When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The happy baker

Baking has always been a relaxing and cheerful activity for me. The process of measuring and mixing ingredients and the delicious smells wafting through the house afterwards are simple things that make me happy; I also enjoy making everyone else happy when they get to devour homemade tasty treats! This red spoon has stirred many bowls full of batter and dough in my kitchen, oftentimes with the help of my boys' hands over the years. It's one of those things I hope they'll think back on fondly when they grow up: "Hey, remember when Mom used to make us cookies with that happy face spoon, and we'd take turns stirring....?". I know I'll miss my apron-clad, clumsy, pint-sized helpers when they think they're too old to help me anymore.

Today I used my trusty red spoon to whip up a batch of mouthwatering muffins. I've had to change the way I bake over the last few years since learning that both Will and I have multiple food sensitivities. It's been a challenge that I've tackled with enthusiasm! This recipe comes from one of my favourite gluten-free recipe sources, Elana Amsterdam, author of both a blog and a cookbook featuring fantastic almond flour recipes. (See more at www.elanaspantry.com.) I had a giant zucchini on hand that got away on me last week in the garden, so a zucchini muffin recipe was just perfect for today.

2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dried currants

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, agave nectar, and eggs. Blend the almond flour mixture into the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined, then fold in the zucchini, pecans, and currants. Scoop the batter into paper-lined muffin tins.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, let cool, and enjoy!

Many people might be put off by the unfamiliar ingredients in this recipe, but they are all easy to come by in your supermarket, bulk food or health food store. Our entire family loves these delicious muffins, and their wholesome ingredients make them a good snack choice for anyone, even when gluten-free eating is not a concern. Happy baking!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summertime, and the eating is good...

One of my many favourite things about summer is the huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that make healthy eating so enjoyable! I've gone a little produce crazy in recent years, and have found some exciting ways to get my hands on the good stuff easily.

We're fortunate to live close to a great local farmers' market, which I visit often. It always seems such a treat to trade in the mundane trek through the grocery store aisles for a sunny stroll through the bustling collection of stalls filled with colourful sights and delicious smells! Even my boys, who complain about shopping of any kind, can be seen dancing to the tunes of local buskers while munching on juicy fruit samples, and we all enjoy chatting with the farmers while we make our selections. My only problem is trying to lug armfuls of goodies home....

I've solved this in part by also ordering a weekly box of organic produce from a market co-op of local farmers. It's big excitement at our house every Thursday to open the bin and see what's inside, because the contents vary based on what is ready in the fields each week. Yesterday's offerings included the bounty you see here:

What I especially like about this arrangement, aside from the fact that everything tastes fantastic, is that it gets us eating vegetables that we might not have chosen otherwise. I've learned how to make salsa from tomatillos, to saute cauliflower with olive oil, fresh garlic and chives and a squeeze of lemon, and even to enjoy beets (gasp!) roasted with other hearty vegetables.

I decided last summer to get my hands dirty as well, and started up my own little veggie patch in our backyard. It's a very rewarding experience to watch the tiny seeds I planted sprout into food, and I love going out on fresh summer mornings to see what is ready for picking. I have garden expansion plans in the works for next summer to be able to reap more benefits from my latest hobby.

The question of what to make for dinner is easy to answer with a whole rainbow of vegetables and fruits as inspiration! It makes me wish (sometimes) that summer could last forever....