Monthly Archives: February 2011

Happy Family Day!

This is the first year that M and I fully get to enjoy a proper family day. McGinty quite thoughtfully dumped the new holiday on the Monday of Reading Week, so while we were students, we hardly noticed its coming and going. This year, we slept in, gloriously languishing under our warm duvet until Mocha started jumping all over us.

Muffins are a late morning breakfast. They come together fast and bake while you drink your first cup of coffee. They wake you up in the gentliest, tastiest way possible.

 

This is just a simple, humble, chocolate chip, whole wheat muffin. The ingredients are so familiar, the same ingredients I pull out any number of times in a week in any number of combinations.

Perfect for a made-up holiday.

Chocolate Chip Whole Wheat Muffins
Adapted from 1 Recipe, 100 Muffins by Susanna Tee

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks

Mix the above ingredients together in a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk

2 eggs

Then, beat in

1 cup milk
6 tbsp canola oil or sunflower oil

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Mix gently. Do no overmix. If there are a few bits of unmixed flour still visible, don’t worry too much about it.

Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins that you have either lined or greased. Pop the muffins into a 400*F oven for 20 minutes. When you pull them out of the oven, hopefully, they’ll look delicious and tasty and golden brown.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Finally! Canon Rebel XS

Last week, while visiting my parents, I shot some of the best pictures of food that I’ve taken in a long time. If you hadn’t noticed, the last few weeks, the quality of my shots have decreased dramatically. First, I ran out of batteries for my Kodak and was reluctant to buy another $15 pack of non-rechargeable lithiums. Then, we ran out of AAs for M’s camera, which couldn’t handle the somewhat low-light conditions of my kitchen anyway. For about two weeks, I resorted to my phone camera.

I know.

Yech.

So, when I snapped a few photos with my parents’ camera — which is just a simple point-and-shoot — I went a little crazy with my camera disappointment. Such a simple camera blew all the cameras I own out of the water. It takes decent pictures, and has a rechargeable, reliable battery.

At first, I thought maybe it was time to just invest in a new point-and-shoot, one with a rechargeable battery pack, and throw my camera up on Kijiji. And then, I looked at our bank account and realized I never spent the last of my free money, the money M and I paid ourselves to do with what we wanted, money we could be a little irresponsible with, no questions asked if we wanted. That, combined with the ‘shoe fund’ my MIL gave me for Christmas, was just enough. When M threw in his full approval, thinking about the shots I can get of our house coming together, and once I had read enough reviews to feel decision-confident, I took the leap.

I have a lot of learning to do. A lot. But this is so exciting! I’ve been talking DSLRs for… years?

It’s about time.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

Every Friday, as long as we have no other plans, M dashes out the door at 6:15 after munching a light supper — or  not — and drives to a local high school where he plays badminton for two hours or so. In the same way that Wednesdays have become his night, Fridays are mine. I watch chick flicks, practice piano loudly, sometimes accompanied by bad vocals, turn on some karaoke on YouTube, read cookbooks, maybe even whip something up for a late dinner when he gets home.

This past Friday, we were planning on driving the two hours to my parents’ place out in the country to spend the weekend, but our Friday didn’t look that much different. When you live in this city, right near the busiest highway in North America, any attempts to get out of the city during rush hour traffic is an exercise in insanity. More often than not, if we have weekend plans that involve any other location than this one, we opt to leave by three or wait until 8, even if it means not getting to where we’re going until late at night. So, just like usual, M packed up his badminton clothes and scooted out the door leaving me and the dog in a quiet apartment.

But I had plans! Peanut butter and chocolate plans, plans to find a new favourite, a new go-to. And oh, goodness, was I ever successful.

These are blondies, essentially the opposite of brownies. And, even better, they’re chock full of peanut butter and chocolate chips, the perfect combination. And, they’re essentially just as easy to make as brownies. These weren’t as moist as my favourite brownie recipe, but the batter was actually fun to work with and they came out deliciously munchy. This is one of those recipes that I firmly believe you must must make. Right now. You’ll probably have all the ingredients anyway, so there’s absolutely nothing stopping you.

(Except maybe your diet if you happen to be on one…)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies
Adapted from the recipe at Sweetest Kitchen, which was adapted from Handle the Heat

1/4 cup butter or cooking margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter, smooth, chunky, natural, whatever
1 and 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
As many chocolate chips as you want

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter. Keep stirring until the peanut butter has melted into the mixture and it is once again smooth. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well. The batter will form a stiff-ish ball in the bowl. Take half of the batter and press it into a greased 8 x 8 pan. This doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t worry if you can get it smooth or covering every inch of the bottom of the pan. Dump a bunch of chocolate chips on top and press them into the batter. Press the rest of the batter on top of the chocolate chips. Dump more chocolate chips on top and press into the batter. Repeat if necessary until you have as much coverage as desired.

Bake in a 350* oven for 25 minutes or until the top is golden and the edges perfectly browned.

M arrived home about 5 minutes after I pulled these from the oven, so we tried our first bite when we were all packed, ready to head out the door, standing in the kitchen.

“Mm,” he said. “I guess the real test will be how they taste when they’re completely cool.”

They passed that test with flying colours too.

(Isn’t that plate so pretty? My mom found them in her closet with an assortment of adorable cups and saucers of my Oma’s.)

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

An Open Letter to Dog Owners in Our Condo Complex

This morning, I was tiptoeing, but not through tulips. (I wish.) No, no. Something far less pleasant.

I imagine something like this was going through your head: “It’s so cold out. Can’t feel my fingers. Can’t get the bag open with my mitts on. Certainly don’t want to take my mitts off, Heavens no. Hurry up, Spot, I wanna go inside. Is anyone watching us? Do you think that man over there cares? Naw? We’ll just cover up that little doody… All gone!”

Yeah, not exactly. Now that the snow is melting, it’s all coming back, your pooch’s perfect little logs all lined up in a row, ready and ripe for the smushing underfoot. Under my feet.

If it were one or even two of you, I could probably handle it. Even in the summer, there’s the occasional dog owner who seems to have forgotten the etiquette. Heck, even I’ve had to leave behind a small transgression because I’ve found myself caught without a scooping method.  But the evidence is all over, my canine-loving friends and I am truly disgusted. You have all forgotten that little poop’n’scoopin’ rule.

It’s pretty much too late for this year. I know you won’t remember which little (or big) turd belonged to your dog, and I can’t imagine you would be willing to guess and finally do the right thing. But maybe next year, you could remember? Grit your teeth, take your mitts off if you have to, stick your hand in that bag and scoop. We won’t be here anymore, but I’m sure there are other slightly disgruntled dog owners who would greatly appreciate it if the snow could melt cleanly.

In case you didn’t get the point of this letter:

Pick up your dogs’ crap already!

Mocha’s owner, your (usually) friendly neighbour

(Apologies to my regular readers who don’t have a dog and really didn’t want to read all about doggy doodoo.)

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sweet Honey Pork

It seems like not too many people do their grocery shopping the way M and I do ours anymore. Or, if they do, they try to avoid Saturday mornings. We walk up and down each aisle, examining prices, comparing brands, spotting deals. Despite being only two people, we buy in a way that can almost be described as bulk: multiple loaves of bread, two bricks of cheese, four packages of pork on sale. When we got up to the counter this time around, the cashier observed our piled up mound of groceries and asked, “How often do you do your groceries?”

I looked around and realized how odd we actually look. The grocery carts behind us were half full and the handheld baskets were in wide spread use. It seems like most of our fellow shoppers must frequent the grocery store more often then we do or eat out a lot more. We make it out to a grocery store every two, sometimes three or even four weeks. If I could go longer, I would.

I have a love-hate relationship with grocery shopping and, more often than not, the hate side wins out. As someone who loves food, I love grocery stores in general: the produce section, the bakery, the meat, everything in that store comes together to inspiration. In a grocery store, any meal is possible. Not only that, but there’s a bit of a thrill in finding a deal that brings a delightful meal together in an inexpensive way. A grocery store perfectly combines the bargain hunter and the indulgent shopper. It’s a challenge and an adventure.

Until, that is, you reach the check out line.

We’ve gone on Saturdays. We’ve gone on Tuesdays. Wednesdays seems especially bad. But I don’t believe there is a time that is available to us that is a good time to go grocery shopping. Undoubtedly, we need to expect a 20 minute wait in line before we even get to the conveyer belt. If we’re lucky, no one with a small basket of groceries will politely ask to jump in front of us because our cart is so full. By the time we get there, we’re so tired and slightly irritated that we don’t care how long we take. But then, there’s the packing. I hate packing. I feel like I have to be fast, but careful not to squish the bread and mindful of how many bags we have to how many groceries.

As much as I dislike the whole experience, I love having a well-stocked kitchen; a full freezer, a fresh looking fridge, a pantry stocked to the brim with back-up foods and ingredients.

Of course, our bargain hunting sometimes means we come home missing a key staple because something else was a better price. And, inevitably, the week we bring home four packages of pork, all I can find are delicious looking chicken recipes. Oh well. Time to dig into my recipe collection yet again.

This pork recipe kind of comes from a book I borrowed from my mom called A Collage of Canadian Cooking. It’s the kind of cookbook I’ve pulled out many times, flipped through and put back without even finding a recipe I might want to make should I have all the ingredients. This time, though, I had a bit of a mission: pork recipes.

This recipe is actually meant to be a sparerib marinade. No matter. I tweaked it to work with my pork chops. In the end, this reminded me almost exactly of the Chinese take-out kind of pork.

Sweet Honey Pork
Adapted from The Collage of Canadian Cooking


1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp Cajun seasoning or any other blend of seasonings
3 good sized pork chops, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks

Mix together the flour and seasoning in a bowl. Drop the pork chunks into the flour and coat. Heat some oil (I used canola) on a skillet over medium heat. Brown the pork pieces evenly. If your skillet isn’t large enough, do this in batches so the pieces can be spread evenly in the skillet.

Meanwhile,

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger

Mix the above ingredients in a bowl. After the pork has been browned, pour the sauce over the pork. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until the sauce has reduced to the thickness you want.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Creamy Bruschetta and Dinner Parties

I find the best place to go for good recipes is a dinner party with a generous host. You could play a guessing game with cookbooks and blogs and pretty, sometimes deceptive pictures, or, you can taste it for yourself before you even considering rushing out to buy all the necessary ingredients. I mean, really, what’s not to love about the concept of a dinner party? You get to taste food made by someone else, potentially get a new favourite recipe, make a fool of yourself playing Kinect and, get a little tipsy on wine before heading out to a country bar to go dancing with your best girlfriend and her husband. (What, did you think I’d go to a dinner party with stiff social climbers and stilted conversation over a far-too-gilded, mile-long dinner table?)

And if you’re hosting? The perfect chance to wow a friend or two with your new favourite recipe that you picked up from someone else!

Now, onto the food. J of An Extra Glimpse and the beautiful bride from November 20th served this variation of the classic bruschetta as an appetizer. I took one bite and was in food heaven. So, naturally, I pestered her for it and she, graciously, emailed me the recipe two days later. It was high on my list of things to make after we went grocery shopping last week but, by the time I actually got to it, the baguette I had picked up was a little crunchier than perfection would have been. No matter. The two day old baguette still worked out just fine.

Creamy Tomato Bruschetta
From J of An Extra Glimpse, used with her permission. No idea where she got it from.

1/2 cup mayo
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 medium tomatoes, finely diced
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh baguette cut into 1 inch slices

Mix all the ingredients except, of course, the baguette, in a medium sized bowl. Arrange baguette slices on a cookie sheet. Divide tomato mixture among slices.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or may put pan on grill at medium, low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Delightfully creamy with a bit of a kick to them from the pepper. Completely and utterly delicious. So delicious that we actually at them for our supper. That’s right, you heard me. We had an appetizer supper and it was delicious. This is, I expect an incredibly versatile recipe. I’m already thinking of variations: an onion to replace one of the tomatoes, any different kind of cheese, some shredded chicken, a different medley of spiced. Take mayo, tomato, and cheese, mix whatever you want with them, pop it on to of a slice of baguette, and bake! I have a feeling this one is going to be in my back pocket for a very long time.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Waiting for April

It seems to me like the end of winter is a season of waiting.

I know, I know. Advent is the season of waiting and that was almost three months ago. And yet, come February, I find myself waiting, waiting, waiting, barely containing myself. Last year at this time, it was the wedding. There were suddenly very few plans to make. Decisions had been made, dresses had been bought, venues booked, vendors chosen. I was working my way through my last few courses, but mostly, I was simply waiting, so excited for that moment when M and I finally walked hand in hand down the aisle and out of the sanctuary as husband and wife.

And now, a year after that painful stretch of waiting, I’m back to it. It’s not really as painful as last year: there aren’t as many worries, not as much pressure on the end of the wait, on one day. And, as wonderful as the end of the wait will be, in truth, it will be nothing in comparison to last year’s finale.

But it’s still going to be awesome.

We’ve been making plans like crazy. Every night, one of says something like, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about the bathroom,” or, “Are you sure it’s a good idea to put a shower in instead of a tub?” or “Do you think we could rip down that wall someday?” Every day, our thoughts change: last week, we were set on a layout change, moving the bathroom to behind the kitchen and creating an open-concept flow. This week, we’re wondering if we’ll get a better return on our investment if we work with what we have and just make it amazing. Next week we’ll probably start planning to add a whole second floor or a huge addition out the back. We’ve got dozens of scribbled floor plans and a few well thought out and carefully scaled versions. And I’m starting to lose track of the number of trips we’ve taken to Ikea.

Waiting is important; I know that. If only it were slightly easier.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Crunchy Peanut Butter Muffins

An early meeting pushes me out of bed at 6:00 in the morning, half an hour before I would generally be moving. Mocha is still fast asleep, heavy on the blankets between us. The quiet left after I hit the snooze button is far too comfortable, far to dark, and the world outside the comforter is not appealing at all. I would love to just lie here indefinitely.

As difficult as it is to get out of bed, I kind of like these early mornings. (But ssshhh… don’t tell my boss…) There’s less pressure and more preparation. Oh, your hair is a mess today? Understandable. You had to be here at 7:30.

Since I knew last night that I would be up early, a situation that is not so good for my breakfast eating habits, I pulled out my muffin book, a little book full of delicious looking muffins. (Though there are really only a handful that I have any desire at all to make — odd how that is.) I wanted something that would give me a good amount of energy, not be too bad for me and, of course, be delicious.

You don’t want to eat too many of these all at once since they are about 289 calories each — I kind of missed the ‘good for you’ requirement. If you want healthy, opt for a Timmies donut instead — but um, peanut butter is awesome. Enough said.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Muffins
Adapted from 1 Mix, 100 Muffins by Susanna Tee

Muffins

2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
6 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

Topping

1/3 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp brown sugar

Make the topping first. It’s really simple. Chop your peanuts if all you have is whole peanuts. (Chopping peanuts is fun!) Then, in a small bowl, mix the peanuts and brown sugar together. Set aside and start preheating your oven to 400*.

For the muffins, mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix, but don’t overmix. If you overmix, the texture of the muffins will be off. So, just mix until the dry ingredients are wet. It will all clump together a bit in the bowl. This isn’t really a wet muffin batter, so don’t be too concerned if your mixture isn’t fully mixed and you feel like you might be overmixing. You probably aren’t.

Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin. Sprinkle with the topping and pop into the oven for 20 minutes.

The other wonderful thing about early morning meetings? When 3:30 rolls around, I can pack up and be home an hour early, which means supper is well underway long before M gets home, the kitchen is clean(-ish) and our evening has suddenly grown by an hour or even two.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday Worship with White Bean Soup

On Sunday, I sang in a new church for the first time. My piano teacher is the worship leader of the church we have been attending, so I kind of expected that I would be coerced on stage. And really, it does not take a lot of coercion: I am beyond willing. I love to sing and I love to help other people sing. After the service, I was approached by a number of people thanking me for leading, people curious about me and us, this couple that they’ve seen only a few times and this girl who seems completely willing to step in front of a crowd of strangers. One older man in particular stuck out in my mind.

“I used to really dislike it, you know. People singing at the front with a microphone. But then HJ, the worship leader, helped me understand: you’re a cantor, from the old tradition.”

This brief conversation got me thinking a bit about music and how it is used — and misused — in churches.  There is a fine balance in that role of worship leading though: a worship leader must be a strong singer or risk hindering rather than helping a congregation. But, at the same time, leading the congregation and even singing for the congregation during an offering or as a time for special music is not about performance. Doesn’t sound too complicated, right? Lead, but don’t perform. So why does it seem to me like so many churches miss the mark? In an effort to be contemporary, cutting-edge, to try to draw young people into the church, it seems the focus can very easily be lost. Lightshows, unpredictable music, and unexpected key changes take over. The band moves from leading to galloping ahead, without a care as to where the congregation is. New, cutting-edge song after new song leads to frustration, especially when these songs are not well-suited to congregational singing.

Ultimately, as a worship leader, I believe you need to listen to your congregation and you need to know who they are: if your purpose is to help them worship and help them connect to God, you will be successful, as long as you’re open to picking up the hymn book every so often to do it.

I felt whipped after the church service, whipped yet energized and excited at the same time. It’s a weird combination. It made it difficult to get my butt out of the chair and into the kitchen once we got home. But there’s something about Sunday soup that is so comforting that it’s impossible to pass up. And, we had just done a huge trip to the grocery store on Saturday, so we have plenty of fresh veggies in the fridge. And yet, I was feeling a touch uninspired. Surprisingly, in the end, this was pretty tasty, despite the little effort I managed to put into it.

White Bean Soup

A couple scoops of butter
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion
A couple heaping tbsp of flour

Cook the onion in the butter until the onion is translucent. Add the flour and stir together. Cook for approximately 3 minutes, cooking constantly.

(This technique is called a roux. It’s a wonderful technique and one of the best things I learned in 2010.)

4 cups water
1 package Knorr Vegetable broth
1 tbsp chicken bouillon
A dusting of basil, oregano, Montreal chicken spice and whatever other spices you wish to add
1 carrot chopped
1 potato chopped
1/2 to 1 cup rinsed white beans. You can also use canned. Canned would, in fact, produce quicker, if not better, results. Just make sure you rinse the beans first, no matter what kind you use.

Mix the water into the cooked roux and add all of the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil to cook the beans. Reduce the heat and simmer for a couple hours, stirring occasionally. Taste the beans. If you deem them soft enough and the rest of the soup hot enough, go ahead and eat!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

There’s a snow storm coming. I wish I had more food in the house to prepare for it, just in case we get apartment-bound. We won’t starve or anything, but I feel like a snow day would be an excellent day to try out a new kind of soup or the honey and milk bread a friend shared with me this week.

Winters are different in the city. I grew up in the middle of the snowbelt, so from November to mid-March, I woke up every day listening carefully to the radio and hoping for a snow day. We would have 10 or so every year and at least once a year, we’d have a run of snowy days, drifts filling up our driveway half an hour after my dad blew it out. Here, snow storms just… don’t happen. It’s already February and I miss the blizzards.

These meatballs have nothing to do with snow storms. But they do have something to do with the warmth of my mother’s cooking. They’re very similar to the meatballs she would make in a crock pot to take to a potluck. Every bite reminded me of that crock pot, a solid, brown, flowered thing from the 80s.

I did not make this in a crock pot. These are not quite as good as my mom’s, probably just because they weren’t made by my mom.

This recipe came from another church cookbook. See? I’ve been giving my aversion to church cookbooks a good kick in butt considering I’ve now made two recipes from two different church cookbooks from two different parts of the country and have discovered nothing but delight in the recipes. This church cookbook landed in my lap during a gift giving game last Christmas and is cringingly called ‘Cooking to Serve, Serving As Cooks’. There are half a dozen recipes for chicken casserole and cheese whiz shows up as an ingredient a little too often, but this recipe almost redeems all of that.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Adapted From Cooking to Serve, Serving As Cooks and submitted by on Rebecca Joncas of Leamington

1lb ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce:
1 cup barbeque sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar

Mix all the meatball ingredients together with your hands. Trust me. It won’t get mixed enough if you try to use a spoon and you need to get your hands dirty for the next step anyway. A little raw meat won’t hurt you.

Roll small fistfuls of meat into balls. Brown the balls on all sides. Transfer to a casserole dish.

Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and cook in a 325* for 30 minutes. Serve over rice and hot veggies.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized