Embracing the Cold

In Canada we talk a lot about weather. It is one of the first things I check on my smart phone when I wake up in the morning, my grandmother always asks about it when I call her and it takes up a good chunk of the nightly newscast. We also love to love to complain about the weather. Weather is a national pastime.

I like to be in the weather. Spring to me is synonymous with rubber boots, during the summer I try to soak in all the heat I can, fall is just an ideal time to be outside and during winter I try to embrace the cold.

When I moved to Montreal from Nova Scotia I was scared of winter. In my luggage was this huge, down-filled coat and I was planning on wrapping myself in it when winter came. It made me look like a sack and was an off-white color that basically looked like dirt, but I did not care. Winter in the Maritimes can be hard, temperatures fluctuate and there is a lot of snow, rain, slush, snow, rain (often in the same hour), but they are not as long and cold as the winters in Montreal. In Montreal most of January is minus 30 degrees celsius and February is no exception. It is cold and dry. Pipes freeze, cars don’t start and my skin starts to crack.

When I was home in the Nova Scotia over the holidays I went for a real glorious hike across the dykes in Wolfville. The weather was brilliant. And by brilliant I mean a mixture of really sunny, cloudy and windy: typical Maritime weather. I could have walked across the dykes until my body gave way to exhaustion. The wide open space, the sunshine and the wind. I love wind, I love it against my face, I love when it pushes me around and I especially love it when it is mixed with sea air. My body knows Maritime weather so well. It is in my bones and in my soul. It makes me feel strong and it makes me feel alive.

Living in Montreal has taught me how to live in winter. There are a few common-sense rules: get a good coat, wear layers and invest in a good moisturizer. But living well in winter is more than that. It is about knowing how to let the length of it energize you instead of exhaust you.

I have come to really love winter. I love the darkness in December as the solstice approaches. It draws me inwards and gives me a chance to reflect. And I love January. It is cold, but there is an explosion of light that happens. Each morning my kitchen has been illuminate by the most fantastic sun. And between those really cold days are these lovely, bright and cheerful days were the landscape comes alive and you get out and explore.

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Like many people I drink a lot warm things in the winter. Hot chocolate, early grey and chai tea, hot toddy’s and of course tisane. Tisane is a french word that implies a beverage made from an infusion of herbs and spices. Nettle has long been a favorite herb of mine. It soothes me in many ways. If you have not tried nettles, and have a taste for herbs and such, I highly recommend them. Nettles are enjoyed throughout the world in a variety of different ways and have long been valued as food and medicine. In the recipe below I mix them with peppermint, a combination that I love.

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Here is to embracing the cold! xoxo Rosemary

Nettle and Peppermint Tisane
Print
Serves: 4 generous cups
I encourage you to play around with ratios in this recipe. I usually do a 1 ½ parts loose leaf dried nettle leaves and 1 part part dried peppermint. You can also use fresh herbs for this tisane, but take caution of any of the stinging hairs on the nettles and make sure to fully emerge them in the boiling water.
Ingredients
  • 1½ tablespoon dried nettle leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaves
  • 4 cups boiling water
Instructions
  1. Add the dried nettles, peppermint and water into a teapot and allow to steep for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Pour into a teacup or mug using a fine mesh strainer to catch any of the leaves.

 

Categories: Tea and Thought
Simple Broccoli Soup

Broccoli SoupI almost feel guilty about posting this recipe. It is not much of a recipe. It contains a few ingredients and is super easy to make.

This recipe came about a few years ago when I was looking for a simple soup to make in a short amount of time and only had some broccoli in the fridge. The taste profile this soup is pretty straight-forward. It is tasty, but simple. However,  like my favorite pair jeans that I always want to wear, I keep coming back to this soup. It has been in regular rotation in my kitchen since I conceived of it. It is just a really nourishing soup: satisfying, simple and healthy. A large bowl with some nuts or feta cheese sprinkled on top easily makes a meal for me.

Broccoli Soup

Instead of adding cream to this soup (I do fine with butter and cheese, however milk and cream do a number on my stomach) I added in a handful of quinoa. I use this trick quite often. Quinoa works well with most vegetables, gives puréed soup a bit more substance and beefs up the nutrient and protein levels of the soup.

I have made many different versions of this soup. The recipe I provide below is the simplest version I have made. It is flavored with fresh parsley and lemon. If you wanted to play around with the flavor you could add some chili or cayenne pepper. A spoonful of miso swirled around also works wonders. And I think a smoked paprika version would be quite delicious. If you come up with a version that you especially like please let me know.

Broccoli Soup

As I said previously this soup is simple, good and nourishing. Enjoy!!

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Easy Broccoli Soup

  •  8-10 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 large, or 2 medium sized onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • Pine nuts, or other nuts to garnish (optional)

 

Instructions: 

  1. In a medium-sized soup pot bring 8 cups of vegetable broth to a boil. Clean the vegetables and quinoa if necessary. Peel and chop the onions and carrots into large chunks. Peel and dice the garlic cloves. Peel the stems of the broccoli. Chop the steams and florets into chunks. Add the chopped vegetables, garlic, quinoa and salt to the boiling vegetable broth. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In the meantime wash the parsley. Put aside a few sprigs to garnish the soup.  Roughly chop the rest of the parsley and add to the soup pot once the vegetable and quinoa are finished cooking. Turn off the burner and allow to sit for a few minutes.
  3. Using a regular or immersion blender purée the soup. Add additional broth if needed.
  4. Before serving squeeze in the juice of the lemon to taste. Garnish the soup with the remaining parsley and pine nuts (optional). Enjoy!
Categories: Soups
Upside Down Honey-Rye Cake with Apricots

Upside Down Apricot CakeI have been playing around with rye flour lately. Waffles shared with friends, combinations of pumpkin and rye and some great muffins are a few things I have made.  I put all guesses that my recent experimentation with rye flour is a northern winter thing. Rye has a great flavour- a little goes a long way.

Rye Flour

I dreampt up this upside down cake after reading in Kim Boyce’s “Good the Grain” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010) that rye is “particularly good with apricots”. I decided to try it out and I can now attest that indeed it is.

This cake is spiced for winter with a good kick of cardamom. I also wanted to add a hint of booze so I reached for the gin. It was the only alcohol that I had in the house, but also I knew it would pair nicely with the cardamom. Add honey to all of that and you have a delicious cake.

Upside Down Apricot Cake

Now, I know a lot of people in January are in cleansing routine and cake is contraire to that. I am not much of a January cleanser.  If I feel I have eaten a lot of junk over the holidays I will try to eat a bit cleaner in January to regulate my system, but I don’t do anything too radical. Firstly, I find that kind of thing never works for me. Moderation and enjoyment always work best as guiding principles for my health.  And secondly I find a typical cleansing diet and I just don’t get along in January. I live in Montreal and most Januarys are in the -30 C range. Juices and smoothies literally freeze on my way to work.

As for this cake, I would actually consider it pretty healthy. Rye flour has a good nutrient profile, apricots are packed full of carotene, cardamom is warming and gin, well, gin is just good for the soul. So, I say for this January, have your cake and eat it too.

Upside Down Apricot Cake

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Upside Down Honey-Rye Cake with Apricots

I rehydrated dry apricots for this cake, because it is pretty hard for me find fresh apricots this time of the year. Any extras you have from this recipe you can store in the fridge to use in porridges and such. If you are in a time of year where apricots are in season, by all means use fresh ones. 

Ingredients:

 For the fruit:

  • 2 cups dried apricots + water for soaking
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup gin
  • ¼ cup dried currents (optional)
  • 15 cardamom pods (around 1 teaspoon ground)

For the cake batter:

  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter + butter for greasing the pan
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • large eggs, at room temperature

Butter for greasing the pan

Instructions:Put the apricots in a medium sized bowl and submerge completely with water. Cover the bowl and allow them to soak for eight hours or overnight.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 ºF/175° C.
  2. Drain the rehydrated apricots and put 1 cup aside to use later.
  3. Grease and flour a 8 inch non-fluted bundt pan. Start lining the bottom of the pan with the apricots by splitting them in half. When placing them in the pan, make sure their insides are facing you. Continue until the pan is completely covered.
  4. Remove the shells of 15 cardamom pods and coarsely grind.
  5. In a small saucepan add the water, honey and gin for the fruit layer. Mix well, dissolving the honey. Add the ground cardamom and currents, if using. Allow the mixture to simmer on the stove for ten minutes. When done pour over top of the apricots in the bundt pan. Fill in any of the spaces between the apricots with the currents, if using.
  6. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Remove the shells from the remaining 15 cardamom pods and grind a bit finer than the previous batch. Add to the flour, along with the cinnamon and ginger. Add the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
  7. Using the same saucepan as before, melt the butter on a low heat and allow to cool a bit. In a blender mix the cup of apricots previously set aside and yogurt. Blend until well puréed. Mix the purée and butter together in a bowl. Add the honey and mix again. Beat the eggs in, one at time. Combine with the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
  8. Add the batter over top of the apricots. Smooth down with a spatula to make the batter even. Bake the cake in the middle rack of the oven 50-60 minutes until golden and baked all the way through.
  9. After bringing out of the oven, allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Place a plate upside down on the bundt pan. Flip the plate right side up. The cake will fall onto the plate.
Categories: Cakes, Muffins and Loaves Tags: , ,
Bits and Pieces: Morden, Nova Scotia

I went to Nova Scotia over the holidays. Here are a few photos of the town that I grew up in. It is a small town on the Bay of Fundy.Morden, Nova Scotia
Morden, Nova ScotiaMorden, Nova Scotia Morden, Nova ScotiaMorden, Nova ScotiaMorden, Nova ScotiaMorden, Nova Scotia_MG_0056

Categories: Bits and Pieces