Archive for October, 2011

Vegetable soup, foccacia and cowboy cookies

What a week!  High demands at work and at home:  Travel organizing, charity events, social planning, costume making and a hundred small fires to put out. How to recover?  Shopping doesn’t work for me. I get into the kitchen and whip up some soup, bread or sweets.  And today, since it was such a crazy week, I made all three.  

First a double batch of vegetable soup – please admire my awesome Lee Valley kettle! Next, my friend Gillian’s superb foccacia, and finally, these super easy Cowboy Cookies.  I like this recipe because all of the measurements are round :  1 cup of this and 2 cups of that.  Also, it makes lots.  Not the five dozen advertised, but lots.  Even better if you add butterscotch chips instead of chocolate, but today, alas, I had none. 

The recipe suggests these cookies need 8 to 10 minutes in the oven. In my oven they take 12 minutes to achieve perfect doneness.  I use a standard cookie scoop but I suspect “Bonniebelle” makes a smaller cookie, which would account for a shorter cooking time and a higher yield.  Do try not to overbake! 

Outside it is dark and really rainy. Inside we have good food and cats to comfort us.

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My kids have long envied a friend of mine who married into a Chinese Canadian family and enjoys a roast-turkey-and-chow-mein dinner each Christmas. My oldest son is graduating this year and I fear it won’t be long until I get the sad news that he is planning to spend Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or another traditional family holiday) as the guest of some other family with a fetching daughter. So, it now behooves me to up the ante a little.

Bacon is apparently the ‘it’ food these days – at least with young men. I read an anecdote in Maclean’s magazine just prior to Thanksgiving concerning a turkey-farming MP who puts pulpy orange juice and soy sauce into the roasting pan as a gravy starter and covers his turkey breast with slices of bacon for extra flavour and moistness. Without more information that this, I decided to have a go. I would say the bacon was definitely an addition; however, the orange juice/soy sauce burned in the pan and took several soak/scrubs to conquer. I’d stocked up on some gravy mixes anyway (Sorry, I can’t hear your boos and hisses) so no harm done to the dinner.

Strips of bacon keep the turkey moist and add flavour.

We cooked our turkey at the cottage on Saturday, so we could indulge ourselves in cold turkey sandwiches for lunch on Sunday and hot turkey sandwiches for dinner. When the turkey was resting and I was mashing the potatoes – which didn’t get into the picture somehow – I sent Cottager out on a secret mission to the Bayview Szechuan restaurant in the village for a container of chicken chow mein. He was back just as I finished carving the bird.

I don’t fuss with setting a beautiful table when we don’t have guests since my crew is fairly food-centric. It was just nice to have a quiet family meal at the end of a day working out-of-doors at our fall clean-up tasks. The chow mein was a surprisingly nice addition. I believe we have a new tradition. Hopefully one that will keep my boys coming home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey and chow mein with all the trimmings

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I just love these nuts, which are made by Sahale Snacks. If you haven’t tried them, they are sweet, with a hint of orange and a generous portion of black pepper. Its a sensational combination.

They are available seasonally at Costco – usually around Christmas time. Last week I saw them featured at Thrifty Foods: $5.99 for 113 grams! Much, much cheaper and really easy to make them yourself – either in multiple batches as gifts for the holidays, as a quick treat with drinks or deluxe salad topping when guests are expected. Here’s my version. Let me know what you think.


2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp butter (best) or margarine
Pinch of salt

1 and 1/2 cups whole pecans
1 tsp finely grated orange peel aka zest
1/2  tsp Lawry’s brand coarsely ground pepper or to taste
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease very lightly with butter or cooking spray.

In a medium sauce pan combine sauce ingredients and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until bubbling. Cook one minute longer, then remove from heat. Stir in zest, then pecans and cranberries and keep stirring until all nuts are lightly coated.

Spread onto prepared cookie sheet and separate nuts with a fork. Sprinkle liberally with the coarse ground pepper. Bake 15 -20 minutes, stirring once. Cool and then store in an airtight container – if you don’t just eat the whole lot!


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One day, about 8 years ago, after a break from owning pets, I had an  overwhelming urge to get a cat. Without consulting anyone in my family, I went to Petcetera, where there was a handful of SPCA cats featured for adoption. One was timid, one was recovering from injuries after jumping from a third floor balcony and the third was named Frank.  Ginger in theory, he was actually the colour of a sad beige carpet.  But he looked me in the eye and didn’t struggle when I picked him up.  His name seemed like a good omen as when we had chosen names for our sons, my husband had lobbied, unsuccessfully, for Frank. So I took Frank home. 

When my kids came home from elementary school that day they were ecstatic. By the time Cottager came home from work, both boys and the cat ran to the door to greet him.  Frank always met us at the door from then on  – even after the boys ceased to do so.  He had some quirks – but in our opinion, he was the best of cats.

Last September we introduced a female tortoiseshell into the family. Meekus was a crazy kitten, and she drove Frank to distraction with her stealth attacks, but they came to an understanding in time.

Meekus and Frankie

Sadly, over the winter, Frank began to lose weight. Tests and treatments were in vain, and every possibility was eventually eliminated except cancer. By June he was in such poor shape that we had to do right by him.

Over the summer we mourned and eventually came around to discussing  getting another cat, as Meekus seemed lonely.  A friend at work put us on to VOKRA – Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, and through them, we found our new guy, Freddy.  Like all VOKRA adoptees, he came to us from a foster home, where he was known and loved. 

Freddy on his first day in his forever home.

VOKRA does fantastic work rescuing cats and kittens. If you can support them please do, and if you have been thinking of opening your home to a new pet have a look at their website for information that will help you assess whether cat adoption is right for you. They have an on-line gallery of cats looking for forever homes. 

Meekus and Freddy

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