American Thanksgiving

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Truly, I do not remember what we ate for dinner Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Last night we celebrated American Thanksgiving with our neighbours after the children went to bed. (The kids all celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving back in October and we wanted a chance to have a tantrum- and nagging-free meal.)

Our friends brought a stupendous sweet potato casserole: mashed sweet potatoes (yams? these were orange ones) topped with pecans, coconut and other lovely things.

I made a simple salad of red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, pomegranate seeds, feta, and toasted and candied walnuts. This was tossed with a simple balsamic dressing.

The main dish was the All-American Pot Pie from Vegetarian Planet, and dessert was Skillet Apple Pie from Cook's Illustrated.

All-American Pot Pie
from Vegetarian Planet; page 432
serves 4

1 Tbsp butter
8 cups total any combination of the following vegetables: fresh corn kernels, 1/2-inch cubes of carrot, chopped red bell pepper, chopped zucchini, spinach leaves (firmly packed), sliced onions, and 1/2-inch cubes of potato
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tbsp unbleached white flour
2 cups warmed milk, or a bit more*
1 pinch fresh or dried thyme
1 tsp salt
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 to 5 Tbsp ice water

Make the filling:
In a 12- or 14-inch skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add all of the vegetables, and saute them for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 5 more minutes. Sprinkle the 3 Tbsp flour over the vegetables and stir the mixture for 2 minutes. Add the warmed milk slowly, stirring all the while to avoid lumps. Stir in the thyme. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables become tender, adding a bit more milk if the sauce becomes too thick. Add 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper. Transfer the mixture to a 9- or 10-inch casserole or deep pie dish. (At this point you can cover the dish and chill it for up to 2 days, if you'd like to bake it later.)

Make the dough:
Put the 1 1/2 cups flour and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the cold butter. Pulse the machine until the butter is in bits no bigger than pea-size. Add 4 Tbsp ice water, and pulse the machine just enough to bring the dough together. Turn dough out onto clean surface, and knead the dough, adding a bit of water or flour as necessary, until the dough is soft, moist, and somewhat smooth. Do this quickly, handling the dough as little as possible. Form the dough into a flattened ball. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Roll the dough into shape slightly larger than the casserole or pie dish. Place the dough over the casserole and pinch the dough along the rim. Cut four 1-inch-long slits in the dough and place the pie in the oven. bake it for about 20 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden.

*I never used to warm the milk - it's an extra step. But your sauce will thicken ever so much more quickly if you do.

Skillet Apple Pie
from Cook's Illustrated; Issue Number 94, page 24
serves 6 to 8

1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch peices
3-4 Tbsp ice water

1/2 cup apple cider*
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds sweet and tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tsp sugar

For the Crust:
Pulse flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined. Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs with butter bits no larger than small peas. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Sprinkle 3 Tbsp ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Add up to 1 Tbsp more ice water if dough does not come together. Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a 4-inch disk. Wrap dough and refrigerate 30 minute or up to 2 days, before rolling out. (If dough is refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)

For the Filling:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500F. Whisk cider, syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon (if using) together in medium bowl until smooth. heat butter in 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times until the apples begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (do not fully cook apples.) Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture and gently stir until apples are well-coated. Set aside to cool slightly.

To Assemble and Bake:
Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface, to 11-inch circle. Transfer dough to top of pie filling. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. With sharp knife, gently cut dough into 6 pieces. Bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve

*If you do not have apple cider, reduced apple juice may be used as a substitute - simmer 1 cup apple juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10 minutes).

Holy Mole!

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Tonight's dinner: chicken mole, rice, sauteed chard, corn tortillas.

Perhaps my favourite dinner ever.

The All-Handmade Sale

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The All-Handmade Sale that I have been preparing for occurred last night and today. Things went pretty well. I sold nearly half of the items I made. Here are a few pictures of my table...

That's me and my little table. I was supposed to share a long table with another vendor, but one of the tables was broken, so we hunted around for another one. I think this actually worked out better in the long run.

The quilts hanging behind me are not my creations, they were being sold by another vendor who had no wall space. Since I was selling items made from fabric it made a little sense to use my wall space. Unfortunately, none of the quilts sold.

The item hanging from the edge of my table is a Backpack Doll Carrier. Chloe Harold (Lucy's stuffed dog) was kind enough to "model" it for me and allow a few interested children to try it out.

Here are all of the bookmarks I made. I think I ended up with nearly 40 bookmarks and I am glad, because I sold more than 20. These were so fun and simple to make and it was good to have a lower-priced item for people to buy in multiples or for children to buy with their coins. I will definitely make more. And maybe when I receive my darning foot I will add a little free-motion quilting to them to jazz them up a bit.

Here are the art smocks I made. I used Simplicity 3802 as a base, but left off the pockets and changed the closure from ties to a button and loop. These did not sell well. Lying flat, they look like dresses - which I think probably scared off some people. The fabric of the smocks really drew people to the table.

Many people thought the smocks were a good idea to sell and everyone who stopped and looked at them remarked at the quality of the sewing, but then they would just walk away. I don't think I had them priced too high, I think they just didn't look like something a child should get dirty.

I have heard of some product that you can toss in the laundry with fabric to make it water-resistant. I plan to find out how much that costs and maybe give it a go. Perhaps if they are water resistant and if I get a few pictures of my kids wearing them, they will sell better next time.

Here are the Backpack Doll Carriers I made. These sold fairly well, but not so well that I need to make more before my friend who runs a local restaurant throws a craft fair. Hopefully I can sell the rest there.

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Chicken Spaghetti

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Tonight I made a version of "Chicken Spaghetti". This was served with bread (light sourdough rye from a local bakery) and broccoli.

The recipe is highly flexible. Tonight, for example I switched the cooked chicken for cubed, sauteed tofu and I added half a bunch of asparagus (trimmed, chopped, sauteed, and lightly steamed). I could have added the entire bunch of asparagus. I also switched twirly pasta in for the spaghetti. This made it easier to serve and easier for the little ones to eat.

Chicken Spaghetti
serves 6 to 8

3 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp diced pimiento (or roasted red pepper)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute until tender.
  • Add flour, stirring constantly, and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Gradually stir in milk and continue to cook, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly.
  • Stir in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and all of the other ingredients.
  • Pour into 2 quart casserole and bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.

The Sewing is Done

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I finished all of my sewing for the all-handmade sale over the weekend. I have everything packed up and ready to schlep over to the church Friday night. The only things that remain to do are making some signs and dropping by the bank to pick up some money to make change for all of my prospective customers.

I never did take pictures of the art smocks (I still could, I suppose), but I will try to take (and post) pictures of my area at the sale.

I've even already started my next project. I am making a skirt for myself. I've had the pattern and fabric for some time, but this week I made a mock-up or muslin of the waistband and the top part of the skirt to check for fit. As a result, I am going to make a few changes. Most notably, I am going to make the skirt less full and I am going to cut it on the bias. This will give it a nicer drape. I can't remember the pattern number or company right now (though it is one of the Big 4), but I will post a link to that after I take pictures of the fabric and redrafted pattern pieces.

Out of the Freezer and Onto the Table

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Tonight we had both chili and curry from the freezer along with freshly cooked rice and toasted tortillas.

Very tasty.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Garlic

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Last night we made one of my favorite pasta dishes. It is simple, quick, light, and well-liked by most people. We found the recipe on the back of a package of pasta and have since made a few changes.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Garlic

serves 6 to 8

1 pound long thin pasta
4 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, slightly drained
3/4 cup white wine
5 Tbsp grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

  • Cook pasta a minute or two less than package directions.
  • Meanwhile heat olive oil in a skillet.
  • Add garlic and basil and cook for a minute.
  • Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for three minutes.
  • Add hot pasta to skillet and toss well.
  • Add white wine and continue cooking until the pasta is done.
  • Toss with Parmesan cheese. Serve.

The Dinner Roll (or not)

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Goodness. It's been since US election night since I posted anything food-related. I can't possibly recap, so I'll just start fresh.

Tonight's dinner: Souvlaki-style chicken, rice, sauteed kale, homemade lemon tahini, homemade tzadziki, and naan.



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Here are some bookmarks I made to sell at the all handmade sale. I think I will offer them as a free gift with purchase or $1 each.

Right now they are just topstitched around the edge. I had thought about doing some quilting stitching through them, but I haven't decided yet (remaining time may decide for me).

I have also finished the art smocks I am making to sell. I will take pictures soon...
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The Best Thing


Over the last few days, my family and I have been visiting friends who moved to Vancouver Island over the summer. We had about as good a time as five kids and four adults (one of whom is rather pregnant) can have in a small house in typical West Coast November weather.

The very best part of the trip was the opportunity our friends gave David and I on Monday to take most of the day for ourselves. We left them with all five kids around 10 AM and didn't return until 4 PM. David and I were able to have two complete conversations during that time. Real conversations. Reconnecting conversations.

Individually and corporately we needed to have those conversations. It is just rare to actually have enough time to have them.

Thank you, Laura and Mike.

Goofing around with my Background.


I think I like this one. Not too terribly feminine, not terribly scrapbooky.

Halloween Costumes

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The pictures aren't great as I was scurrying to take them before school. Sorry about that. I really can take lovely pictures when I have more time and cooperative children. Or plants as subject matter.

This is Lucy as Wendy (from Peter Pan).

And Peter as Captain Hook.

And Clara in her butterfly suit.

I had fun making the costumes (or parts of costumes). It's a chance for me to be both creative and slap-dash in my sewing techniques; all of the fun and challenge of problem solving without any of the stress of making something correctly.

Lucy's is actually a full-on garment made from a pattern. This was quite a confidence-booster for me. I have learned enough now to know when to check for fit and how to adjust some things as a result.
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Pumpkin Soup

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Tonight is election night in the US. May there be a clear winner and no recounts.

In other news, the following is the most amazing pumpkin soup recipe I have ever had. (Yes, my picky children ate it happily - well, mostly - and they devour the previous soup recipe.)

Pumpkin Soup
from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, page 120
serves 6

2 pounds pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed (about 5 cups)*
3 garlic cloves
2 onions, chopped
2 – 3 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon marjoram
¼ tsp celery seeds
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes)
5 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 Tblsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream

  • Place all ingredients, except the cream in a large saucepan.**
  • Simmer until pumpkin is soft.
  • Remove the bay leaves.
  • Puree.
  • Gradually stir in the cream to avoid curdling.

*You may substitute 2 pounds of roasted pumpkin and it will turn out fine with no blisters or cuts from peeling!

**You may saute the onion for a few minutes in a little olive oil, then added the garlic and herbs and sauteed for a bit longer, and then throw the rest of it together, if you wish.

The Dinner Roll

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Friday: Filled Pasta and Red Sauce
Saturday: Green Potato Soup (recipe follows)
Sunday: Chicken and Rice Wraps
Monday: Pumpkin Soup (recipe follows tomorrow)

Green Potato Soup
(loosely based on Velvety Vegetable Soup from Simply in Season, page 37)
serves 6

4 Tblsp butter
4 leeks, tender parts only, chopped fine (or equivalent in onions)
6 huge leaves of Swiss chard, chopped (stems separated and chopped fine)
1 zucchini, chopped
1 tsp dried tarragon leaves
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
6 cups broth/water
4 cups white or gold potatoes, diced with skin on
1 cup milk

  • Melt butter in soup pot until foamy.
  • Add leeks and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes or more.
  • Add chopped chard stems and saute until nearly softened.
  • Add zucchini, herbs, salt, and pepper, and continue to saute until soft.
  • Add potatoes and stir.
  • Add broth, raise heat, and bring soup to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes until potatoes are soft. (If the potatoes are even a little crunchy the soup will end up with a grainy texture.)
  • Lower heat further and add chard leaves. Cook for 5 minutes or so.
  • Carefully add milk to avoid curdling.
  • Puree and serve.

Good with a dollop of sour cream or a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.