Wings Part 1 (Deb Perelman)

There are many meals/fishes that I have never attempted to make at home because a) I don’t think my versions could measure up to eating out and/or b) it seems like too much work to make them. Wings are one such dish.  Both H. & I love wings. For a couple of years, we have had a favourite tradition, Wings Wednesday, at our local pub, where they make the most delicious, non-greasy spicy wings with a tasty blue cheese sauce. Unfortunately, now that I no longer live in London during the week, we only managed it a couple of times in 2017.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent NYE 2017 with my aunt and uncle. My aunt mentioned that she was making wings on New Year’s Day. This got me thinking that I should try the same. My plan is to try out a few different recipes to see if anything I make at home can match up. I’m going to share the results here.

First up was Deb Perelman’s (Smitten Kitchen) sticky sesame chicken wings. These wings were not bad, but in no way did they impress us. The taste was too underwhelming — they didn’t pack any punch. They were also too dry — they needed a sauce or more marinade. I made an accompanying salad spontaneously — chopped cucumber and red pepper with a dressing made of lime juice, fish sauce, a hint of sugar, and chopped peanuts — and I even found myself saying that I liked it more than the wings at one point!

K rating: 5/10
H rating: 6/10

Stay tuned for more in this series. 😉

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Oops, not the best photo
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Rum Banana Bread

Happy New Year, readers! 2018 is upon us and so is another year of cooking and baking. My 2017 ended with both a bang and a whimper: I spent the second half of December in bed struck down by, I’m not kidding you, the worst virus I’ve ever had. It came on on Tuesday 12th and the first day I woke up with no symptoms was the 31st. Horrible. But now to the good news: on the 27th, H. proposed! We’re now engaged. 🙂 I definitely call that a good ending to the year.

For the first time in recent memory, I did NO holiday baking or even cooking. My mum’s family gathered together this year and I did hardly anything, I was feeling so bad. This banana bread is the only thing I made over the entire holiday season.

We had some bananas that really needed to be used up, and I had everything on hand at my grandfather’s where I was staying. I usually make Tessa Kiros’ banana bread, but used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen this time. Though whisky is my favourite spirit, I decided to go full Nova Scotian and use rum. It also just so happened I also need to bring dessert to our NYE soiree. I wouldn’t normally bring banana bread as a dessert but I figured homemade is always preferable so decided on bringing it.

This couldn’t be any easier to throw together — it’s a one-bowl, no mixer needed kind of banana bread. I followed the recipe very closely, and it turned out well: moist and delicious, not too sweet. We served it with some whipped cream and ate it with my aunt and uncle after our decadent NYE prime rib roast and lots of wine!

Regrettably, I do not have a photo of the banana bread, so you’ll have to use your imagination. I will however leave you with this picture of a beautiful winter Nova Scotian sunrise (a green, but cold one– the snow came a few days later).

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My Year in Books

Outside of work-related reading, I read 42 books in 2017. Most years when I look back on my reading, I have a standout winner. This year, it’s a bit trickier. I rate all books I read out of 10, and I gave only one a 10/10 this year: Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America. However, I’m not sure that this is the book that stands out the most in my mind. That goes to Katherena Vermette’s The Break, a novel unlike any other I’ve read and one that made a big impression on me. Highly recommended. Here are my reading highlights of 2017.

Fiction
I read two Michael Crummey novels this year, The Wreckage, an older one, and Sweetland, his most recent. Both were excellent. Newfoundland story-telling at its best. Christy-Ann Conlin’s The Memento was one of the most unique books I read this year — whimsical and spooky. Very well-written. And it’s set in Nova Scotia. 🙂 Ian McGuire’s The North Water is the most violent book I have ever read, which was very jarring at times and could definitely put people off. However, this is a fantastic adventure story. I also have to give an honourable mention to Barkskins by Annie Proulx, which I am about a third of the way through right now, and really loving.

Non-fiction
I really enjoyed Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which details her career and life as a journalist and activist. Very readable and inspiring. Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon’s Shadow of Doubt was a fantastic summary of a high-profile murder case in Atlantic Canada. I sped through it. I also liked Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay, a series of essays on a variety of topics loosely connected by the theme of the complexities of contemporary feminism. My final non-fic recommendation is Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. It’s not as good as Life by Keith Richards, but it’s fantastically written and candid.

Goals for 2018
1) Get back into fiction — I’ve been in a fiction rut since the late summer, though Barkskins is helping me get out of it.
2) Read more obscure/diverse fiction. I have been let down too many times by bestseller lists.

November 2017 Favourites

Where has 2017 gone? Happy December! I’m counting down the days until my Christmas holidays — cannot wait. It has been a very busy and exhausting semester. Here are my favourites for this month.

◌ H. & I are a bit behind on Blue Planet 2, but it’s extraordinary. So good it seems CGI’ed.

Someone Knows Something  released a third season. I’m not exaggerating when I say David Ridgen is, I think, the best podcasting journalist I’ve heard. Season 2 blew me away, and season 3 is very good as well.

◌ The best books of 2017 according to the Globe and Mail and New York Times. I’ve read so few.

◌ We bought tickets to Labour of Love ages ago and finally the weekend came around. Tamsin Grieg and Martin Freeman were fantastic, particularly Grieg. We laughed a lot.

◌ Currently reading and enjoying Springsteen’s Born to Run.

Detectorists is back. We love this quiet, modest show.

◌ I’ve had many nights this past month where I have barely known my own name, let alone had the brain capacity to engage with anything cerebral. Teaching 5 hours of university classes a day will do that to you. I’ve found the perfect Netflix show for this: Highway thru Hell. I love it. It’s about the tow trick industry in BC and Alberta.

◌ November favourites in 20112012201320152016

This month’s quote, because the world is kind of chaotic right now:

The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ottolenghi’s Lamb Meatloaf

I’ve been in a bit of a slump when it comes to cooking lately, particularly on the weekend when H. & I like to make a meal together at least one of the nights. Despite having a whole shelf full of cookbooks, an rss feed full of blogs, and a cooking magazine subscription, I haven’t been able to find much that interests me.

Ottolenghi’s recipe for lamb meatloaf, which I saved from a recent Guardian weekend magazine, caught my eye, and without any other ideas I decided to try it. Meatloaf is not normally my first choice, but, like everything Ottolenghi touches, this one seemed a bit different. I was intrigued by the tahini sauce.

Unfortunately, this dish was mediocre for me.  A disappointment. This is one of the only recipes by him that I haven’t enjoyed. I loved the tahini sauce and the taste of the lamb was okay, but the texture was off for me. H. liked it, but I found it too wet and soft. Meatloaf, to me, needs to be a bit crisp and drier than this one was. I guess meatloaf was not going to be the dish to get me out of my weekend cooking slump! 😉

No surprise that meatloaf doesn’t photograph well, so I didn’t even try this time!

 

 

 

Pork, Tomato, & Feta “Baklava”

As I have mentioned several times before, I don’t do nearly as much cooking as I once did, now that I am living in two places. An exception to this came recently when I decided to make this “baklava,” from a recent edition of delicious magazine (it is a Sabrina Ghayour recipe, previously featured on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen which is where I have linked the recipe from). This is definitely a weekend project — preferably a cozy Saturday with a glass of wine, the paper, and some nice background music.

Although this dish takes a lot of time, it is not at all difficult and there is very little “fuss” involved. The most difficult part is assembling it, but even that is very easy. So, don’t be put off — what this requires most of all is time, not effort.

I bought a lovely pork shoulder at our local butcher — I have to admit that it was a bit unfortunate to cook it and then not just eat it right away and bury it in the baklava. Next time I buy it I’m not doing anything to it!

The recipe called for fennel, which I left out because I don’t like the taste if it. I think it’s complex enough without it though. The end result looks impressive and was really tasty — the honey means it has a tiny taste of sweetness. My only bugbear was that the sauce ended up a touch dry for me.

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October 2017 Favourites

I’m a few days late with this. This fall just keeps getting busier and busier, with no prospect of easing up until Christmas vacation. Here are few of my favourite things this month…

◌ Beg, borrow or steal someone’s Netflix account to watch The Keepers. This series absolutely floored me. It’s very, very difficult subject matter but so well done and so important to watch.

Kay’s fudge.

Five books to make you less stupid about the (American) civil war.

◌ I’ve read some highly readable and recommended books on extremely heavy and difficult topics lately. Jon Krakauer’s Missoula and Lori Shenher’s That Lonely Section of Hell are not perfect books by any means, but they both shed a lot of light on processes that are generally kept hidden.

◌ Something a bit less serious: the art of the dinner party.

◌ The podcast Dirty John completely engrossed me. Storytelling at its best.

◌ Love Frances McDormand.

It’s impossible to watch this without a smile on your face.

Tomato & Tortellini Soup

This is one of those dishes that is satisfying not only because it’s tasty, but because it’s so simply and easy to prepare. If you get a lot of personal satisfaction about being efficient and keeping things simple, as I do, this is a dish for you!

I’m 9 months into living on my own for 4-5 nights a week, and it’s drastically changed how I cook. I’ve detailed this elsewhere on this blog. Convenience is huge, so a meal like this ticks a lot of boxes: quick, tasty, reasonably healthy (I added fresh spinach to the top). The Kitchn describes this dish this as “weeknight comfort food in 20 minutes” and I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description.

A package of fresh tortellini would normally last me two meals but I made three out of this one. I followed the recipe very closely, adding spinach as I mentioned above. It’s a bit awkward to eat — the floppy noodles create a bit of mess with the tomato sauce — but it’s damn good.

 

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Zucchini, Cheddar, & Parmesan Scones

I’ve been trying to write this post for well over a month now. It is an end of summer recipe and we’re deep into fall. Nonetheless, I’ve been determined to post it, simply because these are so good.

The recipe comes from the summer edition of Bon Appetit magazine (note that the url is from a different website but the recipe is the same), though the scones originate from Flora Bar in New York. It’s actually a recipe for Gruyere and zucchini scones: I bought Gruyere but then … oops… ended up eating it all before I got around to making this — confessions of a cheese addict. Instead, I improvised and used cheddar and Parmesan.

After so many years of food blogging you start to run out of ways to describe good food. These are, quite simply, really really good. Delicious, melt-in-your mouth scones. It’s one of the best recipes I’ve tried in a while. The zucchini keeps them moist, yet the melted cheese makes them a bit crispy. They’re not difficult to make and look impressive, so would be a great brunch dish or side. Warm, with a bit of butter — these are perfection.

September 2017 Favourites

Happy October! (a few days late) A few links for this month.

TIFF highlights.

NYT‘s most famous comment explained. I remember reading about this when it first appeared! Love it.

Books coming out this month.

◌ Really like this, on the difference between pleasure and happiness.

◌ Highlights of fall TV, according to the Atlantic.

◌ Speaking of which: I’m one month back into commuting life, so I’ve been consuming more TV than usual. H & I loved Ozark. We’re also halfway through season 3 of Narcos — recommended. Finally, HBO’s Big Little Lies was fantastic.

◌ Loved Michael Crummey’s The Wreckage.

◌ I’ve always wanted to visit Winnipeg, and this makes me want to visit even more.

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Thames by night