Chowdar! 

I used to loathe chowder. Then I had great chowder, and realized what the difference was. Versions I had in the past were heavily a cream base – very thick, and tasting primarily of fish and warm milk.

Yuck.
untitled-899The secret, I’ve found, is butter, broth and salt. Butter and broth cuts through the cream, while salt to taste brings out all the other flavours (the fish will be strong enough, so you want to add some salt and spices).

It always sounds labour-intensive, making chowder, but this was done and ready in an hour, and a lot of that was prepping the veggies. And after an afternoon drive around the blustery coast, a great way to end the day.

Chowder Recipe
1 leek, halved and then chopped
A piece of bacon, cut into pieces
1/4 c. butter

Put a large pot on medium heat, and add the butter and bacon. Once the butter is melted and the bacon sizzling, add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally until softened (about 10 minutes). Then add a couple pinches of nutmeg, three bay leaves, and a dash of salt, and cook for a few more minutes.
untitled-901Then add: 1 sweet potato, 4 medium potatoes, and 2 small carrots – all peeled and chopped into cubes. Cook these for 5 – 7 minutes, until they start to soften. Add a box of chicken stock, and continue cooking for another 5 – 7 minutes.

Add 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup of milk, stirring to combine. Once you get it back up to a simmer, add the chowder mix. The folks at North Market Seafood did one up for us, with scallops, shrimps, salmon and haddock. Let all this simmer for 10 minutes, add a pinch of paprika, and you’re golden.

We garnished with spring onions, parsley and a bit more bacon, then used the bread to sop up the broth. The butter will separate to the top of the bowl, but just mix it around with your spoon first.

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Sunday Roast

It’s just been a long, long winter.

Blizzards upon blizzards, leading to almost 4 metres of snowfall in 2 months. Then, a dark and heavy winter, buckling under the weight of all this snow, turned more so, with Dad being in the hospital for one of those months. Happily, he’s home on the mend now. And the days are getting longer and brighter.

While I was feeling particularly wordy yesterday, drafting this post, today turned completely mellow – another blizzard roared into the region, and the howling winds coupled with the smells of tonight’s supper roasting in the oven all day, made the perfect conditions for slowing brain waves. Eloquence simmered away into babble.

Without ado, then, this was the source of the lovely smells in the house: Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder and Pork Crackling (served with whipped potatoes, steamed carrots and broccoli, and gravy). Highly recommend it.

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Rajma Masala

I’m home sick. The past week has felt like someone set my lungs on fire and then strapped an overweight, dead raccoon to my chest. That delightful symptom has waned, only to be replaced with stuffiness and feeling like I have mono again.

Wah. Thank you for Friends on Netflix and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy episodes on YouTube, and to my sister for pointing this out to me.

I tend to go old school with my sickness regimen. A classic tip I learned from my cousin’s grandmother – a wonderful woman who, until she died in her 90s, was still making turkey dinner and pies every Sunday for the family. She always touted the magic of slathering up the chest and neck in a rub (Analgesic Balm, which they don’t sell anymore, so Vick’s has to do), wrapping a wool sock around the neck and dressing for a blizzard before laying under the sheets.

It’s the weirdest, most feverish sleep of your life. It works. (And, is a remarkable contraceptive. If the sniffling wasn’t that already.)

The other thing I subscribe to is spicy foods. Like curry.

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I’m fairly certain one of my spirit animals, when it’s not a tail-gating Midwestern middle-aged Bears fan, was a housewife in the 1920s, using up leftovers and this and that to make supper. (A skill that perplexes Ben to no end.) This curry was the result of this, finding a recipe that more or less matched what was in my fridge.

What I can smell is good, but I can’t even taste the habanero I threw in. So you’ll have to try this blindly.

I’m going back to TV and brandy (yet, another staple remedy). Just until it’s time for this:

Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

 

One of my work colleagues just successfully defended her PhD dissertation last week, so the office organized a little celebratory coffee break for her on Monday. My contribution: salted caramel and chocolate mini cupcakes.

IMG_0463I found this awesome, fudgy, caramel frosting recipe here: Sally’s Baking Addiction Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting. The only change I made was to add more cream to get the consistency I wanted. (The drizzle is the caramel from the first steps of that same recipe.)

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This used my trusty chocolate cake recipe from this post. I bought a couple mini muffin tins, something that I’ve wanted for awhile. They’re great for making snacks for a break or potluck, because everyone in the world, except me and my close friends, will take a knife to a cupcake and halve it or – worse – quarter it. No one had to feel guilty here, though.

They’re like muffin vitamins, in the words of Jim Gaffigan.

The Silence of the Lambs: On Becoming Vegetarian

Two weeks ago, I made steak for supper upon returning from the gym. This isn’t particularly noteworthy in and of itself, being a meatatarian, especially after an intense boxing workout. But on this night, we lucked out and found a couple of great cuts on sale. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked to medium-rare, the steaks paired wonderfully with a salad made of mixed field greens, caramelized onion, red pepper and feta, drizzled with a flavoured oil.

As we ate on this night, one of the kids sat and chatted with us.  How it came about, I don’t know. But she asked to actually try a piece.

This was something. She wasn’t a big fan of meat, but still entertained it occasionally. Chicken. Roast beef dinners. But this was just plain steak – no mashed potatoes, no gravy, no Yorkshire puddings – and she was gobbling it up, remarking how delicious it was. How it melted in her mouth.

I felt like I had won.

You smarter, more experienced parents know that I most certainly did not.

The Powerpoint presentation.

After a class on the environment and sustainability and just where our food comes from – and likely spiced up with further hallway conversation – a case was made to never eat a piece of meat again in slide format, accompanied with fuzzy animals and peppered with the traditional rhetoric of slaughter of the innocents and some Catholic guilt thrown in for good measure.

I will openly admit that I don’t understand the choice to switch to a plant-only existence, from a nutrition perspective. As in the scenario above, I just thought it was because one didn’t have well prepared meat or fish – there were certainly a few times that I toyed with swearing off animals after some tough, dried pieces of meat. But it’s bigger than that, in this case – the search for identity, I suppose. So, at the very least we can try to entertain and encourage a responsible exploration.

Enter my dad (the king of the BBQ) and his techniques for vegetarian lasagna, which he’s made a few times for veggie family members and even I have given it a seal of approval. untitled-271

  • Slice up zucchini and eggplant. The zucchini are placed in a frying pan and sprinkled with parmesan on both sides. The eggplant is broiled – again, both sides – on low heat in the oven until dried out. The key with both vegetables is to get a lot of the moisture out, or you’ll end up with a soggy mess.
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  • Boil a box of noodles, grate mozzarella, and make a white sauce (this recipe is what I used – plus a pinch or two of garlic salt).
  • Assemble: spray a 9 x 13 pan, then lay down noodles. Then a vegetable, the mozza (which will keep it again from getting soggy), and half the sauce. Cover with noodles and repeat. Top with more cheese.

Is it healthy? Well, it’s not processed, and there’s two vegetables in there – but it’s symbolic, an Alfredo-sauce-soaked olive branch of sorts to a frustrated kid who realized, after a few days of trying it out, that it ain’t easy being green in a world of chicken nuggets and cardboard school cafeteria pizza.

I made it Sunday, ready to heat up for a hectic Monday school night supper. Not an ounce mushy either!

“So, what did you think?”

“Not bad. Except for the vegetables. Next time, can we have chicken pot pie instead? Minus the chicken.”

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington. A “Hell’s Kitchen” staple, along with that fish named John and risotto. I love me some cow, but knowing that the other main ingredient is mushrooms – and a lot of them – I’ve shied away for some time. After seeing a recipe for miniature Wellingtons, though, I realized that I could make some without the fungus – substituting onions only.

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And we had some brie, so why not add that into the little pastry packets?

The pastry was a great find. After forgetting to buy frozen dough at the store, and loathing the idea of heading back out, I found a “quick” puff pastry recipe that uses the food processor to speed up the process in about half the time.

 

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The toasty underside of the mini Wellington packet.

Twenty-five minutes in the oven and some garlicky greens as a side, supper was served – with a bit of our new beer, too!

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Inside a Wellington with just onions and the brie