Category — From Ria

Chocolate…Spheres… 2

August 10, 2017

Have you noticed the proliferation of balls these days? (Ahem.)

Coconut bliss balls, pineapple balls, power balls. All these things are rolled into spheres and exude health and trendy seeds–and every time I pass by a counter with things on a square plate labeled ‘balls’, my mind goes immediately into the gutter. Yes. Sorry. I can’t help it.



Perhaps you are familiar with (or have been happy to forget) the South Park ditty of yore that did a lot to cement this toilet-thought tic of mine? If not, you may look it up. Or you may not. I won’t offer any more info. Regardless, I find I am now quite unable to keep a straight face when describing a rolled, sticky confection of dried fruits, nuts and other usually-wholesome ingredients. I just couldn’t title this post chocolate balls.

I’m a odd human, I know.



BUT! These…spheres…are very delicious! You should make them. Let’s now talk about how righteous they are with toasted walnut, deep cocoa, just enough maple syrup to keep them from being savoury and enough chew to satisfy the biggest chocolate fudge craving. They’re easy to put together and even easier to devour. If you’ve read this far, thank you for humouring me and my silliness, and please, go get yourself set up in the kitchen with these ingredients. Chocolate balls await.




Chocolate-Walnut Spheres



1 cup coconut flakes (medium length, unsulfured is best)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

8 dried dates, pitted and chopped

1/3 cup cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup almond butter (or cashew, or hazelnut…)

1 tbsp psyllium husk (or sub wheat germ)

3 tbsp maple syrup (a little more if you like it sweeter)

large pinch salt


Spread a piece of waxed paper over a cookie sheet.

Toast the walnut pieces over low heat in a dry pan, being careful not to burn them. Let them cool to room temperature before using, or they’ll make the mixture much stickier. Put the coconut and the chopped dates into the bowl of a food processor and run it for 5 to 10 seconds, scraping sides, then running again for 5 seconds. Add cocoa and walnuts and pulse to chop the nuts. Add remaining ingredients, including walnuts, and pulse several times, until the mixture gets sticky and pulls into a ball. It’ll be very soft, but still rollable.

Using your palms, roll walnut-sized balls of dough until smooth and round, and place on the cookie sheet. You should be able to make about 16 at this size. Chill in the fridge to set. To store, separate layers of the spheres with wax paper in an air-tight container in the fridge.




In: Food, From Ria, Includes a recipe!

Proust and my Five-Year-Old 3

July 26, 2017


I’ll preface this by saying these are NOT the real Proust Questionnaire questions (designed to reveal a person’s true nature), but modified and shortened versions of some of the originals. I doubted my five-year-old could sit through answering 36 of them…though now I wonder if she actually would have. She really enjoyed it. She even asked, when we’d finished, for me to read everything over to her. She laughed at her own responses.  Now I want to do this with every five-year-old I meet. You should too!



The Proust Questionnaire As Answered By My Five-Year-Old


1. What makes you really really happy?

Um, going in space.

2. What are you most afraid of?


3. Do you ever lie about anything?


4. Which person or thing do you love the most?

I’m going to choose a person and a thing. I love you the most and my favourite food is strawberries and mango. And can I do a favourite animal? My favourite animal is a cuttlefish and an octopus.

5. When is your happiest moment in the day?

I think I like the nighttime. Because it has stars and I like to count some of them and look out for some nocturnal animals. I like to look for the big dipper and wake up late like a raccoon or a flying squirrel or an owl.



6. What thing would you like to be really good at?

Um, doing weather person stuff. Because it’s cool and I haven’t done that before. I haven’t practiced, but I just thought it would be nice to grow up as a weather girl.

7. If you died and came back as a person or a thing, what would you like to be?

I would like to be a donkey and a horse because I like them.

8. Where would you most like to live?

In different places. Like Victoria and Nanaimo and China. And what is that place…? ITALY!

9. What is your most precious possession?

My jewelry because I like shiny stuff and it’s shiny. Shiny is one of the most important things I need.

10. What do you think is the most important thing in a friend?

Um, nice and kind. A friend should not hit or punch. They should not do anything like that. A friend needs to be nice to you and care about you when you get hurt and help you get up and help you get a Bandaid. Friends definitely don’t kick their friends. They don’t scream at their parents or friends. They don’t whine. They don’t say, “Awwww, IIII waaant a driiiink!”

11. What are your favourite books?

Library books and home books. Animal books, dictionaries…What are dictionaries? [I explain] Yeah, I like dictionaries. Joke books, math books. Bird books. Dinosaur books. I like to study dinosaur bones with books.

12. Who is your biggest hero?

I don’t have one because I haven’t met one yet.

13. What is your favourite name?

Um, Harley and Emma. They’re pretty.

14. What is something you really really don’t like?

Hitting and punching and whining.

15. How would you like to die?

I would like to be digging dinosaurs when I die. When I die I want to go under a rock. Buried.

16. What are some words that show who you are?

I’m a person, not a monkey. I sort of have a teeny tail. It’s pretty short. And I know who I am. I’m [Little e].


In: From Ria, Kids and Parenting

Anatomy of a Birthday Cake VI 2

July 6, 2017


I just realised the last time I posted in this birthday cake series was a year ago. Oops. Guess I missed a kid’s birthday in between. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t recall what cake we made Little e–because she had a cake, you can be sure of that. It was good, I’m sure. Probably so complex I couldn’t find a spare second to take out the camera and get decent process photos.

This year, The Tiger was too busy playing cars and having Paw Patrol adventures on the living room floor to tell me what cake he wanted (or, actually, in reply to the question, he said, “Train. Boat. Dine-saur. Have a snack?”). So I made an executive decision. Actually several.

1. It would be a lion. I have no idea why.



Since we just moved and haven’t fully unpacked the kitchen (our old place was bigger), I simply could not locate the large sheet pan I use for birthday cakes and spend a crazed ten minutes wondering how on earth I was going to manage. Enter one life-saving revelation: cupcakes. Suddenly I was (quietly) brilliant. A round layer cake in the middle and a circle of cupcakes around it to make it larger–and serve as the mane! And the ears! I fricking was brilliant! And Google showed me several other brilliant people who had had the same brainwave. I felt kinship with these anonymous folk.

2. It would have ermine icing.

I knew I wanted to cut back on as much sugar as possible but still make a sponge cake and a generous amount of icing. I started experimenting with a kind of icing I’d had years before, when visiting my sister in Ohio when she was at university. It’s called ermine icing or boiled milk frosting (to which I say the former name definitely gets my vote, since ermine are possibly the cutest kind of weasel there ever could be). It’s an unusual concotion and method for someone used to buttercreams, but oh my goodness, does it make a nice light icing–and with much less sugar, since the sugar is not the ingredient providing structure; the milk and flour are. Yes, milk and flour. Are you still with me?

I added a freeze-dried mango powder I’d been saving for ages, which Hannah had sent me upon my astonished comment that such a marvel existed. For the mane I added almost a whole melted bar of Lindt milk chocolate (chocolate-mango icing: yes please, right?) to the remainder after covering the lion’s face.

3. It would feature a mango curd filling. Just because.



And even though it was, as usual, a mad dash to the end and I was still finishing the piping as our guests arrived, it did, as usual, work out. And it was tasty. Thank goodness (as usual).

Cake: Nigella Lawson’s buttermilk birthday cake (also see this cake I made last year)

Icing: Ermine Icing from The New York Times but flavoured with freeze-dried mango powder (sent lovingly by Hannah!)

Filling: Mango curd from Smitten Kitchen.

Whiskers, etc: natural liquorice, half-square of milk chocolate (nose) and dried cherries (eyes)






In: Food, From Ria, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal

The Window They Give Us 5

June 22, 2017

It wasn’t hard to think of a subject to explore from A French Wedding because, while there are many I could chase down a rabbit hole (Pastries! Seaside villages! Lost loves!), there was one that whispered to me the whole read through: old friends. The people who knew you when, and know how you’ve changed. They hold a key to your development just by having witnessed its progression in a way you’ve never had access to. There’s something so disarming and vital about that.



Two thoughts came to mind as I read. One comes from Glennon Doyle, who signs many of her social media posts with We belong to each other. The other is from my grandmother: If only we could see ourselves as others see us.

The characters in A French Wedding are at that bittersweet moment when you’re staring at half your life behind you, wondering how you could have been that young person your friends remember. Rosie questions her choices in marriage, Max wonders why he’s waited so long to tell Helen how he feels, Juliette is bewildered by how she got to where she is, haunted by her past. In the course of the story, they all get parts of themselves refracted and bounced back to them by those closest to them—the people who have loved them for ages, listened and helped and infuriated. I kept thinking about this—the idea that we can’t be complete unless we are connected to others. And that if we could only see what others see in us, we might give ourselves a break, we might be able to still the demons of self-destruction or torment. All this sat with me after I finished the last page.

So I asked a few dear friends, women who’ve know me since I was just fledged, to reflect back to me their memories of how—and who—I’d been in my early twenties. And their responses were like a window into a forgotten part of me. A window with a completely familiar, but somehow shocking, view. Oh right. I was like that. Huh.

They said I was feisty, self-assured, driven. Spontaneous. Full of energy. Hardworking, in it 100%. Slightly obsessed with my hair.



I realized how long it’s been since anyone offered me adjectives about myself.

I am tired now. My spontaneity has been worn paper-thin by my little ones. My confidence comes and goes in tides. Sometimes there is no feistiness in my life except for Feist. So hearing this feedback is bittersweet—where has that young woman gone and how quietly did she disappear? But I’m so grateful to hold these descriptors up against my skin and see how they look, now that I’m here. They still work on me, I think, maybe with a little maneuvering.

Those dear friends and I, we belonged to each other then, and even though we are now separated by distance and busyness and the mind-traps of life, we still hold each other up. I’m so grateful to them for answering and sharing and pushing me forward.

And this is what A French Wedding stirs in me the most. Remembering who we were, helping others do the same, and stumbling along as pieces of ourselves grow and expand and slough off.  I’m so glad this story is out in the world; it’s reminded me to be grateful for the friends who make up my world. Thank you, Christina, Kirsti, and thank you, Hannah, for writing the words that inspired these thoughts.





A French Wedding, published by Doubleday, launched June 6th in the U.S. and Canada. For the month of June we are  celebrating the themes of the book with posts about France, feasting, friendships and family.


To win two copies of the book – one for you and one for your favourite reading partner – go to the Fork & Fiction Instagram or Facebook page and don’t forget to tag a friend. Winners drawn and announced Sunday 25th June.

In: Books & Reading, From Ria, Writing

Accidental Greatness 0

May 31, 2017

We have been getting up early in our new house. Really early. And not by choice. Our soon-to-be three-year-old (aka The Tiger) has decided he is a morning person in the most yawn-inducing way. He’s now sharing a room with his older sister, so we can’t just send him back in to play or chat to himself like we used to in our old house. One of us has to get up. At 5am.

I’ve discovered that after the initial shock and rubbing of heavy eyelids, I’m quite an early morning person. Helps that it’s summer and all the days he’s chosen to wake us up have been blue sky, golden light mornings. But even as I grouse about the lack of sleep and how exhausted I am by 9pm, I’m enjoying the still, quiet mornings.

Our new house is a ten minute walk from the beach and the other day The Tiger and I wandered down there–he exclaiming at every car that drove past (colour and size being the most important details). The sea looked almost motionless and the air was salty and sharp with the smell of seaweed. A few ducks drifted across the glassy water. Down the beach, a woman did yoga beside her sunbathing dog. Gulls called.

It was exactly where I was glad to be.



And the same happened at lunch a few days later, when I overcooked some white beans and couldn’t use them for their original purpose. I tossed them with roast veg and made a dressing based on this one I wrote about, and it was the best warm salad I’ve had in years. The kids ate carrot sticks and cheese and crackers and I devoured a bowl and a half of accidental greatness. Below is the recipe, which isn’t much more than a combining of things already made, but here you go.


Roasted Vegetable and White Bean Salad


About two cookie sheets’ worth of cut roast vegetables (I used carrots, green beans, onion, beets and cauliflower)

2 1/2 cups cooked white (navy) beans

1 recipe basil viniagrette (I didn’t have enough basil so subbed half chives and it was delicious)


Combine everything in a large bowl while the roast veg and beans are still warm (but not hot). Toss to coat with the dressing. Serve at room temperature or warmer.




Early wake-ups, unexpected recipes–these things happen. I’m so glad they do.



In: Food, From Ria, Includes a recipe!, Kids and Parenting