a stocking a day...

I think I made it clear last year how much I adore advent calendars. And I love that there are so many creative ways to count down the days -- with jokes, walnuts, matchbooks, or my new favourite, these Danish elves. They are so stinkin' cute!

The mini stocking calendar I made this year was much simpler to make than last year's model, because well, I didn't really make it -- I just kind of put the parts together.

The stockings are gift card holders, which I hoarded during the post-holiday sales last year. I attached them together with a knitted i-cord, and dated them by stamping little metal-rimmed tags.

Although I'm experiencing an odd little guilt for cheating on a handmade gift, I don't think my cousin's kids will notice that their daily sugar fix is coming from a store-bought stocking. :)


johnny cakes

The name for these cornmeal pancakes comes from VQ -- a little chichi restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Their breakfast menu is superb and the best thing going is their pancakes -- or rather, their johnny cakes.

This recipe is only slightly modified (I swapped oil for butter) from the one found on Bob's Red Mill cornmeal. That means my recipe is from Oregon too.

johnny cakes
serves 3-4

1 C boiling water
3/4 C cornmeal
1 1/4 C buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C all purpose flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 C unsalted butter, melted

Pour water over cornmeal. Stir and let sit until thick (2-3 mins). Add buttermilk and whisk in eggs. Sift flour, powder, salt, and soda into cornmeal mixture. Stir in melted butter. The batter should be slightly lumpy and will be runnier than other pancake batters.

Bake on ungreased griddle. Serve with warm fruit and yogurt or creme fraiche.


blue bag it

Everyone seems to be on the bandwagon to reduce the amount of plastic bags that end up in landfills.

In our house, even though we cart our groceries home in our own bags, we invariably end up with a stash of plastic ones. We reuse them for garbage bags and Jeff had been using them as lunch bags...until now.

Now, Jeff has a cloth version of the ubiquitous plastic bag thanks to this tutorial by SupaFine, my old duvet from college, and my new sewing machine.


vegetable soup with parmesan toasts

After a rollicking day of cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping, this simple fall-inspired soup settled the weekend. Try it next time you need a good settle.

Ack! Pardon the picture. I suppose I shouldn't have tried to get a picture of the orange butternut squash in my mustard coloured bowl under poor lighting.

vegetable soup with parmesan toasts
(modified from a recipe in Real Simple March '06)
for 3-4

2-3 bunches of baby bok choy -- cleaned, trimmed, and cut lengthwise
a few Tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 medium butternut squash (about a pound) -- peel removed* and cut into 1/2-in pieces
1 C white wine
1 C chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
9-12 1/2-in slices of baguette
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan cheese

*Be careful when removing the peel of the squash. I now see why most recipes have you cook butternut squash before cutting it too many times -- it's a bit of a challenge.

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute garlic until fragrant. Add squash and season with salt and pepper. Saute for a couple minutes before adding liquids. After adding wine and broth, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer until the squash is tender (about 15 mins). Add bok choy, stir, and cover. Steam until tender (another 5 mins).

While the squash is simmering, place the baguette slices on tinfoil. Brush slices with oil and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake until golden (10-15 mins).

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top with parmesan toasts. This isn't a soup of swimming veggies, as there's only a bit of liquid for each dish. Enjoy!


pears and apples

There's something about canning -- simmering pots, paring knives, and gold lids -- that makes me feel particularly domestic. Wear-an-apron domestic.

So every year, I put on my apron, and "put up" several pints of something. This year, that something was pear-applesauce. Using two varieties of tart apples, three varieties of sweet pears, and a dash of cinnamon, I now have ten pints of yummy sauce.


leaf print cards

Depending on whether you eat your pumpkin pie in October or November, these Happy Thanksgiving cards may be a bit late or a bit early. I'm sending these cards to some folks south of the border.

A big thank you to Courtney Russell of two straight lines for sharing her sixteen different leaf prints (available for free download via lulu). The leaves are beautifully detailed.


a slew of sewing ideas

If you haven't already seen this, Sew, Mama, Sew! is doing their part to encourage Handmade Holidays. For each day this month, a new theme. And for each theme, several tutorials of great sewing projects.

My list of wanna-do projects is growing fast (with this, this, and ooh this too) -- my new sewing machine and I had better get busy.


settling in with orzo, zucchini, and toasted hazelnuts

Zucchini has become one of my comfort foods. I know this because when all else was hectic (e.g. unpacking a household, looking for work, uncertainty in general), I found comfort in zucchini. Mind you, it was mixed with yummy orzo and toasted hazelnuts. That may have had something to do with it.

Except for these cookies, this dish was the first real food my new stove and I turned out (I don't count frozen pizza). It was grand. And served with turkey and chicken sausages, it made this new apartment feel like a home.

Allow me to show off my new bowl -- one of my many dish purchases from Finland!

orzo with squash and toasted hazelnuts
(a recipe from Gourmet magazine circa 2002)
serves 4

3/4 C orzo
1 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 C finely chopped shallot (I subbed in some sweet onion too)
1 medium zucchini, cut into medium dices
1 medium yellow squash, cut into medium dices (it's good with just double the amount of zucchs if you don't have squash on hand)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 C hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (if you want, you can remove the skins first by rubbing toasted nuts in kitchen towel)
1/4 C chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 C chopped fresh basil
1 teas fresh lemon zest

Cook orzo in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve a bit of the cooking water, then drain orzo.

Meanwhile, heat butter and oil in 12-inch skillet over med-high heat until foam subsides. Saute shallot, stirring, until golden (about 5 mins). Then add zucchini and squash. Season with salt and pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, until veggies are just tender (another 5 mins). Remove from heat and stir in toasted chopped nuts, parsley, basil, and zest.

Add cooked orzo to the skillet and gently combine. If mixture is a bit dry, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Best served warm, but would be good at room temp too.

Enjoy, and happy fall!