Monday, 3 April

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick and think of you,

Caught up in circles confusion is nothing new,

flashbacks, warm nights, almost left behind, suitcase surrounds me, time after…

 

Dramatics? Yes I am proficient at them. Growing up on a steady diet of 80’s romantic movies  and novels I feel adept at this. Listening to Cyndi Lauper sing ‘Time After Time’ seems almost tame to how dramatic I can take things. But for me, if I can’t go a bit dram every once in a while, then whats the point. When it comes to the important stuff, i don’t get dramatic, I am realistic. So when I’m dealing with the frivolous I do think it’s important to be dramatic (for my personality). Me and Fraser just had an in-depth discussion about this tonight. Raccoons started it. I love raccoons. My first school project I can remember was about them and I love them. So to make me happy, Fras was showing me raccoon videos online, cuz he knows I love them. This lead us to dog videos and we got to discussing how desperately I want a puppy and therefore to discuss my dramatic/realistic personality. As desperately as I want a dog, I am realistic enough to realize that it’s not fair of me to own one. I don’t have the monetary freedom or the residential permanence to take a baby in yet. But damn, it’s hard. Luckily his mamma and pappa have the cutest pup, so I live vicariously through them and Pancho.

 

It’s hard to write on this blog now that I work and I’m comfortable in the kitchen. I’m still the main cook for the household, but now that I’m used to cooking for us it’s not as exciting. I don’t take the photos of the meals I used to and I also don’t have the alone time in the house to upload said pictures (and with australian internet, that is a commitment). So that leaves me with unlimited space to speak about myself and my experiences and that’s where my shyness kicks in.

But the best thing ever just happened, “My Heart Will Go On” by the one and only Celine Dion just came on my iTunes and that gives me something to discuss. Something my father especially will love… Around the age of ten (about a year after Titanic came out) I became obsessed with this song and the entire soundtrack and in my most favourite dress (a red wine coloured dress with tramslucent long sleeves and an embroidered bodice; an empire waist a-line that hit me just above the knee) I felt like a goddamn queen. I lip-synced this song for a video recorder that my father could barely contain his giggles to record.

Anyways, this just leads me to think about how great my childhood stories are versus my cooking talks. So, yes, I have made some awesome meals lately (especially thanks to Yvonne’s amazing cook book gift) but they just all seem boring compared to my dramatic iTunes ballads currently playing and the stories those songs seem to dredge up. Here are some pics to distract y’all:

 

Monday, 12 December

When I was 17 my parents took me to New York City as a high school graduation present. Not only was this the coolest present ever but it’s just another reminder of how above and beyond my parents have always gone for me. Five days in New York for three people over spring break is expensive to say the least…and that doesn’t include the fact that prom dress shopping took place. Another very cool thing about this trip is that two of my school friends and their families were going there at the exact same time, one of whom was, and still is, my best friend Suzanne. Thinking about it now, the fact that the two of us at seventeen years old were let loose into NYC is insane to me, but man we had some fun.

One night for dinner the three of us and the three Kings went to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Carmine’s. This dinner has turned into legend for our families and our friendship. The food is served as if portioned by giants. When you order the spaghetti and meatballs. You got a tray of spaghetti and one meatball. Said meatball was the size of a human head. The whole dinner was done this way and everything was split up between the participants. Part of why it was such a good experience I think was because of how other-worldly it felt. I’m pretty sure we laughed from start to finish. The finish being the largest sundae I have ever seen and promptly helped devour. Another fantastic part of dinner was the people. Right beside us there was a table of three New York business men. For arguments sake let’s say they were the lawyers for a mafia family. Similar in stature to Robert Duvall in the Godfather, although much louder and drunker. We watched them go through cocktails and wine and then aperitif, getting louder as they went. The parents ended up engaging them at a certain point although my teenage embarrassment at my parents being human resulted me in remembering nothing of this exchange.

For me, Carmine’s, seeing Spring Awakening off-Broadway (in which a nude sex scene is simulated on stage) with my parents, traversing Central Park and other assorted areas with Suz, watching my dad attempt to break up a fight on a subway platform between a man playing a ukulele and an annoyed drunk man, and freezing my ass of in Times Square were the highlights of this fully packed five days. The point of this is that what is probably most talked about by my parents is the holier than thou meatballs from Carmine’s. And what do you know, they came up again recently when my mom disclosed to me that Carmine had written a cook book and given up all the secrets to the meatballs, and they apparently are up to snuff. I got the recipe from her and decided to give them a go even though we are a beef-free household. The reason being that awhile ago Fraser told me he had a craving for a bacon cheese burger. Well this tickled my fancy as well so I went looking for a substitute recipe.

I was originally just going to go our typical route of a chicken burger. This was until I found a turkey burger recipe that seemed comparable. Since the success of this I have been on a kick with ground turkey. Turkey burgers, turkey tacos, turkey spagbol, fried turkey and rice, we have had it. Now that I’ve mastered ground turkey I can’t get enough of it. Not only is it way healthier AND cheaper, but it tastes just as good. Plus something about this heat has made me mad for mexican food (it’s all about my homemade salsa PLUS the store-bought stuff), and I can’t get enough of it. Which may be starting to drive Fraser nuts. So I’ve been trying to mix it up lately (after eating turkey tacos 4/7 nights in a week I think he was about ready to revolt.

Since Carmine’s recipe called for beef and veal I decided to make mine half with ground pork to add a bit of fat and juicy-ness to the turkey. Now this recipe calls for everything to made in bulk. And I followed it. The amount of times Fraser looks at me in the kitchen like I’m a crazy person is too many to count. But this time I definitely saw where he was coming from when I was elbow deep in tomato juice while separating 12 cans worth of plum tomatoes from their juices. It did seem a bit excessive. The upside of this is that even at this moment we have at least two more meals of Carmine’s meatballs (with a Georgia twist) in tupperware in the freezer waiting to be eaten.

This recipe comes with a high recommend from me and Fraser. It’s very straight forward and easy and the results are awesome. We had spaghetti and meatballs that night and then the next day we had hot meatball sandwiches which is making my mouth water just thinking about it.

 

I’m going to jump back a bit now for a second. Back in October I finally decided to make my own sushi. The sushi here is garbage to put it politely. We once spent about $50 on takeout and all the yummy tuna rolls we ordered…ya, those were canned tuna. This still baffles me. This is one thing I miss horribly about Vancouver, not only the amount of sushi places EVERYWHERE, but how good and reasonably priced they all are. Vancouverites, you are truly spoilt, please go eat some right now for me, I will gladly taken on the calories for you. It is also surprising because the quality of fresh, local fish we get in Byron is awesome. I first got the idea when I went to buy salmon at the market and the guy informed me that it was sushi grade fish. I looked at him for a second and then asked just to make sure my stomach wasn’t causing my brain to hallucinate: I can eat this raw? Yes, you most certainly can. Music to my ears.

I found seaweed and a bamboo roller at the supermarket and finally attempted it. It obviously wasn’t as good as professional sushi (which I think was mostly due to the seaweed quality), but damn it was satisfying.

 

Last week we went through a crazy storm. It started in the middle of the night and woke both me and Fraser up at about 3am. Now something waking Fraser up: not unusual. Something waking me up: very unusual. Like almost all the Reimers before me, I am a very heavy sleeper. Being woken up by anyone or anything before I am ready results in a very upset Georgia. The number of times we haven’t gone surfing because Fraser is too afraid to wake me up is embarrassing. I can’t help it. I treasure my mornings and my sleep, and I’m a bitch if you interfere with them. The first step is acknowledgement though right?

But back to the storm. It went on for around five days and was intolerable because it only seemed to rain at night and resulted in dead calm during the day. In this heat and humidity the second the wind stops I die a little inside. My Russian and Canadian blood cannot handle it. I actually developed a rash on my neck called Sticky Heat rash. If you look it up, its cause is an unusual amount of sweating. CHECK. That I have been doing, especially doing physical work in it. One night while watching the Good Wife with Fraser and melting like the Wicked Witch of the East, the rain began and so did the frogs. The frogs here are soooooo loud and they frequently sound like they’re in the house. Which they have been in since the sun room is not sealed up completely. So this night I got up and went to look out the door to see if I could spot them since we couldn’t hear my laptop over the rain, thunder and frogs. I couldn’t see anything so I hopped back into bed. After a bit it became intolerable again and Fraser got up to check.

“Georgia! Are you kidding?! It’s right here!”

“huh?” (Fraser is constantly fucking with me so for once I didn’t really pay attention)

“It’s right there! In the room”

Well that got my attention since I had come face to face with a cane toad crushing one of my tomato plants just the other day and those guys are scary and poisonous. I screamed at Fraser, asking him where. He helpfully yelled back “THERE” (if there was a sarcasm font, I would be using it here). At this point I’m standing on the bed convinced a gigantic cane toad is about to devour me whole when I see it. It is in fact right there, sitting stoically just inside the frame of our bedroom door. Thankfully it isn’t a cane toad but a very adorable green tree frog. He started hopping further into our room and so commenced the evenings adventure to capture, carry and release said frog. I got part of this on video but unfortunately I can’t upload videos to this site. Luckily I have a picture of the frog out on our fence.

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In trying to find out the species of frog (Litoria Caerulea – Green Tree Frog), I discovered that the Byron Shire has 28 species of frogs living in it making it one of the highest diversities of frogs in any one place in all of Australia. Now that’s pretty cool. Luckily our (me and the frogs) hero managed to sweet talk the amphibian onto the end of the broom and was then carried back outside to his proper home. Thanks Fras!

Since I’ve been absent from blogging the past couple months, a new hobby has taken its place. Gardening. I grew up surrounded by herbs and vegetables and flowers all grown by my parents and grandparents. Our first house sat on the front of a large lot and the entire backyard was cultivated by my parents and turned into a wonder every summer. Every spring would start at Hobb’s and home depot. Gathering seeds and seedlings and planters and soil. The standouts were the mums, or Chrysanthemums, tomatoes, basil and parsley. The parsley gets a mention even though it did not become a garden regular. This was because I loved parsley as a kid. My mom would grow it in the herb garden and I would go and eat the entire shrub in one sitting. It was very hard to plead innocence when my teeth, tongue and lips were stained bright green. She gave up on growing that after a few short (glorious) summers.

I’ve mentioned the basil and how it got turned to pesto every summer. The same happened with the tomatoes, although not as dramatically. They were used in salads and sauces over a longer period of time but the smell of fresh, homegrown tomatoes warm from the sun has always been a favourite smell of mine. Since this is the first time I’ve had a backyard of my own since our home on 29th I decided to get my hands dirty again. As part of my birthday present from my parents I had a bit of money to spend on myself, and so I went straight to Bunnings – the Australian home depot. I started out small. Soil and couple pots and four types of seeds. Then it turned into a couple packs of seedlings and then more seeds and more pots and a hanging basket and a mini greenhouse, and the addiction flared up with a vengeance. I started with some favourites: cherry tomatoes, giant Russian sunflowers, sweet peas and chilli’s. These I started from seeds in a little greenhouse. It took some fiddling with since when kept in the greenhouse the soil temperatures would reach 100° very quickly during the day. It became necessary to remove the seeds early in the morning and then return them to the greenhouse as the sun started to go down. The seeds eventually became seedlings and then got transplanted and now I’m just waiting on some tomatoes and chillies and flowers to start! In total I am growing the following: tomatoes, sunflowers, chillies, sweet peas, zinnias, mint, salvia, coxcomb, lavender, rosemary, jasmine, marigolds and gerberas.

And finally, here is what we had for dinner last night: Our favourite turkey-zucchini burgers with bacon and cheese and homemade fries!

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This is Fraser headed to dinner. Does the blurriness demonstrate how much he loves my snap-happy camera work?

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Tuesday, 16 August

I’d originally started this post two weeks ago, but for some reason the program wasn’t uploading any of my pictures. Once I did a system update things started to tick a little better in the old laptop. SO I’ll try this one again.

Two weeks ago we celebrated the end of classes for the semester and as a special treat I tried my hand at pulled pork sandwiches. We have a slow cooker that we’ve talked about trying for quite some time and pulled pork seemed worth hauling it out. Got up nice and early on Wednesday, as the 2 kilo pork shoulder I’d picked up would need about 6-8 hours of alone time once prepared. I melded together two recipes I’d found, picking and choosing the parts I liked best about them. I made a spice mixture that I rubbed into the meat and then browned the meat on all sides in a pan with 2 tsp of oil. While it was sizzling I chopped up two medium onions and mixed up the rest of my ingredients.

Mustard powder, chilli powder, brown sugar, cumin, paprika, s&p, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, tomato paste and water would all be added in. Once the meat was off the pan I poured in a cup of water and whisked it so as to extract the flavourful pan drippings. Mmmmm drippings. All of this went into the slow cooker for 6-8 hours (depending on the recipe), I was hoping for the longer eight-hour edition but since we like to eat early it was looking closer to six (and the torture of living in a house that smells of pulled pork for an extra two hours just wasn’t happening).Then I made the cole slaw, following a Martha Stewart recipe. Just shredded cabbage and carrots with a dressing of light mayo and low-fat sour cream, apple cider vinegar, s&p, and sugar.

With that in the fridge I got to work on some juicing. I’d juiced the remainder of a watermelon the other day as it was overripe and not being eaten. I’d put the juice in the freezer and took it out when it was half-frozen. This made a nice slushy drink, so I’d decided to try it again while adding some celebratory tequila. I juiced up a whole watermelon and 6 grapefruits. Stuck it all in the freezer and proceeded to clean up the incredible disaster that was the kitchen.

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Moving back even further in time to one more juicer experience worth mentioning. I had put some frozen bananas to work in the hopes of creating an ice cream substitute. When I was a child my mother was also a juicer fanatic and this led to some horrifying experiences for me involving a certain concoction of beet, carrot and celery juice. YUCK. Thanks mom for looking after my health, it was awful. The worst part about this was since I would try to drink it as fast as possible, I would always end up with a red smile. I looked like the child version of Batman’s nemesis the Joker, since beet juice stains magnificently. Mom would tell me that as long as I drank the juice, then she wouldn’t care about me eating garbage (her word for any form of delicious sweets or junk food). This was a bold-faced lie since the only “junk food” I could ever get my hands on was her cooking chocolate. So I must apologize to my inner child, since she is horrified that I am now an avid juicer.

Back to the point of this. I’d frozen some ripe bananas a while back because I’d remembered another trick of my wily mothers, which was to juice frozen bananas to make a version of ice cream. It is pretty good and since it’s frozen, that sickly sweet banana flavour is toned down a lot. So this particular night I juiced two bananas and half a bag of frozen strawberries we had in the freezer. This created quite a delicious sorbet-type dish and was a nice substitute for ice cream. Fraser put some raw honey on his and I mixed in some cocoa powder for a bit of chocolatey vibe.

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The cows have had winter calves recently and the other night they were up quite close to our yard. Unfortunately this was right at dusk, and though my camera did its best, I wasn’t able to get any super good shots of the babies. I ended up hanging out and watching them for quite a while and one of the older calves was quite interested in what the hell I was doing.

Oh, and my hens? They’re good. My girlfriend has started coming up on our back deck and actually pecking on the glass trying to find a way in. And they all like to spy on me through the windows.

Overall these chooks seem to have it pretty damn good.

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straight chillin’

 

Monday, 18 July

It’s been cold here for the past week or so, overcast and windy with the occasional bit of rain, and it’s made me crave winter food. Thick stews and soups, carbs and meat. This isn’t making the turnaround from pesto easy, but I’ve found a couple of healthier solutions. I came across a recipe for apricot glazed chicken drumsticks and knew I wanted to try them. The picture on the recipe reminded me of these chicken wings my mom used to make that I loved. We called them sticky chicken due to the fact that every part of you that came into contact with them became sticky. Bits would get stuck to your teeth, your face and hands were a mess and using a paper towel to clean up was out of the question. 

After the success of the apricot drumsticks, and the fact that I had another 8 drumsticks in the fridge, I wanted to try my hand at the sticky sauce. Unfortunately it was still the middle of the night in Moscow so I had to find a recipe I thought might be comparable. While they were still delicious, they were nowhere near the perfection of the other recipe. My mom has since sent me the sticky recipe, which originated with my Auntie Lini, but after two rounds of glazed chicken, I needed a chicken break.

I, like my father before me, am not a banana lover. I don’t dislike them as I did when I was younger, but they are still not something I go out of my way to eat. So when Fraser bought bananas at the store last week…well, they were destined to go bad. The solution to this was simple and is probably the real  reason bananas exist in the first place: Banana Bread. And we had three perfectly overripe bananas. My mom thinks the trick to perfect banana bread is fully rotten bananas, and since I grew up eating hers, I can vouch for the validity of this. My mom used to buy a bunch of bananas and let them go bad and then freeze them. This way you can pretty much make banana bread whenever you damn well please, which should be very often. She sent me two recipes, one she has used and one from her friend Helen in Moscow. Since Helen’s recipe called for sour cream, which I happened to have, and my mom had vouched for it, I decided to try it out. I’d say it was a successful venture as the loaf was half done by the time we went to bed and gone by lunch the next day. I now have six bananas slowly rotting on my counter awaiting their true purpose.

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Oh na na bread obviously has chocolate chips in it.

As the cold continued and my pasta cravings intensified, I came across a lower calorie and lower fat version of eggplant parmesan. Instead of breading and frying the eggplant, you roast it in the oven, and use the low fat versions of the cheeses. I made a basic tomato sauce for this and let it simmer on the stove for an hour while I prepped the eggplant. After slicing it up, you want to salt the eggplant and then let it sit out for at least 30 minutes so as to extract some of the moisture. Then you lightly brush it with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes in the oven. You layer your tomato sauce, eggplant, ricotta mixture and mozzarella in a baking dish and top with leftover mozza, parmesan and I added some breadcrumbs for a crunchy crust. I thought it was an excellent substitute for lasagna or the traditional eggplant parm, even though I burned my tongue once or twice.

My mom has been telling me about this tea called golden milk for a while now and yesterday I finally gave it a try. It’s an Ayurvedic drink mainly made with turmeric and milk. Turmeric is believed to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant, digestive aid, memory aid and a blood purifier, among other positive things. The recipe my mom sent me includes a number of other ingredients that have health benefits as well. The tea is a neon yellow colour due to the turmeric and is quite delicious, and at around 5pm I realized I’d hardly eaten anything all day and was not very hungry. When reading about some of the ingredients I discovered that virgin coconut oil, while higher in saturated fats than other oils, is a strong appetite suppressant ( and I’d put a tbsp of it in the golden milk). Not all fats are bad fats, and coconut oil keep your body feeling full for longer.

With golden milk, you bring all the ingredients to a boil and then simmer on low for 10 minutes. These include fresh turmeric, ginger, peppercorns, raw honey, coconut oil, a non-dairy milk (I used almond milk), water and a cinnamon stick. After this I went on an internet search of different ways to consume turmeric. I found a variety of juices and cleanses and decided to take different parts from different ones and make up my own recipe. I hauled the juicer out of the closet and after cleaning and re-assembling it, went to work. My recipe is a rough estimate of what I did since I wasn’t measuring. I put about four 1-2 inch pieces of turmeric, three 1-inch pieces of ginger and three lemons through the juicer. After not using a juicer for years, I’d forgotten how much fun they are, and pulverizing my ingredients was great entertainment. I then added around a tsp of honey and another of coconut oil, a dash of cayenne pepper and cinnamon, peppercorns and a bit of hot water and whisked this all together for five minutes or so, making sure everything was dissolved. I then added this glass of concentrate to a water jug and then filled it with filtered water. I poured a glass over ice and was pretty impressed with the result. It was quite lemony, which I love, but not too strong in one flavour or another. I think there’s room for improvement, but for now I’m quite happy with my new health drink!

Sticky Baked Chicken with Apricot, Sage and Lemon Zest

Lighter Eggplant Parmesan

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/golden-milk-turmeric-tea

Helen’s banana bread:

Sift 1 and 2/3 c flour with 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt. Combine 2 eggs and 1 c and 2 tbsp sugar, beat until fluffy, then slowly add 1/2 cup of oil. Mash 3 1/2 bananas and add 2 tbsp sour cream, 1 tsp vanilla and 2/3 c chocolate chips, stir to combine. Add to the egg mixture and the fold this into flour. Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 45 to 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Monday, 11 July

The healthy eating has definitely been on hiatus these past four days and it’s all thanks to pesto. Three out of four dinners were pasta, as were two breakfasts, and there was even a brunch of nutella crepes! It all began Wednesday night when I made the decision to make some homemade pesto. The fresh basil at Coles is really lovely and I’d been craving pasta something fierce for a while. This pesto is a big part of my childhood and accompanies memories of hot summer days spent with my cousins. The recipe comes from my Uncle Piero’s mother Maria and it’s truly the best pesto I’ve ever had.

The house I grew up in sat at the front of a long lot. This left a huge amount of yard for gardening, playing and even a tree house thanks to my dad and uncle. My parents grew a huge variety of plants and were very dedicated gardeners. One part of the garden was for the edibles. Herbs, vegetables and occasionally some berries. One plant they grew a lot of was basil. The basil would grow against the side of our house, bright green and fragrant, until one day in the summer when, at the height of its growth, it would all be torn out of the ground. The leaves were ripped off and washed, and then blended up in huge batches to make enough pesto to last us all year. The backyard basil cull usually happened on a hot Sunday afternoon when my mom’s family would come over. All the adults congregated in our tiny, hot kitchen, drinking wine while us children ran wild around the neighbourhood. Once the pesto was done and a huge amount of noodles had been boiled, either my dad or Auntie Lo would whistle to corral us back to the house where we’d get our plates of food and disappear again.

When I moved home to Canada without my parents at 19 my Auntie Lo would often send me home from family dinners with frozen tupperware filled with this pesto and the noodles to go with it. Nothing makes a broke college kid happier than a home cooked meal and leftovers!

The recipe makes a huge amount of sauce which you can then store and keep for an easy meal at a later time. This will not be happening for us, not this time anyways. I went out Thursday morning and did a big shop. Spent $22 on just under 2 cups of pine nuts. Yes, my jaw dropped too. When I told Fraser how much they were he asked me why I didn’t just buy some pre-made sauce. After I directed a long look filled with horror and disgust his way, I informed him that it would be worth it.

After blending up some of these golden pine nuts with the garlic, salt and a portion of the olive oil, you start blending the basil leaves up in small batches, adding the olive oil slowly as you go. Once this is blended very well you add finely grated parmesan, blend some more and voilà! you have your pesto.

Cook up some noodles, such as spagettini or capellini, then steam potatoes and green beans to add to the pasta, and you have some traditional Pesto Genovese. This was definitely one of the most rewarding meals I’d made, not only for how it tasted, but for Fraser’s reaction. He actually licked the plate when he finished. Nothing makes the cook happier than her food being enjoyed, and I could tell I knocked his socks off.

Wednesday, 6 July

One of the chickens is quite enamored with me. She’s the smaller of the two red chickens and I’ve caught her spying on me in the sun room a number of times. Once when I was on FaceTime with my mom this movement kept catching my eye in the reflection of my screen. When I looked behind me I didn’t see anything and then suddenly a chicken head popped up from beneath the deck. I’ve since caught her doing this a number of times, she seems very curious about what I’m up to.

Two days ago I was taking out the recycling and the hens were rummaging through the bushes on our path. They tend to scatter when you get near them and I was making a fair amount of noise with the tins and glass containers rattling in the bin. Instead of following the others, the red hen came out of the bushes and trailed behind me to our garbage cans. I emptied my bin and started walking back to the house. She let me pass and then resumed her stalking. I stopped and she looked at me, jerking her head this way and that to get a full look, and then we both carried on until she dropped me off at the door. It’s pretty hilarious and I’ve taken to referring to her as my girlfriend.

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my girlfriend, the red hen

Right now I’m craving a doughnut. So bad. And I hold Fraser fully responsible. A couple weeks ago we were lying in bed slowly waking up and arguing over who was going to get up from under the warm covers, go into the icy air (it is winter here and surprisingly cold in the mornings) and make us coffee. Fraser has his own version of the Jedi mind trick where he asks me if I want to do something. Making coffee for example, he will go: “did you want to make some coffee for us?”, as if it had been my idea all along. It’s quite genius, but I’ve caught on and am using it myself now.

Anyways, we got on to discussing breakfast. I had a craving for eggs and bacon, specifically bacon. Fraser wanted a doughnut. Neither of us wanted to go out though. So we googled how to make doughnuts. There are two types of doughnuts, if you didn’t know, yeast doughnuts and cake doughnuts. Fraser is firmly in the yeast doughnut camp whereas I’m more impartial but with a lean towards the cake camp. This is not to say I’m impartial to doughnuts, not at all. Well, we didn’t have any yeast in the house, so cake doughnuts it was. These are also faster to make as they are more of a batter than a dough.

The batter was simple enough to make and I put it all in a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off since I don’t have a piping bag. The interesting thing about these is the method of cooking them. Since they’re going into hot oil and the batter is so wet I was curious how you’d get them in doughnut shape. On a recipe I found they suggested parchment paper. You pipe a circle of batter onto a piece of parchment and then slide the whole thing into the hot oil. The heat doesn’t affect the paper, and as the batter cooks it separates from it. Now this definitely took a little getting used to.

The first doughnut that went in I’d made too mini and it had immediately spread out into a big splotch on the parchment. Then when I put it in the oil it almost instantly turned to a big black stone as the oil was way too hot. The next one also turned into a ball as well but seemed to cook better. Said doughnut also turned out to be the one Fraser picked to try first. He seemed super impressed and asked me what I had filled them with. After a second of confusion I realized that the doughnut had not cooked the whole way through and he was tasting the batter…oops. Third times a charm though, the oil was hot enough again and I finally realized that to make them the traditional shape I would have to pipe them thin and large. When the batter hits the oil it puffs up quite a bit, filling into the middle.

The New York Times had a recipe for basic glaze which was just 1 cup icing sugar and 1 cup milk all stirred together. Once the doughnuts had cooled enough I dipped them in the glaze and then left them on a cooling rack so the glaze can solidify. We ate them all in one sitting. I definitely made a good call when I halved that recipe.

Well the success of this lead to the attempt at yeast doughnuts last week. These took longer as the dough needs time to rise, and both our bellies were rumbling by the time these were ready.

In order to get that doughnut shape I used a bowl and a shot glass for the outer and inner rings. The centre bit I fried as doughnut holes and I used the same glaze recipe but added cocoa at the end for two of mine for a chocolatey glaze. The basic glaze was better. If I do this again (my mind says no but my stomach says yes) I want to find a proper chocolate glaze recipe, or make the dough chocolate. This would also ensure I wouldn’t have to fight Fraser for the last doughnut…maybe.

A couple Saturdays ago we went to the animal sanctuary on the Gold Coast. We’d driven past a sign for it when we’d stayed up there for award night and Fraser had said he’d take me. I love Australian animal sanctuaries. It may be the fact that they have a number of very cuddly and chilled out animals native to the country, but my brain was melting with how up close and personal we were able to get. When I’d been in Australia with my parents around the age of 12 we’d gone to a sanctuary up by Noosa with my mom’s best friend Jan and her family. I’d gotten to hold a young koala while there and it’s left me with two main memories. One, it was not as soft as it looked, and two, it had just pooped all over the girl before me and I was really hoping to not walk away from this amazing experience looking like she did.

This sanctuary was a lot bigger than the other I’d been to, and right when you walk through the entrance there’s a huge wall of green spotted with moving grey. This is the eucalyptus and koala enclosure, of which there are multiple throughout the park. There were so many koalas. My phone could not adequately capture them, but they were amazing. Snoozing and munching and snoozing. Fraser talked me into paying to hold one again. I got a bit of stage fright and said we didn’t need to, but he dragged me up to do it anyways. Major points for him! They brought out this big soft koala and put him in my arms and then the battery died on their camera right before they could take a picture. So I got to stand there and hold him for five extra minutes while they changed the battery. It rocked. Fraser got to stand with me and pet him too, and he was much softer than I remembered the other one being.IMG_1699

There were so many awesome animals to see and they had a kangaroo enclosure where you could walk among them and pet and feed them. This I had not done before. It reminded me of Jurassic Park at one point, only much more cuddly and with a lot fewer teeth. The kangaroos were amazing. They didn’t care at all that people were there. It was quite a warm day compared to the previous weeks weather and they were all lounging around soaking up the sun and snoozing. They were so soft and lazy, we went around and pet as many as we could, it was a good day.

Now that I had yeast in the house from the doughnuts, I decided to try making my mom’s famous french bread from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She told me it took her 20 years to perfect, which I’m sure was an exaggeration to make me feel better, but I thought I should start practising. It’s an 8-10 hour process, has to go through 3 risings and is kneaded in a very calculated manner. If you can do it the way my mom does, it’s totally worth it. Mine turned out a bit too dense, but it was still enjoyable and I turned half of it into focaccia, just rolled out the dough and covered it in olive oil, salt and rosemary then cooked.

Continuing on in last weeks cooking ‘firsts’ I went out and bought crab. I looove me some crab, but I’ve never made it myself. My parents had a New Years Eve tradition of having lobster for dinner, and one year when I was very little I made friends with the crustaceans walking around the kitchen floor, claws tied of course. When they disappeared and I found out they had gone in the pot of boiling water I was horrified. Who were these monsters I called parents? That was the last shellfish that entered our house alive. When I got older and ditched my vegetarian childhood I experienced the joy of crab and lobster meat. So when I’d seen crabs at the fish market a while back, I knew we’d have to get them at some point. They’re Spanner crabs which are a bit different looking from traditional crabs and I had to youtube how to shell them. You pull off the top shell and then remove their gills and tail (yes, they have a tail, which I did not know), then you cut the body in half, pry off their legs and heat them up. Vicious, isn’t it? Confidence is key, no gentleness allowed here. These crabs were already cooked, so I only needed to heat them up. And I found a disgustingly delicious way to do it.

Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a pot, add chopped clove of garlic and salt and pepper, bring to a simmer and add crab pieces. Coat them in the butter and then cover and let steam for ten minutes. It worked like a charm. I’d already made a butter dipping sauce before I’d found this recipe, so now we had plenty of butter available. For the dipping sauce I put two crushed cloves of garlic on a fry pan until they were lightly toasted. I then poured hot clarified butter over the cloves and added red chilli flakes. Once ready to eat I strained the butter so it just retained the flavour from the chilli and garlic, yum.

I’d also picked up prawns because I was unsure of how much meat we’d get from the crabs. How naive of me. When I had asked for ten green prawns, I was unable to see the size of them because they were covered with a layer of icy water. Well these were the largest prawns I’ve seen to date, so we ate very well that night. It also ended up being Canada day, so along with our beers this felt like a pretty good Canadian tribute, or as my friend Vicky said we celebrated it Halifax style.

 

After the seafood extravaganza of the weekend, I moved on to Asian cuisine. I did a yummy red Thai curry on Sunday night which I’ll definitely be making again. Then last night I attempted Malaysian Laksa for the first time. It’s one of Fraser’s absolute favourites and he just polished off a bowl of it in front of me a minute ago. I had never had laksa before, had probably avoided it on menus since I’m not wild about coconut. I tried it for the first time when Fraser ordered it at a little noodle place after the animal sanctuary and it was delicious. Very rich and flavourful with chicken, noodles and veggies. But you can do shrimp or tofu or a combo. I picked up a jar of laksa paste from Coles which makes the cooking time very short for this dish. At some point I want to try making my own paste, but I’ll have to find an Asian specialty store for some of the ingredients.

I used a combination of recipes for the laksa, picking and choosing aspects of different ones, but I’ll attach the main one I worked off of. You definitely want a big pot if you try this, mine was full to the brim and may have spilt once or twice when being stirred. You heat 3 tbsp of veg oil in a pot (I used peanut as Fraser read that it’s one of the healthiest cooking oils) and then add the entire jar of paste and cook it for a couple minutes until it darkens and becomes quite fragrant. Then you add 6 c of chicken stock and 1tbsp brown sugar. Then add 2 c of coconut milk (full fat) here and simmer. I was unable to find fresh kaffir lime leaves but Coles had jars of them shredded. I put about 8 of these shredded pieces in a tea strainer and added it to the pot so I didn’t have to search for the pieces later as they get removed like bay leaves.

I boiled two chicken breasts separately and then shredded them with a fork. I also decided to cook up some white onion and add it to the soup as I thought that I remembered onion from the noodle shops’ soup, though none of the recipes called for it. I added all of these to the soup with the juice of one lime and a cut up chilli pepper. I cooked some Singapore style rice noodles that the recipe had recommended, as well as cutting a Lebanese cucumber and pineapple into matchstick size pieces. After it had simmered for a while and we were ready to eat I poured the soup over the noodles and placed the cucumber and pineapple on top. At the table I had fresh bean sprouts, mint, crunchy fried shallots (Asian section of supermarket – yum) and hot sauce. It was very good but we agreed that the noodles needed to be thinner and that something more should have been done with the chicken. Fraser said it was better today, so next time I make it I’m going to do it in the morning and then leave it to sit for the day so the flavours can seep in a bit more. Fras also used vermicelli noodles today which he said worked way better, so he’s already fixed both the issues for me!

 

One last thing I made which was so simple and delicious was a batch of chocolate cheesecake cups. With only five ingredients they take about 7 minutes to put together, then you just have to wait while they cook and then chill. Even Fraser liked these, which was good because I would have gladly ate the entire batch myself.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/155375/crab-legs-with-garlic-butter-sauce/

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/weeknight-red-curry

Laksa Soup – A Malaysian Coconut Curry Soup

Five-Ingredient Chocolate Cheesecake Cups

Tuesday, 21 June

Did so much fun cooking last week that I got overwhelmed with the amount of pictures I needed to sort and upload and neglected the blog. I’m currently cleaning up and updating my resume to apply for jobs so this may be short in words and long in pictures, but probably not.

I know chicken wings are a pretty universally loved bar food, but I’m not frequently in the mood for them. Well, last Sunday I was hungry and really wanted cold leftover chicken drumsticks, like the kind you take on a picnic at the park in a movie from the 60’s. Sadly we had no chicken leftovers in our fridge. Now, saucy wings are good if they’re spicy. There are a couple places in Vancouver where I would get their wings. Joey’s on broadway did Frank’s hot sauce wings (and I love Frank’s), and the Roxy Burger bar downtown did amazing hot sauce wings too. But dry rub meat may be my favourite kind of meat. So I found two recipes, gave Fraser the choice and ended up working on these delicious spicy dry rub hot wings and some home-made ranch sauce (which I’ll come back to).

All you do is mix the huge variety of spices together, then lightly brush each piece of chicken with olive oil and then sprinkle and rub mixture all over the wings. When I was at the grocery store they didn’t have any of the wings that had already broken up into separate pieces and they still had all the skin on. Now I couldn’t get the skin off of the first batch (not for lack of tryign) so I just rubbed them down and put them in the oven. I now had 40 minutes of waiting for them, so I re-attempted separating skin from wings, but with scissors this time. This totally changed the game and I was easily able to get most of the skin and fat off to make them a bit healthier. And these were definitely more delicious.

Now, this healthy homemade ranch. It was really delicious, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that at some point when reading the recipe for it, my brain vacated my head and I just got to work…not reading the serving size. When I had already mixed two of the biggest ingredients together (and being yogurt and mayonnaise I couldn’t exactly press the undo button), I looked at the amount of sauce already in the bowl and then how many more ingredients I had left and went back to the top of the recipe. Well, it serves 11. I mean: why? Who needs that much ranch sauce? It’s so much easier to increase the portions of a recipe than to decrease it. We all have our ditz moments though, and this was definitely mine. At least I made Fraser laugh. And continue laughing for the next couple nights as I tried to serve ranch with every meal. Seriously. There was so much of it. Can you see the giant bowl filled with white stuff in the bottom right photo? That’s the ranch. And some of it had already been put onto our plates and mouths during the first round of chicken. Oi.

I had known what I wanted to eat Sunday night before I’d started dreaming of wings and so I’d already procured the recipe from my mom. This is one of those recipes that is frequently seen at Reimer family functions and I’m not even sure who found it initially, my mom or my Auntie Lo. My cousin’s girlfriend Danica agrees with me that it is one of the best. It’s a Quinoa and Corn salad, but it’s so much more than that. It’s quinoa, corn, onions, red pepper, jalapeño, green onion, cilantro, chives, lime and lemon juice, salt and tabasco. It’s so fresh and crunchy and with a nice bit of spice.

Moving on. My newest obsession is the pizza maker we apparently have in the house. It’s incredible and I’d never seen or heard of one before. It’s like a panini press but the top doesn’t touch the pizza, and it cooks the pizza perfectly. The bottom doesn’t burn in order for the top to get nice and cooked. It’s lovely.

The first night we did pizza I didn’t take any photos as I didn’t realize how great this would turn out. We were both just lazy and wanted somewhat healthy pizza. But the next day we did quesadillas in it and then on Friday I did pancakes in it. Then on Saturday we did pizza again. And yesterday I cooked crepes in it. I love it. And you don’t need to oil it because it’s non-stick and it only needs a soft wipe to be cleaned. HEAVEN. My mom is already looking into how to get one.

Somewhere in between these meals we had fish tacos. I’d found a recipe for fish tacos when I first got here and had saved the recipe. Well last week the mood struck and I was ready for them. They were well worth the wait. Any kind of white fish can be used. We tried Snapper the first night and Barramundi the second. The Barramundi was a lot nicer, which we think is due to it being a fattier fish. I followed the recipe exactly except for leaving out the Mexican crema. These were phenomenal. The best part about them were the onions though. You soak thinly sliced red onion in red wine vinegar. Enough that the onions are all covered. The bite and harshness you usually get from raw red onion is taken away by the soaking in vinegar and they become a bit sweeter. And you can keep them in the fridge for up to three weeks. I think they’d be great in a sandwich or with any kind of Mexican food.

Yesterday was a long day for both me and Fraser. His car has been having issues and so he was finally able to take it to the dealership in Tweed. Yesterday was also Monday, so he had class at 9am. This meant we were up at 6:30am and out the house 7:15am. Got to the dealership and dropped off his car and then went to school. I then drove the hour home. I was busy with laundry and dishes and resume stuff, Fraser was busy in class. Then I drove back to school to pick him up and then we’re back to the dealership and then grocery shopping and then finally home at 5:30pm. Cue one ‘life-is-tough’ dramatic sigh.

So we needed something easy and comforting as we were both pretty tired. We settled on chicken burgers and potato wedges. This is my second try at rosemary and olive oil potato wedges which were a staple of my moms. And they were always perfect. ALWAYS. We have a conversation scheduled for later to discuss what kind of wizardry she performed on her potatoes. Mine just do not compare. And they’re supposed to be easy! Urgggh. Last nights were definitely better than the first round, but just not up to par.

I made a modified version of the chicken burgers I did awhile ago. Making up a light marinade of cayenne, Mexican chilli powder, lime juice, cinnamon,  paprika, salt, pepper and olive oil. I did the green sauce as well but more for use on the buns themselves. I ate mine wrapped in iceberg lettuce and it definitely hit the spot.

Last Friday was Fraser’s award ceremony and we had a fantastic time. We booked a hotel called Santorini by the Sea and cabbed to the school which was about ten minutes away. The ceremony was an hour long and then we went to a reception in a hall. The reception was fantastic. They had tables of food and drinks, so we had champagne and tried at least one of everything. We stayed there for an hour or so and then ended up at the bar/restaurant at the corner up the street from our hotel. They had a live band but unlike most bars in Vancouver, they’ve figured out how to have the volume be at a level where you are still able to converse with people. A shocking and novel experience. Our little mini vacation was incredibly fun and so nice to see Fraser accepting his awards! We’re going to another ceremony tomorrow night because Fraser got the highest overall gpa in his program! Can’t believe how smart and hard-working he is…not complaining about the champagne either.

 

Links:

Spicy Dry Rub Hot Wings – Baked

Veggie Shooters (Crudites with Skinny Ranch Dip)

http://www.food.com/recipe/quinoa-corn-salad-with-cilantro-chives-and-lemon-lime-dressing-423112

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/fish-tacos-352976

Saturday, 11 June

This morning we got up and went into Byron for some breakfast at a little place called the Dip. We had planned to do some walking around afterwards but we were both too full and lazy once we finished. I hadn’t been up to the Byron Lighthouse yet so we decided to drive up. Whale watching season as started here on the coast and I am eager for a glimpse of some migrating humpbacks. I guess a lot of other people had the same idea on a Saturday morning around 10:30am, weird, and there was no parking available at the top. We decided that sometime next week we’d do the walk up and take it in that way. From what I saw from the car it’s absolutely beautiful, so I’m looking forward to that.

The past couple of days have been pretty busy with lots of cooking and outings. On Wednesday we ate quite well with some Turkish and Mediterranean food. I tried a Turkish chicken shawarma recipe and paired it with Turkish pilav and a simple chickpeas salad. This pilav was delicious. After being soaked in hot water and salt until the water cooled, 1 cup of rice is rinsed again and then cooked in 3 tbsp of butter and 1 c of chicken stock. Seasoning with salt and pepper after. It was very easy and incredibly delicious.

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buttery ricey delighty

For the salad I just chopped up onion, tomato, cucumber and parsley, mixed in one can of chickpeas, and whisked lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cumin together for dressing. We had a fair amount of this leftover which I ate the next day for lunch. I even think it tasted better as the chickpeas had softened up from soaking up the dressing overnight.

The chicken was grilled after being marinated in a lovely variety of herbs and spices and we couldn’t decide if we liked this chicken more or less than our other shawarma style chicken dish. Fraser did like this yogurt dressing recipe better, while I liked the other one. This one is thicker and less lemony, and has chopped garlic in it. I also mixed in some chopped parsley which was nice. Next time I think I’ll combine these two dressing recipes. Using the same amount of lemon juice from the first one and then the chopped garlic and parsley from the second.

Before I had made dinner that day I experimented with a new popsicle recipe. I had previously thrown together some using greek yogurt and leftover fruit compote. They’d been ok, but not a fan favourite in this house. Fraser had brought up the idea of a creamsicle which intrigued me and I had found a recipe that looked good. This recipe also claims that each popsicle is only 53 calories which seemed reasonable. So I whisked together orange juice (I bought the good stuff – Nudie – which is only made out of real squeezed oranges), low-fat greek yogurt, some vanilla extract and a bit of sugar. These are a huge improvement over my experimental ones. We’ve only got two left right now and I think these will be a repeat recipe.

Thursday night ended up being quite the chaotic kitchen experience. I have a bunch of recipes on my reading list that have yet to be attempted so I sometimes ask Fraser to decide which one I do. On Tuesday he had decided on Wednesday’s meal which left me with a balsamic chicken and roasted vegetable dish for Thursday. Stay with me and I’ll continue listing the days of the week for you.

Thursday we got up early and went to the beach. This was our first visit to Brighton and Ocean Shores since the storm and you could definitely see the change in landscape and a huge increase in the number of seashells in the sand. Fraser hadn’t thought it would be warm enough for laying out on towels but I had layered up in my spf 50 and put on my bathing suit anyways. I’m pretty proud that I’ve now been here a month and I haven’t gotten burnt yet (which is quite the feat with my ghostly complexion)…downside is that my complexion is still ghostly. It ended up being surprisingly hot and we relaxed on the sand for a couple hours. We stopped and picked up groceries for dinner on our way home, as well as a blow dryer. I’ve finally admitted that I do not want to live without one and that taming my cowlick is sometimes necessary.

Upon returning home I began the kitchen extravaganza. This meant prepping what I could for the veggies and marinade since we were in the middle of a scheduled power outage from 9am-3pm that day. I brined the chicken and put it in the fridge and then tried not to open the door again. After I’d done all that I could for dinner prep I turned to making graham crackers. Now here I’m going to digress and just talk about these crackers for quite a while and then return to dinner.

A couple weeks ago when we were in the middle of severe dessert withdrawal and trying to figure out something to make, Fraser found a recipe for a low-fat cheesecake. I’m going to mention our chocolate disagreement again because it’s a big part of my struggle. Dessert to me means chocolate. If I’m out to dinner and looking at a dessert menu, I automatically scan it until I see the word chocolate. My favourite kind of ice cream is chocolate, just plain chocolate. You get the drift. Cheesecake is a dessert me and Fraser can very much agree on though (but chocolate cheesecake…just saying). So the next day when we’d gone shopping we’d picked up some cream cheese. Just to have on hand, in case of cheesecake emergency.

I’d tried to pick up graham crumbs once last week, but after not finding them in the flour section I’d gotten distracted by some list item or other and forgotten. So I went back on Wednesday with them specifically on my list. I don’t like shopping of any kind, it’s usually a speed game for me, so if something’s not on my list there’s only a 25% chance it gets picked up. Now I searched that Supa IGA high and low and could not find even a hint of graham crackers. So, I googled it. Aussies have a lot of different names for regular supermarket items, so google has become my best friend when I can’t find something. Red pepper = capsicum. Green onions = scallions. Baking soda = bi-carb soda. But this time when I googled I got some interesting links popping up. All of which were asking ‘WHY DON’T YOU HAVE GRAHAM CRACKERS IN AUSTRALIA!?” Maybe they weren’t that aggressive, but this accurately portrays my shock and outrage. How does this wonderful country not have graham crackers? How do they eat s’mores? How do they make crust for cheesecake? HOW? I returned home and told Fraser. He, for once, responded appropriately to my grocery store tale of woe. He didn’t believe me and thought I just couldn’t find them and was being dramatic as usual, because what country doesn’t have graham crackers! The new plan emerged. I was going to make my own graham crackers, so that I could make them into crumbs and then make them into crust. Already I was tired.

I found a Martha Stewart recipe and realized I didn’t have whole wheat flour (which is where these crackers get their name) or wheat germ. So dinner was put on hold and I returned to Supa IGA for the 47th time this week. I found the flour right away and then spent the next 30 minutes combing that store for wheat germ – the setup is very confusing (bad) – which I finally found over by the hot dog buns, mmmkaay.

At this point it was too late to even start them, so they got put on hold until the next day. And now we’re finally back to Thursday evening. After prepping the veggies and marinade, I started making the graham cracker dough. It was simple enough and only used an entire block of butter…for our health. After the dough is made you quarter it and then roll each quarter out between two pieces of parchment paper and then put them in the freezer for 20 minutes before baking. This is where the nights problems began. First off we don’t have a rolling-pin. So I tried a new roll of garbage bags I found in a drawer – the roll was too soft to be effective. Then I settled on a bottle of soda water, this worked ok and I stuck with it. After rolling out 1/4 of the dough to what I thought was 1/8 of an inch I went to start the second dough ball. Enter problem number two: we were out of parchment paper. So seeing as time was ticking away I saran-wrapped the remaining dough and stuck it in the fridge.

 

The power had returned during this adventure so I started dinner properly. Another hurdle we have in this house is that our oven is in fact a toaster oven. And while it’s a really nice one and gets really hot, yadda yadda, it is still the size of a toaster oven. This meant that with the amount of veggies that needed to be roasted alongside the chicken, there was not going to be enough room in this oven. I decided to just roast the veggies and to cook the chicken on the stove. This was necessary since not even all the veggies fit on the pan.

Fraser had mentioned having quinoa alongside this, so we’d picked up some of that as well. The veggies went in the oven (minus the mushrooms and red pepper which I decided to also do on stove top). Then I put the two pans of chicken on the stove. When those were almost halfway through I put the quinoa on. Add one stove at 425ºF, three gas burners on high and one unseasonably warm day together and you get a very sweaty and increasingly overwhelmed Georgia. Fraser and a glass of sparkling wine were called in as reinforcements.

 

IMG_0650
my calmer half at work

The dinner turned out surprisingly good. The potatoes weren’t cooked completely through, but since they weren’t in the original recipe and I was finally sitting down, no one cared that much. The pans looked burnt to hell, but since it was a balsamic marinade this was to be expected (they’re still soaking). While the recipe had turned out to be for four (how did I miss that?), it ended up being nice as we finished it off for lunch yesterday.

 

After dinner I cooked my prepped sheet of graham cracker. It turned out delicious, but I obviously hadn’t rolled it out thin enough as it was still quite soft and chewy, not hard like a cracker. As this was all scientific experimenting we decided to dispose of the product into our stomachs and try again with the next dough ball.

Friday morning we went into Tweed to catch the 10:30am showing of The Nice Guys with the retirement crowd. Definitely the best people to see a movie with. They don’t play with their phones or talk and I love them for it. The movie is pretty original and we both really enjoyed it and had some good laughs. Upon arriving home we had the leftovers for lunch and then I made my second attempt at the crackers. These I rolled a lot thinner and they were much closer to a graham cracker. Once those were cooled I set about making the cheesecake, finally. Since this all began so long ago I don’t even know which recipe Fraser had originally found. I just picked one that looked good off skinnytaste and gave it a whirl. My crackers turned to crumbs quite nicely and I mixed them with butter and pressed them into the pan for a crust. This was much trickier than I thought it would be. You spray the pan with cooking spray first so it’s quite slippery and the crumbs will get stuck on your hands if you mess with them for too long. I fiddled with it for a while until I was satisfied and then moved on to the cheese portion of things. The filling is cream cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla extract, flour and egg whites. Once it’s done you pour it over the crust. The tricky bit was putting these dollops of strawberry jam on top of this and then swirling around. It’s very pretty. I’d bought some of that real fruit, no sugar added, healthy real jam. This was probably the wrong call. It did not want to spread and create pretty red swirl across the top of my cheesecake. It was also not the pretty bright red of normal strawberry jam, but the more dull, golden brown colour of homemade jam.

After it cooked and cooled I decided to cut up some strawberries and place them on top since I was annoyed mine was not as pretty. Fraser told me that looks don’t matter, it’s all about the taste. This kind of logic was not asked for. By the time the cheesecake had cooled to room temperature and was ready for the fridge it was already 6:30pm. Cheesecake should be refrigerated for a few hours before eating so we decided to save trying it for today. Willpower is hard. So now that breakfast is hours behind us, we’ve decided to be cheeky and have a slice for lunch to see how it turned out. I am very excited.

The results are in. It’s good, especially the filling. The crumb base did not live up to my expectations. Now what I think went wrong is the amount of crumb base. This recipe called for 1/2 c of crumbs mixed with 1 tbsp of butter. I think, for my pan at least, this wasn’t enough. The crust was too thin and not dry and crunchy enough. Next time I would stray from the recipe and make the crust a lot thicker, but overall it was quite tasty and not too heavy (tasting).

Links:

creamsicles: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/vanilla_orange_freezer_pops.html

shawarma: http://www.skinnytaste.com/shawarma-spiced-grilled-chicken-with-garlic-yogurt/

pilav: http://www.petersommer.com/turkey/turkish-food/pilav-rice/

graham crackers: http://www.marthastewart.com/343771/homemade-graham-crackers

balsamic chicken: http://www.skinnytaste.com/balsamic-chicken-with-roasted/

strawberry swirl cheesecake: http://www.skinnytaste.com/strawberry-swirl-cheesecake/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 7 June

Yesterday Fraser got an invitation to his schools ‘Executive Dean’s Awards Ceremony’ as he came top of his class in three out of four of his courses last semester. I’m incredibly proud and very excited to go and see him accept his awards. In lieu of this we are going to try to be extra healthy for the next 10 days (no more brownies sadly), as June 17th is the big night.

Yesterday we’d planned on the chicken salad route. Originally we were going to have a chicken caesar, but after the news I switched up the menu. I found a rosemary chicken salad recipe that sounded really good on skinnytaste (probably my favourite website these days) and decided to give it a whirl with a couple of modifications. This salad had bacon in it which, while delicious, was deemed unnecessary by me. I also decided to brine the chicken before hand and make up my own marinade for it since the recipe had called for it to be cooked in the bacon fat (yum).

I learned about brining from a chicken sandwich recipe I did a while back and I was impressed at how much juicier the chicken had turned out. Most brining is recommended as an overnight thing, but this guy had a thirty minute timeline for his which suited me. 8 cups of water with 1/3 c salt and 1/4 c sugar, mix it until dissolved, insert raw chicken and stick in the fridge. For the marinade I mixed a small amount of olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and rosemary. I covered my pan in a thin layer of coconut oil and then set it to cooking.

While this cooked I finished the salad. Romaine, arugula, tomato, red onion and avocado with a light mixture of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, salt and rosemary as dressing.

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Throw it all together when the chicken is hot off the pan and prepare to ingest some perfection. I love rosemary, so I may be biased towards this meal, but it’s one of my favourites so far.

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the finished product

Now to figure out what I’m making tonight….

 

Rosemary Chicken Salad with Avocado and Bacon

Monday, 6 June

Yesterday was a cleaning and homework day for us here, so not too much excitement to report. But when we went out on Saturday morning to stock up for the storm we also planned out our Sunday dinner. This meal has been a repeat for us since I got here as Fraser is a big fan. It’s my dad’s specialty of vegetarian burritos. I’ve been eating these since I was a kid and they’re simple and amazing. The two twists I’ve put on them since making them here are good and bad. The good one is that I’ve been making my own refried beans instead of buying the canned ones. The bad is that we’ve omitted sour cream. Yes, this is healthier, but for someone who’s heritage is half Russian (me), this is slightly devastating. My mother will feel my pain on this. But, alas, life goes on.

For the refried beans I sauté a diced white onion and 4 crushed cloves of garlic in oil until the onions are clear and soft. Then add about a tbsp of cumin and 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (ours is really hot so I keep it minimal). Then add two drained cans of black beans. Cook between 10-20 minutes then mash everything until smooth, or however much you want.

IMG_0536
we like’em pretty smooth

Fraser prepped all our veggies while I was doing the beans. Iceberg lettuce is what my dad always used, diced up it adds good crunch. Also dice up 2 tomatoes. You want the veggies small because these burritos get big real fast. Fraser also made up some guacamole using an avocado, red onion, salt, pepper and lime juice. Grate up some mozzarella and then you’re ready to go. Spread the refried beans onto tortillas (if you can find the extra-large ones, they make it easier) and then sprinkle your cheese over this. This then goes straight into a hot oven until the cheese is all melted. This also makes the wraps a bit toasty which is lovely.

Load them with your toppings and then add chunky salsa, hot sauce (optional) and sour cream (if you’re lucky). I used to force my father to wrap my burrito up for me, even as an adult. Now living without him I am forced to do it myself. The three of us eating burritos was like the story about Goldilocks and the three bears. My mom’s plate was always covered in leaking salsa and sour cream as well as bits of escaped lettuce and tomato. My plate was usually only salsa and sour cream (due to the professional Jack wrap-job). And my fathers plate looked like it was fresh out of an industrial dishwasher. I’ve never seen someone eat a burrito so cleanly. It still boggles my mind.

Fraser is bold in his burrito eating style. He wraps it and then picks it right up with his hands. I am not so brave and use my fork and knife, forever trying to emulate my fathers clean plate. From the evidence above (two bites in), you can see I’m not quite there.