Thursday, October 31, 2013

Your Halloween Story: Young Teaser

My hour is almost come, when I to sulphurous and tormenting flames must render up myself. – Shakespeare (Hamlet)

During the War of 1812, both the British and Americans were very successful at causing each other a lot of grief as privateers, while making vast sums of money from their adventures.

A French letter of marque. Photo: Wiki CC
A “letter of marque and reprisal” was a government licence allowing a private person (known as a privateer) to attack and capture enemy vessels. Both sides had privateer ships harassing their respective coasts.

Cruising for prizes with a letter of marque was both patriotic and profitable. Two famous British beneficiaries of this legal piracy were Simeon Perkins of Liverpool, and Enos Collins of Halifax. Collins was part owner of the Liverpool Packet, one of the most successful of all privateer vessels.

One such ship from the American side was the schooner Young Teaser, owned by Samuel Adams of New York, a hero of the American Revolution. The beer company was named in his honour. Young Teaser was the replacement for his British-captured – and burnt – Teaser. Our own Bluenose II is a schooner, for reference.

In early June 1813, the crew of Young Teaser boarded a vessel off LaHave, Nova Scotia. Fortunately for the British crew, the ship’s hold contained only ballast, so they let her go. It was hardly a prize worth the effort of towing back to the USA. Unfortunately for Young Teaser, the ship continued on to Halifax where it reported the presence of the privateer.

A number of British warships left Halifax port in pursuit, and all British ships and privateers were put on alert. She was spotted, chased and escaped several times between Halifax to Lunenburg over the next few weeks.

The end of Young Teaser and her crew
In late June, the 74-gun HMS Hogue trapped Young Teazer in Mahone Bay. Hogue opened withering fire with her guns and HMS Orpheus soon arrived and joined in the barrage. Knowing they were trapped like a rat, Hogue started preparing a boarding party for Young Teaser.

Significant firepower. The 74-gun HMS Hogue,
after her conversion to a screw-driven steam ship.
Photo: Wiki CC
Aboard Young Teazer, the captain discussed plans to try one more time to defend the privateer and its crew of 38. It’s unclear from this point what actually happened, but Young Teaser soon exploded in a ball of fire with the crew still aboard. 

The aftermath
Local residents rescued survivors clinging to the wreckage, most badly burned and maimed. 30 of her crew died. After being treated for their wounds, the surviving privateers were sent to Halifax's Melville Island prisoner of war camp.

Her name was revived briefly when the Liverpool Packet was captured later in 1813 and renamed Young Teaser’s Ghost, until being recaptured by the British and returned to Collins and company.

Some wreckage of Young Teaser was salvaged, including some timbers that were used for construction in Mahone Bay and surrounding areas, including the Rope Loft in Chester. A piece of keel was fashioned into the cross in St. Stephen's Anglican Church. One of the lanterns is still owned by someone in Blandford. Part of the charred keel is on display in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

Part of the ship in the Rope Loft, Chester.
Photo; Wiki CC
Ghosts on the horizon
The story of the Young Teazer's grizzly end is background to one of the most famous ghost stories in Nova Scotia – the "Teazer Light". Reports by locals of a burning schooner on the horizon started in 1814.

Most often close to the date of its demise – June 27 – it is still said that a burning ship can be seem on the ocean outside Mahone Bay. When approached it vanishes. Fishermen have reported the flaming ship appearing out of nowhere and bearing down on them as if intent on running them over, to simply vanish as it approaches.

Those unfortunate enough to report seeing it up close say they saw the crew in flames – running in panic about the deck – their agonized screams carrying across the water.

Does the Young Teaser and its crew still relive its last moments, continuously burning for the last 200 years? 

Who is to say. But if you find yourself in Mahone Bay, look to the horizon. Is that really the reflection of the moon on the water, or is Young Teaser trying one last run to escape?


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Brownies

Change doesn't always mean progress, but the status quo isn't always the best result either. It is merely the most convenient. – Harsha Bhogle

How long does it take you to go to the store and come back home? Is it really all that convenient?

When we lived in Halifax we were one block from the nearest grocery. Even then it would take five minutes each way, and 20 minutes when you were there – if you were lucky. Our grocery was in the heart of university territory, so you could always depend on healthy line-ups at the checkout.

Here, the store is 10 minutes away, and no line-ups. But that’s still 25 minutes if you walk. It’s a darned good convenience store/gas station. It has a lot of stuff, but no extensive bakery like a “proper” grocery store.

The sad thing about grocery baked goods is that they’re not very homemade tasting. There’s something about grocery bakeries that tastes, well, mass produced.

So if you factor in the lack of taste – and time out of your day – to run for an evening snack, why not just stay home and make something? Brownies are a really good choice. They only take 40 minutes from start to finish. That’s 10 minutes more than my trip to the city grocery, and no cash outlay.

Brownies are a great choice for an evening craving. Cakes are finicky and take over an hour. Pies require crust (which scares some people to death). You have to shape cookies and/or bake on multiple cookie sheets.

Brownies are an entirely different matter. One bowl, a whisk and an 8”x8” pan. Mix, pour, bake and scarf down.

These brownies have a chewy interior and that crisp, brittle crust we all love so much. They also have an unusual twist. They’re kind of like a peanut butter cup – the ones where PB is surrounded by chocolate. Except in these it’s all mixed together. Just like when you eat the cups.

I do have to admit, they’re pretty delish. I got the craving at 8pm last night. By 8:40 I had a plate of brownies in front of me, complete with a glass of milk. And I didn’t have to leave the house to get them.

If you like brownies, give this recipe a try. Peanut butter may not be that common an ingredient, but it certainly works. It also makes them a little bit denser – just the way we like them!

I honestly don't see how anyone could muck up this recipe. It's simplicity itself. Just don't over-bake and you're good.

Look at the right side of the pan. That's what
"barely pulling away" looks like.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies
Prep: 10 min  |  Bake: 30 min  |  16 brownies
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8” square pan and set it aside.

Place the butter, peanut butter and oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Nuke on “high” for 1 minute 30 seconds.

After heating the PB, oil and butter, whisk briefly to make smooth. Then whisk in the sugar, flour and cocoa. Then add the eggs, vanilla, salt and baking powder. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes, until the brownies just barely start to pull away from the edge of the pan. Do not over-bake, or the brownies will be dry.

Let cool slightly and frost if desired. (But they’re just as good “plain” with their crunchy crust!)


Feel free to comment. They’re always appreciated. I’ll answer quickly, and as best as I can. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is if you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Adventures in Hub City, Moncton!

Adventure is just bad planning. – Roald Amundsen 

Downtown Moncton. A good adventure, with no planning. Photo: JHikka, Flickr CCL

No recipe today, but thought I would recount our adventures this weekend, mostly culinary. Compare and contrast with my rant about Halifax, posted September 30, 2013 (here.) 

We wanted to do something a bit different than home or Halifax this past weekend. I was thinking a bit like the Annapolis Valley, but my spouse had a different idea – Moncton, New Brunswick. The Hub City, in off-season.

Off-season (or it’s euphemism, “shoulder-season”) can be a crap shoot for tourists, but we thought “it’s a city,” so can’t be too bad. Can it? I am here to tell you it was not. Not at all. We had a great time.

Usually off-season means that much in the way of tourist activities are over. So no outdoor concerts or street markets or the like. But it also means you have the place more to yourselves, and room rates are lower. 

If you like the outside stuff, just make sure you check online to make sure enough is going on to occupy your time. In Moncton you can find it, even in late October.

I want to talk about one place in particular, but before that I want to offer Halifax an object lesson. Downtown Moncton is wifi. Yup. Plop your butt anywhere and you can surf via phone, iPad, laptop, etc. Have a question about what's around? Find an answer.

Why can’t our capital city do that on Spring Garden, the waterfront, Barrington, Quinpool and Gottingen? Lack of will, I would imagine. It is a fantastic idea that helps tourists find activities and businesses – and spend more money.

But back to Moncton. We went there flying by the seat of our pants, except for a 2 night reservation at Midtown Motel and Suites on Weldon. It’s a drive-up old-school motel at one end of Main. Walking distance to all of downtown. Not 4 star for sure, and a little care-worn, but certainly good enough to lay your head for a couple nights. And affordable. $79/night for a "King" room. Downtown.

We asked the front desk for places to eat within walking distance and were given a few. We also checked and off we went.

Do not believe everything tripadvisor tells you. Take it with a grain of salt. We ignored the recommendations from the front desk when we walked past the Tide & Boar Gastropub on Main street and read the menu. It’s ranked 24th on tripadvisor’s list, but has 156 reviews. Soon to be 157...

In contrast, the number 1 rated restaurant (which I’m sure is good) has only 71 reviews. So it’s the average of the reviews, not the number of “excellents” that determine position. T&B had twice as many excellent and very good reviews than the top restaurant had in total reviews. So take it from there.

By the way, disregard reviews that focus on an employee rather than full experience. You never know how the reviewer was interacting with/abusing the employee. They’re usually biased.

Tide & Boar Gastropub 
700 Rue Main Street, Moncton, NB
Mon - Wed 11am-midnight; Thu - Fri 11am-2am; 
Sat 10am-2am; Sun noon-midnight

It was a bustling place, set in a late 1800s building. Their claim to fame is craft beer and boar, plus some seafood to round out the "tide" bit. The menu is full of choices using boar that has been cured, smoked, stewed, you name it – right on site. They have many local NB beers on tap.

We started with two exceptional local micro-brewed beers. A Stout and an IPA. The Stout was deep, smooth and rich, as it should be. It might have been Pumphouse, or we thought it was. We forgot. The IPA (I believe Picaroon Yippi- IPA) was unfiltered, full flavoured, bright, hoppy and amazing. Made mass produced beer taste like dishwater. 

We started with the boar charcuterie platter. I’ll try to remember everything on it. Should have taken a picture, but that’s really annoying for other diners when you’re there. I’m relying on the picture from their web site.

From Tide & Boar's web site. We had a
slightly different platter. Things change.
It consisted of 4 smoked boar belly slices, a meat pâté, some sort of potted meat, 4 cured boar meat slices, a boar sausage, a smooth pâté and foie gras. Beautifully presented on a wooden board, plus bread rounds and grainy mustard. Total cost $16. This made what we got at the Shoe Shop in Halifax (for $17) taste and look like a real mess. Which it kind of was. 

Although all was excellent, the foie gras was nearly enough to make you pee your pants. It was that good. The mains were better than what one would expect from a pub, but I won’t go into them in detail. Check their menu, below. The atmosphere was very comfortable and our server friendly and prompt. 

T&B have live music at least Thurs-Sat. Our night it was located downstairs, which made dining a little more enjoyable. Matt Mayes, Sloan, Wintersleep, Matt Costa, In Flight Safety, plus locals, have all played their stage. T&B also has an attached wine bar, separate from the main gastropub.

Would I go back? Yes. Should you go? Yes. Should you take a special trip to Moncton for them? Maybe... It was a revelation to try the area's craft beers plus the great food. It was eye opening.

The next evening we went to the belly of the beast to experience more craft brewing – Pumphouse Brewery. They serve all their own beers (about 12) as well as good pub-style food. They also sell several of their beers by the 6 and 12 pack, beyond NB Liquor hours, in case you ever find the need. The real standout for us was dessert: Tiramisu Cheesecake. Not to be missed.

You can buy Picaroon and Pumphouse brands in Nova Scotia, but nowhere near enough selection, in my humble opinion. Besides NSLC look in the independent liquor outlets. They may be more “adventurous.”

So if you’re looking for friendly people, good food, good beer and a good time, don’t rule out Moncton. Whatever feelings you have about the Hub City are probably wrong. And it’s less than 3 hours from downtown Halifax.

Check out their site for lunch menu and more.

Feel free to comment. They’re always appreciated. I’ll answer quickly, and as best as I can. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is if you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Free Pumpkin and Roasted Seeds

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! – Bob Marley 

My free pumpkin. Partway through my pumpkin abattoir.

This info is a re-post from last year but bears repeating. Free is good. 

This weekend starts the "Halloween Party Season." Even though trick-or-treat night for the kids isn't until next Thursday, many pumpkins will be sacrificed for party decorations starting today.

Last year, on November 1, I discovered that one of the major grocery stores was actually giving away their Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins. Yes, giving them away. Another store had them for 50¢. Currently they are selling for around $4-$5. (Prime example of supply and demand.)

In the waste-not want-not vein, have you ever thought about getting a pumpkin solely for food? Not only can you use the flesh, but also the seeds. I wouldn't suggest using your carved pumpkin, unless you're very careful about keeping it cold. Even then... just be safe with your food.

But keep your eyes peeled for the deep discounts sure to occur right after Halloween.

Did I say it was free?
Nutrition in pumpkin
Pumpkin (including squash) is incredibly rich in antioxidants and vitamins. It is low in calories, contains Vitamins A, B, C and E, and carotene, lutien and xanthin (antioxidants) in high quantity. It’s one of the most common field crops grown for commercial sale.

A 50 g (1/4 cup) serving of pumpkin contains 123% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin A, essential for maintaining eyesight. That's very little pumpkin.

The health benefits of pumpkin are being studied more and more. Research suggest xanthin may slow macular degeneration, a very common problem in the elderly. Pumpkin also contains healthy doses of copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorous.

The cubes and seeds, separated. That bowl is
my bread bowl. It is fairly large.
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are an excellent source of dietary fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids. The seeds are a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins. They are also an excellent source of the amino acid tryptophan that helps maintain brain health.

How to deal with a whole pumpkin
So last year I picked up a free pumpkin – not too big, but not too small either. Once it was in the car a sense of dread overcame me. What would any sane person do with all that pumpkin?

Well the short answer is you can freeze it. Yes – no parboiling, baking, steaming or processing of any kind. Just peel it, cut it up, bag it and throw it in your freezer. I divided up my yield into six zip-lock bags.

It did take a little while to reduce the thing down to a pile of cubes and bowl of seeds, but it was worth it. It also didn't take me long to think of a recipe to use some up.

One was "pumpkin pie" frozen yogurt which was posted last year. Search that name on this site. If you expand your pumpkin repertoire past desserts the world actually opens up quite wide. Lots of countries make fantastic savoury dishes with pumpkin. Just go look.

Free food.
Besides the six bags of pumpkin I was able to get about one cup of seeds. Roasting them proved to be insanely easy.

Pepita is the Spanish culinary term for pumpkin seed. They are used quite a lot in Mexican and Latin cuisines, either whole, chopped or ground, and are quite a tasty snack just on their own with a little salt.

Nutritionally, besides what I said above, the seeds are a good source of protein as well as many important minerals. For example, 25 grams of pepitas have 20% of our recommended daily amount of iron.

The trick to roasting pepitas is to bake them long enough to make the husk crispy and chewable without burning the inside. It’s a somewhat dedicate line to walk but not too difficult. If you do get a pumpkin, or are inspired to get one now, don’t throw away the seeds! They're sort of like a bonus on top of all the nutritional pumpkin flesh.

The seeds will start to colour somewhat when they're ready.
Roasted Pepitas
Prep: 10 min  |  Bake: 20-30 min
Seeds from 1 pumpkin, or more
2 tsp vegetable oil, depending on how many seeds you have
salt to taste

Remove the seeds from the pumpkin. Wash under running water taking care to remove any pumpkin flesh that clings to them. Pat them dry or let them air dry.

Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the washed seeds with vegetable oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on the foil.

Roast at 300°F for 30 minutes, checking at 15 min and every 5 minutes thereafter. Taste one at each interval. The shells must be crunchy but make sure the seed inside doesn’t burn. Stop baking them when you’re happy with their crunch.


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Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks? Just ask!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Success with Pie Crust

There are no mistakes or failures, only lessons. – Denis Waitley 

I’ve pre-empted my regularly scheduled programming to bring you this important public service announcement. It’s about how to make a decent pie crust.

This was brought about by Fb comments from a friend who feels they are a bit pie crust challenged. I was going to post an Indian spiced steak recipe. Oh well, another time.

A lattice crust is woven from strips.Turn the bottom crust OVER
as opposed to under after trimming.
Many excellent bakers break out in a cold sweat when confronted with the prospect of having to make a pie crust. That’s a real shame. It’s actually very easy. There’s plenty of things far more difficult. Try making a sabayone.

Strike while the iron is hot, so the saying goes. Now is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with pie crust since this year’s apples are now in farmers markets. I have some on my table. Every time I walk by I smell them. Who doesn’t love apple pie?

I pride myself on my pie crust. Sometimes I have a dud, but most times it’s flaky and pretty good (if I do say so myself). The trick is to just bring the dough together and not knead it until it's smooth. Rough dough is flaky dough. I learned that from my dad, who was an impatient baker. His always came out well.

I’m posting two recipes, but have more buried in individual posts on this site. Search “pie.”

The first is what you would find in Fannie Farmer and most other cookbooks. The second I dug up somewhere else. It uses vinegar and egg. You can also substitute some vodka for part of the cold water.

All trimmed and vented, ready for the oven.
You can use three different sources for “fat.” Lard, vegetable shortening or butter. I find lard the best. Regardless, all three have to start off well chilled before cutting in. I find butter softens the fastest.

You don’t have to have a pastry cutter, either. You can get an excellent result using two table knives and dragging then across each other through the fat – like crossing swords.

The whole point of making a pie crust is making flakes. This is done by flattening out to paper-thin small pieces of lard in the flour as you roll the crust. Overworking it (or my dad used to say, “mauling”) is a bad, bad thing.

Two things that will kill a crust?
1. Cutting in the fat too small. No pieces, no flakes.
2. Kneading it so much that the dough is smooth. Smooth means no pieces of lard.

Remember those two simple rules, and you’re good to go.

If you’re making an open single crust pie, use 3/4 of the recipe (1.5 cups flour, etc). Don’t ask me why, but it seems that is the rule.

Before adding the wet ingredients.
Recipe 1: Traditional 9" double crust
Prep: 15 min  |  Chill: 30 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening or lard, chilled
1/2 cup very cold water

Recipe 2: Not-so-Traditional 9" double crust
Prep: 15 min  |  Chill: 30 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup lard
1/2 tsp salt 
2 teaspoons vinegar 
1/4 cup ice cold water

After adding the wet. Mix first with a fork. Only use your hands
enough to bring it together. It must not be smooth.
Make the crust by cutting the lard into the dry ingredients until the size of peas. Mix together whatever wet ingredients you are using. Stir into the dough with a fork until just combined. Then briefly use your hands.

Do NOT force it together. It needs to be ragged. Any additional flour left in the bowl can be incorporated by using it on your board to roll out the crust. 

Chill the dough in the mixing bowl for 1/2 hour until ready to use. While that is happening, make your filling.

Divide the dough in half and roll out using enough flour so it doesn’t stick to the board. Line a 9” pie plate with half of the rolled pastry. Do not trim the edges. Let it hang over the sides at least 1” the whole way around. Add your filling. 

Top with the remaining crust. Trim both top and bottom doughs about 1/2-3/4” out past the plate rim. Fold both in under the inner edge of the plate. Pinch together, crimping the edge. Cut several vents in the top.* 

Bake according to the temperature and directions of your filling recipe. 

Let cool slightly before serving to allow your filling to set. Most fillings are thickened somehow and need that cooling time to firm up.

*HINT: I cut six vents in the top of a strawberry cranberry pie. I found it very easy to cut along the vents to serve and the crust didn't break apart or collapse. Six vents equaled six slices. If you wish, cut 8 vents and divide the pie into that many pieces. This is a trick I will be using a lot in the future!


Feel free to comment. They’re always appreciated. I’ll answer quickly, and as best as I can. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is if you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crab Fritters with Garlic Mayo

The best things carried to excess are wrong. – Charles Churchill 

Since there was only two of us, we went a little to excess. We both ate three!

Author's note: I made 8 "dinner sized" cakes but you can make 32 2-tablespoon sized ones just as easily for party finger food!

I did something silly last Thursday. Or at least a little silly. I (re)joined Costco – the original home of excess and “super-size me.”

I used to have a membership that lapsed quite some time ago, about 12 years to be exact. I think I first got it when the store opened.

There are benefits to shopping at Costco if you have a large family. Being just two of us, there doesn’t seem to be much call for a 40 gallon drum of mayonnaise.

But seriously, I don’t really have much use for two bottles of Tabasco, each one being 355 ml. Using a few drops now and then, they would last me well into a next life. Or two 2L jars of Kalamata olives, that have to be used within 30 days of opening. I love olives, but pu-lease...

That being said, you can get good deals on some good single items. Mind you, the price of membership – unless you go weekly or buy “big” – probably negates any savings over the course of a year, especially for a family of two.

It’s the bigger ticket items that bring you savings, so I believe. TVs, tires, computers, outdoor living gear...

I did get a couple “finds” that I brought home. One was a wheel of cambazola cheese for $10; the other was four cans of crab meat (170 ml) for the same cost. It wasn’t lump. but depending on what you’re making it does just fine.

I had planned on making Chinese crab and corn soup this weekend (recipe here) because I had corn in the fridge. But my spouse suggested something different, so I thought I would give it a try. Crab and corn fritters. They turned out very well. Very well, indeed.

They’re a snap to put together, and easy to fry. I opted to let my batter rest for an hour in the refrigerator. That gave the garlic mayonnaise time to increase in intensity.

The recipe made 8 large crab fritters. If you’re thinking of something for a Christmas party, try this but make 32 small ones instead of the 8 “dinner-sized.”

They were really tasty, with just enough garlic. The lemon thyme also came through. If you don’t have it (I grew some this year, and it's perennial!), substitute regular thyme and a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest.

Crab Fritters with Garlic Mayo
Prep: 10 min  |  Rest: 1 hr  |  Cook: 15 min  |  Serves 4
3 lg ears of corn, kernels removed
2 x 170 ml cans crab meat, drained
1 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup chives, snipped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh lemon thyme
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
vegetable oil for frying
Garlic Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp hot sauce
salt & pepper, to taste

Remove the kernels from the corn by running a sharp knife down the sides. Place them in a mixing bowl.

Drain the crab meat and add to the bowl, along with the remaining ingredients for the fritters. except for the oil. Mix well and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Finely chop the garlic – the finer the better – and mix with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, hot sauce and salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a deep frying pan. The quantity will depend on the size of your pan. Once hot (drops of water will dance in it), scoop out 1/2 cup measures of the batter and add. My pan was large enough to do 4 without touching.

Fry until brown on one side. Flip and brown on the other side. Remove to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve warm with the garlic mayonnaise. To make a dinner for four, serve a green salad on the side.


Feel free to comment. They’re always appreciated. I’ll answer quickly, and as best as I can. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is if you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thai Bang Bang Chicken Bowl

Industry is fortune's right hand, and frugality its left. – John Ray 

I’m reminded of the Aesop’s fable of the Ant and Grasshopper. The ant labours all summer long gathering food for winter while the grasshopper plays and sings in the sun. When winter comes and the grasshopper realizes his folly he comes to a sobering conclusion:

“It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.” And then he dies. Nice fable for kids, eh?

We kind of did that with our garden this year – planned for the winter ahead. And I’m going to try to do my best to use the actual fruits of our labour. Some will be in beet form, some in carrots and some in squash.

We also have cucumbers, herbs and tomatoes (now in sauce). They will all be very helpful when the weather turns nasty. Waste not, want not.

It was with that in mind that I decided to use some of our bounty to make this meal. Thank goodness for the internet. It’s so easy to type in what you have and generate a list of recipes that answer your search.

My query was carrots, cucumbers and some chicken I had in the fridge. I was not disappointed. Too many to list popped up.

The thing about much Asian influenced cuisine is that it uses cilantro. I didn't have any fresh. I do want to grow it next year. It was an oversight this gardening season...

This recipe is sort of like a teriyaki salmon bowl, except there’s no teriyaki. It’s in a spicy peanut sauce. The similarity is that several of the ingredients are served raw, so it’s got to be a little healthier for you.

I know it tasted very good. The hot rice, chicken and sauce were just enough to elevate it from a “cold” salad. It’s also a dish where everyone assembles their own, so you can bring the ingredients to the table and let the family have at it.

It’s a great, fresh tasting way to enjoy some of the bounty you toiled so laboriously for during the summer months. Or scavenged from your local grocery... Hope you enjoy.

Bang Bang Chicken Bowl
Prep: 30 min  |  Serves 4
1 lb chicken pieces (legs, thighs or breasts)
1 cup long grain rice
1 medium cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 lg carrot (or similar small ones), julienned
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (or green onion)
chopped fresh cilantro, or dried
3 tbsp soy sauce (this is your saltiness)
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

Boil the chicken pieces in salted water for 15 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and let cool. Then remove and discard the skin and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Make the rice while the chicken is cooking. It usually is 1 rice to 2 water, simmer covered 15 minutes, let sit covered for 5. At the same time, prepare the carrots, cucumber and onion.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 2.5 minutes. Stir well and set aside.

To assemble, divide the hot rice between 4 bowls. Top with some chicken, then carrot, onion and cucumber. Pour sauce over the top and sprinkle with cilantro.


Feel free to comment. They’re always appreciated. I’ll answer quickly, and as best as I can. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is if you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Quick Nutella Cookies/Whoopie Pies

Writing is the supreme solace. – W. Somerset Maugham 

Sometimes you need chocolate, and quickly. It’s a comfort food. Comfort is what I’ve been searching for lately, and slowly finding. It will come, but I wish more quickly than it is. I guess there are just some things you have to work through in your own head.

It’s strange being here in the house alone. Henry always used to be just one head scratch away. I still see him out of the corner of my eye – on the sofa, in the hall, outside – sort of like he’s here still. I hope I do for a long time yet to come. He was a very, very good boy and constantly loyal friend.

A dog that size (he was a 115 lb Bouvier) is like having your own live, oversized teddy bear, but with tons of kisses. He got plenty of hugs and kisses returned, believe me. I miss him terribly.

But for now, cookies will have to do, albeit a very poor substitute. And far less hairy. I miss all that hair, even when found in my cookies.

A manageable amount of batter. Not 3 dozen cookies.
I made these a few nights ago. Once they were baked, I wished I had bought some Fluff (the whipped marshmallow stuff). They would have made exceptional whoopie pies.

This is my own take on Nutella cookies, slightly different than many I saw “out there.” This makes more of a cake-style cookie, much like original whoopie pies that most likely were first made from leftover cake batter. (Is there such a thing?)

Of course, Nutella isn’t the most healthy of confections. I believe modified palm oil is the second ingredient. But it does taste of hazelnut, which gives these an interesting twist.

People take their whoopie pies, and their provenance, seriously.

This is from Wikipedia:
Pennsylvania, Maine, and New Hampshire all claim to be the birthplace of the Whoopie pie. In 2011, the Maine State Legislature considered naming the whoopie pie the official state pie. The proposal received bipartisan support. L.D. 71, officially known as "An Act to Designate the Whoopie Pie as the State Dessert", read "The whoopie pie, a baked good made of two chocolate cakes with a creamy frosting between them, is the official state dessert".

The Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau and other observers in Lancaster County, PA, note that the whoopie pie comes from the area's Amish and Pennsylvania German culture – origins that are unlikely to leave an official paper trail – and has been handed down through generations. Most likely, Amish groups that migrated to Maine brought the treat to the people of Maine. Mainers assert that Labadie's in Lewiston, Maine has been making the confectionery since 1925. The now-defunct Berwick Cake Company of Roxbury, Massachusetts had been making the "Whoopee Pie" since 1931 and it is also claimed that the whoopie pie originated there in Massachusetts and spread both north and south. It appears though that German immigrants brought the predecessor of the Whoopie Pie to communities throughout the northeast.

The Maine Legislature eventually decided to declare the whoopie pie the official state treat, and chose blueberry pie (made with wild Maine blueberries) as the official state dessert.

So there you have it. These cookies went together in minutes, were easy to put on the cookie sheet (just one sheet), made a manageable amount, and baked without burning. What more can you ask.

A perfect metaphor for my mood: slightly out of focus.
Quick Nutella Cookies
Prep: 10 min  |  Bake: 15 min  |  Yield about 16 cookies
1 cup Nutella
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup milk
1 lg egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

If making Whoopie Pies:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup marshmallow fluff

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (for ease of clean-up).

Combine the cookie ingredients together with a mixer. You have to make sure the Nutella is well mixed in. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the sheet to make 16 cookies.

Bake for 15 minutes. They will be puffed but not browned around the edges.

Let cool slightly. If making whoopie pies, mix together the filling, spread evenly on 8 of the cookies, top with a second cookie and serve.


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Monday, October 14, 2013

Giving Thanks and Reflecting

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. – Arthur Golden

Thanksgiving. A time to spend with those you love. Or at least it's "supposed" to be that way. Expected, actually.

Last year, about this time.
I didn’t feel much like it this year, for obvious reasons. It has only been six days since I said goodbye to one of the best friends I will ever have in my life – our Bouvier, Henry.

So I wasn’t really in much of a mood to celebrate. But I was in a mood to reflect, and be thankful.

I do have a lot to be thankful for, although sometimes it does take digging to find a “silver lining.” 

There’s been way too many storm clouds of late. We’ve replaced almost everything major in the house – front door, roof, furnace, bathroom, water system, well – and then to top it off I lost my best buddy to cancer.

He was supposed to be my companion here in the country while I started this “brave, new life.” That certainly didn't pan out. I think I’m due for some good, or at the very least different, luck.

I suppose, if you look, there’s always something to be grateful for: my spouse is doing exceptionally well at college, and my family understood that I wasn’t up for a gathering (usually a guilt-laden affair if you have the temerity to miss one). And even though I am feeling pain, that pain wouldn’t be there unless I had Henry, and all he gave me, in my life – however too short it was. So I am thankful, for so very much.

So what did we do instead of the hurly burly of a family get together? I decided to forgo the turkey and have veal instead. I can hear you all now. “Veal?” Boo-hoo. Things die. Don’t get me started.

But really, why veal? A couple reasons.
1. it was cheaper per pound than all the other beef roast cuts. Don’t ask me why...
2. It was already dead. I usually don’t subscribe to eating veal on principle, but this was already laying there in its little black tray. So why not.

You can substitute beef or pork if you wish. No harm, no foul. We rounded out the meal with (almost) all ingredients we grew ourselves in our small garden this year.

It’s sort of bittersweet to go out to that garden. Henry used to follow me out there to beg for fresh beans. He loved beans, and peas, and carrots. And yellow pear tomatoes. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see one again without thinking of him standing next to me as I picked from the vine, to his utter enjoyment.

But this cool Thanksgiving night it was just my spouse and me, a spade, some carrots, beets, onions and fresh herbs. Even the tomato sauce used to braise the meat was from our own Roma tomatoes.

So as we sat together at the kitchen table for our truncated family feast, I was able to reflect, and enjoy the company I am so grateful to still have, and remember the shared, undying love of someone who left my life so very recently, and far too soon.

Braised Veal Roast with Rosemary & Cranberry
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook: 2-3 hours  |  Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg veal roast, beef or pork
1 medium onion, chopped
3 lg garlic cloves
6-7 sprigs of rosemary (see recipe)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 cups tomato sauce, plain
1 cup red wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon
salt and cracked, black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a cover.

Season the roast with salt and pepper and sear until brown on all sides. Once browned, remove to a plate.

Add the onions and sauté for about 4 minutes until the begin to brown and soften. Then add the garlic and sauté for a further 2 minutes.

Lay the rosemary sprigs on top of the onions and garlic. You need enough to cover the bottom of the pot. It’s a lot. You can use less if you wish.

Add the cranberries, tomato sauce, red wine and some more salt and pepper.

Nestle the roast into the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours. At the end of that time check the internal temperature. It should be about 140°F.

Two ways to finish the roast:
1. If you’re eating it right away, continue to cook until done to your desired internal temperature.
2. If you’re making it ahead, remove from the heat at 140°F, let cool and refrigerate. To finish, heat the oven to 375°F and roast, covered for 1 more hour.

Serve slices of roast with the cranberry/rosemary pan sauce.

The 375°F also allows you to roast a pan of vegetables at the same time to serve for your meal.

I find family celebrations a bit hard to take, because of all the self-inflicted stress, short tempers and hubbub. Making the roast ahead and finishing it “on the day” is a wonderful way to take the stress out of holiday gatherings.


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