Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Baking Notes - Lemon Loaf with Blueberries and Olive Oil

Well, here it is. One of my favourite tea cake recipes altered to use olive oil instead of butter. Butter is so good in so many sweet, baked things, like pound cake and short bread, but what if you want something lighter? And maybe with more of a tangy, earthy quality? I hesitate to use the word 'earthy' because that's not quite right, but olive oil has a flavour that I can't quite put a word to... 'green' perhaps? 'mediterranean'? I don't know, but it's so uniquely delicious, I thought it might just work in something sweet with lemon and berries. I am quite delighted with how this turned out.

Olive Oil Lemon Berry Loaf Cake

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I used spelt) 
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large egg
2-3 tsp lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
1 1/2 cups mixed raspberries and blueberries, fresh or frozen
coarse sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or lightly grease and flour.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, olive oil, egg, lemon zest and vanilla extract until smooth and well-combined. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Quickly and carefully fold in berries. Pour batter into prepared pan and top generously with 1-2 tbsp coarse sugar.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Allow loaf to cool in the pan completely before removing it and slicing it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Life Notes - Olive Oil

I have discovered a miracle right there in my kitchen cupboard. May I introduce olive oil? It's so odd how we make connections that finally result in one of those lightbulb moments that have us slapping our foreheads in recognition. Why do they take so long to click, I have no clue. Anyway, there it is.

Let me explain:

Years ago when my children were babies, they had cradle cap, a sort of baby dandruff. As with a lot of infants, the top of their scalps were scaly and flakey and there didn't seem to be any relief in sight; I wasn't about to use any adult medicated shampoos and there didn't seem to be any baby dandruff shampoos either. And this being the early 90s there was no Dr. Google yet, so the usual resources were my parenting books and my paediatrician. And what did they suggest? to massage olive oil on the effected scalp area. I was a little sceptical but I did it anyway as it seemed harmless enough. Somehow the thought of using a food on your body instead of in it was off-putting. Ugh. I don't know, but olive oil has always been a salad dressing ingredient in my world, and the connection I made with that is the sticky bottle always needing to be wiped or washed to keep it clean. Without stopping to make the distinction between an inert glass bottle and live skin, I dismissed the remedy as some kind of weird voodoo and that there would obviously be the added burden of residue on the skin. Except there wasn't. A few days of this treatment and their scalps were as smooth and lovely as a baby's head ought to be. Huh. Well. It worked. We got on with our lives and my babies grew into healthy active kids and now into healthy, active and productive members of adult society. Their bothersome skin afflictions never returned and never crossed my mind again until this year when I, a newly hatched member of the middle aged 50 something cohort, started having skin issues of my own. Well not 'started' exactly, but became more pronounced. I've always had dry, sensitive skin so I am familiar with commercial moisturizers; I've tried them all, increasingly relying on the most natural kinds. Body Shop is my personal favourite, especially their Aloe Vera line of moisturizers for my face. I'm not plugging a brand here, it's just what works for me. But in recent months, the skin on my face has been particularly sensitive to any kind of stimulation, and don't even get me started about the outside elements. So, one day this past winter, after an exceptionally cold and windy day, I had skin that was painfully dry and flaky. I was so distraught because I knew that anything I rubbed into my skin would just add to the stimulation and send it reeling. But wait. Wasn't there something about olive oil that was supposed to be great for this kind of thing on babies? Flaky skin? Gentle? How this connection eluded me for so long is baffling. I really should have been hip to this remedy ever since I saw the results on my babies' heads all those years ago. And yet here I am.


I Googled olive oil for skin and lo and behold was swamped with results because apparently olive oil as a skin remedy has been a thing since biblical times. Well. After that fateful winter day when I had reached my tolerance for dry, irritated skin, I have a bottle ready at my bathroom sink for daily face and body moisturizing. It goes on light as a feather and absorbs happily into my skin leaving it smooth and soft and, well, happy. Why is this not mainstream? I don't get it. It's also a great makeup remover and cleanser. What a miracle.

I'm also working on some unconventional recipes with olive oil in my kitchen. Blueberry lemon loaf with olive oil anyone? Here's a hint: it's yummy.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Detail from an early 20th Century book cover design - Blackie & Son Ltd c1910

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Quiet reading area upstairs at Sister Srey Cafe
Siem Reap, Cambodia

As if the exotic location wasn't enough, here is a room full of papasan chairs, big windows and a bookshelf. I'm sure many a weary traveler - and local- has spent some delightful hours unwinding here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Joy of Walking

...summed up nicely by one of my favorite authors. At once erudite and irreverent, Bill Bryson's books are a delightful way to engage in some seriously fun reading as I did this weekend with a library copy of Road to Little Dribbling. I am also a big fan of walking, wandering, hiking, strolling, traipsing and searching my thesaurus ;) Isn't English fun?!