Happy Pepero Day!

Pepero Day

A holiday that’s celebrated by eating long, skinny biscuits dipped in chocolate? I’m in!

Pepero Day is a Korean holiday that’s been celebrated on November 11 for the past 30 years or so — it’s a bit like Valentine’s Day in North America. It’s all about showing love for your significant other or your children or your friends. And if there was ever a week in which we needed a little extra love spread around, I think this is it.

And how do we spread love? With cookies. Specifically, Pepero (which are pretty much like the Pocky that I remember eating as a kid — but these are distinctly Korean).

Pepero

But, since Pepero aren’t vegan, we made our own. I used the recipe from Alien’s Day Out and they turned out really well. Adam and Leah had a blast drizzling (or in Adam’s case, dumping) melted chocolate on the cookies and they both decided that what our Pepero really needed was sprinkles. Ours definitely have that homemade, rustic look to them.

 

This was a super fun way to spend our afternoon — after observing Remembrance Day this morning. While Pepero Day is obviously a very commercialized holiday, particularly in contrast to the message of Lest We Forget, any excuse to show love and share chocolate-covered cookies is a good one.

Pepero

Soup’s On!

Butternut Squash Soup

Just as I’d decided that it was time for the slow cooker to stake a claim on some counter real estate, the temperature jumped up to 16°C today. Go figure.

I pushed on with today’s plans for soup, though, because a) I had all the necessary ingredients on hand and b) I’d promised the kids that we would have freshly baked bread with the soup (and the lure of bread is too much for them to resist — they’ll eat just about anything if it comes with bread fresh from the oven).

This Butternut Squash Soup recipe is a new family favourite — and super easy to put together — so I chopped up squash, onion, carrot, and apple first thing this morning, and enjoyed the delicious smell wafting out of the kitchen all morning.

And then, because bread baking is totally a life skill, I put Adam to work on mixing up the dough — he did a great job!

I got this recipe from my friend, Jeanine, and it certainly lives up to its name: Fast Bread, as it’s one of those I-need-bread-in-an-hour kind of recipes. While it doesn’t have the depth of flavour of some other loaves, it’s ability to go from just a thought to on the table in 60 minutes more than makes up for it. Adam was pretty into the whole process — until it came time to get his hands dirty and knead the dough. At that point he suggested that I take over.

Doughy Hands

Since I find kneading to be rather cathartic, I happily traded places with Adam, putting him in charge of washing all the dishes. I’m pretty sure I came out ahead in this deal.

Just 25 minutes later, we had these two beautiful boules ready for lunch.

Bread

We probably should have waited for the bread to cool a little before slicing into it, but hungry children (and adults!) just aren’t that patient. Besides, the soup was ready.

Butternut Squash Soup

Drizzled with a little extra coconut milk (and a smidge of hot sauce for Todd), this soup is pretty much autumn in a bowl. In fact, it was just what we all needed today as I looked out the front window to see that our tree has only a few leaves hanging on. Despite the warmer-than-seasonal temperatures this past week, fall is definitely in the air — and this soup (with bread!) hits the spot.

Hummus Is a Food Group

Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Hummus

I remember coming across the Hummus Is a Food Group sentiment a few years ago and I was struck by how true that seems to be — at least in my house. When I’m trying to put together an easy weekday lunch for the kids and me, I often try to include hummus (and then add veggies and pita or crackers to round out the meal).

While I love a good, basic, garlicky hummus, I’m by no means a purist. In fact, one of my favourite recipes is the Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Hummus from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. (And a few years ago, when our 10-year-old food processor died, my chief concern was my newfound lack of hummus-making ability. That situation was rectified immediately.)

Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Hummus

This is probably the kids’ favourite hummus option as well. It’s not garlicky or spicy — the roasted peppers elevate the taste a bit and the ground almonds change up the texture. Plus, it’s a pretty colour!

After much taste testing, Leah thinks hummus is best enjoyed with cucumber slices and Adam likes it slathered over pita triangles. Me? I’m happy eating it straight off the spoon!

Coffee + Cake = Deliciousness

Coffee Cake

Coffee cake is such a wonderful baked good — it’s pretty much the only way that I can reasonably justify eating cake in the morning.

Since my parents were visiting today, cake and coffee were on the menu. And while I love trying new recipes, sometimes it’s reassuring to have a familiar favourite that you can make with only half your brain focused on the task at hand. (The other half, you see, is busy sorting out math problems and diagramming sentences with the kids.)

So today’s cake is the East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch (p. 172), a recipe with a half-dozen variations that make for a slightly different cake each time I make it. My favourite option features frozen blueberries, but since I haven’t yet gone to Costco to replenish that supply, I decided to try the jam swirl variation instead.

Coffee Cake

Dollops of strawberry jam were swirled into the cake batter and then covered in a yummy crumb topping. What a decadent treat! Leah was worried that our coffee cake was going to be like the tea cake that Amelia Bedelia makes, full of actual coffee — she was quite relieved to learn that this cake was coffee-free.

Now that we’ve all had our fill of cake (well, I have, anyway — the kids are bottomless pits when it comes to baked goods), I’m happily perusing cookbooks with an eye towards new-to-me or bookmarked-but-never-made recipes.

Cookbooks and Coffee

Now that fall is in full swing, I’m drawn to soup and chili and everything warm and savoury. It’s time for the slow cooker to claim some space on the kitchen counter and maybe bake some bread. And perhaps make pierogis, something I haven’t done in years — but the thought of creamy mashed potatoes and caramelized onions sounds pretty good right about now!

When Life Gives You Bananas…

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It’s that time of year again: the Vegan Month of Food, more commonly referred to as VeganMoFo. I’ll be posting on weekdays about all the food that I cook, bake, eat, and love.

I had great plans for today to bake some cookies but then I saw these hanging out on my counter.

Bananas!

Yeah, these bananas were just about at the point where they would get up and walk away if they weren’t used immediately. And while I could have frozen them for smoothies, I figured Adam and Leah would be much happier with baked goods. So would I, to be honest.

First up were a family favourite: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins from Veganomicon (p. 228), a book which, nearly a decade later, remains the ultimate vegan cookbook. The original recipe actually makes banana bread (and the chocolate chips are optional) but muffins are decidedly more portable and they take less time to bake, which is a serious plus for the kids and me.

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Also, as far as I’m concerned, the chocolate chips are not optional. They are a requirement.

With three bananas down, I decided to bake a second batch of muffins this afternoon: Blissful Blueberry Banana Spelt Muffins from Oh She Glows. Unfortunately, while I had an endless supply of bananas, I only realized once I was mixing the batter that there were no blueberries in the freezer. Oops. And no raspberries either, which was my back-up plan.

There was a bag of frozen cranberries, however, so I used those instead. Not a bad choice, actually.

Cranberry Banana Muffins

The muffins don’t quite live up to their name now, erring slightly more on the side of tart than blissful. Oh well, they’re still pretty tasty and will certainly help wake up my tastebuds tomorrow morning when I enjoy one with a cup of coffee.

And now I’m left with two very ripe bananas. I think those will end up in the freezer to be blended into a smoothie later this week since I’m all muffined out for the moment and I still need to figure out dinner for tonight!

Happy VeganMoFo, everyone!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween 2016

Happy Halloween from Batgirl and the guy-who-was-on-the-fence-about-dressing-up-this-year-but-finally-decided-that-he-will-go-trick-or-treating-tonight-as-a-bank-robber. This age is tough, it seems. I bought him this shirt as a compromise (something to wear to Scouts in case he needed to dress up without looking like he was trying too hard) but I’m happy he will be going out this evening. And at least a bank robber costume is easy to pull together.

Happy Halloween

Leah is convinced that Batgirl is a very sad, lonely heroine, hence the moping. Seriously, trying to get her to crack a smile was quite the chore.

Even the lure of getting a head start on the Halloween candy failed to work.

And though you wouldn’t know it from these photos, Leah loves her costume. Since she already had a purple top and black leggings, all I needed to do was sew her cape (the Super Bat Cape pattern from OxeyeDaisey) and make her a mask (which I based on the Super Mask pattern from the same designer).

Eventually, Adam decided to get into character for tonight and hammed it up as a villain that Leah could catch. No jail for this guy, though. Batgirl and the bank robber hugged it out, instead.

Happy Halloween

I think my heart just melted a little. Happy Halloween, indeed!

Happy Halloween

October Socks: Longjohn Socks

Longjohn Socks

‘Tis the season for all things pumpkin-related, including, it turns out, socks! And since there’s only so much pumpkin a girl can eat, I’m happy to indulge my October-induced need for all things orange through knitting.

And don’t these socks just scream autumn leaves and pumpkin spice and crisp days? The colourway is called The Great Pumpkin and it’s basically everything I need in a pair of socks this month. Because I haven’t yet found another sock yarn I love as much as this, I once again cast on with Victory Sock from Knitted Wit.

Longjohn Socks

While the colour changes in this yarn are short and variable, I still like to avoid pooling whenever possible, so I used the Longjohn Sock pattern from Knitspot. These socks feature a great stitch pattern for breaking up colours without being fussy or difficult to memorize.

And they were fast! There’s something about a four-round repeat that makes me want to keep knitting, just so I can try to squeeze in another repeat done before turning to other things. Like dinner. Or laundry. Either of those can wait for a few more rounds.

Longjohn Socks

And thanks to those extra repeats I was able to sneak in, my socks-of-the-month are finished with 12 days to spare. Brilliant! This gives me a little extra time to work on the myriad other works-in-progress I’ve got tucked in project bags throughout the house before I dedicate myself to all the Christmas knitting come November.

Quynn: Leah’s Favourite Winter Hat

Quynn

One of these days I’m going to knit Leah a hat from a pattern that I haven’t knit before (I’ve got my eye on some of the offerings from Painted Woolly Toppers for Kids) — but that day is not today. When given the choice for this winter’s hat, she immediately gravitated toward Quynn. You know, the same hat that I’ve knit for the last three winters.

What can I say? The girl knows what she likes. And she does have pretty specific requirements that Quynn fulfills perfectly:

  1. Covers her forehead and ears without bunching up at the back of her neck or falling over her eyes;
  2. Stays in place while she’s playing; and
  3. Meets her definition of aesthetically pleasing.

No small order but this hat fits the bill. I love this colourway from Knitted Wit — I think it’s called Hydrangea and the slight tonal variations dreamy. Purple was Leah’s choice this year; she’s starting to edge ever-so-slightly toward more stereotypical “girl” colours. And while I am happy to knit up just about any colour hat, I can’t say I’m not pleased to be working with this stunning purple on delightfully squishy yarn (Worsted Super Wash Merino).

Quynn

This pixie-style hat is just the cutest — and I kind of wish that I could pull this off. Instead, I’ll just have to settle for knitting this pattern each year for Leah until she tires of it. I’m good with that.

The Winter Knitting Begins

Go-To Watch Cap

It’s that time of year again when the kids put in their requests for new winter accessories: we browse through patterns on Ravelry and I consult Lorajean (from Knitted Wit) on the perfect yarn bases and colours to order. Granted, it seems like a bit of a process for hats and cowls and mittens, but each year the kids are thrilled and I’m glad to have invested my time in items they’ll actually wear.

This winter, Adam’s yarn is Black Magic on Superwash Aran. I seriously love this colour. It’s rich and saturated and looks great with his black coat. Adam tried to talk me into black accessories but the thought of knitting with black yarn makes me a little crazy so we compromised on the burgundy.

This year’s hat pattern is the Go-To Watch Cap — and I think it definitely has potential to be one of those knit-every-year patterns. The hat features a double-layered brim, which neatly solves one of Adam’s frustrations with most hats: the brim slips down while he’s wearing the hat and doesn’t keep his ears sufficiently warm.

I’m glad I followed the helpful advice posted by another knitter on Ravelry that suggested increasing the length of the hat before beginning the decreases. If I’d knit to the pattern specifications it definitely would have been too short for Adam.

As it’s knit, though, this hat is just about perfect. Now it’s time to knit a cowl in the same colour before I cast on for Leah’s things. And this year I have lofty goals of knitting a hat/cowl/mitten set for myself. Knitted Wit is offering this incredible Story Teller kit (with a portion of proceeds directed to two very worthy charities: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and Support The Girls) and I’m keen for my package to arrive so I have a hope of getting my stuff knit before winter weather hits.

Of course, there’s also Christmas knitting to start… but I haven’t even begun to plan that yet. I’ve got plenty of time, right?

September Socks: Sparkles and Stripes

Sparkles and Stripes

Technically, I did manage to finish these socks in September, though just barely, as I was still weaving in numerous ends on Friday afternoon. I’m so glad to have this pair finished, as they are ridiculously comfortable and the little bit of sparkle makes me smile every time I look at them.

The yarn is Oscar Self Striping Sock from Canon Hand Dyes in the Mr. Wonka colourway — it was part of a fantastic club featuring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired yarn. Even better, the self-striping skeins were paired with a quarter-skein of coordinating yarn for solid toes and heels. I’m not usually drawn to sparkly yarn but several skeins have snuck into my stash lately.

I can’t get over the talent that Amy has for getting the stripes to match perfectly between the two socks. Seriously, even machine-dyed self-striping yarn can’t compete. Amy’s technique is that good. 

Sparkles and Stripes

I spent ages looking for a good heel that would both fit well and make use of the coordinating yarn. After a few false starts, I ended up going back to Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel, which I’ve knit a few times before. I have a love/hate relationship with this particular heel: it fits great and looks good with the stripes, but I find it incredibly fiddly to knit. Ugh. Between separating my socks onto separate needles and then having to rearrange the stitches on the needles, it’s a pain and I’m cranky by the time I actually start knitting the wedges that make up the heel.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that — despite the fiddliness — this was the right choice and I love the way they look and how they fit. Cat’s ingenious heel pattern eliminates all the issues of traditional short-row heels (most noticeably the fact that they make it nearly impossible to put on the socks if you have a high instep) and the pattern is easy to tweak to make your socks fit perfectly.

Sparkles and Stripes

Thankfully, this time I made detailed notes on my final heels so I’ll be able to replicate them the next time I knit striped socks without having to work through the math again. And since I have stashed away several skeins of Amy’s yarn, I might need those notes sooner rather than later!