french walnut cake

french carrot cake

quite often, i write the blog while eating what i’ve made. right now is one of those times. cake, coffee, and writing seem to go together just right.

i call this french, because it is loosely based on the lovely and traditional french perigord walnut cake, but with the addition of shredded carrots.

it mixes up in one bowl, and needs no further adornment than a good drizzle of honey at the end.

it’s nice enough for company, but simple enough to make just because you feel like some cake. slice and eat with coffee. enjoying at breakfast time would not be the weirdest idea.

Walnut Cake 2

french walnut cake

1 cup walnuts, ground very fine
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold coffee
1 large carrot, grated
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey

heat oven to 350f. butter a 9″ round cake pan, line with parchment, then butter the parchment.

in a medium bowl, stir together the walnuts, flour, baking soda, and salt. in a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. add the coffee, carrot, and melted butter, and whisk to combine. add the dry ingredients, all at once, and mix together quickly with rubber spatula. batter will be runny. scrape into prepared pan. bake for 50 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. if needed, bake 5-10 minutes more. remove from oven an cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

turn out onto a plate and spread the honey over the top. cool completely, then slice.

makes 8 servings.

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good stuff #3

bra grejer

i love canada, i really do. our kick-ass landscape, free health care and enviable collection of wildlife species are pretty great. last week i ate a butter tart. i also ate one the week before that. what a country!

this week, as we slowly transition into spring, i’m sharing the warm minimalism of scandivavian and nordic style, looking to the distinct cold-climate aesthetic of sweden, denmark, finland, and norway for inspiration. theirs is a perfect blending of the historical and the deeply modern, an appreciation of craftmanship, natural materials, and simple, functional, but beautiful design.

and what about hygge? in denmark, this sort of vague word, loosely translated, describes the feeling of well-being we get from a warm, candlelit room filled with books and good food, and people to share it with, while the snow falls heavily outside. that feeling can happen in warmer weather, too, when a picnic blanket on soft grass is laid with beautiful food on a well-designed dish, and you know you have the afternoon off. it’s kind of blissful, no? a perfect concept for a cold-climate country like canada, too.

let’s not forget, sweden is the birthplace of that most beautiful of hygge-inducing stoves, my still-coveted AGA.

while i’ll never be a true minimalist, i love how nordic and scandinavian style seems to mix it up just right. i hope you find some inspiration too.

happy sunday xx

p.s…that phrase above? swedish, for “good stuff”.

  1. this cookbook, the new nordic, by:

  2. photographer and chef simon bajada is on my list of new books to buy. beetroot carpaccio with goat’s cheese and minted pea relish will be one of the first recipes i try. (photos: simon bajada)

  3. this roros tweed blanket, made from the wool of norwegian sheep. i’m inspired by those blocks of colour to knit a colourblock throw in homage to this lovely design. available at MJOLK, in the junction, toronto. (photo: MJOLK.com)

  4. this glass and brass vase, made in sweden by eva schildt. perfect to hold simple branches or dried seed heads in celebration of the stark beauty of winter. at MJOLK, above. (photo: MJOLK.com)

  5. these marttiini knives from finland. i would love to unsheath this and use it daily. available at the finnish place. (photo: the fnnish place)

  6. lotta from stockholm clogs chefs wear closed-toe clogs in the kitchen because they are durable and comfortable. now you can get the ultimate in man-repelling footwear to go with just about everything. i discovered lotta from stockholm on instagram and love everything they post. these black t-bars are begging to be worn with a cute dress and tights, or flared denim. (photo: lotta from stockholm)

  7. this funky mug by iconic designer maija isola in the unikko pattern, in production since 1964. love that yellow. (photo: the finnish place)

  8. this gorgeous bowl. if i can’t afford an AGA, i cant afford this bowl but wow, is it beautiful to look at! from a selection available in the online shop of the kitchen designer, susan serra. (photo:scandinavianmade.com)

  9. era 66 furniture located right here in guelph, makers of drool-worthy new furniture inspired by danish modern and mid-century design. (photo: instagram, @era66furniture)

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chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

chickpea burger

sometimes, what you want is a burger. and burgers can be made from anything, really, so a burger made from chickpeas, is every bit a burger. meat does not hold a monopoly on burgers!

vegetarian burgers come in so many incarnations. this one is not a meat substitute. it’s made with chickpeas, flavoured with garlic and herbs, and is almost like a fritter, so it holds together when you cook it. it’s a bit wet, so use floured hands to shape them.

it’s smeared with a smoky feta and red pepper spread, and piled with greens and avocado on a handmade brioche bun. le yum.

if you have a flat-top or a non-stick pan, use it for this recipe, and you’ll be happy, not swearing.

you can make these up and fry them in advance, up to 2 days, then reheat on a sheet pan. yay! we love do-aheads…

chickpea burger

chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

makes 4

1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained
salt and fresh pepper
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
2 tbsp, mint leaves
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1 thai chili, roughly chopped
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
canola oil for frying

place the drained chickpeas, a dash of salt and a few grindings of pepper, the garlic, cilantro, mint, lemon zest and juice, green onions, and thai chili. blitz a few times to break up the chickpeas so that some are mashed but some chunks remain. add the egg and butter and pulse a few times to combine. turn out into a bowl. mix together the flour and baking powder and stir into chickpea mixture. chill completely.

divide into 4 portions (you can make them smaller and divide into 6 if you wish). use floured hands to form into balls, and flatten slightly. heat a flat-top griddle or non-stick pan to high. brush with canola oil. place burgers on hot griddle, reduce heat to medium-high and cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden and firm.

serve on split, toasted buns with tomato slices, avocado, and smoky red pepper spread.

smoky red pepper spread

1 red pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, broken up
1 tbsp. hot smoked paprika
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp. plain, natural yogurt

char the pepper over a gas flame, on the grill, or under the broiler, until blackened and blistered on all sides. place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool completely. use a paper towel to rub off the skin. pop the pepper open and remove the seeds. don’t rinse the pepper! place in the bowl of a food processor with the feta and the paprika. process until smooth-ish. add the yogurt, 1 tbsp at a time, until mixture is spreadable. add lemon juice. scrape into a covered container and chill.

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fennel caponata

Fennel Caponata

what a lovely dish caponata is…

this sicilian treat is a mixture of vegetables, each cooked to perfection, and married together in flavourful sweet/sour/spicy tomato-based sauce.

i took some creative licence, added fennel and zucchini, and left out the raisins (i’m not a fan) and the anchovies, so it’s vegan.

it’s a bit time-consuming, but the recipe is voluminous enough to make a good batch, the added bonus? caponata only gets better as it sits. having this on hand with other antipasto ingredients and some crusty bread is the most effortless way of enjoying a saturday with friends, or a lazy day at home with family.

fennel caponata

fennel caponata

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2″ dice (about a pound)
sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup pretty good good olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup brine-cured olives, pitted and slivered
one small jar capers (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 28-oz can good plum tomatoes, drained, and juices reserved (i use san marzanos)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

place eggplant cubes in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt (I used about 2 tbsp). allow to drain for 1 hour, giving it a stir here and there. after an hour, give it a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, drain, and dry well with paper towels. Set aside

in a food processor or blender, puree whole tomatoes and set aside.

In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. add the fennel and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. add the onions and zucchini and cook another 10 minutes, until everything is soft and lightly golden. transfer to a bowl. heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and over high heat, saute the eggplant cubes and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. return the fennel/celery/onion/zucchini mixture to the pan and add the vinegar, sugar, olives, capers, chili flakes, fennel seeds, and tomato puree. taste for salt, and add more if needed, as well as a few grindings of fresh black pepper. bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir often for the next 15 minutes. stir in pine nuts. cool to room temperature, then chill until ready to use. take it out to warm up before you eat it, as caponata tastes best at room temperature. sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

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crochet some circles, and the design will follow, right?

crochet circles

i’m a crochet newbie, picking up my first hook less than a year ago, but when i did, i found i preferred it to knitting, which i have been doing since i was a child.

call me impatient, but i like the immediacy of it, that each little square or circle or hexagon is a tiny project i can finish in a few minutes. starting a new colour makes me so happy!

i remember well the hippie-style crochet of my childhood, and i still like it. but lately i’ve been drawn to more graphic motifs, the work of french designer Sophie Digard and modern patterns using simple shapes and solid swaths of colour.

over new years i headed to nyc to visit my special brit friend, and he happily accompanied me (or was dragged, depending who you ask) to purl soho to pick up a few skeins. i only sometimes know what a purchase will yield in the end. my M.O. is to buy the yarn first, and wait for the project to reveal itself.

i decided to just start crocheting little circles in grapefruit pink, acid green, lichen, and ballet pink, and square them off with a white border. thanks to Magda de Lange over at Pigtails for steering me in the right direction for a pattern.

i’m thinking this will be a throw for my bedroom, due for a redecoration in the spring. i’ll probably pick up a natural linen shade and another couple of colourful yarns, vary the sizes and shapes of the circles and squares, and group them together in blocks. when i say it like that, it sounds like i actually have a plan!

stay tuned…

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laotian vegan barley bowl

laotian vegan barley bowl

back in the 90’s, i saw an episode of the excellent cooking show, taste, where David Rosengarten made larb, the minced meat salad of laos. ever since, i’ve wanted to create a vegan version of this fresh and flavourful salad, and by george, i think i’ve done it. the combination of clean flavours from the vegetables and herbs, combined with the barley and a zippy dressing, is outstanding. every time i make this and eat it, i’m amazed at how good it is. i just have to share it with you!

i sometimes make this with veggie ground round, and it works great if you a craving something “meaty”. but i don’t want to eat a lot of processed fake meat, so i started making it with barley. it absorbs the flavours so well and makes a satisfying meal of this salad.

check out the hands-off method of cooking barley too.

vegan larb 1

laotian vegan barley bowl

3/4 cup uncooked barley
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 thai chili, thinly sliced (or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red pepper, julienned
1/4 cup each torn basil, mint, and cilantro leaves
4 cups torn lettuces, greens, kale, or sprouts, or a mixture
1 tbsp toasted rice powder*
2 tbsp toasted cashews or peanuts, chopped

dressing

1 tsp. almond butter
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

place barley in a medium saucepot and cover with 2 inches of water. bring to a full boil. turn off the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour (you can do this the night before too). you should have about 1 1/2 cups barley.

make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients. thin with a small amount of warm water so it is drizzle-able.

in a medium pan, heat the canola or peanut oil. add the garlic and chilis and cook for a few seconds. add the barley, sugar, tamari, and lime juice. remove from heat and dump into a large bowl. add the onions and peppers and toss. allow to cool to room temperature, then add the torn herbs. taste and add salt and pepper.

divide the greens among large salad plates. top with barley mixture, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with the toasted rice powder and toasted nuts.

*tip: toasted rice powder is available at asian markets, or you can make your own by toasting 2 tbsp. white rice in a dry pan until golden, then buzzing in a spice grinder

*tip: for a hands-on appetizer, use romaine lettuce cups and fill with filling. use the dressing as a dipping sauce.

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handmade brioche burger buns

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i think these may be the perfect burger buns. most commercial buns are as far from real bread as you can imagine, and usually full of too much sugar, salt, and preservatives. these are soft and airy and not too large, so you can achieve the perfect burger/bun ratio, and you know exactly what you’re putting in them.

these handmade brioche buns are extremely quick and easy to make. don’t be intimidated! once you’ve made them once, you will be so proud that you did this, you will never buy buns again.

this recipe makes 2 dozen good sized rolls. weigh your ingredients and the rolls themselves for accuracy. today i used poppyseeds, but i often use sesame seeds too. freeze while warm, or use leftovers for bread pudding.

i think the pure white AGA would bake these up beautifully, don’t you? 🙂 sigh…

handmade brioche burger buns

400 ml milk
75 g sugar
7 eggs, lightly beaten
20g yeast
1 kg flour
10g sea salt
250g soft butter

1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp. cream or milk
1/2 cup poppy seeds or sesame seeds

line 2 large baking sheets with parchments sheets or silpats.

heat the milk to hand-hot and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. add the sugar and the yeast and mix well. stir in the eggs and then add the flour and the salt. mix on medium speed until a smooth but sticky dough forms. add the butter, about a tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated, then mix for 2 minutes.

using a dough scraper, turn the dough out of the bowl and onto a very lightly floured surface. use the scraper to slice off pieces of dough, each measuring 80g (the piece will be a bit larger than a large egg) the dough will be very sticky, you may think too sticky, but don’t panic, it will all work out.

allow the dough balls to sit for a few minutes, then with very lightly floured hands, roll into balls. place 12 to a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds. allow to proof (rise) for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 450f. place buns in the oven gently, so they don’t deflate. bake buns for 5 minutes, then rotate pans, reduce heat to 350f, and bake another 15 minutes, or until golden and puffed. cool on racks.

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good stuff no. 2

good morning lovely people, and a very happy sunday to you.

this week’s good stuff roundup is inspired by simplicity. i’m loving the slightly minimalist theme going on.

check my instagram feed for today’s post, and to follow our listmakers and see even more of what they do.

with love,
xx

as if i don’t love crocheting enough, it would be even better if i had one of these hand-carved crochet hooks with sweet crown tops from bqueen collection. available in singles or in sets, each one is ergonomic and made from domestic and exotic woods. that tulipwood one though! (photo: BQueen Collection)

i came across the good drink on instagram, and am now officially in awe of Colleen Jeffers recipes and photography. i need a Salted Melon Lassi with blonde rum, like, immediately. (photo: Colleen Jeffers)

what i’m loving about blooms and flora florist in guelph is their selection of slightly 70’s style potted plants. you can have a peace lily in a funky white textured ceramic pot delivered to your door for $35, or go all out and snag this stunning split-leaf philodendron. they also carry the cutest little succulent pots that make me crave some macrame hangers. now to not kill them…. (photo: Blooms and Flora)

Sue Bradbury is the woman behind EllainaBoutique, her etsy shop and home to simply designed tops, dresses, and scarves all designed and sewn by Sue. my favourite is this simple white top, but her colourful dresses with pin-tuck bodices are gorg. (photo: Sue Bradbury)

so, coffee. it’s pretty much my favourite thing in the world, so how happy am i to see filtr company joining a pretty enviable array of coffee places in town. although they are much more than a coffee shop. they deliver simple, fresh food, cold-pressed raw juices from galt juice company, and their espresso and slow-bar features small-batch beans from Monigram Roasters in Cambridge. even if you don’t live here, visit the website and peruse the deliciousness. (photo: Filtr Co.)

oh, and by the way, was it a fabulous dream, or did AGA Living really post a photo of this luscious pink number for valentine’s day? yes, yes they did. sigh. (photo: AGAliving.com)

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spicy red lentil soup

a very quick, simple red lentil soup that’s rich and full of warm spicy flavour. i do all the vegetables in the food processor for ease.

a blitz of the finished soup in the blender makes for a silky finish, but it’s not essential.

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spicy red lentil soup

2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, scraped and diced
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water or vegetable stock
6 plum tomatoes, mashed, with their juices (i use my hands and squish them in a bowl)
2 tsp. ground cumin seed
2 tsp. ground coriander seed
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 tsp. sea salt
Fresh pepper
juice of 1 lemon

in a large pot heat the oil to medium. add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. cover and cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. add the lentils, stock or water, tomatoes, and spices. bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently at the end, until lentils have broken down, about 30 minutes. taste, and check seasoning. finish with a squeeze of lemon. puree soup in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender, and if you like, garnish with a swirl of natural yogurt and cilantro leaves.

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project/organization

happy family day.

in canada, today is a holiday. what do you like to do with an extra day off? seizing the moment to go on a winter hike or shoot some photos would probably be the right answer, but honestly, when i get some extra time, i try to do a bit of organization. the time i spend on it today will mean i won’t have waste time looking for things later. so i’ll happily make that trade-off.

one thing i’m not very good at and would like to do better, is organize my arts + crafts projects. i always seem to have several works in progress, and while my brain knows where everything is, my living space could use with a bit less clutter. a side table holds a stack of yarn balls on the top of the piano there is a jumble of skeins ready for another project. it’s always in grabbing distance, but it looks messy and can get dusty. not to mention cats sleep wherever it is soft and warm (hmmm…)

a few ideas i already employ

  1. a cute furry zippered pouch. i can’t resist little pouches when i see them, and they serve so many purposes. one of which is to hold the tools and pattern i’m using for a project. that way i can grab a ball of yarn and the pouch and take it with me on the train or wherever else i can grab a few moments to work. i had my eye on this plum faux fur pouch and lo and behold, it turned up on the clearance rack for $5.

  2. a big old mason jar for my needles. i think needles look nice, especially bamboo or wooden ones, so i display them in a jar and whatever size i need is at close hand. old flower pots, vases, or ice buckets work great too.

  3. a big basket for yarn. again, it’s within reach, and i usually know what yarn goes with which project. but as you can see, it’s a bit of a yarn bomb, and truth be told, the cats like to sleep in it!

that’s about the extent of my repertoire. i think its apparent, i need more ideas. how do you tackle organization at home? what’s your go-to system for taking projects on the road? please do comment below, or drop me a line and share your system. i would love to hear your tips, and devote a future post to a few folks and their crafty solutions.

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