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We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other. - E.H.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pasta with seared scallops, mushy peas.

I promised myself I would post a recipe along with my long-winded life updates. This is a food blog after- all, non? And this recipe is too good not to share. It's not at all vegan (no matter how much I love my vegan housemates, sometimes I crave scallops.. and butter.. and cream, you know?)

This is a recipe in two parts, and they go too well together to post separately.

Part 1: Pan seared scallops in a white wine cream sauce, served over egg noodles.
Part 2: Mushy peas with fresh mint (the Brits aren't wrong! Mushy peas are delicious.)

This is the kind of meal you should make on a first date, or for your mother or something - super easy, beautiful and guaranteed to win hearts. In my mind, the mushy peas really steal the show here. Mostly because it's so unexpected. I mean, really, who named mushy peas?? It has got to be the most unappealing name out there. Mushy peas are a side dish in need of a good marketing campaign.

Pasta with seared scallops, in a white wine cream sauce:

you'll need:

pasta - we used egg noodles and it was delicious.
1 lb scallops
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/4 milk
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh parsley (or finely chopped spinach)
1/4 cup shallots, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
freshly grated parmesan cheese, for topping.

1. Cook the pasta. While that is happening:
2. Rinse and drain the scallops.
3. Make a roux. If you've never made a roux before it's really easy, and it's pretty much the key to making any kind of a white sauce (the base for cheese sauce, cream sauce, etc). Here it is:
     a) Melt the butter in the pan on low heat
     b) Slowly add the flour to the butter, mashing it around with a rubber spatula. It should form a small
     ball. The idea is to dissolve the flour in the butter and cook it, without letting it burn. This should take
     about a minute.
     c) Slowly add the milk to the flour/butter combo. The small ball should expand to absorb the milk,
     making a thick creamy sauce. Now you have a white sauce, the base of a number of delicious things.
     d) Add the cream. Now you have a cream sauce! Easy.
4. Melt a bit of butter in a different pan and saute the scallops, shallots, parsley and garlic - not too long! Scallops turn into tiny hockey pucks if they're overcooked. We're talking 3 minutes, tops.
5. Add the roux to the scallop mixture and stir well. Add the white wine, and cook over medium heat until the sauce reaches the desired thickness (about 5 minutes).
6. Squeeze fresh lemon into the mixture, add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve over pasta with freshly grated parmesan. Fancy!

Mushy peas with fresh mint:
(Have I mentioned this was so delicious I made it the next day.. and the next? It's that good.)

You'll need:
1/2 lb frozen peas
1 big handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch green onions (so.. 5 or 6 green onions? lots.), finely chopped
1 or 2 dabs of butter

1. Heat olive oil in the pan over medium heat.
2. Add green onions, mint and peas, stirring for 2 minutes.
3. Add a splash of water to the pan and cover. Leave for 5 minutes, or until the peas are cooked through.
(But still tender. No one likes overcooked peas).
4. Mash the peas with a potato masher! Add the butter and mash some more! Then add salt and pepper to taste. Thank the Brits.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spring! An update

Ok, so spring came and I forgot I have a blog - guilty as charged. But... it just got so nice out, you know?

Spring has been so worth waiting for. The few weeks have been pretty amazing - backyard rock shows, patio beers, lots of long dog-walks with friends. It's good to get to know this city again as an adult, almost seven years after I left. Lots of re-connecting with old friends and meeting exciting new people - moving from Peterborough to Toronto was scary, but it was worth it. Good times, my friends.

                        Lily and Toby, bffs.

We've been working on the back garden too. We're pretty much too broke to buy plants or do any serious soil amending,  but we have lots of seeds saved from last year and we've been sowing and watering and hoping for new shoots to come up. So far there have been signs of life from the kale, chard, beans and snow peas - the garlic is growing like crazy in it's transplanted home and it looks like the herb garden will survive. Have I mentioned how amazing it is to have a backyard garden in Toronto? It's pretty rare, and it's totally amazing.

In an effort to keep the dog (and all the other dogs who visit) out of the garden beds, we've constructed a makeshift fence around the borders of some of the beds.

                        My awesome friend Jen, stick weaver extraordinaire 

Again, this falls into the category of too-poor-must-invent, but I like the way it turned out. Basically, we banged some thick, strong sticks into the ground every couple of feet, and then wove flexible, green branches between the pegs.

I don't know that the fence has what it takes to physically keep the dogs out of the beds - it's more of a psychological barrier, but so far that seems to be enough for Lily. She's pretty eager to do the right thing (and any plants we grow will have to be tough enough to withstand the occasional canine intrusion).

But you want to know the best part?? The best part is our entirely salvaged privacy fence/hammock setup.   Totally free, totally destroying any work ethic I may have once had.

    Tony, the farmer behind Wheelbarrow Farms, busy manning our backyard CSA drop-off. It's a tough    

And, last of all - happy 2 year anniversary to my beautiful housemates Meagh and Claire... the only people I could ever imagine sharing a house with. So much style, so much love.

Hope y'all are having a great time in the warm weather.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Things I love about fiddleheads:

1. They mean that it's spring. 
2. They provide an awesome excuse to spend time crawling around your local riverside, marsh, or wherever else you find ferns. 
3. They are delicious. 

Fiddleheads are baby ferns, still curled up into what looks like ... the head of a fiddle. They come out in early spring and are absolutely amazing gently steamed with lemon and butter. While you can sometimes get them in stores, you are way more badass if you find them yourself. 

                       This fern is almost too far along for fiddleheads - only the smallest shoot at 
                       the base of the plant is still good to eat. 

There are a couple of important things to remember when harvesting fiddleheads. First off, they are only good to eat when they are still quite small. In the photo above, only that smallest shoot at the bottom is still small enough to eat - once the shoots start to unfurl and become leafy, you're too late. Secondly, only take one or two shoots from any given plant, to leave the plant healthy for future years. 

                       This fern is younger - perfect size for harvesting. 

Toronto has a number of extensive park systems where you can find fiddleheads in the spring. While I would never give away my secrets, I would suggest that you check out the ravines (the Humber ravine in the west and the Don Valley in the east), which provide great opportunities for careful foraging, especially as you move north out of the downtown core. 

                        Harvested fiddleheads

When you get your harvest home, rinse the fiddleheads and store them in a bowl of ice water until you are ready to use them. This keeps them crisp, and gives a chance for any dirt/bugs to separate from the shoots. 

There are many ways to cook fiddleheads, but my favorite is very simple. Steam them for a few minutes, until they are tender-crisp. Steaming fiddleheads is a bit like steaming asparagus - it doesn't take long, and they get mushy very quickly. Serve them with butter (or butter substitute), lemon and a little bit of salt. Serve next to pretty much anything - I served them with garlic/leek/goat cheese scrambled eggs and rye bread, but they would go just as well as a side with dinner. 

If anyone else out there has a favorite way to cook fiddleheads, or another favorite spring forage-able, I would love to hear about it. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

The great garlic transplant

Last fall, before knew we were moving to the big city, Agata and I planted about 80 cloves of garlic in our community garden plot. We were driving through the city last night and decided to check on them - and look what happened!

In what was maybe a rash move, we decided to transplant the whole lot of them to Toronto, and see if they could a) survive the move and b) grow in our rocky Toronto garden. We dug them out of the garden and put them in little plastic pots for the drive. 

Adorable, non? The smell in the car was incredible. It was like being bathed in raw garlic for hours on end. But we all made it, more or less (the bedroom still inexplicably reeks of garlic, even though I've done  my best to launder all the evidence), and Agata planted them in our newly dug-up backyard garden in the dark.

When I went out to water them this morning, everyone looked alive. Now we cross our fingers and hope that they can hack it in the big city..

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gardening - the Toronto edition.

I'm pretty new to gardening. Agata is more of an expert, the kind of gardener who constructs massive spreadsheets detailing what seeds to start when, when to reseed what - her garden plans look like architectural designs. I'll admit that that level of planning is not my strong suit.

I do, however, like digging in the dirt. There is something about the combination of sun, dirt and beer that really appeals to me. Our new house has a garden out back, and the presence of weeds leads us to believe that, if given the chance, it can support life. So, last Sunday we spent the day digging up the back yard and sifting through the soil for roots (it seemed like there were more roots then dirt, at some points).

                       the garden, mid-toil

I broke a pitchfork in the first half an hour of digging (in half! pretty impressive, I think), and a steady stream of neighbourhood types stopped to chat as we dug up the back yard.

We met a fellow who lives a couple of doors down who writes dystopic short stories about the future of Toronto where the power grid and all technology has failed, and Rob Ford is king. He invited us to a reading at a local bar, which he assured us is very open minded and welcoming to people like us - by which I'm going to assume he does not mean gardeners.

I had the chance to better get to know a fellow that I had met, somewhat unfortunately, a few days ago. At the time, he was screaming through my living room window about rabid dogs (one downside to having a living room that used to be a  storefront), making me cross my fingers and hope that he was just passing through the neighbourhood and not, in fact, our neighbour. I was wrong, of course.

He seemed to like us better when he realized we were planting a garden, and we made some neighbourly small talk over the fence. I felt like I was really making some progress, and maybe I was right, because he asked if he might bring a bucket and take some of our soil for his backyard.  He clearly didn't recognize how hard we were working for that soil.

Maybe one day, we'll reach a happy medium between yelling-through-the-window and popping by to borrow a bucket of garden. In the meantime, I'm making a mental note to draw the curtains.

While our storefront-living room may not be great on privacy, it does make a very effective greenhouse for starting seeds. We planted (among other things) marbled red onion seeds, which look like miniature disco balls.


It was exciting to plant some of the seeds we had saved from the garden last year. We saved seeds from the seven varieties of tomato we grew last year, as well as a couple of varieties of beans, peas, cucumbers and flowers. We even saved seeds from a blue hubbard squash that grew in our roommate's mothers garden and looks a bit like a dinosaur- and I'm excited to try and grow one ourselves.

Seed saving makes it feel like we're bringing a little bit of our old garden with us into this new space.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Preserved lemons

I've finally been convinced by all the gorgeous pictures of preserved lemons that have been floating around Punk Domestics these days. I found myself in the grocery store staring at the organic lemons and went for it.

Preserving lemons is ridiculously easy. Basically you just wash and cut up the lemons, pack them with sea salt and stuff them in a jar. After a month or so, you are ready to throw them in anything Moroccan tangines to salads, vegetable dishes and marinades. These lemons are preserved whole, and the result is a tangy, intensely lemony ingredient that goes well in a range of dishes.

You'll need:

Organic lemons
Sea salt
A clean mason jar

Step one. Buy organic lemons, and wash them really well. You'll want organic because you'll be eating the skins.

Step two. Cut the ends off the lemons - just enough to get to the fruit inside. Squeeze about a tablespoon of juice from each lemon into your jar.

                        this requires more effort then one might imagine

Step three. Cut a cross in the top of each lemons, leaving about an inch at the bottom of the lemon intact.

Step four. Pack the lemon with sea salt. Use a lot - about one and a half tablespoons per lemon.

Step five. Pack the lemons into the mason jar. No need to sterilize the mason jar first, but do make sure its clean. Pack the lemons in as tight as you can - I used ten lemons and one large mason jar. Don't be afraid to really pack them down. When all the lemons are in the jar, fill up any remaining space with fresh lemon juice.

Step six. Leave the lemons at room temperature for about a month, or until they are soft. After that you can store them in the refrigerator.

If you're wondering what on earth to do with preserved lemons, I've made a list of promising recipes. They turn up a lot in Moroccan cooking, and especially in Moroccan tangine dishes, although I've also seen a range of different uses for them.

Chickpea tangine with preserved lemon
Chicken with olives, preserved lemon and coriander
Preserved lemon semifreddo with basil syrup (scroll down to the third recipe - although the other two look great too)
Preserved lemon with spring vegetable risotto 

Waiting a month is going to be the hard part.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rice and beans

Life is feeling busy these days, and I've been looking for fast, easy recipes that I can make ahead and eat over the course of a few days.

This version of rice and beans is awesome - it takes under ten minutes to throw together and it's full of fresh ingredients and flavour. If leftovers are looking a little sad the next day, you can throw in fresh tomato or avocado to bring'er back to life.

All of the amounts here are estimates. It's a bit of a throw-in-what-you've-got kind of a recipe. Also, you will notice that there is a LOT of cilantro in here. I really like cilantro, but I understand that this is not necessarily a universal sentiment. Follow your heart.

You need:

4 cups cooked rice - leftover works well
2 cups black beans, rinsed
2 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, cut into strips
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup corn
2 red onions
1 red thai chili, or more to taste
Juice of 2 limes (or to taste), more to garnish.
salt and pepper

1. Put on the rice, if you don't have any leftover.
2. Chop red onions and the red chili. Cook in a bit of vegetable oil over medium heat until soft (about 5 minutes).
3. Throw in the rice, black beans and corn. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the rice starts to brown in spots and the corn is cooked through. (Note - I used frozen corn, and just threw it straight into the pan. It worked out fine.)
4. Remove from heat. Throw in the lime juice, diced tomatoes, and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sliced avocado and sliced lime.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New house crush

I think I'm beginning to fall for our new house.

It took some time. When we first got here, it had all the elements we were looking for. It had a big back yard (enough for the garden and the dog to share), it had a tonne of space and a full basement for storage and lots of light and a big kitchen.  In that sense, we hit the jackpot.

But the house wasn't much to look at. It seemed to have been a frat house of some kind in the past, and there were holes in the walls and cigarette butts and beer bottles everywhere, and the paint was musty yellow and grimy. And, the house used to be a corner store, a feature that resulted in a slightly awkward layout and a lot of windows, some of which were covered in newspaper when we got there.

After some major re-painting (with the help of lots of friends and lots of beer), and window cleaning, and wall-patching, and TLC, the house has really started to win me over. Being in an old corner store means you get lots of light, and nice curtains gives us a bit of privacy at night.
Anyways, here's our store-front living room. I might just be in love.

We even managed to work around the fact that we all had many bookshelves, and they all look different. The wacky book-wall has grown on me as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mushroom and lentil soup with horseradish cream

Someone told me once that in the spring, summer and winter are wrestling each other for control, and that pretty much explains the weather around here these days. Take today - pretty much, it's summer. People are walking around in shorts and t-shirts, crocuses are poking up on the lawn and we just hung our laundry outside for the first time in the season. It's beautiful.

But that's today. On Monday, it was a blizzard. And that's when I made this soup. It was a hearty soup kind of a day then. The combination of dried and fresh mushrooms give the soup a deep, rich flavour, and the lentils make it earthy and filling and cheap enough to feed an army with.

But the soup is not really the point here. Vegan horseradish cream  is the point. Drizzled on top of the soup, it contrasts the rich earthy flavours of the soup with a tangy heat and adds a certain wow factor that I don't usually associate with lentil soup (and don't get me wrong, I love lentil soup.) And it's really pretty, which is important when one is trying to woo one's new vegan roommates.

You'll need:

For the soup

2 tbsp olive oil
5 small carrots, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups button mushrooms (or something fancier, but I only had button)
1 cup dried mushrooms (the polish kind are best. I have no idea what kind they are, but they have a wonderful forest-y taste)
1/4 tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs fresh
1 3/4 cups dried brown lentils
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the horseradish creme

2 tablespoons horseradish
1 tablespoon coconut cream

1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with 2 cups of hot water. Leave them to soften.

2. Finely chop the onion, mushrooms and carrots. In a large pot saute the carrots, onion and garlic in olive oil until they begin to get soft. Add the diced fresh mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are softened and browning, 5-8 minutes.

3. Add the dried mushrooms and almost all the water you soaked them in. Leave the water in the very bottom of the bowl, which tends to be a bit gritty.

4. Add an additional 5 cups of water, the lentils and the thyme. Partially cover and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Add the sesame oil at the end.

5. While the soup is simmering, combine the horseradish and coconut cream and mix well.

6. Drizzle the horseradish cream on top of the soup and garnish (if you have it, which I didn't) with a sprig of thyme. Your boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend/grandmother will be duly impressed.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chili-lime tofu with collards and brown rice

We survived the move! Every muscle in my body still hurts, and I never want to see a slice of pizza again - but here we are, more or less settled in the big city. The house is (almost) set up, we've become familiar with the local dog park, and I'm learning to bike in crazy city traffic. I think we're going to make it, folks.

The day after we moved I woke up early (no curtains on the windows yet) and picked my way over the piles of boxes to the kitchen. Even though it was barely 8:30 in the morning, my roommate Meagh was already tackling the huge piles of boxes and putting dishes away. It looks like we have some common unpacking priorities, Meagh and I - kitchens come first. You gotta eat, right?

So here it is, the inaugural recipe post from our new house. Vegan chili-lime tofu with collards and brown rice - because really, fuck pizza. This dish has a really nice balance of flavours - hot, sweet, salty, and sour with just a bit of bitterness from the greens. The sauce is quick to put together, and when you throw it onto the hot tofu, it turns into a beautiful glaze that packs a real punch. It may be chocked full of sugar and salt - but all those dark leafy greens balance it out, right? 

This recipe is adapted from the amazing (and sadly, now inactive) www.veganyumyum.com. I will post the original recipe below, which serves 2 or 3 - I doubled it for four people with great results.

You'll need:

1 Block Tofu, extra firm, 14oz
1 bunch collard greens - deveined
1 1/2 cups brown rice
zest of 1/2 lime

For the glaze:

3 Tbs Sugar
3 Tbs Reduced Sodium Tamari (or soy sauce)
1 3/4 Tbs Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 Zest of the Lime
1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes (or 1-2 fresh hot chilies, minced)
1 Clove Garlic, pressed, optional
1/4 tsp Salt
4 mint leaves, diced.

1. Put the rice on to cook, and throw in the zest of 1/2 a lime for some extra flavour. While you're at it, preheat your oven to 350.

2. Combine all the glaze ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.

3. Cut the tofu into thick slices, and then quarter the slices into triangles (just to look fancy).

4. Spread out the tofu on a baking tray, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the tofu turns golden at the edges. This is one of my favorite ways of getting really chewy tofu - unlike frying, baked tofu tends to stay together and tends to absorb future flavours really well. No need to add oil or anything, just toss it in the oven.

5. Prep the collards. Take out their tough spines and slice the leaves into thin strips.

6. Throw the collards in a wok on medium-high with about 3 tbsp of water, a tbsp of lime and a pinch of salt, and cover. They should steam themselves in a few minutes. After about 5 minutes, remove the cover and let the remaining water boil  off.

7. Take the tofu out of the oven and throw it in a hot frying pan with a little bit of oil (less then 1 tbsp). Once the tofu is hot, throw in the glaze and wait for it to boil - this should take only a few seconds. Toss the tofu in the sauce, making sure everything is well coated, then remove the pan from the heat. The glaze should turn glazey at this point, turning sticky and shiny.

8. Serve the collards and tofu over rice, and garnish it with slices of lime.

So there it is - the first ever (real) dinner in our new pad. Look at those game-faces! Smiling through the exhaustion. What gems.

I have some really, really adorable roommates. And I think this is shaping up to be a pretty awesome house.

I promise to post pictures soon, once we have more then just the kitchen set up. And now that I live with the cutest vegan couple out there, and seeing as I show my love primarily through food, I hope to bring you lots of delicious vegan recipes in the weeks and months to come. Aaand maybe the occasional meat-y something as well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Things to look forward to in the big city:

Last night, I finally sucked it up and packed my first box. I've been putting it off. With Agata tied to her desk for the foreseeable future, the prospect of packing and moving our house to Toronto feels pretty overwhelming at this point. But even with the work of the next week looming ahead, I keep getting these little reminders of all the exciting things to look forward to.

One of those things is Well Preserved's regular food-related events. If you're not reading Well Preserved, I would highly recommend it - it was one of my favourite blogs for ages before I realized the folks behind it were Torontonians. If it wasn't for Well Preserved, I would have never known about candied bacon jerky - and where would I be then?

Every so often, Well Preserved hosts Home Ec, a regular series of food-related events at The Avro, a great little bar in Toronto's east end.

Last night, they hosted a preserve swap that I can't believe I missed out on (although then, who would have  packed the first box?). I would have happily traded some of our many remaining jars of canned tomatoeselderberry syrup,  ketchup and shakshuka from last summer's harvest for some of the goodies reported from last night's swap. I mean, nectarine ginger jam? Maple sap? Yes please. 

Preserve swaps make so much sense to me. Canning and preserving tends to lend itself to large batches, and while we usually have no trouble eating our way through what we make, I love the idea of adding a bit of diversity to the ol' pantry. 

I also like the idea of getting together with a bunch of other preserving-types to hang out, drink beer and trade tips. Maybe I can finally figure out what to do with the pickled moose meat a friend recently brought back from a trip to Newfoundland. I've been waiting for a stroke of inspiration, but I'll admit, both pickled meat in general - and pickled moose meat specifically - are new territory for me. 

While I missed out on the preserve swap, they've just announced Home Ec #3: Potluck on Sticks. It seems to be what it sounds - a potluck that exclusively features food on sticks. Best of all? It's on March 26th, by which time I will be living in Toronto, and maybe even partially unpacked. 

Anyone have any good food-on-sticks suggestions? Extra points if they incorporate pickled moose meat. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Baked Banana Rum Fritters

Ok, so after a long hiatus from cooking much other then vegetarian chili, I decided it was time to buy some fruit. One cannot live on beans and tomatoes alone (or maybe one can, but one should still probably eat some fruit occasionally,) so I bought a bunch of beautiful organic bananas. Aand then promptly forgot about them. You see, Agata and I discovered that if you add chili to nachos and throw on some cheese.. bam! whole new food. No need to eat the fruit. See what winter does to me? It's not pretty.

So now the bananas are starting to look a bit sad. If winter has two rules in my house, they are #1) big batches of chili and #2) spiced rum in everything. Having already explored rule #1 in relation to the aforementioned bananas with limited success (the bananas remain uneaten), I decided to explore rule #2, wherein the bananas are combined with spiced rum. Resounding success!

These fritters are best eaten warm, in great quantities, and along with a hot rum toddy.. They are simultaneously crispy and soft with lots of sweet baked banana. It's great.

Baked Banana Rum Fritters
based on a recipe by Nikki Gardner of DesignSponge

You'll need:
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 bananas, cut into small pieces.
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar for dusting
1. Pre-heat the oven to 425. 

2. Prepare the dough. Combine sugar, butter, salt, milk and rum in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once you've got in boiling, reduce the heat to low and dump in the flour, all at once. Stir the mixture, which will pull away from the edges of the saucepan and stick together in about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring until the dough is completely smooth after each addition.

3. Fold the banana into the dough. Butter a baking sheet. Make them really banana-y, its better that way. Maybe 70% banana to 30% dough? These fritters are really a celebration of all things banana - the dough is just to stick the whole thing together. Form the dough into small balls, about 1-2 inches in diameter, and put them on the baking sheet.  This is a messy process (although I suppose I could have used a spoon).

4. Bake until crisp and brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Serve hot, sprinkled with icing sugar. 

Enjoy (and hope that spring comes soon). 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Farewell to this house, this town.

So, this blog has been pretty quiet for the last little while. Life has run away with me, somewhat, but it's all good stuff. While Agata has been slogging away to finish her thesis and re-enter the world of the living, I've been packing up our little apartment and scanning the housing listings.

After almost eight years, I'll be leaving my adopted town of Peterborough and heading back to Toronto, where I grew up. Agata and I will be moving in with our good friends Meagh and Claire, who are probably two of my favourite people in the world - and the whole thing feels really, really exciting.

We managed to find a house we can afford, in a neighbourhood we like, with lots of windows and a big yard  for gardening and enough space for peaceful cohabitation. The whole thing is in desperate need of a coat of paint and some love, but I think we're up for it. 

But I will miss our Peterborough apartment. Agata and I have lived here for two years now, and it was our first place together. It's been good to us.

 I will especially miss this kitchen. So much light. So little counter space.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hot Mulled Beer

Hot beer. It's a really, really good idea.

Agata and I went on a trip to Poland in the summer to visit her family, and we spent some time in Zacopane, a small town in the Tatra mountains. It was, of course, incredibly picturesque. It was also very rainy, and unexpectedly cold. While this meant that we didn't get to go into the mountains, we did get to spend a day huddled in a pub, listening to rowdy polka music, eating sausages and  drinking hot spiced beer.

I have been permanently and forever won over by hot spiced beer. Through some magic, the hot beer stays bubbly. Its sweetened with honey and spiced with cinnamon and cloves, fortified with a half shot of whisky (oh boy.) and the foam head is almost the texture of whip cream. Aaaaand you drink it through a straw. Amazing, right?

What you need:

2 tall cans of beer (something light, and cheap)
1 shot of whiskey or rum (optional, but highly recommended)
2 thin slices of ginger
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
a few whole cloves
a few whole allspice berries
2 bayleaves
orange slice for garnish, if you're feeling fancy. 

1. Combine all ingredients in a pot. Heat slowly, covered, until the beer is very hot but hasn't boiled.
This is important - if the beer boils, it will loose all its boozy goodness. If you're going to do that, you might as well just make a cup of tea,

2. Pour the mixture into mugs or large glasses. Pour the beer from a bit of a height, trying to make as much foam as possible. The foam is maybe the best part. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and an round slice of orange (to impress your friends and family).

3. Enjoy.