October 31, 2010

happy halloween

I've always thought Halloween is for kids and I've never understood the grown-up appeal.  As an adult, getting all decked out in costume has never been my idea of a good time.

As a kid, whole other story.  Back in the day, before ready-made costumes were the norm, we used to spend weeks planning what we would wear.  One year I was a hobo with black cork smeared on my face, another I was Little Bo Peep (although, looking back, I looked a lot more like a Little House on the Prairie reject), with a witch thrown in here and there for good measure.

Back then our Halloween haul consisted mostly of lollipops, tootsie rolls and the dreaded pumpkin candy in the Halloween wrapper, with the odd bag of chips.  But there was one special house in the neighbourhood where the lady gave out full size Jersey Milk chocolate bars - all the kids knew it and we made sure to get there early before they were all gone.  My dad never let us eat it on the way home, no matter how much we begged, but as soon as we got home we'd tear open the wrapper - I can still taste the chocolate melting on my tongue.

As wonderful as that was, my favourite was always the Reese's peanut butter cup.  While there weren't any in my own Halloween bag as a kid, I do recall them starting to make an appearance in my youngest sister's haul several years later - and even though I was seven years older, I wasn't beneath pilfering a few.

A close second in my candy pantheon is caramel and toffee (love those Swedish Daim candies!).  However, I'd never thought of combining the peanut butter with the toffee - until I came across Bon Appetit's Halloween Peanut Butter and Toffee Candy Bark.

Now that the candy is done, all there is left to do is nibble on it while I wait for the little ghouls and monsters to descend.  Maybe Halloween isn't so bad after all.

October 29, 2010

changing history over tea and cake

It is thanks to the Famous Five that I am a person.

Tired of being treated as second class citizens, in 1927 five intrepid Canadian women (including the British Empire's first female judge) decided they'd had enough.   

Archives Canada
Canada's first constitutional challenge relating to women's rights, the Persons Case, was fashioned over tea with date and nut loaf on Judge Emily Murphy's porch.  It was this case which resulted in women finally being declared persons in 1929.

Today the women's achievements are commemorated in Persons Day celebrations across the country, in the Famous Five monument on Parliament Hill, and on the $50 bill.  

Judge Murphy's recipe for date and nut loaf was memorialized for posterity by the Edmonton Bulletin - should you care to give it a try you can find it here.

Famous Five Monument (Ottawa)

October 28, 2010

October 24, 2010

banana bread

We've been in the midst of renovation hell for what seems like forever and, while the end is in sight, it's still at least a couple of weeks away.  With all the disruption and mess, not to mention endless trips to home improvement stores, I've become something of a crank.

Generally a perfectionist, the details are driving me crazy.  My patience has worn so thin I don't care about much other than getting the job done and the strangers out of my home.  Paint colour slightly off?  No problem.  Chipped cabinetry?  I can live with that.  Cracked tile on the floor?  Whatever.  JUST. GET. IT. DONE. Not the best long term strategy, I know, but I'm willing to bet that anyone who has lived through a lengthy reno can sympathize.

Today I decided to ignore the chaos that has become my life and see where the day would take me.  After spending a leisurely morning puttering around, I finally felt ready to tackle the blackened, shrivelled bananas that had been sitting on my counter for awhile, suffering from reno-induced neglect.

I've been making banana bread since my teens using the tried and true recipe from the Joy of Cooking.  It's a lovely dense loaf with loads of banana flavour, my absolute favourite recipe and I've never strayed from it - until today.  I recently purchased The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook and decided to try their lighter version - the "Better-For-You" banana bread.

I am rarely disappointed by Chris Kimball's team but, while this loaf was good, the cinnamon and nutmeg in this recipe overwhelm the banana flavour, so much so that it tastes more like a spice bread than a banana bread. 

So if you like your banana bread on the spicy side, this is the one for you.  If, however, you're like me and want the banana to be the star of your loaf, stick with the Joy of Cooking's recipe (you can substitute 6 tbsp butter for the shortening if you prefer).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pick out kitchen cabinet knobs.  Sigh.

October 22, 2010

this makes me smile

I really couldn't resist sharing this video of Gordon Pinsent reading Justin Bieber.  Guaranteed to make you smile!

October 14, 2010

October 11, 2010

happy thanksgiving

Pumpkins, photographed in Canada.Image via Wikipedia