2020 has been a challenging year, but our family has much to be thankful for. Today we are healthy and with each other and that is a lot right there. With the exception of his birthday, my partner Simon takes responsibility for all holiday feast cooking. As a biochemist, he runs the kitchen like a chemistry lab. My own ADD fuelled kitchen style clashes spectacularly with this approach so it’s in everybody’s best interests that I stay on the opposite side of the kitchen island taking pictures and providing commentary.
8am To-Do list
After lunch the kid and I picked yet another round of green beans from my late start backyard garden. The garden bed box I ordered in late march took a major side trip on its way to our house and as a result I couldn’t plant anything until the end of June. Combined with my complete lack of gardening experience makes the prolific pole bean output we’ve seen a very happy surprise.
The meal was delicious, but this year the day long making of the meal was almost just as fun as the eating. Kid is at the age where she was interested in helping every step of the way.
Afterward we geared up for the rest of the week. 3 days of turkey and there is still a large serving in the freezer.
Poutine project behind us, the rest of the week went more or less to plan.
Taco Wednesday was definitely the most involved. For anyone not working from home in the middle of a pandemic, this is probably better left to the weekend. The critical part of taco night around here are the fresh tortillas. Fresh tortilla is like bread fresh from the oven, simple toppings turn into tasty magic. I discovered about a year ago that they are pretty simple to make – time consuming, but in a repetitive meditation sort of way and oh so worth it. Honestly, anything that keeps me away from the pull of the doom-scroll is probably good right now.
Twist for this one was the salsa verde. Our weekly food delivery offered local tomatillos which I’ve never encountered fresh before. Recipe turned out to be dead easy.
husk and rinse tomatillos. The papery husk comes of easily, but between the husk and fruit is a sticky-greasy layer that smelled vaguely like garbage juice – definitely want to wash that off!
toss whole tomatillos, an onion (peeled and quartered), 1-2 cloves of garlic in a little oil and roast @450F on a sheetpan for 15min (a couple of the smaller tomatillos exploded – I should probably think about running the oven clean cycle before it gets too cold).
while they roast throw fresh cilantro, lime juice (I used bottled) and pickled jalapeños in a food processor or blender.
add the roast things to the food processor and pulse until you reach an appropriate level of chunkiness. Stop to add salt, pepper and lime juice to taste.
Other taco fixings on the table were:
ground moose cooked taco meat style
‘guacamole’ (mashed avocado mixed with lime and jarred salsa)
refried beans (from a can with cumin and garlic powder added)
sliced red peppers (for a vegetable)
Greatest excitement around here was the arrival of a new washing machine after 2 months on backorder. We tried repairing the old one, but after replacing the drain pump, it looked like a new motor/circuit board would also be required and the repair person advised us to look for a replacement. The laundromat was costing on the order of $20/week, not including drying since we were able to take the wet clothes home to our still functioning dryer or hung to sun dry on the porch. $20/week x 52 weeks a year = more than the cost of the new washing machine even before taking into account time and effort getting to and from the laundromat – proving yet again the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
With 3 aged dogs, two adults following exercise routines, and kid with a back-to-school hair dye habit we’ll be celebrating the return of convenient laundry access for a long time to come.
Poutine project was a massive success! Simon and the kiddo took lead on this one. I just took photos and made a quick trip out for additional fry oil. I’d had aspirations of making the cheese curds, but realized my cheese skills aren’t ready for that yet. Gravy was a gluten free roux, homemade chicken stock, and packaged bisto beef gravy granules. (not fully gluten free, but it kept the wheat levels low enough for me to enjoy)
Potatoes were soaked, dried, fried at 300F, and fried again at 375F (head fryer says he will be trying 400F for this stage next time)
This week’s meal plan only extends to Friday at the moment. Thanksgiving happens Oct 12 and kid has requested a ‘real turkey dinner’.
Monday: Asian style noodles with tofu and green beans
Tuesday: sausage kale pasta
Wednesday: tacos with moose and tomatillo salsa
Thursday: grilled fish, squash and Catalan chickpeas with arugula
-Pretty easy to stick with any plan straight out of the gate!
Monday: cod au gratin, fried green tomatos, green beans, leftover roast veg
-Cod au gratin is a family favourite, but does take effort. It was the perfect way to use up the very last of our freezer cod supply. Realized that also attempting fried green tomatoes for the first time was overdoing it. Much easier to pick some green beans from the backyard.
Tuesday: cod au gratin part II, green beans part II, fried green tomatoes
-Fried green tomatoes were a new discovery and a hit! Certainly not the healthiest meal (especially with cheesy cod au gratin beside it), but the green tomatoes were surprisingly tangy which kept the whole thing from feeling greasy. A nice send off of the final tomatoes from my rookie backyard garden.
Wednesday: skirt steak on salad
-6 years ago, our local butcher catered our backyard wedding party and served grilled skirt steak as part of the menu and it’s been a regular part of our dinner menu ever since. The marinade/salad formula changes regularly – this one was Newfoundland spice rub (last of a souvenir spice pack from our most recent visit – 2 years ago – sob) on the skirt steak, blue cheese on top and lettuce salad with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, plus sprinklings of stuff I found in the pantry drawer (pumpkin seeds, almond bits, mixed dried fruit, fried onion pieces) and bottled greek feta dressing
Thursday: apple fennel slaw, squash, miso beer can chicken, quiche with kale and a random salmon fillet from the freezer
-Slaw was just slice apples, fennel mixed with a dressing of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and tarragon. Quiche was frozen gluten free pie shell, random lone salmon fillet from the freezer, kale, parmesan cheese, held together with cream (that needed using up), milk and eggs. 11 year old doesn’t like eggs and was very dubious about having quiche for dinner. Happily she realized that the eggs were about as significant as when they appear on french toast (which she loves).
Friday: roast chicken part II, kale, roast cauliflower, apple fennel slaw part II
-Should have remembered that making any kind of slaw always makes a ton! Miso beer can chicken was much too complicated for the busy Friday we had so Simon just roasted it with salt, pepper and paprika which was awesome.
Saturday: Poutine Project! (kid asked if we can make poutine from scratch) with roast chicken part II on top and sneaky beans
-Weather looks like we are still on plan for later today. Poutine idea came about when we realized that our bbq side burner makes deep frying possible outside (yay for no deep fry smell in the house). Sneaky beans are code for garden green beans – lots of rain this week, while the rest of the garden plants are clearly winding down for the winter the green beans are still growing away.
-Hasn’t actually happened yet, but very unlikely to change 😉
Despite 10+ years of having this blog, it is pretty obvious by now that I’m not a frequent poster. This is partly due to laziness, partly due to the fact that after a week of working on the computer I’m not inclined to then spend my downtime sitting in front of a computer, and partly because although I’m a naturally oversharing type of person (suspect I studied drama in university largely for reasons related to exactly this), the non-dog members of my family are not. Happily today I realized that we do have an aspect of our life that even the most private one of us doesn’t mind me sharing with the entire world (or even the 5 people that are likely to read this post).
That thing is our food. Neither my partner nor I work in the food industry* and I’d consider us to be a fairly average 2 income household in terms of work/hobby time limitations but over the last 10 years I’d say that family meals are one of the biggest things that has helped tie us together. During these months of pandemic lockdown and restriction that has become even more so. Prior to 2020, we’d been getting weekly local vegetable box deliveries for several years and were already trying to eat local foods in season where we could. This year of minimizing grocery trips, thinking more about supply chains and added time physically at home led to a number of food projects including the stereotypical sourdough along with my very first garden.
*In full disclosure, my engineering consulting work includes many food manufacturing clients, but my work in machine safeguarding has almost nothing to do with the actual food part of things.
The mainstay of our kitchen is the weekly meal plan. Not long after we moved into our current house I painted a wall with chalkboard paint and turned it into a giant message board. Every week we look at the vegetable delivery email, plan our dinner menus, and write it out on one side of the chalkwall. The other side keeps the shopping list. Planning and writing out each weeks menu rarely takes more than 10 minutes, but I was amazed by how much brainspace it freed up during the week not thinking about what to have for dinner each night. Instead of asking ourselves “What do we feel like eating?” we just look at the list and know what is coming. Because we usually know which days of the week are busy the plan usually will either put something super easy to make or even carry leftovers from the day before. On the rare occasion that we find ourselves not in the mood for what is on the plan we just change it – chalk is super handy that way.
And so without further ado, here is this week’s plan.
Monday: cod au gratin, fried green tomatos, leftover roast vegetable
Tuesday: cod au gratin part II, green beans, more leftover roast veg or rice
Wednesday: skirt steak on salad
Thursday: apple fennel slaw, squash, miso beer can chicken
Friday: chicken part II, kale
Saturday: Poutine Project! (kid asked if we can make poutine from scratch)
I’ll let you know how it turns out! Has anyone else out there want to share pandemic food project or meal plan opinions?
This is what the full chalkwall looks like 🙂
The chart at the bottom is the current dog medication schedule. Our 14 year old Henry dog has a progressive heart condition and Beta dog (also 14) is on the tail end of a penicillin pack to clear up a gland infection.
Back in dinosaur times (circa 1998 probably) on a family trip to New Brunswick, my 2 years older cousin showed up for a visit driving an incredible car. Laurena has always been the coolest person known to my sister and I and at the time, my family was travelling around in a clunky VW van which my 16 year old self (stupidly) thought of as the lamest vehicle in existence. As a result, that vintage MGB automatically became the coolest car to ever exist and it became my envious wish to some day have one.
Fast forward 32 years and I still consider both my cousin and MGs among the coolest things ever. Twenty plus years career experience mean I’ve got mechanical engineering skills, but current life in Toronto doesn’t come with a dedicated parking spot for our practical Subaru let alone the indoor garage space needed for a vintage car. However, I can claim full ownership of a fairly nifty biomachine that I carry around with me everywhere. Since 50 seems to come up a lot in our culture as being ‘officially old’ for most women, this 1972 system can also claim to be rapidly approaching vintage status.
The last 6 years of circus training has taught me a lot about what this system I move around in is capable of. As a biomechanical engineer, I naturally think of it in terms of system performance and thinking of how the process of caring and maintaining it will affect the level it can perform at over the upcoming years. Getting older is a privilege and I know that I won’t be able to control everything – life is turbulent after all. This space seems like a good place to work on a more detailed maintenance log about how I’m fixing her up and trying to keep her in good working condition.
And more leftovers for us both! Coffee, cheeseball on toast, egg and the last of our xmas eve prime rib.
Eventually the phone should ring and I’ll peel myself off the couch to meet up with a friend who has been living in Bogota for the last few years. It’s usually a surprise when he pops up to Canada and I get a chance to hear about life in Columbia. Because my own second language abilities are incredibly limited, I really admire anyone with the courage to make a life some place where their own first language isn’t dominant.
Holiday leftovers make for wonderfully horrible food options. This one reminds me of a decadent hot dip they served at a long gone wine bar in Kingston, Ontario. Cheeseball, sundried tomatos, and gnocchi. A little red pepper for vegetables.
This captures her spirit well. Nine is a fantastically wacky age.
My partner enjoys taking on cooking projects so for the past 5 years he’s chosen to theme our Christmas Eve feasts based on a different part of the world. This year was England. I’m generally more of a day to day cook and am happy to provide grocery shopping support and clean up support for this big one. Past inspiration has come from France (cassoulet), India (curries), Sweden (juleboard), and Newfoundland (moose & cod).