Tuesday tidbits.

A co-worker recently recommended the book Stitches to Savor and the website (here) of a marvelous quilt-maker, expert embroiderer, and (as my colleague stated) “rock star” of the stitching world, Sue Spargo.  The book was written in 2015 and as the subtitle states, it is a “celebration of designs by Sue Spargo,” created from wool, embellishments of scraps of silk, velvet and other fabrics, beads, various threads and so on.  I was previously unfamiliar with Spargo’s work and to say that I was absolutely blown away by it is a massive understatement.  The photography in the book is utterly stunning as well, capturing the intricate detail of the motifs so perfectly that you can almost feel the textures. What an inspiring treat, and highly recommended if you can track it down at your local library.

I don’t know if any of you out there are soap makers (I’m not, but it’s on an unfathomably gigantic list of things that I want to pursue some day), but if you are or if you want to try something new, this recipe for Gardener’s Soap might be right up your alley.  When she lived in Calgary, I worked at the library with Margot, the owner and creator of Starfish Soap Company, and this is one of my favourite soaps that she makes. She is based out of Gabriola Island, in British Columbia.

My favourite recipe from last week?  These Chocolate Chip Blondies with Chocolate Ganache that I made for my hubby’s b-day.  The recipe is so easy you think it can’t possibly be accurate, but it is and the end result is decadent, sweet, and definitely special-occasion-worthy.  You could omit the ganache if it’s not someone’s birthday, I guess, but why not go big and bold? It’s chocolate, after all.

Have an amazing week!

Recipe: Lemon curd.


I can’t help it – like a zillion other people out there, I associate spring with the colour yellow and the flavours of fresh citrus.  Call it programming or just a craving for something refreshing and sunny and light after a grey winter spent mostly indoors…whatever it is, it’s had me in the kitchen making lemon curd.  Twice in the last few days, actually.  The first batch I made did not contain any egg whites and it had so much sugar in it my brain hurt after the first bite.

Lemon curd should taste like lemons…obviously.

So I changed a few things – the egg combo and the amount of sugar and the quantity of lemons.  Pretty much everything, really.  And I arrived at something that actually tasted like lemons, but not so zingy that you make weird faces while eating it. Unless you want to, that is.

So, here it is.  It’s really good enough to eat straight out of the pan, which I may have done shamelessly did.  You could also slather it on a cake or some cookies, or freeze it so you can eat it on some nebulous future midnight when you can’t sleep.  (It’s good for up to two months in the freezer).

Lemon Curd (the not-too-sweet-tastes-like-lemons version)

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 small Meyer lemons, juiced (you could use 3 regular lemons instead)

2 to 3 tbsp unsalted butter

Prepare a double boiler.  Place eggs, egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and whisk until smooth.  Place the smaller pan into the double boiler and simmer at medium-low heat.  Frequently whisk the contents.  Don’t leave the kitchen for about ten minutes – the curd sets up all of a sudden and you don’t want to miss it when it does.  When the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove the saucepan from the double boiler and stir in the butter until it is completely melted.  Set the curd aside to cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, then it’s ready to eat.  This recipe makes about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.


Do you have any recipes you particularly love to make in the spring?

Holiday Plants: Cranberries (and a recipe for Cranberry Fudge!)

Highbush cranberry

V. trilobum – nope, not this one!

Not to be confused with the pictured cranberry, Viburnum trilobum (high bush cranberry), which makes a fantastic jelly but grows on compact shrubs, or the ornamental V. opulus and other Viburnum species and cultivars which are gorgeous but not edible, the cranberry we associate with holiday feasting in Canada and the United States is the totally unrelated Vaccinium macrocarpon.  (The viburnums are actually kin to elderberries and are not true cranberries).  V. macrocarpon is native to North America.  The vines grow in marshy areas, and commercial cranberry fields are flooded during harvest times, to make it easier for growers to gather the fruit.  (I found a good video showing the process here).

Viburnum snowball - 16 June 2012

Nor this one…V. opulus

When British colonists first came to America, the First Nations peoples educated them about the value of “craneberries” (called Sassamanash by the Algonquin and Ibimi by the Wampnanoag), which had been used for centuries for dye and fibre, and for food and medicine.  The colonists quickly recognized that the berries were good for staving off scurvy, so they became a staple on board trading vessels of the time.  The berries also became massively popular as a culinary delight in England, and commanded top dollar as an export. Apparently, cranberries could appease grumpy kings, as well:  in 1677, they were sent to Charles II when he became overly fussy about the colonists minting their own currency.  If only international politics were so manageable nowadays!

In 2007, 79,163 metric tonnes of cranberries were harvested in Canada (primarily from operations in British Columbia and Quebec), which translated to $44.3 million in exports and $17.2 million in imports.  That’s a lot of cranberry sauce!

This recipe for cranberry fudge is a holiday staple at my workplace, as one of our former managers still pops by every Christmas with a huge plate for all of us to share.  Even if you’re totally cratered by sugar at this juncture in the holiday season, bookmark this one for next year’s cookie plates…you’ll love both the taste and how easy it is to make.

Cranberry Fudge

Metric conversion table

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup icing (powdered) sugar

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 oz dried cranberries

Prepare an 8″ square pan by lining it with plastic wrap or baking parchment.

Combine chocolate chips and syrup in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high until melted and smooth.  (Keep checking it so you don’t overheat it.  The wattage varies depending on what model of microwave you have, so I haven’t listed a specific time here).  If you don’t wish to use the microwave, you can do this step in a small saucepan over low heat on the stovetop.

Remove the chocolate and syrup mixture from the heat. Add icing sugar, evaporated milk, and vanilla.  Stir until mixture is shiny.  Add dried cranberries and combine well.  Pour into prepared pan and tap the bottom of the pan gently on the countertop to level the mixture.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.  Cut into small squares and serve.

What are your favourite cranberry recipes? 

Further Reading:  Decking the Halls: The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants by Linda Allen (2000, Willow Creek Press, Wisconsin)

Source: Crop Profile for Cranberry in Canada, prepared by Pesticide Risk Reduction Program, Pest Management Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, September 2007

Book Brief: Holiday Cookies and Other Festive Treats.

Okay – let’s talk holiday baking! Cookie exchanges, gifts from the kitchen, and treats for yourself and your family and friends and co-workers – is baking a big part of your holiday traditions? What recipes are your standbys, and which ones are you trying for the first time this year? Is there a special meaning behind your very favourite recipes? Feel free to put up any links to posts (past and present) about what you like to create in the kitchen at this time of year…I’d love to hear about it! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

The Door is Ajar


Holiday Cookies and Other Festive Treats – Linda Collister (2008, Ryland Peters & Small, London, New York)

If you’re planning to give cookies or other treats as gifts this holiday season (or hogging them all to yourself), this is the book for you.   The photographs are beautiful, the layout is organized and clean, and the recipes are designed for home bakers and seem very accessible.  Of course, I may not DECORATE the cookies as wonderfully as the photos show…I mean, if you get a box of cookies from me that look like they have big, strangely coloured icing blobs on them instead of delicate filigree stars or snowflakes, please don’t be offended – it’s not the fault of the author.  It’s all me.  But I’m sure they’ll still taste pretty darn good.

RECIPES I’M MAKING PRONTO:  Swedish Pepper Cookies, Gingerbread Mini-Muffins, Chocolate Brioches, and Pistachio Sables.  There’s also a recipe…

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Haskap blooms and a recipe for haskap berry crisp.


The haskap (edible blue honeysuckle, honeyberry) is blooming at the community garden – and the bees couldn’t be happier!

Haskap bloom - BCG - 22 May 2014

 Apparently, they were so happy they couldn’t stay in one place long enough for me to capture at least one with a clear photo, so my pic is bee-less. 

While rummaging around in the freezer the other day I came across a bag of frozen haskap berries I had somehow forgotten about.  (You might recall that my hubby and I went out and picked haskap berries at a u-pick farm last July – you can see photos of the berries and shrubs here).  I couldn’t have such treasure just sitting there any longer, so I took them out and made a crisp.  Haskap berries freeze beautifully and they really don’t lose any of that wonderful tangy freshness (they taste sort of like a combination of raspberries and blueberries).  If you ever get a chance to try them, don’t hesitate – I have a feeling you’ll be an instant fan.

Here is the crisp recipe – if you don’t have haskap berries, use blueberries.  Better still, use wild blueberries.  YUM!


Haskap Berry Pear Crisp  

(Measurement converter here!)


2 cups haskap berries, fresh or frozen and thawed

2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, sliced into small chunks

1 tbsp. cornstarch

4 tbsp. granulated sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon


1 1/4 cup oatmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

12 tbsp. unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter a 9″ casserole dish.  In a bowl, mix haskap berries, pears, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon.  Pour into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish.

In another bowl, mix the oatmeal, whole wheat flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Add the butter and mix with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly and coarse.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit base in the casserole dish, covering it completely.

Bake for 45 minutes until the top is bubbly and golden brown.  Remove and cool slightly.  You can serve this either warm or cold.  While I didn’t add anything, a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream would be amazing!

Have you ever eaten haskap berries?  Do you grow them or blueberries in your garden?


Alberta Snapshot: Rainy day sunset.


Rainy sunset in Kananaskis


From the archives of my blog There is a Light: A rainy sunset in Kananaskis Country, May 2012.

It’s raining here this morning, but it’s nowhere near as picturesque as the photo above – rather, it’s one of those nasty ice rains that is predicted to turn into snow this afternoon.  I’ve been absolutely swamped with work and writing projects this week so the flowerbeds and my community garden plot are still in a state of Autumn 2013 neglect…and now, on my day off, I can’t get out there to do anything.  Oh well!  I think I’ll have another cup of tea and then go for a nap….

While I put the kettle on, I’ll leave you with a few topics I’ve been musing about:

Banff-based photographer Paul Zizka has a book out called Summits & Starlight:  The Canadian Rockies (2013, Rocky Mountain Books, Alberta), with some absolutely breathtaking and unique shots of the mountains next door…I finally had a chance to go through the book and I was just astonished at the places he has visited and captured.  Check out his gallery to see what I mean – these aren’t your average roadside pics of giant rocks.

I’ve been seriously considering the idea of creating a sourdough starter…this would be my first crack at it and so any tips you bread-makers out there have would be massively appreciated!  The clincher is that I have a huge amount of red fife flour in the freezer, so I want to make my starter from that, not regular all-purpose white flour.  I found a book at work called Baking Sourdough Bread (by Göran Söderin and George Strachal, 2014 Skyhorse Publishing, Sweden) that looks like it may be able to offer up some assistance, so we’ll see how it goes.  I don’t know when I will embark on this new venture…I am in research mode right now.  🙂

Speaking of food, The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, The Calgary Stampede, has announced its midway food offerings for this year – I don’t know if scorpion pizza will have universal appeal, but poutine with perogies sure has my vote.  Peruse the madness here (and let me know in the comments what grosses you out the most…or what you’d willingly sample).

Have a wonderful weekend! 


Recipes: Rhubarb-Strawberry-Honey Lemonade and Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler.



This is a good year for rhubarb here in Calgary:  we’ve gotten plenty of moisture and the temperatures have been relatively cool so far.  I don’t grow rhubarb myself, but there is a plant at the community garden where I rent a plot.  Because there are 27 plotholders, one rhubarb plant doesn’t go very far, so out of fairness, a system of rationing has been implemented.   Late last week I picked my allowance, and mulled over how best to use it.  My go-to rhubarb recipe has always been a rhubarb cake from the Purity Cookbook (you can see a modified version of this recipe on my blog Blooms and Spoons, over at Grit.com), but this time I was looking for something a little different.  I had a refreshing drink in mind, but I seem to have misplaced my recipe for Rhubarb Fizz, and the ones I’ve found (so far) on the Internet aren’t the same. The organic lemons and strawberries I had in the fridge finally clinched it for me.  Here is what I made:

Rhubarb-Strawberry-Honey Lemonade

4 stalks rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1″ chunks

1/3 cup honey

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped  (I wish my alpine strawberries were ready to pick now – I will have to make this again once they are!)

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 3 lemons

Bring water, rhubarb, honey, water, and lemon zest to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add strawberries, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, then strain liquid through a sieve into a glass pitcher.  Reserve fruit. *   Add lemon juice.  Serve chilled.  You can add a splash of carbonated water to this if you want it to be nice and fizzy!

*Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler

This is why you reserved the fruit from the Rhubarb-Strawberry-Honey Lemonade!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place rhubarb-strawberry fruit mixture in a medium saucepan.  Add 1/4 cup water and 3 tbsp. sugar.  Simmer on medium heat for ten minutes.  In the meantime, make the batter.

Mix together:

1 cup white flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3 tbsp. sugar

3 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Add in:

1/3 cup margarine or butter

Stir until mixture is crumbly.

Combine with

1 egg

1/2 cup milk.

Stir thoroughly.  The batter will be very sticky.

Place the hot fruit into a 9″ square glass baking dish and top with spoonfuls of batter.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Enjoy warm, with cream or ice cream!

(Recipe adapted from the Purity Cookbook:  The Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking).

Rhubarb strawberry cobbler

Do you like the taste of rhubarb?  What are your favourite rhubarb recipes?