Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fourth Friday, Woop!

This past Friday - which was also my birthday, hooray for 28 years of Sami Kelsh - I was invited to participate in downtown Guelph's regular Fourth Friday festivities. The idea behind the event is to host many different cultural happenings in various locations around the city centre. As for me, I was blessed with the opportunity to set up a little art show at the Casual Gourmet on Carden Street. If you're in town, do check them out. They've got some gorgeous kitchen stuff going on, and seriously excellent taste in cheese and crusty bread, nom nom nom.

A friend of mine also asked me to make a video for my birthday. Funny, asking someone to do more work on their special day, but suffice it to say it was a labour of love, with a musical score from the classic Doctor Who serial Tomb Of The Cybermen.

(If it's strange that I just have various musical scores from classic Doctor Who serials on my ipod, I don't want to be normal!)

The really exciting news is that my art is available for viewing at the Casual Gourmet until about the end of June, but if you can't make it in person, there's always prints available on etsy and my website.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What I Did This Weekend, With Peob Bear

Peob and I spent Saturday night and most of Sunday lunchtime putting together a gorgeous black forest trifle. Here's how it went:

We started with a base of brownies (made with lots of really good dark chocolate and sweetened with maple syrup) baked in the wee hours the night before and left to cool until morning, then topped with half a jar of sour cherries and their juice, then topped with chilled vanilla custard cooked while we baked the brownies, then we whipped some cream and spooned generously over the other ingredients, and garnished with a sprinkling of dark chocolate. Perfection.

You can use pretty much any recipe you like for any of the components of this dish, but here are some you might find helpful:


1 1/2 c. flour
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. maple syrup
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped roughly
1/4 c. water
1/3 c. oil
2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350, and line an 8"x8" dish with parchment paper. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder. Combine chocolate, maple syrup, water, oil, and vanilla in a small saucepan and warm over low heat, stirring gently, until chocolate is melted. Allow to cool slightly before adding to dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Batter will be very thick. Spoon over parchment-lined dish and bake 20-25 min. Cut into squares and let cool completely before assembling trifle.


3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
one vanilla bean, scraped, or a good slug of vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a double boiler (if you don't have a double boiler, a metal bowl set over a saucepan works just as well - just be sure the width of the metal bowl allows it to sit on top without falling into the water below) and warm over simmering water on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until custard has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be sure not to overcook, or cook over too-high heat, or the egg will curdle. That said, don't sweat it if a few lumps form! Just give it a really good go with a whisk to smooth out the lumps and you're golden. Place in the refrigerator to cool before assembling trifle.

Whipped cream

1 c. heavy cream
sugar to taste
a little vanilla extract, if you like

This is such a no-brainer I'm not sure if it even warrants being a recipe. Using an electric hand-mixer, whip cream until it goes solid and creamy. See above for the kind of texture you're going for. Add to trifle as pictured above. And there you have it, ladies and gents, trifle!

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Birthday Is Nearly Upon Us: Suggestions, Hint Hint

If there's one time of year where I suppose one can indulge in a bit more than the usual amount of socially-sanctioned selfishness, it's your birthday, right? As such, since I'm turning 28 in one week's time, here are some things I'd really really really really like. Not that I'm soliciting people to buy me gifts or anything, but you know, if you wanted to gift me all of the things, I probably wouldn't protest too much. Thus:

These sexy wee beasties
from bakeallthethings are cake batter blondies with rainbow sprinkles, which combines so many of my favourite things: cake batter (which I confess to sometimes liking more than cake itself); blondies (all the texturey goodness of brownies, but sometimes it just feels really good to do away with chocolate and enjoy something more... pure), and RAINBOW SPRINKLES. Love.

I don't even know if I suit wearing bow ties, but who cares? This one from newtonstreetvintage is so adorable that I'm sure I'll find some way of incorporating it into my wardrobe.

And then there's this laser cat tote bag from daintylibrarian which is, frankly, amazing. Given that I'm as enamoured as I am of science-fiction special effects of decades past, it should come as no surprise that I'd fall in love with a bag that looks like something out of 1980s Doctor Who, or possibly the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation, only vastly improved by the presence of cats.

Speaking of laser cats
, there's also this amazeballs print by medusawolf.

It's a unicorn, and it's also a USB drive. Given my love for both mythical creatures AND data storage devices, I clearly kind of need this lovely creature from hemingwayfun to live. It is a thing of beauty.

Frazer Hines. Yep, I'd like Frazer Hines for my birthday. He's a handsome and clever chap. We could drink gin and watch videos, it would be a nice birthday party.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jam Thumbprints

Oh my giddy aunt, but these cookies are flipping fab. I admit, I'm something of a slut for taking baking recipes and "ruining" them by spoiling the fun and making them considerably less unhealthy, yet deceptively every bit as delicious as their waistline-ruining counterparts. This is a rare recipe that didn't actually require any healthy tweaking from me (notwithstanding a few substitutions based solely on what I happened to have in my kitchen storecupboards) and is wheat-free, vegan, and absolutely glorious. Though I might go crazy and add a little flaxseed to the mix next time to see what happens. *insert diabolical laughter here*

Jam Thumbprints

(loosely adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's mum kinda)

Makes exactly 43

1 cup white spelt flour

1 cup whole spelt flour

1 1/2 cups raw whole almonds, blitzed in a food processor until smallish powdery chunks (it's ok to leave some bits in, as this makes life more interesting)

1/2 teaspoon salt (DO NOT fuck up and put a whole teaspoon in by mistake. If you do, carefully scoop half of it back out. This will in no way affect the overall fabulousness of your cookie. Trust me. *whistles innocently*)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup agave syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

some jam: just about any jam will do, as long as it's not too runny. I used a crabapple blend my grandmother made recently, but it works beautifully with apricot or raspberry, and now that I'm thinking about it, I bet prune butter would be drool-inducingly gorgeous in these as well.

Here's how they're done:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine everything but the jam in a large bowl and stir until the dough comes together nicely. Place in tablespoon-sized balls on a cookie sheet, and use your thumb to make a well in the centre of each cookie. Fill each of these wells with a little jam. Bake until the cookies are beginning to brown, about 15 minutes or so. Place on wire racks to cool. Tuck in voraciously.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dispatches from the American Wilderness

Author's Note: I found this looking at poorly-labeled old word documents in search of a writing sample. This was meant to be a guest entry for another blog, written when its usual author was very busy; as it turns out, too busy to post guest entries. As such, I present it to you now, as a look at what I was up to way back in August of last year. Exciting times!

I am a notoriously terrible tourist.

This is the first time I’ve ever been in New York City. When friends asked what my plans were in the city, my response was always the same: food. Are you planning to see the Museum of Such-And-Such? they would ask me; Be sure to get photos of the Big Important Building! they would instruct me.

My response: today, I took the train from my hotel near Times Square (which I visited entirely by accident) in order to visit La Villita, a small Mexican bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that appears to have had the same sloping, sunburnt cakes on display in their front window since the 1980s (yet produces surprisingly good - and cheap - pastries). Yesterday, I had travelled even further afield to Bushwick in order to go to Roberta’s, a restaurant smack dab in the middle of apparently nothing, with only the vaguest hint of a sign above the door and a kitchen that produces some of the best pizza in America.

No, really. I’m of the firm belief that you can judge a pizza kitchen by the quality of their margherita, and I’ve been unimpressed and heartbroken more often than not in my culinary travels. The plain pie, it turns out, is deceptively difficult to get right precisely by virtue of its simplicity. The key - and Roberta’s understands this well - is to use very good ingredients very sparingly. A thin crust - at once delicately chewy and with just the right amount of charred bits - is topped with a thin layer of fresh tomato sauce, accentuated with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. The cheese is not applied with a heavy enough hand as weigh the slices down or render them greasy and soggy; the basil is plentiful enough as to actually have an influence over the flavour without overpowering the mild cheese or the bright acidity of the tomato. The balance of flavours is truly impeccable. It amazes me that people would moan about having to schlep all the way out to Bushwick for a pizza, as I would happily trek across the Okavango Delta on a unicyle for a pie this good.

Because why? Because life is too short to eat bad food. Passing through Times Square this morning, it struck me that there are people there, visiting one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world, eating at any number of chain restaurants where the bland fare is indistinguishable from any other branch of the franchise anywhere else in the world. What’s the point? Maybe not everyone is so devoted as to plan their entire holiday around where to eat (like I did, admittedly) but with a little research and a little openness to adventure, you might find something truly special.

Since I’m staying near the theatre district, many people have asked if I planned to see a Broadway show during my stay. Nope, but tomorrow I’m venturing to the east village just so I can blow everyone’s mind by having ice cream for breakfast.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

I don't know the first thing about babies.

But gosh, my five-day-old nephew Jasper is precious. His parents and I mercifully agree that documenting the growth and development of a little loved one is something we wish to be as free of playful backdrops and silly costumes as possible. As such, I've been enthusiastically photographing every moment of joy, distress, hiccups, gas, and naptime that have occurred during my visits with the little fellow. Suffice it to say that I'll be watching with great interest to see where his development takes him.

Here he is in action:

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

And my world just went and got a little bit nerdier.

Those of you who have had the questionable fortune of speaking to me for more than ten minutes are probably more than aware that I have an unnaturally intense love for: a) Doctor Who; and b) knitting. As such, I'm surprised it's taken me this long to discover that Lalla Ward, who played the lovely companion Romana II for some time during Tom Baker's tenure as the Doctor, went on to write two ridiculously adorable knitting books, which I may or may not have ordered from Amazon for like four dollars today. The first, Fowl Knits, features an array of bird-themed jumpers, some of which are also modelled by fellow Doctor Who actress Louise Jameson:

I wonder what Leela would have thought of that dodo number? It's a far cry from what she was wearing in the TARDIS, to be sure:

I haven't seen anything but the cover of the second book, Beastly Knits, but the sheer whimsical kitsch of the cat jumper has convinced me that it will be worth the $4 I spent for these books on Amazon:

I do, after all, enjoy cat jumpers. Remember that time I bought this from prettysnake?
And it's basically the sexiest thing I own.