Tuesday, May 27

Orange Vanilla Cake

Several years ago we lived on the gulf coast of Florida.  I remember hunkering down in the living room while Hurricane Katrina raged outside.  Despite the evacuation order issued for our neighbourhood, I was pregnant with Connor and couldn't bear to leave home.  How the wind ripped the branches from the trees, the shingles from our roof, and the shutters from our windows (later found bobbing in the neighbour's pond)!  The sound of the rain as it battered our house, the wind hurling things at us from every direction!  Smash! - on the back of the house!  Crash! - on the roof!  Wham! - on the shuttered front window!  Yet, amid the chaos and confusion the air tingled with the strange energy of life at its most real and raw. 

Is it wrong to compare the end of the school year to a hurricane?  Probably, but that's how I've been feeling lately.  The flood of activity, the tingling, electric sense of change that hovers in the air.  When you have a food allergic child and all the school parties seem to revolve around food, it can feel as if you're being hit from every direction.  A cupcake party one day, a popsicle party the next, summer birthday celebrations, field day.  And then, late last week, there was a very special poetry tea.  The kids had worked so hard throughout the year.  Memorizing classics from Robert Lewis Stevenson, Aileen Fisher, Eloise Greenfield, HW Longfellow.  This year Connor had a solo speaking part, and I didn't dare miss it!

Knowing full well that a poetry tea means food, my mind was elsewhere as I rushed out the door without a safe treat for Eve.  It hit me like a tidal wave as we walked into the classroom.  I saw the look of longing in her eyes when she spied the long table in the back of the room.  Decorated with a colourful table cloth, over flowing with trays of cookies, chocolates, and ice cream bars.  There in the middle was a huge cake decorated with the class picture.  And she knew that nothing was safe for her to eat.  Or perhaps what I saw reflected in her eyes was the sudden, overwhelming feelings of shortcoming and failure on my part.  How did I not think ahead and bring something safe for her?

Friday, May 16

Pancakes for Dinner

The air is soft and light, like a cashmere sweater, just warm enough to be comfortable.  The birds are singing, the garden is turning green and weeds are popping up like - well, weeds.  And our world is awash in purple.

Warm spring days like these stir up the fondest memories of when I was a girl.  My grandmother would fill her house with fresh cut flowers from the garden.  She couldn't get enough.  A kaleidoscope of flowers in every room, eclectically arranged in old jam jars and chipped tea cups.  Lilacs, irises, tulips, cherry blossoms, and wild flowers which I'd gathered from the hills behind her house.  On May Day she would help me weave them into a crown to pin in my hair.  Throughout the summer months the sweetest, most intoxicating aroma would waft through her rooms, carried on the gentle breeze which rustled her embroidered curtains.  When she died and the house was sold, I transplanted some of her lilac bushes into my own garden.  These days, her lilacs grace my kitchen table.

On warm spring days like these, I throw open the windows and doors, and let the dog come and go as she pleases. You have no idea how happy this makes her.  She bounds in and out, relishing the new-found sense of freedom.  Finally she settles in the sunbeam that stretches through the open door and across the kitchen floor, only to pounce back out if a squirrel or bird ventures too close.  I love the sense of openness in the house, too.  The sun is brighter, the air is fresher and smells of rain and, like my grandmother's house, my rooms are dressed in royal shades of purple - irises, lilacs, lavender, and chive blossoms, all in bloom right now.

Sunday, May 11

A Place to Rest

I'm taking a break from food today to write about something that's been heavy on my heart recently.  Something that's deeply personal and intensely private, but something with which I believe all allergy moms struggle.  The endless questions, fears, self-doubt, and monsters-in-the-closet that come along with raising a child with severe food allergies.  And the search for a place to rest.  Check out the full post on Freedible.

Saturday, May 3

Red Wine & Balsamic Pot Roast with Polenta

There are times when writing this blog that I find myself at a loss for words.  I don't have a fabulous story to go along with my recipes.  I can't even come up with a fancy quote to go under the picture, and I'm just too exhausted to Google one.  Times when my thoughts are as scattered as the golden flecks of polenta that spilled from my trembling hands onto the black stove top last night.  If I could just manage to process them, refine them, maybe even add a little butter and salt, I'd have something amazing to say.  But I just can't fit the pieces together.  There are times, in fact, when all I have is a recipe.  Simple as that.  A recipe that's so deceptively easy, yet so luscious, rich and luxurious, that it would be a crime not to share it with you.

This is that recipe.  The meal I made last night. Or rather, it made itself in the crock pot and was waiting for me to stumble through the door, weary and drained.  Can you ever have too many crock pot recipes?  Or, for that matter, too many pot roast recipes?  I say, no.  However far too often crock pot roasts all begin to taste the same.  Have you noticed that?  So when I bought yet another roast, I knew I wanted something different.  Something rich and spicy and slightly sweet.  I began combining flavors as I pushed the cart up and down the supermarket aisles - tangy balsamic, woodsy rosemary, zesty red pepper, voluptuous honey...

This roast is fork-tender with a velvety, meaty sauce.  And if there's ever a perfect sponge for absorbing a sauce of this caliber it has to be polenta.   Polenta was made for meat sauce.  Of course, last night I used instant polenta, which took all of 3 minutes to prepare.  Because, as brain-dead as I was, that's about all I could handle.   So there you have it.  Me being honest with you at 11:30 at night, while my eyelids fight to close, and I'm hitting spell-check one last time.

This is a recipe for days when your thoughts are farthest from the kitchen, because we all have them...