Bees plus Booze: Making Krupnikas

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This recipe popped up on Global Table back in January 2012 and I have been positively itching to make it ever since. The problem is that in order to make lovely, lovely liqueurs, you need grain alcohol. And there are very few provinces in Canada where you can legally purchase such things. Fortunately one of my lovely friends picked some Everclear up for me when he was in Michigan and brought it across the border for me for my birthday.  And this lovely warming sipper will make a fantastic gift. Did I mention it makes your house smell lovely as you’re making it, and also that it’s ridiculously easy? LOVELY.

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First, though, you have to do your due diligence regarding what you’re going to put your finished concoction in. I searched high and low, in second-hand stores and restaurant supply stores, to find appropriate bottles for a reasonable price. Finally I found these 200mL flasks at Terra20 (sorry non-Ottawans, it’s a local store, but they do have online shopping). Now, you can put your bottles through a run in the dishwasher if you like, but I don’t trust my dishwasher fully because I have never cleaned it. I am my father’s daughter and as such he has taught me to properly sterilize things you’re going to put booze in. So first you wash them thoroughly in detergent and hot water.

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Let them drip dry.

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Then grab some Star-San if you can get it from a local home-brew place.

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Follow the instructions carefully, and wear gloves! Let your bottles air dry while you prepare your ingredients.

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I love that this recipe uses whole spices.

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In fact, it uses WHOLE turmeric, which was tricky for me to find after trolling through several health food stores. But it was super cheap. When the cashier asked me how much I wanted to order, I said, “Oh, 200g or so,” not knowing how much that would be. It was a lot. And it cost me about $4. I only need one of those weird little ginger-like knobs.

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You’ll need about 1 1/2lbs of honey (organic and local if possible, naturally). This works out to about 550mL liquid honey.

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Peel 1 orange.

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And peel half a lemon.

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Grab 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks.

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And 5 allspice berries.

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And a nutmeg. (A nutmeg? A meg nut? I dunno.)

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And 8 cloves.

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And 10 cardamom pods.

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And 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.

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And 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

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You will also need 1 vanilla bean, sliced and scraped. Except for some reason I totally forgot to include that in the recipe. It’s still amazing, but I bet a vanilla bean would make it even more amazing.

Grab yourself a 3″ knob of ginger, and slice that into four pieces.

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And grab a 2-3″ knob of turmeric, and slice THAT into four pieces.

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Look at that gorgeous orange. The turmeric will give a nice sort of earthy base to the booze, while at the same time keeping that lovely yellow tint you expect of something made with honey.

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Crack all the spices to let the flavour out. I used a nutcracker on the nutmeg.

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And my pestle for the rest.

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Gather your spices and plop them in a cup for now. Not shown of course is the vanilla bean I forgot.

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In a large saucepan, dump in your honey and 1L water and bring that to a simmer.

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Skim any foam off the top with a slotted spoon.

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Dump all your spices in and let that become an amazing concoction.

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Simmer that sucker, stirring occasionally, for about 35 minutes. At this point the young man who was fixing my ceiling crept up behind me and asked me what I was making that smelled so good. As he was about 16 years old I did not offer him any of it. I’m not sure if he was sad or not. But I’m sure the craftsmanship on my ceiling would have suffered.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in 750mL grain alcohol. Watch out, as it will fizz up and the fumes will likely make you cough a bit. While it still smells good I don’t recommend you go around huffing grain alcohol fumes. That might be bad.

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Strain out the spices and use them for something else, like a syrup or ice cream base.

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I plopped them into some applesauce I was making. It made the applesauce taste like CANDY.

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Line up your bottles ready for filling. I put them all in a dish and wedged them with a dish towel to keep them steady while I filled them.

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I filled all 8 200mL bottles exactly, just like I’d planned.

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Seal the bottles and let them cool. The mixture will be cloudy at first.

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But still gloriously cheerfully yellow.

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The cloudiness is a sediment that will settle over the next couple of days. You can drink this stuff right away and it will be unbelievably good, but the longer you let it sit the mellower and more amazing it will get. Try to wait at least two weeks.

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Even after just 24 hours most of the sediment has settled. You can stir the sediment back in if you like, or filter it out and serve it on cake or whatever.

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My true sadness is that I was hoping for a little extra krupnikas to try myself, but I didn’t get any. I am going to give all of this away. So I hope that my friends share.

Apple and Spice Porridge: In the Woods

 

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This wolf spider and I had a disagreement about where I should tie my laundry line.

There’s nothing like a hot breakfast after crawling out of your warm sleeping bag on a crisp morning at the crack of dawn. While we abandoned our rainy campsite with dampened spirits and dampened everything else, I wanted to continue on with the camp menu, seeing as I had everything ready in any case.

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This creamy version of our traditional porridge is adapted from The Camping Cookbook and adds a nice bit of luxury to a morning spent in the woods. Even a super rainy one.

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Dump 1 1/4 cup milk into a saucepan and bring it to a low boil.

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Add in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2/3 cup oats and cook, stirring, until the mixture starts to thicken.

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Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and reduce the heat a little bit.

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Grate up 1 large apple. I’ve never grated an apple before. It’s oddly satisfying.

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Tip that into the mix and stir until it’s heated through.

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Serve with honey drizzled over top. Perfect.

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Almost Not There Lemon Squares

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I made these from Amy Approved yesterday for another round of meetings at work.  They’re gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo, so if you have any sensitivities to food you’re probably safe eating these (unless you’re allergic to nuts, coconut, or eggs, in which case you might die – don’t eat these).  In addition, unlike traditional lemon squares, where you bake the crust and then bake the filling, this filling is a stove-top deal, so it’s ideal if you need your oven for something else.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 8″ x 12″ baking dish with parchment paper.

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Grab about 2 cups raw almonds (I used blanched ones) and pulse them in a food processor until they’re in small chunks — don’t go too far, though: you don’t want almond meal.

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Mix the almonds together with 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 2 tablespoons coconut flour, and 2 large eggs.

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It looks like vomit. Gross.  Don’t let that deter you.

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Press that sticky gooeyness into the bottom of the dish and bake that for 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown.  Let that cool completely.

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For the lemon filling, crack 6 large eggs into a saucepan and add as well 1 cup fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of 4 large lemons), 1/2 cup honey, and a dash of sea salt.

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I don’t feel lemon bars are complete without some lemon zest as well, but I leave that up to you.

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Whisk that all up and heat over medium.  Stir in 1/2 cup coconut oil until it’s completely melted.

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Keep whisking.

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And whisking.

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The mixture will eventually start to thicken, so you want to keep gently heating and whisking until you’ve got something resembling a thick pudding.

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When you get there, give it a few more whisks and then you can remove it from the heat and let it cool completely.

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Once the lemon goo is cool, you can smooth it over your crust.

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Feel free to garnish the tops with shredded coconut as well.

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Shove that in the freezer for about 30 minutes so everything will set and harden, then cut into bars. I just chucked mine in the fridge overnight.

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Keep these babies in the fridge to prevent them from going gooey.  If they last that long. They’re not as satisfying as a lemon square made with butter and sugar and flour but they’re still pretty tasty!

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Creamy Mint Guacamole

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I pulled this gem out of the Ottawa Citizen a few weeks back and it makes a fantastic dip all on its own or as a replacement for the traditional sour cream and guacamole side on a plate of nachos.

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I cut everything up by hand but if you don’t have the patience for that you can always pulse the ingredients together in a food processor until combined but still chunky.

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Start by opening up and de-pitting 4 large avocados.  You can tell that they’re ripe because of the bright avocado colour under the stem.

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Slice them into little cubes and scoop them into a large bowl.

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Next, mince up a few cloves garlic.  Chuck that in the bowl too.

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Then grab a bunch of fresh mint (this was about 8 stems) and pull the leaves off, discarding the stems.  Mince the leaves and chuck them into the bowl.

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Now, slice a fresh lime in half and juice it.  Drizzle the juice all over the avocados in your bowl.

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Add a few dashes Tabasco sauce, to taste.

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And a drizzle of honey, your favourite kind.

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Plop in 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt and season with salt and pepper.

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Give it a vigorous stirring to mix it thoroughly and break up the avocado a bit more — not too much, though, because you want it nice and chunky.

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Serve with fresh warm tortilla chips (these are chipotle flavour from Farm Boy).

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Double-dipping totally acceptable.

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Breakfast Brownies

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When Atlas posted this recipe to my Facebook newsfeed and suggested I make it for the next time we went over for dinner, I knew it wasn’t really a suggestion.  I didn’t have some of the ingredients on hand (because as we all know I’m a huge fan of butter, eggs, and refined sugar, and that’s not likely to change any time soon), so I did make some substitutions.  If you’d like to go for the original version, just check it out at Eat Drink Love.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and spray a 8″ x 8″ baking dish.  Line the dish with parchment paper so that you have two little handles sticking out.

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Grind up about 2 tablespoons flax in your coffee grinder (wipe it out before and after of course, or use a separate one). Flax is amazing for you, but it will do you no good if you don’t grind it up first.

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Add the flax to a bowl with 3/4 cup oats, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 cup cocoa.

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Give that a good stir.

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Find a lovely ripe banana and smush it up with a fork.

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Add that to the oat mixture, along with 1/4 cup coconut oil, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup honey, and 1/2 cup milk.

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Stir that around and then slop it into your prepared pan.

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I forgot I was supposed to stir these in and so I sprinkled 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top.  Very decorative.

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Bake for 17-20 minutes, until the centre is solid and tests clean with a toothpick.  Set on a wire rack to cool completely.

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After cutting the brownies into little pieces, store them in the fridge.

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To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of this recipe.  I don’t like baking with coconut oil as I find it too heavy and greasy, and so that’s all I could taste, but everyone else seemed to like them just fine.

Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Squares

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Um.  So.  I made these, with thanks to Midwest Living, and then suddenly they were all gone.  A heavily pregnant Atlas had a bunch of them, as did her recently-delivered sister (I guess babies need chocolate?), and then we took them to a Thanksgiving potluck and the cousins discovered them.  And then Rusty ate the rest.  I can’t even remember what they tasted like, they disappeared so fast.  So if you’ve got a Hallowe’en party on the go tomorrow night, this is a good way to incorporate candy into your cookery.  Go for it.

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Now, it’s best to get everything ready ahead of time for this because timing is key.  So.

Take 12 peanut butter cups (that’s four packs of three of the Reese ones) and chop them up.

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And a huge bar of chocolate, such that when you cut it up you get 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate.  You’ll need as well 1/3 cup butterscotch chips.

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Grab 1/2 cup Skor bits (these were my own addition, and I liked them).

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Measure out 2 cups peanuts (salted or unsalted, your choice).

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You’ll also need 2 cups crushed graham crumbs.

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Okay, here we go.

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Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with aluminum foil such that the foil comes over the long edges (and you can use it as a handle later.  Then grab some large flat crackers (the recipe calls for “club crackers,” so I used Sky Flakes) and line the bottom of the dish with enough to cover the whole thing.

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In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup honey, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup whipping cream.

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Bring that to a boil, stirring the whole time.

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Add the graham crumbs and reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook for a full 5 minutes.

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Remove that from the heat and pour in 2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Spread half this thick caramel stuff onto your cracker base in the baking dish.

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Sprinkle on the peanuts and the Skor bits.

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And then the peanut butter cup bits.

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Spread on the other half of the caramel stuff and press enough crackers onto the top to cover it.

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So then it looks like this and you can leave that for a little bit.

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In the bowl of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt together the milk chocolate pieces and the butterscotch chips.

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Add in as well 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter.

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Spread that gloriousness over the cracker top.

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Shake and tap the pan to get the bubbles out, then chuck it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

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When it’s all set, take it out and use the foil handles to remove it from the pan.  Carefully remove the foil.

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Cut these babies into squares and watch them disappear before your eyes!

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Sticky Honey Sesame Chicken

Chicken Drumsticks

This quick dinner idea comes from the August 2013 issue of Canadian Living.  I doubled it for a dinner party, but the recipe below serves 4 people.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

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Skin 2lbs chicken drumsticks (or a combination of drumsticks and thighs, like we did) and set those aside for a second.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup liquid honey with 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, and 4 cloves of minced garlic.

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Toss your drumsticks in this heavenly mixture until they are all coated and lay them out on the parchment. We sprinkled them with a few extra sesame seeds.

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Bake for about 25 minutes, until their juices run clear when you pierce them with a knife.

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Garnish with lime wedges and green onions and serve.

Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken Orzo Salad

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The Pie’s parents, Mrs. Nice and Papa John, are in town on a visit for the Pie’s graduation (B.Sc. Honours in Geography and Computer Science, booyah), so I get a good number of opportunities to cook new things that I think might appeal to them.  This one I made with Mrs. Nice in mind, and reminds me somewhat of that amazing orzo salad we had at Ferryland a few years ago.

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Prep your vegetables.  Dice up half a large red onion, 1 red pepper, and half a large cucumber (I cut out the seeds).  I also halved 250g grape tomatoes and defrosted 1 cup each frozen corn and frozen peas.

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Prep your dressing.  In a small jar (or other container with a lid), dump 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried savoury (or basil, or oregano, or whatever you want), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil.

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Close the lid tightly and give that a shake.  Let it sit for a while.

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Fill a large saucepan with about 4L of water and salt it generously.  Put it on to boil.  When it’s boiling, remove the lid, turn the heat down a bit, and pour in 450g orzo pasta.

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While that’s on the go, cut up about 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts into small cubes and  pitch those in a frying pan or skillet with a bit of vegetable oil.

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Sauté those until fully cooked and browned on the outside.  Remove from the heat.

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Drain your orzo and plop it in a big bowl. This bowl was not big enough.

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My peas and corn were still a little frozen so I added them to the still-hot chicken pan to let them thaw properly.

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Then I chucked in the rest of the vegetables and stirred that around.

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Then you just add your veg to your pasta.  Give that a good stir.

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Give your dressing another shake and toss that with all the rest of your salad (don’t worry about the amount — it will be absorbed into the pasta) and serve warm or cold.

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I love me some Granola

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My morning meal usually consists of coffee, juice, yogurt, and granola.  Like I could eat that stuff every single day.

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Until now, I’ve been buying our granola, but it’s quite expensive for the amount you get and it’s full of all sorts of weird additives and the like that I don’t really want to put in my system.

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My mother used to make granola for us sometimes when we were kids, so I figured that I could probably do it myself if I tried.  And it’s easy.  And you can use what you’ve got in your cupboards, or what you can scoop up at the bulk food store.  Which means you can customize each batch.

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So preheat your oven to 350°F and get out a large rimmed baking sheet.  I took the precaution of lining mine with parchment paper, so stuff wouldn’t stick.

The majority of granolas start with a base of oats, about 4 cups.  I used four double handfuls, because I measured my tiny hands once and put together that’s about what they hold.  And thus ends my list of measurements for this recipe.  Because you can do whatever you want.  So what else have I got going on here?  In addition to the oats, I have bran, ground flax, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, nutmeg, cinnamon, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, lavender flowers (yes), and then a selection of dried fruits: apricots, mango, and raisins.

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Take all your happy dry ingredients (minus the fruits) and plop them in a bowl.

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Mix ’em up.

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In another bowl, add about 1/2 cup runny honey,

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about 1/2 cup maple syrup,

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and about 1/2 cup melted butter.

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*** EDIT: If you’d like granola that forms clumps (and that’s my favourite kind), whisk 1 or 2 egg whites into a froth and add them to the mixture as well.  The protein in the whites will stick everything together during the baking process.  Just use caution when stirring mid-bake, as the amount you stir will affect the size of the clumps you create. ***

Pour that golden loveliness into the dry mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are coated.

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Spread that stuff out on your baking sheet and chuck that in the oven for about 40 minutes.

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Make sure to stir with a spatula every 10-15 minutes or so to keep the stuff on the bottom from burning.

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While that’s on the go, get your dried fruit ready. I chopped up the apricots and mango slices a little to make them easier to get on a spoon.

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Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan, stirring it occasionally to break up the chunks.  The finer grained your ingredients are, and the more sticky wet ingredients you use, the chunkier your granola will be.

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While it’s still a little warm, stir in your dried fruit.

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Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, and enjoy whenever you want!

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Chinese Chicken and Pork in False Creek and the Awesomeness of the Internet

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUL!

Chinese in Gastown

Atlas’s dad has a philosophy that we are born with a spirit and a body.  The body is tied to this earth and will return that way when its time is finished, but the spirit can live on in a new body.  And that spirit is always looking for the good in life, the good people, the good experiences, and so it will actively seek out those who it remembers were good in a previous life.  His family and our family, he says, get along so well because our spirits were friends in a previous life.  It’s a lovely sentiment.

As a child in a military household I moved around quite a bit, and I never stayed in any city longer than five years — until I moved to Ottawa, that is.  So every time we moved I felt like I was starting a whole new life, with new friends, and that my old lives were somehow over.  Visiting the west coast this summer was for me a revisiting of an old life, a way of showing my husband the way I used to be (and I’ll have more on that in a later post).

I had a friend in elementary school when I was living in Esquimalt.  Her name was Jordana* and we were friends from when my family was posted out west in grade three, to when her family, also military, was posted away at the beginning of grade five.  When she moved away I thought I would never see her again.  This was of course before Facebook and even email (this was the early nineties) and so the only way to reach each other would have been through letters, and if you’re never going to see a person again, what’s the point in wasting a stamp?

Our grade four class picture, for embarassment’s sake.  Jordana is third from the left in the centre row, and I’m sixth, with my bad-ass Casio watch and my hefty bangs.  This photo is courtesy of the gentleman sitting directly below me in this shot.

I joined Facebook in 2007, twelve years after leaving the west coast and fifteen years after I had last seen Jordana, and we reconnected over the internet.  At this time I was getting ready to move to Newfoundland with the Pie and she was settled in Vancouver, so it was unlikely we were going to run into each other any time soon.  Even so, we communicated back and forth sporadically and learned we had much in common.

Chinese in Gastown

Then my brother decides to get married out west, and Jordana and I figured this was our chance to finally meet up after TWENTY years apart.  She and her partner Daniel live in False Creek, a nice old area next to the water.  On our last night on the mainland, the Pie and took the SkyTrain from Coquitlam to Vancouver and trailed our way over to their place for dinner.

Chinese in Gastown
Their view of False Creek.

And you know, it was instant chemistry between the four of us (which, if you have ever tried to make friends as a couple, you know is a hard thing to accomplish).  Jordana and I talked our faces off for about four hours straight, while the quieter gentlemen exchanged views on computers and other manly endeavours.  We took a walk along the seawall after dinner, and Jordana and I both took a ton of pictures. Obviously.

Chinese in Gastown

And the food, cooked by Daniel, was excellent (yes, I’m finally getting to the recipe, sorry).  We had an amazingly tender chicken and a barbecued pork dish with the most incredible dipping sauces.  While Daniel’s not super keen to share his recipes, Jordana was very persuasive and so I now have them in my hot little hands.  And while Cait and Jul were here (and since they brought most of the spices from Ottawa for us), we decided to try it out.

For the Chicken:

First you start with a whole chicken, about 1.6kg or 3 1/2lb.  Take off all the fat that you can see and wipe down the inside with a paper towel, or two, to remove any goop in there.  Gross, but worth it, trust me.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Then find yourself a pot large enough to fit a bunch of liquid and a submerged chicken. Into that pot, chuck 1.5L (6 cups) water, 250mL (1 cup) soy sauce, 250mL (1 cup) shaohsing wine (also known as shaoxing), 150g (2/3 cup) light brown sugar, 1 large knob of ginger, peeled and sliced, 3 cloves garlic, sliced, 4 heads of star anise, 2 sticks cinnamon, and 3 pieces dried mandarin peel.

Yeah, that’s a hefty load of ingredients.  Cait and Jul brought the more far-out stuff with them from Ottawa, as I can’t get it here.  Anyway, bring all those ingredients in the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer all that spicy goodness for about 20 minutes.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Then you can submerge the chicken, breast side down, in the pot and raise the heat again to bring it to a boil.  Then turn it down again and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Flip the chicken over and allow it to simmer for a further 3 minutes, then pop a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat.  Let the chicken cool in the stock.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

When the stock is cooled you can take the chicken out.  If you plan to use the stock later (which you really should), then you need to strain it, bring it to a boil again, and then cool it and chuck it in the refrigerator.

As for the chicken, well it’s now up to you to do what you want with it. You can chop it up in a salad, or slice it thickly and re-form it on a plate (which is what we’re going to do).  You can also fry it in peanut oil and serve with salt and pepper and lemon juice.  It goes well with cilantro and the dipping sauce we’re going to make in a minute.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

For the Pork:

This recipe calls for pork neck, which I can’t find here.  I know it’s a poor substitute, because the consistency is all different, but I’m going to use a pork shoulder here.  I’m sorry.  If you can’t get a neck, try to find something with a bit of fat on it, if you can.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

First you want to mix up your marinade.  Take 4 tablespoons fermented bean curd, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 5 tablespoons shaohsing wine, 3 tablespoons yellow bean sauce, 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 4 tablespoons fine sugar, and 3 garlic cloves, minced.  Stir that into a frenzy.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Cait described the Yellow Bean Sauce as looking like “someone threw up in a bottle.” Seems about right.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

I was more grossed out by the fermented bean curd though.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Cut the pork into 4cm (~2″) strips and pour the marinade over the meat.  Leave that for about 2 hours.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Preheat your oven to 240°C (this is 464°F, so I would err on the side of caution and go with 450°F).

Fill a baking dish with water and fit a wire rack over top.  The ones with the folding legs are handy here, as you can use more water, and then it will keep the pork moist. Put the pork onto the rack and cook for 30 minutes.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Remove the pork from the oven and heat up 6 tablespoons honey.  Brush that over the pork and leave it to cool.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

For Sprinkling:

Slice up some fresh cilantro to sprinkle over everything.  As well, mince up some ginger and mix it with some black rice vinegar and leave that to sit for an hour or so — it goes fantastically with the chicken.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Serve the whole thing with some scented rice and some steamed greens.  We fried up some baby bok choy as an accompaniment over jasmine rice.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Chinese Pork and Chicken

*Jordana is a blogger herself, and a much busier person than I am.  She writes about fashion here and here, and about travel here.  She even has her own online clothing store.  Check her out if you’re interested!