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It would appear I’m becoming a slacker again, especially on weekends. This time I have an excuse though: I got stung by a bee and swelled. No really. Actually it was a wasp, and it wasn’t so much the swelling as the ensuing sensation that my gut was being stomped upon by angry transvestites in stilettos (stilettos with real-size women in them would be far too small and dainty).

Although I do like the excuse that I’m actually only 120 pounds, I just got stung by a bee. (Or perhaps several – mostly in the muffin-top and thigh area.)

I was so honoured to emcee the first annual Sugar Bowl last night. Immediately upon walking in the door of the lawn bowling club I was chatting at the registration desk, not hassling any wasps at all, and one flew up my capris and stung me above the knee (as one might do if one was trapped in my pants). Ironically, I’ve been killing wasps all over our house and yard for days without being stung – in fact I assassinated 4 in the bathroom immediately before leaving for the event. (Clearly this is payback – either the offending wasp followed me there, or got texted by his second cousin over in Ramsay that half his family was just obliterated and flushed down the toilet.)

So it hurt, yes, and swelled into a second knee. But as I was dabbing some ointment on it my stomach must have got wind of what happened, cramped up and remained that way for the entire evening, so much so that it was hard to stand up straight. I’m sure some attendees wondered about the pained expression on my face; surely I couldn’t be that passionate about lawn bowling?

It was a really really fantastic, fun event, and I’m already looking forward to next year. But when it was over I got myself home, into my PJs and the fetal position and stayed that way until this morning. Stupid wasp.

So last night: no dinner. I have no idea what M fed W, but this morning the latter fessed up to eating a bag of whole wheat hot dog buns, and I estimated there were at least 6 in there when I left (I took note for a fall-back dinner: a whole wheat hot dog bun spread with peanut butter and stuffed with a banana. Guess he didn’t make it that far.)

Tonight we ate grilled Spolumbo’s sausages and leftover ratatouille, but I do have to tell you about those kale chips. Turns out fresh kale, when oiled, salted and roasted, turns into crispy, salty kale, and although it is completely delicious, and finally helped me to understand why people go around eating sheets of nori, I think calling them chips are a bit of a stretch. I will totally make this again, though – my sister and I polished off a bowl of crispy, ruffly “chips” in under 10 minutes. The kids unfortunately didn’t fall for the ruse.

Thanks, you guys, for all the recipe links! It was interesting to compare; oven temperatures ranged from 250°F to 400°F (I did a middle-of-the-road 350°F) and while all were tossed in oil, a couple also had lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, which I opted against. (In order to get veggies nice and crispy you want to avoid any moisture, and I really wanted them crispy.) Wash your kale, dry it in a salad spinner or between tea towels, pull out the tough stems, tear it into chunks (if you like – some recipes roasted whole leaves) and toss with a drizzle of canola or olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Make sure the leaves are spread out in a single layer on your baking sheet; when they get bunched up they tend to not crisp up. The higher temp recipes took only 5 minutes; the low took half an hour; mine took about 15 minutes. You just want them crisp, but not burned. It’s pretty simple, really.

And I thought it was about time I mentioned the ratatouille; I’ve gone through a couple batches in the past weeks, keeping it in the fridge to dip into for pizza, sandwiches, lasagna, or to balance a grilled sausage. It seems more like an end-of-summer dish, but the markets are loaded with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant right now. I love this recipe because you can start with the onion and then just chop and add veggies to the pan as you go, and measurements are approximate – feel free to add more of this or that, and sometimes I add a big spoonful of tomato paste to enrich it a little.

Like chili and soup, ratatouille is even better the next day, and the next. And once you have a stash of it, you can toss it with hot pasta (and crumbled feta or goat cheese), layer it between lasagna noodles, spread some into a panini or grilled cheese, or gob onto a pizza crust or pita and top with cheese.



Recipe link

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August 9, 2009

  • Makes: Serves 8 (or so).


canola or olive oil, for cooking

1 large onion, halved and sliced

4-5 big garlic cloves, crushed

1 small eggplant, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 red, yellow or orange pepper, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces

3 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped

a couple tablespoons tomato paste (optional)

1 tsp. oregano or dried Italian seasoning

a handful of fresh spinach or basil, chopped (optional)


1In a large skillet, heat a generous glug of oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the eggplant and cook for another 5 minutes, adding more oil if needed, until the eggplant is soft. Add the pepper and zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until everything is nice and soft and you're starting to get some golden edges. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano and cook for 5 more minutes.

2Taste and adjust the seasoning if you need to; if you're adding fresh spinach or basil, stir it in and let it wilt. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight and reheat as you need it.

Makes: Serves 8 (or so).

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31 comments on “Ratatouille

  1. robin
    August 9, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    hope you feel better! that sounds awful!

  2. robin
    August 9, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    being stung, i mean… not the food, THAT sounds delicious :O)

  3. Cheryl Arkison
    August 10, 2009 at 5:55 am

    Here’s an odd wasp sting remedy that really works. make a thick paste with meat tenderizer and put it on the bite and any offending red areas. It totally draws out the sting.
    You know, because we all have meat tenderizer laying around.

  4. Jen
    August 10, 2009 at 6:05 am

    I tried kale chips for the first time in Colorado this summer, and I’ve been meaning to try making them! You’ve inspired me to crank up my oven, even in the heat of this summer.

  5. Vivian
    August 10, 2009 at 6:38 am

    There sure seem to be a lot of wasps about right now. I got stung on the back of my hand last week but didn’t, thankfully, get the swelling you did. Poor girl! Will buy some meat tenderizer to have around just in case. As to trying new things, yesterday I stuffed and deep-fried squash blossoms. There are tons in the garden and I’ve been wanting to experiment for the last three years. One would think that they would be quite light but, oddly, they were really filling. Still crispy and delicious though.

  6. JulieVR
    August 10, 2009 at 6:47 am

    Cheryl- I read that too. Apparently you can’t leave it on too long if you have sensitive skin though – it being meat tenderizer, and you being made of meat.

    Oddly enough the stomachache trumped the sting by far – I hardly noticed the welt on my leg after about an hour!

  7. Barb
    August 10, 2009 at 7:29 am

    A colony of wasps has decided to build a condo under my deck. I have been debating about just leaving them alone until freezeup. Is this a good idea?

    Ratatouille was my go to recipe last year. Enjoyed it very much. I was hoping it was too early to start making it yet but since Mother Nature has provided the ingredients I guess it’s not!

  8. rea
    August 10, 2009 at 8:27 am


    transvestites in stiletto’s pretty much says it all.

  9. Terri
    August 10, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Hubby got stung a few years ago when we camping. His Grandmother told him to make a paste out of ashes from the fire pit and dab it on the sting…worked like a charm! I got stung on the foot a while back and got a foot reminicent of a cabbage patch doll. Turns out he left me with a nasty skin infection. Doc told me to draw a line around the red rash creeping up my leg and if it went anywhere past that mark to get my backside and severely swollen foot to the hospital! Thankfully antibiotics did the job, but geez louise!

  10. ilovealbertabeets
    August 10, 2009 at 11:46 am

    It was great to meet you at Sugar Bowl, and let me assure you, you were a charming and witty emcee despite having three knees! Hope it’s healed up. Thanks for the kale recipe, ’tis the season for more kale than one knows what to do with..

  11. Charmian Christie
    August 10, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I hate wasps. Stepped on a wasp nest as a child, and we haven’t been on speaking terms since.

    Love the kale chip idea. Wonder if I can get my husband onto them?

    I used to make ratatouille all the time in university. Can’t remember the last time I made it. Must amend this! Soon.

  12. Kristilyn
    August 10, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Love the Kale chips! I made them for the Husband and I and he actually liked them (though I wonder if it was the chips, or the fact that I served them with ketchup?).

    Too bad the kids didn’t fall for it!


  13. Stephen Roden
    August 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Tranvestites in stillettos?

    I thought maybe I had gotten someone else’s
    column by mistake.

  14. JulieVR
    August 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Too much?

  15. Nicole (Cooking After Five)
    August 10, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I make kale chips all the time! They’re the perfect snack when I’m craving something salty.

  16. lovetocook
    August 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Here’s my absolutely idiot-proof ratatouille: Bring home bushels of peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and onions from the farmers market. Cut them all into 1- inch cubes. Throw them into the largest roasting pan that will fit in your oven, add lots of garlic, toss with evoo, lemon juice, oregano, s and p and roast at 400F, stirring occasionally until juices are thick-ish and veg are slightly caramelized. Enjoy now and freeze lots in yogurt containers for quick meals all year.

  17. JulieVR
    August 10, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    LOVE IT! Thank you!!

  18. JoJo
    August 11, 2009 at 6:08 am

    May be the upside of the sting is that now you will have superpowers, in the same vein as Spiderman. But we will clearly have to come up with a creative name – WaspWoman will not do. WonderWoman would be very accurate, but has been done. Suggestions?

  19. thepinkpeppercorn
    August 11, 2009 at 8:11 am

    I am still scared of kale chips…I like kale too! I guess I’ll have to hurry up and try it. You make it sound so good!

  20. Heidi
    August 11, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Tried the kale chips last night – fabulous! We used a curlier (though not “curly” kale) and the chips were beautiful. I’m thinking of bringing them to the neighborhood block party next month. I wonder if anyone will eat them…

  21. Terri
    August 11, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Where does one find this tahini?

  22. Katy
    August 11, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I make those kale chips all the time … I find that they get crispier if I massage the olive oil into the leaves instead of just drizzling over.

    Also, sometimes I’ll mix in a little honey or agave nectar. Yum!

    Next to butternut squash fries, it’s a crispy, salty treat!

    (BTW it’s just as good with dinosaur kale)

  23. Avery
    August 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I’m that person that goes around eating sheets of nori! I’ll have to try the kale chips.

  24. Amy Green - Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free
    August 11, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I love roasted veggies and am going to try these kale chips. Ratatouille is a favorite around here but I cook mine for a lot longer – I’m going to try your version. Looks simpler and just as good.

  25. Carol SB
    August 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    JoJo you’re right– superpowers could only be augmented, they are already there.
    Able to leap tall buildings has NOTHIN’ on able to put a fantastic meal on the table in <1/2 hour.
    The stinger. No, wait, isn’t that a cocktail? OK, The Hornet. Nope, that one’s taken.
    Aha, “The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) is a fictional character, a superheroine in the Marvel Comics universe and founding member of The Avengers.”
    Who knew (wikipedia did, obviously)

  26. JulieVR
    August 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    If I ever have a super power, I choose a rewind button. Hands down.

  27. Laurene
    August 11, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Maybe it has something to do with the weather this year but we are inundated with Bald-faced Hornets. They are nastier & bigger than their cousins, the Yellow Jackets. I got stung by one 3 years ago & it hurt like hell. They’re all over my yard & every time I go out, they dive bomb me. Today I got in the car to go somewhere & something black & about an inch long started flying fast around my car & actually hit the windshield several times. It looked too big to be one of these hornets & my friend said that maybe it was a Deer Fly or Horse Fly. A lot of people have been complaining about them being around here lately.

    I guess I’ll just stay inside until Sept….

  28. Roslyn
    September 21, 2014 at 6:02 am

    I really like looking through an article that can make men and women think.
    Also, thanks for allowing for mee to comment!

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