A Year Gone By

The one-year anniversary of this blog (blogiversary?) slipped by on February 13th without me really noticing it. Sitting down at the computer to write a blog post before I shut down my computer and crawl into bed has become a part of my daily routine. It has given me a chance to reflect on the things I’ve worked on or that have interested me. On a more practical note, blogging has allowed me to keep track of what I’ve done, where I got the recipe/instructions/pattern, and how it turned out — and in a searchable format. I can’t count the number of times I’ve grabbed my phone and used the search function on this blog as a quick memory aid.


Kirkland Asian Beef Noodle Soup kit with added soft-boiled eggs. It looks reasonably appetizing, but it tastes powdery and somehow more artificial than an instant ramen packet. Thumbs down from me.

Have I learned anything over the last year? Well, I’ve expanded my cooking skills considerably. I no longer rely on the same repertoire of a few reliable recipes day in and day out. I mean, of course I still have some that I go back to over and over again, but that’s interspersed with trying new things. And trying new things has started to help me get over the fear of failure when learning. One of the great things about cooking is that even if you mess it up, it’s only one meal. It may seem like a big deal at the time, especially for the more difficult dishes, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not so bad. The important thing is that I learn from my failures.


Homemade chicken noodle soup with half an avocado filled with ranch dressing, and a Dad’s Biscuit. I may have added a few too many noodles to the soup this time, but it tasted fine.

I’m also enjoying how blogging has pushed me to try new foods and new techniques — and that, by extension, has influenced how my children experience the culinary world. So long as it’s not burned to a crisp, my husband will eat just about anything so long as he doesn’t have to cook it. (That’s not to say that he doesn’t have his preferences, but he’ll still eat stuff he’s not fond of.) But my kids, though, are more resistant to culinary change. They’re not super-picky eaters (and boy, have I heard stories about kids like that), but they tend to complain when a food isn’t one of their favourites. I think that exposing them to new foods so often now has taught them that just because a food is new, that doesn’t mean they won’t like it. There’s still resistance there, but not at the same level as this time last year. And I have to say it’s heartwarming when I overhear my kids brag to their friends about my cooking — and then try to persuade their friends to try something new.


A quick dinner of fried rice using whatever leftovers were in the fridge. Ingredients included roast chicken, roast beef, red onion, green onion, potatoes, corn, peas, mushrooms, garlic, and eggs, cooked together with a bit of soy sauce and miso broth. Tasty.

Where do I want to go from here? Well, I have a whole list of dishes I want to try, and a stack of new cookbooks from Christmas that I’ve barely cracked. My friends bought me a copy of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman (2017), and I am highly intrigued. I also want to dive into How To Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor (2011), which my husband bought me. Although these books are from completely different cultures and corners of the globe, they do share a commonality in that I’ll have to learn where to source some of the ingredients that are less common around here (or common, but only seasonally). I also want to improve my breadmaking skills, and learn to make rum balls and pavlovas.


Fresh fruit tarts made from crust leftover after making full-sized pies. The filling is basically a peeled, chopped apple, strawberries, and blueberries, with a bit of white and brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

Mostly, I just want to keep learning. There is so much out there to try! I want to push my personal boundaries when it comes to cooking, and try new techniques when it comes to handicrafts, and start my own small business when it comes to thrifting. I want to challenge myself. I want to expand. I want to grow. And I want to keep writing about it.

Bread Machine Fluffy Herb Bread Recipe

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a while, but I like to accompany my recipes with a picture, and my family keeps cutting into the loaves before I get a chance to take a photograph! This recipe is for a fluffy, high-rising loaf that stands up well on its own, but really shines when it is speckled generously with fresh or dried herbs. As a bonus, this bread is also dairy-free, nut-free, vegetarian, and can be made vegan with the proper sourcing of ingredients. Because of the herbs, it is a very savoury bread, and pairs well with eggs and meats — especially as toast with dipping eggs, and as sandwich bread for leftover roast or cold cuts.


A 2lb loaf made with rosemary.

Herb Bread
Yields one loaf

A note about loaf size:
Quantities for a 1.5lb loaf are in bold, quantities for a 2lb loaf are in bold purple. However, this loaf is very light and fluffy — so it expands a lot. Use the settings for a 1.5lb loaf if your machine goes up to 2lbs; only make a 2lb loaf if your machine has the capacity to make a loaf that is 3lbs or greater.

A note about bread machines:
Every bread machine comes with an instruction booklet (most of which are also generally available online) that will specify the order that ingredients should be added. Mine says that liquids should be added first, then flour, then yeast. When preparing this recipe, the instructions for your specific bread machine should take first priority, so if your manual says to add the ingredients in a different order, do so.

Into the bread machine pan, pour:
1 1/4 cups (1 1/2 cups +3 Tbsp) water
2 Tbsp (2 Tbsp) olive oil
Over the liquids, sprinkle:
3 cups (4 cups) all-purpose flour*
Ensure that the flour covers the liquids entirely.
Into opposite corners of the pan, add:
1 Tbsp (1.5 Tbsp) sugar
1 1/2 tsp (2 tsp) salt
Create a well in the flour at the center of the bread pan, being sure not to go all the way down to the liquid. Into the well, add:
2 tsp (2 tsp) active dry yeast
Over the entire contents of the pan, sprinkle:
2 Tbsp (2 1/2 Tbsp) dried OR 4 Tbsp (5 Tbsp) chopped fresh herb of choice**

Set the bread machine to the basic/normal/white setting, with a light or medium crust to your preference. Press start. Running this cycle should take about four hours.

Remove the bread at the end of the baking cycle. Turn it out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool, making sure that the kneading paddle(s) are removed from the bread. Serve immediately (being careful to cut gently when it is warm), or when cool. Do not wrap the loaf or put it into a container until it is entirely cool, or it will become mushy.

* For a healthier loaf, substitute half of the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat flour. A whole wheat loaf will not rise as high, however.
**Suggestions: rosemary, dill, oregano, basil, chives, thyme, or sage.

Avocado Pasta Sauce: Second Try

Yesterday was another busy day, followed by a trip to Costco as soon as the girls got home. The trip took over two hours; I can never get out of that place in a reasonable amount of time! Luckily, Thing 1 and Thing 2 were very patient, which couldn’t possibly have anything whatsoever to do with the plethora of food samples that they were able to try. By the time I finished at the store and drove home, I had eaten significantly into the time that I usually use to prepare dinner. Something quick and easy was in order.

I have to say that the Avocado Pasta Sauce that I wrote about earlier this week is definitely a quick and easy dish. In the time that it takes to boil up the pasta (assuming you’re using dried — fresh stuff only takes a couple of minutes), the sauce is done. Since the sauce only requires prepping a few veggies and running them through a blender, it’s also very simple. This time I took my own advice and added a generous handful of fresh basil and cilantro to the mix, along with a bit more pasta water to thin it all out. I was much happier with the flavour this way — it wasn’t so plain! I sliced a few cherry tomatoes and tossed them in with the pasta and sauce as well for a bit of an acid zing. I also discovered that a generous shake of Parmesan cheese tops this dish nicely. (I’d suggest using a bit more salt and pepper if you’re going to forego the dairy.)

I served the avocado sauce on penne basically because it was the only wheat-based pasta that we had in the house (I didn’t think it would go terribly well on vermicelli or soba noodles). For the meat, I just carved up a rotisserie chicken that I’d picked up at Costco while I was there. It was a tasty and satisfying meal that was whipped up in the amount of time that it takes to boil some pasta. Not bad!

Ice Day

Yesterday was what we generally call a “snow day” around here, as in the winter weather was so terrible that school buses were cancelled and the kids stayed home from school. But it was really more of an “ice day”, since it had snowed the day before and then the temperature jumped up so we could have freezing rain coating that layer of snow, and then just plain old rain creating puddles on top of it all. It was a mess. It was definitely an ice storm, if not the ice storm.

With the kids home from school and it being too dangerous to really get out of the house (that being the whole reason for the bus cancellations in the first place), I found myself trying to wrangle two active children with increasingly high levels of cabin fever. The day was taken up with playing, crafting, snacking, NERF target practice, and video games. When the weather cleared up a bit, the girls went outside with their father to clear the driveway while I cooked supper (no mean feat after the plough had been by, leaving a burm of ice and slush between our house and the road).

On days like this, you really have to cook with whatever happens to be in the house. My pantry and freezer are well-stocked, and although it would likely take us weeks to even feel hungry feeding on those items alone, I was craving something a bit fresher. I Googled to find some recipes for pasta sauce that I could make without hitting the grocery store, and I found PureWow’s Spaghetti with Avocado Pasta Sauce. I thought that it would be ideal because it is a sauce with a creamy texture (which I adore), but without any actual dairy products.

I served the sauce over cooked spaghetti squash, with baked chicken legs (sprinkled with my usual garlic powder, sage, rosemary, thyme, summer savoury, and sea salt). I only realized after I took the picture exactly how unappetizing the sauce ended up looking, especially since I couldn’t toss it in the “noodles” without them falling apart. Ignoring the other gross things it could look like, the shine on the sauce makes it look like icing or a glaze, which it did not taste like at all. Flavour-wise, it was like eating guacamole, without the heat of peppers. Honestly, it was a little bit bland. I’d like to try this recipe again, but on actual pasta, with some fresh herbs thrown in (Googling has suggested basil and cilantro), and possibly some sliced cherry tomatoes.

At least dessert was a success! I heated a frozen apple pie from Mom’s birthday dinner (I always make two pies when I bake, one for the event and another to throw in the freezer for future use). When reheated from fully frozen, it usually takes about an hour in an oven at 350°F. I served the pie with a scoop of non-dairy vanilla “ice cream” for me and whipped cream for everyone else. There were no complaints on that score!

Personal Pizza

I’ve been craving pizza lately, which is pretty much a no-no because of the issues that my digestive tract has with dairy. However, to my everlasting joy, I’ve discovered that I can eat lactose-free cheese so long as I don’t go overboard, since cheese is also quite greasy, especially when melted. Since none of the pizzerias around here carry lactose-free cheese as an option, I thought that a “make your own pizza” evening was in order.

It didn’t look spectacular because I put the toppings under the cheese, but it tasted great! I started with the dough from the Two-Cheese Pizza recipe on page 170 of Betty Crocker’s Best Bread Machine Cookbook (1999). This made enough for one 12″ pizza or four 4″ or so thin-crust-ish pizzas. (Next time I do this, I’m doubling the recipe.) You can’t actually cook pizzas in the bread machine, so I rolled out the dough into individual crusts and everyone topped their own. I used Healthy Veggie Tomato Sauce that I had in the freezer as the sauce, although I did simmer it a little to reduce it a little bit. I topped my pizza with ground beef and crumbled bacon, along with a few cremini mushroom slices. The rest of the family had theirs with more traditional mozzarella, but since cheddar was the only kind I could get lactose-free, I went with that.

I’ve tried Jamie Oliver’s Quick Family Pizza in the past, and although the kids liked it, one of the things I discovered about myself is that I’m not a big fan of the taste of self-rising flour. I think it’s just a little too salty for me. At any rate, I like the yeast dough a great deal more, and it’s just as easy as the quick bread version if I use the bread machine. So I think I’ll stick with this kind of dough for future pizza iterations.

Smelly Socks Pattern

Way back when Thing 1 was only three years old and not reading by herself yet, her favourite book for quite some time was Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch (2004). I must have read that book to her a thousand times. I was raised on Munsch classics like The Paper Bag Princess Love You Forever, so I didn’t really mind.

Smelly Socks tells the tale of a girl named Tina who begs her grandfather to take her across the river to a big sock store to buy some fancy socks. She finds herself the perfect pair of red, yellow and green socks, and she cries, “Socks! Socks! Wonderful socks! I am NEVER going to take them off!” Of course, the longer Tina wears the socks, the smellier they get, until her friends get fed up and drag
her down to the river to give those socks a good washing.

Thing 1 wanted Smelly Socks of her very own, so I just had to knit her some. (You can see the titular socks on the cover of the the book.) Over the years, those socks were worn by both of the girls, and they still never wore out! Since they’re much too small for either kiddo any more, they’re currently stored in a box of keepsakes. I thought I would share my old pattern for the socks so that other people can make keepsakes of their own.

Smelly Socks
Preschooler size; approximately children’s size 8 CDN/US

Materials:
– one ball Mandarin Petit in Yellow 2004 OR Goldenrod 2315
– one ball Mandarin Petit in Cardinal 4418
– one ball Mandarin Petit in Green 8017
– one set of 3.25mm (US 3, UK 10) circular knitting needles in a length comfortable for the magic loop method (I prefer 120cm/47″ or longer)

Each ball of Mandarin Petit is by Sandnes Garn of Norway is 100 % Egyptian 4ply cotton, weighs 50g (1.764oz), measures 180m (196.85’), and is machine-washable (air dry flat). A different yarn of the same gauge may be substituted to yield the same results.

Gauge:
– 16 stitches and 20 rows in stockinette stitch = 5cm x 5cm (2″ x 2″) square on 3.25mm (US 3, UK 10) needles

Instructions:

Cast On:

– Using the YELLOW yarn and the magic cast-on for toe-up socks technique, cast on 24 stitches divided onto two needles (12 stitches per needle).
– Knit one round. Warning: Using the magic cast-on, the cast-on loops on your second needle will be twisted. To untwist, knit the stitches on this needle through the back of the loops on the first round only.

Shape toe:
– Round 1: On each needle, K1, M1, K to within last stitch on the needle, M1, K1.
– Round 2: Knit
– Repeat these two rounds until there are 40 stitches on your needles (divided 20-20).

Make instep:

– Knit every stitch in the round until sock measures 11cm from cast-on edge to end
to the last knit stitch.

Arrange heel stitches:

– Knit across 1st needle. The heel will be turned on the 20 stitches of the 2nd needle.

Set up short row heel:

– 1st row: (RS) K19. Move working yarn as if to purl. Slip 1. Turn.
– 2nd row: (WS) Slip 1. This will wrap the yarn around the first, slipped stitch. P18. Move working yarn as if to knit (“wrap”). Slip 1. Turn.
– 3rd row: (RS) Slip 1. K17. Wrap. Turn.
– 4th row: (WS) Slip 1. P16. Wrap. Turn.
– 5th row: (RS) Slip 1. K15. Wrap. Turn.
– 6th row: (WS) Slip 1. P14. Wrap. Turn.
– 7th row: (RS) Slip 1. K13. Wrap. Turn.
– 8th row: (WS) Slip 1. P12. Wrap. Turn.
– 9th row: (RS) Slip 1. K11. Wrap. Turn.
– 10th row: (WS) Slip 1. P10. Wrap. Turn.
– 11th row: (RS) Slip 1. K9. Wrap. Turn.
– 12th row: (WS) Slip 1. P8. Wrap. Turn.

This should yield 6 wrapped stitches, 8 “live” (unwrapped) stitches, and 6 more wrapped stitches, for a total of 20 stitches on the 2nd needle.

Turn short row heel:

– 1st row: (RS) K8. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 2nd row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P9. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 3rd row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K10. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 4th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P11. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 5th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K12. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 6th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P13. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 7th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K14. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 8th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P15. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 9th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K16. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 10th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P17. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 11th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K18. Turn.
– 12th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P19. Turn.
– 13th row: (RS) K20. Pick up one stitch from the gap between Needle 1 and Needle 2.

Set up body of leg:

– Return to knittng in the round.
– 1st round:
– 1st needle: Pick up 1 stitch from the gap between Needle 2 and Needle 1. K20. Pick up a stitch from the gap between Needle 1 and Needle 2. (22 stitches on Needle 1.)
– 2nd needle: Pick up 1 stitch from the gap between Needle 1 and Needle 2. K10. Switch to GREEN yarn. K9. K2 tog. (21 stitches on Needle 2.)
– 2nd round (you are now using GREEN yarn):
– 1st needle: K2 tog. K18. K2 tog. (20 stitches on Needle 1.)
– 2nd needle: K2 tog. K19. (20 stitches on Needle 2.)

Knit body of leg:
– K2, P2 on each needle until green stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to RED yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until red stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to YELLOW yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until yellow stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to GREEN yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until green stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to RED yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until green stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Cast of loosely, or using a stretchy bind-off.

Repeat pattern in full to yield a second sock. Voila!

As usual, should you note any errata in this pattern, please let me know so that I can fix it. I don’t exactly have a bevvy of test knitters to help me catch mistakes.

Toad in the Hole

I’ve been wanting to try to make toad in the hole for ages. I have vague memories of my Nan serving it, or at least something similar, although I couldn’t remember the name… I Googled “pigs in a blanket” and “bubble and squeak” before I finally figured out what the name was of the dish that I remembered. Basically, toad in the hole is sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding batter — with regional and temporal variations, of course. Although the photos I’ve found online use thick sausages for the most part, I distinctly remember the version from my childhood containing smaller breakfast sausages, so that’s what I was determined to make.

The first time I tried it, I wasn’t very happy with the results. I used the Yorkshire pudding recipe from the Joy of Cooking (page 637, 2006 edition, Rombauer & Becker), which was recommended by my father. I doubled the recipe and doubled the size of the pan, which I thought would work just fine, but the sausages were just too small to compensate for all that batter. Also, although the edges of the casserole rose and puffed up quite nicely, it didn’t cook evenly through the center, leaving it a stodgy mess. I mean, the texture was firm enough to be edible, but it wasn’t very appetizing.

I tried to learn from my mistakes the second time around. This time I whipped up only a single batch of the batter, which greatly improved the ratio of batter to meat, at least for sausages this small. I cooked it all in a pan that was half the size, which allowed it to rise more thoroughly. Also, I used a metal pan instead of a glass one, which I find in general allows for a crispier edge to baked dishes.

I was really happy with how it turned out. The pudding rose beautifully, so fluffy in the middle that in many spots it was completely hollow. The crust was nice and crisp without being hard. The sausages were perfectly done. Now, if only I’d remembered to grease the pan, since to serve it I almost had to destroy it. You’d think I’d know better by now.

I served my toad in the hole with a side Ceasar salad and some sliced avocado, which my Nan would never have done (she’d have paired it with boiled or baked veggies). But I thought we needed some fresh greens with a main dish that doesn’t contain a single vegetable. The family ate it all up and asked me to make it again soon, which tells me that it was a success.