in and out of bloom

I’ve been tracking the summer’s passing in the coming and going of some of my favourite blooms (or the ones I recognize, which, to be fair, are not very many). The lilacs in my parents backyard were some of the first to show off before I noticed their perfume all over town. Next there were the tulips, the peonies, the apple blossoms…all of them seeming to peak and fade before I stopped to smell them.

Then, I was lucky enough to take two classes at Blumenstudio (my dad and I had the same idea when it came to birthday gifts for my mum, apparently). We made dreamy little succulent terrariums and learned about throwing together garden bouquets. When Kat opened her second Blumenstudio in the west end of town, I wrote about it for Ottawa Magazine – and so I happily spent a lot of time around her pretty plants and Klaus the dog.

Then, there were lush little gardens lining streets in Montreal, beautiful blooms on the farm, and tiny doggy flower crowns.

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Then, one of my best friends got married. One of the bridesmaids, Michelle, happened to have worked as a florist for many years (she’s also a brilliant scientist and communicator, there is nothing this girl can’t do) and so she took on doing all of the floral arrangements for the wedding. This also left her responsible for leading the rest of us bridesmaids through making our own flower crowns, something we were super excited about.  Once we actually started, though, I was struck with analysis paralysis (was I making it too heavy on one side? Did the colours clash? Was I crushing delicate blooms?). Over mimosas and Top 40 tracks we crafted our crowns, left them to stay fresh in the beer fridge during last minute prep, and then our friends got married! The wedding was absolutely beautiful and our flower crowns lasted a whole night of dancing – I don’t think I’ve ever cried so many happy tears, or taken so many selfies.

THEN, as I went for a run along the canal yesterday evening, brown leaves fluttered on to the path in front of me and suddenly summer seemed like a blur. There are still another 20 days of summer left on the calendar, so there’s still time to squeeze out every last humid, sweaty drop (and Continue reading

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! [Chocolate Pistachio and Cherry Biscotti]

cookieswapI think sending and receiving snail mail is one of my favourite things (brown paper packages tied up with string…). So snail mail containing cookies? Oh, baby. cookieswap1This was my second year joining in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and considering I really only participated by proxy last year I was even more excited. (Plus, all the entry fees go to a good cause — yay cookies!)
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For Dad [Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies]

My first time in a kayak,  with Dad, circa 1995.

My first time in a kayak, with Dad, circa 1995.

It was my Dad’s birthday yesterday. He’s the man who’s got me out on more hiking trails than I can count, on cross country skis and skates, in kayaks and canoes. He’s taught me about everything from board games, to Monty Python, math, and growing snow peas. He’s incredibly supportive, and can be incredibly sarcastic. From him I inherited my love of word games and Jesus Christ Superstar. We sing around the house, and once performed a wonderfully awkward duet from The Phantom of the Opera. He’s one of my favourite travel buddies. I think he’s pretty cool.brownbutterchocochipDad’s made a few appearances here before, in the shape of his famous (in this house, anyway!) garlic tomatoes, du Puy lentils, and oatmeal bread. But even the healthiest man gets a craving for a buttery dessert sometimes. So when he told my mum he really felt like good old chocolate chip cookies, she whipped up a batch of the tastiest brown butter chocolate chip cookies(recipe courtesy of Joy the Baker) to accompany our favourite standby chocolate cake to celebrate. dad'scookies So Daddy-o, happy, happy birthday (!!), here’s to you and many more years to celebrate. xox

Powder Puffs [Olive Oil Polvorones]

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Feliz día de Andalucía! I’m in Amsterdam today (taking advantage of the long weekend) instead of Andalucía, but to celebrate I will leave you with this recipe for a traditional Spanish treat!

20130227-020200.jpgThese sweet, crumbly cookies, known as polvorones or galletas fritas, are traditionally made with lard, but this recipe uses olive oil (so you can feel kind of healthy while you eat them?)! I didn’t have anise extract, so I used some vanilla, and I didn’t have a rolling pin so I used beer bottle. This is how things go in my Huelva kitchen.

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Although a few of my galletas were just a bit too crumbly, these were a lot easier to make than I originally thought they might be, and it’s another item crossed off my Spanish Cooking Bucket List!

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The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! [Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies]

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The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap came on my radar last winter when cookie recipes from their inaugural swap started popping up all over the food blogosphere. I thought it was such a cool idea and put my name down right away to be notified when they started organizing for this year’s event. Well, when I got the email in the fall from organizers extraordinaire Lindsay and Julie that registration was starting I was super excited…and then I realized I was living in Spain. (Which is also super exciting, I’m not complaining!) Because they didn’t get enough participants in Spain to organize a swap here, my fantastic mum agreed to be my cookie chef and my fantastic twin agreed to photograph the process. And so my cookie swap dreams were made possible by my wonderful family! I really am one lucky gal.
And their awesomeness continues: the cookies that I will be receiving they are kindly putting in the freezer until I am home for Christmas (soon!), so I look forward to sharing those with them and thanking my fellow cookie swappers.

20121212-182511.jpgAside from this swap being a grand idea from a purely cookie-loving point of view, it also helped a great cause, Cookies for Kids Cancer. Participating in the swap introduced me to some more wonderful Canadian food blogs, too — there are so many talented people out there. A good cause, cookies, food blogs, snail mail, the holidays….thanks mum & TShap for letting me participate by proxy and thank you Lindsay & Julie for organizing this lovely event, I’m already looking forward to next year!

20121212-181958.jpgThese cookies are melt-in-your-mouth chocolate dreams. My mum has been making these for as long as I can remember; this is her recipe that she adapted from one of Martha Stewart’s magazines back in the day. These are sophisticated little cookies and I remember being pleased as punch when I made them for the first time a few Christmases ago — I left a festive dusting of cocoa powder all over the kitchen when I threw everything into the stand mixer a little too enthusiastically, but that was pretty much my only misstep and they turned out beautifully. (What I am trying to tell you is that it is hard to mess these cookies up.) They are a staple at our home during the holidays (and often year round…), and I hope you enjoy them, too!

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Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Ginger Spice Cookies

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I’m away from Huelva in Madrid this weekend, but my roommate texted yesterday saying that we finally got a new stove and oven in our apartment. Hallelujah!! I haven’t baked at all since I came to Spain (one whole month without an oven! Does that count as roughing it?), and so I’m pretty excited that we can start making some warm comforting food as even Huelva is starting to get a little cool. Cookies definitely need to happen soon.

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I made these just before I left for Spain, to go with our pumpkin spice lattes. Along with pumpkin flavoured anything, around this time of year I love ginger and spices in desserts. These soft cookies feature flavourful flecks of crystallized ginger and are a perfect taste of fall with some hot apple cider and sharp cheddar.

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(XO)llent Sugar Cookies

Valentine’s Day is coming right up (as in tomorrow!), and I love it.  No, I don’t like the overly corny marketing and yes, if you love someone you should show it all year ’round. But despite all the reasons so many people love to hate it, I’m a fan. I mean really, no matter your relationship status, there’s always someone you can send a little special love to. Family, friends, the puppy…all good candidates for getting a shoutout on the day of love. 

Sugar cookies should be simple; the appeal lies in the old-fashioned sweet buttery goodness.  This recipe (which is really an awesome master recipe for about 14 variations — I went with regular and toasted coconut this time) is great for beginner bakers and experienced cookie monsters alike.  These cookies freeze really well, so you can start making your holiday cookies wayyyy in advance! (One day I will be that organized.)

 Another reason why I love Valentine’s Day might lie in my weird penchant for conversation hearts. I know, they don’t even taste that great, but I bet if they were home made they would be delicious! Check out this recipe for the little treats, sounds awesome! http://bravetart.com/recipes/ConversationHeartsGF

You could ice these sugar cookies with some colourful royal icing to make your own conversation hearts; all the fun of a conversation heart in a cookie! Yum.
Want to show someone a little love? Say it with sugar…