Roasted cauliflower soup.

Gloom.

This is the hardest part of the year to get through. I have no patience left – please, no more squash! I’m done with potatoes. And I have no kindness left in my heart for kale. Let’s have some asparagus, already!

Tossed.

Spring gave us a sneak preview last weekend, a single day of sunshine and warmth where I ran around with bare arms and ate a bahn mi sandwich in a park while the baby learned the pleasures of sliding and swing-sets. And then things went back to normal, and the sky turned grey, and it has been that way ever since.

This time of year feels like purgatory. Molly Waffles has been pacing the apartment and pressing her paws to the window, scratching at the glass. She is desperate to go outside, but there is a family of raccoons out there, and city raccoons are the size of adolescent black bears and she would be little more than an appetizer. I am similarly desperate for something new and different. Maybe that’s strawberries and pink wine in the sunshine, or maybe it’s something bigger? I will be 30 in 30 days, and I am starting to feel like I’ve been pacing around and scratching at windows, like it’s time to make a mad dash for whatever’s beyond here, whether that means outrunning city raccoons or something even scarier.

Roasted.

Or maybe the wet that seeps in through the holes in my boots has found its way into my bones and now there’s mildew in my bloodstream. Maybe this itch for something fresh is just impatience, because something really good – like peach season – is on its way. And maybe what I need isn’t so much an escape as a way to bide time. If that’s the case, then soup will drag us all through these last dark days before the sun brings back all the green things that make us feel alive.

Soup.

Fingers crossed, anyway. We’ll know better what’s out there for us once the sky clears.

Roasted cauliflower soup

(Serves 4.)

  • 1 small head of cauliflower (1 1/2 lbs)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup shredded aged white cheddar cheese (between 1/4 and 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Chop cauliflower and onion, and place in a large bowl with garlic cloves. Pour olive oil over top, mixing thoroughly with your hands so that all the pieces and bits are coated. Sprinkle with salt, and pour into an oven-safe pot – ideally one that will transfer from your oven to your stove-top.

Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Stir halfway through cooking for even browning.

Remove from the oven to the stove-top, and add almonds, stock, lemon zest and juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer over medium heat for ten to 15 minutes, until the almonds have softened. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender or regular blender, then return to heat. Add cheese, stir, then add milk. Taste, adjusting seasoning as needed and thinning to your desired consistency with more stock or water.

 

Kiwi sorbet.

kiwi

The reason I find bananas so abhorrent is mainly because a banana in a lunch bag crammed into a steamy coat closet in an elementary school classroom will not only infect every other piece of food in the bag with its noxious banananess, but it will permeate your insulated plastic lunch bag as well, making every meal you ever eat out of it taste like aged overripe banana. Forever. If it happens enough, that kind of thing can scar you for life. Even now, when I give the baby a banana the smell of it on his cheeks and his breath repels me.

Until recently, I couldn’t think of anything more offensive than perfectly good peanut butter cookies destroyed by banana-stink. And then, after she complained about pantry moths in one of those water-cooler conversations, someone left the person I share an office with a big bag of mothballs. My office-mate was out sick, so the mothballs sat in our office for a full 24 hours before I thought to hang them out the window until she could take them home.

I taste mothballs in the back of my throat when I swallow. I can smell them in my sinuses when I breathe through my nose. It’s been five days.

Bananas, you are demoted. Mothballs are the new very worst.

Almost all of the very best things are delicate and perishable. Almost nothing wonderful will leave its mark forever on your tongue or in your lunchbag. A peach bruises and turns to mush when you’re not looking; a bottle of wine smashes on the sidewalk when the bottom of your piece-of-crap reusable shopping bag gives out. Asparagus wrinkles and turns into slime if forgotten in the crisper. If you are lucky you will never know the feel of a rotten potato squishing through your fingers. Cheese gets moldy, bread goes stale and grapes become raisins, which is possibly the cruelest fate of all. Somehow, though, kiwis are hardy.

Kiwis, if stored somewhere cool and dark, will last for months. I didn’t know this until recently, when I happened upon a kiwi farmer at our local Farmer’s Market one rainy Saturday. I also didn’t know until recently that kiwi fruit grows quite happily here on the wet west coast. And apparently, kiwi fruit makes excellent jam.

Skinned kiwis.

So I bought an inordinate amount of kiwi fruit, as you do. And then I didn’t know what to do with it, and the baby likes bananas so what does he know about anything, so it sat in my crisper for three weeks as I waited for an epiphany and an opportunity and then it happened. Brunch! And friends! So I made the best thing you can make out of kiwi fruit after just cutting it in half and eating it with a spoon.

Friends plus babies plus sorbet.

 

All I need now is to know how to clean the taste of mothballs out of my inner face. I’ll take any suggestion.

Kiwi sorbet

(Serves 6)

  • 1 lb. peeled, chopped kiwi fruit (10 or 12 medium-sized kiwis)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest and juice of one lime (about 1 tbsp. juice)

Whiz kiwi fruit in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Combine salt, sugar, water, zest and juice in a pot and bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar has completely dissolved, pour into the bowl with your kiwi purée, and chill in the fridge for at least six hours, or overnight.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, then pour into a bowl, cover with plastic, and freeze until you’re ready to serve it.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can turn this into a granita by pouring it into a 9″x13″ pan and scraping it every 30 to 60 minutes with a fork until frozen and fluffy. Or, you can mostly freeze it in a 9″x13″ pan, chip it out into a food processor, and blend until it resembles sorbet.

Serve cold, obviously.

Green treat: Kiwi sorbet.

Creamy garlic and white bean soup.

Dinner for two.

Nick and I have been talking lately about whether we might the “too much garlic” people. Is that a thing? When people leave here after a dinner party, do they talk in the elevator on the way down about my heavy hand and effluvious kitchen? Do they sniff their breath from behind cupped palms and cringe? Anytime I make a recipe from a cookbook, I double the amount of garlic the recipe calls for, at least. Sometimes I smell it on my skin and in my hair, and always on my breath.

Raw garlic.

There are people for whom there is such a thing as too much garlic, and those are the people I will never understand. I once absentmindedly cut a slice of bread using a knife I had used earlier in the evening to smash some cloves of garlic, and I put peanut butter on the bread, and when I noticed it tasted like garlicky peanut butter toast, I still ate it. Also I should wash things right after I use them, but whatever.

My parents get garlic from a friend of theirs who grows fat cloves of organic garlic in his backyard, and though I’m pretty sure they aren’t supposed to give it to me (this garlic is not meant for just anyone, I’ve heard), sometimes they do. The garlic is pungent and aggressive, and it is so fresh that even dried, the cloves do not pull easily from the bulb. The skins are thick and ruddy, more like parchment than the whisper-thin white skins on imported supermarket garlic. This is good shit, and I get it all year round. For free.

Beans and garlic.

You can buy local garlic at your Farmer’s Market, and sometimes places like Whole Foods have some good options as well. The white, delicate bulbs you get from the supermarket are usually imported all the way from China, so there’s no way to know how fresh they are. They are subdued, but they will do in a pinch. Less-garlicky garlic is far, far better than no garlic at all.

Simmering.

If on occasion you want to feature garlic beyond being heavy handed with your marinara sauce or whathaveyou, consider putting it in soup. An easy weeknight garlic soup will fill your kitchen with slow-simmered aromas and your mouth with a healthful, soothing richness. White beans add body to this dish, and herbs bundled together and removed at the end lend complexity without leaving visual evidence of having been there. This is peasant food, simple and straightforward and wholesome. To save time you can roast the garlic the night before, and your apartment will smell like a bistro some late night in Paris and there is nothing wrong with that.

Dinner.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches. In case that wasn’t obvious.

Creamy garlic soup

(Serves four.)

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 lb. garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 540mL/19 oz. can white beans, such as navy, white kidney, or great northern beans
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 1 sprig fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a small baking dish with two tablespoons of olive oil, roast whole garlic cloves for 30 to 40 minutes, or until brown and sweet-smelling.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, sauté onion with remaining oil until golden and lightly caramelized. Add beans, roasted garlic, and chicken or vegetable stock, and stir to combine. Bundle sage, parsley and bay leaf using kitchen twine, and pop into the pot. Simmer together for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove bundled herbs and discard. Puree soup using a blender or immersion blender. Taste, adding salt and pepper and adjusting seasonings as needed. Serve immediately, or simmer for an additional five to 1o minutes, or until desired consistency is achieved. Remove from heat and finish with cream, if desired.

Scraped clean.

Overnight pancakes.

MESS.

For the past two weeks, this household has been in the sick of things, each of us weighed down by an assortment of pains and ailments, from migraines and colds to flus and sinus infections. I wish I could say that I have taken charge of our healing by simmering wholesome and restorative meals rich in love and nutrients. That would have been nice of me.

Last Wednesday the sick was so bad I skipped lunch and napped under my desk for an hour. The next day I took a sick day, and by the weekend I was sure I was going to die. I begged Nick to smother me, and when he wouldn’t I chastised him for not taking advantage of the out I had offered him. I tried to smother myself but the cat thought we were playing a game and ruined it.

By Monday this past week I was certain I had cracked some teeth coughing, so I made a dental appointment. The good news is the teeth are fine; the bad news is my sinuses are pretty angry and infected. The worst news is that my wisdom teeth are pretty much one with my skull now but they have to be removed so it sounds like it’s bone-saw time. That’s the worst time!

2013 has not been off to a good start. And now that I have managed to attain a functional balance of NyQuil, antibiotics and codeine, the baby has finally succumbed and is fevered with a face full of ick.

It’s times like these when I can’t fathom coming down off my prescription and cough syrup high to go to the grocery store. We are out of eggs. And we had a late night. So somewhere between rescuing the little guy from a coughing fit and the two of us passing out in the dark, I whisked together some flour, water, yeast, honey and salt for pancake batter. If all three of us woke up in the morning, we would have pancakes. It would be a kind of reward.

Nighttime batter

 

Morning batter

This recipe makes 6 pancakes, and will serve between two and three people, depending on how hungry you are, or how much bacon your version of Nick decided to make. I like these topped with berries, or with chestnut cream. Because they are more like fried bread than flapjacks, you could take savoury liberties with them – try them with sour cream and apple sauce, or with cottage cheese and thinly sliced scallions, if that pleases you.

As a note – the berries on these were a mix of a pound of frozen strawberries, a tablespoon of cornstarch, a tablespoon of honey, and half a teaspoon of vanilla, simmered until the berries softened and released their juices and the whole thing thickened pleasingly.

Pretty pancakes.

Lazy pancakes

  • 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Whisk ingredients together in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge overnight.

30 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to cook, take the bowl out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan over medium-high heat.

Gently spoon your pancakes into the pan, taking care not to stir the batter. Cook until edges appear crispy and bubbles form through each cake, about two minutes. Flip, and cook an additional two minutes, or until golden and puffed.

Serve hot, with a compote of berries, or maple syrup, or sour cream and apple sauce.

Fluffy!

Sweet potato tortilla Española

Eggs

Thank you for all your breakfast advice! I have put it all into a Word document and bullet-listed it, and the document will serve as an extremely wordy shopping list. We’ve been eating a lot of leftovers, and Nick is very excited about the idea of breakfast cheese. He is less excited about leftovers, but he could get up early and make us both something to eat if he really has a problem with it.

He has yet to volunteer.

I’m even putting my Crock Pot to work. It’s still making breakfast slop, but at least the slop is different – I like this list of porridge recipes at SweetVeg (Hi! Thanks for the tip!), especially the overnight barley one (which also works for a blend of barley and farro with dates and cardamom).

Your advice has been super helpful. I have, literally, been eating it up.

I have been gradually learning to cope with morning food, but since starting this new job where my hours are much more flexible we have been eating wholesome homemade dinners a lot more often. Sure, I am up way too early and at the office at an ungodly hour, but I am home by 5:00! It is just enough time to start a load of laundry and savour a brief, perfect moment of silence alone with a magazine and no one wailing on the floor about the injustice of being told “no,” and then to start dinner.

Sweet potatoes in eggs

Tonight, dinner was a lot like a breakfast I might make if I had any zest for life in the grim hours before 8:00 a.m. I actually stole this recipe from my friend Paul who learned it when he lived in Spain, like the well-travelled bon vivant he most dapperly is. Well, I adapted it – his recipe uses regular potatoes, and no thyme. I always have sweet potatoes, and usually a hardy herb or two on hand, so it evolved to suit my fridge’s contents; feel free to use regular waxy potatoes and no herbs if you prefer. The best part about it is that we have just enough for breakfast! If I am very lucky, Nick will get up first* and reheat it for me so I can sleep a little bit longer.

Dinner.

*Dare to dream, no matter how impossible your dream may seem.

Sweet potato tortilla Española

(Serves 2 to 4; portions for 4 will be small.)

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, sliced thinly (1/4 inch)
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 4 tbsp. cup water
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

In a 9-inch pan over medium-high heat sauté the onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add potatoes, tossing to coat in oil and onion mixture, then add water and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking (and scorching).

Remove the sweet potatoes and onion from the pan and cool for 10 minutes or until there’s no more steam, and heat the broiler. Fish out the thyme sprig and discard it. Wipe out the pan.

Whisk together eggs, some salt and pepper, and heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan, tipping to coat the whole bottom. Mix the sweet potatoes into the eggs, pour the whole thing into the heated pan. Run a spatula along the sides every so often, and when the sides are golden, after five or six minutes, then shove it under the broiler until the centre sets and the top is golden. Another three minutes, maybe five, but leave the oven light on and check frequently.

Turn out onto a plate, and slice into six pieces. Serve with salad and pickles or olives.

A slice of tortilla with coleslaw and pickles.

 

 

Slow-cooker ham and white bean stew

Stew.

Patience is a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine. And so I am pacing, expectant, as a friend of mine is days, maybe even hours away from having a baby I feel like she’s been gestating for years. I keep wishing things would hurry along, because while I know people with babies, very few of those people live nearby. And when you have babies, you need other people around you to have them. People with babies need other people with babies because what we really need is a support group with wine.

The longer you have babies, the more you need wine. Mine is an accidental hurricane, a destructive force of nature seemingly bent on exploring and subsequently breaking all my things. That this is going to happen to someone I know is very comforting.

And so my friend is almost there, and because one only needs so many onesies, I had said I would make her freezer meals in lieu of a shower gift. So I have been plodding along, making a container of something here, and a pot of something there. Tonight I added one more to the freezer, a pot of ham and white bean stew, a creamy, savoury combination of leftovers and slow-cookery.

I left the stew in the Crock Pot to cook for ten hours today, and when I came home this place smelled like salty meat and garlic and herbs; using just a few bits and pieces, there was enough hearty stew for at least eight people, I’m sure of it. It’s not beautiful, but it’s delicious, and plenty soothing for someone with a newborn and the imminent danger of having all her favourite stuff smashed by a happy little Hulk.

Crock pot full of stew.

Ham and white bean stew

(Serves 6 to 8.)

  • 1 lb. small white beans, such as Great Northern or navy beans
  • 1 lb. cubed ham
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 6 cups stock (ideally homemade ham stock, but store-bought chicken stock will work too)
  • 1 tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • Juice of half a lemon, if needed
  • Salt to taste

The night before you plan to eat, cover one pound of white beans with an inch of water.

In the morning, drain and rinse your beans. Put them into a slow cooker, along with ham, onion, celery, pearl barley, stock, mustard, rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir, cover, set slow cooker to low, and cook for 10 hours.

Go to work, or about your day, or back to bed.

When you get home, stir in pepper, Parmesan, and parsley. Taste, and add lemon juice and salt as needed. Serve with bread. Feel virtuous.

Stew and toast.

Eggnog chocolate pudding.

Three days before Christmas, can you believe it? Where did the fall go? Are you ready for these next few days? I think I lost a few months somewhere, and I really should be packing in some last-minute holiday shopping, but instead I’m sitting in my new living room, listening to the rain against my window and the dishwasher – no sweeter music than the sound of your first dishwasher cleaning dishes you’d otherwise be scrubbing on Saturday – and the cat and baby batting ornaments off the tree. We are festive, sort of.

Whisking.

Pudding

The baby is more festive than the rest of us, and he has taken to holiday eating with vigor and enthusiasm. No truffle, cookie or eggnog escapes his sticky grasp, and I’ve stepped in crumbs and smears and tacky patches of floor all over the apartment – his theory seems to be that if he can’t see you, then you can’t know what snack he’s stolen. With his reach he’s just shy of three feet tall, but he can get at anything, and has not figured out yet that his silence works against him – he’s only quiet when he’s up to no good. That goes for all of us, but I am not big on self-discipline.

He loves eggnog, and since introducing him to it we have found it challenging to get him to drink anything else. But he is starting to understand the concept of dessert, and that if he endures his bowl of broccoli and carrots, there might be something sweet in it for him. And so, on occasion we throw him a bowl of something sugary and then there is no happier person in the world. Last night, after a day of squishy stomach and bouts of whining, I made him a bowl of eggnog pudding, warm and creamy and exactly what a little boy needs after a big bowl of mushy green despair. I gave him a taste as he crawled by while I was making it, and he scaled the cupboards and tried desperately to climb up my leg for more.

A taste.

 

MOAR PLS.

This recipe is the easiest thing in the world, but it is very rough – the eggnog I buy is very sweet, so I have never had to add sugar. Sweeten to your taste with maple syrup, if you have it, or a bit of brown sugar if you prefer. If your baby can hold his liquor, a tablespoon of rum or bourbon is very nice.

Yes do want.

Chocolate eggnog pudding

  • 2 cups eggnog (not light or reduced fat)
  • 4 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. spiced dark rum (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp. butter

In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, whisk together half a cup of the eggnog and cornstarch until a slurry forms and no lumps remain, then add the cocoa, whisking again, before adding the remaining eggnog, rum, and vanilla. Maintain medium heat, and whisk continuously until the mixture thickens until just bubbling – don’t bring to a rolling boil (or you’ll end up with a gross scrambly egg pudding which ew). Once mixture has thickened – it should coat the back of a spoon – remove from heat, season with salt, and whisk in butter. Pour into four ramekins, cover with plastic, and cool until set, 1 to 2 hours.

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! I hope your next few days are warm and delicious.

Eggnog chocolate pudding

Errbody loves pudding.

Toad in the Hole.

We’re moving next week, and we’re hiring movers, which we have never done before. We can’t really afford them, but I figure it’s the cost of saving our marriage and friendships, because while our new building has an elevator, our current one doesn’t and we’re on the third floor. This, and the fact that it’s Buy Nothing Day, have reminded me that we have too much stuff – so much stuff, and I wonder how much of it we would even miss if it was gone. You’d be surprised at how many chicken figurines and plastic dinosaurs two people can cram into fewer than 1,000 square feet.

Or maybe you wouldn’t?

One of the things we don’t need to spend so much on is take-out, which we’ve been eating too much of because my job is less a job and more a way of life, and because the dishes are dirty and one of us has to clean them and it isn’t going to be me. But those are excuses, and I know that. I am never so busy that I can’t just take half an hour and make dinner; that I’m doing so little of that is laziness. During the Depression, no one got to say “Uggggh, work sucked today, let’s just get wine and Thai food and watch dumb crap on TV with our pants off.” They might have wanted to, but they turned their powdered milk and canned tomatoes and elbow macaroni into a dish that would span four meals because that’s just what you did.

We need a little more “that’s just what you do” and less “eff, I just don’t feel like it.” I need to stop using fatigue and ennui as an excuse.

It’s Friday, and I probably could have gotten away with just calling in for sushi, but I wanted something homemade, something made out of stuff I have in the cupboards and fridge. So here’s a dish I’ve made a million times, one that won over Nick in the very beginning when he was just a fetus of a husband, back when we were young and never watched TV because we had too many roommates hogging the remote and no cable anyway. It’s something I made here a few years ago, but that has evolved and grown into a better dish – why did I never think to add cheese before?! Anyway, here’s Toad in the Hole: Version 2012. It’s an eggy, pancakey thing – basically Yorkshire pudding with stuff baked in – and it’s good with salad, but it’s better if you serve it with onions and cabbage fried with bacon. Because what isn’t?

Make it vegetarian by folding mushrooms and shallots fried in butter into the batter. Use what you have, but don’t make a special trip to the store. It’s best if your milk and eggs are at room temperature, but it’s not the end of the world if they aren’t.

Toad in the Hole

  • 2 tbsp. butter or two strips of bacon, chopped
  • 2 to 4 sausages
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, milk or buttermilk, eggs, mustard, and salt and pepper until smooth. Set aside.

In a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat, melt butter or cook bacon. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, stick a pie plate in the oven as it preheats.

Melt butter or cook bacon. If cooking bacon, scoop out of the pan and drain it on paper towel. Brown sausages in melted butter or bacon grease – it doesn’t matter if they are cooked through, but you want them brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and slice into bite-sized pieces.

Add bacon, if using, and sausages back to the pan, or to the heated pie plate (if using), pour batter over top, sprinkle with cheese and stick in the oven for 25 minutes, until batter has puffed and turned golden. Slice and serve immediately with mustard or sour cream.

 

Stewed short ribs.

I’ve been singing this song, dazedly, replacing the lusty words with worky ones, for the past couple of weeks. I’m … tired. Work is exhausting and unrelenting, the baby is crawling and into everything, and I haven’t watched a new episode of Adventure Time or read anything interesting in far too long. In the interest of adapting as best I can to a new normal, I am throwing myself into Crock Pot cookery – we WILL have a meal at the end of the day that doesn’t start off with a package of instant ramen and an egg. We WON’T just eat take-out sushi every day until our toes web and our backs sprout fins.

It is a wonderful thing to come home to a meal already made, and to an apartment that smells of herbs and garlic instead of stale cat food and yesterday’s dishes. It’s nice to hear from a friend on the weekend and invite him to dinner on Monday night because there will be short ribs, which is a pretty good excuse to blow off work for the night. And if he offers to bring a selection of interesting craft beers to try, all the better.

Did I tell you we’re going to move across town at the end of the month? Good lord, it never ends. But I’m fed, and ultimately that’s what matters the most. You may get quite a few Crock Pot recipes out of me yet – I’m doing a lot of big-batch feelings-eating.

Slow-stewed short ribs

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5-6 lbs. beef or veal short ribs
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 whole head of garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into inch-long pieces
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into inch-long pieces
  • 2 cups dry, lightly oaked white wine, such as Chardonnay
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup low-sodium or homemade beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

In a large pan, over medium-high heat, cook short ribs in olive oil until deeply browned. Place into Crock Pot or slow cooker. To the same pan, add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Stir to cover with the oil that remains in the pan.

Add  wine, tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, rosemary, red pepper flakes, black pepper, basil, oregano, and marjoram, and bring just to a boil. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed. When you are satisfied that it is delicious, pour the whole mix over the short ribs in the slow cooker. Stir to ensure even distribution of liquid. Set to low, 9 to 10 hours, and go about your day.

About 30 minutes before serving (if you are so inclined – this step is not mandatory), skim as much fat off the top as you feel you need to, then carefully spoon ribs, veggies and sauce back into your large pan and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, until sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Add lemon juice, taste again, and adjust seasonings as needed. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve over fresh noodles, rice, potatoes, or whatever starchy, filling thing most pleases you. Make sure you have crusty bread to sop up the juices.

If you don’t have a slow cooker but you do have 2 1/2 to 3 hours, you can make this in the oven. Braise the ribs, uncovered, at 325°F until meat is falling-off-the-bone tender. This way will produce a thicker sauce, but you will have to spend more time in the kitchen.

Turkey chili.

This weekend we finally had a moment to spare, a few minutes to sit down and breathe and look at the baby, who’s now pulling himself up on things to peer over them, and who suddenly switched from picky to pleased when it comes to the food set before him.

I don’t know where the time went. I have a job now, one I think I’m going to really like and not just because of the office’s close proximity to cheap bibimbap and fresh-baked cinnamon buns. Creditors are starting to get paid. I might even buy a pair of shoes.

We lost summer and fell into autumn, and, semi-concerned about potentially starving come winter should no job ever materialize for me, I spent most of the cusp of two seasons pickling and preserving, putting up jars of tomato sauce, pears, applesauce, jam, and jar after jar of hot peppers and pickly things. I made soups and stews for the freezer, bought cheap produce direct from the farm and inexpensive cuts of meat from the butcher, and ran out of places to store food. If I were an animal, I’d be the noble hamster.

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, so we also had leftover turkey to make the most of. Bored with the idea of turkey soup and having had too many turkey sandwiches, I decided a pot of chili would give new life to the leftovers and keep us in lunches for the next few days. It’s a white chili, because some of us have eaten our body weight in tomatoes lately. The best thing about this recipe is that it calls for green chilies, but because I was at work and we only had fresh peppers, I had to ask Nick to roast them and peel them for me. And he did it, perfectly. The baby is crawling and standing, I’m back to work, and Nick is roasting chilies, and everyone is a better version of himself than even just a few weeks ago.

Turkey chili with black-eyed peas

(Serves 6.)

  • 2 to 4 Anaheim chilies (or 2 poblano peppers)
  • 4 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (remove seeds and membranes if you prefer a milder chili)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chopped cooked turkey
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 19 oz. (398mL) cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Turn your oven’s broiler to high, and place whole chilies directly onto the rack, under the heating element. You’ll need to stick close and watch them so they don’t burn. When skin is charred and blistered on one side, turn 90 degrees. Continue until all sides have blackened and blistered. Place in a glass container with a lid, and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently rub skin from peppers – it should slough right off.

In a large pot over medium heat, brown bacon until crispy. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Add olive oil. (Fat is delicious.)

Add jalapeno peppers, onion, celery, the white and light green parts of the scallions, and the garlic. Saute until colours have brightened, the add bay leaves, salt, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, black pepper, and marjoram.

Chop your peeled chilies, and add these to the pot as well.

Add flour and cornmeal, and stir until the mixture coats your veggies. Add the turkey and the cooked bacon, then the stock and milk. Stirring frequently, bring to a boil.

Add beans. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Add corn, and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve topped with the green part of the scallions, chopped, and grated cheddar cheese.