It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Almond-Chocolate Macaroons

I don’t know where I got this recipe. It calls for toasted almonds, but I never toast them, and they turn out just fine.


2 cups whole almonds
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup finely chopping semisweet or bittersweet chocolate


1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Grease and flour cookie sheets.
3. Grind almonds with sugar and cinnamon in food processor till reasonably fine. (This is a matter of taste. I usually go until it’s 3/4 powder with the rest small chunks.)
4. Add egg, egg white, and almond extract. Process till mixture holds together.
5. Tip into bowl — it’ll be fairly stiff. Dough, not batter. Fold in the chocolate.
6. Roll into 2 cm balls and flatten each slightly.

Bake at 350 for 10 – 12 minutes. They’ll be crumbly when hot, and will firm up as they cool on a rack. Keep in sealed container.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baking Powder Biscuits

Ask, and you shall receive. Cate wanted the recipe for baking powder biscuits, so here it is. I make these all the time — so often that I don’t use the recipe any more, just toss things in a bowl until it looks right, so I had to go look it up for the proportions. My version is from the More With Less cookbook (where it’s called simply “Basic Biscuits”). I got the recipe from a cookbook, I got the name from my grandmother, who made them without a recipe for decades, but I never got her to show me how! Silly.

Anyway. Baking Powder Biscuits

Preheat oven to 400F

Sift together:
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

Cut in:
1/4 cup shortening

Add all at once, stirring till a soft ball is formed:
3/4 cup milk.

Plop dough out onto floured counter, knead lightly 20 – 25 times.

Now the recipe tells you to “roll or pat to 1/2″ (1 cm) thick and cut with floured glass or cookie cutter“. Sometimes I do that, particularly if there’s some reason we want shapes — hearts for Valentine’s Day, that sort of thing. But usually what I do is make a double batch and then rip off golf-ball sized chunks, and plop them into an ungreased 8×8 or 9×9” pan. I love the texture of the golden-brown rough surface, and the contrast of the soft and white insides. (It’s also a personal quirk: To me, if you roll it, it’s a cookie, not a biscuit. Cookies are flat(ish); biscuits are round.)

However you form them, put your biscuits on an ungreased pan and bake: 10 – 12 minutes for the rolled biscuits; 18 – 20 for the balls.

Good with butter, good with jam, good with gravy. Fancy them up by adding a half-cup of shredded cheese, and then they’re cheese biscuits. Easy!

February 13, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 10 Comments

What I’m doing on my summer vacation

I’m on holiday this week! No, I’m not going anywhere. And anyone who calls it a “staycation” can expect a smack upside the head. “Staycation.” Everyone knows “staycation” only means “I can’t afford a real vacation.” And you know what? I can’t. I’m good with that. My friends and neighbours may go jetting off hither and yon. I don’t. It’s a reality of my life which I have accepted with grace… and without cutesy-stupid euphemisms.

Staycation.” Pfft. Such a weaselly word, a word for cowards. Be brave! Be bold! OWN your poverty!!!

“So it’s a staycation, huh?”
“No, I’m just staying home this week.”

Now, I am a very experience home holiday-er. Because I’ve done this for years and years, I have developed patterns. I’ve discovered I need a balance of play, inertia, creativity and productivity to keep me happy. “Productivity” boils down to “work”. Yes, indeed. I must work during my holiday, otherwise, on the final Sunday afternoon, as I’m facing down Monday morning, I get depressed. “I didn’t MAKE USE of my time! I accomplished NOTHING! My time off was a WASTE!!!”

Yup. I have to “accomplish” stuff on my holiday. I’m not quite sure where I got my work ethic. Lord knows there are no “Type A’s” in my family. Truth be known, most days my work ethic is pretty damned lackadaisical, but for whatever reason it emerges with an ironical vengeance during holiday-times, and it seems I’m stuck with it.

So, while I hit the library for books, and socialize more than normal, and indulge in manicures and pedicures (the home variety), and putz around on the Internet (even MORE THAN USUAL! I KNOW!!!), I also have projects. I GET STUFF DONE. Stuff that is difficult to do with a houseful of toddlers.

This summer’s project list includes:
– paint the attic
– re-paint kitchen cupboards
– remove 50 pounds of weeks from front garden
– finish sewing the purse I started six months ago
– finish the northwest corner of the back yard play area
– organize my craft room

As I close in on the half-way point of my holiday, I am about half through that list. Not too shabby!

(Lest you all be worried for my sanity, I will assure you that I’ve played this week, too, and have enjoyed a few blissful hours of plain old inertia. My plans for later this week include a trip to the library, to stock up on all the books I plan to read next week. My plans for next week include much reading on the porch while sipped tea or wine, depending on the time of day.)

However, THIS week has been all about the productivity. All that physical labour needs to be interspersed with less demanding productivity, though, and it was the most recent issue of Cook’s magazine that provided the inspiration. Muffins! I will make muffins! Not just any muffins, though! I would purchase a so-cool muffin-top tin, and make muffin TOPS.

Neat idea, huh? Emma was delighted. “Everyone knows that the tops are the best part of the muffin!” I wandered to our local cute-and-fun shopping area (the one that’s being torn up to bits), and located myself a muffin-top pan, brought it home, whipped up a batch of apple-oatmeal batter, and waited for our six delectable muffin tops to emerge.

And when the timer pinged? Out from the oven came six large, wide, flat disks. There was no mounding of the top. There was no crispy outer crust. Booooo… The explanation was sitting on the counter. The can of baking powder. The unopened can of baking powder.

Well, damn.

They taste all right, these disks of muffin. But, “I wanted muffin tops,” I whine to Emma, “and instead I’ve made these… muffin cookies.”

Emma chews thoughtfully. “You know what you’ve done, mum?”


“You’ve made muffin BOTTOMS!”

She’s right. A magazine of expert advice, a shopping trip, a brand-spanking-new muffin-top pan, and, because of a teaspoon of oversight, I’ve made muffin BOTTOMS.


Guess I’ll stick with the painting for now…

August 25, 2011 Posted by | food, holidays, my kids | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

There’s sad and there’s sad

newt1I am baking brownies for dessert. Which, if you knew our family at all, would tell you we’re having guests over to dinner. Tell my children we’re having company, and the response is not “Who’s coming?” but “Yay! Dessert!”

Timmy and Anna are playing quietly at my feet. They have woken up a little earlier than the other children, and are thus allowed to play in the kitchen (the furthest end of the house from the stairs), and QUIETLY. If they don’t play quietly, they must go lie down again until the others wake.

Thus, they are playing quietly. Which is little short of a miracle, since they are my two loudest children. Though, come to that, Tyler is emerging as a considerable auditory force. Once he gets some actual vocabulary, the windows, they will be a-rattling. (And my eardrums, oh, mercy me, my poor eardrums.)

They are playing quietly, and I am making brownies. And, because these are brownies for guests, and, because our oven is stuck at 400 degrees (as it has been for the last four years), I am diligently cutting off the slightly-too-dry edges. (The hostess double-standard: For my own family? They can crunch their way into the centre. For company? Perfectly soft’n’chewy brownies, from edge to edge.)

Apart from crunchiness, there is nothing wrong with the centimetre-wide strips of brownie I’m left with…

Lucky Timmy and Anna.

“Here guys. You want some brownies?”
(That, boys and girls, is what is called a “rhetorical” question.)
“Now, be careful. Chocolate is bad for dogs. You mustn’t give any to Indie. It could make her sick.”
“And maybe even DIIIIEEE!” Which could have been said with far less exuberant relish, perhaps, but the content is accurate enough.
“Yes, Anna. Enough chocolate could even make her die. That would be very sad.”
“That would be very sad.” Timmy is showing a more appropriate level of concern, perhaps because he’s had some personal experience in pet-bereavement. Or, as it turns out, second-hand experience. “My mummy’s newt died, and she was very sad.”
“Your mummy had a newt?”
“Yes, and it died. And she was very sad.”
“Not as sad as for a dog, I think.”
He doesn’t lose a beat.
“No. Prolly not.”

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Anna, food, health and safety, the dog, Timmy | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments