Tag Archives: Cooking

A Roasted Chicken Kinda Day

Some days — grey-sky, nothin’-doin’ kinda Sundays (or stat Mondays) — are made for puttering around the home, listening to some podcasts, cleaning, cooking. And those are the days made for roasting chicken. Thank you, cosmos.

Got me a fatty of a bird I’m gonna roast up soon. Tuck some sundried tomato & basil butter under the skin, roast it on a bed of celery, carrots, leek, and all kinda onions. Puree most of ‘em after for the most veggie-licious gravy ever. That, a little stock, some pretentious jelly for flavour. Boom. So good.

I will miss days like this when I’m abroad, but I know I’ll also do an amazing job of making a “new version” of this. I picture myself on a rainstormy day finding a way to make comfort food that smacks of home. I’m bringing maple syrup with me, bitches. The Quebec stuff. Real deal. Oh, yeah.

Food is an emotional thing. Just like roasted chicken, things like Yorkshire pudding evoke my childhood. Pouding chomeur takes me right back to being 8 and standing on a chair to look in the oven at the carmelly-mapley Quebecois version of a sticky toffee pudding baking on Sunday nights.

I can’t buy that memory anywhere else. Same thing with the roasted chickens, stews, breads, all those smells I remember from my childhood kitchen. My mom and dad weren’t the BEST cooks, but they sure put their effort into it and we ate pretty well. And all the muffins you could dream of.

Here’s a story for you. Best.

We went away for a day when we were kids, only to come home and find a ladder against the left-open living room window. The grand theft item? Muffins my mom had made. A couple of the neighbour kids came in, helped themselves. Couple glasses used for milk left on the counter was the big evidence. AHA! My first Sherlockian encounter.

It was the neighbours in the kitchen with a butter knife!

Chicken with all the fats.

Chicken with all the fats.

T & D, trouble-making brothers up the block, were sent over to meekly apologize. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went home with muffins in-hand post-apology too. It was that kind of a neighbourhood.

I’m hoping I luck into reasonably well-stocked kitchens. I’m tempted to bring a silicone muffin tin with me on my travels. (I already have the meat thermometer I’m bringing!) I mean, muffins are serious and there ain’t a storebought muffin in the world I think holds up to a solid home-baked one. Emotional food, indeed.

That will be one of the great aspects to my travels, for me anyhow, is that I want to learn how to do all the cookin’ of what I’m eatin’. I want to be pushy and friendly and get myself invited to family get-togethers. How cool would that be? Politely elbow my way into the kitchen. Watch how it gets done.

And I will just die if I get to go to those big meat-a-paloozas. Grill pits, underground fire pits, brick ovens, over an open flame. Whatever, man. If it involves primal meat cooking in the great outdoors, I will find a way to get there. I will need to connect with serious foodies in every town and not take no for an answer.

I can do this!

But for now, I’m capping this grey day with a roasted bird. It’ll be nice salads and other treats, all week. I’m enjoying cooking these days.

Enjoy the home pleasures while I can, right?

By the way, I’ve got the domain reserved for what will be my travel blog. You can go ahead and bookmark it, and it’ll take you here in the maintime. It’s called The Full Nomad.

“Going full nomad” is gonna be a “thing.” Mark my words!

My Kicked-Up Cocoa-Chipotle, Espresso Stout, Black Bean, & Bison Chili

I’m a cooking nerd. I have a cookbook for sale (prelaunched last summer, it’ll be “relaunched” in the late-spring, and if you get the Gumroad PDF, you’ll get a free update when one comes out in the next three months).

This is my latest invention in the kitchen and it’s pretty awesome, plus super-healthy.

Bison is basically the highest in protein and lowest in fat when it comes to meat, and when it’s grass-fed local free range bison, you’re talking seriously flavourful low-fat high-protein. I’m trying to nix the inflammatory things in my life (like beef) and replace them with better choices (such as bison).

Bison & Black Bean chili with homemade skillet cornbread (see NY Times recipe for maple & brown butter skillet cornbread -- yum) and a lime-cilantro yogurt.

Bison & Black Bean chili with homemade skillet cornbread (see NY Times recipe for maple & brown butter skillet cornbread — yum) and a lime-cilantro yogurt.

I doled out $13 for a pound of bison reared less than an hour from town. I had a couple 19-oz cans of $2 organic black beans, two 19-ounce cans of high-grade organic tomato pulp from Italy, and a $7.90 bottle of local craft beer, Hoyne Brewing’s Voltage Espresso Stout — a seriously coffee’d beer.

All that translates to a batch of chili ringing in above $30. Zoinks. This won’t be a regular occurrence at my house, but ohmigod, hello, happy place.

Thus I would like to share with you my labour-of-love long-stewed uber-expensive chili that will make you think maybe there should be a little more high-end chili on the menu in this hipster joints around town.

Without ado:

Steff’s Kicked-up Cocoa-Chipotle,
Espresso Stout, Black Bean, & Bison Chili

Best made in a cast-iron Dutch oven. You’re gonna need a 5qt thingie for cooking this. Lid, too.

  • 1 pound bison (or organic beef or pork)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil or butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin*
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander*
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder*
  • 1-2 canned chipotle peppers chopped finely — 2 is VERY spicy, 1 medium, go for ½ if you’re timid
  • 1-2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the canned chipotles (same heat scale — 2 very spicy, etc)
  • 750 ml espresso stout (or other strong stout but the espresso is a nice touch, beef stock if you avoid booze)
  • 2 x 19oz tomato pulp or diced tomatoes (not puree or sauce)
  • 2 x 19oz cans black beans (drained and rinsed well)
  • generous salt (taste as you go; salt absorbs over time and the flavours change, so taste it after 2 hours then every one hour, and adjust each time. Overall, I used a couple tablespoons of coarse sea salt.)
  • chopped or diced avocado to garnish
  • lime-cilantro strained yogurt (see recipe following)

Brown the bison. Reserve. Don’t bother straining the fat; there’s very little and it’s the “good” fat, plus: flavour.

Heat your bacon fat/butter/oil in the same pan. Add onions. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium. About halfway through, add your spices, cocoa, chipotle, and adobo and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute. Deglaze the pan with your bottle of beer. It seems like a LOT of beer, but you’re cooking it down for HOURS and all that’s left is the espresso-stout flavour, not liquid.

Let it cook for 2-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bison, black beans, and a whack of salt. Let it come up to a light boil, then simmer on LOWEST HEAT for the next 4-6 hours. After 3 or so hours, start to cover it. Stir it regularly. It’s done when your wooden spoon stands straight up for at least a minute and the flavours seem to make a symphony of yum in your mouth.

See below for lime-cilantro yogurt.

See? The spoon stands up. It was still standing three minutes later. This is when you know it is done. Seriously.

See? The spoon stands up. It was still standing three minutes later. This is when you know it is done. Seriously.

Lime-Cilantro Strained Yogurt

You can do this with sour cream too, but I’m assuming you’re spending $13/lb for grass-fed bison because you’re trying to be healthy like I am, so let’s go for yogurt.

Now I believe in the “healthy fats are fine” axiom which means my yogurt’s a 6% fat minimum. Use Balkan Style or Greek yogurt. If you’re going for low-fat yogurt, seriously, just skip it, because that shit’s not even good for you, and the lower the fat content, the less strained yogurt you’ll have to work with. Similarly, the higher the fat, the less wasted whey to throw out at the end.

Either go for the fat and eat natural food or skip the processed low-fat crap. Sorry, but someone’s gotta straighten people out and I volunteered.

Anyhow, to make strained yogurt: Line a sieve with thick paper towel, position it over a bowl, dump your 750ml of full-fat Balkan or Greek yogurt into it, let it strain for 4 hours, and it’ll be thick and rich and you’ll not miss sour cream at all.

  • 750 ml full-fat Balkan or Greek yogurt (rinse and keep the container for storage; expiry date = yay!)
  • Juice of a large, heavy lime (heavier = juicier)
  • Cilantro to taste (I used ½ a medium bunch, plus stems)
  • Salt to taste

Puree this all together, season it, and refrigerate until needed. Good until the yogurt expires or cilantro tastes funky.

Use as a topping on chili, tacos, baked potatoes, hash browns, etc.

*If you’re scared of HOT stuff, just cut back on the chipotle and the adobo sauce. The * spices won’t really move the Richter scale. They’re all about flavour, and you like flavour, don’t you?

Of Eggs and Errors on a Holiday Afternoon

My kitchen is now a disaster. I made Eggs Benedict. For the first time ever, Hollandaise sauce stumped me. I failed not once, not twice, but three times. Angered, since I’ve never failed it before, I made it a fourth time — changing the bowl, changing the temperature, and even having cold water on-hand to toss in to stop the change-of-state before it cocked me up again.

Victory, motherfuckers.

eggsAfterwards, after having poached the eggs twice and vowing never to buy jumbo-sized eggs again, I looked down on my plate and realized I had never before so aptly or tastefully presented my refusal to quit or accept failure.

Because: Victory, motherfuckers.

It’s strange, isn’t it? When one little weird, messy, fattening episode can so succinctly sum up so much about who we are.

I feel like it was a very wasteful exercise, but for about $3, I proved something to myself. A completely unintended benefit, but I’ll take it.

I’m full now. It was lemony richness and everything I could have hoped for the first, second, and third times I tried making it.

***

New Year’s Day looms. I don’t know if I will accomplish all that I have envisioned. I’m trying to downsize by 10-20%.

It’s just a big nod to my dreams of heading abroad. I want to feel like I’m paring back life in preparation toward stuffing it all in boxes for a few years. So far, confronting my books has been emotional. I’m not ready for that yet. And should I? The age of paper is dying. Who’s to say they won’t escalate in value? Is it too soon?

And yet I’ve chosen some. I will choose more. It will not be easier.

It will, however, crystallize the fact that I’ve really begun to move toward my goals. That’s no small thing. Making your present surroundings reflect who you’re trying to be can be huge in achieving all that.

In the meantime, there’s more to do. I’ll get it done. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t hurt to go slowly — take 20 minutes to tackle a new cupboard, approach it on a piece-by-piece basis.

***

You may not realize it, but I write about domestic stuff like this all the time — from home decor solutions and architectural writing through to environmental news and the ways we live in cultures around the world.

It’s nice work if you can get it. You can read all those writings here.

The more you share, the more eyeballs my work gets, and the more everyone on all sides is happy. If you know pro bloggers, support the work they’re doing. It keeps us all employed.

Eat Good Food! Buy My Book!

late summer nightsHEY, MINIONS.

The day is here! I’ve released my first-ever book and it’s a cookbook. I’ve been cooking since I was 5 years old. I’ve taught cooking camps to kids from ages 8 to 17, and I’ve been paid by folks to teach them one-on-one too, so I’m not your normal “hobby” chef.

In fact, I’m really political about cooking. I believe cooking is the most valuable skill you can learn and it’s one of the biggest acts of rebellion you can make. I believe your purchasing choices for local foods, quality ingredients, and the shunning of big-food processed products is as political as you can get on a day-to-day basis. The food industry is a giant now, and the more we little people do at home with real ingredients grown or craft-made by local artisanal foods folks, the more we can shake the foundation of Big Agriculture.

My goal when I wrote this cookbook was to INSPIRE you, not just give you recipes. I want to empower you to see that recipes can be infinitely adjusted and personalized to suit your taste. I want you to see that cooking simply doesn’t mean being boring. I want you to feel like you can spend $10 to make a meal you’d bleed $40 to eat in a restaurant.

Eat Yummy Things and Live Better

Cooking isn’t about eating — it’s about having a creative outlet, taking a little time out to reflect on your day while you chop and simmer and stew. It’s about telling yourself you’re worth the time it takes to make something nice — whether you live alone or have a a slew of people in your household. It’s about feeding yourself food that’s from the land you live on and going to bed with that happy, full feeling that comes from eating well. This relates to the idea of the Qi of food — that which is grown on the land you live upon will provide you the energy you need to live and be there.

If I change a few people from being the kind of folks who think “eating well” means getting food from restaurants and instead make them into people who think they can do it better at home, then I’m gonna feel like I’ve met my goal.

All That and Just Plain Good Writin’

But in the end, all of this matters jack-shit if my writing isn’t engaging, funny, or clear. From early response, my first readers are indicating I’m meeting those standards — and more! Please check it out. Support me by spending a measly $5, and help me inspire a small-scale revolution that starts in your kitchen. With over 25 recipes and at 63 pages, I think it’s worth the price of a coffee. (You’ll receive free updates in the future, too!)

If you’d like to give it as a gift, you can do that too — just click the little “present” icon in the purchase box.

BUY MY BOOK HERE.

Early Readers are Raving

My friend, Steffani Cameron has just launched her new e-book. It is a cookbook. A no nonsense, everyone can do it, get your grill out and eat good food kinda book. Possibly the best $5 you will ever spend. Get one & good things will happen.” — My friend Angie Quaale, who is a celebrity chef, BBQ champion, and owner of Langley’s Well Seasoned store.

“Your humor is priceless. Enjoying the reading, as much as the recipes. Never laughed so much (in a)  long time.” — A new Twitter follower who received it as a gift, @ddsnorth

 

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Pressing Pause: The Morning Before I Finished My Book

late summer nightsAnother weekend day and I’m inside, again. It’s the push to complete my book. It’s been a very, very productive weekend and I can almost taste the conclusion.

I’m pressing pause, because in a few hours this emotion may never exist again. Last night I gave birth to my first-ever book cover. Self-designed. In fact, except for a few place-holder type stock photos I’ve purchased, 100% of my first book will be by me. Self-edited, written, photographed, tested, designed, published. I felt like a kid at Christmas when I finished my long day yesterday and I could finally see what my book would look like. It finally felt real.

All Is Not How It Seems

I can fake it till I make it like the best of ’em, but inside it’s a totally different vibe going on.

Truth is, I have had very low confidence when it comes to learning new things ever since I had my head injury a decade ago. When I say “low confidence,” I cannot convey to you how low it can go. It is the “limbo” dance of self-worth, honestly. But that’s not me per se, and is rather the head injury. It’s hard to logically fight that though.

I’ve had panic attacks and other disconcerting events when “learning new things” looms. This working-toward-self-employed thing better work out, because the idea of ever having to be new at a workplace again terrifies me.

That’s just how that rolls. I know it, I accept it, and the older I get, the more I understand it.

I also know the only way to get over a lack of confidence is to move through it. Do it, make it happen — even if it’s because of a head injury. My fears were crippling for a long time. What came first, the writer’s block or the crippling anxiety? Hmm, it’s like the ebook-writer’s riddle of the 21st century.

Long Time Comin’

When I moved to Victoria in 2012, this was already a goal — to do a cookbook. It’d been the “dream” for over a year at that point. The sad thing is, why I wanted to do a cookbook was because I lost my mojo with writing. Couldn’t think of something to turn into an ebook. Any idea I had didn’t seem to have teeth to it. And what did I really have to say, anyhow?

Unbeknownst to me, writing a cookbook was way more expensive than I expected it to be, with all the recipes needing cooking 2-3 times, and such. And then there was the redundant nature, having to return to the same thing repeatedly. I fucking hate redundancy. Oh, lord.

When I write, I write and I move on. I reread it a few times that day, but then I move on. With a cookbook, it’s back over the same thing in so many ways — photographs, retesting, tweaking ingredients, and so forth. Get something “off” and it’s not just a matter of re-writing a paragraph, it’s re-budgeting, re-shopping, re-spending, re-cooking, re-eating, re-cleaning, re-writing. It can be a couple weeks before resolving the one thing.

Once I finally came up with THIS theme of summer recipes in April, a more cohesive idea hit and I finally stopped feeling like I was flailing. Direction, at last, was a beautiful and motivating thing. And the food was all stuff I’d be wanting to eat in coming weeks anyhow. Brilliant. (Which is why I have a list of recipes to make as fall approaches, for volume two in this series. Ay! I’ve created a monster!)

“Just Did It”

As a kid, my mother used to tell me that every time a new thing got hard, I turned and quit. I didn’t have follow-through, she called it. And I’d need it, she’d say, if I ever hoped to be a success. Yes, Ma.

So here I am, at the start of a day where I hope to see myself finish the book off. A book that’s been in the back of my mind for three years, maybe more. Some delay through the fault of fear, some through laziness, but most because I’ve just been working too much for other people.

Now it’s time I work more for myself. I really owe a huge thanks to EVERYONE who has been encouraging me since 2010 to write some ebooks. I’ve got some pretty amazing friends and fans and followers. Hugely grateful. Y’all fuckin’ rock.

And hey, look, Ma. Follow-through.

My cookbook will be available on this site within a week — I’m waiting on an ISBN (number) and then it’s up for grabs! $5, 60+ pages, over 25 recipes, loaded with photos. This “fish and chips” recipe below is yet another one included inside — halibut baked with young kale and leeks. I’ll amend this post when presales are arranged!

Kale & Leeks Fish en Papillotte