Friday, 11 January 2013

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is the first recipe in Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen (the textbook for the culinary program I attended), and for good reason: it's the base for so many sauces and soups, and can add flavour to almost any dish. It's also an economic way to use up kitchen scraps, and saves money on meat (a whole chicken is way cheaper than individual chicken cuts). There are many videos on YouTube showing how to process a whole chicken.

I don't really follow an exact recipe when making chicken stock. The basic formula is chicken bones plus a 2:1:1 ratio of onions to carrots to celery plus a sachet of seasoning.

Dried bay leaf
Dried thyme
Parsley stems
Whole cloves, at most two

Use these in any ratio. Wrap securely in a cheesecloth and tie with string, or alternately, stuff into an empty tea bag and secure tightly.
In a large pot (or two pots), add your chicken bones and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and skim off any scum that accumulates at the top of the water. Then, add your sachet and chopped onions, carrots, and celery. That's it! Simmer for about 4 hours, carefully strain through a cheesecloth, and you're done. Easy peasy lemon squeezey.

If you're experienced with canning, you might be able to can the stock for future use, or you can freeze it. I like to pour it into ice cube trays, freeze, then remove and place into a freezer bag. This way, I can add a cube or two to certain dishes, or defrost enough for a recipe (one cube is about 1 oz.).

As you're prepping your meals during the week, save up the little scraps of onion, the carrots peels, and the leafy and end parts of celery. You can also save unused parsley, and parsley stems. Throw this all into a freezer bag as you go, and when it's full, use it in your stock.

Remember to never add salt to stock! The point is to create a flavourful base, which you can add salt to later as you prepare your final dish.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Pescetarian Pasta

This is a really easy recipe to throw together quickly. It's also extremely versatile; you can substitute the clams for any seafood, or even meat. (If you're going to add meat, you should totally use bacon fat in step one!) Crush the tomatoes by hand instead of chopping them because it's easier, and obviously more fun. Add heavy cream to make a rose sauce.

Pescetarian Pasta Sauce

1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 or 3 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine, or water
1 can clams in their own juice
1 can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
chili flakes to taste
1 to 2 bay leaves
2 tbsp grated parmesan (optional)

1. Set a large pot over medium heat. When it comes to temperature, add about 2 tbsp of whatever fat you like (I used canola oil, but butter or anything works) and your finely chopped celery, carrot, and shallot. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the garlic. Cook about 1 minute more. Deglaze with the white wine (or water).

2. Pour in the tomato juice, then add each tomato one by one, crushing it with your hand before dropping it in the pot. Add the clam juice, and reserve the clams until the last step. Add in the parsley, oregano, chili flakes, and bay leaves. (Remember how many bay leaves you add -- they need to be removed later!) You can add the parmesan too, if you're using it. Stir it all together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Let it simmer over medium low heat for at least half an hour. You can leave it for longer, but make sure you're checking on it and stirring every so often.

4. Now, at this point, you can leave it chunky and just reduce the liquid until it's saucier (not so soupy.) Or you can use an immersion blender (or regular blender or food processor) to break up the larger chunks, or blend it all the way down to a smooth consistency.

5. Add the clams and cook for just a minute or so. Add your favourite cooked pasta, and garnish with a bit more parsley and some parmesan.

This is my first recipe, so please let me know if you find any mistakes or if anything is confusing/unclear. If you make it, let me know what you think!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Best beer in the world?

My boyfriend was gifted a bottle of Westvleteren XII trappist beer from a coworker who waited several hours outside in the cold for a six-pack of this rare beer. It's brewed in Belgium at the St Sixtus Abbey by a group of monks solely for the purpose of supporting their abbey.

Now I'm kind of a beer snob in that I think Coors and Canadian and the like are terrible. I drink them because they are the cheapest or only beers at hockey games, or I drink Bud Light Lime because that's all my parents have at their house. But I absolutely prefer good, flavourful beer. I get this from my grandfather, who introduced me to my all-time favourite beer: Innis & Gunn. If you like beer and haven't tried Innis & Gunn, I highly recommend you pick up a bottle.

When my boyfriend told me this beer was going to be available at the liquor store downtown, but only in limited quantities, I kind of didn't really care. It cost about $60 for a six-pack (and two glasses), and you had to wait in line from about 6AM until they opened at 10:30AM. I've had expensive beer before, and I already have a favourite beer. I mean, whatever. It's beer. Beer is beer. Who cares, right?

Then his coworker gave him a bottle. And I started to get kind of excited. It's fancy beer! That not a lot of people get to have! And I get some!

Some people wait a year or so to drink it, so it has a chance to age. Since we only had the one bottle, we decided to drink it right away. You're supposed to drink it in special trappist chalices, but the best we could find was wine glasses. You're supposed to smell hints of banana, chocolate cherries, and candy sugar. It just smelled like strong beer to me (it's about 10.2%).

But the taste. It honestly did not taste like 10% beer. It had fine, supertiny, champagne-like bubbles. (Okay, prosecco. I've never had real champagne.) It was thick in the glass, but was so smooth to drink. It didn't have the strong, coffee/chocolate/toffee/dessert flavours that I generally love in beer (seriously, go drink a bottle of Innis & Gunn and tell me it's not the most delicious beer ever), but it also didn't have that yucky pond-water taste that big brewery beers have (to me).

Was it the best beer in the world? Maybe. But it wasn't my favourite beer. It was really interesting and exciting to drink such a fancy, world-renowned beer, but I guess my tastes just aren't refined enough. It was definitely a great beer, but I still love my Innis & Gunn, and my cheap-o James Ready 5.5. Although I'm never going to say no to free beer.

What's your favourite beer, or drink in general?

Friday, 21 December 2012

Snow day!

My backyard. Bonus squirrel in the righthand corner!

The snow is coming down absolutely crazy right now! I was beginning to get a little worried, because I really do love having snow for Christmas day. I remember last Christmas, my boyfriend went to see his family about 8 hours away, and I went to stay with my family about an hour away. On Christmas day, I drove back home to check on the cats and feed the fishies. What should have taken me about three hours ended up taking the whole day due to the massive snowstorm that came in. The roads were insane and the snowploughs couldn't keep up. So today is definitely a stay-in-and-drink-tea type of day.

Waiting for his peanuts...
I'm hoping to start working on a few recipes to post soon! I have a couple things in mind, I just need to get the steps down and take a few pictures.

Hope everyone has a great X-mas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Kitty and a Christmas tree.

Feeling: I've been pretty down lately. It's always a challenge to ignore the negative thoughts that creep in, but lately I've been losing the battle. I've also been having trouble sleeping. I've been trying to remember to take sleeping pills but when I forget and take it too late, I wake up feeling groggy and worse than ever.

Loving: Trying new recipes, like this one for macaroni and cheese (did not like). Revisiting old recipes, like the one I always used to use for pork tenderloin.

Excited about: Making homemade beer with my boyfriend! We bought a brew kit and some ingredients last weekend, and we're going to start our first brew this weekend! I love beer above all other beverages (although I'm partial to anything with gin in it) and it's going to be really interesting making our own.

Listening to: Place de la République by Coeur de Pirate off the album Blonde.

Monday, 10 December 2012

First Post!

It's taken me about a week to get over the first-post jitters, but I guess I can only stare at a blank page for so long. I've never been much of a writer, so this will definitely be an exercise in determination as well as creativity.

The purpose of this blog is just a space to share my thoughts, ideas, recipes, and a place to organize and share things that I come across day to day. It will also be a way to motivate myself to improve my photography skills. I hope to use the blogging networks to help myself overcome my depression and social anxiety issues. I'll try to make posting a regular priority.

I guess I should introduce myself to start! My name is Lisa, I'm 23 years old. I live in Canada with my boyfriend of 5 years and our two cats, Kitty (aka the little grey cat) and Nibbler. I love to cook and create things. I spent one year in culinary school, although I didn't complete the second year of the program because I needed to work, and I felt that work experience was more useful towards the future. I quit working in kitchens about a year ago and am now a full-time server. In my spare time, I like to attempt to crochet, watch TV and movies, read lots of books, and take pictures (mostly of food and my cats).

Anyway, I hope that if you've come across this blog somehow, you stay awhile and leave feedback. Drop me a line in the comments, link me to your own blog or tumblr or flickr or lastfm or instagram or anything!

Thank you so much for reading!