Monday, August 16, 2010

If Wishes Were Horses, Then Beggars Would Ride, And Apple Cake With Sad Bowl #15

As I was going through the mental list of all the careers I've tried on for size, all the dreams, both youthful and current, ridiculous and plausible, I came across a dusty old memory, filed under the category "Warning: Blush-Inducing." So of course, I had to open it up.

It was a ritual of ours, my sister, mother and I, that every winter Olympics, we'd sit down and watch the ice dancing together after dinner. Watching with my mother was always a tense affair; she would get so entirely invested in the competitors' successes and failures, you could feel her holding her breath as they leaped backwards into their spins. Those few seconds before knowing whether they'd land those jumps or not were excruciating for her. And when they fell?

Ohmygod!" She'd verbally and physically clench. We would tease her for getting so vexed about the jumps. But she still did it, every single time.

Despite the mental toll my mother's exuberant dismay took on us, we were still bewitched by the athletic excellence we'd just seen. My sister and I would go to our rooms after the program ended and shut the doors. Both of us (and I'm sorry sister, but I'm taking you down with me) would be harbouring dreams of being one of those ice dancers with tight, sequined costumes, extreme, mask-like makeup and the kind of crazy that makes you think it's normal to do gymnastics on ice wearing the equivalent of butter knives strapped to each foot. The music would be playing in our fanciful imaginations, we'd be blinded by (make-believe) flashbulbs and the energy of the (non-existent) crowds and, caught in the moment, an attempt at a triple sow cow would be made next to our beds.

Sometimes, we'd land those (half-single sow cow) jumps. And sometimes... "CLANG!" We'd hit a limb or some extremity on the low-hanging Ikea metal lamps we had in the center of our rooms and the scarlett tidal wave of embarrassment would rush in almost immediately. Because I knew what she was doing and she knew what I was doing. Our clumsiness (and lack of ice rink, ice dancing talent or skill) had betrayed the private lunacy occurring in our heads and rooms.

Years later, my floaty, intangible wants are a bit more attainable, and with less chance of injury to my person and dignity. Things that once seemed too hard, like starting a food blog and blundering around with HTML code, are now real. I can find recipes, like the Plum Skillet Cake Only With Apples Instead, from Martha Stewart Living, and make them taste good. Here, try some for yourself:

And when I dream up a recipe based on what I have in the fridge, most times, it turns out the way I'd hoped, sometimes even better, like this corn, pepper and sausage version of Sad Bowl.

Cutting fresh corn off cobs and chopping a small pile of red and green peppers? Easy!

Frying it all in some olive oil with green onions, preparing a couple of spicy Italian sausages and cooking some whole wheat couscous to make it more filling - nothing to it. And topping it off with a maple vinaigrette that is sweetly spicy is practically child's play. The result? A delicious, if rather less than stunning (I added the peppers on top to pretty up the weird porridgey colour) meal:

The wonderful thing about getting older is that wishes can either be realized for the delusions that they are, or brought down to earth and made real. Whether my hair will ever look like I've brushed it or whether I'll ever be a working writer; whether I'll ever launch into my jewellery design business or whether I'll ever be free from the self-critical monster inside my head has yet to be seen. But I do know that wishful thinking is a luxury item anyone can and should afford. Those cobwebbed memories of childhood embarrassments are entirely worth revisiting, if only to remind you of a time when everything felt limitless and possible.

And I feel fairly certain, nay, positive, that if there had been an Olympic category for 'Synchronized Fake Ice Dancing In A Confined Space
While In Separate Rooms,' my sister and I would have brought home the gold. Or at least a bronze.

Plum Skillet Cake, From Martha Stewart Living, August 2010 Issue:

4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon (if using apples)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (if using apples)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (my addition)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 medium ripe plums, or you can use apples, berries, peaches, just about any fruit you like.


1. Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees F. Butter an 8" skillet or square cake pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Slice up your plums or apples and set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices if using. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed til pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.

3. Pour batter into prepared skillet or pan and smooth top with spatula. Fan the plum or apple slices on the top and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown and tester toothpick/knife comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Sad Bowl # 15:

2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 a red and green pepper, finely diced
2 cobs of fresh corn, shaved naked of their kernels
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 spicy Italian sausages
1 ripe avocado, cut into smallish cubes
Maple Vinaigrette (see below)


1. In a medium sized skillet, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the veggies, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and a hearty shake of fresh ground pepper and saute, stirring often, so they don't burn. Soften them, about 10 minutes.

2. In a separate pan, fry up the two sausages till well cooked. Slice them into half-moons and set aside.

3. Make whole wheat couscous, using about 1/2 cup dry to 1 cup of boiling water. Fluff with a fork and let cool a bit.

4. Assemble everything in a bowl and once it's all cooled down a bit, add the dressing and avocado, stir till well combined and eat immediately.

Maple Vinaigrette, inspired by Martha:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
a small pinch of cayenne, approx. 1/8 tsp
1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder

Directions: Assemble all ingredients in a small glass or jar and whisk till well combined. Taste and adjust ingredients to your taste.


  1. We all have did things like that as kids...I had a big imagination, so probably me more than most! Any dreams I had involving culinary excellence were dashed as soon as I was old enough to use a stove, and realize I have no cooking-sense whatsoever....But now that I am moving into my own place for school, sans-meal plan, I am going to have to learn some of the basics.
    If you ever feel like posting some absolutely idiot-proof recipes in the future, I will be your number-one facebook fan!

    -Cousin Peter

  2. goosebumps...and that is hard with all of this TO heat. Always keep wishing.
    xoxo M

    p.s. that cake looks so good, perfect with a cup of something hot.

  3. Peter, I tell you, I was a fishsticks and rice sort of gal for years; cooking isn't hard, there's just a bit of a learning curve. And anyways, what do you need cooking skills for? You're going to be a brilliant journalist! But till then, here's the absolute easiest, best brownies ever:

    Melissa, I'll make us the cake one Saturday afternoon and we'll have it with that cup of something hot! And thanks, as always, for the lovely words.

  4. They really are the best brownies ever! I crave your brownies, they are perfect!