Sunday, January 19, 2014

eat play (nap) love

Riley and I went for a walk in the woods the other day and as it was a mild, wintery day with a gentle breeze and sunlight that was almost warming, we found ourselves in a meditative mood. And, as we have just had our chakras aligned, we got talking about our innermost thoughts and dreams. Riley, being inclined to doggerel now and again, shared with me his most recent haikus. These latest ones are about his New Year’s resolutions.

 Master, teach your way.

Alas, we dogs are thumbless!

Sous Chef in next life.


A billion grass blades.

Who has been here before me?

I will sniff each one.

Local. Organic.

So many sticks to collect.

Canine gourmet snack.


Bed, your siren song.

No one said, “Get down from there!”

New personal best.


Kibble in my dish.

Scarfed it in thirty seconds.

New personal best.

Mom is cursing. Why?

Clumps of hair caught in vacuum.

Classic dog humor.


Puss! Don’t run away!

I want to be your dog pal!

Honest! No, really!


Squirrel! Don’t run away!

I want to be your dog pal!

Honest! No, really!


Cursed coat and boots!

Did that dog just laugh at me?

(Oh, but so warm and dry!)


Milk Bones. Beggin’ Strips.

I could lose a couple pounds.

Not really my fault.


Dad! You’re home! It’s you!

You were gone a whole minute!

It seems more like days!

Love, Riley

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Any Way You Slice It, OR, A Little Slice of Heaven

I added a new item to my holiday baking repertoire this year: Apricot Raspberry Bars. I tasted these bad boys at a pre-Christmas cookie exchange and just had to get the recipe. Luscious little morsels they were. A shortbread bottom layer pressed into a cake pan, slathered with Apricot preserves and dollops of raspberry jam, topped off with some of the shortbread mixture crumbled all over and finished off with sliced almonds. So yummy.

The Universal Cookie Classification system generally defines a baked good with a cookie-base, gooey-sweet filling and icing, crumble or glaze topping, as a “cookie bar.” Sometimes they are called “squares” due to the shape in which they are cut for serving. My mother, however, called them “slices.” This was the accepted term among the moms who made up the Harstone United Church of Canada Women, better known as the UCW. I still own the cookbook that mother’s UCW published in 1970 (illustrated by yours truly.) It has a whole chapter entitled, “Slices,” pages 39-50. This is how I know I’m not making this up. There was Apricot Slice, Pineapple Slice, Raisin Bars, Caramel Squares, Butterscotch Slice, Lemon Slice, Neapolitan Slice, Merry Banana Bars, and your ever popular “Hello Dolly” Slice and, of course, Hatzig Bars.

My mother was the undisputed Queen of Slices in her UCW circle. If there was a church tea to be held or a UCW meeting to attend, my Mum baked a slice. My family; that is, my Dad, my brother and I; weren’t often the lucky recipients of her baking specialty. If the slice was destined for a UCW event, once the slice hit that decorative china plate with the white lacey doily on top it would be redubbed, “Dainties,” and Mum meant for them to be presentable. She would cut the best squares starting from the middle of the pan, working outward, leaving the harder, dryer bits of burnt sugar and shortbread clinging to the walls of the cake pan. This is what we got – the crusts.

Although she excelled at most tasty treats with gooey fillings, mother never attempted the ultimate slice, the Nanaimo Bar. To my US readers: you may be unfamiliar with Nanaimo Bars. They are found all over Canada and are the subjects of confectionary lust. Women who bake Nanaimo Bars are held in high esteem. They are often regarded as the Sensei of Church Tea Bakers. There is some dispute about their origins, but the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia claims the bars as their own, hence the name. When I was a kid in Winnipeg, however, they were known as New York Slice and so I suspect that was their true birthplace. (Wikipedia implies this as well.) It surprised the heck out of me when we moved to Vancouver and everyone called them Nanaimos, but was willing to go along because there seemed something almost poetic about it, if you didn’t associate the bars too closely with their namesake city.

My description will not do them justice: the bottom crust is a rich, dark, melt-in-your-mouth combination of butter, sugar, graham wafer crumbs, coconut and chocolate; then comes a buttery, custardy, sweet icing layer and finally a dark glaze of melted semi-sweet chocolate. This, my friends, is heaven on a plate. If you ever get a chance to taste them, they will make you wish you had been born Canadian.


And, speaking of Canadian delicacies, the butter tart ranks up there at the top of the dessert pecking order as well. Flaky pie crust tart shells baked with a brown sugar, egg and butter filling replete with raisins.


Ah, but now it is January. It’s time to put the sweet excesses of the holidays behind us — because that’s actually where the calories ended up: on our behinds — and middles and upper arms, etc.  And so we say farewell to the Apricot Raspberry Bars, the Shortbread, the Fruitcake, the Molasses Cookies, the Chocolate Haystacks, and the Butter Tarts.  See you all next year – and maybe we’ll invite some Nanaimo Bars along to join the merriment!