Monday, 23 March 2015

Jamie to the rescue

This past week, Jeff wanted steak.  I have no doubt that part of this need was aided by the fact that the BBQ was trapped behind a one meter tall wall of snow and he needed something, anything that was reminiscent of summer.  I, on the other hand, wanted to try out my new cookbook.  After getting caught in a 'meh' loop, I decided I needed some external inspiration and picked up Jamie's 15 Minute Meals the last time I was browsing around Winners.

15 Minutes is about my attention span these days, so the title was working for me.  It should be noted that the idea of 15 minutes is cooking time, not prep time.  For things to actually take 15 minutes, make sure you do the prep (chopping, washing, boiling etc) prior to beginning, or you'll get out of step pretty quickly.

Sunday - The first day of the snow.  We knew that we were going to get 40cm of snow.  I knew this was going to give me a serious case of the sads, so I was prepared to dump a bunch of stuff in the slow cooker around breakfast time, and have something wonderful and comforting for dinner.  In this case, it was my stand by Moroccan vegetable stew.  This one also works well with stewing lamb, especially if you have the time to pre-brown the lamb, but straight up veggies is nice too.  I served with a quinoa pilaf with toasted cumin seeds, pistachios an
d slivered almonds.

Monday - Leftovers.  This was Gus's last beginners puppy class.  He is now responding to his name, knows how to sit, and will waiting until you signal he can have the treat in your hand.  These classes are so much fun, but they're really early for us, so leftovers is the only way to go.

Tuesday - I made Jeff steak.  Perfectly on the rare side of medium rare, lovingly grilled on a hot pan with sesame oil and Chinese 5-spice.  This one was out of Jamie's book.  It was lovely.

Wednesday - Blackened Chicken and Quinoa Salad.  Also from Jamie's book.  I love a hearty salad, and this one was spectacular.  I made it without feta, but I'm sure it would be tasty with.

Thursday - Slow-cooker Asian Pork with Broccoli and Noodles.  This one looks so much better on paper than it turned out.  Jeff still enjoyed it, but the flavours were off for me.  If I were to make it again (and I probably will), I would do a reduction of the sauce on the stovetop, and not add the cornstarch to the slowcooker.  I think I would also use full salt soy sauce, not the reduced sodium stuff I had on hand.

Friday - I took the night off.  We had been invited out, and I had planned on making my customary cupcakes, but I was feeling like hell.  So Jeff and Finnegan headed out to be social, and Gus and I curled up on the couch and watched old Supernatural episodes and drank copious amounts of ginger ale.

Saturday - I did not rebound as quickly as I had hoped, but I had a lovely thawed duck breast in the refrigerator, so I was compelled to cook.  Crispy duck and hoisin tofu in lettuce cups.  Another of Jamie's.  So good.

Today is a travel day for me, headed off for work on the road for the next week.  I've been stockpiling frozen dinners, and I left a stew in the slow cooker, so my honey is well sorted in the food department.  I like to know that he has options, even if he mostly chooses to satisfy his hunger with gluten and dairy.  I am also aware that it is Burger Week in Halifax, so, you know...


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Just Bliss

Value Village beckoned a couple of weeks back.  It had been a while since I'd been on a good bargain hunt, and I was craving the chase.  And so, it would seem, was half of the city on the day I finally made it.  There was, apparently, a 50% off sale, and the place was an absolute zoo.  It was also pretty picked over, but I did find the following treasures:

I have a bit of an owl thing, and I also have a bit of a kitschy Japanese figurine things, so, these amazing salt and pepper shakers have found an honoured place in the kitchen.

I have stacks of beautiful vintage teacups, but I do like having spares for projects.  This set of four are gorgeous and will make a very pretty something or other.

I also have piles of vintage linens, which I convert into various things.  I'm currently crocheting another rag rug, and I have plans on quilting some throw pillows using the granny-chic prints.  But I really had to pick these up for the nostalgia; we had sheets like these growing up, and I still love them.

My collection of vintage pattern books is getting out of hand, but I just can't resist!  And look at these beauties.  Inspiration abounds.

Happy Hunting!

Crochet beachwear is all the rage. 
These guys look hot.  Like sunstrokey.
Nothing chic here, just straight up granny. 
And I still kind of want to make them.
When quilting (and lady mullets) go too far.
The family that wears matching sweaters has no choice but to stick together.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The 'what's left in the fridge/freezer/panty' menu

Last week was lazy, so this week was realllllly lazy.  It was a kind of "I have this stuff" week, so therefore I'm going to make these dishes which are good, little to no work and included ingredients that were tucked away in one of my food storage areas.  Inspiring, I know.  I'm really dragging my ass through this last stretch of winter.  The 40cm of snow that got added to our glaciated garden on Sunday has done nothing to lessen my 'meh' mood.  And they're saying that we're going to get 30cm more tonight and tomorrow.  Honestly, f-you winter, you win.  I surrender.

So bright and lovely...I use my indoor grill when
the weather gets me down.
Sunday - Lamb Kofta with Focaccia wedges and Greek salad.  The lamb is from Jamie at Home(last year's) Spring lamb from Grand Pre; Gluten-free pizza crusts brushed with olive oil, dusted with rock salt, minced garlic and (last year's) garden rosemary; and a feta-less salad of vine ripened cherry tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, arugula and lemon zest with oregano vinegarette.

Monday - Leftover Beef Ragu with gremolata.  One batch from the slow cooker is enough for several meals for us.  This one was frozen back in February and we re-heated, paired with a fresh gremolata and scarfed it down before Gus's puppy class.

Tuesday - Pork Scallopini with lemon wine sauce and brocolini.  Another one from the irritatingly titled cook book. But this is a keeper.  I do love cooking with wine, and capers, and shallots.   

Wednesday - Bibimbap.  This is a different take on Korean comfort food.

Thursday - Chorizo, bell pepper and mushroom omelets.  Bacon on the side.  Sometimes you just need breakfast for dinner.

Friday - Winter blasting games night with Cards Against Humanity and DixIt.  We started tame with Dixit and then, well lubricated, we ventured into truly horrible (and hilarious) places with CAH.  Laugh until it hurts...

Saturday - We ventured out, pre-storm, for some beverages and food with our neighbours, and then took in "The Pillowman" by Martin McDonagh at the Bus Stop Theatre.  To say that I loved the play would probably point to a very deep and disturbing psychological issue, so, let's just say it's a dozy.  The production was quite enjoyable (context setting puppet shows that were both superb and totally crazy) and the soundtrack was perfectly off putting.  It was a fun night to break up the winter doldrums.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Monday's Lazy International Menu

Winter is sucking my kitchen energy dry.  It feels like spring is so deeply covered in ice, we may never see it again.  There's a mini glacier where my veggie beds are.  So, this past week was focused on easy foods from warmer climates.

Sunday - Mexico - Slow Cooker Chipotle Short Ribs with kale salad, guacamole and spicy rice.  The recipe includes instructions for a cabbage slaw - skip it.  The recipe also says boneless short ribs, which is silly, more expensive and hard to find.  Use bone-in, and by the time you're done cooking, the meat falls off the bone anyway.  Served with a light salad and guacamole, this is a wonderfully fragrant and delicious meal.  The smokey peppers will intoxicate you while it's cooking.

Monday - India - Sweet and Sour Dahl with Roasted Butternut Squash, Basmati and coconut yogurt.  This is another from the great cookbook with the irritating title.  This is a tamarind recipe, and I find that is a flavour that you either love or hate.  We love it.  The original recipe calls for roasted eggplant, but, eggplant isn't really my bag unless stewed.

Tuesday - Jamaica - Chicken Curry.  From the book above, this one doesn't quite work for me 'skinny'.  I love the allspice flavour, but broth instead of coconut milk is not inspiring.  I went full fat, not 'light', and it was delicious.

Wednesday - Italy - Sicilian Fish Stew.  Bright and spicy, this one, from that same book, is naturally skinny.  Plus, any recipe that has a healthy splash of wine is alright in my book.

Thursday - Multinational - otherwise known as leftovers.
Friday - German escapism to Ireland - otherwise known as, heading to the pub to get away from the wieners because lord knows, we all need to get out of the house sometimes!

Seems like a distant memory!
Saturday - Nova Scotian - we had our book club potluck meeting.  And since the book for this meeting took place in rural NS, we decided to go with classic recipes: Shepard's pie (lentil and sweet potato as the main ingredients), deviled eggs (filled with whipped avocado, not yolks), beet salad (with lovely quinoa), and a veggie soup.  (As always, there was way too much food!).  I made a strawberry rhubarb pie. I froze the hulled strawberries and slice rhubarb straight from my garden last summer.  I know have a recipe that makes a perfect gluten-free pie crust every weird texture issues.  We were all stuffed and had plenty to say about the book (which we all loved).    

Friday, 6 March 2015

February Bookshelf

Shack-Wacky Puppy.
It's kind of hard to believe that it's March already, though quite honestly, that goodness.  February was balls out awful.  So far, the year of the Goat has been fairly harrowing, so I'm hoping I got my bad luck out of the way early.

I am also over the snow.  Like, really over it.  I thought I was over it last year, but I have several feet of compacted snow and ice over my gorgeous garden, and a couple of shack-wacky wiener dogs that are pushing the limits of my sanity.  As a friend recently pointed out, with both dogs and children, 1+1=5.

I did get a bit of reading in this month though, so that's the up side of being a virtual shut-in.

The Circle, by Dave Eggers:
18302455I wanted to like The Circle.  People have been talking about and talking up The Circle.  But I did not.  We've heard it all before: corporation starts out making life easier, has great intentions, then the wrong people get involved and bingbangboom, corporation has infiltrated our whole life and we're doomed, the end.  Great.  In this case, perhaps we're reading a satire (it is Dave Eggars after all) and not an actual warning or seeming prophecy (1984).  But the characters are wooden and derivative, the ideas less fresh, and the wilful naivety of the 'protagonist' disheartening. But the Luddite alternative was equally ridiculous.  And if that's the point, and you have a genius like Margaret Atwood adding to the genre with Oryx and Crake, and authors like Gary Shteyngart trying something new in Super Sad True Love Story, what's the end game?  We've been here, done that, and nothing has been added but a layer of money to Eggers's bank account.

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler:
20910157Everyone loves Amy (yes you do).  And I like Tina too, don't get me wrong, but Amy and I, we'd be dangerous, slaying bottles of wine and the egos of over inflated suits at fancy restaurants.  This book wasn't laugh out loud funny.  Tina's was funnier, so, for that matter, was Mindy's.  It is a pretty solid self reflection, and a love letter to her craft and the many people that supported her along the way.  Though she is amazingly gifted, what I liked about this was the acknowledgement that yes, hard work and talent are important, but so is support and so is living a relatively charmed life.  We'd all like to think that hard work and talent will get you anywhere...and for some lucky people, it is enough.  But the acknowledgement that privilege has something to do with it, well, that it a level of self awareness and maturity that we don't often see in celebrity.  Now that Parks and Rec has ended, I'm excited to see what's next.

When the Saints, by Sarah Mian:
22812831This was our bookclub selection for this month.  A true pleasure to read.  If you've lived in a small town, you are aware of this story and you've seen this family. The characters are vivid, the language is poetic and the writing is embedded with both levity and grace. Tabby is a beautifully executed character that I loved immediately. I can't recommend this one enough.

Mollie Makes, Volume 50
For such a milestone magazine (let's be honest, 50 is pretty impressive in this day and age), I was a little underwhelmed by this month's edition.  Perhaps I am in a crafting rut.  Perhaps they are.  Still, it was pretty to look at, and the articles we interesting (especially about creative couples!), but I closed the pages uninspired to create any of the offerings.  A first.

Simply Crochet, Volume 28
The March edition of this magazine also had less pop for me then usual.  Regardless, I have bookmarked a couple of patterns to try - one is a lovely daffodil, which would make a cheerful brooch in this transitory time, and the other is this month's granny square - Granny Phylis.  I do aim to finish my quilt by the end of April, so, I should probably get on it!

Happy almost, almost spring.
I found this ridiculous creature in Yellowknife last April. 
We could have one here too, but it would be an iceman.  Stupid winter.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Monday's Frugal Menu

A cold (in fact, ice dammed) reality check has us facing some leaner times.  We hope the vast majority of our winter ice damage will be covered by insurance, but our delightfully quirky old house is sure to have some stories and surprises behind the sodden walls.  If we're lucky, in some places, the insulation will simply be insufficient.  In other places, it likely doesn't exist, and in still others, it could be old seaweed, a common insulation material used in NS around the time the original parts of the house were built.
So, I was inspired by different (and cheaper) cuts of meat, canned tomatoes, dried lentils/peas, which along with healthy doses of leftovers will be on the menu for the next few months as we try to squirrel away some pennies to cover our winter loses.
Sunday - Pollo alla cacciatorra Jamie's Italy.  I use rice flour for dusting the chicken. A divine dish, bursting with flavour.
Monday - Tuna Melts.  An old favourite.  To make mine, I dice up some of my homemade garlic/dill pickles, stir in some salt, pepper, Frank's, and cage-free lemon-caper mayo.  I top Jeff's with mozzarella and mine with Daiya dairy-free cheddar. A little salad on the side, and we're in comfort food central!
Tuesday - Pig and Pea Soup from Michael Smith. I've adjusted this slightly over time...I use the slow cooker for mine.  8 cups of water with chicken bouillon cubes, one big old ham hock right in the pot with the onions and carrots, 2 tsp dried thyme, 2 bay leaves and a tsp of garlic powder.  I do not use celery (it goes funky in the slow cooker), and I tend not to use fresh garlic, as it can leave a metallic taste if used in the slow cooker.  About 10 minutes before I'm ready to serve, I fish the ham hock out, peel away the skin and fat, remove the bones and shred the meat, returning it to the pot with a cup of thawed fresh peas.  I also stir in a Tbsp of Dijon mustard instead of the vinegar.  I don't add extra pig...the ham hock is plenty rich, but I guess if you're feeling really swine-ish, bacon does make things better.
Wednesday - Butternut Squash, Pear and Chestnut Salad from the Healthy Foodie
The true glory of the feast cannot be captured in pixels.
Thursday - Slow Cooker Pear and Raisin Pork Loin Roast from the Healthy Foodie.  Hot damn.  In her post, Sonia claimed that upon her first taste she proclaimed to her dogs that she is a 'true, profound, culinary genius'.  I also do this on a regular basis...and this dish is very worthy of such proclamations.  Spend the time to marinate.  Spend the time to make the gravy.  The leftover salad from Wednesday complemented the meat perfectly. 
Friday - Glorious leftovers.
Saturday - One Pot Turkey Chili with Cornbread Crust.  This is all about the smoked paprika.  Make sure you have some in stock.  Some changes I've made to the recipe: chickpeas instead of beans and, one package of Bob's gluten-free corn bread...taking easy to a whole new level.  I also used the Daiya cheddar to top. (I let the batter rest for an hour before putting it on the chili and in the oven, it makes a big difference).  For dessert, I made my gluten-free version of Chocolate Diablo Cookies.

Until next Monday, happy cooking!