Tag Archives: domestic goddess

Gingerbread Men (and Friends)

My nephew Hankenstein and I were tasked to make gingerbread men. I Googled a recipe (thank you Tate & Lyle http://www.lylesgoldensyrup.com/kitchen.php?recipe=35 , and assembled all the ingredients (to bake one must organise).


I pre-heated the oven (to bake one needs a hot oven), and we mixed all the ingredients together (well, Hankenstein poured and I mixed). Then I threw flour all over the countertop (much to H’s delight) and we proceeded to roll out the gingery dough. I got out the gingerbread man cookie cutter, but H felt some dinosaurs would add a unique touch. Then the other cookie cutters began, as if by magic, to appear — bells, Santas, stars, snowmen, holly… because, as H said, “The gingerbread men would be lonely without friends”.



H cut them all out and I spread them out onto the baking trays…


…and then we watched them turn golden brown in the oven.


A production line ensued, with the spicy, sugary smell of freshly baked gingerbread cookies filling the kitchen.


Then, it was the fun bit (or, really, the next phase of fun) — icing them! Well, to ice means for Auntie to decorate while H squirted icing into his mouth.


Then it was time to taste them. Because to bake gingerbread men (and their friends) means to eat them, fresh out of the oven.


If It’s Friday, It’s Cous Cous Day

Every Friday is cous cous day in Morocco. Forget about the spoonful of the nutty grain as an “accompaniment” to your main meal. No no no. Cous Cous is the big meal of the Moroccan week, eaten mid-day on Fridays either before or after a visit to the mosque.

Berber Angel let me help her last week while she prepared the big meal — and it does take some hours, believe me.

First, you take the meat or chicken with sliced onions, chopped tomatoes and spices — salt, pepper, powdered ginger, a smidgeon of saffron if you have it and a glug of olive oil and vegetable oil and put them on the hob in a large pot with a cover to cook on medium heat. After ten minutes add some water about 2 to 3 cups or so. Let it all simmer and sizzle and infuse into a lovely golden sauce.


Next, you peel and cut up the veg — red squash or pumpkin, marrow, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, parsnip, and zucchini. Put the carrots, parsnip and cabbage in the pot. Slice the carrots, parsnip and zucchini rather than chopping them into chunks. Don’t add the other veg yet — they’d just fall apart!



Now you get to the cous cous. You need a lot. A whole bag. Think big. You la’re feeding an army here. Pour it all into a really large bowl…


…with a bit of vegetable oil and water…


…give it a mix…



…and a good sift…


…and smooth it all out.


Then pour it into the top of the cous cous pot (or into a steamer on top of the pot of simmering meat and veg)…



…and cover it to let it steam.



Let the cous cous steam for about 10 minutes then pour it out into your large bowl and fluff it all up. Beware – it’s hot! It didn’t bother Berber Angel but I would have had to use spoons.


Time to put the potatoes, squash and zucchini into the pot of simmering meat and veg.


Put the cous cous back in the cous cous pot and set it over the simmering meat and veg for another 10 minutes, then pour it back into the bowl and fluff it up again, adding a dash of vegetable oil. Pour it back into the cous cous pot and let it steam another 10 minutes. No short cuts on this! Add some chopped up coriander to the meat pot for these last 10 minutes.

Go have a cup of tea. Then come back in 10 minutes and pour out the fat and fluffy cous cous into your serving dish or dishes.


Add the meat or chicken to the centre…

…and add the veg, arranged nicely around the meat to cover it up. Spoon the golden sauce over it all.


To eat it the Moroccan way, set the platter in the middle of a table and grab a spoon. Eat the cous cous first, then the veg, and finally the meat. Moroccans scoop the cous cous up in their fingers and roll it into a small ball and pop it into their mouths. Whenever I’ve tried this it’s ended in my lap to the great amusement of everyone. I eat with a fork and knife. Fewer cleaning bills that way. Eat what’s in front of you — the hostess divides the meat up amongst all the diners when you get to that point. Dig in!

Pancake Day

It’s Pancake Day! It’s Pancake Day! Oh, what a big deal this was in our house when I was growing up. Mom would get in a big tin of real Canadian maple syrup and all day long I’d dream about that stack of home-made pancakes at supper time. But Mom didn’t stop at the pancakes and maple syrup. No. No. No. All week she’d sterilize coins and buttons and her sewing thimble and her wedding ring, and even a piece of string. Then she’d line up all of us kids to toss the stuff into the pancake batter which she’d cook into lovely big circles of pancake.

The thing about all the coins and stuff was part of the fun — something she’d grown up doing in her parents’ house in Newfoundland. Once all the pancakes had been eaten, whoever had collected the most coins would be the richest, and whoever got the thimble would be a tailor or a seamstress, and whoever got the wedding ring would be married first.  I can’t remember what the string meant. Anyone out there know? There was fallout though — one year Dad bit down on a coin and broke a tooth, and poor Jamjarjude is still traumatized by the mere sight of pancakes after getting the piece of string caught in her teeth. Never mind. Most good things in life involve a little risk.

So, in honour of Pancake Day, I whipped up a batch of golden batter….from scratch mind you, none of this quickie boxed stuff….

pancakes 001

….and I cooked up a stellar stack of pancackes…

pancakes 003

….served with real 100% Canadian maple syrup and a dab of butter. No coins or thimbles or wedding rings or string this time. Just lots of happy memories and a very full stomach.

Happy Birthday Tootsie

It’s my youngest sister Tootsie’s birthday today. I won’t be seeing her this year — she’s the other side of the earth in snowbound England with her hubby Wineguy and son Hankenstein. I hear that her boys made her a carrot cake for her birthday which called to mind a carrot cake which has gone down in the annals of our family history.

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One day when we were all still living under one roof in Montreal, Tootsie decided to make a carrot cake for Sunday dessert. She found Mom’s favorite carrot cake recipe and duly sifted and creamed and stirred and poured out the batter into the cake tins and placed it all in the oven, properly pre-warmed, to bake. Finding that we were out of cream cheese for the icing, she walked down to the local shop which was about half an hour away, and when she returned she whipped up the most amazing cream cheese icing. When the cakes were baked she turned them out — perfect rounds they were too — and let them cool off on some racks.

After supper that night she brought the cake to the table — it was about 6 inches high and looked like a cake the angels might have made, the icing as light as a cloud. She gave Dad the knife to do the honours. He took the knife to the cake and it barely made a dent. He stood up and, holding the knife like King Arthur wielding Excalibur, thrust the knife at the centre of the cake which promptly flew off the plate and slid across the floor like a curling stone. My brother Carguy went over and picked up the cake and dropped it onto the counter, chipping a corner of the laminate.

“It’s as hard as concrete,” Carguy said.

“That shouldn’t happen,” Mom said. “The carrots make it really moist.”

“Uhhh,” Tootsie said. “We were out of carrots.”

“You made a carrot cake without the carrots?” Carguy said.

“Well, most cakes don’t have carrots. I thought it wouldn’t hurt.”

“We can scrape off the icing and eat that,” Jamjarjude suggested.

“Good idea,” Mom said.

And we all had cream cheese icing for dessert, scraped off the cake by Mom into little bowls like pudding.

And Tootsie learned that carrot cake really should have carrots.

tootsie's birthday 005

Dog Day Afternoon

Today I had to get the house ready for a client viewing. It had been awhile since I’d done a proper clean, so I windexed, and cloroxed and wiped and swept and vacuumed. I sweated and sneezed and clogged up the vacuum with dog hair. Ralphie disappeared.

When all around you is madness….

ralphie border collie

…the only thing to do is curl up on a comfy sofa….

ralphie border colllie 2

…and sleep.