Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Treats!

It has become a tradition to bake these every year with the occasional addition of something new. This year Esther wants to try truffles! Pictured above are Pecan tassies (the little tarts), Belgian Tree Sandwiches, and Baklava. I'm glad to share the recipes because they are yummy and festive and because in two out of the three treats, recipes were generously shared with me!

One tip is to always use butter for these recipes!



Belgian Sandwich Cookies
: 1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda

Filling: Raspberry jam (not sugar reduced)

Icing: 2 cups icing sugar
2 Tbsp milk (or more)
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Add extract and beat briefly to blend. In a small bowl, stir together flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. Pour flour mixture into creamed mixture. Work in flour until smooth ball is formed. Roll dough into a large rectangle, 1/8" thick.
Cut with cookie cutters and place 1" apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350' oven for 8-12 minutes or until bottoms are a light golden colour. Remove to a wire rack. When cookies are fully cooled, spread bottom of one cookie with a thin layer of jam. Top with bottom of another cookie, repeat.

In small bowl, with spreader or small spatula, combine icing ingredients to make a thick glaze. With flat spreader, apply glaze on top of each cookie just to the edge.
Must be stored in fridge or freezer.
Makes at least 24 (I usually get about 3 dozen)



1 lb phyllo dough (the original recipe says 1 ½ but the boxes come in 1 lb size and I use 1)
1 lb roasted, chopped nuts (I use walnuts, or pecans and almonds)
6 oz butter, melted (7 oz if using 1 ½ lb dough)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups sugar
¾ cup water
1 ½ Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp cinnamon

Mix nuts with sugar & cinnamon and set aside.

Divide dough into 3 approximately equal parts (keep the remaining dough covered with a damp towel to prevent drying). Line a greased large cookie sheet with 1/3 of the dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

Sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the dough

Continue with the next third of the dough, buttering each layer, then sprinkle the remaining nut mixture on top. Layer on the final third of the dough and butter.

Cut dough into diamonds or rectangles, being careful not to cut all the way through! Drizzle any remaining butter on top. Bake in preheated oven (350’) for 45 minutes, until golden.

Cut pieces through to allow to cool. Boil syrup ingredients together until thick. Pour over baklava. Keeps for several days.


Pecan Tassies

2 cups flour
6 oz cream cheese
½ pound butter

Mix crust ingredients. Form walnut sized balls and press into small muffin tins (pans can be sprayed or lightly oiled).

3 eggs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsp vanilla1-1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix together nuts, brown sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla. Fill each cup with about one teaspoon of filling. Bake for 25 minutes at 350’. I wait about 2 to 5 minutes, then twist the tarts gently before easing them out of the pan. Let cool on a rack.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Feathery Reunion

A few weeks ago as we were driving to church, we saw field after field of Snow Geese and Blue Phase Snow Geese. We stopped the car and I walked out towards them as they all lifted into the air. It was stunning! Later, we got out the camera and tried to capture that moment. Unfortunately, the winds were gusting to 70 km/h and it was extremely hard to hold the camera still enough. I hope you can still enjoy this short video of a beautiful prairie moment!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toccata and Fugue in d minor

My son, Daniel, found this excellent animation of the Toccata and Fugue in d minor. It is mesmerizing, beautiful and intuitive. I'm convinced that an organist needs at least 3 brains to play such music! Enjoy.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Zucchinis anyone?

I assume that I'm not the only person who is enjoying a bountiful harvest of zucchini! I love trying new ways to serve them. Here is a recipe that I tried recently. I've had the recipe card for years and have forgotten where I got it from, yet I had never tried it until this summer. It is delicious! It's similar to a ratatouille. It was nice to use my homegrown tomatoes and zucchini for this!

Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

6 medium zucchini, or 12 small

3 Tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup chopped onion

2 minced garlic cloves

2 peeled and chopped tomatoes

1 diced red pepper

1/2 cup diced green pepper

1/2 tsp brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped olives

3 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of thyme

Prepare zucchini. In a large, deep pot heat oil and fry onions and garlic for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peppers and chopped tomatoes and fry for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and stir. Add zucchini. Cover and cook over low-medium heat for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Stir in olives, tomato paste, and water and cook uncovered to evaporate some liquid until vegetables are soft.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hava Nagila

Here is something I did a couple of years ago when I was desperate for a choral "fix"! I learned 3 of the 4 parts (too hard for me to sing a believable bass line) and recorded it. The hopefully not too annoying thing about it is the metronome sound throughout to help me keep the rhythm for the counterpoint and syncopation. Maybe one day I'll try it again and tidy it up, but perhaps you'll enjoy a quick listen of Hava Nagila! Please excuse the out-of-shape voice as well!!

*Hava Nagila means approximately "let us rejoice"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No Work Bread Recipe

Last Christmas, my husband and I bought our son, twelve at the time, a cookbook. We did this because he is not only an enthusiastic eater, but he also likes to experiment in the kitchen and try whipping something up - especially if he wants something and I don't really want to make it! For instance, he recently made a delicious cherry pie because I resist making pies and we had a lush crop of delicious Evans cherries in our backyard.

Today, I'd like to share a recipe that some people have asked me for. It's from the cookbook we bought for our son - yes, I've almost monopolized the book! The book is called How to Cook Everything : 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food ( and You can also find the book on
Well, here's the recipe! I hope you enjoy it!

Jim Lahey’s No-Work Bread

4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus flour for dusting (up to half whole wheat)
Scant ½ teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water at about 70˚F
Cornmeal, semolina or wheat bran as needed

1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended; you’ll have a shaggy, sticky dough (add a little more water if it seems dry). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Let the dough rest for about 18 hours at about 70˚F. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Rising time will be shorter at warmer temperatures, a bit longer if your kitchen is cooler.
2. Lightly flour a work surface, remove the dough, and fold once or twice; it will be soft but, once sprinkled with flour, not terribly sticky. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or the bowl and let rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton (not terry cloth) towel with cornmeal or wheat bran; put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When its ready, the dough will be more than doubled in size and won’t spring back readily when poked with your finger.

4. At least a half hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450’F. Put a 3- to 4-quart covered pot (with the cover) – it may be cast-iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic – in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. (Slide your hand under the towel and just turn the dough over into the pot; it’s messy, and it probably won’t fall in artfully, but it will straighten out as it bakes.) Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. (If at any point the dough starts to smell scorched, lower the heat a bit.) Remove the bread with a spatula or tongs and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

The Science behind No-Work Bread

This bread puts time and moisture to work so you don’t have to. The dough uses very little yeast and compensates for this by fermenting very slowly, giving the yeast time to multiply on its own schedule, and this delivers a more complex flavour than simply yeasted homemade bread. The dough is extremely wet, more than 40 percent water, which produces crisp crust and a large well-structured crumb.

You couldn’t knead this dough if you wanted to. And there is truly no need. The moisture in the dough – combined with the long fermentation time – gives the protein in the flour (gluten) an environment that lets it move around and develop a distinctive elastic, weblike structure, which is necessary to trap CO2 generated by the yeast as it feeds.

By starting this very wet dough in a hot, covered pot, you develop a crunchy, chewy, bakery-style crust, since the moist enclosed environment of the pot is, in effect, the oven, and that oven has plenty of steam in it, which is necessary to create that kind of surface.
Here's a video of Jim Lahey himself demonstating the ease of making this bread. I did notice that the recipe is a little bit different in quantities, but it gives you the idea.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Flicking Flicker!

Here's a video I took last week in our backyard. The scene starts with a juvenile robin, trying to eat our Evan's cherries. Then I captured some fun behaviour of a Northern Flicker, picking and flicking debris out of an old stump. The video is taken from inside the house, so the bird sounds are not robin or flicker, but our noisy and boisterous parakeet, Kiki. I hope you enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Favouite carrot recipe

Moroccan Carrot Salad

8 carrots
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 crushed garlic cloves
4 Tbsp chopped parsley
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp pepper
*3 Tbsp water from cooked carrots

Slice carrots. Cook for 10 minutes, until crisp-tender. Mix remaining ingredients with carrot water. Pour over carrots while hot. Serve hot or cold.

This is the only way I can get my son to eat cooked carrots! I got it from my mother-in-law's cookbook about 9 years ago, but she seems to have lost it and I have no idea what the title is. It was a variety of Israeli recipes, though. If anyone knows about this recipe's source, I'd be very glad to post it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Our New Dog

Our daughter, Esther, has been working on us for a while, trying to convince us to get a dog. Her efforts paid off this last weekend when we saw a community ad about a 4 year old dog who needed a new home. This dog's plight along with our persuasive daughter, convinced us that we were the home for Katy! She's gentle and sweet. She hasn't uttered more than a gentle sound of complaint when we were washing her face - awkwardly, I'm sure! We love her already and hope she gets used to her new family.

Here's a short video. Enjoy

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hello Blog World

Let's see how this goes! I've enjoyed reading a few blogs and have seen that it can be quite an enjoyable way to share things of interest and so I've become inspired!

I call the blog "Food and Feathers" because two of my interests are cooking and bird watching. I'll post recipe gems and comment on what kinds of birds I find in the yard. Also, I'll include some interesting happenings in our family that might be of interest to family and friends.

So, enjoy and feel free to give me some feedback!