I always try to keep chickpeas on hand. I buy dried chickpeas in bulk, soak 3-4 cups of them overnight and then rinse them and boil them for 1.5 hours the next day. Once cooled, I freeze them in 2 cup measurements in Ziploc baggies. Then, whenever I want chickpeas, I just defrost a baggie and boom, the chickpeas are ready to go. I throw them into curries, soups, sprinkle them over our salads, mush them up to make falafels or roast them until crispy and snack on them. Sometimes when it’s just a soup, however, I’ll skip the defrosting step and just dump the baggie of frozen chickpeas into the hot liquid and allow them to defrost while cooking.
This recipe was more of a what-do-I-have-in-the-fridge type of meal more so than something I set out to purposely make. It was late, I needed something for lunch the next day and wasn’t feeling venturing out in the snow to the grocery store for supplies. I’ve since tweaked it and cooked it many times since and we now frequently take it to work for lunch.
1 tbs coconut oil
2 cups chickpeas
2-3 tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1-1 1/2 tbs Yellow Curry Powder
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup of water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp each of ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Salt and pepper
Fry the coconut oil over a medium heat with the onions and garlic until fragrant.
Add curry powder, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric and garam masala (and cayenne if using) and stir.
Add chickpeas and tomatoes and stir for 1 minute.
Add coconut milk and water and bring to the boil.
Simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add more water if you think it is too dry.
Serve with alone or with rice.
This refrigerates well however the coconut milk will solidify a little in the fridge so be sure to heat it up before eating it. It is also freezer friendly. I separate it into 2-person portions in Ziploc baggies, label and freeze flat.
“Are you on a diet? This one looks less like cake.” – says the lady in the department next to mine, meaning well when asking if I wanted something from the tray of desserts she was toting around offering people.
This is probably the question I get asked the most. I decline food. I’m a decliner. I decline chocolate. I decline cake. I say ‘no thank you, I’m full from lunch’ to a vast array of cute and delicious looking mini treats that will make me tremendously ill due to my food intolerances.
This particular time, when asked if I was on a diet, I did my usual giggle and said, ‘No, of course not!’
One of her co-workers looks at me.
“I can’t have dairy, chocolate, gluten, eggs or soy…so basically anything fun!”, I explain.
He laughs and tells me there’s leftover Starbucks coffee in the kitchen, I should go help myself to some of that.
The second most asked question I get is, ‘Wait, so what DO you eat?!”.
THIS post is an attempt to answer that question.
I keep a meticulous track of our food. What we eat. What’s in the freezer. What food we have in the house and what I plan on doing with it. At the start of each month I do an inventory of our pantry and freezer and then everything I can make with the food and then everything I want to make that month. I have rarely, if ever, walked into a grocery not knowing what I needed, what I was going to use it for and which day I was going to use it. However, since the month and the meals are ever evolving sometimes the monthly plan changes and I swap meals around, get tired and resort to a simple stir-fry or pull something from the freezer that’s already cooked.
“Do you want 3/4 of a white onion?” – text from my neighbour offering me leftovers.
I declined. Politely. I didn’t want to say ‘I’m not scheduled to need an onion until Wednesday’.
We eat pretty simply and cheap. Healthy by proxy of disease and intolerances. Convenience is a big factor for me too. After working all day, I’m no more interested in creating a gourmet meal than I am in running a 25K marathon. Below you’ll find a list of the meals we ate in January first followed by further explanation of each dish. You’ll see a lot of meals doubled which just saves me time. Eat one now, eat one the following week and no cooking.You’ll also see a lot of stew just because I like to throw on a pot of stuff when I get home from work and then leave it to simmer away while I do other things.
January 11th 2016: Ham, Potatoes and Vegetables: We bought a baked ham for $5 on sale at the grocery store – we actually bought 4 of them and froze them – and we baked it. It took about 1.5hrs in the oven and required zero supervision from me. We had it along with mashed potatoes (with unsweetened cashew milk and dairy-free butter) and boiled carrots tossed in dairy-free butter and parsley.
January 12th 2016: Leftover Ham, Potatoes and Vegetables – as above.
January 14th 2016: Meatballs and Pasta: Meatballs and Pasta: For the meatballs, I used this recipe and for the sauce, I used this recipe.
January 15th 2016: Steak and Fries: We grilled up steaks along with baking frozen fries and had them alongside some peas. We also had Chimichurri sauce. We tried Chimichurri at The Keg when we were gifted $100 to spend there by The New Roomie and decided we would try make it at home. We bought some Argentinian Chimichurrimix from The Silk Road, Calgary, followed their instructions and spooned it over our cooked steaks. It’s been a staple ever since.
January 17th 2016: Indian Butter Chicken Curry and Rice – From a packet, Asian Home Gourmet Indian Butter Chicken, except I substituted dairy-free butter for the butter and coconut milk for the yogurt.
January 18th 2016: Meatballs and Pasta: For the meatballs, I used this recipe and for the sauce, I used this recipe.
This is a Hawaiian dish The Canadian One fell in love with back in April when we were off in Oahu getting married (more on that another time). It’s basically white rice nestled under a hamburger and a fried egg and then covered in brown gravy. The versions he tried, and there were multiple over the week we were there including our wedding night dinner, also contained fried onions. The one at the Dole Plantation had the hamburger smothered in beef chilli which is the one I tried and loved.
Just to go back to the fact that he ate this on our wedding night.
We had, originally, booked a table in a fancy restaurant for the evening of our wedding. It was just to two of us so we figured we’d splurge on somewhere nice. However, the night before our wedding, we ate take out on our hotel balcony from a place opposite our hotel called Chai’s Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion. It was cheap, tasty, I could walk there and back in heels and there was a lot of food. I had the Grilled Hawaiian BBQ Chicken with Pineapple Salsa, Salad and Rice and he had the Loco Moco. The following day, we decided we wanted the take-out again and so we cancelled our fancy restaurant booking and headed to the take-out place in full wedding outfits, got our food (both getting the exact same orders from the night before), ate it on our balcony and then blew our fancy restaurant money on overpriced, colorful cocktails at the bars downstairs. It was glorious.
A quick Google for Loco Moco recipes lead me down a rabbit hole of similar-yet-slightly-different variations of the dish so I came up with a kind of hybrid version. Since I can’t have dairy, gluten or egg, I used my own trusted recipe for hamburgers.
RECIPE: BURGERS / MEATBALLS
Previously, I covered how to make pork burgers and meatballs here. This recipe uses basically the same concept of same ingredients, different foods. If I’m making a big batch of this, I will usually use a combination of ground beef and ground pork but if I’m just making two burgers, I’ll use only ground beef.
To make what’s in the above picture, I used:
1kg ground beef
1kg ground pork
1tb garlic powder
1tb onion powder
A big squirt of tomato ketchup, BBQ sauce or some other kinda burger sauce – I used burger sauce I had in the fridge.
A large handful of breadcrumbs
4 tb of milk – I used unsweetened cashew milk…and I measured with a shot glass. So it was like 2 shots of milk but start with 1 shot and add as needed.
Salt and pepper – just shake as much as you want in
Mix together. If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it’s too dry, add more milk. Shape into whatever you are making: meatballs or hamburgers.
The recipe is pretty fluid. Sometimes I don’t add garlic. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I add paprika. Or chilli powder. Or oregano. Or nutritional yeast. I experiment a lot with different flavours. Sometimes I’ll just use ground beef and nothing else.
Then I’ll cook the meatballs, cool them and freeze them in batches of 12 in the freezer. I make sure to bake at least 40 as a few invariably get eaten during the packing-into-the-freezer-baggie process.
RECIPE: LOCO MOCO – Makes 1 Meal for 2
Loco Moco is basically a bed of white rice with a hamburger nestled on top, a egg on top of that, fried onions sprinkled on the egg and gravy poured over the whole thing. Its beauty is in its simplicity. Cooking for more, add more burgers, rice and eggs. Easy. For two people, you will need:
Gravy – I guess any kind of beef gravy will do, I have my own recipe below.
Usually I’ll make the white rice and some fried onions (slice onions, fry them in vegetable oil until crispy and golden) first and then I grill the burger. I leave the egg and the gravy to last.
The gravy is a little more intricate: Add to pan (if you used a grill pan or frying pan to make the burgers, use that and scrape up all the lovely burger bits) 1 cup of beef stock, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (which is not always gluten free but has never harmed me so I just gloss over it), salt and pepper. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat. Mix 1 tb of cornstarch with 2 tbs of water and add to pan. Return to heat. Whisk whisk whisk until thick. If you want thicker, add more cornstarch/water mixture, if you want thinner, add more water and whisk.
Construct Loco Moco: Rice then burger then onions then egg (if using) then pour gravy over it and then eat.
January 3rd: SWEET & SOUR MEATBALLS WITH PINEAPPLE AND RICE – Makes 1 Meal for 2 with leftovers
Sweet & Sour Anything is a difficult thing for us to eat. With The Canadian One being diabetic, the classic versions of Sweet & Sour sauce I kept coming across all contained sugar and sugar and sugar and pineapple juice, and that’s just not quite going to work for us. I found a nice recipe in The Joy of Cooking and set about adapting it as I had half a can of chopped pineapple leftover and I wanted to use it up. The only meat I could find to mix with is was the meatballs which I’d left out from the day before’s burger/meatball making bonanza to make with pasta sauce then changed my mind when I saw the pineapple in the fridge.
I love pineapple.
Sweet & Sour Anything with Pineapple and Rice – Adapted from Joy Of Cooking
For this recipe, I immediately started to see what I could sub out that was high in sugar. First to go was the actual sugar in the recipe. It called for 1/2 cup of sugar so I substituted a tablespoon of Splenda. For the 3/4 cup of pineapple juice I simply added 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice and froze the rest from the can. I added ½ cup of diced onion, 1 tb of No-Sugar Ketchup and cut down on the chicken stock and vinegar as there were just two of us.
1 cup chicken stock
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tb no-sugar ketchup (or any ketchup)
2 tbs pineapple juice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup white vinegar (or less to taste)
A sprinkle of salt
3-4 slices of pineapple, diced
1 tb cornstarch + 1 tb of water
Add a little oil to the pan. Fry onion for 2-3 minutes stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn. Next you can add whatever raw meat (diced chicken, pork, beef) you are using and fry until lightly browned. If you are using cooked meat like meatballs or leftover chicken or ham, skip to the next step.
Add green pepper and stir-fry a little more.
Next add all the other ingredients except the pineapple and cornstarch.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add pineapple and cooked meat if using.
Simmer for 10-15 more minutes.
Remove from heat. Whisk the cornstarch and water together and add to pan.
Stir-fry is my go-to when I’m feeling lazy. It’s quick, easy and I can use up a bunch of veggies from the fridge all in one shot. I usually throw a half a cup of rice in the rice cooker before I do anything so at least that is on and requires zero attention from me. For my beef stir-fry I use thinly sliced beef, different colored bell peppers, sliced onions and carrots cut into little sticks. If I think I may be making stir-fry in the week, I usually cut up all the veggies at once and store them in little Tupperwares in the fridge so I can just throw together a stir-fry at the last minute.
And by ‘last minute’ I mean, I have woken from a nap to discover there is nothing defrosted and it’s 7:45pm.
For the beef, I buy a huge round of beef from Costco and cut it up. I get four steaks, four baggies of stew meat and 2 baggies of stir-fry beef. To get it so thinly sliced, I cut the beef into thinish slabs and lay them out on parchment paper. Very carefully, I then balance the parchment paper on a tray and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes. One it’s frozen, I take it out, slice it up nice and thin, portion it back into separate baggies, label and refreeze. This way it will defrost super quick, cook super quick and be table-ready from the freezer to the plate in 30 minutes.
For the stir-fry on the 4th, I used a Chinese 5-Spice Sauce (below) and for the Beef Stir-Fry on the 19th, I used an Asian Home Gourmet Szechuan Sauce I picked up at the Co-Op. I recognized it from living in Korea and couldn’t remember if we liked it so figured we’d try it again. We didn’t like it and I now remember why we only ever had it that once.
For the Sausage Stir-Fry two days later on the 6th, I used the same veggies as the Beef Stir-Fry as I had halved the bell peppers and onions for the first stir-fry and wanted to use up the other halves before they went weird in the fridge. And the onion smell each time I opened the fridge served as both an inspiration to cook anything stir-fry and a reminder to buy a new baking soda thingy for the fridge. I also used two smokies we had in the fridge and sliced them up into half-moon shapes.
The sauce for the one on the 6th, however, is the best part. For this one, I made my homemade stir-fry sauce: Spicy Stir-Fry Sauce. OK, so the name is a little obvious BUT it IS soy-free, dairy-free and gluten-free.
Just to be clear, I know I can’t have dairy and have been told to limit or eliminate gluten from my diet. The soy is on the fence. The whole saga is documented here but for the sake of argument, I basically eat something that may have soy in it, if it makes me sick, I don’t eat it again, if it doesn’t make me sick, I do eat it again. It’s a very simple process. I’ve avoided tofu and soy sauce anyway just to limit them but I can tolerate soybean oil and the teeny bit of soy that’s in some foods. For the soy-free ‘soy sauce’, I use this recipe. I make a large batch and then freeze it in an ice-cube tray for later use.
RECIPE: BASIC STIR-FRY – Makes 2 meals for 2 sometimes with leftovers for the next day
1 cup of sliced chicken/beef/tofu/pork
2 carrots, sliced into sticks
½ each of 2 different colored peppers, sliced (or just one colored pepper. Red is nice. Or green. Orange is kinda cool. But not yellow. I’m kidding. Any colour pepper you’ve got is fine. It’s a stir-fry, not a painting.)
1 onion, sliced (try keep all the sliced veggies the same-ish size)
The instructions for all the stir-fries are pretty much the same.
Fry a small bit of oil in large frying pan or wok, if you’re feeling fancy and happen to have one. I use vegetable oil or canola oil.
Then fry up some sliced onion and garlic, add the beef or chicken or whatever meat you are using. Fry until browned, continually stirring.
Add the carrots and peppers and stir-fry for maybe 5-6 minutes.
For Chinese 5-Spice Stir-Fry:
Add Chinese 5-Spice powder and stir-fry for 1 minute, stirring consistently.
Add beef stock and soy sauce / not-soy soy sauce. Bring to boil and simmer for 10-15 more minutes.
Mix cornstarch with 2 tbs of water. Remove pan from heat, add cornstarch mixture, return pan to heat and stir until thickened.
For Spicy Stir-Fry Sauce:
Skip over the ‘add Chinese 5-spice powder’ step and just add your sauce mixture from the jug/bowl/jar and bring to boil then simmer for 10-15 more minutes. I usually simmer until the rice cooker beeps and the meat is cooked.
Mix cornstarch with 2 tbs of water. Remove pan from heat, add cornstarch mixture, return pan to heat and stir until thickened.
For the package stir-fry sauce, follow the instructions on the package. Obviously.
The Canadian One would constantly talk about a soup his grandmother would make him called Fricot. I wasn’t until recently that we realized it was not written how it was pronounced, ‘Fricko’, it was actually ‘Fricot’, a traditional Acadian stew. As a result, the misspelling made it difficult to work out exactly what goes into it other than his memory of turkey and potatoes. The Canadian One’s cousin eventually gave us an idea of what went into it and through trial and error after each holiday with leftover turkey, the Quest for Fricot began. Of course, NOW we have looked up a recipe and realized it is very similar to the one we came up with and are rather proud of our little version.
2 cups cooked and shredded turkey or chicken
1 cup carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tbs butter
3 potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1tsp each of dried sage, thyme, marjoram
Salt and pepper
1 tsp garlic, crushed, optional but I like it
Melt butter in large pan. Fry onions and garlic a little until soft. Toss all other ingredients in. I throw in some Silk Road All-Purpose Blend sometimes. Just a tablespoon. Bring to boil. Simmer for 1-2 hours. I usually just put it on while I’m doing other stuff in the kitchen like watching Scandal on my iPad or Instgramming pictures of my cats. We serve it with buns or bread.
January 8th: CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS & FRIES – Makes enough for 8-10 drumsticks
Friday is Fry-day in our home. I like making fries on a Friday. I have no idea why or even how this happened. It just began as a pattern and stuck. The fries are pretty simple; they are frozen oven fries so I just follow the instructions on the package.
Place all ingredients in a saucepan, heat gently and stir until throughly mixed. This bubbles and splashes a bit. Not gonna lie. I sometimes make double and freeze half.
For the drumsticks, we rub oil (usually olive oil) over the chicken and then sprinkle it with some salt and pepper and bake at 425F for 20 minutes, flip it and bake for another 20 minutes, then add the sauce, reduce heat to 350F, cover with foil, bake for 5 minutes, flip and kinda spoon the sauce over it (or use a brush if you have one) and bake for another 5 minutes.
I dip my fries in the excess sauce. I just LOVE it.
January 9th: LEFTOVER TURKEY CHILLI – Makes 2-3 meals for 2
We had a LOT of turkey leftover from Christmas dinner. It being just the two of us, and given my penchant for buying large turkeys on sale and stuffing our freezer with them, it leads to an extraordinary amount of leftovers. And let’s be honest, after eating nothing but turkey for 2-3 days over the holidays, you’re done. You need something else. Like a steak.
Whenever there’s a large turkey cooked, I (meaning not me at all, The Canadian One) cuts off enough meat for 2 dinners and puts it aside and then cuts off all the rest of the meat, and I slice it, portion it out and freeze it. I would make stock out of the carcass however my current pot is not large enough and into the trash the bones go.
This chili came about because during a month-end freezer inventory, I found a small baggie of frozen sweetcorn and a baggie with a cup of cooked kidney beans in it. Coupling that with a tin of chopped tomatoes, an onion and the remainder of a sandwich baggie of frozen tomato paste, we had ourselves a meal.
Vegetable or coconut oil
1 cup cooked turkey
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup cooked kidney beans
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 tbs of tomato paste
½ cup of sweetcorn
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
A sprinkling of red chilli flakes or diced jalapeños (optional)
Heat oil in pan or pot. Add onion and garlic and fry until softened.
After that, I usually just dump all of the rest of the ingredients into the pot, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. I’m sure there is an actual order I should be adding these all to the pot but in the interest of time and ease, I don’t seek it out.
This, incidentally, would also work as a slow-cooker recipe. Probably fry onion and garlic, add to slow cooker along with all the other ingredients and then put it on low for 6 hours. If anyone tries that, let me know.
January 13th: CHICKPEA & SAUSAGE STEW WITH RICE – Makes 2-3 meals for 2
This was more of a what-do-we-have-in-the-fridge type of stew more so than a gourmet-fancy-follow-a-recipe type of thing. I buy a lot of dried chickpeas, soak 3 cups of them overnight, boil them the following day and then freeze them in 1 cup baggies in the freezer to add to whatever I want.
For this I laid out all the ingredients I could find on the table and came up with the plan to toss everything into a pot and hope for the best. I like all those things separately, there was no reason I could think of as to why it wouldn’t all work together.
1 cup chickpeas
2 smokie sausages, diced
1 can of whole tomatoes
Some tomato paste, it looked like about a tablespoon. It was a frozen square. I feel like when it melted, it was about a tablespoon. I just threw it into the pot frozen.
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced aka bashed with a frying pan until small
1 red bell pepper, diced. It was actually 3/4 of a bell pepper because some of it had gone a little soft.
2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup of chicken stock
Red chilli flakes and chopped jalapeno peppers
Frozen sweetcorn, a handful
I fried up the garlic and onion in some oil and added them to a large pot. Then I basically threw everything else into the pot and brought it to a boil. Then I simmered it for about an hour with the lid on.
You can also make this without the sausage. Obviously.
2 chicken breasts, diced (or meat/vegetables of choice)
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tbs tomato paste
1-2 tsp red wine vinegar (to taste)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup water / stock
Blend the tomato paste, curry powder and vinegar into a paste and marinate the chicken in it in the fridge for an hour or so. I sometimes just gloss right over this step if I feel like it. I mean, we’re the ones eating it, if we don’t mind, who cares? If you DO mind, however, please do marinate it for a bit in the fridge.
Fry up the garlic and onion until soft in a little oil. I use vegetable oil or coconut oil.
Add chicken mixture and fry, stirring, until the chicken is browned on the outside.
Add tomatoes and water/stock to pan. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
January 29th: BEEF MADRAS AND FRIES – Makes 1 meal for 2
This requires marinating overnight. Unlike the earlier curry, I’ve never skipped over the marinating of the beef. Also, I usually serve this with rice but lately we’ve been having it with fries…and here’s why:
We had a friend visiting from Chicago a few months back and, as you do when friends come to town, we went out and got drunk, returning home at 2am…ish, starving. I threw some fries in the oven and located some leftover Beef Madras from dinner earlier in the fridge.
I heated it up, poured it over the cooked fries poutine-style and we ate it with a side of Sriracha and tomato ketchup. Now, you may be scrunching up your nose at this, but it was the best thing we had ever tasted and we felt like geniuses. It just worked. We have no idea why.
We later tried it again, after not consuming copious amounts of beer and vodka and it still worked. It was glorious and thus a new, unusual dish was born.
You, of course, can serve this with just plain rice and not the fries, ketchup, Sriracha combo….but if you’re feeling adventurous, I urge you to try it.
1 cup of stewing beef – I say 1 cup. I have really no idea how much it was. About 1 1/2 handfuls, I would guess.
I read an article today – 8 Things I’ve Learned About Cooking Without Gluten, Dairy, Nuts and Sugar – and I totally related to the author when she said ‘The funny thing is that friends and family seemed more sad about my new diet it than I did!’. Personally, I find, more often than not, the one question I’m asked when I tell people I can’t have dairy, soy, sesame or some preservatives in meat and The Canadian One has diabetes is: ‘So, wait, what do CAN you guys eat?’, like they imagine us sitting around eating salad all day with a balsamic dressing. I think people forget that I know how to cook!
For example ,today we had Steak Fajitas with Homemade Salsa. They were so-so, the fajitas not the salsa. The salsa was nice. I was trying out a new fajita recipe and it didn’t enthrall me. I won’t be making it again. Yesterday, we had Soy-free, Sugar-free Beef Teriyaki with Basmati Rice which The Canadian One SWEARS tasted like seolleongtang! I’m skeptical. Oh seolleongtang how I miss you…A LOT…Although I just bought Maangchi‘s Korean cooking books so I’m hoping her recipe is good. Apparently her Soegogi-muguk is good and looks crazy simple! If you wanna learn to cook easy Korean food check out her website!
Tomorrow we shall be eating Shepherd’s Pie and later in the week, we have Beef and Lentil Tacos and some Irish Stew coming up. Irish Stew is basically just to use up all the leftover vegetables we have before we move on Saturday but still! Speaking of moving, my God, I never realised how much stuff we had until we had to cram it into small boxes. I mean, we’ve only lived in Canada for 18 months, how did we amass so much stuff in such a short period of time?!
Back to the dietary needs, I feel it makes people awkward. They don’t know what to feed me. But the thing is, I don’t feel left out of things. Ever. OK, yes, I once brought my own mayo to a friend’s house back when I was banned from eggs and my own bun to a BBQ but that’s the extent to which this has affected me. I just avoid things like free food days at work or if there is free food, I claim it and then give it away to someone else. But then again, a wonderful manager at work made me a soy-free, dairy-free cake for my going away last day of work last Friday (words cannot express how awesome a: having cake was and b: this cake was!) and whenever we got pizza, my team’s fantastic manager would get me a tiny no-cheese vegetarian just for me. No sharing! It was great. At Thanksgiving this year I had my own separate mashed potatoes and butterless green beans and it wasn’t a big deal. I also had Smirnoff Raspberry Ice Vodka with Moonshine Cherries, just to throw that in there too.
Now, I always bring my own snacks wherever we go – movie theater, trips, friends houses – and most of the time, if I don’t trust a menu of a place, I’ll go with fries! Ah, potatoes, the food of my people. I buy fries so often in the cafeteria, the cashier just now says ‘Small fries?’ whenever she sees me. That’s all I ever get, despite the many many other delicious looking things on the menu.
Has my cooking style changed? Yes.
Do people look sad when I tell them I can’t have many foods? Yes.
Do people get confused and look at me with a sad when I tell them what I can’t eat? Oh yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Though that’s mainly when I tell them I can’t have chocolate.
Has it changed my life? YES! Yes, of course it has! I’m no longer spending my evenings curled up in a little ball hugging my hot bottle telling people I’m never eating again. I’ve gained back the 5kg I lost earlier this year during tests – discussed here – and am maintaining a healthier looking weight. I’ve slowly reintroduced breakfast into my diet and have begun to eat oats again, having FOR YEARS thought I was intolerant to oats but it turned out to be the milk with the oats that was the problem.
And beside, another thing I think people forget is, it could be worse, I could be allergic to vodka.
Settle in, friends, this is a long story. Get yourself some snacks and wine. I’ll wait here.
Ok, so I can’t eat chocolate. I know! When I tell people that, they’re all ‘WTF’ and ‘OMG I’d die!’ but in reality, I’ve known this for eight years so I’m pretty over it by now. Struck down with debilitating migraines at 21, chocolate, mature cheese, red wine and pink wine were all axed from my diet, eventually after rounds and rounds of the ‘is could be this’ game. Slowly, I got over it. Declining red wine at parties, accepting then regifting boxes of chocolates from friends, carefully calculating how much chocolate I could tolerate (the tiniest amount), eating some (way more that I’m supposed to) and lying on the floor in pain holding a pillow over my face like I was practicing to suffocate myself (this actually doesn’t help a migraine).
And then came May 2014.
Ah, May, the month when pizza got taken away from me forever. And ice cream. And Starbucks Frappucchios. Less than a week after the Caramel Ribbon Crunch returned and Frappy Hour kicked off.
Here I am with my last ever Frappy less than twenty minutes after my diagnosis. You can’t see it, but there’s also a Buttermilk Blueberry Muffin there too.
You know, I feel like May was one of those months I’ll look back on a half a year down the road and think, ‘wait, what?!’
So I had this lactose intolerance test…no wait, lemme go back a bit because it’s important to understand why I was having this test.
All this stupidity kicked off 18 months ago, just after we moved here, when I started to get weird pains in my right abdomen. Nothing crazy. Just run-of-the-mill, oh-that’s-probably-just-period-pains…in my right side…when I’m not on my period…OK, fine, when I look back on it now it was perhaps not as not-weird as I initially thought and I shoulda really thought ‘appendix’ and not ‘right-sided period pain’. BUT I’d just spend five years living in Korea being ill Every. Single. Day. so this pain was a welcome break after a sea of cramping pain, nausea and diarrhea every single day. Did I mention it was every single day? They couldn’t figure it out in Korea. I had tests. And more tests. And blood tests. And an endoscopy. And took drugs. And more drugs. And antibiotics…for months at a time…and destroyed my immune system…and still, I didn’t get better. Until one day, 3 weeks into living in Canada, I realised I wasn’t sick every single day anymore. I was sick maybe one day. Out of 21. It was suggested it was soy and / or sesame causing my illness and eating a western diet I was just naturally avoiding these. I test this theory out, I had some soy sauce. Next day I got ill. Soy was eliminated from my diet. But yet I was still getting this weird side pain and random cramping/diarrhea every so often with no discernible reason.
So fast-forward a year later, May 2014, and I’ve had the pleasure of five abdominal ultrasounds, three pelvic ultrasounds (there’s a difference boys, Google it), a CT scan which really does make you feel like you’ve peed. Funny story, the male doctor who did my CT scan told me I had ‘women’s problems’ and needed to see a ‘women’s doctor’ without going into too much detail other than a scientific explanation as to how eggs are released from ovaries and then discharged me and sent me home. I was livid. I was more livid that I thought possible. A few weeks later I saw on the news my doctor’s house had sadly burned to the ground.
My friend wrote to me to ask if it was me.
It wasn’t. And no one died.
Following on from that, I’ve had too many blood tests to count (I have fantastically healthy blood apparently), a HIDA scan ( – where one is LITERALLY strapped down to a table unable to move while being injected with a radioactive tracer and put into a scanner machine for an hour…AN HOUR…), two colposcopies, a hysterosalpingography ( – it was so painful I don’t want to relive it by talking about it – I sweated through the hospital gown I was wearing it was so painful – although I’ll give credit to a girl at work who warned me to take the full day off and not attempt to come to work after), took pointless antibiotics, had an argument with a gynecologist who refused to do a laparoscopy for endometriosis despite it being the only reason I was referred to her in the first place. This was after a six month wait to actually see her. She referred me to the Regional Fertility Center to get the laparoscopy done ignoring the fact that I was showing zero fertility problems and back on a waiting list we went to see a doctor there.
I got misdiagnosed with IBS after one appointment with a family doctor and changed clinics, got jabbed in the butt with an injection (“This will hurt.” – my nurse), experienced morphine for the first time, had a lactose intolerance test, a celiac test, a test that involves the collection of…um, bodily waste…and putting it into a very small (WTF?!) tube…TWICE! It was so much worse that this. Honestly, you have no idea how ridiculous your life has gotten until you’re asked to collect poop that has not touched water and put it into a small tube…the first time I was all ‘is this something I really want in my Google history?’ and the second time I was all ‘I got this! Gimme the test tube’. And I thought that time in Korea when I had to stick a cotton swab up my butt was bad. And then finally it was all capped off with an eventual laparoscopy and some endometriosis removal by the fertility clinic. The Canadian One had some fun wheeling me around the hospital in a wheelchair after the surgery.
So, lemme get back to the lactose test. For weeks beforehand I’d maintained I was not, under any circumstances whatsoever, absolutely, positively NOT lactose intolerant and this test was a GIANT. WASTE. OF. MY. TIME. I told everyone. I told friends. I told Facebook. I had to get up early. I had to fast. I had to drink a stupid drink and get four blood tests and live at the blood clinic lab on a Saturday for three hours with all the other impatient, annoyed people. IT. WAS. POINTLESS.
Then the results came back.
I’m lactose intolerant.
First thought: ‘Pizza!’
First thing I said to my doctor: “But…pizza…”
I also have endometriosis but let’s not dwell on that, it’s the pizza thing that really hurt.
Now, I’ve realized when I tell people I’m lactose intolerant they think ‘oh, you can’t have milk’. No. No no. I can also not have cheese. Cheese. CHEESE. Cheese is on pizza.
I cannot have pizza.
Or Starbucks Frappucchinos. I mean I do realize that this is not really a problem in the grand scheme of things. The Canadian One is diabetic and gave up everything and eats lots of salad.
Although, looking back, May was also the month my friend discovered she has an extra rib in her body that’s been causing her an incredible amount of pain so in hindsight it could be…no, no, the pizza thing is so much worse.
I love pizza.
Now, since May, I’ve learned how to make my own pizza. Lactose free. With no cheese. The first time I had no cheese pizza, I didn’t get ill, I didn’t throw up (I’ve done that twice literally in pizza places, never put two and two together), it was glorious and it was the way forward.
Despite all this, none of these tests has actually solved the pain-in-right-side problem just the stomach cramping / illness side of things. I was still in pain. And lots of pain. I couldn’t walk properly, pick things up, carry heavy objects or stand for long periods of time without pain. It was causing stress, headaches and sleeplessness not to mention despair as no one could figure it out.
At my next doctor’s appointment in June, my doctor suddenly asked if I’d ever injured my back. I told her about moving to Canada, how I ended up in the hospital my second day in Ontario with back pain suspected to be kidney pain. I told her how I’d taken antibiotics. That sometimes my back hurts periodically but I’ve always been told by many doctors that it would go away and to wait. That ‘patience is the key’ and ‘here, take these Percocet’. Here I am my second day as a Canadian paying for healthcare as I was in the wrong province:
My family doctor suddenly had a theory and a friend who she thought could help me. I immediately left her office and called her friend who said she would see me 48 hours later. I turned up promptly at 5:30pm for my first meeting with my physiotherapist, a lovely, brilliant, funny Irish woman who’s so full of smiles and optimism you just want to kidnap her and take her home with you. After a 10 minute conversation and medical history, she announced she knew what was wrong and how to fix it. I must have looked skeptical because she went off and got a medical book and showed me diagrams of what happened to me and why I’m in pain. I almost cried.
When moving here, I’d torn and damaged the muscles in my back with the twisting and turning and carrying of heavy boxes (for weeks beforehand as we moved twice before we actually left Korea) and bags (as we moved here, with a stopover in Ontario) and it was all compounded by the fact that I sat at a desk all day and it was causing referred pain my lower right quadrant.
Within an hour of physio involving massage, electrotherapy and ultrasound therapy I felt a billion times better. Better than any of the painkillers, heat pads or muscle relaxants ever did. This little AMAZING Irish woman had found and solved my 14 month-long problem in less than two hours. Well, not solved, I still see her every two weeks and follow a strict daily physio regime, but we are on our way. And my pain? Ohhhh my pain. That spends its days either being non-existent or it comes along and I know exactly how to get rid of it in a timely manner. No more afraid to stand at concerts. No more oh-my-god-the-pain-is-so-bad-I-might-die days. None.
So, at this point, I bet you’re thinking, so where does the EpiPen come in?
August 4th, the Monday holiday in Canada, I was at work as I’d volunteered to do overtime in lieu of a day off and a day and a half’s pay – not a bad compromise for working one day. Things were going fine. We were a little busy but not overly so and I was working on some online courses I had on the go in my spare time. Lunch rolled round and I took my homemade lunch out to the couch to eat alone. I usually never eat alone but it was a holiday day and there was maybe twenty people in the building. My lunch was rice, tomatoes, white beans, sage, beef sausage from Safeway and onion. All food I’d have previously many times, except the sausage, which I’d only ever had once before. After the first two bites, I started sneezing uncontrollably. My eyes felt itchy and like they were on fire and my ears felt hot. I suddenly realised I was having trouble breathing. I was wheezing. I text The Canadian One to tell him what was happening and while waiting for his reply, I went to pee because 1. I needed to pee and 2. I was fairly certain this wasn’t going to end in anything other than a hospital trip and so I didn’t want to need to pee that whole time. As I left the bathroom, I got dizzy. Really really dizzy. And my breathing was slowing. I began to realise I might be dying. That this was it. I was going to die alone on the couch at work surrounded by strip lighting and my half eaten lunch and lonely fork. I called The Canadian One who told me to go find my supervisor as at this point I was struggling to talk. In hindsight, that’s what I should have done first before calling him but anyway…
I bolted back to my supervisor’s desk, flailing about in a panic, explained I was having an allergic reaction and was marched over to the manger on-duty’s desk. I sat, wheezing, not allowing them call 911 as I felt it was ‘too dramatic’ but as we were right next to a hospital, I agreed to being driven there by the manager. I was making weird wheezing noises but my throat had stopped closing at this point, although my nose was blocked and all puffed up at the back. I called The Canadian One who was with our vet neighbor and both got in the car and headed to the hospital to meet me.
An hour in the ER and, although I had yet to be seen by a doctor, I was feeling fine but couldn’t talk properly. I was diagnosed with an allergic reaction, (obviously) given two Benadryl (which knocked me out) and was told to follow-up with my family doctor.
Honestly, you should have seen her face when I went back and explained all this to her.
I would later be diagnosed with a mystery ‘preservative’ allergic, issued an EpiPen for safety and made see a dietitian as all my foods were being taken from me and I was running out of things to eat.
My Family Doc: “Do you know what an EpiPen is?”
Me: “Yes, I’ve seen the ads on TV.”
Doc: “Ah, yes, with the little girl.”
Me: “Yes…but I’m not allergic to anything. I’ve never been allergic to anything.”
Doc: “Yes, you are. You’re getting an EpiPen.”
And so I did. I got two.
For more information on food allergies or anaphylaxis, check out Anaphylaxis Canadaor Anaphylaxis Campaign UK. The Canadian site has the option to sign up for a Food Allergy Alert service oddly enough sponsored by where I work!
For more information on living dairy-free, check out Go Dairy Free for hints, tips and recipes. Also I recommendDaiya as a preferred cheese alternative, although it does take some getting used to and also almond milk for coffee is quite nice if you are also soy-free. My addiction to Veganaise soy-free ‘Mayo’ is outta control too. It really is so much better than mayo! And Earth Balance produce a really good line of vegan alternatives.
I’ve made 24 of these in the past 6 days and eaten 13 of them. No, seriously! Yesterday, I ate three. They just make really good on-the-go snacks. I had one for breakfast at 7am, then another for a snack at work at 1pm and then the third at 6pm on my way from work to physiotherapy. They’re filling but not heavy so they don’t make you feel like you’ve just eaten the world’s fill of muffins, like some muffins I’ve tried. You know that argh-I-shouldn’t-have-eaten-that feeling, the oh so familiar perhaps-I-should-take-up-exercise muffin-feeling. These don’t do that.
I happened upon this recipe when searching for a healthy, low-carb carrot cake recipe and quickly became addicted to all the other recipes Lisa has posted on the site. Going back to May 2010, Lisa and her family took a 100-day without processed food pledge and she’s written some wonderful posts on it. Personally, I love the idea of less processed foods in our diet and, whenever possible, I try to avoid it. Lisa’s site is full of brilliant tips and tricks (and budgeting advice) on how to live life with less processed foods. These muffins are super easy to pull together, take less than 30 minutes to bake (from flour to mouth) and have turned out moist and delicious from the very first time I made them. Case in point, remember I ate 13 of them in 6 days…which is way too many, don’t do that.
Whole-Wheat Lactose-Free Carrot and Applesauce Muffins
Adapted from 100daysofrealfood.com. I adapted this recipe to adhere to my new lactose-free lifestyle but the actual recipe can be found here. Makes 12.
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup minus 2tbs of lactose-free margarine (I use Fleichman’s Lactose-Free margarine)
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey (I use slightly less than 1/2 cup. I use maybe 3/4 of 1/2 cup. Don’t overthink the math, basically, I just fill a 1/2 cup measure 3/4 full!)
1. First, you’re going to need to pre-heat your oven to 350F (180C) and line your muffin tin with muffin cups. I always use Paper Chef’s Culinary Parchment Large Baking Cups because they don’t stick to the muffin like some paper cups and they don’t leak batter…like some paper cups…you know who you are)
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt together in a bowl until well combined.
3. Now, here’s the bit I like because I get to bust out my KitchenAid Stand Mixer The Canadian One got me for Christmas (of course, if you don’t have a KitchenAid Mixer, you can use a whisk and some elbow grease). Mix together the margarine, oil, egg, honey, vanilla on medium speed (speed 2 then 4 then back to 2). Then slowly add the flour mixture. SLOWLY add the flour mixture. I say it twice because you would think it would be obvious however I ended up in a cloud of flour the first time I did this so I would like to help other idiots out there avoid the same fate for their counter tops…clothes…floor…curtains…cat…he was fine. Confused. But fine. The batter is going to be quite thick at this point and you will find yourself wondering if your muffins are going to be too dried out. They are not. Move on to step 4.
4. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in applesauce and carrots until they are combined but try not to mix it about too much. Mix it until combined and move on. Divide the batter among your muffin cups and bake for 22 minutes and then check on them. Jab one with a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean, they’re all done. If not, allow to bake for another 2-3 minutes and test again.
Resist all urge to eat them while they are still hot. Or don’t and eat them. Really, I’m not one to tell you want to do. Enjoy.
Don’t like carrot? No problem. Just substitute the 1 cup of carrots for 1 cup of raspberries or blueberries for fruity explosion!
I’ve got a new food addiction. Well, no, wait, that’s no technically true. I’ve always had a deep love for anything containing peanut butter and bananas as any avid readers will recall from my Peanut Butter and Banana Milkshake:
Buuuuuuut Monkey Quesadillas are genius! Warm, tasty and filling! I love them. Also, I have no picture because I ate my quesadilla while searching for my phone to take a picture so here’s a picture of a banana instead:
So to make this glorious wrap you will need: For one quesadilla, 1 banana, 1 tortilla wrap (I use whole-wheat flour tortillas), peanut butter (I use smooth, I don’t like crunchy), honey.
Spread peanut butter on tortilla, then either slice or smush banana and cover half the tortilla with banana. Drizzle honey over the banana and fold tortilla. Heat pan on a medium heat. Place quesadilla on pan for a bit until warmed then flip and warm the other side. Slice in half and eat.
Mine is never very warm because I get impatient staring at it and then just end up eating it. Usually eat this for lunch at the weekends…or when I arrive home from a friend’s house drunk. Monkey Quesadillas + Alcohol is a winning combination, I’m not gonna lie.
I love Shepherd’s Pie. A classic, English dish, it’s so easy to make and assemble and it lends itself quite well to a freezer cooking rotation. This recipe is based on one I saw on the back of an OXO box years and years ago.
1 tbs vegetable oil
500g minced beef
1-2 tsp garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
A handful of peas
2 tbs plain flour / GF flour
2 tbs tomato puree / paste
2 cups of beef stock
1 tbs butter (or dairy-free alternative)
1-2 tsp Worchestershire sauce – make sure it’s gluten free if needed
1/2 tsp thyme and / or marjoram
4-6 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
Salt and Pepper
1. Preheat oven to 200C / 395F.
2. Heat oil in a pan and saute onions and garlic until soft. Add meat and brown, draining fat. Add carrots fry for another few moments.
3. Add flour and stir well.
4. Add tomato puree, stock, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, salt, pepper and peas. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until thickened.
5. Pour meat mixture into ovenproof dish and top with mashed potatoes. Dot with butter.
6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
***If you’re freezer cooking, prepare the meat until step 4 and allow to cool then freeze. Proceed with step 5 after defrosting meat.***
I love lasagna. The entire time we lived in Korea, whenever we would go out to dinner in a western bar I would always order a lasagna. Our oven was smaller than a microwave and attempts to make lasagna were usually foiled by either the size of the oven or the sourcing of ingredients as fancy as lasagna sheets. But alas, occasionally, I’d pull it off and we’d feast on lasagna every few months.
Having moved to Canada, however, lasagna became part of the usual mealtime rotation. Well, that was until recently when our oven broke plunging me into an oven-free world once again. 11 months and two weeks of glorious oven-time after 5 years sans oven and I had become dependant on my kinship with the oven to produce amazing things like Apple and Carrot Wheat Muffins or homemade Whole-Wheat Pizzas.
And then, I discovered that I could also make lasagna in the slow-cooker.
For your reading pleasure, I’ve included both version here. For the sauce and meat, I use the same basic recipe as my Spaghetti Bolognese recipe and then depending on how busy I am, I either make homemade cheese sauce or store-bought cheese sauce.
1 lb ground meat (usually I use ground beef but sometimes a mixture of ground beef and hot Italian ground sausage)
4 sheets of either no-boil lasagna or regular sheets of lasagna boiled and softened
3 cups of grated cheese
2 cups of cheese sauce (either homemade or store-bought)
1/2 – 1 cup of beef stock
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 large can of plum tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 tbs tomato paste (for advice on how to save the rest of the tomato paste in that giant can you just bought, see here)
1 tsp oregano and a pinch of basil OR 1tsp of Italian Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil and add onions and garlic. Fry for several minutes until translucent.
2. Add ground beef and fry until browned (maybe 5-6 minutes) stirring.
3. Drain fat from pan. Now, this is a little tricky if your pan doesn’t have a lid but with some practice and a nifty spatula, it’s almost accomplishable.
4. Return pan to heat. Add oregano, basil, (or Italian Seasoning / bay leaf if using), tomatoes, puree and stock.
5. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often to crush up the tomatoes.
1. Heat oven to 375F / 190C.
2. In a rectangular or square dish layer, layer lasagna: meat mixture, noodles, cheese sauce, meat mixture, noodles and cheese sauce in dish. Top with grated cheese and cover with foil, being careful the foil doesn’t touch the cheese.
3. Bake lasagna for 45 minutes, removing foil for the last ten minutes.
1. Layer lasagna in slow-cooker: meat mixture, noodles, cheese sauce, meat mixture, noodles, cheese sauce, reserving grated cheese separately. Break up the lasagna sheets so they fit all around the lasagna. It’s OK if there are gaps, the lasagna sheet, if it’s a no boil version, will expand anyway.
2. Cook in slow-cooker for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. I advise checking on it after 3 hours to see if it’s done. Mine only took 3 hours. Sprinkle with grated cheese and put lid back on for 10 minutes until cheese is fully melted.
Freezer Friendly: If you’re freezer cooking, wait until lasagna has completely cooled, then cut into single servings, place in Ziploc bags, label and freeze.
I drink a smoothie everyday at work. I blend it all up in the morning, pour it into a Mason Jar and throw it into my handbag. I keep straws at work so when I get there I just pop the lid and enjoy the still icy cold breakfast.
While other folks at work like to make fun of me for my ‘healthy nature’ and one of my co-workers noted that I eat a lot of fruit, there’s nothing I love more in the mornings than fruit. Once, when I was particularly stressed, one of them told me I should ‘go home and eat fruit’, which I guess is polite. I’m allergic to chocolate (I KNOW!!!…but we’ll come back to that another time) and thus when I am sad I actually eat family-sized bags of Doritos not fruit.
People always ask ‘How do you have time to make a smoothie each morning?’ and the answer is simple, it takes no time at all.
On Sundays, I wash, cut and prep all the fruit and prepare small sandwich baggies for freezing. In the mornings, all I do is pull out a baggie, add it to the blender with some juice and yogurt and pour it into the Mason Jar. Done. I sometimes do it while brushing my teeth.
Here are six of my favourite morning smoothie recipes for grab and go to get you started on a new morning routine:
Berry Banana Smoothie
1/2 cup of Berries, (i.e. Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Strawberries)
1 cup of Orange Juice
1 tbs of Plain Yogurt
Blend everything together
Monkey Milk Smoothie
This one I can’t take to work as peanuts are banned from the office, along with raw onions and, rather specifically, kiwis, so this is an ‘at home’ smoothie.
2 tbs of Peanut Butter
1 tsp of Honey
1 cup of Milk
Blend. Blend. Blend.
Handful of Spinach or Frozen Spinach
1 Apple, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbs of Plain Yogurt
1 cup of Orange Juice OR Apple Juice
Blueberry Apple Smoothie
1 1/2 cups of Apple Juice
1 Apple, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup of Blueberries
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
Blueberry Smoothie Take Two
1 cup of Milk
1/2 cup of Blueberries
1 tsp of Honey
1 tbs of Plain Yogurt
1/2 cup of Pineapple
1 cup of Orange Juice or Pineapple Juice
Feel free to add more fruit, change up the juice, don’t be afraid to experiment. For freezing, add all fruit minus yogurt and juice, to a baggie and pop in the freezer. In the mornings, just toss the frozen fruit into the blender and add the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have frozen fruit on hand, add some ice cubes to the blender if you want to keep things cold. What’s your favourite smoothie?
So I’d been searching for a quick and easy breakfast recipe for The Canadian One to just grab and go in the mornings. As a diabetic, his sugars are occasionally high in the morning but that doesn’t mean that he’s not hungry. Normal muffins were out, too many carbs. Toast, eggs, anything like that, took too long to cook. He gets up at 5am for work, he needed something quick, easy, healthy and something he could literally just grab and go. And thus, I stumbled upon a recipe for egg muffins and they are awwweeeesome!
So all week I’ve been battling a probably-not-pink-eye-but-definitely-some-kind-of-eye-infection in both eyes. Well, it started in one eye and then spread to the other. The girl who sits next to me at work had an eye infection and the girl on the other side of me threw up in the middle of the work day so really, there was no hope for me. After four days of pondering and wearing glasses (I hate wearing glasses), I relented and went to the pharmacy while The Canadian One was in the ER…different story, he’s fine. The pharmacist told me ‘it’s not pink eye but it’s some kinda infection so we’ll treat it like pink eye’.
Which in a roundabout way brings me to last Sunday, My First Canadian Thanksgiving. I’d spent most of my day Freezer Cooking while The Canadian One was at band practice.
In the evening, we headed off to dinner at The Canadian One’s co-worker’s house for a glorious Thanksgiving dinner. We met his co-worker’s lovely wife, fluffy dog (no seriously, I say fluffy but what I actually mean is more-fluffy-than-anything-I’ve-ever-seen), his parents, his aunts, his uncle, his cousins and his adorable grandmother. This was the first time I’d met any of these people and opted to remember how they were related to each other as opposite to remembering their actual names.
His grandmother: “It’s easy to remember my name, everyone just calls me grandma.”
I’d spent some time googling Thanksgiving and learning what is traditional and what is not. Sitting down at the table after two glasses of wine with my mason jar of water, I surveyed the colorful table with glee. There was everything I’d read about online. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy the color of apples (I didn’t understand it, our gravy in Ireland is brown but meh, it tasted great) and cranberry sauce. The sweet potatoes were mashed in a square dish with melted marshmallows on top and had a sugary taste. There was a small debate over calling them yams or sweet potatoes and I realized that a ‘yam’ and a ‘sweet potato’ are the same thing. Earlier in the day, I’d sent The Canadian One to Safeway with a list for my day’s Freezer Cooking bonanza and he came back with a yam and not a sweet potato. I’d made fun of him. I’d always though sweet potatoes were purple. Yams are white. Eggs here are white too. Canada’s weird.
The best part of the dinner was the pie and drinking water from mason jars. I’ll come back to the mason jar thing in a moment, lemme tell you about the pie. It was pumpkin pie. And ohhhh it was glorious. Soft and delicious, without an overabundance of ‘pumpkinness‘. I‘ve not have much experience with pumpkin. I’ve never carved a pumpkin. We don’t eat pumpkin at home. The only pie I’d ever eaten is apple (and blueberry, but that was only recently and because I’d baked it).
The stuffing is also worth an honorary mention. I maintain my grandmother made The Best Stuffing In The World, and I would bet you my cat that everyone else in the world thinks the same thing about their own grandmother’s stuffing, but this stuffing was pretty good too.
On to the mason jars, living in Ireland, England and South Korea, I’d never come across a mason jar in my lifetime up until this summer in Wal-Mart. I saw all these jars in a crate for $10 (or something like that) and made The Canadian One buy them and carry them home. Throughout the summer I’ve been using them to store dry ingredients and random coins for the laundry machine. Some Splenda here, some baking soda there, a bunch of quarters in one jar, a couple of dollar coins in the other. Since my discovery of drinking from a mason jar, I’ve been using them as cocktail shakers, which seems like a natural progression from drinking water. My drink of choice: Lime Vodka: three shots of vodka, three shots of lime juice, a few ice cubes and fill the rest of the jar with water (about three more shotfuls), shake, shake, shake and pour into a small glass with ice. You should get three drinks out of it. In theory. I got two as the second time I went back to the fridge to pour my drink, I just stuck the straw in the mason jar and abandoned my glass.
On Monday, I had my second Thanksgiving dinner. I’m told it’s a usual thing to have two, one on the Sunday and one on the Monday. We hit up The Canadian One’s childhood-friends-we-lived-with-when-we-first-moved-here’s house to enjoy the second turkey coma of the weekend. I regaled stories from my first Thanksgiving the day before and asked if certain things were typically ‘Canadian’. There was no comparison between Sunday and Monday’s dinners. Both were unique and full of new and unusual yumminess. Monday’s featured a stuffing made from what looked like bread rolls of some kind (you know what, I’ll ask and report back), a pink beetroot and carrot side dish, purple cabbage, garlic mashed potatoes that were creamy and delicious with delicate hints of garlic as opposite to an overpowering taste I had expected when told they were garlic flavored, and a wonderful oh-my-god baked acorn squash with sugar and butter (only butter for The Canadian One).
The best part of the dinner was the acorn squash and the second pumpkin pie in 24 hours. This pumpkin pie was slightly different this time with a pecan topping and a slightly sweeter taste. I slid off as pecans are one of those nuts that remind me of beondegi (silkworm pupae, a popular snack in Korea I was once forced to try while out drinking with my friend’s not-a-date friend, his father and his father’s business associates…that in itself is a story for another day) and I just can’t eat them. By ‘can’t’, I mean ‘won’t’.
And the acorn squash. It was sugary like a dessert but eaten for dinner. Like. A. Dessert. But. Dinner.
As far as I know, it was just sugar, butter and squash baked in the oven. Maybe when I’m asking about the stuffing, I’ll ask about that too.
Just for you.
Also, as an add-on, I had my reservations about eating the beetroot. Lemme tell you why: a few months ago, I ate beetroot at a French dinner in South Korea (!) for the first time in five years and the following day my pee turned pink. I thought I was dying. That this was death. In the form of pink pee. To make a long story short, beetroot makes your pee pink. And vitamin B tablets make your pee bright day-glow yellow. And an antibiotic I was on once made my pee green. No s%*t, frikkin’ green!
Moving on for real.
Anyone else do anything interesting last weekend? What did you eat for Thanksgiving dinner? And what do you do with your mason jars?!
UPDATE 10/21: So, I got a text regarding the stuffing and the acorn squash. I was correct, the stuffing was made with sour dough bread (and kale…I did not guess kale) and the acorn squash is all butter and sugar goodness. Recipe: Half squash, bake for 40 minutes at 400F, add butter and brown sugar (or no sugar if you’re The Canadian One) and pop back into the oven until melted.
And so we come to my second (of probably many…unless I get lazy…MORE lazy I mean) batch of freezer cooking glory. Now, we covered a few of the basics in Part One. If you missed it and can’t be bothered to click the link, the words ‘Ziploc baggies’, ‘Sharpies’ and ‘freeze-flat’ all feature. This time ’round, I’ve got a few more recipes for you that I tested out over the course of two days.
The most important thing about freezer cooking is the prep. How many carrots do you need? How many onions? Do they need to be diced or sliced? How many chicken breasts? Do you have enough bowls to hold all the ingredients needed? You need to plan in advance.
Believe me, there’s nothing more awesome than leaving the house at 7:30am and returning at 7:15pm to find dinner already made and almost on the table. To help facilitate this, I leave The Canadian One detailed instructions of the week ahead’s menu:
Now, as you can see from the first few dishes I busted out below, I had found myself with a half a can of chickpeas in need of using up and an entire bag of lentils sitting on the shelf. I’ve also found that stews are my friend when it comes to freezer cooking. Over the course of two days, I prepped and / or cooked and froze / ate 38 meals.
For these, I cooked them and split them up into 2-people sized portions into medium-sized baggies:
Rich Beef Stew (2 days – this was waaaay too orangy and I won’t be making it again)
Whole-Wheat Pizza with Hot Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onion (recipe coming soon – 2 days)
For the next few, I prepped all the ingredients in large baggies and then tipped them into the slow-cooker the morning we planned to eat them, then ate one portion of it and froze the rest for another day.
Also thrown in for fun was some smoothie prep. Small baggies full of one smoothie-worth of fruit, labelled and put at the front of the freezer. In the morning, just grab a baggie, tip it into the blender along with a cup of orange juice or any other juice you have knockin’ around the house and a tablespoon of plain yoghurt, whirr for a few seconds and enjoy.
This week’s smoothies:
Strawberry, Banana, Yoghurt and Orange Juice
Peanut Butter, Banana and Milk (you can add honey to this one too if you want)
Words cannot describe how much I love this soup! I love soup. I love all soup. Except mushroom. I don’t like mushrooms. I think they taste like slugs. Well, what I imagine slugs to taste like. I’ve never eaten slugs. Maybe they taste much nicer than mushrooms. I’ll update you if I ever find out.
At work, I eat soup almost daily. I have a 15 minute break at 11:30am so I always heat up 2 cups of soup and bask in the warming goodness. There’s a problem with the air conditioning at work whereby in the mornings it hot and then it cools down and then it’s freezing…and then you go outside and it’s super-hot. It’s a conundrum. Plus, talking on the phones all day can leave your throat a little dry so I find a little spot of soup for my midday break is just what I need.
Red Lentil Curry Soup
2 cups of red lentils, washed and picked over
2 cups of chopped tomatoes and juice. (I usually just dump an entire can in, I’m lazy)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 cups of chicken broth
2 carrots, chopped (technically I just threw these in because I had them in the fridge and needed to use them up but they worked)
Quite often I have a lot of vegetables lying around in the fridge. Half a carrot here, a green pepper there, a zucchini or two hiding in the back. Instead of throwing them out I put them to good use with my Leftovers Pasta recipe, a mishmash of random things found knocking around in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.
1. Fry onion and garlic for a few minutes over a medium heat. If using carrots, add now. Add chicken and fry until browned. Add any other vegetables you’re using and continue to fry for a few more minutes.
2. Add chili and cumin and stir for one minute.
3. Add tomatoes, paste, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, make pasta according to package. I’d forgotten to add the green pepper earlier so I just threw it in now!
4. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 10 minutes at 350F.
Optional: Sprinkle with chili flakes for extra spice.
I’ve always been a fan of freezer cooking only I didn’t know it. I never knew it had a name. I would just call it being-well-prepared. Back in the days, ohhhhhh maybe 7 years ago, when I would work 1pm-10pm and not have time to cook nice meals at night time, I would spend my Sundays cooking meals to freeze and eat during the week. The only difference between my freezer cooking and a lot of the other freezer cooking out there, I freeze all cooked food as oppose to freezing raw, ready-to-be-cooked food, that way, The Canadian One just needs to reheat it before I get home and dinner is ready to go!
In Korea I didn’t do that. Why? Well, for one, I worked 12pm-6pm so had ample time both before work and after to cook. For another, Korea was the land of last minute invites out to dinner and one could never be sure if you were eating in or out on any given night. Moving to Canada changed that. Now I work 10am-6pm, leaving the house at 8:40am and returning home at 7:30pm. In order to ensure we don’t eat fast food each night or spend an astronomical amount of money on pizzas or bar food, I’ve returned to my 22 year old ways of freezer cooking.
Freezer cooking, as an aside, is a misleading name by the way. It implies you are cooking the freezer not cooking for the freezer but I’ll let that go.
Last weekend, we were supposed to go over to a friend’s house to hang but it got cancelled at the last moment, cue my opportunity to get my cookin‘ on…and The Canadian One’s opportunity to play his new PS3 game Grand Theft Auto 56…or whatever it’s called. I wanna say 4…but it could be 5…I could check but the game is on the other side of the room and I’m lazy.
From 9:20pm until 11:30pm, I cooked eight meals which amounts to nine days of dinner. NINE! In two hours. It woulda been less but I had The Mentalist Season 3 playing on the computer at the same time and OMG, has anyone else seen the season 3 finale?! If you have, you’ll understand why I became super-distracted in the middle of cooking!
Now, the three most important things you should remember when freezer cooking are:
Plan ahead. I cannot stress this enough. Have a plan. Prepare in advance. How many onions do you need? How many carrots? Chicken thighs? Wash, chop, slice and dice all vegetables in advance. Then move onto the meat. Then measure out the spices and herbs needed for each dish.
Wait until the food has cooled a bit before putting it in a baggie. Nobody likes a melted baggie. Nobody.
Flatten baggies and freeze flat. It makes more room in the freezer if the food is flat and stacked.
Label each baggie with the name of the dish, any other important cooking information, I include a carb count if it’s particularly high so The Canadian One doesn’t eat too much rice with the meal and we can prepare extra vegetables instead and include the date the dish was made.
The order in which you cook the meals is also important. I started with the one that uses up one ring and one pot for one hour. Then I cooked several that only take 30 mins until I had a second pot free again. I cooked one that only requires a pan while waiting on a pot to become free and I utilized the Slow Cooker as it was completely separate from the pot dance. I cooked the meals were:
Pork Burgers – Prepared but not cooked. Wrapped separately in saran wrap – I had to call The Canadian One to ask what this was in American, in Ireland we call it clingfilm…ours makes more sense… – and frozen in a baggie.
Slow Cooker Beef and Tomato Casserole – Used slow cooker or Slowy C as I like to call him.
I also made some Chicken Wing Marinade and Cold Brewed Iced Coffee neither of which required the oven, pots or Slowy C.
Recipes for all the rest coming soon. In the meantime, if you live in Canada and are looking for a place to buy spices, check out The Silk Road Merchant. I get all my spices from them and they are super helpful and knowledgeable about their spices. Go check them out and get your spice on.
There’s nothing in this world as glorious as waking up on a hot summer’s morning and treating yourself to an ice-cold cup of coffee with milk. I love it. I’ve tried countless ways to make iced coffee since the espresso maker when to live in Korea. Actually, it didn’t ‘go live there’, it’s more like ‘we left it there’ but whatever, the point is, it no longer lives with us and thus my mornings of iced coffees and steamed lattes are over and my mornings of drip coffee from the Walmart-bought coffee maker commences. Now, there are several things I’ve learned through this hit or miss process:
Making a batch of coffee and allowing it to cool overnight then using it causes it to be bitter.
Making a batch of coffee and pouring it over ice immediately causes it to be watery…anyone who understands science (or that ice melts) will have problems in seeing the flaw in this plan.
For some reason, pouring it hot into my take-away cup and putting it in the fridge at work makes it grainy. I still haven’t figured this one out.
But alas, I discovered Cold Brewed Iced Coffee and after reading many many MANY recipes and alternating the ratio of coffee to water several times, I’ve come up with the perfect mix.
Cold Brewed Iced Coffee
For Part One, you will need:
2 cups of ground coffee
6 cups of water
1. First, get two cups of ground coffee (your favorite will do) and pour into a container.
2. Then add six cups of water. I used filtered water.
3. Stir. Stir. Stir until it looks all sludgy like something a child would make using mud and a nearby puddle.
4. Put the lid on it and store it in a place away from sunlight for 24 hours.
Wait 24 hours.
For Part Two, you will need:
A coffee filter. I just used the one from the coffee machine. Other people like to use paper filters or cheese cloth.
1-2 cups of water
1. Open coffee container and stir sludge.
2. Carefully pour coffee through filter into the second container.
3. This may take a while. ‘A while’ meaning ten minutes or so, not hours.
4. Now, at this point, you can just place all the filtered coffee in the fridge and when you want to drink it you can either do half coffee, half water or one third coffee, one third water and one third milk. What I usually do is add 2 cups of water to the filtered coffee and cut out the fiddling about with water in the mornings bit. That way, the coffee is ready to be poured and mixed with milk straight away. The first time you make this, you may want to play about with the amounts of water you add to find the right mix for you but generally I stick to the 2-6-2 method. (2 cups of coffee, 6 cups of water, waaaaait, then add 2 more cups of water)
Spaghetti Bolognese was one of the first things I learned how to cook. Albeit it was the jar-type where you just brown the meat, add the sauce and wait. I’d grown up watching my mother make a version of this in the microwave in the days where, as a single mother, she’d make dinner in the mornings for us before she went to school and we’d reheat it ourselves in the microwave when we got home from school.
Nowadays, Spaghetti Bolognese is my favourite freezer-cooking recipe. I can buy the ground beef cheap at Safeway or Costco then I double the ingredients, cook it all up, separate it into three different baggies and freeze it for quick weekday dinners.
Olive oil for frying
500g ground beef
1/2 cup of beef stock (gluten free – if making it gluten free)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 cans of whole tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 tbs tomato paste (for advice on how to save the rest of the tomato paste in that giant can you just bought, see here)
1 tsp oregano
1tsp of Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp ground fennel
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil and add onions and garlic. Fry for several minutes until translucent.
2. Add ground beef and fry until browned (maybe 5-6 minutes) stirring.
3. Drain fat from pan. Now, this is a little tricky if your pan doesn’t have a lid but with some practice and a nifty spatula, it’s almost accomplishable.
4. Return pan to heat. Add oregano, Italian Seasoning, tomatoes, puree and stock.
5. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for up to 2 hours, stirring often to crush up the tomatoes. For the last 30 minutes, simmer without the lid to reduce.
Serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle (GF if needed), grated Parmesan (if not DF) or chilli flakes (The Canadian One’s condiment of choice).
Freezer Friendly: This freezes so well – Allow the meat to cool, the divide into individual portions and freeze. The just defrost, reheat and add noodles for a quick weekday meal!
TIP: To sneak veggies into this dish for little kids, try grating up a carrot and throwing it in in Step 4. The kiddies will never know!
Recently, I found myself with a lot of surplus carrots lying around the house and at the same time became addicted to eating soup during one of my breaks at work. You can tell where this is going, right?
Ok, the title was a bit of a give-away, wasn’t it?
Alas, yes, I made carrot soup. Lots and lots of carrot soup. This easily feeds 4 people and freezes super-well.
Carrot Soup (print friendly version at the bottom)
8-10 carrots, chopped. Mine were thin carrots, which I didn’t know existed until I moved to Canada. They kinda look starved. Like starved carrots. I would, at a guess, say 6 plump, carrots would equal 10 starved carrots.
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 potato, peeled and cubed. I used to put more potatoes in my carrot soup but it kinda goes all baby-foodie so I cut back on the potatoes. I know, I’m Irish, how could I say that. Hopefully my mother won’t read this post.
2 cups of chicken stock / vegetable stock / water
1 tb of parsley (or any other herb you have lying around the house) Last week I threw some oregano in. This week parsley. One time I threw in a whole bunch of Italian seasoning.
1 tb of butter
A pinch of salt and pepper
1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot. Add the onions and garlic and fry for several minutes until soft.
2. Toss all the rest of the ingredients into a pot, covering the contents with the stock / water. If you don’t have enough stock to cover the vegetables, feel free to add a tad bit more water.
3. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for 25-30 minutes until all the vegetables have softened.
4. In small batches, blend all the ingredients on low in a blender. In SMALL batches. SMALL. Seriously, you do NOT want hot soup all over the place and burnt fingers.
5. Add all the small batches of blended soup to the pot and stir.
6. Serve sprinkled with a little parsley and hot, crusty bread.
*Feel free to substitute olive oil for butter in Step 1.
**If you find the soup too thick, add a little more water in Step 4.
Curried Carrot Soup
Add 1-2 tsp (or more to taste) to soup in Step 5.
Spicy Carrot Soup
Add 1 tsp of cayenne pepper to the soup in Step 5.
Super Veggie Carrot Soup
I call this Supper Veggie, what I could have called it was, things-in-the-fridge-I-needed-to-use-up but that title seems a little long.
Add some broccoli in Step 2 and a handful of peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Recently (like last week), The Canadian One introduced me to Oreos…and then Oreos dipped in milk. GENIUS!! Now, this was a dangerous introduction as he has diabetes and I can’t have much chocolate due to migraines. I fear it’s all downhill from here. Yesterday, I bought a brand new packet of Oreos and it’s only a matter of time before I bust into them.
Granted I don’t know what half of these American treats are, I’m still shocked by the amount of sugar in them!
Here’s the thing I hate about tomato paste: it comes in such a giant can. Why? Why would it come in such a giant can when most recipes only call for 1-2 tablespoons of paste? Why not sell it in smaller cans? Actually, maybe they do sell it in smaller cans in the rest of the world and they don’t in Korea. My problem was, I would buy a can of tomato paste, use two tablespoons of it, transfer it to a plastic container and store it in the fridge…then forget about it and it goes bad.
To save the remains, I’ve tried freezing it in the plastic container. Useless for many reasons.
I’ve tried freezing it in an ice-cube tray as suggested by the internet. Nope. Also useless and messy.
I then tried separating it into little baggies and freezing those but they took up too much space and got squished by the other items in the freezer.
Then I happened upon Martha Stewart’s advice while looking for a muffin recipe and IT. IS. A. LIFESAVER.
First, open the can of tomato paste at both ends. Discard one of the metal ends but leave the other on the can. Then wrap the can in plastic wrap or wrap tightly in a plastic food baggie. Freeze overnight horizontally. The following morning (or really, whenever you next want to use it) take the can out of the freezer and leave to sit for a few minutes. Then carefully push the frozen paste out of the can using the metal end. You may have to loosen the sides a little with a knife before you attempt to push it out. Discard the can (please recycle), wrap the frozen paste in plastic wrap and place back into the freezer.
Now whenever you need to use tomato paste just slice off as much as you need.
For some reason recently, I had a LOT of lentils lying around the house and I needed to use them up. Cobbling together ingredients I had in the house, I created this Lovely Lentil Curry. Simple, easy and tasty. Just what you want in a meal. Can be made ahead and reheated or frozen once cooled to eat at a later date. I made a big batch and ate some on the day it was made and frooze the rest to eat during the week.
Lovely Lentil Curry
2 cups lentils
1 vegetable stock cube
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbls crushed garlic
1-1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup water
1 tbls tomato purée
1 tsp ginger, crushed
1 tbls oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsl chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp coriander leaf
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tble lemon juice
1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pick over the lentils and wash until the water runs clear and not bubbly.
2. Put the lentils in a large pot and cover with water. Then add an extra cup of water too. Cover and simmer until cooked, about 25-30 minutes. If you think the mixture is becoming too dry, add another 1/2 cup of water.
1. Heat oil in large pan and fry onion, garlic and ginger for 3 minutes until translucent.
2. Add the bell peppers and all the spices (apart from the lemon juice and cayenne pepper) and fry for 1 minute.
3. Add chopped tomatoes, tomatoes purée, cooked lentils and water. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
4. Add lemon juice and cayenne pepper (according to taste) and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
5. Serve hot with rice and sprinkled with some coriander leaf, if desired.
‘When your Kindergarten school give you cherries, you should make cherry muffins.’ – said Noone. Ever.
Recently The Canadian One had a parent-teacher’s meeting at his school at which he was given roughly $50 worth of fruit as a gift. Now, to YOU that may seem like a lot of fruit but here in Korea, it means 6 clementines, a small box of cherries, some green grapes and a small bottle of orange juice. Fruit is expensive here. Majorly expensive and whenever free fruit is going, we’re all over it like fruit flies.
Last week, The Canadian One sends me a text which read ‘You should see the fruit I scored‘ and immediately I began to get excited about a) what fruit it could be and b) what I could bake with that fruit.
In the end, I decided to try my hand at cherry muffins and once they were cooked, I promptly ate three of them and lay around feeling ill from the muffin overload. My advice: DO make these muffins. DON’T eat three at one time…no matter how badly you want to. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Cherry Muffins with Coconut Topping
1 tbls baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar / Splenda
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Pinch of cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped cherries
2 tbsl desiccated coconut
1. Pre-heat oven to 375F / 190C.
2. Mix together salt, flour, sugar/Splenda, vanilla essence and cinnamon in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine.
5. Fold in chopped cherries.
6. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (if you want, sprinkle with coconut – I did half with coconut and half without) and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes (check after 20 minutes).
***I became concerned when the muffins remained only slightly browned and mostly white when they came out of the oven. My mother happened to call while I was checking on them. After a minor conversation about how the muffins were white and how milk is white and it all makes sense….I accepted the muffins were safe to eat…and then I promptly waited 20 minutes for them to cool and then ate one…and then another…and then a third.***
‘People shouldn’t overlook the humble omelette.’ – The Canadian One
Weekends are the only time The Canadian One and I get to have breakfast together and it’s usually of an egg variety. Back when The Canadian One and I lived separately he became the master of scrambled eggs but nowadays, we’ve upped the fanciness of our breakfasts and now enjoy omelettes as part of our morning menu.
Usually The Canadian One will make the lattes while I make the omelettes.
The Om Nom Nomelette
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup grated cheese
A slash of water
Pinch of parsley (or another favorite herb), chili, cooked diced ham, shredded cooked chicken, chopped bell pepper, chopped tomatoes, green onions, cooked cubed potatoes
1. Whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, onion, cheese, water and any optional extras you want to add.
2. Melt the butter in a large pan.
3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Lift the edges of the omelette to allow the uncooked egg to flow under the cooked portion.
4. Flip the omelette over to lightly brown the other side. I’m not gonna lie, this bit takes some skill.
5. Fry until golden brown and turn out onto a plate.
6. Serve with buttered toast, a latte and orange juice for the perfect Sunday morning breakfast.
Ah, Irish stew, there’s nothing more warming on a cold winter’s night (or summer’s night if you live in Ireland, where on days when the sun shines people stare up wondering what the big, yellow ball in the sky is).
I make this all the time here in Korea. It’s tasty, homely and the ultimate comfort food. I usually make a big batch and freeze some of it to have on days when I don’t feel like cooking.
2lbs beef stew meat
2tbs all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt and pepper
1-2 large onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups carrots, chopped
2-3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
500ml beef stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sage
1 tbs parsley
The herbs are guesses. I grew up watching my mother just fling things into a pot and hope for the best. I also add some marjoram to mine if I have it handy.
1. In a plastic sandwich bag, mix beef, flour, salt and pepper. Close the bag at the top and shake, shake, shake until the beef is coated in the flour mixture.
2. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the beef and flour mixture, onion, carrots, herbs, potatoes and beef stock to the pot. Add enough water to cover an inch above the mixture. Bring to the boil, stirring and scraping any bits that stick to the bottom of the pot.
***Some recipes say to fry the meat and flour mixture first until browned and then add the other ingredients and others say add everything at the same time. I’ve tried it both ways and find the meat comes out better (and more melt-in-your-mouth-awesome) when it’s not pre-browned.***
3. Cover pot, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot in a bowl with fresh crusty bread to mop up all the stewy goodness.
(If you find the mixture to be too thick, you can add more water to it. If you find it’s too watery, simmer with the lid off for 10-15 minutes until it’s the desired consistency. If you freeze/refrigerate it and find it’s too thick when you go to reheat it, feel free to add a bit more water to it and stir it thoroughly.)
So, The Canadian One and I had this conversation recently:
Me: ‘My blog keeps telling me I spell Canadian wrong. I keep leaving out one of the A’s…I mean, seriously, what word has THREE A’s?!!’
Him: (without missing a beat) ‘Banana….Tarantuala…Anaconda….CANADA!’
Now, baking is not really my forte. I don’t really bake. I cook. A lot. But I very rarely bake. I can bake maybe three things quite well, four if you count the Banana and Blueberry Muffins I tried out for the first time on Monday, and one of the best, easiest and fantastically simple things I can bake is: Banana Bread.
This is adapted recipe from, I believe, All Recipes, but I’ll double-check that and get back to you. It’s adapted for The Canadian One’s dietary needs but I’ve included details from the original version here too.
Oh-So-Simple (Low-Carb) Banana Bread
2-3 bananas (I just use two due to bananas containing an average of 24grams of carbs per medium sized (7 inch) banana)
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup melted butter
1tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of Splenda granulated (or 1 cup of white sugar)
1. Pre-heat oven to 175C.
2. With a wooden spoon, mix butter and mashed banana.
3. Mix in sugar/Splenda, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle over baking soda and salt. Mix together.
4. Add flour last and mix. Pour into bread pan. (*see note at bottom)
5. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Cool, slice and serve.
*Now, if you live in Korea and are having a hard time finding a bread pan to fit into your teeny tiny ovens, E-Mart and other large outlets, make these awesome, disposable small baking pans:
For maybe 3,000won, you get 5 pans, they fit perfectly into the mini-ovens and produce awesome banana bread, which is all I’ve made with them but I’m sure they’re equally good at other types of bread too.
Ground beef can be quite expensive here in Korea so to save money, I started buying ground pork instead. Of course, with a sudden influx of 1kg of ground pork in the apartment, I set out to find a variation of recipes to use it with.
To the Googlemobile!
And so I found this. Well, kinda. This is an adapted version of one of the most fantastic recipes I managed to find. It’s a combination of a few recipes I came across and I would say I make it almost twice a month. I usually make a big batch comprising of burgers for one day and meatballs for the next.
Personally, I find the pork burgers less heavy in my stomach than I do beef burgers but then again, I dooooo love some good old-fashioned beef cheese burgers every so often.
Pork Meatballs / Burgers
1 egg, beaten – optional, I usually leave it out
1-1 1/2 slices of bread, in breadcrumbs. (I usually blitz it in the blender for a few seconds – can be gluten free)
1 garlic clove, crushed (or finely chopped if you don’t do crushing)
1/2 tsp each of parsley, thyme, salt and ginger
Pinch of ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
350g ground pork
1. Preheat oven to 190C / 375F (if making meatballs).
2. Mix 1 slice of bread in breadcrumbs, pork, parsley, ginger, thyme, salt, onion and garlic together in a large bowl.
3. Add egg a little at a time until you get a consistency whereby it all binds together nicely and isn’t too wet. If you find you’ve added too much egg, add some of the remaining breadcrumbs.
For Burgers: Make large ball and flatten into a patty. I usually get 2-3 large patties per batch (maybe 5 if I didn’t also make meatballs with the same batch). Heat frying pan over a medium heat with some olive oil. Fry patties for 10-12 minutes, flipping mid-way to make sure both sides of the burger cooks. Be careful not to have the heat too high or else you’ll burn the outside of the burger while the inside remains raw.
To Serve: Construct your burger with toasted sesame seed buns, slices of cheese, ketchup, fried onion, mayo, lettuce, tomato…the possibilities are endless.
For Meatballs: Roll mixture into small balls and arrange on a greased mini muffin tray. Bake for 30 mins. (I’m sure you can also fry them…or put them on a baking tray and into the oven, I’ve just never done that)
To Serve: Once cooked, you can either wait until they cool and pop them in the fridge or pop them straight into your pasta sauce. I usually make them a day in advance, pop them into my pasta sauce and let them reheat in the sauce.
For the sauce: You can use whatever sauce you want to use but I use a four-ingredient tomato pasta sauce I found on smittenkitchen and adapted fromMarcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’. I often use this sauce sans meatballs too as it’s so simple and easy and takes really no effort at all but the results, ohhhhh the results are A-MAZ-ING!
I have a thing for burritos…except I call them tacos. I call anything that looks vaguely Mexican and is wrapped in a tortilla, a taco. For no reason, other than I like saying the word ‘taco’. I think my limited, only in Korea, exposure to Mexican food probably has something to do with this.
Taccooooooo. Taaaaacoooooooo. See how lovely it is to say!
Like all the best things in life (vodka, The Canadian One, that I cannot sing and shouldn’t attempt it), I discovered Gringos while drunk…or well, semi-drunk. I was guarding (read: hovering around annoyingly) the entrance to a live music bar where The Canadian One was stamping patrons and handing out flyers. I took a flyer to look ‘busy‘ and thus, I discovered Gringos!
Here’s how it works: Based in Ilsan, two guys, Mike and Mark, started a business in the hopes of revolutionising Mexican food in Korea. The story goes, feeling a need to save the ex-pat community from lackluster Mexican food, our fearless duo set out to prove if want something done right, do it yourself.
They make all the burritos from scratch using fresh ingredients and their own personal, tried-and-tested-and-tested-again recipes.
So, what makes this different from Dos Tacos (down the street from me, a literal 10 minute walk) I hear you ask? Well, they taste better, aren’t full of random lettuce (why, Dos Tacos, WHY??) and don’t seem to have an oddly inconsistent amount of pico de gallo on them.
Oh and also they come in the mail.
Ok so here’s how it works:
First: You log into their website and place your order. You need to order a minimum of 6 items which comes to 30,000won. The Canadian One and I ordered 6 burritos (2 of each type) and a pot of chili.
The burritos we ordered were:
The Chicken Burrito containing refried beans, Mexican style rice, melted cheddar cheese and Gringos own spicy slow cooked pulled chicken.
The Breakfast Chorizo Burrito containing chorizo, cheddar cheese, salsa, hash brown potato and scrambled egg.
And finally, The Veggie Burrito containing seasoned tofu, Mexican style rice, a veggie version of the refried beans, cheddar cheese and an onion/cilantro/chilli pepper mix.
Next: It asks you if you have any special requests to go with your order. Now, as you all remember from this post, The Canadian One is diabetic and filling him with rice and burritos isn’t the best idea so I wrote to ask that in one of each burrito I would like the rice taken out.
Next: You receive an email confirming your order and then a follow up email regarding your special requests. I explained about not wanting rice because of The Canadian One’s dietary requirements. They offered more beans instead and pointed out that The Breakfast Burrito has no rice, just potato and should that be taken out too. Good catch on their part and I declined the offer of more beans but took up the offer of no potato.
We were told it would be made and mailed the following Tuesday, arriving Wednesday morning.
Now, Korea has an interesting system called Taekbae in place. Taekbae companies (택배) are delivery services that can ship anything within Korea for a low low price, usually around 5,000. When I moved apartments, I packed everything into the BIGGEST boxes the post office could offer and Taekbae’d them to the new apartment at 5,000won each. A simple system whereby the Taekbae dude comes, picks up your package/box/item to be delivered, you give him the money, he takes the item and delivers it to the desired location.
The only problem with the system is he calls before he delivers…and I don’t speak Korean. I got a text in Korean which my phone translated so I knew the burritos were arriving. Luckily, I was at school when he called and my co-teacher gave him directions of where to leave our box.
And so the burritos arrived. Frozen, vacuum packed and mailed overnight, they arrived at 11am and I found them sitting outside my apartment when I got home.
I quickly unpacked the box to discover a cold pack and my still slightly frozen burritos inside.
Mine and The Canadian One’s were packaged separately to avoid confusion and they were clearly labelled with a sticker….which I discovered, after I cut them open to see what was inside. Ok, so they forgot my chili but after a quick email exchange, a refund and a free chili next time I order were offered and I considered the matter sorted.
Following the website’s cooking instructions, I unpacked my burritos (refrigerating the other burritos), placed them on foil, wrapped them up and popped them in the oven for 45 minutes. The Canadian One returned home and cleaned the kitchen while I sat on the floor making him tell me fairytale stories he learned in kindergarten class that day. There was one about a half-chicken that became a weather vane. No, seriously!
The oven pinged and burritos were a go-go. Armed with the salsa and sour cream we had in the house leftover from last week’s Fajita Bonaza, we set out to take our first bites of our mail-ordered burritos.
Pleasantly surprising, not too spicy and, most importantly, authentic tasting, I’d highly recommend The Chicken Burrito…and The Breakfast Burrito I ate for lunch today at school. The smooth cheese mixed with the rice and spicy chicken made my burrito an each-bite different-taste experience. For anyone who’s been in Hongdae late at night and succumbed to spending 4,000won on a street kebab, save your money, order in advance from Gringos and have a delicious burritos waiting for you in your fridge when you get home.
They taste homemade. (And they smell awesome)
Reheat at home for whenever you want.
Take to school for lunch thus avoiding the mystery dishes the school serves.
Cost 5,000 per burrito with a minimum order of 6 and 7,500won shipping. Come on, a for-what-passes-as-a-sandwich will cost you the same from Paris Baguette or insert other bakery name here.
If you don’t live in Seoul and are nowhere near a burrito place, this business was made for you! Tired of eating the same food each night? Email the Gringos boys and within a week (to ten days) you’ll have six glorious burritos to eat by yourself or share with friends.
If you live in Ilsan, they deliver.
They respond to emails quickly and efficiently. No faffing about when it comes to your specific requirements regarding the burrito. Want it not too spicy? – done. Want it less carby? – Done. Want it to come with a free kitten? – Ok, maybe not….but you can always ask nicely.
Takes 8 days to come to the house so if you want a burrito RIGHT NOW, tis not possible. Also I spent the entire day worrying about the burritos melting…it didn’t happen so I know not to worry next time.
With their 6 order policy, we now have six burritos to eat over the course of three days (my three day rule for defrosted items comes into play here), which is fine but next time I think I’ll order four burritos and two sides. Although, you can always share with a friend.
Dealing with Taekbae can be confusing if you don’t speak Korean but generally, I’ve never had any problems with them and my stuff usually arrives without the need to involve my co-teacher. I just happened to be standing in the middle of her classroom at the time.
Does not come with free kitten.
**Note, you can microwave the burritos, we just don’t own a microwave so we put them in the oven**
For more information on making your own homemade chili, check out Tuesday’s post covering the subject:
The best thing about not living at home is that it forces you to learn how to cook food from home.
When I first moved to England, a month after my 18th birthday, I spent the year living on instant noodles, pasta with jar sauce, microwavable everything, oven pizzas and veggie burgers. I was a vegetarian during my first year prompted by a bout of food poisoning from KFC on day one.
By year two, not only was I a carnivore again, I’d also grown bored of my 10-minute prep meals and longed for something different.
Enter Lucy B.
Lucy and I moved into a houseshare on July 7th 2003 and by August, I wanted her to teach me how to cook. She cooked everything. Fancy lasagna – check. Chili – check. Our Christmas dinner that year – checkity check. She once did a graphic design project on the time it took to prepare a meal versus the time spent actually consuming the meal. The last time I saw her, in July 2009, I happened to be working not far from where she lived in London. She was getting ready to go on one of her first dates with ‘this guy she’d met’, who later became her husband mind you, and yet still, she served me coffee and homemade blueberry muffins.
Now, despite me once twice almost burning the house down and once blowing all the fuses by turning on the sandwich toaster, back in 2003, Lucy agreed to help me learn how to cook. Although, I don’t think we ever told her about the sandwich toaster. She may have been out at the time.
After a few false starts and Lucy arriving home to find me panicking in front of a pan of frying meat, I managed to eventually master my first dish: Lucy’s Mum’s Chili Con Carne.
It quickly became my go-to dish for impressing friends and family and was the first thing I ever cooked for The Canadian One when he travelled to my town to see me in those first few weeks of dating. It’s become a staple dish on our menu as I tend to make a large batch of it and freeze it separately in freezer bags for when it’s The Canadian One’s turn to ‘cook’ dinner…aka make rice and reheat the chili….and he does it ever so well.
It’s become so ubiquitous in our home that when ‘kidney beans’ appears on the shopping list, The Canadian One immediately says, ‘We’re having chili!’
It’s the most requested recipe I have in my repertoire and here it is in all it’s glory:
Lucy’s Mum’s Chili Con Carne
1-2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Vegetable oil for frying (I use olive oil)
2 level tsp chili powder (or more if you like it hotter)
1 red chilli
1 tsp cumin
500g ground beef
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tsp tomato purée
salt and pepper to taste
1. Fry onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes until soft.
2. Add chili powder, red chili, cumin, salt and pepper. Fry for 1 minute.
3. Add ground beef, frying until browned. At this point, I usually drain the fat off the beef as I find it makes the dish feel less greasy but it’s a personal preference.
4. Add tomatoes, tomato purée and more seasoning. Bring to boil.
5. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. (I sometimes simmer for 90 minutes)
6. Add kidney beans, cover and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Serve with fluffy rice. I often serve it with mixed with some small conchiglia pasta. You can top it with red chili flakes (for a hotter taste), grated cheese or sour cream….or all three! Delicious!
You can substitute beef for pork and add a pinch of oregano to the chili with the tomatoes.