I try to make a meal plan every week and do my shopping all at once. I generally find that this cuts down on the cost of groceries and prevents us from staring into the refridgerator with a look of consternation every night going "So...should we just have toast again?" Instead, I take a stack of cookbooks into the living room and pour over them for ages looking for new and challenging recipes, things which are sure to impress. I love looking through my cookbooks and dreaming of feasting on the sumptuous morsels inside and presenting my picture perfect replications to guests, especially since receiving a much desired new book for Christmas this year, Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".
The only problem with doing this is that I often forget to plan myself one or two simple, throw-together meals for the days when I just don't feel like whipping up a masterpiece - because Julia herself admits that her book is not for those faint of heart or short on time, and Jamie Oliver may say that his meals are easy to throw together, but he obviously has no inkling of my potential for bungling in the kitchen. So, Julia's ratatouille pictured above was delicious, but was actually suggested as part of a larger meal, and by itself took me longer than an hour to prepare. As for the delicious morsels to set before guests, I have a bad habit of making things for people that I have never made before and not checking beforehand how long they will take or how many they will serve. So I slaved over a lovely porkloin with roast leeks which I set on the table for a group of six very hungry people, though it was only meant to serve four. Everyone got a small plate, and I ended up offering round toast after dinner. Erg.
This past week I had the flu, during which time I had simultaneous chills and a fever, ached in joints I had forgotten were there, ate practically nothing and drank a lot of orange juice. While I was still not feeling my greatest, I had to make dinner for a few people, and I was determined that I wasn't going to kill myself for hours or spend any more time near a hot stove than absolutely necessary. Here's what I made:
Cauliflower Cheese Soup - Moosewood Cookbook
Cut up a carrot, a potatoe, a cup of onion and a head of cauliflower. Put them in a pot with some stock and boil until the vegetables are soft. Puree. Add a bit of cream, a teaspoon of caraway seeds, two cups of shredded cheddar cheese and some salt and pepper. Heat through and serve.
Custardy Popovers - Moosewood Cookbook
Preheat oven to 375. Brush a muffin tin with melted butter. Whisk 1 1/4 cups of milk with 2, 3 or 4 eggs (depending on how custardy you like your popovers). Add 1 1/4 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix (some lumps are ok). Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full and bake 25 minutes, adding five minutes for each additional egg (ie: 30 min for three eggs, etc.) Remove from the pan and prick with a fork.
Apple Fennel Salad
I had this when I was over at a friend's house for dinner and I thought it was so lovely and simple that I immediately added it to my repetoire.
You need: two or three crisp red apples, a fennel bulb, a block of parmesean cheese (not the pre shredded stuff) and some nice olive oil.
Cut the top and bottom off the fennel bulb and slice thinly. Wash and core the apple and slice thinly. Alternate slices of fennel and apple, drizzling each layer with a bit of olive oil and parmesean shavings (a vegetable peeler works well for this).
This meal took me less than an hour from start to finish, left me with few dishes, and was an absolute cinch to prepare. I was able to spend my time relaxing and chatting with my guests instead of running around trying to get everything ready at the same time. I need to cook like this more often.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
A few nights ago as I was taking stock of our refridgerator while trying to decide what to have for dinner, I saw two beautiful zucchini sitting in the crisper and remembered this video that I saw last week on Chow.com of chef Michael Bulkowski making a sandwich that blew my mind: grilled cheese on zucchini bread.
These are the kinds of things that I dream about making but stop myself because it just sounds too crazy...but this video is evidence that real sane people out in the world make the things that I only dream of making! Chef Michael has set me free!
I whipped up this recipe for zucchini bread and waited
I used this very strong goat cheese that I picked up at Atwater market. (I think next time I would use a not-quite-so pungent cheese, as this one was a bit like a kick in the mouth...in a good way...sort of.)
I ate this totally delicious sandwich. Mind officially blown.
I feel like a world of possibilites has been opened up to me with this sandwich! I'm already dreaming up sequels. Would a fried peanut butter and jam on banana bread be crossing the line?
Oh my gosh. I want one right now.
Posted by Nicki at 7:10 PM
Friday, September 9, 2011
I grew up in White Rock, BC. Our family always had two cars in the driveway. When my brother and I learned to drive, it became three and later four, as each of us needed our own car to get to work and school, respectively. When everyone was home, it looked like we were having a party at our house. Living in the suburbs means a lot of driving, because nothing is within walking distance and public transit basically sucks. We in the suburbs think nothing of a daily hour long commute. That's just the way it is.
This past year in Montreal is the first time I have ever really lived in a city. It's been a great experience, and there are things about it I absolutely love. I love that there's a 24 hour bagel place down the street from us where we can also buy milk and eggs. I love that we can decide to go out to dinner after 8 'o clock at night and have a choice between a dozen different restaurants on our street. I love walking around downtown and suddenly running smack dab into the middle of a festival that I didn't even know was happening. There is always something interesting going on here.
One of the things I really miss about living in BC though, is the openness - looking out over the ocean and not being able to see the other side; going an hour in any direction and hitting farmland or wilderness; that feeling of wanting to head out on the highway and drive off into the great unknown. I miss being able to get away from it all. I miss nature. So when a new friend asked my husband and I if we wanted to go hiking with her last weekend, we were all over the idea. Although the weather was not what we hoped it would be (read: it poured with rain), the chance to leave the confinement of city buildings and spend some time in the great wide open was irresistible, and something I think we both needed. I myself took great pleasure in packing us an energizing and delicious lunch, and we ate it with relish on a forest path by the water, the wind blowing in our faces.
Posted by Nicki at 7:08 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2011
This is a picture of the chess board after my winning game with Shaun. (I'm brown, in case you couldn't tell.) This is the first game I have won against him in longer than I would like any of you to know...and it was SO AWESOME!
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and bask in my glorious victory. Talk amongst yourselves.
Posted by Nicki at 4:34 PM
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Montreal is a very convenient city in terms of public transit, so I've never minded not having a car. Truth be told, it's a bit nerve wracking to be a driver here (or a pedestrian for that matter). No one pays any attention to silly things like stop signs, and it's not uncommon while walking down the street to hear several people leaning enthusiastically on their horns. There are only two reasons I really miss having a car (other than the opportunity to actually leave the island of Montreal once in a while). One is that it makes it a lot more difficult to buy furniture - especially now, since our land lady has decided to sell the house and with it all of the things she had furnished it with. For the last little while we've been bringing new pieces into the house bit by bit, trying to fill the large empty gaps in our decor as our previous furniture slowly trickles out.
The other thing that makes having a car so very useful is the ability to shop at Costco. As a child, I spent many a happy hour chowing down on Costco hot dogs, scouring the clothing section for new fashion trends (which never amounted to much), and getting lost among sky high rows of stuff. As anyone who shops at Costco knows, it's impossible to leave the store without a truckload of new things and an empty wallet. It's just not the kind of shopping trip one can take if one has to travel by bus. Fortunately, we've been able to
A new set of pots and pans!! Hurray!! I have been wanting these ever since we moved here, and they're finally nestled (very) snugly in our kitchen cabinet.
This one is my favorite. What a long way we've come from this:
which is what we cooked our first meal in. (Don't worry, that paint stirrer is clean.)
I am very happy with my newest purchase, although my husband has been having a fit trying to figure out how to fry an egg without having it weld itself to the pan. Any suggestions?
Posted by Nicki at 7:17 PM
Monday, March 14, 2011
Yesterday was daylight savings, and although the ground here is still covered in snow, the extra hour of cheery sunlight we now get to enjoy is wildly exciting. Not only is it an indication of the beautiful spring weather that's just around the corner, but it means that soon I will actually be able to wear a pair of fashionable shoes outside without destroying them in the evil sidewalk salt. Hurray!
In the meantime, here are a few tidbits from the last month or two (or six) of my life.
Posted by Nicki at 11:18 PM
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I've spent the last few days being very sick. Like, stayed in my pajamas all day, went through two and a half boxes of tissues, had to slather lotion on my poor little chapped red nose to keep it from falling off kind of sick. It made me realize that I need to see a dentist, because every time I sneezed it made my teeth hurt.
I started off the week with a sore throat (which I managed to ignore by drinking beer, eating Reese's peanut butter cups and going to see a very cheesy movie), and ended it with sinus congestion, chills, and a headache the size of Milwaukee.
An appropriate mural down the street from our house.My husband believes that there are two kinds of people: those who call in sick at the first sign of a sniffle, and those who keep working until they're almost dead. I definitely fall into the latter category.
I had promised weeks earlier to take charge of the dessert and coffee for a ladies meeting at my church on Saturday night, so I arranged to have a friend come over in the afternoon to help me bake. By the time she arrived, I looked like a character out of Zombieland and felt like my head was going to explode, but I managed to suck it up and disinfect myself long enough to make a batch of butterscotch blondies. At that point I should have called it quits, but I insisted on going to the meeting and staying the entire time. My friend sat beside me and looked on in pity as I honked and snuffled, stubbornly refusing to admit defeat. When the meeting was over, I took my streaming eyes and nose and hightailed it out of there as fast as I could. I was halfway home before I realised I'd forgotten my purse.
The moral of the story is - keep your diseased self at home. Stay in your pajamas all day. Sit on the couch and watch six episodes of "Jamie at Home" in a row. Make rice pudding. You'll get the rest and delicious dessert that you need, and your friends won't be exposed to your contagion. Win win.
Posted by Nicki at 3:45 PM