29 April 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Zesty Black Bean Soup

So... soup. My total fave, right? I could literally eat soup morning, noon and night, every day. That's not even an exaggeration: if it's served in a bowl and I can, in a pinch, drink my dinner, I'm all over it like white on rice.

(I'm realizing now the phrase "drink my dinner" sort of makes it sound like I have a problem. Which I do, if that problem is "soup obsession." Otherwise, no. I'm fine. Cancel the intervention.)

I also have a documented thing for Mexican flavours. Next to Thai, Mexican is my very favourite food culture. I could eat Mex all day, every day (when not eating Thai, of course.)

And, my third favourite: it's EASY. It's totes easy, actually; so easy that 'easy' doesn't even describe it. It's like easy-like-Sunday-morning easy, which is real, real easy.

It's possible Lionel Richie took inspiration for his hit song from this very soup. It's that good.



ZESTY BLACK BEAN SOUP
Preparation: 15 minutes | Cooking Time: 45 minutes | Serves: 6
    
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups onion, diced (roughly 1 1/2 Spanish onions)
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes (I use Knorr)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups chunky salsa (whatever brand/heat you like; we use Old El Paso Medium)
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 (19 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp. cumin
       
  • sour cream, fresh lime juice & chopped cilantro to garnish
             
Cooking Directions:
  1. In a large, thick-bottomed soup pot, heat olive oil over high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent (5-7 minutes), stirring frequently.
      
  2. Add chicken bouillon cubes and water. Stir until bouillon cubes are dissolved, then cover and cook 2-3 minutes until onions are very soft.
      
  3. Add diced tomatoes, salsa and one (1) can of beans to the pot. Stir.
      
  4. Roughly crush the remaining two (2) cans of beans with a potato masher (or your hands). Add to pot and stir to combine thoroughly. Add and mix cumin.
      
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
      
  6. Serve piping hot, garnished with a squeeze (or four) of fresh lime juice and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro. A dollop of sour cream isn't awful, either. 
       
Yet another reason to love this soup? It doesn't just taste great in a bowl. Nosiree.

Warm on tacos, burritos or eggs, grilled in quesadillas, as a sauce for chicken or rice, or cold on taco salad.... it's a great addition to any dish in which you'd use salsa and/or beans. It's mellow but rich, and so flavourful it makes just about everything better.

It's the bacon of Mexican soup.

So go ahead: pig out. Because on top of everything else? It's actually pretty good for you, too. Crazy.

NOTES | ONE-POT-WONDER | GLUTEN FREE | KID-FRIENDLY | EASY


Other Foodie Tuesday soup recipes you might like:
  

27 April 2014

Anatomy of an Afternoon Nap | Mom vs. Dad

MOM
takes a nap
 
| 2:45PM |
 
Crawls into bed
 
| 2:52PM |
 
Remembers an urgent email. Climbs out of bed, locates the laptop and quickly responds to it.
 
| 2:56PM |
 
Returns to bed.
 
| 3:07PM |
 
Eldest arrives home; slams garage door. Bag (roughly the weight of a vintage Cadillac) is dropped onto the tile floor . Dog barks 'hello!'
 
| 3:14PM |
 
Dog feels lonely and sad. Pushes open the bedroom door, jumps onto the bed. Licks Mom all over her face and up her nose. Possibly touches her brain.
 
| 3:15PM |
 
Exeunt dog.
 
| 3:19PM |
 
Dad arrives home with Littlest. Dog goes fucking mental. Three full minutes of hysterical barking ensues.
 
| 3:25PM |
 
Dad crawls into bed (stealthy, like an elephant) and offers to rub Mom's back to sleep.
 
| 3:27PM |
 
Dog feels excluded. Scratches at the bedroom door until Dad gets up, shepherds dog into Littlest's room and locks her in.
 
| 3:29PM |
 
Dad returns to bed enthusiastically. Mom is double-bounced like on a trampoline. Back and head rub recommences.
 
| 3:40PM |
 
Dad has bored himself to sleep. His hand that is sliding down Mom's face is the approximate size and weight of a cast-iron frying pan. He pokes Mom in the eye. Cue snoring.
 
| 3:41PM |
 
Mom removes Dad's finger from her eye (Dad: "Whaaa? Where are you going? I totally wasn't sleeping.") Gets up; nap time has concluded for one of them. Time to take Littlest to swimming.
 
 
DAD
takes a nap
 
| 1:52PM |
 
Goes to bed.
 
| 4:12PM |
 
Wakes up.
 
 
The END
    

25 April 2014

Steve Gets a Gold Metal

Geddit? Metal. Like medal, only metallic. That's genius wordplay right there, guys. You won't find anything better than that in this post (which ought to tell you something.)

Anyway.

Some of you who've been reading for a while might remember a certain debate about a certain side table and whether or not it should/would cross the threshold of the new Money Pit. This certain side table was, arguably, quite unique, and only one of us (the one with excellent taste and a healthy sense of whimsy) found him handsome and charming and worthy of our living room. One of us intended to name him Steve.

The other of us protested: he did not like Steve at all. But as with most things décor-related, the one full of whimsy prevailed.

Steve arrived.



But Steve, for all his terrifying yet dashing good looks, did not please his whimsical owner. His shiny silver metallic finish just didn't jive with the rest of the living room in which he was to live. So our whimsical heroine, she hot-footed to the hardware store and after many minutes of intense internal debate, purchased no less than three different varieties of gold spray paint. One of them, she reasoned, would tie in beautifully with pieces she already had.

Alas, it was not to be. Those spray paint colours sucked, and our heroine was mightily bummed out until a second trip to the hardware store revealed a jar of paint she hadn't noticed before.



Praise be.

The fact that it was a brush-on paint treatment and not a spray-on did not deter her (neither did wind, rain, sleet or snow; that gold paint finish was getting delivered, goddammit.)

It took many, many (like, four) coats to ensure full coverage in all Steve's cricks and cracks, so that no part of him remained untouched by Midas.

And when he was complete, our heroine rejoiced. He was PERFECT.




Even Doubting-Thomas came around eventually, and admitted for the whole world to hear (or at least, our heroine and her offspring) that he likes Steve.

Steve is good... and here to stay.

If you're curious, Steve was purchased at Urban Barn in spring 2013

  

22 April 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Simply the BEST Roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken is a staple in our house. I always make two, for a few reasons: 1) our local supermarket sells packages of two fryer chickens for a better price than they sell them individually, so it makes economic sense; 2) my family eats a lot, and 3) leftovers are hugely handy, and factor heavily into our weekly meal plans.

Also, we plain love chicken. We're a white meat kind of family.

It's only been in the last two years or so that I've really mastered the art of to-die-for roasted chicken, but we really turned a corner last November when our fryer chicken called up our pound of bacon and made a date. A sizzling hot date. It was love at first bite.

Since then, we haven't turned back. Is it the healthiest way to cook a chicken? Umm.... NO. But the bacon cooks up so crispy, and the chicken skin takes on the bacon flavor and is crispy and delicious, too. And then there's the actual meat: the bacon wrap not only adds flavor to what can otherwise be a pretty bland bird, but it keeps all the juices inside and makes it the moistest (is that a word?) meat you'll ever have.

Like, in the entire history of ever.

It's that good.



THE *BEST* ROASTED CHICKEN
Preparation: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: 1.5 - 2 hours | Serves: 6 (or 4, if you're my family)
    
Ingredients:
  • 1 2-3 lb. fryer chicken
  • 8-12 strips bacon
  • olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • cooking spray
  
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
      
  2. Grease a 9" x 12" high-sided baking (jelly roll) pan with cooking spray. Place chicken in the centre.
      
  3. Drizzle lightly with olive oil - about one tablespoon, splashed over the whole chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
      
  4. Starting in centre of the bird (just above the drumsticks) lay a strip of bacon horizontally around the bird, like a belt. Tuck the ends of the bacon strip underneath. Place the next strip across the chicken, touching the first, and proceed with additional slices to the top/neck.
      
  5. To secure the loose ends of bacon, use turkey skewers through the bird to pin them into place. No need to get fancy: just straight in like a push pin will keep everything where it should be.
      
  6. Once the top portion of the bird is wrapped in bacon, move to the legs. Using one strip of bacon per leg, start from the outside of the chicken and wrap the bacon through the centre and around the drumstick. You can use skewers here, too, to keep everything tucked in.
      
  7. Roast uncovered in a preheated oven for 1 to 1.5 hours until bacon is crispy and a meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the breast registers 175 degrees.
      
  8. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Those minutes are really important: if you slice too soon, the juices will run out and leave your meat dry (not as noticeable on the first night, but any leftovers will be affected.)
    
The chicken freezes up beautifully but the bacon isn't great the next day so we usually split all the bacon/skin between us (except the Boy, who doesn't eat bacon; he doesn't like it - he's a mutant. Whatevs. More for us.)

Honestly, you guys? Tina Turner called and said this is Simply the Best roasted chicken - you're going to love it.

Shout out to my friend Patty, who turned me on to this idea. Thanks Patty! We love this recipe and will never look back!

NOTES: ONE-POT-WONDER | GLUTEN FREE | EASY | FREEZER-FRIENDLY
  

21 April 2014

IndiGO RIGHT NOW! | Spring & Summer 2014 Collection Preview

So while we're on the subject of spring previews (she says in the most awkward post introduction-slash-topic segue ever, because we weren't on any subject at all), I was recently invited to attend the Indigo Spring & Summer 2014 Collection preview.

I never pass up an opportunity to hang out a) at Indigo (I've been turfed out on my ass 20 minutes after closing many a'time and my repeated requests to formally move in have thus far been denied) and b) with other cool and awesome bloggers, who make me feel cool and awesome just by being with them. So obviously when my PR pal Josh said, "Hey, do you wanna?" I was like, "DUH! Obvi." I may have even threatened to wear bells, but unlike BlogPodium 2013 (when I totally did) I chickened out this time around. It's one thing to look like a damn fool in front of 200+ bloggers, and quite another to look like one at Indigo's flagship store in the dead centre of the Eaton Centre.

And speaking of the Eaton Centre (she says in a totally organic segue) this pretty much encapsulates my experience navigating that som'bitch:






    
I wish I was kidding. I really had to pee.

Anyway.

We were talking about Indigo, and how I love everything about it and want to live there and own everything they sell. None of this is an overstatement. There were so many beautiful items I wanted to stuff in my bag and whisk away from there for my own house, but that's illegal, obviously, and also my purse wasn't big enough to fit it all in. So I just had to settle for taking some amazing photos (amazing for me, if I do say so myself) and sharing them with you.

Knot & Bow
space    


Smells Like Canada


space 
New to Indigo this season is a partnership with Etsy to market and promote unique, hand-crafted goods created by plenty of home-grown talent. I love this for a number of reasons, not least of which is the curating Indigo's doing on my behalf. Etsy is an amazing place and I frequently surf around it looking for cool items to covet, but there are times I find it overwhelming. Unless I'm looking for a specific item (in which case the 'search' function is my BFF) I get a little lost in all the pretty but never seem to "strike it rich" in the glam/cool/super-awesome department.

Now, Indigo's done the work for me, finding the best of the best and putting it all right into my hot little hand. Not to mention it's much-deserved recognition of Canada's creative community, which is vibrant, diverse and thriving, and deserving of attention. So that's awesome. You can check out the whole collection here.




Mason jars seem to be making a big comeback style-wise, which I'm pretty chuffed about. In my opinion, just about everything tastes better in a mason jar mug. And nothing says "summer lovin'" like a screw-top lid and these faboosh barbershop pole straws.

Also? It's essential that I own these mason jar shot glasses. E-S-S-E-N-T-I-A-L. My photo doesn't do them justice (the exception to my claim of "amazing photos") but they are so, so cute and a must-have for any patio party worth it's salt (and celery, and Caesar mix.)

For you fashion-forward hostesses with the mostesses, I give you this sleek, contemporary beverage urn. I envision it filled to the brim with hard lemonade for a Saturday night party, and with lemon-scented iced tea for Sunday brunch.



Stylish even when empty. Perfection.



These sweater weave baskets are calling my name. I'm actually seriously considering going back for one: it would look perfect beside my fireplace and piled high with soft blankets.




For the kitchen connoisseur, these kitschy timers are just the ticket. And after a long and fruitless search for the perfect teapot to replace our old one whose handle snapped, I happened upon this one which is, in a word, perfect.

Indigo giveth, and then it giveth some more.



For the fun-times gardener in everyone, I spied this bestseller: a must-have on your bookshelf, no? If I were a bigger drinker (and had alcohol tolerance of more than a thimbleful), I'd have snapped this up already.



These. I've never really been a "wristwatch" girl, but recently I've become a fan. I've been on the hunt for the perfect one (gals with little wispy slender wrists like hollow reeds can get away with just about any size or style, but someone of my... fulsomeness... has a few more challenges to overcome to find the perfect accessory. Thick wrists are the WORST.) Enter: these little beauties.

There were several styles to choose from but these caught my eye for two reasons: colour, which I adored (like, all of them), and that they can dress down and, in a pinch, dress up. Especially the white one. It's sturdy, practical and hard-wearing, but still pretty. My fave.




Not part of the Spring Preview but deserving of mention nonetheless, I fell in LOVE with these infant soothers.

ERMEHGERD!!!

Honestly, how cool would your kid look rocking kissy lips or a dashing mooostache? Answer? The COOLEST. The absolute freaking coolest.

So run... don't walk, RUN... to your nearest Indigo. Bring your wallet, and a small U-Haul trailer. You'll need it.
   

17 April 2014

25 Things My Kids Should Know About Life And/Or Their Parents (Even If They Don't Want To... Which Is Likely.)

With me being at home and Daryn's new job being demanding both of time and energy, I've taken over nearly all of the transportation duties getting the kids back and forth to their respective activities. This means the offspring and I are spending boatloads more time in the car together, getting to "know" each other better.

What my kids are learning - especially the Boy, since his volleyball practices are out of town and as such require more time on the road - is that they don't know everything about their parents. They're coming to discover that the people who gave them life actually had lives before they were born, and interests that were not informed by the internet, Jay-Z's musical empire or Disney.

(That last one is a lie. Everybody born after 1950 is shaped by Disney in one way or another.)

The other day when I landed on a radio station playing Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and sang along, the kid nearly dropped dead of shock, and it occurred to me just how little they know about our LBO (for the uninitiated, that's Life Before Offspring). And there's some important stuff in there, you guys. Stuff they should know about to help them better understand how we grew up, how we became the parents they know, and how our experiences will shape their own journeys.

Oh, and some universal, inescapable truths about life in general. Those are important too.

So for better or worse, like it or not, here are the 25 most important things I think my kids should know about life, and me (and by extension sometimes, their dad), in no particular order.

*****

No.25
I've always been a little more sensitive when it comes to tv and movies that pluck on the heartstrings (though I challenge anyone to watch 'She's Having a Baby' and not feel a twinginess in their tear-ductal regions.) But I didn't completely disintegrate into a blubbering mess over Kleenex commercials until kids came along. An old cliché says that having kids is like wearing your heart outside your body, and it couldn't be more true. Or rather, it's like your heart swells bigger and bigger like a bubblegum bubble, surrounding the people you love most. Anything that bumps into it or rubs up against it sends a pang straight down into the middle of your body, the most sensitive part. You feel everything. Every little thing, like a skinned knee. Which is why I cry at sappy movies, long distance commercials, news reports, well written books and everything in between.

No.24
Rhythm is not an acquired skill. You either have it (your dad, you guys) or you don't (me). There is no middle ground.

No.23
Unlike rhythm, sex IS an acquired skill (which, yes, requires at least one partner to have rhythm, but further to #24, you guys are all set.) Your first time will not be great, nor will the next hundred times after that, probably. But if you're with a partner you are comfortable with, care about and trust, the best thing you can do is experiment and teach yourselves. Read, research, communicate and learn.

No.22
I like to claim I'm a little bit psychic, but what I really have isn't ESP: it's just really good instincts, and faith that those instincts are right. Tune into the energy around you: be open. Trust your gut, always. It will rarely lead you astray (and makes for a great party trick when you guess - correctly - the sex of every baby of every pregnant woman you come across.)

No.21
I'm terrible at managing finances. I'm an instant-gratification kind of person with very little in the way of impulse control. I've learnt over time to generally manage day-to-day expenses but I'm terrible at saving and credit is not my friend. I own my limitations but I'm not proud of them. I will say, however, that I'm very good at ensuring you get what you need, and much of what you want. But, you should know this may mean your father and I have to live with one of you in our old age. Be prepared, and try not to learn from my example.

No.20
Further to No.21, I often cut my nose off to spite my face on account of the instant gratification. Waiting (for anything) makes me frantic - I need things to be definite and can't stand the indefinite. So in the interests of making things definite and alleviating anxiety, I will make spur-of-the-moment decisions that I often regret (Ferb is a great example of that.) If you can, develop patience. It will make you happier in the long run.

No.19
Native Canadians have a long, sad history, only some of which you'll learn about in school. Reading about it in history books is difficult enough, but my dad and his family - your grandfather and extended family - are the faces of that experience. It connects me to that history in ways that make me uncomfortable; in ways I'd rather not be and still, even at the ripe old age of 38, can't reconcile, which is why I know very little about my family, their tribe and their history, and share even less. But denying our heritage because of bad things is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater: you can't deny bad without denying good, too. I will probably always struggle to make peace with my bloodline, but I've started to work on my connection to it so that one day I can pass it on.

No.18
When I was 13, a popular pastime among some of my friends was shoplifting. I was considered a goody-two-shoes because I didn't participate, so I decided one afternoon on a whim to try it. I was going away on a school trip and needed toothpaste so I was like: I think I should steal a tube of toothpaste. And then I totally stole a tube of toothpaste... and I totally got caught. I was driven home in the back of a police cruiser (in which the cop wouldn't let me lay down on the seat and hide) and when we arrived at my Nanny's house and knocked, she answered the door in a towel because she'd been in the bath. She was embarrassed on so many levels, and nobody ever let me live it down (true story: ask Grimmy about it. She loves telling the story.) Shame is a harsh teacher and a powerful motivator: abandon your criminal enterprises at the outset or else become very, very good. There is no in-between.

No.17
Cutting class, underage drinking, staying out all night, midnight joy rides, make-out sessions in inappropriate places (drama room loft or tech wing stairwell, anyone?). Your dad did none of these things; I did all of them (within reason) and you see how we turned out. You'll be OK too.

No.16
One thing neither your dad nor I ever tried was drugs: he because he never felt the need, and I basically because of fear. I knew with my luck I'd be the one to end up with the one dime bag of weed that was laced with LSD or whatever and I'd end up OD'ing on a bad spliff, and my fear of damaging my noodle trumped whatever curiosity I might have had. One of you has inherited my "luck" gene, so be forewarned.

No.15
I know what 'spliff'' means. Ditto: smack, crack, crank, angel dust, reefer, 'ludes, tranq's, coke, snow, china white and all the others. I may never have actually done drugs, but I grew up in a town that's the biggest drug-running highway in Ontario (possibly Canada) and some things you learn by osmosis. Now you're growing up here, too, and it will be up to you what you decide to put in your body versus not.

No.14
My biggest fear is that I will lose you; that you'll be taken from me by circumstances outside my control. So when I plague you with questions about your personal life outside the house - the who, what, where and when of your social selves - it's not because I don't trust you to make good decisions, or even that I'm particularly interested in prying (I do, and I'm not.) It just helps to alleviate my anxiety if I generally know what's going on with you. I need to know I can find you if I need to (or if you need me to.)

No.13
Speaking of fears, I have an intense fear of failure which is why I stick my neck out very rarely to try new things. It's like being handcuffed much of the time. To a pole. In a basement. Basically, it sucks. I'm working on it, but when I spin around in metaphorical circles and worry and fret and chew my fingers and generally freak the f*ck out because I can't figure out what I want/need/can do with my life, it's because I'm scared.

No.12
Things that make me happy that are not you and/or your father: books, books and more books; old houses; the Shih Tzu; soup (pretty much any kind); sunshine; cool breezes; the first snowfall; fairy lights; original art; museums; lists; felt-tipped pens; new notebooks; Craigslist finds; antiquing; pajamas; rainy day movie marathons; dill pickle chips; road trips; everything Harry Potter; my favourite song on the radio; being the cheering section; mittens; tattoos; the colour orange; devilled eggs (done "right"); this blog; "Canadiana"; comic book movies; Thai food; yoga pants and steeped tea. [not a definitive list]

No.11
If I could visit just one other place in the world, it would be Ireland. It's my dream to live there for a year or two.

No.10
If I could visit just two other places, it would be Ireland and Iceland. Is it weird that they're separated by over one thousand kilometers but just one letter? Probably.

No.9
I love you guys so much that sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst with it, but you're not the centre of my world. My centre is your dad; or rather, my centre is your-dad-and-I. It's our marriage, the unit we create together. You might feel differently when you have your own children, but I believe that my job as your mother is to raise you to become capable and independent. I'm raising you to leave, eventually. Whereas your dad and I are paired for life; "until death do us part" and all that. In the solar system of my life, your dad is the sun and you both are little planets in orbit around us. Which is why we ignore you every Sunday to spend time together.

No.8
Speaking of your dad, he is my favourite person in the world and the very best man I know. He is a manly-man in that he is strong and confident and intelligent and gentle. He isn't aggressive or confrontational because he doesn't need to be: he's secure in himself. And that's what a real man is: secure and quietly confident. He is a wonderful example of the kind of man you can become, or of one you can invite into your life to share it.

No.7
All of my decisions relating to travel hinge on two things: what I can eat there that I recognize, and what (animal/insect/food/bacteria) could potentially kill me. Everything else is just details.

No.6
The feelings I hate feeling the most are: fear (like real, "I'm in danger" fear, or "this horror movie is way to well-done" fear), helplessness and loneliness. The feelings I love feeling the most are: satisfaction, contentment and love.

No.5
I feel my best when I'm comfortable, and think others look their best when they're comfortable, too. Fads suck; I hate them. Being trendy is fine for some, but not for me. Sometimes that'll embarrass you ('Angel' pants ring a bell?) but I like what I like and the older I get, the more comfortable I am being comfortable in my own skin (and my own pants, as it were.)

No.4
Depression is hereditary. I hope I am demonstrating to you that it's OK to receive a diagnosis, that it's OK to take ownership of that diagnosis and that it's OK to seek help, so that if you ever experience the same, you will know there's no shame in it and that you're not alone.

No.3
There are things you get over in life, and things you just learn to live with. When you lose people you love - by death, or desertion - it creates cracks in your foundation. You can move on, but you are never the same. Those cracks inform who you are, forever. Accept them, but patch them up as best you can. Try not to let them crumble the rest of you.

No.2
I don't care if I'm never wished a happy Mother's Day, happy birthday or merry Christmas, as long as the people I love are connected to me in our daily lives. I don't believe in visits on special occasions; it's more important to me to be involved in your day-to-day life, because what we do every day is the essence of who we are. But not every day, day-to-day. I like my space, and understand you need yours, too.

No.1
The best way I've found to create good relationships is to throw out the golden rule (seriously) and observe this rule instead: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Ask others for the same courtesy and respect in return. You wouldn't buy someone a Christmas gift that you liked but you knew they did not, right? Right. You would buy them something you knew they liked, knew they wanted, expressed interest in or specifically requested, regardless of your personal preferences. Try to apply that same principle to every interaction you have with folks, and life will be lot easier.

*****

Now, the trick will be getting to them to read this.

What you about? What are the most important things you want your kids - existing or future - to know about you?
  

15 April 2014

Foodie Tuesday | 'Old Timey' Bran Muffins

Sometimes healthy eating is a tough sell. If you're under the age of 25 or my mother, outright rejection of all that is good and healthy in the world of food is the norm. Which is why when I strike on a recipe that have the kids coming back for more (and then back again... and AGAIN), I stick with it.

Such is the case with these bran muffins. Granted, there's a ton of sugar, and probably more fat (in the butter, and buttermilk) than *technically* constitutes "super-healthy."

But dudes... it's BRAN.

As in, FIBRE.

We're talking good ol' fashioned regularity here, folks. Not a topic kids (or parents, for that matter) are super-chuffed to chitchat about, let alone actively manage.

So bran muffins that kids race - literally, race - home to eat? Amazeballs, in my book. And in theirs, too. Doesn't hurt that it's my Nanny's recipe, too. Keeping good health in the family, one muffin at a time.
   


'OLD TIMEY' BRAN MUFFINS
Preparation: 40 minutes + 24 hours| Cooking Time: 35 minutes | Makes: approximately 50 muffins
    
Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup wheat germ
  • 3 cups natural bran
  • 3 cups All Bran
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt
   
Optional -
  • 2 cups raisins OR chopped dates
       
Cooking Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix together wheat germ, natural bran and All Bran. Add boiling water. Mix and set aside.
      
  2. In a second bowl (medium-sized) combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
      
  3. In the largest bowl you can possibly find, cream together butter and sugar (brown and white) using an electric mixer on low. Add molasses and mix until thoroughly combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add buttermilk and blend thoroughly until a little frothy.
       
    Side Note | I'm concerned what you heard me say here was "In a large bowl..." when what I really mean is: the LARGEST bowl. As in, like, EVER. You're going to end up with 15 cups of batter, so plan accordingly.
       
  4. If you're adding raisins or dates, now's the time to toss them in the bowl.
        
    Personal tip: I like to make a batch of all three (I figure if I'm committing to 50 muffins in one go, I might as well mix it up a bit with flavours.) With 15 cups of batter, I divide it evenly into three bowls and add 2/3 cup raisins to one, and 2/3 cup chopped dates to the second. I leave one plain. If making all one flavor, add 2 cups of your dried fruit of choice.
         
  5. To the liquid mixture, gradually beat in flour mixture (I generally add 1/4 of the bowl at a time, then beat until thoroughly combined before adding more.) Stir in bran-water mixture. Mix thoroughly.
      
  6. Cover batter bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
    Rumour has it the batter will keep for up to six weeks in the fridge, but I haven't tested it. Except maybe mustard and maple syrup, I wouldn't trust anything in my fridge after 6 weeks, but you're free to try if you want. Bottom line is: chill for 24 hours and then you're good to go.
      
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray generously with cooking spray. Fill each cup 3/4 full with batter.
      
  8. Bake 25-35 minutes or until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Now might be a good time to crack open one of those bad boys and slather it with butter, before inhaling it in 2.4 seconds... but maybe that's just me. 
 
In case you thought I was kidding when I said "lots" of batter (and hence you need "the LARGEST bowl", this is how much batter you'll wind up with.

Also? These little babies are completely, totally nut-free, so they're the perfect sweet'n'healthy snack for kids' lunchboxes (which, if you're having the same experience I am, are growing increasingly difficult to fill with accepted foods.) These muffins = problem solved!
 
NOTES: NAN'S RECIPE | VEGETARIAN | KID-FRIENDLY
 
 
Other Foodie Tuesday baking recipes you might like:

09 April 2014

Home Depot Spring 2014 Preview | Coming Up Roses! (and Petunias, and Rosemary)

So way, way back, before we jetted off to Arizona and before the One of a Kind Show rolled into town, and before I got all caught up in life outside the blog (is there such a thing??), I was very kindly invited to - and was super-chuffed to attend - the Home Depot Spring 2014 Preview.

First, a word about the Depot: contractor central, mecca of DIYers, our weekend home-away-from-home. Over the years I've built some very important relationships with my friends in orange smocks. They've helped me select sinks, paint colours, appliances, tile, lighting and countertop materials- just about every home-related fixture and/or accoutrement you can think of, really. We're homeowners, so naturally hardly a weekend goes by that we're not popping into the Depot for something or other and dropping $100 or two. This past weekend, for example? Lighting for our office makeover - photos coming soon!

Anyhoodle, given our intense, ongoing relationship with the guys and gals in orange, you can imagine how excited I was to be invited to the 2014 spring preview. (Like, SUPER excited, if you're not very imaginative.) And then, of course, I promptly left town for a week, and have been running full tilt since we got back. But enough of this nonsense! Now that the awful, horrible winter weather has finally broken and spring is here, Home Depot has a metric ton of fabooshness that you NEED if your summer is going to be any kind of summer at all.


Doesn't this look like fun? Hint: It was.

My faves:



The Highland Collection = totes lovely. This collection is probably my favourite of all. The dark weave lends itself to a masculine, solid appearance: each piece looks like it can really hold you, you know? Some patio furniture looks rickety, like it'll collapse underneath you the moment you park your butt in it. Not this suite. Solidly constructed, solid-looking, yet quite feminine and graceful thanks to the curving lines and deep, plush pillows.

Want to know what comfort looks like in the Highlands? The lovely, incomparable Virginie Martoqc, Home Depot affiliate, spokeswoman and enthusiast, demonstrates below.


Yeah. It's that comfy.

My next fave:


The Hampton Bay Blue Hill resin wicker "chat" set. At home in a contemporary or traditional setting, on a condo balcony or a cottage dock, Blue Hill is a decorative workhorse. It works in tight settings, too: the footstool tucks right underneath the chair, to save on floor space. Also terrific? The striped outdoor carpet (visible beneath the chair.) Nice enough to work inside as well as out (just sayin').

I'd love to put a pair of these on our small patio off the kitchen. It catches the morning sunlight and would be a lovely spot for Daryn and I to enjoy weekend tea. A girl can dream...


Let's not forget the barbecues... OH! the barbecues. The Cadillac of grillers is the Brinkmann 5-Burner Gas Grill, pictured above. Comes with its own smoker... a smoker, people. That's the good stuff, right there.

That's not the only BBQ on the market, though. There's a perfect match for every grill-master out there; visit your local HD for more options.



Like this one, maybe? Good choice.

Random side note: I was obsessed with this girl's dress for, like, the WHOLE morning. Seriously, obsessed with it, and like a weirdo I skulked around all morning, admiring it. If this is your dress and you happen to be reading this post, a) I'm not a stalker, I'm just a horrible combination of enthusiastic and shy, and b) hit me up in the comments section to let me know where you got it! I totally love it.

What makes spring really feel like spring, though, are the flowers. Can we agree on that? Let's agree. I've got big plans for the aforementioned little patio, and they include a boatload of these pretty babies:





We're making a point to eat a little more "cleanly" these days, and I love the idea of a potted herb garden on the deck that I can snip from whenever needed. We used to have a huge garden in the old house, and I miss it. It's great for fragrance, too. Lemon basil has the most delicious perfume, and I love fresh rosemary and mint. A collection of bright pots with flowers and greenery will go a long way to making our poor, bare little deck a much more homey place to hang out.

To cap off a wonderful morning, HD created a take-away box for each of us.



Cute, no?

Inside were several pieces of copper piping, two taper candles and some crazy glue. Can you guess what we were supposed to create? Hint: it's this:



How cool is THAT? I completely love it.

I was hoping to get my craft on with the other bloggers, but turns out it was a take-home gift. So that's cool. Mine has been painted and is currently drying in the garage- yay! I'll share a snapshot once it's ready and installed on the mantel. Because that's where it's going, folks. Front-and-centre on the fireplace. It's just that cool.

Thank you to all the good folks at the Home Depot for hosting such a fab and fun preview event, and to Candace Beres of Environics Communications for being so lovely. I can't wait for the fall and winter lines to come out!
   

08 April 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Banoffee

So... your dentist will hate this dessert. Let's just get that out of the way straight off. Like, H-A-T-E I-T. I don't know why, considering this pie basically pays his mortgage, but dentists can be a little sanctimonious when it comes to the obnoxious sugar consumption (no offence, dentists) and this pie is sugar on sugar on sugar.

You've been warned.

The good news? It's freaking delicious. Like, ridiculously so. It has been said by some people that they would run over their own mother to get a slice of ooey-gooey goodness (not by me, of course - hi, Mom! - but a few others I know.) So, any pie that's reason enough to commit matricide is damn good, in my book. How about yours?




BANOFFEE
Preparation: 50 minutes | Cooking Time: 30 minutes | Chilling Time: 30 minutes - 1 hour | Serves: 8
      
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • cooking spray
  • 2 (300mL) cans sweetened condensed milk* (we use Eagle brand)
  • 2 large, very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 oz. (1 square) semi-sweet baker's chocolate
          
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a medium-sized mixing bowl in your freezer to chill.
      
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, melt butter in the microwave for 45 seconds, or until fully liquefied. Whisk briskly to eliminate separation. Add graham cracker crumbs and stir (with a whisk, or a fork) to combine thoroughly.
      
  3. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate with cooking spray. Press graham cracker mixture in an even layer along the bottom and sides, to form your crust. If you have little ceramic pie balls, go ahead and be a little showy-offy by placing a layer of parchment paper into the centre of your crust, then filling with balls. If you don't have them, your crust can go in the oven as-is.
      
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is baked through and a deep golden brown. (If you are using baking balls, allow to bake for 15 minutes then remove parchment paper and balls, and continue cooking the remaining 15 minutes.) Remove from oven and set aside; allow to cool.
      
  5. Peel and slice bananas into a small bowl. Toss with a splash of lemon juice to prevent browning.
      
  6. Meanwhile, pour the condensed milk in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Gently bring the milk to a rolling boil, stirring nearly constantly (I stir less frequently while it's cool and heating up, and more frequently as it approaches boiling.) Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring constantly for 15 or so minutes, or until milk caramelizes: it will become thick and darken to a deep golden brown colour.
      
    Be sure to take it off the heat while it's still soft and pourable; if you continue cooking, it will solidify and become an actual caramel candy. Which is good, too, and super delicious, but won't work for your purposes right now.
      
    Note: There are some varieties of condensed milk that you can caramelize in the can by placing them in a deep pot of boiling water and cooking for 2-2 1/2 hours. Once caramelized, the milk will last for weeks - even months. Eagle brand does not recommend cooking in the can so I don't, but if you have one that does and find that easier, by all means go for it.
      
    Another Note: Some also say that condensed milk should be caramelizes in a double boiler, or at the very least in a metal mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water. I've never done it this way and mine always works out fine, but basically however you want to caramelize your milk, is totally fine. Do what works best for you.
      
  7. Pour half the caramel mixture into the bottom of your crust. Carefully - moving in a fan pattern, by starting in the centre and making a sweeping, continuous "C" motion - spread the caramel with a spatula or the back of a soup spoon (I always use the spoon; easier to handle.)
      
  8. Spread the bananas in an even layer on top of the caramel. Top with the remaining half of caramel, then place in the fridge to cool.
      
  9. While the pie is cooling, remove the bowl you placed in the freezer earlier. Combine whipping cream, vanilla and granulated sugar in the bowl, then whip until light and stiff. Spread the whipped cream over the pie - go ahead: be fancy with it. Make it swirly, or gloopy, or smooth... whatever you like. Just use it all, even if it looks like too much. You really want it.
      
  10. Finally, grate some chocolate on top of the whipped cream. I use a lemon zester so the flakes are little, but you can put as much - or as little - chocolate on top as you'd like.
         
For inspiration (and to show you what it should look like, approximately) here are some "in process" shots.





So the next time you feel like getting your sugar-high on, and you've got an extra hour or so, give it a whirl. Your taste buds will thank you (even if your dentist won't.)

NOTES: EASY(ISH) | KID-FRIENDLY  

01 April 2014

House Stalking | Melbourne Manor

Do you ever come across a house tour in a magazine or online (or at your neighbour's, two doors down on the left) and just think: "YES"?

Like, YES, I love everything about this place.

     YES, I would like to move in immediately, please.

          YES, I WANT EVERYTHING, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

YES, was my first thought when I came across this quirky, crazy villa in Melbourne, Australia. First thought, last thought and middlemiddlemiddle: YES PLEASE!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for this awsmazing Aussie manor house... which totally doesn't rhyme and actually sounds pretty lame, but you get the idea.


Gothic-inspired Victorian exterior? Check. WITH ITS OWN FLAG? Check.



Bright and airy family kitchen with counter stools I'm lusting after? Check.



Eclectic living room with a rubbed brass chandelier and totally pulling off a zebra rug? Yeah... Check.



Bathroom with top hat pendant lights? Chehhhhhhhck.



Games room with.... wait, a games room? CHECK! The bookshelf room dividers are pretty cool, too.



Breezy master bedroom that looks like it could sleep roughly 14 people? Checkity-check.



The coolest den ever, complete with a comic-book inspired pendant light (which, let's be honest, rocks.) Check!



Master bath that LOOKS LIKE A NIGHTCLUB??? CHECKCHECKCHECK!!!

Seriously, check that window treatment... and that lighting... and that tile! I die.

Want the look? Click on over to House to Home for more photos of this fabulous house and, more importantly, to check out the shopping guide. Because that's what really matters, right? The shopping. It's where it's at.
   

Foodie Tuesday | Spicy Peanut Sauce

For years now, Daryn's and my solution to vegetables going justthisside of rotten in the fridge has been to stir-fry the crap out of them.

Stir-fries are totally undemanding, and very forgiving. Less-than-fresh veggies get a little perk-up; a little love. And it doesn't matter which veggies you use - one time carrots, peppers and broccoli, another time snap peas, zucchini and mushrooms - it all ends up tasting delicious.

The trick to every great stir-fry, we've discovered, is to find a really great sauce.

Like, really great.

Because it's the sauce that makes it. That's a scientific fact.

SIGNED IT. STAMPED IT. NO ERASIES.

In a pinch we're perfectly happy to use ready-made sauces (PC Memories of Shanghai is pretty great, actually) but homemade is always (always) best, and this delicious, nutritious, foolproof, super-easy peanut sauce (that you can throw together using ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry) makes every stir-fry a perfect stir-fry.



SPICY PEANUT SAUCE
Preparation: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: N/A | Makes: enough to coat 7-10 cups of stir-fry
      
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce (we use sushi soy because it has less sugar, but you can use whatever brand/type soy sauce you prefer)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. grated or minced ginger (we used fresh because we happened to have a piece of ginger root on hand from another recipe, but jarred will work just as well)
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (lime would work, too)
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes OR 1 tsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
    
Cooking Directions:
  1. Combine peanut sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
      
  2. Add to any stir fry (2-3 cups protein + 5-7 cups vegetables) or rice noodles, or use as a fab & tasty dipping sauce for satay.
   
The only thing left for you to do is revel in the deliciousness, and pat yourself on the back for 1) cleaning out your pantry of nearly rotten veggies, and 2) taking good care of your taste buds at the same time.

Good work, soldier. Well done.

NOTES: EASY | GLUTEN FREE