TEA WITH NANA

10 Mar

Tea with Nana | Julia Francesca

My little Nana was a four-foot-nothing sassy angel, so it was devastating to say the least when she slipped away suddenly last winter. We got the call a few hours before dawn, at the very cusp of the grandest snowfall of the year. By morning the city was blanketed and absolutely silent, which I like to think she somehow had something to do with.

A year later I finally unpacked some of her belongings, among them a set of treasured teacups. I wonder what laughs and gossip they’ve eavesdropped on over the decades, and whether they’ve encountered the kinds of Oolongs and herbal teas that fill my pantry…

What are your favourite family keepsakes?

RECIPE: COCONUT MEYER LEMON LOAF

7 Mar

Coconut Meyer Lemon Loaf Recipe | Julia Francesca

So, this recipe is amazing. Bright and flavourful meyer lemons combine perfectly with creamy coconut and warm honey to create the most perfectly decadent yet light treat. But I’m not going to take full credit, because it’s a mashup of my own improvisational skills, a great recipe from A Feast for the Eyes and a perfect idea for icing from Joyous Health. And true to style (read: I’m impatient), this is relatively quick, simple and easy to improvise on. Ready?

Coconut Meyer Leymon Loaf
Makes a small/medium-ish size loaf (that’s clear enough, yes?)

Ingredients:

For the Loaf:
→ 2 eggs
→ 1 cup milk of your choice (I used almond)
→ Splash of vanilla extract
→ Juice of 1 or 2 lemons (depending on how lemony you like it)
→ Zest of 1 big lemon
→ 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
→ 1/3 cup maple syrup
→ 2 cups flour of your choice
→ 1 cup shredded coconut
→ 2 teaspoons baking powder
→ Sprinkling of cinnamon
→ Pinchy pinch of salt
→ 1/2 cup poppy seeds (optional)
→ 1/2 slivered almonds (optional)

For the Icing:
→ 1 cup coconut butter
→ 1/3 cup honey
→ Juice of one lemon (or less, depending on your preference)

Directions:

→ Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

→ Whisk together eggs, milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, melted coconut oil and maple syrup.

→ In another bowl, mix together flour, coconut, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, poppy seeds and slivered almonds. Make a well in the centre and pour the wet ingredients in, mixing until smooth-ish. Avoid the urge to keep mixing!

→ Grab your baking dish and spread a little coconut oil around to keep things from sticking. Pour your mixture in and pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until you can poke it with a skewer and have it come out clean.

→ While the loaf cooks, toss your icing ingredients into a small bowl and whip until smooth. Set aside.

→ When the loaf is done, let it cool just slightly before carving out a big chunk and smearing it with icing. Enjoy with coffee or tea, and maybe even a sprinkling of fresh fruit of your choice.

What’s your favourite loaf recipe? Would you try this one?

RECIPE: CHEWY GRANOLA BARS

5 Mar

Chewy Granola Bar Recipe | Julia Francesca

Granola bars are awesome. You can pretty much throw together whatever you want, smoosh it all down, and provided it sticks together, voila – done. So much tastier and healthier than anything you can find on a shelf.

I made this recipe up on the spot after bookmarking several ideas and not knowing where to start. With a banana base and add-ons like chocolate, cinnamon and nuts, I almost forgot that I was making granola bars and not banana chocolate chip bread. Mmmmmm. Suffice to say, these are delicious, quick, easily adjustable AND they pack a decent health punch – containing good sources of protein, fiber and fats to keep you on your toes in between meals.

Chewy Granola Bar Recipe
Makes 6-8 regular sized bars

Ingredients:

→ 2 ripe bananas
→ 1 1/2 cups oats
→ 1 cup mixed goodies (I used almonds, cashews, sunflower & sesame seeds)
→ 3/4 cup shredded coconut
→ 1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces
→ A big dollop of nut butter (I used almond hazelnut butter)
→ A modest squeeze of honey or maple syrup
→ A good old sprinkling of cinnamon
→ 1 tsp vanilla extract
→ A pinch of salt

Directions:

→ Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

→ Get those bananers in a bowl and mash them up!

→ Toss the rest of the ingredients in with the bananers and mix it all up.

→ Scrape the mixture out into a ceramic baking dish and smoosh it down and around. Make sure it’s packed tightly. If you’re worried about things getting stuck, grease up that baking dish with some coconut oil first.

→ Bake for 15-30 minutes, depending on whether you prefer chewy or crispy. I was in the mood for chewy, so I took them out after 15 minutes. The smell of bananas, cinnamon and chocolate wafting out from the kitchen may have also had something to do with that.

→ Optional step: carve out a good hunk straight from the oven, smear with butter and enjoy.

→ Transfer to the fridge and let cool for at least an hour before cutting up.

And that’s it! This recipe was so easy and delicious, but I’m already thinking of ways to improve. Maybe cherries and slivered almonds next time? Or dark chocolate and peppermint? Or peanut butter and jam???

What’s in your perfect granola bar?

IT’S MARCH!

2 Mar

It's March | Julia Francesca

It’s March! Finally, the sun is starting to shine more, the days are getting longer, the promise of Spring is so close it’s nearly devastating.

This winter has been a hard one. Record breaking, ’round-the-clock cold snaps and a monumental lack of sunshine rendered me perpetually duvet-cloaked and Netflix-bound. Occasionally, I’d emerge to satisfy my unyielding cravings for pizza, sugar and cheese – sometimes all at once. My winter sadness chased me into every nook and cranny, my mind running amok with horrible thoughts (“Where did that scratch on my arm come from? Oh my god, I’m dying.”) I stopped planning for the future, assuming my body and mind were literally falling apart. I hunched away from my creative outlets, yielding to the relentless “bleh-ness” of the outside world. I cried. I bought distractions, like a $300 coat that makes me itchy whenever I wear it. I listened to Otis Redding for the wrong reasons.

But I did manage to do a few great things! I squeaked in an impressive amount of yoga, kettlebell and general fitness classes (when I wasn’t eating god forsaken amounts of chocolate.) I started rock climbing. I dusted off my sewing machine more than once. I made time for homemade dinners with good friends. I started experimenting with new and exciting ingredients and recipes. I fostered two wee cats rescued from a crazy cat lady who was hoarding 120 animals. All of this while slowly coaxing my stubbly legs out from under my duvet.

And now it’s March! So I’m saying FUCK IT to the last few miserable months, taking with me only the little bits of goodness I managed to cultivate. March is here, and the world is starting to slowly wake up – and I want to be present to watch.

What was your winter like? What are you going to make of your spring? I’d love to know.

VALENTINES

14 Feb

Valentines | Julia Francesca

Love and sweets.

MY BOYS

29 Dec

My Boys | Julia Francesca

Snowy afternoons with these guys are the best.

SEWING

7 Dec

Sewing | Julia Francesca

Sewing | Julia Francesca

Two steps forward, four steps back.

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