a very canadian week of cooking

We have a (pleasant and positive!) running commentary in our house about the enormous variation of first and last names that appear on Canadian news broadcasting stations. Avid CBC fans will know that the multicultural combination of broadcasters who are on television or radio on any given day is astounding – and very Canadian: John Vennavally-Rao, Ian Hanomansing, Vik Adhopia, Nala Ayed, George Stroumboulopoulos, Julie Nesrallah… the list is unending.

When we travel in Europe, someone undoubtedly asks us about ‘Canadian cuisine’. Aside from maple syrup and poutine, it’s hard to think of anything truly Canadian. In reality, Canadian food (at least for us) consists of dumplings and curry, pierogis and borscht, sushi, tacos, dim sum, baguette and challah bread, and a thousand other, very not-Canadian sounding things. But kind of like our favourite CBC hosts, the commonality about all of these things is – now – their Canadian-ness.

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This week, completely accidentally, we ended up with three now-Canadian dishes – a spicy Mexican Chilli (with bulgur.. perhaps that’s the Canadian part…), Chickpeas with Rice, and Egg Fried Rice with Tofu from Mark Bittman’s book.  A broccoli noodle casserole was also created, but Mark doesn’t do casseroles, so that one was all us. Is casserole Canadian? Does anyone actually know?

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Everything we make is easy. Major shocker. There are, in fact, complicated recipes in this book. Rachel (our meal planner) is going to pretend they don’t exist until we run out of things to eat. And even then, we might not attempt those recipes.

The Egg Fried Rice made enough for at least four days, for two people. We usually cook our tofu battered in flour, but this recipe didn’t call for it, and it came out crispy anyway!

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Someone got creative with their plating! Clearly not enough homework… 

Chickpeas with Rice was the best way I’ve ever had simple chickpeas and rice, and took all of ten minutes to make.

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The Chilli was made much more difficult because I had purchased all the ingredients.. and then they were eaten, before the recipe was made.

Sigh. Trips to Sobeys complicate everything. After that though, it was just fine, and made the whole house smell good. This will definitely need to be frozen in batches – there is no way we can eat chilli for the next two weeks. Rachel will go crazy.

So, maybe this wasn’t the cuisine that Jacques Cartier had in mind… but it tastes like home now.

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Here are the recipes we made this week:

Chilli with Bulgur – p. 557

Egg Fried Rice with Tofu – p. 520

Chickpeas with Rice – p. 509

What have you been cooking? Let us know in the comments below, or send us a picture on Instagram – @andthenimetrachel!

our place in the sun

Wow, this week has just gone and nothing seems to have happened. And yet, our house in numbers for the last 8 days looks something like this:

  • 6 essays written
  • 5 languages spoken and/or translated from/into
  • 3 dinners consisting of Tim Horton’s
  • 1 extra major declared
  • 3 shifts of work
  • 5 days of above 0 degree temperatures + 3 rainstorms
  • 2 suppers cooked (on the actual stove)
  • 2 birthdays celebrated
  • 1 house guest
  • 7 philosophers discussed, argued over, and
  • 0 midterms (yet… woohoo)

So there was some Glazed Carrot Soup made (p. 105) and Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw (p. 49), but otherwise that, not a lot of food being prepared, though plenty being consumed…

The beautiful (or horrendous?) part of all this excessive work and lack of time is that the things you want become suddenly so much clearer. This week has presented pleas for more hours, less work, higher grades, fewer classes, another major, a plane ticket home (or 2), a plane ticket literally ANYWHERE, visitors, friends to come to Newfoundland, Newfoundlanders to go to friends in Nova Scotia, another cup(s) of coffee, and again, just a little more time.

The moral of this week of pleas? Time, friends, visitors, travel, and home. Through discussions of hell with Dante, death and anxiety with Heidegger, and Augustine’s constant desire to find some kind of peace, it’s no wonder that these themes keep arising in that real, not-quite-so-philosophical life we are actually leading.

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So although the school stuff, and the money stuff and what we’re going to eat for supper are all things that take up time and brain space, what we ask for when we’re going crazy are the things that actually matter. The phone calls from friends on your birthday, or the surprise house guests, planning for trips back home or the desire to keep seeing new things, with enough time to do the things we love – those things matter. It should not take a moment of intense anxiety, as Heidegger says, to make one realize that we need to pursue those things, and not all the others. We should not need to wait for weeks of feeling overwhelmed and over worked to realize that there are things that are important, and we can ask for them. We will always ask for more coffee, new shoes, better weather. Why is it so much harder to say ‘I need time, and space’ or ‘I want someone to keep me company and tell me it’s okay?’

Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 27 brought in millions of dollars to fund initiatives, while promoting conversation about depression, anxiety, OCD, and other mental health issues. Yes, it’s not ideal we have to fundraise for Canadian mental health projects. But at the same time, having conversations across the country about what we can do for each other to help our mental health – those are good conversations. We don’t need to be diagnosed with an illness to recognize that we need company, friends to talk to, visitors to come and stay. We need time and space and caring people to say ‘Hey, I’m here. I’m listening.”

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So, in the spirit of Let’s Talk Day, and of Heidegger and Dante and all those other cheerful fellows, find your place in the sun this week. Find someone to stand in it with, and take in all that sunlight. Find Augustine’s peace, and don’t wait for Heidegger’s anxiety to make you do it. Call your family, go visit your friends, and we’re going to start trying to ask for the things we really need, not the little things that are taking up space.

(Feel free to send us a note about finding your place in the sun. We love to read and respond to comments here, or on Facebook!)

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what we’re lovin {winter 2016}

Everything I Never Told You - Find this, and other winter loves on And Then I Met RachelRachel just finished reading “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng. Part family drama, part mystery, Ng’s debut novel is nothing short of stellar. Following the personal struggles of a Chinese-American family in 1970s Ohio, Ng binds together each person’s background, resulting in what appears to be an almost blameless crime. Definitely a top read this winter.

 

These super warm, and funky coloured socks from Soulmate Socks. Warm like those big fuzzy wool socks, but without the bulk that comes with them and makes it impossible to wear shoes. And, they’re mismatched on purpose – your right sock will never ever look quite like your left.

Basia Bulat’s new-ish album (apparently it’s from 2013, and she has one coming out in February, so clearly I’m behind…) ‘Tall Tall Shadow’ which, if you’re a CBC Radio 2 listener, you’ve definitely heard parts of. She is an honourary member of the Polish community in her home province of Ontario, and is known for rocking the autoharp. Listen here:

 

Last year, the city of St. John’s put a whack of time and money into refurbishing Bannerman Park. I have no idea what it was like before they did that, but now it’s quite a destination spot. The swimming pool is packed in the summertime, even when it doesn’t seem quite warm enough to be swimming. There’s a massive playground, that’s probably great for children, but also really funny to overhear conversations about the logistics of who is going to slide first, and in what order, and what position, and the various negotiations that accompany such an activity.

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My favourite though is the skating loop, roller-  in the summer, and ice in the winter. As a result, skating at Bannerman Park has definitely become one of our favourite activities on a homework-free evening. The lights are turned on at about 4:30, Beaver Tails and hot chocolate are for sale, and tiny children go whizzing by you as you try not to die. It’s fun for everyone.

Winter brings out the wanderlust in all of us (or if it doesn’t, too bad for you). Rachel recently stumbled upon Fathom, a travel site with city guides, themed trips, volun-tourism opportunities, and attractive photos of a whole bunch of places we would rather be. It is not necessarily a site for the budget traveler (we will never stay in any of the recommended hotels), but the city guides are a great starting place, and who doesn’t love a top-10 list? Check that out here.

And of course, a list of our loves is not complete without food. We made Mark Bittman’s Italian-Style Lentil Soup with Rice (p. 116 ) yesterday, and I think we could have consumed the pot if we didn’t have six other places we really needed to be. It is the variation on the simplest ever lentil soup, but the canned tomato and just a half cup of arborio rice makes the broth almost like gravy, a big hit in our vegetarian house. Add water for more servings, and freeze with ease. Yum!

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What are you loving this winter? (not the weather. That doesn’t count) Let us know in the comments, or find us on Facebook! The thing to click is way far on the right hand side of the screen. I don’t know how to move it any closer. Happy almost-February!

cooking up a… storm?

This has been the week of snow. So much snow that the sidewalks are still covered in a foot of it, classes were cancelled (again!), and we’ve been hibernating. And eating, of course. We made it to the grocery store in a moment of calm, and to Food for Thought – the health food store – which is not anywhere near Sobeys (but we did it anyway), and stocked up on ingredients. Also, an article I just read advised that the one thing people forget when prepping for a storm is toilet paper (who knew?), and it should be included on ’emergency preparedness’ lists. Crazy stuff.

And so we had a delightfully productive week of meal planning, and much eating. Carrot and Celery Salad (p. 45) was by far the simplest – literally just carrot, celery, oil, and lemon juice.

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I was a rebel and added some red onion, which I thought was necessary, maybe our carrots and celery aren’t as flavourful as Mr. Bittman’s are.

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The Potato and Leek Soup – blended –  (p. 106) was not quite as good as some other recipes I’ve had for it, but there was nothing wrong with this one. Pretty straightforward, just make sure if you’re using a blender to whip it smooth, the soup has to be really, really cool. Otherwise, it makes an unattractive mess, which I’m not going to show you the picture of. You’ve been warned.

It was going so well, and then it fell apart. Those falafels man. Those are tricky. We did our chickpeas from scratch, cause they’re cheap like nothing else. Soaked for 24 hours, drained and rinsed, half frozen, the other half in the blender for the Falafel – with Za’atar – (p. 625 ).

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First, our spice cabinet had been raided, and we were out of everything, except for a suspicious looking bag of what we hope was coriander (if it wasn’t… no idea what we consumed). Then, of course we don’t have a food processor, so a blender it was. For future reference, that doesn’t work.

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It does not blend, or smoosh, or anything it’s supposed to do. Finally, the little balls of chickpea and spice did not stick together, and required additional flour to make them resemble anything.

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They weren’t bad by the end of it, but truly, it was not worth that. We have seen falafel hell, and to it we do not wish to return.

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Perhaps, the cooking could not get any worse after that. But the food could! Under Rachel’s direction, I made Kale Pie (p. 403). Sounded like a good idea – a pastry crust, filled with all that kale you know you’re supposed to eat but never know how to cook, baked in the oven with fresh herbs. Definitely seems like it would be tasty. Turns out, the innards of the pie included three hard-boiled eggs (bizarre??) and the pastry was more souffle-like than anything else.

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Rachel said it was the strangest thing she’s ever eaten, took almost no pictures, and had no more than one serving. I ate it for days, but was told never to make that again.  Never. Ever. End of story. I think it was the hard-boiled eggs that did it.

That was a long week. And it’s only just now Friday. What did you cook up during this week of weather? Leave us a note in the comments or find us on Facebook. Happy hibernating!

food – the ‘cornerstone’ of friendship

Rachel is part of Cornerstone Housing Society here in St. John’s, a group that works to achieve housing for adults with intellectual disabilities, in the L’Arche model. L’Arche was started by Jean Vanier, and is now an international organization providing homes and day programs for people with intellectual disabilities. They live together with their assistants, in the “community model” of living, and support one another in faith, friendship, and day to day life. In the Atlantic provinces, four L’Arche communities exist in Nova Scotia and one in New Brunswick. Eventually, the goal of Cornerstone is to become a L’Arche community in Newfoundland. You can find out more about Cornerstone Housing Society at their website here.

If you’re not familiar with L’Arche, or the L’Arche model, this video is from the Homefires community in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and gives just a taste of what goes on in community on a daily basis:

Cornerstone members meet regularly to share fellowship and food and usually a lot of music and laughter. This week, we were supposed to attend the monthly meeting, which included a potluck supper – an opportunity to cook! – and a trip to Rotary Sunshine Park.

We made a massive quantity of Potato Salad with Cream Cheese and Cheddar Dressing (p. 70 of the big green book). Massive. So much salad, that when the event was cancelled due to poor weather, we had to donate large quantities of salad to our neighbours.

It was a bit ridiculous. The salad was delicious though, rich and creamy, and a perfect snack between classes.

We also tried the Everyday Pancakes (p. 200), with berries.

These are serious pancakes. Not fluffy, crispy edged from-the-box pancakes, but major, heavy on the gluten, cakes of dough.

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And of course, appropriately tasty. Filled with raspberries, and covered with Stonewall Kitchen Spiced Rum Butterscotch Sauce. YUM.

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I also whipped up some Sugar Syrup (p. 857), with cinnamon sticks. It was watery that morning, but we put it in a jar and when we took it out of the fridge the next day, it was the consistency of thin maple syrup, and a perfectly good substitute.

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Pancake batter left overnight makes great next-day crepes, a big hit around here with butter and powdered sugar. You really can’t go wrong.

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foods for flu recovery

We could not be happier this week is over. Not only did we fly back to Newfoundland – on the smallest, most turbulent plane ever – but then we got sick, one after the other, and all week have been either in recovery, rest, or bleaching mode. We now have a very clean house.

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Being sick left all food out of the question. The big green vegetarian book was ignored for five days, as was everything except toast and saltines. Fortunately, it has found its way back to us, and we (by ‘we’ I mean me) are back in the kitchen.

This week, we tried Couscous with Broccoli and Almonds (p. 554) and Lentil Samosas (p. 746). 

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The initial plan for this week was to make a lot of dishes featuring the fava bean (also known as the broad bean) which I had intended to purchase dried at the store. Apparently, St. John’s doesn’t like fava beans, and they are not to be found. So we’ve delayed our bean recipes. Also in short supply was anything resembling a green veg, so thank you frozen food for packaging lovely fresh-looking broccoli.

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Having acknowledged all of those challenges, we dove back into the book, and slightly modified the couscous dish (it was definitely supposed to have walnuts. We didn’t have any walnuts). But the almonds were great, and while I loved mine with cheese, Rachel had hers seasoned with panko crumbs as the book suggested, and it was also tasty.

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But the real hit was the samosas. Rachel is scared of making samosas (Rachel doesn’t go in the kitchen, period), but they were really straightforward. The filling took about 45 minutes, but just to get the lentils to soak up all the water.

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The dough is always the worst part (and the part that turns everyone off making samosas in the first place), but I put the dough in the fridge overnight, and when I rolled it out the next day, no rolling pin required, it was much easier than people say! Moral of the story – make the samosas. Don’t stress over the dough, it’s fine.

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Of course, nothing goes perfectly, and the filling made twice as much quantity as the dough. Not really sure how that’s supposed to work (any tips Mark Bittman?!) but we stuck it in the freezer, so we can always make more dough.*

*Alternatively, use packaged wonton wrappers, and bake as usual on a greased baking sheet. This is what Rachel will be doing.

Here they are, looking good:

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So, go try to make samosas. If two university students with too much going on who just got healthy can do it, I’m thinking you can too. And if you can’t, well, neither can Rachel (kidding… sort of). Good luck!

a party, a doughnut, a small success {day 1}

New year, new plan, new recipes to try on old friends. In case you missed the memo, we’re going to be spending hopefully the next 12 months cooking through Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” Read more about that here. On the agenda today were some sweet and savory snacks for a new year’s party. So while trying out my new Basia Bulat CD, we made:

  • Cheese Shortbread
  • Sweet Doughnut Puffs (with two variations – ‘baked’ and ‘churro-style’)
  • Za’atar

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Za’atar (which we’d never heard of) is a spice blend featuring sesame seeds, with a tangy, slightly lemony flavour. Because we didn’t read the quantities correctly, we ended up halving the recipe, but it still made lots. A tablespoon of the blend was thrown into a cup of Greek yogurt with a clove of garlic, as Bittman suggests, and served as a dip for raw veggies.

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The next night, the same sauce was a nice accompaniment for salmon – almost a variation on tzatziki. Definitely a make-again recipe, and super simple.

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The Cheese Shortbread were already one of Rachel’s favourites, and take almost no effort, though they do require the use of the food processor.

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They combine the texture of a shortbread with everyone’s love of cheese, and a hit of spice. Oh, but when it says ‘cube the butter’ it really means ‘cube the butter’. You actually have to do it, or you end up finding the blob of butter covered in the other ingredients, and cubing it by hand and making a mess, as seen here:

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Fortunately, everything had gone well up to this point, so we pushed on with the Doughnut Puffs. This was an odd recipe, because it was made on the stove. I feared a mess of the pan, but actually it came together well. Instead of frying them, we took advantage of the ‘Baked Puffs’ variation, and popped the puffs in the oven.

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Turns out you should take them out halfway through cooking and flip them all over, otherwise one side burns and the puff doesn’t actually cook through. The ‘Churro’ variation rolled the puffs in cinnamon sugar after cooking. Although they were tasty, they definitely were not cooked through, as the fear of burning the outsides prevented it.

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Regardless, a bunch of university students ate everything, including the under-cooking puffs. For our first day, I’ll count that as a success.

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The finished Cheese Shortbreads