Vaccination is a choice. So is being well informed.

30 Jan

I see a lot of headlines in my Facebook newsfeed about the new measles pandemic. It’s usually paired with commentary about how “anti-vaxxers” are irresponsible, reckless and should bury their heads in shame.

We aren’t going to vaccinate our son and since none of my friends that know ask me about why we came to that decision (but surely want to know our reasoning), I’d like to share what lead me to this decision.

But first, some background on me. I have never been one to take anything at face value, especially from someone in a position of power or authority. From my days as an activist teen, I always asked WHY. And as an adult, and especially as a mother, I must know why. WHY *must* I vaccinate? Here are (what I think) are the main arguments for vaccination:

1. It will keep your child from contracting preventable, potentially life-threatening diseases

2. It’s your societal duty to ensure that there’s herd immunity for those that cannot be vaccinated

3. There’s a measles pandemic because people don’t vaccinate!

Those are the biggies, right? There are others, of course (“because my doctor told me to”), but I think these are the most prevalent.

Let’s face it, there is a LOT of misinformation out there. I made the mistake a year or so ago of publicly sharing an article about vaccinations from I was lambasted and it made me cower. I regretted giving clout to a source that didn’t deserve it but I was also taken aback by the instantaneous and vehement response from parent-friends and non-parents alike. I decided to keep my views to myself.

But those with strong views in favour of vaccination do not cower. They share their views widely on Facebook, Twitter, etc., as if they are so obviously right and sharing various junk journalism proves that.

I want to be clear here. It is a parent’s right to decide what’s best for their child. I hold no judgement against anyone that chooses to vaccinate and I expect the same respect.

But the problem is – no one wants to ask me about why we don’t vaccinate. I know they have opinions about it and I would love nothing more than an educated dialogue about our choices.

I’ve fallen down the research rabbit hole and have a huge cache of material that I need to put together. But for this post, I’m going to give you insight into how I read articles I see posted on my feed. People are so quick to rip down “quack anti-vaxx” articles as being inaccurate, but I can tell you with 100% certainty, it goes both ways. And I’m not talking about FOX News or The Sun.

I’m going to critique an article that recently showed up in my feed from a reputable magazine, The Atlantic: “The New Measles“.

First paragraph (bold emphasis is mine):

“Measles used to be an illness everyone got.

Before vaccination became widespread in the 1960s, pediatricians knew to check their patients’ throats for the spray of telltale spots. Scientists raced for decades to develop an effective vaccine. And in the meantime, newspapers printed matter-of-fact death tolls, tallying high numbers of deaths by measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, and other illnesses of the recent past.

Now, I had a look at those “death tolls” reporting “high number of deaths”. The article links to a newspaper clipping from the Salt Lake Tribune from 19 September 1909. There is a column called “Report on Contagious Diseases Prevalent In Utah At This Time”. The resolution isn’t great, but I zoomed in enough to transcribe the text:

“The health report covering the month of August for the the whole state of Utah was issued Saturday by the state board of health. It shows that out of a total population of 346,873 there were 300 deaths from all causes; 106 districts reported no deaths whatever during the month, out of 146 districts reporting: 73 districts were free from all contagious diseases. Concerning contagious diseases the report is as follows: Scarlet fever, cases 57, deaths 2; small pox, cases 101, no deaths; diphtheria and membranous croup, cases 37, deaths 2; typhoid fever, cases 108, deaths 2; whooping cough, cases 191, deaths 7; measles cases 16, no deaths; chicken pox, cases 17, no deaths; pneumonia, cases 24 (report incomplete), deaths 13; tuberculosis, cases 16 (reporting not complete), deaths 3.”

But I wonder how many other readers actually followed through on that link? Because I certainly don’t think that 16 cases of measles in the month of August in Utah with zero deaths justifies the phrasing “high numbers of death.” But that kind of language keeps eyeballs on pages, doesn’t it?

Measles is very contagious. Many, many children contracted it but the fatality rates are grossly misrepresented in much of the media’s reporting about it.

Now let’s take a look at the second paragraph in The Atlantic article (bold emphasis is my own):

People expected to get measles in those days, but they didn’t expect to survive. Measles killed some 2.6 million people each year before vaccination was widespread, according to the World Health Organization. Today, some 145,000 people die of measles each year—most of them because they lack access to the vaccine—and just a tiny fraction of them are in the United States, where the vaccine is readily available and widely used.”

There is so much wrong with this paragraph.

People didn’t expect to survive if they got measles in those days? According to the CDC, in 1920 “469,924 measles cases were reported, and 7575 patients died“. According to my calculator, the fatality rate with those figures is 1.6%. “Didn’t expect to survive” seems like a bit of an overstatement then, doesn’t it?

Here is a table from the Oxford Journal of Infectious Diseases that illustrates the measles death rate ratios in New York state from 1910-1969 (click the graph to see the source).

Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 9.55.05 PM

Next sentence in the same paragraph states: “Measles killed some 2.6 million people each year before vaccination was widespread, according to the World Health Organization.”

That seems like a really high number to me. Too high. I am still looking for where this “2.6 million” number came from. It’s very difficult to find official statistics before 1980 online.

Neither the CDC or the WHO has this information available. I was able to find a table documenting incidences of measles globally from 1980-2013 though:

You can’t download the table, so I exported it into an Excel spreadsheet so I could get a closer look at the numbers. Have a look: WHO_measles_1980-2013 (you’ll need Excel to view it and do the sums yourself).

If you can locate a reliable source of statistics that lists global fatality rates from measles from 1900-1980, please let me know!

And finally, the last part of that paragraph. It claims (like so many others) that “Today, some 145,000 people die of measles each year—most of them because they lack access to the vaccine—and just a tiny fraction of them are in the United States, where the vaccine is readily available and widely used.”

The thing is, people are dying of measles complications despite having been vaccinated. Here’s the summary of a study done in West Africa, “Effect of subclinical infection on maintaining immunity against measles in vaccinated children in West Africa” published in The Lancet:

“Clinical measles occurred in 20 (56%) of 36 unvaccinated children and in one (1%) of 87 vaccinated children. Subclinical measles occurred in 39 (45%) of 86 vaccinated children who were exposed to measles and in four (25%) of 16 unvaccinated children. The frequency was inversely related to pre-exposure antibody concentration (p<0·001 for trend) and directly related to intensity of exposure (p=0·002 for trend). Antibody concentrations in subclinical cases increased on average by 45-fold and remained raised for at least 6 months.”

Poor sanitation, malnourishment and living in an overcrowded population is the reality for the vast majority of the people suffering from measles complications. For those people, vaccination could be their only defense against diseases that shouldn’t be deadly in a healthy person.  The WHO states that 45% of all childhood deaths are linked to malnutrition.

Another study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, titled “Undernutrition as an underlying cause of child deaths associated with diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, and measles” found that:

“The RR (relative risk) of mortality because of low weight-for-age was elevated for each cause of death and for all-cause mortality. Overall, 52.5% of all deaths in young children were attributable to undernutrition, varying from 44.8% for deaths because of measles to 60.7% for deaths because of diarrhea.”

So, when we see these 6-digit figures of estimated measles fatalities, we need to consider other crucial factors like where these deaths occur and why. It’s not as simple as lacking a vaccination.

Last year, there were just over 280,000 reported cases of measles. So, if 145,000 people are dying from the measles each year (that’s 0.0024% of a 6 billion global population btw), are we expected to believe that the fatality rate is over 50%?!

The numbers just don’t add up. But then, that’s expected when the main source of “factual” information about measles comes from the CDC, who have well-documented ties to the pharmaceutical industry. But that’s a whole other blog post.

And I’m only on the first two paragraphs of the article. What I’ve talked about above is just a tiny fraction of the reason why we made our decision. I just want my friends to understand that OUR reason not to vaccinate was not an easy decision. It was researched.

This is Part One of the article critique. I didn’t think the first two paragraphs would give me so much material so will split it up.


Fun with Facebook Timeline

9 Feb

Because you can let your inner G0s-geekness shine:

Craft Crazy Sunday

29 Jan

Phew, what a productive Sunday I had today. I finally finished Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot (good, but nowhere near as memorable as Middlesex), baked a loaf of English muffin bread (it is gooooood), cleaned the flat, made cover for my new Kindle:

Handmade Kindle cover

Kindle all snug inside

I followed the instructions on Instructables and then added a few more bits and pieces to make it a bit prettier. I was admiring these  upcycled book covers on Etsy and thought I could save myself a bit of money by making one myself. So, instead of EUR 40+ for a cover, I spent EUR 15 and spent an hour making it.

Then I made a colourful display my vintage sunglasses:

A canvas, a ruler, paint, clothes pegs and a hot glue gun, voila!

We have a few canvases in the back of the closet collecting dust, so I took one out, measured off some rectangles, painted them and then hot-glued some clothes pegs to it. Voila, now I can take my vintage/oddball sunglasses collected over the years out of the shoebox.

And finally…I did something with all of those passport photos we’ve collected off our friends over the years:

The Wall of Fame

I used another canvas, painted it, covered it with a textured medium, stuck the photos on, and then nailed the canvas to the back of a frame that we bought on Queen’s Day four years ago (yes, it’s been sitting in the closet that long).

Voila, a great way to spend a freezing cold Sunday in Amsterdam.

I made this

20 Nov

I’m trying to bake off-recipe these days. Taking what I’ve learned over the past however many years and just trying stuff out. I went to a dinner party last week and wanted to bring a dessert. Something comforting (it’s cold here) and warm and seasonal. I didn’t have a lot of time…crumble? Or something a bit special?

I decided to make a crumble…er, tart? It’s base is a mix of toasted pecans and hazelnuts, chestnut flour, melted butter, rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I then filled it with a vanilla and mandarin infused custard and layered thin slices of pear and apple on top. Then, to be a fancy pants, I made a rose out of thinly sliced apples and placed it in the middle. And then to be extra fancy pants, I made a salted caramel sauce. And admittedly, I had to make a second batch because I melted the rubber spatula in the first batch. Woops.

Anyways, this is how it worked out:

Apple and Pear Crumble Tart

The verdict was that the tart was a success. It was gobbled up pretty quickly and I’m pretty happy that I can now bake and cook without a recipe and have it turn out, well, pretty damn tasty.

Last week I hosted a small brunch crew and made a pumpkin pie stuffed french toast. I don’t want to brag, but it was pretty EPIC.

Canadian Thanksgiving Feast – The Recipes

19 Oct

So, I recently made a guest-chef appearance at The Kitchen in Amsterdam and I’m pleased to say it was a huge success. It was a sold-out event and quite honestly, it couldn’t have been a better group. Half Canadians and half expats worked together in a fantastic kitchen for 3 hours and produced a phenomenal meal.

Here are the recipes:

A Canadian Thanksgiving Feast

So, as you all know, cooking a big meal like a Thanksgiving dinner is quite a lot of work. The key to avoiding a full-blown meltdown in the kitchen is organisation. Before I cook any big meal, I write out a “game plan” a few days in advance (and a week in advance for Christmas). The “game plan” includes a shopping list (categorized by food type/group so you don’t do circles around the market or grocery store), a prep list for anything that can be made in advance, and a timeline of your cooking day.

–The menu–

Canadian bacon canape
Pumpkin pie martini
Super-juicy turkey and gravy
Herb and onion bread stuffing
Perfect roast potatoes
Roasted garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes
Roasted butternut squash with nutmeg and goat cheese
Brussels sprouts in browned butter, chestnuts and pancetta
Green beans with lemon and almonds
Gran marnier cranberry sauce
Honey and thyme carrots
Pumpkin pie
Double-crust apple pie
Tarte au sucre

This menu is also a perfect Christmas feast.

I expanded the recipes for our purposes, but I will include recipes here that can be made for 4-6 people. The recipes for each dish are below the timeline. I am not indicating a time to prep and serve the canapes and martinis, you can serve them as you like!

A note on salt: I use Maldon’s Sea Salt because I think it is the best. You can now buy boxes of it at Albert Heijn. It elevates the flavour of food more than normal table salt or even normal sea salt.

The morning before you cook:

– Make the brine in a large, clean container and put the turkey (with the string removed) in it so it’s fully immersed. Cover it and keep in a cool place (outside in cold weather works just fine)
– Tear up the bread for the stuffing and spread this out on a cookie sheet so it dries fully
– Prep and roast and shell your chestnuts (if using fresh)
– Fry, drain and crumble your pancetta and keep covered in fridge
– Make your brown butter for the brussel sprouts and put in fridge

The afternoon before you cook:
– Prep all the veggies (except the potatoes) and put them in ziplock bags
– Make the cranberry sauce and keep covered in the fridge
– Make the pies (I wouldn’t make three for 4-6 people, I’d just make one: pumpkin)

The morning of:
11:00 –> Take the turkey out of its bath and leave it to drain over a rack placed over a sink. Let come to room temperature (one hour)
11:15 –> Prep your potatoes (peel the ones for the roasted ones and leave the skin on for the mashed ones…if doing both)
11:30 –> Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celcius
11:45 –> Melt the butter and maple syrup for the glaze
11:45 –> Quarter 2 large white onions and 4 large carrots and place in a roasting tin, place the turkey on top
12:00 –> Massage the turkey with sea salt and the butter/maple syrup glaze, tent the breasts with foil and put in the oven
12:30 –> Reduce oven temperature to 176 degrees Celcius
13:00 –> Fill a pot with cold water and lots of salt, add your potatoes and bring to the boil (use two pots if you’re doing both potatoes)
13:25–>  Check your potatoes, they should be fork-tender (if not, let cook a bit longer)
13:30 –> Drain your potatoes in a colander
13:30 –> Make the butter/onion/herb dressing for the stuffing, coat the bread, and wrap it all up in an aluminum foil package, squish it all together as tight as you can get, and put in oven
14:00 –> Cut open the foil of the stuffing parcel so the top is exposed and can get a bit crusty
14:00 –> Toast the almond slivers for the beans and set aside
14:10 –> Remove foil from breasts and turn oven back up to 220 to get the skin crispy on the turkey
14:10 –> Remove stuffing from oven
14:30 –> Remove turkey from oven (juice in leg joint should be clear) and let rest, covered with foil, for up to an hour
14:30 –> Get your butternut squash in a roasting pan, dot with butter pieces and grate some fresh nutmeg (lots) over top, and season well, put in oven (reduce to 190)
14:45 –> Toss your carrots in olive oil, honey and thyme and put in oven
15:00 –> Carefully lift the turkey onto a serving tray and put the roasting tin with all the juices on the hob to make the gravy
15:00 –> Boil the water for the brussell sprouts and beans
15:10 –> Put brussell sprouts in water
15:15 –> Take the potatoes for the roasties and bash them around in a pot so they’re “fluffy” on the outside
15:15 –> Heat up the goose fat until sizzling in a cast iron grill pan (be careful, wear sleeves if possible here)
15:18 –> Remove squash from oven, dot with goat cheese, put back in oven
15:18 –> Remove carrots from oven
15:20 –> Put beans in boiling water
15:20 –> Check sprouts, if tender, drain and toss in brown butter, chestnuts and pancetta and put under the grill for 3 minutes
15:20 –> Start frying up your roast potatoes and put on kitchen towel to drain
15:23 –> Remove brussel sprouts from under grill
15:23 –> Take butternut squash out of oven
15;25 –> Drain beans, toss in olive oil, lemon and almonds, season well,
15:25 –> Finish off your mash and put over a low flame to warm through
15:30 –> Plate up your roasties, strain your gravy into a serving dish, carve turkey, voila
15:35 –> EAT


Canadian bacon canape (makes 14)

2 slices Canadian/Peameal bacon, thinly sliced (recipe to cure your own is here)
1 small sweet potato, cut into thin (2-3mm) disks
70g stilton, crumbled
1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced into disks same size as potato
Maple syrup, to drizzle
Sunflower oil, for deep-frying


  • In deep pot, heat oil to 190 degrees Celcius and then add the sweet potato disks and fry until brown, turn halfway through, and drain on paper towel
  • Place apple on top of potato, then top with crumbled stilton, bacon strips and drizzle with maple syrup

Pumpkin Pie Martini (makes 4)


8 oz vanilla vodka
12 TB pumpkin puree
250g caster sugar
125ml water
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

  • First, make the pumpkin pie syrup by mixing the sugar and water and half of each of the spices and place in small pot, bring to boil, then simmer until you get a thick-ish syrup, set aside to cool
  • To make the martini, first ice the glasses, then rim each glass with the rest of the spices (put all spices on a plate and dip wet rim in)
  • Place pumpkin, syrup, vodka and ice in a shaker and shake, then strain into glasses

Spiced and Super-Juicy Roast Turkey (from Nigella Lawson)

6 litres of water
250 g sea salt
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (you can find these at the big spice shop on Albert Cuypstraat)
6 whole cloves
2 tablespoons allspice berries
6 star anise
2 tablespoons white mustard seeds
200 grams caster sugar
2 large white onions, quartered
1 thumbsized piece of ginger, cut into 6 slices
2 good glugs of maple syrup
4 tablespoons runny honey
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley and stalks, optional
1 orange, quartered
1 4-5kg turkey
75 grams butter, melted (for the glaze)
100ml maple syrup (for the glaze)


  • In a large, clean container, add the water, sugar and salt and stir until somewhat dissolved
  • Add rest of ingredients (except for last two listed ’cause that’s for the basting liquid), give a good stir, then lower in the turkey
  • Cover and put in cool place over night
  • Refer to timeline for rest of instructions

Awesome Gravy


400ml chicken stock
100ml white wine
2-4 TB corn flour/maizena


  • Take the roasting tin from the turkey and place over the hob on low to medium heat
  • Pour the wine into the pan to de-glaze it, using a spatula to pull off all the flavourful bits stuck on the bottom of the pan
  • Once wine has cooked off, carefully pour the content of the pan through a sieve into a medium saucepan
  • If you have time, leave to cool for a bit so you can spoon off fat from the top, if you don’t have time, you can remove a lot of fat when it’s still hot
  • Add as much stock as you need to to get the amount of gravy you need  and reduce over a low flame if you want to intensify the flavour
  • Once the flavour is good (check for seasoning), add a couple tablespoons of corn flour/maizena and whisk until it thickens
  • Serve piping hot

Onion and Herb Bread Stuffing

One loaf of white bread and 1/2 loaf of brown bread (unsliced), torn or cut into 2cm cubes
3 white onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped into 1cm slices
150g unsalted butter
250-400 ml chicken or veggie stock
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried thyme


  • Dry the cubed bread on a cookie sheet for at least 12 hours, or if you forgot, put in oven on low temperature until dried out
  • Melt butter in large pot, add onions, celery and herbs and cook until onions are translucent and then add stock
  • Add bread cubes to pot, add parsley, and then mix until everything is coated
  • Put bread in aluminum foil parcel, squish together
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes at 200 degrees celcius, open top of parcel for last 10 minutes

Perfect Roast Potatoes 

1 kg flour potatoes, peeled (King Edward or Maris Piper are particularly well-suited for this) and chopped into 3 inch chunks
100 g goosefat
Maldon’s sea salt


  • Place potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water, bring to boil
  • When potatoes are fork tender (apx. 20-25 min), drain and then transfer back to pot and bash around a bit
  • Heat goosefat in large roasting tin or cast-iron grill pan (wear sleeves or your arms will get burned) and using tongs, fry potatoes in fat until golden on all sides
  • Transfer to paper towel and sprinkle with the Maldon’s (or other nice sea salt)

Roasted garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes

1 kg floury potatoes (King Edward or Maris Piper are good), unpeeled, chopped in 3 inch chunks
1 whole head of garlic
80ml cream
70g unsalted butter
2 TB finely chopped rosemary
Truffle oil
Maldon’s sea salt & white pepper


  • Chop top of garlic off (just a bit) and pour some olive oil on top, a bit of Maldon’s and some pepper, wrap in foil and roast until soft (apx. 45 min in hot oven)
  • Place potatoes is salted cold water and bring to boil, cook until fork tender (apx 20-25 min), drain and mash in pot
  • Add cream, butter, rosemary to mash, squeeze soft garlic in, add seasonings and mix well (taste for seasoning)
  • Drizzle with truffle oil before serving

Roasted Butternut Squash with Nutmeg and Goat Cheese

1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed into 1-2 inch chunks
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp grated nutmeg
100g demi-sec goat cheese (somewhat dry and crumbly, not the soft kind)
Maldon’s and pepper


  • Place squash in a roasting tin and dot with all the butter and grate the nutmeg on top, season
  • Roast for apx. 45 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through
  • When soft, remove from oven and crumble over goat cheese, return to oven for 10 more minutes

Brussels sprouts in browned butter, chestnuts and pancetta


450g brussels sprouts
60 g unsalted butter, browned
200-250g vacuum packed chestnuts (or fresh if you can’t find them), roughly chopped
6 slices pancetta
Salt and pepper


  • First, brown your butter by melting it in a small saucepan and then simmering it until you see the colour turning and lots of small brown flecks. It’ll start smelling very, very good. Careful not to burn it!
  • Set the melted butter aside while you prep the brussels sprouts by pulling off the outer leaves, trimming off the bottom of the stalk and crossing a small “x” into the bottom with a paring knife
  • Bring a medium size pot of salted water to a rapid boil and boil sprouts for 4-5 minutes, then put in ice bath/cold water so you retain the colour
  • While sprouts are cooking, fry up pancetta until crispy and drain on kitchen paper
  • Drain the sprouts, and toss in the melted butter, chestnuts, and season with salt and pepper
  • Turn on the grill and place the sprouts underneath for 3-4 minutes until the edges of the sprouts start to brown
  • Remove from under grill, place in serving dish and crumble pancetta over top

Green beans with lemon and almonds

450 g green beans, trimmed (tops and tails removed), cut in half
100 g slivered almonds
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • First, toast your almonds in a frying pan for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Set aside.
  • Bring a medium pan of salted water to the boil and cook beans for 2-3 minutes MAX, plunge in cold water to retain colour
  • Drain beans, then toss in a good drizzle of olive oil, the lemon juice and the lemon zest, the almonds and the seasoning

Gran Marnier Cranberry Sauce


1 bag fresh cranberries
200 g caster sugar
80 ml Gran Marnier (or Cointreau)
115 ml water


  • Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until berries start to crack/pop
  • Remove from heat (it will thicken up) and voila, done

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie (by Bobby Flay)

Note: I have made many, many pumpkin pies and although I would never admit this to my Gramma Joan, this pie by American TV celeb-chef Bobby Flay is THE best one I’ve ever made. I urge you to make it! This recipe is good for one 25cm pie (a cm more or less won’t make a huge difference, anything more will).


–Cinnamon Crunch–
63g flour
25g oatmeal
110 light muscavado sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g unsalted butter, cold and cubed

200g graham crackers (available at Eichholtz expat food shop on Leidsestraat)
70 g unsalted butter, melted
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
165g dark muscavado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
50g caster sugar
2 TB molasses (available at expat shops)
370g pumpkin puree
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
240ml cream
118ml whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
25g unsalted butter, melted

–Maple Bourbon cream–
60 ml cream, very cold
1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
2 TB maple syrup
30 ml bourbon (or whisky or amaretto)


–Cinnamon Crunch–

  • Preheat oven to 175
  • Combine oats, flour, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse a FEW TIMES (*ahem, Rani and Grant*)
  • Add cold butter cubes and pulse a few more times (if you process too much, it’ll be a paste and you don’t want this) until you have a crumble
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper and pat mixture into a 12cm x 12cm (roughly) square
  • Bake for 15 minutes, cool, and then chop into small pieces (think: crumble topping)


  • Crush graham crackers in food processor, tip into a bowl and mix with melted butter and cinnamon
  • Push into the pie plate and bake for 12 minutes and let cool


  • Reduce oven to 150
  • Whisk eggs, yolks, sugars and molasses in a large bowl until smooth
  • Mix in pumpkin puree, spices and salt, then whisk in the cream, milk, vanilla
  • Pass mixture through a wire mesh sieve and then whisk in the melted butter
  • Pour over pie crust and bake until the filling is set, but jiggles a little bit in the middle (45-60 min)
  • Let cool for two hours

–Bourbon cream–

  • Whip the cream using a hand-mixer until thick and fluffy
  • Fold through the maple syrup, bourbon and vanilla

To serve, top each piece of pie with a good dollop of the cream and then a generous tablespoon or two of the cinnamon crunch. This pie is also aaaa-mazing for breakfast, straight from the fridge.

Double-crust Apple Pie


–Sour cream pastry–

313g white flour
1/2 tsp salt
114g cold butter, cubed
203g cold Crisco (or vegetable shortening), cubed
60ml ice cold water (apx)
43g cold sour cream


25g caster sugar
16g corn starch (Maizena)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
28g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1.5 kg crisp apples (Santanas work well, avoid Granny Smith and Red/Golden Delicious)



  • In large bowl, whisk flour with salt. Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter and Crisco until in fine crumbs with a few larger pieces.
  • In large measuring cup or jug, whisk water with sour cream. Drizzle over flour mixture, tossing briskly with fork and adding a little more water if necessary, until ragged dough forms.
  • Divide in half; press into 2 discs. Wrap; refrigerate until chilled, 30 minutes
  • After you’ve prepared your filling (below), roll out one disc to 3mm thick and then place in 23cm pie plate
  • Trim to leave 2cm overhang and fold excess over the edge of the pie plate
  • Once apples are in, whisk an egg yolk with a bit of water and brush it over the edge of pie crust
  • Add apples to plate, then roll out second disc to same 3mm thickness and place on top, pressing down along the edges lightly with a fork
  • Puncture the top of the pie a few times with the fork, brush with egg mixture again and sprinkle with sugar


  • Preheat oven to 230
  • Peel and core apples, cut into 5 mm thick slices and place in large bowl
  • In small bowl, mix sugar, cornstarch/Maizena, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
  • Add mix to apples and toss to coat
  • Bake in bottom third of oven for 10 minutes
  • Reduce to 180 and bake for another 65 minutes, let cool on rack

Jehane Benoît‘s Tarte au Sucre


102g Crisco
50ml boiling water
206g pastry/cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
330g dark brown sugar
30ml cream
20g butter, softened
50ml maple syrup


  • In a large bowl, beat the Crisco and the boiling water with a hand-mixer until creamy
  • In another large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt
  • Pour liquid mixture into the flour and mix until a soft ball of dough forms
  • Cover and chill in fridge for at least one hour
  • Roll out dough on a floured surface until 3mm or so thick, place in 20cm pie plate
  • Spread brown sugar over pie crust, then drizzle over maple syrup and the cream
  • Spread little dobs of butter over the top
  • Roll out strips with an excess dough and criss-cross over top of pie
  • Bake at 205 degrees for 35-40 minutes

Canadian Thanksgiving in Amsterdam – Look No Further!

28 Sep

As a Canadian expat in Amsterdam, I’ve never been shocked when non-Canadians are surprised to hear that yes, we too, also celebrate Thanksgiving.

And not only that, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October.

Everything else is pretty much the same, minus the tie-on to a weekend of manic pre-Christmas shopping and the horrific marshmallow-on-sweet-potato side dish (horrific).

For many Thanksgivings and Christmases here in Amsterdam, I’ve been hosting pretty epic dinners. I’ve taken all the Canadian favourites and melded them with my passion of food to create a SUPER THANKSGIVING FEAST. And this year, I’m super-thrilled to be working with The Kitchen as their “guest chef” for a special Canadian Thanksgiving event on Sunday, 9 October.

So, basically, a small group of food-lovers get together and we all cook a special Canadian Thanksgiving in The Kitchen’s AMAZING facility. We cook, we laugh, we learn, and then we drink and eat, and eat, and eat. I’m even curing bacon: peameal/Canadian bacon!

Space is super limited though, so be quick to register:

I’m Back and Here’s How My Garden Grew

6 Sep

Phew, my last post was in MAY people. Serious slacking, right? My spare time has been occupied in Nomzilla, on vacation in Canada, and finding ways to avoid this awful, awful Dutch summer weather. And I also turned 30 (more on that in another post). I was pleased that after 3 weeks away, the non-stop rain and lack of sun didn’t absolutely destroy my plants. In June, it looked as if the aphids and leaf miners had left my beets and rainbow shard in tatters, but they stuck it out and I’m happy to say I enjoyed some sauteed beet greens last night!

This is the third year I’ve grown fruit and veg on the balcony, and definitely the most successful. Here it is:

The little garden that could

I added the calle lillies and the violets to get a bit of colour in there. I’ve also got basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and mint. I’ve been eating fresh raspberries every morning for the past two weeks!

Rasberries love the rain!

And my super-strong beets have been my proudest achievement. The beets are small, but tasty. Quite honestly, I grew them for the beet greens because it’s my absolutely FAVOURITE veg ever. Steamed and then tossed in butter and balsamic = dreeeeeaaaamy.

Green goddess

This year, I grew my tomatoes upside down. Have you heard of this yet? It’s a great space saver. I got the idea because my Aunt Sharon did it a couple years ago and had success with it. You grow the plants from seed, and when they get their first true leaves (plant is maybe 10-15cm tall), you transplant them into a bucket with holes cut out in the bottom. It’s a two person job. One person has to hold the bucket up (once the plant’s root balls are placed upside down into the holes), and the other fills the bucket with soil. The benefit is that you don’t need to stake the plant, and the water goes straight to the roots. The plants have lots of little green cherry tomatoes waiting to ripen, if only that goddamn sun would shine. SIGH.

Lots of green tomatoes waiting for some sunshine

So, all in all, pretty successful balcony crop this year. Even on a tiny balcony, I can still enjoy produce that I’ve grown from seed, not too shabby at all! Next year, I’m going to see if I can get a long, deep trough or maybe some larger grow bags. I’m also going to plant some garlic…and hmmm, any other suggestions for small-scale growing? Let me know!

My Balcony Garden – Week 3

7 May

Er, in case you couldn’t discern from the title of this blog, I live in Amsterdam. If you’ve never visited, let me tell you that living space is at a premium. We live in a 55 square metre apartment on the first floor. We have a 4×1.5 metre balcony that (lucky for me) is south-facing.

As a Canadian gal, I grew up having a vegetable garden in our yard. It’s so satisfying to grow your own food from seed.

This is the fourth year that I’ve had a balcony garden. The weather obviously is the deciding factor on how my plants grow. Last year, it was gorgeous here until August, and then it rained non-stop. The lack of rain and no sun stunted (or ruined) my strawberries, peas, and carrots. The fail-safes (lettuces, tomatoes and herbs) were fine.

This year I’ve got: rainbow chard, cascading cherry tomatoes, beets, Asian lettuce mix, raspberries and herbs (cinnamon basil, regular basil, flat-leaf parsley and oregano).

Rainbow chard - a good choice for the balcony.

I don’t know how or why and I don’t want to question it too much but we’ve had one helluva spring. And by “helluva”, I mean, the entire month of April has been not only sunny, but extreme above-average temperatures for this time of year. Last year in mid-April I was wearing my winter jacket still. This year? It’s been 24-27 degrees. Unbelievable!

Here’s how the weather’s been on the balcony garden:

Maximising space on the balcony is always a challenge and a compromise. Not ALL plants can be grown in pots successfully. I’ve opted for easy growers (lettuces and herbs) in hanging grow bags (which I got at Hema if you’re in Amsterdam) and wall-mounted pots + larger pots for the beets, swiss chard and raspberries. When the tomatoes grow their first true leaves, I will transplant them into a large bucket, which will be modified so that the tomatoes grow upside down.

I’ll post more on that soon.

Getting Ready for Queen’s Day!

28 Apr

Queen’s Day is the biggest holiday in the Netherlands. It happens on 30 April every year and Amsterdam gets an influx of more than a million visitors in just that one day. The city centre shuts down, and residents across the city chalk out turf on the sidewalk to reserve the space for their mini yard-sale, bar, cookery stand, or whatever else their heart fancies.

Grant and I are doing our stand for the third year in a row. Last year it was cocktails, the year before it was cupcakes and cocktails, and this year, it’ll be the same.

Because I’ve got my cupcake company to promote now, we’re going all pro. I’ve been making signage:

Nomzilla's getting ready for her big day

And we’ve got our booze purchased for our delicious “Queen B” cocktails:

Tonight, I’m baking 24 royal wedding themed cupcakes for an order, then on Friday after work, I’m baking 160 chocolate, vanilla, and lemon cupcakes.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP – that’s a lot of work to do.

Celebrating Baby Axel with a Baby Brunch!

5 Apr

Two of our very dear friends and fellow Canadian expats here in Amsterdam recently had a beautiful baby boy. I wanted to host a little brunch for them while her lovely mother was in town, and luckily the weather last weekend cooperated.

On the brunch menu:

The Almighty Canadian Caesar (the ultimate brunch cocktail)
Roasted vegetable tart
Roasted and sugared grapefruit
Nikki’s awesome fruit salad (thanks Nikki!)
Homemade English muffins
Rhubarb and apple compote
Toasted rye with lemon creme fraiche and smoked salmon
Bacon and sausage
Torta Mimosa
Rotolo alle Nocciole

For those Amsterdam-dwelling expats that miss a freshly toasted English muffin slathered with butter, I implore you to make your own. It’s really easy and so satisfying. The recipe I used uses a food processor, but you can do this perfectly well without one. Instead of pulsing the yeast/sugar/water, just mix it and let it rest and just use a good ol’ wooden spoon to do the rest. Everything else stays the same. Check out: 2 Stews: English Muffins recipe

(I stupidly did not take any photos of my beautiful Italian cakes – duh.)

The brunch was really lovely and it was small enough (11 of us) to make for a very relaxed afternoon. Luckily the grey skies cleared and we were able to sit outside and eat. Oh, and did I mention the fantastic onesies we made for baby Axel?

One of us (oh, me) made a onesie dedicated to the greatest fake band on the planet, Surprise! Snow Leopard? Truck Stop.

Grant did a particularly well-crafted onesie:

It was a lovely afternoon, and boy do we love baby Axel!

Congratulations to Axel’s lovely parents, Rochelle and Maarten!