Monday, 26 October 2015

Seafood Stew and Women Overdue

From my kitchen window.  For about 4 days fall is wonderful.

It's been a weird week.  Only two births - both attended by me and both super quick.  Call days for the other midwives completely silent.  We have 2 women overdue and another 5 due.  I feel like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head.  So today was my "second call" day meaning I will only get called out if there is a home birth requiring a second attendant.  Same Friday, when we had Peter and Chelsea over for dinner and cards - tacos with hard or soft tortillas, beef and onion or vegan chorizo filling, Mexican rice , chipotle beans and all the toppings.  Grapes and these chocolate chip cookies for dessert. 
These mint chocolate chip cookies are too dark to photograph
Toppings for tacos are actually the best - by the time I have added the lettuce, salsa, guacamole, jalapeños, cheese etc I don't really need whatever the protein filling is.  I bought some Pacifica beer to go with but I think only Jimm drank it.  Chelsea and I had a Chaberton Reserve Dry Bacchus which is delicious and a bargain at about $20. Peter, being of Scottish descent,  thinks whiskey goes with everything.  

So with only one real work day, Saturday, I did get some other things done.  I finally cleaned out the linen closet and threw away all the old greying sheets, and did the thing where you put all the sheet sets into their own pillowcase.  It looks very organized, now I just need to get the boys to actually use the top sheet.  Kidding, I just didn't put a top sheet into the twin sets.  Some things are not worth fighting for.  

I also made French bread, with only partial success.  It's about my third or fourth time trying for the thin, crunchy crust and I there used egg wash on the loaves and a pan of water on the bottom shelf to provide steam., which helps the crust.  What I'm not getting is how to ensure my baguettes rise UP instead of sideways.  I get a nice grain and crunchy crust but the loaf is wider than it is tall.   

Tamago made from leftover egg wash.

So I won't be giving you any French bread instructions at this stage, that's for sure.  It still tasted fine. I made a seafood stew for dinner, something I had planned for earlier in the week which somehow didn't work out.  (By the time I finish this entry it's Monday.  Back on call and interrupted at this point by a couple paging to let me know something has started and they just want to check that they should call me when I said to call, and not now when contractions are 12-30 minutes apart. I take 15 minutes to calm myself. I had a first baby once myself.)

The stew starts with mirepoix, chopped onions, celery and carrots.  On top of the mirepoix in the bowl is a minced shallot added because it was hanging out in the fridge.  Quantity doesn't matter a lot here.  I think it's about a cup of each vegetable.  Start that cooking fairly slowly in olive oil, along with some kind of sausage cut into bite-sized pieces.  This is garlic sausage because Jimm doesn't like spicy stuff.  Chorizo would have been more appropriate I think.  When the onions were almost softened I added chopped bell peppers.

After the peppers add an astonishing amount of garlic

The spice mix is 3 tsp Old Bay and 1 tsp smoked paprika.  
I used some fish stock I had made a few months ago and put in the freezer, about two cups, and a large can of Italian tomatoes which I squished up with my hands while adding.  Try it, it's fun.  Let it simmer a while to blend the flavours.  In my case, about 20 minutes or until Jimm got home.  

Put the lid on and cook for 5-8 minutes or until fish flakes and prawns are pink

Then put in the whitefish - I used 2 basa fillets, and large prawns (the ones that come 16-20 in a package.  I pre-seasoned the fish with some old bay, lemon juice, salt and pepper and garlic and let it sit.  The prawns got salt and pepper only.  We have a lot of leftovers that I sent to work with Jimm and Trav.  Just can't get out of the habit of cooking for eight.  

Top with parsley and torn basil leaves and serve on rice.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Thanksgiving - Not My Job

It's been a while since I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner or an Easter dinner.  It seems that Christmas is my territory and since I am often on call or working in clinic on Thanksgiving it has fallen to others.  My sister in law Rose really loves Easter and does wonderful dinners, and my oldest daughter Jen and her fiancé Jeff are the crowned rulers of Thanksgiving. I'm also really happy that they have their dinner Sunday, a second-call day for me, rather than Saturday when I was on call.

We left late as usual, I was doing house calls which took longer than expected.  When I got home at 5, expected in Vancouver (an hour away) at 6,  Kenny was ironing his not-quite-dry pants.  Jimm was playing guitar, the kitchen was a mess and Travers was doing whatever Travers does all day - it doesn't usually involve being out of his room anyway.  Jimm decides to go get gas while waiting for Ken to be ready. I clean the kitchen and thank all the cooking gods I am only bringing wine. The photo shows Jen in the middle between Jimm and her friend Steph.  My portrait of Jen was blurry. 

Back row is Jeff talking to their housemate Sarah's parents.  Foreground is Travers and Jen's friend Liang.  

Narrowly avoided a political argument in the car as we are approaching an election and Kenny, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, often gets annoyed by Jimm's opinions, and vice-versa.  Travers tries manfully to be heard without breaching the bounds of politeness - he seems to get ignored because Ken and Jimm are preoccupied with demolishing each other's arguments.  We reach Jen's with everyone's tempers intact.

I think Jen had 18 people for dinner, and I'm always amazed by how relatively unruffled she and Jeff are by the magnitude of this dinner.
This is the menu:
All the food and Kenny's legs

  • Roasted kabocha squash soup with crème fraîche
  • Cream of mushroom soup with herbs
  • Maple basted turkey with sage butter and bacon
  • Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
  • 3 kinds of stuffing - Vegan, vegan and gluten free, and cooked in the bird
  • Lentil loaves
  • Roasted kale with mushrooms with sesame and chili oil
  • Roasted brussels sprouts, red and yellow beets with balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic
  • Sweet potatoes with apples in a spiced glaze
  • Cranberry sauce with orange zest and fig
  • Turkey gravy
  • Vegan mushroom gravy
I think the big favourites were the vegetables - particularly the roasted sprouts and the kale.

 It's a shame Thanksgiving food is so....brown.  It doesn't photograph as delicious as it is.
Jimm was particularly impressed with the kale, a food he has tried many times (at my insistence) and not liked.  Yes, I'm going to try to get the recipe.  The lentil loaf is one of my favourite vegetarian dishes.  Really hearty, excellent texture, and not pretending to be a hamburger when it isn't.  You can actually add meat instead of TVP if you want to make a better-for-you meatloaf.

1 c. TVP
1 large onion, diced finely
1 small yam, 5 cloves minced garlic
dry lentils to yield 3 cups cooked - about 1.5 c dry
about 1/2 c. toasted pecans
1/4 cup each soy sauce, ketchup, nutritional yeast, flax seed (I presume ground to replace eggs)
1 1/4 c. rolled or quick oats
4-5 chopped sage leaves, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
1-2 tbsp maple syrup, dash of mace

To cook lentils:
2 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp chicken seasoning, 1/2 tsp each rosemary, oregano, whatever you like,
1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp molasses.

Cook lentils and TVP separately.  Allow lentils to absorb as much of the water and spices as possible.  Grate the yam, combine in a bowl with the onion, garlic, yeast and flax. Finely grind the nuts in a food processor. Add to the processor bowl 3/4 of the lentils and half the yam bowl.  Pulse until mushy, then combine with the unprocessed ingredients.  Add the remaining ketchup, soy, oats, herbs, syrup and stir.  Taste and add more herbs if needed.  Don't worry - it's vegan.  Bake in a foil covered loaf pan for 30 minutes at 400.  Remove foil, bake another 30-40 min at 375.  It will firm up a bit with standing.  Jen notes that she uses 2 c. lentils to make a double batch of this so 1 c is probably closer to the amount of dry you want to start with.  The chicken seasoning is salt, pepper, parsley, tarragon etc in a grinder - Jen has a garden and grows a lot of herbs.  You could probably use some salt and pepper and poultry seasoning.

Now that we are all healthy, here are the desserts.
Pumpkin Pie served with cognac whipped cream

White chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

Apple Pie - I believe GF 
Not shown are homemade vegan coffee ice cream and vegan maple pecan ice cream.  So I think we know why I don't do Thanksgiving anymore.  

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Like a virgin

When my youngest daughter, the hippie one, suggested I start a blog it was probably because I was clogging up her Instagram and Facebook feeds with food posts.  I don't think she ever imagined I would actually do it, as my tech savvy is, shall we say, limited.  But the ability to say more, expand and explain, to have more than 140 characters is irresistible. So here we are with the first post.

Today is a planning and cooking day, or it will be as soon as I get my lazy self to the grocery store.  I've found that at least having an idea what will be for dinner most nights means I waste less food, grocery shopping is more focused and I'm not (quite) as likely to give up and go out for dinner when I come home from work and find "my house is dark and my pots are cold."

Here's how the planning stage starts.  I try to use some of the food I already have in the fridge and freezer, try some new dishes and repeat some successful ones.  Then I write a grocery list.  The unsanitary-looking book on the top is the way I store all my old clippings, recipes from other people and so on.  I apologize for the strange text wrap - it's not working well and I have no idea how to fix it.Told you I was an amateur.  Anyway, the next step is shop, then plan out the cooking order.  Back soon.
Grocery shopping complete.

The week's menu looks like this:

I have the meatballs and asian BBQ tenderloin in the freezer.  The plan is do the Biriyani first as we are eating it tonight - throw the food at my men while I continue with the rest, and convince Kenny, my youngest,  to do as many of the dishes as possible by pretending they are all from making dinner.  You start with marinating the chicken with yoghurt and spices.  I left out the chili entirely from this recipe because my husband does not do spicy.  At all. Let it sit while you prep the rest.
 Pour a glass of wine because it's 6 o'clock now and you deserve it.  I did the prep of the aromatics and rice on the stove in a cast iron pan because my rice cooker doesn't have a "cook" option.  I used the chicken broth I had made last week and put in the freezer.  Once the rice cooker was going I started the sausage and peppers for the pasta tomorrow.  It's from the new Michael Smith book, Make Ahead Meals, but honestly you could wing it.  Take a couple onions, 4-5 Italian sausages, 3-4 chopped red peppers and 2 heads of garlic, peeled, separated and halved if large, I added a chopped eggplant not in the original recipe, and mix with a tablespoon of oregano, sea salt an pepper, a cup of red wine and a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix it all in a large bowl then roast it at 375 for an hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes.  It gets heated up and served on penne, stirring in a couple of cups of greens.  I reserved a ziplock bag of the mixed kale/spinach/chard blend I'd bought for soup.

Now it's time to start the chicken - 4 organic, skin on bone in breasts that were on sale.  I often cook a whole chicken or two to use during the week but this was cheaper.  I used the same spice blend I always use on the chicken.  It's adapted from a paleo recipe for slow cooker rotisserie chicken.  Combine more or less equal amounts of sea salt, thyme, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and freshly ground pepper.  Rub the chicken with olive oil, then the spice blend.  If using a whole chicken use the slow cooker.  Put a few balls of tinfoil on the bottom to keep the chicken elevated, then cook on low for 10 hours or so.  They tell me it's good - certainly it comes out moist.  This chicken I just baked since I had the oven on for the sausage/pepper mix.

Break for dinner.  If you make the biriyani, DO NOT omit the cashew/fried onion/raisin topping.  It makes the dish.  We had it with Major Grey chutney and a very spicy cilantro chutney for Ken and I.  I forgot the naan.  Sigh.  It was supposed to be served with broccoli but I forgot to buy it.  Now we will all go to carb hell.
Note the classy label on my homemade spice jar.
We ate dinner right after I put the chicken and the sausages in the oven.  We had some leftovers which will be used for lunches during the week.  Here's where Ken did a lot of the dishes - I'd done some but he is a machine.

Then I started the soup - an amalgamation of several recipes.  It's essentially a split pea soup with greens added at the end, then blended with the immersion blender.  Looks a bit Exorcist-esque but tastes good.  Once it was simmering, it needed an hour to soften the peas, just the right amount of time to do the pumpkin bread.  My recipe comes from my old friend Suzanne, she gave it to me sometime in the '80's .  It makes two loaves, and is by no means a healthy recipe.  Also it contains 2 cups of pumpkin, which is somewhat less than a large can and somewhat more than a small one.  It's a testament to how good this recipe is that I keep making it given this and the three cups of sugar.  I'll post it when I figure out how to do that and make it look good.
You will only wind up with about half this amount.
 All told it takes about 4 hours to do 5 dinners.  I started about 4:30 and was finished before 9.  After I watched Dr. Who with Ken and Alice and ate a slice of the evil pumpkin loaf.  Here are the meals:
Prep for the meatball subs and soup, thawing meatballs, cheese, panini buns, marinara sauce.  The Green Soup jarred and cooling.  I will use either tofu or veggie burger in my sandwich.
To the right are the pumpkin loaves.  They didn't stay intact for long.
Below are two previously cooked Asian BBQ tenderloins, chinese noodles, stir fry vegetable mix and bean sprouts.  I'll add veg broth, soy sauce and oyster sauce and other seasonings to the stir fry vegetables, add the boiled noodles and stir in the bean sprouts and some green onions right before serving.  I might add some sticky rice if we have a full complement of diners.   Again, I may add some tofu for me.
 This is the sausage and pepper "sauce".  It gets heated up while the pasta boils, then added to the cooked penne with some of the reserved cooking water and the greens.  It's supposed to be served with shaved parmesan on top but I will just put the parmesan and grater on the table .

Serving with a green salad with cucumbers. I just serve myself pasta with the vegetables and pick out the meat.  Yeah, I am not so much a vegetarian as a person who doesn't eat meat.  Jimm, the recipient of the meat, doesn't judge.  If a dish is too meaty, like stew or something with ground meat I eat something else.
 The roasted chicken breasts.  I will shred some for the enchiladas, and serve any remaining with Friday's Greek food, hence the pitas.

I made hummus a few days ago - hopefully there will be some left, otherwise it's back to the grocery store. The enchiladas will be put together on the day I bake them or they tend to get soggy.  It's one of the most popular things with my family and ridiculously easy to make once you have all the ingredients together.  I had an enchilada sauce in the freezer from the last time I made Mexican food.  On the day we are going to eat it I'll combine shredded chicken, a tub of cream cheese, a jar of salsa, a can each of 

 black beans and corn, and roll the mixture in tortillas.  I have used both corn and whole wheat tortillas successfully. Some sauce goes in the bottom of the pan, just enough that they won't stick.  Oil the baking dish a bit.  I usually make 2 without the chicken and with some added zucchini or other veg for me, putting them at one end of the pan in a kind of vegetarian apartheid.  When all the enchiladas are rolled pour sauce over, then top with a little shredded Mexican cheese (I use Oaxaca but you can use Mozza or Monterey Jack).  Bake until hot and serve with Mexican rice and shredded lettuce.  I use mild salsa to make this and keep the sauce mild for Jimm so the kids usually put some hot salsa on top.

So there you have it.  I don't get this much done every week, but my life is easier when I do.  It's always a toss up any day I'm not working what will be neglected.  Cooking?  Office work?  Laundry? Leisure?  Doing one means not doing the others.  (nb, most of the "extras" on my original plan did not get done because I wasted too much time.  C'est la vie.)