Month: January 2017

Another Giada Recipe – Chicken Saltimbocca

Once you have cracked the cover of one of Giada de Laurentis’s cookbooks, you won’t be able to make JUST ONE recipe. Nope. Right now my cookbook has 3 scraps of paper sticking out of it … and it doesn’t go back on the shelf till I’ve made each one. (Soft rule… gets broken… whatever.) 

So when I was making the Simple Bolognese sauce last week, I considered making something NEW from the cookbook. EGADS! A NEW RECIPE?? … AND ON A WEEKNIGHT! (Yes, I confess, I generally make tried and true recipes during the weekdays since I have less time. I’m no Dana K.) But this one seemed pretty quick. So I bought the ingredients on the weekend and while the Thai Squash soup was simmering, I whipped it up. Just like that. BOOM!

CHICKEN SALTIMBOCCA.

Doesn’t that sound impressive? Well, yes, dammit, it IS. Very very impressive.

smashed chicken pieces
proscuitto
first attempt

AND it’s actually dead easy to make … flatten the chicken (I think I applied a bit too much force), lay a piece of prosciutto on it, top that with spinach, and roll up. Well ok, it’s not THAT easy. You have to defrost the spinach, season it and add some olive oil. You also have to grate some parmesean and lay THAT on top of the spinach. WHICH. I. FORGOT. So I had to unroll all of my beautiful rolls. Very funny. Ha Ha.

Last part is dead easy too. Sear in a pan till brown on all sides. 

cooking da chicken
2 min. each side. Ok, this was sticking a lot and it got a LOT messy in there … next time, more oil…

Finally, you add chicken broth and a squirt or so of lemon juice and simmer till it’s cooked. Take the chicken out, thicken up the sauce and serve! 

final chicken
MY VERSION. I don’t think the green bits are not supposed to show. Nor the prosciutto. Whatever. 

Despite it looking like it was made by a 5 year old, it was AMAZINGLY good. And impressive anyway. Shut up Dana K. 

Giada's chicken
That’s me holding open the cookbook.  Nice chicken, Giada.

(You’ll notice that Giada’s version is not BURSTING. Isn’t it tidy and perfect? Ah yes. And so it goes.)

You can find the recipe for Chicken Saltimbocca here.

spaghetti!

Best Ever and Dead Easy Bolognese Sauce

You know when you’re driving home from work and you suddenly think – Oh shit! What are we having for dinner? Ya, well that never happens to me. lmao

I’m going to present you with a tried and true, dead easy pasta sauce. I learned it from one of my all time favourite TV cooks, Giada de Laurentis. I met her back in the day when I used to watch the Cooking Channel as I burned calories on the treadmill. It was the only way I could get through it. (I think that’s irony… yes?) Anyhow, Giada introduced me to easy Italian recipes, and taught me a TON of cooking tips in the process. I use her her first cookbook, Everyday Italian, regularly. It was given to me in 2005! Now that’s almost vintage. 

giada cookbook
An oldie but a goodie.

What I like about this sauce is that you can put it together with very basic ingredients and it’s FAST. … although making it without fresh basil kinda sucks, so you will want to have a little forethought and pick up a bunch of the fresh stuff. Oh and you must have some pecorino romano or at least parmigiano reggiano. 

handful of basil
Nice photobomb, Annie!

Oh and one more MUST … a can of crushed tomatoes. I always keep cans of crushed tomatoes in my pantry, SPECIFICALLY for this recipe. It simply is not the same with any other kind of tomato product – whole, crushed, sauce, etc… You NEED to have a can of crushed tomatoes. It creates the perfect consistency without any need to fart around with simmering down a watery sauce or thickening with tomato paste. Who the hell has time for that? NO ONE. Ok, lots of people do. But not me.

When you grab all of the ingredients that you will have on hand now that I’ve told you, it will look kinda like this (plus a can of crushed tomatoes that I forgot to put in the picture): 

ingredients
Those are heritage carrots. The orange one was purple before I peeled it. Yes, they’re very fancy carrots…

And here’s my beef about beef. I’ve decided that I am no longer buying grocery store ground beef, because it’s just plain STINKY. When it cooks it lets off a fuggy dead cow smell … and my neighbour, a cattle raiser (or whatever the hell she’s called), told me that the smell is from the crap ass chemicals in the beef. Buy the good stuff and as it cooks all you’ve got is beautiful smelling chuck. AND SHE WAS RIGHT!! 

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Let this sauce simmer for as long as it takes to cook your noodles and then it’s ready to eat. Nothing to it.

spaghetti!
Ta Da!

I could type out the recipe into my fancy widget, but Giada has the recipe on her website, and you’re gonna want to visit Giadzy! It’s a great site. 

Get the recipe here.

 

cake

OOH LA LA … Jamie’s Hummingbird Cake

I have always wanted to make this cake from Jamie’s Comfort Food. It looks SO delicious in the book … and wouldn’t you think that anyway, with a name like Hummingbird Cake? Just look at it!! Mmmmmmm…

I have a rule when I try a new recipe, that I have to do it exactly as is … if I change anything right away, how will I know if it was supposed to be like that or if my changes made a difference? I mean really? I follow the recipe and make notes in the margin afterwards … and then NEXT TIME I make changes (add salt, reduce the oil, try it with pecans … that kind of thing). With this rule in mind, I bought the ACTUAL ingredients listed in the recipe even though they are not what I’d use generally. For example, who buys self-rising flour and superfine sugar? Expensive!! 

flour and sugar
Seems like an unnecessary expense. Tell me why it’s important to use either of these!

I also wondered about why I was buying chunks of pineapple when it asked me to chop up the chunks … I WANTED to buy crushed pineapple, but I couldn’t bring myself to break my rule. So I drained it, saved the juice and froze it in ice cube trays for smoothies (a trick I learned in the days of baby food), and chopped.

Note: chopping pineapple into little bits is not easy. I did a poor job of it. Lost patience. No one seemed to mind the uneven and large gobs of pineapple in the cake though…

Everything else in the recipe seemed normal … That is until the first sentence where I had to grease two 9″ springform pans? WTF? Who has 2 springform pans the same size? I’ve got a 6″, 9″, 10″ and a couple of those wee baby ones for cute little “cheesecakes for two” (that I’ve never used), but not 2 big ones of the same size! So I used regular 9″ pans … and I have to say, I bet the cakes would have turned out better if I’d used springform. 

I got crackin’ and made the cake – loved the fact that it uses 4 ripe bananas! I can’t tell you how often I’m trying to use up bananas. Why do I buy so freaking many of them?? MUST. STOP. BUYING. BANANAS.

The batter looked pretty good – I was a bit nervous about the 1 cup of olive oil. Seems like it would weigh that sucker down. And you know what? I wasn’t really wrong … Jamie says things in the recipe about the cakes being “sponges”. I don’t know about that!! If so, they were sponges saturated with oil and pineapple and banana!!

The candied pecans didn’t work out for me AT ALL. He said to put in 1/2 cup of superfine sugar and a splash of water. WTF is a splash? Beside that it said that I should watch the video. I really should have taken it as a sign. In the end I worked away at the candied nuts and finally just did them the way I normally do … and they were just fine. His method was BONKERS.

Even though the cake was far heavier than the Hummingbird title would suggest – leading me to fret that it would be less than good – it turned out to be quite tasty freaking awesome! Why? Well, the icing was THE BOMB! Omg cream cheese icing is sooooo good with a squeeze of lime and some lime zest! Why haven’t I discovered that until now?? I think the icing saved it. 

I WILL make it again. Enough people loved it! But next time I will have two springform pans, go with crushed pineapple, and do the nuts my way. But it’s a keeper.

Check it out here.

slice of cake
Ok, so I’m not a pro photographer like all of the foodies out there…

 

 

Ski Lodge Perspectives

Today the kids are skiing a 1/2 day and I’m not skiing, as I’ve given my skis to Bree and haven’t managed to get a new pair yet. I’m enjoying watching and reminiscing. So when a friend’s boy asked me “do you come here often?” I had to grin. Oh, well ya …

I grew up coming to Devil’s Elbow on weekends. I think I was 3 1/2 when I was first put on skis.  Day to day details are blurry but the general feel of those days remains firmly lodged in my subconscious. Long days. Early mornings. Tired kids. T-bars that lifted me off my feet. Racing. Friends. Dangerous and thrilling forest trails. Catching air on jumps. Puddles in March. Hoarded Mars bars hidden in ski jacket pockets till the time was right. It was an awesome childhood.

fireplace
Lemme tell ya, it was WAY colder back then, and our clothing was NOT as warm. A chair in front of this fireplace was a coveting thing.

Mom and dad were both Ski Patrollers – they helped start up the Patrol at the Elbow, actually. Their dedicated volunteerism meant that we had to get here early and didn’t leave until the bitter end – after the last sweep, when patrollers would ensure that everyone was off the hills. We had the privilege of hanging out in the patrol hut and the knowledge that if WE skied like a Yeti we’d be in very serious trouble. We were victims on training days. It likely happened once, but my imagination has me being rescued from the chair lift every fall and in gale force winds.

Ski hill photo
Early days at the hill. Mom looking swank in her Patroller gear.

As I sit here getting things out of the lunch bag for the kids, I think of mom’s lunches. I think they were much heartier. Always carefully constructed sandwiches (maybe tuna salad …with lettuce even) and veggie sticks and fruit and cheese. We’d plan to meet at a certain time and damn nation if you were late! Invariably there was a family sized Fruit & Nut bar for dessert.  Dad was in charge of portioning it out. I recall the methodical way he did it, smoothing out the wrapper just so and laying out the squares while we did the math. (The sweets were the highlights of the day of course.)

My lunches are whatever is floating around the fridge and cupboards. Haphazard. I don’t measure up. But the kids eat it all up!

We NEVER bought food from the cafeteria… Lou and I looked longingly at the crap our friends ate … the Vachon cakes … OMG. Joe Louis (chocolate, full circle) and Lune Moons (white, half circle) and the square ones with the raised caramel circle on top. PURE. ENVY. Of course I realize now that it was as equally a matter of economics as of health. The caf was and still is stupidly expensive. As Lou and I got older and had babysitting money we’d buy treats on the sly and eat the crap secretly and happily with our friends.

As I sit here writing and observing things and remembering, a bunch of kids are running through the chalet playing tag … shrieking and flinging themselves under tables. OMFG, if we did that we’d be dead!! Ok, we would never do that in the chalet because the owner, an older dude, Fred, would catch you and yell things and it would end very badly. So he’s obviously dead, but honest to god, how do these parents think that’s ok? IT’S. NOT. O.K. (put on a certain tone of voice here) In my day, kids were with families and then skied and if they didn’t ski, they were playing tag on snow banks by the parking lot but their parents THOUGHT they were skiing. We had very limited choices. Ski or be eating lunch. Or pee. Yes, we could do that.

Some things change and some things stay the same. Skiing is still an awesome thing to do with your kids … and it’s still a ton of work to pull off as a parent. And I will never sit in the chalet for 3 hours again. Pretty near killed me.

View from the chalet.

When You Require Chocolate Pudding

I decided that tonight I required my favourite chocolate pudding – for both sustenance and solace. Why? I had a molar pulled today. It was so much fun to have a dude gripping my jaw and trying his damnedest to wrench a massive tooth out of my face. It said on the invoice “complicated removals”. No kidding.

The recipe is dubbed “Any Day Chocolate Pudding”. It’s from a fav cookbook of mine, Pantry Raid. The premise of the cookbook is that if you have a decent pantry, every recipe in the book can be made without a special trip to the store. Great book. And pretty much essential when you have small kids. Who wants to tote kids to the grocery store for one or two special ingredients? Nobody.

I’ve had the book for a long time – since the kids will very little. In those days the pudding was too dark and chocolatey for Annie. Notes in the margin indicate that at some point she started liking it, but a wayward drop or two of water destroyed that archived detail. Sad, that.

I write on all recipe books – changes to make and / or an assessment of the results.

As I said, you likely have all of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge to make this pudding (as long as you have a big-ass container of half & half cream like I always do…). It only takes about 15 minutes to make, from start to finish, but unless you like your pudding hot, you need to consider how long it will take to cool. Especially if you want to make a parfait or something fancy.

Here’s a handy picture sequence to convince you of how easy it is. [This reminds me of those language activities where you had to put the story pictures in an order that made sense. I would have done better if they were about making chocolate pudding. Just sayin’.]

whisk small amount of cream into cornstarch
whisk together 3 T cornstarch and 1/4 c Half and Half cream and set aside
in pot whisk together sugar, cocoa & salt, add hot water
put 2/3 c sugar, 1/2 c cocoa, pinch of salt in a saucepan, stir in 1/3 c hot water
whisk together till smooth
whisk until smooth
add rest of cream to chocolate mixture
once mixture comes to a boil, add 1 3/4 c Half and Half cream
whisk in cornstarch mixture
stir in the cornstarch mixture, whisking steadily as you pour, cook approx 5 min or until thick
add vanilla
add 1 t vanilla, stir in and take off of heat (Note that it is impossible to pour, whisk and take a photo at the same time.)

Of course, it wouldn’t be pudding if you didn’t have to try to prevent a big fat skin forming on the surface. This is the one reason that I feel I need to keep the environmentally unfriendly “plastic wrap” in my kitchen … it’s so damned handy for this purpose.

pour into a bowl, press plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding and let cool

Dollop in a bowl and enjoy.

I dare you to eat just one bowl!

I would have gone the extra mile for  a dollop of whipped cream on top, but then I’d have to eat whatever I whipped up, and I’m just not feeling it at 9pm. Maybe tomorrow night for dessert… and maybe a parfait!! oh ya

“You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious!”

And Then I Visioned a Cool Bookshelf

Went over to my neighbour’s a week ago for a visit – caught up on how things are going with them since the big fire. Stalwart family, so they’re all “chin up” and “no worries”. Hamish was out at the farm puttering away in the woodshop that was spared from the flames AND the nasty smoke (the house has to be gutted and rebuilt from the studs up due to the wretched stench). As we walked through the shop I asked him if he’d find me a piece of wood with a ‘live edge’ and plane it for me… you know, about yay long for a bookshelf that I’d like to add to the bedroom. Sure, no problem! And just like that, the first project of the New Year was born!

I had already bought 2 wrought iron brackets a year or so ago after I’d done a thorough search of Pinterest’s DIY shelf ideas. Many of the shelving configurations that I liked were a combination of rustic wood and iron. Here’s the one I settled on, thinking it would be important to incorporate my mom’s antique trunk which sits against that wall:

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-3-25-06-pm

I like the wood to iron ratio, but not having a source for the iron rails, I started looking for wrought iron brackets that were promising. I found one pair and set them aside … oh about a year ago… and they sat in the same spot by the trunk until shortly after I walked over and talked to Hamish last week.

With the promise of a long piece of rustic wood for the bottom shelf, I decided to get the first brackets up. I was thinking that the long shelf will be low, and then I can put another one up and off to the side a bit … and maybe another one directly above it. I don’t know. Anyway, put up the brackets without TOO MUCH swearing…and they are ALMOST LEVEL…! (I have now determined that my metre stick is warped, so that’s going to be my excuse if things roll off of it.)

img_3388Picked up the piece of wood from Hamish a few days after my initial inquiry – it’s a beauty!! Nice and thick and organic. The brackets seem to hold it …
Like how I entered the brackets cleverly on either side of the trunk? I know. So clever.

After I applied a bit of stain to the top edge (that Hamish so lovingly planed to a smooth finish), I wondered if I might like the flip side better, so I stained it too. WOAH!! So nice! How to decide which side will be up? I still have to apply some polyurethane and do some sanding between coats, but the staining is a start!

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So that’s stage 1, sans polyurethane. Pretty decent start, I figure! I used that photo to make a sketch of what I want the rest to look like … what do you think? Suggestions?

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Biscuits and Jam

When you have a cold day, a warm fire and a book to read, all you really need to top it off is a few biscuits with jam.

I found a new recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits this past summer when I was experimenting with Bourbon (you have to read the post – lol). They turned out marvellously, so the recipe has usurped the baking powder biscuit recipe from Grandma Mack. (Sweet Jesus, don’t tell anyone in the family…) You do have to have a little foresight though, so that you can pop 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter into the freezer. I’m also not sure that the oven REALLY has to be at 475 degrees … 425 works just fine, thank you very much. If I go to 475 my oven will think it’s self cleaning and bad things might happen like they did the last time.

The ingredients are really basic. Today I planned to use lemon juice to sour the milk so I decided to grate the rind into the batter and then chop up some dried cranberries to go in the biscuits. Sadly this will mean that the kids won’t like them. AW DAMN.

Oh and for the love of Jesus, add some salt! Why it’s not in the recipe I’ll never know.

I use these super nifty cutters from Lee Valley. I bought them for myself during the Christmas online ordering season, as a reward for getting through all of the crazy shit at school. I think I deserved them. And only $20! What a deal.

Couldn’t help but slather them with a little more melted butter and sprinkle on some demerara sugar.

With a banana-peach smoothie and some home made peach jam on the side, they’re the perfect snack!

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Reading Again

It’s hard to be a reader AND a knitter. You can’t do them at the same time. And once you really get into a knitting project – or a book – you just can’t put it down. On the other hand, knitting is social, so you can knit when visiting with people and it’s not seen as rude. Reading is very solitary.

And so my reading has fallen by the wayside.

As I said in an earlier post, I’ve decided to take on a reading challenge for 2017. I’m doing it on Goodreads so that I can keep track of the books I’ve read so far this year, and also cue up books that I’m interested in reading. After some pondering I’ve decided to use the framework mentioned in Hannah’s blog – the 26 book challenge, that is.

I can place my first read of the year as “a book published in the last year” or “a book you can read in a day”. It was short but excellent: Joseph Boyden’s Wenjack.

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It’s particularly interesting right now due to the controversy surrounding Boyden’s questionable claim to be First Nations. Today I listened to an interview on CBC radio’s The Current with Wab Kinew, Lee Maracle and Kim TallBear. There was good discussion about identity and what it means to be ‘of a Nation’. It was impressed upon listeners the importance of being ‘invited in’ to a community and not assuming that if you want to be a member you are automatically a member.

At some point in the interview Wab Kinew suggested that a reader would not have the same experience with Wenjack had they known that it was written by a person who is not First Nations.

I think that they are relevant because I think that the way a reader approaches a Joseph Boyden novel is influenced by how they understand his identity. Like, I think they would probably pick up a copy of Wenjack and look at it differently if they think that he’s non-Native versus when they assume that he was Indigenous.

Now that’s interesting! I wonder if the same scrutiny is given to all writers when they are writing about cultures or events that they did not experience first hand. Do readers approach Anil’s Ghost differently than The English Patient because Michael Ondaatje is Sri Lankan and Anil’s Ghost was set in Sri Lanka? I don’t think so. I believe that writers who do their research are able to shine a light on various cultures with remarkable accuracy. I think that Wab Kinew and other First Nations are pissed off that Boyden appropriated the voice of a culture for his own gain. But I don’t think that makes him a bad writer.

My second book of the year will likely fall into the category of “a book with someone’s name in the title”. It’s Mary Coin, by Marisa Silver – given to me almost 3 years ago for my birthday. I’ve just cracked it, but it’s an excellent read so far.

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Any suggestions for my book challenge? Some categories are tricky … such as ‘a book translated from another language’, ‘a self published book’. EGADS.

Up for a Challenge – or Two

Yes well, it’s the time of year for challenges isn’t it? I have decided to take on two challenges. Both of them are things I know that I need to do, and I would be a better person if I did them! Of course will take up my time and I don’t have a lot of extra time! So, we shall see…

First. Revolution: 31 days of yoga  Yep. I am committed to doing yoga with Adriene every day for the month of January. I’ve done 4 days and I love it so far!

I got to know Adriene last year through my brother Ian. He’d been doing a variety of yoga classes on her YouTube channel and loved them, so I tried them out. Did them a lot in the summer, then things got busy and it fell by the wayside, as things often do. I highly recommend her videos – she’s playful and peaceful at the same time … plus her classes flow well. And she’s not irritating. Well… she talks a lot but that’s ok with me.

I think I can do this challenge before bed each night. Right after my glass of wine. Or maybe before…

My second challenge is a bit more playful. I saw it on my Facebook feed.


Annie is considering doing it with me, but isn’t sure about finding an author younger than her (15). lol

I’ve decided to start with a book I got for Christmas… but can’t decide on the best category for it … a book that will improve a specific area of my life? My ability to act like a kid and have a deep connection to stuffies?


Seriously, it’s the ONLY book I got for Christmas… how much does that suck? Anyway, I guess that’s not the way it’s supposed to be done – read a book that I want and then map it to the list. I suppose I’m to search for a book based on the list …

Alas, I’m not convinced of this challenge.

What challenges are you taking on? Dana, over at doingthedamnthang.com is onto the #cook90 challenge led by @epicurious. Now that’s a shitload of work if you ask me… Surely there are some more reasonable challenges out there!

Rainy Day = Soup

We’re supposed to be skiing today, but no dice. Best to make some soup and enjoy the day de-Christmasing the house and puttering about.

This is a simple soup with very basic ingredients. You start with the typical onion and garlic combo – chop up small and saute with whatever oil makes you happy. I chose olive oil today. Toss in a pound or so of ground beef and let it cook a bit.

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I don’t know about you, but there’s something awesome about the smell of garlic and onion working away in a pan. Sooooo great!!

 

 

 

Once the meat is browned, toss in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for an hour or so, till the barley is soft.

Enjoy it with a slab of fresh bread and your fav cheese. YUM!!

Hamburger Soup

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 or more garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 28 oz can tomatoes, whole (but smoosh them up when you put them in the pot)

1 box beef stock (4 cups) or equivalent (home made stock, OXO beef cubes in water, consommé)

1 can tomato soup

4 carrots, chopped fine

3 sticks celery, chopped fine

1/2 cup barley

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp thyme

salt, pepper – maybe some parsley if you like that