good stuff #4: kitchen goodies

a bunch of aqua

kitchen goodies

as you can imagine, my kitchen is my kingdom. i spend a lot of time there, so it needs to be functional.

i’m a bit nutty for kitchen equipment. when i’m in a groove and the absolute perfect tool is at my disposal, there is no better feeling than having a well-made object that’s right for the job. many people who tell me they hate cooking are working with old junk they haven’t replaced in years, or using tools that they think will make life easier, but actually don’t. like a garlic press.

the kitchen also happens to be the hub of the house. everyone winds up there. so warm, comfortable, and good-looking is also a priority. it needs to have beauty and brains.

this week, a peek into my aga-less, but happy kitchen. and a few cool gadgets that have recently crossed my path.

happy sunday and happy week.

xx

  1. this mushroom brush. mushrooms are little sponges and shouldn’t be washed. i love the shape and gentle bristles of this iris hantverk brush for nice clean mushrooms. for when i make things like this. i bought it online from quitokeeto.

  2. tiny bundt pan. the other day i came upon this little 9″ pan from guardini of italy. it’s perfect for making dainty cakes and the non-stick surface worked really well on a sticky cake i baked up. the orange enamel is a total bonus.

  3. this art. this bare wall was asking for something big and dramatic. art in the kitchen, why not? i found this beautiful limited edition block print by bobby rosenstock of just a jar design press at the toronto outdoor art exhibit, framed it up and put it above the stove. (a stove which, as you can see, is clearly not an AGA.)

  4. this scoop. chefs use them for portion control, i use them for sanity control. trying to coax muffin batter from bowl to muffin tin with a spoon is not fun. for cookies, muffin batter, and veggie burgers, these make perfect portions and life a lot easier. the handles are colour-coded so you always grab the right size.

  5. this awesome little knife by k sabatier. i needed a razor-sharp little knife for fiddly jobs, and this one, with its lovely olive-wood handle, is perfect.

  6. this collection of aqua stuff. lately i’m loving anything aqua. it works really well in my light orange kitchen and is reminiscent of a tropical sea.  when a good friend of mine moved to hawaii, she gifted me the le creuset large roaster (yeah, she’s that kind of friend). ikea raskog cart. vase and casserole dish from homesense)

  7. this paint colour, “orangery”, farrow and ball. one day i just decided to paint my kitchen this creamy orange colour, and i never looked back. it’s amazingly versatile and is dreamy in dimmed light in the evening. although i suspect this colour has been archived, as it’s no longer available to view on the website.

  8. this upcycled island. this was an old buffet/hutch combo that my special brit friend keenly spied at our favourite junk shop. i think it’s from the 40’s. we removed the shelves, painted it out in this platinum shade of melamine paint. i found the marble top as a scrap at the stone yard and shamelessly asked for some man-muscle to get it home. all in, it cost under $200, and i have a perfect place to roll pastry, store extra bowls and linens, and shoot my food photos. score. the toleware chandelier was also a score, $40 at a junk store. i put it on a dimmer to make an inviting spot for drinks and snacks in the evenings.

  9. these containers for utensils. old garden urns and ice buckets make interesting and quirky catch-alls for all those cooking tools. one is never enough. luckily they are easily found in thrift shops.

*please note, i do not work for and am not paid by any of the above companies. this is my unbiased sharing of things i like. thanks!

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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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handmade brioche burger buns

DSC_2707.NEF

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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brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake. it sounds like i took a bunch of whatever i had in the kitchen and made a cake out of it, doesn’t it? oh, wait…

i rounded up the ingredients, cornmeal…yogurt…limes…i thought, how can i bring these all together into a cohesive whole? the brown butter was the key, adding a lovely toasty, caramely note that complements the cornmeal, and balancing out the acid in the limes and the yogurt.

luckily this worked on the first try despite not having one of these.   i would suggest eating in within a day or so, when it’s supremely fresh. you could easily make this in a loaf pan, but i wanted to use the lovely violet cake plate from dis-a-ray that my special brit friend gave me for my birthday. he’s very thoughtful that way, and was very excited it said “made in england”.  or maybe he knew i would immediately make a cake to go on it. either way, we ate it up with a pot of earl grey and it was delicious.

keep a close eye when browning the butter. it doesn’t take long to go from brown butter to burnt butter.

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp lime zest
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4  cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup brown sugar

for the glaze:

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

for the drizzle:

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest

preheat oven to 350f. grease a 9″ cake pan and line with parchment. grease the parchment and set pan aside.

in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. cook slowly, swirling the pan and watching for the butter to change colour from pale straw to a light butterscotch colour.  when it’s just aproaching a deep amber colour, and smells like toasted nuts, remove from heat and swirl a few times. set aside to cool slightly.

in a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of the brown sugar. whisking does a great job of breaking up the lumps in the sugar.

when the butter is cooled, whisk in the yogurt, eggs, and zest. pour all at once into dry ingredients and mix well, but do not beat.

pour into prepared pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until dry when tested with a toothpick.

meanwhile, make the glaze. heat the 1/3 cup lime juice with 1/3 cup brown sugar until sugar is melted. pour over warm cake, then cool cake completely.

when cool, mix the icing sugar with the 2 tbsp. lime juice and blend well. drizzle over cake, and sprinkle on the remaining zest. allow glaze to set before serving.

 

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absolutely essential kitchen trends

happy thursday lovelies…

this blog is a bit of new enterprise for me, and it’s still somewhat under construction. because what the world needs now is another long-form lifestyle blog, i’ve been cooking like a madwoman, photographing, and amassing posts.  but i couldn’t resist firing off a quick one today,  because it’s trends time folks. i’ve been absorbing what’s happening in the world and what the kids are into these days.

i dig my place and enjoy reading and getting inspiration from design blogs, like this one, which touched on the top kitchen trends for 2015.  bring on those industrial elements, layered lighting, and bold colour!

so in the spirit of a good ol’ top 10 list, i thought i’d helpfully provide:

kitchen trends for 2015 you absolutely must embrace

cracking the stove. it’s that big-ish square thing in the corner that radiates some kind of heat from electricity or gas. you can use the top or throw something inside. it turns raw food into meals, and it’s pretty awesome.

cutting food with knives. knives are for turning food into ingredients. they should be sharp, so cooking is actually enjoyable and you’re not hacking away and cursing how much you hate cooking while trying to cut carrots with the equivalent of a blunt stick. using a dull knife is more dangerous than using a sharp one. you have to press harder and risk it slipping from the food and onto your hand. and the cut you receive will be much worse that the clean nick you would get from a sharp knife. fearing a sharp knife because it might cut you and making do with crappy dull blades is a lot like not changing a light bulb because you might accidentally put your finger in the socket, so you live in the dark and trip over things. see what i did there? fear not the light bulb, or the knife. and for heaven’s sake, get a steel and use it every time.

recipes. look at your background. have you learned to read? put windshield washer fluid in your car? passed your driving test? assembled an ikea billy bookshelf?  congratulations.  you have the skills to prepare a recipe. there are recipes everywhere. if you’re not careful you’ll trip over them. they are in magazines about cooking, and magazines not about cooking. they are on the web and in newspapers and on those little tear-off sheets at the store. also this

planning a meal. kitchens are made for this type of activity. see stove, knives, and recipe, above. if you can figure out that you need shoes to go with an outfit, or keep track of the web of lies on house of cards, you can read a recipe, buy what you need, and make it. if you don’t know a cooking term or need help with a technique, this, and this.

cooking stuff. seems obvious, right? you’d be amazed how many kitchens exist to show off their reclaimed parisian bistro marble countertops and copper exhaust hoods. if they had eyes, those fancy all-clad pots and le creuset dutch ovens would be sadly staring up at you and weeping “use me!” while the hidden recycling drawer lined with organically grown bamboo overflows with two-weeks’ worth of plastic bento boxes. people who cook for a living would die…no…give up their favourite child… for your sub-zero fridge and your aga. hell, have you read my reasons for writing this blog? if you have the means to trick out your kitchen, for god’s sake don’t insult everyone who slaves in kitchens making minimum wage by not using your fancy stuff.

using your fridge, and all its compartments. its the taller thing, bigger than the stove. open it. what do you see? if it’s 1 or 2 six-packs and a bottle of ketchup from y2k, read on. this state-of-the-art device is made for storing your ingredients. the vegetable drawers keep your veggies fresh, your cheese drawer keeps your cheeses at the right humidity. that really, really cold bit is the freezer, and you can use it to freeze pizza dough or edamame or anything else that will make cooking easier and more efficient. if you find you’re throwing away what you buy, buy less, or better yet, use your fridge and a few tips to store your food properly.

cooking together. when you have a party, people congregate in the kitchen. why? it’s where we all have something in common: food, and drink. so when you’re not having a party, put down that game of candy crush and hand your child a knife. (that’s right, the sharp one), and get cooking together. if you’ve already discounted any of the previous hot kitchen trends, at least do this one. by the way, your spouse/life partner/current squeeze wants to be with you, and so do your kids. the kitchen is an awesome place to connect and bond, and feed each other yummy things. and talk about what to make next. you’ll be giving and learning life lessons, promoting togetherness, and leaning some new skills together to boot. nice huh?

maintaining your equipment. baking cookies are great, but not on a old rusty baking sheet. you may have a spatula somewhere with a loose screw, and what about those horrible dull knives? buying a few good pieces, and keeping them in good shape is hot hot hot! some of the best maintenance is using your equipment. like a car that sits in your driveway, that food processor is begging you to turn it on and work out the kinks. besides, you can use it to make this

eating together. the kitchen is a good a place as any. it’s closest to the food. many kitchen have tables, chairs, plates, and cutlery.  sitting down and savouring a meal means you’re freed forever from holding your cup-o-noodles in one hand while the other swipes a trackpad to take the latest buzzfeed quiz.  you can bring the food from the stove, walk it over, and share it with other humans in your tribe. you may have even cooked it together. talk about what you like, what you don’t, your day, whatever. and despite what Slate says, i prefer what Joel Salatin says. imagine my best virginian accent: “the meal is not dead!”

displaying your pretty stuff. i should have said at the get-go, “in no particular order”, but let’s not discount the power of the visual. when your kitchen is pretty, you’ll use it more. you may also eat more, but let’s not go there (for more on that, read this). also, your pantry. why on earth would you venture anywhere near a dark, dreary closet with quarter-ounces of dry pasta wrapped in elastic bands? clear jars let you see what you have, and inspire you to use them. if nothing else, it makes you look like you actually cook stuff, and that’s a start. i’ll even throw in some free printable jar labels so you never again need to wonder if your going to kill your sister because you used whole wheat instead of the gluten-free chickpea flour.

enjoy this lovely spring day, and for god’s sake make something.

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time to grow

Garden Table

 

i’m on the move. the sun is shining, and maybe it’s greener grass syndrome. for years i was blogging on other sites – words here, photos there, and it’s exciting to be here now on everything but the aga. up-sizing allows for more and different ways to share food and recipes, simple tips about growing flowers and food, DIY projects using old things, links to inspirational sites and the people behind them, and lots of photos. i hope you like everything but the aga, and happy spring to you.

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