the gouda life

Feb 28

Worth a Mess [Broccoli-Lemon Gnocchi with Chili Brown Butter]

image

I’ve had my fingers in a lot of bowls this week. Experimenting, creating and cleaning. Experimenting, eating, cleaning. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Eating, eating, eating. 

I’ve been unduly fortunate to have a week to myself, to do with what I please. And what I please usually involves making a mess. Especially in the case of these gnocchi. I don’t know about your gnocchi process, but mine always creates a lot of mess. Mess that is, without any question, worth it once your teeth descend into the pillowy little bundles of savory joy. These are worth it. Worth a mess, worth the time, worth finding the perfect hiding space so your boyfriend can’t find them. That last one is important if you’re a jerk like me. But in that case, a jerk with lots of gnocchi, you’ll be. And ask yourself, is that really so bad? 

image

Broccoli-Lemon Gnocchi with Chili Brown Butter
adapted from Local Kitchen Blog
makes 40-50 gnocchi

1 1/2 cups good-quality Ricotta (strain if it’s got excess moisture)
1 egg
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper
pinch nutmeg
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 heaping cup finely diced broccoli florets
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
whole broccoli florets
Parmesan, for garnish
lemon wedges, for garnish

In a bowl, vigorously whisk together the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper until shiny and smooth. Add in the nutmeg, lemon zest, broccoli florets and Parmesan and whisk to combine. Add in half the flour and fold together. Add the rest, slowly, while mixing and folding, until a sticky dough forms. Dump onto a well-floured surface and knead gently until dough is uniform. It should still be a bit sticky. Divide dough into 4 portions and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

image

Remove 1 portion at a time and use your finger tips to roll the dough portion into a finger-width rope. Use a light touch and encourage the dough to lengthen by spreading your fingers as you’re rolling it out. Use a very gentle touch as you don’t want to squish the dough, you want pillowy gnocchi. Once finger-width, cut the rope into 1” sections. Place on a parchment-lined, flour-dusted baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Repeat with remaining sections. Shape by quickly pressing against a gnocchi board or the back of a fork. Good gnocchi groves means more potential to catch sauce - something worth noting! 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add about 8-10 (one layer) gnocchi at a time. They will sink to the bottom. When they rise to the top, they are ready. Place on a paper towel lined baking sheet and cover with damp towel. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked.  

Add butter, pinch salt and chili flakes to a large skillet over med-high heat. Melt, swirling the pan until foam subsides and there are golden flecks in the butter (5-6 minutes). Add in the broccoli florets and 1/4-1/2 of the gnocchi and cook, tossing occasionally, until gnocchi are golden brown in spots and broccoli is cooked but still bright green. Serve with extra Parmesan and lemon wedges. 

image

Feb 19

Moving On [Kale and Romano Ricotta Waffles with Cayenne Honey]


Today, I am celebrating. A fresh start, a new career, a life more focused on the things I love. It’s exciting and terrifying and makes me fell alive like only the threat of failing can. 

Monday was my last day sitting at a desk. No more taking meetings, compiling reports and invoices, wearing itchy tights and uncomfortable shoes, feeling down and out about what the hell I’m doing with my life (note: I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life…but I don’t feel down or out about it). It’s time to move on, time to switch it up. And I do so with utter relief and confidence that it was the right move for me, for right now. 

I’ll be working full time at Seed to Sausage, a small-scale, family-run artisan cured meat shop of which I’ve been a loyal customer for years. I’ve written about them before, but to keep this quick and spare you the fan-girl gushing, Seed to Sausage makes incredible cured, fresh and fermented meats. From the sopressata that I go out of my way to find each week, to the jalapeno-cheese curd smokies, the 80 day dry-aged beef to the chorizo that tingles the sides of your tongue with numbing heat. If they make it, people will come… by the throngs I’ve noticed. Something that immediately struck me about this company was their determination to maintain a transparency in their business. This
 determination seems to have forged a stronger trust between business and consumer - something undeniably lacking from many food retailers these days. I’m elated to be working for them, to learn from them and to hopefully form a better understanding of this industry. If you’re in the Ottawa area, come and see me and let’s bond over sausage, ok? Amazing. 

This coming Saturday is my birthday and since it’s so close to this big life change, I wanted to treat myself to a little something that said “damn girl, good for you” (I actually said that to myself as I lowered the lid on my first batch of waffles). A waffle maker! WAFFLES! I LOVE WAFFLES OH MY GOD HOLY SHIT I LOVE WAFFLES. So yea, I bought myself one. And in the 24 hours that I’ve owned this waffle maker, I’ve turned out over 2 dozen of the fluffy little buggers. The first, an earthy Yeasted Rye and Seed Waffle with plenty of sweet, slighty medicinal cardamom and the second, these Winners with a capital W. Unhealthy obsession begins now. I’m already planning dark chocolate waffles, sweet potato waffles, preztel waffles. I’m literally shaking thinking of all the possibilities to cram between those non-stick panels. Don’t be alarmed if the next 10 posts are all waffles. WAFFLES. Let’s say it one more time for good measure. WAFFLES! 

Kale and Romano Ricotta Waffles with Cayenne Honey
adapted from Food Network
makes 6-8 waffles

You may feel a bit weirded out at the idea of putting honey over these savory waffles, but you must. I promise you won’t be disappointed. The sweet/savory balance is out of this world. I also feel like it really brings out the nutmeg flavour, but maybe I’m just mad from too many hours standing in front of a waffle maker. Either way, cayenne honey. You must do it. 

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
few generous pinches cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg (small pinch)

1 cup extra smooth ricotta
2 large eggs
1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
4 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped kale
1/2 cup finely diced pecorino Romano

Cayenne Honey
1/2 cup honey
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on spice tolerance)
pinch salt

To serve:

Scallions
Butter

Whisk together the flour, baking powder + soda, salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the ricotta and eggs until smooth and shiny. Add the milk and butter and stir to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until no flour remains. Fold in the kale and romano. 

For my waffle maker, I spooned about 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp of batter per waffle and cooked for about 7 minutes. Read your waffle maker instructions to be sure this is the correct method for yours. 

While the waffles baker, warm the honey and cayenne in a small sauce-pot over low heat. It shouldn’t boil or simmer, you just want to warm it through. 

Serve waffles hot with butter, a sprinkle of scallions and a drizzle of warm cayenne honey. 

Feb 12

My Ally [Chocolate Chip Brownie Pancakes]

I can be difficult. Frequently moody, sour and callous. I can be anti-social (read: crusty), nit-picky, sharp-tongued and straight up cold at times. I would have to think twice about dating myself, let’s be clear on that. 

Despite those flaws, I managed to find a man who loves me. He is the sunniest part of my day, continuing to smile when I have nothing but a frown to offer. He let’s me be. Allows me to sit in the silence I hunger for so often while he sits, silent, by my side. I can ask him for anything at any time, a
nything, knowing he won’t sigh or roll his eyes at the idiocy of my requests. He simply smiles and says, "of course". When I feel dark, he’s the light. In every sadness, he’s my joy. His love is everything and I’m so lucky to know him, to have the gift of his friendship, and to call him mine. Olive you, my Ally. 

I realize It’s not Valentines Day yet, but I wanted to get these out sooner than later so you could whip them up for the person(s) you love most.

Chocolate Chip Brownie Pancakes
adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
makes 6-8 mini pancakes

These are decadent, rich and delicious. Pass up the box of chocolates and head for a plate of these instead - I promise your valentine will be thrilled with your brilliance and adeptness in the kitchen and you might even get to steal a bite.

Use spelt flour in place of AP flour to make these gluten free. 

1/2 cup whole wheat or AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cane or brown sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder (I use Camino Natural Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp milk of your choice
handful dark or semisweet chocolate chips
vegetable oil, for frying

to serve: 

maple syrup
cocoa powder

Whisk all dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry, add the chocolate chips and whisk just to combine, it’s OK if there are some lumps. Pour a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil into a non-stick skillet and bring to medium-high heat. Pour about 2 heaping tablespoons into the pan and cook until bubbles start appearing towards the center of the pancake. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat until no batter remains. Makes approximately 6-8 pancakes. 

Feb 05

Day Drunk in Pajamas [Blushing Bourbon]

There has been a hefty amount of luxuriating and reveling in our apartment the last month. First we were in a pre-vacation state of mine, assuring each other that it was totally OK to be checked-out [“we’re already on vacation!”]. Next, we were in Puerto Rico lazing about by the ocean, sipping white wine and reading [Dear Diary - go read it NOW], hurling our bodies around a tiny foam orb over epic games of paddle ball (as athletic as we got), eating whatever-we-damned-well-pleased whenever-we-damned-well-pleased and slothing-out to the best of our capabilities. And then we came home. Back to the real life, we said. Back to stress and deadlines and business and no sleep. And yet, somethings haven’t quite come full circle.

My body is here in Ottawa. I’m sure of this by the layers of cotton and wool wrapped around me and the ever-ebbing flakes outside my window. Though it’s become apparent, still, that my mind has taken a sabbatical. Ground hog day comes to mind. Each day the same. A ceaseless string of extended sleeping hours, cotton accouterments, woolen blankets, cocktails at 2, dog walks at 3, dinners with friends, movies on the couch, slow-cooked meals and wine to end the evening. It sounds horrible, right? I know. I’m enjoying it while I can.

Real life, the real-real life, should be picking up again in the next couple weeks. I’ve been in an unfamiliar limbo that’s about to end as I start my new job and finally make that big uncomfortable leap that’s been creeping about in my gut for the last few weeks. I’m really looking forward to finding that routine and anchoring my life again. It’s lovely to be fancy free (/day drunk on a Tuesday in pajamas) and watch 4 movies a day, but a girl can get a bit stir crazy after a few weeks of that. Winter or not. 

This was one of our “cocktails at 2” from last week. It started as an experiment with the peach bitters I’d picked up but we were so smitten from the first sip that I decided I’d better make it again and write it down. It’s herbal and just barely sweet to balance the grapefruit with a rumble of throaty spice from the peppercorns, and just a bit of smokey caramel from the bourbon. Get it in you! 

Blushing Bourbon
serves 4

I used bourbon here, but I can’t help but wonder what they would be taste like with some Canadian whiskey. If you experiment, I’d love to hear about it! I also feel fairly confident that this would taste pretty killer blended up/frozen. Once the weather warms a little, we’ll give that a go.  

Grapefruit Peppercorn Simple Syrup
2 2” strips of grapefruit zest 
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp peppercorns, crushed gently

For the cocktail:
crushed ice
4 oz good quality bourbon
peach bitters (I purchased Fee Brothers from Red Apron in Ottawa)
juice from 2 whole grapefruits
soda water

Pour the sugar, water, peppercorn and grapefruit zest into a saucepan over med-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool completely so the flavours can hang out a bit. 

Fill 4 rocks glasses with crushed ice and pour 1oz of bourbon into each. Add a dash (1-2 drops) of peach bitters and 1-2 tbsp of the simple syrup into each glass. Divide the grapefruit juice evenly into the glasses and top with soda water. Stir and garnish with a brûléed grapefruit slice (or a regular grapefruit slice). 

Brûléed Grapefruit (for garnish - optional)
4 rounds of grapefruit (1/3” thick)
cane sugar

Turn oven on to broil and place a rack in the top third of the oven. Arrange grapefruit slices on a wire rack over a cookie-sheet and sprinkle each with about 1 tsp of sugar. Place rack into the oven under the broiler for 5-7 minutes or until charred and fragrant. You could also torch your grapefruit if you happen to have a torch laying around (please, for the love of god, be careful). I do, but don’t trust myself to use it without adult supervision. 

Jan 31

The Whole Truth [Whole Wheat Double-Chocolate Avocado Muffins]

imageYou may think to yourself, while sifting through these pages, that I probably fancy my health a whole lot and go to great lengths keeping my body filled with whole grains and healthy fats and proteins and vitamins and all those wonderful things. 


That’s half true. The whole truth is that when things appear moderately healthy around here, it’s more than likely because I haven’t been to the store for butter or all purpose flour or cream or oil and need to find a way to make-do with what I have in the house. I’m a bit of a sham, I’m sorry to say. Such was the case with these muffins. They are better-for-you because I’m lazy, a sort of counterproductive situation.

image

Thankfully, in my sloth-like state, I managed to pump out a really tasty muffin that’s butter free and better for you than most muffins you can buy out and about. The cane sugar could definitely be replaced with agave or maple syrup if you want to try and make these even healthier. As they are, these make for a moist and chocolatey muffin that you can feel better about cramming in your gob as you run out the door or enjoy your evening cup of tea. 


image

Whole Wheat Double-Chocolate Avocado Muffins

adapted from Call Me Cupcake
makes 12-15 muffins

The oats should be quick-cooking in these as they keep the mouthfeel more consistent with just a bit of chewiness. If you don’t have quick cooking oats, you can pulse whole oats in the blender/food processor a few times to break them down slightly. 

The chocolate square on top is optional, but it gives the muffin a sort of “icing” feel and the salt sticks really well to it. I would suggest if you want something a little more decadent. 


1 cup WW flour
1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large avocado
1 1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
2 eggs
1 cup 70% dark chocolate (chips or chopped)
1 tbsp grapefruit zest, optional
12 small squares of chocolate, to garnish (I used Green & Blacks because the squares are tiny)
sea salt, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, cocoa, baking soda + powder, salt and sugar. In the bowl of a blender, process the avocado, milk and yogurt until smooth and creamy. Pour into a small bowl and whisk in the eggs. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined (there should be no pockets of dry ingredients). Fold in the chocolate and grapefruit zest, if using. 

Fill a 12 muffin try with liners and fill each 3/4 way. Top each with a square of chocolate. Pop in the oven for 18-20 minutes, checking after 15 to make sure they aren’t burning. Sprinkle each muffin with a little salt when they are right out of the oven. Repeat with any remaining batter. 

Jan 27

You Need a Snack [Chewy Seed & Nut Granola Clusters]

image

I really love a snack. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, midnight. The time matters little, I’m always fixed for a bite or two. 

Having a couple of nutritious options around the house helps me make better decisions and get the most from my pecking, since it is so frequent. I spotted the recipe for these bars in the current (January 2014) Bon Appetit Magazine and was certain they would make for a killer snack on their own, with granola or milk, an afternoon coffee or on the run any time of the day. Especially if I packed them with a few extra items (cashews! flax! chia seeds!). Unfortunately, likely due to my impatience and using a different sized pan than called for, they were less bars, more clusters. And whoaaaa-so-good no matter the shape they happen to take. 

image

These clusters have everything you want. Including a healthy (or not so) amount of sticky maple syrup blended with sweet, plump Mejool dates and tart cranberries, crunchy amaranth (excellent source of protein, calcium/iron/magnesium), chia seeds (fiber, Omega3s, Phosphorus, stabilizes blood sugar), flax seeds (Lignans, fiber, Omega3s), a mixture of crunchy nuts (Vitamin A+E+B, selenium, cholesterol reduction) and a couple other tasty morsels thrown in for crunch and flavour. 

If you tend to get a bit peckish or find yourself fighting through afternoon energy lulls or hunger pangs, these are the perfect snack to get you back on track while still feeling satisfied. They are just sweet enough to feel like a treat. 

image

Seed and Nut Granola Clusters
Adapted from Bon Appetit
makes approx. 6 cups of clusters

If you cook these for longer and let them cool COMPLETELY, you might have better luck than I did slicing bars. I left the recipe I used as-is because I actually like them in clusters instead of bars. Either way is delicious. 

6-8 Mejool dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup cranberries
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil/virgin coconut oil

2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp amaranth
1 tbsp flax seeds (ground or otherwise)
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup mixed nuts (I used pecans, almonds, cashews)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the chopped dates, cranberries, cinnamon stick and syrup in a small pot over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the mixture bubble away for 8-10 minutes. But then, you should be able to use the back of a fork or spoon to mush it all together. It should be similar in texture to applesauce with some extra liquid from the syrup seeping out. Remove from heat and let cool. 

In a large bowl, mix together all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the slightly cooled syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and stir everything together with a spatula until all the oats/seeds/nuts are covered in the syrup. Turn 1/2 the into a large, high-sided cake pan (I used a 15” x 10” x 2” rectangular baking dish) and pack the mixture down as hard and evenly as you can. Add the rest of the oat mixture and press into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and cool for 20 minutes. 

Break up the mixture into large clusters and place back in the pan. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes for crispy-edged clusters. 

image

Jan 23

Warming the Depths [Turkey Khao Soi/Northern Thai Turkey Curry]

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume, perhaps presumptuously, that you’re bundled under 20 blankets/3 layers of clothing/2 pairs of socks, gripping tight to your tenth mug of tea, and dreaming of taking your 4th hot bath of the day. Was I close? That’s how I’m feeling (minus the bath thing – apparently our apartment doesn’t need one of those). Cold. Just damned cold. With an unwavering desire to stay planted in my indentation on the couch, layered in flannel jammies and thick, wooly blankets. Alas, we must make a living. We must run errands, drive children around, walk dogs, visit friends and generally, keep on living. So how does one warm themselves enough to brave this “polar vortex”?

A vibrant yellow, velvety smooth, chili-flecked bowl of curry soup certainly gets things off on the right foot. Especially when it’s teeming with chunks of turkey so tender they can barely hold themselves together, slurpy ramen noodles sodden with the rich, spicy broth and piled high with an array of bright, crunchy toppings sure to get your salivary glands weeping. That is how you flip winter the bird and get back to business.

I shared this recipe with Turkey Farmers of Canada as a part of their Comfort Food Makeover campaign not knowing at the time just how badly I’d need this and just how comforting it would be. If you’re in need of comfort, I highly suggest throwing a bowl of Northern Thai Turkey Curry (Turkey Khao Soi) together immediately. It will warm the depths of your soul from the inside out and hopefully, with any luck, get you out of those blankets and back to real life. 

Head over to Turkey Farmers of Canada website for the recipe and for god sakes, stay warm out there! 

Jan 09

Cheese Making, Vacation Taking [Marinated Lemon-Za’atar Labneh]

Doesn’t the idea of making your own cheese make you all sweaty and agitated and overwhelmed? No? Maybe it’s just me.

I’m planning to set aside more time to experiment this year. With any luck, I’ll be a seasoned vet in the art of Burrata, Curds, Mozzarella and maybe another few. I’m starting off simple, giving myself some time to ease into the process before going balls (pun intended?) out. 

This marinated labneh is EASY but god damn it’s delicious, too. I consider it a gateway cheese, if such a thing exists. I’ve made it once before and it was a success from the get-go so please don’t be intimidated by it in the slightest. 

We ate this cheese on top of warm black kale with roasted garlic dressing, wholegrain croutons and spicy baked chicken - a new favourite - but I’ve suggested some uses at the bottom of the page if that doesn’t sound quite right for you. 

We’re off for a week to Puerto Rico tomorrow so with any luck, I won’t be around these parts much but hopefully by the time I’m back, you’ll have a jar of this ready to go so we can virtually high five at your great success! 

We’ll do our best to bring some warmth home with us! 

Marinated Lemon-Za’atar Labneh
makes approx. 10-12 balls of cheese

If you can find za’atar at your Middle Eastern market, feel free to use that. I make mine at home because I usually have all the ingredients on hand. I’ve shared a recipe in case you’d like to make this spice blend from scratch. 


Special equipment: 
2-3 coffee filters or layers of cheese cloth
1 4-cup or 2 2-cup seal-able jars

500g tub Greek yogurt (plain, unsweetened)
zest from 1/2 large lemon (about 1/2 tbsp)
1 tbsp za’atar, recipe to follow
sea salt

2 cups good quality olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch's Arbequina)
2-4 bird chilies
2 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
8-10 peppercorns
pinch salt

Place your coffee filter or cheese cloth in a fine mesh sieve and place the sieve in a bowl deep enough to catch about 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Stir the yogurt, lemon zest, za’atar  and a pinch or two of salt together until combined. Pour into the lined-sieve. Place in the fridge, covered if you prefer, and let drain for 2 days. It should be slightly looser than a cream cheese consistency. 

Take the strained yogurt from the fridge and roll into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball (wetting your fingers/hands makes this somewhat less messy). Place cheese-balls into the jar(s) and add in the chilies, oregano, thyme, garlic, peppercorns and salt. Top with enough olive oil to submerge everything. Place in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours. The olive oil might solidify and that’s ok. Place the jar on the fridge door so it’s not as cold. Remove the jar a few hours before you plan to eat the cheese. 

To serve: 
spread on baguette
a few balls and some oil spooned over greens
with a cheese plate
on crostini
on pizza
served with pickles and smoked meats for sandwiches

Jan 07

Giving Up On Guilt [Pickle-Patty Melts]

image

The New Year. A speckless slate untarnished by bad decisions and weighing feelings. Our chance to start fresh and make the changes we didn’t get around to last year. Or maybe the new ones we’ve only just taken back to the drawing board. 

I’ve decided, not that it’s a far stretch from years before, that I’m dropping food-related guilt off at the door this year. I don’t like hearing the term “guilty pleasure” when we’re talking about food. Food and guilt don’t belong together. It shouldn’t be your first reaction upon biting into a greasy slice of pizza. YOU SHOULD BE THRILLED. Relishing that delicious moment in time and letting yourself be fully there while you do. Not thinking about how many miles you’re going to have to run to make up for it, or how many meals you’ll have to skip because of it. Indulging should feel good and if it doesn’t, it’s not worth it. Be wise when spoiling yourself. If you’re going to indulge, make sure it’s something real. Real chocolate, real butter, real meat, REAL ingredients. Don’t waste your time on these 100-calorie snacks you don’t really want. Have that slice of chocolate cake…but make it yourself and make it with wholesome ingredients. 

image

I know that I have to eat well to feel good. And I do just that. So when the occasional (or often, as of late) indulgence comes up, I don’t feel the slightest tinge of anxiety. I’m going to relish that moment knowing that I eat real, whole food and while I may not be 130 pounds to my 5”8, I’m healthy. And happy. And kind (to myself, most importantly). I know that I put 80% whole food in my body; that’s what I’m choosing to put my focus on this year. If I feel good, I look good. Depriving myself of what I want makes me an irritable, miserable asshole. That’s not who I want to be. 

This sloppy, greasy-looking patty melt was the first dish I made this year. It wasn’t the healthiest option and it was heavy and rich, but it was real. Made from ingredients in their purest form. Locally made rye bread, gifted pickles from a friend, local beef (freshly ground), caramelized onions, high quality Swiss cheese and a good, spicy mustard. That’s it. No 40 what-the-F-is-that ingredients that promise to make you thin. Six ingredients that taste amazing and feel good in your body. 

image

I hope you’ll join me in a guilt-free year of real food. Eat what feels good, eat what’s real and be happy with the choices you’re making.

Pickle-Patty Melts 
makes 4 sandwiches

I used Swiss cheese here and it melted wonderfully. You can use any type that melts well, but the flavour of the Swiss is what really makes this melt taste as wonderful as it does. 

I love pickles with my patty melt so I just added them to the beef. The sweet, briny kick helps cut the fat/richness of the sandwich. If you prefer it without, simply leave them out. 

vegetable oil
2 lbs freshly ground beef 
1/4 cup - 1/3 cup diced sweet pickle (bread and butter)
salt and pepper
2 large yellow/brown onions, thinly sliced
8 slices good rye bread (light or dark)
10-12 slices Swiss cheese
4 tbsp spicy yellow mustard (Keen’s is my choice)

Using your hands, mix together the beef, pickles and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper and mix gently until combined. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and shape to the size of your rye bread. It will shrink slightly making it the perfect size for a meat-in-every-bite sandwich. When you’re ready to cook them, sprinkle each patty with a little more salt and pepper on each side. 

Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over med-high heat. When sizzling, add the patties, 2 at a time depending on pan size, and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a deep golden crust forms. Flip and cook the other side. Remove to paper towels to absorb excess fat. 

In the same pan, add a few more tablespoons of oil and add the onions. Cook, stirring up any brown bits left behind from the meat, until deep golden brown, 15 minutes. 

To assemble: 

Preheat oven to 400. 

Toast all the bread in a dry skillet until charred slightly, 4-5 minutes over med-high heat. You can toast in a toaster if you’d like, but I love the flavour a skillet-toasted rye gets. 

Place 4 slices of the rye bread down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Coat each slice with 1 tbsp of mustard. Top with the patty, then the onions and finally with the Swiss cheese.  Place pan in the oven (without the second slice of toasted rye on top) for 10 minutes or until cheese is melting and bubbly. Remove from oven and top with second slice of bread. Cut on the diagonal and enjoy! 

Dec 30

Making Way: A Reflection [The Bourbon Bastard - a cocktail]

image

And just like that, the tide of another year is to be washed out to sea, lost and forgotten. It couldn’t have been 365 days since we did this last. Some unknown force must be stealing our minutes, hours and days, tucking them away from us, time disappearing into itself. It can’t be that we’re here, preparing ourselves to accept another year, unknown and beguiling. 

It’s safe to say that I have had a year. A full circle, it feels. I suppose that’s the way it should feel. Reflecting on it makes my stomach turn with so many emotions. From skin-tingling joy to burying sadness, gut-tightening anxiety to some of the calmest moments I can remember feeling. Twenty-thirteen has carried me through them all, stumbling at times. I feel closer to who I am than I have before. Twenty-thirteen has brought me new friends, some of the warmest, kindest-hearted, wild and wonderful people and has kept and rekindled relationships with old friends who keep me honest, remind me where I come from and push me to where I’m going. I am so lucky. So very lucky. 

image

I have learned a lot this year. Most notably: 

1. shut up. close that giant mouth and just be quiet. you don’t need to be yapping all the time. sometimes life has a way of speaking for you. and other times, saying nothing means everything. 

2. letting my happiness come first doesn’t make me a selfish person. a happier me means a higher capacity to make everyone around me happy. and a happier me means… a happier me!  

3. if it doesn’t serve me in a positive way, teach me something, appreciate me or provoke thought, it’s probably not worth my time. 

4. SAY NO. enough already. helping people out is well and good but to make yourself broke and miserable so you can is plain silly. choose your yes’ wisely for the love of {expletive}. 

5. make the time. stop saying you’re too busy before it’s too late and you’ve lost everyone. there will always be more time to work. always. there won’t always be more time for the people you love. 

I’ve decided to let 2014 be my year of exploration. I’ve quit my desk-job after 8 years (an incredibly tough decision for me), come to terms with a big pay cut, a complete change of routine, to explore something new. I’ll still be working a full week, but I’ve decided to dip my toe in the food industry and see what happens (more on that at a later date). Life is too short to be stressed. Too short to be miserable. Too short to let your brain make the decisions that sometimes only your heart can. There will always be another desk that needs an ass in it, but I won’t always have the opportunity to flip my life upside down and take a chance. I have no idea what’s going to happen but that fear and unknowing sparks a light in my gut that will keep me going.  

When the clock strikes 12 tomorrow night I’ll take a deep breath, pulling in all the good and bad and wonderful and painful things from the last year, and let it out slowly, doing my best to release it all and make space in my heart and mind for another year of experiences, relationships, frustrations, hard-work and love.  

Thank you all for such a changing year. Thank you for reading, commenting, following along on recipes, watching Whoops, sharing stories, sending support in times of hardship and for being your fine-ass selves. I raise my glass to you and hope that you’re celebrating, learning, and making space for all of the new and exciting things that are coming. 

The Bourbon Bastard
serves 2

Our good friends, Justin and Mallory, are two of the wonderful people I’ve become closer to this year. They make me feel relaxed and at ease in their company and we’ve had some of the most memorable times eating, laughing and drinking beers around their table. As we left their place last night, Justin handed me a bottle of this Kentucky Bastard Imperial Stout and I thought it fitting, them having made such an impact on my last year, to work this into my reflection. To come across kind hearts like theirs doesn’t happen every day or even every year. Thanks for being rad, guys. 

juice from 2 lemons (+ a few strips of rind to garnish)
3 tbsp peach preserves (I used Michael’s Dolce Peach-Cardamom Jam)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
2 ounces bourbon
1 cup Kentucky Bastard Imperial Stout 
ice cubes

Whisk together the lemon juice, jam, syrup and vanilla. Strain so it’s smooth. It should be quite tart but have a nice sweetness to it. 

Divide the lemon mixture between two short rocks glasses. Add 3-4 ice cubes. Pour 1oz bourbon into each glass and top with the Kentucky Bastard stout. It will separate, but feel free to stir it together.