Comforting Ourselves


Rib Eye the way Mom made it.


Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa.

When I think of comfort the first thing I think of is food.  Whether I am feeling down, wanting to celebrate or even planning a camping trip, the first thing I think about is; what food should we have so we feel good?

Some might say using food as comfort is an unhealthy emotional disorder but I beg to differ.  I think using food as part of a solution to ‘the blues,’ to celebrate or to remind us of pleasurable times is a healthy.  That being said, I don’t disagree that when food is our only coping strategy to fluctuations in mood and circumstance then we have a problem. What I am talking about is something different.

The other day I was faced with an example of the circumstance I am referring to.  I was planning on spending a day with my youngest daughter who is just two weeks away from finishing her 3rd year of studies at university.  As is to be expected, she is rather wound up about all the assignments that are due and the worry that she will run out of time to get them done.  As I prepared for the trip down to see her I remembered myself in the exact same circumstance many years ago.  As well as spending time with her I wondered what I could do to make these last days easier for her.  The answer was rather obvious I suppose.  Food.

That’s right.  Food that reminds Hanna that she has a Mom who cares about her and who took the time to make her meals and treats memorable as well as delicious.  I arrived at her little place with Apricot Loaf, Salted,Double Chocolate Cookies, Oatmeal Bars and Blueberry Muffins.  I plunked the bag of treats on her kitchen table and said, “that should get you through the next few days.”  She replied, ‘yikes Mom,’  but I knew she was pleased.  As she toils away on her last papers and spends late nights in the art room, I imagine her sneaking a couple of cookies to stay awake and motivated while all the while knowing that she has a Mom who is there for her and wants her to succeed.

Another reminder of how food comforts  came in the last  few text messages that I received from my son, also away at university but far away in another country.  Sending him treats is out of the question because of the cost of shipping and the fact that by the time they arrived to him they would be stale or in pieces, not to mention he is an athlete on a scholarship and needs to stay in top physical condition, so he doesn’t often eat sweets during the school year.

The first text I received came after a brief phone call from my son about what cut of steak would be good for him to purchase.  A couple of hours after giving him some guidance I received a text of a picture with the most delicious, beautifully presented steak salad, complete with fresh cilantro garnish.  I was so proud of him and so pleased that he remembered a meal that I used to make when we only had a small amount of meat and needed it to stretch for the whole family.  I would make up an Asian style salad dressing, prepare a large salad, barbecue a steak and then slice the steak very thinly and place it over the salad.  After that I would put out a little dish of rock salt and the salad dressing and we would dress our own salads according to personal taste. I remember he used to really like this meal and I used to feel so smug, knowing I had fed my family with as little as one steak and a few fresh produce ingredients.

My son is getting near the end of a very long school year and because of his location it is still snowing and blowing while we bask in Spring here on the coast.  He has had more than enough of school and winter but needs to gather one last bit of steam to make it through the next month.  I guess the fresh cilantro and lime juice were flavors he instinctively knew would not only remind him of meals at home but also of fresher more green times to come as he prepares to return home to the island.

I received a second text message picture the following evening of a delicious looking grilled chicken breast with what looked to be fresh mango salsa, complete with cilantro, red pepper and onions.  I can’t explain how pleasing it is for me as a mother to know that my kids appreciate not only the nutrition food provides but the emotional nutrition we can give ourselves and our families when we make a habit of taking the time to prepare real food and present it in aesthetically pleasing ways each and every day.  I like to think of it as a big hug and an ‘I love you’ wrapped up in every bite.



Sheer Indulgence

unnamedSometimes when we have worked hard or perhaps need a little motivation or (bribe) it feels right to indulge oneself. This past week we took a break from work and so I took the opportunity to indulge myself in many ways.  I spent the week adventuring fairly close to home, hiking, walking to do errands and exploring new places in the wilderness.  I also did some spring cleaning, recycled and took a large bag of tired sweaters and clothes I never wear to the thrift store.  It felt good to purge and clean out after the ‘cozy wintriness.’  I feel ready for space and green and blue skies and warmer breezes now.

To reward myself for all this I turned to something I love to do, bake.  I spent time perusing my favourites Pinterest pages, delving deeper through the layers of amazing food photos and discovering new websites and blogs that inspire me.  One of the sites I discovered is a site called Local Milk.  Beth Kirby creates this inspiring site and besides being an amazing photographer with a fashionable, vintage flair, she is an enthusiastic, creative baker.

Part of my reward for cleaning and exercising and freeing myself from the constraints of everyday business was trying out one of her recipes.  Among the many recipes that had me salivating and itching to get in the kitchen, one stood out.  Salted, Spicy, Double Chocolate Chilli Cookies.  Are you kidding me?  Salt and double chocolate anything works for me, so, I just had to try these.  I have become partial to a coffee called a Mexicano, at a local coffee house this past year  and this recipe reminds me of a cookie version of the same flavors.

So with great fervour I hauled out my mixer and blocks of deep, dark, Callebeaut chocolate and began to create.  As usual, I adapted the recipe to suit my tastes and since I knew I would be giving most of the cookies away I substitued really good quality cinnamon for the cayenne pepper.  As well, instead of mixing the salt into the recipe, I chose to wait and sprinkle pink Himalayan salt on the tops of the baked cookies, just where the chocolate was oozing out of the thick, rich, dough.   I didn’t want the chocolate to totally dissolve so I waited a few minutes after I removed them from the oven and then carefully sprinkled the salt so it would be visible to the ‘consumer’ when biting into the delicious morsel.


The results?  Let’s just say I have dubbed these the most divine cookies I’ve ever made.  I mean the most ridiculously delicious, divine, indulgent, rich, dreamy taste I’ve  ever savoured.  I am not sure how but I did have the restraint to wait until the cookies were cooled and set (although I did sample the dough), before I tested one and let’s just say I was more than satisfied.  In all, I ate three cookies over the course of a couple of days, before packing them up and taking them to my daughter,who is in the final weeks of her second year of university.  I figured they would be good study treats, a reason to keep going even when she has had enough and just wants to pack up and head home.  I hope she is as delighted with them as I was.

My son is also at university but much too far away to send cookies, so he received a text message with photos of the cookies.  He inquired what was in them and asked for more details because he also could use a little ‘pick me up’ treat but unfortunately he had to make due with the pictures.  I will definitely be baking up another batch of these when he gets home.


How about this breakfast?


Since my last post I have been making a real effort to eat breakfast.  I still eat it later than I should but baby steps, right?  At least I am eating something in the morning.

One of my creations that was so delicious was a refried bean, egg creation.

It was really quite simple.

First, I sliced off a piece of thick sourdough bread.

Then I opened a can of organic refried kidney beans (the kind that don’t have lard or hydrogenated oil in them), and put about 1/4 cup into a pan, added a little walnut oil and some water.  I stirred this up and heated it so that the consistency was nice and creamy.

Next, I moved the beans to one side of the fry pan and cracked an egg in the same pan and fried it, over easy.

While the egg was cooking, I used 1/2 an avocado, juice of one key lime and some salt and pepper to make guacamole.

To assemble, I simply spread the beans into a circle on top of the toast, topped them with the egg and then carefully placed the the guacamole atop that. To that I added a sprig of fresh cilantro for garnish and viola!

The whole process took about 10 minutes.

This breakfast was able to satisfy my need for interesting, unique flavour as well as provide me with good nutrition and a full tummy for  most of the rest of the day.

Try it.



For my birthday last week,my daughter got me the most amazing book.  It is a coffee table size book, hardcover and a work of art. The book is called Kinfolk.  I found the title as I was perusing Pinterest one day.  As I clicked through, I kept finding the most beautiful photographs of people eating together in the simplest and yet beautiful settings.  The photos embodied everything I am about; sharing food and nature and conversation with my kinfolk, in unpretentious settings. Further investigation led me to the Kinfolk quarterly publications and the recent cookbook.  Just weeks before my birthday, I knew that this book was something I needed to add to my wish list.

Hanna, my youngest daughter came through with the prize and presented me with the book on my birthday. She is studying art and physical education at university and she has always been the one of my three children with an aesthetic sensibility similar to mine.  We have spent many an hour scouring thrift shops hoping to find that one special item that causes us to gasp with delight while imagining the story attached to it or strolling through neighbourhoods admiring the architecture, gardens and creating stories about who we think dwells in each of the places we see. It is fitting that she would be the one of my three children to give me this gift. I can’t wait to share it with her.  I can actually imagine Hanna creating a book such as this. She is getting to be quite the little photographer and artist.  Who knows, maybe we could embark on our own  venture together; she creates the art, photos and settings and I create the food and do the writing. Anything is possible.

So, this leads me to how I found my little Saturday project that I am going to experiment with today.  I think you know I like to forage, re: chanterelles, herring roe, hazelnuts blog posts.  Well, I have decided because of something I read in Kinfolk that I do not want to be know as a forager but rather a Wildcrafter.  According to Kinfolk, the entomology of the term ‘forager’ has negative connotations which refer to pillaging or ravaging nature. Since I do not want to do that or be referred to by a name that infers such meaning, I am now officially a ‘wildcrafter,’ and that is what my little experiment is going to be about today.

My intention is to head out to the forest, aka my backyard and carefully clip some new spring growth off the fir, pine and possibly spruce trees if I can find one.  After that I am going to attempt to make conifer infused vinegar and and Belgian chocolate truffles infused with spruce or pine.  Cool hey?  I’ll post photos and continue the story after the experiment.

Chat soon, I’m off to wildcraft.

What Do You Eat for Breakfast?

I don’t know about you but I never know what to have for breakfast.  First of all, I actually don’t like to eat until later in the morning.  I enjoy my first cup of java so much that I don’t want to ruin the pleasure of savouring the  steamy dark magic elixir from the same mug every morning.  After I finish my coffee I am not hungry and so I get on with the business of the day and realize at ten or eleven in the morning that I have not eaten yet.

I remember my Mom not eating breakfast and wondering ‘how could she possibly go without food after a long night of starvation?”  I also remember when she began drinking lemon water every morning and forcing herself to eat a bowl of oatmeal before she left for work.  I guess we all turn into our mothers sooner or later.  I recently began the lemon water routine and I am working on the breakfast.  I do like oatmeal but can’t imagine eating it early in the morning and certainly not every day.

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On that note, this morning at about ten I thought ok, I have to have some breakfast.  I gazed longingly at my empty expresso pot but talked myself out of another coffee and turned to one of my favourite blogs for inspiration on what to eat for breakfast.  I have been making smoothies a lot lately and so when I saw a mango, orange smoothie I thought I would give it a try.

I put 1/2 cup of almond milk, 1/2 banana, 1 orange and 1/2 lemon into the blender.  After whirling it around I decided I would add some extra goodness so I threw in a Tbsp. of flax seeds and about the same of chia seeds.

The result was tasty but the chia seeds gave it a pretty weird texture.  Seriously, why do I even have chia seeds in my house?  I think it is because I fell for some good marketing at the health food stores and magazines. Chia don’t even grow around here and what are they anyway.  For that matter, mangos, oranges, bananas or lemons don’t grow near here either.  So much for my ‘eat local and with the seasons’ motto.


What was I thinking?  I guess some oats grown in the prairies or at least somewhere in Canada might be a better alternative.

I guess mothers really do know best.  Even when it comes to breakfast.

So what did your mother teach or tell you eat for breakfast?  What do you like to eat for breakfast?  Send me some comments and ideas.  I would really like to get a grip on this.

Today is going to be one of those posts that in the end is probably more informative to me than it is to anyone else but I feel compelled to communicate my thoughts to the world right now.

I feel rather sad and heavy but at the same time question why that is.  I actually don’t feel justified feeling this way.  My Mom has always seemed so strong and forceful to me.  Sadly, she is experiencing cognitive demise, due to dementia and we are floundering.  After attending a doctor’s appointment with her and my Dad yesterday it became even more apparent to me just how much her cognitive abilities have declined.

Tomorrow is my birthday and my son’s as well.  Add to that my niece and my aunt and I think it is safe to say that it is a big day in our family.  A day a mother would always remember, right?  I realized yesterday that this is not always true, so as this special day looms closely over me this morning, I find myself processing a couple of hard truths.  Mom’s disease is now causing significant memory loss and I will not have her presence in the way I am used to, nor will I be with my son anytime soon. Having said that, I still feeling a little unjustified in my self-pity.

A situation that arose after the doctor appointment has  brought me up short and caused me to reflect on my feelings of sadness and aloneness because my Mom can’t remember some things, such as the birthday.

After our appointment with the doctor Mom and I were leaving the building and someone quietly called out my name as we passed the waiting room.  At first I could not register who it was that had called me, but then a woman stood up and I was so glad to see that it was a friend, the one whose father just passed away and whose son is my son’s absolute best friend. Our brief encounter lifted my spirits and brought me encouragement when I needed it.

Here I was standing in front of a woman who’s father has just passed away and whose children both live half way across the globe from her; her daughter in Australia and her son in Germany. I was feeling pretty low after seeing the Dr., as was my mother and yet this woman who had much to feel sorry for was encouraging me.

Unlike my friend, I am the one whose parents are both still alive and whose children are away but much more accessible than my friend’s children are, and yet she was happy, even joyful. When I asked her how she dealt with everything, her children so far away and all, she smiled and spoke with such enthusiasm.  She told us how proud she was of her son playing hockey in Germany and of her daughter, married with two young boys and becoming an Australian citizen.  What I considered to be more than I could take, seemed to be cause for such celebration to her.

She shared with us how she gets to witness her grandson crawling and all the special moments of being a grandmother through FaceTime and Skype and when I thought about it, I  imagined that this would be so much more manageable than when her parents came to Canada from Germany and had only letter writing and the occasional expensive phone call to keep in touch with their family and friends.

Add to that, her response when my Mom asked her how her Mother was coping after her father’s death, which was great, and I felt ashamed of my inability to rise above my wallowing over my Mother’s illness.   Her Mom is back at their family home, on her own, doing well, only weeks after her husband’s death.

This woman stood there in front of us sharing the good things about her situation; how she is happy to have been off work while her father succumbed to his illness and her mother grieved the imminent loss of her life partner.  She told us how her mother is back home doing well as she wades through the transitions and legalities of going from ‘married’ to ‘widowed.’

So again, I wonder, how does she do it?  Why do I feel such sadness when I have so much to celebrate?  Perhaps it is time for me to realize that life does not reward those who wallow in sadness of what used to be.  Today is the day before my birthday and my son’s birthday, which has always been cause for my parents and immediate family to celebrate. Just because one of us can’t remember the date and another one of us is too far away to celebrate with us physically does not mean that there is not cause for joy and celebration.

Perhaps the lesson here is that there is an opportunity for me to act on the inspiration of my friend and her family and choose a similar path. Rather than focussing on what we no longer have or what used to be, perhaps this is an opportunity to celebrate what we do have.

I no longer have a young son who lives with me and is always there for our special day and my parents are not as young and able as they once were but no matter. Today I choose to celebrate my creative, hard-working, intelligent, loving, handsome son and my parents whose undying support and physical presence are still with us. Happy Birthday to me and my son!

Nutty Treats


Sunday was a slushy, snowy day.  The perfect kind of day for being in the kitchen.  I felt like baking but I also felt like eating so I decided to try a somewhat ‘healthy’ recipe I found on one of my favourite blogs, Joy The Baker.   Among the delicious looking pictures and recipes I saw one for Honey Chai Roasted Almonds.  I just happened to have a lot of hazelnuts from my fall gathering and some other mixed nuts so I decided to give the recipes a try, substituting a variety of nuts instead of just using almonds.

unnamed The recipe was simple and filled the house with an exotic aroma; cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  The whole process took about a half an hour and was well worth it.  I have stored the nuts away in little jars for a treat now and then.


I also used the hazelnuts to make nut bark.  I have some Belgian Chocolate left in the pantry from my truffle making at Christmas.  I melted some milk chocolate, tempered it and then mixed in some roasted hazelnuts.  It made a mighty fine sweet treat after dinner.


Today is another rainy day and so as well as puttering in the kitchen I am going to try to focus on creating with the fibre I am trying to use up from my ‘stash.’