far as winter goes. It is Blue Monday, and I woke up today feeling about right for the occasion: a nagging headache from the cold that just won’t go away, and wishing oh-so-much can we please sleep in past 5 am! My dearest sunshine starts smiling early these days. No Blue Monday for the little ones, apparently.

Out the door for a walk with the dog, trees dripping over head, the sky painted grey and pink with the sunrise. There is something utterly restorative about striding through a wet morning in rainboots, breathing fresh clean air, watching birds swoop. Get lost headache. Get lost Blue Monday. I do not need to book a warm weather holiday. I just needed to go outside.

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January 18, 2016 at 10:54 am 1 comment

Cranberry spelt scones

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Here we are sneaking up on Christmas day. We have a full house, a full fridge and grandparents to watch our little wriggler – all of which means lots of cooking, which is my favourite way to spend the holidays.

I made these scones this morning and they were a hit with young and old alike. The recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I’ve been using for years. I wanted to lighten it up and make it a little healthier, so I used spelt flour and yogurt instead of white flour and cream, fresh cranberries instead of dried. We need to do something to compensate for the big batch of holiday baking that is sitting on the counter and singing its siren song…just one more gingersnap…

Cranberry spelt scones
Makes 8 scones

2 cups spelt flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each ginger and cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter, coarsely grated
1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries, halved
1/2 cup plain yogurt (we are loving Tree Island yogurt lately, made with milk from grass-fed cows (grass-fed = a better life for the animals, and it’s healthier for cows and people))

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. Grate in cold butter and cranberries and stir to combine. Stir in yogurt until a soft dough forms. Pat the dough into an 8″ round and cut into 8 wedges. Place on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

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December 23, 2015 at 12:04 pm Leave a comment

Buttercup squash soup, childproofing and other autum delights

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It seems that blogging has become a seasonal activity – it was just summer, and now it is fall (coming up on winter). I hope for more often, but life as mommy is busy!

Above is the spooky soup we had for dinner on Halloween night. I was making it in between trick-or-treaters (including our own, for the first time), so I kept it very simple. Just two ingredients: one roasted buttercup squash and one can of coconut milk, pureed in the blender. It was really tasty, and perfect for enjoying with our wonderful wizard.

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I’ve written before about how much I love buttercup squash. Here are more recipes for using it in risotto and an even simpler soup (click on the link).

Besides squash, autumn is treating us well. We’ve been in the garden picking dahlias, exploring the many wonders of falling and fallen leaves, and enjoying lots of walks and hikes in nearby parks and forests.

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I love this time of year. There is something very special on the west coast in the shift between summer’s abundance and the more subtle, sparse nature of plants and trees as we move into fall and winter. What I love most, and what is unique about this place in comparison with other places in Canada, is that the plant world is still – is always – growing and beginning and teeming with life. Mushrooms coat forest floors and spring-time sights like magnolia trees with fuzzy buds and snowdrop leaves poking through the soil are already here, even though the trees haven’t lost all their leaves yet. Magical for young eyes, and old.

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You’ll see the word “simple” twice up above – this is the theme of cooking and other indoor pursuits these days. I have thrown in the towel on tidiness and housekeeping – “toy explosion” is our new style. Thankfully we have a dog to help clean up the floor, otherwise it would be “toy and Cheerio explosion.” I am not complaining, though. We are having so much fun, and it is a non-stop source of wonder to watch our little one grow and learn at what feels like the speed of light. Kids are messy, but so amazing. And, as much work as it is to chase after a big baby, it feels like a piece of cake compared with the challenges of caring for a newborn (recall the many, many all-nighters and a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches).

We are well into the childproofing zone now, so along with simple soups I am working on simple solutions for safety and saving our dishes from being smashed to smithereens. You’ll see in the background of the photo below that there is a little person’s kitchen in front of our stove. A lovely friend of ours passed this along after her kids were done with it, and it has been life-changing. That might seem like high praise, but opening up all those doors – cupboards, an oven, microwave, stove – and exploring all the play food takes a long time…long enough to cook dinner or make a batch of muffins or cookies. And placing it in front of our stove has solved another set of problems – fire, hot surfaces, the finger-pinching warming drawer.

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It also distracts from all of mommy’s cupboards, although we did have to add some reinforcements this week: homemade cupboard locks (see below). I made them with some buttons and leftover felt from the Halloween wizard hat – a quick stop-gap measure one morning when curiousity was particularly active, but they actually work really well. Not to mention the added benefit of making me feel very crafty and proud of myself. 🙂

I have not been writing as much as I should/would like to, but I have been reading quite a bit. We go to the library at least once a week to peruse kids books and music, cookbooks and novels, and sometimes join baby sing-a-long time. I’ve fallen in love with music from folk artist Elizabeth Mitchell, who has the sweetest, melt-your-heart songs for listening to with kids, and I’ve been reading my way through Caroline Adderson‘s ouevre, which is a fabulous array of smart literary fiction and clever children’s books. Also, Diane Schoemperlen (whose work I never tire of and could read again and again) and Patrick Dewitt (who I will always admire because of the way he writes about horses and brushing your teeth).

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I started this blog six years ago (!!), and when I began one of my main goals was to have a way to mark in stone all the tiny, but beautiful things that happen in my life. Squash soup, fabric scraps, walks in the forest, library books and second-hand toys are the little things I will remember from this fall. Simple pleasures and small victories.

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November 23, 2015 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

East Coast summer

IMG_2910It’s well into fall and I am finally getting to my summer vacation photos – better late than never, right? I spent almost a month in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia this summer, with a quick stop in Ottawa on the way home. When I was growing up we spent a month every summer in the Maritimes visiting family, and those visits, like this year’s, are such happy memories.

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What a treat it was to have all that time. To be able to sit and talk, or to sit and not talk and just enjoy the company and whatever comes into view – sun, sky, ocean, birds, flowers, trees. What a treat to see all the people who live too far away. Friends, family and neighbours: I find the the line between them blurs so easily when I travel east. Clan, I think, is closer to the right word.

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We kayaked, splashed in the water, went to the beach, travelled around, ate saltwater, sand and seaweed (baby!), and cooked with PEI potatoes, all the beautiful summer produce and seafood – lobster, mussels, scallops, salmon, haddock. Took long walks up quiet lanes and red sand shores. Of course, as is the east coast way, we also spent many, many hours visiting all the special people while sipping tea, coffee, wine (especially local wine), beer, vodka…

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PEI kayak

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And don’t forget mowing the lawn. Very exciting for a little guy to see his daddy and Grampie making the rounds on the ride-on mower. One thing I always notice about Maritimers is that their homes, yards, and gardens are so well loved and cared for. As my husband said, “lawn-mowing is like a provincial pastime,” after he noticed all the beautifully manicured ditches along people’s properties.

Also, clothes lines. Much ado about those, and rightly so. A lovely line flapping in the summer sun is a fine thing to behold.

Tides and moons. Low and high, dark and full and super, and all the in-betweens.

Sunrises. With a baby around you never miss one of those. Tired as I might be, I am always grateful for the sight of both.

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With such a long time away, we had a chance to develop a whole new set of routines. Summer vacation routines. Cottage routines. Mornings with Nana and Grampie routines. Those were the best. Little man would wake up with the light and not long after Nana would come upstairs to collect him and mommy would roll over and go back to sleep for a couple of hours while diapers were changed, breakfast was eaten, and playing was had. Then nap and lunch and swimming and scootching and visiting in an ever-changing set of arms. I said while I was down east how hard it would be to come home and not have all grandmas around, and indeed it was. Not only did we have our own Nana, there were also the “shore grandmas” – all of our cottage neighbours of grandmothering age who were always happy to pass the baby, snuggle the baby, bounce the baby, talk with the baby, laugh with the baby.

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There is something so nice about this, about visiting so long with people that they become part of your day, and vice versa. When I was growing up and we went to stay with my grandparents in Nova Scotia it was like that. I remember the breakfast routine so clearly – the voices, the smell of buttered toast, raspberry jam, porridge, the way the light looked at that time of day. Likewise with lunch, breakfast, dinner. Picking peas and potatoes from the garden. Or walking down to the beach – the very specific crunch of the rocks underfoot, the texture of the wood on the wharf, the seats on the boat, the salt breeze as we raced through the water.

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I know my little one is too young to start gathering memories like this, long memories, life memories, but it was a beautiful thing to see his memory at work in the short-term. He remembered raspberries – he and Nana were out picking them every morning for his breakfast, and every time we walked by the bush he reached for them. He remembered the sound of my dad imitating the talking Eeyore doll my uncle gave him: every time he heard my dad speak in that low, dreary Eeyore tone he’d scrunch up his face in a big grin. He remembered the taste of salt water: every time we went swimming he would dip his hand in the water and give the ocean a taste. And all the jumping and bouncing he did at the beach translated over into bath time: every trip to the tub became a splishy, splashy mess!

They seem like silly little things, but of course they’re not. Well, they might be silly, but not little.

Now that we’re home, it’s back to the old routines, with no more jumping up and down in the tub. I guess that was just a Maritime thing. It’s easier, but already I’m nostalgic for the splashing. What a wonderful summer we had down east. I can’t wait to go back.

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October 6, 2015 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

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