Mom’s Cinnamon Buns

Last week my brother and I spent a few days with my mom, helping her clear out things from the house she has lived in for 50 years. It was an emotional trip down memory lane, with many laughs and a few tears. My dad passed away seven years ago this month, and giving away his things was another step in letting go. I also said goodbye to the diapers, baby toys, infant Tylenol I had kept at mom’s – my babies are no longer babies. And there was also my own childhood toys and treasures.

Books were one of the few things that came home with me and in one of them I found a recipe card for these cinnamon buns – one of mom’s signature baked goods.

Mom seemed to make these weekly and would always double the batch, so she could bring some to a friend or her church. I remember watching them cool, their caramelized tops shiny and tempting. And running my finger around the bottom of the muffin tin afterwards to try to get up the last of the sugar.

I made them this weekend and they were just as I remembered – the sticky caramelized cinnamon sugar, the crunchy donut like exterior and the tender, flaky cinnamon centre. And my kids ate them just like we used to – all 12 disappeared in moments. Next time I’ll double the batch so I can share them, like mom always did.

Mom’s Cinnamon Buns

Caramelized top, crunchy outside and flaky, cinnamony sweetness inside. What else could you want? Some pecans and raisins? Ok – we can throw them in too. These whip up in a flash and are perfect to serve with coffee, brunch or as a dessert. They are made in 12 muffin cups, so technically should serve 12, but my family of five polishes them all off in a morning.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Servings 12 people

Ingredients
  

Filling

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans optional
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins optional

Biscuit

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking power
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or shortening cold
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit.
  • Grease 12 muffin cups.
  • In a small bowl mix the softened butter, cinnamon and sugar until well combined.
  • In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Grate the cold butter or shortening into the dry ingredients and lightly toss together.
  • Make a hole in the centre and add the milk. Stir just until combined to make a soft dough.
  • Put the dough on a lightly floured surface. Gently fold and knead about 10 times.
  • Roll into a 9" by 9" square 1/3" thick. Spread with the butter mixture. Sprinkle the pecans and currants over top if using.
  • Roll up jelly roll style and slice into 12 even slices. Put cut side down in muffin tins.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.
  • Remove from oven and quickly put on cooling rack, bottoms up. If desired, spoon more of the caramelized cinnamon sugar from the bottoms of the muffin tin on top. Delicious warm or cool.

Yaki Udon

When I lived in London, one of the first restaurants I ate at was Wagamama’s in Covent Garden. It was my first time trying Japanese noodles and the waiter recommended the Yaki Udon, one of their most popular dishes. From that day, Yaki Udon became my go-to dish. Whenever someone came to visit me from Canada I would take them to Wagamama’s and get them to try the Yaki Udon too.

In 2005, after four years of living in London it was time to head back to Canada. I looked online to see if there were any Wagamama locations springing up in Canada. None in Canada, one in Boston. Too far to satisfy my craving. A friend who had also developed the Wagamama love suggested we open a franchise in Canada. We contacted the head office and at that time they weren’t franchising in Canada. Boo!

Fortunately, by the time I returned to London for a visit in 2006 Wagamama had produced a cookbook which quickly made its way to my favourites.

Yaki Udon

One of my favourite places to eat when I was in London was Wagamama. I tried their Yaki Udon on my first visit and it became my most frequently order dish. This version is adapted from "The Wagamama Cookbook" and packed with vegetables and flavour. The first step of the recipe is making the curry oil. To make this quicker you could just buy a Singapore Noodle Paste, but the flavour won't be quite the same. The curry oil recipe makes enough for several meals. I put it into small containers and store it in the freezer.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Marinating 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Wok or large frying pan

Ingredients
  

Curry Oil

  • 2 leeks finely chopped, white and green
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric

Yaki Udon

  • 1 boneless chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 packages udon noodles individual size
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp curry oil recipe above
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 12 shrimp large
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 8 mushrooms sliced
  • 1 leek finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper sliced into thin sticks
  • 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts rinsed
  • 4 tbsp dried shallots or fried onions
  • 2 tbsp spicy fish powder
  • 2 tsp pickled ginger

Instructions
 

Curry Oil

  • Put all ingredients into a small pot. Cook over low heat for 1 hour stirring occasionally, unti vegetables are completely softened and mushy. Cool then strain, pressing against the solids to squeeze out the oil. Reserve the oil and discard the solids. To use in Yaki Udon, set aside four tbsp of oil and store the remainder in the freezer in tbsp servings (baby food containers are perfect for this).

Yaki Udon

  • Thinly slice the chicken breast.
  • In a small bowl mix the sake, soy sauce, mirin and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the chicken and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Cook the udon noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water and put into a large bowl
  • Beat the eggs, curry oil and soy sauce together and mix into noodles.
  • Heat the wok over medium heat until completely hot. Add in 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil. Add the chicken and any remaining marinade and stir fry until cooked, about 3 minutes. Once fully cooked add to the bowl of noodles.
  • Add the shrimp to the wok and stirfry until pink. Set aside.
  • Add another 2 tbsp of oil to the wok. Add the broccoli florets and stirfy for a minute. Add the mushrooms and stirfry for another minute. Add the red pepper and leeks and stir fry for another minute. Add the beansprouts and immediately add the bowl of egg covered noodles and chicken. Stirfry quickly until the egg is cooked and the noodles are hot.
  • Divide between four plates and top with three shrimp, fried onion, sprinkling of fish powder and pickled ginger.

Notes

The recipe for the curry oil will make enough for about six meals. Store in small containers in the freezer. 
The vegetables can  be switched to what ever you have on hand. The original Wagamama recipe uses shitake mushrooms, leeks, bean sprouts and red pepper. I like to oomph up my veggies with broccoli, carrots, snowpeas and carrots.
The original recipe also calls for Chikuwa, Japanese Fishcake. I left this out, but for more authentic Wagamama Yaki Udon slice into 1/4″ rounds and add it in.  
Keyword japanese, noodles, wagamama, yaki udon

This Yaki Udon recipe is based off the Yaki Udon recipe in “The wagamama cookbook”. It’s been eight years since I’ve been to London and had the authentic Wagamama version, but my memory tells me this one is pretty close.

Bouillabaisse with Orange and Fennel

An alternative to creamy seafood chowders, this brothy stew is packed with flavour and perfect for cold winter nights.

Although store bought fish stock is fine, fish stock is easy and inexpensive to make. I save lobster shells to make a big batch and then freeze it, making this meal deceptively easy to whip up.

The rouille can be made a day ahead ahead and the seafood combination switched up depending on what is fresh.

French Bouillabaisse with Orange and Fennel

An alternative to creamy seafood chowders, this brothy stew is packed with flavour and perfect for cold winter nights. The rouille can be made ahead. Fish stock is easy and inexpensive to make. I save lobster shells to make a big batch and then freeze it, making this meal deceptively easy to whip up.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

Boullabaisse

  • 3 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 large leek white and green parts sliced into half moons
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups fish stock
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 bulb fennel and fronds bulbs
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh dill or parsley roughly chopped
  • 2 inch strip of orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp peeled
  • 1/2 lb salmon
  • 1/2 lb haddock or other white fish
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 lb scallops
  • Crusty bread Sliced into 1/2 inch slices

Rouille

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp almonds
  • 2 tbsp fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil extra virgin

Instructions
 

Bouillabaisse

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and leek and cook until softened and translucent but not brown.
  • Add garlic and cook for a minute and then add fennel, fennel fronds, tomatoes, orange peel, saffron, thyme, and fish stock. Heat over medium high heat and once it begins to boil reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the salmon, haddock and shrimp and gently simmer until the shrimp are pink and the fish flakes easily.
  • While the fish cooks, pat the scallops dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Add the butter and the remain 1 tbsp olive oil to a large frying pan over medium high heat. Once it begins to smoke, add the scallops to the pan making sure they are spaced well apart. Cook for 1.5 minutes on each side. Pressing them against the pan with a spatula will help them to get a golden crust.
  • Ladle the boullaibaisse into bowls. Arrange the seared scallops over the top and sprinkle with the fresh dill or parsley. Serve piping hot with the crusty bread and rouille.

Rouille

  • To roast the red pepper – Preheat the over to 450 Fahrenheit.Cut the red pepper in half, remove the stem, seeds and membrane. Put cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 – 20 minutes until charred and collapsed. Transfer peppers to a bowl, cover with a plate and leave to steam for about 10 minutes, then peel off the skins.
  • Puree the roasted red pepper and all other ingredients except olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil to for a paste.
  • Toast both sides of each side of the bread under the boiler for a minute until brown and crisp. Spoon a little of the rouille on top and serve with the bouillabaisse.

Notes

To make this even quicker, make the Rouille a day in advance and stored in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge an hour before serving to allow it to come to room temperature. 
Keyword Fish, Seafood, Stew

Pear, Ginger and Dark Chocolate Muffins

Pear, Ginger and Dark Chocolate Muffins

corporaterebel
A delicious fall treat, the dense crumb is a cross between a scone and a cake. They are delicious warm, but keep their flavour and moisture into the next couple of days. This makes 12 large size muffins. Use 18 cups for a more modest sized muffin and check to see if done at 20 minutes. After they have fully cooled store in an airtight container.
Course Breakfast
Servings 12 muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 7 ounces butter softened (3/4 cup plus 2 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger grated
  • 2 pears chopped into small chunks
  • 1/3 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chips

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 325 F
  • Line a 12 muffin pan with paper liners
  • Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
  • In a stand mixer, combine the butter, brown sugar and white sugar at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about one minute.
  • Beat in the eggs until fully incorporated.
  • Reduce the speed to medium and add in the milk, vanilla and ginger.
  • On low speed add the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Don't over mix.
  • Gently fold in the pears and chocolate chips just until evenly distributed.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.
  • Bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Keyword Fall treats, Muffin, Pear
Print Recipe
Moroccan Curried Chickpea Bowl (Vegan)
Spicy chickpeas studded with plumped raisins, roasted honeyed sweet potato, served on a mound of couscous and topped with crunchy pistachios.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 C.
  2. Cover the sultanas/raisins/dried apricot in 1/2 cup of very hot (just boiled) water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Combine the cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne and salt with the honey and olive oil. Mix with the sweet potato chunks. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake in hot oven for 20 minutes, or until tender, flipping half way.
  4. Boil 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Add the salt and olive oil, then the couscous. Stir to combine, then cover the pot with the lid, remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. If using pistachios crush with a rolling pin or pestle and mortar. If using almonds toast lightly in a dry pan over medium heat, removing from the pan as soon as you start to see a light brown colour.
  6. Add the soaked sultanas/raisins/dried apricot to the chickpea filling. Heat to desired temperature in the microwave, on the stove or in a small ovenproof dish alongside the potatoes.
  7. To assemble: Mound the couscous in the bottom of the bowl. Surround with the sweet potatoes on one side, and the curried chickpea mixture on the other. Sprinkle with the nuts and cilantro if using.

Taking Stock

I received a call on Friday afternoon, the end of another intense work week. I was hoping to be a winner of the QE2 home lottery so I stepped out of my meeting to take it, rather than just letting it go to voicemail.

“Jennifer?” ask the female voice on the other end.

“Yes.”

“I’m calling form the NS breast Screening Clinic in follow-up to your mammogram last week. The radiologist wants you to come in for an ultrasound. He has an opening on October 21st.”

“Ok. I can do that.” I didn’t check my calendar. This would be a priority over everything els,e because of course, what’s going through my head is “They found something. I’ve got cancer”.

I jot down the logistics, time, place, note I need to arrive 15 minutes before, no deodorant.

As she says goodbye I blurt out. “Wait! Do you know where the issue is? What they want to look at?”

“I don’t have any other information. Everything will be forwarded to your doctor. Bye.”

Click. My hands are shaking, my head spinning.

My first thought is “My kids. What will happen if I’m sick or die. I don’t want to put them through that. I don’t want them to grow up with out a mother. “

My immediate next thought is “At least work will give me a less stressful job. Or I’ll go on sick leave and get to rest.” As I daydream about watching Netflix, making delicious meals, I recognize I am feeling relief. But whoa – that’s messed up.

After googling, I see that it’s common to be called back after a mammogram, especially your first one. And at 41 this was my first. Seldom does the outcome end of being a cancer diagnosis. More often it’s a blurry image, a cyst, thick breast tissue. Why couldn’t the woman that called me have framed her call in that way?

Nevertheless, I’m taking stock.

If I knew my body was growing cancer, would I have that ice cream, glass of wine, third coffee, red meat? Wouldn’t I make more time for exercise and sleep?Would I spend my time trying to keep up with a completely unrealistic workload, or finally make sure that Cole and Connor have a beautiful book of their first year of life, like Cohen does?

Mostly – what the f*&$ is up with the relief I felt cancer would give me from my job? That is crazy! It shows me that at my core, I’m behaving as though my job is out of my control.

This has something to do with the way my insides, my thought patterns are built. The way I respond internally to what’s happening externally. That’s tough stuff to change. But change it I must. I’m not waiting for a cancer diagnosis or other life crisis to change it for me. My life is now. My opportunity is now.