I think a responsible choice deserves a baked good. And I had to clean out the fridge anyway.

I think I mentioned awhile back that we have to move, which makes me a sad panda because I really like it here. Well, I did, at least, until the hallway light died and proved irreplaceable (for the lazy) and the faucet stopped stopping water from dripping all day and night. But it’s nice and cozy and we have a patio that looks out at trees and I liked that. So we picked a place, and it was on the high side of barely-within-budget and had a dishwasher and in-suite laundry and a pool but they wanted us to pay the rent on the 30th of each month and I haven’t had that kind of money on the day before payday in a very long time. In fact, I haven’t had money the day before payday in a very long time.

And there were other hidden surprises, and we could have taken it and made it work but we didn’t. Why do I feel so much better all of a sudden? Sigh. Of. Relief. So, big girl making big choices that I am, I felt like I earned a baked good. Also, there were leftover yams.

This recipe is for Nick’s favourite baked good. I think I invented it, but who knows. I don’t Google stuff anymore because I feel entirely unoriginal and it always proves I’m not as smart as I think I am and there are enough opportunities for that in real life without having to search for it. It’s called “Yam Bread” because Nick named it. He’s a writer. Can you tell?

Yam Bread

(Makes one 9″x5″ loaf.)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup pureed yams (or sweet potatoes … or you could even use squash, if that’s what you had. Or, of course, pumpkin)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease a loaf pan. Note, if your loaf pans are smaller, just use two.

Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.

I dunno ... ingredients?Whisk together your yams, eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla, and then pour over the flour mixture, stirring to combine. This mixture is going to be dense, and it may seem unyielding. Don’t give up. You may want to take the electronic route and throw this all into a stand mixer – that’s okay too. I was just lazy and didn’t want to set mine up.

Stand-up spatula.Scrape the almost dough-like batter into your prepared pan, and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

As this bakes, it will smell exactly like pumpkin pie. The best part? When you eat it, it will TASTE exactly like pumpkin pie, only a million times better because there’s no soggy crust and you can put butter on it. Let cool on a wire rack once it comes out of the oven. It will be crisp and crunchy on the outside, and fluffy and pie-tasting in the middle.

Looks like loaf.And so, baking comes to the rescue again. And the blogosphere, actually, although I hate calling it that because it sounds scientific and science is not fun. I call it Blogdom, because it’s like there’s a kingdom and everything’s magical because you type your problems into it and people respond to you in ways you didn’t expect them to and then you don’t feel like the only one trudging bleakly into whatever sort of despair, and there are unicorns. So, thank you, bloggy friends. You guys are cool.

This little bit made the living room smell like autumn and craft fairs and nice old ladies.

I pretty much just like saying “Wellington.”

I mentioned something the other week about my life exploding. It does that, from time to time, and I’m not sure if it’s an outward explosion as much as it is the disaster in my own head leaking out like biowaste, but the long and the short of it is that I am terrible with money. Just awful. I have bills, but in the past I have moved often and forgotten to reroute my mail or forgot I had certain bills, only to remember them six, eight, ten months later when the shit has not only hit the fan but spattered and slapped me awake at midnight on a work night and when that happens I can’t sleep and start filling out Expressions of Interest online in the hope that I’ll qualify for a move to New Zealand.

I do. Qualify, that is. As a “skilled migrant,” imagine that!

I paid off my last credit card last week. Paid it off in full. The cards are gone, chopped to bits, and that chapter in my financial saga has closed. That chapter, but not the one where I owe the government for that education it funded and now wants me to pay for. It’s an unnerving thing to realize that your moderate success in paying off an aggressive strain of debt is worth only minor celebration, because there’s this other bill that you haven’t been paying attention to, and you don’t know what’s going to come of it.

I have an appointment on Saturday to talk about debt consolidation and being a responsible adult. And, it’s almost midnight, and I can’t help but log in to my account with Immigration New Zealand and look at my in-progress application and sigh. Running away isn’t going to solve anything, is it?

This thing is dogging me in my real life, and the stress of this and work and finding a new apartment is making me quite insufferable. I’m cranky at work. I’m fussy at home. I ruined the polenta yesterday. And I scraped the seeds out of a very hot pepper this evening, using my thumbnail, and every time I habitually pick at my bottom lip, I feel burning and then I tongue it and then my tongue burns too.

It’s at times like these when comfort food is oh-so-necessary. I love meatloaf. I also like the way the word “Wellington” sounds and feels to say. And it’s coldish out now – long sleeves and leggings weather. Sweaters and jeans weather, almost.

You’re probably a million times more responsible than I am, and surely your life never explodes. Hopefully yours doesn’t keep you up at night. But I am certain that at some point this winter, you are going to want to be cuddled, and if your version of Nick is also addicted to oppressively loud and rather gruesome first-person shooter games, you’re going to have to find love in food.

Fortunately, meatloaf wellington will love you right back. And it never charges.

Make the meatloaf the day before you want to make this. It will be a bijillion times better, though make sure it’s at room temperature before you wellington the thing. The meatloaf part of the recipe has been adapted from Fannie Farmer, though I’ve made it so many times that it’s morphed some, and is now an improved version. Not as good for you as Fannie’s, but I don’t think you visit here for your health.

Meatloaf Wellington

  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef (don’t use extra-lean – regular lean will be fine here. For moisture’s sake)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 4 slices of bacon

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of your ingredients except the bacon, and mush together with your hands. You want the ingredients to mix together, but you also want the meat to keep a bit of texture.

Press into a greased loaf pan, and top to cover with the four strips of bacon.


Peek-a-boo!I like to make sure there’s no sticking at the bottom of the pan, so I always cover the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes, and then pull out of the oven and let cool in the pan. Set aside, preferably overnight. Once again, it should be at room temperature for the next steps, so if you refrigerate the thing overnight, then take it out an hour or so beforehand to take off the chill.

Wellington part:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon or Bavarian mustard
  • 1 large sheet of puff pastry (enough to wrap a meatloaf … if the piece you have isn’t big enough, layer the second piece [there are always two to a package] so that the meatloaf is completely enveloped.)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Slice the onion into very thin strips and caramelize in the butter over medium heat until dark golden. This should take 20 to 30 minutes, and you will periodically need to deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of water.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your puff pastry to a size that will suit your meatloaf, and spread with the mustard. When the onions are ready, spread them out over the pastry as well. Be sure to leave plenty of room around the edges for folding and sealing the pastry.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place the meatloaf in the centre of the pastry, bacon-side down. Paint the edges of the pastry with a bit of egg, and wrap the pastry around the meatloaf as if you were folding the world’s meatiest present.

Turn over and rest on a baking sheet lined with parchment, seam-side down. Paint the top and sides of the wellington with the egg, sprinkle with salt, if you like, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden and puffed.


Perfection.Serve with gratin potatoes and garlicky mushrooms and the kind of wine that’s tasty but also affordable. You can think about other things, like New Zealand, tomorrow.



Meatload is not a typo. It’s a real thing, I swear. Well, it’s a real thing at my house, where I periodically have to unload the fridge and hide its contents in a meal that is tasty and that, itself, will make leftovers suitable for lunches at least two days into the future. It’s usually just meat, filler, and flavourings – I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes, stale bread soaked in milk, limp carrots and half a squishy zucchini grated. It’s always juicy, and it always makes excellent sandwiches. Wondering how to pass off the remnants of your fridge as quality food? Oh, so simple!

Meatload (an approximate recipe)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (if it’s all dried out and crappy because your Nick left it out on the counter overnight, all the better … you’re not going to use it for anything else anyway!)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot (about three carrots, or, whatever you have left over in the bag)
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini (or however much you have – I’ve found that more never hurts)
  • 1 small finely chopped onion (if you’re using a food processor to grate the other things, use it here too)
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. barbecue sauce (plus 1/4 cup if barbecuing)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsbp. chili powder

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Dump all your ingredients into a single bowl. Mash together with your hands until it’s thoroughly mixed together. Form a loaf that’s of equal thickness the whole way around. Place on a baking sheet and bake it, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes. 3o minutes? Oh, yes. The thing about meatload is that you finish it on the barbecue. Don’t have a barbecue? Sucks to be you. Cook it for 60 minutes then, but leave it uncovered, and periodically baste it with the pan juices.

Have a barbecue? Yay! Your life has meaning. Once the oven buzzer screeches, pull the ‘load out and let it rest for a few minutes. Light the barbecue, and transfer the whole meatload to the barbecue rack. I like to do this slightly away from the heat, because I don’t want to burn it before the inside is totally cooked. Give it another ten minutes on the barbecue, with the lid on.

Go back inside and get some sliced bread or buns. Bring them outside and set them up on the top rack of the barbecue so that they can toast and get all smokey while your meat cooks. At this point, before the meatload is completely done, paint it lightly on all sides with barbecue sauce. Give it another few minutes per side with the sauce.

Serve the meatload sliced on your delicious toasty bread with a little mayonnaise, grainy mustard, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, or whatever you’ve got in your crisper. Voilà! Easy tasty dinner, and lunch for the next day, in about an hour and using stuff you already have on hand.

White bread with sweet potato

One of my favourite things to do is to make bread. I live in something like 600 square feet, and to fill that small space with the smell of baking is very comforting – it’s like I live in a baked fog. It smells like a hug. And the kneading! Nothing beats kneading. I own a Kitchen Aid mixer and its bread hook attachment, but I can’t be bothered. Not for loaves. For anything else, but not bread – I live for the feeling of dough writhing in my hands.

Because I bake bread at home for the week and don’t own the kind of commercial preservatives that would keep my loaves sufficiently soft and supple, I cheat. I add vegetables, which serve a dual purpose – soft, fluffy loaves of bread for as long as the loaf will last, and fibre, which is presumably absent from the soft white flour I use so much of. But I’ve never felt all that guilty about eating refined carbohydrates. If obesity is what ultimately gets me, it will have beat out a lot of other, more uncomfortable things.

In any event, here’s the recipe for the bread I love toasting the most:

White Bread for Cheaters

(1 loaf)

  • 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato (about 1 medium-sized)
  • 1 1/2 cups water from boiled sweet potato, cooled to lukewarm (or the temperature you’d heat a baby’s bottle to)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. soft butter (or olive oil, depending on your mood)
  • 4 cups unbleached white flour, plus 1/4 cup for kneading
  • 2 tsp. sea salt (all salts are not created equally, but whatever you have on hand will do)

Combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foamy, 5-10 minutes.

Combine salt, flour, and mashed sweet potato. When the yeasty liquid has foamed up, mix it all together. Inhale deeply. It smells lovely.

Once you’ve got your ingredients together and a ball of dough has formed, dump the lot onto a floured surface. Knead the thing for 8-10 minutes. It seems like a long time, but it’s not – two songs, or two portions of a half-hour show, plus one commercial break. Don’t think about the time, just do it. If you’re pissed off, be rough. All the better.

When the dough is soft and elastic, form it back into a nice smooth ball, and drop it into a greased bowl or pot. I like to slather my pasta pot in butter and use that – it’s the right size, and it has a lid – I hate greasing plastic wrap. Cover the bowl or pot, using either greased plastic wrap, a damp towel, or an oiled pasta-pot lid. The wamer the room, the better. I live in a building filled with old people who prefer a tropical temperature, so I always have good bread-rising conditions. I also almost never wear pants.

Let rise in a warm room for 1 1/2 to three hours. Let the thing double in size. Then, smack it down, transfer to a greased baking pan, loaf or whatever you prefer, and let rise again, 1 1/2-two hours. An hour or so before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (I’m Canadian, and yet do not know how to measure things in metric. Also, I cannot tell time on an analog clock. School district #36 failed me.)

When the dough has risen above the pan, slide the whole thing in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.