Wednesday, May 30, 2012

quinoa & kale pilaf w honey-ginger tofu

aka 'warm superfood salad'



Quinoa, kale, and tofu may not sound terribly exciting to some but that's only because they just don't know! It was sooooo good. And soooo easy. And healthy. Win-ner!!!!


Extra firm tofu is marinated for a quick 15 minutes in what is essentially a quick and easy teriyaki sauce while you get the quinoa on the go. Even making it the first time it really only took about 35 minutes from start to finish.


The recipe is from Chatelaine magazine. The only changes I made were to use coconut oil (just the regular, unscented not extra virgin) in place of the canola they recommend, I used a whole onion as opposed to the half called for because onions are good for bones (yes, they are) and I didn't think it would be a bad thing taste-wise, and another tsp of grated ginger because we love it.  In the end I think all were good calls - especially the ginger.


This serves 4 very generously - we ate half for dinner and then the rest for lunch a day or so later. It saved and reheated very well.


honey-ginger tofu
(tweaked from Chatelaine)


350 gm package extra-firm tofu
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
3 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp coconut oil


Pat tofu dry. Cut in half cross-wise and then cut those pieces in half through the thickness (is that about as clear as mud? It's kind of like cutting bread for this step), and then finally cut each of the pieces in half diagonally. You should have 8 triangles of tofu. And trust me - this is the hardest part of the recipe. Stir the honey, soy sauce, ginger, and melted coconut oil together in an 8" square baking dish. Add the tofu and turn each piece so that it is coated. Let stand 15 minutes (or so, longer won't hurt).


Heat a non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Melt a 1/2 tsp or so of coconut oil and add the tofu. reserving the marinade. Cook until dark golden - about 3 minutes per side. Serve with the pilaf and drizzle with reserved marinade.


quinoa & kale pilaf


1 tsp coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup red quinoa
1 bunch kale, finely chopped


Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and the onion, cooking until the onion is soft. Add the broth and 1/2 cup of water. Stir in the quinoa and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender - about 20 minutes. Stir in the kale until it wilts, only 2 or 3 minutes.


*Red quinoa holds its shape better than the regular white does - not so mushy - so it is worth having in your pantry. And if you have some you can always make salmon, quinoa, and asparagus another day.

another reason to drink water

I read something the other day that I found very interesting. Very simply, our taste preferences are heavily influenced by exposure (of course, we all know this) to particular foods and apparently we have a tendency to eat healthier foods when we drink water! This conclusion after two separate studies - one with young children and vegetable consumption, the other with adults pairing food and drink. The older group tended to go for a combination of soda and salty, calorie-dense foods over vegetables while the little ones ate more raw veggies when the meal was accompanied by water over a sugary beverage.


"If the drink on the table sets the odds against both adults and children eating their vegetables, then perhaps it is time to change that drink, and replace it with water," the researchers concluded.


Duh! I mean, amen. We are very fortunate to have access to clean drinking water. We should drink it. I am always a bit shocked when people ask me what I drink. Water of course! It is the obvious choice over juices, sodas, and other sugar-filled junk. I hope that is not obnoxious and self-righteous sounding but it is my stand. Nice to have some more research to back me up.

Monday, May 28, 2012

raspberry rhubarb galette



Of all the things I grow in my garden, rhubarb is my favourite. I honestly love the taste, it looks cool, and rhubarb is incredibly good for you. There are compounds in rhubarb that can fight cancer (anthraquinones), lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and protect eye and brain health. It contains resveratrol, lutein, zeaxanthin, (all powerful antioxidants) and good amounts of B complex vitamins, as well as vitamin K and C, calcium, potassium, and manganese. Impressive!


Being a committed rhubarb lover I personally think rhubarb shines nicely in its very own spotlight. I have tried to be enthusiastic about rhubarb and berry combinations but they always leave me cold. To be truthful I dislike them. This combination was not bad but honestly? the galette would be so much better (in my opinion) if it was straight-up rhubarb filled. Whatever the filling, I feel myself entering a galette phase. Really so easy, with none of the fuss and mess that pie in a pan entails. Rhubarb is just the beginning.

When I started this blogging adventure my intent was not a cooking blog. Actually it is still not my intent but it is a fun thing to share recipes. My standard when it comes to sharing recipes is to only share those that I feel are really amazing. You know, the things that you make and enjoy so much that you want everyone to have the pleasure. Everybody has plenty (or at least enough) mediocre recipes in their files so I determined not to add more of that calibre. Having said that this recipe does not quite reach the mark and so I have considered the merits of including it - deciding as you see, to include it based on how much fun it is to make. Pies are not difficult but galettes are joyfully easy. And they look so effortlessly cool as well. No try-hard perfection here.


raspberry rhubarb galette
(adapted from Martha Stewart)


5 cups chopped rhubarb (cut into 1/2" pieces)
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
Turbinado sugar
Cornmeal Pate Brisee*
1 egg, beaten


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.


On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to a 14" round, about 1/8" thick. Transfer to baking sheet.


Combine the cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Toss the rhubarb and raspberries with the sugar mixture - taking care not to mangle the raspberries. Arrange the mixture on the dough circle, leaving a border of about 2" all the way around. Fold border over fruit mixture, overlapping where necessary. Press fold gently. Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of sugar.


Bake until crust is deep golden and juices are bubbling - about 55 or 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with or without cream - iced or whipped.


*Cornmeal Pate Brisee
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3-4 Tbsp ice cold water


Combine the flour, cornmeal, sea salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. With machine running, add the water in a thin stream through the feed-tube - just until the dough holds together. Only about 30 seconds total - don't over-process. 


Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30  minutes before rolling out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

in my atelier

My sewing room has been temporarily elevated to 'atelier' status. On account of the wedding dresses. One down and one to go, I should be firmly entrenched in creative mode. I should be and I think I want to be but I have been dragging my feet. Next week, come hell or high water I no longer have even a tiny bit of choice if I don't want to disappoint a lovely bride and  reveal myself to be a heel of large proportion. I like the whole wedding dress creation thing - the fabrics, the design possibilities, getting lost in the creative moment, and of course the romance. I enjoy the challenge of the "how" as well as the "what".  


I should be firmly entrenched, happy as a pig in mud but I get distracted and side-tracked by new babies, and school concerts, and trips, and weeding gardens, and planting, and books to be read, and recipes to be tried. I am happy to be distracted because as happy as I am in my atelier ....weddings and new babies are all tangled up in my heart with Merin and sometimes those memories are still very tender. Tender but not painful, fresh but - thankfully - no longer raw, cherished. I work in my little room and take out memories of other dresses as I listen to the playlist I started when I made Hannah's dress and added to as I made Merin's. I remember Eden's insistence that I make her dress - and I am so glad she won the day. I was afraid of the project - emotionally laden and with the potential for terrible disappointment on both our parts. Her faith in me gave me faith in myself, the dress was beautiful and she in the dress, and we have yet another bond. When I made Hannah's dress I knew her so little - it became the start of a cherished friendship and mutual respect. And Merin's dress relieved and delighted both of us.


I have made five wedding dresses and altered several more. I have felt honoured and privileged to be involved with each. A wedding dress is more than just a beautiful garment, more than a special dress worn to the party of a lifetime. It represents a full and trusting heart given with faith, joy, and love, looking forward with hope to a wonderful shared future. It is what a woman wears on the day her marriage begins not just at her wedding. It is a unique symbol.


My nose will be pressed to the grindstone next week and the threads will fly. Fingers crossed the next creation will be all that someone hopes it will be. 



photo courtesy of eden lang pictures. Looking through the bridal shoot again, so many dear, dear memories - of Merin, of the morning of the shoot, of my girls laughing together. So rich.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

gluten-free berry honey cake


This morning I woke up and wanted to make a cake. With fresh strawberries and blueberries. A buttermilk berry cake but with honey and without gluten. Something that Eden could eat. In my adventures and attempts at healthier baking I have found that baking without gluten is not a really daunting challenge - once you figure out the way to exchange flours and what the different flours taste like. But baking a cake or cookies without sugar can be a bit dicey. Success is not guaranteed. At least not for me. Not yet. I am having fun with the challenge though. 


I traded around a few bits and pieces from last year's recipe, crossed my fingers and held my breath, and.... it was pretty good. Moist and full of berry goodness with a sweet crunchy crust. The name doesn't have quite the ring that buttermilk berry cake does but nobody eats the name.


gluten-free berry honey cake


1 cup + 2 Tbsp whole grain gluten-free flour mix*
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp grey sea salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries


Butter a 9" cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt.


Beat honey and butter until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add the egg and yogurt and beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the berries evenly over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack. Cool for 10 minutes and invert onto serving plate.


*I make my own mix of whole grain gluten-free flours. You can find the recipe for the mix at the bottom of this recipe. Or you can use any commercial gluten-free flour mix you prefer. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

brand new





Tiny, brand new, fresh baby smelling. Ewan Thomas Litchfield. Born this morning - very early. 6 lb 15 oz of perfection. My eighth grandchild - fifth grandson - a handsome boy. He has a thick shock of blonde hair. A double crown like his mama. And skin that seems a bit too big for him yet. He is calm and alert, gently swimming through the air in that dreamy newborn way. Precious, so precious.  Although he shares my heart with seven others, he has it all. I am excited to watch his life unfold. To see and know the person he will be. My heart is full this evening. Life is very good. Well done Hannah and Thomas. I love you all.


He is even cuter (if possible) after a bath. And yes, I am in love again.

mango and coconut rice salad with Thai basil


On account of a 'hairy' mango smoothie that Eden was offered (and obliged to drink) one day in Mexico - way back when - she believed for a very long time that she hated mangos. Can't say I blame her but what a shame. Happily she has overcome that prejudice and one of the reasons is... mango in salad. Put a mango in a salad and it is - all of a sudden - a happy, sunny affair. This salad may just be the queen of mango salads. Mangos, black rice, brown jasmine rice, coconut, mint, basil, cilantro, lemon zest.... hey! wipe your chin! It is wonderfully fresh. Actually, just wonderful.


I used a couple of Ataulfo mangos - the pretty little yellow ones from the Philippines. So very much the best mango around in my opinion. Sweet, silky flesh - and lots of it - with no nasty hairiness. The season for them is short - or at least too short - so don't wait. If not for this recipe, just to eat out of hand. 


Don't be put off by the rice-cooking-in-two-pots thing, it is not nearly as much of a fuss as you might think and well worth washing two little pots. (Since I cook rice pretty much 99.9% of the time in my rice cooker I was almost deterred.) The rice cooks while you are busy chopping the greens and dicing the mango. It all comes together very quickly.


I shared some of the next day salad (which kept very well, by the way) with Eden. She whole heartedly endorsed my enthusiasm and asked me to share.


coconut and mango rice salad with Thai basil
(adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)


2/3 cup brown jasmine rice
1 tsp virgin coconut oil
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup loosely packed Thai basil
1 cup black rice
1/2 long English cucumber, cubed
2 Tbsp mint leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup cilantro, stems and leaves roughly chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 Ataulfo mangos, diced
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews, roughly chopped
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp grey sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


First, cook the rice. Combine the brown jasmine rice, coconut oil, pinch of salt, water, and half the Thai basil in a small saucepan. Add half the Thai basil (keeping the leaves attached to the stem), bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard the basil. Put the rice in a colander and rinse with cold water to cool. At the same time cook the black rice in plenty of boiling water (as you would pasta) for 20 minutes or until it is tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.


Pick the remaining basil leaves off the stem and chop roughly. Put them (along with the remaining ingredients) into a large bowl. Add the rices and stir just to mix, being careful not to mangle the mango. 


Serves 4 - generously.


Note: you can dial up the heat by increasing the cayenne pepper if you choose. I wanted just a suggestion not an overwhelming blast. But you may like it better hot.





Tuesday, May 15, 2012

lemon pesto pasta


The herbs in my garden are growing again. I love that even a few of them are perennial here. Most need to be replanted each spring but there are a valiant few that come back faithfully. Oregano, sage, chives (perhaps too valiant vigorously), feverfew, mint. I wish that rosemary would overwinter. And how I would love to have basil thrive - even in the summer! lol. I feel quite victorious when the basil-divas in my garden don't simply curl up their precious leaves and give up. But today, the few hardy herbs that are brave and strong and coming back yet again awaken my gardening urge. I am excited to plant and harvest and .... eat!


This pasta is so simple and yummy, perfect for the promise of spring and even better when you can grab whatever herbs are growing in your garden. Of course, it is possible year-round with grocery store or farmer's market herbs but so much more fun and somehow entirely satisfying when the herbs are fresh from the garden. .... Soon, fingers crossed!


lemon pesto pasta


1 lb brown rice spaghetti
1½ cups basil leaves
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. oregano leaves
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sea salt 
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 lemon


In a food processor process the herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice. 


Bring a pot of well salted water (use good sea salt) water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water. Return pasta to cooking pot.


Add herb mixture to hot drained pasta. Toss together, adding sea salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Stirring, add enough of the pasta water to make a creamy sauce - about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and dig in!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

always, always...


Always, always, always I wanted to be a mother. When I was a little girl I loved my dollies. When I played with my cousins and friends, we more often than not played ‘house’, making elaborate messes with the doll clothes, play furniture and dishes. As I grew and those same friends started to talk about what they wanted to be when they grew up, I never wondered. I played along like I was exploring the different possibilities but it was never very real for me. Because I knew I wanted to be a mother. When I did in fact reach the age of attending university the decision to study Education was easily made. I wanted to take something that would be practical in my chosen career. There were other options that appealed to me as being interesting but I knew that if I could pursue my first choice (motherhood) that would be best served by studying how children learn and how to teach them. So I declared a major in Early Childhood Education. I didn’t teach professionally (aside from some interesting/alarming experiences as a substitute teacher) but I have never regretted that or my decision to prepare to teach my own sweet children.
Deciding to be a Professional Mother has been (and will continue to be) a joy and a blessing to me. I recognize that I have been very blessed to be able to follow that path - to have welcomed children into my life, to be at home with them and to make a home for our family. It wasn’t particularly fashionable to have five children but I didn’t care - I felt so lucky and so happy as we planned and anticipated the arrival of each child. I loved being pregnant and was fortunate to have healthy, active pregnancies. I felt strong and empowered as I delivered each beautiful son and daughter into this world. And I felt completed as I held and nurtured each tiny person. What a great privilege to be given the responsibility for another person’s beginning. So very humbling to know that a tiny being depends on you for every comfort and need.
At every stage of our family’s life I have wanted to stop time because everything seemed so perfect, so golden and I could not imagine that it would ever be as good again. But I have recognized how often I have thought that and now expect that I will love each new stage as I have the previous ones. Once I could not imagine how I could be happy without an infant in my arms and home but I was. I wondered how I would feel about mothering teenagers but discovered that my kids just got better and better as they got older. And when they all left home and it was just David and I together, I thought my whole purpose in life was finished as well, but again I learned that although the landscape had changed, it was only different not worse. I am always a mother. It is not only what I do, it is who I am. I  love each of my children fiercely and completely. I know them   - their strengths, weaknesses, joys, fears - and find them infinitely precious. There is nothing of myself I would not give them and not one of them that I would exchange for another. I marvel at the wonderful talents and strengths - each unique but curiously related - and rejoice in the love, support and respect that has grown between us.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I didn’t know how much it would demand nor could I have guessed how much it would return. I am happy to say now  - I love it! No matter the hardships or the sorrows, I love being a mother to the five I “hatched”. Nothing could be better. Always, always, always ....

Happy Mother's Day.


In the summer of 2010 Eden and Merin worked together on the beginning of a very special gift for David and I. Eden completed it after Merin's death. She asked me to write an essay on myself as a mother. This is what I wrote (with a few minor edits). For the last couple of weeks as I have been reflecting on mothers and mothering many various ideas have occupied my thoughts. As I sat down to record some of them this morning, I decided to add this to the public record of who I am. It is included in the book that Eden (and Jonathon) made but that is a very private record. This is in a way, my Motherhood Manifesto. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

berry care


A tip to forestall the fuzzy berry issue: after buying and before storing berries, rinse them in cold water and then give them a short vinegar bath. Use 1 part cider vinegar to 10 parts cold water, dump the berries in and let them play for a minute or two before pulling them out. Drain in a colander for a few minutes and then store in the fridge. This should prolong their life quite significantly. It's a tiny bit of a pain but nothing compared to finding an expensive bunch of berries wearing fuzzy green coats just when you were all ready for one. Works for all kinds of berries. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

coconut mascarpone fruit dip



I generally like my fruit fresh and naked but I can make the odd exception. And this dip is it. Still fresh but not naked. In fact, the fruit is simply the vehicle to get the dip into my mouth. Fingers or spoons work too but that's kind of frowned on.... anyway, the dip improves the fruit and the fruit improves the dip. Kind of like the best friendships.

I know it looks like cream of wheat porridge! Don't be fooled - it is heavenly delicious. With my very meager camera skills I tried every way I could think of to show how amazing this is and finally decided that it was a task well beyond my ability. You'll just have to trust me and try it. It is so easy that it really isn't any kind of a risk - and the return on the risk is significant.

I was inspired (grand word but in this case a good one) by a dip a friend brought to a party. Wanting to make a version that Eden could enjoy (no refined sugar) I used honey, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and mascarpone seemed like a good choice over cream cheese. This is good as soon as it is whipped together. Leave it for a day in the fridge and the flavours do wonderful things together - again like best friends. I guess I should say if you don't like coconut give this a pass because it is richly coconutty but....... this may just change your mind in favour of coconut.

Serve with whatever fruit you fancy. My first taste was with an apple slice and I was hooked. It only got better from there. Best fruit/dip combination? Fresh pineapple - for sure!



coconut mascarpone fruit dip

1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup plain full fat Greek yogurt
1 cup unsweetened fine flake dried coconut
1/3 cup honey

Beat all the ingredients together until well mixed. 


Sunday, May 6, 2012

almond date quinoa salad


This is a sort of "gateway" recipe for quinoa - if you don't really think you like it, this may ease you into a new perspective. Packed with super nutrition (dates, celery, parsley, almonds, and yes quinoa). A little sweet. A bit salty. A lot yummy. A great packable lunch or easy to get along with side. Personally, I think a large bowlful is a perfectly fine light supper. 

Although this is not season-specific in any way when the first new chive shoots poke their heads up in my garden every spring it is one of the first recipes I think of making.

almond date quinoa salad
(adapted from Salads to Go by Jean Pare)


2 1/4 cups water
1/4 tsp grey sea salt
1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped raw almonds
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley


Dressing:
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Combine water, salt and quinoa in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the pan on the burner, covered, for another 10 minutes. Remove from burner, lift the lid, and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.


Heat the 2 tsp olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook the celery and onion for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are softened. Add to quinoa, stir, and let cool. When cool add the dates, feta, almonds, chives, and parsley. 


Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa mixture. Toss until coated.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

I have lived in Tokyo, Osaka, Vancouver, and Calgary. I have travelled in Korea, Thailand, China, India, Cambodia, America, and the UK. But until last month I had never been to Mexico - unless one counts a reckless and terrifying drive over the border, through Tijuana, and gratefully back without even rolling down the windows. (And I don't count that - we had been warned....) Mazatlan was entirely wonderful. The weather was perfect and the pace relaxed. I was with some of my very favourite people.


We shared the time with Daylan and Eden and their family. I felt absolutely intimidated (as always) to even carry a camera when Eden is around but it was also a good chance to learn, so I got over myself - or tried to - and aimed at something other than food. Nothing like what Eden shoots but still memories. In my mind the whole experience is drenched in colour - the light, the unabashedly and exuberantly painted buildings, the beautifully warm people, everything. Calgary seemed very taupe when we returned. 





The trip made a new store of memories to take out and savour whenever I wish. I love those treasures - they are sustaining when the days are not quite so bright. Family is not always a simple joy but it always, always worth every effort. For me. When I add up the checks and balances on that ledger, I realize how very rich I am. What a bank account!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

something to stop and think about:


"No one has ever loved anyone the way everyone wants to be loved." 
- Mignon McLaughlin 


As I have no control over how others love me but a reasonable degree of control over my own actions perhaps I can make a greater effort to love at least a few people the way that I want to be loved - with great tenderness, generosity, and tolerance. Or maybe what I should really aim for is to love them the way that they want to be loved. If I can only discern how that is....


update after my mind-clearing walk: I actually think that many are loved the way they want to be loved - we just have a hard time recognizing that we are. And really how do I want to be loved? I want to be seen and known for who I aspire to be as well as who I am now, the best parts of me. To be cherished despite my faults and quirks - maybe even for them. That's all. Honestly? I really believe I love my children this way. And honestly?  I believe David loves me this way (although I sometimes fail to see it). Am I blessed? Absolutely.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

olive oil almond orange cake with vanilla mascarpone



This cake was the blissful final course of our most recent family-gathering-Sunday-supper-noise-and-nonsense. Everyone was here - sadly an increasingly rare event - which means a lot of activity. Three toddlers, one infant, and three more eight and under plus, of course, the eight attendant adults.  The older cousins (Deacon, Aubrie and Jane) were excited to be re-united after several weeks and the weather was mild enough to invite them outdoors with the additional excitement of play with the next-door neighbours. Theo slipped off for a bit of "quiet time" in the office (we are still looking for a couple of items - lol), Ysa enjoyed her books and babies, while Kayden dashed madly from pillar to post to piano and back. The meal itself was a happy, busy, noisy affair - exactly the way I love it. But when this cake was cut and the first bites were taken .... it all stopped. All but the mmmmmmmmm's.

I expected the cake to be good from reading the recipe. I expected it to be interesting and flavourful. I didn't expect it to be a show-stopper. Every single one of us loved it and wished that there was more than a crumb left. Everyone but for Isaac - and he is too little yet to know what he is missing.

I made it again last night when we had dinner with a couple of good friends. Sunday I made it gluten-free, last night with regular wheat flour. I have to say that it was much better with the gluten-free whole grain flour mix I use. Regardless of dietary considerations from now on when I make this cake it will always be gluten-free. It was lighter and more moist - entirely better.

The cake is lovely but the topping? Divine! One lick and we knew that as devoted as we have been to cream cheese icing we are moving on. New love. Easy and refined-sugar free. Don't make the cake without it. The blueberries added the perfect little burst of sweet/tart.

Peace reigned for almost four minutes. Bliss.

olive oil almond orange cake with vanilla mascarpone
(adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark)

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp freshly grated orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9" springform pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer whisk together the eggs and honey. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture lightens and thickens slightly. Whisk in the vanilla, then the orange zest, and finally the orange juice. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and fold in by hand until thoroughly combined. The batter will be thin. No worries. Pour it into the prepared pan and bake until the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean - about 30 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then gently remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

vanilla mascarpone

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 cups mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp honey

Use the back of a knife to scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean halves. Add the seeds to the mascarpone and whisk until fluffy. Whisk in the honey. Serve generous dollops with the cake and lots of blueberries.