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.

IMG_0276

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.

IMG_20160119_152809612

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 ).

falafel

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.

falafel

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.

P1080300

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.

P1080306

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.

IMG_20160119_171008985

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.

IMG_0304

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

IMG_0310

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.

IMG_0317

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.

IMG_0306

from the bookshelf {winter 2016}

With school back in session, and the reading list full of philosophy, French, psychology, politics, and economics (at least in our house), the to-be-read fun books are on the back burner. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Five minutes before classes start, ten minutes before bed, it all adds up. For the rest of you though, not taking classes and with time to spare, check out some of our favourite reads from the last few months.

Clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon, but please, support your local, independent book seller. For example… Broken Books, St. John’s NLBox of Delights, Wolfville NS or Bookmark, Halifax NS!

 

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman 

For anyone who has ever wished to own a bookstore, live in the Welsh countryside, and be involved in an international, historical mystery, this is the book for you. Tooly, the female protagonist, takes on the task of figuring out her own history, while reconnecting with her past, and making stops around the globe. All the while, the lovely descriptions of Welsh fields and bookstore shelves give this book a perfect, wintry feel that contrasts with the engaging plot twists.


Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours by Maria Mutch

I missed hearing Maria Mutch speak at the Box of Delights in Wolfville a couple of years ago, but did not miss this memoir, a must-read for anyone involved with children who have special needs. Mutch combines her attraction to Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and his many weeks spent in darkness, with her own experience accompanying her young son during the night. A fascinating look into the bond between mother and child, the human brain, and the often-feared night.


Annabel by Kathleen WinterAnnabel

In Labrador in 1968, an ‘intersex’ baby is born, and the decision is made to raise the child as male. Wayne, once grown, discovers the truth of his infancy, and his parents’ choices. In doing so however, he opens the door to what becomes a time of identity-searching, and the challenges that arise when what you were taught to be becomes difficult to maintain. Winter’s content is fresh and relevant, and not often featured in fiction, making this choice a clear winner for us this year.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

This is in no way a cheerful book. There is almost nothing to say about this that won’t give something away, but I for one devoured it in days, and it has stuck with me for the past year. Give it a go when you need a good cry, or when you are clearly being too happy for everyone around you. And yes, there really is a rabbit. It’s one of the most uplifting parts of the whole book. But, truly, the writing is beautiful, and the story will hold you from beginning to end.

 

We would love to know what you’re reading this winter, or what’s on the top of your to-be-read list. Leave us a note in the comments, or please do connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. Happy reading!

 

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.

IMG_0210

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). 

IMG_0207.JPG

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.

IMG_0205

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.

IMG_20160110_180517423

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.

IMG_20160110_182631204

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.

IMG_20160110_183849426

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:

IMG_0213

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

P1080261

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.

P1080281

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.

P1080275

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.

P1080260

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:

P1080256

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.

P1080276

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.

P1080277

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

P1080264
The finished Cheese Shortbreads

 

a new year, a new plan

I hate meal planning. I like the meals being planned, and we love knowing what we’re eating without worrying about it the day of. And because we only shop on Tuesdays (it’s 10% off for students day!) we really do need a plan. But I hate doing it.

So for the new year, the non-plan is to work our way through Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”, the ‘vegetarian bible’ as it’s known around here. I’ve heard it contains over 2000 recipes, everything from how to fry an egg, to how to make your own cheese. So this year, we’re going to try them all. Because there are so many variations, cooking one of them will count as having tried the recipe. Even though I’ve owned this book for at least five years, I still only use the same ten go-to recipes over and over. This year is a chance to try all those interesting, slightly frightening dishes, to figure out how to make even more delicious veg food, and to discover just how hard you have to look to find vegetables in January in Newfoundland. Yes, it will require some meal planning, but at least the options will come from the book. One year, thousands of recipes, and hopefully some converts to vegetarian (or at least flexitarian) cooking.

IMG_0169

So, feel free to follow along this overly-ambitious excursion into the big green book, and join us on instagram (@andthenimetrachel) as we broadcast our daily forays into the kitchen. It might not be pretty, but at least we won’t be hungry. See you in the new year!

 

what we’re lovin {fall 2015}

This has been a crazy fall. Full time work and part time school for me, full time school and part time work for Rachel… no more please. Time for Christmas.

Not only are we in the midst of all this, but being away from home for these four month stretches is killer. Everyone needs some pretty (and useful, and musical) things to keep them going. So here are some of our top ‘loves’ this fall.

R: This lovely version of ‘River’ by Scala & Kolacny Brothers. If you aren’t a Scala fan, you should be, and this will definitely convert you.

J: Fall sweaters + scarves. Wool, cotton, you name it. Layers are the way to go in this terribly awful cold province, and we’re doing it right. Check out our Pinterest board here for my favourites this season.

R: New blog discoveries! I recently stumbled upon Modern Mrs. Darcy, a beautifully designed site, and so many great book reviews. Definitely going to waste many valuable studying hours picking my Christmas reading list.

IMG_0009

J: Pumpkin Chai Tea. Really, there’s nothing else to say. We don’t have a lot of tea options here in St. John’s, but there’s a David’s Tea on our bus route, and that works for us. This pumpkin chai has just the right amount of caffeine, and all the flavours of the season.

R: Yellow Split Pea Soup. We use Mark Bittman’s ham-free version, Caribbean style, from his book ‘How to Cook Everything Vegetarian‘ and add a batch of hearty Newfoundland dumplings to make it last.

J: Rainy fall days in cafes. We have no shortage of blustery days here on the rock, and although our house is lovely, nothing beats settling in with a hot cocoa in a warm cafe and a good book. Our St. John’s favourite is Coffee Matters on Military Road, with Jumping Bean on Water Street as a close second.

IMG_20151206_211014237

Pet peeve of the month: guests mix up our doorbell and our neighbour’s bell, because there is absolutely no label on them, so we get their visitors, and they get our mail. Anyone have any good suggestions for weather-resistant labels (not Sharpie- tried it!) for those gosh darn bells? Please, leave them in the comments, along with your fall favourites!