Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

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This was a long weekend, and it was a busy one. I spent Saturday travelling to visit my family. This also turned into a shopping spree at a fabric shop–more about that later this week. But then on Sunday it was time to create. Time to lock myself in the kitchen and stay there until I had something totally delicious to eat.

We used the democratic method to decide that I would make the boeuf bourguinon. So I ran around like a fool on Saturday: I had to buy a dutch oven, and all of the ingredients I’d need. So I got in my car and drove around looking for free parking close to the shops I needed. That took some time, I should have just paid for parking.

At any rate, I came home with everything I needed, except potatoes, but no one is perfect. Given that I had everything I needed there was no excuse for my not starting to work on this until 4 pm, but that’s what I did–I spent the  day lounging on the couch, then at 4 I decided it was time to get started.

I had no idea this recipe was going to be as complicated and time-consuming as it was. I’m pretty sure I cooked for 2 to 2.5 hours. It was pretty labour intensive, and I ended up getting splattered with hot oil just on the outside of my left eye. So everything had to stop while I treated that small injury, and said a quick prayer of thanksgiving that the oil didn’t hit me even 1mm to the left of where it did.

At any rate, after hours of browning bacon, beef and vegetables, I was able to get the whole concoction into the oven. It didn’t take long before the whole apartment had a wonderful, meaty aroma, that made me so hungry I started picking at my desert–I didn’t want to, but the stew needs to spend 2.5 hours in the oven. But it was worth it. The stew was perfect!

It was tender, and perfectly seasoned. This is the moment that I regretted eating my desert first. I was way too full to fully enjoy my dinner. Oh well, at least I have enough fabulous stew to last me a week. It was worth waiting until 9:30 pm for dinner.

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17/365: Julie & Julia Child, Food Temptress

Image by kalebdf via Flickr

Julie & Julia was on tv this last weekend. I just love that movie. I know so many people feel motivated to blog after watching it. Not me; I mean, I like blogging, but I don’t need a movie to motivate me to do this. Where I do need motivation is in the kitchen. Yes, that’s right, Julie & Julia makes me want to cook.

If I had a big, beautiful kitchen like Julia Child’s I might be more interested in spending more time there. But then again, I doubt I would have the motivation to keep that kind of space clean. But I digress, that movie, with its gorgeous food photography, makes me realize that I am wasting my life eating canned soup. I also feel that way when I watch Laura Calder’s French Food at Home. So maybe I’m in love with French food. But that’s a post for another day.

The point, chickens, is that I’m in the mood to cook, to create, and this upcoming weekend is Thanksgiving weekend, so I can think of no better time to cook. And since my holiday plans don’t include a lovely home-cooked meal, I absolutely MUST cook.

Cooking, as you know, starts with a trip to the grocery store, and a well-thought out list. But first I need a plan. I need to decide what I will spend my time cooking. I’ve always wanted to try the Boeuf Burgeon. But then I saw some lovely pictures of beef vindaloo, there is also the appeal of trying to make bi bim bap. And of course, I will need something sweet. I read a recipe for pumpkin chai cupcakes, or I could try’s Bene’s trifle recipe.

I guess I need some help deciding, and since today is election day (honestly, it’s a big week up here) I am looking to make this decision democratically. So what’s your vote?

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Cooking is new to me. I know, it’s not much of a confession, anyone who knows anything about cooking, baking, grocery shopping or being in the kitchen can tell that I know next to nothing about cooking. Imagine my humiliation last week when I announced that I had made a spaghetti squash dish, only to discover that it was actually a butternut squash. And thank you to all of you who did not make fun of my total ignorance. In my defence, the squash were mislabeled at the grocery store, so really, I would like to shove the blame onto someone else.

This is a spaghetti squash. Now I know. I also know that I love butternut squash, so I guess there is a silver lining. As you can see spaghetti squash is very tough, and bested even my best and sharpest knife. It was so scary that I considered locking the dog in the bathroom until I was done cutting.

As you can see I made it through, and I still have all of my original fingers and toes. I also did not stab myself in the abdomen and the dog is still alive, so…all things considered it was a success.

I was a little bit concerned about waste, but I decided it wasn’t worth risking more knife work to salvage what was left of the squash. So I took what I had and seasoned with butter, pepper, coarse salt, and then my hand landed on the cumin, and I thought “why not?” so there’s also cumin in this dish.

I roasted the squash for 45 minutes, but I don’t think it was enough; my squash was a little el dente.

I was totally stunned by just how much like spaghetti this looked. Nature does some funny and amazing things sometimes.

Then I added in my warmed up quinoa, tomatoes, zucchini and onion. I also added more seasoning: Salt, pepper, butter, and..why not, more cumin!

Finally, I added the salmon and a touch of lemon juice. I mixed it all together until I ended up with this.

Yum! So I would do a few things differently: I would roast the squash longer, so that it’s just a little more tender. Also, I would use a little less cumin. It was good, just a little too much for my taste. Otherwise, I loved it. I found it very filling, and I would totally make it again.

But first, I need to get a much better knife.

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Earlier this week my friend Bene sent me an email with a link to a great squash recipe from Martha Stewart’s website for what looked like a delicious spaghetti squash meal. I had no idea there was such a thing as spaghetti squash, but the picture was so appealing, and it also featured shrimp, Yum and Yum.

The recipe really only involved 3 steps: roast the squash, roast the shrimp, combine the two, enjoy! Alright, 4 steps. So after I figured out what a spaghetti squash was I was more than a little excited to try this recipe out. But it needed some work. The first change was that, on Bene’s advice, I removed the seeds before roasting the squash. This was good advice.

I seasoned the squash with ground pepper and coarse salt, then placed it face-down in 3/4 of a cup of water. The oven should be set to 375, and it should take about 45 minutes to leave the squash tender.

The second change I made was to add quinoa. I decided to add the quinoa because Penelope doesn’t like shrimp. So, while the squash was roasting I made a big pot of it.

While the quinoa was being made and the squash was roasting I decided to up the flavour factor a little more, by warming up some cherry tomatoes, onions (not pictured) and zucchini. I kept the heat as low as possible; I just wanted the veg to be warm, and tomatoes can have a somewhat unpleasant texture if they’re overcooked.

Allow the squash to cool, and then strip the “meat” out with a fork so that it is long and stringy.

I didn’t have a spaghetti squash, so mine was more squishy than stringy. Not that I’m complaining, it was still delicious.

Next, combine everything to taste. I have no idea how much quinoa is here, so just add as much as you think you would like.

Then add everything else. I chose to add the veg first, serve Penelope, then add the shrimp. Doesn’t that look good? Warm, but also fresh, the perfect meal for this time of year.

The shrimp was good, but you could also use salmon, or go without any sea fish. It’s a very filling meal even without it.

All this meal needs is a fabulous glass of pino grigio, or a glass of sparkling pink lemonade. Yes, I’m now in love with squash, and will be eating it regularly. Thank you Bene.

And Bon Appetit!

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Women in a Publix grocery store: Tallahassee, ...

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr

As you know, adding Step classes once a week was one of my goals for 2011. That being said, I haven’t had much luck getting to Step Class this month. I had to work late last Tuesday, and this week I had to hurry home because I was worried about Cadie. Originally, the plan had been to take Cadie for a good, long walk, then head out to Body Pump at 7, but I was without food, so instead of going to Body Pump, I decided to do my grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping, it’s kind of like ironing to me; that being said, I love having fresh food waiting for me at home. Here are some of my treasures.

Firstly, I did not buy pizza, french fries and chicken strips. How these items ended up being photographed in my kitchen is inexplicable to me.

Feed me tomatoes! I think I’ve been eating too much comfort food; I want fresh food that makes me feel light and happy. Tomatoes always make me light and happy, plus they are cancer fighters. So they got a big check as I added 2 different varieties to my cart.

I have also been craving zucchini. These zucchini don’t look all that good–in fact, I think you can see just how beaten up they are, even in this picture. Still, the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants zucchini. Until tomorrow my sweet.

Root vegetables–so you can see that I’m not totally over comfort food. I can’t wait to play around with these vegetables. Oh, and wipe the stove. Life is good!

Some necessities. I can’t stand not having milk in the apartment. So yes, I buy 4L, and it’s all for me! I also bought eggs and butter, so now I can bake again.

If I’m going to take my journey for health to the next level I need to start addressing some of my weaknesses. I bought these lovelies to take to work for easy snacking. I have no idea if they are seeded or seedless (though my money is on seeded). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. (I have so many plans to eat so many things tomorrow–this is the upside of grocery shopping:D).

I was so excited to find the Quinoa, oh the things I will do with this…will tomorrow never get here?

A little treat for after dinner. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I don’t believe in depriving myself of the things that I love, and I LOVE ice cream, but I can nudge myself closer to a healthier lifestyle by choosing frozen yogurt.

My colonial mind is addicted to crumpets. So warm and buttery. MMMMMMM.

What goes with crumpets? Tea, of course. I’ve got Lady Grey for the office and lemon ginger for right before bed. A word on Lady Grey, if you haven’t tried it yet you should. It’s a lovely, light black tea with a hint of citrus.

I never buy shrimp, let alone cook with it, so here’s hoping I don’t ruin it. I also bought chicken, but I consider it to be a staple, like milk and eggs.

Oh no, that’s the end. Still, it’s a good haul for one trip to the grocery store.

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This is the story of the little  soufflé that could. If there is an ongoing theme of my kitchen it would be disaster. Do you remember the spanakopita where I dumped all of the “feta juice” all over the floor? Or the dozens of other baking and cooking experiments with missing ingredients, etc. This, combined with the  soufflé’s reputation for being a tricky dish, made it an unlikely choice for my ladies’ luncheon. But then I found this recipe from Laura Calder, my favourite food network personality. Laura said it was easy, and why would Laura lie to me?

The first thing that I did wrong was that I cut up the onion before putting it in milk. But that’s okay, it didn’t upset anything, though it did slow me down a little. While the milk and goodies were steeping I greased and parmeseaned my casserole dish.

Then I grated too much cheddar; the recipe called for 20g, and I grated nearly 300g. Oh well, you can never have too much cheese right?

From there I combined the flour, butter, extra cheese and herbs all into a pot. So far I was more or less on track. That’s when I almost went off the rails. I had separated out 3 eggs, so I had 3 egg whites and 1 yolk. I was supposed to add the yolk to my concoction, but I got confused and added the egg whites instead.

By this time Penelope and I were both standing over the pot trying to decide what to do; should we beat the cheese mixture, should we throw it all out and start over? That’s when W arrived. She told us to separate 3 more eggs and beat those.

Once the eggs whites formed stiff peaks W folded them into the original mixture, and then it went into the oven for 30 minutes.

And the result? Perfection. Very tasty, and so exciting for every one of us that day. This just proves that a good recipe and the help of good friends means that anything is possible, even salvaging a  soufflé when you make a [bunch of] huge mistake[s].

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