If I had to choose a favourite place to be, most days I’d pick in the kitchen with people. My own kitchen, when friends are packed into the nook rather than spreading out into the rest of the house – or my parents’ when everyone is over and attempting to tag team on dinner or brunch and collectively get the cousins fed. But I really love being invited into someone else’s kitchen, especially a person or family with a history of dishes outside my usual repertoire (not that I really have a usual), who have been making certain dishes for years to feed their families, who cook for people so often they have drawers full of portable Corningware to fill and send out the door, like Dilshad and Rozina. (I try to adopt a lot of my friends’ moms, aunts and grandmas.) Dilshad and Rozina – the mom and aunt of a friend and also sisters who live together with their husbands, who are brothersContinue reading

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We don’t wait for lunar new year to make dumplings around here – they’re one of W’s favourite foods, and long ago we started filling and pinching them together. It’s not as difficult as it looks, a great way to spend 20 minutes catching up with someone you love, and little fingers are particularly adept at manipulating the soft dough. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you seal them – fold them in half like a peroghy, twist it into a little topknot, pull up the corners and make a tent, add a couple pleats or don’t. As long as they’re sealed, they’ll cook up just fine and taste wonderful. (Kids will come up with tiny packages you’d never have thought of.) There are, of course, millions of ways to fill a dumpling – essentially you start with ground meat (pork is very common, but some are made with beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp or veggies) and season it with soy sauce, finely chopped greenContinue reading

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Meat on a stick. Anything beefy that can be eaten with your fingers and dragged through tangy-spicy peanut sauce I’m on board with. This is what happened recently when I dug through the deep freeze in search of something that could be cooked quickly. Occasionally I have a flash of insight, picking up beef when it’s on sale and quickly hacking it up and freezing it in a bag of marinade while we unload the groceries. A marinade can be anything, really – often I just go to town with an open fridge, pouring in OJ, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic, something sweet like honey or brown sugar, something acidic like lime juice or balsamic. Plain yogurt that needs using up makes a good vehicle for flavours and spices, even a lob of curry paste. I try to convince myself it’s a good idea to label before tossing it in the freezer to marinate while in stasis, and the resulting package lies inContinue reading

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Apologies for the plain photo, but this is what real life looks like – W was hungry (OK, we all were), and to be honest I didn’t plan to share this until I got several requests on Instagram. People like sloppy lentils! It was a last minute, just-drove-home-from-Edmonton-and-rummaged-through-the-freezer dinner, with a small handful of red lentils thrown in to boost fibre and other good things. Dry split red lentils cook quickly and mask themselves perfectly, soaking up the sweet-vinegary flavours of sloppy Joe sauce – no one has a clue they’re there. (If you like, you could use canned brown lentils instead – they work just as well.)

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Prime rib seems so 1990s steakhouse, and it’s something I rarely think to make at home, but when we do I never regret it. It can be a bit of a spend – $50 for a chunk of meat seems exorbitant and reserved only for the fanciest of occasions – but when you think about it, it’s less than we’d likely spend ordering pizza or hitting Swiss Chalet on the way home from Christmas shopping. This relatively small two bone prime rib fed all of us plus my parents, with leftovers. And it provided a perfect excuse to make Yorkshire puddings. I know when you invest in a prime rib you don’t want to screw it up, but the good news is, after you practice the blast-it-with-heat-and-then-leave-it-in-the-oven-for-two-hours-no-peeking method, you’ll be confident in your ability to cook a prime rib whether it’s for a special occasion dinner (like, if everyone is kind of meh about turkey) or just a regular Wednesday. You can call your parentsContinue reading

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Last week at this time we were collectively stress eating – and cooking – me doing my best to distract myself in the kitchen, simultaneously trying to come up with something munchy-snacky-comforting we could eat on the couch in front of the TV, when this passed through my Instagram field of vision. A pile of nacho-style fried wontons topped with salty-sweet bulgogi beef, kimchi and cheese sauce. Brilliance? I think so. First of all: the crispy wontons, which are simply wonton wrappers, halved and fried in a shallow skiff of oil in a small skillet (you don’t need much – and they cook up in less than a minute) which transforms them into a delicious cross between cracker and chip. I am so keeping this technique in my back pocket for those nights when we need some salt and crunch with structural integrity – they would do well with a hefty, cheesy baked artichoke dip. Mental note.

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The oak leaves were just sitting on our kitchen table, I swear. Last week W and I were invited to come join a family cooking class at the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence (yes, this is an actual place, and for anyone who appreciates beef and butchery, it’s amazing) – they were working with Canadian Living (my fave, as you know) on encouraging families to bring their kids into the kitchen – a place W has been hanging out in since he’s been alive. Publisher Sandra Martin joined us virtually on the big screen and the butchers and beef chefs – such great guys – were there to help everyone along as we cooked our way through recipes in the current issue of CL – beef stew, sliders, stir fry, an easy roast (our task – and a good one as it allowed me to give W a crash course in gravy making, something I hope he remembers this Thanksgiving weekend) and mozzarella stuffed miniContinue reading

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I know, two days into school and I’m already dishing out pot roasts, as if we had already switched on the furnace and were full-on into fall. (I made gingerbread too this week. I know!) Really what’s happening is I’ve been spelunking through my freezer, making room for the berries and tomatoes and soups and curries I’ve been making to keep everything that’s coming in to season all at once from composting itself on the countertop. And those items that take up the most real estate are the first to go. Plus, making things like pot roast and muffins makes me feel like I’m on the ball with life, taking care of things. Who cares that I shovelled the stuff off my treadmill onto my bed and when it was time to go to bed shuffled it all to the floor, and have since piled even more stuff onto the treadmill (which is beside my desk because I truly believe one of these days I’mContinue reading

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Beef stew was, sadly at the time, a staple of our childhood. My mom would buy stewing beef and my dad, clearly unaware of the benefits of cooking such cuts low and slow, would brown the meat, add tomatoes and potatoes and green things and serve it up for dinner – and it was a long, meaty chew. Nowadays, I appreciate the flavour potential of inexpensive cuts of beef – and I love a good dark, sticky braise. A recipe that calls for a few hours’ cooking time sounds daunting, but dishes like beef stew and carbonnade can be slid into the oven after school and be done by dinnertime. Of course, starting with the proper cut of beef is important, which is why so many people panic in the meat aisle, why Mike dreads me sending him to the store with vague cuts of beef on his list, and why having a good butcher is a very good thing. But when there isn’t someoneContinue reading

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