Jedi Cat

Me: Well, hello little kitty. You’ve got a nice perch there. Can I pet you?

Jedi cat: The fence is empty.

Me: The fence is empty.

Jedi cat: You do not see me here in the sun.

Me: I do not see you here in the sun.

Jedi cat: You do not wish to pet me.

Me: I do not wish to pet you.

Jedi cat: You want to walk on past and bother a dog instead.

Me: I think I’ll walk on past and bother a dog instead.

Winter Roses

It was -3°C (27°F) yesterday morning, and only 8°C (46°F) in the house when I got up to light the fire. The days are short and often rainy. Nights are long. Towels in the bathroom never dry.

Sometimes it can feel miserable.

But over the weekend, I picked roses.

And I have to remind myself that at the winter solstice in Minnesota, I was hacking parsnips out of the frozen ground with a pickaxe, and months would go by without the temperature rising above freezing. The day my daughter was born, the noontime temperature was -31°C (-23°F). I used to teach snowshoeing. The winter we moved to New Zealand, the ground froze to 3 metres (10 ft) deep–froze people’s septic systems for months. Winter was real and deadly.

By contrast, I have not worn a winter coat since we moved here twelve years ago.

The lawn needs mowing year round.

I grow a winter garden (and the vegetables don’t freeze solid).

I pick roses.

Hard to complain about that.

Nostalgic Cookie Stars

Remember those Barnum’s animal crackers that came in the little box printed like a circus wagon and with a string handle?

When I was a kid, those were my favourites. Mum used to let us kids get a box when she did the weekly grocery shopping (no doubt a ploy to keep us quiet), and I can still remember trailing her through the store carrying my little box of cookies.

This week, I found a cookie recipe that evokes those animal crackers. From the most beautifully designed cookbook I’ve ever seen–The Gourmet Cookie Book–these Moravian White Christmas Cookies are stars.

The recipe makes a huge number of cookies, and the dough is not the easiest to work with. Make sure it is well chilled before rolling, roll it in small batches on a well-floured board, and give yourself plenty of time.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp sherry (I used brandy)

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat until light. Add eggs and continue to beat. Combine dry ingredients, and add them alternately with the sherry. Chill several hours.

Roll dough to 1/16 inch (seriously–the thinner the better) and cut with cookie cutters. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 450°F for 7 minutes (I found that the cookies burned at this temp/time combination–keep a close eye on them and pull them out when they begin to brown).


Giant Pumpkin

I made pumpkin soup for dinner yesterday. I chose to use a jumbo pink banana squash for it, because their flesh is quite moist–perfect for soup.

I like to bake my pumpkin when I use it for soup. I cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake the halves, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet. I tuck a few garlic cloves into the hollow under one half, and end up with beautifully roasted garlic for the soup.

The only problem is that the pink banana squash really are jumbo. I knew the largest one wouldn’t fit into the oven, so I chose the next largest one. I barely managed to squeeze both halves in together. For the soup, I used only one of the halves, and it made enough for two meals.

That’s some serious pumpkin!

A Bite of Summer for the (winter) Solstice

I’ve been celebrating the winter solstice in little ways all week–candles at dinner, an extra log on the fire, sunny-coloured food on dark plates…Yesterday I pulled out the last of the blackcurrants to make blackcurrant tarts for dessert.

I’d been saving them for a special occasion, and I thought the solstice was an appropriate one, since the blackcurrants were picked and frozen around the summer solstice.

Biting into one was like biting into a piece of summer–bright and sharp.

In case you missed my blackcurrant pie recipe from 2015, check it out here. It is incredibly simple, and oh-so good! In summer, it goes particularly well with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. In winter, I recommend a cup of strong coffee, some whipped cream, and a crackling fire.


Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year dawned as it should,
Night wrapped its cold wet embrace
over Earth,
reluctant to let go.


Cloud and Fog conspired
with Night,
spread out
between Sun and Earth,
a blindfold to Sun’s brilliance.

What will you give us, Sun?
What will you give us to go away?

Sun lit Fog to blinding yellow.

I will give you Fire

Fog swirled and churned.
Wisps curled into eddies,
turned pink and gold.

I am beautiful!

Enraptured, Fog did not see
He was being consumed.
Sun turned her eyes to cloud.

The same for you?

Cloud bowed and parted.
Day began at last.

Darkness Rises

Photo: Egres73, Wikimedia Commons

Darkness does not fall.
Instead, rises
from shadows grown long
in the evening sun.
Landscape darkens
before sky.
Dark fills up the hollows,
the valleys,
the chook house,
(where birds rustle their feathers
to let the dark settle in close).
Finally, deep night
Not too deep–
I can still see the stars.

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

I love burgers made from all sorts of things. At this time of year, most of our burgers are bean based, and most are made up as I go, with whatever’s in the house.

Bean burgers require some thinking ahead, but this recipe makes enough that it’s worth the extra work.

2 cups dry black beans
1 cup quinoa
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 carrot
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
handful fresh cilantro
2 eggs

Boil the beans ahead of time in plenty of water until soft. Drain and mash cooked beans in a large bowl (I use a potato masher for this). Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water until the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). Finely chop the onion and garlic. Sauté them in 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil until the onion is translucent. Grate the carrot.

Add all ingredients except the eggs to the mashed beans and stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Form into patties and place on a well oiled baking tray. Bake at 210°C (400°F) for about 25 minutes, flipping the burgers after 15 minutes.

Makes about 18 burgers. Freeze the leftovers for quick mid-week meals.