Thirty-three.

Thirty-three years.

My big birthday request was a pound cake loaded with frosting from the Superstore, which I proceeded to eat for three days until new sugary products were available.

In between cake feedings, we also went to the Saint John Alehouse for supper.

And now I can say that I had random organ meat for my birthday – and it tasted delicious.

Almost as good as the cake.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/40a/63358722/files/2014/12/img_0009.jpg

Warm Caesar salad: grilled romaine, fried croutons, parm and lots of bacon.

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/40a/63358722/files/2014/12/img_0007.jpg

Confit duck hearts

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/40a/63358722/files/2014/12/img_0008.jpg

Kentucky fried sweetbreads with hot and cool dressings.

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/40a/63358722/files/2014/12/img_0010.jpg

Mussels in beer, garlic and pancetta

 

Making Lemonade

A post from the holidays! Well, when life hands you a pan of squares that just won’t cook up right, make cake balls!

The cake balls were completely one recipe: Marzipan Slice, posted in the picture below. These usually turn out great and were frequently a potluck or bake sale staple for Poppins.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/40a/63358722/files/2015/01/img_0222.jpg

When I made them for work, though, I tries cooking them in the morning before work and then ran out of time…

Running out of time to cook something new that night, I crumbled the cake and base, made the frosting and mixed with the cake until I had a “dough”. After making balls and freezing them until firm, I melted dark chocolate and white chocolate, flavoured with mint, and dipped the flash frozen cake balls in them. Decorated and served up for the work potluck. And it worked!

cakebl-1 cakebl-2

Tarts and the Vicar’s Wife

In the background, the Christmas tree softly glows. The dog is snoring at my feet, and the smell of freshly cooked mincemeat and lemon curd cooling – awaiting their tart shells – is gently pulling me back to the Christmas Eves’ at my grandmother’s house. Poppins had just moved into a two-bedroom uptown apartment on Charlotte St., next door to Trinity Church, and began the tradition of hosting a Christmas Eve spread for the family.

(Not quite this. Sweaters, yes. Turkey curry and awkward matchmaking, no.)

bridget_jones01

The church bells would chime in the background every quarter hour. We had already been to the family service, having heard the cold stone archways swell once again with joyous carols. The apartment, with low yet warm light, accommodated everyone into the tiny living room and around the buffet table that showed no cloth for the amount of dishes laid out before us: chocolate cheesecake, mincemeat tarts topped with pastry embellishments and dusted with icing sugar, lemon tarts, a Christmas cake covered in marzipan and topped with wooden figurines in some sort of a scene, cookies with those silver balls, sausage rolls, cheese and crackers of every variety. I know I’ve forgotten a few.

Everyone dressed up, everyone laughing, and all just a tiny bit excited for the next morning.

Those nights only happened for a few years. People moved provinces away. People divorced. People remarried. Change happens and traditions shift, taking on new colour and shape. And while I’ve always liked Christmas Day, I love Christmas Eve, mainly because of these few nights in particular.

Today I went to see Poppins, as she leaves in a few days for Ontario and the Christmas festivities awaiting her there. Even though I know she’ll have these waiting for her up there, we brought her a little selection box of treats to get her prepared.

Mincemeat Tarts
After consulting a few recipes, and using this one by Nigella as a base, I made my own recipe up this year.

  • Dissolve 1 c brown sugar in 120 ml of port on low heat in a large pot.
    the port.
  • Add 1 1/2 c of diced apples (Pink Lady) and stir for a few minutes.
  • Add dried fruit (20 oz raisins, 12 oz currants, 8 oz cranberries), spices (2t cinnamon, 1.5t ginger, 0.5t allspice, and 0.5t ground cloves), the juice and zest from two oranges, and 1 c mulled apple cider.
  • Bring to a boil then turn down heat on low to simmer for about 40 minutes, mashing up the fruit as it absorbs the liquid and gets softer.
  • Take off the heat and add 2t of vanilla and 50ml brandy. Fill pies, tarts or sterilized jars.

tart-3tart-5

Lemon Tarts
Lemon curd is easy to make, and this recipe by Ina Garten does a good job of giving a sweet yet tart filling.

tart-1

tart-2

tart-8

For both sets of tarts – I don’t own a tart pan, so I used store-bought pastry. Hard to come by, as it always sells out this time of year.

tart-6

Shortbreads
Poppins’ own recipe with three ingredients: 1 c butter, 1/2 c icing sugar, 2 c flour. She would always cut them into playing card symbols and top with a fat dot of icing and a red or green cherry. Roll to about 1/4 in think, poke holes with a fork to keep from puffing up, and bake for 8-10 minutes or until browned around the edges at 375C.

tart-4

tart-7

tart-9